Reuters blog archive
About 15,000 demonstrators have protested in Tunis against the country's Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance a day after the Interior Ministry announced a Polish Catholic priest had been murdered by an extremist group.
"We need to live together and be tolerant of each other's views," said Ridha Ghozzi, 34, who was among the protesters carrying signs and chanting slogans on Saturday including "Terrorism is not Tunisian" and "Religion is Personal".
Tunisia's Islamist movement has shown signs of organising since the overthrow of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who had surpressed them during his more than two decades of rule, and have pressured authorities to shut at least three brothels in recent weeks.
They are at pains to assure Tunisians this is no Islamic revolution. They do not seek the presidency. They will run alongside other groups in the democracy that replaces Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali's police state.
Guests at the Istanbul premiere of a new vampire film were among the first victims of new curbs on alcohol that have raised secularist fears Islamic strictures may be encroaching on everyday life.
The rules, announced earlier this month by the tobacco and alcohol watchdog, tighten up licence requirements for serving alcohol, impose restrictions on alcohol marketing and limits sales to designated areas in stores.
(Photo: Pro-headscarf protest at the education ministry in Baku, December 10, 2010/Turkhan Karimov)
Hundreds of people protested in Azerbaijan on Friday for the right to wear Islamic headscarves in schools, challenging the strictly secular regime. Around 800-1,000 people took part in the demonstration outside the Ministry of Education, far more than Azerbaijan's opposition has mustered in recent years to demand reform in the tightly-controlled former Soviet republic.
Some Islamic communities in mainly Shi'ite Azerbaijan complain of discrimination by a regime analysts say is anxious to stem any challenge from politicised Islam or radicalism as a potential threat to stability in the oil and gas exporter.
(Photo: A commuter ferry sails past the Blue Mosque in Istanbul September 4, 2010/Osman Orsal)
The WikiLeaks documents from the U.S. embassy in Ankara show several attempts by American diplomats to understand the role of Islam and the Islamic world in the political stand of the governing AK Party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Their efforts can be summarised in a subtitle of a cable in 2007 purporting to show "the truth behind the AKP's "secret Islamic agenda." It said simply: The Jury is Out."
Following are some interesting excerpts, with links to the full documents:
¶1. (C) There is much talk in chanceries and in the international media these days about Turkey's new, highly activist foreign policy ... The ruling AKP foreign policy is driven by both a desire to be more independently activist, and by a more Islamic orientation...
(Photo: Women in headscarves in the Taksim area of Istanbul July 13, 2008/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Along Istanbul's busy Eminönü waterfront, women swathed in dark coats and scarves knotted once under the chin jostle past others clad in vivid colors and head coverings carefully sculpted around the face. Two decades ago such a polished, pious look scarcely existed in Turkey. But today it has the highest profile exponents in First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's wife Emine, and the brands behind it plan ambitious expansion.
The headscarf remains one of Turkey's most divisive issues. Everything from the way it is tied and accessorized, to the poise and demeanor of the wearer, is laden with meaning in this majority Muslim but officially secular country of 74 million. From a simple headcovering, stigmatized in the early days of the Turkish Republic as backward and rural, it has become, in the last decades, a carefully crafted garment and highly marketable commodity, embodying the challenge of a new class of conservative Muslims to Turkey's secularist elites.
(Photo: Pope Benedict at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, November 6, 2010/Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Benedict, on a lightning trip to Spain, urged Europe on Saturday to re-discover God and its Christian heritage and also denounced the country's liberal abortion laws.
"Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear," he said in the sermon of a Mass for more than 20,000 people in the square of Santiago de Compostela, which has been a major pilgrimage destination since medieval times.
The West is floundering in immorality and has no right to criticise the Islamist movement Hamas over the way it governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a veteran leader of the militant group said. Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy. (Photo: Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip October 23, 2010/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
"We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular," said Zahar, who is one of the group's most influential and respected voices.
A wave of religious fervour and a backlash by secular liberals has left some ordinary Egyptians feeling like strangers in their own country, and civil rights activists warn of a dangerous drift into sectarianism.
Banker Hussein Khalil says organising something as simple as an evening out with friends has turned into a headache.
(Photo: Presidents Christian Wulff (R) and Abdullah Gül, followed by wives Bettina (R) and Hayrünnisa, during official welcome in Ankara October 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)
When German President Christian Wulff recently declared that Islam "belongs to Germany," Christian Democratic politicians there howled and Muslims living in Germany and Turkey cheered. Now Wulff, on an official visit to Turkey, has told the Turkish parliament that "Christianity too, undoubtedly, belongs to Turkey." This time there was applause in Germany, and silence from the Turkish deputies listening to him in Ankara on Tuesday.
In both cases, Wulff's words could not have come at a better time. (Photo: President Wulff address the Turkish parliament, with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bagis (L) in the background/Umit Bektas)
Germany is in the grip of an emotional debate about Islam and Muslim integration. When Wulff said in his Oct. 3 German Unity Day address that Islam was now part of German society, given the large number (about 4 million) of Muslims living there, it was demographically obvious and politically risky. Several of his fellow Christian Democrats have challenged his view and insisted Germany had a "Judeo-Christian heritage" that Islam did not share. But Wulff, who was considered something of a lightweight for the ceremonial role when he was elected last July, has taken a clear stand on a political and moral issue -- just like Germans want their head of state to do. He is, as the Financial Times Deutschland entitled its editorial on Wednesday, "Finally A President."