28 February 2019

Mobeen Azhar surveys the impact of the Rushdie affair

.... Another interviewee was ex-Muslim Sadia Hameed. She robustly, and rightly, argued against the idea of a law to protect religion. However I rather sympathised with Azhar when he explained that he found some of the irreverent swipes at Mohammed/Islam used by the Council of ex-Muslims a little divisive – it strikes me too as a shame not to capitalise on the many crucial things liberal Muslims have in common with ex-Muslims. (Again, I should note that Azhar was unambiguous in supporting her right to insult and make fun of Islam.)

The programme concluded, dispiritingly but not very surprisingly, with Azhar attempting to do a vox pop in Bradford only to have the novel snatched away from him and burnt to the clear approval of at least some of the passers by.

Azhar was obviously very frustrated by that response – but in some ways Sean O’Grady’s review of the programme in the Independent was still more shocking. Like the programme itself it came with a sting in the tale.

He concluded:

"Rushdie’s silly, childish book should be banned under today’s anti-hate legislation. It’s no better than racist graffiti on a bus stop. I wouldn’t have it in my house, out of respect to Muslim people and contempt for Rushdie, and because it sounds quite boring. I’d be quite inclined to burn it, in fact. It’s a free country, after all."

The flippancy as well as the sheer illiberalism of this comment is quite breathtaking. [Harry’s Place] Read more

Amazon deletes Mohammed's Koran by Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin

Unlike the Satanic Verses .... no copies have been burned, so far as I know (and I'm sure if they had been a great fuss would have been made). What have gone are the thousands of positive 5* reviews, and the reasoned counter arguments to all the 1*, "I have not read this book but I KNOW it is boll**ks", reviews from angry Muslims and fellow travellers.

Amazon have told peter McLoughlin that the book has been deleted from their catalogue because "because it does not provide a positive user experience". Mein Kampf definitely doesn't but they stock that as a matter of historical record.

Those readers who have enquired since Amazon decided to emulate Orwell's Ministry of Truth yesterday may be interested to know that by following this link from Peter McLaughlin's website books are still available within the UK. I do not yet know what arrangements will be made for readers outside the UK, or what plans there are for digital download or suchlike. [New English Review] Read more

Man threatened Muslim woman because she was dressed in western clothing

Detectives have made the appeal after a man was today sentenced for threatening a female worker at a health centre in Bromley-By-Bow because of the way she was dressed.

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard Mohammed Amin also hurled abuse at a doctor he believed was a Christian and threatened him with violence if he was reported to police.

The 37-year-old, from Walthamstow, entered St Andrew’s Health Centre and gave a note to the Muslim worker stating that she was not following the Islamic dress code.

When her colleague confronted him he made threats towards the woman he gave the note to before targeting the doctor.

Today he was sentenced to an 18 month community order after being convicted of two counts of racially/religiously aggravated Section 4 Public Order Act offences against NHS staff on February 7.

Det Con Ami Henderson of the Met’s Central East Command Unit said: “We believe Amin regularly approached Muslim women, or women he perceived to be Muslim, in Tower Hamlets and confronted them about their appearance. [East London Advertiser] Read more

Tory MP criticised for saying there’s no Islamophobia in the party because Sajid Javid is a Muslim

A Tory Minister has come under fire after claiming that he has never seen any Islamophobia in the Conservative Party and pointing to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who is from a Muslim background, as evidence that prejudice does not exist in the party.

Henry Smith, the MP for Crawley, was discussing the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party on the BBC Politics Live show when host Andrew Neil turned the tables on him to ask about Islamophobia in the Conservative membership.

Mr Neil said: “Isn’t it also rather sad that a once great other British party, I think called the Conservatives also has its elements of Islamophobia in it, and because of the row over anti-Semitism you’ve got away with it.”

The MP responded: “Well, I’ve never come across any of that in the Conservative Party and we’ve got members in my Crawley association who are Muslim, along with many other different faiths and no faith at all.” [inews.co.uk] Read more

Saudi sisters hiding in Hong Kong face imminent deportation

Rawan and Reem are watching the clock. At the end of the day on Thursday the sisters, who escaped from Saudi Arabia almost six months ago, could be deported home where they face prison, beatings, and possibly death.

The women, who are using aliases out of fear of retribution by members of their family, have been in legal limbo since landing in Hong Kong in September after an aborted attempt to reach Australia where they hoped to get asylum. Their “tolerated overstay” in the city as visitors ends on Thursday, according to their lawyer. They risk arrest, prosecution and possibly removal.

Their options are limited. They are hoping to be granted emergency visas to travel to a third country where they have a chance of being given asylum – Hong Kong resettles very few refugees. In the meantime, they have applied for an extension of their stay in Hong Kong.

If that is not granted they are not sure what will happen. The sisters, who have renounced Islam, fear the worst if returned to their family in Saudi Arabia. [The Guardian] Read more

27 February 2019

Michelle Malkin: I've Been Silicon Valley Sharia'd

Last week, the little birdies in Twitter's legal department notified me that one of my tweets from 2015 is "in violation of Pakistan law." It seems like ancient history, but Islamic supremacists never forget — or forgive.

My innocuous tweet featured a compilation image of the 12 Muhammad cartoons published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. It also linked to my Jan. 8, 2015, syndicated column on the Charlie Hebdo jihad massacre in Paris.

There's no hate, violence, profanity or pornography, just harmless drawings and peacefully expressed opinions about the Western media's futile attempts to appease the unappeasable enforcers of sharia law, which bans all insults of Islam.

The Twitter notice assured me that the company "has not taken any action on the reported content at this time," yet advised me that I should "consult legal counsel about this matter" in response to complaints from unnamed "authorized entities."

Don't worry, lawyer up? Gulp. [CNSNews.com] Read more

The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On review – what an astonishing fallout

.... The opportunity to draw a line between then and now is irresistible and Azhar spends the last 20 minutes making a convincing and considered argument that the book burnings in Bradford in 1988 led, directly or otherwise, to the ideas of Tommy Robinson and the like becoming mainstream.

Robinson has “tried to intellectualise racism”, Azhar argues, by claiming a fundamental cultural incompatibility. But when he puts a version of that argument to the man who first burned The Satanic Verses, who demonstrates how he did it – he had to soak it in paraffin to keep the pages alight – he finds that, ultimately, he has few regrets. [The Guardian] Read more

Must We Really Be Careful What We Do Lest We Offend Extremists?

Britain, in recent days, has had a rare distraction from its seemingly endless Brexit debate. The distraction, however, has not been an altogether welcome one. It involves the case of Shamima Begum, one of a number of girls who left their school in Bethnal Green in London in 2015 to go and join ISIS.

Back then, in 2015, the story of the Bethnal Green schoolgirls was headline news. Many British people were genuinely shocked that anyone -- let alone young women at the start of their lives -- would find ISIS's promise of a Caliphate so alluring that they would leave the comforts of their friends, family and country in the UK to go to join the group. There was much national debate about this.

Various people, including some of the girls' family members, blamed the British police and security services for not stopping the girls from leaving the UK. Ironically, the people who blamed the police -- including the lawyer representing the girls' families -- were often precisely the same people as those who had spent previous years urging Muslims in Britain not to cooperate with the British police. How exactly the British police were either to blame, or to find any way to 'win' in such a situation, was never explained. It was just one of many paradoxes thrown up in these circumstances. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Dutch court rules against Muslim man who refused to shave beard for job

A Dutch court has backed the suspension of a Muslim man’s benefits over his refusal on religious grounds to shave his beard while on training for a job.

The unnamed man had been offered a job as an asbestos removal officer but was subsequently told he would need to be clean shaven in order to undergo the training course.

When he refused on the basis of his religious convictions, Amersfoort city council suspended payments to both him and his wife for a month under the Participatiewet, which provides a minimum income for every legal resident in the Netherlands.

The man appealed the decision at the court of central Netherlands, where he claimed that the removal of his benefits was an infringement of article nine of the European convention on human rights which protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. [The Guardian] Read more

Sports shop stops selling runners' hijab after backlash in France

A French sports brand has been forced to stop selling a running hijab after a backlash and threats from shoppers.

Sports goods chain Decathlon had advertised a sports hijab which allowed Muslim women to work out or run while still honouring their faith.

But the company has had to stop selling it in France until further notice after it prompted a huge backlash.

French politicians were among those who objected to the item, including health minister Agnes Buzyn who said she would prefer if the company did not promote the veil.

This is not the first time France has been embroiled in a row over dress code for Muslim women. Three years ago some French mayors banned burkinis, the all-encompassing swimsuit worn by a small minority of Muslim women on the beach. [Sky News] Read more

French retailer Decathlon suspends sale of sportswear hijab amid 'violent controversy'

French retailer Decathlon has backtracked on plans to sell a sportswear hijab after receiving what it described as "unprecedented insults and threats".

The hijab, which is designed for running and already retails in its Moroccan outlets, faced an immediate pushback from the public and politicians alike, who argued it contradicted France's secular values.

"My choice as a woman and a citizen will be to no longer trust a brand that breaks with our values," Health Minister Agnes Buzyn tweeted.

"Those who tolerate women in the public space only when they are hiding are not lovers of freedom."

The retailer initially doubled down on the promotion, taking to social media to argue its goal was to offer women "a suitable sports product, without judgement".

But less than 24 hours later, following "many internal debates, and to guarantee the safety of our employees in France", it axed the hijab. [ABC] Read more

26 February 2019

The Islam of my youth was open-minded, curious, and joyful. Where has it gone?

In my old homeland, Uganda, my mates and I sang along with Helen Shapiro’s “Don’t Treat Me Like A Child” and Sam Cooke’s “Only Sixteen”. We turned up our waistbands to bring our skirts to way above the knee, hid stashes of make-up, went to Elvis movies, and had trysts with spotty boys. Parents moaned about uncontrollable kids, mosque leaders sermonised about duty and obedience, chastity and sobriety, but Muslims, even the most devout, did not lock themselves away in sterile, religious ghettoes.

They believed in education, absorbed ideas, adopted lifestyles, and bought stuff from the West and East.

Most marriages were arranged, not forced. One cousin painted risqué pictures of women in wispy clothes, while the son of the mosque caretaker sang Bollywood songs at parties. We didn’t feel oppressed or beleaguered. Being a young Muslim then was easy and, mostly, joyful. [inews.co.uk] Read more

Decathlon drops French sports hijab after politicians threaten boycott

The French sports store Decathlon has cancelled a plan to put a sports hijab on the market in France after several politicians, including one from Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, called for a boycott.

The retailer’s plain, lightweight running headscarf, which covers the hair but not the face, is already on sale in Morocco and was to be extended to France and worldwide. But after a social media storm and outrage from some politicians against Muslim head coverings, the company backtracked and said the garment would not go on sale “at the present time” in France.

Agnès Buzyn, the health minister in Macron’s government, said of the garment: “It’s a vision of women that I don’t share. I would prefer if a French brand did not promote the headscarf.”

Aurore Bergé, from Macron’s centrist party, La République En Marche, tweeted her opposition, saying she would boycott the store which she accused of not respecting French values. She said: “My choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values.” [The Guardian] Read more

25 February 2019

British activist was behind Iran’s fatwa on Salman Rushdie

The death sentence against Sir Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses was requested by a British Muslim leader visiting Iran, an investigation has found.

The author was forced into hiding for a decade and 59 people died in protests around the world as Ayatollah Khomeini, figurehead of the Islamic revolution, issued a fatwa for blasphemy against anyone involved in the publication of the book. A Norwegian publisher was shot and a Japanese translator was murdered.

Blame for the fatwa is now being attributed to Kalim Siddiqui, director of Britain’s pro-Iranian Muslim Institute, who visited Iran before the death threat was declared. [The Times (£)] Read more

Arabs and atheism: the politics of disbelief

A key point to keep in mind is that Europe’s recognition of religious freedom didn’t happen in isolation – it was the result of broader political and social changes over a long period of time. Similarly in the Middle East, the problem of freedom of belief won’t be solved quickly or in isolation. There would have to be a shift away from the prevailing social and political authoritarianism, and states would have to start disentangling their relationship with religion. It may be difficult to imagine that happening in the Arab countries, but we shouldn’t underestimate the way public discourse has opened up and challenged the status quo during the last few years. Arab governments may try to control it but modern technology makes that increasingly difficult.

There are tentative signs of change in other areas too. The new constitutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq all pay some lip service to the principle of religious freedom, even if it’s not currently upheld in practice.

.... For now, these may be little more than empty words but the fact that governments see a need to utter them at all perhaps offers a ray of hope for the future. [al-bab.com] Read more

24 February 2019

Iran: Mounting Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians in Iran in 2018 increased to a new level, according to an in-depth report jointly released by Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Article 18, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

"The end of 2018 saw an unprecedented wave of raids on private house gatherings, leading to a large number of arrests. Many Christians received prison sentences, or had sentences upheld by the Court of Appeal," noted the report.

Despite this roaring abuse, and violations and attacks against Christians being significantly ratcheted up, the international community continues to label the Iranian government, run by President Hassan Rouhani, as "moderate.

What is puzzling is that while the Iranian authorities boast that Christians and other religious minorities are treated fairly under Islam, the Iranian regime is, in fact, increasingly targeting Christians solely for daring peacefully to practice their faith.

Even though these actions are frequently documented, their claims do not match up with the ever-increasing numbers of arrests and punishments suffered by those practicing a religion other than Islam. For example, in a single recent week, more than 100 Christians were arrested. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Police open three investigation papers over insults on Islam

Police have initiated investigation papers into three cases of social-media users insulting Islam, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said today.

He said in the first case, a total of 478 police reports were lodged against a Facebook user, who posted words and infographics that were insulting to Islam.

“The 68-year-old suspect was arrested on Feb 19 and remanded until Feb 22. However, due to his age and health complications, the suspect was released on Feb 22 on police bail,“ he said.

The second case involved another Facebook user who insulted Islam and Muslims with profanities.

“We received 11 police reports on the matter. The 21-year-old suspect was arrested on Feb 21 and has since been remanded until Monday (tomorrow) to help in investigations,“ added Mohamad Fuzi.

The third case under police probe involves another Facebook user who posted materials insulting Islam that went viral recently. [thesundaily.my] Read more

I’ll defy hate to keep our sex lessons

A teacher facing death threats vows his pupils will go on learning about gay families.

Of all the subjects on the curriculum, nothing provokes as much passion as sex and relationships education. Ask Andrew Moffat, assistant head teacher of a primary school in Birmingham, who has faced death threats for his commitment to diversity.

Ofsted recently sent inspectors to Parkfield Community School, where 99% of pupils are Muslim, for an emergency inspection after weeks of protests by parents calling for the school to stop teaching children “how to be gay” and demanding that Moffat be sacked.

In a report to be published this week Ofsted will give him its backing by confirming that the school, rated outstanding in 2016, remains in the top tier. [The Times (£)] Read more

23 February 2019

Saudi sisters trapped in Hong Kong fear death penalty if deported

Two Saudi sisters trapped in Hong Kong say chronic physical abuse by male family members prompted them to flee the kingdom, where they fear they will be forcibly returned.

The two are the latest example of Saudi women trying to escape from the ultra-conservative kingdom who find themselves dodging officials and angry family.

The women, aged 20 and 18, were marooned after Saudi consular officials allegedly intercepted them during a stopover at Hong Kong’s airport and revoked their passports.

They have adopted the aliases Reem and Rawan, and have described an unhappy upbringing in a middle-class Riyadh household.

They said they were beaten by their father when they were young and by their brothers when they got older for things such as waking up late for prayer.

“They started to beat me ... My father didn’t really stop them. He thinks that this is what makes them men,” Reem said. [The Guardian] Read more

22 February 2019

Student kicked out of university after saying halal meat is ‘inhumane’ and ‘barbaric’

A student who doesn’t like halal meat, thinks immigrants should not get free NHS care and is worried about the ‘islamisation’ of the UK has apparently been thrown out a university for his views. Sebastian Walsh, 19, claims The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) suspended him after it received several complaints from other students. The first year student had told friends he would never eat at Subway or KFC because they sold halal meat that had been slaughtered without stunning.

Ukip member Mr Walsh said: ‘All I did was voice my opinions during debates about immigration.

‘I am totally against halal meat because I think it’s cruel – it’s an inhumane and barbaric way of slaughtering animals. ‘In another seminar class, we had a discussion about the privatisation of the NHS and I simply said I don’t think free healthcare should be available to immigrants. ‘These are views held by many people in the public and I believe I should be able to express them freely. [Metro.co.uk] Read more

Brother of Saudi women’s rights activist ‘being tortured in prison’ fears her treatment is getting worse

The brother of a leading Saudi women’s rights campaigner who is allegedly being tortured and sexually harassed in prison is fearful her treatment could be worsening.

Loujain al-Hathloul, who defied the kingdom’s recently overturned ban on female drivers, was arrested in May 2018 along with 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

The 29-year-old campaigner’s family and Human Rights Watch have alleged in recent months that she and other female detainees have been tortured and sexually harassed in jail.

Ms al-Hathloul has told her parents she has been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder. [The Independent] Read more

21 February 2019

Desperate and alone, Saudi sisters risk everything to flee oppression

The night they fled, Reem and Rawan didn't dare sleep.

It was September 6, 2018. The two Saudi sisters were on a family vacation in Colombo, Sri Lanka. For weeks, they had helped their mother organize the trip, feigning excitement at the possibility of two weeks away from Riyadh, but knowing that if all went to plan, they'd never go back.

Failure was not an option. Every step of their escape from Saudi Arabia carried the threat of severe punishment or death.

"We knew the first time, if it's not perfect, it will be the last time," Reem says.

CNN has changed the sisters' names and is not showing their faces, at their request for their safety.

The sisters say years of strict Islamic teaching and physical abuse at home had convinced them that they had no future in a society that places women under the enforced guardianship of men, and limits their aspirations.

"It's slavery, because whatever the woman will do it's the business of the male," Rawan says. [CNN] Read more

20 February 2019

Whistleblowing Imam wins unfair dismissal case against Edinburgh mosque

An imam who blew the whistle on his mosque has won a case for unfair dismissal.

Yahya Barry was sacked after he raised concerns over financial irregularities and reported Edinburgh Central Mosque to the charity regulator, OSCR.

Mr Barry, 35, had been worried by thousands of pounds of payments being made from petty cash, rather than by cheque.

An unemployment tribunal has now ruled that his concerns amounted to “protected disclosures” - the legal definition of whistleblowing - and that his dismissal was therefore unfair.

Judge Murdo Macleod, who heard Mr Barry’s case in November, said the mosque had not been ready to accept criticism from the imam.

In a formal ruling, Mr Macleod said: “They reacted in an an extraordinarily defensive way, in our judgment, instead of looking at the facts.”

The judge added: "This defensiveness was, in our judgment, redolent of an employer that was not prepared to accept criticism and [Mr Barry's] persistence in raising matters both with the management and with OSCR led directly to the process which led to his dismissal." [The Herald] Read more

Council’s “culture of secrecy” over halal meat row

A row over the serving of non-stunned halal meat in Kirklees schools continues to rumble on, with the council accused of a “culture of secrecy” over the issue.

The authority continues to reject requests to reveal details of which of its catered schools receive halal meat procured via non-stunned slaughter.

And amidst a bad-tempered exchange in Huddersfield Town Hall, when critics of the council’s policy were accused of using animal welfare as a tool to stir up racial hatred, Council Leader Shabir Pandor shut down the debate.

He said the moral outrage demonstrated by anti-halal campaigners was “politically motivated.”

“I cannot commit myself or my cabinet to review this policy. The answer has to be no,” he said. [Telegraph & Argus] Read more

19 February 2019

Iran: Social media under threat in crackdown

The first young woman to take off her hijab in public climbed on an electricity box at a busy junction in Tehran before removing her headscarf and holding it out over the traffic. She was arrested immediately and held for 31 days. Her actions were copied at the same spot by a wave of others protesting against the law obliging Iranian women to wear the headscarf in public.

Known as the Girls of Enghelab Street, 29 more were arrested before Tehran’s city council erected a pointed cover on top of the electricity box to stop them climbing on it. [The Times (£)] Read more

There are ‘many Asia Bibis’ in Pakistan, says human rights group

A human rights group says that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s blasphemy law has led to the creation of “many Asia Bibis” in the Southeast Asian country.

Last month, Pakistan’s Supreme Court reaffirmed an earlier ruling that acquitted a Christian mother of five named Asia Bibi of committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed. Bibi had been on death row for over eight years.

Aid to the Church in Need, a human rights group set up by the Catholic Church, recently stated that despite the legal victory, there still remain “many Asia Bibis” in Pakistan.

One example given by ACN was Sawan Masih, a young Christian man and father of three who was sentenced to death in 2014 for allegedly violating the nation’s blasphemy law.

Masih has appealed the decision, but ACN has stated that “he is still waiting for appeal proceedings” following delays. Masih’s next court date is now scheduled for Feb. 28. Bibi's appeal had also been delayed several times by the country's high court over the years. [Christian Post] Read more

Shoppers unknowingly buying no-stun religious meat in supermarkets

Shoppers have been unwittingly buying meat from animals that were not stunned when killed under religious rules because it is going unlabelled in supermarkets, a consumer watchdog has warned.

.... The revelation prompted both vets’ leaders and the RSPCA to renew calls for a national ban on no-stun slaughter.

.... The proportion of animals stunned before slaughter for halal meat last year dropped significantly, the figures also showed. Experts say killing without stunning is cruel as animals still feel pain and distress during a prolonged death. Regulations allow non-stun slaughter provided the meat is consumed only by religious communities.

But there is no law forcing food companies or supermarkets to say whether stunning took place so most supermarket shoppers are unaware of the background to their meat. [The Independent] Read more

One in three people think Islam is a threat to their way of life

More than a third of British people believe Islam is a threat to their way of life, new figures have revealed. A report published by anti-racism group Hope not Hate found that an enormous 35% of people thought the religion was a threat and just 30% thought it was compatible. In the same poll, a quarter of English people said the believed that Islam is ‘a dangerous religion that incites violence’.

Of 1,000 people surveyed, 49% of 2017 Conservative voters think that Islam is incompatible to the British way of life and 47% think there are no go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter

.... Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Safya Khan-Ruf from HOPE not hate, said: ‘Islamophobia has crept into the heart of the Conservative party – and the party seems to be in denial about the problems they face. ‘Candidates, activists and even leading members have expressed Islamophobic views, without repercussions. ‘Our huge 2018 YouGov survey of more than 10,000 respondents showed that when asked if Islam was generally compatible with the British way of life, just under half of the Conservative voters agreed it was a threat, compared to 22% of Labour voters.’ [Metro.co.uk] Read more

Iranian morality police fire warning shots after crowd prevents arrest of women without hijab

Iranian "morality police" were forced to fire warning shots when a crowd intervened to prevent them from arresting two women for not wearing a hijab.

The incident occurred in Tehran's northeastern Narmak neighbourhood on Friday night, and ended with a mob tearing the door off a police vehicle, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported.

"Morality patrol police members had warned two young women who did not have proper hijab. Within a few minutes, a group of citizens gathered around to prevent the transfer of the two women [into custody]," a police official told the agency.

"When the two women left the car, the crowd also dispersed, and the issue was over," the official said.

Video of the incident posted on social media shows a large crowd shouting and cars using their horns before a series of shots are heard. [The Telegraph] Read more

Macron may ease strict secularism laws to tackle radical Islam

Strasbourg’s grand mosque is an extraordinary sight. Covered by a 40ft wide copper dome and flanked by soaring wings, it has become a cultural landmark in the city since its completion in 2012, attracting not just worshippers but also a steady stream of school groups and tourists.

Equally extraordinary in France, a country where the separation of the state from religion is rigorously enforced under a law dating back to 1905, public authorities provided the mosque with a prime riverside plot and put up a third of the €8.7m budget (£7.6m) to build it. [The Times (£)] Read more

18 February 2019

Pakistan demands loyalty before freeing Asia Bibi

A Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row in Pakistan has been barred from completing her asylum paperwork while the authorities put pressure on her not to speak ill of the country.

Asia Bibi saw the last legal obstacle to her fleeing Pakistan removed when the Supreme Court threw out a petition by religious conservatives to halt her release more than two weeks ago. It was the climax to a case of that has gripped and divided Pakistan. [The Times (£)] Read more

17 February 2019

Female German referee causes Bundesliga broadcast to be canceled in Iran

Iranian state TV did not broadcast a Bundesliga soccer match because of the presence of a woman as referee, media say. The Islamic country censors the showing of women in "revealing" clothes such as football shorts.

Iranian state broadcaster IRIB did not show a Bundesliga match between Bayern Munich and Augsburg on Friday because German referee Bibiana Steinhaus was officiating, German media reported, citing Iranian media.

The broadcast was reportedly canceled because the country's strict Islamic regulations do not allow the showing of images of women wearing clothes that reveal large amounts of skin, such as football shorts.

Natalie Amiri, Iran correspondent for German public broadcaster ARD, tweeted that the broadcast in Iran had been canceled "at the last minute," asking, "and who is responsible? Of course, it's Bibi again..."

In Iran, movie scenes showing women in what is deemed revealing clothing are censored. But this would have been impossible when broadcasting Friday's match, as Steinhaus was continually visible, reports said. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

16 February 2019

Islamist group targets children ‘at risk’ from gay rights lessons

An extremist Muslim group that regards homosexuality as a perversion like bestiality and paedophilia is teaching children its beliefs in a national campaign against LGBT rights.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in more than a dozen countries, has been lecturing up to 70 children at a time. The group’s purpose is to re-establish the caliphate in the Middle East with sharia law.

Yesterday it distributed leaflets to mosques around the country stating that teaching children to have an open mind is as dangerous as “giving a child a gun”. [The Times (£)] Read more

30 years on from the Rusdie fatwa, freedom of speech remains under threat

.... What is remarkable is how many Establishment figures of the time expressed their displeasure at Mr Rushdie, even if they strongly disagreed with the death sentence. Roald Dahl suggested he’d been deliberately insulting in order to send an “indifferent book on to the top of the bestseller list”. John Le Carré argued that nobody has a right “to be impertinent to great religions with impunity”. There was an unavoidable tension between defending conservative Muslims from what they regarded as profound insult to their faith and the freedom of Mr Rushdie to speak his mind.

Britain, however, made the right choice: the Conservative government offered protection to one of its most strident literary critics. The UK stood decisively on the side of artistic liberty and should be proud of that.

.... As a rule, the British would prefer to leave each other well alone. But sometimes, as in 1989, movements arise that assert their right to shut other voices down, and the Government has to take a decisive stand. The present Tory Party has does some sensible things – such as issuing guidance to ward off no-platforming at universities – but the clarity of the Eighties has been lost. Back then, Margaret Thatcher’s Methodist belief in free will provided a philosophical direction that is now sorely lacking. At the time, her politics were certainly controversial, and Mr Rushdie disagreed with them mightily. But years later, he acknowledged that she had offered protection in an hour of need. [The Telegraph] Read more

I was forced to wear a hijab. It wasn’t liberating

It was World Hijab Day earlier this month. You probably missed it, but you can imagine the idea: ‘global citizens’ of all faiths and backgrounds were asked to cover their heads for a day ‘in solidarity with Muslim women worldwide’. It is done in ‘recognition of millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty’.

Wearing a hijab is not such an abstract cause for me: I used to wear one a few years ago when I was at school in Iran. And in the spirit of solidarity, I’d like to tell you a bit more about the world I left behind when I moved to Britain in 2011 when I was nine years old.

I was six when I was first made to wear the hijab to school. When I was eight, I was forced to wear the hijab while walking around Arak, my hometown in north–western Iran. I did so in fear of the ‘modesty’ police, who patrolled the streets looking for anyone who dared to remove their hijab. [The Spectator] Read more

15 February 2019

'Education, not indoctrination': Muslim parents lead group of 300 in protest outside school gates against equality lessons on homosexuality and gender

More than 300 parents and children gathered outside of a primary school yesterday to protest against lessons on homosexuality and gender.

Some Muslim demonstrators said they would rather leave the UK than allow their children to continue attending Parkfield Community School in Birmingham.

Pupils were kept out of lessons for the first hour of the day. Some joined in with the chants and held placards reading: 'Education not indoctrination.' One child carried a handwritten sign which said: 'Let kids be kids.'

The protest comes amid a campaign against lessons on equality at the school, with parents in the predominantly Muslim area saying they promote homosexuality. Christian evangelists joined them to protest yesterday in a show of solidarity.

Parents' anger is aimed at the school's assistant head Andrew Moffat, who is behind the 'No Outsiders' lessons. He created the scheme to teach children about the Equality Act and British values. [Daily Mail] Read more

Religion vs. Free Speech

Speaking and writing about Islam today requires discretion, sensitivity, and a good grasp of facts. Doing this is harder in most European countries than it is in the United States, where the First Amendment insists on powerful free speech rights. The need for sensitivity stems from the almost universal condemnation of "Islamophobia", a mainly good-hearted response to democratic worries that innocent Muslims may be targeted with violence or hate speech, even as many (but far from all) seek to integrate themselves and their families into Western society.

.... Ironically, if we speak out too forcefully, the result can be counterproductive, making it unlikely that the people we would like to convince in politics, the churches, the media, or the mainstream will agree with our views. The extremist nature of some anti-Muslim agitators in the UK, for example, has had the effect of making it hard for many people to take in what they say.

What happens, then, is the exact opposite of what real Islamophobes claim they want, instead causing serious concerns about Islam to be dismissed. It is probably more constructive for everyone who speaks and writes about Islam and Muslims to do so in a measured and well-informed way. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Vets call for ban on export of halal lamb

Halal abattoirs are exploiting a legal loophole to kill 2,000 lambs a day without stunning them and then sending the meat overseas, a survey commissioned by the government has revealed.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) called on ministers to ban the export of unstunned meat, saying that it contradicted the spirit of the law on humane slaughter.

Abattoirs are required to stun animals before cutting their throats to prevent them feeling pain but can use an exemption if an animal is being religiously slaughtered for halal or kosher meat. The BVA said that the law had been intended to serve the requirements of British Muslims and Jews, not to enable an export market in unstunned meat. [The Times (£)] Read more

14 February 2019

DfE bans ISIS supporter Mizanur Rahman from running schools

A man jailed for his support for terrorist group Islamic State has been banned from being involved in running schools.

Mohammed Mizanur Rahman is now barred from holding management positions in private schools and being a state school governor under a prohibition direction issued by the education secretary Damian Hinds.

Rahman, an associate of radical preacher Anjem Choudary, was previously a proprietor of an unregistered school, Siddeeq Academy in east London, which closed in 2015 following his arrest and an Ofsted inspection. He was jailed in 2016 for inviting support for ISIS and a string of other offences.

He is understood to be the third person ever to banned from being a school governor.

The order, made on January 21 but only published today, states that Rahman has been blocked from the roles because he was convicted of inciting racial hatred, solicitation to murder and inviting support for a proscribed terrorist group. [Schools Week] Read more

Gay Muslim comic gone from Instagram after Indonesia warning

An Instagram account that published comic strips depicting the struggles of gay Muslims in Indonesia has disappeared following a frenzy of outrage online in the world’s biggest Muslim nation.

The Ministry of Communications said the account under the username Alpatuni was pornographic, a violation of a law on information and electronic transactions. In a statement Wednesday, the government said Instagram had “fulfilled” its request made in a warning letter for the account to be removed.

Instagram, however, said it had not removed the account. The company said there were many reasons an account may no longer be accessible, including the account holder deleting it, deactivating it or changing the username.

The comics depicted gay characters facing discrimination and abuse, which has become increasingly common in Indonesia since late 2015 when conservative politicians and religious leaders began a campaign of portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a threat. [AP] Read more

30 Years After The Fatwa, Salman Rushdie Lives But Free Speech Is In Danger

.... Thirty years since a sentence of death was proclaimed by a powerful Iranian lunatic against one of our great novelists, it makes sense to reflect. Thirty years since an American senator tried to have our government approve or disapprove art, it makes sense to reflect. How much freedom do we want? What power do we believe words actually hold to harm, or do violence? Are we moving farther away from the fatwa that tried to condemn Rushdie? Or are we moving closer to it?

As Americans, the people who stand before the world to uphold the concepts of freedom and individual rights, as a people who were shaken by the threats against Rushdie then, we must be steeled against threats to free speech now. There can be no middle ground. Basphemers must be allowed to blaspheme. They’re not always wrong. On this anniversary, let us redouble our efforts to support free speech, and to recognize and call out those forces who believe some words are too harmful to be spoken. [The Federalist] Read more

13 February 2019

Apple and Google Urged to Dump Saudi App That Lets Men Track Women

A Saudi mobile application that lets men track and restrict the movements of women in the kingdom has come under increased scrutiny this week with an American senator and rights groups urging Apple and Google to remove it from their platforms, accusing the technology giants of facilitating gender discrimination.

Saudi “guardianship laws” give women a legal status similar to that of minors in many areas of their lives. Every Saudi woman, regardless of age, has a male “guardian,” usually her father or husband, but sometimes her brother or son, who must give his permission for her to get a passport, have certain medical procedures or get married.

The app in question, called Absher, was launched in 2015 by the Saudi government. It allows men to manage the women under their guardianship by giving or revoking their right to travel through airports, tracking them by their national identity cards or passports. The men can turn on notifications that alert them with a text message any time a woman under their guardianship passes through an airport. [The New York Times] Read more

Banned school governor Tahir Alam fights gay equality lessons

A school governor banned after an alleged plot to impose strict Muslim values on pupils is urging parents to pressure teachers into dropping lessons promoting gay equality.

Tahir Alam, who was barred from any involvement in schools after the so-called Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham, has claimed that teachers are “indoctrinating” children with a programme which promotes LGBT equality and challenges homophobia in primary schools.

Mr Alam has called on parents to “investigate” schools over the No Outsiders programme, which is written by a gay teacher and runs alongside sex education lessons, and demand it is dropped from the curriculum. [The Times (£)] Read more

Radio 4’s Fatwa shows why the repercussions of the Salman Rushie Satanic Verses controversy are still felt 30 years on

.... There is so much more to this bizarre story than most of us know, and Fatwa tells it vividly. Presenter Mobeen Azhar and producer Chloe Hadjimatheou spend a lot of time explaining the domestic context, especially the feelings of alienation that had long been bubbling up in Britain’s Asian communities. Although Rushdie himself declined to be interviewed, we hear from his publishers and friends, as well as his enemies – including the so-called “mad mullahs” (still jovially unrepentant) who organised a public book-burning outside Bradford town hall, and were amazed when this failed to inspire public sympathy.

It should have been possible to feature all of these diverse and fascinating voices without creating an atmosphere of moral relativism. But the vital argument on the Rushdie side – that freedom of expression is the foundational principle of every democratic society, without which all other human rights wither away – is barely articulated on Fatwa.

“This is the story of how one book forced everyone to take a side,” intones Azhar at the start of one episode. Er, no – it didn’t. A novel can’t force anyone to do anything, and neither can a novelist. To point the finger at Rushdie, instead of the religious leader who ordered his assassination, is absurd. [The Telegraph] Read more

Madrassa ousted from secondary school following lesson telling Muslim girls to have children, not careers

A madrassa that gave a lesson suggesting Muslim girls should have children rather than careers has been ousted from a secondary school amid safeguarding concerns.

Langley Academy has terminated its contract with the Al-Miftah Institute, which provided ‘IslamHood’ Sunday school classes from its campus in Slough.

It followed complaints by a member of the public and the National Secular Society that IslamHood had hosted speakers with controversial views about homosexuality. Another speaker complained about women in hijabs making social media videos and described non-Muslims as “pigs”.

A recording also emerged of an IslamHood class showing a lesson by Shaykh Shams Ad-Duha Muhammad on why Muslim girls should have children instead of careers. [The Telegraph] Read more

12 February 2019

Inquiry launched into charity running Birmingham Muslim School after 'serious incident not reported'

An inquiry has been launched into a controversial charity running a Birmingham school - where pupils were once said to be at risk of radicalisation.

The Albayan Education Foundation Limited (AEFL) operates Birmingham Muslim School in Small Heath, while also carrying out relief work overseas and in the UK.

.... Ofsted had previously highlighted a ‘weak culture of safeguarding’ at the school in 2017, including a lack of alertness by staff to ‘the risks of pupils being radicalised’.

It concluded the school had not met ‘all of the independent school standards that were checked during this inspection’.

Inspectors said: “Consequently, there is the potential for pupils to be exposed to extremist views through contact with older pupils or adults out of school, such as when on school trips.

“As a result, the school is not taking all reasonable steps to protect pupils from exposure to partisan political views.” [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Ministers to bring in sharia marriage law to ensure Muslim weddings are properly registered and to protect women's rights if they get a divorce

A sharia marriage law will be introduced to ensure that all weddings of Muslim couples celebrated in mosques are properly registered.

Ministers want to give legal protection to tens of thousands of Muslim women whose marriages have no official status and who can be denied divorce or lose all they have in the event of a break-up.

The plan follows an inquiry last year by Islamic expert Mona Siddiqui, which said that women who marry in mosque ceremonies can face ‘discriminatory practices’.

Some are presented with bills for thousands of pounds by husbands they want to leave, it said. [Daily Mail] Read more

11 February 2019

UK: A Defeat Dressed Up as a Victory

The mosque that agreed to hold the secret event was in Ilford; the chairman of the Muslim Community Centre at the mosque, Bashir Chaudhry, said the exhibition was an "eye-opener" and added that he would encourage other people to see it.

A story such as this should provide the strongest possible alarm bells to government and civil society. If, in 2019, any Muslim organization wants to commemorate the bravery of some Muslims in the Holocaust, this has to be staged secretly, covertly, and in fear of some violent or non-violent backlash?

In Britain, in 2019, government and non-government figures still feel they must flit around, letting no one know of their movements to commemorate an aspect of the Holocaust. They manage to have a commemoration of the Holocaust in secret. And they think this is a victory. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Germany closes Muslim kindergarten over Islamist links

The youth welfare office for the German state of Rhineland Palatinate has revoked the operating license of a Muslim kindergarten. The day nursery was accused of promoting Salafist ideology.

Officials in the city of Mainz on Monday withdrew the license of the only Muslim kindergarten in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate amid allegations that the facility was promoting Salafism.

The president of the state's youth office, Detlef Placzek, said the promotion of Salafist materials meant that the nursery no longer adhered to the German constitution.

Officials had a duty to intervene, Placzek said, when an operator was unwilling or unable to "to create the conditions that ensure the well-being of children."

Arab Nil-Rhein chairman Samy El Hagrasy rejected the accusations of extremism and said he would be appealing. "We accept and respect the constitution," said El Hagrasy, adding that the decision was "incomprehensible and a mystery."

.... Alarm bells were first sounded in 2012, when a controversial preacher began attending events for the Arab Nil-Rhein (Arab Nile-Rhine) mosque association, which is responsible for the Al Nur day nursery.

Further information only came to light in autumn last year, with the revelation that inappropriate literature had been shared at the kindergarten and that the center had worked with an infamous figure within the ultra-conservative Salafist movement. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

10 February 2019

Geneva to ban religious symbols on public employees

Geneva residents on Sunday voted for a controversial new "secularism law", which will among other things ban elected officials and public employees from wearing visible religious symbols.

More than 55 percent of voters in the Swiss canton backed the law, final results showed, despite warnings that it could lead to discrimination, particularly against Muslim women. Some critics think it might violate the constitution.

Geneva Canton, which for centuries has been a centre of religious freedom and tolerance, has been striving to replace a law on the books since 1907.

The new law's stated ambition is to expand the dialogue between religious groups and the state, and to better define the limits to religious expression in the public sphere.

Supporters say it will help clarify existing principles in the Geneva Constitution to protect the religious freedom of believers and non-believers alike. [France24] Read more

09 February 2019

Woman acquitted of blasphemy still can’t leave Pakistan

A Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has been transferred from a secret location near the capital to another in Karachi, but is still unable to leave the country to join her daughters in Canada, a friend said Saturday.

Aman Ullah, who spoke to Aasia Bibi by telephone Friday, said the 54-year-old Bibi is being held in a room in the southern port city. He said Bibi, who faces death threats by radical Islamists, is frustrated and frightened, uncertain of when she will be able to leave Pakistan.

“She has no indication of when she will leave ... they are not telling her why she cannot leave,” said Ullah, who fled the country Friday after receiving threats from extremists angered by his assistance to Bibi, which began while she was on death row.

Ullah has been a liaison between Bibi and European diplomats, who have sought to assist her. The Associated Press spoke to Bibi by telephone with Ullah’s assistance following her October acquittal, which was upheld last month. [Associated Press] Read more

07 February 2019

Shoppers to be told how their food died in labelling plan

Labels could be placed on meat from animals not stunned before slaughter under government plans to help shoppers to avoid buying it.

The change will be considered in a wider review of food-labelling rules due to be carried out after Brexit.

It is often impossible to tell whether meat on sale in supermarkets and butcher’s shops came from animals that had their throats cut while conscious and able to feel pain.

Jews and Muslims have an exemption from EU law requiring animals to be stunned before slaughter but much of the meat produced for those communities ends up being eaten unwittingly by people who do not share their beliefs. [The Times (£)] Read more

Assistant head 'threatened' in LGBT teaching row

A primary school teacher says he has received threats from parents amid protests over teachings about LGBT rights and homophobia.

Demonstrations against the classes have been held outside Parkfield Community School in Alum Rock, Birmingham.

Assistant head Andrew Moffat, who is gay, said he had received "nasty emails" and threats, including one which warned he "wouldn't last long".

Protesters have accused him of promoting "personal beliefs".

Chants of "say no to Moffat" were heard when about 100 people gathered outside the school for the latest protest.

About 741 pupils attend the school, rated "outstanding" by Ofsted, in the predominantly Muslim area.

Some parents at Parkfield are unhappy young children are being taught about same sex couples and the "gender identity" elements of the programme. [BBC] Read more

06 February 2019

Muslim head scarf a symbol of oppression, insists Quebec's minister for status of women

Quebec's newly appointed minister responsible for the status of women is standing by her position that the Muslim hijab is a symbol of oppression.

Speaking to reporters after being named to the portfolio Tuesday, Isabelle Charest said the head scarf "is not something that women should be wearing."

Charest didn't back down from those comments Wednesday, though she acknowledged that some women choose to wear the hijab themselves, and she "respects their decision."

"When they are dictated by a religion on what they have to wear, for me it's a lack of liberty, and it doesn't meet my values," Charest said. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more

05 February 2019

Mohammed Amin: It is time to abandon the word “Islamophobia”

Modern usage of “Islamophobia” comes from the 1997 report by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia: Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All.

I wrote in 2012 that the report was seriously flawed, because it conflates attitudes towards Islam and attitudes towards Muslims. Re-reading the report while composing this article I noted that it does not contain a short, quotable definition of “Islamophobia”; perhaps one of the many disadvantages of committee authorship.

.... It is time to abandon the word “Islamophobia” because using it harms Muslims.

It diverts attention from serious anti-Muslim bad behaviours, as enumerated above, and instead draws people into a wholly unproductive debate about the meaning of the word “Islamophobia.” Every minute spent in such a debate is a minute when we are not talking about anti-Muslim hatred.

If people desperately want a single word to be a strict Muslim analogue to antisemitism, then a new word must be invented. It needs to be a new word, to escape the baggage which the proponents of the word “Islamophobia” have allowed to build up around it. [ConservativeHome] Read more

At an Islamic School in the UK, Girls May Eat When the Boys Have Had Their Fill

A Muslim school will not allow girls to eat lunch until after boys have finished, an Ofsted chief has told MPs.

Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham is still segregating boys and girls despite a Court of Appeal ruling in 2017 that found it was unlawful, according to Luke Tryl, director of corporate strategy at Ofsted. He said that Al-Hijrah school was enforcing a “very strict gender segregation” which included “denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys had had theirs.”

In addition, “We had some very discriminatory texts for instance, encouraging violence against women,” he said.

The school was ordered to desegregate almost two years ago but appears to have made no meaningful changes. [Friendly Atheist] Read more

04 February 2019

Muslim jailed for four years for attacking volunteers helping the homeless

A Muslim man who shouted ‘Allah is god’ as he spat at a Christian preacher has been jailed for four years. Ali Al-Hindawi, 23, targeted evangelical preacher Claudio Boggi, who is in a wheelchair, with threats as he handed out leaflets. He shouted: ‘Allah is god, Jesus was only a prophet. You’re in a wheelchair, you’re lucky I don’t hit you.’ Mr Boggi told Al-Hindawi he forgave him for for his actions adding ‘I love you because Jesus loves you’.

Several hours later he attacked Christian volunteer Kayode Ogunleye who was helping the homeless in Westminster. Al-Hindawi bit Mr Ogunleye’s fingers before attacking him with a metal bar. Two weeks later he was ordered to leave St Vincent’s homeless hostel after being accused of dealing drugs. He threatened to cut people’s throats and tried to burn the charity to the ground with a flamethrower fashioned out of a lighter and deodorant can. [Metro.co.uk] Read more

03 February 2019

Many people in mostly Christian countries believe values clash with Islam – poll

Large numbers of people in Christian-majority countries in the west see a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of their nation, according to a survey.

However, significantly fewer people in the Middle East and North Africa view Christianity in the same way.

Nearly half the people taking part in the poll in France and Germany, and nearly one-third in the US and the UK, thought there was a clash between Islam and the values of society in their country.

When asked the same question about Christianity, 25% of people in Saudi Arabia and 22% of Algerians said there was a clash with the values of their country, but the proportions fell to 13% in the United Arab Emirates and 7% in Egypt.

The poll on attitudes towards religion, carried out by YouGov, was commissioned by the Muslim Council of Elders to mark the first papal visit to the Arabian peninsula.

.... The YouGov poll on religious attitudes found in four western countries, respondents had less favourable views of Islam than other religions. In France, 49% said they felt fairly, or very, unfavourable towards Islam, compared with 19% who were unfavourable towards Judaism, 15% to Christianity, 13% towards Hinduism, 14% to Sikhism and 9% to Buddhism.

In Germany, 53% of respondents were unfavourable towards Islam, compared with 10% to 22% who were unfavourable to other religions. In the US and Britain, smaller proportions (37% and 32%) were unfavourable towards Islam, with a similar range viewing other religions negatively. [The Guardian] Read more

01 February 2019

Demonisation of Dina Torkia proves that hijab is hardly a free choice

World Hijab Day is held on February 1st, however the case of Dina Torkia proves that even in the West the hijab is hardly a free choice.

Dina Torkia is a popular British hijabi fashion vlogger of Egyptian descent, who recently decided to remove her hijab. It didn’t go down well with her fellow Muslims.

Subsequently Dina recorded a forty-seven minute video reading out the abusive messages she had received, which ranged from, “The choice you made is welcoming you to the cock carousel. Slut.” to, “May Allah destroy you too you Arab whore.”

Her husband, Sid, a British Muslim of Pakistani heritage, was also vilified for supporting his wife, “Dirty kaffir dog may you and Sid burn in hell for eternity.”

Dina, who has over a million Instagram followers, had stressed that she wasn’t leaving Islam, but the hijabi movement itself had become a “toxic cult.” [Conatus News] Read more