31 March 2016

Can Islam move away from theocracy?

Terrorism is a distraction. It’s a distraction from the big question of our day, about Islam and violence. Only a tiny minority of Muslims affirm that sort of violence. A far larger proportion of Muslims condone another, vaguer sort of violence. It is this that we must confront.

I mean the violence of theocracy. Theocracy is the belief that one religion should be absolutely culturally dominant. Of course it thinks that the state should enforce this; if the state fails to do so it loses legitimacy. This theocratic worldview is the underlying cause of Muslim terrorism.

To judge from its founding texts, and its history, Islam is a religion that wants to be very firmly established. It wants to be the official religion of a nation, or empire. It rejects the notion that politics should be conducted without reference to religion, and it rejects the notion that various different religions should be treated equally. To be blunt, it has a very strong theocratic tendency. [Theo Hobson, 549 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 103 votes] "look at Asad Shah, the Glasgow shopkeeper whose messages of inter-faith harmony seemingly got him killed. The vast majority of British Muslims surely see his attitude as admirable, and his killing as abhorrent. So British Islam has largely become post-theocratic."

What utter nonsense! Mr Shah was an Ahmadi and therefore a heretic to most other Muslims. Nothing haram about killing a heretic or about vigilantism..."Do not suffer an apostate to live" etc.

The author's assertion that the vast majority of Muslims admire his attitude and abhor his killing (no data provided) is nonsense. And his conclusion that British Islam has largely become post-theocratic is nonsense squared.

[2ND 76] Referring to the recent murder in Glasgow; "The vast majority of British Muslims surely see his attitude as admirable, and his killing as abhorrent. So British Islam has largely become post-theocratic."

That's a lot of assumptions to make. The Ahmadi branch of Islam that Mr Shah followed is arguably "post-theocratic". Yet he was murdered, allegedly, by a Sunni muslim who thought this post-theocratic brand heresy. If you can be murdered simply for practising a tolerant form of Islam, by a fellow muslim, I fail to see how this is evidence that "British Islam has largely become post-theocratic". Quite the opposite in fact.

[3RD 34] Exactly. The use of the word 'surely' shows that the writer hasn't mixed with too many Muslims from Luton or Blackburn lately. I haven't either, because of the aggression and threats I faced when last I tried. Some people don't think peaceful thoughts when they think of their religion. Relying on 'surely everything will be OK' is a recipe for disaster.

[4TH 29] British Islam is not post theocratic. Islamic texts clearly state don't try and create theocracy when a small minority.

There is no such thing as post theocratic Islam, it is basic tenant of faith.

There will be no reformation and when demographics catch up we will have conflict. Wishful thinking isn't going to solve this problem. We have made a terrible mistake and our grandchildren will pay a horrendous price.

[5TH 28] Whether Islam can move away from theocracy or not is neither here nor there. The essential point is that the rest of us should not have to temporise with the religion in its present form while it makes up its mind. [The Spectator] Read more

Police probe Scottish mosque figures' links to banned sectarian group

A BBC investigation has found that Sabir Ali, head of religious events at Glasgow Central Mosque, was president of Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP). This is a political party now proscribed by the Home Office.

Links to the group have also been made to Hafiz Abdul Hamid from the Polwarth Mosque in Edinburgh.

Glasgow Central Mosque said it would not remove Mr Ali from his role until the links were proved. But it said it condemned terrorism of any kind. It is understood Mr Ali denies the allegations. Mr Hamid declined to comment.

The BBC has obtained evidence that both men continued to be involved with the organisation after it was banned in the UK in 2001. It is not clear whether the two men are still involved.

Sipah-e-Sahaba is a militant anti-Shia political party formed in Pakistan in the 1980s. The group and its armed off-shoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), have accepted responsibility for deadly sectarian attacks against Shia Muslims and other religious minorities in Pakistan. [BBC] Read more

Mohammed Abdel-Haq: Why preventing the Prevent strategy isn’t an option

During the Easter weekend, delegates at the National Union of Teachers annual conference in Brighton voted overwhelmingly to back a motion to scrap the UK government’s Prevent strategy.

Prevent is one of the four strands that make up the wider UK counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST, and on 1st July 2015 the Prevent Duty was created which placed a legal obligation on teachers (among others) to help ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.

Much criticism has been levelled at the Prevent strategy. Many people claim that Prevent is Islamaphobic in nature, that it encourages racial profiling and stereotyping, and that it stops people from speaking about radicalisation for fear they will be reported to the authorities. [ConservativeHome] Read more

30 March 2016

How did we end up here?

For a week now, experts of all kinds have been trying to understand the reasons for the attacks in Brussels. An incompetent police force? Unbridled multiculturalism? Youth unemployment? Uninhibited Islamism?

The causes are numerous beyond counting and everyone will naturally choose the one that suits best their own convictions. Law and Order fans will denounce the haplessness of the police. Xenophobes will blame immigration. Sociologists will rehash the evils of colonialism. Urban-planners will point to the evils of ghettoisation. Take your pick.

.... No matter, Tariq Ramadan has done nothing wrong. He will never do anything wrong. He lectures about Islam, he writes about Islam, he broadcasts about Islam. He puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate. A debate about secularism which, according to him, needs to adapt itself to the new place taken by religion in Western democracy. A secularism and a democracy which must also accept those traditions imported by minority communities. Nothing bad in that.

Tariq Ramadan is never going to grab a Kalashnikov with which to shoot journalists at an editorial meeting. Nor will he ever cook up a bomb to be used in an airport concourse. Others will be doing all that kind of stuff. It will not be his role. [Charlie Hebdo] Read more

Belgian vice PM acknowledges street celebrations following Brussels attacks

In the days following terrorist attacks in Brussels, street celebrations broke out in several places in Belgium, the county’s vice prime minister said.

Jan Jambon made the statement about the March 22 bombings, which killed 35 people, on Wednesday during a symposium titled “Terrorism, Israel and International Law” and organized by the Dutch anti-racism and pro-Israel lobby group CIDI, or the Center of Information and Documentation on Israel, in The Hague.

Jambon, a rightist politician, made the remark while acknowledging Belgium has a jihadism problem. One of Europe’s smallest countries, Belgium is the continent’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, CNN reported. In February, Jambon revealed Belgium’s intelligence services have flagged 451 citizens as jihadists. [JTA] Read more

French minister compares veiled women to 'negroes who supported slavery'

A French government minister on Wednesday compared women who wear the veil to "negroes who supported slavery" amid a backlash against the growing trend for Muslim-orientated fashion.

Families minister Laurence Rossignol, sparked outrage on social media with her comment which came after former fashion mogul Pierre Berge lashed out at designers creating Islamic clothing and headscarves, accusing them of taking part in the "enslavement of women".

The businessman, partner of the late fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent, took aim at the wave of big fashion chains that have followed the Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana in catering specifically to the Muslim market.

Rosssignol, who is also responsible for women's rights, maintained she was referring to an abolitionist tract by the French philosopher Montesquieu, "On the Enslavement of Negroes", when she made her controversial comments to BFMTV and and RMC radio. [AFP] Read more

The 13 countries where being an atheist is punishable by death

It’s often said that the world is becoming an increasingly secular place. Just last week David Cameron sparked backlash when he used his Easter message to describe the UK as “a Christian country”. Critics pointed out that just 30 per cent of people in the UK describe themselves as religious, making Britain one of the least religious countries in the world. 53 per cent of people say they have no faith, while 13 per cent claim they are committed atheists.

However, despite the prevalance of atheism and humanism in the UK, many may be surprised to know that having no faith can be a life or death matter around the world. In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith:

Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

In a number of other countries, the death penalty is not a formal punishment on statute books but atheists and humanists have been murdered by religious extremists on account of their beliefs.

In countries including India and Bangladesh, police have been accused of condoning these murders by failing to investigate them properly. At least three atheist bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh after penning posts advocating that scientific proof should inform opinion above religious beliefs. [The Independent] Read more

29 March 2016

Muslim girl sues Prague nursing school for ban on hijab

A foreign female student, whom a Prague secondary nursing school banned from wearing the Muslim veil covering her head and neck (hijab) during classes in 2013, has sued the school, her lawyer Radka Korbelova Dohnalova has told CTK.

The lawyer said a Prague district court will deal with the case.

Two Muslim girls left their school due to the ban on hijab in the Czech Republic in 2013. One was from Somalia and the other from Afghanistan.

Ombudsman Anna Sabatova supported the girls then and said the school discriminated against them indirectly.

The school argued that students must not have their heads covered in the classroom. Sabatova demanded that the school rules be changed as the hijab is a religious symbol. [CTK] Read more

What is Wahhabism? The reactionary branch of Islam said to be 'the main source of global terrorism'

In July 2013, Wahhabism was identified by the European Parliament in Strasbourg as the main source of global terrorism.

Wahhabism has become increasingly influential, partly because of Saudi money and partly because of Saudi Arabia's central influence as protector of Mecca.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, condemned Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), insisting “the ideas of extremism, radicalism and terrorism do not belong to Islam in any way”.

Somewhat paradoxically, however, members of the Saudi ruling class have applauded Wahhabism it for its Salafi piety - i.e. its adherence to the original practices of Islam - and the movement's vehement opposition to the Shia branch of Islam.

In the 1970s, with the help of funding from petroleum exports and other factors, Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques across the globe and the movement underwent "explosive growth".

The US State Department has estimated that over the past four decades Riyadh has invested more than $10bn (£6bn) into charitable foundations in an attempt to replace mainstream Sunni Islam with the harsh intolerance of its Wahhabism. EU intelligence experts estimate that 15 to 20 per cent of this has been diverted to al-Qaida and other violent jihadists. [The Telegraph] Read more

28 March 2016

Religious extremists will never succeed in taking over Pakistan

A week ago, on Palm Sunday, scores of Pakistani Catholics were lined up in front of a metal detector, waiting to enter St Anthony’s, a small Catholic church 900 metres from Karachi’s Cantonment train station. Across the road, vendors sold religious paraphernalia – crucifixes, prints of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, red and gold-spangled cloth to decorate shrines, garish reproductions of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

A lone guard stood at the door waving people through, and a volunteer scout directed the traffic. The scene illustrates how vulnerable this particular minority is to the rage of Pakistan’s religious extremists, who have been trying their hardest to destroy the diversity that is so important to Pakistan’s slowly growing awareness of pluralism and tolerance. [1004 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 373 votes] I think they are already running things in Pakistan.

[2ND 348] I have no doubt you mean well but the evudence is massively against your opinion. Radical Islam ( ie literal 8th century Islam) has already infriltrated the highest eschelons of Pakistan's military, government and civil service. To give only one of numerous examples, why do you think you think Osama Bin Laden hose to live safely in a conspicuous fortified compound in the Pakistan equivilent of West Point or Sandhurst ? He knew he would be protected. No wonder the Americans could not risk informing their so called ally of their plan to get him.

Today Islamic extremism is playing the same role as Bolshevism in the 20th century: it is an ideological epidemic, crossing borders, radicalising young people, infiltrating our own societies and wreaking havoc wherever it gains power. The most virulent strain of the epidemic is Isis. Ten years from now, I fear, we shall look back and wish we had done more to snuff it out before its imagined caliphate became a reality.

The proposition that Islam and democracy are -currently - incompatible should be debated seriously, something which the author fails to do. The possibility that Christianity might have acted - at a time in the past when state and church were joined at the hip - as a geopolitical structure as well as a religion, does not , in itself, negate the thesis that Islam is doing exactly the same now.

Yes but how does one deal with a sizeable percentage of people who adhere to a belief grounded in medieval pre Enlightenment superstition and certainties ?

Islam came out of the xenophobic and violent Arab / Bedu culture of Saudi Arabia. It was then spread violently by conquest throughout the Middle East, Far East, North Africa and into Southern Europe. The sword on Saudi Arabia's flag celebrates this fact.

We used to say that there was nothing more dangerous than a fool with a cause. Well, a fool with a cause who believes they are carrying out God's will is literally capable of anything. Any genocide, any atrocity, any sacrifice. We have three pillars of the State - The Monarchy, The Church and Parliament and they are all largely independent. The Church and Monarchy have been suitable neutered and liberal parliamentary democracy rules supreme.

Islam is not just a religion. In Islamic countries it is not part of the state, it is the state. It is also an ideology that seeks total control over its citizens in their personal life, their economic life and their political life. In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan Somalia and Afghanistan Sharia is the only source of legal decisions. Stoning to death, beheading and amputation of limbs remain a legal form of punishment for such crimes as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, theft and homosexuality.

In the West we value rational evidence based debate, democracy and the rule of law. Much of Islam values only irrational religious doctrine written down hundreds of years ago for a different age.

[3RD 307] "The majority of Pakistanis are peaceful and would not act violently towards religious minorities even if they do not share their religious beliefs."

1) The constitution of Pakistan forbids non-Muslims from becoming President or Prime Minister.

2) No non-Muslim has ever been elected to a general seat in Pakistan's parliament (a small number are appointed directly by the political parties).

3) All non-Muslims are officially classified as "dhimmis", a derogatory term used for subjugated non-Muslims living in a Muslim country.

4) Since 1947, the proportion of non-Muslims in Pakistan has fallen from 22% to 1%.

If most Pakistanis are secular and peaceful, why don't they change these apartheid-style laws that victimize non-Muslims? [Guardian Cif] Read more

Mumtaz Qadri supporters rally in Islamabad after clashes

Thousands of supporters of executed Islamist killer Mumtaz Qadri are staging a sit-in outside Pakistan's parliament in Islamabad.

It comes a day after clashes broke out at a rally in support of Qadri, who was executed last month for the 2011 murder of reformist politician Salman Taseer.

There were new clashes on Monday as police made a number of arrests and cleared some areas of protesters.

Qadri killed Mr Taseer over his opposition to strict blasphemy laws.

His supporters say he is a hero and should be considered a martyr. [BBC] Read more

Why normally vocal Muslims stay silent when it comes to Ahmadi killings

The death of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah last Thursday was alleged to be related to his background. But once the news emerged that the perpetrator may well be a Muslim the reaction was a little more muted from many Muslims. Why?.

Quite clearly this was a horrible killing and one which has shocked Scotland and many members of the Asian community.

The normally vocal Muslim commentators and Muslim groups who tend to take to Twitter and Facebook to condemn actions against Muslims were strangely silent.

There is a sense that one can’t say anything that might inflame people’s passions when it comes to Ahmadis.

For example if this had been a crime committed by a non-Muslim against a Muslim we may well have had a stream of Imams and Muslim advocacy groups lining up to condemn the actions. Where were these Imams, Muslim groups and political commentators this weekend? [Asian Image] Read more

Germany wants refugees to integrate or lose residency rights

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said he is planning a new law that will require refugees to learn German and integrate into society, or else lose their permanent right of residence.

The initiative comes after voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in regional elections earlier this month, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Around 1 million migrants arrived in Germany last year - many fleeing conflict and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa - and de Maiziere said around 100,000 more had arrived so far this year.

Germany expected that in return for language lessons, social benefits and housing, the new arrivals made an effort to integrate, he told ARD television. [Reuters] Read more

27 March 2016

After Asad Shah's 'religiously prejudiced' death, we know inter-Muslim hatred is a problem in Britain

.... It’s shocking, but not entirely surprising, that the persecution Ahmadis face in Pakistan has travelled over here. Several British Ahmadis I spoke to say they have known of someone who had been threatened or attacked for being an Ahmadi here in Britain. One anti-Ahmadi group with offices in London organises conferences that spread hate-speech against them; a popular Facebook group sent out a message of “congratulations” on news of Shah’s death.

The persecution of British Ahmadis by other Muslims has become worryingly normalised, yet has remained largely unspoken. In recent weeks, several British imams in Glasgow and Bradford openly praised Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered a Pakistani governor for campaigning against the country’s vicious blasphemy laws (used primarily to persecute and even kill religious minorities including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis in Pakistan). [153 comments]

[A TOP RATED COMMENT] Ahmadiyya muslims are well-known for love, peace, and charity for non-muslims for the last 100 years. They've raised tonnes of money for Great Ormond Street, Cancer Research and other UK charities, and they do the same in all the other countries of the world too.

One of the reasons they get killed is because their founder in the 19th century said that you can't kill people in the name of Islam. We should support the ahmadiyya by at least protecting them from being murdered, and we should stop supporting the wahabbi saudi terrorists with weapons, otherwise this world isn't going to be a pretty place! It's time the West realised it's helping to create Frankenstein's monster!

[ANOTHER] Been looking up this Ahmadi Islam. Apparently, the problem other Muslims have with Ahmadis is that they only resort to violence when under extreme attack themselves - they refuse to use it to extend Islam. Says it all, really.

[ANOTHER] Saudi Arabia has destroyed Islam.

[ANOTHER] "In 2010, The Independent reported hard line Muslims in west London calling for Ahmadis to be killed." - and I'll bet absolutely NOTHING was done about it by police. Too risky - too much chance of the police being called Islamophobic.

However, when some idiot stops a Muslim woman in the street asking her to "explain Brussels" (and tweets about it) he's ARRESTED and charged with INCITING RACIAL HATRED by SCOTLAND YARD. This would be laugh-out-loud funny if you could ignore the fact that this is how precious police resources are being focused.

And you wonder why people throughout Europe feel police and the government are unable to protect them and their families from terrorism.

No, not Broken Britain - spineless, stupid Britain. [The Independent] Read more

Mohammed Shafiq confronted over Mumtaz Qadri opinion: Why this is getting ridiculous

Political commentator and TV host Mohammed Shafiq says he will 'not be intimidated' after being confronted at a mosque.

Mr Shafiq was stopped by several people at a Birmingham Mosque and a video of the incident has since been posted online.

In the video Mr Shafiq is questioned over his views after it was alllleged he referred to murderer Mumtaz Qadri as a ‘terrorist’ on a TV programme. Mr Shafiq was also called a ‘British agent’.

Qadri was executed in Pakistan for the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. Taseer had spoken in favour of blasphemy convicted Asia Bibi and against the blasphemy law.

The execution has seen some Muslims proclaim Qadri as a martyr and are quick to defend the murder of Taseer.

Mohammed Shafiq called the actions at the mosque which is believed to have taken place today as 'disgusting'.

He said, "Threatened today in Birmingham Mosque by some thugs because I spoke out against Mumtaz qadri's actions - disgusting". [Bury Times] Read more

Many millions of Muslims 'fundamentally incompatible with the modern world', says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has said that "many millions" of Muslims hold a viewpoint that is "fundamentally incompatible with the modern world."

Rejecting arguments that Isis is simply "tens of thousands of brainwashed crazies," he continued: "[Isis] does not seek dialogue but dominance. It cannot therefore be contained. It has to be defeated."

.... Asked by a CNN interviewer in October 2015 whether he thought the invasion of Iraq was a "principle cause" of the rise of Isis, he said:

"I think there are elements of truth in that... Of course you can't say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.

"But... it's not clear to me that even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better." [The Independent] Read more

26 March 2016

German food minister stands up for pork on public menus

Germany’s food minister is concerned about pork being removed from public menus because of cultural sensitivities, saying accommodating religions requiring halal or kosher should not mean depriving Germans of their favorite traditional dishes.

“I am worried about pork being taken from school and canteen menus,” German Minister for Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt told the Funke media group.

“It cannot be that we solve cultural differences in food with the lowest common denominator. I expect the growing cultural diversity to lead to a larger offering, not a smaller one.”

The place of pork on public school menus has emerged as a hot topic given Germany‘s growing number of Muslim refugees, whose halal dietary laws forbid the consumption of pork.

Pork plays a big role in German cuisine, from well-known Bratwurst sausages to grilled pork hocks served with sauerkraut. Eisbein, pickled ham hock, is also one of the most popular dishes in Germany, served with boiled or mashed potatoes and mustard. In addition, pig breeding and consumption are an important part of Germany’s economy. [RT News] Read more

Sun ordered to admit British Muslims story was 'significantly misleading'

The Sun has been ordered to print a statement acknowledging that its claims that one in five British Muslims supported people who have gone to Syria to fight for jihadi groups such as Islamic State were significantly misleading.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said a front page article from 23 November last year – as well as more coverage inside the paper – misrepresented the results of the poll on which they were based because the relevant question in its poll did not support the claim.

Respondents were asked to what extent they had sympathy with “young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”, rather than with those who went to fight with Isis or any other Islamist group. [The Guardian] Read more

25 March 2016

It’s time to break the shackles that hold Muslim women back

.... The encroachment of Sharia jurisdictions into our civil law should be treated with extreme caution – with gender issues alone a sufficient justification for erring toward a ‘red light’ approach. A unified and integrated society is not generally well-served by competing theories of law attempting to operate in tandem under one jurisdiction. One country must mean one shared body of law, mandated under the Rule of Law and common to all.

To most modern understandings, this would imply gender equality in the law. There are aspects of Sharia law – for example when it comes to marriage, divorce and inheritance rights – that are not compatible with this.

Certain Sharia principles can of course have a very positive role in facilitating commerce – creating a mutually acceptable ‘fit’ between specific financial structures and UK statute – but that is very different to an approach that could allow for half a population (girls and women) to enjoy a less robust defence in law of their basic civic rights, in a touch of the hat to moral relativism.

We should be careful of discarding the principles of good jurisprudence for fear that some people – often, it must be said, with a vested interest in doing so – will claim to be ‘outraged’ at the suggestion. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Glasgow mosque leader praises extremist killer

The religious leader at Scotland's biggest mosque has praised an extremist who was executed for committing murder in Pakistan, the BBC can reveal.

Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman of Glasgow Central Mosque used the messaging platform WhatsApp to show his support for Mumtaz Qadri.

Qadri was hanged in February after murdering a local politician who opposed strict blasphemy laws.

In a statement the imam said the messages had been taken out of context.

He said that he was expressing his opposition to capital punishment.

In messages seen by the BBC, Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman says that he is "disturbed" and "upset" at the news of Qadri's execution, before writing "rahmatullahi alai", a religious blessing usually given to devout Muslims and meaning may God's mercy be upon him.

In another, he says: "I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which [sic] the collective will of the nation failed to carry out." [BBC] Read more

24 March 2016

We need to pull up Islamism by its roots

.... Vague platitudes that this has nothing to do with Islam are as unhelpful as saying that this is what Islam is all about. Extremism certainly has something to do with Islam.

We must accept that the world is in the midst of a generational struggle to distinguish the faith from Islamism, a political ideology that seeks to impose itself on society and its violent arm of jihadism. The task ahead of us is to name this ideology, isolate it and then discredit it while supporting those who seek to reform Islam today.

We must reassert our hard-earned enlightenment values as the antidote to rising theocratic dogma within our communities. For if Islamists are to fail in their strategy it is paramount that we reach across religious and cultural differences and build alliances around our common values.

It is Islamists who seek to convince us Muslims to identify by our religion first. But we must be citizens first and foremost, standing for secularism. [The Times (£)] Read more

Top Arab writer defends author in 'Muslim sexual misery' row

The veteran Algerian writer Boualem Sansal weighed in Thursday to defend his compatriot Kamel Daoud, who is at the centre of storm over his claim that sex "is the greatest misery in the world of Allah".

Daoud, who won France's top literary prize the Prix Goncourt last year, sparked outrage for an article he wrote in France's Le Monde daily in the wake of the wave of sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

.... But Sansal, the elder statesman of Algerian letters, rallied to his cause Thursday, writing in the French newspaper Liberation that "saving Kamel Daoud is saving liberty, justice and the truth".

Earlier this month a radical Algerian preacher was jailed for six months for calling for Daoud's death, while a group of French academics and intellectuals signed an open later berating the writer and journalist.

- 'Politically correct terror' -

"We are cursed," said Sansal, whose own latest book "2084" is a nightmare vision of an Orwellian Islamic state. [AFP] Read more

Christians in Iraq: should they stay or should they go?

Christianity is being wiped from the Middle East, he said. In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now it’s about 300,000 and still dropping fast. Isis is murdering Christians all over the place.

In Mosul, Fr Emmanuel’s home town, Christians were especially targeted after the US invasion of Iraq. Back in 2008, Mosul’s archbishop was snatched from his car and discovered in a shallow grave a week later.

And when Isis arrived in 2014 – welcomed by the majority of the local population, Fr Emmanuel insists – the Christian community had “N” for Nazarene daubed on its doors. The Isis message to Christians is: convert or die.

In the face of all this, the church’s leadership tells its people to be brave, to stay and endure, that in them the very existence of Christianity in the Middle East is at stake. And that’s true – it is. [The Guardian] Read more

Islamic State video calls for jihad after Brussels blasts

.... In the footage, Islamic State noted that Belgium was part of a coalition fighting militants in the Middle East.

It featured the training of Belgian militants suspected in the Nov. 13 shooting and suicide bombing rampage by Islamic State that killed 130 people in Paris.

"The crusaders aircrafts, including Belgium’s, continue to bomb Muslims in Iraq and the Levant in the night and day," said the video.

"Every Muslim who is well aware of the history of Islam, knows that the holy war against infidels is an integral part of Islam, and those who read history would know."

Islamic State controls large parts of Iraq and Syria and has a presence in Libya and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. [Reuters] Read more

22 March 2016

The M&S burkini for Muslim women shows Britain is letting sexism sneak in under the radar

.... M&S’s decision to market the burkini is not “the ultimate proof that Britain is truly multicultural”. It is yet more dismaying evidence that our own culture has failed to stick up for itself and is allowing misogynist attitudes to sneak in under the radar.

It takes me back to a summer thirty years ago. I was doing teacher training at a primary school in London where I was shocked to observe the social exclusion of little Muslim girls. Certain aspects of school life didn’t apply to them.

.... Not long ago, a German court ruled that a young Muslim girl must attend mixed school swimming lessons because the “social reality of life in Germany came above her religious beliefs”.

Yet in the UK we go on making the same mistakes; failing recently to clamp down on Sharia courts which regard a woman’s evidence as worth half that of a man.

And now, unbelievably, we have one of the nation’s favourite retailers marketing the burkini as if it were just another jolly beach outfit, not a restrictive, quasi-religious garment that treats the female form as lascivious and shameful. [The Telegraph] Read more

Denmark may strip citizenship from imams

Denmark could begin stripping citizenship from imams who preach ideas “contrary to basic Danish values”, in the latest draconian measure brought in to counter the threat of radical Islam.

The proposal, put forward by the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, is aimed specifically at removing citizenship from Abu Bilal, the outspoken imam of the Grimhøj mosque in Aarhus.

It has already gained tentative backing from the ruling Liberal Party, the opposition Social Democrats and the Conservative party, meaning it is likely to win a majority in parliament.

The Danish People’s Party’s immigration spokesman Martin Henriksen told the Berlingske newspaper that the Danish Constitution already allowed limits on the freedom to practice religion. [The Local] Read more

21 March 2016

‘If you come here you must be loyal to Swedish values’

Can Sweden’s humanitarian agenda really be balanced with secularity and security? The Local speaks to Abu Dhabi-based scholar and author Dr. Jamal Sanad al-Suwaidi about the conundrum.

Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world. It’s also the EU nation which, per capita, takes in the most refugees from the Middle East.

And as “attacks” of various kinds like those in Paris and Cologne make the world ever warier, Sweden is facing a challenge: How much can the country actually take?

“I think European countries have been too soft, and they are paying the price for it,” says Abu Dhabi-based scholar Dr. Jamal Sanad al-Suwaidi.

Al-Suwaidi is Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), as well as the author of numerous articles and books. His latest work, The Mirage, focuses on the phenomenon of radical political Islam, its causes, and how it should be addressed. [The Local] Read more

Women and Shari’a Law by Elham Manea

Elham Manea’s forthcoming monograph, Women and Shari’a Law, offers an eloquent response to those who think Shari’a Councils have a legitimate place within a multicultural society, a response which builds on her own experiences as an activist for the rights of women and minorities both in Europe and in the MENA region. As she explains in the first chapter:

.... Some of those seeking to promote legal pluralism are people – such as former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – who can rest secure in the knowledge that they will never have direct dealings with any ‘parallel’ justice system themselves. (It could be argued that Shari’a Councils are not strictly legal bodies, but the way they present themselves and are viewed by others has the effect of conferring a de facto legal status.) As Manea points out, some Westerners are unaccountably drawn to the least tolerant strands within Muslim communities. [Harry’s Place] Read more

A woman beheaded in the road. Five headless corpses hanging from cranes. As a documentary exposes the horror of life in Saudi Arabia, why DOES Britain cosy up to this kingdom of savagery?

Five bodies hang from a pole suspended between two cranes, a public display which serves as a reminder to those who might contemplate a life of crime.

They belonged to a gang of five robbers, all of whom were publicly beheaded before their corpses were hoisted high in the air, where they remained for days.

The gruesome sight is one scene in a shocking documentary to be aired this week which sheds light on life in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s bloodiest and most secretive countries.

The film, Saudi Arabia Uncovered, contains harrowing footage of beheadings. A woman dressed in black is held down at the side of a public road by four Saudi policemen, after she has been convicted of killing her stepdaughter.

She is executed with a sword blow to the neck, as she screams: ‘I did not do it.’

We have all heard of the brutality of the Saudi regime, but what makes this documentary so chilling is that we see it on camera.

In another beheading scene, the executioner, dressed in the white robes typically worn by Saudi men, raises his curved sword above his head and brings it down in a single sweep. [Daily Mail] Read more

19 March 2016

Not just any burkini, it's an M&S burkini: The ultimate proof Britain is truly multicultural as Marks splashes out on a Muslim swimwear range

In what could be the ultimate sign of the nation’s growing diversity, Middle England’s favourite retailer has started selling burkinis.

Marks & Spencer now stocks two styles of the full-length swimwear, which is designed to protect the modesty of Muslim women.

The company explains that the £49.50 suit ‘covers the whole body with the exception of the face, hands and feet, without compromising on style’ and boasts: ‘It’s lightweight so you can swim in comfort.’

M&S has stores in Dubai and – perhaps surprisingly – Libya, which have sold the three-piece sets for the past three years.

But now they are available from the company’s website in the UK and will soon be on sale at the company’s flagship store in Marble Arch, Central London.

As well as appealing to Muslim women in the UK, the designs may prove popular with women worried about the damage that exposure to the sun could do to the skin. [763 comments]

[TOP TATED COMMENT 4217 votes] I'm a Christian man and I've had one for years. I use it for surfing and diving. It's called a wetsuit.

[2ND 3382] M & S have gone to the wall.

[3RD 3178] Stupid

[4TH 3073] Now, how about using what you have learned, M&S, to make decent day wear again?

[5TH 3025] If these women are truly Muslim they shouldn't be swimming in front of men anyway

[6TH 2896] We're doomed

[7TH 2538] It is to make money, for political correctness? The shape of things to come, I despair. [Daily Mail] Read more

Dutch lawmaker Wilders in court on hate speech charges

In a case that will test the limits of Dutch freedom of expression, firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders appeared in court Friday for the first public hearing in a hate speech prosecution.

The pretrial hearing at a tightly guarded courtroom on the edge of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport comes with Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party standing atop opinion polls a year ahead of Dutch parliamentary elections and with anti-immigrant sentiment rising across Europe.

Prosecutor Wouter Bos said the case pits two key pillars of the Dutch constitution against one another: A ban on discrimination and the right to freedom of expression.

"The importance of freedom of speech is great," he said. "It is one of the essential elements of our democratic society." But, he added, "freedom of speech is not absolute." [AP] Read more

Gender segregation: breaking the law to appease Islamism

Students and staff at the London School of Economics (LSE) are accustomed to being in the limelight. Whether it is taking money from North-African dictators, promoting anti-Muslim and homophobic charities or harassing atheist students for their ‘blasphemous’ t-shirts – LSE is often at the centre of controversy.

Now, another facet has been added to the picture. The London School of Economics Students’ Union Islamic Society recently held a gender segregated dinner.

The legal situation is clear. In their guidance on ‘Gender segregation at Events and Meetings: guidance for Universities and Students’ Unions’, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) states that: "Gender segregation is not permitted in any academic meetings or at events, lectures or meetings provided for students, or at events attended by members of the public or employees of the university or the students’ union (EHRC, 2014: 2)." [The Freethinker] Read more

18 March 2016

Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders goes on trial for inciting hatred

.... State prosecutors say Wilders asked a crowd of supporters in March 2014 whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, triggering the chant “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”, to which a smiling Wilders responded: “We’ll take care of that.”

The politician, whose decade-old Freedom party holds a commanding lead in Dutch opinion polls but has never been in power, denies any wrongdoing. “Nobody will silence me. Not about Moroccans either,” he tweeted last week. “No terrorist threats … no judge. Nobody.”

Wilders has lived under 24-hour protection since the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, who – like Wilders – made films criticising Islam.

The case against Wilders in 2011 centred on his call for a “towel-head” tax and equating the Qur’an with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He said “Muslim criminals” should be stripped of their Dutch nationality and deported. [The Guardian] Read more

Why some Muslim parents home-school

As figures show home education is becoming more popular in the UK, BBC Asian Network has had access to an online community of Muslim parents who home-school their children.

The parents say they have taken their children out of school for a number of reasons, from the standard of education, to frustration with the government's anti-extremism strategy, Prevent.

The government says it is looking at strategies to make the system as "robust" as possible amid concerns children could be radicalised or fall off the radar. [BBC] Read more

17 March 2016

Court rules four children must have vaccines after mother objects

A family court judge has ruled that four children must be immunised after their Muslim mother refused consent because she said vaccines contained pork gelatine.

Carol Atkinson said the children, boys aged six and nearly eight months and girls aged four and two, had a “variety of outstanding immunisations”. She did not say what diseases the immunisations related to.

The judge, who made the decision following a family court hearing in London, concluded that the mother had a “paranoid view of the world”.

Social workers had asked her to rule on a number of welfare issues – including where the children should live.

The children’s parents, both in their 20s, had separated, the judge heard. The children had been living with their mother in London but were taken into police protection after concerns were raised about their care. [The Guardian] Read more

Muslim mother refused to vaccinate children because of pork gelatine fears

A judge has ruled four children must be immunised after their Muslim mother previously refused consent in the belief the vaccines contained pork gelatine.

Judge Carol Atkinson, who sits in the family court, said the youngsters, two boys aged six and eight months and girls aged four and two, had a “variety of outstanding immunisations”.

The diseases the immunisations related to were not disclosed.

The judge concluded the woman had a “paranoid view of the world” following a family court hearing in London.

She ruled the children should live with their Somalian-born father, who is based in London, after social workers from Newham Council asked her to make decisions on a number of welfare issues.

The children’s parents, both in their 20s, had separated, the judge heard. [Evening Standard] Read more

16 March 2016

Obscene Praise for the Pakistani Muslim Who Murdered a ‘Blasphemer’

Mumtaz Qadri, hanged last week for killing Punjab’s governor, is being hailed as a martyr and hero—bad news for a Christian woman charged with ‘blasphemy.’

Asia Bibi is a defenseless Pakistani Christian woman who was maliciously accused of “blasphemy” by her Muslim neighbors. They did this to settle a score after she committed the other “crime,” as a non-Muslim, of drinking water from the same cup as them. Asia was sentenced by Pakistan’s courts to death by hanging in 2010. She languishes in jail awaiting execution until this day. So far, so obscene.

Five years ago, Asia must have thought she had been given a lifeline. Imagine the delight felt by this powerless woman—for Christians are a tiny and discriminated against minority in Pakistan—when the governor of Pakistan’s largest province, the flamboyant secular Muslim, Salmaan Taseer, publicly took up her case. With such a high-profile champion, Asia would have been forgiven for thinking that her savior had arrived and that she would soon be freed.

The world reeled in shock at what happened next. [The Daily Beast] Read more

Pakistan: New law protecting women against abuse is against Islam say religious groups

More than 35 religious parties and groups in Pakistan have come together to call on the government retract a new law in the country's largest province of Punjab that protects women from abuse. Claiming that the law is unIslamic, they accuse the law of being part of the West's agenda to destroy the family system in Pakistan.

The Women's Protection Act was passed by Punjab in February to protect women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence. It also calls for the setting up of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line, women's shelters and district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse. The new law also mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.

The law however seems to have fallen foul of the mainly conservative clerics and religious leaders. They have said it is in conflict with both the Koran and the Pakistan constitution.

"This controversial law to protect women was promulgated to accomplish the West's agenda to destroy the family system in Pakistan," reads the joint declaration from the conference comprising the religious parties and groups. "This act ... is redundant and would add to the miseries of women." [International Business Times] Read more

High Court ruling on teenager who refused to live with her family 'because they were not strict enough Muslims'

The girl, who had attempted to travel to Syria, should have been provided with alternative taxpayer-funded accommodation, judges rule.

A teenager who did not want to live with her family because "they were not strict enough Muslims" after being returned from the Syrian border, should have been provided with accommodation and support by the local authority, the High Court has said.

The 18-year-old girl, identified only as C, won a declaration that, from June 2015, she was a child in need and should now be regarded as a "former relevant child" who was entitled to a wide range of assistance until the age of 21.

The A-star student, who was born and brought up in the London Borough of Enfield, first came to the attention of the local authority in February 2014 when she travelled alone through Turkey to the Syrian border without her parents' consent. [The Telegraph] Read more

How Muslim Governments Impose Ignorance

I recently spent a few days in Malaysia, where I was promoting the publication of the Malay edition of my book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.” The publisher, a progressive Muslim organization called the Islamic Renaissance Front, had set up several talks for me in Kuala Lumpur.

As any author would be, I was happy to learn that the team was enthusiastic about my book and had been getting good feedback from audiences and readers. But I was troubled by something else that I suspect many Muslim authors have experienced: My publisher was worried about censorship.

The risk, I was told, was that the Department of Islamic Development, a government body that “was formed to protect the purity of faith,” could ban the book if it was viewed as violating traditional Islamic doctrine.

.... Today, many Muslims, including those who censor books or punish “heretics,” long for that “golden age of Islam” and lament that our civilization is no longer great. Few seem to realize, however, that the greatness of Islam was made possible thanks to its openness to foreign cultures and ideas.

The Muslim world began to stagnate and then decline after the 13th century, as this cosmopolitanism was replaced with self-isolating dogmatism. In the meantime, Europe flourished as Europeans began to think more openly.

The Muslim world today is in a state of malaise. Muslim societies are underdeveloped in science, technology, economics and culture. This will be overcome only with more freedom. Progress depends on more Muslims questioning whether policies that promote ignorance are really devised to protect their faith — or to protect the power of those who rule in its name. [NYTimes.com] Read more

Women segregated at LSE’s Islamic society banquet

The Islamic society of the London School of Economics has been criticised for hosting a banquet at which men and women were segregated by a screen 7ft high and had to dial separate phone numbers to buy tickets.

The event was held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, near the university in Holborn, on Sunday night. Tickets to the dinner, which cost £20, sold out.

The general secretary of LSE Students’ Union, who attended the event, described it as “comfortable and relaxed.” Nona Buckley-Irvine said that she had a lovely time at the dinner and “barely noticed” the separation.

She also defended the preference of Muslims students, saying that “where groups would like to organise themselves in a way that fits with their religious, cultural and personal beliefs, both genders consent, and there is no issue, I have no problem”. [The Times (£)] Read more

15 March 2016

Worshipping as equals: Plans to build Britain's first women-led mosque

In Bradford, the Muslim Women's Council thinks its plans will go some way to address divisions in the community. David Barnett reports on their hopes and prayers.

.... “Without knowing, I had just walked into the men-only space,” she says. “I plucked up the courage to look around at the disapproving expressions, some men awkwardly looking away, some depreciatively staring directly at me, shaking their heads, and some confused and disoriented at a female figure invading their space, slowly moving away.”

One of the men, out of kindness to Nabeelah, offered to show her to the women's prayer space in the mosque. Well, almost in the mosque. She was taken back outside through the grand main entrance and directed around the side of the building to a back door, labelled with a marker pen as the “women's prayer room”. It couldn't have been more different from the calm, ordered atmosphere of the main mosque. [The Independent] Read more

Labour MP Attacks ‘Systematic Campaign’ By Men In Local Party To Ruin Her

Naz Shah warns of ‘patriarchy and misogyny’ within Muslim communities.

A Labour MP has revealed how she is being subjected to a “systematic campaign” by men in her local party to ruin her reputation.

Writing for The Huffington Post UK today, Bradford West MP Naz Shah said the attempt to “malign” and “denigrate” her character came after the national Labour Party acted to take control of the selection of candidates in key Bradford Council seats.

Shah was prompted to speak out following Monday evening’s Newsnight report on the experience of Pakistani women within the Labour Party.

Speaking to the programme, the Labour MP for Luton South, Gavin Shuker, said the party had a “real problem” in getting “capable young women in the Asian community selected” as parliamentary candidates. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

14 March 2016

PCC hopeful: ‘I would ban the burkha’

A woman battling to be the next police crime commissioner has spoken of her aim to see the burka banned in Biggleswade.

But English Democrat Toni Bugle insists she is being neither racist nor extreme.

“All I’m doing is talking common sense,” said the 47-year-old mum, who is busy raising £5,000 through GoFundMe to fund her PCC campaign.

“If people are wearing a burka they can’t be identified if they commit a crime. I don’t mind hijabs, because the face would still show on CCTV. But burkas should definitely go.

Toni, who lives just outside Biggleswade, is also pushing for the St George’s flag to be flown from all local police premises to wish that officers’ political correctness should fly out of the window. [Biggleswade Today] Read more

The country where you have to dodge the religious police to fall in love

'You know you’re getting serious if you’re on Snapchat'

Saudi Arabia goes to notorious lengths to prevent unsanctioned romance. So citizens of this conservative kingdom are increasingly turning to social-media networks to pursue relationships and plan forbidden rendezvous, people here say.

In a country with strict ­gender-segregation rules, unmarried men and women who mingle can face harassment or worse from religious police. Although Saudis have long cautiously challenged their society’s rigid traditions by using the Internet to flirt and chat, many say social-media networks give them a relatively safe place to pursue flings and even find potential spouses. All my friends are talking to boys on social media,” said a 23-year-old woman who described meeting a former boyfriend through Facebook.

Their relationship evolved into secret excursions in his vehicle and steamy encounters, she said. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, she and other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity. [The Independent] Read more

12 March 2016

Sharia Law or One Law for All?

Here is the fulcrum around which so much of the problem turns: the belief that Islamic law has every right to be put into practice in non-Muslim countries, and the insistence that a parallel, if unequal, legal system can function alongside civil and criminal law codes adhered to by a majority of a country's citizens.

Salafism is a form of Islam that insists on the application of whatever was said or done by Muhammad or his companions, brooking no adaptation to changing times, no recognition of democracy or man-made laws.

The greatest expression of this failure to integrate, indeed a determined refusal to do so, may be found in the roughly 750 Muslim-dominated no-go zones in France, which the police, fire brigades, and other representatives of the social order dare not visit for fear of sparking off riots and attacks. Similar zones now exist in other European countries, notably Sweden and Germany. According to the 2011 British census there are over 100 Muslim enclaves in the country. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

11 March 2016

I’m proud to be young, British and Muslim. Why should I change my name?

Every day there are attacks on Islam, prejudice against Muslims and Islamophobic assaults. Stop demonising us and embrace us as part of Britain.

.... Every day, as I walk to work past newsstands, it seems there’s another front-page splash demonising some aspect of Islam. Online, the comment threads below any article on Muslims are full of vitriolic messages.

Someone once said to me: “If I believed what they said about Muslims, I would have to hate my own mother, my family and everything about myself.” Not surprisingly, there are weekly reports of Islamophobic attacks; and vicious Islamophobic rants have been filmed on public transport.

The relentless assaults from popular broadsheets and tabloids are echoed by political leaders too. David Cameron’s language around refugees – “swarms”, “bunch of migrants” – contributes to the idea that they are a homogenous, threatening group. In January, he said that the “traditional submissiveness of Muslim women” was leaving young men vulnerable to radicalisation – reinforcing the stereotypes that Muslim women have to deal with daily.

Cameron upset not only the mothers, but also their children – people of my generation, who have come through the British education system, and have navigated the path of being young, British and Muslim. [1522 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 1075 votes] Islam better get used to critcism if it insists on continuing to be homophobic, misogynist, sexist,and supporting such practises as honour killings and fgm, quite apart from the minority who stir up violence and hand out death threats to people who want to leave this 'religion' . No one intelligent is going to tolerate the intolerable.

[2ND 793] "Every day, as I walk to work past newsstands, there’s another front-page splash demonising some aspect of Islam."

How dare someone criticise religion.

[3RD 666] You're being far too generous here. Being of Pakistani origin and having lived in Bradford for 4 years i'm well qualified to say that many asian communities (especially in West Yorks) not only make no concerted effort to integrate, but they do not want any dilution (marriage, culture/work) with the indigenous population.

Religion is more important than: your country, your family (see honour killings) and your neighbour.

[4TH 648] I grew up in West Yorkshire and worked in Dewsbury for 7 years, I have to say that a large part of the Muslim community there, were the only group from the many different backgrounds/ethnicities who seemingly made little or no effort to mix or integrate.

[5TH 599] No one asked you to change your name... another Guardian article where someone expresses indignation about a non existent argument

If anything, the reverse is true in this country. For evidence, ask anyone how they feel when they call an overseas call centre and are spoken to by someone who claims they are called Alice or David etc when its patently untrue.

Stop looking for rubbish to moan about.

[6TH 598] Religion should not be beyond criticism.

[7TH 546] "They drink alcohol, live with their partners before marriage, and don’t fast for Ramadan."

Those are unambiguously un-Islamic. Very often, moderate or liberal Muslims aren't actually Muslims at all, but secular. If 'Muslims' are drinking alcohol, not observing Ramadan, among other things, it means that they have renounced those key elements of the religion. What might be preventing them from just renouncing the faith completely, I wonder? Is there a penalty for that? [The Guardian] Read more

These sharia courts have no place in our country

In this country there are thought to exist around 85 of these courts, which make rulings based on Islamic edicts rather than the laws of the land.

This is not simply an example of people choosing to live in accordance with their own beliefs. It is a case of religious leaders bullying others into obeying commands completely at odds with Britain’s own values of equality and fairness.

Time and again the rulings made are horrifyingly misogynistic. The entire system is rigged in favour of men with the rights of women given little more than passing consideration.

This is unacceptable in a civilised society and it has no place here.

Moreover the different groups that make up our nation cannot possibly live in harmony while there are still people following their own separate and self-policed legal code. These courts are one of the ways in which some Muslim communities have cut themselves off from the rest of Britain, a process which fuels hatred and division. [Daily Express] Read more

Labour MP 'felt pressured' after speaking out

A Labour MP has said he is "disappointed" by the party's response to concerns about the selection of female Muslim councillors.

He told BBC Newsnight: "In recent weeks, when I've spoken up about this issue, I felt extremely pressured to be silent on the things I know to be true."

The Labour Party said any complaints or evidence of sexism or intimidation were dealt with fairly.

Mr Shuker raised his concerns in response to claims made by the charity Muslim Women's Network UK (MWN UK) concerning the "blocking" of vocal, independent Muslim women by male members of the Labour Party who are of Pakistani heritage.

MWN UK has called for an inquiry by the party into "systematic misogyny" within Labour.

Mr Shuker says: "I've been disappointed with the response of the Labour Party.

"I would like robust action from the leadership - both from the NEC and from the leader of the Labour Party to say 'If there are these practices, we will take time to root them out.' [BBC] Read more

10 March 2016

Muslim woman who refused to remove her burka to testify against man accused of abusing her is warned by German judge SHE will be jailed if she does not comply

A Muslim woman who refused to remove her burka to testify against a man accused of abusing her has been warned by a German judge she will be jailed if she does not comply.

Amira Behari, 43, refused to reveal her face at the State Court in Munich last year when she appeared to testify against a man who allegedly abused her in a train station.

The man, identified only as Kai.O, allegedly called her an 'a******e' and told her to 'go back to where you belong.'

Judge Thomas Mueller said at the original hearing in November he wanted to see her face to 'read her emotions,' adding: 'I need to see you otherwise there will be considerable problems in adjudicating your case.'

Behari refused, saying: 'I have a God at the end of the world who will see me right at the end. I will not do this.'

In court she wore a niqab, which is an ultra-burka with only a gap for the eyes. She also wore gloves and a long leather coat. [242 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 3571 votes] How can we be sure there's a woman under that burka?

[2ND 3441] As a Muslim, stuff like this REALLY annoys me! The burka is CULTURAL not religious, and even in our religion it states you can remove your hijab (headscarf) for identification purposes - so why do these Muslims make it difficult for themselves and everyone around them, and in the process they just give the rest of us Muslims a bad name!!!! Ugh.

[3RD 2891] Ban it full stop

[4TH 2491] What an idiot- ban it and jail her.

[5TH 2221] Don't ask her. Just remove it!

[6TH 2197] She should have been jailed for contempt of court the first time she refused the judge's request to remove it. It not only prevents the judge from gauging her emotions, but also makes identification difficult, if not impossible. This is the exact reason why the burka/niqab MUST be banned forthwith. [Daily Mail] Read more

South Ayrshire Tory councillor in Tweet storm as she backs call to ban the burka

A top councillor has been caught up in a Twitter storm – after she backed calls to ban the burka.

Depute provost Mary Kilpatrick has been forced to say sorry for an online slur against the traditional Muslim dress.

The Conservative member for Ayr East ‘retweeted’ posts from an account carrying the hashtag “BanTheBurka”.

And she relayed another message which attacked fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Kilpatrick, a member of South Ayrshire Council for 17 years, has been rebuked by Tory bosses in Edinburgh following the controversial posts.

One of her retweets from the @BanningTheBurka account – which has more than 21,000 followers – read: “Absolutely ridiculous that exams are being pushed back due to Ramadan. Children should not be fasting in the first place!” [Daily Record] Read more

09 March 2016

London ‘more Islamic’ than Muslim world – scholar

London is a more “Islamic” city than much of the Muslim world put together, a leading Muslim scholar has argued.

Maulana Syed Ali Raza Rizvi, a prominent Shia cleric, who was born in Pakistan and studied in Iran, said he “feels more Islamic” in Britain than other countries because of the freedom to worship and the multicultural mix.

He said Islam could be summed up as being about “love and justice” but that the “Muslim political leadership” around the world was failing to foster this.

He was speaking alongside the Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at the annual Benedict XVI Lecture, an interfaith discussion event in London. [The Telegraph] Read more

Stop allowing gender-segregated meetings, David Cameron tells Labour

Labour denies organising segregated meetings, after PM says people with ‘bigoted religious views’ are treating women as second-class citizens.

David Cameron has accused Labour of allowing people with “bigoted religious views” to organise political meetings where men and women are segregated.

There have been several reports of Labour politicians addressing meetings where men and women are segregated – in Birmingham last May and during the Oldham byelection campaign in December. The party has always denied allowing meetings to be organised in this way.

One general election meeting in Birmingham addressed by Tom Watson and four other Labour MPs was reportedly advertised to local Muslim communities as having a “women’s section”, and a sign was said to have directed female attendees to separate seats.

Cameron raised the issue during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, in response to a Labour MP asking about cuts to benefits for women. He said the opposition’s contribution to gender equality should be to stop allowing political meetings to be segregated for religious or cultural reasons. [The Guardian] Read more

Pakistan’s prime minister is defying the clerics — very carefully

During a speech to international business leaders here in late November, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shocked the country’s powerful religious community by calling for a new, more “liberal” Pakistan.

Amid an outcry, within hours, Sharif’s staff was playing down the speech, saying he didn’t really mean to imply Pakistan should become more like the West.

But so far this year, Sharif and his party have defied Islamic scholars by unblocking access to YouTube, pushing to end child marriage, enacting a landmark domestic violence bill, and overseeing the execution of a man who had become a symbol of the hatred that religion can spawn here.

The shift in tone can be traced to Sharif’s ambitious economic agenda, the influence his 42-year-old daughter has over him, and his awareness that Pakistan remains the butt of jokes, according to his friends, senior government officials and analysts. [The Washington Post] Read more

Egypt drafts bill to ban burqa and Islamic veils in public places

Legislators have argued that full face veils are un-Islamic and that the Quran only requires women to dress modestly and cover their hair.

The Egyptian parliament is drafting a law banning women from wearing the niqab veil. The ban will apply to wearing the clothing in public places and government institutions, it has been reported.

The full-face veil is worn by some followers of Islam and typically covers all of the wearer’s face other than their eyes. The clothing is common in Egypt which is a predominantly Muslim country.

MP Amna Nosseir, professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, who has backed the ban, said that wearing the veil is not a requirement of Islam and in fact has non-Islamic origins. She has argued that it is a Jewish tradition which appeared in the Arabian Peninsula prior to Islam and that a variety of Quran passages contradict its use. Instead, she has advocated that the Quran calls for modest clothing and covered hair, but does not require facial covering. [The Independent] Read more

08 March 2016

Australian Muslims may resort to violence if headscarf laws not changed, SA imam says

The founder of the fledgling Islamic Association of South Australia (IASA) has warned a lack of tolerance could spark violence, after a man who allegedly grabbed a woman's headscarf was released on bail.

The imam of IASA, who goes by the name Shaikh M Tawhidi, today released a statement saying he feared a day "where the Muslim community might take matters into their own hands to protect their women and mothers".

SA Police today arrested and charged a 27-year-old man from Kilburn in Adelaide's inner-north with assault and offensive behaviour on a passenger vehicle.

They alleged he grabbed a young woman's headscarf as she got on a bus at Churchill Road on March 16 and intimidated her for the rest of the bus journey into the city. [ABC] Read more

Ban the burqa call by MEP

North West MEP Paul Nuttall, UKIP’s deputy leader, has called for a ban on burqas and niqabs being worn in public buildings in Britain.

Mr Nuttall said: “It is International Women’s Day and what better opportunity to call for the empowerment of women and free them from the tyranny of the veil.

“We live in dangerous times when security is all important and it is vital that people’s faces can be seen.

“And just as importantly we live in a civilised liberal society and why should women be anonymised in this way? All free thinking women should be supporting a ban on full face coverings in public buildings.

“There are laws in place in France, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, as well as other countries in the world, restricting the wearing of such face coverings and such a prohibition should be introduced in this country.

“You cannot stroll into a bank wearing a crash helmet or balaclava for eminently sensible security reasons and it is just common sense that the same should apply to the burqa and niqab. Why should they be exempt? [Rochdale Online] Read more

07 March 2016

Top doc axed in bust-up after reporting Muslim surgeon’s hijab was ‘spotted with blood’ before an NHS operation

AN NHS consultant has been suspended for revealing how a Muslim surgeon refused to remove her hijab for an operation — even though it broke hospital health rules.

Dr Vladislav Rogozov said in a blog that he confronted her as they scrubbed up when he realised she planned to keep the Islamic scarf on during surgery.

He claimed the hijab was spotted with blood from previous operations. But she refused to remove it and walked out, forcing the hospital to find a stand-in.

The unnamed surgeon later accused anaesthetist Dr Rogozov, 46, of racial discrimination.

She left Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital after a hospital investigation backed Dr Rogozov for enforcing its strict dress code.

It says religious headscarfs are “excluded in areas such as theatre, where they could present a health and cross-infection hazard.” [The Sun] Read more

Aarhus super mosque shelved following Sharia revelations

Aarhus Municipality has decided to halt plans for a super mosque after a TV2 documentary revealed that a Sharia council prohibited a Muslim woman in the city from divorcing her abusive husband and even denying him sex.

The council at the Fredens Moske in Aarhus informed the woman she would be in breach of Sharia law.

Aarhus mayor Jacob Bundsgaard explained that the series, ‘Moskeerne bag sløret’ (the mosques behind the veil), had led him to reconsider the massive super mosque project that the city had already approved.

“It’s always been an underlying prerequisite that only moderate powers would be exercised in the Muslim society,” Bundsgaard told DR Nyheder.

“But my trust in the project is gone with these revelations, and the natural consequence must be that the project is cancelled. It’s a shame for the vast majority of moderate Muslims, but it’s their responsibility to condemn those who don’t want to be integrated – like those who pressure a woman to go back to her abusive husband and to let him rape her.” [The Copenhagen Post] Read more

Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud sparks Islamophobia row

.... But Kamel Daoud has now announced to the world that he is giving up his newspaper work, and will focus on fiction.

Why? Because of the frenzied reaction to a piece he wrote in Le Monde concerning New Year's Eve in Cologne.

The article in question - entitled "Cologne - City of Illusions" - was a two-pronged attack on the cliches triggered by the mass molestations of women.

On the one hand Daoud deplored the far-right "illusion" which treats all immigrants as potential rapists.

But by far the greater part of his anger was directed at the "naive" political left, who in his view deliberately ignore the cultural gulf separating the Arab-Muslim world from Europe.

Thus, according to Daoud, Europe welcomes immigrants with visas and material sustenance - but without addressing what really counts, which is the world of values.

What Cologne showed, says Daoud, is how sex is "the greatest misery in the world of Allah". [BBC] Read more

Local Muslims cautious about new Idaho anti-Shariah bill

Last week a committee in the Idaho Legislature agreed to introduce a bill designed to keep Shariah law and other foreign codes from becoming part of Idaho court decisions or government policies.

An Idaho State University instructor and a Pocatello doctor, both Muslims, have reservations about such legislation.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, and it passed the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee on a partisan vote, with the three Democrats on the committee voting not to move the bill forward.

.... Redman's bill doesn't specifically mention Islamic law, but the Associated Press reported that Redman circulated pictures of a severed hand and a man about to be beheaded to legislative leaders considering the proposal. The pictures were pasted in between definitions of Shariah law and accused the Prophet Muhammad of being a pedophile.

"This bill isn't just about Shariah law, but Shariah law is a major concern," Redman told the AP. [AP] Read more

Almost 80 percent of Latvians seek ban on face-covering clothing

The vast majority of Latvians, or 77 percent, support a legislative initiative calling for a ban on wearing face-covering garments in public places, a new TNS poll shows.

The survey reveals that 42 percent of respondents strongly support the ban and 35 percent tend to support it.

Meanwhile 16 percent do not support the Justice Ministry's proposal to ban wearing face-covering clothes like Muslim burqas in public places.

Eleven percent of respondents tend not to support the draft legislation and five percent strongly disapprove of a ban.

Seven percent of the surveyed Latvians did not voice a particular position on the issue.

TNS pollster ran the survey for 900 Seconds, the morning news program of Latvia's LNT commercial TV channel.

The survey too place from March 1 to 3, and interviewing 1,000 residents of Latvia between the ages of 18 to 55. [The Baltic Times] Read more

German politicians campaign to make pork mandatory in public canteens after sausages and bacon were removed 'to prevent offending Muslims'

German politicians are campaigning to make pork mandatory in public canteens and schools, after reports that sausages, chops and bacon were disappearing from menus.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Schleswig-Holstein claimed pork products were being removed from cafes, daycare centres and state schools across the state to 'prevent offending Muslims'

The suggestion to force public schools and canteens to serve pork has subsequently been widely mocked on social media, using hashtags #porkduty and #wurstcasescenario.

The local arm of the CDU, the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, claimed pork was being banned for 'religious reasons' across the north German state.

'The protection of minorities - including for religious reasons - must not mean that the majority is overruled in their free decision by ill-conceived consideration,' said CDU's Daniel Günther. [Daily Mail] Read more

05 March 2016

Islamic group ordered to stop segregating men and women

Controversial Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir has been ordered to stop forcibly segregating men and women at its public events after a NSW tribunal found the practice constituted sexual discrimination.

Former NT News journalist Alison Bevege sued the organisation and five of its members for sexual discrimination after she was forced to sit in a designated women's and children's section at a public lecture hosted by the group on October 10, 2014.

Ms Bevege, then a freelance journalist, told the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal she attended the lecture, titled "the politics and plots of the American led intervention in Iraq and Syria", with the intention of writing an opinion piece and asking questions of the speakers.

She was "scared" to attend on her own so she arranged to go with a male friend, the tribunal heard.

Though the pair separately entered the lecture hall at the KCA Centre in Lakemba, when Ms Bevege attempted to join her friend in the men's section "to be closer to the action" a female usher insisted she sit with the other women at the back of the room. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

04 March 2016

Senior Muslim calls for charity watchdog to suspend top officials at Glasgow Mosque

.... The two formal complaints represent a dramatic escalation of the bitter turf war at what is Scotland’s single biggest single place of worship of any faith.

And they place OSCR in the difficult position of having to consider using its powers, including suspension, against an important religious body.

The watchdog has already published damning interim findings about the way the Mosque has been managed in the past.

A new generation of liberal Scottish Muslims had been in control of the facility until earlier this month, when they resigned en masse citing threats and intimidation.

Mr Farooq was one of just five members of the committee not to stand down. However, he now believes that members who were resigned were replaced illegally.

Mr Farooq said in a statement: “I have written to OSCR advising them of the illegal committee.

“I have asked them to investigate that the process in the selection of seven new committee members, which was not constitutional. [Herald Scotland] Read more

Torquay station sex attacker 'misunderstood boundaries', court hears

A SOMALIAN who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl at Torquay train station said it was a misunderstanding caused by 'cultural differences', a court has been told.

Ali Abdullahi, 34, committed two sex attacks against two females and made an approach to a third woman while catching the train from Torquay to Bristol.

Exeter Crown Court was told that despite his guilty pleas the security guard still had trouble admitting he had done anything wrong.

He told police he came from a conservative culture and misunderstood the sexual boundary between men and women in the UK. [Herald Express] Read more

03 March 2016

We must not tolerate British imams who applaud barbarism in Pakistan

How outraged were you when you heard the news?

The Muslim man in America arrested for blasphemy against the state’s Christian constitution, the governor who defended the man’s right to freedom of religion, and then the dramatic gunning down of the governor by a well-armed redneck with a “Jesus Is Alive” tattoo.

Whose side were you on? Did you defend the redneck with the tattoo, take to social media on the day he was sent to the electric chair to call him a martyr to Christianity?

How did you feel when you read of the Church of England vicar who praised the murderer, justified his actions and even boasted about attending his funeral?

All these events actually happened. In a way.

Except it was a Christian woman in Pakistan, Asia Bibi, who was arrested and sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy. It was a Muslim governor, Salmaan Taseer, who came to her defence and called for the country’s absurd and medieval blasphemy laws to be reviewed. [The Telegraph] Read more

Top Pakistani religious body rules women's protection law 'un-Islamic

A powerful Pakistani religious body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam on Thursday declared a new law that criminalizes violence against women to be "un-Islamic."

The Women's Protection Act, passed by Pakistan's largest province of Punjab last week, gives unprecedented legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence. It also calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line and the establishment of women's shelters.

But since its passage in the Punjab assembly, many conservative clerics and religious leaders have denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Muslim holy book, the Koran, as well as Pakistan's constitution.

"The whole law is wrong," Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology said at a news conference, citing verses from the Koran to point out that the law was "un-Islamic." [Reuters] Read more

01 March 2016

If a moderate like Sadiq Khan shouldn’t stand for London mayor, which Muslim can?

I did warn him. Shortly after he became the first Muslim to attend cabinet, I urged Sadiq Khan to be prepared. The Islamophobes, the new McCarthyites, would at some stage come after him. He laughed it off. Yet it was only a matter of time. In the current climate of anti-Muslim hysteria, it was perhaps naive of Khan and his advisers to believe that he could run for City Hall as a proud and public Muslim without being targeted or smeared.

Consider the recent spate of newspaper headlines: “Exposed: Sadiq Khan’s family links to extremist organisation” (Evening Standard); “Khan joined radical imam at rallies” (Sunday Times); “Khan linked to ‘online bin Laden’” (Daily Telegraph); “Sadiq Khan gave speech with ‘black flag of jihad’ flying” (the Sun).

These stories basically boil down to: hard-working constituency MP and former human rights lawyer who campaigned against the extradition of a constituent, Babar Ahmed, to the US on terrorism charges, and for the release of British resident Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo Bay, may, in the process, have shared platforms with allegedly unsavoury characters who’ve made unpleasant remarks. Quelle surprise. [Mehdi Hasan, 1110 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 355 votes] People smear Goldsmith for being a millionaire – Khan’s running for office, so whatever stick people can beat him with, they will.

That said, Islam in particular is perceived as incompatible with the socially progressive ideas that we hold dear. And ;let’s face it Mehdi – by and large, it is.

[2ND 305] Why shouldn't people dislike Islam? It's just a set of beliefs, ideas and principles, like Conservatism, which do not align with my own beliefs, ideas and principles.

[3RD 175 ] So the fact that Khan actually did those things as reported means he's being victimised for his religion? Surely any political up for election has their pasts raked over don't they? And where has anyone said he 'shouldn't be' running for mayor? You've decided to write this article first , and then gone looking for justifications to write it. What a pile of shit.

[4TH 162] Once you reduce this article to its core substance, the message appears to be that because Sadiq Khan is a Muslim, anyone who draws attention to that fact or brings up anything contentious or questionable he has said, or reports any actions in his past or those of his extended family which may call into question his fitness to hold the office of Mayor of London, is guilty of Islamophobia.

However, it is perfectly acceptable for he and his supporters to do exactly that about any of his opponents which may call into question their fitness to hold the office of Mayor.

This is basically another demand for special treatment for someone based on their religious beliefs and as such should be roundly rejected.

[5TH 131] That shouldn't mean...

Of course it shouldn't. That's why newspapers investigate. Mr Hassan seems to think kuffirs (his word) should shut up and elect the candidate he favours. Anyone standing for electoral office should expect investigation on the issues which are pertinent. For Zac Goldsmith that'll be having shitloads of dosh and non-dom status. For Sadiq Khan, that'll be his religion.

[6TH 124] When you are choosing a person, you have to consider what they believe. So you MUST consider their religion.

[7TH 122] A phobia is an irrational fear of something. As somebody originally from India I assure you that there is nothing irrational about a fear of Islam. Muslims on an individual basis are different but Islam as a belief system? Nothing irrational about being afraid of that.

[8TH 117] Are cattle allowed to comment on this?

[9TH 111] Moderate or extreme, they all read the same texts. The difference is one of emphasis. Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who Mehdi has shamefully smeared in the past) makes a division between Mecca Muslims and Medina Muslims.

Mecca Muslims choose to focus on the early stages of Mohammed’s career, when he’s building alliances and preaching a ‘peace and love’ message. Medina Muslims focus on his later life, where he becomes a successful leader, and where he teaches a much more warlike message.

But whatever you focus on, the question remains – how do you choose which parts of God’s message to trust? If God said it all, isn’t it all true? [Guardian Cif] Read more

Are certain cultural practices inferior to others? Yes.

It is morally inferior, indeed repugnant, to beat one’s spouse no matter the religious or cultural justification—of which plenty is offered.

It is morally inferior to justify killing a person for leaving their faith, regardless of how important identity and religion is to anyone’s politics, and despite which regime thinks otherwise.

Likewise, sexual intercourse with a minor is rape. There can be no legal consent involving a child. Euphemistically calling this “child marriage” does not change the fact that it is nothing but child sex abuse.

That these are subjective moral positions should be as relevant as it is when discussing the abolition of slavery. In other words, not at all.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is all incredibly obvious. You may even have believed that such moral viewpoints had become as enshrined in the West as the prohibition on torture. If so, and to naughtily lift a phrase from the left: check your privilege.

In a move that can only ever go down in history as incredibly regressive, a municipality in the Swedish city of Malmo decided to approve underage “child marriage” among refugees. [The Daily Beast] Read more

Schleswig-Holstein CDU fights to keep pork on canteen menus

The regional arm of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU announced plans on Tuesday to ensure that pork continues to be available at public canteens, as well as child daycare centers and schools across the north German state.

The proposal is due to be presented by the CDU's group in parliament at next week's regional parliamentary session.

CDU parliamentary group leader, Daniel Günther, bemoaned on Tuesday that an increasing number of canteens, nurseries and schools are removing pork from their menu due to religious considerations.

"The protection of minorities - including for religious reasons - must not mean that the majority is overruled in their free decision by ill-conceived consideration," Günther said, arguing that tolerance also means "the appreciation and sufferance of other food cultures and lifestyles." [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Will not let Pakistan become secular, says Fazlur Rehman

Expressing his reservations on the recently passed Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that he would not let the country become secular.

“We are with all those who want to end violence against women but by this law the country is going from one extreme position to another,” he remarked while addressing a news conference on Tuesday.

The JUI-F chief said the law does not adhere to the values of Pakistani society and contradicted religious beliefs. “This law is in conflict with the Holy Quran, the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Constitution of Pakistan and values of our country.”

Talking about the legislation, he said that his party is not against the system of lawmaking but it should be done keeping in view the Islamic principles. [The Express Tribune] Read more