Denmark: Another Muslim Cemetery’s Graves Desecrated

Loon Watch - 2 September, 2015 - 18:07


The land of the Halal-Kosher ban is also having a spate of hate crimes targeting Muslim cemeteries.

Andalou Agency

More than 50 Muslim graves have been desecrated in the Danish city of Odense, just three months after a similar incident in the country, police sources and Danish media reported Tuesday.

At a time when Islamophobic sentiments and attacks were raging all across Europe, the latest attack in Denmark, according to Danish media, is believed to have been carried out with ax by unknown number of attackers over the weekend.

According to the Danish daily Berlingske, police were yet to make an arrest in the incident that left dozens of gravestones destroyed or damaged.

Bosnian Mirna Ugljen told DR television Tuesday that she was shocked to see the cemetery vandalized where her father had been resting since 17 years. “When we came to visit my father, we were shocked. They are dead and cannot hurt anyone. Leave them alone,” Ugljen said.

Danish Minister of Justice Soren Pind condemned the incident on Twitter. “Stop this. As Denmark, we do not want to walk on such a path,” he tweeted in Danish language.

In a similar incident, about 50 Muslim graves were desecrated in the western Copenhagen suburb of Brondby.

avestones destroyed or damaged.

Bosnian Mirna Ugljen told DR television Tuesday that she was shocked to see the cemetery vandalized where her father had been resting since 17 years. “When we came to visit my father, we were shocked. They are dead and cannot hurt anyone. Leave them alone,” Ugljen said.

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How for you to Program Your Dissertation Proposal

Islamicate - 2 September, 2015 - 15:09

Having to create some sort of dissertation proposal is dependent upon the actual college or university or perhaps company that will you’ lso are joining. Even though any dissertation pitch isn’ to any necessity, nonetheless, it’ azines an incredibly valuable physical exercise (and goes in order to make an impression ones manager, especially if it’ azines not really a part of ones assessment).

On a number of lessons the study offer will be examined along with varieties section of your own closing dissertation submitter. In the event here is the case, it’ ersus imperative you comply with the proper formatting as well as distribute work promptly. Mainly, any dissertation estimate has a 500 or maybe 1, 000 phrase limit, nevertheless, you have to look at just what the training specially calls for.

What can be a dissertation estimate?

A dissertation offer is basically a new information of the using:

  • What your current dissertation is actually about

  • Probable concerns that will you’ re about to possibly be examining

  • Some reference to the actual theoretical background

  • Research approaches you’ re planning to become making use of (empirical as well as non-empirical)

  • Potential effects from the study

Time expended putting your own dissertation estimate in concert is surely an expense. People reap benefits for the reason that proposal halts anyone totally wasting time period and in addition kinds the cornerstone of this dissertation summarize.

Writing the dissertation estimate, regardless of whether it’ ersus an excellent prerequisite, is well worth doing. You can distribute the actual suggestion on your supervisor (with her agreement) and have some important comments.

Ask the inspector intended for instruction around the sculpt and type of pursuit pitch. You’ll need to be accommodating along with open-minded, featuring some sort of willingness to change the approaches along with tips while your research dictates. Say as part of your estimate exactly what you wish to carry out, with certainty along with using a well-balanced watch, advising that you’ ve thoroughly thought to be the simplest way of doing ones examine. Be organization and not haughty; always be variable and not weak!

Make sure that anyone abide by the foundations regarding syntax as part of your estimate. Become steady regarding the stressed of this offer. Almost all proposals are usually created while using the upcoming tense: ‘ I will be utilizing questionnaires… and so on’. Talk with your current inspector pertaining to affirmation.

What does a new dissertation estimate include?

The crucial elements of a research pitch are usually regular:

  • Dissertation title (so far):   Strive in generating the particular name short as well as to the point.

  • Overall targets:   Should you have more than several objectives, your neighborhood connected with study may well be too broad in addition to ought to be simplified. (Some school lessons may perhaps request you to add a explanation at this time. )

  • Literature, situation, qualifications:   You should use such words and phrases for the reason that title on this segment, simply just make certain you speak about important colleges connected with imagined or maybe parts of examine that are going to offer specifics of the dissertation. (Some proposals need checklist certain sources at this time, other people require your bibliography by the end. )

  • Details of the analysis:   Below, you can expand the ideas spelt out there within your research query. This kind of portion is approximately setting out clearly your neighborhood connected with research.

  • Methodologies:   Your hard work might be empirical (with some form of study and bunch of information for example questionnaires) as well as non-empirical (no such facts, your entire investigation arises from by now printed publishing and projects). In case your examine is actually non-empirical, this segment may just be limited; more time you need to collect as well as glance at the empirical facts. If you’ lso are permitted to work with bullet points as part of your study suggestion, you’ll need carry out at most listing your meant activities (for illustration, undertaking interviews, asking archives or checking data).

  • Buy cardstock:   You can certainly often purchase your operate here  as well as spend less period.
  • Potential final results:   Avoid second-guessing a result of your dissertation. In the event you believed the outcomes, it could be very useless carrying out this dissertation! Here, you’ re summarising the type of benefits people desire to generate and also indicating the audience.

  • Timeline:   If you’ lso are asked for you to format how we plan to take care of your research, think of including a Gantt graph or perhaps some form of notion guide. Anything you accomplish, produce your timeline reasonable.

  • Bibliography:   Check out in case you’ re forced to present an index of referrals, and when thus, learn approximately the quantity of personal references you’ lso are required to list.


Sexual Abuse Cases: Does Islamic ‘Tawba’ (Repentance) Absolve (Alleged) Abusers of Legal Redress?

altmuslim - 1 September, 2015 - 23:47
Reflections on culpability, forgiveness, mercy and legal redress in light of the sexual abuse case pending against Imam Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, founder of the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin, IL. Click here and here for more coverage of this case on Patheos. By Ustadha Zaynab Ansari In March 2015, Imam Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, founder [Read More...]

Far-right United Patriots Front threatens to return to Bendigo in Facebook video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 September, 2015 - 22:23

The anti-Islam group says it will carry on its protest against the construction of the Victorian city’s first mosque

The far-right group United Patriots Front will return to Bendigo, Victoria, in three weeks, the group’s leader, Sherman Burgess, has threatened.

About 300 protesters took over central Bendigo last Saturday, lashing out against a legal decision by the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal to approve construction of Bendigo’s first mosque.

Related: Fights break out as rival protests clash over Bendigo mosque

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The Muslim Manga Project

Muslim Matters - 1 September, 2015 - 20:29

By Matin M

These days the Western mass media often portray Muslims and others who look Middle Eastern, as violent or dangerous. They throw out buzzwords like jihad and Sharia law to get the attention of an audience that is already anxious about these topics.

Jihad does not mean “Holy War”. Jihad means struggle, and the greatest jihad is to be able to control oneself or one's desires. Allah-u-Akbar is not a war cry. It simply means that God is greater than anyone or anything one can imagine. Unfortunately, when a few people who say they follow Islamic teachings perform violent acts, it is the religion of Islam that is portrayed as teaching violence.

However, the word Islam itself means peace and a Muslim is someone who submits himself to the will of God. Suicide and the killing of innocent people are both forbidden in Islam. There are violent people in every group or religion, but the religions are not to blame. The ones at fault are those who misunderstand teachings and attempt to corrupt them by performing heinous acts or encouraging others to do the same.

Because of the repercussions of such misconceptions, it has become even more important for people to understand each other's cultures. The more we understand and respect each other, the less likely we will be misled by propaganda and lies that are fabricated for political agendas, and the more chance there will be for a peaceful and just world.

The Muslim Manga Project uses manga to help enlighten people on what Islam really teaches by creating manga style comics that address current issues. The project also uses manga for the purpose of creating messages of hope, love, peace, and positive thinking. As a result of the Muslim Manga Project, the medium of manga has been very effective in changing incorrect views of average people concerning the religion of Islam.

What is Manga?


Modern day manga (漫画) are Japanese-style comics, which originated in the mid-1900s. A manga series may become popular enough that it is made into an anime (アニメ) – Japanese styled animation.

In the past, the medium of manga has been very successful in introducing many aspects of the Japanese culture to the rest of the world. Americans are not by any means experts on Japanese culture after the introduction of manga; however, the number of Americans now interested in the Japanese culture has risen dramatically; and as a result, their understanding of the Japanese people and culture has also increased.

Goals of the Muslim Manga Project

Muslim Manga is a project that uses the positive aspects of the medium of manga to give peaceful and moral messages to people of various beliefs, and creates a positive image of the religion of Islam. The intended audience includes people who want to have an unbiased view of Islam, as well as Muslims of multiple sects. In order to create unity among the various sects of Islam, the focus is not on one particular sect.

The platform of manga encourages the production of various types of stories. One mangaka (that is, a manga artist or writer) may wish to focus on a story that would enlighten Muslims on religious duties. Another mangaka may choose to make stories for a broader audience in order to teach general moral lessons about being positive and not giving up even when life becomes difficult. Another mangaka may focus on placing Muslim characters in interesting situations to show how a believing Muslim would react. For example, some stories show Muslims to be people who are not wrong doers or ill-mannered or even show them to be heroes or super heroes.


Samurai Akiyama is a manga about a Muslim brother and sister who fight off demons to protect their village. It illustrates the heroic character of Muslims. There are also plenty of real-life examples; therefore, both fiction and non-fiction manga can be created with Muslim heroes to demonstrate that Muslims do indeed do good deeds. Other methods may include dialogue which indirectly tells the reader or some other character in the story about a particular positive attitude; however, the direct method (that is, demonstrating through action) is the most effective.

Religiously Appropriate Manga

Japanese manga is indeed very popular around the world for multiple reasons, including good story-lines and stylized art forms. However, for the Muslim audience there have been some negative aspects as well, such as the amount of sexual content that is present in some manga. One of the reasons that Muslim Manga was started is to provide Muslims with entertaining and religiously appropriate manga.

This project uses the positive aspects of manga in an attempt to assist parents and other concerned individuals help their children get closer to God.

The manga art form provides a more enjoyable format than the alternative of reading a book. In this day and age, more images are necessary to deliver messages to the younger generation of Muslims. A book may be the best source to truly understand a subject matter, but it is a lot easier to achieve at least a basic understanding of the same information through manga. It may also be less intimidating to a person who is not Muslim to read information about Muslims through manga.

What Can You Do To Help?

Manga can be a powerful teaching tool for understanding cultures. Muslim Manga's goal is to spread the truth about Islam. We have witnessed Japanese manga's power to introduce Japanese culture, history, ideas, language, etc. to young Japanese people, while at the same time educating people who knew nothing about Japanese culture prior to watching anime or reading manga.

Similarly, Muslim Manga's goal is to introduce Islamic terms and beliefs to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. By using the medium of manga, this project seeks to create an alternative medium for people to learn the truth about Islam. The idea is not to force people to become Muslim, but simply to introduce and educate people about Islamic ideas and issues related to Muslims. In this way it is our hope that it will provide a more accurate understanding of Islam for non-Muslims and assist Muslims to better understand their own beliefs.

We have been working on the foundation of the Muslim Manga project for several years and are now ready to increase the level of our manga production.  In the past year, we have begun work on three original manga and have two more in the pipeline. The work involved in producing these stories includes writing, editing, illustrating, and refining for release. Everything that we create is released for free in the form of digital content on our website,, for our fans to enjoy and benefit from.

Once we receive the funding, we will also release the content on other platforms such as Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks, etc., all for free. God willing, our goal is to reach as many individuals as possible. Up until now, we have been creating all of our content, managing our apps and running the website using our personal funds. As two college students, it is often hard to keep up with the expenses associated with this project. Artist fees and app fees are our largest expenses, with one illustrated manga page costing us approximately $25.

With your help, we plan to release monthly chapters of Samurai Akiyama, Hana & Her Love, and Benjamin Sensei, as well as many other manga. Every dollar you donate will go towards helping us spread the image of Muslims as being non-violent, peaceful, and friendly. We will provide meaningful stories that all people will learn and benefit from. We will create Muslim characters that our children can look up to. But most importantly, we will give the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world a voice that says, “This is who we are, not what the media is portraying us to be!”

We believe that this is a noble cause, and whatever gratitude we give you for your donation is nothing in comparison to the reward you will receive from God, the Almighty Creator. To learn more about our original projects and some stories that we are working on and to help fund us to bring about our vision, please check us out at To take a look at our large selection of stories, check out our website at

Bangladesh police charge 'Islamist militants' over atheist's murder

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 September, 2015 - 15:35

Police say five charged with murder of blogger Washiqur Rahman include Hasibur Rahman, organiser of Ansarullah Bangla Team

Police in Bangladesh have charged five suspected Islamic extremists with the murder of an atheist blogger, one of four secular writers hacked to death in the south Asian state this year.

Washiqur Rahman, 27, who wrote under a pen name on Facebook and repeatedly criticised religious conservatives, was killed near his home in the capital, Dhaka, in March.

Related: Bangladesh blogger becomes second to be murdered in a month

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The fortune-teller of Kabul | May Jeong

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 September, 2015 - 05:59

For centuries mystics have channelled hopes and fears of Afghans. With the nation in turmoil, their services are as popular as ever. But can they survive the latest crackdown by religious hardliners?

Last November, Abdullah Sharifi visited a spirit medium. By his own admission, Sharifi was the last person you would expect to indulge in mysticism. Twenty-two years old, tall, handsome, with slicked-back hair, Sharifi usually wears blue jeans and a leather jacket, and walks with a swagger. But by that autumn, he had lost the spring in his step.

Five years earlier, Sharifi had begun working as a shopkeeper’s assistant in Kabul selling carpets, gemstones, and other souvenirs. His customers were the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who came to Afghanistan following the US-led Nato invasion in 2001. They were experts, advisors, aid workers, and adventurers, each with their own ideas about what Afghanistan needed the most. Sharifi sold them chapan robes with vertical stripes, the kind worn by former president Hamid Karzai, or Jinnah caps made from the fur of aborted lamb foetuses – things foreigners could bring home and brag about. Business boomed.

Shah’s most popular service is a taweez, a tailor-made amulet containing Qur’anic verses that serves as a talisman

To summon djinns, you must go to a deserted area – ideally a cemetery, but an unattended construction site will do

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On Genocidal West Point Professor William C. Bradford And Retractions

Loon Watch - 31 August, 2015 - 21:02


West Point professor, William C. Bradford published a 200 page paper in the National Security Law Journal which’s main points The Guardian summed up,

William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.

Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.

The West Point faculty member urges the US to wage “total war” on “Islamism”, using “conventional and nuclear force and [psychological operations]”, in order to “leave them prepared to coexist with the West or be utterly eradicated”. He suggests in a footnote that “threatening Islamic holy sites might create deterrence, discredit Islamism, and falsify the assumption that decadence renders Western restraint inevitable”. (h/t: JD)

It is surprising that this paper was able to make it past the editor and was included in the journal in the first place. It makes an elaborate case for the killing of professors and others who are deemed enemies of the state for criticizing the “War On Terror.” It employs the methodology of Robert Spencer in describing critics of the military and US policy as “useful idiots” and sympathizers of the catch-all bogeyman known as “Islamists.”

Most of the news reports have focused on Bradford’s fascistic call to eliminate professors and attack academic institutions. The retraction by the journal focuses completely on this aspect of his paper, which granted is the central thesis,

This past spring the Journal made a mistake in publishing a highly controversial article, Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column, 3 Nat’l Sec. L.J. 278 (2015), by William C. Bradford, who is currently an assistant professor at the United States Military Academy. As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits.  We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.

Moving forward, the current Editorial Board is committed to generating legitimate scholarly debate, representing all points of view, in the area of national security law. However, we have learned from this experience, and we recognize the responsibility that attends our publication decisions. The process of selecting articles is one our Editorial Board takes very seriously, and we are re-examining our selection process to ensure that we publish high quality scholarly articles.

A welcomed and necessary retraction by the Journal to save face after this embarrassing incident, though it doesn’t tell us why they published or made this “mistake” in the first place.

It is telling that the retraction doesn’t mention another factor why Bradford’s article can be considered as exhibiting an “egregious breach of professional decorum”: the fact that it considers threatening “total war” and use of nuclear strikes on “Islamists” and Muslim holy sites as a reasonable strategy! Shouldn’t that be included in the whole reason why this paper was so awful?

The Times and “Rewriting Islamic History”

Inayat's Corner - 31 August, 2015 - 20:00


Last month, Birmingham University announced that they had discovered Qur’anic fragments that were carbon-dated to being amongst the very earliest to have ever been found. It was a fabulous story that thrilled Muslims worldwide.

Today, there is a peculiar story published in The Times  claiming that the Birmingham fragments “may predate the Prophet Muhammad” thereby calling into question the entire traditional account of the history of the Qur’an and Islam. By all accounts, this is a very serious claim, but what is the evidence behind these claims? Let’s take a look…


Sadly, The Times is behind a firewall so I can’t reproduce the entire article for you, but can tell you that the story, by Oliver Moody, appears to be a highly mischievous one.

Consider the following which is an extract taken directly from The Times article:

“At the time the discovery was hailed as confirmation that the Koran had faithfully preserved the words passed on by Muhammad for more than 1,350 years. Now, several historians think the parchment appears to be so old that it contradicts most accounts of the Prophet’s life and legacy, and may “radically alter the edifice of Islamic tradition”. These claims are strongly disputed by Muslim scholars.”

Who are these “several historians”? The Times article mentions only two.

The first is Tom Holland – who presented a laughably poor C4 documentary about the early history of Islam on Channel Four a few years ago and whose accompanying book In The Shadow Of The Sword (which I reviewed here) contained schoolboy errors about the Qur’an. After a big build up in his book which began by seeking the “solid bedrock” on which Islam is founded, he admitted – over 300 pages into his book, that:

“…the text of the Qur’an itself does seem to derive authentically from the Prophet’s lifetime…Such a resource is, in consequence, beyond compare: one that positively demands to be sifted for clues to the Prophet’s career and background. Identify these, and it may then be possible to find reflected in the Qur’an glimpses, not merely of the Prophet’s personal circumstances but of something even more suggestive: the broader context of the age.” (p310)

The second is Keith Small, whom the Times describes as a “Koranic manuscript consultant at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library”. This is true, but The Times omits his other title. Dr Small also happens to be on the staff of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Nevermind. So, what is the evidence behind the claim that the Birmingham University “parchment appears to be so old that it contradicts most accounts of the Prophet’s life and legacy” that they have uncovered. Well, it turns out that these two “historians” have not uncovered anything new whatsoever! As Birmingham University pointed out last month, the fragments have been carbon dated with a 95% probability to the period 568 to 645 CE ie. to a period that very closely corresponds to the time (610 – 632 CE) when the traditional Muslim narrative maintains that the Prophet Muhammad received the revelation of the Qur’an.

The straw the two historians appear to clutch at is that the earliest date in that range (568 CE) is just before the Prophet Muhammad was said to have been born (circa 570 CE). However, carbon dating is not an exact science which is why a range of dates is almost always presented by scientists when using the method to date objects. Secondly, the dating is of the parchment not the actual text of the Qur’an it contains. The parchment is logically bound to have been produced prior to the ink being written on it.

So, the story is really a non-story.

Indeed, compare what the sensationalised and badly-evidenced Times story says with what the actual academics who researched the Birmingham University fragments say:

“The tests carried out on the parchment of the Birmingham folios yield the strong probability that the animal from which it was taken was alive during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad or shortly afterwards. This means that the parts of the Qur’an that are written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Muhammad’s death. These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Qur’an read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.”

Thankfully, we have the exhibition of the Birmingham University fragments to look forward to at the Barber Institute in just over a month from now, God Willing.

International Outcry Over Demolitions of Palestinian Homes: Silence in The NY Times

The United Nations has called for a freeze on Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, dozens of aid agencies and the European Union have joined in the protest, and even the U.S. State Department has voiced its dismay. Yet, even as the outcry has become an international issue and reached the highest ranks of our own government, we find a resounding silence at The New York Times.

Times readers are unlikely to know that 31 international organizations recently called on Israel to stop the “wanton destruction of Palestinian property,” including “basic humanitarian necessities,” such as solar panels, animal pens, latrines and tents supplied by the European Union. The groups asked world leaders to take “urgent action,” to hold Israel accountable for “grave breaches” of international law, and to demand reparations for the destruction of their charitable gifts.

The statement came shortly after the United Nations and representatives of the European Union in separate actions called on Israel to freeze demolitions in the West Bank.

The State Department joined both groups with statements made during a press briefing Aug. 19. When spokesman John Kirby was asked about the issue, he had a prepared declaration ready to hand.

The department was “deeply concerned” and “very troubled,” he said, calling the demolitions and evictions “harmful and provocative and indicative of a damaging trend.” He referred to the “destruction of dozens of structures and the displacement of over 150 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this month alone.”

His words got the attention of Israeli media, which published his comments at length, but they failed to arouse the interest of the Times.

In fact, Israel’s cruel (and illegal) policy of demolishing Palestinian property has been a constant story in alternative and Palestinian media outlets over the years, and the spate of international protests appearing this past month is not the first. Last February, for instance, some 400 rabbis from around the world urged Israel to halt demolitions in the West Bank.

Israeli forces have destroyed houses, tents, animal shelters, shops and farming structures throughout the West Bank at a steady clip, leaving 486 Palestinians displaced in 2015 as of Aug. 24. The destruction has hit the poorest and most vulnerable populations hardest, as Israel attempts to clear the land for Jewish settlers.

In the midst of this, the Times has seen fit to report on only one official demolition action this summer: the destruction of illegal Jewish settler homes in the West Bank. (This event was accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of plans for 500 news settlement homes to replace them.)

When the demolitions have made their way into the pages of the Times, the reports have failed to reveal the full extent of the problem. This year, for instance, the paper took notice of the threatened destruction of the West Bank village Susiya, when international media attention made it impossible to ignore, but dozens of other actual demolitions found no mention in the newspaper.

Again, when bureau chief Jodi Rudoren wrote about East Jerusalem demolitions last year, she underreported the extent of the damage by omitting over 46,000 structures that have been destroyed over the years and mentioning only the 675 that took place for “punitive reasons” during the second intifada.

Although demolitions are a constant threat to thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Times prefers to ignore this reality. Palestinian media, however, issue reports almost daily, and monitoring groups such as the United Nations and the Israeli organization B’Tselem struggle to keep tallies.

These groups also note that demolitions fly in the face of international rules. As the UN release states, they contravene “Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under humanitarian law and human rights law.”

Behind the numbers cited by the United Nations and other groups are thousands of individual stories: herders struggling to shelter their flocks as Israeli forces tear up sheds and corrals, children robbed of playgrounds and schools, communities forced to pay for water deliveries after bulldozers crush their pipelines, families pulling prized possessions out of the rubble of their homes.

These stories find little notice in the Times, even as aid organizations and governments from the European Union to the U.S. State Department have spoken out with alarm and dismay. On many levels, Israeli demolitions are eminently newsworthy, but this is not enough for the Times, which prefers to shield Israel above all.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Israeli Home Demolitions Tagged: home demolitions, Israel, New York Times, Palestine, United Nations, West Bank

Online Conduct: A Faith Based Perspective

Islamicate - 31 August, 2015 - 03:22

There are many forms of technology that play such an important role in our daily lives, that it almost seems impossible to imagine what life would be like without them; indeed, we may even wonder how we possibly managed in our recent past when they didn’t exist. As with most things in life, technological innovations can be used for both good and bad; the internet and social media in particular are important examples of technology that can be used for good, but equally can be a source for much evil.

One of the more detestable aspects of social media is the act of trolling. There have been numerous reports of people becoming severely distressed as a result of cyber-bullying from online trolls; some have even taken their own lives as a result of it. Thus, when we as believers in particular choose to engage with social media, it should be clearly apparent that we ought to be aware of trolling, and avoid falling into the traps laid out by trolls, or worse still, becoming trolls ourselves.

It is therefore somewhat unfortunate that there seems to be an ever increasing band of Muslims online, who on the one hand proudly assert allegiance to their faith, whilst on the other behave in an extremely abusive manner with anyone that they disagree with, and calling upon their fellows to encourage them in a continued cyber-bullying session against individuals and groups they disagree with. Of course, there are the trolls on the other side, and the resulting exchange of filth between both groups makes for very difficult reading for the innocent ‘bystander’, who had the misfortune of such an exchange appearing on their Facebook or Twitter feed.

However, what I find particularly interesting, is that a number of people who get roped into trolling sessions are individuals that I know; individuals who in person are very agreeable, yet their online persona is something completely opposite. What is the cause of this disconnect between an individuals online behaviour, and their ‘real-life’ personality?

Before attempting to answer this question, it would be worth considering what trolling actually is, and in trying to define it a number of difficulties can arise. An editorial in the online journal ‘Fibreculture’ attempts to deal with this very problem. Given that trolling is a relatively new phenomenon, they use a definition provided by the Urban dictionary as a starting point:

 The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly p***ing people off, usually via the internet, using dialogue. Trolling does not mean just making rude remarks: Shouting swear words at someone doesn’t count as trolling; it’s just flaming, and isn’t funny. Spam isn’t trolling either; it p***es people off, but it’s lame.

The most essential part of trolling is convincing your victim that either a) truly believe in what you are saying, no matter how outrageous, or b) give your victim malicious instructions, under the guise of help.

Trolling requires decieving; any trolling that doesn’t involve decieving someone isn’t trolling at all; it’s just stupid. As such, your victim must not know that you are trolling; if he does, you are an unsuccessful troll.

Thus, trolling isn’t merely firing off random comments or spamming – that’s apparently ‘not cool’. Trolling is something far more sophisticated and from this definition, it is something planned and calculated that involves deception with the intention of harming the victim. The editorial points out that deception is actually a very important feature of trolling and something that makes sense; in its simplest form many Muslim trolls hide behind a fake identity through a ‘kunya’ when hurling out their carefully planned attacks online, or perhaps they will lie and exaggerate the truth in order to get a response. However there is a more interesting dimension to this; do Muslim trolls really believe in the things they are saying, or is it the case that in reality they don’t truly believe in much of what they say, as all they are really concerned about is feeding their own egos through the distress they cause to their victims? If this is indeed the case, one wonders how far such cognitive dissonance exists within these individuals. Furthermore, herein lies a dichotomy. As believers we are constantly commanded to exhibit the best of manners and speech in our conduct, which seem diametrically opposed to the principles of trolling.

However, the editorial also explores a very interesting idea, that trolling is actually an extension of the underground internet culture; hacking being another example of it. Expanding on this, they posit the idea that they are not an anomalous group of internet users, rather they are the ‘immune system’ of the internet, as a means of fighting mainstream sensibilities in a space that is becoming increasingly corporatised. For them, this is a battle to keep the internet a true ‘zone of freedom’. However, yet another dichotomy exists within this paradigm for the Muslim troll; most of them do no believe in absolute freedom of speech, yet through their behaviour they align themselves with the trolls fighting mainstream culture, and to keep the internet as a zone of absolute free speech in order that they themselves can say pretty much as they wish.

The reality of course is that online spats rarely result in any tangible outcomes. In an analysis of online political argumentation, Marcin Lewinsky reports that most online discussions are filled with fallacious arguments, irrelevant, unqualified, unoriginal arguments, straw men arguments and abusive language. For Muslims who are serious about engaging in debate for the sake of progress in development, it should be clear that for the most part, online discussions are unlikely to bring about the changes they wish to see. Indeed, it might be seen as a method the devil is employing to take them away from that which is meaningful.

To further understand who these trolls are, a recent study looked at 1,200 subjects in an attempt to unearth their personality traits. They exhibited that Dark Tetrad scores were highest amongst those who said that trolling was their favourite onine activity, where the Dark Tetrad of personality traits consisted of narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism. For those who are trolls and proud, this study illustrates the uncomfortable reality of who they really are

So why do people troll? An article in the website Psychology Today explores this question further, and the author provides 8 plausible reasons. Firstly is the idea of anonymity, which lulls an individual into the belief that they can say as they wish without any consequence, or for those who don’t use a ‘sockpuppet’ online, their abusive nature online will not be picked up by those people who hold some importance in their lives (employers, work colleagues etc.). This is of course an obvious point, but for the believer who is supposed to be in a continual state of God-consciousness, trolling might actually be a symptom of weak belief.

The online world can easily cause us to form a bubble; Social media and search engine algorithms mean that we only see those things that are of interest to us, and it can be very easy for us to fall into the ‘perceived majority status’ which the author describes. Thus, we may hold racist beliefs, but we wouldn’t dare articulate them in public as we know this is a minority view. However, if we perceive it to be a majority view online (because our online world is geared towards our interests), we are more likely to espouse these ideas. For all the discussion that surrounds social isolation of certain Muslim communities, it seems that the online world exacerbates this particular problem.

A particularly concerning point made by the author is that of desensitisation. We may see so much abuse occurring on our own timelines, that we might deem it perfectly acceptable to do the same to others, and we loose the ability to think before we type. Over time, it seems our prefrontal cortex is switched off the moment we enter the online world. Given the constant reminder our Lord gives us in the Qur’an to be a thoughtful band of believers, the thoughtlessness that many of us exhibit online is in direct contradiction to what God has commanded of us.

For those of us with a commitment to God, it is apparent that every aspect of trolling is completely antithetical to the persona of the believer, and for those who have fallen into this gutter of social media, one hopes that they are able to see their own evil, and strengthen their bond with God in order to climb out of it. For others who are intimidated by the tactics of trolls, the words of God are sufficient:

“And [they are] those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.” (25:72)






Why George Tyrikos Cannot Turn His Back On Syrian Refugees

Loon Watch - 31 August, 2015 - 01:38


For George Tyrikos, a 33-year-old butcher and science-fiction author turned volunteer, the surge in Syrian refugees arriving on the Greek island, Lesbos this summer has given him the chance to repay a 70-year-old family debt to the people of Syria. George’s grandmother Eleni was one of many people who fled to Syria from Lesbos in 1943. Like thousands of others, she was escaping the great famine that devastated Greece during the Second World War.

George has been helping refugees on Lesbos for the past 10 years. He volunteers for a small nonprofit called Agkalia, which supports refugees in the village of Kallon after they wade ashore from rubber rafts launched from Turkey by smugglers. The group has depended solely on generous contributions from the community, but has seen a drop in donations since Greece’s economic crisis set limits on the amount of cash residents are allowed to withdraw.

The International Rescue Committee is providing cash assistance to Agkalia to help the group distribute food, medicine and shelter to refugees trekking across the island. Kallon is halfway along the forty-mile route refugees walk from the northern coast to a transit camp just outside the capital, Mytiline, where they wait for the paperwork they need to continue their journey further into Europe.

George shared his story with the IRC’s Tyler Jump:

I cannot turn my back on Syrians now, it’s that simple for me.

I’m only here talking to you because my grandmother was a refugee in Syria. My grandmother did the opposite of what Syrians are doing now: She went to their homeland in order to survive.

She fled because of the famine and because of the war. It was a path many people took. Everyone who could, left.

It was just like now. Greeks used smugglers to get to Turkey. My family first went to Turkey but moved on to Syria because there was an Allied refugee camp there. They sold everything on the black market and used the money to go to Syria. But of course not everyone could fit in the camp. So people started dispersing all over the region.

They found this lady in Aleppo who they lived with for six years. The kindness of this lady helped my family survive. My grandmother and my aunts worked as domestic workers — they did basic stuff.

Continue reading…

Police hunt London woman feared to be heading for Syria with her four children

The Guardian World news: Islam - 29 August, 2015 - 19:39

Zahera Tariq, and her three sons and daughter, are believed to have flown from London to Amsterdam, while her husband stayed behind

A missing mother and her four children are feared to be travelling from Britain to Syria after they disappeared from their London home last week, Scotland Yard has said. Police are trying to trace Zahera Tariq, 33, and her sons Muhammad, 12, Amaar, 11, Aadid, four, and daughter Safiyyah, nine. They were last seen at their house in Walthamstow, east London, on Tuesday, and were believed to have flown from London City airport to Amsterdam the same day. Police believe all five may be on their way to Syria.

Tariq’s husband and the father of her children is thought to be still in the UK, two neighbours said yesterday. One said she spotted him at the house early on Wednesday morning as she was heading to work.

Related: 'There is no silver bullet': Isis, al-Qaida and the myths of terrorism

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Jeremy Corbyn, ‘Islamists’ and women-only carriages

Indigo Jo Blogs - 29 August, 2015 - 10:45

Picture of Jeremy Corbyn, a middle-aged white man with white hair, wearing a cream shirt with a pen in its pocket, standing in front of a microphone in front of a London buildingEarlier this week Jeremy Corbyn (right) gave his support to considering reintroducing women-only carriages on trains, which were found in the UK until the 1970s and still in a number of other countries, particularly Japan. He actually did not come up with the idea himself, but in a policy document noted that he had been asked to consider it by women and was open to the idea:

“Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform to the bus stop to the mode of transport itself,” he said. “However, I would consult with women and hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and on modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”

This has provoked a mixed response, being rejected by the other three candidates (two of them women). Liz Kendall said that ‘gender segregation’ would be like ‘admitting defeat’ while Yvette Cooper said it would amount to “turning the clock back, not tackling the problem”. (Two Labour mayoral candidates, Gareth Thomas and Diane Abbott, said they were open to the idea, however.) Many feminists (and indeed many women) on my social media feeds like the idea, but a particular group claims it would open the door to ‘victim blaming’ against women attacked or harassed while using a mixed carriage. There has also been the suggestion that Corbyn got the idea from his ‘Islamist friends’, and attempts to compare the idea to segregation, as if men and women were to be forcibly separated. Some people clearly see this in the same light as the ‘university segregation’ issue.

There are some clear practical problems with the suggestion, and some political ones. The biggest of the former is the very reason why they were abolished in the first place: the introduction of corridor trains on suburban routes, which is now happening on the London Underground with the new stock being introduced on the Metropolitan/District network and Victoria line. The authorities will surely not introduce all-female carriages knowing they will have to abolish them when new rolling stock is introduced. Second, they will only work on long trains with (at least) six or more carriages, which are only found on some suburban and long-distance trunk routes. London Underground rejected the idea in 1997 as too expensive, because its trains are driver-only and “the logistics of turning each train into one with a carriage reserved for women would be a nightmare”. Many areas of the north are stuck with two- or three-carriage trains and they cannot reserve a third of the space for women. Politically, this could lead to Corbyn himself, the member for Islington, being seen as a metropolitan, middle-class leftie candidate, if he isn’t already (though short trains are found on many routes around London as well, particularly the London Overground) and it won’t win back any northern working-class votes that have been lost to UKIP. Of course, it won’t benefit women in places where buses or trams are the only transport available, either.

A blog post on the “Everyday Victim Blaming” website (run by radical feminist Louise Pennington; the article is reproduced here) took the position that the idea would contribute to victim-blaming (by giving the impression that women had to use the carriages to avoid harassment) rather than dealing with “the root causes of harassment: male entitlement to women’s time and sexual access to women’s bodies”, although it did say that in their Twitter poll, while many of their respondents said that the idea was wrong as it “held women accountable for the criminal behaviour of men”, they also said they would use the carriages if they were available. I’m not sure this argument stacks up particularly well: it’s a question of giving women choice, and while nobody is suggesting that it’s a surefire way of avoiding any unwelcome male attention while on the train (the policy would need to be aggressively enforced for that to be the case), it would make some women feel safer. There are many reasons why some women wouldn’t use the all-women carriage: it might be full, or dirty, or have a bunch of the bullies from their old school in it; perhaps they started their journey in a mixed group, or a group of women that did not feel the need for the safety of the all-women carriage; perhaps the exit at their station is nowhere near where the all-women carriage stops (likely to be a common problem as suburban platforms that take 8- or 12-carriage trains are necessarily long).

Victim-blaming happens everywhere, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to deny women the choice to do avoid situations where they would be vulnerable to harassment — we do not force women to do any of the other things that are deemed ‘risky’ — just because to do the other might be seen as inviting trouble. And if the author supports the right to an abortion up to 40 weeks (that is, for the entire pregnancy), as Louise Pennington does, where is the logic in opposing a woman having the right to choose here? This is not to say that we shouldn’t educate people that women have a right to go about their business without harassment from men, but if something needs to be done now then something needs to be done now. We shouldn’t refuse to take an action that might make people’s lives better now because we imagine the revolution might happen some time soon.

Other parts of the opposition to this idea are coloured with bigotry and particularly Islamophobia. The word ‘segregation’ has been used a lot, as if trains were going to be divided up between men and women with four men’s carriages and four women’s, as found in places like Iran (the majority of the Muslim world does not segregate public transport, although there are women-only carriages on some train and metro systems, though less strictly enforced than in Japan). In fact, there would be one all-women carriage and the remainder would be mixed. There was a comment on an Independent article about the subject in which one ‘lucyhilt’ claimed, “I don’t suppose any connection will be made between the increase coinciding with the arrival of large groups of single males supposedly fleeing countries where women are treated like property and are second-class citizens?”. In fact, harassment is something that men of all races are involved in and I have not heard any suggestion that it has increased recently or that more non-white men are involved.

The Tory MP Sarah Wollaston claimed that “in countries where women are segregated on public transport, this is a marker for disempowerment not safety”. This statement is a classic example of correlation being confused with causation; the women-only carriages are a recognition that women face particular dangers when travelling and is intended to allow them to travel in peace rather than fight a battle for equality when trying to get to work. But what is really disturbing is the continual references to Islam, to the situation in Muslim countries and the assumption that they are all segregated when they are not, or that this is only otherwise done in Muslim countries when in fact Japan and India are not Muslim countries; that we cannot do something to help women feel safe from harassment in public because it would make us a bit less western and a bit more Islamic, and that politicians hasten to disassociate themselves from anything that might associate them from Islam or Muslims. It’s worth remembering that the people who made separate spaces for women an ‘issue’ in British universities a couple of years ago included a group of men who invaded the women’s section during a talk, while secularist forums and events are notorious for the kind of harassment women might be seeking to avoid by going into an all-female space. By contrast, I’ve never seen a man on DeenPort respond to a woman who criticised him with a sexual innuendo.

Almost every article about this subject which accepts comments has a flood of comments from men complaining that it discriminates against men, that men are victims of violence more than women, that “not all men” harass women, and that ‘drunken louts’ bother everyone. The last is a fair point, and in such circumstances, where a women-only carriage is usually available, it might be an idea to remove it so as to segregate the drunks so as to allow peace and quiet for everyone else. But really, nobody is saying all men do it, but the fact is that it only takes a few and the harassment goes on at quiet times as well as busy ones. (However, I suspect some of the men flooding comment boxes with “not all men” remarks are organised groups of trolls that are involved in other online harassment, and some of them are the guilty parties as regards public harassment as well.) And sexual harassment of women is only one type of public harassment; all-female carriages will not offer much protection, even to women, from harassment related to disability or other visible differences.

So, the idea of all-female carriages might be impractical (and as Christian Wolmar suggested, more staff and CCTV might be more effective) but the response has been full of untruth, exaggeration and bigotry. I don’t believe it is a serious imposition on men that they stay out of one carriage in an eight-car train, for a half-hour journey (unlike the really stupid suggestion of a one-night 10pm curfew for men, which I have seen passed round on social media in the past couple of weeks; there is no reason why the innocent majority should be inconvenienced because they cannot be told apart from the harassers, and this idea would have unintended negative consequences for women as well). They are something that were accepted until the introduction of walk-through trains made them impracticable; they were not abolished because anyone imagined that public sexual harassment was a thing of the past. Most men would rather their wives, daughters, sisters and even female colleagues were safe from men who might annoy or threaten them on the way home, which is why women-only carriages were accepted for a century, but it seems some want other women to be available to them at any time and others bridle at making a tiny sacrifice, or at a space being closed to them, so that women might feel safe — something their fathers and grandfathers would have done gladly. Bringing back the women’s carriage might strike some as “turning the clock back”, but if progress means that “white knight” is used as a derogatory term for men who are sensitive to women’s needs, if it means we would rather women of all races and creeds were denied the opportunity to travel in peace so we don’t look like Muslims, if it means a fairly moderate idea encounters a barrage of derision from misogynists and the smut-peddling popular press (which has spent the last half century selling women’s bodies as a commodity), then what do we mean by progress and what is it really worth?

Image source: Garry Knight, via Wikimedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.

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