31 January 2018

Indonesia's conservative Aceh orders headscarves for Muslim flight attendants

Authorities in the Indonesian province of Aceh have ordered Muslim flight attendants to wear headscarves when flying into the ultra-conservative Islamic region, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Aceh is the only province in the predominantly Muslim country to implement Islamic law. Muslims elsewhere practice a moderate form of the religion, leaving women free to choose whether to cover their heads.

The regional government, allowed greater autonomy under a 2001 peace deal with the central government, sent a letter to national carrier Garuda Indonesia (GIAA.JK) and budget carriers, such as Malaysia’s AirAsia (AIRX.KL) and Firefly.

“All female stewardesses must wear a ‘jilbab’ (headscarf) Muslim fashion in accordance with the rules of sharia,” the authorities said in the letter.

The international airport in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, services dozens of domestic flights every week, and international routes to neighbouring Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Non-Muslim flights attendants were not required to wear headscarves, but Muslim staff would be asked to wear them on flights in and out of Aceh, said Mawardi Ali, chief of the Aceh Besar region where the airport is located. [Reuters] Read more

30 January 2018

'Australians show their arms and legs when they wear a bikini': Outrage as taxpayers fund a 'modesty' fashion exhibition promoting Islamic clothing - calling the controversial burqini 'ground-breaking'

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been slammed for its decision to sponsor the 'modest fashion' industry including the hijab and burqa.

DFAT promoted an Australian-made Islamic clothing exhibition this month, describing the invention of the burqini swimsuit as 'ground-breaking'.

The taxpayer-funded department described the Islamic clothing market as 'booming' in Australia.

DFAT's promotion of the industry sparked outrage from the Australian public.

Taking to Twitter in response this week, one man asked: 'Why are you supporting the oppression of girls and women?'

Another took to the social media site to ask if DFAT was serious about its support for the Islamic fashion market.

'What the h*ll is this waffle out of DFAT?' they said.

'If this is real it is the most stupidity that I have ever seen.'

A third critic took issue with Islamic fashion calling itself 'modest fashion'.

'Doesn't that imply that an Australian woman who chooses not to dress as the women in the photograph, is therefore immodest?' [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

29 January 2018

Cowardice allows Muslim extremism to thrive

The scale of Britain’s problem with Islamic extremism has been graphically illustrated by what happens to Muslims who fight it.

St Stephen’s is a secular state primary school in a largely Pakistani and Bangladeshi community in east London. Its results are among the best in England. Its head teacher, Neena Lall, decided with her chairman of governors, Arif Qawi, that children under the age of eight should be banned from wearing the Islamic headscarf in class. They also stopped children fasting on school premises during Ramadan in case they became unwell.

Lall was alarmed that very few pupils thought of themselves as British. She felt an obligation to teach them British values. So what was the reaction to this admirable stand against religious extremism? Qawi was forced out as chairman of governors and Lall was likened to Hitler.

Five local councillors said that the headscarf ban would leave pupils “victimised, intimidated and threatened when practising their faith”. Nearly 20,000 people signed a petition calling for the ban to be lifted. Last week Lall was forced to apologise and reverse the policy. [The Times (£)] Read more

Do the voices shouting down Sara Khan really represent Britain’s Muslims?

.... Whether or not the initiative works, Khan has a long record of opposition of extremism, violent and non-violent: opposing gender segregation at universities; urging girls not to join ISIS; taking a stand against Boko Haram. We hope that the new role works out for her – and, more importantly, for those it is meant to help.

Either way, our media colleagues might have a glance at that Policy Exchange polling. It found that the Muslim Council of Britain was regarded by some nine per cent of British Muslims as the right vehicle of choice to engage with government. Warsi, whose ups and downs this site has explored exhaustively, has never won an election. But as we say, don’t blame papers and websites. Until or unless the Muslim mainstream organises in some mass form, its voice won’t be head. [ConservativeHome] Read more

28 January 2018

St Stephen’s head likened to Hitler as activists step up attack on hijab-ban school

A video, circulating on social media this weekend, portrays the head teacher of England’s best primary school as Hitler. The school’s former chairman of governors is Stalin and some of its management team are shown as Hitler’s acolytes.

The film, which has been retweeted by men in the local community, is the latest salvo in an increasingly vicious war in London’s East End over whether St Stephen’s — a secular state school in the heart of a largely Pakistani and Bangladeshi community — has the right to rule that children under the age of eight should be banned from wearing the Islamic headscarf in class. [The Times (£)] Read more

Home Office tries to renew links with Islamic ‘hardliners’

The government has held secret talks with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) about re-establishing a relationship, nine years after it broke with the group over its alleged links with extremism.

Home Office officials met MCB leaders to “discuss the possibility of Home Office re-engagement”, according to an internal Home Office newsletter this month.

The move is controversial. The MCB, which claims to be the country’s main “national representative Muslim body”, is criticised by Muslim moderates as hardline, not reflecting the community it serves. A 2016 ICM poll found that only 2% of British Muslims saw the MCB as their main route to engage with government on their behalf.

“Government must not fall back into the trap of looking to ‘gatekeeper’ Muslim organisations like the MCB to deliver or represent the views of this diverse community,” said Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr. [The Times (£)] Read more

27 January 2018

Hate probe as former mayor calls headmistress who banned the hijab in primary school an 'evil racist'

A former mayor is being investigated over claims he called a headmistress who banned the hijab an ‘evil racist’.

Salim Mulla is accused of being part of a hate campaign that targeted primary school headmistress Neena Lall.

As part of attempts to help children integrate into British society, she banned the Islamic headscarf and fasting for pupils under eight at St Stephen’s Primary in Newham, East London.

But the school is said to have been bullied into reversing the move after it received ‘ridiculous oppression and intimidation’ in emails and online comments from around the country.

Mr Mulla, a serving Labour councillor in Blackburn – some 240 miles away – is accused of being part of a campaign that led to Miss Lall caving in and her chairman of governors resigning. [527 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 7116 votes] The government should enforce a blanket ban on wearing the hijab of all primary school children.

[2ND 6382] Neena has the right idea! Making 8 year old kids fast is atrocious!

[3RD 5726] Surely the headmistress is being the opposite of racist - ensuring none of her pupils looks different. This seems a good way forward until such time as the children are old enough to reach a decision without being forced by their parents.

[4TH 4994] Islam isn't a race.

[5TH 4314] Nothing to do with race. [Daily Mail] Read more

Canadians don't want an anti-Islamophobia day: poll

Should Jan. 29 be set aside to combat Islamophobia?

That day — tomorrow — is the first anniversary of the mass murder at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. Six Muslims were killed in this hate crime.

Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders in Canada would like to take a stand against intolerance and see Jan. 29th declared a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.

A recent Forum Poll suggests that many Canadians are against this.

Forum Research polled 1,408 Canadian voters and found half (49%) disapproved of designating such a day. Almost 40% disapproved strongly.

Approval came from only 17% of those polled; strong approval was noted among 7%.

The same number — 7% — say they don’t know, while fully a quarter (26%) neither approve nor disapprove. [Toronto Sun] Read more

26 January 2018

Denmark's burka ban could also forbid masks and fake beards

A Ministry of Justice proposal for a new law against the wearing of the burka in public could apply to all "comprehensively masking items" - including masks, helmets and false beards.

The ministry's draft proposal comes after the government last year announced its intention to ban the burka, the full-face Islamic veil, from use in public places.

According to broadcaster DR, which has been seen the draft, the proposal states that it will be "forbidden to wear clothing items that cover the face in public places".

That definition encompasses scarves, masks, helmets, fully-covering costumes, false beards and other hats that cover the face, according to DR's report of the ministry's note.

Assessment of whether individual items can be considered to cover the face enough to be prohibited will made by police, according to the report.

The note also makes a provision for face-masking items to be allowed if they serve a "worthy purpose". The draft names scarves and hats in cold weather and costumes as fitting this description.

The government proposes that infringement of the burka ban be punishable by a fine of 1,000 kroner or up to three months in prison. [The Local] Read more

British Muslim Community alarmed by the appointment of Sara Khan, and for good reason

.... The home secretary, Amber Rudd, described Ms Khan as being ‘expertly qualified’, saying she will “bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the commission…vital as it works to identify and challenge extremism”.

Ms Khan’s appointment, however has also drawn significant criticism from policy-makers, including by Diane Abbott and civil organizations, particularly those representing the Muslim community.

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain – the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body – said that the appointment “will be seen as a move to placate those small sections of society who see Muslims as foreign, alien, rather than as equal citizens in this country”.

Ms Khan has been accused of having no credibility amongst the British Muslim Community. Indeed, the immersion of Inspire within the Prevent programme, and the perception of Prevent being discriminatory against Muslims has arguably alienated her from large sections of British Muslims.

This criticism has been compounded by her intimate professional relationship with the Home Office.

Inspire, founded by Ms Khan, is a project that has received funding from the Home Office and Ms Khan’s book, ‘The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism’, was co-authored by a Home Office Consultant, Tony McMahon. [MEND] Read more

As anti-extremism chief, I hear my critics – but I’ll listen to victims too

.... Working on this issue for more than a decade, I have heard first-hand testimony from young people, who shared with me how extremism drew them into a life of violence and hate, robbing them of a promising career and future. Mothers have told me heartbreaking stories of how extremism ripped their families apart.

When extremism thrives, fear and suspicion breeds between and within communities, undermining cohesion and prosperity. The harmful consequences do not end there. The rights of women are undermined, as are the rights of minority groups in our society. We have seen a rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry but also hatred and threats towards members of the LGBTQ community. And of course, terrorism is often carried out by those driven by an extremist ideology. [495 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 249 votes] I'm afraid that is the standard politically correct paint by numbers approach which pretends far right terrorism is an equal threat to Islamist terrorism. One look at the statistics shows this is not true. Be honest for once and target the problem.

[2ND 168] If both Naz Shah and Sayeeda Warsi are prepared to go on Radio 4 at the same time to denigrate this lady, she must presumably be getting something right.

[3RD 137] If you're going to tackle the elephant in the room, all well and good. But if you take the Hope not Hate approach, then a good deal of the country is going to despise you and see this as a continuation of cultural marxism.

[4TH 132] "My first act will be to carry out a comprehensive study of the scale, influence and reach of extremism in Britain "

Er, the Security Services have been investigating this for well over a decade, we've had Prevent and all sorts of other initiatives.

Surely there is some idea of the extent already available?

[5TH 132] More than a few Jihadists, apparently:

"UP TO 23,000 potential jihadis are reportedly living in Britain as police investigate the sprawling terror network linked to Manchester bomber Salman Abedi"

[6TH 126] I think we know the issues, sadly I think it is a few decades too late but wish you well. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Anti-extremism tsar Sara Khan has no credibility, say Muslim groups

Downing Street was forced yesterday to defend its appointment of Britain’s first counterextremism commissioner after complaints from Muslim groups.

A petition to the Home Office signed by 100 Muslim organisations and scholars called for Sara Khan to be removed from her new role as head of the Commission for Countering Extremism.

Muslim groups are understood to be upset at the appointment because of Ms Khan’s support for the Prevent programme against violent extremism.

Ms Khan, the co-founder of Inspire, a counterextremism and women’s rights organisation, was accused of being a “mouthpiece” for the government by Baroness Warsi, a former chairwoman of the Conservative Party. She described the move as “a deeply disturbing appointment” and said on Twitter: “Sara is sadly seen by many as simply a creation of and mouthpiece for the Home Office.”

The Muslim Council of Britain expressed grave concerns about the appointment. Harun Khan, its secretary-general, said: “The fight against terrorism requires equal partnership between all parties, including Muslim communities. This appointment risks sending a clear and alarming message that the government has no intention of doing so.”

[TOP RATED COMMENT 43 votes] So a hundred mullahs are enraged at the appointment of this eminently qualified female to oversee their activities.

What is it about this one religious group that thinks it can dictate government policy?

[2ND 32] Only in Britain. We have a section of the community that has produced virtually every terrorist in the country for the last thirty years and they want to be able to dictate who should be in charge of a counter-extremism initiative.

[3RD 29] Baroness Warsi. Any space she occupies is a waste of.

And why should a particular section of society get all this “community “ driven engagement support, dialogue etc. instead of just getting getting on with their lives like everyone else?

[4TH 27] "Muslim groups are understood to be upset at the appointment because of Ms Khan’s support for the Prevent programme against violent extremism."

Who do they want then? Mr Abu Hamza is regrettably unavailable on account of being detained in a maximum security US gaol for the next hundred years or so on terrorism charges. Mr Hamza is presumably opposed to the Prevent programme.

[5TH 21] Time some people accepted they have a problem to solve, and not turn on people trying to help them.

[6TH 20] If the Muslim Council of Britain are against Sara Khan then that only means she's doing some good. The MCB, MAB and all other "muslim" groups are nothing more than a front for extremism.

[7TH 17] "Sara is sadly seen by many as simply a creation of and mouthpiece for the Home Office.”

Instead of saying "many", Warsi should have been more honest and stated outright that she is referring to Islamist leaders -- who of course lead all the activist mosques and groups in Britain. This episode is a fine example of the control freakery of British Islamists: unless one of them is picked to be at the helm, they will attack government appointees relentlessly.

Warsi, the rest of Britain, ie the majority, do not view Sara Khan as a Home office mouthpiece. [The Times (£)] Read more

The share of Americans who leave Islam is offset by those who become Muslim

Like Americans in many other religious groups, a substantial share of adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as members of the faith. But, unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses.

About a quarter of adults who were raised Muslim (23%) no longer identify as members of the faith, roughly on par with the share of Americans who were raised Christian and no longer identify with Christianity (22%), according to a new analysis of the 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

But while the share of American Muslim adults who are converts to Islam also is about one-quarter (23%), a much smaller share of current Christians (6%) are converts. In other words, Christianity as a whole loses more people than it gains from religious switching (conversions in both directions) in the U.S., while the net effect on Islam in America is a wash.

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Muslims, using slightly different questions than the 2014 survey, found a similar estimate (24%) of the share of those who were raised Muslim but have left Islam. Among this group, 55% no longer identify with any religion, according to the 2017 survey.

Fewer identify as Christian (22%), and an additional one-in-five (21%) identify with a wide variety of smaller groups, including faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or as generally “spiritual.” [Pew Research Center] Read more

25 January 2018

New counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan faces calls to quit

Sara Khan, who has campaigned for women's rights in Muslim communities, has been given the task of rooting out extremism in the UK.

She has promised "zero tolerance to those who promote hate".

But her support for the Home Office's Prevent strategy has led to claims she is too close to the government.

Downing Street has insisted Ms Khan is "expertly qualified" for the new role - but a number of Muslim organisations are understood to be calling for her to be sacked and saying they will not work with her.

A petition by anti-Islamophobia campaign MEND, saying her appointment "will further damage relations between the government and Muslim communities," is being circulated, the BBC understands.

Lady Warsi, the first Muslim woman to serve as a British cabinet minister, said many British Muslims saw Ms Khan as a "mouthpiece" of ministers.

The Conservative peer questioned Ms Khan's likely independence as the Commissioner for Countering Extremism in a series of tweets and warned of "destructive and dangerous games" being played. [BBC] Read more

Why are journalists dancing to the Islamists’ tune over Sara Khan?

.... let us consider the case against Sara Khan, the Government's new Commissioner for Countering Extremism. Today the BBC's headline about her appointment is: 'Controversy over new counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan'.

Many of those who claim to speak for Muslims do not like Khan because she promotes a positive message. She encourages a degree of integration into British society. She says Muslims should obey the same laws as everyone else and cooperate with the British state. She has called for honesty among Muslims about hateful ideologies and intolerant practices which are specific to, or particularly prominent among, those who share their religion.

Her organisation Inspire encourages girls and women from Muslim backgrounds to be aspirational. It has done important work countering the narrative of grievance and resentment peddled by so many. And Khan wrote a book, The Battle for British Islam, in which she tackled many of those peddlers, as well as their counterparts on the white far right, head-on.

Is this really work that we should explicitly describe as 'controversial'? Anyone interested in the future of British society should support the general thrust of what Khan has tried to do. [National Secular Society] Read more

Quebec’s Law on Facial Veils Fuels Fierce Debate

As a Muslim teenager in her native Tunisia, Nadia El-Mabrouk never once saw a woman wearing a full-face veil. After moving to Canada, she was shocked to see her first one on the streets of Montreal.

Now the University of Montreal computer-science professor is one of many Quebec residents backing a provincial government ban on the Islamic face covering, called a niqab. "It's a walking prison," she said.

The measure, part of a law passed by the National Assembly of Quebec in October, bans women from wearing face coverings when using public services such as buses or libraries. Provincial lawmakers say the law is meant to ensure public security and is among the first of its kind in North America. [The Wall Street Journal ($)] Read more

Is Islam Compatible with Western Society?

It really comes down to one thing – to one primary question – What is Islam, and what do we mean by Islam? Because if we are going to decide this we must know what we are talking about. So, what is it? You may hear from the other side of this debate this evening that Islam is whatever Muslims make it.

That it is essentially subjective. But by very definition this can’t be true. People look to religion for guidance, for advice on how to live, therefore there must be an objective source for people to turn to for that guidance. In the case of religions, the objective source is usually a core written scripture or the philosophy of its founder or both. In short, Islam and Muslims are not the same thing. The follower and the guidance they follow cannot by definition be the same thing.

Muslims are human beings with all the complexities of human beings. They are the readers of the book not the book itself. And many will interpret that book differently – but the book remains the same. It is objective. So, if Islam is not Muslims then what is it? And you may also hear from the other side of this debate that the Islam that I describe, is not the true Islam. And that the truer Islam is compatible with Western Society. So, what is true Islam? [New English Review] Read more

24 January 2018

County council backs down over decision to ban unstunned halal meat in schools

LANCASHIRE County Council has backed down over its controversial decision to ban the serving of unstunned halal meat in its schools, after the threat of a legal challenge.

In October, the county’s full council voted to end the supply on its schools and premises of ‘halal’ meat from animals which had not been stunned before slaughter — with the exemption of poultry.

The move was prompted by the county council’s Tory leader Cllr Geoff Driver who considers the slaughter of unstunned animals as ‘cruel’.

The Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) last month threatened to take the authority to judicial review in the High Court claiming it had failed to consult adequately on the decision.

Now the county council has written to the LCM’s chief executive Abdul Hamid Qureshi saying it will ‘consider afresh’. It will now consult on the proposal voted through in October and continue the current contracts to supply unstunned meat to 27 schools across the county in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and Preston. [Lancashire Telegraph] Read more

Council to reconsider ban on halal meat in schools

A council's plans to stop its schools from serving unstunned halal meat are to be reconsidered.

Lancashire County Council voted to stop using the meat in schools in October, leading Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) to seek a judicial review.

LCM said it had received a council letter stating the ban, which was due to begin in December, would be delayed.

Council leader Geoff Driver said there would be a "wider consultation... to inform future policy".

Unstunned halal meat is currently supplied to 12,000 pupils at 27 council-run schools in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and Preston.

More than 80% of halal meat in the UK is pre-stunned and is acceptable to many Muslims, according to the British Veterinary Association. [BBC] Read more

23 January 2018

Hijabs sexualise little girls and school heads are right to ban them

.... St Stephen’s is one of the most successful primary schools in the UK. This is a backward step for the young girls who are pupils there.

This should be a straightforward issue. The hijab is meant to be worn to cover women in order to avoid tempting men. Don’t get me started on the issues I have with that as a feminist and as a Muslim woman. But putting children in a hijab is akin to dressing them in high heels and make-up. It is sexualised clothing. By covering up young girls, the implication is that they are sexual beings. In our attempt not to offend those who believe this, we are limiting girls’ rights and freedom.

In the current climate of hyper- political correctness, with strident liberals on one side and ill- informed knuckleheads on the other, we have lost the ability to think straight. The hostility towards Muslims, of which I have been a victim, is being exploited by conservative men within communities such as mine to shut down legitimate concerns. [Evening Standard] Read more

New trials shake Algeria's Ahmadi minority

Algerian authorities have stepped up trials of members of the Ahmadiyya religious minority on charges related to the exercise of their religion, Human Rights Watch has said. Sentences range from fines to a year in prison.

Human Rights Watch received information that, in December 2017 alone, there were at least eight new trials in Algeria involving at least 50 Ahmadi defendants. Since June 2016, 266 Ahmadis have faced charges, some of them in more than one trial. The president of the Ahmadyyia community in Algeria, Mohamed Fali, told Human Rights Watch that at least four new trials are scheduled for later in January 2018.

“Algerian authorities continue their unabated persecution of this minority, apparently for doing no more than exercising their freedom of religion,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The Ahmadiyya, a community founded in India in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and identifying itself as Muslim, is estimated to have about 2,000 adherents in Algeria, according to the community. [Ekklesia] Read more

BBC Panorama White Fright: 'Blackburn IS more divided'

.... He said: “The evidence is Blackburn has become more segregated in terms of where people live, work and go to school in the last ten years.

“The Panorama programme is right and this will build up problems and tensions for the future. More needs to be done to tackle this divide.”

.... Gulistan Khan, a community activist, said he and other Asian Muslims faced constantly speak out in the aftermath of terrorism:.

He said: “We’re having to justify our allegiances with the country that we live in, but why is it that we have to do it every time. We’re having to apologise for others and it has a huge impact on Muslims.”

Despite this he said: “I do not see Blackburn as a racially segregated town. People may live in geographically different areas but they all come together when it is needed.”

[TOP RATED COMMENT 44 votes] The crux of the matter, as I see it, is that many older (Pakistani-heritage) people never really left Pakistan......they just brought it with them and expected that they would be able to live here exactly as they lived there. Now you would think that the passage of time would erode this and that, slowly, integration would happen.

Yet I see little sign of that, and transcontinental marriage must be a factor in all of this. Many of the young Asian-heritage people that I meet (and I spent years teaching them in a Blackburn high school) do not identify as British. They identify as British PAKISTANIS. There you have the problem.

[2ND 35] One thing stuck in my mind. A lady? Could have been a man I couldnt tell they were wearing a face veil. Said she was upset about the state of relations between whites and Muslims apparently she was crying, but how could we tell? She could have been laughing, sticking her tongue out, or any range of emotions for all we viewers could tell.

Humans communicate not just with words and gestures but importantly by facial expressions totally absent by people covering their face. There is no religious or practical reason to wear a face veil in everyday situations.

[4TH 23] Wearing a face veil is nothing but sticking two fingers up to western society.

[3RD 24] Our children don’t grow up together because of this insistence on faith schools. What do you expect that will lead to??

[5TH 20] Of course Blackburn is divided.

Only an utter moron - or a politician, same thing really - would think allowing muslims into a liberal western democracy would actually work.

[ANOTHER] Too right - faith schools ( and I mean ALL faith schools ) are the wrong way to educate children.

All children should go to the same type of school - ie., no religion whatsoever. Ideally, I would like all religions banned by law but failing that, if parents want their offspring to be indoctrinated with the fables and myths of a particular sky-fairy, then it should be on their own time. [Lancashire Telegraph] Read more

22 January 2018

Algeria: New Trials Shake Ahmadi Minority

Algerian authorities have stepped up trials of members of the Ahmadiyya religious minority on charges related to the exercise of their religion, Human Rights Watch said today. Sentences range from fines to a year in prison.

Human Rights Watch received information that, in December 2017 alone, there were at least eight new trials in Algeria involving at least 50 Ahmadi defendants. Since June 2016, 266 Ahmadis have faced charges, some of them in more than one trial. The president of the Ahmadyyia community in Algeria, Mohamed Fali, told Human Rights Watch that at least four new trials are scheduled for later in January 2018. [Human Rights Watch] Read more

Blackburn: A town still divided?

Blackburn was once described as one of the most segregated towns in Britain by the author of a report on riots across northern England. In 2007, Panorama found Blackburn's Muslim Asian and white communities were living worlds apart. Ten years on, has anything changed?

In 2007 we made a programme called White Fright tracking the ethnic and religious divide between Muslim Asian and white residents in Blackburn.

White residents were found to be leaving in large numbers and the two communities had separate lives.

A decade on Panorama has returned to find a town that is even more divided.

Some parts of Blackburn are only lived in by white residents and other areas are almost entirely Muslim Asian. [BBC] Read more

21 January 2018

St Stephen’s Newham backs down on hijab ban after online abuse

MPs and education experts rallied behind the best primary school in England yesterday after it came under such criticism that it reversed its ban on children under eight wearing hijabs.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, said it was “wrong” that the school had come under fire.

On Friday, Arif Qawi, the chairman of governors at St Stephen’s in Newham, east London, resigned.

“I am certainly in support of this school,” said Halfon. “It has very good results. We have to be very careful that very, very young children are not being forced by more hardline elements .... [The Times (£)] Read more

20 January 2018

Police are called in after primary school is 'intimidated' into dropping a ban on Muslim girls wearing hijabs

Police have been called in after a top-rated primary school was 'intimidated' into dropping a ban on Muslim girls wearing hijabs.

St Stephen's in Newham, East London, was bombarded with thousands of emails – many allegedly abusive or threatening violence against staff – after it ruled that girls aged under eight should not wear headscarves.

In the face of the protests, the chairman of the governors, Arif Qawi, announced his resignation on Friday and the school said it had reversed its ban after 'speaking to the school community'.

However, insiders said staff had been bullied by an 'orchestrated' campaign of up to 500 emails a day from across the country, with some messages falsely branding head teacher Neena Lall, 50, a 'paedophile' who 'deserved what she had coming'.

Critics said the school had failed to consult parents properly.

The ban was imposed before Christmas to help five- and six-year-olds integrate better after staff noticed they were often reluctant to join in playground games because their headscarves were cumbersome. The campaign against the ban gathered momentum last week after locals began a petition opposing it, and Islamic activists and Left-wing Newham councillors criticised the decision.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 2889 votes] Why these people want to live among us, is beyond me. The animosity and aggression they show towards our rules and way of life, knows no bounds........

[2ND 2381] Why aren't these threats investigated by the police? Is it because of who is sending them? It's our country and our rules I find it offensive when people come over to try and change our rules, Leave the ban in place then send the police around to everyone who issued threats.

[3RD 1969] The government should make no headscarves in primary schools the law. Anyone breaking that law should be penalised.

[4TH 1810] This is Britain and we should stand strong against bullying and intimidation. This should be a warning of where we are going if we do not uphold right against wrong in a liberal western country.

[5TH 1784] Why??? It isn't an Islamic school.. [Daily Mail] Read more

19 January 2018

Canada: "Islamophobia Day"? Are You Kidding?

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is being asked by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM, formerly known as CAIR CAN) to designate January 29 as a "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia." If he does, it is an indicator that the Islamists in Canada have succeeded in their program of political expansion and influence to the point of now being able publicly to manipulate the Prime Minister's Office. In fact, in Canada, "Islamophobia" comes in only fourth behind crimes against Blacks, Gays and Jews. Hate crimes against Muslims have dropped, even as the overall number of hate crimes increase, according to the last Statistics Canada reporting. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Newham councillors oppose hijab ban at primary school in East Ham

A group of Newham councillors have penned a letter slamming St Stephen’s Primary School’s policies on the hijab and fasting, saying it sets a “dangerous precedent” for a crackdown on religious freedoms in education.

The group call on the school to reverse their ban on pupils under the age of eight wearing a hijab and stop discouraging fasting on school days.

They say there has been a “toxic atmosphere” between parents and the school since headteacher Neena Lall was featured in last weekend’s Sunday Times talking about the policies, which she argues will better integrate pupils into British society.

The letter, titled “we must trust parents,” has been jointly signed by Cllrs Mas Patel, Salim Patel, Idris Ibrahim, Firoza Nekiwala, Zuber Gulamussen, Winston Vaughan, Susan Masters, Jose Alexander, Mukesh Patel and Harvinder Singh Virdee.

“Whilst the Council has little or no power to directly intervene we feel it is important that we, as local representatives, speak out and ensure that a resolution is quickly found,” the letter said. [Newham Recorder] Read more

Luton Islamic school complains over critical Ofsted report

Ofsted found pupils at the independent Olive Tree Primary School in Luton had to ask for toilet paper and wash their cutlery in toilet sinks.

Chair of governors Dr Nurul Islam said a number of issues had been "rectified" and a formal complaint lodged over the report's findings.

Ofsted said it would investigate and took all complaints "seriously".

Inspectors found a number of standards were not met, reporting that "inappropriate books" that "did not promote British values" had been found during a previous inspection.

Despite school leaders stating the titles had been removed, the books, including some by a banned author with "extreme views about punishment by death", were still on the shelves when inspectors re-visited the establishment in November. [BBC] Read more

East London primary school backs down over hijab ban

A primary school that controversially banned pupils from wearing hijabs appears to have backed down after the chair of governors announced his resignation following complaints from parents.

St Stephen’s primary school in Newham, east London, hit the headlines at the weekend after the Sunday Times reported it had banned Muslim girls under the age of eight from wearing headscarves, to the delight of campaigners who argued it enforces religious conformity on children.

That decision, along with curbs on children fasting on school days during Ramadan, upset many parents, who said they had not been consulted.

On Friday, the school’s chair of governors, Arif Qawi, said he was stepping down, telling colleagues in an email: “I wish the school continued success and am truly sorry that my actions have caused any harm to the reputation of the fantastic school.”

Qawi’s comments regarding “Islamisation” posted on social media attracted sustained criticism, while parents complained that they first heard about the ban through the media rather than the school. [The Guardian] Read more

18 January 2018

Study: Muslim Migrants Have Medieval Attitudes Towards Jews, Gays, Women, and ‘Infidels’

An academic survey of asylum seekers in Graz, Austria, has found increasing religiosity and deeply worrying attitudes towards Jews, gay people, women, and ‘infidels’.

The study was carried out by Ednan Aslan, Professor of Islamic Religious Education at the University of Vienna, on behalf of local authorities responsible for integration, the Kurier reports.

“We wanted to know, who lives with us?” explained Kurt Hohensinner, a city councillor for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), which currently governs alongside the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

Professor Aslan interviewed a sample of 288 of the approximately 4,000 predominantly Afghan asylum seekers in state care in Graz, and discovered that some 54.5 per cent believe Jewish people do not care about anyone but themselves, with 44.2 per cent saying that Judaism is actively harmful to the world.

“For certain refugees anti-Semitism is a matter of course, which has given the refugee movement a new dimension,” Professor Aslan observed. [Breitbart London] Read more

16 January 2018

Petition against East Ham school’s hijab ban for under 8s gets 8,000 signatures in two days

There has been a strong backlash against the school’s bold stance on the issue.

In a Sunday Times article this weekend, the school’s headteacher Neena Lall told the newspaper the changes had been made to help integrate children into British society.

“Freedom of expression is a must regardless of age,” it says on the petition’s webpage, which was started by Hafsah Dabiri.

“The hijab represents a choice and to remove it is the very oppression which actors claim to prevent,” it adds.

“It’s not a request or a plea, it’s a demand.”

The school’s policy is against the UN Convention on Human Rights, it adds.

In the interview she said that a few years ago she asked the children to put their hands up if they thought they were British. “Very few” said they did. [The Newham Recorder] Read more

Luton Islamic school's pupils 'have to ask for loo roll'

Inspectors found children at an independent school having to ask for toilet paper, and washing their cutlery in toilet sinks.

The Olive Tree Primary School in Luton is an Islamic day school that caters for nearly 80 pupils aged between five and 11 years old.

The education watchdog Ofsted found a number of standards were not met.

The school has been approached for comment on the findings but has yet to respond.

In their report, inspectors told how "inappropriate books" which "did not promote British values" had been found during a previous inspection.

Despite school leaders stating the titles had been removed, the books, which include some by a banned author with "extreme views about punishment by death", were still on the shelves when inspectors re-visited the establishment in November. [BBC] Read more

A phony Islamophobia panic is ruining Canadian politics

.... As the Toronto Sun’s Anthony Furey observed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a long track record of erring on the side of radical Islam, a pattern seemingly born from a larger tendency to frame Muslims as creatures without agency and deserving reverence for all claims of persecution, no matter how dubious or ambiguous.

This, in turn, animates many of the man’s marquee political promises, from a generous intake of Syrian refugees to eliminating judgmental language from the Canadian citizenship guide to ending bombing raids against the Islamic State, all of which have, at their core, an implied need to redeem the Islam-skeptical character of Canadian society.

Phony or exaggerated charges of Islamophobia, in other words, are not merely victimless non-crimes. They inflate the resolve of a certain flavor of progressive whose political agenda aims to sacrifice much of traditional liberalism in the name of a bigotry course correction, as well as the denialist ignorance of the reactionary right, like those who peddled conspiracy theories about last year’s mosque shooting in Quebec City. The end result is a society whose politics have been agitated to polarize around the Muslim issue in a deeply inaccurate, unserious way. [The Washington Post] Read more

Why is Britain keeping quiet about Pakistan’s assault on free speech?

In recent times Pakistani social media activists of a liberal, secular persuasion have been abducted by agents of the state, tortured then released after a few weeks. Invariably they then give up the blogging business: they stop criticising the country’s military establishment, or the militant religious groups long backed by the army as proxy warriors.

Last month saw another abduction of a peace activist in Lahore. A Marxist professor was found dead in Karachi yesterday.

Pakistani journalist who criticised military tells of attempted abduction

And last week, Taha Siddiqui, an outspoken journalist, narrowly escaped the most brazen kidnap attempt yet. He was roughed up, in broad daylight, by several armed men who had stopped the taxi he was travelling in on a busy Islamabad road. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that his attackers were military personnel. The army had already made clear its annoyance with his outspoken journalism.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 301 votes] Because if we spoke out about it you'd probably call us out for some sort of Islamophobia or colonial overtones.

[2ND 225] And what would happen if the UK Government did criticise the Pakistani Government? There would be accusations of Islamophobia and cultural insensitivity, some 'loner with mental health and drug issues' will either blow himself up or plough into a bus stop and then we'll get the usual cycle of self blame and hand wringing.

Because there are so many Pakistanis living in Britain the UK Government has to put up and shut up when it comes to issues regarding Pakistan. If there was not such a large number of Pakistanis here then the fight against the Taleban would have gone over the Afghan border into Pakistan, the nation that has supplied and supported the Taleban over the years.

The fact Bin Laden was found in Pakistan would indicate it is a haven for Islamists. If we were serious about defeating the likes of Al Quaeda and ISIS then Pakistan would have been dealt with properly. What has happened is that the Government are now too scared of reprisals on British soil to take action. Not good.

[3RD 181] I think frankly we're all bored of trying to have a grown up dialogue with Pakistan.

It seems pretty clear to me that Pakistan seeks to rip off anyone who expresses an interest in helping her, by deliberately perpetuating whatever problem help has been offered with, in order to keep the 'help' rolling in.

Let Pakistan do what she wants. If Pakistan is absolutely not capable of standing up without having her hand held, ask India or China for help, we've already given plenty. [Guardian Cif] Read more

15 January 2018

Islamic anti-vaxxers undermine efforts to prevent diphtheria outbreak in Indonesia

Indonesia's been hit by a diphtheria outbreak that's infected hundreds and killed 44 people.

Atikah cries as she talks about her son Faris, who was killed by diphtheria.

Now, a vaccination campaign against diphtheria in Indonesia is being undermined by alternative health practitioners and some hardline Muslim clerics who claim immunisations are un-Islamic.

One of their justifications is that vaccinations are developed using products from "haram" animals like pigs and dogs.

One of the leading anti-vax campaigners is Dewi Hestyawati, who calls herself a Holistic Islam Health Activist.

She says diseases like diphtheria and polio can be warded off and treated with diet and alternative therapies.

"The Prophet shows us that immunisation should come from the regular daily consumption of healthy substances : honey, herbs, olive oil; dates and goat's milk. If we don't follow that, we can be easily infected with diseases," she said. [ABC News Online] Read more

Head of unregistered private school banned from teaching over safeguarding concerns

.... Ofsted also found evidence that the curriculum taught at the school was too narrow. Religious education “dealt only with Islam to the exclusion of any other religions”. A number of statutory subjects, including humanities, were not taught.

Leaflets entitled “Islam and Terrorism?”, the author of which was banned from the UK due to his extremist views, were also found on the school site.

Hussain, who also served as a teacher at Kingsbury School and College until he was suspended in November 2015, claimed that Bordesley was not officially a school and was therefore not subject to safeguarding rules.

But this claim was dismissed by the NCTL, which found evidence that there were more than five pupils in attendance, that the school provided at least 18 hours of teaching per week and that it was the sole place of education for its pupils. [Schools Week] Read more

Toronto police say hijab-cutting attack reported by girl didn’t happen

An attack on an 11-year-old girl wearing a hijab – a case that garnered international attention, eliciting responses from the Toronto mayor, the Premier of Ontario and even the Prime Minister – did not happen, Toronto police now say.

Upon her arrival at school in an east-end neighbourhood of Toronto last Friday, the girl told her principal that a man had come up behind her while she was walking with her younger brother and that he had yanked down the hood of her winter coat and used scissors to slice through her light blue hijab. The girl's mother was called. Police were called. A press conference was held and the story quickly blew up on social media.

But on Monday, after a "detailed investigation," Toronto Police said they have determined that the alleged assault – one that was being investigated as a hate crime – simply "did not happen."

Spokesperson Mark Pugash declined to offer any further details about what led investigators to conclude the story was false, but stressed that "it is not a conclusion we came to lightly."

At the press conference at her school on the day of the alleged attack, the Grade 6 student walked reporters through the incident in vivid detail. She said she was scared and confused – and that the man had smiled at her before running away. Her mother, through tears, said that this wasn't the Canada she is proud to call home. [Globe & Mail] Read more

Reported hijab attack on 11-year-old girl 'did not happen,' Toronto police say

An 11-year-old girl's report last week that a man tried to cut off her hijab as she walked to school didn't occur, Toronto police said Monday.

"After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described in the original news release did not happen," police said.

"The investigation is concluded."

The girl reported Friday that a man attempted twice to cut off her hijab as she walked to school with her younger brother. Police said last week that the alleged attack was being investigated as a possible hate crime.

CBC News is not naming the 11-year-old out of a concern for her interests.

The girl, along with her mother and representatives from the Toronto District School Board, spoke to reporters inside her school Friday after she had talked to police.

Her story captured national attention, and drew public condemnation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

Schools urged to help tackle Islamophobia

Young Muslims in Wales say they have been frequently stared at in public, called "terrorists" at school and been told by strangers to take off headscarves.

It comes as schools have been urged to raise awareness of Islamophobia.

The Children's Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland is focusing on the harm caused by religious hate crime.

Muslim pupils have shared their experiences to help shape resources for the classroom.

The most recent UK Government statistics showed a 29% rise in hate crimes in England and Wales.

.... Ms Holland said: "I've spoken to young Muslims from across Wales who've told me that they're often scared in their communities, that they've directly experienced abuse at school, and that they're tired of the way Islam is often portrayed by the media, and the effect this has on the views of their non-Muslim peers." [BBC] Read more

14 January 2018

Austria's Muslims fear being cast as threat to security

.... Verbal and physical abuse of Muslims in Austria has risen, according to Dokustelle, an organisation that documents cases of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism. Between 2015 and 2016 - the most recent year that statistics are available - Islamophobic attacks increased by 62 percent to 253 incidents.

In a recent example marking the start of the new year, Asel Tamga, "the first Viennese baby" born in 2018, made international headlines after she was subject to a wave of Islamophobic and racist comments.

.... Meanwhile, educated Austrian Muslim women fear that a ban on the veil, or hijab, might ensue after Austria's newly-appointed Education Minister Heinz Fassman recently told a local paper that "teachers should not wear a headscarf".

"This will also affect other sectors and have a negative impact on the employment situation which is precarious for visible Muslim women already," said Dudu Kucukgol, a PhD student and researcher on sexism, racism and Islamophobia. [Al Jazeera English] Read more

St Stephen’s in Newham bans hijabs for girls under 8

The country’s best state primary school has called on the government to take a firm stand on hijabs and fasting among young Muslim children in classrooms, rather than leave schools to create their own rules.

St Stephen’s primary school in Upton Park, Newham, east London, which topped the Sunday Times Parent Power school league tables last year, has banned girls under eight years old from wearing the Islamic headscarf in school.

It has also told parents that children are not allowed to fast during the school day in the month of Ramadan, when many pupils may have to sit summer exams.

Arif Qawi, chairman of governors at St Stephen’s, said the Department for Education should “step up and take it out of our hands”. The school had to deal with a “backlash” from parents, especially after it outlawed fasting, a ritual that lasts about 18 hours a day in the summer, on school premises. [The Times (£)] Read more

Baha’i Man Sentenced to Public Execution in Yemen. His Crime? Practicing His Faith

In December 2013, Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara disappeared into the maze that is Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB). Over the course of four years, he was tortured and denied a fair trial. His wife and daughters were not allowed to visit, nor did he get to meet legal counsel. Finally, on January 2, 2018, Haydara, was sentenced to public execution by the specialised criminal court in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. He wasn’t even present in court.

One of around 2,000 Baha’is in Yemen, he was picked up for something one would take for granted in a secular country: practicing his faith.

The Baha’i faith, founded in Iran in the 1800s, essentially believes in the oneness of humanity and the unity of all religions. Incidentally, the Lotus Temple, a landmark in New Delhi, is a Baha’i house of worship.

Though no date has been given so far for when the execution will take place, the verdict also asks that all Baha’i spiritual assemblies, the governing bodies for Baha’is, be disbanded.

In Yemen, an Islamic society, the constitution does not recognise any other religion barring Judaism. This is why the trumped up charges against Haydara are, in most part, for “insulting Islam”, “apostasy” and urging Muslims to “embrace the Baha’i religion”. [The Wire] Read more

Saudi female football fan: 'We wanted to enter stadiums and we did'

A woman who helped to organise Saudi Arabia's first football match allowing female spectators has told the BBC it was a "great and surreal" experience.

Football fan Sarah Alkashgari, 18, made history after she not only attended but worked at Friday's match in Jeddah.

Unaccompanied adult women were allowed to enter the stadium to watch Al-Ahli play Al-Batin.

The move is part of an easing of strict rules on gender separation in the kingdom.

Ms Alkashgari, a student at King Abdulaziz university, was responsible for greeting guests and showing them to their seats.

"It was about women finally achieving one of their demands. We wanted to enter the stadiums and we did," she explained. [BBC] Read more

11 January 2018

Greece's Muslim minority hails change to limit power of sharia law

Members of Greece’s Muslim minority have hailed new legislation that will enable citizens to sidestep sharia law in family disputes, but says the measure fails to go far enough in Europe’s only country where Islamic jurists still hold sway.

In a move described as a “historic step” by the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, the leftist-led government announced on Tuesday that members of Greece’s 120,000-strong Muslim community would be able to seek recourse in Greek courts in divorce, child custody and inheritance matters rather than take their case to Islamic jurists – a century-old legacy of legislation drafted with the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

Human rights groups have long said the laws discriminate against women.

But while welcomed, Muslim MPs said the new law had not “fully abolished” sharia courts in the sole EU member state where they had been compulsory. [The Guardian] Read more

Survey: Underlying Sympathy for Radical Islamic Extremism in German Schools

A survey of schools in the German region of Lower Saxony has shown that close to 10 per cent of Muslim students have direct sympathies for radical Islamic groups like Islamic State and some even support acts of terrorism.

One in three of the Muslim students who responded to the survey said that they would be willing to fight and die for Islam.

Twenty-seven per cent said they agreed with the statement: “The Islamic laws of Sharia, according to which, for example, adultery or homosexuality are severely punished, are much better than the German laws,” Die Welt reports.

Eight per cent said they agreed with the creation of an Islamic empire or caliphate in the Middle East through the use of force. A further 3.8 per cent said they agreed that sometimes it was justified for Muslims to engage in acts of terrorism to further their goals.

A fifth of the Muslim students agreed that Muslims are oppressed all over the world and they have to defend themselves by force, and 18.6 per cent said that it was the duty of Muslims to spread Islam and “fight unbelievers”. [Breitbart London] Read more

09 January 2018

Greece limits Sharia law after European Court challenge

Lawmakers in Greece voted Tuesday to limit the powers of Islamic courts operating in a border region that is home to a 100,000-strong Muslim minority, scrapping procedures dating back more than 90 years.

The proposed law passed easily, with backing from parliament's largest political parties. It eliminates rules that referred many civil cases involving members of the Muslim community to Sharia law courts. Greek courts now will have priority in all cases.

The changes — considered long overdue by many Greek legal experts — follow a complaint a Muslim woman who lives in the northeastern Greek city of Komotini made to the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights over an inheritance dispute. [Associated Press] Read more

French town's decision to ban pork-free school meals branded 'anti-Muslim'

A French far right mayor's decision to scrap substitute meals for students who do not eat pork has been branded “anti-Muslim”.

Julien Sanchez, the Front National mayor of Beaucaire, ditched his predecessor’s scheme on the first day of the new school term.

The move means around 150 mainly Muslim pupils have lost their “substitution meals”.

Marlene Schiappa, France’s minister for sexual equality, told BFM TV the move was a “typical example of someone brandishing secularism as an anti-Muslim political weapon, or anti-Jewish for that matter”.

Mr Sanchez insisted the introduction of pork-free meals was “anti-Republican” and a “provocation” because it introduced “religion into school”.

“We are not a four-star restaurant,” he added on Twitter. [The Independent] Read more

Iranian and Saudi Youth Try to Bury 1979

.... But today Iran and Saudi Arabia have something new in common: A majority of their populations are under age 30, young people connected through social networks and smartphones. And a growing number of them are fed up with being told how to live their lives by old, corrupt or suffocating clerics — and they want to bury 1979 and everything it brought.

.... On recent trips to Saudi Arabia I heard youth express their own version of this: I want the clerics out of my face. I want to live my life without interference and realize my full potential — a sentiment particularly voiced by Saudi women.

Youth also said: I want to be able to go to concerts, drive my car, start a business, mix with the other sex or see a movie. And I want to celebrate my national Saudi culture, cuisine and art — not just Islam. [The New York Times] Read more

08 January 2018

Hungary’s PM: We don’t see these people as refugees, we see them as Muslim invaders

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban called the migrant crisis an invasion.

He said: “We do not consider these people to be Muslim refugees, we regard them as Muslim invaders.”

“One has to cross four countries to arrive from Syria in Hungary”, Orban said. “Those people do not run for their lives but seek a better life. The refugees should have requested admission in advance, but instead they had breached the border illegally.”

According to Orban what Europe has seen was not a wave of refugees, but an invasion. He mentioned that he never understood how in a country like Germany the chaos and the illegal crossing of borders could be celebrated as something good.

The Hungarian prime minister rejected the idea that his country should accept people from Muslim-majority countries. “We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite,” he said. [Voice of Europe] Read more

MP Preet Gill condemns plans to ask Muslim schoolgirls why they wear headscarves

A Birmingham MP has demanded school inspectors Ofsted scrap plans to ask schoolgirls why they wear the Hijab.

Edgbaston MP Preet Gill wrote to Education Secretary Justine Greening to say the proposal had “caused outrage among many of my constituents”.

It follows the announcement that inspectors will question Muslim primary school pupils with headscarves such as a hijab to ask why they wear it.

Ofsted and the Department for Education have required schools to teach and reflect British values since the “Trojan horse” affair in Birmingham in 2014, when an inquiry found there was a “co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained” campaign to introduce “an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools” in the city.

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools, said in November that encouraging primary school children to wear the hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls”. [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Human rights activists in Britain have been subjected to intimidation by Islamists for convincing Ofsted to interview British primary school girls

Human rights activists are fearing harassment for convincing the Office for Standard Education (Ofsted) to interview British primary school girls. The reaction speaks volumes about how deep-rooted Islamist influence has already become in society at large. Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman expressed concerns after listening to activists’ claims that making little girls wear hijab ‘could be interpreted as sexualisation’.

On 17 November, Spielman held a meeting with a group of activists campaigning against the obligatory hijab in British primary schools. Islamists responded by coming together to request the names of women who met the Ofsted chief over the issue.

Those activists who participated at the meeting, however, now fear that radicals were only looking for their names to shame and harass them at their community levels. This could prove especially intimidating for activists who come from Muslim backgrounds, as they would be easy prey for extremist relatives and community members.

Yasmin Rehman, a well-known human rights activist, wrote in her article, ‘A lesson in silencing dissent’, that the controversy over veiling in schools has led to a situation in which many influential Muslim hardliners, such as Afzal Khan, MEND, and local councils of mosques in Manchester, Stockport, Bolton, Oldham, and Rochdale are trying to silence the campaigners for speaking out. She expressed concerns that the women would be alienated and accused of ‘stirring up anti-Muslim hatred’. [Conatus News] Read more

Three-quarters of Swiss back a burka ban

A nationwide ban on face-coverings – a de facto burka ban – would currently get the thumbs-up from 76% of Swiss voters, according to a poll in the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche. Around half also support the idea of Islam becoming an official Swiss religion.

Six out of ten respondents said they would definitely back the ban on face-coverings, put forward by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. Some 16.5% said they were leaning towards a ban, 7% were leaning against it, 13% were definitely against it and 3% said they had yet to decide.

Almost 70% of respondents also wanted to see headscarves banned from schools.

But while the Swiss appear to be against burkas and niqabs, that is not the case for Islam as a religion: 48% backed official recognition of Islam as a state religion, like Christianity. This idea has been proposed by the leftwing Social Democratic Party, on condition that the Islamic communities adhere to a moderate form of Islam and organise themselves transparently. [swissinfo.ch] Read more

07 January 2018

President steps in over Islamophobic abuse of Austria's New Year Baby

Austria’s president was forced to intervene yesterday after the first child to be born in the country in 2018 was subjected to a torrent of racist online abuse when it emerged the new-born's parents were Muslim.

President Alexander Van der Bellen, a 73-year-old liberal green politician, pointedly issued his congratulations to the girl, who was named Asel after being born in the early hours of New Year’s Day in Vienna.

“Welcome, Dear Asel!”, Mr Van der Bellen said in a Facebook post, before reminding those who left racist messages that “all men are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, and speaking out against “hatred and agitation”.

Asel Tamga was named "the first Viennese baby" of the year and her photo appeared in many local media outlets, with her mother wearing a hijab head-covering. [The Telegraph] Read more

06 January 2018

Islamic dress code should be accommodated in schools

A Muslim campaign group says school uniforms should accommodate Islamic dress codes by allowing girls to wear full-length skirts, long-sleeved shirts and headscarves.

The Irish Muslim Board has also called for school uniforms which have crucifix symbols or images of saints to be made optional in the interests of creating greater inclusivity.

The recommendations are contained in the board’s submission to a Department of Education consultation process over school admission policies.

The group, chaired by Dr Ali Selim, was formed in 2016 to encourage Muslims to become more politically active.

While there are two Muslim primary schools in Dublin, the community does not have a secondary school.

In its submission, the group says Muslim children can feel alienated at school, particularly in activities that revolve around Christmas such as nativity plays and carol services. [The Irish Times] Read more

05 January 2018

SAS headscarves policy 'not discriminatory': ombudsman

A uniform policy by Scandinavian airline SAS banning staff who deal directly with customers from wearing religious symbols like headscarves does not breach anti-discrimination laws, Sweden's Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) has judged.

The policy first made headlines in April 2017, when a woman who had gone through the interview process for a job with the company was told she would not be allowed to wear a headscarf if she took the position.

Aye Alhassani told The Local at the time that she thought it would have been better if the company told her about the policy at the start of the interview process.

"I could've then looked for other jobs and not prioritized the SAS job over others and let them go," she noted, adding that she hoped other Swedish companies would not adopt similar policies. [The Local] Read more

Muslims call on Irish people to resist blaming Islam for attacks

.... “I want to stop feeling guilty about being a Muslim every time someone with a Muslim name does something like this,” he told The Irish Times, adding that he was not surprised that some media outlets immediately concluded that the alleged attacker was a Syrian.

The majority of Muslims condemn all violence, and abhor the killing of anyone, he went on: “As soon as the police mention the words ‘terrorist attack’ people go mad. They don’t wait to establish the reasons.”

However, the “terrorist” rhetoric that has surrounded Muslims in recent years is having this effect, feared Dr Saud Bajwa, a consultant at Galway University Hospital and spokesman for the Galway Islamic Cultural Centre. [The Irish Times] Read more

Amid Islamist insurgency, Egypt tackles 'security threat' from musicians

As Saudi Arabia relaxes its rules against cinemas and women drivers, Egypt now looks set to inherit the coveted title of Arab country with the most absurd restrictions. Having made little progress in combating an Islamist insurgency, the Sisi regime has turned its attention to the "threat" posed by atheists, gay people and – increasingly – musicians.

This week brought the arrest of Laila Amer, the third female singer to face criminal charges since November. She has been imprisoned since Tuesday following a complaint from Ahmed Mahran, a vigilante lawyer who claims that her recent video performance poses a "great risk" to Egypt. Mahran also filed a criminal complaint against fans who waved rainbow flags at a Mashrou' Leila concert in Cairo last September.

Amer's song (see video above) features a housewife complaining about her mother-in-law. Some her movements are sexually suggestive and changing a single letter in the song's title, Buss Ummak ("Look at your mother"), would turn it into an obscene Arabic expression. [al-bab.com] Read more

04 January 2018

Unstunned meat widespread in UK supermarkets, NSS research reveals

Meat from animals which have not been stunned before slaughter is widespread in UK supermarkets, National Secular Society research has found.

The NSS examined the policies of 11 supermarket chains and their online produce range, and found that the majority require all meat for their own-brand products to be pre-stunned. This is in line with animal welfare legislation requiring animals to be stunned before slaughter to minimise suffering. But several sell non-stunned meat from other brands, and only two credibly commit to selling meat only from animals that are pre-stunned.

Three supermarkets – Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco – sold halal meat from animals which were not stunned, without clear labelling to indicate this. Five of the supermarkets – Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose – sold kosher meat online. All kosher meat is from unstunned animals.

Waitrose sells unstunned meat despite a policy which misleadingly implies otherwise. Waitrose's policy says: "All the livestock that provide meat for Waitrose are pre-stunned before slaughter to ensure they are insensitive to pain before being killed". It does not make clear that this refers only to own-brand products. [National Secular Society] Read more

Iranian protesters are shunning the hijab - let's join them

The recent Iranian protests are about a whole array of issues, including the hijab, the head covering which Iranian women have been forced to wear for decades.

Some dismiss the debate on hijab, suggesting it is a lot of fuss about a mere piece of cloth. They are being evasive.

The hijab is now established as a political tool used by Islamists to restrict freedom for women. They are generally deprived of equality under the law because the hijab is usually accompanied by other oppressive prescriptions for women. It means women cannot make their own decisions.

It is a symbol of oppression, amply demonstrated in Iran’s draconian laws imposed after the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

But what has struck me most is what defines enlightened protest in Iran and in the West. Here in the West the left often defends the hijab, insisting we must support the right to wear it. In Iran, and presumably in some other parts of the Islamic world, they are protesting the requirement to wear it. [Toronto Sun] Read more

Dispute over hijab in Czech school ends up at Supreme Court

The closely watched dispute between a Somali girl and a Czech secondary medical school that forbade her to wear hijab will end at the Supreme Court (NS), since she filed a petition for an appellate review in reaction to the dismissal of her lawsuit by lower-level courts, CTK has found out.

In the lawsuit, the student demanded the school's apology and a compensation worth 60,000 crowns.

Her previous complaint with a district court and the municipal court in Prague was unsuccessful, and the former court obtained the girl's petition for an appellate review in late December, it ensues from the judicial database.

.... The girl, Ayan Jamaal Ahmednuur, said she left the school because the head teacher asked her at the beginning of the school year in 2013 not to wear a hijab, the scarf Muslim women wear to cover their hair, also during theoretical lessons.

Originally, they agreed on her taking her hijab off only during the students' practical lessons as nurses, the girl asserted.

The Czech ombudsman stood up for the girl, but the school insisted on its right to define the dress code. It also emphasised the secular school system principle. [Czech News Agency] Read more

U.S. hits Pakistan on ‘severe’ religious freedom violations amid worsening relations

.... Religious minorities have long faced persecution in Pakistan. The majority Sunni Muslim nation is home to a number of diverse communities, but extremists routinely target Hindus, Christians, and Shia Muslims, as well as others.

Among the country’s most persecuted members are Ahmadi Muslims, a minority group deemed non-Muslim by Pakistan’s constitution. Ahmadis are barred from identifying themselves as Muslim and are routinely targeted by politicians and religious leaders.

Other minorities also live with the constant threat of violence. Last month, two suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing around 10 people and wounding at least 35 other worshippers. [ThinkProgress] Read more

Egyptian Parliament considers outlawing atheism

Shortly before New Year’s Day, the Egyptian Parliament considered enacting a law that would make it illegal to profess no belief in God. It is already against Egyptian law to “insult” or “defame” religion, and blasphemy arrests are on the rise. A conviction can bring up to five years in prison.

The new measure would criminalize the act of not believing in God — no insults or defamation of another faith required.

The legislation was proposed Dec. 24 by Amro Hamroush, head of the Parliament’s committee on religion.

“It must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions,” Hamroush said in announcing the proposed law.

The legislation has the support of Egypt’s highest Islamic religious organization, the Al-Azhar. Mohamed Zaki, an Al-Azhar official, called it necessary “to punish those who have been seduced into atheism.” [USA TODAY] Read more

U.S. places Pakistan on watch list for religious freedom violations

The U.S. State Department has placed Pakistan on a special watch list for “severe violations of religious freedom,” it said on Thursday, days after the White House said Islamabad would have to do more to combat terrorism to receive U.S. aid.

The State Department also said it had re-designated 10 other nations as “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated egregious violations of religious freedom.

The re-designated countries were China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They were re-designated on Dec. 22.

“The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity,” the department said in a statement. “These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.” [Reuters] Read more

03 January 2018

Turkish child marriage religious document sparks anger

Turkey's main opposition party has called for a parliamentary inquiry after the directorate of religious affairs said that, under Islamic law, girls as young as nine could marry.

The comments by the Diyanet prompted an outpouring of anger on social media from Turkish women's groups.

The directorate insisted it was only defining points of Islamic law.

Turkey's legal age of marriage is 18 but the practice of underage weddings in religious ceremonies is widespread.

Turkish law also allows 17-year-olds to marry with the consent of their parents or guardian, or 16-year-olds in exceptional circumstances with court approval.

The current outcry was started by a statement on adolescence posted online by the Diyanet, the state body which administers religious institutions and education.

It said that, according to Islamic law, the beginning of adolescence for boys was the age of 12 and for girls the age of nine. On the same website, it said that whoever reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry. [BBC] Read more

New estimates show U.S. Muslim population continues to grow

Recent political debates over Muslim immigration and related issues have prompted many people to ask how many Muslims actually live in the United States. But coming up with an answer is not easy, in part because the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask questions about religion, meaning there is no official government count of the U.S. Muslim population.

Still, based on our own survey and demographic research, as well as outside sources, Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in the U.S. in 2017, and that Muslims made up about 1.1% of the total U.S. population.

.... By 2040, Muslims will replace Jews as the nation’s second-largest religious group after Christians. And by 2050, the U.S. Muslim population is projected to reach 8.1 million, or 2.1% of the nation’s total population — nearly twice the share of today. [Pew Research Center] Read more

Australian Islamic undertaker makes bizarre rant next to a body on a trolley - warning Muslims will end up dead in a fridge if they drink, have sex or even accept a party invite from non-believers

An Islamic undertaker from western Sydney has made a bizarre video warning Muslims about the evils of celebrating New Year's Eve - as he wheeled a dead body into a fridge.

Ahmad Hraichie, a funeral director with the Lebanese Muslim Association, spent the last day of 2017 ranting against Muslims who disobeyed their faith by drinking alcohol or having sex outside of marriage.

'This is where we are all going to spend to spend our New Year's party if we die on New Year's Eve – in a fridge, in a fridge where the brothers and sisters have now have probably got their drinks all in the fridges and their snacks,' he said. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

02 January 2018

Muslim women speaking up against violence are silenced. We must amplify their voices

It’s telling that many Muslim men deal with Islamophobia by policing the voices of Muslim women instead of addressing the legacy of patriarchal violence.

.... The prevalent patriarchal order dictates which forms of violence against Muslims are more urgent and demand activism on our part. Under this order, anti-Muslim racism wins many times over before patriarchal oppressions are even discussed. The system that protects male privilege and gender hierarchies goes into overdrive when the reputation at stake is that of prominent Muslim men, such as clerics.

When Muslim women speak up about this, we are accused of creating theatre. Some people add the helpful reminder that “not all Muslim men” behave like this. I grew up in a majority Muslim country; I know not all Muslim men are sexual predators but I also know that many, many men are – in cultures, communities and countries around the world. So I choose to believe women. [The Guardian] Read more

Muslim women speaking up against violence are silenced. We must amplify their voices

.... Pretending that Muslim women are somehow responsible for Islamophobia if they talk about the violence they face is not just absurd, it is also a glaringly obvious patriarchal power tactic that seeks to prioritise Muslim men and their reputations over women’s issues. When the tactic works, Muslim women and our issues are rendered disposable, and shoved to the back of the line.

Casting Muslim women activists as villains who air the dirty laundry of communities by speaking publicly against injustices speaks to this twisted hierarchy of issues that positions Islamophobia over and above the need to address patriarchal oppressions – even creating a narrative that these two are mutually exclusive struggles. The truth is, we must take all of these oppressions equally seriously if we are to address any of them.

People – especially women – who don’t follow this made-up hierarchy of issues are policed, vehemently attacked on public forums, and, many times, swiftly silenced. The system is effective. One friend told me she had to hide all Facebook posts related to a cleric, accused of sexual predation of women, from her timeline because the interrogation and abuse got too much. [Guardian Cif] Read more

01 January 2018

The Islamization of Britain in 2017 - "I think we are heading towards disaster"

.... August 29. Sadia Malik, a 36-year-old primary school teacher from Wales, was charged with disseminating terrorist materials after she shared links to YouTube videos featuring Omar Bakri Mohammed, an Islamic extremist.

She was accused of promoting a banned hate group and encouraging Muslims to sacrifice all their money to help establish a worldwide Islamic Caliphate. Her husband, Sajid Idris, 34, had previously been charged with four counts of disseminating terrorist publications as part of the same investigation.

.... September 28. Kamran Hussain, a 40-year-old imam at a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison after being found guilty of two charges of supporting the Islamic State and six charges of encouraging terrorism.

An undercover officer secretly recorded the Pakistan-born Hussain giving a series of sermons in which he told children as young as ten that martyrdom was better than academic success. "When you don't fulfill the command of Allah, I'm coming to remove your head," he said.

.... December 22. Bradford Councilor Arshad Hussain warned that there were "many areas in this city" where people were afraid to go, depending on their ethnicity. He made the comments after "Asian" youths attacked three pubs in the city.

"These were the only white businesses in the area," he said. "No Asian businesses were attacked. They were targeted because they were white.... There are so many areas in this city where white people are scared to go into.... I think we are heading towards disaster." [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Muslim Anti-Vaxxers Partly to Blame for Indonesia’s Fatal Diphtheria Crisis

.... At least 38 people — most of them children — have died from diphtheria in the last year in Indonesia. The epidemic of non-vaccination is so bad that it caused the country to launch a immunization campaign to get vaccines to millions of children and teenagers.

How could such a thing happen? There are several contributing factors, according to Niniek Karmini of the Associated Press, but the one that sticks out to me is that some fundamentalist Muslims in the nation, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, think vaccines violate Islamic law.

The phenomenon has not gone completely unnoticed, and some onlookers say the impact of religious fundamentalism on the rise in diphtheria cases is understated. A recent report pinpoints “religious orthodoxy” as a causative factor in the continuing outbreak. [Friendly Atheist] Read more

French hospital rejects trainee doctor due to 'religious' beard

A Paris hospital’s decision to reject an Egyptian trainee doctor because of his beard has been backed by a court, which agreed that patients might have seen it as a religious symbol.

Public hospitals, like other state institutions, must remain secular under France law, and staff are banned from wearing obvious religious symbols such as headscarves.

Nawel Gafsia, a lawyer acting for the doctor, named only as Mohamed A., argued unsuccessfully that the 2-inch beard did not necessarily indicate his religious practices. “My client could have been a hipster,” Ms Gafsia said.

However, the 35-year-old doctor himself “did not deny that his physical appearance was likely to indicate conspicuously a religious conviction,” according to a written judgement by the Versailles appeals court. [The Telegraph] Read more