U.S. High Court lets city block religious monument

February 25, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a Utah city can refuse to put a religious group’s monument in a public park near a similar Ten Commandments display. You can see our story here.

Exercised over yoga in Malaysia

November 26, 2008

Of all the things to get exercised about, yoga would seem to be an unlikely candidate for controversy. But such has been the case in Malaysia this week.

U.S. soldier sues over mandatory Christian prayers

September 29, 2008

A non-religious Kansas soldier is suing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the grounds that his constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to attend military events where “fundamentalist Christian prayers” were recited.

Where does religion have its strongest foothold?

September 18, 2008

Indonesian Muslims pray at Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque during Ramadan, 5 Sept 2008/Supri SupriThe answer is Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. At least that was the conclusion of the latest Pew Research Institute survey of attitudes about religion around the world — a look at 24 countries based on thousands of interviews. Indonesia came in first with 99 percent of the population rating religion as important or very important in their lives — and it topped everyone else in the “very important” slot at 95 percent. Beyond that 80 percent of those surveyed in Indonesia say they pray five times a day every day — adhering to one of the five pillars of Islam.

The Pope and Carla – a photographer’s dream

September 11, 2008

Pope Benedict at a recent general audience at the VaticanDuring a Vatican briefing this week on Pope Benedict’s trip to France, a television producer got up and asked the question that surely was foremost in the minds of many photographers and television crews struggling to hold back yawns as subjects such as France’s secular history were discussed:

UPDATE: Turkish crisis puts “post-Islamist” reform on hold

May 26, 2008

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and guard of honour in Ankara, 17 March 2008/Umit BektasBlogging takes time, which I didn’t have on Friday after finishing an analysis for the Reuters wire about religion in Turkey posted here. I went to Istanbul to research several religion stories. The main impression I left with was that the prospect for religious policy changes raised by the “post- Islamist” AK Party government in recent years has mostly evaporated. The current political crisis that could end up banning the party and barring Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan from belonging to a political party means the end of any liberalisation. In fact, the steam went out of the reform drive a few years ago after Ankara got the green light to negotiate Turkish membership in the European Union.

New York imam forges close ties with city’s Jews

May 16, 2008

New York Islamic Cultural Center, 23 April 2008/Tom HeneghanNew York’s largest mosque, the Islamic Cultural Center (ICC) on East 96th Street in Manhattan, is getting applause from an unexpected quarter — the city’s influential Jewish community … Much of the credit for the upbeat mood goes to Mohammad Shamsi Ali, the ICC’s Indonesian-born imam who arrived here only 12 years ago and has been rated by New York magazine as the city’s most influential Islamic leader.

Benedict’s deeper thoughts about faith in the U.S.

April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict addresses U.S. bishops, 16 April 2008/Kevin LamarquePope Benedict made so many positive comments about the positive role of faith in U.S. public life before and at the beginning of his U.S. visit that it was inevitable he would get around to a deeper analysis at some point. That point came in his meeting with American bishops in Washington on Wednesday. It was the kind of analysis we’ve come to expect from him — clearly expressed, intellectually ambitious and focused on his trademark issue of relativism.

Muslim student group adapts to life in the U.S.

February 21, 2008

MSA U.S. & Canada logoThe New York Times has an interesting article about how the Muslim Students Association (MSA) there is adapting to life in the United States. Founded in the 1960s by foreign students who wanted to pray together, the chapters “were basically little slices of Saudi Arabia. Women were banned. Only Muslim men who prayed, fasted and avoided alcohol and dating were welcomed. Meetings, even idle conversations, were in Arabic.” The MSA was largely financed by Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi views presumably came along with the cheques.

Sarkozy wants French pupils to ‘adopt’ Holocaust child victims

February 14, 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy and Richard Prasquier at CRIF dinner, 13 Feb 2008/Gonzalo FuentesThe “Sarko & secularism” story takes on ever new twists. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already kicked up lively debates in France by praising religious faith whenever he can, defending his country’s Christian roots in a Roman basilica and complimenting the Saudis in Riyadh for fighting against fanaticism and fundamentalism. After the Catholics and the Muslims, France’s Jews were in line for some presidential stroking. It came on Wednesday evening, at the annual dinner of the leading Jewish organisation here, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF).