The Guardian World news: Islam

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Dutch cabinet approves partial ban on Islamic veil in public areas

22 May, 2015 - 16:51

Schools, hospitals and public transport would be covered by ban, but Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte insists prohibition is not religiously motivated

The Dutch cabinet has approved a proposal for a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils on public transport and in public areas such as schools and hospitals.

After the cabinet backed a bill by the interior minister, Ronald Plasterk, the government said in a statement on Friday: “Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport.”

Related: France's burqa ban upheld by human rights court

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City in the sky: world's biggest hotel to open in Mecca

22 May, 2015 - 14:44

The holy city is fast becoming a Las Vegas for pilgrims, thanks to the new £2.3bn megahotel that has four helipads, five floors for Saudi royalty – and 10,000 bedrooms

Four helipads will cluster around one of the largest domes in the world, like sideplates awaiting the unveiling of a momentous main course, which will be jacked up 45 storeys into the sky above the deserts of Mecca. It is the crowning feature of the holy city’s crowning glory, the superlative summit of what will be the world’s largest hotel when it opens in 2017.

With 10,000 bedrooms and 70 restaurants, plus five floors for the sole use of the Saudi royal family, the £2.3bn Abraj Kudai is an entire city of five-star luxury, catering to the increasingly high expectations of well-heeled pilgrims from the Gulf.

Related: Mecca's mega architecture casts shadow over hajj

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South-east Asia migrant crisis: foreign diplomats converge on Burma

21 May, 2015 - 07:38

Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministers and the US deputy secretary of state will raise Burma’s treatment of Rohingyas

Foreign diplomats were converging on Burma on Thursday, seeking to discuss the Asian migrant crisis which is widely believed to have its roots in the mass fleeing of the country’s persecuted Rohingya minority.

Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministers, Anifah Aman and Retno Marsudi, were due in the capital, Naypyidaw, a day after the two countries agreed to provide temporary shelter for 7,000 migrants – Bangladeshis and refugee Rohingyas – thought to be stranded at sea.

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South-east Asia migrant crisis: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya refugees

21 May, 2015 - 03:18

The impoverished west African nations says it is its ‘sacred duty’ to help fellow Muslims and will set them up in refugee camps

Gambia says it will take all Rohingya refugees as part of its “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding south-east Asia to escape oppression.

The government of the impoverished west African nation asked countries of the region to send them and it will set them up in refugee camps.

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Why is Jerusalem important? You asked Google – here’s the answer

20 May, 2015 - 10:25
Every day, millions of people ask Google some of life’s most difficult questions, big and small. In this series, our writers answer some of the most common queries

For Jews, Jerusalem is not just a significant physical place in both past and present Jewish history, but is equally important as a religious concept that transcends time. The area itself had been traversed by the first Jew, Abraham (c1800 BCE), during his wanderings throughout “the Promised Land”. According to tradition, the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac but was commanded by God not to do so, was the spot on which Jerusalem was later built.

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Australian man who fled Syria says he never joined 'vicious and cruel' Isis

19 May, 2015 - 22:38

Adam Brookman, one of at least three Australians trying to negotiate their return home, says he travelled to Aleppo to use his skills as a nurse to help people

A Melbourne man accused of links to Islamic State who is seeking to return to Australia claims he never joined the militia group, was taken to its territory inadvertently, and only went to Syria “to use my skills as a nurse and medic to help the Syrian people”.

Adam Brookman, a married father of five in his late 30s, is the real name of “Abu Ibrahim”, one of at least three Australians trying to negotiate their return home to Australia from the four-year Syrian conflict.

Related: Jihadis who want to return to Australia will go to jail, says Tony Abbott

If you’re with them they’re friendly but if you’re against them it’s fire and brimstone

I was born in Australia and grew up in Australia and it’s my home. It’s not perfect, but what country is?

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The dangers of mixing politics and religion | Letters

19 May, 2015 - 19:37

Giles Fraser asks whether religious leaders should have the same freedom of political expression as non-religious leaders (So is it one rule for the Hindus and another for the Muslims?, 16 May). This is an important question. Maybe one lawyer got the law wrong. Maybe in the cases Fraser details, there was “one rule for Hindus and another for Muslims”.

Fraser is free to generalise from this significant anomaly to all matters of religion and politics, but the can of worms thus opened might be bigger than he thinks. Should religious leaders have seats in parliament, where they can inhibit changes in the law, claiming special insight into suffering? Should they have privileged access to some schools, curricula and children? Should one person be both head of state and head of a particular religious group? Should prime ministers have any role in appointing leaders in that religious group?

When Tories flatter Hindu clerics barely a breath of concern is expressed

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Why is Aung San Suu Kyi silent on the plight of the Rohingya people?

19 May, 2015 - 17:03

Burma’s opposition leader appears to be cowed by her need to dampen ethnic tensions and win votes from an electorate in the thrall of Islamophobia

When thousands of Rohingya people from Burma were discovered floating in boats on the south-east Asian seas much of the world was understandably gripped by this unfolding human tragedy.

Voices of anger were raised; something had to be done to end the suffering, to help those men, women and children in need.

Related: 'They hit us, with hammers, by knife': Rohingya migrants tell of horror at sea

Muslims reproduce like rabbits, they want to kill us with swords, they want to conquer us

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Karachi’s downtrodden Christians get a towering if contentious symbol of hope

19 May, 2015 - 10:00
Devout Pakistani businessman hopes giant crucifix will promote tolerance in heavily Muslim-populated city, but some fear the opposite effect

Businessman Parvez Henry Gill says he was sleeping when God crashed into one of his dreams and gave him a job: find a way to protect Christians in Pakistan from violence and abuse. That was four years ago and Gill, a lifelong devout Christian, struggled for months with how to respond.

Eventually, after more restless nights and even more prayers, he awoke one morning with his answer: he would build one of the world’s largest crosses in one of its most unlikely places. “I said: ‘I am going to build a big cross, higher than any in the world, in a Muslim country’,” Gill, 58, explained. “It will be a symbol of God, and everybody who sees this will be worry-free.”

I said: ‘I am going to build a big cross, higher than any in the world, in a Muslim country’

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Jihadis who want to return to Australia will go to jail, says Tony Abbott

19 May, 2015 - 07:32

The prime minister says there will be no exceptions for disillusioned jihadi fighters who want to come home

No exceptions will be made for disillusioned jihadi fighters seeking to return to Australia, who will face arrest, prosecution and jail, Tony Abbott has said.

It was revealed on Tuesday that at least one Australian fighting with Islamic State in Syria has approached the government through intermediaries about the prospect of returning to Australia.

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YouTube and Google win lawsuit in free speech battle over anti-Muslim film

18 May, 2015 - 19:38

Appeals court rules in favour of tech giants after actor wanted Innocence of Muslims removed from YouTube after receiving death threats

YouTube should not have been forced to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to actors, a federal appeals court ruled Monday in a victory for free speech advocates.

The ninth US circuit court of appeal sided with Google, which owns YouTube, after free speech advocates urged the court to overturn a 2-1 decision by three of its judges. The three judges had ordered YouTube to take down the video.

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Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation | Mehdi Hasan

17 May, 2015 - 15:44
The critics of Islam who are calling for a ‘Muslim Martin Luther’ should be careful what they wish for

In recent months, cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. “We need a Muslim reformation,” announced Newsweek. “Islam needs reformation from within,” said the Huffington Post. Following January’s massacre in Paris, the Financial Times nodded to those in the west who believe the secular Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “could emerge as the Martin Luther of the Muslim world”. (That might be difficult, given Sisi, in the words of Human Rights Watch, approved “premeditated lethal attacks” on largely unarmed protesters which could amount to “crimes against humanity”.)

Then there is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Somali-born author, atheist and ex-Muslim has a new book called Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She’s been popping up in TV studios and on op-ed pages to urge Muslims, both liberal and conservative, to abandon some of their core religious beliefs while uniting behind a Muslim Luther. Whether or not mainstream Muslims will respond positively to a call for reform from a woman who has described their faith as a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that should be “crushed”, and suggested Benjamin Netanyahu be given the Nobel peace prize, is another matter.

'Islam isn’t Christianity. They are are not analogous, and it is deeply ignorant to pretend otherwise

The truth is that Islam has already had its own 'Reformation' of sorts

Related: If we are to fight extremism we must bring people together, not silence and ban them | Sayeeda Warsi

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Losing their religion: The hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims

17 May, 2015 - 10:30

As debate rages over the radicalisation of young British Muslims, are we overlooking a different crisis of faith? Ex-Muslims who dare to speak out are often cut off by their families and fear for their lives. A brave few tell us their stories

Sulaiman Vali is a softly spoken 32-year-old computer engineer. A natural introvert not drawn to controversy or given to making bold statements, he’s the kind of person who is happiest in the background. He lives alone in a modest house on a quiet street in a small town in East Northamptonshire. He doesn’t want to be any more specific than that about the location. “If someone found out where I lived,” he explains, “they could burn my house down.”

Why should such an understated figure, someone who describes himself as a “nobody”, speak as if he’s in a witness protection programme? The answer is that six years ago he decided to declare that he no longer accepted the fundamental tenets of Islam. He stopped being a believing Muslim and became instead an apostate. It sounds quaintly anachronistic, but it’s not a term to be lightly adopted.

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'Dark and dangerous times': GOP hopefuls focus on Islam at Iowa summit

16 May, 2015 - 23:26
  • Trump, Jindal, Cruz and Santorum address rightwing event
  • Organiser attacks Clinton adviser, warns of ‘civilisational jihad’

Related: Student who told Jeb Bush 'Your brother created Isis' speaks out about incident

“We are bunch of babies,” Donald Trump warned a church full of conservative activists in Iowa on Saturday, as Republican presidential hopefuls stepped up their deployment of fear over national security as the weapon of choice to differentiate themselves in a crowded campaign.

Related: America's 'counter-jihadis' fan flames of hatred across Middle East

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Indonesian navy rescues 200 from ocean near Aceh, after 750 saved earlier

16 May, 2015 - 02:53

Military official tells ABC 200 asylum seekers were seen in the water by fisherman and picked up by a warship amid warnings of a growing migrant crisis

The Indonesian navy has rescued another 200 asylum seekers off the coast of Aceh, the ABC is reporting, after more than 700 were rescued by fishermen the same day.

Major General Fuad Basya told the ABC the 200 asylum seekers were seen in the water by fishermen on Friday morning and the navy sent a ship to the area to pick them up.

Related: How to solve the Asian migrant boats crisis – expert views

Related: South-east Asia faces its own migrant crisis as states play 'human ping-pong'

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Counter-terrorism feeds terrorism – put Michel Houellebecq’s play back on | Srecko Horvat

15 May, 2015 - 15:30
Cancelling cultural events – as Croatia has done with Houellebecq’s latest work – on security grounds is an act of repression, and no way to tackle extremism

Ever since the publication of his latest novel, Submission, it seems Michel Houellebecq has succeeded in achieving what in psychoanalytical theory is known as “the return of the repressed”.

It is not by chance that the last cover of Charlie Hebdo before the deadly terrorist attacks carried a caricature of Houellebecq, with the strapline “In 2015 I lose my teeth, in 2022, I will do Ramadan.” What happened as tragedy in France repeated itself as farce in Croatia this week. A play, based on Michel Houellebecq’s novel Les Particules Élémentaires, was to open in Dubrovnik in July. But the Croatian interior ministry decided to cancel the premiere for security reasons after the police determined that staging the play would present a security risk.

What happened as tragedy in France repeated itself as farce in Croatia this week

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Is it one rule for the Hindus and another for the Muslims? | Giles Fraser

15 May, 2015 - 12:17
The different responses to a political endorsement from a Hindu leader and from imams show the UK’s law of undue spiritual influence is not consistently applied

She describes her job as “to carry the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Hindu families in the UK”. And in the performance of this role, Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, hasn’t been shy to rally her people to vote for one particular party. In an open letter on the forum’s website, Patel attacks Labour and the Lib Dems for insulting Hinduism by supporting legislation to outlaw caste discrimination. “Only the Conservative party has stated that if they are in a majority government, then this piece of unwanted legislation will be repealed,” she says, adding: “In these elections, the very honour of your faith is in danger of being undermined.” In short, vote Tory.

David Cameron has a longstanding relationship with the 600,000-strong Hindu community. Just three days before the general election, he was back at the temple in Neasden, north London, taking part in the ceremony. The Conservative Friends of India even rewarded him with his own campaign song in Hindi: “The sky is blue and glorious. This is colour of Britain’s pride. Let’s join together with this blue colour. Let’s join together with David Cameron.” Mind the contents of your stomach, it gets worse. “Your dreams will be fulfilled; He’ll keep his commitments; The job which David has started; He’s determined to finish.”

Obscured by the public outcry against Lutfur Rahman, Richard Mawrey has opened the most enormous can of worms

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Islamic school allegations to be investigated by Christopher Pyne

15 May, 2015 - 06:00

Education minister to look into reports school scrapped national anthem, banned piano on the grounds it is evil and stopped boys and girls sharing corridors

The federal education minister Christopher Pyne will investigate allegations of stricter Islamic practices being introduced at the Islamic College of South Australia.

Pyne will write to the state government and to the principal of the school in Adelaide to inquire into the allegations that sparked protests on Friday.

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If we are to fight extremism we must bring people together, not silence and ban them | Sayeeda Warsi

14 May, 2015 - 15:40
To build British values, we must listen to British Muslims. Let’s not legislate for tolerance by being intolerant

This general election delivered a more united government and a more cohesive Conservative party, but a more divided United Kingdom. It was therefore heartening to hear the new government’s commitment to bringing forward policies that would help to bring us closer together as a nation, would try to eradicate the “us and them” mentality, and allow us to congregate around the noble cause of shared British values. Heartening, that was, until one read the small print of the proposals on British values.

This could have been a moment at which to raise our eyes to the sunny uplands of a future, united, cohesive nation, in which the opportunities that this country has to offer are available to all. A very Conservative vision.

The ultimate defence of freedom is freedom itself, and that’s not something we can take for granted

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