What Muslims want in a new pope

(RNS) Together, Islam and Catholicism represent about 40 percent of the world’s population, so the estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world have more than a passing interest in the new pope who will shepherd the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Too often, relations between the two groups have been shaped by conflict — the Christian Crusades of 1,000 years ago are still a raw wound for many Muslims, and more recently, Muslim extremist attacks on Christian communities across Africa and the Middle East have left the Vatican deeply concerned.

“What the pope says or doesn’t say can have enormous consequences on such relations,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Cordoba Initiative, an organization dedicated to improving Muslim-Western relations, and the founder of the controversial so-called Ground Zero mosque in New York.

The selection of the 266th pope comes at a critical juncture in Muslim-Catholic relations, which have been marred by persecution of Christians in the Muslim world, Islamophobia in Western countries, Western military action in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, and rioting between Muslims and Christians across Africa.

While many Muslims said they saw an improvement in Muslim-Catholic relations under Pope John Paul II, they say Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy was more problematic.

Most worrisome, Muslims say, was in 2006 when Benedict spoke at the University of Regensburg in Germany and quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said Islam’s Prophet Muhammad had only brought “evil and inhuman” things to the world, and that Islam was “spread by the sword.” Those remarks touched off a series of deadly riots in several Muslim countries.

Muslims were also concerned by the Vatican’s opposition to Turkey joining the European Union, and in replacing Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, a British-born Islam expert who was seen as friendly with Muslims, as head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 2006.

Ebrahim Moosa, an Islamic studies professor at Duke University, said the Regensburg fiasco showed the need for improved ties. “The Vatican is invested in good relations with the Muslim world, and under a new pope there is no reason to believe that it would be any different,” he said.

While many Muslims acknowledge the interfaith efforts Benedict made, many also hope a successor will be more like John Paul II.

“There could be a lot of opportunity. A young pope could be more in tune with the globalized world and all the interfaith activity that takes place,” said Qamar-ul Huda, an expert on religious conflict and reconciliation at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington. “They live in pluralistic societies, and have to have good relations with Muslims so their communities get along on a day-to-day basis.”

Islam Divides Cardinals

LaStampa.it 3/5/2013

Peter Turkson, a possible candidate for Pope has tense relations with his colleague French Cardinal Andre’ Vingt-Trois. Their disagreement begin when Cardinal Turkson presented a video to the most recent synod which contended that proselytizing of Islam is growing in Europe. One example of this shift is evidenced by the construction of more mosques than churches in France. The video also discussed the effect of the growing influence of Islam in Africa. The Cardinal of Paris was offended by the video, mainly because he thought it over-pronounced the influence of Islam in the old world.

 

Fewer Immigrants to the Netherlands

7 February 2013

 

The latest figures from the Netherlands Central Statistic Bureau reveal that the number of new immigrants arriving in the country in 2012 was 156,000, only 7,000 more than the number of people emigrating from the country. It is the first time the number of immigrants has dropped since 2006. More people emigrated from Netherlands to Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean Islands than immigrated to the Netherlands from these countries. Fewer asylum seekers from Asia and Africa immigrated to the country than in previous years.

 

Minister Of Interior calls for strict laws against Terrorism

Jan 28

 

Minister of Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has asked for stricter laws against Terrorism. The recent international incidents in North Africa and Mali would motivate Salafi Islamists to act in Germany, Europe and North Africa. The Minister expects radical Islamists to radicalize when leaving Germany for Egypt.

 

The Minister claimed for more observation, data collection of bank and mail correspondence of suspected subjects. Also, he demanded easier conditions for the deportation of Islamist extremists. The Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) criticized the proposals of Minister Friedrich as well as the current anti-terror legislations as interventions in civil rights.

Radicals leave Spain to fight in Mali

15 January 2013

Twenty individuals, identified as radical Islamists, have disappeared from their homes in the Spain, Ceuta and Melilla and they are believed to have traveled through Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania to Mali to join”jihadists”  factions who have occupied the North African country and are now the subject of a military operation by the French Army.
Young “Polisario” members and other radicals who have traveled to Mali in recent weeks, are tempted by AQIM Salafists and other two formations found in the area, the MUYAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad North Africa) and Ansar el Dine (Followers of the Faith) to join the cause of jihad (struggle) and to incorporate the north camps of that country. The total number of Islamist terrorists is about 5,000.

Who loves and hates America: A revealing map of global opinion toward the U.S.

One of the most common answers I hear when I ask foreigners what they think about the U.S. is some variation of this: “You Americans are all so obsessed with how you’re perceived overseas.” In that spirit, even if it means reinforcing a stereotype, I’ve mapped some new data on global opinion of the United States, as part of a series of posts on Pew’s fascinating and just-out “global attitudes” study.

The map at the top of the post shows positive and negative opinions of the U.S. across the world. The poll works just like a presidential poll: Pew called people up and asked them if they had a favorable opinion of the U.S. or an unfavorable opinion (there was also a choice for no answer). Countries with a more favorable opinion are in blue (the darker the blue, the more favorable); red shows more unfavorable attitudes. A quick note about the data: most of it is from 2012, but I also pulled the 2011 numbers for Kenya, Ukraine, Indonesia and Lithuania; as well as the 2010 numbers for Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea; these countries were not included in the most recent survey.

The harshest views of America are in, no surprises, the Middle East and South Asia. Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and Pakistanis all seem to see the United States in an overwhelmingly unfavorable light. As Turkey’s economy grows, its foreign policy becomes more assertive and democratization gives the Turkish people a stronger role in government, the negative view of the U.S. there could become more important for the world.

Still, it’s important not to make the mistake of confusing these four anti-American countries, which have their own reasons for disliking the U.S. (drones in Pakistan, perceived support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), with the entire Middle East or “Muslim world.” Indonesia and India, which have two of the largest Muslim populations in the world, both returned mildly positive views of America. Views vary even in the Arab Middle East; Tunisians and Lebanese seemed ambivalent, reporting roughly equivalent favorable and unfavorable numbers. And Nigerians, half of whom are Muslim, positively beam pro-Americanism: They report a more favorable view of the U.S. than Americans themselves do.

The U.S. is most popular in continental Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the northeast Asian countries of South Korea and Japan.

France’s first gay-friendly mosque sparks controversy

News agencies – December 2, 2012

 

A Muslim prayer centre, which has been dubbed Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque, opened in Paris. Its founder described it as the first step in breaking “prejudices in Islam”, but it has been criticised by religious leaders for going “against the spirit of Islam”. The new “mosque”, which opened on Friday in a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk, has smashed a taboo in Islam by welcoming transgender and transsexual Muslims. But the prayer room located in the eastern suburbs of Paris is not supported by any formal Muslim institution and many imams in France oppose it.

While a handful of gay-friendly mosques now exist in Canada, South Africa and the United States, Zahed believes his project is breaking new boundaries in France and Europe. It now boasts over 300 members.

 

Warning against Salafi action

October 8

 

The president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maaßen has warned the public against activists of the German Salafi movement. Since its legal banning, members of the organization Millatu Ibrahim allegedly left Germany and went to Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa in order to mobilize and call Muslims for Jihad actions. Among other activities the Salafi are apparently attempting to build up a new German-speaking media center, based in foreign countries. The goal is to address young Muslims in Germany.

 

The former Rap musician and convert Denis Cuspert, also known as Deso Dogg, and the activist Mohamed Mahmud have left Germany and are wanted by German security forces.

Muslim Divorces Without Shariah Can Get Tricky

New Jersey lawyer Abed Awad has been involved with more than 100 cases that involved some component of Shariah, or Islamic law, and knows firsthand how complicated things can get.

In one of those cases, a woman claimed she was married to a man according to Islamic law in her native West Africa. The man asserted there was no valid marriage, leaving a judge to decide whether the two were ever legally married in the first place.

If the judge rules they were married, there will be a divorce and she will receive alimony and a share of marital assets. If the judge rules that there is no marriage, then the woman will be left with nothing from her relationship.

To make a ruling, the judge will need to consider what Shariah, as understood in one corner of western Africa, says about what constitutes a legal marriage. He will likely have to consult Islamic law experts and apply what he learns to his decision.

But what if American judges were prohibited from considering Shariah and other foreign laws, as many state and national politicians want to see happen?

“How can I bring in testimony of Shariah generally, or Shariah as the law of a foreign country, when it comes to marriage? The judge won’t be able to adjudicate the case,” Awad explained.

“He can’t say yes or no because now it becomes, is he going to apply New York law or New Jersey law on the validity of a marriage that did not take place here but that took place in a foreign country?”

Counselors and activists estimate that roughly one in three Muslim marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Many Muslim Americans who divorce want their marriages dissolved in accordance with Islamic law. That means having dowries and other provisions of marriage contracts enforced, as well as obtaining an Islamic divorce certificate, which imams in the U.S. issue only after a civil divorce has been finalized.

“We recognize the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts,” said Suhaib Webb, imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. “We won’t issue a divorce unless they bring a certificate from downtown.”

France boosts embassy security over Muhammad cartoon

News Agencies – September 19, 2012

 

The French government stepped up security at its embassies across the Muslim world after a French satirical weekly published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, inflaming global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam.

The move by the provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo followed days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the U.S.-produced film Innocence of Muslims and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage. Up to now, American government sites have drawn the most ire.

The French government ordered embassies and schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure in about 20 countries, according to the foreign affairs ministry. It ordered the immediate closure of the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy last Friday.

The principle of freedom of expression “must not be infringed,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, speaking on France Inter radio. But he added: “Is it pertinent, intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire? The answer is no.”

“This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation,” said Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque. “We are not Pavlov’s animals to react at each insult.”