FaithWorld

UK mosque denounced Stockholm bomber for militancy

lutonA man linked to two bomb blasts in Stockholm at the weekend had stormed out of a mosque in England several years ago and never returned after its leader challenged him over his radical ideas. Taymour Abdulwahab, a Swedish national of Middle Eastern origin who died in one of the blasts he is believed to have triggered, attended an Islamic Center in the town of Luton, southern England, and also studied at the local university. (Photo: Islamic Centre in Luton, December 13, 2010/Eddie Keogh)

Farasat Latif, secretary of the center, told Reuters that Abdulwahab had spent three to four weeks at the mosque in 2006 or 2007 during the month of Ramadan. “He was very friendly, bubbly initially and people liked him. But he came to the attention of our committee for preaching extremist ideas,” Latif told Reuters.

Latif said the centre’s chairman took Abdulwahab aside and told him that his views were incorrect and a “distorted view of Islam.” He was told not to air them again, but after initially agreeing, he resumed preaching his radical views.

“When we realized that he wasn’t going to stop our chairman decided after the early morning prayer in front of the entire congregation to expose him and his views without naming him,” Latif said.

Read the full story here.

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U.S. pastor who threatened to burn Koran plans British visit

terry jonesAn American Christian preacher who rose from obscurity to cause global uproar this year by threatening to burn the Koran says he plans to visit Britain to speak at an event hosted by a far-right anti-Islamist group.

Anti-extremist groups have urged the British government to ban entry to Florida Pastor Terry Jones, whose threat to burn Islam’s holy book on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks provoked widespread condemnation.

Britain’s Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May said on Sunday she would be looking into the case.

Muslims in Azerbaijan protest for right to wear headscarves

azerbaijan (Photo: Pro-headscarf protest at the education ministry in Baku, December 10, 2010/Turkhan Karimov)

Hundreds of people protested in Azerbaijan on Friday for the right to wear Islamic headscarves in schools, challenging the strictly secular regime. Around 800-1,000 people took part in the demonstration outside the Ministry of Education, far more than Azerbaijan’s opposition has mustered in recent years to demand reform in the tightly-controlled former Soviet republic.

Some Islamic communities in mainly Shi’ite Azerbaijan complain of discrimination by a regime analysts say is anxious to stem any challenge from politicised Islam or radicalism as a potential threat to stability in the oil and gas exporter.

There is no explicit ban on the wearing of headscarves in schools, but the government this year introduced a standard school uniform which precludes traditional Islamic dress.

Saudi king, religious police, Islam and donkeys – via WikiLeaks

mutaween 1 (Photo: Religious police perform dusk prayers with Saudi youth outside a Riyadh cafe on June 27, 2010 during half-time of the Germany-England World Cup soccer match. The police ensured that people watching matches in cafes said their prayers during the tournament/Fahad Shadeed)

WikiLeaks has come up with an interesting insight into the way King Abdullah views his own kingdom’s religious police, the mutaween who enforce Islamic behaviour in public. A cable from the Riyadh embassy entitled IDEOLOGICAL AND OWNERSHIP TRENDS IN THE SAUDI MEDIA and dated 11 May 2009 mentions what appears to be a U.S. diplomat’s visit to a Saudi newspaper editor whose name is XXXed out. The Saudi says the king had visited the office and complained about how ignorant the religious police were about Islam and how they  treated people like donkeys:

//Okaz//
18. (S) In a meeting with Jeddah CG and XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX was blunt when asked about SAG efforts in countering extremist thinking. “King Abdallah was here,” he said, pointing around his well-appointed office XXXXXXXXXXXX in Jeddah. “He told us that conservative elements in Saudi society do not understand true Islam, and that people needed to be educated” on the subject. King Abdallah, he said, used a metaphor of a donkey to explain how the religious police use the wrong approach. “They take a stick and hit you with it, saying ‘Come donkey, it’s time to pray.’ How does that help people behave like good Muslims?” XXXXXXXXXXXX quoted the king as saying.

The same cable also comments on a new and more moderate tone in religious programming on some television channels:

Scathing U.S. view of French unrest and Muslim integration in WikiLeaks

burbs 1 (Photo: Local youths watch firemen extinguish burning vehicles during clashes in the Paris suburb of Aulnay sur Bois, early November 3, 2005/Victor Tonelli)

The U.S. embassy in Paris turns out to be one of the sharpest critics of France’s track record in integrating its Muslim minority. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now have its unvarnished view of the 2005 unrest in the poor suburbs of Paris and other large cities. It is a scathing indictment that goes beyond even what many of the government’s domestic critics at the time were saying. It may also go beyond most if not all of the criticisms of domestic policy found in cables from other European capitals (has anyone found anything more devastating elsewhere?). Here is our overall news report on the cables. Some excerpts from the key cables are copied below.

burbs 2For FaithWorld, it’s especially interesting to see what the embassy says about “what the violence is not”. Back in those days, some American media were throwing around terms like “Paris intifada” and “Muslim riots” as if Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” had reached the outlying stations of the Paris Metro network. The cables are clearly written to refute that view. Yes, many of the rioters came from a Muslim background, but this was a socio-economic protest by a growing underclass, as we have argued in earlier posts such as  “Smoke without fire – there was no ‘Paris intifada’ in 2005″ and “Why we don’t call them ‘Muslim riots’ in Paris suburbs.” (Photo:  Hooded youths from poor suburbs of Paris taunt riot police during a nationwide protest against a youth jobs law,  in Paris March 28, 2006/Jacky Naegelen)

If religion had to be brought into the issue, it would have to be mentioned as an underlying cultural background on both sides — something that French politicians and editorialists didn’t do and don’t like. But this cable did do that in one of its most striking quotes — “The real problem is the failure of white and Christian France to view their darker, Muslim compatriots as real citizens.” As Le Monde put it: “The Americans’ logic has never been explained in such transparent fashion.”

Top Islamic finance scholars oppose bid to improve corporate governance

islamic bankTwo of the Gulf’s top Islamic finance scholars spoke out against efforts to reduce the number of boards they and their peers are allowed to sit on, challenging industry attempts to improve corporate governance. Bankers in the emerging $1 trillion Islamic finance industry say the concentration of hundreds of board positions in the hands of a few sharia scholars leads to conflicts of interest and hampers appropriate supervision. (Photo: Islamic bank ATM machines in Dubai, January 28, 2008/Jumana El Heloueh)

Bahrain-based industry body AAOIFI is drafting rules to regulate scholars’ shareholdings and the number of sharia supervisory boards a single scholar can sit on. “There is no need to limit the number of boards,” Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, one of the most revered Islamic finance scholars in the Gulf Arab region, told a conference in Manama. He sits on several dozen sharia supervisory boards.

He said there was no similar criticism of other groups such as lawyers or accounting firms working for several banks: “Why should (sharia scholars) not be treated like other professionals in the field?”

“The Jury is Out”: WikiLeaks shows U.S. trying to understand Islam in Turkey

turkey 3 (Photo: A commuter ferry sails past the Blue Mosque in Istanbul September 4, 2010/Osman Orsal)

The WikiLeaks documents from the U.S. embassy in Ankara show several attempts by American diplomats to understand the role of Islam and the Islamic world in the political stand of the governing AK Party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Their efforts can be summarised in a subtitle of a cable in 2007 purporting to show “the truth behind the AKP’s “secret Islamic agenda.” It said simply: The Jury is Out.”

Following are some interesting excerpts, with links to the full documents:

20 Jan 2010 — WHAT LIES BENEATH ANKARA’S NEW FOREIGN POLICY

1. (C) There is much talk in chanceries and in the international media these days about Turkey’s new, highly activist foreign policy …  The ruling AKP foreign policy is driven by both a desire to be more independently activist, and by a more Islamic orientation…

turkey 52. (C) Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely. Does it mean that it is “abandoning” or wants to abandon its traditional Western orientation and willingness to cooperate with us? Absolutely not. At the end of the day we will have to live with a Turkey whose population is propelling much of what we see …  Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world class “Western” institutions, competencies, and orientation, and Middle Eastern culture and religion.

Russia’s Islamist rebels mull language switch to Arabic or Turkish

grozny (Photo: Workers clean blood from the sidewalk outside the parliament building in Grozny October 19, 2010 following a suicide attack there that killed four people/Kazbek Basayev)

Militants waging an Islamist insurgency in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region have proposed using either Arabic or a Turkic language as a lingua franca for their affairs. The insurgents now communicate with each other largely in Russian, also the main language of the dozen or so Islamist web sites they are affiliated with, and of their video addresses.

The insurgency leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, suggested earlier this month that a “state” language be formed for the self-styled Caucasus Emirate, a grouping of Muslim republics including Chechnya and Dagestan that want to quit Russia.

Arabic was proposed due to its status as “the language of Islam,” while a Turkic group language was suggested due to the historical and linguistic links of dozens of languages spoken in the North Caucasus. Last week a member of the Caucasus Emirate, Abu Zaid, posted a long appeal on kavkazcenter.com in favor of Arabic as a state language for the Caucasus Emirate, calling it “the international language of jihad.”

Beard guide and song ban among Salafist books barred in Algeria

algeria salafi 2

(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.