Guestview: The emerging role of religion in Egypt

(Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam in Cairo, December 7, 2013/Dar al-Ifta)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Shawky Allam is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

By Grand Mufti Shawky Allam

As Egypt moves ahead along its roadmap after the new draft constitution was brought to fruition, it is only natural to expect more changes in the near future.

But how Egypt will change? What will it develop into? One of the most important questions is what role religion and religious forces will play in the still emerging political scene. Because Egyptian society remains a profoundly religious, the burning question is who can adequately represent the religious interests of the masses and direct them towards peaceful and productive democratic ends?

These are critical questions that underscore the very large challenges ahead of Egypt. What I want to do as an Egyptian is assure the world that Egypt will indeed transform itself into a self-sufficient, democratic member of the community of nations. The events of the past few months, though they have presented their own challenges, are reasons for optimism and hope. And indeed every good believer must remain hopeful, and maintain an attitude of optimism towards both humanity and the Divine.

To achieve this, we must confront the problems we encounter with purpose and determination. The institution of the Dar al-Ifta and my office of Grand Mufti feel a responsibility towards articulating the place of religion in Egypt in the face of the new developments.  This has become especially important as we have witnessed in the past few months flare-ups of sectarian sentiment and indeed violence, both of which are deeply regrettable.  They run counter to the very notion of Egyptian unity and religious cooperation that both the Muslim and Christian faith encourage, uphold and indeed mandate.

Malaysia ruling party tightens embrace of Islam to gain support

(Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak (front R) announces the 2014 budget at the parliament in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Samsul Said)

Malaysia’s ruling party, stung by an election setback in May, is burnishing its Islamic credentials, aiming to gain ground among majority ethnic Malay voters in a move that could heighten concern over growing religious intolerance in the multi-racial Southeast Asian country.

The coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) suffered its worst election result, hurt by the desertion of ethnic Chinese voters and many urban dwellers, including Muslim Malays, its traditional bedrock of support.

Pope Francis to set up special committee on child sex abuse by priests

(Workers erect a Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 5, 2013. This year’s Christmas tree to decorate St Peter’s Square comes from Bavaria in Germany, and is 25 meters tall and weighs 7.2 tons. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

Pope Francis is to set up a special committee to help protect children against sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, said on Thursday.

The move is Francis’ first major step to address the crisis that has discredited the church, in the face of charges the Vatican has not done enough to protect children or make amends.

Libyan national assembly votes to follow Islamic law

(Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny )

Libya’s national assembly voted on Wednesday to make Islamic law, or sharia, the source of all legislation, in an apparent bid by moderate Islamists to outflank ultra-conservative militants who have been gaining influence.

Two years after the NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is still in messy transition, with no new constitution, a temporary government and nascent security forces struggling to contain militias and former rebels.

Special Report – Thailand dumps Myanmar’s Muslim refugees into trafficking rings

(Bozor Mohammed from the Rakhine state in Myanmar is pictured after an interview at his house in Kuala Lumpur November 8, 2013. Picture taken November 8. To match Special Report THAILAND-ROHINGYA/ REUTERS/Samsul Said)

One afternoon in October, in the watery no-man’s land between Thailand and Myanmar, Muhammad Ismail vanished.

Thai immigration officials said he was being deported to Myanmar. In fact, they sold Ismail, 23, and hundreds of other Rohingya Muslims to human traffickers, who then spirited them into brutal jungle camps.

from Edward Hadas:

The pope takes on economics’ pro-rich bias

The leading theories of economics and finance are usually produced for the rich. Pope Francis deserves praise for suggesting an economics for the poor.

The typical criteria of economic success – such as efficient pricing, fully competitive markets and rapid GDP growth – sound uncaring. And they often are. One problem is that most of the leading theories have an implicit pro-rich bias. For example, the Capital Asset Pricing Model, a basic tool in finance, assumes that the rich investors who can afford to take big bets deserve extra-large rewards when things go well. Or consider how most governments’ economic policy aims first and foremost at GDP growth, basically ignoring the uncomfortable truth that the already rich typically take a disproportionate share of additional production.

By contrast, pro-poor concepts receive almost no attention. Mainstream thinkers rarely say that the rich people who have gained from the economy have an obligation of solidarity with the poor who have lost out. Most of them have never heard of the idea (common in Catholic circles) that private property comes with a “social mortgage”, a debt to the society which makes that property valuable.

Dutch bishops give Pope Francis a bleak picture of Catholic Church in decline

(A health centre unit is built inside a former Catholic church in Eindhoven that has been sold because of dramatic falls in levels of churchgoing in the Netherlands. Photo taken 20 March 2012/Tom Heneghan)

Dutch bishops visiting Rome this week have given Pope Francis a dramatic snapshot of the steep decline of Roman Catholicism in its European heartland.

Both Catholic and Protestant Christian ranks have shrunk dramatically across Europe in recent decades, and hundreds of churches have been sold off to be turned into apartments, shops, bars or warehouses.

Central African Republic leader denies genocide, Christian-Muslim war threats

(Soldiers stand guard as interim Central African Republic’s President Michel Djotodia attends a ceremony in Bangui, November 30, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney)

Central African Republic transitional leader Michel Djotodia on Saturday denied European assertions that his country was on the brink of genocide and all-out inter-religious war.

The impoverished but mineral-rich nation of 4.6 million has descended into chaos since Djotodia led Seleka rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, to the riverside capital in March, ousting President Francois Bozize.

‘Cyber-Hindus’ – India’s new breed of political activists backing BJP’s Modi

(Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi addresses his BJP party’s supporters during a rally ahead of the state elections, in New Delhi November 30, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee)

Four men chatting in a Delhi bar are not, by their own admission, natural drinking buddies.

The young professionals in their 20s and 30s come from vastly different regions of India and varied backgrounds.

Croatia sets a constitutional bar to same-sex marriage

(Zagreb’s Roman Catholic cathedral, 23 October 2006/Jajaniseva)

Croats voted overwhelmingly in favour of defining marriage in the constitution as a “union of man and woman” on Sunday, a move initiated by Roman Catholic groups but criticised by opponents as discrimination against homosexuals.

Almost 66 percent of those who voted in the referendum in the new European Union member endorsed the initiative, launched by the Catholic group “In the Name of the Family”, according to preliminary results on Sunday night. Turnout was 37 percent.

The group had gathered over 740,000 signatures in support of the referendum, forcing parliament to call the vote.