N° 1  February 2010
 
For a Religious Pluralism Respectful and Mindful of Feminist Spirituality Books & Journals
At a time when the struggle for gender equality is "in this century the paramount moral challenge" (Kristof and WuDunn, 2009, xvii) 1, the responsibility of certain religious discourse in the sad fate that is made for women cannot be overlooked. Kristof and WuDunn put it as follows: "[O]ften we blame a region's religion when the oppression instead may be rooted in its culture. Yet, that acknowledged, it's also true that one reason religion is blamed is that it is often cited by the oppressors". (Krystof and Wudunn, 2009, 150).

In an article entitled "The Muslim religious right (‘fundamentalist’) and sexuality”, Ayesha M. Imam studied the commonalities in the Muslim religious right’s views on sexuality
2. She argues in her paper that, in agreement with their vision of an ummah (Muslim community) without borders, from Afghanistan to South Africa, Iran and Bangladesh, including Muslim minorities in Europe, fundamentalist movements share a remarkable continuity of purpose focused mainly on women. While one might logically expect a focus on the five pillars of Islam - profession of faith in Allah and his prophet, five daily prayers, fasting month, annual donation of one tenth of its assets to charity each year and pilgrimage to Mecca - women's dress is what is frequently raised as a symbol of the new Islamic order (Imam, 1997, 7-11). When women refuse to abide by the dress code prescribed by the movement, they become targets of violent attacks.

In Sudan, Article 152 of the Penal Code prohibits wearing in a public place an “obscene outfit or contrary to public morals”, a charge which carries a punishment of 40 lashes and a fine. According to the director of police, in 2008, in Khartoum state alone, over 40 000 women were arrested for clothing offences
3. In July 2009, the prosecution of Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, a Sudanese media worker arrested with 13 other women for wearing trousers, brought to international attention that provision.

Today it is through Islam that the will to externalize the reign of male supremacy and gender hierarchy through a dress code manifests itself. However the use of a specific garment to distinguish the godly woman from the female sinner is also present in the Bible (1 Corinthians 11, 3-15; Deuteronomy 22, 5) and its iconography which exposes to worship and respect a veiled Virgin Mary and to scorn (and lust) the splendidly naked Temptress and ultimate Sinner, Eve.

Although learned commentaries of such texts and iconography, from a feminist point of view
4, are useful, such an approach does not fully contribute to the emergence of a feminist spirituality. Respect for religious pluralism demands that the scope of the research be extended beyond the main patriarchal 5 religions to include the study of the matriarchal 6 religions that still have many followers in different parts of the world and especially in Africa 7. In the debates about whether or not a woman can be ordained, in the discourse on the place of woman in religions or the consequences of the imposition of a dress code, it should matter that some spiritualities give mainly to women the responsibility to perform the rituals that will secure their families and communities’ spiritual, material and physical well-being. It should matter that the same spiritualities give women responsibilities and status equivalent to that of priest, pastor, rabbi, cardinal or pope. It should matter that as far as women’s bodies are concerned their nakedness is used to showcase their holy nature. It should matter that there are spiritualities in which the Creator is a Goddess and a Holy Mother.

Indeed, not only do the “religions of the Mother” not exclude women from performing the sacred rituals on behalf of their community, they also offer images (sculptures, paintings, engravings) that sublimate women through their body itself in all its naked or semi-naked glory.

Being mindful of religious pluralism in research projects and conferences focused on religion related issues, by putting on the same footing the religions from a patriarchal tradition and those from a matriarchal one, at most would prove an effective weapon against fundamentalism and its easy use of women as targets and at least would promote a better informed feminist discourse on spirituality.



Fatou Kiné CAMARA, PhD
 
Associate Law Professor, Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, SENEGAL.


1 Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half The Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Alfred A. Knopf (publ), New York, 2009.
2 "The Muslim religious right (‘fundamentalist’) and sexuality”, Women Living Under Muslim Law, Dossier 17, 1997, pp. 7-25, (abridged and re-printed in Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights Newsletter 60 (1997).)
3 Information retrieved from http://sisyphe.org/spip.php?article3446, November 26, 2009.
4 The feminist theoretical perspective highlights the non-neutrality of science and social studies.
5 Patriarchal describes the society or culture where the private and public spheres are under the control of men.
6 “The research findings of modern matriarchal studies contradict the ideology of universal male dominance and universal patriarchy. Modern matriarchal studies are concerned with investigating and presenting nonpatriarchal societies: those that have existed in the past and those that are, to some degree, still with us now. All over the world today, indigenous peoples in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific area foster traditional cultures that show matriarchal patterns.” Heide Goettner-Abendroth, “Matriarchies as societies of peace : Re-thinking Matriarchy”, Women and Peace, vol. 38, n°1, Off our backs, p. 49.
7 The indigenous African religion is followed by 51% of the population in Togo, source:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/TO.html (last accessed June 16, 2009);
40% of the population in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso, source:
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/CIA_World_Fact_Book,_2004/Liberia
;
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/UV.html;
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/PU.html (last accessed June 16, 2009).

Religion, Politics and Law in the European Union
Book
Religion, Politics and Law. Philosophical Reflections on the Sources of Normative Order in Society
Book
The Application of Islamic Criminal Law in Pakistan. Sharia in Practice
Book
Religion Staat Gesellschaft. Zeitschrift für Glaubensformen und Weltanschauungen (Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews)
journal
Links


NEWS AND EVENTS
 
Amity University Uttar Pradesh Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

RELIGION AND LAW STUDIES PROGRAM


In 1987 Professor Dr Tahir Mahmood had started an ‘Academy of Law and Religion’ whose programs were partly sponsored by the Delhi-based Institute of Objective Studies. A bi-annual journal titled Religion and Law Review was launched by him in 1992. In 2003 he wound up his Academy and transferred all its activities to the ‘Amity School of  Law and Religion’ set up under the sponsorship of India’s pre-eminent education-providers, Ritnand Balved Education  Foundation. On the establishment of a full-fledged ‘Institute of Advanced Legal Studies’ [AIALS] as a constituent of Amity University, the School was merged in it and is now functioning as its ‘Religion and Law Studies Program.’

It conducts studies and research in religion-state relations, religious and religion-based laws, religious freedom  and rights worldwide, religious institutions and communities, and other similar subjects. Under the auspices of  this Program an Indian Association of Scholars of Religion and Law [ASRALINDIA] was formed in 2007.

AIALS Chairman has presented research papers at International Conferences on Religion and Law held in the United  States, Hungary, Italy, Norway, China, Vietnam and Nepal. Proceedings of all these events are preserved in the  AIALS library and highlighted in its house journal, the Amity Law Watch. The Chairman is now a Member of  International Advisory Board of the BYU Centre for Law and Religion Studies in the US (ICLRS-BYU) and of Promoters’  Council of the Italy-based International Consortium for Religion and Law Studies (ICLARS-Milan).

Students of AIALS have participated in Interfaith Dialogue Summer Schools held in Vienna in 2006 and 2008. In February 2008 an  International Conference on “Religion, State and Law in South Asia” was organized by AIALS in Delhi at which was  also released Chairman’s new book Laws of India on Religion and Religious Affairs. In February 2009 he participated  with some AIALS students in a similar event in Nepal. In January 2010 a conference on “Religion, Law and  Governance: Comparative Perspectives” was held at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and AIALS is one of its Co-Organizers.

AIALS cordially invites all scholars, students and staff of Amity institutions, as also all interested academics in  India and abroad, to participate in the academic activities of its ‘Religion and Law Studies Program’.


Professor Dr Tahir Mahmood

_________________________________________________________________________________
Financing of Churches and Religious Societies in the 21st Century
Slovakia, Bratislava and Nitra 14-16 October 2009


The Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic and the Institute for State-Church Relations  organized in October 2009 the international conference Financing of Churches and Religious  Societies in the 21st Century, held under the auspices of the minister of culture of the Slovak  Republic. About one hundred participants from 22 countries of Europe, Asia and America took part,  and 56 papers were presented.
 The first section was held in Bratislava and it dealt with the current issue of church financing in  Slovakia, financing of churches in Central and Eastern Europe, financing of churches by state and  the question of their autonomy, the economic support of religious minorities and new religious movements in Europe. Of a particular interest were the papers on the situation in Central and Eastern Europe, on the issue of state financing of churches and their autonomy, as well as on the  economic support of religious minorities. 
Slovak experts dealt with the issue from the point of view of the state law, economy,  ecclesiastical law, and gave more details about the perspectives of future development. The Czech  experts dealt with similar topics, presenting examples of co-financing of projects by church and state. Papers on situations in particular countries (Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, Finland,  Greece, Spain, Belgium, Romania, Italy, France, England, USA, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Portugal, and Poland) followed. Introducing customs and tax benefits of the Monastic Mount Athos was also of interest. 
In the second section of the conference, taking place in the ancient Nitra, particular attention  was paid to the issue of church property restitutions. The attention was focussed  on the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, first of all on Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Russia. The paper on religious minorities in Turkey and the issue of expropriation of church property and restitutions in the national law and the Strasbourg precedence law was of a specific interest.
The Nitra section of the conference took place in the restituted church premises of the Priest Seminary of St. Gorazd. The director and the economist of the Roman-Catholic Bishop´s Office presented in an interesting way the fate of this assets, focusing on the state and reconstruction of this cultural monument after its restitution by the Bishopric of Nitra; this presentation was followed by an excursion of the premises and the Nitra Castle.
The Institute for State-Church Relations is going to publish the conference proceedings in 2010 and they should become a valuable source of information about the religious life and institutions in individual countries, examples of good practice, problems and expectations, especially in connection with the restituted property of church.

Michaela Moravcikova, Director of the Institute for State-Church Relations
michaela.moravcikova@duch.sk 
_______________________________________________________________________________
Declaration adopted by the International conference "Peace, Brotherhood and Human Dignity in the Monotheistic Religions", convened by the Peres Academic Center (Rehovot, Israel) on 13-14 December 2009

On 14 December 2009 the following declaration has been proposed by prof. Asher Maoz and adopted by the participants  of the International conference "Peace, Brotherhood and Human Dignity in the Monotheistic Religions", convened by the Peres Academic Center (Rehovot, Israel) on 13-14 December 2009.

The participants of the conference
COGNIZANT of the vision of Peace, Brotherhood and Human Dignity common to all Monotheistic Religions and of the misuse of religious teachings to enhance hatred, violence and desecration of human dignity;
URGE religious leaders of all faiths to join forces in advancing the goal of common good, which underline the foundations of all religions;
CALL UPON governments to consult with religious teachings in furthering peace and understanding in this area and elsewhere;
IMPLORE all men and women of good will to endeavor to fulfill the vision of the prophet Isaiah: "they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more";
EXPRESS OUR CONFIDENCE that meetings among various religions, such as the present conference, will assist in creating a better world for this generation and for the generations to come.
ACCEPT WITH GRATITUDE HRH PRINCE HASSAN'S INVITATION TO COOPERATE WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS IN FURTHERING INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND ADVANCING HUMAN HAPPINESS.
 


Newsletter editor: Vincenzo Pacillo.
Kurt Martens, Angelika Guentzel, and Maria Elena Pimstein
are respectively responsible of the sections devoted to books, journals and links.


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