Westminster attack and faith and inter faith responses

On 22 March a terrorist attack took place on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament.

A number of faith and inter faith organisations issued statements or came together to hold vigils or ceremonies to remember all those affected by the attack and to show solidarity. A list of a number of these can be found at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/westminster-attacks-responses-by-faith-and-inter-faith-bodies. Many also took part in We Stand Together events on 29 March which were arranged with the lead of the Metropolitan Police.

On 23 March IFN’s Co-Chairs and the Moderators of IFN’s Faith Communities Forum issued the following statement in response to the terrorist attack in Westminster the previous day: “Yesterday’s attack at Westminster on police and members of the public exemplified the cowardly and destructive nature of the actions of terrorists. We hold in our prayers all whose lives have been lost or forever changed through the murderous acts of its perpetrator.

Terrorism is profoundly at odds with the values of our faith traditions and of the values at the heart of British society. We deplore and condemn it.

Attacks of this kind are designed to disrupt our society and to undermine the relationships within it. Let us resist this at all costs and stand together in unity.

Let us also watch out for the wellbeing of any groups who may be targeted because of terrorist actions which claim, or are perceived by some, as having a link to them. There is no place for prejudice and hatred of that kind and where it is found, let us redouble efforts to combat it.”

 Rizwan Ahmed from Bristol Muslim Cultural Society (BMCS) and Muslim Chaplain at Bristol University released this statement: *** Westminster Attack. 22nd March 2017 ***

As a nation most of us are feeling a sense of shock and sadness at the awful events that unfolded in Westminster today. Firstly our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and those affected. This is an absolutely disgusting attack on innocent people.

No sane human could justify such behaviour.  “Human” being a term loosely applied to the perpetrator here. Even animals don’t do this to each other. Today was an attack on all of us as a nation. I simply don’t have the words anymore to express the sadness that I feel whenever innocent lives are lost through evil misguided criminal behaviour justified by a warped sense of right and wrong. Be it here or any other place in the world. Or whoever the perpetrator is. Whether carried out by an individual, group, army or a nation.

While we are still awaiting further updates we can only speculate on the motives of the twisted mind or minds behind the attack. We should also acknowledge the bravery and professionalism of the Police and emergency services who handled the situation to stop it escalating into something even worse.

Let’s pray that Allah helps the victims and their families at this difficult time. Ameen.

Let’s pray that Allah brings the evil people behind such attacks here or anywhere in the world to justice swiftly. Ameen. Let’s pray that once again as a nation and continent we have the courage and resolve to stay united and stand together in the face of such abhorrent acts of evil. Ameen.

Rizwan Ahmed (BMCS & Muslim Chaplain Bristol University)

Looking After One Another: The Safety and Security of our Faith Communities

Looking after one another: the safety and security of our faith communities has been published by the Inter Faith Network for the UK in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, the National Fire Chiefs’ Council and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The document contains guidance on responding jointly to attacks on places of worship; working for calm at times of tension; and working to build on and strengthen existing good inter faith relations. It contains material about how and where to report hate incidents, cyber attacks, and actual or suspected terrorist activity; where to find information on strengthening the security of buildings; and where to find information about working to build – and strengthen – good inter faith relations locally. These practical pointers for responding in solidarity have particular resonance at the present time when there is a need to watch out for the wellbeing of any groups who may be targeted because of terrorist actions which claim, or are perceived by some, as having a link to them.

The document can be found at: https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/looking-after-one-another-the-safety-and-security-of-our-faith-communities-2017.

 European Court of Justice preliminary rulings on wearing of religious articles of faith

On 14 March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued two judgements concerning the wearing of religious articles of faith. The judgements were made in response to separate requests for preliminary rulings from the national courts of Belgium and France. References for preliminary rulings allow tribunals and courts within EU member states to refer questions to the Court of Justice about the interpretation of EU law or the validity of a European Union act. The ECJ does not decide the cases itself, but the referring court must dispose of the case in accordance with the ECJ’s decision, which also binds courts within other member states. The ECJ is an instrument of the European Union, and is distinct from the European Court of Human Rights, which is not.

Both cases involved women who were dismissed from their jobs for wearing a Muslim head scarf. The thrust of the ruling in the Belgian case was that workplace regulations which prohibit the wearing of visible signs of all political, philosophical or religious beliefs are not directly discriminatory as they treat all employees the same, noting that there was no evidence that the employer applied the rule differently to employees of a particular political, philosophical or religious belief. The ruling also noted that such regulations may constitute indirect discrimination if “the apparently neutral obligation it imposes results, in fact, in persons adhering to a particular religion or belief being put at a particular disadvantage.” Indirect discrimination may be lawful where it is considered an appropriate and necessary means of achieving a legitimate aim, “such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality.” The Belgian court will need to apply these tests when considering the case.

The French case differed in a number of respects, chiefly that the employee was dismissed because a customer of the employer complained that their account had been assigned to an employee who wore a head scarf, and it was unclear to the ECJ whether there was an internal rule which regulated the wearing of visible signs of all forms of political, philosophical or religious beliefs. It noted that if such a rule existed, then the same tests as in the Belgian case would need to be applied by the French court. The ruling also stated “the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the services of that employer provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement within the meaning of the directive.”

A copy of the ECJ press release about both rulings can be seen at http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-03/cp170030en.pdf it includes links to the full judgements.

A transcript of the Parliamentary question which took place in the UK Parliament following the ruling can be found at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-03-15c.408.10&s=speaker%3A10958.

EHRC letter to political parties

On 25 November 2016 the Chair and Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission published an open letter to all political parties in Westminster encouraging them to engage with the Commission and calling upon them to do more to heal divisions which have emerged following the EU referendum earlier this year and states “Politicians of all sides should be aware of the effect on national mood of their words and policies, even when they are not enacted.” The letter can be read at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/news/letter-all-political-parties-westminster

Digital marketing for Charities

A 12-step guide to digital marketing for charities, compiled by Flagship Consulting, which addresses the recommendations made by the Charity Commission last year that aimed to help charities keep pace with digital change. Access the guide here: http://flagshipconsulting.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Flagship-Consulting-Digital-Giving-12-Step-Guide-1.pdf

 Faith at the end of Life

Public Health England’s resource on ‘Faith at the end of Life’ aims to help frontline professionals and providers working in community settings and commissioners maintain a holistic approach to the people dying, caring or bereaved.

It provides information to help ensure that commissioning and delivery of services and practice takes account of spiritual needs of six faith groups in England and remains appropriate to the community setting in which they work. The resource can be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/upload

Race report: Healing a divided Britain

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published the biggest ever review into race equality in Britain across every aspect of people’s lives, including education, employment, housing, pay and living standards, health, criminal justice and participation. It reveals that while for certain people life has become fairer over the past five years, for others progress has stalled and for some– in particular young Black people – life on many fronts has got worse. The report can be found here: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/race-report-healing-divided-britain

 

 Awareness of Forced Marriage

Recognise the signs of forced marriages. It is estimated that approximately 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages of British citizens take place every year often resulting in devastating long term consequences for the victims. For more information download this resource pack and raise awareness across your organisation: http://www.safeguardingchildrenea.co.uk/resources/awareness-of-forced-marriage-resource-pack/

 

Faith and Domestic Abuse: Recommendations for faith leaders

Faith Action has launched a publication which is a collection of recommendations for faith leaders on how to deal with domestic abuse in their communities, aimed at starting an oft-neglected but vital conversation. The recommendations included in the publication come from a series of interviews held with faith leaders, faith-based organisations and domestic abuse organisations. A copy of the Recommendations can be downloaded from http://www.faithaction.net/portal/faith-and-health/our-projects/domestic-abuse/.