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Kabul: anti-Charlie Hebdo protest turns violent

31 January, 2015 - 19:04
Riot police clash with crowds demonstrating against magazine’s practice of running satirical caricatures depicting prophet Muhammad

A protest in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Saturday against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, turned into a violent confrontation between riot police and demonstrators, police said.

Farid Afzeli, chief of the Kabul police department’s criminal investigations division, said several hundred demonstrators gathered in eastern Kabul on Saturday afternoon to protest the magazine’s ongoing practice of running satirical caricatures depicting the prophet Muhammad.

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Texas will honour American sniper by celebrating 'Chris Kyle Day'

31 January, 2015 - 18:49

Governor announces 2 February as day to commemorate Navy Seal and ‘national hero’ as film continues to stoke fierce partisan debate

Texas will officially celebrate 2 February as “Chris Kyle Day”, in honour of the Navy Seal whose portrayal in the movie American Sniper has caused intense controversy while breaking box-office records.

Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 “probables” during four tours of duty in Iraq, is played by Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood’s film, which has six nominations for this year’s Oscars and earned almost $250m in its first two weeks in cinemas.

Related: The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero? | Lindy West

Related: American Sniper: anti-Muslim threats skyrocket in wake of film's release

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Thousands attend funerals for Pakistan mosque blast victims - video

31 January, 2015 - 12:01
Thousands of mourners gather in the streets of Shikarpur, Pakistan for the mass funeral of victims of Friday's mosque bombing. The blast, which was caused by a suicide bomber or explosive device according to police, occurred when the Shia mosque was at its fullest during Friday prayers. Businesses remain closed on Saturday as the city mourns for the more than 49 people killed in the attack Continue reading...

Shuja Shafi, head of the Muslim Council of Britain: ‘We’ve never claimed to speak for everyone’

30 January, 2015 - 18:41
The Muslim Council of Britain represents 500 mosques, schools and charities – but the government won’t talk to it. Its elected leader Shuja Shafi explains why such choices mean the ‘trust deficit’ is growing

Who speaks for Britain’s Muslims? The question is often asked, and never more loudly than when British Muslims are being asked to condemn another terrorist attack or prove how British they are. There is no equivalent of the chief rabbi or archbishop of Canterbury for Muslims, and silence can be misconstrued as an endorsement of extremism. There isn’t silence – a huge number of Muslims repeatedly speak out, but their voices are lost in the din, while the press wheels out the wackier fringe elements to speak on behalf of three million people.

Perhaps the nearest thing to an authoritative voice is the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body that represents 500 Islamic organisations around the country, including mosques, schools and charities. Is it possible for the MCB to speak for British Muslims, a community spread across ethnicities, languages and branches of Islam?

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Tea, Citizen Khan and other good reasons to visit your local mosque | Remona Aly

30 January, 2015 - 17:35

For Visit My Mosque day, Muslims across the UK are inviting the public in for a cuppa. Here are my top five treats that lie in store for you

This Sunday, mosques across the UK will be flinging open their front doors to fellow Brits, inviting them to pop in for a chat over some tea and cake. Visit My Mosque day is part of a national initiative by Muslims to reach out to the public following recent tensions around radicalisation and terrorism.

With more than 1,600 mosques in Britain there is great potential to open up better understanding and break down those pesky barriers over a Viennese whirl. In Arabic, mosque or masjid means a place of prostration and is essentially a place to worship. But historically a mosque encompassed much more than this, providing health services and education, an epicentre for community life, a venue for performing marriages, as well as a social halal knees-up.

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Republicans need to learn that Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive | Linda Sarsour

30 January, 2015 - 15:10

Texas legislator Molly White joined some more famous conservatives in the ‘Super Bowl of Bigotry’ this week, vying for the title of Biggest Islamophobe

In many parts of the United States, if you want to win an election, you need talking points full of misinformation and bigotry towards Muslims to scare the wits out of non-Muslim Americans in to voting for you (and others to fund your campaign). Events in the Middle East simply provide more fuel to an already-raging fire, and convince officials elected to serve all of their constituents that their inappropriate and bigoted comments will not only go unchallenged but will be applauded.

Take, for example, Texas state Representative Molly White’s idea of southern hospitality: as American Muslim Texans descended on Austin for an Annual Capitol Day to celebrate their civic right to free expression, the freshman Republican posted on Facebook:

Most member including myself are back in district. I did leave an Israeli flag on my desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representative form the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.

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Iranian film on prophet Muhammad set for premiere

30 January, 2015 - 11:37
Majid Majidi’s Tehran-backed production telling the story of Muhammad’s early years to be shown at Iran’s Fajr international film festival

As controversy swirls on how the prophet Muhammad is depicted, a multimillion-dollar biopic about his youth – Iran’s most expensive and lavish film to date – is set to premiere on Sunday.

Tehran’s Fajr international film festival, which coincides with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, is scheduled to show the country’s own version of how Islam’s most revered figure lived. To protect the prophet’s dignity, the film will be shown out of competition.

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Flogged Saudi blogger's wife thanks Canadians for support – video

30 January, 2015 - 10:37
Ensaf Haidar, whose husband Raif Badawi is a Saudi rights activist who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for criticising the kingdom's clerics in his blog, thanks the Canadian people and international organisations for their help and support for her husband. Badawi, founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, received 50 lashes on 9 January. The second of 20 rounds in total has twice been postponed on medical grounds. Haidar fled to Canada with the couple's three young children Continue reading...

True story of Mughal emperor who built Taj Mahal makes London debut

29 January, 2015 - 07:00
Staging of Dara by Shahid Nadeem is first time the National has adapted an original south Asian production for a British audience

The story of Dara, the newest production to take to the boards at the National Theatre, is one that begins thousands of miles away from the concrete jungle of London’s South Bank.

It is a play that made its debut four years ago in the Pakistani city of Lahore, before being seen in Karachi, Islamabad and all across India.

Related: Dara review – epic drama depicts battling sons of man who built Taj Mahal

Related: Plan your week’s theatre: top tickets

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‘Love jihad’ in India and one man’s quest to prevent it | Aman Sethi

29 January, 2015 - 06:00
Vijaykant Chauhan believes that, all over India, gangs of Muslims are seducing Hindu women and forcing them to convert to Islam – and he’s made it his mission to stop them. Aman Sethi reports on India’s rising religious tensions

Every few days, Vijaykant Chauhan WhatsApps me a photograph of himself. The photographs are invariably scenes of crowds gathered on a north India street corner. Chauhan is right in front: a thickset, mustachioed man in his late 30s, in faux-army fatigues, a camouflage-print baseball cap and sunglasses. He stands with his fists tightly bunched, arms upraised. Occasionally the police make an appearance – their faces creased by patient smiles, their hands held close to their chests, palms facing outwards, in gestures of pacification.

These are photographs of protests, celebrations, rallies and, most often, “cultural programmes”: neighbourhood events usually organised under the patronage of the local political representative to promote good values in society. Onlookers peer out from the margins, their faces inscrutable amid all the posing and scuffling, shouting and jostling.

Anyone who attacks the four pillars of Hindustan deserves to be put to death

They are using our daughters to breed children who are sent to madrasas, trained in Pakistan and turned into terrorists

When the mob came for my nani, she squeezed herself under a pile of fresh corpses that lay in the local vegetable market

This love jihad idea has ruptured what remains of Uttar Pradesh’s social fabric

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Everyone calm down: Michelle Obama's Saudi outfit was plenty respectful

28 January, 2015 - 20:24

The first lady’s decision to forgo a headscarf makes her neither the first nor the last visiting female official to do so in Saudi Arabia – and does not flaunt protocol

Yes, Michelle Obama wore her hair uncovered during an official visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. And yes, some people on the internet found this inappropriate. But no, dear sweet internet, no, she is neither the first female US official nor the first western official to bare her hair in the kingdom.

Michelle Obama landed in Riyadh wearing a pair of loose-fitting trousers and a loose-fitting blouse, topped with a long-sleeved jacket that hit right at the knee. Despite her jacket’s bright hues, the outfit was respectful and modest, with nary a collarbone in sight – seemingly appropriate attire in which to pay respects to the deceased monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.

Kudos to @FLOTUS for standing up for women & refusing to wear Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely done

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Birmingham school unites faiths: not through grand gestures but hard work

28 January, 2015 - 14:11
St Alban’s C of E academy, in city reeling from Trojan horse scandal, highlights common bits shared by religions in effort to truly integrate communities

It is Friday morning at St Alban’s Church of England academy in Highgate, a gleaming new £17.6m building whose colourful exterior spreads a warm glow over this deprived corner of Birmingham.

The school, where the vast majority of students are Muslim, is a stone’s throw from Birmingham central mosque, one of the largest Islamic centres in western Europe, and a short bus ride from the schools thrown into turmoil last year by allegations of a hardline Islamist takeover – the so-called Trojan horse affair.

Related: St Alban's ARK Academy in Birmingham – in pictures

We have more confidence in tackling issues head on. We have a clear rationale … We know what we are doing

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Counterterrorism is supposed to let us live without fear. Instead, it's creating more of it | Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe

26 January, 2015 - 12:52

How many ‘terrorism plots’ initiated by FBI informants will the agency interrupt before Congress finally performs some oversight?

People think that catching terrorists is just a matter of finding them – but, just as often, terrorists are created by the people doing the chase.

While making our film (T)ERROR, which tracks a single counter-terrorism sting operation over seven months, we realized that most people have serious misconceptions about FBI counter-terrorism efforts. They assume that informants infiltrate terrorist networks and then provide the FBI with information about those networks in order to stop terrorist plots from being carried out. That’s not true in the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases.

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Why Eric Pickles’ letter to mosques was right and wrong

25 January, 2015 - 19:00
The communities secretary was right in thinking that an evolutionary process of cohesion is underway. But he was wrong in thinking he was the man to address the problem

This won’t trip off the tongue, but here is where Eric Pickles – communities secretary and the man who holds the glue to keep the many strands of society in place – was in the right ball park. When he sent that now infamous letter to mosques, telling Muslims they really ought to stop the terrorism – presumably using brown-skinned Kingsman-style superhero operatives – he also referenced the “challenges of integration and radicalisation”.

I have long felt that, as part of the national journey, we will eventually arrive at some hybrid, widely accepted British/Muslim construct. Widely accepted in the sense that it is not just a formulation Muslim communities feel is theirs, but also a compromise that other communities feel comfortable with – enough for cohesion to take place.

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Police search for man who attempted to burn down Toowoomba mosque

25 January, 2015 - 01:28

Investigators are looking at CCTV footage after man broke in, turned on gas and left fire burning inside bin in attempt to torch building

Queensland police have launched an arson investigation and are examining security camera footage of a man who they say attempted to burn down a mosque in Toowoomba.

The investigation was launched after a suspicious fire at the mosque on West Street in Harristown. Police say it appears someone lit a fire in a plastic bin after they forced entry to a wooden building next to the building, just after 1pm on Saturday.

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Lady Warsi launches bitter assault on coalition strategy towards Muslims

25 January, 2015 - 00:37

Former Tory chair targets Michael Gove for criticism and says failure to engage with the community ‘has fuelled resentment’

Lady Warsi: Muslims will speak up for British values only when they know they will be heard

Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism.

In her first major intervention on the relationship between Muslims and the rest of society since she resigned from the cabinet five months ago, Warsi says the coalition’s policy of non-engagement has caused deep unease and resentment towards the government.

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The secret world of Isis training camps – ruled by sacred texts and the sword

25 January, 2015 - 00:04
We reveal how the terror group recruits and retains its members through zealotry, rhetoric and obscure theology

Hamid Ghannam’s first day at an Islamic State (Isis) training camp was intense. Very early on the morning of 13 August, he picked up his packed clothes and walked quickly to the main street in his village to meet three of his cousins. As with many of Isis’s young members, he did so without informing his parents.

The cousins drove in a white minibus to an Isis camp at the Omar oilfield in the desert of Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria. The recruiter, a distant relative who had enlisted around eight others from his village since he was put in charge of its security, accompanied the three to their new lodging, where they would spend the next few weeks.

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Muslims will speak up for British values only when they know they will be heard

24 January, 2015 - 21:40

Former Tory chairwoman accuses government she served of undermining the fight against religious extremism

Lady Warsi launches bitter assault on coalition strategy towards Muslims

There has been much controversy over the letter from the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, and Lord Ahmad to more than 1,000 mosques. The Muslim Council of Britain appeared to react most negatively, criticising Eric for what they saw as his suggestion that somehow British Muslims were “inherently apart from British society”. But disquiet about the letter was much more widespread.

I’m more inclined to agree with the columnist Matthew d’Ancona, who described the letter as not so much a hand raised in warning as a hand stretched out in partnership. The letter contains some profoundly positive and inclusive sentiments, among them that “British values are Muslim values” and that Britain is a better place because of “its strong Muslim communities”.

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V&A in row over self-censorship after Muhammad image is taken down

24 January, 2015 - 20:24
Poster removed from museum website – but scholars of Islamic art fear ‘terrible loss for shared global heritage’

Warning: this article contains the image of the prophet Muhammad, which some may find offensive.

The Victoria and Albert museum has attempted to conceal its ownership of a devotional image of the prophet Muhammad, citing security concerns, in what is part of a wider pattern of apparent self-censorship by British institutions that scholars fear could undermine public understanding of Islamic art and the diversity of Muslim traditions.

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