Islam's new call to prayer

09.02.28: IT CLAIMS to be an Islamic state but it is not like any other you have ever seen, because sitting next to the new mosque in the civic centre on the Palestinian West Bank is a synagogue.

As many women as men are filing into the mosque on Friday mornings these days. Women do not go to the galleries as before but pray alongside their husbands and brothers. They must still wear a veil but, following instructions issued last week by the new prime minister, these can now be diaphanous.

In a conference last week, the prime minister, Abdul Zakout, stressed the challenges that Muslim societies face.

"Islamic nations have struggled to find the right approach in reconciling the tenets of our religion with modernity, to give our people prosperity without losing our traditions.

"We hope to combine the best of both worlds. The most important thing is to start a dialogue on Islam.

"Adapting the veil for modern times is a step in the right direction. It shows courage and belief." MF