conscientious objection

Muhammad Ali death coverage: No one spells out how Islam forbade him to go to war

Muhammad Ali death coverage: No one spells out how Islam forbade him to go to war

After Muhammad Ali died Friday at the age of 74, many of the laudatory retrospectives on his life talked about Ali’s refusal to be drafted in the Vietnam War because of his Muslim beliefs. He took this stance at the prime of his boxing career, and his career never recovered from his forced four-year sabbatical from the sport.

Knowing what we do know about the Islamic State group, Al-Qaida, the Sunnis and the Shiites and the state of war the Middle East has been in — on and off — since 9/11, the idea that someone would refuse to fight because he’s a Muslim is so 20th century. And, if there’s any religion that’s been involved in warfare during this present century, it’s Islam. Was Ali, then, the earliest ambassador of Islam as the "religion of peace?"

Let's review: When Ali refused being inducted into the U.S. Army on April 28, 1967, conscientious objection to Vietnam was in its infancy, and his decision was criticized by even baseball great Jackie Robinson as hurting the morale of black soldiers fighting in Vietnam. 

I've read lots of recitations about Ali’s refusal to fight. But other than saying the boxer was refusing on the grounds of his religious beliefs, I've not seen any explanation of which beliefs those were. The Atlantic comes closest to bringing up the question but does not answer it:

In April 1967, Ali refused to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War and was charged with draft evasion, resulting in a five-year prison sentence—he remained free pending appeal—and a large fine. The World Boxing Association stripped him of his heavyweight title, and Ali was effectively cast out of the boxing world in his physical prime.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Beleagured Jehovah's Witnesses in South Korea get sympathetic treatment in New York Times

Beleagured Jehovah's Witnesses in South Korea get sympathetic treatment in New York Times

Jehovah’s Witnesses are notoriously tough to interview.

They didn’t used to be. Back in the late 1980s while I was on the religion beat at the Houston Chronicle, I arranged for myself and a photographer to follow a team work its way, door by door, through a certain posh neighborhood. Other than the fact they tried to convert me and we got into an argument as to whether Easter should be a Christian festival, it was an enlightening time. I was amazed at how rude people were to these visitors and how many doors were literally slammed in their faces.

But in 2012, when I assigned students in my religion journalism class at the University of Maryland to find a JW team to follow around, I learned that no Witnesses could talk with us now unless their New York headquarters allowed them to. And I could never get anyone from New York to answer my calls.

Which is why this New York Times story of the horrors that Witnesses face when refusing military service in South Korea was a real coup.

No doubt the Witnesses over there talked because they wanted to get word out about how bad things truly are in the Land of the Morning Calm. When reading this story, just take into account that it's unusual to get Witnesses to cooperate much with the media. The article starts out with:

SEOUL, South Korea -- Since he was a teenager, Kim Min-hwan knew he would have to make a choice: abandon his religious convictions or go to prison.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Huh!? Aboard papal plane, Francis backs Kim Davis, disputes notion of Catholic divorce?

Huh!? Aboard papal plane, Francis backs Kim Davis, disputes notion of Catholic divorce?

Some of our favorite Godbeat reporters -- exhausted after days and even weeks of chronicling Pope Francis' first-ever trip to the United States -- celebrated the papal plane's takeoff Sunday night.

But even in the air -- on his way home from Philadelphia -- Pope Francis keeps making headlines. As in, on some of the very topics that American journalists stressed that he avoided while on the ground in the United States.

And as always seems to be the case with Francis, his statements aboard the papal plane defied the easy media narrative of a pope at odds with conservative Catholics.

From Reuters:

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience. ...
On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licences to gays.
“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.
Earlier this month a city official in the U.S. state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage licence to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.
Davis’s case has taken on national significance in the 2016 presidential campaign, with one Republican contender, Mike Huckabee, holding rallies in favour of Davis, a Apostolic Christian, who has since joined the Republican party.
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said, speaking in Italian.

Time religion writer Elizabeth Dias is a part of the press contingent that joined Francis on the papal plane:

Please respect our Commenting Policy