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Religious police and vigilantism and denouncement in relationships

Jefferson Galt

Religions (which in this context are often misdescribed as "faiths" often restrict what are often termed "inter-faith" relationships including marriage, even where restrictions also apply to marriages between those of different religions or even sects within the same faith. Compulsion is by a variety of means, in some countries backed by national law and in others by authorised religious police or by the clergy. But, as a new age of radicalism develops across parts of the world, there is increasing denouncement to the authorities and, even, calls for vigilantism.

It's easy to demonstrate the point about different faiths and religions: belief in the Judeao-Christian-Islamic God is a faith. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are religions, each with their own figurehead. Catholicism and Protestantism are sects, as are Sunni and Shi'a for Muslims and Hasidism and Kabbalah for Jews. There are dozens of additional sects within each religion.

Hinduism is a different faith: It has what one website calls a "pantheon of gods." That means it has a lot. It is also different in that it allows worship of one or more gods. Like Roman, Greek and Norse religions, there are specific gods for specific purposes. Ancient Chinese religions also have specific gods e.g. at New Year one often sees the God of Prosperity - but in truth, modern Chinese speak of this with their tongue firmly in their cheek.

Catholics are allowed to marry a protestant Christian if they receive "permission." But there is a price for that permission.

To obtain permission to marry a non-Catholic baptised Christian, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

(1) You declare that you are prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith;

(2) you make a sincere promise to do all in your power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

(3) the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which you are to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and your obligation; and

(4) both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

-- catholic.com

However, if a Catholic wishes to have a form of ceremony conducted by a non-Catholic minister (etc.) then a dispensation is necessary,.

In Jewish law, only a person born to a Jewish mother or who has been converted in an Orthodox Jewish form can claim to be Jewish. In 2013, The Media Line reported on a religious ceremony conducted by a Rabbi in the presence of several hundred guests but where, under Israeli law, the marriage is not valid. The reason is that the Groom was not born a Jew by that definition and, in Israel, only marriages recognised by Jewish law were recognised by State law. The marriage is not, as some claim, illegal but it is not fully recognised (some state provisions do recognise non-single faith, non-Jewish marriages).

In Islam, it is a requirement of most sects that anyone marrying a Muslim must convert. While in many countries where there is a clear separation between church and state that requirement is left to the church to enforce, national law recognises inter-faith marriages as any other. Under Islamic law, there is a prohibition against an unmarried woman being alone with a man who is not her father or brother. This leads to ridiculous situations such as a women refusing to enter a lift where a man is present and, even, to a woman working late with a male colleague. As fundamentalism grows and what was once radical is increasingly the norm, there is an increasing presence of compulsion and punishment which can include the beating of the woman. In Malaysia, religious police raid hotel rooms and private homes alleging "khalwat" after tips called into a denouncement hotline set up for the purpose. Several raids have resulted from false and malicious reports.

But it is in India, where Hindus are becoming increasingly radical that the situation is becoming actively dangerous. In the past few days, a page was published on social media website Facebook. The page named 102 couples where only one party was Hindu and incited physical attacks on them. It's not the first time social media has been used by Hindus for a similar purpose. A Facebook page published in Malaysia several months ago incited paint-throwing attacks on women who did not wear traditional Hindu clothing over a festival. And there have been widely distributed calls to cause criminal damage to property and harm to persons India who slaughter and eat beef. Some states have banned the sale of beef to try to, as they say, calm tensions but non-Hindus say it's pandering to terrorists and that it's discriminatory.

The growth of religious vigilantism is a very small step from terrorism: the groups across South East Asia which act in the name of a religion are becoming increasingly bold - and also gaining traction in politics. It is regarded as sedition in Malaysia to promote the separation of Church and State, for example, even though the constitution protects that distinction.


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