FaithWorld

from India Insight:

Reema Abbasi and a glimpse of Pakistan’s Hindu past

“Historic Temples in Pakistan: A Call to Conscience” is a book-length attempt to record in pictures the history of an Islamic country’s Hindu past, especially as extremist activity mounts against Pakistan's religious and ethnic minorities, including Ahmadis, Christians, Sikhs and Shia Muslims.

Reema Abbasi, the book's author, travelled the country to write this narrative of about 40 old religious sites, including Hindu temples in the jagged terrain of the western state of Balochistan. She also visited the Thar desert and the Indus River valley in the state of Sindh, as well as Karachi, Lahore, Punjab and dangerous stretches of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along the border with Afghanistan.

Born a Pakistani in the Netherlands, she went to school in England, college in Karachi, and then worked as a journalist. A self-described "spiritual Muslim," she has aspects of most religions in her home, such as an idol of Sai Baba, the cross and quranic verses.

“In the last 10 years, I have been focusing on socio-political [reporting] and then the whole hardliner issues here, and sectarianism. Not in the cities, but in upper north where there are pockets of extremists and terrorists. Given that climate, the kind of issues that were arising at the time and what I was writing about - I think that was the part towards this [book].

“[The shrines] were spellbinding. For me some of the structures were imbued with so much energy. … These places continue to bring so much together and serve multiple functions in their own capacity -- their shelters, their inscriptions, their half-way houses for travelers, they provide relief to homeless. So in their very being they are doing so much. I think that’s the beauty of all ancient faith. Mosques do that, churches do that. That’s where all ancient faiths merge. It is very important to celebrate that kind of unity in diversity, rather than deny it,” Abbasi told India Insight in a telephone interview from Karachi.

Islamic State’s appeal presents Jordan with new test

(A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking 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)

(A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

He had a good job and a loving family, but it wasn’t enough for a 25-year old Jordanian who abandoned his life of privilege in Amman to join the Islamic State group that has seized swathes of neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

Handsome, courteous and highly regarded in his profession as a radiologist, the man, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, disappeared in early August after the Muslim Eid holiday. He did not tell his family where he was going.

Ultra-orthodox Jews forced from Guatemala village after local opposition

(A young member of a Jewish community looks back while walking towards a bus as he and fellow members prepare to leave the village of San Juan La Laguna August 29, 2014. A few months after moving from Canada to a remote part of Guatemala to find religious freedom, a group of ultra orthodox Jews have been forced out of their homes in a bitter conflict with hostile villagers. The Lev Tahor community packed its bags on Friday in San Juan la Laguna around 150 km (93 miles) west of Guatemala City, to board buses bound for the capital after weeks of friction with sections of the local population. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez)

(A young member of a Jewish community looks back while walking towards a bus as he and fellow members prepare to leave the village of San Juan La Laguna August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez)

A few months after moving from Canada to a remote part of Guatemala to find religious freedom, a group of ultra orthodox Jews have been forced out of their homes in a bitter conflict with hostile villagers.

The Lev Tahor community packed its bags on Friday in San Juan la Laguna around 150 km (93 miles) west of Guatemala City, to board buses bound for the capital after weeks of friction with sections of the local population.

Capital gains mean church losses in new German tax twist

(The Cologne cathedral is pictured October 16, 2005. WORLD CUP 2006 PREVIEW CITYSCAPE REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/)

(The Cologne cathedral,  October 16, 2005. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/)

A change in Germany’s capital gains tax has prompted an exodus from its Catholic and Protestant churches this year as thousands of registered members quit their parishes rather than pay the money.

Dioceses in both churches have reported in recent weeks that the number of members deserting them has jumped compared to last year, often by 50 percent or more, as banks prepare to withdraw church tax at source for capital gains from January 1.

German tax authorities collect an 8 or 9 percent premium on churchgoers’ annual tax bills and channel it to the faiths to pay clergy salaries, charity services and other expenses. Members must officially leave the church to avoid paying this.

One Iraq villager’s refusal to convert triggered Islamic State mass killings

(A refugee woman from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, sits with a child inside a tent at Nowruz refugee camp in Qamishli, northeastern Syria August 17, 2014. Proclaiming a caliphate straddling parts of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State militants have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes. Picture taken August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Rodi Said )

(A refugee woman from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, sits with a child inside a tent at Nowruz refugee camp in Qamishli, northeastern Syria August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Rodi Said)

When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die only one person refused. But that did not satisfy the Sunni insurgents who are even more hardline than al Qaeda.

The militants, who have seized much of northern Iraq since arriving from Syria in June, wasted no time after the village’s leader, or sheikh, stood up for his ancient Yazidi faith.

Violence, threats, prompt more Muslim women in Britain to wear a veil

(Yasmin (L), 16, pushes Hana (C), 16, on a swing after finishing a GCSE exam near their school in Hackney, east London June 6, 2013. Hana started wearing her headscarf full time aged 12. She was already wearing it at school and her family supported her so it was easy for her to make the decision. She says if felt like nothing had changed except her relationship with God. Reuters photographer Olivia Harris took portraits of a range of Muslim women in Britain and asked them why they chose to wear a hijab or veil. Picture taken June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris)

(Yasmin (L), 16, pushes Hana (C), 16, on a swing after finishing a GCSE exam near their school in Hackney, east London June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris)

When youth worker Sumreen Farooq was abused in a London street, the 18-year-old decided it was time to take a stand – and she started to wear a headscarf.

Farooq is one of many young Muslim women living in Britain who have, for various reasons, chosen to adopt the headscarf to declare their faith to all around them, despite figures showing rising violence against visibly identifiable Muslims.

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti denounces Islamic State group as un-Islamic

(Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008. A bomb attack on the residence of the Saudi ambassador to Chad killed the wife and daughter of an embassy employee taking shelter from the fighting between the government and rebel forces. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)

(Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom’s grand mufti at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, has said the militant groups Islamic State and al Qaeda were “enemy number one of Islam” and not in any way part of the faith.

Although the mufti and other senior Saudi clerics have condemned Islamic State, al Qaeda and other groups before, the timing of Al al-Sheikh’s statement is significant given the gains by militants in Iraq.

China punishes Xinjiang official for openly practising faith

(A Muslim Uighur man prays at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in the southwestern part of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, September 17, 2003. China has been carrying out patriotic re-education in mosques in order to suppress separatism. The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur separatists have been fighting for the past 150 years for an independent East Turkestan homeland in southern Xinjiang. The Id Kah Mosque has been established for more than 500 years and is the biggest in China. Picture taken September 17, 2003. REUTERS/Andrew Wong )

(A Muslim Uighur man prays at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, September 17, 2003. REUTERS/Andrew Wong)

China has reprimanded 15 Xinjiang officials for violations that include adhering to religious faith, state media has said, amid a crackdown on what the government calls illegal religious activities in the unruly western region.

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence that the Chinese government blames on Islamist militants and separatists.

from Photographers' Blog:

Brief encounter with a fleeing Yazidi

Fishkhabour, Iraq

By Youssef Boudlal

I remember the scene well. It was the day that I arrived at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of Fishkhabour.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes were struggling in temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), waiting patiently for local Kurdish aid.

At first, I focused my camera on a group of women sitting on the ground, but when I turned away I saw this little girl.

from Jack Shafer:

The Islamic State buys itself a day of horror, little else, by killing James Foley

By uploading a video of its execution of journalist James Foley to the Web on Tuesday, the Islamic State achieves the impossible: It re-executes him every time somebody presses play.

The horror of perpetual re-execution was obviously the Islamic State's goal. Nobody with a soul—knowing what's coming—can listen to Foley's speech without their hearts going full-throttle and shuddering at the murderous climax. For its troubles, the Islamic State has gotten a sliver of what it wants today. The story dominates the news. The video has become available on every desktop, laptop, and smartphone in the world. People are beseeching one another not to link to the video. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has announced the suspension of accounts that tweet the graphic images, and the New York Post and Daily News are suffering a boatload of criticism for printing screen-grabs of the murder on their morning covers.

And yet, video-beheading seems to be a strategy to nowhere. Al Qaeda attempted similar contamination of our dream pools more than a decade ago with its 2002 video killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, which was also disseminated on the Web. Like the Islamic State video, which proclaimed it was a "message to America," Al Qaeda's video was designed to deter the U.S. government from continuing to intervene in Iraq and to shift American public opinion. But had the Al Qaeda strategy been successful, the United States wouldn't be bombing in northern Iraq today. More likely, the videos, which our Western eyes tell us are staged for our benefit, are really aimed at the video-makers' constituents to attract maximum attention, showcase the groups' power, attract recruits, and build cadres - all things that the video may actually do.