Richard S. Ehrlich

Richard S. Ehrlich writes for Religion News Service.

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Concerned with Violence Against Muslims, Islamic Organization Visits Myanmar

by Richard S. Ehrlich 11-18-2013
Rohingya camps near the capital Sittwe in Arakan state, Bangladesh. Photo: RNS c

Rohingya camps near the capital Sittwe in Arakan state, Bangladesh. Photo: RNS courtesy Mathias Eick, EU/ECHO via Flickr

At the end of a three-day tour, the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation told Buddhist-majority Myanmar to repeal “laws restricting fundamental freedoms” after more than 240 Muslims were killed by Buddhist mobs during the past year.

Before the OIC delegates left Myanmar on Saturday, they visited minority ethnic Rohingya Muslims who fled the violence and are now living in squalid camps along the border with Bangladesh in Myanmar’s Arakan state, also known as Rakhine.

Headed by Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC delegation called on the government to continue legal reforms, The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

On Eid al-Adha, Tradition Gives Way to Online Innovation

by Richard S. Ehrlich 10-16-2013

Screenshot from Bikroy.com. Photo via RNS.

Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and elsewhere went online to buy live cows and goats for the traditional Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, known as Eid al-Adha, because shopping on the Internet was easier than going to crowded street markets to buy the animals.

“The purchase of sacrificial animal [online] has gained popularity as it is found to be the most convenient way of buying an animal for the ceremonious day,” Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper reported Wednesday.

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws to Require Death Sentence for False Accusers

by Richard S. Ehrlich 09-24-2013

A Quran photographed in a Kansas City, Mo. mosque (2012). RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Pakistan’s constitutionally mandated Council of Islamic Ideology told the government anyone who wrongly accuses a person of blasphemy against Islam must be executed — a measure intended to protect innocent people who are often killed by mobs.

The CII demanded the measure after endorsing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which allow a death sentence for people found guilty of desecrating the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad, mosques, or Islamic beliefs.

Rival to Miss World Will Crown a Pious Muslim Woman

by Richard S. Ehrlich 09-17-2013

Nina Septiani of Indonesia was crowned Miss World Muslimah 2012. Via RNS/The World Muslimah Beauty/Facebook

After hardline Islamists voiced opposition to the Miss World contest now being staged in Muslim-majority Indonesia, a rival World Muslimah beauty contest exclusively for Muslim women will announce its winner on Wednesday in the capital of Jakarta, though the U.S. candidate suddenly dropped out.

“Muslimah World is a beauty pageant, but the requirements are very different from Miss World,” the pageant’s founder Eka Shanti told Agence France-Presse.

“You have to be pious, be a positive role model and show how you balance a life of spirituality in today’s modernized world,” she said.

Abused Hindu Goddesses Recall Violence Against Women

by Richard S. Ehrlich 09-13-2013

Goddess Saraswati with a bruised face. Photo via RNS/Hindustantimes

A new public campaign in India uses powerful images of three Hindu goddesses with bruised faces to raise awareness about violence against women.

The ad campaign is titled “Abused Goddesses” and portrays the beaten faces of three Hindu female deities: Saraswati, Durga and Lakshmi.

“Today more than 68 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence,” the caption reads. “Tomorrow it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to,” the posters say.

Buddhists Expelled from Malaysia for Praying in Muslim Hall

by Richard S. Ehrlich 08-21-2013
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo courtesy RNS/Auswandern Malaysia/

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo courtesy RNS/Auswandern Malaysia/flickr.com

The government of Malaysia expelled a group of Singaporean tourists for chanting Buddhist prayers inside an Islamic prayer room where they erected a large Buddhist painting on the wall facing Mecca.

The government also revoked the permanent resident visa of the businessman who allowed the Buddhists to pray at his beach resort in Johor state, about 185 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The government’s response is the latest in a series of crackdowns on behavior deemed disrespectful of Islamic traditions and beliefs.

New Muslim Superhero? A Wonder Woman-like Education Warrior

by Richard S. Ehrlich 08-12-2013
Geo Tez introduces the Burka Avenger. Photo courtesy RNS/Geo TV

Geo Tez introduces the Burka Avenger. Photo courtesy RNS/Geo TV

Pakistan’s new animated television series, “Burka Avenger,” features a female Muslim teacher disguised in a tight black outfit with a cape and ninja-style head cover who throws heavy books and sharp pens at men who oppose education for girls.

The fictional show coincides with the real life of Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani student who was shot in the head in an unsuccessful bid to kill her because she spoke out in support of girls’ education.

The Burka Avenger has been mostly victorious against her Taliban-like enemies during the first two shows, which began on July 28.

Pakistan TV Show Gives Away Babies at Ramadan

by Richard S. Ehrlich 08-06-2013
A show in Pakistan is giving away babies. Screenshot of news story from The Guar

A show in Pakistan is giving away babies. Screenshot of news story from The Guardian, via RNS.

A controversial Muslim scholar-turned-television-host has given away at least two abandoned babies during his live TV show in Pakistan, saying “it is real Islam” and not exploitation because the infants find homes with couples who want to adopt.

 

Buddhist Monk Blames Muslims for Myanmar Bombing

by Richard S. Ehrlich 07-26-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/Time.com.

Cover of Time magazine. Photo courtesy RNS/Time.com.

A radical Buddhist monk in Myanmar said a bomb that exploded near him, wounding five devotees, came after a death threat by a “Muslim religious leader” who wanted to silence his campaign to prevent Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men.

Ashin Wirathu’s portrait appeared on the July 1 cover of Time magazine’s Asia edition, above the headline, “The Face of Buddhist Terror: How Militant Monks are Fueling Anti-Muslim Violence in Asia.”

“Since their plan to fight me via Time Magazine has failed, they are now targeting my ‘dharma’ [Buddhist teaching] events, and the devotees, with explosive devices,” Wirathu told the respected Irrawaddy magazine.

Thai University Apologizes for Banner Featuring Adolf Hitler

by Richard S. Ehrlich 07-16-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/wiesenthal.com.

Thailand’s most prestigious university apologizes for offensive "congratulations" banner. Photo courtesy RNS/wiesenthal.com.

Thailand’s most prestigious university apologized to the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday for allowing its campus to hang a huge, hand-painted “Congratulations” banner illustrated with Captain America, Batman, and other comic superheroes, topped by Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi victory salute.

The apology came three days after the Simon Wiesenthal Center published on its website a photograph of a female student in a university graduation gown posing in front of the larger-than-life banner with her arm outstretched in a Sieg Heil salute.

“Hitler as a superhero?” asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, in a statement posted on July 12.

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