FaithWorld

Nigerian elections seal major power shift to largely Christian south


(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his home village of Otuoke, Bayelsa state April 16, 2011/Joseph Penney)

A decisive election victory by President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria has shifted power firmly to the largely Christian south from the Muslim north and could reopen political fissures in Africa’s top energy supplier.

Violence swept northern cities, leaving hundreds of people dead and many homeless after Jonathan’s crushing victory over his northern opponent Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.

“Jonathan’s landslide, though on the surface it appears like a resounding pan-Nigeria mandate, has brought back with a vengeance all the religious and sectional cleavage, not to mention ethnic bitterness,” Olakunle Abimbola of The Nation newspaper wrote in a column.

Many people see the riots as a reaction by the north to being cut adrift from power and say Jonathan will have to tread gingerly to avoid fuelling resentment in the vast impoverished area. So far the president has said his victory is for all Nigerians and his aides have refrained from being triumphalist.

Although Buhari won in almost all Nigeria’s northern states, Jonathan also picked up millions of votes and his northern backers — particularly in the elite — have high expectations.

San Francisco may vote on banning male circumcision

(A Jewish circumcsion, 18 November 2007/Chesdovi)

A group opposed to male circumcision said they have collected more than enough signatures to qualify a proposal to ban the practice in San Francisco as a ballot measure for November elections.

But legal experts said that even if it were approved by a majority of the city’s voters, such a measure would almost certainly face a legal challenge as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of religion.

Circumcision is a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys, and is also a common rite among Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men worldwide.

Indian guru Sai Baba buried in state funeral, thousands grieve

(Police place India's national flag on a glass coffin containing the body of spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba during his funeral at an ashram at Puttaparti in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh April 27, 2011/Adnan Abidi)

Indian spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba was buried on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of devotees flocked to pay their last respects at his temple in south India to a man revered as a living God.

Tibetan monks, Muslim clerics, top politicians and military officers sat with hundreds of family members to commemorate the charismatic guru who drew millions of followers around the world with his diverse teachings that blended Hindu and Muslim beliefs.

Days of protest after Christian governor named in southern Egypt

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(A Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, April 18, 2009/Tarek Mostafa)

Muslims in southern Egypt protested for a third day on Sunday over the appointment of a Christian governor, saying his predecessor, also a Christian, had failed to solve their problems. Thousands rallied outside the governor’s office in Qena and prevented employees from entering, blocked highways leading to the town and sat on a railway line into the province demanding that the appointment of Emad Mikhail be reversed.

Egypt’s interim military rulers, who took control when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising, selected Mikhail last week as one of several new appointments to replace officials associated with his autocratic regime. The protesters say Mikhail’s predecessor, Magdy Ayoub, failed to stem sectarian violence and address poverty and unemployment, which grew during his tenure. Witnesses say some Coptic Christians joined the protest as well.

“The experience of a Coptic governor has failed. There is no objection to his Coptic identity but the previous governor left a negative impression of Christian officials,” Youssef Ragab, a witness in Qena, told Reuters by telephone.

France starts ban on full-face veil, factbox on veils in Europe

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(Kenza Drider, a French Muslim of North African descent, wearing a niqab at the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris April 11, 2011/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

France’s ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force on Monday, making anyone wearing the Muslim niqab or burqa in public liable to a fine of 150 euros or lessons in French citizenship.

Mainstream Muslim groups, which had a six-month grace period after the law was passed to explain it to their supporters,  opted not to protest at its entry into force. “We’ve already had our debate about the law and now our position is clear: we respect French law 100 percent,” said a spokesman for the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

France’s ban on full face veils goes into force

(Official poster for the information campaign about France's full face veil ban/SIG)

(Official poster for the information campaign about France's full face veil ban. The quote says "Nobody can wear clothes meant to hide the face in public."/SIG)

France’s ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force Monday, exposing anyone who wears the Muslim niqab or burqa in public to fines of 150 euros (£131.90).  France’s five-million-strong Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest, but fewer than 2,000 women are believed actually to wear a full face veil. Many Muslim leaders have said they support neither the veil nor the law banning it.

The timing is sensitive after France’s ruling political party, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP, called a debate on the place of Islam in France, a move that some say risked stigmatising a portion of the population.

French police arrest protesters before burqa ban goes into effect

veil

(A Muslim woman protests against France's banning of full face veils from public spaces, outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

French police have arrested 59 people who turned up for a banned protest over the banning of the Muslim full face veil, a police spokesman said. The measure goes into force on Monday and prohibits wearing the full veil, the burqa, in all public places, with a 150 euro ($216) fine for offenders.

The spokesman said 20 of those arrested on Saturday had turned up for the prohibited protest at the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris wearing the full veil. One person was arrested on arrival in France from Britain and one came from Belgium.

Syria lifts niqab ban, shuts casino, in nod to protesting Sunnis

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(A visitor browses through books at the 26th International Book Fair near Damascus July 31, 2010/Khaled al-Hariri)

Syria has lifted a ban on teachers wearing the full face veil and ordered the closure of a casino, moves aimed at placating conservative Muslims in the tightly-controlled country that has seen weeks of unrest. Last month pro-democracy protests erupted in the majority Sunni Muslim city of Deraa and later spread to other cities, including the religiously-mixed port city of Latakia, posing the greatest challenge to Assad’s 11-year rule.

Thousands of people protested in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Friday, dissatisfied by gestures President Bashar al-Assad has made towards reform.

Sarkozy party: Islam debate undercuts French far-right

(Jean-Francois Cope, France's UMP political party leader, speaks at the end of the UMP party's debate on secularism in Paris April 5, 2011. France's ruling conservatives discussed a 26-point secularism platform for the practice of Islam in French society on Tuesday at a debate which has forced the party to fend off accusations of bigotry. The slogan reads " Secularism, to live better together". REUTERS/Charles Platiau )

(Jean-François Copé, April 5, 2011. The sign says: "Secularism - for living together better"/Charles Platiau )

France’s ruling conservative party held a controversial debate on the practice of Islam on Tuesday, rejecting charges of bigotry and saying that airing the issue could help stem the rising popularity of the far-right. President Nicolas Sarkozy called for the discussion on Islam and secularism to address fears that some overt displays of Muslim faith, including street prayer and full-face veils, were undermining France’s secular identity.

With his popularity at record lows a year before a presidential election, Sarkozy has been accused of seeking to woo back right-wing voters increasingly drawn to the National Front party under its telegenic new leader Marine Le Pen. Even before it began, the debate had been tarnished by criticism from religious leaders, a boycott by France’s largest Muslim group and the absence of Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Boycott and protests set stage for French Islam debate

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(Muslims demonstrate against the debate about secularism and Islam proposed by the UMP party, April 2, 2011. The placard reads,"French and Muslims, where is the problem?"/Benoit Tessier)

France’s ruling conservatives are pressing ahead with a public debate on Islam and secularism on Tuesday despite criticism that it is an excuse to pander to far-right voters ahead of a general election next year. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party said in December that it would host a public forum to address fears about Islam’s role in French society, following controversy over Muslim street prayers, halal-only restaurants and full-face Islamic veils.

But a hail of criticism from religious leaders and some party members has forced the UMP to downsize the event and fight off accusations that a focus on Islam will provide cover for the airing of anti-Muslim prejudices among the French.