Praying in the streets was banned in France in 2011. Photo: Bbc.co.uk
A recent article in National Geographic speculates that Marseilles may become the first city in Europe with a majority Muslim population. Official statistics are unavailable, but experts estimate that about 30 percent of the southeastern French city is Muslim.
An upcoming mosque in Cologne. Photo: The Guardian, UK
We have written about female circumcision and the difference between circumcision and female genital mutilation here on Inside Islam, but male circumcision, a common practice in Muslim communities, has not been discussed. Many other groups also circumcise male children for both religious and non-religious reasons. The World Health Organization estimates that about a third of men internationally are circumcised. Around 70% of them are Muslims.
In past posts, we’ve attempted to clarify issues around Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Female Circumcision (FC), and their perceived relation to religion and culture. Here are the facts: Islam, Christianity, nor any other world religion mandates any type of FC or FGM. Some forms of FC are considered FGM, depending upon the type of procedure. The practices are either forced upon women, expected of women, or in the rare case, embraced by women. FC and FGM are performed primarily on African girls and women or those from African backgrounds living in the West. A few countries in Asia have also been documented as practicing FC or FGM.
FGM has become a topic of focus for local activists in Africa and Asia, as well as the broader international community. Activists fighting against FGM have found a champion in an unlikely place—Ireland, where a significant number of women (over 3,000) have been subjected to it. Although substantial, the number pales in comparison to the 140 million women and girls worldwide who have undergone the procedure.
Ifrah Ahmed, a 23-year-old, Somali-born, Muslim activist has only been in Ireland for 6 years, but she’s already played a key role in shaping Irish policy regarding the practice. Ahmed underwent double mutilation as a child and still suffers from serious problems as a result of the procedures. She says that sometimes the pain is so bad that “I fall down and I feel like I’m going to die.” Continue reading →
Muslims in the United Kingdom have a new challenge facing them. Following attempts by other European nations like France, some British politicians have called for a ban on any meat that comes from an animal which has not been stunned before slaughter. Thus, the ban affects halal (sometimes also called dhabiha or zabiha) and kosher meats.
According to supporters of the ban, the manner in which Muslims and Jews traditionally slaughter is more painful to the animal than stunning the animal first and then slaughtering it. As in the Jewish tradition, Muslims have a particular manner in which they must slaughter an animal. The animal’s throat is slit to induce quick bleeding to reduce suffering. In order to do this, Muslims are instructed to make sure that the knife is sharpened. Also, in order to be as humane as possible, the knife should not be sharpened in front of any animals and one animal should not be slaughtered in front of another. Continue reading →
Muslims around the world are using multiple media to express their identities. For many Muslim artists, music has become an important space to talk about their faith and the struggles they face. The music ranges from the overtly political to the spiritual. The focus of this post is Maher Zain, a Swedish Muslim of Lebanese descent who rose to fame in 2009 and just released his most recent album Forgive Me this past April. Zain’s music is influenced by his faith and has strong religious overtones. Continue reading →
As an informed global media audience should know, traditions of pluralism that were long established in Islamic statecraft, law, and public institutions today face a mortal threat from adherents to radical, fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni Islam. The latter mainly comprise Saudi-financed Wahhabis, who masquerade as “Salafis,” and South Asian Deobandis, who support the Taliban. In the Balkans, the front line between Sufism and Wahhabism runs through the Albanian- and Muslim-majority – and in the past, Sufi-identified – city of Tetova in eastern Macedonia.
In the last few years, there are have been several laws passed in different European countries that relate to Muslim communities. For example, in France and Belgium, laws were passed banning the niqab and in Switzerland a law was passed to ban the building of minarets. Many Muslims considered these moves to be a sign of an anti-Muslim sentiment. Occasionally, however, there are stories that indicate positive change.
They say the onset of authoritarianism happens through a process of incrementalism. If indeed that is the case, I have missed a lot in the 6 years I spent in the United Kingdom away from the United States.
Muslim-Albanian Brothers, Ramadan and Isa Nuza, Saved Two Jewish Families During the Holocaust Photo: Norman Gershman
Last week, I wrote about how majority-Muslim Albania saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Norman Gershman, the renowned American photographer of Jewish descent who traveled over a five-year period documenting the stories of Jews, and the Muslim-Albanian families who saved them. You can listen to my conversation with Gershman below.