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'There was nobody to help me stop my son joining Isis'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 hours 13 min ago

Families of foreign jihadis killed in Syria are helping a deradicalisation programme to bring young men back from the brink

Scrolling through photos on her mobile phone, Saliha Ben Ali stops at a picture of her son, Sabri, as a three-year-old sitting on Father Christmas’s lap. Santa’s white-gloved hands envelope Sabri’s small torso and that of the little boy sitting to his right. Both lads stare straight ahead, looking slightly bewildered. “To think, they were the only guys who were scared of Santa Claus that day,” Ben Ali recalls. “Now both of them are dead.”

Sabri died in Syria aged 19, fighting for Isis, sometime between August 2013 and 8 December that year, when an unknown man telephoned Ben Ali’s husband to tell them he had been killed. She is still haunted by the 10-second phone call in which the man said “congratulations, your son is a martyr”.

Related: Mothers of Isis recruits find healing and resolve through support network

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BADD 2016: Break the silence

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 May, 2016 - 19:19

An image featuring the words "Blogging Against Disablism", with a variety of stick figures of different colours on different coloured backgrounds, one holding a stick, and a wheelchair in one of the spaces.This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2016.

Last month we saw the Seven Days of Action campaign, to highlight the cases of people with learning disabilities, mostly autism, who are being held for prolonged periods in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) when they could or should be at home, or in a care home environment near their family. For last year’s BADD I also blogged on this issue; some of the people I mentioned are still trapped; Josh Wills has been happily resettled (after many bureaucratic hurdles) in his own home in Cornwall, Claire Dyer is still free, while Thomas Rawnsley’s inquest has yet to begin (a pre-inquest hearing was adjourned last week at the request of the “other parties”). I decided to link this year’s BADD post to Seven Days of Action so as to attract the wider disability activist community’s attention.

Here’s a run-down of the cases featured during the Seven Days. One story had to be changed, as although the young man had recently been discharged from an ATU into a local placement similar to Josh Wills’s, the placement had “hit some snags” and the local authority were talking of putting him back in the ATU.

Kara from Who By Fire wrote an excellent post in conclusion, summarising the issues which had been raised by the seven stories. Mark Neary is expected to post an entry tomorrow about some developments which have followed from this event: one young lad (Robert) was approved for funding for a placement in a local care home, but others have faced retaliation, including parents threatened with a gagging order, extended detention and even one assault.

There are a number of petitions addressed to various local authorities, demanding that they secure placements for the young people (mostly boys and men) who are trapped in these units. In one case (Robert’s), the ATU staff even signed the petitions themselves. However, some of them have had to be closed down when staff warned the parents that they were monitoring their online activities and that they could affect their loved ones’ treatment or keep them detained for longer. This is obviously a dreadful abuse of power, and it’s a power they would not have if psychiatrists were not able to detain people under the Mental Health Act when they are not mentally ill but rather are displaying distress behaviour which is normal for their learning disability when they are simply anxious, or struggling to deal with a sudden change in their life, or with uncertainty (as has been observed elsewhere, such crises often happen at age 17 or 18 when school ends and a well-established routine suddenly ends). However, some of the same behaviour is provoked by the treatment they receive once in, as such units often make no attempt to fit the needs of the individual patients and the staff may have no clue how to address them. (There are reports of such behaviour being provoked deliberately, as well.)

Psychiatrists have too much power. They are not fully accountable. They can make decisions that affect the quality of people’s lives, everything from suspending someone’s driving licence without notice to sectioning someone and then transferring them to another unit, perhaps hundreds of miles away, without their or their family’s consent and without any serious opportunity to challenge. Add the ability to threaten or intimidate families into silence and you have the potential for an awful lot of abuse.

Silence is often justified in terms of protecting vulnerable people; this is particularly so when children in care are concerned; parents are prohibited from disclosing what went on in a family court session, for example. In some cases, not naming a child involved in care proceedings or who has been a victim of a sexual assault is entirely appropriate for their protection (and I have defended it on one previous occasion, where Panorama were forbidden from naming a boy who had been taken into care after, among other things, setting fire to his room, after a legal challenge from the local authority). However, it can also undermine a parent’s position and their child’s trust in them — I read an article recently by a mother who had had to lie to her daughter so as to conceal the fact that her parents were in the family courts, which ordered that she not disclose the fact to her daughter. But worst of all, it can stop a parent or relative seeking advice in a semi-public forum such as Facebook or MumsNet about dangers their relative is facing, let alone taking it to the media. This is likely to be the case if someone is in a care home under the orders of the Court of Protection, for example (as Thomas Rawnsley was at the end of his life).

However, injustice, abuse and cruelty thrive when people cannot talk about it. So many victims of sexual abuse reported that their abusers told them not to tell as it would break up their family, break their mother’s hearts, or they wouldn’t be believed (and they were often right on the last of these things). We talk about justice being done and seen to be done; we have the Freedom of Information Act so that government departments cannot conceal waste or corruption. Publicity is vital for ensuring that people who have power over others’ lives cannot abuse it with impunity. I believe that the fact that Claire Dyer’s case was known locally in South Wales and was being widely discussed in the disability blogging community, including on this site, and that the commercially-run unit which took her despite not being equipped to do so knew this, was a major factor in ensuring that she was released early. The family of Robert Stillman, whose placement was approved days after his story was highlighted on Seven Days of Action, are convinced that this is what made the difference.

We cannot discuss the reasons why ATUs and the Mental Health Act they rely on to detain people are inadequate, sometimes lethally so, if the lives of the people affected are shrouded in secrecy. We must campaign to end the secrecy of the Court of Protection where it is not necessary (the judiciary is already moving in this direction). Trusts and corporations must know that their names will become public knowledge if a disabled person dies or is seriously injured in their care. Secrecy benefits nobody except the abusers, the foot-draggers and the companies that profit from disabled people’s misery and their families’ grief. It must be fought at every turn.

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Zayn Malik - saviour of Muslim teenagers | Urmee Khan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 April, 2016 - 10:00

The former One Direction star speaks to an aspirational generation of British Muslim kids who want to please their parents and carve out their own identity

Muslim teenagers in Britain, so we are told, are caught between extremism and integration. Thousands of pounds have been spent on projects such as Prevent – arguably a total waste of money. Teenagers don’t care what some crusty MPs and self appointed “community leaders” think. Things are grim.

Related: Zayn Malik and the pains of being a Muslim pop star

Related: Zayn Malik: Mind of Mine review – downbeat sex jams drive assured rebrand

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‘My crime was wearing a turban’: Sikh man arrested on US bus pursues justice

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 April, 2016 - 00:46

Daljeet Singh, a political asylum seeker from India, was detained for 30 hours by police after a fellow passenger alleged she heard him discussing a bomb

It is an iconic American experience, a first long-distance trip in a Greyhound bus through parts of the southwest made famous by Route 66.

When Daljeet Singh took the journey, though, he saw an altogether more dystopian vision of America: one in which it feels like a prejudiced and paranoid place where to be perceived as “Arabic” is to be viewed as a potential terrorist.

Related: Southwest Airlines draws outrage over man removed for speaking Arabic

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REVIEW OF “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD – FALING FOR BALANCE”

Single Muslim Mums - 29 April, 2016 - 21:00

I recently stumbled across a poetry book “For the love of God” by Omar L Rashed. Poetry books are normally not something I would spend a vast amount of time reading, but I was intrigued by the title and felt compelled to take a further look.

 

It was not what I was expecting – in a good way. The poems are not your typical run of the mill rhymes or sonnets as I had expected. They explore all aspects of existence: self; nature and emotions in an attempt to get closer to God and spirituality.

 

One of my favourite poems was “Flame & freeze”. Omar, with his powerful imagery, paints a delectable portrait of wildfire in a forest.

“Purging of all her beauty

Disfiguring her – adieu tree”

Emotive phrases refused to part with my heart. It stirred something inside as it evoked memories from my youth. This was exactly the kind of poetry we would study in high school.

“The fire was not afraid

It listened and obeyed”

The stanza reminds us that as with everything else in this universe, the fire follows the Will of our Divine Creator – of God. I liked the way Omar tied this in to the whole purpose of the poem – to revel in the superiority of God and marvel in His creation.

 

 

“Falling off the horse” was another of my favourites. It talks about how frail and vulnerable man is and how it is God who has protected him and enlightened him. It reinforces how we all, no matter what, have so much to be thankful for and how much we all take for granted.

“And the sinner whose secret You have protected

And the wrong doer whom You aided

And I am the little (creature) You made more significant

And the oppressed whom You made victorious

And I am the escapee whom You gave refuge to.”

This resonated so deeply within me that it honestly brought tears to my eyes. Only a kindred spirit who had known pain within his very soul could bring forth words like this! Words that represent thoughts that have arisen due to fears of not being worthy in the eyes of God. How true Omar’s words are – we owe everything to God! We are nothing by chance or accidentally except by the Mercy of God. This summed up my own sentiments exactly and is similar to the way I too, express myself via poetry.

 

I had never given thought to buying a poetry book, although it had always been a desire of mine. To own one book that moved me so much that I could dip in to it at will and it would be as if I was embracing a dear old friend was a fantasy I had. I think I may have finally found that book, based on those two poems alone.


Malik Jalal: What It Feels Like To Be Hunted By Drones

Loon Watch - 29 April, 2016 - 19:44

Pakistanis protest Hillary Clinton's visit, demanding an explanation for illegal drone attacks

Pakistanis protest Hillary Clinton’s visit, demanding an explanation for illegal drone attacks

via. The Independent

I am in the strange position of knowing that I am on the ‘Kill List’. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again. Four times missiles have been fired at me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be alive.

I don’t want to end up a “Bugsplat” – the ugly word that is used for what remains of a human being after being blown up by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone. More importantly, I don’t want my family to become victims, or even to live with the droning engines overhead, knowing that at any moment they could be vaporized.

I am in England this week because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead. I’ll tell my story so that you can judge for yourselves whether I am the kind of person you want to be murdered.

I am from Waziristan, the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am one of the leaders of the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC), which is a body of local Maliks (or community leaders) that is devoted to trying to keep the peace in our region. We are sanctioned by the Pakistan government, and our main mission is to try to prevent violence between the local Taliban and the authorities.

In January 2010, I lent my vehicle to my nephew, Salimullah, to drive to Deegan for an oil change and to have one of the tires checked. Rumours had surfaced that drones were targeting particular vehicles, and tracking particular phone signals. The sky was clear and there were drones circling overhead.

As Salimullah conversed with the mechanic, a second vehicle pulled up next to mine. There were four men inside, just local chromite miners. A missile destroyed both vehicles, killed all four men, and seriously injured Salimullah, who spent the next 31 days in hospital.

Upon reflection, because the drones target the vehicles of people they want to kill in Waziristan, I was worried that they were aiming for me.

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The Intercept: FBI Uses “Honeypot” To Ensnare Michigan Man

Loon Watch - 29 April, 2016 - 19:16

khalil-abu-rayyan-twitter

(h/t:JD)

via. The Intercept

KHALIL ABU RAYYAN was a lonely young man in Detroit, eager to find a wife. Jannah Bride claimed she was a 19-year-old Sunni Muslim whose husband was killed in an airstrike in Syria. The two struck up a romantic connection through online communications.

Now, Rayyan, a 21-year-old Michigan man, is accused by federal prosecutors of supporting the Islamic State.

Documents released Tuesday show, however, that Rayyan was motivated not by religious radicalism but by the desire to impress Bride, who said she wanted to be a martyr.

Jannah Bride, not a real name, was in fact an FBI informant hired to communicate with Rayyan, who first came to the FBI’s attention when he retweeted a video from the Islamic State of people being thrown from buildings. He wrote later on Twitter: “Thanks, brother, that made my day.”

Rayyan, who had previously been arrested for having marijuana, is now charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and making a false statement to acquire a firearm.

Although Rayyan is not charged with terrorism, the FBI and federal prosecutors have treated his case as a national security concern, making numerous references in court filings and at a detention hearing to statements Rayyan made about the Islamic State and his supposed aspirations for violence.

Rayyan has pleaded not guilty to the federal gun charges, and his lawyers have asked the court to force the government to turn over all remaining communications between Rayyan and the FBI informant.

According to transcripts of conversations between Rayyan and the informant — which were made public for the first time this week — Rayyan had fallen in love with Bride and had even proposed marriage.

The transcripts show that the FBI informant initiated conversations about violence on several occasions, and when she did, Rayyan would tell her that he didn’t want to hurt anyone. In an online conversation on December 26, 2015, the informant asked Rayyan, using the Arabic word meaning this earthly life, “What do you want from this Dunya?”

“Honestly to get married,” he responded. “I think if I get married I will be happy. I’m just lonely sometimes. I want to start a family.”

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Despite the murals, Belfast is not Bethlehem with rain | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 April, 2016 - 18:39
In a city of peace walls, Catholics feel occupied, Protestants that they’ve an ancient claim to the land. So both appropriate the narratives of the Israel-Palestine conflict

The Short Strand housing estate is a fiercely republican enclave in predominantly loyalist east Belfast. In these tightly packed streets, several thousand Catholics hunker down in an area of tens of thousands of Protestants. Close by one of the major routes of Orange Order marches, the Short Strand has long been a flashpoint. It was here that the IRA fought one of the first battles of the Troubles, resulting in three dead and 26 wounded. And there are still problems, with what some rather stupidly call “recreational rioting”. Stones and worse are regularly thrown over the peace wall separating the communities.

On a good day, the estate seems unremarkable – except for a huge mural that runs alongside a strip of wasteland next to the shops. “Short Strand supports Gaza,” it reads. Beside it the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, sits in a Gaza-shaped bath of blood, wielding a meat cleaver at drowning Palestinians as Barack Obama tries to avert Ban Ki-moon’s attention away from the massacre.

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Why Adoption and Fostering Must be Our Muslim Duty

altmuslim - 28 April, 2016 - 17:00
By Yusra Gomaa “H-H-Hello, Asalaamu’alaykum. Umm, my name is Amna and I have two young children. The state is terminating my parental rights, and there’s nothing I can do. I didn’t know who else to call. I have one month to find someone before they go up for adoption. Can you please help me find [Read More...]

Whatever they do, Muslims can’t win in our society | Ian Birrell

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 April, 2016 - 12:59

British people pride themselves on being inclusive and fair. Yet we tolerate Britons being discriminated against – if they happen to follow Islam

It is enough to make you feel proud to be British, citizens of a nation that loves little better than to boast about its brilliance at subsuming new cultures into our supposedly tolerant society. In the space of just a few days a Muslim woman clad in a hijab cooked the Queen’s 90th birthday cake, a Muslim footballer was voted player of the year for the first time and a Muslim woman notched up the unprecedented hat-trick of being the first black, female and Islamic student president.

These small steps forward should have been starbursts of pride, signs of rapid evolution in a modern nation embracing diversity. Instead suspicion clings to this community, with double standards that demand integration then treat its members so differently to others.

Muslims are just the latest group of immigrants to be subjected to profound suspicion

Related: I’m the new NUS president – and no, I’m not an antisemitic Isis sympathiser | Malia Bouattia

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Why so many Iranians have come to hate the hijab

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 April, 2016 - 09:00

Over the years the state crackdown on women’s dress has become more of a show to placate the country’s hardline base. Our correspondent shares stories from her personal repertoire illustrating the point

As summer approaches, police in Tehran have once again begun to crack down on Iranians who fail to comply with the country’s Islamic dress code. This year, besides the customary uniformed morality police, 7,000 undercover agents are reportedly also on the case. I was spared the early years of the Islamic Republic, but my mother recalls how diligent she had to be to avoid giving the morality police – or anyone else with the authority to judge appearances – any pretext to find fault with her, as jail sentences for “protesting” were all too common for dress-code transgressors.

It was a hot day in the early 1980s and my parents were going to an international exhibition in Tehran. As my older sister, then a baby, lay in her carriage, my mom wheeled her into the room filled with female agents who were in charge of checking the women’s compliance. They would ask some to fix their hijab, passing tissues to others to wipe off their makeup. As one agent finished scrutinizing my mother, she looked at my sister in the carriage.

Related: Iranian fashion: between the veils

Related: Iran's morality police: patrolling the streets by stealth

Related: How the hijab has made sexual harassment worse in Iran

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Warsan Shire: the Somali-British poet quoted by Beyoncé in Lemonade

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 April, 2016 - 15:00

She was London’s Young Poet Laureate, becoming a voice for its marginalised people – now her work has been recited by the queen of pop

She writes of places where many Beyoncé fans rarely go, the portions of London where the faces are black and brown, where men huddle outside shop-front mosques and veiled women are trailed by long chains of children. Warsan Shire, the Somali-British poet whose words are featured in Beyoncé’s new globe-shaking Lemonade album, is a bard of these marginalised areas – she was even named the first Young Poet Laureate for London at 25.

Beyoncé reads parts of Shire’s poems, including For Women Who Are Difficult To Love, The Unbearable Weight of Staying (the End of the Relationship) and Nail Technician as Palm Reader in interludes between songs in her 12-track, hour-long video album that premiered this week. Truly, Shire was a brilliant choice for Beyoncé’s unapologetically black and female album: like the people and places from which they are woven, Shire’s poems – published in a volume titled Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth – are laden with longing for other lands and complicated by the contradictions of belonging in new ones. In Conversations about Home, she writes: “I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I’m bloated with language I can’t afford to forget”, and: “They ask me how did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket.”

Related: 'Beyoncé is not a woman to be messed with' – Lemonade review

Related: How Beyoncé's Lemonade became a pop culture phenomenon

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