News Roundup: Religion, Violence, and Norway, Plus Other Stories

In the news this week: the role of religion in the Norway tragedy, the Park51 developer hopes for peace, Belgium enacts a veil ban, Herman Cain issues an apology, and the San Francisco circumcision ban is stymied, for now.

The recent atrocity in Norway includes a wide range of complex religious sub-stories. Anders Breviek admitted to murdering over 90 people in order to display his opposition to the immigration of Muslims and the Norwegian government’s moderate policies (NY Times). Breivik also self-identifies as a Christian in his writing, but many are arguing that he is nothing of the sort (NY Times). If he had been Muslim with similar opinions, would anyone in the western world debate his true religiosity? Unrelated to Breviek’s beliefs and identity, many assumed that Islamic militants were responsible for the murders before any suspect had been identified. Now many in the Muslim community are wondering why members of their religion are immediately implicated in any terrorist activity (LA Times). 
 
The Huffington Post recently ran a story on the Park51 project and its developer, Sharif el-Gamal. Gamal is quietly maintaining that the project is a community center and welcoming place for people of all faiths or none, but he is concerned about what might happen in the media and community in the weeks leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He believes there is a possibility of negative national attention similar to what took place last summer. Prepare New York, of which Tanenbaum is a founding member, is creating resources and promoting events that build an environment of respect around the 10th anniversary.
 
Belgium is the second European Union country to enact a law banning veils. According to the BBC, Belgium's law bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. The law was passed almost unanimously with only two law makers abstaining. Two women are challenging the law in the country’s constitutional court.
 
Herman Cain, presidential hopeful, released a statement apologizing for his negative statements about Muslims after meeting with four Muslim leaders recently. Cain had said that communities should have the right to ban Islamic mosques (to block the influence of sharia law) and that he would not want a Muslim in his administration. He recognized that these positions were unconstitutional and that Muslims have the right to practice freely in the United States (USA Today).
 
And here is an update on the California circumcision ban from the Jewish Daily Forward:
A San Francisco Superior Court judge tentatively ruled that an initiative banning circumcisions for anyone under 18 be removed from the November ballot.  The July 27 ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed last month, which argued that state law bars municipalities from banning legitimate medical practices.  In her ruling, the Bay Area newspaper j. reported, Judge Loretta Giorgi argued that the proposed ballot initiative is “expressly pre-empted” by state law because the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that “circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure.”