Entries in Muslims (9)


Al Qaeda Chief Urges All Muslims to Oppose Syrian Government

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In what could only be described as an ominous turn in the ongoing Syrian conflict, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has put out a call to arms for all Muslims to take the side of rebel forces.

Making his videotaped plea, which was posted on a radical Islamic website, Osama bin Laden's successor said that Syrians must overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which he labeled a "murderous, cancerous regime."

Al-Zawahiri proclaimed, "It is the right of Syrians to protect themselves in all ways possible from injustice, murder, killing and bombardment" -- a reference to the onslaught of al-Assad's forces against both rebels and civilians in a furious bid to stay in power.

The al Qaeda leader added that Muslims all over the world must help Syrians in their efforts to oust al-Assad.

While Washington also seeks to depose al-Assad, the Obama administration is also concerned that replacement leaders could be unduly influenced by al Qaeda, further complicating the situation in Syria.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


French Mag to Publish Cartoons of Prophet Mohammed

A man shows the French satirical magazine 'Charlie Hebdo', featuring a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover, following a bomb attack on the magazine's offices on November 2, 2011 in Paris, France. Marc Piasecki/Getty Images(PARIS) -- A French satirical magazine is set to publish several cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday, a move that is likely to inflame the Islamic faithful and militants who have already rioted in more than 20 countries over a movie mocking the prophet.

Depictions of the prophet are strictly prohibited and considered blasphemous by Muslims. Cartoons of Muhammad published in Denmark in 2005 and then reproduced in newspapers across Europe triggered riots throughout the Mideast and Africa. Churches and embassies were torched and at least 100 people died in the outbreaks and police crackdowns.

The magazine Charlie Hebdo has confirmed that it will publish the cartoons, but has not revealed what they will depict. French newspaper Le Monde reports that some of the cartoons show the prophet in “particularly explicit poses,” without providing any further detail.

The move comes as Muslims are still simmering after riots in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and nearly 20 other countries over the movie “Innocence of Muslims.” U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

French government ministers have criticized the magazine’s decision and police in Paris have stepped up security around its offices.

France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, and the senior cleric at Paris’ biggest mosque has appealed for followers to remain calm, according to the French news agency AFP.

The magazine has defended the move by invoking the right to free speech. Speaking on French radio, the magazine’s director explained that a decision not to publish would “hand victory to a handful of extremists that are causing a commotion in the world and in France.”

It’s not the first time the anti-establishment, left-wing magazine has courted controversy. In 2011 the offices of Charlie Hedbo were bombed after it published an Arab Spring edition with the Prophet Muhammad as “guest editor” on the cover.

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


Girl, 11, Could Face Death in Pakistan for 'Blasphemy'

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- To some, she's an innocent victim, an apparently mentally challenged Christian girl swept up by a rising tide of irrational Islamic extremism. To others, she's God's enemy, guilty of a crime so vile the only suitable punishment is death.

On Monday, Pakistani police arrested the girl, known only by her first name, Ramsha, after accusations that she burned pages of the Koran, Islam's holy book. In Pakistan, it is a crime to utter derogatory statements or insult the Prophet Muhammad or the Koran in any way. Blasphemy convictions carry an automatic death sentence.

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The accusations, made by the girl's neighbors in a mixed Christian-Muslim neighborhood, sent area Muslims into a fury, with some police reports suggesting an angry mob of hundreds of men descended on her home, demanding authorities arrest her and charge her with blasphemy.

They then allegedly went on a rampage, attacking the girl's family and setting Christian houses on fire. The girl's parents are now in protective custody and, according to reports, several Christian families have left the neighborhood, an impoverished district in the country's capital, Islamabad.

Police officials put the girl in jail for 14 days, but suggested the charges might be dropped for a lack of evidence. When she was brought to jail, she reportedly had a shopping bag filled with religious and Arabic-language papers, but it was unclear whether the papers were pages of the Koran.

Some have said the girl is mentally challenged and suffers from Down's syndrome.

The case is drawing worldwide condemnation, including from senior officials in the United States, a key military and political ally that gives billions in annual aid to Pakistan.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland referred to the case as "deeply disturbing."

"We urge the government of Pakistan to protect not just its religious minority citizens, but also women and girls," she said.

Critics say Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often misused and applied vindictively, often as a way to target minorities.

"It has been exploited by individuals to settle personal scores, to grab land, to violate the rights of non-Muslims, to basically harass them," said the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zora Yusuf.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws have met with controversy in the past. Last year, a prominent Pakistani politician who advocated reforming the law was gunned down and killed by his own bodyguard while leaving an upscale Islamabad cafe frequented by westerners.

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has ordered an investigation into Monday's incident.

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


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


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


Al Qaeda Video: American Muslims Should Buy Guns and Kill

FBI via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a new video message released on the Internet Friday, American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn calls on Muslims living in America to carry out deadly one-man terrorist acts using fully automatic weapons purchased at gun shows, and to target major institutions and public figures.

"What are you waiting for?" asks Gadahn in English, and then adds that jihadis shouldn't worry about getting caught, since so many have been released. "Over these past few years, I've seen the release of many, many Mujahideen whom I had never even dreamed would regain their freedom."

The two-part, two hour video appeared on jihadi websites Friday with images of jihadi leaders as well as snapshots of alleged underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan. Both Hasan and Abdulmutallab are charged with carrying out attacks inside the U.S. Called "Do Not Rely on Others, Take the Task Upon Yourself" and produced by al Qaeda's media arm, al Sahab, the tape mixes Gadahn's new message with clips from old videos of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other al Qaeda leaders praising one-man attacks. They call on jihadis in the West to carry out lone wolf operations.

Gadahn sounds the same theme in his message, a series of soundbites interspersed throughout the video and accompanied by images of U.S. airliners, bombmaking and the logos of U.S. companies. "Muslims in the West have to remember that they are perfectly placed to play an important and decisive part in the Jihad against the Zionists and crusaders, and to do major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on their religion, sacred places, and things, and brethren," says Gadahn. "This is a golden opportunity and a blessing."

He urges Muslims to pursue attacks with whatever is available. "Let's take America as an example. America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?"

Gadahn suggests targeting major institutions -- after a clip showing the logos of such firms as Exxon, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America -- and "influential public figures." "Getting to these criminals isn't as hard as you might think," says Gadahn. "I mean we've seen how a woman knocked the Pope to the floor during Christmas mass, and how Italian leader Berlusconi's face was smashed during a public appearance. So it's just a matter of entrusting the matter to Allah and choosing the right place, the right time, and the right method."

He claims that many Western born or raised jihadis, the "brothers who came from abroad" are now thinking about returning to their "Crusader" countries to "discharge their duty of jihad." He also says not to worry about imprisonment, since so many have been jihadis have been set free. "If it's Allah's will that you be captured, then it's not the end the world, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to spend the rest of your life in prison." Many mujahideen who were locked up "are now back home with their families, or back on the frontlines, fighting the enemies."

Gadahn, a 32-year-old California native, was born Adam Pearlman, the grandson of a Jewish urologist. His parents changed their name to Gadahn after becoming fundamentalist Christians. After converting to Islam, Gadahn moved to Pakistan in 1998 and then became a senior commander in al Qaeda. Gadahn has appeared in numerous al Qaeda videos over the past seven years. In 2005, after terror attacks in Madrid and London, he said, "Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, God willing." He is currently considered al Qaeda's leading media strategist, and has been on the FBI's Most Wanted list for nearly 10 years. He has been reported dead or captured several times, only to reemerge alive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Muslims and Christians Clash in Egypt

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO, Egypt) -- Violence continued between two religious groups in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday.

A violent encounter erupted just off of Tahrir Square when groups of Coptic Christians tried to stage a sit-in outside of the State TV building and became involved in a clash with some Muslims, according to a report by the Al Ahram newspaper. Both groups reportedly hurled rocks at each other during the clash. It is unknown if anyone was injured in the violence.

The sit-in was reportedly in response to 12 people being killed and 230 people bing injured on Saturday during a march by Salafists near a Coptic church located in a Cairo suburb.

In response to the weekend violence, government officials released a statement on Sunday, saying that an “iron hand” would be used to protect national security.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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