31 January 2014

'Don't stop serving pork for Muslims': Minister

"We cannot stop serving pork because Muslims have moved to Norway," Sylvi Listhaug, a politician for the right-wing Progress Party, said this week.

"Those responsible for food in public institutions should put pork on the menu, and then make sure that those who do not eat pork can get something else," she said.

Bjørn-Ole Juul-Hansen, the managing director of the Norwegian meat industry association, told NRK that public institutions in the country were now serving pork less often, although he could provide no statistics to back up the claim.

"Our members feel that many public institutions, nurseries and municipal catering departments often opt out of pork in the interests of a small minority," he said. [The Local] Read more

Second British pensioner faces blasphemy charges in Pakistan for reading from Koran in public

The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK.

Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail.

Mr Ahmad’s son Abbas, 39, who lives in Glasgow along with a brother and two sisters, said their father had been targeted by powerful figures linked to a right-wing religious group and that he now faced losing the property where he practised as a homeopath. [The Independent] Read more

Why Americans Should Embrace the Veil

.... My sense of being off-balance lasted . . . about seven minutes. Then normal life resumed. Over the course of the semester I noted only one actual effect that Sara's niqab had: at times I couldn't gauge her reactions. In some lighter moments it was quite obvious from her eyes she was smiling, while in others I thought my joke might've flopped with her but couldn't tell.

As a teacher I wasn't bothered by Sara's hidden face. As a bank teller, I might've been. Over the past several years in the U.S. there have been a handful of "burqa bandit" bank robberies--and now a handful of banks require the removal of any face coverings before entry. This seems entirely reasonable.

[A COMMENT] You are a shame for all the Women who fight for their equality and liberty! Specially Muslim one! You are a shame for modernity! No Madame USA is not a country of Liberty! It is France and Europe! Why you have to wear the Tchador (Burqa) when you are in Saudi Arabia and she doesn't have to respect the occidental customs when she is in our countries? It is not a question of threaten it is a question of respect!

[ANOTHER COMMENT] Total BS. Once they step off the plane and step foot on American soil that's when they cease and desist insisting WE the people bend to their culture/religion.....period! Its either OUR way or get your invited butts back on the plane!!! [THE DAILY BEAST] Read more

Top Islamic Leader Calls on U.S. to Wage ‘Jihad for Allah’

A video of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi calling on the U.S. government to wage jihad for Allah in Syria, is currently making the rounds on Arabic media and Facebook, to mockery and dismay.

In the recorded speech, Qaradawi—one of the most influential Islamic clerics in the world, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, author of over 100 books on Muslim doctrine, and head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars—sarcastically thanks the U.S. for supporting the “freedom fighters” in Syria, adding that “Allah willing, your [U.S.] aid will increase.” [Front Page Magazine] Read more

Illegal mosque finally shut down

.... Southend Council has received hundreds of complaints about noise, parking and rubbish since the group began using the bungalow as a place of worship without planning permission in 2010.

Nasser Hussein, chairman of the centre, said: “We haven’t been a problem to anyone. The council says there have been 200 complaints, but there aren’t 200 houses around here.

“We could have made another appeal, but it would have gone on and on. That’s not the way out. [Southend Standard] Read more

Maajid Nawaz's with-us or against-us mindset is out of touch with reality

.... Nawaz is correct when he says that Muslims are not a homogeneous tribe that needs comical Citizen Khan-like leaders. Yet his simplistic analysis has those who are rational and tolerant agreeing with the posting of the picture; with anyone who doesn't portrayed as irrational and intolerant.

This is clearly not the case. In Nawaz's with-us or against-us mindset, it is inconceivable that a British Muslim could disagree with the posting of the picture, as I did, yet come to the aid and assistance of a British citizen facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan.

[A COMMENT] He didn't invent Mohammed Shafiq, or his nasty little comments, which most people would see as rather more offensive and which you can't bring yourself to express an interest in. [Harry’s Place] Read more

30 January 2014

Pakistan's rulers are too afraid of Islamist extremists to pardon the 'blaspheming' Briton

.... One of the people on Baroness Warsi's call list was the chief minister of Punjab. He will need no reminder of what happens to Pakistani politicians who get involved in cases like these.

Three years ago the governor of Punjab – the president's representative in the province – was shot dead for taking up the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, a case revealed by The Telegraph.

His killer was showered with rose petals as he arrived in court and today remains in Adiala Jail, the same prison where Mr Asghar is detained in a fragile mental and physical state. Ironic? More like tragic. [The Telegraph] Read more

Censoring 'Jesus and Mo' establishes UK sharia blasphemy code

.... The fact that both BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News are censoring images of Mohammed establishes a narrow Sunni-sharia compliance: it is, effectively, a blasphemy code adopted by the state broadcasters. His Grace observed this development as far back as 2007.

The UK now has a de facto blasphemy law which protects Allah, Mohammed and mosques more than it does the names of Jesus, YHWH or the Church of England.

It is ironic that while Parliament has abolished the crimes of blasphemy and blasphemous libel as they relate to Christianity, the vacuum has been filled by politicians, police, the judiciary and media increasingly taking the view that Islam has to be treated with kid gloves, and blind eyes have to be turned to those professing Muslims who threaten murder or call for ‘Jihad’ against the apostate and the infidel. [Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

Who represents Sweden's Muslim voters?

Why can a Moderate get away with supporting Muslim polygamy, while the Social Democrats get accused of playing the religion card when promoting a Muslim within the party. A new report about Sweden's Muslim voters prompts more questions than it answers.

.... But if Mustafa had been kicked off the scene for being diffuse about women's and men's rights, as well as having presided over the Islamic Association when it invited speakers accused of rather flagrant anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, why had Moderate MP Waberi not been asked to leave for saying that men were allowed to hit their wives, that he's open to a state run by sharia laws, and that women and men should not be allowed to be alone in the same room together.

[A COMMENT] When you start worrying about whether every special interest group is being represented, you give away Democracy for political correctness. [The Local] Read more

29 January 2014

Cardinal offends with Muslim birth rate remark

Cardinal Joachim Meisner was speaking on Friday to members of a conservative Catholic group famous for their large families when he said: "I always say, one of your families to me makes up for three Muslim families."

Muslim organizations and politicians from the Social Democrat and Green parties said they were "stunned" by the comments – which came a month before Meisner, 80, was due to retire.

The Cardinal said in a statement on Wednesday he regretted that his comments had caused such "irritation". [The Local] Read more

On the importance of the right to offend

‘Thank you @Channel4News you just pushed us liberal Muslims further into a ditch’. So tweeted Maajid Nawaz, prospective Liberal Democratic parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, last night.

He had every right to be incandescent. Channel 4 News had just held a debate about the Jesus and Mo cartoons and about the campaign to deselect Nawaz for tweeting one of the cartoons, not finding them offensive.

Channel 4 decided that they were offensive and could not be shown. It would have been bad enough had the channel decided simply not to show the cartoon. What it did was worse.

It showed the cartoon – but blanked out Muhammad’s face (and only Muhammad’s face). In the context of a debate about whether Nawaz had been right to tweet the cartoon in the first place, or whether his critics were right to hound him for ‘offending’ Muslims, it was an extraordinary decision.

The broadcaster had effectively taken sides in the debate – and taken the side of the reactionaries against the liberal. [PANDAEMONIUM] Read more

Censorship on Channel 4 News: an open letter to the editor

.... We were surprised and extremely disappointed to see that Channel 4 News took the decision to cover up the image of Mohammed when showing the Jesus & Mo cartoon, and we are thus keen to elicit the rationale behind that particular editorial decision.

During the report, it was noted that this decision was taken so as not to cause offence to some viewers; however we would like to point out that by your making this decision you have effectively taken a side in a debate where a Muslim man has suffered violent death threats after he explicitly said he did not find the cartoons offensive.

You have taken the side of the reactionaries - the side of people who bully and violently threaten Muslims, such as Mr Nawaz, online. [National Secular Society] Read more

Blasphemy law used against minorities in Pakistan

The elderly man’s troubles started when two young men milling inside his homeopathic clinic casually asked him about his religion. He thought they were merely curious. In fact, they belonged to an outlawed militant group and were carrying hidden tape recorders.

Within hours, police officers showed up at Masood Ahmad’s clinic and played back the tape in which he explained the tenets of the minority Ahmadiyya sect, rejected by mainstream Muslims because it disputes the basic tenet of their faith that Muhammad is Islam’s last prophet. [The Washington Post] Read more

Protest against Usama Husan lecture at Plymouth University

A PROTEST against a speaker specialising in Islamism and counter-extremism has taken place at Plymouth University tonight.

Around 30 people gathered to show their anger at Sheikh Dr Usama Husan giving a lecture at the uni.

It comes after he failed to condemn an image from the online cartoon 'Jesus and Mo' showing Jesus and Mohammed saying 'hey' and 'how ya doin' to each other.

Dr Hasan is a senior researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam was speaking at the Jill Craigie cinema tonight on the topic of Islam and democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.

[A COMMENT] Unfortunately, Islamic people do not generally have a sense of humour - or reality for that matter.

[ANOTHER] The concept of free speech and freedom of thought is obviously lost on these people. This is not an Islamic country thank god.

[AND ANOTHER] So they are offended because he hasn't condemned one of his friends, who tweeted a link, to a cartoon that shows two men, "Jesus" and "Mo". What a ridiculous thing to get upset about. [Plymouth Herald] Read more

28 January 2014

Pakistan and the Arab-Muslim Culture of Denial

.... We are witnessing in the politics of the Muslim world what Ibn Khaldun recorded and explained in his own time. In an undivided India, Jinnah and his supporters drew upon the "asabiyyah" of Muslim culture to demand a separate state for Muslims.

The politics of Muslim separation from Hindu majority in order to preserve the "purity" of Muslim religious-based tribal identity soon unfolded in demanding others within Pakistan to embrace this identity by renouncing their own, and with that requirement began the exodus of non-Muslims from the country, followed by the repression of those Muslims considered heretics, such as the Ahmediyya Muslims.

There then followed the genocide in Bangladesh, and yet, in what remains of Pakistan, there is no sign of an end to tribal and sectarian conflicts. Further, the example of Pakistan is writ large across the contemporary Arab-Muslim world. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Saudi Arabia Jails Palestinian Poet for ‘Atheism and Long Hair’

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is in a Saudi prison, allegedly for spreading atheism – and having long hair. The poet, raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested five months ago, when a reader submitted a complaint against him saying that his poems contain atheist ideas. The accusations were not proven and he was released, only to be arrested again on the 1 January 2014.

Fayadh's case is making the rounds in media and on social networks, with condemnations coming from Arab writers from across the region. Some of his friends wrote online that the real reason behind his arrest might be due to the video he filmed five months ago of Abha's religious police lashing a young man in public. [Global Voices Advocacy] Read more

Malala Yousafzai: Concern as Peshawar book launch cancelled

An event in north-west Pakistan to launch activist Malala Yousafzai's memoir was cancelled after pressure from local officials, organisers say.

Tuesday's book launch in Peshawar could not go ahead after "direct intervention by the provincial government", Dr Khadim Hussain told BBC Urdu.

Police and provincial officials said it was halted over security concerns.

But Imran Khan, whose PTI party runs the province, said he was at a loss to understand the decision. [BBC] Read more

Why I'm speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it

.... in the final analysis, my intentions are irrelevant. What matters is this simple truth: I am free not to be offended by a cartoon I did not draw. If my prospective constituents do not like me not being offended, they are free not to vote for me.

Other Muslims are free to be offended, and the rest of the country is free to ignore them. I will choose my policies based on my conscience. As such, I will continue to defend my prophet from those on the far right and Muslim extremes who present only a rigid, angry and irrational interpretation of my faith.

I will stand for fairness, as Amnesty International once stood for me when I was a prisoner in Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. Because I believe that the difference between fairness and tribalism is the difference between choosing principles and choosing sides. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Deemed to be respectful

.... “We recognise that, when it comes to this question, some Muslims of various persuasions may take different views. However, we also recognise that there are many Muslims who have taken offence, and we assert that images of the spiritual leaders of all religions should be deemed to be respectful.

We also respect the freedom of every member of the Liberal Democrats on either side of this debate who feels offended by tone or language to make representations to the Liberal Democrats as is their democratic right. [Mick Hartley] Read more

27 January 2014

No more Muslims, say DF leaders

Senior members of Dansk Folkeparti espoused the opinion that there are enough Muslims in Denmark and border controls should be established to stop more from entering the country.

DF’s defence spokesperson Marie Krarup said that the time has come to completely halt Muslim immigration.

“We should limit the size of the Muslim minority in Denmark,” Krarup wrote in a blog for Berlingske newspaper.

Anders Vistisen, number two on DF’s list of candidates for the European Parliament, agreed that the number of Muslims in Denmark should be limited. [The Copenhagen Post] Read more

Tunisia passes progressive constitution

.... "Egyptian constitutional politics has been a winner-take-all game; Tunisian politics has been more consensual — though consensus has been difficult to achieve," said Nathan Brown, an expert on Egyptian law at George Washington University. "The Tunisian experience is one that is more likely to give birth to a functioning democracy."

The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt by the military in July and subsequent violent repression was a stern warning to Tunisia, said Yahyaoui of Bawsala, and it helped the various parties find a compromise.

"The only people who won something out of what happened in Egypt was Tunisia," she said. "Ennahda saw what happened to the Brotherhood and they didn't want to see the same scenario in Tunisia." [The Associated Press] Read more

26 January 2014

34% of women say men are justified in hitting wives if they argue back: Pakistan survey

.... The most widely accepted reason for wife beating among women in Pakistan is arguing with the husband (34%). 28% of women agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she neglects her in-laws and 18% agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she burns the food.

Similar to the pattern among women, men are least likely to agree that burning the food is a valid reason for wife beating.

The majority of men (19.8%) felt that the most justified reason for beating their wife was the wife going out without telling him.

They also show similar levels of support for the other five reasons (16-20%), although at much lower levels than among women. [The Express Tribune] Read more

Muslims Vote Labour, Anglicans Are Tories, New Study Into Religion And Politics Concludes

Catholics are left wing, Anglicans are Tories and the Muslim vote is 'Labour's to lose', according to a new poll.

Think tank Theos claims to have carried out the first in-depth analysis into the relationship between religion and politics in Britain.

Catholics were found to be the most left-wing of Christian groups and more pro-welfare than Anglicans, who were said to be more authoritarian in their political values.

Non-religious people are most consistently libertarian, taking a strong line against censorship and are sceptical about management and the fair distribution of wealth. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Egypt's censorship of comedian Bassem Youssef sends 'wrong message'

.... According to Youssef himself, the show's cancellation was not a direct order by the army-backed government that was installed after Morsi's overthrow last July, but the product of an environment in which dissent is strongly discouraged.

"You can always implement some sort of a mood, without actually giving direct orders," Youssef said in an interview with the Observer. "It is about creating a certain atmosphere that would make this acceptable or doable, and I think it reflects badly on everybody. Even if the people in authority do not do it, it reflects badly on the freedom of speech in Egypt." [The Guardian] Read more

25 January 2014

Extremist religion is at root of 21st-century wars, says Tony Blair

.... On Saturday, Jonathan Eyal, the international director of the Royal United Services Institute, took issue with Blair's analysis and any implication that western governments were not informed before invading Iraq of the sectarian violence that was likely to be stirred up.

"Predicting when religious differences may descend into outright violence is never easy," he said. "But it's just fallacious to claim that those who ordered and led the 2003 Iraq war lacked access to the necessary information about the complexities of that country's ethnic and religious divisions, or could have ever assumed that they could complete their intervention without rekindling religious bloodshed."

He added: "It was not the lack of sufficient knowledge about history and religion which led to the Iraqi debacle, but the lack of restraint among politicians who had all the relevant information at their fingertips." [The Guardian] Read more

Why the great Sunni-Shia conflict is getting ever closer to the surface

.... The way in which what is going on in the Middle East has become a religious war has long been obvious. Just take this radio exchange, caught at the ground level earlier this month, between two foreign fighters in Syria, the first from al-Qa’eda’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS], the second from the Free Syrian army [FSA].

‘You apostate infidels,’ says the first. ‘We’ve declared you to be “apostates”, you heretics. You don’t know Allah or His Prophet, you creature. What kind of Islam do you follow?’

To which the FSA fighter responds, ‘Why did you come here? Go fight Israel, brother.’ Only to be told, ‘Fighting apostates like you people takes precedence over fighting the Jews and the Christians. All imams concur on that.’ [The Spectator] Read more

Maajid Nawaz: enlightened liberalism swamped by a tide of intolerant Muslims

His Grace reported on this a few days ago: Petition to deselect LibDem candidate Maajid Nawaz for tweeting Jesus and Mo cartoon. He said then: "To be deselected by a political party and barred from standing for Parliament merely for articulating a religious opinion or supporting a particular theological doctrine is an offence to all that is reasonable, honourable and just," and readers and communicants were encouraged to sign the petition supporting Mr Nawaz.

On that day, the two petitions stood at 5,476 in favour of deslecting him, and only 1,150 supporting his right to a) not be offended by a cartoon; b) to say so; and c) to tweet so, with a link to the Jesus and Mo cartoon. Is Parliament really to be purged of those who hold or express religious views to which a few others may object? [Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

The Liberal Democrats face a true test of liberty

The real scandal in the Liberal Democrats is not leading the news. Extremists are menacing the career and life of a Liberal Democrat politician and respectable society hardly considers these authentically scandalous threats to be a scandal at all. The scandal, in short, is that there is no scandal.

.... The campaign against him is now a test for the Liberal Democrat leadership. It should defend freedom of speech in all cases except when speakers espouse violence. If Clegg cannot say that a polite protest against the cowardice of the BBC does not justify death threats, he will lose the right to call himself a liberal.

I am glad to say his local party in Hampstead and Kilburn has backed Nawaz already. I hope that come the next election all Hampstead voters of all persuasions will consider voting for him.

Some arguments matter more than party politics. The right of democratic representatives and democratic publics to speak their minds without fear of retribution is one of them. [Guardian Cif] Read more

24 January 2014

Pakistani court condemns mentally ill Briton to death for blasphemy

Pakistan has handed a death sentence for blasphemy to a 69-year-old Briton with a history of mental illness, even though his lawyers were barred from the courtroom partway through the trial, the lawyers said on Friday.

Accusations of blasphemy are surging in Pakistan, according to an Islamabad-based think-tank, the Center for Research and Security Studies. Many analysts see the claims as score-settling or a front for property grabs.

The charges are hard to fight because the law does not define what is blasphemous and presenting the evidence can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Muslim-majority Pakistan. [Reuters - FaithWorld] Read more

Blasphemy case: Briton in Pakistan sentenced to death

A court in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi has sentenced a 70-year-old British man to death after convicting him of blasphemy.

Muhammad Asghar was arrested in 2010 after writing letters to various people claiming to be a prophet, reports say.

His lawyers argued for leniency, saying he has a history of mental illness, but this was rejected by a medical panel.

Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam. [BBC] Read more

23 January 2014

The world's most ancient Christian communities are being destroyed

Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt's revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble.

Ayman's Arabic-language teacher told him to cover his tattoo in class. Instead of complying, the young man defiantly pulled out the cross that hung around his neck, making it visible. His teacher flew into a rage and began choking him, goading the young man's Muslim classmates by saying, "What are you going to do with him?"

Ayman's classmates then beat him to death. False statements were given to police, and two boys were taken into custody only after Ayman's terror-stricken family spoke out.

Ayman's suffering is not an isolated case in Egypt or the region. [THE WEEK] Read more

Minister urges agenda change for German Islam Conference

Germany's interior minister has criticized the German Islam Conference for focusing too much on Islamophobia.

.... De Maiziere said in an interview on Wednesday with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he did not think the conference should be repeated after criticising the event. He said, instead of focusing on racism and Islamophobia, it should focus on security concerns and Islamist extremism.

De Maiziere said he will invite Islamic organizations for a pre-interview, to discuss their expectation from the conference. He stated "if we decide to display another conference, we don’t need to title it as “Islam Conference." He added “We should discuss how we can get good outcome from the conference, not who is going to attend." [World Bulletin] Read more

22 January 2014

Hérouxville’s André Drouin delivers warning at charter hearings

His message was bluntly worded and direct: get moving on ridding Quebec of religious accommodations or face the perils other countries have.

André Drouin, the former Hérouxville city councillor who became an international figure in his battle for secularism, made an appearance Wednesday at the committee examining Bill 60.

He has not changed a bit.

Off the top, the veteran of several commissions on the issue including Bouchard-Taylor put MNAs of all stripes in their place, saying he's heard all the arguments — pro and con — before.

"There are no more guidelines today then there were seven years ago," Drouin, wearing his trademark checkered shirted, told a hushed room.

"We are spinning in circles and the more we spin the deeper the hole gets and we can no longer get out. It's not too late. It's not too deep.

"I have the impression our elected officials are scared to take a stand, to say, my man or woman, put your beliefs aside for six or eight hours a day and the other seven hours you can practise. [MONTREAL GAZETTE] Read more

Assembly Floor Erupts Over Constitution Article on Religion

.... Article 6, as passed originally, says the “state protects religion, guarantees freedom of belief and conscience and religious practices, protects sanctities, and ensures the neutrality of mosques and places of worship from partisan instrumentalisation.” (Click for a full English translation of the draft constitution)

The text was then amended, however, on January 5 after a dispute between leftist member Monji Rahoui and Islamist member Habib Ellouz, with the latter calling Rahoui an “enemy of Islam” while on a radio program.

Rahoui claimed the remark caused him to receive death threats. The assembly then amended Article 6 to include a ban on takfir, or accusing someone of being a nonbeliever, and as well as a ban on “inciting violence.” [Tunisia Live] Read more

Muslim defendant must remove veil to give evidence, jury hears

A Muslim woman accused of witness intimidation has been ordered by a judge to remove her veil if she chooses to give evidence.

Rebekah Dawson, 22, attended the start of her trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in London on Wednesday wearing a full-face veil.

Judge Peter Murphy warned the jury hearing the case that it was “quite wrong” to be prejudiced against anybody because of their expression of religious faith.

He said Ms Dawson was “fully entitled” to dress as she chose and warned them to put aside any personal feelings they had about her attire.

However, he told jurors that he had ruled that she must remove her veil if she chooses to give evidence. [The Telegraph] Read more

Warsi sounds warning over persecution of Christians in Middle East saying it has become a 'global crisis'

Minister for Faith Baroness Warsi described ‘a rising tide’ in attacks on Christians in the war-torn regions of Egypt, Iraq and Syria where they often become ‘scapegoats’ for events taking place thousands of miles away.

Warsi, a mother of five and the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, pointed out that Christian minorities are threatened by Muslim majorities in the very places that gave rise to Christianity. [Daily Mail] Read more

Judge warns jury of wrongful prejudice over defendant's Muslim face veil

.... He added: "It would be quite wrong to be prejudiced against anybody because of their expression of their religious faith. It is very important you understand that."

He continued later: "I emphasise that Rebekah Dawson is fully entitled to dress in any way she chooses. If you have any feelings about that put them aside because they have nothing to do with the case."

Murphy was speaking as he upheld a ruling he gave last September that Dawson could stand trial wearing a full face veil but had to remove it while giving evidence. [The Guardian] Read more

The Illiberal Democrats

There is plenty of material which one should be free to share, but which might be said to cause gratuitous or unnecessary offence. But Maajid Nawaz was making an important point about censorship and blasphemy taboos – and the Lib Dems’ response helps illustrate why that point needed to be made.

In some instances one might retweet genuinely aggressive satire in order to make a free speech point – in the wake of death threats for example. But Jesus and Mo really should not be seen as something which has to be hedged round with such caution and anxiety. [Harry’s Place] Read more

In defence of Maajid Nawaz, blasphemy and (funny) cartoons of Mohammed

I've been a fan of the webcomic Jesus and Mo for years. The idea is a simple one: the two religious figureheads J Christ and Mohammed share a house and discuss matters of religious philosophy, often in arguments with a wise atheist barmaid at their local. It's funnier than I've made that sound.

It is, of course, irreligious and arguably blasphemous. (In its very first edition or episode or whatever you call it, Mo points out that it's forbidden to depict him pictorially. Jesus asks what he's doing in a cartoon, reasonably enough, and Mo claims he's a body double.) It's also very clever, informed by philosophical and religious argument, and – as mentioned – funny. [The Telegraph] Read more

Muslim Activists Round On Lib Dem Candidate Maajid Nawaz

The Muslim director of a think-tank credited with Tommy Robinson's departure from the EDL has received "credible" death threats after tweeting a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed.

British Muslim campaigners have now told HuffPost UK they fear a split in the community over Maajid Nawaz's Quilliam Foundation's endorsement of the ex-EDL leader's genuine 'conversion' from anti-Islam activity.

The row has spiralled since last week when Nawaz tweeted a cartoon from 'Jesus and Mo' series, with the caption: "This is not offensive & I'm sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it.” [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

21 January 2014

Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists impose Islamic rules, ban music, shisha in Syrian province

An Al-Qaeda-linked group has issued new decrees restricting the personal freedoms of the Syrians in the areas under its control in Raqqa province. New laws prohibit music and smoking cigarettes and shisha. Violators will be “punished by sharia law.”

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL) has issued four statements that decree new laws on Monday. The new laws come into force three days later, the group said, i.e. January 23.

Starting on that day, women are obliged to wear the niqab, or full face veil, and cover their hands with gloves. They will also not be allowed in public without a male guardian. Walking late at night will also be prohibited for the women of Raqqa, the first and only city to have fallen completely under the jihadist group’s control. [RT/TV-Novosti] Read more

Liberals clarify stance on charter: No niqabs, burkas or chadors for authority figures

.... Drainville described the Liberal position Tuesday as “convoluted, confused, complicated and incomprehensible.”

“The fundamentalists want an unreasonable, religious accommodation and we say, ‘Oh no, we are going to set guidelines for accommodations to avoid abuse.’

“The best way to fight fundamentalism is to adopt the Charter of Quebec Values,” the PQ minister said. “It is very, very clear because it states the state is non-religious, while the fundamentalists want a religious state.”

“Is there anyone in Quebec who thinks we have a religious state?” Couillard said in response. “No. We do not have a religious state in Quebec and we don’t want one.” [MONTREAL GAZETTE] Read more

'Racialising' Islam

At the end of December 2013, a host for Liberty GB radio (Liberty GB is a British political party) was charged by West Midlands Police (England) with "racially aggravated harassment." Tim Burton's supposed crime was a Twitter post in which he described Fiyaz Mughal (who runs an "anti-Islamophobia" website/organisation called Tell MAMA) as "a mendacious grievance-mongering taqiyya-artist"

Fiyaz Mughal's (or Tell MAMA's) latest claim (as of the 14th of January) is that Tim Burton has also been guilty of "racialising Muslims."

Now why did Tim Burton describe Fiyaz Mughal as a "a mendacious grievance-mongering taqiyya-artist"? He did so because it was revealed that Mughal had been deceiving the public about nonexistent "hate crimes" against Muslims (as first revealed by Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan).

More specifically, Tell MAMA had published misleading statistics on "anti-Muslim incidents" in the wake of the Islamic murder of soldier Lee Rigby. In terms of detail, Mughal was publicly criticized by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) [American Thinker] Read more

Petition to deselect LibDem candidate Maajid Nawaz for tweeting Jesus and Mo cartoon

Is this cartoon offensive?

The BBC thinks so. On their Sunday morning programme The Big Questions on 12th January, the producers opted not to display it to viewers even though the Jesus and Mo satirical comic strip was the very topic of debate.

By doing so, they chose to manifest and perpetuate a certain hyper-sensitivity to an imagined sharia compliance with which very few British Muslims actually accord, let alone the vast majority of non-Muslims.

By censoring this innocuous image, the BBC is inculcating the whole nation with the belief that depictions of Mohammed are haram - forbidden - and that everyone - people of all faiths and none - must respect and obey this precept. [Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

UK Islamic group condemns website featuring cartoons of Prophet Mohamed and Jesus

One of the most influential Islamic organisations in the UK has slammed a website that publishes cartoons featuring Prophet Mohamed and Jesus.

The website, Jesus and Mo, features a weekly comic strip in which the two prophets debate and joke about the central tenets of Islam and Christianity.

The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) published a statement saying that the images were "extremely offensive to believers" of the two faiths and "potentially inflammatory," and urged the website's operators to take down the comics at once. [Ahram Online] Read more

20 January 2014

Islamic officials in Indonesia are drawing up a bylaw that compels everyone to pray, or face sanctions

.... Although though the bylaw is still under deliberation, the city has already begun phasing it in for municipal employees, who are currently required to attend public Friday prayers once per month.

Mukhlis said that the city government was still deciding whether those who failed to comply would face sanctions.

Bengkulu is not the only place to experiment with prayer requirements: Nineteen untenured employees of Riau’s Rokan Hulu district government were fired in November of 2013 because they did not show up to 5 am prayers – a mandatory religious programme put in place by the local government – in what the Home Affairs Ministry’s Director General for Regional Autonomy Djohermanyah Djohan called a “strange ruling.” [The Freethinker] Read more

19 January 2014

Allah vs atheism: ‘Leaving Islam was the hardest thing I’ve done’

Amal Farah, a 32-year-old banking executive, is laughing about a contestant singing off-key in the last series of The X Factor. For a woman who was not allowed to listen to music when she was growing up, this is a delight. After years of turmoil, she is in control of her own life.

.... In more than a dozen countries people who espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam can be executed under the law, according to a recent report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

But there is an ongoing debate about the “Islamic” way to deal with apostates. Broadcaster Mohammed Ansar says the idea that apostates should be put to death is “not applicable” in Islam today because the act was traditionally conflated with state treason. [American Thinker] Read more

18 January 2014

Police race-hate probe leads to Boro fan's arrest

A boro fan has been arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after allegedly ripping up pages of the Qu'ran at a match.

And six people have been suspended from attending Middlesbrough Football Club matches as the probe continued.

A 25-year-old man who has been arrested is accused of tearing up pages from the holy text of Islam and throwing them during Boro’s clash against Birmingham City last month.

The fan has been bailed while police continue to investigate the incident. [The Evening Gazette] Read more

'Alternative' policing in some minority communities

Police are never called by certain minority communities because they administer their own justice even in cases as serious as murder and sexual assaults on children, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor has said.

He said offences including “honour” killings and violence, domestic abuse, sexual assaults on children and female genital mutilation were among those not reported to police because communities wanted to deal with them themselves.

Mr Winsor said there were some cities in the Midlands where police were never called because communities dealt with issues themselves, and he stressed these "alternative" systems were run not by criminals but by “law-abiding people”. [The Telegraph] Read more

Communities 'taking law into their own hands', says police chief inspector

.... The chief inspector of constabulary, Tom Winsor, said some ethnic minority communities are turning their backs on police and rarely, if ever, call them to deal with crimes as serious as murder and sexual assaults against children, instead dealing with them in their own way.

Winsor said police were never called to some neighbourhoods because they "administer their own form of justice", adding that this was not carried out by criminal gangs but by "law-abiding people". [The Guardian] Read more

Animal slaughter without stunning 'major animal welfare issue'

The RSPCA has renewed its call for animals slaughtered without stunning to be labelled so – and a House of Lords debate saw almost unanimous support for the measure.

Lord Trees, an independent life peer, brought the debate, and called the issue of slaughter without stunning “a major, if not the major animal welfare issue in the United Kingdom today”.

“I suggest that consumers can justifiably expect to be informed if the normal legally required form of humane slaughter has not been used,” he added. [Farmers Weekly] Read more

Muslim mayor Lutfur Rahman in line of fire over public grants in Tower Hamlets, East London

“It is going on under our noses in the heart of the capital city and no one is doing a thing about it,” says Peter Golds, the leader of the opposition in Tower Hamlets. “The authorities — the Government, the Electoral Commission — seem paralysed. This is a test for us all about whether democracy can be bought.”

In 2010, after investigations by The Sunday Telegraph, the then Tower Hamlets council leader, Lutfur Rahman, was replaced, deselected and later expelled by the Labour Party because of his close links to an extremist Muslim group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), based at the radical East London Mosque.

.... Poplar Town Hall is a case in point. A large and attractive Victorian listed building, a stone’s throw from Canary Wharf and steps from a future Crossrail station, it is worth millions. But The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that in 2011 the council sold it for £875,000, little more than what a three-bedroom Victorian house in the neighbourhood would cost. Poplar Town Hall, though, is big enough for its new owners to be converting it to a 25-bedroom hotel. [The Telegraph] Read more

Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Says 'Alternative' Policing Is Being Administered In Some Parts Of Britain

Police are never called by certain minority communities because they administer their own justice even in cases as serious as murder and sexual assaults on children, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary has said.

Parts of Britain are operating their own forms of justice as some minority communities take the law into their own hands, the Tom Winsor has claimed.

.... "There are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called. They never hear of any trouble because the community deals with that on its own... They just have their own form of community justice."

Mr Winsor said some chief constables receive "close to zero" calls from some areas, and that police are not afraid to go to such areas, but that they do not know what is going on as communities do not tell them. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

17 January 2014

Home Affairs Minister Speaks Out Against Mandatory Prayer Bylaw

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said on Friday that he objected to a Bengkulu municipal bylaw currently under deliberation that would require all residents of the capital of southwest Sumatra’s Bengkulu Province to attend Muslim midday prayer gatherings every Friday.

“If it is only a call advising people to go to the mosque to pray, or to go to the church for the Christians, it’s fine,” he told the Jakarta Globe. “But it’s not fine if they issue a bylaw which carries sanctions. They don’t have the authority, as religious affairs are under the authority of the central government.” [Jakarta Globe] Read more

16 January 2014

Homosexuality still haram in 2014: 11 Muslim men may be stoned to death in Nigeria for being gay

An Islamic court in Nigeria is trying 11 Muslim men, who face death by stoning for allegedly having same-sex relationships, a religious leader said.

It is illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria both under Sharia -- or Islamic -- and secular law.

President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, tightening laws against same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection earlier this month.

Under Sharia law, those convicted of homosexuality can be stoned to death.

A 12th person -- a Christian -- is being tried under secular law. [Al Bawaba] Read more

Publication of Mohamed picture triggers riots, journalist’s arrest

Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s arrest of Jitendra Prasad Das, a subeditor with the regional Oriya-language daily Samaj in Cuttack, in the eastern state of Odisha, in connection with the publication of a picture of the Prophet Mohammed on 14 January.

The media freedom organization also calls for investigations into attacks on the newspaper’s offices in Cuttack and other cities in Odisha so that those responsible can be brought to justice. [Reporters sans frontières] Read more

15 January 2014

The Islamization of Germany in 2013

.... Also in December, a discussion paper (German and English) published by the Berlin-based Gustav Stresemann Foundation—a think tank dedicated to the preservation and advancement of liberal democracy in Europe—warns that national and international Islamic organizations are increasingly putting pressure on Western politicians gradually to criminalize any critique of Islam.

The author of the report, the German political scientist Felix Strüning, provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the Islamic lobbying effort—by means of a "human rights lawsuit"—to silence Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker who has criticized the refusal of Muslim immigrants to integrate into German society.

Strüning writes that German political authorities are increasingly bending to pressure from German Islamic organizations by adopting Muslim definitions of "Islamophobia" in public discourse, thus creating legal uncertainty as to "who can say what about Islam and Muslims in Germany." [Gatestone Institute] Read more

14 January 2014

Women on cloud nine as travel notification halted

Saudi women have applauded the decision taken by authorities to suspend the electronic system to notify male guardians about the departure and arrival of their female dependents.

They said the system should have been abrogated long ago, as “it is demeaning to women and restricts their freedom.”

“The system has been suspended due to some observations and it will undergo amendment,” said Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Laheedan, spokesperson of the Passports Department in comments published on Monday. He indicated that the system could be reintroduced, adding new options. [Arab News] Read more

Apostates: penalties and asylum

Most readers will already be aware of the plight of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger accused of apostasy. More recently, a Mauritanian man, Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir, was arrested for showing a ‘lack of respect’ to Muhammad and for apostasy. This latter ‘crime’ is punishable by death in Mauritania.

[A COMMENT] The underlying logic behind the idea of apostasy (and blasphemy and honor) in the Islamic world is to protect Islam, conceived as a "social thing".

In the Islamic world, there is no concept of "individualism" as we understand it in the West. Religion is not, for the Muslim, an individual thing--but a social thing.

In order to be a Muslim, one has to live in a Muslim society. Anyone in the society who speaks against Islam, harms Islam--and thus, harms society as well. [Harry’s Place] Read more

Saudi religious cops tell women not to use swings

Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police entered a public park in the Gulf Kingdom and told women to stop using swings, an act that drew applause and criticism by viewers of a picture showing the men warning some women at the swings.

The picture went viral on social networks in Saudi Arabia before it was published by newspapers showing two men from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice warning women against using the swings. [Emirates247.com] Read more

Islamisation fears at top Pakistan university

The Pakistan studies lecturer is in mid-flow when his students stand and rush for the door -- his class interrupted yet again by the call to prayer.

"They won't come back for at least 30 minutes and some of them even decide not to return to class," Sajjad Akhtar said, gathering his notes and sitting down to wait for his students to return.

At Quaid-i-Azam University, rated the best public university in Pakistan and the best Pakistani university in Asia, this is an everyday reality across all academic departments. [AFP] Read more

Afghan atheist granted UK asylum

.... The Afghan was brought up as a Muslim and fled the conflict in his native country. He arrived in the UK in 2007, aged 16. He was initially given temporary leave to remain until 2013 but during his time in England gradually turned to atheism.

His case was taken up by Kent Law Clinic, a free service provided by students and supervised by qualified practising lawyers from the University of Kent's law school along with local solicitors and barristers.

.... He could, the lawyers argued, face a death sentence under sharia law as an apostate unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs. Evidence was also presented showing that because Islam permeates every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan, living discreetly would be virtually impossible. [The Guardian] Read more

13 January 2014

Hull mum raped in front of son and told by attacking boyfriend: 'I'm Muslim and you must obey me'

A MAN pinned his girlfriend down and raped her in front of their baby son, and told her she must obey him because he was a Muslim, a court was told.

The Mail has decided not to identify the rapist, who is in his early 20s, so his relationship with his victim can be revealed.

She was 16 when they met, but he began beating her three months into the relationship and raped her at her home in Hull in May last year. [Hull Daily Mail] Read more

The Islamization of Belgium and the Netherlands in 2013

Belgium and the Netherlands have some of the largest Muslim communities in the European Union, in percentage terms.

Belgium is home to an estimated 650,000 Muslims, or around 6% of the overall population, based on an average of several statistical estimates. The Netherlands is home to an estimated 925,000 Muslims, which also works out to around 6% of the overall population. Within the EU, only France (7.5%) has more Muslims in relative terms.

Belgian and Dutch cities have significant Muslim populations, comprised mostly of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants, as well as a growing number of converts to Islam.

The number of Muslims in Brussels—where roughly half of the number of Muslims in Belgium currently live—has reached 300,000, which means that the self-styled "Capital of Europe" is now one of the most Islamic cities in Europe. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Woman to remove niqab to testify in Toronto case

More than five years and many court battles later, a sexual assault preliminary inquiry is poised to resume with the complainant complying with a court order to remove her niqab while testifying.

The landmark case pitting religious rights against fair-trial rights went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled the matter can only be decided on a case-by-case basis. [Toronto Star] Read more

Atheist Afghan man granted asylum in UK to protect him from ‘religious’ persecution

.... It goes on to explain how the man had recently made a visit to another predominantly Muslim country, to visit friends, and had been “shocked” by how his lack of belief made him stand out.

“He was shocked by how everyone talked as if life meant nothing to them,” it says.

“People said ‘this is not the only world’ and that you have to believe. People said ‘you cannot sit and eat with people who are not Muslim’.

“He noticed that to the people he met, this life meant nothing to them and all their expectations were focused on the other world, life after death.” [The Telegraph] Read more

York dean has 'regret,' but defends religious-accommodation choice

The dean who approved a York University student’s request not to meet and work with female classmates on religious grounds is defending his decision, but expressing “sincere regret” that he felt he had no other choice.

Speaking out for the first time in a letter to colleagues obtained by The Globe and Mail, Martin Singer, the dean of arts, says he ordered the student’s request be granted only after “care, consideration, and concern.”

.... The student, whose identity is protected by privacy rules, is taking an online course in sociology, but the professor, J. Paul Grayson, asked students to meet in person for a mandatory group assignment. In late September, the student wrote to Dr. Grayson that “due to my firm religious beliefs … it will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women.” [The Globe and Mail] Read more

10 January 2014

Times discovers non-existent ‘rise in Muslim birthrate’

.... One of the experts whose response to this news Kennedy quotes is David Coleman. He describes the figures as “startling”, although it is difficult to believe that a man who holds the position of Professor of Demography at the University of Oxford was genuinely surprised by the statistics.

Kennedy doesn’t bother to tell his readers that Coleman is also co-founder of the right-wing campaign group Migration Watch and has a record of feeding the anti-immigrant hysteria of the right-wing press.

Even Coleman, however, is unable to deny the fact that birthrate among the UK’s Muslim community is falling – the precise opposite of the false claim made in the headline to Kennedy’s report. [Islamophobia Watch] Read more

One in ten babies in England is a Muslim: Those practising the religion 'could soon outnumber actively worshipping Christians'

One in ten children under the age of four is now Muslim in England and Wales, the latest statistics show.

In the under-fives age group there are nearly twice as many people identified as Muslim as in the general population, census data reveals.

The figures suggest a change in the UK’s younger generation of worshippers as less than 0.5 per cent of over 85s in Britain identify as Muslim. [Daily Mail] Read more

Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, census figures show

Census figures reveal a ‘startling’ shift in Britain’s demographic trend with almost a tenth of babies and toddlers born in England and Wales being Muslim.

The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population. Less than one in 200 over 85s are Muslims – an indication of the extent to which birth rate is changing the UK’s religious demographic.

The Office for National Statistics produced the breakdown of Britain’s religions and age groups. The figures, according to the Times, were extracted from data collected in the 2011 census.

One expert said it was possible that Muslims who worshipped would outnumber practising Christians. “It’s not inconceivable,” said David Voas, Professor of Population Studies at the University of Essex. [The Telegraph] Read more

09 January 2014

Britain's proxy debate on immigration

.... The political class and the media know that public concern predates the coming of the eastern Europeans. But such concerns were always sniffily dismissed by a self-righteous political class and a liberal media that believed immigration should not be a matter of democratic choice.

For western liberals, Third World immigration to western welfare states was always seen as an entitlement owed to the world’s poor. The working-class taxpayer in Britain had no say in the matter. Again, he or she was a "bigot" if they even raised the subject.

But for the liberal/left, eastern European immigration is different. The Poles and Lithuanians have recently thrown off the shackles of communism and are not likely to be impressed by the Polly Toynbee, Guardianista style patronising of the working class. Why, many of these eastern Europeans are good Christians! Many even want a Christian education for their children!

Yes, the political class and the left are happy to debate that 30 percent of immigration to Britain – provided the debate stays clear of the remaining 70 percent. [The Commentator] Read more

Canada: York University Gender Segregation Allows No Group Work

Professor Grayson has my every sympathy and support in denying a request from a student to be excused from group work so that he would not mix with female students, on non specified religious grounds. Both Islamic and Judaic scholars found no cause for this to be upheld:

"The Judaic scholar found no problem with an Orthodox Jew attending a co-ed group session. One of the

Islamic scholars, in turn, declared simply, “unless he is asked to be physical with a female student, which I assume he isn’t, there is absolutely no justification for not interacting with females in public space.” [Homo economicus' Weblog] Read more

Nine of the Ten Countries Ranked Most Oppressive Towards Christians are Muslim Countries

Nine out of the ten countries ranked the most oppressive for Christians to live in were due to Islamic extremism, according to Open Doors' annual World Watch List, which was released Wednesday.

With the exception of North Korea – ranked No. 1 for the 12th year in a row – every other country on the top 10 list had as its source of persecution, Islamic extremism. [Answering Muslims] Read more

One in ten children under five in England and Wales is from a Muslim family, census figures show

Nearly one in ten children under the age of five in England and Wales now comes from a Muslim family, analysis of census figures has shown.

.... Illustrating the impact of birth rate, the near 10 per cent proportion of children under five identified as Muslims is almost twice as high as the fraction of the general population that are Muslims, which stands at less than five per cent. In the over 85 bracket, just one in 200 were Muslim.

Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he “wouldn’t want our fellow citizens to be alarmed by an increase in number,” adding that British Muslims “feel very much this is their home”.

“It’s not about Britain becoming a Muslim country but about Britain enabling the practice of Islam, which gives confidence to the vast majority of Muslims. It’s a great country to regard as our home,” he said. [The Independent] Read more

York University standing by choice to excuse student from group work with women over religious beliefs

York University appears to be standing by its controversial decision to permit a student to be excused from a group project because the presence of women interfered with his “firm religious beliefs.”

In a statement Thursday by provost Rhonda Lenton, the university affirmed its commitment to “gender equity, inclusivity and diversity,” but did not retract an October order authorizing the much-criticized “religious accommodation.” [National Post] Read more

08 January 2014

French court upholds controversial burqa ban

A French court Wednesday convicted a young woman for wearing a full-face Islamic veil in public and threw out her bid to have the country's controversial burqa ban declared unconstitutional.

Cassandra Belin, 20, was also convicted for insulting and threatening three police officers at the time of her arrest, which sparked two days of rioting in the town of Trappes, near Paris, in July, 2013.

She was given a one-month suspended prison sentence for the clash with the police and a 150-euro ($200) fine for wearing the veil.

Her lawyers, who argued that the burqa ban impinges on religious freedom and unfairly target Muslims, had asked for an emergency ruling on the constitutionality of the ban before sentencing. [Expatica] Read more

Muslim Woman Convicted For Wearing Veil

A French Muslim woman has been fined €150 (£124) for wearing a full-face veil.

Cassandra Belin was also given a one-month suspended sentence for insulting police officers who arrested her in the Paris suburb of Trappes last year.

The confrontation between Ms Belin, her husband and police when she was stopped and given a ticket for breaking the ban on wearing the face covering, triggered riots in the area.

The lower Paris also rejected a request from Belin's lawyer for the ban, which has been in place since 2011, be referred to the Constitutional Court. [Sky News] Read more

How people in Muslim countries prefer women to dress in public

An important issue in the Muslim world is how women should dress in public.

A recent survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted in seven Muslim-majority countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey), finds that most people prefer that a woman completely cover her hair, but not necessarily her face.

Only in Turkey and Lebanon do more than one-in-four think it is appropriate for a woman to not cover her head at all in public. [Pew Research Center] Read more

Student’s refusal to work with women sparks rights debate

A York University student who refused to do group work with women for religious reasons has sparked a human rights tug-of-war between a professor and campus administration.

While the professor wanted to deny the student’s request, a university dean ordered him to comply.

Professor Paul Grayson is now blowing the whistle on what he sees as a hierarchy of freedoms at York — religious rights trumping women’s rights.

“In order to meet an instance of a religious requirement we have tacitly accepted a negative definition of females,” Grayson told the Star. “That’s not acceptable.” [Toronto Star] Read more

07 January 2014

Mauritania court convicts young man of apostasy

A young Muslim man in Mauritania is facing a possible death sentence after being convicted of apostasy and jailed for having written an article criticising the prophet Mohammed (PBUH), a judicial source said Monday.

He was arrested on Thursday in Nouadhibou in the northwest of the country, an Islamic republic, and "was convicted of lack of respect for the prophet," and jailed, the source said. [Middle East Online] Read more

06 January 2014

Saudi survey shows men blame women for rising cases of molestation

Saudi men believe women are to blame for the rising cases involving molestation of females on the grounds they are seduced by women’s excessive make up.

The findings were included in a survey conducted by the Riyadh-based King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue and involved 992 males and females. [Emirates247.com] Read more

Germany Adds Lessons in Islam to Better Blend Its Melting Pot

For the first time, German public schools are offering classes in Islam to primary school students using state-trained teachers and specially written textbooks, as officials try to better integrate the nation’s large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of radical religious thinking.

The classes offered in Hesse State are part of a growing consensus that Germany, after decades of neglect, should do more to acknowledge and serve its Muslim population if it is to foster social harmony, overcome its aging demographics and head off a potential domestic security threat. [The New York Times] Read more

The Islamization of France in 2013

The Muslim population of France reached an estimated 6.5 million in 2013. Although France is prohibited by law from collecting official statistics about the race or religion of its citizens, this estimate is based on the average of several recent studies that attempt to calculate the number of people in France whose origins are from Muslim majority countries.

This estimate would imply that the Muslim population of France is now approximately 10% of the country's total population of around 66 million. In real terms, France has the largest Muslim population in the European Union.

Not surprisingly, Islam and the question of Muslim immigration were an ever-present topic in newspaper headlines during 2013. In practical terms, the debate over Islam in France centered mainly on questions about French identity, secularism and security-related issues.

What follows is a chronological review of some of the main stories about the rise of Islam in France during 2013: [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Cambridge student submits legal note against gender segregation to Universities UK

Radha's legal submission makes it unmistakably clear that despite UUK’s protestations, the law could scarcely be more unequivocal on gender segregation.

The practice is specifically condemned by the Equality Act as amounting to less favourable treatment of women. We hope it will be noted that this condemnation applies equally to ‘voluntary’ segregation, a notorious misnomer used to pressure students to comply with ‘Mixed’ and ‘Segregated’ zones.

The existing rights legislation recognises that gender segregation undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment.

We hope Radha’s representations will remind UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics. [LSE Students' Union] Read more

Tunisia enshrines gender equality in constitution

Tunisia’s constitutional assembly voted on Monday to enshrine equality between men and women in its draft constitution, safeguarding the country’s status as having the Arab world’s most progressive laws on women’s right.

The text enshrining gender equality was approved by 159 lawmakers out of the 169 who voted. Women's rights activists in Tunisia hailed the provisional approval of article 20, which states that "all male and female citizens have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law without discrimination". [France 24] Read more

05 January 2014

Lebanon Library Torched, 78,000 Books Burned By Islamists

Ancient books in a historic library in the Lebanese city of Tripoli have been torched by Islamist, after a pamphlet purportedly insulting religion was found inside one of the books.

Security sources say that up to 78,000 books, many irreplaceable ancient Muslim and Christian texts and manuscripts, are now unsalvageable, according to Agence France Press.

The Al-Saeh library in the Serali neighborhood was set a-blaze after a local gang to objection to a sheet apparently insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, found hidden in the pages of one of the library books. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Death threats disrupt Tunisia constitution debate

Death threats against Tunisian secular lawmakers on Sunday disrupted voting on a new constitution, underscoring tensions over the role of Islam and the transition to democracy three years after the nation's revolution.

Tunisia's parliament started voting last week on the new charter, which is meant to put democracy back on track after deadlock between ruling Islamists and secular parties since the 2011 fall of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Approving the constitution is a key step before a caretaker government takes office to end the crisis between Islamists and secular opponents and prepare for new elections later this year. [Reuters] Read more

04 January 2014

Get outraged over radical Islam

.... And why aren’t more people angry about the fact a woman has had to go underground simply because she drew a cartoon?

It’s hard to say what’s a bigger scandal: That a bunch of humourless Islamists still want to kill someone for drawing a little cartoon three years ago? Or that there are so many people out there who won’t even acknowledge the situation?

Shame on everyone who didn’t stand up for Molly Norris.

She should be living freely right now, drawing whatever cartoons suit her fancy. [THE TORONTO SUN] Read more

Tripoli mobilizes after historic library torched

Lebanese officials and religious figures mobilized Saturday to prevent a renewal of tensions in the northern city of Tripoli after unknown assailants torched a historic library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest.

Civil Defense teams struggled to put out the flames which engulfed the bookstore owned by Father Ibrahim Srouj in the old Serail neighborhood in the city, turning one of Lebanon's most renowned libraries into rubble.

Unknown assailants torched Al-Saeh library, destroying "two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there,” AFP reported. [The Daily Star] Read more

Tunisia MPs reject Islam as main source of law

Tunisia's Islamist-dominated constituent assembly compromised Saturday in rejecting Islam as the main source of law as it voted on a new constitution for the country that spawned the Arab Spring.

But while it established Islam as the state religion, it promised freedom of conscience, despite one MP warning that "satanists" and "idolaters" would be practicing in public and criticism by a rights group it was too vague. [AFP] Read more

03 January 2014

Religion on IDs needed to prevent 'unlawful' marriage

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Nasaruddin Umar defended on Friday the controversial decision to keep religious affiliation listed on every citizen’s identification card, saying it was important for preventing unlawful interfaith marriages.

“Elimination of religion on ID cards would bring more detriments than benefits,” Nasaruddin said, as quoted on the ministry’s website.

“A Muslim marriage, for example, would be considered illegal under fiqih XXXIslamic lawYYY if the groom did not know the religion of his bride. The child of such a marriage would be called a zina XXXillegitimateYYY child,” he added. [The Jakarta Post] Read more

Tajikistan: Rap music banned from buses

According to US-backed Radio Ozodi, mayor Makhmadsaid Ubaidulloev signed a decree outlawing music that is "alien to national and universal human values".

The ban includes rock and rap music which "glorifies criminality, sexual content and music that propagates non-traditional Islam".

Apparently a public hotline has been set up to report transgressors. Speaking to the US-backed radio station, local minibus drivers said they were resigned to the ban. [BBC] Read more

Primary school gives children a two-week October half-term so pupils can go to Asia

A primary school adding an extra week to its October half-term holiday so Asian families can take their children abroad when temperatures are cooler there.

The Church of England academy has announced it will be breaking up for a fortnight – instead of the usual week – during the autumn term following requests from parents.

Wensley Fold Primary School in Blackburn has around 300 pupils, a high proportion of whom come from Asian backgrounds.

The school, which until now has had a week off for the October half-term, said the changes would be introduced as a trial for the new school year in September. [Daily Mail] Read more

02 January 2014

More than 300 Bibles are confiscated in Malaysia

Islamic authorities in Malaysia have seized more than 300 Bibles from the Bible Society because they use the word Allah to refer to God, officials say.

Bible Society officials told Reuters that two of their members were briefly detained following the seizure.

A court ruled in October that non-Muslims could not use the word Allah to refer to God.

The appeals court said the term Allah must be exclusive to Islam or it could cause public disorder. [BBC] Read more

Malaysia's Islamic authorities seize Bibles as Allah row deepens

Islamic authorities in Malaysia on Thursday seized 321 Bibles from a Christian group because they used the word Allah to refer to God, signaling growing intolerance that may inflame ethnic and religious tension in the Southeast Asian country.

The raid comes after a Malaysian court in October ruled that the Arabic word was exclusive to Muslims, most of whom are ethnic Malays, the largest ethnic group in the country alongside sizeable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities. [Reuters] Read more