Archive for Interfaith

Egypt’s Coptic Pope Celebrates Christmas with Call for Unity

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2012 by loonwatch
Coptic ChristmasEgypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church holds Christmas mass at the Abassiya Cathedral in Cairo. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

The Islamophobes would like nothing more than strife and disunity between Muslims and Copts in Egypt. Much to their dismay however Pope Shenouda calls for unity in the country.

Egypt’s Coptic pope celebrates Christmas with call for unity

David Shariatmadari and Damien Pearse (The Guardian)

As Coptic Christians celebrated their first Christmas after the Egyptian revolution, their pope called for national unity amid fears that their community will suffer under Islamic majority rule.

Copts, who use of a 13-month calendar dating back to pharaonic times, celebrated Christmas Day on Saturday.

At the start of the festive celebrations in Egypt, prominent figures from across the political spectrum, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the ruling military council, attended Friday night mass at Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral.

The Coptic pope, Shenouda III, commended their presence and appealed for national unity for “the sake of Egypt”. He said:

For the first time in the history of the cathedral, it is packed with all types of Islamist leaders in Egypt. They all agree … on the stability of this country, and in loving it and working for it, and to work with the Copts as one hand for the sake of Egypt.

The call for unity follows an escalation in violence against the Christian minority, an estimated 10% of Egypt’s 85 million people, over the past year.

Many Christians blamed a series of street clashes, assaults on churches and other attacks on radical Islamists who have become increasingly bold after Mubarak’s downfall.

The Coptic church traces its origins to 50 years after the death of Christ, when Mark the Evangelist took the gospel to the pagan city of Alexandria.

British Copts, expatriate members of the Egyptian denomination, have also expressed their concerns over the events of the Arab spring.

“Because of the problems in the last 12 months, overall attendance every Sunday has increased significantly,” said Nabil Raphael, a GP who has lived in London for the past 35 years. He is a regular at St Mark’s church in Kensington. “Whenever there are problems in the mother church, people naturally get more interested and attend more regularly.”

Christmas services took place across Britain, with centres of worship in London, Hertfordshire, Birmingham, Newcastle and Kirkcaldy, Scotland.

As families gathered for the late-night church services marking Christmas Eve, there was a sense of nervousness, as well as joy. “Last year started horrifically for us,” said Egyptian-born Bishop Angaelos, who is based at the Coptic Centre, a manor house on the outskirts of Stevenage, Hertfordshire. “Just as we were going into new year celebrations we heard about the bombing.”

The 1 January 2011 attack outside al-Qiddissine church in Alexandria, the worst sectarian violence in Egypt for more than a decade, left 23 dead.

Attacks on the community continued after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, prompting thousands of Copts to take to the streets in protest that no culprits had been brought to justice. The military violently quashed the most recent demonstration in October, leaving 27 dead and provoking further outrage.

“At the beginning [of the revolution] there was a great euphoria, a sense of hope for the future,” said Angaelos. “The problem is that because of the lack of law and order, you then had a lot of extremism. We saw in the past 10 months more attacks on Christians and churches than over the past two years before that.”

Amir Michaeel, 26, saw the revolution as a moment of hope for the country, which he left aged 12 when his father came to the UK to work. But he is concerned by the emergence of more organised Islamic parties.

Raphael is more categorical. “There is real concern about the likelihood of harsher treatment for the Copts if radical Islam is to rule Egypt.”

Bishop Angaelos said the community had no issue with a Muslim majority government as long as the rights of Copts were protected: “What we want is a government which represents everyone in the country, not just one sector over another.”

UK Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others join Christians to wish Happy Christmas 4 All

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by loonwatch

Merry Christmas

UK Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others join Christians to wish Happy Christmas 4 All

By Alexander Goldberg
(Reuters)

There are no Christmas trees in my home, not even a Chanukah bush, no sign of tinsel and no sound of children singing carols. If I was asked on Facebook to describe my relationship with Christmas, like most Jews I would opt for the  ‘it’s complicated’ or even the ‘separated’ status. The personage of Jesus, whose birthday it marks, is the main theological divide between Christianity and Judaism. So whilst a minority in my community do mark it in some way, it would be difficult for me as an observant Jew to do so. Perhaps therefore, it is surprising to some that I have joined the HappyChristmas4All campaign. So why?

For me, it comes down to good neighborliness. It gives me no satisfaction to see others denigrate another person’s religious festival or stop my neighbours from practising their beliefs. That’s why I joined the HappyChristmas4All campaign that has attracted over a thousand supporters on Facebook and captured the attention of the broadcast media in Britain. People have signed up for their own reasons, but in essence Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists have joined together to say Christmas in Britain must be respected. Some from other communities have gone further and I have learnt this week from both Muslim and Buddhist friends the meaning that the birth of Jesus has in their traditions.

The ‘War on Christmas’ myth needs to be debunked. I share similar concerns to my closest Christian neighbours that the festival risks becoming on one hand a secular consumerist feast or on the other a time when the majority of the population wrongly believes it has to play down celebrations so as not to offend others.

Consumerism is dangerous. The current global economic crisis has shown what happens when we borrow beyond our means. Christmas is a time of great debt for many families who face huge pressures to get those close to them expensive and highly marketed gifts. I share the concerns of those that see this consumerist festival is slowly usurping the religious one that promotes ‘Peace on Earth’ and encourages family gatherings. A religious Christmas is a tonic to this excess and a national consumerist festival is of no interest to any of us.

Playing down Christmas celebrations is not the answer either. We should not make it into some inert ‘Winterval’ or generic ‘Holidays’ which is increasingly popular in the United States. There is a tendency to roll the Jewish holiday of Chanukah into Christmas and celebrate the Holiday period along with Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate it if someone offers me Happy Chanukah greetings or wants to play ‘spin the dreidel.’ But let’s face it — Chanukah is a minor Jewish festival whilst Christmas is one of the most important days of the Christian calendar. So why ‘big up’ Chanukah or have our neighbours downplay Christmas? Indeed, critics of the term ‘Happy Holidays’ deem it to be either consumerist in its origins or an attack on the centrality of Christmas for the majority of the population in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The ‘War on Christmas’ seems to take away enjoyment for the majority of people and only a few bitter secularists and some ideological extremists, who want to be on the fringe of society, want to see that happen. Surely a Christmas tree or lights on the Main Street or at City Hall can’t possibly offend anyone. The notion is simply ridiculous. I used to get phoned up by public sector workers two weeks before Christmas when I was the Senior Race Equality Officer at the UK Government’s Commission for Racial Equality. They were concerned that placing a Christmas tree in the town hall would offend non-Christians. In the main, the same authorities were marking Eid, Diwali and Chanukah where there were sizeable relevant populations. So I asked them, why not Christmas? I told them that I would be offended if 85% of the population could not celebrate their festival. Point taken, my advice was often met with relief and I am probably responsible for saving a dozen or so Christmas trees in town halls across Britain.

Journalists have been fascinated by the numbers of religious leaders from Jewish, Muslim and Sikh backgrounds joining in with this call to respect Christmas. Even the orthodox Chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Sacks, joined in. On a recent visit to the Scottish Parliament, he stated that “Jewish and other faith communities love the fact that Christians celebrate ChristmasWhen I go to Trafalgar Square and hear carols being sung, I feel uplifted.”

When they ask me what I am doing this Christmas, I tell them that I have a role. The country still needs people to work or volunteer. At Christmas time, members of my family offer to take colleagues shifts at work or volunteer in understaffed charities in order to help others take the time off to celebrate their festival, or else look in on those that may be lonely over this period. And when asked, I urge members of my community to do likewise. In other words, to show respect for Christmas and their neighbours. Happy Christmas for all…

Muslims and Jews Unite to Oppose EDL

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon People, Loon Sites, Loon-at-large with tags , , , on December 16, 2011 by loonwatch

EDL
Last summer, Pamela Geller was outraged when she discovered some of her fellow far-right haters in the English Defense League are—gasp!—anti-Semitic:  Blog Wars: Pamela Geller vs. Gates of Vienna and the EDL?

The EDL has tried to court Jewish groups with little success. Now they face concerted opposition from Jewish and Muslim communities.

(cross post from Islamophobia  Watch)

Muslims and Jews unite to oppose EDL

The Home Office has written to an umbrella group representing a range of Jewish communal and religious groups in response to statements distancing themselves from the methods and aims of the English Defence League.

Earlier this year the leaders of the United Synagogue, Reform, Liberal and Masorti communities, as well as the Board of Deputies and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ congregation, highlighted their opposition to the EDL’s tactics and called on the far right organisation to refrain from using Jewish and Israeli symbols in its campaigns.

Under the umbrella of the Council of Imams and Rabbis of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, they rejected in particular the EDL’s “efforts to incite hatred and antagonism in our society”, its attempts to “foment violence” and “drive a wedge between the Jewish community and our Muslim neighbours”.

They attempted to draw a line under the EDL’s efforts to attract Jewish membership, which reached a peak with a rally “to oppose Islamic fascism” outside the Israeli embassy last year where EDL members waved Israeli flags. The EDL has a “Jewish Division”, but it has been beset by infighting and is understood to have only a handful of Jewish members.

James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister responsible for policy regarding the EDL, has now sent a letter of response to Mehri Niknam, director of the Council of Imams and Rabbis.

“We welcome your positive action to counter the divisive influence and minimise the impact of EDL activity,” he said. “As a government our position is clear, we will not tolerate groups like the EDL who spread hate, seek to divide us and deliberately raise community fears and tensions.”

He said the government would continue to condemn the EDL’s views and actions when necessary and work with police and local agencies. Mr Brokenshire added that the government trusted local agencies to “put in place suitable local measures to counter the influence and minimise the impact of EDL activity. We stand ready to provide advice and support where it is requested.”

Offers of Aid Pour in After Fire at Mosque

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2011 by loonwatch
Fire Tears Down MosqueFire Tears Down Mosque

When bigotry leads to the eventual outcome of violence, the response of the community is important. In this case the community has stepped up to the plate and offered to right a wrong by offering aid to a mosque that was burned down in Kansas.

This is the type of story that doesn’t get much coverage, and it is similar to Muslims rebuilding Churches that have been burnt down in Egypt but that is something the Islamophobes won’t ever tell you.

Offers of aid pour in after fire at mosque

When the Rev. Jackie Carter learned of the fire that heavily damaged a mosque in west Wichita early Monday morning, she knew what she needed to do.

“They are welcome to use the worship space at our building,” said Carter, pastor of First Metropolitan Community Church at 156 S. Kansas. “We believe it’s important for everyone to have sacred space, and now they don’t.”

It’s just one of numerous offers of assistance for the mosque and those who pray there, said Hussam Madi, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Wichita.

The society posted a letter of appreciation on its website today.

“On behalf of the Islamic Society of Wichita, we would like to thank the Wichita community for the outpouring of support we continue to receive in response to the fire at the Westside Islamic Center,” Jenaya McHenry, office manager for the Islamic Society of Wichita, stated in the letter.

“We have received numerous phone calls and e-mails from individuals and churches offering kind words, support, services and space to aid the Muslim community in Wichita. We are truly grateful to be part of such a giving community and for each and every person who has reached out to us.”

The cause of the fire at the mosque at 3406 W. Taft, southeast of Maple and West streets, remains under investigation.

“There are plans to rebuild,” Madi said. “It’s going to require some fundraisers.”

Preliminary cost estimates are in the $120,000 range, he said.

People wishing to send financial donations for the mosque can send them to the Islamic Society of Wichita, 6655 E. 34th St. North, 67226.

“We deeply appreciate the help and the offers from other peoples of faith in our city,” Madi said.

“That makes us feel that we are a part of this community, which we work hard to be a part of.”

Read more: http://www.kansas.com/2011/11/02/2087434/offers-of-aid-pour-in-after-fire.html#ixzz1ckj8RFAV

Frontpage Muslim-bashing Authority Can’t Do a Two Second Google Search

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2011 by loonwatch

Behold the erroneous misinformation factory at Front Page Mag, the online place where Islamophobes go to find spurious arguments that make them feel better about being intolerant of Muslims. Today’s gem comes from Raymond Ibrahim, a skilled harvester of Islamophobic cash cows, a particularly spite-filled individual with an obsession for essentializing Islam as a religion of war, slavery, and sexual misconduct.

Where before have I heard similar claims about a similar religion? Oh yeah. Every anti-Semitic website on the internet. The strong parallel between the claims, rhetoric, and methodologies of Anti-Semites and Islamophobes have been discussed many times before, so there is no need to repeat those arguments here.

Today, I will comment on Mr. Ibrahim’s unprincipled “research” which has as an a priori(beforehand) conclusion that Muslims are never victims, only perpetrators. What perturbed me is that Front Page praises Mr. Ibrahim as a “widely recognized authority on Islam” who can translate “important Arabic news that never reaches the West.”

You see, according to David Horowitz, anti-Muslim ideological commitment makes someone a “widely recognized authority” on Islam; not rigorous academic training, as those foolish liberals believe, with their pesky “facts,” their elitist “research methodologies,” and their vexatious love of “balance.”

To the matter at hand. You may have heard the recent story about two Egyptian Christian girls who were allegedly abducted by Muslims. Raymond pens an anti-Muslim hit piece entitled “Egypt: Christian Girls Kidnapped and ‘Sold’.” Ready for some bombshell evidence of Islam’s collective depravity? Won’t find it here. Raymond is upset that the Egyptian Newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, didn’t report on this story with an acceptable level of anti-Muslim bias:

At the end of the Al-Masry Al-Youm report, we get a trailing sentence alluding to “claims” that two Christian girls “were abducted by Muslims and forced to convert to Islam” as the reason why Copts were demonstrating and clashing with the police in the first place.

This is the “claim” that Mr. Ibrahim wants to advance, the claim of the Christian protestors, i.e. the girls were kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and this sort of thing happens all the time because of the tenets of Islam. (Sigh). It should go without saying that mainstream Islam explicitly teaches against forced conversions. Several Quranic verses can be produced to support this:

Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [Prophet] compel people to believe? (10:99)

If your Lord had pleased, He would have made all people a single community, but they continue to have their differences… (11:118)

If you find rejection by the disbelievers so hard to bear, then seek a tunnel into the ground or a ladder into the sky, if you can, and bring them a sign: God could bring them all to guidance if it were His will, so do not join the ignorant. (6:35)

The messenger’s only duty is to give clear warning. (29:18)

We know best what the disbelievers say. You [Prophet] are not there to force them, so remind, with this Quran, those who fear My warning. (50:45)

There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. God is all hearing and all knowing. (2:256)

Say, ‘Obey God; obey the Messenger. If you turn away, [know that] he is responsible for the duty placed upon him, and you are responsible for the duty placed upon you. If you obey him, you will be rightly guided, but the Messenger’s duty is only to deliver the message clearly.’ (24:54)

Note that the last two verses were revealed in Medina, just in case anyone wants to bring up the tired, old canard that everything wise and peaceful in the Quran was abrogated. In fact, Al-Azhar University’s Commission for Embracing Islam may “spend several days making sure that the person wants to convert to Islam voluntarily and as a result of their own desire.”

Therefore, if it is true that the girls were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, this would be an obvious breach of normative, mainstream Islamic teachings, not to mention Egyptian civil law. This would make it a case of criminal behavior, not normal religion. Whoever forces someone to be a Muslim is not behaving like a Muslim. Period.

However, as we shall see, we have strong reason to doubt these girls were kidnapped in the first place.

What are Mr. Ibrahim’s sources for claiming the two girls were in fact kidnapped and forced into Islam? A dubious Arabic website entitled “Free Christian Nation.” No possibility of bias there (sarcasm intended). Mr. Ibrahim boasts about his expert Arabic translation skills:

One must again turn to Arabic sources for the telling details. I have put together the following narrative and quotes based on these two Arabic reports:

The two girls, Christine Azat (aged 16) and Nancy Magdi (aged 14) were on their way to church Sunday, June 12, when they were seized. Their abductors demanded $200,000 Egyptian pounds for their release. The people of the region quickly put their savings together and came up with the ransom money; but when they tried to give it to the kidnappers, they rejected it, saying they had already “sold” the girls off to another group which requires $12 million Egyptian pounds to return them.

Two unsourced reports in Arabic? From which news agency? There are no authors or publishers listed on the reports. If you can read Arabic, seriously, check it out. So your ability to translate from some random anonymous Arabic websites is why you are a “widely recognized authority on Islam”?

But what our “widely recognized authority on Islam” failed to mention is that other mainstream newspapers (even in English, accessible to non-scholars, no translation necessary) have published reports contrary to his central claim. Mr. Ibrahim tells us about his scholarly research methods:

I tried to find this story in English-language media and, as expected, found nothing…

Oh really? I did a two-second Google search and found some. For example, Al-Ahram reported that:

During recent weeks, the two girls, who are cousins, have uploaded videos on YouTube announcing their conversion to Islam and that they were not kidnapped by ‎anyone. This came in response to the father of one of the girls reporting their‎disappearance. ‎

According to this report, the girls willfully converted to Islam, so Mr. Ibrahim tries to explain this away:

Some have tried to pass the usual rumor that the girls “willingly” ran off and converted to Islam, but even Egyptian officials reject this, saying that Al Azhar, which is the institution that formally recognizes conversions to Islam, has not acknowledged the conversion of underage minors.

This “rumor” happens to be based upon the Youtube testimony of the girls themselves, which would make it more than a rumor. The fact that Al-Azhar University did not announce their conversions is not proof that the girls didn’t willfully convert because, as Al-Ahram reports, Al-Azhar “does not accredit ‎conversion to Islam from anyone younger than 18.”‎ Minor details!

The point here is not whether the girls converted or not. I won’t get into “he said, she said” arguments about a pending legal case. The point is that Raymond, as usual, obviously didn’t research and balance his reporting, which means the only reason he brought it up at all is because it is useful ideological propaganda. His readers don’t read Arabic. They won’t double check his work. These blatant mistakes will get swept under rug, again as usual, to be replaced by the next propaganda item, the next blog post, the next hit piece. The erroneous misinformation factory marches on.

Does Raymond really want to help the Christian community in Egypt? Coptic Christians, whom Raymond pretends to defend, have rejected these kind of tactics and propaganda that divide Egypt along religious lines. Bishop Markos of Shubra al-Kheima told Al-Masry Al-Youm that:

Copts fall under the protection of the Egyptian state, and Muslims and Christians in Egypt fall under the protection of God, who mentioned Egypt and its people in the Quran and the Bible.

So don’t be fooled into thinking Raymond cares about these girls or even Egyptian Christians. He’s just using them and their story to whip up anti-Muslim populism, to use as a religio-political wedge issue in the campaign against Obama and liberals.

Undoubtedly, the guys at Front Page would not campaign for the human rights of these two girls if they had really converted to Islam. If their conversion to Islam was genuine, would Mr. Ibrahim and Horowitz support their religious freedom?

I ask these questions because, contrary to the 24-hour hate-on-Islam-a-thon at Front Page, Egyptian Christians who convert to Islam have also faced persecution. This certainly wouldn’t be the first case. As Al-Ahram reported:

This is not the first story of Muslim converts that has been a source of public debate and ‎concern. Camilia Shehata, who disappeared from her house in July 2010, was‎alleged to have converted to Islam only to be held in church after conversion to prevent ‎her from practicing her new religion.

Of course, stories about Muslims being denied religious freedom by Christians don’t quite fit into the Islam-is-all-evil-all-the-time-RSS-feed at Front Page Mag.

I’m not expecting an honest answer from Raymond.

Promoting Religious Tolerance: Interfaith Service at Washington National Cathedral

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by loonwatch

A great initiative which critics may regard as cliched but is vital for increasing understanding and harmony between religions.

Interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral promotes religious tolerance

By Isaac Arnsdorf (WashingtonPost)

As worshipers entered Washington National Cathedral for Sunday morning’s service, some crossed themselves and some took photographs, some wore ties while others wore shorts and a few even wore yarmulkes.

In the center aisle, in place of the baptismal fountain, candle-lit stands bore three books: a Bible, a Torah and a Koran. When a visitor asked a nearby usher what to do, the usher replied: “This is a totally different service than what we usually do. There’s no wrong answer.”

Instead of Communion, the service featured readings from each of the three Abrahamic faiths, part of a project to promote religious tolerance through similar interfaith services at about 70 churches nationwide. The effort aimed to counteract negative stereotypes and hostile rhetoric targeting American Muslims in the past year, notably the controversy about plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York and the burning of a Koran by the Rev. Terry Jones in March in Florida.

“What we have done together in this great cathedral this morning, along with others in similar services in houses of worship across our nation, can alter the image and substance of our nation, as well as our religion,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, one of the organizations that sponsored the project. “Today’s beautifully written liturgy, informed by Islam, Judaism and Christianity, declares unambiguously . . . we are not scripture burners, rather, scripture readers.”

A local rabbi and imam joined Gaddy and the cathedral’s Episcopal clergy on the dais to share their messages of mutual understanding and respect.

“For nearly a decade now, since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we Americans have known without a doubt that any hope for a peaceful world will require profound engagement among the world’s religions,” cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III said.

The service began with a traditional call to prayer in the three religions’ terminology — a Hebrew “Bar’chu,” an Arabic “Azan” and a Latin “Spiritus Domini” — all sung in ethereal tones that swirled through the cathedral’s soaring nave.

Then Rabbi Amy M. Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church read a passage from Deuteronomy about showing kindness to strangers. Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, chanted a passage from the Koran about the value of diversity.

“God could have made all of us look the same and go to the same temple or same church,” Magid explained. “But God willed that humans are diverse.”

Gaddy said he hoped the readings would underscore the commonalities among the three traditions, especially their shared message of tolerance and compassion.

“No one verse or one passage in any book of scripture should be allowed to hijack or hold hostage the central truth, the overarching as well as pervasive moral mandate, which emerges from the full sweep of truth in those books of scripture,” he said. “Cherry picking isolated texts . . . allows mean-spirited people to turn the scripture of our religions into weapons.”

Almost 1,000 people attended the service, an average turnout for a summer Sunday. Among them were people actively involved in interfaith dialogue groups, as well as those who were surprised to find the Jewish and Muslim elements of the service.

Ken Bagley, who with his family was visiting the District from Connecticut, just happened upon Sunday’s service.

“It was a neat opportunity to hear all three perspectives in one service and to see how alike they are. You too often hear about how different,” Bagley said.

Alex Huddell, a 21-year-old student at American University, said she had never heard the Koran chanted, except “maybe in movies.”

“It was interesting and beautiful to listen, even if you didn’t understand, to the different rhythms and styles,” Huddell said. “I’m Christian, but I feel a lot of embarrassment about the way Christians sometimes marginalize other religions. So it’s nice to hear there are some leaders in the faith community who are trying to promote the same message of acceptance.”

Pete Carlson, a member of the cathedral’s congregation, said he was inspired by the service and hopes to attend more interfaith events.

“It was even more moving than the normal service here on Sunday,” Carlson said. “It felt like we were a part of something much bigger and much older.”

Lloyd, the cathedral’s dean, said a Muslim reading also will be part of the cathedral’s memorial service for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Rabbi Baruch Efrati: Pray in Mosque

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by loonwatch

Pamela Geller’s head would literally explode if she read this ruling from the Rabbi.

Pray in mosque, rabbi rules

(YNetNews)

“It would be better to pray in a mosque and do so with meaning and after the sun rises, rather than at home, at dawn or at the airport and without meaning,” Rabbi Baruch Efrati determined recently in a response posted on the Kipa website recently.

The surprising ruling came in response to a question posed by a web surfer living abroad who travels frequently for work purposes: “Most of the time the flights leave very early in the morning. I manage to put on tefilin at home after daybreak, but I don’t have time to wait until I can complete morning prayers,” he stated.

“On the other hand, if I pray at the airport – I feel extremely uncomfortable, because people stare and I find it hard to focus on my prayers.”

He wished to know how to act – and Rabbi Efrati had a surprising response: “Some airports in Europe and Asia have mosques, and they are usually empty of people who are not praying and so it is quiet,” he noted and suggested that the traveler inquire at the airport.

“Of course, this solution isn’t perfect,” the rabbi added, “but it is the best option. There is no prohibition on praying in mosques (apart for the Ran’s – Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven ruling, which was not accepted).”

Rabbi Efrati noted that an example was the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which has a mosque.

Either way, the rabbi ruled that if the traveler has trouble praying with meaning in the airport – he shouldn’t pray there. In addition, he stressed that praying in churches was completely and strictly forbidden. In fact, it is forbidden to step into a church, he said.