Category : Islam

(Economist) The new strife–There is but one God, yet different forms of Islam are fighting for their own version of him

Morocco largely avoided street protests in 2011, and the king appointed an Islamist-led government in November of that year. As part of a broad counter-radicalisation effort after a spate of terrorist attacks in Casablanca in 2003, the Moroccan state has been gradually seizing direct control of the mosque. A new school for imams, including foreign ones from sub-Saharan Africa as well as France and Belgium, opened in Rabat in 2015. It seeks to promote a moderate form of Islam, based on Morocco’s Maliki school of thought and, crucially, acceptance of the king’s traditional status as “Commander of the Faithful”.

It has also begun a pioneering programme to train women as mourchidas (spiritual counsellors). One of them, who did not want to be named, explained that her task was to work with women and children on a range of issues, including literacy and fighting drug abuse. “We sometimes come across preachers who promote a radical message. We have to intervene to tell them to change their discourse. When we started there was more religious radicalism; we have noticed that it has dropped.”

The risk is that all this will be dismissed by some Muslims as phoney “state Islam”. Still, the campaign seems to be having some impact. Take the experience of Abdelkrim Chadli, a Salafist preacher who was arrested after a series of suicide-bombings in Casablanca in 2003, accused of inspiring jihadists (which he denies) through his writings. Pardoned by the king in 2011, he is now urging fellow salafists to join a royalist shell party called the Democratic and Social Movement (founded by a former police commissioner). Within three or four years, he hopes, it could win elections and hasten the process of Islamising society. It is a striking transformation of Islamists’ stance, brought about in part by fear of the sort of chaos seen elsewhere, in part by the firm limits set by the king, and in part by his good sense in giving Islamists a political outlet. “Today all salafists are the first defenders of the monarchy,” says Mr Chadli, “We consider Morocco to be an Islamic model—even with the drinking bars.”

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Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Theology

(FT) Sunni clerics in Sisi sights after Isis targets Christians

Days after twin suicide blasts at Christian churches rocked Egypt, the country’s media launched a wave of highly unusual attacks on al-Azhar, the institution that has for centuries provided religious guidance to Sunni Muslims around the world.

“If you are incapable, too tired or fed up, leave the job to someone else. Your passivity is killing us,” Amr Adib, a television presenter, yelled as he called on Azhar’s Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb to resign.

Such fiery criticism appears to reflect tensions between Egypt’s political and religious leaders, with pro-regime media alleging that Azhar’s leaders are failing to combat extremism and maybe even fuelling it. Pressure on Azhar — which Pope Francis visited last month — soared in the wake of April’s church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, which were claimed by Isis and killed dozens of Christians.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics in General, Terrorism

(NPR) Wearing A Hijab, A Young Muslim Boxer Enters The Ring

In November, young boxer Amaiya Zafar traveled from Minnesota to Florida to fight her first competitive bout.

But before Zafar even had her gloves on, officials called off the fight – they told the 16-year-old she had to remove the hijab she wore or forfeit the match. A devout Muslim, Zafar refused, and her 15-year-old opponent was declared the victor.

USA Boxing, the sport’s national governing body, has dictated that athletes fight in sleeveless jerseys and shorts no longer than the knee. Zafar adds long sleeves, leggings, and a sporty hijab to the uniform.

The organization appears to be shifting its policy, and…[later] it granted Zafar a religious exemption to compete wearing the hijab so she…[could] fight…in Minneapolis.

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

(CT) Sunday Bobai Agang–The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us

I appreciate our Christian patriotic interest in guarding the Christian faith from being supplanted by Islam. However, the church should not allow that concern to distract it from keeping its house in order. God does not call us to compete with Islam. Rather, he calls us to holy living. “It is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Pet. 1:16). As it is, the Christian faith in Nigeria is suffering public disgrace and disrepute because of our lack of self-control, ungodly living, and compromised integrity.

Jesus declared that he is the truth, the way to eternal life (John 14:6). Christians can be confident in our salvation by faith in our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ; we have nothing to fear. Our source of power and authority is God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:18–20). We are given power and authority to combat satanic and demonic oppression, to destroy the works of the flesh, to heal obsession with material things, and to create just structures and systems that guarantee human flourishing. By the power and authority God has vested in us, we have nothing to fear and no excuse for failure. We have in us what we need to create fertile environments for social and spiritual transformation, in Nigeria and around the world.

The fear of an Islamization agenda is very real, but it must not be allowed to distract us from our primary concern: Christlikeness, holy living, hard work, and moral integrity. If we are concerned about the spread of Islam, let us be equally concerned about the lack of Christian public integrity and witness in our society. We must not allow fearmongering or conspiracy theories to prevent us from recognizing the true threat.

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Posted in Christology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Is Radical Islam ‘taking hold’ in prisons?

A terrorist incident in a jail is more likely now than at any time since a break-out by the Provisional IRA from a top-security prison in 1994, according to a former governor who has conducted a review into Islamic extremism.

Ian Acheson warns that radical Islam is “taking hold” in prisons and that officers lack the skills to deal with the threat.

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Posted in England / UK, Islam, Religion & Culture

(WWM) Life for a Christian woman in Yemen is about survival. Read Nadeen’s story

Nadeen (*), a born-and-raised Yemeni woman in her late 20s, became a Christian before the civil war broke out in 2015. She had to keep her new faith hidden as her family would probably disown her if they knew. Yemen ranks 9th on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

It meant for Nadeen that she had to live her faith in isolation, as she could not meet with other Christians.

Not only can Christians not openly gather in Yemen, for her as a single woman it was especially hard to get away from the house.

“My family strictly controlled everything I did,” she says.

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Posted in Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Women, Yemen

In Canada, Where Muslims Are Few, Group Stirs Fear of Islamists

Patrick Beaudry, bejeweled, tattooed and bearded, lives on a remote wooded hillside in rural Quebec, worrying about living under Shariah law.

A year and a half ago, he huddled with two friends in a Quebec maple sugar shack, discussing how to stop the spread of what they call “invasive political Islam” in Canada. They formed a group called La Meute, or Wolfpack, created a Facebook page and invited like-minded people to join.

Within a month, they had 15,000 followers. Today, the number has surpassed 50,000, and the group is still attracting people. Now, Mr. Beaudry and his colleagues say they are shaping those followers into dues-paying members who will give the group financial muscle and, they hope, political clout.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly opened Canada’s doors to refugees and presented a face of tolerance and inclusion in a world increasingly hostile to migration. But as Canadian immigration policy has transformed the nation over decades, pockets of intolerance have grown across the country.

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Posted in Canada, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Muslims, Christians and Jesus: A building and a book highlight an odd symbiosis between monotheistic faiths

Over the centuries, the Abrahamic faiths have found many things to fight over, and many modes of co-existence. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where a $4m conservation project was formally unveiled this week, exemplifies both points. It is, so to speak, an interface between the monotheisms. Quarrels over the tomb of Jesus sparked the crusades, but in the lore of this sacred spot there are inspiring stories of symbiosis. It is jointly used by six quarrelsome Christian confessions, but the keys are kept dutifully by Jerusalem’s oldest Muslim dynasty. This arrangement is said to date from Jerusalem’s Muslim conquest, when Caliph Omar held back from saying Islamic prayers in the Sepulchre church, thus leaving it Christian. In Ottoman times, pilgrimage to the tomb and raising money for it were huge activities for the empire’s Christians; this underpinned a cordial relationship between Greek Orthodox hierarchs who were the Sepulchre’s main stewards and the city’s Turkish overlords. The exact terms on which Christian communities share the Sepulchre were fine-tuned by the Ottoman sultan; the British took this arrangement over, then the Israelis.

It so happens that one of the most articulate of non-specialist writers in English about Islam, the Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, has just put forward a very different sort of proposal for terms on which Abraham’s children might co-exist. His concern is not with the sharing of hallowed space, more with doctrine and sacred narratives. Boldly, he suggests that despite all the theological contrasts, Jesus of Nazareth is a figure through whom historically-aware Christians, Muslims and Jews could come to closer mutual understanding. “Whether we are Jews, Christians and Muslims, we either share a faith followed by him, a faith built on him, or a faith that venerates him,” he notes at the opening of his book, “The Islamic Jesus”.

But he is honest about the gaps. Christians believe Jesus was both the Son of God and the Messiah, the anointed prophet for whom Jews were yearning; Muslims believe he was the second but not the former; Jews generally believe he was neither.

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Posted in Books, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Saturday Profile) Bashir Mohammad–The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus

When 22 Christian refugees gathered in the basement of an apartment in Istanbul early on a recent Sunday afternoon, it was quickly clear that this was no ordinary prayer meeting. Several of them had Islamic names. There was an Abdelrahman and even a couple of Mohammads. Strangest of all, they jokingly referred to their host — one of the two Mohammads — as an irhabi. A terrorist.

If Bashir Mohammad took the joke well, it was because there was once some truth to it. Today, Mr. Mohammad, 25, has a cross on his wall and invites other recent converts to weekly Bible readings in his purple-walled living room. Less than four years ago, however, he says he fought on the front lines of the Syrian civil war for the Nusra Front, an offshoot of Al Qaeda. He is, he says, a jihadi who turned to Jesus.

It is a transition that has surprised everyone, not least of all himself. Four years ago, Mr. Mohammad tells me, “Frankly I would have slaughtered anyone who suggested it.” Not only have his beliefs changed, but his temperament has, too. Today, his wife, Hevin Rashid, confirms, with a hint of understatement, that he is “much better to be around.”

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Posted in Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Terrorism

(CT) The deadliest incident faced by the persecuted church last Christmas wasn’t radical Islamists. It was alcohol.

The deadliest incident faced by the persecuted church last Christmas wasn’t radical Islamists. It was alcohol.

Liquor mixed with aftershave killed about 50 people at Christmas parties in a Pakistani village, and sickened about 100 more.

In Pakistan, as in many Muslim-majority nations where Shari‘ah law forbids drinking, alcohol is closely identified with Christianity. The nation’s primary alcohol producer, for example, riffs on the Bible in advertisements. Founded in 1860 by the British, Murree Brewery’s slogan, “Eat, drink, and be Murree,” echoes the repeated biblical idiom for short-term pleasures.

Perhaps as surprising as the existence of a Pakistani brewery is the fact that 12 Muslims were among the victims of the fatal Christmas parties.

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Posted in Alcohol/Drinking, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pakistan, Race/Race Relations

(CT) Missionaries Dreamed Of This Muslim Moment. Will Trump’s Travel Ban End It?

“It has to do with the fact that the evangelical church is in touch with Christian churches in the Muslim world. More than any other religious group, they’re hearing the horror stories,” said Cashin, the CIU professor, who has seen three of his friends and colleagues martyred as they attempted to bring the gospel to Muslim-majority nations. “For that reason, they tend to respond more negatively to the faith of Islam.”

Many associate the violent acts of ISIS extremists, who target Christians and other religious minorities, with Islam itself. In a LifeWay Research survey, slightly more than half of evangelical pastors saw ISIS as a true indication of what Islamic society looks like. They also disagreed with the notion that “true Islam creates a peaceful society.”

Warren Larson, former director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, called such beliefs “very damaging for ministry and mission among Muslims.” The survey statistics indicating Christians’ negative attitudes towards Muslims have played out in his experience among believers.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Immigration, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Missions, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights

The group goes by the name La Asociación Latino Musulmana de América and supports a growing number of Hispanic converts to Islam in Southern California. This gathering reflects the merging of cultures in a part of the country where neighbors are often from different parts of the world.

Like many Latinas, Guadalupe Fernandez grew up Catholic. Then around a decade ago, she moved from Mexico to the U.S. and met a guy in English class.

“In the beginning, we were just friends because I was afraid of the fact that he was Muslim,” she says, as translated from Spanish.

But the pair began to date and Fernandez became more interested in her partner Hamada Abdallah’s religion. Eventually, she converted.

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Posted in Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Iman Malik–A Suicide Bomber and the Sufi Soul

Thousands of worshipers were gathered at a prominent Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan, last month when a suicide bomb ripped through the courtyard, killing more than 80. As a counterterrorism analyst, I had long expected that something terrible would happen at the site—the mausoleum of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, revered as a Sufi saint. And I wasn’t surprised that an Islamic State affiliate quickly claimed responsibility for the bombing. But as a human and a Muslim who practices Sufism, it wrenched my heart.

Many Westerners today associate Islam with the doctrinaire tradition of Salafi jihadism, embodied by organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda. Yet Islam is so far from monolithic that sectarian differences often lead to violence and hatred among Muslims. Islamic State attacked the shrine precisely because of its importance to adherents of Sufism.

Sufism is an esoteric, mystical dimension of Islam whose adherents focus on maintaining a direct, personal relationship with God. It isn’t a sect. Rather, Sufism is an approach to understanding Islam. Sufis seek conciliation, rather than confrontation, among all religions. They can be found throughout the world, and Sufism is apolitical. Its adherents are on a quest not for temporal power but for self-knowledge and an understanding of the divine. To Sufis, all those who believe in a higher power and divine connection are Sufis.

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Posted in Islam, Other Faiths, Terrorism

(Reuters) Bavaria pushes ahead with burqa ban as elections loom

Bavaria will ban the full-face veil in schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations, the southern German state said on Tuesday.

The move comes seven months before a federal election where immigration will be a prominent issue and the Bavarian conservatives that govern the region, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, are worried about losing votes to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“Communication happens not only via language but also via looks, facial expressions and gestures,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said after the regional government agreed a draft law to ban the full-face veil for civil servants and in public places where there are concerns for public safety.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

([London] Times) Muslim parents choose church schools because of the focus on faith

Many Muslim parents send their children to church schools because they prepare young people for “life in modern Britain”, a senior figure in the Church of England has said.

The Rev Nigel Genders said that church schools offered a “deeply Christian” education yet were attractive to families of other religions because they took faith seriously.

Mr Genders, chief education officer at the Church of England, which has about 4,500 primary schools, said that they would never drop their religious character even though more children from non-Christian families were attending them.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology