We have been discussing (and lamenting) the rollback of free speech in France where writers and speakers are now routinely prosecuted for what would be protected political or religious speech in the United States. The latest case involves Robert Menard, mayor of Beziers and a top adviser to Marine Le Pen, who has been found guilty of inciting hatred against Muslims.
I am a notorious news junky who prides himself on keeping abreast of news and issues around the world, particularly stories dealing with free speech and human rights. It was therefore with some shame that I listened to presentations yesterday at the ABA’s program on the horrific treatment of Myanmar’s Muslims. I was asked to moderate a panel on Rohingya by the Hon. Delissa A. Ridgway, Judge of the United States Court of International Trade, who remains one of the most influential figures globally in bringing together legal, political, and academic figures to discuss pressing problems in our world. Judge Ridgway is not just a friend but an inspiration for her tireless work for the rule of law around the world. You do not say no to Delissa Ridgway if you want to have any shot at the afterlife. However, I was not prepared for the heart wrenching account of the killings, rapes, and beatings of Muslims by extremist Buddhists in Myanmar. It is an on-going crime against humanity being committed on a daily basis in plain sight. The panel entitled “While the World Stands Idly By: Myanmar and the Threat of 21st Century Genocide” met at the Capital Hilton and was sponsored by the ABA Section on International Law. Below is a videotape on their worsening conditions in government camps.
There is an interesting study out this week by two University of Kentucky researchers that the number of atheists may be twice as large as previously estimated. The number may be closer to 26 percent — an fascinating prospect given the politics surrounding faith-based initiatives and policies. As I have previously discussed, both parties have courted the religious vote and largely ignored the sizable number of Americans who are either agnostic or atheist. That number may be finally reaching a political tipping point for office holders to heed their preferences for secular government and the separation of church and state. We have previously discussed studies indicating that one out of four Americans may not believe in God. This study would seem to support those earlier estimates.
Benedictine College has found a budding cell of Hindu mysticism in its small Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas. The school has gotten rid of the “yoga” classes to avoid the taint of a Hindu association. A new course will be renamed as “lifestyle fitness” and involving “stretching” to sanitize the classes of exotic religious influence.
We have previously discussed the inherent conflict between Islamic governments and free speech and free exercise. There is also a recognition among extremists that democracy itself is incapable with the dream of an Islamic caliphate. The head of the Tunisian Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement made this point vividly clear in calling for all good Muslim to “bury” democracy.
Pakistan continues to remind the West that it remains a country struggling with Islamic extremists — encouraged by the country’s lack of separation between mosque and state. The latest victim of such extremism is a college student named Mashal Khan who was accused of merely sharing a message on social media deemed blasphemous. The response of these self-professed godly men in the northern city of Mardan was to beat the victim to death in the name of Islamic morality. What is even more distressing is that the culprits appear to be fellow students. They no doubt learned this particular lesson from the government itself (and our ally) which still makes blasphemy a capital offense.
The marriage of underaged girls remains a common abuse in Muslim countries. We have continued to follow the plight of girls and women in Islamic countries who face honor killings and child marriages. Some Islamic clerics have maintained that there can be no age limitation on child brides. They often note that Muhammad married Aisha when she was seven and consummated the marriage at nine years old. Indeed, some clerics have endorsed the notion of girls as “religious offerings” and rejected any age limitation The latest outrage over child brides has come with the “wisdom” of Malaysian MP Shabudin Yahaya who insisted that marrying off nine-year-old girls is perfectly acceptable and moral under Islamic law.