FaithWorld

Ethiopia jails hundreds in Muslim attacks on Christians over Koran rumour

(A destroyed Protestant church in Asendabo, 300 km (200 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa, March 16, 2011, after Muslim youths attacked Christians/Aaron Maasho )

An Ethiopian court has sentenced 558 people to jail terms ranging from six months to 25 years for attacks on Christians that displaced thousands and led 69 churches to be burned to the ground. More than 4,000 members of local Protestant denominations were forced to flee near the town of Asendabo, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) west of the capital, in March during a rare bout of religious violence.

Mobs of Muslim youths carried out week-long attacks on Protestants after rumours that desecrated pages from the Koran had been found at a church construction site. Authorities reported a single death from the attacks.

“They were punished for their involvement in instigating and participating in religious disturbances in western Ethiopia,” government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said of the court cases. Forty-four people were acquitted.

Regional officials told Reuters almost all the displaced people have returned to their homes, some of which were repaired with support from local Muslims. Authorities, keen to avoid further fall-out between the two groups, have held several meetings in the area and claim normalcy has returned.

Harun Yahya’s Muslim creationists tour France denouncing Darwin

(Harun Yahya at a news conference in Istanbul May 12, 2011/Murad Sezer)

France’s staunchly secularist educational establishment was shocked four years ago when schools around the country suddenly began receiving free copies of a richly illustrated Muslim creationist book entitled the “Atlas of Creation.” The book by Istanbul preacher and publisher Harun Yahya had come out in Turkey the year earlier. After the French Education Ministry warned teachers not to use it and held a seminar on how to deal with creationist pupils, the issue dropped out of the public discussion. But the Harun Yahya group has been spreading its view in France and is now holding a series of conferences on them. Here is my feature after visiting one of the first meetings in the current series: Muslim creationists tour France denouncing Darwin

AUBERVILLIERS, France (Reuters) – Four years after they first frightened France, Muslim creationists are back touring the country preaching against evolution and claiming the Koran predicted many modern scientific discoveries.

Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.

Anti-Western messages grow among Afghanistan’s imams

hazrat ali mosque

(Hazrat Ali mosque in Kabul March 21, 2010/Ahmad Masood)

Enayatullah Balegh is a professor at Kabul University and preaches on Fridays in the largest mosque in central Kabul, where he advocates jihad, or holy war, against foreigners who desecrate Islam. After a fundamentalist U.S. pastor presided over the burning of a copy of the Koran last month, there has been a growing perception among ordinary people that many of the foreigners in Afghanistan belong in just one category: the infidels.

“The international community and the American government is responsible for this gravest insult to Muslims,” Balegh told Reuters in the blue-and-white tiled Hazrat Ali mosque. “I tell my students to wage jihad against all foreigners who desecrate our religious values. We have had enough.”

Protests in Kabul against the Koran-burning have not become violent but there are many other mullahs in the overcrowded capital whose sermons are filled with criticism of the foreigners fighting and working in Afghanistan.

U.S. pastor unbowed, vows new anti-Islam protest

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(Pastor Terry Jones at his Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Florida, April 2, 2011/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

A militant fundamentalist Christian preacher in Florida whose burning of a Koran triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan is unrepentant  and defiantly vows to lead an anti-Islam protest outside the biggest mosque in the United States. The planned demonstration could further inflame tensions over the Koran burning, which led to two days of protests in Afghanistan that included the killings of U.N. staff and stoked anti-Western sentiment in parts of the Muslim world.

“Our aim is to make an awareness of the radical element of Islam,” Pastor Terry Jones told Reuters in an interview on Saturdayat the church he leads in the college town of Gainesville, Florida. A picture of the burning Koran was on his computer screen. “Obviously it is terrible any time people are murdered or killed. I think that on the other hand, it shows the radical element of Islam.”

Extreme fundamentalist U.S. pastor is focus of Muslim outrage – again

kabul koran protest

(Afghans protest in Kabul on April 1, 2011 against the burning of the Koran by a U.S. pastor/Omar Sobhani )

A extreme fundamentalist Christian preacher in Florida who caused an international uproar last year by threatening to burn the Koran has put himself back in the spotlight after incinerating Islam’s holy book — again with deadly consequences.

Thousands of protesters in northern Afghanistan, enraged over news that the Florida pastor Terry Jones had overseen a torching of the Koran, stormed a United Nations compound on Friday, killing at least seven U.N. staff.  A suicide attack hit Kabul and a violent demonstration against Koran-burning rattled the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday.

Ethiopia’s religious divides flare up in Muslim attacks on Christians

ethiopia

(A destroyed Protestant church in Asendabo, 300 km (200 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa, March 16, 2011/stringer)

The hollow chants of “Allahu Akbar!” reverberating from a distance seemed innocuous at first for Abera Gutema, who ventured home quietly from his shop just a short distance away. Moments later, a large, angry mob of machete-wielding Muslim youths descended on his family’s dwelling and chased him out, before burning and looting his property.

Abera, a Christian, escaped through a back door, clutching his infant son Eyoel in one hand. By the time the smoke cleared, all that remained of his hard-earned belongings had been reduced to rubble, not to mention the theft of 100,000 birr — his lifetime savings.

Exorcisms and charlatans flourish in impoverished Gaza

gaza koran

(A man reads a Koran in Gaza, 3 Dec 2010/Suhaib Salem)

The shabby room in a one-story house in suburban Gaza was shrouded in darkness, and only the mutterings of a bearded exorcist broke the silence. A man lay stretched on a grubby mattress, writhing, as the faith healer recited Koranic verses to chase away an evil spirit. “Get out, you demon,” the exorcist, who calls himself Sheikh Ali, threatened the spirit. “Get out or I will burn you.”

There are a lot of demons to chase in this poverty-riddled Palestinian enclave, say a growing number of Koranic exorcists who have set up shop in Gaza, offering to end the torments of their sometimes highly disturbed patients. The growth of exorcist clinics is seen by some as a sign of rising religious fervour among ordinary Palestinians. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs Gaza, however, is increasingly concerned that many exorcists are simply charlatans.

Nobody knows how many exorcists are here, but Hamas investigators say they uncovered 30 cases of fraud last year alone. There have also been complaints that healers are using dark magic to cast spells on their clients, and the police say they have found evidence of sexual abuses committed during these sessions.

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.

Wilders’s anti-Islam film screened in Dutch court

wilders wednesdayThe hate trial of Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders, who will have a powerful shadow role in the Dutch government, resumed on Wednesday with a showing of his controversial film that criticises the Koran. (Photo: Geert Wilders (R) in court with his lawyer Bram Moszkowicz (L)  in Amsterdam, October 6, 2010/Marcel Antonisse)

The screening in court of Wilders’s 2008 film “Fitna,” which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, threatened to interrupt the trial for a second time in a week when defence lawyer Bram Moszkowicz objected to comments from presiding judge Jan Moors.

When one complainant said she did not wish to see the film, which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, Moors said: “I can understand that” — prompting a sharp response from Moszkowicz who said such a remark is simply not allowed. Moors stressed he was not expressing any judgement over the film.

Jewish settlers replace Korans burnt in West Bank

korans (Photo: Rabbi Menachem Froman (R) holds a Koran given to Palestinians after Monday’s attack in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem October 5, 2010/Ammar Awad)

Jewish settlers on Tuesday gave new copies of the Koran to Palestinians in a West Bank village whose mosque was burned in an attack blamed by Palestinians on militants in the settler movement.

Several copies of Islam’s holy book were scorched in the arson attack and threats in Hebrew were scrawled on the wall of the mosque of Beit Fajjar early on Monday. Suspicion immediately fell on settler militants opposed to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, in which some settlements would be turned over to a Palestinian state.

“This visit is to say that although there are people who oppose peace, he who opposes peace is opposed to God,” said Rabbi Menachem Froman, a well-known peace activist and one of a handful of settlers who went to Beit Fajjar to show solidarity with their Muslim neighbors.