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British law must recognise Muslim marriage ceremonies | Bilal Hassam

22 November, 2017 - 13:52
If the UK could do it for Quakers 250 years ago, is it too much to ask parliament to consider the needs of newer faith communities?

When I had my nikah, my Islamic marriage ceremony, I considered myself a married man. In the presence of our nearest and dearest, squeezed into my partner’s front room in Grimsby, an imam led us through a series of vows and the signing of our marriage certificate before offering a prayer and declaring us husband and wife.

It was a beautiful, intimate and uniquely British ceremony, captured by British Muslim TV and featured on Channel 4’s documentary The Truth About Muslim Marriage. This groundbreaking film highlights the toxic fallout of our legal system’s failure to recognise an Islamic marriage as valid.

Related: Most women in UK who have Islamic wedding miss out on legal rights

Related: SingleMuslim.com: how the Yorkshire dating site transformed Muslim romance

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It is absurd and prejudiced to suggest that hijab ‘sexualises’ girls | Letter

20 November, 2017 - 19:16
Will Ofsted now extend primary school inspections so that they cover questions about skullcaps and turbans as well as female headgear, asks Dr Sana Ramiz

Amanda Spielman, head of Ofsted, says “creating an environment where primary school children are expected to wear the hijab could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls” (Inspectors to question girls in primary school who wear hijab, 20 November). These inspections and the accusation that hijab “sexualises” girls are absurd and reek of prejudice.

As a Muslim mother, I do not believe, according to Islamic jurisprudence, that my daughters should wear hijab before they are young women and I will never coerce them to wear hijab at any stage. Yet, in an attempt to copy my mother, I stubbornly wore hijab as a young girl against the wish of my parents then. So, I would like to ask Amanda Spielman, will Ofsted inspectors be “questioning” young girls copying their mothers, whether by wearing hijab, lipstick or stilettos?

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Most women in UK who have Islamic wedding miss out on legal rights

20 November, 2017 - 15:15

Poll for Channel 4 documentary finds 61% have not had separate civil ceremony to make marriage legal under British law

Six in 10 women in the UK who have had a traditional Muslim wedding ceremony are not in legally recognised marriages, depriving them of rights and protection, according to a survey.

It found that nearly all married Muslim women have had a nikah, a religious marriage ceremony, but 61% had not gone through a separate civil ceremony which would make the marriage legal under UK law.

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Inspectors to question primary school girls who wear hijab

19 November, 2017 - 16:06

Ofsted head says move is to tackle situations in which wearing head covering ‘could be interpreted as sexualisation’

School inspectors in England have been told to question Muslim primary school girls if they are wearing a hijab or similar headscarf, the head of Ofsted has announced.

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools, said the move was to tackle situations in which wearing a hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation” of girls as young as four or five, when most Islamic teaching requires headdress for girls only at the onset of puberty.

Related: The hijab is not for children. It was right to drop these distasteful images | Amina Lone

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What happens when you fall in love across the religious divide?

18 November, 2017 - 06:30

People assume that, because we are of different faiths, we must have major problems in our relationship. In fact, it has strengthened our bond

When we – a Muslim and a Christian – fell in love, we didn’t think much about the differences in our religions. (People falling in love usually don’t think much, full stop.)

We figured what we did share – similar values, similar worldviews, and a similarly strong faith in God – was enough. We crossed our fingers and hoped we would be able to work out how to do life together as it came at us: step by step, conversation by conversation, decision by decision. Eight years, three kids, and one beautiful marriage later, that strategy seems to be working.

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The deferred promise of Islamic-world science

16 November, 2017 - 07:00

Ten years ago, there was excitement about the prospects for science and innovation across the Islamic world. Was this optimism misplaced?

Last week, almost 3,000 scientists and policymakers from 120 countries gathered on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan for the 2017 World Science Forum. It was a landmark moment for Jordanian science, and a tribute to the leadership of Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, president of Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society, who is in the vanguard of a new generation of leaders championing science and innovation in the region. Jordan is also home to the Middle East’s first advanced light source facility – the Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications, or Sesame – which was inaugurated earlier this year as a shared resource for researchers from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

In its final declaration, the World Science Forum called for more scientific cooperation to promote peace and address regional challenges. But the meeting also provided an opportunity to take stock of the state of science across the Middle East and wider Islamic world. And while the symbolism of the Sesame project was rightly celebrated, there was little of the outright optimism that characterised these debates ten or fifteen years ago.

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Pakistani police clash with protesters at anti-blasphemy sit-in

15 November, 2017 - 17:14

Capital on near lockdown after rally in support of cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi in row over electoral oath wording

Pakistani police have clashed with protesters and arrested dozens in an attempt to disperse an anti-blasphemy sit-in staged by a hardline cleric, which has blocked a main entrance to Islamabad for a week, choking traffic and putting the capital on near lockdown.

Thousands of supporters of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan party, are demanding that the law and justice minister, who they accuse of undercutting blasphemy laws, resign.

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Let’s be clear: Muslims are neither good nor bad. We’re just human | Farah Elahi

14 November, 2017 - 06:00
Twenty years ago, a report on Islamophobia described how stereotypes harm Muslims in Britain. Today, new research suggests things have got worse

When I was 13 my school, a Muslim faith school, was advised by the police to close for three days after 9/11 because they feared the students would be at risk and that the school building might be attacked. The sharp increase in hate crimes and attacks in particular on visibly Muslim girls and women indicated that this was a very real risk. But as a child it was very difficult to understand why people would associate a group of schoolchildren with these far-removed global events.

Related: The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review | Miqdaad Versi

All Muslims can recount examples of when Islamophobia has impacted them or someone they know

Related: Islamophobia holding back UK Muslims in workplace, study finds

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'YouTube Islamist' Anwar al-Awlaki videos removed in extremism clampdown

13 November, 2017 - 12:15

Google removes tens of thousands of videos showing sermons and lectures by radical cleric, but experts caution over ad-hoc action

YouTube has removed thousands of videos of the radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a significant step up for the site’s anti-extremism campaign.

It is the first time Google’s video site has taken such concerted action against a particular individual.

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The Guardian view on white nationalism: a rising danger | Editorial

12 November, 2017 - 18:27

Almost a century after the end of ‘the war to end all wars’, Europe is in danger of forgetting lessons from the 20th century

In Britain, 11 November is known as Armistice Day, but in Poland the same anniversary of the end of the first world war is remembered as Independence Day. In the west it is a memory of futile victory, but in the east it commemorates a moment of triumph, although one that would be followed by still more crushing defeat. The bright ideals of 1918 were built around a romantic conception of nationalism. Eastern Europe was to be freed from the multinational empires that had ruled it from Vienna and St Petersburg, and in their place would rise a host of little nations from Finland to Yugoslavia, to live in brotherhood and prosperity under the aegis of the League of Nations. It was a patchwork that would within 25 years disintegrate into the most terrible war – and genocide – of European history, followed by ethnic cleansings of the survivors all across eastern Europe as the old nations were reconstituted as homogenous prison camps.

The end of the second world war gave rise in the west to a very different ideal of nationhood. The European Union was built on the hope that national boundaries might become very much less salient, preserved as wrinkles on the gentle face of history rather than its fixed expression; and after the fall of the Berlin Wall it seemed that this pattern must in time spread east, even into the former Yugoslavia. If there was one lesson that every European – and not just Jewish ones – had learned from the first half of the 20th century, it was “never again”.

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The forgotten Muslim heroes who fought for Britain in the trenches

12 November, 2017 - 00:04
The stories of the 2.5 million Muslims who travelled to Europe to fight for the allies during the first world war are finally being told

A biting wind whips across the rolling countryside, cutting through the crowd gathered on a hillside overlooking Notre Dame de Lorette, France’s national war cemetery. Huddled amid what remains of the 440 miles of trenches that made up the western front, they shudder out of shock and surprise rather than cold while listening about life for the men who endured the horrors of the first world war.

More than 1.5 billion artillery shells fell in this part of northern France, close to the town of Arras, prompting soldiers to nickname the farmland in which they fought “the hell of the north”, or poignantly, “the cemetery”. It is the experiences of some of their Muslim comrades, however, that particularly capture the crowd’s imagination, drawing looks of disbelief at a history that has never been fully told.

Muslims are portrayed as the enemy within, but we can show that they sacrificed their lives for a free Europe

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The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review | Miqdaad Versi

10 November, 2017 - 12:57

The Home Office report makes worrying reading for Muslims, who appear to have been disproportionately targeted

• Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, is writing in a personal capacity

“Winning hearts and minds” was the title of the government’s action plan to isolate, prevent and defeat violent extremism in 2007. Ten years later, hearts and minds are yet to be won.

The Prevent strategy (2011) and the subsequent Prevent duty (2015) – whereby public authorities are required to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” – have instead become a “significant source of grievance” among students, teachers, academics, human rights groups and broader civil society, encouraging “mistrust to spread and to fester”.

Related: Only 5% of people referred to Prevent extremism scheme get specialist help

Related: Prevent is failing. Any effective strategy must include Muslim communities | Miqdaad Versi

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

10 November, 2017 - 00:25

Company says group ‘misappropriated’ name of fictional group in their upcoming TV sequel to 1992 movie Romper Stomper

The producers of the upcoming Romper Stomper TV sequel have taken legal action against the rightwing group who racially abused Senator Sam Dastyari for appropriating the name “Patriot Blue” from the fictional group created for the series.

The Labor senator was abused in the Victoria University student bar on Wednesday evening by a group calling themselves Patriot Blue, who later posted the video on Facebook.

Related: Sam Dastyari abused by rightwing group in Melbourne bar

Related: Romper Stomper remake: a modern-day series about extremism? Exciting but problematic

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Far-right abuse of Sam Dastyari 'dangerous', human rights chief says

9 November, 2017 - 02:03

Victoria’s equal opportunity commissioner says free speech should never be used to justify inciting hatred

The Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner has condemned the abuse of Senator Sam Dastyari in a Melbourne pub on Wednesday night, describing it as “dangerous, harmful and unwelcome”.

Dastyari and the Gellibrand MP, Tim Watts, were in the Victoria University student bar on Wednesday evening when a group of far-right nationalists intruded. The group approached Dastyari, who is of Iranian heritage, and began abusing him, shouting: “Why don’t you go back to Iran, you terrorist?”

Related: Sam Dastyari abused by rightwing group in Melbourne bar

Related: Sam Dastyari: The day my mother wasn't executed

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Some Islamic schools in England still segregating children

7 November, 2017 - 19:33

At least 10 schools keeping boys and girls separated at all times despite recent court ruling that it is unlawful

At least 10 Islamic schools in England are still segregating boys and girls in co-educational schools, while others are likely to be separating the genders for certain activities, despite a recent court ruling outlawing the practice.

Details emerged in an appeal court judgment on Tuesday, which turned down an attempt by the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) to join a legal action to seek leave to appeal to the supreme court for a review of the segregation ruling.

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The Guardian view on Saudi Arabia: a slow-motion coup | Editorial

7 November, 2017 - 19:18

There are legitimate questions about whether you can sweep out the Augean stables if you don’t have clean hands

The slow-motion coup in Saudi Arabia is changing nothing – and everything – in the desert kingdom. An unprecedented series of arrests this weekend has put princes, former ministers and tycoons behind the gilded bars of a five star hotel. By precipitating the resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, a new front against long-time rival Iran was opened up just as an old one became inflamed by rocket fire. Yet the ruler of the repressive desert state remains the aged and ailing King Salman. His legitimacy derives from his lineage: he is a son of the nation’s founder, and traditionally the post of king passes from brother to brother in order of age. In an absolute monarchy, the king’s word is final. Yet it is by deed that power is known. By that measure, there’s only one person running Saudi Arabia: crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. If he ascends to the throne, the 33-year-old will have broken the grip of the older Sauds over the state the family’s patriarch founded.

The crown prince, known as MbS, is a young, inexperienced, and belligerent man. His misguided foreign policy, which has backfired spectacularly in Yemen, Syria and Qatar, is testament to hasty and rash decision-making. He now seeks to disturb the delicate balance of forces in Lebanon. MbS’s enemies, as with Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Bin Zayed, are the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. His best friend internationally appears to be US president Donald Trump, who took time out of his tour of Asia to tweet approvingly of MbS’s actions and, in passing, lobby to secure a US listing of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company. But MbS has proved cunning and ruthless – moving to silence those who disagree with him in the clergy and in the sliver of space afforded to Saudi civil society. At the same time as depriving citizens of civil rights, MbS afforded female drivers the right to drive. The crown prince gives a little, but takes a lot.

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'This is a revolution': Saudis absorb crown prince's rush to reform

7 November, 2017 - 05:00

Consolidation of power in Mohammed bin Salman’s hands has upended all aspects of society, including previously untouchable ultra-elite

Outside a Riyadh shopping centre last month, Zeina Farhan was walking with her headscarf around her shoulders when the religious police pulled up. She froze in fear as a man in the driver’s seat lowered his window. “Please madam, can you just cover your hair during prayer time,” he asked. “I said OK, he said thank you, and he drove off. That was it. It was stunning.”

For all of her adult life, a run-in with the feared enforcers of Saudi Arabia’s societal norms would have led to a much harsher outcome. A woman who dared uncover her hair in public at any time, let alone during prayer, probably would have faced a fine and maybe jail. “Insults, prisons, whippings, shame,” said Farhan, 32. “To see them like that showed how much things have changed.”

Related: Royal purge sends shockwaves through Saudi Arabia's elites

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Faith leaders condemn 'racist' objections to Golders Green mosque

6 November, 2017 - 17:51

Christian, Jewish and Sikh ministers unite to welcome proposal to convert north London Hippodrome to Islamic centre

Almost 30 faith leaders in north London have condemned as racist objections made by some residents to a new Islamic centre based in the former Hippodrome in Golders Green.

Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami, or the Centre for Islamic Understanding, paid £5.25m for the Hippodrome, which once hosted Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier and the Kinks. It has submitted a planning application to Barnet council for the venue to be used as a Muslim community centre and mosque.

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'I miss them so much': Myanmar's lost Rohingya children plead for their parents

5 November, 2017 - 03:09

With half a million Rohingya refugees under the age of 18 in Bangladeshi camps, it has been labelled a ‘children’s crisis’

The lost boy wails. Tears stream down his face as he looks around, frantic.

“I found him by the main road, so I brought him here,” says a middle-aged Rohingya woman who cradles the toddler in her arms and gestures towards a shack made from wood and corrugated iron.

Related: Rohingya girls under 10 raped while fleeing Myanmar, charity says

Related: Rohingya crisis may be driving Aung San Suu Kyi closer to generals

Related: More than 300,000 Rohingya refugee children 'outcast and desperate', Unicef says

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SingleMuslim.com: how the Yorkshire dating site transformed Muslim romance

5 November, 2017 - 00:05

It is one of the biggest dating sites in the world and after 17 years, it has has led to over 50,000 marriages. Last week, it hit the headlines as matchmaker to two terror suspects. Tim Adams meets its founders in Wakefield

The business books tell you to follow your heart. It is 17 years since Adeem Younis took that advice and set up SingleMuslim.com. He was 20 and a design student at Wakefield College in Yorkshire with a passion for IT. Besides a desire to be his own boss, there was a more urgentimperative.

“Quite literally I would go home and there would be a big photo of my first cousin in Pakistan on the mantelpiece,” he said. “Mum would tell me this cousin was great at making chapatis and all that. The idea was we would get married.”

Because SingleMuslim.com is in effect a marriage site rather than a dating site, it also claims a high rate of success

People call it ‘halal dating’ and that’s fine. Halal means being wholesome and right in your faith

SingleMuslim.com subscribers pay £30 a month … Much of that money is invested in making the platform a safe space

Related: Single Muslim women on dating: 'I don't want to be a submissive wife'

Related: Why British Muslim women struggle to find a marriage partner | Syma Mohammed

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