31 March 2017

Extreme-right is fueling Islamophobia: EU minister

Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik calls Islamophobia a growing problem that affects European Muslims more and more each day.

The shift in European politics towards the extreme-right is what lies behind the growing problem of Islamophobia, Turkey's EU minister said Friday.

Omer Celik said the refugee crisis and terror threats, including Daesh attacks, also fueled the problem.

His remarks came in his address to a panel presenting the second annual "European Islamophobia Report" prepared by Ankara-based think tank SETA -- the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research.

The report, first presented in 2016, includes 27 national reports on Islamophobia in various European countries, with contributions from over 30 prominent European scholars.

Celik said Islamophobia grows more visible every day in the lives of Europe’s Muslims, adding it already "goes beyond hate speech."

"The fact that most of the migrants who are making their way to Europe are Muslims created a belief in European minds that Muslims could invade it [the continent], and this fueled Islamophobia," he said. [Anadolu Agency] Read more

Muslims protest with street prayer in Paris suburb

Hemmed in and closely watched by police, hundreds of Muslims unrolled rugs and prayed outdoors Friday in the busy streets of a Paris suburb to protest the closure of their prayer hall.

The show of strength by throngs of worshippers in Clichy highlighted a long-standing issue for France's Muslim community, estimated at 5 million people: a shortage of mosques.

Such protests aren't without risk of a backlash, especially in the politically heated atmosphere of France's upcoming presidential election. Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has previously decried street prayers, part of her anti-immigrant, anti-Islam outlook.

Clichy Muslims had been using a prayer hall rented from City Hall. But the town's mayor now wants to turn that space into a multimedia library for the town's 60,000 residents. [Associated Press] Read more

30 March 2017

French people are less xenophobic but still wary of Islam

Despite jihadist terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis an annual survey measuring levels of racism in France has revealed the French are becoming more tolerant of minorities, and that there has been a drop in the number of racist and anti-Semitic incidents.

The survey, carried out by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), revealed on Thursday the French were more tolerant to minorities compared to previous years.

.... Islamophobic acts dropped 58 percent from 2015 to 2016, with 182 acts reported over the year.

Anti-Semitic acts dropped 58.5 percent over the same period, with 335 acts reported compared to 808 in 2015.

.... The study showed some 46 percent of French people thought Islam was a threat to French identity.

Certain Islamic religious practices also provoked negative attitudes with some 58 percent of respondents saying they were against the wearing of the headscarf. However that reflects a drop of 22 percent on the previous year.

There was also a drop in negative attitudes towards halal food and Ramadan and some 79 percent of French people believe Muslims should be able to practice their religion in "good conditions", albeit 59 percent opposed the idea of "facilitating the practice of Muslim worship in France".

Some 59 percent of French people were against the wearing of the Muslim swimsuit known as the burkini, which was banned by several French towns last summer before being overturned amid widespread outrage. [The Local] Read more

Iranian man sentenced to death for 'insulting Islam' through messaging app

Human rights groups fighting to save Sina Dehghan from hanging for messages he sent as a teenager. A 21-year-old man has been sentenced to death by Iranian authorities for “insulting Islam” through messages he sent on an instant messenger app.

Human rights lawyers claim that Sina Dehghan, who was just 19 when he sent the messages, was tricked into signing his own death warrant after being persuaded to confess to the breach of Islamic law with the promise of release if he did so.

But after obtaining a confession, prosecutors dropped the agreement and sentenced Dehghan to death in January this year, according to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran. [The Independent] Read more

The Challenge of Dawa - Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It

.... Dawa as practiced by radical Islamists employs a wide range of mechanisms to advance their goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society. This includes proselytizing but extends beyond that.

In Western countries, dawa aims both to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and to instill Islamist views in existing Muslims. The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with the rule of sharia law.

Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the “long march through the institutions” was to twentieth-century Marxists. It is subversion from within—the abuse of religious freedom in order to undermine that very freedom. Another analogy is also possible.

After Islamists gain power, dawa is to them what Gleichschaltung (synchronization) of all aspects of German state, civil, and social institutions was to the National Socialists.

There are of course differences. The biggest difference is that dawa is rooted in the Islamic practice of attempting to convert non-Muslims to accept the message of Islam.

As it is an ostensibly religious missionary activity, proponents of dawa enjoy a much greater protection by the law in free societies than Marxists or fascists did in the past. Worse, Islamist groups have enjoyed not just protection but at times official sponsorship from government agencies duped into regarding them as representatives of “moderate Muslims” simply because they do not engage in violence. [HOOVER INSTITUTION] Read more

Norwegian Muslims plan replacement Islamic council

30,000 Norwegian Muslims could change membership to a new umbrella organisation set up to replace the controversy-hit Islamsk Råd Norge (Islamic Council Norway, IRN).

The purpose of the breakaway organisation would be near-identical to that of IRN.

“I see no other option than to set up a new organisation,” Basim Ghozlan, trustee at the Rabita Mosque in Oslo, told Klassekampen.

IRN’s employment of niqab-wearing Leyla Hasic as an administrative consultant has sparked extensive debate on the council’s role in promoting dialogue between Muslim communities and the rest of Norwegian society.

Both the Bosnian and Albanian mosques in the capital have already announced that they would leave the umbrella of Muslim organisations represented by the council.

The combined membership of the two mosques is 14,000.

Three other mosques – Islamic Cultural Centre and Central Jamaat-e Ahl-e Sunnat, along with the Rabita Mosque - have also begun to withdraw their memberships. [The Local] Read more

Youhanabad lynching: Christian suspects asked to convert in return for release

A prosecutor has reportedly asked members of a minority community facing trial in an anti-terrorism court over lynching of two men that he ‘can guarantee their acquittal’ if they renounce their faith and embrace Islam, rights activists claim.

Some 42 Christians have been charged with lynching the two men after twin suicide blasts targeting a Sunday Mass in two churches in the Christian neighbourhood of Youhanabad in Lahore on March 15, 2015.

Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob lynching the two men, suspecting them of involvement in the blasts.

“Taking advantage of their presence at ATC-1 Lahore, Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah gathers the accused outside the courtroom and asks them to embrace Islam,” said Joseph Franci, a rights activist who was involved in providing legal assistance to the accused in the case. “He asks them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case,” Joseph said. [The Express Tribune] Read more

29 March 2017

Move for blasphemy law could 'turn us into Saudi Arabia'

Moves within the Labor Party to extend the reach of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to cover religion have triggered fears a government led by Bill Shorten would establish an anti-blasphemy law to prevent people offending and insulting Islam.

The proposal, from Labor's Anne Aly, was denounced by Liberal backbencher and former Human Rights commissioner Tim Wilson, who said it would "turn Australia into Saudi Arabia, where people can be hauled before courts for criticising religion".

The move was also rejected by Nick Xenophon, despite his senators being committed to blocking changes that would prevent 18C claims by those saying they have been offended or insulted. "As a general principle I do not support the reintroduction of blasphemy laws in this country," he said. [The Australian] Read more

Row after Norway Muslim group appoints spokeswoman in full-face veil

A Muslim organisation in Norway has been criticised for hiring a communications officer who wears a full-face veil, or niqab.

The culture minister, Muslim MPs and other Muslim organisations have condemned the Islamic Council of Norway's move.

It comes after the government gave the group 484,000 kroner ($55,000; £44,000) to improve interfaith dialogue.

Norway's parliament has already supported banning the niqab in schools.

A vote on the issue in last year had cross-party support and the ban is likely to be enforced later this year.

Several European countries have banned the niqab in public places.

The Islamic Council of Norway IRN, which says it aims to promote unity between Muslims and non-Muslims, appointed 32-year-old Leyla Hasic as its spokeswoman over the weekend. [BBC] Read more

CAIR executive director decries ‘normalization of hate’

Nihad Awad warned during a talk at Wake Forest University on March 23 that if left unchecked, false propaganda denigrating Muslims and other religious and racial minorities could lead to barbarity similar to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, which resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews, not to mention homosexuals, people with disabilities, Slavs, Roma and communists during World War II.

Awad is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national organization dedicated to promoting understanding about Islam, defending civil rights and building coalitions with diverse groups.

“The past two years, ladies and gentleman, so many minorities have been attacked,” Awad said. “Latinos. Mexicans. Women have been denigrated. African Americans. People with disabilities. You name the minority, and they have been attacked in the past two years.

It is very unfortunate that it became so convenient for people to spread fear and fearmongering for political reasons, and unfortunately it works. Sometimes selling fear is effective. Fear is abhorred, is rejected by people with common sense. For people who don’t know, it is a very selling product. In fact, it is a very profitable business to sell hate. [Triad City Beat] Read more

Muslim parents take kids out of Berlin nursery after discovering teacher is gay

A protest by Muslim parents against a gay man looking after their children at a Kindergarten has led to a public debate in the liberal capital city.

The parents of preschool children in the northern district of Reinickendorf threatened to gather names for a petition against the kindergarten when they found out that one of the nursery teachers was gay, Tagesspiegel reported on Wednesday.

At first the protest led the young man to request to be transferred to another kindergarten. But the management of the preschool put their foot down and gave the parents the choice: either accept that a gay man would look after their children, or put their kids into a different preschool.

According to Tagesspiegel, the parents had a problem with the fact that the young man was in physical contact with their children and would take them to the toilet.

“For some of them, a gay man is automatically a paedophile,” the nursery teacher in question told Tagesspiegel. [The Local] Read more

28 March 2017

French Poll: 61 Percent Say Islam Is Incompatible With Their Society

A strong majority of French adults say Islam is incompatible with their society.

A new Ipsos poll finds that 61 percent of adults say Islam is incompatible with French society, compared to just 17 percent who say the same about Judaism and 6 percent who believe Catholicism is incompatible with French society.

The number of those who believe Islam is incompatible is trending upwards and has jumped 8 points since peaking in January 2015, when 47 percent of Frenchmen said Islam is compatible with French society.

Islamic dress codes are especially unpopular in France.

The poll found that 77 percent of Frenchmen want the burkini banned in public, and 79 percent want headscarves banned on university campuses.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has tried to capitalize on rising anti-Islam sentiments among the French people, calling the upcoming election a “choice of civilization.”

Le Pen has waged a public campaign against what she calls the “two totalitarianisms” of globalization and Islamic fundamentalism. [The Daily Caller] Read more

61% of French adults say Islam is incompatible with their society and 79% support banning headscarves in universities, new poll shows

Sixty one per cent of French people believe Islam is incompatible with their society, according to a new poll.

That figure had been falling sharply until the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, and has been steadily growing ever since, an Ipsos survey found.

That is compared with six per cent of people who believe Catholicism is incompatible and 17 per cent who believe Judaism is incompatible.

A further 79 per cent of French people supported banning headscarves on university campuses, while another 77 per cent want to see the burkini banned.

France already has a nationwide law banning anyone from wearing a full-face veil, while several French Riviera towns attempted to ban full-body 'burkinis' in 2016, but the law was overturned.

Ipsos polled 1,000 adults over the internet between March 16 and 17, and published the results on Wednesday last week.

The survey shows that French attitudes toward religion are highly conservative, with 90 per cent believing that secularism is vital to the Republic. [Daily Mail] Read more

Confronting political Islam

It is important for the United States to tackle radical Islamist ideological indoctrination — dawa — before it takes root to the extent it has in Europe.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently escalated his feud with the German and Dutch governments, accusing them of being Nazis. At issue is Mr. Erdogan’s desire to have his government campaign among the Turkish diaspora in favor of a referendum that would give him nearly unlimited powers. The Dutch and German governments have so far denied the Turkish government’s requests to campaign inside their borders.

More problematic, though, is the influence that Mr. Erdogan and his government wield among Turks living abroad through Diyanet, Turkey’s official religious affairs institution. Diyanet has sent hundreds of clerics to preach at mosques throughout Germany, although many do not speak German.

The aim of Diyanet preachers is not assimilation into Germany’s civic institutions and values, but a type of cultural and religious separatism for Muslims of Turkish descent. As Mr. Erdogan increasingly implements political Islam in Turkey, his government’s spiritual influence in Europe is a cause for concern.

There is an important lesson here for the United States. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. officials have focused on countering and disrupting individual acts of violence committed by Islamic extremists, but they have not countered the ideology that justifies and encourages such acts of violence and rejects assimilation into American civic ideals. [The Washington Times] Read more

Islamic Council Norway hires woman in niqab as administrative officer

Norwegian Muslim umbrella organisation Islamic Council Norway has been criticised for hiring a woman who wears the full face-covering niqab as a communications officer.

Minister for Culture Linda Hofsted Helleland called the move “extremely ill-advised” and members of other parties have also voiced their concern about the appointment.

The appointment of 32-year-old Leyla Hasic as an administrative consultant by Islamic Council Norway (Islamsk Råd Norge, IRN) comes soon after the Ministry of Culture (Kulturdepartementet) granted almost half a million kroner ($59,000) to help the organisation with initiatives aimed at improving dialogue between Muslim communities and the rest of society, reports news media Klassekampen.

But Minister for Culture Helleland wrote in a Facebook post that the appointment by the council would “create distance and less understanding”.

"Freedom of religion is strong in Norwegian society, and it will continue to be so. It therefore takes a lot for me, as minister of culture, to make statements about internal appointments in independent organisations such as Islamic Council Norway. But here it is important to take a stand!," wrote Helleland. [The Local] Read more

The battle for the soul of British Islam

.... Ghobash’s book is part memoir and part instructional guide to the liberal values he would like to see flourish in conservative Islamic societies. He gives special prominence to educated imams, higher education and a greater tolerance of antithetical views.

.... Much of the security and free movement enjoyed by Ghobash’s generation has disappeared in his lifetime. He offers some social statistics that are symptomatic of the decay. Seventy per cent of Muslims globally are illiterate and 8.6 million Arabs are not enrolled in primary or secondary school, including five million girls.

The unemployment rate is equally dire: roughly 28 per cent of the 100 million Arabs who are between the ages of 15 and 29. Out of several hundred Arab universities in the Middle East, not one was included in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2016-2017.

While Ghobash presents Islam as a guiding set of principles, he concedes that its interpretation, put into the wrong hands, is open to abuse. [New Statesman] Read more

'It is child abuse pure and simple': Prominent Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls for all Muslim schools in Australia to be SHUT DOWN

An internationally-prominent critic of Islam is calling on Australia to shut down Muslim schools and has likened them to child abuse.

Somali-born atheist writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is touring Australia next month, said the curriculum of these schools was incompatible with liberal, secular values.

Ms Ali, a former Dutch politician and refugee who is also a former Muslim, cited how Islamic schools restricted science lessons and banned art and music classes.

'It is child abuse pure and simple,' she told The Daily Telegraph.

'Muslim schools should not be allowed in liberal society.

'These Muslim schools they take opportunity away from the children, they should be banned.' [Daily Mail] Read more

Days after the carnage in London, this is the moment we catch a firebrand Islamist leader on camera saying all former Muslims should be put to DEATH... in Sydney on Saturday night

A leader of a hardline Islamist group which campaigns for sharia law says Muslims who leave the religion should be put to death.

Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar was frank when asked about the group's policy at a forum in Bankstown, in Sydney's south-west, on Saturday night.

'The ruling for apostates as such in Islam is clear, that apostates attract capital punishment and we don't shy away from that,' Badar said in the presence of children. An apostate is someone who decides to leave Islam.

His extraordinary admission was exclusively captured on camera by Daily Mail Australia and the matter has now been referred to the Australian Federal Police by Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia removed references to that apostasy policy from its website as Alison Bevege, a freelance journalist, sued the group for making her to sit in a women's-only section at a separate talk in October 2014. [Daily Mail] Read more

27 March 2017

Australian Muslim Group: Death to Those Who Leave Islam

Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar was frank when asked about the group's policy at a forum in Bankstown, in Sydney's south-west, on Saturday night.

'The ruling for apostates as such in Islam is clear, that apostates attract capital punishment and we don't shy away from that,' Badar said in the presence of children. An apostate is someone who decides to leave Islam. [Herald Sun] Read more

26 March 2017

Dawa: the Islamist mind poison that turns lost souls into ‘lone wolves’

.... The term "lone wolf" is a misleading one. No one becomes an Islamist all by himself just by watching beheading videos. As my wife, Ms Ayaan Hirsi Ali, argues in a powerful new report, jihad is always preceded by dawa - the process of non-violent but toxic radicalisation that transforms the petty criminal into a zealot.

The network of dawa takes many different forms. In the United Kingdom, a key role used to be played by the organisation Al-Muhajiroun (the Emigrants), which the jailed Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary led before his arrest. But there are many less visible organisations - Islamic centres with shadowy imams - busily spreading the mind poison.

To see how this poison works, read the recent Policy Exchange study of Britain's Muslim communities, Unsettled Belonging. At first sight, the news is good. Altogether, 90 per cent of those surveyed condemned terrorism. Most British Muslims, we read, have "fundamentally secular interests and priorities". Only 7 per cent said they did not feel a strong sense of belonging to the UK.

But read on. Nearly half said they did not want to "fully integrate with non-Muslims in all aspects of life", preferring some separation in "schooling and laws". [The Times (£)] [The Straits Times] Read more

‘Why Do All the Jihadis Come to Birmingham?’

.... In the neighborhoods of Sparkbrook, Washwood Heath and Alum Rock, where many of Birmingham’s Muslims live, mosques dot the cityscape, some offering Shariah councils for family matters.

After-school madrassas serve a growing demand for parents who want their children to study the Quran. Even state-funded schools often accommodate religious demands, allowing for lunchtime prayer, shortened days during Ramadan and optional head scarfs.

To many outsiders, the segregation is striking. But Muslim residents, particularly women, speak of their neighborhoods as safe havens from an increasingly hostile society.

“There is safety in numbers,” said Sara Begum, 20, shopping on Coventry Road, a bustling area where eateries advertise halal meat from Kashmir and Syrian cuisine.

Ms. Begum, who wears a face-covering niqab, rarely leaves her neighborhood for fear of being insulted or worse. She said a friend’s head scarf had been ripped away by far-right youths near Birmingham’s downtown train station. [The New York Times] Read more

25 March 2017

Brussels mayor warns: All our mosques are being controlled by Salafists

THE MAYOR of Brussels has warned that all of the Belgium capital's mosques are being controlled by Salafists. And he said there has to be penalties for mosques that support Salafism, an ultra-orthodox religious-political ideology based on a belief in "physical" jihadism practised by some followers of the Sunni faith.

The comments, made by Yvan Mayeur, come just over a year after the terror attacks that rocked the city and its airport killing 16 people and injuring 300 more on March 22 2016.

In an interview with newspaper De Morgen, the 57-year-old Socialist Party mayor said more has to be done to combat the spread of radicalism in Europe.

“Terrorism is a problem that involves Europe as a whole.

"Don’t forget what happened in Paris, Nice and Berlin.

"If this was only a Brussels problem, it would have been solved.”

A report earlier this week revealed police in the Brussels district of Molenbeek have identified 51 organisations with suspected ties to terrorism. [Daily Express] Read more

Despite attack, Britain downplays threat of Islamist radicalization

.... But Adeel Khan, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and specialist in Islamic education, warned against the over-simplification of the radicalization phenomenon.

"There are a couple of factors that need to be analyzed to understand the assertion of Islamic identities in the public sphere of Europe," Khan told DW. "One is the search for a universal identity based on their parents' religion and customs that can stand its ground in the predominantly secular public space of Europe."

Second, according to Khan, is the young generation's conflict with the older generation. The Muslim youth in the West believes their elders are stuck in local customs and have no clue about the golden age of Islamic dominance in science, religion and humanities in the medieval period.

"Then they have this reactionary desire to assert their identity in a society which considers them and their past backward and unsuitable for a modern Europe," he said. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

24 March 2017

Detained Pakistani Bloggers Face Blasphemy Charges

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has put three online bloggers in the custody of a federal agency for a week so it can investigate blasphemy charges against them and determine whether they should be formally tried and punished.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, or FIA, arrested the three men earlier this week as part of an ongoing crackdown on suspects involved in posting blasphemous material on social media.

Authorities say that laptops of the detainees have also been seized for forensic analysis.

Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws carry the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammad and imprisonment for life for insulting the Muslim holy book of Quran, though no one has been executed.

The official crackdown was launched after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered authorities to take urgent steps to rid social media of any anti-Islam content posted by people in Pakistan. [VOA] Read more

Mohammed Amin: Preventing terrorism is your responsibility

.... Telling your child “don’t become a terrorist” is about as effective as telling them “don’t think of a pink elephant.” What matters are the specific things you teach them as they are growing up.

You can choose to feed your child the narrative that: everywhere non-Muslims are doing terrible things to Muslims; the British Government aims to keep Muslims down; Islam teaches us that Muslims should not associate with non-Muslims; Muslims have a religious duty to establish a caliphate governed exclusively by shariah law.

You can teach them that Jews have always hated Muslims, and that all the problems in Palestine are due to guilty evil Jews oppressing and attacking innocent good Muslims. If you do, don’t be surprised if your child is seduced by an online recruiter for ISIS.

Conversely you can teach your children that: throughout history good and bad things have been done by both Muslims and non-Muslims; in Palestine, there are rights and wrongs on both sides with the balance varying at different points in time; in Britain, Muslims have identical rights to non-Muslims and every opportunity to thrive; all mankind is the creation of God; we are obliged to care for all of our neighbours irrespective of religion. By doing so, you can immunise your child against the siren call of ISIS. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Former foreign minister warns terrorism can't be stopped if there is a refusal to 'do God'

Mr Howells said: “I was part of a Government that said, ‘Well, we don’t do God.’ But you can’t afford not to do God on this one, I think.

“These people aren’t motivated – not on the most part, anyway – by money or some kind of nationalism. It’s different from the IRA.

“These people are prepared to kill themselves and they do it because they think it’s a shortcut to paradise... Unless people have enough courage to take that on and try and convince young people that the Caliphate is not a better way of running society than a democracy they are going to be lured to these organisations.”

Whole communities have a vital role to play in ensuring that the conditions in which violent radicalisation can thrive no longer develop here.

This is why it is essential that extremists do not succeed in provoking responses that will only result in the isolation of Muslims from wider society. Scapegoating will only make it harder to engage in vital conversations and build trust.

A sense of persecution will make it more difficult to confront the notion put forward by militant groups that Islam and the West are at war. [WalesOnline] Read more

Segregated schools persist because parents maintain the divide

That people from different backgrounds are leading “parallel lives” has been a recurring concern for successive governments. This may not be the term used by authors of a new report on segregation in schools in England, but it is, nevertheless, what comes to mind as we read their stark findings.

More than a quarter of primary schools are ethnically segregated with the figure jumping to a depressing 40% when we look to secondary schools. When it comes to class, the report, carried out by iCoCo Foundation, SchoolDash and The Challenge, finds that nearly a third of all primary schools are segregated along socio-economic lines.

Integration, though commonly discussed, is more often than not viewed as an important counter-terrorism strategy, rather than a social benefit in and of itself. Under such thinking, integration is an obligation that’s primarily expected of others – especially Muslims.

.... Wednesday’s terror attack has been acknowledged as the action of one Muslim – an “Islamist extremist” in May’s words, representative of only himself and not a religion. It is an important response to the very real possibility of a violent backlash against the Muslim community. Yet no one would need to say this attack is not a representative of an entire religion if we were sharing our lives with Muslim neighbours, colleagues and school friends in a more meaningful way. [344 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 326 votes] "Yet no one would need to say this attack is not a representative of an entire religion if we were sharing our lives with Muslim neighbours, colleagues and school friends in a more meaningful way."

What about areas where "...Muslim neighbours, colleagues and school friends ..." don't wish to integrate? Is it still going to be our fault when Islamic Extremists attack us then?

[2ND 300] It doesn't help when that religion actively discourages integration.

[3RD 278] There's a world of difference between sending a child to a school because it has high academic standards, and sending a child to a faith school for the purpose of religious indoctrination; and to keep children of other faiths or none at a distance.

[4TH 267] ".... no one would need to say this attack is not a representative of an entire religion if we were sharing our lives with Muslim neighbours, colleagues and school friends in a more meaningful way."

I know lots of Muslims. Many Muslims 'integrate' perfectly well. Yet there is a substantial population - from particular cultural backgrounds - who seem determined not to do so. It's silly to lump all Muslims together like this and silly to suggest that it's somehow the fault of the rest of us for not hanging out with them more.

[5TH 258] "Integration is presented as an obligation for others, mainly Muslims."

What does the quran say about 'integrating' with those it terms the 'worst of creatures'?


[6TH 257] "Under such thinking, integration is an obligation that’s primarily expected of others – especially Muslims."

Well...yeah. That's because the UK is in northern Europe, not the Middle East.

[7TH 240] I was watching local BBC in the North West and they had random pieces on two schools for different reasons.

In one school it was all asian boys.

The other school was all Muslim girls wearing black hijabs with one or two wearing full burka. The teacher had a beard and dark Shalwar kameez type outfit.

This sort of deep ethno-religious centrism and exclusivity actually chilled me.

[8TH 236] If you visit Luton, Dewsbury etc you'll see examples of immigrant communities that remain culturally separate, retain different values, religion and in some cases language. That doesn't strengthen our towns and communities, it divides them.

And it's disingenuous to talk about all faith schools as if they are equally divisive. A CoE school with 100% CoE pupils will produce citizens in line with the dominant culture of the UK, for whom ignoring a slight against there religion is normal, and a strongly worded letter to the local paper is extremism.

Where as other faith schools and families will produce young adults who absolutely believe the correct punishment for apostasy is execution.

A strong accepted dominant culture is vital for a cohesive functioning society.

This isn't about colour, my own family has people from Sri Lankan and Caribbean backgrounds in it, people who share culture and identity in one family. What you won't find in my diverse family are people from certain groups for whom strong racial and religious beliefs keep separate, and will refuse to marry outside of their group.

Immigrants that will 'add to the mix' bring them on. Immigrants that remain in separate communities...no thanks. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Westminster terror attack: Irish imams fear attack will fuel hatred of Islam

The imams strongly condemned the atrocity — which has claimed three lives, as well as that of the British-born attacker Khalid Masood, 52 — and urged Irish people to stay united.

The Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council said it strongly condemns the terrorist attack, which it pointed out has also left more than 40 people injured.

“Our sympathies and prayers are with the people of London and all those affected,” said Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, chairman of the council.

“Such attacks and violence against innocent people can never be justified under any circumstances.”

Shaykh Al-Qadri said the perpetrators of terrorism aim to “sow seeds of discord and division” in society.

“We cannot allow hatred to divide us,” he said. “At this time, we will see those on the extremes using this as an opportunity to divide society further, to fuel hate, fear, and prejudice.”

He added: “Our strength is in standing united, to share our grief, to console each other, to move beyond these emotions and build a society which is just, peaceful, and fair. We must clearly send a message to those who want to inject violence, fear, and hate into our lives, that you will not win. We will not allow you to be successful.” [Irish Examiner] Read more

23 March 2017

Visiting imam denounced for calling Jewish people "evil"

A visiting imam who preached at a Montreal mosque in December is accused of invoking hate speech.

The sermon took place at the Dar Al Arqam mosque on Jean Talon St. on Dec. 23, 2016.

In the video, an imam named Muhammed Bin Musa Al Nasr, visiting from Jordan, called Jewish people "the most evil of mankind," and "human demons."

He also called for Jews to be killed.

The regional director of B'nai Brith said those acts are a hate crime that must be taken seriously.

"Obviously there are imams, and I'm sure there are more than just what has been reported, that are preaching hatred in their sermons and annihilation of Jews, and this sort of thing leads to radicalization worldwide," said Harvey Levine.

Levine said this is the second such video out of Montreal B'nai Brith has come across this year.

"Anti-Semitism continues to grow like crazy across Canada. We get reports one after another. We want to know where the hate crimes unit stand on this and why they're taking so long," Levine said.

CTV was unable to contact any leaders at the Dar El Arqam mosque. [CTV News] Read more

House of Commons passes anti-Islamophobia motion - Non-binding motion condemns Islamophobia, religious discrimination and calls for committee study

The House of Commons has passed M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia and religious discrimination.

All NDP and nearly all Liberal MPs supported the motion, which passed 201-91. The majority of Conservative MPs voted against, with leadership candidate Michael Chong and Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton voting in favour. Mississauga Liberal MP Gagan Sikand and Barrie Conservative MP Alex Nuttall both abstained.

The vote follows months of bitter debate and a series of protests and counter-protests across the country over whether the private member's motion would limit free speech or single out Islam for special treatment in Canadian law.

It had additional symbolic significance in the emotional aftermath of the Jan. 29 mosque shooting in Quebec City, where six Muslim men were killed. [CBC News] Read more

Islamic group banned in German state after imam calls for killings

German state officials have banned an Islamic cultural association which ran a mosque in the central German town of Kassel due to extremist comments.

Hesse state interior minister Peter Beuth said the Almadinah Islamic Culture Association was banned because the group's leading imam had, among other things, repeatedly called for the killing of infidels in his sermons.

Investigations by the authorities also confirmed that several members of the mosque had already left Germany for Syria to join extremist Islamic fighters there.

The statement said the group's ban came after several months of investigation and a raid of the mosque and other buildings by 160 police officers in November.

Hundreds of extremists have left the country to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq in recent years. [Belfast Telegraph] Read more

London attack: Nuttall says cut out radical Islam cancer

The "cancer within our society of radical Islam" needs to be "cut out", UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has said.

It was time for UK Muslims "to step up to the plate" after the attack in London that claimed the lives of four people, he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier it was wrong to call the attack Islamic, it was "Islamist terrorism - it is a perversion of a great faith".

The Greens' Jonathan Bartley called Mr Nuttall's comments "abhorrent".

Describing the atrocity as "an appalling act of terrorism", Mr Nuttall said it was no coincidence it had taken place a year after suicide bomb attacks on the Brussels airport and underground system, which killed 32 people.

He said the attack had been a matter of "when not if".

"As long as we have this cancer within our society of radical Islam it will always happen - it will happen again - it needs to be sorted out," Mr Nuttall said.

"It's not that easy, but we need to ensure the Muslim community itself, who in many cases will know who these people are living among them, they need to stand up to the plate and they need to report these people to the police as soon as possible." [BBC] Read more

22 March 2017

Liberals need to learn Islamophobia is a loaded term

Would Liberal MP Iqra Khalid condescend to explain in detail what exactly is it she would like us to condemn?

Much of the controversy and anxiety surrounding her motion, M-103, which purports to condemn “Islamophobia” and all forms of systemic racism and discrimination stems from confusion over the term.

Khalid has shown a degree of arrogance in refusing to fully explain this term. This refusal is unquestionably at the root of the consternation generated over M-103.

At the earlier debates on the motion, Khalid obstinately rebuffed any questions that sought some clarification on Islamophobia. She blithely stated that 70,000 people had signed a petition in support of the motion and the definition is quite obvious. [Toronto Sun] Read more

Warning over segregation in England's schools

Thousands of state schools across England are segregated along ethnic or social grounds, according to research.

More than a quarter of primary and four in 10 secondary schools are ethnically divided, the social integration charity, The Challenge, found.

It says almost a third of primary and a quarter of secondary schools are segregated along socio-economic lines.

The Department for Education says all schools are expected to promote social integration and British values.

Researchers from The Challenge - working with the iCoCo Foundation and SchoolDash - measured how segregated a school was by comparing its numbers of white British pupils and those eligible for free school meals with those of the 10 schools closest to them.

They used official statistics for the years 2011 to 2016, examining more than 20,000 state schools. [BBC] Read more

‘One in Five’ Danish Newborns Has Foreign Heritage, Syrians Largest Group

The proportion of babies born to mothers with an immigrant background in Denmark has risen dramatically in ten years, largely because of Syrian arrivals.

Last year, 61,614 children were born in the northern European nation – 21.6 per cent of them (or one in five) to a mother who is an immigrant or a descendant of one. The vast majority, 18.5 per cent, were born to first generation migrant women.

Just a decade ago in 2007, the proportion was 13.5 per cent, figures from Statistics Denmark, reported by Kristeligt Dagblad, reveal.

The influx of migrants from Syria is one of the biggest factors in the huge rise, the paper claims, with Syrian mothers making up the second largest nationality group in the statistic after Danish, with Turkish in third place.

Demographic changes of this nature pose numerous social and financial challenges for Danish society, claimed population researcher and professor Poul Christian Matthiesen.

He said non-Western migrants are generally a financial burden and he expects such non-Western immigration to Denmark and Europe to continue. [Breitbart London] Read more

21 March 2017

Anti-Shariah petition emerges alongside M-103 debate

An anti-Shariah law petition is gaining votes on the Canadian government’s e-petition website at the same time as an anti-Islamophobia motion faces a vote in the House of Commons.

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid had the final say Tuesday evening as her controversial motion faced its second hour of debate.

“M103 is not an attempt to create Shariah law,” Khalid said as she brought up what she labelled “outrageous claims” made by critics of the motion.

The motion calls for a study to look at tackling racism and discrimination but has generated concern, and even multi-faith protests across the country, for singling out the phrase Islamophobia. As I’ve written in several columns, the vague phrase is used as a tool in Muslim majority countries to justify punishing people for blasphemy. [Toronto Sun] Read more

Scottish Government has no plans to introduce hijab ban legislation

The Scottish Government has no plans to introduce a ban on hijabs or other veils, ministers have said.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said while the government respects the European Court of Justice ruling making it legal for firms to ban workers for wearing the religious headscarf, there are no proposals for it to become law in Scotland.

Speaking in Edinburgh at an event to mark a year since the launch of the Race Equality Framework for Scotland, she said: "Everyone has the right to live their lives free from racism and prejudice.

"So while the Scottish Government respects the European Court of Justice ruling that companies can ban employees from wearing the Islamic headscarf, we regard the matter of wearing the hijab, or any other veil, as a matter of individual conscience and choice.

"I am happy to confirm that we have no plans to introduce any legislation which will have the effect of restricting the wearing of the hijab or any other veil." [Herald Scotland] Read more

Protesters warn ECJ ruling to further alienate Muslim women

The European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling which allows companies to ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves is at risk of further alienating Muslim women from European society, a group representing Irish Muslim women has warned.

Nearly 100 Muslim women gathered outside the Dublin office of the European Commission on Tuesday to protest the ruling by the EU’s highest court which means employees could be banned from wearing religious symbols.

Cries of “look at my CV, not at me” and “my hijab, my choice” could be heard along Mount street as women of all ages marched up and down the pavement outside Europe House carrying an array of colourful placards and banners.

Fatima Chaudhry, a member of the Muslim Sisters of Eire group which organised the protest, warned that Muslim women already feel “marginalised and picked on by society”.

“The hijab for us is part of our identity, it’s very dear to us. You should hire someone based on their skills, their ability, their qualifications, not based on what they’re wearing. [Irish Times] Read more

Is Sharia Law Compatible With US Laws and the US Constitution?

Currently, many states are attempting to pass-or have passed- legislation which would preclude other forms of law being incorporated into state law. To be specific, the particular law they are trying to avoid is Islamic law-sharia (though they must avoid specifically targeting Islamic law as opposed to those of other religions).

Correspondingly, Islamic leaders in the US are trying to combat this trend and prevent said laws from being passed. On one front, Muslim leaders in the US are involved in a public relations drive to convince non-Muslims that sharia law is perfectly compatible with the US Constitution and US law. It is not, and it is very easy to prove it.

Sharia in Arabic means, "straight path." In the early time of Islam it referred to the straight path to water, life's necessity. Since Islam is designed to guide virtually every aspect of the believer's life, sharia is quite detailed.

Its two main sources are the Qu'ran and the Sunnah (sayings, actions and approvals of the Prophet Mohammad). Its interpretation through the centuries has come from the learned Islamic scholars. [New English Review] Read more

Majority of Greeks See Migrants as a Social and Economic Threat, EKKE Survey Finds

Almost two thirds of Greeks consider migrants a threat on an economic, social and cultural level, according to a survey by the National Centre for Social Research (EKKE) unveiled on Tuesday.

Among those taking the survey, 65 pct said that migrants were bad for Greece’s economy, 59 pct consider that migrants are taking their jobs and 59 pct that migrants’ use of health and welfare services is greater than their contribution in terms of taxes.

The survey also revealed that Greeks place a high value on cultural homogeneity, with 63 pct considering that the country was a “worse place to live” as a result of migrants and 57 pct saying that Greece’s cultural life has deteriorated because of them, rather than becoming enriched.

One third said the government must not be too generous in granting refugee status to applicants and 44.4 pct believe the government treats the migrants that arrived in Greece during the latest migration wave better than the local population, to a lesser or greater extent, while 29.2 pct say its treatment of migrants and locals is the same and 26.5 pct see it as much or a little bit worse.

Greeks are also very negatively disposed to Muslims, with four in 10 considering that Greece should not accept any Muslim migrants and another four in 10 saying their numbers should be greatly restricted. In a European-wide survey published by the British international think tank Chatham House last month, 58 pct of Greeks said that migration from Muslim countries should stop. [GreekReporter.com] Read more

Study: Third of France’s Young Muslims Hold Fundamentalist Religious Views

A study looking at the prevalence of radical ideology among high school students has found that French Muslims are much more likely to tolerate violence and to hold fundamentalist religious views than other pupils.

The National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) study involved more than 7,000 students, aged between 14 and 16, who were studying at 21 schools and four academies in France.

Sociologists who conducted the survey, Anne Muxel and Olivier Galland, stressed the sample is not representative of French youth as a whole.

The schools included in the study are located in poor areas, with overrepresentation in the student body of pupils from working class backgrounds (41 per cent), students with immigrant backgrounds (38 per cent), and Muslims (25 per cent).

The CNRS reported that 11 per cent of respondents overall adhere to religious fundamentalism, which rises to 32 per cent among Muslim youths.

Mr. Galland noted a “striking difference” between the figure compared with six per cent of Christians and 0.6 per cent of non-Muslims identified by the governmental research organisation as “religious absolutists”.

“However, two-thirds of Muslims do not adhere to these ideas,” the sociologist added. [Breitbart London] Read more

Blasphemy: Denmark’s Double Standard

.... It seems Danish freedom of expression has deteriorated considerably since 2005, in part owing to intimidation and a chilling climate of fear, in which blasphemy laws are enforced largely via extra-judicial execution.

Jacob Mchangama, a Danish lawyer who founded Justitia, a civil-liberties group that monitors freedom of expression across Europe, called out the double-standard that gives Islam special protection and said the blasphemy charge was a giant step backwards for his country.

In response to the ruling, Conatus News columnist Robbie Travers posed the poignant question whether previous terrorist attacks in Copenhagen have shaped the national attitude to protest speech of the Koran-burning variety. [Conatus News] Read more

20 March 2017

French lefty candidate says vegetarian school meals would stop 'religious' debate on pork

Jean-Luc Melenchon said on Sunday that every state school should offer Muslim and Jewish children a pork-free option at lunch.

The Socialist, who was being interviewed by a panel of youngsters aged eight to 12, said the measure would "shut down" the debate in France.

He said: "If there's no meat, there's no meat. You really don't need to eat meat every day."

Mr Melenchon added that he didn't think it was "normal" that some school canteens did not offer Muslim and Jewish pupils a pork-free option..

He added: "We need to find a middle ground on school meals that will allow us to live in harmony.

"Because if we don't, the fight between those who are for pork-free meals and those who are against them will never end. Vegetarian meals are the solution to all our woes." [Daily Express] Read more

Man helped run a Trojan Horse school is helping run Labour’s campaigns in Birmingham

A man at the centre of the ‘Trojan Horse’ schools scandal is helping to run the Labour campaign machine in Birmingham, Guido can reveal. Mohammad Ashraf was a governor at Golden Hillock School, which was placed into special measures after it emerged it had segregated boys and girls, banned the teaching of some subjects and taught pupils: “Islam is the true religion, not like those Christians and Jews”. At the time Ashraf accused Ofsted of being “biased” and accused them of a “narrow agenda”.

Yet Guido can reveal that, in spite of his past actions, Ashraf remains heavily active in Labour Party politics. This month he acted as a referee for the Labour council candidate Alison Gove-Humphries, who was deselected on Saturday after Guido revealed her posts linking Israel to ISIS.

Ashraf was pictured in Stoke campaigning for new Labour MP Gareth Snell. He is listed on Birmingham Labour’s website as the party’s contact in Hall Green. This man helped run a Trojan Horse school, now he is helping run Labour’s campaigns in Birmingham… [Guy Fawkes' blog] Read more

Migrant children ‘should use native language with Dutch in school’

Children of new migrants and asylum seekers should be taught in their native languages as well as Dutch, according to new guidance to primary schools from the education ministry. The advice is a departure from the last 20 years in which immersive education in Dutch has been seen as the best way to integrate children from elsewhere.

One of the authors, Maaike Hajer, said research had shown that migrant children feel more settled when they are able to use their native language in the classroom. ‘It is very important to build on that basis,’ she told NOS Radio 1 Journaal. Hajer said using other languages did not necessarily have a negative impact on children’s progress in Dutch.

‘They don’t have to stand in each other’s way; they can support each other,’ she said. She said one option was to enlist more multilingual staff, as happens in countries such as Sweden. ‘You can let children explain things to each other, or use Google Translate, or parents can play a role. There are all kinds of possibilities.’ [DutchNews.nl] Read more

'Backlash' against ruling allowing hijab ban in workplace

A Muslim leader has said there would be "a backlash" against a new European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling allowing employers to ban staff from wearing hijabs and other religious symbols in the workplace.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, who is Head Imam of Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre of Ireland, was responding to the ruling on the EU directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation.

A Muslim woman in Belgium had challenged a company policy prohibiting the wearing an Islamic headscarf or hijab on grounds of discrimination.

However, the ECJ ruled that when an internal rule prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign, it does not constitute direct discrimination.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri said the ruling was "a very serious threat to the principles of tolerance, equality and religious freedom in Europe".

He said the ECJ ruling gave companies the right to adopt a dress code banning the hijab and empowering anti-Muslim employers. He warned that Islamophobia was increasing, especially in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. [Independent.ie] Read more

Saudi 'prisoner of conscience' ordered to pay $270,000 fine

Badawi was arrested in 2012 and brought to court on charges of insulting Islam and apostasy - which carries an automatic death sentence.

In 2013, he was sentenced to seven-years in prison and 600 lashes, of which he received 50 in the first round of public flogging.

Supporters say the sentence is politically-motivated due to Badawi's criticism of conservative sections of Saudi society.

His sentence was extended to ten years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes in 2015.

His blog, the Saudi Free Liberals Forum, was shut down following his arrest.

Amnesty International has designated him a prisoner of conscience and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

Badawi has been given several international awards, including the Courage Award 2015 from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, and the European Union's prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights. [The New Arab] Read more

Texas Attorney General raises 'concerns' about Muslim prayers in school

Every day at lunch, a handful of teenagers in Frisco, Texas, would pop into room C112, face a whiteboard and kneel for one of their five daily prayers.

It was just a spare classroom, used for everything from teachers’ grading to Buddhist meditation, school officials say. But Muslims at Liberty High seemed to like it.

“Takes like five minutes, instead of having to leave school, get in a car and go to my parents,” pupil Sarah Qureshi told the school news site early this month.

“This is the seventh year we’ve been doing this, and we’ve never had one issue,” school principal Scott Warstler said.

Last week however, top state officials learned about the room — and suddenly Liberty High had a big issue indeed.

The Texas attorney general’s office — famous for once suing a school principal to keep a Bible quote on a door — sent the Frisco school district superintendent a letter last week raising “concerns.” [The Independent] Read more

Charity put extremist imam on stage with Lib Dem leader

A taxpayer-funded charity gave a platform to an extremist imam, The Times has learnt.

Citizens UK, which receives hundreds of thousands of pounds in public grants, invited Shakeel Begg to speak at its demonstration on child refugees outside parliament in December. He spoke alongside MPs including Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader.

His appearance came only six weeks after a High Court judge ruled that Mr Begg, an imam in Lewisham, south London, espoused extremist views and promoted religious violence.

Mr Begg had accused the BBC of libel for calling him an extremist but Mr Justice Haddon-Cave ruled in favour of the broadcaster. [The Times (£)] Read more

18 March 2017

As a Muslim, I strongly support the right to ban the veil

I was raised as an observant Muslim in a British family. Women, I was taught, determine their own conduct — including their ‘veiling’. We’d cover our hair only if we freely chose to do so. That’s why I’m baffled by the notion that all good Muslim women should cover their hair or face.

My entire family are puzzled by it too, as are millions like us. Not until recent years has the idea taken root that Muslim women are obliged by their faith to wear a veil.

It’s a sign, I think, not of assertive Islam, but of what happens when Islamists are tolerated by a western culture that’s absurdly anxious to avoid offence. This strange, unwitting collaboration between liberals and extremists has been going on for years. But at last there are signs that it is ending.

In response to cases brought by two veiled Muslim women from Belgium and France, the European Court of Justice has ruled that employers have the right to stop employees wearing visible religious symbols, including headscarves worn in the name of Islam.

This ruling includes not only the burka and the niqab (already entirely banned from the public space by a number of European countries) but also the face-revealing hijab. The ruling goes two ways: if the company does tolerate religious symbols, then no employee can be asked to take them off. [The Spectator] Read more

BBC Asian Network apologises for asking 'What is the right punishment for blasphemy?'

The BBC's Asian Network has been forced to apologise after asking its Twitter followers: "What is the right punishment for blasphemy?"

Presenter Shazia Awan suggested viewers should weigh in on Pakistan's request for Facebook to crack down on blasphemous content.

She said Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had called blasphemy an "unpardonable offence" and asked: "Do you agree with this? Is this the right way to handle blasphemy?"

Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death in Pakistan, which has a number of religious offences listed in its penal code, including "wounding religious feelings", "derogatory remarks" and "defiling the Quran". [The Independent] Read more

The BBC Asian Network and the Goldilocks fallacy

‘What is the right punishment for blasphemy?’ asked presenter Shazia Awan in the trailer for yesterday’s The Big Debate. The (entirely justified) outrage over this question - prompted by Pakistan’s call to Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers – reminded me of a similar BBC slip up from 2009 when readers of the news website were asked ‘should homosexuals face execution?’

But the problem went rather deeper than a clumsily worded question. For a start, some of the listeners’ views were grotesque. One caller, Ishaan, was a staunch supporter of Pakistan’s stance and cited Saudi Arabia as a great example of the deterrent effect of hudud punishments. Waajid also expressed support for blasphemy laws in an Islamic state and said he was upset that Salman Rushdie was still alive.

The BBC Asian Network has now apologised:

Shocking though such views are, some of the apparently softer comments were almost equally concerning. Aisha, for example, opposed harsh punishment but still advised counselling for blasphemers, and wondered who, in their right mind, would want to blaspheme in a Mu slim country. [Harry’s Place] Read more

LISTEN — Caller Tells BBC On Air: ‘Those Who Insult Islam Should be Killed’

A self-identified Birmingham Muslim has told the BBC that those who “insult Islam” should be subject to the death penalty, during a discussion on blasphemy organised by the broadcaster’s Asian Network.

On March 17th, the BBC Asian Network broadcast a programme asking listeners, “What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”

Presenter Shazia Awan framed the discussion in the context of Pakistan cracking down on blasphemy on Facebook, with the social media giant’s willing assistance.

The Islamic Republic still puts blasphemers to death, and many others accused of the so-called crime, including members of the small Christian minority, are murdered by angry mobs, or even state officials such as police and prison guards.

Awan takes a particularly striking call from a caller from Birmingham named Wajid Ali, who begins with a warm greeting to “the BBC listeners”.

“Than you for joining us; such a warm friendly hello from you!” says Awan, before asking him his views on “the right punishment for blasphemy”.

“Islamically,” replies Wajid, “if somebody insults Islam, that is a capital punishment [offence].” [Breitbart London] Read more

HAS THE BEEB LOST ITS MIND?' BBC sparks outrage as it asks Twitter followers ‘what is the right PUNISHMENT for blasphemy?’

THE BBC has sparked outrage after asking Twitter followers “what is the right punishment for blasphemy?”.

A tweet, posted from the BBC Asian Network’s official account posed the question to followers after the Government of Pakistan called on Facebook to assist a blasphemy crackdown.

User Neil Davies said: "The question is ridiculous".

While political activist Maryam Namazie tweeted: "Disgraceful that @bbcasiannetwork @shaziaAwan would ask what 'punishment' should be for blasphemy. You know people get killed for it."

Jeffrey Peel added: "Are you serious? You're funded by British licence payers who cherish freedom of speech."

Another user commented: "Your question is appallingly clumsily worded and implies that blasphemy should be punished in some way."

Another added: "The 'right' punishment?! Has the BBC lost its mind?" [The Sun] Read more

17 March 2017

Norwegian politician wants to ban hijab in workplaces

Carl I. Hagen, former leader of the nationalist Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), wants to ban municipality employees in Oslo from wearing the hijab and other religious symbols.

The MP’s comments come just a few days after the EU Court upheld bans on headscarves by two employers in Belgium and France.

Hagen wants to use the ruling for a basis to ban all municipal employees from wearing political, religious or philosophical symbols at work, reports newspaper VG.

But Hagen’s call for a ban in Oslo is unlikely to gain much traction, according to municipality politicians.

Councillor Tone Tellevik Dahl of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) said that she found the bearing of religious symbols at work unproblematic. [The Local] Read more

Pakistan asks Facebook to help fight blasphemy

Pakistan says it has asked Facebook to help investigate "blasphemous content" posted on the social network by Pakistanis.

Facebook has agreed to send a team to Pakistan to address reservations about content on the social media site, according to the interior ministry.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive and incendiary issue in Pakistan.

Critics say blasphemy laws, which allow the death penalty in some cases, are often misused to oppress minorities.

Earlier this week Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif voiced his support for a wide-ranging crackdown on blasphemous content on social media.

In a statement on his party's official Twitter account, he described blasphemy as an "unpardonable offence". [BBC] Read more

Have 5 kids not 3, Erdogan tells Turks in Europe

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urged Turks resident in Europe to have five children, telling the millions strong diaspora community “you are Europe’s future.”

Turkey and Europe are locked in a bitter spat after Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in next month’s referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.

Erdogan has repeatedly accused EU states of behaving like Nazi Germany over what he sees as discrimination against Turks, in comments that have caused outrage across the continent.

“From here I say to my citizens, I say to my brothers and sisters in Europe… Educate your children at better schools, make sure your family live in better areas, drive in the best cars, live in the best houses,” said Erdogan.

“Have five children, not three. You are Europe’s future.”

“This is the best answer to the rudeness shown to you, the enmity, the wrongs,” he added in a televised speech in the city of Eskisehir, south of Istanbul.

Some 2.5 million Turkish citizens resident in Europe are eligible to vote in elections in their homeland. But millions more people living in EU states have Turkish origins. [SAMAA TV] Read more

Extremely British Muslims review – ‘The only extreme thing round here is the size of the rats’

And so, for the final episode of Extremely Brummie Muslims – sorry, Extremely British Muslims (Channel 4) – we get right into the nitty-gritty of people’s lives in Birmingham – even down to how they enter a toilet. “You enter with your left foot,” explains Abdul, a white convert, “because if you were to fall dead, you’d fall backwards if you’re on your left foot. But if you’re on your right, you fall forwards. So you’re not going to die inside the toilet.” This is life- or death-changing stuff. No one wants to be found face down in a pile of Andrex rolls.

So far in the series, we have seen Birmingham’s “halal dating” circuit – like the Asian Muslim version of First Dates without the romance or Fred Sirieix; a mosque committee crammed with old Asian men chatting about the local lord mayor; and a niqab-wearing woman ride a quad bike. And then there were the beards. Lots of beards.

Last night, we saw Abdul moving menacingly up the stairs at 5.23am. He enters a dark room, flicks the switch and wakes up two bleary-eyed teenagers. He’s on a mission. We know because he can’t stop rubbing his hands together. “You’ve got seven minutes, then we need to go to the mosque,” he says to the squinting younglings. Music is added to ramp up the comic tension. [The Guardian] Read more

Pakistan wants Facebook, Twitter to help it identify users suspected of blasphemy

Pakistan said on Thursday it had asked Facebook and Twitter to help it identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so that it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said an official in Pakistan's Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad. [The Telegraph] Read more

Six out of 10 People in France ‘Don’t Feel Safe Anywhere’

Fearing terror attacks, the majority of people in France are pessimistic about the nation’s security situation, with six in 10 saying they no longer feel safe anywhere according to an IFOP-FIDUCIAL poll.

The survey found that 93 per cent of French believe the threat of more terror attacks is high, and 71 per cent feel the security situation in France has got worse over the last five years.

More broadly, 59 per cent of those polled said they did not feel safe anywhere, with almost one in four (24 per cent) opting to “strongly agree” with the statement.

Reflecting the insecurity respondents said they felt, 69 per cent think the police and gendarmerie are understaffed, and the survey found the French overwhelmingly have a positive view of law enforcement.

The vast majority of respondents (88 per cent) believe France should deport foreigners sentenced to prison for serious offences, and 84 per cent want the country to create more prison places. [Breitbart London] Read more

Geert Wilders was beaten, but at the cost of fuelling racism in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the defeat of Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom party is a pyrrhic victory. The cost of this victory was that the country’s centre-right party appropriated the rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Mark Rutte, who leads the VVD party, which won the largest number of seats in the election, talked of “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”.

Rather than challenge racists, Rutte has boosted their confidence, pouring arsenic into the water supply of Dutch politics. He’s been happy to play the tough guy – as prime minister in the last week of the election campaign Rutte burnished his populist credentials through a fractious dispute with Turkey.

He calculated it was in the interests of the Dutch prime minister to be tough on Turkey, and in the interests of the Turkish president to be tough on the Netherlands. He happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes. Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. [572 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 367 votes] If you start from an axiomatic position that all immigration is good, you can write this kind of article, which talks of the Greens as 'good' and the PVV as 'bad' without actually discussing the issues. Such articles are completely meaningless if you don't share that axiomatic belief.

Also, being anti-immigration is not racist. Wilders is borderline, to be fair, but it is the constant painting of anyone who doesn't support open door immigration as racist and xenophobic that devalues the term so people will vote for actual racists these days.

[2ND 266] The refugee migration crisis has increased tensions in many EU countries. This is mainly due to the feeling that governments have lost the ability to control their borders.

The Schengen arrangements are facing an existential threat as many countries are wanting to pull out of this.

[3RD 226] The writer has got the wrong end of the stick. Or he simply wishes to stir things up. The underlying issue in the Dutch handling of the spat with Turkey is the split allegiance of people with dual nationality, who in the case of the Netherlands have the nationality of this country yet carry out a very aggressive referendum campaign that has nothing to do with the Netherlands but has all to do with Turkey, the country whose nationality they choose not to drop.

It's like Enoch Powell predicted: instead of immigrants leaving their cultural and political baggage at home and assimilating, they drag the cultural and political baggage into their new host countries. In the case of Turkey, the issue is even more hypocritical, as Turkey does not allow any foreign political rallies or campaigns, yet demands that countries like the Netherlands and Germany allow Turkish government ministers to campaign there. Demanding the abolition of dual nationality is a logical argument and has nothing to do with racism.

[4TH 211] oh, change the record will you? this one's nearly worn out.

[5TH 209] Claiming there's 'something wrong with our country' isn't appropriating the language of the far right - it's a statement of the bleeding obvious. So long as liberals/left feel the need for an unlimited supply of cheap labour to satisfy their corporate paymaster's demands and sticks their heads in the sand over popular disquiet people like Wilders, Le Pen, Trump and Farage will prosper.

[6TH 173] Wilders, Le Pen and others who are branded by the Guardian as "racist" and "far-right" are simply arguing for citizens to be prioritised in their own countries, for immigrants to be accepted in sensible numbers, and for newcomers to assimilate. To me, this doesn't seem unreasonable.

Having worked so hard to remove authoritarian religion from Europe, we are at risk of seeing it return. Ironically, history may judge these populists to be defending liberalism, through their opposition to theocracy.

Yes, Wilders was beaten, and Le Pen likely will as well, but they now represent significant parts of the population in their home countries. They should not be ignored. [Guardian Cif] Read more

16 March 2017

U of T professor says it is not “radical” to support Caliphate and Sharia Law

Dr. Katherine Bullock is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga.

According to Bullock’s official bio, her teaching focus is political Islam from a global perspective, and her research focuses on Muslims in Canada, their history, contemporary lived experiences, political and civic engagement, debates on the veil, and media representations of Islam and Muslims. Originally from Australia, she embraced Islam in 1994.

On November 27, 2014 Bullock participated in a panel discussion on counter-radicalization in Canada that was organized by the Muslim Law Students Association of Osgoode and took place in York University.

In her presentation Katherine Bullock said among other things that supporting the establishment of The Islamic State, or Caliphate, and the implementation of the Islamic Law (Sharia), is not an expression of “radical” views, but a “normal” Islamic perspective. The following is an excerpt from her speech. [Canadian Investigative Journal] Read more

Copies of Qu'ran and Islam holy books 'dumped in skip' in White Abbey Road, Bradford

MEMBERS of the Muslim community have said they are shocked after copies of the Qu'ran were found allegedly dumped in a skip in the city.

Local resident Adil Shaan forwarded photographs to the Telegraph & Argus after the find near a former book centre in White Abbey Road, Bradford, stating it was a "shameful act. The public went through the skip and took out any religious material."

West Yorkshire Police are understood to have attended the scene tonight where several local residents removed the holy books from the skip to save them from being destroyed.

The police have not yet confirmed the incident and no one from the book centre could be reached.

It is understood the shop has changed hands but it is not known who was responsible for placing the items in the skip.

Mr Shaan said: "A very shameful act was committed."

Another poster on Facebook said: "It is a big mess. I hope they have a good reason for doing this." [Telegraph & Argus] Read more

Europe headed for 'religion wars' despite Wilders' stumble, Turkish minister says

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders may have fallen short in this week's election in the Netherlands, but his views were shared by all the Dutch parties and are pushing Europe towards "wars of religion", Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Centre-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte fended off the Wilders challenge in a victory hailed across Europe by governments facing a rising wave of nationalism.

The reaction in Ankara was less sanguine. Turkey has been locked in a deepening row with the Netherlands after the Dutch barred Turkish ministers from holding rallies among overseas Turks.

"Many parties have received a similar share of votes. Seventeen percent, 20 percent, there are lots of parties like this, but they are all the same," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a rally in the southern city of Antalya.

"There is no difference between the mindsets of Geert Wilders and social democrats in the Netherlands. They all have the same mindset ... That mindset is taking Europe to the cliff. Soon wars of religion may and will start in Europe." [Reuters] Read more

Why the fear of Islamization is driving populist right support, and what to do about it

.... The belief that Muslims have sky-high fertility and will take over Europe is not confined to viral videos with over 16m views. At the European Commission, I was astounded to hear a member of the European elite ask whether such claims were true. The extent of this demographic illiteracy makes it imperative to begin a concerted public information campaign.

Figure 1 shows that no country will be more than 10 percent Muslim in 2030. So in 2050, France is projected to be just 10.4 percent Muslim. Yet Ipsos-Mori’s report shows the average French person thinks France will be 40 percent Muslim in 2020, instead of the actual 8 percent.

Across Europe, the average overestimate of 2020 Muslim share is 25 points. Previous work by Bobby Duffy and Tom Frere-Smith at Ipsos-Mori shows that people across the West routinely overestimate immigrant share by a factor of two or three.

But information can counteract these claims. A recent survey experiment finds that when people are given accurate information about the share of foreign born in their country then asked a month later what the share is, they adjust their estimates 12 points closer to reality.

The Pew projections, based on the best immigration, fertility, and switching data we have, show that the rate of Muslim growth in Europe is tapering. In 2050, no West European country will be more than 12.4 per cent Muslim, far lower than most think is the case today. [British Politics and Policy blog] Read more

On Betrayal by the Left – Talking with Ex-Muslim Sarah Haider

.... The mainstream media, she says, seem not to care about their plight. She adduces an example: the June 2016 incident in which EXMNA called the local Wegman’s bakery and ordered a cake emblazoned with “Happy Three-Year Anniversary, Ex-Muslims!” The management refused to take their order, worried that such “inflammatory” verbiage might offend its Muslim employees.

The Freedom from Religion foundation eventually intervened – businesses cannot deny services based on a customer’s faith or lack thereof – and Wegman’s relented. The rightwing press and blogosphere publicized the affair, but few other news outlets did. It goes without saying that similar incidents not long ago generated great public sympathy when the victims were gays.

Haider is still outraged. “When I read a news article about how a woman’s hijab was pulled off or how a stewardess refuses to give a Muslim woman an unopened can of Coke, it’s national news. But no one covers what we’re going through, no one covers our persecution.

Of course we know there’s anti-Muslim bigotry, and that’s being covered. But our struggle should be covered as well. It’s appalling that our pain isn’t worth discussing. In fact, we’re often painted as the victimizers.” [Quillette] Read more

15 March 2017

Austrian colleges ban religious symbols after ECJ case

An education company in Austria has banned its staff from wearing visible religious symbols following the decision of the EU’s top court to allow such a block, local media said Wednesday.

BFI, which runs around a dozen vocational colleges across the country, said it had banned its employees from wearing “every kind of visible” religious symbol, the Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported.

In an interview hours after the European Court of Justice said it did not constitute “direct discrimination” to ban the wearing of any “political, philosophical or religious sign”, company executive Wilhelm Techt said his staff would comply with “Western culture”.

He told the newspaper: “We should transfer Western culture and values without misunderstandings. Therefore, educators have to work in Western clothes.” [Anadolu Agency] Read more

After EU headscarf ruling, UK PM May says government should not tell women what to wear

It is not right for government to tell women what to wear, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday, after the European Union's top court ruled that companies may ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves under certain conditions.

The Court of Justice's ruling on Tuesday, which also applied to other visible religious symbols, set off a storm of complaints from rights groups and religious leaders.

Asked about the ruling, May told parliament: "We have ... a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression, and it is the right of all women to choose how they dress and we don't intend to legislate on this issue."

"There will be times when it is right for a veil to be asked to be removed, such as border security or perhaps in courts, and individual institutions can make their own policies, but it is not for government to tell women what they can and can't wear." [Reuters] Read more

Headscarves: PM May says European court ruling not to change UK law

Britain will not make changes to its laws following a ruling by the European Court of Justice that employers banning political and philosophical signs such as headscarves did not constitute direct discrimination, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s ruling evoked a mixed reaction in Britain. Amid concerns in minority communities, May said in the House of Commons: “We have a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression.

“Of course this case came up particularly in relation to the wearing of the veil - there will be times when it's right to ask for a veil to be removed, but it is not for government to tell women what they can and cannot wear and we want to continue that strong tradition of freedom of expression.”

Reacting to the ruling, the Muslim Council of Britain said, “It is a sad day for justice and equality. At a time when populism and bigotry are at an all-time high, we fear that this ruling will serve as a green light to those wishing to normalise discrimination against faith communities.” [Hindustan Times] Read more

How the media got the "Muslim headscarf ban" ruling wrong

It will be very hard for employers to legally ban women from wearing hijabs at work. But the far-right are already celebrating.

In the 24 hours since the European Court of Justice (ECJ) published its judgments relating to Muslim women wearing a headscarf at work, much ink has already been spilled on the issue. This seems to be by many who have either not read the judgments or, at least, have not understood them.

On the one hand, the far-right across Europe is celebrating the end of Islamic clothing. On the other, religious rights advocates are mourning the end of freedom of religion in Europe. Both groups seem to base their opinions about the judgments on exaggerated media headlines about the EU’s court banning the Muslim headscarf, and both groups are highly likely wrong.

One fundamental point to be understood is the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the extent of its powers. The ECJ provides guidance to domestic courts on specific questions of EU law that arise within a case, but does not actually decide the case.

In yesterday’s judgment of Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions NV, about a Muslim female receptionist who was dismissed for wearing a headscarf, the domestic court asked the ECJ a single, simple question: if an employer prohibits all employees from wearing religious symbols at work, is it direct discrimination under EU law if a Muslim woman is prevented from wearing a headscarf due to that policy? [New Statesman] Read more

Headscarves ban: Bronwyn Bishop urges Islamic headscarf ban in Australia

Bronwyn Bishop has urged Australians to "fight for our culture" while announcing her support of a ban on headscarves in Australia following a controversial ruling made in Europe overnight.

"It's an excellent ruling, an excellent ruling and I'd like to see a similar ruling here," Ms Bishop told Sydney's Macquarie Radio this afternoon.

The former politician and speaker in the House of Representatives was responding to a decision made in the European Court of Justice which may allow European companies to legally forbid employees from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols. [The Australian] Read more

The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women

This week’s decision by the European court of justice to allow the hijab to be banned in the workplace is yet another sign of the continent’s obsession with how Muslim women dress.

The ruling states that the hijab can be banned only as part of a policy barring all religious and political symbols – and so framed in a way that doesn’t directly target Muslim women. Indeed, the Conference of European Rabbis was outraged, saying that the ruling sent a clear message that Europe’s faith communities were no longer welcome – and a number of religious communities, including Sikhs, will be affected.

However, there’s no doubt that Muslims are the main group in the line of fire. That’s why far-right groups across the continent were so delighted with it. “Of course companies have to be allowed to ban the wearing of headscarves,” said Georg Pazderski, of Germany’s hardline Alternative für Deutschland. “Even the ECJ votes Marine [le Pen],” tweeted the French MP Gilbert Collard, a Front National supporter.

.... I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened, and they have decided to take a stand for their faith.

The far-right, and now the European courts, may have succeeded in turning the hijab into something perhaps even more powerful than a symbol of religion, and turning it into a symbol of resistance too. [571 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 1034 votes] "the continent’s obsession with how Muslim women dress"

Surely it's the obsession of misogynist religious fanatics who want to deny women a public identity.

[2ND 842] The Koran says women should dress modestly, it says very little about what that entails. The headscarf is cultural, it is not religious.

[3RD 727] "The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women"

Great British Public "Oh, no it isn't"

Graunitariat and Muslim Council of Great Britain "Oh yes it is"

[4TH 632] This lady says the European court of justice is repressing women but says nothing about the repressive nature of Islam that requires women to wear these things.

[5TH 626] "the hijab doesn’t fit neatly under the bracket of being a “religious symbol”"

"I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened"

Sounds a bit contradictory.

[6TH 619] "However, the hijab doesn’t fit neatly under the bracket of being a “religious symbol”".

Absolutely right. It's also a misogynist and patriarchal symbol, as well as a nod to a theocratic political ideology.

[7TH 554] its a ban, on a religious oppressive symbol, all oppressive symbols should be banned.

[8TH 528] "For its wearers the hijab is a core part of their way of life, linked to the way they choose to practise their faith. It is not up for debate."

The hijab is completely optional: women wear it because they choose to. That means it is well and truly up for debate.

[9TH 490] "I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened, and they have decided to take a stand for their faith."

And I have friends in Turkey who have had to flee their country because the public and government pressure to cover their heads to even get a job in the Government, or walk comfortably down the street without being harassed, was overwhelming. [Guardian Cif] Read more

14 March 2017

What the EU Court ruling on headscarf bans means for Germany

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that employers may ban headscarves in the workplace in certain circumstances - an issue which has been heatedly debated in Germany in recent years.

The European Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday was based on two cases in France and Belgium of Muslim women who wanted to wear their headscarves to work. The main question was how to interpret anti-discrimination and equal treatment policies of the EU.

The court said that employers may ban headscarves if the company has a general ban on "political, philosophical or religious" symbols, and if there is good reason for a ban.

The decision also clarified under what conditions a ban would be allowed. For the woman in Belgium, who worked as a receptionist at a security firm, the court said her case did not constitute “direct discrimination” as the company had a general rule against displaying religious symbols.

But for the woman in France, the court said a ban was not justified. The design engineer was fired after a company client complained about her headscarf. The court said that this situation “cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination." [The Local] Read more

European court rules employers can ban women from wearing Islamic headscarves and religious symbols

The European Court of Justice has ruled that companies can ban employees from wearing the Islamic headscarf, but only as part of prohibitions including other religious and political symbols.

It is the first case of its kind amid a series of legal disputes over the right for Muslim women to wear the hijab at work.

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

“However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer's services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination.” [The Independent] Read more

Pakistan to offer extra college credits to girls who cover their faces

Pakistan’s Minister for Higher Education has announced that girls who cover their faces will be given extra college credits. Minister Syed Raza Ali Gilani made the remarks while speaking at an Education Board meeting on Tuesday.

Speaking at the event, Minister Gilani said:

We are leaving our religion behind, we are forgetting our culture and ethics. Hence, I have made the hijab compulsory for our women and sisters in colleges

The minister added that it was his duty to take the step as it is “the duty of every Muslim”

Minister Gilani who is a graduate of Philadelphia University, USA went on to say that his Department will make it mandatory for girls in public colleges to wear the Hijab, he announced:

Female students would be required to wear the Hijab, and as an incentive, the Department of Education will allocate 5 extra attendance credits to those who have less than 65% attendance. [Rabwah Times] Read more

Saudi Arabia launches girls' council - without any girls

It was an encouraging initiative for a country not known for giving women a platform in public life.

But when Saudi Arabia wanted to show off its inaugural girls' council in al-Qassim province, they overlooked one thing: the women.

Pictures released to mark the first Qassim Girls Council meeting showed 13 men on stage, and not a single female.

The women were apparently in another room, linked via video.

The male-dominated photos have been circulating widely on social media, after the meeting took place on Saturday. [BBC] Read more

EU workplace headscarf ban 'can be legal', says ECJ

Workplace bans on the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign" such as headscarves need not constitute direct discrimination, Europe's top court has ruled.

But the ban must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to "dress neutrally", said the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, it added.

This is the court's first ruling on the wearing of headscarves at work.

The ECJ's ruling was prompted by the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a headscarf to work at the security company G4S in Belgium.

The issues of Muslim dress and the integration of immigrant communities have featured prominently in debates in several European countries in recent years. Austria and the German state of Bavaria have recently announced bans on full-face veils in public spaces. [BBC] Read more