Religious Extremism


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Conscience: The Newsjournal of Catholic Opinion

Catholics for Choice

Vol. XXXIV No. 2 2013


RELIGION IS NOT THE BARRIER TO PROGRESS AT THE UNITED NATIONS or in parliaments around the world. Religious extremism, on the other hand, is. Religious extremism ignores the moderate views of most religious people and those with no religion, and it has the potential to do serious damage to the health and well-being of anybody in its path. Many religious people work for the greater good. Religious extremists, however, have an immoderate, uncompromising approach to politics and, given the chance, they would deny basic rights and require fundamental changes to the way most people want to live. In this issue of Conscience, we examine how religious extremists seek to shape the world to their worldview. 

Earlier this year at the United Nations-sponsored Commission on the Status of Women, the Holy See used its elevated status to try to derail a declaration condemning violence against women. This opposition to women’s rights is business as usual for the Holy See at the UN. Noted journalist Joanne Omang examines the history of the Holy See and considers what might be in store under Pope Francis.

We then move to Europe, where Neil Datta has done significant research into the activities of various members of the European antichoice lobby. He illustrates how the attempts to organize a coherent and effective opposition to reproductive health services are still at the birthing stage, despite having impressive resources at their disposal.

We are very fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of Marieme Helie Lucas, a leading advocate with the organization Women Living Under Muslim Laws, who explains what fatwas are, and more importantly, what they are not. She discusses the role the media has played in popularizing misunderstandings about fatwas, thereby strengthening fundamentalists’ agendas while down- playing other Muslim points of view.

Finally, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, currently working in Israel, examines the worrying influence of ultra-Orthodox Jews on the lives of women, as in both Israel and the US, they are seeking to curtail women’s rights. Does the religious freedom of ultra-Orthodox communities trump women’s right to ride at the front of the bus?

As always, our letters page is open for your comments.


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