Reuters blog archive
When thousands of young Algerians rioted earlier this year over price rises and living conditions, the government asked state-employed Muslim clerics to preach sermons in the mosques appealing for calm. Now, two months later, the clerics themselves are protesting. "We are very angry, and our daily living conditions are bad," said Hajaj El Hadj, an imam at a mosque near the capital for over 20 years. "We demand a significant pay rise."
Algeria's 100,000 imams have joined municipal police, students, doctors, legal clerks, chauffeurs and oil workers who are demanding better pay and conditions and are threatening strikes or protests if they do not get what they want. This phenomenon has come about, in part, because many Algerians realise there has never been a better time to have their grievances resolved.
The government, anxious to stop a wave of popular revolts in the Arab world spreading to Algeria, has been paying out huge sums in subsidies, wage increases and interest-free loans to placate discontent. But it is not without risks. The protests and strikes -- which have so far been small, orderly and localised -- could develop into something more unpredictable.
(Photo: A Nenets tribesman and his herd of reindeers on the Yamal peninsula, north of the polar circle, August 4, 2009/Denis Sinyakov)
When rival energy producers Russia and Qatar talk business, it's no longer only about natural gas -- they're talking reindeer meat, which Russia has promised to export and butcher according to Muslim dietary law. The prospect of Russia exporting halal reindeer meat products to the desert kingdom first came up last month when the governor of Russia's Arctic Yamal Nenets region, where most of Russia's gas is produced, was in Qatar for investment talks.
"We told the Qatari leadership that we don't only have oil and gas. We also have reindeer. And then a Sheikh asked, 'Is reindeer halal? Can Muslims eat it?' It turns out they can," Yamal's governor Dmitry Kobylkin told Reuters in an interview. "They were so surprised to learn there exists another kind of meat that they haven't tried and that it can be halal. Gold mining is interesting for them, gas, infrastructure, and now investment in halal reindeer meat processing," Kobylkin said.
A hardline, pro-Taliban Pakistani Muslim cleric on Friday offered a reward for anyone who kills a Christian woman sentenced to death by a court on charges of insulting Islam. The sentence against Asia Bibi has renewed debate about Pakistan's blasphemy law which critics say is used to persecute religious minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal scores. Non-Muslim minorities account roughly 4 percent of Pakistan's about 170 million population. (Photo: Maulana Yousef Qureshi in Peshawar, February 17, 2006/str)
Maulana Yousef Qureshi, the imam of a major mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, offered a $5,800 (3,700 pounds) reward and warned the government against any move to abolish or change the blasphemy law. "We will strongly resist any attempt to repeal laws which provide protection to the sanctity of Holy Prophet Mohammad," Qureshi told a rally of hardline Islamists.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama donned a headscarf on a visit to an mosque in Indonesia on Wednesday, not a requirement for a non-Muslim but a sign of the Obamas' efforts to show respect for the Islamic world.
Wearing a beige headscarf adorned with gold beads and a flowing chartreuse trouser suit, she toured Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, Southeast Asia's largest, while on a short state visit to the world's most populous Muslim country.
(Photo: Pope Benedict meets religious leaders in Nazareth, May 14, 2009, with many Muslim clerics in white and red turbans in the audience/Atef Safadi)
Israeli authorities have charged the imam of a mosque in Nazareth with inciting violence against Pope Benedict and supporting al Qaeda and "global jihad," the justice ministry has said.
The indictment said Nazim Mahmoud Salim, who was arrested by police a month ago, led a group of about 2,000 worshippers, and had also preached at the flashpoint al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest shrine.
(Photo: Manhattan building now on site of proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque, August 17, 2010/Lucas Jackson)
Muslims in lower Manhattan who have prayed in a crowded basement or in the streets say they are not looking for confrontation with opponents of a new mosque. They simply need the space.
Some New Yorkers traumatized by the September 11, 2001 attacks have emotionally opposed a proposed Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Republican politicians seeking to wrest control of Congress from Democrats in November elections have seized on the issue.
There was an interesting echo at the White House when President Barack Obama came out in favour of the proposed Cordoba House Muslim cultural centre near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York (see our news report here). Controversy about the project, which opponents call the "Ground Zero mosque," has been swirling in New York for weeks and went national recently when Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich joined the critics' campaign. But until the annual Iftar dinner he hosted on Friday evening, the president had kept out of what his spokesman called "a matter for New York City and the local community to decide.” (Photo: President Obama addresses White House Iftar meal, 13 August 2010/Jason Reed)
Reading his comments, it looks like Obama not only let NYC authorities decide the issue -- favourably for the project, as it turned out, as both the local community board and the landmarks commission voted overwhelmingly to let it go ahead. He may also have taken pointers for his speech from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has stood solidly behind the project despite all the emotion it has stirred up.
A New York city agency denied "landmark" status for an old building near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, clearing the way for the building to be torn down to make room for a Muslim cultural center which has spurred heated debate.
The City Landmarks Commission decision on Tuesday allows for the demolition of a building near where the World Trade Center's Twin Towers stood and paves the way for construction of the Cordoba House, set to include a prayer room and a 500-seat auditorium as part of a 13-story cultural complex.
An imam whose voice helped him become the first black Saudi to lead prayers at Mecca's Grand Mosque said he was wrong to speak against a fatwa prohibiting singing, in the latest spat between reformist and conservative clerics in the kingdom.
King Abdullah's push for reform has fostered divisions among senior Saudi clerics, and Adil Kalbani shocked conservative clerics in June by speaking in favor of singing, saying neither the Koran nor Prophet Mohammad's sayings prohibited it.
When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decided to build a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, the model he chose couldn't have been more mainstream American -- the Young Men's Christian Association chapters found in cities across the United States.
The institution he had in mind was the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish adaptation of the YMCA concept that is one of New York's leading addresses for residents of all religions or none to visit for public lectures, debates, concerts or educational courses.