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'Advocating genocide' to be crime under proposed new national security laws

4 September, 2015 - 02:04

George Brandis announces move as part of hate speech crackdown seemingly aimed at the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir

A new crime of advocating genocide, apparently aimed at the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, will be introduced as part of the Abbott government’s next tranche of counter-terrorism legislation, George Brandis has announced.

“Free speech has no greater advocate than I,” the attorney general wrote in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. “But advocating extremism or ­violence to achieve political change, or to hurt, threaten, or vilify others, is not a legitimate use of free speech and has no place in our society.”

Related: Hizb ut-Tahrir insists it rejects violence following Abbott's 'desperate' accusation

Related: George Brandis calls for tolerance to be protected in terrorism debate

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Iranian family seeking asylum in Germany convert to Christianity – video

4 September, 2015 - 01:47

Mohammed Ali Zonoobi, a carpenter from the Iranian city of Shiraz, converts to Christianity with his family. He says he attended secret Christian services in Iran since the age of 18 and fled to Germany after several Christian friends were arrested. Conversion improves the chance of winning asylum by allowing people to point to the persecution they would face if sent home, but Zonoobi says true belief prompted his embrace of the church

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Radicalisation play cancelled by theatre after concerns about 'extremist agenda'

4 September, 2015 - 00:52

Artistic director raised concerns about the ‘extremist agenda’ of play about radicalisation of young Muslims

A controversial play about the radicalisation of young Muslims was cancelled by the National Youth Theatre last month after its artistic director raised concerns about its creators’ “extremist agenda” according to newly released correspondence.

An email written by Paul Roseby argued that Homegrown, due to be staged at a school in Swiss Cottage with a 112-strong cast of 15- to 25-year-olds, had to be axed “to prevent any damage to NYT’s reputation and membership”.

Related: Writer whose radicalisation play was cancelled to get it staged elsewhere

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Video of Mecca pilgrim on 'hoverboard' divides opinion

3 September, 2015 - 12:40

Man filmed balancing on hands-free Segway-style device while performing tawaf ritual around Islam’s most sacred shrine

The Ka’bah is Islam’s most sacred shrine, circled reverently by Muslims taking part in the hajj and umrah, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the five pillars of the religion. It is therefore somewhat unusual to see a pilgrim performing the tawaf on what looks like a hoverboard.

A YouTube video, which has been making the rounds on social media, shows an unidentified man balancing on the hands-free Segway-style device, his hands clasped in front of him.

I just saw a video of a man doing tawāf (walking around the holy Kaaba in Makkah) on a hover board. What a time to be a Muslim masha'allah

People be judging this person for using a hover board during tawaf - I would totally use one if I had one

Yoo someone doing tawaf on a hoverboard? Thats kinda messed up maaan

How can you be using hover board to do tawaf??? People take things too far

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Far-right United Patriots Front threatens to return to Bendigo in Facebook video

1 September, 2015 - 22:23

The anti-Islam group says it will carry on its protest against the construction of the Victorian city’s first mosque

The far-right group United Patriots Front will return to Bendigo, Victoria, in three weeks, the group’s leader, Sherman Burgess, has threatened.

About 300 protesters took over central Bendigo last Saturday, lashing out against a legal decision by the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal to approve construction of Bendigo’s first mosque.

Related: Fights break out as rival protests clash over Bendigo mosque

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Bangladesh police charge 'Islamist militants' over atheist's murder

1 September, 2015 - 15:35

Police say five charged with murder of blogger Washiqur Rahman include Hasibur Rahman, organiser of Ansarullah Bangla Team

Police in Bangladesh have charged five suspected Islamic extremists with the murder of an atheist blogger, one of four secular writers hacked to death in the south Asian state this year.

Washiqur Rahman, 27, who wrote under a pen name on Facebook and repeatedly criticised religious conservatives, was killed near his home in the capital, Dhaka, in March.

Related: Bangladesh blogger becomes second to be murdered in a month

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The fortune-teller of Kabul | May Jeong

1 September, 2015 - 05:59

For centuries mystics have channelled hopes and fears of Afghans. With the nation in turmoil, their services are as popular as ever. But can they survive the latest crackdown by religious hardliners?

Last November, Abdullah Sharifi visited a spirit medium. By his own admission, Sharifi was the last person you would expect to indulge in mysticism. Twenty-two years old, tall, handsome, with slicked-back hair, Sharifi usually wears blue jeans and a leather jacket, and walks with a swagger. But by that autumn, he had lost the spring in his step.

Five years earlier, Sharifi had begun working as a shopkeeper’s assistant in Kabul selling carpets, gemstones, and other souvenirs. His customers were the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who came to Afghanistan following the US-led Nato invasion in 2001. They were experts, advisors, aid workers, and adventurers, each with their own ideas about what Afghanistan needed the most. Sharifi sold them chapan robes with vertical stripes, the kind worn by former president Hamid Karzai, or Jinnah caps made from the fur of aborted lamb foetuses – things foreigners could bring home and brag about. Business boomed.

Shah’s most popular service is a taweez, a tailor-made amulet containing Qur’anic verses that serves as a talisman

To summon djinns, you must go to a deserted area – ideally a cemetery, but an unattended construction site will do

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Police hunt London woman feared to be heading for Syria with her four children

29 August, 2015 - 19:39

Zahera Tariq, and her three sons and daughter, are believed to have flown from London to Amsterdam, while her husband stayed behind

A missing mother and her four children are feared to be travelling from Britain to Syria after they disappeared from their London home last week, Scotland Yard has said. Police are trying to trace Zahera Tariq, 33, and her sons Muhammad, 12, Amaar, 11, Aadid, four, and daughter Safiyyah, nine. They were last seen at their house in Walthamstow, east London, on Tuesday, and were believed to have flown from London City airport to Amsterdam the same day. Police believe all five may be on their way to Syria.

Tariq’s husband and the father of her children is thought to be still in the UK, two neighbours said yesterday. One said she spotted him at the house early on Wednesday morning as she was heading to work.

Related: 'There is no silver bullet': Isis, al-Qaida and the myths of terrorism

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Muhammad: Messenger of God review – evocative account of Islam’s gestation

28 August, 2015 - 16:00

Majid Majidi’s origin tale of the prophet Muhammad chronicles the birth and rise of Islam, rich with gestural flair and images of bracing beauty

This is not the first time the prophet of Islam has hit the big screen, but Moustapha Akkad’s 1977 film The Message chose to relay Qu’ranic history only from Muhammad’s point of view. Majid Majidi’s Muhammad: Messenger of God, on the other hand, takes the representation plunge.

Related: Rare portrayal of Muhammad’s youth in upcoming Iranian film

Related: Muhammad biopic director calls for more movies about the prophet’s life

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Muhammad biopic director calls for more movies about the prophet’s life

28 August, 2015 - 13:37

Speaking at the premiere of Muhammad: Messenger of God, Majid Majidi says further films would help improve understanding of Islam around the world

It had the potential to be one of the most inflammatory film projects of recent times. Yet the world premiere of Iranian director Majid Majidi’s biopic of the prophet Muhammad not only passed mostly without incident, but even amicably – with a surprise call for rapprochement between the religion’s Sunni and Shia sects.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the Imperial cinema, Montreal, where the premiere was held. Holding signs declaring, “Down with Islamic republic of Iran”, members of the city’s Iranian community objected to what they saw as a glorification of the Islamisation of Iran.

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Sydney siege gunman was not seen at mosques, imam tells inquest

24 August, 2015 - 10:18

Man Haron Monis was also unlikely to have been given the titles of Muslim scholarship he claimed, senior imam tells the inquiry

Related: Sydney siege inquest recap – episode 13

None of the Muslim clerics consulted by a senior Australian imam ever saw Man Haron Monis at their mosques, an inquest has heard.

Related: Sydney siege: prosecutor accused of being unprepared to oppose Monis bail

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Islamic Council of Queensland condemns insulting video of mosques

24 August, 2015 - 09:38

The video tour made by a far-right group has been condemned by the Islamic Council of Queensland, which says local Muslims are being terrorised

The Islamic Council of Queensland has condemned a contemptuous video tour of Brisbane mosques by a far-right group as the latest incident in a “concentrated campaign” of harassment that was “terrorising” Muslims.

Council spokesman Ali Kadri said the video, posted online by the Australian Defence League on Monday, had fanned fears among congregations already uneasy about hate mail and the presence of unknown people in mosque carparks for hours at night.

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Queensland teenager Oliver Bridgeman denies joining al-Qaida affiliate in Syria

24 August, 2015 - 00:17

The UK-born 18-year-old says he is working for aid groups inside refugee camps in Syria and hopes to return to Australia ‘when I feel like my job’s done here’

Queensland teenager Oliver Bridgeman has denied any links to an al-Qaida affiliated militia in Syria, claiming he crossed into the war-ravaged country to “do what I can to help people”.

Speaking to Guardian Australia from an undisclosed location in Syria, the 18-year-old, who left Toowoomba in March, said he hoped to return to Australia one day, maintaining “I haven’t done anything wrong”.

Related: Queensland teenager who travelled to Syria influenced by ‘the wrong people’

When I feel like my job’s done here, I want to return home. Australia’s my country

Related: How US aid worker Kayla Mueller was taken hostage by Isis - and how attempts to save her failed

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The brutal fight of Bangladesh’s secular voices to be heard

22 August, 2015 - 07:00

Niloy Chakrabarti was only the latest atheist blogger to be hacked to death in the country this year. The government crackdown on ‘blasphemers’ has sent others into hiding. What is the future for the country’s liberal writers?

In February 2015, Avijit Roy and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, travelled from their home in Atlanta, Georgia, to Dhaka, the capital Bangladesh. This was their home town, and they were attending the annual Ekushey book fair, which runs all month. They had been unable to attend in 2014 because Roy had received death threats after the publication of his book The Virus of Faith, which criticised religion.

The couple were familiar with controversy. They ran a Bengali-language web forum called Mukto-Mona, or Free Minds, promoting rationalist thought, and had been threatened by Islamic fundamentalists. During their trip to Dhaka, they avoided being out late at night, varied their routines and checked in regularly with relatives. For the first 10 days, the strategy seemed to work.

Related: Avijit Roy, the blogger who wouldn't back down in the face of threats

Related: Bangladesh blogger killed by machete gang had asked for police protection

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White supremacist convicted in plot to kill Obama with 'death ray' device

21 August, 2015 - 22:17
  • KKK member Glendon Scott Crawford also wanted to harm Muslims
  • Jury unanimously finds man guilty of all three charges against him

A New York white supremacist was convicted by a federal jury on Friday of plotting to use a remote-controlled radiation device he called “Hiroshima on a light switch” to harm Muslims and President Barack Obama.

After less than three hours of deliberation in US district court in Albany, New York, the jury unanimously found Glendon Scott Crawford guilty of all three charges against him.

Related: Men built X-ray gun to shoot Israel opponents – FBI

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Environmental activism is taking root in Islam | Adam Khyas for the Conversation

21 August, 2015 - 12:46
A group of Islamic scholars have called on the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to take action on climate change. Religious principles support them

Muslims have a religious duty to take action against climate change, according to a declaration released by a major group of Islamic scholars, faith leaders and politicians from 20 countries. The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, launched in Istanbul, is aimed at the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and suggests mosques and Islamic schools should immediately take action.

In using religious authority to call for stronger climate-change policies at the UN summit in Paris this December, the Islamic declaration follows a similar intervention by the pope earlier in the year.

Islam teaches an inter-connectedness between the environment and human beings

Related: Islamic leaders issue bold call for rapid phase out of fossil fuels

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Malcolm X’s autobiography didn’t change me, it saved me | Lemn Sissay

20 August, 2015 - 18:58
Aged 17, I felt like an outsider. This book opened the door to reading – and to discovering my identity

Were Malcolm X’s autobiography to be published today, would it be called “hate speech”? Would he be blindfolded and shackled, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay? What’s certain is that its subject matter, first published in 1965, would be branded extremist, and most probably terrorist.

I read this book aged 17, when the word Muslim wasn’t used as a threat to the status quo, and it helped me understand 20th-century America: without Africans, it made me realise, there would be no America. Since then, it has travelled with me throughout my life and feels even more resonant now than it did when I first read it. But back then I needed it. I needed it bad.

Related: Malcolm X assassination: 50 years on, mystery still clouds details of the case

Slavery had raped its way into his DNA

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Islamic leaders issue bold call for rapid phase out of fossil fuels

18 August, 2015 - 13:20

Religious scholars, experts and teachers from around the world unite to make emotive declaration on climate change ahead of crucial Paris summit

Islamic leaders have issued a clarion call to 1.6bn Muslims around the world to work towards phasing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 100% renewable energy strategy.

The grand mufti’s of Lebanon and Uganda endorsed the Islamic declaration on climate change, along with prominent Islamic scholars and teachers from 20 countries, at a symposium in Istanbul.

Related: The biggest story in the world podcast: Episode 9, Religion

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Bangladesh arrests three men including Briton over murders of secular bloggers

18 August, 2015 - 08:39

Security forces claim a UK citizen of Bangladeshi origin, Touhidur Rahman, was main planner of fatal attacks on Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das

Bangladesh’s security forces have arrested three suspected Islamist militants over the murders of two prominent secular bloggers, including the alleged “main planner”, who the police say is a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin.

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