(Reuters) – The road to reform in Saudi Arabia is long and winding. In the rigidly restricted field of religion, the path is so circuitous that part of it even runs through traditionally Catholic countries like Austria and Spain.
Next Monday, a pioneering Saudi-backed center for worldwide interfaith dialogue will open in a baroque palace on Vienna’s elegant Ringstrasse boulevard. Riyadh paid for the building and will foot the centre’s budget for the first three years.
Such largesse from a country often ranked as one of the most religiously repressive has stirred suspicion and protest in Vienna, where critics accuse the Saudis of everything from hypocrisy to plotting to spread radical Islam in the Alps.
But the center has supporters in unexpected places, most notably in Israel. Rabbi David Rosen, the Jewish member of the centre’s multifaith board of directors, says it presents an opportunity the world’s religions cannot let pass.
“This is the first multifaith initiative from a Muslim source, and not just any source, but from the very hardcore heartland of Islam,” said Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
“It is an essential stage in King Abdullah’s efforts to change Saudi Arabia itself,” the Jerusalem-based rabbi said. “If there are possibilities of good things coming from this, we have to give it a try.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST
In recent days, two prominent German Christians offered up their thoughts to the country’s Muslims on their search for identity. Markus Söder, the finance minister of the state of Bavaria, surprised an audience of Turkish immigrants by saying that Islam is an “integral part of Bavaria.”
Then, German President Joachim Gauck told the influential weekly Die Zeit that he shares the intentions of his predecessor, former President Christian Wulff. Gauck slightly re-formulated Wulff’s most famous sentence by saying: “The Muslims who live here belong to Germany.”
That now makes five such prominent voices weighing in on the ongoing debate. Wulff, from whom Gauck has now distanced himself, was first. He said: “By now, Islam also belongs to Germany.”
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich contradicted him, saying: “That Islam is part of Germany is a fact that cannot be proven by history.” He said that Germany’s identity has been “shaped by Christianity and the Enlightenment.” Then, senior parliamentary conservative Volker Kauder maintained that “Islam is not a part of our tradition and identity.”
So which is it? Who or what belongs to Germany? Islam? The Enlightenment? Muslims? Christianity?
FULL ARTICLE FROM SPIEGEL (ENGLISH EDITION)
Editor’s note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book “The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan.“
(CNN) – The trial of mass murderer Anders Breivik has confirmed one thing so far: He seems quite mad. Looking plump and dumb, with a slightly receding hairline, the Norwegian gave a right-wing salute as he entered the courtroom and smirked his way through CCTV footage of his handiwork.
Breivik claims that he killed 77 people as an act of self-defense against the Islamification of Norway, that he is a member of the Knights Templar and part of an “anticommunist” resistance to multiculturalism. Reading his insane manifesto, it is tempting to dismiss him as a nut with a gun.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying the political context to what Breivik did. Since 9/11, fringe and mainstream politicians in Europe and America have spoken of Islam as incompatible with Western values. Breivik quoted many of them in his manifesto. This is not to say that he took direct inspiration from those public figures, or that they bear personal responsibility for his crimes. But Breivik’s paranoia does conform to a popular — wholly negative — view of the twin problems of Islam and multiculturalism. Tragically, it is a view that few mainstream politicians have been willing to challenge.
FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN
Something I wrote last week about Islam caused a bit of a stir, with one conservative blogger wondering if I had been threatened with beheading.The great Mark Steyn even wrote: “I’m sad to see the usually perceptive Ed West of the London Telegraph planting his flag on this wobbling blancmange.” Considering I am Mark Steyn’s biggest fan in the whole wide world, complete with a wall covered with pictures of him and a tattoo of his face on my chest, that’s left with me some mixed feelings.
And yet I still believe that Islam has become something of a scapegoat for the problems associated with mass immigration, and here’s why.
Conservatism is all about protecting the community from radical change; that is why conservatives tend to oppose large-scale immigration, which alters the social fabric in a huge way.
Yet from the 1960s to the 1990s, both in Britain and the US, conservatives lost this argument, despite overwhelming public support. They lost because they lost the intellectual justification for group solidarity or “parochial altruism” against post-war radical universalism, to the extent that normal human feelings were redefined as forms of mental illness. Defeat. Until Islam came along, allowing conservatives to make arguments using language that liberals would permit.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LONDON TELEGRAPH
A few years ago, the respected Cambridge scholar T J Winter, also known by his Muslim name of Abdal Hakim Murad, gave a fascinating lecture to Humanities staff and students at the University of Leicester. The title was “Islam and the threat of the West”, turning on its head the more usual – then and now – “Islam and the threat to the West”.
It was a novel approach which, in a nutshell, illustrated that, historically, aggression has been directed more from Europe to the Muslim world than the other way round. His evidence for such a view was impeccably sourced.
I thought about Abdal Hakim’s talk this morning as I read the reports coming in of the dreadful bombing and shooting in Norway wherein, of course, there was speculation that these two events were “Islamic-terror related”. No doubt we will learn more over the coming days, but the early signs are, in fact, that the perpetrator was a “blond, blue-eyed Norwegian” with “political traits towards the right, and anti-Muslim views”. Not surprisingly, the man’s intentions were neither linked to these “traits”, nor to his postings on “websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies”. Any influence “remains to be seen”; echoes of Oklahoma 1995.
Interestingly, this criminal is described by one unnamed Norwegian official as a “madman”. He may well be, but this is one way that the motivations for heinous crimes can be airbrushed out of the story before they have the chance to take hold in the popular imagination.
FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA
In the immediate wake of the bombing and mass shooting inNorway that left at least 92 people dead Friday, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared that it was too early to say whether terrorism was involved.
Some interpreted the statement to mean it was unclear whether Muslim extremists were behind the attack.
Right-wing websites quickly pointed the finger at “jihadis,” and Pamela Geller, publisher of the website Atlas Shrugs and executive director of Stop Islamization of America, wrote on her site: “You can ignore jihad, but you cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad.”
Counter-terrorism experts soon weighed in, implicating Al Qaeda.
Then Anders Behring Breivik, described by police as a “right-wing Christian fundamentalist,” was arrested in connection with the attacks.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
By Stephan Salisbury
During the 2010 mid-term election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties. In the wake of those elections, with 85 new Republican House members and a surging Tea Party movement, the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric as a means of rousing voters and alarming the general electorate have gone largely unchallenged.
It has become an article of faith that a successful 2010 candidate on the right should treat Islam with revulsion, drawing a line between America the Beautiful and the destructive impurities of Islamic cultists and radicals.
“Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years: Islam-bashing wins votes,” wrote journalist Michael Scott Moore in the wake of the 2010 election. His assumption was shared by many then and is still widely accepted today.
FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA TIMES