Imam course at Catholic university sparks controversy

The president of France’s largest Muslim group, the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), Thami Breze, defended a new course for would-be Muslim spiritual leaders at the Catholic Institute in Paris. Citing the strict separation of church and state, other French institutions including the Sorbonne, Paris 8, and other state universities have declined to be involved in the project. The UOIF had previously expressed reservations bout the course, but citing the importance of studying sociology, history of France, secularism, and civics, welcomed the initiative as a positive enrichment to would-be French Muslim religious advisors.

British Medical Students’ Picky Objections

A few weeks after the controversy surrounding Muslim staff at Sainsbury’s refusing to serve alcohol, it comes to light that medical students are following suit. The British Medical Association (BMA) confirmed that a small percentage of Britain’s Muslim medical students are claiming religious offence and are thus refusing to attend lectures related to sexually transmitted diseases as well as alcohol, with trainees using Islam’s banning of sexual promiscuity and alcohol to defend their claims. Emdad Rahman reports.

Why I Resigned; The Ugliness of Intolerance in Virginia

The controversy that erupted around my appointment by Gov. Tim Kaine to the Virginia Commission on Immigration highlights the very issues we need to address in America [“Va. Muslim Activist Denies Urging Violence,” Metro, Sept. 29]. I still believe that I am highly qualified to serve on the commission. I am an immigrant, as well as an accomplished surgeon, a community leader, a person of faith, a passionate activist and a good representative of America’s growing community of Muslims. I am disappointed that I was unable to defeat propaganda and partisan politics…

Universities Install Footbaths to Benefit Muslims, and Not Everyone Is Pleased

University of Michigan announces it would install $25,000 foot-washing stations in several restrooms to accommodate its Muslim students; this has provoked controversy, with students divided on use of their building-maintenance fees, and tricky legal questions about whether plan is legitimate accommodation of students’ right to practice their religion, or unconstitutional government support for that religion; more than 10 percent of students at University of Michigan are Muslims; nationwide, more than dozen universities have footbaths, many installed in new buildings; American Civil Liverties Union says footbath issue is complex, since footbaths themselves can be used by anyone, and are not stylized in religious way…

Rule against hijab stands: world soccer body

The F_d_ration Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, during its annual general meeting in Manchester, England, upheld its regulation against hijabs. FIFA’s prohibition became a point of public controversy after 11-year-old Ottawa soccer player Asmahan Mansour was ejected on February 25 from a tournament game by a referee.

Tradition as means of survival: intercultural understanding: this Berlin dome doesn’t belong to any mosque

The enemy wears a dark blue tie over a striped shirt under a black suit jacket, gold-rimmed glasses and a friendly twinkle in his eye. He speaks English with an Asian accent, prays five times a day, searches Berlin’s eateries for sticky rice, and is surprised by the ticket controls in the S-Bahn. The enemy speaks quietly, out of obligation; he lets the other speak more, he doesn’t complain about the Pope, doesn’t protest over the opera and his wife and daughters don’t wear the headscarf. The enemy does not consider himself to be the enemy. And probably he isn’t. Probably. This article goes on to convey the points of view of a variety of second or third generation immigrant Berlin Muslims, with particular attention to the controversy over the Berlin Opera’s cancelled performance of “Idomeneo”.

Turkey: Europe Diary: Turkish Tensions

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell finds Turks wary of the Pope’s historic visit and grapples with the religious controversy sparked by the pontiff’s speech in Bavaria. It must be a very strange visit for the Pope. In Turkey there are none of the cheering, adoring crowds he must be used to by now. The largish figure in white robes is hustled along by men in dark suits from mausoleum to bullet-proof car, from the car into the next meeting.

BNP Accused Of Exploiting Cartoons Row With Muslim Leaflet

The far-right British National party was yesterday accused of deliberately ramping up racial and religious tensions by launching a leafleting campaign with anti-Muslim messages, including controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The depiction of the prophet with a bomb as a turban was one of several images that sparked protests across the world earlier this year. The BNP’s move was criticised as a blatant attempt to reignite the controversy. Azad Ali, of the Muslim Safety Forum, said: “This is a deliberate ploy to create huge tensions … and it is adding to the isolation, fear and frustration felt by many people in the Muslim communities.” The BNP said the leaflet was part of a “coherent campaign to alert people to the Islamification of Great Britain”. It has produced another leaflet on immigration and a second on Islam, which describes the faith as “a threat to us all”. The leaflet was handed out in Sutton in south-west London. Politicians and community leaders said the BNP was trying to exploit a debate about plans to build a mosque in the area. Lal Hussain, a former Sutton councillor and the area’s first Asian mayor, said residents had been shocked. “This is not the sort of thing we expect round here but there is not a chance they will make any headway with these tactics. People here are far too literate and tolerant.” Nick Lowles, of the anti-fascist group Searchlight, said the BNP had run a concerted campaign designed to exploit anti-Muslim feeling since the London bombings last year. “Everywhere the BNP appears racist attacks increase and this leaflet will make it more difficult for Muslims and others to go about their day to day business without being threatened and intimidated.” The row began after a Danish newspaper, the Jutland Post, published cartoons mocking Muhammad. When a group of Danish imams travelled to the Middle East with the cartoons, the affair exploded into a worldwide cultural controversy. The BNP leaflet of Muhammad first appeared earlier this year. The party has also called on Muslims to be banned from flying into or out of the country. Yesterday Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, denied it was trying to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment and defended the “no-fly” policy. “Rather than inconvenience everybody we should ban all Muslims from flying in and out of Britain,” he said. The BNP gained 32 councillors in May’s local elections, including 11 of the 13 seats it contested in Barking and Dagenham, east London.

A man with little sympathy for other faiths

Pope Benedict is being portrayed as a naive, shy scholar who has accidentally antagonised two major world faiths in a matter of months. In fact he is a shrewd and ruthless operator, argues Madeleine Bunting – and he’s dangerous. Only 18 months into his papacy and already Pope Benedict XVI has stirred up unprecedented controversy.