FaithWorld

from Tales from the Trail:

No decision yet on Obama Golden Temple visit: White House

Hold onto your, er, hats.

Talk that U.S. President Barack Obama has canceled a visit to The Golden Temple in Amritsar because of a dispute over headgear may be premature, the White House said on Wednesday.temple

"We pick sites on foreign trips based on what the president wants to accomplish," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling on Air Force One. Not, presumably, the outfit he might have to wear at a given site.

Obama had been expected to visit the Golden Temple in northern India, a pilgrimage site for Sikhs, during his tour of the country next month. But Indian media reports said Obama's handlers balked at the idea of the U.S. president wearing a headscarf or skullcap while touring the site.

Obama faces persistent talk among some members of the U.S. public that he is a Muslim and, the reports said, aides said pictures of him wearing such headgear could fuel such rumors.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a Sikh.

Gibbs said Obama's final itinerary during his India trip had yet to be finalized, but he expected it would be in the course of the next week.

from India Insight:

Headscarf headache to cancel Obama Temple visit

Ask any travel agent, globe-trotter or gap-year student: The Golden Temple in Amritsar, north India, is both a site of pilgrimage for Sikhs and a must-see on any tourists' Indian itinerary.Sikh devotees gather to pay their obeisance at the holy Sikh shrine of Golden Temple on the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India. REUTERS/Munish Sharma

But India's most famous foreign tourist, U.S. President Barack Obama, who will tour the country next month, may have to forego his visit.

It was supposed to be Obama's only religious appointment on the 4-day trip to India, but a politically-sensitive row over the required headwear for the temple threatens to derail his plans.

from Photographers' Blog:

A job to do on the Srinagar streets

After offering special Eid prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, I got myself ready to cover the large Eid prayer congregation at Eid Gah in downtown Srinagar where senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was scheduled to address thousands of Muslims.

Kashmiris attend an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 11, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Soon after the end of Eid prayers, Farooq called for a protest march to Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar. Continually shooting pictures I followed the tens of thousands of demonstrators shouting "we want freedom". When they reached Lal Chowk, the shouts turned to violence and I saw protesters damaging the clock tower. Again Farooq addressed the people calling for anti-India protests. I ran to the office nearby to file the pictures.

A protester holds an Islamic flag on Kashmir's clock tower as he shouts anti-India slogans during an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Ismail

As I finished filing I received a call from Sheikh Mushtaq, Reuters Kashmir correspondent, he told me protesters had set fire to police and government buildings. I rushed out to take more pictures. By the time I finished transmitting them I had worked 14 hours straight and, having fasted all day, was extremely hungry.

Indian Muslims are angry with Ayodhya verdict, but the country remains calm

ayodhya 1 (Photo: A Hindu priest walks past a mosque during Friday prayers in Ayodhya, October 1, 2010/Mukesh Gupta)

Indian Muslim clerics and leaders rallied on Friday against a court ruling over the disputed Ayodhya site that largely favoured Hindus, raising fears of further alienation of the minority community. The decision has been met with calm throughout India, despite fears the ruling could spark religious riots.

A court in Uttar Pradesh said in a judgment on Thursday that the site of a demolished mosque should be split between Hindus and Muslims. The court ruled Hindus would get two-thirds of the land and be allowed to keep a makeshift temple that was built over the razed mosque’s central dome.

In Delhi’s Jama Mosque, one of India’s largest, the chief cleric rejected the verdict.  “If we do not get our rights we will never be able to walk in this country with our heads held high,” said Shahi Imam Bukhari to shouts of “Allahu Akhbar”, or “god is greatest” by thousands of Muslims after Friday prayers. “It is our responsibility to maintain the peace, but we will not be broken, we cannot be broken. If the Supreme Court endorses the High Court’s decision, I will urge all Muslims to consider the matter with all seriousness and concern.”

Indian court says Ayodhya dispute site to be split between Hindus and Muslims

ayodhya 1An Indian court ruled on Thursday that the site of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya would be divided between Hindus and Muslims, in a ruling that could appease both groups in one of the country’s most divisive cases. (Photo: Hindu priests cheer after verdict was announced, 30 Sept 2010/Mukesh Gupta)

The court in Uttar Pradesh also ruled that Hindu idols could stay on the disputed land, lawyers added. The demolition of the 16th century mosque by Hindu mobs in 1992 triggered some of India’s worst riots that killed about 2,000 people. More than 200,000 police fanned out in India on Thursday to guard against any communal violence.

Times Now TV editor Arnab Goswami called it “nobody’s verdict, nobody’s solution,” referring to the fact there was not one clear winner. There were no immediate reports of violence after the ruling.

Security alert in India ahead of verdict in Hindu-Muslim dispute over mosque

india 1India has put tens of thousands of police on the streets and the air force on high alert ahead of possible violence when a court on Thursday rules on a century-old religious dispute between Hindus and Muslims.

The issue is haunting the ruling Congress Party, a left-of-centre party with secular roots, which will have to stand by a verdict that is likely to upset one or other major voter bloc. (Photo: Rapid Action Force personnel patrol in Allahabad,  September 28, 2010/Jitendra Prakash)

“My humble request is that whatever be the decision, please accept it in the highest tradition of magnanimity,” Sonia Gandhi, Congress party chief and the country’s most powerful politician, said in a statement. Read the full story here.

Hindu and Muslim Bollywood stars urge calm before Indian mosque verdict

priyanka002It’s a sign of how explosive the Ayodhya mosque verdict in India could be that several Hindu and Muslim film stars in Bollywood have issued a public appeal for calm once the decision is announced. As we’ve posted here on FaithWorld, an Indian court is due to announce on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque, which Hindu nationalists demolished in 1992. The Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people. (Image: Priyanka Chopra in screengrab from ANI/Reuters video)

Bollywood, the Bombay (now Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry, walks a tightrope in making mass-audience films in what may be the most religiously diverse country in the world. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars are Muslim, although the majority of viewers are Hindu (Muslims make up 13% of the Indian population). Like the actors and actresses in this appeal, many of them publicly work, play and love (see here) across the religious divide. But tensions like those after the Ayodhya mosque riots — including riots in Mumbai itself — have left their scars. Some Muslim writers (see here and here) say suspicion of Muslims is a recurring theme in Bollywood films.

farhanIn the video below, the stars mostly speak in Hindi sprinkled with occasional English words. That’s nothing unusual and can be useful as well. For example, when actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra says (at 00:48) that “in our country all religions have been living together for so long…”, she uses the English word “religion.” That was a neutral alternative to local words she might have used with either a Hindu (dharma) or Muslim (din) background.

Indian court to rule on Ayodhya mosque row on Thursday

ayodhyaAn Indian court will rule on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots that killed some 2,000 people.

Those riots were some of the country’s worst religious violence since Partition in 1947 and a verdict on the case may spark more disturbances between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims. (Photo: Hindu militants demolish the disputed mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992/Sunil Malhotra)

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Ayodhya town is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

Indian Supreme Court orders Ayodhya mosque verdict postponed

ayodhya 2 (Photo: Rapid Action Forces personnel patrol in Ayodhya, September 22, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Allahabad High Court to delay a potentially explosive verdict on whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday came after an appeal to the stay on the judgment, saying the matter could be settled out of court. The Supreme Court will meet on Sept. 28 to decide on the appeal and commentators said the date of the actual verdict by the high court — originally due on Friday — was now unclear.

The central government has been on alert for any fallout from the verdict, appealing for calm. It banned public meetings in the state and stopped all bulk mobile text messages since they could be used to spread rumours and plan riots.

India bans bulk text messages before Ayodhya mosque verdict

ayodhya 1 (Photo: Indian policemen patrol in Ayodhya, September 23, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

India has banned bulk mobile text messaging for three days to prevent the spreading of rumours and religious extremism as authorities prepare for a potentially explosive court verdict between Muslims and Hindus.

A high court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots, when some 2000 were killed. It was one of the worst outbreaks communal violence since the partition in 1947.

The government statement gave no reasons for the order, but a senior security official with knowledge of the order cited security reasons before the court verdict.