11 August 2015

Halal: Islamic certifier companies are making millions in accreditation fees

Australian businesses are being compelled to sign deals with halal companies to secure lucrative contracts in Asia and the Middle East as certification operators rake in millions of dollars.

The country's two most prominent Islamic certifiers — the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and the Supreme Islamic Council of Halal Meat in Australia — last year increased their annual accreditation revenue by almost $600,000 as an increasingly diverse array of producers choose to have their goods certified.

A survey of supermarket shelves by The Daily Telegraph showed an extraordinary number of products are now accredited as halal, ­including everything from Vegemite and Pods chocolates to Steggles chicken products and Leggos tomato paste, even chewing gum. [Daily Telegraph] Read more

French court to rule on pork school dinners for Jews and Muslims

A French court will rule this week on the decision by a right-wing mayor to ban non-pork meals in schools for Muslims and Jews, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Mayor Gilles Platret announced in March that pupils in his town of Chalon-sur-Saone near Dijon in eastern France would no longer be guaranteed a non-pork option at lunchtime from the start of the next school year in September.

It triggered controversy across the country, including within his Republican party, led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

A legal complaint was filed by the Muslim Judicial Defence League, whose lawyer, Karim Achoui, said "a child would be extremely traumatised if a pork cutlet was served to him and he was obliged to eat it after he has been repeatedly told from a young age that it's forbidden food."

Another member of the group, Jean-Baptiste Jacquenet-Poillot, said the removing of non-pork options was a breach of France's stringent laws on secularism, which were about "integration, not assimilation" [AFP] Read more

ISIS 'cannot be reconciled with Islam' says Turkey's religious authority

The actions of Islamic State can never be reconciled with Islam, according to a report from the Turkish government.

Far from being true Muslims, members of ISIS are no better than "bandits" who are engaged in a campaign of "kill and plunder", the report says.

The document from Turkey's religious affairs directorate, Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, says the Islamic world needs urgently to explain to the rest of the world why Islamic State's interpretation of the religion is false. It calls on Islamic scholars, mosques and educational institutions worldwide to preach against the "false" doctrines of ISIS.

It spells out some of the chilling propaganda used in recruitment, such as slogans stating that a person will only die once, so why not make that death a martyrdom. [Christian Today] Read more

We need the help of non-violent Muslim extremists against Isis

.... Perhaps fight is the wrong word. What Luton saw was an ambush by a group of Salafists on the local leader of Al-Muhajiroun. Salafists, who make up about 5 per cent of British Muslims, follow a searingly puritan version of Islam.

They seek to return to the way of life at the time of Prophet Mohamed. They hold views – on slavery, for example – that liberal society finds abhorrent. And yet, crucially, they do not support armed struggle, or forcing their religion on others. First comes self-purification. Politics are a distraction.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] At the end of the day Islam is NOT a peaceful religion.... See here

[2ND] "But liberal countries can handle the extremism of a few, without too much bother."

Oh really? Given that some 29% of Britain's 4 million Muslims approve of the activities of ISIS and the Hebdo massacre, that is a pretty sizeable "few" - all of whom have the potential to become violent.

And do you really think you can reason with the sort of disgusting psychopaths who "approve" of disembowelling, dismembering or burning people alive, or raping and torturing young Yazidi girls?

I'd suggest they are beyond any sort of redemption and warrant only contempt and Alienation.

[3RD] Islam is not a western religion and you wonder why we cannot get on with Muslims they think they are superior. Shame they are deluded. [The Independent] Read more

The truth about 'patriarchal' mosques and their women problem

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Council, has spent years hearing horror stories from Muslim women about their experiences at mosques in the UK. A recent audit she commissioned of prayer facilities in Bradford showed similar results.

“We found the majority of mosques follow a patriarchal model with poor access for women, and women’s representation on mosques’ governing structures was non-existent,” she tells me.

“We found segregated spaces in mosques were dated and unwelcoming, and there were some accounts of women being turned away down to a lack of space. There were also accounts of women being ushered to basements and not being able to hear or see the imam during prayers.”

Nabeela Hafiz, a member of the MWC, has written of her experience where she accidentally walked into the men-only part of a mosque when she was a student. [The Telegraph] Read more

10 August 2015

I'm pledging allegiance to the Caliphate – and no, before you call the Police, I don't mean Isis

.... As you react with horror, contemplate alerting the police and (worse) consider blocking me on social media, rest assured: I’m not referring to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Rather, I’m talking about a Caliph you may never have heard of - and who certainly doesn’t get near as much publicity - but is the head of a global spiritual community, described as a champion of human rights and who stands firmly against terrorism. He lives in London too.

.... Like me, they will be affirming their loyalty to him and vow to live by a simple maxim: Love for all, hatred for none. This is sure to raise some eyebrows, and probably startle those who equate caliphate with something closer to a barbaric totalitarian theocracy. And you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

A Caliphate is a system of successorship as old as humankind. But in Islamic theology, it refers mainly to the “rightly-guided” leaders (caliphs) appointed after the Prophet’s death for the protection and progress of the Muslim community. That caliphate came to an end following the assassination of Ali, the fourth successor of Muhammad. [The Independent] Read more

India's Muslim women fight to end triple talaq law that yields instant divorce

Every time Nishat Hussain gets into a fight with religious leaders about women’s rights under Islam, she hits the same wall. They say the rules governing women are sanctioned by scripture and therefore cannot be altered. She says they are sanctioned by custom and most certainly can be.

Hussain finds this divide most frustrating when she is defending divorced women who come to her office near the overcrowded ironmonger’s bazaar in Jaipur. These women have experienced triple talaq, under which a Muslim man can repeat the word “talaq” three times and his wife stands divorced. No questions, no reasons. All objections overruled.

.... But spokesman Mohammed Abdul Rahim Qureshi said the board could not support a government ban. “For one, we don’t want the government to interfere in matters of Muslim personal law and for another, triple talaq is permitted under the hadith [the prophet Muhammad’s sayings],” he said.

That kind of remark makes Hussain, an otherwise calm, soft-spoken woman, furious. “For the women I see in my office – hardworking women, good wives and good mothers – this is just plain and simple cruelty.” [The Guardian] Read more

Bangladesh police chief's blogger warning sparks uproar

Secular activists expressed outrage Monday after Bangladesh's national police chief warned bloggers they faced jail for posting material deemed offensive following last week's machete murder of a secular writer.

Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque warned bloggers in the officially secular but Muslim-majority country against hurting religious sentiments.

"No one should cross the limit," Hoque said on Sunday in comments to reporters carried in major newspapers on Monday.

"And for hurting someone's religious sentiment, the person will be punished by the law," Hoque said, adding that the maximum punishment is 14 years in jail.

A gang armed with machetes hacked to death Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, at his home on Friday, the fourth such murder in Bangladesh this year.

Activists accused the police chief of siding with the killers instead of better protecting bloggers who were living in fear. [Daily Mail] Read more

If we want Muslims to embrace our values, we must be clear what those are

As news of fresh Islamist plots hit the newspapers over the weekend, we should remember when, last month, the Prime Minister made British values central to the fight against extremism.

He didn’t refer to the abstract values liberals love to promote such as ‘respect’ and ‘tolerance’ that are so vague as to be of limited value. Instead he clearly articulated historically rooted British values:

Democracy

The rule of law

Freedom of speech

Freedom of the press

Freedom of worship

He also insisted that these apply to all regardless of their race, sex, sexuality or faith i.e. in this county we have equality before the law and one law for all, not shari’a for some and British law for others.

.... The Prime Minister is absolutely right to make historic British values central to the fight against extremism. We must now clearly articulate them and also celebrate the achievements of Muslims who have actively promoted them and in some cases died for them. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Muslim woman tells Melbourne Islamophobia forum 'racism hurts'

"I was returning from work on the train — a lady started pushing me with her bag and she started yelling at me and telling me to go back to the Middle East. I didn't come from the Middle East," the petite and softly spoken mother of three said.

Nasrin is originally from Bangladesh, but has been in Australia since 1991.

She was attacked twice around that time and admitted she was "shaken inside" and lived in fear.

She would sit next to the emergency button on the train just in case she was attacked again.

"Racism hurts", she told a 200-strong crowd at a forum on Islamophobia in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. [ABC] Read more

09 August 2015

UAE enacts stealth blasphemy law

According to this report, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, above, said that the “inclusive” decree:

Guarantees the freedom of individuals from religious intolerance.

But Gulf News reports that the legislation makes illegal “any acts that stoke religious hatred” and “any form of expression” that insults religion.

The law, passed by decree at the end of July:

Prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, His prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.

The legislation purports to allow for an “environment of tolerance” and “broad-mindedness”, but includes potential 10 year jail terms and substantial fines for those who break the law.

Provisions in the legislation include a prohibition on expressing doubt about the existence of God. [The Freethinker] Read more

08 August 2015

The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism

.... It is due to this very same concern for civil liberties that I vehemently oppose Islamist extremism and call for liberal reform within our Muslim communities, for our Muslim communities.

We believe civil liberties cut both ways, for and upon minority communities, and it is due to this same passion for human rights that my organization Quilliam put out this anti-ISIS video only a day after the Guardian’s unfortunate sting. We chose to let our work speak for itself.

But if the regressive-left has its way, why worry about medieval punishments conducted in Islam’s name, such as the lashing of Saudi bloggers like Raif Badawi? Let us not be Uncle Toms, after all. Israel is the real enemy. Keep it real, man. [The Daily Beast] Read more

07 August 2015

Bangladesh blogger killed by machete gang had asked for police protection

A well-known secular blogger in Bangladesh who was murdered at his home on Friday had told police of threats against him and requested protection weeks before he died.

Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen name Niloy Neel, was hacked to death with machetes after a gang broke into his apartment in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. He is the fourth blogger to have been killed in Bangladesh since February.

In an interview with the Guardian in May, Chakrabarti said he was scared that he would be killed and that he had tried to file reports with local police about continued harassment. He claimed his complaints were not taken seriously.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 98 votes] I don't know how it's possible to exist in an Islamic state, people must be continually walking on eggshells, at all times. It seems that offending religious sensibilities gives carte blanche to anybody wishing to do you harm, and also removes your right to protection by the police and other security services.

It's like that scene in The Life of Brian where the man is being stoned for uttering the name 'Jehovah', only this is real life and not a work of comedy.

[2ND 80] What sort of insecure, fucked-up god would want his followers to kill people who question his existence?

[3RD 72] Incredibly tragic and so sad for Bangladesh.

It's like a nasty virus infecting parts of the world.

We'll look back in times to come and wonder at how a religious creed was able to wreak such havoc in a relatively modern era. [The Guardian] Read more

As a former extremist who knew Anjem Choudary, I fear for the mentality of British Muslims

Like 33 per cent of British Muslims do, I once supported the idea of a caliphate based upon sharia law. But the debate has now become polarised and poisonous.

Anjem Choudary, Britain’s loudest Islamist extremist, has finally been remanded in custody, charged under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The charge is related to him sending messages to his 32,000 followers on Facebook, allegedly encouraging people to join Isis. His guilt or innocence is a matter for the courts. What concerns me here is his trajectory.

.... This is how far the Islamic ball has strayed from the democratic court. And when wider society adopts this trope of liberal Muslims being the ‘other extreme’, it shows how low expectations of Muslims have become in the mainstream. How far we all have come since the 90s, and how far we all have to travel – yet - to reach a reasonable centre in this poisonous debate.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] I struggled with the uglier aspects of Islam through my youth. As a kid, Islam fascinated me. I read books that most Muslims gloss over or ignore. Bits of it troubled me. Things that Muhammad did, things in the Quran. Islam isn't for me.

And while I applaud people like Maajid, in the end the fanatics always win because scripture and Muhammad's biography supports the fanatics' understanding of Islam. I left Islam, and I never looked back. There's no fixing this religion. We need to have the courage to say that Islam just cannot fit with modern understandings of morality, rights and decency.

[2ND] Polarised and poisonous? Seems pretty simple to me, you either support the notion of a Caliphate or you don't. If you do support it whilst enjoying the many benefits of a Liberal Democracy you are a hypocrite. It really is that simple.

[3RD] Extremism may use bigotry as an excuse but where are the extremist Sikhs, Hindus, Africans who suffered the same?

Where is the bigotry in the middle east where extremism thrives so well and they're happy to blow up their fellow muslims of the same race, colour and nationality?

Where was the bigotry that incited the Mughals to march into India and murder millions of people who refused to convert to Islam?

Islamic extremism long predates any bigotry towards immigrants in the UK. [The Independent] Read more

The right to rancour

.... Yet another secularist voice in defence of the preacher's right to speak colourfully has been raised by Jacob Mchangama, the Danish lawyer and free-expression advocate (he prefers not to be called libertarian) whom I quoted in my previous posting.

He sees hope in the fact that an imam has spoken out in Mr McConnell's defence: "When those who are supposed to be shielded from offence defend the free speech of the "offenders", there is hope for a virtuous cycle which realigns tolerance and free speech."

Here is another bizarre feature of the pastor's case: the Belfast-based Muslim businessman who first denounced the sermon, and is expected to appear as one of the main witnesses for the prosecution is an Iraqi from Mosul who caused a furore by praising the state of affairs in his home city after its takeover by Islamic State. Raied al-Wazzan said his birthplace "had become the most peaceful city in the world" where "you can walk from east to west without fear". He later apologised and acknowledged having used "the wrong words". [The Economist] Read more

Bangladesh blogger Niloy Neel hacked to death in Dhaka

A Bangladeshi blogger known for his atheist views has been hacked to death by a gang armed with machetes in the capital Dhaka, police say.

Niloy Neel was attacked at his home in the city's Goran area.

He is the fourth secularist blogger to have been killed this year by suspected Islamist militants in Bangladesh.

Imran H Sarkar, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, told the BBC that Mr Neel had been an anti-extremist voice of reason.

"He was the voice against fundamentalism and extremism and was even a voice for minority rights - especially women's rights and the rights of indigenous people," he said.

BBC World Service South Asia editor Charles Haviland says that, like previous victims, Mr Neel was not only secular but atheist and, like two of the others, he was from a Hindu, not a Muslim, background. [BBC] Read more

06 August 2015

Persecution lurks for converts from Islam in Egypt

He is one of many in Egypt to face persecution. But having been locked up in a cell commonly used to detain captives awaiting capital punishment, the psychological burden weighing on Bishoy is exceptionally high.

He has been maltreated; time and again hit in the face. When he asked to receive communion, his request was denied. So too was his wish to keep a Bible. The story of Bishoy Armeya, the first Egyptian to seek official recognition of conversion to a religion other than Islam, is that of a one-man revolt against state oppression. [openDemocracy] Read more

2015 Halal cruises for religiously observant Muslims

The Fusion Tour Company has said they are to offer the first 100 percent 2015 Halal cruises, which will be for religiously observant Muslims. The ship is to set tail at the end of September and will no doubt be a trial run to see how much of a success it will be.

Muslim travellers that join the cruise will find that there are gender-segregated sports facilities, along with Turkish baths, and spas. Not only that, but it will be a dry cruise, meaning there will be no alcohol, along with no pork products or gambling.

The furnishings on the ship will also be carefully considered to fall in line with Muslim tradition, this means no paintings that are against the values of Islam. [Cruise Ship News] Read more

Pastor James McConnell in court over online 'satanic Islam' sermon

An evangelical preacher who called Islam "satanic" and "heathen" should have every right to criticise other religions, a court has heard.

Pastor James McConnell appeared in court on charges relating to the internet broadcast of a sermon he gave at a Belfast church last year.

Belfast Magistrates' Court was told Pastor McConnell will be denying "moral or legal culpability" on the charges.

Several hundred people gathered outside the court in support of the preacher.

His solicitor said the 78-year-old "did not incite hatred or encourage violence against Muslims".

"He simply expressed his view about another religion, not in a personalised manner but in an entirely generalised way," he added. [BBC] Read more

Former Islamic radical claims ‘talk of jihad’ common at Queen Mary University Friday prayer

Former Islamic radical Sohail Ahmed paints a deeply troubling picture of extremism on campus at Queen Mary University of London.

Over the last five years physics student Sohail Ahmed claims to have witnessed fiery speeches about jihad during Friday prayer at Queen Mary University of London, clandestine talks at the homes of “brothers” from the Islamic Society, and one student disappearing to reputedly join Isis and fight in Syria.

The 23-year-old former Islamic radical has spoken out as fears have been voiced about a “culture conducive” to non-violent extremism on campus at Queen Mary - as it is named in a new list of “worst offenders” for hosting radical preachers.

“It poses a very serious risk,” said Mr Ahmed. “I know a good few people who were not radical at all when they entered the university but they end up talking about some very radical views once they’ve listened to a few talks and got riled up and impassioned by fiery speeches. [East London Advertiser] Read more

05 August 2015

'Satanic Islam' sermon preacher: Prosecution is a waste of money

Pastor James McConnell also said he "loved" Muslims but was prepared to go to jail rather than retract the remarks made during a firebrand sermon last year.

The 78-year-old is due to appear before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

He said: "I think it is a waste of money. A waste of thousands."

The fundamentalist preacher, who retired last year, sparked a public outcry when he said Islam was "heathen" and had been "spawned in hell". The controversial speech was streamed online in May 2014.

Police initially launched a hate crime investigation but prosecutors have taken a case under the 2003 Communications Act. [Belfast Telegraph] Read more

The cancellation of Homegrown

Why was Homegrown, a National Youth Theatre play about the radicalisation of young people in the East End, cancelled? There are echoes of familiar debates about the causes of radicalisation itself in the heated discussion provoked by this piece in the Guardian.

Homegrown was devised as an immersive, promenade style play exploring what drove young people to join ISIS. Back in June Paul Roseby, artistic director of the NYT, explained why he thought the project was important:

.... The NYT website doesn’t explain why the play has now been cancelled. However a report in The Stage includes a statement suggesting that the production wasn’t up to the required standard: [Harry’s Place] Read more

Islam and jihad

Sir, In your report “Ukip peer says Islam is not a peaceful religion” (News, August 3), you quote the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood as saying: “The prophet always made the point to be at peace with people and he didn’t convert anybody by force. These statements [from Lord Pearson] are absolutely incorrect.”

It is, in fact, Mr Mahmood who is absolutely incorrect. The Medinan (ie later) chapters of the Koran contain hatred for non-believers and contempt for Jews and Christians, together with numerous verses commanding jihad. Pagans are offered a choice between death and conversion.

Muhammad ordered the assassinations of some forty people, including many poets for the crime of insulting him. He permitted the beheading of 700 males of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza and the enslavement of their women and children. [The Times (£)] Read more

04 August 2015

'We hate Westerners - we are ISIS' - chilling words of Irish Muslim teens to cleric

The Imam of the Al-Mustafa mosque in Blanchardstown also claims that there are now up to 100 extremists in Ireland.

He says that his group, the Muslim Peace and Integration Council, is working to promote peace but are meeting resistance in some quarters.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, he said: "We need to stop the radicals from spreading their lies to the youth."

But he said that in one mosque, the religious leaders never denounce atrocities carried out in the name of the terror group Isil.

The Muslim community in Ireland is now about 40,000 strong.

Shaykh Al-Qadri warned that radicalisation of Muslim youth through both face-to-face and online interaction is becoming more and more prominent in Ireland.

Young people need to be educated about extremism to prevent this from happening, he said. [Independent.ie] Read more

03 August 2015

Ukip peer says Islam is not a peaceful religion

Islam is not a peaceful faith, according to Ukip’s only peer. Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who led Ukip in 2009 and 2010, is working on a new guide to Islam which he claims will re-educate Britain and challenge some of the misconceptions about the religion.

He wants to start a public conversation about Islam as a means of “integrating Muslim communities better”. They are, he said, “very segregated and with very high birthrates”.

He is preparing to launch an initiative called “Shall we talk about Islam” because, he said, “you may have noticed we are not allowed to talk about it”. Those that do are “branded islamophobic racists or accused of stirring up religious hatred”.

He said he wanted to challenge the assertion that Islam was a religion of peace. “We have to stop saying that . . . because it clearly isn’t.” He intends to highlight two elements of the Koran: “One is the abrogation . . . the Muslim tenet that where there is a contradiction in the Koran, it is the later verses that cancel out the earlier ones.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] "After [Muhammad] moved to Medina, and had been there five years, he said you must either convert or exile or I’ll kill you."

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, said...."The prophet always made the point to be at peace with people and he didn’t convert anybody by force."

There would appear to be some confusion here.

[2ND EQUAL] There is no confusion. Muslims are urged to lie to non Muslims to further the cause. Research Taqiyya

[2ND EQUAL] Christianity has grown alongside our society, becoming a very English version of the faith. So many of our internal and external conflicts have involved various versions of Christianity and only now, after more than a millennium, are we in a situation where (as opposed to say, America) the church can play a part in someone's life and have nothing to do with politics or social issues.

The relatively recent introduction of Islam en masse to our shores has resulted in growing civil unrest and it will continue to increase unless we draw a line. I'm all for freedom of religion but we can't let the medieval mindset of 'my religion should dictate everything I and everyone else does' continue - it's just completely at odds with modern society and a huge step backwards for civilisation.

[2ND EQUAL] He is spot on - it is good that he has the courage to say this, in a country where the establishment bend over backwards not to offend Muslims by surpressing the the truth. [The Times (£)] Read more