FaithWorld

Catholic area riots after Protestant marches in Northern Ireland

(Nationalist youths and police in riot gear clash in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast July 12, 2011/Cathal McNaughton)

Police fired plastic bullets and water cannon at Catholic youths in Northern Ireland’s provincial capital Belfast on Tuesday after rioting erupted when a Protestant parade passed their estate. Sporadic violence erupted across the British-ruled province on the culmination of a season of parades by pro-British Protestants to mark a 17th-century military victory, a tradition many Catholics say is provocative.

Around 200 people threw bottles, slates and petrol bombs in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne area of Belfast after police moved in to prevent them confronting the passing Orange Order parade. Two cars were set on fire and dozens of rounds of plastic bullets were fired. Police said a number of officers were injured.

Most of the 500 or so parades across the province passed peacefully, but police reported rioting in Londonderry, Newry and Armagh as well as the Markets area in central Belfast.

Three decades of fighting between mostly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland tore the province apart during a three-decade period known as the “Troubles.”

Bangladesh Islamists stage strike against dropping Allah from constitution

(Members of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, a radical Islamist group set tires on fire as they barricade a highway during a daylong strike in Kachpur near Dhaka July 10, 2011/Andrew Biraj)

Police in Bangladesh Sunday fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse Islamist activists trying to enforce a nationwide strike over the removal of a Muslim phrase in the constitution, and witnesses said around 50 people were injured. The clashes erupted when thousands of bludgeon-carrying Islamists cut off a stretch of highway leading to the capital’s eastern suburbs with barricades. The protesters also damaged several cargo trucks before the police crackdown, and some 100 people were detained.

The strike, which began two days after the country emerged from a 48-hour stoppage enforced by the opposition, was called to protest a recent amendment to the constitution which dropped the words “absolute faith and trust in Allah.” The Islamists also want to scrap “secularism” as a state principle in the Muslim-majority country.

“Neither God, nor Master” film angers Tunisian Islamists

(A Tunisian flag at a peaceful demonstration in Tunis January 15, 2011/Zohra Bensemra)

Six months after Tunisia’s uprising, religious tension is rising over the limits of freedom of expression, as Islamists challenge the dominance of liberals in what was once a citadel of Arab secularism. Last week several dozen men attacked a cinema in Tunis that had advertised a film publicly titled in French ‘Ni Dieu, Ni Maitre’ (No God, No Master) by Tunisian-French director Nadia El-Fani, an outspoken critic of political Islam.

Police later arrested 26 men, but Salafists — a purist trend within political Islam advocating a return to the ways of early Muslims — gathered outside the justice ministry two days later to demand their release, leading to scuffles with lawyers. Security forces were heavily deployed in central Tunis to stop protests by Salafists after Friday prayers last week.

Daniel-in-lion’s-den moment for new Catholic archbishop of free-wheeling Berlin

(St. Hedwig's Catholic Cathedral in Berlin, 20 June 2009/Beek100)

Like Daniel in the lion’s den, Berlin’s new Catholic archbishop met the media on Tuesday to face accusations he was homophobic and far too conservative for such a prominent post in the free-wheeling German capital. Rainer Maria Woelki, a surprise choice for the high-profile post, professed respect for gays, denied membership in the staunchly conservative Opus Dei group and said he did not come to Berlin to point a censuring finger at non-Catholics.

Berlin’s gay community and liberal media reacted with dismay to his appointment last week, saying the Cologne-based prelate was “backwards-minded” and the wrong man for the job. But interest in the new prelate was so strong that the Catholic Church, a minority of about 390,000 in a 3.5 million population mostly indifferent or hostile to religion, had to switch the news conference to a larger hall at the last minute to accomodate over 100 journalists who turned out.

“We will meet with each other,” Woelki, 54, said when asked about the city’s active gay community. “I have respect and esteem for all people independent of heritage, skin colour and individual nature. I am open to all without reservations.” Describing himself simply as Catholic, he denied being a member of Opus Dei despite having done his doctorate at the group’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. That part of his biography led to media reports over the weekend calling him “reactionary.”

Israel targets top rabbis for anti-Arab incitement backing “King’s Doctrine”

(Israeli policemen, mounted on horses, try to control a group of right-wing Israeli protesters during clashes at a protest in Jerusalem June 27, 2011, against the arrest earlier on Monday of their Rabbi Dov Lior/Ronen Zvulun )

Israeli police briefly detained a leading rabbi Sunday as part of a widening probe into a treatise suspected of inciting the murder of Arabs. The investigation has pitted authorities in the Jewish state against far-right West Bank settlers and has led to scuffles outside government institutions in Jerusalem and a sit-down protest that choked off the main highway to Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Yaacov Yosef was seized by detectives on his way back from morning prayers, witnesses said, in a tactic similar to the arrest last week of a senior West Bank rabbi whose followers responded with street protests. ”They commandeered the car and took it away, together with my dad, to an undisclosed destination,” Yosef’s son Yonatan told Israel Radio. The rabbi was freed after an hour, police said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir urges Pakistanis to take to the streets for Islamic rule

(A protester pokes his head through a banner during a demonstration by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir outside the Syrian embassy in central London, May 7, 2011/Andrew Winning)

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a global Islamist party banned in many Muslim states, said on Friday Pakistanis should take to the streets to call for Islamic rule and join a campaign to end subservience to Washington that was advancing “from Indonesia to Tunisia”.  The party, which says it is non-violent but is accused by some analysts of seeking a coup in Islamabad, added that “powerful factions” in Pakistani society including the military should also take part, but violence had no place in its work.

Hizb ut-Tahrir won international attention when Pakistan’s army said on June 22 it was questioning four majors about alleged links to the party, following the arrest in May of a brigadier suspected of having such ties. Brigadier Ali Khan, whose lawyer has denied the allegations, was the highest-ranking serving officer arrested in a decade. The Pakistan army is under pressure to remove Islamist sympathisers in its ranks after U.S. forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad on May 2.

European Jewish groups vow to fight Dutch ritual slaughter ban

(A kosher food shop in Berlin's Mitte district November 3, 2008/Fabrizio Bensch)

Two leading Jewish organizations in Europe vowed on Wednesday to fight a looming ban on ritual animal slaughter in the Netherlands approved by the lower house of the Dutch parliament in a bid to protect animal rights.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) announced it was considering taking legal action to block the ban, which it said violated the freedom of religion enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights.

Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian divide widens after Bahrain unrest

(A new sign showing the direction towards Al Farooq Junction, previously known as Pearl Square, stands along a road in Manama May 31, 2011. Bahraini authorities demolished the monument in Pearl Square in March following the country's unrest where thousands of Shiite Muslims protested by camping there/Hamad I Mohammed)

Sectarian tension between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims has reached new heights in Bahrain after pro-democracy protests that the Sunni minority government crushed with martial law and foreign military forces. Inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Sunni and Shi’ite Bahrainis took to the streets in early February to demand political reforms in a country where the ruling Al Khalifa family appoints cabinet ministers and an upper house of parliament, neutering the powers of the elected assembly.

An idealistic movement began with slogans such as “No Sunni, No Shi’ite — Just Bahraini”, but now sectarian fear and anger are uppermost on this small island state where Saudi Arabia and Iran are playing out a proxy contest for regional supremacy. Sunnis and Shi’ites talk of friends lost and of a rift that once seemed manageable. Sunnis feel threatened, Shi’ites abused.

Protests in Bahrain’s Shi’ite neighbourhoods fall on deaf ears

(Shi'ite protesters march in the Sanabis neighbourhood in Manama June 3, 2011/Hamad I Mohammed)

In a poor district of Bahrain’s capital, a few hundred people marched through cramped, crumbling alleyways banging pans and screaming, “Down with the regime.” A mile (1.5 km) away, in the city centre, with its gleaming malls and office blocks, no one heard them.

A week after the tiny Gulf island kingdom repealed martial law, and despite the lingering presence of a few checkpoints, much of Manama seems almost back to normal. “Everything is quiet, there’s nothing wrong. I haven’t heard about any problems,” a man who gave his name as Khalifa said as he walked to a Starbucks coffee shop.

Indian police break up hunger strike by yoga guru Swami Ramdev

(A supporter of India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev is detained by police at the Ramlila grounds where Ramdev was observing his fast against corruption in New Delhi June 5, 2011/stringer)

Police swooped on India’s most famous yoga guru on Sunday, using teargas and batons to break up a fast against graft, risking more political headaches for scandal-tainted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Swami Ramdev began his hunger strike with tens of thousands of followers at a tent in New Delhi on Saturday. Less than 24 hours into the fast, police detained him and flew him to near Haridwar in northern India, centre of his global yoga business.

Media said at least 30 people were injured in the pre-dawn raid at a tent where his followers, from poor villagers to foreign tourists and civil servants, had gathered. Some Ramdev supporters threw stones at police. “The permission was for a yoga camp for 5,000, not for 50,000 people for agitation. We have cancelled the permission and asked them to move out,” said Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.