FaithWorld

Dutch agree coalition with support from anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders

wildersTwo Dutch parties have agreed to form a minority government coalition, with support from a far-right party whose leader Geert Wilders is on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims. (Photo: Geert Wilders at a demonstration against the proposed Islamic cultural centre and mosque in New York , September 11, 2010/Chip East)

The parliamentary leaders of the VVD Liberal Party and CDA Christian Democrats reached agreement on Tuesday to form the minority government, the first in the Netherlands since 1939, with support in parliament from the anti-Islam PVV Freedom Party. Read the full story here.

The VVD and the CDA plan to govern with support in parliament from the PVV, which has called Islam a backwards religion and said the ‘islamisation’ of the Netherlands needs to be stopped. Christian Democrat unease over support by an anti-Islam party is casting a shadow over the deal.

Wilders, who has compared the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf”, is on trial on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims. The case will resume Monday.

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Serbian Orthodox Church ceremony highlights complex Serbian-Kosovo ties

irinej (Photo: Serbia’s Partiarch Irinej in Belgrade, August 4, 2010/Marko Djurica)

Serbian Orthodox Church and political leaders gather on Sunday to enthrone a new patriarch to guide a religion embodying the spirit of Serbia, but the once a generation ceremony will take place on foreign soil in Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but many Serbs still see majority Muslim Kosovo and the monasteries there as the cradle of their Orthodox religion. Old churches and monasteries dot the landscape of the smallest country in the Balkans.

“As you can imagine the political situation is very heated now in the period of the patriarch’s enthronement,” said one Serbian Orthodox Church official who did not want to be named. “The church needs a long-term arrangement which would guarantee its normal life, preservation of its identity and religious freedom, autonomous right to manage its properties in Kosovo as well as special provisions for protected zones.”

Security alert in India ahead of verdict in Hindu-Muslim dispute over mosque

india 1India has put tens of thousands of police on the streets and the air force on high alert ahead of possible violence when a court on Thursday rules on a century-old religious dispute between Hindus and Muslims.

The issue is haunting the ruling Congress Party, a left-of-centre party with secular roots, which will have to stand by a verdict that is likely to upset one or other major voter bloc. (Photo: Rapid Action Force personnel patrol in Allahabad,  September 28, 2010/Jitendra Prakash)

“My humble request is that whatever be the decision, please accept it in the highest tradition of magnanimity,” Sonia Gandhi, Congress party chief and the country’s most powerful politician, said in a statement. Read the full story here.

Hindu and Muslim Bollywood stars urge calm before Indian mosque verdict

priyanka002It’s a sign of how explosive the Ayodhya mosque verdict in India could be that several Hindu and Muslim film stars in Bollywood have issued a public appeal for calm once the decision is announced. As we’ve posted here on FaithWorld, an Indian court is due to announce on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque, which Hindu nationalists demolished in 1992. The Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people. (Image: Priyanka Chopra in screengrab from ANI/Reuters video)

Bollywood, the Bombay (now Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry, walks a tightrope in making mass-audience films in what may be the most religiously diverse country in the world. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars are Muslim, although the majority of viewers are Hindu (Muslims make up 13% of the Indian population). Like the actors and actresses in this appeal, many of them publicly work, play and love (see here) across the religious divide. But tensions like those after the Ayodhya mosque riots — including riots in Mumbai itself — have left their scars. Some Muslim writers (see here and here) say suspicion of Muslims is a recurring theme in Bollywood films.

farhanIn the video below, the stars mostly speak in Hindi sprinkled with occasional English words. That’s nothing unusual and can be useful as well. For example, when actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra says (at 00:48) that “in our country all religions have been living together for so long…”, she uses the English word “religion.” That was a neutral alternative to local words she might have used with either a Hindu (dharma) or Muslim (din) background.

Obama answers the question: Why are you a Christian?

obama (Photo: President Barack Obama talks with voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 28, 2010/Larry Downing)

President Barack Obama spoke openly about his faith on Tuesday, describing himself as a “Christian by choice” while reiterating his belief in the importance of religious tolerance. Obama, who polls show many Americans think is a Muslim, was asked by a participant at a campaign-style event in Albuquerqe, New Mexico about why he was a Christian.

“It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brother’s and sister’s keeper, treating others as they would treat me,” he said. “And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

The president, who has voiced strong support for the right of Muslims to build a community center near the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, said he tried to express his religious beliefs through his job. “I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith,” he said.

Indian court to rule on Ayodhya mosque row on Thursday

ayodhyaAn Indian court will rule on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots that killed some 2,000 people.

Those riots were some of the country’s worst religious violence since Partition in 1947 and a verdict on the case may spark more disturbances between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims. (Photo: Hindu militants demolish the disputed mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992/Sunil Malhotra)

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Ayodhya town is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

Indian Supreme Court orders Ayodhya mosque verdict postponed

ayodhya 2 (Photo: Rapid Action Forces personnel patrol in Ayodhya, September 22, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Allahabad High Court to delay a potentially explosive verdict on whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday came after an appeal to the stay on the judgment, saying the matter could be settled out of court. The Supreme Court will meet on Sept. 28 to decide on the appeal and commentators said the date of the actual verdict by the high court — originally due on Friday — was now unclear.

The central government has been on alert for any fallout from the verdict, appealing for calm. It banned public meetings in the state and stopped all bulk mobile text messages since they could be used to spread rumours and plan riots.

India bans bulk text messages before Ayodhya mosque verdict

ayodhya 1 (Photo: Indian policemen patrol in Ayodhya, September 23, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

India has banned bulk mobile text messaging for three days to prevent the spreading of rumours and religious extremism as authorities prepare for a potentially explosive court verdict between Muslims and Hindus.

A high court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots, when some 2000 were killed. It was one of the worst outbreaks communal violence since the partition in 1947.

The government statement gave no reasons for the order, but a senior security official with knowledge of the order cited security reasons before the court verdict.

“MOOZ-lum” film depicts challenges for black U.S. Muslims

mooz-lumThe makers of a new movie about family life for black Muslims in America want to highlight challenges facing followers of Islam, just as Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” revealed the racism and harsh realities facing black youth in Brooklyn two decades ago.

“MOOZ-lum” was filmed in Michigan, which has a large Muslim population, and premiered to packed theaters at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York last Friday.

“I hope people can walk out of the theater thinking more and trying to understand what we’re facing here,” said director Qasim Basir, adding the movie’s portrayal of discrimination mirrored his own Muslim-American experience.  “I’m hoping to give Muslim-Americans a film that reflects them. I want it to be something the audience can look at and say, ‘This represents me,’” he told Reuters in an interview.

U.S. monitoring 11 sites for possible discrimination against Muslims

anti-mosque (Photo: Rally against proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque near World Trade Center site in New York ,August 22, 2010./Jessica Rinaldi)

The U.S. Justice Department has said it is monitoring 11 cases of potential land-use discrimination against Muslims, a sharp increase in cases under a federal law designed to protect religious minorities in zoning disputes.

In a report on discrimination against mosques, synagogues, churches and other religious sites, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said on Tuesday it has monitored 18 cases of possible bias against Muslims over the past 10 years.

Eight of those have been opened since May, around the time when plans for a Muslim community center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan seized media attention and caused a national political uproar. “This fact is a sober reminder that, even in the 21st century, challenges to true religious liberty remain,” the report said.