FaithWorld

Cross controversy mars historic Armenian Orthodox service in Turkey

armenian 1 (Photo: The Church of the Holy Cross, an Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, September 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)

The first Armenian Orthodox ceremony in nearly a century at a church in eastern Turkey was overshadowed on Sunday by a partial Armenian boycott because of the Turkish authorities’ refusal to place a cross on the roof of the building.

Nearly a thousand Armenian Orthodox worshippers out of the expected 5,000 people attended the service at the Church of the Holy Cross, which the government has hailed as a sign of growing religious tolerance — see here and here — in the predominantly Muslim country, which is a European Union candidate.

The church, which has been closed for services since the 1915 mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman troops, has become a symbol of Turkey’s troubled past with its Armenian minority and a painful process of reconciliation.

Earlier this year Turkey agreed to open the site, which sits on the island of Akdamar in Van Lake, for services once a year. “I am so happy to be here. I want to thank the government for letting us be here at this historic moment,” one elderly woman, who identified herself as part of the Armenian community in Turkey told Turkish television.

Read the full story by Umit Bektas here.

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Mosques to become bigger part of German life – Chancellor Angela Merkel

germany mosque 1 (Photo: Khadija Mosque in Berlin October 16, 2008/Fabrizio Bensch)

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germans had for too long failed to grasp how immigration was changing their country and would have to get used to the sight of more mosques in their cities.

Germany, home to at least 4 million Muslims, has been divided in recent weeks by a debate over integration sparked by disparaging remarks about Muslim immigrants by an outspoken member of the country’s central bank.

“Our country is going to carry on changing, and integration is also a task for the society taking up the immigrants,” Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday. “For years we’ve been deceiving ourselves about this. Mosques, for example, are going to be a more prominent part of our cities than they were before,” she added.

President Karzai votes for female Hindu candidate in Afghan election: sources

karzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai chose a female, Hindu candidate when he voted in Saturday’s parliamentary election, two palace officials close to him said. Just two Hindu candidates were on the list of about 600 vying for parliamentary seats in the Afghan capital. Karzai’s choice could annoy supporters in deeply conservative, Muslim Afghanistan. (Photo: President Karzai casts his vote in Kabul September 18, 2010/Andrew Biraj)

His backers include powerful ex-warlords who were fielding their own candidates and religious conservatives who are opposed to female politicians and unlikely to be happy Karzai is backing a non-Muslim.

“It was Anar Kali Honaryar,” one palace official told Reuters, giving the name of a female activist who largely relied on Muslim supporters during her campaigning.

Berlin issues guidelines on integrating Muslim pupils in schools

GERMANY SARRAZIN/TRIALIf you’re a teacher in Germany and are unsure whether to allow your Muslim pupils to pray at school, to skip swimming lessons or wear the veil, you may want to consult a new handbook aimed at dealing with the sometimes tricky task of reconciling Muslim practices with German schooling.

Berlin’s Ministry for Education, Science and Research has just published a guide called “Islam and School”  giving practical advice on how to resolve these issues and encourage “people to live together respectfully and peacefully”, which you can find in German here.

The guidelines aim to boost the integration of Germany’s Muslim community, Europe’s second largest Muslim population after France. Around 4 million Muslims live in Germany, meaning about 5 percent of the overall population.

FBI tells US Mohammed cartoonist to ‘go ghost’ – report

prophet (Photo: Banner at demonstration in Kuala Lumpur against a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed March 26, 2010/Bazuki Muhammad)

A Seattle cartoonist who stirred up a religious storm with a tongue-in-cheek encouragement to draw images of the Muslim prophet Mohammed has gone into hiding after a threat to her safety.

Cartoonist Molly Norris, who published an illustration in April on her website entitled “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” was told by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to “go ghost,” according to Seattle Weekly, where Morris was a regular contributor.

“On the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI,” Norris is “moving, changing her name and essentially wiping away her identity,” a Seattle Weekly report said on Thursday.

GUESTVIEW: Why stoning Sakineh is a mistake

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. This interview with Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim and Massimo Papa about Iran’s stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani on charges of adultery was originally published in Oasis, a Venice-based magazine on Christian-Muslim dialogue. Martino Diez is director of research at the Oasis International Foundation. sakinehBy Martino Diez .

Professor Naim, what is your assessment of Sakineh’s case?
Officially, the authorities maintain this is a straightforward murder case. Although I have not followed the matter in detail, I think that the ambiguity of the versions produced throughout the years is suspicious and betrays the presence of political manipulation. This poor woman has ended up at the centre of a struggle between different underground factions. There are many cases similar to this. (Photo: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in an undated photo handout from Amnesty International)

About this charge, and especially the (momentarily suspended) sentence, the authorities have invoked Islamic legitimation. Sakineh’s case would be included in the hudùd category, which comprises crimes explicitly defined as such in the Koran itself: murder, adultery, theft, slander and alcohol consumption.

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.

Analysis – Anti-immigrant wave spreads across Europe

immigration (Photo: Women in headscarves shop in Berlin’s Neukoelln district September 6, 2010/Tobias Schwarz)

A little-known Berlin politician named Rene Stadtkewitz, who wants headscarves banned, mosques shuttered and state welfare payments to Muslims cut, is the newest face of a powerful anti-immigrant strain in European politics that is winning over voters and throwing mainstream politicians onto the defensive.

Experts say public concerns about immigration have grown in the wake of the economic crisis and politicians across Europe are scrambling like never before to exploit these fears, breaking unwritten post-war taboos along the way.

“What we are witnessing is not a new trend, but a deepening and acceleration of something that was in place,” said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations (Ifri) in Paris. “These politicians are playing with fire, because feelings on this issue run very deep and may not disappear when the economy recovers.”

Turkey’s Erdogan scores reform referendum victory

erdoganTurkish voters strongly backed constitutional reforms on Sunday, handing a government led by conservative Muslims a new victory in a power struggle with secular opponents over the country’s direction.

“The winner today was Turkish democracy,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told followers. Erdogan had portrayed the reforms as an effort to boost the Muslim nation’s democracy and help its European Union candidacy. (Photo: Tayyip Erdogan at a news conference in Istanbul September 12, 2010/Osman Orsal)

Though Erdogan’s AK party has pushed political and economic reforms and spearheaded Turkey’s drive for EU accession since coming to power in 2002, the secular establishment accuses it of using its parliamentary majority to introduce a hidden Islamist agenda. Until the advent of AK, a secular elite had held power since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey in 1923. With the army’s once-formidable power clipped by EU-driven reforms, high courts are seen as the secularists’ last redoubt.

Fears rise over growing anti-Muslim feeling in U.S.

wtc 1 (Photo: An honor guard trumpeter plays during the ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York September 11, 2010/Chris Hondros)

Amid threats of Koran burning and a heated dispute over a planned Muslim cultural center in New York, Muslim leaders and rights activists warn of growing anti-Muslim feeling in America partly provoked for political reasons.  “Many people now treat Muslims as ‘the other’ — as something to vilify and to discriminate against,” said Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union. And, he said, some people have exploited that fear in the media, “for political gain or cheap notoriety.”

The imam leading the project to build the cultural center, including a prayer room, near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks said there was a rise of what he called “Islamophobia” and the debate had been radicalized by extremists. “The radicals in the United States and the radicals in the Muslim world feed off each other. And to a certain extent, the attention that they’ve been able to get by the media has even aggravated the problem,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in an interview with ABC news aired on Sunday.

Mistrust of Muslims has grown in recent years. A Pew poll released in August found the number of Americans with a favorable view of Islam was 30 percent, down from 41 percent in 2005. American feelings about Islam are partisan — 54 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of Islam compared to 27 percent of Democrats. In November 2001 there was not the same partisan divide of opinions on Islam.