17 October 2016

Athletic club drops cross from its crest over Isil fears weeks before Dublin Marathon

The Crusaders Athletic Club wrote to members last week telling them that a decision had been taken to remove the cross from new singlets to be worn by some runners competing in the Dublin City Marathon in two weeks.

The decision to remove the cross from the crest caused major disquiet among members of the Dublin club, with some threatening to leave if the logo is changed.

In an email sent to members, which has been seen by the Sunday Independent, the club said a final decision had not been taken to change the crest but it would be discussed at the annual general meeting.

"As some of you may or may not have heard, our website was hacked (twice) by persons unknown purporting to be from Islamic State and threatening messages sent to us," it said. [Independent.ie] Read more

16 October 2016

Muslim woman becomes first ever student to be allowed to wear a hijab beneath her uniform at America's oldest private military college

She's the first woman ever allowed to wear a Muslim headscarf beneath her military uniform at the nation's oldest private military college.

But don't call Sana Hamze a pioneer.

'I don't really see it as me changing the world or changing the U.S., even,' said Hamze, 18, a freshman at Vermont's Norwich University.

'I just kind of see it as the school allowing an American student to practice her faith while also training to be an officer in the Navy.'

.... But the uniform for the 18-year-old student from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a little different. Unlike other female members of the corps, Hamze wears her Muslim hijab, or head covering, beneath.

As part of her effort to fulfill her lifelong dream of continuing her family's legacy of military and public service while staying true to her devout religious beliefs, she asked for a uniform accommodation to wear the hijab when she was applying to colleges earlier this year.

Norwich, one of the nation's six senior military colleges, agreed to make the accommodation.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 1180 votes] It's called a uniform for a reason

[2ND 1034] Don't know what I find more ridiculous. The college thinking they are being so cutting edge and PC or her thinking she has a right to wear what she likes, unlike every other person. Years ago I wanted to be a Policewoman, but I couldn't. I was too short. I accepted it. All she has to do is remove what to me is an offensive item. It may as well be chains round her ankles.

[3RD 981] This is just not right.

[4TH 878] What a Disgrace!!!! [Daily Mail] Read more

15 October 2016

Islamist girls’ school that taught pupils gay people should be killed and men could beat their wives forced to close

An Islamist girls’ boarding school which taught pupils that men could beat women and gay people should be killed is facing closure after a pupil exposed its sharia-inspired rules.

Aliyah Saleem was expelled in front of the entire study body at Jamia Al Hudaa girls’ school in Nottingham in 2006.

She was accused of “narcissism” for owning a disposable camera, and publicly humiliated as a part of her punishment.

Following her expulsion, Ms Saleem spoke out about her treatment at the school, saying that pupils were taught no geography, history, art, sport or music, but were instead subject to extremist views.

Students were taught that the death sentence could be given to gay men and that Jews and Christians made Allah angry.

Speaking to The Times under a pseudonym in 2014, Ms Saleem spoke of how she was made to feel isolated and shut off from society – visits into town being banned unless it was to see a doctor or dentist. [The Independent] Read more

14 October 2016

Two Burkini-Dressed Women Thrown Out Of Széchenyi Baths

Two burkini-clad swimmers were told to leave a pool in Budapest’s Széchenyi Baths after a visitor complained about their clothing to staff.

According to the news website444.hu, the two women, aged around 30 and 70, were in the pool for over an hour before they were asked to leave by two members of staff, who cited instructions given by the pool’s leadership.

Contacted by the website, the sales and marketing director of Budapest Baths cPlc., the operator of the Széchenyi Baths, said that the women were told to respect the pool’s policies and bath in appropriate clothing.

According to these, pools can only be used in swimsuits not reaching below the knee or shoulder for health reasons. While the rules do not name the burkini, they do not permit wearing clothing covering the entire surface of the body for visitors to the capital’s baths. [Hungary Today] Read more

Turkish delegate rips Mohammed cartoon from Council of Europe mural

A Turkish official ripped a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed out of a mural at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg, a source at the rights body said Friday.

Dozens of people watched as the official, a member of Turkey's parliamentary delegation to the Council, removed the image from the mural titled "The Road not Taken" on Wednesday, the source said.

The drawing of Mohammed wearing a bomb instead of a turban -- the original of which sparked outrage in the Muslim world when it was published in 2005 by a Danish newspaper -- had a banner across the prophet's face reading "censored".

Most Muslims consider portraying the prophet in images to be blasphemous.

The work on the theme of freedom of expression, titled "The Road not Taken", is made up of around 1,000 images.

The mural's Maltese creator Norbert Attard told the online version of The Malta Independent he had placed the "censored" banner across the cartoon "so that it would not offend anyone". [Expatica] Read more

13 October 2016

Coach driver ‘put children’s lives at risk’ by stopping on busy Portsmouth road – to pray

Some 50 children, parents and teachers from Meon Junior School in Southsea were returning home from a school trip to London when the incident happened.

Some 50 children, parents and teachers from Meon Junior School in Southsea were returning home from a school trip to London when the incident happened.

The Muslim coach driver stopped his vehicle in the middle of the Eastern Road, just before rush-hour, for 10 minutes while he conducted his daily prayer. The man’s actions have since been condemned by parents and Muslims in the city and have prompted an investigation by Cosham-based coach company Vision Travel.

Mum Claire Powell, 35, was furious. Her nine-year-old daughter Heidi was one of those on the coach at the time. Claire, of Cedar Grove, Copnor, said: ‘I was absolutely livid when I heard. [Portsmouth News] Read more

Why shouldn’t Louis Smith take the piss out of Islam?

.... The most concerning part of this story is not the video but the quote from a security expert, who said: ‘Mocking religion is pretty foolish anyway. In the case of Islam, it can also be quite a risky thing to do.’

That was followed up by Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation, who said: ‘Our faith is not to be mocked, it is to be celebrated.’ Sorry, Mr Shafiq – you are free to celebrate your faith to your heart’s content, and drunken Olympians are free to take the piss out of it. Or they should be.

That security expert is right, actually: mocking Islam is a risky thing to do these days. And that’s a dire indictment of the censorious situation we’ve allowed ourselves to get into. I even thought twice before submitting this piece defending Smith, such is the climate of fear around offending the religion of peace. [Spiked] Read more

Gymnast Louis Smith: I’ve had death threats for mocking Islam

Olympic medal-winning gymnast Louis Smith has told BBC 5 live that he's had death threats “every day” since a video was leaked showing him mocking Islamic prayers.

Talking to Emma Barnett, he admitted that he and fellow gymnast Luke Carson were drunk when they filmed the late-night video, which started with singing songs from the musical Aladdin after a wedding, and ended up with them using a rug to imitate the Muslim call to prayer.

He said he is "very ashamed of my actions", which was a "very silly thing to do", and admitted that he is "quite ignorant to religion in general…. I think what I did was very offensive especially to the Muslim community".

Louis is now planning to visit a mosque and find out more about the Muslim faith to "rebuild some bridges". [BBC] Read more

Pakistan delays Asia Bibi blasphemy appeal

Pakistan's Supreme Court has delayed an appeal into the country's most notorious blasphemy case against a Christian mother on death row since 2010, after one of the judges stepped down.

Thousands of security troops had been deployed in the capital, Islamabad, as the court prepared to hear a final appeal in the case of Asia Bibi on Thursday.

The court did not immediately set a new date for the appeal.

But the threat of violence was largely abated when one of the three-judge bench, Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, told the court he had to recuse himself from the case.

"I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salmaan Taseer, and this case is related to that," he told the court.

Taseer, a liberal provincial governor, was shot dead in Islamabad in 2011 after speaking out for Bibi. [Al Jazeera English] Read more

12 October 2016

The Guardian view on blasphemy in Pakistan: a dark moment for religious freedom approaches

The supreme court in Lahore will on Thursday hear the appeal of Asia Bibi against her death sentence for blasphemy. It is a case that has already cost two lives: that of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, who spoke out in her defence, and his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered the governor for defending her and was himself hanged.

Qadri was described as a saint and a martyr for his crime by many in Pakistan, and by some prominent mosques in Britain. This is a poisonous mess. Successive generations of Pakistani politicians – most notably Zia ul-Haq – have used the statutes on blasphemy as a way to combine religious fanaticism with the fear and resentment of outsiders.

Almost all societies have speech codes enforced by law and reinforced by public opinion. The blasphemy law of Pakistan is not just an affront to liberal decencies; the evidence points to it being used as a tool to persecute minorities. It also involves a distortion and coarsening of the sharia principles it claims to embody. Bad as the Islamic laws against apostasy are – and they are very bad indeed – they can by definition only apply to Muslims. [150 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 73 votes] "Large demonstrations already demand her death."

And yet there are plenty who claim Islam does not need reforming.

[2ND 63] Pakistan is the biggest recipient of British aid. We send them more than £400 million a year. So we should start making demands about its deteriorating human rights record. If they continue to let bad neighbours use the blasphemy law to murder people they dislike, stop sending money.

[3RD 63] Blasphemy in Islam seems not to be just about God, but to cover everything relating to Islamic religion and Islamic culture. Quite unbelievable and not very logical. The less we have to do with countries like Pakistan the better off we shall be.

[4TH 52] We should shut down all dealings with Pakistan if this is not rectified at appeal. What is the merit of wringing our hands if we are still prepared to deal with such evil?

[5TH 50] The elephant in the room is that this woman is a Christian. Grudges against Christians in Pakistan are routinely used to rid people of someone they don't like or have had a dispute with. Being a Christian in such a society is virtually an impending death sentence; I'm just surprised that the whole family haven't been convicted of blasphemy.

Pakistani Muslims hate Christians (and Jews) with a vengeance, though they are hardly alone in that. What has appalled me is seeing the Archbishop of Canterbury welcoming the imam who lauded the murderer of the Punjabi governor who tried to help Asia Bibi, praising him as a hero of Islam. Welby should be ashamed. [The Guardian] Read more

The Vilification of Ex-Muslims and Islamic Reformers

These instances of the demonization of reformist Muslims and ex-Muslims are by no means exhaustive, but they do hopefully give a sense of the dirty resistance currently being levelled (mostly) by the Islamic right and their allies on the left; levelling sordid personal attacks on reformists in order to undermine dangerous and critical ideas which could radically reshape the Islamic faith and stem the tide of Islamism across the world.

Leftists and liberals who wish to reverse the damage which has been done by the regressive left and others should put their full weight behind these protestors and dissenters and call out the slanderers and demagogues who wish to divert attention away from the real issues.

Those fighting for Islamic reform – especially those living under theocratic regimes who put their lives at risk for what they believe – are some of the bravest, most courageous people alive today. Moreover, their arguments and ideas have to succeed if the tide of Islamism across the world is to be stemmed and the killing of Muslims, Christians, Jews, ex-Muslims, atheists, Yezidis and other religious minorities is to stop. We owe them our support. [conatus news] Read more

CHRISTIAN CRACKDOWN: Pakistan bans TV stations in sweeping 'attack on religious freedom'

Pakistan, home to some 2.8million christians, ordered the censoring of pro-Christian programmes after the nation's TV regulatory body declared them illegal.

One censored station, Catholic TV, broadcasted from Lahore where 42 adult Christians and 30 children were killed in a suicide blast while celebrating Easter last March.

Catholic TV founder Father Morris Jalal said: "As citizens, Christians have the right to practice their religion, but if they block you, it means not all citizens are equal.

"When someone bans the expression of faith, which is a fundamental right, there is persecution."

The move to ban the stations leaves Pakistan's Christian minority with no public media presence after 17 years of having been allowed to broadcast across the country.

Father Jalal added: "We must protest this decision, and we hope the West does it as well." [Daily Express] Read more

France's Hollande sees a "problem with Islam", according to new book

French President Francois Hollande told the authors of a book just published that "France has a problem with Islam", comments that risk dividing his party before next year's presidential election.

Hollande made the remarks to the two authors of "A President Shouldn't Say That...." in December 2015, a month after Islamist militant gunmen and bombers attacked Paris, killing 130 people. Their book was published on Wednesday.

"It's true that there's a problem with Islam. No one doubts it," Hollande is quoted as saying.

"It's not that Islam poses a problem in the sense that it is a dangerous religion, but in as far as it wants to affirm itself as a religion of the Republic."

The comments echo similar statements by conservative politicians following a fresh wave of militant attacks this summer, though Hollande did not suggest the hard-line responses advocated by some right-wing opponents.

Among other proposals, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking a return to the Elysee palace, has promised a nationwide ban on burkinis and said France should detain or tag all individuals on an intelligence watchlist. [Reuters] Read more

Nearly one in five Flemish Belgians want to ban Islam

Nearly one in five Flemish Belgians believe following Islam should be banned in Belgium.

In response to a public survey conducted by the Flemish public broadcaster VRT and the daily De Standaard, 64 per cent of Flemings said they supported allowing the police to detain terror suspects without a warrant.

The governing nationalist New Flemish Alliance have proposed the idea, though it has encountered resistance from the liberal and Christian democrat coalition.

However, 26 per cent of Flemings oppose the measure.

Responding to the question "Should following Islam be banned in Belgium?" 17 per cent of Flemings polled agreed.

The idea was most popular among the over 55s, blue collar and low skilled workers.

However, half said they believe the presence of Muslim immigrants enriches society, compared to 27 per cent who said it did not.

In addition, 67 per cent said they did not mind being served in a shop by Muslims wearing headscarfs. [The Independent] Read more

11 October 2016

Vermont Military College Accommodates Muslim Student’s Dress

A policy change pertaining to uniforms at a Vermont military college has enabled a Muslim student to feel welcome on campus.

“I’m just a normal college student,” said military recruit Sana Hamze. “I’m very happy here.”

Hamze is of Lebanese heritage, from Florida. She said she was born in the United States to parents who were, too.

The 18-year-old recently started her first year at Norwich University in Northfield.

Before Hamze enrolled, Norwich allowed a change to its uniform policy to enable her observance of the hijab, a form of modest dress by Muslim women.

“A lot have had questions,” Hamze said of her fellow students. “Many have asked what’s it called? What does it mean?”

Hamze’s hijab must be in muted tones to match the camouflage of her recruit’s uniform, she explained. Over her hijab Wednesday, Hamze was wearing a school cap designating her as a recruit.

Another part of her uniform that reflects her Muslim faith is how Hamze wears long sleeves and pants, she explained. Other students may have short sleeves. [New England Cable News] Read more

Smith should be free to mock Islam

Here’s a prediction: the Louis Smith video will become a test case, not merely of the illiberal contracts that British Olympians are required to sign by UK Sport to receive public money, but of the wider debate on free speech and religious tolerance.

Smith, in case you were unaware, filmed a private video — which inevitably ended up on the internet — where he and his friends mock Islam.

The film shows Luke Carson, a fellow gymnast who has recently retired from the sport, shouting “Allahu akbar” while lying face down on a prayer mat, as Smith giggles and provides commentary.

I am not sure that the video represents satire of the genius of, say, Life of Brian, but it certainly pokes fun at the idea that anyone would wish to spend their time shouting slogans at a fictional deity in the sky and, by implication, the underlying basis of Islam itself. [The Times (£)] Read more

Europe’s no-go zones: Inside the lawless ghettos that breed and harbour terrorists

.... Before the French, Belgian, German and British governments — including their police, courts, schools and housing authorities — offer resident Muslims in Europe the blessings of a secular society, they will have to take back the ghettos.

They will have to disarm the militants, deport scores of preachers, pacify the gangs, cut off the drug supply and cut off funding from Saudi Arabia and Iran. And they will have to persuade key players in the ghetto to stand up to their violent neighbours and instead support the peaceful aims of the state.

However, if the European ruling elites and the mainstream media have stopped believing in the liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) that was proclaimed on that fateful day of July 14, 1789, then the future of France and much of western Europe will be one of a growing series of terrorist nightmares.

They will have lost the war against the jihadists, the authority of the state will wither, and the French and other European majorities will be treated like a conquered people in their own lands. The same fate awaits the British, if they do not soon take preventative action. [National Post] Read more

Is Muslim sectarian violence a new reality for Britain?

.... It is the pace and scale of difference in the past two decades that has had an impact here, accompanied by religious information and sectarian mobilisation on the internet. Unlike many of the pioneer generation of post-war Muslim migrants, their descendants are fully literate and able to access theological material, particularly online. And they are much more aware then their parents’ generation of the theological differences within Islam.

There is a real internal debate going on within communities, often with a streak of intolerance which was not as pronounced 20 years ago.

Research on established Muslim communities has argued that the encounter with other Muslims in the diaspora is crucial in the development of the religion. Mixing with other Muslims can inspire theological debate and has the potential to bear significantly on religious identity and the process of transformation across generations. But as the two recent murders have shown, it can also lead to sectarianism and violence. [The Conversation] Read more

We must have the freedom to mock Islam

How did mocking Islam become the great speechcrime of our times? Louis Smith, the gymnast, is the latest to fall foul of the weird new rule against ridiculing Islam. A leaked video shows Smith laughing as his fellow gymnast, Luke Carson, pretends to pray and chants ‘Allahu Akbar’.

Smith says something derogatory about the belief in ‘60 virgins’ (he means 72 virgins). Following a firestorm online, and the launch of an investigation by British Gymnastics, Smith has engaged in some pretty tragic contrition. He says he is ‘deeply sorry’ for the ‘deep offence’ he caused. He’s now basically on his knees for real, praying for pity, begging for forgiveness from the guardians of what may be thought and said.

The response to Smith’s silly video has been so mad you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d been caught snorting coke or hanging with prostitutes. But all he did was have an innocent laugh at the expense of a global religion. He made light fun of a faith system. That’s not allowed anymore?

.... We often wonder why radical Islamists are so tetchy, so determined to smack down, sometimes literally, those who take aim at their faith. Well, wonder no more — they’ve grown up in societies that do precisely the same, which demonise and criminalise criticism of Islam, and which in the process give a green light to Islamist intolerance of the ‘enemies’ of Islam. [The Spectator] Read more

Mocking Islam

.... The governing body warned of possible severe disciplinary action saying: “British Gymnastics does not condone the mocking of any faith or religion and is appalled by such behaviours. Members who break our code of conduct can face suspension or expulsion from our organisation.”

The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the federation’s move.

“This behaviour by leading and decorated sportspeople is sadly a confirmation of how Islamophobia has become acceptable,” the Muslim council’s deputy secretary general, Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, said. “It is therefore heartening that British Gymnastics has resolved to take swift and decisive action.

“The supposed apology that has been issued by the two men falls well short of addressing the hurt caused against Muslims,” he said. “We hope they reflect upon their actions and realise the need for people to follow their faith with dignity.”

Follow their faith with dignity? If only. [Mick Hartley] Read more

Muslim councillor removes support for Louis Smith to receive freedom of Peterborough after ‘mocking Islam’

Councillor Mohammed Jamil, Labour group leader on Peterborough City Council, has written to the panel saying he has withdrawn his backing for the Olympic silver medallist to be made a freeman because the Muslim community is offended by his actions.

Video footage appeared to show Mr Smith, with fellow gymnast Luke Carson, laughing while pretending to pray and shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The Islamic phrase means “God is the greatest” in Arabic.

Cllr Jamil said: “I’ve had people over the weekend saying they do not want someone who says things like that to have the freedom of Peterborough.

“There is anger. He is a role model to a lot of people.

“It’s stuff like that which gives the misconception of what Islam is.

“I just do not think someone like that is someone I can support to have the freedom of the city in a city as diverse as ours. [Peterborough Telegraph] Read more

Half of all Australians want Muslim immigration ban? New ANUpoll suggests it's not that simple

It may well be, as recent headlines claimed, that half of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration, but those wanting a less simplistic view of Australians' attitudes to terrorism and Islam should take a closer look at the latest ANUpoll.

We set out wanting to establish the limits of Australians' support for national security policies in the face of diminishing civil liberties.

To this end, we surveyed a randomly, probability-based sample of 1,200 Australians – not people who had signed up to answer survey questions for money – and explored a range of their attitudes.

We found that many adult Australians are anxious about terrorism, and that anxiety leads to support for government policies such as the retention of telecommunications data, and the justification of strict border protection regimes as a counter-terrorism measure.

For instance, 45 per cent of Australians are either 'very' or 'somewhat' concerned about either themselves or a family member being the victim of a terrorist attack in Australia.

More than half – 56 per cent – think the Government could do more to protect such an attack.

Almost half – 46 per cent – believe the Government's counter-terrorism policies have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country, compared with 28 per cent who believe they have gone too far in restricting Australians' civil liberties. [ABC News] Read more

10 October 2016

Islamic woman who wouldn't shake male boss' hand sues for $1 million after firing

A woman of Islamic faith who was hired as a case manager at Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has filed a $1 million lawsuit against her former employer -- claiming she was fired after she refused to shake the hand of a male boss, wore a head scarf on the job and asked for time to pray during the work day.

Sharmin Rahman's lawsuit states that after starting her job on Dec. 1, 2014, she met a senior director, Royce Bowline. When Bowline tried to shake Rahman's hand, Rahman declined by explaining that her faith prohibited her from shaking the hands of men, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

.... A spokeswoman for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

"We strive to treat all employees fairly and equitably," wrote spokeswoman Samantha Ridderbusch.

The nonprofit employs 900 people in the Portland area and greater Willamette Valley. It offers assistance to about 15,000 people each year who are homeless or have problems with addictions or mental health.

Rahman was born in Bangladesh and her ethnic background is South Asian, according to the suit. She speaks with an accent, but started learning British English when she was in kindergarten. The suit states that she has a master's degree in social work. [Oregon Live] Read more

Louis Smith could be disciplined over video appearing to mock Islam

Louis Smith could face disciplinary action after British Gymnastics said it would investigate footage published by the Sun over the weekend which appeared to show Smith and his friend mocking Islam.

The gymnast, who won a silver medal for Great Britain on the pommel horse in Rio was videoed with fellow gymnast Luke Carson shouting “Allahu Akbar” and mimicking a praying pose.

“British Gymnastics does not condone the mocking of any faith or religion and is appalled by such behaviours,” a statement read. “Gymnastics is an inclusive sport and we are proud of members who portray the inclusive values of British Gymnastics.

“Members who break our code of conduct can face suspension or expulsion from our organisation. We will be investigating the behaviours reported.”

Smith apologised for the incident, which took place at a friend’s wedding. “I am deeply sorry,” he wrote in a message on Twitter. “I am not defending myself, what I did was wrong. I want to say sorry for the deep offense I have caused and to my family who have also been affected by my thoughtless actions. [The Guardian] Read more

Islam is like ‘gangrene’ and wearing burka is 'serious crime’, says presidential candidate

The Republican and former agriculture minister, has called on all “disillusioned Socialists” to vote for him in the first and most decisive round of the French elections, which will be held on November 20 and 27.

Mr Le Maire, 47, who is known for his strong anti-immigration stance, told French magazine Le Journal du Dimanche political Islam had been gnawing away at France’s secular values for years; and Islamic institutions were being run from afar by powerful religious leaders based in more radical Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

He said: “Political Islam is like gangrene. It’s an infection which has caused France’s liberal traditions to slowly rot away.

“There is an urgent need to regain control and to reorganise the way in which Islamic institutions based in this country are run.”

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) – which acts as a bridge between Muslims and the government – is “doomed to failure”, he said, and has helped give Salafi-jihadist leaders and militants a voice.

The council must become more “transparent and secular” if it is to succeed in helping Muslims integrate into French society, he warned. [Daily Express] Read more