The Guardian World news: Islam

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Blurring the line between criticism and bigotry fuels hatred of Muslims and Jews | Kenan Malik

3 March, 2024 - 07:00

Racists often dismiss the charge of prejudice as an attempt to prevent debate

Where do we draw the line between criticism and bigotry? From the uproar over Lee Anderson’s remarks about the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, being “controlled” by Islamists to the condemnation of slogans used on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, it is a question at the heart of current debates about Muslims and Jews, Islam and Israel.

The distinction between criticism and bigotry should, in principle, be easy to mark. Discussions about ideas or social practices or public policy should be as unfettered as possible. But when disdain for ideas or policies or practices become transposed into prejudices about people, a red line is crossed. It’s crossed when castigation of Islamism leads to calls for an end to Muslim immigration. Or when denunciation of Israeli actions in Gaza turns into a protest outside a Jewish shop in London.

Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 250 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at observer.letters@observer.co.uk

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How ‘no-go zone’ myth spread from fringes to mainstream UK politics

2 March, 2024 - 06:00

Notion of Muslim-controlled areas unsafe for white people has been promoted by rightwingers since the early 2000s

The claim by a former government minister earlier this week that parts of London and Birmingham with large Muslim populations are “no-go areas” has highlighted the enduring myth that there are UK neighbourhoods and towns unsafe for white people.

Paul Scully, the MP for Sutton and Cheam in Greater London, later retracted his suggestion that Tower Hamlets and Sparkhill were unsafe for non-Muslims to enter, made during a BBC interview about allegations of anti-Muslim sentiments within the Conservative party. But he also defended invoking the Islamophobic trope on the grounds that people told him they perceived there to be a threat.

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Victorian premier cancels iftar dinner after boycott announced by peak Muslim bodies

29 February, 2024 - 02:37

Jacinta Allan says event will not go ahead out of respect to those in the community that grieving over the war in Gaza

The Victorian government has cancelled its annual iftar dinner after the state’s peak body for Muslims and other community groups announced they would not attend the event due to Labor’s position on the war in Gaza.

The premier, Jacinta Allan, confirmed next month’s event would not go ahead out of respect to those in the Victorian Muslim community who were grieving.

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Sadiq Khan faces death threats from Islamist extremists, source says

27 February, 2024 - 20:10

News comes days after London mayor, who has round-the-clock police protection due to terrorist threats, is accused of being under Islamist control

The mayor of London has faced death threats from Islamist extremists, the Guardian has learned in the same week he was accused by a former senior Tory MP of being under their control.

Sadiq Khan has been receiving police protection, usually reserved for a handful of senior cabinet ministers or royals, since 2017.

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Tuesday briefing: Behind the Conservative party’s failure to address Islamophobia

27 February, 2024 - 06:56

In today’s newsletter: As suspended backbencher Lee Anderson launches a fresh attack, a former Tory MEP explains how the party got here

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Good morning. Your 7am Lee Anderson update: still not apologised. The reason, he said yesterday, is that “when you think you are right you should never apologise, because to do so would be a sign of weakness”.

Others might feel that the weaknesses of Anderson’s position are apparent enough already. In any case, the Conservatives remain in crisis over his claims that Islamists had “got control” of Sadiq Khan, and their tepid response since he was suspended.

Budget | Jeremy Hunt’s financial planning is “dubious” and “lacks credibility” and the chancellor should not announce tax cuts in next week’s budget if he cannot lay out how he will fund them, an economic thinktank has said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculates that a spending freeze to fund pre-election giveaways would mean about £35bn in public service cuts.

Israel-Gaza war | Joe Biden has said he believes a new, temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is possible by next Monday. The US president offered the update spontaneously during a visit to New York yesterday, in response to reporters inquiring about when he expected a ceasefire could start.

Russia | Alexei Navalny’s allies allege that Vladimir Putin had the opposition leader killed in jail to sabotage a prisoner swap in which Navalny would have been exchanged for a convicted hitman jailed in Germany. Maria Pevchikh, a close ally of the opposition leader, said Navalny was only days from being freed.

US news | An active-duty member of the US air force has died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, while shouting “Free Palestine””. 25-year-old airman Aaron Bushnell said on a livestream that he would “no longer be complicit in genocide”.”

Education | Labour has said it will help schools to train young male influencers who can counter the negative impact of people like Andrew Tate, a self-declared misogynist influencer, if it wins the next election. The party announced plans to pupils how to question the material they see on social media from people like Tate.

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Sunak says no Islamophobia issues in Tory party despite Anderson remarks

26 February, 2024 - 09:13

PM says prejudice unacceptable but refuses to address anti-Muslim concerns after comments about London mayor

Rishi Sunak has denied that the Conservative party has a problem with Islamophobia after Lee Anderson’s comments about Sadiq Khan, continuing to label them as “wrong” rather than prejudiced.

During a round of BBC local radio interviews to promote spending moved from HS2 to local transport projects, the prime minister was quizzed on Anderson’s claim that the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, was controlled by Islamists, remarks for which he lost the Conservative whip.

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Africa’s largest mosque inaugurated in Algeria after years of delays

26 February, 2024 - 08:14

Prayer room of Great Mosque of Algiers, beset by political wrangling and cost overruns, accommodates 120,000 people

Algeria has inaugurated a gigantic mosque on its Mediterranean coastline after years of political upheaval transformed the project from a symbol of state-sponsored strength and religiosity to one of delays and cost overruns.

Built by a Chinese construction firm throughout the 2010s, the Great Mosque of Algiers features the world’s tallest minaret, measuring 265 metres (869ft).

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Muslim group calls for Tory inquiry into party’s ‘structural Islamophobia’

25 February, 2024 - 16:59

Muslim Council of Britain writes to Conservative chair over comments made by Liz Truss, Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman

Britain’s largest Muslim group has written to the Conservative party to call for an investigation into “structural Islamophobia” within the party’s ranks.

In a letter addressed to the Conservative chair, Richard Holden, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said Islamophobia in the party was “institutional, tolerated by the leadership and seen as acceptable by great swathes of the party membership”.

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House of Gods review – ‘Succession in a mosque’ drama is disappointingly shallow

24 February, 2024 - 23:00

While this six-part drama is a step forward for representation of Muslims in Australia, it is spoiled by unrealistic moments and a creaky script

As a Muslim invested in the politics of the Muslim community, it’s tempting to feel short-changed by the ABC’s new show, House of Gods.

The six-part drama centres on the family of a sheikh leading a mosque in Sydney, and brings to it a heady mix of power, politics and faith. The co-creators, Osamah Sami and Shahin Shafaei, have described it as “Succession set in a mosque”. But despite its great concept and fantastic production, House of Gods unfortunately falls short in its attempt at an authentic depiction of Muslim life in Australia.

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The Observer view: Tory MPs whipping up Islamophobia must be stopped | Editorial

24 February, 2024 - 19:01

In the wake of the chaos of the Gaza debate, prominent Conservatives are trying to exploit fears of extremism for their own ends

It should have been a sober debate about what the UK and its allies can do to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Instead, the House of Commons descended into procedural chaos and angry recriminations last Wednesday after the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, broke with parliamentary convention to allow MPs to vote on a Labour, as well as the government’s, amendment to the SNP’s opposition day motion on a ceasefire. Rather than focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that is escalating with each day that passes, the Commons drew itself into a pointless blame game that has led to days of speculation over Hoyle’s future.

Every party involved – the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives – claimed the moral high ground in Wednesday’s debate, while accusing the others of undermining a critical discussion in their own interests. And all three parties are complicit in the shameful row that followed. Hoyle explained that he selected the Labour amendment out of concern for the safety of MPs who have received threats over this conflict and did not want to support an SNP motion labelling Israel’s military offensive as collective punishment. These MPs not only wanted to express their support for a ceasefire, they feared the consequences if they could not.

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Christchurch gunman discussed attacks online a year before carrying them out | Chris Wilson, Ethan Renner, Jack Smylie and Michal Dziwulski for the Conversation

20 February, 2024 - 23:13

New research into Brenton Tarrant’s posts on 4chan raises questions about why authorities did not detect them before the 2019 mosque shootings

In March and August 2018, up to a year before he attacked two Christchurch mosques, Brenton Tarrant posted publicly online that he planned to do so. Until now, these statements have not been identified.

In fact, for four years before his attack, Tarrant had been posting anonymously but publicly on the online message board 4chan about the need to attack people of colour in locations of “significance”, including places of worship.

The individual claimed that he was not a frequent commenter on extreme rightwing sites and that YouTube was, for him, a far more significant source of information and inspiration. Although he did frequent extreme rightwing discussion boards such as those on 4chan and 8chan, the evidence we have seen is indicative of more substantial use of YouTube and is therefore consistent with what he told us.

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Hindu nationalists go to court over lion named after Muslim emperor in India

18 February, 2024 - 14:27

Controversy in West Bengal centres around Akbar and Sita, named for a Hindu deity, being placed in the same enclosure

An Indian Hindu nationalist organisation has launched a court petition to stop two lions named after a Hindu deity and a 16th-century Muslim emperor from sharing a zoo enclosure.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a prominent rightwing Hindu organisation, went to court in the state of West Bengal after reports a lioness named Sita had been put with a lion called Akbar.

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Italian town in turmoil after far-right mayor bans Muslim prayers

18 February, 2024 - 08:00

Bangladeshi residents and others in Monfalcone say decisions to prohibit worship at cultural centres and banning burkinis at the beach is part of anti-Islam agenda

The envelope containing two partially burned pages of the Qur’an came as a shock. Until then, Muslim residents in the Adriatic port town of Monfalcone had lived relatively peacefully for more than 20 years.

Addressed to the Darus Salaam Muslim cultural association on Via Duca d’Aosta, the envelope was received soon after Monfalcone’s far-right mayor, Anna Maria Cisint, banned prayers on the premises.

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Late-night chai and covert flirting: why US Muslims flock to Yemeni cafes

17 February, 2024 - 15:00

Yemeni cafes are intergenerational gathering places where - controversially - some young people go to check each other out

“It’s straight up fitna, bro.”

This outrageous statement sounds like a joke. How could a coffee shop be causing strife? But Yusuf Saleh, the manager of Qamaria Yemeni Coffee Co, is half-serious as he hovers over a hot plate of cardamom-infused mufawaar coffee in Grand Blanc, Michigan. He’s referring to the gossip surrounding Dearborn’s Qahwah House, a competitor Yemeni cafe chain spreading rapidly across the United States.

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Inter Faith Network headed for closure as Gove ‘minded to withdraw’ funding

16 February, 2024 - 09:56

Row over religious cohesion charity’s appointment of trustee with links to Muslim Council of Britain

A charity that has worked for 37 years for greater cohesion between different UK faith communities is expected to close down next week after the government signalled it will scrap its funding.

The Inter Faith Network (IFN) is due to close after Michael Gove, the communities secretary, said he was “minded to withdraw” £155,000 of provisional funding over concerns about a trustee connected to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

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Selma Blair apologises for Islamophobic comment on social media

14 February, 2024 - 10:17

Actor admits she ‘mistakenly and inadvertently conflated Muslims with radical Islamists and fundamentalists’ in a now-deleted post

Actor Selma Blair has apologised for an Islamophobic comment on social media, saying it “resulted in hurting countless people I never meant to, and I deeply regret this”.

Blair posted a lengthy statement on Instagram following a now-deleted comment on another post attacking state representatives Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib for voting against a bill banning Hamas members from the US. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Blair’s comment read in part: “Deport all these terrorist supporting goons. Islam has destroyed Muslim countries and then they come here and destroyed minds.”

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My symbolic act of resistance to Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam stance | Brief letters

12 February, 2024 - 18:28

Learning Arabic | Breadmaking and needlepoint | Pen friends | Idle thoughts | Modelling niksen

The possibility of Geert Wilders’ party heading the new government (Report, 8 February) was sufficient reason for me to take up Arabic. The Duolingo app is of great help in this act of symbolic resistance against Wilders’ anti-Islam stance. Learning Arabic is far from easy, but I am making good progress (in itself extremely gratifying for someone in her late 60s). I shall do my utmost to achieve my goal: better communication with Arabic-speaking compatriots and, indeed, non-compatriots beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
Hetty ter Haar
The Hague, Netherlands

• I hate to disabuse Stuart Harrington (Letters, 4 February), but both domestic breadmaking and needlepoint are alive and well. Our bread machine chunters away daily, and my son regularly makes sourdough. And there’s a subversive exhibition of needlepoint by me and my sister on in August in London.
Polly Mortimer
London

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What the unrest in Leicester revealed about Britain – and Modi’s India

8 February, 2024 - 05:00

A year and a half ago, Hindus and Muslims clashed in the streets of one of Britain’s most diverse cities. What lay behind the violence?

On Saturday 17 September 2022, the weekend before the Queen’s funeral, 300 men marched through Leicester. Their faces were hidden by Covid masks and balaclavas as they made their way to Green Lane Road in Highfields, an area in east Leicester with a large Muslim population. On WhatsApp, it had been billed as a Hindu neighbourhood safety march. “It’s very important for every Hindu to attain [sic] this meeting,” an organiser wrote. “Otherwise in future, we will have to live in fear.”

It was early evening, and as the men passed rows of terrace houses, redbrick warehouses and the Piccadilly Cinemas, which was advertising a Hindi-language epic set during the British Raj, they chanted “Jai Shree Ram” (“Victory to Lord Rama”). This phrase has long been an innocuous declaration of religious faith, but in recent decades, it has become associated with the politics of Hindu nationalism in India, where militants use it as a rallying cry in campaigns of intimidation and violence against minorities, particularly Muslims. The men also shouted other slogans that have become associated with the Hindu right: “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (“Victory to Mother India”) and “Vande Mataram” (“Praise Mother [India]”).

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British Muslims losing trust in Labour over its handling of Israel-Gaza war

5 February, 2024 - 09:42

Exclusive: Party figure says it has work to do to retain support as poll shows drop in Starmer’s popularity

Labour has much work to do to retain support among Muslim voters, a senior party figure has said as a poll suggested the party had lost a portion of its Muslim voter base over its handling of the Israel-Gaza war.

Only 43% of British Muslims who backed Labour at the 2019 general election are willing to do so again at the next general election expected this year, the survey finds.

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Hindus can worship in contested mosque, Indian court rules

1 February, 2024 - 11:42

Fears decision on Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi could increase religious tensions and inspire more claims

An Indian court has ruled that Hindus can worship inside a contested mosque, a verdict that it is feared will increase religious tensions and galvanise further claims against other Muslim places of worship.

Gyanvapi mosque, in the holy city of Varanasi, was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and has been in use by Muslims for prayer ever since.

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