FaithWorld

Saudi Shi’ite protests simmer as Bahrain conflict rages

saudi protest

(Protesters demand the release of prisoners they say are held without trial, in Saudi Arabia's eastern Gulf coast town of Qatif March 11, 2011/Stringer)

Hundreds of young Shi’ite men marched down a commercial street in the Saudi city of Qatif, near the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry, pounding their fists in anger over their country’s military intervention in Bahrain. “With our blood and soul we sacrifice for you, Bahrain,” they chanted as they walked, according to videos of a recent protest posted on the internet. Some wore scarves to conceal their faces. Others waved Bahraini flags.

“People are boiling,” one Shi’ite activist in Qatif told Reuters by phone, asking not to be named for fear of arrest. “People are talking about strikes, demonstration and prayer to help the Bahrainis.”

The protests were in response to Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and most powerful Gulf Arab state, sending troops to Bahrain last week to help quell weeks of protests by majority Shi’ites in the Sunni-led monarchy. Bahrain’s opposition called it a declaration of war.

Riyadh, facing Shi’ite protests of its own, fears a sustained revolt in neighboring Bahrain could embolden its own Shi’ite minority, which has long grumbled about sectarian discrimination, charges Riyadh denies. The military intervention, however, appears to have only deepened Shi’ite resentment in the kingdom, where between 10 and 15 percent of the 18 million Saudi nationals are Shi’ites.

Many Egyptian Christians voted ‘no’ on constitution, fearing Islamists

egypt referendum

(Pope Shenouda (L), head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, casts his vote during a national referendum, at a school in Cairo March 19, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Many Egyptian Christians say they voted to reject proposed constitutional amendments in a referendum on Saturday because they fear hasty elections to follow may open the door for Islamist groups to rise to power. It turned out they were in the minority — 77% of those voting supported the proposed changes.

Parliamentary elections should take place in late September followed by presidential elections in December, giving scant time for new parties to organise, including ones representing the aspirations of Christians. Foremost among these aspirations is the creation of a civil state where religion is not a basis for legislation.

Nigeria’s Muslim north risks growing sense of alienation

kano

(A motor rickshaw transporting Muslim women drives past a signboard promoting Islamic faith in Nigeria's northern city of Kano March 15, 2011/Joe Penny)

Standing on the dancefloor among shards of glass and splintered wood, Tony Baisie rues the day he agreed to help set up a nightclub in one of West Africa’s oldest Islamic cities. For more than 15 years this converted office on an industrial back street in Kano, northern Nigeria, was a thriving business. Customers — Christian and Muslim — would dance among its mirrored walls or shoot pool in the courtyard outside.

But three weeks ago, members of Hisbah — a uniformed Islamic squad set up by Kano’s state governor in 2003 to enforce sharia (Islamic law) — raided the club, smashing tables and chairs, and seizing its drinks stocks and sound systems. “They took me away and detained me overnight,” Baisie said. “Before they released me they made me sign an undertaking I would not sell alcohol or play music ever again in Kano.”

Nigeria’s Jonathan takes election campaign to Muslim north

jonathan

(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan speaks at the launch of his presidential campaign in the central city of Lafia, Nassarawa state February 7, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

From Islamic police enforcing a ban on beer and prostitution to its centuries-old market and mosques, Nigeria’s northern city of Kano feels like a different country to the pulsating southern sprawl of Lagos. Its low-rise buildings and dusty tree-lined streets have more in common with the sleepy Sahelian cities of Niger or Chad than with Nigeria’s commercial hub, a city built on hustle and home to some of Africa’s largest companies and richest tycoons.

Securing support in this ancient city — the second most populous after Lagos — and other parts of Nigeria’s Muslim north will be key if President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, is to clinch victory in the first round of elections next month.

Bomb hits office of liberal Indonesian Islamic group defending Ahmadis

(A Muslim woman holds a placard during a protest against the Ahmadi sect in Jakarta February 18, 2011. Indonesia's highest Islamic authority and many mass Islamic organisations in the most populous Muslim country consider Ahmadi "heretical" for believing that Mohammad was not Islam's final prophet. The placard reads, "Disband Ahmadi". REUTERS/Beawiharta)

(A protest against the Ahmadi sect in Jakarta February 18, 2011. The sign reads "Disband Ahmadiyah"/Beawiharta)

A small explosion has hit the Jakarta office of the Liberal Islamic Network, an Indonesian group that has defended the rights of minority Islamic  Ahmadi sect, a witness said. The explosion on Tuesday, which injured three people, comes a month after a mob beat to death three followers of the Ahmadi sect, considered heretical by mainstream Muslims.

Indonesia has won praise for largely defeating Islamic terror, but a recent spike in religious intolerance could heighten risk concerns for foreign investors counting on improved stability in Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Top Algerian Salafist’s fatwa says unrest is un-Islamic

fatwa

(A Salafist sheikh consults Islamic literature in Algiers, August 2, 2010/Louafi Larbi )

The spiritual leader of Algeria’s influential Salafist movement has issued a 48-page fatwa, or religious decree, urging Muslims to ignore calls for change because he says that democracy is against Islam. The fatwa by Sheikh Abdelmalek Ramdani, who lives in Saudi Arabia, comes at an opportune time for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as Algerians watching protests in other Arab states have begun pushing their own political and economic demands.

“As long as the commander of the nation is a Muslim, you must obey and listen to him. Those who are against him are just seeking to replace him, and this is not licit,” Ramdani wrote in the fatwa obtained by Reuters. “During unrest, men and women are mixed, and this is illicit in our religion,” said Ramdani, who claims several hundred thousand followers here.

Algerian imams use regional unrest to press pay demands

algerian protester

(A protester at a Socialist Forces Front party (FFS) rally in Algiers March 4, 2011/Louafi Larbi )

When thousands of young Algerians rioted earlier this year over price rises and living conditions, the government asked state-employed Muslim clerics to preach sermons in the mosques appealing for calm. Now, two months later, the clerics themselves are protesting. “We are very angry, and our daily living conditions are bad,” said Hajaj El Hadj, an imam at a mosque near the capital for over 20 years. “We demand a significant pay rise.”

Algeria’s 100,000 imams have joined municipal police, students, doctors, legal clerks, chauffeurs and oil workers who are demanding better pay and conditions and are threatening strikes or protests if they do not get what they want. This phenomenon has come about, in part, because many Algerians realise there has never been a better time to have their grievances resolved.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood wants quick constitutional amendments

brotherhood

(Khairat el Shater at Tahrir Square in Cairo March 4, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Egypt needs to start functioning again and prevent army rule from dragging on too long, the Muslim Brotherhood said, calling for the swift implementation of constitutional amendments to restart political life.

A month after a popular uprising forced President Hosni Mubarak from office, politicians from across the spectrum have begun to debate whether a new constitution is needed to breathe life into political institutions.

The Muslim Brotherhood can rally support quickly and would benefit from a quick election. It says it would take too long to draw up a new constitution that included all parties’ desires, so amending the current one is the only way forward.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti prays with generals, urges Muslim-Christian unity

interfaith tahrir

(A rally to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Christians at Tahrir Square in Cairo March 11, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egypt’s problems will melt under “the sunshine of freedom”, Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa said in a sermon attended by the ruling military council on Friday when thousands gathered across the country to condemn sectarian violence. He prayed for God to bestow strength on the military which has been governing Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was forced from power on Feb. 11 by an uprising demanding political reform and an end to autocratic rule.

Addressing the sectarian violence that broke out in Cairo this week, killing 13 people, Gomaa said attacks on Christians were un-Islamic. Thousands of Egyptians, both Muslim and Christian, gathered after Friday prayers to call for unity and to condemn the arson attack that ignited the sectarian tension. Thirteen people were killed in clashes between Muslims in Christians in Cairo on Tuesday night after the arson attack on a church. Activists have described the violence as a threat to the revolution.

Egyptian Copts hold funeral after Christian-Muslim strife kills 13

copt coffins

(Egyptian Coptic Christians gather for funeral of seven victims of sectarian clashes, at Samaan el-Kharaz Church in Cairo March 10, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Thousands of Egyptian Christians attended an emotional funeral service on Thursday for people killed in the worst Christian-Muslim violence since Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power. Six coffins lay by a church altar during the ceremony, victims of the violence on Tuesday in which 13 people were killed and 140 wounded. A seventh coffin arrived later. Some held aloft signs with slogans that included: “No to sectarianism, no to murder,” and “Farewell to the martyrs of Christ.”

“We will sacrifice our souls and our blood for the cross,” a crowd of mourners chanted at the end of the service as they poured out of the Samaan al-Kharaz Church, built in a cave above the Cairo slum of Manshiet Nasr.  It was not clear how many of the dead from Tuesday’s violence were Christian and how many Muslim.