31 May 2015

Australian Muslims in trauma over politics of 'war on terror', forum hears

Australian Muslims are living in trauma because they had been singled out for political purposes, a leading Islamic leader said on Sunday.

The president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Ghaith Krayem, told an anti-racism forum in Melbourne that the federal government’s plans to allow the immigration minister to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals found to join or support terrorist groups “would make criminals of people based on suspicion and suspicion alone”.

.... “What we are seeing is a sophisticated and coordinated pattern and attack on the Islamic community … to ensure there is no dissent, no examination of our role in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.”

Many speakers and members of the audience spoke of the everyday difficulty of living as a Muslim, particularly for women who wore the hijab. Others were wary of leftwing groups using the issue to discuss a broader social justice agenda. [668 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT] Of course the laws are aimed at Muslims since 99.9% of people who go to join IS are Muslim.

[ANOTHER] "Australian Muslims in trauma over politics of 'war on terror', forum hears"

Poor dears. I'm still in trauma after unwisely clicking in a link that showed me a little girl in neat grey stockings, little black shoes with straps like my daughter wears and a pretty dress, who was lying in a gutter without her head after being decapitated.

If Muslims are not 100% behind efforts to stop those of their co-religionists who would love to do the same to us, then this left wing progressive can tell them to head on back to those wonderful Islamic paradises overseas PDQ. Muslims - whimpering about their rights when a minority, murdering, censoring, supressing and destroying when a majority.

[ANOTHER] The Islamic community in Australia has been very slow denounces the slaughtering of Chritians and cold blooded murder of a cartoonist. In fact the leadership is no more than a vacuum.

May I remind these Islamic leaders who are now playing the victim card of the placards at protests in Sydney threatening beheading. There was silence. I did not hear their voice criticizing the cartoons demeaning Christ.

The Australians have had enough. Cease playing the victim and lead your followers to integrate into the Australian community. By the way advocating Sharia law is not a path to integration. Leadership not victimization. [The Guardian] Read more

Morning prayer held before Hagia Sophia to demand re-conversion into mosque

A group of devout Muslims from across Turkey prayed before the city’s historic Hagia Sophia on the 562nd anniversary of the Turkish conquest of Istanbul, demanding that the site be turned back into a mosque.

Men and women from across the country gathered before the Hagia Sophia museum early May 31, as part of an event organized by the Anatolian Youth Association (AGD) with the motto “Break the chains, Open Hagia Sophia,” and prayed the morning prayer with a call for the reconversion of the museum into a mosque.

Designed as a Christian basilica in the sixth century by Anthemios of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, Hagia Sophia is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

.... Hagia Sophia was used as a mosque for 482 years. Following the Ottoman Empire’s collapse, it was converted into a museum by republican officials in 1935. [Dogan News Agency] Read more

Egypt deploys scholars to teach moderate Islam, but scepticism abounds

In his battle against militant Islam, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is relying not just on bomber planes and soldiers but on white-turbaned clerics from Al-Azhar, Egypt's 1,000-year-old centre for Islamic learning. He wants clerics to counter radicalism in the classroom.

In a televised speech in January at an Al-Azhar conference centre in Cairo, Sisi called for "a religious revolution" in Islam. Radicalised thinking, he told the audience of Islamic scholars, had become "a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world."

That had to change – and the scholars had a leading role to play, in schools, mosques and on the airwaves.

"You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting. The entire world is waiting for your next word because this nation is being torn apart." [Reuters] Read more

How banning radical Islamists will play right into their hands

The Government’s own counter-extremism advisers and other leading figures in the fight against Islamism have condemned Theresa May’s plans to ban non-violent extremists as “wrong,” “totalitarian” and certain to backfire.

Ministers want the power to make “banning orders” and “disruption orders” against groups and people whose extremism “falls below the thresholds in counter-terrorism legislation” but which “undermines British values”.

The unprecedented backlash against the proposed Extremism Bill comes amid new evidence that the Government is failing to use the anti-extremism powers it already has.

Haras Rafiq, director of the Quilliam Foundation, Britain’s foremost anti-extremism think tank, said the new bill would “do the very things the extremists want us to. With these Orwellian, totalitarian powers, we are playing into their hands”. [The Telegraph] Read more

30 May 2015

Islam and the Necessity of Liberal Critique

....We have those on the Islamic far right who say that there is no room for reform in Islam, because Islam is, and always has been perfect. We have their counterparts from the far right in the West, who coincidentally also view Islam as beyond reform, but for different reasons, as something that is irredeemably and permanently evil. Between those two extremes, we have the average Muslim, who is forced to choose between the devil he knows, Islamic dominance and supremacy, over the devil he doesn't, Western bigotry.

The liberal Left needs to present a different path, not acquiesce to either form of religious dominance. It is particularly important that those who stand for compassion, that those who stand for human rights and who recognize the harmful effects of bigotry and discrimination lead the charge against religious oppression no matter where it stems.

We know, not only is reform is possible, it is ongoing against insurmountable odds, it has champions that are laying their lives on the line for a better tomorrow. We cannot and must not let the current situation endure where reformists of Islam are standing alone and vulnerable. [Daily Kos] Read more

Muslim hijab fashions on show at the Creativity Unleashed expo in Parramatta

"Fashion is for all women, no matter where you're from," said Sharon Garrard, a co-ordinator of the Creativity Unleashed Expo.

The event, held in Parramatta on Saturday, celebrated the cultures of western Sydney's Lebanese, Arab, African, Indonesian and Afghan communities.

High-fashion hijabs by Australian Muslim designer Amalina Aman, who was born and raised in Western Australia, were among the creative works on show at the expo, which was organised by the local Community Migrant Resource Centre. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

29 May 2015

ROPSSAA says it's committed to gender equity after soccer controversy

The chair of the Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association (ROPSSAA) said the athletic council is committed to gender equity.

That reaffirmation to equity comes after an all-male team from the ISNA Private Islamic High School said it would not play the second half of a soccer game against Robert F. Hall Wolfpack on Tuesday at the Creditview Sandalwood Fields when it realized two of the Hall players were female.

“The ROPSSAA rules state that a girl has the right to play on a boys team if she is good enough,” said Paul Freier, who is also a high school principal in Peel. [Brampton Guardian] Read more

Danes talk tough on immigration ahead of election

"Unwanted" and "uncivilised" -- foreigners are sometimes shocked by the blunt tone of Denmark's debate on Muslim immigration, and with a general election around the corner politicians show no sign of toning it down.

"There's no way you can integrate with all this rhetoric because people think you're a criminal or a freeloader," said Kelly Draper, a British-born teacher who came to the Scandinavian country seven years ago.

"The last time I watched the Danish news... they had four main stories and three of them were about how immigrants were ruining everything," she added.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Wednesday called an election for June 18, and 10 years after daily Jyllands-Posten published the Mohammed cartoons that sparked lethal protests in some Muslim countries, immigration and Islam remain at the top of the agenda. [AFP] Read more

More primary school pupils attend Muslim schools Education

The number of pupils attending Islamic primary schools in the Netherlands has risen 22% over the past five years, the AD reports on Friday. In 2010, some 9,000 children attended an Islamic primary school, but this has now reached almost 11,000, the paper says.

‘The current climate in the Netherlands means Muslims are increasingly sticking together,’ Abdelsadek Maas, director of an Islamic school group in The Hague, told the paper. ‘If you wear a headscarf, you get weird looks. Children can be themselves at an Islamic school.’ [DutchNews] Read more

Women barred from voting in parts of Pakistan

In some of the most socially conservative regions of Pakistan this weekend’s local government elections will be men-only affairs.

Local politicians and elders say parties contesting elections for district and village council seats in Hangu and parts of Malakand, districts of the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have struck deals barring women from voting.

There are fears of similar arrangements across KP, a province bordering Afghanistan where many Pashtun communities observe purdah traditions so strict that many female candidates do not publish photographs on election posters. [Gulf News] Read more

Marine le Pen told by grand imam of Al-Azhar her opinions about Islam 'need correcting'

Egypt’s top imam has warned Marine Le Pen, the French far-Right leader, that her Front National party’s “hostile opinions” towards Islam must be “reviewed and corrected”.

During a meeting in Cairo, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, told Ms Le Pen that the Sunni Muslim body had “serious concerns” over her party’s stance on Islam.

The Front National, which had a strong showing in local elections in March, has campaigned on politically explosive issues of immigration and the integration of Islam into French society after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Ms Le Pen, who did not wear a veil during the meeting, “recognised the need to not confuse Islam with the violent acts committed” in its name, Al-Azhar said in a statement. [AFP] Read more

Iran hardliners crack down on freedom of speech

When Iranian pop star Mehdi Ahmadvand announced he would be playing two nights in the small south-western town of Mahshahr in May there was palpable excitement.

Tickets for the 1,000-seat concert venue were snapped up fast.

Happy fans posted messages on Mr Ahmadvand's Facebook page saying how much they were looking forward to him coming.

But then a local imam got wind of the plans and issued a blistering condemnation in his Friday prayer sermon.

It was not Mr Ahmadvand's brand of kitschy Persian pop that the imam was objecting to.

It was the fact that the event was open to men and women, and that female musicians would be performing in his backing band.

Although both of these things are allowed in Iran, and the concert organisers had the necessary official permission, the imam said the event would undermine Islamic values. [BBC] Read more

Washington DC officials block Muhammad subway cartoon

Transport officials in Washington DC have blocked plans by an American free speech pressure group to have a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad displayed on the subway.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative wanted to display the cartoon, which won first prize at an event in Texas.

Two gunmen were shot dead by police outside the event earlier this month.

Washington transport authorities on Thursday banned political, religious and advocacy adverts on the subway.

The transport authority in the US capital voted unanimously to suspend advertisements it describes as "issue-oriented". [BBC] Read more

Mixed reaction in Bradford as Government plans to review Sharia law show little sign of progress

CONTROVERSIAL Government plans to review Sharia law appear to be on the back-burner, provoking a mixed reaction from Bradford MPs.

Just two months ago, Home Secretary Theresa May demanded an inquiry, as part of a crackdown on extremism “in all its forms”.

In a high-profile speech, Miss May claimed Sharia law was being used to “discriminate against women” and was becoming more widespread.

And she said: “There is evidence of women being 'divorced' under Sharia law and left in penury, wives who are forced to return to abusive relationships because Sharia councils say a husband has a right to 'chastise', and Sharia councils giving the testimony of a woman only half the weight of the testimony of a man.” [Bradford Telegraph and Argus] Read more

28 May 2015

Muslim woman files lawsuit for being forced to remove hijab after arrest

On Thursday, May 28, the Arab-American Civil Rights League held a press conference regarding a federal complaint filed by a Muslim American woman against the Oceana County Sheriff’s Department, for forcing her to remove her hijab when she was falsely arrested.

34-year-old Fatme Dakroub, a Dearborn Heights resident, was vacationing at the Lake Michigan Sand Dunes with her children and other relatives on May 17 when a sheriff’s deputy pulled her over while she was driving a rented vehicle. The family was located in a parking lot designated for tourists.

The officer claimed she was speeding and questioned her UAE driver’s license. Dakroub had often traveled back and forth between the UAE and Michigan in recent years. Her Michigan driver’s license had expired, but under state law, she was still able to operate a vehicle with a UAE driver’s license. She had rented the vehicle in Oceana County, using that same license. [The Arab American News] Read more

Muslim boys high school soccer team refuses to play against team with 2 girls

A boys soccer team from ISNA Private Islamic High School refused to finish a game on Tuesday because two females were on the opposing team during a Brampton tournament.

Robert F. Hall Catholic School, in Caledon, does not have a girls team so the two females played on the senior boys team, which was approved by the Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association (ROPSSAA).

During halftime, the ISNA Private Islamic High School team brought the concern to the referee. Robert F. Hall Catholic School school was winning the game 3–1 at that point. [680 NEWS] Read more

Two-thirds negative to child marrying a Muslim

Two thirds of Norwegians would react negatively if one of their children married a Muslim, according to the latest annual survey by Norway’s Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDI)

The organisation’s annual barometer, released on Wednesday, reported that 58 percent of Norwegians surveyed said they would be unhappy about gaining a Muslim son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

This compared to 32 percent for a Hindu one, 27 percent for Buddhist, 24 percent for a someone of Jewish faith, and just six percent for a Christian.

“There are some pretty scary numbers here. Especially the high levels of skepticism towards Muslims,” Linda Alzaghari, general manager of Minotenk, a think.tank looking at minority groups, told Aftenposten. [The Local] Read more

Sheep illegally slaughtered at Wrexham farm for Muslim festival

Four Turkish men have admitted their roles in the unlawful slaughtering of sheep as part of a Muslim tradition.

Cumalia Acun, 32, Fatti Acun, 26, Ismail Arslan, 24, and Hadyar Ayhan, 28, pleaded guilty to a combined nine charges when they appeared at court yesterday.

The animals, who were inappropriately restrained by having their legs tied together, were killed at Llechrydau Farm on the Wrexham/Shropshire border on October 4 last year so they could be eaten by the men during a Muslim religious festival.

The court heard that following an unannounced inspection at the farm, knives, a table, headless carcasses and meat inside the boot of a vehicle were discovered. [Daily Post] Read more

We cannot choose which free speech we will defend and which we will not

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Abu Haleema. The poor man can’t catch a break. All he wants to do is establish a global caliphate under the harshest possible interpretation of sharia — a caliphate in which, he hopes, he will play a significant role — and yet he is thwarted at every turn.

First the authorities stop him from travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State. And then, to add insult to injury, they take away his internet, like he’s a naughty teenager. It’s a hard knock life for Abu.

And it’s about to get even harder. In the Queen’s Speech, the government announced a new counter-extremism bill which, will essentially make the existences of Abu Haleema and people like him illegal, without actually making them illegal.

How does that work? To quote the BBC: “The legislation will also propose the introduction of banning orders for extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription.” [Index on Censorship] Read more

Tom Holland, Mak Chishty and more

Tom Holland’s frank and forensic analysis of debates (past and present) within Islam is now available online. He doesn’t shy away from finding connections between episodes in the life of Muhammad and the barbaric actions of today’s extremists.

However he points out that those who insist on the most ruthless and rigid interpretation of Islam (whether they are Salafists or counterjihadists) as the truest, most original form of the faith, overlook just how little evidence there is for some of the more troubling aspects of Muhammad’s biography.

.... It’s commonplace to hear that shortcomings in other cultures (homophobia for example) are in fact the fault of the West, a legacy of colonialism. Tom Holland offers an interesting variation on this theme when he argues that Western ideas about the nature of history and biography may have encouraged a more literal understanding of the recorded career of Mohammed; he compares this with the more symbolic or mystical approach to the Prophet’s life which apparently prevailed in earlier years. [Harry’s Place] Read more

Muslim bosses spark halal row over new Blackburn Nando's restaurant

MUSLIM bosses have sparked a row by warning Nando’s it must follow strict guidelines if it decides to sell ‘halal’ chicken at its proposed Blackburn restaurant.

The Lancashire Council of Mosques, which represents East Lancashire‘s Muslims, said the chain does not meet its religious certification of halal food and now the chairman of the LCM’s Halal Committee Salim Mulla has warned the international restaurant company it will tell local followers of Islam to boycott the new outlet, due to open this winter in the Vue cinema complex, if it does not change its procedures.

.... The HFA allows the stunning of chickens before slaughter, which Cllr Mulla and his organisation believe fails to meet the strict criteria of Islamic law.

The LCM insist on accreditation and inspection by the Leicester-based Halal Monitoring Committee which forbids it. [This Is Lancashire] Read more

26 May 2015

Twelve things women in Saudi Arabia can't do

Saudi Arabia's religious police have ejected a woman from a shopping centre for not covering her hands and sitting "too close" to a man.

Although she was dressed in a traditional black abaya cloak and a full face veil, with only her hands and eyes exposed, the woman was stopped at the door by an officer from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

He argued that the shopper looked "indecent" and should put on gloves or go home, Gulf News reports. The incident occurred in the northern city of Ha'il and a recording of the altercation has since gone viral, sparking a mixed response within the deeply conservative Muslim nation. [The Week] Read more

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

The wife of the jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has called on European governments to go beyond the public expressions of concern that have so far failed to secure his release, and deploy ministerial-level delegations to press directly for his freedom.

Speaking to The Independent in Brussels where she is lobbying for more action by the EU, Ensaf Haidar said their three young children asked her every day when their father was coming home, and she remained hopeful that the family would be reunited.

But more international pressure was needed to convince the Saudi royal family that his sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison was simply unacceptable and must be overturned. [The Independent] Read more

‘End Muhammad taboo to defeat radical Islam’

The taboo of not speaking about the prophet Muhammad has to be broken to deradicalise jihadists, an acclaimed author, historian and film-maker said yesterday.

Tom Holland, who produced Islam: the Untold Story for Channel 4, said that the “moral perfection” of Muhammad had to be questioned and that to do so required non-Muslims to break the “unspoken blasphemy taboo that has taken hold in the West”.

Holland, who was giving the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival, said that in the past 30 years the “one thing that people seem to have learnt is that to question the moral perfection of Muhammad is akin to poking a hornets’ nest with a stick”.

Muslims seem to take more offence at insults to Muhammad than at insults directed at God, he said. [The Times (£)] Read more

25 May 2015

Saudi religious police force gloveless 'indecent' woman to leave shopping mall

A video has gone viral showing a member of the Saudi religious police allegedly preventing a veiled woman from entering a shop since she was not wearing gloves.

The abaya-clad woman is seen arguing with the religious police member who declines her repeated requests to enter a shop in the Barzan Mall located in the northwestern city of Ha'il in the Kingdom because she looks "indecent".

"Walk away... don't say a word... Put on some gloves," the religious police officer allegedly says to the woman, reported AFP News. [International Business Times] Read more

24 May 2015

Religious teaching that drives Isis to threaten the ancient ruins of Palmyra

.... because Isis might have other motives to destroy the city. The group often seizes any opportunity to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of its opponents.

For many Syrians, the biggest event in Palmyra was last week’s capture of Tadmur prison, one of the Assad regime’s most notorious jails. The disproportionate attention ancient ruins have received, compared with human tragedies, has disturbed many. If Isis blows up the site, it would be largely because of this deemed hypocrisy. [429 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 121 votes] I am afraid this reads like an apology for one of the most grotesque movements in modern times. There is no subtle morality at play here, no discussion of various hadiths or dictates necessary or illuminative. These 'people' are simply grotesque excuses for humanity that would have stuck out as psychopathic outliers at ant time in the past few thousand years.

[2ND 117] "The group often seizes any opportunity to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of its opponents."

Please explain the hypocrisy and double standards of those who are appalled by mass executions of people of all faiths - Muslims included. As well as the mindless, ignorant wrecking of our common heritage.

While you're about it, also explain the double standards of Daesh itself, which cynically sells off the gold it loots from these infidel sites.

[3RD 86] Sounds like you're already trying to blame someone other than Isis in the event of them destroying this site.

[4TH 81] "The disproportionate attention ancient ruins have received, compared with human tragedies, has disturbed many. If Isis blows up the site, it would be largely because of this deemed hypocrisy."

"You bad people, you see what you made me, I have to do terrible things because you are such hypocrites."

Snortle! [The Guardian] Read more

Political Islam incompatible with democracy

The Czech junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) stood up against political Islam at their congress this weekend, saying it includes elements incompatible with democracy, it ensues from a resolution the congress passed today.

“The KDU-CSL makes difference between Islam as a religion and political Islam as an ideology including some elements that are incompatible with democracy and human rights,” the resolution says.

“The European non-Muslim majority must conduct a permanent dialogue with the Muslim minority, based on emphasizing European values,” the resolution says and adds that within the dialogue, too, a clear difference must be made between Islam as a religion and political Islam as a state ideology. [Prague Post] Read more

'Burqa not conducive to western liberal society': We should follow ban says Ukip

THE wearing of the full face veil in public should be banned in Britain, said Ukip's acting leader Paul Nuttall last night.

His comments followed an announcement of a new law by the Government in the Netherlands, approved by the cabinet sitting in The Hague, which will ban the wearing of all face coverings including ski-masks and helmets in certain public places.

Mr Nuttall, the party's deputy leader, was recently placed in temporary charge of UKIP while Nigel Farage takes a break. [EXPRESS.CO.UK] Read more

Jihadi threat requires move into 'private space' of UK Muslims, says police chief

Islamist propaganda is so potent it is influencing children as young as five and should be countered with intensified monitoring to detect the earliest signs of anti-western sentiment, Britain’s most senior Muslim police chief has warned.

Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty said children aged five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as “haram” – forbidden by Islam. He also warned that there was no end in sight to the parade of British Muslims, some 700 so far, being lured from their bedrooms to Syria by Islamic State (Isis) propaganda.

In an interview with the Guardian, Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation far earlier.

He said this could be shown by subtle changes in behaviour, such as shunning certain shops, citing the example of Marks & Spencer, which could be because the store is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be Jewish-owned. [The Guardian] Read more

23 May 2015

ISIS warns of more 'black days' after Saudi mosque attack

ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, warning that more "black days" loom ahead in a direct challenge to the rulers of the Sunni kingdom.

Friday's attack was the kingdom's deadliest militant assault since a 2004 Al-Qaida attack on foreign worker compounds, which sparked a massive Saudi security force crackdown. However, this ISIS attack in the village of al-Qadeeh in the eastern Qatif region targeted Shiites, whom ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia regularly denounce as heretics.

The statement on ISIS's al-Bayan radio station, read aloud Friday night and posted Saturday morning to militant websites associated with the extremists, identified the suicide bomber as a Saudi citizen with the nom de guerre Abu Amer al-Najdi. The station also identified the attack as being carried out by a new ISIS branch in "Najd Province," referring to the historic region of the central Arabian Peninsula home to the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The mosque attack killed at least 21 people and wounded 81, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. [The Daily Star] Read more

22 May 2015

Dutch cabinet approves partial ban on Islamic veil in public areas

The Dutch cabinet has approved a proposal for a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils on public transport and in public areas such as schools and hospitals.

After the cabinet backed a bill by the interior minister, Ronald Plasterk, the government said in a statement on Friday: “Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport.”

The ban would not apply to wearing the burqa or the niqab on the street, only for security reasons or “in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen”, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, told journalists after a cabinet meeting. [1,494 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 429 votes] Seems fair. There is a need to allow facial recognition whilst permitting personal freedoms of dress. This hits the right spot.

[2ND 401] "The niqab is an insult to common sense."

And an insult to very hard-won European, liberal, post-enlightenment values including equality of the sexes.

[3RD 296] Good.

[4TH 288] "persecution of muslims continues unchecked....."

Lol 'persecution'. Live in any Islamic country in the world and then you might understand persecution.

[5TH 263] "the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, told journalists after a cabinet meeting.

He said: “The bill does not have any religious background.”

Rutte is perfectly right. Wearing the burqa is not a religious act, but a political one. [The Guardian] Read more

Rallies after student threatened over Charlie Hebdo tribute

Teachers and students at a French school rallied Thursday in support of a pupil who received death threats for publishing an edition of the school newspaper in support of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Education authorities said that the school's security would be strengthened, saying "the internal vigilance will be reinforced", and that the high schooler will have special police protection "if needed".

The student, 17-year-old Louis, published a special edition of the paper in January after Islamists went on a killing spree on the streets of Paris that left 17 people dead and saw the capital gripped with fear for three days. [AFP] Read more

Cabinet approves limited burqa ban

The Dutch Cabinet approved a proposal on Friday from Ronal Plasterk, Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations, to ban burqas in several high-profile areas, including on public transport, in schools, healthcare and government building. The goal is not to penalize people wearing burqas, but to set a clear standard that it is customary in the Netherlands to show your face, sources told broadcaster RTL.

The government believes that the ban is important for citizens’ safety. Burqas can still be used in public, but not adhering to the ban may result in a 405 euro fine. However, police will rarely enforce the fines, Plasterk said. Maintaining this rule is mainly a task for the administrators of the buildings where the ban applies.

However, police can ask someone wearing a burka to remove the facial piece for identification. [NL Times] Read more

Netherlands plans to ban full-face veil in public places

The Dutch government on Friday agreed to introduce a partial ban on the wearing of the full-face veil in public places, the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

The proposed ban, which must be approved by parliament before it can become law, would apply to all face-covering clothing, including ski-masks and helmets, on public transport and in schools, hospitals and government offices.

The measure "had nothing to do with religion," Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists in The Hague after the proposed measure was passed by the cabinet.

"In a free country like the Netherlands, everyone has the right to dress how they choose, no matter what others think. That freedom is only limited in situations when it is essential for people to look at each other," the statement said. [Reuters] Read more

21 May 2015

The Implications of Brunei’s Sharia Law

.... the first phase of sharia law, which include fines and prison sentences for “crimes” such as pregnancies outside of wedlock, propagating religions other than Islam, and not attending mandatory Friday prayers, has been rolled out. Brunei is currently in the process of implementing the second phase, which will introduce harsh punishments such as floggings and cutting off hands for property offenses.

The third and final phase, which will be implemented later this year or in 2016, will introduce executions, including stoning, for offenses like adultery, abortion, homosexuality/sodomy, and even blasphemy. Bolikah has defended his decision, saying that it was “not for fun, but to obey Allah’s command as written in the Quran.” Unfortunately, the leader of Brunei evidently has not thought through the long-term implications that imposing sharia law will have on his country.

In 2008, the Sultan issued Wawasan Brunei 2035, a long-term plan to transmogrify his nation into a type of “Islamic-Singapore,” where the “accomplishments of Brunei’s well-educated and highly skilled people” will be recognized.

Having spent years as a Human Capital Consultant in Southeast Asia, I am convinced that because parts of sharia law will also apply to non-Muslims (who account for roughly 33 percent of Brunei’s population), many intelligent Bruneians will not wish to stay in Brunei and help the Sultan’s plan come to fruition. [The Diplomat] Read more

UWS segregation of men and women seen at Islamic event will never happen again

THE students were wrong. Without a doubt, the representatives of the Muslim Students’ ­Association (MSA) at UWS’s Parramatta campus made a mistake in requesting the segregation of men and women at a recent event.

A recent article in The Daily Telegraph implied the university tolerates a form of subtle sexism by virtue of what occurred. The university rejects this assertion.

UWS has never condoned gender segregation, and all of our students are well aware of this.

It will not recur at any future event held on our campuses by any student or community group.

To set the record straight, the actual content of the MSA’s guest speakers — by all reports — was perfectly reasonable and dealt with challenging contemporary issues affecting young Muslim men and women. [The Daily Telegraph] Read more

Defending Freedom of Speech

.... The fact is that the more Islam we get, the less free our societies become. During the past decades, our politicians allowed millions of Islamic immigrants to settle within our borders. They came with their culture and with their Sharia law.

And now, they try to impose it on us. Instead of saying: 'If you come to our country, you have to adapt to us', our political leaders said: 'Keep your culture, we respect Islam and its sensitivities.' Nowhere the demand was made that the immigrants assimilate.

And now the European nations have fallen so deep that they enforce the Islamic taboos in their own laws. They call it a hate crime when freedom-loving people reject the Islamic taboos. Criticizing Islam has become hate speech, punishable by our own laws.

We are not only confronted with Islamization, but also with the folly of cultural relativism and the weak appeasement mentality of our political leaders. This cowardliness has to stop. If this situation continues to go on, it will lead us straight to catastrophe. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Saudi king's absurd speech

Saudi newspapers are prominently reporting a speech given by King Salman yesterday, in which he made a series of absurd claims:

# The Saudi government guarantees freedom of expression.

# Saudi Arabia respects other religions.

# The law does not discriminate between Saudi citizens and expatriates.

# The Saudi judiciary is independent and "plays a leading role in protecting human rights".

The Saudi Gazette and Arab News both have reports of the speech in English.

The king's claims are so patently untrue that I'm at a loss to understand why he made them. Didn't any of his advisers warn him that by saying such things he would be exposing himself to ridicule?

Propaganda that backfires on its perpetrator is one thing, but a more frightening possibility is that the king might actually believe these things – in which case the country is in deep trouble. [al-bab.com] Read more

19 May 2015

Getting Away with It: What Has Happened to Rule of Law?

Judge Mawrey said in his summing-up:

"On past form, it appears inevitable that Mr. Rahman will denounce this judgement as yet another example of the racism and Islamophobia that have hounded him throughout his political life. It is nothing of the sort.

Mr. Rahman has made a successful career by ignoring or flouting the law and has relied on silencing his critics by accusations of racism and Islamophobia. But his critics have not been silenced and neither has this court. Events of recent months in contexts very different from electoral malpractice have starkly demonstrated what happens when those in authority are afraid to confront wrongdoing for fear of allegations of racism and Islamophobia. Even in the multicultural society which is 21st century Britain, the law must be applied fairly and equally to everyone. Otherwise we are lost."

Britain ought to have learned this lesson already. The fact that we have not -- that we seem destined to have to keep learning it, again and again -- is the greatest problem for our society. Bad people do bad things, but when all the institutions of state fail to stop them, that is a problem for us all. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

17 May 2015

Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation

In recent months, cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. “We need a Muslim reformation,” announced Newsweek. “Islam needs reformation from within,” said the Huffington Post. Following January’s massacre in Paris, the Financial Times nodded to those in the west who believe the secular Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “could emerge as the Martin Luther of the Muslim world”. (That might be difficult, given Sisi, in the words of Human Rights Watch, approved “premeditated lethal attacks” on largely unarmed protesters which could amount to “crimes against humanity”.)

.... With apologies to Luther, if anyone wants to do the same to the religion of Islam today, it is Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claims to rape and pillage in the name of a “purer form” of Islam – and who isn’t, incidentally, a fan of the Jews either. Those who cry so simplistically, and not a little inanely, for an Islamic reformation, should be careful what they wish for. [1,821 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 826 votes] This is a defective argument. And deflective by seeking to compare a reformation hundreds of years earlier. It is a dishonest attempt to deflect the discussion.

Islam as it stands has too many ethical standpoints which are contrary to fundamental beliefs of equality which are held dear to people living in the west who do not want their daughters to have to wear bags.

It has no place - as indeed does any conservative religious zealotry - in the West of 2015.

If you as an Islam follower see it as a pure experience which has no prospect to become more tolerant. To reform. Then perhaps you might like to return to the grimy primitive dustbowl from which such beliefs seem still to flourish. They have no place here.

[2ND 686] "A dust bowl from which your ideal utopia the 'west' has invaded, meddled with and bombed for decades. Places like the Middle East and Africa wouldn't be dustbowl's if the the west stopped effectively stealing resources and pouring debt on such countries via institutions like the world bank and IMF.

Maybe the west needs to have a conscience look at itself, a place in which institutional racism is still rife. Reparations for colonisation would be a start....."

Ah yes, it's all the West's fault. Thank you for stepping up to the plate and offering this increasingly hollow-sounding argument - someone had to do it.

[3RD 413] No mention in the article that Hirsi Ali has been forced to live under 24/7 protection after being threatened by members of the religion of peace.

I like Islam the way it is, with its childish belief in Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, the prophet's little flying horse and all those angels that refuse to enter a house "wherin there lieth a dog (Hadith 2987)."

The Muslim belief in every single writen word reminds me a lot of the Jehovas Witnesses, though the latter are more palatable because they are pacifists.

Peace to us all.

[4TH 288] OK, so Islam doesn't need a reformation. Jolly good, well done.

It clearly needs an Enlightenment though.

[5TH 220] What a silly article. When people say that Islam needs a reformation they mean that it needs to accommodate scientific rationalism and logic. That process was not accomplished by Luther and Luther is not a model in terms of his doctrinal beliefs.

Over 500 years, Christianity has reconciled itself to changes in society and successfully disassociated itself from most, if not all, medieval attitudes and prejudices. It has made peace with secular states and non believers or unbelievers.

Islam has done none of these things: its religious leaders by and large refuse to engage in any constructive dialogue with other religions or with democratic societies. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Losing their religion: the hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims

Sulaiman Vali is a softly spoken 33-year-old software engineer. A natural introvert not drawn to controversy or given to making bold statements, he’s the kind of person who is happiest in the background. He lives alone in a modest house on a quiet street in a small town in East Northamptonshire. He doesn’t want to be any more specific than that about the location. “If someone found out where I lived,” he explains, “they could burn my house down.”

Why should such an understated figure, someone who describes himself as a “nobody”, speak as if he’s in a witness protection programme? The answer is that six years ago he decided to declare that he no longer accepted the fundamental tenets of Islam. He stopped being a believing Muslim and became instead an apostate. It sounds quaintly anachronistic, but it’s not a term to be lightly adopted. [984 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 232 votes] We live in 2015 and yet brave people like these are being hounded for wanting to abandon their religious identity? If they want to leave then let them; this isn't Scientology!

[2ND 173] I am a woman who was raised as a Muslim but now completely rejects Islam. Like the people in this article, I can never tell my parents this- the only people I can confide in are my siblings who are similarly agnostic or atheist.

What has turned me away from Islam is the poisonous misogyny that seems to be at the very foundation of the religion. Women are sexualised objects of shame and are seen to blame for the majority of things.

Do you know what my mother said when her friend was murdered by her husband? 'She talked to much'. I was 14. My mother was also beaten by my father and she simply says 'This is my fate.' My siblings and I are also suffering mental illness' as a result.

It teaches you fatalism and absolute obedience to patriarchal authority. People are not seen as individuals, therefore in my opinion degrades them to less than human beings.

There is no freedom of speech or expression within the community. Any form of self expression is despised- whether through clothing, art or music. With absolute obedience comes absolute conformity.

As you can tell,I could write a thesis on this topic and I think one day I will. I am no longer a Muslim but I have to pretend to be. I don't unquestioningly embrace Western values either, but I do value freedom of expression, individuality and gender equality- which above all things, the western world values.

[3RD 117] A friend of mine describes himself as an 'atheist Muslim', in that he doesn't believe in God, is quite anti-Islam, but still has to pretend to his family that he is a devout Muslim. He knows his family would disown him if he told the truth, and prefers keeping it a secret so he can still seem them. It's a desperate situation. I hope that in the future more families will be able to accept their children for whatever they believe in... [The Guardian] Read more

16 May 2015

MP warns of “religions intimidation” of Muslim voters

The Labour MP for Slough has hit out against voter intimidation, after some Muslim voters were told that they were not 'true Muslims' unless they voted against her.

The row centres over a local campaign- with apparent support across religious groups- for a blasphemy law. During the General Election campaign newly re-elected MP Fiona Mactaggart apparently resisted calls for the draconian measure, and when the result was announced she issued a stark warning about "spiritual coercion in one community"- in an apparent reference to Muslims in Slough.

Ms Mactaggart said voters had been intimidated and that she wouldn't 'build bridges' with those behind the smears. "I don't see how you can build a bridge with someone who says 'you aren't a proper Muslim if you vote for Fiona'," she said. [National Secular Society] Read more

15 May 2015

Sheen Center Cancels Event Featuring Neil LaBute Play About ‘Mohammed’

A downtown Manhattan performance center has canceled an event featuring a new play by Neil LaBute with a title making reference to “Mohammed,” on the grounds that the play is offensive to Muslims.

The event, called “Playwrights for a Cause” and featuring four new short plays about censorship in the arts, was set to take place on June 14 at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Greenwich Village, as the opening of the Planet Connections Theater Festivity, a monthlong arts festival at various locations.

On Tuesday, the Sheen Center canceled the contract for the event, which was organized as a benefit for the National Coalition Against Censorship. [NYTimes.com] Read more

Islamic school allegations to be investigated

The federal education minister Christopher Pyne will investigate allegations of stricter Islamic practices being introduced at the Islamic College of South Australia.

Pyne will write to the state government and to the principal of the school in Adelaide to inquire into the allegations that sparked protests on Friday.

According to media reports, the school has scrapped the singing of the national anthem, banned the playing of the piano on the grounds it is evil and stopped boys and girls sharing corridors, among a range of new measures.

The school has also come under fire from parents over the removal of a number of principals in recent years.

About 100 people gathered outside the grounds on Friday holding placards calling for the removal of the college board. [The Guardian] Read more

ISIS leader declares ‘Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting’ as he calls on Muslims to ‘fight for the Caliphate’ in new audio message

The leader of Islamic State has declared 'Islam is the religion of fighting' in a rare audio message which called on all Muslims to 'fight for the caliphate'.

Islamic State released the message yesterday claiming it was from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the extremist group executed 26 civilians before reaching the gates of an ancient Syrian city amid fears they could destroy it.

The audio message posted on militant websites features a voice that sounds like al-Baghdadi's exhorting all Muslims to take up arms and fight on behalf of the group's self-styled caliphate.

In it the leader, who had not been seen or heard from in months, said: 'Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting. No one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State.'

'It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it,' he said. 'It is the war of Muslims against infidels.

'O Muslims go to war everywhere. It is the duty of every Muslim.' [Daily Mail] Read more

14 May 2015

Baroness Warsi warns how British Muslims fear Government 'Cold War' against their faith

British Muslims fear the Government is fighting a “Cold War” against their faith which could result in an increase in extremist radicalisation, a former Conservative minister has warned.

Sayeeda Warsi, who was Britain’s most senior Muslim minister until she resigned last year, told The Independent that plans to crack down on so-called non-violent extremism announced earlier this week could be counter-productive and alienate mainstream Muslims from British society.

She warned that the new policy must be “applied consistently across all communities” and include “all forms of extremism” without criminalising thought.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] An Islamic 'Cold War' has existed for hundreds of years - Sunni Muslims hate Shia Muslims with a deadly passion. Referring to people as British (or Western) Muslims will do nothing to hide this fact - Islam is not a just and fair religion, blaming others for its failings is not going to correct this.

[2ND] Warsi has got where she is by making use of Western democracy. If you want to see how Muslim women fare when they stick to Muslim rules, go for a walk around Whitechapel and see the cowed women, covered in ridiculous tribal dress, running around obediently after their male masters. Judging by your name, I suppose you approve of that.

[3RD] Excuse me? Which other religions are threatening other than Islam? Happy clappy kind forgiving Christians? Industrious hard working family focused Jews? Peaceful gentle Sikhs? I could go on. Look inwards Ma'am, your religion is based on envy, repression, fear and is exceptionally selfish and self serving. Convert, give up or leave our country.

[4TH] Islam is a kind of mental illness, we can see clearly what it results in from the current state of play in the Middle East. Those who like it should sod off there and enjoy.

[5TH] .... As Islam is a militant faith, Muslims will have to get used to being dealt with accordingly if they live in our country (too many unfortunately). Muslim Extremists should be deported without hesitation, regardless of what pseudo EU human rights may apply in their case.

Other communities present in the UK represent no threat whatsoever as compared to the Muslim community: the latter need to start contemplating some serious reforms of their totally outdated, almost abnormal way of thinking before the very concept of mutual respect has a chance of being applied. Maybe in 300 years or so? [The Independent] Read more

Cory Bernardi forces parliamentary inquiry into halal and kosher certifications

Halal foods will be put under the microscope after Liberal senator Cory Bernardi won a parliamentary inquiry into what he calls the "racket" of certification.

The six-month inquiry by the Senate Economics References Committee will also cover certification schemes for kosher foods, organic products and genetically modified foods.

Senator Bernardi, who has in the past expressed concern about where money for halal "ends up", said he wants to "establish the facts" about all certification schemes.

Senator Cory Bernardi. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

Croatia festival cancels Houellebecq play on security concerns

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival has canceled a planned premiere of a play by French author Michel Houellebecq, known for stirring controversy with his views of Islam, after police said it would present a security concern.

The play, based on his novel Les Particules Elementaires, was to open in Dubrovnik in July but the Dubrovnik county prefect had asked the intelligence service and police for a security assessment.

A police statement said the service concluded the show would represent a security risk.

"They did not use the word 'terrorism' but that's what it is," the Festival spokeswoman Karla Labas said on Thursday. [Reuters] Read more

Islamic State releases 'al-Baghdadi message'

.... The speaker says: "There is no excuse for any Muslim not to migrate to the Islamic State... joining [its fight] is a duty on every Muslim. We are calling on you either to join or carry weapons [to fight] wherever you are."

He adds: "Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting. No-one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State. It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it. It is the war of Muslims against infidels." [BBC] Read more

12 May 2015

Warnings of Trojan horse complacency risk

Birmingham headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson makes a perhaps surprising admission about her first reaction to finding a copy of the now fabled Trojan horse letter on her desk in February last year. “I read it and said to my deputy, ‘yes, we know that goes on’ and I put it to one side, and almost disregarded it,” she says. “I’d witnessed all this behaviour. Everything in that document was familiar to me: ways of trying to discredit headteachers and senior leaders – it wasn’t shocking to me at all.”

.... Next week Hewitt-Clarkson will speak at the NAHT’s Birmingham conference on defining the “British values” – including democracy, the rule of law and tolerance of different faiths – that teachers must now promote. The policy has attracted plenty of criticism, but Hewitt-Clarkson is a fan, using it to explain to parents who object to teaching on homophobia, for instance, that she has to teach pupils according to the Equality Act.

“I like anything that connects me with a school in Cornwall, or Kingston upon Thames, or Newcastle,” she says. “When you start breaking down what schools do and don’t have to do, then you get weaknesses, and something I learned through Trojan horse is that a few people will do whatever they can to exploit weakness in a system.”

[TOP RATED COMMENT] The B.B.C. and The Guardian have spent much of the time this scandal has been public knowledge advancing the idea that it is a hoax and lending credibility to the opponents of the open and plural society. A conversion, even a death bed one, is welcome.

[ANOTHER] I'm not racist or anti-islamist, but find it distasteful that people who come to this island seem encouraged to remain aloof from the rest of us. When in Rome, should be the first requirement of anyone migrating here, and the UK law overrides all cultural customs with no exceptions.

Shouldn't the teaching of religions be part of a cultural thing rather than the driving force behind the education system. Shouldn't we be encouraging inclusiveness and integration rather than showing differences based upon faith rather than fact. Should we do away with faith based schools altogether?

[ANOTHER] It's good that The Guardian is now reporting on both sides of the issue but it does highlight the dreadful record it had in investigating this in the past. [The Guardian] Read more

Bangladesh bloggers: Clear pattern to killings

.... The deaths are reminding people of the last days of Bangladesh's independence war against Pakistan in 1971. In December of that year, more than 200 writers, professors, poets and other secular-minded intellectuals were abducted from their homes by a fanatical Islamist group called al-Badr.

Many of the intellectuals were never found again. Bodies were found with bullet holes, the victims having been blindfolded and their hands tied behind their backs.

.... The government now appears to be walking a tightrope.

There is little doubt the prime minister wants to pursue a secular future for Bangladesh. But she appears to have little time for atheists who are on a collision course with Islamists.

The bloggers don't just want protection from killers and justice for those murdered - they also want to enjoy the freedom of speech that is enshrined in the constitution. The government does not seem to think that freedom should stretch to the criticism of religion.

And Islamist extremists want to strike terror into the hearts of such writers and bloggers through targeted killings. [BBC] Read more

Third atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh knife attack

.... Bangladesh is an officially secular country but more than 90% of its 160 million population are Muslims. There has been an increase in attacks by religious extremists in recent years. Supporters of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, which is banned from standing in elections, have been accused of being behind a spate of firebombings this year aimed at toppling the government.

Since 2013, at least five bloggers have been attacked by Islamists after another hardline group, Hefazat-e-Islam, publicly sought the execution of atheists who organised mass protests against the rise of political Islam.

Hefazat, led by Islamic seminary teachers, also staged a massive counter-protest against the bloggers in May 2013 that unleashed violence and left nearly 50 people dead. [The Guardian] Read more

Third secular blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

A masked gang wielding machetes hacked a secular blogger to death Tuesday in northeastern Bangladesh in the third such deadly attack by suspected Islamists since February.

Police said that Ananta Bijoy Das had been murdered in broad daylight as he headed to work at a local bank in the city of Sylhet, an attack that fellow writers said highlighted a culture of impunity.

Kamrul Hasan, commissioner of Sylhet police, said that a group of around four masked attackers had attacked Das with machetes at around 8.30am on a busy street in Bangladesh's fifth largest city.

"They chased him down the street and first attacked his head with their machetes and then attacked him all over his body," Hasan told AFP. [AFP/Dhaka] Read more

11 May 2015

Woman with guide dog refused service at Toronto restaurant

Kaye Leslie and her guide dog Jordan were on their way to meet family for lunch Sunday when nephew-in-law Steven Lewis called with a surprising message: an employee at Paramount Fine Foods was refusing to seat the group because the golden retriever couldn’t mix with its halal-style food.

Lewis said he requested a table for four with a “bit of extra space” for the guide dog at the Middle Eastern restaurant and bakery on Yonge St. The unidentified employee told Lewis and his wife Leah, Leslie’s nice, that dogs weren’t allowed in the near-empty restaurant.

“I said, ‘No, it’s a service dog. It’s a guide dog.’ He said, ‘No, this restaurant’s halal, you’re not allowed in here with any dogs,’” said Lewis, a onetime Toronto resident who was in town for the weekend from Muskoka. [Toronto Star] Read more

The Islamic Reformation: Abandon all hope? Self-cretinisation?

The idea that Islam needs to reform is again in the spotlight following the recent publication of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.

While Ali makes the argument that Islam can reform -- and is in desperate need of taking the extreme measures she suggests to do so -- many of her critics offer a plethora of opposing claims, including that Islam need not reform at all.

The one argument not being made, however, is the one I make below -- namely, that Islam has already “reformed.” And violence, intolerance, and extremism -- typified by the Islamic State (“ISIS”) -- are the net result of this “reformation.”

Such a claim only sounds absurd due to our understanding of the word “reform.” Yet despite its positive connotations, “reform” simply means to “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.” [The Commentator] Read more

The full face veil in court: Lord Neuberger and the confusion between equality and exceptionalism

Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, recently made a speech to the Criminal Justice Alliance on the topic of “Fairness in the courts”. Putting it mildly, this speech attracted widespread media attention: see here, here and here. And such attention resulted in the Supreme Court’s Press Office going into overdrive.

What caused the widespread media attention was that Lord Neuberger appeared to suggest that Muslim women should, in the interests of ‘fairness’, be allowed to wear a full face veil when giving evidence in court.

.... Permitting Muslim women to wear full face veils when giving evidence in court would actually undermine fairness in our legal system. This is because a category of person – in this case Muslim women (or those deemed as such) – would be considered exempt from the standards expected from everyone else.

This is exceptionalism and not equality. And this exceptionalism would invariably harm our legal system because the court would be reaching decisions by treating a category of people differently.

We must insist that everyone show their face when giving evidence in court. Fairness demands it. [Lawyers' Secular Society] Read more

Trojan Horse-linked school appoints former disgraced councillor as new chairman of governors

A Birmingham school at the centre of the Trojan Horse plot has appointed a former disgraced councillor as its new chair of governors.

Waheed Saleem was banned from holding public office for one year after leaking commercially sensitive information about a bid in a tender process for a council property.

The 33-year-old former Labour councillor for Palfrey in Walsall visited one of the unsuccessful bidders and disclosed details of the winning bid.

The Standards Board of England heard how Mr Saleem had “manipulated the rules by using his position to confer an advantage to the Abu Bakr Trust.” The Abu Bakr Trust adheres to the strict Salafi version of Islam and also runs a mosque and schools in Walsall. [Birmingham Mail] Read more

10 May 2015

Islamists jailed for chopping of teacher's hand 'because exam paper insulted Prophet Mohamed'

A group of Islamists who cut off a teacher’s hand in revenge for “blasphemy” against the Prophet Mohamed have been jailed in India.

The 13 men, all members of radical group the Popular Front of India, were handed sentences of between three and eight years at a National Investigative Agency court, NDTV reported.

They had been found guilty of involvement in the attack on TJ Joseph, a professor at Newman College in the town of Thodupuzha, Kerala.

He was on his way home from a Catholic church service in July 2010 with his mother and sister when their car was stopped.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] Islam - the brainwashing which produces the finest fruitcakes.

[ANOTHER] People should be free to criticise Mohammed. After all he was a disgusting paedophile who married a 7 year old child named Ayesha!

[ANOTHER] The religion of peace strikes again.

[ANOTHER] A war mongering sex offender / paedophile, that's Mohammed. [The Independent]Read more

The left has Islam all wrong: Bill Maher, Pamela Geller and the reality progressives must face

.... The only path to victory in this war in defense of free speech lies through courage. We cannot wimp out and blame the victims for drawing cartoons, writing novels, or making movies.

We need to heed Gérard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, who declared, as he received the PEN award, that “They don’t want us to write and draw. We must write and draw. They don’t want us to think and laugh. We must think and laugh. They don’t want us to debate. We must debate.”

In doing as he urges, we will give the terrorists too many targets to attack and convince them that we will not surrender, not cede an inch. That means the media needs to begin showing Charlie Hedbo’s Muhammad cartoons. We must stop traducing reason by branding people “Islamophobes,” and start celebrating our secularism, remembering that only it offers true freedom for the religious and non-religious alike.

And we should reaffirm our humanistic values, in our conviction that we have, as Carlyle wrote, “One life – a little gleam of time between two eternities,” and need to make the most of it for ourselves and others while we can. There is nothing else.

This is not a battle we have chosen; the battle has chosen us.

It’s time to fight back, and hard. [SALON] Read more

09 May 2015

A dead dog on school railings, a headteacher receiving death threats and the return of the classroom Islamic zealots

.... Another widely held view, shared by a head forced out of her school by the hardliners, is that the ruling Labour council was prepared to ‘sweep things under the carpet’ because the Trojan Horse plotters were all Labour supporters. ‘The vast majority of the Muslim community close their eyes and vote Labour,’ she told us this week. This former head, it should be pointed out, is herself a Muslim.

What is now becoming all too apparent, though, is that many of the individuals at the centre of the Trojan Horse affair are still agitating in the community, despite Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s announcement, in the aftermath of the supposed crackdown, that ‘we have got to the bottom of the issue’.

One is running a parental ‘advice’ service, another is a director of a recruitment agency supplying teachers to city schools, and others have joined forces to set up a private academy and continue to teach children.

And reinstated to the board of Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson’s own school, it emerges, is a governor who was suspended for ‘bringing the school into disrepute’ over his role in making collective worship at Anderton more Islamic. So much for the clampdown. [Daily Mail] Read more

Mayor compares burqa with slavery

Bo Frank, the conservative mayor of the city of Växjö in southern Sweden, on Friday suggested that women should be banned from wearing full-faced veils.

“It ought to be banned!! It (the burqa) doesn’t belong in Sweden. Europe, the world,” he wrote on his blog after seeing two men accompanying a veiled woman in the city, adding the incident “pi**d me off”*

He went on to describe the woman as the men’s “slave”.

“To wear a mask, a balaclava, is so far from the modern world we live in. I find it extremely off-putting,” he told local newspaper Smålandsposten, but removed the suggestion to ban the veil shortly after speaking to the daily. [The Local] Read more

Losing my religion

IDENTIFYING Muslims who have renounced their faith is tricky. Few are open about doing so, even in safe and secular Britain. But among the country’s Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, who overwhelmingly describe themselves as Muslims, the numbers are growing, albeit from a tiny base.

According to official statistics, between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of Bangladeshis who say they have no faith has more than tripled, from 0.4% to 1.4%. For Pakistanis it has doubled, from 0.5% to 1.1%. Some who explicitly identify as ex-Muslims are becoming more vocal. Groups such as the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB), set up in 2007, are helping.

Former Muslims’ reluctance to admit to their lack of faith rarely stems from a fear of violence, as in countries such as Sudan where laws make apostasy punishable by death. Rather the worry in Britain is about the social stigma, moral condemnation and ostracism that follows, says Simon Cottee of the University of Kent, who has written a book on the subject. [The Economist] Read more

08 May 2015

Trojan Horse: Police support head teacher who received death threat over gay teaching

The police are “supporting” a Birmingham school after its head teacher received a death threat on Facebook from a parent over teaching pupils about homosexuality.

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head of Anderton Park School in Sparkhill, was sent a message saying: “Any headteacher who teaches my children it’s alright to be gay will be at the end of my shotgun.”

Chief Superintendent Richard Moore, of West Midlands Police, said: “We have been supporting the school in relation to Facebook messages that concern the use of anti-homophobic teaching resources at the school.

“We will continue to support the school and any others in the local area where criminal offences are identified.

“We are also aware that the Department for Education, the local authority and Ofsted are taking an on-going interest and supporting local schools on all of the related issues.” [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Free speech and human rights in decline in Turkey, survey reveals

.... The rate of Turkish citizens who believe that “people cannot express their opinions freely and without any fear in Turkey” increased from 44 percent in 2011 to 56 percent in 2015, according to the survey conducted by academics Ali Çarkoglu and S. Erdem Aytaç with the support of the Open Society Institute, Koç University, and the Ohio State University School of Communication.

There is a sharp difference between respondents who plan to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and those who plan to vote for opposition parties with respect to the perception of freedom of speech, according to the survey, titled “Public Opinion Dynamics ahead of June 2015 elections.”

Among AKP voters, only 28 percent said “people cannot express their opinions freely and without any fear in Turkey,” while this rate is 75 percent among those who will vote for one of the opposition parties, the survey revealed. [Hürriyet Daily News] Read more

07 May 2015

Islamic schools in midst of leadership crisis with principals sacked, accusations of mismanagement of taxpayer funds

Australia's leading Islamic schools are in the midst of a leadership crisis, with school principal sackings, accusations of mismanagement of taxpayer funds, slipping standards and concerns they are becoming more hardline.

Parents have protested about what they say is poor management by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), the group that runs the schools.

The schools receive up to $40 million a year in federal and state government annual and building funding.

A key concern is the sacking at many campuses of principals who have been replaced in some cases by appointees parents feel have insufficient teaching qualifications or experience.

.... The new principal of the Islamic College of South Australia said the school's major focus was going to be the improvement of the Islamic curriculum.

Students report that at the high school, where boys and girls have long been loosely segregated, there are now bans on boys and girls sharing corridors and members of the opposite sex who speak to each other are sternly chastised.

There have been parent and student protests, with a student who was involved in a protest about the sacking of a much-loved teacher expelled by text message. [ABC] Read more

Extremists order east London Muslims to boycott election vote in Tower Hamlets

Voting in the General Election was embroiled in controversy with some Muslims told not to vote while others were allegedly ordered by spiritual leaders to back Labour.

Muslims in east London were warned not to vote in what has been branded an “intimidating” and “covert” campaign.

Flyers claiming that “Islam is the only real working solution for the UK” were stuck to the wind shields of residents’ cars in Tower Hamlets, a borough that has previously been riddled with election fraud.

The leaflets also warned that voting for “man-made law” was a sin, akin to idol worship, and that “democracy is a system whereby man violates the right of Allah”. [The Telegraph] Read more

06 May 2015

If Labour wins, Islamophobia will become a crime and truth stifled

.... We have pathologised our culture in a way that makes it difficult to tell the truth. But we need to make a distinction between facts and opinions. It is right to afraid of some things; it may be neurotic to be afraid of others. But if Miliband does make the expression of Islamophobia a crime, it will be a criminal offence to tell the truth.

There are, of course, many kind, dignified and wholly attractive Muslims. It would be a terrible mistake not to be able to distinguish between gentle, amenable Muslims and Islam itself.

The West has tried to do this by adopting two words in particular– ‘radical’ and ‘extreme’– to qualify Islam. The problem with this approach is that it mistakes the basic tenet of Islam, which is the requirement in the Koran and the Sira for all Muslims to imitate as closely as possible the life of Mohammed. What concept are the adjectives ‘radical’ and ‘extreme’ supposed to be qualifying? [Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

Raif Badawi: The West is not doing enough to support a hero of liberalism

.... The last time Saudi citizens were shown such largesse coincided with the 2011 Arab uprisings, and its effect this time seems likely to be much the same as ever: a lull in the airing of grievances about rights and political freedoms.

One subject, however, has little reason to thank the King. It is now a year since Raif Badawi, a blogger, was first incarcerated. The public floggings – handed down as part of a 10-year sentence for insulting Islam – have stopped, at least for now, but hopes that Mr Badawi would be released by a new ruler courting international opinion have proven over-optimistic.

The clerical establishment that holds such sway would not look kindly on any show of lenience to a man whose crime was to write – often beautifully, sometimes scathingly – on the benefits of a secular outlook and the separation of Church and State. [The Independent] Read more

Promiscuous women cause earthquakes, claims Iranian cleric

In about the most extreme example of slut shaming yet, a prayer leader in Tehran has blamed earthquakes on women who dress provocatively and tempt people into promiscuity.

"When promiscuity spreads, earthquakes increase," Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi said during prayers on Friday, a video of which was later posted on YouTube.

"There is no way other than taking refuge in religion and adapting ourselves to Islamic behavior," he added.

Sadeghi is a senior cleric who was last year appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as a substitute prayer leader in Tehran, a powerful position with Khamenei himself being the official prayer leader.

Iran has suffered greatly from earthquakes, with one in the city of Bam killing tens of thousands in 2003. [The Independent] Read more

Monash hospital agrees to female-only doctor requests after complaint

One of Victoria's largest hospitals will change its policy on female-only care after a Muslim patient wearing a full-length niqab complained of discrimination during an antenatal visit at one of its clinics.

For Ziarata Zia, the niqab she wears – which reveals only her eyes, hands and feet – is central to her Muslim faith.

Ms Zia, who moved from Afghanistan to Melbourne in 2010, believes it is a sin to be seen without it or be touched by a man other than her husband or immediate family, except in an emergency.

Two years ago, a significant conflict arose during Ms Zia's antenatal consultation at a Monash clinic because she requested a female doctor. Afterwards she lodged a discrimination complaint at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. [The Age] Read more

Fury at Labour's segregated rally: Sexism row after senior party figures attend Birmingham election meeting where Muslim men and women are seated separately

Labour faces a sexism row today after it defended the decision to segregate Muslim men and women at a party rally at an Islamic centre.

Senior party figures, including Liam Byrne, Tom Watson and Harriet Harman's husband Jack Dromey, spoke at the event in Birmingham on Saturday even though men sat on one side of the room and women on the other.

Labour has denied that people were forced to sit separately based on gender - even though photographs from the event show that the groups were clearly segregated.

Critics called the decision 'sickening' and claimed that the party was 'selling values for votes' in order to get Ed Miliband into Downing Street. [Daily Mail] Read more

05 May 2015

Trojan Horse radicals STILL free to preach from the sidelines: Islamic hardliners are 'active' despite crackdown

School governors behind the Trojan Horse scandal are still agitating in the community despite a supposed crackdown, it was claimed last night.

Politicians warned that no action has been taken against key figures in the alleged attempts by hardliners to take over Birmingham schools.

They said that – although some had resigned or been removed from governing bodies – many former governors were still allowed to work with families and ‘preach nonsense’.

This week a number of Birmingham head teachers said they have been subjected to an ‘ongoing’ intimidation campaign. One head teacher received death threats while two others had dead animals strung up on school gates.

Khalid Mahmood, Birmingham Perry Barr MP, said: ‘The governors involved in Trojan Horse are still around and still active. [Daily Mail] Read more

04 May 2015

Senior Labour politicians Liam Byrne and Tom Watson 'attend segregated Muslim rally'

Senior Labour politicians attended a rally where Asian men and women were apparently separated along gender lines.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said the event, which was attended by Liam Byrne and Tom Watson, was rejecting “a century and more of advancement for women’s rights”.

It emerged today that Parliamentary candidates Tom Watson, Liam Byrne, Khalid Mahmood and Jack Dromey, along with MEP Sion Simon, attended the political rally in Birmingham.

Pictures posted on Sion Simon's Twitter feed showed Muslim women sitting in a small cluster on one side of what looked like an Islamic community centre with the men seated opposite. [The Telegraph] Read more

03 May 2015

The Erosion of Free Speech

.... Incidents such as these or UK Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband's promise to make Islamophobia a hate crime (without even defining Islamophobia) illustrate the most dangerous result of Islamic agitation and asserted victimhood: it has caused us to turn on ourselves, to abandon our commitment to free speech, open academic enquiry, and the readiness to question everything -- the very qualities that have made us strong in the past.

When Western so-called intellectuals such as Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash condemn a Muslim apostate such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her criticisms of radical Islamism, or when Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree for Ms. Ali when Muslim students object, we see our intellectual foundations shake.

It is also necessary to ask, if Geert Wilders and others are being accused of hate speech, then why isn't the Koran -- with its calls for smiting necks and killing infidels -- also being accused of hate speech?

If we do not reverse this trend of submission, censorship, blasphemy laws and all the other encumbrances of totalitarianism will return to our lives. The bullies will win, and the Enlightenment will fade and pass away from mankind. Political correctness and shari'a law will rule. How tragic if a senseless fear causes us to do this to ourselves. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Sharia-compliant savings and bank accounts rocket in popularity across Britain

Britain has long been an important Western centre for Islamic finance, and specialist providers have been offering Sharia-compliant financial products here for around 30 years. But now this niche section of banking has seen an upsurge in popularity – and not just among Muslims. So how does it work and could it be the right choice for even more UK customers

Islamic financial products conform to the ethics laid out by Muslim teachings. It’s possible to find Islamic savings accounts, investments, mortgages and insurance policies, and last year the Government even committed to developing a Sharia-compliant student loan.It sounds as if such products would be fairly niche, yet more savers than ever are turning to Islamic accounts. [The Independent] Read more

Headteachers 'receiving threats' when teaching values against homophobia

Schools in Birmingham are dealing with a renewed campaign of intimidation following the Trojan Horse scandal, including death threats and dismembered dead dogs and cats hanging from their railings, a headteacher claimed.

The threats - some posted on social media sites - have emerged in areas where the Muslim population is high and in response to heads teaching about gay relationships in their schools.

These incidents illustrate how issues around Trojan Horse have not gone away as headteachers raised concerns that no school governor implicated in the affair that saw hardline Muslims infiltrate schools in Birmingham last year has been investigated or banned.

Addressing an annual NAHT Union conference in Liverpool, heads claimed there has been. Fresh campaign of intimidation against them and called for a database of individuals who are taken out governing bodies. [The Telegraph] Read more

Malaysia: Islamic leader warns comedians not to make people laugh

An Islamic mufti has warned Malaysian comedians against telling jokes that cause excessive laughter. According to the mufti, Islam urges emotional moderation and to refrain from excessive laughter, crying, or other emotional expressions.

Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria claims excessive laughter is “haram” or forbidden according to Islamic law. A mufti is an Islamic scholar trained to interpret and expound Islamic law.

According to Zakaria, Muslims are allowed to laugh, but not in excess. In other words, a chuckle is okay, but a prolonged, out-loud laugh could be considered haram.

Zakaria's statements come after the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) issued guidelines stating that jokes told by comedians should be moderate and not cause excessive laughter. Zakaria supports Jakim and believes the guidelines are in line with Islamic law. [Digital Journal] Read more