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The Guardian view on Baghdadi’s death: not enough to destroy Islamic State | Editorial

28 October, 2019 - 18:19
The sociology of violence espoused by Isis will only be defeated by a political project that transcends the religious, nationalist and ethnic schisms in the region

At the end of June 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced as a caliph of all Muslims in a declaration that not only proclaimed a new “caliphate”, but also warned fellow believers in Islam that they must “pledge allegiance and support”. Baghdadi, the latest leader of so-called Islamic State, had made a name for his group with a murderous reign of terror culminating in the shock fall of the city of Mosul into his hands a fortnight earlier. His claims about “crushing the idol of democracy” and defeating “agents of the crusaders and atheists, and the guards of the Jews” were followed by a campaign of genocide, slavery, rape and ultra-violence against Muslims primarily. Baghdadi’s empire-building came to nothing when the “caliphate” collapsed in March this year. The world’s most-wanted terrorist ended his life as a fugitive who decided that he would kill himself rather than surrender to justice. He came to an ignominious end; reportedly cornered by US special forces, Baghdadi blew himself up in a tunnel in Syria, killing three of his children as well.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump could not resist the opportunity to make a series of questionable statements and promote himself. His claim that Baghdadi “died like a dog” was unpleasant, unnecessary and will cause unintended problems for the United States that will require undoing, especially in the Muslim world where canines are considered unclean. It would help first to get the facts straight, instead of shrouding them in the “fog of war”. When Osama bin Laden was killed under the Obama administration in 2011, days after the event it had to offer an account that contradicted its previous assertions. There’s good reason to expect that the Trump White House might have to correct a few self-serving myths in the coming days. The fact that Baghdadi took his own life means that the policy of killing members of terrorist groups as part of America’s war on terror continues without the necessary and long overdue debate about the ethics and legality of targeted assassinations.

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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi obituary

27 October, 2019 - 16:47
Islamic State leader whose legacy is one of destruction, division, fear and unrelenting chaos

From the moment in July 2014 when he ascended the minbar (pulpit) in a mosque in Mosul, clad in black robes, to claim the title of caliph of the Muslim world, until his death on Sunday during a raid by US forces, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri, better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was the most wanted and feared man on the planet.

In less time than it had taken any terrorist leader before him, he and his organisation, Islamic State (Isis), had successfully provoked upheaval across the Middle East and stirred trepidation around the globe. To many, Baghdadi was the sum of all fears, a man who had been transported straight from the savage early wars of Islamic history to the modern battlefields of the region nearly 1,500 years later.

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The Guardian view on Xinjiang, China: forced labour and fashion shows | Editorial

20 October, 2019 - 18:25

Repression in the north-western region takes many forms. They all deserve scrutiny

When a million Uighurs and other Muslims have been locked up in Xinjiang’s detention camps, and as documentation of forced labour mounts, it might seem perverse to pay attention to fashion shows, beauty salons and a park. Yet these developments are not trivial. They form part of China’s efforts to erase Uighur culture. Recent research details official efforts to change Uighur women’s style, which began with 2011’s “Project Beauty” initiative, encouraging them to shun the niqab and jilbab, and has recently has seen the establishment of hair salons and beauty parlours. These, explained an official, would transform women’s body image, then their way of life, and finally their way of thinking.

Meanwhile, satellite photos have revealed that dozens of cemeteries in the north-western region have been destroyed in the last two years. In Aksu, at the graveyard where a prominent Uighur poet was buried, tombs were moved and the land turned into Happiness Park, with panda models and a children’s ride. Similar evidence has already shown the demolition of Islamic religious sites. Like the attempts to coerce Uighurs into celebrating Chinese new year and to discourage the use of the Uighur language, these developments represent the hollowing out of a culture. Writers, entertainers and academics have all fallen foul of authorities. The family of Tashpolat Tiyip, president of Xinjiang University until his disappearance in 2017, believe he has been convicted of separatism and sentenced to death. The crackdown on Muslim cultural practices is also spreading to Hui Muslims in Ningxia. Beijing portrays its camps as “vocational centres” and part of a necessary campaign to root out extremism following violent attacks. But far from being a targeted response to terrorism, China’s draconian detentions, surveillance and broader repression amount to treating an entire population and its way of life as a potential threat.

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Labour candidate accuses Lib Dem rival of dirty campaign tactics

17 October, 2019 - 18:48

Dr Faiza Shaheen says open letter on Islamic charity aimed to highlight her as a Muslim

A Labour parliamentary candidate has accused her Liberal Democrat rival of using dirty campaigning tactics after he sent her an open letter demanding to know her view on an Islamic charity to which she has no links.

Dr Faiza Shaheen suggested that Dr Geoffrey Seeff wanted her to be publicly highlighted as a Muslim when he wrote to her about the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), an organisation she had not heard of.

This morning I received the below from the Lib Dem Chingford and Woodford Green parliamentary candidate.

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French government resists calls to ban headscarves on school trips

16 October, 2019 - 16:06

Outrage after far-right politician orders Muslim woman to remove headscarf on trip to parliament

The French government has insisted it will not seek to ban Muslim women who wear headscarves from volunteering to help on school trips after an incident in which mothers accompanying pupils were told to remove them sparked outrage.

One mother said pupils were distressed and traumatised when a far-right politician told her to take off her headscarf in a regional parliament in eastern France, where she was helping out on a primary school outing for her son’s class.

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Inspired By the East: fertile fascination – or racist pastiche and plunder?

11 October, 2019 - 11:42

The British Museum show is a bold attempt to look at orientalist art as a cultural exchange that influenced paintings, ceramics, travel books and fashion. Our writer gauges its success

The British Museum’s new exhibition, Inspired By the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art, attempts to present orientalist art as not only one where western artists traded in cliche, but also to show how portrayals of the east in the west were more than just racist pastiches. It attempts to present orientalist art as a sort of cultural exchange, rather than plunder, more of a long-term interaction between east and west that influenced not just paintings but also ceramics, travel books and watercolour illustrations of Ottoman fashion. It also presents orientalism as an effort to understand other cultures at a time when there was not much travel, and perhaps an idealised longing for a life in an Islamic world that had not yet been untethered from the familiar by industrialisation and secularisation.

The exhibition succeeds in achieving some of this. There is little here along the lines of The Snake Charmer, the painting famously used on the cover of the first edition of Edward Said’s Orientalism, which dominates discourse on the topic. In this tasteless depiction, a naked snake-charmer draped in a python entertained turbaned, cloaked men sitting on the ground. There is a mix of the dramatic romanticism of the early orientalists and the more iconoclastic realism of daily life, albeit still restricted broadly to the settings of the bazaar or the street throng.

Related: Inspired by the East review – a glorious show Boris Johnson really ought to see

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The Sultan and the Saint review – the Crusades' real-life bromance

9 October, 2019 - 16:00

In an unlikely battleground meeting, Francis of Assisi talked war and peace with Ayyubid sultan Al-Kamil, according to this intriguing documentary

Jeremy Irons’ barrel-aged tones narrate this documentary (just shy of an hour long) about a 13th-century bromance: the meeting in 1219 between Francis of Assisi and Ayyubid sultan Al-Kamil. The pacifist friar and Saladin’s erudite nephew, during a prolonged fag break from the siege of Damietta in the Fifth Crusade, compared notes on religion and found much to like.

Director Alexander Kronemer sets the stage confidently, fleshing out the future monk’s errant youth and early papal machinations in the Holy Land in handsome reconstructions that perhaps cover for the film’s achilles heel: the lack of documentation about what exactly happened during the powwow. Only a few contemporary sources exist, none of them Arab; most details are drawn from later Franciscan biographies.

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US restricts visas for Chinese officials over internment of Muslim minorities

8 October, 2019 - 23:36
  • More than 1 million Uighurs and other minorities detained
  • Move is seen as victory for Pompeo and Pence over Mnuchin

The US has imposed visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist party officials accused of being involved in the mass internment of more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang province.

The restrictions, announced by the state department on Tuesday, come a day after the US commerce department imposed export restrictions on US companies preventing them from selling their products – particularly face recognition and other surveillance technology – to 28 Chinese entities, including the Public Security Bureau and firms involved in surveillance in Xinjiang.

Related: 'If you enter a camp, you never come out': inside China's war on Islam

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A new India is emerging, and it is a country ruled by fear | Amit Chaudhuri

8 October, 2019 - 06:00

Modi’s vision for the country is one that stifles dissent and difference, in defiance of its people’s history

Four months have passed since Narendra Modi and the BJP came back to power in India, and more seems to have happened there than in the last 40 years. The sense of severance that many experience today, of being divorced from the workings of the nation, exceeds even the helplessness felt during the suspension of civil liberties in the emergency of 1975 to 1977 and the political traumas that followed.

This is because – without the matter being explicitly articulated – citizen has been set against citizen: not just Muslim against Hindu or, say, Kashmiris against the rest of India, but those who subscribe to the BJP’s new conception of the nation against those who do not, leaving one without trust in the other.

Indian parties are only democrats when in opposition. But no government has been as punitive towards dissent as this

Related: Narendra Modi to face down critics by hailing Clean India scheme a success

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In Iraq, religious ‘pleasure marriages’ are a front for child prostitution

6 October, 2019 - 09:22
BBC investigation exposes Shia clerics in Baghdad advising men on how to abuse girls

I’m walking through the security cordon that leads into Kadhimiyah, one of Shia Islam’s holiest sites. I’m in a queue, along with dozens of pilgrims who have come from all over the world to pay their respects to the shrine of Imam Kadhim. At the gate, a female security guard pats me down and looks into my handbag, a reminder that the story I’m reporting on here isn’t going to be easy.

As I walk around the market stalls surrounding the shrine, I notice the many “marriage offices” dotted around the mosque, which are licensed to perform Sharia marriages. I’d received tips that some clerics here were performing short-term mutaa [pleasure] marriages, a practice – illegal under Iraqi law – whereby a men can pay for a temporary wife, with the officiating cleric receiving a cut.

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From ‘our girls’ to ‘brides of Isis’

6 October, 2019 - 07:00

How were bright British Muslim girls lured into joining Isis? Azadeh Moaveni travelled to Turkey, Syria and Tunisia to find out

When the Bethnal Green schoolgirls disappeared off the streets of east London in early 2015, never showing up at home for dinner and instead boarding flights to Istanbul, their parents hadn’t the slightest inkling. The first to leave had been Sharmeena Begum. She left to join Isis, followed two months later by Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum (no relation). Just last week, Priti Patel said “no way” could Shamima return to the UK. The girls were bubbly and well-liked at school and seemed like model British Muslim girls: studious, respectful – and walking the delicate line between conservative home environments and liberal modern London.

I found myself transfixed by the girls’ defection to Isis, but even more so by the news coverage, the viciousness of it and the swift excommunication of the girls from Britishness. They quickly went from being “our girls” – 15-year-olds who had been groomed by sophisticated predators – to “brides of jihad”.

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Gaining my religion: Kanye, Dylan and the pop stars who find God

3 October, 2019 - 16:00

Kanye West has reportedly said he will only be recording gospel from now on – following a trail blazed with mixed results by Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Reverend Run

Religion has always been a popular option for celebrities in urgent need of a fresh start because God, unlike Twitter, has a reputation for forgiveness. Kanye West launched his weekly Sunday Service in January after a whirlwind few months during which he swooned over Donald Trump, suggested that slavery was a choice and released the first forgettable album of his career. West has had an inconsistent relationship with his faith. His 2004 single Jesus Walks earned him multiple nominations for Stellar awards (the gospel Grammys) but I Am a God, from the album Yeezus, did not. On the verge of releasing his long-delayed ninth album, Jesus Is King, he seems to be going all in. At a recent listening party, he reportedly declared that he was done with secular music and would be recording only gospel from now on.

In the 1960s, soul music was largely defined by charismatic young gospel stars such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin crossing over to secular music, but travelling in the opposite direction poses more of a challenge. While mainstream listeners are by no means allergic to overt expressions of faith — witness, for example, U2, Stormzy, Johnny Cash and vast swathes of reggae — the zeal of the convert is a tougher sell.

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How Mohamed Salah inspired me to become a Muslim

3 October, 2019 - 10:37
I have gone from hating Islam to becoming a Muslim – and the Liverpool forward is the principal reason for that

Mohamed Salah really and honestly inspired me. I’m a Nottingham Forest season-ticket holder, I can be myself but because I made the declaration of faith I’m a Muslim. I’m still me and that’s what I took from Mohamed Salah. I’d love to meet him, just to shake his hand and say “Cheers” or “Shukran”.

I don’t think my mates quite believe that I’m a Muslim because I’ve not really changed. I just think my heart is better. I’m really trying to change on match days. Normally it’s pub, put a bet on, then after the game back to the pub and realise you’ve lost a lot of money. It’s hard when you’re used to such a culture and it’s part of football for a lot of people.

Related: Salah, Pogba, Özil … the Muslim heroes of English football

Salah showed me that you can be normal and a Muslim, if that’s the right phrase. You can be yourself.

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Conservative conference fringe meeting was no ‘Muslim-bashing fest’ | Letter from Peter Tatchell

1 October, 2019 - 18:09
I defended Muslim communities and made concrete proposals to protect Muslims against discrimination, writes Peter Tatchell, who was on the panel at the meeting

Sayeeda Warsi is wrong to say the Policy Exchange fringe meeting at Tory party conference was a “Muslim-bashing fest” (The Tories do not care about Islamophobia, Journal, 1 October).

I was a panellist and can confirm that not a single speaker attacked the Muslim community; though some did critique Islamist extremism. Every speaker, including two Muslim women, condemned anti-Muslim prejudice. Two of us questioned parliament’s sweeping definition of Islamophobia as a potential threat to free speech. That’s all.

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The Guardian view on the People’s Republic of China at 70: whose history? | Editorial

30 September, 2019 - 19:23

Seven decades of Communist rule have seen notable advances but at horrific cost

The 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, which will be marked on Tuesday by a mass military parade in the heart of Beijing, is less a historical commemoration than a political event. The Communist party of China (CPC) has understood the power of history ever since it seized the reins in 1949: in its earliest days, it encouraged citizens to “recall past bitterness”, to make the New China all the sweeter. Xi Jinping understands history’s importance better than any leader since Mao Zedong. Not long after taking power, he warned his colleagues that “historical nihilism” was an existential threat to the party’s rule on a par with western democracy.

The tanks, planes, troops and missiles tell a story: in 1949, the republic’s 17 aircraft were ordered to fly over twice, to make the display look more impressive. This time the west will watch closely as the People’s Liberation Army unveils new missile, stealth and unmanned vehicle capabilities. The PRC has outlived its big brother, the Soviet Union, and outgrown western economies. Yet it now faces new challenges.

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Richard Thompson at 70: on love, loss and being a Muslim in Trump's US

30 September, 2019 - 09:13

The master of British folk music has weathered a second divorce and lives in the US where ‘Trump has ramped up bigotry considerably’. At least ex-wife Linda has forgiven him

Richard Thompson is drinking mint tea in a Hampstead coffee shop – he doesn’t touch coffee or alcohol – and between Islam and cricket, he’s discussing the remarkable guest list for his upcoming 70th birthday celebration at the Royal Albert Hall in London. “I don’t like being the centre of attention, strange as it sounds,” he insists. “I just want to have a few friends over.”

The man the LA Times once hailed as “the finest rock songwriter after Dylan” and “the best electric guitarist since Hendrix” will switch between electric and acoustic guitars, and hopes that “most guests will have time to do a couple of songs”. The 15 guests will include Pink Floyd hero David Gilmour, who has featured alongside Richard in a Rolling Stone magazine best ever guitarist list, and who, as a soloist, covered Richard’s 1975 song Dimming of the Day. “He’ll do that,” says Richard. “And then do something of his … or Floyd’s. He has always been a nice guy and we share a love of all things Fender.”

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