Conference for Muslims in the military

A country house in Hampshire was the rarefied setting for the second conference hosting Muslims serving in Britain’s armed forces. Close to 400 Muslims serve in the military – about 300 in the Army, 50 in the RAF and 40 in the Navy. Imam Asim Hafiz, who has served as the Muslim chaplain for the last three years, organised the conference and is in charge of ministering to the spiritual needs of Muslims in all three services. “They are soldiers but at the same time they have a faith identity, a Muslim identity,” he told the BBC. He went on to explain that the conference provided Muslims with advice on tackling some of the issues they may face – like how to talk to superiors about getting regular prayer time, or having halal food available or fasting. Some of the older officers explained that when they joined the issue of halal food was not understood at all, leading to a diet that consisted largely of potatoes and peas. But while progress has been made, there was a sense that more work needed to be done to educate officers on how to deal with Muslims in their ranks and what it means to practise a religion. “It is an education for the individual on how to raise these issues and an education to the hierarchy that these are just different requirements that need to be considered,” explained one flight lieutenant in the RAF.

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Bishop defends missionary efforts towards Muslims

The Bishop of Lichfield has stepped into the debate about whether the Church should seek to convert Muslims by defending the church’s missionary approach to Islam. The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, in a pastoral letter in parish magazines throughout Staffordshire, the northern half of Shropshire and most of the Black Country, said the Church had nothing to fear by recognising that Islam too is a missionary faith. “Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths. That means that each understands that the other has a message to convey to the world,” he said. “Muslims do not respect Christians who compromise their faith or water down their belief in the uniqueness of Christ. “A fundamental plank of a free society is the freedom to argue for one’s beliefs and to seek to persuade others. “Just as important is the freedom to change one’s religion (‘be converted’) and to change it again.” He stressed, however, that the decision to change religion must be taken freely, saying: “Any coercion is to be avoided.” He added: “Part of that will be to learn about the Muslim religion and to show respect for Muslim communities. Part of neighbourliness will be to share our Good News with them.” Next month, bishops, clergy and laity from the Diocese of Lichfield will join with their partners from Malaysia, South Africa, Canada and Germany, to discuss “Mission and the challenge of Islam”.

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Channel 4 launches campaign for Islam season

Channel 4 has launched an online campaign to find 500 people called Osama as part of its Islam season. The broadcaster will follow a young female Muslim doctor and a filmmaker as they take on the project to track down 500 people named Osama in 50 days. Users will be able to follow their quest online as they upload photos, blogs and videos daily. Users will also be invited to get involved by sending in advice and tips to aid their quest. The project, Searching for 500 Faces of Islam, will be made into a documentary to be shown later in the year as part of Channel 4’s The Wonders of Islam season, which aims to highlight diversity and understanding of the religion. The site has been created by Mint Digital, which specialises in mixing online and TV projects.

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Muslim Man Requests Crucifix Removal at Catholic Clinic

A Muslim man has successfully requested the removal of a crucifix from the room where his daughter was being cared for in a Catholic clinic in Bourgoin-Jallieu (Isère). The director of the Saint-Vincent de Paul Clinic, Marie-Thérèse Besson, staed “When people choose to be cared for in our establishment . . . they know they’re in a catholic care space.” The case will be further discussed at the next ethics committee meeting of the Alliance des maternités catholiques (Alliance of Catholic Caregivers).

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Muslim scholars reach out to Pope

More than 130 Muslim scholars have written to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders urging greater understanding between the two faiths.

The letter says that world peace could depend on improved relations between Muslims and Christians.

It identifies the principles of accepting only one god and living in peace with one’s neighbours as common ground between the two religions.