Religion news 16 August 2021

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Image credit: @el_khxled

Victorious Taliban set to impose strict interpretation of Sharia in Afghanistan

The Taliban have swept to power in Afghanistan after an astonishingly swift campaign ending yesterday as they took power in Kabul, the capital. There were chaotic scenes at Kabul airport as the US and UK mounted a mass evacuation effort to bring home nationals and those at risk.

The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist movement. Its spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, called BBC World TV presenter Yalda Hakim, who was live on air to explain the rapid developments and appeal for calm. Hakim’s mother fled Afghanistan with her as a baby and sought refuge in Australia, becoming a journalist and then reporting on Afghanistan for a decade. In a forensic, wide-ranging interview, Shaheen said the Taliban would impose strict interpretations of Sharia (Islamic law), including corporal punishment and the enforced wearing of the hijab, but girls would be allowed to go to school. He denied reports of Taliban soldiers raping women and said stories of brutality during the Taliban’s campaign were faked by their opponents.

In a past article for Open Democracy, Sayed Hassan Akhlaq, an Afghan philosopher and prolific author now affiliated to the George Washington University, the Catholic University of America and Princeton, said: “The Taliban, like other sociopolitical movements, is not reducible to Islamic doctrines. The role of western policy in Afghanistan, the weaknesses and collapse of the mujahideen, the activities of neighbouring countries, the actions of those affiliated with the Soviet state, the mentality of Afghan people, tribalism and racism — all had a hand in shaping the Taliban. Today, all of those factors have proven far more significant than the impact of the diluted traces of Salafist theology on the movement.”

Vaccine denier Cardinal Burke on a ventilator with Covid-19

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a traditionalist American cleric regarded as a leader of the arch-conservative wing of the US church, and outspoken sceptic of the Covid-19 vaccine, has confirmed on Twitter that he has been placed on a ventilator after testing positive for the virus. The cardinal is 73 and in hospital in Wisconsin, where he was a bishop from 1994 to 2005.

Prayers in Plymouth after gunman shoots five dead

The Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell, has written a special prayer for Keyham in Plymouth and everyone who has been affected by the shooting of five people in a random attack by a lone gunman on Thursday night. The prayer was said at St Thomas’s Church in Keyham, by the priest, Father David Way, who told BBC news that he would pray for those who were killed, but his faith compels him to pray for mercy for the gunman: “As Christians, we have to love our enemies, and look with love on people who cause us harm.”

Israel recalls diplomat in protest at Poland’s Holocaust property law

The Associated Press reports that Israel has recalled its top diplomat from Poland after it approved a law restricting the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime. The report explains that the law addresses appropriations by the communist government from 1945-1989, saying any administrative decision issued 30 years ago or more can no longer be challenged.

Bishop of Newcastle retires

The Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, has announced she will retire soon after her 70th birthday at the end of this month. She is the second woman to become a bishop in the Church of England and has held the post for for six years.

Transgender Canadian minister sues for wrongful dismissal

The Rev Junia Joplin, a transgender Baptist minister, has filed for wrongful dismissal after being sacked by Ontario Baptist Church after coming out in a livestreamed sermon in June. She alleges that she was subjected to an “unfair process” that led to the end of her employment.

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