FaithWorld

Russia to launch Muslim TV channel to promote tolerance

snowy mosque (Photo: Workers clearing snow during windy weather in front of the Kul-Sharif mosque in Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan republic, March 11, 2010/Denis Sinyakov)

Russia will soon launch a Muslim television channel in the hope it will foster tolerance after the capital saw some of the worst clashes since the fall of the Soviet Union, state-run media have reported.

Proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev two years ago, the satellite channel will go on air in February or March across Russia, home to some 20 million Muslims, or a seventh of the country’s population.

“We believe it is necessary to cultivate a spirit of tolerance towards representatives of other faiths,” RIA news agency on Tuesday quoted Russia’s Chief Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin as saying, adding programmes will be designed for a young audience.

Neo-nationalist movements have been gaining ground over the past year, shocking authorities and many Russians. At rallies, some chanted slogans such as “Russia is for Russians!”

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Indonesian Muslim cleric warns against over-the-top Christmas

indonesia (Photo: Two Indonesian women — the one on the left wearing a Muslim headscarf — pose for a photo in front of a Christmas tree in a shopping mall in Jakarta December 23, 2010/Dadang Tri)

Opulent Christmas decorations at shopping malls in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, could incite anger among non-Christians, the country’s highest Islamic authority said on Thursday. Although 90 percent of the country’s 240 million people are Muslim, the capital’s myriad glitzy malls have been decorated with Christmas lights and bunting — including faux snow, Santas and nativity scenes.

“Christmas describes a certain religion, and if the religion advertises it too overtly — even though they have only a small number of followers — it will cause jealousy and anger from other groups,” said Ma’ruf Amin, of Indonesia’s Ulema Council.

Retailers say the giant Christmas trees, paper mache reindeers and carols serve no religious purpose and are there to attract more shoppers during the holiday seasons. But Amin said over-the-top festivities could hurt existing tolerance.

Saudi Arabia less rigid with Muslims during haj

haj (Photo: Haj pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars symbolising Satan in Mena, November 16, 2010/Mohammed Salem)

Saudi Arabia’s religious police keep such a low profile during the haj, it’s hard to imagine that you are in Islam’s holiest city.

The kingdom, where Islam first emerged around 1,400 years ago, applies a strict form of Sunni Islamic sharia law that imposes gender segregation, forces shops to close during prayer times and prohibits women from driving.

But in Mecca, the enforcement of many of these rules is relaxed during the haj, a duty for every able-bodied Muslim. And with the government investing billion of dollars in recent years to make pilgrimage safer and more comfortable, many pilgrims end up going home as goodwill ambassadors for the country.

Obama answers the question: Why are you a Christian?

obama (Photo: President Barack Obama talks with voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 28, 2010/Larry Downing)

President Barack Obama spoke openly about his faith on Tuesday, describing himself as a “Christian by choice” while reiterating his belief in the importance of religious tolerance. Obama, who polls show many Americans think is a Muslim, was asked by a participant at a campaign-style event in Albuquerqe, New Mexico about why he was a Christian.

“It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brother’s and sister’s keeper, treating others as they would treat me,” he said. “And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

The president, who has voiced strong support for the right of Muslims to build a community center near the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, said he tried to express his religious beliefs through his job. “I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith,” he said.

GUESTVIEW: European liberals – stand up and speak out in Islam debate

minarets-train

Posters for minaret ban at Zurich train station, 26 Oct 2009/Arnd Wiegmann

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Dr H.A. Hellyer is Fellow of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick, author of “Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans”and Director of the Visionary Consultants Group.

By Dr H.A. Hellyer

The real inheritors of European liberalism need to stand up and make themselves known because the struggle to maintain pluralism in Europe is only going to get tougher from here on in.

People will differ as to when they started, and why, and who is to blame. But one thing is for sure. The problems in Europe around the Muslim presence are not going to go away – they are going to intensify. And real European liberals are going to have make their voices be counted, or say farewell to a Europe that fought so hard to ensure civil liberties and freedom could find homes on the continent.

Swiss minaret ban reversal vote in pipeline

genevaminaretSwiss liberals are considering a new referendum to overturn the ban on building new minarets in the country, Sunday papers reported, as Libya’s Muamar Gaddafi warned the ban played into the hands of terrorists.

Club Helvetique, a group of over 20 Swiss intellectuals, will draw up an action plan to overturn the ban, which has drawn widespread criticism abroad and prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets this weekend in Zurich, Basel and Berne.

“A new initiative is the most democratic way of achieving this,” constitutional lawyer Jörg Müller told Sonntag.