About a kilometre into the road which leads to Laddhewala in Muzaffarnagar city, a dirty signpost welcomes visitors to this small, nondescript locality.
The lanes soon start getting narrower, about four-foot-wide, between rows of concrete houses. In one sleepy corner of an alleyway, cramped between two buildings, is a solitary temple left behind by its Hindu households sometime in the early 1990s, post the Babri Masjid demolition.
Twenty six years later, this shrine is still maintained by its Muslim neighbours, who clean it daily, whitewash it every Diwali and protect it from squatters and stray animals.
Meharbaan Ali, 60, a resident of Muslim-dominated Laddhewala, still remembers the days when the Hindu families had left the area in the aftermath of communal clashes. “Jitender Kumar was one of my closest friends. I tried to stop him from leaving, despite the tension. But he left nevertheless, along with many other families, with the promise that they would be back some day. Since then, residents here have been taking care of the temple,” said the elderly man.
FULL ARTICLE FROM INDIA TIMES
Leaders from different religions gathered in St. John’s on Thursday and were united in their belief that wearing of the niqab should not be an election issue.
The niqab has become a divisive federal election topic in recent weeks, with the Conservative government vowing to fight a Federal Court of Appeal ruling saying women shouldn’t have to remove niqabs, which cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies.
Leaders from the Anglican, Catholic, Muslim and Hindu religions all took part in the meeting on Thursday, organized by the Religious Social Action Coalition.
While the focus was on poverty reduction, the niqab issue wasn’t far from their minds.
Mohammed Mazir, with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, doesn’t think the niqab should be part of anyone’s campaign.
“It’s really an issue which I think certain politicians feel they can make some points and gain some ground,” he said after the meeting.
“That’s up to them, whether the public will support them or not. As far as we’re concerned, it’s totally a non-issue.”
An ‘inclusive mosque’, a woman leading prayers, a gay Imam. Even as traditionalists look on frowningly, radical changes are taking place in Islam
In 2005, surrounded by reporters, television cameras and photographers, a woman led Friday prayers in New York. In 2012, an Imam established the first “inclusive mosque” on the outskirts of Paris for gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims. And in 2013, the spotlight was on the first gay Imam in the U.S., Daayiee Abdullah, who, despite condemnation, performed funeral rites for a gay Muslim who had died of AIDS. All these examples show that winds of change are sweeping over Islam. Of course, not everybody agrees with these actions. For some these show signs of a revolution, for some it is ‘biddat’, an unapologetic innovation, and for others it is just sheer blasphemy.
The “inclusive” mosque was established by Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, an Algerian-French Imam. The mosque, Zahed says, was a project that stemmed from “a long personal journey” — he grew up tolerating many snide remarks before coming out to his parents at the age of 21. Zahed said in an article in The Guardian that he set it up so that there could be “a place of worship where people will always be welcomed as brothers and sisters, whatever their sexual orientation or ethnicity.” It all started when a Muslim transgender died and nobody was ready to lead prayers for burial. Zahed stepped in and created history, and this immediately led to the integration of the marginalised. Says Zahed: “Thanks to both the media’s interest and to academic work, we sought to organise inclusive Jumu’a prayers despite the risks. Nobody generally wants to pray for a transgender’s death or for gay weddings. Today this is no longer the case.”
Keeping Zahed company in the U.S. is Imam Daaiyee Abdullah, believed to be the only openly gay Imam in the U.S., who came out to his supportive family many years ago. Born to Christian parents, Abdullah acknowledged his sexuality before embracing Islam. His story is similar to Zahed’s: he also led the funeral prayers for a gay Muslim when other Imams refused to step in. Such has been the impact of Abdullah’s work that when I speak to Zahed, he recalls Abdullah’s words to substantiate his point. Says Abdullah: “Islam is a living religion, it must breathe.” Zahed adds, “Diversity as sacred, unified yet differentiated human nature — that is the ‘social contract’ that the Quran has offered for 14 centuries. And the Arab-Islamic civilisation, known until recently for its tolerance, was to some extent its vivid illustration.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HINDU
Hindu right-wing organizations may have backed down on mass conversion programmes on Christmas Day, but the debate about conversions is not going to go away in a hurry. It is commonly held that Islam and Christianity, the religions of the rulers across India for several centuries, were pushed down the throat of Hindus and tribals.
Historian Richard Eaton has, however, highlighted some of the fallacies, particularly with regard to Islam. The “geography of conversions” in the Indian subcontinent, according to him, reveals an inverse relationship between the degree of Muslim political penetration and the degree of conversion to Islam. So the heaviest conversions occurred in Punjab and Bengal, which were on the fringes of the Indo-Muslim empires, and much less in the north Indian heartland. Eaton argues that three dominant theories — conversion by sword, for political and instrumental reasons and mass lower caste conversions — don’t stack up. Instead, he says, conversion was a gradual process whereby “preliterate peoples on the ecological and political frontier of an expanding agrarian society became absorbed into the religious ideology of that society”.
As with conversions to Islam, the story with Christianity is hardly straightforward. It is often forgotten that Christianity and missionary conversions existed in India long before the British came. Their origins in India go back to the first century of the Common Era. However, the public discourse on conversion in independent India has been influenced by the acrimonious debate on conversion during the colonial period.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDIA TIMES
LUCKNOW (Reuters) – A Hindu priest-turned-lawmaker vowed on Friday to convert hundreds of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism on Christmas Day, despite a police investigation into an earlier round of conversions.
Religious conversions in multi-faith India are threatening to sow fresh discord as Muslim groups and opposition parties accuse organisations tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party of trying to undermine the nation’s secular foundations.
This week, police said they were investigating a case in which Muslim slum-dwellers complained they had been tricked into a Hindu conversion ceremony in Agra, lured by the promise of cheap government rations and voter identity cards.
But Yogi Adityanath, a four-time member of parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said an even bigger ceremony to convert Muslims would be held in the northern town of Aligarh as scheduled and that it was an entirely voluntary affair. “We have been doing this every year for the past 10 years. It’s not a conversion, its a homecoming,” he said, adding that the families signing up for the ceremony were originally Hindus.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STRAIT TIMES (ASIA)
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu walk into a university together. And what happens next, according to community leaders, is no joke – walking together can build a more harmonious, more creative, more inspiring place to live.
“Representatives from Christianity, Islam and Hinduism will clarify their deepest treasures at the heart of the paths they follow and identify the principles and practices that can be used to promote harmonious community,” Broyles said. “Each presentation will pursue harmony by looking at principles and practices that promote unity and generational wisdom that can be passed on to our families and children.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM AL.COM
We live in a beautiful diverse world, and almost each day of the year is a sacred time for someone, somewhere. HuffPost Religion is proud to present an interfaith, inclusive religious calendar for nine major world religions: Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, Paganism, Shinto and Sikhism. We hope you will come to this page regularly to learn about the festivals of your religious tradition as well as your neighbors’.
Please note that, unless otherwise noted, Jewish holidays start at sundown on the previous day. If this list does not include your sacred observance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of the holiday so that we can add it here.
Click on each link for festivals and holy days of that religion.
Baha’i Holidays 2012
Buddhist Holidays 2012
Christian Holidays 2012
Hindu Holidays 2012
Jain Holidays 2012
Jewish Holidays 2012
Muslim Holidays 2012
Pagan Holidays 2012
Shinto Holidays 2012
Sikh Holidays 2012
FULL ARTICLE WITH PICS FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST