Category : Islam

(Wash Post) Struggling to prevent terrorist attacks, France wants to ‘reform’ Islam

Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on “underground Islamism” and those who “indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily.”

The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to restructure Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also the prevention of radicalization.

He has said that in the coming months he will announce “a blueprint for the whole organization” of Islam. And those trying to anticipate what that will look like are turning their attention to Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture.

It is hard to miss that the man who appears to have Macron’s ear on this most sensitive of subjects cuts a similar figure. Like the president, El Karoui is an ex-Rothschild investment banker with an elite social pedigree who favors well-tailored suits, crisp white shirts and the lofty province of big ideas.

The latest of those ideas is this — that the best way to integrate Islam within French society is to promote a version of the religion “practiced in peace by believers who will not have the need to loudly proclaim their faith.”

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Posted in France, Islam, Religion & Culture

(NPR) America’s Next Generation Of Muslims Insists On Crafting Its Own Story

Fashion designers. Community activists. Parents. Converts. High school students facing down bullies. Podcasters creating their own space to exhale.

The newest generation of American Muslims is a mosaic, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse faith groups in the country. At a time when all religions are struggling to keep youth engaged, Islam is growing in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.

Many American Muslims found themselves on the defensive after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But this generation says it is tired of being expected to apologize. Instead, young Muslims are determined to take control of their own stories. And they are creating fresh paths for the estimated 3.45 million Muslims in America.

Rather than defending themselves, they are defining themselves. In a tense political climate, they are worried less about explaining Islam to others and more about contributing to the American tapestry through their unique perspectives.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Jakarta’s Governor, Backed by Islamic Conservatives, Sets Up Vice Showdown

Businesses are criticizing plans by Jakarta’s governor to close hotels and entertainment venues without warning as part of a vice crackdown, setting up a fight between a powerful lobby and a fast-rising politician backed by Islamic conservatives.

The crackdown makes good on a campaign pledge by the governor, Anies Baswedan, who benefited from hard-line Muslim support in an election last year that removed a minority Christian from office. The then incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was also convicted of blasphemy against Islam and is serving a two-year prison sentence.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has traditionally been home to a tolerant strain of Islam. But rising conservatism, in the nearly 90% of Indonesia’s 250 million population identifying as Muslims, has played a larger role in politics in recent years.

In addition to Mr. Baswedan’s local crackdown, national lawmakers are negotiating a revised criminal code. Under proposals by Islamic political parties, sex outside marriage, gay sex and cohabitation of unmarried couples would become illegal. In Aceh, the only province that is governed by Shariah law, non-Muslims have recently been flogged for violating rulesagainst gambling.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Indonesia, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Mustafa Akyol–How Islamism Drives Muslims to Convert out of Islam

As a Muslim who is not happy to see my coreligionists leave the faith, I have a great idea to share with the Iranian authorities:

If they want to avert more apostasy from Islam, they should consider oppressing their people less, rather than more, for their very oppression is itself the source of the escape from Islam.

That truth is clear in stories told by former Muslims, some of which I have heard personally over the years. Of course, as in every human affair, motivations for losing faith in Islam are complex and vary from individual to individual. But suffering from the oppression or violence perpetrated in the name of religion is cited very often.

Take, for example, the words of Azam Kamguian, an Iranian former Muslim, in “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out,” a collection of memoirs. “I have lived thousands of days in Iran when Islam has shed blood,” he wrote, referring to the violence of the Islamic Revolution. “Islam ruined the lives, dreams, hopes and aspirations of three consecutive generations.” The perpetrator of the mass killings or jailings he talks about was, of course, not “Islam”; it was the Islamic Republic of Iran. But apparently it is easy to conflate the two, extending a resentment of a theocratic regime to the theology it claims to represent.

This trend is certainly not limited to Iran. Authoritarianism, violence, bigotry and patriarchy in the name of Islam are alienating people in almost every Muslim-majority nation….

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Posted in Iran, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics in General, Psychology

(NPR) Debate On Role Of Islam Divides German Government

Germany’s new minister of interior, Horst Seehofer, has stirred up debate about the role of Islam in Germany.

In an interview with the German newspaper BILD Seehofer said: “Islam is not a part of Germany. Germany has been influenced by Christianity. This includes free Sundays, church holidays and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. However, the Muslims living in Germany obviously do belong to Germany.”

This statement conflicted with the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel said, even though Germany has been influenced mainly by Christianity and Judaism, there are more than four million Muslims in the country, they “belong to Germany and so does their religion.”

Konstantin von Notz, member of the opposition Green party, protests, “The statement of Interior Minister Seehoher is complete nonsense. Germany cannot afford such behavior in the important questions of integration.”

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Posted in Germany, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Economist) The number of ex-Muslims in America is rising

As soon as he stepped off the plane on a family holiday to Kenya, Mahad Olad knew something was wrong. His mother, a “very devout, very conservative, very Wahhabi” woman, was acting strangely—furtively taking phone calls when she thought he was out of earshot. His suspicions would soon be proved correct. Mr Olad’s family, Somali immigrants to America and devout Muslims, had discovered that he had not only renounced Islam but was also gay. The holiday was a ruse, an intervention to save his soul.

Mr Olad was told he would leave college and be turned over the next day to the care of Muslim clerics who would restore his faith. “I was aware of the horrors of these camps,” Mr Olad says. “They operate them in the middle of nowhere, where you cannot escape. They subject you to beatings, starvation and trampling.” He tried to contact the American embassy, but it could not send help because of recent terrorist attacks nearby. Luckily, he also managed to reach a Kenyan atheist group. In the dead of night he sneaked into his mother’s room, stole his passport and was whisked away by taxi to the embassy, which eventually returned him safely to America. He has not spoken to his family since.

Though few have such harrowing stories, hundreds of thousands of American Muslims might recognise something like their own experience in Mr Olad’s tale. As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

(AP) 3 rural Illinois men charged with Minnesota mosque bombing

Federal authorities on Tuesday charged three men from rural central Illinois with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year and said one of the suspects told an investigator the goal of the attack was to “scare” Muslims out of the United States.

A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield, Illinois, says the men also are suspected in the attempted bombing of an abortion clinic. The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, was bombed just before morning prayers on Aug. 5, causing a fire and extensive damage although no one was injured or killed. And there was an attempted bombing of the Champaign, Illinois, Women’s Health Practice on Nov. 7.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Spectator) Tim Wyatt–Archbishop Justin Welby’s stance on sharia law is a welcome relief

In firmly rejecting [Rowan] Williams’s proposals, Welby has identified the problems with integrating sharia law. But he’s also done more than that, by giving an insight into the vital role the Church of England can play in community cohesion. Unlike criticism from politicians or the press, Welby can speak to Muslim communities – who often feel excluded, misunderstood and hated – from a position of sympathy not antagonism. As a fellow person of faith, he has a voice in these knotty questions of law, God and ethics that no government minister or newspaper editorial could offer. When he calmly but clearly explains why sharia cannot be incorporated into British law he has a chance of actually being heard by British Muslims. He and his fellow Anglicans, with their long track record of standing up for minority faith groups, can and must act as critical friends to other believers, challenging and protecting in equal measure. In doing so they will build greater cross-cultural harmony than any Home Office strategy ever could.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture

(CT) Matthew Arbo reviews Matthew Kaemingk’s new book–A Wall of Security or a Table of Fellowship?

[Abraham] Kuyper’s brand of pluralism, however, is refreshingly Christocentric. Jesus Christ alone is the true and ultimate sovereign. His jurisdiction is all-encompassing. As Kuyper affirms, “Sin alone has necessitated the institution of government.” As such, governance is a delicate affair and should in principle remain limited, especially where religious communities are involved. (There are two exceptions: first, when one community intrudes upon another, and second, when a “weak one” within a community is vulnerable to exploitation.) In a truly pluralistic culture, government exists not to define and enforce a particular vision of ultimate truth but to protect and nurture vital social institutions that pursue their own, doubtless very different, moral and religious commitments. If they are rightly structured, according to Kaemingk, “institutions can equip Christians to go out into public life to embody a different way of living between Mecca and Amsterdam.” Or, as he puts it later, “to pursue moments of commonness, connection, and cooperation.” Kuyper’s theological vision offers a Christian politics of solidarity that prevails over a politics of suspicion.

The third and fourth parts of Kaemingk’s book are perhaps the strongest and most illuminating. If, as he argues, Christians embrace the Kuyperian vision of pluralism, then they should feel a corresponding obligation to show hospitality toward Muslim immigrants, perhaps even becoming vocal advocates and activists on their behalf. Kaemingk also emphasizes the importance of treating hospitality as “a way of life.” Hospitality involves ordinary people willing to do ordinary things faithfully. It describes how we live with others in the world as it is given.

Kaemingk gives several splendid examples of ordinary hospitality that, as they develop into consistent practice, make an extraordinary impact: Christian and Muslim women gathering weekly to sew together, universities welcoming instructors and students of diverse religious backgrounds, civil institutions fostering (rather than forcing) inter-religious dialogue, eating ethnic foods in minority neighborhoods, and extending free or subsidized medical care to underprivileged migrant communities. Hospitality involves more than speaking up for the oppressed or disenfranchised—it also requires humble, hopeful, persevering action for another’s flourishing. Through hospitality, Christians demonstrate that Muslims have a place to belong.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CBC) How Quebec City Muslims and Anglicans found friendship through faith and grief

Members of Quebec City’s Muslim community will stand alongside those of the Huron-Wendat, Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and many other communities Sunday, as they honour the victims of last year’s deadly attack on a mosque.

The interfaith ceremony, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Pavillion de Jeunesse at Expo Cité, will not be the first time different religious communities in the city will have come together since the shooting.

Bruce Myers, bishop of the Anglican diocese of Quebec and Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, spoke with Ainslie MacLellan on CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend, about how their communities have built a friendship.

Read it all (and please note there is an audio option also, which is about 12 1/3 minutes).

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Guardian) Patriarch Theophilos III–Christians are at risk of being driven out of the Holy Land

[Yesterday]…7 January, is Christmas, according to the Orthodox Christian calendar. And Orthodox Christians are keeping the feast in the Holy Land, where Christmas – and Christianity – began.

Much attention has been paid recently to political decisions recognising Jerusalem in one light or another. The media attention highlights the seemingly intractable political struggle here. But as well as the threat to the political status quo, there is a threat also to the religious status quo, a threat instigated by radical settlers in and around Jerusalem, the heart of Christianity. And one group that has always been a pillar of society in the Holy Land – Christians – seems to have been rendered invisible in this standoff.

Christians have lived a history in the Holy Land that spans more than two millennia. We have survived countless invasions, and have flourished under many different forms of government. We know that our survival has depended on the principle that the holy places must be shared by and be accessible to all. For it is the holy places that have given meaning to the region for both inhabitants and conquerors of all faiths. The protection and accessibility of the holy places are understood through a set of rules called the “status quo”, which has been followed by all religious and governmental authorities of the region through the ages.

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Posted in Church History, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Reuel Marc Gerecht–The Secular Republic of Iran

Few organizations still carry the revolutionary torch. The Revolutionary Guards are willing to kill and die in Syria. The Basij, a “mobilization” force of club-wielding thugs under the command of the Guards, has been willing to murder its own countrymen to preserve the clerical state. But its commitment appears so sharp precisely because Iranian society as a whole has moved on.

Mosques all over Iran are empty at prayer times. In 2015 a Revolutionary Guard commander, Ziaeddin Hozni, revealed that only about 3,000 of the country’s 57,000 Shiite mosques were fully operational. And of the 3,000, some were only functioning during the religious months of Ramadan and Muharram. The Shiites have usually been less diligent than Sunnis in mosque attendance, but lack of attendance is striking in an explicitly Shiite state run by mullahs.

Do not underestimate how these trends influence the protests. Youth unemployment and the ever-rising price of food matter. But even more important is the collapse of the revolution’s civilizing mission among the college-educated children of the ruling elite and the poorly educated urban working class. Nothing in the nuclear accord can revive the fraternity that once bound Iranians together. The current eruptions may well fail to unseat the mullahs. Yet as the great medieval historian Ibn Khaldun warned, there is always another asabiyya, or galvanizing spirit of a superior force, waiting outside the capital, gaining unstoppable momentum.

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Posted in Iran, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan: India’s Imaginary ‘Love Jihad’–Judges break up the marriage of a Hindu woman who converted to Islam

This is the story of Hadiya, currently the most famous woman in India. Like any person of modest profile rocketed into national headlines, she’d rather be leading an anonymous life. But her parents—and the Supreme Court of India—will not let her.

Hadiya, a medical student, was born 25 years ago into a Hindu family in the southern state of Kerala. In 2015 she converted to Islam, and last year she married a Muslim man. In the process, she changed her Hindu given name from Akhila Ashokan to the adoptive Muslim Hadiya.

Her parents, appalled by the decision, urged the courts to annul her marriage in December 2016. They contended that she had converted to Islam under duress. Worse, they alleged that their daughter’s husband, Shafin Jahan, was involved in terrorism and intended to traffic her to Syria.

In a judgment that was startling in its paternalism and sexism, the Kerala High Court annulled Hadiya’s marriage, holding that she could not possibly have converted and married of her own free will.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(WSJ) Robert George–Poe Francis can help Myanmar’s Muslims, but the best way is behind the scenes

Pope Francis was in Myanmar this week spreading the Word of God. Many observers wondered if he would use a specific word: Rohingya. Barring an unforeseen statement—always possible on the papal plane home—it appears the Holy Father won’t, though he alluded to the crisis the word evokes.

Rohingya is the name of a persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the nation once known as Burma, where about 88% of people practice the Theravada Buddhist religion. The Rohingya are Muslims loathed and feared by those who insist on calling them “Bengalis,” as if they were foreigners in their own country. They are also targets of various forms of legally sanctioned discrimination and humiliation. Recently Myanmar’s military authorities have subjected them to ethnic cleansing. This has left between 600,000 and 900,000 of Myanmar’s 2.2 million Rohingya as refugees in bordering Bangladesh.

The word Rohingya offends the group’s persecutors. That’s because it implies recognition of the humanity and basic rights the Myanmar government denies. This would seem to create a perfect opportunity for Pope Francis, which is why human-rights activists called on him to speak the word boldly in public. But silence and speaking out both come with serious risks.

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Posted in Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Globe+Mail) Sheema Khan–Women need to play a role in ‘restoring’ Saudi Islam

In a wide-ranging interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. “MBS”) discussed, among other topics, the recent anti-corruption drive and liberalization of Saudi society. Call it a kinder, gentler form of authoritarianism – with a progressive touch. Notably, MBS refused to address his country’s interference in Lebanese politics or its unconscionable scorched-earth policy in Yemen.

Nonetheless, Mr. Friedman was effusive of MBS’s plans to veer Saudi Islam to a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.” The Prince calls it a “restoration” of the faith to its origins – namely the Prophetic period in the early 7th century. This has the potential to reverse the puritanical strain (Wahhabism) currently at the heart of Saudi society, where, for example, a woman is under male guardianship from cradle to grave.

The late Sunni scholar Abdul Halim Abu Shaqqa chronicled in his comprehensive study of the Koran and authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim women were far more engaged in society during the Prophetic era. They had more rights and opportunities to build a vibrant society, in partnership with men, than many contemporary Muslim cultures (including Saudi Arabia).

Mr. Friedman believes this “restoration” project “would drive moderation across the Muslim world.” In fact, most of the Muslim world has soundly rejected Wahhabism. Yet, the deeply entrenched patriarchy of Saudi society finds parallels in many Muslim countries.

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Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Women