The 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.
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:
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In 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.
A 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.
More 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.
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.
A new poll by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a modest rise in concern among Americans about the threat of Islamic militancy following the deadly shootings in Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month. Here is a link to the survey.
If you’ve ever been confused by Muslim names you read in the news or unsure who’s important in the Islamic world, help is near. A new book entitled “The 500 Most Influential Muslims – 2009″ lists prominent Muslims from different fields — politics, religion, women, media, even radicals — with informative short biographies explaining who they are. It starts with an overall “top 50″ list and then surveys the most prominent Muslims in their fields. Here it is in PDF.
Muslim creationism is back in the news. There’s been a spate of articles in the U.S. and British press recently about the spread of this scripture-based challenge to Darwinian evolution among Muslims, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe. The fact that some Muslims have embraced creationism, a trademark belief of some conservative American Protestants, is not new. Reuters first wrote about it in 2006 — “Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey” — and this blog has run several posts on the issue, including an interview with Islam’s most prominent creationist, Harun Yahya. What’s new is that these ideas seem to be spreading and academics who defend evolution are holding conferences to discuss the phenomenon.
A top politician in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party has praised Buddhism while calling Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” and Islam only somewhat better. Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa made the remarks after meeting the head of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a group traditionally close to the rival Liberal Democratic Party, which was trounced by the Democrats in an August election.