News and Views by Region

The Islamic Veil across Europe

Publication Date: 
September 22, 2011
Source: 
BBC
French girls in headscarves protesting in Strasbourg 1 Sep '04. Headscarves are allowed at French universities, but not schools.


Countries across Europe have wrestled with the issue of the Muslim veil - in various forms such as the body-covering burka and , which covers the face apart from the eyes.

The debate takes in religious freedom, female equality, secular traditions and even fears of terrorism.

The veil issue is part of a wider debate about multiculturalism in Europe, as many politicians argue that there needs to be a greater effort to assimilate ethnic and religious minorities.

France: With the burqa ban women are 'effectively under house arrest'

Publication Date: 
September 19, 2011
Source: 
The Guardian
Hind Ahmas, one of 2 French women facing a fine for wearing the niqab in a town near Paris. Photo: Magali Delporte/the Guardian


Since France introduced its burqa ban in April there have been violent attacks on women wearing the niqab and, this week, the first fines could be handed down. But a legal challenge to this hard line may yet expose the French state as a laughing stock.

Hind Ahmas walks into a brasserie in the north Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. Jaws drop, shoulders tighten and a look of disgust ripples across the faces of haggard men sipping coffee at the bar.

The Netherlands: Transgender Law Violates Rights

Publication Date: 
September 13, 2011
Source: 
Human Rights Watch
Chiel, Jamie, and Marvin with his boxing trainer Izi. © 2010 Sarah Wong - From: Inside Out / Portraits of Cross-gender Children

VNC supports the call below by Human Rights Watch for legal reform, and believes that State imposed rule on its citizens aimed at regulating and controlling their gender identity exemplified by Article 28 of the Netherlands' Civil Code is both influenced by, and reinforces, 'cultural' or social norms that are discriminatory towards LGBT people.

Repeal Requirement for Irreversible Surgery to Change Official Gender.

(Amsterdam) September 13, 2011 – The Dutch Civil Code violates the human rights of transgender people, and the government should amend it without delay, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The government should revise article 28 of the civil code, which requires transgender people to take hormones and undergo surgery to alter their bodies and be permanently and irreversibly sterilized before they can have their gender legally recognized on official documents Human Rights Watch said.

UK: Parents charged over suspected 'honour' killing

Publication Date: 
September 7, 2011
Source: 
The Guardian
Shafilea Ahmed, 17, whose parents have been charged with murder. Photograph: PA

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed, a suspected victim of a so-called honour killing eight years ago, have been charged with murder and are due to appear in court.

Council of Europe Convention calls for hotlines, shelters, medical and forensic services

Publication Date: 
September 1, 2011
Source: 
Human Rights Watch
Turkish woman shouts slogans in a crowd of more than 5,000 women to mark International Women's Day in Istanbul (Getty Images)


Hamiyet, a member of Turkey’s Kurdish minority, was a 15-year-old newlywed when her husband began beating her every evening after work. He hit her when she was pregnant with each of their nine children, and he raped her almost nightly. She sought help from the police, but they always sent her back home, more concerned with preserving “family unity” than with her safety.

Norway: Retail Chain Pulling Violent Video Games in Wake of Breivik Killings

Publication Date: 
August 1, 2011
Source: 
Time Techland


Norway's still reeling from the shocking mass murders allegedly performed by Anders Breivik 10 days ago, and the latest cultural repercussions will make it harder to find certain video games in the massacre's wake.

Coop Norway, one of the country's largest retailers, announced late last week that they'd be removing 51 video games and weapon-like toys from their shelves in the aftermath of the Oslo/Utoya shootings.

Among the titles affected are Sniper: Ghost WarriorCounter-Strike and four  games.

We Condemn the Norway Carnage as a Terrorist Act

Publication Date: 
July 27, 2011
Source: 
VNC Campaign
VNC Banner


The Violence is Not our Culture campaign (VNC Campaign) expresses its deepest sorrows to the people of Norway following the horrible terrorist attacks in Oslo that left some 76 persons dead.  The VNC campaign condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist acts in Norway as well as the extremist, bigoted and racist ideology that underpins it. 

'Culturally-justified' violence occurs in all faiths, nations, and societies.  In the midst of tremendous grieving, we are reminded of the dangers of right-wing extremism, Christian fundamentalism, and bigoted anti-Muslim sentiments that can and do turn deadly.

300 Austrian clerics call for women priests, reform

Publication Date: 
July 12, 2011
Source: 
National Catholic Reporter
Schonborn_0.jpg


VATICAN CITY -- Austrian bishops have criticized an effort by a group of priests calling for reforms in church practice, including opening the priesthood to women and married men, but the bishops have not taken or threatened disciplinary action.

Michael Pruller, spokesman for Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, said the cardinal plans to meet in late August or September with the Viennese priests who are among the leaders of the "Initiative of Parish Priests," which launched a "Call to Disobedience" in June.

The initiative, which says it has just more than 300 members, suggested saying a public prayer at every Mass for church reform;

UK: Teachers urged to be alert to students who may be at risk of forced marriage

Publication Date: 
July 7, 2011
Source: 
Foreign and Commonwealth Office


This summer over 350 young people will be forced to marry someone against their will and as a result may not return to their classrooms next academic year.  

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint-initiative between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office, is the Government’s specialist ‘one-stop shop’ for forced marriage. It provides support to victims of forced marriage as well as expert training and guidance to professionals working with victims or potential victims.  

Outrage as 'Obedient Wives Club' spreads across south-east Asia

Publication Date: 
July 6, 2011
Source: 
The Guardian
Malaysian Muslim Ishak Md Nor and his two wives, Aishah Abdul Ghafar, left, and Afiratul Abidah Mohd Hanan, members of the 'OWC'


A women's group that aims to teach Muslim wives how to "keep their spouses happy in the bedroom" is taking root in south-east Asia, prompting outrage from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The Obedient Wives Club (OWC), which has chapters in Malaysia, Indonesia and and intends to open in London and Paris later this year, says it intends to curb various social problems, including prostitution and gambling, by showing Muslim wives how to "be submissive and keep their spouses happy in the bedroom". This, in turn, would lead to more harmonious marriages and societies, it says.