Reuters blog archive
(Photo: Demonstrators at the Amr Ibn El-Aas mosque in Cairo claiming a Christian woman had converted to Islam and was being held prisoner by a Christian church, September 5, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Militants may feel emboldened by an al Qaeda threat against Egypt's Christians, even if the network itself might struggle to mount such an assault.
The al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq, which launched an attack on a Baghdad church on Sunday that left 52 dead, has also threatened Egypt's church.
While there are no signs of a re-emergence of a 1990s-style Islamist insurgency, Egypt remains alert to anything that could stir communal tension that sometimes boils up over issues such as cross-faith relationships and conversions.
(Photo: Riot police stand guard outside the Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo on October 1, 2010 as Muslims protest against the Coptic Church over the alleged kidnapping of a Christian woman believed by many to have converted to Islam/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Egyptian authorities were quick to condemn the al Qaeda threat and to boost security at churches in the country, where Christians make up 10 percent of the 78 million people, the biggest Christian population in the Middle East.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's attempt to convert dozens of young women to Islam during a visit to Italy led to an angry reaction from Italian media on Monday. The mercurial Gaddafi invited a large group of young women hired by a hostessing agency to an event at a Libyan cultural centre in Rome on Sunday and tried to convert them to Islam.
"What would happen if a European head of state went to Libya or another Islamic country and invited everyone to convert to Christianity?" asked the daily Il Messagero. "We believe it would provoke very strong reactions across the Islamic world."
Malaysia's highest court has begun proceedings on a landmark inter-religious child custody dispute whose outcome could further raise political tension in this mainly Muslim country. The Federal Court heard objections by lawyers for an ethnic Indian couple fighting each other for custody of their two children and adjourned for two weeks before hearing the case.
A Hindu woman, Shamala Sathiyaseelan, won temporary custody of her two children in 2004 following her husband's conversion to Islam. She is seeking full custody and a declaration that it is illegal under Malaysia's constitution for a parent to convert a minor to Islam without the other's consent.
Britain's top court was accused of interfering in religious matters after it ruled on Wednesday that a Jewish school was guilty of discrimination by refusing entry to a boy whose mother was a Jew by conversion, not birth.
The Supreme Court said the policy employed by the popular JFS school in London broke race laws by using ethnicity to decide which pupils to admit. "Essentially we must now apply a 'non-Jewish definition of who is Jewish'," said Simon Hochhauser, president of the United Synagogue.
Ayman Raafa, an Egyptian born a Christian, was nine months old when the father he never knew converted to Islam. Now 23, Raafa is fighting to get the Christian faith he professes recognised by the state and registered on his identity documents vital to daily life.
Raafa was raised a Christian but the state says children automatically become Muslim on a father's conversion, a policy that places dozens of people in limbo in a society that does not -- in practice -- recognise conversion away from Islam. He is one of a group of 40 facing the same identity conundrum and now filing a lawsuit to have their Christian faith recognised, touching a raw spot in relations between Muslims and 10 percent of Egypt's 77 million people who are Christian.
The latest front in the ongoing conflict in Israel between ultra-Orthodox Judaism and less observant movements -- the subject of a brief blog yesterday on Faithworld -- heated up with a front page article in the Jerusalem Post on Thursday that quoted an ultra-Orthodox parliament member calling Reform Jews, among other things, "trecherous backstabbers to Judaism".
The rather harsh, though not unprecedented, comments were reportedly made by Moshe Gafni from the religious United Torah Judaism party. Gafni is chairman of Israel's finance committee and was quoted in a phone interview following a high court decision that ordered federal funding of non-Orthodox Jewish conversions.
For years Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel have been trying to break the monopoly of the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinic Court, which is the sole authority for Jewish ceremonies like weddings and conversions. That's an especially big responsiblity in a country where there is no civil marriage, essentially forcing all Jewish Israelis to seek an Orthodox rabbi when they wish to wed -- or go abroad.
U.S. President Barack Obama may face a new minefield on the battlefields of Afghanistan -- one that combines a potent mix of religion and culture.
Explosive allegations have emerged that U.S. soldiers have been attempting to convert Afghanis to Christianity, a scenario sure to stir passions and even anger in the overwhelming Islamic country. You can see our story on the issue here by my colleague Peter Graff in Kabul.
Malaysian Catholics recite this prayer in Malay daily at Masses across the country such as a recent one in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Keningau, a sprawling timber town in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island that Niluksi Koswanage visited for this feature about tensions between Christians and the majority Muslims.
Muslims object to Christians using the word "Allah" in their services and publications, even though it is the normal word for God in Malay. The Muslims say it could undermine Islam and aims to convert Muslims. The row over the use of Allah to describe the Christian God feeds into a long-running feud over conversions between the government of a country where all Malays must be Muslims, and other faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism that are practised by ethnic Indians and Chinese.
Amid all the controversy over the Vatican's handling of the return of four excommunicated ultra-traditionalist bishops, some newspapers are reporting that Pope Benedict is now preparing to welcome a far larger group into the Church -- the 400,000-strong Traditional Anglican Communion. We noted speculation about this last June. The Italian daily La Stampa wrote today that this group would be accepted into the Roman Catholic Church by Easter. Its headline was "Goodbye Canterbury, Benedict Takes Back Even the Anglicans."
But it doesn't look like it's going to be that way. The Vatican can wait, something it normally is very good at. The arguments I'm hearing here against such a move anytime soon are: