Muslim-majority countries where Donald Trump does business left untouched by travel ban

trump-immigrationAs controversy rages about President Donald Trump’s travel ban, critics have pointed out that the seven predominantly Muslim countries whose citizens have been barred have one thing in common – they are not among the places where the tycoon does business.

 The executive order Mr Trump signed blocks entry for the next 90 days to travellers from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen but excluded from the list are several wealthier Muslim majority countries where the Trump Organisation has business interest, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, the UAE, Egypt and Indonesia.

It appeared to be business as usual for Mr Trump and the Saudis yesterday, with the President pictured on the phone with the King of Saudi Arabia as hundreds of thousands of people took part in spontaneous protests against the ban.

Mr Trump has said he has handed over management of his vast real estate empire, licensing and merchandising business over to his adult sons to avoid potential conflicts of interest with his role as President.

But critics said his business interests should have been handed over to a blind trust rather to avoid the possibility of Mr Trump being kept abreast of their performance.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT 

Young Muslims will be experiencing Hajj in a very different way this year

hajjWhen Snapchat ran a story on Mecca_live during Ramadan in 2015, it was the first time that the wider world had seen such an intimate portrait of one of the key places for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. Worshippers were busy posting pictures that expressed who they are and what is important to them, weaving the intensely physical rituals of Ramadan and pilgrimage into the virtual spaces of social media

Millions of Muslim pilgrims are once again gathering in Mecca as the Hajj is about to begin. It highlights the Islamic concept of ‘ummah’ the global Muslim nation, where all Muslims regardless of wealth, race, language or culture are connected together as one body. This was historically an emotional and spiritual attachment, expressing love and solidarity over long distances. It was a matter for the heart and the fortunate few who could travel. But for today’s generation of young Muslims, through social media the ‘ummah’ has become real in a way that it never was before.

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What Muslims Do on Hajj, and Why

09glossary-span-superjumboJIDDA, Saudi Arabia — It is incumbent upon every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest site, at least once in his or her lifetime. The annual pilgrimage is known as the hajj, and it is one of the five pillars of Islam, prescribed in the Quran:

And proclaim to mankind the hajj. They will come to you on foot, on very lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway.

This year, 1437 according to the Islamic calendar, I am making my first hajj. I will be joining two million Muslims from around the world — though the writer Abu Muneer Ismail Davids joked that it may feel more like 10 million people. During the hajj, we must not swear, cut our hair or nails, have sex or crush a plant.

I will be chronicling my journey for The New York Times and on social media. To better follow along, here’s a glossary of terms, names and places that help explain the rites and rituals Muslims will participate in during the six days of the hajj, which begins Saturday.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration

by Jan LuykenISTANBUL — Over the past decade, headlines from the Middle East have reintroduced Westerners to terms from centuries past. “Heresy,” “blasphemy,” “apostasy” — these are some of the charges that the radical Salafist group known as the Islamic State invokes when it executes its enemies, sometimes by crucifying or burning them alive.

Some Muslim governments, including United States allies, also mete out harsh punishments for similar offenses. The liberal blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia last month on a charge of heresy, which he allegedly committed by criticizing the oppressive Saudi religious establishment.

Although there are contextual differences for these practices, as well as the sanctions for religious offenses in Iran, Sudan or Afghanistan, they all share one fundamental objective: Punishing people in the name of God.

A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center showed that while not all of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims approve of this notion, a significant proportion of them do. Majorities in Egypt and Pakistan, for example, support the death penalty for Muslims who dare to abandon their religion.

Looking at this, some Westerners conclude that Islam is inherently more rigid than the creed that has defined their own civilization: Christianity. But they are forgetting that Christianity had its own, no less violent, history of punishing in the name of God. For centuries, churches burned people they thought were heretics at the stake or tortured them to purify their souls. The main difference with Islam is that Christianity gradually outgrew that age of religious persecution by grounding its theology in tolerance, reason and liberty.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Saudi single women challenge tradition in love, marriage

Amna Fatani knows she wants a brilliant career and a life different from that of Saudi women of her mother’s generation who married early, usually to a husband not of their own choosing.

The 27-year-old, studying for her master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington and hoping to someday become Saudi Arabia’s first female labor minister, is part of a growing number of Saudi women choosing to remain single through their 20s and into their 30s as they pursue other ambitions.

The trend has ruffled ultraconservatives who see it as an affront to the very foundations of the kingdom, where strict interpretations of Islam and rigid tribal codes have long dictated the terms of marriage.

“My friends and I have reached a point (where) we’re very specific about what we want,” she said. “I need someone who trusts that if I need to do something, I can make the decision to ask for help or choose to do it alone.”

Saudi women stand at the center of a societal pivot between the kingdom’s push for greater women’s education and rights to work, and laws that give men final say over their lives.

As the country mourns the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz last week, the future of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is unclear. At times Abdullah appeared to favor expanded rights for women, even allowing them to vote in local elections. But where his successor stands on the issue isn’t known. What is certain is that current laws are strict and limiting.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DETROIT FREE PRESS 

Violence in Paris, beyond fuels debate among Muslims over interpretation of Islam

dt.common.streams.StreamServerCAIRO — After gunmen in Paris killed 12 people, Saudi Arabia’s top body of Muslim clerics quickly condemned the attack and said it could have no acceptable justification. It was a signal from some of the Islamic world’s strictest voices that cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were not a reason to kill the artists.

Only days later, Saudi Arabia sent an opposing message: On Friday, a young Saudi was whipped 50 times in a public square in the city of Jiddah, the first of what will be 20 such weekly rounds of lashes. That, along with 10 years in prison, is his sentence from the kingdom’s religious-based courts for insulting Islam, based on posts on his blog criticizing prominent clerics close to the monarchy.

The contradiction points to the difficulties at a time of a growing debate within Islam about whether and how to reject a radical minority that some fear is dragging them into conflict and wrecking the faith.

Western critics are increasingly brazen about suggesting there is something inherent in Islam that is sparking violence by some of its adherents. Most Muslims reject this, arguing that the tumult of the post-colonial Middle East has created fertile ground for radicalism among people whose faith is fundamentally one of peace.

Nonetheless, the past year has seen increasing voices among Muslims saying their community must re-examine their faith to modernize its interpretations and sideline extremists. As much as recent attacks in the West, the rise of startlingly vicious violence by Sunni Muslim militants in the name of Islam against fellow Muslims, including Sunnis, brought it home for many Muslims that something must change in religious discourse.

In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group has butchered entire families of Sunnis and beheaded Sunni soldiers, as well as Western hostages. In Pakistan, a Dec. 16 militant attack on a school that killed 150 people, mostly children, stunned the country. It made many Pakistanis question any empathy they felt in the past toward militant groups — the attitude of “even if they’re wrong, they’re still fellow Muslims.”

“Now I hear more people talking openly against extremism and militancy,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an independent political analyst in Pakistan.

When people ask “why Islam?”, much of the answer has little to do with the religion itself. The Arab world has seen decades of bloodshed and foreign intervention unlike any in any other region — long entrenched dictatorships, regime suppression, two Iraq wars, the Syrian civil war and Libya’s turmoil.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SYRACUSE.COM

The reasons behind religious absolutism and how we can combat them

imagesI was asked once whether religion had done more harm than good in history. “More good, but it’s close,” I replied.

However, the same might be said of many human institutions – governments, the police, the military, the press – and much depends on the time and place in question. The Catholic Church of the Inquisition is not the church of Pope Francis. The rigid Islam of contemporary Saudi Arabia is a far cry from the golden age of 10th- and 11th-century Cordoba and Seville, where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived and worked in relative harmony. The angry, radical Islam of much of Europe contrasts sharply with the Islam of the U.S. and Canada, which is largely moderate and prosperous.

One major problem with religion is the absolutism of many conservative believers. Secular or less observant Jews in the U.S. and Israel are considered no better than equally disparaged gentiles by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews. Some very conservative segments of Evangelical Protestantism do not consider Roman Catholics to be authentic Christians. Salafi Muslims in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are dismissive of any deviation from their interpretation of Islam by more moderate Muslims, especially the small Sufi branch of the religion. Many Sunni Muslims in Arab states and their leaders view the Shi’a branch as heretical.

FULL ARTICLE FROM OC REGISTER