25 November 2016

Hungarian village bans mosques, muezzins, burqas, burkinis

The far-right mayor of a Hungarian village says councilors have voted to ban the construction of mosques and the activity of muezzins, as well as the use of veils and headscarves like burqas, chadors and burkinis worn by Muslim women.

Asotthalom mayor Laszlo Toroczkai says the ordinance was adopted to defend the village's "community and traditions" from any EU scheme to resettle asylum-seekers among the members of the 28-nation bloc.

The southern village is on the border with Serbia and has been a major entry point into Hungary for migrants on the Balkan route trying to reach Western Europe. [AP] Read more

Egypt suspends sentence of writer convicted of insulting religion

An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday reduced and suspended the prison sentence of author Fatima Naoot who was convicted on charges of insulting religion, a judicial official said.

Naoot had been sentenced to three years in jail in January after she criticised in a Facebook post the slaughter of cattle and sheep for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

She had left the country and returned last month as she appealed the ruling.

Naoot told AFP she intended to also appeal against Thursday's ruling, a suspended six-month sentence. [Your Middle East] Read more

Fillon Channels Le Pen: ‘France Is Not a Multicultural Nation’

In rhetoric that suggests France’s establishment conservatives are increasingly keen to imitate populist candidate Marine Le Pen, Mr Fillon spoke of French “identity”, “culture” and “history” as he sparred with rival Alain Juppé.

France24 reports that when asked whether France’s future should be as a multicultural nation, Mr Fillon said: “The answer is no.”

“France has a history, a language, a culture, of course this culture and language have been enriched by the contributions of foreign populations, but it remains the foundation of our identity,” he added.

He also denied that France was already a multicultural nation, adding: “In any case it’s not the choice we made, we did not make the choice of communitarianism and multiculturalism.”

“When we go to somebody’s house, we don’t try to take power,” he said.

However, Mr Juppé, who is seen as much more centrist than Mr Fillon, disagreed, saying: “We come from different ancestors, we have different skin colours, and different religions, and that is our strength.” [Breitbart London] Read more

Dutch lawmakers debate partial ban of burqas and niqabs

Dutch lawmakers have debated a partial ban on wearing full-face veils in public places, including schools, hospitals and on public transport.

Interior minister Ronald Plasterk called the legislation "religion neutral", but accepted that the debate about people wearing burqas and niqabs in public had been central to the proposal.

The proposal was approved by the Dutch government at a cabinet sitting in The Hague last year, but was debated by lawmakers on Wednesday.

It will apply to all face coverings including ski-masks and helmets and will not apply on public streets.

Mr Plasterk said the legislation will not go as far as the complete bans implemented in countries such as France and Belgium. [The Independent] Read more

24 November 2016

Iranian filmmaker starts sentence

Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi, sentenced to 223 lashes and a year in jail for a film he made about graffiti, started his prison sentence in Tehran on Wednesday, his French producer said.

Karimi, 31, a Sunni Muslim from Shiite Iran's Kurdish minority, ran into trouble with the powerful Revolutionary Guards over his documentary "Writing on the City".

The film details the history of scrawlings on Tehran's walls dating back to the Islamic revolution of 1979, through to the opposition Green Movement of the contested 2009 presidential election. [Your Middle East] Read more

Indonesia’s blasphemy laws

.... this month police formally declared the country’s most prominent Christian politician, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor (in effect, mayor) of Jakarta, to be a suspect in a blasphemy case. If convicted, Mr Purnama, known as Ahok, faces up to five years in prison.

.... The use of blasphemy laws is linked to rising religious intolerance. In recent years hardline Islamists have become increasingly assertive, railing against deviants, heretics and their ilk. Muslim parties in parliament have pushed laws against alcohol, pornography and sexual minorities. Yet it is not at all clear that these moves have widespread support.

Most Indonesians still vote for secular parties (they claimed 68% of the popular vote at the most recent legislative elections, in 2014) rather than religious ones. Many moderate Muslim leaders defend blasphemy laws on the grounds that they prevent violence by allowing religious disputes to be settled by the courts rather than vigilantes.

However, moderates also blame politicians for misusing the laws to stir up sectarian tensions for their own ends. Ahok’s political rivals, for example, are seeking to use the laws to spoil his chances of becoming governor again in elections next year. [The Economist] Read more

Shocking Rise In Religious Persecution Fuelled By 'Islamist Hyper-Extremism'

"A virulent and extremist form of Islam emerged as the number-one threat to religious freedom," according to the report, Religious Freedom in the World, by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Researchers examined 196 countries across the globe and of these, 38 showed "unmistakable evidence of significant religious freedom violations".

Out of the 11 countries that had worsening levels of persecution, "nine were under extreme pressure from Islamist violence", the report found. And out of the 11 countries with consistent levels of persecution, seven faced huge problems relating to Islamism both from non-state militant groups and and state-sponsored oppression.

The report was launched in Parliament on Thursday morning and came after iconic landmarks across London were lit up red on Wednesday evening to mark the suffering of those persecuted for their faith.

.... "The frequency and intensity of atrocities against Yazidis, Christians, Baha'is, Jews and Ahmaddiyya Muslims is on the rise," wrote John Pontifex, editor of the report.

"The atrocities committed by these aggressive Islamist groups in Syria, Iraq, Libya and by their affiliates elsewhere have arguably been one of the greatest setbacks for religious freedom since the Second World War," he added. "What has properly been described as genocide, according to a UN convention which uses that term, is a phenomenon of religious extremism almost beyond compare." [Christian Today] Read more

Muslim Times ed says ‘I was brought up with BURKA but now ABHOR it as symbol of terror'

Dr Zia H Shah, chief editor of the Muslim Times and a GP in New York, penned a blog post calling for Muslims all over the world to acknowledge the progress over the centuries, instead of treating the Koran's teachings as gospel.

He wrote: "Since September 11, 2001, I have come to abhor this article of clothing, given its association with the Taliban and it becoming a symbol of lack of human rights in the Muslim societies, compared to the Western world."

The physician, who writes about all religions and science, revealed over the years the women in his family have become more relaxed with the traditional dress they wear, as society progresses.

.... "However, insisting that the understanding of sacred text is frozen puts the most fundamental belief of religion at risk.

"When any religious person claims that a sacred text is 'dead' - in that the understanding of its meaning is fixed forever - they are directly at odds with their own idea of a living, active God.

"Each one of the Muslims, whether conservative or liberal, young or old, man or woman, actually has seen many examples in their lives that the Holy Koran is to be interpreted in the context of time, whether he or she fully realises it or acknowledges it or not." [Daily Express] Read more

23 November 2016

Britain has “turned a blind eye” to abuse of women by sharia ‘courts’

Powerful testimony from Muslim women has been published by MPs on the Home Affairs Committee as part of their investigation into sharia, while activists have warned that its approach so far has favoured those who support sharia councils.

Submissions received from Muslim women on their experiences of sharia 'law' have now been published by the Committee. The evidence was gathered by One Law For All, who sent the personal testimonies to the committee for their investigation into sharia 'law' in the UK.

One woman whose evidence was included for the Select Committee's consideration is Habiba Jan who was trapped in an abusive Islamic 'marriage' and was unable to escape without a sharia 'divorce'. Jan ended up being referred to Anjem Choudary for a 'divorce', without knowing who he was. [National Secular Society] Read more

Geert Wilders brands Dutch hate speech trial 'a charade'

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has told a court that his trial for alleged hate speech is a "charade, a disgrace for the Netherlands, a mockery for our society".

In a televised statement on the last day of the trial, he said that if he was convicted "millions of Dutch citizens will be convicted with me".

.... Mr Wilders has repeatedly criticised Islam, calling for the Koran to be banned and for the closure of all mosques in the Netherlands.

But prosecutors say he crossed a line when he asked supporters if they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans" in the Netherlands.

After supporters chanted back "fewer", he replied: "We'll organise that."

In 2011, Mr Wilders was acquitted of incitement after being accused of encouraging hatred towards Muslims.

The Netherlands will hold a general election in March and some opinion polls suggest Mr Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) is a close second behind Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal VVD, or even slightly ahead. [BBC] Read more

Montreal woman asked to remove hijab in court appeals judge's refusal to clarify rules

The Montreal woman ordered by a Quebec Court judge to remove her hijab before her case could be heard is appealing a higher court ruling in the case.

Rania-El-Alloul's lawyers argue Superior Court Justice Wilbrod Décarie made errors in law in a ruling last month when he refused to issue a declaratory judgment.

El-Allou wants the Quebec Court of Appeal to affirm the right of people appearing in courtrooms to wear hijabs or other religious attire.

In his ruling, Décarie was strongly critical of Quebec Court Judge Eliana Marengo, the judge who told El-Alloul in February 2015 she would not hear her case unless she removed her hijab.

Marengo contended the courtroom was a secular space and compared the hijab to a hat and sunglasses, which would not normally be allowed in a courtroom. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

One in three Germans feel they are 'strangers in their own country' due to 'Muslim infiltration', study claims

.... The report acknowledged that it has been published at a 'politically heated' time, with 'Muslim-hostile' marches taking place, violence against refugees being reported and open hatred being voiced toward immigrants - drawing parallels with 'traditional racism'.

It also warned of a 'solidified and radicalised core of people' who are increasingly rejecting mainstream politics.

The foundation, which is associated with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) said society in Germany is becoming more divided between a tolerant majority and a loud minority opposed to immigration and integration.

Thirty eight per cent want limits placed on the number of refugees allowed into the country, and 35 per cent believe more is done for immigrants than it is for needy Germans.

Nearly half believe religion has too much influence in Germany.

Around a quarter said they fear the standard of living will fall.

The report stated: 'Some findings are disturbing: for example, the increasing polarisation and violence, as well as the persistent and widespread mistrust of democracy.'

It said those opposed to immigration 'do not speak for the majority'.

Discussion about immigration looks set to dominate next year's elections in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's open door policy coming under fire.

An estimated 1.1 million immigrants entered Germany last year. [Daily Mail] Read more

22 November 2016

Amsterdam mosque pushing for minaret prayer call, breaking earlier deal

The Wester Mosque in Amsterdam-West wants to amplify its call to prayer by making it from its minaret, despite previous agreements not to do so, Het Parool reports.

The wish of the mosque to make its call to prayer from the 42 meter high minaret came to light in the summer, to the dismay of the homeowners association of the adjascent residential complex.

It was brought up again when Mayor Eberhard van der Laan visited the mosque last week. The Amsterdam VVD now wants to know what's going on.

"in 2005, when the city council approved the construction of the mosque, it was agreed that there would be no amplified call to prayer", Marja Ruigrok, leader of the VVD's Amsterdam faction, said to the newspaper. "Residents in particular need to know what they are in for. As far as the VVD is concerned, previous agreements will be complied with and the Wester Mosque, like so many other mosques in Amsterdam, will remain silent." [NL Times] Read more

Row erupts after staff state store is now Muslim - and they will not be selling Christmas decorations

A huge row erupted after staff at a popular Woolworths branch said that they were now a Muslim store - and would not be selling any Christmas decorations this year.

Shocked locals were told the news when they discovered that the Christmas selection including decorations and chocolate Santas had been taken down just a few days after they were put on display.

When shoppers asked why the decorations had been removed, a staff member at the store in Germany is reported to have said: "We are a Muslim business now. We do not want to sell Christmas articles."

.... The argument at the store in the city of Dortmund in the industrial Ruhr area of Western Germany quickly went viral after it was posted online.

When the row reached head office of the chain, which has 300 stores across Germany, a spokesman denied they were a Muslim business. [Daily Mirror] Read more

Can Islam be Reformed?

.... Islam, as we know, was not subjected to the Reformation as was Christianity. Nor was it subjected to the Enlightenment as were Christians and Jews in Europe. As to the Reformation, however, there are a couple of points to remember.

First of all, when Martin Luther began the Reformation, he was not rejecting Jesus Christ, nor was he rejecting the Bible. He was rejecting what he saw as the corruption of the Vatican. When the Reformation took hold and succeeded, the Bible and the figure of Jesus Christ were still sacred with Protestants.

In my view, for Islam to undergo a true reformation means they would have to reject those parts of the Koran which advocate hate, violence, and even death toward non-Muslims. That constitutes a lot of the Koran. The estimates I have read indicate that about 62% of the Koran refers to non-Muslims.

And those references are not complimentary or respectful. Muslim leaders in the US love to recite the portions of the Koran that are peaceful, such as, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Sura 2 verse 256). They don't recite the verses that urge Muslims to commit violence against unbelievers. [New English Review] Read more

Muslim cleric criticised for anti-Semitic speech

.... The comments were made by Shaykh Mohammad Anwar Sahib at the At-Taqwa mosque in Manukau earlier this month, where he also made derogatory comments about women.

They emerged in video footage published on the blog Whale Oil, which Dr Sahib said had been compiled from several different sermons and taken out of context.

In a written statement posted on his website, Dr Sahib said that he had not delivered hate speech about people of other faiths, and that he did not hate any human being regardless of their faith, place of origin, race, colour or political affiliation.

.... The Human Rights Commission said Dr Sahib's comments condemning Jewish people were appalling and had no place in New Zealand.

The commission has received at least one complaint about the speeches.

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy said both the Jewish Council and the Federation of Islamic Associations had told her they were deeply concerned about the speeches. [Radio New Zealand] Read more

11 Christian Television Stations Shut Down in Pakistan; 6 Operators Arrested

Eleven Christian television stations were recently shut down by authorities in Pakistan, shocking Christians in the Muslim-majority country where they remain religious minorities.

According to a report by UCANews, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) sent notices to all regional general managers late last month asking them to "stop transmitting 11 illegal TV channels immediately."

The government body, which regulates television content in Pakistan, prohibits the airing of Christian programmes and others relating to religion, except occasional messages for Christmas and Easter.

The PEMRA decided to launch a major crackdown this month on Christian stations, most of which have been operating in the Muslim-majority nation for more than two and a half decades now.

As a result of this crackdown, six people were arrested when government agents raided cable TV operators broadcasting Indian Christian channels. [Christian Today] Read more

Turkey withdraws child rape bill after street protests

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has withdrawn a bill that pardons men convicted of sex with underage girls if they have married them.

The bill, part of a package of amendments to the legal system, was sent back for further work just hours before a final vote in parliament.

It had sparked protests across Turkish society and was condemned abroad.

Critics said it would legitimise statutory rape and encourage the practice of taking child brides.

UN agencies had called on the government not to approve the bill, arguing that it would damage the country's ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage.

But the government says the main aim is to exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl apparently with her or her family's consent. [BBC] Read more

'We're being subverted by Islam' Almost HALF of Germans feel migration undermines society

The poll was commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation which is associated with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany.

It found that 40 per cent of those responding feared their country is being "subverted by Islam".

The figures will come as a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migrant policy has backfired disastrously.

.... The new survey also found 28 per cent of Germans questioned agreed with the statement: "In Germany one can no longer freely express an opinion without getting into trouble."

And the same percentage agreed with the statement: "The governing parties deceive the nation."

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation produced a report based on the survey findings which it says show that public opinion is shifting in Germany. [Daily Express] Read more

Study: Stable racism stats, but 'new right' ideas permeate Germany

.... The political foundation - which is independent but has close ties to Germany's center-left Social Democrats - investigated what it called "new right" ideologies for the first time - apparently a response to developments like the so-called refugee crisis and the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Almost 40 percent of the people surveyed were of the opinion that Islam was undermining German culture. Meanwhile, 28 percent agreed with the statement: "You cannot freely voice your opinion in Germany without getting into trouble." A similar quota agreed that: "The ruling [political] parties are betraying the people." Again, just under 30 percent agreed either generally or very strongly with the statement: "It is time to show greater resistance to modern-day politics."

The foundation described such ideas as a more "subtle form and intellectual guise" with which to propagate nationalist positions. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

21 November 2016

Bradford family hit out over flu vaccination

A MUSLIM father has made a formal complaint to the NHS after claiming his daughter and niece were given flu vaccinations containing synthesised pork products without the family’s knowledge.

Mohammadda Shah said the contents of the nasal spray given to his daughter, Raghad, and niece, Aisha, at Peel Park Surgery only came to light when his brother, Shaeen, received a letter from his child’s school offering Muslim parents the opportunity to decline the treatment.

He said that by that point, the two children had already been given the spray by their GP without the same cautionary advice.

“Pork within the Muslim faith cannot be consumed in any form and it strictly prohibited. They only stopped offering the treatment to Muslim families after we brought it to their attention. When I went into the surgery to discuss it, I was just fobbed off.

“The whole experience made us angry, we were very distressed that the children went through this process without our knowledge. [Telegraph & Argus] Read more

20 November 2016

Saudi court sentences poet to death for renouncing Islam

A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam.

A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Fayadh, 35, a key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014.

But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried earlier this month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.

“I was really shocked but it was expected, though I didn’t do anything that deserves death,” Fayadh told the Guardian. [The Guardian] Read more

Priebus: Some aspects of Islamic faith are 'problematic'

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said some aspects of the Islamic faith are "problematic" while defending former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's controversial comments about Muslims.

Asked on ABC whether future National Security Adviser Flynn's view that Islam is a political ideology that hides behind being a religion is in line with President-elect Trump's view of Islam, Priebus answered "I think so."

"Clearly there are some aspects of that faith that are problematic and we know them; we've seen it," Priebus said. "It certainly isn't a blanket for all people of that faith, but Mike Flynn is one of the most highly respected intelligence officers in America. Certainly no one can deny that." [The Washington Examiner] Read more

Clinton’s Failure to Confront Islamic Extremism Contributed to Her Loss

.... The dichotomy is between the Regressive Left who claim every criticism of Islam and practices in certain Muslim communities is bigotry, and the truly xenophobic Far Right. Similarly, in Europe, they have been building off each other.

Since the election, there have been horrible hate crimes and robberies in the US against women in Hijab. This terrifies me.

At the same time, I'm frustrated at some of the Left's response. Already, people are throwing around reactionary statements about how this election proves how racist and xenophobic America is. Racism and xenophobia certainly played a part in Trump’s campaign, perhaps even a large part, but not every person who voted for Trump is a bigot.

Furthermore, Clinton did a poor job at acknowledging the very legitimate fears of many Americans about terrorism - particularly Islamic terrorism. She refused to even say the phrase "radical Islam." [Conatus News] Read more

19 November 2016

Germany Cracks Down on Salafists to Shield Refugees

For years, the authorities in Germany have warily monitored the swelling ranks of Salafists, followers of an ultraconservative branch of Islam who are known for aggressive proselytizing and their sympathies for the Islamic State.

But after long being perceived as dithering, German officials are cracking down with new resolve, as evidenced in a nationwide sweep against one Salafist group this past week, just days after the arrest of a high-profile imam.

The sudden vigilance has been propelled in part by increasing concern that the Salafists are trying to recruit among the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees who arrived a year ago, encouraging some to sign up for jihad in Syria and Iraq or to carry out attacks in Germany.

Some 400 cases in which Salafists approached refugees have been reported nationwide in recent months, said Boris Pistorius, the interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony, in north-central Germany. [NYTimes.com] Read more