Birmingham school unites faiths: not through grand gestures but hard work

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 January, 2015 - 14:11
St Alban’s C of E academy, in city reeling from Trojan horse scandal, highlights common bits shared by religions in effort to truly integrate communities

It is Friday morning at St Alban’s Church of England academy in Highgate, a gleaming new £17.6m building whose colourful exterior spreads a warm glow over this deprived corner of Birmingham.

The school, where the vast majority of students are Muslim, is a stone’s throw from Birmingham central mosque, one of the largest Islamic centres in western Europe, and a short bus ride from the schools thrown into turmoil last year by allegations of a hardline Islamist takeover – the so-called Trojan horse affair.

Related: St Alban's ARK Academy in Birmingham – in pictures

We have more confidence in tackling issues head on. We have a clear rationale … We know what we are doing

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PakistanToday: Hindu woman saves 10 Muslims during Bihar clash

Loon Watch - 28 January, 2015 - 00:50


The heroic actions of Shail Devi reminds us that we must not essentialize any community and that even at the darkest moments there are beacons of light who are not willing to sacrifice their humanity or values.

Hindu woman saves 10 Muslims during Bihar clash

Shail Devi, a frail widow in her early 50s, risking her own life, gave shelter to her Muslim neighbours when a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked Azizpur Bahilwara village after a 20-year-old Hindu boy’s body was found on Sunday.

He was allegedly abducted and killed over his love affair with a Muslim girl.

“I provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob could have killed them,” Shail said on Wednesday.

Shail, a poor woman fighting for her survival like many others in this village, said that she along with her two daughters stood guard outside her house when a mob was targeting Muslims in the village. She told them that it was a house of a fisherman.

“I lied to rioters that I had not given shelter to Muslims in my house. Though some people tried to enter my house but I stopped them and they returned,” she said.

“She has proved again that humanity is still alive, we are proud of her,” Arvind Kumar, a villager, said.

Ash Mohammad, a man in his 60s, who was one of the 10 Muslims whose lives were saved by Shail, said that she is like an ‘angel’ to them.

“Shail was like god-sent angel to us…,” Mohammad said.

Mohammad admitted that all of them could have been killed if Shail had not given shelter to them.

A day after she saved lives of her Muslim neighbours, some Hindu villagers warned her that she may be targeted by some people of the mob for doing it, Shail said.

“I was so frightened that I along with my two daughters and a son on Monday took shelter in Mohammad’s house but after district administration persuaded, I returned to my home,” she said.

Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who visited the village on Wednesday, met Shail. He lauded her role and compared her with legendary Rani Lakshmibai.

Manjhi also announced a cash reward of Rs51,000 for her.

Pamela Geller’s Ugly Islamophobic Ads Beautified By Muslim Super Hero

Loon Watch - 28 January, 2015 - 00:02

These are absolutely lovely.

via. Dead State

Anyone who thought that running Islamophobic ads on buses in San Francisco – a famously liberal city – was going to come without consequence, probably deserves any kind of humiliation they get.

That’s exactly what’s happening with ads disseminated by the U.S. branch of the Freedom Defense Initiative (classified as a hate group in the U.K.), which seeks to compare Muslims with Nazis.


Some quick-thinking person decided to ad a twist to the ads, by defacing their garbage message with pictures of Kamala Khan, Marvel Comic’s first Muslim superhero.

Here are some the of ads that the website Street Cred spotted and posted to their Facebook page:

ad 1ad 2ad 3 h/t io9

Fox News Host: “We Have Saved the Planet” with Wars like Iraq

Loon Watch - 27 January, 2015 - 21:10

Charles Payne

Charles Payne

Gawker perfectly summarizes the ridiculousness that is the most recent bout of #FoxNewsFacts.

via. Gawker, By Hudson Hongo

Remember the planet before America started invading parts of it? God, what a shithole. Just a total mess. Since then, though: pretty much perfect, right? That’s the improbable assessment Fox News’ Charles Payne delivered on Sunday while discussing criticism of American Sniper.

“It’s a pretty simple thing, you watch the movie, he saved American lives,” said Payne of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. “And he went through a tough struggle to do it, but it was a job that had to be done.” A mostly empty if not unfamiliar sentiment about the war in Iraq. Payne, however, was just getting started:

Look at the death toll that we had protecting people in a different country because that’s what America does. We’ve been the world’s policeman, and guess what’s happened over the time we’ve become the world’s policeman?

A billion people in other countries have moved into the middle class. We had India on TV earlier. If it wasn’t for Americans dying around the world, the rest of the world would be in abject poverty.

“We have saved the planet,” concluded Payne, “and if we go away as [the world’s] policeman, it’s going to be hell to pay for everyone.”

In most places—including the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal—America’s role as “the world’s policeman” is treated as a question, but to the Fox Business host, it’s just a neat fact. In case you were having trouble keeping track, here are all the accomplishments Payne attributes to American interventionism:

  • A billion people moving into the middle class
  • India being on TV
  • The rest of the world staying out of (?) abject poverty
  • The planet’s salvation

“So true,” agreed co-host Anna Kooiman.

[h/t Raw Story]

Anti-Islamization Leader Steps Down Amid Uproar Over Hitler Selfie

Loon Watch - 27 January, 2015 - 02:45

Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann styled as Adolf Hitler

Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann styled as Adolf Hitler

From earlier in the week…this one was a doozy and somehow so unsurprising.

Anti-Islamization leader steps down amid uproar over Hitler selfie

By: Eliott C. McLaughlin CNN Updated 6:24 PM ET, Wed January 21, 2015

As thousands-strong anti-Islamization rallies make headlines in Germany following the Charlie Hebdo attack, one of the rallies’ organizers has resigned as leader of a right-wing group after a newspaper published a months-old selfie of him posing as Adolf Hitler.

The photo shows Lutz Bachmann, leader of PEGIDA, which translates in English to Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. It appeared Wednesday on the cover of German tabloid BILD.

Bachmann resigned as chairman of the group following the backlash to the Hitler photo, as well as another image Bachmann posted of a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe with the caption, “Three K’s a day keeps the minorities away.”

“I apologize to everybody who has felt attacked by my online postings. They were comments made without serious reflection, which I would no longer express today. I am sorry that I thereby damaged the interests of our movement, and draw the appropriate conclusion,” Bachmann said in Dresden.

Bachmann also posted a photo of a Ku Klux Klansman.

Bachmann also posted a photo of a Ku Klux Klansman.

The selfie was an act of satire, his spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel said on Facebook. While every citizen has the right to engage in satire, she wrote, insulting foreigners is not satirical.

Though Bachmann apparently has deleted his own Facebook account, screen grabs published by numerous media outlets suggest Bachmann posted the Hitler photo in September, while the KKK image is from 2012.

Bachmann told BILD, “I took the photo at the hairdressers, for the publication of the audiobook of the satire ‘He’s Back.’ … You need to be able to joke about things now and then.”

Continue reading ….

Counterterrorism is supposed to let us live without fear. Instead, it's creating more of it | Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 January, 2015 - 12:52

How many ‘terrorism plots’ initiated by FBI informants will the agency interrupt before Congress finally performs some oversight?

People think that catching terrorists is just a matter of finding them – but, just as often, terrorists are created by the people doing the chase.

While making our film (T)ERROR, which tracks a single counter-terrorism sting operation over seven months, we realized that most people have serious misconceptions about FBI counter-terrorism efforts. They assume that informants infiltrate terrorist networks and then provide the FBI with information about those networks in order to stop terrorist plots from being carried out. That’s not true in the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases.

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SOTU2015 – The Final Quarter

Muslim Matters - 26 January, 2015 - 06:41

By Mehrunisa Qayyum

President Obama has entered the final quarter of his big game. Watching President Obama's State of the Union Address in DC is like watching the superbowl for political junkies, foreign policy junkies and social activists. (I would like to say I fall somewhere in between, but that is for others, like my PITAPALS, to judge). Following President Obama's approval rating on screen was not nearly as fun as following #SOTU2015 and viewing encouraging comments like, “Thank you POTUS, 'It's why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace…'” or the silly, “Sigh. I want the love of my life to look at me like Joe Biden looks at President Obama during every #SOTU.”

Furthermore, Muslim Americans, like myself, may feel a little more included with a mention. However, I immediately cautioned myself that the reference resulted from the tragic Charlie Hebdo backlash.

SOTU2015: Congress Doesn't Applaud Muslim Tolerance – Are We Surprised?

For the issues that I cover as a blogger, governance and economics in the Middle East & North Africa region, I totally lost playing Bingo.  The terms I chose (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Drones, and Diplomacy) did not pop up in a satisfying combination on my Bingo sheet.  For those who literally track presidential remarks point for point, I invite you to look at Politifact, and judge for yourself whether the points are seriously wrong, or just different interpretations.

Obama focused more on domestic issues than foreign policy concerns by emphasizing college affordability, imploring big companies to create apprenticeships at home, and referencing our NASA program's space experiments and hopes for exploring Mars.  I counted more references to 'middle-class economics', 'new jobs', and 'employment' than 'Middle East', 'Russia', or 'China'.  Hopefully, this means increased funding for the kind of 21st century infrastructure that supports education as well as increased research and development–and not the scary weapons kind.

On that note, drones received a mention–but not its corollary: high civilian death toll in countries like Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Specifically, that targeted drone strikes have accidentally targeted 142 children, according to watchdog Reprieve.

While pessimists have evidence to label Obama's last 2 years of a two-term presidency as a “lame duck” period, optimists may have just as much evidence to claim otherwise.  As political scientists note: the last two years of “lame duck” actually present an opportunity for executive leadership to truly drive policy change without fear of re-election politics.  Remember, both former Presidents Clinton and Bush closed out their second terms to reopen U.S. dialogue on a Palestinian state.

If caveats are included, here is where Obama may truly leverage his power as someone who has freedom to really pursue an agenda without worrying about spending political capital:

First, he called for closing the infamous American prison at Guantanamo Bay – again.

I hope he closes it because he has allies from the U.S. military, like Major General Michael Lehnert, calling for the closure of “Gitmo”. As an American taxpayer, it is costing me (and you) about $2.7 million per prisoner per year, according to the cost figures released by the Pentagon in 2013.

Second, the U.S. is moving forward to prevent a nuclear Iran – even though Iran's capability is far more removed than North Korea's.

Although this point may be a harder sell to the hawks, our relationship with Iran stands as much of a chance of improving as not, in Obama's homestretch. On another positive note, I was pleased to hear Obama state loudly, “I will veto any new sanctions bill!” Imposing sanctions would only walk the U.S. and its allies backwards from where we stand now: dialogue with a non-nuclear ready country.

Third, Obama has not called for expanding U.S. forces into a new war front.

This is a double-edged sword when referencing Syria. It is good to know that the U.S. will not repeat an Iraq in Syria, as Americans – Muslim and non-Muslim – remain “war weary”. But, the U.S. is still launching bombing campaigns to deal with violent extremism by non-state actors in a state (Syria) inhabited by a violent state actor (Assad regime). U.S. policy to deal with violent extremism will probably emerge in #SOTU2016. But, I am also just as hopeful that human rights and calls for leading tribunals will also receive a mention in #SOTU2016.

Next year's Bingo card for me will include 'Closed Guantanamo' and 'Gun Background Checks'… and 'Profiling'.

Mehrunisa Qayyum is an International Development & Policy Consultant with Pita Policy Consulting.

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Of Sump Pumps and Prayers

Muslim Matters - 26 January, 2015 - 05:00

By Ahmed M. Rehab

Earlier this year, I moved from my longtime bachelor pad into a house in order to accommodate my expanding family. While a blessing, I quickly learned that being a homeowner was not all sunshine and roses.

Sure there is the comfort of having more space, a backyard, and the ability to host large groups of family and friends. There is the joy of designing your own little castle and basking in your personally customized zone with your loved ones.

But there is also the shoveling of snow, the raking of leaves, the mowing of lawns, the hopping on the roof to clean the gutters, the backbreaking yard work.

And then there is the sump pump.

The Sump Pump

As a new home owner, you learn about things you never knew existed. And you often learn the hard way.

When my basement flooded, I began to pay attention to that sump pump thing, whereas before it was a mere dubious technicality. I learned that groundwater from the rain collects into tiles around the house and from there into a reservoir in the basement; a special motorized water pump called the sump pump is then triggered to basically pump out the water through a tube that empties into the yard away from the house.

In addition, there is the basement sink and the basement laundry appliances. They are below ground level, yet are supposed to drain into the public sewage system at ground level. That presents an obvious problem since it defies the laws of gravity wherein water naturally collects at the lowest, not highest point. The solution is therefore to first drain into a second reservoir in the floor of the basement, where a second motorized sump pump then pumps up the collected water against the pull of gravity and into the sewage pipes at ground level.

That fateful day, both sump pumps failed, and the water overflowed from the reservoir pits and flooded into the basement, causing damage that was a massive headache to fix.

Water is the greatest gift. It is the source of life. It cleans and purifies. But unwanted water can be your worst enemy, as it is a force like no other. Unruly waves can drown you. Tsunamis can knock down concrete buildings like dominoes. And basement flooding can get everywhere causing mold and damage to your floors, walls, furniture and equipment. Nothing gets in the way of water if you allow it to overpower you.

While I made sure my home had working sump pumps when I bought it, that day I learned that my sump pumps were cheap, that they were plastic and that their horsepower was below code and therefore inadequate and more likely to fail. In addition to paying for a service to thoroughly clean up the mess, I realized I had to invest in iron cast, high horsepower sump pumps ASAP or risk this happening again the next day.

Now I know better. It is not enough to have a sump pump. I need to audit it, to manage it and make sure it is not just dead weight. Now, I can hear the sump pumps going again at regular intervals. I feel protected when I do, and I know to start worrying when I don't.

After all, while you simply can't stop groundwater from building up, you can certainly beat it before it beats you.

All this caused me to think.

Why do We Pray 5 Times a Day?

For many reasons, but one simple reason is this: prayer is the sump pump to our sins. Since the sins are invariably guaranteed to keep coming, so must the sump pumps keep working. Groundwater is a consequence of rain, and sin is a consequence of life. Regulated sump pumps protect, and so does regular prayer. God states that when you perform your prayer, it erases all sins accumulated since your last prayer. Kind of like how the sump pump eliminates the dirty water, your sins are erased.

Our first precaution against sin is to try our best to shelter ourselves from it, no doubt. My home's first line of defense against rain damaging its valuable contents is the roof and walls that provide shelter. I could not have a roof-less, wall-less house and then expect the sump pumps to keep my home nice and dry. That's just basic logic. I need both strategies. But since even the best of roofs and the sturdiest of walls won't change the laws of physics, I need the sump pumps if I wish to avoid groundwater accumulating and flooding my foundations.

Regular prayer, which contains istighfar (or repentance) pumps out that harmful, unavoidable seepage which, if left to its own devices, will trickle slowly but surely into a flood that will, in time, leave you struggling to breathe under water.

Life, like rain, is good. You can't and shouldn't turn against it. How else will the grass grow? But like rain, life comes with liabilities. It can sustain and purify you, and it can leave you breathing mold toxins, or even drown you. The difference is whether you control it, or you do nothing – and thus be controlled by it. Sin is the tax of life much like groundwater is the tax of rain. It can threaten your spiritual foundation if left unchecked much like groundwater can threaten your home's foundation. Your nafs is the lowest point, the basement. It needs to come armed with prayer, with sump pumps.

Sump pumps must work at regular intervals in order to guarantee a dry basement. Once a week won't cut it.  Why do you pray at night, they might ask? Well, why do sump pumps work at night? Why do you pray at dawn? Well, why do sump pumps work at dawn? Is my nafs less valuable – less worthy of protection – than my basement?

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. At such times of higher risk, sump pumps are triggered to work extra hard to keep up with the need. And so, while we have the regular prayers 5 times a day, we also have the nawafel, or voluntary prayers, as a tool for us to trigger as needed.

But remember, you can have sump pumps, and still get flooded — as I did. Until you realize that low horsepower plastic sump pumps offer a false sense of protection. Such is the case with distracted, mindless prayer that might as well be aerobics. Make sure your sump pumps are cast iron and of a high horsepower: that is, keep your prayers sincere, focused, meditative, and contemplative.

Stay dry my friends.



“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” Qur'an 29:45


Ahmed Rehab is an American Muslim activist and writer with a focus on contemporary social issues including civil rights, media relations, and Islam-West relations. Ahmed Rehab is currently the Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization which under Rehab's tenure has developed from a start-up into one of the most notable not-for-profit civil rights offices of its kind anywhere in the United States.

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China bans wearing burqa in biggest Muslim city

Loon Watch - 25 January, 2015 - 23:04


China continues to link Islamic practices to political violence, specifically targeting Muslim Uyghurs in an attempt to control and subjugate the populace in resource rich Xinjiang.

China bans wearing burqa in biggest Muslim city

Beijing (CNN)Legislators in China’s far-western Xinjiang province have passed a law to prohibit residents from wearing burqas in public, state media reported, in a continued campaign against what authorities view as religious extremism.

The new ban in Urumqi was approved by local legislators last month, and given the greenlight by the regional legislature at the weekend.

The ordinance name suggests it targets outer garments covering someone’s full body including the face, which is called a burqa in some Islamic traditions.

A spate of recent violent incidents has rocked Xinjiang, a resource-rich region long inhabited by the Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim Uyghurs.

The arrival of waves of Han Chinese, the country’s predominant ethnic group, over the past decades has fueled ethnic tensions.

Chinese officials have blamed the recent attacks on Uyghur separatists — whom they also label “religious extremists” seeking to establish an independent state.

Continue reading …

Al Jazeera Stream did a realy good show on the recent tension with Uyghurs in China.

What’s at the heart of mounting tensions between the Chinese government and ethnic Uyghurs?

First Post: Hindutva Parties BJP & The RSS Rewriting Dalit History To Target Muslims

Loon Watch - 25 January, 2015 - 22:55

 R.V. Moorthy

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (left) releases books on Dalits written by BJP spokesman Vijay Sonkar Shastri (middle) in New Delhi on Sunday. HRD Minister Smriti Irani is also seen. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Narendra Modi‘s BJP and its ally the RSS have been condemned by Indian scholars and activists for rewriting Dalit history with “unsubstantiated claims” and “weird theories” in an attempt to antagonize relations between communities and consolidate the Hindu vote.

via. First Post

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) attempts at re-writing Dalit history has drawn sharp criticism from scholars and activists.

As part of its efforts to aggressively push the Hindu nationalist agenda and consolidate the Hindu vote, the RSS has sought to introduce communal overtones to the origins of caste in a never-before-heard-of take on Dalit history.

In three recently released books on the subject, top RSS leaders have held foreign invaders responsible for the emergence of certain castes. The books, authored by BJP spokesperson Vijay Sonkar Shastri, were released earlier this month by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. RSS leaders have written the preface for all three books.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, top RSS leader Bhaiyyaji Joshi states in the preface to one of the books, “To violate Hindu swabhiman (dignity) of Chanwarvanshiya Kshatriyas, foreign invaders from Arab, Muslim rulers and beef-eaters, forced them to do abominable works like killing cows, skinning them and throwing their carcasses in deserted places. Foreign invaders thus created a caste of charma-karma (dealing with skin) by giving such works as punishment to proud Hindu prisoners.”

Criticising the RSS for pushing a communal agenda with historically unsubstantiated claims, Dalit scholar associated with the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Dilip G Diwakar, said “This is an unnecessary reactionary move by the RSS that is aimed to create antagonism between Hindus and Muslims. It is not merely a caste comment per se. This argument that is being made by the RSS is a very communal one.”

Having played a crucial role in the BJP’s stunning Lok Sabha performance, the RSS has been aggressively pushing its Hindu nationalist agenda. Recent headline-grabbing statements by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat calling on Hindus to unite and pitching India as Hindu nation have been interpreted as attempts to further consolidate the Hindu vote.

Asked if he saw efforts to rewrite Dalit history as an attempt in that direction, Diwakar said, “Of course. As long as Dalits see themselves as separate from the upper caste, consolidation cannot happen. One, the RSS wants to consolidate the Hindus and two, they want to create antagonism between the lower-castes and the Muslim community, which will indirectly benefit the consolidation process.”

The move also drew strong reactions from Dalit activists.

Read the entire article…

Why Eric Pickles’ letter to mosques was right and wrong

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 January, 2015 - 19:00
The communities secretary was right in thinking that an evolutionary process of cohesion is underway. But he was wrong in thinking he was the man to address the problem

This won’t trip off the tongue, but here is where Eric Pickles – communities secretary and the man who holds the glue to keep the many strands of society in place – was in the right ball park. When he sent that now infamous letter to mosques, telling Muslims they really ought to stop the terrorism – presumably using brown-skinned Kingsman-style superhero operatives – he also referenced the “challenges of integration and radicalisation”.

I have long felt that, as part of the national journey, we will eventually arrive at some hybrid, widely accepted British/Muslim construct. Widely accepted in the sense that it is not just a formulation Muslim communities feel is theirs, but also a compromise that other communities feel comfortable with – enough for cohesion to take place.

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Review: The Theory of Everything

Indigo Jo Blogs - 25 January, 2015 - 18:23

Picture of a young man and woman playing croquet on a lawn outside a grand stone buildingThe Theory of Everything is a bio-pic of Professor Stephen Hawking, the British professor of theoretical physics and former Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge university, who is best-known for his book A Brief History of Time and for being one of the world’s most famous severely disabled people. It tells the story of his life from his days as a graduate student in Cambridge, his romance and marriage to Jane Wilde Hawking, a professor of Romance languages on whose book Travelling to Inifinity the film is based, up to just after the publication of Brief History and his divorce from Jane. It stars Eddie Redmayne as Prof Hawking and Felicity Jones, previously best known for roles in The Worst Witch, Like Crazy and the BBC radio soap The Archers, as Jane.

I’d give this film 3 out of 5. That’s because it’s a very well-made costume drama — exactly the sort of thing the British drama industry does so well. There has been some criticism of the dominance of public-school products in the British arts recently and Eddie Redmayne, who went to Eton and then Trinity College in Cambridge, is one (although Jones went to a state girls’ school in Birmingham, though then to Oxford), but he is well cast in this role. He at least looks like Prof Hawking. I don’t think Felicity Jones looks much like Jane Hawking, though — there’s a page here which shows the real faces next to the “reel faces” — and none of the other characters looks much like their real counterpart. They’ve got the race and the sex right, but that’s about it. (I saw clips from a film called The Brooke Ellison Story, about a quadriplegic woman who went to Harvard and became a major advocate for stem-cell research in the USA, and for all the resemblance the actress bore to the real Brooke Ellison, they might as well have cast Whoopi Goldberg.)

The film’s a typical modern British costume drama. It’s set from the 60s to the 80s, mostly in Cambridge, mostly among nice middle-class Brits. Full of slightly scruffy but well-spoken men and very ladylike ladies. You hardly see a woman in a pair of trousers in this whole film. (Jane wears one to a holiday in the country, but it was a very dressy blue pair of trousers, which I suspect she’d not have wanted to get ruined by wearing it up muddy tracks.) If this film were fiction, it would be a very good bit of fiction — it’s a nice little tear-jerker and a film which doesn’t have stereotypical heroes or villains. But it isn’t fiction, or at least isn’t meant to be; it’s based on the life of a real person, yet a number of details throughout the film have been altered and while some of these are minor, there are quite a few big changes, and the story of how Stephen and Jane’s marriage ended is somewhat sanitised in Stephen’s and his new wife Elaine’s favour. The film over-emphasises Elaine’s role, depicting her as being the nurse that was finally able to get Stephen to communicate and to breathe a spark of life back into him, which Jane could not; in fact, she was one of several nurses hired after he lost his ability to speak, and Jane was quite good at communicating with the alphabet frame. I must say, it didn’t make me all that sympathetic to Stephen Hawking; I saw her as exploitative, and wondered how Stephen could ditch Jane, who was still beautiful (as you’d expect as she was played by an actress some fifteen years younger than Jane Hawking was at the time) and had borne his three children (you wouldn’t notice the signs of that on Jones either).

The film compresses too much into too little time. It glosses over too much. It doesn’t have much depth about the onset of Hawking’s impairment, nor about his science. It boils the science down to two or three of his papers, the ones that made the headlines, yet his role as a professor of mathematics and of teaching doctoral students over the years aren’t mentioned. I found the depiction of how he got his diagnosis improbable; it seemed from the film that the investigations that led to his diagnosis of motor neurone disease occurred after he fell and banged his head in a Cambridge courtyard, something which surely would not prompt that kind of investigation (in any case, it is one of the film’s many liberties with the facts). Jane Wilde’s book mentions that Hawking obstinately refused to get a full-time carer in as his condition took hold, even requiring his 9-year-old son to help him in the toilet; this was barely touched on in the film. I did think Jones’s performance reflects Jane’s frustration with her life with Stephen, in particular the demands his condition and his refusal to get help placed on her.

There is a scene towards the end where Prof Hawking is delivering a lecture in the USA, after he has left Jane and embarked on his relationship with Elaine Mason, where he sees a woman drop a pen in the audience, and it shows to him rising to his feet and giving it back to her, and then returning to his wheelchair. Of course, this is a fantasy, and it is not clear whether this is something Hawking said he fantasised about doing or wished he could have done at the time, or whether it is just the invention of the scriptwriters. Disabled film critic Scott Jordan Harris notes that this film “flickers weakly with truisms that can be mistaken for insight only by people who are not disabled, because it was made by—and for—people who are not disabled”, and this particular scene gives Eddie Redmayne the opportunity to jump out of his convincing portrayal of disability just for a moment. Myself, I think the scene should be judged on whether it comes from Hawking’s account or not; if it does, it no doubt reflects something that many physically impaired people (particularly those as severely impaired as he is) have experienced at one time or another. If not, it’s dishonest, unnecessary, highly unoriginal and quite unrepresentative of Hawking’s attitude throughout the rest of the film. I should add that while the film does show Hawking and his friends overcoming obstacles in their way, none of them are presented in such a way that it resembles an injustice. It’s not a campaigning film at all.

Despite being two hours long, the film really does not do the story justice. It could have been better done as a three-part TV series, but then, it would not have had the global reach and been nominated for Oscars. It’s a very well-made costume drama, but reading about all the liberties the team took with the story rather ruined it for me after it ended. It would be a fairly good film if it were fiction — but it’s not.

Possibly Related Posts:

MuslimKidsMatter | Finding Balance

Muslim Matters - 25 January, 2015 - 17:00

Finding Balance

by Ahmed Rab

As a Muslim medical student in America, I believe a fundamental goal is finding a balance between our personal, academic, and religious goals. We often are taught to be the 'best' at whatever we do, yet it requires a certain level of discipline. This discipline requires careful planning and scheduling. For me, I have found the most beneficial days are those in which I am able to make my prayers on time. While we are often busy with class, homework, and extracurriculars, by revolving our days around salah, we are able to make sure we increase the Baraqa in all that we do. It was narrated that Abdullah bin Masood (RA) said: I asked Allah's Messenger (PBUH), “Which action is most beloved to Allah?” He said, “Establishing prayer on time, honoring one's parents and Jihad in the cause of Allah.” (Hadith No. 612, Sunan An-Nasa'i). There are many moments in which courses, labs, and other events conflict with our prayer times. I have found that teachers and professors are extremely receptive to religious obligations if we take the time to explain the importance beforehand and work out a schedule with them. For example, I have been able to make up 'mandatory' class in order to attend Jumu‘ah on Fridays. Open communication and dialogue with faculty is crucial for increasing awareness and dialogue in having our peers and teachers understand our individual identities.

To be a 'good' Muslim in modern society is quite a struggle. I have found that my peers and I often have a diverging idea of what to do for 'fun'. It is incredibly important to be firm in one's beliefs so as to help others understand what you are allowed and not allowed to do. By being confident and open about your values, people are more receptive to understand where you come from and why you practice what you do. It has been a blessing for me to make friends who are kind-hearted and share similar values, even if we do not share the same faith. At the core of it all, respect, compassion, and humanity are all universal ideas that are valuable in all cultures.

Though our schedules are often packed with work, finding time to give back helps add meaning to our monotonous daily tasks. Being successful alone has little meaning if we don't share our time and blessings with those in our community. The Prophet (S) said, “Whoever relieves a believer's distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter.” (Reported in Muslim). Community service is a vital component to finding the balance between all that is on our plates. There are multiple ways one can give back and it doesn't have to be time consuming. Helping out at local Majid events, teaching others beneficial knowledge, and volunteering at local shelters/food banks require only a few hours, yet make tangible differences to improve the lives of those around us. At the basic core, treating others with respect and smiling can be an act of charity if done so with the right intention.

These times are challenging, and being Muslim in America requires us to represent our faith in the best light that we can. Our character and good behavior will be the imprints and impressions that our neighbors in our communities will have of us. Finding balance and being patient with those around us is incredibly important as we get older. The feeling of being overwhelmed is something I have experienced along with many of my close friends. It is imperative to work on our goals each day and not lose sight of the bigger picture. While we can never obtain perfection, striving to do so will only bring us closer to it. In the Qur'an it is stated, “…And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” (65:2-3). So when we feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to know that Allah (SWT) will provide for us a way out as long as we rely on Him and make sincere du'a and work towards our goals. May we all find benefit in our time and perfect balance in all that we do insha'Allah.

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Police search for man who attempted to burn down Toowoomba mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 January, 2015 - 01:28

Investigators are looking at CCTV footage after man broke in, turned on gas and left fire burning inside bin in attempt to torch building

Queensland police have launched an arson investigation and are examining security camera footage of a man who they say attempted to burn down a mosque in Toowoomba.

The investigation was launched after a suspicious fire at the mosque on West Street in Harristown. Police say it appears someone lit a fire in a plastic bin after they forced entry to a wooden building next to the building, just after 1pm on Saturday.

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Lady Warsi launches bitter assault on coalition strategy towards Muslims

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 January, 2015 - 00:37

Former Tory chair targets Michael Gove for criticism and says failure to engage with the community ‘has fuelled resentment’

Lady Warsi: Muslims will speak up for British values only when they know they will be heard

Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism.

In her first major intervention on the relationship between Muslims and the rest of society since she resigned from the cabinet five months ago, Warsi says the coalition’s policy of non-engagement has caused deep unease and resentment towards the government.

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The secret world of Isis training camps – ruled by sacred texts and the sword

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 January, 2015 - 00:04
We reveal how the terror group recruits and retains its members through zealotry, rhetoric and obscure theology

Hamid Ghannam’s first day at an Islamic State (Isis) training camp was intense. Very early on the morning of 13 August, he picked up his packed clothes and walked quickly to the main street in his village to meet three of his cousins. As with many of Isis’s young members, he did so without informing his parents.

The cousins drove in a white minibus to an Isis camp at the Omar oilfield in the desert of Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria. The recruiter, a distant relative who had enlisted around eight others from his village since he was put in charge of its security, accompanied the three to their new lodging, where they would spend the next few weeks.

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Muslims will speak up for British values only when they know they will be heard

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 January, 2015 - 21:40

Former Tory chairwoman accuses government she served of undermining the fight against religious extremism

Lady Warsi launches bitter assault on coalition strategy towards Muslims

There has been much controversy over the letter from the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, and Lord Ahmad to more than 1,000 mosques. The Muslim Council of Britain appeared to react most negatively, criticising Eric for what they saw as his suggestion that somehow British Muslims were “inherently apart from British society”. But disquiet about the letter was much more widespread.

I’m more inclined to agree with the columnist Matthew d’Ancona, who described the letter as not so much a hand raised in warning as a hand stretched out in partnership. The letter contains some profoundly positive and inclusive sentiments, among them that “British values are Muslim values” and that Britain is a better place because of “its strong Muslim communities”.

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