The Guardian World news: Islam

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Maajid Nawaz: how a former Islamist became David Cameron’s anti-extremism adviser

2 August, 2015 - 19:00

The Essex schoolboy who clashed with skinheads, joined an Islamist group and spent four years in jail seems an unlikely government ally – and he’s not short of critics

On 10 September 2001, a young British man stepped off a plane in Egypt, for a year abroad studying Arabic. When news of the most spectacular terrorist attack in history reached Maajid Nawaz the next day, he sensed it might play badly for the Islamist group of which he was a member. By April 2002, he had been picked up by the security services for his membership of Hizb-ut-Tahrir – the “Party of Liberation” – and ended up spending four years in an Egyptian jail. Since returning to Britain in 2006, though, Nawaz’s career has taken an improbable turn: he has set himself up as an expert on how to prevent radicalisation, and has even advised prime ministers and presidents, including David Cameron and George W Bush.

Nawaz likes to do things in style. In 2007, after dramatically leaving Hizb-ut-Tahrir, he decided to create an anti-extremism thinktank with his friend Ed Husain, another former Islamist. A snazzy agency was hired to design a “brand identity” for the Quilliam Foundation, named after the man who opened England’s first mosque. The logo they chose was a delicate, wispy “Q”, a calligraphic link between east and west. They picked the British Museum as a venue for its launch party; Jemima Goldsmith was among the attendees. All the more impressive given that the whole idea was hatched in the back of a clapped-out Renault Clio that had been doubling as Nawaz’s bedroom while he finally finished his degree. It’s testament to his chutzpah, but also his ability to persuade and convince, an ability that he’s been honing since he was a teenage radical, spreading Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s message.

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Jewish, Muslim and LGBT communities oppose hate-crime hotline plans

1 August, 2015 - 15:43

Internal emails reveal Boris Johnson, mayor of London, intends to introduce single hotline for capital, but charities say plans will dilute community trust

London’s Jewish, Muslim and LGBT communities have joined forces to oppose plans by Boris Johnston for a hate-crime hotline, claiming it would dissuade victims from reporting antisemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic attacks at a time of rising attacks.

Not yet officially announced, internal emails from the mayor’s office for policing and crime, seen by the Guardian, reveal that Johnson is intending to introduce a one-number hotline for reporting hate crime throughout the capital.

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Obama's call to end female genital mutilation yet to reach Ethiopia's villages

1 August, 2015 - 12:00

While some Ethiopians praise the US president’s speech in Addis Ababa, other activists are concerned his message did not reach the people who needed to hear it the most in remote, traditional villages where circumcision continues

When she was a girl, Sadiya Aliye’s genitals were cut, as she was told tradition dictated. So when she became a mother to four daughters, she put all of them through the same agonising ritual.

But attitudes, and law enforcement, are changing in Ethiopia. Aliye was arrested all four times, spent two months in jail and paid $50 fines. “I was very angry,” she recalls. “They beat me.” Her husband, the midwife and those who held down the girls were also punished.

Related: Barack Obama in Kenya: 'no excuse' for treating women as second-class citizens

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Why I disagree with having a women-run mosque in Bradford | Naz Shah

31 July, 2015 - 17:04
I don’t want to see even more gender segregation than there already is. We can strengthen our community by having Muslim men and women working together

On Sunday 2 August, the Muslim Women’s Council in Bradford will be holding an event to discuss its proposals for the UK’s first women-managed mosque. Some women have experienced exclusion from male-run mosques, and so on the surface this seems a reasonable way forward. Many Muslims in Bradford would agree that we need to work towards greater involvement and inclusion of women in the life of the Muslim community.

Over the years, I have come across both good and bad examples of the experience of women within the life of the mosque. Some of the bad examples include all-male committees, usually comprised of men aged over 50, as well as women’s spaces that are cramped and lacking appropriate sanitary facilities. On the other hand, I have come across Muslim organisations in Bradford that are chaired by Muslim women and in which women are involved at board level. In many mosques and Islamic centres, women play an important creative role in programming events and activities.

A space managed by only women sends out the wrong message

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Meet Bana Gora, the woman planning Britain's first female-managed mosque

31 July, 2015 - 16:35

Chief of Muslim Women’s Council, whose project is in consultation in Bradford, explains that women attending and running mosques is nothing new in Islam

In a brightly lit office in Bradford’s Carlisle business centre, on a road lined with charity shops, grocery stores and a green-domed masjid, Bana Gora and her team at the Muslim Women’s Council (MWC) are organising final preparations before a much-awaited consultation about the UK’s first women-managed mosque.

At the event on Sunday, which they expect local residents, imams and national media to attend, the community group will discuss their proposals for a mosque that will be open to all – men, women, children and worshippers of all sects, including Sunni and Shia. Prayers will be led by a male imam, yet the governance of the mosque will be run by women, in the first of its kind in Britain.

There’s lots of myths about women going to mosques: education is important. I hope it can be a safe space for ‘me time’

I know of a couple of mosques where women pretty much run the show, but in an unofficial position

Related: Muslim group to consult on plans for Britain's first women's mosque

Related: Senior Muslims call for women to have more say in communities

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I believe in an authority greater than David Cameron’s. Am I an extremist? | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

31 July, 2015 - 14:22
In his attack on ‘non-violent extremism’, the PM forgets that had the Levellers of the 17th century not been radical or extreme, they would not have introduced England to democracy in the first place

The Church of England is the longest-running prevent strategy in history. If not from its inception, then certainly from the end of the English civil war, the big idea of the C of E was to prevent radicalisation – precisely the sort of radicalisation that led to religious people butchering each other throughout the 1630s and 40s. Its strategy was to discourage two things: big expansive politically minded theology – the sort of theology that has ambitions to change the world – and religious passion (or “enthusiasm” as it was dismissively described).

From the end of the 17th century, a new mood of religious inclusivity would dominate. Increasingly suspicious of theological dispute, the idea was to kill off God – or at least God-talk – with religion. People would all pray together, using the same form of words (the aptly described Book of Common Prayer), but be discouraged from discussing the ideological side of religion. Religion itself – going to church and so on – was reclaimable as a part of the much-needed project of national togetherness. It cemented all that one-nation, big-society stuff. But God had to be kept out of it as much as possible. Thus the formation of the English dinner party rules: no discussion of God, sex or politics. And under pressure not to “do God”, the wet non-committal English clergyman became a figure of fun – at best, a local amateur social worker, and at worst, a social climbing hypocrite. The Vicar of Dibley or Mr Collins. Thus God is defeated by religion. Indeed, one could even say that, for the English establishment, that is precisely the purpose of religion. They trap Him in boring services so that people won’t notice the revolution for which He is calling.

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Mullah Omar obituary

30 July, 2015 - 17:21
Taliban leader who gave Osama bin Laden a haven from which to launch the 9/11 attacks

Mullah Mohammed Omar’s rise from obscurity as a minor mujahideen commander to leadership of the extremist Taliban movement was meteoric, even by Afghan standards. From 1994, when he emerged as a Robin Hood figure in the post-civil war chaos of Kandahar, until his death in 2013 aged about 53, he was the Taliban’s undisputed head. Its largely unrecognised Islamic emirate ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until late 2001, after which Omar was not seen in public. Despite his symbolic importance to his followers, little was known of him in recent years, and his death has been announced only now.

A fanatic and recluse who hardly ever met outsiders and knew little of the world at large, he was perhaps best known as the man who gave asylum to the equally fanatical Saudi Arabian founder of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden. And it was from the safe haven of Afghanistan that Bin Laden ordered the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

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Tariq Jahan on his son’s death in the 2011 riots: ‘Each morning we die again’

28 July, 2015 - 17:29
Four years ago, his son was one of three men hit by a car while defending local businesses in Birmingham. He was praised after immediately calling for calm but – with no one convicted for the killings – his anguish is worse than ever

Abdul Wahid is racing round the room when his mother calls him over to look at the family photos on the coffee table. “Who’s that?” she asks the three-year-old. The boy shouts happily, “My daddy!” But it is a face he has never seen in the flesh; his father was killed months before he was born in the riots that swept through England in August 2011.

Abdul Musavir, 30, was guarding local businesses in Birmingham with his brother Shahzad Ali, 31, and 19-year-old Haroon Jahan, when they were hit by a speeding car and thrown three metres in to the air. Their deaths sparked fury in the community they had been defending, and police feared there would be riots. Instead, just hours after finding his dying son in the street, Haroon’s father, Tariq Jahan, called for calm. He told the crowds who wanted action, if not revenge, “Black, white, Asians – we all live in the same community … step forward if you want to lose your son. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please.”

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London mosque chairman demands removal from banks' terrorism blacklist

28 July, 2015 - 17:11

Mohammed Kozbar ‘astonished’ to see Finsbury Park mosque described as terrorism risk on World-Check database used by banks worldwide

The chairman of Finsbury Park mosque has demanded to be removed from a confidential terrorism blacklist used by UK high street banks, warning that it “alienated and demonised” members of the mainstream Muslim community.

Mohammed Kozbar said he was “shocked and astonished” to find the north London mosque described as a terrorism risk on a confidential database used by 49 out of the world’s biggest 50 banks.

Related: Terrorism, fines and money laundering: why banks say no to poor customers

Related: HSBC shuts accounts of Muslim organisations, including Finsbury Park mosque

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Why must Britain’s young Muslims live with this unjust suspicion? | Leila Aboulela

27 July, 2015 - 11:30

In Britain, young Muslims are made to feel that they are on the wrong side, forced to constantly explain and apologise for extremism in which they have no part

At Eid prayers in a rainswept Aberdeen this month, the imam gave thanks to Allah Almighty for the blessings of life in Britain. We had successfully completed a month of fasting while Muslims in China were banned from observing Ramadan and in other parts of the world, many fasted through distressing circumstances of poverty and war. In the sports hall that was booked for the prayers, we listened to the imam in our rain-splattered best clothes before heading for our first morning coffee in a month and the candy floss on sale for the children.

Older, first-generation immigrants understood the logic of Britain being better and freer than “our own home countries”. But the young who were born and grew up in Britain would say that it is hard work being a British Muslim.

Before even being exposed to radicalisation, young Muslims are talked down to and told off

Related: I’m a Muslim woman, Mr Cameron: here’s what your radicalisation speech means to me | Siema lqbal

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Alleged Isis nurse Adam Brookman charged with terrorism-related offences

26 July, 2015 - 03:36

Australian federal police to allege Brookman willingly provided support to Isis while he was in Syria

A Melbourne nurse accused of working for Islamic State in Syria has been charged with terrorism related offences in Melbourne.

Adam Brookman was extradited to Victoria to face court after being arrested at Sydney airport on Friday night.

Related: Adam Brookman, alleged Isis nurse, also did guard duty, court documents say

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How the Nordic far-right has stolen the left’s ground on welfare

26 July, 2015 - 00:04

Far-right political parties are making huge gains across Nordic countries as new champions of a working class alienated by the cosmopolitan left

“The basis of the home is commonality and mutuality. A good home is not aware of any privileged or slighted, no darlings and no stepchildren. You see no one despise the other, no one who tries to gain advantage of others… In the good home you find compassion, cooperation, helpfulness.”

Per Albin Hansson, Swedish prime minister, 1932-1946

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I’m a Muslim woman, Mr Cameron: here’s what your radicalisation speech means to me | Siema lqbal

24 July, 2015 - 19:16

For the first time in my life I feel like I don’t belong. British Muslim communities have so many worries about your plans to tackle extremism, so why don’t you communicate with us?

Dear Mr Cameron,

What did your speech on radicalisation this week actually mean to someone like me?

If my child’s passport is confiscated, will they then be labelled a 'non-violent extremist'

You completely failed to mention foreign policy

Related: By scapegoating Muslims, Cameron fuels radicalisation | Seumas Milne

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'Extremist is the secular word for heretic': the Hizb ut-Tahrir leader who insists on his right to speak

24 July, 2015 - 16:31

As David Cameron lays out a counter-extremism strategy that he calls ‘the struggle of our generation’, the voice of the ‘extremists’ has been missing. So what does Dr Abdul Wahid really believe?

Since the Islamic State atrocity in Tunisia David Cameron has made a series of statements pointing the finger at those he calls extremists. These people, says the prime minister, refuse to subscribe to British values such as free speech and the rule of law.

Cameron does not assert that all extremists are terrorists. He does, however, warn that extremists form a pool where terrorism can flourish and from which killers emerge. This week, in a headline-grabbing speech, he laid out a counter-extremism strategy to fight what he described as “the struggle of our generation”.

Related: David Cameron has made it all about Muslims – without engaging us at all | Mohammed Shafiq

Related: The four pillars of David Cameron's counter-extremism strategy

Related: By inflating Islamic extremism Cameron has lost sight of what really threatens us | George Monbiot

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Reclaim Australia: 'concerned mums and dads' or a trojan horse for extremists?

24 July, 2015 - 10:49

The controversial group believes the Coalition’s anti-terror policies are a signal that Reclaim is ‘on the right track’ in its self-styled grassroots battle against radical Islam. But as its rallies continues to flare into violence, where will the movement end up?

There are few movements that can claim, while struggling to weed out neo-Nazis, white supremacists and far right extremists in their midst, to have the ear of government.

For all their dire image problems, organisers for Reclaim Australia are already counting their successes in a self-styled grassroots campaign against the advance of radical Islam in Australia.

Related: Anne Aly: Reclaim Australia is the product of rising rightwing extremism

Related: From Springsteen to Jimmy Barnes, is any rocker safe from rightwingers? | Andrew Stafford

Related: Tony Abbott's rhetoric on Muslims is damaging and dangerous | Gay Alcorn

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Counter-terrorism laws 'not about targeting Muslims', says justice minister

24 July, 2015 - 07:34

In the face of claims counter-terrorism measures are stirring up Islamophobia, Michael Keenan says police are not enemies of Islam or any other religion

Police and the federal government “are not the enemies” of Islam, the justice minister Michael Keenan has said in an address aimed in part at reassuring Australia’s Muslim community in the wake of social tensions.

Keenan, who is also the minister assisting the prime minister on counter-terrorism, spoke about the “significant ongoing threat of terrorism” during an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney on Friday.

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The Guardian view on Birmingham’s Qur’an: part of a rich and complex intellectual history | Editorial

22 July, 2015 - 19:46
Early fragments of the Qur’an, newly dated to soon after the prophet’s death, are the legacy of a collection built to serve religious toleration and cultural understanding

The discovery, among the manuscripts held by the University of Birmingham, of some of the oldest surviving fragments of the Qur’an – perhaps made within 20 years of the prophet Muhammad’s death – is a cause for celebration. From 2 October they will be on public view in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, seen in the context of everything from early Arab-Byzantine coins to masterpieces of western art: Rubens and Renoir; Roubiliac and Reynolds.

The pages are part of the Mingana collection. Alphonse Mingana, who was born in what is now northern Iraq in 1878, was a member of an Assyrian Christian community that uses Aramaic, the language of Christ – a people that has suffered many reversals, from killings by Turkish soldiers in 1915 to the recent onslaught of Islamic State. He came to Birmingham’s Woodbrooke, the Quaker college, in 1913, and was later sponsored by the philanthropist (and scion of chocolatiers) Edward Cadbury to visit the Middle East. He returned with treasures including a text on symbolism for Sufi poets, Indian animal fables, an Ottoman astrological calendar, bilingual Coptic and Arabic texts from Egypt, medieval Syrian versions of the gospels and a 17th-century Persian Life of the Prophet. The point was to amass a collection that, from the myriad histories woven through its pages, would foster understanding between faiths. When complexity is at risk from blunt and simplistic narratives on all sides, the legacy of Mingana’s collection, these Qur’anic pages included, is especially precious.

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'Oldest' Qur'an fragments found at Birmingham University

22 July, 2015 - 14:23

Radiocarbon analysis dates Islamic parchment to period between AD568 and AD645

One of the oldest texts of the Qur’an in the world, on parchment that was possibly made within the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, has been found in the collection of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham.

The two well-preserved leaves of parchment, closely written in an elegant script, have been radiocarbon-dated to between AD568 and AD645, a result regarded by the scientists who tested it at Oxford as near certain – 95.4% accurate.

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‘World’s oldest Qur’an’ fragments found at University of Birmingham – video

22 July, 2015 - 12:37
The discovery of one of the oldest fragments of the Qur'an at the University of Birmingham is hailed as a historic find of 'global significance'. Radiocarbon analysis has dated the parchment between AD568 and 645. David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham, says the results suggest the manuscript was written less than 20 years after the death of the prophet Muhammad Continue reading...

Deradicalisation program is pointless, says influential Muslim association

22 July, 2015 - 10:54

Abbott government’s consultations with the community dismissed as ‘box-ticking exercises’ by president of the Lebanese Muslim Association

The head of one of Australia’s oldest and most established Muslim organisations has criticised the federal government’s deradicalisation program as “pointless” and not genuinely consultative.

Samier Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, has written a scathing review (pdf) of the programs.

Related: Victoria's deradicalisation plan a 'Soviet-style' idea that will only alienate – expert

Related: First deradicalisation grants awarded, but extremism still poorly understood

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