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Police chief condemns appointment of terror officer over 'Islamic schools plot'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 April, 2014 - 12:53
West Midlands police chief Chris Sims says appointment of Peter Clarke could stir up community tensions in Birmingham

The chief constable of West Midlands police has condemned as "desperately unfortunate" the appointment of an anti-terror officer to investigate allegations of Islamic fundamentalists infiltrating schools in Birmingham.

Peter Clarke, who served as the head of the Metropolitan police's counter-terrorism unit, has been made an education commissioner by Michael Gove, the education secretary, the Department for Education (DfE) said on Monday.

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Pork is the latest front in Europe's culture wars | Gavan Titley

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 April, 2014 - 08:30
The far right is fixated on pork and is using it as an excuse to target yet another aspect of Muslim life

Following its significant gains in last month's local elections, the French Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, swiftly announced that school cafeterias would no longer serve non-pork substitution meals to children living in towns won by FN candidates. Targeting Muslims for another ritual round of public humiliation, while also excluding Jewish children, Le Pen declared: "There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere."

While Le Pen framed this fixation on the dietary requirements of her fellow citizens as a defence of state secularism, the FN mayor of the south-western town of Arveyres, Benoit Gheysens, suggested the move was simply to cut costs and to prevent "staff being distressed" by excessive food waste. This mix of environmental concern and secular commitment illustrates just how eclectic the far right can be in its defence of order, and Le Pen's conversion to republican values is shaped by this strategic elasticity.

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Islamic centre under second ‘hate’ attack

Loon Watch - 14 April, 2014 - 21:13

ISLAMIC LIBRARY ATTACK CANBERRA Islamic centre under second ‘hate’ attack

(SBS.com)

Operators of Australia’s biggest Islamic centre have appealed for better police protection, after an attack that has caused extensive damage.

Vandals are believed to have spent several hours inside the Canberra Islamic Centre and National Islamic Library on the weekend, smashing glassware, pushing over shelving, and spraying graffiti on the walls.

President Azra Khan says the attack – the second in less than two weeks – appears to have been motivated by a hatred of Muslims.

She told Santilla Chingaipe the full extent of the damage hasn’t yet been assessed, but it’s unlikely to be fully covered by insurance.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

Oral Traditions in Islam and Judaism

Loon Watch - 14 April, 2014 - 18:52

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Original Guest Post

by JustStoppingBy

Both Judaism and Islam rely on oral traditions that explain and put texts into context and can help counter misperceptions of the religions.

One of the sources of Islamophobia and Judeophobia is the selective quoting of religious passages that, either taken out of their literal context or without the context of how they have been interpreted, suggest that the adherents of Islam and Judaism repeat and harbor seemingly harsh views.  When the literal context is missing, sometimes just referring to the preceding or following verses is sufficient to counter any misconceptions and let a stereotype go.  In other instances, the religions’ oral traditions may help elucidate how adherents read those verses.

As Passover approaches, I want to highlight two well-known (at least among Jews) portions of the Jewish oral tradition that appear at the Passover seder and how, in broad terms, they relate to some well-known portions of the Islamic oral tradition because they are used by adherents to help put other texts into context.  The Passover seder relates the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.  Within the story, there is a listing of the ten plagues with which the Egyptians were smitten.  As each plague is recited, Jews either spill a drop of wine or use a finger (more traditionally) or utensil to take a drop of wine from their cup and discard it on a plate or napkin.  It is not clear how far back the common explanation for this ritual goes, though it is at least as far as Rabbi Yitzhak Ben Yehuda Abarbanel, or Don Isaac Abarbanel. (1437-1508) who wrote, “The custom is to drip drops of wine out of the cup when counting the plagues to indicate that our joy is not whole because on our account an entire people was punished. Even though the enemy deserved that defeat, it does not cause us real joy.”

My guess is that the explanation, if not the tradition itself, developed over time.  A likely reason is that Jews saw a “difficult text,” or one that can have multiple interpretations, and wished to emphasize the interpretations that resonated with their view of their religion’s morality.  A similar portion of oral history that works its way into many seders  is a midrash, or interpretation of the Torah, found in the Talmud that describes what was happening in Heaven as the Red Sea closed over the Egyptian army that was pursuing the Children of Israel: “The ministering angels wanted to chant their hymns, but the Holy One, blessed be He, said, The work of my hands is being drowned in the sea, and shall you chant hymns?”  As is the case with many midrashim, some Jews take this as a literal revelation and others as a story made up later to provide a moral lesson.  For my purposes here, it does not matter which it is.  Rather, what matters is that hundreds of years after this midrash was first recorded, Jews find it worthwhile to retell every year because it provides context for our understanding of an important Jewish text.

Turning to Islam, I would like to highlight a few portions of its oral history.  One I take from an essay by Imam Shamsi Ali, who writes, “Our oral history records Muhammad’s last sermon as containing the following guidance: ‘Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another.  No one has any right, nor any preference to claim over another.  You are brothers.’”   I chose this quote not because of its meaning, but because of how Imam Shamsi Ali explicitly ties it to the oral history.  Still, an Internet search shows that this is indeed a popular quote, appearing in numerous locations.  That should not be surprising given that it is the type of quote that should resonate with Muslims when thinking about the moral messages provided by Islam, with the equality of human beings being one of those messages.

A second piece of the Muslim oral tradition was cited by Arsalan Iftikhar in his interview with Loonwatch: “…we should be reminded of a well-known Islamic parable that tells the story of the Prophet Mohammed and his interactions with an unruly female neighbor, who would curse him violently and then dump garbage on him from her top window each time he walked by her house. One day, the prophet noticed that the woman was not there. In the spirit of true kindness, he went out of his way to inquire about her well-being. He then went on to visit his unfriendly neighbor at her bedside when he found that she had fallen seriously ill.”  This is indeed a well-known parable, found frequently on the web, including in comments at Loonwatch.

But, here is one potentially surprising thing about this particular story: it is not clear that it is authentic.  While there are similar stories, some investigations of this particular one have yielded results such as “I have not found a basis for this specific incident in the books of hadeeth or reliable works of prophetic biography, and it seems as though this story has become popular on the tongues of people without any source to support it, and Allah knows best” as well as “although the record of this particular incident is found in almost all the books of ‘Seerah’ or biography of the Prophet (saws) and is oft-repeated by the Muslims, to the best of our knowledge there is no record of this specific incident in any of the authentic and established Books of Sunnah. And Allah Alone Knows Best.”  As with the midrash on the angels preparing to rejoice, for my purposes it does not matter if this story is authentic.  The fact that this story is so popular even without it being found in what may be called the reliable or authentic hadith or Books of Sunnah only strengthens the point that Muslims repeat this story not because they are “forced” to because it is part of canonical literature that must be repeated, but, rather, they repeat it because its message resonates with their view of the morality of Islam.

Another reason that I chose the quotation provided from Imam Shamsi Ali is the further observation provided by his co-author, Rabbi Marc Schneier, in one of his essays in the same book.  Rabbi Schneier writes, “Most Jews and most Muslims, however, are simply unaware of the good news that the other side has an oral tradition that moderates the sometimes harsh language of the written law.  The ignorance among the majority in both faiths allows the demagogic purveyors of hate to peddle their poison virtually unchallenged.”

Compare this with a statement by one such demagogic purveyor of hate, Deacon Robert Spencer, who has written, “Rabbinic Judaism ever since the destruction of the Temple had evolved non-literal ways to understand such commands, while in Islam such literal interpretation is still very much alive.”  In fact, Spencer is misleadingly inaccurate on both counts: Judaism had evolved non-literal ways of interpreting “problem texts” before the destruction of the Temple, and there are both literal and non-literal interpretations of “problem texts” very much alive in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.   It is the latter point, however, that is the more important.  By suggesting solely that there are literal interpretations of “problem texts” in Islam, Spencer hides the existence of similar interpretations in Judaism and Christianity as well as the many Muslims who highlight stories such as Muhammad’s concern for a woman who would throw trash on him (whether the story is literally true or not) as a lens through which they interpret any texts that could be read to call for retaliation for aggressive acts.  As Imam Shamsi Ali writes in one essay, “The guidance found in scripture is not meant to be taken only literally.  … Our stance is that though the Qur’an is sometimes exact, to extrapolate the wisdom in its passages, we need not see the texts as simply static, literal words.”

Strikingly, the Qur’an has no problem citing Jewish Oral Law.  “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” Qur’an 5:32.  The reference may be to Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 (“Therefore was the first man, Adam, created alone, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life, the Bible considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Bible considers it as if he saved an entire world. Furthermore, only one man, Adam, was created for the sake of peace among men, so that no one should say to his fellow, ‘My father was greater than yours…’”) or potentially other similar references such as Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a).  Whether one  believes an Islamic interpretation that Qur’an 5:32 was revealed to Muhammad, or a secular one that the ayah  repeats something that Muhammad heard, this ayah shows a continuity of belief and a tie between the oral Jewish tradition (which by that point had been written down) and written Muslim tradition.

Yet for some “demagogic purveyors of hate,” as Rabbi Schneier calls them, this is not a sign that Muslims view the Qur’an as part of a continuous revelation sometimes referencing Jewish and Christian scriptures.  Instead, these Islamophobes claim to “find further proof of plagiarism of apocryphal Jewish literature; this time in the Jewish Mishnah Sanhedrin” or title a section of an anti-Islam screed “Plagiarism in Quran,” citing the same passages.   If only the Qur’an had managed to avoid the charge of plagiarism by introducing the text by saying something like “We decreed upon the Children of Israel.”  Oh wait, it did!  Presumably, the demagogic purveyors of hate would not be satisfied with anything short of a footnote and embedded hyperlink in the text when it was compiled over 1300 years ago.

Certain Islamophobes who accuse the Qur’an of plagiarism in this verse, despite the explicit reference to a decree to the Children of Israel, seem less concerned with how Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:12 (“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”) does not reference Tobit 7:15 (“And what you hate, do not do to anyone”) or a well-known (among Jews) saying of Hillel the Elder (traditionally c. 110 BCE, died 7 CE): “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”  One notable demagogic purveyor of hate, Ali Sina, has written, “There is nothing in the Quran and Hadith that would make us believe that Islam is compatible with the Golden Rule.”  Actually, Wikipedia provides a dozen quotes from the Qur’an and Hadith that are variants of the Golden Rule.  The one that struck me the most was one that echoed Hillel: “A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: ‘As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them. Now let the stirrup go! [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]’ —Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146.”

All three of the Abrahamic faiths thus not only cite the Golden Rule in some form, but have traditions citing it as a maxim that sums up the morality of their religious texts or beliefs.  It is only by being selective in what they cite from the written and oral traditions that the demagogic purveyors of hate could hope to obscure this commonality.   Instead, it is worth taking the time to review the full range of the traditions of each religion, notably those cited repeatedly by their adherents because they resonate with their view of their religion’s morality.  And then, it is time to let the stereotype, and the stirrup, go.

NASA’s Tahani Amer: Amazing Muslim American Woman

Loon Watch - 13 April, 2014 - 01:07

Tahani_Amer Tahani Amer

(NASA)

I have always strived to live by three simple principles: Please God and you will please all. Education is the key to opportunity. Serve others with compassion and kindness.

If one thinks about these principles, it is very simple. You have general guidance about values and ethics from God and his books, self-determination by education, and a sense of social responsibility.

I planned on going to medical school in Cairo, Egypt, but I changed my major to engineering before starting college because of my life choices. I married at age 17 and moved to the United States.

Math was, and is, my favorite subject. I recognized early on that math provided an opportunity to find new methods for solving problems by using math models. When I came to the U.S.A. in 1983 and took my first calculus class, I could not speak a word in English, but I still made an A in the course. It was then that I knew an engineering career would be an awarding one.

I obtained a two-year associate degree in science while taking care of two lovely children. Then, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and went on to earn my master’s in aerospace engineering. Recently, I earned my doctoral in engineering.

I believe that NASA is a soft ‘pillow’ that allows you to dream of the impossible and then work hard to make it a reality. In 1992, during my senior year of college, I started working at NASA on the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) project. By working on this project, I gained valuable experience and fulfilled my dream to work with scientists and researchers solving real-life problems! It was a privilege to work with state-of-the-art technology and with researchers who love their work. Then, I earned the opportunity to work in one of NASA’s wind tunnels to conduct pressure and thermal sensitive paint experiments for NASA’s Aeronautic Research efforts. This proved to be a valuable experience from both a theoretical and practical point of view. I experienced the excitement of working with large CFD computer codes and climbing up the ceiling of a wind tunnel to install a velocity probe. It was great; I was like a little girl in the ‘candy store’ of NASA.  Everything seemed possible.

Working at NASA is never boring. I invented and patented a system to measure the thermal conductivity of a thin film. This measurement is used in the thermal modeling of several techniques for determining boundary layer transition location on models being tested in wind tunnels. Currently, I contribute to NASA’s independent assessment process of the Agency’s Programs and Projects by working as a member of the Independent Program Assessment Office (IPAO), part of the Agency’s Office of Evaluation. I work very hard to skillfully execute my assignments and demonstrate managerial skills.

I strive to help and educate others by volunteering my time in community service through NASA programs, such as the “Day of Caring”, Engineering Week, the Speakers Bureau, Diversity Day, and after school science clubs. I spoke on the topic of Women in Islam during the Peace week at Old Dominion University in 2011, and I was a guest speaker at the Annual Luncheon for the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) to state representatives, university presidents, and new students. I also chaired the Applied Science Session for the VSGC and the IPAO NASA Program Management Challenge 2011. My profile is included on one of the NASA Posters for outreach activity for Woman in Aerospace and in a college calculus book.

I am also involved in mosque programs for teaching Islamic rules and Arabic to young children. After September 11, I contributed to my community in Hampton Roads, Va., by helping to educate and fill the gap that many Americans have in understanding the religion of Islam. I have given lectures in many churches, universities, and local school systems. I was even interviewed by the local newspaper on this topic.

By living according to the aforementioned three principles, I try to set a daily standard to challenge myself. In the same way, I challenge myself by my work with NASA, stretching my understanding and seeking to improve myself and others through helping a great organization that is NASA.

When Neo-Cons And Liberals Unite: The Case of Anti-Muslim Crusader Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Loon Watch - 13 April, 2014 - 00:48

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By Garibaldi

For far too long Liberal and Neo-Con supporters of Ayaan Hirsi Ali have either ignored, evaded, denied or flat out refused to acknowledge the existence of her hateful beliefs and agenda. One likely reason is that they have spent years promoting Ayaan in every conceivable way and instead of facing the reality of her philosophy, and the implications of her proposed policy solutions to the so-called “Muslim problem,” they have chosen to bury their heads in the sand.

The recent controversy over Brandeis University first awarding and then withdrawing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “honorary degree” has demasked a lot of individuals who proclaim that they are about “equality,” “rationality,” “fairness,” “acceptance,” “freedom,” and against “violence” and “hatred.”

Take prominent Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, who, as RazaInc. brought to our attention, used his perch as a respectable academic to rally support behind Ayaan and vilify Brandeis’ decision:

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Michael Sherman, editor of the Scientific American had the blind audacity to compare Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Martin Luther King, Jr.! Comparing a preacher of non-violent peaceful civil disobedience to an individual who advocates militarily “crushing Islam.” The irony!

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFrF), an avowed secularists/atheists organization that has in the past awarded Ayaan Hirsi Ali its “Emperor has no clothes award,” (looks like FFrF actually has no clothes) came to Ayaan’s defense. FFrF uncritically parroted the lies Ayaan Hirsi Ali has propagated about much of her personal biography and called on its supporters to tell Brandeis to “apologize and re-offer its honorary degree.”

Sectarian New Atheists of all political bents from the libertarian Neo-Con Sam Harris to liberals such as Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher have in the past happily trotted out Ayaan Hirsi Ali as their tokenized anti-Muslim heroine. Of course they weren’t going to allow for any criticism of their pal, and like clockwork they were backing her up:

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So what company do these Atheist academics, institutions, Neo-Cons and Liberals find themselves in? Islamophobes. Such as the banned from the UK Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller and extreme right news outlets like Breitbart (whose journalist Pat Dullard called for “massacring Muslims in the street”), Right-Wing News, Human Events, etc.

For her part, Ayaan Hirsi Ali did not engage the substantive criticism of students, faculty and others who called her out on her anti-Muslim invective. Instead she falsely, and with her characteristic bigotry suggests that Brandeis’ withdrawal was motivated by fear of violence from offended Muslims.

The poverty of mainstream journalism has also been exposed, as most, if not all major newspapers and media outlets continue to falsely describe Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a “critic of Islam.”

Brandeis students nix Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali. What a pity.–Los Angeles Times
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Victim of an honor killing, Brandeis-style–Fox News
Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Critic of Islam–The New York Times
Brandeis withdraws honor to activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islam–Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Tablet Gives Moses Award to Ayaan Hirsi Ali–Tablet Magazine (Interestingly as Matt Berkman notes “Your parenthetical claim that you upheld the same principle when Rashid Khalidi and John Judis were disinvited is disingenuous. What you actually did was say that disinviting people is ‘heavy-handed and inelegant,’ and then went on to argue that critics of Israel should not be allowed to speak in Jewish venues to begin with (quote: ‘To argue that only an openness to all points of view is acceptable… is to adhere to the most flightless form of relativism’”))
Brandeis, Unlike Hirsi Ali, Surrendered to Intimidation–National Review Online
Brandeis won’t give honorary degree to Islam critic–Boston Globe
Under fire, Brandeis cancels plan to honor anti-Islam feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali–Christian Science Monitor
Brandeis Scraps Honor for Dutch Anti-Islam Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali–Jewish Daily Forward
Human Rights Activist Slams University’s ‘Deplorable’ Move to Withdraw Honorary Degree Because of Her Critical Comments About Islam–The Blaze
Brandeis Backtracks on Honor for Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Critic of Islam–The Wall Street Journal

Ayaan supporters like Steven Pinker, Michael Sherman, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Freedom From Religion Foundation, David Silverman, Atheists of America, mainstream newspapers and media outlets that describe Ayaan as an “Islam critic” and “feminist” need to stop abetting mendacious lies, be honest and answer the following questions:

-Do you believe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali does, that “we are at war with Islam?

-Do you believe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali does, that “Islam must be crushed,” in “all forms,” including “militarily?”

-Do you believe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali does, that the US Constitution should be changed specifically to discriminate against Muslims, strip them of their civil rights? “Abolish Muslim schools?”

-Do you believe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali does, that the veil should be banned in France and minarets in Switzerland?

-Do you believe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali does, that the “silence of the Left-wing” is responsible for the heinous mass murders by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik (who thought Ayaan deserved a “Noble Prize”)?

-Do you believe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali does, that Atheists and Christians must get “into the business of conversion?

These are only a few of the questions that supporters of Ayaan must answer or they are complicit in her beliefs and stand accused of their silence being their assent.

The last point I want to revisit is that there is an assumption by Neo-Con and Liberal supporters of Ayaan that she is a “women’s rights” activist and champion. What exactly has she done for women’s rights? Who has she helped?

The truth is that Ayaan actually uses serious issues around injustices in the Muslim world to promote herself (much like Clarion Fund has done with Honor Diaries). Her supporters see a self-affirming image, one that validates their beliefs: atheism, the backwardness, barbarity and danger of Islam and Muslims.

As Muslim/Islam haters continue to blindly support Ayaan’s hate-filled rhetoric, heroic Muslim women and their allies (including, gasp! many Muslim men) will continue to challenge the injustices before them in their nations and locales. Whether it is the work of Ifrah Ahmed to end FGMAsma Hanif of Muslimat an Nisa‘s work with homeless and battered women, or organizations like BAOBAB in Nigeria that promote women’s rights from within a customary, statutory and religious law paradigm.

Also read:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an Islamophobe who hates all muslims

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Challenge of Progressive Critique

Islamismism: Hirsi, Berman and Ramadan on Islam

CoE Report Confirms Concerns About Islamophobia in Denmark

Loon Watch - 11 April, 2014 - 22:43

denmark3 CoE report confirms concerns about Islamophobia in Denmark

(Today’s Zaman)

The report, published March 24, is based on the examinations of Nils Muiznieks, commissioner for human rights of the CoE, during his visit to Denmark in November of last year. Muiznieks concluded that the high prevalence of racist and stigmatizing speech being used against Muslims in political life and in the media is a very problematic issue in Denmark.

In the report, Muiznieks also focuses on issues regarding human rights of asylum-seekers and immigrants, with a particular emphasis on the rights of children as well as those of people with disabilities.

“The commissioner encourages the Danish authorities to step up their efforts to combat hate speech, and in particular Islamophobia, which continues to be widespread in public and political debate. He particularly urges the authorities to condemn firmly and unequivocally all instances of racist and xenophobic political discourse,” states the report.

Danish media contribute to a skewed picture of Muslims

There is a diverse range of debates in Denmark on what makes up Danish identity — from whether or not to allow halal meats at schools or whether to allow cashiers to wear headscarves to questioning a Danish boy of Moroccan descent winning Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, an annual music competition that determines the country’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest. These debates have one common factor: not being Danish enough

Giving these types of incidents, one may think that it is no surprise Muiznieks found widespread debates that are particularly Islamophobic even though some political parties have criticized the report to be “thin” and not very comprehensive.

Brian Arly Jacobsen, assistant professor in sociology of religion from Copenhagen University, agrees that the Danish media and the political debates contribute to a skewed picture of Muslims in Denmark. Jacobsen, who also specializes in how Muslims and Islam are portrayed in Danish politics, does recognize the problematic issue regarding the portrayal of Muslims in the media. However, he adds that depending on whom you ask there will be different opinions on the issue.

“What does it mean to be Islamophobic? There are tendencies, sure, but how can one define Islamophobic?” Jacobsen told Sunday’s Zaman, adding “The problem is that the political debates and the media contribute to a skewed picture of Muslims that have consequences for Danish society as the picture portrayed is often associated with conflicts — and this problem is exactly the generalization of Islamophobia that Muiznieks refers to.”

Generalization is widespread

Özlem Cecik, a Danish politician of Kurdish descent from Turkey, argues there are particular types of rhetoric being used in political and public debates in Denmark that may be thought-provoking, but she doesn’t agree that the debates are Islamophobic.

Cecik told Sunday’s Zaman: “Nuances have disappeared in the political debate; generalization is widespread and herein lies the problem. For example, if there is a criminal called Brian, we try to understand why he became a criminal and help him. However, if the boy is called Muhammad, then the standard response is that it’s a cultural problem. Instead of focusing on how we can help, we start by thinking of it as a cultural or religious problem. We don’t address it as a social issue, such as educational or health-related issues.

“Unfortunately, there is a greater focus on culture or religion, which distracts us from the real problems. Setting fire to containers is not a traditional feature of Turkish or Kurdish culture, so there must be more to the problem and often it is social issues, such as lack of education, that we should look to.”

Reading Danish news, it is not hard to find a harsh tone and attitude towards Muslims. For example, a column headed “Islam is our civilization’s greatest threat” in the Danish newspaper, Politiken, on March 2, written by Soren Espersen, a politician from the Danish People’s Party, may encourage fear-mongering.

For Cecik, this type of rhetoric is used to stoke fears and sabotages any constructive dialogue. She believes it is always easier to engage in politics by stirring up hostility toward another group of people, adding: “This is a populist approach. Societal groups which do this are fear-mongering.”

Muiznieks has also noted the harsh tone used in the media and politics towards Muslims and writes in the report: “Several of the commissioner’s interlocutors have indicated that the focus of stigmatizing media and political debate has shifted from color and ethnicity to religion and culture, with Muslims and Islam being at the center of this shift. Terminology frequently used to refer to Islam includes words such as ‘barbaric,’ ‘tyrannical,’ ‘fundamentalist’ and Muslim men have frequently been portrayed as violent and rapists.”

As a consequence, the anti-Islamic approach has eventually led to tightening immigration requirements for non-Westerners, making Denmark one of the countries in the EU with some of the tightest immigration regulations.

“Some people are concerned as to whether Sharia [strict Islamic] law will be implemented in Denmark or not… However, it is unrealistic to think that Sharia law will be implemented in a democratic country like Denmark,” said Cecik

There is a different side to the problem

Rushy Rashid Hojbjerg, a Pakistani-descended Danish journalist and radio host at Radio24syv who has been working in media for 15 years, told Sunday’s Zaman that she recognizes that even though there is a great focus on Islam and ethnicity in the media, it does not necessarily mean that every time Islam gets mentioned it is a case of Islamophobia.

“The media often goes for negative stories because that’s where the conflict lies. As a radio host at my program, I am told that I should also feature more success stories; I don’t make two hours covering success stories, but I interview people of various ethnicities and make them talk politics, social injustice, Islam and so many other topics. The main goal of the program is to give a more nuanced picture,” Hojbjerg noted.

Speaking with Sunday’s Zaman, Jens Stensgaard Jakobsen, an editor for the Danish cross-cultural paper Opinionen, agrees that the Danish debates in the media are not Islamphobic, adding: “If you look back at the 2000s, articles regarding Islam and immigration were published up to three times more than today, but now the focus has been taken away from that. Rather, there is a problem with good journalism. As a journalist, I see the problem lies within the lack of multi-cultural journalists who, with their different cultural insight, can contribute to a more nuanced debate. A lot of the big news agencies do not often have skilled journalists with solid resources. The lack of insightful reporting may be the problem…The big newspapers have to remember that their readers also include Danes with multicultural backgrounds now.”

Shia’ Cleric in Unprecedented Symbolic Gesture to Bahai’s: Calls For Co-existence And An End to Persecution

Loon Watch - 11 April, 2014 - 19:09

Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani perfecting an illuminated work of calligraphy. The words used in this piece are from the writings of Baha'u'llah.

Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani perfecting an illuminated work of calligraphy. The words used in this piece are from the writings of Baha’u'llah.

A beautifully illuminated piece of artwork that hopefully will herald greater freedom for Bahais and co-existence and friendship between Iranians. (h/t: Fazl)

In an unprecedented symbolic act senior cleric calls for religious co-existence in Iran

NEW YORK — In a symbolic and unprecedented move, Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran, announced today that he has gifted to the Baha’is of the world an illuminated work of calligraphy of a paragraph from the writings of Baha’u'llah, the Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.

This move comes in the wake of several recent statements by religious scholars in the Muslim world who have set out alternative interpretations of the teachings of Islam in which tolerance of every religion is, in fact, upheld by the holy Qur’an.

“This is a most welcome and hopeful development with possible implications for the coexistence of the peoples of the world,” said Ms. Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations.

Ayatollah Tehrani states on his website (see translation of statement) that he prepared the calligraphy of the verse as a “symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and avoidance of hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice.”

Ayatollah Tehrani presents this exquisite gift to the Baha’is of the world, particularly to the Baha’is of Iran, who he says “have suffered in manifold ways as a result of blind religious prejudice.” He further states that this act is “an expression of sympathy and care from me and on behalf of all my open-minded fellow citizens.”

In response, Ms. Dugal stated: “The Baha’i International Community is deeply touched by this act of high-mindedness and the sentiments of religious tolerance and respect for human dignity that prompted it.”

“This bold action by a senior Muslim cleric in contemporary Iran is unprecedented,” said Ms. Dugal. “It is also remarkable in light of the ongoing and systematic persecution of the Baha’i community in that country by the Islamic government.”

The intricate artwork must have taken several months to painstakingly prepare by hand. It features at its center, a symbol known to Baha’is as “The Greatest Name” – a calligraphic representation of the conceptual relationship between God, His prophets and the world of creation. The gift measures at approximately 60cm x 70cm and is illuminated in a classical style. Ayatollah Tehrani’s other artworks include the illumination of the Qur’an, the Torah, the Psalms, the New Testament, and the Book of Ezra. His illumination of the Psalms is currently being held in the United States Library of Congress.

The excerpt that Ayatollah Tehrani chose to cite in the gift is taken from Baha’u'llah’s Kitab-i-Aqdas – “Most Holy Book”. It reads “Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended.”

On previous occasions, Ayatollah Tehrani has with great courage publicly voiced concern about the ongoing and severe persecution of religious minorities, including the Baha’is in Iran. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, hundreds of Baha’is have been killed and thousands have been imprisoned. There are currently 115 Baha’is being held in prison solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Baha’is in Iran are denied access to higher education, obstructed from earning a livelihood, prevented from burying their dead in accordance with their own burial rites and subjected to the demolition and desecration and expropriation of their cemeteries, all because of their religion.

Ayatollah Tehrani’s hope is that this gift “which will be kept by the Universal House of Justice [the international governing body of the Baha'i Faith] will serve as a reminder of the rich and ancient Iranian tradition of friendship and of its culture of coexistence.”

An illuminated calligraphic work by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, containing the words of Baha'u'llah.

An illuminated calligraphic work by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, containing the words of Baha’u'llah.

Friday Links | April 11, 2014

Muslimah Media Watch - 11 April, 2014 - 07:00
Indonesia had its elections last Wednesday. This time around, parties had to ensure that 30 percent of their candidates were female, but in a country notorious for its corruption, many of these female candidates come from political dynasties or are celebrities; it is even suggested that to become a female candidate not much more is [Read More...]

Extremist Boda Bala Sena Disrupt Interfaith Meeting With Death Threats

Loon Watch - 10 April, 2014 - 23:41

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Police calls on Sri Lanka’s violent BBS but action unlikely

(W3lanka)

Sri Lanka police has summoned the general secretary of the Buddhist extremist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero to appear in Slave Island police on April 12th to question him on the incident that took place at Hotel Nippon.

The general secretary of Jathika Bala Sena Ven. Watareka Vijitha Thero has complained to the Slave Island police that he was threatened by the BBS.

Watateka Vijitha Thero and BBS member Kirulapone Nanda Thero have also been summoned to the police on the same time.

BBS disrupted a press conference of a inter-faith movement press conference held in Colombo against the racist organizations that are raising their head.

The press conference was summoned by an organization called Jathika Bala Senawa and the calling letter was signed by Ven. Watareka Vijitha Thero.

Muslim religious representatives were also present to participate in the press conference.

A group of BBS monks led by Buddhist monk Galagodaaththe Gnanasara invaded the press conference and questioned the organizers. They threatened the Muslim clerics and the Buddhist monks.

Watareka Vijitha Thero was forced to apologize but he later complained to Slave Island police that he apologized due to threats to his life.

Officer-in-Charge of Slave Island police and other police officers witnessed the violence but did not act to prevent it.

Canada: Man Charged with Racial Assault on Muslim Teenage girl

Loon Watch - 10 April, 2014 - 23:13

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What’s up with these violent old White males attacking Muslim female teenagers? Is this part of an effort to liberate them?

Man charged with racial assault on teenage girl

A Hamilton man is charged with assault after he allegedly yelled racial slurs at a teenage Muslim girl and chased her out of her apartment building.

A 17-year-old girl was heading to her apartment building on Oxford Street around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday when a man began yelling what police say were racial slurs at her in the lobby. The man yelled at her to leave the building, said Det. Carmine Pietroniro from Hamilton Police Services’s hate crime/extremism unit.

The longer the culprit yelled, the more aggressive he became, Pietroniro said. “At that point, he tried kicking her.”

Another tenant helped restrain the man, while the victim ran to her apartment and told her mother about the incident, police say.

The two women went to the police station to report the incident. While they were there, the suspect walked in to file a report on the same incident, recognized the girl and yelled at her. Officers intervened and the 67-year-old man was arrested.

Pietroniro says he’s still not sure what the man was going to say in his report. ”We’re not sure what his intentions were.”

Hamilton police investigated 122 hate-related events in 2013, two thirds of which involved prejudice involving race or ethnicity. And nearly 12 per cent involved prejudice based upon the victim’s religion.

Still, an incident as aggressive as this one is “not a common occurrence,” Pietroniro said.

No One Helped A Muslim Teen When A Man Spat On Her, Called Her A Terrorist: Reports

Loon Watch - 10 April, 2014 - 22:36

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No One Helped A Muslim Teen When A Man Spat On Her, Called Her A Terrorist: Reports

(Huffington Post)

A man on board a New York City bus allegedly spat on a 15-year-old Muslim girl on Tuesday, pushed her, and called her a “terrorist.” DNAinfo reports police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

The teen was wearing a traditional headscarf Tuesday morning while riding the Q88 bus on her way to school in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens. According to The New York Post, she accidentally brushed her bag against the man, sending him into a hate-filled tirade.

The man, who is described as a 5-foot-7 middled-aged white man, allegedly raised his fist at the teen, threatening her. “He kept cursing, ‘terrorist’ and stuff,” she told ABC News, who didn’t identify her at the request of her family. “He kept cursing and ‘Oh, you Muslim piece of s***, you’re a terrorist.’”

According to the Post, the scared teen responded by calling her attacker a “piece of s***,” prompting him to allegedly say, “Do you think I’m afraid to hit you? I will kill you.”

Although the man allegedly pushed the girl, spat on her three times, called her a terrorist, and threatened to kill her, she says no one on the bus helped her.

“They were laughing,” she told ABC of her fellow passengers. “What if that were your daughter? Wouldn’t you stand up for her?”

The man reportedly got off the bus when it stopped along Kissena Boulevard near Queens College.

What do we Make of the “Indian” Converts to Islam

Muslimah Media Watch - 10 April, 2014 - 11:00
There is a lot of talk recently about “Latin” and Spanish-speaking converts to Islam, particularly women, which I have discussed in previous posts (here and here). Female converts to Islam, in general, give us a lot to talk about; thus, my question in a previous post on “Are converts news?” Some converts are treated as [Read More...]

Academy school in Birmingham is victim of 'witch-hunt', says governor

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 April, 2014 - 22:32
Park View school denies allegations of extremism after inspections triggered by 'serious' complaints

A Muslim-majority academy at the centre of a row over alleged Islamic fundamentalism in Birmingham is the victim of a "witch-hunt", a governor at the school has claimed.

David Hughes, a trustee and governor at Park View school in Birmingham for more than 15 years, said the secondary was under attack "under the pretext of concerns about extremism and threats to the education of pupils".

Continue reading...

US Run Afghan Equivalent of Guantanamo Bay Releases Innocent Man After 9 Years of Mental Torture

Loon Watch - 9 April, 2014 - 19:00

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(h/t: Imaduddin)

Bagram detainee haunted by ‘mental torture’

(Dawn)

Accused with a friend of transporting bombs in 2005, he has maintained his innocence —and an official record shows his captors suspected the same.

Now the 32-year-old, one of six Pakistanis released last November, has spoken out against his treatment at Bagram in a case rights groups say underlines the need for more scrutiny of the prison, opened in 2002 and often compared to Guantanamo Bay.

The Afghan authorities took over the jail, renamed Parwan, in 2013 but the US remains in charge of foreigners — including around 34 Pakistanis.

Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International, said the case “demonstrates the persisting secrecy surrounding US detention policies”.

“(It is) a significant problem given cases like this where individuals with no apparent involvement in hostilities happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Khan’s ordeal began one night in the restive northwestern city of Peshawar, where he and his friend had travelled from Khyber tribal district to visit a cousin in hospital.

There, he met two Afghans, “Saifoo” and “Lalzir”, who had brought their sick grandmother to the same facility.

The men became friends and the Afghans promised the Pakistanis a sightseeing tour in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar and the chance to pick up some informal work.

“The first day we arrived we wanted to go out, and they refused saying we have to wait for a friend, wait until tomorrow,” Khan, a tall, light-skinned man with a long beard and a prayer cap, told AFP.

After days of waiting, Khan said he decided to take a bus back to Pakistan, but Saifoo and Lalzir insisted it was their duty as hosts to escort their guests in a taxi.

It was then that things took a turn for the worse, with the car searched at a checkpoint by the Afghan army.

They were allowed to go, but were stopped again further up the road and detained.

The two Afghans were later freed but Khan and his friend were taken to a US base and questioned about explosives found in the car’s boot.

“They asked us, ‘Is this yours?’ And we told them we had no idea,” Khan said.

A few days later, he was taken to Bagram airbase and given a new identity: prisoner ISN 2422.

Psychological pressure

Detainees at Bagram had no access to lawyers, but records on them were released following a freedom of information request by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2009.

Umran’s file tells of a man with a consistent account of events who cannot be linked forensically to the explosives found in the car and with no known connections to militant groups.

Despite the fact he was captured in a taxi with IEDs, “there is no fingerprint evidence linking him to these IED components” nor “evidence of exposure to explosive materials”, the file said.

The US investigation concluded that “based upon the evidence and testimony…the continued interment of (Umran) is not necessary” and noted the “strange” circumstances surrounding his capture.

Despite being given a low threat assessment, Khan says his captors held him in solitary confinement and regularly subjected him to sleep deprivation.

“They wouldn’t let us sleep. If they wanted to punish you, for example if you spoke to another prisoner they would put you in a star position for 30 minutes to an hour,” he said.

“They had metal bars fitted into the doors of our cells. When they saw people were sleeping they would run a stick along it to make a loud noise.

”Later, as the jail became more crowded, inmates were moved to shared cells and given prayer mats and the Quran, but Khan said even that was used against them.

“They would pick it up and throw it around just as psychological pressure.

They would grind it down with their feet,” he said.

He said he developed breathing problems from the tear gas he said guards used to quell unruly inmates.

He also recalled beatings at the hands of soldiers, once after he complained about repeated cell searches that upended his meagre possessions.

“They wanted us to never have a moment’s peace, day or night. By the time we left, they wanted our minds to be destroyed.”

Pakistani detainees

A US defence spokesman declined to comment on the details of the case but said they did not tolerate the abuse of detainees.

“Although there have been substantiated cases of abuse in the past, for which US service members have been held accountable, our enemies also have employed a deliberate campaign of exaggerations and fabrications,” the spokesman said.

On Khan’s nine years in custody, the spokesman said decisions regarding “third-country nationals” involve “sensitive diplomatic discussions, which often take a considerable amount of time”.

The Justice Project Pakistan has taken the government to court to push for the remaining detainees’ liberation ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of 2014. Campaigners fear the detainees may be caught in legal limbo if they are not repatriated before the deadline.

Tasneem Aslam, a spokeswoman for the foreign office, said negotiations were under way and they hoped for more releases in the coming months.

Khan now works in construction in Khyber and wants to get on with his life. He recalled the day last November when he was released. As he left Bagram, he says a US colonel apologised to him. “I replied: ‘Why are you asking forgiveness after nine years and after destroying our lives? Didn’t I tell you I’m innocent all along?’,” Khan said. “He just said, ‘Forgive us, you were right.’”

Brandeis University Rescinds Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Honorary Degree

Loon Watch - 9 April, 2014 - 18:19

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After a veritable social media storm, complaints from students at Brandeis University and a petition that quickly gathered 6,000 signatures, Brandeis has withdrawn its honorary degree offer to extreme Islamophobe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Questions linger, why did Brandeis include Ayaan in the first place? She is not an “Islam critic” as the New York Times portrays her. Also what evidence is there that she actually has done anything for “women’s rights,” as claimed in Brandeis’ press release?

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

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