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My First Yom Kippur in Exile

This is my first Yom Kippur in exile.

The crisp Moscow autumn air; the illuminated synagogue which I called home for 30 years; my white hat and kittel, the robe Jews wear on the High Holy Days, folded up, in my apartment that now sits locked — it all seems like a dream.

As the chief rabbi of Moscow, I used to prepare for this holiday for weeks. Some of the work was technical — securing cantors and shofar blowers for synagogues across Russia, or guiding the sick on whether or not they should fast on the holy day. Some of the preparation was more lofty: I would prepare my sermon thoughts while walking daily for early morning penitential prayers, past the bustling cafes on Pokrovka Street, down the hill on Arkhipova Street, up the stairs to the pale yellow synagogue, with its dome.…  Seguir leyendo »

Todavía recuerdo mis lágrimas de alegría al saber de la liberación de Mahvash Sabet en 2017. Tras 10 años encarcelada por pertenecer a la comunidad bahai, la mayor minoría religiosa de Irán, la dejaban libre sin haber podido demostrar ni uno solo de los cargos que se le imputaban.

Yo había pasado varios años traduciendo su poemario Poemas enjaulados (PreTextos, 2020), escrito durante su encarcelamiento, y había llorado al traer al castellano sus versos, que me transportaron a una atmósfera asfixiante en la que la tortura y la inmundicia campaban a sus anchas.

Por eso, el pasado 31 de julio volví a llorar, al saber que Sabet era arrestada de nuevo y que no se conocía su paradero.…  Seguir leyendo »

Algunos pensarán que la reciente matanza de cristianos en Nigeria es un hecho aislado y que nos pilla muy lejos de la Unión Europea.

La violencia contra los cristianos en este país africano no cesa, superando los más de 3.500 asesinatos anuales. Los yihadistas y grupos radicales afines no descansan y masacran a la población cristiana ante unas autoridades incapaces de frenar esta barbarie.

No se trata de un hecho aislado. Más de 300 millones de cristianos sufren persecución en el mundo. Pero la situación es especialmente grave en África. Sobre todo en Nigeria, donde la quema de iglesias y el ataque a los cristianos se intensifica día a día.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, in 2014, India has seen a marked uptick in hate speech and violence directed at its Muslim minority. Western officials, including from the United States, have urged Modi and his BJP government to reaffirm India’s avowed pluralism, but they have exerted little pressure on New Delhi; India remains too important an economic and geopolitical partner in the wider contest with China.

In June, however, the darkening atmosphere of majoritarianism and illiberalism in India earned its strongest international rebuke so far. It came not from liberal Western governments but from a slew of Arab countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents of Shaheen Bagh surround officials during a demolition drive in New Delhi on May 9. (Manish Swarup/AP)

How does one talk of the disintegration of the world’s most populous democracy without surrendering to an exhausting pessimism? How does one remain objective about a story that involves one’s lived experience, persecution and humiliation? How does one write about their love for their nation when any attempt to highlight the fascism unleashed against their people is viewed as discrediting the nation on the global stage?

India — a country of nearly 1.4 billion considered by many around the world as an example of coexistence, pluralism and diversity — is engulfed in a fire of Hindu supremacy. The situation has become so fraught that Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, has warned India could be on the cusp of a genocide against Muslim citizens.…  Seguir leyendo »

An elder member of the Yazidi community at the square near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Mosul in Iraq on March 7. (Zaid Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis began his first-ever papal trip to Iraq on Friday, marking a watershed moment in relations between the Catholic Church and the Middle East. Yet for all the optimism of the Pope’s message, his visit also serves to remind us that Christianity and other minority faiths of the region are facing dark times.

The Middle East is the cradle of the three Abrahamic faiths that have more than 4 billion adherents around the globe. The region remains home to some of the world’s most ancient languages, cultures and heritage sites.

Yet oppressive governments and violent extremist movements have been busy erasing the Middle East’s diverse religious communities.…  Seguir leyendo »

French president Emmanuel Macron: accused a Financial Times writer of misquoting him. Photograph: Reuters

Letters complaining about newspaper articles are unexceptional. Not so letters from the Élysée Palace. Last week, the Financial Times published, after the killing of teacher Samuel Paty in Paris and of churchgoers in Nice, an article by its Europe correspondent, Mehreen Khan, critical of French president Emmanuel Macron’s policies towards Islam. Macron’s desire to “use the state to prescribe a ‘correct’ religion”, she wrote, has “more in common with authoritarian Muslim leaders than enlightenment values of separating church and state”.

Macron responded with a letter-cum-article defending himself and his policies and accusing Khan of “misquoting” him – he insisted he had never talked of “Islamic separatism”, as Khan suggested, only of “Islamist separatism”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mounted police patrol guard the Grand Mosque in Paris during prayers last Friday. Photograph: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

As a dual citizen of France and Canada, I never cease to be amazed by the depth of misunderstanding there is about French attitudes to religion. France’s shortcomings in its management of diversity are obvious – as are everyone else’s – but it is important to recognise some basic facts before pronouncing on them.

The first is that the principle of laïcité in France – the country’s particular brand of secularism – is more than posturing: it is a lived, sociological fact.

The extent of secularism in France, especially over the last half century, is well documented. Jérôme Fourquet, in The French Archipelago, provides 350 pages of evidence on the transformation of France – or, as he puts it, the disappearance of the religious in France.…  Seguir leyendo »

The protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Shaheen Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi on Dec. 30, 2019. Credit Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

By now, the world knows that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and his Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) have eroded the liberal principles of the Indian Constitution and are turning the country into an increasingly illiberal democracy. It is common knowledge that Mr. Modi thrives on the grievances and bigotries that pit privileged majorities against minorities living in fear.

Less familiar, but much more hopeful, is the response of the main target of this majoritarian assault: India’s Muslim minority — roughly 172 million peopl e who account for just about 14.2 percent of India’s total population of approximately 1.32 billion people, roughly 79.8 percent of whom are Hindu.…  Seguir leyendo »

Banners with the images of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, Lord Ram and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath on the eve before the groundbreaking ceremony of the proposed Ram Temple in Ayodhya. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, images and renderings of the Grand Ram Temple — which will be built on the the site of the Babri Masjid, an important mosque in Uttar Pradesh state demolished by right-wing Hindu nationalists— will be beamed across giant billboards in Times Square by a U.S. organization to mark the groundbreaking ceremony for the temple’s construction, which will feature Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying silver bricks as the foundation.

Wednesday is also the anniversary of India’s decision to revoke the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim-majority state where 7 million people have been living under a brutal military occupation and Internet blackout.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkish police officers wearing face masks, with the Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia, now a museum, in the background, patrol at Sultanahmet Square following the coronavirus outbreak in Istanbul on June 5. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople lowered his voice in exasperation. “What can I say as a Christian clergyman and the Greek patriarch in Istanbul? Instead of uniting, a 1,500-year-old heritage is dividing us. I am saddened and shaken”.

The 80-year-old spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide was referring to the Turkish government’s plans to convert Hagia Sophia, a 6th-century Byzantine cathedral and one of the most precious architectural wonders of the world, into a mosque. For centuries, the terra-cotta-colored building served as the largest church in the Christian world. When Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453, they carefully covered the mosaics and turned it into a mosque.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldiers patrol during curfew Dec. 12 in Guwahati, India, following protests over the Indian government’s passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. (AFP/Getty Images)

This week, India’s Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, fundamentally changing the country’s Citizenship Act of 1955 — and setting off protests in the northeastern states and a curfew in some cities.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government introduced the bill during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term, but Parliament failed to pass the bill at the time. The BJP reintroduced the bill on Monday, and it cleared both the Lok Sabha (lower house) and the Rajya Sabha (upper house). President Ram Nath Kovind signed the bill into law on Thursday.

Why is there such strong domestic pushback, and why did the Indian government deploy more than 5,000 paramilitary troops and impose an Internet blackout to maintain order in Assam and Tripura?…  Seguir leyendo »

Publié dans Paris Match jeudi 5 décembre, un article signé par Bernard-Henri Lévy lance un SOS pour les chrétiens du Nigeria. Selon lui, les Fulanis musulmans (aussi appelés Peul en Afrique francophone) seraient sur le point de commettre un « génocide » contre les chrétiens du pays. Dans n’importe quelle région du monde, l’accusation est grave. Dans un pays de près de 200 millions d’habitants, composé à peu près pour moitié de chrétiens, on pourrait attendre une recherche sérieuse et approfondie.

Pressions économiques et écologiques

L’article, cependant, est un florilège d’approximations, de clichés et d’erreurs factuelles. Surtout, en inscrivant les événements du Nigeria dans un « choc des civilisations » global, en appelant à une solidarité mal informée, il peut contribuer à attiser les violences et à durcir encore les clivages.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shelina Begum and husband Mohammed Raqeeb stand at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in September.

The tussle between parents of a terminally ill child and a hospital that wants to withdraw life support is a heartbreakingly familiar one.

Tafida Raqeeb, a 5-year old girl whose blood vessels ruptured in her brain in February, is the latest in a line of well-known cases like Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup. Unlike in these cases, Tafida's parents won a rare victory in early October: They were allowed to transfer her to a hospital in Italy that has agreed to keep her on life support because Tafida does not meet their criteria for switching it off (which is being diagnosed as brain dead, and Tafida has not been).…  Seguir leyendo »

Five years ago, Islamic State fighters invaded my ancestral homeland of Sinjar, Iraq, and waged a systematic ethnic-cleansing campaign against the Yazidi community. Their campaign included mass executions, forced religious conversions and widespread sexual violence. These attacks resulted in the massacre of aaa men, women and children; the enslavement of nearly 7,000 Yazidis; and displacement of more than 400,000 Yazidis to camps in northern Iraq.

But that was not the end of our suffering. As Sheri P. Rosenberg observed in a 2012 article, genocide is a process, not an event. The continued suffering, fear and uncertainty in the Yazidi community show that the genocide process is ongoing.…  Seguir leyendo »

En rugby no existe el gol en contra, pero Rugby Australia (el organismo rector de este deporte en Australia) hizo todo lo posible por anotar uno, al terminar el contrato de Israel Folau. Con ello, se perdió los servicios de un fullback estrella que jugó 73 partidos para Australia.

La razón que adujo Rugby Australia para poner fin a la carrera de Folau es que publicó en su cuenta de Instagram la foto de un impreso que decía: “borrachos, homosexuales, adúlteros, mentirosos, fornicarios, ladrones, ateos e idólatras, el infierno os espera”. A lo que Folau agregó algunas palabras propias: “Quienes viven en el Pecado acabarán en el Infierno a menos que se arrepientan.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’arrivée le 8 mai d’Asia Bibi au Canada marque le dénouement d’une affaire qui durait depuis dix ans, et qui témoigne du retour de la question du blasphème dans nos sociétés contemporaines. En 2009, cette villageoise chrétienne se dispute avec des femmes musulmanes qui lui reprochent d’avoir souillé l’eau réservée aux musulmans. Asia Bibi est accusée d’avoir alors insulté le prophète Muhammad. Condamnée à mort, elle sera acquittée huit ans plus tard.

Au Pakistan, l’affaire a suscité des manifestations de masse pour exiger son exécution. Cette susceptibilité pakistanaise à l’égard du blasphème trouve ses origines au XIXe iècle avec l’introduction par les Britanniques d’un code pénal pour l’Inde coloniale.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Es necesario reflexionar hoy sobre la libertad religiosa?, ¿qué ha cambiado en el mundo desde 1965, cuando el Concilio Vaticano II aprobó la declaración «Dignitatis Humanae»? La Comisión Teológica Internacional se ha preguntado por las transformaciones de la civilización global desde entonces. Su reciente documento «La libertad religiosa para el bien de todos» nos ayuda a entender cuáles son las oportunidades de las que goza y los riesgos que corre este derecho fundamental hoy día. Para empezar, ha cambiado la percepción de la religión en sí misma. El fenómeno religioso sigue presente en el mundo globalizado de un modo muy significativo, diferente de lo que se preveía a mediados del siglo XX.…  Seguir leyendo »

Moroccan and Israeli Jews celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, at a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Marrakesh in 2017. Credit Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On a recent balmy spring afternoon, a group of Muslim Moroccan students visited Rabbi Akiba, a jewelbox of a synagogue down an arched passageway in the Siaghine area of Tangier. Constructed in the mid-19th century, the synagogue underwent a meticulous renovation and recently reopened as a museum.

The students peered at the polished marble floors from the women’s balcony and examined a threadbare, hand-drawn map of the synagogues in the neighborhood. The tour of Rabbi Akiba is just one of many ways that Muslim students in Morocco are learning about their country’s Jewish heritage.

While Judaism in the Middle East and North Africa often evokes images of hostility, in Morocco, where we were born and raised, in Jewish (Ms.…  Seguir leyendo »

Religious tolerance in Bahrain

Bahrain has been a crossroads of commerce and culture since the ancient Greeks. Today, it remains a melting pot, the tolerant home to many religions and ethnicities. Christians, Hindus, Jews and others worship openly alongside their Muslim brothers. All cultures are respected.

Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United Arab Emirates — the first by any pope to the Gulf region — was remarkable. As Vatican flags flew on the peninsula where Islam was born, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church joined a prominent imam to preach love, peace and religious pluralism.

This inspiring message should reverberate around the world and encourage the world to look at the region a little closer than they have.…  Seguir leyendo »