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Brazil Faith Leaders Want Religious Freedom

Published: 22/09/2012 04:18:12 PM GMT
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CAIRO - A Brazilian umbrella group for different faiths has condemned the “disrespectful” US-made anti-Islam film, leading a mass protest demanding respect for religious freedoms.The organization “repudiates any manifestat (more)

CAIRO - A Brazilian umbrella group for different faiths has condemned the “disrespectful” US-made anti-Islam film, leading a mass protest demanding respect for religious freedoms.

The organization “repudiates any manifestation of scorn for beliefs or lack of respect for what is sacred to religions,” a communiqué issued by the Brazilian Commission for Combating Religious Intolerance (CCIR) said, Business Mirror reported on Saturday, September 22.

“The CCIR also stresses that it does not support violent stances, and that as a result of coexistence with the followers of Islam, it affirms the seriousness and respect that Muslims have for the preaching of love, religiosity and the values that help build a better world,” it added.

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A Mercy for All

CCIR emerged in 2008 with the initial aim of defending religions of African origin from attacks, mainly by groups linked to neo-Pentecostal churches.

The group gathers the Israelite Federation of Rio de Janeiro, the Espírita Umbandista congregation, Protestant and Catholic churches, and Muslim, Candomblé, Buddhist, Roma or gypsy, and indigenous groups.

Produced by an American-Israeli real estate developer, the film, entitled “Innocence of Muslims”, portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.

The movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur'an.

The film triggered protests in several countries around the world, which left at least 14 people dead, including the US ambassador in Libya.

While condemning the provocative film, Muslim leaders around the world have denounced attacks on foreign diplomatic missions, calling for a measured response to the movie.

“It is a highly offensive film that gratuitously offends Muhammad, depicts Muslims as barbarians and incites hatred,” Sami Isbelle, a member of the Muslim Beneficent Society of Rio de Janeiro, told Inter Press Service (IPS).

The society also condemned the “un-Islamic” reactions to the film.

According to Isbelle, the reaction should have been expressed “through peaceful, legal channels,” for example, with media campaigns “showing who the prophet Muhammad was and explaining his legacy to humanity.”

Religious Freedoms

Defending religious freedoms, CCIR led several protests in defense of religious freedom.

“No religion should be disrespected,” Maria Isabel Carvalho, who practices Candomblé, one of the religions of African origin in Brazil, told IPS.

“Any offensive expression against a religion must be fought,” Catholic priest Leonardo Holtz told IPS.

Last Sunday, it led an estimated 200,000 people from 25 different religious groups gathered on Rio's Copacabana beach in a march in defense of religious freedom.

During the protest, demonstrators called for an end to prejudice and violence against followers of other faiths, and called on the candidates running for mayor in the October elections to express a commitment to religious diversity.

They also expressed their solidarity with Muslim, in the face of the backlash against the movie.

CCIR Spokesman Ricardo Rubim confirmed the organization has received 118 complaints of religious intolerance.

Supporting religious freedoms, the 2007 left-wing government of then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) established a National Day of the Fight against Religious Intolerance on January 21.

The government's Special Secretariat on Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality also works to ensure freedom of worship as established by the constitution.

According to the 2001 census, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil.

However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one and a half million.

Islam expert Paulo Pinto of Fuminense Federal University estimated Brazil is home to about a million Muslims.

With no confirmed number of Muslims, the best indicator of the growth of Islam in the country is the rapid increase in the number of mosques.

There are now 127 mosques, four times as many as there were back in 2000.

Reproduced with permission from