FaithWorld

from India Insight:

Delhi shaped South Asia’s Muslim identity, Pakistani author says

Raza Rumi is based in Lahore, but the public policy specialist and Friday Times editor's new book is based in another milieu entirely. "Delhi by heart" is a kind of travelogue about a city that is the source of a shared heritage that spans hundreds of years.

By his own admission, it is a "heartfelt account" of how a Pakistani comes to India, an “enemy country”, and discovers that its capital has, in fact, so many things common with Lahore.

"I wanted to write the biography of Darah Shikoh, the great Indian Mughal prince," Rumi said. "While researching for that, and while visiting Delhi all the time, I felt really it merits a Pakistani version as well because for these five years we have been so much cut off and we have misunderstood each other so much that it is time to sort of build bridges. Hence the book."

Just two days after the book came out in July, there was fighting on the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of five Indian soldiers. Relations between the neighbours have since been strained, and there have been reports of cultural and religious exchanges being cancelled.

This backdrop and the past 66 years of separation, mistrust and aggression have forced Pakistan into recasting its history and its heritage in ways that create a blind spot where India used to be, Rumi noted.

U.S. religious publishers reap rewards with Justin Bieber and the Bible

(A woman reads her Bible during a weekly bible study meeting at the West Unity Methodist Church in Unity, New Hampshire July 5, 2011/Brian Snyder)

Religious publishers in the United States are busy these days, releasing such new books as a biography of pop music phenom and devout Christian Justin Bieber — entitled “Belieber!: Fame, Faith and The Heart of Justin Bieber.” Other tomes mix spirituality with memoir and self-help topics. New editions of the Bible have also been released recently,  as well as e-books and audio book downloads by popular religious authors.

“Both in dollars and units sold, the industry is back in line with its historical growth of the last decade,” since the recession, said Byron Williamson, head of Worthy Publishing in Nashville, a center  for religious publishing in the United States that some say is second only to New York City for book publishing.

Seeds of Arab Spring sown in Islam’s past, Turkish author says

(Mustafa Akyol at the Council on Foreign Relations 'Religion and the Open Society' Symposium In New York March 25, 2008 in this publicity photo released to Reuters July 13, 2011/Council on Foreign Relations)

Eight year-old Mustafa Akyol was looking at a book in his grandfather’s library when he saw something that shocked him: a passage advising parents to beat impious children. Now, Akyol is a journalist in Turkey, and he hopes the Arab Spring shows a different side of Islam: one where there is no conflict between Islam and political freedom.

His new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” which is being released in the United States on July 18, aims to tell people that there is a long history of freedom in the Islamic world. “The fact that so many Arab countries have been run by dictators fostered the myth that it’s the only type of government that those countries can produce,” Akyol told Reuters. “The current uprisings are showing that this is wrong.”

Pope’s Jesus book raps religious violence, explains exoneration of Jews

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(A priest reads Pope Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth" in a book shop in Rome March 10, 2011/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has condemned violence committed in God’s name and personally exonerated Jews of responsibility for Jesus’ death in his latest book, released on Thursday. The book, the second in a planned three-part series on the life of Jesus, is a detailed, highly theological and academic recounting of the last week in Jesus’ life.

Publishers have printed 1.2 million copies of the book in seven languages. A blaze of international publicity included teleconferences with the media in several countries.

New pope book says Jews not guilty of Jesus Christ’s death

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(Pope Benedict XVI waves during his Wednesday general audience at the Vatican March 2, 2011/Tony Gentile )

Pope Benedict, in a new book, has personally exonerated Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ’s death, repudiating the concept of collective guilt that has haunted Christian-Jewish relations for centuries. Jewish groups applauded the move. The Anti-Defamation League called it “an important and historic moment” and hoped that it would help complicated theology “translate down to the pews” to improve grass roots inter-religious dialogue.

The pope makes his complex theological and biblical evaluation in a section of the second volume of his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” which will be published next week. The Vatican released brief excerpts on Wednesday.

Condoms still banned for birth control: Vatican

Pope Benedict’s acknowledgement that using condoms may be justified to stop the spread of AIDS did not signify a change in the Catholic Church’s ban on their use as contraception, the Vatican said Tuesday. cdf(Image: Heading of statement on condom use, Dec 21, 2010/ Bollettino Sala Stampa della Santa Sede)

In a statement, the Vatican’s doctrinal department said there had been “erroneous interpretations” of the pope’s words which had caused confusion concerning the Church’s views on sexual morality. In a book published last month entitled “Light of the World”, the pope used the example of a prostitute to say there were cases where using a condom to avoid transmitting HIV could be justified as a “first step” toward moralization, even though condoms were “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

Liberal Catholics welcomed the comments in the book but the conservative wing of the Church expressed concern and Tuesday’s statement appeared partly aimed at reassuring them.

Beard guide and song ban among Salafist books barred in Algeria

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(Photo: Customs officers inspect books purchased at an Islamic book fair in Algiers, searching for Salafist books, October 29, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)

Concerned by the growing influence of the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Islam, Algeria has this year been cracking down on the import and distribution of Salafist literature. Salafist publications, most printed in Saudi Arabia, are still available in some specialist bookstores. See our feature on this crackdown here.

Following is a selection of titles on sale in a bookshop in Rouiba, an eastern suburb of the Algerian capital.

Algeria targets Salafist books in battle with hardline Islam

algeria salafi (Photo: Sheikh Chemseddine Bouroubi, a well-known traditional Algerian imam, reads a religious book at a Salafist stand at a book fair in Algiers October 29, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)

Algeria is cracking down on imports of books preaching the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Islam, officials and industry insiders say, in a step aimed at reining in the ideology’s growing influence.

Salafism is a school of Islam that has its roots in Saudi Arabia and emphasises religious purity. Its followers reject the trappings of modern life, including music, Western styles of dress and taking part in politics.

Algeria has for years turned a blind eye to Salafism, but recent shows of strength by its followers — including some Salafist clerics refusing to stand for the national anthem — have focussed official attention on the group.

Lively debate among Catholics interpreting pope’s condom remarks

papaPope Benedict’s surprising view that condoms can sometimes be used to fight AIDS has kindled a lively debate among Roman Catholic theologians and commentators about whether this amounts to a change in Church thinking.

His comments and a Vatican clarification that expanded on them seem to leave no doubt that Benedict has spoken with unprecedented frankness for a pontiff and shifted the focus a bit from the Church’s rejection of condoms to avoid disease. (Photo: Pope Benedict at his weekly audience 24 November 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)

But the format of his remarks — in a book of interviews with a German journalist rather than an official Vatican document — and some confusion over translations have opened a gap allowing divergent interpretations.

Vatican broadens case for condoms to fight AIDS

licht 1Pope Benedict’s landmark acknowledgement that the use of condoms is sometimes morally justifiable to stop AIDS is valid not only for gay male prostitutes but for heterosexuals and transsexuals too, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The clarification, which some moral theologians called “groundbreaking,” was the latest step in what is already seen as a significant shift in Catholic Church policy. (Photo: The pope’s book in German (r) and Italian (l) displayed at a Vatican news conference, November 23, 2010/Alessandro Bianchi)

It came at a news conference to launch the pope’s new book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times.”