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.”
The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need. But they have widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The survey, which involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in over 80 languages, finds that in addition to the widespread conviction that there is only one God and that Muhammad is His Prophet, large percentages of Muslims around the world share other articles of faith, including belief in angels, heaven, hell and fate (or predestination). While there is broad agreement on the core tenets of Islam, however, Muslims across the 39 countries and territories surveyed differ significantly in their levels of religious commitment, openness to multiple interpretations of their faith and acceptance of various sects and movements.
Some of these differences are apparent at a regional level. For example, at least eight-in-ten Muslims in every country surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia say that religion is very important in their lives. Across the Middle East and North Africa, roughly six-in-ten or more say the same. And in the United States, a 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly seven-in-ten Muslims (69%) say religion is very important to them. (For more comparisons with U.S. Muslims, see Appendix A.) But religion plays a much less central role for some Muslims, particularly in nations that only recently have emerged from communism. No more than half of those surveyed in Russia, the Balkans and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia say religion is very important in their lives. The one exception across this broad swath of Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and Central Asia is Turkey, which never came under communist rule; fully two-thirds of Turkish Muslims (67%) say religion is very important to them.
Generational differences are also apparent. Across the Middle East and North Africa, for example, Muslims 35 and older tend to place greater emphasis on religion and to exhibit higher levels of religious commitment than do Muslims between the ages of 18 and 34. In all seven countries surveyed in the region, older Muslims are more likely to report that they attend mosque, read the Quran (also spelled Koran) on a daily basis and pray multiple times each day. Outside of the Middle East and North Africa, the generational differences are not as sharp. And the survey finds that in one country – Russia – the general pattern is reversed and younger Muslims are significantly more observant than their elders.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has warned against Islamic extremism and praised Indonesia as living proof that Islam is compatible with democracy.
Speaking to students in Jakarta on the latest stop of his trade mission to South East Asia, he said extremists only wanted to impose a particular and radical version of Islam on society.
Muslim female soccer players are celebrating a decision by the International Football Association Board to allow them to test specially designed head coverings for four months.
Soccer’s international governing body, known as FIFA, has prohibited headscarves since 2007, citing safety concerns. The new headscarves will be fastened with Velcro rather than pins.
The headscarf prohibition has generated controversy among fans of the world’s most popular team sport, especially in Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.
In Canada, Quebec’s Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association barred a referee from a game in 2011 because she wore a headscarf, citing prohibitions against religious symbols on uniforms. During a 2007 youth tournament in Quebec, a Muslim player was ejected from a game for wearing a headscarf.
STERLING, Va. — A senior Pentagon official apologized Friday to Washington-area Muslims for the burning of Qurans at a military base in Afghanistan.
Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, said the military is investigating what occurred and that all 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan are being retrained in the handling of religious materials.
Lavoy apologized multiple times during a brief speech during prayer services at the ADAMS Center in Sterling, one of the largest mosques in the country.
“I come here today to apologize on behalf of the Department of Defense for the incident that took place in Afghanistan this week,” Lavoy told worshippers, saying the burnings were done “unknowingly and improperly.”
Not everyone who heard Lavoy’s speech was satisfied. Mauri Saalakhan of Silver Spring, Md., who operates the Peace Thru Justice Foundation and came to ADAMS Center to hear Lavoy’s remarks, said that an apology is helpful but insufficient. He said he simply does not believe that the Qurans were mistakenly burned and that the burnings of the Quran are relatively minor compared to the suffering that has been inflicted on the Afghan people as a result of the war.
“The sacrilege against human beings in the so-called war on terror is far more egregious,” Saalakhan said.
Over the past decade, many Americans have based their thoughts and feelings about Islam in large part on a single place: the blasted patch of ground where the World Trade Center once stood. But a rival space has slowly and silently taken shape over those same years, about six miles to the north. It is a vast, palacelike suite of rooms on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where some of the world’s most precious Islamic artifacts sit sequestered behind locked doors.
When the Met’s Islamic galleries first opened in 1975, they were presented as a cultural monolith, where nations and cultures were subsumed under one broad banner, as if Islam were another planet. Haidar and her colleagues have tried to emphasize the diversity of Islamic cultures across time and space. One result of that altered emphasis was the gallery’s new name. The “Islamic Wing” is gone, replaced by the “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.” It is a mouthful, but it makes a point.
Members of the 8-year-old West Los Angeles Cousins Club say they have been intrigued to find how much Islam and Judaism have in common.
A guiding principle for the group is to discuss religion and spirituality, rather than delve into sensitive political issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the group’s eight-year history, there has been only one Arab member, a Syrian woman who attended for about a year. There was also briefly an Iranian American attendee, but most of the Muslim participants have roots in Southeast Asia or are converts to Islam.
11 October 2010
A media company based in the Middle East is launching a London-based weekly newspaper aimed at Muslim people across the world. The paper, which is backed by the Pakistani pay-TV operator ARY Digital and will be able to tap its network of reporters covering south Asia, is earmarked to launch early in the new year.
The paper, which does not yet have a name, will be edited by Burhan Wazir, a former deputy features editor at the Times who was named young journalist of the year in 1999. Wazir said the title, which will also be published in Pakistan and several Gulf states, will serve the Muslim diaspora in the countries where it is available. It will be a liberal title aimed at a young and relatively affluent readership aged between 20 and 45, including second- or third-generation British Muslims.
Wazir added that its target audience of young readers with Muslim backgrounds will share a modern, cosmopolitan outlook. “I suppose you could say they have a foot in both camps,” he said.
Before Abdulmutallab’s attempted attack, the Obama Administration had increased military aid to $70 million in Yemen to thwart growing al-Qaida terrorism operations: al-Qaida units that were dismantled after 9/11 have returned, along with new fighters from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia. Prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay are also involved.
But Yemen’s problems will require a broader approach that encompasses its political, social, and economic issues if the US is to contend with al-Qaida. Its government, repressive and failing, is reluctant to go after al-Qaida. A separatist movement is taking shape in the south, and an armed insurgency poses a threat from the north. Its unemployment rate is 40 percent, and it is running out of water and its economic mainstay, oil. Its central location and ethnic hospitability add to its attractiveness for al-Qaida: Middle Eastern operatives can move in and blend in easier there than South Asia or Africa.
The Obama Administration is working with the World Bank, Saudi Arabia, and Europe on a plan for Yemen and will meet to develop a framework in six weeks. Stabilizing Yemen is key in destabilizing al-Qaida. But a senior Yemeni official points out seeing any counterterrorism efforts materialize into results will take months, if not years.
Young Muslims revealed the future of British Muslim music and art when four up-and-coming acts from across the UK triumphed at the Young Muslims (YMUK) national talent competition. Hamza Fletcher, Asia Ali, Rabi Niam and Safina Qamar performed their poetry, comedy, music and art alongside the leading Islamic Nasheed group Native Deen, before a packed audience in central London this weekend.
For the second year running the YMUK Talent Search highlighted some of the best and most successful Muslim upcoming artists across the UK. Hamza Fletcher, the extraordinary beat boxer from Birmingham, Asia Ali, an exciting new Somali comedian from Manchester, Rabi Niam, a unique and inspirational poet from East London, and Safina Qamar, the stunning visual artist from Manchester, all triumphed at this year’s event. The competition reflects the huge diversity of talents among today’s young Muslims.