19 November 2017

School inspectors to quiz girls in hijabs

The chief inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman, said hijabs could be seen to be sexualising children

Inspectors are to question children who wear the hijab to primary school, amid concern that girls as young as four are being forced to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The controversial move to ask children why they wear the hijab to school is announced today by the chief inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman.

It will be the first time the rise of the classroom hijab has been officially challenged in state schools in England — or the reason given for wearing it recorded in school reports.

Spielman says in a statement today that primary school hijabs could be seen to be sexualising children because the headscarf is traditionally worn as a sign of modesty in front of men when Muslim girls reach puberty. [The Times (£)] Read more

Six in 10 Muslim wives not legally married

About 6 in 10 Muslim women who have had traditional Islamic weddings in Britain are not legally married, according to a survey.

They have had a nikah marriage but 61% failed to go through a separate civil ceremony, recognised by the family courts.

If their marriage breaks down and they cannot agree on a division of assets, it means they must fight through the civil courts rather than start with a presumption that they will get an equal share.

The survey, of 923 women in the UK, was based on responses to community researchers rather than random sampling. The findings will be broadcast on Tuesday on Channel 4 in The Truth About Muslim Marriage. [The Times (£)] Read more

15 November 2017

Let's hope Canadian courts see the true meaning of the niqab

.... Amongst the (anglophone) chattering classes a consensus has formed that the challengers will win on constitutional grounds, in that women have a Charter right to dress as conscience dictates.

“Dress.” There’s the constant rub. I hope the court will see the difficulty here. While I make no comparison whatsoever as to motivation or purpose, to me, the niqab is no more an article of clothing than a KKK costume. Both are cause-rooted uniforms, draped over clothing, designed to embody a strong message.

The court should consider the impact of that message on fellow citizens in situations where, like in the giving and getting of public services, they cannot choose their interlocutor. The message is conveyed whether or not the costumed individual underestimates or misunderstands its full significance.

.... That there are relatively few niqabs in Canada is neither here nor there as a matter of principle. It seems to me strange and hypocritical that we see no problem in repressing even infrequent messaging associated with racism. But, fearful of being perceived as Islamophobic, we won’t endorse action against messaging that emblemizes gender apartheid. [National Post] Read more

Pakistani police clash with protesters at anti-blasphemy sit-in

Pakistani police have clashed with protesters and arrested dozens in an attempt to disperse an anti-blasphemy sit-in staged by a hardline cleric, which has blocked a main entrance to Islamabad for a week, choking traffic and putting the capital on near lockdown.

Thousands of supporters of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan party, are demanding that the law and justice minister, who they accuse of undercutting blasphemy laws, resign.

Fearing violence at a combustible time in Pakistani politics, police have blocked several roads with shipping containers to prevent protesters from reaching government buildings.

“The police have beaten up our peaceful protesters,” said one protester, Faisal, 37. “We are ready to get our heads cut off for this cause. We are protecting the prophet, because if we won’t, who will?” [The Guardian] Read more

‘Peace committee’ slaps Taliban-style curbs on Wana

WANA: A faction of the Taliban has apparently made a comeback to Wana, South Waziristan Agency, under the guise of a peace committee and placed a ban on cultural and social activities and put restrictions on movement of women outside their homes without male members of their family.

The so-called peace committee has issued tough guidelines through pamphlets in Wana town and warned local people to abide by these rules otherwise violators would face repercussions, according to sources.

The committee has banned music, athan, a traditional dance which is performed in wedding ceremonies or other festive occasions, and use of narcotics.

According to the committee’s guidelines, those activities which promote immorality or violate Islamic teachings would not be permitted on these occasions. [Dawn] Read more

14 November 2017

This Islamophobia obsession does Muslims no favours

For the past three years I have been involved in leading a national initiative called Islam Awareness Week. A celebration of faith and community that has been running for more than 25 years, it aims to raise understanding of the positive contribution made by British Muslims in all walks of life, including education, medicine, the arts and politics.

Five years ago, a rather different initiative sprang up, called Islamophobia Awareness Month, which sets out to highlight one of the most negative aspects of being a Muslim in Britain today.

The hatred of others should not determine how Muslims are viewed. Focusing disproportionately on Muslims as victims creates division: it emphasises the us and them mentality that further alienates Muslims from society.

I have been involved in tackling hate crime for over a decade and for most of that time have chaired an award-winning hate crime prevention organisation. I am well aware that anti-Muslim hatred is a sad reality and that it needs to be challenged. A report by the monitoring group Tell Mama shows that in 2016, 2,840 Islamophobic crimes and incidents were recorded by 18 police forces in the UK. [The Times (£)] Read more

Nine-year-old girls in Iraq could be forced to marry under new Muslim laws

The bill includes provisions that would legalise marital rape and child marriage and ban Muslims from marrying non-Muslims.

Human rights activists are warning that a new Iraqi law could legalise marriage for children as young as nine and set women's rights back 50 years.

They are calling on Iraqi ministers to withdraw a draft of the Jafaari Personal Status Law which would allow Muslim clerics to have control over marriage contracts.

The legislation is based on the Shia principles of the Jaafari school of jurisprudence, which was founded by the sixth Shia Imam, Jaafar al-Sadiq.

The 2014 version of the bill, which was approved by Iraq's Council of Ministers, includes provisions that would legalise marital rape, ban Muslims from marrying non-Muslims and allow nine-year-old children to marry. [International Business Times] Read more

Sayeeda Warsi accuses UK press of hate speech and Islamophobia

Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative cabinet minister, has accused British newspapers of Islamophobia and hate speech and called for a parliamentary investigation into the issue.

Lady Warsi, the first Muslim woman to hold a cabinet position, said hate speech in the press had become a “plague” with Muslims the “principal target”.

She gave examples from the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Times in her speech.

The former lawyer was giving the fifth annual Leveson lecture at an event hosted by the Hacked Off campaign, which wants greater regulation of the press. She resigned from the government in 2014 over its “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza.

Warsi said hate was a daily reality for Muslims in Britain in 2017, adding: “In sections of our press, it is relentless and deliberate. Steadily and methodically using paper inches and columns to create, feed and ratchet up suspicions and hostilities in our society, driving communities apart and creating untold – and unnecessary – fear and distress. [The Guardian] Read more

13 November 2017

Bangladeshi village burned down after 'Prophet Mohammed insulted' in resident's Facebook post

One person was killed and five injured as police retaliated.

A Hindu village in Bangladesh was burnt down after a rumour spread that a local youth had insulted the Prophet Mohammed in a Facebook post.

More than 30 houses were set alight in the Rangpur Sadar upazila (district) following the man’s alleged defamation of the religious figure on social media.

The mob reportedly emerged from a crowd of 20,000 people who had gathered from six or seven neighbouring Muslim villages. Anger started to grow after a local Muslim businessman lodged a complaint with the police about the alleged Facebook post. [The Independent] Read more

12 November 2017

Government house calls for Maldivians insulting Islam on social media

People making fun of Islam on social media will get house calls from government officials who will educate them about the faith, authorities have said.

It was common for Maldivians to use social media to insult or disrespect the country’s official religion, Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Ziyad Bagir said at a news conference, and the house visits were intended to correct that.

The move comes amid the trial of seven people charged with murdering liberal blogger and Internet activist Yameen Rasheed, whose death was justified and even welcomed on social media by those who saw him as an apostate.

One article at the time said mocking Islam was punishable by death, while a Facebook page threatened more killings against those it accused of campaigning for secularism. It spoke of a hit list, announcing there would be no rest until all apostates were beheaded.

Islamic ministry officials at Thursday’s news conference did not explain what constituted mockery, nor did they give a reason for singling out social media. [Maldives Independent] Read more

11 November 2017

No Safe Haven: Persecution Continues for Pakistani Religious Minorities in UK

.... Hatred of minorities by Pakistani Sunni Muslims has roots in Pakistani societal norms imported with immigration to the UK.

.... Pakistan’s national education curriculum ‘openly demonises and caricatures minorities,’ according to Wilson Chowdhry of British Pakistani Christian Association. Christians are often demonised by teachers and headmasters. There have been incidents of Christian children being beaten by school staff for using the same toilets as Muslims, in an attempt to make Christians an ‘untouchable’ caste.

In one instance, a Christian boy was beaten to death by his fellow classmates.

The attacks by Pakistani Sunni Muslims on Christians and Ahmadiyya Muslims in the UK indicates that the religious hatred generated throughout Pakistan’s educational curriculum remains embedded in some Pakistani Sunni communities in the UK. [Conatus News] Read more

10 November 2017

Tensions over Muslim street prayers north of Paris

Around 100 local French lawmakers attempted to block Muslims praying in a street north of Paris on Friday and called on the government to ban what they see as an unacceptable use of public space.

The lawmakers, led by the head of the regional government of the Paris area, Valerie Pecresse, disrupted the crowd of around 200 all-male devotees and sang the national anthem in the multiethnic Clichy suburb.

"Public space cannot be taken over in this way," Pecresse said at the demonstration alongside the rightwing mayor of Clichy, Remi Muzeau, who like other lawmakers wore a sash in the national colours of blue, white and red.

Prayers in the street have taken place every Friday in Clichy since March to protest the closure of a popular local mosque that had operated in a government building.

The interior ministry "must ban street prayers," Muzeau told reporters at the scene on Friday. "I am responsible for guaranteeing the tranquility and freedom of everyone in my town."

The former mosque run by the Union of Clichy Muslim Associations (UAMC) was used by 3,000 to 5,000 Muslims daily before the mayor's office reclaimed the building and turned it into a library.

Muzeau says that local Muslims have been urged to use a new 1,500-square-metre (16,000 square feet) mosque nearby, but many are refusing to go there. [AFP] Read more

French mayor leads protest to stop Muslim worshippers praying in street

A French mayor and dozens of other MPs and elected councillors from around the Paris region sang the Marseillaise on Friday as they marched towards around 200 Muslim worshippers in a bid to stop them praying in the street.

The stand off which was caught in several video clips (see below) took place in the Paris suburb of Clichy on Friday afternoon.

The local right wing mayor Remi Muzeau led the march after growing infuriated by the presence of hundreds of Muslim worshippers praying on the town's market square every Friday for the past nine months.

Images relayed from the scene near Clichy Town Hall shows around 60 elected officials, including MPs and the president of the greater Paris region of Île-de-France, Valerie Pecresse marching with their tricolore sashes as they sing the Marseillaise.

They head towards around 200 Muslim worshippers who are observing their Friday prayer outside in protest against the town's decision to close a prayer hall. [The Local] Read more

One of the most important duties of women is to obey their husbands

"Liberal countries, which call for absolute freedom, have caused us some problems. Islam does not want that. Islam is the pinnacle of progress and freedom. But it keeps freedom in its proper place."

Which is - for men only.

Shiite Iraqi scholar Taleb Khozaei delivered lectures at the Hussainayet Ale Yassin Mosque in Sydney, through the month of Ramadan, on the duties of the wife toward her husband. In a May 31 sermon, he said that "one of the most important duties of women is to obey their husbands" and that she must obtain his permission to step out of her home or to use his money.

In a June 8 sermon, Khozaei, citing a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, said that the wife must make herself available for sex with her husband whenever he wants, "even if she is riding a camel..."

Could be awkward - how would that work? - but, you know, if that's what the Prophet said... [Mick Hartley] Read more

The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review

The Prevent strategy (2011) and the subsequent Prevent duty (2015) – whereby public authorities are required to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” – have instead become a “significant source of grievance” among students, teachers, academics, human rights groups and broader civil society, encouraging “mistrust to spread and to fester”.

In a year when we have suffered a series of terror threats, it is clear we need a counter-radicalisation strategy that is effective and has the trust of our entire society. The Home Office’s latest attempt to reverse the loss of trust over the past decade, therefore, is very welcome. In a new report, it has opened a small door into the inner workings of Prevent: who is doing the referring, what happens to those referred, who is being referred and for what reason?

.... While there are clearly some community-based Prevent initiatives that have had a positive impact, and individual success stories that have understandably been promoted by the Home Office, there is little doubt that there are serious, legitimate questions about the Prevent strategy, which the latest figures corroborate.

Let’s regain trust and win the hearts and minds of Britons across all communities. Let’s have an independent review of Prevent. [Miqdaad Versi, 321 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 145 votes] "Ten years later, hearts and minds are yet to be won."

I don't think we're asking a lot. All we ask is that particular groups don't try to kill the rest of us in the name of their religion. I don't think that's unreasonable.

[2ND 134] "The threat, quantified by the number of terror arrests, is approximately five times greater from “Islamist” terrorism compared to “extreme rightwing” terrorism."

What if we use a different metric like, for instance, number of people murdered?

[3RD 123] I am reminded of Willie Sutton's explanation of why he robbed banks - 'cos that's where the money is'.

If the author thinks muslims are being targeted disproportionately by Prevent, he should look at the pattern of terrorist attacks in the UK. On the day that Hebridean grandmothers are committing most of the attacks then I'll suggest targeting them. Until then, Special Branch and the rest have to go where the money is.

[4TH 114] "However, this does not explain why a smaller proportion of “Islamist” extremists referred to Prevent are discussed at a Channel panel, compared with “extreme rightwing” extremists."

No, what explains this is the relative rarity of extreme right-wing terrorism in the UK as opposed to islamic terrorism. I can't seem to find the figures anywhere, but I somehow suspect that if we were to count the terror attacks in the past 20 years in the UK, less than 10% of them will have been the result of extreme right-wingers.

Wikipedia, at least, reports two such attacks - the killing of Jo Cox and the 1999 bombings, which caused a total of four deaths. There have been more deaths to islamic extremism in the UK this year alone. The figures are likely even more extreme if we take into account attacks prevented by security services - but this is impossible to do because it is uncommon that they alert the public when it happens.

I kept reading and hoping that this would be addressed somehow, but it wasn't. It is impossible to have an honest discussion on this subject whilst this elephant in the room remains unaddressed.

[5TH 108] What a total misuse of statistics. According to the article, the threat of terror of the Islamic variety is 5 times more likely than far right terrorism. At the same time, the article implies that there are 2.5 million Muslim people in the county. That implies that there is approximately 60 million non-Muslims.

Assume that Islamic terrorism is all carried out by people of the Islamic faith, then the data implies that a supporter of Islam is 120 times more likely to carry out a terrorist atrocity than a non-muslim is likely to carry out a far-right atrocity.

Whilst the author has calculated a figure of 2.5 million muslims, they have not calculated a total cohort of people to include in the far right category

I hate writing this sort of stuff, but it is what comes from the Guardian constantly ramping up gender and identity politics and the victim culture it promotes.

Odds on this gets blocked even though I'm just using the statistics of the author.

[6TH 99] "the government’s action plan to isolate, prevent and defeat violent extremism in 2007. Ten years later, hearts and minds are yet to be won."

So after 10 years the government has failed to convince everyone that living peacefully with the 90% of the population that don't share their religion rather than trying (indeed succeeding) to blow them up.

Have you considered that maybe, just maybe the problem does not lie wholly, or primarily with the government? [Guardian Cif] Read more

09 November 2017

‘Those who denounce Prevent as Islamophobic are themselves dangerous’

If we fail to tackle extremism when we encounter it, then we fail our children and their communities, writes the CEO of a large multi-academy trust

One of the fundamental responsibilities that we have as educators is in loco parentis: we protect our pupils from harm, in whatever form. Safeguarding is so fundamentally hardwired into what we do, and yet for some in our sector, our duties under Prevent cause a sense of unease and discomfort. Two years on from those duties coming into effect, critics still regularly denounce Prevent as tantamount to spying, or worse "Islamophobia".

But these criticisms themselves are dangerous. By putting a question mark in a teacher’s mind about whether to report concerns they might have, making them second guess their judgements, could put a pupil in real harm.

Physical bullying, online victimisation, sexual abuse, FGM: as unpleasant as these are, they are real challenges that we all face in our schools. By and large, teachers have accepted that these challenges all need to be confronted head-on. Radicalisation is no different. As difficult as it is, if we fail to tackle extremism when we encounter it, then we fail our children, their families and our communities. [Tes Global] Read more

07 November 2017

Ottawa 'carefully' reviewing constitutional challenge of Quebec's face-covering law

The federal government says it's reviewing the recently launched constitutional challenge to Quebec's controversial face-covering ban.

A coalition of Muslim and civil liberty groups filed the complaint in Quebec Superior Court on Tuesday.

The challenge contests portions of Quebec's religious neutrality law under both Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The law requires those giving or receiving public services to do so with their faces uncovered.

"We have been following the progress of Bill 62 and appreciate the importance of the issues it raises. As the prime minister has said, we do not believe that the government should be telling people what they can and cannot wear," said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in statement. [CBC News] Read more

Some Islamic schools in England still segregating children

At least 10 Islamic schools in England are still segregating boys and girls in co-educational schools, while others are likely to be separating the genders for certain activities, despite a recent court ruling outlawing the practice.

Details emerged in an appeal court judgment on Tuesday, which turned down an attempt by the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) to join a legal action to seek leave to appeal to the supreme court for a review of the segregation ruling.

The request followed a judgment last month when three court of appeal judges found that Al-Hijrah Islamic school in Birmingham had caused unlawful discrimination by formally segregating girls and boys from the age of nine.

The court heard that boys and girls were taught in different classrooms and were made to use separate corridors and play areas. The segregation policy also applied to clubs and school trips.

The judgment overturned an earlier high court ruling which found that Ofsted inspectors were wrong to penalise the school on the basis of an “erroneous” view that the segregation amounted to discrimination. In its successful appeal, Ofsted argued that the school had breached the 2010 Equalities Act. [The Guardian] Read more

Legal bid over Islamic faith school's segregation policy rejected by judges

The Association of Muslim Schools has failed in a bid to take a legal case on an Islamic faith school's policy of segregating boys and girls to the UK's highest court.

In a landmark ruling last month three Court of Appeal judges found that the policy of the mixed-sex Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham to completely segregate from the age of nine is unlawful sex discrimination.

The judges overturned a High Court finding that Ofsted inspectors were wrong to penalise the school on the basis of an "erroneous" view that the segregation amounted to discrimination.

For religious reasons the voluntary-aided school, which has pupils aged between four and 16, believes that separation of the sexes from year five onwards is obligatory.

The school, which is maintained by Birmingham City Council, has complete segregation from nine to 16 for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips. [ITV] Read more

05 November 2017

Religion is increasingly being treated with leniency in the name of multiculturalism. How can we stop Sharia courts from threatening secular values?

Liberals seem to have forgotten their pledge to uphold secular values and, it seems, are quite happily embracing theological interference in politics and legislation in the form of Sharia courts.

There was a time when Europe was in the firm grip of the Church. It took years of tireless efforts to separate religion from the State.

Thanks to the leniency with which religion is being increasingly treated in the name of multiculturalism, however, the West is again falling for the dangerous romance between Church and State.

The latest manifestation of this unfortunate phenomenon took place in Canada, where the Ontario Superior Court allowed a Muslim man to walk free from the charge of marital rape because the accused followed Sharia law, under which a wife is obliged to submit to sexual intercourse at her husband’s will.

The victim stated that her husband sexually assaulted her and that she tried to stop him, but he only continued to rape her. The defendant claimed he didn’t know that this constituted marital rape in Canada.

This was in spite of the fact that in 2005, Ontario had prohibited the adjudication of family disputes in religious courts.

Nevertheless, the Court gave the man margin, finding that although he was guilty of the accusations, he was not aware that he was committing a crime on Canadian soil. [Conatus News] Read more

03 November 2017

A brief response to right-wing media accusations

There is currently a co-ordinated right-wing media attack on MEND, that is being fuelled by selective quoting and misrepresentations by a selection of primarily neoconservative and Islamophobic groups and individuals.

MEND is currently in the process of compiling a comprehesive document which fully refutes all allegations ever made against us. We expect to have this rebuttal within the coming few days. In the meantime, we would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the recently levied and unfounded allegations against us by right-wing journalists.

In order to contextualise some of these allegations, it is important to note that many of them have been raised by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) – an organisation that is known to be notoriously right-wing and Islamophobic, and which has been labelled as ‘corrupt’ by its own founder. HJS is known for its distinct anti-Muslim and xenophobic tendencies.

These tendencies are exemplified by many of the key figures within HJS, including Douglas Murray, who has made serious and disturbing comments about Muslims, including suggesting that Islamophobia is a “nonsense term”, and that “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” so that Europe would appear to be a less attractive proposition. [MEND] Read more

Birmingham Council insists Trojan Horse did happen and promises to challenge those who deny it

Birmingham City Council has insisted there WAS a serious problem in city schools during the Trojan Horse affair.

And it promised to "challenge" people who try to deny what happened.

Inquiries in 2014 found there was a "co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained" attempt by a group of people to take control of some Birmingham schools and "introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos".

But the authority issued a statement after pressure group MEND organised a debate in a city community centre to discuss whether Trojan Horse really did happen as it has been described.

MEND publicity material advertising the event said: “Has a hoax letter, a media scrum, a forceful education secretary and political motivations in education regulation lead to the stigmatisation of a community, discrimination against outstanding teachers/school leaders and exam failure for a generation of children?”

The city council highlighted two inquiries, one led by former police officer Peter Clarke for the Department for Education and one by education expert Ian Kershaw for the council, which both confirmed the claims.

The council said in a statement: "We are concerned to ensure that there are no misleading messages given about what really happened during Trojan Horse, and to make it clear that the city council in no way endorses the planned event. [Birmingham Mail] Read more

'Boycott school meals' call in Lancashire halal meat row

Calls have been made for a boycott of school meals in Lancashire after councillors voted to ban unstunned halal meat from its kitchens.

Lancashire County Council made the decision to stop using it in 27 council-run schools last month.

They described the practice of not stunning animals before slaughtering them as "abhorrent" and "really cruel".

Lancashire Council of Mosques said the decision would "only serve to increase Islamophobia and anti-Semitism".

The group said the decision, which will take effect from December, meant the council would stop providing meals "in accordance with the universal criteria of Halal".

LCOM's chief executive officer Abdul Hamid Qureshi said: "Our advice to the community is to stop school meals as soon as this occurs and campaign for change.

"We recognise that this will have a significant impact on schools across Lancashire and, more importantly, on the children.

"We are committed to continue working with schools and regret the impact this will have." [BBC] Read more

Egyptian TV presenter who spoke about single motherhood jailed for 'outraging public decency'

An Egyptian TV presenter has been sentenced to three years in prison for discussing women having children outside wedlock on air.

Doaa Salah asked if her viewers had considered having sex before marriage.

The Al-Nahar TV presenter also suggested a woman could briefly marry to have children before divorcing her husband.

Opening the Dodi Show wearing a false pregnancy bump, she said: “If she gets divorce she becomes a single mother. If, God forbid, she is widowed, she becomes single mother. So can you choose, yourself, to become a single mother before you get married?"

She also complained artificial insemination was not offered in Egypt.

Ms Salah was immediately suspended from her presenting job for three months after the broadcast.

She was later charged and convicted of outraging public decency. [The Independent] Read more

Far right and Islamic terrorists ‘thrive’ on political correctness, says Dame Louise Casey

Political correctness and a failure to tackle integration issues help Islamic terrorists and allow the far right to flourish, the government’s former community cohesion adviser has warned.

Dame Louise Casey said that “horrible far right racists” were being empowered by Britain’s inability to take on issues such as inequality in the Muslim community and segregation in some ethnic communities.

She said: “In our desire to embrace diversity we are creating division. The far right is growing and they are milking it every time we are overly politically correct and unable to deal with Islamic extremism.”

Dame Louise was speaking publicly for the first time since her review into social integration found that Britain was more divided as it became more diverse. [The Times (£)] Read more