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

28 October 2018

None of us should enjoy the right to have our beliefs shielded from abuse

Should it be illegal to call the prophet Muhammad a “paedophile”? That was the question in front of the European court of human rights (ECHR) last week.

In 2009, an Austrian woman, known as ES, held “seminars” on Islam in which she likened Muhammad’s marriage to six-year-old Aisha to paedophilia. She was convicted of “disparaging religion”. In keeping with a history of supporting blasphemy laws, the ECHR upheld the conviction. ES’s comments, it ruled, “aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship”. Presenting objects of religious worship in a provocative way capable of hurting the feelings of believers, it added, “could be conceived as a malicious violation of the spirit of tolerance”.

.... We should no more support secular versions of blasphemy laws than the old religious variety. However different the motives, Muslims should not be protected from vilification of Muhammad any more than Christians from a poem some find vile. Sacranie should be able to call homosexuality “harmful”. ES should be able to label Muhammad a paedophile. And we should be free to challenge both as robustly as we wish. [Guardian Cif] Read more

A third of Britons would stop their children visiting mosque

About two-fifths of the population would be concerned if a mosque was built in their neighbourhood or if a family member married a Muslim.

One in five would be concerned if a Muslim family moved next door and 3 in 10 would object to their child visiting a mosque.

Yet the public blame hostility to Muslims more on right-wing and far-right groups than on the behaviour of Muslims themselves, according to a ComRes poll commissioned by a group called Muslim Engagement and Development, which seeks to involve more Muslims in media and politics.

Groups such as the English Defence League are blamed by 61% of the population, followed by 55% who blame right-wing groups such as Ukip.

The behaviour of Muslims abroad is blamed by 59%, with 45% blaming Muslims in the UK. Younger people are significantly more tolerant.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 51 votes] This sounds like one of those polls specifically designed to come up with the desired result - it’s everyone’s fault but theirs. The idea that the virtually non-existent EDL or UKIP influences opinion about Muslims and Islam is risible.

It is and remains only is their behaviour both here and abroad, the terrorism, the large numbers, as reported in the Times today, who have joined ISIS, their intolerance of non-Muslims and the self-aggrandisement their religion teaches which makes them suspect. No one cares about religion in the UK, but people do object to having something as disagreeable as Islam rammed down their throats, and told to like it.

[2ND 49] These types of articles are breathtaking - full of 'Britain becoming less tolerant', 'right wing groups blamed' etc etc. The 'religion of peace' has been responsible for countless atrocities committed in this country often by people born and educated here.

The latest news is that 80 'isis brides' are on the way back, ready to stroll through Heathrow and renew sponging off us, whilst spouting hatred. The 'values' of this religion are completely incompatible with British values. Of course the only two people quoted are sympathetic to Muslims. [The Times (£)] Read more

27 October 2018

European courts risk corroding free speech to create special status for Islam

On the same day last week, Ireland voted to scrap its blasphemy laws and the European Court of Human Rights upheld a verdict against a woman accused of slandering the Prophet Muhammad. And that is the new Europe in a nutshell: severing its link to Christianity at the same time as it struggles to accommodate the more assertive faith of Islam. We’re facing an almighty test of free speech vs religious tolerance.

The ECHR story started in 2009, when an Austrian woman compared one of Muhammad’s marriages to paedophilia at a seminar: she claimed that his bride, Aisha, was six-years-old at her wedding and nine when the union was consummated.

.... Christian conservatives have largely reacted to vilification and marginalisation by withdrawing from politics and society – they have surrendered their once privileged position, as Ireland’s weakly opposed legalisation of gay marriage and blasphemy prove. Paradoxically, at the same time, Europe’s courts risk creating a new status for Islam that could appear to rope it off from criticism, a status that is bound to fuel jealousy and resentment, and won’t be good for anyone in the long-run. [The Telegraph] Read more

Freedom of speech is the latest casualty of Europe's encounter with Islam

An international human rights panel agreed with an Austrian court’s decision Thursday to fine a right-wing speaker for suggesting that the Muslim prophet Muhammad was a pedophile. This was, they said, a violation of the country’s statute that criminalizes “disparaging religious doctrines” in public.

The unnamed lecturer was first convicted by the Vienna Regional Criminal Court in 2011, after she was documented by an undercover journalist telling a general audience hosted by the Freedom Party that Muhammad “liked to do it with children” and asking aloud, “What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?”

After failing to win appeal in the Austrian Supreme Court, the petitioner brought her case before the Council of Europe’s human rights tribunal, the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds that her punishment contravened the council’s article on freedom of expression. [The Weekly Standard] Read more

MEND Islamophobia Poll October 2018

A survey of British adults on Islamophobia in British society:

# Nearly three in five British adults (58%) agree Islamophobia is a real problem in today’s society. However, one quarter of British adults (23%) disagree that Islamophobia is a real problem in today’s society

# Nearly half of British adults (48%) agree prejudice against Islam makes it difficult to be a Muslim in this country

# Nine in ten British adults (89%) agree that Muslims should always obey British laws, with nearly two thirds (63%) saying they strongly agree

# Nearly half of British adults (47%) say Britain is becoming less tolerant of Muslims

# Two thirds of British adults (67%) say a person can see themselves as both Muslim and British [ComRes] Read more

26 October 2018

Battling Salafism on Germany's streets

Saloua Mohammed's most important tool in the fight against Salafism is listening – to parents whose kids radicalize online, to youth who rave about Salafism, and to women returning to Germany after fighting alongside IS.

"Let's see who is going to win in the end, shall we?" social worker Saloua Mohammed says. "They won't get my youths that easily."

"They" are radical Salafists: Ultraconservative Muslims who interpret the Quran literally, live their faith the way it was common during the times of the prophet Muhammad and are looking for new followers. And this — the recruitment of young people into Salafism — is exactly what Mohammed wants to prevent.

Mohammed fights for each and every one of "her" children. She is a faithful Muslim herself, wearing a headscarf in public. She prays in the mosque, but sometimes walks into Cologne Cathedral to find peace. Mohammed comes from a liberal-leaning Moroccan family in which religion was discussed and tolerance taught. That, she says, provided her with arguments and a kind of intellectual protective armor. She has good use for both. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

European court upholds conviction of woman accused of insulting Muhammed

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) this week upheld a conviction against an Austrian woman who called the Islamic prophet Muhammed a “pedophile.”

The ECHR said the conviction, which was also upheld in appeals courts in Austria, did not violate the woman’s freedom of expression.

According to the Associated Press, the woman convicted is in her late 40’s and has only been identified as E.S. She was charged for comments she made in 2009 at a seminar for Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, during which she said that the prophet Muhammed’s relationship with his wife Aisha constituted pedophilia.

Aisha is usually understood to be have been six or seven years old when she married the prophet, and nine or ten years old at the time of consummation. [CNA] Read more

Austria Launches Kindergarten Islamic Headscarf Ban, Considers Adding Elementary Schools

The Austrian government has enacted a headscarf ban in kindergartens across the country and is now considering widening the ban to include elementary schools.

The conservative-populist government enacted the headscarf ban for kindergartens on Wednesday which will mean that children will not be allowed to wear the garment with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz saying that girls should not be forced to cover themselves up in schools, Kronen Zeitung reports.

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), said that he wants to take the ban even further into the country’s elementary schools, affecting children under the age of 14. Mr Strache added that a constitutional amendment to solve the issue was not off the table. [Breitbart London] Read more

Don’t defame Mohammed: ECHR affirms European sharia blasphemy law

The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously decreed that national governments may fine or imprison their citizens for attacking or defaming Mohammed. The judges determined that “the Prophet of Islam” may not be called a paedophile because to do so is: i) devoid of historical context; and ii) false because he also had adult wives (so taking a bath with children and fondling them is fine so long as you also fondle adults?).

Henceforth, those who make “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which [is] capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace” may be subject to “a moderate fine” of €480 or serve 60 days of imprisonment in the event of default.

Is that clear? In Europe, in the 21st century, to be fined or imprisoned for defaming Mohammed is not a violation of the freedom of expression, because such an attack “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and is “likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims”.

Whatever level of non-expertise in Islamic theology or history the Austrian national known as ‘Mrs. S.’ possessed, by this bizarre judgment the ECHR eschews foundational values of the Enlightenment by facilitating the spread of a sharia blasphemy code in Europe. It appears henceforth that only academic experts in seventh-century Arabian history or law may comment on the fact (and for many Muslims it is a fact) that the 56-year-old Mohammed married a six-year-old girl called Aisha (and consummated the marriage when she was nine). [Archbishop Cranmer] Read more

Calling Prophet Muhammad a pedophile does not fall within freedom of speech: European court

The ECHR ruled against an Austrian woman who claimed calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile was protected by free speech. The applicant claimed she was contributing to public debate.

An Austrian woman's conviction for calling the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile did not violate her freedom of speech, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled that Austrian courts carefully balanced the applicant's "right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria."

The woman in 2009 held two seminars entitled "Basic Information on Islam," during which she likened Muhammad's marriage to a six-year-old girl, Aisha, to pedophilia. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

25 October 2018

Pork gelatine use in NHS vaccines 'disappointing'

.... The Muslim Council of Britain said the vaccines are not permitted in Islam unless lives are at risk and there are no alternatives.

Dr Shuja Shafi, the chairman of the council's research and documentation committee, said: "There should be more work towards an alternative.

"We should be trying to find a long-term solution. The needs of the people must be met."

Dr Shafi advised anyone concerned about the use of gelatine in vaccines to consult a medical practitioner and make an "informed decision".

Mark Frazer, from the Office of the Chief Rabbi, said vaccines containing porcine gelatine are not an issue for the Jewish community because they are not ingested.

A spokeswoman from Public Health England said the nasal flu vaccination is not mandatory and the decision is "one for parents alone".

"We recognise that there is still some uncertainty among some groups about the acceptability of the nasal spray.

"We will continue to monitor these concerns and consider them carefully." [BBC] Read more

24 October 2018

Muslim-majority Algeria bans Islamic face veils for its public sector workers to improve 'security and communication'

Algerian authorities has banned banned female public sector employees from wearing full-face veils, or niqabs, at work.

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouayhia publicized the decision in a letter to ministers and regional governors in the Muslim-majority country last Thursday.

Civil servants, he wrote, need to 'observe the rules and requirements of security and communication within their department'.

He said public sector workers needed to be able to be 'physically identifiable' while in the workplace.

The ban has been met with both positive and negative reactions on social media, with some hailing it as progressive while others called it an attempt to control women and what they choose to wear.

According to Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the ban was blasted by an Islamist MP as a 'declared war on Islam'. [Daily Mail] Read more

Quebec wants to expand religious symbol ban, blocking Muslim garments in civil service

Quebec's new government is planning to block Muslim women who work in the civil service from wearing the chador, a shawl-like piece of clothing that covers the head and body, and the niqab, which also covers the face.

Coalition Avenir Québec ?Premier François Legault has already made clear his intention to prohibit those who hold positions of authority including teachers from wearing religious symbols, such as the hijab, a Muslim headscarf.

The ban on the chador and niqab, however, would extend to all employees in the public sector. A representative from the CAQ couldn't say how many people such a ban would affect.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, the government's point person when it comes to ensuring the secularism of the state, said Wednesday the government plans to "move quickly" to introduce a law. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

School which taught that only Muslims were saved on Noah's Ark is first to be fined for opening illegally

An Islamic school which taught that only Muslims and animals were saved on Noah’s ark has become the first to be successfully prosecuted for operating illegally.

The Al-Istiqamah Learning Centre in west London marketed itself as a study centre where home-educated children had part-time tuition, but Ofsted inspectors found that almost 60 children of compulsory school age were regularly attending the centre during school hours.

The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service after the centre failed to respond to Ofsted’s warning notice in November 2017.

Director Nacerdine Talbi and Headteacher Beatrix Kinga Bernhardt have now become the first people convicted of running an unregistered independent school and were each given a three-month curfew and ordered to pay a total of £970 towards costs. The school has also been fined £100. [The Telegraph] Read more

23 October 2018

Preachers of hate prey on our liberal values

What do you do with a problem like Anjem Choudary? In 2016, he was jailed for five and a half years for inviting support for Islamic State. Last Friday, he was released on licence halfway through his sentence.

Choudary, who emerged from prison reportedly reaffirming his support for Isis, is no run-of-the-mill extremist. He has arguably had more influence on radicalising British Muslims than has any other Islamist.

His al-Muhajiroun network, which was banned in 2005 but subsequently mutated into a series of other proscribed radical groupings, was linked to one of the two men who hacked to death off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in 2013 and also influenced one of the perpetrators of the 2017 London Bridge terrorist attack. [The Times (£)] Read more

Child marriage survivors say UK law legitimizes 'terrible' abuse

When Zee was 13, she returned from school one day to find an engagement party under way at her home in northern England, but her excitement at the celebrations quickly turned to shock.

“I asked my mum who’s getting married. She said, ‘It’s you’,” Zee told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Her betrothed was represented by a photo – an older cousin she had never met who lived in Afghanistan, her parents’ country of birth.

“One day I’m not even allowed to talk to boys and the next I’m told I’m getting married,” Zee said.

“I was dressed up to look like a Christmas tree - very sparkly, very bling. Everyone was happy. The only person who was miserable was me.”

Child marriage - defined internationally as marriage under 18 - remains legal in Britain. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, teenagers can wed at 16 with parental consent. In Scotland, they do not need consent.

Zee, who did not want to give her full name, escaped by running away from home, but she says many girls are still being pushed into marriage. [Reuters] Read more

UN panel condemns French ban on full-face veils as violation of human rights

The UN Human Rights Committee on Tuesday criticised France's so-called burqa ban, saying the law "violated" the rights of two women who were fined for wearing full-face veils in public.

The committee called for the women to be compensated and for a review of the 2010 law that forbids people from publicly wearing clothing that conceals their face.

"The French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners' right to manifest their religious beliefs," the committee said in a statement.

It added that it was not convinced by France's claim that the ban was necessary for security and social reasons.

.... "The ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalising them," the committee said.

The UN Human Rights Committee, made up of independent experts, ensures countries stick to their human rights commitments but it does not have enforcement powers.

It said the French ban was "too sweeping" but that governments could still make people show their faces in specific circumstances. [France24] Read more

22 October 2018

We need to know more about spread of Islam in prisons

How do you solve a problem like Anjem Choudary, the Islamist hate preacher due for release from prison on Friday? Choudary, whose followers included the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby and one of the terrorists involved in last year’s London Bridge attack, will be tagged and subject to restrictions including a night-time curfew as part of monitoring by the police, probation and security services. But the bigger underlying problem is how to prevent extremists like him radicalising and influencing others during their time behind bars.

This is why the Ministry of Justice is wrong to block academics who want to study why prisoners convert to Islam, including how it can lead to radicalisation. Apparently those behind the decision think that new research wouldn’t tell them anything helpful, which serves to highlight a bureaucratic culture more intent on burying its head in the sand than considering fresh approaches.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 64 votes] We already know that: 1. The extremist sect called the "Deobandi" are in control of the Islamic prison clergy; 2. The Deobandi are the largest group in the vocal MCB an organisation that will try to frustrate any attempt to deal with the issue; 3. Labour and then May as home secretary allowed the Deobandi take over to happen; 4. The Deobandi were founded as an anti European movement that eventually led to the Taliban; etc.

If the politicians do not know these things then they should not be home secretary or shadow, PM, or leader of the opposition. Perhaps a read of "Londistan" would help them. Start with how the Deobandi are legal, and why they control nearly all Sunni Cleric training in the UK. The prison impact is one of many.

[2ND 28] Either keep Islamist prisoners in solitary confinement (obviously out of the question), or have prisons solely for Islamists. The idea that there are 'powerful Muslim gangs' in prisons is also worrying.

[3RD 26] This is a major social problem, the proposed study should not be closed down but expanded. For instance it would be worth knowing how prison converts to Islam compare in terms of reoffending to those who convert to Christianity. It would also be useful to uncover why Muslims of imprisonable age constitute only 4% of the population but occupy 15% of prison places, as well as dominating the terrorism statistics.

Also how 900 British Muslims, including many 'ordinary' Muslims, according to family and friends, could be tempted to join a group whose recruitment videos featured the beheading of aid workers. To simply put all this down to being a religious/ethnic minority, racism etc, ignores the fact that we do not have problems on this scale with other minority groups.

Our Hindu community for example is significantly underrepresented in our prisons and non-existent among terrorist prisoners, and must be upset at being included by implication in the media's deflective description of "Asian" grooming gangs (another area of specific criminal behaviour that the study could encompass). One wonders if the authorities are uncomfortable with such a study because the results might impact adversely on their preferred "It's nothing to do with Islam" narrative. [The Times (£)] Read more

18 October 2018

Lancashire County Council votes to supply only pre-stunned halal meat

This afternoon's full meeting of the authority voted decisively in favour of the ban, proposed by its leader Cllr Geoff Driver, by 49 to 23 with nine abstentions.

It will affect 12,000 Muslim pupils in the 27 schools in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn and Preston.

Abdul Hamid Qureshi, chief executive of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: "This decision is hugely disappointing."

He said a boycott of school meals by Muslim pupils and a legal challenge remained options for the organisation which has a strict interpretation of halal beef and lamb.

Cllr Driver: “This is an animal welfare issue: nothing more nothing less." [Lancashire Telegraph] Read more

'One in 10' councils supply non-stunned meat to schools

At least 18 councils are supplying non-stunned meat to schools, new research has revealed, despite pressure from veterinary organisations to ban the practice.

Around one in 10 UK councils supply non-stunned halal meat to schools, research from the National Secular Society (NSS) shows.

Around 18 councils are supplying at least 140 schools with non-stunned meat – most of which are not Islamic faith schools.

At least on council is supplying non-stunned meat even though no schools have requested it.

Revelations come as Lancashire County Council considers ending the supply of non-stunned meat to schools.

The veterinary industry has been critical of the practice. The British Veterinary Association (BVA), a trade body representing UK vets, has said that slaughter without stunning "unnecessarily compromises" the welfare of animals at the time of death, and has called for all livestock to be stunned before slaughter. [FARMINGUK] Read more

17 October 2018

Iran says women won't be allowed at football matches again because 'half-naked men in sports clothes' will 'lead to sin'

Iran's prosecutor general said today that women would not be allowed to watch live football matches inside stadiums again, because seeing the players will 'lead to sin'.

Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri made the comments shortly after approximately 100 women were allowed into the national stadium to watch Iran take on Bolivia in a friendly in Tehran - an extremely rare step in the Islamic Republic.

'I object to the presence of women in Azadi Stadium yesterday. We are a Muslim state, we are Muslims,' Montazeri said, according to the conservative Mehr news agency.

'We will deal with any official who wants to allow women inside stadiums under any pretext,' he added.

'When a woman goes to a stadium and is faced with half-naked men in sports clothes and sees them it will lead to sin.' [Daily Mail] Read more

Iran prosecutor says no repeat of women at football matches

Iran's prosecutor general said Wednesday there would be no repeat of women watching football matches inside stadiums, saying it would "lead to sin".

The comments by Mohammad Jafar Montazeri came a day after around 100 women were allowed to watch their country take on Bolivia in a friendly at the national stadium -- an extremely rare step in the Islamic republic.

"I object to the presence of women in Azadi Stadium yesterday. We are a Muslim state, we are Muslims," Montazeri said, according to the conservative Mehr news agency.

"We will deal with any official who wants to allow women inside stadiums under any pretext," he added.

"When a woman goes to a stadium and is faced with half-naked men in sports clothes and sees them it will lead to sin."

Women have been barred from attending matches since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with clerics arguing they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men. [AFP] Read more

Iranian women attend first football match since 1979

Iranian women for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution have been allowed to watch a football match between male teams at the country’s stadium, the ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Iranian authorities have allowed several dozens of women to attend a friendly match between national teams of Iran and Bolivia, held in the evening of October 16 in Tehran. The Iranian team defeated Bolivia 2-1.

It is unclear whether this is a single case when women have received access to a football match, or this will become a regular occurrence. [Al Masdar News] Read more

'It’s part of who I am': proposed Quebec law could push hijab-wearers out of jobs

The incoming provincial government wants to outlaw wearing of religious symbols by government workers.

As an elementary school teacher in Montreal, Maha Kassef should be in high demand: the city is in the midst of a teacher shortage, resulting in overflowing classrooms and classes without teachers.

Yet because she wears a hijab, Kassef, 35, might soon be out of a job. The incoming provincial government, led by the nationalist Coalition Avenir Québec party, has announced plans to outlaw the wearing of religious symbols by many public employees – including teachers.

The new government, which will officially be sworn in 18 October after a historic election victory this month, argues that “secularism law” is necessary to preserve Quebec’s culture and historic church-state divide.

The proposed law will have a transition period, during which the affected can move to “non-authority” positions. After this, those who keep wearing religious articles “will have made the choice to no longer have a job if they wish to continue wearing a religious symbol”, said CAQ elected representative Geneviève Guilbault. [The Guardian] Read more

Taliban surge ends schooling for girls

The Taliban has taken over every school in a district of northern Afghanistan, imposing a hardline Islamist curriculum and curbing education for girls.

Since militants overran Qadis, in northwestern Baghdis province, Taliban rule has already extended to almost every aspect of daily life. All the schools in the district, almost 100, have fallen in line with the insurgents’ demands or faced closure.

The broadly western curriculum that had re-emerged after the US-led invasion in 2001 has been scrapped. English and science have been exchanged for Koranic recitation. Education for girls has been halted beyond the age of 12 and many girls’ schools shut down. [The Times (£)] Read more

Birmingham Sharia law academic defends M&S over £6 hijabs for four-year-old girls

A Sharia law scholar from Birmingham has appeared on Good Morning Britain to defend a high street retailer's decision to stock hijabs.

Dr Amra Bone, who sits on the Sharia Council in Birmingham, has defended Marks & Spencer's decision to sell the item to girls as young as four.

The doctor claimed it was a smart business move.

Dr Bone claimed the high street giant was merely responding to the needs of British Muslims.

On the ITV morning favourite, Dr Bone appeared alongside Birmingham Labour MP Khalid Mahmood to discuss the issue.

The hijab, which comes in black and navy, costs £6, comes in small, medium and large but no age group was specifically mentioned.

But a reviewer of the item suggested a medium would fit a girl of four.

Since then, the garment has sparked criticism and outrage from campaigners and customers.

Some have gone as far as to accuse M&S of oppressing young girls. [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Divided Britain: study finds huge chasm in attitudes

Britain is hugely divided across cultural, age and education lines, a major study of national attitudes has concluded, warning of a potential rise in far-right and anti-Islam sentiments unless politicians tackle long-standing disaffections behind the Brexit vote.

There is a particular chasm between people living in affluent, multicultural cities and those from struggling post-industrial towns, according to the report from Hope Not Hate, based on six years of polling and focus groups.

The study by the anti-fascism advocacy group, “sets out to understand the drivers of fear and hate” in England, and where data is available, in Wales and Scotland. It uncovers the often glaring extent of geographic splits between people of varying attitudes, with opposition to immigration and multiculturalism correlating closely with socio-economic deprivation.

.... It found that such divisions closely correlate with people’s votes over Brexit, noting that opposition to the EU and prejudice towards Islam “are clearly interlinked issues for many”. [The Guardian] Read more

Secular Society gives view on Halal meat row

THE National Secular Society has written to all Lancashire County Councillors urging them to end the supply of meat from un-stunned animals to 27 schools.

On Thursday, the authority's fill meeting will take a final vote on the issue.

NSS cheif executive Stephen Evans, writes: "The primary issue at stake is animal welfare. Slaughtering animals without pre-stunning causes avoidable pain and suffering, and it is entirely unnecessary. "There is nothing anti-Muslim about wanting the council to only supply meat from animals farmed, including at the point of slaughter, to the highest standards of animal welfare."

[TOP RATED COMMENT] Unfortunately it appears that the Muslim 'community' see so called Islamophobia whenever they feel the need to. All slaughter by design inflicts pain, but to cause unnecessary suffering and stress to an animal about to die just to satisfy some religious claptrap that has no basis in science, hygiene or whatever is appalling.

The sooner it (halal slaughter) is stopped in this country, the better. If the men with beards at the council of mosques and all those who - like them - have such an issue with non halal slaughtered meat, might I suggest they become vegetarian or failing that depart for one of their beloved Muslim lands they are so fond of. But check if the country chosen provides free school meals for their children first... [Lancashire Telegraph] Read more

16 October 2018

Islamists Vow to Kill a Christian Woman if a Pakistan Court Acquits Her

In Pakistan, a Christian mother of five who was accused of blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed in 2009 awaits the decision that will mark her fate — but even if she is granted clemency, Islamic hardliners stand prepared to act on their threats against her life and that of the justices who will decide.

Asia Bibi was accused of saying that Jesus Christ died for her sins and “what did Mohammed ever do for you?” after she took a drink of water from a well and offered some to others, only to be told by her Muslim coworkers that the well was for Muslim women only and that they wouldn’t drink from a container used by a Christian. She was accused of blasphemy and has languished on death row since 2010.

This week, the world is awaiting the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision in Bibi’s appeal of her death sentence, and many people, including her lawyer and husband, are optimistic that she will be acquitted. But if she is, radicals affiliated with extremist groups such as Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) will, they say, paralyze the country. They have encouraged protests and violence against the court’s justices should they ensure her release. [National Review] Read more

14 October 2018

The blurry line of controversial speech

Central to the university experience is exposure to a variety of perspectives, including controversial ones. In my three years as an undergraduate, I have learned that it is necessary for students to become comfortable with other opinions, especially those that come as a shock or that make them question everything they know — however difficult it may be.

Such a predicament occurred last Tuesday for many Muslim students at UTM’s annual Snider Lecture. This year’s lecture featured controversial figure and award-winning author Ali A. Rizvi, whose talk was entitled, “The Muslim Enlightenment: The rise of secular thought among young Muslims.”

Rizvi openly talked about his journey from being a Muslim to becoming an ‘ex-Muslim.’ Many students, including myself, were apprehensive about Rizvi speaking at UTM, a campus that is known for its cultural diversity and large Muslim population. Many students believed that UTM was wrong to invite Rizvi, under the perception that he held anti-Islamic views. Being a Muslim, I too disapproved of this invitation, yet was curious enough to attend the lecture. [The Varsity] Read more

Pakistan's Islamist Party Warns Government of Countrywide Protests on Blasphemy Verdict

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious-turned-political party, called for countrywide protests after the country's supreme court delayed a final judgment on the fate of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 for committing blasphemy.

"This is a religious matter. The Christian lady has committed blasphemy and admitted of using derogatory language against Prophet Muhammad. According to Islamic law, it is not permitted to pardon her. We cannot allow this to happen. We will raise our voice and launch protests throughout the country," Ejaz Ahmad, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan's spokesperson, told VOA.

The group also issued a recorded video statement on Wednesday, warning the government and the judiciary of dire consequences if Asia Bibi was acquitted.

"If Pakistan's Supreme Court releases or pardons Asia Bibi, a blasphemer, who herself admitted of using derogatory remarks against our Prophet Muhammad, there will be terrible consequences against the government and the judiciary," Muhammad Afzal Qadri, an official of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan said in a video statement. [VOA] Read more

12 October 2018

Court orders Ticino to elaborate face-cover ban

Canton Ticino must make more exceptions to its ban on wearing face-covering headgear in public places, the Federal Court has ruled.

This ruling came in response to two appeals against the controversial Ticino ban,external link which was voted in 2013.

In particular, the court said legislation must be adapted to allow masks at certain public events, provided this did not disturb public order. It said exceptions should also be made in the case of certain commercial or advertising events.

The Federal Court did not rule on the ban’s compatibility with religious freedom, since this was not raised in the appeals.

Ticino’s legislation does not explicitly target Muslims – the phrasing voted on was “nobody in public streets or squares may veil or hide their face” – but in practice it means women in burkas, niqabs and other face-coverings, although not headscarves. [swissinfo.ch] Read more

11 October 2018

Row as mayor of Rennes lifts ban on the burkini

A divisive debate over burkinis has reignited in France after a mayor authorised Muslim women to wear the body-covering swimsuits in council pools.

The decision of Nathalie Appéré, the Socialist mayor of Rennes in Brittany, has infuriated right-wingers who denounce the burkini as a threat to the French way of life.

The row began when a 23-year-old woman with a five-month-old daughter asked for permission to swim in a burkini in Gayeulles pool in Rennes last week and was told that it was allowed. Other swimmers expressed anger and contacted local politicians.

France banned Muslim headscarves in schools in 2004 and face-covering niqabs in all public places in 2011. There is no national law against the burkini but in 2016, a series of towns banned the garment from beaches on the grounds that it was an ostentatious religious symbol at odds with French secularism. [The Times (£)] Read more

Man in Denmark fined for hate speech on Facebook

A 39-year-old man from Aalborg must pay fines totalling 4,000 kroner for posting hate speech on his Facebook page in October 2017.

The man was found to have written “macabre and threatening words against Muslims”, local media Nordjyske reports.

The man denied having broken the law but admitted the writing the post, the court heard.

He said that the words were intended as part of a poem and should be considered a cultural input.

But Aalborg District Court found that the 39-year-old made threats of violence against Muslims, judging him guilty of breaching article 266b in Denmark’s criminal law code, also known as the 'racism clause'.

The punishment is ten fines totalling 4,000 kroner, which is too low a sentence to qualify for the right to appeal. [The Local] Read more

Baroness Warsi: Muslims Who ‘Made Mistakes’ and Spread Extremism Should Be Forgiven

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has said the UK must not “become a country that polices thought” and speech, and Muslims who say potentially “extreme” things should be forgiven.

The Tory peer — who has called for a crackdown on “Islamophobia” and last year demanded an investigation into and sanctions for supposed anti-Muslim “hate speech” in newspapers — gave the speech Tuesday defending Muslims who may insult women, homosexuals, and minorities, as they “make mistakes”.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Baroness Warsi slammed the government’s de-radicalisation Prevent agenda, claiming it has not worked as intended and has “alienated” Muslims rather than “engaged” them.

She then argued that the government was, in fact, pursuing a “policy of disengagement with Muslim communities” that started with Labour and continued by the coalition and Tory governments.

The alleged widespread “non-engagement with a wide range of Muslim community organisations and activists” must end and many who are seen as extreme must be forgiven, she said.

The government suspended links with the Muslim Council of Britain in 2009, for example. The group has been accused of sexism and endangering minority sects by deeming them apostates and having links to groups advocating killings.

“More and more groups over time have simply been seen as beyond the pale, often for something they said or did in the past, or were associated with or said in the past,” the Baroness blasted. [Breitbart London] Read more

Marks And Spencer Criticised For Selling School Hijabs For Three-Year-Olds

Maajid Nawaz has criticised Marks and Spencer for selling school uniform hijabs for children as young as three.

The LBC presenter labelled the store's decision to sell the headscarf, which is listed in the "essential" school section as "facilitating medievalism".

Maajid sparked a Twitter row by saying: "Marks and Spencer facilitates medievalism by selling children’s hijabs in the school-wear category."

Speaking on his LBC show, he continued his criticism of M&S.

"If it's not for you to have a view on the morality of stocking headscarves that are designed to preserve the modesty of fully sexual adult human females, it's not for you to take a view on stocking these for children, why don't you stock Confederate flag t-shirts as well. If there's a demand for it, why not stock it?"

"The same standards that you would apply and the reasons for why you would not stock a confederate t-shirt because you know that that would get you into trouble over race-relations, are the very same reasons that you should not be stocking hijabs for three-year-olds." [LBC] Read more

10 October 2018

New Quebec government open to allowing existing teachers who wear religious symbols to keep their jobs

After a week of controversy, Quebec's incoming Coalition Avenir Québec government is opening the door a crack to compromise on its plan to ban some civil servants from wearing religious symbols.

The CAQ said last week it would be prepared to fire teachers who refuse to take off their hijab or kippa or other religious garb, drawing thousands to a protest march and raising concerns from Muslim women who feel targeted by the proposal.

Simon Jolin-Barrette, an MNA and spokesperson for the CAQ's transition team, said Tuesday the government would consider a clause that would allow teachers who currently wear religious symbols to continue to do so. New hires would be forced to comply with the ban.

François Legault's CAQ, which won a majority in last week's provincial election, has promised to introduce a law prohibiting civil servants in positions of authority, such as judges, police officers and prosecutors, as well as teachers, from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

09 October 2018

Why halal meat generates so much controversy in Europe

.... Hakim El Karoui, an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron and a proponent of further assimilation, has reinforced this view, arguing that eating halal products is not so much a religious requirement as it is a “social marker” and a sign of “the penetrations of Islamist behaviors.” He further notes that Islamic groups make significant earnings by selling and certifying halal meat, and he proposes instead that France “run the cult.”

Among the most explosive topics are public school cafeterias and whether French republican values permit observant Muslim and Jewish students to skip weekly pork offerings in favor of “substitution meals.”

On the right side of the political spectrum, the answer has been a resounding “non.” This year, Julien Sanchez, the far-right mayor of Beaucaire, in southern France, outlawed alternatives to pork in local schools. “My decision is so that the republic wins, that in France the republic has priority and not religion,” Sanchez told The Washington Post in January. [The Washington Post] Read more

Amazon attacked by women’s group for supporting Haitham al-Haddad

Amazon was condemned last night for supporting a hardline Islamic charity whose founder supports female genital mutilation.

The Times revealed yesterday that the internet giant had agreed to fund the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF). Counterextremism experts say it is Britain’s leading Salafist organisation. Haitham al-Haddad, its founder, approves of FGM, child marriage and stoning to death for adultery.

Amazon’s decision to include MRDF in its Amazon Smile programme was criticised yesterday by Forward, a charity that campaigns against FGM and child marriage and seeks “to safeguard the rights of African women and girls”. [The Times (£)] Read more

08 October 2018

Female Islamic preacher slams Muslim women for wearing 'sexualised' designer hijabs to look pretty- after previously describing eyebrow plucking as a sin

A burqa-wearing Muslim preacher who covers up her face in public has criticised Islamic woman who wear the hijab as a 'sexualised' fashion statement.

Umm Jamaal ud-Din, a convert from western Sydney, railed against colourful headscarves designed to make someone look pretty.

'When you look at the new hijab fashion industry that's come out, we can see that the concept of hijab is becoming very distorted,' she said on Friday night.

'We're finding that the hijab is actually becoming sexualised now.'

The fundamentalist Sunni religious instructor, a former Christian previously known as Mouna Parkin, told her female audience the hijab went from being an item designed to conceal a woman's beauty to being 'reduced to a piece of cloth'.

'It doesn't have the same meaning behind it,' she said.

'We are actually making the hijab into something which is all about how pretty you are.'[Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Supreme Court reserves verdict on Asia Bibi's final appeal against execution

A special three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Monday reserved its judgement on the final appeal against the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel were hearing Bibi's 2014 appeal against the capital punishment handed to her.

While reserving its verdict on the appeal, the chief justice warned media against commenting on or discussing the case until the apex court's detailed judgement has been issued.

No date has been announced by the court for when the verdict will be announced.

Asia Bibi was convicted for blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly defaming Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The offence carries the mandatory death penalty under Pakistani law.

The allegations against Bibi are that she made three “defamatory and sarcastic” statements about the Holy Prophet on June 14, 2009 during an argument with three Muslim women while the four of them were picking fruit in a field. [Dawn.Com] Read more

Pakistan Islamists warn of 'terrible consequences' of blasphemy appeal

A hardline Pakistani Islamist group has warned of “terrible consequences” if a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy is granted leniency in an appeal heard on Monday, a case that has drawn global headlines and indignation.

Asia Bibi, a mother of four, in 2010 became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.

She appealed to the Supreme Court which concluded proceedings on Monday but reserved its judgment. The court did not specify when it would announce a ruling.

Her case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated, including Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by his own bodyguard. [Reuters] Read more

Tony Blair’s Comments Represent an Attack on the Foundations of Democracy

Last week, Tony Blair attacked several Muslim organisations, accusing them of promoting “extremist ideas”, orchestrating a “propaganda barrage” towards counter-terror strategies and attempting to present the Government as a “hostile force”.

Putting aside the hypocrisy of Mr. Blair accusing others of propaganda, a former Prime Minister making comments which encourage the “combating” of such organisations in a “battle of ideas” is part of a wider pattern of shutting down Muslim voices in public debate.

One of the targets of Mr. Blair’s comments was MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development), an organisation engaged in supporting Muslims to access societal opportunities.

Crucially, this involves challenging Islamophobia – which we define as the “prejudice, aversion, hostility, or hatred towards Muslims which… has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Islamophobia represents a tool to exclude Muslims from the rights and freedoms of public life and it is within this framework that we should examine Mr. Blair’s comments. [MEND] Read more

07 October 2018

Christian woman on death row in Pakistan for insulting Prophet Muhammad to make final court appeal

Asia Bibi has spent nine years in jail after being accused of breaching blasphemy laws following a row with Muslim women.

A Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for insulting the Prophet Muhammad will have her final appeal heard by the Supreme Court on Monday, her lawyer has said.

Asia Bibi has spent nine years in prison after being accused of contravening the country’s strict blasphemy laws following a dispute in June 2009.

The case has drawn international attention to Pakistan’s treatment of its religious minorities and Ms Bibi's supporters, including Pope Benedict XVI, who called for the charges to be dismissed, saying she is being persecuted for her faith.

Ms Bibi has already received one stay of execution from the Supreme Court, in 2015, after lower courts rejected the appeals. [The Independent] Read more

06 October 2018

‘Disturbing’ number of Britons open about Muslim prejudice

An official inquiry into prejudice and discrimination in Britain has revealed a backlash against equal opportunities for immigrants and Muslims.

The report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a statutory body, found that 37 per cent of adults believed that efforts to provide equal opportunities to immigrants had gone “too far”.

In the case of Muslims, the figure was 33 per cent. By contrast, nearly two thirds of the public felt that more help was needed to support those with a mental health condition, as 63 per cent said that efforts had not gone far enough. The figure for those with a physical impairment was 60 per cent.

The report, which could be the first of an annual “barometer” testing public opinion, also found that significant numbers of people openly expressed negative feelings towards Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (44 per cent), Muslims (22 per cent) and transgender people (16 per cent). There was much greater sensitivity towards gay, lesbian and bisexual people (with 9 per cent expressing negative feelings), people aged over 70 (4 per cent) and disabled people with a physical impairment (3 per cent).

[TOP RATED COMMENT 124 votes] I am a university lecturer. I am also partially deaf. I spoke to my university's diversity officer regarding how I should treat the issue of a student wearing a niqab, meaning that I couldn't see her facial expressions, making it much harder for me to understand her when she spoke.

I was told "That's your problem, not hers."

In other words, my physical disability (which I can do little about) is of lesser importance than her choice to wear a style of dress that actually isn't required by her religion. Yes, support of Muslims at the expense of those with physical disabilities has gone too far.

[2ND 119] A quarter of British Muslims sympathised with the Charlie Hebdo massacres.

A couple of hundred of trans activists believe that their right to self identification trumps the rights and protections - and even the dictionary definition - of 30 million women.

These are equally ‘disturbing’ statistics.

[3RD 97] If people hide their faces be it by burka or balaklava, or hoody or motor cycle helmet I will judge them the way I deem fit.

[4TH 92] Equal rights? The problem is that many of the cultural/racial groups highlighted as suffering from 'negative perceptions' have special rights. All over summer we had story after story of travellers setting up in beauty spots, business parks, schools etc. and when finality moved on leaving the tax payer with a huge clean up bill. Of course this says nothing off the massive spike in crime, animal stealing (including pets) and piles of excrement. Crimes non-travellers would be held accountable.

There was no epic backlash to the mostly Muslim gangs rapes of boys and girls in places like Oxford and Rotherham. The local councils and police departments knew it was going on and did nothing so not to disrupt 'community relations' while girls and boys were suffering from disgusting physical and sexual violence. Special treatment, even Sharia law is starting to make its inroads. I have an Indian friend whose biggest peeve is people thinking that he is a Muslim. Hindu, Chinese and many other groups that have settled here have made a serious effort to be good friends and neighbours with no high crime rates and continuous demands for special rights. That is really what this is all about.

[5TH 75] Two polls in the last two years showed that 40% of British Muslims wanted to introduce some aspects of Sharia Law into the UK, and 50% thought homosexuality should be illegal in the U.K.

No wonder the indigenous non Muslim population is unhappy with Islam’s influence in Britain. [The Times (£)] Read more

05 October 2018

The far left’s Islamist blind spot

The alliance between the white far left and the Islamist right is a dirty secret in plain sight. Few can bear to look at it. None of the books and documentaries on Corbyn’s takeover of the Labour party asked, even in passing, how people who professed to be socialists and feminists, found themselves promoting theocrats and misogynists.

I have no doubt that ‘serious’ scholars will be as negligent when they come to write their accounts. In supposedly stable Britain, there is a psychological aversion to admitting that the dark corners of modern history can be the best place to find the roots of current crises. [The Spectator] Read more

04 October 2018

Enforcing Austria's burqa ban a delicate matter in Alpine resort

With its pristine waters, snow-covered mountains and breathtaking Alpine views, the Austrian lakeside town of Zell am See is one of the top European destinations for visitors from the Gulf region.

And it aims to remain so, even though Austria introduced a ban on face-covering burqa or niqab veils a year ago.

The picturesque little town south of Salzburg with a population of 10,000 is regularly described as "paradise" in Arabic-language reviews online. It draws tens of thousands of visitors from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Oman every year.

They make up more than a quarter of all annual visitors and holiday brochures are readily available in Arabic.

So when Austria banned the wearing of burqas or niqabs in all public spaces in October 2017 -- under pain of fines of up to 150 euros ($170) -- the town's authorities knew that enforcing the rule could be a delicate matter. [AFP] Read more

Muslim Council of Britain to train women to run mosques

Britain’s leading Muslim organisation has launched a scheme to train women for leadership positions in mosques and community bodies.

Twenty women have embarked on the six-month intensive programme run by the Muslim Council of Britain, aimed at equipping them for leadership positions. As well as one-to-one mentoring, the women will visit “best-practice mosques” and be given media and public speaking training.

A national conference in Manchester this weekend on the future of mosques, organised by the MCB, will include a session on the participation of women on boards of trustees and other bodies running places of worship and community programmes.

Few mosques in the UK have women on their trustee or management boards, and men outnumber women on all charity trustee boards by two to one, according to the Charity Commission.

The MCB said: “This lack of diversity is unacceptable and it is essential for the management boards of mosques and third sector organisations in general to reflect the communities that they serve in order to function effectively.”

.... Referring to domestic violence, pay inequality, abuse and harassment, he said: “Closer to home, why is Muslim civil society still full of many mosques that only have prayer spaces for men and none for women, as if to imply that prayer and a sense of community is only for men?” [The Guardian] Read more

Social media star, a former 'Miss Baghdad,' shot dead

Iraqi social media star and model Tara Fares has been shot dead in Baghdad, security officials confirmed to CNN.

The death of Fares and other recent killings prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to order an investigation on Friday.

The former Miss Baghdad, and first runner-up for Miss Iraq, was killed on Thursday after gunmen opened fire on her in the capital's Camp Sarah neighborhood, according to a statement by Iraq's Interior Ministry, which is investigating the incident.

Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Saad Maan told an Iraqi TV station that two motorcyclists shot Fares while she was inside a vehicle.

The 22-year-old, a Christian whose father was Iraqi and mother Lebanese, was living in Erbil, but visited the capital occasionally. She was famous for her bold clothing and posts on social media. [CNN] Read more

03 October 2018

Quebec’s new government will fire public servants for wearing religious symbols, officials say

Public servants in positions of authority who refuse to remove religious symbols will be assigned to different jobs or dismissed, a spokeswoman for the Coalition Avenir Quebec transition team said Wednesday.

As the Coalition prepared its entry into government at a meeting south of Montreal, it was on the defensive over policies seen to target minority religious groups and immigrants.

Genevieve Guilbault, elected for the Coalition in Quebec City’s Louis-Hebert riding, said Quebecers gave the Coalition a clear mandate to prohibit public servants wielding authority from wearing religious symbols such as the Muslim hijab and Jewish kippa. Those who lose their jobs after refusing to respect the new rules will be the authors of their own misfortune, she said.

Guilbault said when the new law is adopted, there will be a “transition period” for any judges, police officers, teachers, prosecutors and prison guards affected. [The Star] Read more

Outrage erupts over terrorism class with section on Islamic terror

.... Lectures slated for October include topics such as “Islam and the West,” “The origins of Jihad,” “Al Qaida,” “9/11,” “The Islamic State” and “Jihad in Africa,” according to a syllabus screenshot.

But one Muslim student, who is also a campus leader and activist, was briefly enrolled in the class. And after the very first day, student Ali Khan took to social media to express outrage over the content of “Political Science 347: Terrorism” and the way the professor approached the subject.

Khan’s complaint prompted a campuswide conversation on alleged culturally insensitive classes. He also published the professor’s contact information, asking peers to take stand.

Khan, in his Facebook post, accused the scholar of approaching the topic of terror only from “an American exceptionalism perspective to advance a zionist, orientalist, and/or neocolonialist agenda.” Khan, who described himself as “livid” over the course, also denounced its Jihad section.

“You cannot define terrorism singularly by the actions of terrorist groups or non-state actors without including state-sponsored terrorism,” he said.

“There’s a whole module titled ‘Jihad.’ This legitimizes a perception that the concept of Jihad is one-dimensional, single-faceted, and inherently violent and connected to terrorism,” he added. “Will we be discussing the different types of jihad (by the heart, tongue, and hand)? Is the professor an Islamic scholar who can accurately speak about jihad?” [The College Fix] Read more

Islamic History Month aims to 'reduce tensions' and address 'misconceptions': organizer

The main reason Hamilton's Muslim community will celebrate Islamic History Month this October, Dr. Raza Khan says, is to reduce any tensions there might be in the city between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Basically the purpose is to reduce tensions and address any misconceptions or stigmas there might be about the Muslim community in Hamilton," says Khan, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton (MCGH).

The MCGH will host events across the city.

Khan says the Muslim community in Hamilton has been engaging the general public almost since the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. The MCGH has been hosting open houses and open question events with Imams for about a decade, but never like this year says Khan. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

Tory London mayoral pick under fire for remarks about Muslims and Hindus

Accommodating Muslims and Hindus “robs Britain of its community” and risks turning the country into a “crime-riddled cesspool” as a result, the Conservative candidate for London mayor declared in a thinktank pamphlet he wrote a decade ago.

Shaun Bailey voiced concerns about the marking of Muslim and Hindu festivals, claimed children were being taught more about Diwali than Christmas, and argued Britain “removing the religion that British people generally take to” had allowed immigrants to bring their countries’ cultural problems with them.

In his “no man’s land” pamphlet (pdf) for the Centre for Policy Studies about the problems faced by young people in inner-city areas, Bailey also appeared to confuse Hindi speakers with the Hindu religion. [The Guardian] Read more

Woman wearing hijab was entitled to testify, Quebec top court rules

Quebec’s top court has ruled that a judge was wrong to deny a hearing to a woman wearing a hijab, sending a message from the bench about religious freedoms as the province heads into renewed debate over limiting displays of faith.

The judgment by the Quebec Court of Appeal on Wednesday ends a legal saga for Rania El-Alloul, who was told by a provincial court judge three years ago that her Muslim headscarf violated the rules of courtroom decorum.

The three justices from Quebec’s highest court unanimously found that the judge was off the mark - and nothing in the rules forbids a woman from wearing a hijab in a courtroom if the practice stems from sincere religious belief.

"I’m relieved. I didn’t do this for me, I did it for everybody, because I didn’t want them to face what I did,” Ms. El-Alloul said in an interview. “I did it because I felt it was my duty and my right.” [The Globe and Mail] Read more

The removal of Darwin and evolution from schools is a backwards step

In recent weeks there have been alarming reports from both Israel and Turkey of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution being erased from school curriculums. In Turkey, this has been blamed on the concept of evolution – which is taught in British primary schools – being beyond the understanding of high school students. In Israel, teachers are claiming that most students do not learn about evolution; they say their education ministry is quietly encouraging teachers to focus on other topics in biology.

This news follows the astonishing statements made by India’s minister for higher education earlier this year. Satyapal Singh claimed Darwin was “scientifically wrong”, and is demanding that the theory of evolution be removed from school curriculums because no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being”. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Teen Girl Who Alleged Rape by Brother-in-law, Abuse by Husband, Executed After 'Grossly Unfair Trial'

Amnesty International condemned the execution of a woman in Iran who was convicted of stabbing her husband to death after enduring years of abuse at his hands.

Zeinab Sekaanvand, 24, was 15 when she married her husband and was jailed at age 17 for stabbing him to death after a confession that she later retracted. She said she had been tortured and interrogated with no lawyer present.

She said she had been abused by her husband and raped several times by her brother-in-law, who told her that if she accepted responsibility, he could pardon her, which is accepted under Islamic law.

Despite retracting her statement, the judge refused to order another inquiry, and she was sentenced to death. She was executed on Tuesday morning in Uremieh central prison, West Azerbaijan province. [Newsweek] Read more

02 October 2018

Turkey’s Atheism Association Will Shut Down After Membership Becomes Too Risky

Since opening an actual office in 2014, the Atheism Association in Turkey has given away soup to the homeless and called for the government to stop automatically designating every newborn child as “Muslim” on their birth certificates. They’ve also suffered setbacks that included their website being blocked by authorities and having to install a “panic button,” directly connected to the Istanbul police, due to death threats.

It’s been an uphill climb for the group in a nation where 99% of the population is Muslim… (though being declared Muslim from birth certainly inflates that number).

And now the group has been forced to shut down for good after outside pressure made the group’s continued existence untenable. [Friendly Atheist] Read more

Saudi woman 'barred from marrying man who played musical instrument'

A Saudi woman has reportedly lost a legal battle to marry the man of her choice after her family objected because he played a musical instrument.

Relatives of the woman, a bank manager, refused to allow her to wed the man, a teacher, saying his oud (lute) playing made them "religiously incompatible".

A lower court backed that view, and its verdict has now been confirmed at appeal, a lawyer and local media say.

Some people in the conservative Muslim state say music is "haram" (forbidden).

Despite that, Saudi Arabia has a distinctive musical tradition - in which the oud features - and public concerts by Arab and Western artists are permitted. [BBC] Read more

François Legault would invoke notwithstanding clause to ban hijabs from civil service

Quebec's premier-designate says he is prepared to invoke the notwithstanding clause to enforce a prohibition on any public employee from wearing a religious symbol such as a hijab or kippa in the workplace.

.... But when asked by reporters about the notwithstanding clause and his immigration policy, he didn't back down.

"I think that the vast majority of Quebecers, they would like to have a framework where people in an authority position must not wear a religious sign," Legault said.

Political leaders generally have been reluctant to use the notwithstanding clause, which is viewed by many as politically perilous.

However, just last month, new Ontario Premier Doug Ford threatened to use the constitutional provision to override an Ontario Superior Court ruling that struck down the government's bill shrinking the size of Toronto city council on the grounds that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

Investigate the Birmingham Trojan Horse affair

The Birmingham Trojan Horse affair involved claims that there was a plot by hardline Islamist governors and teachers to takeover schools in Birmingham. Slowly, however, a different truth is emerging.

A successful school, Park View, was sacrificed against the evidence to a Prevent agenda that promotes anxiety, pathologises British Muslims, and undermines the civil liberties of everyone. Justice now requires a proper examination of the evidence independently of its distorted presentation by the government and its allies. To summarise all that has happened so far: [openDemocracy] Read more

01 October 2018

Denmark’s government wants more 'non-Western women' to work

The government has allocated 140 million kroner over the next four years to programmes aimed at increasing employment levels amongst women who have migrated to Denmark.

The aim of the investment is to bring more women from non-Western countries onto the labour market, the Ministry for Immigration and Integration wrote on its website.

“It is absolutely crucial that we get more non-Western women working. Employment amongst refugees and immigrants is improving in general, but women are still some way behind – including those that have been in the country for many years,” immigration minister Inger Støjberg said via a press statement.

“That means that many of those women are without work and knowledge of the norms and values of Danish society, and are in practice isolated from Danish society,” Støjberg added.

The term 'non-Western' (ikkevestlige) is used by national database Statistics Denmark and encompasses nationals of all countries other than those in the EU plus Andorra, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the United States.

According to ministry figures, 47 percent of working-age women from non-Western countries are currently employed. For Danish women, that figure is 74 percent. [The Local] Read more

We are all Ayatollahs now

We have just passed the 30th anniversary of the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. It would go on to become one of the most famous novels of the 20th century thanks in large part to what happened six months following its publication: Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie and anyone involved in publishing his work. Rushdie and his ‘editors and publishers’ are ‘condemned to death’, said Khomeini on 14 February 1989.

What is extraordinary 30 years after this allegedly blasphemous book first appeared, and close to 30 years after Khomeini issued his medieval decree, is that Khomeini has won. He is the moral victor in this despicable affair. His backward outlook carries more weight these days than the decent liberalism of secular intellectuals and literary figures like Rushdie.

No, the Ayatollah’s foul call for the murder of Rushdie was not successful, and we must all remain grateful for that. But his belief that certain words and thoughts are unacceptable, unutterable, unbearable, and that anyone who holds them must be punished, is now the dominant outlook of our times. And not only in the Islamic Republic of Iran but here in Britain too, and across much of the West. [Spiked] Read more