04 August 2004 Daily Links

Vijay Dutt of the U.K.’s Hindustan Times reports that some “militant” Muslim doctors in inner-city areas with large ethnic population, such as Leeds, Bradford and London, are refusing to treat patients with sex diseases and AIDS, viewing the diseases as divine punishments caused by sinful behaviour. As a result of Islamic groups that have reportedly increased their activities at medical colleges, some students are also refusing to accept the theory of evolution or to study abortion, euthanasia or fertility procedures. Female students are insisting on wearing veils, though this violates strict rules that patients must be able to see their doctor’s face. Dutt reports that concerned moderates in the Muslim community have attempted to counter this “hard-line” influence by addressing medical students to convince them that the teachings of Islam are consistent with treating all patients.

The critical tools that historians, linguists and archaeologists have applied to the Bible for about 150 years are beginning to be applied to the Koran, Nicholas D. Kristof writes in The New York Times, and with what Kristof terms “explosive” results. The new scholarship, pioneered by the pseudonymous Christoph Luxenberg, has called into question some of the most widely-publicized interpretations of Koranic verse: the directive for women to wear veils (Luxenberg says it advises them to “‘buckle their belts around their hips'” instead); the supposed illiteracy of Muhammad (some scholars argue that his being “not ‘of the book’ simply means that he was neither Christian nor Jewish”); and perhaps most notably, the infamous 72 virgins. Luxenberg contends that “hur,” the word commonly translated as “virgin,” more likely was intended to mean “white grapes.”

“State security officers were given a free hand to do whatever they see fit…This happened to the Scientologists. This happened to the Bahais. It happened to different people who actually deviate from what the state sees as the official religion, or the heavenly religion.” No, no, this isn’t Florida. It’s Egypt, where Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, says that Shi’ite Muslims in Egypt are being subjected to systematic mistreatment, including arbitrary arrests and interrogation, torture and prolonged jail time without charges ever being filed. Egyptian security forces, reports Voice of America’s Greg LaMotte, are allowed to invoke a decades old emergency law that enables security forces to arrest anyone considered to be suspicious — a clause Mr. Bahgat claims is often used against religious minorities.

“‘He’s talking like the Knights of Columbus'”: G. Robert Hillman and Susan Hogan of The Dallas Morning News report on President Bush’s speech before the Knight of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization gathered in Dallas for its annual convention. Resounding the “compassionate conservative” themes from his first presidential campaign, Bush vowed to remove any remaining obstacles to the implementation of faith-based initiatives, repeated his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and human cloning and his support of faith-based organizations and preserving the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The president never mentioned Iraq in his 45-minute address.

Prostitution resurfaces in China, but so does religion, with a number of Christian churches cropping up along the country’s Route 312. NPR’s Rob Gifford reports on the resurgence of both prostitution and religion after the decline of communist influence, in the heart of the world’s most populous nation, in the third of seven reports on his 3,000-mile journey across China.

Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state constitutional yesterday, banning gay marriage, Monica Davey of The New York Times reports. At least nine other states — and maybe as many as 12 — will likely vote on similar amendments this fall. As in more than 30 other states, Missouri already had a state statute limiting the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But supporters of the amendment said they feared that a state provision might not be enough to keep “a court somewhere” from ruling that gay marriage was not legally prohibited.

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