31 July 2019

Law to protect men from being 'seduced' into raping women proposed in Malaysia's parliament

A law to protect men from being “seduced” into raping women has been proposed in the Malaysian parliament.

Mohamad Imran Abd Hamid, an MP with the ruling People’s Justice Party, told his fellow politicians that men commit sex crimes because they are “seduced” by women’s actions and clothing.

“I propose a Sexual Harassment Act to protect men,” he told the Dewan Negara, the Southeast Asian country's upper house, online news portal Malaysiakini reported. “From the actions, words and clothing of women, which can cause men to be seduced to the point they can commit acts such as incest, rape, molestation, [watching] pornography and likewise.

He added: “This is important, [men] need to be protected. The actions, clothing of women can seduce us into breaking the law and causing us to be charged."

“I ask that the minister consider this so that the men in this country are safe, and the country is peaceful”. [The Independent] Read more

After the revolution: Sudan’s women face backlash from Islamic fundamentalists

If I could walk, I would go to the streets again”, Muna*, a 25-year-old Sudanese protester, told me over the phone recently. She was shot and severely injured by the army during an early June crackdown against a sit-in in the capital Khartoum, when activists say more than 100 people were murdered in one day and dozens of bodies were pulled from the Nile.

Despite the bullet that remains lodged in her leg, Muna has continued her activism for women’s rights and democracy in Sudan, calling others to join the ‘millions march’ later that month, on 30 June. She didn’t even let a month-long, total internet blackout get in her way, sending text messages and going door-to-door, by wheelchair, to spread information to keep the revolution alive. [openDemocracy] Read more

'Historic' day as India outlaws 'triple talaq' Islamic instant divorce

India’s parliament has approved a bill outlawing the centuries-old right of a Muslim man to instantly divorce his wife, drawing accusations of government interference in a community matter.

Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist administration has been pushing to criminalise “triple talaq”, under which a man can divorce by uttering the word “talaq”, meaning divorce in Arabic, three times in his wife’s presence.

Following Tuesday’s upper house vote it now only requires the signature of the president – considered a formality – to become law.

The lower house backed the bill, which will make anyone practising instant divorce liable to prosecution, last week. India is one of the few countries where the practice has survived in law. It was declared “unconstitutional” by the supreme court two years ago.

“This is a historic day, the injustice that was going on with Muslim women, India’s parliament has given them justice,” law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in Delhi.

Some Indian Muslim groups have said triple talaq is wrong, but believe the practice should be reviewed by community leaders rather than the government. [The Guardian] Read more

30 July 2019

Muslims join official talks over pork-derived gelatine in flu vaccine

Public health chiefs have held talks with Muslim leaders after families raised concerns about allowing their children to have the flu vaccine because it contains pork products.

All healthy children between two and ten in England will be offered the Fluenz nasal spray vaccine in schools from September. It was initially provided only for nursery-age children.

Public Health England (PHE) said that uptake had been “slightly lower” in areas with a high proportion of Muslim families, partly because of concerns that it contains porcine gelatine.

The Muslim Council of Britain initiated talks between PHE and Muslim groups in 2014 after some parents said that they did not want their child to receive vaccines containing pork, which is considered unclean in Islam.

Yesterday the council said most Muslim scholars agreed that vaccines with porcine gelatine were not allowed in Islam unless lives were at risk and there was no alternative. “Our view is not that Muslims should automatically refuse such treatment,” a spokesman said. “Health is paramount. Anyone concerned about the use of gelatine in vaccines must consult a medical practitioner and make an informed decision.” [The Times (£)] Read more

Triple talaq: India criminalises Muslim 'instant divorce'

India's parliament has approved a bill that makes the Muslim practice of "instant divorce" a criminal offence.

"Triple talaq", as it's known, allows a husband to divorce his wife by repeating the word "talaq" (divorce) three times in any form, including email or text message.

The Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 2017.

Supporters say the new measure protects Muslim women. Opponents say the punishment is harsh and open to misuse.

Men found in breach of the new law can be jailed for up to three years.

The bill was first tabled in 2017 but stalled in the upper house of parliament, where some MPs called it unfair.

India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supports the bill, while the main opposition Congress party opposes it. [BBC] Read more

29 July 2019

Women taking photos of themselves without headscarves face 10-year prison sentence in Iran

Iranian women who post photos of themselves online without their headscarves on could face up to 10 years in prison.

They face the punishment for posting images or video online, and for sending them to Masih Alinejad, a US-based activist who founded the “White Wednesdays” campaign in Iran to oppose the compulsory hijab.

The campaign encourages women to post photos of themselves without headscarves.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, saying “those who film themselves or others while removing the hijab and send photos to this woman ... will be sentenced to between one and 10 years in prison.”

Wearing the Islamic headscarf is mandatory in public for all women in Iran. Those who violate the rule face up to two months in prison and a fine of £20. [The Independent] Read more

Iranian women are warned they face up to ten years in prison if they post photos of themselves without a hijab to US activist behind White Wednesday 'empowerment' campaign

Iranians sending images to a US-based activist over an anti-headscarf campaign could now face up to 10 years in prison, it has emerged.

Masih Alinejad founded the 'White Wednesdays' campaign in Iran to encourage women to post photographs of themselves without headscarves online as a way of opposing the compulsory hijab.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Monday quoted the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, as saying that 'those who film themselves or others while removing the hijab and send photos to this woman ... will be sentenced to between one and 10 years in prison.' [Daily Mail] Read more

Muslim parents refuse to let their children take part in nationwide flu vaccine drive 'because treatment is not halal'

Muslim parents are reportedly refusing to allow their children to have a nasal flu vaccine because the treatment is not halal.

Concerns were first raised over the spray - Fluenz Tetra - containing pork gelatine last year, but the issue has been highlighted again ahead of a new nationwide drive.

At the time, the Vegetarian Society branded the use of the ingredient in three vaccines as 'disappointing', while the Muslim Council of Britain said the spray would only be permitted if there was no alternative and lives were at risk.

Next month, every healthy child between two and 10 in England will be offered Fluenz Tetra to increase herd immunity.

But uptake in areas with a high proportion of practicing Muslims is 'significantly lower' than the average, reports the Telegraph.

Dr Shuja Shafi, the chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's research and documentation committee, said: 'We have consulted the scholars and this is their view… we need another vaccine which is halal.'

Last year Dr Shafi urged doctors to find a 'long-term solution' to the issue. Two other vaccines, MMR VaxPro and Zostavax, also contain gelatine. [Daily Mail] Read more

28 July 2019

President Joko Widodo says Islam in Indonesia is 'tolerant' as rights groups warn of rising fundamentalism

.... Five years ago, Joko won the presidency on a promise to increase jobs, crack down on corruption and bolster human rights. But during his re-election campaign, he embraced elements of Indonesia's religious right.

His running mate was conservative cleric Ma'ruf Amin, who supports Sharia law and believes that homosexuality should be criminalized. Amin is now Indonesia's vice president. That was seen as an effort to eat into Prabowo's conservative support base and appease those who claimed he was not Islamic enough.

Joko denied that he befriended hardliners to win the election, suggesting his outwardly secular values had not been compromised.

"We would like to work with all elements of society. We would like to work with everyone to develop this country, but not with those who want to ruin this country in terms of its ideology and in developing our economy. There is no compromise for me," he said.

.... While the President upholds that Indonesia is a tolerant and diverse society, rights groups say there is rising intolerance from hardline religious groups, especially against religious minorities and the LGBT community.

In 2016, Jakarta's Chinese Christian governor (a Joko ally) Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, was accused of insulting the Quran and jailed on blasphemy charges. Massive rallies calling for his jailing paralyzed the capital.

Ahok was released in January after serving just under two years in jail, but the incident showed religious fundamentalism to be a powerful force. [CNN] Read more

Tory Islamophobia: Johnson faces calls to honour pledge on inquiry

Boris Johnson is facing calls to honour his commitment to an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party, after a senior minister refused to say that one would go ahead under his premiership.

Johnson appeared to sign up to an inquiry during the BBC debate of the leadership campaign, when Sajid Javid, now his chancellor, got his rivals to agree that an external investigation into Islamophobia was a good idea.

The party has faced heavy criticism for its handling of complaints of Islamophobia among Tory members in recent months, with some of those suspended quietly let back into the party.

Asked on Sky News when Johnson would be launching an inquiry, Rishi Sunak, the new financial secretary to the Treasury, said the prime minister was “committed very firmly to rooting it out in the party wherever it is”. [The Guardian] Read more

Fears over Muslim parents withdrawing children from 'non-halal' flu vaccine

Muslim parents are refusing to allow their children to take part in a nationwide flu vaccine drive after the Muslim Council of Britain ruled the treatment was forbidden by Islam.

Public health officials have raised concern over the number of Muslim children expected to be withdrawn from a major programme beginning in schools next month.

For the first time, every healthy child of primary school age in England will be offered a nasal spray vaccine to protect people of all ages from the virus.

But Muslim parents across the country have been told that the Fluenz spray is not permitted because it contains gelatine derived from pigs, which are considered unclean.

In some areas the “vast majority” of Muslim parents have vowed to withdraw their children from the programme, community leaders revealed.

Tonight the Royal Society for Public Health said the situation “added to the risk of major flu outbreaks” and urged the government to offer a halal alternative vaccine acceptable to Muslims. [The Telegraph] Read more

27 July 2019

Forced marriage, murder and miscarriages of justice: 40 years of Southall Black Sisters and the battles ahead

When Kiranjit Ahluwalia was jailed for life for setting fire to her husband Deepak in May 1989, a small band of dedicated activists picked up a baton that Kiranjit’s legal team had dropped.

Kiranjit had suffered a decade of abuse and unspeakable brutality at the hands of her husband and now faced a tariff of 12 years in jail while her young children were brought up by her abuser’s family.

The women of Southall Black Sisters first helped Kiranjit’s sister win custody of her two children.

.... Pragna cites cases of women and even a man being attacked in ethnic communities in the UK for not dressing as such new traditions dictate.

Another key battleground for Southall Black Sisters is schools.

Pragna says the group challenged a co-ed faith school segregating boys and girls “to disempower young Asian girls, narrow the curriculum they were taught and inculcate patriarchal norms.”

She has also been involved in challenging faith leaders who have organized protests against schools teaching equality for gays. [The London Economic] Read more

26 July 2019

Muslim activists continue to push against Quebec secularism law

Quebec’s Superior Court recently rejected civil rights advocates’ legal request to suspend the Canadian province’s controversial new ban on religious symbols for state workers.

But activists in Canada and around the world say the fight is not yet over.

“We will not tolerate politicians interfering in the religious practices of individuals,” said Mussab Ali, a New Jersey-based education policy maker. “We are standing up for all religious communities in our stance against Bill 21. We urge the Quebec government to repeal this bill.”

Passed last month, Bill 21 bans public school teachers, police officers, judges and other public sector employees from donning any religious symbols, in order to protect Quebec’s principle of “laicity,” or the religious neutrality of the state.

Civil rights advocates say the law, which would also require citizens receiving public services to uncover their faces for identification or security reasons, will disproportionately impact Muslims who wear the hijab or niqab, Jews who wear the kippah and Sikhs who wear turbans. [Religion News Service] Read more

25 July 2019

Extraordinary moment a Muslim tourist orders local Bali families off a public beach while 'brandishing a knife' - so his wife wouldn't see other 'partially-dressed' men

Extraordinary footage has emerged of a Muslim tourist in an angry row with Balinese locals after he ordered them off a public beach so his wife wouldn't see 'partially-dressed' men.

The man told locals that they were not allowed to use the beach outside the luxury villa he had rented, while they insisted it was a public beach and they had a right to be on it.

The tourist reportedly flashed a knife at one point during the confrontation.

After the altercation the family were ordered to leave their accommodation in Temukus Village in the Buleleng Regency, directly north of Kuta, on Sunday night. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

23 July 2019

Independent expert to help Government with Islamophobia definition after objections by faith leaders and academics

The Government has appointed an independent expert to lead the process towards a formal definition of Islamophobia after faith leaders, academics and politicians warned that free speech could be at risk.

Imam Qari Asim, Deputy Chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, will spearhead the work on establishing a definition of Islamophobia after the Government rejected the one drawn up by a cross-party group of MPs last May.

The rejected APPG definition reads: "Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness."

This definition has been formally adopted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Mayor of London.

A letter of opposition to Home Secretary Sajid Javid was signed by a wide range of academics, faith leaders, journalists, politicians and campaigners, including Professor Richard Dawkins, Lord Alton, Lord Singh, Baroness Cox, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, the President of Hindu Forum of Britain Trupti Patel, Christian Concern's Head of Policy Tim Dieppe, and National Secular Society CEO Stephen Evans. [Christian Today] Read more

Peace TV: Islamic TV station that called gay people worse than pigs faces ban

An Islamic television station faces being stripped of its British broadcast licence after relaying hate speech against gay people and advocating the execution of magicians.

Four programmes on Peace TV breached broadcasting rules on incitement to crime, hate speech, abuse and offence, according to Ofcom, the media regulator.

They included a show called Valley of the Homosexuals in which gay people were described as “worse than animals” and more “corrupted and contaminated” than pigs. The presenter asserted that LGB people contracted disease “because they are homosexual” — an apparent reference to HIV.

Another programme featured a religious scholar justifying the death penalty against people accused of practising magic, known as Sahir. [The Times (£)] Read more

Harrow council adopts APPG definition of Islamophobia

Harrow Council has adopted a working definition of Islamophobia, despite opposition concerns that the wording is not “widely accepted”.

The debate on whether to adopt the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) definition of Islamophobia split the council chamber but was pushed through by the majority Labour Group.

All councillors agreed that there is no place for anti-Muslim beliefs and behaviours in Harrow and beyond, and accepted Islamophobia is present and a problem in society.

But the borough’s Conservative Group suggested that the council should wait and “work through the problems” associated with the APPG definition.

“This is an incredibly serious motion – anyone who behaves in an Islamophobic way is a despicable person,” said Cllr Paul Osborn, leader of Harrow Conservatives. [Harrow Times] Read more

22 July 2019

Man Arrested & Imprisoned For 5 Weeks For Painting “Islam Is Questionable” On His House

A man has been arrested and imprisoned in Scotland for painting the words “Islam is questionable” on his house, in what Police Officers claimed was a “breach of the peace”.

Graham Evans, who lives in Edinburgh, has just been released after 5 weeks in prison for painting the statement on his house, after he was found not guilty in court.

Mr Evans had over 10 police officers visit his home last month, who arrested him on the spot for “breaching the peace” by writing “Islam is questionable”, “Brexit” and “Leave Means Leave” on his house.

The officers confirmed to Evans that the offending statement in particular was the phrase “Islam is questionable”, because it had ‘alarmed’ and ‘distressed’ the community.

He was then remanded in prison for five weeks until his trial, where the judge agreed that his painted statement was allowed as free speech and that Owens had broken no laws. [Kipper Central] Read more

Southwark Council adopts definition of Islamophobia with calls to do more for minorities and women

The Southwark Council assembly has adopted the All-Party Parliamentary Group working definition of Islamophobia.

It comes as Labour and Lib Dem councillors call on the cabinet to do more to help minorities and women – including pushing for misogyny to become a hate crime.

The adopted definition of Islamophobia reads: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

There were 788 incidents of hate crime in Southwark in 2018, while race hate crime across the city rose from from 8,000 incidents in 2012 to almost 18,000 this year. [News Shopper] Read more

19 July 2019

Pakistan aims to bring religious schools into mainstream

Pakistan has agreed on a plan to overhaul instruction at madrasas or religious schools to bring the institutions closer into line with conventional schools and curb extremist teaching, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Friday.

The plan is the latest effort to address longstanding concerns that the roughly 30,000 madrasas in Pakistan provide a haven for extremist teaching with a rigid curriculum based around religious studies that fails to prepare students for employment after they graduate.

Under the plan, agreed with the madrasa umbrella organization, Wafaq-ul-madaris, religious schools would be registered and helped to strengthen conventional teaching in subjects like English, science and mathematics. [Reuters] Read more

18 July 2019

'There are 200 more Asia Bibis': Son of slain Pakistani gov. fears 'complacency' has set in

The son of a Pakistani governor who was assassinated in 2011 because of his support for imprisoned Christian mother Asia Bibi told religious freedom advocates that there are over 200 people jailed in Pakistan for blasphemy.

Shaan Taseer, the son of late Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, delivered a powerful address at the State Department’s second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on Wednesday — the second day of a three-day summit touted as the largest of its kind ever held.

“Eight years later, the woman that my father gave his life to defend has been found innocent by the highest court in the country,” Taseer said. ”For this ladies and gentlemen, I want to congratulate each and every one of you. Asia Bibi’s acquittal is a victory for humanity, it's a victory for human dignity and it is a victory for common sense.”

Although the world rejoiced when Bibi (real name is Aasiya Noreen) was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court last fall after spending nearly a decade on death row over an accusation that she insulted Islam’s prophet, Taseer warned that there is much work still left to be done. [The Christian Post] Read more

Court rejects bid to suspend part of Canadian province's religious symbols ban

A court in the Canadian province of Quebec on Thursday rejected a bid to suspend parts of a new provincial law that bans public sector employees from wearing religious symbols to work.

The law, adopted on June 16, prompted critics to accuse the province’s right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec government of discriminating against Muslims. Polls indicated broad support in Quebec for the move.

The law prohibits all public employees in positions of authority - including public school teachers, prison guards, judges and police officers - from wearing religious symbols to work, such as kippahs, hijabs and crosses. [Reuters] Read more

Private Islamic school that had extremist library book on how to help the Taliban with 'Don't make the Jews and the Christians your friends' on page one is rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted

A private Islamic school that had an extremist library book on how to help the Taliban with 'Don't make the Jews and the Christians your friends' on page one has been rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted.

The book at Jamia Islamia Birmingham also supported the creation of an Islamic State, while others contained 'misogynistic messages' and condoned the use of the cane as physical punishment.

Ofsted concluded the literature was 'actively undermining fundamental British values' and handed it the lowest possible rating - a step down from an inspection in 2017 which said it 'requires improvement'.

.... It and similar works were freely available to the 132 boys aged 11 to 19 who attend the £1,800-a-year school in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. School leaders said they were not aware of the books, even though they were marked with the institution's logo, the Ofsted report said. [Daily Mail] Read more

17 July 2019

Woman loses custody of daughter in Saudi Arabia after bikini photos shown to judge

Bethany Vierra did not think she was asking for much.

First, she wanted a divorce from a husband she described as abusive. Then she wanted to secure custody of her 4-year-old daughter, Zeina. Then she wanted a court order to receive child support from her ex-husband, a businessman.

But as an American woman living in Saudi Arabia, Ms Vierra has navigated a punishing legal maze ever since she first asked her Saudi ex-husband for a divorce in 2017, then opened custody proceedings in November.

Though she succeeded with the divorce, her custody battle appeared to reach a dead end on Sunday, when a Saudi judge awarded custody of Zeina to her father’s mother, who lives with him, despite video evidence Ms Vierra submitted to the court that she said showed her ex-husband doing drugs and verbally abusing her in front of their daughter.

.... “Since the mother is new to Islam and a foreigner in this country and embraces customs and traditions in the way she was raised,” the judge wrote in his ruling, “we must avoid exposing Zeina to these traditions.” [The Independent] Read more

Harrow Council urged to reject APPG definition of Islamophobia

Harrow Council has been called upon to reject a popular definition of Islamophobia because it is a “back door blasphemy law”.

The authority is due to debate supporting the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) definition at a council meeting tomorrow.

National Secular Society CEO Stephen Evans has written to councillors, asking them to reject the motion.

He warns that it is at odds with the concept of free speech, and that it “conflates hatred of, and discriminaton against, Muslims with criticism of Islam”. [Harrow Times] Read more

“Islamophobia”? It’s anti-Muslim racism

Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters spoke to Martin Thomas from Solidarity about the controversy over the Government’s rejection of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) definition of “Islamophobia”.

We were against the idea of having a specific definition of “Islamophobia”. Racism against Muslims exists. It is pervasive and needs to be resolutely challenged. “Islamophobia” conflates legitimate criticism of religion, which groups like Southall Black Sisters have always engaged, with racism towards people of a particular minority. The use of the term “Islamophobia” makes it very easy to label criticism of religion as “Islamophobic”.

It is a linguistic minefield. There is no satisfactory interpretation of what “Islamophobia” means. Even the Runnymede Trust, which put the term forward in 1997, accepted its own definition as problematic.

Why not speak instead of anti-Muslim racism? Anti-Muslim racism is like any other form of racism — the vilification, the attacks.

Can’t it be said that it is a merit of the definition that it says explicitly that criticism of Islam is not necessarily Islamophobic?

I don’t accept that. This defining of Islamophobia creates a norm within society which makes it hard to speak out. We’ve seen it many times. Why call it Islamophobia? Why not just talk of anti-Muslim racism? [Workers’ Liberty] Read more

15 July 2019

Mohammed Amin: I don’t like the term “Islamophobia”. But since we’re stuck with it, here’s my own definition

As explained previously, I consider that 22 years of poor-quality definitions of Islamophobia have made the word incapable of being rescued.

However, in Parliament during May, James Brokenshire committed the Government to coming up with its own definition. To save it work, I am supplying one.

In my view, the key goal of any new definition must be to make it clear that, like antisemitism and homophobia, Islamophobia is about how you treat other people, and not about your views regarding an abstract noun (Islam).

I have intentionally used the structure of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, since it has become an industry standard. I have also added some emphasis, as there are certain words in the IHRA (Interntional Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition which many people regularly ignore or forget about. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Boris Johnson claimed Islam put Muslim world 'centuries behind'

.... Writing about the rise of the religion in an appendix added to a later edition of The Dream of Rome, his 2006 book about the Roman empire, Johnson said there was something about Islam that hindered development in parts of the globe and, as a result, “Muslim grievance” was a factor in virtually every conflict.

Johnson’s argument was described as disconcerting and problematic by Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim hate and said he had demonstrated a lack of understanding of the religion. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said many people would like to know if the favourite to become the next prime minister still believed “Islam inherently inhibits the path to progress and freedom”.

.... “It is extraordinary to think that under the Roman/Byzantine empire, the city of Constantinople kept the candle of learning alight for a thousand years, and that under Ottoman rule, the first printing press was not seen in Istanbul until the middle of the nineteenth century. Something caused them to be literally centuries behind.” [The Guardian] Read more

Islamophobia 'going mainstream' as poll finds 31% think religion poses a threat

Islamophobia has gone mainstream, with liberal, middle class voters also expressing anti-Muslim views an anti-racist group has argued.

People continue to see Muslims overwhelmingly more negatively than any other religious group according to research with 31% of the population believing that Islam poses a threat to the British way of life.

Some 18% of people have an extremely negative view of Muslims according to a poll by anti-racist group Hope Not Hate.

There’s a general decrease in the share of people who see Islam as a serious threat to Western civilisation.

44% agree, down from 52% in our 2017 Fear and HOPE poll, alongside a decrease in concern about islamist extremism.

But there’s also a huge age gap in perceptions of Muslims.

Only 8% of 18-24 year olds see Muslims extremely negatively compared to 22% of all people aged over 50. A total of 6,118 adults were polled by YouGov between 26th April - 1st May 2019. [Daily Mirror] Read more

Afghan radio station shuts down after threats by suspected Taliban

A private radio station in Afghanistan has shut down after numerous threats from a suspected Taliban commander who objected to women working as presenters, officials at the radio station said on Monday.

The incident comes as the Taliban are discussing a peace deal with the United States that could see them re-joining mainstream society, and that has brought new scrutiny of their attitudes to issues like women's rights and the media.

The private radio station, Samaa, has been broadcasting political, religious, social and entertainment programs in the central province of Ghazni since 2013.

Its 13 employees, including three women presenters, broadcast in Afghanistan's two main languages - Dari and Pashto. [Reuters] Read more

Muslim community shuns women released from prison, says report

The Muslim community in Britain shuns women who have been to prison while forgiving convicted men, “no matter what they’ve done”, according to a report.

Female former prisoners told researchers, Muslim experts in the criminal justice system, that they suffered a “conspiracy of silence” after being released from jail, having to hide or move away in order to not bring shame on their families.

“Our situation is made that much more worse because we are women and within our community being a woman caught up in crime is one of the most unacceptable things that can happen to a family, regardless of the reasons. There is a more forgiving attitude towards Muslim men who offend,” say the former convicts in a foreword to a report by the Muslim Women in Prison rehabilitation project, which calls for a “cultural shift in the community’s approach to women’s criminality and also a fundamental shift in the institutions in their treatment of Muslim women”. [The Guardian] Read more

13 July 2019

What does the Muslim Council of Britain have against Muslims like me?

Have you ever wondered why there are so few moderate Muslim voices in the press? It’s not because they don’t exist. There are over a billion of us in the world. In many cases, it’s because of the way we are treated by hardliners. Once again, they have trained their crosshairs on me, this time charging me with ‘misrepresenting Muslim behaviour and belief’ and ‘negating the belief of some Muslims’. If a Muslim speaks up against political Islam – questioning the legitimacy of these self-appointed spokesmen – this is what we can expect.

Just look at this week’s report by a group called the Centre for Media Monitoring, which claims that ‘Islamophobia’ is on the march in Britain. In making its case, the group cites one of my Spectator articles in which I defended Boris Johnson’s right to criticise the burqa (a garment which, unlike Boris, I do not think has any place in a tolerant society, nor a basis in Islam).

The Centre for Media Monitoring claims that my column – and The Spectator itself – is guilty of ‘misrepresenting Muslim behaviour’. But what exactly is this body? The group’s own report admits it is part of the Muslim Council of Britain, a highly-politicised organisation. But actually the link is closer than that: its founder and executive director is also the official mouthpiece of the Muslim Council of Britain. [The Spectator] Read more

11 July 2019

Saudi Arabia 'planning to relax male guardianship laws'

Saudi Arabia could be planning to relax the country’s strict male guardianship laws to allow women to leave the country without needing permission from a male relative, according to reports.

Travel restrictions for women over the age of 18 are due to be lifted this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, quoting Saudi officials familiar with the matter.

The planned changes would also lift restrictions on international travel for men under the age of 21 without the consent of designated male family members.

Potential reforms to travel rules for women were also mentioned in Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper on Tuesday.

'What they did to me was so horrific': brutal silencing of a Saudi feminist

Such a move would have a radical impact on life in the conservative kingdom, where human rights organisations say the male guardianship system makes women second-class citizens.

Saudi women still need the permission of a male relative to make major life decisions, including marriage, divorce and obtaining a passport. The system also makes it difficult for women to seek help for domestic and sexual violence issues or win child custody cases. [The Guardian] Read more

10 July 2019

'It will legalise child brides and polygamy': Pauline Hanson says proposed religious discrimination laws will be exploited by Muslim extremists

Pauline Hanson has predicted new laws banning religious discrimination could be exploited by Muslim extremists to justify child brides, female genital mutilation and polygamy.

The One Nation leader has voiced her fears as Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government plans to introduce legislation making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their religious beliefs.

'I am concerned that such a bill could be used by radical Islamic extremists as a shield to protect the worst aspects of their political ideology,' the Queensland senator told her 278,000 Facebook followers on Tuesday night.

'By forcing this through without scrutiny the government may be creating a pathway for extremists to practice polygamy, genital mutilation, or even under-aged marriage and this cannot be allowed to happen.

'We must always be on guard for the unintended consequences of good intentions.' [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Saudis vexed at low ranking on press freedom index after Khashoggi murder

Officials in Saudi Arabia privately complained about the kingdom’s low ranking on an influential press freedom index, less than one year after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi murder squad.

Campaigners at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Saudis aired their dismay at a series of unprecedented meetings with government officials in Riyadh. RSF has revealed to the Guardian that it held the confidential meetings in April to advocate for the release of 30 jailed journalists, an act that the press freedom group said was the “only way” for Saudi Arabia to assume the G20 presidency next year.

The urgent call comes less than a year after Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, was brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A recent UN report into the murder found “credible evidence” that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and other senior officials, were liable for the killing. [The Guardian] Read more

09 July 2019

Centre for Media Monitoring Calls for Transparency and Accountability in Light of New Report Findings

A detailed study of print and broadcast reports reveals a serious problem in the way that British media reports about Islam and Muslims.

Examining over 10,000 articles and clips referring to Muslims and Islam in the period of Q4 2018, the study was conducted by the Muslim Council of Britain’s newly formed Centre for Media Monitoring, which presents its findings in parliament today.

The study’s methodology was verified by Professor Paul Baker, one of the leading corpus linguist experts in the country.

The study reveals:

59% of all articles associated Muslims with negative behaviour

37% of articles in right-leaning and religious publications were categorised with the most negative rating of “very biased”

Over a third of all articles misrepresented or generalised about Muslims

Terrorism was the most common theme

Case study examples highlighted include the Spectator’s publication of the statement: “there are Muslims who want to come and get me for my Jewish blood”, Christian Today’s headline “The European Church is sleeping

while Islam is creeping in, says African bishop” and the usage of the image of terrorist Khalid Masood at the pilgrimage of Hajj. [Centre for Media Monitoring] Read more

Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

Most coverage of Muslims in British news outlets has a negative slant, according to a major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain, which concludes that news stories in the mainstream media are contributing to Islamophobia.

The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes – above an already-high industry average of 59%.

The New Statesman, Observer and Guardian were the least likely to portray Muslims in a negative light, according to the analysis of 11,000 articles and news broadcasts during the final three months of last year.

The findings come amid growing scrutiny of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and whether its roots lie in rightwing media coverage. A YouGov poll of Tory members by the campaign group Hope Not Hate found that 60% believe “Islam is generally a threat to western civilisation” and more than half believe “Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life”. [The Guardian] Read more

'Serious Problem' With Media Portrayal Of Muslims And Islam, Study Claims

Sections of the British media have a “serious problem” in the way they portray Islam and Muslims, a study has claimed.

Some 59% of reports published towards the end of last year associated Muslims with “negative behaviour”, research by the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) suggested.

The project, run by the Muslim Council of Britain, said it analysed 10,931 published articles and broadcast reports between October to December 2018 by most major national titles and news television programmes.

More than a third of the articles that were checked “misrepresented or generalised” about Muslims, according to the report.

CfMM director Rizwana Hamid said the findings - to be presented to parliament on Tuesday - showed there was “no doubt about the seriousness of Islamophobia within sections of British media”.

The report claimed 37% of religious and “right-leaning” publications and 14% of Sky News broadcasts analysed were “very biased”.

Analyst Faisal Hanif, a former BBC researcher and Times reporter who co-wrote the report, said the overall picture was “mixed” despite “many examples” of misrepresentation. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Blackburn charity reprimanded over using cash to build mosque

A CHARITY has been given an official warning by regulators over its financial management including diverting cash to help pay for the building of a new £1.3million mosque.

The Islamic Educational Society of Blackburn (IES) was reprimanded by the Charity Commission after a statutory inquiry into its affairs.

The investigation found the society had inadequate financial controls and had repeatedly failed to submit its accounts as required by law.

The probe highlighted the charity’s decision to divert funds towards the building of the Noorul Islam mosque in Audley Range where it is now based.

The Commission says the society, founded in 1969, failed to change its original constitution to allow it to pay towards the construction of the place of worship which opened in July 2010. [Lancashire Telegraph] Read more

Muslim Council of Great Britain campaigns for 'fairer' media coverage

The Muslim Council of Great Britain is to launch a campaign in Parliament for fairer media coverage later.

The council said there was "a serious problem" with the way the UK media reported on Islam and Muslims.

It looked at more than 10,000 articles and TV clips from the last three months of 2018, and said 59% of print articles linked Muslims with negative behaviour.

The study was not open to academic scrutiny but its methodology was analysed by a linguistics analyst.

It covered most major national titles and news television programmes, plus TV drama.

Press regulator Ipso is hoping to publish new guidelines on reporting Islam in the UK in the autumn.

The Muslim Council of Britain's newly-formed Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) will present its findings in Parliament on Tuesday. The council represents the interests of Muslims in Britain. [BBC] Read more

The website helping ex-Muslims flee the Gulf

A website set up by a Saudi exile is helping other former Muslims to flee persecution in their Gulf homelands.

In some Arab countries ex-Muslims can be prosecuted for renouncing their faith, and in Saudi Arabia those convicted of apostasy may be sentenced to death.

Taleb Al-Abdulmohsen set up wearesaudis.net after he became an atheist and claimed asylum in Germany.

The site also helps ex-Muslims like "Dina" who want to escape abroad because they fear relatives will force them to marry. [BBC] Read more

08 July 2019

Banned ‘Trojan horse’ school governor holding sex education seminars

A banned school governor who was found to have undermined British values has relaunched a controversial Muslim parents’ group and is holding seminars on sex education, The Times has learnt.

Tahir Alam, who was banned from any involvement in schools after the so-called Trojan horse scandal, has revived the Muslim Parents Association, which had been wound up following the alleged plot to impose Islamist values on schools in Birmingham.

In a move that critics said was an attempt to hijack the row over LGBT teaching in schools, Mr Alam last week hosted the first monthly seminar on relationship and sex education in Birmingham.

A leaflet for the event said that parents would be provided with advice, support and training and it would discuss their rights and the Islamic perspective on the issue, which has been the source of protests outside primary schools in recent months. [The Times (£)] Read more

Most Tory members believe Islam is 'a threat to British way of life', poll finds

The survey, by anti-racism campaigners Hope Not Hate, also found that nearly two-thirds of Tory activists believe the religion is "a threat to western civilisation".

Labour said the findings showed that "Islamophobia and racism are ingrained" among some Conservative members.

Some 60% think that "Islam is generally a threat to Western civilisation", with fewer than one-in-five (17%) taking the opposite view.

The YouGov study follows polling results released last month, which found that almost half of Conservative members would not accept a Muslim as the country's Prime Minister.

They were released as Tory activists vote on whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Huny should be their next leader and Prime Minister.

Shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler said: "This poll shows that Islamophobia and racism are ingrained among some Conservative Party members. It is worrying that the people choosing our next Prime Minister hold these views.

"Boris Johnson has a lot to answer for - both because of his own record of racism and Islamophobia, including just last year comparing Muslim women to 'bank robbers' and 'letterboxes', and because of the likelihood that these Tory Party members will vote for him as leader.

"He should be held to account for it and have the decency to apologise. [PoliticsHome] Read more

06 July 2019

UK urged to take action on 'shocking' persecution against Pakistan's religious minorities

Lord Alton has challenged the UK Government to put more pressure on Pakistan to stop the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.

Lords heard how religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country are being "ghettoised into squalid colonies" and subjected to "shocking" levels of persecution.

Lord Alton contrasted this with the vision of Pakistan's founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, of a nation where minorities would be welcome - a vision that the Pakistani government remarkably endorsed even while coming under intense pressure over the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman freed from death row for blasphemy last year.

"My Lords, Pakistan's illustrious and enlightened founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality," he said. [Christian Today] Read more

05 July 2019

Jihadists massacre entire Christian village in Mali killing at least 100, many burnt to death

At least 100 men, women and children were slaughtered in Sobame Da, a mainly-Christian village in the Mopti region of central Mali, by heavily-armed Islamist extremists on 10 June.

A Barnabas Fund contact described it as the “worst massacre in Mali since 1946”. He said the jihadists encircled the isolated village of ethnic Dogon people at night and set fire to “everything that moved” in a “well-targeted attack”.

Many of the victims’ bodies were burnt – some charred beyond recognition. There are difficulties identifying the remains and the death toll is currently estimated to be between 100 and 135 people. [Barnabas Fund] Read more

Tunisia bans niqab in government offices

Tunisia's prime minister has banned the full-face veil in all government buildings due to security concerns. It comes after a deadly double suicide bombing in Tunis in late June.

.... As far back as February 2014, police had been instructed to step up supervision of the wearing of the niqab — which covers the whole head apart from the eyes — as part of anti-terrorism measures, to prevent its use as a disguise or to escape justice.

Niqabs and other forms of Islamic dress had been banned in Tunisia under secular presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba until a 2011 coup overthrew Ben Ali. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Tunisian PM bans face veils in public institutions after bombing

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has banned the wearing of the niqab, the full face veil, in public institutions for security reasons, an official source said on Friday.

The decision follows a suicide bombing in Tunis by a wanted militant. Witnesses said the suicide bomber, who blew himself up on Tuesday, was disguised in a niqab. The Interior Ministry denied this.

It was the third such incident within a week and came as Tunisia prepares for autumn elections and at the peak of a tourist season in which the country hopes to draw record numbers of visitors. Islamic State has claimed all three attacks.

“Chahed signed a government decree that bars any person with an undisclosed face from access to public headquarters, administrations, institutions, for security reasons,” the official source told Reuters. [Reuters] Read more

03 July 2019

How secular feminists are caught in the middle

The focus of this book is Pakistan but I was struck by the similarity of the ideological battles being fought between secular and Islamic feminists in Pakistan and in Britain. Of course, the contexts are very different. Secular spaces are much narrower and more dangerous places to inhabit in Pakistan – as anyone following the blasphemy case of Asia Bibi will recognise.

This is therefore a brave book. However, Afiya Zia, the author, says that to some extent she is protected by academia and by the fact that these debates are conducted in English rather than Urdu. Equating liberalism and secularism with an English-speaking elite may sound reductive, but this is a reality that is mirrored in India too.

Zia charts the post-9/11 intellectual climate which was shaped in response to the War on Terror. It encouraged many academics and activists to develop a narrative which damns secular feminism as a Western imperialist project which does not engage with the reality of Muslim women. [New Humanist] Read more

Birmingham primary school to resume modified LGBT lessons

A primary school in Birmingham that suspended lessons about LGBT equality following protests by parents is to resume a modified version of the programme in September.

Parents of pupils at Parkfield community school in Saltley staged weekly protests over the relationship lessons, which they claimed promoted gay and transgender lifestyles. In March, hundreds of mainly Muslim children, aged between four and 11, were withdrawn from the school for the day.

Just before Easter, the school announced the “No outsiders” lessons, which teach tolerance of diverse groups, including those of different races, genders and sexual orientations, would not take place until a resolution had been reached.

The school announced on Wednesday that a modified version of the scheme, “No outsiders for a faith community”, would be introduced in September. However, some parents have said they are not happy with the outcome of the consultation and may resume their protests. [The Guardian] Read more

02 July 2019

Pakistani pastor's blasphemy appeal postponed for seventh time

A Pakistani pastor imprisoned and since July 2012 over sending blasphemous text messages has had his hearing adjourned for the seventh time.

Pastor Zafar Bhatti, 56, was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy, a charge he denies.

His most recent appeal hearing was reportedly postponed because the presiding judge was due to go on holiday.

A statement from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) said in a statement sent to Premier: “The case was moving favourably in the direction of Zafar but Justice Raja Shahid Mahmood Abbasi sought a postponement as he would not have time to complete paperwork before existing travel plans.

“Despite the fervent remonstrations by Advocate Tahir Bashir for a decision to be made to release Pastor Zafar the judge said such a decision could not be made as he was off on holiday and had booked flights."

The court has set 12th September 2019 for the new appeal date for Pastor Zafar.

The pastor founded and led a small NGO called Jesus World Mission to assist the poor.

A local Islamic leader filed a complaint at a police station in Rawalpindi and claimed the pastor had been sent messages from an unregistered number insulting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed and his mother. [Premier] Read more

George Eustice MP: UK is being left behind by other developed nations when it comes to legislation on religious slaughter

.... We are being left behind by other developed nations when it comes to our legislation on religious slaughter. In Australia and New Zealand, non-stun slaughter is not permitted. In many European countries there is either a requirement that there should be an immediate post cut stun where a derogation is used or in some cases a prohibition on non-stun slaughter.

In Germany, there is a strict quota system in place to ensure that abattoirs are only allowed to use the religious derogation where they are able to prove the actual need for the final market of the animals being slaughtered.

.... Both the Muslim and Jewish faiths have a clear religious conviction against the consumption of pork, which should obviously be respected. However, when it comes to the issue of stunning, the religious need is less clear.

Shechita UK who represent the kosher industry, explicitly make clear that their system of slaughter is not a “religious ritual” in the way that Halal is. There is no blessing nor prayer said for animals.

It is simply their view that a method of slaughter used since ancient times could not have been superseded by more humane modern methods. [PoliticsHome] Read more