08 November 2014

United Nations called to investigate horrific murder of pregnant Christian woman and her husband in Pakistan

Christians around the world have been shocked by the brutal murder of a pregnant Christian woman and her husband in Pakistan.

Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant, and her husband Shahbaz Masih were killed by a mob of radical Muslims before being dumped and incinerated in a brick kiln.

The couple were bonded labourers at the brick kiln where they were killed near Kot Radha Kishan village, Punjab province, 28 miles south of Lahore.

They were killed on 4 November after being accused of burning pages of the Koran, and Aid to the Church in Need said there were reports that Masih, although badly injured, was still alive when he was thrown into the kiln. [Christian Today] Read more

The full story of the 'medieval monarch' of Tower Hamlets

A high court recount of thousands of votes cast for the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, in May’s election has uncovered “significant irregularities” that may, if reflected in the whole sample, be sufficient to overturn the result.

The official “scrutiny”, in the presence of a judge, took place in strict secrecy last week as part of a legal challenge to the election, which was marred by widespread claims of intimidation and fraud.

It is the latest and potentially most serious blow to Mr Rahman, many of whose functions were last week taken over by government commissioners, after an official report found he had presided over serious abuses of public money and property. [The Telegraph] Read more

07 November 2014

Pakistani police officer axes man to death over blasphemy

A policeman in Pakistan hacked a man to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, police said, just two days after a Christian couple was lynched over blasphemy in the same province.

The man, Tufail Haider, 55, was taken into custody late on Wednesday in the city of Gujrat after a group of people allegedly overheard him making the remarks, beat him up and handed over to police.

“Officer Faraz Naveed brought him to the police station and sent him to lock-up. Haider did not stop using nasty words about Sahaba (the companions) despite warnings from various officials,” said police officer Khurram Shehzad. [Reuters] Read more

Bus driver blocks entry for woman in burqa

The driver for the city’s Tuvisa transport service who took decided not to allow the women in a veil that to board his bus has now organised a petition among company colleagues and passengers in a bid to gain support for his stance, according to sources cited by Spanish news agency Europa Press.

Tuvisa has opened an investigation into the incident, while the municipal company’s president has called a meeting with politicians from the city council to inform them of what the ABC newspaper says is the latest in a series of flashpoints relating to rules for the city’s Muslims. [The Local] Read more

Islamic State shuts down schools in eastern Syria

Islamic State has shut all schools in areas it controls in eastern Syria pending a religious revision of the curriculum, residents and a monitoring group said on Friday.

Islamic State is tightening its rules on civilian life in Deir al-Zor province, which fell under near-complete control of the Islamist militant group this summer. The government still controls a military air base and other small pockets.

The announcement came on Wednesday, after Islamic State held a meeting with school administrators at a local mosque on the outskirts of Deir al-Zor city, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors all sides of the conflict. [Reuters] Read more

Alabama 'bans' Sharia law amid fears it could violate American rights

Sharia law has been “banned” by Alabama in the US – even though it has never been part of the state’s legal system.

Under the “American and Alabama Laws for Alabama Courts Amendment”, it is now illegal for judges to apply any foreign law if it violates citizens’ existing rights.

Voters passed Amendment One on Tuesday, which despite being worded to encompass any foreign law, sprang from a specifically anti-Sharia bill first proposed almost four years ago. [The Independent] Read more

06 November 2014

Pakistani 'blasphemer' killed by policeman

Pakistani police say an an axe-wielding officer killed a Shia man in police custody, claiming he had committed blasphemy by insulting companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

Officer Mukhtar Ahmed said the incident took place at a police station in the city of Gujrat in eastern Punjab province early on Thursday.

Ahmed said the killer, officer Sarfraz Naveed, was questioning Syed Tufail Hyder who was detained on Wednesday following a street fight. [Al Jazeera English] Read more

Could Muslim votes really decide the Conservatives’ fate?

Sayeeda Warsi is reported this morning as saying again that the Conservatives will lose the Muslim vote in 2015. Whether or not this is so, how important is this vote in any event?

Three points at the start.

First, all votes are important to the Party – and from the point of view of winning next May particularly in marginal seats – whatever the religious view of those who cast them.

Second, the concept of a “Muslim vote” is controversial. Many Muslims vote in much the same way as their fellow countrymen of all religions and none. However, there clearly is a block vote among some voters who practice Islam, particularly those whose origins lie in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir (as I know from experience in Wycombe).

Finally, measuring the impact of this vote is very difficult. Some people will use one means and some another. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Acid attacks in Iran sharpen row over Islamic dress and vigilantism

It is a question all Iranians are asking: who is stalking the streets of Isfahan, throwing acid into women's faces?

The attacks - there have been at least four in the busy city in central Iran in recent weeks - appear aimed at terrorizing women who dare to test the boundaries of the Islamic dress code.

The crimes coincided with the passage of a new parliamentary bill that allows private citizens to enforce "morality" laws. The bill has sparked a clash between hardline politicians, who overwhelmingly support it, and moderates including President Hassan Rouhani. The split is an illustration of the wider political challenges Rouhani faces from his hardline opponents. [Reuters] Read more

Canada Moves to End Immigration Rights for Polygamists

Canada's government is considering legislation to curb immigration rights for polygamists.

The government's Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act was introduced in the Canadian Senate Wednesday.

In an online statement, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the bill sends "a strong message: early and forced marriages, honor-based violence, & polygamy will not be tolerated in (Canada)."

Alexander said hundreds of immigration cases could be affected.

Canadian law already bans polygamy and requires would-be immigrants to have only one spouse.

The Zero Tolerance act looks to close a loophole and prevent immigrants who practice polygamy in Canada or abroad from accessing immigration benefits.

The proposed amendments would allow the government to deport immigrant polygamists without the need for a criminal conviction. [Voice of America] Read more

05 November 2014

Why I don’t believe people who say they loathe Islam but not Muslims

It is a trope among people who loathe and fear Islam that their fear and loathing has nothing in common with racism because Islam is not a race, the implication being that hating Muslims is rational and wise whereas hating black people is deeply irrational and stupid.

Some people who claim that Islam is profoundly evil will also say that they bear Muslims no ill will but I don’t think they are telling the truth. It is really difficult and indeed psychologically unnatural to claim that you hate an ideology without hating the people in whose lives it is expressed.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 272 votes] This argument is complete nonsense. I despise many aspects of Catholicism but my wife and family are Catholics. In the same way I loathe many aspects of Islam but that doesn't stop me liking Muslims who are nice to me.

[ANOTHER] False. First paragraph, and you're already distorting the argument. It's not that "hating Muslims is rational and wise". It's that disliking Islam is rational and wise. And no, saying so doesn't make anybody "islamophobic": some few, brave Muslims say so themselves:

[ANOTHER] This is nonsense. Islam is a vile, backward belief system that not only threatens world peace but represses its adherents. But Muslims are not vile! They are as much the victims of this medieval voodoo as anyone else, particularly the women.

[ANOTHER] "Some people who claim that Islam is profoundly evil will also say that they bear Muslims no ill will but I don’t think they are telling the truth."

It's more like pity - it's perfectly possible, for example, to hate the regime in North Korea and yet feel sorry for the poor bastards who have to live under it. I think Catholicism is an evil, backward religion but I went to Catholic school and I don't hate my former classmates, I'm still good friends with a good proportion of them.

[ANOTHER] It is perfectly reasonable to single out one particular religion as particularly bad if there is evidence to support it. Not all religions are exactly the same, and at this present time Islam is informing or being used to justify some of the most repressive, conservative and inhumane regimes on the planet.

Simply recognising that Islam is particularly bad is no indication of racist attitudes. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Challenging Anti-Muslim Bigotry and Challenging All Forms of Bigotry, Within and Against Muslim Communities

Over the last three years, I have been involved in formulating, implementing and managing the TELL MAMA project that has built up a substantial amount of information and expertise in the monitoring, mapping and measuring of anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia. Our work has supported over 2,000 people nationally since mid-2012 and has also filled a much needed gap for victims of anti-Muslim bigotry.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] Condeming Islamic terrorist groups who are committing genocide in the middle east is not Islamaphobia. Pointing out Imams and Islamic organizations in the U.K. who preach hatred towards non Muslims, incite their followers to support terror, and encourage mistreatment of women is not Islamaphobia.

Demanding that British Muslims follow British law is not Islamaphobia. Criticizing Islamic organizations pushing anti Israel agendas in colleges and in the media is not Islamaphobia. Expressing anger at radical muslims for intolerant statements is not Islamaphobia. Expressing fear of Islamic terror is not Islamaphobia.

[ANOTHER] There's no place for bigotry in in the modern world. There is also no place for the tribal superstitions that religions trade on; people are free to believe in whatever nonsense they want, but ridiculous beliefs deserve to be ridiculed, not promoted and publicly financed.

That is not islamophobia, it's just logic. It's logical to stand against any religion or cult that indoctrinates, divides and promotes utter intolerance. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Jihadists not the only problem

It simply confirmed concerns that too many Muslims have a group loyalty and inflamed sense of victimhood that made them the sea in which jihadists swim.

One reason it backfired was that Brandis was brilliant in defending the Government’s anti-terrorism strategy. But what really undid the exercise was the audience which grabbed the ABC’s microphone.

Bilal Raulf warned that the big anti-terrorism raids should stop ... or else: “This gung-ho approach” against suspected jihadists would just “drive them in a particular direction”. Sheik Wesam Charkawi suggested we should instead give “young, angry Muslim men” what they wanted: “There are legitimate grievances that people have.”

Charkawi implied our anti-terror laws, rather than Islamic terrorism, were the problem: “Given that these new laws create the atmosphere of such a major divide in the hearts and minds of all concerned, isn’t it time the Government changed its approach?”

[TOP RATED COMMENT] Funny how every audience always has very good Muslim representation, more so than many other groups it seems. They certainly know how to use the media to push their views. I'm sick and tired of their victim mentality.

We are the victims here - it's our way of life that is being forcibly changed and freedoms curtailed by the undeniable incitement to hate and kill, whether they agree with it or not , which derive from the teachings and ideology from within their religion. When they acknowledge that the problem is theirs to fix, not ours, is when mainstream Australians will feel more comfortable with sharing our country with them.

[ANOTHER] They seemed to hate our government more than the Islamic State. [Herald Sun] Read more

Prince Charles: Defender of faith, freedom and religious liberty

“It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East,” says the Prince of Wales in a video message to mark the launch of the Religious Freedom in the World Report 2014, produced by Aid to the Church in Need.

In setting out a comprehensive assessment on the threats to religious liberty in 196 countries, the Report reiterates what we already know: Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today, and the leading persecutors are Muslims.

It is disagreeably stark – even offensive – when expressed so succinctly. But, unlike President Barack Obama, the ostensible leader of the free world, Prince Charles isn’t sheepish about apportioning blame to the core religious ideology which is intent on eradicating Christianity from the land of its birth; nor is he tight-lipped about the inexcusable silence of many Muslim leaders. Here’s a verbatim transcript (which differs slightly from media versions): [Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

Tower Hamlets: Eric Pickles orders takeover squad to run 'rotten borough'

A takeover squad was ordered to run Tower Hamlets today after a bombshell report found the council flouted spending rules over millions of pounds in grants and property sales.

Cabinet minister Eric Pickles branded it a “rotten borough” and told MPs there was evidence of “cronyism” and a risk of “corruption”.

In a blow to controversial mayor Lutfur Rahman, who seized control in 2010, a three-man team of commissioners will move into his headquarters. The commissioners will take over the power to give grants and must approve property sales and senior council officer appointments or suspensions.

.... Mr Pickles said: "The most important thing is for us to get into a position where the residents of Tower Hamlets can feel confident in the mayoral system and confident in the functioning of local government in Tower Hamlets which is at best dysfunctional and at worst riddled with cronyism and corruption." [Evening Standard] Read more

04 November 2014

Britain's Prince Charles calls on different faiths to respect each other

Britain's Prince Charles urged religious leaders to encourage followers to respect those of other faiths, drawing on the current persecution of Christians in the Middle East as an example where that respect is lacking.

Charles spoke in a video aired on Tuesday to accompany a report by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

"It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East," he said.

Islamic State fighters drove Christians from Iraq's northern city of Mosul in July, ending a presence stretching back to the early years of Christianity. The Sunni Islamist group has also targeted Shi'ite Muslims and religious minorities, executing hundreds of captives in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. [Reuters] Read more

Muslims Told to Follow Orders on Voting by D.C. Muslim Caucus

The D.C. Muslim Caucus is getting negative press attention for telling Muslims they are required to vote as their leaders tell them to. A spokesperson justified the stance by referencing international Islamists.

A press release issued by the D.C. Muslim Caucus endorses a list of candidates in Washington, D.C. and instructs Muslims to vote against a ballot measure that would legalize small amounts of marijuana for non-medical use.

“According to Islamic tenets, Muslims participating in democratic elections are obligated to vote as a bloc based upon a consensus of the Muslim community,” the October 27 press release states. [Clarion Project] Read more

The rise of political Islam in Turkey: how the West got it wrong

Political Islamism has undermined the Turkish Republic's secular social order, education and legal systems and Western pundits manifestly failed to see this coming, argues Turkish opposition MP, Safak Pavey.

The end of the Cold War did not free the world of polarised ideologies. Once the Berlin Wall fell, we hoped a new world would finally move beyond the conflict ridden past. Yet, not only did we face continuous conflicts but with the revival of religious traditions, God's role in politics was rekindled.

We thought that the time for belief systems and politics which derive their legitimacy from God was over. But we were wrong. The current administration of Turkey, which was lauded as an example of a modern Islamic democracy, derives a considerable part of its mandate from the belief that they are carrying out God's mission of revenge against the godless secular system. [National Secular Society] Read more

Reactions to Channel 4's 'Make Leicester British'

Channel 4’s Make Leicester British took eight people from different backgrounds and asked them to spend a week together. The resulting documentary, which some have unfavourably compared to a multicultural episode of Big Brother, has predictably divided opinion. Ciaran Fagan gets reaction and gives an overview.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] .... I don't thing they [Somalians] realise that there isn't a never ending money pit, and that all the money being paid to support them is reducing the funds in the treasury. Maybe they should go to back to Somalia and ask the government to give them shelter, benefits, new car without working for it.

[ANOTHER] As I have said elsewhere, what ever happened to integration? Multi-culturism just means we have a number of parallel communities that don't mix and lead separate lives in a fractured society.

[ANOTHER] .... She's very loud and proud about being a Somalian so why doesn't she go back and let the Somalian government give her a home a car and educate and feed her children. She wants want Britain can give her, but she doesn't want to integrate or contribute. [The Leicester Mercury] Read more

Austria's Muslims fear changes to historic Islam law

The new draft, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamist radicalism, forbids any foreign funding. But Austria's official Islamic Community says it reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and fails to treat them equally.

Islam has been an official religion in Austria since 1912. The Islam law, the "Islamgesetz", was brought in by the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph, after Austria's annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Under the law, Muslims, like Catholics, Jews and Protestants, are guaranteed wide-ranging rights, including religious education in state schools.

.... After more than 100 years, most agree that the Islam law needs to be updated to reflect the realities of modern Austria.

But some parts of the government's draft legislation have caused controversy, in particular a proposed ban on any foreign funding for mosques or imams. [BBC] Read more

Unstunned meat 'should be labelled'

Meat sold in British shops should be labelled to say whether the animal it came from was stunned at slaughter as many killed in accordance with religious rites are not, an MP will say today.

Tory Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) will also ask the Government to look at ways to persuade Jewish and Muslim communities to stun more animals at slaughter.

Mr Parish highlighted a report by the all-party parliamentary group for beef and lamb that he chairs, which called for research and demonstrations that showed animals can be stunned and their slaughter remain compliant with religious beliefs.

For both halal and kosher meat, animals are killed by cutting their throats, often without pre-stunning them. [Press Association] Read more

Christians beaten to death for allegedly desecrating Qur’an in Pakistan

A Muslim mob beat a Christian couple to death in Pakistan and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked for allegedly desecrating a Qur’an, police have said.

The attack in Kot Radha Kishan, 40 miles south-west of Lahore, is the latest example of violence against minorities accused of blasphemy.

“A mob attacked a Christian couple after accusing them of desecration of the holy Qur’an and later burnt their bodies at a brick kiln where they worked,” local police station official Bin-Yameen said.

Another police official confirmed the incident. The victims were only identified by their first names, Shama and Shehzad, and were married. [Agence France-Presse / The Guardian] Read more

‘Criminalising Islam’ at SOAS

.... Bigotry against Muslims certainly exists. But it is ironic that several of those involved in this particular event should themselves be associated with a whole host of bigoted views – against women, Ahmadis, LGBT people, Jews and – some of their fiercest critics – liberal Muslims.

Towards the end of this interview Andalusi seems to condone the jizya (although not the death penalty for refusing to pay). It is also ironic that some people (though perhaps not all these speakers, and certainly not all Muslims) complain rather tendentiously about Islam being ‘criminalised’ when they support a system which privileges Islam and enshrines in legislation an array of (disputed) penalties for different kinds of dissenters. [Harry’s Place] Read more

03 November 2014

Religious leader shot outside Islamic centre in Greenacre following threats

A man who was shot outside an Islamic prayer centre in Sydney's west was targeted as he locked up the building following a night observing the holy ritual of Ashura, one of the most important holidays for Shiite Muslims, according to a community member.

Witnesses claimed that a number of people had driven past the Husainiyah Nabi Akram centre on Rosedale Avenue in Greenacre just hours before the shooting, chanting in Arabic that "ISIS [terrorist group Islamic State] is coming" and "ISIS will stay".

.... Jamal Daoud, a prominent member of Sydney's Shiite community, said a group of "extremists" had been targeting Shiite Muslims trying to enter the centre to observe Ashura, a 10-day ritual to commemorate the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

Mr Daoud claimed that a number of attacks had been carried out on the centre in recent days by extremists and "supporters of ISIS". [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

02 November 2014

Islamic State militants murder 322 Iraqi tribe members in Anbar province

Islamic State militants have killed 322 members of an Iraqi tribe in western Anbar province, including dozens of women and children whose bodies were dumped in a well, the government said in the first official confirmation of the scale of the massacre.

The systematic killings, which one tribal leader said were continuing on Sunday, marked some of the worst bloodshed in Iraq since the Sunni militants swept through the north in June with the aim of establishing medieval caliphate there and in Syria.

The Albu Nimr, also Sunni, had put up fierce resistance against Islamic State for weeks but finally ran low on ammunition, food and fuel last week as Islamic State fighters closed in on their village Zauiyat Albu Nimr. [The Guardian] Read more