25 December 2018

The Rubber Whip: Extremist Persecution of Christians, October 2018

.... Iran: Two Muslim converts to Christianity were respectively sentenced to 18 and 12 months in prison for "spreading propaganda against the regime." However, the verdict appears to have been more specific: it reportedly said that, "believing in the Bible's authority and Jesus as Lord are attacks against Islam." Mike Ansari, an Iranian Christian activist, explained:

"If there is no codified law with respect to a particular issue, judges must deliver their judgments on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources. Iranian courts typically follow the lead of conservative clerics such as Ayatollah Khomeini who viewed apostasy a crime punishable by death.

.... In the last few years, most extrajudicial killings in Iran have been slowly replaced with arbitrary arrest and detention. Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends, under the threat of criminal persecution or arrest of family members."

Around the same time that these two Christians were sentenced for "believing in the Bible's authority," Iranian president Hassan Rouhani boasted before the United Nations of his nation's human rights record. His government, he said, was dedicated to "moderation and respect for human rights." He added, "We in Iran strive to build peace and promote the human rights of peoples and nations. We never condone tyranny and we always defend the voiceless. We never threaten anyone..." [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Why the West Must Safeguard Free Speech

.... The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) -- made up of 57 mostly Muslim-majority states(56 plus "Palestine") -- disagrees. In its 8th observatory report on Islamophobia, the OIC states, "...there is a need... to work with the media to promote the understanding of responsible use of freedom of speech... [and]... Hold the media accountable for perpetuating hate speech and extremism." The OIC's Media Strategy in Countering Islamophobia and its Implementation Mechanisms describes one part of its strategy as:

"To call media professionals to develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct to counter Islamophobia. The OIC and its Member States should be vocal in calling media professionals to use the power they have with responsibly through accurate reporting.."

What, however, if those two requirements -- accurate reporting and countering Islamophobia -- conflict with each other?

Unfortunately, many in the Western media have been acceding to such demands, either because they agree that being critical of radical Muslims constitutes "Islamophobia," or out of fear of being accused of it. The social media giant, Facebook, for example, often uses a selective definition of "hate speech" to justify censoring certain pages and posts. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

24 December 2018

Parliament Rejects Motion To Ban Marriage Of Girls Under Thirteen

A parliamentary motion banning child marriage in Iran has been rejected by Majles (parliament), an MP reported.

A member of women's faction in the Islamic Republic's parliament, Tayyebeh Seyavoshi says, "The Legal and Judicial Commission of Majles has rejected a parliamentary motion that proposed a ban on allowing under thirteen-year-old girls to marry."

Following the rejection, Ms. Seyavoshi says, "We are waiting for the Commission's official report, and then, decide on our next step."

According to a member of the Legal and Judicial commission, Yahya Kamalpour, the motion was rejected after Grand Ayatollahs and sources of emulation" vehemently opposed it.

Without referring to a time frame, Ms. Seyavoshi announced that more than 300 girls under nine, and between 30,000 to 40,000 girls under 13-14 years old marry in Iran. [Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] Read more

Muslims love Jesus. So why does everyone think we hate Christmas?

It’s Christmas time and so it hasn’t taken long for a national newspaper to run a feature implying British Muslims are poorly integrated for “refusing to celebrate a Christian holiday”. The irony of this pernicious Islamophobia, feebly hiding behind the banner of defending the Judeo-Christian values of our country, is that it is bereft of any meaningful understanding of Islam.

You see, the thing is, Muslims love Jesus.

In fact, the Prophet Muhammad said: “The dearest person to me in friendship and in love, in this world and the next is Jesus, the son of Mary.”

Respect to one of our local mosques who have filled up fridges on the street outside and said help yourself if you need food over Christmas.

But if Muslims respect Christians (and other faiths) why did 51 Islamic states effectively repudiate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion, when in 1990 they signed up to the ersatz Cairo Declaration, which asserts that all human rights are subservient to sharia law? In some of these states Christians are routinely persecuted and face extinction. [The Independent] Read more

21 December 2018

French Imam Indicted Over Antisemitic Sermon in Which He Cited Hadith Urging Violence Against Jews

The imam of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse, Mohamed Tatai, was indicted this week for “public verbal provocation to hatred or violence” following an investigation into an antisemitic sermon he gave last year, French media outlets reported on Friday.

In the remarks in question, Tatai cited a hadith saying that on Judgment Day the Muslims will fight and kill the Jews.

A video of the Dec. 2017 sermon was published online, and a translated excerpt (courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute) can be viewed below:

The incitement charge was brought by the Toulouse Prosecutor’s Office.

In an interview with a French media outlet this past summer, Tatai claimed his words were taken “out of context” and that he had not called for violence.

In 2012, an Islamist gunman killed four Jews — a rabbi and three students — at a school in the southern French city. [Algemeiner.com] Read more

Boris Johnson cleared of breaking Tory rules over burka comments

Boris Johnson has been cleared of breaking the Tories' code of conduct with comments he made about women wearing burkas.

He had written that they looked liked "letter boxes" or "bank robbers" in a Telegraph column in which he argued against a ban on full-face veils.

It prompted dozens of complaints but it is understood an independent panel said he had been "respectful and tolerant".

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis and Theresa May had called on him to apologise.

Responding to the news, the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body for 500 mosques, schools and associations, said it failed to see how Mr Johnson's comments "were 'respectful' and 'tolerant' as the panel has concluded".

The group claimed Mr Johnson's column had led "to copycat verbal assaults against Muslim women"

The founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Lord Sheikh, wrote to Mr Lewis after Mr Johnson wrote the column in August, demanding "serious action".

The Conservative Party has been accused of not doing enough to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice in its ranks, despite an initiative to boost tolerance and diversity. [BBC] Read more

Asia Bibi’s Case Reveals Islamists’ True Colors

This past October, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman who had spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy. Following her acquittal, extremist groups across Pakistan, including the prominent Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), violently protested against the decision and called for Bibi to be executed. Islamists have reportedly been going “house to house” to track down her family.

After striking a deal with leading Islamist parties, the Pakistani government has prevented Bibi from leaving Pakistan. Now, her husband has appealed to the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. to provide the Bibi family with asylum. But while dozens of organizations across the United States have expressed their support for Bibi and the asylum request, there is one group that remains conspicuously silent: the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

.... For years, Muslim organizations in America have been at the forefront of the movement for more progressive immigration policies. ICNA and Islamic Relief both showcase their work for refugees on their websites, and have promoted rallies and demonstrations led by progressive, pro-immigration crowds. Islamic Relief insists that refugees do not leave willingly and that “the choice to leave home is excruciating,” while ICNA regularly posts articles chronicling its efforts to assist refugees.

But these prominent American Islamist organizations do not appear keen to extend all this progressive rhetoric to Asia Bibi, whose life is in total, irrefutable danger, as JI and other Islamist movements actively and violently campaign for her execution. [The American Spectator] Read more

20 December 2018

The MEND connection

Despite being mentioned only once in the main body of the report (p. 51), it is clear that MEND, an organisation with a tarnished reputation in Government circles, has exerted an important intellectual influence on the APPG. Indeed, the group has long been pushing for the same kind of expansive definition of Islamophobia – as reflected in its own lengthy report on the subject earlier this year.

The connection between the APPG report and the MEND agenda is not simply intellectual. As mentioned above, Dr. Perra was, until recently, also a member of MEND but no mention is made of this affiliation. In a similar vein, the APPG makes reference to evidence it took from the “Islamophobia Response Unit” (IRU). But it fails to mention that the IRU was created in April 2017 by MEND.

MEND has long been surrounded by controversy. Earlier this year, a senior MEND representative asserted that Muslims in the UK face a situation analogous to that of Jews in Nazi Germany before the Holocaust. Its former director of engagement, Azad Ali, is reported to have said in March 2017 that that month’s attack on Parliament, which killed five people, was “not terrorism”. In February 2018, Sir Mark Rowley, the outgoing Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and former head of Counter-Terrorism Command, stated that MEND was “seeking to undermine the state’s considerable efforts to tackle all hate crime”. [Policy Exchange] Read more

‘Muslimness’ and Islamism

.... A significant problem in the APPG’s report and its definition is the use of the term “Muslimness”. Despite the discussion of “intersectionality” and other jargon borrowed from the social sciences, the report essentialises religious identity in a way that leaves little room for other forms of identity.

It is the identity of an individual Muslim as “ a Muslim” which is held to explain his or her interaction with wider British society. But - as the report itself acknowledges only to ignore – the construction of social identity is complex and situational.

And what is “Muslimness” and who, exactly, would decide what the concept meant in practice? What would be disallowed or banned? These are important questions that are unanswered in the report. They are particularly relevant given the huge diversity of British Muslims – from the Middle East, Turkey and Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Europe itself.

There is, clearly, a risk that such terms would end up being policed by selfappointed gatekeepers. For example, in the Ofsted example mentioned above (p. 55), school inspectors are accused of Islamophobia for questioning the wearing of hijabs by girls at school.

The implication is that “Muslimness” must involve wearing hijabs, since only one interpretation of what it means to be Muslim is offered. For all the talk that Muslimness is not a single identity, there is very little pluralism in the report. There is no consideration given to Muslims who may feel that agencies such as Ofsted are protecting them from an attempt to impose a uniformity with which they do not agree. [Policy Exchange] Read more

Denmark, With an Eye on Muslims, Requires New Citizens to Shake Hands

Denmark will require anyone who takes Danish citizenship to shake hands at the naturalization ceremony, under a law passed on Thursday, which lawmakers say is aimed at Muslims who refuse on religious grounds to touch members of the opposite sex.

The law has prompted strong reactions from some of the mayors who must conduct such ceremonies, and who are upset that they will become the faces and fists of a policy they call awkward, “purely symbolic” and irrelevant to an applicant’s qualifications. They say the Danish Parliament, which approved the measure, has artificially elevated a social custom to a national value.

But Denmark is not alone. Authorities in Switzerland and France have recently cited “lack of assimilation” in rejection of citizenship to foreigners who refuse to shake hands with officials.

“If you arrive in Denmark, where it’s custom to shake hands when you greet, if you don’t do it it’s disrespectful,” said Martin Henriksen, a lawmaker who has been critical of Islam and is the right-wing Danish People’s Party’s spokesman on immigration. “If one can’t do something that simple and straightforward, there’s no reason to become a Danish citizen.” [The New York Times] Read more

Derby radio station fined £10,000 for broadcasting hate speech

A Derby-based radio station has been fined £10,000 for broadcasting hate speech.

Radio Ikhlas, which operates from premises in Lower Dale Road, Normanton, was found to have published “hatred” towards the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

Following an Ofcom investigation, which concluded in March, the regulator has this week announced its decision to fine the station.

The broadcast took place on September 7, 2017.

The Ahmadis, a Muslim movement, follows the teachings of the Qur’an but it is considered heretical by orthodox Islam since they do not believe that the Prophet Mohammed was the final prophet sent to guide mankind.

.... In the middle of the broadcast, there was a 21-minute segment, which commenced with the presenter referring to the fact that the programme was being broadcast on the anniversary of September 7 1974 - the day on which the Pakistani National Assembly voted on a bill and constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadi people to be non-Muslim.

The presenter made comments such as referring to Ahmadi people as “dangerous”; “liars”; “enemies of Islam, enemies of Pakistan, and enemies of our religion”. [Derbyshire Live] Read more

It’s wrong to treat British Muslims as a racial group

.... Muslims themselves rejected the idea that they constitute anything like a single separate “race” in the way that, say, black Africans might. Second, Britain is home to a uniquely wide range of Muslim communities. They differ in origin, with sizeable contingents with roots in the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, central and southeastern Asia, and Europe. And third, the facts of race are not a matter of personal choice; we cannot simply declare ourselves to be white, black or Asian. On the other hand, most of those who follow Islam pride themselves on the fact that they have actively chosen to adhere to a centuries-old belief system.

.... There’s a final, important lesson to be learnt from the APPG’s report. It speaks of Muslims as if maltreatment by white Britons were their only defining experience. It thus misrepresents the attitudes of most non-Muslims and diminishes Muslim identity to that of the perpetual victim. Before the government or any institution adopts a definition that treats British Muslims in this way, much deeper thought is required. [The Times (£)] Read more

19 December 2018

Human rights court rules against Greece in Sharia law case

Greece violated a prohibition on discrimination by applying Islamic religious law to an inheritance dispute among members of the country's Muslim minority, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Wednesday.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ruled Greece violated the European Convention on Human Rights by applying Sharia law in the case, under which a Muslim Greek man's will bequeathing all he owned to his wife was deemed invalid after it was challenged by his sisters.

The man's widow, Chatitze Molla Sali, appealed to the European court in 2014, having lost three quarters of her inheritance. She argued she had been discriminated against on religious grounds as, had her husband not been Muslim, she would have inherited his entire estate under Greek law.

The European court agreed. It has not yet issued a decision on what, if any, penalty it will apply to Greece.

"Greece was the only country in Europe which, up until the material time, had applied Sharia law to a section of its citizens against their wishes," the court said in its ruling. [AP] Read more

Where 'tolerance' means a crackdown on Christians

With Christmas just a few days away, Shima and Shokoufeh Zanganeh, two sisters from the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, remain in prison. Arrested Sept. 2 for the crime of converting to Christianity, they are expected to spend Christmas Day in the city’s Sepidar jail. Jamshid Derakhshan, arrested Nov. 30 on his way to a prayer meeting in a house church in the city of Hashtgerd, west of the capital Tehran, is also expected to spend Christmas behind bars.

According to the British charity Open Doors UK, the Zanganeh sisters and Derakhshan are victims of an alarming crackdown on Christians in Iran. During the first week of December, at least 114 Christians are known to have been arrested in Iran on charges of either proselytizing or converting to Christianity, which can be punished with a 10-year jail term.

While Christianity is officially tolerated in Iran, the Islamic courts avail themselves of several criminal provisions to persecute Christians, including “propagating against the Islamic Republic in favour of Christianity” and “orienting toward the land of Christianity,” or more ominously, “enmity against God” and “insulting the Prophet,” crimes that can carry the death sentence. [Ottawa Citizen] Read more

Sharia ‘law’ should not trump domestic law, ECHR rules

A Greek court was wrong to prioritise sharia 'law' provisions over those of the country's domestic legal code, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.

The ECHR ruled that the Greek Court of Cassation's decision to allocate a man's legacy according to the principles of sharia 'law' was incorrect.

It ruled that the difference in treatment which the man's wife suffered in comparison to a beneficiary of a will from a non-Muslim had not been objectively and reasonably justified.

The Greek court had ruled in favour of the man's two sisters, who claimed rights to his estate under sharia principles. There are provisions for the application of Islamic religious 'law' to Muslim Greeks in the Western Thrace region.

But on Wednesday the ECHR sided with the man's wife, Chatitze Molla Sali, who claimed his entire estate in line with his will. The court ruled that Greek domestic law should have taken precedence over sharia.

The court said "several international bodies" had expressed "concern" about the application of sharia 'law' to Greek Muslims in the Western Thrace region and the discrimination it creates. [National Secular Society] Read more

18 December 2018

Two Christian brothers sentenced to death for web blasphemy in Pakistan

Two Christian brothers have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, weeks after Asia Bibi was acquitted of the same crime following international outcry.

Qaiser and Amoon Ayub from Lahore were sentenced to hang by a district judge after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in articles and portraits posted on their website.

The brothers fled the country after they were first accused of the crime in 2011, but eventually returned home quietly. Amoon, 38, was then arrested at the airport trying to leave the country a second time and Qaiser, 44, was also held. The pair have been in Jhelum prison since 2014.

Both men were convicted last week of the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”, under strict blasphemy punishments covered by Pakistan's penal code. [The Telegraph] Read more

17 December 2018

Your husband is only 25% yours, the remaining 75% belongs to other women – Islamic scholar declares

Ustaz Abdulfattah Adeyemi, a renowned Islamic scholar and founder of Baynakum Family Counseling Center has told women that their husbands are meant to be shared with other women.

He advised Muslim women to share their husbands with other women, saying they have just 25 per cent access to their husbands, while the remaining 75 per cent belongs to other women, Punch reports.

The cleric said this in a paper entitled: “Charity, a path to Jannah,” which he presented in Abuja during the inauguration of Sisters of Jannah, a Muslim women’s charity organisation.

Charging women to be magnanimous in sharing their husbands, Ustaz admonished them “not to deny their husbands polygamy,” but should only pray that the husbands treat all equally in any action taken.

He regretted that some married women were “so over-protective” of their husbands, thereby denying the men their wishes of having more wives, describing such as “ungodly.”

Ustaz also said the over-protective tendencies of some women towards their husbands had made many men to devise “smart means” of engaging in illegal relationships outside their matrimonial homes, advising that the trend must stop. [Information Nigeria] Read more

16 December 2018

'A death Fatwa was issued against me': Australian ‘imam of peace’ goes into hiding after Islamic preacher from Pakistan calls for him to be killed

A 'fake' Australian imam has claimed an Islamic preacher from Pakistan called for him to be killed.

Mohammad Tawhidi tweeted the death fatwa that was issued against him by Mufti Ahmad Raza Sialvi, with photos of the call to kill on Sunday morning.

'Yesterday, a death Fatwa was issued against me by Mufti Sialvi of Pakistan,' his tweet read.

'First, I thank the officials who contacted me expressing their concerns and support.

'I’ve put all future meetings and events on hold until further notice. I’ll come out of this much stronger.'

Also known as an 'imam of peace' Tawhidi shared the translation of the death fatwa, which is a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority.

'Sharia Law Fatwa,' the translation began, 'In the Name of Allah.

'It has been reported from Imam Malik that whoever insults the companions of Prophet Mohammad: Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, Muawiya and considers them deviant has become a Kafir (disbeliever) and must be killed. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

15 December 2018

An 8-Year-Old Bride

After the mullahs' party imposed Sharia law in Iran and made it the official unquestionable law of the land, the authorities immediately changed the age of legal marriage to 9 for girls and 13 for boys. After 40 years, the Sharia-based law has not changed.

The prevalence child marriage "still remains far too high. In a set of 25 countries for which detailed analysis was conducted, at least one in three women marry before the age of 18, and one in five women have their first child before the age of 18." — World Bank.

According to official Iranian statistics, 180,000 child marriages take place there each year. In addition, in 2013 in Iran, a law was passed that allows men to marry their adopted daughters.

Facebook acted as an auction block for a child bride in South Sudan as recently as last month.

Unless the international community steps in and, instead of appealing to the Islamist leaders of Iran, applies pressure to get these laws changed, more children will be at risk. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

‘Theresa May has failed Pakistan’s Christians’: An interview with Asia Bibi’s lawyer

.... Malook was flown out of Pakistan, because his life was in danger. Since leaving the country, he has kept a low profile in his daughter’s home, a modest detached house in a cul-de-sac off a busy road in a UK city. He asks for the location not to be revealed.

The reason his life is in danger is because Malook was a key figure in one of the most renowned cases in recent times. He was the lawyer who defended Asia Bibi, a poor and illiterate 47-year-old Catholic woman who faced being hanged for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

In 2009, Bibi was at her work on a farm when she stopped to drink some water from a well, using someone else’s cup. She was told that she could not share utensils with a Muslim because she was ‘unclean’. This led to an argument about religion, and Bibi and her family were later beaten by a mob who extracted a ‘confession’. [The Spectator] Read more

14 December 2018

Baroness Warsi's attack on Sara Khan could have a chilling effect on criticism of Islamism

The Baroness is also Treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims which has just proposed the first working definition of Islamophobia. She wants the government to adopt this definition, which says that Islamophobia is “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

While the APPG insists it will not impair “free and fair debate” over Islam, judging by Warsi’s unseemly reaction to criticism of the definition, it may have a chilling effect on criticism of Islamist intolerance and extremism.

The Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan, observed that the APPG’s definition had nothing to say about Muslims who publicly target fellow Muslims with hatred, ridicule and occasionally death threats for not showing enough “Muslimness” by holding opinions about Islam with which their tormentors disagree.

Typical are barbs like “Sell-Outs”, “Native Informants”, and “Uncle Toms” for this too is “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness” just like the more common non-Muslim to Muslim racism.

Both Khan and the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, also a Muslim, have been victims of this abuse and it can have fatal consequences. British Muslims have been brutally murdered because they were not regarded as the right kind of Muslim.

Yet when Ms Khan, in a calm and measured way, wrote that countering Islamist extremism does not make one an Islamophobe, instead of providing reassurance to the Commissioner, Ms Warsi fired off a volley of tweets. “This opinion piece is confused on so many levels. When even Islamophobia itself can be used by @CommissionCE as a stick to beat those ‘nasty bad Muslims’. I despair Sara.” [The Jewish Chronicle] Read more

Two Christian brothers sentenced to death for blasphemy in Punjab

Qaisar and Amoon Ayub, from Lahore, were arrested in 2015 after one of the two was accused of posting offensive material against Islam on their website.

Qaisar and his wife Amina have three children, whilst Amoon is married to Huma, a teacher at Lahore Cathedral School.

The allegations surfaced in 2011 when they were accused of posting disrespectful material on their website; however, the accused say that their website was not active since 2009.

The two brothers have been held in Jhelum District Jail since their arrest. Additional Session judge Javed Iqbal Bosal informed them of the sentence directly in the prison for security reasons.

CLAAS, an interdenominational organisation dedicated to the victims of religious intolerance, has been representing the accused and now plans to appeal the sentence before the Lahore High Court.

Blasphemy charges tend to trigger violent reaction among Islamic radicals, who interfere with the proper operations of the court system and threaten judges. [AsiaNews] Read more

13 December 2018

Non-stunned Halal meat campaigner says Kirklees should have apologised to families

Kirklees Council has come under renewed attack for serving non-stunned halal meat in its schools.

It has been accused of being "deficient" in its handling of the issue and of its "ongoing failure to be transparent with families and the wider public".

In a deputation to a meeting of full council in Huddersfield Town Hall on Wednesday, Aleks Lukic, who set up an online petition calling for all meat served in the borough's schools to be stunned before slaughter, said the authority should have issued an immediate apology to local families concerned about the issue. He also provided advice enabling them to make informed choices.

Mr Lukic, added: "This council should also have immediately considered supplying alternative choices of meat to those schools where only non-stunned meat is currently served, while evaluating the case for stopping the supply of non-stunned meat altogether."

Mr Lukic said the petition, which attracted 7,000 signatures, was set up primarily to persuade the council to change its policy and uphold welfare standards during slaughter. [ExaminerLive] Read more

Government urged to adopt new definition of Islamophobia following rise in hate crimes

The government has been urged by more than 50 cross-party parliamentarians to adopt a new definition of Islamophobia which would classify discrimination against Muslims as a form of racism, The Independent can reveal.

Members of a cross-party group of MPs and peers have warned discrimination against Muslims in the UK is going “unreported and unchallenged” because of the absence of a concrete definition.

The warning comes weeks after official government statistics showed reports of racial and religiously motivated hate crime in England and Wales had risen for a fifth consecutive year.

Following six months of consultations with various groups, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims proposed “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness” as an official definition.

Now, in a cross-party letter from the APPG seen by The Independent, dozens of parliamentarians are calling on the government to adopt the phrase to clearly identify what constitutes discrimination against Muslims. [The Independent] Read more

10 December 2018

Egyptian Christian Receives Three-Year Prison Sentence for Insulting Islam

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 27, Coptic Christian Abd Adel Bebawy was sentenced by an Egyptian court to three years in prison for “insulting Islam in the first degree.” His lawyer was granted access to the verdict on December 6 and has opened an appeal which is expected to be heard at the end of December.

Bebawy was originally arrested in Minbal, a village located in Upper Egypt’s Minya Governorate on July 6, 2018. He had posted on Facebook an image of God, the angel Gabriel, and a verse from the Quran. The day after he was arrested and charged by the police, a mob gathered in Minbal and attacked several Christian homes. It is common for Islamic extremists in Egypt to collectively punish the Christian community for the perceived wrongs of one individual.

One Christian woman, Mariam, shared with ICC shortly following the July attack, “The mob stoned the houses of all the Christians (in Minbal). The Christians were afraid and all locked themselves in their houses and closed the wooden shutters of the windows.” [Persecution.org] Read more

Twitter warns critics of Islamic extremism that their tweets could break Pakistani law

Twitter has warned prominent critics of Islamic extremism that their tweets may break Pakistani law.

The social network has emailed two well-known commentators on Islam, terrorism and women’s rights to tell them that their tweeting has been complained about and could be illegal in the country.

Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content which the government had deemed “offensive”.

The recipients of the emails are not of Pakistani nationality or resident in Pakistan.

One of them, Saudi Arabia-born human rights activist Ensaf Haidar was contacted by Twitter’s legal department, who told her that the social network had received “official correspondence” about her account. [The Telegraph] Read more

09 December 2018

Home secretary urged not to adopt definition of ‘Islamophobia'

The National Secular Society has urged the home secretary to resist calls to adopt a formal definition of 'Islamophobia' which have been put forward by a parliamentary group.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans co-ordinated a letter to Sajid Javid on the subject after a high-profile reportfrom the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims.

The APPG's report recommended that the government define 'Islamophobia' as "a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness".

The NSS's letter has been co-signed by six other activists. A shortened version was published in the Sunday Times.

The letter called the APPG's definition "vague and unworkable" and said it "conflates hatred of, and discrimination against, Muslims with criticism of Islam".

"While we believe that in a liberal secular society individuals should be afforded respect and protection, we are clear that ideas should not." [National Secular Society] Read more

Acquitted of blasphemy and living in fear in Pakistan

Saima - not her real name- still hasn't recovered from her four years in solitary confinement in a small Pakistani prison cell.

"Even now I feel like I am in jail. You can see the scars on my legs from when I was chained."

Saima was sentenced to life imprisonment for having committed blasphemy, before her conviction was eventually overturned.

She says her jailers at times wouldn't give her food because she was Christian. "They would say, 'You disgraced our religion,'" she told the BBC.

She was accused of defiling the Koran and using it to perform exorcisms.

But Saima says her Muslim neighbours launched the case against her, following a petty fight between their children.

.... According to the Pakistani penal code, anyone convicted of insulting Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death, and anyone guilty of insulting "any religion" can be sent to jail for up to 10 years.

A spokesman for the police in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, declined to give figures on the number of blasphemy cases registered this year.

But at least 1,472 people were charged under the law between 1987 and 2016, according to advocacy group the Centre for Social Justice. [BBC] Read more

08 December 2018

The danger of the ‘Islamophobia’ label

MPs' official attempt to legally define ‘Islamophobia’ is deeply flawed.

Sadiq Khan is an Islamophobe. Not just any old Islamophobe, and not just in the woollier parts of the web. According to a group part-funded by the EU called the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), the mayor of London, a practising Muslim, is one of the four ‘politicians and figures of note in the UK who [have] flagrantly displayed the most Islamophobia’ in 2018.

Barack Obama is an Islamophobe. Cathy Newman, the Channel 4 News presenter, is an Islamophobe. So are Louise Casey, who led an inquiry into the Rotherham grooming scandal, Michael Wilshaw, the ex-head of Ofsted, and Maajid Nawaz, the Muslim counter-extremism activist. Over the last few years, all have been shortlisted for the coveted ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ trophy at the IHRC’s annual Islamophobia Awards, a real event with a real gala dinner in a real London hotel ballroom.

.... One of the APPG’s secretariat, Muhbeen Hussain, is from Rotherham, where in 2015 he organised the local Muslim community to boycott the police for their ‘Islamophobic’ behaviour after the child-sex grooming scandal. And the man who jointly coined the proposed definition of Islamophobia?

He is Salman Sayyid, ‘professor of social theory and decolonial thought’ at Leeds. But Professor Sayyid has another gig, too: he works with our very dear friends the Islamic Human Rights Commission. He’s even spoken at the Islamophobia Awards: the year they gave it to Barack Obama. [The Spectator] Read more

07 December 2018

Watchdog condemns Muslim Aid

The former management of Muslim Aid, one of Britain’s largest charities with a budget of £34 million a year, has been condemned by the Charity Commission for failing to safeguard against funding illegal groups.

The charity, which worked in some of the most sensitive conflict zones, failed to check whether its money was going to blacklisted groups. The failed group has been wound up and replaced by a new organisation with the same name.

The previous Muslim Aid was run by Islamic leaders including former senior figures in the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an influential lobby group. Its secretary was the physicist Muhammad Abdul Bari, who wrote an MCB paper on education with Tahir Alam, chairman of governors at one of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” schools.

One of the founding trustees was Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, whom a war crime tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced in his absence to hang. He has denied allegations linking him to the killing of pro-independence activists during the civil war in the 1970s. [The Times (£)] Read more

Isn't it time Bradford reviewed its policy on halal meat?

SIR - You have been reporting on the controversy that some schools in Kirklees serve meat from animals that are not pre-stunned before slaughter and yet in Bradford ALL the halal meat served in maintained schools is from non-stunned animals.

This information isn't given to parents and the Council's webpage goes into considerable detail about "the integrity of our halal food" but doesn't mention animal welfare or make it clear that the animals are not stunned before slaughter.

Given that evidence clearly indicates that slaughter without pre-stunning can cause unnecessary suffering and at least 75 councils across the UK only use meat that is pre-stunned (including at least 47 that provide halal) isn't it time Bradford Council was more transparent on this issue and reviewed its policy by consulting with residents and respected animal welfare organisations? [Telegraph & Argus] Read more

06 December 2018

NSS asks Google to remove Indonesian app for reporting blasphemy

The National Secular Society has written to Google to ask it to remove an app which encourages Indonesians to report people they suspect of religious 'heresy' to the authorities.

Two weeks ago the Indonesian government launched the Smart Pakem app, which allows Indonesians to report "deviant" religious ideas.

The app lists several religious minority groups, including the Ahmadiyah, Shia, and Gafatar. It names their leaders and Indonesian office addresses and describes their "deviant teachings".

Rights groups have condemned the app but it remains available on the Google Play store. It has received a series of negative reviews from people concerned about its impact on freedom of expression.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans has now written to Rajan Anandan, the vice-president of Google in south-east Asia, to ask the company to reconsider its decision to stock the app.

Mr Evans said the app would help Indonesia's government to crack down on freedom of expression and persecute religious minorities. [National Secular Society] Read more

05 December 2018

Parents of 13-Year-Old Syrian Girl Convicted in Swedish Court for Arranging Underage Marriage

A Swedish appeals court has confirmed a conviction against the parents of a 13-year-old Syrian girl for attempting to marry her off to a 24-year-old man, while the child’s intended husband has been found not guilty.

The court upheld a ruling from a Swedish district court that found the parents of the Syrian girl guilty for attempting to plan an arranged marriage in 2015.

The marriage contract had been signed between the young girl and her 24-year-old husband at an engagement party, a press release from the Court of Appeals of Western Sweden stated. [Breitbart London] Read more

Forced marriage law 'could stop victims reporting crime'

Criminalising forced marriage could stop victims from speaking up if their parents are locked up, campaigners say.

While legislation sends a "strong message," a charity working with victims said it also scared off others.

Rubie Marie, 35, who was forced to marry in Bangladesh when she was 15, said: "It is hard because you love your family of course you do... But at the end of the day abuse is abuse."

The Home Office said it was essential victims had confidence to speak out.

Forced marriage became a criminal offence in 2014, but only one case has been brought in Wales since then - with four convictions in total across the UK. [BBC] Read more

03 December 2018

Tensions rising in battle for German Islam

The blunders of German officials spurred heated responses from traditional Muslims at last week’s Islam Conference in Berlin, as the two sides seemed to take their positions in the fight for the future of Islam in Germany, and across Europe.

By calling for the end of foreign funding for mosques and a more secular-minded Islam, German officials and liberal-minded German Turks have in recent weeks sought to sideline the conservative Islam of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.

In response, all three leading Turkish Muslim organisations in Germany sent low-profile figures to the two-day event, instead of their leaders, as a form of protest, reported Diaspora Daily. Some 3 million people of Turkish origin call Germany home; no country is home to a greater share of the Turkish diaspora.

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which is an arm of the Turkish government, the German chapter of Turkey’s Islamist Millî Görüs movement (IGMG), and the Islamic Council (Islamrat) view several of the figures the government has chosen to invite to the event, and collaborate with, as having questionable Islamic credentials. They often criticise Seyran Ates, who runs an LGBT-friendly Berlin mosque, and former Green Party co-chair Cem Özdemir, leader of the recently launched Initiative for Secular Islam. [Ahval] Read more

Still thumbing their noses at the law: Muslim brothers haven't demolished their illegal religious hideaway months after being ordered to tear it down

Two Muslim brothers ordered to demolish an illegal religious compound north of Sydney have done almost nothing to abide by court orders made three months ago.

Mustapha and Diaa Kara-Ali were told to stop all work on the bushland hideaway at Colo in the Hawkesbury region but instead erected more buildings on the site.

On August 27 the Land and Environment Court ordered the pair to demolish and remove sheds, slabs, fences and every other structure they had illegally built on the property within 28 days.

.... The Kara-Ali brothers had previously said they would not obey Australia law and indicated they would refuse to abide by any court rulings over their religious retreat.

They refused to acknowledge legal action brought by Hawkesbury City Council and for months ignored all orders of the Land and Environment Court.

Mustapha Kara-Ali had told Daily Mail Australia he would refuse council officers access to the land, stating they were 'Cruasaders' and an affront to Islam.

He and Diaa refused to attend the court because they did not recognise its authority. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Ukip being turned into 'anti-Islamic party' that could soon have Tommy Robinson as leader, defectors say

Ukip is being turned into an “anti-Islamic party” that could soon have Tommy Robinson as one of its leaders, according to alarmed defectors.

Three MEPs have resigned in a little over two months, amid infighting over leader Gerard Batten’s shift towards the far right.

Robinson is currently banned from becoming a member by party rules, but has been inciting his supporters to join Ukip so they can influence its policies.

The national executive committee (NEC) delayed a potential ballot on Robinson’s membership until after Brexit in March, but Mr Batten responded by making him an “adviser” on grooming gangs and prisons.

Defectors believe Mr Batten will be further emboldened by surviving a vote of no confidence mounted by supporters of former leader Nigel Farage on Sunday. [The Independent] Read more

We Are Still Ignoring Victims Of Anti-Muslim Prejudice

Muslim women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of anti-Muslim attacks, but too often, they are also the target of hatred from other Muslims.

.... This failure to recognise that Muslims can be abused, attacked, even killed, by other Muslims because of their ‘Muslimness’ is a blind spot in our public debate and detrimental to the well-being of British Muslims and those of Muslim heritage.

Finally, this definition worries me as Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism because it is alarmingly ambiguous when it comes to those who are brave enough to speak out about Islamist extremists and Muslim hate groups.

I’ve seen how some Muslim hate groups promote gender-based violence, homophobia and anti-Semitism. Islamist extremism – just like all forms of extremism - has a damaging impact on Muslims and everyone else in our country.

But too often when Muslim and non-Muslim civil society groups who are motivated by a passion for equality, community cohesion, social justice and human rights push back against hatred, they are subjected to abuse and written off as ‘Islamophobic’. We have seen the distressing consequences, in some Muslim countries, against those who are accused of “insulting Islam”. This has left many feeling deeply fearful. We cannot allow a definition of Islamophobia to have a chilling effect on this vital work.

We all want to live in a society free from hate, discrimination and violence and for people to be able to live their lives freely without fear.

It is high time that national and local anti-hate policy recognised all victims of anti-Muslim prejudice, provided support to them and challenged all perpetrators, regardless of their background. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

02 December 2018

Introduce special Act to protect Islam, Malay rulers

Right wing Malay movement Perkasa has proposed that a special Act, namely the Insulting Islam and the Malay Rulers Act or abbreviated as the ‘Amir’ Act be enacted to prevent actions or attempts to threaten the peace and harmony of the country.

Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali said the law could be enacted with the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers.

“This new Act proposed by Perkasa is the same as the one (lese majeste Act) implemented in Thailand right now. Perkasa suggests that the Act has two sections, the first part provides for detention without trial and the second, open to prosecution in court as a criminal offence.

.... Ibrahim said this punitive Act would act as a reminder and lesson to all parties not to touch on or insult the honour of Islam and the Malay Rulers, as the Malay Rulers are the head of Islam at state and federal levels.

Earlier, at noon, more than 100 Perkasa members had gathered peacefully for an hour at a hotel compound in Jalan Raja Alang here holdings placards and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’. [Malay Mail] Read more

"Burnt Beyond Recognition": Extremist Persecution of Christians, August 2018

.... another convert to Christianity, Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, inquired about the charge for which he was convicted: "Action against national security through the establishment of house churches."

On August, 2018, in an open letter to the Iranian court that sentenced him to ten years in prison, he asked, "is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone's home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security?

Isn't it a clear violation of civil and human rights, and an absolute injustice to receive a ten-year prison sentence just for organizing 'house churches...'" Iran is widely considered one of the top ten worst nations where Christians experience "extreme persecution." [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Egyptian actress could face up to five years in prison after wearing a see-through dress that showed off her legs at a film festival in Cairo

An Egyptian actress could face five years in jail after appearing on the red carpet wearing a see-through dress that showed off her legs.

Rania Youssef attended the closing ceremony of a film festival in Cairo on Thursday wearing a black leotard with a transparent over-dress embellished with a sequined criss-cross pattern and a bow belt.

Youssef, who is in her 30s, has now been charged with public obscenity and is set to stand trial on January 12 following a complaint by a group of lawyers to the chief prosecutor. [Daily Mail] Read more

Egyptian actor Rania Youssef charged with public obscenity after wearing 'revealing' dress at film festival

An Egyptian actor could face up to five years in prison if found guilty of public obscenity for wearing a see-through dress that revealed her legs.

Rania Youssef, an actor and model known for her roles in Egyptian films and television shows, attended the closing ceremony of a film festival in Cairo wearing the black dress, which had a gauze skirt.

Her appearance at the event on Thursday caused instant debate on social media.

Users were divided, with some subjecting Ms Youssef to abuse, and others defending her right to wear the dress.

Following the uproar, a group of lawyers complained to Egypt’s chief prosecutor about her appearance and she was subsequently charged with public obscenity. [The Independent] Read more

01 December 2018

Prevent critics 'on side of extremists,' says home secretary Sajid Javid

Sajid Javidhas attacked some critics of the government’s Prevent anti-terror scheme for being “on the side of the extremists.”

The Home Secretary warned there were organisations putting out propaganda and false information to turn people away from Prevent, which aims to combat radicalisation that might lead people into terrorism.

"There are organisations out there that are trying to find ways to warp young people's minds and they put out what you might call propaganda or false information to try and turn people away from it. We have to fight against that," he said.

Asked if its name should be changed as some critics have advocated, he said: "The thing about the name is that if you didn't call it Prevent, whatever other name we chose I'm sure there would be people trying to attack it because they actually are on the side of extremists."

Mr Javid did not name any groups but the most vocal critics have been Cage, Prevent Watch and the Muslim Council of Britain. [The Telegraph] Read more

Christians on brink of extinction in Middle East, warns Archbishop of Canterbury

.... Describing the “daily threat of murder” faced in the Middle East, the Most Reverend Justin Welby says Christians are experiencing “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th Century”.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Archbishop Welby, the most senior clergyman in the Church of England, calls on the Government to take in more refugees.

It comes as figures have revealed just one in 400 Syrian refugees given asylum in the UK last year were Christians despite them being subjected to “horrendous persecution”.

Highlighting their plight ahead of a special service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East, the Archbishop writes: “Christians face daily the threat of violence, murder, intimidation, prejudice and poverty.

.... “Many have left. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, 'Why stay?'

The Christian population of Iraq, for instance, is less than half what it was in 2003 and their churches, houses and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. The Syrian Christian population has halved since 2010. As a result, across the region Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction.” [The Telegraph] Read more

Extremist Tanveer Ahmed who murdered Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah held jail meet-and-greets with fantatics who hail him as a hero

Prison chiefs were forced to intervene after sickos flocked to see the knife nut at Shotts nick, Lanarkshire.

MP Siobhain McDonagh said: “The killing brought him rock star status. It’s terrifying.”

Extremist Ahmed signs photos and posters behind bars for the brainwashed Islamic fanatics who idolise him as a “celebrity”.

He regularly receives letters from supporters asking to visit and salute him in jail for stabbing newsagent Asad Shah to death over a Happy Easter message to customers.

Senior insiders at Shotts prison, Lanarkshire, say zealots from across the UK pray in the car park before going in for the vile meet-and-greets.

A highly-placed source said: “He’s hardcore when it comes to religion and other Muslim inmates are in thrall to him. [The Sun] Read more

Muslims demand full legal protection from Islamophobia

Muslim organisations are urging Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and all other party leaders to adopt a newly proposed working definition of Islamophobia in an attempt to put pressure on a reluctant Home Office to follow suit.

The Muslim Council of Britain and other Islamic groups want the Conservatives and Labour to take the lead in the aftermath of a week marked by public outrage over the alleged racist bullying of a 15-year-old Syrian refugee in Huddersfield.

The definition was set out in a report published by a cross-party group of MPs last week and says: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said his and other groups hoped political leaders would “all understand the importance of listening to communities” and make a “positive response” by adopting the definition.

.... However, a Home Office minister said earlier that the department had no intention of adopting a definition, in response to a question from one of the chairs of the cross-party group, the Conservative MP Anna Soubry. Victoria Atkins told the Commons in March that there were “many definitions of Islamophobia”, but added: “We do not accept the need for a definitive definition, but we know that Islamophobia is clearly recognised and that we have very effective monitoring systems of all race-hate crimes.” [The Guardian] Read more

30 November 2018

Condemnation of hate-preaching Winterthur imam upheld

Zurich cantonal court has upheld the conviction handed down one year ago to a Muslim preacher who worked at a Winterthur mosque, accused of spreading hate and inciting violence. The Ethiopian faces a suspended sentence and deportation.

The Zurich court on Friday rejected an appeal and confirmed last year’s verdict against the unnamed man by a district court: a suspended sentence of 18 months and 10-year deportation from Switzerland.

The trial on Friday was far from protracted: the 26-year-old defendant, appealing the conviction handed him in November 2017, declined to elaborate on the accusations, saying that he had already told authorities everything necessary.

Within half an hour, the questioning was finished, and the Ethiopian man had denied the charges – charges that included delivering a hate-speech-filled sermon in October 2016, propagating Islamic State violence, and working without a permit.

Specifically, the imam called, during his sermon at the now-defunct An’Nur mosque in Winterthur, for Muslims that don’t pray within the community to be “banned, rejected, shunned, and slandered until they return”. If this doesn’t work, they should be killed, he reportedly said. [swissinfo.ch] Read more

Anger over pork sausages at Germany Islam event

Germany's Interior Ministry has said it regrets serving pork sausage at a conference on Islam in Berlin earlier this week.

The ministry said the food selection had been designed for the "diverse religious attendance" at the German Islam Conference in Berlin.

But it apologised "if individuals felt offended in their religious feelings".

The event was led by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who in March said Islam "does not belong in Germany".

Most of the attendees at the Islam conference were Muslims, local media reported. Under Islamic law, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork.

The type of sausage on offer was blutwurst - or "blood sausage" - which is made of ingredients including pig's blood, pork and bacon. [BBC] Read more

29 November 2018

'There is no Sharia law on German soil': CDU candidate Merz

The candidate for the CDU presidency, Friedrich Merz, expects an unconditional commitment to the German legal system from the approximately 4.5 million Muslims in Germany, he said at a regional conference in Düsseldorf on Wednesday evening.

The former head of the Christian Union (CDU) faction took centre stage on Wednesday evening at a CDU regional conference in Düsseldorf, where the three most promising candidates presented themselves.

"There is no Sharia law on German soil," Merz said. Freedom of religion also applies to Muslims, he said, but they are subject to Germany's secular law.

Merz, who has been dubbed by German press as the 'anti-Merkel' due to his differing stances to the Chancellor and contrasting political style, also called for better state supervision of religious schools for Muslims.

"Our children cannot be taught in the state schools and indoctrinated in these schools," he said. [The Local] Read more


A GROUP of Christians is facing a five year jail term after they were arrested for handing out religious leaflets.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC) police stormed the group’s hotel rooms and arrested four people for ‘disturbing religious harmony.’ The incident happened in Malaysia where ICC said conservative locals complained to authorities over the group’s behaviour. Police in the tourist resort of Langkawi Island then raided the hotel where the Christians were staying and arrested two men and two women aged between 27 and 60.

ICC, an organisation which highlights the persecution of Christians across the globe, said Malaysian police received reports from local people who were unhappy about the missionaries, who are all from Finland, before raiding the hotel.

Police then searched the Christians' rooms and confiscated more than 300 leaflets which they had planned to hand out.

The Finns had only been in the country two days having flown more than 5,500 miles before their arrest. [Daily Express] Read more

Asia Bibi ‘shunned’ by UK officials, says Conservative MP

A CONSERVATIVE MP, Rehman Chishti, who has campaigned for Asia Bibi to be granted asylum in the UK, has clashed with the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief over government refusals to meet members of her family when they visited the UK.

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Roman Catholic farm worker acquitted of blasphemy charges last month (News, 2 November), is facing death threats from Islamist extremists. The RC charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has told reporters that vigilantes are going house-to-house looking for her. Mr Chishti cited the UK Government’s refusal to offer her asylum as one reason for his resignation as the Conservative vice-chair and trade envoy to Pakistan, two weeks ago.

Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, and her daughter Eisham Ashiq visited the UK in early October to speak at events organised by ACN, which had long campaigned for her release. Asia Bibi was acquitted only weeks later, but has been placed on a “no-exit” list after protests from extremists. [Church Times] Read more

The Saudi women detained for demanding basic human rights

Saudi Arabia continues to hold more than a dozen women rights activists in jail, months after a crackdown on dissent intensified in May.

Most of them campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom's male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.

In 1990, more than 40 women drove their cars in the capital Riyadh, the first public demonstration against the ban, which is now lifted. They also called for the abolishment of the male guardianship system.

Since then, other similar protests have been held, and the government initiated a crackdown on rights activists this year.

Those under arrest have been branded threats to national security and have been accused of being foreign agents. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the reason for the arrest is to silence the women and prevent others from participating in activism.

Rights organisations and governments around the world have called on the Saudi authorities to release all political prisoners, but to no avail. [Al Jazeera English] Read more

Germany plans mosque tax to curb radical preachers

Germany may impose a “mosque tax” on its five million Muslims in a measure partly designed to ward off meddling by Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The levy would be modelled on the church tax, under which the state raises about €12 billion a year from 46 million Germans, which it gives to various Christian and Jewish organisations.

Under the plans, Muslims would be liable to pay an 8 or 9 per cent surcharge on their income tax which would be distributed to German Islamic groups.

Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, who said eight months ago that Islam did not belong to his country, wants to root out “foreign influences” that he believes pervade German Islam.

About a third of the 2,700 mosques in Germany are run by an Islamic group sponsored by Turkey and are accused of acting as a mouthpiece for President Erdogan’s regime. Some of its imams have allegedly informed on dissident tendencies among their worshippers and led prayers for Turkish victories against Kurdish forces in Syria. [The Times (£)] Read more

28 November 2018

Hath not a Muslim eyes?

“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” This is a proposed definition urged on the Government by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. Let’s ponder it for a few moments.

Some people who hate Islam or Muslims or both are undoubtedly racists. But are all of them? We don’t believe so, for two main reasons. First, some are members of the same race – if that is quite the right term here – as very many Muslims themselves. It would not be easy to postulate a racial difference between, say, a Hindu and a Muslim originating from the Punjab. Second, others clearly detest Islam or Muslims for religious reasons, not racial ones.

We believe that hating Muslims is always wrong and hating Islam completely unreasonable. Then again, much hangs what one means by Islam. Like Judaism and Christianity, its fellow Abrahamic religions, Islam is a vast, multi-faceted, complex faith.

This site has always maintained that a distinction can and should be drawn between Islam and Islamism. The first is a great religion, the majority manifestation of which, throughout its history, has been the traditional, classical variety. The second is a politicised variant – a kind of bastard child of Salafist practice and western technology. ISIS are at one of its scale and the Muslim Brotherhood at another. On our view, one should be phobic about it. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Burka ban applies to everyone, including the large cities, Dutch PM says

The burka ban will apply to everyone, also the Netherlands' large cities, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in reaction to the news that the large cities won't prioritize enforcement of this ban on face covering clothing. "Let us first implement the law. Then the big cities will see that it also applies to them", he said.

Over the weekend Mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam said that the Dutch capital will not prioritize enforcing the ban. There are too few police officers in Amsterdam. If the priorities are set, the enforcement of the burka ban is at the bottom of the list, she said. Rotterdam and Utrecht will also not give the ban high priority.

Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs called the municipalities' position on the ban premature. The government is still discussing with all kinds of parties how the law will be implemented. But the government's position is clear - the law is the law and it applies to everyone.

The burka ban involves a ban on wearing face-covering clothing in public transit and public buildings like schools. It was adopted by the Dutch Senate over the summer. [NL Times] Read more

How Seehofer is pushing to 'replace foreign influence' at Islam Conference

On Wednesday and Thursday, the controversial Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CDU) is for the first time hosting the Islam Conference in Berlin, with integration as a top theme.

Shortly after becoming Interior Minister in March, Horst Seehofer announced that Islam "doesn’t belong to Germany" - a statement he has sought to reverse after the sharp criticism it generated.

The Bavarian interior minister, the host of this year’s Islamic Conference in Berlin, has said that Germany’s 4.5 million and growing Muslim population should live as part of German society rather than separately or even in opposition to it.

Namely, the Bavarian politician is pushing for mosques in Germany to train their imams in Germany rather than abroad, and depend less on foreign contributions, he announced in his opening talk on Wednesday.

Seehofer did not concretely say how mosques would receive funding in the future. He announced, however, that existing funding programmes for integration projects within the mosque communities would be expanded.

He wants to see that "German Muslims replace foreign influence not only organizing and financing their communities themselves, but also adapting imam training to their needs," Seehofer wrote in a guest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday. [The Local] Read more

Islamophobia driving belief in myths about Muslims in British society, MPs say

Harmful myths and lies about Muslims are now believed by a large section of the UK's population, contributing to discrimination across employment, housing, the criminal justice system and other areas of public life, a new report by MPs has found.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims found that “prevalent” Islamophobia was driving division, hate crime and even terror attacks.

.... While a report by market research company Ipsos Mori found that the majority of Muslims believe Islam is compatible with the British way of life, a separate survey of the wider population by polling firm YouGov, found that 46 per cent thought there was a “fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society”.

A separate study recently found almost a third of British people believe the myth of “no-go zones” where non-Muslims cannot enter, while the MPs took aim at false and misleading news stories. [The Independent] Read more

Amsterdam obeys the law, says mayor about burqa ban row

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema told a full meeting of the city council on Wednesday that her comments about the pending ‘burqa ban’ had been misunderstood.

Halsema was criticised by MPs and ministers for telling local broadcaster AT5 that she did not consider that ‘hauling someone out of the tram for wearing a niqab’ was ‘fitting’ in Amsterdam.

She also suggested there were better uses of scarce police manpower. But Halsema told councillors on Wednesday that the nuance in her statements had not been picked up. ‘The impression has been given that city and national politics are at odds,’ she said. ‘That is a misunderstanding. Amsterdam is a city which follows the law.’

Nevertheless there are higher priority problems, such as organised crime, threats against journalists and hand grenades being left outside shops, Halsema said. Rotterdam and Utrecht’s mayors have also said upholding the new law – which has not yet come into effect – is not a priority. [DutchNews] Read more

Seehofer tells Islam conference Muslims are a part of Germany

Some have called it a U-turn, others see it in less dramatic terms. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said that "Muslims are a part of Germany" on the opening day of the German Islam Conference.

Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday in Berlin that "Muslims belong to Germany," speaking as he presided over the fourth German Islam Conference (DIK). The comments drew particular attention given Seehofer's past statement that Islam was not part of Germany.

Seehofer said Muslims "have the same rights and duties as all citizens of this country." There can be "no reasonable doubt" about that, he said.

Seehofer, a conservative who's set to step down as leader of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), caused controversy in March when he said that "Islam doesn't belong to Germany," and that "Germany has been shaped by Christianity."

However, even in that March interview with mass-circulation daily Bild, Seehofer had said: "Muslims who live here are naturally part of Germany. That does not of course mean that we therefore give up on our country-specific traditions and customs out of false consideration." [Deutsche Welle] Read more

27 November 2018

Islamophobia is so prevalent in the UK it has become the country's 'bigotry blind spot', MPs say

.... The report comes at the end of a six-month inquiry by the APPG, where victims across the country shared their experiences of Islamophobia. The inquiry also heard from politicians, lawyers and campaign groups.

Wes Streeting MP, co-chair of the APPG for British Muslims, said: "From attacks on hijab-wearing Muslim women on the streets through to the subtle institutional forms that deprives British Muslims an equal opportunity to flourish within our society, Islamophobia is a form of racism and it is growing in our society.

"To tackle it, Islamophobia must be accurately and fully defined and that’s why this inquiry centred around the discussion on a working definition."

The APPG says adopting a definition is not intended to curb free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion.

Home Office data shows that Muslims account for 52% of all recorded religious hate crime victims. A poll by ComRes last month found 58% of people agreed with the statement ‘Islamophobia is a real problem in today’s society’. [ITV] Read more

Take back your words about burqas, junior minister tells mayor

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema’s comments about new legislation banning face covering garments from government buildings were ‘premature and inappropriate’, junior home affairs minister Raymond Knops said on Tuesday afternoon.

‘The comments were inappropriate and unfitting for the office of mayor,’ he told MPs in a reaction to questions. ‘Amsterdam’s mayor cannot continue to back this standpoint.

I am assuming she will take back her words and keep to the law.’ Halsema has been heavily criticized for telling local broadcaster AT5 she did not consider that ‘hauling someone out of the tram for wearing a niqab’ was ‘fitting’ in Amsterdam. She also suggested there were better uses of scarce police manpower.

Rotterdam and Utrecht’s mayors have also said upholding the new law – which has not yet come into effect – is not a priority. Halsema is likely to face questioning about her views at Wednesday’s full meeting of the city council. [DutchNews] Read more

The ‘Islamophobia’ problem

This is a good time to bury bad news. And sure enough it turns out that a cross-party group of MPs and peers that includes the failed MP Baroness Warsi has chosen this moment to try to persuade the government to adopt their own definition of ‘Islamophobia’.

Long-time readers will know that I have no sympathy for this term. The most succinct summary of the problem is often erroneously attributed to the late Christopher Hitchens. It is that, Islamophobia is ‘a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.’

That ‘Islamophobia’ was created by fascists is provable: the term was conjured up and pumped into the international debate around politics and religion decades ago by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The claim that it is used by cowards slightly lets others of its users off the hook. For it is not only used by cowards. It is also used by sinister and sectarian figures who wish to protect their own religious patch from any and all discussion or scrutiny. That it intimidates cowards is evident from every day’s news. [The Spectator] Read more

26 November 2018

Why religious rules on butchering beasts make many people see red

.... The issue arises because for traditionally minded Jews and Muslims it is a matter of principle that animals slain for meat should be dispatched by a single swipe of a sharp knife, one that drains the blood and causes a rapid death. The death is not rapid enough for many animal-rights advocates, though.

Some Muslims accept that the animal can be stunned before slaughter (as is considered humane in most Western countries), so long as death still results from blood loss. Other Muslims feel unable to make that concession.

.... Arguments over this practice, pitting animal-welfare advocates against Muslim and to some extent Jewish groups, have been raging for at least five years in the north-west of England. In October, Lancashire County Council voted to reaffirm its determination to eliminate non-stunned meat from school meals, while the Lancashire Council of Mosques has pledged to redouble its efforts to block the ban.

This dispute might lead the Council of Mosques to call for a boycott of school meals, a tactic it has used in the past. Thanks to the NSS findings, the controversy may now spread to other parts of the country. [The Economist] Read more

Nearly two-thirds of Quebecers support public-sector ban on religious symbols, poll finds

Most Quebecers are in favour of banning public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols, according to a CROP poll released ahead of the first legislative session under a Coalition Avenir Québec government.

But a separate survey by Vox Pop Labs, conducted following the Oct. 1 election, suggests Quebecers may be more divided when it comes to the details of how such proposals should be implemented.

Premier François Legault indicated after last month's election that he will seek to bar civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols such as the kippa and hijab.

Not only would this apply to police officers, judges and Crown prosecutors, but also to school teachers, Legault said.

He justified his decision by saying it was the "position of a majority of Quebecers." [CBC News] Read more

25 November 2018

"We Will Displace You" - Extremist Persecution of Christians, July 2018

There were 128 incidents of church vandalism or other anti-Christian attacks in France during the first five months of 2018, according to a Paris-based Roman Catholic non-profit organization that tracks attacks against Christians.

Zanzibar "has concealed Christian persecution for decades.... issues that the international community knows too little or nothing about....[T]he Christian body has been persecuted for so long." — Simon, pastor of a church, quoted by International Christian Concern.

Egypt: Police stood by and encouraged a Muslim mob attacking a church. After local Muslims in Ezbet Sultan Pasha village learned that Christians, who form about 20% of the population, were on their way to legalizing a church building, they surrounded it on July 6, after Friday prayers. "The protesters were chanting slogans against us [Christians], such as 'We don't want a church in our village,'" said one resident. "We locked ourselves in our homes during the demonstration because we were afraid that they would attack us. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Pressure growing on Kirklees to reveal schools serving non-stunned halal meat

Pressure is growing on Kirklees Council to reveal which of its schools are serving meat from animals that are not pre-stunned before slaughter.

Among those calling for clarity over the council's policy is Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin, who says meat from non-stunned animals should be labelled and parents should be informed.

Meanwhile an online petition calling for all meat served in the borough's schools to be stunned before slaughter has been signed by more than 5,600 people.

The Labour-run authority has confirmed that dozens of schools in the borough use non-stunned halal meat "as part of their meal service provision".

Along with the other West Yorkshire authorities it sources its halal meat from Wakefield-based public sector procurer Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO).

The revelation has caused a furore amid concerns over animal welfare. The council has been asked to come clean over which schools use non-stunned meat and notification is given to parents, children and staff at schools where such meat is served. [ExaminerLive] Read more

23 November 2018

Secular group questions Muslim hate preacher’s role in a UK charity

Dr Zakir Naik, above, is banned from entering Britain, but the Islamic preacher who has praised Osama Bin Laden and said all Muslims ‘should be terrorists’ is a trustee of a registered charity.

Now the National Secular Society (NSS) is demanding answers as to why the fanatic continues to be a trustee of the Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI), a charity registered in England which owns the Islamic TV channel Peace TV.

This week it was reported that the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom is pursuing six separate investigations into Peace TV over concerns that it has breached the broadcasting code.

Malaysia-based Naik, who launched IRFI in 2006 and was banned from entering Britain in 2010, is listed on Peace TV’s website as its leading speaker.

Ofcom is investigating Peace TV for potential breaches of broadcasting rules designed to protect audiences from: Hate speech, offence and the incitement of crime. [Freethinker] Read more

Indonesia's 'millennials party' draws fire for comments on sharia bylaws

Police in Muslim-majority Indonesia have questioned the head of one of its newest and most progressive parties, who is battling accusations of “Islamophobia” from rival politicians, after she said her party opposed the growth of bylaws based on religion.

Indonesia is officially secular and has a tradition of pluralism but Islam has increasingly crept into politics in a country home to significant Christian, Hindu and other religious minorities.

Grace Natalie set up the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), often dubbed the “millennials party”, in 2014 to offer an alternative for young voters disillusioned by traditional parties often run by an entrenched elite.

In a speech this week attended by President Joko Widodo, Natalie, who is ethnic Chinese, spoke out against intolerance, saying PSI would not support local regulations based on Islamic law or Christian scripture.

.... Police questioned Natalie following a complaint filed by Eggi Sudjana, a lawyer and politician of an Islamic party, who told Reuters her comments breached laws on hate speech and attacked religion. He urged her to apologize. [Reuters] Read more

Third of Brexit voters believe Muslim immigration is part of a secret plot to Islamicise Britain, study suggests

Nearly a third of Brexit voters believe Muslim immigration is part of a plot to Islamicise Britain, according to a major new study that has revealed a pattern of deep mistrust for authorities.

The survey, by researchers at Cambridge University and YouGov, is the most comprehensive examination of conspiracy theories ever conducted and is the first time academics have looked into questions of trust in the media and conspiracy beliefs across countries.

Asked if they believed “Muslim immigration to this country is part of a bigger plan to make Muslims a majority of this country's population”, 31 per cent of leave voters said they did.

The far-right conspiracy theory, known as the “great replacement”, originated in France and often apportions blame to perceived elites, such as the European Union.

The figure among Remain voters was six per cent.

Almost half leave voters (47%) believed the government was deliberately “hiding the truth” about how many immigrants live in the country, compared to 14 per cent of Remain voters. [The Independent] Read more

21 November 2018

Austria prepares for headscarf ban in primary schools

If draft law passes parliament, children under 10 will be prohibited to wear headscarf, violations will be fined.

Austria's far-right government has introduced a draft law to the parliament to ban the headscarf in primary schools, planning to implement it without the support of the opposition.

Transport Minister Norber Hofer told a news conference following the Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday that the government sent the draft law to the opposition parties.

Hofer said that no negotiations would be made with the opposition ahead of the voting of the draft law in the parliament, calling the opposition to vote in favor of it.

The draft prohibits children to wear Muslim headscarves before the age of 10 in all primary schools, including private schools across the country.

If the draft law is approved, parents who violate the ban will be subjected to pay a fine of 440 euros or serve two weeks jail time.

The ban will come into force in 2019 if it passes through the parliament.

The main opposition Social Democratic Party (SPO) and the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) said that the draft law should be comprehensively evaluated. [Anadolu Agency] Read more

Muslim leaders reject meeting with Prime Minister

Muslim leaders are refusing to meet Scott Morrison after "strongly" taking offence to the Prime Minister's suggestion that they should do more to combat extremism.

However, Mr Morrison says the private meeting will still go ahead with those who want to seriously deal with the issue "rather than look the other way".

The group of leaders, including Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, signed a letter on Tuesday night telling Mr Morrison they wouldn't attend the meeting.

The letter said "statements made by senior government ministers and the Prime Minister in the recent past" had "achieved nothing to address underlying issues, but rather, have alienated large "segments of the Muslim community." [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

Christian religious freedoms decline in Egypt

An Egyptian rights group says the country’s Christians are suffering increased discrimination despite official efforts to address their grievances.

The finding comes in a report issued on Wednesday by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The group tracks government efforts to tackle disputes around Church-building in the Muslim majority country.

It concluded that “the general situation of the right to practice religious services and build houses of worship is deteriorating” and that a committee established last year to facilitate church-building hasn’t brought justice. [The Washington Post] Read more

Campaign to ban non-stun halal meat in schools

A campaign to ban non-stun Halal meat being served to schoolchildren in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, is gathering traction, and could be rolled out nationally.

Kirklees councillor, Lisa Holmes is supporting a petition which calls for a ban on the meat, after she discovered it was being served to pupils across Kirklees. In less than 48 hours, the petition gained the 3,000 signatures it needs to prompt a full council debate.

A Freedom of Information request by the National Secular Society found Kirklees Council supplied the meat to 42 schools. Of these, 16 offered no meat alternative.

The society’s figures showed 17 councils supplied schools with unstunned halal meat, with Luton Council supplying it to 21 school s and Bolton and Leicester to 17 each.

The petition read: "We the undersigned call on Kirklees Council to uphold animal welfare standards and only supply meat from animals that were stunned before slaughter." [Farmers Guardian] Read more

Saudi Arabia 'tortured female activists', charities say

Saudi Arabia tortured and sexually harassed human rights activists, including several women, human rights groups have alleged.

Prisoners in the kingdom's Dhahban Prison have allegedly been electrocuted and flogged.

Saudi Arabia arrested several women's rights activists earlier this year and influential clerics and intellectuals have also been detained.

The BBC has approached the Saudi authorities for comment.

However, a Saudi official told the Wall Street Journal the kingdom "does not condone, promote, or allow the use of torture".

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements on Tuesday detailing alleged torture of detained prisoners.

Activists were left unable to walk or stand properly after electrocution and flogging, an Amnesty International release said, with one woman reportedly sexually harassed by interrogators in face masks.

Human Rights Watch's release also speaks of electrocution, as well as whipping and "forcible hugging and kissing" of at least three detained women. [BBC] Read more

Undercover Journalist Finds One in Ten German Mosques Preach Radicalism

German author and undercover journalist Shams Ul-Haq claims to have visited hundreds of mosques across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and says that one in ten mosques there preaches radical Islamic ideas.

Mr Ul-Haq, who is originally from Pakistan, said that the number of mosques that preach hatred of the west and adherence to radical Islamic ideas is growing across the German-speaking countries of Europe with at least 50 in Austria alone, Kronen Zeitung reports.

During his visits, Ul-Haq also noticed that the imams were often not the real drivers behind what was preached but were pushed by financial backers who dictate what they said in sermons.

Ul-Haq also met with radical Salafists but said that they did not immediately approach him and were very wary of newcomers.

“It took almost two years for some to get in touch with me. They felt their way slowly, examining, watching. They are not stupid,” he said. [Breitbart London] Read more

‘Hate preacher’ Dr Zakir Naik broadcasts to Britain

The “personal television station” of an Islamic preacher who was banned from entering Britain is being broadcast to millions of homes despite concerns about extremist content, an investigation has found.

The Indian founder of Peace TV was barred from this country by Theresa May in 2010 when she was the home secretary after he praised Osama bin Laden and said “all Muslims should be terrorists”.

Zakir Naik’s television station is still available to Sky subscribers, despite having previously broken the broadcasting code by showing controversial material.

Peace TV’s line-up has included Bilal Philips, who was named by the US as a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Hussain Ye, a Malaysian cleric who claimed that a “group of Jews” were “having a party” when they heard the 9/11 attacks had taken place. [The Times (£)] Read more

20 November 2018

German state plans to ban religious symbols from courts

The state government of Lower Saxony is drafting a law that would ban judges and prosecutors from wearing religious clothing or symbols. Germany's justice minister has welcomed the plans.

The government of Germany's state of Lower Saxony plans to ban for judges and prosecutors from wearing religious symbols such as crosses or headscarves in the state's courtrooms.

Promoters of the measure say it is aimed at making clear that judges and prosecutors are neutral and free of any religious or ideological bias.

The plan has the support of Germany's Justice Minister Katarina Barley, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

"A court decides independently from religious beliefs, and this neutrality must be visible from the outside,"Barley told the local newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Tuesday.

A draft law is reportedly in the works at Lower Saxony's justice ministry, according to local broadcaster NDR, which had obtained a copy of the plan. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Jailed Saudi women’s rights activists said to face electric shocks, beatings and other abuse

Several women’s rights activists who have been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for more than six months have been subjected to psychological or physical abuse while in custody, including sleep deprivation and beatings, according to four people familiar with the conditions of the activists’ detention.

Some of the abuse occurred during interrogations in which several of the women were administered electric shocks or flogged, two of the people said, citing a witness account. Other women displayed what witnesses said were apparent signs of abuse, including uncontrollable shaking or difficulty standing, the people said.

The allegations of abuse and torture were impossible to independently confirm. Families are reluctant to repeat what they hear from the detainees during prison visits, fearing retaliation by the authorities.

The four people who spoke about the abuse, all Saudi citizens, have contacts in the prison or had been briefed on conditions there. They spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern that revealing their names could identify the detainees. [The Washington Post] Read more

Indonesian mosques preaching extremism to civil servants, warns intelligence agency

Dozens of Indonesian mosques are preaching extremism, including violence against non-Muslims, to government workers, the country’s intelligence agency has warned.

The alarming findings of the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency follow Indonesia’s worst terrorist attack in a decade when three churches and a police station were bombed in the city of Surabaya in May, killing 28 people. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) claimed responsibility for the bombings.

In a chilling development, child suicide bombers were among the attackers in the deadly assault, once again raising fears about the growing influence of hardline Islamism and the decline of religious tolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

According to AFP, the intelligence agency revealed it had probed about 1,000 mosques across the Southeast Asian country since July, and discovered that imams at some 41 places of worship in one neighbourhood in the capital, Jakarta, were preaching extremism to worshippers. [The Telegraph] Read more

19 November 2018

What Philly banks can and can’t say about removing head coverings

.... The Tioga-Franklin Savings Bank on Girard Avenue near Oxford displays signs that ask customers to remove “all head coverings and sunglasses prior to entering the bank.” The message isn’t necessarily referring to religious garments such as hijabs, burqas or yarmulkes — but, by definition, it doesn’t allow them either.

In this case, bank staffers insist they’d never discriminate against their customers.

“We do have customers who wear head coverings for religious uses,” Tioga-Franklin operations specialist Amanda Keiper told Billy Penn. “We’ve never forced anyone to remove it.” The policy is meant to target ski masks, and is rarely enforced at all, she added, since staffers know so many of their customers personally.

It’s common for financial institutions across the country to post signs that ask customers to remove caps and sunglasses before entering. After all, that’s basically the standard uniform for bank robbers, police say.

But despite their intentions, if banks aren’t careful about their policies, they can discriminate against people who wear head coverings for religious reasons. Some banks have been slapped with lawsuits for insisting people remove those head coverings before entering. [Billy Penn] Read more

Hundreds sign petition for ban on non-stunned halal meat in Kirklees schools

Almost 1,000 people have signed a petition calling on Kirklees Council to stop serving schoolchildren halal meat from animals which were not stunned before slaughter.

The council has admitted 40 schools in the area were serving the meat in school dinners.

Huge debate was provoked locally - and the petition has gathered 986 signatures within 24 hours.

Petition founder Aleksandar Lukic posted: "Every day children in Kirklees schools are served meat from animals that have been slaughtered while fully conscious, suffering unnecessary pain and distress.

"It is a legal requirement that animals must be humanely stunned before slaughter, but non-stun slaughter is still permitted for some religious communities. The RSPCA says 'For slaughter to be humane, it's essential that animals are effectively stunned.'

The British Veterinary Association, representing 17,000 British vets, believes that 'all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain' and highlights that scientific evidence supports the use of pre-stunning to improve animal welfare. Both organisations are gravely concerned at recent increases in non-stun slaughter. [ExaminerLive] Read more