FaithWorld

In Ahmadis’s desert city, Pakistan closes in on group it declared non-Muslim

(Ahmadis stand over graves of victims of an attack on one of their mosques, in Rabwah, May 29, 2010/Stringer)

At the office of what claims to be one of Pakistan’s oldest newspapers, workers scan copy for words it is not allowed to use — words like Muslim and Islam. “The government is constantly monitoring this publication to make sure none of these words are published,” explains our guide during a visit to the offices of al Fazl, the newspaper of the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan.

This is Rabwah, the town the Ahmadis built when they fled the killings of Muslims in India at Partition in 1947, and believing themselves guided by God, chose a barren stretch of land where they hoped to make the Punjab desert bloom. Affluent and well-educated, they started out camping in tents and mud huts near the river and the railway line. Now they have a town of some 60,000 people, a jumble of one- and two-storey buildings, along with an Olympic size swimming pool, a fire service and a world class heart institute.

Yet declared by the state in the 1970s to be non-Muslims, they face increasing threats of violence across Pakistan as the country strained by a weakening economy, an Islamist insurgency and internecine political feuds, fractures down sectarian and ethnic lines.

“The situation is getting worse and worse,” says Mirza Khurshid Ahmed, amir of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. “The level of religious intolerance has increased considerably during the last 10 years.”

Bangladesh Islamists stage strike against dropping Allah from constitution

(Members of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, a radical Islamist group set tires on fire as they barricade a highway during a daylong strike in Kachpur near Dhaka July 10, 2011/Andrew Biraj)

Police in Bangladesh Sunday fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse Islamist activists trying to enforce a nationwide strike over the removal of a Muslim phrase in the constitution, and witnesses said around 50 people were injured. The clashes erupted when thousands of bludgeon-carrying Islamists cut off a stretch of highway leading to the capital’s eastern suburbs with barricades. The protesters also damaged several cargo trucks before the police crackdown, and some 100 people were detained.

The strike, which began two days after the country emerged from a 48-hour stoppage enforced by the opposition, was called to protest a recent amendment to the constitution which dropped the words “absolute faith and trust in Allah.” The Islamists also want to scrap “secularism” as a state principle in the Muslim-majority country.

Russian Muslims ask Moscow to lobby Saudis for increased haj quota to Mecca

(Muslims attend Friday prayers under a snowfall at the Central Mosque in Almaty February 5, 2010/Shamil Zhumatov)

Spiritual leaders from Russia’s large minority of Muslims asked President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday to press Saudi Arabia to increase the number of worshippers allowed to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage. Almost three million Muslims flock to Mecca every year for Haj, a duty every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must perform at least once in their lifetime. Riyadh allocates quotas for Muslims around the world.

Russia, home to 20 million Muslims, or around one seventh of the population, is allowed to send 20,000 Muslims a year for Haj, Mufti Ismail Berdiyev told Medvedev. They were attending a meeting with other Muslim leaders in Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital Nalchik in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus.

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.

Music therapists shake off Islamic clerics’ taboo to heal disabled Iranians

(Two disabled students sing a song during a music therapy session at the Kahrizak nursing home, in southern Tehran June 25, 2011/Morteza Nikoubazl)

As Sadeq Jafari switched on his electric piano, his students shunted their wheelchairs enthusiastically around him to rehearse new songs. Music therapy, a common practice in large parts of the world, is extremely rare in Iran, where conservative clerics outlawed pop music after the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Jafari, 33, is one of a handful of therapists in the Islamic state who use music to help severely disabled people find their voices, risking the ire of his conservative family and censure from religious authorities.

Kahrizak Charity Foundation, in a leafy campus on the outskirts of the capital Tehran, is home to hundreds of physically handicapped people, young and old, who lack financial support. Each Monday, dozens wait impatiently for Jafari to walk through the door.

Guestview: Ritual slaughter ban reflects fights over food and faith in the Netherlands

(A halal butcher in Geneva, August 23, 2010/Denis Balibouse)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Martijn de Koning is a Dutch anthropologist in the Faculty of Religious Studies at Radboud University in Nijmegen. This is an shortened version of an analysis originally posted on his blog CLOSER.

By Martijn de Koning

The Dutch parliament has voted to ban ritual animal slaughter. In a proposal condemned by Muslim and Jewish organisations, the Party for the Animals wanted a complete ban on dhabiha and shechita — the ritual slaughtering by Muslims and Jews — in cases where the animals were not stunned before being killed. The ban will mostly affect orthodox Jews since all of the shechita slaughtering involves animals fully conscious, while in the case of dhabiba this is the case in only 25%-40%. In order to get this bill passed through the lower house of parliament (a second vote is necessary in the Senate), a compromise was established: Jewish and Muslim communities have a year to provide evidence that animals slaughtered by dhabiba and shechita (and not stunning them) do not experience more pain than those animals that are stunned before killing.

In the recent Dutch debates about ritual slaughter, food has become a field where people battle over political, religious, economic, social and animal welfare issues.  I do not think it is that speculative to say that the Animal Party has profitted from three major developments in Dutch society.

European Jewish groups vow to fight Dutch ritual slaughter ban

(A kosher food shop in Berlin's Mitte district November 3, 2008/Fabrizio Bensch)

Two leading Jewish organizations in Europe vowed on Wednesday to fight a looming ban on ritual animal slaughter in the Netherlands approved by the lower house of the Dutch parliament in a bid to protect animal rights.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) announced it was considering taking legal action to block the ban, which it said violated the freedom of religion enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights.

Christians issue code of conduct for spreading faith without fanning tensions

(Evangelical pastor Marcos Pereira da Silva embraces a prisoner as his missionaries stand by at the 52nd Police Station jail in Nova Iguacu, near Rio de Janeiro, which they visited on October 29, 2009 to evangelize prisoners/Ricardo Moraes )

A coalition representing most Christian churches around the world launched a rule book on Tuesday for spreading their faith that aims to reduce tensions among themselves and with followers of other faiths. The pioneering code of conduct, under negotiation for five years, was unveiled by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which together claim to represent over 90 percent of Christianity.

It reaffirms their right to seek converts but also urges them to abandon “inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means”, saying that such behaviour “betrays the Gospel and may cause suffering to others”. Click here for the PDF text of the guidelines.

Preaching good sex, Muslim-inspired Obedient Wives Club spreads in Asia

(Newly-wed Ummu Honey Lokman Hakim, 19, a member of "The Obedient Wife Club", bows to her 23-year-old husband Mohd Syurahbil Amran, during a mass wedding ceremony in conjunction with the club's launch in Kuala Lumpur June 4, 2011/Samsul Said )

Indonesian Gina Puspita traded a career in aircraft engineering for a mission to preach Islam and help young women build happy marriages through good sex. The French-educated mother of three hosts religious programmes through the Obedient Wives Club which is based on the belief that a fulfilling sex life is the cure for “Western-style” social problems such as divorce and abuse.

“Wives must obey the husbands in all aspect of life, such as serving food and drinks, giving calm and support for the husband, as well as in sex relations,” Pusipita, who shares her spouse with three other women, told Reuters.

German minister urges local Muslims to help combat militancy

(German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich at a meeting with religious community leaders, politicians and emergency services staff on how to prevent extremism, in Berlin June 24, 2011/Odd Andersen)

Germany’s interior minister urged the local Muslim community to join government efforts to combat radicalism among young Muslims, putting a special focus on the influence of militant websites.

“We want to stand up to the radicalisation and misuse of religion together,” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Friday after talks with leaders of the Muslim community and security experts on how to prevent the spread of militancy. “All citizens of this country, no matter what our political tendency or religion, must take on the fight against radicalism and terror,” he told reporters.