“If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe within the next hundred years, it could be Islam” – George Bernard Shaw

1 05 2007

I came across this quote whilst trying to find a witty line for the title of this post and was quite astounded at its prophetic nature. Very interesting.

Anyway, the article I’m writing about here was done as a “SPECIAL HERALD REPORT”: i.e. a series of a couple of features and an online forum. These were all really interesting, especially as there’s such a prevalence of negative stories about Islam in the media. It was refreshing and really informative to see inside the ordinary lives of modern day moderate Muslims and how life is for them.

When I was looking up the online versions of these stories, I came across a page on their series of stories, The Face of Islam.

The specific front-page article which drew me to write about this, Islam in Australia: a diverse society finds a new voice is listed on this page, along with many other reports.

Across all of these stories run a few main news values:

* Currency – the issue of Islam in Australia has been pretty constant and huge in the media, especially since 9/11. With the 2005 Cronulla riots bringing tensions between Islamic Australians and racist bogan Australians to the forefront of media attention, thus these moderate (OK, left, if you insist) articles bring a very different attitude to the public

* Human Interest – investigating the human side of publicly Islamic figures such as Sheikh Taj El Din Al-Hilaly

* Conflict – not so much in the reporting, although this is inevitably a part of some stories, but I think for many readers Islam immediately connotes WARNING: FUNDAMENTALIST TERRORISTS ON THE LOOSE!!!  therefore, articles which dispute this notion of the Islamic faith are immediately controversial


Thank Allah it’s Wednesday – upholding religious diversity in the Texan Senate

6 04 2007

This is neither a very exciting post, nor a long one, but I found this article really interesting/exciting. Especially coming from Texas…

Imam leads first prayer by Muslim cleric on Texas Senate floor

A Dallas-area imam became the first Muslim cleric to offer the Texas Senate’s daily prayer on Wednesday.

The visit raised the eyebrows of a conservative talk-show host turned senator who questioned the religious leader’s background and the timing of his visit.

Sen. Dan Patrick stepped off the floor for Imam Yusuf Kavakci’s prayer, in which he recited a passage from the Koran in Arabic and read an English translation.

“I surely believe that everyone should have the right to speak, but I didn’t want my attendance on the floor to appear that I was endorsing that,” said Patrick, a freshman Republican from Houston.

Patrick later gave a short speech on the Senate floor in which he called Kavakci’s prayer an “extraordinary moment” that underscores that America is a nation “so tolerant of others we bend over backwards to allow others to pray as they wish.”

He pointed out that other countries would not do the same for Christians and Jews, who are observing Easter and Passover this week.

Kavakci said he can’t understand why anyone would have a problem with his prayer or with the text he chose, which he said spoke generically about the mercy of God. He said he does not know Patrick or understand why he would criticize him.

“For my perspective as a Muslim, we are all brothers and sisters and children of Adam and Eve as we say,” Kavakci said. “For us there is no problem really.”

Taken from statesman.com, 5th April, 2007.

News Values:

* Novelty – come on, an Islam cleric praying in Texas period. Let alone in the senate. Maybe those Texans are more progressive than our stereotypes give them credit for… (just maybe)

* Timeliness – Easter period

Another event of interest since my last post has been the publication of The Devil’s Own Politics, an investigation into the interplay between church and state in contemporary America. An interesting review can be found here.

Pork is a Very Sweet Meat…

25 03 2007

Moo-shoe Pork

Just a quick one to post a few interesting things I came across. Firstly, a report from FOXNews.com on controversial allowances being made for Islamic employees in some target stores – Some Target Stores Change Duties for Muslim Cashiers Who Object to Ringing Up Pork. It discusses briefly some of the issues faced by Muslims trying to uphold their faith in contemporary America, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Issues ranging from refusing alcohol-toting passengers in cabs to being “complicit in the sins of others” by scanning pork products at the supermarket.

As the local Muslim population grows, fueled by immigration from East African countries such as Somalia, efforts by Muslims to live by the rules of their faith often conflict with American realities.

In one dispute, some Muslim cab drivers who serve Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport refuse to take passengers who are carrying alcohol. The Metropolitan Airports Commission is expected to vote in April on a proposal that would hand out 30-day license suspensions to cabbies who refuse service for any reason.

Suhara Robla, who works at a SuperTarget, told the Star Tribune newspaper that more than a dozen Muslim cashiers were asked Thursday to do other jobs.

“They told all of us who don’t touch pork to go to the sales floor,” she told the newspaper. “They really didn’t say why. They just said it was a new policy.”

Hmm. Interesting.

And I found this article I was in the middle of writing a fascinating commentary on and then discovered it was from July ’06. Woops-a-daisy.

And now back to current events…

The Tampa Tribune reports Religious Right at a Low Point. This feature reports on the waning influence of the so-called “Religious Right” in the USA. Bible-belt faithfuls have reportedly been meeting to reinvigorate the conservative movement in US politics, following concerns about the appointment of moderate Charlie Crist as governor of Florida and the takeover of congress by the Democrats.

Read it all– it’s really interesting.

TAMPA – At dawn Wednesday, a busload of parishioners from Idlewild Baptist Church will board a bus for a two-day trip to Tallahassee to meet state legislators, after which they’ll come home armed to do grass-roots advocacy for conservative causes.

At 4 p.m. each day, lobbyist Bill Bunkley dons a headset in a small studio across from the state Capitol and hosts a political radio show on Tampa’s Christian talk radio station WTBN, 570 and 910 AM.

On April 4, a group of leaders of religious and conservative organizations from across the nation will meet in Washington to decide whether they can agree on a presidential candidate to support.

These people all are working to advance a cause some say is waning or dead, the social and religious conservative movement in U.S. politics.