Media bias towards reporting Islam

rapport_religions_2012_orela_ulb11.06.2013

According to the The Observatory of Religions and Secularism’s (Orela) 2012 report, Islam continues to be discussed in specific and reductive ways in Belgium’s media. Events that are in any way related to Islam or Muslims are reported in the media in ways that “serve as a starting point for an ongoing debate on Muslim integration in Belgian society”. Any debate on Islam in the country’s media continues to include a discussion about the “compatibility of this cult with secularism “. According to Orela, Islam becomes in Belgium media a political but also sociological and economic issue, which serves to alienate Islam and Muslim communities from the country’s mainstream.

rapport_religions_2012_orela_ulb

2013 Stockholm Riots: a brief overview

Emin Poljarevic

 

The riots have exhausted their destructive energy sweeping through several of Stockholm’s suburbs. In the northern suburb of Husby where the unrests started, the rioting lasted from Sunday evening, May 19 until Wednesday, May 22. Several other Stockholm suburbs, similar to Husby, 23 in total, experienced unrest albeit on the smaller scale. These suburbs are primarily inhabited by a second and third generation immigrants as well as newly arrived immigrant residents many of those have fled from the devastating conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The unrests were primarily been expressed through burning of a large number of private cars followed by stone throwing on the arriving police units and the fire fighters. Curiously, this seemingly senseless wave of destruction of cars did not include burning shops or residential buildings in any direct way, nor did it include looting of stores and local shops. The reasons behind the riots are certainly complex and multifaceted, nevertheless, deeply rooted in segregation manifested in a range of socio-economic parameters.

 

Many of the local residents, especially the younger generations have been experiencing higher rates of unemployment in comparison to other residential areas of Stockholm both in relative and real terms. Subsequently, the media and public perception that the crime rates as being higher in these areas has effected the law enforcement strategies which had become stricter and more violent over the course of years. It is reported that during the recent period the police has started to stop-and-search a large number of teenagers in Husby and neighbouring suburbs as a strategy to disrupt narcotics distribution and consumption. This strategy included a controversial policing method, which increasingly targeted teenagers without previous criminal record through which the authorities frequently conducted house searches thus intensely invading people’s privacy on weak or non-existent ground. This is something that would be unimaginable in the more exclusive suburbs. It is during one of the police-raids in Husby that a police officer shot and killed an aggressive 68-year old man (May 13), which was later interpreted as a flagrant brutality by the neighbours and residents in the area. The 29-year-old officer has also been placed under investigation for the alleged overuse of violence during the incident. Numerous witnesses have also complained of open racism among a number of police officers that had used racial slurs when addressing young people in the suburbs. Such incidents are readily narrated and certainly overstressed in conversations adding to the collective frustrations. These and other similar fragments of perceived grievances are easily detectable however they are insufficient to explain the reason behind the rioting.

 

For instance, it is impossible to disregard that the rate of unemployment in Husby is 8,8% while it is only 3,3% in the city of Stockholm, or that the average salary in Husby is 195,000 SEK/year (€21,600/year) before taxes, while its equivalent in the city of Stockholm is 68% higher. Is this sufficient to explain the causes behind rioting? It is unlikely, to say the least. Nevertheless, one needs to keep in mind that in a welfare state of the Swedish model there has been a traditional focus on (economic and social) equality involving the welfare of children and young people expectation on the state/municipalities to deliver a high standard of civic services is high. Public places of gathering, such as parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and municipal public facilities are some of the areas where the current (centre-right) government has, if not neglected, but seriously mismanaged. A deep sense of distrust and neglect is what can be heard from some of the young people in the suburbs, “we will continue until we are noticed”. In addition, many of the residents, including the young rioters, understood the prime minister’s (Fredrik Reinfeldt) choice not to go to Husby or any other affected areas to address the people there as the confirmation of being neglected.

 

Another important component behind the rioting in the suburbs is an element of hooliganism directly related criminal activities of a substantial number of rioters (30-100). A well-known Professor of Criminology at the University of Stockholm, Jerzy Sarnecki, commented that there are a thousand reasons for the “bad boys” to start rioting, however, their activities are fundamentally criminal. The group dynamic often triggers more and more audacious behaviour that assumes a destructive logic of its own and that is often replicated by other impudent groups of young individual males. This is also shown by the number of arrested youth, which topped 44 individuals within a week of the start of the unrests. Out of 44 young males, an overwhelming majority was “known to the police” as having criminal records adding some strength to the previous assertion. A social activists and resident of Husby, said that one of the instigators of violent attacks on the police has long been a trouble–maker in the area, involved in an assortment of criminal activity with an extensive network of contacts among the youth in northern Stockholm (reported to the author June 2). Moreover, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) has reported that there have been a substantial number of left-wing extremists who had participated in the unrests (i.e. stone-throwing on the police). This indicates that there has been a presence of both “professional” demonstrators and individuals with extensive criminal records adding to the complexity of these events.

 

But, where does Islam, fit in this overview? It is not unreasonable to assume that a large part of the residents are either from or have family ties to the Muslim majority societies. There is no official statistic over religious affiliation of Swedish citizens; nevertheless, the assumption is based on a large number of media sources and field research of a small number of academics in this area. First reactions of various community leaders that I spoke to expressly condemn the behaviour of the rioters, regardless of their faith. I gathered from several Friday sermons that the violence in the suburbs is condemned and viewed as a failure of the (Muslim) community in their efforts to engage the young individuals in more constructive endeavours. This can be translated into a notion that community leaders’ inability to create group activities interesting and exciting enough to attract those young people in the “risk zone” of “behaving badly” (author’s interviews with Muslim community leaders in Stockholm and Uppsala, May 26-June 2, 2013).

 

The Swedish mainstream media has not given any attention to the “religious factor” as an explanation for the unrests focusing instead its analysis on the related subject – integration. The articles and various interpretations in the newspaper articles and columns are riddled with statements such as “integration has failed” or “more is needed to carry the integration process forward”. If one is to believe these readings it is easy to argue that there are structural mechanisms that need attention and calibration to correct the “failures” (of integration process). This part of the explanation includes discrimination and segregation of immigrants and/or their descendants (i.e. second and third generation), which is being introduced into the policy agenda of both the government and the opposition. The mainstream political debate is therefore becoming increasingly focused on how to improve the system to come to a set of solutions that will defuse the risks of recurrence of the recent riots. The debate effectively excludes religion as any relevant element of recent rioting.

 

The only people linking Islam and Muslims directly as causes to the suburban upheavals are the extreme-right parties, including the Swedish Democrats – the only far-right party represented in the Swedish parliament, and its supporters. Virtual discussion forums, blogs and commentaries are riddled with “politically incorrect” arguments claiming to have “proved” their long-held convictions that the Muslims are in Sweden to essentially take over the country (e.g. Eurabia conspiracy etc.). Some more radical groups among the right wing extremists and neo-Nazi activists had attempted to organize “citizen militias” in order to patrol the outskirts of the affected suburbs thus assisting the police. Nevertheless, their efforts were either disrupted by the police or disbanded due to the organisational incoherence.

 

Now, in the end of the violent rioting, there is an upsurge of civil engagement in searching for long-term solutions to the youth-crisis. Secular and religious associations are coming together to discuss the recent violence and various strategies. Local residents, parents, groups of mothers and large numbers of young people seem to have realized that only they themselves can contribute to provide positive attitude and care for the disenfranchised youth, but also contribute to the improvement of the negative effects of segregation, racism and the perceived government neglect. At the moment we see several attempts to form neighbourhood committees and public forums through which both parents and teenagers are supposed to exchange both experiences and ideas about how to move forward. Religious communities are certainly highly important in this evolving process.

 

Keywords: Stockholm riots, Husby, Youth violence, Integration, Racism

 

 

“Riots – day by day” – “Upploppen – dag för dag” (Dagens Nyheter – Daily News)

http://www.dn.se/sthlm/upploppen-dag-for-dag

 

“The Police’s drug bust may have contributed to the riots” – “Polisens knarkinsats kan ha bidragit till upploppen” (Metro) http://www.metro.se/stockholm/polisens-knarkinsats-kan-ha-bidragit-till-upploppen/EVHmeE!21yn93g8g2zYY/

 

“The Police practical manual might have prevented the riots in Husby” – “Polisens handbok kunde stoppat upplopp i Husby” (Metro)

www.metro.se/nyheter/polisens-handbok-kunde-stoppat-upplopp-i-husby/EVHmeE!GrekMC9XyROzQ/

 

A Police officer is suspected of negligence – a 69-year-old died” – “Polis misstänks ha varit klantig – 69-åringen dog” (Nyheter24 – News24) nyheter24.se/nyheter/kronikor/746823-polisen-misstanks-ha-varit-klantig-69-aringen-dog

 

“Unrest in 23 places in Stockholm” – “Oroligheter på 23 platser i upploppens Stockholm” (Svenska Dagbladet – Swedish Daily News) www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_8207046.svd

 

“A survey on rioting in Stockholm’s suburbs” – “Undersökning om upploppen i Stockholms förorter” (Demoskop – Public Opinion Nalysis) www.demoskop.se/aktuellt/nyhet/undersokning-om-upploppen-i-stockholms-fororter/

 

“We will continue until we get noticed” – “Vi håller på tills vi blir sedda” (Svensk Television – Swedish Public Television)

http://www.svt.se/nyheter/sverige/forskaren-vastra-stockholm-ar-i-niva-med-rosengard

 

“If I see teenagers, I send them home” – “Ser jag tonåringar ute skickar jag hem dem” (Expressen – www.expressen.se/nyheter/dokument/ser-jag-tonaringar-ute-skickar-jag-hem-dem/

 

“After the Husby-riots, the police has been reported (for negligence) – by the police” – “Efter Husby-upploppen: Nu anmäls polisen – av polisen” (Nyheter24 – News24)

http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/inrikes/746347-efter-upploppen-i-husby-nu-anmals-polisen-av-polisen

Right-wing terrorism by the National Socialist Underground – A dossier by the Coordination Council of Muslims

Nov 2012

 

In 2012, the Coordination Council of Muslims has summarized the chronology of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) murders and the reactions to these crimes in a dossier, which is available in German, English and Turkish. The role of the government and its security services in the present is critically analysed. The council claims to re-establish the trust of its citizens and in particular its Muslim citizens in the intelligence services, which was lost as a result of the NSU acts of terrorism. Without this trust it is not possible to feel safe and at home in Germany. Growing Islamophobia and racism in the public are further critical references of the council.

 

NSU_Dossier_Englisch

Salam, Islam: a Trip inside the Muslim Community

June 6, 2013

Salam_Islam_book_cover[1]

After success with his first novel, Pasquale Nuccio Franco goes back to the library this time with another book.

 

“Salam, Islam” is a travel through the Muslim community, through a number of interviews and articles that have given life to an understanding of spiritual matters, politics and social issues of a religion very often viewed with suspicion if not bitterness.

 

With this work, the author hoped to illustrate the truth essence of Islam and open a window to little known aspects that are often misinterpreted. In fact, many include anecdotes, and stories told in library book pages little known to many.

From the social point of view, the author insists that the collective followers denounce those who now seem to be synonymous with the religion i.e. Islam and radical Islamism.

There are, however, also insights pertaining to market expansion as fashion, food, forms of tourism – including new tourists to the Islamic religion – search engines and the internet and the presence of women no the net and in the economy.

In this respect, the author delves into a topic that in a situation like the present, of the economic downturn, could make it a resource for international markets, namely Islamic Finance, focusing to the rules of Shari’a which is still little known in our country.

From the past, some considerations related to the so-called “Arab Spring”, the role played by the media as a sounding board of this movement and the struggle for greater freedom of information and the effect on the proliferation of newspapers, satellite channels and Internet.

Not the usual book, Salam, Islam’s purpose is to tell the reality as much as possible with objectivity and consistency in a framework that places the Islamic community as a pivotal player of our society.

BOOK REVIEW: The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?

myth of muslim tide

The Myth of the Muslim Tide is a timely, sober and exhaustively researched book. British-Canadian Globe and Mail journalist Doug Saunders clearly and effectively debunks a number of irrational yet widely circulated demographic and historical claims by drawing on popular political literature, quantitative data and opinion polls. The short book is a useful tool with which to counteract the heightened post-9/11 notion of an imminent avalanche of Muslim immigrants bent on taking over Western countries from within, a goal parallel with that of the Euro-Islam network.

These ideas matter because they are not solely the fodder of extremists. Saunders frames the book around his experience of reading Anders Breivik’s manifesto, but we know these beliefs are foundational for political leaders like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, parties that have anti-Muslim-immigration agendas in Scandinavia, the National Front in France and so on.

My own anthropologically-based work with Muslims outside of Paris,in the Greater Toronto Area and in St. John’s, Newfoundland has led me to findings similar to Saunders’: that public debate and, at times, governmental and legal policies are marked by misinformation about the population, birth rates and lack of extremism among the majority of Western Muslims.

While my work is qualitative, Saunders’ data are dryly and dispassionately accurate and say a great deal about disparities between influential conservatives’ claims and the realities of European and North American Muslims (who I find he sweeps together a bit too easily). Saunders’ claims that, “The truth about Muslim communities is not found in scripture but in action” (7) is on the mark and one with which many social scientists would agree.

To my mind the book’s strengths lie in the latter half of the book where he shows how Catholics in the US in the 18th and 19th Centuries and Jews in Europe in the early 20th Century were perceived with some of the same tone and racist scaremongering as Muslims today. There is, in sum, precedence for this discourse and history is a useful tool to show these trends.

 

Lastly, while Saunders’ overview of the privatization of religion is a bit too facile, his observation of how “Muslimness” is increasingly used as a trumping marker and identifier of peoples who have a number of other identifiers (as parents, immigrants, workers, siblings, of specific ethnic groups) is accurate . “The Muslim People” or ummah are catchalls that are also increasingly used by Muslims who find them politically unifying and theologically expedient. Saunders makes clear that the sheer variety of Islamic ways of life escape easy categorization.

There are two elements of the book I felt could have been further developed. Firstly, I wished Saunders had further developed the emotional quotient of these “tides.” He alludes to this feature in the opening of the book when he describes his visceral response to the changing so-called ethnic shops in his London neighborhood, his babysitter’s religious conversion and in a short section on “Self-Hating Westerners” that suggests that some Europeans see themselves at fault for this “tide” in becoming spiritually and morally bankrupt (20).

It seems to me that the emotional element in encountering difference is far more complex than charting fertility trends and speaks to why, for instance, autobiographies of Muslim women experiencing intimate partner violence are bestsellers in Western Europe and North America when we know that women of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience abuse. As a side note, when Saunders says in his introduction that he aligns himself with popular “Enlightenment fundamentalist” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I became worried. Social scientists like Saba Mahmood and Sherene Razack have effectively shown how Infidel (2007) does more damage in presenting an Orientalist homogenized patriarchal package than some of the authors Saunders critiques like Orianna Falacci or Mark Steyn. Fortunately this early appreciation does not lead Saunders to adopt Hirsi Ali’s neo-Orientalist positions.

Getting back to the emotional equation, I wished Saunders had more clearly articulated and considered the language of encounter. In my own work I have critiqued the French policy and legal arms of the Sarkozy government’s treatment of hijabs (2011), but I appreciate that a significant portion of the 2010 644-page government report that prefaced the so-called “burqa ban” treats the emotional experience of engaging with someone whose face is covered and who has different eating habits, beliefs and sexual politics.

Saunders recognizes the anxiety of the “politics of the neighbor” but his purely logical analytical response does not capture how one might feel if one’s child’s kindergarten teacher wears a niqab in the classroom. Granted, there are few niqabis in Canada – there are an estimated 25 in the province of Quebec where a bill has been recommended to ban them from public services  –  but while I might know that she is not intent on promoting Sharia in the criminal code, I might still wonder how I should address this teacher. This book does not deal with this pervasive affective issue, which is essential.

Secondly, I think it’s worth thinking about the intended audience for the book.  Saunders reflexively shares his own anxieties and fears, questioning his own responses, imagining his readers to be in the same boat. This tone allows for an openness and lack of judgment. Readers, like Saunders, might have major concerns when their babysitter converts (or reverts) to Islam but don’t want to be bigoted or racist in their responses.

However, his appeasement-filled language on the one hand and extensive use of “us” (the readers) and “them” (the Muslim immigrants) on the other is confusing. It effectively maintains “them” as outsiders, which appears to counter his primary goal. We must also consider the possible effects of focusing on a lack of threat  from Muslims in particular. Can reading this book actually shift a discursive stratagem away from the notion of Islamic threat or does this book participate in the construction of a global and decontextualized Muslim other by insisting that Muslims are largely benign?

In sum, as Saunders himself noted at a Big Thinkers’ Event at the University of Victoria in June 2013, “I wrote this book for that uncle”. The book is intended for a wide general audience. Academics may find it a useful reference for undergraduate students; policy makers and journalists will find the data in this well-researched book useful and compelling.

The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Immigrants: Majority Christian, Rising Share of Other Faiths

Overview

Over the past 20 years, the United States has granted permanent residency status to an average of about 1 million immigrants each year. These new “green card” recipients qualify for residency in a wide variety of ways – as family members of current U.S. residents, recipients of employment visas, refugees and asylum seekers, or winners of a visa lottery – and they include people from nearly every country in the world. But their geographic origins gradually have been shifting. U.S. government statistics show that a smaller percentage come from Europe and the Americas than did so 20 years ago, and a growing share now come from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region.

With this geographic shift, it is likely that the religious makeup of legal immigrants also has been changing. The U.S. government, however, does not keep track of the religion of new permanent residents. As a result, the figures on religious affiliation in this report are estimates produced by combining government statistics on the birthplaces of new green card recipients over the period between 1992 and 2012 with the best available U.S. survey data on the religious self-identification of new immigrants from each major country of origin.

While Christians continue to make up a majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one-in-five (19%) to one-in-four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012) and Hindus (3% in 1992, 7% in 2012). The share of Buddhists, however, is slightly smaller (7% in 1992, 6% in 2012), while the portion of legal immigrants who are religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular) has remained relatively stable, at about 14% per year.1

Unauthorized immigrants, by contrast, come primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the overwhelming majority of them – an estimated 83% – are Christian. That share is slightly higher than the percentage of Christians in the U.S. population as a whole (estimated at just under 80% of U.S. residents of all ages, as of 2010).2

These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life examining recent trends in the geographic origins and religious affiliation of immigrants to the United States. (For information on religion among migrants not just in the U.S. but globally, see the Pew Research Center’s 2012 report “Faith on the Move: The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants.”)

Muslim Immigrants

The estimated number of new Muslim immigrants varies from year to year but generally has been on the rise, going from roughly 50,000 in 1992 to 100,000 in 2012. Since 2008, the estimated number of Muslims becoming U.S. permanent residents has remained at or above the 100,000 level each year.

Between 1992 and 2012, a total of about 1.7 million Muslims entered the U.S. as legal permanent residents. That constitutes a large portion of the overall U.S. Muslim population (estimated at 2.75 million as of 2011).

In the early 1990s, the great majority of Muslim green card recipients came from Asia and the Pacific or the Middle East-North Africa region. The most common countries of origin among Muslim immigrants in 1992 included Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh. Those countries, as well as Iraq, also were among the most likely birthplaces of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012.

In recent years, a higher percentage of Muslim immigrants have been coming from sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 16% of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012 were born in countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia. In 1992, only about 5% of new Muslim immigrants came from sub-Saharan Africa.

Muslims pose no ‘threat’ to Switzerland

Following the controversial debate on integration and assimilation of Islam in Switzerland, which led to the legal passing of a right-wing initiative of the populist SVP party against the construction of minarets in the country in 2009, three postulates requested to urgently obtain further information upon the state of affair of the Muslim community in Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Council subsequently charged the Ministry of Federal Justice and Police to write a report on the community, which was released last week Wednesday. The report qualifies the diverse Swiss Muslim community as posing no ‘threat’ to the country, whose integration is slowed down rather by ‘linguistic and sociocultural barriers than questions of religious order’. No ‘specific measures’ are to be taken to ‘better integrate’ the Muslim communities of the country, the Ministry concluded.

The report indicates that the Muslim population of the country has remained demographically stable in the last 10 years. Whereas in 2000 3.6% of the Swiss population identified as Muslim, in 2010 it was 4.5.%. These numbers contradict the SVP parties fear mongering rhetoric and campaign which predicted the demographic doubling of the Muslim community in Switzerland on the basis of vague estimations made between 1970 and 2000 and led to their successful 2009 anti-minaret campaign.

The Ministry’s report underlines the heterogeneity of the Muslim community, which is neither monolithic nor static, but made up by communities of different ethnic, linguistic, national and cultural backgrounds as well as sectarian differences. Amongst the Swiss Muslim population, those who are practicing are numbered as a small minority (only 15%). Only half of the population is part of an organised Muslim group and the other half practices their religion privately and in an ‘individual manner’.

The report also lists a number of specific public domains, such as the army, education or health, where Islam doesn’t pose any obvious problems. Areas of conflict arise, according to the report, in the fields of funerals, forced marriages, djihadism or discrimination at workplace.

Accordingly, the Federal Council underlines that ‘severe problems’ of the religious groups and its members only occur in exceptional circumstances and are often dependant on the individual rather than the group or a Muslim organisation. In only few rare cases imams have attempted to impose extremist ideas in mosques, whereas only a dozen of mosques in the country are believed to be subject to extremist interpretations of Islam. The majority of Swiss mosques adhere to a moderate teaching and practice of Islam.

What the government report, however, also reveals is the existence and prevalence of an intersection of discrimination faced by the country’s Muslim population. Being both ‘foreign’ and Muslim puts members of the 350.000-400.000 strong community in positions of increased vulnerability to discrimination, harassment and hate crimes on the basis of racism and xenophobia.

Switzerland report

The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society

worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-full-reportA new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country.

 

The survey – which involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages with Muslims across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa – shows that Muslims tend to be most comfortable with using sharia in the domestic sphere, to settle family or property disputes. In most countries surveyed, there is considerably less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith. And even in the domestic sphere, Muslims differ widely on such questions as whether polygamy, divorce and family planning are morally acceptable and whether daughters should be able to receive the same inheritance as sons.

 

In most countries surveyed, majorities of Muslim women as well as men agree that a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. Indeed, more than nine-in-ten Muslims in Iraq (92%), Morocco (92%), Tunisia (93%), Indonesia (93%), Afghanistan (94%) and Malaysia (96%) express this view. At the same time, majorities in many countries surveyed say a woman should be able to decide for herself whether to wear a veil.

Overall, the survey finds that most Muslims see no inherent tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern society. Nor do they see any conflict between religion and science. Many favor democracy over authoritarian rule, believe that humans and other living things have evolved over time and say they personally enjoy Western movies, music and television – even though most think Western popular culture undermines public morality.

 

The new survey also allows some comparisons with prior Pew Research Center surveys of Muslims in the United States. Like most Muslims worldwide, U.S. Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society. But American Muslims are much more likely than Muslims in other countries to have close friends who do not share their faith, and they are much more open to the idea that many religions – not only Islam – can lead to eternal life in heaven. At the same time, U.S. Muslims are less inclined than their co-religionists around the globe to believe in evolution; on this subject, they are closer to U.S. Christians.

 

Few U.S. Muslims voice support for suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam; 81% say such acts are never justified, while fewer than one-in-ten say violence against civilians either is often justified (1%) or is sometimes justified (7%) to defend Islam. Around the world, most Muslims also reject suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians. However, substantial minorities in several countries say such acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories.

worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-full-report

Christians, Muslims & Jesus by Mona Siddiqui: review

Sameer Rahim applauds a stimulating dialogue between great faiths.

 

Despite that in some parts of the world you find violent conflict between Christians and Muslims, the Muslim theologian Mona Siddiqui touches on a central doctrinal difference between the two largest monotheisms: the true nature of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

When Mohammed announced his new religion in the early seventh century, he claimed to be walking the same path as Old Testament prophets such as Abraham, Moses – and Jesus. The Koran relates that Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary, preached God’s word, gathered disciples and performed miracles. He was condemned to death by crucifixion, the Koran says, but was saved through divine intervention and ascended to heaven without dying. Jesus will return to Earth, according to Islamic tradition as the Messiah.

 

The crucial difference from the Christian narrative is that for Muslims, Jesus is emphatically not the Son of God.

 

Siddiqui raises the point that Islam might well have preserved aspects of theologically unorthodox Christianity. In Siddiqui’s final chapter she bravely questions what the crucifixion might mean to a Muslim.

What Muslim women really want in the bedroom

Sex is taboo subject for most Muslims. However, a growing number of young Muslim women are talking about what they really want when in the bedroom. Shelina Janmohamed, author of Love in a Headscarf, explains how women are leading the way in her faith when it comes to understanding sexuality.

 

The author mentions examples such as Abdelaziz Aouragh who runs an online sex shop for Muslims, as well as how Muslim women are leading their male counterparts in the discussion about sexuality and intimacy. According to Islamic law, sex is limited to between those who are married. But when it comes to exactly what you can do, and how sex is generally discussed, Islam itself is quite open. Sex is of course for procreation, but it’s also for pleasure. This openness has been lost over time, and discussions about sex have become taboo. However, things are slowly changing.

 

The author recalls a story about a woman came to see Mohammed on her wedding night, to complain her husband was too busy praying and hadn’t come near her. The Prophet went to see the husband, admonished him for being too engrossed in religious prayer and instructed him to pay more attention to his bride.

 

Wedad Lootah is a UAE marriage counsellor who published an Arabic sex guide, Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples, on how to achieve sexual intimacy with your partner. Her book was blessed by the mufti of the UAE. But she received intense criticism.

 

There are accounts regarding pre-marital seminars, included sex education. The aim is that the young women receive this education, and criticism is kept at bay because “The girls don’t know what should be happening in their intimate lives and the men tell them to do X or Y and they don’t know any better.”

 

There are descriptions of books that Muslim women themselves are using to try to open a discussion about sexuality, its role in their identity, and their fears and aspirations. For those Muslims who want to live a chaste life, the pressures are immense especially as their surroundings are increasingly sexualised. Virginity is seen as abnormal. And rejection of ‘sexual liberation’ is seen as backward.

The article points out that if contextually appropriate teachings are not available – whether at home, in the mosque or in other social settings – then the taboos about sexuality become entrenched, lead to diminished knowledge, and pleasure or even negativity about sex.