KUANTAN – During the 12th National Syariah Officials’ Conference Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on July 3 the appointment of two women Syariah Court judges, the first for the nation, Bernema reported on July 3.  Suraya Ramli, 31, and Rafidah Abdul Razak, 39, were appointed Federal Territory of Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court judge respectively in mid-May after receiving the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.  Prime Minister Razak said:  “The appointments were made to enhance justice in cases involving families and women’s rights and to meet current needs.”


AP reports that the pope will appoint a nonresident representative for Vietnam in a first step toward establishing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the communist nation.  The Vietnamese government usually insists on approving most church appointments, and closely monitors religious groups in the nation.  There have been recent tensions between the Catholic community and the Hanoi government over church property seized by the government.

Posted by: becketfund | June 30, 2010

China: Government Holds Talk With EU

MADRID – The European Union and China held talks on human rights in Madrid on June 29, which included a discussion of the situations in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions, AFP reported on June 30.  The Spanish foreign ministry said that during the talks the EU condemned the ‘severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and religion in Tibet’ since Beijing’s March 2008 crackdown in the region, as well as questioned China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur population in Xinjiang.

Posted by: becketfund | June 30, 2010

Italy: Government Seeks to End Classroom Crucifix Ban

ROME – The government is appealing to the European court of human rights to overturn a ban on classroom crucifixes, the BBC reported on June 30.  The appeal comes in response to a case where a court sided with a woman who argued that her children have the right to a secular education under Italy’s constitution, and that the presence of crucifixes in schools violates this right.  The law requiring crucifixes to be hung in schools dates back to the 1920s.

GOMEL – Courts have issued differing sentences with regards to three conscientious objectors to compulsory military service sentenced under the Criminal Code in 2009, Forum 18 reported on June 28.  Messianic Jew Ivan Mikhailov was found guilty and imprisoned, but was freed days before the end of his three-month sentence.  He was acquitted on retrial and the prosecutor’s appeal was rejected.  Jehovah’s Witness Dmitry Smyk, initially fined, was acquitted on retrial, but the prosecutor’s appeal is due to be heard on July 16. Non-religious objector Yevhen Yakovenko, sentenced on June 4 to one year’s restricted freedom, told Forum 18 he has appealed against the sentence. All three say they would do an alternative civilian service.   

ISLAMABD – The government will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google and Yahoo, for content deemed offensive to Muslims, the BBC reported on June 25.  Telecoms official Khurram Mehran said that the content published on the seven sites will be monitored and officials will block links determined to be inappropriate without disturbing the main website.

Posted by: becketfund | June 24, 2010

Kosovo: Muslims Upset by School Headscarf Ban

PRISTINA – On June 18 about 5,000 protesters held a rally against a ban on headscarves in public schools, Reuters reported on June 24.  The protest was led by Halil Kastrati, who said that for now the protests would be peaceful, but could turn violent if their goals were not met.  The Kosovo education ministry banned religious garb in primary and high schools in 2009, prompting heated debates about the state of religious liberty in the nation.

President Obama has appointed Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.  Dr. Cook is the Founder and President of Wisdom Worldwide Center, and has served as the Senior Pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York City since 1996.  The White House press release has more.  On April 6, 2010, the Becket Fund, along with a group of scholars, policy thinkers, and activists sent a letter to the Obama administration recommending that the position be filled immediately and urging the President to emphasize religious freedom in his foreign policy.

YANGON – Members of political parties contesting the nation’s first elections in two decades will be banned from marching, waving flags and chanting to garner support, under rules announced on June 23, the AFP reported on June 23.  State media announced that misuse of religion for political gains is also prohibited.  No official date has been given for the polls.

Posted by: becketfund | June 23, 2010

Spain: Senate Approves Ban on Burqa

MADRID – In a vote of 131 to 129, the Senate narrowly approved a motion on June 23 to ban Muslim women from wearing in public the burqa or other garments that cover the whole body, the New York Times reported on June 23.  The vote comes as a setback for the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which had favored more-limited restrictions on Islamic clothing.

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