26 June 2015

Ramadan ding-dong - Foreign conflicts stoke sectarian squabbles among British Muslims

BY THE bloody standards of Middle Eastern sectarianism, it is a slight affair. On the fourth day of Ramadan, dawn worshippers in Bradford found the wall of their husseiniya, or Shia mosque, daubed with the word “KAFIR” (infidel). But flare-ups, once rare, between Britain’s 400,000-odd Shias and 2.3m Sunnis are on the rise.

Safdar Shah, one of the husseiniya’s founders, says that 30 years ago, when most of the city’s Sunnis and Shias arrived from the Pakistani side of Kashmir, they often prayed together.

But over the past year leaflets denouncing Shias have circulated on city buses, and Sunnis have launched a boycott of two Shia-owned takeaways in Little Horton, a neighbourhood where over half the population is Asian. [The Economist] Read more

25 June 2015

The author of the ‘counter terrorism curriculum’ advocates murder for blasphemy

The ‘Islamic Curriculum on Peace and Counter Terrorism’ can basically be summarised as the now ubiquitous apologia that ISIS ‘has nothing to do with Islam’, which is the laziest counter-terrorism argument that one can come up with.

To call it a reformist effort would be to reduce the long impending Islamic reformation to a couple of hours’ worth of Google search, during which one can find countless articles using ‘context’ and ‘misinterpretation’ to excommunicate Islamist terrorists.

Ironically this replicates radical Islamists’ favourite vocation: apostatising anyone with a different take on Islamic scriptures.

The reforms that we Muslims need is to accept that ISIS’ Islam is just as authentic a version of Islam as any other.

For literalism is another of the ‘multiple interpretations’ of Islam that we like to expound. Islamic reformation, thence, would mean revisiting our approach to the infallibility of Islamic scriptures, without conjuring apologia for ‘true Islam’, and accepting the idea that a Muslim can unapologetically condemn Islamic doctrines. [Left Foot Forward] Read more

Padraig Reidy: A disgraceful use of the Communications Act

.... Let there be no doubt: the prosecution of James McConnell under the Communications Act is a disgrace and a travesty. It is the action of a prosecution service more interested in appearing to be liberal than upholding justice and rights.

If McConnell is suspected of being guilty of incitement, then prosecute him under that law. But the deployment of the catch-all Communications Act, in a situation it was very obviously not designed for, suggests prosecutors were not confident of that case and have instead reached for the vaguest charge possible. [Index on Censorship] Read more

Dutch far-right politician Wilders airs Mohammad cartoons on TV

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on Wednesday aired cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on Dutch television that were drawn at a cartoon competition in Texas that was attacked by two gunmen in May.

Aissa Zanzen, spokesman for the Council of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands, called Wilders’ action, using public broadcast time allocated to political parties, a publicity stunt. “Wilders is out to provoke Muslims and he has done everything he can to do that,” he said.

Wilders, in a broadcast coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, introduced the three-minute broadcast, in the second half of which the cartoons scrolled across the screen accompanied by piano music.

Wilders and Pamela Geller, one of his American sponsors who organized the Mohammad cartoon drawing competition, were at the event where the shooting took place. Neither of them were hurt. [Reuters Blogs - FaithWorld] Read more

Why the United States Should Back Islam’s Reformation

We have a problem—not a problem from hell, but one that claims to come from heaven. That problem is sometimes called radical, or fundamentalist, Islam, and the self-styled Islamic State is just its latest iteration.

But no one really understands it. In the summer of 2014, Major General Michael Nagata, the commander of U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, admitted as much when talking about the Islamic State, or ISIS. “We do not understand the movement,” he said. “And until we do, we are not going to defeat it.”

Although Nagata’s words are striking for their candor, there is nothing new about the state of affairs they describe. For years, U.S. policymakers have failed to grasp the nature of the threat posed by militant Islam and have almost entirely failed to mount an effective counteroffensive against it on the battlefield that matters most: the battlefield of ideas.

.... The decision not to call violence committed in the name of Islam by its true name—jihad—is a strange one. It would be as if Western leaders during the Cold War had gone around calling communism an ideology of peace or condemning the Baader Meinhof Gang, a West German militant group, for not being true Marxists.

It is time to drop the euphemisms and verbal contortions. A battle for the future of Islam is taking place between reformers and reactionaries, and its outcome matters. The United States needs to start helping the right side win. [Foreign Affairs] Read more

Since when was the hijab a feminist statement?

.... ‘My hijab has nothing to do with oppression. It’s a feminist statement’. Against a backdrop of lingerie models, bikini babes, and sad western women weighing themselves (still in lingerie), hijab-wearer Hanna Yusuf adopts her primary school teacher voice and asks us, very, very slowly ‘in a world when a woman’s value is often reduced to her sexual allure, what could be more empowering than rejecting that notion?’ Western women, we discover, are dopes to consumerism, brainwashed into buying more diets, thongs and trashy magazines.

The hijabi wearer, in covering her lust-inducing hair, is truly free. There are even background ‘gasps’ to represent the shocked non-Muslim viewer discovering this concept for the first time! HUH?!

[TOP RATED COMMENT] My Hindu ancestors used to have a custom called sati in which widows were sometimes burned alive on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands. It was stamped out in India during the British Raj. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that when Hindus protested this ban saying that it was our custom, the British replied that in that case, they should go ahead with sati in keeping with Hindu custom, after which the British would hang all the perpetrators in keeping with British custom.

The credit for stamping out this horrid custom goes both to Indian reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy as well as to the British, but it is a sign of how times have changed for the worse that Brits no longer feel morally capable of prohibiting primitive third-world practices, like putting women in black bags, even in Great Britain, let alone in other countries.

Mark Steyn calls this the loss of "civilizational self-confidence" in the West, and he is exactly right - 50 years of venom vomited out by the Chomskys, Zinns and Susan Sontags on the West have taken an enormous toll.

[ANOTHER] I think everyone is missing the real reason for this religious headgear. It is pure and simply to wind everyone up. The more radical the area, the more is covered up and the more non Muslims get made to feel uneasy. In the free West, it's a statement of sticking the middle Islamic finger up at the rest of us. If someone wants to go around like the grim reaper, minus the scythe, then let them. Enjoy the summer ladies. No one in their right mind would want to wear a bag. Sky god or not.

[ANOTHER] The truth is that wearing a hijab is essentially a statement of separation and refusal to integrate with wider British society. And too often these 'beloved people' are so quick to accuse everyone of racism. Talk about psychological transference. Freud would have a field day studying this type of people. [The Spectator] Read more

24 June 2015

Tim Uppal defends bill to ban niqab at citizenship ceremonies

Edmonton MP and Canada's Minister of Multiculturalism, Tim Uppal, is defending his decision to introduce a last-minute bill banning the niqab - a veil worn over the face by some Muslim women - at citizenship ceremonies.

Uppal tabled the bill on June 19, just hours before parliament broke for the summer, the second attempt by the Harper government to ban the niqab.

"We believe that most Canadians including new Canadians would find it offensive that someone would cover their face at the very moment they're joining the Canadian family," said Uppal on Edmonton AM Wednesday morning.

Uppal's stance is being criticized by some as hypocritical as he himself wears a turban. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

Radicalisation on campus: why new counter-terror duties for universities will not work

.... approaches to “spot” radicalisation have to date been entirely futile. In spite of the fact that the “tell-tale signs” continue to appear obvious to politicians, they remain elusive to the rest of us.

However, it is the impact of the even greater scrutiny of Muslim students that is most worrying. Given the current situation, the mere perception that Muslim students will now be subjected to even more monitoring and scrutiny – irrespective of the reality – will present even more barriers to Muslims being just “ordinary” students.

And if so, this will have the potential to reinforce the very basis of those extremist narratives that the new duties have been introduced to tackle: that “Islam” and “the West” can never coexist.

If, as I predict, Muslims students feel increasingly pressurised, marginalised and excluded as a result of these new duties, then the law is likely to reinforce rather than counter the very same arguments that are used to justify the transition towards being radical and extreme. [The Conversation] Read more

Muslim’s gender apartheid sparks row

French Muslim convert Jean-Baptiste Michalon, above, found himself at the centre of a row after he put up a sign at his grocery store in Bordeaux imposing male and female-only days on customers.

The shop displayed a sign in the window asking “sisters” to come on Saturdays and Sundays, and “brothers” to visit on weekdays.

Michalon insisted he had acted in good faith and was not telling customers when they could or couldn’t visit his shop.

"We did this in response to requests from ‘sisters’ who preferred to come when my wife is working. We do also sell clothes here.

It was a sign meant entirely for clients who understand that mixing of sexes is not permitted in our [Muslim] religion. It was not meant to be compulsory. I had no idea that it was against the law."

Under the French penal code, discrimination on the grounds of gender is punishable by fines of up to 45,000 euros and a maximum of three years in jail.

Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, who was Prime Minister under former conservative president Jacques Chirac, said the sign was:

In complete contradiction to republican rules on equality and gender mixing.

And he called for an inquiry. [The Freethinker] Read more

Imam joins secularists and Christians in defending Pastor James McConnell’s free speech

An Islamic scholar has said he is willing to go to prison to defend the free speech of Northern Ireland Pastor James McConnell, who is being prosecuted for comments he made on Islam.

Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini has penned an article for the Belfast Telegraph in which he strongly criticises the decision to prosecute Pastor James McConnell, after the Pastor described Islam as "Satanic" and "heathen".

Dr Al-Hussaini called the decision to press ahead with prosecution "extraordinary" and said it was "quite contrary to our country's tradition of freedom of expression."

He said, "It is of utmost concern that, in this country, we uphold the freedom to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs - restricting only speech which incites physical violence."

The imam, a Senior Fellow at the Westminster Institute, said the case threatened freedom of religion and belief, and added, "I strongly uphold the moral right of Pastor McConnell and myself, as Christian and Muslim, to disagree about matters of doctrine and belief".

He said it was a matter of "deep dismay" that a "fellow citizen is being subjected to criminal proceedings, when at no time have any of the statements he has made incited to physical harm against anyone." [National Secular Society] Read more

By scapegoating Muslims, Cameron fuels radicalisation

The anti-Muslim drumbeat has become deafening across the western world. As images of atrocities by the jihadi terror group Isis multiply online, and a steady trickle of young Europeans and North Americans head to Syria and Iraq to join them, Muslim communities are under siege. Last week David Cameron accused British Muslims of “quietly condoning” the ideology that drives Isis sectarian brutality, normalising hatred of “British values”, and blaming the authorities for the “radicalisation” of those who go to fight for it.

.... That could of course change, not least as the government criminalises dissent, brands conservative religiosity “extremist” and, in the formulation of ministers, “quietly condones” Islamophobia. The British government has long fed terrorism with its warmaking abroad. Now it’s also fuelling it with its scapegoating of Muslims at home. [Seumas Milne, 1,585 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 381 votes] ".... and those behind every violent attack or terror plot have cited western intervention in the Muslim world as their motivation."

There have been at least a couple of plots on night clubs where the desire was to kill "sluts" and "slags".

I am against this Government's illiberal attacks on free speech and agree with Milne that the tactics of Cameron are likely to do more harm than good, but Seamus cannot bring himself to even acknowledge that there is a problem with radical Islam in this country that is not attributable to British foreign policy alone.

[2ND 380] This is utter nonsense. The ousting of the Muslim elected mayor in Tower Hamlets was because of gross corruption but you don't mention that do you?

Somehow that falls into the category of Islamophobia?

[3RD 364] "By scapegoating Muslims, Cameron fuels radicalisation"

Is this not battered wives' syndrome? Don't upset them or they'll hurt us.

[4TH 320] Islam, the heroin of the left.

[5TH 244] Surely, as the Guardian is so keen to promote equality within this country, this article should be a discussion about how Islam in the UK needs to undergo a radical reformation which allows for equality for all members of its faith within society which makes it compatible with Western Liberal values. That includes gender, sexual orientation and non-Muslims.

Why is it that everyone feels compelled to tell Christians how they should be willing to adapt and tolerate others in society, but addressing anything to do with Islam is looked upon as scapegoating and Islamaphobic? The only people who can end this is the British Muslim community themselves, and that requires them to look at what their beliefs actually represent.

At the moment there is a genuine Fascist revolution going on in the Middle East in the name of Islam. British Muslims may hate ISIS as well, but until they address the issues within Islam as mentioned previously, there is always going to be questions asked.

[6TH 230] Were his comments inflammatory and unnecessary and did little help to the situation? - Yes.

Do his comments have more than an element of truth in them? - the answer appears to be affirmative as well.

[7TH 224] What utter rubbish..." Cameron scapegoting Muslims"....it is the other way around....it is Muslims who are scapegoating the British authorities....it is the police not doing their job, the airlines not checking properly...etc....do these Muslim families ever talk to each other..?

How can fathers not have an inkling as to what their wives who are going to take their children away for austensibly, what ever reason, on a trip abroad.....then say ...It had nothing to do with me guv....it is everybody else's fault?

[8TH 221] Check some polls. Check some of the less salubrious neighbourhoods in town. Go and visit some open air markets.

Ride the bus or the tram or the train in any big city in NL. Or go for a stroll on foot. As a woman on a summer day in a summer dress.

The integration of muslim immigrants has failed. The pandering to a religion and culture whose adherents have no interest in absorbing western values by the political left, like equality between men and women and secular government and education is self defeating and self destructive. Values that inspired and galvanized the political left until pandering to islam became the new priority.

.... A tough approach is all that is left. Make it as unpleasant as it can be for hardline religious fools, including papists and hardcore black stocking protestants. Close all faith schools of all denominations. Draw all the cartoons about mohammed and the pope and priests fondling children and stealing from poor natives in far away lands. Crack all the George Carlin jokes and make up some new ones. Stop tax deductions for all religious organisations. Get some balls like the French who will not allow their secular culture and country to be stolen from them.

Hard won secular values and principles cannot and must not be abandoned at the alter of PC correctness.

[9TH 192] "In reality, it shouldn’t be so hard to understand why a small section of young alienated Muslims are attracted to fight in Syria and Iraq with Isis and other such groups"

It's pretty hard to understand when most of their activity involves killing other Muslims and raping girls. How is that striking back at Western foreign policy, exactly? [The Guardian] Read more

23 June 2015

Isis destroys Palmyra shrines in Syria

Islamic State militants have blown up two ancient shrines they consider sacrilegious in Palmyra, the jihadi group said on Tuesday.

The report was the first of any damage being done by the militants to buildings in Palmyra, a 2,000 Unesco world heritage site in central Syria, since they seized control of the city in May. Syrian forces have bombed the city, and the militants camped within it, since then.

Before and after pictures showed several militants carrying explosives and the shrines, which are not among the city’s monumental Roman-era buildings, reduced to rubble.

News of the destruction in Palmyra emerged as the chief spokesman of Isis issued a call for increased violence during the holy month of Ramadan, and called upon Sunnis in Iraq to rise up against what he described as Shia oppression intended to end the Sunni presence in the country. [The Guardian] Read more

Isis 'crucifies children for not fasting during Ramadan' in Syria

Two children have reportedly been “crucified” by Isis for not fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The boys, believed to be under the age of 18, were killed in Syria and their bodies displayed with placards hung around their necks announcing their “crime”.

Their deaths in the town of Mayadin, Deir Ezzor province, were reported by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday.

Founder Rami Abdel Rahman said residents reported the boys’ bodies were “suspended from a crossbar” near the so-called Islamic State’s religious police headquarters.

“Apparently, they were caught eating,” he told the AFP news agency, adding that the signs hung around their necks claimed they broke the Ramadan fast “with no religious justification”. [The Independent] Read more

22 June 2015

Living without God in the Middle East

A few atheists have also taken part in studio discussions on mainstream TV channels in Egypt where they have been abused by interviewers and other participants. Appearing on Honest TV, Mostafa Zakareya, an atheist from Alexandria told viewers he had no desire to “insult religions” but simply wanted Egyptians to accept him as an atheist.

A well-known cleric then called for his arrest and execution, while the chief of security in Alexandria announced he was forming a special task force to round up atheists in the city.

In Egypt and Saudi Arabia especially, media have been expressing alarm at what they see as a growth in the numbers of atheists. Two Egyptian government ministries have been ordered to produce a national plan to "confront and eliminate" atheism.

Such schemes may have worked in the past when states were better placed to control the spread of “undesirable” ideas but in the internet age they are ultimately doomed. Even so, for governments and large sections of the Arab public, freedom of belief remains an alien concept and the battle to achieve it is likely to be long and hard-fought. [al-bab.com] Read more

Mohammed Amin: Cameron’s take on radicalisation is right

.... I believe the reason for the extreme defensiveness displayed arises from a lack of confidence regarding the status of Islam in Britain and other liberal societies.

In my view, many Muslims fear that if they concede that Muslims who commit terrorism are in any way motivated by their understanding of Islam they will somehow have conceded that Islam is a religion which promotes terrorism. That is logical nonsense, but logic rarely rules with something as important as one’s relationship with one’s religion.

While the defensive concerns are not valid, they are amplified by the activities of anti-Muslim bigots who have made an industry out of promoting the view that the terrorists’ understanding of Islam is the correct one. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Uproar as Muslim store brings in 'men only' days

If you're a woman and it's a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday, you're not welcome at the De L'Orient à L'Occidental grocery store in Bordeaux.

Similarly, if you're a man and it's a weekend, you're going to have to go somewhere else if you want to do your shopping there.

At least, this had been the case until Tuesday morning when the store's owners, who are newly converted to Islam, had put up a sign with these outlines in a bid to ensure the two sexes didn't meet.

The move left authorities unimpressed, reported French newspaper Sud Ouest.

Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé called out on Twitter for "an end to such a discriminatory practice".

Naima Charai, the head of French equality group ACSE, tweeted her disdain too, saying that gendered opening hours are "unimaginable and unacceptable". [The Local] Read more

Probe into “undue spiritual influence” in Birmingham election

An election petition has been launched into the May 2015 local elections in Birmingham. I want to be clear about a few things at the outset.

These proceedings are all about principles of public importance and the protection of democratic elections. It is about preventing future recurrence of kinship voting swaying bloc votes in favour of a political party. It is about the corrupt practice of providing fertile battleground for Pakistani political parties to flex their muscle during local British elections.

It is about undue spiritual influence installing fear in the minds of the voter that if they don’t vote the party endorsed by the spiritual leader, punishment awaits them in the afterlife. It is about the illegal practice of segregation of men and women at political rally in contravention of the Equality Act 2010.

These practices have no place in modern politics and for any political party to turn a blind eye to such practices amounts to selling values for votes. [Liberal Democrat Voice] Read more

21 June 2015

British Muslims and the IS Blame Game

.... A couple of days ago, Myriam Francois Cerrah, in an otherwise typically thoughtful piece, blamed “government failings” in allowing the Bradford mothers to leave the UK despite what was known about their brother.

For once, it is difficult not to sympathise with the authorities. They get criticised for being too intrusive and heavy-handed in their dealings with UK Muslims, and now for not being intrusive enough and granting the mothers too much freedom.

Ultimately, only the three mothers themselves can tell us about their motivations for leaving the UK for Syria with all the danger that entails for them, their children and their future. I do hope that we will hear from them, not only to better understand this tragic story but perhaps to be able to help others. [inayatscorner] Read more

Austere brand of Islam on rise in Europe, stirring concerns

Its imams preach austere piety, its tenets demand strict separation of sexes — and some of its most radical adherents are heeding the call of jihad. Salafism, an Islamic movement based on a literal reading of the Quran, is on the rise in France, Germany and Britain, security officials say, with Salafis sharply increasing their influence in mosques and on the streets.

The trend worries European authorities, who see Salafism as one of the inspirational forces for young Europeans heading to Syria or Iraq to do battle for the Islamic State group. Experts, however, point out that the vast majority of Salafis are peace-loving [Associated Press] Read more

We must prise British Muslims out of their 'digital ghettos': Former extremist calls for end to separation between different faiths

During my teenage years as an Islamist recruiter, I moved to live in self-contained communities in the London boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets. During those years, I met Muslims who were born and raised in this country but for whom English was their second, and barely literate, language.

Street signs were in Bangladeshi and employment opportunities were limited to Indian restaurants, community centres and grocery stores. As I went between the Islamic Society in my college and university, the mosque, the halal takeaway and visited the homes of my male Muslim friends, it was entirely possible for me to get through my day without interacting in any meaningful way with a single non-Muslim.

Why should this matter? For many reasons, but an important one is this: because isolated communities just like this, whether in deprived Dewsbury in West Yorkshire or more affluent Buckinghamshire, are sending British citizens to join Islamic State, the most terrifying terrorist group of modern times. [Daily Mail] Read more

Bloody Hell: Does Religion Punish Women for Menstruating?

Fasting isn't the only one of Islam's main tenets that's off limits to women during that time of the month; the five daily prayers are similarly banned, as well as reading from a copy of the Quran and stepping into a mosque, depending on who you ask.

Any sort of bleeding defiles the state of "purity" required for these acts of worship, even if its from a cut. The same is true for urinating, defecating, vomiting, or passing gas. But while a quick ablution restores purity after taking a leak, Muslim women are essentially barred from these acts of prayer for days each month by a fact of their anatomy.

While some see their time off as a sort of lucky break, others struggle with the idea that they can't reach out to God through formal worship at all times—especially when faced with personal difficulty or loss. [VICE] Read more

Muslim students at Jihadi John's former university 'harass and intimidate women'

The University of Westminster, where the notorious Islamic State terrorist studied, could become a "place of indocrination" if the society remains "ultra-conservative", a report warned.

But complaints about alleged harrasment by society members were repeatedly ignored "for fear of appearing Islamaphobic", the report added.

One student wept as she gave evidence to an independent panel about the intimidation she allegedly suffered at the hands of the group.

Jihadi John, whose real name is Mohammed Emwazi, studied Information Systems at the London university between 2006 and 2009. [Daily Express] Read more

20 June 2015

With help from the city, Minneapolis businesses to stay open later for Ramadan

It was a welcome change as customers indulged in mango juice and imported dates at Java Coffee Thursday night after a long summertime day of Ramadan fasting.

Java Coffee and a growing number of Minneapolis businesses are taking advantage of the city’s new flexibility that allows them to stay open later during the holy month.

Java Coffee on Minnehaha Avenue is welcoming customers until 4 a.m. Before, the business had to close its doors at 11 p.m. With the sun setting at 9 p.m. in June, famished customers had little time to break their sunrise-to-sundown fast.

After being approached by Minneapolis business owners about the challenges they face during Ramadan, City Council Member Andrew Johnson proposed amending an ordinance to give businesses temporary extended hours.

The amendment brings relief to many businesses that were suffering financially during the month of Ramadan, said Ilhan Omar, Johnson’s senior policy aide. [StarTribune]

Read more

Cory Bernardi's anti-halal crusade unleashes torrent of hate

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi's inquiry into halal food has attracted a flood of hateful and sometimes downright bizarre submissions.

A month after Senator Bernardi successfully set up a Senate committee inquiry into the "third party certification of food", the probe has already attracted 220 written submissions from the Australian public.

While the inquiry is supposed to look at all kinds of food certification – including kosher, organic and genetically modified – the overwhelming majority focus squarely on halal.

And many contain vicious attacks on Muslims and the Islamic faith.

One contributor calls Islam a "vile medieval cult", while another labels the Prophet Muhammad a "false god" and "paedophile". [The Age] Read more

For or against, no one wants to see 'Satanic Islam' sermon pastor James McConnell end up in jail

The majority of people who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph in north Belfast said the pastor should be free to say what he wants and should not be disciplined just because he spoke his own mind.

William Letson resides very close to the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle. He backed the pastor and encouraged him not to back down.

Mr Letson said: "Everyone should have the right to say what they want. We have freedom of speech and we should be allowed to practise it without fear.

"I think Pastor McConnell was all the braver for standing up for his beliefs and saying what he thought.

"It's similar to the Ashers bakery case, where they were prosecuted for going against their personal beliefs.

"When will this all stop? The world is going crazy with regard to all this sort of thing." [Belfast Telegraph] Read more