02 December 2018

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

CHRISTIANITY CRACKDOWN: Four people arrested for HANDING OUT LEAFLETS

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

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

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

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

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

Parents left in dark over ‘inhumane’ meat

Schools are feeding children halal meat but not telling parents that it comes from animals that had their throats cut while they were still conscious.

At least 140 schools, including some that are Christian, serve halal meat from animals that have not been stunned before slaughter.

Most halal meat comes from pre-stunned animals but some Muslim community leaders forbid stunning and demand that unstunned meat be served in schools.

Schools with a lot of Muslim children often acquiesce to those demands and may offer unstunned meat to all pupils regardless of their faith. EU law requires animals to be stunned to avoid unnecessary suffering but there is a derogation for Muslims and Jews.

Seventeen councils supply schools with unstunned halal meat, according to freedom of information requests from the National Secular Society.

Kirklees council in West Yorkshire supplies unstunned halal meat to 42 schools, Luton council to 21 and Bolton and Leicester to 17 each.

The schools tend to be accredited by the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC), which does not permit the animals to be stunned. [The Times (£)] Read more

Nearly half of Australians want the number of Muslim immigrants slashed following the Melbourne terrorist attack

Almost half of Australians want Muslim immigration to be cut following the Melbourne terrorist attack, a poll has found.

The Fairfax-Ipsos survey was conducted after Islamic State sympathiser Hassan Khalif Shire Ali attacked random people on Bourke Street, Melbourne, on November 9, knifing three and killing one.

The poll found 46 per cent of Australians believe that Muslim migration numbers should be reduced.

Of those surveyed, 35 per cent believed the intake should remain the same and only 14 per cent of voters supported an increase.

The telephone poll of 1200 respondents conducted nationally found that a majority of Coalition voters and one third of Labor voters backed the cut.

Muslim leaders deflected criticism of Islam in the wake of the Bourke St attack by stressing that Shire Ali's actions were caused by mental illness and not by religion. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

18 November 2018

Muslim ‘Loose Women’ stick to the Koranic script

It has all the ingredients of daytime television: problems with relationships, mental health and raising children. But it is slightly different. For one thing, nearly all the women wear headscarves.

This is Islam Channel, the halal version of Good Morning Britain or This Morning. There are no glamorous presenters. But if you are an orthodox Muslim you can watch without the risk of something “haram”, or forbidden, popping up on screen. And there is no chance of forgetting that it is time to pray, as the “adhan”, or call to prayer, appears on screen five times a day.

.... On the women’s morning show, one of the guests brings up the subject of counselling. She says women must find an “appropriate” therapist who understands their culture. What if, as she experienced, your husband is thinking of taking a second wife? A non-Muslim counsellor will “dismiss” this as bigamy, she cautions. What would a Muslim counsellor suggest?

.... The scholar responds by saying that music is forbidden, as is anything that is “wasteful of your precious time”. He quotes a Koranic passage in which Allah condemns those who engage in a musical environment. There are better ways for a 12-year-old to spend her precious time, he adds, before insisting: “But in Islam we are allowed to have fun and entertainment.”

Another caller wants to know why two animals are sacrificed when a male child is born but only one for a baby girl. “We do not ask why Allah commanded it, we just obey.” So much for questions. [The Times (£)] Read more

Saudis fund hardline British TV station the Islam Channel

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom is investigating a Muslim television station that is accused of promoting divisive and hardline views in Britain. Ofcom said it was “conducting an assessment of content on Islam Channel to determine whether it complies with the broadcasting code”.

The station, which claims it has 1m viewers daily, reaches 59% of British Muslims, according to government research reported in 2008. There are no recent independent figures.

The move comes as a Sunday Times investigation shows that the channel has been supported by Saudi money. The Ofcom probe follows routine monitoring of its output. The regulator has censured the channel in the past for political bias, advocating violence against women and supporting marital rape.

Its presenters include Haitham al- Haddad, a preacher described by the Quilliam think tank as “one of the most dangerous men in Britain”, Yasir Qadhi, who has said killing gay people is part of Islam, and Abu Hanifa, who said on air this month writing “Merry Christmas” was a “sin” Muslims should “avoid”. [The Times (£)] Read more

French MP Proposes Muslims Adopt French Names to Become Citizens, Extend Ban on Islamic Headscarves

French conservative Republican MP Julien Aubert has put his name behind a series of migrant integration proposals that would include banning the Islamic headscarf in public institutions and make Muslims adopt French names to become citizens.

The proposals come from a new 50-page booklet entitled the “Tricolore Booklet on the Islam(s) of France,” which lists 18 proposals in total, published by the Oser la France movement which was formed by Aubert last year, France3 reports.

According to the booklet, the group say they would like to see all Muslim migrants acquiring citizenship from naturalisation, marriage, or by being born in France, to change at least one of their names to a traditional French name.

“It would show a desire for integration (for the adults) and, for the children allow them, if they wish, to change their usual first name by inverting it with a second or third name more adapted to the national culture,” Mr Aubert said.

Aubert also defended the proposed extended ban on the Islamic headscarf saying, “The coexistence of micro-nations in the same territory can only lead to confrontation.” [Breitbart London] Read more

Fairfax-Ipsos poll: Australians split on Muslim migration ahead of new population policy

Australian voters are split on whether to cut the number of migrants coming from Muslim countries, as the Morrison government considers an overhaul of immigration and population rules within weeks.

A special Fairfax-Ipsos survey finds only 14 per cent of voters support an increase in the number of immigrants from Muslim countries while 35 per cent believe the intake should stay the same.

But another 46 per cent believe the intake should be reduced a lot or a little - a position backed by a clear majority of Coalition voters and one third of Labor voters.

The exclusive poll was conducted after the Bourke Street terror attack by Hassan Khalif Shire Ali and amid growing calls from some conservative members of Parliament to cut migration from Muslim nations.

.... Australians often over-estimate the proportion of the population that is Muslim, with Ipsos surveys finding respondents believe it is 17 per cent when the reality is 3 per cent.

The government runs a non-discriminatory migration program but has discretion in the humanitarian intake to put a priority on some over others, with the Syrian intake of 12,000 refugees in recent years said to favour Yazidis, Christians and other minorities.

Australians have supported a multicultural migration intake for many years, according to annual research by the Scanlon Foundation on social cohesion, but the findings also show a “hierarchy of ethnic preference” on migrants. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

15 November 2018

Swedish Moderate-led council to ban halal meat in deal with populists

A municipality in Sweden has vowed to ban religiously slaughtered meat from school menus after the centre-right Moderate Party formed a coalition government with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

The three-year action plan for the town of Staffanstorp outside Malmö, published on Tuesday, betrays the strong influence of the Sweden Democrats, and is likely to be used as ammunition by Moderate party members who oppose cooperation with the populist party on a national level.

"Special cultural demands should not exist in the municipality's operations, for example separate bathing times and such like," reads the plan, signed by the local leaders of the Moderate and Sweden Democrats.

"The municipality's operations should also be free from expressions of religion, for example ritually slaughtered meat."

Sonesson downplayed the symbolic significance of the ban, presenting the policy as a question of simple municipality economics. [The Local] Read more

'Islam cannot be associated with terrorism': Muslim leader fires back and denies there's a link between barbaric attacks and religion

A Muslim leader has slammed a talkback radio host for suggesting there's a link between radical Islam and terrorism.

Melbourne radio 3AW broadcaster Neil Mitchell had suggested an extreme interpretation of Islam had inspired Somali-born terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire Ali's Friday afternoon knife rampage on Bourke Street.

'I certainly wouldn't connect it to Islam. But radical Islam, yes. Obviously,' Mitchell told his listeners.

Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Adel Salman took exception to that statement.

'The problem is Neil, when you call it radical Islam, you're basically saying that the religion of Islam, there are different versions and there is one particular version that we all have a problem with,' he said this week.

'I don't accept that premise. Islam as a religion cannot be associated with these forms of criminal acts.'

Mr Salman, who is also the Sunni-dominated group's media spokesman, also suggested it was wrong to draw a link between Islam and ISIS, after Mitchell claimed 'radical Christianity' was linked to a 'perversion' of religion.

'The religion of Islam cannot be connected with any form of violent acts,' Mr Salman said.

'That is just a nonsense from our perspective. [Daily Mail] Read more

14 November 2018

Theresa May says she’s concerned for safety of Pakistani mother who faces lynch mob over 'blasphemy'- but stops short of offering asylum

Theresa May yesterday pledged to protect Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi – but stopped short of offering her sanctuary.

Speaking for the first time about the case, the Prime Minister said her ‘primary concern’ was the safety of the mother and her family. But Britain has so far refused to grant them asylum, according to their lawyer.

Saif ul Mulook called on Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘to be bold and courageous’ and allow them into Britain.

As the UK drags its heels, talks are under way with Canada to secure a safe future there for Mrs Bibi and her husband and their children. France is believed to be on the brink of making an offer too.

Mrs Bibi, a Christian farm worker from the Punjab, spent eight years on death row in Pakistan convicted of blasphemy following a row with Muslim colleagues over a cup of water. [Daily Mail] Read more

What Kirklees Council says about schoolchildren eating non-stunned halal meat

Non-stunned halal meat is being served to schoolchildren in Kirklees, the council has confirmed.

Responding to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request the Labour-run authority has revealed that 40 schools use non-stunned halal meat "as part of their meal service provision".

The council was prompted to outline its position following the FoI request by the campaign group National Secular Society (NSS), which aims to reduce the role of religion on state education.

The revelation led to Conservative councillor Lisa Holmes (Liversedge and Gomersal) tabling a question at last week's meeting of full council.

The question, which was not heard due to time constraints, asked: "Is Kirklees Council the country's biggest user of meat from animals that have their throats slit while fully conscious - despite 80% of all UK halal meat being humanely stunned first, which is accepted by the Halal Food Authority?" [ExaminerLive] Read more

Whistleblower declared an apostate arrested on return to Maldives

Aishath Velezinee, an outspoken whistleblower as a former member of the judicial watchdog, was arrested Tuesday upon her return to the Maldives after residing overseas for several years.

She was taken into custody in relation to an ongoing investigation, a police spokesman said, declining to provide any further information.

Velezinee is accused of “mocking Islam and leaving the principles of Islam” in videos posted on her Twitter and Facebook accounts, according to the arrest warrant seen by the Maldives Independent.

As her posts had drawn “displeasure and hatred” from the public, Velezinee needed to be in custody both for her own safety and protection of public order, reads the reasons cited for the arrest. [Maldives Independent] Read more

13 November 2018

Singer Zayn Malik Says He’s Not a Muslim: “I Don’t Believe Any of It.”

Zayn is routinely touted as Britain’s most famous Muslim. Does he count himself as especially religious? “To be honest, I’ve never spoken publicly about what my religious beliefs are. I’m not professed to be a Muslim.” Would he call himself a Muslim now?

“No, I wouldn’t,” he says thoughtfully. “I believe whatever people’s religious beliefs are is between them and whoever or whatever they’re practising. For me, I have a spiritual belief of there is a god. Do I believe there’s a hell? No.”

He worries that even discussing faith “becomes a religious fucking debacle of philosophers. I just want to keep it between me and whatever I believe. I feel like that makes me move through life in a nice way. If I behave well, I will get treated well. That’s it.

I don’t believe you need to eat a certain meat that’s been prayed over a certain way, I don’t believe you need to read a prayer in a certain language five times a day. I don’t believe any of it. I just believe if you’re a good person everything is going to go right for you.” [Friendly Atheist] Read more

Imran Khan’s treatment of Asia Bibi is a dangerous betrayal

.... Yet Khan’s apparent attempt to find a middle ground has left many dissatisfied. Soon after the announcement of Bibi’s acquittal, he gave a speech that – given his history of appeasing more extreme elements – surprised many in its stridency.

In it, he supported the supreme court’s verdict and referred to protesters as “enemies of the state”. Yet in the days that followed, as protests closed off major motorways and caused businesses and schools to shutter, Khan and his inner circle appeared to vacillate. Reports emerged that in negotiations with the TLP, the anti-blasphemy group orchestrating the protests, Khan agreed to allow a court to review the acquittal, and to work to prevent Bibi from leaving the country.

.... Khan is far from being the first prime minister in Pakistan to pander to the conservative religious lobby, but this does not make it any less worrying. “If a government does not stand by the decisions of the apex court, the country cannot survive,” Khan said over the weekend.

Yet these words are empty if they go alongside a willingness to cede ground to groups representing a bigoted and intolerant mindset that explicitly seeks to override the rule of law. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Foreign Office 'allowed Pakistan mob to dictate Asia Bibi asylum case'

The Foreign Office has been accused of allowing government asylum policy to be dictated to by a Pakistan mob after it was confirmed it urged the Home Office not to grant Asia Bibi political asylum in the UK out of fear for the safety of UK consular staff.

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy, is seeking asylum after threats to her life in Pakistan. The former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson was among many MPs calling for her and her family to be granted sanctuary in Britain.

The acquittal of the 53-year-old Catholic farmworker by Pakistan’s supreme court last month prompted demonstrations by hardline Islamist parties in Pakistan who had campaigned for her to be hanged.

She remains in protective custody in an undisclosed locationin Pakistan after the prime minister, Imran Khan, agreed to allow a petition against the court’s decision as part of a deal to halt the protests. [The Guardian] Read more

12 November 2018

Preacher Who Calls for Israel to be “Relocated to Germany” Speaking at Manchester University This Evening

An Islamic scholar who thinks Israel should be relocated to Germany, that “Zionists” are out to destroy the al Aqsa Mosque, that the CIA and Mossad are behind ISIS and who has called the Queen “disgusting” has been invited to speak at the University of Manchester this evening.

Sheikh Asrar Rashid was invited by the Madinah Society.

The translation site MEMRI quote Rashid as having said the following in December last year:

“Israel is a country that should be reestablished in Germany, because Germany was responsible for the killing of those Jews – not the Muslim world, not the Palestinians”

“Al-Qaeda was made by the CIA. To this day we have not seen, we have not witnessed, George Bush apologize for the making of the CIA [sic] to the American public. The planes went in [on 9/11], according to the mainstream narrative, by Al-Qaeda terrorists. Those Al-Qaeda terrorists were made by the CIA, by the Americans themselves.”

“The While House is the direct cause of ISIS today, because they made those orphans recruits for groups like ISIS. So do not destabilize Muslim countries, and then lash the backs of the Muslims, accusing them of terrorism.” [Harry’s Place] Read more

11 November 2018

French Muslim youth the dominant group seeking isolation from society - Senior Catholic figure says mainly 15-year-olds to 30-year-olds rejecting French values

French Muslims between the ages of 15 and 30 form the main group seeking isolation from society and rejecting its vaunted values of freedom, equality and fraternity, says a senior Catholic figure with knowledge of Islamic affairs.

Father Vincent Feroldi, director of the French Catholic church’s service for relations with Muslims, says an active minority has adopted a separatist outlook with “a strong communitarianism inspired by Salafism”.

Fr Feroldi told The National that 75 per cent of an estimated five million Muslims among France’s 67 million population had French nationality. “Most are under 30 and a large majority want to integrate into French society and adopt French culture, as long as they can keep their religious traditions,” he said.

The minority of dissenters, he said, showed respect for French laws, if only to avoid prosecution, imprisonment or – if foreign – deportation. But as well as distancing themselves from the population as a whole, some held negative opinions about non-Muslims. “Others will exert strong pressure on their fellow Muslims to follow Salafist Islam,” he said. [The National] Read more

Imams, Muslim groups outraged by PM’s 'divisive' Bourke Street comments

The Australian National Imams Council is among a number of Muslim organisations accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of politicising Friday's Bourke Street attack that left one man dead and two others injured.

The Council called the attack a national tragedy but said it was "outraged" by the Prime Minister's recent comments linking Islam to a radical and dangerous ideology.

"It is extremely disappointing in such difficult times and during a national tragedy, when all Australians of all faiths and backgrounds should be called upon to unite and stand together against any form of extremism and violence, to see our nation's leader politicising this incident and using it for political gain," a statement released on Sunday said.

.... Mr Morrison said while he supported religious freedom, religious extremism must be called out.

"Radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life," he said in a speech on Saturday.

"Religious extremism takes many forms around the world and no religion is immune from it.

"But here in Australia, we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremists." [SBS News] Read more

Ecquevilly: The ‘quiet Salafist’ town resisting French integration

While there are signs of hope in this commune west of Paris, a radical preacher’s influence lingers.

.... A minority of French Muslims wish to lead lives divorced from secular western society. This desire became so pronounced in Ecquevilly, under the influence of a charismatic preacher who was born and grew up there, that two reporters from the Catholic daily newspaper, La Croix, recently spent three weeks there observing everyday life.

Their powerful report, its title roughly translating as "Salafism in Daily Life", stretched to several pages and had a profound impact on residents, officials and community leaders.

Until the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Ecquevilly had a thriving mosque housed on the ground floor beneath a kindergarten near the imposing town hall depicted as a chateau in a film based on the comic character Tintin.

People travelled from as far as Belgium for Friday prayers, drawn by the persuasive imam Youssef Bounouader, who had limited Islamic scholarship but restyled himself Abou Anas after visits to Yemen and Syria and adopted a strict practice of Islam. Music, dancing and television were discouraged, as was contact with Christians and Jews.

A year after the ISIS murders that left 130 dead across the capital on November 13 2015, growing concern about the mosque led the French authorities to use emergency powers to force its closure. [The National] Read more

10 November 2018

Mass Migration: Majority of Germans Feel Like ‘Stranger in Their Own Country’

A majority of Germans say the level of mass migration has left them feeling “like a stranger in their own country”, according to a new study.

Presented as part of this year’s Leipzig University research into “authoritarian” attitudes in the country, the figure showed a rise of 12 points since the Competence Center for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research tested Germans on the same questions in 2014, with 56 per cent of Germans expressing the sentiment in 2018.

Other findings from the 328-page study, for which 2,416 Germans were interviewed between May and July this year, were that 44 per cent would support a ban on Muslim immigration — a rise of 7.5 per cent from 2014 — with agreement higher in the nation’s east (51 per cent) than west (42 per cent).

.... Citing figures which showed that 36 per cent of respondents believe Germany has been “dangerously watered down” by mass migration, researchers at Leipzig warned in a press release: “We are seeing high levels of approval for the attitude that has been considered an ‘entry-level drug’ into right-wing extremism.” [Breitbart London] Read more

09 November 2018

Bangladesh PM: 'Anyone who offends Islam will be prosecuted'

Concern is growing among Christians in Bangladesh after the country's PM said she would not tolerate people offending Islam.

There's been widespread protests in Pakistan following the release of Christian mother Asia Bibi. She was accused of blasphemy but released on appeal after almost a decade in prison.

Speaking about the situation in her own country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said: "Anyone who pronounces offensive comments against it [Islam], or against the Prophet Muhammad, will be prosecuted according to the law."

She did however speak out against Islamic extremists.

"There is no place for Islamic militancy, terrorism and corruption," she said. "Bangladesh wants to show that Islam is a religion of peace and wants to be a peaceful, prosperous and developed country."

Hasina was speaking at a gathering of Islamic schools in Dhaka.

While her comments have caused concern among the Christian community, religious freedom charity Open Doors says believers are more concerned with her alternative.

Next month, the country hold elections with a cross-party coalition looking to unseat the PM, who's been in power since 2009.

The coalition includes radical Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. [Premier] Read more

New top prosecutor is slammed for refusing to use the phrase 'Islamic terrorism' after meeting with apologists who described Jihadi John as a 'beautiful young man'

The new CPS chief has been accused of using 'deeply unhelpful' language about extremists by refusing to say 'Islamic terrorism'.

The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) is unhappy about Max Hill QC's appointment as the Director of Public Prosecutions because he believes it is 'fundamentally wrong' to attach terrorism 'to any of the world religions'.

He said that the term 'Daesh-inspired terrorism' should be used instead.

Today he was accused of 'apeing' the language used by CAGE, who said Mohammed Emwazi, ISIS' executioner-in-chief until he was killed in a drone strike, was 'beautiful' and 'extremely gentle'.

Mr Hill, who replaced Alison Saunders last week, met with Cage last autumn just a month after director Muhammad Rabbani was convicted of a terror offence after refusing to hand over passwords to his mobile phone and laptop at Heathrow Airport. [Daily Mail] Read more

UK 'Won't Offer Asylum To Asia Bibi Amid Security Concerns'

A Pakistani Christian woman’s appeal to Britain for asylum has been denied because her arrival in the country may stir civil unrest, HuffPost UK has been told.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer, was released from prison in Pakistan on Wednesday after being acquitted of blasphemy. She had spent eight years on death row after an argument with a group of Muslim women in June 2009.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned Bibi’s 2010 conviction for “insulting the prophet Mohammed” last week, saying the case against her was based on flimsy evidence.

But her acquittal sparked violent protests led by Islamic religious hardliners, and the government has now agreed to try to stop her leaving the country.

On Saturday her lawyer, Saif Mulook, fled Pakistan, saying he feared for his life. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has also released a video message saying he too fears for his family’s safety.

“I am requesting the Prime Minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” he said.

But campaigners working to secure Bibi’s move abroad said the UK government had not offered her asylum, citing security concerns. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Time to draw a line under blasphemy laws

The persecution of the Christian woman Asia Bibi for blasphemy serves as a stark warning of what happens when irrational obsessions with religious beliefs overcome any form of humanity.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has now released Bibi from prison but her freedom was difficult to attain. Shamefully, Imran Khan initially barred her from leaving the country in a bid to subdue rampaging protesters who have been baying for her blood. The millions given by the Department for International Development to Pakistan to ensure its ‘prosperity and stability’ are obviously not making much of an impact.

.... Morality and feelings are impossible to police without turning the country into a totalitarian state. Being unkind, insensitive or even finding the deaths of others funny should not be punishable by the law. But we are now living in a dystopia where subjective feelings of taking offence form the central tenet of the West’s new law for blasphemy.

Our free speech is under attack from creeping Islamism and post-Liberal Puritans who are perpetually outraged on our behalf. They crush our freedom and are propelling us towards a society where only state-sanctioned speech is allowed. If this happens we will no longer have the right to scorn Pakistan. [The Conservative Woman] Read more

08 November 2018

New head of CPS under fire for refusing to use phrase 'Islamist terrorism'

.... Emma Webb, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society said: “In the wake of negative publicity damaging the CPS, Max Hill has vowed that through his appointment he will “restore trust”. But it is difficult to see how this will be possible given his habit of meeting disproportionately with extremist and intolerant groups.

“Meeting with such groups is bad enough, but his apparent aping of their divisive rhetoric is a step to far. Their fingerprints are all over his own positions.

“He has shown himself to have bad taste and judgement in the company he keeps. This is certainly not a man who can be trusted to ensure justice is done when it comes to Islamist extremism.”

A CPS spokesman said Mr Hill has always been clear about his desire for “the need for consultation with the community, particularly Muslim communities, and awareness of the full range of what different organisations are bringing to the field, not just the government favoured ones”.

He added: "Max Hill QC was appointed by the Attorney General after a rigorous and open competition, overseen by a Civil Service Commissioner‎." [The Telegraph] Read more

07 November 2018

Turkish academic suspended from university for mocking the Quran on social media

An academic at a university in Turkey’s western province of Aydin has been suspended pending an investigation after he allegedly mocked verses of the Islamic holy book on social media, Takvim newspaper reported.

The unnamed academic was removed from duty at Aydin Menderes University on Wednesday after the university rector, Cavit Bircan, filed a criminal complaint against him, Takvim said.

"As a result of an investigation it was found that the academic in his social media postings made a mockery of Quranic verses and shared posts which contain pejoratives and insults that are not befitting an academic,” Bircan said in a statement.

Bircan was appointed the rector of Aydin Menderes University in 2014 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who issued a decree in July stripping the country’s education watchdog of much of its supervisory powers and giving himself sole authority to appoint university rectors. [Ahval] Read more

Germans increasingly prejudiced against foreigners, Muslims

Xenophobia is on the rise in Germany, in particular in its eastern states, according to a new study. What's more, an increased affinity for authoritarianism in the country could pose a threat to democracy.

More than one out of three Germans believes foreigners only come to the country to exploit the welfare state, a study on authoritarian attitudes in Germany says. Almost one out of two people in eastern Germany believes this to be true, and almost as many people are convinced Germany is already "dangerously watered down" by foreigners — 35.6 percent of those interviewed overall held that conviction (44.6 percent among eastern Germans).

"More than 30 percent of the people living in eastern Germany unanimously agree with xenophobic views," said Oliver Decker, the head of the study at the Leipzig-based Competence Center for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research. That is a really high percentage, he told DW. Roughly 22 percent of western Germans agreed with those views. Since 2002, the institute has published a biennial study on authoritarian and right-wing extremist views in Germany.

.... Misgivings about Muslims have also increased. According to the study, more than 44 percent of those surveyed believe Muslims should be banned from immigrating to Germany, compared to 36.5 percent four years ago. More than one out of two (55.8 percent) said that the number of Muslims in Germany made them feel like strangers in their own country sometimes, compared to 43 percent in 2014. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

05 November 2018

Christian ‘Blasphemer’ pleads for asylum after Imran Khan bars her exit from Pakistan

The husband of a Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row in Pakistan has begged Britain to give the family asylum after Imran Khan’s government moved to stop her leaving.

In an interview with The Times Ashiq Masih, who is in hiding with his wife Asia Bibi, pleaded with Theresa May to intervene and help the family “escape from Pakistan” as Islamists across the country protest to demand that she be hanged.

Mr Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, had at first stood up to the protesters, calling them “enemies of the country” in a speech after the verdict. Within 48 hours, however, his government appeared to capitulate, agreeing to put Ms Bibi on the exit-control list in exchange for an end to the protests. It also promised that it would not oppose a court petition calling for her acquittal to be overturned. [The Times (£)] Read more

04 November 2018

Islamic schools accused of sex discrimination after segregating boys and girls at break time

Two Islamic schools have been reported to the Government for segregating boys and girls on their premises.

The Avecinna Academy and The Wisdom Academy in Birmingham were flagged up for 'sex discrimination' by education watchdog Ofsted.

Avecinna was found to be practicing segregation across year groups including during break times while Wisdom was said to be “failing to prepare students for life in modern Britain”.

Ofsted inspectors said in their reports that the mixed sex schools were in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

At Avecinna an independent school for up to 100 pupils aged 11 to 17 boys and girls were found being taught on separate floors of the building.

The Ofsted report reads: “The school operates a policy of segregation by sex. Boys and girls are taught on separate floors of the building in all year groups. [The Telegraph] Read more

Tory vice-chair Kemi Badenoch says 'political motive' to Islamophobia call

A high-ranking Tory has suggested demands for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the party have a "political motive", prompting a backlash from a Conservative peer.

Party vice chair and Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch, considered a rising star in the party, rejected the Muslim Council of Britain's (MCB) call for an independent probe into anti-Muslim prejudice within the Conservatives.

Earlier this year, the MCB said it had seen weekly incidents of Islamophobia from Conservative representatives and candidates as it urged Tory officials to take action.

However, asked whether such issues were a reason why the Conservatives have a relative lack of support among ethnic minorities, Ms Badenoch dismissed the MCB's claims.

She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: "We take every single allegation of Islamophobia seriously and where we do find party members or people who hold positions in local government doing things we suspend them, we investigate thoroughly." [Sky News] Read more

03 November 2018

German public schools are teaching Islam to students who are not sure if they belong

It was the second week of Islam class, and the teacher, Mansur Seddiqzai, stood in front of a roomful of Muslim teens and pointed to the sentence on the chalkboard behind him: “Islam does not belong to Germany.”

He scanned the room and asked, “Who said this?”

Hands shot up. “The AfD?” a student with a navy blue headscarf said, referring to Germany’s far-right anti-refugee party. “No,” Seddiqzai shook his head. “Seehofer,” tried another. “Yes, and who is that?” “A minister,” said a third.

Finally, someone put it all together, identifying Horst Seehofer, the head of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s interior minister and coalition partner, who has on multiple occasions threatened to torpedo her government over the issue of immigration.

.... In a country where the debate over “who belongs?” has deeply divided Merkel’s government, fueled massive demonstrations and propelled the rise of anti-immigrant populism, these 16- and 17-year-olds confront versions of that question every day, in the headlines and in their personal lives: Do I belong, too? Can I be German and a Muslim? [The Washington Post] Read more

Asia Bibi: Lawyer flees Pakistan in fear of his life

The lawyer representing a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row has fled Pakistan in fear for his life.

Saif Mulook told news agency AFP he had to leave so he could continue to represent Asia Bibi, whose conviction was overturned by judges on Wednesday.

Officials have since agreed to bar Asia Bibi from leaving Pakistan in order to end violent protests over the ruling.

Campaigners blasted the deal as akin to signing her "death warrant".

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours, and many are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty following her acquittal.

Mr Mulook told the BBC earlier this week she would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. A number of attempts have previously been made on her life. [BBC] Read more

02 November 2018

Kirklees's halal secret

THOUSANDS of non-Muslim children in Kirklees schools are being fed halal meat from animals that have been ritually slaughtered without being stunned – and without the knowledge of either the schools or their parents.

Even Kirklees councillors were apparently unaware that the authority is the country’s biggest user of meat from animals that have their throats slit while fully conscious – despite 80% of all UK halal meat being humanely stunned first, which is accepted by the Halal Food Authority.

A report by the National Secular Society found that just 18 of the 206 local authorities it questioned used non-stunned halal. Kirklees sends the meat to 40 schools – over a quarter of the national total according to the NSS and almost double the next closest user, Luton Borough Council, which supplies 21 schools.

The vast majority of schools supplied are specifically not Islamic faith schools. Academies and free schools also do not routinely source their meat from Kirklees Council. [The Press] Read more

Swedish Municipality Refuses Conservative Request to Ban Public Muslim Call to Prayer

The municipality of Karlskrona has rejected calls from the populist Sweden Democrats and the conservative Christian Democrats to ban the public call to prayer at a local mosque.

The municipality rejected the proposal to ban the public call to prayer saying that neither the Sweden Democrats nor the Christian Democrats could prove that the broadcasted Arabic prayer was causing a public disturbance that would warrant it being banned, local newspaper Sydöstran reports.

The Sweden Democrats said, “Prayer announcements in public places and in foreign languages are not part of Swedish society.

“These prayer announcements are not only a call to prayer but also an imposition on other religions.”

Initially, the matter was supposed to have been decided in September but was delayed because lawyers of the municipality claimed they needed time to look into the legality of banning the call to prayer. [Breitbart London] Read more

Seven dead in attack on bus carrying Egyptian Christians claimed by IS

Gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Friday, killing seven in the latest assault on the religious minority claimed by the Islamic State group.

The attackers opened fire on the bus of pilgrims in Minya province after they had visited a monastery, the local bishop told AFP.

Bishop Makarios of Minya said the wounded had been taken to a hospital in Beni Mazar, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Cairo.

The attack took place on the road back from the Saint Samuel monastery, he added, as the bus was heading to the city of Sohag.

A security source confirmed that seven people were killed in the attack and seven wounded.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack in a message via its propaganda agency Amaq.

"Those who carried out the ambush... in Minya are fighters of the Islamic State," Amaq said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Egyptian state television said security forces were on Friday afternoon still in pursuit of the attackers. [i24NEWS] Read more

01 November 2018

‘Anyone can kill me’: lawyer battles Pakistan blasphemy laws

After saving condemned Christian Asia Bibi from the gallows in Pakistan, her lawyer says he is facing the wrath of Islamist extremists — and wonders who will save him.

But despite the threats against him, Saif-ul-Mulook says he regrets nothing, and will continue his legal fight against intolerance.

Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi — a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, who spent nearly a decade on death row — after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction Wednesday.

“The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings,” he told AFP immediately after the verdict.

“This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.”

Demonstrations against the ruling erupted across the country hours later, with extremists calling for mutiny against the army’s top brass, and for the assassination of Supreme Court justices. [Arab News] Read more

Asia Bibi: anti-blasphemy protests spread across Pakistan

Thousands of Islamist protesters have brought Pakistan to a standstill, burning rickshaws, cars and lorries to protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row on false charges of blasphemy.

Traffic jams held up ambulances and forced mothers to feed their babies by the side of the road, while authorities shut schools across most of the country.

Footage from the protests shows anti-blasphemy campaigners clubbing and throwing shoes at posters of Pakistan’s chief justice and the new prime minister, Imran Khan, who on Wednesday night threatened a fierce government response if protesters did not disperse.

“We are ready to sacrifice our lives for this noble cause,” one told the Guardian, “and have rejected whatever rubbish the prime minister said in his speech”. [The Guardian] Read more

Pakistan Islamists block roads to protest acquittal of Christian

Pakistan’s ultra-Islamist party blocked roads in major cities for a third day on Friday in protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy allegations.

Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) said talks with the government have failed, and called upon its followers to get ready for a show down.

.... Khan’s broadcast followed comments by a senior leader of TLP, calling for Chief Justice Nissan and the other two judges to be killed.

“They all three deserve to be killed,” TLP co-founder Muhammad Fatal Badri told a protest in Lahore. “Either their security, their driver, or their cook should kill them.”

He also called for the ouster of Khan’s new government and urged army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Lamar Jawed Baja.

Hafiz Sae, an influential Islamist whom the U.S. accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers. [Reuters] Read more

Europe has no business upholding blasphemy laws

The courageous Pakistan supreme court judges who quashed Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction face the very real threat of assassination. Furious Islamists were hoping for a hanging in the near future, and their blood-lust has not yet been sated.

.... Even as the supreme court was hearing Ms Bibi’s case, the European Court of Human Rights was considering its own blasphemy appeal. Unlike the Pakistani judges, they made a hash of it.

.... The ECHR upheld her conviction, not merely on the narrow ground that Austrians should be free to have blasphemy laws if they want them, but on the astonishing and legally nonsensical principle that the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 9 creates a “duty to suppress certain forms of conduct or expression that [are] gratuitously offensive and profane”.

It was “gratuitously offensive,” said the judges, to claim that marrying a child made Muhammad a paedophile; not because it is absurd to apply 21st-century standards to the 7th century, but because he remained married to her after she became an adult, something a paedophile would not have done.

Rabble-rousers bray that there is now a “European blasphemy law protecting Islam”. There is not. Yet to hear the court explaining why European countries have a “duty to suppress” insults to religion, even while Pakistan’s judges were considering whether Ms Bibi should hang, was profoundly depressing. [The Times (£)] Read more

31 October 2018

Ofsted uncovers ‘extremely worrying’ material in unregistered schools

Ofsted’s inspections of unregistered schools have uncovered material that says women must not refuse sex to their husbands, and literature calling for the death of gay people.

They contribute to what the inspection body has identified as a threat of children being exposed to extremism in illegal schools.

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, said “extremely worrying material” has also been found in poorly performing registered independent schools, and even in a maintained community school.

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, she said: “We have, for instance, found books that say it is acceptable for men to use physical violence against their wives, texts that say it is unacceptable for women to refuse sex to their husbands, and literature calling for the death of gay people. [Express & Star] Read more

Quashing of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy charge will not end her suffering

She may have been freed, but she’s never likely to be free.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer who has spent the past eight years in solitary confinement after being convicted of blasphemy, will almost certainly have to start a new life with her husband and children outside Pakistan, perhaps with new identities. She will spend the rest of her days looking over her shoulder in fear of an international assassin.

And not just Bibi and her family. The lives of the three judges, who apparently made the decision to overturn her conviction three weeks ago but held back from announcing it for fear of the consequences, are also at risk from fundamentalists intent on revenge.

Within hours of the supreme court judgment, Afzal Qadri of Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a political party dedicated to punishing blasphemy, said the judges faced death. [The Guardian] Read more

Imran Khan calls for calm after protests over Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal

Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan has called for calm after furious protests across the country over the acquittal of a Christian woman

Mr Khan spoke on TV several hours after the Supreme Court ordered the acquittal of Asia Bibi - a decision that sparked protests across the country and calls for the judges to be killed.

The mother-of-three, 47, was convicted of blasphemy in November 2010 after being accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

The blasphemy law in Pakistan carries a mandatory death penalty and many hardline religious groups are opposed to it being amended.

.... Protests were staged in major cities across Pakistan with club-wielding demonstrators blocking Islamabad's main highway and barricading roads in Karachi and Lahore.

Thousands of supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, took to the streets in protests, demanding Ms Bibi's public execution. [Sky News] Read more

Blasphemy revisited

.... Her death would have been hugely controversial internationally. No one has yet been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. But that's not the way it works. As with Asia Bibi here, the trials are dragged out as long as possible, and the victims made to suffer in prison before eventual release. Then, if they don't go into hiding or flee the country, they're liable to be murdered by angry mobs of fanatics.

This case has become notorious because of the murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taheer. He stated his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law, and suggested that Bibi could be pardoned. For that he was assassinated by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who has since become a hero among hardline Islamists, with a shrine dedicated to his memory on the outskirts of Islamabad:

His supporters also created a political party - campaigning to preserve the blasphemy laws - which gathered around two million votes in this year's general election.

It's the same party which many fear could be responsible for violent unrest in the coming days.

So, unless she's spirited out of Pakistan, Asia Bibi's future looks bleak indeed. [Mick Hartley] Read more

Asia Bibi: Pakistan court overturns blasphemy death sentence

Pakistan’s supreme court has struck down the death sentence for blasphemy handed down to Christian woman Asia Bibi, in a long-delayed, landmark decision that will free her after nine years on death row and has ignited countrywide protests from Islamist groups.

The court, in a three-member bench led by the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, ordered Bibi’s release on Wednesday morning in Islamabad. By the afternoon, thousands of club-wielding demonstrators had blocked highways, burned tyres and pelted police with stones in major cities including Islamabad and Karachi.

Publication of the 56-page ruling was delayed for three weeks after blasphemy campaigners promised to “paralyse” the country and kill the judges if they did not uphold Bibi’s death sentence. [The Guardian] Read more

Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row

A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.

She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

The landmark ruling has already set off violent protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.

Demonstrations against the verdict are being held in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan. Clashes with police have been reported.

The Red Zone in the capital Islamabad, where the Supreme Court is located, has been sealed off by police, and paramilitary forces have been deployed to keep protesters away from the court. [BBC] Read more

30 October 2018

Seventeen women are arrested for taking part in a Halloween party in Saudi Arabia

Seventeen Filipina expats were arrested after they took part in a Halloween party in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines foreign ministry said.

The group were detained by intelligence officers who raided a compound in Riyadh when neighbours complained about the noise on Friday.

It is unclear what charges they face following their arrest, but the ministry reiterated that Saudi laws prohibit unattached men and women from being seen together in public.

Adnan Alonto, the Philipinne ambassador in Riyadh, told the ministry it appeared organisers of the party had been charged with holding an event without permit and disturbing the neighbourhood, the BBC reported. [Daily Mail] Read more

29 October 2018

Newtownards: Group dressed as KKK members is 'hate crime'

A report of a group of people dressed as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members in Newtownards, County Down, is being treated by police as a hate crime.

Pictures emerged of the group posing near an Islamic prayer house.

The pictures were taken on Saturday night on Greenwell Street. The incident was reported to police at about 17:00 GMT on Sunday.

Strangford MLAs have condemned the incident.

PSNI Insp Richard Murray said: "Hate crime, in all its forms, is totally unacceptable.

The Chief Constable, George Hamilton, told BBC NI's The Nolan Show the incident was "disgusting and distasteful".

"There's no place for it anywhere in Northern Ireland. We will investigate it and report the evidence to the PPS," he added. [BBC] Read more