World’s Muslim population more widespread than you might think

President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily freezing immigration from seven predominantly Islamic countries would affect only about 12% of the world’s Muslims, according to estimates from a 2015 Pew Research Center Report on the current and projected size of religious groups. In fact, of the seven countries named in the new immigration ban – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – only one, Iran, is among the ten countries with the largest Muslim populations.

As of 2010, there were an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity. And although many people, especially in the United States, may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research Center analysis. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million).

Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi Won’t Attend Oscar Ceremony

The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign-language movie, said on Sunday that he would not attend the Oscars ceremony next month even if he were granted an exception to President Trump’s visa ban for citizens from Iran and several other predominantly Muslim countries.

Mr. Farhadi said he had planned to attend the Feb. 26 ceremony in Los Angeles and while there bring attention to a decision he called “unjust.” But the executive order signed by President Trump on Friday presented “ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip,” he said in a statement to The New York Times.

The executive order blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.

‘We tried to do everything right. Doesn’t that matter?’

Hamid Kargaran was pacing in his San Francisco living room Sunday, not watching the news, trying to stay positive, waiting for his wife to call from Iran. She was due to leave for the airport within the hour, hoping that this time she wouldn’t be prevented from boarding a plane back home.

“I never thought when I moved here and made this country my home that this would happen,” he said. “I employ people, I pay taxes. We love this country. But I feel like the hard work has been meaningless. We’re second-class citizens.”

Now he was waiting, and he knew there would be no relief until his wife actually walked into the sun in San Francisco. In three hours, she would find out whether Lufthansa agents in Tehran would let her onto a plane. In Germany, she would learn whether officials there would let her transit to California. At home, she still had to pass through U.S. passport control.

“I don’t know,” Kargaran said. “We’ve tried to do everything right. Doesn’t that matter?”

Number of foreign fighters in Syria nearly doubles

December 17, 2013

 

Up to 11,000 fighters from more than 70 nations have joined the struggle in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, almost doubling estimates made earlier this year.

The number of individuals from western Europe taking up arms has tripled to up to 1,900 and includes up to 366 from Britain, according to research by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ISCR) at King’s College, London. The number reported from France has quadrupled while Belgium has the highest per capita rate.

Syria is becoming as big a magnet for Muslim fighters as Afghanistan was in the 1980s when an estimated 35,000 foreigners joined the mujahedeen ranks against Soviet invaders.

But the greater cause was more probably the deepening involvement in the war of Shia fighters from Lebanon and Iraq on the side of Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shia Islam and who is backed by Iran, the major Shia power. “For radical Sunnis, if you see this Syrian government supported by Shia Iran and Hezbollah, it becomes almost a civilizational conflict, almost as if America has intervened in the Middle East,” said Prof Neumann.

The ISCR said that from late 2011 to December 2013 between 3,300 and 11,000 individuals had gone to Syria to fight against the Assad government. It estimated that the likeliest number was 8,500. By that estimate, foreigners make up about ten per cent of the forces ranged against Assad, though other reporting has said they are among the most active in combat.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10523203/Number-of-foreign-fighters-in-Syria-nearly-doubles.html

UK Muslims divided over Syria intervention

 

British Muslims are in an anguished position over Syria, with profound distrust of western military intervention clashing with a desire to see the demise of President Assad. “I was in Oldham yesterday talking to a large crowd and people usually think, here we go again, another Muslim nation being attacked,” said Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, one of the UK’s most senior Muslim politicians. “But here they see it is right for Syria’s chemical weapons and air strike capability to be dismantled. People know that there’s a real problem and that 100,000 people have been killed. People can see millions of children being moved and being bombed. Charities working with women who have been raped and that is a very sensitive issue.”

 

“On every occasion America has gone to war it has used the same argument that it will be selective,” added Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, chairman of the East London Mosque. “It doesn’t wash with the Muslim community. By interfering in Syria it is going to antagonise Iran, Russia and China and open a Pandora’s box that will take Syria into a darker age that will leave the Muslim world further divided.”

 

“There is sceptism about who has used chemical weapons and there needs to be a clear proof,” he said. “It if was chemicals why can’t America convince China and Russia? Chemical weapons used against civilians are an atrocity. If Russia, China and Iran are in a civilised world, they should take more action. If they took a strong stand Assad would be crippled.”

 

Jehangir Malik, UK director of the aid agency Islamic Relief, said he agreed with Lord Ahmed that British Muslim anxiety about attacks is tempered by the feeling that something must be done.” The Muslim community will be sceptical of this intervention, going in after two and a half years,” he said. “But no other Muslim country has done anything so what are the options?”

 

Malik said the fact that the action against Assad was not being sold as part of the “war on terror” meant feeling was “not as anti as with Afghanistan and Iraq”. But he also warned that any strikes could result in the conflict escalating and the humanitarian situation worsening.

 

Religious Leaders’ Views on Radical Life Extension

No religious group in the United States has released an official statement on radical life extension. However, here are brief summaries of how some clergy, bioethicists and other scholars from 18 major American religious groups say their traditions might approach this evolving issue. (For an in-depth look at public opinion on radical life extension and related issues, see “Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans’ Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension.” And for an overview of the scientific research and emerging ethical debate, see “To Count Our Days: The Scientific and Ethical Dimensions of Radical Life Extension.”)

Islam

Radically extending life “probably wouldn’t be a problem for most” Muslims, according to Aisha Musa, a professor of religion at Colgate University who has written about the issue from a Muslim perspective. According to Musa and others, Muslims believe Allah (God) knows the exact life span of each person  from birth to death, or what the Quran calls one’s “term appointed” (Sura 40:67). “Since you can’t really violate God’s plan for you, life extension is alright because it’s part of God’s will,” Musa says.

 

Given this outlook, many Muslims would likely see life-extending technologies as in accordance with God’s plan for humanity. “Whenever there is something new, Muslims believe that it has happened with God’s endorsement,” says Abdulaziz Sachedina, chair of Islamic studies at George Mason University and the author of “Islamic Biomedical Ethics.” “Whatever we do, God has a hand in it.”

 

Neither major branch of Islam (Sunni and Shia) has a central authority that would issue a decree on life extension. But Shia Muslims do follow religious leaders known as grand ayatollahs, who issue religious edicts, called fatwas, that are binding on their followers.

 

According to Mohsen Kadivar, a Shia theologian and philosopher based in Iran but currently teaching at Duke University in Durham, N.C., many Shia ayatollahs would likely sanction life-extension therapies as long as their object was not to extend life indefinitely. “There is a difference between life extension and immortality,” Kadivar says, adding, “The first is acceptable and the second is not acceptable, according to Islam and the Quran.”

 

Musa and Sachedina, who are Sunni, agree that striving for immortality would go against Islamic teachings because it would keep Muslims from heaven. “There is a deep-seated belief that death is a blessing,” Sachedina says. “We look forward to dying.”

 

Shariah 101: What is it and why do states want to ban it?

North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday (July 24) approved a bill to prohibit judges from considering “foreign laws” in their decisions, but nearly everyone agrees that “foreign laws” really means Shariah, or Islamic law.
North Carolina now joins six other states — Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee — to pass a “foreign laws” bill. A similar bill passed in Missouri, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it, citing threats to international adoptions.
The bills all cite “foreign laws” because two federal courts have ruled that singling out Shariah — as Oklahoma voters originally did in 2010 — is unconstitutional.
So what’s the big deal with Shariah?
Other Shariah scholars say such a punishment system can only be instituted in a society of high moral standards and where everyone’s needs are met (thereby obviating the urge to steal or commit other crimes). In such a society, the thinking goes, corporal punishments would be rarely needed.
That said, corporal punishments have been used by Islamic militant groups in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria, and governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Aceh state in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Canadian’s death sentence in Iran appears to have been lifted

News Agencies – December 2, 2012

 

Reports that Iran has suspended the death sentence of Canadian Saeed Malekpour have not been officially confirmed, and his family remain concerned for his fate, an activist close to the family says. The lawyer for Mr. Malekpour, on death row since 2010, has told Iran’s Mehr new agency that the sentence has been commuted after he “repented,” Agence France-Presse reported.

 

But in Canada, those campaigning for his release remain skeptical, noting that Iranian officials have in the past reinstituted death sentences they had supposedly commuted. Mr. Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada, was arrested in December of 2008 in Iran when he returned to his native land to visit his dying father and accused of operating up an offensive website.

 

Mr. Malekpour developed a program for posting pictures on the Internet and that it was used without his knowledge for the creation of porn sites, human rights group and his family said. In late January, Iran’s supreme court confirmed the death sentence against Mr. Malekpour, Iranian media reported. The verdict provoked an international outcry.In February, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Iran to halt the execution while Canada and rights watchdog Amnesty International also called for Mr. Malekpour’s immediate release.

Islam in Bosnia: ”We belong to the West, culturally and mentally”

Bosnia is entering a new phase in its history: the post-war era is over; communities and mosques have been rebuilt. But where are Bosnian Muslims heading in these turbulent times? Charlotte Wiedemann spoke to Ahmet Alibašić, lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo

In what direction are Muslims intellectuals of your generation looking?

Ahmet Alibašić: We’re not looking in any particular direction. Because we were cut off from the Muslim world for several decades, during the Yugoslavian Empire and the Communist period, we have learned to be self-reliant. We have developed our own education system and produced a certain Islamic approach to learning. We were forced to rely on ourselves; we are used to independence. And we are very pluralist.

The lecturers of this faculty come from a huge variety of universities: Chicago, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Belgrade, Zagreb, Turkey, Kosovo, India. You won’t find such diversity at any other university in the Muslim world. We have modernists here, traditionalists and reformists.

And where are modernists such as yourself looking?

Alibašić: Bosnian modernists are looking more to Muslim scholars who teach at western universities or who used to teach, for example Fazlur Rahman, Abdolkarim Sorush or Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid.

Sarajevo seems to be a market place for all possible strands of Islam. You have just compiled a bibliography of all the works that have been translated into Bosnian. Who is paying for all this?

In America, Shiite Muslims Establish A Foothold

QUINCY, Mass. (RNS) Sayed Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini was 12 years old when his family fled Iran and settled in Los Angeles. Now 28, he sat with some 70 Shiite Muslims at the Iman Islamic Center on a recent Friday night, preaching about the Mosque of the Trash Picker in Iran, and a Turkish mosque peculiarly named “As if I have eaten.”

The variation in the proper way to pray is one among several differences that exist between Shiites, who make up about 15 percent of Muslims globally and in America, and the majority of Sunnis. Until recently, those differences mattered little in the United States, where the two groups bonded as Muslim minorities and prayed in the same mosques.

“There weren’t enough of either to justify the cost of building sectarian mosques, and because in general, early generation immigrants were less focused on establishing formal houses of worship,” said Andrea Stanton, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver.

That is changing, however, as American Shiites are increasingly establishing their own mosques. According to “The American Mosque 2011,” a survey sponsored by several Muslim American organizations, 7 percent of roughly 2,100 mosques in America are Shiite, and most have been built in the last 20 years.

One reason: Shiites have become numerous and financially strong enough to manage the expensive process of buying or building their own mosques. Another factor: the growth in Shiite populations as immigrants flee persecution in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where Taliban gunmen recently executed at least 22 Shiite bus passengers.

Many Shiite Muslims say that while American mosques profess to be open to any and all Muslims, they tend to be Sunni in practice and can be hostile to Shiite beliefs and practices.

While American mosques once offered a reliable refuge from this persecution, Shiite immigrants who have come more recently have found some mosques unwelcoming to their creed.