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Iceland law to outlaw male circumcision sparks row over religious freedom

18 hours 16 min ago
Jewish and Muslim leaders condemn first European country to propose ban

Iceland is poised to become the first European country to outlaw male circumcision amid signs that the ritual common to both Judaism and Islam may be a new battleground over religious freedom.

A bill currently before the Icelandic parliament proposes a penalty of up to six years in prison for anyone carrying out a circumcision other than for medical reasons. Critics say the move, which has sparked alarm among religious leaders across Europe, would make life for Jews and Muslims in Iceland unsustainable.

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The Guardian view on religious education: teach humanism too | Editorial

16 February, 2018 - 16:59
Religion is growing in importance, for good and ill. Studying it teaches us about ourselves – even if we don’t believe

Why should anyone wish to learn about religion? Religion is, in the phrase of the sociologist Linda Woodhead, “a toxic brand”. In the public imagination the word summons up images of violence, patriarchy and irrationalism. The facile confidence of the “New Atheist” movement in the early years of this century was pushing at an open door. Religious studies nevertheless remains a surprisingly popular A-level subject, although this may owe something to its reputation as an easy one. A recent YouGov poll found that the British public thinks that RE is a subject scarcely more important than Latin, which the public, wrongly, does not care about at all. The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education has just launched an appeal for more teachers.

The association is quite right: religious education matters a great deal. At the very least it can function as a kind of ethnography, teaching people about the customs and beliefs of different religious cultures – something that is obviously desirable in a multicultural society. To know that Muslims and Jews won’t eat pork, or that Hindus regard cows as sacred, is really just a part of civics. There is nothing specifically religious about such teaching, even if it is by convention part of religious education. It could just as well be taught under geography or history, subjects profoundly influenced by the beliefs and actions of religious people. The real task of RE is much more ambitious.

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Walsall council ban on cemetery borders and flowerbeds challenged

15 February, 2018 - 18:11

Muslim man claims ban on edging around father’s grave breaches right to freedom of religion

A Muslim man is mounting a legal challenge over a prohibition on edging, or borders, around individual graves in his local cemetery, saying that the ban breaches his right to freedom of religion.

Atta Ul-Haq has been granted permission for a judicial review of Walsall council’s policy on the basis that it is a matter of public interest.

Related: Defying gravity

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Sam Dastyari's far-right abuser guilty of contempt over footage

15 February, 2018 - 03:54

Neil Erikson found guilty of posting footage where he is seen wearing a Toll uniform while ambushing the former senator

Far-right activist Neil Erikson has been found guilty of contempt after posting online an inflammatory video in which former senator Sam Dastyari was called a “terrorist” and a “monkey”.

The convicted stalker and racial vilifier was on Thursday found in contempt for publishing the video footage and also posting photos on his Twitter page, defying previous court orders.

Related: Sam Dastyari abused by rightwing group in Melbourne bar

Related: Stan takes legal action against Dastyari's abusers over use of name Patriot Blue

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‘I wanted to channel the anger’: Europe's fearless political playwrights

12 February, 2018 - 07:00

They’ve stormed the Reichstag, turned terrorism into absurd comedy and asked their audiences for answers. Meet five theatre-makers grappling with crises across the continent.

By Daniel Boffey, Constanze Letsch, Philip Oltermann, Helena Smith and Kit Gillet

People laugh a lot – and at the end they cry

Art is not for cowards

I search for trauma in individuals – and in a country

Everyone wanted to understand what was going on

We haven’t dealt with the past in a normal way

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Ofsted head to be questioned over backing for hijab ban

9 February, 2018 - 19:13

Amanda Spielman to appear before MPs after giving her ‘full support’ to primary school headteacher

MPs are to quiz Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, about her controversial backing for a ban on girls wearing the hijab, following complaints from Muslim community leaders.

Parliament’s education select committee will question Spielman, the head of Ofsted, next month over her vocal support for a primary school in east London that barred girls under eight from wearing the headscarf – a move the school’s headteacher swiftly reversed after complaints from parents.

Related: Senior Ofsted official backs headteacher over hijab ban for under eights

Related: Schoolgirls wearing a hijab is a path to extremism? Now that’s a leap | Samira Shackle

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How to stop a mosque: the new playbook of the right

8 February, 2018 - 06:00

A bitter legal row in an affluent New Jersey town shows the new face of Islamophobia in the age of Trump. By Andrew Rice

Forty years ago, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, a Pakistani-born economist, made his home outside New York City. He came for an executive job at the telecoms company AT&T, and ended up working there for decades. Like many immigrants to the US, Chaudry came to wholeheartedly believe – perhaps more fervently than his native-born neighbours – in the triumphal story that Americans tell about their nation: how it was always growing stronger through change, melding the many into one through the process of assimilation. Chaudry was a devout Muslim. But to him, it always seemed the things that made him different mattered less than the ways in which he had proved he was the same.

Chaudry and his wife, who is from Italy, raised three children on a street called Manor Drive, in the town of Basking Ridge, in the centre of the state of New Jersey. This is not the “Jersey” of popular imagination – the land of belching smokestacks immortalised in Bruce Springsteen’s working-class anthems. Basking Ridge is out in horse country, an area of rolling green hills and white-steepled churches, not far from Bedminster, where Donald Trump has his summer estate. In keeping with the values of his adopted community, Chaudry became an active member of the local Republican party and a conspicuous civic presence, running for various elected boards. In 2004, at the height of George W Bush’s war in Iraq, Chaudry became the first Pakistani-American to serve as mayor of a municipality in the US.

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Mashal Khan: death sentence for Pakistan blasphemy murder

7 February, 2018 - 18:09

Student was beaten and shot by mob in attack that was posted online and widely condemned

A Pakistani court has sentenced one person to death and five others to life imprisonment for lynching a student accused of blasphemy, a crime which sent shockwaves through the conservative Muslim country.

Mashal Khan, 23, was stripped, beaten and shot by a gang made up mostly of students last April before being thrown from the second floor of his dormitory at Abdul Wali Khan university in the north-western city of Mardan.

Related: Student's lynching sparks rare uproar in Pakistan over blasphemy killings

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Mosque in east London to be demolished after high court ruling

7 February, 2018 - 13:51

Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat sought permission to build larger building for 9,000 worshippers

A temporary east London mosque that has been refused planning permission faces demolition after a high court ruling.

The Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat had sought permission to build a permanent mosque on a 17-acre site near the Olympic Park in Stratford. Its plans to provide a place of worship for around 9,000 people were opposed by Newham council in 2012.

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Danish government proposes ban on full-face veils

6 February, 2018 - 16:36

Justice minister says wearing of Islamic face coverings is incompatible with Danish values

The Danish government has proposed a ban on Islamic full-face coverings in public spaces.

“It is incompatible with the values in Danish society and disrespectful to the community to keep one’s face hidden when meeting each other in public spaces,” said the justice minister, Søren Pape Poulsen.

Related: Europe's right hails EU court's workplace headscarf ban ruling

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Schoolgirls wearing a hijab is a path to extremism? Now that’s a leap | Samira Shackle

6 February, 2018 - 14:34

The Ofsted chief is just the latest public official to distort and oversimplify the role of conservative Islam in schools

St Stephen’s primary school in Newham, east London hit the headlines last month, after headteacher Neena Lall banned the wearing of hijabs for girls under the age of eight. There was a backlash; 19,000 people signed a petition protesting against the decision and the school governors overturned the ban.

Then Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, made an unusual intervention, publicly supporting Lall. Speaking at a Church of England schools conference on Thursday, she said that headteachers should have the right to set rules on uniform. This was a fair comment – but from there on in, her comments deviated wildly from talking about the hijab for children.

Related: I didn’t want to wear my hijab, and don’t believe very young girls should wear them today | Iman Amrani

We see it repeatedly: any policy question that relates to Muslims is framed as an issue of terrorism, fundamentalism or a failure to integrate

Related: Ofsted head: ‘The last thing a chief inspector should be is a crusader’. Oh really?

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Turnbull backs Jim Molan in anti-Muslim video row: 'Not a racist bone in his body'

6 February, 2018 - 05:22

PM says it is ‘deplorable’ and ‘disgusting’ that Bill Shorten would describe senator as racist

Malcolm Turnbull has strongly backed Jim Molan after the new Liberal senator reposted videos from the far-right group Britain First, telling parliament his colleague “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body”.

With the opposition and the Greens targeting Molan for refusing to apologise for the videos on his Facebook page, the prime minister said it was “deplorable” and “disgusting” that Bill Shorten would describe the former major general as a racist.

Related: Liberal senator Jim Molan shared anti-Muslim videos from far-right group

Related: Turnbull says Jim Molan 'doesn't have a racist bone in his body' – politics live

Very sad to see @MathiasCormann join @TurnbullMalcolm in refusing to condemn Senator Molan over his offensive Facebook posts. Hateful and divisive messages do nothing to protect us, they only divide us. They have no place in our society, and no place in our parliament. #senateqt

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Oxford professor of Islamic studies charged with raping two women

2 February, 2018 - 23:13

Tariq Ramadan, adviser to the UK government, held in custody over French hotel attack claims

The prominent Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, has been charged with rape and ordered to remain in custody in France.

Ramadan, 55, is being held on charges of rape and rape of a vulnerable person after two women accused him of violently assaulting them in hotel rooms in Lyon and Paris in 2009 and 2012 after conferences.

Related: Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan taken into custody by French police

Related: Feminist campaigner accuses Oxford professor of rape

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I didn’t want to wear my hijab, and don’t believe very young girls should wear them today | Iman Amrani

2 February, 2018 - 17:58
Ofsted’s chief is right about headscarves in primary schools, but her talk of ‘British values’ is divisive

Just when I was thinking I hadn’t seen much hysteria around Muslims in the media recently, the argument around the hijab flared up again. Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman came out in support of a headteacher who banned young Muslim girls from wearing the hijab at school. Minority communities feel alternately ignored and targeted by Ofsted. Fear and distrust is pervasive and well founded – only this week police confirmed that there were 1,487 crimes with a hate element at or near schools and colleges in the past two years.

Spielman’s use of the term “British values” in her speech to a Church of England schools conference is likely to put people’s backs up further. This isn’t a term that I would associate with someone who cares about cohesion. Her comments about Muslims using “education institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people’s horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology” seem more likely to divide people than bring them together. But it would be dangerous to respond to Spielman’s provocation by defending the idea that children should be allowed to wear headscarves. I feel uncomfortable every time I see well-meaning people defending parents’ right to send young girls to school wearing the hijab.

My school had a mix of faiths, including Plymouth Brethren. The girls wore long dresses and couldn't cut their hair

Related: The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women | Iman Amrani

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The Guardian view on sharia councils: shedding some light | Editorial

2 February, 2018 - 17:14
Strikingly little is known about these bodies. Awareness is the key to ensuring that they do not violate the legal rights of women who use them

The use of Islamic principles in settling marital and family affairs in Britain is in some communities a deeply entrenched social phenomenon, giving rise to so-called sharia councils. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Muslims attempt to live in conformity with sharia rules. They are free to do so provided this does not lead them into breaches of English law.

However, there are worrying instances where councils and advisory tribunals have been suspected of limiting the rights of women who come before them, with questions of family law resolved in favour of the more literal and austere interpretations of Muslim traditions. These instances are also viewed on the far right as Trojan horses which will lead to an eventual Islamic takeover of western Europe, and this ludicrous paranoid fantasy has some political power. A subject at once so explosive and so widely ignored needs sober and scrupulous handling.

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Darren Osborne jailed for life for Finsbury Park terrorist attack

2 February, 2018 - 15:13

Van attack on north London mosque left one man dead and 12 injured

The Finsbury Park terrorist, Darren Osborne, will spend at least 43 years behind bars after being jailed for life for his murderous attack on Muslims in London last June.

Osborne was sentenced on Friday to concurrent whole life terms for the murder of Makram Ali and the attempted murders of other people, with the minimum term of more than four decades to be served, having being found guilty at Woolwich crown court the day before.

Related: How London mosque attacker became a terrorist in three weeks

Related: After the Darren Osborne case, social media must eradicate hate material | Fiyaz Mughal

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Trinidad's jihadis: how tiny nation became Isis recruiting ground

2 February, 2018 - 12:22

The Caribbean nation has one of the world’s highest Isis volunteer rates – and most don’t come back

Five years ago, Tariq Abdul Haqq was one of a Trinidad and Tobago’s most promising young boxers, a Commonwealth Games medallist with Olympic dreams.

Related: 'An incredible transformation': how rehab, not prison, worked for a US Isis convert

[A gang] promises access to what many young men might think they want​​: money, power, women, respect

Related: Mosul six months after Isis was ousted – then and now

Related: Slaves of Isis: the long walk of the Yazidi women

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Judge agrees to judicial review of 'cab rank' rule for unexplained deaths

2 February, 2018 - 10:56

Jewish and Muslim leaders protested after London coroner refused to expedite burials

A high court judge has granted an application for a judicial review of a senior coroner’s “cab rank” policy in dealing with unexpected deaths, saying it raises issues of importance to Jewish and Muslim communities.

Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for north London, said last month she would not prioritise any death for religious reasons.

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Register Islamic marriages under UK law, sharia review says

1 February, 2018 - 14:18

Report endorses civil marriage alongside religious ceremony to give women legal protection

Muslim couples should undergo a civil marriage as well as a religious ceremony to give women protection under the law, an independent review of sharia councils has recommended.

A report following the 18-month review called for an awareness campaign informing Muslim women of their legal rights, and said sharia councils should be subject to regulation with a code of conduct.

Related: Inside Britain’s sharia councils: hardline and anti-women – or a dignified way to divorce?

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As Australian Muslim women we don't have to be told what we can wear | Lydia Shelly

1 February, 2018 - 05:20

For an exclusive brand of white mainstream feminism the only acceptable Muslim woman is the one where her ‘Muslimness’ is erased

The rise of “modest fashion”, both in Australia and overseas, is part of a larger fashion revolution which understands the economic incentives of diversity. CoverGirl features hijabi beauty vlogger Nura Afia as their model, while Mariah Idrissi became the first model wearing a hijab for H&M in 2015. It is a lucrative market. The modest fashion empire is set to be worth over $368bn by 2021. It’s a market that holds untapped opportunities for Australia’s cotton and clothing industries, industries that would welcome growth.

Related: Generation M: how young Muslim women are driving a modest fashion revolution

Related: Cover Girl names Muslim beauty blogger Nura Afia as newest ambassador

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