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Muslim foster parents: ‘We'd never had a Christmas tree - it made them so happy’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 December, 2017 - 11:43

News that a Christian child was ‘forced’ into Muslim foster care caused a furore earlier this year. But, despite the challenges, these families play a vital role in bringing up vulnerable children

About 100,000 young people go through the fostering system every year. In recent years an increasing number of these have been child refugees from Muslim-majority countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, many arriving here traumatised and in need of care.

“We estimate there is a shortage of 8,000 foster carers,” says Kevin Williams, chief executive of the Fostering Network, “and there is a particular shortage of Muslim foster carers.”

I couldn’t believe there were children so deprived of love. I was exposed to so much pain

I know what it’s like to live in a country without freedom or human rights

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Our love turned us into pariahs but we never backed down

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 December, 2017 - 06:00

When Khurrum Rahman, a Muslim, and Rajinder, a Sikh, fell for each other at school, they became pariahs overnight. But the disapproval, threats and even violence only served to cement a bond that has lasted 24 years

The year was 1993. I was 17, and heading for the sixth form at a new school in Hounslow, west London. I wasn’t expecting it to change my life. Looking back, I struggle to remember a white face there. It was a sea of brown, where Muslim, Sikh and Hindu students mixed easily: it seemed a surprisingly harmonious environment. Beneath the surface, though, cultural tension lurked, particularly between the Muslims and the Sikhs. All I had to do was keep my head down and my mouth shut. I didn’t want any part in the school politics.

I remember the girls. They all seemed to wear black leather jackets and black platform shoes and they listened to R&B. Rajinder was different. She wore flowing flowery skirts and a faded jean jacket with scuffed Dr Martens boots and listened to Guns N’ Roses. I had never met anyone like her.

Related: Forbidden love

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How they got it right on 54BC and all that | Brief letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 December, 2017 - 18:53
Muslim populations | Brexit incompetence | Fortnum & Mason | Trump’s tweets | Thanet invaded

Forecasts that the Muslim population of the UK and other European countries could increase substantially by 2050 (Report, 30 November) presuppose that all children of Muslims will grow up to be Muslims. While many children inherit their religious beliefs from their parents, others read widely and reason for themselves. Some of those children will follow other religions, or no religion. How many people of Christian heritage in the UK are Christians? How many Britons of Muslim heritage will be Muslims in the year 2050?
Dominic Rayner
Leeds

• I am delighted David Boyle (In Brexit, as in war, the lions are being led by donkeys, 29 November) praises the brilliant but neglected book On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, by the late Norman Dixon. It should be read by all ministers and Whitehall mandarins as well as Sandhurst cadets. The chapter headings offer clues to the author’s thesis – and their contemporary relevance. ‘Bullshit’, Authoritarianism, and Mothers of Incompetence are just three of them.
Richard Norton-Taylor
London

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Muslim student says she was ordered to remove headscarf at McDonald's

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 December, 2017 - 11:54

Fast food chain apologises to 19-year-old stopped from entering and repeatedly told her to take off hijab

McDonald’s has apologised after a Muslim woman complained she was told to remove her headscarf or leave one of the fast-food chain’s restaurants, saying she was told it was a security threat.

The 19-year-old student, who asked not to be named, said she was stopped in a north London McDonald’s by a security guard who repeatedly told her to remove her hijab on Thursday evening.

Here is the video of the incident, occurring at McDonald's on Seven Sister's Road in Holloway, London. pic.twitter.com/07acmBYdjB

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Whose side is Tell MAMA on?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 30 November, 2017 - 23:02

An unnamed white man with a black cap with a cross-based emblem holding up a large sheet with "No more mosques" with a roadsign-like symbol showing a silhouette of a mosque in black with a red circle round it and a red line through it.I’ve long been suspicious of the motives and loyalty of “Tell MAMA”, the project set up to monitor and report on hate crimes against Muslims. It’s not that it’s a bad thing for there to be an office to which Muslims can report incidents of hostility; of course it’s not. It’s just that, unlike the Community Security Trust, say, which performs a similar role for Jews and Jewish institutions such as synagogues and schools in the UK, Tell MAMA also tells on Muslims to the media, persistently and publicly berating us for displaying intolerance towards other groups (particularly groups that appear Muslim but are rejected, such as the Qadianis (or Ahmadis, as they call themselves). Tell MAMA does not consistently put the blame for hate and racism where it belongs — with the perpetrators and the media that feeds exaggerated stories about terrorism and anti-integrationism to the public — but blames the Muslim community both in its own social media feeds and in its media interviews. This has to change.

Yesterday, the organisation issued a tweet that was roundly condemned by many Muslims, at least one of whom said she was unfollowing and would not be recommending them to anyone in future. It read:

For those who promote a view that Islam or #Muslims are under threat, LOOK at how many non-Muslims stand with you against #POTUS [President of the United States]. Enough of the victimisation narrative, be someone and engage with your local communities. #No2H8November

They have since deleted the tweet, and apologised. But it has been characteristic of how they talk about Muslims and the roots of the Islamophobia they monitor. They trace the origin of hatred against Muslims to terrorism, using for instance a graph which they say shows a correlation between major terrorist attacks abroad and spikes in hate crimes (physical attacks, vandalism against mosques etc) in this country, ignoring the fact that all these incidents were reported through the media and accompanied by hostile opinion pieces and even front pages in tabloids. I noticed this in September 2015 when TM peddled this in an interview on a London talk radio station, and they have been quite consistent with it. when TM peddled this in an interview on a London talk radio station, and they have been quite consistent with it.

They have also been quite explicit in proclaiming that they are “not like other Muslims” who they claim promote hatred against “Ahmadis”, Shi’ites and gay people, and claim that some people are “not Muslim enough”. They persistently harp on what they claim are bigoted attitudes expressed by other Muslims, particularly those involved in rival Muslim organisations that oppose Islamophobia, exposing conversations in which the rival uses harsh language in talking about Qadianis. Only last week they had a go at a Muslim for just calling them the ‘pejorative’ name Qadianis, which is in fact the term most Muslims use to refer to them and just refers to the town where they were first based (originally it also distinguished them from an older branch of Ghulam Ahmad’s following, based in Lahore).

It’s not appropriate for an organisation geared towards monitoring hate crime to also make continual public statements about sectarianism within the Muslim community (I do not mean hatred from non-Muslims against Qadianis or even, say, Sikhs whom they identify as Muslims). Non-Muslims as well as Muslims read TM’s media feeds and website and will rapidly learn that “Muslims are just as bad” when the truth is that the majority of Muslims are not in any way involved in sectarian violence against Shi’ites, Qadianis or anyone else, much as the general population are not involved in violence against Muslims but rather a small minority who draw encouragement from the hate peddled by the mass media, which has no equivalent in the Muslim community — no publication and no masjid imam or religious leader of any sort has anything like the reach of the Daily Mail. Even the “anti-Ahmadiyya” Muslim organisations here do not encourage Muslim violence against the sect here but rather work on countering Qadiani proselytism — a quite legitimate aim — and in my observation, mainstream Muslim attitudes towards ordinary members of the sect have softened in recent years — people are less willing to entertain conspiracy theories centred on it, for example, and more willing to distinguish them from the sect’s leadership. Despite the lack of actual incidence of Muslim violence against Qadianis in this country, Tell MAMA have still tweeted reports claiming they feel under threat and have tight security, as if this was of any significance — what is of significance is actual incidence of violence, not how much money the sect chooses to spend on security.

A tweet by KT Hopkins quoting the original Tell MAMA tweet, adding 'When the social media dude @TellMamaUK gets as sick of the Muslim mafia playing victim as the rest of us. Legend.'Tell MAMA need to side firmly with the Muslim community and if that means breaking the link with Faith Matters, which is concerned with encouraging harmony between religious communities in general, then so be it. The Community Security Trust does not blame anti-Semitism on Zionism or Israel; we do not see feminists blaming rape on other women’s short skirts or disability activists blaming disability hate crime on benefit scroungers — in both cases, they blame popular stereotypes and media reporting. Muslims in this country are not responsible for what Muslims abroad do, nor for what the government of Pakistan or religious movements there do unless they are personally involved with them — there is no validity in saying “but Saudi Arabia persecutes Christians” or “Pakistan persecutes ‘Ahmadis’” because not all Muslims are Pakistanis and people of Pakistani descent have been in this country since the 50s and 60s when Pakistan was still a secular country.

When Muslim advocates are talking about hate crime or discrimination and someone tries to change the subject onto Muslim sectarianism or discrimination abroad, they must say, “well yes, that is wrong, but …” and change the subject back. If Tell MAMA aren’t up to this, they should leave the job to whoever is, because the Muslims need an advocate that does not injure our interests by needlessly airing dirty linen in the main street.

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Britain First may be fringe, but its anti-Islam views aren’t | David Shariatmadari

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 November, 2017 - 16:50
The row over whether the far-right group’s defenders should get airtime obscures an awkward fact: many Britons already fear and misunderstand Muslims

The fringe anti-Muslim group Britain First is enjoying a burst of publicity after Donald Trump retweeted three of its propaganda videos. This has had the rare effect of uniting almost the entire British establishment in horror.

Related: BBC Radio 4 defends Ann Coulter interview on Today programme

Britain First is an Islamophobic group​ run by convicted racists.​ It was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP) and loyalist extremists in Northern Ireland. 

Related: Videos tweeted by Trump: where are they from and what do they really show?

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Videos tweeted by Trump: where are they from and what do they really show?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 November, 2017 - 16:08

These videos have been circulating on far-right websites since 2013 as ammunition in an online infowar

Re-captioned, retweeted and, in effect, hijacked by anti-Muslim, nationalist, alt-right and far-right websites since 2013, the clips retweeted by Donald Trump are ammunition in an online infowar.

The three videos posted by the Britain First deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, purport to show Muslims committing acts of violence: two assaulting people, one destroying a statue of the virgin Mary.

Britain First is an Islamophobic group​ run by convicted racists.​ It was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP) and loyalist extremists in Northern Ireland. 

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Muslim population in some EU countries could triple, says report

The Guardian World news: Islam - 29 November, 2017 - 23:33

Figures suggest stark east-west divide, with UK population share rising from 6.3% to 16.7% in one scenario

The Muslim population in some European countries could triple by 2050 while it will barely change in others, according to new projections released by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre.

The report, Europe’s Growing Muslim Population, shows a stark west-east divide. The Muslim share of Germany’s population could grow from 6.1% in 2016 to 19.7% in 2050 if high migration continues, whereas over the border Poland’s share would change from 0.1% to 0.2% in the same scenario.

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Trump's anti-Muslim retweets prompt backlash in Washington: 'The president is racist'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 29 November, 2017 - 21:27

Deputy DNC chair Keith Ellison, Lindsay Graham and Arizona senator Jeff Flake condemn Trump’s tweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right group

A top Democrat condemned Donald Trump as a “racist” hours after the president retweeted a series of anti-Muslim videos on Wednesday that were posted by the deputy leader of a British far-right group.

Related: Theresa May condemns Trump's retweets of UK far-right leader’s anti-Muslim videos

Britain First is an Islamophobic group​ run by convicted racists.​ It was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP) and loyalist extremists in Northern Ireland. 

Related: Trump's scattergun morning of tweets hits familiar targets as well as new lows

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Omar Musa: Genocide is the basis for racism in Australia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 29 November, 2017 - 17:00

The poet, writer and hip-hop artist on language, his new book and album, and the demonisation of Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Being a migrant in Australia, according to the author, rapper and poet Omar Musa, is a lot like constantly applying for a visa to somewhere you already grew up.

In twin releases due at the end of this month – a book of poetry, Millefiori, and a hip-hop album, Since Ali Died – Musa speaks of seeing too many non-white Australians caught out in the trap of the model minority: where you can spend your whole life trying to fit in, only to discover that some people never thought you belonged.

Related: Gould’s Book Arcade: the political, literary legacy of Newtown’s dusty wonder

Related: Peter Carey: 'You wake up in the morning and you are the beneficiary of a genocide'

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Why ‘Islamophobia’ is relevant

Indigo Jo Blogs - 28 November, 2017 - 22:35

 Give us full Sharia Law".I’ve had an ‘Islamophobia’ category on this blog for as long as I can remember (my first post in it was about Oriana Fallaci in September 2006). Much of my work in writing it has been to attack Islamophobia, to counter Islamophobic narratives and policies. But the term has had its critics over the years, some of them Muslims and some not. One of the most common criticisms is that it’s terminologically inaccurate as it doesn’t really refer to a fear as such but to hostility. Another is that opposition to Islam is usually a cover for hostility to non-whites or “others”, and it is sufficient to call it racism. I’m not convinced by either argument.

To take the first argument (about terminology): for whatever reason English tends to use Latin and Greek, or a clumsy hotch-potch of the two, for neologisms yet we have stopped teaching either in schools, other than high-end private schools and some Catholic schools were Latin is still taught because Mass used to be said in it and a lot of church literature is written in it. The upshot is that we don’t have the language to coin a neologism for hostility to a group of people as opposed to fear. It’s often explained with the claim that such hostility often is based on fear, at least partly — fear of the unknown, fear stemming from hysterical and biased press reporting, for examples — but the hatred and malice is often very obviously stronger than the fear. But in any case, the misuse of ‘phobia’ has spread way beyond this — we see phone screens described as having ‘oleophobic’ coatings which are simply oil-resistant and cannot fear as they are inanimate objects.

The second argument was put by a Facebook friend (an African-American) a couple of weeks ago. She said that people who hate Islam are simply racist, that they view Islam as a “non-White” religion even if the Muslim in question is White and that Islam is seen as a threat to the maintenance of White supremacy and hegemony. While I believe this is true of some American racists who hate Muslims, it is certainly not true of others; there are, for example, atheists who have particular loathing for Islam because it still has adherents who believe in it as it is, rather than changing it to suit modern sensibilities and fashions. There are Zionists who have hitched their wagon to that of the White hegemonists because they support Israel with weapons and money. In the years I’ve been running this blog, some of the most racist material I’ve read about Muslims has come from those people.

Europe has a history of persecuting religious minorities and they have included both White and non-White minorities. Europe’s main minority for generations was the Jews, who were presumed to have loyalty more to each other than to the kingdom they lived in, they regarded their law as superior to the law of the land and they regarded their homeland as the Middle East, not Poland, Spain or anywhere else in Europe. In the 19th century, Judaism was ridiculed as a reactionary ‘fossil’ which oppressed women, kosher slaughter was condemned as ‘cruel’ and countries started outlawing it. Later, with the discovery of genetics, racists appeared who characterised the Jews as a race, with non-practising Jews and atheists and even Christians of Jewish descent being targeted for suspicion and, during the Nazi era, murder. The fact that eastern European Jews were white, that they looked the same as anyone else, was of no consequence. Race as characterised by colour, where common religious belief was of no consequence, was found more in the USA and in the colonial world than it was in Europe. In France today, there are Muslims of every colour, and there are light-skinned as well as Black Muslims living in the suburban ghettoes and suffering discrimination and poverty while white feminists berate them for clinging to ‘patriarchy’ and cheer on headscarf bans everywhere, insisting the women must be doing it because they are either coerced or brainwashed.

I don’t know if it originated in the UK, but I remember first hearing it in the late 1990s at a time when Muslims were fighting to be recognised as a group separate from Asians which is how they were usually bracketed; discrimination was always presumed to be on grounds of race and no structures existed to protect anyone from discrimination on religious grounds; it had to be filtered through race. I recall a letter in the Observer’s advice column from a Muslim parent whose children were not being allowed religious dress at school and the reply contained the phrase “if you are in a minority” at least once. If you weren’t an ethnic minority, you were not protected from religious discrimination. Similarly, people were protected from incitement to hatred based on race, but not based on religion. Meanwhile, well before 9/11, the media frequently featured material focussed on Islam that manifested ignorance, fear and stereotypes about misogyny and terrorism — a work as dubious as Jean Sasson’s Princess could get an extract in Amnesty International’s magazine, for example. This had to change.

 Even Muslims don't want it".Racism still exists, of course, but at least in Europe it is a separate issue from hatred of Muslims based on religion which has a lot in common with old-fashioned anti-Semitism. In the post-9/11 period (and particularly the period since the 2005 bombings in the UK), Islamophobia has manifested as the ‘securitisation’ of any behaviour regarded as distinctly Muslim that may have nothing to do with national security; the demands to “integrate or else”, the obsession on the part of the authorities with FGM, which they are convinced is being carried out clandestinely on a large scale despite the paucity of evidence, and the tabloid campaigns against the niqaab, prompted not by anything a Muslim woman did but by a politician’s speech. Some of this has a connection with racism but not all of it, and some people have difficulty admitting that the nature of racism and prejudice has changed. “Muslims”, used by bigots, does not always mean “Pakis” anymore.

So, as clumsy and perhaps inaccurate as the term is, it still has relevance and is still a thing distinct from racism. It would not be helpful to say to someone expressing Islamophobic views and pushing for bans on the hijab, for example, because they might not actually be hostile to anyone based on their skin colour alone and may regard like-minded Black or Asian people as allies or even have them for allies. In other parts of the world, Black Christians and Asian Hindus and Buddhists have massacred Muslims of the same complexion, much as White Serbs massacred White Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s. There are many reasons people are prejudiced against Muslims and “not as white as us” is only one of them, and not always the most important.

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Ofsted accused of racism over hijab questioning in primary schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 November, 2017 - 13:18

Letter signed by 1,000 teachers and faith leaders says watchdog’s recommendation for inspectors reinforces Islamophobia

Ofsted’s recommendation for inspectors to question Muslim primary school girls if they are wearing a hijab has been condemned as “kneejerk, discriminatory and institutionally racist” by more than 1,000 teachers, academics and faith leaders.

The schools inspectorate announced this month that the policy was designed to tackle situations in which wearing a hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation” of girls as young as four or five, when most Islamic teaching requires headdress for girls only at the onset of puberty.

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To find the extremism behind the Egypt terror attack, start with anti-Sufi preachers | HA Hellyer

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 November, 2017 - 11:41
Sufism is integral to Islam. The extremist ideology that insists otherwise ignores history and distorts the truth

On Friday, more than 300 Muslim worshippers were murdered in a mosque, and scores more injured, by presumably extremist Islamists in Egypt. There are quite likely a few reasons why this attack took place when it did, including the rejection of radical groups by the residents of this northern Sinai village. But one reason is a deeply ideological one, which relates to the Sufi tendency of many of those massacred. That ideological component goes far beyond this particular attack – and, indeed, beyond one particular group. It is a problem that Muslim communities the world over must all tackle – a virulent strain of extremist thought that ironically rejects orthodoxy, while insisting it is the most orthodox.

Extremism is not an intrinsically Muslim problem, and it ought not to be considered as such

Related: Sinai attack needs to be a turning point in Egypt's war on terror

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Egypt's Sufis will stay indoors to mark birth of prophet Muhammad

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 November, 2017 - 18:15

Following Friday’s attack on a mosque in north Sinai, in which 305 were killed, annual parade is cancelled

Egypt’s Sufi worshippers have said they will go ahead with celebrations to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad despite an attack on a mosque in the Sinai peninsula that left 305 dead and 128 injured.

The attack on al-Rawdah Mosque in the northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed on Friday was the most deadly in modern Egyptian history. A bomb tore through the house of worship just after Friday prayers, killing many of those inside including 27 children.

Related: The Guardian view on terror in Egypt: airstrikes will not end the crisis | Editorial

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Pakistani law minister quits after weeks of anti-blasphemy protests

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 November, 2017 - 12:50

Zahid Hamid resignation is latest in series of government concessions to Islamic extremists

Pakistan’s law minister has resigned after weeks of big protests staged by a hardline cleric against a perceived softening of the country’s blasphemy laws.

At least six protesters were killed and 200 injured in Islamabad on Saturday when thousands of police officers unsuccessfully tried to disperse a three-week sit-in that had virtually paralysed the capital.

Rallies began on 8 November when firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi staged a sit-in in Islamabad over the government's alteration of the wording of an electoral oath, in which politicians swear that  Muhammad is the last prophet.

Related: Ousted Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif indicted over corruption claims

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Book Review: The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark

Inayat's Corner - 26 November, 2017 - 19:21

Published in 1996 – the year of his all-too-early death due to cancer – The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark, will inevitably be seen as Carl Sagan’s departing words urging the world to challenge superstition and irrational modes of thinking. A celebrated populariser of science, Sagan outlines his motivation right at the beginning of the book.

“When you’re in love, you want to tell the world. This book is a personal statement, reflecting my lifelong love affair with science.” (p25)

Sagan rightly laments the harm that has been caused through unquestioning attitudes towards ‘Holy Books’. The Bible’s injunction “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” led to the loss of countless lives in Europe where witch-burning continued to be a popular pastime right up until the rise of the scientific revolution.

And what about today? Do we still see short-sighted religious superstition at work? Of course we do and sadly it is not limited to extremist groups like ISIS. Just over a decade back, I recall being shocked when even the revered Muslim scholar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has spent a lifetime challenging extremism and has a huge following in the Middle East and beyond, responded thus to the awful 2004 Indian ocean earthquake that resulted in over 280,000 fatalities, including in the overwhelmingly Muslim state of Aceh, Indonesia:

“People must ask themselves why this earthquake occurred in this area and not in others….These areas were notorious because of this type of modern tourism, which has become known as “sex tourism”….Don’t they deserve punishment from Allah?!”

Instead, science and scientists like Carl Sagan, would rather that we examine the reason why earthquakes occur more frequently in particular regions of the world and study plate tectonics and their relationship to earthquakes with a view to putting some thought into what can be done to limit the damage they can cause. It is a rational and sensible way to deal with a tragic natural phenomenon.

There does not need to be a conflict between science and religion, according to Sagan, but it requires vigilance and action to ensure that the bigots do not triumph.

“On one level, they share similar and consonant roles, and each needs the other. Open and vigorous debate, even the consecration of doubt, is a Christian tradition going back to John Milton’s Areopagitica (1644). Some of mainstream Christianity and Judaism embraces and even anticipated at least a portion of the humility, self-criticism, reasoned debate, and questioning of received wisdom that the best of science offers. But other sects, sometimes called conservative or fundamentalist – and today they seem to be in the ascendant, with the mainstream religions almost inaudible and invisible – have chosen to make a stand on matters subject to disproof, and thus have something to fear from science.” (p277)

One particularly compelling chapter of the book is devoted to what Sagan calls his Baloney Detection Kit, to help equip us with the tools to facilitate critical thinking and help prevent us falling prey to those would try and restrict our freedom to subject all ideas to criticism by declaring some topics off-limits as sacred or taboo.

The Demon-Haunted World is a passionate appeal to question and challenge all forms of irrational thought. Over twenty years after its original publication, its message remains as relevant as it was in 1996 and perhaps even more so.


Seerah Competition 2017 Essay – Haneen Hasan

Muslim Matters - 26 November, 2017 - 05:39

“I bear witness that Muhammad is NOT the last messenger of Allah.” I imagine it was something along these lines that Ammar bin Yasir was forced to say after the torture he saw his parents face. Ammar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) saw a lot of hardship in his life. He was tortured relentlessly, until he was screaming out in pain, reaching his breaking point much later than many of us would. Despite this, for some reason, it seems to me what hurt most were those words he was forced to utter. Like Ammar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) Muslims from the beginning of time have gone through hardships because of their faith, yet when things get hard, it’s not people they turn to, but Allah they approach. People like the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), and Mus’ab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) went through so much loss and hardship in this life for their religion, yet remained steadfast.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a good man. We know this from Seerah, he was honest, trustworthy, patient, and kind. From the very beginning people saw something special in him. When he turned 40 years old, and the Qur’aan was revealed for the first time, everything he knew about his life was turned around. His good character and nature had him patient, but he was terrified, as anyone would expect him to be. He ran to his source of comfort, scared that he was seeing things, straight into the arms of his wife, Khadeejah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). While Khadeejah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was his comfort, his support was his uncle, Abu Talib. The man who raised the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) fought on his behalf many times. Even though he was not a Muslim, he suffered through the boycott and stood firmly by his nephew. These people, the ones whom the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would spend the rest of his life missing, were taken away in the early years of prophethood. The pain that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had already gone through losing his father and mother early in life, built up because now he felt alone. It was during this time, a year named specifically named the year of sorrow for the incredible losses endured, that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) comforted his Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) with prayer, five times daily, an opportunity to have a conversation with the creator of this world. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)’s hardship was eased.

As the hot sand burned his back in the unbearable desert sun, a boulder pressed tightly on his chest, tears forming in his eyes, a young African slave whimpered, but refused defeat, insisting on, ‘ahad, ahad, ahad”. Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) a story we have never skipped during discussion of hardships in Makkan Seerah. His master was a cruel person who was less than pleased his slave was a part of the following of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He out him through physical torture so severe, it makes me cringe just thinking about it. Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) may as well be the definition of the word perseverance, as through it all, he never gave up his faith. After he was freed by Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), Bilal went on to become an important part of the Muslim ummah. We know him today as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)’s favorite mu’adhin. We know him as the man whose footsteps the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) heard in Jannah in front of his own. Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) turned to Allah, he did not beg his master for mercy, he did not even ask to be freed, simply, he turned to Allah, and for that reason we mention his name to this day.

They say when Mus’ab bin Umair raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) passed by, you could smell his perfume there for three days. His robes would reach well past his ankles, and he was in other words, filthy rich. Mus’ab bin Umair raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to many people may have been living the life. He had everything a person who valued the world could ask for. Money, status, and of course, good looks. It’s hard to imagine this same man being someone who they could not find enough cloth to bury his body in. Mus’ab bin Umair raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) suffered in the name of his religion, maybe not exactly like Bilal or Khabbab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), but suffered nonetheless. Everything he loved about his life was gone in a matter of days as he bore witness to a truth we utter to this day. He faced rejection from the very people who claimed to love him, and everything he ever knew to be true, everything he thought he was, was gone. Today, we acknowledge his sacrifices from more than a thousand years ago. Because when he lost everything and everyone, he turned directly to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used Mus’ab’s charm and charisma later on to make him the first ambassador of Islam. And once again, when he chose Allah over everything else, he fixed his place in history.

Courage, perseverance, and resilience perfectly embody the three incredible men mentioned in this essay. Their true help in this world was simply Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Even when things got unbearable, and the pain was piercing, they got back up, asked for help from the only one who could help them. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) through pain and loss did not give up his mission to spread Tawheed. Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), through physical scars and torture did not give up that very Tawheed. Mus’ab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), through loss of wealth and status, maybe even identity, did not give up his faith. There are many thing I have learned from these incredible men. I have learned that despite how bad things may look in this world, Allah is the one in charge of making it better so it’s to Him I should turn to. I have learned that despite the losses others see in embracing Islam and holding onto it, it’s never really a loss, because we have no idea what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has planned for us in the future. Lastly, I learned that the true value of people is judged when they are in hardship, who they look to, and ask for help from shows character. I hope I embody these lesson in my life whenever things look difficult.

Egypt shows again that Muslims have most to fear from Islamists | HA Hellyer

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 November, 2017 - 00:05
Last week’s atrocity underlines that Muslims should be embraced by the west in the worldwide campaign against terror groups

It is not the first time that Egypt has seen attacks on mosques or other places of worship. But no one should be left in any confusion – Friday’s massacre was unprecedented. The Egyptian media are reporting in excess of 300 people dead, with scores more injured, as a result of the multi-pronged attack on the mosque in northern Sinai – and Egypt is now in the midst of a mourning period, a watershed in its modern history.

There are several points that ought to be stated from the outset. Even as the numbers of the dead were being released, and Egyptians were lamenting the greatest terrorist attack on their soil, the Trump administration was tweeting about walls and travel bans. There is, of course, no suggestion that DC will be placing Egypt on that travel ban list, nor should that be suggested, because the premise is absurd.

It remains important for Cairo to respond with wisdom, with care and with determination

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Hijab and primary school girls: not compulsory, but …

Indigo Jo Blogs - 25 November, 2017 - 23:37

A picture of three young girls in long black dresses and headscarves, one in black, one in light pink and another in light blue. One of them is standing on a prayer mat.In the past week the ‘issue’ of primary school age Muslim girls wearing hijab to school has been on the front pages of some newspapers as the chief inspector of schools announced that her inspectors would be asking young girls they saw in headscarves why they were wearing it, supposedly in case girls were being ‘sexualised’ by wearing a garment believed to be intended to hide potentially sexually arousing things from men. The claim that this is the intention or the effect of hijab has been floating around on Twitter for some time but has gone mainstream in the last few months, perhaps because the country’s white busybodies need some other excuse to interfere in the way minorities raise their children since the wheels fell off the FGM bandwagon ([1], [2]) a couple of months back. A common claim is that hijab is “not even mandatory until puberty” in Islam, but there is more to why women and girls wear the hijab than this. (More: Abdul-Azim Ahmed.)

First: the age of puberty for girls is menarche, or their first period, or (according to most scholars) the age of 15, whichever comes first. It’s entirely possible that a girl would have reached puberty before leaving primary school, especially if (though this is not common in the UK although it is in other countries) she has been held back a year. As the age of criminal responsibility in this country is 10, surely we can all be familiar with the concept of a child of 10 having personal obligations. If something is compulsory for an older child and an adult, it makes all sense for them to be accustomed to doing it before it becomes mandatory. As parents Muslims are told to make sure our children pray before they reach puberty, for the same reason, but we also do not want our daughters suddenly going into school in hijab one random day when they’re 14 and in a mixed school where everyone who knows a little bit about Islam will know why. A blogger I once knew who lived in Saudi Arabia said that this was quite common with niqaab there — a girl would wear a headscarf from much younger but when you see her in niqaab you know she is now “a young lady” — but Saudi Arabia is a different society to ours.

Second, children copy their elders and the elders of young Muslim girls are older Muslim girls and women. Kids like to be grown up and, the older they get, the more they want to do what bigger people do and the more they resent reminders that they are children. The idea that there is a reason related to sex for why they have to cover their hair does not occur to them. If they indeed have to, it’s because “mama said so”. This is the usual reason why children have to do anything, after all; why they have to go to this school or that school, or wear this or that item of clothing, or eat whatever their parents choose to make for dinner even if they do not like it. Some parents of my acquaintance also find that the headscarf protects their daughter from headlice, which is more important when children are primary school age, not less. Hijabs as worn by young girls are not normally long black cloaks as found in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia, but bright scarves with embroidery that just cover the hair and shoulders. They wear their normal clothes otherwise, and at school they wear uniform. No girl wears a niqaab before puberty and it’s rare for them to wear it at high school age in western countries.

Third, the argument about ‘sexualisation’ is spurious and a perversion of a real issue. Clothing that ‘sexualises’ children is what displays too much flesh, or does so too tightly, or ‘matures’ a prepubescent girl (e.g. with a push-up bra) or produces a look associated with the likes of strippers, ‘exotic’ dancers or prostitutes. Such clothing is usually marketed to girls approaching their teens and this is what causes concern; that it encourages girls who are not yet even at puberty to prepare to sexualise their normal clothing, to put their bodies on display for men. Hijab does the opposite of this and accustoms them to dressing respectably, which brings us onto the rationale for hijab.

It is a myth that Islam portrays women as temptresses and men as slaves to their own sexual desires which the hijab is intended to protect them from. The reason is in fact spelled out in the Qur’an: “so that they be known and not harassed”, i.e. seen as Godfearing and respectable women. For the most part, we do not probe too deeply into the wisdom behind the laws of Islam; it is enough for us to know that Allah and His Messenger have told us to do something or not to do something, and we obey for the pleasure of Allah, but in this case the reason has been made plain to us. Shari’ah law in this instance works by “blocking the means” to what is forbidden, and this is not just unlawful sex but unlawful dalliances. Physical contact is forbidden between men and women other than spouses and close relatives, as is chit-chat beyond what is necessary. It safeguards marriages and reputations and promotes social harmony. Hijab is not meant to restrict women, and does not. It is men and, increasingly, hostile women who do that.

The letter to the Times (also here) by a well-known group of unrepresentative secularists contains a serious inaccuracy: the claim that India and Tunisia “are fighting back against male-dominated orthodoxies and protecting women’s rights against cultural and ultra-conservative religious practices”; one of these is ruled by a party which oversaw a pogrom in which thousands of women were raped (among other atrocities) while the present prime minister was a provincial governor, and only this year a Muslim woman who had converted from Hinduism was prevented from living with her husband because the judge accepted arguments that she had been the ‘victim’ of a so-called “love jihad”; the other was ruled by a dictatorship for decades until only six years ago which suppressed the practice of Islam and used a secret police to terrorise the population. How on earth can such countries be regarded as models of progress for Muslim women, or indeed anyone?

Selina Begum, a young South Asian woman with braces on her teeth wearing a black headscarf and abaya-type dress.This group of women have media connections but these are not matched by support within the Muslim community itself. It speaks volumes that they addressed their letter to a newspaper with a history of dishonest, sensationalist and intrusive stories about Muslims and, to be fair, other groups in society. Several of the group of women are already notorious for agitating against the Shari’ah and none of them wear hijaab; the question of why any Muslim would approach such a newspaper to orchestrate a campaign that would make life for Muslim women and girls who observe their deen more difficult and unpleasant or make said observances unnatural really needs answering. They bleat on about “equal rights for females” but there is no contradiction between that and being allowed to wear a headscarf to school; everyone with any experience of education in the Global South knows that educating women and girls is vital and this can be achieved whatever clothes a girl wears. Look at the young lady who won the individual debating prize at Eton College this year — Selina Begum, a 16-year old Muslim girl from a state school in Newham, east London, who wears hijab, competing against the rich, confident, entitled boys from David Cameron’s and Prince William’s old school.

It is incumbent on Muslims, especially Muslim parents, to contact Ofsted to explain to them why some of us dress our young girls in the headscarf. It’s not because it’s mandatory for them (it’s not); it’s not because we regard them or their hair as sexual temptations for grown men (we don’t). It’s because it’s the dress of a Muslim woman and we get them used to dressing like one because that is what they become.

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The poisonous dispute over Indian film Padmavati mustn’t spill over into the UK | Sunny Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 November, 2017 - 16:38
The possibility of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial new film opening in Britain has prompted threats against British cinemas and film fans

Acclaimed filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed an operatic version of a Sufi poem Padmavat at the Châtelet theatre in Paris in 2008. He’s now turned that into a film, starring one of the biggest names in Indian cinema, Deepika Padukone. Padmavati was due to open in cinemas on 1 December. However, it’s currently embroiled in a controversy that has spilled over to the UK.

It all started in January when Bhansali was assaulted during the filming by a mob consisting of Karni Sena members, a Rajput caste group. In Padmavati, the Rajput queen Padmini chose to kill herself by self-immolation rather than be captured by the Muslim sultan, Alauddin Khilji. It’s a story that has become a key part of Rajput history, despite little evidence that Queen Padmini actually existed. However, when it was rumoured that Bhansali had included a dream sequence depicting a romance between Queen Padmini and Khilji, which he refuted multiple times, the Karni Sena objected to the alleged distortion of history in the name of art.

Related: Indian film Padmavati sparks protests over 'Hindu-Muslim romance'

Related: The murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh shows India descending into violence | Mari Marcel Thekaekara

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