ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 4, 2004
[Islam] France reassures Muslims
Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the French prime minister, reassured the leader of the country's Muslims yesterday of his government's respect for Islam following the recent crackdown on imams. Dalil Boubakeur, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said Mr Raffarin had told him the expulsion of five suspected radical imams in the past four months "did not reflect any hostility" towards France's 5 million Muslims, the largest community in Europe. In return Mr Boubakeur promised to improve training for Islamic clerics and to draw up a list of authorised imams.
[Antisemitism] Arabs Protest Vienna's Plans for Square
Plans to name a Vienna square after Zionist Theodor Herzl drew protest Tuesday from the Arab League, which urged city fathers to reconsider for the sake of continued "good relations" with the Arab world. Representatives of Vienna's Islamic community also opposed the plan to honor the founder of Zionism, the movement to establish the state of Israel. But municipal officials said Islamic opposition came late and was unlikely to derail the plan, which is part of celebrations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death on July 3.
[Santa Muerte] Gangsters pray to Our Lady of Death
The first day of each month, hardened criminals of the capital's no-go Tepito neighbourhood clutch death figures to their chests and flock to a kerbside shrine of Santa Muerte, Our Lady of Death, to pray. [...] One of the leading experts on the phenomenon is the Mexican writer Homero Aridjis, a former president of the international writers' group PEN, whose novel about the booming cult became an instant bestseller on publication earlier this year. "Santa Muerte is the goddess of the desperate," Aridjis said. "Belief in her is bursting out of this den of thieves and into society at large as people become less trusting of bureaucratic and corrupt governments and an authoritarian Church. "You can ask favours of Santa Muerte that you couldn't ask of the Virgin. "People say to her, 'Protect me - tonight I'm going out to kidnap and to steal,' because she doesn't ask any questions. "But if she helps you, that help always comes at a price."
[Polygamy] FLDS influx concerns small town in Texas
As men from a polygamist group dined in town or stopped for gas, said Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran, some residents feared another Waco, where David Koresh and 85 of his Branch Davidian followers died in 1993. But the worry was not necessary, said Doran's counterpart here in Washington County, Sheriff Kirk Smith. "There is no indication that it will happen," said Sheriff Smith, who met with 22 local officials during a visit to Eldorado last week. "This group has never shown any propensity for violence." The group is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest polygamist group in America based in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
[Polygamy] Arizona Governor Signs Bill Targeting Polygamy
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has signed into law a bill intended to combat the forced marriages of teenage girls in polygamist enclaves by creating the crime of child bigamy. The bill is modeled after a Utah law. It makes it a felony for a married adult to marry a child. Other provisions are aimed at holding parents responsible for forced marriages of their children.
[Islam] Muslim Fury Over `Witch-Hunt' As France Continues Expulsions
Controversy over the French government's crackdown on radical Islam deepened yesterday when Paris attempted to kick out another alleged extremist religious and political leader, the sixth in four months. The expulsion of Midhat Guler, a Turkish market trader who had lived in France for 28 years, was halted after he appealed for political asylum. The French government says he is the leader in France of an extremist Turkish sect called Kaplan, which is already banned in Turkey and Germany.
[Islam] France Plans to Deport Turkish Man, Accusing Him of Militantism
The French police have detained a Turkish man who runs a mosque in Paris, and they are planning to deport him for advocating violence, France's Interior Ministry said over the weekend. The move is the latest in the country's campaign to rid itself of outspoken advocates of Islamic militancy.
The man, Midhat Guler, 45, was taken into custody late Saturday at his home in the Paris suburb of Courtry after the ministry issued an expulsion order. The ministry said in a statement that Mr. Guler heads the French branch of a Turkish Islamic movement that supports terrorism.
[Brainwashing] The mystery of mind control
So is mind control myth or reality? "'Mind control' is a made-up term", says Professor E Mark Stern of Iona Collage in New York, author of The Other Side of the Couch. "But yes, it is possible to totally influence a person's inner world." According to Stern, there can be good mind control and bad mind control. "In its best sense, mind control is akin to self-control, often used as a product of meditation. This can be helpful for pain management. "But then there are things like cults - there, mind control happens when a cult wins over another person's consciousness through hypnotic-like inducements including 'love bombs', a form of praise, overseeing an inductee's every action, and eventually using shame and the threat of being expelled by the cult as a means of controlling them." [...] Massimo Introvigne, founder of the Center for Studies on New Religions, believes that mind control theorists leave out one important thing - free will, our ability to think for ourselves even under extreme circumstances.
According to Introvigne, mind control, or "mental manipulation" or "mental destabilisation", are merely more scientific-sounding terms for the brainwashing. "That label has been discredited by mental health scholars", he says, so now we say "mind control" to explain away behaviour we "don't quite understand".
CAUTION: This article quotes cult apologist Massimo Introvigne. Like colleague J. Gordon Melton, Introvigne dismisses the brainwashing concept, likely because it plays havoc with the cottage industry of those who defend religious cults.
[Mormon Church] Court boots ACLU's plaza suit
Salt Lake City leaders made a "rational" decision when they sold the Main Street Plaza's public-access easement to the LDS Church for $4.5 million and 4.5 acres on the west side, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled Monday. In dismissing the latest plaza lawsuit, the federal judge said the American Civil Liberties Union failed to prove the city violated the First Amendment's prohibitions against restricting speech or endorsing religion when it sold the easement. The ruling allows the church to keep its ban of behavior and speech it deems offensive on the property.
[Robin Marie Murphy] Family, former friends react to news
The reaction to Robin Marie Murphy's pending release from prison after 24 years, although wide-ranging, has been mostly negative. The State Parole Board recently granted Murphy parole. Along with codefendant Carl Drew, she was convicted of the ritualistic slaying of Karen Marsden in 1980, but was also believed to have taken part in two similar killings -- of young prostitutes Doreen Levesque and Barbara Ann Raposa -- in and around Fall River in 1979 and 1980.
[Robin Marie Murphy] Cult killer gets parole
Convicted murderer Robin Marie Murphy, the woman at the center of a Satanic cult controversy that has spanned nearly three decades, will be released from prison later this month after serving 24 years behind bars for the grisly murder of city prostitute Karen Marsden. [...] Murphy, along with her codefendant Carl Drew, was convicted of the ritualistic slaying of Marsden in 1980, but was also believed to have taken part in two similar cult killings in and around Fall River in 1979 and 1980.
[Raelians] A Big Cloning Job for the Raelians
The Raelians, who believe aliens created the human race through genetic engineering, made headlines last year by announcing their own scientific miracle, the cloning of a girl named Baby Eve. No DNA evidence or other proof was forthcoming, however, and scientists turned their collective back on Raelian researchers, despite their claims of having cloned 12 more babies. Now the group's founder and spiritual leader, His Holiness Rael (former French journalist and race car driver Claude Vorilhon) is taking a different tack. Rael, 57, last week said he will clone a woolly mammoth from 18,000-year-old remains found recently in Siberia by French explorer Bernard Buigues.
[Antisemitism] Anti-Semitic violence in France up in early 2004
Anti-Semitic violence in France rose in the first three months of the year, the Interior Ministry said Saturday, a day after 127 graves were found desecrated at a Jewish cemetery. The ministry said that 67 acts of violence against Jews were recorded in the first trimester of 2004, up from 42 in the last three months of 2003. The increase could be attributed to greater police vigilance and campaigns by the Jewish community encouraging people to report such crimes, the ministry said.
[Religious Intolerance] US Anti-Muslim Incidents Up 70 Pct in 2003 -Report
Incidents of violence, discrimination and harassment against Muslims in the United States soared 70 percent in 2003 over the previous year, an Islamic civil rights group reported on Monday. The war in Iraq and the lingering atmosphere of fear from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks contributed to the sharp rise in anti-Muslim activity, according to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
NOTE: CAIR is a controversial lobbying group whose leaders have been known to excuse and support the use of violence.
[Palo Mayombe] Woman Convicted In Bone Thefts From Cemeteries
61-year-old woman accused of being a high priestess in the Palo Mayombe religious cult was convicted Monday of stealing human remains from cemeteries. Miriam Mirabal, of Newark, was found guilty of theft, conspiracy to commit theft and burglary. [...] Maglione said Mirabal stole the human remains for the purpose of practicing Palo Mayombe, rites in which human remains are placed into cauldrons so that practitioners can call down the spirits of the dead to cast misfortune on others.
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