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Ed Webb

Turkey: Is Erdogan's "Magic Spell" Beginning to Pale? - 0 views

  • Research conducted in March by 50 teachers from the Imam Hatip schools revealed that students are moving away from Islam
  • Another cause of upset on the part of many religious Muslims is the content of the Diyanet-prepared Friday sermons, which frequently advocates violent jihad
  • great disappointment in the Erdogan government's version of Islam, especially when accompanied by corrupt politics and a deteriorating justice system
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  • Turkish Islamists are no longer politically uniform -- especially women and young people, whose waning support for the AKP was apparent during the April 2017 presidential referendum. To attract both sectors, Erdogan promised to lower the age at which a person can run for parliament and to grant lavish subsidies to housewives. These vows, however, appear to be insufficient to keep the people under his "spell."
  • Erdogan has long promised his supporters that he would cultivate a "pious generation", and invested heavily in religious Imam Hatip schools. His younger son, Bilal, even referred to the students attending these schools as "Erdogan's generation." Yet, it turns out that the children enrolled in these institutions have been failing miserably on all standard academic tests. Research conducted in March by 50 teachers from the Imam Hatip schools revealed that students are moving away from Islam in favor of a more general deism. The report generated a heated debate. While some secular groups doubt its findings, many feel vindicated by them.
  • Children from AKP-loyal families, as well as intellectuals and activists, are apparently questioning the touted morals of their elders. In a recent op-ed, hijabi-feminist Berrin Sonmez attacked what she called the "hypocritical piety" of Erdogan and the AKP elites. Sonmez and others have been criticizing Erdogan for his one-man rule, claiming that it runs counter to Islamic values and culture
  • As of 2017, there were 90,000 mosques in Turkey, led by government-employed imams. These mosques have experienced a notable decrease in attendance, particularly among young and middle-aged men. Some of those who continue to frequent the mosques are doing so less for religious reasons than for networking and job-seeking. In addition, more and more mosques have begun requesting hefty contributions from their congregants, while imams are coaxed by the state to collect donations after each sermon. One young imam who publicly complained about this practice -- he said that mosques "no longer serve people, but rather serve as a source of income for certain people" -- was promptly removed from his position.
  • Religious orders not associated with the Diyanet are beginning to attract more practitioners. While Diyanet and government officials make headlines for their lavish spending and luxurious lifestyles, outside religious orders are presenting a more righteous way of life
  • As Diyanet mosques function as pseudo-AKP headquarters across Turkey and abroad, the alternative religious orders pose a significant threat to Erdogan's standing and power
Ed Webb

America is Running Out of Muslim Clerics. That's Dangerous. - POLITICO Magazine - 0 views

  • A shortage of imams is not a new challenge for America’s mushrooming Muslim population: More than half of the country’s estimated 2,500 mosques lack a full time imam. But the people trying to fill those slots say that Trump’s efforts to impose an immigration ban on Muslim-majority nations together with rising incidents of Islamophobia have worsened the deficit. It’s the kind of problem that members of the Muslim community as well as terrorism experts warn could contribute to a rise in extremism. “A strong leader who provides a sense of structure and what is right and wrong offers certainty,” says Sarah Lyons-Padilla, a researcher at Stanford University who studies terrorists’ motivations. “So when you remove leaders, like an imam, then you’re basically introducing more uncertainty into an already troubled domain.”
  • Many American mosques traditionally invite a classically trained imam from overseas to assist U.S. mosque leaders with prayers during the holy month; in the past around 200 foreign imams have traveled to the United States for the holiday. But in 2017, the number was down to just 15
  • As second generation Muslims in the U.S. seek to adapt their faith to American culture, many in the Muslim community say it’s more important than ever to have leaders who can not just each the faith—but who can teach it correctly. “If people don’t have knowledge about Islam from the right source they wind up going to an extreme, whether it is to the right or the left,” says Shahin. “That is a dangerous thing for everybody.” That’s pretty much what one Florida imam told the New York Times after Uzbeki trucker Sayfullo Saipov drove into a Manhattan bike path last month, killing eight people. Saipov, said the imam, “did not learn the religion properly. That’s the main disease in the Muslim community.”
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  • Increasingly, America’s Muslims, many of whom were born in the United States, want imams trained in U.S. ways and culture, rather than those versed in the more formal ways practiced overseas and who sometimes do not speak English. But there are very few schools in the U.S. that can provide the necessary training. While efforts are under way in a dozen U.S. cities to develop seminaries to prepare homegrown American imams and chaplains, Bagby thinks the Trump era is likely to slow progress. “The big challenge on everyone’s mind now,” he says, “is that the imam’s position is just not a particularly desirable one.”
  • Without a robust U.S. training operation, the vast majority of full time imams in American mosques are either trained or born overseas. (The percentage was more than 90 percent in 2013, according to the ISNA study, and Bagby and others estimate that it hasn’t changed much in the past four years.) Most of these visiting imams enter the U.S. with a R1 visa for temporary religious workers; the visas are often good for up to five years, but most imams remain only for a few months. In an effort to stem fraudulent applications for such visas, the number of R1s issued during the Obama era declined significantly from 10,061 in 2008 to 2,771 in 2009. In the following years, though, the number rose steadily and in 2016 the government issued a total of 4,764 R1s. It is unclear whether or by how much those numbers have dropped during the Trump administration, as statistics for fiscal year 2017 will not be available until next year, says a U.S. State Department spokesman. But judging by the experience of several U.S. mosques this past Ramadan, foreign imams are finding it harder to enter the country in the Trump era.
  • “Now, imams overseas are saying they don’t want to come,” Musri adds. “They don’t want to be humiliated at the airport, or to be turned around. Even if they have a visa, they don’t want to bother. So a lot of mosques aren’t even asking anymore.”
  • Lorenzo Vidino, director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, questions whether the imam shortage would lead to violence. He says that extremists rarely spring from a mosque community, but are more often lone wolves or Muslim converts with little understanding of the Islamic faith. While some imams may have dissuaded a few potential terrorists, Vidino adds, it is difficult to prove. “I think it’s a bit of a simplistic narrative to say that imams serve as a bulwark against radicalization,” says Vidino. “No one denies that an imam might do that, but it’s very hard to prove. It’s like proving a negative. How would anyone know if an incident hadn’t occurred?”
  • “Simply put, Islamophobia is a reminder that you don’t belong,” says Lyons-Padilla, author of a Behavioral Science & Policy article called, “Belonging Nowhere: Marginalization and Radicalization Risk among Muslim Immigrants.” “To the extent that the imam shortage is perceived as an act of discrimination through the visa approval process, or another consequence of Islamophobia, that could lead to support for extremism down the road,”
  • The nation’s Muslim community has been highly cooperative with law enforcement; nearly half the tips on potential extremists come from other Muslims, according to one former State Department official. Some feel that fewer imams—as well as the general perception within the Muslim community that its leaders are being discriminated against—could mean a decline in communications with law enforcement and interfaith groups including other religious institutions like churches and synagogues
Ed Webb

Constitution Calls for 'Neutralilty' of Mosques, but Meaning Unclear - Tunisia Live - 0 views

  • Rumors circulated this weekend that the Friday sermon in Tunisian mosques would soon be standardized by the government, meaning all preachers would read the same text to their congregations, and that political figures would be prohibited from delivering sermons. Officials at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, however, denied that these policies were being implemented.
  • The newly-adopted Tunisian constitution, which was formally adopted last week, not only “protects religion” and “guarantees freedom of belief and conscience,” but also guarantees the political neutrality of the roughly 5,000 mosques in Tunisia. “The state [...] ensures the neutrality of mosques and places of worship away from partisan instrumentalization,” according to Article 6 of the new constitution. This constitutionalized political neutralization of mosques is meant to “limit the interference of strangers in mosques,” Fadhel Achour, president of the National Union of Religious Officials, told Tunisia Live. His union represents clergy working in Tunisia’s mosques.
  • Mghiri oversees the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Monitoring and Following Commission, which monitors Tunisian mosques. The commission receives petitions from citizens, follows up with them, and collaborates with the Ministry of Interior to curb what Mghiri deemed the “Salafist exploitation” of mosques and to prevent calls for violence in mosques. He also said that imams cannot directly tell those in attendance whom to vote for. Mghiri told Tunisia Live that different people from varied backgrounds gather in mosques and that telling these people for whom they should vote is not only illegal, but also not wise and does not comply with the canonical laws of Islam.
Ed Webb

Endowments Ministry to annex all mosques | Mada Masr - 0 views

  • The minister of religious endowments instructed officials to bring all mosques under the umbrella of the ministry in a directive Tuesday, he told the state-owned Middle East Agency. The minister, Mokhtar Gomaa, told the administration of the ministry’s regional offices to bring all mosques under their control. Most of Egypt’s 150,000 mosques are already under the administration of the Endowments Ministry. Part of this directive stipulates that an imam and a preacher must be appointed to each mosque. Many preachers have ignored a directive to unify Friday sermons under topics dictated by the ministry.
  • Gomaa has said that his ministry’s job is to separate mosques from politics and to restore them as places of worship. This has been implemented by closing small neighborhood mosques known as zawyas. Mosques that are less than 80 square meters in size are now banned. The ministry has also implemented new restrictions on who can become a preacher. Some 55,000 imams had their licenses revoked as a result.
Ed Webb

'Charter of Honor' Proposed to Prevent Tunisian Mosques from Being Politicized : Tunisi... - 1 views

  • Tunisian imams and religious lecturers will sign a ‘charter of honor’ to keep Tunisian mosques from becoming politicized during the holy month of Ramadan.
  • there are 4,885 mosques in Tunisia. 100 mosques are in the process of applying for recognition from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, while 20 mosques are completely independent of the government and are controlled by what Lefi identified as a Salafist movement
  • “We have an investigative committee that notifies us of any transgressions. Yet, like any other ministry, we cannot control everything. We try to interfere, but it gets hard sometimes with clashes between religious groups and security forces. The situation is not perfect, but it is getting better,”
Ed Webb

Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs to Increase Control of Mosque Activites : Tunisi... - 0 views

  • There are four different positions in Tunisian mosques assigned by the ministry: a daily prayer imam, a Friday imam, a person to perform the call to prayer, and someone who maintains the building
  • some parties have attempted to assign imams affiliated with their parties in order to influence masses. “Our ministry chose to remain silent over such issues in the beginning. Now we are taking a more strict approach,” he added. The ministry will closely monitor sermons at mosques and will be swift and fair in their punishment of offenders, he said.
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