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The Pompey jihadis: how did one English city produce six young fighters for Isis?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 hours 42 min ago
As another Briton dies in Syria, residents ask whether Portsmouth radicalised bad boys who flew out to join Islamic State

Outside Jami Mosque, among the swirling brown leaves, Abdul Jamani reckons the mundanity of life among the terraced streets nearby helped to propel the lads to the battlefields of Syria. Theres not that much to do around here, they probably wanted excitement. Whatever they were after, it was nothing to do with Islam, says Jamani, aged 38, who helps out at the Bengali restaurants that line Albert Road.

Portsmouths Jami Mosque and Islamic Centre was attended by the al-Britaini Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys, also known as the Pompey Lads. The group of six, caught on CCTV as they strode jauntily through Gatwick airport ahead of a Thomas Cook flight to Turkey on 8 October last year, ended up fighting for Islamic State (Isis). One is now in a British jail, four of them are dead one confirmed killed on Tuesday and another announced yesterday in the Isis offensive on the Syrian town of Kobani, where the remaining member of the group is presumed to still be fighting.

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Australian youth in Isis video a victim of 'brutal betrayal of his own religion'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 October, 2014 - 08:37

Scott Morrison spoke of the terribly sad and tragic tale of the Sydney teenager at National Mosque Open Day in Lakemba

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, says a young Australian who appeared this week in propaganda video by the militia group Islamic State is a victim to the most barbaric and brutal betrayal of his own religion.

Morrison was among more than 4,000 visitors to the Lakemba mosque on Saturday as part of the first National Mosque Open Day.

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Death in Syria: a man on a mission of mercy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 October, 2014 - 00:28
As one family mourns a man who left to join an aid convoy, a campaign group urges a rethink on returnees from Syria

The last texts of Kamran ul-Haque to his elder brother tell a story of a young man fearful yet thrilled by the prospect of war in Syria. I might be going on a mad mission very soon. Theres a place that has been heavily attacked and bombarded, he wrote.

The 29-year-old east Londoner, who had been in the country since December last year, had spent months ferrying the dead and injured to field hospitals in the country in his own words, bloody, gruesome work far from his old life as an Indian takeaway delivery man in Whitechapel, east London. [They] need me here and my ambulance to take people out. Very risky mission but I love the feeling.

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Rep. Peter King Claims Mosques Are ‘Incubators’ For Terrorism

Loon Watch - 24 October, 2014 - 22:24

peter-king--300x186

Interesting that Rep. Peter King is saying this after he visited a mosque in an attempt to repair his Islamophobic image.

via. HuffingtonPost

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) continued his pattern of inflammatory comments about Muslim Americans on Thursday, this time calling for greater “surveillance” of Muslim communities.

“We have to find out who the radicals are. We have to find out what’s going on in the mosques, which are often incubators of this type of terrorism,” King said on Newsmax TV’s “America’s Forum.”

The comments came after King responded to this week’s deadly shooting rampage at the Canadian Parliament. King said, “Anyone who thinks this is a coincidence is crazy. … Right now you have ISIS telling their people in Canada and the United States to carry out these attacks.”

The congressman argued that the U.S. “can have all the technology in the world. The fact is we have to find out what’s happening on the ground in these Muslim communities, and we can only do that through increased surveillance.”

This is hardly the first time King has made controversial remarks about Muslim communities. In 2011, King, who then chaired the House Homeland Security Committee, claimed that “over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams.” He began a series of investigative hearings to “examine radicalization within the Muslim-American community” in 2012. Critics deemed the controversial hearings “McCarthyism 2.0.”

Polio Vaccine Spy Program: The Crazy Conspiracy Theory that Wasn’t

Loon Watch - 24 October, 2014 - 22:18

AP In this December 18, 2013 photo, Pakistani students light candles to pay tribute to polio health workers killed by militants, in Karachi.

AP In this December 18, 2013 photo, Pakistani students light candles to pay tribute to polio health workers killed by militants, in Karachi.

 

by Ilisha

The BBC has reported a tragic polio epidemic. Despite the existence of a vaccine that has helped eradicate the disease in many parts of the world, polio is rapidly spreading in Pakistan. Last May, the BBC warned:

Pakistan is facing international travel restrictions because of an uncontrolled outbreak of polio. But unless vaccinators gain unfettered access to North Waziristan, where the Taliban are in control and have banned the vaccine, it will be hard to stem the spread of the disease, reports Kim Ghattas..

… The Pakistani Taliban insurgency there has hampered access for health workers…

…The militants say vaccinations are a cover for espionage and part of a Western conspiracy against Muslims…

Last month, the BBC reported the situation in Pakistan is growing worse:

The number of cases of polio in Pakistan has topped 200 for the first time in nearly 15 years.

Pakistan is the only country where the virus is spreading fast – showing up in sewage samples all over Karachi.

The Taliban imposed a ban on the vaccine in 2012 which has meant nearly 300,000 children have not been vaccinated for two years. Security personnel escort workers as they administer the vaccine.

And in another article, also last month, the BBC reported:

Suspicions over the programmes worsened after the US was accused of using a fake vaccination programme during its tracking of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
Since December 2012, about 60 people, including health workers and police providing security to medical teams, have been killed by Taliban militants targeting polio teams.

The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil in Islamabad says the rise in cases is hugely embarrassing to Pakistan.

The country has failed to curb the disease despite massive investment on immunisation programmes by the international community, she adds.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization imposed travel restrictions on the country meaning all Pakistanis must now carry proof of vaccination before travelling abroad.

Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is endemic – the other two being Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Why do “militants” say the vaccine programs have been used as a cover for espionage?

Maybe it has to do with recent assertions in the New Statesmen, stating the “Muslim world” is “in thrall to conspiracy theories.” :

The “We’ve been lied to” argument goes only so far. Scepticism may be evidence of a healthy and independent mindset; but conspiracism is a virus that feeds off insecurity and bitterness. As the former Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani has admitted, “the contemporary Muslim fascination for conspiracy theories” is a convenient way of “explaining the powerlessness of a community that was at one time the world’s economic, scientific, political and military leader”.

Or maybe the “militants” say the vaccine program have been used as a cover for espionage because it actually has:

CIA Says It Will No Longer Use Vaccine Programs As Cover

by BILL CHAPPELL

May 20, 2014
A White House official says the CIA will no longer use vaccine programs as cover for spy operations, answering health experts’ complaints that it had hurt international efforts to fight disease.

The CIA famously used a vaccination program as a ploy to gain information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. That effort didn’t succeed, and the doctor involved was sentenced to a prison term. But the revelation had immediate effects — particularly in the fight against polio.

As The New York Times reported in 2012, vaccination teams were banned in some areas of Pakistan.

And vaccination workers have been assassinated, the deans from Tulane, Emory, Columbia and other universities wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Jan. 6, 2013. They also compared the use of vaccine programs to the CIA’s early infiltration of the Peace Corps, saying that in both cases, the practice had to be stopped to protect volunteers and gain access where people are most vulnerable to disease.

Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco recently sent a letter responding to the deans. She wrote that in August 2013, CIA Director John Brennan issued an order forbidding the use of vaccination programs to gather intelligence or genetic evidence.

From Yahoo News, which obtained a copy of the letter:

“CIA Director John Brennan made the decision himself because he ‘took seriously the concerns raised by the public health community,’ CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz said.

“‘By publicizing this policy, our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers,’ Ebitz said by email.”

News of the CIA’s revised policy was first reported by Yahoo and The Washington Post, which also noted the timing of the response — more than 16 months have passed since the deans wrote to Obama.

Quoting a “senior administration official,” the Post says it was told that “this was a unique case that required deliberate thought and review on our end before we made such a statement publicly.”

Update at 4:16 p.m. ET. ‘Not Going To Help':

NPR’s Jason Beaubien filed a story about this decision for tonight’s edition of All Things Considered. Here’s an interesting bit from it:

“‘The CIA is not exclusively responsible for the problems we have in getting children vaccinated but it certainly didn’t make it anything easier,’ says Anthony Robbins, the co-editor of the Journal of Public Health Policy. Robbins wrote an editorial denouncing the CIA use of fake vaccination programs back in August of 2012. Even before bin Laden was killed in 2011, the Taliban had banned polio immunization in the parts of Pakistan it controls. The Taliban claimed the polio drops sterilize Pakistani children and vaccinators were American spies.

“The head of one large anti-polio campaign in Pakistan wasn’t happy to hear the CIA’s latest declaration. ‘I don’t think this statement is going to help in anyway,’ says Aziz Memon, who heads Rotary International’s polio eradication effort in Pakistan. He says Pakistanis were starting to forget about the controversy over the fake CIA vaccination campaign and now he expects the issue to blow up in the local media all over again.”

In Pakistan, Memon worried the issue would “blow up in the local media all over again.” But what about in the US? Do most Americans know the CIA really did use the vaccination program as a cover for spy operations?

This revelation doesn’t mean the CIA is solely responsible for the epidemic in Pakistan, as noted in the NPR article, but the CIA is certainly complicit. Assuming the CIA plot was not intended to deliberately sabotage the vaccine program, it was at the very least an example of ruthless, short-sighted calculus with devastating consequences for the people of Pakistan.

We are left to wonder why this crucial fact continues to be omitted from so much of the coverage appearing in the Western media, including the articles highlighted here from the BBC.

Could it be the major media are more interested in absolving the West and demonizing the Taliban than they are in telling the people the truth?

Afghan newspapers blasphemy causes protests after rebuking Isis and Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 October, 2014 - 16:47
Comment piece in Afghanistan Express launched by technical error also attacked Taliban and said Islam is parochial religion

A newspaper columnist condemning Islamic State (Isis) and the Taliban triggered demonstrations in several Afghan cities on Friday, with protesters denouncing the article as blasphemous and calling on the government to punish the publication.

In Kabul, a crowd of approximately 500 people, including clerics and several members of parliament, gathered in front of the Eid Gah Mosque, the citys second largest house of worship.

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Prisoners Pictures review exploring science and propaganda amid conflict

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 October, 2014 - 13:48
A photography exhibition in Frankfurt examines first world war propaganda attempts to stir revolt among Muslim soldiers

Of all the exhibitions on the first world war, Prisoners Pictures, at Frankfurts Historisches Museum, is one of the smallest, but also the most unusual. Starting from a collection of 15 photographs of African prisoners of war held in Germany, it explores the connections between science and propaganda during the conflict. The pictures were found at the Frobenius Institute, named after a leading German ethnologist, but no one knows why they were taken.

The portraits five Africans and five Algerians were taken full-face and in profile. The quality is so good that in one of them the photographer and camera can be seen reflected in the subjects eye. Such scientific precision and the ambiguity surrounding the pictures reflect how the German authorities perceived their captives.

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Friday Links | October 24, 2014

Muslimah Media Watch - 24 October, 2014 - 07:00
Iran has arrested four men in connection to the acid attacks on women in the Iranian city of Esfahan. Large numbers of Iranians have demonstrated against the attacks, allegedly aimed at women that were not properly veiled, in the cities of Esfahan and Tehran. Last week, Nigeria’s government announced a truce with Boko Haram, which was broken by [Read More...]

Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Execs Remain Free as Guards Convicted for Killing 14 Iraqis in Massacre

Loon Watch - 23 October, 2014 - 21:28

Jeremy_Scahill

via. Democracy Now

JEREMY SCAHILL: First of all, Erik Prince is a radical right-wing Christian supremacist who, from the very beginning of the so-called war on terror, viewed the role of Blackwater in the world as being neo-crusaders. And he is a radical anti-Muslim. And he hates the religion of Islam. And he—his company, basically, was allowed to operate in an atmosphere where they would kill Muslims for sport inside of Iraq.

Idaho Muslim women told ‘get out of his country, you don’t belong, terrorists’ at Walmart

Loon Watch - 23 October, 2014 - 20:56

Muslim-women-could-seek-investigation-into-harassment-case

via. LocalNews8

CHUBBUCK, Idaho –

Local leaders in the Muslim community are urging two women to pursue charges against a man who verbally assaulted them at Wal Mart on Sunday.

But, investigators are not considering this to be a hate crime, yet.

General Secretary of the Islamic Society of Eastern Idaho Daniel Hummel said the two women were sought-after by the man who apparently has a longstanding history of anger toward the Muslim community.

“He was telling them to get out of his country, ‘you don’t belong, terrorists.’ It kept coming up, and it scared them,” Hummel said, noting the women tried to get away from the man before the store managers were called to intervene.

The Chubbuck Police Department also stepped-in, but the women decided to not pursue any legal charges against the men at that time.

Chubbuck Police Dept.’s Lieutenant Bill Guiberson said, as much as hateful words can be harmful, legally this case was not considered a hate crime under Idaho law.

“As a police officer, we are sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States,” Guiberson said. “That’s one thing that is very serious to us, and in this situation, whether we agree with one or either party, they each had their protected rights.”

Guiberson said in order for this situation to be considered a hate crime, the man had to have verbally threatened the women and/or physically assaulted them.

However in this case, neither of that happened.

“He could have been charged with disturbing the peace or even disorderly conduct,” Guiberson added.

He also pointed-out, under Title 18, Chapter 79 in the Idaho Code, it defines Malicious Harassment as:

“It shall be unlawful for any person, maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin, to: cause physical injury to another person; or damage, destroy, or deface any real or personal property of another person; or threaten, by word or act, to do the acts prohibited if there is reasonable cause to believe that any of the acts…will occur.”

Special FBI agent in Salt lake City Todd Palmer said in order for a crime or incident to be considered a “hate crime” it has to fall under very specific categories.

“If the individual is targeted because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or even perceived race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and we can prove they are being targeted because of those reasons, then that’s a hate crime,” Palmer said.

So, if someone is walking down the street and someone throws something at them, they can be charged with assault, but until one of these factors is proven, then it won’t be considered a hate crime.

Guiberson added, if the man ends up following the women to persistently harass them, then that could be considered to be a hate crime.

Hummel said he is shocked to see this nationwide problem of anger toward the Muslim community here in southeast Idaho.

He said witnesses were able to identify the man and he plans to pursue further action against him by filing for a restraining order to protect all Muslim women in the community.

The Ottawa shooting response reveals fault lines in the battle between two Canadas | Elamin Abdelmahmoud

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 October, 2014 - 17:20

Were self-congratulatory and skeptical about multiculturalism simultaneously, but recent events threaten our better selves

There are two stories about Canada. They are both real and they are at odds with each other.

The first is the story epitomised by Canadian anchor Peter Mansbridge on Wednesday. Tired as he may have been after leading the CBCs coverage when first two soldiers were deliberately run down in Quebec Monday and then during Wednesdays tragic shooting in Ottawa, he maintained his respectful tone and earned praise for not jumping to any conclusions about the shooter.

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Why arming the Kurds is the only option – even for anti-war progressives in the west

Mahdi Hassan - 23 October, 2014 - 09:55

These Kurdish units, which include all-women militias, have to all intents and purposes become the last line of defence against the genocidal fanatics of Islamic State.

 GettyPeople watch from the Turkish-Syria border as Kurdish fighters in the city of Kobani fight Islamic State militants. Photo: Getty

Quiz question: who said that the west must “strengthen the Kurdish fighters, who are doing a good job of fighting Isil”? Was it: a) US senator John McCain, b) former prime minister Tony Blair, or c) Respect MP, George Galloway? Yep, you guessed right. It wasn’t the neocon McCain or the “liberal interventionist” Blair. It was the anti-war Galloway, in a House of Commons debate on Iraq in late September.

It isn’t a contradiction to be anti-war and left-wing at the same time as being pro-Kurd and in favour of arming the Kurds. I have been a long-standing opponent of western military interventions in the Muslim-majority world, almost all of which – from Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 to Libya in 2011 – have resulted in civilian bloodshed and terrorist blowback. But I’m not a pacifist. And to pretend that the response to the beheaders, rapists and slave traders of the self-styled “Islamic State” (or IS) need not involve an element of brute military force is either ludicrously naive or disgracefully disingenuous.

So, too, is the lazy obsession with air strikes. “Wars, historically, have never been won by air power alone,” General David Richards, the former chief of the defence staff, told me in a recent interview, as he called for “boots on the ground”.

Another foreign military occupation of Iraq – or, for that matter, Syria – would be a disaster. More bloodshed, more blowback. There are, however, secular and Sunni boots already on the ground that we should all be backing against the jihadists of IS – those of Kurdish fighters not just in northern Iraq, where the peshmerga (literally, “those who confront death”) have fended off IS attempts to bring Erbil and Kirkuk under its terror-inspired “caliphate”, but also in northern Syria, where the People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD) have been heroically holding off IS in the town of Kobane for more than a month now.

These Kurdish units, which include all-women militias, have to all intents and purposes become the last line of defence against the genocidal fanatics of IS. They are, as even Galloway observed, doing a “good job”. But they can’t do it alone, especially against IS militants equipped with US-made tanks seized in Iraq. Progressives in the west, especially of the anti-war variety, need to get behind the Kurds, loudly and publicly. First, we owe them. Kurds constitute the biggest stateless minority in the world, with a population of roughly 30 million, divided mainly between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. They have been bombed in Turkey, executed in Iran, gassed in Iraq and besieged in Syria. Oh, and betrayed by the west. Repeatedly.

Second, they are worth fighting for. Take northern Syria, where the three autonomous and Kurdish-majority provinces of Rojava have avoided the worst excesses of the civil war and engaged in what David Graeber, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, has described as a “remarkable democratic experiment”, ceding power to “popular assemblies” and “women’s and youth councils”. Why would any progressive want to allow the revolutionary Kurds of Kobane to fall to the theocratic maniacs of IS?

Third, the Turks next door have sat on their hands. The crisis could have been an opportunity for Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to build a new long-term alliance with his country’s embittered Kurdish minority against extremism and sectarianism. The Kurds’ PYD in Syria, however, is an offshoot of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been locked in a violent conflict with Ankara over Kurdish autonomy since 1984. Erdogan thus decided to seal Turkey’s border with Syria, in effect giving the green light to IS militants to seize Kobane and massacre its PKK-affiliated populace – and then to bomb PKK positions in southern Turkey for the first time since the group agreed to participate in a peace process in March 2013.

Shamelessly echoing the mantra of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that “Hamas is Isis, Isis is Hamas”, Erdogan told reporters on 4 October: “For us, the PKK is the same as [IS].” The irony is that if it were the same as IS, Turkey would have done a lot more to help. The Turkish-Syrian border hasn’t been closed to IS fighters, only to PKK fighters. On 20 October, Turkey finally agreed to allow Kurdish fighters to cross the border into Syria, but only Kurds from Iraq and not from Turkey – and not with heavy weaponry, which is the main request of the YPG fighters in Kobane.

I asked a senior Turkish diplomat whether his country was prepared to take responsibility for the fall of the town to the jihadists. “We don’t care,” he replied defiantly. “We don’t care what the world thinks. We won’t be bullied by anyone.” He needn’t be worried. Western governments have never lifted a finger to help Turkey’s Kurds – or, by extension, Syria’s. They’re the wrong sort of Kurds, victims of a Nato ally, rather than a gang of jihadists. (“Kurds in Turkey are ‘terrorists’, but Kurds in Iraq are ‘freedom fighters’ and we’re not quite sure about the present status of the Iranian Kurds,” Tariq Ali once joked.)

So progressives need to get behind the Kurds, especially the brave Kurds of Kobane. Is there a danger that their struggle will be co-opted by western governments, which often shape outcomes in the Middle East to suit their own interests? Yes. Is there an alternative stance open to progressives, given how squeezed the Kurds are between Bashar al-Assad, Erdogan and IS? No. “Freedom,” in the words of an old Kurdish proverb, “is never given but taken.” 

Mehdi Hasan is an NS contributing writer. He works for Al Jazeera English and the Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted

Malalagate, Patriotism, and Disingenuous Agendas

Muslimah Media Watch - 23 October, 2014 - 07:00
Last week, Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai was declared a co-winner of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, along with activist Kailash Satyarthi. Since then there have been numerous articles, support pieces and critiques addressing her win, and the expected conspiracy theories. The announcement even reheated a discussion on the validity and relevance of the Nobel Peace [Read More...]

MuslimKidsMatter | Muslim Youth Helping Neighbors and Having Fun: Please Vote!

Muslim Matters - 23 October, 2014 - 02:03

Loud, friendly chatter fills up a large, brightly-lit room as people scatter about.  As they pass through the room into the next to make way for a large group of newcomers, a collective gasp of amazement suddenly issues forth.  The chatter and laughter miraculously die down as everyone stares ahead wide-eyed.

An eight-foot sculpture appears, clearly in the shape of a water well with a bright orange bucket hanging from the top.  A low fence surrounds the well with the words “Water is Life” in front.  As the observers lean closer for a better look, they are startled when they realize that the bricks of the well and fence are actually food cans!  And the letters were clearly shaped out of juice boxes!  What is this amazing genius of engineering before their eyes, they wonder.  Can it really be that they are looking at a well made out of cans?

can well drama club pics 010

This sculpture has actually been in display at the Zakat Foundation Delaware Community Center for the past few days.  The youth can project team members have anxiously watched as amazed fans of our well continuously edge closer to the sculpture, a truly frustrating action that worries us to no end.  alhamdulillah, however, our well is still standing and has survived this past week to enter the judging phase of the DelawareCAN competition.

Having created a prizewinning masjid out of pasta boxes and tomato cans last year for the contest, we entered the competition a few months ago feeling a certain pressure this time around.  After our can sculpture from last year demonstrated the spirit of giving in Islam through the words “Feed the Poor” on our masjid, we felt compelled to again display a strong message in a magnificent sculpture for this year's competition.  Realizing that participating in the contest would not only give us a chance to gain the special honor of being a winning group, but also the opportunity to spread a positive message about Muslims, we had a big responsibility and a whole lot of work cut out for us.

Through weekly meetings, many back-and-forth emails, dozens of sketches and plans, we eventually reached our goal, creating a magnificent well, complete with a roof, bucket, and fence.  Oh, and grass, too.  After hours and hours of working on our sculpture, we finally had our finished product standing in front of us.  After all those arguments and complaints (what do you expect from kids of ages 5-16 all working together) and tiresome hours (re-stacking cans after they topple over gets annoying after about the third time around), we finally had our well.

We had a break for a few days to admire our sculpture, and now the next stage of our contest is on…

Time to collect votes!  Now we are asking you to help us out.  No matter where in the world you live, what kinds of cans you eat out of, or what your favorite color is, you can help us win the People's Choice Award.  All you have to do is click on the picture above or follow this link and like our well.  (Note: You will need a Facebook account.)  Please don't blunder and like the entire album or make another such error.  We need you to help us now, to be there for us and to show us you care.  Thank you for taking the time (which should be a total of about two seconds) to give Muslim youth your support.

Friday at 12 noon (USA Eastern time) is the deadline.delawa

The post MuslimKidsMatter | Muslim Youth Helping Neighbors and Having Fun: Please Vote! appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Are Revere Parents Really Angry About Islam in the Curriculum?

Loon Watch - 22 October, 2014 - 23:28

giannino

By Eric Randall, Boston Magazine

A WHDH story this week reports that “Some parents in Revere were angry when they learned students were being taught about Islam and the Muslim religion.” Oh boy. Might this be a time to put head in hands and shudder? Actually, it might not be, but we’ll get there.

The story features the very colorful Revere parent Anthony Giannino, who takes issue with his son’s textbook, a section of which states, “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.” That’s from the Islamic call to prayer. Presumably the book was not professing faith in Allah, but rather, listing the tenets of the major world religion’s central belief sys—oh never mind. You get it.

“That’s insulting to me, as a Christian who just believes in Jesus only,” Giannino says, which either shows deep understanding of the Holy Trinity theology or … doesn’t. At any rate, his son is now failing his class. The superintendent sent parents a letter stating, “I want to be very clear that no religion is taught with the purpose of converting students to that religion…”

There is cause for hope. WHDH might be using the words “classroom controversy” and “some parents” very liberally. The anchor notes that the reporter spoke to “at least one parent.” The reporter then notes, “other parents we spoke to had no issue with the assignment.” Two parents then explain the difference between learning about religion and learning to follow that religion. “But some parents certainly disagree,” the reporter says. We then cut back to Giannino. He tells the reporter he is starting a protest and a petition and has “plenty of supporters.” Nevertheless, this is a story about a “classroom controversy” that presents twice as many non-angry parents as angry ones.

Might we just tell ourselves that Giannino is mostly alone on this? Might this restore our faith in parenting and humanity? Sure. Just don’t read the WHDH comments section.

Alderman Wery quizzes Muslim woman on terrorism

Loon Watch - 22 October, 2014 - 22:48

zwery

There are calls for Wery to resign which seems sensible considering that he views part of his constituency with a high degree of suspicion and believes they must be interrogated before receiving a response to municipal and constitutional concerns.

via. Green Bay Press

A Green Bay alderman has apologized to a Muslim resident for responding to her inquiry about public bus service with questions about her political beliefs and whether she condemns Islamic terrorism.

Alderman Chris Wery directed his questions to Heba Mohammad after the recent University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduate asked the alderman in an email why city bus service is not free on Election Day.

Wery agreed to check into the bus service question, but then he asked Mohammad about her involvement in starting a Muslim Student Association group at UW-Green Bay.

“I just want to be assured that your group in no way promotes or defends militant Islamic ideology,” Wery wrote, asking if Mohammad and the association condemn “terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

Mohammad refused to answer Wery’s questions and then posted the exchange on Facebook, prompting many users of the social media site to accuse the alderman of bigotry and profiling.

Mohammad, 22, who graduated from UW-Green Bay earlier this year, said she was surprised to hear an elected official engage in what she considered profiling based on her religious background. She believes he developed an “instant suspicion” because of her name.

“That’s kind of hurtful, to be honest,” she told Press-Gazette Media.

Wery, a veteran City Council member who once ran for mayor, said he recognized that his remarks were inappropriate and poorly timed. He said he should not have raised his questions while helping a resident get information about public bus service.

“I phrased it wrong. It was the wrong setting,” he told Press-Gazette Media. “And I apologized for that.”

Mohammad said she accepted the alderman’s apology and was glad he understood why his actions were inappropriate.

David Coury, a UW-Green Bay faculty adviser to the Muslim Student Association, also responded to Wery, writing in an email that he would gladly meet with Wery to “allay any fears or concerns you might have.”

Coury, a professor of Humanistic Studies, assured Wery that the Muslim student group is not political and that the group condemns all forms of terrorism against innocent people. To which Wery responded, “That is really all I wanted to know and probably was much too blunt in my questions to Heba.”

The exchange began Monday when Mohammad emailed Wery that free bus service on Election Day would help boost turnout by assuring that people without transportation are able to reach a polling place. She wrote that she was reaching out “as a concerned citizen of our wonderful city.”

Green Bay Metro’s city-run transit system has provided free bus rides on Saturdays and certain special events, but not on Election Day.

When Wery responded by questioning whether Mohammad supports Islamic terrorism, she wrote back, “I am offended that our conversation has taken this direction.”

In an interview, Wery said he attended UWGB and he recognized Mohammad’s name as founder of the Muslim Student Association from a campus publication that he receives. He said Muslim college groups elsewhere in the United States have espoused anti-American sentiments, and he added that he took the opportunity to ask Mohammad about the UW-Green Bay group.

Saying he was questioning the group as a concerned citizen rather than an aldermen, he said, “It’s something that had been rattling around in the back of my head.”

— swilliams@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @pgscottwilliams

Ali Mazrui: Famous African Muslim Scholar Who Once Divided US Audiences

Loon Watch - 22 October, 2014 - 22:09

Ali_Mazrui

By Douglas Martin, The New York Times

Ali Mazrui, a scholar and prolific author who set off a tsunami of criticism in 1986 by writing and hosting “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” a public television series that culminated in what seemed to be an endorsement of African nations’ acquiring nuclear weapons, died on Oct. 12 at his home in Vestal, N.Y. He was 81.

His family announced the death without specifying a cause.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, where Professor Mazrui was born, said at the time of his death that he was “a towering academician whose intellectual contributions played a major role in shaping African scholarship.”

His books and his hundreds of scholarly articles explored topics like African politics, international political culture, political Islam and globalization. He was for many years a professor at the University of Michigan, and since 1989 had held the Albert Schweitzer chair at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Reflecting his habit of provocation, Professor Mazrui wrote an article in 2012, posted on Facebook, accusing Dr. Schweitzer, the revered medical missionary in pre-independence Gabon, of being “a benevolent racist.” He wrote that Dr. Schweitzer had called Africans “primitives” and “savages,” and had treated Africans in a hospital unit that was separate from, and less comfortable than, one for whites.

Professor Mazrui’s courage transcended ideas. When he was a political-science professor in Uganda in the early 1970s, the country’s brutal dictator, Idi Amin, invited him to be his chief adviser on international affairs — “his Kissinger,” Professor Mazrui told The New York Times in 1986. Instead, he publicly criticized Amin and fled Uganda.

“The Africans,” a nine-part series that was originally broadcast by the BBC and later shown on PBS, portrayed Africa as having been defined by the interplay of indigenous, Islamic and Western influences. Professor Mazrui had acquired the perspective by growing up speaking Swahili, practicing Islam and attending an English-speaking school in Mombasa, Kenya.

“My three worlds overlapped,” he said in the interview with The Times.

The series glorified the Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, saying he inspired Africans to have a sense of destiny and become actors on the world stage — a stance that set off storms of criticism. In the last episode, Professor Mazrui predicted a “final racial conflict” in South Africa that would end with whites’ shrinking from using nuclear weapons for fear of killing themselves and then being defeated in an armed struggle, ending apartheid. Victorious blacks, he said, would then inherit “the most advanced nuclear infrastructure on the continent,” and nuclear weapons would become a bargaining chip in a worldwide black-white struggle.

He told The Los Angeles Times that he was “uneasy” that the United States and the Soviet Union could start a nuclear war, without Africa having the same capability. “I want black Africa to have the bomb to frighten the system as a whole,” he said.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, which had contributed $600,000 toward the making of the series, was so upset with Professor Mazuri’s message that it removed its name from the credits. Lynne Cheney, the chairwoman of the endowment, called the series “worse than unbalanced,” noting that it included no interviews giving divergent views.

Professor Mazrui’s answer to Mrs. Cheney was that he had intended from the beginning to represent the views of one African — “a view from the inside,” he called it. “There are many parts that are anti-imperialist,” he told The New York Times. “Africa is concerned with past domination and afraid of redomination.”

Reviewing the series for The Times, John Corry called its scholarship “empty” and said it was “a vehicle solely for Mr. Mazrui’s feelings.”

But Clifford Terry, writing in The Chicago Tribune, suggested that this personal perspective was in fact a strength: “It is obvious, through it all, that here is a man who deeply cares about what he likes to call a ‘remarkable continent.’ ”

Tom Shales of The Washington Post applauded the shows’ abrasiveness. “The alternative,” he wrote, “would be an innocuous, safely ‘balanced’ documentary on Africa that made no ripples, provoked no discourse.”

Ali Al’Amin Mazrui was born on Feb. 24, 1933, in Mombasa. His father was an eminent Muslim scholar and the chief Islamic judge of Kenya.

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