The Guardian World news: Islam

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This Christmas, beware evangelical Christians bearing gifts | Polly Toynbee

8 November, 2018 - 12:06
The Samaritan’s Purse charity sends gift boxes to children in Muslim countries. They contain a pernicious, hidden agenda

All over the country, Operation Christmas Child is up and running again. The scheme urges people to pack up a shoebox with toys, pens, notebooks and treats for a poor child. Schools often join in because children love doing it: there is something romantic and mysterious about sending a secret collection of gifts to an unknown child in a faraway land.

Participating drop-off points include major companies, such as Caffè Nero, Shoe Zone, The Entertainer, Barratt Homes and some newspaper offices, such as Luton Today. The volunteer organisation Worcester Lions Club are packing shoeboxes inside Waitrose. Geoff Lewis of the club said: “It’s not known where the boxes will eventually end up at this time. But what is certain is that it will be with a child somewhere in the world that will not be receiving another Christmas present this year.” Maybe if people did know, they might hesitate.

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Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi remains in jail despite acquittal

7 November, 2018 - 16:06

A week after conviction was overturned, sparking violent protests, Christian farm labourer is still in custody

Asia Bibi, the Christian farm labourer whose blasphemy case has triggered violent protests and assassinations in Pakistan, is still in prison a week after the country’s supreme court overturned her conviction.

Her husband and children are living at a secret address in Pakistan in fear of their lives, and have made repeated appeals to the international community to help secure the whole family’s safety.

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Shakespeare can help British Muslims feel less excluded | Remona Aly

7 November, 2018 - 06:00

A new interpretation of Othello opens up portrayals of Islam that are absent from TV shows like Bodyguard

An Islamic prayer mat and a secret Muslim tragic-hero uttering “Ya Akbar” aren’t typically associated with Shakespeare, but Othello has been given a dramatic twist in a new touring production that illustrates the complexities of identity in modern Britain. A co-production involving English Touring Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, the play is on tour across the UK including in some of its more deprived areas, such as Oldham and Huddersfield. At a time when fictional portrayals of Muslims often suffer from reductionist stereotypes – as in the BBC’s Bodyguard, which had a Muslim woman as a jihadi terrorist – this new interpretation offers a powerfully nuanced message of belonging, and takes account of the centuries-long history of relations between England and the Muslim world.

The Moor of Venice was first produced in 1604, a year after Elizabeth I’s reign ended. She had sought an alliance with the Ottoman empire against Catholic Spain – opening up diplomatic, political, economic and cultural exchange – with ambassadors from Morocco visiting the Elizabethan court. So the play’s timing could not have been pure coincidence. Professor Jerry Brotton, in his book This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World notes: “This story is part of the heritage of Christians, Muslims and any others who call themselves English.”

Related: Can BBC Informer finally subvert the Muslim stereotype problem on TV?

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Pakistan works to stop Asia Bibi leaving after blasphemy protests

2 November, 2018 - 19:41

Administration accused of signing Bibi’s ‘death warrant’ in deal with hardliners

Pakistan’s government has been accused of signing the “death warrant” of Asia Bibi after it said it would begin the process of preventing her leaving the country.

Bibi, a Christian farm labourer, was acquitted of blasphemy on Wednesday. She had spent eight years on death row after she drank from the same cup as a Muslim, prompting false allegations that she insulted the prophet Muhammad.

Related: The release of Asia Bibi is a small step towards a more open Pakistan | Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

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Israeli ad featuring model ripping off face veil draws criticism

2 November, 2018 - 16:01

Video shows model Bar Refaeli removing niqab as ‘freedom is basic’ slogan appears on screen

One of Israel’s most prominent models, Bar Refaeli, has been criticised for appearing in an advert in which she rips off a face veil to the slogan “freedom is basic”.

The Israeli clothing brand, Hoodies, posted the video online this week, which opens with a Hebrew caption reading: “Is Iran here?” while zoomed in on Refaeli’s face, which is covered in a black niqab.

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Asia Bibi: anti-blasphemy protests spread across Pakistan

1 November, 2018 - 16:31

Anti-blasphemy campaigners bring country to standstill in protest over acquittal of Bibi

Thousands of Islamist protesters have brought Pakistan to a standstill, burning rickshaws, cars and lorries to protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row on false charges of blasphemy.

Related: The release of Asia Bibi is a small step towards a more open Pakistan | Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

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Republicans more likely to view Muslim Americans negatively, study finds

1 November, 2018 - 16:30

Thinktank New America found 71% of Republicans surveyed said they don’t believe Islam is compatible with US values

While most non-Muslims in the US are accepting of Muslim Americans, Republicans are far more likely to have potentially negative views about them, according to data released Thursday.

New America, a thinktank working with the American Muslim Institution, conducted 1,165 interviews in four metropolitan areas prior to the 6 November midterm elections.

Related: Anti-Muslim rhetoric 'widespread' among candidates in Trump era – report

Related: Republican attacks take aim at non-white congressional candidates

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The release of Asia Bibi is a small step towards a more open Pakistan | Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

1 November, 2018 - 11:30
Her acquittal could signal a relaxation of strict blasphemy laws and create a better country in the process

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s supreme court acquitted Asia Bibi in an historic verdict, overturning the death sentence meted out to her over charges of blasphemy.

The court established that Bibi, a Christian, was falsely accused by Muslim women picking fruit with her on 14 June, 2009. The allegation stemmed from a quarrel over the fact that she had taken a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them, which in the eyes of her accusers she wasn’t allowed to touch.

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After Pittsburgh, the left must face down all forms of racism | Rachel Shabi

31 October, 2018 - 16:57

Words can be deadly. With 11 Jewish people killed at a synagogue, leftists had better ensure theirs don’t ring hollow

In the wake of the tragedy of Pittsburgh, the murder of 11 Jewish people at a synagogue in America’s most deadly act of antisemitism, we have heard a repeated cautionary refrain: that words have consequences. Donald Trump’s White House denies that the president’s rhetoric has any impact on reality. But others have noted that the “apparent spark” for the Pittsburgh murders was a “racist hoax” inflamed by the US president, who in the run-up to the US midterm elections has been scaremongering over a Honduran caravan of refugees fleeing violence and travelling to the US border to seek asylum, feeding antisemitic conspiracy theories that it has been funded by Jews.

That words have consequences is known viscerally to anyone whose identity is felt to be contested. Minorities, migrants and LGBT communities know all too well the terrible power of words to animate unconscious biases and rouse animosities; to poke at prejudices, stir hatreds and seed divisions. Words aren’t the only factor, but they create a context. Language is core to the architecture of antisemitism: words have, in recent memory, created the conditions for appalling violence and, ultimately, genocide.

Related: Trump, 'purveyor of hate speech', not welcome in Pittsburgh, says former synagogue leader

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UK confirms reports of Chinese mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims

31 October, 2018 - 11:56

Criticism is mounting over reports of mass camps in the western territory of Xinjiang

British diplomats who visited Xinjiang have confirmed that reports of mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims were “broadly true”, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has told parliament.

Beijing faces mounting international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, a far-western territory of China where researchers believe an estimated 1 million members of Muslim minorities have been detained in a network of camps.

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Stark east-west divide in attitudes towards minorities in Europe

29 October, 2018 - 14:00

Report also flags gulf in attitudes on nationalism, abortion, gay rights and more

Europe is starkly divided between east and west on attitudes towards minorities and social issues such as gay rights and abortion, data shows.

Despite the fall of the iron curtain and the eastward expansion of the EU, the attitudes of people in central and eastern countries differ significantly from those in western Europe, according to surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center involving 56,000 adults.

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None of us should enjoy the right to have our beliefs shielded from abuse | Kenan Malik

28 October, 2018 - 08:00

We live in sorry times if hurt feelings have now become a matter for the lawmakers

Should it be illegal to call the prophet Muhammad a “paedophile”? That was the question in front of the European court of human rights (ECHR) last week.

In 2009, an Austrian woman, known as ES, held “seminars” on Islam in which she likened Muhammad’s marriage to six-year-old Aisha to paedophilia. She was convicted of “disparaging religion”. In keeping with a history of supporting blasphemy laws, the ECHR upheld the conviction. ES’s comments, it ruled, “aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship”. Presenting objects of religious worship in a provocative way capable of hurting the feelings of believers, it added, “could be conceived as a malicious violation of the spirit of tolerance”.

We should no more support secular versions of blasphemy laws than the old religious variety

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The Guardian view on China’s detention camps: now we see them | Editorial

26 October, 2018 - 17:40
Courageous personal testimony and painstaking research are giving us an increasingly detailed and shocking view of the centres in Xinjiang where hundreds of thousands have been held without arrest, charge or trial

The courage of former inmates and relatives, and the diligence of academics, journalists and other researchers, has brought a terrible secret into plain view. As the evidence piled up of the mass extrajudicial detention of Muslim Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in China’s north-western region of Xinjiang, it was met with silence or denial from Beijing. When experts told a UN panel this August that as many as a million could be held, a Chinese official insisted that: “There is no such thing as re-education centres.”

Still the satellite imagery, public documents and frightening personal testimonies amassed. With a UN human rights council meeting approaching next month, China suddenly announced that under revised legislation, local governments in Xinjiang could “educate and transform” people influenced by extremism at “vocational training centres”. This does not make the detentions themselves lawful, says one expert on Chinese law: “People are simply taken away.” But Beijing is now actively promoting the programme as an altruistic attempt to improve lives as well as stabilising the region, preventing further violent attacks. State media has shown “students” in uniforms playing ping pong and folk dancing, and learning skills such as hairdressing. The chairman of the regional government enthuses that the centres are air-conditioned, offer nutritious free meals and show that “life can be so colourful”.

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Sinéad O'Connor converts to Islam, taking new name Shuhada' Davitt

26 October, 2018 - 10:23

The singer says she is ‘very, very, very happy’ and thanks Muslims for welcoming her

The singer formerly known as Sinéad O’Connor has converted to Islam, changing her name to Shuhada’.

She made the announcement on Twitter, saying her conversion was “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant.”


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Rohingya genocide is still going on, says top UN investigator

24 October, 2018 - 20:42

Head of fact-finding mission says Myanmar’s leaders are denying abuse of Muslim group

Genocide is still taking place against Rohingya Muslims remaining in Myanmar and the government is increasingly demonstrating that it has no interest in establishing a fully functioning democracy, according to UN investigators.

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said thousands of Rohingya were still fleeing to Bangladesh, and the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 who have remained following last year’s brutal military campaign in the Buddhist-majority country “continue to suffer the most severe” restrictions and repression. “It is an ongoing genocide,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

Related: ‘Tied to trees and raped’: UN report details Rohingya horrors

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Anti-Muslim rhetoric 'widespread' among candidates in Trump era – report

22 October, 2018 - 05:01

Sharp rise in tactics that echo attempts to inflame fears around immigration and minorities ahead of midterm elections

The 2018 midterm elections have seen a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric, a new report has found, as political campaigns are emboldened by Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.

Related: Trump was 'playful' in praising assault on Guardian reporter, Ben Sasse says

Related: Republican attacks take aim at non-white congressional candidates

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From denial to pride: how China changed its language on Xinjiang's camps

22 October, 2018 - 01:23

Beijing now proudly parades ‘humane management and care’ at internment camps, after denying their existence for months

China’s state broadcaster CCTV last week offered a look inside Xinjiang’s controversial internment camps.

In the 15-minute segment journalists visit the Hotan City Vocational Skills Education and Training Centre where they teach students Mandarin, China’s various legal codes, and job-relevant skills, according to a city official, reciting almost verbatim a description previously given in Chinese state media.

Related: Internment camps make Uighurs' life more colourful, says Xinjiang governor

The ultimate aim is the creation of a vocational, patriotic education system for adult minorities.

Seeing this video again, it appears there are at least five cameras monitoring this classroom of a so-called "vocational skills training center", as seen on @CCTV.

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Row over Muslim scholar's invitation to preach at Anglican service

20 October, 2018 - 08:00

Blog claims sermon by imam at Oxford church contrary to ‘sacred act of divine worship’ in keeping with C of E rites

An invitation to a distinguished Muslim scholar to preach at a eucharist service in an Oxford church on Sunday has triggered complaints from traditionalists.

Monawar Hussain, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year for services to interfaith relations and the community, will deliver a sermon at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, following a request from Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson.

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