French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM): Ramadan dates fixed

Liberation

09.05.2013

For the first time in France, the representatives of the Muslim community of the country have used astronomic calculations to determine the dates for the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) announced that this year’s Ramadan will start on July 9 and finish with the holy fest of Eid-El-Fitr on August 8. Prior to using astronomic calculations, the community organisation has used moon observations in order to determine the commencement of the holy month.

The advantages of adopting a lunar calendar based on astronomic calculations are ‘the foresight, the organisation and the planning’ of the event, says Mohammed Mouassaou, President of the CFCM. According to him, Muslim workers will now more easily be able to demand days off from their employers during the month, schools will be able to adjust their exam period according to the foreseen dates and the Muslim butchers will be able to organise their activities better.

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

Introduction to the Study on Religion in Italy by Massimo Introvigne and PierLuigi Zoccatelli

How many Catholic priests, bishops or religious people are there in Italy? What associations aspire to represent Italian Muslims? Which associations address national masses of the many Protestant communities and individual Pentecostal Churches? What websites, email accounts, phone numbers correspond to the different Buddhist organizations, Hindu and Sikh communities in Italy? How many Italians are satanists? Which groups practice occultism, spiritualism, ceremonial magic? Which religions bring together flying saucers and Marxism? What is the Association for the Sbattezzo?

This is the work of the monitoring research agency CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), which since 1988, has been working to understand Italian religions – and non-religious spiritual paths. Well covered here in the the Encyclopedia of Religion in Italy by Massimo Introvigne and Pier Luigi Zoccatelli. The authors present historical introductions, finally reliable statistical data, addresses, phone numbers, Internet links and doctrinal analysis of more than eight hundred organized spiritual and religious minorities in Italy – many of which, little known or discrete, shines a new light on pluralism in Italy. This work greatly changes the perception of religious pluralism in Italy.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: The terrorists next door?

GEORGETOWN/ ON FAITH | The bombings at the Boston Marathon brings homegrown terrorism back into the spotlight. Suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were born in Russia, but, as President Obama recently, “Why did these young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities resort to such violence?” Several decades of research on radicalization of Muslims in the United States and Europe could point to some possible answers.

Contrary to comments by Representative Peter King and others that mosques are the major tool for radicalization, data from Gallup and Pew actually shows that membership and engagement in mosque activities lead to greater civic engagement. Neither Tamerlan nor Dzhokhar were active members of a mosque beyond attending services. We also know that American mosques are not tolerant of extremism and tend to expel radical members. In fact the Los Angeles Times reported that Tamerlan was thrown out of a Cambridge mosque just three months ago after he stood up during a Friday sermon to protest against the imam who was praising Martin Luther King Jr. While some cooperation already exists between Muslim leaders and law enforcement, this incident shows the need for greater partnerships in the fight against radicalism.

More significantly, the Boston bombing confirms a trend that has emerged during the last decade toward self-radicalization through the Internet. Dzhokhar has reportedly told authorities that he and his brother were motivated by religion but were acting on their own. Investigators will continue to look into that claim. What is certain is that Tamerlan had a YouTube account with a playlist of radical activists and Islamic preachers such as Australian native, Feiz Mohammad. The online activities of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki are comparable to Mohammad’s speeches found on Tamerlan’s account. There is evidence that al-Awlaki’s online diatribes inspired a number of U.S.-based terrorist incidents, including the Fort Hood shooting carried out by Major Nidal Hasan in 2009, the airline bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in 2009, and the attempted plot by Faisal Shahzad to bomb Times Square in New York City in 2010.

Such a process of radicalization is inherently difficult for policymakers, intelligence organizations, and law enforcement to identify because its starts with intolerant discourses that are legally protected by our right to free speech. That is in part why the FBI could not build a case against Tamerlan in 2011 after his visit to Dagestan. In 2007, the Australian Federal Police reportedly investigated Feiz Mohammad’s sermons because they were suspected of breaking laws against racial hatred, and inciting violence and terrorism. This type of operation is not possible in America where there is no law limiting freedom of speech.

It would be misleading however to suggest that control of online materials would allow us to identify or to combat possible radicalization. Studies of radicals in the United States and Europe have shown that ‘disembeddedness’ from society is a near-prerequisite for engagement in radical groups. And while it might be tempting to attribute the attraction to movements like al-Qaeda to social and economic marginalization, neither Tamerlan nor Dzhokhar were marginalized. Tamerlan married an American who converted to Islam and had a young daughter. Dzhokhar is described by his classmates as an easy-going, good student. This information is consistent with what we know about previous terrorists. John Walker Lindh, for example, is from a well-off, liberal family in California. Faisal Shahzad attended university in the states, gained U.S. citizenship, and lived a seemingly well-integrated life with his wife and children in suburban Connecticut.

Tsarnaev, Lind, and Shahzad do however share one thing in common: they are lone wolves, with weak links to strong communities—ethnic, cultural, or religious. Their disembeddedness may be related to conditions of life in major globalized Western cities, which affect both the well educated and the high school dropout. My own research has found that international cities like Boston, London, Paris and New York tend to erode familial ties. In the absence of strong social networks, permanent contact with multiple cultures can lead some individuals to intolerance. Additionally, it is not by chance that most Muslim radicals in the West are novices within Islam. Whether because of conversion to Islam or because emigration disrupted the normal transmission of tradition, their religious education begins not in the family, but in fundamentalist groups or with radical charismatic preachers.

Self-radicalization through social media, global communication and international travel, enormously complicates American counter-terrorism efforts. The time has come to pay more attention to the social processes that lead to radicalization and less attention to the targeting of entire groups based on immigrant status, ethnicity, or religion.

Jocelyne Cesari is senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and director of Harvard University’s program on Islam in the West.

Muslim groups concerned about parliamentary debate upon secularism

12.04.2013

Le Figaro

The representatives of eight large Muslim groups in France have expressed their concerns about the announcement of a new law against religious symbols, specifically the Muslim veil, during a meeting with France’s Secretary of Interior and Religion, Manuel Valls.

Muslim organisations are worried about the renewal of stigmatization of France’s Muslim communities in the wake of a potential legislative debate, which will as previously highlight Islam and Muslims in a negative, problematic way. According to them, statistics have proven that with each announcement upon Islam made in French politics, acts of Islamophobia are statistically proven to have increased in the country.

CAIR-Chicago Wins Judgment for Muslim Center’s Freedom of Religion

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today welcomed the decision by District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer granting summary judgment to the civil rights organization’s client, Irshad Learning Center, an Islamic religious institution primarily serving the Iranian community.

Irshad Learning Center (ILC) applied for a zoning permit to use a former school in unincorporated DuPage County as a mosque and Islamic school. The DuPage County Board denied the permit without explanation in January 2010.

While the Zoning Board of Appeals (the first governmental entity to consider the petition) repeatedly recommended denying the permit, the County Development Committee supported ILC’s petition with various conditions.

CAIR-Chicago filed a lawsuit against the county and members of the board on behalf of ILC on April 8, 2010.

ILC’s complaint alleged violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as state constitutional and zoning law.

Scottish Church Opens Doors To Muslim Community

18 March 2013

 

A Scottish Episcopal Church in Aberdeen is now open for members of the local Muslim community to pray alongside Christians, a decision that has been hailed as an unprecedented example of inter-faith cooperation in the United Kingdom. Rev. Isaac Poobalan, rector of St. John’s Church in Aberdeen, made the decision to allow more than 100 Muslims to pray in portions of his church after witnessing dozens of Muslims praying outside of the nearby Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque due to overcrowding. Regarding his decision, Rev. Poobalan said, “Religion does not play a role when it comes to friendship and hospitality.”

 

Though similar arrangements have been made in the United States, this is thought to be the first time that an active church in the UK has been used as a place for Muslim worship. Said a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, “I’ve never heard of this before, of any other case where active churches are also used as mosques.”

Islam is a Religion for Women: New Publication Tre donne: una sfida (Three women: a Challenge)

3/8/2013 tre donne

ANSAmed

 

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti both condemn the use of the Islamic faith to suppress women, denouncing those who do this as “tyrants” during a meeting in Rome on women and Islam. The discussion in Rome stemmed from the presentation of Three Women: A Challenge a book which presents an interview with three Muslim women of differing generations and countries, but united by the “challenge” of Islam and its treatment of women.

The author, Marisa Paolucci, interviewed an Iranian woman, Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, a Sudanese woman, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman elected to a parliament in Africa, and Malalai Joya an Afghan woman and former parliamentarian. Three profiles, which according to the author illustrate the same thing, that women are respected in Islam. To purchase the book visit http://www.emi.it/schede/2028-2.html

 

Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think

The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins, which we’re officially publishing today in honor of Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday. We found that only 11 percent of Americans belong to religions openly rejecting evolution or our Big Bang. So if someone you know has the same stressful predicament as my student, chances are that they can relax as well. To find out for sure, check out this infographic.

So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.

So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.

The Media, Religion and the 2012 Campaign for President

December 14, 2012 

A striking feature of the 2012 race for the White House – a contest that pitted the first Mormon nominee from a major party against an incumbent president whose faith had been a source of controversy four years earlier – is how little the subject of religion came up in the media. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, just 1% of the campaign coverage by major news outlets (including broadcast and cable television, radio, newspaper front pages and the most popular news websites) focused on the religion of the candidates or the role of religion in the presidential election. Only 6% of the election-related stories in major news outlets contained any reference to religion.

Media attention to religion’s importance in the campaign peaked during the primaries, when several Republican candidates spoke about their Christian beliefs. The prominence of religious rhetoric in speeches by Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and others fueled speculation about whether white evangelical Protestants – who made up about one-third of all Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters in 2012 – would withhold support from Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith. Indeed, the biggest single religion-related campaign story came more than a full year before the election, when a Texas minister publicly called Mormonism a “cult.” That incident, in October 2011, generated fully 5% of all coverage of religion in the presidential campaign.

When Romney captured the GOP nomination and named Rep. Paul Ryan, a Roman Catholic, as his vice presidential running mate in August 2012, they became the first non-Protestant ticket in the Republican Party’s history. But as the primaries gave way to the general election campaign, the subject of religion subsided in the media, in part because neither Romney nor President Barack Obama made much effort to raise it. Fewer than one-in-seven religion-related stories in the campaign (13%) resulted from statements or actions by either candidate.

Rather than focusing on the religious beliefs and practices of the candidates, media coverage of religion during the 2012 campaign frequently centered on the political clout of white evangelicals and their electoral choices – a topic that accounted for 29% of religion-related coverage overall. Talking about evangelicals became a way for the media to address the question of what impact Romney’s Mormon faith could have on the race, confronting religion as a tactical “horse-race” concern.

Romney was the subject of about twice as much religion-related coverage as Obama, and 45% of all religion-related stories in the campaign took the horse-race approach, dealing with how religion might impact the vote. In all, 34% of the religion coverage focused on faith as a character issue, or mentioned it in passing as part of a candidate’s identity. There was far less coverage (16%) of how religion might impact policymaking or governance.

These are among the key findings of the new study conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and the Pew Forum, both of which are part of the Pew Research Center. The study examined nearly 800 religion-related stories from cable television, network broadcast television, radio, newspaper front pages and the most popular news websites in the country between August 2011 and Election Day (Nov. 6, 2012). In addition, the study involved a sample of specialized religious publications and an analysis of hundreds of thousands of messages about the candidates’ faith on Twitter and Facebook; the social media analysis relied on technology developed by Crimson Hexagon. (For more details on how the study was conducted, see the Methodology.)

In the end, the basic contours of religion in U.S. politics remained unchanged in the 2012 election, according to a Pew Forum analysis of exit poll results. In particular, white evangelical Protestants voted as overwhelmingly for Romney (79%) as they did for Republican candidates John McCain in 2008 (73%) and George W. Bush in 2004 (79%). Indeed, white evangelicals voted as strongly for Romney as Mormons did (78%), according to the Pew Forum analysis of exit poll data.