FaithWorld

Morocco expels proselytising Christians ‘to prevent conflict’

rabat church

Saint Pierre Cathedral in Rabat, November 12, 2008/Rafael Marchante

Morocco has expelled foreign Christians who tried to convert Muslims because, as a moderate Islamic state, it wants to foster “order and calm” and avoid a clash between faiths, its Islamic affairs minister has  said.

The government has expelled around 100 foreign Christians since March, many of them aid workers, in what Western diplomats have called an unprecedented crackdown on undercover preaching.

“These incidents (expulsions) were prompted by the activism of some foreigners who undermined public order,” Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs Minister Ahmed Toufiq told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday. “There are some who hide their proselytism and religious activism under the guise of other activities.”

The Islamist-leaning newspaper Attajdid reported on Thursday that the authorities had ordered 23 foreigners to leave last week and that this was part of a new wave of such expulsions.

Read the full story by Lamine Ghanmi here.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

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Sarkozy says Muslims should not feel singled out by full veil ban

burqa

A veiled woman in Nantes, western France, on April 26, 2010/Stephane Mahe

France attempted the arguably impossible on Wednesday by presenting a bill to ban Muslim face veils and asking Muslims not to feel it was singling them out in the process.

President Nicolas Sarkozy made a brave effort of it at the cabinet meeting that approved the government’s draft “burqa ban” that we reported on here.  Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who Sarkozy’s UMP party always seems to call on when things get tough, did her best in an interview (here in French) that got the part about Mecca wrong. There will be more of this in the months ahead as the bill moves through the National Assembly and Senate.

It’s hard not to single out Muslims when they’re the only ones who wear full face veils. The bill avoids mentioning them as such, saying only that the ban applies to “concealment of the face in public. But nobody’s fooled, a fact Sarkozy acknowledged in his comments to the cabinet: “This is a decision one doesn’t take lightly. It’s a serious decision because nobody should feel hurt or stigmatised. I’m thinking in particular of our Muslim compatriots, who have their place in the republic and should feel respected. Laïcité means respect for all beliefs, for all religions.

Cannes film follows French monks killed in Algeria

beauvois Xavier Beauvois at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2010/Vincent Kessler

The unsolved murder of seven French monks in Algeria during the brutal civil conflict of the 1990s is recounted in “Of Gods and Men,” a sombre and reflective entry at the Cannes film festival.

The seven members of a Trappist order, who lived in a monastery in Tibehirine south of Algiers, disappeared in 1996 during a savage wave of killings by both Islamist militants and government forces.  Only their severed heads were ever recovered and the exact circumstances in which they died are unclear.

Director Xavier Beauvois takes no side in the controversy over who to blame, focussing instead on the unhurried rhythms of life in the monastery and ending the film as they disappear with their captors up a snowy mountain path.

Morocco resists Islamist calls to ban Elton John from music festival

elton john

Elton John at Carnegie Hall in New York on May 13, 2010/Lucas Jackson

Elton John will headline Morocco’s biggest music festival this week despite calls by religious conservatives for the gay singer to be turned away. Allowing the British singer and songwriter to perform at the Mawazine World Rhythms festival in the capital Rabat would tarnish the image of the north African kingdom, say powerful opposition Islamists.

“Elton John is one of the best artists in the world. He is great and extraordinary when he appears on stage. That’s why we invite him and welcome him to the Mawazine festival,” festival director Aziz Daki told Reuters. “The private life of a singer is not our business. We do not invite singers and artists after assessing their private lives.”

The festival, backed by Morocco’s King Mohammed, brings together musicians from 50 countries and has drawn criticism from Islamists who say such events encourage promiscuity and alcohol consumption, corrupting Islamic values.

France’s burqa debate stokes passions in North Africa

Anne, an assumed name, a 31-year old French woman who has been fined for wearing a niqab while driving, speaks to the media during a news conference with her husband Lies Hebbadj in Nantes, western France, April 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files

Veiled French woman Anne (an assumed name) fined for wearing a niqab while driving in Nantes meets journalists on 26 April 2010/Stephane Mahe

A French proposal to ban full face veils has stoked debate in Europe and also provoked strong reactions across the Mediterranean in North Africa, where many of France’s Muslims trace their origins.

Former French colonies Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are still tied to France by history, language and migration, so their views on the “burqa” issue could have a direct influence on how Muslims inside France react to a ban.

Headscarf row re-opens old wounds for Algerians

algeria women

Algerian women walk past an election poster of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Batna, 500 km (311 miles) east of Algiers, March 19, 2009/Louafi Larbi

A decision by Algeria’s government that women should pose for passport photographs without their Islamic headscarves has re-opened wounds still raw after nearly two decades of Islamist militant violence.

Algeria’s secular-minded government says that as part of the introduction of new biometric passports, all women should be photographed without the veil, a requirement that has angered the country’s influential religious traditionalists.

Mumbai gunmen denied Muslim burial secretly interred in January

Remember the issue of what to do with the corpses of the nine attackers killed during the November 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets in Mumbai that killed 166 people? The dead attackers were all presumed to be Pakistani Muslims, like the sole survivor, but local Indian Muslim leaders refused to let them be buried in their cemeteries. Islamabad ignored calls to take the bodies back. So they were left in morgue refrigerators in Mumbai, presumably until the issue was finally settled. kasab

Sole surviving attacker, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, in police custody in this undated video grab shown by CNN IBN Television channel on February 3, 2009/CNN IBN

FaithWorld was deluged with comments after we asked if the bodies should be cremated and the ashes spread at sea. A surprising number of them suggested the bodies should be desecrated, thrown to the dogs or dumped at the Pakistani-Indian border. The discussion tapered off and the issue seemed to have been forgotten.

Muslim scholars recast jihadists’ favourite fatwa

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An Indonesian Muslim uses magnifying glass to read Koran verses printed on lamb parchment, Jakarta, July 27, 2005/Beawiharta

Prominent Muslim scholars have recast a famous medieval fatwa on jihad, arguing the religious edict radical Islamists often cite to justify killing cannot be used in a globalized world that respects faith and civil rights.  A conference in Mardin in southeastern Turkey declared the fatwa by 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya rules out militant violence and the medieval Muslim division of the world into a “house of Islam” and “house of unbelief” no longer applies.

Osama bin Laden has quoted Ibn Taymiyya’s “Mardin fatwa” repeatedly in his calls for Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and wage jihad against the United States.

French mosque reopens after protest disruptions

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Drancy on a map of greater Paris

A French mosque, whose imam says he has received death threats over his promotion of dialogue with Jews, reopened for Friday prayers after it was forced to close down this week due to disruptive protests.  The mosque in Drancy, a suburb to the north of Paris, has been the focus of tension for weeks with a small group of protesters keeping up a noisy barrage of criticism against the imam Hassen Chalghoumi.

“We’ve been facing really enormous pressure for five or six weeks now,” Chalghoumi told reporters before Friday prayers. “We want peace, we want calm. These people aren’t welcome here.”

As Chalghoumi spoke, a group of around 30 protesters from a group named after Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of  the Palestinian Hamas movement, gathered outside the fence of the mosque, facing off with fluorescent-vested security staff preventing them from entering.

Shooting at Coptic Christmas highlights Egypt’s sectarian tensions

Nagaa Hamady

Ramadan decorations and a Coptic Orthodox church cross in Nagaa Hamady, 9 Jan 2010/Asmaa Waguih

Church towers standing in the shadow of mosques symbolise how Christians in the southern town of Nagaa Hamady feel about their relationship with Egypt’s Muslim majority that turned violent this month.

The government said the shooting of six Christians on the eve of Coptic Christmas on Jan. 7 was an isolated case, using its stock phrase for the latest act of sectarian violence. Such killings are rare, but many Christians who make up some 10 percent of Egypt’s 78 million people feel they do not get equal treatment and complain the government is not doing more to quash sectarianism for fear of Islamist reprisals.