- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

Muslim clerics forbid Koranic ringtones

LUCKNOW, India — Muslim clerics at a leading seminary are warning against using verses from the Koran as ringtones for cell phones, calling the practice un-Islamic.

Clerics at the Dar-ul Uloom seminary in the northern Indian town of Deoband issued an edict banning the use of Koranic verses or Muslim calls to prayer as ringtones, saying doing so violates Islamic law.

Such ringtones are popular among Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. They are most commonly used by people in their mid-40s and 50s, said Mukesh Sinha, a mobile phone company executive. Many consider the religious tunes a reminder of their faith.

“Whenever my phone rings, I hear these verses that stress the values of hard work and honesty, and I feel closer to my religion,” said Faiz Siddaqui, a bank manager.

But seminary official Mohammed Asumin Qazmi said the ringtones use Koranic verses for entertainment.

“Anyone who persists in using these should be ostracized from society,” Mr. Qazmi said Nov. 18 from Saharanpur, a city 280 miles northwest of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

Brown to reinstate campus faith group

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University has offered to reinstate a conservative Christian student group that had been suspended from using campus resources.

Brown had said the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) failed to follow university guidelines, but otherwise offered no public explanation for the group’s suspension in September.

On Monday, though, the Ivy League school said the group, which is allied with the Presbyterian Church in America, could be reinstated as an official campus religious group by adhering to rules that are set for other school groups.

“The university welcomes the contributions RUF has made to the spiritual life of the campus and has offered to assist RUF in taking the necessary steps to have its affiliation restored,” Michael Chapman, university vice president for public affairs, said.

The group’s president, Ethan Wingfield, called the news “fantastic” but said members still have not been told why they were suspended.

Mr. Chapman had earlier produced a statement saying the fellowship had violated guidelines governing campus religious groups. Allen Callahan, associate Brown chaplain, wrote in an e-mail to students that the group’s leaders were contemptuous and dishonest.

Jail inmates knit for relief group

LOGAN, Utah — Jail inmates are spending hours knitting caps, blankets and booties for children around the world as part of a project organized by an agency tied to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We might all be criminals,” said David Evans, 25, an inmate from Blackfoot, Idaho, “but some of us have big hearts.”

The program at the Cache County Jail in northern Utah began about two years ago. The handmade crafts go to the Save the Children international relief group or to the church’s humanitarian efforts. Inmates have knitted more than 300 hats this year, about half with matching booties. They also have stitched mittens and small blankets.

“We are like an army,” said Jane DeSpain, a Mormon Relief Society president who organized the project. “There are humanitarian projects going on all over the world. They are part of that.”

Jail officials said they were wary about putting knitting needles, a potential weapon, in the hands of inmates. But there have been no incidents. The needles are counted and collected before 30 to 40 prisoners return to their minimum-security cellblocks.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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