Entries in Islam (19)


Pakistani PM Distances Self from Bounty on Head of Anti-Islam Filmmaker

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Sunday distanced his administration from one government official offering to pay $100,000 out of his own pocket to kill the person responsible for an anti-Islam movie made in the U.S. that has inflamed the Muslim world.

Innocence of Muslims, which was produced by Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, touched off riots in dozens of countries, leading to about 20 deaths in Pakistan alone as demonstrators have clashed with security forces trying to maintain peace.

Over the weekend, Pakistani minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour said, "I will pay whoever kills the makers of this video $100,000.  If someone else makes other similar blasphemous material in the future, I will also pay his killers $100,000."

The minister, a member of the Awami National Party, which insisted it was Bilour's personal statement, said he'd seek the help of the Taliban or al Qaeda in helping to track down and kill Nakoula, a California resident now in hiding.

A spokesman for the prime minister said on Sunday that the government is "absolutely disassociated" from Bilour's bounty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan Blocks Anti-Islamist Video

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Anticipating backlash in its own country following the attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya, the government in Afghanistan has blocked an anti-Islamist video promoted by Florida pastor Terry Jones, whose threat to burn the Quran two years ago spurred deadly riots.

A statement by the government condemned the film, Innocence of Muslims, saying, "This heinous act has created outrage and anxiety for all peace-loving humans who back up the idea of peaceful coexistence."

Among other things, the movie calls the Prophet Mohammed a fake and a womanizer.  Such allegations are considered the height of blasphemy in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, the Taliban issued a statement that urged its followers to take revenge against America "by dealing a heavy blow to its invading troops on the battlefield".

The video was produced by an American and promoted by an Egyptian Christian living in the U.S., although it's Jones who has once again become a lightning rod for criticism for posting the inflammatory video.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Muslims Around the World Welcoming Ramadan

KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- At sundown Thursday night, Muslims the world over welcomed Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

The ninth month of Islam's lunar calendar, Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Quran was revealed. During Ramadan, which begins with the new crescent moon, observant Muslims refrain from food, water and sexual relations between dawn and dusk.

Exactly when the holy month begins, however, is a matter of annual debate.

Ramadan technically begins only when Islamic authorities in each country announce that the new crescent moon has been seen. Despite astronomers' ability to accurately predict when the moon will appear, most Islamic scholars insist that confirmed reports of actual sightings are necessary in order to declare the beginning of Ramadan.

Adding to the confusion is the emergence of CCD-camera techniques that can render an image of the moon in broad daylight, Nidhal Guessoum, an astronomer at American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, wrote in a column for the Huffington Post.

"This has further complicated the already complex relationship between Muslim astronomers and modernists on one side and the traditional Muslim scholars ('ulamas') on the other," Guessoum wrote.

In the past several years, mobile app developers have tapped a growing market among Ramadan observers. Some apps calculate sunrise and sunset times at any location, while others notify users of prayer times.

During Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to engage in spiritual reflection and worship and to practice self-discipline through the resistance of temptation.

Muslims are encouraged to pray more frequently and read the entire Quran before the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan.

This year, Eid ul-Fitr will arrive on the evening of Aug. 17.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egypt’s Most Popular Comedian Guilty of Insulting Islam

AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- The verdict of a popular Egyptian comedian convicted of offending Islam has been upheld by a Cairo court, raising fears among Egyptian liberals and secularists about the Islamic tide rising since the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Adel Imam, one of the Arab world’s most famous actors, was first convicted in February of “contempt of religion” – illegal under Egypt’s penal code – and appealed. The case was brought against him by an ultra-conservative Islamist lawyer named Asran Mansour for three films Imam made in the early- to mid-1990s. The titles are The Terrorist, Morgan Ahmed Morgan and Terrorism and Kebab.

Imam, 71, played a fundamentalist terrorist in the first and a corrupt businessman in the third. Mansour accused Imam of blasphemous mocking of Muslim symbols like beards and the jilbab, a loose-fitting robe worn by some Muslims.

The sentence was three months in jail and 1000 Egyptian pounds, around $170. Imam’s lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict that was “given on the wrong legal basis.”

Condemnations poured in from Egypt’s art world and beyond. The Egyptian Creativity Front said the ruling would limit the freedom of expression and lead to restriction on art. Author of The Yacoubian Building Alaa al-Aswany said on Twitter that he disagrees with Imam politically, but the ruling sends Egypt “back to the darkness of the Middle Ages.”

“This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations,” Aswany wrote.

“[Imam's case] will make any writer, director or actor think before considering the role of a Muslim figure,” Egyptian entertainment reporter Tarek el-Shinnawi told Al Ahram newspaper.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Islamist Egyptian Politician Expelled for Nose Job

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- A newly minted ultra-conservative Islamist member of parliament has been kicked out of his party and has resigned his seat in parliament following news about his nose job, which he claimed was needed to repair damage endured in a violent attack.

A spokesman for the Al-Nour Party said Anwar El-Balkimy was booted after an investigation found that the member of Egypt’s lower house of parliament had not been attacked while driving between Alexandria and Cairo, but instead had undergone a rhinoplasty for cosmetic reasons.

Plastic surgery is considered forbidden by the Al-Nour Salafists who follow a strict brand of Islam.

Balkimy told state-run media that he was robbed and beaten by masked gunmen who stole around $16,500 in Egyptian pounds and left him unconscious. But staffers at the Giza clinic where Balkimy had his procedure done came forward to say that the MP had not been assaulted, but had just gotten a nose job, according to Egyptian media.

The manager of the clinic said Balkimy had the procedure done last Tuesday and had urged the clinic not to tell anyone. He then left the clinic against the advice of the doctors, the newspaper Al Ahram reported.

The party originally stood by Balkimy, but then distanced itself when the truth came to light.

Al Ahram reported that Al-Nour announced via Facebook Monday that Balkimy had resigned from both the party and parliament.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iranian Pastor May Soon Face Death for Converting to Christianity

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- A pastor in Iran could face death within days for renouncing Islam and bringing others to the Christian faith.

Youcef Nadarkhani, a convert to Christianity, has reportedly received his final execution order.  The American Center for Law and Justice says he is in imminent danger, with a rising chance his sentence will be carried out.

The case had stalled for months after a global outcry.  The White House and a Congressional resolution have both called for Nadarkhani's release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Islamist Party Leads Tunisia Vote

GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- Tunisia may soon have a government that many there consider the best of both worlds; that is, one with core Islamic principles meshed with a Western-style democracy.

There is optimism that it could happen following Sunday's historic vote that resulted from last January's overthrow of authoritarian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali through a popular revolution fueled by social networking sites.

It appears that the Ennahda party, which considers itself a "modernist political movement," has won at least a plurality in the new 217-member assembly whose first tasks will be to form a new constitution and a caretaker government.

In fact, Ennahada, which claims it will be dedicated to the principles of democracy and pluralism, could wind up with a majority in the assembly once all the votes are tallied.

Party members have promised to work with other liberal blocs to forge a government that will likely go easy on legislating morality, which is a relief to women who've obtained certain rights under the old regime.

Libya and Egypt, two other nations that have undergone upheavals, are watching to see how it’s done in Tunisia, although the country has several advantages, including a homogenous, educated population and a military willing to step aside for civilian rulers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Will Sharia Govern Newly Liberated Muslim Countries?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the newly liberated Muslim countries from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya form new governments and institutions, one of the key questions becomes how far they will go to placate hardline Muslim forces.

The early signs from Libya are disappointing. Speaking Monday, Libya Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said the country’s legislature would have an Islamist tint and that any existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. He outlined several changes in a major speech, including putting caps on interest rates on bank loans and lifting restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men can take. The Muslim holy book, the Koran, allows men up to four wives.

Sharia, which means “path" in Arabic, is more than a legal code; it’s a guide for all aspects of a Muslim's life, from how to marry to how to eat. It’s derived from the Koran, and from Sunna, the practices of the Prophet Mohammed.

Its rules have many interpretations, ranging from the hard-line Hanbali school, which, for instance, calls for stoning for such crimes as adultery, to the more liberal Hanafi school. The more liberal interpretations have been molded fairly successfully into otherwise secular and democratic countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The hard-line versions are virtually the law in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, where you will still hear of people having their hands cut off for stealing.

There are five hadd offenses -- sex outside of marriage, false accusation of sex outside of marriage, alcohol drinking, theft and highway robbery,  which bring specific punishments under the Koran. The punishments for those offenses are medieval: flogging, stoning, amputation, exile or execution. The case of Sakineh Ashtiani, the mother in Iran sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, attracted huge media attention worldwide, which likely helped lead to the commutation of her sentence by the Iranian judiciary.

But in practice, even countries that have those punishments on the books very rarely enforce them. Some Muslims, however, take the enforcement into their own hands, meting out cruel punishments, even against family members, with governments either encouraging the behavior or looking the other way. The U.N. estimates that thousands of women die every year in honor killings for alleged violations of traditional Islamic law.

The critical debate inside the Muslim world and out is how much, if any, of sharia law, is acceptable as the basis for modern legal systems.

Some countries, such as Indonesia, have gotten the balance much better than, say, Saudi Arabia. For some Muslims, it is no different than the Judeo-Christian ethic forming the foundation of Western law. One very prominent example is sharia’s ban on paying or charging interest on loans. The financial products that get around this rule to allow Muslims to get mortgages or credit cards is an enormous global business growing every year, with many of the firms based in Dubai.

The question remains whether Muslims newly free from dictatorship will have the same freedom from ancient religious law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Frankfurt Terror Suspect Mistakenly Inspired By Hollywood

Arid Uka sits between his lawyers in the courtroom of the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt/Main, central Germany on Aug. 31. German court requests that the faces of the defendants must be made unrecognizable. (BORIS ROESSLER/AFP/Getty Images)(FRANKFURT, Germany) -- When the man accused of murdering two U.S. airmen near a Frankfurt airport confessed to the crime in a German court Wednesday, he said the night before the rampage, he had seen a gruesome video that purportedly showed American soldiers raping a Muslim girl.

But the video was not real. Rather, it was a clip from the 2007 Brian de Palma anti-war movie Redacted, which had been taken out of context by the would-be jihadist.

"I thought what I saw in that video these people would do in Afghanistan," terror suspect Arid Uka told the court, according to media reports.

Uka said that the clip had pushed him over the edge after months of sitting at home, playing video games and watching radical Islamist videos online. But even while riding the bus on the way to the airport that March 2, Uka said he did not know if he would actually go through with his plot to attack Americans.

"On the one hand, I wanted to do something to help the women, and on the other hand, I hoped I would not see any soldiers," he said.

Minutes later, however, Uka did see American servicemen and asked one of them, 25-year-old Nicholas Alden, if his group was headed to Afghanistan, according to a prosecutor's account later reflected in the indictment against Uka. When Alden said they were, Uka pulled out a handgun and executed Alden with a shot to the head.

Prosecutors said Uka then boarded the bus and shot the driver, 21-year-old Zachary Cuddeback, in the head before turning his gun on the other airmen on the bus. After wounding two others, the handgun jammed and Uka attempted to flee. He didn't get far before the survivors of the attack chased him down and tackled him.

Uka said Wednesday he doesn't know why he did it and how he lost control over himself.

"If you ask me why I did this, I can only say... I don't understand anymore how I went that far," he said.

De Palma's film was loosely based on the true story of five U.S. soldiers who were charged for the rape and killing of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in 2006.

The film became the center of some controversy after its release the next year, sparking online protests and a letter from House Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter to the Motion Picture Association, who warned de Palma's film could inspire would-be Islamic terrorists.

"Unfortunately, Brian de Palma's new movie Redacted...portrays American service personnel in Iraq as uncontrollable misfits and criminals," Hunter said at the time, according to a report by The Washington Times. "While incidents of criminal behavior be members of our military should never be ignored, the isolated incident on which this film is based negatively portrays American service personnel and misrepresents their collective efforts in Iraq."

De Palma responded to the controversy at the time, saying the movie -- which he called, oxymoronically, a "fictional documentary" -- was an attempt to end the war in Iraq "by trying to show the reality of what this war is."

Uka is charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Offers 'Best Wishes to Muslim Communities' as Ramadan Starts

Libyan men perform the evening prayer at the end of the first fasting day of Islam's holy month of Ramadan in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on August 1, 2011. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Ramadan begins, President Obama and the first lady have sent their “best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world.”

In a written statement Obama says that, while Ramadan is a festive occasion, it’s also a time of “deep reflection and sacrifice” and he urges people to come together and offer assistance for the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

“[Ramadan] is also a reminder of the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate,”  Obama says. “The heartbreaking accounts of lost lives and the images of families and children in Somalia and the Horn of Africa struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and compel us to act.  Now is the time for nations and peoples to come together to avert an even worse catastrophe by offering support and assistance to on-going relief efforts.”

The president also says he looks forward to again hosting an iftar dinner at the White House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio