• Egyptian Fatwas: During the past three years of living in Egypt, contributor Ursula Lindsay has seen a variety of fatwas - or Islamic religious decrees. "I've read about many strange fatwas in the newspaper and heard about them from Egyptian friends. I've wanted to do this story for a long time but it's complicated. There are so many sources of fatwas," she says.
Islam is not like, say, the Roman Catholic church, she notes. "Any cleric can issue a fatwa. There's a hot line. The website IslamOnline.net has a live fatwa chat daily. The grand mufti [whose fatwa is the subject of today's story] also has a website, with a convenient table that lists what's forbidden or allowed. The previous Mufti issued fatwas against watching solar eclipses, bullfights, and beauty pageants."
As she did her reporting, Ursula was struck by how many people already knew that Islam forbids sculptures - and how many ignore it. "The vendors who sold statuettes agreed that it was forbidden. But they also said they need to make a living, and that it didn't apply to them."
• Four More Years? Forty-five percent of Russians are are prepared to see the Constitution changed to allow President Vladimir Putin serve a third term because they see no worthy successor, according to a poll by the Yuri Levada Analytical Center. It also showed 24 percent of Russians vehemently oppose amending the Constitution to permit a president to serve more than two terms.
David Clark Scott