31 December 2019

Turkey Grows Role of Islam

Turkey’s religious ministry, the Diyanet, is planning a strategic action plan budget of $11 billion until the year 2023. The ministry’s budget exceeds that of other ministries by a large margin. It is responsible for promoting Islamic education, as well as building and funding mosques. The Diyanet has projects throughout the world.

Turkey is constitutionally secular but under the leadership of President Erdogan, has increasingly leaned Islamic. Whereas the Diyanet has grown in activities to promote Islam, other religious groups in Turkey are experiencing an uphill battle to practice their faith.

For Christians, there is no legal pathway to build new churches. As a result, many are left to worship through the establishment of associations or foundations. Several Christian leaders have also warned that as the government grows the role of Islam in society, the environment becomes more challenging for believers to live as Christians. [International Christian Concern] Read more

Messiah: Jordan calls on Netflix to ban controversial ‘anti-Islamic’ drama series

The Royal Film Commission of Jordan has called on Netflix to ban a controversial US drama series due to stream in the country this week.

Messiah revolves around a CIA agent (Michelle Monaghan) investigating a man named Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), who has sparked a legion of devoted followers after claiming to have been sent to earth by a higher being.

“Having been made aware of its content, the RFC has asked officially the management of Netflix to refrain from streaming it in Jordan,” the commission’s statement reads.

“The story is purely fictional and so are the characters, yet the RFC deems that the content of the series could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion, thus possibly contravening the laws in the country.” [The Independent] Read more

30 December 2019

Muslims treated differently by newspapers, says press watchdog

The portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the British press has been “the most difficult issue” facing the press watchdog in the past five years, according to its outgoing chief.

“I speak for myself, but I have a suspicion that [Muslims] are from time to time written about in a way that [newspapers] would simply not write about Jews or Roman Catholics,” said Alan Moses, who is standing down after five years as chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

His comments come two months ahead of Ipso’s plans to publish voluntary guidance for journalists when writing about Muslims, who make up roughly 5 per cent of Great Britain’s population, according to 2017 data from the Office for National Statistics. The regulator has previously issued similar advice for journalists reporting on transsexual people and victims of sexual crime.

“A shock-jock Muslim story on the front page sells papers,” the former Conservative party chair Sayeeda Warsi told the committee at the time. “This is nothing new, we have been here before — some of the headlines we see now could have been written about the Jewish community in the 1930s and indeed were.” [The Financial Times] Read more

Bangladesh closes breast milk bank after Islamist protests

A Bangladesh hospital has suspended plans to give donated breast milk to babies after a backlash by Muslim clerics who said the scheme violated Islamic law.

The programme aimed to feed up to 500 orphans and infants of working mothers in the Muslim-majority country, which has high rates of child malnutrition and stunted growth.

Bangladesh's top Islamic leadership has not yet made a ruling on the milk bank, but it was halted after critics said the plan could lead to breaches of Sharia law if two babies drank milk from the same mother and later married.

"Their entire marriage and lineage would become illegal," said Gazi Ataur Rahman, a spokesman of the influential Islami Andolan Bangladesh political party.

Another Islamist, Ahmed Abdul Kaiyum, said Sharia law did not allow for milk banks. [France24] Read more

29 December 2019

Saudi sentences Yemeni to death over Spanish theatre group stabbing

A Saudi court sentenced a Yemeni man to death Sunday for a knife attack on a Spanish theatre group, state television said, amid a controversial push to ease decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

The court also sentenced an accomplice to 12 and a half years in jail for the November 11 attack during a live performance in Riyadh, which state media linked to militant group Al-Qaeda, and which Madrid said left four performers wounded.

"The criminal court issues a preliminary ruling handing the death sentence to the perpetrator of the terrorist attack... in Riyadh," the official Al-Ekhbariya television reported.

The assailant, identified by Saudi police as a 33-year-old Yemeni, went on a stabbing spree during a musical in the capital's King Abdullah Park, one of the venues hosting the two-month "Riyadh Season" entertainment festival.

It was the first such assault since the ultra-conservative kingdom began easing restrictions on entertainment. [France24] Read more

28 December 2019

'Counter jihadism with pluralism'

Many Muslims are misled into believing they must help Islam dominate the world, Sultan Shahin, editor of an online magazine on Islam, said earlier this week.

He was part of a panel discussion on December 21 at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur, focused on the history of Islam, its theologies, and the concepts of Jihadism and pluralism.

The session was titled ‘Islam and modernity.’ Shahin, founder and editor of online news magazine New Age Islam, and Syed Mohammed Faisal, postdoctoral fellow at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru, spoke, while well-known columnist Aakar Patel moderated the discussion. Shahin said he was concerned about the “extreme resonance” of Jihadism among educated youngsters.

“Today, we are living in a very different world, we just can’t go out and conquer other territories and expect to be accepted as legitimate rulers. Through New Age Islam I am trying to evolve a new theology of peace and pluralism,” he said. [Deccan Herald] Read more

27 December 2019

Pakistan blasphemy death sentence ‘travesty of justice’, say UN experts

Thirty-three-year-old Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, was sentenced to death – despite last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in which Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi was tried and condemned to hang for blasphemy but was later acquitted.

"The Supreme Court ruling in the Asia Bibi case should have set a precedent for lower courts to dismiss any blasphemy case that has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt," the experts said.

Moreover, they raised concerns in an urgent appeal to the Government over the legal merits of the case

"In the light of this ruling, the guilty verdict against Mr. Hafeez is a travesty of justice, and we condemn the death sentence imposed on him”, spelled out the independent experts.

“We urge Pakistan's superior courts to promptly hear his appeal, overturn the death sentence and acquit him." [UN News] Read more

25 December 2019

'Arbitrary': Pakistan rejects US religious freedom designation

Pakistan has rejected a US government move to designate the country "of particular concern" on religious freedom, with the Pakistani foreign ministry saying the label was "unilateral and arbitrary" and the result of a biased evaluation process.

The US State Department announced last week that it was re-designating Pakistan a "country of particular concern" for having "having engaged in or tolerated 'systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom'".

Pakistan's Foreign Office, however, rejected the designation, saying it was a "selective targeting" of countries.

"This pronouncement is not only detached from ground realities of Pakistan but also raises questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire exercise," said Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui in a statement.

"The designation is reflective of selective targeting of countries, and thus unlikely to be helpful to the professed cause of advancing religious freedom." [Al Jazeera English] Read more

23 December 2019

Saudi Arabia moves to ban child marriage with a new ruling

Saudi Arabia on Monday issued a de facto ban on child marriages, in another social reform initiated since Mohammad Bin Salman became crown prince two years ago.

The Justice Ministry issued an order to the courts that any marriage application for someone under the age of 18 would have to be referred to a special court to make sure that “marrying those below 18-years old will not harm them and will achieve their best interest, whether they are male or female”.

The order comes after an amendment to the kingdom's Child Protection Law was passed by the Shoura Council in January that sought to ban child marriages under 15 entirely and establish new rules around those between 16-18 years old.

Latifa Al Shaalan, a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council, reportedly described the move earlier this year as a "good step forward," despite being "not easy to reach."

Issa Al Ghaith, another member of the Shoura Council, also praised the move as well as his colleagues, including Ms Al Shaalan, for their work in passing the bill. [The National] Read more

It’s shameful that Johnson has reneged on the inquiry into Tory Islamophobia

A few years ago, I was reporting a story about Prevent, the government’s counter-extremism programme. I interviewed various Muslims from around the UK who had interacted with the programme in one way or another.

Many wanted to be anonymous. These were ordinary people, not activists, and for many it felt too risky to draw attention to themselves, even if they had not been accused of wrongdoing. “We’re already seen as terrorists,” one young woman told me. “Just look at the way people talk about our community.”

I thought about that young woman as it was announced that Boris Johnson would replace a promised inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservatives with a more broad-brush review of how the party handles discrimination complaints. There is compelling evidence that the Conservative party has a specific problem with Islamophobia.

During the election campaign, the party continued to back several candidates who had made Islamophobic statements; a dossier of social media comments found that 25 Tory councillors had posted racist material including descriptions of Muslims as “barbarian” and “the enemy within”. [The Guardian] Read more

Islamist extremists hold Sharia trials and groom young Muslims in British prisons

Islamist extremists in Britain’s prisons are holding makeshift Sharia trials, circulating banned books and openly grooming young Muslim inmates, The Times has been told.

A former prisoner who claims that he took part in Sharia courts and punishment beatings has given a detailed account of how he came to join a group of prisoners at HMP Woodhill, Milton Keynes, who pledged allegiance to Isis.

The revelations have prompted security experts to call for a fundamental review of terrorist radicalisation in jails across Britain.

The issue came under scrutiny last month when Usman Khan, 28, a Category A terrorist prisoner freed on licence, murdered two people at London Bridge before being killed by police.

Richard Walton, former head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, and Ian Acheson, who led a previous review of jail extremism, said that reforms to tackle the problem had stalled and the ability of the Prison Service to deal with it was in question. Professor Acheson’s 2016 report described Islamist extremism in jails as a “growing problem” and outlined measures to counter it. His ideas have met with resistance, however. [The Times (£)] Read more

22 December 2019

Sentences of nine non-Trinitarian Christians to 45 years in prison

Reports from Iran indicate that nine non-Trinitarian Christians were sentenced to five years in prison by the Tehran Revolutionary Court.

On Friday, December 20, 2019, Iran Human Rights Activist News Agency reported that Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Mohammad Islam Doust, Behnam Akhlaghi, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naemanian, and Mohammad Vafadar Kamal were sentenced by Mohammad Moghiseh, the head of Tehran Revolutionary Court, Branch 28, to a total of 45 years in prison.

The court was held on September 23 and the verdict was announced on October 15.

These Christian converts have objected to the verdict issued by the Tehran Revolutionary Court and are awaiting final appeal.

Babak Hosseinzadeh, Behnam Akhlaqi, and Mehdi Khatibi were arrested earlier in a house church meeting in Rasht on February 23, 2019.

The pressure of the Islamic Republic’s security and judicial institutions on Christians increases on Christmas Eve each year, including mass arrests, heavy sentences, summonses, and interrogations of Christians, the prohibition of religious ceremonies and celebrations as well as their economic activities such as selling Christmas decorations and Christian symbols. [MOHABAT NEWS] Read more

21 December 2019

My teacher almost outed me for taking off the hijab

Today I was happy. I had completely stopped covering my hair and was speaking confidently with other people. I was just so happy, I wanted to go home and dream about it all night.

In math class, when the bell rang to switch, a teacher asked me about my hijab. I told her that I just took it off and it was no big deal. She told me that it was important to uphold culture, she then asked if my parents knew what I was doing. Being the idiot I am, I said no and asked if she would tell. To my absolute horror, she said yes.

My whole world stopped. I know what would happen if she said a word about this to my mother. I asked her why she would do that and she said:

“because it’s your culture! And you are an exception to be able to wear the hijab as a uniform, so don’t just take advantage of that.”

I put my head down for a while, holding back tears. Before I knew it, it was time for the last class. In the hallway I just walked mindlessly to my next class. [r/exmuslim] Read more

Academic sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan

A university lecturer in Pakistan has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Junaid Hafeez, 33, was arrested in March 2013 and accused of posting derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad on social media.

Allegations of blasphemy are taken very seriously in Pakistan, and even an accusation is often enough to make someone a target for hardliners.

Mr Hafeez's first lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was shot dead in 2014 after agreeing to take on the case.

The lecturer has also spent years in solitary confinement, after repeated attacks by other prisoners.

The sentence was delivered by a court in the Central Jail in Multan, where Mr Hafeez was being held.

Mr Hafeez had studied a Master's degree in the US on a Fulbright Scholarship, specialising in American literature, photography and theatre. [BBC] Read more

Denmark: Why Integration Fails

"Here my point is that Islam has never fully assimilated into any society and that Muslims have never fully adapted into non-Muslim cultures. With an increasing number of Muslims in the West, this will end in conflict." — Ahmed Akkari in his new report, "The loyalty conflict in the West – why Muslims are hard to integrate."

"As Islamists influence Western Muslim circles, Western political parties engage with them to win more votes, thus making unfortunate alliances with forces that really... condemn the established system...The dilemma is that by seeking Islamist votes they allow those who wish... Denmark to become Islamized to be strengthened... the same sort of dilemma as if one sought the votes of a neo-Nazi, fascist or Stalinist group." — Ahmed Akkari in his new report, "The loyalty conflict in the West – why Muslims are hard to integrate."

"Many mosques were formed to be a spiritual and religious space for believers, and not as places where violence, hatred and political agendas should dominate. Nevertheless, the leading mosques in Denmark are characterized exactly by a pseudo-Islamic influence under the control of small strong elites of Islamic leaders.

In that world, influence, not numbers, counts, and therefore it is not possible to say that Islamism is weak, just because it only exists in one quarter of all mosques, which I estimate." — Ahmed Akkari in his new report, "The loyalty conflict in the West – why Muslims are hard to integrate." [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Number of girls being forced into marriage ‘spikes during Christmas’

The number of girls being forced into marriage spikes during the Christmas holidays due to authorities failing to properly protect girls ahead of the festive period, frontline service providers have warned.

Karma Nirvana, a national charity which supports forced marriage victims, said the wider problem of so-called honour crimes perpetrated against girls also rises during the festive period.

Honour-based abuse includes forced marriage, which sees girls taken abroad to be married off to strangers, coercive control, female genital mutilation (FGM), assault, threats to kill, attempted murder and even murder itself.

Karma Nirvana, which trains the police, NHS and social services about issues of forced marriage, said the most significant increase in cases of forced marriage and wider honour-based abuse reported to them by victims in the autumn and winter period was between last December and this January, when cases increased by 57 per cent.

.... Farhana Raval, a 36-year-old accountant, said she was forced into a marriage on a family holiday to Bangladesh in the summer holidays when she was just 16. [The Independent] Read more

Pakistan court hands down death sentence to scholar accused of blasphemy

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Saturday sentenced a liberal scholar and former university lecturer to death on blasphemy charges.

In 2013, Junaid Hafeez was accused by students at the university where he taught of making blasphemous Facebook posts. Insulting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, which is about 95% Muslim.

His lawyers say he was framed by students from an extremist Islamist party for his liberal and secular views and this month a U.S. religious freedom commission placed Hafeez on its list of global victims.

“He (Junaid Hafeez) shall be hanged by neck till his death subject to its confirmation by the honorable high court,” a court order stated. [Reuters] Read more

Pakistani professor sentenced to death for blasphemy

A Pakistani court on Saturday sentenced a university professor to death for blasphemy under a law that critics say is often used to target minorities and liberal activists.

Junaid Hafeez, 33, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly posting derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed on social media.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, where laws against it carry a potential death sentence. Even unproven allegations have led to mob lynchings and vigilante murders.

Hafeez's sentence was announced in central city of Multan, where he was a university professor at the time of his arrest, and his counsel Asad Jamal slammed the decision as "most unfortunate".

"We will appeal against this verdict," Jamal told AFP. [France24] Read more

20 December 2019

Lord Carlile removed from Prevent review after legal challenge

Lord Carlile QC has been stood down by the government as independent reviewer of the Prevent programme following a legal challenge over his appointment.

In a letter to Rights Watch UK, which launched the legal action against the Home Office earlier this year, the government’s legal advisers said they had “full confidence” in his work but confirmed his role “has been concluded”.

Terms of reference for the review of Prevent are also being reconsidered by the Home Office, the letter stated.

The decision to reassess the review of the controversial Preent programme is a victory for Rights Watch UK. It objected to Lord Carlile because in the past he has declared his strong support for the programme, which is aimed at combating radicalisation leading to terrorism. It has become a toxic brand for many within Muslim communities, with some viewing it as a state tool for spying on them. [The Guardian] Read more

Islamophobia vs Anti-Muslim Bigotry – We’re Losing Against Racists And Bigots

.... The fact that Islamophobia has the word, Islam and phobia just invites racists and bigots to shift the debate to their side. Scour any racist or bigots social media and you will see the same arguments from them: “Islam is an ideology, it should be criticised” and then they attribute anti-Muslim tropes as a cover for their “right to free speech.” This is what Muslim communities are dealing with whilst we debate amongst ourselves.

My position on the which term is most appropriate lies in what takes ammunition away from racists and bigots. With this in mind, I prefer the term anti-Muslim bigotry. I prefer it because it firmly places the emphasis on the individual. It provides the human element that is much needed and denies racists and bigots the opportunity to disguise their hatred of Muslims through criticism of Islam.

Using the term anti-Muslim bigotry exposes racists and bigots in a way racism does also, for example, “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” and so, in the same way, “I’m not anti-Muslim, I just hate Islam”. To be clear, I am not arguing that Muslims are a race, they are not, and they are not like Jews who are. What I am arguing is, if we focus on Muslims and not Islam.... [Faith Matters] Read more

19 December 2019

‘We were furious’: Uber driver rejects couple because of their Christmas ham

A couple were left stranded and out of pocket after a rideshare driver refused to pick them up because they had a Christmas ham

The couple had been for dinner at their local RSL in Melbourne’s south-east on Tuesday night, and picked up a ham they’d won there a few weeks ago.

They ordered an Uber, but as they approached the car the driver told them the ride was cancelled.

“My husband had it (the ham) in his hand and the boot opened,” stranded passenger Marion told 3AW’s Kate and Quarters.

“The guy said ‘what’s that?”

“My husband said ‘it’s ham’, and he said ‘no, you can’t get in. The trip is cancelled.”

The driver told the couple he wouldn’t take them home with the ham because he was Muslim,

But when Marion checked her bank account she got a rude shock.

She’d been charged a cancellation fee from Uber for the ride which the driver cancelled! [Radio 3AW] Read more

Ofsted concerns after 'dangerous' Solihull school closed on inspection day - and local media accused of Islamophobia

AN INDEPENDENT faith school in Solihull which was repeatedly warned by Ofsted over its failings closed its doors on the day of a recent inspection.

Al-Furqan Community College, which has 14 children aged between 11 and 18 on its roll, was set for a visit from inspectors on November 19.

But the principal said he had to shut the school due to broken heating, before inspectors arrived.

The Department for Education asked Ofsted to carry out an inspection of Al-Furqan, set in a listed cottage in Warwick Road, after the college applied to make a ‘material change’ to its registration – to change from single-sex to co-educational by admitting boys as well as girls.

When the Solihull Observer invited the school to respond to the concerns in the Ofsted report, the school’s principal Amjad Ahmed accused local media in a written statement of ‘Islamophobia’. [Solihull Observer] Read more

Sudanese brides under pressure to have FGM - again

Some women in Sudan are opting to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) a month or two before their wedding to pretend to be virgins.

This is even though most of them have already been circumcised as girls - something that usually happens between the ages of four and 10 years old.

In the mainly Muslim country this can involve the removal of the clitoris and labia and often includes some stitching to narrow the vaginal opening - a process known as infibulation.

These stitches come away when a woman has sex.

If a bride-to-be opts for further FGM, the operation, usually carried out by midwives, can involve cutting away more of the labia and re-stitching the vagina. [BBC] Read more

18 December 2019

Tory Islamophobia inquiry chair in row over Kashmir views

The newly appointed chair of the Conservative party’s inquiry into its handling of complaints about discrimination, including Islamophobia, has been plunged into a row over comments he made about the disputed Kashmir region.

The Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi questioned the views of Prof Swaran Singh, who was announced on Tuesday as the chair of the review, after he wrote a piece for an online publication whose editor has dismissed Islamophobia as a term designed to shut down criticism of Islam.

Warsi highlighted sections of the article in which Singh, who is a former equality and human rights commissioner, argued that the Kashmir conflict had been portrayed as a tragedy only for Muslims and that, for many, Sikhs and Hindus “do not meet the criteria of victimhood”. [The Guardian] Read more

No, Melanie Phillips, the Muslim Brotherhood did not invent Islamophobia

.... The term can certainly be misused in that way but the essence of Islamophobia is fear, hostility and rejection directed against Muslims as people. Intentionally or not, denying the reality of Islamophobia helps to legitimise prejudice and discrimination.

Phillips, however, adopts a meme that is especially popular among the American far right and claims the concept of Islamophobia "was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood to mimic antisemitism".

.... In fact, the word “Islamophobia” been around for more than a century. Its first recorded use was in French – as islamophobie – in 1910. It appeared in a book, La politique musulmane dans l’Afrique Occidentale Française by Alain Quellien, describing the attitude of French colonial administrators towards the culture of the countries they were governing.

According to Robin Richardson, in a brief history of the word, it appears to have been first used in English in 1985 by Edward Said who linked it to antisemitism, saying that “hostility to Islam in the modern Christian west has historically gone hand in hand” with antisemitism and “has stemmed from the same source and been nourished at the same stream”. [al-bab.com] Read more

17 December 2019

Muslim-majority Indonesia braces for Christmas terror attacks, with 192,000 security personnel deployed to protect Christians and other faiths from radical Islamists

Muslim-majority Indonesia will deploy 192,000 security personnel ahead of Christmas to guard Christians and those of other faiths against jihadists.

The Southeast Asian archipelago of 260 million has significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists who have been targeted by radical Islamist groups.

On Tuesday, authorities said the police and military personnel would be deployed to secure Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations across the country - including in easternmost Papua, a predominantly Christian region.

The deployment, which comes after a recent spate of attacks, is more than the 167,000 personnel deployed last year.

'As many as 10,000 personnel will be deployed in Jakarta' alone, said National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono.

'Based on intelligence data, there are potential risks... so we're taking preventive measures but we are also ready to take proactive action,' he added. [Daily Mail] Read more

Conspiracism threatens both Jews and Muslims

.... Yes, antisemitism is rife within the Arab world and within Muslim communities. No sensible person doubts that. Yes, the term “Islamophobia” is used by Islamists in order to dodge criticism of their theocratic and totalitarian politics, and by others in order to advance the case for a quasi-blasphemy law. For this reason, some argue for a better term than “Islamophobia”: me included.

But such marginal arguments over terminology must not distract from the concern over a genuine, and deeply worrying phenomenon. If we pretend that, because the term Islamophobia is sometimes misused by rotters, it doesn’t exist at all - as Melanie Phillips appears to have done - we are indistinguishable from the likes of the Labour Against the Witch-hunt mob, who devote themselves to denying clear cases of antisemitism, and defending obvious antisemites. [The Jewish Chronicle] Read more

Royal Derby Hospital: Disposable sterile hijabs introduced

A hospital trust believes it is the first in the UK to introduce disposable sterile headscarves for staff to use in operating theatres.

Junior doctor Farah Roslan, who is Muslim, had the idea during her training at the Royal Derby Hospital.

She said it came following infection concerns related to her hijab that she had been wearing throughout the day.

It is hoped the items can be introduced nationally but NHS England said it would be up to individual trusts.

Dr Roslan, who works in Lincolnshire, said the idea came to her while she was a medical student with University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Trust.

"I'd been using [the same headscarf] all day which obviously wasn't clean and ideal," she told BBC Radio Derby. [BBC] Read more

16 December 2019

No inquiry opened into charity promoting Islamist extremism

A regulator has not opened a statutory inquiry into a charity behind a TV station which has promoted Islamist extremism despite receiving five complaints about it, the National Secular Society can reveal.

The Charity Commission for England and Wales has not opened any statutory inquiries into Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI), which finances the channel Peace TV, since at least 2010.

Last month Peace TV was taken off air after the broadcasting regulator Ofcom ruled that one of its programmes had incited murder of those who practise "magic".

In response to an NSS freedom of information request, the commission has now said it has received five complaints about IRFI in the last nine years – but has not opened any statutory inquiries into it.

The NSS submitted one of the complaints about IRFI in November 2018. The complaint raised concerns that Peace TV and one of its speakers – Dr Zakir Naik, who was also a trustee of IRFI – had promoted extremist views, including by praising Osama bin Laden. [National Secular Society] Read more

Birmingham Islamic school 'swift to address' extremist books concerns

Leaders at an Islamic private school where extremist books were found have been "swift to address" concerns the discovery raised, inspectors say.

Ofsted rated Jamia Islamia Birmingham boys' school "inadequate" in July after finding books in the library promoting "support for an Islamic State".

A follow-up inspection found the books had been removed but the school still did not meet all required standards.

The school said it made a "tremendous amount of progress" in a few months.

Inspectors said one book contained the words: "Don't make the Jews and the Christians your friends."

The Sparkbrook school, which told inspectors it had been "unaware of the existence of these texts", has since introduced a library policy setting out what materials should and should not be included. [BBC] Read more

'Extremist books promoting ISIS' removed from Islamic school in Birmingham

An Islamic school has removed 'extremist' books from its library which promoted ISIS and warned against befriending Jews and Christians.

The texts were initially discovered at Jamia Islamia Birmingham at Fallows Road, Sparkbrook, in June during a visit by Ofsted inspectors who delivered a scathing verdict of the independent boys school and lowered its rating from 'Requires Improvement' to 'Inadequate' across the board.

The watchdog's subsequent report described the nature of the books which they deemed to be 'actively undermining fundamental British values'.

It said: "The school library contains books that promote extremist views and support for an Islamic State. For example, a series of aims set out in one book includes ‘To help the Taliban government in the accomplishment of enforcement of Shari’ah in Afghanistan’ and ‘To struggle for the creation of Islamic states in which the Islamic canons will enforced practically [sic]’.

"On the front page of this book are the words ‘Don’t make the Jews and the Christians your friends’. [Birmingham Mail] Read more

Regulator criticised for not opening inquiry into charity chaired by man barred from UK

The National Secular Society has criticised the Charity Commission for not opening a statutory inquiry into a charity that it claims promotes extremist views.

Zakir Naik, who is listed on the website of the Islamic Research Foundation International as its chair, was barred from entering the UK in 2010 because of his views, which include praising Osama bin Laden and saying all Muslims "should be terrorists".

The regulator said it had disqualified Naik as a trustee in April this year, but he had challenged the decision at the charity tribunal.

Last month the satellite channel Peace TV Urdu, which Naik founded in 2009, was taken off air after the regulator Ofcom ruled one of its programmes had incited murder.

This prompted the society to urge the commission to take action against the charity, which advances Islam and generated income of £518,000 in the financial year ending 31 January 2019. [Third Sector] Read more

11 December 2019

Pakistan scholar's blasphemy trial enters final stages as U.S. raises alarm

A Pakistani court will hear final arguments on Thursday in the blasphemy trial of a liberal scholar and former university lecturer a week after a U.S. religious freedom commission placed his name on its list of global victims, his lawyer said.

Junaid Hafeez, who quit his studies at Pakistan’s top medical college to pursue a passion for art and literature, secured a Fulbright scholarship and attended Jackson State University in 2009 where he majored in American literature, photography and theatre with distinction.

He has been in solitary confinement in Pakistan for fear of being attacked by fellow inmates in jail since his arrest in 2013 on blasphemy charges linked to online posts.

Insulting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, which is about 95 percent Muslim and has some of the harshest blasphemy laws in the world. [Reuters] Read more

A New Poll Found 37% Of Conservative Voters Admit They Have A Negative View Of Muslims

More than 60% of Conservative voters said they agreed with the statement that Islam threatened the British way of life.

More than a third of Conservative voters admit they have a negative view of Muslims, according to a new poll that lays bare the scale of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Britain ahead of Thursday’s general election.

The poll — carried out by ICM last week for the campaign group Avaaz — surveyed 2,011 voters about their views on Muslims and Jews in the UK.

It compared the answers of people who said they voted Conservative and Labour at the 2017 election with the public as a whole, finding that 37% of Tory voters are view Muslims in a negative light, compared to 26% of the electorate as a whole and 16% of Labour supporters.

Conservative voters were also much more likely to say they agreed with the statement that Islam threatens the British way of life — 62% compared to 45% of the general public and 35% of Labour voters.

And 55% of Tory supporters agreed that there should be a reduction in the number of Muslims entering Britain, while 41% of the wider public and 33% of Labour voters backed that statement. [BuzzFeed] Read more

10 December 2019

Should the Welsh Assembly adopt a definition of Islamophobia?

Following the UK government’s rejection of the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia, could Wales adopt it? Mairi Hughes reports on a wide range of perspectives within the public sphere on the complexities of fighting prejudice via a formal definition.

.... When Leanne Wood stood up in the Welsh Assembly and asked for comment on the impact Westminster’s rejection of the APPG’s Islamophobia definition would have on community cohesion, the Assembly responded that they were in talks with the Scottish government, ‘with a view to adopting the definition’.

Hardeep Singh of the Network of Sikh Organisations, whose signature appears on the open letter to Sajid Javid, said: ‘Generally with these sorts of subjects, it seems to be quite binary. But, if you look at the granularity of the detail, you realise it’s actually far more complicated than a group wanting to have a definition, there’s so many other things involved in this.’

The debate around how policy-makers should be ensuring the defeat of anti-Muslim sentiment, and the appropriateness of formal definitions in challenging hatred and prejudice remains on the political agenda, and has unravelled in all its complexity. As the Welsh Assembly considers its next move, it seems this decision will set a significant precedent for how hate crime should be tackled. [Planet] Read more

Conservative Derbyshire councillor suspended for 'racist' and 'hateful' burka comments

A Conservative Derbyshire councillor has been suspended after making "racist" and "hateful" comments about women who wear burkas.

Cllr Henry Thompson, who represents the Heanor East ward on Amber Valley Borough Council, made the comments on Facebook over the past couple of days.

The quotes came below a news article from The Telegraph which the Tory councillor had shared on Facebook - bearing the headline "British public back a ban on burka by two to one, poll finds".

Cllr Thompson, who was elected in 2018, says he made the comments in a personal capacity.

He denies that he is racist, has apologised for any offence caused but stands by his comments.

Calls had been made for Cllr Thompson’s resignation by leader of the borough council, Labour’s Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams.

Leader of the council’s Conservative group, Cllr Kevin Buttery said that Cllr Thompson had been suspended from the party pending an investigation. [DerbyshireLive] Read more

Sweden Shuts Down Islamic School Due to Radicalisation Concerns

The Swedish School Inspectorate has revoked a Gothenburg Islamic school’s licence due to concerns that pupils may be exposed to radical Islamic ideology.

Authorities closed the Safirskolan school after its former owner, Abdel-Nasser el Nadi, had been detained by the Swedish security police (Säpo). Säpo recommended he, and several other Islamic radicals, be deported from the country on national security grounds, Nyheter Idag reports.

While a new individual did take the helm of the school, which was formerly called Vetenskapsskolan (the Science School), the inspectorate determined that the new head was still close enough to el Nadi that the school risked “being subjected to radicalisation and recruitment to environments that accept violence or serious crime as a method of political change”.

“We have made the assessment that the new owner does not take a completely independent position from the previous owner,” said School Inspectorate Divisional Lawyer Johan Kylenfelt. [Breitbart London] Read more

09 December 2019

Largest Muslim group says BBC has ‘failed to sufficiently report’ on Tory Islamophobia author image

In a letter to director general Tony Hall, the Muslim Council of Britain says the corporation has failed to be ‘impartial and consistent in its coverage on similar issues’. The comments come as the Labour Party is embroiled in a row over antisemitism and the apparent lack of action.

Last week, the shadow chancellor John McDonnell, said he believed the row over anti-Semitism in the party may have an effect on the election result. He also apologised to the Jewish community ‘for the suffering we’ve inflicted on them’, during a BBC One interview.

The Muslim Council of Britain has asked the broadcaster to give racism against Muslims ‘equal importance’. Signed by the council’s secretary General Harun Khan, claims there is Islamophobia not just across society but at ‘every level of the Conservative party. The letter says: ‘Religious hate crime in England and Wales rose by 40% to its highest level in 2017-18, with more than half of all religiously-motivated attacks being directed at Muslims. [Metro.co.uk] Read more

Britain’s blasphemy problem

Blasphemy laws infringe upon the right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the necessary need to freely critique ideologies. A 2016 study by Freedom of Thought found that 43 countries allow a prison term for blasphemy, while it is punishable by death in six countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

The UK is free from such laws. And yet blasphemy laws are being tacitly enforced in Britain on a community level.

In 2016, extreme anti-blasphemy attitudes in the UK resulted in the murder of Asad Shah, a shopkeeper from Glasgow, murdered for “disrespecting the Prophet”. He was stabbed multiple times, dragged into the street and stamped on with such force that every bone in his face was broken.

Afterwards, the murderer claimed that, “If I had not done this, others would have and there would be more killings and violence in the world.” He receives fan mail and visits from people who regard him as a hero. [TheArticle] Read more

Blasphemy laws continuing cause for concern for Christians in Pakistan

Six months since Christian Asia Bibi fled Pakistan, after being imprisoned for ten years on blasphemy charges, reports highlight the plight of others accused of blasphemy in the country.

The reports come from multiple sources including the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) and Humanists International.

The USCIRF reports there are 80 people in Pakistan imprisoned on blasphemy charges.

The latest Freedom of Thought report from Humanists International says Pakistan remains a "perennial offender" in imprisoning people for blasphemy - long after the country's Supreme Court discredited the high-profile case against Asia Bibi.

According to the report: "The authorities prosecuted a total of 1,170 blasphemy cases between 1987 and 2012, with scores of new cases every year. Civil society reports estimate that in 2017 alone at least 50 individuals were imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, with at least 17 facing possible death sentences."

Andrew Boyd from Release International, a charity supporting persecuted Christians told Premier: "Whether you're found guilty or acquitted as Asia Bibi was, it is effectively a death sentence [being accused of blasphemy], there's a number of different forms of it. It could be blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, it could be something that is said against Muhammad, or it could be disrespecting the Quran."

More than 70 people have been murdered following blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to Al Jazeera. [PREMIER CHRISTIAN RADIO] Read more

Saudi Arabia ends gender segregation in restaurants

Saudi Arabia will no longer require restaurants to have separate entrances segregated by sex, the government says.

Previously, it was mandatory to have one entrance for families and women, and another for men on their own.

The restrictions had already been quietly eased in practice, with many restaurants, cafes and other meeting places no longer enforcing segregation.

A series of sweeping social reforms in Saudi Arabia has been accompanied by an intensified crackdown on dissent.

Earlier this year, a royal decree allowed Saudi women to travel abroad without a male guardian's permission, and in 2018 the Gulf kingdom ended a decades-long ban on female drivers. [BBC] Read more

08 December 2019

General election 2019: Tory chairman 'sorry' for Islamophobia in party

Conservative chairman James Cleverly has apologised for cases of Islamophobia in his party.

Mr Cleverly said he was "sorry" when Tory members and candidates "do or say things that are wrong".

But he added that he was "confident" there was now "a robust mechanism" in place to deal with the issue.

The Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Tory party of having a "blind spot for this type of racism" and of not doing enough to tackle it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics, Mr Cleverly said an investigation into prejudice in his party will get under way before the end of the year. [BBC] Read more

06 December 2019

Denial, obfuscation, apathy: why it’s so hard to get Islamophobia on the political agenda

Islamophobia is apparently a “natural reaction” to Islam, with the faith being “the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers”. So wrote Boris Johnson in the Spectator in 2005.

Sayeeda Warsi on Tory Islamophobia: 'It feels like I'm in an abusive relationship'

It’s far from the only item on the charge sheet for Johnson’s Islamophobia. He retains Chloe Westley in his team at No 10 despite her having called a far-right activist who has described Islam as “evil” a “hero”; and he gave Zac Goldsmith a position in cabinet despite his racist campaign for mayor of London in 2016. And of course, there is his recent and infamous use of far-right terminology about Muslim women who wear burqas, comparing them to “letterboxes”.

Yet the prime minister’s lack of any acknowledgment of error or wrongdoing on his part and his casual disregard for the impact of his words and actions does not appear to be relevant to large swathes of the media. There is a wealth of evidence of Islamophobia across all levels of the Conservative party. Why does it have so little political traction, and why is it regularly dismissed in mainstream circles? [Guardian Cif] Read more

05 December 2019

Islamist extremists begin to remobilise as they finish prison sentences

An extremist network once led by the hate preacher Anjem Choudary has begun to remobilise as waves of former members leave prison or are released from monitoring measures.

A core group from Choudary’s banned al-Muhajiroun network has returned to Islamist activism after completing terrorism prevention schemes and other controls, according to a report by a commission that advises the Home Office.

The terrorist preacher, who was released from prison last October after serving half of a five-and-a-half-year sentence, was photographed in 2009 with Usman Khan, who murdered two people last week near London Bridge. [The Times (£)] Read more

We cannot afford to be timid about calling out the threat of radical Islam

.... Given the depravity of Khan’s religious views, and the cunning with which he evidently concealed them after his release, no government desistance and disengagement programme was going to deradicalise him.

For all the brow-beating of the British state, and the political ping-pong that has resulted from it, the wrong solutions are being posited to guard against the scale of the threat (even if it is common sense to suggest that those guilty of particularly heinous crimes should serve a longer portion of their sentences than Khan did if they remain a potential security concern).

Part of the problem is that it is increasingly difficult to raise the issue of the menace of radical Islam without being accused of “Islamophobia” by those who have hijacked a noble cause — the fight against anti-Muslim hate crime — and turned it into an attempt to silence all discussion of extreme variants of Islam.

It is perfectly obvious why some Islamophobia campaigners desire such a blanket rallying cry: it masks scrutiny of their own views, which they would be able to promote without fear of challenge.

What is less clear is why politicians and state entities are happy to go along with this charade, when alternative and much tighter definitions of racism against Muslims — such as “anti-Muslim hatred” — exist that would avoid the pitfalls of catch-all Islamophobia definitions while still ameliorating a societal ill. [City A.M.] Read more

Indonesian man FAINTS as he is caned for having pre-marital sex before being revived to receive the rest of his 100 lashes alongside woman he slept with

An Indonesian man who fainted as he was being whipped for pre-marital sex today was revived to receive the rest of his punishment before being rushed to hospital.

Despite international condemnation, public flogging is common for a range of offences banned under local Islamic law in the conservative Aceh region on Indonesia's Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay or pre-marital sex.

Aceh is the only region in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, that imposes religious law.

On Thursday, a 22-year-old man - sentenced to 100 strokes - pleaded with a masked Sharia officer to stop lashing his back with a rattan cane before he fainted.

He was revived and given brief medical attention and then the flogging continued. He was later carried off the stage by two guards and rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. [Daily Mail] Read more

04 December 2019

Switzerland investigates Muslim preacher over welfare fraud

Switzerland-based Muslim preacher Abu Ramadan is under investigation for allegedly committing welfare fraud. He has also been investigated over hate speech.

.... The media reports say the former agronomist received more than CHF590,000 ($598,317) in social assistance between 2003 and 2017. He is accused of concealing income worth tens of thousands of francs that could have led to a lower allocation of welfare benefits. The sums relate to pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia that the preacher accompanied.

Ramadan is reportedly in contact with authorities to “clarify any misunderstandings” but declined making a comment to the press.

It is not the first time that the preacher of the Ar’Rahman Mosque in the western Swiss city of Biel has caused controversy.

The imam, originally from Libya, was investigated over hateful statements he allegedly made against Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Muslim Shiites while preaching. [swissinfo.ch] Read more

02 December 2019

‘They call for my slaughter': Somali atheists living in fear

Hassan dreads each sunset. When the skies darken in Nairobi, Kenya, the threats begin.

He is too scared to leave his home but his taunters, mostly his neighbors, find him: They pummel the walls and metal door of his room in a concrete five-story building. Hassan, a 25-year old Somali refugee, has only lived in Nairobi a few months, but his neighbors — who are all Somali Muslims — have found out he has renounced Islam. To some of the most devout Muslims, being an atheist is punishable by death.

“My life has been a living hell. They are spreading that I have left the faith,” Hassan, who is using a pseudonym for fear of reprisals, told Global Voices. “I’ve reported it to the police, but nobody got arrested.” [Global Voices] Read more

Multiculturalism is undermining democracy

.... The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) has launched a campaign encouraging British Muslim voters to defeat ‘Islamophobic’ Conservative MPs – identifying 14 constituencies of importance under its Operation Muslim Vote campaign. The MPAC’s propaganda is hugely oriented towards territorial disputes in other parts of the world, including Kashmir and Palestine.

As a British Muslim of South Asian origin, I can personally say that I have heard far too much about territorial disputes taking place in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent during the build-up to what is meant to be a UK General Election. The efforts of religious organisations and affiliate bodies for non-UK political parties – large and small – to generate faith-based bloc voting should be a cause for political concern. [Spiked] Read more

01 December 2019

Six Muslim men sentenced to jail, fine for going to waterfall instead of Friday prayers

In what is possibly the first case in the country, six male Muslims, including three teenagers, were sentenced to a month in jail and fined over RM2,000 for skipping out on Friday prayers last August 23.

Khairul Azle Abdul Rasid, 35; Abdul Malek Mohd, 25; Muhamad Hafizi Abdul Razak, 22; Muhammad Aliff Fikri A Mazzani, 19; and two unnamed 17-year-old boys were given the sentence by Syarie judge Nik Mohd Shahril Irwan Mat Yusof at the Hulu Terengganu Lower Shariah Court earlier today after pleading guilty to a charge of deliberately missing the compulsory Friday prayers, Harian Metro reported on its website. [Malay Mail] Read more