Church of Scientology goes on trial in France after members are accused of organised fraud

The Church of Scientology in France went on trial today on charges of organised fraud.
Registered as a religion in the United States, …Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.
The group’s Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in the case. If found guilty, they could be fined €5million and ordered to halt their activities in France.
Accused: The group’s Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in the case and could be fined €5million if they are found guilty of charges of organised fraud

Seven leading French Scientology members are also in the dock. Some are charged with illegally practising as pharmacists and face up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines.
The case centres on a complaint made in 1998 by a woman who said she was enrolled into Scientology after members approached her in the street and persuaded her to do a personality test.
In the following months, she paid more than €21,000 for books, ‘purification packs’ of vitamins, sauna sessions and an ‘e-meter’ to measure her spiritual progress, she said.

Other complaints then surfaced. The five original plaintiffs – three of whom withdrew after reaching a financial settlement with the Church of Scientology – said they spent up to hundreds of thousands of euros on similar tests and ‘cures’.

They told investigators that Scientology members harassed them with phone calls and nightly visits to cajole them into paying their bills or taking out bank loans.

The plaintiffs were described as ‘vulnerable’ by psychological experts in the case.
Scientology, founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, describes the ‘e-meter’ as a religious artefact that helps the user and supervisor locate spiritual distress.

Investigators have described the machine as useless and said vitamin cures handed out by Church members were medication that should not have been freely sold.
Judge Jean-Christophe Hullin ruled last year that the offices and members, including the group’s 60-year-old French head, Alain Rosenberg, should be tried. The public prosecutor had recommended the case be shelved.

In a trial that has revived a debate about religious freedom in secular France, the defence is expected to argue the court should not intervene in religious affairs.
Scientology has faced numerous setbacks in France, with members convicted of fraud in Lyon in 1997 and Marseille in 1999. In 2002, a court fined it for violating privacy laws and said it could be dissolved if involved in similar cases.
The headquarters and bookshop account for most of the group’s activities in France and a guilty verdict would in practice mean its dissolution, although it is unclear whether it could still open other branches in the future.

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This women is why I know the West will prevail

Nahed Selim, born in Egypt and living in the Netherlands, is an author and interpreter. This article appeared in Trouw on 30th of august 2008.

Translation Maggie Oattes

This strange negativism

Were the old days all that good? Nahed Selim consciously chose to live in the Western world she fervently defends. „No civilization in the history of mankind has brought so many good things to so many people at the same time, as the modern, Western, capitalist society.”

(HH: Ooh, if a Westerner said that they would be called arrogant and racist!)

Why is it that my contemporaries are so mercilessly critical about themselves and the age in which we live? Hearing them, one would think our society has not even one redeeming quality. Cynicism and discontent prevail. But was life really that much better in the past?

I am a so-called baby boomer, part of the generation born roughly between 1945 and 1955. It benefited like no other from the increasing post-war wealth and could therefore afford to make radical choices. It was a generation that thought it knew everything better than all previous generations. They were going to do everything differently.

I got to experience the last bit of this era when I came to the Netherlands in the 1980s at age 25. And I joined in enthusiastically.

The late Pim Fortuyn, born in 1948, was not impressed with the accomplishments of his contemporaries. In his book ’Babyboomers’ (1998) he reproached them for having dealt irresponsibly with the social institutions they were put in charge of.

Perhaps he was right. But I do not like to complain, not even about the people who complain all the time. I merely observe that I lack the mental attitude of people who remember the past nostalgically, a past when everything was supposedly much better.

I believe there is no point in focusing on the past. Today is the only reality, and we should love this real reality. The past and the future are merely memories or utopias. The only real life is now, here, today. And it is my job and my moral duty to focus on the present. Everything else is childish. Irresponsible escapism.

I personally have an unbridled confidence in our time and at the same time a deep aversion to the current cynicism and the discontent I observe all around me. This cynicism often takes the shape of anti-Western feelings, both in westerners themselves and in people with different cultural backgrounds.

In those years there was a kind of cultural rebellion against everything that was ’old-fashioned’ and authentic in the Netherlands. One might call it an exaggerated enthusiasm for the modern capabilities In any case it was totally different from what I was accustomed to in my own Arabic culture where everything modern and new was synonymous with wrong, evil and therefore undesirable.

Yet I felt very happy here. I was also rebellious at the time; I needed that to distance myself from many traditions and cultural conventions. My own attitude facilitated my interaction with Dutch people. Back then they were very open to foreigners and they immediately made you feel you belonged. You even felt an eagerness in the way they embraced you. In England and France, where I had briefly lived before, it took much more effort on my part to make contact with the people. Here I instantly formed close friendships with Dutch women and men. I also fell in love all the time.

This strange negativism about the own Dutch culture still has not disappeared completely. However, a large part of the population is in the middle of a revaluation process. I think that is healthy, nothing to get worked up about.

Revaluation of the national identity should not be taken to mean a sign of hate towards migrants. Every civilization has the right to defend itself and safeguard its survival; and you may expect from newcomers that they adjust. This, in my opinion, also explains the immense popularity of the political parties of Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk. They are erroneously referred to as extreme right-wing parties. What they want has nothing to do with extremism. They want to put a stop to the snobbish disdain for everything indigenous and Dutch.

The current revaluation of the cultural heritage is an appropriate correction.

Even though I was not born here, I feel very connected with the West. Even though it is not the culture I grew up in, it is the culture I have chosen. That is why I feel entitled to defend and protect this culture. Even more than someone who just happens to have been born here, I am aware of the advantages of the Netherlands and the West. And there is nothing to stop me from going back if I did not like it here.

No civilization in the history of mankind has brought so many good things to so many people at the same time, as the modern, Western, capitalist society. Other civilizations were and are good to the small elite that holds all power. They took little notice of the rest of the population, least of all the weak, the infirm and the disabled.

The most frequent complaint about this era is the hurried pace. People supposedly don’t have time or room for fun things and for each other anymore.

People who complain about a lack of time often forget that the eight-hour working day is a fairly recent phenomenon. In the first half of the twentieth century it was quite normal to work six or seven days a week and ten or eleven hours per day. In the rest of the world civil servants are the only people who work short hours. In all other professions people work long days, that rarely have a maximum number of hours.

Never before have we had as much time at our disposal in the West as right now. And then we also have clean running water for all, heating that simply comes out of pipes, electricity everywhere, household appliances that save lots of time, and food you can buy almost-ready-to-eat. All things that save huge amounts of time.

Many people argue that ’materialism’ is a major drawback of current Western civilization. People supposedly only care about money and material things. That is nonsense. Nowhere in the world is more money given to culture, the arts and charities as in the West. Global organizations like Amnesty International, the Red Cross and environmental organizations all started in the West and are funded primarily by Western donors. Other rich countries such as the oil states give almost nothing to charities.

We often hear that ’materialism’ is less prevalent in other parts of the world. The opposite is true. Money is hugely important elsewhere also. Weddings, funerals, and other events that may reflect people’s social status cost a fortune there. People want to show others they have money, even if they don’t.

In addition the rich people in other parts of the world are much more arrogant. A wealthy man who does the household himself, gets his own groceries, tends to his garden or drives his own car is unheard of in third world countries.

I think the only difference between the West and the rest is the fact that many people have the opportunity to earn a lot of money. In countries like India, Russia, China, or Egypt this is the privilege of a small elite. In that respect the majority of the world’s population would trade places with the West in a second.

The quality of life of women in the West is another major advantage. Thanks to the feminism of previous generations – in spite of excesses such as the open hostility towards the male – women here have rights and freedoms that women in other cultures can only dream of. Every time I go on holiday to Egypt this is brought home to me again.

So why do we complain so much about the modern time and modern civilization?

Complainers are cultural pessimists. I would like to distinguish two groups.

One category is unhappy about the West for ideological reasons. What they want is to see the realization of heaven on earth, if possible before they die. Their utopia cannot endure or tolerate violence, poverty, or unfairness. They have often distanced themselves from believing in a heaven after death, but they do want to see this same heaven here on earth.

They forget that all contrasts go together. On earth they coexist: wealth and poverty, love and hate, humanism and barbaric behaviour. Striving for improvement is a good thing, and we must continue to do that. But letting your own life go sour because you aim for the impossible is a waste.

A second category of complainers are the socialists, communists, anti-globalists, and environmental activists. They would have us believe that the ideal life can be realized by choosing a different political system or making different political choices. They believe in a government that takes care of and controls everything; that is the only way to make total equality between people possible.

I too believe this once. Fortunately I don’t any longer.

As far as I am concerned it is a good thing to remain critical, in order to improve things insofar as that is possible. But complaining and striving for the impossible – while we already have so much, are capable of so much and we have so much freedom – verges on ungratefulness.

Our job is to be happy in this world. We have opportunities and possibilities that so many people can’t even imagine. If we let discontent turn our lives sour in spite of all that, how will that make those other people feel?

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Sharia’s Inroads Around the World (An answer to those who ask HOW is Radical Islam infiltrating non-violently

(HH here:How have non-violent as well as violent means been used to advance the erosion of Western liberties and law in favor of Islamic Supremacist ideology? Here are a few examples.)

By OLIVIER GUITTA (Middle East Times)Published: March 02, 2009

Pakistan recently gave in to the pressure of Islamist militants. Indeed to buy off peace, Pakistani authorities allowed the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) in the Swat valley.

How long the cease-fire will last is anyone’s guess. But in any case, Pakistan has allowed a precedent that could extend to other provinces; in fact the Swat valley is only about 100 miles away from Islamabad, the capital. But Sharia is not just making inroads in Pakistan but actually creeping in the West and in particular in Europe.

One area particularly touched by this phenomenon is the judicial system in Europe. Two recent cases in Italy and France are particularly troublesome. First, in Italy, three members of a Brescia-based Maghrebi family (father, mother and eldest son) were accused of beating up and sequestering their daughter/sister Fatima because she wanted to live a “Western” life.

In the first trial, the three were sentenced for sequestration and bad treatment. The court acknowledged that the teenager was “brutally beaten up” for having “dated” a non-Muslim and in general for “living a life not conforming with the culture” of her family. But on appeal, the family was acquitted because the court deemed that the young woman was beaten up for “her own good.” The Bologna public prosecutor’s office then disputed the acquittal of the three accused parties, but the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation dismissed it and ruled in favor of the charged parties.

Interestingly two Italian political leaders on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Isabella Bertolini, vice president of the MPs of the right-wing party Forza Italia, and Barbara Pollastrini, a post-communist former minister agreed to condemn the Supreme Court decision: “This verdict writes one of the darkest pages of history of the law in our country.”

Isabella Bertolini was upset that the court “allied itself with radical Islam” and Barbara Pollastrini is pushing for parliament to pass as soon as possible a law condemning violence against women: “Now more than ever, it is urgent to defend the rights of a large number of immigrant women victims of an intolerable patriarchal culture.”

Muslim women were quick to denounce the supreme court’s decision. Among them, Souad Sbai, president of the Organization of Moroccan Women in Italy.

She said, “It is a shame, this verdict is worthy of an Arab country where the Sharia would be in vigor. In the name of multiculturalism and respect of traditions, the judges apply two kinds of rules: one for the Italians and one for the immigrants. A Catholic father that would have acted this way would have been severely sentenced.”

…in one very publicized case, last June, a French judge ruled in favor of a Muslim man who wanted the annulment of his marriage because his wife turned out not to be a virgin. What this decision amounted to was the endorsement of the repudiation concept.

This decision triggered a huge outcry from politicians, and various organizations. In November, a French court of appeal overturned the decision. Interestingly, a large majority of French Muslims, about 80 percent are very secular and totally reject any kind of Sharia law being implemented in the homeland of human rights.

But the United Kingdom is a different story, indeed there close to 40 percent of young Muslims are in favor of Sharia law being implemented in Britain. The idea seems to be also making headway among non-Muslims. So, last year, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his support for the (sharia) courts in Britain, saying that the legal recognition of them “seems unavoidable.” He added, the United Kingdom has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

(HH here: DO NOT RELATE TO THE BRITISH LEGAL SYSTEM? Do not RELATE??? Now I am not sure what planet Mr. Williams lives on but on mine that is grounds for deportation of a foreigner who insist on abusing the hospitality of the host country. Whatever country. MY advise to anyone planning on traveling or emigrating; if you can’t “relate” to a country’s laws you had best NOT CHOOSE TO GO THERE.)

Williams argued that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion. For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt within a Sharia court.

(HH: In the world of The Rev. Williams letting a subgroup of society set it’s own rules for itself and how others relate to it PROMOTES social “cohesion”. The only “cohesion” I see this promoting is amongst radicals on both sides of the divide. British and Muslim under this system would become more foreign to each other and more likely to descend into group-think and radicalism.)

But contrary to what Williams advanced, Sadiq Khan, a British Muslim MP said that Sharia courts would discourage Muslims from developing links with other cultural and ethnic groups. He feared also that women could be “abused” by Sharia courts, which may give unequal bargaining power to the sexes.

In Switzerland, echoing Williams, Christian Giordano, an anthropology professor at the Fribourg university wrote that a special jurisdiction for Muslims could be envisioned in Switzerland. He added that including elements from Islamic law could allow to better manage the multiculturalism issue.

(HH: What do you want to bet that this person has the goal of “managing” the non-“white” population by separatism??? Just as the KKK and Louis Farrakhan agree on keeping blacks and white separate I think this “analysis” is motivated more by a desire to keep immigrants separate than to unify society.)

Islamists, much to the detriment of the majority of Muslims in Europe seem to be making headway in Europe in pushing Sharia law into the judicial system.

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Olivier Guitta is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant. You can read his latest work at www.thecroissant.com/about.html