Remember all the talk about France banning the burqa and niqab Muslim veils for women a few months ago? That project is now in the parliamentary inquiry phase, a six-month fact-finding mission expected to wind up late this year and produce a draft bill to outlaw them. That’s the way France handled it in 2003 when it wanted to stop Muslim girls from wearing headscarves to state schools. But the process seems more complex this time around. There’s less passion and more hesitation in the debate. A smooth progression from the inquiry to the ban and to its implementation no longer looks assured.
Recent moves in Indonesia, including plans by one province to stone adulterers to death, have raised concerns about the reputation of the world’s most populous Muslin country as a beacon of moderate Islam.
If you don’t know anything about the Koran but want to learn, does it make any difference if you’re an American “dummy” or a French “nul”? That isn’t meant to cast doubts about knowledge on either side of the Atlantic. But it does arise now that the French version of the American guide to Islam’s holy book has just been published in Paris.
Saudi Arabia is launching its first co-educational high-tech university, but unless clerical influence is removed the state education system will not move into the modern age, analysts say. King Abdullah has invited heads of state, business leaders and Nobel laureates next week to the opening of a technology university which has attracted top scientists and is meant to produce Saudi scientists and engineers.
U.S. author Robert Wright traces the history of God and suggests that it might all point to the unfolding of something divine, though perhaps not in the sense that most people of faith would envision.
The percentage of Americans who believe Islam encourages violence has declined and very basic knowledge about the faith has shown modest increases, according to a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Thirty-eight percent of those polled believed Islam was more likely than other faiths to encourage violence, down from the 45 percent who held this view two years earlier.
The Swiss Council of Religions, which is composed of leaders from the country’s Christian, Jewish and Islamic organisations, has issued a statement rejecting a proposed ban on minarets. A group of right-wing anti-immigrant politicians has gathered more than 100,000 signatures to support the so-called Minaret Initiative, saying the minarets threaten law and order. The vote is due on November 29.
An Afghan journalist, sentenced to death for blasphemy, reduced to 20 years’ jail on appeal, has been set free and is living in exile in an undisclosed country, a media watchdog has said. Perwiz Kambakhsh, 24, a reporter with the Afghan Jahan-e Now daily, was sentenced to death in January 2008 by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.