Texan Muslims could face new ban on adoption

Asako Yoshinari and her 2-month-old foster son are pictured at home in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 May 2017

Texan Muslims could face new ban on adoption

JEDDAH: The state of Texas could soon allow state-funded or private adoption agencies to reject applications to adopt children from Muslim parents.
Jewish, gay, single and interfaith couples are also included in the ban. Five other states have passed similar laws.
The laws will ultimately protect faith-based adoption agencies that reject any application to place a child with any of stated categories.
The bill, which designed to support the first amendment of adoption organizations and Child Protective Services (CPS) providers, is expected to come up in the State House this week.
According to the bill’s author, Republican State Rep. James Frank, the bill “codifies” the choices already made be adoption agencies as they select potential parents.
Frank was not available for comment to Arab News.
On a Facebook post, Frank said the HB 3859 seeks to protect faith-based providers from adverse actions for exercising their deeply held religious beliefs.
“At the same time, it requires the Department of Family and Protective Services to ensure alternative providers are present to offer any service denied for reasons of sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to the post.
Nikiya Natale, civil rights director for the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Arab News that the bill intends to use taxpayers’ money to legalize discrimination and harms some of society’s most vulnerable, children.
“The focus should be on the best interest of the child and on finding a loving and stable home, not on one’s religious beliefs,” Natale said.
If passed, said Natale, the bill would allow any adoption agency receiving state funds to turn away otherwise qualified parents due to their religion or sexuality, while leaving thousands of children in the foster care or adoption system for much longer than necessary.
“It is unfair to prospective parents and even more so to these innocent children looking for homes,” she said.
The bill, according to Frank’s office, protects the ability of faith-based providers to decline to provide certain services that conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs, maintains the “best interest of the child” standard, ensures a diverse and broad range of foster care providers; and requires the State of Texas to ensure a provider is available to offer any services to everyone.
Some Americans, however, condemned the bill saying they do not want their tax money to be used to fund and feed discrimination.
“I wonder what happens the first time a Christian couple is denied an adoption? I’m sure you’ll be there screaming about the ‘war’ on Christians and how much they’re discriminated against,” said Laura Potts commenting on Frank’s Facebook post. “I will be writing my Representative to urge him to vote ‘no’ on this ridiculous bill.”
Anna Berend also wrote on Facebook that the best interest of a child depends on the perspective/beliefs of the person making the decision and could easily be used against a family that is kind, loving and supportive, but also happen to be Muslim, Jewish or LGTB.
Frank argued that his bill does not, in any way, force beliefs on anyone.
Explaining the bill to his social media followers, Frank said the proposed legislation does not establish or push a certain religion, “rather allows religious organizations to participate in the foster care system without being targeted by groups that believe in freedom of thought as long as it agrees with their thoughts 100%.”
CAIR’s Natale said, “If the bill passes, we will assess the situation and decide on an appropriate action at that time. I also doubt it would be the case that a suitable alternative would be available to potential parents who are subject to faith-based rejections. Even if an alternative is available, this bill creates a barrier in adopting or fostering children in need.”


Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

Updated 14 August 2020

Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

  • As foreign visitors remain barred from entering the country, government plans to boost domestic tourism to keep hospitality sector afloat
  • COVID-19 has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to national revenue

JAKARTA: Indonesia will remain closed to foreign tourists at least until the end of the year, a senior minister announced during a meeting with the country’s business community on Thursday. 
As Indonesia still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said that all non-essential foreign visitors will remain barred from entering the country, while the government will try to boost domestic tourism to keep the hospitality sector afloat. 
“With regard to foreign tourists, I think we will not be welcoming them until the end of the year,” Pandjaitan said during the virtual forum with Indonesian businesspeople, shelving a plan laid out by the provincial government of the holiday island of Bali — Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination — to reopen for international visitors on Sept. 11. 
Pandjaitan’s remarks also ended speculation as to whether the central government would revoke a regulation issued by the justice minister in late March banning foreigners — except those arriving for essential, diplomatic and official purposes — from entering Indonesia amid ongoing efforts to contain the virus outbreak. 
Bali authorities were hoping for the regulation to be revoked ahead of the island’s plan to reopen to foreigners.  
Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said industry players in Bali were ready for the Sept. 11 plan but acknowledged that the central government’s decision to keep foreign arrivals suspended “must be based on a more urgent reason.” 
“There could be a macro outlook behind Jakarta’s decision, and it could be for everyone’s greater good,” Adnyana told Arab News. 
According to Pandjaitan, Indonesian authorities will focus on promoting domestic tourism as Indonesians who were planning to go for holidays abroad, including those who were set to travel for Umrah, will be unable to do so this year so due to international travel restrictions.  
“There is plenty of money around. No one is going on the Umrah pilgrimage, and those who used to go to Singapore or Penang for medical treatment are not going anywhere either. These are people with money to spend, and we estimated there could be tens of trillions of rupiahs. We want them to spend the money here,” Pandjaitan said. 
According to Umrah tour operators, about 1 million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage each year, with many of them also visiting other sites in the region. 
The COVID-19 outbreak has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to its national revenue. 
According to Adnyana, tourism in Bali alone contributed 120 trillion to 150 trillion rupiahs ($10 billion) a year to the country’s coffers. 
He also expressed concerns that the pandemic may still affect the government’s plans to revive the industry through domestic tourism as many potential travelers may be unable to make trips to other parts of the country amid concerns of contracting the disease and internal restrictions imposed as part of the response to contain the virus.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo said in his 2021 budget speech before the parliament that 14.4 trillion rupiahs would be allocated for the tourism industry’s recovery with a focus on developing several main destinations: Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Mandalika in Lombok island; Labuan Bajo on the Flores island, which serves as a gateway to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island and Mount Kelimutu, which has three volcanic crater lakes of different colors; and Likupang Beach in North Sulawesi.