2007: Moving on after the veil row

The year 2006 saw much debate over Islam and multiculturalism in England. From the global row over cartoons of the prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, to the public British debate over the veil, Islam and its role in European society was constantly making British headlines. So where are we heading in 2007? Jack Straw once again raised the question of the veil’s role in integration, in such a tone that even Muslims who do not veil (which is by far the majority) were threatened by the defensiveness of his words. A key test for the government in the coming year will be to see how much action is taken to follow through on its rhetoric. The government is supporting British Muslim organizations in an effort to cultivate a new generation of British-raised and British-educated Muslim leaders.

Muslims Want to Pray in the Cordoba « mezquita »

Andalusian Muslims requested permission from Pope Benedict XVI to pray in the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba. Taking as an example the image of the pope praying in the Blue Mosque next to the Grand Mufti of Istanbul during his trip to Turkey, the Islamic Congress of Spain wrote to the Holy Father to ask him if Muslims could be authorized to pray, alongside Catholics, in the “mezquita”, the ancient Grand Mosque of Cordoba, which became a cathedtral seven centuries ago. The Muslim association specified in its letter that its objective was not to “appropriate this place but to honor it, with you and those of other faiths, as a unique ecumenical space in the world.”

Muslim Pilgrimage Spurs Screeners’ Training

A month after the removal of six imams from a U.S. Airways flight spurred accusations of harassment, the federal government has given airport security trainers cultural awareness training about the Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. This year, an estimated 16,000 American Muslims are making the annual pilgrimage, called the hajj – including several hundred from Long Island. The grueling, five-day ritual, which began yesterday, is a religious duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

Muslims ask Pope to Allow Them to Pray in Cathedral

A Spanish Muslim group has asked Pope Benedict XVI for permission to worship alongside Christians in the Great Mosque of Cordoba, turned into a cathedral in the 13th century. They sent a letter on Christmas to the Pope’s Spanish representative, asking that the building be opened for prayer by all religions as a model of tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. They hoped to follow up on the Pope’s recent gestures of goodwill towards Muslims on his trip to Turkey. “We invite you to create a new example, to send a message of hope to the world,” says the letter, which was published yesterday on the Spanish Muslim website Webislam. “Do not fear. Together we can show the violent, the intolerant, the anti-semites, the Islam-phobes and also those who believe that only Islam has a right to remain in the world, that prayer is the strongest weapon imaginable.” In 2004, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue rejected a similar request, leaving the decision to Spanish church authorities, who oppose Muslim prayer at the cathedral.

Muslim Media Coverage Scrutinized

The way that the British news media covers Muslim stories is challenging some of its most basic editorial values. Many Muslims feel that all British news outlets have a liberal, anti-Muslim slant, and as a result turn to outside news outlets such as al-Jazeera. But journalists who report on political Islam say that there is an equal danger in neglecting to challenge radical Islamist views. The role of the news media, they say, is to pose the difficult questions. They cannot back down from this responsibility just to maintain an appearance of total cultural sensitivity. What would help mutual understanding would be if more Muslims worked in the news media, and if a wider range of Muslims, not just extremists, sought and were given a voice in newspapers and broadcast news.

Abdellah Hammoudi : “Affirming the woman as an autonomous religious subject”

Un entretien avec Abdellah Hammoudi, anthropologue a l’universite de Princeton, par Sylvain Cypel Hormis la d_mographie et les facilit_s de transports, comment expliquer la croissance rapide de la participation au hajj ? Dans le monde musulman, une g_n_ration sort d’_coles plus modernes incluant une instruction religieuse plus pouss_e. De plus, le p_lerinage fait l’objet d’une _mulation. Lorsqu’un musulman visite un Hajj, quelqu’un ayant accompli le p_lerinage, celui-ci lui souhaitera de pouvoir le faire au plus t_t. Il y a trente ans, on ne connaissait pas ce bruissement puissant dans l’opinion, o_ le hajj revient comme un motif fr_quent. Y a-t-il un lien avec la pouss_e de l’islam politique, sous toutes ses formes ? Les deux ph_nom_nes sont concomitants. Mais l’un ne g_n_re pas l’autre. Les deux sont la cons_quence de la pouss_e des classes moyennes dans l’espace musulman. Le hajj _tant une sc_ne m_diatique globale, il est normal que les religieux politis_s qui visent _ “r_islamiser” la soci_t_ y soient tr_s pr_sents. Votre livre d_crit un total don de soi de l’individu et une violence rituelle. Comment s’articule ce double mouvement ? Un des deux _l_ments centraux du hajj, la purification, se manifeste dans le th_me du sacrifice, _ la fois don de soi et s_paration de soi. Il comm_more le geste supr_me de la victime. La violence y est symbolique parce qu’il y a substitution : l’animal remplace le fils, la part la plus ch_re de soi-m_me. Il faut la prendre dans le sens premier de l’expression “se faire violence”. D_sormais, plus de 40 % des participants sont des femmes. Qu’est-ce que cela modifie pour elles dans l’islam ? Il y a l_ une vraie rupture. Il est int_ressant que de plus en plus d’hommes l’acceptent, la souhaitent, m_me. Des p_lerins m’ont dit : “Elle s’est sacrifi_e pour moi, pour _lever nos enfants. L’emmener, c’est ob_ir _ Dieu.” Il faut voir qu’hormis les talibans ou les wahhabites, l’islam radical, sur certains aspects, appara_t plus protecteur du droit des femmes : sur la propri_t_, la part d’h_ritage et m_me l’instruction. Il pousse aussi _ une participation des femmes au hajj. J’y ai constat_ une lib_ration de la parole f_minine. Des femmes discutent entre elles de leurs obligations, mais aussi avec des hommes, d’_gal _ _gal. Au hajj, l’affirmation de la femme comme sujet religieux autonome est devenue _vidente. Vous montrez une emprise _tatique saoudienne forte sur le p_lerinage, et ses limites. Le r_gime s’inqui_te-t-il d’un ph_nom_ne devenu gigantesque ? Sans aucun doute. L’encadrement est si lourd que beaucoup de p_lerins, qui viennent l_ “libres devant Dieu”, se plaignent d’une volont_ de les contr_ler. Les contraintes _conomiques, la machine de propagande du r_gime, le conditionnement au rituel sont per_us comme un d_couragement _ la libert_ de conscience dans le rapport personnel _ Dieu. Cela permet aux “puristes” de l’islam de chercher, par exemple, _ imposer sur place une s_paration entre les sexes. On entend aussi de vives critiques des r_gimes des pays musulmans. Ces ph_nom_nes _chappent au contr_le de l’Etat wahhabite. Riyad mobilise 50 000 policiers pour le hajj. Craint-il des d_bordements ? Evidemment. Le nombre croissant des p_lerins devient quasi ing_rable. De plus, il y a une instabilit_ extr_me dans la r_gion : Irak, Palestine, guerre isra_lienne au Liban, _mergence de l’Iran nucl_aris_ comme porte-voix de la revendication palestinienne, tout cela p_se lourd. Le r_gime sait son contr_le sur les lieux saints contest_s. Les plus radicaux le d_noncent comme “usurpateur”. En plus, la secte wahhabite au pouvoir est contest_e sur le plan religieux en Arabie m_me. Quand on met tous ces _l_ments bout _ bout, on con_oit que le r_gime manifeste une nervosit_ croissante. Propos recueillis par Sylvain Cypel Abdellah Hammoudi est l’auteur d’Une saison _ La Mecque (Paris, Le Seuil, 2005), une _tude ethnologique du hajj contemporain.

Muslims Remain Very Attached to Collective Rituals

It is generally said that France is home to 5 million Muslims. In reality, however, no one has counted them, because ethnic and religious census questions are forbidden. The last projections made by poller Michele Tribalat (on the basis of INED’s family surveys in 1999) put the estimation at more like 4 million Muslims living in France. But the alleged Muslim population level has grown unceasingly in the past few years. Some even put the number at 10 million, obviously confusing national origin with religion. Up to now, most people coming from the Maghreb, from Senegal, Mali, Turkey, and Pakistan have effectively considered themselves Muslims. But the last firm survey, taken from a large population samble by Cevipof, shows an increasing gap between national origin and religious practice, especially among those born in France of North African origin. In 2005, 35% of this population declared themselves to have no religion. The process of secularization has been set in motion…

American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion

Vivid, dramatic portraits of Muslims in America in the years after 9/11, as they define themselves in a religious subculture torn between moderation and extremism

There are as many as six million Muslims in the United States today. Islam (together with Christianity and Judaism) is now an American faith, and the challenges Muslims face as they reconcile their intense and demanding faith with our chaotic and permissive society are recognizable to all of us.

From West Virginia to northern Idaho, American Islam takes readers into Muslim homes, mosques, and private gatherings to introduce a population of striking variety. The central characters range from a charismatic black imam schooled in the militancy of the Nation of Islam to the daughter of an Indian immigrant family whose feminist views divided her father’s mosque in West Virginia. Here are lives in conflict, reflecting in different ways the turmoil affecting the religion worldwide. An intricate mixture of ideologies and cultures, American Muslims include immigrants and native born, black and white converts, those who are well integrated into the larger society and those who are alienated and extreme in their political views. Even as many American Muslims succeed in material terms and enrich our society, Islam is enmeshed in controversy in the United States, as thousands of American Muslims have been investigated and interrogated in the wake of 9/11.

American Islam is an intimate and vivid group portrait of American Muslims in a time of turmoil and promise.

Top Babies names: Muhammad climbed 12 places to number 44

2,833 boys were given the name Mohammed in the UK in 2006, and 1,422 were named Muhammad. The name of the prophet has superseded names such as George or Joseph. Mohammed is the 22nd most popular name and Muhammad the 44th, according to the Office for National Statistics: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/fnames1206.pdf].