28 February 2015

Integrating Muslims

In his 19th January letter to 1,000 mosque leaders, the UK communities secretary Eric Pickles asks how belief in Islam can be part of British identity — an acknowledgement by the government that there is lack of integration among Britain’s Muslim communities. The immediate response by Muslim leaders and organisations was typical: take umbrage and put up a “do not disturb” sign.

But on 1st February the Muslim Council of Britain opened the doors of some mosques to the public as a gesture of goodwill and openness. However, it was no more than tokenism, and does not address the lack of integration. This issue is now of profound importance throughout Europe and many are losing patience with that “do not disturb” attitude of so many Muslim organisations and their demands for separate rights and resources.

.... What millions in Paris marched for last month are enlightenment, and secular values which can form the bedrock of a European identity that encompasses all its minorities. Those who are not prepared to adhere to these are values are, of course, in the words of Mayor Abutaled free to pack up their bags and leave. Muslims certainly have a large choice: the 57 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference where the values so cherished throughout Europe are largely forbidden. [Le Monde diplomatique] Read more

How liberal Britain is betraying ex-Muslims

.... Any child who breaks away from a devoutly or fanatically religious background or a sectarian or political cult faces the same pain. Your parents hate you for rejecting their dogmas. Shame at your treacherous rejection of your tribe and its taboos supplants love, and you become an outcast.

But there is something else with Islam. Most ex-Muslims are in the closet because they live with the fear of violence. If you want to go to one of their meetings, they will vet you first to see if you are a spy who will denounce them to their violent enemies. This in London, the supposedly cosmopolitan capital of a democratic country, with a Human Rights Act that supposedly guarantees religious freedom.

Except that in practice Britain does no such thing. The religious have the freedom to proselytise and seek converts, and to insist that their remarkably tender feelings be treated with ‘respect’. But the converse does not apply. If ex-Muslims denounce religious bigotry, they put themselves in danger. [The Spectator] Read more

'Anti-Islamisation' group Pegida UK holds Newcastle march

About 2,000 protesters have demonstrated against the first rally in Britain by a group opposed to what it calls the "Islamisation of Europe".

They gathered to oppose the UK branch of German group Pegida which congregated at Newcastle's Bigg Market.

Pegida UK denied claims it was anti-Muslim and had come to "promote expression of hatred".

The counter-rally marched to Newgate Street, within sight of about 400 Pegida UK demonstrators. [BBC] Read more

27 February 2015

Austria has set an example to us all

.... Austria's Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism has reportedly warned of "exploding radicalization of the Salafist scene in Austria."Salafism is a particularly poisonous interpretation of Islam which has been described as the "the fastest-growing Islamic movement in Europe”.

Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has said that "almost without exception, all of those connected with Germany that have joined up with or supported violent jihadist movements, had prior contact with Salafists."

According to the recent reforms, imams in Austria’s mosques will now be required to speak German.On top of this, the employment of imams who “pose a threat to public safety, order, health and morals or the rights and freedoms of others” will be prevented.This is key.For example, any application of this law should censure mosques, and Islamic organisations, which pose a threat to the rights and freedoms of women – if the law were applied in the way that is needed. [Sharia Watch] Read more

Why the apologists for the Islamist far right must make Jihadi John a victim

Islamic State allows its adherents to be both cultists and psychopaths: an L. Ron Hubbard and a Fred West rolled into one. The reasons why young men want to travel across the world to fight its wars and lend a hand to the murder of its victims ought to be brutally and boringly obvious.

.... For all the videos of beheadings Islamic State shamelessly posts on the Web, Islamists may one day say that they are American/Zionist forgeries, if that lie is tactically useful. In the West, meanwhile, there are many who want to hear that their own governments are the “root cause” of the violence.

Cage is not some shabby outfit hidden in a London backstreet. Absurdly given their professed principles,the Quaker Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Anita Roddick Foundation have funded it. [The Spectator] Read more

‘Jihadi John,’ a graduate of my radical university

.... But the longer I spent on campus, the more I noticed strange occurrences and remarks that seemed to fit with an Islamist ideology. Eventually, I realized, these ideas were deeply ingrained at Westminster, allowing individuals to feel comfortable advocating dangerous and discriminatory beliefs.

I recall a seminar discussion about Immanuel Kant’s “democratic peace theory,” in which a student wearing a niqab opposed the idea on the grounds that “as a Muslim, I don’t believe in democracy.”

Our instructor seemed astonished but did not question the basis of her argument; he simply moved on. I was perplexed, though. Why attend university if you have such a strict belief system that you are unwilling to consider new ideas? And why hadn’t the instructor challenged her? [The Washington Post] Read more

Bangladesh: dangerous place for a secular blogger?

.... Avijit Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, and his wife and fellow blogger, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, were attacked on Thursday while returning from a book fair. Ahmed was seriously injured.

Police retrieved two machetes from the site, but have not yet identified any suspects.

They said they were investigating the involvement of Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamist extremist group based in Bangladesh that claimed responsibility on Friday for the murder.

Roy's family said Islamist radicals had been threatening him in recent weeks because he maintained a blog, "Mukto-mona", or "Freemind", that highlighted humanist, atheistic and rationalist ideas, as well as condemning religious extremism. [Channel 4] Read more

Why an American blogger was hacked to death in Bangladesh

On Thursday night, Avijit Roy, a well-known Bangladeshi American writer and religious skeptic, was surrounded by unidentified assailants armed with cleavers and hacked to death on a street in Dhaka. His wife, Rafida Ahmed, sustained serious wounds and is fighting for her life.

On social media, you can find awful images of the immediate aftermath of the incident, with Ahmed, drenched in blood, standing stunned by the fallen body of her husband.

A previously unknown Islamist militant group named Ansar Bangla 7 claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Associated Press, saying on Twitter that Roy was targeted "because of his crimes against Islam." [The Washington Post] Read more

France wants imams to learn secular values as part of new anti-radicalisation push

France said Wednesday it will encourage imams to take civics lessons amid fears of growing radicalisation among its Muslim community. But could the country be jeopardizing its secularist tradition by treading on religious ground?

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday outlined plans to combat radicalisation among France’s large and diverse Muslim community, with the emphasis of the reforms placed on opening channels of dialogue between the government and Muslim leaders.

Cazeneuve said France would establish a new forum for dialogue that would include the participation of the official French Muslim Council (CFCM), as well as imams and intellectuals who represent a wider section of Muslims living in the country. The minister said better protecting Mosques and Muslim centres amid an escalation in Islamophobic attacks was also on the agenda. [France 24] Read more

Blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh capital

.... Roy had founded a popular Bengali-language blog - Mukto-mona, or Free Mind - in which articles on scientific reasoning and religious extremism featured prominently.

Anujit Roy, his younger brother, says Roy had returned to the country earlier this month and was planning to return there next month.

Similar attacks have previously taken place in Bangladesh.

Investigators have said religious fanatics were behind those attacks. In 2013, another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, who also spoke out against religious fanatics, was killed by unidentified assailants near his home in Dhaka. [Al Jazeera] Read more

Quebec judge denies woman hearing until hijab removed

A Quebec judge told a Muslim woman appearing in a Montreal courtroom she would not hear her case until she removed her head scarf, CBC news reported on Thursday.

The broadcaster, citing an audio recording it obtained of the proceedings, said Judge Eliana Marengo was heard telling Rania El-Alloul on Tuesday that the courtroom is a secular place, and that she was not suitably dressed.

"Hats and sunglasses for example, are not allowed. And I don't see why scarves on the head would be either," Marengo says in the recording. [Reuters] Read more

BBC defends reporting of Muslims survey

The BBC has defended its coverage of a survey that showed that more than a quarter of British Muslims have some sympathy for the motives behind last month’s Islamic extremist murders in Paris.

The News Letter asked the corporation why it highlighted other findings from the ComRes poll for Radio Four’s Today programme ahead of the finding of 27 per cent sympathy for the motives for the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Wednesday’s 7am Radio Four news report on the survey first mentioned the fact that two-thirds of British Muslims oppose violence against those who publish offensive images without any immediately accompanying reference to the 24 per cent who did not oppose violence.

.... Yet the poll had numerous alarming findings, such as the fact that 11 per cent of those questioned expressed sympathy for those who want to fight against the Western interest.

It found that almost half of British Muslims, 45 per cent, were unable to agree with the notion that Muslim clerics who preach that violence against the West can be justified are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion.

A quarter of the people surveyed (24 per cent) disagreed with the statement that acts of violence against those publishing images of the Prophet can never be justified. [News Letter] Read more

American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

A prominent American blogger of Bangladeshi origin has been hacked to death with machetes by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, after he allegedly received threats from Islamists.

The body of Avijit Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site – which champions liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation – was found covered in blood after an attack that also left his wife critically wounded.

“He died as he was brought to the hospital. His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger,” local police chief Sirajul Islam said.

The couple were on a bicycle rickshaw, returning from a book fair, when two assailants stopped and dragged them on to the pavement before striking them with machetes, local media reported, citing witnesses. [Agence France-Presse] Read more

26 February 2015

Islamic State Says It Destroyed Ancient Relics in Mosul Museum

Islamist militants used sledgehammers and drills to smash ancient artifacts and statues in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, saying the relics were against the teachings of Islam, according to a video by Islamic State.

The five-minute video, posted on websites used by the jihadist group, shows several bearded men inside what’s identified as the Mosul Museum, breaking up large sculptures. In another scene, a man drills through the statue of a winged bull, an Assyrian protective deity, that was almost 3,000 years old. [Bloomberg] Read more

Germany seeks to undermine Islamic extremists with religious education

.... “We need an enlightened Islam,” Khorchide says, “so young people will understand how the religion works in a pluralistic society. It’s important to deal with this in schools, because youth will be confronted with the question, ‘Am I a Muslim? Or am I European?’"

Khorchide says the answer to that question should be yes, on both counts. “People can be European and a pious Muslim at the same time,” he says.

His training program now has 650 teachers-in-training. There are nearly a million Muslim students in German schools. And Khorchide says it will take 15 to 20 years to fully implement a comprehensive Islamic education program. [PRI's The World] Read more

Farage: The ‘Dramatic Failure’ Of Multiculturalism Drives Radical Islam

Why are thousands of European Muslims flocking to radical Islam? According to UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, “state sponsored multiculturalism” deserves much of the blame for why extremism has found a home in Europe.

“We [the U.K.] have pursued a policy for nearly four decades now of multiculturalism,” Farage told The Daily Caller Thursday. “We have encouraged division. Rather than having different communities coming together, under one law, we have encouraged division.”

“That policy I think has been a dramatic failure,” the Member of European Parliament (MEP) added. [The Daily Caller] Read more

Bloc Québécois anti-niqab ad takes aim at NDP

.... Beaulieu reacted strongly to Mulcair's comments Wednesday, calling his views the "fundamentalist multiculturalism" of an apostle and "disturbing cultural relativism."

"We believe that the face should be uncovered when you become a citizen, as when voting. This, it seems to me, is the least of things," he said in a French statement reported by La Presse Canadienne.

The decision to appeal was featured in Conservative fundraising emails and on social media.

Messages under Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's name made reference to not only the niqab, which covers the face, but also the more common hijab, which covers women's hair but leaves the face visible. [CBC News] Read more

BBC spins disaffected Muslims to deflect from emerging Islamists

The BBC published the results of a ComRes poll yesterday, which they spun in their own inimitable multiculturally-sunny and cloudless way. ‘Most British Muslims “oppose Muhammad cartoons reprisals“‘, they informed us, with verifiable quantitative analysis:

95% of British Muslims feel a loyalty to Britain.
93% say they should obey British laws.
73% said they had no sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks.

This isn’t so bad, you might think, until you consider the statistical corollaries:

5% of British Muslims feel no loyalty to Britain.
7% say they should not obey British laws.
27% said they had sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks.

[Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

Islamic State 'destroys ancient Iraq statues in Mosul'

The Islamic State (IS) group has released a video appearing to show the destruction of statues in Iraq.

Statues are smashed using sledgehammers and drills in what seems to be a museum in the city of Mosul.

Statues are also shown being destroyed at an archaeological site known as the Nergal Gate.

World heritage body Unesco has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss how to protect Iraq's cultural heritage. [BBC] Read more

25 February 2015

Why the survey of British Muslim attitudes is so profoundly disconcerting

How do you react to the news – the result of a major BBC survey - that 11 per cent of British Muslims sympathise with fighting against the West? That 20 per cent of them believe Western liberal society can never be compatible with Islam? That 11 per cent feel that organisations which publish images of the Prophet Mohammed deserve to be attacked?

I find these numbers profoundly disconcerting. But they are far from surprising.

.... Supporting British values might seem like an overt focus on nationality, but really it fosters inclusivity and will help us tackle extremism, building a stronger Britain.

Beyond this, we must break this trend by pushing back against underlying narratives. This will require not just the voice of Muslims, but the whole of civil society standing in solidarity with those Muslims who are brave enough to challenge extremists in their midst.

Islam is an idea: like other ideas, it must be open to scrutiny. But supporting secularism and challenging Islamism is not fighting “Islam”. It is moving from extremism to liberal pluralism. By neglecting to challenge extremist views, we will only increase anti-Muslim bigotry.

This is what happens when you ignore Islamist ideology. It’s time for a wakeup call.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] So one in four Muslims in Britain approve of the merciless slaughter of 12 innocent people armed with pencils because they felt "offended", and it is Whiteh's fault.

Would it be Islamophobic to suggest that the blame lies with the archaic and backward religion from which these murderous savages and their army of nutjob wanna-be Jihadistas draw their inspiration?

We are sitting on a powder keg, yet our politicians and the liberal commentariat are simply too effete, cowardly and dishonest to face up to the real enemy within our midst.

[2ND] "Half of British Muslims interviewed stated that prejudice against Islam makes it very difficult to be a Muslim in this country."

It is an awful lot easier to be a Muslim in this country than it is in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Morocco, Sudan, Lebanon, Yemen, Uzbekistan. You are much more likely to be murdered for your beliefs in any of these countries, especially if you are the wrong kind of Muslim. Or if you are gay, or if you are an apostate, or if you commit adultery, or if you are a woman, or if you smoke, or if you drink alcohol, or if you say the wrong thing, or if you are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, e.g. if a suicide bomber is in the vicinity.

Tens of thousands of Muslims are killed or injured every year as a result of violence perpetrated by their co-religionists.

'Prejudice against Islam makes it very difficult to be a Muslim in this country'?

What absolute nonsense.

[3RD] Some people come from Pakistan, settle in Little Pakistan in East London or West Yorkshire, don't learn a world of English. Their kids learn pigeon playground English but have no hope of integrating or competing in the wider world. The p.c. crowd think this is diversity. It is not, it is division and a recipe for utter disaster.

[4TH] The problem is that Muslims in general will not allow any criticism of their ideology or their founder. They tend to react violently. Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Christianity, Confucianism etc. are all willing to discuss their ideas without becoming violent and blowing up themselves and other people. Neither do these religions have a concept of a FATWA which allows them to try to kill people e.g. Salman Rushdie.

Additionally most Muslims believe that the penalty for leaving the religion is death. Becoming a Muslim or being born one tends therefore to be a one way trap door. When extremist Muslims encounter those who are more moderate, they accuse the moderates of not being proper Muslims and call them apostates - for which the penalty is death. The moderates then either turn a blind eye or join the extremists.

[5TH] Muslims ought to try to be Christians in Muslim countries, that will give them a wake up call.

No one has to stay in this country, it's not a prison. People are free to leave.

[6TH] I fear for the future of my country and my grandchildren.

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.

For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague." Marcus Tullius Cicero, 58 BC.

[7TH] This is not about western society. Islamic society doesn't mix south, east or North. It is incompatible with other societies unless it dominates. This is all documented in the Koran. This plays out everywhere in the world. North Africa, Europe, Russia, Thailand, Burma, India. Every border. It plays out all through History too.

This is not about needing these people to move away from extremism. We need them to move away from Islam.

.... I can understand as a moderate Muslim you don't want to see the faith as the problem but it is. You are a moderate not because you have a better interpretation of the Koran but because you reject most of it. [The Independent] Read more

Over a quarter of British Muslims have sympathy for the Charlie Hebdo terrorists. That is far too many

This morning the BBC published details of a major poll of the attitudes of Britain’s Muslims. The headline on the front of the BBC website linking to the research states: “Muslims ‘oppose cartoon reprisals’”. This of course relates to attitudes within the Muslim community towards the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks.

It’s a reassuring headline. It’s also wrong. Many Muslims - a majority - do indeed utterly oppose the murderous killings in Paris. But a very, very large number of Muslims don’t.

Presented with the statement “I have some sympathy for the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris”, 27 seven percent agreed with the statement. A further 2 per cent refused to answer the question. And an additional eight percent said they were unsure whether they had some sympathy or not.

....All of this raises two serious questions. The first relates to the BBC’s reporting. Let’s set aside their use of the word “reprisal” in the headline (reprisal for what, exactly?). Imagine if the BBC had commissioned a poll in the wake of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and that poll had found 27 per cent of white Britons agreed with the statement “I have some sympathy for the motives behind his stabbing”.

Imagine if, in an additional finding, 32 per cent of white Briton’s refused to endorse the statement “acts of unprovoked violence against black men can never be justified”.

Rightly, there would be outrage at those findings. [The Telegraph] Read more

Majority fear radicalization of Muslims

The survey was commissioned by the Austrian public broadcaster ORF, for its programme Bürgerforum. 58 percent of the 500 respondents said that they felt that more Muslims were becoming radicalized in Austria. 30 percent felt this was not the case and that such statements were exaggerated.

62 percent felt that the coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims in Austria was "not so good", and only 27 percent felt it was "rather good".

ÖGM noted that the survey was carried out after the shootings in Paris and Copenhagen, and that the results were likely to have been affected by these events.

41 percent of people questioned feared a similar attack in Austria but the majority, 47 percent, said they did not believe something like this was likely to happen. [The Local] Read more

Austrian law rules imams must be able to speak German - New law passed in parliament also bans foreign sources of financing for Muslim organisations

Austria's parliament has passed a bill amending historical laws on Muslim organisations which will ban foreign sources of financing and require imams to be able to speak German.

The text aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz called an "Islam of European character" by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations and organisations, and offering Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practising their faith in the central European country.

However, the law has generated opposition from several quarters, including Austrian Muslim groups that call it "discrimination" that imposes restrictions on Islam that other religions are not saddled with. [Al Jazeera] Read more

Austria passes controversial reforms to 1912 Islam law

The bill, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamist radicalism, gives Muslims more legal security but bans foreign funding for mosques and imams.

Austria's Integration Minister, Sebastian Kurz, defended the reforms but Muslim leaders say they fail to treat them equally.

The 1912 law made Islam an official religion in Austria.

It has been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam.

The new measures, first proposed three years ago, include the protection of religious holidays and training for imams.

But Muslim groups say the ban on foreign funding is unfair as international support is still permitted for the Christian and Jewish faiths.

They say the legalisation reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and some are planning to contest it in the constitutional court. [BBC] Read more

Haitham Haddad – No apostates will escape death

Haitham Haddad wants a world where there is no escape from death for apostates from Islam. None at all.

Not even “private” apostates will be spared. They will be spotted when they stop praying or wearing the hijab. Execution will be their reward.

See for yourself. Here he is at a laughably named “Peace Conference” in Norway in 2013.

He rolls out one of his favourite lines in defence of his sickening death call. Hey, “most” European countries have capital punishment for “treason”. I don’t know if this is a brazen lie on his part or evidence of shocking ignorance about European law. Either way, it’s pathetic. [Harry’s Place] Read more

ISIS burns Mosul library: Why terrorists target books

UNESCO has called the destruction of libraries and books in Mosul 'one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.'

From the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in 391 AD, to the burning of Kabul libraries in 2002, to the the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad in 2003, oppressive regimes have historically targeted libraries.

In the latest example, on Sunday, in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants burned the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts.

According to reports, ISIS militants rigged the entire building with explosives and carried out multiple detonations to raze the historical landmark and its contents. Among its lost collections, according to the Fiscal Times, were manuscripts from the 18th century, Syriac books printed in Iraq's first printing house in the 19th century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early 20th century, and treasured antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs. [The Christian Science Monitor] Read more

Most British Muslims 'oppose Muhammad cartoons reprisals'

The majority of British Muslims oppose violence against people who publish images depicting the Prophet Muhammad, a poll for the BBC suggests.

The survey also indicates most have no sympathy with those who want to fight against Western interests.

But 27% of the 1,000 Muslims polled by ComRes said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks.

Almost 80% said they had found it deeply offensive when images depicting the Prophet were published. [BBC] Read more

Former Miss Turkey faces prison for ‘insulting’ President Erdogan

Model and former Miss Turkey Merve Büyüksaraç is facing up to two years in prison for social media posts that prosecutors claim “insult” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The indictment has been completed as a part of an investigation into Büyüksaraç’s post, in which the prosecutor Umut Tepe demanded that she be sentenced to one to two years in prison. The Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul will now decide whether to initiate proceedings.

Büyüksaraç, an industrial designer and writer who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2006, was briefly detained and questioned on Jan. 14 for sharing a satirical poem on her Instagram account.

“The Master’s Poem,” shared by Büyüksaraç, satirically criticized Erdogan through verses adapted from the lyrics of Turkey’s national anthem. [Hürriyet Daily News] Read more

24 February 2015

Without more support, Muslim girls may well be tempted by Isis’s HR department

.... They grew up in a Britain that is filled with Islamophobia, where people seem to constantly speak ill about their faith. Sometimes, the non-stop criticism and offence can make people hang on to their religion more and more stringently, and get so into religion that they fail to differentiate between right and wrong. Instead, they become paranoid and defensive and start listening to Isis’s propaganda department.

.... Could they have gone somewhere else for support? Yes, there are organisations offering support to young people, but would they really understand the situations of these increasingly marginalised women? [769 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 255 votes] "They grew up in a Britain that is filled with Islamophobia"

Yeah, and they've done a fine job of disproving those "Islamophobes" silly delusions. Well done girls.

[2ND 243] "Many wonder why any teenager, who should be focused on education, hanging out with friends and starting relationships, would travel to join Islamic State (Isis)"

Surely that is not the main thing most of us are wondering. What I am wondering is how 3 girls, who will have seen and heard a lowly British Christian taxi driver, went to Syria to help children, ended up being beheaded and yet still they decided to join ISIS. Surely this is the elephant in the room? All the Guardian articles seem to be trying to rationalize it.

[3RD 219] You have chosen to blame British society for the girls' alienation and blame ISIS for their indoctrination. But neither of these explanations are satisfactory.

As to the first, many of these girls seem to come from comfortable middle class homes. They are not all surrounded by poverty. Plus plenty of girls grow up facing sexism, racism, and yes, even actual poverty, without turning to violence. So your explanation is not enough.

You leave out the agency of the girls themselves - 15, 16, 17 is old enough to have an opinion and responsibility for it - and the immediate influences on them that mean they think joining a brutal regime like ISIS is a valid - indeed the best, most morally correct - choice. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Saudi Arabia sentences man to death for renouncing his Muslim faith and posting a video online showing him hitting the Koran with his shoe

An Islamic court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to death for renouncing his Muslim faith and posting a video on a social media site which shows him ripping up the Koran before hitting it with his shoe.

The unnamed man in his 20s, from Hafr-Al-Batin, posted a video on social media site Keek which allegedly shows him ripping up Islam's holy book and hitting it with a shoe.

He has now been sentenced to death for denouncing his Muslim faith and 'various other acts of blasphemy.' [Daily Mail] Read more

Saudi Arabia court gives death penalty to man who renounced his Muslim faith

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a man to death for apostasy after he filmed himself tearing up a copy of the Koran, a new test case for the country's human rights record just as its most powerful rising prince was visiting Downing Street.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the country's security supremo who was recently made deputy Crown Prince – the presumed heir-but-one to the throne – was due to have dinner with Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, on Tuesday night. [The Telegraph] Read more

Activists warn of end of Christian presence in Middle East as Isis seizes 90 Assyrians

The reported kidnappings are the latest blow to the ancient Christian presence in the region, heightening insecurity after a video was released by militants claiming allegiance to Isis that appeared to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya.

“This is another episode in the targeting to the Christians of the east,” Habib Afram, president of the Syriac League in Lebanon, which represents the Assyrian minority, told the Guardian. “We are witnessing the end of the Christian presence in the east.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by Isis near Tal Tamr. In addition to the captives, four Christians were killed trying to defend the villages.

The attack targeted some 35 mostly Assyrian settlements near the Khabur river, a tributary of the Euphrates, after there had been heavy fighting in the area between Isis and the YPG, the Kurdish militia backed by the US-led coalition that beat back an advance on the border town of Kobani last month. [The Guardian] Read more

23 February 2015

If Britons want to join Isis, let them go

One of the more acute contributions to the soul-searching about the disappearance of three London schoolgirls came from the former foreign secretary, William Hague. Asked on a weekend television talk show why the girls had not been monitored and prevented from leaving, he remarked that questions about state surveillance usually came with the implication that there was far too much; in this case, the implication was that there had been too little.

.... Yet how far should the state restrict individuals’ travel because the authorities disapprove of the traveller’s purpose? One definition of a free country is the right to leave it. Is possessing an air ticket to Turkey to become a suspect activity in itself? If so, you can be sure that other, more convoluted, routes will rapidly be found. To those Britons wanting to join Isis, I would say: let them go. This is more a family matter than a cause for national breast-beating, and I see no reason why police officers have to be sent, at great expense, in an effort to rescue these girls from themselves. [2,753 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 572 votes] Let them [leave] and then revoke their citizenship. Do not let them back in.

[2ND 514] They won't be stateless, they will be citizens of the Islamic State.

[3RD 454] .... we should make no efforts or expense whatsoever to 'save', 'rescue', 'retrieve' or 'hall' these wannabe murderers and terrorists (and this includes their wannabe 'brides').

In the unfortunate event that they do manage to return alive to this country, they should promptly be returned to the country(ies) from when they returned to face local justice.

[4TH 378 ] At last! Some actual common sense on this matter. I thought I was going quite mad.

These young women had passports and money and were free to leave the country as they see fit - it is a Western democracy after all.

They are not children. Their actions may be unwise and they will probably regret them but that is not a matter to concern the Prime Minister the Press or the Police.

[5TH 358] Absolutely right. If they want to be part of it, let them go. Who cares?

It was interesting that the parents of one of the girls criticised the intelligence services for NOT monitoring her social media activity close enough. You really can't win can you

[6TH 346] Hell yes! They've made their choice, let them go. Oh, and please don't let them back. [Guardian Cif] Read more

ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts in Mosul

While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.

“ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices,” said Ghanim al-Ta'an, the director of the library. Notables in Mosul tried to persuade ISIS members to spare the library, but they failed. [The Fiscal Times] Read more

Bogus Muslim charities ‘collecting money to fund terrorism of Islamic State’

.... They are using intimidation to raise money allegedly for charities helping victims of the Syrian civil war and are “abusing” Muslims who refuse to donate.

Police and counter terror authorities have warned that the unregistered Islamic charities are operating door to door collections and have even solicited drivers when they stop at traffic lights.

Muslims who refuse to hand over cash are accused of not supporting their communities or of being “ supporters of the Israelis.”

Senior police officers have voiced their fears to the political think tank the Henry Jackson Society who have compiled a report called Community Policing and Preventing Extremism. [Daily Express] Read more

Moderate Muslims

.... I don't think any of us, say twenty or thirty years ago, could have foreseen where we are now. In the UK the expectation was that the next generation of Muslims would start to follow our example, and would increasingly abandon their religion as so many of us abandoned our Christianity, and we'd see an increasing secularisation as they adapted to our culture. For some no doubt that's happened, but the effect, such as it is, has been completely overshadowed by the growth of radical Islam.

For many young Muslims, it seems, their Muslim identity turns out to have been far more important to them than we expected: more important than their identity as UK citizens.

It could be argued - it has been argued - that that's down to marginalisation and racism. Such factors aren't irrelevant, but there's much more going on. And, as many young Muslims have decided, if you're going to be defined by your Muslim identity, then you might want to embrace what most of the clerics tell you is the real Islam, the genuine back-to-the-dark-ages world of the first Muslims.

So no, I don't see any sign of that Muslim reformation anytime soon - from the theological point of view, at any rate. But I guess we'll get there in the end. [Mick Hartley] Read more

Saudi sentenced to death for abusing Islam - Man also charged with ripping copy of Holy Koran

A Saudi court sentenced a local man to death after he was found guilty of insulting Islam and its Prophet (PBUH), a newspaper reported on Monday.

The unidentified man, in his 20s, was also charged with ripping a copy of the Holy Quran, filming the act and publishing it on social networks, ‘Sharq’ said.

“The court sentenced the man to beheaded after finding him guilty in those charges,” the paper said in a report from the northeastern town of Hafr Albatin. [Emirates247.com] Read more

Repeat after me: It’s got nothing to do with Islam

The more excitable members of these groups have spent the past 1400 years trying to wipe each other out, a process that continues today in Syria and Iraq — and, to a lesser extent, in Auburn and Lakemba. It seems counterintuitive, but this crowd gains new members with every latest Islamic atrocity. Last week, following Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein’s murderous rampage in Copenhagen, Sanna al-Baltam spoke to Danish television about her former neighbour.

“We’re not sure it was him who did it,” she said. “If it was, it has nothing to do with Islam. He must have been manipulated.”

Yep. Nothing to do with Islam. Why, anyone at all could have reason to attack a freedom of speech conference and a synagogue. That is, if the person in question is the type who, as Danish media reported, enjoyed discussing Islam, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and his hatred for Jews.

The Copenhagen attack followed those other recent nothing-to-do-with-Islam incidents in Paris, which ended with Islamic gunman Amedy Coulibaly’s slaughter of four people at a kosher supermarket. [The Daily Telegraph] Read more

Bradford Muslims ‘duped by charities backing terror’

POLICE believe Muslims in part of Yorkshire may unwittingly be funding terrorism and criminal activity by giving money to unscrupulous collectors, a major report has said.

Officers in West Yorkshire told researchers how the expectation that followers of Islam should support charities had left some communities in Bradford at risk of exploitation.

The concerns were raised as part of a wide-ranging research project which looked at the role of community policing in combating extremism and promoting Prevent – the Government’s strategy to counteract radicalisation. [Yorkshire Post] Read more

22 February 2015

Saudi men detained for dancing at birthday party

Saudi Arabia's morality police detained a group of young men for dancing at a birthday party and referred them to prosecutors, according to a state-linked media report.

The news website Ayn al-Youm reported Saturday that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice raided a private property in the city of Buraydah, arresting the men inside for "loud music and inappropriate dancing. [AP] Read more

Opinion: Manifesto for a modern Islam

In a clearly formulated manifesto last week, four well-known Muslim intellectuals appealed to all Muslim political and religious leaders to stand up and support a democratic Islam. In their letter, they also laid out some concrete steps, among them a conference in France early next year that would "define the contours of a progressive interpretation of Islam firmly grounded in the 21st century."

The four men behind this letter are Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford; Anwar Ibrahim, the head of Malaysia's national opposition and chairman of the World Forum for Muslim Democrats; Ghaleb Bencheikh, the president of the World Conference for Religions for Peace; and Felix Marquardt, founder of the Abd al-Ra?man al-Kawakibi Foundation.

They're hard on their fellow Muslims and ask tough questions. In their letter, they call for a clear-eyed diagnosis of Islam's current plight and want to develop a fundamental critique of Islamic culture and religion. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Islamic 'radicals' at the heart of Whitehall

.... Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman to sit in Cabinet, handed official posts to people linked to Islamist groups, including a man involved in an “unpleasant and bullying” campaign to win planning permission for the controversial London “megamosque” proposed by a fundamentalist Islamic sect.

He sits – alongside other radicals or former radicals and their allies – on a “cross-Government working group on anti-Muslim hatred” set up by Lady Warsi and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.

Some members of the group are using their seats at the table to urge that Whitehall work with Islamist and extremist-linked bodies, including one described by the Prime Minister as a “political front for the Muslim Brotherhood”. Some are also pressing to lift bans on foreign hate preachers from entering Britain, including Zakir Naik, who has stated that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”. [The Telegraph] Read more

20 February 2015

Is Islamic State really Islamic? Yes, in a twisted sort of way

.... You can go to the Muslim sacred texts and find exhortations to peace, love, tolerance and understanding. You can also find justifications for religious warfare, the subjugation of women, amputations, stonings and goodness knows what. However, most Muslim scholars and teachers in most countries remain true to their faith and their scriptures without advocating any of these things.

As ever, there is a complex relationship between scriptures, the historic tradition and contemporary culture. So the point is that the answers to Islam's problems already lie within Islam; dismissing a whole world faith because of the actions of a minority of extremists is not very helpful.

Graeme Wood's Atlantic article was well-researched and thoughtful. When he says that the fact that Islamic State is murderous, wicked and primitive doesn't mean it isn't Islamic, he's right. The point is that there is a better Islam too, whose adherents are far more numerous and far better people. That's the one that has to win, and to define Islam in future for the world. [Christian Today] Read more

Copenhagen shootings: hundreds attend funeral of gunman

.... A man of east African origin, who refused to give his name, told AFP about the ceremony: “There were a lot of young people that you don’t normally see there... because they knew Omar. Some of them were gang members. They are my brothers too because they believe in Allah and the Prophet Mohammed, but their lifestyle doesn’t have a lot to do with Islam,” he said.

A handful of those who were there he recognized as members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, but there were also many “normal Muslims,” the man said. “A Muslim cannot be denied a funeral. God will judge him.” [Agence France-Presse] Read more

Terror Strikes Copenhagen - "It Is the Danes' Fault"

Shortly after 3pm on Saturday, when 22-year-old Omar Abdel Hamid el-Hussein had shot and killed one of the guests attending a discussion on free speech at the Krudttønden cultural institute in Copenhagen's Østerbro neighborhood, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt arrived at the scene to express her sympathy with the families of the victim and the policemen who had been wounded in the firefight with el-Hussein. She also stressed the need for national unity in this time of horror.

The discussion that came under attack was attended by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks -- famous for his drawing of Muhammad as a roundabout dog, and probably the intended target -- and the French ambassador.

The first question Thorning-Schmidt got from one of the journalists was, "How do you think this is going to affect Muslims in Denmark?" None of the journalists asked, "What are you going to do to protect us from Islamist savagery?" Or, "How can you allow the current mass influx of Muslims when we have so obviously been unable to integrate those already here?" [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Obama rejects as ‘ugly lie’ notion that West at war with Islam

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday urged countries to tackle violent Islamist militancy around the world and rejected as “an ugly lie” suggestions that the West was at war with Islam and embroiled in a clash of civilizations.

Obama said there was a complicated history between the Middle East and the West and no one should be immune from criticism over specific policies.

“But the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” he said. “And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it,” he told a conference convened by the White House on countering violent extremism.

“Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations,” Obama said. [Reuters] Read more

What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

.... Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable.

We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. [The Atlantic] Read more

Hizb ut-Tahrir won’t condemn Islamic State death cult

.... Hizb ut-Tahrir, which identifies itself as an Islamic political group, has more than 300 members in Australia. It is banned in several Middle Eastern countries and cannot hold rallies in Germany.

Late last year the group’s leader Abu Anas, who was part of the 100-strong crowd on Thursday, said his group believed in “another world order” which they were ready to “sacrifice everything for”.

“They send their troops to Iraq to bomb Iraq to spread democracy. We will send our troops to Australia, to France to Germany,” he said in October. Spokesman Wassim Doureihi delivered a lengthy statement and fielded most of the questions during Thursday’s press conference. [The Daily Telegraph] Read more

Saudi female TV presenters urged to dress more modestly

Female newsreaders in Saudi Arabia may soon be required to dress more modestly when they appear on air, it's reported.

The kingdom's advisory body, the Shura Council, is considering a proposal put forward by the country's media authorities which would require all female television presenters to adopt a more conservative dress code, which includes covering their head and wearing the traditional black abaya cloak.

One of the authors of the draft law, Ibrahim Abu Abat, says it's "embarrassing" that the country's media do not represent Islam in what he deems to be the Saudi way. "Saudi women must appear with respectable hijab, so we can have Saudi media that truly represent our beliefs and values", the Saudi Gazette reports. [BBC] Read more

19 February 2015

Phillips Warns of ‘Civilizational Battle’ Between Islam and the West

In a visit to California this week, British journalist and author Melanie Phillips stated the very thing that leaders of the western world have refused to say, and have gone to particularly great lengths to avoid.

In a lecture on “The Paris Massacres and the Freedom of Speech,” Phillips singled out Islam as being the root cause of the violent extremism in the Paris and Copenhagen attacks ,and warned that radical ideologies stemming from the interpretation of the religion’s teachings are a direct threat to western values and the civilization as a whole.

“The real point is that the attack on freedom of speech is part of a religious war of conquest being waged against the free world….It’s a civilizational battle,” Phillips said as she addressed a jam-packed audience at the University of Redlands on Monday.

“ISIS has identified itself as Islamic in everything that it does. To say that it is not Islam is just completely absurd….To deny that it is rooted in Islamic thought is a terrible mistake,” Phillips added. [Breitbart] Read more

Religious extremism in Islamic charity is exposed by ITV documentary

An ITV documentary has exposed radicalism and anti-Semitism in an Islamic charity with alleged extremist links.

The acting Chief Executive of the charity in question, the Global Aid Trust (GAT) has resigned "in connection with" the documentary, which recorded one guest speaker at a GAT event and a GAT worker endorsing jihad.

The worker was recorded praising hate preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, the now-dead jihadi propagandist and al-Qaeda recruiter. The worker said that al-Awlaki was "a scholar, and basically he was imprisoned, and after he came out of prison he started to incite hatred and telling the western Muslims to bomb. He incited bombings, basically. Bruv, he was a brilliant guy though." [National Secular Society] Read more

Shoura passes dress code law for women TV anchors

The Shoura Council has passed a new law that would make it mandatory for women TV anchors working in the Kingdom to wear modest dress and not show off their beauty.

Ahmed Al-Zailaee, chairman of the media committee at the consultative body, said once the law is passed by the Cabinet it would apply to all women media workers in the Kingdom, including those of MBC and Rotana.

Latifa Al-Shualan, a Shoura member, expressed surprise at the council’s interest in the dress code of women TV anchors, and said there are other more important issues to tackle.[Arab News] Read more

18 February 2015

Islamic charity under spotlight after being accused of promoting extremism

The chief executive of an Islamic charity has stepped down and an investigation launched after the organisation was accused of supporting extremism.

Global Aid Trust, which claims to raise money to educate the underprivileged and alleviate poverty around the world, was launched in 2004 and has an annual income of more than half a million pounds a year.

But the Charity Commission is now investigating after an undercover reporter found its staff praising terrorists and even offering advice on how to become a jihadist in in Syria.

There is also an ongoing fraud investigation by the National Terrorism Financial Investigation Unit. [The Telegraph] Read more

Another atheist sentenced in Egypt

University reported disbelieving student to the authorities

A 22-year-old Egyptian atheist was sentenced to a year in jail for "contempt of religion" at a court hearing on Monday.

Although atheism is not actually illegal in Egypt and the new constitution says freedom of belief is "absolute", atheists are "the country's second enemy after the Muslim Brotherhood" and are also health hazard since atheism is a cause of "mental imbalances and paranoia", according to a government-linked newspaper. [al-bab.com] Read more

17 February 2015

After years of silence, Turkey’s women are going into battle against oppression

.... The AKP replaced the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs with the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. The renaming, seemingly small, is rather telling: the word “women” has been taken out and the emphasis has been placed on “family”.

While visiting a maternity hospital in January, the minister of health, Mehmet Müezzinoglu, said a woman’s primary career was motherhood and that Turkish women should focus only on this career. The statement provoked a major backlash.

.... President Erdogan slammed the women who protested against domestic violence and sexual harassment in Turkey for singing songs and dancing together. In the pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak, some columnists have said that rape also happens in America and therefore people should shut up about it. Another columnist argued “keep quiet and go to a doctor”. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Progress grandee warns of 'creeping Islamization'

The Progress Party sidelined its most vocal anti-Islamist and anti-immigrant voices after becoming the junior partner in Norway’s right-wing coalition government in 2013.

But Hagen was not alone in the party in his response to the Copenhagen attacks.

Oslo MP Mazyar Keshvari on Monday called for a complete cessation of immigration to the city, arguing that integration could not succeed with immigrant numbers rising at the present rate.

“How on earth can minorities integrate into society when minorities constitute the majority in an ever greater number of schools?” Keshwari told Norway’s TV2 channel, after a programme aired on Monday night drew attention to the high proportion of immigrant children in many Oslo schools. [The Local] Read more

Italian headmaster bans 'provocative' Muslim headscarves in schools

An Italian headmaster has banned female Muslim students from wearing headscarves, claiming they constitute a "provocation".

Aldo Duri, the headmaster of a school in the north-eastern Italian town Cervignano del Friuli, said that the measure, which applies in six colleges in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, had been made to promote the values of "tolerance, respect and equality".

"Ostentation and exhibition, especially if imposed, of exterior signs of a religious confession can be taken as provocation and spark reactions of ostracism, disparagement or rejection," said Duri in a statement published on the college websites, reports Gazzetta del Sud.

"For example, the handkerchief or scarf that covers the hair and sometimes part of the face of Muslim girls. They are free to use it outside school, but not in class." [International Business Times] Read more

16 February 2015

We must stamp out hatred wherever we see it - Media reactions to the killings in Copenhagen and Chapel Hill have shown some worrying inconsistencies

.... it is with great sadness that we see how mindless violence has filled the last week. It began with the murder of three young Americans in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, apparently because of their Muslim faith, and ended on Saturday night with shootings at a cafe and synagogue in Copenhagen.

.... To combat the evolving threat we face from such increased hatred, I believe we need both a top-down and bottom-up approach.

At the national level, the government and senior politicians must be consistent in raising the profile and tackling all hate crimes equally, through a strategy fully co-ordinated with all those communities impacted. .... The media’s portrayal of Muslims is hugely negative and inconsistent - but only through self-reflection from journalists is this likely to change.

.... At the grassroots level, we must work hard to change the discourse of hate, and drive it away from the dinner table – it should no longer be seen as socially acceptable to speak about all adherents to a particular faith in such a derogatory manner.

.... In the end, it is only through a consistent and unified approach across all levels of society that we have a chance of combating the scourge of Islamophobia.... [Shuja Shafi of the Muslim Council of Britain, 379 Comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 185 votes] When Muslims kill people in the name of Islam, the response in the Guardian is always "don't blame Islam, this has nothing to do with Islam". When an atheist shoots three Muslims over a parking dispute, it has everything to do with Islam. Apparently.

[2ND 145] Why is the Guardian intent on painting the Chapel Hill killings as a consequence of Islamophobia, [rather] than what it truly was - a dispute over parking, which in trigger happy gun loving America can have lethal ramifications?

The killings of the Egyptian Coptic Christians and the ones in Denmark are a result of radical Islam which brooks no dissent and no scepticism and has a truly frightening aim of using violence and force to subjugate those who don't subscribe to these views.

We don't need the .... media in the West to portray Islam in bad light - the adherents of Islam do a good job of it themselves. ....

[3RD 134] If 'Islamophobia' is the hatred and abuse of Muslim people then it is a foul and unacceptable.

If, 'Islamophobia' is the hatred and fear of the ideology that motivates thousands of devout believers around the world to commit acts of barbaric savagery in the name of their religion and god, then it is a fully understandable and rationale response.

[4TH 130 "It began with the murder of three young Americans in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, apparently because of their Muslim faith"

No, it was apparently over a parking space.

[5TH 127] "Our response to these insults was instead to mobilise imams (Muslim theological leaders) across the UK to express our deep sadness at the caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in newspapers in the UK for the first time, while exemplifying his ideals by rejecting any violent response."

You don't get a reward for not being violent. You don't have the option of a 'violent response', if you take it you are breaking the law.

[6TH 114] The Guardian is clinging with bleeding fingertips to this bogus conflation!

[7TH 101] Am I supposed to applaud you for not wanting to kill people ....?

[8TH 99].... those who [would] kill for blasphemy are not a few .... but a large majority of Muslims. If it was not so, most of Muslim countries [would] not have blasphemy laws which prescribe [the] death penalty. I would say only about 30% of Muslims do not think death penalty is justified.

[9TH 92] It is not bigoted to begin to question the nature of a religion which would rather question free speech over this issue than that religion's own intolerance of free speech. .... Even the most liberal are beginning to open their eyes to that fact, as these threads demonstrate. The old 'bigotry' ship has long since sailed I'm afraid.

[10TH 85] Blame the media, blame the media, that is all you have to say.

The fact is the majority of news stories are accurate and report events fairly. Even sympathetic news media such as The Guardian tell the same story.

.... The simple truth is many Muslims in this country and abroad inspired by Islam as they see it do and say a great number of things from the trivial to the very important that annoy, puzzle and repulse non-Muslims and they are reported by the media.

It is all there: # Gender inequality # Segregation # Subversion of English law by sharia tribunals # Special treatment (veils, halal slaughter) # Under-age marriage # A Muslim woman can marry only Muslim man # Polygamy # Homophobia # Supremacism # Suppression of free speech (often by threat of violence) # Violent punishment including death for apostasy, and # Persecution of religious minorities ....

The problem has very little to do with the media and a lot to do with Islam.

[11TH 82] The Muslim Council of Britain always seems bewildered that it doesn't receive the highest of praise for condemning violence. .... Do you accept that a non-Muslim should be able to think and say what they like about Islam? Even if you find it "offensive" (whatever that is)? .... I think I know the answer.

[12TH 79] Islamophobia is a misnomer. The very term is an insult to the intelligence, and an attempt by cowards to stifle debate and criticism of an ideology.

[13TH 76] .... The concern I have that it's this heartfelt feeling of grievance from the majority [of Muslims] that gives rise to the violence of the minority.

.... it’s the law abiding citizen getting angry about insults against their religion that sows the seeds of violence. It’s the majority that frame how the religion reacts to slights, the violent minority are symptom of that anger.

[14TH 76] Islam teaches things which encourage many to kill. And Mullahs who teach extremist views to students, brainwashing them.

[15TH 74] .... Our faith, like all faiths, is clear that no amount of dislike for a person’s belief ever justifies the taking of a life.

No, the Islamic texts condone violence and even killing.

[16TH 70] "It began with the murder of three young Americans in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, apparently because of their Muslim faith"

If there was solid evidence that the three Muslim students were killed because of their faith the story would have received at least as much attention as the Copenhagen murders. As it was, it received much, much more attention than the random gun killings that happen every day in America. There is no evidence that this is anything more than another awful gun crime.

"In particular, the Department for Education must act to counter anti-Muslim prejudice in schools"

I agree. But then you must also agree to either close all Islamic schools or stop teaching directly from the Koran, a book that drips with hatred for non-Muslims, particularly atheists.

[17TH 61] So a Muslim publishes an article in the Guardian making it clear that although they were offended by the cartoons, violence is never the answer.

People might begin to approach the state of being persuaded if they say mass demonstrations against the murders instead of simply mass demonstrations against cartoons. It isn't enough to clog the streets moaning about blasphemy and offence over a cartoon but then make a couple of equivocal newspaper columns about the murders.

[18TH 61] I don't want them to denounce violence. I want them to start dismantling the underlying religious intolerance which feeds such violent actions, instead of reinforcing that intolerance.

[19TH 59] He killed three people. That is tragic and a crime. They just happened to be Muslim.

[20TH 59] .... people .... should be free to believe any old horse manure they fancy.

But when it is suggested that criticism of a particular ideology is unacceptable, no sorry, that just won't wash. .... attempts to demonise those who dare criticise what is essentially superstitious belief is beyond the pale.

[21ST 57] "We must stamp out hatred wherever we see it"

Great! And not before time. So, then, Shuja Shafi, how about you lead the charge?

But if you're not 'seeing it', here are a few to get you going: hatred of women; Jews; Christians; all other religions except Muslim; catoonists who depict Mohammed; homosexuals; transexuals; bisexuals; apostates; inter-faith marriage; the West; books; enlightenment; satire; humour; music; art; dance; free speech... and there's more, there always is - the never-ending Muslim offences list.

So there you go, Shuja, plenty there to get cracking on! Please do keep us up to date, now, won't you?

[22ND 50] At the grassroots level, we must work hard to change the discourse of hate, and drive it away from the dinner table – it should no longer be seen as socially acceptable to speak about all adherents to a particular faith in such a derogatory manner.

I admire the sentiment and agree that it is desirable that all adherents of a particular faith should not be criticised for the acts of a few, but I cannot accept that peoples' faith is beyond criticism.

[23RD 49] The west isn't at war with islam. Islam is at war with everything else, modernity, women, kids toys, hair, cartoons, snowmen, humour --- The list is very long.

[24TH 47] Mohammed had someone killed for mocking him. The people gunning for cartoonists are following his example. He was perfect after all.

Of course, the bible has its violent parts. And if extremist Christians were killing people all over the world and citing those same passages I expect Christianity would be under scrutiny as well.

How long are we expected to ignore the obvious here?

[25TH 44] ".... it should no longer be seen as socially acceptable to speak about all adherents to a particular faith in such a derogatory manner."

Meanwhile, you believe, and teach your children, that disbelievers will be burned in hell, and when your god has burned all their flesh from their bones, he'll put it back so he can burn it off again.

[26TH 44] "It began with the murder of three young Americans in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, apparently because of their Muslim faith"

No, it wasn't "apparently because of their Muslim faith". It was because of a parking dispute. America is awash with guns. A man with anger issues and in possession of a gun easily obtained loses it and kills three of those he was having the parking dispute with... who happened to be Muslim.

Using this crime to make your disingenuous point that, somehow, we are all as bad as each other, is just so wrong in so many ways.

.... you're not doing yourself, or your cause, any good with this false equivalence. It makes it seem that you are so desperate to find anything - anything - that shows, 'We can't be that bad, 'cause look, the other lot are doing bad stuff too!', that you are willing to lie to 'prove' it. Quite despicable.

[27TH 44] "The media’s portrayal of Muslims is hugely negative..."

Please explain exactly how the media could report on beheadings, bombings and shootings (carried out by Muslims) in a "positive" light.

[28TH 43] "The media’s portrayal of Muslims is hugely negative and inconsistent"

You can't blame the media, it's only reporting what's going on.

"We must stamp out hatred wherever we see it"

Does this include within your chosen ideology as well?

[29TH 42] I think that your philosophy of human existence is bollocks. I disagree with it radically and fundamentally. I find the repression and violence inherent in it’s ideas expounded by this philosophy repugnant.

I find the expectation that these ideas are to be treated with respect laughable.

[30TH 40] .... the old "Islam means peace" nonsense does not work any more nor does the old excuse about how so many people sadly misunderstand the peaceful verses of the Koran. .... It is time to tell the truth about Islam ....

[31ST 39] We're to take advice on tolerance from the Muslim Council of Britain now? .... well done to "world's leading liberal voice" for giving this .... crank column space. What's next - a series of lectures on community cohesion from Nick Griffin?

[32ND 37] I find this article is both patronising and insulting. The anecdotes of minor and isolated attacks on Islamic buildings does not sit equally with barbaric beheadings, slavery and rape.

Islam, like other religions should not be protected from direct criticism or promoted in schools. The use of the word Islamophobia implies irrational fear of Islam. It isn't irrational fear that motivates many but contempt.

[33RD 36] "The actions of a few do not speak for the beliefs of the many."

I'm sorry, but you're making the same mistake committed by the author of the piece and various religious apologists since the Hebdo attacks. I am not interested in the "look at the many not the few" type of argument[s]; I am focusing on the religion, the ideology.

That being the case the fact that it is intolerant, bigoted, reactionary and violent highlights how incompatible it currently is with western values. The MCB may denounce the acts of violence, but do they condemn the text from which the violence is inspired?

Of course not.

[34TH 33] Things will only get worse if people continue to deny that these attacks have anything to do with Islam. Look we know that people like the Copenhagen killer are not representative of most Muslims, and we know that most Muslims are peaceful, ordinary people, but to say that these attacks by extremist Muslims have nothing to do with their religion is intellectually ludicrous.

[Guardian Cif] Read more

The right to free speech means nothing without the right to offend

.... Violence is how the mob silences the minority, the terrorist its target. As the historian Timothy Garton Ash pointed out in our discussions last Friday, the so-called “heckler’s veto” – the threat of disorder being used to silence speech – has in the case of Charlie Hebdo, and now Copenhagen, been replaced by an attempted “assassin’s veto” – using the threat of murder to silence any of those with whom we disagree. And we cannot let that happen.

Because if the reaction to the latest attack is that there are no more debates about free expression, no more speech that one or other person finds offensive, then the result will not be less offensive speech, it will be no speech at all.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 154 votes] It shows how bad things have got that we apparently need groveling apologistic articles in defence of free speech, FFS. I thought this thing was settled a couple of hundred years ago. Maybe the enlightenment was a passing fad like Myspace. [Guardian Cif] Read more

France debates ban on Muslim veils in universities

The debate over wearing veils at public universities has resurfaced after reports of professors singling out women for wearing hijabs. Both politicians and the public are struggling to find a balance between French secularism and religious tolerance.

The issue of whether to let women wear scarves at university came into the spotlight earlier this month when a professor at the Paris XIII university said that he did not support “religious symbols in public places”, referring to a young woman wearing a hijab in his class. The professor was demoted for his comments.

In September, a professor at the Sorbonne asked a student if she would continue wearing “that thing” in class, indicating the young woman’s headscarf. The president of the Sorbonne later apologised for the professor’s comments. [France24] Read more

Islam and the West at War

.... Who or what is to blame? There are two schools. For the first, it is the West that is to blame through its support for Israel (seen as the latest iteration of Western imperialism in the Levant); its wars (Iraq); its brutality, (Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib); its killing of civilians (drones); its oil-driven hypocrisy (a jihadi-funding Saudi ally).

For the second, it is rather the abject failure of the Arab world, its blocked societies where dictators face off against political Islam, its repression, its feeble institutions, its sectarianism precluding the practice of participatory citizenship, its wild conspiracy theories, its inability to provide jobs or hope for its youth, that gives the Islamic State its appeal.

I find the second view more persuasive. The rise of the Islamic State, and Obama’s new war, are a direct result of the failure of the Arab Spring, which had seemed to offer a path out of the deadlocked, jihadi-spawning societies of the Arab world. [The New York Times] Read more

15 February 2015

Our response to the Copenhagen attacks will define us

.... But there are also other obligations to be laid upon those who wish to live in peaceful, reasonably harmonious societies. Even after Paris, even after Denmark, we must guard against the understandable temptation to be provocative in the publication of these cartoons if the sole objective is to establish that we can do so. With rights to free speech come responsibilities.

That seems to me the moral approach, but there is a practical issue here too. There is no negotiating with men with guns. If progress is to come, it will be via dialogue with the millions of faithful Muslims who would never think to murder but also abhor publication of these cartoons.

We cannot have that conversation in a time and spirit of provocation. And to have it would not be an act of weakness. The strong approach is not necessarily to do what is possible, but to do what is right. [Hugh Muir, 2,321 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 510 votes]Already we have useful idiots questioning whether it is 'helpful' or 'necessary' to depict images of Mohammed.

It starts with self-censorship regarding so-called 'blasphemy'. Then we stop feeding school children pork in case it causes offence under the pretext that it is too costly to make separate provisions for those who find pork 'offensive'.

Soon we'll be telling people not to consume alcohol in public, or dress 'appropriately' – so as to not cause offence, natch....

Thus we slowly appease and accept the Islamists agenda.

We need to make a stand for our hard and long-earn freedoms and liberties and state that those who do not accept our society are free to go elsewhere.

[ANOTHER 470] Hughie, hughie what another masterclass in sophistry. Even though you are mixed race and born in Britain, your hatred for the west is so much you can write over 500 words of hand wringing.

To do the right thing, is to say out loud that: Islam is the problem. They need to reform asap and people like you need to stop screaming racism/Islamphobia.

[ANOTHER 356] .... We do need a dialogue with mainstream Muslims but we also need to be brutally honest about the reason for these atrocities. Until we can say "Islam" and "has a problem" in the same sentence without being criticised as racists or bigots, then our heads will be well and firmly in the sand.

[ANOTHER 348] I am so sick of those who pretend to be liberals saying they are pro free speech, but......

If this idiocy hadn't been encouraged in 1989 by allowing islamofacists to riot and incite the murder of an author, we wouldn't be trying to put the genie back in the bottle now.

[ANOTHER 311] Hugh and his like are Cultural Marxists ,Islam will forever be seen as the victim and as such free of blame and responsibility. This attitude is naïve and dangerous. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Copenhagen shootings: Blasphemy debate attack is setback for 'jihad rehab' approach

The attacks in Copenhagen are a loss of innocence for liberal Denmark’s attempt to take a non-punitive approach towards its citizens who have gone off to fight for Islamists in Syria and Iraq.

At least, that is going to be the reaction of critics who have attacked the country’s programme of rehabilitation for returning jihadists.

The scheme, which was meant to halt a cycle of radicalisation and retributive justice, was started in the city of Aarhus and was adopted nationwide last autumn. Denmark has sent more young Muslims, per head of population, to fight in the Levant than any other European country, apart from Belgium. [The Independent] Read more

Germany: Braunschweig parade halted over terror alert

A carnival parade has been called off at short notice in Braunschweig, northern Germany, due to the threat of an Islamist attack, police said.

A "specific threat of an Islamist attack" was identified by state security sources, they said in a statement.

Police urged people planning to attend to stay at home.

The parade - a well-known regional attraction - was cancelled only 90 minutes before it was due to start. [BBC] Read more

Copenhagen shootings: Police kill 'gunman' after two attacks

Police in Copenhagen say they have shot dead a man they believe was behind two deadly attacks in the Danish capital hours earlier.

Police say they killed the man in the Norrebro district after he opened fire on them.

It came after one person was killed and three police officers injured at a free speech debate in a cafe on Saturday.

In the second attack, a Jewish man was killed and two police officers wounded near the city's main synagogue. [BBC] Read more

14 February 2015

Why Should Any More Muslims Be Let In? Why?

.... it is clear that Muslims, those who take Islam seriously and are not merely Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only Muslims, do not accept the "fundamental values and freedoms, including the freedom of expression" that are part of, possibly the heart of, the advanced West.

Why then should the peoples and governments of the advanced West, that have taken so long to learn about Islam but have now, I think, done so sufficiently as to have all of their worst fears confirmed, continue to pretend that there is any possibility of getting Muslims to accept, to share, the "fundamental values and freedoms, including the freedom of expression," that make the West the West? [The Iconoclast] Read more

Montreal borough cancels Muslim group’s reservation at community centre after learning ‘disturbing information’

A Muslim graduation ceremony won’t be held at a community centre in Outremont Saturday evening after the borough cancelled the reservation.

The Outremont borough issued a press release Saturday morning saying it had made the decision following “disturbing information” broadcast on the TVA Nouvelles network Friday.

The network’s investigative show J.E. said two fundamentalist imams — Salah Assawy and Omar Shahin — were hosting the Académie de la charia nord-américaine, la MISHKA’s event where diplomas would be handed out in islamic studies.

Borough Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars said they deemed the presence of controversial leaders mentioned in the television network’s report “unacceptable” and could lead to serious problems. [National Post] Read more

Copenhagen shooting: One dead in deadly seminar attack

Denmark is on high alert after a gunman in Copenhagen killed one person and injured three at a free speech debate attended by a Swedish cartoonist.

Several dozen shots were fired at the seminar and a manhunt is now under way.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt described it as a "politically motivated" act of terrorism.

Cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats over his caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, was unhurt.

He told the Associated Press news agency that he believed he was the intended target of the attack. [BBC] Read more

13 February 2015

Turkish police use water cannon on protesters decrying religion in schools

Turkish police used water cannon in the western coastal city of Izmir on Friday to disperse scores of protesters boycotting schools over the growing influence of religion in the classroom, local media reported.

Education is the latest flashpoint between the administration of President Tayyip Erdogan, and secularist Turks who accuse him of overseeing creeping 'Islamisation' in the NATO member state.

Riot police were out in force on Izmir's streets, with water cannon being used to disperse banner-waving demonstrators who had gathered in the centre of the city, according to pictures from Dogan news agency. At least one person was seen being led away by plain clothes security officers. [Reuters] Read more

Luton Rabia School 'undermining British values' in treatment of girls

An Islamic school is "undermining British values" and "limits girls to knitting and sewing" in technology classes, Ofsted inspectors say.

Rabia Girls and Boys School in Luton had "not met" standards needed for an independent school, the watchdog said.

Ofsted said the school practised "unequal treatment of girls and boys" and teaching quality was "inadequate".

The school said it was focused on "making the improvements needed to raise standards".

Rabia Girls School, based in Portland Road, was set up in 1995 as a single-sex independent private primary and secondary school in Luton. [BBC] Read more

First victim of “blasphemy laws” would be Islam itself

Soon after Muslim gunmen killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo offices, which published satirical caricatures of Muslim prophet Muhammad, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) -- the “collective voice of the Muslim world” and second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations -- is again renewing calls for the UN to criminalize “blasphemy” against Islam, or what it more ecumenically calls, the “defamation of religions.”

Yet the OIC seems to miss one grand irony: if international laws would ban cartoons, books, and films on the basis that they defame Islam, they would also, by logical extension, have to ban the entire religion of Islam itself -- the only major religion whose core texts actively and unequivocally defame other religions, including by name. [The Commentator] Read more

Pakistan must review its archaic and divisive blasphemy laws

“Is questioning blasphemy also blasphemy?” was the question in the media this week.

The province with the highest score of blasphemy charges is poised to speed up 50 under trial blasphemy cases.

Reportedly, 50 cases have been extracted from a list of 262 on trial in various courts across Punjab for over five years.

Although the cases under scrutiny are all Muslim, it is no secret that the Black Laws are gags for progressives and weapons of oppression and revenge against women and religious communities.

Since the time of their inclusion in the Constitution in 1986 by Zia-ul Haq, 1,300 people have been victimised by the most dreaded of edicts in Pakistan. The figure has burgeoned since 2010. [Daily Mail] Read more

British Muslims: integration and segregation are about economics, not values

Do you worry about Britain’s growing Muslim population? You’re not alone.

According to the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, in 2003, 48 per cent of Britons worried that an increase in the Muslim population would weaken Britain’s national identity. By 2013, that had risen to 62 per cent.

A report from the Muslim Council of Britain this week may sharpen those concerns. Based on Census data, it set out how immigration and a high birth-rate have combined to swell Britain’s population to 2.7 million, around a third of them aged under 15.

Almost every political conversation about British Muslims touches on “integration,” the extent to which they and their socially conservative values fit into an increasingly liberal society. Many people fret about Muslims failing to integrate, leading separate lives in their own insular communities. [The Telegraph] Read more

12 February 2015

Islington Council scraps pork from menus in all primary schools

Pork has been taken off menus at primary schools in a north London borough because it costs too much to monitor which children are allowed to eat it, a council has said.

Islington Council has ruled that it is too expensive to check whether pupils in its primary schools can eat sausages, bacon and pork chops due to their religious beliefs.

A council spokesman said ensuring Muslim and Jewish children were not eating the meat represented an "unnecessary cost at a time of tight budgets".

Despite the move, pork will still be served in the borough's secondary schools.

The decision has attracted criticism from some local traders. [Evening Standard] Read more

Islam and the "culture of offence": missing the point

.... Those who condemn the massacre in Paris but blame Charlie for “offending Muslim sensibilities” (implying that they somehow got what they deserved) have bought into the Islamist narrative that “Muslims” are more offended by cartoons than mass murder.

This is validated by multiculturalism as a social policy and cultural relativism, which sees Muslim “communities” and “societies” as homogeneous and one and the same with the religious-Right.

So even though there is a rich historical and artistic tradition of depicting Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, over many centuries, it’s deemed offensive today. [openDemocracy] Read more

London council defends criticism over claims pork was banned in its primary schools

A north London council has defended itself over criticism it does not serve pork in its primary schools because of the cost of monitoring each child in case they are religiously or culturally forbidden from eating the meat.

The Islington Gazette reported that pork was “banned” in all primary schools in the borough of Islington, but still served in secondary schools.

Islington council reportedly said not having pork on school menus helped keep costs down and reduce food waste. It said it is too expensive to serve because it would require monitoring what every child eats in case they are forbidden from eating pork by their cultural or religious beliefs. [The Independent] Read more

Harper vows to appeal court ruling allowing women to wear niqab during citizenship oath, calls it ‘offensive’

The federal government will appeal a court ruling allowing a Muslim woman to wear a niqab while taking the oath of citizenship because it is “offensive” to shield your face at the moment you are being sworn in, the prime minister said Thursday.

Zunera Ishaq, the Toronto woman who challenged the government’s policy forbidding the wearing of facial coverings during the swearing-in part of citizenship ceremonies, said Thursday she was upset by the prime minister’s remarks but vowed to continue fighting through the court process. [National Post] Read more

Turkish parents complain of push towards religious schools

When Itir Erhart, 39, wanted to enrol her daughter in primary school, she found that it was almost impossible to find somewhere that did not teach Sunni Islamic religion and Sunni religious practices.

“We are a non-religious family,” Erhart said. “I don’t want my child to learn about God in school.”

In the end, she had to turn to the private sector for fear that her daughter would be marked out as the only non-religious child in the class. “Religion has become so dominant in Turkish state culture that I was afraid my daughter would be completely marginalised.” [The Guardian] Read more

11 February 2015

Muslim population in England and Wales nearly doubles in 10 years

The Muslim population of England and Wales is growing faster than the overall population, with a higher proportion of children and a lower ratio of elderly people, according to an analysis of official data.

One in three Muslims is under 15, compared with fewer than one in five overall. There are also fewer elderly Muslims, with 4% aged over 65, compared with 16% of the overall population.

In 2011, 2.71 million Muslims lived in England and Wales, compared with 1.55 million in 2001. There were also 77,000 Muslims in Scotland and 3,800 in Northern Ireland. [The Guardian] Read more

10 February 2015

Iran: Hassan Rouhani government will not permit women to sing, minister says

Hassan Rouhani’s government will not issue permits for women to sing solo, Ali Jannati, the minister of Culture and Guidance has declared.

Speaking in Isfahan on Friday, Ali Jannati said: “Those political currents that to seek to weaken and destroy the government offer incorrect information to religious scholars and members of parliament and distort the issue.”

He stressed that: “The Ministry of Guidance and Culture does not issue permits for women to sing solo.”

He added: “Ministry of Guidance works in adherence to Supreme Leader’s viewpoint.” [NCRI] Read more

Anti-halal campaigner sued over claims Islamic certification supports terrorism

A prominent anti-halal campaigner and the “Islam-critical” Q Society are being sued for defamation over their claims the Islamic certification industry is corrupt and funds “the push for sharia law in Australia”.

Mohammed El-Mouelhy, the head of one of Australia’s largest certifiers, Halal Certification Authority, began proceedings in the New South Wales supreme court last month against senior members of the Melbourne-based Q Society and Kirralie Smith, who runs the website HalalChoices.

The statement of claim alleges that two videos featuring Smith, one recorded at a Q Society event, portray El-Mouelhy as “part of a conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation from within” and “reasonably suspected of providing financial support to terrorist organisations”. [The Guardian] Read more

Emploi-Québec response not good enough for woman harassed over hijab

A West Island woman who was harassed at an Emploi-Québec office because of her hijab says she isn't satisfied with the government's response.

Aisha Forsythe said the government told her it has resolved her complaint, but she's frustrated because the employment ministry is refusing to offer any details about how it plans to address the issue.

Forsythe visited the Emploi-Québec office on St-Jean Boulevard last month to get help looking for work.

She said a counsellor there instead focused on her hijab.

Forsythe said she was told she had made a choice to "live in a ghetto" and that she would need to go to an "Arab country" to find work. [CBC News] Read more

Woman awarded €1,550 for headscarf jibe

A young Muslim woman has been awarded €1,550 in damages after the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labour and the Ombud for Equal Treatment ruled that she had been discriminated against in a job application because she wears a headscarf.

The woman, who was completing a vocational training, heard about a vacancy in a metal processing company and applied for the job. During her interview her potential employer pointed out that it was hard to tell what she was really like as she was wearing a headscarf. She said that she was told “we’d be willing to consider you if you take off that rag”.

When she proposed that she could wear a wig instead she said that they laughed at her and told her she was a "bumpkin". She was told to apply for the job again, "but this time send in a normal photo". [The Local] Read more