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AlJazeera: How Arabs reached out to Armenians amid 1915 massacre

Loon Watch - 24 April, 2015 - 21:01

Armenia_Genocide

By Nour Samaha, AlJazeera English

Beirut - As Armenians and Turks mark the centenary of the disputed events of 1915 – what Armenians claim was “genocide” and Turks insist were counterinsurgency measures – a number of events have taken place to commemorate the tragedy and give voice to the families impacted.

But little has been said of the role played by Arabs in addressing the humanitarian disaster that ensued as tens of thousands of refugees and orphans streamed out of Anatolia.

“The Arab role in helping the Armenians during [these events] is very much understudied,” Reverend Paul Haidostian, president of Hagazian University and an Armenian scholar, told Al Jazeera.

“It started with individual Arabs, especially tribal leaders from the Syrian desert, [who] tried to save the Armenians who were forced on their death marches,” he explained. “They tried to help in any way they were able to; either by adopting the orphans or feeding the people – trying to save them somehow.”

After the Turks deported the Armenians in what have been called “death marches” to Deir Ezzor in Syria and the deserts in Iraq, areas considered to be predominantly Muslim-inhabited, many survivor accounts describe how Arabs offered help and shelter.

“When Armenian communities were able to reach cities like Aleppo, one task was to try and reunite with each other, find the orphans and bring them back [into the communities],” Haidostian said. Through contacts and word of mouth, many Arab families who had adopted the orphans returned them to their communities. “This was a very common theme; that the orphans would be ‘lost’ for a few years and then they would find their way back to their families. It happened to thousands of Armenians.”

In the period leading up to the mass killings, the Turks reportedly used religion as a cover to justify committing atrocities against the Armenians. There are reports of preachers urging Turks to attack and drive out Armenians, claiming they were against Muslims. Ethnic minorities, especially non-Muslims, were forced to live as second-class citizens, obliged to pay “jizya” – protection money – for being non-Muslim. This is the same tax being levied today by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant against Christians in the areas they control in Syria and Iraq.

“The Turks wielded religion as an instrument … but it certainly was not a religious issue,” Vera Yacoubian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee in the Middle East, told Al Jazeera. “First off, there were many Arabs who faced the same fate as the Armenians at the time. The Turks were pushing a pan-Turkic agenda, not a Muslim one.”

Arab religious figures condemned the use of religion by the Turks, issuing fatwas and decrees calling on Arabs to help the Armenians. In 1909, a Turkish mufti issued a religious ruling urging Turks to kill Armenians. Sheikh al-Bishri of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo – one of the world’s leading Islamic institutions – issued a counter-fatwa, calling such acts un-Islamic and urging Muslims to protect minorities.

This was reinforced by another decree issued by the Sharif of Mecca in 1917, calling on Arab Muslims to protect Armenians: “What is requested from you … is to protect everyone who may be staying or living in your quarters or neighbourhood or among your tribes of the Armenian Jacobite community.”

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French student charged with murder and links to a terrorist organisation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 April, 2015 - 20:27

Sid Ahmed Ghlam has been in custody since his arrest on Sunday, when a dead woman was found in a burning car

A man arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in the Paris area has been charged with murder and attempted murder as well as having links with a terrorist organisation.

Sid Ahmed Ghlam was taken into custody by police on Sunday after he called an ambulance having apparently shot himself in the leg. Investigators believe he was planning an “imminent” attack in Paris or the city’s suburbs.

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Muslim Woman Discriminated by Florida Domino’s Pizza

Loon Watch - 24 April, 2015 - 20:27

Muslim_Woman_Florida_Dominoes_Hijab

CAIR-Florida.org, BARTOW, Fla. – The Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida (CAIR Florida) has announced they will pursue a lawsuit for public accommodation discrimination and other legal claims against a Davenport Domino’s Pizza for the horrendous treatment of a Muslim customer on July 27, 2012.

Hakima Benaddi, a Florida woman who was wearing a Muslim head covering at the time, was accused by Domino’s Pizza management of threatening to blow up the location after she complained about the service and pizza she received. On July 27, 2012, a pregnant Benaddi went to Domino’s to order a veggie pizza with her 23-month-old daughter. When Benaddi opened her pizza box she discovered that it was grossly inadequate and returned to complain and seek a refund.

“I was surprised because what I got was nothing like my order,” Benaddi explained. “That pizza was barely suitable to feed to a dog.”

Prior to the incident, Benaddi was a regular customer at the location. There was one small difference, however, on the day of the incident Benaddi had recently started covering her hair by wearing the hijab, the Muslim head scarf.

The Domino’s Pizza did not assist Benaddi when she returned, they did not offer to make her a new pizza or offer her a refund. Instead, the cashier laughed at her and mocked her limited English proficiency.

Then, in what could only be described as a brazen discriminatory act, the Domino’s Pizza management called local police claiming that Benaddi had threatened to blow up the location resulting in Benaddi’s arrest.

Benaddi was in custody for over 24 hours before she was released. She was also forced to remove her headscarf before her booking image was taken.

CAIR Florida’s investigator revealed that eyewitness accounts were consistent with that of Benaddi’s and admitting that Benaddi never made any threats other than to file a complaint. The story the Domino’s Pizza’s manager provided to the police was completely, intentionally and maliciously fabricated.

Although the felony charge against Hakima was dropped before the arraignment, Domino’s Pizza has yet to confirm any wrongdoing.

“Without them acknowledging what they did wrong, this is our only opportunity for her voice to be heard,” said Thania Diaz Clevenger, Civil Rights Director of CAIR Florida. “We need to tell people that this is not okay, to let Domino’s Pizza know this is not okay, and to let other Muslim women who are targeted to know that they can stand up for themselves.”

Adam Gadahn: California death metal fan who rose quickly in al-Qaida's ranks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 April, 2015 - 20:01

Thirty-six-year-old Gadahn, the influential al-Qaida operative known as ‘Azzam the American’, was killed in a drone strike in January, White House confirms

Just over four years ago, Adam Gadahn, known as Azzam al-Amriki, wrote to Osama bin Laden. In the letter, Gadahn – who the White House has announced was killed in a US drone stike in January – told the al-Qaida leader that Benjamin Franklin had never been a president of the United States and warned that if he or Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s deputy, made the mistake in propaganda speeches, their credibility would suffer.

In his letter, recovered from the house in northern Pakistan where Bin Laden was staying when he was killed in 2011 by US Navy Seals, Gadahn also offered 20 pages of advice on a range of other topics, from media strategy and the agendas of various global TV networks, to how to rein in off-message local groups around the world which persisted in killing large numbers of fellow Muslims.

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Closure of al-Furqan puts spotlight on role of Islamic bookshops in extremism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 April, 2015 - 06:42

Australia’s Muslim communities host hundreds of Islamic information centres and bookstores – most are benign, but there are radical fringe groups. So what should be done? And should mainstream leaders be engaging with them?

Dogged by controversy for 13 years, the al-Furqan Islamic Centre in Melbourne’s south-east elected to shut its doors on Thursday, “effectively immediately”.

But its closure is unlikely to mean the end of the influence of its leader, Harun Mehicevic, on young Muslims attracted to his hardline interpretation of Islam.

Related: Melbourne's al-Furqan Islamic centre closes blaming 'harassment'

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Islamic school denies cross-country ban because girls 'could lose virginity'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 April, 2015 - 06:27

Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating claims the Al-Taqwa college principal banned female students from running in the event

An Islamic college in Victoria has rejected claims that its principal banned female students from cross-country running because he believed it may cause them to “lose their virginity”.

On Thursday, the deputy premier and education minister, James Merlino, said the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority was investigating claims that the Al-Taqwa college principal, Omar Hallak, banned female students from running in the event.

Related: Islamic school principal banned running so girls would not 'lose virginity': reports

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Islamic school principal banned running so girls would not 'lose virginity': reports

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 April, 2015 - 03:01

Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating claims about Melbourne’s Al-Taqwa college

The regulatory body responsible for education standards in Victorian schools is investigating the Al-Taqwa Islamic college, following reports that the principal banned female students from cross-country running because he believed it may cause them to “lose their virginity”.

The deputy premier and education minister, James Merlino, confirmed on Thursday morning that the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority was investigating the claims.

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Melbourne's al-Furqan Islamic centre closes blaming 'harassment'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 April, 2015 - 01:20

The centre, associated with a number of controversial preachers, announces closure after arrests of two attendees over alleged Anzac Day terrorism plot

The Melbourne Islamic centre attended by two men charged with terrorism offences this week, as well as a host of other controversial preachers, is shutting its doors “effectively immediately”.

The al-Furqan Islamic Information centre, housed in a nondescript shopfront in Springvale South, announced its closure in a short statement late on Wednesday.

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Khaled Abou El-Fadl: The End of the Arab Spring, the Rise of ISIS and the Future of Political Islam

Loon Watch - 22 April, 2015 - 21:46

AFP / Mahmoud Khaled

AFP / Mahmoud Khaled

A must read article by the scholar Khaled Abou El-Fadl. While it details the dire state of things today, the various countervailing and absurd forces that have brought us to the current predicament, he ends his article on a surprisingly prosaic and hopeful note about the inevitability of hurriya.

Yet all those who bothered with the pretence of sympathetic sorrow over the blood of the thousands of martyrs who died dreaming of hurriyya should not feel too self-assured. Hurriyya is the natural order of things, and like life itself, it will inevitably sprout again. It could sprout even in the restless heat of the summer, the warm docility of the fall, or the quiet surrender of a very cold of winter.

By Khaled Abou El-Fadl, ABC News

Ever since the French landed on the shores of Egypt in 1798, we have been in the grip of a past alienated from its history, an identity divorced from its memory, and insecure flashes of pride defeated by a deep sense of indignity.

Then came the Arab Spring!

So many thought the Arab Spring would allow the region self-determination, and would shift the gaze of the world away from the twin spectres of oil and Israel. Perhaps the world would finally gaze upon Arabs without racism and Islam without bigotry.

The Arab Spring was a resounding protest against everything, from the corruption of the West’s corporate cronies – who exploit the region’s natural resources so that they can enjoy the latest luxuries their colonial masters have to offer – to the foreign occupations and humiliations heaped upon all those who dared to think that they had a right to resist.

The Arab Spring was about this magical word, hurriyya, which means different things to different people – but at a minimum, it means freedom from oppression, exploitation, corruption and a servile existence.

But the Arab Spring was like a foetus in an abortion clinic; it never had a chance.

I

Why was the Arab Spring aborted? Because a democratic Middle East would have been a poor habitat for the survival of the parasitical military regimes and putrid oil sheikhdoms, which relentlessly eradicate any healthy space for the development of civic institutions that can cultivate and nurture the growth of civic values. Those regimes cannot afford to rule over citizens. They can only rule over slaves.

The truth is that with the failure of the Arab Spring, so many politicians and intellectuals in the West and the Arab world breathed a sigh of relief. Why? Because the danger of so-called political Islam had been averted. And indeed, so many pundits gleefully declared that the phenomenon of political Islam was finally dead.

In Egypt, the largest Arab country, what ensued had become a familiar and repetitive pattern since colonialism: in the name of modernity and progress, the state went into an ultra-repressive mode, persecuted Islamists, banned Islamic parties and declared war on all expressions of Islam that it deemed political. Abdel Fattah El Sisi even equated political Islam with terrorism, and in an interview with a French newspaper, when asked to comment on Hamas, Sisi responded that political Islam in all of its permutations and forms are one and the same.

This was only a harbinger of what was to come: Egypt has now formally declared Hamas a terrorist organization, but apparently, as far as Sisi is concerned, Netanyahu’s government – with its war crimes and ongoing unlawful occupation of Palestinian lands – is kosher.

By now, it is beyond dispute that Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait bought themselves a counter-revolution in Egypt, Yemen and Libya. These countries formed a reactionary alliance to intervene wherever they can to restore the morally defunct and corrupt old order. In each case, they flooded the hopelessly corrupt cadres of the military officers with enough cash to buy proxy agents capable of expressing the egotistic anxieties of despots.

Instead of hurriyya and freedom, all of the focus now is on fighting terrorism and maintaining stability and security, which, in the case of the aforementioned countries, is a superficially coded way of saying: Don’t dare dream of self-determination and autonomy, because political Islam is the ever-present boogeyman ready to return you to the dark ages (‘usur or ‘uqud al-zalam) once again!

If this exclamatory warning is hopelessly confusing, then welcome to the madhouse. Have the military juntas and sheikhdoms ruling the Arab world since colonialism taken the region out of the dark ages in the first place? What precisely is the current blissful state of enlightenment that Muslims are at risk of losing to the political Islamist hoards, and what exactly are the blessed fruits of the praetorian states and the oil sheikhdoms that the barbarians at the gates are threatening to usurp from the post-colonial Arab?

But, even more fundamentally, what is this political Islam that is equated with reactionism, the dark ages and barbarism and terrorism?

II

Islam, its doctrines, symbolisms and linguistic constructs, are persistently utilized by the Gulf States to legitimate and maintain themselves in power. The exploitation of religion as a means to keeping a conservative and exploitative elite in power is a staple of everyday life in the Gulf countries. Every one of those countries carefully nurtures and maintains a class of clergymen with religious institutions that function as a conservative legitimating force safeguarding the status quo, which includes the exploitative use of foreign workers, and a hyper-form of Gulf nationalistic elitism.

This Islamized and oddly pietistic Gulf nationalism often manifests itself in highly racist and ethnocentric ways, deep seated social and political inequities, entrenched patriarchal institutions, and unabashed political despotism and authoritarianism. Critical to this dynamic is that the state carefully defines, regulates and dictates religious expression and orthodoxy. Religion is also exploited to further state policies, such as antagonism towards Shi’i Iran and other Shi’i allies.

Even Sisi of Egypt, who plays the role of the protector of secularism in the region, allows for no expression of religious values outside the sphere defined and controlled by the state. The state controls which places of worship are built and where, and in the case of Islam, also what can be said in mosques. The state controls what Muslim clergy may say on their podiums and relies on Azhar state-salaried clergy to defend its legitimacy and Islamic orthodoxy in the face of any dissent. All the Islamic charitable endowments that exist in Egypt have been placed under state control and have been plundered by corruption and nepotism. Incidentally, thanks to the precedent established by colonial powers, the Coptic religious endowments remain under the private control of the church.

Not only did Sisi secure the support of the Azhar and Coptic church before the coup in July 2013, but before the massacre of Raba’a al-Adawiya mosque, he brought in a line-up of clerics to lecture the army officers that Islam mandates the removal of democratically elected governments and that whether they do the killing or be killed, in both cases, they are honoured and blessed in the eyes of God.

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Who Can Talk About Palestinian Misogyny?

Muslimah Media Watch - 22 April, 2015 - 13:24
Palestinian rap group Dam’s latest song “Who You Are,” featuring newest member Maysa Daw tackles misogyny and “make believe feminism.” As one of the groups members, Tamer Nafer, puts it: we need to “criticize the hypocritical part of our society, which likes to play ‘make believe feminism’ from time to time.” This is not the [Read More...]

What Good is Religion? What Good is Islam?

altmuslim - 21 April, 2015 - 23:47
By Hesham A. Hassaballa Editor’s Note: This post was written as part of a Patheos symposium in response to the following prompt: “We all know the media mantra, ‘What bleeds, leads.’ Bad news sells, and there’s nothing like a juicy religious scandal to drive traffic. Yet, for every sordid religious story, there are any number of [Read More...]

DemocracyNow: FBI Informant Exposes Sting Operation Targeting Innocent Americans in New “(T)ERROR” Documentary

Loon Watch - 21 April, 2015 - 23:30

Terror-Documentary-Film-Poster

This type of harassment of American Muslims continues unabated. If the FBI can’t entrap you they will find other ways to ruin your life.

Democracy Now

We spend the hour with an explosive new film that shines a bright light on the FBI’s shadowy use of informants in its counterterrorism sting operations. These undercover operatives are meant to root out would-be terrorists before they attack. Since 9/11, they have been used to prosecute at least 158 people. But critics argue they often target the wrong people, “including those with intellectual and mental disabilities, and the indigent.” “(T)ERROR” goes inside the world of a particular informant who has played a key role in several major terrorism cases. It does so while he is in the middle of carrying out his latest sting operation. It came together when two independent filmmakers gained unprecedented access to follow Saeed Torres, whose undercover name is “Shariff,” a 63-year-old former black revolutionary turned FBI informant, as he monitors a white Muslim convert named Khalifah al-Akili. Torres knew one of the directors, Lyric Cabral, and after he came out to her as an informant, he agreed to share his story, without informing his superiors. As the film unfolds, al-Akili begins to post on his Facebook page that he suspects the FBI is targeting him. The filmmakers used this an opportunity to approach him, and soon find themselves interviewing him at the same time they are also documenting “Shariff” monitoring him. During this time each man remains unaware that the filmmakers are talking to the other one. We get the rest of the story when we are joined by the filmmakers who co-directed “(T)ERROR,” Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, and play part of an interview with al-Akili from federal prison. Al-Akili was arrested just days after he emailed civil rights groups to say he believed he was the target of an FBI “entrapment” sting. He is now serving eight years in federal prison for illegally possessing a gun after having previous felony convictions for selling drugs. We are also joined by Steve Downs, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms. He works with Project SALAM, which published a report last year called “Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution.” He is also representing imprisoned Pakistani scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. We are also joined by Marlene, the mother of Tarik Shah, who was arrested in 2005 after a joint FBI/NYPD sting operation that also involved Saeed “Shariff” Torres. She details in the film how Shah thought Shariff was his close friend, but he was actually an FBI informant.

Tobacco Companies Countered Muslim Opposition To Smoking By Linking It To Extremism

Loon Watch - 21 April, 2015 - 23:11

BANGLADESH-HEALTH-WOMEN

Tobacco companies battle religious edicts and opposition to smoking in Muslim markets by connecting anti-smoking views to extremism. This strategy reminds me of the way in which the “father of Public Relations,” Edward Bernays, targeted women by presenting cigarettes as “torches of freedom.”

By Tom Blackwell, National Post

The tobacco industry has been waging a sort of religious war for decades, recruiting Islamic scholars and crafting theological arguments to counter a feared Muslim opposition to smoking, a new, Canadian co-authored study suggests.

The companies’ tactics have included courting Muslim experts at McGill University and portraying religious objections to tobacco as a form of extremism – at odds with freedom and modernism generally, the analysis of years of industry documents reveals.

“The industry has sought to distort and misinterpret the cultural beliefs of these communities, and to reinterpret them to serve the industry’s interests,” charges Kelley Lee, a global health-policy expert at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University and one of the authors of the study. “All to sell a product that kills half of its customers.”

With smoking on the decline in the West, Muslim countries in the Middle East and southeast Asia are among the most important markets for the sector, notes Prof. Lee.

MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP / Getty Images

MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP / Getty ImagesA woman smokes a cigarette at a cafe in Dubai on May 31, 2008.

Yet for at least three decades, companies have fretted about the menace posed by Muslim ideology in those places, memos and reports unearthed by Prof. Lee and her colleagues indicate. A 1996 British American Tobacco (BAT) document, for instance, describes the “Islamic threat,” including rising fundamentalism, as a “real danger” to the industry.

“This amounts to us having to prepare to fight a hurricane,” the memo warns.

An industry-linked law firm’s presentation proposed a theological retort to such pressures. The Koran does not actually prohibit use of tobacco, and “making rules beyond what Allah has allowed is a sin in itself,” the firm advised.

The study suggests Muslim thinking on the topic has changed over the years, but because of health reasons, not growing conservativism. Muslim jurists in the past generally considered tobacco use neutral, but as its risks became better known, some proclaimed it “markrooh” – discouraged – or even “haram” – prohibited, the paper says.

The material outlined in the study was drawn from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, a database of 15 million internal industry documents filed during lawsuits by U.S. states, most before 1998.

While the library did not provide access to the most recent documents, evidence suggests the companies are still trying to influence Muslim religious currents, said Prof. Lee, formerly with the U.K.’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. A recent ad for Gauloises cigarettes in Qatar, for instance, depicts an Arab-looking woman without a headscarf, the tagline saying “Freedom Always.”

Bodies like the World Health Organization need to refute the industry-promoted idea that tobacco use in Muslim countries is an expression of escape from religious constraints, especially for women, the authors suggest.

Whether because of its religious-based strategies or not, the industry does appear to have thrived in many Muslim countries. While BAT sold fewer cigarettes worldwide in 2014 than the year before, the number increased in six countries, including Muslim Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, a company report said.

The internal industry documents showed that companies first recognized in the 1970s that Islam posed a threat to expansion in such regions – a “formidable obstacle to the industry,” as one 1991 memo said.

The industry began years ago depicting that kind of stance as extremist, and suggested that even the WHO was part of the movement. The UN agency has “joined forces with Muslim fundamentalists who view smoking as evil,” complained one Philip Morris document. A BAT report in 2000 suggested the WHO’s efforts to link smoking and Islam had borne fruit and needed to be “managed.”

A tobacco lobbyist told Philip Morris in 1985 to portray anti-smoking Muslims as fundamentalists, and suggest their strict reading of Sharia law would lead to other curbs on modern living.

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Equal rights versus freedom of conscience | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 April, 2015 - 19:55

Your editorial (Equality for gay people does not threaten Christian freedoms, 18 April) implies it is wrong for people to stand up for their beliefs. Throughout history those who were prepared to do so have suffered presecution. Thomas More was executed by Henry VIII for refusing to accept the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Was he wrong? Were individuals who spoke out – many, but not all Christian – against the Nazi regime’s treatment of Jews also wrong? Because a law is passed and many people accept it, does not always mean it’s right and nobody should be able to question it. When the original abortion act was passed, a conscience clause was included so that those who had moral objections could opt out of taking part in the procedures. Since the gay marriage act came into force there have been reports of individuals from many walks of life being disciplined or dismissed for saying that they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. These claims of persecution are not groundless. I accept that the trials of Christians in this country bear no comparison with those in Muslim or communist ones, but should it be a crime to speak out for what one believes in, even if many disagree with your opinion?
Jim Heber
Portishead, Bristol

Should it be a crime to speak out for what one believes in, even if many disagree with your opinion?

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