The Guardian World news: Islam

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A search for identity draws jihadis to the horrors of Isis | Kenan Malik

5 hours 20 min ago
They are as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from western societies

First it was Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, three schoolgirls from Tower Hamlets who smuggled themselves to Syria during their half-term holiday. Then it was “Jihadi John”, the Islamic State executioner who was unmasked by the Washington Post last week as the Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi.

The stories of the three schoolgirls and of Emwazi are very different. But the same questions are being asked of them. How did they get radicalised? And how can we stop it from happening again? These are questions being increasingly asked across Europe. A recent report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation suggests that there are now 4,000 European fighters with Isis, a figure that has doubled over the past year.

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Nations flourish when people enjoy a sense of belonging

5 hours 22 min ago
Liberal democracies can flourish only when people feel that for all their differences, they have a stake in the well-being of the country they call home

We don’t do religion well in public debate and we have certainly lost our way when it comes to Islam. Between the Muslim apologists crying out “Islamophobia!” every time there is an Islam-related story and those who see the growing Islamisation of Europe everywhere they go, there are multiple realities which simply get dismissed or ignored.

A recent poll by the BBC asking Muslim respondents about their loyalty to Britain created conflicting headlines pinned on that word “loyalty”. Statistics can be dangerous because they conceal as much as they reveal. There are no nuances in this poll, in which Muslims are singled out as a block of people who have a moral obligation to answer these questions.

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My meeting with Mohammed Emwazi’s friend as they sought a radical path

28 February, 2015 - 21:21
After the revelation of the Isis killer’s identity, the Observer’s Jamie Doward recalls another young man who was drawn to extremism but turned away

The first thing I noticed about Mohammed Ezzouek was his size, tiny, birdlike. The recoil from an AK-47 would knock him off his feet, I remember thinking. He was an unlikely fighter – something he repeatedly denied when questioned by the security services.

The second thing was his beard. Long, black and wispy, it had clearly taken months to grow and was central to his identity. The third was his trainers, Nike, almost box-fresh. This man is a walking contradiction, I thought. He spoke street slang while praising the prophet. He went to Somalia to live under a caliphate and here he was, talking to me in London, complaining about the difficulties getting a mobile phone contract. He refused to be photographed but, after coaxing, he started posing for the camera, albeit in an oblique way so that he could not be photographed head-on.

Related: Isis’s promise of certainty is what lures the likes of Mohammed Emwazi | Jonathan Freedland

Related: Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi had link to 2005 London bomb plot

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Far-right Pegida eclipsed by its opponents at first UK demonstration

28 February, 2015 - 20:46
‘You’re not welcome here: get off our streets’ – Newcastle protestors’ message to anti-Islam marchers outnumbered by 3,000 to 400

A rally of thousands of anti-fascists, trade unionists and faith representatives dwarfed the first UK demonstration by a far-right group against the “Islamisation of Europe” on Saturday, forming a counter-protest at least four times as large.

Pegida UK held its first event in Newcastle, with some 400 supporters present in the city’s Bigg Market. The group, whose name translates as “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”, was formed in Dresden last year and has held regular marches there. A demonstration in the German city in January drew 25,000, but it is thought that recent marches have mustered as few as 2,000.

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Muslim Day in Oklahoma stresses political engagement despite growing anti-Islamic sentiment

27 February, 2015 - 20:55

Amid rhetoric from protesters and some legislators, event at state capitol meant to engage state’s estimated 40,000 Muslims in community discussions

A group of supporters formed a makeshift greeting line to escort Muslims into the Oklahoma state capitol for Friday’s first-ever Muslim Day as a smaller group of protesters heckled participants as they arrived.

The event was hosted by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations as a means to foster civic engagement among the state’s estimated 40,000 Muslims.

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Mohammed Emwazi's university refuses to cancel hardline preacher talk

27 February, 2015 - 20:16

University of Westminster event to go ahead on Monday despite petition signed by 3,000 students to stop Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad ‘preaching hate on campus’

The London university attended by ‘Jihadi John’ militant Mohammed Emwazi has refused to bow to pressure from 3,000 students to cancel a talk by a controversial preacher accused of describing homosexuality as a “scourge” and “criminal act”.

The University of Westminster’s Islamic society was forced to postpone the event entitled ‘Who is Muhammad?” over security concerns on Thursday night after Emwazi was unmasked as ‘Jihadi John’.

The general thing is it’s not a crazy extremist university. Not at all. Everyone I know is condemning this Jihadi John

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Bangladeshis protest after atheist writer Avijit Roy hacked to death

27 February, 2015 - 19:35

Hundreds rally against fundamentalism in Dhaka as Islamists claim responsibility for murder of prominent US-Bangladeshi blogger

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Dhaka in protest at the murder of a prominent secular American blogger of Bangladeshi origin who was hacked to death with machetes after he allegedly received threats from Islamists.

Avijit Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were attacked on a crowded pavement as they were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. Ahmed, who is also a blogger, lost a finger and remains under treatment at the Square hospital in Dhaka.

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India's Hindu BJP to share power in Jammu and Kashmir with Muslim PDP

27 February, 2015 - 18:29

Narendra Modi embraces Kashmiri Muslim Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as new state government takes power in Srinagar after December elections

The Indian prime minister’s Hindu nationalist party is preparing to enter government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in a ground-breaking political move that will see it form an alliance with a local party representing the alienated Muslim population.

Narendra Modi sealed the deal for his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) on Friday in characteristic style by enthusiastically embracing Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the 79-year-old Kashmiri Muslim head of the People’s Democratic party (PDP).

Related: Narendra Modi’s remarks on religious tolerance spark national debate in India

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The dangerous folly of trying to divide France’s Jews and Muslims | Nabila Ramdani

27 February, 2015 - 16:31

The French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman is playing with fire in allying himself with Marine Le Pen’s National Front

Five teenagers were arrested last week in eastern France for desecrating more than 300 Jewish graves. In a shocking attack, tombstones were smashed up and swastikas daubed in red paint in a cemetery in the Bas-Rhin department, where 2,605 Alsatian Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the second world war. Less reported was that all of those caught were from traditional middle-class French families, and none had anything to do with Islam.

Roger Cukierman, a leading member of France’s Jewish community, would certainly not be interested in such inconvenient details. In an interview on Monday, the notoriously provocative head of the Crif (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France) said: “We need to say things clearly: all acts of violence against Jews today are committed by young Muslims.” Though he offered the token qualification, “of course, it’s a tiny minority of the Muslim community”, Cukierman later used the term “Islamo-fascism”, and stated that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National (FN) and a white Christian, was “blameless” when it came to antisemitism.

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Murdered blogger Avijit Roy received Islamist threats before his death

27 February, 2015 - 14:20

It is unclear whether men formerly arrested in Dhaka for online death threats against the Bangladeshi-American writer were free at time of machete attack

Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death with machetes by a mob of unidentified attackers in Dhaka, had already received several death threats from Islamists for his writings on religion and science.

A US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, Roy described himself on his Facebook page as an engineer by profession and a writer by passion.

২০১৫ সালের একুশে বইমেলায় মুক্তমনা লেখকদের বই http://t.co/gxfpdrFw3w

ধর্ম কেন ভাইরাসের সমতুল্য? (প্রেক্ষিত : পেশোয়ার এবং শার্লি এবদো) http://t.co/ocr29al3wN

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Newcastle prepares for first UK Pegida rally against 'Islamisation'

27 February, 2015 - 13:35

Opponents of far-right German group to hold counter-protest supported by MPs, Newcastle United fans, trade unions and anti-fascists

More than 1,000 anti-fascists and trade unionists are expected to take to the streets of Newcastle on Saturday to oppose the first demonstration in the UK by the anti-immigrant group Pegida.

The group’s protests in Germany have attracted tens of thousands of people but opponents said the event in Newcastle was likely to attract a few hundred; mainly far-right activists.

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Indian court clears six men of murdering four people during 2002 Gujarat riots

27 February, 2015 - 12:36

Latest trial takes five years to complete, with reason for acquittal not immediately clear

A court in India has cleared six men of murdering four people including three British nationals during religious riots in the prime minister’s home state of Gujarat in 2002.

At least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed in a frenzy of communal violence in 2002 in the western state where Narendra Modi was chief minister before he was elected prime minister last year.

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Nigel Farage's anti-immigration chant strikes a chord with US Republicans

27 February, 2015 - 07:22

Ukip leader delivers right message at right time for an audience appalled by Obama’s stance on immigration and radical Islam

Only at a gathering of America’s most dyed-in-the-wool conservatives would the otherwise obscure leader of the UK Independence party attract groupies. But apart from the fact he is clutching a glass of red wine rather than risk the local beer, Nigel Farage is in his element at the Gaylord National Convention Center outside Washington DC.

I’m American Ukip

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‘Jihadi John’, like me, was radicalised. So I know how extremists exploit grievances | Maajid Nawaz

26 February, 2015 - 20:44
Racism and violent Islamism feed each other in a vicious circle: we must counter the narrative of victimhood

The unveiling of Mohammed Emwazi as the man behind the “Jihadi John” mask is a reminder that Islamist extremism is an ideology that is accessible to all. It is clear from the news in the past week how powerful a draw it is for such a diverse range of people.

From the Bangladeshi-heritage east London schoolgirls to Emwazi, the well-off west Londoner of Kuwaiti heritage, Islamic State (Isis) and other extremists recruit from across British society. It is this inherent vulnerability that should inform what is the most appropriate response, without doubt a civil society one.

Related: Former Ukip councillor expelled over racism row claims 'hidden agenda'

Just as racism became the go-to grievance for my actions, so too does Islamist extremism feed far-right extremism

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Will Austria’s experiment with Islam work for grassroots believers? | Usama Hasan

26 February, 2015 - 16:33
Vienna’s wish for an organic, integrated form of Islam that avoids foreign influence risks creating an official religion distrusted by ordinary Muslims

Austria has passed controversial reforms to the country’s 1912 law on Islam that made it an official religion of the country. Is this a step forward or backward?

In Britain, although we have an established church, the idea of officially recognising several religions seems strange. However, it has been common practice in other parts of Europe. The 1912 Austrian law hails from the end of an age when territories in eastern Europe and the Balkans, with mixed Christian and Muslim populations, were regularly fought over and changed hands between empires and kingdoms such as the Ottoman, Serbian, Russian and Austro-Hungarian.

‘We want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values.'

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The Tablet set to celebrate its 175th year of continuous publication

26 February, 2015 - 13:21

Catholic weekly founded in 1840 plans series of events to mark its anniversary

The Tablet, the Catholic weekly regarded as one of Britain’s oldest journals*, is about to celebrate 175 years of uninterrupted publication.

Founded in May 1840 by a Quaker convert to Catholicism, Frederick Lucas, it is published in London but has garnered an international audience.

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Multitudes review – a vigorous debate about British Islam

26 February, 2015 - 11:23

Tricycle, London
The debut play from actor John Hollingworth uses a divided Bradford family and a Tory party conference to confront the problems facing Muslims in Britain

John Hollingworth is a brave man. An actor by trade, he has chosen for his first full-length play to write about multiculturalism: more specifically, the tensions inside a divided Bradford family. But while one could pick holes in his plot, his play is as urgent and immediate as the morning headlines.

Hollingworth uses an interrelated quartet to highlight the big issues. Kash is a secular, widowed Muslim keen to stand for parliament and prepared to address a Tory party conference, taking place in Bradford, on the need to rebuild trust.

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Lombok: Beyond the Islamic tourism drive, it can be an island for everyone

26 February, 2015 - 01:00

The Indonesian island is pushing itself as a ‘Muslim-friendly’ tourism destination, but Lombok has something to offer people of all backgrounds and beliefs

It’s August 2013 and I am in Lombok. Eid has ended and the traffic has stalled. Forget that we are in a rural road that is cut into the side of a hill overlooking the ocean – this snarl is as bad as anything I experienced in downtown Jakarta or the clogged roads around Bali’s Seminyak and Ubud. Only the aesthetic differs: there are no western tourists walking around wearing bikinis; instead most of the women climbing off motorbikes and carrying their picnics to the hill wear headscarves.

While the Hindu island of Bali has an ‘anything goes’ vibe, Lombok has a different character. The scenery is more mountainous and arid, and the vibe more serious – even austere. A largely Muslim island, tourists visit for the peace and quiet, the great beaches and diving and proximity to the popular Gili islands. Hotels and resorts that are opening are less spring break or schoolies, more sedate places of rest and relaxation.

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Abercrombie & Fitch case: justices set to side with Muslim woman over headscarf

25 February, 2015 - 17:09

US supreme court hears arguments in religious discrimination case involving woman who was not hired because she wore a black headscarf to interview

Abercrombie & Fitch’s rejection of a Muslim job applicant for wearing a headscarf was sharply criticised in the US supreme court on Wednesday, as even conservative justices ridiculed the fashion chain’s “mythical preppy” rules on how employees can dress.

Related: US supreme court hears Abercrombie & Fitch religious discrimination case

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Waqas Khan: the Pakistani artist who makes you want to say yes

25 February, 2015 - 15:34

Inspired by Sufi songs and scripture, Waqas Khan toils through the night making vast hypnotic pictures out of tiny dots – and his work is now being snapped up around the world. Jonathan Jones goes drinking with art’s hottest new star

Waqas Khan is talking to me in paradise. Or at least, his art makes me feel as if I’ve been transported there. The artist’s delirious drawings are all around us in Vienna’s Galerie Krinzinger: spirals, waves and circles that shimmer delicately in pink, black and white ink. Some are vast. One resembles a gigantic book. Yet when you walk close up to them, each turns out to be composed of thousands of tiny, extremely precise dots.

They make you feel differently about yourself and the world. Fifteen minutes after arriving at his latest exhibition, I felt cleansed and relaxed – like I’d been in a hammam. And after a couple of hours, I had the same feeling I got when I first walked through the light-as-air tiled wonderlands of the great Islamic buildings of Andalusia.

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