31 October 2019

Sweden expels imams and associates, citing radicalisation concerns

Sweden has decided to expel six detained Muslim extremists from the Scandinavian country who “contribute to Islamist radicalisation and pose threats to the security of the kingdom”.

The six men, who are described by the government as central figures in the radical Islamist environment, were taken into custody during the Security Police offensive last spring.

They include Gävle mosque’s imam Abo Raad and his 34-year-old son Raad Al-Duhan, as well as four others with connection to the imam have been detained for six months. Both are Iraqi and immigrated to Sweden 1997 and 1998 respectively.

They also include an Iraqi Imam in the eastern city of Umeå, who immigrated to Sweden in 1998 and a Russian resident of Gävle, who according to his own information, was former imam in his home country before he immigrated to Sweden in 2011.

Among the expelled included an Imam in Västerås city, who is stateless amd immigrated to Sweden in 2001 and a school leader in Western Sweden, an Egyptian citizen who immigrated to the country in 1998. [The National] Read more

M&S answers demand for halal meat in ready meals

Marks & Spencer is to become the first major British retailer to sell own-brand halal ready-meals in response to the growing demand from Muslim customers.

From next week halal versions of six dishes, including chicken arrabbiata, chicken jalfrezi and chicken and mushroom tagliatelle, will be on sale in 36 stores from Bath to Wycombe Marsh.

The meals will also be stocked in Marks & Spencer international stores in Singapore and Dubai by its franchise partner Al-Futtaim. [The Times (£)] Read more

M&S is to become first food giant to sell own-label halal ready meals at stores that attract high number of Muslim shoppers

Marks & Spencer is to become the first mainstream food giant to sell own-label halal ready meals in stores with a large number of Muslim shoppers.

Most supermarkets already sell branded halal products, from names such as Shazans, while many takeaways, butchers and food chains sell only halal meat.

But M&S says its 'cruelty-free' products, which include chicken ready meals, ranging from curries to Italian dishes and a hot pot, are a first.

At the same time, the company is trying to broaden its range to attract others who want food that meets their own ethical approach with, for example, the Plant Kitchen range catering for the increasing number of vegans. [Daily Mail] Read more

30 October 2019

Amsterdam refuses mosque’s request for loudspeaker call to prayer

In a 21st-century answer to a proposal with its roots in the seventh century, Amsterdam has rejected a plan by a prominent mosque to become the first in the city to broadcast its call to prayer over loudspeakers – on the grounds that it’s unnecessary in a world of mobile apps.

In a response that’s unlikely to be appreciated by the Muslim community, the mayor of the Dutch capital, Femke Halsema, said that given advances in technology, from alarms to apps, it was not necessary to use loudspeakers to remind the faithful when to pray.

The amplification of the call to prayer, Ms Halsema said, was fundamentally “not of this time” – a phrase widely described in the Dutch media on Wednesday as perhaps betraying a lack of sensitivity in relation to her view of Muslim tradition. [The Irish Times] Read more

29 October 2019

School that couldn’t prove banned head was kept from classroom criticised by Ofsted

Ofsted has criticised a school that failed to prove its head teacher was being kept away from the classroom after she was temporarily banned from teaching.

Experts say the report into the Birmingham Muslim School highlights a concerning loophole in regulations that allow banned teachers to continue working in schools under supervision.

Janet Laws was given an interim prohibition order in February while her conduct was investigated, amid concerns that she might promote “views that undermine fundamental British values”, according to the report published on September 13. However, the school was unable to show that Laws, also known as Aisha Abdrabba, was properly supervised and kept away from teaching during the inspection in July. [Schools Week] Read more

28 October 2019

The terrifying reaction to a panel debate on Islamophobia

Have you ever wondered why so few moderate Muslim voices are heard in the public debate? I used to, until I started to defend my faith against its extremist defamers. I then found out that any Muslim who ventures into this arena to stand up against hardliners is subject to fierce and immediate character assassination.

The process is exposed in a Civitas pamphlet, out this month, entitled ‘The No True Muslim’ fallacy. It provides examples of the attempts to silence people like Sara Khan and Fiyaz Mughal by those who have appointed themselves as Islam’s spokesmen. But I can offer another example: the reaction to a recent event at the last Tory party conference.

.... I flew a 6,700 mile round trip in 24 hours to make one key fact patently clear to the Conservative party: be under no mistake about what is at risk here. They should see the ‘Islamophobia’ campaign for what it is: what the late Christopher Hitchens referred to as a ‘cultural fatwa’, where all discussion of Islam let alone Islamism becomes off limits, followed by the formal criminalisation of exactly such discourse. [The Spectator] Read more

27 October 2019

"Why Are You So Silent?": Persecution of Christians, August 2019

Boko Haram "has terrorised Christian communities in Nigeria for the last decade and has now splintered and spread its violent ideology into Cameroon, Niger and Chad." — Staff writer, Christian Today, August 8, 2019.

"They asked him to deny Christ and when he refused they cut off his right hand. Then he refused [again], they cut to the elbow again. In which he refused, before they shot him twice, at the head, the forehead, the neck, and chest." — Enoch Yeohanna, speaking on CBN News, August 29, 2019. Nigeria.

"Every year at least a thousand girls are kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam, even forced to marry their tormentors." — Tabassum Yousaf, a local Catholic lawyer, quoted in Newsbook MT, August 12, 2019. Pakistan. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

25 October 2019

Iran authorities amputate man’s hand as punishment for thefts

An Iranian man charged with 28 counts of theft had his hand amputated at a prison in the northern province of Mazandaran on Thursday, the local judiciary announced.

A judicial statement from Mazandaran said the gruesome punishment had been carried out at Sari Prison in the northern Iranian province under Article 198 of the Islamic Republic’s Penal Code, according to Fars News Agency, an outlet close to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

The man was also charged with possession and sale of drugs as well as selling stolen property. The judicial statement claimed the man had robbed 28 houses in the city of Mahmudabad.

“The policy of the judiciary is to seriously, without hesitation, confront those who disturb the public order and the security of the society and those who steal people’s properties,” the Mazandaran judiciary said. [Rudaw] Read more

France: The Headscarf Debate is Not about Headscarves

The headscarf is, of course, just a symptom of a deeper problem: many perceive it as the symbol of an invasion by an outside culture into the public sphere.

This behavior seems to worry many French people, who see it as a direct attack on their culture and identity, and a desire to live separately from the rest of society and according to other values.

Behind those claims, they see the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood or religious ideologies, whose ultimate goal seems to be to propagate these values and impose them on the rest of society.

In the end, however, the commotion created by the growing presence of the Islamic headscarf hides the more fundamental issues of how to deal with the rapidly increasing presence of a foreign culture that seems to keep demanding an ever-larger space in its host society. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Iran cuts off man's fingers for theft

Amnesty International has condemned Iranian authorities for cutting off the fingers of a man convicted of theft.

The rights group said the amputation, carried out at a prison in the northern province of Mazandaran, was "an abhorrent form of torture".

Iranian officials said the man was found guilty of 28 cases of theft.

Iran's Islamic penal code says theft "on the first occasion" is punishable by the amputation of four fingers of the right hand.

Iranian authorities have defended amputation as the best way to deter theft despite protests by international human rights organisations.

However, reports of such punishments are rare.

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement on Thursday that the premeditated "maiming and mutilation of individuals is not justice". [BBC] Read more

24 October 2019

'Inadequate' Islamic school secretly stayed open after telling Government it had closed

A private Islamic school which had been rated "inadequate" secretly stayed open after telling the Department for Education it had closed, and repeatedly blocked inspectors from carrying out checks, it has emerged.

The Islamic Preparatory School Wolverhampton informed the DfE it had closed in September, but just days later Ofsted saw pupils entering and leaving the building.

The school was rated inadequate by Ofsted back in February, when an inspector found “several hazards” on the school site.

This included an “unlocked cupboard in the girls’ toilets” with “flammable and hazardous materials” inside, and a fire door which “opened out onto a small enclosed area”.

.... A new inspection report published this week reveals that Ofsted returned in September. According to Ofsted, Mr Raja informed the DfE on 23 September that his school had closed.

Ofsted visited the school two days later. During the visit, Mr Raja said there were 11 pupils receiving four hours tuition a day from Monday to Thursday, which he claimed meant it did not need to be registered with the DfE or inspected. Once again he denied the lead inspector entry to the school. [inews.co.uk] Read more

Jordan urged to stop imprisoning women for defying the wishes of men

Amnesty International has called on Jordan to end what it has described as an abusive system that jails women if they disobey their male “guardians” or have relationships deemed inappropriate.

Despite recent efforts to give women better protections, Amnesty said in a new report published on Wednesday that Jordan still allows the arbitrary detention of women, including when male family members – usually fathers or brothers – complain to the authorities that they have been absent without permission.

Under the male “guardianship” system, which Amnesty said is at the centre of a web of discriminatory provisions, men are empowered to control “women’s lives and limit their personal freedoms”, while women could be subjected to degrading practices such as “virginity tests”, aimed at determining whether they’ve had sex outside marriage. [The Guardian] Read more

23 October 2019

The Ahmadi Abdus Salam and Muslim Nobel Prizes

.... Here’s a question for study and discussion: why? Why are there so few Muslim Nobels in the subjects that really count — the sciences? The three science winners received almost all of their education in the West, enjoying in their work the mental freedom that only the West, and not their countries of origin, could supply. Isn’t it plausible that there is something about Islam itself, its deep suspicion and discouragement of free and skeptical inquiry, while the habit of mental submission is encouraged, that accounts for this?

Could it be that all the time and mental energy that so many Muslims devote to learning the Qur’an by heart, some even memorizing the whole thing in order to attain the condition of hafiz, takes away from time that might be spent not on memorization, but on comprehension, analysis, discussion?

Is it possible that Islam stunts mental growth? Look at the confusion, illogicality, and hysteria of so many Muslim spokesmen, television guests and hosts, now on permanent view at www.memri.org. How many of us would wish our children to acquire what passes for an education in Muslim lands? Is it possible that, in addition to all its other unattractive features, Islam stunts mental growth? [New English Review] Read more

Iran parades jailed Instagram star on TV

Iranian TV has broadcast an interview with an Instagram star who was reportedly jailed for blasphemy in October.

Sahar Tabar gained worldwide fame on social media for her eerie likeness to American actress Angelina Jolie - a look she is rumoured to have achieved by having as many as 50 plastic surgeries.

She was arrested on 5 October on a raft of charges including blasphemy, instigating violence, insulting the Islamic hijab dress code and encouraging corruption among young people. The hardline Tasnim news agency reported at the time that her arrest was based on "numerous messages from the public calling for the case to be pursued". [BBC] Read more

MP Steve Baker takes Wycombe mosque petition to Parliament amid 'serious allegations of improper conduct'

The management of High Wycombe's largest mosque has been called into question by MP Steve Baker amid "serious allegations of improper conduct".

The Wycombe MP was approached in May by a member of the Wycombe Islamic Mission and Mosque Trust - which runs four mosques in High Wycombe, Micklefield, Castlefield, Townfield House and Jubilee Road - who Mr Baker said was "rightly concerned" about its governance.

It comes after a long-running dispute between the mosques' management committee and its members, who have urged them to resign and allow for a fresh election to be called.

.... It says that no elections have been held since November 2015, no AGM has taken place since the current management committee took office and makes allegations of a lack of "financial transparency, scrutiny and oversight" - even though the Trust reportedly had an income of more than half a million pounds in the last financial year.

The petition also makes claims of nepotism and adds: "Several individuals of the mosque management committee use their position to gain favour for their respective political parties and affiliations". [Bucks Free Press] Read more

22 October 2019

Bangladesh: Muslim group seeks death for Hindu man over Facebook post

A Muslim outfit in Bangladesh on Monday demanded the death penalty for a Hindu man over an allegedly blasphemous post on Facebook.

The demand to enforce the death penalty against Biplob Chandra Baidya Shuvo, a Hindu youth, was made by the Shorbodolio Muslim Oikya Parishad. Thousands of supporters of Muslim groups participated in protests in Bhola district, over 100km away from Dhaka, on Sunday to demand action over the contentious Facebook post. Four people were killed when the police opened fire to disperse the protesters.

Biplob approached the police in Borhanuddin upazila in Bhola on October 19, to complain that his Facebook account had been hacked. The blasphemous post allegedly defamed Allah and Prophet Mohammad. Police took Biplob into custody and later also detained two Muslim youth—Emon and Sharif—who were suspected to have hacked Biplob's Facebook account.

Even though the police confirmed by Sunday evening Biplob was not behind the blasphemous post, the Muslim Oikya Parishad continued to demand the death penalty for him. [The Week] Read more

21 October 2019

Hate preacher Anjem Choudary's banned terror group 'has revived since he was released from jail last year and is holding meetings again'

Hate preacher Anjem Choudary is inspiring his network of extremists and poses a renewed terror threat a year after he left jail, an analysis by experts has warned.

The firebrand cleric’s release has reinvigorated his outlawed jihadist group al-Muhajiroun, they found.

The ‘unrepentant’ father of five is back in his family home in east London where he previously masterminded the Islamist extremist network which helped radicalise terrorists, including London Bridge attack ringleader Khuram Butt, and Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

Experts from the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) say the decision to give Choudary, 52, parole should be reviewed in light of the findings, which they say show he is a threat to national security.

A study by the non-governmental monitoring organisation says his extremist network is understood to have restarted meetings. ‘Choudary remains a dangerous and influential figure,’ it says. [Daily Mail] Read more

Indonesia: Christian woman with schizophrenia to be tried for blasphemy after bringing dog to mosque

A Christian woman in Bogor, Indonesia, who suffers from schizophrenia, will be tried for blasphemy after bringing her dog to a mosque, angering Muslims.

According to Benar News, 52-year-old Suzethe Margaret could face up to five years in prison after she wore sandals and brought her dog into the Al Munawaroh Mosque in June. Dogs are considered unclean in Islam and bringing one to a mosque is seen as insulting.

In the video that went viral online documenting the event, Margaret was seen arguing with mosque caretakers. She can be heard saying that she is Christian and demanding to know about her ex-husband who was going to marry another woman in the mosque later that day. [The Christian Post] Read more

20 October 2019

Iran: ‘Nine Christians Jailed For Leaving Islam’

An Iranian court has sentenced a pastor and eight fellow members of the big evangelical Church of Iran movement to jail for leaving Islam.

Church leader Matthias Haghnejad and the other believers were each sentenced to five years imprisonment after a short hearing on September 23, trial observers confirmed to BosNewsLife.

Pastor Haghnejad was detained by the feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard following a church service in February this year, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which supports the Christians.

The other believers Shahrouz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Behnam Akhlaghi, Mehdi Khatibi, Mohammad Vafadar, Kamal Naamanian, Hossein Kadivar (Elisha) and Khalil Dehghanpour were reportedly taken into custody in the coastal city of Rasht in early 2019.

Confirmation about their sentences came days after jailed Church of Iran pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, ended a three-week hunger strike, according to Christians familiar with his situation. [Pakistan Christian Post] Read more

4 killed, 50 injured as protesters clash with police over blasphemous Facebook post in Bangladesh

The violence erupted in the morning after hundreds of Muslims gathered in southwestern Bhola district, 116km from Dhaka, for a protest rally under the banner of ‘Muslim Tawhidi Janata'.

At least four people were killed and 50 others injured as Bangladesh police on Sunday opened fire on hundreds of Muslims protesting against an alleged blasphemous Facebook post by a Hindu man.

The violence erupted in the morning after hundreds of Muslims gathered in southwestern Bhola district, 116km from Dhaka, for a protest rally under the banner of ‘Muslim Tawhidi Janata’, demanding action against the Hindu man for his social media comments against Prophet Mohammed.

The Hindu man, who is in police’s protective custody, has denied making the comment, saying his Facebook account had been hacked. Following a complaint by him, police detained three people for allegedly hacking his Facebook account. [ The Hindu] Read more

Fury as government advisor and Labour member posts Islamophobic depictions of the prophet Mohammed on his Facebook page

A government policy advisor sparked fury after it emerged he posted Islamophobic depictions of the Prophet Mohammed online - but has not yet faced action.

Labour Party member Martin Bridgman shared offensive cartoons of Jesus and Mohammed, including ones that alluded to child rape.

At least four of the comic strips were posted on his Facebook page between November 2018 and March 2019, but only uncovered three months ago when a Muslim member of his local Labour party in Ilford, east London, reported them to party officials.

Mr Bridgman works as a policy advisor for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. [Daily Mail] Read more

19 October 2019

Female Singers Sent to Jail as Women’s Rights Activist Goes on Hunger Strike in Iran

Six female singers were each sentenced to one year in prison for “unauthorized audiovisual activities, collaboration in making music and images, and airing them on anti-regime satellite networks,” the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported on Friday.

The verdicts were handed down by the 36th branch of the Revision Court of Tehran Province.

In May 2019, a female singer was prosecuted for solo singing during a tour of Abyaneh, a village in Isfahan Province, the state-run Fararu website reported on May 21, 2019.

Separately, Tehran’s Guidance Ministry Court summoned Matin Sotoudeh, a cinema, television and theater actress, on October 16, 2019, over the way she had dressed during the screening ceremony of a movie.

In August, the commander of Tehran’s State Security Force, Hossein Ashtari, declared that posting pictures of people wearing dresses not complying with the official dress code is a breach of law. He added, “It doesn’t matter who is breaking the norm; whether an artist, an actress or a celebrity, all of them will be dealt with accordingly,” the state-run ROKNA news agency reported on August 5, 2019. [NCRI] Read more

Council asks judge to extend ban on anti-LGBT protesters near Birmingham primary school

Anti-LGBT protesters in Birmingham could face a widened exclusion zone, after the city council asked a judge to extend a pre-existing ban.

Anderton Park Primary School has become the focal point of a long running battle over equality lessons taught within the city, which originally sparked protests at a different school back in February.

The five-day trial follows on from a temporary ban imposed back in June, which was later extended, and sought to protect the "safety and well-being of the staff, children, and parents of the school".

The original ban also specifically named three people from coordinating protests outside the school; Shakeel Afsar and his sister Rosina Afsar, as well as Amir Ahmed.

More than 300 people gathered outside the school gates back in May, with protesters carrying signs reading "let kids be kids" and "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve". [inews.co.uk] Read more

18 October 2019

Pakistani Man Jailed For Blasphemous Facebook Post

A Pakistani court Friday sentenced a man to five years jail and hard labour for a blasphemous Facebook post, in what is believed to be one of the first such cases under controversial cybercrime laws.

Sajid Ali was charged with posting blasphemous and derogatory content against revered Islamic figures on the social network in 2017.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where the laws can carry a potential death sentence for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam. Even unproven allegations have led to mob lynchings and murder.

Prosecutor Munam Bashir Chaudhry told AFP Ali's case is the first to be tried under a section of the cybercrime laws, which were passed in 2016, pertaining to hate speech.

There have been other cases of prosecution against "online blasphemy" in Pakistan, including one in 2017 that saw a man sentenced to death for sharing what the court said was blasphemous content on social media. [International Business Times] Read more

Maldives investigates activist group for 'slandering Islam'

The head of a Maldivian activist group said Thursday police contacted her as part of an investigation into a report published by her organization that has been accused of slandering Islam.

The Maldives government ordered the Maldivian Democracy Network to suspend its activities a week ago because of its 2016 report on religious radicalization in the Indian Ocean archipelago. The group's executive director, Shahinda Ismail said the report has been on the group's website for three years.

"I have been contacted by police. They wanted to have my address because they want to send me summons," Ismail said by telephone from Germany where she is studying. She said police asked her to present herself for an inquiry within 14 days of receiving the summons.

The government spokesman, Ibrahim Hood, could not immediately comment because he was in a meeting. [Daily Mail] Read more

17 October 2019

Macron warning on stigmatising Muslims amid France veil row

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned against "stigmatising" Muslims or linking the Islamic religion with the fight against terrorism.

"We have to stand together with all our fellow citizens," Mr Macron said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

It came as a French woman said she was taking legal action against far-right politicians who criticised her for wearing an Islamic headscarf in public.

France has about five million Muslims.

It is the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe.

Wearing the Muslim headscarf or veil - known as a hijab - is banned in French schools, government offices and some other public buildings.

France is officially a secular state and body-covering garments have been at the centre of a number of controversies in recent years. [BBC] Read more

Defiant Muslim head admits ILLEGAL £2,500-a-year Islamic school is still open despite her being found guilty of 'wilfully neglecting' pupils by failing to 'promote British values'

The headteacher of an illegal Islamic school has vowed to keep it open despite an inspection finding she put children's safety at risk and failed to promote 'fundamental British values'.

Nadia Ali, 38, defended Ambassadors High in Streatham, south London, for its 'unique' approach to learning after Ofsted inspectors identified a damning series of failings, including failing to carry out criminal records checks on some staff.

The school also kept books in the staff room that said wives had no right to deny their husband and calling on parents to hit their children if they did not pray.

In September, Miss Ali and her father, Arshad, 73, were found guilty of 'wilfully neglecting' safeguarding and of running an unregistered school, and were given community service and a fine.

But yesterday, a brazen Miss Ali told BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme she wanted to continue operating and would apply for registration. [Daily Mail] Read more

Defiant head vows to keep unregistered school open

The head teacher of an unregistered Islamic school, prosecuted for operating illegally, has said it has a "unique" approach and will remain open.

Nadia Ali, of Ambassadors High, in Streatham - which an inspection found "wilfully neglected" safeguarding - was given community service last month.

She called the pupils "happy learners" and denied it was breaking the law, as it was now open 18 hours a week only.

Ofsted has urged improved legislation to deal with unregistered schools.

By law, any institution with more than five full-time pupils has to be officially registered and inspected. Government guidance defines full-time education as more than 18 hours a week.

The south London school, which describes itself as having an Islamic ethos, says it charges £2,500 a year per pupil and had 45 children on the roll at the time of its last inspection. But it has not yet met standards required to register.

Ms Ali told the BBC's Today and Victoria Derbyshire programmes the school had remained open as its work with the children was "quite unique". [BBC] Read more

16 October 2019

NSW genital mutilation convictions stand

The convictions of three people for female genital mutilation in NSW will stand after Australia's highest court ruled the practice is illegal in all its various forms.

The ruling comes four years after the trio was convicted by a jury of the FGM of two primary school-aged sisters in two separate ceremonies the occurred between October 2009 and 2012.

The two girls' mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and midwife Kubra Magennis were each handed a minimum 11-month custodial sentence, to be served by way of home detention, in 2016 after they were found guilty of "mutilating the clitoris" of the girls.

Dawoodi Bohra sect community leader Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri was also found guilty of being an accessory to the girl's mutilation and was also sentenced to a minimum of 11 months' imprisonment. [7NEWS] Read more

Christians risk arrest if they display Bible in Saudi Arabia, persecution watchdog group warns

Christians traveling to Saudi Arabia are being warned not to publicly display their Bible while in the country or travel with more than one copy of the text, despite the kingdom's recent openness to tourism.

The Christian persecution watchdog group Barnabus Fund released a statement Monday warning individuals that having a Bible can still put them at risk of arrest.

“Christian visitors should be aware that displaying a Bible in public, or taking more than one Bible into the country, could place them at risk of arrest,” the group cautioned.

“The new regulations for tourists state that a Bible may be brought into the country provided it is for personal use only. Bibles must not be displayed in public and anyone found bringing a large number of Bibles will face ‘severe penalties.’” [The Christian Post] Read more

French government resists calls for school trip headscarf ban

The French government has insisted it will not seek to ban Muslim women who wear headscarves from volunteering to help on school trips after outrage when mothers accompanying pupils were told to remove theirs.

One mother said pupils were distressed and traumatised when a far-right politician told her to take off her headscarf in a regional parliament in eastern France, where she was helping out on a primary school outing for her son’s class.

The incident has reignited a long-running row over French secularism and whether politicians can decide how Muslim mothers should dress when volunteering to take part in school activities.

There is no law banning mothers in headscarves from accompanying school trips; indeed, France’s state council ruled in 2013 that mothers were free to wear whatever they wanted on outings. [The Guardian] Read more

LGBT lessons protester 'inflamed tensions' by inviting imam, court hears

The lead protester in the row over LGBT equality teaching has been accused of “inflaming tensions” by inviting a controversial imam who claimed anal sex, paedophilia and transgenderism were being taught in schools to a demonstration.

Shakeel Afsar, who has led a long campaign to halt the lessons, was questioned on the third day of a high court hearing to rule on whether an exclusion zone banning protests around Anderton Park primary school in Birmingham should be made permanent.

Video footage of the largest protest, when more than 300 people, including young children, gathered outside the Sparkhill school, showed the imam Mullah Bahm holding up an image of a gingerbread man with genitals.

Bahm shouted allegations that schools had an anal sex and paedophilia “agenda” and called for mass protests, saying there was a need to show “Muslims are not asleep” on this issue.

Jonathan Manning QC, representing Birmingham city council, highlighted other comments made by the imam, from Batley in West Yorkshire, including his description of Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, the school’s headteacher, as “shatani” (devilish) saying: “That woman needs to be broken.” [The Guardian] Read more

15 October 2019

17,000 sign petition demanding BBC removes from iPlayer its 'pleasure marriages' expose on how Iraqi Muslim clerics sell young girls for sex because it's 'disrespectful' to Shia Islam

More than 17,000 people have demanded the BBC take down a documentary about young Iraqi girls being sold for sex - calling it 'disrespectful' to law-abiding Shia Muslims.

The corporation broadcast 'Undercover With The Clerics - Iraq's Secret Sex Trade' on October 3 - an investigation into sexual exploitation of children and young women by clerics in Iraq.

Journalists caught clerics offering 'pleasure marriages' to girls as young as nine - where men banned from sex outside marriage can pay a dowry for an interim wife.

The practice is banned in Iraq but eight out of 10 Shia clerics who were approached were willing to carry it out, the BBC World investigation found. [Daily Mail] Read more

'Tortured' and shackled pupils freed from Nigerian Islamic school

Police in northern Nigeria have freed 67 people who had been found shackled at an Islamic boarding school, officials say.

The pupils, between the ages of seven and 40, told police they had been tortured and abused.

Last month, more than 300 male students were freed from a similar boarding school in neighbouring Kaduna state.

Islamic boarding schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly-Muslim north of Nigeria.

In a statement released on Monday, police said the boys and men were chained and subjected to "inhuman and degrading treatments". Some had been sexually abused. [BBC] Read more

14 October 2019

Bangladeshi Court Indicts 8 Men Over Murder of Man Who Published Atheist Books

On Sunday, a Bangladeshi court indicted eight men, all part of a radical Islamic terrorist organization, for the murder of Faisal Abedin Deepan (below, also spelling “Dipon” or “Dipan” in some accounts).

Deepan, the former head of the Jagriti Prakashani publishing house, had put out the works of Dr. Avijit Roy, an atheist author who was hacked to death in February of 2015. (Earlier this year, six men were charged with his assassination.) The 43-year-old publisher was found dead in his office by his own father, who told reporters “I saw him lying upside down and in a massive pool of blood. They slaughtered his neck. He is dead.”

The attack on Deepan’s life occurred in October of 2015 by members of the group Ansar al Islam. Another publisher of Roy’s books was also attacked that day, but he thankfully survived. It’s suspected that the same group went after both publishers. [Friendly Atheist] Read more

Court bid to stop LGBT lesson protests at Birmingham school starts

Protests were held outside the high court on Monday over a bid to permanently ban activists against LGBT equality lessons from demonstrating outside a Birmingham primary school.

Holding up gag order signs, protesters gathered outside the court ahead of a hearing to stop protests against equality lessons taking place at Anderton Park primary school.

The school, in the Sparkhill area of the city, has become the focus of a long campaign to halt LGBT equality messages being taught in the classroom.

Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, who was subjected to almost three hours of cross-examination, told the court that protest leader Shakeel Afsar had behaved aggressively towards her and tried to “whip up a frenzy” in a bid to stop the lessons.

The heated protests were led by mainly by Pakistani-heritage Muslim parents, who say the lessons are in conflict with their “religious beliefs and family values”. [The Guardian] Read more

11 October 2019

'Consider religion when teaching LGBT+ issues' says DfE

The government has published advice for primary school teachers on how to implement a new LGBT-inclusive curriculum next year, while respecting "sensitivities" among some communities.

The guidance, published by the Department for Education (DfE), says "the age and religious background of all pupils must be taken into account" when planning lessons which form part of the compulsory new relationships education framework, due to be rolled out in September 2020.

However, this does not mean schools can exclude any content from the curriculum – rather, they may take extra care over how some topics are covered, reach different conclusions about when they are taught, or take extra time to ensure parents are clear about the chosen teaching methods and resources. [Tes] Read more

Iranian women out in force after 40-year ban from football stadiums ends

At the age of 36, Mashid had waited her whole life to be able to see Iran’s national football team play in person.

Yesterday, she became one of 4,000 female fans who cheered them to their biggest victory in decades after the Islamic republic allowed women to buy tickets to attend a match.

“This is a triumph for women of my homeland,” she told The Times, wrapped in the red, white and green national flag. “Our calls, pushes and efforts paid off.” [The Times (£)] Read more

Fifa must sustain pressure on Iran to ensure their courageous female fans are not forgotten

The wheels of theocracy grind slowly. Given that Iran’s highest clerics had spent 38 years imposing a blanket ban on women attending football matches, they were never likely to disavow all remnants of the past in the space of a single World Cup qualifier.

Even so, their decision to admit a smattering of female fans into Tehran’s Azadi Stadium for the national team’s 14-0 win over Cambodia on Thursday, presented by Fifa as a line-in-the-sand moment, came with troubling caveats.

Why were only 3,500 women allowed to take their places in an 80,000-capacity venue? Why were female photographers reportedly denied press credentials? And why, when Fifa president Gianni Infantino declared last month that Iran’s discriminatory access policy had to end, did he not even mention the name of Sahar Khodayari?

Not that the regime would acknowledge it, but the tragic case of Khodayari was central to the scenes that played out at the Azadi. [The Telegraph] Read more

10 October 2019

The Times view on the Islamic Human Rights Commission: Organised Hypocrisy

Political language, wrote George Orwell in 1946, “has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness”. His point is demonstrated by an organisation based in London called the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

It has received more than £1 million of charity money since 2013 yet fails to live up to its declared aim of defending global human rights. Instead, it reliably fails to criticise Iran, a theocracy that abuses human rights domestically and exports terrorism abroad, not least in Syria and Iraq. [The Times (£)] Read more

£1m charity cash for group linked to Iran

A human rights organisation has received more than £1 million in charity cash despite being run by self-declared Islamist revolutionaries closely aligned to Iran who say that the West is “the enemy” and Britain a “Stasi state”.

According to an investigation by The Times newspaper the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which is supported by Jeremy Corbyn, speak of “apartheid London”, label anti-terrorism laws a “war on Muslims” and condemn English as a “colonial language that will always subjugate you”.

The London-based group, given £1.2 million since 2013 by a charity that received £250,000 from the taxpayer via Gift Aid, claims to fight for the oppressed “whosoever they are and whomsoever oppresses them”.

No affiliation to Iran is mentioned on the website of IHRC, which was founded in London in 1997 and says it fights for global human rights. [The Telegraph] Read more

All that’s best in Islam

A Times Investigation - Iran ‘propaganda’ group IHRC gets £1.2m from taxpayer-backed charity.

A human rights organisation supported by Jeremy Corbyn has received more than £1 million in charity cash despite being run by self-declared Islamist revolutionaries closely aligned to Iran who say that the West is “the enemy” and Britain a “Stasi state”.

Leaders of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which has been said by Mr Corbyn to represent “all that’s best in Islam”, speak of “apartheid London”, label anti-terrorism laws a “war on Muslims” and condemn English as a “colonial language that will always subjugate you”.

The London-based group, given £1.2 million since 2013 by a charity that received £250,000 from the taxpayer via Gift Aid, claims to fight for the oppressed “whosoever they are and whomsoever oppresses them”. Its website fails to declare links to Iran, a lack of transparency highlighted by a leading Iranian campaigner who has accused the group of acting as a propaganda tool for Tehran. Masih Alinejad said that it was guilty of hypocrisy.... [Mick Hartley] Read more

09 October 2019

Iranian women allowed to watch football at stadium for first time in decades

Iranian women will be able to enter a football stadium on Thursday for the first time in decades, after Fifa threatened to suspend the Islamic republic over its controversial male-only policy. Iran has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums for around 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

World football’s governing body last month ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restrictions and in numbers determined by demand for tickets. The directive came after a fan dubbed “Blue Girl” died after setting herself on fire in fear of being jailed for dressing up as a boy in order to attend a match.

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Thursday. The first batch sold out in under an hour, and additional seats were also snapped up in short order, state media said. A sports ministry official said the 100,000-capacity stadium – whose name means “Freedom” in Farsi – was ready to host even more women. [The Guardian] Read more

08 October 2019

Defining ‘True Islam’ Is Harder Than Progressives Think

.... By denying the diversity of Islamic thought and speaking only of a dichotomy featuring true Muslims on one side and ISIS on the other, politicians and government officials homogenize Islam, making it impossible to separate moderate Muslim partners from the dangerous Islamist networks that operate lawfully within the “true Islam” of Western Muslim communities. This obfuscates counter-extremism and counter-terror work and hurts efforts by Muslim reformists to challenge Islamist influence within their own communities.

The inanity of such rhetoric also leads to fascinating uncertainties. In September, flyers posted around the town of Winchester, Massachusetts, contained only the text, “Islam is RIGHT about women.”

Local residents thought hardline Islamists were behind the message; a few online commentators thought progressivist activists were responsible; while the local Islamist organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, thought it might be the work of a mocking “Islamophobe.”

The fact that no one could be sure is rather telling. [The American Spectator] Read more

07 October 2019

Islamist extremists exploited LGBT school teaching tensions to fuel hate - report claims

Islamist extremists exploited tensions over equality teaching in Birmingham schools to amplify hate against LGBT+ people, a hard hitting report claims.

Hizb ut-Tahir and other pro-Islamist organisations allegedly tried to use the dispute, centred on two small primary schools in Sparkhill and Alum Rock, to "promote their belief that Western liberalism was a threat to Islam."

Today's publication - called Challenging Hateful Extremism - follows a year long probe by the Commission for Countering Extremism, led by Sara Khan.

She visited cities across the country, including Birmingham, to gather first hand evidence of the experiences of people on the receiving end of hate and those who seek to challenge it. [BirminghamLive.co.uk] Read more

Social media firms let off Islamist extremists for fear of being accused of human rights breaches

Social media firms are failing to crackdown on Islamist extremists because of fears of being accused of breaching their human rights, an 18-month investigation into extremism has found.

In her first major report, Sara Khan, the Government’s counter-extremism commissioner, says social media firms and other bodies are taking tougher action against Far Right groups than other extremists like Islamists.

The report claims Islamist groups have been “particularly good” at “subverting” the human rights agenda to counter measures to curb their extremist activities.

At the same time, human rights groups have turned a blind eye to protecting victims of Islamist extremism by instead focusing on the impact of anti-terror measures on civil liberties.

“For too long, human rights organisations have remained silent whilst the human rights of some groups are trampled on by extremists,” it says. [The Telegraph] Read more

06 October 2019

Sahar Tabar: Iranian Instagram star 'arrested for blasphemy'

An Iranian Instagram star famed for posts which appeared to show she had gone to extreme lengths to look like US actress Angelina Jolie has been arrested, reports say.

Sahar Tabar was arrested for crimes including blasphemy and instigating violence, Tasnim news agency reported.

Tabar made international headlines last year when photos of her went viral.

Though she was rumoured to have had 50 plastic surgeries, most of the pictures in her posts had been heavily edited.

.... Judicial authorities arrested Tabar after members of the public reportedly made complaints about her, Tasnim reported.

She is accused of blasphemy, instigating violence, illegally acquiring property, insulting the country's dress code and encouraging young people to commit corruption.

Her Instagram has since been deleted.

She joins a long list of online Iranian influencers and fashion bloggers who have fallen foul of the law.

The report of her detention has sparked online denunciation of the authorities, with one tweet sarcastically suggesting she should have indulged in less incendiary pursuits, such as embezzlement and murder. [BBC] Read more

We must defend our right to be offensive - but hateful extremism demands a brave response

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in 2017 that took the lives of 36 innocent people in London and Manchester, I was asked by the Home Secretary to look at the threat of extremism in England and Wales.

Today, after 18 months of evidence gathering, my Commission is releasing a report, “Challenging Hateful Extremism” which has identified a new category of harmful extremist activity; and how we should respond to it.

The Commission describes hateful extremism as behaviours that incite and amplify hate or engage in persistent hatred or make the moral case for violence.

Drawing on hateful, hostile or supremacist beliefs our report shows how it is causing harm to individuals, communities and wider society. [The Telegraph] Read more

Efforts to combat extremism failing because of way Government has defined it, commissioner says

Efforts to combat extremism are failing because the Government's definition of it is so broad that it is hampering free speech, the counter-extremism commissioner has said.

In an exclusive article for The Telegraph on the eve of her first major report today, Sara Khan said the freedom of people to call out extremism is being muzzled because the definition includes legitimate debate and free speech as well as terrorism.

Her report released on Monday, based on 3,000 responses to her inquiry, survey data and visits to 20 towns and cities, will warn that communities are being ripped apart by “hateful extremism” because of the Government’s “unfocused” strategy.

She writes: “As our report shows, distinguishing democratic debate from hateful extremist activity is critical. We must continue to protect and preserve freedom of expression.

“This includes our right to be radical, to protest and even be offensive. I believe we need more speech not less to counter hateful extremism; more discussion and debate is vital.” [The Telegraph] Read more