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An exclusive by the Washington Post’s Simon Denyer on the persecution of Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang.
SHACHE COUNTY, China – The month of Ramadan should have been a time of fasting, charity and prayer in China’s Muslim west. But here, in many of the towns and villages of southern Xinjiang, it was a time of fear, repression, and violence.
China’s campaign against separatism and terrorism in its mainly Muslim west has now become an all-out war on conservative Islam, residents here say.
Throughout Ramadan,police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs: women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say. Students and civil servants were forced to eat instead of fasting, and work or attend classes instead of attending Friday prayers.
The religious repression has bred resentment, and, at times, deadly protests. Reports have emerged of police firing on angry crowds in recent weeks in the towns of Elishku, and Alaqagha; since then, Chinese authorities have imposed a complete blackout on reporting from both locations, even more intense than that already in place across most of Xinjiang.
A Washington Post team was turned away at the one of several checkpoints around Elishku, as army trucks rumbled past, and was subsequently detained for several hours by informers, police and Communist Party officials for reporting from villages in the surrounding district of Shache county; the following day, the team was again detained in Alaqagha in Kuqa county, and ultimately deported from the region from the nearest airport.
Across Shache county, the Internet has been cut, and text messaging services disabled, while foreigners have been barred. But in snatched conversations, in person and on the telephone, with the few people in the region brave enough to talk, a picture of constant harassment across Xinjiang emerges.
“The police are everywhere,” said one Uighur resident. Another said it was like “living in prison.” Another said his identity card had been checked so many times, “the magnetic strip is not working any more.”
On July 18, hundreds of people gathered outside a government building in the town of Alaqagha, angry about the arrest of two dozen girls and women who had refused to remove their headscarves, according to a report on Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Britain must be prepared to join a wide coalition of countries in deploying ground troops, including special forces, to combat forces from the Islamic State (Isis), the former prime minister Tony Blair has said. In a lengthy essay on the threat posed by Isis on the eve of the UN general assembly meeting in New York, Blair warned that air strikes alone would not be enough to combat the jihadis.
The intervention by Blair comes as Britain considers whether to join the US and France in launching air strikes against Isis forces in Iraq and possibly in Syria. On Wednesday, David Cameron will attend a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York that is to be chaired by Barack Obama.Continue reading...
Pope Francis has spoken out against those who use religion as a pretext for violence and oppression, in his clearest denunciation yet of the Islamic state militants murdering their way across Syria and Iraq.
The pope made his comments during a one-day visit to Albania, during which he praised the good relations between its majority Muslim community and its Christian denominations.Continue reading...
Last Thursday ITV broadcast a 24-minute programme titled Against the Odds, which supposedly revealed “the reality of life for people with learning disabilities in the UK, with many experiencing harassment and violence and just 6.4% in paid work”, as part of its Tonight strand. They interviewed several families, including the parents of a boy with Down’s syndrome who had faced the suggestion that they abort him, a young woman who had participated in equestrian and running events at the Special Olympics, a man who had been the victim of public harassment when trying to live independently a few years ago, another who was bullied at school because of his condition and had been out of work for four years, and a man in his 40s with Down’s syndrome who was preparing to move into a shared house. The format of the documentary did not give enough time to investigate all these issues, but very little attempt was made even within this limited format. The programme just consisted of a procession of happy endings. (It can be viewed in the UK here for the next four weeks or so.)
There were only two stories which featured bullying or hate crime, and even then that aspect was only mentioned briefly, and it was all in the past and not recent. Nothing was said about prosecuting the people responsible, or about prosecutions for disability hate crime generally (and, for example, the fact that the police often fail to investigate the disability connection when disabled people are attacked, when it can result in increased sentences). In the first of those stories, the man returned home to live with his mother after the attacks made his life impossible, but has more recently decided to move to his mother’s home town in Kent, where he’s happy. The second man was bullied at school because of what was described as a “language disorder”, including having his head forced down the toilet. That stopped when they transferred him to a special school. As an adult, he had a good job as a receptionist but quit for reasons that were not fully explained. He was out of work for four years, during which time he became depressed — until Mencap stepped in, and found him work in McDonalds, clearing up tables.
They also interviewed a mother who had an autistic daughter, who after finding that the services available were inadequate, set up her own charity called New Hope, providing “out of school respite care for children with learning disabilities”. They didn’t explain how she got the money to do that; most people do not have the resources. The last family featured was that of a man with Down’s syndrome who had been living with his parents all his life, but his parents were getting old and their health was declining, so a local charity managed to find a house which they could adapt, so that he and three other disabled people, plus a care worker, could move in. They were still refitting the house when the programme was being made, but he and the three other residents were all interviewed briefly and were enthusiastic.
There was no mention of the fact that some families struggle for years to get access to any services for their disabled children or adult children. It doesn’t always happen that there is a local charity on hand that has the resources to buy a house and re-fit it. In some parts of the country, like London, property prices are sky-high and four- or five-bedroom houses are just way out of reach. Some people with learning disabilities do not have strong families that are able to support them for most of their adult lives. Some do not have families who have the money, know-how or connections to set up charities. It did not, of course, even mention that families are having benefits and services cut because of austerity, and it appeared to concentrate on middle-class families as nobody mentioned poverty or long-term financial difficulty. The programme did not even touch on the fact that people with learning disabilities often die because of negligence in the healthcare system, nor on the miserable way that challenging behaviour is dealt with: there is no specialist service for dealing with autistic adults in crisis, and the result is that they end up in psychiatric units, and when they say they cannot deal with them (because they are not autism specialists), they ship them to other special units often hundreds of miles from home, like Claire Dyer (left). People are spending years in some of these places, because of lack of support for them to live at home, or because they are being judged on how they behave while locked up, deprived of family and normal activity.
This documentary was rubbish. I’ve always said that if something is worth investigating, it is worth a good 45 to 60 minutes of TV time, but this programme barely scratched the surface of what it purported to investigate. It went for the feel-good factor, implying that life is generally pretty good for people with learning disabilities although there’s room for improvement. Well, it often isn’t good unless you’re from a fairly wealthy family. There is a crisis, and people are suffering and dying. ITV did not even look.
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Poems “Inside out,” “Gaza mothers soothe their kids,” and “Maysam.”
Blogger paid $100,000 to place ads, one of which was rejected by MTA on grounds it could incite or provoke violence
Controversial blogger and activist Pamela Geller has paid $100,000 to place advertisements on New York City buses and in subway stations that feature anti-Islamic messages and images including one of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by Isis in August.
The campaign, which is being funded by Gellers advocacy group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AMDI), features six posters including the one that features Foley. All the posters carry messages critical of Islam. One features a picture of Adolf Hitler.
Recently I’ve seen some quite preposterous commentary on the Scottish independence referendum, which is taking place as I type this. I have heard that the turnout for this has been higher than at any recent general election, which shows what happens when voters think voting will make a difference. Social media seems to favour Yes, but a fairly large proportion of the population do not have access to it, or just don’t use it. Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, published an article on his blog, based on a conversation he had with a Polish friend who had changed his mind and decided to vote Yes. The article compared Scotland within the UK to Poland under the Warsaw Pact, and the British media now to Poland’s under communism. It’s a quite ridiculous comparison.
The article reads:
He had supported Solidarnosc as a young man, and he had lived through the overwhelming barrage of state media propaganda against it. All the newspapers, radio and TV had broadcast for month after month that if Poland left the Soviet orbit the economy would be destroyed, trading links would be severed, everybody would lose their pensions and housing, they would be invaded, the currency would collapse. Democracy campaigners were branded as right wing nationalist thugs. The people had no access to a fair hearing on the media, and communities had to organise alternatively through social networks.
A few weeks ago he had suddenly realised that precisely the same thing was happening in Scotland that he had witnessed in Soviet controlled Poland. A monolithic and all-pervading media was pumping out the same propaganda on a permanent basis, and even the arguments they were making were precisely the same arguments the Soviets had made. He had suddenly realised that democracy in the UK was an illusion – the apparatchiks of the main political parties and the entire media, both state and private, in fact belonged to and promoted the same ruling establishment. Only the methodologies were different, and raw power slightly better hidden in the UK than in the old Soviet bloc. But the truth was of hard rich men wielding power, in both cases, and keeping the people down.
This is quite a ridiculous comparison between the state-controlled media of a dictatorship and police state with the merely biased corporate and publicly funded media in a democracy. There are good reasons why a commercial media company should oppose the truncation of the country where they are based; it means their reach is likely to be less and selling copies in the newly separated country may well get harder, for example because new taxes make the papers more expensive. This bias is less justifiable coming from the BBC, which is funded by a licence fee which is compulsory for anyone who has a TV set, but it’s still not comparable to a police state’s controlled media. It reflects the prejudices of the people who run it and work for it. However, the major difference with 1980s Poland is that the Internet was available and there was a free social media in Scotland; the corporate media and BBC could not control what was said over Twitter and Facebook, or over mailing lists, forums or blogs. The groups campaigning for independence, which included a major political party, did not face state persecution or harassment. There was a space in which people could organise without fear.
(The rest of this was written after the result was declared.)
Another bizarre comparison that has done the rounds is between the UK and an abusive relationship. This actually had some truth to it in the 18th century and even more recently, where there was no Scottish parliament and the Tories plundered their oil wealth and tested out unpopular policies (such as the Poll Tax) there first. Some political unions really are abusive relationships, and some even started with a forced marriage. This is why a lot of the federations of the old Eastern Bloc broke down as soon as the opportunity arose. In 21st century Britain, Scotland does not get that bad a deal out of the UK. They have a legislature of their own, so they are cushioned to a certain extent from the depredations of the London political and economic élite. If the UK is an abusive relationship for anyone, it is the poor and disabled and they are all over the country, but in England they do not have their own parliament to protect them.
This is probably why the Yes campaign could not persuade the majority of Scots to support it: because they knew that they got a good deal out of the UK and because the fears stoked by the No campaign, much as they may have been motivated by self-interest, were at least partly justifiable: the country would not be able to immediately join the EU, they would have a weak currency and they would be a small, weak country rather than part of a substantial one. Some may have been swayed by last-minute appeals and promises to transfer more powers or to reform the UK’s constitutional structure, although already many Tories are saying they will oppose any such measures and the Prime Minister has already made a speech about listening to “English voices” that object to Scottish MPs voting on English laws. He is clearly referring to Labour governments using Scottish Labour MPs to vote for their policies in matters that only affect England, but his own government uses Lib Dem MPs from north of the border for the same purpose; Labour have a much greater number of MPs in England than the Lib Dems do in total. There has been some talk of devolving power within England, but the most worrying suggestion is devolving it to cities like London. The problem is that London does not have a democratic assembly, so without a radical reform of London local government, this will mean giving more power to the Mayor.
The biggest danger is that a pretext may be found to simply reverse devolution. This could easily happen if the Tories win the next election with a majority, or in coalition with UKIP: they will find a big hole in the finances, or there will be a financial or sex scandal; there may also be a national security crisis, which may lead senior Tories or UKIPpers to claim that devolution had brought the UK to the brink of collapse, and that Britain needs to be strong and that means united. Power-sharing has never been in the Tories’ DNA; their world is the “corridors of power” in Westminster, and their way of administering ‘troublesome’ parts of the UK was through centrally-appointed quangos, not elected assemblies. The Scots do not have the power to stop this if the Tories are determined, and nor are many English very enthusiastic about devolution in England.
The video shows a young woman having a saltire flag torn from her hands by a man holding a Union flag. This was taken in George Square, Glasgow today.
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All Muslims out of the UK! This was the welcome note that greeted my brother, sticky-taped to the front door of his new home in south-east London. It is just one among many incidents that take place across the country daily, some of which are reported to the Tell Mama (Measuring Anti Muslim Attacks) project. In June it received notice of 56 instances of anti-Muslim prejudice, both online and offline a noticeable spike that was caused, they believe, by the Rotherham abuse scandal.
Tell Mama has recorded more than 2,040 reports of religious hatred since its inception in 2012, including arson attacks on mosques and violence towards Muslim women. They increased in the months following the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. After the brutal killing of British aid worker David Haines, Tell Mama received 39 hate incidents in three days. Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Faith Matters, which runs Tell Mama, said: When something takes place in the UK or involves a British national, we see spikes.Continue reading...
While many of the activists and supporters backing her cause are in a celebratory mood, Indira Kaljo still faces the somber possibility that her career has come to a premature end. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, meanwhile, accepts the likelihood that her career may never begin.
Kaljo, a Bosnian-American from California, and Abdul-Qaadir, an African-American from Massachusetts, were once rivals on the basketball court. Today, they are teammates facing a challenge that is bigger than the game; one that impacts Muslim women and girls all over the world.
And on Sept. 16, they received the bad news–masked cleverly as good news–that they are still denied equal access to the sport they love because of the hijab headscarves they choose to wear as part of their Islamic faith.The Rule
FIBA, basketball's international governing body, has in its official rulebook a brief section known as Article 4.4.2. It contains a list of items and accessories that cannot be worn on the court because “they may cause injury to other players.” That blacklist includes “headgear, hair accessories and jewellery.” Headbands that are no more than five centimeters in width are permitted.
What it means is that during FIBA-endorsed competition–international tournaments such as the Olympics and World Cup, and just about every professional league on the planet outside of the NBA and WNBA—Muslim women cannot play while wearing hijab headscarves, Sikh men cannot play while wearing turbans or patkas, and Jewish men cannot play while wearing yarmulkes. If they are for some reason allowed on the court by officials, their team could be forced the game.
Kaljo is an overseas pro who has played two seasons in Ireland and Bosnia. Until recently she did not wear hijab on or off the court, but since deciding to cover earlier this year, she has been unable to sign with a pro team.
Abdul-Qaadir was a high school phenom who wore hijab on the court back then and made history in 2010 when she became the first NCAA Division-1 college player to wear hijab on the court (Abdul-Qaadir played for the University of Memphis at the time, and during that season she met Kaljo, who played for Conference USA foe Tulane University). Following Abdul-Qaadir's senior season at Indiana State University, her pursuit of a pro contract was cut short because she couldn't find a team willing to sign a player that could cause them to forfeit any wins she helped earn.
“Honestly, I pray for [Abdul-Qaadir} sake that this rule will be changed before too long,” Kaljo said when I first interviewed her in July for a feature on Ummah Sports. “I got my years in playing pro, and may Allah forgive me for not covering, but she deserves the opportunity to play because she's a very gifted basketball player.”The Resistance
FIBA's anti-hijab rule has been in existence for years and has been challenged on occasion, but only recently has it come under widespread international scrutiny.
Abdul-Qaadir talked about her plight in an interview with Ummah Sports in May, which caught the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Kaljo then reached out to Ummah Sports and CAIR to tell her story. Both women contacted FIBA on the matter, and against the advice of one FIBA official, Kaljo started an online petition to force the organization to eliminate its discriminatory headgear rule.
Eventually the United States Olympic Committee and the Indian government got involved, among others, and finally FIBA scheduled a review of Article 4.4.2 for its August 27 board meeting in Spain. That meeting did not produce a ruling, but after a follow-up meeting weeks later, FIBA made its announcement on Sept. 16.The Ruling
FIBA will begin a two-year “testing phase” to explore lifting the headgear ban.
During that time, national federations must petition FIBA to allow players to wear prohibited headgear. If the petition is approved, the federation then must submit follow-up reports twice a year. Meanwhile, FIBA will allow players to wear non-headband headgear in its 3-on-3 basketball competitions, similar to the 3-on-3 tournament held at this summer's Youth Olympic Games in China.
Article 4.4.2 will be evaluated again in 2015 and 2016, though a decision on editing or eliminating the rule will likely not happen before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
The headlines sounded good. “FIBA relaxes rules on headgear” … “FIBA to allow hijab, turbans in competition” … “FIBA rules players can wear religious headgear.”
But upon further review, what has really changed? And why could it take so long to right an obvious wrong?
Kaljo and Abdul-Qaadir still cannot play pro basketball in a FIBA-endorsed league without being in violation of the anti-hijab rule. The language in FIBA's official statement seems clear that the trial period only applies to national federations, not individual pro leagues. So while Abdul-Qaadir could play while wearing hijab if she were on Team USA, she still can't play while wearing hijab for even a lower-division pro team in, say, Germany or Italy. Kaljo is eligible to play for the Bosnian national team—which has been a longtime goal of hers— but she still cannot play in, for example, the Bosnian pro league that she played in last season.The Reaction
“We are deeply disappointed with FIBA. It shouldn't take two years to make what should be a simple decision to eliminate a discriminatory practice,” U.S. congressmen Ami Bera and Joe Crowley said in a joint statement following FIBA's announcement. “There is no evidence that turbans or religious headgear pose a threat to players, and it's time for FIBA to do what the rest of the sporting world is doing and let Sikhs play.”
As the congressmen point out, this would not be an unprecedented or groundbreaking move for FIBA to simply lift the ban. Soccer's international governing body, FIFA, lifted their own anti-headgear rule in 2014 following a two-year trial run. The governing bodies for weightlifting and track and field also allow religious head coverings, and allow Muslim women to compete while wearing full hijab.
No one is asking FIBA to make a bold move to stand out from the crowd. All FIBA is being asked to do is fall in line and do the right thing.
CAIR's official response to FIBA's ruling was primarily positive.
“We welcome this policy change by FIBA because it allows Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious head coverings to take part in the sport that they love while maintaining their beliefs,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR National Communications Director, in a statement. “FIBA should be congratulated for responding positively to all those who sought reasonable religious accommodation for athletes of all faiths.”
That is understandable. As a political activism organization, CAIR has to, well, play the political game. With so many sensitive issues on their plate in what can be a very anti-Muslim climate in America, showing dissatisfaction with small victories like the FIBA ruling would soon earn them a label (albeit an unjustified one) of being impossible-to-please whiners and complainers.
Well, I'm going to whine and complain, if that's what critics want to call it. And so is Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. While FIBA's ruling is a step in the right direction, it is a step that is too small, too slow and undeniably weak.
Imagine if we were talking about a woman's right to vote. Or the racial integration of public schools. Who would be happy with a two-year testing phase that didn't even cover all elections or all levels of education? Imagine a ruling that essentially said, “Sorry, sister, you can't vote for the President. But you can vote for city council until we determine you won't hurt yourself.” Or one that included a two-year trial run of integrating elementary schools but didn't include middle and high schools. (Actually, if you want to get even the most stereotypically anti-Muslim individual on your side, make a similar argument for a hypothetical ban on an American's right to bear arms.)
Hypotheticals aside, we are at this moment seeing how quickly a sports industry heavyweight can fix policies and procedures, with the National Football League's sudden changes to pre-existing norms regarding domestic violence and drug use. FIBA is capable of moving just as quickly to solve its problems.
“I feel like this is just [FIBA's] way of putting it off to the side and taking some of the heat off,” Abdul-Qaadir said. “All of a sudden they had all of these organizations joining in the movement, so it seems like they just did this to get the fire off their back. 'Let's not make a permanent decision, let's make it a trial.'”
Abdul-Qaadir, who has returned to Indiana State to finish her master's degree and work as the Director of Operations for the women's basketball program, says she has been playing basketball while wearing a hijab headscarf for about a decade covering her high school and college career. Through hundreds of games and thousands of practices, she says the hijab has never caused an injury to herself, to a teammate or to an opponent.
Kaljo, who recently accepted a job offer to teach physical education in Saudi Arabia, played in a (non-FIBA) California summer league this year while wearing hijab, and similarly caused no problems for herself or other players.
“alhamdulillah, I'm glad they made the decision because I understand change doesn't always happen fast, but I still don't know what this means,” she said.
I think it means FIBA still doesn't get it. Or perhaps it means the organization's desire to not look like they are totally wrong is being put above the overdue equal rights of at least three religious groups impacted by Article 4.4.2. The other alternative is that FIBA actually wants to continue blatantly discriminating against Muslims, Sikhs and Jews, but optimistically I don't think that's the case.
“At first I was excited when I saw the headline [on Sept. 16], but after I read the whole thing, I think people are being misled,” Abdul-Qaadir said. “It's not over. I've been getting all of these congratulatory emails and texts, but as far as I know I still really can't do anything. … Nothing's really changed.”
“I'm starting to just, I don't know, to like not even want to be part of (FIBA),” Abdul-Qaadir adds. “Even if they were to change the rule soon, do I want to play for this organization that didn't want me to play in the first place?”
It's not too late for FIBA to change its stance, re-review Article 4.4.2, and simply eliminate the prohibition on religious headgear before the start of the upcoming winter basketball season. There's nothing that says the weak and insulting “testing phase” cannot be scrapped immediately in favor of a making a stronger statement against religious discrimination.
In this case, following the reactionary example of the NFL would actually be the right thing to do.
Sudans almost exclusively Arab capital has buried its head in the sand for too long, as the multiethnic country around it burns
Khartoum is a low-built, sprawling city. The capital of Sudan, until recently the largest country in Africa, sits on either side of the River Nile under an almost perpetual haze of dust. As a child growing up in Khartoum, the city always struck me as sleepy and dark power cuts were frequent, and the oppressive heat infused everything with a sticky torpor. Unlike Cairo to the north or Nairobi to the south, Khartoum did not have that frenetic energy or drama. The countrys international reputation for hard-line Islamism and ethnic warfare jarred with the citys subdued mood.
Even its military coups were lethargic and bloodless. In 1989, when the current government came to power, we sat around TV sets watching a young Omar al-Bashir read a statement declaring that he and his military cohort had overthrown the democratically elected government in a bid to save the country from the regimes ineptitude. Apparently there were tanks, but the streets were empty. We all went to bed early with the vague knowledge that something dramatic had happened, but could see no sign of it.Continue reading...
This may be the first time that Australian anti-terrorism powers have been used in detention of suspects without charge
The Australian federal police obtained preventative detention orders for at least three people before the counter-terrorism raids in New South Wales, in what may be the first time the anti-terrorism powers have been used.
A spokesman for the AFP confirmed late on Friday that three men had been detained under the orders following the raids and had now been released without charge.Continue reading...
Bill Shorten rejected this, agreeing with Malcolm Turnbull that this was exactly what Islamic State extremists would want
The Palmer United party senator Jacqui Lambie has called for a ban on the burqa for public safety reasons.
The Labor opposition condemned as inflammatory comments from Lambie on Friday and the Liberal senator Cory Bernardi on Thursday, in the wake of a series of counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane.Continue reading...
The cleric missed his flight to Mecca because of a two and a half hour baggage search at Sydney airport
Muslim leaders are fuming at what they claim is the unacceptable treatment of a senior cleric by officials at Sydney airport.
The imam was said to have been detained on Thursday for two and a half hours by customs officials for a routine baggage search at Sydney international airport, which caused him to miss his flight.Continue reading...
Mareeba mayor says the act is deeply saddening as there have been Muslims in the community since 1920
Vandals have spray painted the word evil across a far north Queensland mosque an act the local mayor describes as deeply saddening.
Worshippers arrived at the mosque in Mareeba, inland from Cairns, on Friday morning to find their place of worship defaced with the yellow paint.Continue reading...
Journalists were recruited to cover anti-terrorism dawn-raids, and lapped it up with no questions asked it seems large media organisations are willing to be played like a trout
A solitary intercepted phone call, over 800 police bursting into homes in Sydney and Brisbane, hovering helicopters, 15 arrested and detained, four charged.
The charge against Omarjan Azari, aged 22, is conspiracy to prepare for a terrorist attack. The prosecution alleges, there was a clear imperative to commit an act to shock, horrify and terrify the community as a whole. The plan allegedly involved random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute.Continue reading...
Unlike The New York Times, Latin America’s media can be trenchant in criticizing Israeli aggression.
Children of many Palestinian refugees face being denied education over the coming school year.