01: At a time when about 100 million people a year make religious pilgrimages, new initiatives are planned to avoid heavy consequences of this activity for the environment.
The Green Pilgrimage Network was launched at a meeting of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation in Assisi, Italy. A number of projects for the network have been announced, according to the press release of the gathering, including the following: “a ban on cars on pilgrimage routes is part of the Green Pilgrimage plan of Kano, Nigeria; solar panels are to be installed on St Albans’s cathedral roof in the UK; … fresh clean, water is to be provided for pilgrims to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, while the planting of thousands of trees around sacred sites is an initiative of Etchmiadzin, Armenia.
“As part of the Green Pilgrim Cities project, a first draft of a handbook of the network is available online. A Green Guide to the Hajj was also launched at the Assisi meeting and can be downloaded from the Alliance website. As well as practical tips for pilgrims, the guide invites Muslims to use their Hajj experience as an opportunity to “reflect on their own lives and move away from material culture and the waste it leaves behind.”
(Source: The Economist, Nov. 5; Alliance of Religions and Conservation, www.arcworld.org; www.arcworld.org/downloads/Green_Pilgrimage_Network_Handbook.pdf)
02: A comic book series called The 99 featuring superheroes who represent the virtues of Islam has gained a wide readership among young Muslims.
The series is the brainchild of a Kuwaiti psychologist, Naif Al-Mutawa, who sought to counter the influence of Islamic extremism among young people. Considered the first attempt to create popular cultural heroes in the Islamic world, The 99 refers to the 99 attributes of Allah taught in the Koran. The comic books portray 99 superheroes from around the world who each represent one of God’s attributes, such as generosity, strength and wisdom, in the battle against evil.
At first, working with comic book illustrators and writers from the West, Al-Mutawa found modest success with Muslim youth, but also ran into obstacles from Muslim authorities and leaders in various countries. Al-Mutawa was challenged about the “immodesty” of the characters of the superheroes and that some of the women do not wear head coverings. Some Muslim book-sellers criticized The 99’s identification of Allah with the human superheroes and refused to sell the comic books.
Al-Mutawa argues that the comic books do not seek to portray Allah in human terms—something strictly forbidden in Islam—but rather show how the superheroes reflect God’s virtues. It was only after securing financing from an Islamic investment bank in Bahrain that The 99 gained access to Saudi Arabia and the worldwide media market. A The 99 theme park has opened in Kuwait and the European broadcasting company Endemol has agreed to produce the animated series in 2012. The series provoked controversy in the U.S. after it was reported in the media as an attempt at “indoctrination,” leading to its cancellation.
(Source: Independent Focus, New York Public Broadcasting)