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

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

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

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

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Sinéad O'Connor sings call to prayer after converting to Islam – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 October, 2018 - 12:42

Singer, who has taken name of Shuhada’ Davitt, posted a video of herself singing the Azan, or Islamic call to prayer. She made the announcement in a Twitter post in which she said she was ‘very, very, very happy’ and thanked her Muslim brothers and sisters for welcoming her

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

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 October, 2018 - 10:23

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

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

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


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On Rape/Sexual Assault Tropes in Muslim Communities – An Islamic Response (Part II)

altmuslim - 25 October, 2018 - 03:27
Editorial Note: TRIGGER WARNING – This article contains explicit stories of sexual assault and trauma. This is part two of a two-part series on rape culture and sexual abuse within Muslim communities and will focus on other arguments used to blame victims as well as examining these arguments from the Islamic standpoint. Part one debunks […]

Rohingya genocide is still going on, says top UN investigator

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 October, 2018 - 20:42

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

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

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

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

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Are Muslims Willing to Travel the Road to Religious Modernity?

altmuslim - 22 October, 2018 - 20:51
Islam as it developed up to this point, especially the one promoted by wealthy Arabs is a highly legalistic institution where many Muslims tend to ask so-called religious scholars if something is halal (allowed) or haram (forbidden). A philosophy of anti-enjoyment of life is prevalent among many, believing that any enjoyment here on earth is […]

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

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 October, 2018 - 05:01

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 October, 2018 - 01:23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Normalisation’ is real and has consequences

Indigo Jo Blogs - 21 October, 2018 - 22:47

An old white man points to himself (saying "I belong here!") while racially abusing a black security guard in a Sainsbury's shop. The tobacco counter is visible behind him.‘Normalisation’ is the idea that if the media gives too much exposure to extreme views or those without any basis in fact or science, they become the political mainstream and will come to be widely accepted as fact, or people will feel obliged to accommodate them despite disagreeing with them or knowing that they are baseless. I have heard this word used a lot in recent years, mainly by the left who are rightly concerned about the effect of the rise of the “alt-right” on things such as women’s rights, the right of minorities to live in peace and in some cases the rule of law itself. Peter Hurst, who writes mainly on Medium as “Post Liberal Bot”, calls the “normalisation narrative” an example of left-wing authoritarianism in which we lament the “loss of traditional gatekeepers to news and information, due to the decline of old media and the advent of social media”. He cites calls by politicians for bans on anonymous accounts and closed forums on social media and for a social media regulator.

In my experience, the normalisation narrative is not so much that people are getting their news and views through alternative means; most of us think that is no bad thing. In the last month or so, for example, I have seen a lot of tweets from Scots advocating a refusal to pay the British TV licence fee on the grounds that it funds the BBC which they see as a biased, English-establishment broadcaster which gives too much airtime to English Brexiteers and too little to Scottish, pro-EU progressive or nationalist viewpoints. I also know many people on the Left who firmly reject any ban on anonymity because it allows people such as abuse survivors (or people currently suffering abuse) to talk about their situation without fear of retaliation from their abusers or of being exposed to friends and relatives who do not know about their situation. Most of us use social media. It allows us to keep in touch, to make friends, to announce things such as events and blog postings, to share writing and other content we like.

The chief complaint is that traditional ‘gatekeepers’ allow fringe voices airtime out of proportion to either their popular support, their respect for truth or how well-founded their argument is. A classic example is the regular slots on programmes such as Question Time given to Nigel Farage despite the fact that his party had never persuaded a single constituency to give him a plurality of votes (as well as burnishing his “man of the people” image by showing him drinking beer in a pub, then calling it a “Kent village pub” when in fact it was in an expensive corner of a wealthy London borough). They may justify this with the result of the 2016 referendum and the party’s better (though not overwhelming) showing in European elections, but one has to ask whether his access to the media is a cause or a consequence of the popularity of his party, which produced no other politicians of note (Douglas Carswell was a Tory for most of his parliamentary career).

Often the reason for amplifying extreme voices is that they treat news and discussion as entertainment and deliberately bring on people with inflammatory views so that they can have a row on air. In other cases, an insistence on ‘balance’ means that an ‘expert’ who denies the science that points to the fact of man-made global warming will be brought on to argue with a real expert when in fact there is no great debate among climate scientists that it is a fact; the ‘sceptics’ are often funded by the oil industry or other moneyed interests and sometimes use a scientific background as a justification when their specialisation is not climate. They present other industry-funded lobby groups as grassroots affairs (e.g. Forest, which is funded by the tobacco industry, presented as a “smokers’ group”) and think-tank spokespeople get regular slots on news and analysis programmes without any question about their qualifications or funding.

This has consequences. The media regularly allowed Omar Bakri Muhammad and Anjum Choudary, the leaders of the Muslim extremist group originally called Al-Muhajiroun, to promote their ideas on local and national news on TV and radio, allowing people to think that the group had support among Muslims whereas in fact they were tiny and dwindling and were fond of gate-crashing other Muslims’ demonstrations (they were openly contemptuous of the groups that organised the demos they invaded — they claimed that Cage, then Cage Prisoners, was “close to becoming munaafiqeen”, i.e. not really Muslims). A lot of Muslims thought they were agents provocateurs retained by someone or other’s secret services. It was their demonstration (attended by about 20 people) at a procession by returning soldiers in Luton, and the sensationalist media coverage of it, that led to the formation of the English Defence League. The EDL itself has peaked (though the hooligans reformed as the “Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance”), but we now have Steven Yaxley-Lennon being made a martyr while interfering in the legal process and being dishonestly promoted by racists and other malefactors as a defender of western values against “Muslim extremism” and/or cowardice when he is in fact an ignorant thug with a criminal record. We have not heard the end of this and if the media had not hyped the Muhajiroun throughout the 2000s his ‘career’ may never have got off the ground.

The fact is that if you have access to the media, you have a greater degree of freedom of speech in this country than if you only have access to the Internet, as laws that ban ‘offensive’ or ‘malicious’ communications using the phone system (which have more recently been extended to the Internet) do not apply to newspapers or to things said on a stage, such that people have been convicted for taunting football supporters about a plane crash decades ago, inducing a dog to give a Nazi salute and denying the Holocaust on online videos which they would not have been if they had done it in a mainstream newspaper or on TV. The thing that gets someone prosecuted does not even have to be illegal in itself, just judged (after the event) to cause offence. The mainstream media are not governed by any such laws; they are free to print lies as long as they are not against an individual, and even then the penalties are civil, not criminal. It is even legal for political campaign ads to contain obvious falsehoods.

Social media does present avenues for the promotion of extremism. People can very easily circulate images which are doctored or which do not reflect what they say they do — they may be taken at a different time in a different country, for example, but any footage of brown-skinned people celebrating could be misrepresented as Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks, for example. It is an ideal forum for circulating fake news, i.e. false stories on fake newspaper websites or fake clippings (an older method). The Right accuses the Left of existing in a Twitter-based echo chamber (as does Hurst’s article), but racists often use social media to spread misinformation far more cheaply and easily than they could when they had to actually put together and run off fliers or mini-newspapers and distribute them. And racists and fascists have been complaining about being shut out of the mainstream media for a lot longer then the mainstream Left have been complaining about ‘normalisation’ — in some cases it was almost a boast, that the “Jewish controlled media” would not touch them.

But nobody wants social media to disappear. As already stated, most of us use it for both personal and political reasons. It’s actually quite easy to rebut misinformation on social media as an image can be reverse-searched and a newspaper can be contacted to see if they really printed a given story, or if they exist. The same is not true of mainstream media; it takes months to even get a complaint examined and even then, the correction will be nowhere near as prominent as the original story, which many people will continue to believe. It is easier to get an account shut down or a story taken down because it is false or offensive than a newspaper story, even on their website. How many times has a newspaper been closed because a story they printed caused offence? Just once — the News of the World in 2011, because of outrage over a murdered teenage girl’s voice mails being illegally accessed, which it was thought might have delayed finding her or her body — and its owner promptly launched another Sunday paper based on its own weekday title.

But ultimately, what the likes of Peter Hurst calls ‘populism’, the rest of us calls racism, and the reason why we want to see racism suppressed rather than ‘debated’ is because it has consequences: people discriminated against, harassed or abused in the street or as they do their job, made to feel unable to live in the country they had been led to believe was their own, or unjustly expelled from it and separated from their families. You may think “Is rising ethnic diversity a threat to the West?” is a worthy or necessary ‘debate’ that the “metropolitan élite” has been shirking for too long — despite it having been on the front pages of tabloids in one form or another on a regular basis for decades — but it’s their life. And when racist attitudes are normalised by being exposed on the radio or in the papers (this includes whinges about immigration, health/benefit tourism etc., particularly when they take liberties with the facts), especially if unchallenged, it makes life difficult for anyone who is, or may be mistaken for an immigrant, or has personal connections with them. This is not academic. It’s not the university debating society. It’s not a nice bit of entertainment on a Friday evening. It’s people’s lives.

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Truckers blocking London? Get real.

Indigo Jo Blogs - 20 October, 2018 - 15:31

Two trucks travelling side by side in the two leftmost lanes on a British motorway.This morning I saw a longish interview on the BBC Breakfast show with some guy called Richard Tice, who was identified only as a spokesman for “Leave Means Leave”. I didn’t hear most of it as I was having a haircut and the electric shaver started up almost as soon as he opened his mouth, but I did catch him call the marchers “losers” who should “get behind us Brexiteers” instead of trying to undermine the government’s negotiations. However, on a truck drivers’ Facebook forum, someone quoted him as saying that a trucker had said to him that he could just give him the word and he would block London. This is baloney and whether he knows it or not, his alleged friend does.

Most of us truck drivers do not own a vehicle other than private car or maybe a motorbike. We drive our bosses’ trucks and often those bosses are big companies such as DHL which are based abroad, often in mainland Europe, and often they are involved in moving freight to and from the mainland. I happen to know that my boss supports Brexit, but he’s a subcontractor to a major contractor to a big online ordering company and most of the journeys his vehicles make are to pull that company’s trailers. Said big company is based in a mainland European tax haven. He will not be using his vehicles to stop his client from doing their business, regardless of politics. Nobody will thank him for doing that and they might remember it the next time he needs some business. Besides, those of us who have Saturday off will often have spent all week working and will be spending Saturday doing a mixture of house chores and relaxation and then preparation for the week ahead. Brexit is not enough to get anyone blockading roads (unlike the fuel price crisis of 2000 or so, which really was impacting on business even though prices were much lower than they are now).

As I write this I’m on the way to the demonstration; not everyone who opposes Brexit is a comfortably-off academic or financier.

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

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 October, 2018 - 08:00

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

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

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

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Retrial ordered for black activist Michael X – archive 19 October 1967

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2018 - 05:30

19 October 1967: A retrial was ordered in the case against Michael Abdul Malik, leader of Britain’s Black Muslims, amid confusion over jurors

A retrial was ordered for Michael Abdul Malik, known as Michael X, leader of Britain’s Black Muslims, by the Recorder, Mr R. C. Hutton, at the Reading Quarter Sessions yesterday on a race-hate charge.

This followed an application by Mr Kenneth Jones, QC, for the prosecution, who said that from what Malik had said he had intended to object to a juror on Tuesday.

Related: The story of the British Black Panthers through race, politics, love and power

Related: Dennis Morris's best photograph: a boy with a gun at Michael X's HQ

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Ex-Chinese internment camp detainee denied US visa despite Congress invitation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2018 - 16:57

Kazakh national was asked to speak at Congress about his ordeal, but his application was rejected by the US consulate in Istanbul

An outspoken former detainee in China’s internment camps for Muslims has said that his application for a visa to visit the United States was rejected even though he had been invited to speak at Congress about his ordeal.

Kazakh national Omir Bekali was asked to travel to Washington in September by the chairs of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China. He said his application was rejected by the US consulate in Istanbul on 2 October after he was questioned about his employment status.

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

Related: 'My soul, where are you?': families of Muslims missing in China meet wall of silence

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One man’s (very polite) fight against media Islamophobia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2018 - 06:00

For three years, Miqdaad Versi has waged a quixotic – and always scrupulously courteous – campaign against the endless errors and distortions in news about British Muslims. But can a thousand polite complaints make a difference? By Samanth Subramanian

News about Muslims in the British press is rarely positive, but it is never scarce. Consider these stories, published across a typical month towards the end of 2016. In the Times on 9 November 2016, an article announced: “Islamist School Can Segregate Boys and Girls.” On the Daily Express website, nine days later: “Anger as less than A THIRD of Muslim nations sign up to coalition against Isis.” In the Sun online, on 1 December: “SECRET IS SAFE: Half of British Muslims would not go to cops if they knew someone with Isis links.” On the Daily Express site the day after: “New £5 notes could be BANNED by religious groups as Bank CAN’T promise they’re Halal.” On ITV News, the same day: “Half of UK Muslims would not report extremism.” Two days later, in the Sunday Times: “Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim.” The Mail on Sunday, that same day: “Isolated British Muslims are so cut off from the rest of society that they see the UK as 75% Islamic, shock report reveals.” And another version, in the Sun online: “British Muslims are so cut-off from society they think 75% of the UK is Islamic, report reveals.”

No other community in Britain receives such regular torrents of bad press. But that is not the most shocking thing about these articles. Every single one of them was misleading. And they were not just lightly dotted with inaccuracies. The chief premise of each piece – the premise articulated in the headline – was dead wrong.

Related: Trojan horse: the real story behind the fake 'Islamic plot' to take over schools

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'Inequality is a poison': campaigning for Muslim women's rights – podcast

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2018 - 06:00

Shahin Ashraf’s experience growing up as a British Muslim has led to a life campaigning for gender equality around the world

Shahin Ashraf’s humanitarian work has taken her from Bosnia to Afghanistan, where she helped a woman escape forced marriage.

Ashraf, who was awarded an MBE in 2015 for her services to interfaith and community cohesion, is a global advocacy advisor for Islamic Relief. She speaks to Lucy Lamble about her own experience of gender inequality, which influenced her campaign work for Muslim women’s rights in traditionally conservative societies.

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Divided Britain: study finds huge chasm in attitudes

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2018 - 00:01

Far-right and anti-Islam ideas taking root in post-industrial towns, says Hope Not Hate

Britain is hugely divided across cultural, age and education lines, a major study of national attitudes has concluded, warning of a potential rise in far-right and anti-Islam sentiments unless politicians tackle long-standing disaffections behind the Brexit vote.

There is a particular chasm between people living in affluent, multicultural cities and those from struggling post-industrial towns, according to the report from Hope Not Hate, based on six years of polling and focus groups.

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Jailed preacher Anjem Choudary faces strict controls after release

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 October, 2018 - 19:19

Restrictions on convicted Isis supporter cover using the internet and speaking in public

Convicted Isis supporter Anjem Choudary will be in effect banned from any public statements after his release from prison this week, as British authorities seek to stop him from inciting support for terrorism.

British officials believe they have drafted conditions that will stop Choudary from repeating his method of drumming up support for extremism, which enabled him to escape prosecution for years even as his propaganda motivated at least 100 people to pursue terrorism.

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'A soaring miracle of art' – Albukhary Gallery of the Islamic World review

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 October, 2018 - 14:07

British Museum, London
Two new rooms present an alternative history of the world, beginning with works with a geometric sophistication and abstract calm that western art could not achieve for another 10 centuries

The best way to get to the British Museum’s new gallery of Islamic art is via the Sutton Hoo gallery. That way, you first take a trip through Anglo-Saxon England, past Celtic gold, Viking jewels and treasures from the burial of a seventh-century king. These artefacts, lurking in shadow, all date from a time that is often called the Dark Ages. Then you step out of that gallery and into a world of light.

Streaming in through patterned screens and coloured glass, the light spills over lustreware, the glazed ceramics invented by medieval Islam that have an iridescent quality. Such luminous clarity seems to shine right through Islamic art: what you see here resembles the Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe – an age of reason that, in this case, started in the eighth century.

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Hindu nationalist-led state changes Muslim name of Indian city

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 October, 2018 - 12:28

Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, headed by hardliner accused of violence against Muslims, to become Prayagraj

An Indian city in a state led by a hardline Hindu nationalist preacher accused of instigating violence against Muslims has had its Muslim name changed to one with Hindu associations.

The state cabinet in Uttar Pradesh announced on Tuesday that it had approved the renaming of Allahabad as Prayagraj, which harks back to the city’s ancient appellation, Prayag, before it was changed by Mughal-era rulers in the late 16th century.

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