In the News: What Happened & What Now?

A round-up of recent religion news.
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In the News: Westboro, Paris, Haiti, and Beyond!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

Christmas Island: Refugee Politics and an Orphan

by Nasya Bahfen

It was not nearly as dramatic as the footage beamed around the world of thousands of jubilant Egyptians celebrating in Tahrir Square, but the image of nine year old Seena Akhlaqi Sheikhdost caused a quiet revolution in Australia this week. Last December, the flimsy boat carrying Seena and up to a hundred Iranian, Kurdish and Iraqi asylum seekers smashed into a rocky cliff on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian ocean. Seena survived the shipwreck. His parents and brother did not. In early February, the first of the victims were buried in Sydney, including Seena’s father (the bodies of his mother and brother have not been found). Over and over again, Australians saw on television and in the newspapers gut-wrenching images of Seena’s face crumpled up in tears watching his father laid to rest in a traditional Muslim funeral, as members of his Sydney-based extended family tried in vain to console him.

The issue of asylum seekers who arrive by boat is a fiercely divisive one. It is played out in the media through a paradigm of xenophobia (those seeking refugee status have largely been Middle Eastern, at a time when the nature and legitimacy of Islam’s presence in Australia is being questioned); exaggeration about the size of the problem compared to, say, illegal immigrants who arrive by plane and overstay their visas; and false claims about the supposed entitlements of the overwhelming majority of boat arrivals who are ultimately found to be genuine refugees. Continue Reading →

Heaven for Infiltrators

Ashley Makar writes at Tablet about Sudanese refugees in Israel. A clip:

The Knesset’s information branch reports that there are over 24,000 “infiltrators” and asylum seekers in Israel: almost 19,000 Sudanese and Eritreans, the rest from Central Africa. Up to 7,000 of these are in Eilat, where Mayor Yitzhak Halevi is on a “Save the City” campaign to rid his town of Africans. In a July press conference, Halevi said Israel has become a “heaven for infiltrators.” He added that those who are changing the demographic composition of Eilat are de-valuing properties, committing crimes, spreading diseases, and “getting drunk and frustrated.”

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