FaithWorld

Saudi clerics condemn protests as un-Islamic

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(Supporters of Saudi Shi'ite cleric Tawfiq al-Amir hold his pictures during a demonstration following his release in Al-Ahsa March 6, 2011. Cleric Tawfiq al-Amir was arrested last week after calling for a constitutional monarchy and a fight against corruption/Stringer)

Saudi Arabia’s council of senior clerics has issued a statement forbidding as un-Islamic the public protests, which the rulers of the U.S. ally and key oil exporter fear could spread following demonstrations by minority Shi’ites. The kingdom has escaped major protests like those which toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, but the wave of unrest has reached its neighbours Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Oman.

“The Council of Senior Clerics affirms that demonstrations are forbidden in this country. The correct way in sharia (Islamic law) of realising common interest is by advising, which is what the Prophet Mohammad established,” said the statement by the body headed by the Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh.

“Reform and advice should not be via demonstrations and ways that provoke strife and division, this is what the religious scholars of this country in the past and now have forbidden and warned against,” said the statement, carried by state media on Sunday.

More than 17,000 people backed a call on Facebook to hold two demonstrations in Saudi Arabia this month, the first on Friday. The interior ministry said on Saturday that protests violate Islamic law and the kingdom’s traditions. Security forces have detained at least 22 Shi’ites who took part in protests in the kingdom’s oil-rich east, activists said. Neighbouring Bahrain has seen protests by majority Shi’ites against their Sunni rulers.

Libyan Islamic scholars issue fatwa for Muslims to rebel

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(Protesters in Benghazi, February 20, 2011/Youtube via Reuters TV)

A coalition of Libyan Islamic leaders has issued a fatwa telling all Muslims it is their duty to rebel against the Libyan leadership.  The group also demanded the release of fellow Islamic scholar Sadiq al-Ghriani, who was arrested after criticising the government, and “all imprisoned demonstrators, including many of our young students”.

Calling itself the Network of Free Ulema of Libya, the group of over 50 Muslim scholars said the government and its supporters “have demonstrated total arrogant impunity and continued, and even intensified, their bloody crimes against humanity.”

Open dissent by established Muslim clerics is rare in North Africa, but the crackdown on protesters rallied the scholars to form the previously unknown Network of Free Ulema. Their first statement issued on Saturday denounced the government for firing on demonstrators who were demanding “their divinely endowned and internationally recognised human rights” and stressed the killing of innocent people was “forbidden by our Creator.”

Tunis march against Islamists, for harmony after Polish priest murdered

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(Tunisians march against Islamists and for interfaith harmony in Tunis, February 19, 2011. The protesters' T-shirts in Arabic read: Tunisia secular", the sign on top reads: "Tunisia for all" and the sign on bottom left in French reads: "Terrorism is not Tunisia"/Zoubeir Souissi)

About 15,000 demonstrators have protested in Tunis against the country’s Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance a day after the Interior Ministry announced a Polish Catholic priest had been murdered by an extremist group.

“We need to live together and be tolerant of each other’s views,” said Ridha Ghozzi, 34, who was among the protesters carrying signs and chanting slogans on Saturday including “Terrorism is not Tunisian” and “Religion is Personal”.

Libyan Muslim leaders urge military to stop shooting protesters

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(Benghazi port, 13 March 2009/Dennixo)

The bloody crackdown on protesters in Libya has prompted about 50 Libyan Muslim religious leaders to issue an appeal to the security forces as Muslims to stop the killing or face the wrath of God.

Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, an eyewitness told Reuters, in the worst unrest in Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power. Snipers fired at protesters from a compound to which they had withdrawn, said the resident, who did not want to be named.

“Dozens were killed … not 15, dozens. We are in the midst of a massacre here,” the eyewitness resident in Benghazi said. Human Rights Watch said earlier that 84 people had been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

Indonesia Muslims attack court, churches; mob kills Ahmadis

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(Anti-riot police block protesters outside the court where a Catholic man is on trial for blasphemy in Temanggung February 8, 2011/Stringer)

Hundreds of Muslim radicals set two churches ablaze and attacked a court in Indonesia’s central Java on Tuesday, calling for harsh punishment for a Christian on trial for blasphemy, police said.

The attacks come two days after a mob beat to death three followers of a minority Islamic sect considered heretical by mainstream Muslims, and at the start of so-called “Inter-faith week”, when the country is supposed to celebrate its pluralistic heritage.

British police avert clashes at Luton anti-Islamist rally

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(An English Defence League supporter with effigy of Osama Bin Laden mask during a rally in Luton, February 5, 2011/Paul Hackett)

About 1,500 far-right protesters marched through the centre of the British city of Luton Saturday to rally against “militant Islam,” requiring a heavy police presence to avert clashes with 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators. A sixth of Luton’s population is Muslim, and past marches by the English Defence League have led to conflict with their opponents. The city centre turned into a virtual ghost town before the rally, with shops boarded up and pubs closed.

But police and community activists averted large-scale violence, making only eight arrests on a mix of assault, drugs and weapons charges. There were no serious injuries.

Tide turns in favour of Egypt’s Brotherhood in revolt

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(Essam El-Erian, spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood, at a news conference in Cairo February 6, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

The first time Essam el-Erian went to jail, he was 27. Last Sunday, he left prison for the eighth time at the age of 57. The medical doctor’s crime for each incarceration was belonging to the Muslim Botherhood, Egypt’s most influential and best-organised Islamist opposition movement and long feared by President Hosni Mubarak, Israel and the United States.

Egypt’s courts have repeatedly rebuffed the Brotherhood’s requests for recognition as a party on the grounds that the constitution bans parties based on religion.

Can Arabs learn from Turkish model of Islam and democracy?

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(Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, December 2, 2008/Umit Bektas)

If President Hosni Mubarak bows to the clamor of the street and goes, Egyptians and other Arabs seeking to turn a page on autocratic government may look at Turkey for some clues on marrying Islam and democracy.

Relatively stable, with a vibrant economy and ruled by a conservative and pragmatic government led by former Islamists, Turkey has often been cited as a model Muslim democracy and a linchpin of Western influence in the region.

Egypt’s Islamists well placed for any post-Mubarak phase

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(Anti-Mubarak protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo February 1, 2011/Suhaib Salem)

The Muslim Brotherhood, one of the Arab world’s oldest Islamist movements and Egypt’s largest opposition group, is well placed to play a prominent role as President Hosni Mubarak’s rule teeters on the brink of collapse.

The movement is active in the protest movement massing in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities on Tuesday in an attempt to persuade Mubarak that after 30 years it is time to go.

But decades of severe repression have taught the Brotherhood to move cautiously, and the movement is anxious to preserve the impression that the protesters are part of a broad-based movement of which the Islamists are just one part.

Major Muslim TV preacher Amr Khaled heads for Cairo

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One of the world’s most influential Muslim television preachers said on Friday that he was traveling back to his native Egypt, which is in turmoil amid mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak.

Amr Khaled, whose TV shows promoting Islam are widely viewed throughout the Middle East, told Reuters he was leaving the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland to head for Cairo. He would not say whether he would join the protests.

“My message to all Egyptians now is that our country is precious and the future needs a government that listens and respects young people,” he said in a telephone interview.