FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Living as a Muslim in Paris

Paris, France

By Youssef Boudlal

Photographing the daily life of Muslims in Paris is a challenge. I discovered this by throwing myself into the project, which rapidly became a story of failed encounters, rejection and disappointment. Among the people I met, the fear of prejudice towards the Muslim world was intense, as was the worry that cliches about the community could be fueled or spread by images.

I met a good number of people as part of my investigation. The first few were in the suburbs of Paris, home to a large Muslim community. In Vitry-sur-Seine, I met four twenty-somethings of North African origin sitting outside a church. I explained my project to them and their suspicions were quickly aroused. I was asked about my job, the reasons for my project and why I was interested in them. They worried about how my images would be used. One of them took me for a spy.

Another encounter, this time at Mantes-la-Jolie, among Paris’s western suburbs. Here, a young woman in a headscarf was buying fruit and vegetables at the Val Fourre market and I decided to approach her. I explained my project in detail, and asked if she wanted to take part. She displayed no enthusiasm but no scepticism either, to the point where she asked permission from her father, a butcher she was helping for the season. I was already picturing images of this contrast. But he refused, without explanation. My arguments couldn’t sway him.

A contact put me in touch with a Salafist – a follower of a strict kind of Sunni Islam – who prayed with others in a garage at Mantes-la-Jolie. The originality of the place cried out to me. I met him, we talked through a week of long negotiations and he said the project was possible. But that was before the end of June, when the arrest of six suspected Islamists in the Ile-de-France region made the meeting difficult. In the end, I wasn’t allowed to photograph either the people or the place.

Another contact put me in touch with Chehrazad, 36, a Muslim woman of Moroccan origin, who is employed at a public notary’s office and normally wears a headscarf, but is now forced to remove it due to a law banning headscarves in the civil service. Her French husband agreed that I could follow her life for a day. I went with her to the market, to her work and home. For her, covering her head was a case of individual choice: “Wearing the veil is a personal desire to protect my modesty,” she told me.

from David Rohde:

For American-Muslims, dread

Louisville, Kentucky – Friday morning, four Pakistani-American doctors dressed in business suits and medical scrubs sat in one of this city’s most popular breakfast spots and fretted. At an adjacent table, a middle-aged woman grew visibly nervous when their native land was mentioned. One of the doctors, a 47-year-old cardiologist, was despondent.

“We were all praying this wouldn’t happen,” he told me. “No matter what you do in your community, that’s the label that is attached.”

Another doctor worried that years of outreach efforts by the city’s 10,000-strong Muslim community, a mix of Bosnians, Somalis and Iraqis, would be lost. Thursday, he sent a letter to the local newspaper condemning the Boston attack “no matter who committed it.” When news broke Friday that the two suspects were Chechen Muslims, his family grew nervous.

from India Insight:

His name is Khan and he is misunderstood

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

When Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan shared his views on religious stereotypes in an article in Outlook Turning Points magazine, it turned heads as the editors likely expected. Some media outlets criticized Khan, saying he sought "refuge in Muslim victimhood."

Hafez Saeed, founder of Pakistan’s banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and a suspect in the Nov. 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people, said Khan should move to Pakistan if he feels unsafe in his country.

from The Great Debate:

The key to understanding the ‘Arab Spring’

The United States has been unable to develop a clear national policy about the Arab Spring largely because Washington does not fully understand what’s happening in the Middle East.

The term, “Arab Spring” is itself misleading. The changes over the past 20 months have produced a fundamental transformation of the region – but not in the way most outside observers anticipated: They reflect the replacement of the dominant Arab national identity by a more Islamic identity.

This change has been evolving for more than 40 years and did not begin in January 2011 with the demonstrations across the Middle East.

from John Lloyd:

Unintelligent, but constitutionally protected

There's some shuffling of feet going on in Western governments, about this whole freedom of speech and the press thing that democracies are pledged to defend. And who wouldn't shuffle, after the events of the past week, and of the past 30-plus years, in the Islamic world.

Two quite deliberate provocations were the immediate cause of the deadly riots. One, a video called the Innocence of Muslims, is so technically and dramatically bad that on first viewing it would seem to be something done in satirical vein by Sacha Baron Cohen, all false beards and ham dialogue. The other, the publication of a series of cartoons of Mohammad in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, showed Mohammad in various nude poses. Whatever their quality, they do not just make waves – they make deaths. We can no longer pretend otherwise. Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses taught us too much.

The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week that "freedom of expression must not be infringed ... but is it pertinent, is it intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire. The answer is no.” This formulation, repeated in different ways across the governments of the democratic world, says that states will and must uphold the principle of freedom; but that freedom, once conceded, should be used with care.

from Photographers' Blog:

A convert to Islam

By Danish Siddiqui

London to me, as a photographer, is a uniquely diverse place to capture on camera in terms of its people and their stories. It amalgamates a lot of complexities that make for compelling narratives.

A couple months back I went to London from Mumbai as part of a short assignment, to get some experience out of my usual domain. I worked closely with the Reuters UK team and specifically Andrew Winning on the production of a multimedia piece that would tell the story of young Muslim converts in London.

In an age where there is a lot of skepticism around Islam, empirical evidence has proved otherwise. A study, for instance, has suggested that more than 100,000 people converted to Islam in the last decade. London is one such melting pot. And the city made for an interesting background to follow the life of one such convert.

Iran-born writer “kills” ayatollah in novel

A general view of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's shrine with pictures of him and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran

GIJON, Spain – Nairi Nahapetian gets her own back on the Iranian regime which forced her into exile by writing a novel about the murder of a powerful religious leader.

Nahapetian returned to Iran as a journalist in 2005 but says that she had to turn to fiction to fully describe the complexities of the homeland she fled when she was nine.

Russia’s Muslim Chechnya to ban energy drinks

Russia’s Muslim Chechnya region is planning to ban the sale of non-alcoholic energy drinks such as Red Bull to under 18s, saying they are un-Islamic and dangerous, health officials said.

The ban would be the latest restriction from authorities in Chechnya, where shops can only sell alcohol during a small morning time frame, eateries are shut during the Ramadan fasting month and women must wear headscarves in state buildings.

“Energy drinks are comparable to beer,” the deputy minister of health in Chechnya, Rukman Bartiyev, told Reuters, adding that they were harmful to health.

Malaysia sets up Vatican ties in gesture to Christian minority

(Pope Benedict receives a gift by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) during a meeting at the Pope's summer residence in Castelgandolfo July 18, 2011/Osservatore Romano)

Malaysia and the Vatican agreed on Monday to establish diplomatic ties, a move seen by analysts as a bid by the Malaysian government to appease minority Christians in the mainly Muslim Southeast Asian country. Prime Minister Najib Razak is trying to mend the government’s relations with Christians who make up about 9 percent of the country’s 28 million after a rise in religious tensions ahead of general elections widely expected next year.

Religious tensions have risen in Malaysia following general elections in 2008 when the government recorded its worst performance after mainly Chinese and Indian non-Muslim minorities abandoned Najib’s ruling coalition, complaining of marginalization.

Seeds of Arab Spring sown in Islam’s past, Turkish author says

(Mustafa Akyol at the Council on Foreign Relations 'Religion and the Open Society' Symposium In New York March 25, 2008 in this publicity photo released to Reuters July 13, 2011/Council on Foreign Relations)

Eight year-old Mustafa Akyol was looking at a book in his grandfather’s library when he saw something that shocked him: a passage advising parents to beat impious children. Now, Akyol is a journalist in Turkey, and he hopes the Arab Spring shows a different side of Islam: one where there is no conflict between Islam and political freedom.

His new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” which is being released in the United States on July 18, aims to tell people that there is a long history of freedom in the Islamic world. “The fact that so many Arab countries have been run by dictators fostered the myth that it’s the only type of government that those countries can produce,” Akyol told Reuters. “The current uprisings are showing that this is wrong.”