FaithWorld

Al Qaeda offers to free French hostages if burqa ban ended – TV

veilAl Qaeda’s north African arm wants a repeal of a ban on the Muslim face veil in France, the release of militants and 7 million euros to free hostages who include five French, Al Arabiya TV said on Monday.  Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is holding seven foreigners in the Sahara desert after kidnapping them last month. (Photo: A woman protests outside the French Embassy in London against France’s veil ban, 25 Sept 2010/Luke MacGregor)

The sources did not specify which militants the hostage-takers wanted released. France’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as one of several “rumours” since the kidnappings in mid-September.

The government has not received any demands from AQIM since the seven were taken, but has said it would consider negotiating with the hostage-takers for their release. Initial contacts with AQIM through local chiefs in Mali were “not encouraging” due to the nature of the demands, the sources told the Dubai-based television station.

France became the first country in Europe to outlaw the veil after the Constitutional Council, the country’s highest constitutional authority, approved the ban last week. It will be enforced after a six-month transition period during which fully covered women will be warned about penalties they could face.

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Wary Afghans mull possible Taliban peace talks

talibanLike many Afghans, shopkeeper Abdul Sattar recalls Taliban rule as a nightmare of public executions, women shut away at home and evenings without TV, but he might accept some of it back for peace and stability.

With President Hamid Karzai reaching out to insurgents in a bid to broker peace talks, the Kabul businessman says he would support a deal returning Afghanistan’s former hardline rulers to some measure of power if it brought an end to 10 years of war. (Photo: Taliban militants after joining a government reconciliation and reintegration program, in Herat, March 14, 2010/Mohammad Shioab)

“The Taliban had some good rules and some bad rules,” Sattar said at his stationery shop. “If the government talks to the Taliban and they accept just the good ones, then it could work.”

Can halal cosmetics outgrow their Islamic beauty niche?

halal cosmeticsThursday evening at a luxury, Pharaonic-themed spa in Dubai. Emirati women, colorful eye makeup contrasting with their black robes, wait by a bronze statue of a smiling Cleopatra for their weekend beauty treat.

The mineral-based skincare range used at the spa is free of pork and alcohol derivatives.  Supplier Charlotte Proudman hopes to register it as compliant with sharia, or Islamic law, tapping into a growing trend for “halal cosmetics” in the mostly-Muslim Middle East and among the world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims. (Photo:  Halal makeup applied to Sabah Zaib in Birmingham, central England, July 28, 2010/Darren Staples)

“I really want to put this onto our packaging so that our clients can be reassured that our products are halal, and that they can feel consistent in their religious beliefs,” Proudman said at the spa she launched in 2008.  “I really feel that halal cosmetics have a future. I don’t think that a Muslim man or a Muslim lady should compromise their beliefs for a skincare range that will work well for them.”

IVF spawns host of ethical issues

embryosIn vitro fertilization (IVF), the pioneering technique that won Robert Edwards the 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine, opened up a wealth of scientific options and a Pandora’s box of ethical dilemmas.

Edwards’s success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led not only to “test tube babies” but also to innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood. (Photo: Frozen human embryos at the Priory Hospital in Birmingham, England, July 31., 1996/Ian Hodgson)

Amid the applause for these medical breakthroughs, ethicists from some Christian churches oppose IVF and techniques related to it because they involve the destruction of human embryos.  The bewildering array of options due to the IVF revolution — from the morality of making “designer babies” to exploitation of poor women as surrogate mothers — has created much concern and many debates among secular ethicists as well.

Bus tours journey into U.S. polygamist town run by breakaway Mormon group

colorado cityA peek inside a polygamist community and their isolated way of life is now just a bus ride away for sightseers from around the world.

Billed as the “Polygamy Experience,” the four-hour, $70 tour takes visitors through the middle of the polygamist enclave Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona border. Children play in yards, families picnic in parks and teenage boys gallop their horses away from the guests. Women with old-fashioned braided hair and pioneer dresses usher the little ones out of eyesight. (Photo: Colorado City, 9 Aug 2006/Ricardo630)

Holm says tourists have come from France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway and throughout the United States. He added that the tour idea is growing slowly as local people start opening up.

London marchers confront Pope Benedict in biggest protest of any of his trips

satprotest 1 (Photo: Protest against Pope Benedict in London, 18 Sept 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

Pope Benedict faced the biggest protest of his 17 trips abroad on Saturday when more than 10,000 people marched in London attacking his treatment of the abuse scandal in the Church, women priests and homosexuality. Some of the demonstrators were dressed in costumes, including black leather nuns’ habits and red cardinals’ robes. Posters bore the message: “Pope Go Home.”

The pope has faced protests throughout his four-day visit to England and Scotland, often competing for attention with the faithful who are solidly supportive of the trip, only the second by a pope in history.

The loudest and most colourful was on Saturday when secularists, atheists, pro-gay groups and human rights campaigners joined forces in a Protest the Pope march from Hyde Park Corner to Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence.

Libya’s Gaddafi upsets Italy with bid to convert women to Islam

gaddafi 1Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s attempt to convert dozens of young women to Islam during a visit to Italy led to an angry reaction from Italian media on Monday. The mercurial Gaddafi invited a large group of young women hired by a hostessing agency to an event at a Libyan cultural centre in Rome on Sunday and tried to convert them to Islam.

“What would happen if a European head of state went to Libya or another Islamic country and invited everyone to convert to Christianity?” asked the daily Il Messagero. “We believe it would provoke very strong reactions across the Islamic world.” (Photo: Italian woman with Koran at Gaddafi meeting, 30 August 2010/Max Rossi)

gaddafi 2Press reports said three women had converted, but there was no way to verify if that was true. The event, due to be repeated on Monday, followed a similar reception involving some 200 women on a previous visit by Gaddafi to Rome last year.

Sharia law threatens Moscow control in Muslim Chechnya

grozny mosqueAspects of sharia law imposed in Muslim Chechnya in recent months are inching the republic closer to autonomy and posing a renewed threat to Kremlin control, analysts say. The Kremlin relies on its hardline Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, to maintain order in the violent region in the North Caucasus, where separatists were driven from power a decade ago after two wars.

Analysts say Kadyrov’s methods to tame the region include a crackdown on opponents and imposing his radical vision of Islam, which could push Chechnya again towards separatism. (Photo: The main mosque in Grozny, May 17, 2008/Said Tsarnayev)

Kadyrov, who fought Russian forces during the first Chechen separatist war in the early 1990s but switched to Moscow’s side when the conflict reignited in 1999, says the claims are an attempt to blacken his name.

“Ordain women,” London bus ads will urge Pope Benedict during September visit

CWO BUS

Pope Benedict will be confronted by posters on London’s famous red buses during his trip to the British capital next month which will call for the ordination of women priests.

One group of women, Catholic Women’s Ordination (CWO), will have its message plastered on the side of the buses as they travel along key routes, including past Westminster Hall, at the Palace of Westminster, where the pope is set to deliver a speech to Britain’s civic society on September 17.

The group has paid 15,000 pounds ($23,130) for 15 buses to carry the message “Pope Benedict – Ordain Women Now!” for a month. “We do not want to be disruptive, but I think the church has got to change or it will not survive,” CWO spokeswoman Pat Brown told Reuters. “I am quite hopeful at the moment because I think the church is in disarray.”

from Afghan Journal:

Resurgent Taliban target women and children

AFGHANISTAN/

Civilian casualties in the worsening war in Afghanistan are up just over 30 percent in the current year,  the United Nations said in a mid-year report this week, holding the Taliban responsible for three-quarters of the deaths or injuries.

More worrying, women and children seem to be taking the brunt of the violence directed by a resurgent Taliban, which will only stoke more concern about the wisdom of seeking reconciliation with the hardline Islamist group.

Indeed the Taliban have been blamed for a series of horrific assaults on women in recent weeks,  which must be distasteful to even those pushing for a deal with them as a way to end the nine-year conflict.