30 April 2019

Adopting Islamophobia definition ‘would cripple counter-terrorism'

The adoption of a proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' would have a "seriously detrimental impact" on efforts to keep the UK safe, a former counter-terrorism chief has warned.

Richard Walton said adopting the definition could lead to government departments, the police, intelligence agencies and other public bodies being branded "institutionally Islamophobic".

Walton, the former head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism branch, made the claims in a report published by the Policy Exchange think tank on Monday entitled Islamophobia – Crippling Counter-Terrorism. He co-wrote the report with Policy Exchange's senior research fellow Tom Wilson.

The definition the authors criticised was proposed by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims in a report published in November. The APPG claims that "Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness".

Since then several prominent MPs and campaign groups have urged the government to adopt the definition. The Labour party, the Liberal Democrats, the mayor of London and several local authorities have adopted the definition. Last week all five of Scotland's major political parties joined them. [National Secular Society] Read more

Tunisia invokes sharia law in bid to shut down LGBT rights group

One of the Arab world’s most visible advocacy groups defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people is facing closure following legal threats by the government.

Association Shams has been officially operating in Tunisia since 2015, helping the country’s LGBT community repeal article 230 of its penal code, a French colonial law, which criminalises homosexuality with up to three years in jail.

The government failed to permanently suspend Shams’ activities in a 2016 lawsuit, but is appealing the ruling. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Shams’ president, Mounir Baatour, said the appeal represents the Tunisian government’s seventh attempt to close the organisation, but it is more serious because it has been based on Islamic sharia law. [The Guardian] Read more

29 April 2019

Burkina Faso Christians killed in attack on church

Gunmen have opened fire on a church in northern Burkina Faso, killing at least six people, officials say.

The attackers reportedly arrived on seven motorbikes at the end of Sunday's service and killed the pastor, two of his sons and three other worshippers.

It is the second reported church attack this month and since jihadist violence erupted in the country in 2016.

Fighters affiliated to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group as well as the local Ansarul Islam have been active.

Sunday's attack on the Protestant church happened in the small town of Silgadji near Djibo, the capital of Soum province, at around 12:00 local time (12:00 GMT). [BBC] Read more

New definition of Islamophobia ‘risks helping terrorists

A report by a former head of antiterrorism at Scotland Yard says that terrorist plots are more likely to succeed if Theresa May adopts a new definition of Islamophobia.

Richard Walton says that the police, security services, prosecutors, judges and prisons would be labelled “institutionally Islamophobic” if the government bowed to pressure from MPs to broaden the meaning of racism to include anyone targeting “Muslimness”.

The power to prosecute hate preachers such as Anjem Choudary for encouraging support for Islamic State would be adversely affected, the report claims. The government is being urged to adopt a definition proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, which says: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” [The Times (£)] Read more

28 April 2019

Human rights lawyer who defends Muslim women who remove headscarves in public is sentenced to 148 lashes and 38 years in jail in Iran

A prominent Iranian lawyer has been jailed for 38 years and sentenced to 148 lashes after she defended women who removed their headscarves in public.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer jailed in Iran, was handed maximum sentence for all of her seven convictions.

The 55-year-old represented protesters against the Islamic Republic's mandatory headscarves for women, many of whom filmed themselves taking off the garment and posing it on social media.

Sotoudeh, who has represented opposition activists, was arrested last June and charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran's supreme leader, her lawyer said. [Daily Mail] Read more

26 April 2019

Frankfurt University faces student protests over conference on Muslim headscarves

Frankfurt University has been rocked by student protests over an academic conference on the Muslim practice of women wearing headscarves.

Students accused the university of promoting Islamophobia with the conference, which is scheduled to take place next month.

The protests come despite the fact the conference is set to feature Islamic theologians and women who support the wearing of headscarves as well as critics of the practice.

Students have targeted the conference with social media posts of young women holding up signs with slogans including “No room for racism” and “I’m not in the mood for hate speech”.

They have called for the dismissal of Prof Susanne Schröter, the head of the university’s Islamic research centre and the organiser of the conference.

But the university has refused to bow to the protests. Prof Birgitta Wolff, the president of the university, has defended the right to “freedom of scholarship and academic discourse” and accused the students of acting as a “self-appointed discourse police”. [The Telegraph] Read more

All of Scotland's political parties adopt formal definition of Islamophobia

All of Scotland’s political parties have agreed to adopt a formal definition of Islamophobia in an effort to combat hate crime.

Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar said the decision to support the definition, created by Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims after consultation with Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, was “a landmark moment that will help tackle prejudice in Scotland”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday outlined her willingness for the Scottish Government to adopt the definition, while the SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens have all agreed to support use of the definition.

The definition classifies discrimination against Muslims as a form of racism.

It states: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Sarwar, who is chair of the Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, said: “This is a landmark moment that will help tackle prejudice in Scotland. [Holyrood Magazine] Read more

25 April 2019

Saudi woman granted refugee status in NZ because of persecution

A Saudi Arabian woman has been granted refugee status in New Zealand because she fears persecution and even death in her home country due to the way women are treated there.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal said the un-named woman was a follower of the Shia faith. She married a Pakistani man in a religious ceremony some years ago, but the marriage was not recognised legally in Saudi Arabia or in Pakistan.

In its just-released judgment, the tribunal said the woman's religiously conservative extended family thought her relationship was "a serious crime against Islam and a matter of family shame".

"The appellant claims that if she were to return to Saudi Arabia she would be at risk of being physically attacked, killed or otherwise treated cruelly by her family. The Saudi Arabian police are aware of the relationship and may also take further action. Further, she claims that the guardianship system and other discriminatory laws in Saudi Arabia prevent her from ever legally marrying her partner or travelling to meet him without restriction." [Stuff] Read more

Runaway Saudi sisters call on Google and Apple to pull 'inhuman' woman-monitoring app

Two runaway Saudi sisters on Wednesday urged Apple and Google to pull an “inhuman” app allowing men to monitor and control female relatives’ travel as it helped trap girls in abusive families.

Maha and Wafa al-Subaie, who are seeking asylum in Georgia after fleeing their family, said Absher – a government e-services app – was bad for women as it supported Saudi Arabia’s strict male guardian system.

“It gives men control over women,” said Wafa, 25. “They have to remove it,” she added, referring to Google and Apple.

Absher, which is available in the Saudi version of Google and Apple online stores, allows men to update or withdraw permissions for female relatives to travel abroad and to get SMS updates if their passports are used, according to researchers. [The Guardian] Read more

24 April 2019

I'm Muslim but don't wear a headscarf. Stop using hijabs as a tool for ‘solidarity.’

When non-Muslim women across New Zealand draped scarves on their heads last month to show their solidarity with Muslims a week after the horrific massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, it was touted by many as a feel-good story in the wake of unbelievable tragedy.

The women who took part in the nationwide gesture wanted to tamp down the fear among Muslim women who cover their hair, many of them rightfully worried that bigots might target them with new acts of hatred.

And yet, when non-Muslim women cover their heads in the wake of a tragedy or on World Hijab Day, they ignore the fact that whether women must wear a headscarf as a matter of faith is controversial even among Muslims. [USA TODAY] Read more

Saudi Arabia executions: A cruel travesty of justice

On Tuesday, Saudi official sources announced the mass execution of 37 prisoners, including one rather abhorrent crucifixion, carried out after execution.

The prisoners were lumped together and charged with several ambiguous charges such as terrorism, conspiracy to undermine security, spying, spreading Shia Islam and murder. The crucified man was accused of murdering a woman and conspiring to murder another one.

At least 34 of the executed prisoners are Shia activists, professionals, religious scholars and a number of young men who were detained when they were minors

But please don't ask yourself whether the 15 murderers who plotted and killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October were amongst them. [Middle East Eye] Read more

23 April 2019

Evening Standard urged to move event from Brunei-owned Dorchester

The London Evening Standard is facing calls to move an awards ceremony to be held at the Brunei-owned Dorchester after the country imposed new laws punishing gay sex and adultery with death by stoning.

The newspaper, whose celebrity columnist Rob Rinder urged readers to join a boycott of the luxury hotel, is due to hold its annual New Homes awards at the five-star Mayfair establishment next month.

The LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry – who have been leading a chorus of condemnation against the country after it introduced sharia laws – are urging the Standard to drop the venue. [The Guardian] Read more

Brunei asks for ‘tolerance’ on gay sex stoning

THE Kingdom of Brunei has written to MEPs asking European countries to show ‘tolerance, respect and understanding’ over its decision to impose death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex and adultery.

It claimed such punishments would be rare as it required two to four men ‘of high moral standing and piety’ to be prosecution witnesses, and a total absence of doubt. The Guardian reported that the letter said: ‘The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage to individual Muslims, particularly women.’

The new penal code, under which thieves could suffer amputation, was brought in on April 3 despite international condemnation. The letter was sent before a vote last week in which MEPs backed a resolution condemning the code. [Metro.co.uk] Read more

Islamic State claims responsibility for Sri Lanka bombings

Islamic state has claimed responsibility for coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka which killed 321 people and injured about 500 others, the group’s AMAQ news agency said on Tuesday.

The group did not give evidence for its claim. [Reuters] Read more

22 April 2019

Brunei defends death by stoning for gay sex in letter to EU

Brunei has written to the European parliament defending its decision to start imposing death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex, claiming convictions will be rare as it requires two men of “high moral standing and piety” to be witnesses.

In a four-page letter to MEPs, the kingdom’s mission to the EU called for “tolerance, respect and understanding” with regard to the country’s desire to preserve its traditional values and “family lineage”.

The new penal code, which also provides for the amputation of thieves and whipping of people wearing clothes associated with the opposite sex, was brought in on 3 April, despite international condemnation.

But in the letter, the kingdom claimed the outcry is due to a misconception that it wanted to clarify.

“The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage to individual Muslims, particularly women,” it said. [The Guardian] Read more

21 April 2019

Tony Blair Says Migrants Have A 'Duty To Integrate' As Britain Faces Rise In 'Far-Right Bigotry'

Blair writes: “Over a significant period of time, including when we were last in government, politics has failed to find the right balance between diversity and integration.

“On the one hand, failures around integration have led to attacks on diversity and are partly responsible for a reaction against migration.

“On the other hand, the word multiculturalism has been misinterpreted as meaning a justified refusal to integrate, when it should never have meant that.

“Particularly now, when there is increasing evidence of far-right bigotry on the rise, it is important to establish the correct social contract around the rights and duties of citizens, including those who migrate to our country.”

He goes on: “We make it clear that there is a duty to integrate, to accept the rules, laws and norms of our society that all British people hold in common and share, while at the same time preserving the right to practise diversity, which is fully consistent with such a duty. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

20 April 2019

Tony Blair: migrants should be forced to integrate more to combat far right

Migrant communities must be compelled to do more to integrate to help combat the rise of “far-right bigotry”, Tony Blair has warned.

The former prime minister said that successive governments had “failed to find the right balance between diversity and integration”, while the concept of multiculturalism has been misused as a way to justify a “refusal to integrate”.

Blair makes the pointed intervention in a report by his Institute for Global Change, which backs forcing schools to have an intake that reflects local diversity, creating a compulsory citizenship programme for teenagers and toughening enforcement against the perpetrators of hate speech.

It also calls for compulsory citizenship education, a ban on segregated shift patterns and the creation of a new cabinet post created to oversee integration. [The Guardian] Read more

Saudi sisters seeking asylum in Republic of Georgia go public in plea for help

Two Saudi sisters who planned their escape for almost five years and are now seeking asylum in the Republic of Georgia have revealed their identities in a plea for international help.

Wafa Zayed al-Subaie, 25, and her 28-year-old sister, Maha allege that they were trapped in their own homes and suffered verbal and physical abuse from their male relatives.

They are now in Tbilisi, Georgia, and after nearly two weeks of trying and failing to get asylum in another country, have gone public with their case.

On Wednesday, the pair launched a Twitter account, appealing to human rights groups and countries where they might be able to seek asylum.

"We are in danger we need your support to deliver our voice," Maha said in a video post. "We want protection we want a country to welcome us and protect our lives, please help us." [CNN] Read more

19 April 2019

The Afghan women determined not to lose out in Taliban talks

When 18-year-old Ogai Wardak came face to face with Taliban fighters, her fear quickly gave way to cautious hope.

"Their faces were scary, but their hearts were kind," she tells me when we meet in the Kabul studios of Zan TV, the only Afghan television channel just for women.

"The Taliban of this time are not like the past, not like the scary stories I heard," explains the ebullient young woman bursting with personality. She was born in 2001, the same year the Taliban were toppled from power.

Wardak met some of their fighters during last year's rare three-day ceasefire, when they slipped into Kabul to gaze at city streets, even taking selfies and savouring ice cream.

But if the Taliban return to power, would they allow her to keep presenting on Zan TV?

"No!" she exclaims, without skipping a beat. "But I have to fight them because it's my dream, and I have to work for my sisters." [BBC] Read more

Mustapha and Diaa Kara-Ali charged with contempt of court for clearing land

Mustapha and Diaa Kara-Ali reportedly laughed when the judge handed down the punishment today in Sydney’s Land and Environment Court, after they were compelled to appear for felling trees on a northwest Sydney property without council permission.

The brothers had tried to argue that the Islamic organisation they ran, Diwan Al Dawla, was exempt from Australian law on religious grounds.

They failed in their bid and were fined $100,000 for what a judge called a “flagrant” breach of a court order in relation to construction works to build a Muslim religious centre on their rural property in Colo.

They and their business were convicted on 12 charges of contempt of court.

A furious Mustapha Kara-Ali left the Court on Thursday saying: “Our religion is prime, the cross belongs in the dustbin of history.”

In his written judgment, Justice Terence Sheahan said the pair had ignored orders to appear in court and only turned up after being arrested. Mustapha had said attending court could lead to “hit squads” pursuing him. [news.com.au] Read more

Runaway Saudi sisters: 'We were treated like slaves'

"We have to cover our face, we have to cook...like slaves. We don't want this, we want real life, our life," says 25-year-old Wafa, the latest woman to flee Saudi Arabia with her sister.

Wafa and Maha al-Subaie, 28, are now in the republic of Georgia and are under state protection in a shelter.

They had made their case for international help on Twitter, under the account @GeorgiaSisters.

The sisters are appealing to the UN to help them get to a third, safe country.

They travelled to Georgia as Saudis do not require entry visas.

"We need your support, we want protection, we want a country that will welcome us and protect our rights," said Wafa. [BBC] Read more

18 April 2019

'I lost consciousness': woman whipped by the Taliban over burqa without veil

One of four women who was recently subjected to a brutal public lashing by armed Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has spoken about her experience, amid an increase of violent punishments given to those violating its strict interpretation of religious law.

Aziza, who like many other Afghan women only uses one name, was rounded up by the Taliban’s shadow police for being out of her house without her husband and not being fully veiled. She was beaten so badly she lost consciousness.

A resident of Afghanistan’s Sancharak district in Sar-i-pul – a northern province, where the Taliban has tried to impose strict sharia laws and restrict women’s mobility – Aziza spoke to the Guardian after the flogging last month.

Aziza said she was arrested by armed Taliban fighters after they entered a local market. She was wearing a burqa without mesh covering her face. [The Guardian] Read more

Nusrat Jahan Rafi: Burned to death for reporting sexual harassment

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh. Less than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster.

Her courage in speaking out against sexual assault, her death five days after being set alight and everything that happened in-between has gripped Bangladesh and brought attention to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims in this conservative South Asian country.

Nusrat, who was 19, was from Feni, a small town 100 miles (160km) south of Dhaka. She was studying at a madrassa, or Islamic school. On 27 March, she said the headmaster called her into his office and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate manner. Before things could go any further she ran out.

Many girls and young women in Bangladesh choose to keep their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for fear of being shamed by society or their families. What made Nusrat Jahan different is that she didn't just speak out - she went to the police with the help of her family on the day the alleged abuse happened. [BBC] Read more

Lib Dem candidate suspended over comments about Muslims

A Liberal Democrat candidate has been suspended from the party over comments such as: ‘There is no such thing as Islamophobia.’ Dániel Tóth-Nagy, 32, was due to stand for election in Manchester but is now facing an investigation.

In one of the comments, he responded to a Twitter post by MP Naz Shah about Islamophobia asking: ‘What about FGM? Honor Killings? Forced marriage? What do you think about the protest of women in Iran, Saudi-Arabia and other Islamic countries against the compulsory hijab?

‘What about Sharia in Britain? LGBT rights and education denied by Muslims in Birmingham? I expect no answer.’ In a separate exchange on Twitter, Mr Tóth-Nagy questions why Muslim-only schools are allowed in the UK.

Mr Tóth-Nagy described seeing children dressed in hijabs at a Halloween Party as ‘scary’ stating that he fears ‘they may be victims of FGM’ in another post. [Metro.co.uk] Read more

Malaysia investigates women who discussed their 'dehijabbing'

Three women in Malaysia who held an event discussing their decision to stop wearing the hijab are being investigated by Malaysian Islamic authorities.

The event, hosted over the weekend at the Gerakbudaya bookshop in the Petaling Jaya area, was held to mark the launch of Unveiling Choice, a book documenting the author and activist Maryam Lee’s decision to stop wearing the hijab.

The event, Malay Women and Dehijabbing, featured a three-hour panel discussion between Maryam and two other Malaysian women, Mohani Niza and Dian Sofia, who had also decided to no longer wear the hijab.

Maryam said the panel was an “intellectual discourse based on the women’s lived realities”, after which the audience had left “on a good note”, but a backlash on social media began to build that had “distorted” the content discussed, mainly by those who had not attended the talk.

It caught the attention of the religious affairs minister, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who expressed concern about the event and prompted the Islamic authorities of Selangor to investigate it in a “fair and just manner”. [The Guardian] Read more

17 April 2019

Bangladesh actress is forced to apologise after suggesting she might be an atheist in the conservative Muslim country

A Bangladeshi actress has been forced to apologise after remarks construed as admitting atheism in a country where people have been murdered for renouncing religion.

Safa Kabir, an actress and model who has appeared in top Bangladeshi television dramas, told a private radio station this week she did not believe in the afterlife.

'I don't believe in life after death. Actually, I never believe in what I can't see,' she said, in comments that some took as a rejection of Muslim beliefs in heaven and hell.

The remarks caused a storm on social media, with footage of the interview going viral, and Kabir faced a torrent of criticism in the conservative Muslim country. [Daily Mail] Read more

Muslim parents protesting against LGBT primary school lessons is only one of Birmingham’s many culture wars

.... As guardians of a faith followed by a quarter of Brummies, including a plurality of the city’s children, the mosque’s leaders play a growing role in civic life. They and other Muslim elders emphasise that they can help to make the city stable and prosperous. But they are equally clear that others must accept them for who they are: products of a conservative Muslim culture.

Birmingham is not a city “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in”, as a Fox News pundit wildly claimed in 2015. But it has a reputation as an incubator of jihad, because several terrorists spent time there.

As the leaders of the central mosque see things, the city’s social peace is fragile – for reasons to do with austerity as much as inter-cultural tensions. “One of our big fears is that because of cuts in the police budget, ordinary crimes will spin out of control and be blamed on us Muslims,” Nassar Mahmood, a mosque trustee, says.

.... As people at the central mosque acknowledge, there is a vicious circle in which Muslims stick to areas where they predominate because they fear abuse or assaults elsewhere; and as those districts become more overwhelmingly Muslim, others move out. [inews.co.uk] Read more

Sadaf Khadem: Iranian female boxer halts return over arrest fears

An Iranian who became the first woman from her country to contest an official boxing match says she has cancelled her return home from France after hearing a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

Sadaf Khadem beat the French boxer Anne Chauvin in an amateur bout on Saturday.

She had planned to fly to Tehran with her French-Iranian trainer this week.

Khadem was quoted by a sports newspaper as saying she believed she was accused of violating Iran's compulsory dress code by boxing in a vest and shorts.

Iranian officials have not commented, but the head of Iran's boxing federation denied that Khadem would be arrested if she came home.

"Ms Khadem is not a member of [Iran's] organised athletes for boxing, and from the boxing federation's perspective all her activities are personal," Hossein Soori was quoted as saying by an Iranian news agency. [BBC] Read more

16 April 2019

Men laugh as woman caned in public for having sex outside marriage in Indonesia

A man and a woman have been publicly whipped in Indonesia in an archaic punishment for reportedly having sex outside of marriage.

Photographs show a crowd of people, including some laughing, as the couple receive lashes from a cane.

The punishment took place in the city of Banda Aceh where Sharia law is strictly enforced.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that has implemented some provisions of Sharia law.

People are flogged as many as 200 times for a range of activities criminalised under the strict laws including gambling, drinking alcohol, gay sex or any non-marital relationships. [The Independent] Read more

15 April 2019

UK-based TV station fined for anti-Ahmadi Muslim hate speech

A UK-based TV station has been fined £75,000 by Ofcom after broadcasting hate speech about the Ahmadi community, amid growing fears that the religious group is facing persecution.

Channel 44, an Urdu-language current affairs satellite channel, broadcast two episodes of a discussion programme featuring a guest who “made repeated, serious and unsubstantiated allegations about members of the Ahmadiyya community”, the broadcasting watchdog said.

The guest, who appeared on the Point of View show, which was made in Pakistan, claimed Ahmadi people had “committed acts of murder, terrorism and treason as well as undertaking political assassinations”.

The same guest also claimed the Ahmadi community, which has its roots in northern India in the late 19th century, was favoured in Pakistan at the expense of orthodox Muslims. [The Guardian] Read more

The Conservative party owes Britain’s Muslim community an apology

The Conservatives have finally been forced to sack the government adviser Roger Scruton, who had dismissed Islamophobia as a “propaganda word” and said homosexuality was “not normal” .

The Tories knew about these views but chose to defend him and keep him in post. The Scruton story really goes to heart of the Conservative party’s problem with Islamophobia. It exposes the depressing reality that they don’t really think there’s anything wrong with it. They are not abhorred by it the way we all should be by all hatreds and prejudices.

Scruton has repeatedly argued that Islamophobia is a “propaganda word” used to “hide the truth”, and that those mocking the idea that Islam is a religion of peace run the risk of an “Islamist” killing them. This paints Muslims as violent, dangerous others, who don’t share the west’s values and shouldn’t be trusted. Such speech stokes fear and loathing towards Muslims at a time when Islamophobic hate crime is rising in our society and around the world. [Guardian Cif] Read more

14 April 2019

Conrad Black: Quebec should have outgrown this nonsense

.... Where the government of Quebec is undoubtedly correct, as the Sarkozy government in France was with its legislation, is that public security requires that all people in public must be identifiable. It is not acceptable for people to claim religious reasons to hide their identity in public. Beyond that, this bill is offensive, both in its impact and its historic implications.

As it reads, it is not permissible for anyone to wear a skull-cap, neither an Orthodox Jew nor the cardinal-archbishop of Montreal, if they went to renew their driver’s licences or even to buy a bottle of Champagne from a licensed vendor.

The bill mixes justifiable opposition to complete covering of the face, except for the eyes, with prohibition of “any religious symbols.” Hairstyles and tattoos are specifically excluded, but not decorative items. Many women wear chains with small crosses on them of no religious significance to the wearer.

I doubt that the legislation would be generally ruled as banning this because it is so absurd (and politically unwise), but no experienced person can doubt that the enforcement personnel will include some insufferably self-important and insolent individuals who will inflict as much inconvenience as they can. [National Post] Read more

Iranian who removed headscarf pardoned from year in prison

The lawyer for an Iranian woman who removed her headscarf in a public protest says she has been sentenced to one year in prison but pardoned by the supreme leader.

Payam Derafshan told The Associated Press news agency that a court sentenced Vida Movahed in March after finding her guilty of encouraging public "corruption".

Movahed was arrested in November 2018.

Derafshan, who revealed the verdict to local media on Sunday, says Movahed is on a pardon list but the release procedures are still under way. There was no official comment.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei occasionally issues pardons. Movahed, 32, was dubbed the "Girl of Enghelab Street" and briefly arrested in 2017 after she took off her headscarf and held it in the air. [Al Jazeera English] Read more

Muslim charities push links to sites defending marital rape

Muslim charities have been promoting links to websites that endorse marital rape and support the death penalty for gay people and apostates.

A community charity in Yorkshire, IslamBradford, linked to guidance that said a wife who refused a husband’s “legitimate sexual advances . . . would be committing a monstrous sin”.

The charity, which runs a mosque and a madrasah, also linked on its website to advice that justified the killing of apostates and criticised those who “bleat about personal freedom and freedom of belief”.

It is one of three charities cited in a dossier submitted to the Charity Commission by the National Secular Society, which campaigns for an end to advancement of religion as a charitable purpose. [The Times (£)] Read more

13 April 2019

Peterborough mosques leader defends sex education talk from controversial psychologist

The leader of a Peterborough mosques association has defended inviting a psychologist under investigation by her professional body to address parents on sex education.

Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett claimed sex education in the UK was “queering the Muslim community”. The British Psychological Society is investigating her comments and has referred her to a regulator.

Muslim convert Dr Godfrey-Faussett, who claims she is the victim of a “witch hunt,” has campaigned against recent changes to sex and relationship education which will see primary school pupils learn about same-sex couples and parents and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities.

She was invited by the Joint Mosques Council of Peterborough to speak in the city on April 27, but chairman Abdul Choudhuri said that has been postponed due to the “unavailability of a neutral venue” and preparations for Ramadan. [Peterborough Telegraph] Read more

Brunei defends gay-stoning laws

Brunei is defending its new anti-gay sharia laws, which make sodomy and adultery punishable by death by stoning, claiming there was an international “misconception”.

In a letter to the United Nations, foreign minister Erywan Yusof called for an understanding of human rights in “the national context” and for respect for Brunei’s sovereignty.

The letter says the law, which also applies to children and foreigners, would prevent homosexual activity rather than punish it. “We reaffirm that the syariah criminal law system focuses more on prevention than punishment,” he argued. “Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than punish.”

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier said the planned implementation of the new laws contravened the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was ratified by Brunei in 2006.

Homosexuality used to carry up to 10 years in prison but now those found guilty of having gay or adulterous sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Thieves may have their right hands or left feet amputated. [ASEAN Economist] Read more

Babies born out of wedlock abandoned on Saudi streets due to fears of punishment, campaigners warn

Babies born out of wedlock are abandoned on the streets in Saudi Arabia as women fear retribution and punishment for having a child outside of marriage, campaigners have warned.

Abortion is illegal in the Middle Eastern country unless a woman’s health is at risk and sexual relations outside of marriage are criminalised – with unmarried women faced with prosecution and even jail if they are found to be pregnant.

Under the kingdom’s restrictive guardianship system, women are legal minors and cannot marry, divorce, travel, get a job, be released from prison or have elective surgery without permission from their male guardians. Women are also forbidden from mixing freely with members of the opposite sex.

Dana Almayouf, a Saudi woman living in New York, said: “Babies are abandoned on the streets. It is not safe on the streets. Mostly our newspapers in Saudi Arabia do not shed light on the subject because it is a taboo. [The Independent] Read more

European and English-speaking migrants back immigration cuts and fear Australia is losing its identity

European and English-speaking migrants are more likely to back immigration cuts as they fear Australia is losing its cultural identity.

Migrants from these nations are less likely to support those born in other countries, with 58 per cent agreeing immigration should be cut, a survey by the Australian Population Research Institute has found.

However, two-thirds of Asian migrants favour an increase in migrant numbers and disagree with the idea that Australia's identity is disappearing.

Report authors Dr Bob Birrell and Dr Katharine Betts also found non-graduates are more likely to support the cuts compared to university graduates.

There were 67 per cent of graduates who supported an increase in immigration.

Dr Birrell and Dr Betts told the Herald Sun that second-generation migrants are more skeptical about immigration.

'These migrants have become an important part of a voter base worried about immigration,' they said.

However the survey also found that 58 per cent of Australian-born individuals agreed Australia was in danger of losing its identity and 47 per cent of voters supported 'a partial ban' on Muslim immigration. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

12 April 2019

Birmingham anti-LGBT lessons leaflet 'inflammatory'

Leaflets accusing a school in Birmingham of having a "gay ethos" have been branded "inflammatory" by a parent.

Five schools in the city have stopped teaching about same-sex relationships since protests began in January.

Parents - largely of the Muslim faith - are campaigning against the lessons at Anderton Park School, arguing it goes against their religious beliefs.

Campaign leaflets were handed out outside the school on Thursday.

No Outsiders, a programme devised by Andrew Moffat at nearby Parkfield Community School, uses a range of storybooks which show a number of diverse families, including those with same-sex parents.

It is not taught at Anderton Park, however campaigners argue the lessons are "the same". [BBC] Read more

Brunei says controversial Sharia law aimed at 'prevention'

Brunei's foreign ministry has said implementing Sharia law is about prevention rather than punishment, after intense criticism of its decision to implement the strict Islamic code.

Under the new laws, adultery and sex between men is punishable by stoning to death.

Brunei said there would be a high threshold for evidence in those cases, suggesting punishment would be rare.

It comes after the UN called the punishments "cruel and inhuman". [BBC] Read more

10 April 2019

Brunei becomes latest country to impose draconian punishments

The decision by the Sultan of Brunei to order homosexuals to be stoned to death has caused widespread anger and concern in the West. George Clooney, the actor, has spearheaded calls for a boycott of the Dorchester hotel group, owned by the Sultan. The Commonwealth has condemned what it called “cruel and inhuman punishments” that contravened international human rights laws. Lobby groups are preparing mass protests.

Brunei is only the latest of a number of countries to order draconian new punishments for homosexuality. Gay people are increasingly being threatened with beatings, lengthy imprisonment and even summary lynchings by governments keen to show their strict adherence to Sharia or by African leaders pandering to popular prejudice. Homosexuality has become a popular target for fundamentalist preachers who equate it with decadent western influence. [The Times (£)] Read more

Anderton Park Primary School head vows: 'I won't back down' amid pupil boycott threat

The head of a Birmingham school at the centre of a threatened pupil boycott over LGBT equality messages has pledged: "I will not back down".

Protestors claimed they had the backing of the majority of parents at Anderton Park Primary in Moseley for plans to withdraw children.

Lead campaigner Shakeel Afsar - not a parent at the school himself - said the boycott would go ahead unless the head Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson stopped 'LGBT equality lessons' and quit her post.

He claimed 'around 400 pupils' would be withdrawn if his demands were not met.

But Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson said the boycott threat had not diminished her determination to continue to share equality messages with pupils and to celebrate difference and diversity. [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Academic Sir Roger Scruton sacked from housing role

Conservative academic Sir Roger Scruton has been sacked as head of a government housing body following comments about Islam, China and George Soros.

The philosopher was appointed as the unpaid chair of the Building Beautiful architecture Commission in November.

He has now been dismissed after claiming Islamophobia was "a propaganda word" and "each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one".

Downing Street said the comments were "deeply offensive".

Sir Roger's appointment to head the new body was criticised at the time by Labour, who said his past comments on race and sexuality made him unsuitable to hold the post. [BBC] Read more

Roger Scruton’s sacking exposes the Tories’ cowardice

.... So what are the ‘outrageous remarks’? It appeared that Scruton had said that Islamophobia is ‘a propaganda word invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue’. Which is true.

He also said that ‘Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.’ A fact which is also true. Obviously since the British Labour party became a party of anti-Semites it has become exceptionally important to pretend that anti-Semitism is equally prevalent on the political right in Britain and that to criticise any of the actions of George Soros is in fact simply to indulge in anti-Semitism equivalent to that rolling through the Labour party. [The Spectator] Read more

Government sacks Roger Scruton after remarks about Soros and Islamophobia

.... Scruton, who has been a friend of Orbán for more than 30 years, denied that he was antisemitic or Islamophobic. He said Islamophobia had been “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue”.

Scruton also said: “Hungarians were extremely alarmed by the sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims”, and accused the Chinese of “creating robots out of their own people”.

Scruton’s sacking follows Labour-led calls for his dismissal. His comments came at an especially awkward time for the Conservatives as the party has been coming under increasing scrutiny over its stance on Islamophobia while continuing to attack Labour for antisemitism. [The Guardian] Read more

Britain has a moral duty to oppose Brunei’s attack on human rights

.... Brunei is now the eighth country that can use the death penalty to punish consensual same-sex sexual activity. Those convicted of anal sex or adultery can be stoned to death, public flogging is authorised as a “punishment” for lesbian sex and for abortion, and trans people can be criminalised through charges of “indecent” dressing.

This state-sponsored violence against people for their sexuality will appal us all. The oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people sits alongside a broader programme of attacks on women’s rights, with women facing punishment for pregnancy outside of marriage. [The Times (£)] Read more

Teacher at centre of LGBT row in Birmingham received death threat

Andrew Moffat says his lessons were not accepted by some Muslim parents, adding: "You can't teach someone to be gay". The teacher at the centre of the row over LGBT lessons has told Sky News he received a death threat and has been given advice from police about how he travels to and from school.

Andrew Moffat, the assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, wrote the No Outsiders programme that is used to teach diversity and equality in some schools.

Protests by mainly Muslim parents who object to their children learning about same-sex relationships have now spread from Parkfield to other schools in Birmingham and beyond.

Mr Moffat told Sky News: "I had a message saying, 'You won't last long'. There's been some very difficult messages to receive." [Sky News] Read more

09 April 2019

Indonesian court upholds conviction of Buddhist woman who complained mosque was too loud

Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a woman whose complaint about the volume of mosque loudspeakers led to an 18-month prison sentence for blasphemy.

In a March 27 ruling posted on the court's website on Monday, the court rejected the appeal by Meliana, a 44-year-old ethnic Chinese, Buddhist resident from the island of Sumatra.

The court did not provide a reason for the decision.

Meliana's lawyers said she had made remarks in a private conversation in 2016 on the volume of mosque loudspeakers. Those remarks were twisted to appear like she was objecting to the call to prayer itself and repeated in the community and on social media, her legal team said. [ABC] Read more

08 April 2019

Quebec moves to ban the burka and hijab for govt employees

It has been 10 years since Quebec’s Bouchard – Taylor Commission recommended that all public officials who embody the authority and the neutrality of the state and its institutions, such as judges, Crown prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and the president and vice-president of the National Assembly of Québec be prohibited from wearing any visible religious symbols such as the hijab, turbans, yarmulkes and the crucifix.

Four consecutive governments have attempted to implement a law on separation of church and state, but have failed. This time the likelihood of success is certain.

The fact is that while the Sikh turban, Jewish yarmulkes and the Catholic crucifix are definitely religious symbols, the hijab is not. Rather it is a political symbol that until the late 1970s was unheard of in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Somalia and Nigeria. It was the uniform of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world.

Let’s hear from the world’s most prominent exponent of the hijab, newly-elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Somalia-born hijabi Ilhan Omar. Speaking to Vogue, Ms. Omar said: “To me, the hijab means power, liberation, beauty, and resistance.”

She admitted that “wearing her hijab allows her to be a walking billboard.” For Ilhan Omar the hijab is an Islamist flag just as Che Guevara’s beret was to wannabe revolutionaries or the KKK conehead is to White Supremacist ideology. [New Delhi Times] Read more

Parents should have no veto over LGBT lessons

Education secretary says he backs heads and teachers to make the right decisions over relationships and sex education. Damian Hinds has told headteachers that parents do not have a veto over what is taught in schools amid concerns over protests about how LGBT lessons are taught.

The education secretary has said that schools should listen to parents views on relationships and sex education (RSE) but backed school leaders and teachers to make the right decisions.

He has written to the Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, following a meeting between NAHT and Department for Education officials. [Tes Global] Read more

LGBT+ lessons: Hundreds of children could be withdrawn from Birmingham school over relationships education, protesters warn

Hundreds of children could be withdrawn from a Birmingham primary school that is facing daily protests from families who oppose LGBT+ lessons.

Anderton Park Primary is the second school in the city to face demonstrations from parents who argue that their children are too young to learn about families with same-sex parents.

Now the protest organisers are threatening to take 400 children out of class amid an escalating row over equality lessons. The protesting parents want the headteacher to resign.

Shakeel Afsar, whose niece and nephew attend the school, said a mass withdrawal could take place if the school refuses to suspend teaching about two mummies or two daddies. [The Independent] Read more

Report slams council for "appearing to have wilfully ignored extremist activity"

A former counter-extremism co-ordinator for Waltham Forest Council is writing a national report that singles the borough out as having a “grim history of extremism and terrorism”.

The Guardian has been granted exclusive access to extracts of the report, which also covers Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow and is not yet published.

The report highlights incidents in Waltham Forest including a prominent Islamist being given an award by the council and collection boxes in high street stores for groups advocating extremist ideologies.

.... According to Ms Littlewood’s report, an ongoing issue in the borough is the area’s links to other Pakistani Islamist groups promoting extreme views.

Currently, a number of high street stores in Leyton have been found to have collection boxes on their till counters to raise money for Dalwat-e-Islami and Madani.

Dalwat-e-Islami are a non-political, religious group in Pakistan and extremists from their group shared posts on Facebook praising the man responsible for the murder of Ahmadi-Muslim Asad Shah in Glasgow in 2016. [East London & west Essex Guardian] Read more

07 April 2019

There are two types of hijabs. The difference is huge

.... There are two vastly different kinds of hijabs: the democratic hijab, the head covering that a woman chooses to wear, and the tyrannical hijab, the one that a woman is forced to wear.

In the first kind, a woman has agency. She sets the terms of her hijab, appearing as ascetic or as appealing as she wishes. She can also wear makeup and fashionable clothing if she likes.

In the second kind of hijab, the woman has no agency. Where we lived, the terms were set by Iranian government authorities under a mandatory dress code that banned women from wearing makeup in public and forced them to wear a baggy, knee-length garment to fully disguise the shape of their bodies, over a pair of pants and closed-toed shoes. For a while, the authorities even decreed the colors that women could wear: gray, black, brown or navy.

Years of young Iranian women’s unofficial revisions of the code have succeeded in wearing down the government’s rigidity, but the official law remains unchanged and is capriciously enforced. A random sweep can result in mass arrests on a single day. [The Washington Post] Read more

'Taught the stones shouldn't be too big'

Brunei is introducing strict new anti-LGBT laws, with some offences punishable by stoning to death - a move which has sparked international condemnation.

Two Bruneians, who have left the country, share their experiences of what it's like growing up as an LGBT person in Brunei. [BBC] Read more

06 April 2019

‘It’s dangerous to go out now’: young, gay and scared in Brunei

A day after it became legally possible to be stoned to death for having gay sex in Brunei, 21-year-old Zain* got a bitter taste of the new reality.

Walking down the street in skinny jeans and high-heeled boots, a flamboyant anomaly in the conservative sultanate, the university student became a target.

“I saw this van about 50 metres away,” said Zain, who is gay. “When the driver saw me, the van accelerated, just to run me over, but I dodged it. I was like, ‘Bitch, what the hell was that?’”

The Guardian view on Brunei and stoning: don’t leave it to celebrities to act

Read more

Last week Brunei – a tiny tropical nation on the island of Borneo, a former British protectorate that is home to 420,000 people – introduced harsh new sharia laws, including death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, and amputation of limbs for theft. [The Guardian] Read more

05 April 2019

Social media to tackle under-reported Islamophobia in Bristol

A social media "poster" encouraging Muslims to report Islamophobic hate crimes has been designed in Bristol.

Rizwan Ahmed, from Bristol Muslim Cultural Society (BMCS), is behind the initiative.

He said the "under-reporting of Islamophobic abuse" made it difficult to gauge the scale of the problem.

The idea is part of a move by the Tackling Islamophobia Working Group (TIWG), set up to unite Muslim communities, police and other agencies.

Rizwan Ahmed said he came up with the idea after the success of a graphic he designed a few years ago, which used important dates from the Islamic calendar to help people plan time off work.

He said it was "so effective" that some of his friends in Bristol were "sent it from as far as Singapore."

He said Islamophobia was "becoming a growing issue" and people were not aware of what they could report, such as verbal abuse. [BBC] Read more

San Diego school district and parents reach settlement over Muslim civil rights program

The San Diego Unified School District settled in late March with a group of parents who sued over the district’s possible partnership with the Council on American–Islamic Relations, a national advocacy organization, on an anti-Islamophobic bullying program in schools.

The agreement specifies that guest speakers from religious organizations are not permitted to present to students on religious topics. Educators can’t show a preference for one religious viewpoint over another. And religions must be taught in the context of world history, with the “time and attention spent discussing each religion being proportionate to its impact on history and human development,” the agreement says.

But just how that’s measured, and who does the measuring, isn’t clear. [PRI.org] Read more

04 April 2019

'German Islam': Can a state-led project succeed with a new interpretation of religion?

.... While the programme was launched in 2006 by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, it was mainly initiated to promote dialogue between representatives of the German government and the country's Muslim community, it significantly transformed over the years. Even though it was originally designed as a mechanism of communication and dialogue between the German state and Muslims living in Germany, the conference added a completely new dimension to its programme: redefining Islam.

The initiative to redefine and adjust Islam to German values combined with efforts to stimulate the integration of Muslims into German society is not an entirely new idea. In early 2000's former Interior Minister Otto Schily for example, raised this issue when saying that Muslims had to be assimilated and be prepared to adopt a "European Islam". [The New Arab] Read more

Adopting the new Islamophobia definition would be terrible for the Tories

I do not think I am alone in having real difficulty with the word Islamophobia and attempts to define it as “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. Racism of any sort is unacceptable and catered for in the existing law, but this definition is impossibly vague. The reality is that it will preclude any criticism of “Muslimness” which, however well balanced and evidenced, will automatically be regarded as racist.

Let me give you an example. When I was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we examined legislation to ensure that it did not involve any violations of human rights. For the same reason, we conducted thematic enquiries. I suggested the position of Muslim women in the UK might merit an enquiry.

A preliminary examination of the evidence suggested that an enquiry might be worthwhile. But the majority of the Committee decided against it on the basis that it might be regarded as anti-Muslim even to have an enquiry, unless all women were included. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that the parliamentarians were simply too frightened of the consequences for their reputation of even embarking on the exercise. [The Spectator] Read more

Psychologist against LGBT+ lessons investigated by professional body for ‘unethical’ comments

A prominent campaigner against relationship and sex education (RSE) lessons including sections on LGBT+ partnerships, is being investigated by her professional body over comments deemed to be "unethical".

The British Psychological Society said it was “extremely concerned” by the views expressed by chartered psychologist Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a talk that was filmed, the Muslim convert who has led a campaign opposing mandatory RSE lessons in schools, said that many young Muslims were “turning to same-sex relationships because they haven’t had the guidance.”

It emerged after education experts have warned that recent protests outside two primary schools in Birmingham against LGBT+ inclusive lessons could spread across the country. [The Independent] Read more

02 April 2019

Iranian women's rights activist says NZ hijab display after Christchurch shooting is 'heartbreaking'

A women's rights activist in Iran says her heart broke when she saw New Zealanders wearing the hijab in an attempt at solidarity following the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist and journalist who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos without headscarves, admired Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's compassion, but was conflicted about the national display.

After 50 people were shot dead in two Christchurch mosques on March 15, photos of Ardern wearing a hijab went around the world, with many political commentators admiring her act of solidarity.

Alinejad, who has lived in self-imposed exile since 2009 and received death threats for her campaigning against Iran's obligatory wearing of headscarves, told Reuters: "I felt admiration that a prominent leader and women in New Zealand showed compassion to the Muslim community, but I also felt that you are using one of the most visible symbols of oppression for Muslim women in many countries for solidarity, and it also broke my heart. [NZ Herald] Read more

'It broke my heart': Iranian women's rights activists says she wishes the Jacinda Ardern hadn't worn the hijab to meet Muslims following the Christchurch mosque slaughter

An Iranian women's rights activist has spoken out against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to wear a hijab following the Christchurch mosque terror attacks.

Masih Alinejad is both an activist and journalist, and is outspoken in her condemnation of Iran's laws surrounding obligatory wearing of headscarves.

Ms Alinejad said seeing images of Ms Ardern wearing a headscarf in solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch massacre 'broke her heart'.

She said while she admired the New Zealand leader's compassion and desire to connect with her Muslim community, the headscarf is a sign of oppression for many women. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Homophobic and misogynistic books found in library at Islamic primary school

Zakariya Primary School on Romford Road has been rated ‘inadequate’ a second time by the inspectors after a visit in February.

In their report, inspectors say leaders at the school have not ‘taken effective steps to protect pupils from extreme views’.

One book the inspectors found said: ‘Many so-called wise people are committing it, but sodomy is such an awful thing that even animals abhor it except the pigs.’

Another said: ‘A wife must not deny herself to her husband… Moreover, the wife is not permitted to do anything that may render her companionship less desirable or less gratifying. If she does any such thing or neglects herself, the husband has the right to interfere with her freedom and to rectify the situation.’

While leaders at the school said the pupils do not use the library, the children told Ofsted that they do on a regular basis.

The management also said that these views are unacceptable and did not know the books were in the library. [Newham Recorder] Read more

01 April 2019

Spielman: LGBT protests ‘setting terrible example for children’

The head of Ofsted has called on campaigners to halt protests outside the gates of schools that teach pupils about LGBT issues, claiming it “serves no one well to intimidate teachers”.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman used her speech at the Muslim Teachers’ Association’s 40th anniversary yesterday to say the protests make a “difficult situation worse, while setting a terrible example for the children”.

“It is children’s voices that always get lost when adults stop talking and start shouting,” she added.

Protests over relationships and sex education have been taking place around the country, with many parents and religious groups citing concern about the teaching of LGBT issues and homophobia in schools. [Schools Week] Read more

LGBT lesson row head teachers 'feel alone' and unsupported

Head teachers involved in a row over primary school LGBT rights classes say they "feel alone" and unsupported.

Parents, mostly of Muslim faith, have protested outside Parkfield Community School in Birmingham arguing their children should not learn about same-sex relationships.

More than 85 heads met with Department for Education (DfE) officials and the council in Birmingham on Friday.

The DfE said the schools can teach LGBT content but do not have to.

The No Outsiders project was halted at Parkfield Community School after demonstrations by some parents who said they believed the subject was "undermining parental rights and authority".

Deputy head teacher Andrew Moffat, who devised the programme, has said it was not about sex education but "community cohesion" and "people getting along". [BBC] Read more

Iranian women's rights activist condemns Western feminists for wearing the hijab in 'solidarity', saying: 'Calling the compulsory headscarf my country's culture is INSULTING'

A women's rights activist in Iran has said it is 'insulting' for Western visitors to wear the hijab in an attempt at solidarity.

Masih Alinejad, who has spearheaded Iranian women's struggle against the head covering, said female dignitaries from Europe had left her fellow campaigners 'on their own' by choosing to wear the hijab when they visited Iran.

Rejecting the argument that visitors should wear the hijab out of 'respect for the culture of Iran', she said they were 'sending a message that men are more equal than women'.

Ms Alinejad, the founder of the White Wednesdays movement which saw many women remove their headscarves in protest, said she was battling against a 'discriminatory law'. [Daily Mail] Read more

I’d be wrong to stay silent about homophobia in Islam – even though I’ll get abuse for it

It is hard to be a progressive Muslim in today’s riven, regressive, fanatical and tribalised world. It just got harder. Since January, groups of parents in Birmingham – most British Muslim – have stood outside primary schools and protested against teachers who are committed to teaching children about equality and respect for all, including LGBTQ people. Hundreds of pupils have been kept out of school.

This unseemly conflict started at Parkfield Community School, judged outstanding by Ofsted and known for its broad and open learning environment. A welcoming sign outside is written in six different languages. Suddenly none of that mattered. Young mums and various agitators stood outside and railed against sex education classes which “promote” homosexuality to their innocent babes.

.... Yet talk to them about “Islamophobia” and you will hear the most passionate arguments and compelling stories about what that means and why it’s wrong. They cannot see their own double standards. Nor do they understand the impact of their iniquitous views on LGBTQ people as well as other Brits who have always stood up for migrants, refugees, racial and religious minorities.

Muslims are making enemies of friends just when we face an existential threat. The coming confrontations, they need to understand, will not be between gay people and Muslims, but decent humans and those who are set to destroy decency, mutuality and the common bonds of humanity. Which side will they be on? [inews.co.uk] Read more

UN slams 'inhuman' Brunei law on stoning for adultery, gay sex

The United Nations decried Monday new "cruel and inhuman" laws set to take effect in Brunei this week which impose death by stoning for gay sex and adultery, and amputations for theft.

"I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented," UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

Brunei, an absolute monarchy ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has said it will implement the new penal code starting Wednesday.

Brunei first announced the measures in 2013, but implementation has been delayed, in the face of opposition by rights groups, and as officials worked out the practical details.

The new law stipulates the death penalty for a number of offences, including rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insulting or defaming the Prophet Mohammad. [AFP] Read more