GUESTVIEW: European liberals – stand up and speak out in Islam debate

By Guest Contributor
December 11, 2009
minarets-train

Posters for minaret ban at Zurich train station, 26 Oct 2009/Arnd Wiegmann

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Dr H.A. Hellyer is Fellow of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick, author of “Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans”and Director of the Visionary Consultants Group.

from Photographers' Blog:

Pilgrimage to Mecca

December 2, 2009

Coverage of the 2009 Haj pilgrimage was an enlightening experience for me as a photographer. I have covered many religious events in Iran but never anything as enormous as the Haj - this year complete with the added threat of H1N1.

U.N. rights boss denounces Swiss ban on minarets

December 1, 2009

minaret-protestThe top U.N. rights official in Geneva has said  Switzerland’s ban on building minarets was “deeply divisive” and at odds with its international legal obligations.

The Swiss minaret ban and other trends for Islam in Europe

November 30, 2009

minarets-trainSwitzerland’s vote to ban minarets on mosques there raises the question of whether anything similar might happen elsewhere in Europe. Researching this for an analysis of the vote today, I found experts distinguished between actually banning an Islamic symbol such as the minaret and using the minaret example to fan voters’ fears and boost a (usually far-right) party’s chances at the polls. It seems Switzerland’s trademark direct democracy system makes it possibly the only country in Europe where both seem possible right now.

All are equal on the haj, but some just more than others

November 29, 2009

haj-hotelThe haj is supposed to be a time when Muslim pilgrims from all walks of life forget the material aspects of life on earth to wipe the slate clean of their sins and declare their acceptance of Islam as God’s ultimate religion for mankind. The simple white robe and sandals the male pilgrims wear are meant to symbolise the equality of all the faithful in the eyes of God. While these spiritual aspects are certainly present at the annual event, pilgrims are also confronted daily with scenes reminding them today’s haj is far from the way it started out 1,400 years ago. But most of them seem to come to terms with that.

Age-old haj stoning of devil pillars in modern multistory complex

November 27, 2009

mena (Photo: Haj pilgrims stone pillars symbolising the devil in Mena outside Mecca, 27 Nov 2009/Caren Firouz)

Around two million Muslim pilgrims stoned pillars symbolising the devil in a narrow valley in Saudi Arabia on Friday at what has traditionally been the most dangerous stage of the haj pilgrimage. The pillars stand at Mena, where Muslims believe the devil appeared to the Prophet Abraham.

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan: the Gods of war

November 27, 2009

[CROSSPOST blog: 27 post: 4308]

Original Post Text:
peshawar twoIn openDemocracy, Paul Rogers writes that one of the great mistakes of the media is that it tends to assume the only actors in the campaign against Islamist militants are governments, with al Qaeda and the Taliban merely passive players.

Sudanese woman in trouser case writes book, defies travel ban

November 24, 2009

lubnaA Sudanese woman who was punished for breaching (insert: what authorities say are) Islamic decency laws by wearing trousers has defied a travel ban by coming to France to publicise her new book.

Saudi Arabia seeks to curb flu and stop protest at haj

November 24, 2009

haj-maskMore than two million Muslims gather this week for the annual haj pilgrimage to Islam’s holy city of Mecca, where Saudi authorities hope to minimize spread of the H1N1 virus and prevent any political demonstration.

Masked gunman kills Russian priest at Moscow church

November 20, 2009

russian-church (Photo: Russian Orthodox church in Moscow, 1 July 2009/Sergei Karpukhin)

A masked gunman entered a Moscow church and murdered a Russian Orthodox priest who had received death threats for converting Muslims to Christianity and criticizing Islam, prosecutors and church officials said Friday.  The killing could threaten delicate relations between the powerful majority Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Kremlin, and the country’s growing Muslim minority of about 20 million.