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Archive for the ‘United Kingdom’ tag

Muslim Converts in UK Energize Community But Face Obstacles

Lauren Booth, a prominent British Muslim convert. Photo from laurenbooth.co.uk

by Trevor Grundy
from ENI News

Muslim converts in the United Kingdom — a small but growing number — often bring new energy to their faith communities, but also report facing obstacles to acceptance.

“Converts are a bridge between non-Muslim, mainly white, communities and Muslim communities who are mainly from sub-continent communities,” said Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of London-based Faith Matters, an inter-faith organization, in an interview with ENInews.

However, converts also told researchers last year that they felt cast adrift after their acceptance of Islam. Although mosques were delighted to welcome new members, they often failed to provide support when their new co-religionists faced hostility from family and friends, they said.

The study, by Kevin Brice of Swansea University in Wales, said there were about 100,000 converts to Islam in the U.K. in the 2000-2010 decade, up from 60,000 in the 1990s.

The report, called “A minority within a minority: a report on converts to Islam in the United Kingdom,” was sponsored by Faith Matters, which is supported by the British government and faith groups. There are about 1.8 million Muslims in the U.K., out of a total population of 62.5 million.

British converts to Islam — “muhtedis” in Arabic — can serve as a bridge over which Muslims and non-Muslims can meet and exchange ideas, said Mughal.

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Northern Irish Young ‘Friendly Across Religions’

More and more Northern Irish teenagers have friendships with people from a different religious background, a new report has found. Photo from Google News

from Google News and the UK Press Association

An increasing number of teenagers in Northern Ireland have friendships across the religious divide, a research study has said.

Only a minority of young people have no acquaintances from other religious or ethnic backgrounds, added the university Young Life and Times Survey (YLT).

Dr Paula Devine, from Queen’s University, said: “The YLT survey found that friendship patterns among 16-year-olds are wider than ever before, encompassing both religious and ethnic diversity.”

They found 12% of young people never socialise with those from a different community and 16% do not associate with other ethnicities.

Dr Devine added: “The comments made by young people in the survey suggest a blurring of the traditional us and them categories. Whether someone is like us or them is not purely based on their religious or ethnic background but on other factors such as personality.”

Key findings in the report, No More Us And Them For 16-18-year-olds?, include that cross-community friendship was more common in 2011 than in 2003. In 2011, 22% of YLT respondents had no friends from the other main religious community, compared with 33% in 2003.

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Rise in UK Multifaith Prayer Rooms, a Liverpool Study Reveals

The multifaith space at the Museum of Liverpool

from BBC News

The number of shared spaces for prayer, reflection and meditation has risen over the last 10 years, a study has found.

Researchers from The University of Liverpool said there were more than 1,500 multifaith spaces in the UK.

Dr Andrew Crompton from the University of Liverpool said the increase came in spite of “a decline in the popularity of established religion”.

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Queen Elizabeth: Church Has Duty To Protect Practice of All Faiths

by Victoria Ward
from The Telegraph

In a timely address to leaders of Britain’s nine main religions at Lambeth Palace, London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, she highlighted the importance of faith in society and the “critical guidance” it offered in life.

“The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated,” she said.

“Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”

The monarch, speaking at the first public event to mark her Diamond Jubilee, said that Church was “woven into the fabric of this country” and had helped to build a better society.

It has “created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely”, she added.

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Jewish and Muslim Students Can Work Together Against Prejudice

By Nabil Ahmed
From the Guardian

There are more than 110,000 Jewish and Muslim students in Britain, but it’s not often their shared experiences are considered. Globally, Muslim-Jewish relations are a touchy topic, with the focus on political divisions (such as Palestine-Israel), and an assumption of historical enmity. I have felt this cold, polarising air from both communities, whose leaders seem unwilling to address it.

But born and raised in Alwoodley, Leeds, I grew up with more Jewish than Muslim friends, and realised our startling similarities. The National Jewish Student Survey in 2011 showed the day-to-day issues facing Jewish students. In the main these concerned passing exams and finding a job, but Judaism also played a strong role in encouraging them to support and give to ethical causes. Two out of five had experienced an antisemitic incident in the last year, although just 4% were “very worried” about antisemitism at university.

The Greater London Authority research into the experiences of Muslim students in 2009 suggested a similar experience, both of Islamophobia and of getting the best out of life on campus. Muslim students are engaging in social activism and are concerned about welfare needs, but have the same day-to-day concerns as other students. In summary, young Muslims and Jews want to enjoy their university years, get good jobs and make a difference.

But in 2012, there are troubled waters ahead. Internationally there is the threat of a war with Iran, which could stoke inter-community tensions – and antisemitism and Islamophobia have not gone away. January saw a vile Nazi-themed drinking game, on a ski trip organised by the LSE athletics union, which was rightly condemned. Also at LSE there was the Islamophobic harassment of a Muslim student after religious sensitivities were provoked by the Atheist Secular and Humanist Society and in Stoke – a place where Muslim students have been harassed by the BNP – an ex-soldier, Simon Beech, was recently convicted of setting fire to a mosque.

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Karen Armstrong: Prejudices Will Be Shaken by This Show

By Karen Armstrong
From the Guardian

Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith – even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity. Recent terrorist atrocities have seemed to confirm this received idea. But if we want a peaceful world, we urgently need a more balanced view. We cannot hope to win the “battle for hearts and minds” unless we know what is actually in them. Nor can we expect Muslims to be impressed by our liberal values if they see us succumbing unquestioningly to a medieval prejudice born in a time of extreme Christian belligerence.

Like Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists, some Muslims have undoubtedly been violent and intolerant, but the new exhibition at the British Museum – Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam – is a timely reminder that this is not the whole story. The hajj is one of the five essential practices of Islam; when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims ritually act out the central principles of their faith. Equating religion with “belief” is a modern western aberration. Like swimming or driving, religious knowledge is practically acquired. You learn only by doing. The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive.

In the holy city of Mecca, violence of any kind was forbidden. From the moment they left home, pilgrims were not permitted to carry weapons, to swat an insect or speak an angry word, a discipline that introduced them to a new way of living. At a climactic moment of his prophetic career, Muhammad drew on this tradition. Fleeing persecution in Mecca in 622, he and the Muslim community (the umma) had migrated to Medina, 250 miles to the north. Mecca was determined to destroy the umma and a bitter conflict ensued. But eventually Muhammad broke the deadly cycle of warfare with an audacious non-violent initiative.

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St Paul’s Seeks New Direction and Begins Dialogue with Occupy Movement

by Alan Rusbridger
from the Guardian

The Rt Rev Richard John Carew Chartres exuded an aura of benign ecclesiastical calm having performed the most dramatic reverse ferret in modern church history.

The Bishop of London was cloistered in his 17th century palace – confusingly called the Old Deanery – after overseeing a meeting of the St Paul’s Cathedral chapter at which his colleagues had unanimously agreed to overturn virtually every single decision they had reached over the past two weeks.

“Reverse ferret” is, technically speaking, a term used in Fleet Street, just down the road, to describe the moment when an editor executes a startling editorial U-turn.

But it was the bishop who brought off a remarkable tactical volte face. Stepping into the shoes of the recently-departed dean of St Paul’s, Graeme Knowles, Chartres decided to suspend legal action against the protesters who are camped out barely a hundred yards from his sitting room – and to disregard the legal and health and safety advice which had previously led to the closure of the cathedral.

“The symbolism of the closed door was the wrong symbol,” said Chartres, who also announced an initiative, led by a former investment banker, with the aim of “reconnecting the financial with the ethical”.

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Getting Stuck in Clay: An Interfaith Reflection

by Kelly Figueroa-Ray from State of Formation

This is my first trip to Europe. I’ve had the chance to rent a bike and tour around the beautiful English countryside that surrounds Madingly, a small town (there is only a few homes, a pub, town hall and a church) right outside of Cambridge, England.

One day when biking I pulled off on a “public bridleway.” This is a new and fascinating phenomenon for me as a person from the United States; these pathways criss-cross through otherwise private fields and property, connecting for the public small towns and roads that can be reached by foot and often by bike. After about 100 yards of bumping down the path, the bike refused to move any further.

As I inspected my bike, I realized that my wheels were covered in the dirt of the field. Upon closer investigation, I realized this was not just any dirt but the finest clay England’s farmland had to offer. After carrying my bike back to a grassy patch, I spent about 20 minutes scraping the stuff off with my bare hands. As I felt the clay between my fingers, I realized something: Now I know the feel of England’s dirt (at least the dirt near Madingly). It was sort of like the clay I have used in pottery class, the kind that comes in as a brick in a plastic bag — brown, slippery, sticky and heavy.

In Madingly I’ve been participating in an intensive summer interfaith program hosted by the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme. This program has brought together Jews, Muslims and Christians from the around the world, including 10 Ibadhi Muslims from Oman, most of whom had never met a Jewish person before this conference.

All 25 of us were dropped into “the princess castle,” a designation ascribed to Madingly Hall of Cambridge University by my 3-year-old daughter during one of our late night FaceTime chats.

For us, this hall and its gorgeous gardens and grounds began as neutral territory; it has now become our home.

During the week, we attend lectures on the three faiths and practice Scriptural Reasoning. There are deep and sincere questions that are raised during these sessions: What does faith mean to Christians? Why do the Omani Muslims often wear hats? What does it mean to be a prophet in the Jewish faith?

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Paganism: Summer Solstice

from BBC

Solstice, or Litha means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation.

As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Bless us
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny

Wiccan blessing for Summer

This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.

Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For Pagans this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits.

This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter….

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June 21st, 2011 at 4:44 pm