On/File: A Continuing Record of Movements, Groups, People and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

    Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island in
     Abu Dhabi (source: Wikimedia Commons).

1) The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) inauguration of the Abrahamic Family House (AFH) in Abu Dhabi in early February represents the first interfaith worship center in the Middle East. The center includes a church, mosque and synagogue, all within close proximity to each other to encourage religious dialogue and co-existence. The establishment of the Abrahamic Family House has its beginnings in the Human Fraternity Meeting, which the Abu Dhabi-based Muslim Council of Elders organized in 2019, drawing such prominent religious leaders as Pope Francis to discuss interfaith relations. Also influential in the establishment of the AFH are the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and the UAE, among other Arab countries including Bahrain, in 2020. The UAE has seen a significant increase in Jewish residents since then. The religious gathering place, covering an area of 82,882 square feet, consists of three identically sized cubic shaped structures. A garden lies at the center of the structure, serving as a public space for the three communities. The Abrahamic Family House will include the first purpose-built synagogue in the Arab world in over a century, differing from others in the Gulf due to its proximity to other worship houses. The UAE is also planning to incorporate other religious expressions, including its first Hindu temple, set to open in February 2024. (Source: Al-Monitor, February 21)

2) The Revelation Spiritual Home (TRSH) has evolved into a large organization pressing for a return to African indigenous spirituality. The group’s founder, Dr. Samuel Radebe, left the South African branch of the Brazil-based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God with several other members who had been drawn to Radebe’s healing ministry. In 2009, Radebe and his followers started a group that quickly grew large enough to fill what had been Johannesburg’s Great Synagogue. Radebe has since expanded its ministry to 70 branches in South Africa as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ireland, and, soon, the U.S. New religious movement scholar Massimo Introvigne notes that that TRSH has distanced itself from not only Christianity but religion itself, believing that “African spirituality cannot be reduced to the European notion of religion, and that serious problems were created when religion tried to replace spirituality in Africa,” with colonial powers repressing the traditional spiritual guides of the continent. Healing continues to be the main feature of TRSH’s packed services. Radebe, who goes by the name of Imboni, distinguishes TRSH’s emphasis on African spirituality, which can adapt and change, with African traditions which can forget their spiritual roots and remain static. Radebe advises traditional healers, who occupy a special place in TRSH services, wearing distinct spiritual garments. (Source: Bitter Winter, February 14)

Source: The Revelation Spiritual Home.

     Andrew Tate in an Interview with James English
    (source: Wikimedia Commons).

3) Andrew Tate is a far-right activist who has gained notoriety and a following among Muslim men after he converted to Islam last October. Tate, a British internet personality promoting masculinity and nationalism, made a YouTube appearance that quickly went viral, in which he called Islam the “last true religion on the planet.” Tate is now under investigation by Romanian authorities for allegations of rape and human trafficking in connection with an organized criminal group, though he claims he is innocent. But after his recent detention, more Muslims are scrutinizing the effects of Tate’s influence on younger Muslims. Tate has been associated with the “akh right” community, which is an Islamic form of the alt-right movement. In one interview with an akh right leader, Tate claimed that in cases of sexual assault, a woman should bear “personal responsibility” for a situation in which she “made it so easy for something bad to happen to her,” and that “the only thing that satisfies” women is “becoming a mother.” The episode gained 2.3 million views and was featured on akh right social media.

Commentators say Tate is influencing young minds across communities around the world. In the UK, his influence on teenage boys of all backgrounds has prompted concern in schools and debate in Parliament. Last summer, the influencer was banned from Facebook and Instagram for violating its policies on “gender-based hate, any threats of sexual violence, or threats to share non-consensual intimate imagery.” He continued to appear regularly on internet forums hosted by Muslim male influencers known as “akh right bros.” Taken from the Arabic word for “brother,” akh right bros situate themselves in opposition to so-called Western values. (Source: CNN, February 16)