FaithWorld

Chrystia Freeland: Mosque madness and midterms

mosque screengrab

On “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour, Reuters global editor at large Chrystia Freeland says President Barack Obama’s speech in support of the Cordoba House cultural centre and mosque that would occupy a building two blocks from Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan displays leadership and conviction. (Photo: videograb/This Week/ABC)

Here is an excerpt from the broadcast on Sunday August 15:

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Christian-themed TV shows spark complaints in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon

saudi tv 1Television shows with Christian themes have sparked complaints in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon in recent days, but from different groups and for different reasons.

In Saudi Arabia, a popular sitcom has drawn the ire of conservative clerics over an episode portraying Arab Christians in a positive light after the kingdom sought to sell itself as a leader of dialogue between faiths. (Photo: Saudis watch a religious programme during Ramadan, 15 Sept 2008/Fahad Shadeed)

A two-part episode of the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash,” which has aired during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan for 17 years, showed the two main Saudi characters, both Muslims, being advised by their dying father to visit the brother of their deceased Lebanese mother.

Orthodox Christians flock to once-banned holy site in Turkey

sumela 4 (Photo: Orthodox Christians at Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)

Europe Papadopolous’s grandparents were children when they fled their village in northeast Turkey and settled in Greece almost 90 years ago, yet she still felt she was in exile.

TURKEY-ORTHODOX/

Papadopolous, 45, was one of thousands of Orthodox faithful who journeyed to Sumela Monastery, built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest, on Sunday to attend the first mass here since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923. (Photo: Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)

“Being apart from this place feels like Ulysses: always searching for your home,” Papadopolous said, tears streaming down her face and adding that even though her grandparents are dead, she was sure they could see her “homecoming.”

Did Bloomberg inspire Obama’s speech about NYC Muslim cultural centre?

obama mosque 1There was an interesting echo at the White House when President Barack Obama came out in favour of the proposed Cordoba House Muslim cultural centre near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York (see our news report here).  Controversy about the project, which opponents call the “Ground Zero mosque,” has been swirling in New York for weeks and went national recently when Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich joined the critics’ campaign. But until the annual Iftar dinner he hosted on Friday evening, the president had kept out of what his spokesman called “a matter for New York City and the local community to decide.” (Photo: President Obama addresses White House Iftar meal, 13 August 2010/Jason Reed)

Reading his comments, it looks like Obama not only let NYC authorities decide the issue — favourably for the project, as it turned out, as both the local community board and the landmarks commission voted overwhelmingly to let it go ahead. He may also have taken pointers for his speech from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has stood solidly behind the project despite all the emotion it has stirred up.

obama mosque 2After the Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the last administrative hurdle to the plan — rejecting the opponents’ bid to protect the 1857 building standing on the proposed Cordoba House site from being torn down — Bloomberg delivered a forceful speech on August 3 defending two long-standing American traditions.

VIDEO: Roundup of Ramadan starting in Turkey, Asia, Afghanistan

Below is a Reuters video roundup of the start of Ramadan in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Afghanistan:

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Pakistanis start Ramadan fasting month amid flood misery

pakistan flood 1 (Photo: Evacuees from a flooded village dodge an army truck carrying relief supplies in Pakistan’s Punjab province on August 11, 2010/Adrees Latif)

They’ve been left homeless and hungry by the worst flooding in decades, but for many Pakistanis, their suffering is no reason to ignore Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that began in their country on Thursday.

Floods triggered by heavy monsoon rain over much of Pakistan began nearly two weeks ago, and have killed about 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of about 14 million, including about two million who have been forced from their homes.

Many survivors from flooded villages have lost their stores of food as well as crops in the field and livestock, and are surviving on occasional handouts, living in the open.

New York mosque opponents react, mayor defends religious freedom

nyc mosque 1A planned mosque and Muslim cultural center near the site of the September 11 attacks, which has triggered national debate, faces a new hurdle after a lawsuit was filed aiming to block the controversial project. (Photo: Demonstrator holds a sign in support of the proposed Cordoba Mosque to be built in New York, July 13, 2010/Keith Bedford)

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday by the American Center for Law & Justice in Washington whose mission is defending religious freedom, challenges Tuesday’s decision by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission not to grant landmark status to the 1857 Italianate building currently on the site.

“This issue has nothing to do with religious freedom,” said Brett Joshpe, a lawyer for ACLJ. “Given what the (planned new) building represents, the placement of the project at that location is inappropriate and inflammatory.”

Planned New York Islamic center near Sept. 11 site wins approval

A New York city agency denied “landmark” status for an old building near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, clearing the way for the building to be torn down to make room for a Muslim cultural center which has spurred heated debate.

The City Landmarks Commission decision on Tuesday allows for the demolition of a building near where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers stood and paves the way for construction of the Cordoba House, set to include a prayer room and a 500-seat auditorium as part of a 13-story cultural complex.

The project, which includes a mosque, drew emotional opposition from protesters who called the location inappropriate in a city still grappling with how to commemorate the attacks carried out by Islamic militants.

Malaysia fines Muslims for brandishing cow’s head in Hindu temple protest

MALAYSIA-POLITICS/TENSIONS (Photo: Protesters stomp on cow’s head, 28 Aug 2009/Samsul Said)

A Malaysian court has sentenced a Muslim to a week in jail and fined 11 others for a brandishing a cow’s head during a protest against the construction of a Hindu temple.

Critics said the light sentences on Tuesday may further strain race relations between Muslims, who make up the majority of the country’s 28 million population, and minority Hindus and Christians who complain of discrimination.

“Going ahead, this will become a political issue for the country’s minorities and further reinforce their unhappiness,” said James Chin, a politics professor at Monash University in Kuala Lumpur.

New Russian holiday marked as Kremlin boosts Orthodox Church

russia holiday (Photo: Soldier holds candle at ceremony for adoption of Christianity, in Stavropol, July 28, 2010/Eduard Korniyenko)

Russia marked its adoption of Christianity in 988 on Wednesday with a new public holiday, the latest show of Kremlin support for the Russian Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.

Rights groups have criticized the new holiday, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, as undermining Russia’s secular constitution and members of the country’s large Muslim minority have complained that it excludes them.

Marking the anniversary Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, held a liturgy in Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine and mediaeval Kievan Rus, whose leader Prince Vladimir made Christianity the state religion more than 1,000 years ago. Kievan Rus is seen as the precursor of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.