By ANTHONY SHADID
SITRA, Bahrain — Sometimes a name suggests a condition. There was Beirut a generation ago, Baghdad more recently. In Bahrain, a Persian Gulf state so polarized that truth itself is a matter of interpretation, it is Sitra. Here, the faces of young men foretell a future for the country that looks like the rubble-strewn and violent streets of this town.
On a recent night, after clashes that erupt almost daily, one of them entered the house of a relative, squinting as though he had stumbled from a dungeon into the sun. Tear gas. His friend smirked as he showed the smooth scars left by rubber bullets fired at his leg and chest. Another shrugged as he removed his shirt to reveal a back scarred by pellets.
“Sitra,” said the friend, Sanad, “is the crisis.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia – About 2,000 slogan-shouting Malaysian Muslims gathered near the capital on Saturday to denounce alleged Christian attempts to convert Muslims, widening a religious rift that could cost Prime Minister Najib Razak minority votes in upcoming polls.
The rally led by non-governmental bodies comes amid an escalating row over accusations of covert conversions among Muslims and a raid on a Methodist church, which has divided Muslims and angered ethnic minorities.
Men, women and families gathered in a stadium in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur to unite against what they said were attempts to evangelize Muslims, an offence in a country where over half the population follows Islam.
“We have gathered today to save the faith of Muslims due to the threat of apostasy,” Yusri Mohamad, chairman of the organising committee, told the crowd.
FULL ARTICLE FROM GMANEWS
CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds of protesters marched Friday from Egypt’s pre-eminent mosque to a central Cairo cathedral in a show of Muslim-Christian unity after a bloody clash earlier this week involving Coptic Christian protesters and the military.
Demonstrators chanted slogans against the country’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who has increasingly become the focus of activists’ anger during the bumpy transition following Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February.
A crowd of onlookers threw rocks at the demonstrators outside Al-Azhar mosque, the most important center of learning in Sunni Islam. But the group of Muslims and Christians was undeterred and marched on toward the cathedral before heading to Tahrir Square and a nearby boulevard along the Nile where Sunday’s clashes took place.
The distrust between pro-democracy activists and the military council, which is leading the country’s transitional period until presidential elections expected in 2012, deepened after the clashes.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEIRUT: Kataeb (Phalange) Party leader Amin Gemayel met the head of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the most prestigious center of Sunni scholarship, to discuss ways to strengthen ties between Christians and Muslims and energize dialogue between the two groups, said a statement released by the party.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb said he discussed with Gemayel many issues, including “openness” between Al-Azhar and eastern churches. Tayeb said Al-Azhar might call for the convening of a conference including Christian and Muslim intellectuals and representatives of eastern churches, the state-run National News Agency reported.Gemayel said Muslim-Christian cooperation was essential for the region’s salvation. He said he felt duty-bound to visit Tayeb in order to be guided by his ideas to tackle “some pressing issues.”
“The meeting was very fruitful. I listened to [Tayeb’s] views on a host of issues currently under discussion not only in Egypt, but in the Arab world as a whole in the wake of [popular] movements that are taking place,” Gemayel told reporters.
FULL STORY FROM LEBANON’S DAILY STAR
After a prominent Baptist minister proclaimed last week that Mormonism is a non-Christian “cult” that would ideally disqualify adherents from the White House, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney enjoyed a full-throated defense from people all over the political spectrum who considered the pastor’s remarks an ugly example of religious bigotry. But Romney, a practicing Mormon, may soon find himself facing allegations of intolerance from another religious minority: American Muslims.
The Daily Beast has learned that the nation’s leading Muslim advocacy group sent a letter to the Romney campaign late Tuesday calling for the ouster of the candidate’s recently appointed foreign-policy adviser, Walid Phares. In the letter, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) refers to Phares as “an associate to war crimes” and a “conspiracy theorist,” citing ties to a violent anti-Muslim militia. Scholars and leaders throughout the Islamic community are adding pressure on Romney to drop the adviser immediately. (The Romney campaign and Phares did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)
Jerusalem (CNN) — Less than a week after the arson of a mosque in northern Israel, dozens of Christian and Muslim graves were vandalized in an Arab section of the Israeli city of Jaffa.
More thahan 100 graves were vandalized in the Muslim cemetery of al-Kazakhana and at a nearby Christian cemetery in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa, according to residents and a CNN producer who visited the locations.
Some of the graves were spray painted with graffiti while others were smashed.
Residents say the vandalism took place Friday evening as the Yom Kippur holiday was beginning in Israel, but police suggested it might have taken place a day or two prior.
FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN INTERNATIONAL
In Iran, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani faces the death penalty for the “crime” of leaving Islam as a teenager and converting to Christianity. A translated Iranian Supreme Court brief from 2010 states that 32-year-old Nadarkhani “is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion, the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19.” While there is widespread public outcry of support for his specific case, some are speaking broadly about the punishment for apostasy. Many — Muslim and non-Muslim — mistakenly believe that Islam supports this barbaric practice.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Islam prescribes absolutely no punishment for apostasy. If one were to assume that Islam prescribes some sort of punishment for a person who chooses to leave Islam, that would invariably mean that Islam forces one to be a Muslim against their will. But chapter two of the Holy Quran emphatically denies this possibility, stating “there shall be no compulsion in religion.” This is an unambiguous declaration protecting freedom of conscience and choice.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST