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On Sunday, January 20, 2007, Tony Yengeni, former Chief Whip of South Africa's governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), celebrated his early release from a four-year prison sentence by slaughtering a bull at his father's house in the Cape Town township of Gugulethu. This time-honored African ritual was performed in order to appease the Yengeni family ancestors. Animal rights activists, however, decried the sacrifice as an act of unnecessary cruelty to the bull, and a public outcry ensued. Leading figures in government circles, including the Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan, entered the fray, calling for a proper understanding of African cultural practices. Jody Kollapen, the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, said: “the slaughter of animals by cultures in South Africa was an issue that needed to be dealt with in context. Cultural liberty is an important right. …”
That the sacrifice was defended on the ground of African culture was to be expected. More surprising was the way in which everyone involved in the affair ignored what could have been regarded as an event of religious significance. Admittedly, it is far from easy to separate the concepts of religion and culture, and, in certain societies, notably those of pre-colonial Africa, this distinction was unknown. Today in South Africa, however, it is clearly necessary to make such a distinction for human rights litigation, partly because the Constitution specifies religion and culture as two separate rights and partly because it seems that those working under the influence of modern human rights seem to take religion more seriously than culture.
When Mírzá Husayn ‘Ali (1817-92)—the founder of the Bahá’í Faith who was known as Bahá’u’lláh (the “Glory of God”)—died, there was a clear and unambiguous answer about who had the authority to lead his small, but growing, religious community. In his will, Bahá’u’lláh identified his eldest son, ‘Abbás Effendi, known as ‘Abdu'l-Bahá (“Servant of Bahá”) (1844-1921) as his successor and head of the community, as well as the authoritative interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh's writings. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá assumed the reins of community leadership upon Bahá’u’lláh's death, his claim to authority went largely unchallenged, and he remained in that role until his own death.
While this seeming affirmation of a principle of primogeniture would appear to establish a clear pattern for the future organization and structure of the Bahá’í community, it was only one part of the leadership of the community envisioned by Bahá’u’lláh. Equally unambiguous was Bahá’u’lláh's vision of “houses of justice” existing throughout the world, elected bodies that would serve governance functions. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (the “Most Holy Book”), written by Bahá’u’lláh in 1873, he states that “[t]he Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice shall be established,” whose members are to “take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God.…” In that same book, Bahá’u’lláh contemplated an international house of justice, in addition to the local houses of justice.
On August 6, 1824, William Lloyd Garrison, not yet twenty years old, penned a letter to the Salem Gazette opposing John Quincy Adams's bid for the presidency and endorsing the candidacy of a dedicated Georgian, United States Senator William Crawford. There is no mention in the document of the slavery issue and no hint that the young Garrison viewed the Constitution as anything less than a triumph of the founding fathers. The “high and exalted character” of the elections proved the Federalist Party “worthy of its great leader, the immortal WASHINGTON” and spread “vigor and strength throughout the political fabric of our constitution and government,” Garrison wrote. “It is peculiarly gratifying, too,” he declared,
to observe the dignified course pursued generally by the few sentinels of freedom, who advocate and uphold those principles, which were promulgated by the Father of his Country, and sanctioned by JAY and HAMILTON, and AMES, with a host of other distinguished patriots.
Garrison went on to stress the civic duty of voting, arguing that although no citizen was legally required to support any of the presidential candidates, reason “dictates that we should” so as not to upset “the peace of the Union.” Federalists should make pragmatic political choices, he wrote, and not squander their votes on ideal but unlikely candidates.
The understanding of Jewish law of the legal rationale of the relationship between parent and child developed gradually. In the first stage, in ancient Jewish law, the dominant tendency was to affirm the authority of the Jewish father over the members of his family. During this period, the idea that parents have a natural responsibility to love their children, care for them and provide for their welfare was less transparent. The main purpose of the rules concerning the relationship between parents and children at this stage was the assertion of the rights and needs of the father of the family.1 Consequently, some of the regulations of ancient Jewish law regarding the relationship between parents and children were not necessarily focused on the best interest of the child and the ideological basis for the legal policy in the sphere of custody in the ancient period was somewhat vague.
By contrast, during the second, medieval stage of development of Jewish law on the relationship between parents and children, the ancient supreme principle, of the father's authority over members of his family in all spheres including the sphere of custody of children, was largely replaced by an explicit rule in Jewish law: the best interest of the child is a paramount consideration. Indeed, we could say that the explicit implementation of the principle of best interest of the child in Jewish custody cases is a medieval invention, introduced by Jewish scholars at this period in their child custody verdicts. By contrast to the ancient period, the rules of custody, which had become fully defined at this stage, utilizing this principle, usually favored the mother.
A.H.M. Jones, the great British historian of the later Roman Empire, was once asked what difference conversion to Christianity made to Rome. His answer: None. Brutal gladiatorial contests continued to be held, slavery was not abolished, and cruel penalties were laid down for seemingly minor moral infractions. Thus, Jones reasoned, the actual impact of Christianity on secular Roman society is difficult to see. Jones's view, however, has not been universally shared, particularly when it comes to the Roman legal system. Biondo Biondi saw Christianity as bringing about “un profundo rivolgimento” in late Roman law, which had ramifications in many different areas. As a religion, Christianity differed in unmistakable ways from its pagan competitors, and it would be quite surprising if these differences did not have some impact on Roman law and society when Christianity was adopted as the official state religion. The late Roman era offers a fertile testing ground for the impact a nascent religion might have on a society and its legal institutions.
In Indonesia, law reform is one of the important mandates of the national reform agenda, including the restructuring of various legal and political institutions at all levels of government, the regulatory implementation of the 1945 Constitution at the village level, and the ideological renewal necessary to make these changes real in Indonesian society. The policy direction of the People's Consultative Council (MPR) has changed from domination by the central authority toward freedom, autonomy and local government empowerment. Laws that were once imposed from the top now reflect power-sharing with local governments. In particular, the government has granted special (and virtually unlimited) autonomy to the province of Nangroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD, also known as Aceh). This article will explore how that autonomy has been influenced by a more robust adoption of Shari'ah law in Aceh.
When the New Order rule fell on May 21, 1998, Indonesia moved from a centralized power to democratization, a process of legal development “from, by and for the people” through a decentralized system. The promulgation of Law 22 (1998) providing for local autonomy (which was amended in 2004 by Law 32) and Law 25 on the respective financial authority of the central and local governments is concrete evidence that decentralization is real in Indonesia.