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Timbuktu's Djinguereber mosque: a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 5

7 hours 22 min ago

Constructed from the very earth on which it stands, Timbuktu’s oldest mosque is at the heart of daily life in the ancient city, loyally maintained by the proud descendants of its original builders

Just as a public clock might establish the rhythm of some towns and cities, the Djinguereber mosque has set the time for nearly 700 years. Only recent attention on northern Mali – including a 2012 Jihadist occupation – has disrupted the gentle routine built around five prayers a day and an annual “restoration week” that triggers a DIY frenzy in the city’s homes.

“We have not had to do major patching up since 2006 when the Aga Khan’s restoration programme began,” says the Djinguereber muezzin, Mahamane Mahanmoudou. “But I can see some small cracks now. We will have to do some work this year,” says the 77-year-old, who is also mason-in-chief of the mosque.

Djinguereber remains a marvel of architecture where you feel the greatness of God and Islam in your soul

Related: Delhi's 16th-century Purana Qila fort: a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 4

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Iranian big-budget film causes controversy by depicting Muhammad

26 March, 2015 - 12:37

Director Majid Majidi defends blockbuster Muhammad, Messenger of God claiming it is meant to ‘bring unity to the Muslim world’

A big-budget Iranian film about Muhammad’s childhood has courted controversy by including shots of the prophet’s back, among them a low-angle shot of a teenage Muhammad against the sky.

Physical depictions of Muhammad are taboo in many Muslim communities – particularly those adhering to the dominant Sunni tradition – but Shia Islam, practiced by 90-95% of Iranians, has a more liberal approach to the issue. However, mindful of religious sensibilities, the film-makers – led by director Majid Majidi – have not attempted to show Muhammad’s face.

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Saudi Arabia begins airstrikes against Houthi in Yemen

26 March, 2015 - 00:09

In rare news conference, Saudi ambassador announces that attacks have commenced on Shia rebels who drove Yemeni president out of country

The Saudi ambassador to the United States says his country has begun airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen who drove out the US-backed Yemeni president.

Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir says the operations began at 7 pm Eastern time. He says the Houthis, widely believed to be backed by Iran, “have always chosen the path of violence”. He declined to say whether the Saudi campaign involved US intelligence assistance.

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Behind the Afzal Amin row: fight over mosque at heart of community tensions

25 March, 2015 - 12:44

Amid furore over Tory’s alleged EDL dealings in Dudley, little has been said about the prayerhouse at its centre – a contentious issue simmering for years

Two bulbous white domes perch incongruously atop a draughty Grade II-listed former school across the hill from Dudley’s ruined castle, symbols of Islamic architecture bolted on to the old building that has for decades allowed the town’s growing Muslim population a space to pray.

Next door, inside the community centre, Amjid Raza, the mosque’s spokesman, explains how the political row that led to Afzal Amin’s resignation as Tory candidate for Dudley North on Monday was just the latest twist in a 15-year battle that has seen ugly and violent protests as the far-right has sought to inflame community tensions for their own ends.

Related: Afzal Amin quits as Tory candidate for Dudley North after EDL plot allegations

You can’t deceive your own community. I do feel let down.

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Trojan horse school in Birmingham to be renamed

24 March, 2015 - 12:37

Park View, which was at centre of alleged plot by Muslim extremists to take over state schools in city, to rebrand as Ofsted praises progress

Park View academy, the Birmingham school at the centre of the Trojan horse allegations of religious infiltration, is to rebrand itself in an attempt to improve its image, as the school celebrates the first signs of official approval for its overhaul.

Adrian Packer, the school’s new executive principal, has told parents that a new name for the school is to be voted on by parents and pupils, after the academy’s governing body, the Park View educational trust, decided to rename itself the Core education trust.

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Tunisia needs visitors now more than ever | Letters

23 March, 2015 - 20:17

It is too easy after last week’s atrocities in Tunisia (Report, 23 March) to start speculating. Is Tunisia “next”? Is Tunisia “safe”? Tolerant local forms of Islam have been prevalent in Tunisia for centuries. Nevertheless, it is oft cited in the media that many Tunisians have fled to fight in Syria (3,000, apparently). Between the lines, we are expected read this as some indicator of the extent of religious fervour in Tunisia. The reality is that these people have left Tunisia to fight their cause precisely because Salafism is an alien import and does not sit comfortably in Tunisia. Last week’s attack should be understood as akin to those in Sydney and Paris: individuals rallying to the calls of Islamic State, to find targets and attack them. They will pop-up in any given place: from Brighton to Boston, from Marrakech to Moscow, from Toronto to Tunis. A primary driver for young and educated individuals to become radicalised in Tunisia has been an ailing economy and high unemployment. Tunisia needs visitors now, more so than ever before, especially the types of visitors who would visit the Bardo museum. If we respond by withdrawing our support, we inadvertently contribute to the economic malaise and the plight of the disenfranchised: we ultimately stoke the embers of radicalism.
Farès Moussa
Edinburgh

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Family of Afghan woman lynched by mob take comfort from tide of outrage

23 March, 2015 - 18:59

Father of a 27-year-old woman who was murdered by a mob in Kabul last week has witnessed a very public response to his daughter’s death

In Afghanistan, mourning a family member is never a private matter. But, for Mohammad Nader Malikzadah, grieving his murdered daughter, it has happened in front of an international audience.

Farkhunda, 27, was killed by a mob last week in front of the mosque where she worked as a religious teacher, falsely accused of burning pages from the Qu’ran. A crowd of men beat her, pulled her off a roof when she tried to escape, pelted her with wooden planks and ran her over with a car, before burning her dead body.

Related: Afghan woman killed by mob in Kabul was innocent, says investigator

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Yemen, long on the brink of catastrophe, may have tipped over the edge | Brian Whitaker

23 March, 2015 - 12:48
Friday’s mosque attacks, whoever was behind them, will intensify sectarian rivalries and invite bloody reprisals. The scene is set for a protracted civil war

Yemen has often been portrayed as a country on the brink of catastrophe. Equally often, it has defied expectations and muddled through – if only just. But the suicide attacks on two mosques that left at least 142 people dead in Sana’a last Friday are one sign, among many, that it has finally tipped over the edge.

The UN is warning helplessly about a rapid downward spiral and calling for a resumption of efforts towards a political settlement, but the prospects of that happening are virtually nil and the scene is set for a protracted civil war with multiple protagonists.

Related: Yemen mosque bombings 'could only be done by the enemies of life' – president

The UN is warning helplessly about a rapid downward spiral

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Theresa May set to urge UK's Muslims to help fight extremism

23 March, 2015 - 01:49

Home secretary will set out broad approach for tackling ‘serious and widespread’ problem of Islamic extremism ‘head on’

Theresa May is to appeal to Muslims to help tackle extremism as she insists Britain must no longer tolerate those who fail to respect its values.

The Home secretary will say the freedoms on offer in the UK come with “responsibilities” to respect the way others live, democracy, equality and the rules of law.

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Iran nuclear deal could transform Obama and Rouhani presidencies

22 March, 2015 - 22:01

Historic agreement would be a monument to the US and Iranian leaders – hence both men are being undermined by their conservative rivals

Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani make an unlikely double act. But as negotiators from the US and Iran race towards the 31 March finishing line for a nuclear deal, this odd couple’s destinies have become inextricably linked.

The long-running saga of Iran’s standoff with the west has become a tale of two presidents. It is plain that Barack Obama is rooting for a positive result in Lausanne next week when negotiators make a final attempt to reach a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s suspect nuclear programme.

Related: Iran nuclear talks 'a historic opportunity' says Obama in YouTube appeal

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Voices behind and beyond the veil | Letters

22 March, 2015 - 18:39

I am a Muslim woman from India and find the perspectives Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s piece (Opinion, 21 March) very relevant to my identity, highlighting pertinent issues related to the veil. She rightly points to the lack of clarity as to what exactly the veil is in terms of a face-covering or a chador, and its not being an injunction in the Qur’an. Her article should be an eye opener to Muslim girls/women around the world as to the impressions and implications of the veil and how it alienates Muslim women from the mainstream in a globalised, progressive world. More and more Muslim women need to voice their concern about the increasing misuse of Islam for violence and repression, and for curbing a woman’s right to identity, healthcare and education.
Professor Sami Rafiq
Aligarh Muslim University, India

• Yasmin Alibhai-Brown does not mention men. Women’s choices to wear or not wear the veil have no meaning except in the context of male power and men’s use of women. That little girls are being turned into sexual beings is an unwelcome, but not surprising element. More to the point is the hatred and contempt for women as adult sexual beings driving these developments. Alibhai-Brown hints at the misogyny, but seems unwilling to name it.
Professor Norma Clarke
London

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Afghan woman killed by mob in Kabul was innocent, says investigator

22 March, 2015 - 12:21

No evidence found that 27-year-old Farkhunda, who was beaten and set on fire by group of men, had burnt a copy of the Qur’an

A woman killed by an angry mob in front of police in the Afghan capital last week for allegedly burning a copy of Islam’s holy book was wrongly accused, Afghanistan’s top criminal investigator has said.

Mobile phone footage circulating on social media shows police at the scene did not save the 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul on Thursday.

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Afghan skateboarding? A call-to-prayer contest? New Muslim channel has it all

21 March, 2015 - 11:41

Alchemiya, a digital TV channel that has been compared to Netflix, aims to show Islamic culture at its best

Tucked away in a former chocolate factory in Wood Green in north London, a team of producers are huddled around footage of a man enthusiastically practising the call to prayer.

The performer is one of many hoping to win Istanbul’s annual muezzin competition – the search to find the heartiest call to prayer in the Turkish city. And the results, alongside a documentary about Afghan skateboarders and a film about Islam in Japan, will be part of the launch in April of a digital TV channel that’s being described as the Muslim Netflix.

We show hope and don’t show people oppressed. There​​ are plenty of other platforms where you can see that

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Yemen mosque bombings 'could only be done by the enemies of life' – president

21 March, 2015 - 10:47

Coordinated suicide attacks that killed at least 142 people in Sana’a aimed to create internal fighting, says Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi

Suicide bombings that killed at least 142 people were aimed at dragging Yemen into “chaos, violence and internal fighting”, the country’s embattled president has said.

The series of coordinated attacks on mosques in Sana’a during Friday prayers, by a group claiming to be a Yemeni branch of Islamic State, also left 345 people injured, with the death toll including 13 children.

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My boyfriend killed himself because his family couldn’t accept that he was gay

21 March, 2015 - 05:59
Nazim Mahmood jumped to his death from a balcony seven months ago after coming out to his parents. His partner of 13 years, Matthew Ogston, talks to Sarfraz Manzoor

In the spring of last year, Matthew Ogston and Nazim Mahmood moved into their dream home. The apartment, on the top floor of a mansion block in north-west London, offered stunning panoramic views of London. Nazim was a doctor who ran three London clinics, Matthew a web designer.

The life Nazim enjoyed seemed a world away from the working-class traditional Muslim community in which he had been raised. It was that world – conservative and closed – that he had left behind for a new life. In their first week in the flat, the two men stood on the balcony as London glittered in front of them. Matthew looked at Nazim and said, “Darling, I think we’ve finally made it.” They both smiled. Four months later, Nazim jumped off the edge of that same balcony to his death. He was 34.

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Isis destroys historic Christian and Muslim shrines in northern Iraq

20 March, 2015 - 19:45
  • Structures destroyed include fourth-century Assyrian memorial
  • Patriarch of Syriac Catholic church tells west: ‘Condemnation is not enough’

Islamic State militants appear to have destroyed Christian and Shia Muslim shrines in northern Iraq – including a fourth-century memorial built by an Assyrian king – in the group’s latest rampage against the embattled country’s religious and cultural heritage.

On Thursday, Isis’s “Nineveh province media office” released photographs showing the apparent destruction of the holy sites in Hamdaniya, northern Iraq.

Related: Isis attacks on ancient sites erasing history of humanity, says Iraq

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As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values | Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

20 March, 2015 - 19:40
When even young girls are being dressed in hijabs, we need to ask what the female cover-up symbolises

It could be a millenarian crisis or a delayed reaction to decades of bad history, but millions of Muslims seem to have turned inwards, hankering for an imagined golden age. They are contemptuous of modernity’s bendable, ductile values. Some are drawn to reactionary dogma, and preachers while a good number have thrown themselves into political Islam to resist and combat western hegemonies – or so the story goes.

As a practising (though flawed) Shia Muslim, I watch the new puritans with apprehension. So too other Muslims worldwide, the silent many, watch and tremble. From the eighth to the early 20th century, Muslims strove for a broad education (as commanded in the Qur’an), questioned doctrines, and were passionate about scientific advancements, political and social ideals and art. Not even humiliating colonial rule deterred them from the march forward. Now the marchers are walking backwards. The hijab, jilbab, burqa and niqab are visible signs of this retreat from progressive values.

Related: The hijab has liberated me from society's expectations of women | Nadiya Takolia

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times

Little girls are being asked to don hijabs and jilbabs, turned into sexual beings long before puberty

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Muslim immigration is 'Trojan horse' invasion, Belgian MP tells Ukip audience

19 March, 2015 - 18:40

Rightwing politician Aldo Carcaci warns party conference of ‘end of civilisation’

A Belgian MP has told a Ukip conference that Muslims are staging a “Trojan horse”-style invasion of Europe.

Speaking to Ukip members in Blackpool on Saturday, Aldo Carcaci, an MP for the right-wing Belgian People’s party, said that “Muslim immigration from across the Mediterranean is getting totally out of proportion”.

We welcome Aldo Carcaci MP from the Belgian People's Party to speak at our #UKIPNWConf pic.twitter.com/1mUG8GFEWq

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Does Money Make You Meaner? review – psychological insights on wealth offer a poor return

19 March, 2015 - 16:59
Jack Stewart rather quaintly takes to Hollywood to examine the effect of wealth – an economically expanding Asian or African country might have been more appropriate in 2015

From Shakespeare through to every lottery winner who has ever spent, spent, spent, the idea that wealth corrupts is a persistent one. In Does Money Make You Meaner? (BBC World Service), presenter Jack Stewart heads to Hollywood to unpick the science behind the cliche.

In LA (“where instant fortunes can be made”), Stewart talks to Professor Paul K Piff from the University of California, a veteran in the psychology of wealth. His findings are darkly comic (apparently the richer you are, the more likely you are to tick yes to the statement: “If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat”), suggesting a link between the 1% and the psychopathic self-regard of the world’s Patrick Batemans. In the end, the programme offers a disappointingly vague conclusion – essentially a shrug and a “maybe” – to the question posed so bluntly in the title; Piff’s findings, we are told, are contradicted by another professor.

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Religion and money: is Islamic banking the way forward for Ethiopians?

19 March, 2015 - 11:34

What happens when it’s not just a lack of physical banks preventing communities’ access to financial services, but ethical issues too?

Islam is the world’s second largest religion with more than 1.5 billion followers, making up more than 23% of the world’s population. Of these, 650 million Muslims hover at or below the poverty line. But although Islamic-compliant finance is a huge industry globally, when the international community talks about improving access to financial services in developing countries, making services Islamic-compliant is rarely top of the agenda.

Islamic-compliant financial products can take several forms and business models. However, the principles of Islamic finance are universal: you cannot make money off money. No one can charge or pay interest, or invest in items that Islam forbids such as alcohol and gambling.

Related: Interactive map: which country has the fewest ATMs?

Related: Using mobile money to buy water and solar power in east Africa

Related: Do banks matter in developing countries?

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