FaithWorld

Egyptian TV preacher to fight Islamist extremism in Yemen

khaled (Photo: Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled preaches in Aden November 24, 2010/Khaled Abdullah)

Yemen has enlisted the help of the popular Egyptian television preacher Amr Khaled to help it dislodge militant Islamists’ foothold within its conservative population. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, already juggling conflicts in its north and south, is struggling to combat a resurgent wing of al-Qaeda that experts say exploits Yemen’s instability to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Yemen security forces have launched several military campaigns, including air raids and blockades of cities, to root out suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen’s south.

Khaled, who CBS television has called “the Billy Graham of Islam,” is a charismatic and moderate populist Muslim preacher known for wooing crowds of upper-middle class Egyptian youths in a high-pitched voice. He’s often described as a “televangelist” or — putting it more Islamically — “telemufti.”

He has now launched a campaign to win the hearts and minds of Yemen’s young people. “The goal of this project is to uproot extremism and spread moderation, to show the true face of Islam, and show a bright picture of Yemen to the world,” Khaled said at an event marking the opening of his campaign in the southern port city of Aden.

Read the full story by Mohammed Mukhashaf and Mohamed Sudam here.

Never heard of Amr Khaled? Here’s that CBS television report on him:

Here’s a Gallup video interview with him in English:

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Azerbaijan wrestles with Islam in rough region

baku (Photo: Building boom in Azerbaijan capital Baku, 3 Nov 2010/Osman Karimov)

The view from Nardaran’s vast sandstone mosque sweeps down through roses to the Absheron peninsula and the Caspian sea from which Azerbaijan derives its wealth. Devotion to Islam defines life in this dusty coastal village, where walls carry Koranic verses and social grievances against this strictly controlled former Soviet republic find voice in religion.

But it’s a way of life that sits uneasily with the secular regime of President Ilham Aliyev, an authoritarian who draws his power from rich reserves of oil and gas in the Caspian. “They are wealthy, but they are afraid,” Haji Aga Nuriyev, Naradaran elder and former head of the banned Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, said of the political elite around Aliyev.

Like much of the former Soviet Union — Christian and Muslim — this country of 9 million mainly Shi’ite Muslims has witnessed a limited religious revival since the collapse of Communism two decades ago.

Qaeda threat to Egyptian Christians may stir militants

egypt 1 (Photo: Demonstrators at the Amr Ibn El-Aas mosque in Cairo claiming a Christian woman had converted to Islam and was being held prisoner by a Christian church, September 5, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Militants may feel emboldened by an al Qaeda threat against Egypt’s Christians, even if the network itself might struggle to mount such an assault.

The al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq, which launched an attack on a Baghdad church on Sunday that left 52 dead, has also threatened Egypt’s church.

While there are no signs of a re-emergence of a 1990s-style Islamist insurgency, Egypt remains alert to anything that could stir communal tension that sometimes boils up over issues such as cross-faith relationships and conversions.

Don’t preach to us, Hamas tells secular West

hamas 1The West is floundering in immorality and has no right to criticise the Islamist movement Hamas over the way it governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a veteran leader of the militant group said. Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy. (Photo: Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip October 23, 2010/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

“We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular,” said Zahar, who is one of the group’s most influential and respected voices.

“You do not live like human beings. You do not (even) live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticise us?” he said, speaking from his apartment building in the densely populated Mediterranean city.

Egypt stops TV channels, Islamic trend seen a target

satellite dishesEgypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite channels and warned 20 others for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.

The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed. The government denied any political motivation. (Photo: Satellite dishes, 3 April 2004/Jack Dabaghian)

Analysts said the latest decision to temporarily shut the satellite channels and warn others, announced late on Tuesday, seemed to be mainly to stop the spread of strict Islamic Salafi teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Radical Islamists aim to infiltrate Hamburg mosques

hamburg mosque (Photo: An imam leads prayers at Central Mosque in Hamburg October 8, 2010/Christian Charisius)

Radical Islamists from a shut down Hamburg mosque linked to the September 11 attacks on the United States are now trying to infiltrate other mosques in and around the German city, according to officials and Muslim leaders.

Small groups of radicals have turned up at several mosques trying to establish a new meeting place since the Taiba Mosque, where the 9/11 leader Mohammad Atta once prayed, was raided and closed by police in August, they told Reuters.

With radicals no longer grouped around one mosque near the city’s main train station, security services have stepped up their observation of Islamists around the city and Muslim associations are on the lookout for suspicious newcomers.

Low support for radicalism among European Muslims — Pew report

london mosqueSupport for radical Islamist groups is low among European Muslims and some leading groups with overseas roots are now cooperating with local governments and encouraging Muslims to vote, according to a new report. (Photo: A minaret in East London, August 11, 2006/Toby Melville)

European groups linked to wider Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami now focus more on conditions for Muslims in Europe than their original ideologies from Egypt and Pakistan, according to the report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report also cited tensions between “jihadists” and peaceful Islamists in Europe, saying some groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood were working with police to counter militants.

New rabbi for Mumbai Jewish centre attacked in 2008

narimanIt was almost two years ago that Islamist militants attacked Mumbai and killed at least 166 people. Among them were six Jews, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. Most non-Jewish readers probably had no idea what a Brooklyn-based Jewish couple was doing there. Many Jews would have known right away — they were running the Chabad House, one of a worldwide network of Jewish centres run by Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement devoted to supporting Jewish life wherever it may be found. (Photo: Indian commandos atop Chabad centre after explosion during militant siege, 28 Nov 2008/Punit Paranjpe)

The news angle to this story is that the Mumbai centre has a new rabbi, just in time for the High Holidays, as reported in my feature here. Rabbi Chanoch Gechtman arrived there recently with his wife Leiky to take up the challenge of filling Holtzberg’s shoes. “I still can’t quite fathom that they are not here, they were such extraordinary people,” he said in an email from Mumbai. After all the damage to the original building, they’ve moved to another building not far away, but the address is not advertised on their website for understandable reasons.

gechtmanThis could be a daunting assignment, but Gechtman, 25, seemed eager to get to work. “People really believe in this city. It’s a place with a lot of energy; it’s full of life,” he said. “There is really an endless amount of work to be accomplished. And the Holtzbergs set the bar very high.” The work is literally endless — a couple that goes out on an assignment like this is expected to stay permanently. The commitment for the “shluchim,” as these emissaries are called, is supposed to be for life. And it’s a job for both the rabbi and his wife.  Running a Chabad House means offering services such as kosher Sabbath dinners, Torah classes, youth programmes, day care facilities, summer camps and women’s ritual baths. It’s an open house for any Jew who wants to participate — locals, expatriates or tourists passing through the city.

Islamist charity aims to be Pakistanis’ salvation in flood crisis

aid line (Photo: Pakistani flood victims line up for aid distribution in Muzaffargarh district, September 2, 2010/Damir Sagolj)

Lime green dresses for girls spill out of the sack of food, supplies and shoes — a gift from the Islamist charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) to help flood victims celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid this month.

Blacklisted by the U.N. over its links to the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for the 2008 attack on Mumbai, the JuD has been quick to help people hit by Pakistan’s floods, raising fears among U.S. officials that Islamists use aid to gain recruits.

But it does not have the capacity to establish a big presence — the devastation was so vast that roads were cut and the only means of transport is helicopter — so JuD officials say they are trying to make up for this by other, thoughtful, means.

Q+A – Why are militants attacking Shi’ites, Pakistan now ?

lahore 1 (Photo: Men gather near dead bodies after bomb attack on Shi’tes in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

Suspected Islamist militants exploded three bombs at a Shi’ite procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 33 people and piling pressure on the government already overwhelmed by floods.

Here are some questions and answers on implications of the attacks which came after a lull in violence during floods.

WHAT MILITANTS ARE UP TO?

WHY DO THE MILITANTS TARGET SHI’ITES?

HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT HANDLING THE PROBLEM?

Read the answers in a Q+A by Zeeshan Haider here.

lahore 2 (Photo: A woman weeps next to the body of a relative after bomb attack on Shi’ites in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

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