FaithWorld

Limits on foreign pilgrims on Haj contribute to drop in Saudi mobile subscriptions

(A Muslim pilgrim prays as another takes a photo with his mobile phone at the Grand Mosque during Tawaf al-Wadaa (Farewell Tawaf) on the last day of the annual haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Saudi Arabia’s mobile subscriber base has fallen by a tenth in two years following  reduced quotas for religious pilgrims, a crackdown on illegal workers and stricter phone registration requirements, data from the industry regulator shows.

The drop to 51 million subscriptions as of Sept. 30, 2013, the most recently available data, from 56.1 million two years earlier marks the end of a remarkable growth phase that led the country to claim one of highest proliferations of mobile phones globally. The kingdom’s population was 27 million in July 2013, according to the CIA factbook.

Saudi’s religious authorities cut the number of foreign pilgrims permitted at Islam’s annual haj by a fifth last year to allow expansion work at Mecca’s Grand Mosque. In 2012, more than 3 million people visited Mecca for the pilgrimage in what is a huge money-spinner for the mobile phone companies.

Foreign visitors often buy mobile subscriptions from Saudi’s telecom operators for the duration of their stay, usually to text or call home or local Saudi numbers.

Western debt crisis spurs growth of Islamic finance

(Barwa Bank's at Al-Rayyan branch in Doha November 29, 2011. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

Chicago native Mariam Khan never considered Islamic banking until her husband moved the family to Dubai in 2007. But the 36-year-old housewife is a believer now as the Western debt crisis deepens. Her husband opened a family account with HSBC Amanah, the Islamic arm of international bank HSBC.

“When I look at the damage that an interest-based system has done to the U.S. and Europe, I can see why God forbids riba (interest) in Islam,” she said. “I’m not particularly conservative as a Muslim but I definitely feel safer within Islamic banking.”

Most U.S. Protestant pastors doubt Beck, Obama are Christians-poll

What do conservative TV and radio personality Glenn Beck and U.S. President Barack Obama have in common? Most U.S. Protestant pastors doubt their Christian credentials.

These are among  the findings of a survey released this week by LifeWay Research, the number-crunching  arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which sometimes does interesting pastor polls.

The poll in question, of 1,000 U.S. Protestant pastors, asked: “Which, if any, of the following people do you believe are Christians?” It then gave a list of five prominent personalties: TV diva Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Beck, Obama and former Alaska governor and conservative sweetheart Sarah Palin.

Most U.S. Protestant pastors see Islam as dangerous – survey

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American Muslims at the Atlanta Masjid of al-Islam mosque, 9 Feb 2007/Tami Chappell

Here’s an interesting survey that was released on Monday by LifeWay Research, which is the number crunching arm of the South Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical group.

It says that two-thirds of Protestant pastors in America regard Islam as a dangerous religion. You can see their press release here. The full survey has not been posted on their site.

from Left field:

Woods takes first step on road to redemption

Slug is GOLF-CHAMPIONS/By Kevin Fylan and Tom Pilcher

Tiger Woods's decision to take an indefinite break from golf will be a real worry for a sport that has relied on the drawing power of the world's best player for so long but it might prove to be a necessary first step on the player's own road to redemption.

"He'll figure it out -- we've always been a forgiving society," major record holder Jack Nicklaus said before Woods announced his decision to take a break.

Well, even a forgiving society likes to see a little contrition and the tone of the statement Woods put out on Friday was certainly much more contrite and conciliatory than the spiky defence of his right to privacy in his only previous comment.

Texas Southern Baptists see conversion opportunities among Muslims

The latest issue of Southern Baptist Texan to arrive in my mailbox has a front page story which caught my eye about a new evangelism drive aimed at the state’s Muslim population. You can see their on-line report here.

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The increasing presence of Muslims in Texas is an opportunity Texas Southern Baptists must not miss, says Bruno Molina, an SBTC ministry associate specializing in ethnic evangelism and outreach. To that end, a series of workshops—including one next month on engaging Muslim women with the gospel—and three printed resources aimed at helping Texas Southern Baptists understand Islamic beliefs, are planned for the fall and into 2010,” it says.

We are praying for Muslims during a month (Ramadan) that they are seeking God and waging spiritual warfare on behalf of Muslims in the form of evangelistic prayer,” Molina was quoted as saying.

Southern Baptists (and Republicans): old, white and in decline?

The evangelical Protestant revival has been one of the most dynamic religious and social movements in the United States in the last three decades. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, one in four U.S. adults now count themselves as followers of this faith tradition.

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So it may come as a surprise to some non-American readers of this blog that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) – with 16 million members, America’s largest evangelical denomination and the country’s second largest after the Catholic Church — is ringing the alarm bells of decline.

Its research arm LifeWay Research released the following projections this week at the convention’s annual meeting in Kentucky:  it said its numbers would fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 “unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend and does more to strengthen evangelism, reach immigrants, and develop a broader ethnic base.”

What Darwin and evangelicals had in common: hatred of slavery

Back in January we reported on a new book which argued that a hatred of slavery did much to form Charles Darwin’s views on natural selection as he sought to prove that blacks and whites had a common ancestor and were not separate species or products of “separate creations” as many of the 19th century defenders of white supremacy maintained.

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I did a blog at the time to draw attention to my colleague Mike Collett-White’s story on “Darwin’s Sacred Cause” by Adrian Desmond and James Moore and said that it had piqued my curiosity enough that I might be tempted to read it. I have done just that and think it raises a couple of issues that will be of interest to readers of this blog. (Photo: A portrait of Charles Darwin is displayed as part of an exhibition in Darwin’s former home Down House, Kent, England, 12/02/2009, REUTERS/Stringer, UK)

For starters, much of the credit for the anti-slavery movement has been taken by evangelicals and other Christians such as the Quakers, who were indeed often the driving force behind it.  There was much excitement in U.S. evangelical circles two years ago about the release of the movie “Amazing Grace” about British anti-slavery pioneer William Wilberforce who was an ardent evangelical. Much ink has been spilled on this topic, notably in 2005 by Adam Hochschild in his superb book “Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery.”

from UK News:

Blame or redemption for Christians in financial crisis?

Does being a Christian make you a better banker? Former Bank of England employee John Ellis raised the possibility during a church discussion in London on the financial crisis.

The Treasurer of the United Reformed Church pointed to the relative stability of HSBC -- despite market speculation about its capital adequacy -- compared with the parlous state of some of its rivals.

"It is fairly safe to assert that HSBC is the high street bank that has been the most robust bank during the recent troubles. It seems to have ordered its affairs in a way that has allowed it to be least damaged by turmoil all around it," Ellis said.

Southern Baptists raise “Christmas war” cry in summer

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Christmas may be six months off but America’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has signalled that it is gearing up to put the term back in the public arena.

America’s “Christmas wars” have become an annual spectacle — and for many a weary and bewildering one — pitting religious conservatives who want manger scenes in public schools and other public spaces against secular foes who feel that no religion should be promoted above others.

The Christmas wars reflect broader battles in a seemingly endless struggle for the American soul. Where does one draw the line to separate church and state? Is America a “Christian nation?”