FaithWorld

Indonesian presidential hopeful prays quick Mecca trip will win votes

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. The closest and dirtiest presidential race in Indonesia's young democracy could be decided on Wednesday among the mosques and rice paddies of West Java, the nation's most populous province. Former special forces chief Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, leaving markets in Southeast Asia's largest economy under pressure and on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome. Picture taken July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

The front-runner in Wednesday’s Indonesian presidential election has flown to Mecca on a whirlwind pilgrimage in a last-ditch bid to win voters among the world’s largest Muslim population and put to rest damaging suggestions that he is really a Christian.

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has seen his huge early lead in polls narrow sharply in what has become Indonesia’s dirtiest and tightest presidential race in the face of a sharp and well-financed campaign by his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

Some opinion polls show the July 9 race is now too close to call.

The pilgrimage could mean the difference between winning and losing the presidency after a smear campaign suggesting Jokowi was an ethnic-Chinese Christian hurt his popularity.

The suggestion is politically ruinous in a society where more than 90 percent of people are native Indonesians and adhere to Islam. Jokowi is both Muslim and an indigenous Indonesian. [ID:nL4N0P00LA]

UK imams urge British Muslims to shun Syria and Iraq

(Men attend Friday prayers at the central mosque in Birmingham, central England February 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rui Vieira)

(An imam addresses men attending Friday prayers at the central mosque in Birmingham, central England February 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rui Vieira)

More than 100 Islamic prayer-leaders from various denominations of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims have signed a letter calling on British Muslims not to travel to Iraq or Syria to fight.

“We urge the British Muslim communities to continue the generous and tireless efforts to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but to do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way,” said the open letter, released on Friday (for text, click here).

Muslims in China’s Xinjiang told to ignore Ramadan customs

(An Imam calls on Muslim Uighurs for their afternoon prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. Picture taken August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

(An Imam calls  Muslim Uighurs to prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

Officials in China’s restive western region of Xinjiang have told Muslims to ignore religious customs during the holy month of Ramadan, an indication of what rights groups say is discrimination targeting the Uighur minority group.

The fasting month follows a series of attacks around China, centred on Xinjiang, that Beijing has blamed on Islamists they say are seeking to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Jordanian jihadist thinker says Islamic caliphate will cause Islamist infighting

(Militant Islamist fighters gesture as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

(Militant Islamist ISIL fighters gesture as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian scholar who is one of the most influential voices in jihadist thought, warned on Wednesday that a radical Islamist group’s declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria would deepen already bloody infighting among jihadists.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Sunday renamed itself the Islamic State and declared its leader “caliph” – the historical title of successors of the Prophet Mohammad who ruled the whole Muslim world – after its forces captured swathes of territory in a lightning drive across northern Iraq.

Growing concern in Muslim world about Islamist militancy: Pew survey

(Members of the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls group attend a meeting at Maitama park in Abuja May 30, 2014. The meeting was moved to Maitama park on Friday after unidentified assailants attacked members of the group with bottles and chairs at Unity fountain on Wednesday. Nigeria's president said on Thursday he had ordered "a full-scale operation" against Boko Haram Islamist militants and sought to reassure parents of 219 schoolgirls being held by the group that their children would be freed. Picture taken May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

(Members of the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls group attend a meeting at Maitama park in Abuja May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Large majorities in Muslim countries are increasingly worried about Islamist militancy and oppose its best-known groups, such as the global al Qaeda movement, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Hamas, according to a new survey.

Support for violent tactics such as suicide bombing has fallen in many countries over the past decade, although some states still have significant minorities approving it, the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center said.

Myanmar police fire rubber bullets to end sectarian trouble in Mandalay

(People and Buddhist monks kneel in front of the Maha Myat Muni Buddha statue in Mandalay November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

(People and Buddhist monks kneel in front of the Maha Myat Muni Buddha statue in Mandalay November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

Myanmar police fired rubber bullets on Wednesday to disperse crowds of Buddhists and Muslims facing off in the second-largest city of Mandalay, police said, in the latest outbreak of trouble in two years of sectarian unrest.

Police deployed more than 600 officers after a crowd of about 300 Buddhists including 30 monks began throwing stones near a tea shop owned by a Muslim man at 11 p.m. (1630 GMT) on Tuesday, according to a statement released by Mandalay police.

What’s in a name? Islamic banking rebrands in attempt to go mainstream

( bank staff speaks on the phone inside the Bank Islam branch office in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur November 6, 2013. London has long been the default centre for international firms to issue sharia-compliant bonds, part of a fast-growing Islamic finance sector that will be worth $2 trillion globally next year, according to consultants Ernst and Young. But it faces a mounting challenge from two centres: Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian capital has a reputation for efficient regulation of Islamic finance and a huge domestic market for local-currency Islamic bonds, which is now starting to attract foreign issuers. To match Analysis ISLAMIC-FINANCE/COMPETITION Picture taken November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Samsul Said)

( bank staff speaks on the phone inside the Bank Islam branch office in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Samsul Said)

Islamic banking is based on core principles of the religion. So it is striking that some banks are removing the word “Islam” from their names – a sign of both the potential of Islamic finance to grow, and the obstacles to it becoming mainstream.

In January, Dubai-based Noor Islamic Bank changed its name to Noor Bank. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) ADIB.AD, the emirate’s largest sharia-compliant lender, now plans to call itself Abu Dhabi International Bank when operating abroad.

Syria-Iraq ‘caliph’ urges Muslims to join in jihad in “new era”

(Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

(Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

The leader of the al Qaeda offshoot now calling itself the Islamic State has called on Muslims worldwide to take up arms and flock to the “caliphate” it has declared on captured Syrian and Iraqi soil.

Proclaiming a “new era” in which Muslims will ultimately triumph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued the call to jihad – holy war – in an audio message lasting nearly 20 minutes that was posted online on Tuesday.

European rights court backs French ban on Islamic full-face veil

(A women, wearing a niqab despite a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil, gives a phone call outside the courts in Meaux, east of Paris, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau )

(A women, wearing a niqab despite a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil, gives a phone call outside the courts in Meaux, east of Paris, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau )

The European Court of Human Rights upheld France’s 2010 ban on full-face veils in public on Tuesday but acknowledged the law could appear excessive and feed stereotypes.

Judges at the Strasbourg-based court, by 15 to 2, said the ban did not violate religious freedom and aimed to ensure “respect for the minimum set of values of an open democratic society” which included openness to social interaction.

from India Insight:

Short skirts, bad stars, chow mein: Why men in India rape women

Demonstrators from All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the recent killings of two teenage girls, in New Delhi May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The 2012 Delhi bus rape case and an ever-longer list of rapes and murders in India have prompted politicians and public figures in India to cite plenty of implausible reasons why rape happens and why men brutalise women or portray women in ways that suggest they had it coming. Many people, when speaking out, tend to minimise the crime or rationalise it in ways that sound ludicrous to many. We created this list of such comments more than a year ago, but it seems like it's time to add some new entries.

(Updated July 15, 2014) Binay Bihari, minister for art, culture and youth affairs in the state of Bihar: The minister said that mobile phones and non-vegetarian food are reasons for a surge in rape cases, NDTV reports. "Many students misuse mobile phones by watching blue films and hearing obscene songs which pollute their mind," he said. On food, he reportedly said that non-vegetarian food "contributed to hot temper... and cited sermons of sants that pure vegetarian food kept the body and mind pure and healthy." (NDTV)

(Updated July 2, 2014) Tapas Pal, lawmaker from Trinamool Congress: The popular Bengali actor was caught on camera threatening workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and their families. "If any opponent touches any Trinamool girl, any father, any child, I will destroy his entire family. I will unleash my boys, they will rape them, rape them," Pal said in the video. Pal later apologised for what he termed a "gross error of judgement". (Indian Express)