Reuters blog archive
Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in Britain, says the Conservative Party's chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.
Warsi, a Pakistan-born minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet, will say in a speech at the University of Leicester on Thursday evening that dividing Muslims into "moderate" and "extremist" fuels intolerance, according to prepared remarks published in the Daily Telegraph. (Photo: Baroness Warsi at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, October 3, 2010/Toby Melville)
"It's not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of 'moderate' Muslims leads; in the factory, where they've just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: 'Not to worry, he's only fairly Muslim,'" according to the first Muslim woman in a British cabinet. "In the school, the kids say: 'The family next door are Muslim but they're not too bad'. And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: 'That woman's either oppressed or is making a political statement.'"
There are 2.9 million Muslims in Britain, almost 5 percent of the population, according to an estimate last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Britain has regularly been a focus of Islamist militant plots. In the worst attack in the country, suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London transport network in July 2005.
A U.N. General Assembly committee has once again voted to condemn the "vilification of religion" but support narrowed for a measure that Western powers say is a threat to freedom of expression. The non-binding resolution, championed by Islamic states and opposed by Western countries, passed by only 12 votes on Tuesday in the General Assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, 76-64 with 42 abstentions. (Photo: United Nations General Assembly in New York September 24, 2010/Keith Bedford)
Opponents noted that support had fallen and opposition increased since last year, when the Third Committee vote was 81-55 with 43 abstentions. The 192-nation General Assembly is expected to formally adopt the measure next month.
(Photo: An honor guard trumpeter plays during the ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York September 11, 2010/Chris Hondros)
Amid threats of Koran burning and a heated dispute over a planned Muslim cultural center in New York, Muslim leaders and rights activists warn of growing anti-Muslim feeling in America partly provoked for political reasons. "Many people now treat Muslims as 'the other' -- as something to vilify and to discriminate against," said Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union. And, he said, some people have exploited that fear in the media, "for political gain or cheap notoriety."
The imam leading the project to build the cultural center, including a prayer room, near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks said there was a rise of what he called "Islamophobia" and the debate had been radicalized by extremists. "The radicals in the United States and the radicals in the Muslim world feed off each other. And to a certain extent, the attention that they've been able to get by the media has even aggravated the problem," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in an interview with ABC news aired on Sunday.
Two major United States broadcasters have rejected an advertisement that urges viewers to protest against a mosque planned two blocks from Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York. The ad by the National Republican Trust PAC-- labeled inflammatory by critics -- mixes images of 9/11 and Muslim militants while slamming a controversial proposal to build a mosque and Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. (Photo: Christian procession near Ground Zero in New York April 2, 2010/Jessica Rinaldi)
"To celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero," says the narrator over images of the destroyed World Trade Center. "This ground is sacred, where we weep, they rejoice ... that mosque is a monument to their victory." For the ad, see the YouTube video below.
(Photo: Delegates at the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva on March 22, 2010/Denis Balibouse)
Muslim states that say what they call "islamophobia" is sweeping the West and its media have demanded that the United Nations take tougher action against it. Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council this week that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought.
Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), has tabled a resolution at the council instructing its special investigator on religious freedom "to work closely with mass media organisations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for religious and cultural diversity".
An innovative campaign to build grass-roots dialogue between Jews and Muslims in North America has crossed the Atlantic and taken off in Europe. The "Weekend of Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues," which began last year with about 100 houses of worship in North America, expanded this year to include events in eight European countries. The weekend meetings, which have been taking place in November and December, bring together mosque and synagogue congregations to discuss ways of overcoming anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in their own communities.
German politicians have woken up to the potential fallout from the bloody killing in a Dresden courtroom of a 31-year-old Egyptian mother which has unleashed anger in the Islamic world.
It took Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has talked much about boosting the integration of Germany's roughly 3.5 million Muslims, several days to condemn the killing, perpetrated by a German of Russian origin suspected of being a neo-Nazi.
France 24, the French international television channel, invited me to debate the proposed ban on burqas and niqabs today with one of the parliamentary deputies leading the campaign. That's me on the left. On the right is Jacques Myard, deputy for President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party and a spirited defender of French interests. Myard wanted to ban full facial veils in France two years ago but could not muster enough support at the time. The mood in the National Assembly has changed since then and another deputy, the Communist André Gerin, got together 58 deputies from different parties to launch the inquiry that began work yesterday.
Here's the video on the France 24 website. It's about 20 minutes long. Myard presents the French case for banning burqas and niqabs very clearly. If you've read about this debate and can't understand it, he is worth hearing to get a good feel for how many French people state the case for a ban.
How much fun -- really -- can you make of religion? A U.S. marketer of board games may find out with "Playing Gods" which it calls "the world's first satirical board game of religious warfare." It had its European premier this week at the London Toy Fair and will make a U.S. debut at the New York Toy Fair in February.
Ben Radford, head of the company that put the game together, said in a news release it is designed for two to five players who act as "gods" and ...
"Top 10 Stories" lists are a perennial feature, especially in the United States (which explains a lot of the picks below). Now that they're all out there, I took a quick look at the "Top 10 Religion Stories 2008" lists to see if any pattern emerged. Of course one did: "It was the election, stupid." Even a website dedicated to pagan news found a "pagans and politics" angle to top its list.
The Religion Newswriters Association, which polls member religion reporters, has been drawing up such lists for about 30 years. Election-related stories swept the top three slots last year. They did the same in 2004 as well, but the election shared the top spot back then with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ movie. The election-dominated lists show some divergences, but the most interesting compilations were the more specialised ones down in the second list below.