Police carry out anti-terror raids across country

Twenty-six foreigners suspected of links to international terrorism and aiding illegal immigration, are being investigated by Italian police, after raids carried out in several Italian cities.

The raids were carried out in the northern cities of Vicenza, Venice, Padova, Brescia, Como, Cuneo, Trento, and Florence. Anti-terrorism and criminal investigators began probing fundamentalists attending the Via Dei Mille mosque in the northern Veneto region – led by an imam who is being investigated for terror links. Most of the 26 foreigners are stated to be of Algerian descent, and had already been involved in falsifying documents relating to jihadi groups, according to investigators.

Episcopal minister defrocked after becoming a Muslim

Former Episcopal minister Ann Holmes Redding has been ordained in the Episcopal Church for nearly 30 years, but her ordainment came to an end when she was defrocked this week.

According to a report, Redding has been both a practicing Christian and Muslim for the past three years. “Had anyone told me in February 2006 that I would be a Muslim before April rolled around, I would have shaken my head in concern for the person’s mental health,” Redding recently told a crowd at a signing for a book she co-authored on religion.

Redding said that her conversion to Islam was sparked by an interfaith gathering she attended three years ago, citing an overwhelming conviction to surrender to God. Redding said that she did not feel that her new Muslim faith posed a contradiction to her staying a Christian and minister: “Both religions say there’s only one God,” Redding said, “and that God is the same God. It’s very clear we are talking about the same God! So I haven’t shifted my allegiance.”

The Episcopal church rejected Redding’s religious church, saying it is tantamount to abandonment of the church. The Diocese of Rhode Island, where Redding was ordained, told her to leave either her new Muslim faith or the ministry. A diocese statement said Bishop Geralyn Wolf found Redding to be “a woman of utmost integrity. However, the Bishop believes that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim.

Mosques: rebuilding the faith

A feature article in this week’s Time Magazine highlights the changing conception of the mosque for Muslim communities, along generational differences and making room for a thriving Islam for Muslim practitioners in the West.

New generations of Muslim builders and designers are sparking debate on just the creative design of such sacred spaces, but over “larger debates taking place in the Islamic world today about gender, power, and particularly in immigrant communities, Islam’s place in Western societies.” How does the mosque locate gender in its spaces? Are minarets necessary? What about the questions of noise in public spaces? How are community needs constructed by the mosque? As the social and economic mobility of Muslims evolves, these changes tend to become reflected upon the differing needs for mosques – symbolizing the marrying of tradition with modernity, and setting down new roots.

Mosques in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and the United States are all addressed in this interesting article about space, faith, and place.

Muslim comedy trio ‘Allah made me funny’ take on UK (3:04)

What is it like being a modern Muslim in the US? Three American comedians have turned their experiences into a show called Allah Made Me Funny. Mo Amer, Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman spoke to the BBC about how they came up with the show and about their experiences performing for troops in Iraq. Kieran Fox reports.

BBC site

Amsterdam Mosques silent about Gay Pride march decision, condemn violence

Ahmed Marcouch, mayor of the Slotervaart district of Amsterdam, decided that a local Gay Pride parade will pass by establishments in the town. According to the Union of Moroccan Mosques in Amsterdam, local mosques are not happy about the decision, but are not publicly opposing it either. “We have no opinion about it. It is a wish of a district mayor, we don’t need to talk about everything,” said Khalil Aitblal, a spokesperson for the organization.

Aitblal added that the topic of homosexuality is sometimes an issue in mosques “because it’s an issue which people have difficulty with” but stated that he has no desire to make a public case of such discussions. The El Tawheed mosque is also reserved, but for another reason – spokesperson Fahred Zaari said “If we give our religious arguments, it quickly leads to the conclusion that Islam fosters certain aggressive feelings, against gays or against people who think differently. That is quickly understood as a threat, that is difficult.”

The problem, according to Zaari, is violence against gays: “Practice shows that those who trouble gays, or attack, are almost never practicing Muslims. We have religious objections against the homosexual act, that gives no right to injure, threaten or beat anyone. We preach that too.”

Moroccan-Italian MP Souad Sbai receiving death threats from Muslim radicals

Moroccan-Italian MP Souad Sbai has spent years defending battered women in the Moroccan immigrant community, and faces an increasing number of threats as she progresses through parliament. So far, three men originally from North Africa, face trial accused of making death threats against Sbai; yet, she continues to receive threatening phone calls and e-mails. “They threaten me, they scream. They make fatwas. I’ve never talked about Islam. I’ve spoken about Muslims who treat women badly. And this is a crime?” said Sbai, who was elected to parliament last year as part of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative coalition.

Sbai has lived in Italy for 30 years and is the head of the Association of Moroccan Women in Italy.

Austria´s first Islamic cemetery opens for business

Austria’s first ever Islamic cemetery will see its first burial tomorrow (Fri). Omar Al-Rawi, a Social Democrat (SPÖ) municipal councillor and the person responsible for integration at the Islamic Believers Denomination (IG), said today the first body to be buried there would be that of a Moroccan who at worked for the UN in Vienna and died of illness. The service will take place after the daily prayers at the site in southern Vienna. Al-Rawi said the cemetery was available to every Muslim who died and parcels of land in it would be not sold or reserved for anyone. The cemetery would be open to all who wanted to visit it, just like any other, he added. Al-Rawi said the first bodies to be buried in the cemetery would be placed deep into the ground to allow the stacking of corpses in order to accommodate a maximum number of bodies, which he estimated to be 4,000.

The cemetery has a long history. The first discussions between IG and the city government about an Islamic cemetery started some 20 years ago and finally led to acceptance of a plan by both sides in 2001, when it was hoped the cemetery would be able to open in 2003. In the interim, archaeologists would conduct excavations on the 3.4 hectares of land in question.