European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom


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The Chairman of the Board of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy has written a letter to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in order to point out the great danger of a report drafted by Rudy Salles, French member and rapporteur at PACE, as well as the fact that the rapporteur appears as having been instructed in adopting policies and actions by French MIVILUDES in violation of the PACE Code of Conduct for Rapporteurs.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy stands against discriminatory resolution at Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Madame Anne Brasseur
President, Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe
Palais de l’ Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex

March 26, 2014

Dear Madame President:
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is a non-partisan, inter-religious international organization dedicated to encourage open dialogue and shape public participation in policy of the global community of faith. The Institute works with government policymakers, religious leaders, community leaders, academics and NGOs in order to protect and promote fundamental rights, especially religious freedom.
We are writing to express our serious concern regarding the Report written by French Rapporteur Rudy Salles, entitled “The Protection of Minors against Excesses of Sects”, and the accompanying Resolution and Recommendations that are going to be voted on at the second part of the plenary session in April 2014.
1. The Report Advocates Policies That Contravene International Human Rights Standards
In our opinion, the Resolution and Recommendations fall far short of meeting international human rights standards regarding religious freedom, tolerance and pluralism that the Council of Europe has long stood for.
Protecting children is, of course, of paramount importance. However, adoption of the Resolution and Recommendations will not protect the rights of children. Instead, it will endanger those rights and the rights of parents to raise their children in accordance with their religious beliefs and association, a right protected by Article 2 of Protocol N°
1 to the European Convention on Human Rights which provides:
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
This right is also protected under Article 18.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 14.1 of the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet, the Report ignores this right and adopts the presumption that parents of minority faiths should have not have the right to raise children according to their religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, the Report focuses exclusively on selective and biased information solely from sources supporting repressive actions against minority religions, which in turn infringes on fundamental freedoms and stimulates hostility by stigmatizing targeted groups. As such, the Report does a disservice to the extensive efforts of the Council in other areas to combat intolerance and foster pluralism in Europe.
Sweeping generalizations, vague and unsupported allegations, and one-sided information from biased sources never constitute the “objective and reasonable justification” required for legal restrictions on the manifestation of religion pursuant to Article 9(2) of the ECHR. Moreover, isolated instances never justify general restrictions against a group. Yet, the Report is rife with such allegations and information, rendering its conclusions and recommendations suspect.
For example, the Resolution states that “the phenomenon of excesses of sects affecting minors is ever more present in Europe”. Yet, there is no concrete evidence offered to support this astounding statement. Indeed, the evidence that does exist proves the opposite. Case in point: the 2013 Netherlands Parliament Study finding that minority faiths pose no danger to public order or health.(
The Report represents an attempt by the French Rapporteur to export the controversial and often internationally criticized French policy towards minority faiths derogatorily referred to as “sects”, policies that do not comport with the approach of the vast majority of countries in the Council of Europe.
In spite of the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment, the French government has determined to arbitrarily classify religious groups into two separate categories: 1) religions viewed as law-abiding and beneficial to society; and 2) "sects" viewed as dangerous to society, which are the targets of oppressive and discriminatory measures, and which the government declares must be "fought" against.
There is no rational justification for such classification. Indeed, classifying religious groups into “religions” and “sects” is itself a violation of religious human rights standards. It is impermissible and arbitrary for the government to confer benefits on groups it classifies as “religions” while denying benefits and enacting oppressive measures against groups it classifies as “sects.” The United Nations, religious experts, and UN treaty-based bodies have consistently found that the expression "religion or belief," as well as the individual terms "religion" and "belief," must be construed broadly to include non-traditional religions and all forms of belief.
One other recommendation in direct violation of human rights standards is the call for “awareness sessions” for judges on the issue of “sects” even though the UN Human Rights Committee, in its 1996 Concluding Observations Regarding Germany, recommended that such sessions be discontinued. Likewise, such sessions would violated the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (2010)12 to member states on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities, which states in § 57, that judicial training programs must “meet the requirements of openness, competence and impartiality inherent in judicial office".
2. Mr. Salles is Neither Neutral Nor Impartial as Required By the PACE Code of Conduct for Rapporteurs
Rules 1.1.1. 1.1.2 and 1.1.4 of the PACE Code of Conduct require that Rapporteurs be neutral and impartial on matters they introduce.
Mr Salles is neither neutral nor impartial as detailed in the submissions on this subject filed by the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF) and by Coordination of Associations and People for Freedom of Conscience (CAPLC), which the Institute supports.
Mr. Salles is an active advocate and proponent of the policies he promotes in his Report.
• Mr. Salles was appointed to the Board of MIVILUDES in 2012.
• The former President of MIVILUDES, Georges Fenech, has referred to Mr. Salles as a “pioneer of the anti-sect fight in France”.
• When Mr. Salles was appointed as Rapporteur, he made a joint statement to the media with Mr. Fenech, announcing the appointment and noting that one of his goals was to create a European Observatory on “sects”, a European MIVILUDES.
The facts evidence a woeful lack of impartiality and also provide the appearance that the Rapporteur was being instructed in adopting policies and actions by MIVILUDES in violation of the Code.
MIVILUDES has been involved in targeting many religious groups, including Catholic groups in France in the past. A small Catholic community in the East of France, Amour et Miséricorde (Love and Mercy), which used to gather around its founder who had visions of the Virgin Mary every month, announced its dissolution after a “visit” by MIVILUDES. Newspaper Le Progrès reported on 18 December 2008:
Dominique Balestrat, owner of the land on which the community was living, who has been himself a member of the group for ten years, feels incomprehension and sadness. He says: “We welcomed Georges Fenech, he said he was not coming for an investigation but only to meet with us... He used the media to crush us when there is nothing to crush. We were a dozen people here. We are not a sect. We are Catholics who wanted to live in community”.
The inherent bias of the Report is graphically illustrated by the Report’s premise that further measures targeting minority faiths designated as “sects” are necessary at this juncture. This is a remarkable statement because it is not supported by any evidence and it is directly contradicted by a host of human rights reports from highly respected organizations on the subject. In reality, quite the opposite is true. The acclaimed University of Essex Human Rights Centre 1997 study on the subject of freedom of religion finds, after conducting extremely detailed and exhaustive research on the topic, that new religions are a recurring target of discrimination in Europe:
“Freedom of religion therefore is not to be interpreted narrowly by states, for example, to mean traditional world religions only. New religions or religious minorities are entitled to equal protection. This principle is of particular importance in light of the evidence reflected in the Country entries, including those of the European section, revealing that new religious movements are a recurring target for discrimination or repression.”
The Institute is of the opinion that the Report, Resolution and Recommendations contravene accepted human rights standards in the Council of Europe. The Report also contravenes the PACE Code of Conduct for Rapporteurs as it is neither neutral nor impartial. Therefore, we urge that it not be endorsed by PACE and that the rights of parents and their children to religious freedom and religious tolerance be respected.
Joseph Grieboski 
Chairman of the Board

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Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, March 27th 2014 | Comments (0)

The President of the Islam Community of German Speaking Muslims & Friends of the Islam e.V. has sent a letter to the President of he Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Mrs Anne Brasseur, to alert her about a report entitled "protecting minors against the excesses of sects", drafted by French member of PACE Rudy Salles. For him: "this report is obviously not aimed at protecting children, but only at targeting religious minorities in Europe, without bringing any evidence that there would be more excesses toward children within religious minorities than within any other group, including mainstream religions."

The President of the Islam Community of German Speaking Muslims alerts President of PACE on "sects" issue
Madam Anne Brasseur

 of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe
Avenue de l’Europe

67075 Strasbourg Cedex

Berlin, 22nd of March 2014
Dear Madam President Brasseur,
On behalf of the “Islamische Gemeinschaft deutschsprachiger Muslime & Freunde des Islam Berlin e.V.” (Islam Community of German Speaking Muslims & Friends of the Islam e.V.) I would like to express my strong concern as regards the report drafted by Mr Rudy Salles “The protection of minors against excesses of sects”, and the resolution and recommendation that will be voted upon the 10th of April in Strasbourg, during the plenary session of the Assembly. We think that this report does not reflects the core principles of the Council of Europe and should be sent back to Committee for further research and work in adequacy with human rights international law.
We think that protecting children from any excess is valuable and should be encouraged, in every religious community, but also in any place in Europe and abroad.
Unfortunately this report is obviously not aimed at protecting children, but only at targeting religious minorities in Europe, without bringing any evidence that there would be more excesses toward children within religious minorities than within any other group, including mainstream religions.
It is also obvious that the effect of the resolution, if voted and applied, would be to exalt all the discrimination that occur against religious minorities in Europe, and to deny the right of parents to ensure education and teaching of their children in conformity with their own convictions, as soon as these parents are belonging to religious communities labeled as “sects”. This is not based on the best interest of the child, but only on religious affiliation matters.
The word “sect” has no legal definition, as it is pointed out in the report, and should not be used as there is already a great number of international human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe itself, that have analyzed that the use of this word is discriminatory and not convenient for a serious piece of work.
The report is very biased and its primary sources are the internationally disparaged MIVILUDES and the FECRIS. FECRIS has engaged since long time in spreading rumours and hate speech against religious beliefs throughout Europe, associating sometimes with mainstream religions to target minorities.
Vice President of FECRIS, Mr. Alexander Dvorkin, recently gave lectures on Islam with several hostile and incorrect statements about the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. He is a Russian citizen who is actively involved with the Russian Orthodox Church. In March 1992, he was hired by the Department for Religious Education and Catechesis of the Moscow Patriarchate to address the problem of “sects” surging in Russia. He created and is the Director of FECRIS’ member association in Russia, the St. Irenaeus of Lyons Religious Studies Research Centre, founded in 1993 with the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II to deal with the issue of new religious movements, sects and cults.
Feeling empowered to defend the exclusive legitimacy of the mainstream religion in Russia, the Orthodox Church, and supported by his position at the head of FECRIS, Mr. Dvorkin has been actively fighting and spreading hate speech against the various minority religions present in Russia.
In the last years the discussion about the Muslims in Europe has increased a lot with politicians urging dialogue and Integration on this subject and opposing voices that label Muslims as extremists, as kind of sects, violating human rights - very similar as taken up in the resolution, thus I fear that this Resolution will be taken up by these anti Muslim Forces  to fuel the hate against religious minorities and will Sabotage exactly what is asked for by many politicians to Support Dialogue and Integration.
As a rep of the Muslims in Germany I urgently ask you to consider this."
The resolution and the recommendation, as well as the report itself, contains many other violations of basic human rights that would be too long to cover in that letter. Religious freedom is a fundamental right which should not be conflict with the best interest of children. When such a discriminatory approach is made, as it is in France and in some other countries, by derogatorily label some religious minorities as “sects”, the best interests of the child, as well as the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief of children and parents, are strongly jeopardized.
This is why we would like to respectfully ask this report be sent back to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Thank you.
Kind regards,
Amir Dr. h.c. Mohammed Herzog

The original letter:

Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, March 27th 2014 | Comments (0)

Der Vorsitzende der Islamische Gemeinschaft deutschsprachiger Muslime & Freunde des Islam Berlin e.V. schickte jetzt ein Schreiben an die Präsidentin der Parlamentarischen Versammlung des Europarats, Frau Anne Brasseur, um sie auf den Bericht mit dem Titel „Der Schutz von Minderjährigen vor dem Missbrauch durch Sekten“, verfasst von dem Franzosen Rudy Salles, aufmerksam zu machen. Diesen wertet er als diskriminierenden Vorstoß gegenüber religiösen Minderheiten, die hier abschätzig als „Sekten“ klassifiziert werden. Ein solches Vorgehen gefährde nicht nur massiv die Interessen des Kindes, sondern das Recht auf Freiheit der Religion und Überzeugung von Kindern und Eltern gleichermaßen.

Muslim äußert sich besorgt über den Bericht eines französischen Parlamentariers zum Thema „Sekten“ gegenüber der Präsidentin der PACE.

Frau Anne Brasseur
Präsident der Parlamentarischen
Versammlung des Europarates
Avenue de l'Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex

Berlin, 22. März 2014

Sehr geehrte Frau Präsidentin Brasseur,

im Namen der "Islamische Gemeinschaft deutschsprachiger Muslime & Freunde des Islam Berlin e.V." möchte ich meiner großen Besorgnis über den Bericht, der Resolution und Empfehlung von Herrn Rudy Salles zum „Schutz von Minderjährigen vor Exzessen der Sekten" Ausdruck verleihen, über die am 10. April 2014 in Straßburg während der Plenarsitzung abgestimmt werden soll.
Wir glauben, dass dieser Bericht nicht den Grundprinzipien des Europarates entspricht und daher an den Ausschuss zur weiteren Prüfung zurückverwiesen werden sollte, um sicherzustellen, dass er im Einklang mit den bestehenden internationalen Gesetzen zum Schutz der Menschenrechte ist.

Wir sind der Überzeugung, dass der Schutz vor Kindesmissbrauch überaus wertvoll ist und gefördert werden muss, nicht nur in jeder Religionsgemeinschaft, sondern auch an jedem Ort in Europa und im Ausland.

Leider geht es in diesem Bericht offensichtlich nicht um den Schutz von Kindern, sondern darum, Mitglieder religiöser Minderheiten in Europa unter Generalverdacht zu stellen, ohne dass irgendwelche Beweise dafür vorgelegt worden wären, dass Kinder in religiösen Minderheiten eher Opfer von Kindesmissbrauch würden als Kinder in jeder anderen gesellschaftlich anerkannten Gruppe, inklusive der anerkannten Religionen.
Es ist ebenfalls offensichtlich, dass die Auswirkungen der Resolution, falls sie befürwortet und in die Tat umgesetzt wird, jede Form der Diskriminierung gegenüber religiösen Minderheiten in Europa rechtfertigen würde, und das Recht der Eltern auf die Erziehung und den Unterricht ihrer Kinder in Übereinstimmung mit ihren eigenen Überzeugungen aushebeln wird, sobald diese Eltern einer religiösen Gemeinschaften angehörten, die als "Sekte" gebrandmarkt ist. Dies würde nicht im besten Interesse des Kindes geschehen, sondern es bekäme ausschließlich eine Angelegenheit der Religionszugehörigkeit.
Das Wort "Sekte" hat keine rechtliche Definition , wie es in dem Bericht heißt, und sollte nicht verwendet werden, da bereits eine große Anzahl internationaler Menschenrechtsorganisationen, darunter auch der Europarat selbst, darauf hingewiesen haben, dass die Verwendung dieses Wort diskriminierend und deshalb unangebracht in einer ernsthaften Ausarbeitung ist.

Der Bericht ist sehr einseitig und ihre Primärquellen sind die international diskreditierten Organisationen MIVILUDES und FECRIS. FECRIS verbreitet seit langer Zeit Gerüchte und Hetztiraden gegen religiöse Überzeugungen in ganz Europa, manchmal in Verbindung mit anerkannten Religionen, manchmal um religiöse Minderheiten gezielt anzugreifen.

Vizepräsident von FECRIS, Herr Alexander Dworkin, hielt vor kurzem Vorträge über den Islam mit mehreren feindseligen und falschen Aussagen über den Koran und den Propheten Mohammed. Er ist russischer Staatsbürger, der aktiv in der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche engagiert ist. Im März 1992 wurde er von der Abteilung für religiöse Bildung und Katechismus des Moskauer Patriarchats engagiert, um das Problem der sich ausbreitenden "Sekten" in Russland zu adressieren. Er rief im Jahr 1993 mit dem Segen des Patriarchen von Moskau und ganz Russland, Alexi II, den FECRIS-Mitgliedsverband in Russland ins Leben, das St. Irenäus von Lyons Religious Studies Research Centre und wurde dessen Direktor, um sich mit neuen religiösen Bewegungen, Sekten und Kulten zu befassen.
Angesichts dieser Ermächtigung, die exklusive Rechtmäßigkeit der Mainstream-Religion in Russland, der orthodoxen Kirche, zu verteidigen, und durch seine Position an der Spitze FECRIS unterstützt, hat Herr Dworkin aktiv daran mitgewirkt, Hetztiraden gegen die verschiedenen religiösen Minderheiten in Russland zu verbreiten.

In den letzten Jahren hat die Diskussion über Muslime in Europa zugenommen, und viele Politiker drängten auf Dialog und Integration zu diesem Thema. Gegenstimmen hingegen haben Muslime als Extremisten etikettiert, als eine Art Sekte, die Menschenrechte verletzt – den Argumenten der jetzigen Resolution sehr ähnlich. Deshalb befürchte ich, dass dieses Dokument von Anti-Muslimischen-Bewegungen dankbar entgegengenommen wird, um den Hass gegen religiöse Minderheiten weiter zu befeuern. Es wird exakt jene Anstrengungen von Politikern sabotieren, die den Dialog und die Integration unterstützen.
Als Repräsentant der deutschsprachigen Muslime in meinem Land möchte ich Sie daher dringend bitten, dies zu berücksichtigen.
Die Resolution und Empfehlung, ebenso wie der Bericht selbst, enthalten viele andere Verletzungen grundlegender Menschenrechte. Zu viele, um sie in diesem Schreiben aufzulisten. Die Religionsfreiheit ist ein Grundrecht, welches nicht in Konflikt mit dem Wohl der Kinder sein sollte. Wenn ein solch diskriminierender Ansatz zugelassen wird, wie es derzeit in Frankreich und in einigen anderen Ländern der Fall ist, indem man einige religiöse Minderheiten abschätzig als "Sekten" klassifiziert, werden die Interessen des Kindes, sowie das Recht auf Freiheit der Religion und Überzeugung von Kindern und Eltern, stark gefährdet. 

Aus diesem Grund möchte ich Sie höflich bitten, diesen Bericht an das Komitee für rechtliche Angelegenheiten und Menschenrechte zurückzuverweisen.
Ich danke Ihnen. 

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Amir Dr. h.c. Mohammed Herzog

Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, March 27th 2014 | Comments (0)

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