30 June 2017

Tourism fears over Ticino burka ban not realised

A year after the canton of Ticino adopted Switzerland’s only burka ban, the fallout from that decision is much less than feared –with no let-up in tourism from Arab countries.

There has even been a slight increase in guests from Arab countries – up nearly 2% for 2016 from the previous year – per Ticino’s tourismexternal link figures. And few people wear a burka in the canton, tourism officials noted; Arab tourists make up just 2% of overall guests there.

The police had rare occasion to enforce the ban. For the year, they had only seven complaints about “veiling in the public area”, the cantonal government’s general secretary, Luca Filippini, told German news agency DPA.

There were fewer than a dozen instances in which veiled women in Lugano and Mendrisio were asked to conform to the measures. [swissinfo.ch] Read more

29 June 2017

Europe's Muslims start to grapple with touchy issue: Islamic terrorism as a community problem

When 200 British Muslim imams declared earlier this month that they would refuse to say funeral prayers for the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack near London Bridge, their statement marked a striking and unprecedented rejection of terrorism.

“We don’t take this matter very lightly,” says Qari Asim, an imam in the northern city of Leeds who signed the declaration. “But … we believe that the terrorists should not be accepted in our community, [either] in life or in death. We are trying everything possible to deter people” from violence.

The move signaled a significant change of tack. For many years, the almost universal reaction among European Muslims to the rising tide of jihadi violence has been to disclaim any responsibility on the part of Islam and the Islamic community.

But the attacks in Manchester and London “have shaken the Muslim community [in Britain] very deeply,” says Ziauddin Sardar, a London-based scholar of Islamic history. Now, Muslim leaders are beginning to tentatively acknowledge that their communities cannot shrug off all liability for the recent spate of terrorist attacks across Western Europe. [The Christian Science Monitor] Read more

Flemish parliament: green light to prohibition on slaughter without stunning

On Wednesday, the Flemish parliament unanimously passed, with only one s.pa abstention, the prohibition on ritual slaughter without stunning.

This willl be effective from 2019. Stunning will thus be compulsory for the majority of animal species, using the process of electrical stunning. For beef and calves, the stunning technique is not yet ready to operate. For these animals, stunning occurs immediately after slitting the animal’s throat.

In Flanders, the discussion around instigating a general prohibition on slaughter without stunning has been ongoing for a long time. Political support favouring such a measure has gained momentum over recent years. However, the matter has met with reluctance and legal obstacles. [The Brussels Times] Read more

28 June 2017

What Might be Missing in the Muslim World?

In April this year, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh 'Ali Gomaa, told an interviewer what he meant as a flat statement of fact: that there are no female heart surgeons, as such work required strength and other capabilities that no woman possesses. He put it this way:

"You may have noticed that there is not a single female heart surgeon in the world... It's amazing. It's peculiar. Why do you think that there are none? Because it requires great physical effort -- beyond what a woman is capable of. That's in general. Along comes a woman who challenges this, and she succeeds in becoming a surgeon. But she is one woman among several million male surgeons."

Now even a child could have carried out a simple Google search and realized that there are countless female surgeons and many female heart surgeons. It would not have taken long to find, for example, the US Association of Women Surgeons, which includes heart surgeons -- and that would have settled his hash. But apparently deep-seated, pre-formed judgements about women's abilities prevented Gomaa from using whatever powers of reasoning and intelligence he may possess.

Sadly, there often seems a profound absence of scientific probing within the Muslim world. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

French Mayor Demands Pork in School Lunches to Promote Secularism

The conservative mayor of Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur has announced he will ban alternative school menus that do not include pork to promote secular values in schools.

Mayor Michel Rotger, a member of the conservative Republican party, said the move would promote secularism but would also save the local government money saying ‘alternative menus’ led to too much waste, L’Express reports.

“We are putting an operation in place so the children eat everything and their diets are balanced. There is too much waste so we will teach them to eat meat, be it poultry or pork,” Rotger said.

Parents of children who attend schools in the town, which boasts a population of around 10,000, were informed of the mayor’s proposal in a letter. The letter said the pork menu would promote the “ideas of secularism” and that only those with medical allergies would be able to opt out. [Breitbart London] Read more

French mayor reignites burkini row after banning Muslim swimwear at leisure park

A year after several resorts on the French Riviera made global headlines and prompted criticism from around the world for imposing burkini bans on Muslim bathers, a French mayor risks inflaming the row once again.

Gerard Tardy, the mayor of Lorette, a town to the south of Lyon in Central France, has imposed a ban on burkinis – the full-body swimwear worn by some Muslim women and the wearing of headscarves at a new outdoor swimming area.

The leisure park was opened on June 23rd and includes two man-made swimming areas and a beach the public must pay to access.

But the new rules laid down in a Town Hall decree have sparked controversy.

Article 4 of the decree says users must “have decent attire and a correct attitude.”

It also includes the line: “On the beach monokinis, burkinis, veils that partially or totally conceal the face are banned.” [The Local] Read more

Paris Residents Unable to Sleep Through ‘Intense’ Overnight Mosque Loudspeaker Sessions

The loudspeakers of a Mée-sur-Seine mosque blasting out prayers and songs in the early hours of the morning through Ramadan caused chaos with the sleep patterns of Parisians living in the French capital’s south-eastern suburb, locals have said.

As well as operating year-round on Friday afternoons, the loudspeakers were in action from 11.30 pm each night until past 1 am during the Islamic holy month so as to allow Muslims praying on the streets outside, due to lack of space in the mosque, to hear.

“The loudspeaker is so intense,” a resident told Le Parisien. “We hear prayers, songs and readings delivered in a fashion that is completely disrespectful of people who follow other religions, and atheists.

“Some nights it is impossible to get more than four hours sleep because even after the prayers end, the faithful then engage in discussions which can last for another two hours.” [Breitbart London] Read more

27 June 2017

Pauline Hanson's 'halal' victory: One Nation succeeds in passing new regulations to control Islamic certification in Australia

Pauline Hanson has won a political victory with her Senate colleagues backing her campaign for Muslim-friendly halal-certified foods to be more clearly labelled.

Many meats and popular supermarket products including Vegemite, Cadbury chocolates and Kellogg's breakfast cereals are halal certified, which means consumers are funding Islamic schools and mosques.

The One Nation leader's call for more transparency on Muslim-friendly foods comes 18 months after a Senate inquiry called for food manufacturers to more clearly label third-party certification. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Mail Online apologises over initial Finsbury Park mosque attack headline which referenced 'hate cleric Abu Hamza'

.... After changing the headline Mail Online published the following correction: “An earlier version of this article bore a headline which stated the victims had been attacked outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, where Abu Hamza once preached.

“This was based on initial reports from reputable news agencies, although it has since been clarified that the attack took place closer to the Muslim Welfare House.

“It is also the case, as we made clear in a subsequent article, that in recent years the Mosque has become known as a beacon for community relations and that the Abu Hamza connection is therefore purely historical.

“We are happy to make this clear, and apologise for any contrary impression given.” [Press Gazette] Read more

Teacher wins €7,000 compensation after rejection for wearing headscarf

The Berlin labour court ordered the state to pay the woman the equivalent of two months’ salary. A second case of a teacher whom the state rejected because of her head scarf is also currently being considered by the court.

Both women had applied for positions at Berlin schools, but were told during job interviews that they would not be permitted to wear head scarves at work. According to the state of Berlin's neutrality law, state employees are not allowed to display religious symbols while in their place of employment.

This is not the first time that a Muslim teacher has won compensation from the capital's education authorities in a dispute over the conservative religious head wear.

In February the Berlin labour court awarded a teacher €8,680 for the same reason. The court agreed with the woman’s argument that rejecting her on the basis of her headscarf constituted religious discrimination. But the court said at the time that its ruling was on an individual case and did not have wider legal implications. [The Local] Read more

It defies belief that people are still being jailed – or killed – for blasphemy

According to reports in the BBC recently, Stephen Fry has been investigated in Ireland on charges of blasphemy. While the investigation stalled almost as quickly as it began, it was by no means the only occasion or high-profile matter of this type in recent weeks.

Discussing blasphemy feels anachronistic – something out of the middle ages. But it has recently been an issue as far away as Indonesia and as close as Ireland. W H Auden once observed that “one can only blaspheme if one believes”, but accusations of blasphemy have mainly been levelled against people who don’t share the same faith as the accusers.

Blasphemy charges are often used to express genuine religious outrage – but unproven allegations are also used for political or personal ends to persecute minorities or settle vendettas.

In the UK, Thomas Aikenhead was hanged for it in 1697, while John William Gott was the last to be imprisoned for the offence in 1922 – for publishing tracts on birth control and likening Jesus to a clown. [The Conversation] Read more

Pure, developed, and civilized

A novel take on the issue of female circumcision, or, as most people now refer to it, female genital mutilation. Egyptian cleric Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Maligi:

"The first time that this subject was debated extensively was in the past century. Who were the first to talk about it? The Jews. They do not want Islam or the Muslims to be pure, developed, and civilized.

"In the Protocols of the Elders of Zion it is written, "We must strive for the collapse of morals so that it will be easier for us to dominate the world."

"They tell you that female circumcision causes infertility. Says who? How can female circumcision cause infertility?! Egyptian women are circumcised, yet they give birth more than all the other mothers in the world. Allah be praised!

"It is the uncircumcised women of Europe who are infertile. Allah be praised!

Are there economic benefits to female circumcision? Yes!... Female circumcision is a preventive medical measure. Someone who is uncircumcised will be afflicted with many serious diseases.... Someone who contracts one of these diseases must spend money, and the state must spend money on the treatment, and so on. But we can save all this money and spend it elsewhere." [Mick Hartley] Read more

26 June 2017

Secular Yemenis live in fear after student is killed in Aden

A gunman paused for a moment after entering an internet cafe in the Yemeni port city of Aden, approached Amgad Abdulrahman and pulled the trigger three times.

As the 22-year-old law student -- a member of a cultural club set up by secularists -- lay dying, the gunman waved his pistol threateningly before retreating outside. He then walked away without a word.

No group has claimed responsibility for the May 14 killing in broad daylight in the Sheikh Othman neighbourhood, a brazen attack even for a city gripped by lawlessness more than two years into a civil war.

Friends suspect Abdulrahman was shot dead by Islamist militants who they say are waging a campaign of persecution against secularists accused of promoting an anti-Islam message or being atheists.

Some residents fear the killing has taken the persecution to a new level, nearly two years after local fighters backed by a Saudi-led coalition drove Iran-aligned Houthi forces out of the southern city. [Reuters] Read more

25 June 2017

Muslim girls aged NINE take part in Sydney hijab ceremony to symbolise maturity - with Islamic sheikh slamming it as step toward Sharia law

Australia's most senior Shia cleric Sheikh Kamal Mousselmani presided over the ceremony where 24 girls walked on stage to show their maturity.

'The hijab is compulsory for the girls when they become nine according to our religion,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

.... Adelaide Shia leader Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi said Islam classified eight as the adult age for girls and was worried by the ceremony's symbolism.

'I confirm that according to Islamic jurisprudence, a Muslim girl reaches the stage of maturity at eight to nine years of age,' he said.

'Hence the celebration took place, which means that they're no longer girls but adult females who would lead an adult life, including marriage.

'This goes against the Australian values and social ethics and is basically promoting and imposing Sharia law in Australia.' [Daily Mail] Read more

Liberal Berlin mosque to stay open despite fatwa from Egypt

The founder of a new liberal mosque in Berlin that allows men and women to pray side by side has vowed to press on with her project even though the institution has been issued with a fatwa from Egypt and attacked by religious authorities in Turkey within a week of its opening.

“The pushback I am getting makes me feel that I am doing the right thing,” said Seyran Ates, a Turkish-born lawyer and women’s rights campaigner, who does not wear a hijab. “God is loving and merciful – otherwise he wouldn’t have turned me into the person I am.”

The Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque, named after a Muslim philosopher who defended Greek philosophy and a German writer fascinated by the poetry of the Middle East, opened its doors in Berlin’s Moabit district a week ago on Friday.

.... A week later, the white-walled prayer room was noticeably emptier, with the seven-strong congregation almost matched by the number of security staff who guarded the exits and entrances with blue plastic covers over their boots.

Ates, 54, said many of the previous week’s worshippers had decided to stay away because they feared incrimination against themselves or their families. Her own relatives in Turkey had asked her to drop the project because they worried about arrests.

The lawyer, who is currently training to become an imam, said she had received “300 emails per day encouraging me to carry on”, including from as far away as Australia and Algeria, but also “3,000 emails a day full of hate”, some of them including death threats. [The Guardian] Read more

Liberal Berlin mosque to stay open despite fatwa from Egypt

The founder of a new liberal mosque in Berlin that allows men and women to pray side by side has vowed to press on with her project even though the institution has been issued with a fatwa from Egypt and attacked by religious authorities in Turkey within a week of its opening.

“The pushback I am getting makes me feel that I am doing the right thing,” said Seyran Ates, a Turkish-born lawyer and women’s rights campaigner, who does not wear a hijab. “God is loving and merciful – otherwise he wouldn’t have turned me into the person I am.”

The Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque, named after a Muslim philosopher who defended Greek philosophy and a German writer fascinated by the poetry of the Middle East, opened its doors in Berlin’s Moabit district a week ago on Friday.

.... Ates, 54, said many of the previous week’s worshippers had decided to stay away because they feared incrimination against themselves or their families. Her own relatives in Turkey had asked her to drop the project because they worried about arrests. [The Guardian] Read more

On Eid, Montreal imam says Muslims need to do more to fight extremism

After a Montrealer was arrested after someone shouted “Allahu akbar” and then stabbed a police officer in Flint, Mich., Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard angered many Muslims by saying, “Unfortunately, you cannot disconnect this type of event from Islam in general.”

But Imam Luqman Ahmed expressed agreement after his Eid sermon at the Ahmadiyya Islamic Centre in Montreal North.

“If the statement means that somehow Islamic teachings justify terrorism, then I do not agree with this statement. But if it means that within the larger Muslim community, there is a problem with extremism, then I think he is right,” Ahmed told Global News. [Global News] Read more

Philippe Couillard’s tone shift on Islam stuns Quebec Muslims

The Quebec Premier’s sudden shift linking “Islam in general” to terror and urging Quebec Muslims to do more to combat violent extremism has baffled security and political experts alike.

After years of warning Quebeckers against “creating an amalgam” between acts of Islamist terror and the wider Muslim community – and for a long time even avoiding the use any variation of the word “Islamist” in connection with terror – Philippe Couillard emerged last week with a dramatic break. After a 49-year-old Quebecker allegedly shouting an Islamic phrase was accused of stabbing a police officer in Michigan, Mr. Couillard said, “You cannot disconnect this type of event, terrorism, from Islam in general.”

A half-dozen leaders of Quebec’s Muslim communities, who long considered the Premier an ally, said they were stunned at the turnaround. “Politicians who speak this way are telling terrorists they’re right to claim some religious basis for what they are doing,” said Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Montreal. The city’s Muslim leaders invited Mr. Couillard to feast with them Sunday to mark the end of the Ramadan holy month of fasting. He did not attend. [The Globe and Mail] Read more

24 June 2017

Charity Commission Slams Islamic School for Segregation, Radical Speakers

A Luton Islamic School which segregated staff by gender and hosted radical speakers has been slammed by the Charity Commission and accused of misconduct.

The Rabia Educational Trust caters for 128 pupils, charges up to £2,300 a year, and has the stated ‘charitable aim’ of advancing “the single sex Islamic faith based education of girls and boys.”

It was found to have poor management, mismanaged accounts, and failed to protect pupils from potentially harmful views in the past, the regulator claimed in an inquiry report.

Concerns were first raised in 2012, and Ofsted has inspected Rabia Girl’s and Boy’s School four times since 2014. Although progress has been made there were still failings, the report said, and the institution remains under regulatory action by the school’s inspectorate.

In a report from April 2016, Ofsted noted that “Leaders and governors, through their actions, undermine the school’s work to promote fundamental British values”, and, “school leaders acknowledge that some guest speakers to the school have not been vetted with sufficient rigour”. [Breitbart London] Read more

Passions flare as Turkey excludes evolution from textbooks

"This is bigotry, this is all about being a fanatic. How are they going to teach biology now? How are they going to talk about science?"

On an online forum about the government's decision to exclude the theory of evolution from the national curriculum, a passionate discussion is under way.

"Evolutionary theory is one of the most powerful and fundamental theories in modern science. To describe it as 'controversial' is unbelievable," says one commenter.

Another argues that the theory was not well taught anyhow: "Once the teacher asked us who believed in evolutionary theory. I raised my hand. The teacher said: 'Are you a monkey then?'"

But on Facebook another commenter says: "I want to thank the government for preventing our youth to be poisoned by this rotten and absurd theory. There is nothing more natural than excluding it from the national curriculum." [BBC] Read more

Muslim women reject sexism in fight to be heard

.... Ms Saleem knows how dangerous the tolerance of intolerance can be. As a schoolgirl, she lost five years of her life at an Islamic boarding school in Nottingham. Its narrow curriculum and strict Sharia-inspired rules promised to make alimas (Islamic scholars) of its young charges. Instead, Ms Saleem believes it stunted her education and left young girls like her at serious risk of radicalisation.

.... She is astounded at how politicians can talk about tackling extremism but support the segregation of Muslim children along the lines of gender and ethnicity. “Enough is enough?” she scoffs. “Not if you’re alienating and segregating Muslim children — often poor, vulnerable Muslim children, in faith schools.”

.... Ms Khan learnt to her cost the danger of not registering her Islamic marriage at a British register office. A few years later her husband was pressurised by his family to take a teenage cousin from Kashmir as a second wife. “My husband was crying in my arms the night before his wedding,” she said.

After the relationship became violent, she said it took her two years to be granted an Islamic divorce. “I put the blame on the doorsteps of the mosques. All these men, sitting on chairs, acting in judgment. I went around all the Sharia courts — I remember sitting crying in front of the imams after all the beatings and black eyes — but all they wanted was money. We [Muslim women] end up sitting in front of extremists to get a divorce. It makes me very angry.” [The Times (£)] Read more

In Plain Sight: MEND, CAGE, and So-Called “Non-Violent Extremism”

Mak Chishty, former Met Commander has been recently quoted to say: ‘Without targeting Islamism and naming and shaming Muslim organisations such as CAGE and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), we risk having our safetIy and security threatened forever.’

Following four horrific terrorist attacks this year, it would seem Theresa May has decided to take action and form a new commission to counter extremism. With increasing calls like Chishty’s to oppose non-violent extremist groups, will new powers of disruption be on the agenda? And if so against whom should these power be exercised?

.... MEND’S Azad Ali is another controversial and increasingly notorious individual, having been filmed at a rally stating that there are not enough prayers being given for the Mujahideen in Mosques. Ali has also justified the killing of British Troops, which was made clear through a libel case he lost against the Daily Mail [2].

Additionally, whilst being filmed by an undercover reporter for Channel 4 Dispatches, Azad was recorded as saying that democracy should be dispensed with if its result is not the imposition of Sharia law: “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no-one agrees with that.” [Conatus News] Read more

23 June 2017

Ofsted will crackdown on extremism and promote 'British values', Amanda Spielman vows

.... On illegal and unregistered schools, Ms Spielman said that Ofsted would “do everything we can” to search out and close them down with the same “zeal and passion,” as her predecessor, Sir Michael Wilshaw.

It comes two years after Ofsted warned that it had uncovered unregistered Islamic madrassas across the UK, raising fears large numbers of children were at risk of being “abused and radicalised” in them.

“Those children are very highly segregated from the British mainstream, so of course it must be a concern about what is happening in those segregated worlds,” Ms Spielman added. [The Telegraph] Read more

Turkish schools to stop teaching evolution, official says

Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.

Alpaslan Durmus, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmus in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

Durmus said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.

Critics of the government believe public life is being increasingly stripped of the secular traditions instilled by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The secular opposition has long argued that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pursuing a covert Islamist agenda contrary to the republic’s founding values. Education is a particularly contentious avenue, because of its potential in shaping future generations. Small-scale protests by parents in local schools have opposed the way religion is taught. [The Guardian] Read more

Turkish schools to stop teaching evolution, official says

Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.

Alpaslan Durmus, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmus in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

Durmus said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.

Critics of the government believe public life is being increasingly stripped of the secular traditions instilled by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. [The Guardian] Read more

22 June 2017

You can't disconnect terrorism from Islam, Couillard says in wake of Flint attack

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is facing criticism from Muslim community leaders after saying there is a link between Islam and terrorism.

Couillard made the comments Thursday in Quebec City. He was asked by a reporter whether he was concerned Quebec Muslims could face a backlash following the arrest of a Montrealer in connection with an attack earlier this week at a Michigan airport.

On Wednesday, U.S. authorities identified Amor Ftouhi, 49, as the suspect in the stabbing of a police officer at Flint's Bishop International Airport

The FBI is treating the attack as an act of terrorism and said the suspect shouted "Allahu akbar" as he drew his knife, which is Arabic for "God is great."

"Unfortunately, you cannot disconnect this type of event — terrorism — from Islam in general," Couillard said. [CBC News] Read more

Andy Burnham pledges to replace Prevent strategy in Manchester

The much-criticised Prevent programme is to be replaced in Greater Manchester as part of a broad review of the region’s counter-terror strategy in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the deradicalisation scheme had achieved some success but was “too top-down”. He said: “Prevent, as it’s currently configured, will only take you so far. There has been a feeling of disengagement because of the way it goes about its work. We’re saying that can’t be allowed to carry on. It will only succeed if there’s true community buy-in at grassroots level, and the information comes that way.”

The programme is to be reviewed and replaced by a “distinctive” Greater Manchester approach that commands the confidence of the region’s Muslim communities, the former Labour MP said. [The Guardian] Read more

Muslim women need to challenge the patriarchy in their own faith

.. I stated plainly that certain narratives, especially within the orthodox segments of Muslim society, must be challenged by Muslim women themselves, because awareness of their own place in society is central to achieving any kind of progress.

Embedded narratives on polygamy, wife battery and the segregation and seclusion of women prevent a robust challenge emerging in these communities.

For example, the argument that men are natural leaders of the household, and that they have a stronger sexual urge than women, is used to excuse polygamy.

Many traditional Muslim homes embrace such explanations, along with a related religious sanction for beating wives. The religious justification thwarts any challenge to such outrages.

I urged members of the audience to ponder these issues with open and inclusive minds, to eschew any narrow religious basis for antagonism and especially for misogyny.

Muslim women in particular must see these traditional narratives for what they are. They are mere rationalizations, and the time has come to see beyond them. [Toronto Sun] Read more

Austria opposes Islamic kindergartens

Austria’s Foreign Minister expressed his opposition to Islamic kindergartens in the country, claiming these schools limit the integration of the immigrants.

Speaking at a panel discussion organized by Vienna-based German language newspaper Kurier, Sebastian Kurz argued that these schools raise individuals isolated from the society.

When asked if these schools should be closed down, Kurz said that the schools were getting aid from the state. If the criteria are made difficult to get the support, the schools will close down, he added.

“Apart from this, I think there is no necessity for [these schools]. There should not be Islamic kindergartens,” he said.

Kurz said that around 10,000 children were attending these schools in the capital Vienna. He said these pre-school education institutions were financed by taxes and provide ‘low-level education’. [Anadolu Agency] Read more

And you still expect them to love us?

The reaction in the Arab world to the Finsbury Park attack may not have been always quite what you'd expect. Here's Egyptian TV host Youssef Al-Husseini getting it all off his chest:

"In all the previous vehicular attacks, at least in 2016 and 2017, the "heroes" were, unfortunately, Muslims. And then people wonder why they hate us. Why do they hate us?! If they didn't, there would be something mentally wrong with them.

[We] use weapons all the time, slaughter people all the time, flay people all the time, burn people alive all the time, run people over all the time, and plant explosive devices and car bombs all the time. Why do you still expect them to love you? [...]

"Tell me what the Muslims have contributed to the world throughout the 20th century? Nothing. What have the Turkish Muslims of the Ottoman state contributed to the West? Slaughter, massacres, the impaling of Europeans on spears... It's true. That's what the Turks did in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. What did the Muslim Turks do to their Arab neighbors, most of whom are Muslims?

They enslaved them, tortured them, imposed inflated taxes upon them. They made their lives unbearable. What did the Muslims contribute to the West in the 19th and 20th centuries, except for the theories of Maududi, Sayyid Qutb, Abu Bakr Naji, and Osama Bin Laden? What did the Muslims contribute to the West? [...] [Mick Hartley] Read more

Battle for Mosul: IS 'blows up' al-Nuri mosque

So-called Islamic State (IS) has blown up the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraqi forces say.

The ancient landmark with its famous leaning minaret was where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" in 2014.

However, IS claims that US aircraft destroyed the complex, in a statement issued by its news outlet Amaq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said blowing up the mosque was "an official declaration of defeat" by IS.

Aerial photos show that the mosque and minaret has been largely destroyed.

The Iraqi commander in charge of the offensive to retake Mosul said troops were within 50 metres of the mosque when IS "committed another historical crime". [BBC] Read more

Book Review of Ibn Warraq: The Islam in Islamic Terrorism

Europe and the Western world are also increasingly being targeted by such deadly terror. Western politicians and media are quick to claim that the murderous attacks carried out by militant Muslims have nothing to do with Islam. The esteemed author Ibn Warraq disproves this false claim in his new book The Islam in Islamic Terrorism: The Importance of Beliefs, Ideas, and Ideology.

The book is packed with examples showing the continuity of Islamic thought and practices for more than one thousand years. This includes revealing quotes from the Kharijites, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Ghazali, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Syed Abul A’la Maududi, the strongly pro-Nazi Palestinian Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husaini, Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and others from the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad abd-al-Salam Faraj, Abdullah Azzam, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Many leading figures from the international Jihadist movements have been members of the Muslim Brotherhood. They range from Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam to Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the terrorist network al-Qaida after the death of Osama bin Laden, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State (ISIS). [New English Review] Read more

Tariq Ramadan’s ‘Debate’ ‘Within the Islamic Tradition’ on Female Circumcision

.... The Oxford Don is perhaps best known for calling for a “moratorium” – not the abolition – of some Sharia law penalties as stoning people to death (An International call for Moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic World. 2005)

A new controversy about Islamic Legality began last week (June the 14th).

It has not stopped growing.

Tariq Ramadan Defends Female Genital Mutilation: ‘Part of Our Tradition’ and an ‘Internal Discussion’ for Muslims Only.

.... on Monday, influential Islamist thinker and activist Tariq Ramadan released a 10 minute video on Facebook expressing support for Elsayed staying on. Ramadan stated Muslim leaders who advocate for FGM should be understood as “brothers,” part of “our community” and Muslims who disagree should engage them with “internal discussion” and are instructed “not to expose them.” Here are some of the highlights from this video.

The author continued, First Ramadan starts by framing opposition to FGM as a critique coming from “outside the community” and stating that he opposes the calls for firing Elsayed: [Tendance Coatesy] Read more

21 June 2017

Turkey says liberal German mosque 'incompatible' with Islam

Turkey's religious affairs agency has expressed distaste over a new mosque in Berlin where men and women mingle freely, saying it was incompatible with the principes of Islam.

Diyanet, which oversees religious activity in Turkey, said that such ideas were in line with projects led by the group of Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey blames for the July 15 failed coup.

Men and women pray side by side at the mosque that opened earlier this month in Berlin, which has female imams and where Muslims of all sects of the faith are welcome to worship together.

Supporters of the Berlin mosque said it would allow liberal Muslims to worship freely but in a tough statement Diyanet took a different stance.

It said that the mosque "neglects" the basic principles of Islam and was "incompatible with the worship, knowledge and methodology" accumulated since the faith was founded by the Prophet Mohammed 14 centuries ago.

"It is clear that this has been a project carried out for many years by FETO and other ill-gotten structures for the engineering of religion," it added. [AFP] Read more

Liberal mosque in Berlin draws criticism

Men and women pray side-by-side, and there's a female imam who doesn't even wear a headscarf. For many in the Islamic world, these things are inconceivable. A new liberal mosque in Berlin has been causing a stir.

Sunnis, Shiites, Alevis, members of the LGTBQ community - all are welcome at the Friday prayer service at the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in Berlin. The organization, which holds its services inside the St. Johannis Church in the area of Moabit, has sparked criticism since a DW report on its founder, women's rights activist Seyran Ates, who established the institution despite fierce resistance.

Reports about the liberal mosque found their way into several newspapers in the Muslim world. The pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah called it "absurd" that services took place inside a church. Another newspaper, Yeniakit, labeled Ates a Kurdish supporter of the controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen. And Daily Pakistan criticized the fact that women took part in prayer services unveiled.

Men and uncovered women praying together, and presided over by a female imam on top of it? For some in the Muslim world, that's simply going too far. "They're creating a new religion, that's not Islamic," commented one DW user. "These people are not following the religion of our prophet. They have no conception of the religion. What idiocy," commented another. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Islam in Europe: German Preacher Backs Controversial Language Lessons for Imams as Debate Over Integration Rages

A Muslim leader in Germany has called for state-backed training of imams to include language lessons in a bid to tackle concerns about integration and Islamophobia.

In an article for the country's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Benjamin Idriz, an imam from the southern state of Bavaria, wrote that preachers could serve as the “driving force behind integration and dialogue” between communities, but that they often lack “basic requirements” such as the ability to speak German.

Idriz pointed out that no state-backed option for the training of imams currently exists in the country and proposed an institute for the teaching of German imams. He suggested the Ludwig-Maximillians University in Munich as one option for its base as the university already includes a center for Islamic studies.

He also warned that many imams who came to Germany from abroad were “directly connected with foreign religious authorities” and therefore “under foreign influence.” Commentators in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, often raise the subject of influence of imams from abroad on Muslim communities as part of the fierce debate about integration and the place of Islam in German life. [Newsweek] Read more

There is an antidote to hate crime. Here's what we all must do

.... Media outlets must stop providing a soapbox from which extremists can project their hatred. Tommy Robinson, founder of the English Defence League, columnist Katie Hopkins and hate preacher Anjem Choudary may have boosted audience figures but their vitriol has done the same for hate-crime figures too.

That would go some way towards taking the momentum out of this cycle of terror and “revenge”. Dreading what you’ll wake up to each morning is no way to live. It erodes our collective wellbeing, just as extremists want to erode our quality of life, and to damage our society and its freedoms.

British Muslims deserve full protection, and they will get it

It’s hard to remain unaffected. Only yesterday I felt a pang of fear as I walked around my local, largely white area in my headscarf. But extremists on all sides thrive on that fear – they throw it on to the fire, along with hate and intolerance, and dance around the flames in glee. We can’t let them do that. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Muslim Council of Britain warns the media is ‘spreading hate’

The Muslim Council of Britain warned on Monday that British newspapers were fuelling hatred against Muslims. The organisation’s words came in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on a mosque in London’s Finsbury Park, where a van was driven into worshippers on Sunday night as they exited the building. The attacker had reportedly shouted “I want to kill all Muslims.”

Although no particular publications were named, Miqdaad Versi, the MCB’s assistant secretary, claimed that “We have national newspapers spreading hate and talking about how less Islam is the answer to terrorism that we face right now.” However, he also praised the government for “taking the attack seriously.”

Journalists such as Peter Oborne supported this view, claiming in the Middle East Eye that despite claiming Islamophobia does not exist, the right-wing press needs to “urgently consider” whether there is a link between the language used by conservative journalists and the abuse faced by many British Muslims.

Oborne cited writers such as Charles Moore, Douglas Murray and Rod Liddle for encouraging this view and said they needed to retract such “dangerous bilge” and start taking seriously “the problem of anti-Muslim hatred.” [MEND] Read more

Muslim imam who married off a child bride, 14, to a man 20 years her senior is SPARED jail

A former Muslim imam who married off a 14-year-old girl to a 34-year-old man has escaped jail time and placed on a good behaviour order.

Ibrahim Omerdic, 62, was found guilty of solemnising the marriage of the teenage girl and a man, 34, during a ceremony in Noble Park, Melbourne, last September.

Magistrate Phillip Goldberg on Wednesday sentenced Omerdic to two months' prison for his 'serious breach of trust' but released him immediately on a two-year recognisance release order.

Omerdic was an imam of the Bosnian Islamic Society and Noble Park Mosque, but he was suspended after his November arrest over the wedding.

'If (he) is happy with something, do it. If (he) is not happy with something, don't do it,' he tells the girl in the shaky mobile footage.

Omerdic can also be heard telling the child's mother and her betrothed: 'She's very young.' [Daily Mail] Read more

Islamists have failed to divide France. Will they succeed in Britain?

Islamic State will be delighted by what happened outside Finsbury Park mosque in the early hours of Monday morning. In the space of three months they’ve achieved in Britain what they failed to pull off in France during five years, and provoked a retaliatory act.

This is what they want. When the Syrian intellectual, Abu Moussab al-Souri, published his 1600-page manifesto in 2005, ‘The Global Islamic Resistance Call’, his stated goal was to plunge Europe into a war of religion.

Describing the continent as the soft underbelly of the West, al-Souri’s first target was France, the country he considered the most susceptible to fracturing along religious lines because it has the largest Muslim population in Europe, many of whom could be manipulated by both the colonial history of France and its strict secularism that outlaws ostentatious displays of religion.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 36 votes] Blimey. Talk about wishful thinking. The seeds of future discontent are only just being sown, and this writer is already on a victory lap for multicultural France.

[2ND 26] The problem is not fiddling (while Europe burns) over whether 'laïcite' or 'multiculturalism' is the least useless approach. The largest part of the problem is that European politicians - including our own from both Parties - have been importing into Blighty - ditto the rest of the Continent - many hundreds and hundreds of thousands of folks from often hostile countries and cultures every single year, after year, after year, after year, after ... how many will the ferry service pick up in the Med for a taxi ride to Italy this week?

And next? And the next? How many 'cousins' and 'uncles' from the foothills arriving this year? And next? How many millions of young men of military age invited in off the back of the next picture of a kid on a beach, or sat in a seat someplace? One million? Three? Double that? Triple?

A deliberate policy to radically, rapidly and permanently change Britain and Europe's demographics, pursued with vigor by *mainstream* politicians throughout Western Europe, our own crowd at Westminster, the Civil Service, (publicly-funded) *charities*, and defended/enforced by the BBC, etc., - that's the real culprit behind the carnage on the streets of Britain and France, the many Rotherham's and Cologne's and Sweden's, the thousands of armed police with automatic sub-machine guns now roaming the streets. How vibrant! The whole thing an unwanted and unnecessary policy pursued against the wishes and interests of the existing British - and European - people. Yay, celebrate!

Laïcite, Multiculturalism, who gives a monkeys, there's no point praying and hoping that your particular abstraction works ever-so-slightly better, when no-one shows any signs of rowing away from the rocks.

[3RD 24] "Far from dividing French society with their campaign of terror, the Islamists have actually brought the country closer together. "

Oh it's all OK then! So all we need in the UK is to have a bunch of Mohammadian peasants cut off a few heads and we'll be united once more.

Thanks Gavin.

[4TH 22] I am afraid that Macron may buy a few years by his shrewd - and admirable - intervention. But the result of the game remains clear. The version of Islam that is compatible with liberal democratic modernity hasn't been invented yet. And won't ever be. Pray for our granddaughters. They will pay the price, as they always do.

[5TH 19] Gavin Mortimer is obsessed with the supposed wonders of laïcité. Last time he argued that it helped prevent Islamic terrorism, even though France has suffered worse than any other country. Now he's arguing that it has prevented retaliatory attacks, implying that the reason we have suffered one is because we haven't adopted it. But Darren Osborne was not motivated by any religious faith (as far as we know), so how on earth would secularism have stopped him? Or even if he was? People do write such drivel when it comes to Islam.

Face it, France is a divided country. You can't have that many people of a different race, religion and culture in your country, who hate you and are ready to riot and support acts of terror, and call yourself united under any sensible definition.

[6TH 14] "...the Islamists have actually brought the country closer together. Government figures reveal that in 2016 ‘racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts and threats’ dropped by 44.7pc compared to the previous year..."

From the report: "This very considerable decrease bears witness to the effectiveness of measures for protection of places of worship introduced in January 2015."

How does this indicate that the country has come "closer together"? The fact that the government has had to increase the presence of armed police hardly fits the idyllic picture of a country at peace. But these so called "hate crimes"

European governments are busily concerning themselves with are often totally bogus; frequently they are frauds, unsubstantiated claims or the definitions are so loose as to be meaningless. It isn't unusual for governments to shift definitions in order to modify statistics so that they can pronounce to the public how efficacious their policies are; the causality isn't clear at all.

Of course, the report doesn't record the number of 'anti-French' attacks launched from the Muslim enclaves, it doesn't mention the extreme danger of the no go zones, and the French government is too hamstrung by political correctness to record the crime rates among the immigrants. In addition, the remarkably low turnout for the elections does not support the narrative that the French public are enamoured with the seraphic saviour of the EU, Macron. Rather it suggests they are dissatisfied by their political system and don't want to engage with it.

The wider problems of multiculturalism are also missed in this article. The rapidly increasing number of Muslims is not going to encourage integration, it is going to heighten the chances of terrorist attacks, and enlarge the self segregated Muslim societies which will be the cause of further divisions.

Multicultural countries have never been successful; it is one of histories' most obvious lessons. As an example of unity, we could look to Poland or Japan, which are almost entirely homogeneous and have very few Muslim inhabitants; none of them have experienced Jihadi attacks. But *that* kind of unity is not permitted under the current political orthodoxy. [The Spectator] Read more

20 June 2017

The U.K., radical Islam and the Darren Osbornes among us

.... I am no Muslim theologian, but Islamic extremists can hardly be blamed for concluding from their religious belief that neither western societies nor western governments are legitimate.

Their position is not illogical, given its premises. God, not man, is sovereign; the Koran is the word of God; therefore all that is not derivable from the Koran, or is opposed to it, is evil in the sense of being against God’s sovereignty. Only God has the right to be obeyed; and if he says kill, then kill we must.

.... Of course, Darren Osborne was hardly reacting against an Islamic view of sovereignty and its practical consequences. He almost surely did not have thoughts of political philosophy in his mind when he ploughed his hire van into Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque, but hatred and an incoherent notion of group revenge: an atrocity for an atrocity, as it were. But he probably could not tell his Koran from his Corona, his Hadith from his Hoegaarden.

By his cruel, stupid and criminal action, he has given succor to those who would like all criticism of Islam to be treated as a kind of phobic disorder, akin to fear of spiders or mice, that is to say a disease of the mind.

The day after Finsbury Park, there was another attempted attack on a policeman on the Champs Elysées in Paris — and not by, or because of, the likes of Darren Osborne. [NYDailyNews.com] Read more

After Finsbury: Time for the UK's right-wing press to address its Islamophobia

For years, many conservative columnists have denied that Islamophobia exists. We must urgently consider whether there is a connection between their language and the insults, abuse and attacks on Muslims in this country.

.... There are urgent questions to be asked about our double standards. One bad Muslim is taken as a proxy for all Muslims, but one crazed, vicious white Englishman is not taken as proxy for all Englishmen.

Why aren’t we asking who radicalised the Finsbury Park attacker, and why they weren't reported by their community?

Why do we worry desperately about Islamist hate preachers, but not seem to care about hate preachers on the far-right. Tommy Robinson of the English Defence League was on breakfast TV within hours of the Finsbury attack. We need to contemplate new rules of public discourse.

For the last few years, I have been travelling around Britain as a commissioner for the Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life. Our report comes out in two weeks.

We have heard harrowing accounts of the kind of intimidation and abuse that ordinary Muslims (all too often women) are obliged to endure.

And yet much too often, serious and influential people refuse to accept that any such thing as anti-Muslim bigotry exists. This week’s Queen’s Speech is a chance for Theresa May to change course.

Meanwhile, the moment has come for some of my colleagues (and, in some cases, friends) in the Conservative press to ask some deep, searching questions about their own use of language about Muslims and Islam. [Middle East Eye] Read more

Norwegian Muslim plans liberal mosque in Oslo

A new, gay-friendly mosque planned in Oslo will allow female imams and men and women praying together.

The mosque, which will be located in the centre of the Norwegian capital, will be called Masjid al-Nisa’ (The Women’s Mosque), reports media Vårt Land.

“I wanted to start a feminist mosque where women have as much space as men. Both men and women should be able to lead prayers, and all genders should be able to pray in the same room,” Thee Yezen al-Obaide, who came up with the idea for the mosque, told the newspaper.

Via the organisation Skeiv Verden (Offbeat World), al-Obaide has also set up an informal network for gay Muslims in Norway, he said.

“The mosque will be a place that is open for anyone that feels that they do not fit in at ordinary mosques. Women, men, trans people, homosexuals, heterosexuals – everyone is welcome,” the man behind the new mosque said. [The Local] Read more

Why Theresa May Is Wrong To Suggest That Islamophobia Is A Form Of Extremism

.... What was interesting however was the way in which she referred to Islamophobia. According to her, Islamophobia was a form of extremism. Of course, any attempt to tackle Islamophobia is not only welcome but so too long overdue in the British political spaces especially as the Conservatives had gone silent on the issue once the impotence of its Cross-Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hate had been exposed. However, referring to Islamophobia as a form of extremism and indeed continuing to frame it in this way is extremely problematic

.... For me, the political linking of Islamophobia with extremism is rather more deliberate than today’s announcement might suggest in that it would appear to serve two functions. First, it sends out the misguided message that Islamophobia is solely consequential of terrorism and extremism. In other words, if Muslims ‘stop blowing themselves up’ then people will ‘stop hating them’.

Second, it appears to be something of a pacifier to Muslims in that the Government is saying that if it commits to doing something about Islamophobia then Muslims should not rock the boat about the introduction of ever more stringent and pernicious counter-terror and counter-extremism measures that are likely to be announced in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday.

Instead of exceptionalising Islamophobia by defining it as extremism, Islamophobia needs to be rather more normalised and brought in line with how we understand, define and subsequently respond to other discriminatory phenomena. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

The wounded victims of Sri Lanka's child marriage law

In Sri Lanka the legal marriage age is 18, but under a decades-old community law, much younger Muslim girls can get married. As calls grow for this law to be amended, BBC Sinhala's Saroj Pathirana meets one young girl forced to marry against her will.

When Shafa was 15, she was forced to get married. "While studying for exams, I fell in love with a boy," Shafa said, tears running down her cheeks.

"My parents did not like it. They sent me to my uncle's place. While I was studying there, a regular visitor told my aunt and uncle that he wanted to marry me."

Shafa, who comes from a Muslim family and lives in a remote village in Sri Lanka, refused. She wanted to marry the boy she loved, after completing her secondary school education.

But despite her objections, her uncle and aunt arranged for her to marry their friend.

Whenever she objected to the marriage, she was beaten. Her uncle and aunt even threatened to kill themselves if she did not listen to them.

"I cut my arms as there was no other option," said Shafa, pulling up her sleeves to show the scars. "I also took some pills from my uncle's place. [BBC] Read more

19 June 2017

May says Islamophobia is a form of extremism, marking shift in rhetoric

Theresa May’s Downing Street declaration that the Finsbury Park terrorist attack was “every bit as sickening” as Manchester and London Bridge and description of Islamophobia as another form of extremism marks a distinct and important change in rhetoric from the prime minister.

.... The prime minister also reiterated her proposal for an anti-extremism commission, comparing its role to that of the Commission for Racial Equality which fought racism in the 1970s and 1980s: “Because this extremism is every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life and we will stop at nothing to defeat it.”

But as Dr Chris Allen of Birmingham University has pointed out, Islamophobia is more akin to everyday racism or homophobia perpetrated by ordinary people rather than the exclusive reserve of a terrorist ideology.

.... As the former official reviewer of terrorism laws, David Anderson QC, has pointed out, one in four of those referred to the government’s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme are now far-right radicals. The security minister, Ben Wallace, said last October that in some parts of the country, far-right extremists outnumbered Islamist extremist suspects. Anderson warned in February that far-right extremism in Britain could be “as murderous as its Islamist equivalent”.

The prime minister’s change in rhetoric is welcome but the real test will be whether her new legislation is recalibrated to tackle far-right ideology just as vigorously as that of radical Islamists. [The Guardian] Read more

Iran bans Zumba classes for being ‘un-Islamic'

Zumba exercises classes have been effectively banned in Iran after the country’s authorities declared that the dance “contravenes Islamic ideology”.

“In light of activities such as Zumba, performing rhythmic movements or dancing in any form is not legal in any shape or title and the prohibition of movements such as this is requested,” Ali Majdara, the head of Iran’s General Sports Federation, wrote in a public letter to the ministry of youth affairs earlier this month.

The federation went on to urge the development of “athletics for everyone in the framework of supreme Islamic ideology.”

Mr Majdara’s position means that Zumba has in effect already been banned, with classes in locations around the country already cancelled. Similar announcements have led to the curtailment of other sports - especially those for women - in the past.

The energetic Colombian dance style has become popular in recent years, with gyms and sport centres around the world offering instruction. [The Independent] Read more

18 June 2017

Ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes: why we must defend Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

It was the fifth anniversary yesterday of the arrest of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, whose supposed crime was to argue for secularism, democracy and human rights. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – a punishment that amounts to death by torture – although only 50 lashes were inflicted on him in the one session. Medical opinion was that he would not survive the remainder of that part of his sentence.

His cause has been taken up by humanist organisations, as well as by Amnesty International.

He has been honoured with the EU’s Sakharov prize. Even Prince Charles raised his case on a visit to Saudi Arabia. We may be sure that neither Theresa May nor Donald Trump would do so. It is one thing to coat huge arms deals in the rhetoric of defending western freedoms, but quite another to risk any of the profits for the sake of a Saudi man who wished to enjoy those same freedoms. [The Guardian] Read more

Koran ‘needs new interpretation’ to help fight terror

An Islamic scholar who has spent close to 5,000 hours challenging the views of terrorists in British prisons says a “radical and new interpretation” of the Koran is required to confront extremism.

Mamadou Bocoum, a prison chaplain who has provided Islamic guidance to inmates for a decade, says new editions of the Koran should be introduced to mosques, schools and jails with footnotes for verses discussing jihad and martyrdom.

He said that deeming terrorists “non-Muslim” because of their barbarism overlooked the twisted justification they sought from scripture for their actions.

“I am not asking for a new Koran, I am asking for interpretations, mainly regarding those verses that can be difficult and have a different meaning when taken out of context,” he said in his first newspaper interview.

.... “All the verses that deal with jihad, war, Jews and Christians need to be accompanied by a footnote,” he said. For example, a verse in the Koran that says “do not take Jews and Christians as your allies” and another urging “kill them wherever you find them” should be read in the context of a third verse: “God does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes”, meaning that those who do not attack you should be left alone.

He said extremists also drew on scripture to amplify their grievances against British foreign policy, although a clear interpretation could deal with that. “We should feel confident enough that we can reinterpret the text to reflect universal values of human rights,” he said. “Equality among men and women and respect of other religions and free choice — whether it be respecting people’s choices which relate to sexual orientation or inter-religious marriages.” [The Times (£)] Read more

Why Europe’s Muslims do not chant in unison, as its politicians would like

IN THE realm of European Islam, nothing is going quite to plan. In the perfect scenario of the continent’s mainstream politicians, the law-abiding majority of Muslim citizens would be coming together now in a massive, thundering condemnation of terrorism. That in turn would create a renewed social consensus, paving the way for the defeat of terrorism in its latest, horrible forms, as it has been perpetrated in places like Nice, Brussels, Berlin, Manchester and London.

Reality turns out to be messier. Yesterday, in the German city of Cologne, there was a “not in our name” rally against terrorism, which was backed by some of the country’s leading Muslim organizations, and by politicians from across the political spectrum. It was hoped that at least 10,000 people from all over the country would take part, and that it would inspire similar actions in other cities. But the event proved to be a damp squib. At most 3,500 turned up.

.... There is a common problem. Although mainstream secular politicians would dearly wish it to be otherwise, the Islamic scene is large, diverse and contentious. It is riven by theological, ideological, ethnic and personal rivalries. That makes it unlikely that Muslim leaders will ever be induced to stand together in a line and chant in unison “Down with terrorism” in the precise terms that secular political leaders would like.

With respect to any grievances Muslims may have with Western policy, there's at least as much pull as there is push. Chaotic and dysfunctional regions have a way of sucking in other nations no matter who likes it. With that in mind, the simple fact of the matter is that the Islamic world is responsible for the disturbingly vast majority of the world's problems. Per the Economist, in 2014 the Arab world alone accounted for 45% of global terrorism, 68% of global battle-related deaths, 47% of the world's internally displaced, and 58% of the world's refugees.

That's just the Arab world. And it's not like a whole lot has changed in the last 3 or so years. European Muslims are going to have to get over their fears of "stigmatization." They're already stigmatized, and staying reticent, or engaging in whataboutism, is hardly a recipe for making things any better.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] As a North American I'll be the first to say that Europe sucks at assimilation, but assimilation is a two way street. European Muslims have to *want* to be citizens of their respective nations the same way tens of millions have and still do want to be Americans, Canadians, Australians, etc. even in the face of strong nativist sentiment.

They shouldn't be in a situation where there's even a sense of conflict in condemning those who do far more damage to the image of Islam than the Western far-right could ever hope to do. If European Muslims insist on splitting their loyalties then they need to get their own house in order before they expect an abundance of sympathy from everyone else.

[ANOTHER] Pretending that Muslims in Europe will adapt European norms while maintaining literal Muslim beliefs is like pretending that if I polish a turd, it will turn into gold. Not likely!

It seems to me muslims already are a very monolithic group, almost to the point of caricature. Muslims subscribe to one religious dogma, respect one view of their obligations to those beliefs and reject anything that might resemble secularism. Their utter existence outside of religion is nonexistent by definition.

They subscribe to militarist and exclusionary religious beliefs which compel them to eliminate any competing religious dogmas or world views. They view themselves as essential building blocks in the arch of conquest by their religious believers over the entire world, which appears to them as manifest destiny and somehow desirable. They are generally unable and unwilling conform to demands of non-muslim societies, but expect these societies to accommodate their world views and their personal religious requirements until the time for these societies' demise shall inevitably arrive in their view.

Which part of this population does Europe believe is anxious to embrace religious and social coexistence?

[ANOTHER] Yes, they're like that as individuals. They also partake in a fair amount of homosexual behavior- enough to put a smile on an Economist contributor.

There's a population density that exists when with Muslim communities when the crazy starts to take over. Muslims have their most freedom when not living within Muslim communities. At a certain point, collectively, they start placing demands on the larger community. Larger still they start demanding society submit to the precepts of Islam.

But you're right- in ones and twos they're great.

[ANOTHER] If you have a poisoned well, you dont attempt to disinfect every water molecule. You go to the source and remove the poison itself, then drain the poisoned water.

Alternatively if you have a tree that is dying of a disease, you dont cut off leaves, you cut down the tree below the diseased portion.

All solutions that angry people, conservatives and politicians are offering are just snipping leaves on a dead and dying tree.

There is a single source of extreme muslim ideology, and a single source of funding that is distributed globally. There are no questions about who is behind this, or where it is coming from.

Until we face that problem, nothing will change.

[ANOTHER] Radical Muslims are in charge of the killing. Moderate Muslims are in charge of PR. [The Economist] Read more

17 June 2017

Taboo-breaking liberal mosque opens in Berlin

With a mission to spread a liberal form of Islam, a mosque where men and women pray side by side has opened its doors in Berlin, complete with female imams.

The Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar" ('God is greatest') resonated through the crowded Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque Friday as US-Malaysian Ani Zonneveld, one of the world's few female imams, launched the call to prayer.

Then one of the founders of the new place of worship, lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates, opened the event with words of welcome before Christian and Jewish guests and a large media contingent.

"We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion," said Turkish-born Ates, 54, dressed in a long white robe. "We want to practise our religion together."

Ates -- no stranger to breaking taboos, having called for a "sexual revolution" in the Muslim world -- vowed she would not allow ultra-conservatives "to rob me of my right to be Muslim".

Kneeling on green carpets, the faithful -- men and women, side by side -- bowed to Mecca for the traditional prayer as the imam spoke in German.

Some of the women wore veils or head coverings, others did not.

The new mosque, the 88th in the German capital, is located in a rented room on the third floor of the Protestant Johanniskirche (St. John's Church) building. [AFP] Read more

Muslim 'peace march' held in Germany but turnout disappoints

A Muslim "peace march" against terrorism has been held in the German city of Cologne but has drawn fewer participants than organizers had hoped for.

The dpa news agency reported that a few hundred people gathered for the demonstration Saturday, with placards such as "Together against terror" and "Hatred makes the earth hell," and the crowd later grew to over 1,000.

The organizers had expected several thousand protesters.

The country's biggest Islamic association had refused to take part in the march. The Turkish-Islamic Union argued it would send the wrong signal by suggesting that international terrorism is mainly a Muslim problem. It also said Muslims observing the Ramadan fast couldn't be expected to march for hours in summer temperatures.

That stance drew criticism from the government, which welcomed the march. [The Associated Press] Read more

Muslims today face a deep malaise. We must confront it

.... I’m tired of seeing my faith trapped in a cancerous cycle of terror, reduced to a vapid discussion of veils, burqas and burkinis, and held back by an obsessive fixation with fatwas. An imam who condemns music because it might turn young people into apes and pigs is simply an aberration to Muslim theology. We have far more important questions in need of urgent answers. Questions that should haunt our present and perturb our daily existence as adherents of this faith.

What keeps me awake at night is how we plunged into this sorry state of decline. Why we suddenly stopped thinking and inventing, we who gave the world astronomy, chemistry, algebra, surgery, the university, musical scales and coffee. How can we reconcile the anarchic savagery of our worst Muslims today with the humanist generosity of our best Muslims of yesterday? What have we to offer the world today? [The Guardian] Read more

16 June 2017

Call for legal clarity on rights of polygamous families

Urgent attention should be given to introducing legislation to clarify what rights and obligations apply to polygamous families living in Ireland, a Supreme Court judge has said.

The comment by Mr Justice Frank Clarke was made in a ruling where the court found that the first marriage of a Muslim man who had married two women in Lebanon, as is allowed there, was a valid marriage in Irish law.

The second marriage, the court ruled, could not be recognised here but that did not compel the State to “deny all legal effect to polygamous marriages in all contexts”.

The man and his two wives, and a number of children by both women, all live in the State.

“There is no particular reason why a marriage should not be given recognition for certain purposes, as has been done in many instances in the courts of the United Kingdom,” Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said in the main judgment.

She was supported by Mr Justice Frank Clarke, who said the courts in the UK, France and Germany, all of which had significant Muslim populations, have had to deal with questions about the rights of people in polygamous marriages that were lawful in the countries where they had occurred. [THE IRISH TIMES] Read more

BBC acknowledges complaint against booking of ‘Islamophobic’ guest on Today programme

The BBC has acknowledged a complaint that it failed to properly introduce a guest on the Today programme who has previously been described as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes”.

The Radio 4 team failed to “challenge” Gaffney’s “conspiracy theories about Muslims and Islam” when he appeared on the show in January, according to complainant Miqdaad Versi.

Gaffney was introduced on the programme as “the Assistant Secretary for Defense under President Reagan, and founder of the Centre for Security Policy based in Washington”.

Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said this did not it make clear to the audience that he was “associated with an anti-Muslim conspiratorial viewpoint”.

In his complaint, Versi argued that the BBC had failed to “rigorously test” Gaffney’s contentious views on Sharia law and the Muslim Brotherhood.

He told Press Gazette: “It is hugely worrying that our publicly funded BBC is providing an unchallenged platform to bigots, normalising their spread of hatred of Muslims. [Press Gazette] Read more

Where burqas are banned: Germany's first 'liberal mosque' to open in Berlin

The country's very first "liberal" mosque is set to open its doors on Friday in the capital - and inside a Protestant church.

The brainchild behind the mosque is feminist, peace activist and lawyer Seyran Ates, who moved to Germany from Turkey at the age of six. It will allow men and women to pray and preach together rather than separately.

“Fundamentally, the mosque’s door is open for everyone, with one exception: No one will come in with a niqab or burqa,” Ates told Spiegel Online.

“This is for security reasons, and also it is our belief that full-face veils have nothing to do with religion, but rather are a political statement.”

Lesbians, gay men, and transgender believers will also be welcome.

Ates explained that she felt it was “ultimately irresponsible” as a progressive Muslim woman to simply rant about conservative Islamic organizations, rather than to start her own. She also said the Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had once told her that liberal Muslims should band together, which helped inspire the idea. [The Local] Read more

'We will break every bone': Islamist leaders threaten Bangladeshi lawyer

Human rights groups have warned about the safety of a prominent Bangladeshi lawyer after Islamist leaders threatened to “break every bone” in her body for defending the installation of a Lady Justice statue outside the country’s supreme court.

Sultana Kamal’s remarks on a television talk show last month have earned her death threats from Muslim hardliners in Bangladesh, where religious fanatics are suspected to have killed 30 activists and writers among others in the past four years.

Kamal, the chair of anti-corruption group Transparency International Bangladesh, appeared in a televised debate in May about a Lady Justice statue that was installed outside the supreme court building last year.

Bangladesh reproached over inquiry into torture and murder of activist

Islamist groups including the hardline Hefazat-e-Islam campaigned to have the statue torn down on the grounds that its presence was an example of idol worship, forbidden in Islam. [The Guardian] Read more

Turkish Islamist push may be to blame for removal of Atatürk inscription at Anzac Cove

The Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has removed from a revered Anzac Cove memorial the familiar words attributed to Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, likening Australia’s dead “Johnnies” to Ottoman “Mehmets” and welcoming them to rest in his country’s soil.

The renovation of the 1985 monument has heightened suspicions in Australia and Turkey that the refurbished memorial could reflect a growing Islamist interpretation by the Erdogan administration of Australia’s part in the 1915 British-commanded Anzac invasion of – and later retreat from – Gallipoli.

The near demolition of the monument bearing Atatürk’s words, which began in mid to late May, is part of a process of “restoration” of all Turkish memorials and epitaphs on the Gallipoli peninsula. But sources in Australia and Turkey believe the motivations behind the restorations could be in part political and are likely to reflect Turkey’s greater emphasis on religion in history and culture under Erdogan. [The Guardian] Read more

1,000 Lashes For Raif Badawi

Every Friday morning, a small group of us, sometimes three, sometimes five, hold a vigil outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. We’re the most genteel and well-behaved protestors anyone could want, yet the embassy always posts a guard behind the railings, watching and monitoring us.

As they must be watching and monitoring vigils across the world every Friday morning. Because we’re not the only ones outraged by a barbaric, medieval sentence on a man who merely used peaceful words.

Five years ago, on 17th June 2012 Raif Badawi was arrested by the Saudi Arabian authorities, for allegedly “insulting Islam through electronic channels”. Raif had taken to his keyboard and set up a liberal website. An action which would have gone completely unremarked in this country and many others. [Spiked] Read more

15 June 2017

First marriage of Lebanese man with two wives recognised under Irish law

A seven-judge Supreme Court has unanimously ruled the first marriage of a man living here with two wives whom he married in his native Lebanon is valid under Irish law.

While his second marriage is not valid here, it may have legal consequences and the court’s findings do not compel the State to deny all legal effect to polygamous marriages in all contexts, the court stressed.

This case was rooted in the immigration area and it “may be desirable” to have some regard to the reality of familial bonds, it said.

A marriage that is only “potentially” polygamous (where a man has one spouse but the relevant legal system would permit subsequent marriages) is capable of being recognised under Irish law and public policy does not require such a marriage should not be recognised because a man later contracts a second marriage, the court held.

Recognition of an “actually” polygamous marriage would be contrary to a fundamental constitutional principle – of equality – and therefore contrary to public policy, it ruled. [THE IRISH TIMES] Read more

Richard Dawkins: Islam Is ‘the Most Evil Religion in the World’

Professional atheist Richard Dawkins told an audience this week that Islam is “the most evil religion in the world,” and therefore must be combatted.

While opposed to all religion, the British evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion has been rethinking his positions and insisting that certain distinctions must be made between one religion and another.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival Sunday, Dawkins said that while it’s tempting to say that all religions are bad, “it’s a worse temptation to say all religions are equally bad because they’re not.”

“If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam,” he said.

In the face of growing Islamic terror, Dawkins has begrudgingly admitted that Christianity may actually be society’s best defense against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world.

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings,” Dawkins said in a text that is making its way around social media. “I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.”

Despite his animosity toward Christianity, Dawkins has acknowledged that the teachings of Jesus Christ do not lead to a world of terror, whereas followers of radical Islam perpetrate the very atrocities that he laments. [Breitbart London] Read more

14 June 2017

Amsterdam top cop meeting rank-and-file officers over headscarf policy

Amsterdam police chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg is visiting all the stations and officers under his command this week to talk about his proposal to allow headscarves with the police uniform. He hopes to soothe tempers and regain support, AD reports.

The Amsterdam top cop cleared his schedule until Thursday so that he can visit all police teams in the Dutch capital. In 15 sessions of 1.5 hours he will talk to officers and address the fierce criticism that arose after he made the headscarf suggestion.

Aalbersberg wanted to allow the wear of a headscarf, or hijab, with the police uniform in an attempt to attract more new officers with a ethnic minority background, and thereby increase diversity in the Amsterdam corps. But after a storm of criticism, National Police chief Erik Akerboom decided not to allow it. He said that he completely supports diversity in the Dutch police, but there is currently no support for this measure. [NL Times] Read more

Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Congress: Political Islam ‘Incompatible with the U.S. Constitution’

.... During a hearing on Islamic ideology and terror held by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Wednesday, Ali testified alongside the former U.S. official who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“My central argument is that political Islam implies a constitutional order fundamentally incompatible with the US Constitution and with the ‘constitution of liberty’ that is the foundation of the American way of life,” proclaimed Ali in her written testimony.

She later stressed, “Let it be said explicitly: the Islamists’ program is fundamentally incompatible with the US Constitution, religious tolerance, the equality of men and women, the tolerance of different sexual orientations, the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and other fundamental human rights.”

Ali explained that intimidation and advancing the goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society are fundamental tenets of political Islam.

.... The strategy used by the United States to combat violent Islamic extremism has “failed” because it has solely focused on acts of violence while ignoring the ideology that drives jihadists and Islamists, argued Ali. [Breitbart] Read more

Germany presents racism action plan, invests millions into preventing extremism

Newly-appointed Family and Youth Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) on Wednesday called to further strengthen efforts to prevent all forms of extremism, calling for a federal law on the prevention of extremism to stabilize projects and initiatives against, for example, right-wing extremism.

Although there is now more money available for prevention, "we aren't yet on target," Barley said on Wednesday.

Announcing the findings of a report into extremism prevention, Barley said at a press conference in Berlin that in fighting Islamist extremism, "we must not wait until young people have become radicalized."

"Security and prevention must go hand in hand," she added. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Muslim Reformers Versus Islam Apologists: A Brief Field Guide

First of all, it’s important to stress that it is dangerously paranoid to see all Muslims as “bigots”, “misogynists” or potential “jihadists”. Each person, whatever their race, skin colour, religious affiliation or nationality is an individual and must always be judged on his or her personal merits.

There are many exceptionally brave, enlightened Muslims and ex-Muslims risking their lives to try to spread humanitarian values in the Muslim-majority world and Muslim communities in the West. I also know my own real life friends of Muslim background would never condone violence or oppression. I would unhesitatingly trust my personal Muslim friends with my life.

But I’m really tired of apologists trying to pretend there isn’t a problem within the Muslim world. There can be no doubt that both Islamic terrorism and Islamofascism inspired by regressive interpretations of Islam are huge problems worldwide.

This isn’t a battle between East and West, and this isn’t a battle between brown people and white people, nor is it a battle between non-Muslims and Muslims.

This is a struggle between, on the one hand, those fighting for human rights and humanitarian values, and on the other hand, those who favour regressive values and theocracy. When a Saudi woman is caned because her hijab slipped, a gay man stoned to death by an angry crowd, a blogger imprisoned for life for stating he is an atheist, a young man forced into hiding because of death threats for ‘liking’ a Facebook post, an Indonesian woman caned for standing too close to her boyfriend in public, or a ‘blasphemer’ who allegedly said something rude about the prophet killed by a mob and the killer later lionised and celebrated – none of that is a response to the West. [Conatus News] Read more

13 June 2017

Pakistan Issues First Death Sentence for Digital Blasphemy

On Saturday, Taimoor Raza was sentenced to death in Bahawalpur, a city in southern Punjab, Pakistan, for alleged blasphemy. While the accused was yet another in a long list of victims of the country’s blasphemy law, who have either been arrested or were casualties of mob violence, Raza is the first to be sentenced to death for blasphemy on social media.

Raza, a Shia Muslim, has been accused of insulting the wives of Prophet Muhammad, among other prominent personalities of Sunni Islam.

According to Section 298-A of Pakistan’s Penal Code, defiling “the sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), or any of the righteous Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen)” carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison.

However, Raza has simultaneously been charged with breaching section 295-C of the Penal Code, which sanctions death for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. The second charge has been added to “maximize the penalty” for the accused.

That there are laws that sanction death for expressing views in the 21st century is an abomination in itself. But the fact that codification of these barbaric laws has penetrated the digital realm should be cause for severe backlash.

Last year Pakistan passed its cybercrime law, which upheld punishments for Penal Code crimes in the digital sphere as well, ensuring that blasphemy committed online would get the death sentence. However, the Penal Code being upheld hasn’t prevented calls for a section of the cybercrime law to be dedicated to blasphemy, to forestall the “crime” from being interpreted leniently.

Following the passage of the cybercrime law, the state has formally been at war with online dissent, most of which is dedicated to violently suppressing critique of religion. [The Diplomat] Read more

Mak Chishty lashes out at British Muslims

There was something depressingly familiar about Mak Chishty’s article in the Times this weekend. What is depressing is that, once again, we have a person who has been in a position to positively influence the implementation and outcome of counterterrorism strategies, but is instead playing the counter-productive blame-game.

Chishty himself is far from a popular figure amongst large swathes of British Muslims. This reputation is fuelled by several comically misguided past statements, such as when he claimed that Muslims who stopped eating at McDonalds, or shopping at Marks and Spencers are showing signs of radicalisation. If only it were as simple as Chishty suggests. If only we could profile the queues at Nandos, or analyse purchasing trends at Tescos – perhaps focusing on those who switch from buying ‘British’ potato salads to ‘Middle Eastern’ hummus.

In this recent article, and in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, Mak Chishty discusses, quite passionately, how he considers Muslim communities to have “failed in combating extremism.”

Firstly, (and somewhat obviously) it is interesting that Chishty makes no mention to the fact that Muslim communities made several attempts to prevent the attacks at both London Bridge and Manchester Arena – indeed, Muslim communities, leaders and individuals did everything they could to make the authorities aware of the danger that the perpetrators posed. [MEND] Read more

Muslims should take to Facebook to condemn extremism, retired police chief suggests

British Muslims should use Facebook and WhatsApp to denounce extremism because the public no longer believe Imams when they condemn terror attacks, a former police chief has said.

Mak Chishty, who retired last week as Britain's most senior Muslim police officer, said people have "had enough" following the London Bridge attacks, adding that it was time to stop "skirting around the issues" and have some "very difficult conversations".

Issuing a "call to action" to all British Muslims, he urged them to launch a social media blitz to let the rest of the country know how strongly they feel about extremism.

Mr Chishty said community leaders were always quick to denounce acts of terror, but sadly their condemnation was no longer being taken seriously because the recent attacks had marked a turning point.

Speaking to an audience at the think tank, Reform, in central London, he said: "It has been a turning point because people have had enough. I don't agree with that but I understand it." [The Telegraph] Read more

12 June 2017

Norway to ban full-face veil in nurseries, schools and universities

Norway is proposing a ban on the Muslim full face veil and other face-covering clothing because it says it hinders communication between pupils and teachers.

The ban, the first in Scandinavia, targets the niqab as well as burqas, balaclavas and masks, and would apply in nurseries, schools and universities.

However headscarves, hats and caps could continue to be worn.

Most parties support the bill, which is expected to pass next year.

"These clothes prevent good communication, which is important for students to receive a good education," Minister of Education and Research Torbjorn Roe Isaksen said in a statement.

Interim Minister of Immigration and Integration Per Sandberg said being able to communicate with one another was a "fundamental value".

Local authorities in Norway can already ban the full-face veil in schools but there is no national policy. [BBC] Read more

It isn’t just young people who have turned to Labour. Muslims have too

Muslim voters had the potential to affect the outcome of 33 swing seats in which the Conservative party was first or second – and in all bar one, there was a swing of well over 10% towards the Labour party (compared with a national swing of about 2%). Not only did the Tories fail to win even one of these seats held by Labour, they lost eight of the 12 marginals where they were the incumbent party.

The pull of Jeremy Corbyn’s broader anti-austerity message “for the many, not the few”, appears to have been a key driver for that result, striking a chord among many Muslims for whom public services and decreasing inequality are key priorities. His success with young voters would also disproportionately affect Muslim communities, given that half the British Muslim population is under the age of 25.

Yet we cannot ignore other Muslim-specific issues that may have played a role in pushing Muslims away from the Conservative party.

On the key issue of Islamophobia, the party appears to have ignored the huge increase in hate crime against Muslims on its watch. During the election campaign, when Amber Rudd (who has retained her position as home secretary) was asked how to stop ill-feeling towards Muslims on the ITV’s Peston on Sunday, she said: “We need to do more to prevent grooming in these communities” – a worrying victim-blaming approach to tackling hate crime. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Norway seeks full-face veil ban in schools and universities

The Norwegian government has proposed a ban on full face veils in schools and universities. The law would apply to students taking part in introductory programs and language courses for newly-arrived refugees.

Norway became the latest European nation to propose a ban on burqas and niqabs on Monday, with the proposal set to apply to all educational facilities.

"Garments that cover the face prevent communication that is key for pupils and students in their learning," said Education Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen. "Norway is an open society where everyone should be able to see each other's face."

Employees who insist on flouting the ban would lose their jobs while students could face expulsion from their courses. It would include full face veils like the niqab, as well as balaclavas and face masks.

The ban is expected to get parliamentary support, with media expecting the government to pass the bill in the early part of next year. The law was proposed by the government, a coalition of center-right Conservatives and the populist Progressive Party, and is supported by smaller centrist parties and opposition groups on the left. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

'Facebook blasphemer' given death penalty

A man accused of posting blasphemous content to Facebook has been sentenced to death by a court in Pakistan.

Taimoor Raza was convicted after allegedly posting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, his wives and companions within the site's comments.

The public prosecutor involved said he believed it was the first time the death penalty had been awarded in a case related to social media.

Human rights campaigners have expressed concern.

Facebook itself has yet to comment on the case.

The US firm previously announced in March that it was deploying a team to Pakistan to address the government's concerns about blasphemous content on its service, but added that it still wished to protect "the privacy and rights" of its members.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has described blasphemy as being an "unpardonable offence". [BBC] Read more