Thursday, March 16, 2017 7:00pm
In Copenhagen, on an upmarket shopping street, above a burger joint, two female imams are leading Friday prayers.
The Mariam mosque is the first female led mosque in Scandinavia and one of only a handful worldwide. Anna Holligan travels to Denmark to meet its founder and imaamah, Sherin Khanhan. In building a feminist mosque Sherin hopes to revolutionize the traditional role of an imam and challenge some of the traditional patriarchal structures in Islam. Sherin argues that promoting female imams does not go against the teachings of Islam, but virtuously follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad who asked women to lead prayers in his own house mosque.
Sherin’s interpretation of Islam has attracted criticism from leading scholars. Anna meets Professor Ebrahim Afash from the University of Copenhagen who accuses Sherin of diluting Islam. Professor Afash argues although the tiny mosque has received global attention by western media its impact upon Danish Muslims is insignificant.
(Photo: Betina Garcia / Getty Images)
Thursday, February 23, 2017 6:00pm
On the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt, Nubians, an ethnic group of African Egyptians, are forced to practice Christian traditions in secret under the watchful eye of an Islamic government.
Their quiet acts of resistance - baptising their children under cover of darkness, wedding ceremonies celebrated at midnight and signs of the cross hung discreetly in homes - carry significant risk. Nicola Kelly joins those who are prepared to take this leap of faith to maintain traditions they see as integral to the Nubian culture.
With religious attacks against Christian groups in Egypt on the rise, Nicola Kelly explores the current tensions between the Egyptian authorities and the Nubians. She investigates how the political and historical landscape has limited religious freedom in that part of the country and asks what hope marginalised groups have for the future of Christianity in Egypt.
Photo: Groom Akram delivers some last-minute invitations to his wedding in Shadeed, an island in the Nile close to Aswan, Credit: Nicola Kelly
Thursday, February 9, 2017 6:00pm
The national motto of Indonesia is ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ - Unity In Diversity. It is the world’s largest Muslim majority country, but across its thousands of islands live more than 300 ethnic groups. Pancasila, the nation's founding philosophy, recited by school children every morning, proclaims unity in democracy, nationality and the belief in one god.
However Indonesia's founding principles are being tested by a high profile blasphemy case. Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, is the highest ranking official ever to be charged with insulting a religion. Whilst on trial, he is also running for re-election as governor. Before the blasphemy charges he was well ahead in the polls, but now it is possible he will lose in the February elections and may be jailed.
With days remaining before Jakarta's elections Indonesian correspondent, Rebecca Henschke, investigates the use of Indonesia’s blasphemy laws alongside its reputation for religious tolerance. Galvanized by pressure from hardline groups, Rebecca witnesses crowds of tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta demanding Ahok to be jailed. Rebecca also meets Ahok's devoted supporters, committed to the campaign trail for his re-election.
Ahok’s rise as a Chinese Christian to one of the country’s most prominent positions was seen as an example of Indonesia's commitment to religious tolerance. Now, many fear, a guilty verdict could cause irreversible damage.
Presented and produced by Rebecca Henschke
Photo Credit : Oscar Siagian / Stringer
Thursday, February 16, 2017 6:00pm
Ed Davey travels to Benin to attend the annual Voodoo Festival in Ouidah, encountering this ancient African religion in all its faith and fervour.
As travellers’ tales go, Jafar Habib’s account of the annual Voodoo Festival in Benin in 2011 is quite extraordinary. Jafar – a biochemist by trade – told correspondent Ed Davey that he had witnessed a voodoo priest decapitate a woman before raising her severed head in front of a baying crowd and reattaching it to her body. Then she came back to life.
Right across West Africa, Benin is recognised as the cradle of voodoo: a religion with more than 50 million followers in the region and arguably more ancient than the Old Testament. Now, five years on from the gory spectacle, Jafar returns to the country with Ed to find out more about voodoo magic in the region. They meet sorcerers, witch doctors and a voodoo king, plus an elderly magic man reputed to have the power to summon rainfall at will. Against a backdrop of fervent belief, they crisscross the country witnessing animal sacrifice and feats of magic. They face warnings about crossing “bad” voodoo priests at a risk of being “spiritually destroyed”, but also discover Voodoo to be a religion of love, bringing great contentment to many of its followers.
There are descriptions of scenes within this programme that some listeners may find upsetting
(Photo: Voodoo devotees on a beach in Ouidah, Benin. Credit : Stefan Heunis/Getty Images)
Thursday, January 12, 2017 6:00pm
The Bahá'i faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions.
A faith without borders, most of the Bahá'is live outside of the birth place of the religion, Iran, where they are seen as heretics. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, overnight the rights of minorities were stifled. Many Bahá'is were incarcerated, tortured and evicted from their home country. Today, despite years of persecution, the Bahá'is have not only survived but thrived in the diaspora, with communities in 190 countries around the world.
For Heart and Soul from the BBC World Service, Lipika travels to America, home to the second largest Bahá'i population in the world. In New York Lipika meets several Bahá'i asylum seekers as they begin their new lives in the US. They are graduates from the Bahá'is' clandestine university, an underground network of teacher and students, the community's solution of self-education after being banned from colleges in Iran. Lipika also travels to Chicago where she visits the oldest Bahá'i temple in the world.
Produced and presented by Lipika Pelham
Photo Credit : Cameron Spencer / Getty Images News