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Families Suspect Hate Crime After Muslim Cemetery Vandalized

Loon Watch - 21 November, 2014 - 21:21

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Only Muslim headstones in the cemetery were targeted by vandals leading family members to suspect a hate crime was involved.

(SEATTLE, WA, 11/21/14) — The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) today called on law enforcement authorities to investigate vandalism targeting a Muslim cemetery as a possible hate crime.

Headstones bearing the Islamic star and crescent and Arabic inscriptions were vandalized earlier this week at the Islamic Community of Bosniaks in Washington State’s cemetery near Maltby, Wash. Community members say the Christian section of the cemetery was not vandalized.

“Because the perpetrators of this desecration appear to have targeted only the Muslim graves, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this troubling incident as a possible hate crime,” said CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari.

Pictures from Bosnajci.net

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‘Radicalisation risk’ at six Muslim schools in London

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 November, 2014 - 19:36
Ofsted orders east London schools to change or face closure amid concerns that pupils are not being taught British values

Six independent Muslim faith schools in London’s East End must make urgent changes or be forced to close, the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, said after Ofsted inspectors faulted them for failing to promote British values and safeguard their pupils.

According to analysis by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, six private schools in Tower Hamlets “focused intensively on developing Islamic knowledge and understanding at the expense of other important areas of the curriculum”, ignoring creative subjects such as music and art.

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The Ofsted report about my former school is way off the mark | Harun Asif

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 November, 2014 - 19:31
The Jamiatul Ummah Islamic faith school in Tower Hamlets has been condemned as inadequate – but I did OK after going there

I left the Jamiatul Ummah school in 2011. When I saw the headlines saying that my former school and other independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets were vulnerable to “extremist influences and radicalisation”, my first thought was that Ofsted couldn’t be more off the mark .

This latest inspection has labelled my former school “inadequate”, despite the previous inspection three years ago finding that it was outstanding. Five other independent Muslim schools in the area have suffered the same fate. The principal of Jamiatul Ummah, Sheikh Madani, is having all of his material analysed and all the khutbas (Friday sermons) are being scrutinised. I just don’t know how schools function under that kind of pressure.

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Islamist cleric allowed to preach in London while on bail

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 November, 2014 - 17:28
Judge Howard Riddle orders that Anjem Choudary and other terror suspects’ religious freedom must be respected

Radical Islamist cleric Anjem Choudary must be allowed to preach on the streets of London even though he is on police bail over suspected terror offences, a judge has ruled.

Choudary, 47, and six Islamist associates, were given new bail terms at Westminster magistrates court in relation to encouraging terrorism and being members of a proscribed group.

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'A patient was killed and staff were beaten trying to protect him'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 November, 2014 - 13:10

Delphine Chedorge, MSF’s head of mission, talks about the challenges of delivering medical aid in Central African Republic

Since the ousting of President Bozize in March 2013, Central African Republic has been more unstable than ever. A Séléka Muslim rebel coalition seized power, leading to killings and lootings met by revenge attacks from the anti-balaka (anti-machete) Christian militia. The country is experiencing widespread sectarian violence and the UN warned that “seeds of genocide” were being sown against Muslims. An African-led and French-backed peacekeeping force known as MISCA was taken over by the UN in September.

What is it like working in a country experiencing conflict?

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Ofsted chief: pupils at east London faith schools at risk of radicalisation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 November, 2014 - 10:54
Education secretary urged to act with urgency following Ofsted inspections of six independent Muslim schools and a state secondary

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, has said pupils at independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets “may be vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalisation” and called on the government to act with urgency.

Wilshaw’s advice note to education secretary Nicky Morgan on Friday follows Ofsted inspections last month of six independent schools in the east London borough, as well as Sir John Cass school, a state secondary. All seven schools were judged to be inadequate by inspectors.

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Friday Links | November 21, 2014

Muslimah Media Watch - 21 November, 2014 - 06:00
Women in Iraq’s Anbar province have come together to form “Women of Justice,” a group aimed to fight ISIL. Meanwhile an article on Global Voices Online suggests that many remain “obsessed” with the Kurdish female fighters. Yet another article tries to explain why women would join ISIL, and the Canadian government called for proposals for [Read More...]

Pray, Connect, Learn, Speak – Ferguson

Muslim Matters - 20 November, 2014 - 23:34

We await the grand jury decision on whether Darren Wilson, the police officer who fired on and killed unarmed Michael Brown, will be indicted on criminal charges. Our Noble Prophet ﷺ said, “By Allah, if you have killed one man, it is as if you have killed all the people” (Sunan SaEid ibn Mansur 2776). While Michael Brown's death is a deep tragedy in and of itself, the militarized response to the protests it sparked reflect racial disparities and long standing injustices in our society. As Muslims we should draw upon our strong tradition of standing with the most marginalized members of society.

Allah tells us in the Qur'an:

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O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted (Sahih International 4:135)

Mass incarceration, police brutality and the frequency of  extrajudicial killings  of Black Americans in the United States , including that of imam Luqman ameen Abdullah and Amadou Diallo (one every 28 hours) are reflections of the structural racism in our society. The activation of the National Guard  in Missouri this week is a stark reminder of the militarized response to non-violent protests. It is our duty as Muslims to stand with the victims of oppression for justice. On the authority of Abu Sa'eed al-Khudree raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, “Whoso-ever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim). We are calling on our brothers and sisters to stand, speak, and act.

We ask that Muslim organizations be part of the solution by taking proactive steps in responding to a growing crisis. As part of our mission to challenge racism, we invite you to address the grand jury decision and to prepare our communities to create safe space for conversation and develop strategies to address inequity in our society. Regardless of the decision, the realities of structural racism affects the lives of Muslims and people of color nationwide.  There are 75 Planned Actions for Darren Wilson Grand Jury Decision which you can join and support. In addition, we offer the suggestions below and we would invite you to share your own ideas as well:

  • Pray. Either deepen your prayer for the situation, or get started now. Pray for an end to racism, for the family of Michael Brown, for the people of Ferguson, for the police and other government officials. If you are an imam, be sure to include a prayer for the people of Ferguson in your Friday prayers.  Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, even if he is an unbeliever, for there is no screen between it and Allah” (Musnad Ahmad 12140).

  • Connect. Start thinking now about your community and their likely reactions, and needs. Are there other Muslim community centers you could join with? Are there other faith communities? Reach out to other imams and leaders to plan and strategize. Reach out within your community to support Muslims for Ferguson and others who will support this effort.

  • Learn. Become well informed about structural racism, police brutality, state surveillance, and prison-industrial complex. The Ferguson syllabus is an excellent place to deepen your knowledge and begin to make connections.

  • Discuss. Create safe space to meet and start conversations about the decision, in order to share reactions, fears and hopes. It may be immediate or within 24 or 48 hours, online or in face to face meetings. Gather the resources needed to support honest engagement with this issue with a goal of unmasking, dismantling and eradicating racism.

  • Speak. Prepare to teach, preach, and speak out against racism, now and on a regular basis.

  • Release. Kaethe Weingarten (South African psychologist) writes “Let yourself release the feelings that you have. if you feel sadness, cry; if anger, yell. Think of one small action that you can take, symbolic or actual, that makes you feel less helpless” Be mindful of how this fear, anxiety, anger and rage manifests itself in our physical bodies.

  • Talk. Speak to your children and other young people in your lives about current events. Children especially take their cues from us and we have to be prepared to help them process what is s happening. There are numerous resources on How to Teach Kids About Ferguson. Above all, reassure them of our love and affection.

This is not an exhaustive list, but we hope they prepare us for meaningful action. We urge all Muslims to engage this situation in a way that can bring about sustained change.

If you have questions, comments, ideas or suggestions, please contact one of us. As part of our commitment to fighting racism within the Muslim community and standing for justice, we must take action.

Jazak Allah khayr,

Margari Hill,

Co-founder and Programming Director

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative

(Adapted heavily from Rev. Dr. Keith Bolton and Rev. Deborah Blood Co-Chairs of the Sacred Conversations on Race Ministry Facebook  Post retrieved November 19, 2014)

The post Pray, Connect, Learn, Speak – Ferguson appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Julien Blanc and swearing on talk radio

Indigo Jo Blogs - 20 November, 2014 - 22:23

This morning on the Nick Ferrari show on LBC (which I don’t listen to very often; I always preferred the BBC London station), they were talking about the American “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc, who has been going around the world giving seminars on how to “pick up” women, which he seems to think involves using very physically aggressive methods, who was meant to be coming to the UK to give seminars but, following widespread protests from feminists in particular, now will not be as he has been denied a visa. Nick Ferrari (right) had two feminist guests on (unusual), namely Rahila Gupta and Louise Pennington. The discussion, however, came to a premature end when Pennington used the F-word, leading Ferrari to cut her off and say he would never invite her onto his show again.

Rahila Gupta opposed blocking Blanc from coming into the country, because she said that immigration laws were racist in themselves and because it is better to expose their ideas in debate than ban them. Pennington said she agreed with Rahila on the matter of immigration law being racist, she said that “we have to work within the system we have”. However, she then opined that “we live in a rape culture” in which girls are groomed to be sexually abused from an early age and women are not regarded as having the right to say no. Although this kind of thing is a standard argument on a certain type of feminist blog, including Pennington’s, Ferrari reacted as if this was the most stupid thing he had ever heard. She then said something about girls being trained or groomed to be “f**kable”, at which point the host said, “you know, when you’re losing an argument, you resort to foul language” and said he would make a note never to have “that woman” back on air. Later on, a (male) emailer challenged him by reminding him that he had said that Julien Blanc’s words were just words, and surely the same was the case with Pennington’s; Ferrari said that the word was on a list of words they couldn’t use on air, and told him that if he wanted his kids hearing that sort of language at 7am, he was listening to the wrong station.

I’ve been listening (on and off) to talk radio for years, pretty much as long as I’ve been driving for a living, and there’s a blanket ban on swearing on air, and unlike on TV there is no watershed (i.e. a time after which it’s permitted), so people have been cut off at any time. There was one occasion where a lady called in to the Eddie Nestor show one Sunday morning, saying that she had been smoking cannabis for years and was now dying of cancer. She said that while on the drug she would go into work and say “oh, f**k this”, at which point Nestor cut her off and issued a sanctimonious apology to us for her language, irrespective of the fact that some of us may have been more annoyed at the woman’s story being interrupted. On the other hand, when Jonathan Ross was heard telling Andrew Sachs, on air, that a man had “f**ked his granddaughter”, he was suspended only for a short time despite this having been recorded, and played at prime time. He got off far too lightly for that.

I turned over not long after he cut Pennington off, but they did not really get to why Julien Blanc should not be allowed into the country. The laws involved are not immigration laws and in this case the matter has nothing to do with race; the Home Secretary can block anyone from coming to the UK if their presence is deemed “not conducive to the public good”. If he was coming to teach people how to plant bombs or rob banks, he would certainly not be allowed in, so the same must be true given that he teaches men to sexually harass and abuse women. It is not just a case of someone with some unpopular ideas or someone who offends the sensibilities of certain powerful and vocal minority lobby groups. I do not know if Ferrari was familiar with the ideas Louise Pennington threw into the discussion (although he or his researchers must surely have read her blog or Twitter feed, where they appear pretty regularly), but they would have seemed extreme to many listeners and weren’t really relevant, as Blanc is not that typical of popular culture, even “lad culture”, but an openly racist, misogynist criminal that most people did not know about until last week. It is right not to let him into the country.

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Church of England school taken aback by Ofsted rating amid extremism row

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2014 - 20:53
Sir John Cass secondary praised by teachers as school downgraded on safeguarding issues

The head teacher of the Church of England school in east London at the centre of a fresh controversy over alleged Islamic extremism, has expressed surprise at the Ofsted inspection findings that sent his school into special measures.

The Sir John Cass Foundation and Red Coat Church of England secondary, and a group of independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets, will be criticised by Ofsted over safeguarding concerns, following snap visits by the schools inspectorate in the wake of the “Trojan horse” affair in Birmingham.

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CAIR Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Vandalism Targeting N. Calif. Mosque

Loon Watch - 20 November, 2014 - 20:00

Why was a mosque targeted with a Star of David and the number 26?

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 11/20/14) — The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate vandalism targeting a local mosque as a possible hate crime.

CAIR-SFBA said vandals spray-painted a Star of David and the number 26 on a door of the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif.

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“Given ongoing violence in the Middle East, coupled with the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in American society, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this vandalism,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

CAIR recently reported a number of apparent hate attacks on Islamic institutions in the United States, including shots fired at a California mosque and a firebomb attack on a mosque in New Mexico.

NYPD Can No Longer ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ Whether It Was Spying on Muslims

Loon Watch - 20 November, 2014 - 19:52

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No more evasion for the NYPD?

The Village Voice

The NYPD has been going to the legal mat recently to protect records that might shed light on a now-infamous spy program targeting Muslims in the New York City area.

In a bid to prevent the release of documents possibly related to the program, the NYPD broke out the big guns, adopting a controversial legal strategy — called a “Glomar response” — pioneered by the CIA in the 1970s.

If you’ve ever read a Tom Clancy novel or watched (sigh) HBO’s The Newsroom, you’ve heard someone — usually a sinister federal agent of some stripe — say that they can “neither confirm nor deny” whatever horrible thing they’re being accused of doing.

The phrase has entered the popular lexicon in all kinds of contexts, but it actually grew out of a specific federal lawsuit.

When a reporter sought documents related to a secret CIA operation in 1975, the feds worried that turning them over would reveal important security information. More than that, the CIA believed that if they explained why they were legally allowed to withhold the records, they would inadvertently reveal that the records — and therefore the double-secret program itself — actually existed. (Spoiler: It did.)

Prior to that time, in order to deny a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, the government at least had to cite a specific “exemption” to explain the refusal. The Glomar response was therefore a novel approach. But the court bought it, and since then it’s become a routine if not particularly common tool at the federal level.

(The rest of the back story is pretty fascinating too. This Radiolab segment will fill you in on the saga of a sunken Russian submarine, a company called Global Marine — whence “Glomar” was born — and a whole lot of Cold War shenanigans.)

That whole thing went down in the federal courts, and has never really been accepted at the state level before the NYPD successfully tried it in October. (We wrote about that case, which is being appealed, back when it happened.)

The suit we’re concerned with today, which is similar to the October case, was brought on behalf of Samir Hashmi, a student at Rutgers University, who believes he and the Muslim student group he belonged to were targeted for NYPD surveillance a few years back.

It’s not exactly a wild claim. The Associated Press revealed in 2011 that a wide swath of Muslim organizations — and in fact entire communities — were targeted for surveillance by the department’s highly secretive “demographics unit.”

The approach taken by the NYPD raised serious constitutional concerns, and also some jurisdictional ones. NYPD officers were found to be operating in New Jersey without the knowledge of local authorities, and while we commend them for taking the trip — we’d certainly rather remain anywhere that is not New Jersey — that also posed some problems in the legal realm.

The AP reporters who broke the story, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, ultimately received a Pulitzer Prize for their work, and though the NYPD initially denied the whole shebang, they were ultimately forced into a tacit admission after disbanding the unit that never existed.

In 2012, Hashmi sought records that might show if he was, indeed, being watched by the police, and the department tried to use the Glomar response to shut down the lawsuit. It was a creative approach, because Glomar is rooted in federal jurisprudence, and Hashmi was suing in state court.

But on Monday, the judge nixed the NYPD’s claim, and said they had to follow the state Freedom of Information Law.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, which advocates for a robust FOIL, says the judge got it right in this instance, and that introducing Glomar as an option for New York agencies would “do damage” to the statute. As the judge pointed out, it’s really up to the legislature to determine whether the law should be altered to contain a Glomar-like provision.

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Rochdale’s Muslim Community Say They Face ‘Unprecedented and Unacceptable’ Racism

Loon Watch - 20 November, 2014 - 19:34

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Manchester Evening News

Members of the Muslim community say they are facing ‘unprecedented and unacceptable’ racism in Rochdale – and are calling on all parts of society to take a stand against Islamophobia.

A group of local leaders have come together to speak out about the rise in violence and discrimination they say Asian people have been subjected to following the town’s grooming scandal.

They say the ‘excessive’ focus on the ethnicity and religion of non-white sex offenders has led to the ‘stigmatisation’ of their community – meaning that Islamophobia is now an ‘acceptable norm’.

The group, a coalition of local leaders under the name of Rochdale Muslim Community, say they now want to work with people in the town to eradicate the hatred.

In a statement passed to the M.E.N., they said: “It has become evident to anyone that follows events in the media that Islam is being portrayed negatively and that Muslims living in Britain are bearing the brunt of discrimination and violence.

“There is little doubt that this has resulted in not only the community feeling vilified but could potentially breakdown social cohesion within society. Irresponsible comments from senior local and national politicians are aiding the negative portrayal of the Muslim community.

“Time and time again some politicians and the media have attempted to equate issues such as grooming and the Muslim community as being one and the same.

“It is only natural that this sort of misinformation will stigmatise the whole of the Muslim community. This has meant that casual xenophobia towards Muslims has now become an acceptable norm.”

Their stand comes after a group of Asian taxi drivers went on strike in Heywood after their boss revealed his firm, Car 2000, would supply a white cabbie on demand. The drivers described how their cars had regularly been attacked or vandalised following the town’s grooming scandal.

In 2012, nine men from Rochdale were jailed for grooming girls and sharing them around the north west for sex.

But the coalition of the town’s Muslims said, while the paedophile gang was often refereed to as ‘Asian’, the ethnicity and religion of sex offenders such as Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith has never been mentioned – even though they too used positions of trust to abuse young children.

The group’s statement added: “Unfortunately, we are now facing a situation where a disdain of the Muslim community is something which is deemed acceptable.

“We do not wish to go back to a situation where discrimination against minorities becomes the norm. We believe that all segments of society have a duty to stand up against Islamophobia in all of its guises no matter how subtle or apparent.

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Ayatollah Khamenei frees Iran blogger

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2014 - 17:15
Iran leader releases Hossein Derakhshan, suspected of spying for Israel and given prison term of 19 years for ‘insulting Islam’

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, on Thursday pardoned the blogger Hossein Derakhshan after his six years in prison for spreading propaganda, insulting Islam and cooperating with hostile countries, Iranian media reported.

Iranian bloggers credit Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who lived in Tehran before moving to Toronto in 2000, with launching a blogging revolution in the Islamic republic by publishing instructions on the subject in Farsi. No reason was given for his release.

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Muslim preachers in France may be forced to take diploma

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2014 - 15:13
Foreign imams could be obliged to hold an officially recognised religious qualification before being allowed to preach

Foreign Islamic preachers will be obliged to take an officially recognised diploma before being allowed to work in France, under measures being considered by the French government.

The new rules, if adopted, would affect more than 70% of imams and Muslim community leaders in France and are aimed at combating the spread of Islamist extremism and the radicalisation of young people.

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I was a teenage Europhile – but the EU’s sadistic austerity and lack of democracy changed my mind

Mahdi Hassan - 20 November, 2014 - 11:15

Fast-forward 15-odd years and my wild-eyed teenage Europhilia is a source of much embarrassment.

 GettyMay’s European Parliament elections did nothing to prompt a response to the EU’s “democratic deficit”. Photo: Getty

This is a free preview of this week’s New Statesman, out today. Get your copy now.

“Any chance of a retweet?” the Conservative MEP and ardent Eurosceptic Daniel Hannan asked me on Twitter a few days ago. He was highlighting a video that singles out British politicians and business leaders who called for the UK to join the euro back in the late 1990s. The video is entitled, rather provocatively, Wrong Then, Wrong Now.

I politely declined Hannan’s request, sheepishly confessing to him that . . . er . . . I happened to be one of those people who were “wrong then”. In my defence, I was a mere undergraduate, rather than a Peter Mandelson or a Richard Branson, but I did nevertheless agitate for British membership of the single currency in countless articles, essays and public debates.

Fast-forward 15-odd years and my wild-eyed teenage Europhilia is a source of much embarrassment. Today, Europe is only marginally more popular with the public than ebola; hard-right parties are sweeping to victory in European elections in the UK, France and Denmark; and the eurozone has only narrowly dodged a triple-dip recession. With all this going on, it’s pretty difficult to mount a credible defence of the single currency or, for that matter, the EU itself.

Let’s start with the euro. What on earth were we thinking? How could anyone with the faintest grasp of economics have believed it was anything other than sheer insanity to yoke together diverse national economies such as Greece, Ireland, Germany and Finland under a single exchange rate and a single interest rate? And, lest we forget, without a US-style system of fiscal transfers or culture of labour mobility to compensate?

There were dissenting voices. Big-name US economists, from the Princeton University liberal Paul Krugman to the Harvard conservative Martin Feldstein, warned that the euro would be an “invitation to disaster” and an “economic liability”. An internal EU report later summed up the view of US economists on the euro project as: “It can’t happen, it’s a bad idea, it won’t last.”

Then there’s the fiscal self-flagellation of recent years, unnecessarily “inflicted in the service of a man-made artifice, the euro”, to quote another US economist, the Nobel Prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz. Has there ever been a better advert for the failure of austerity? Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, in particular, have been brutalised by the fiscally sadistic policies demanded by the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission – and backed by the dead-eyed deficit hawks in Germany. In Greece, malaria returned for the first time in 40 years; in Spain, students in Catalonia had their toilet paper rationed; in Portugal, soup kitchens proliferated; in Ireland, suicides among men rose sharply. While the eurozone continues its orgy of self-harm, the broader EU is in the midst of an unprecedented and existential political crisis: a crisis of democracy, accountability and legitimacy, with citizens feeling ever less connected to the decision-makers in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Did May’s European Parliament election results – described as a political “earthquake” by the French prime minister, Manuel Valls – convince the continent’s leaders, both elected and unelected, to take a step back and try to tackle the EU’s “democratic deficit”? If only. Despite turnout declining in every single set of European parliamentary elections since they were first introduced in 1979 – and despite the European Commission’s polling suggesting that trust in EU institutions, at 31 per cent, is at an all-time low – members of the EU elite march on towards “ever closer union”, incompetently, indifferently, in denial.

Consider Viviane Reding, the former EC vice-president. In a recent interview with me for my al-Jazeera show Head to Head, she urged her former colleagues on the (unelected) EU commission to behave “like [an] army” and a “government” moving forward at “full speed”. “You cannot have 28 [member states] doing whatever they want,” Reding told me.

It’s as if the European elections never happened. As Bertolt Brecht once put it, “Would it not be easier . . . for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?” Or as the new EC president, Jean-Claude Juncker, pompously proclaimed, in reference to the 2005 French referendum on the EU constitution: “If it’s a Yes, we will say, ‘On we go,’ and if it’s a No, we will say, ‘We continue.’”

That isn’t a description of democracy that I recognise. To talk of a “democratic deficit” at the heart of the EU project would be a gross understatement. If the EU were a nation state and tried to join the EU, it would probably be rejected for not being democratic enough.

So, where have all of its progressive critics gone? The left across Europe has been seduced by the EU’s promise of workers’ rights – forgetting that you can’t enjoy those rights if you don’t have a job to begin with. Mass unemployment is now a fact of life across swaths of the EU and, especially, the eurozone. More than half of young people are jobless in both Greece and Spain, yet unelected Eurocrats still want more growth-choking austerity.

This is a political and economic scandal, not to mention a human tragedy. And progressives should be saying so. But the left in the UK has ceded all the Eurosceptic terrain to the xenophobes and the “Little Englanders”, to Ukip and the Tory right. We were wrong then. Let’s not be wrong now.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer at the NS and the political director of Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted. His “Head to Head” with Viviane Reding will be broadcast on al-Jazeera English on 28 November

Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar review – ‘The pilgrimage is now an adjunct to the retail’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2014 - 07:30
The House of Saud will not like this book, which argues that the holiest site in Islam has become a centre of brash consumerism and architectural folly

Mecca is the shrine of Islam, with the Ka’bah, a cube of black stone, at its centre. Growing up in Punjab and London in the 1960s, Ziauddin Sardar turned to the Ka’bah not only when he prayed in its direction five times daily, but also to interrogate himself morally. “There was never a doubt,” he writes in a sentence that shows the amplitude of the Muslim identity, “that I must always look to Mecca if I was to amount to anything worthwhile in the world”, and in another, suggestive of the human need both for solitude and togetherness, “to be at Mecca is the taproot of individual identity and the common link of an entire worldwide community”.

In the early seventh century Mecca was the locus for the only miracle on which all Muslims concur – the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad – and after that the city contrived to be both conceptually vital and geographically marginal to the earthly empires founded in his name. A Mecca-less Islam would have no justification and an otherwise icon-hating creed would be without its icon, the Ka’bah. And so the life of the city, conveniently located far from the interstices of Eurasian history, in scalding, wind-whipped western Arabia, became the alternative life of Islam itself.

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French Isis fighters filmed burning passports and calling for terror at home

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2014 - 01:56

Emergence of video showing four men comes as France reels from the identification of two of its nationals partaking in a mass beheading in Syria

A film released by Islamic State (Isis) shows jihadi fighters burning French passports and calling on others to bring terror to the streets of the European country.

Released by one of Isis’s main media outlets, Al Hayat, the video shows four men who purport to be from France, including three who deliver messages in French to camera.

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Halal products may be funding Islamist extremism, claims Nationals MP

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2014 - 00:42

Abbott government backbencher George Christensen says it’s ‘outrageous’ his grocery dollars are going towards a ‘religious tax’

Consumers who buy halal products could be funding Islamist extremism, an Abbott government backbencher claims.

In an opinion article titled Terror in the Tucker Box, Nationals MP George Christensen questions whether shoppers who buy goods with the halal logo are funding a push for Sharia law – or even backing terrorists.

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Schools accused of failing to protect children from extremism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2014 - 23:02
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw is to say seven schools in Tower Hamlets must take more action to protect students

An outstanding state secondary school and a group of independent Muslim faith schools in London’s east end are to be criticised for safeguarding failures and branded as inadequate after Ofsted inspectors raised a string of concerns over protecting pupils from extremism, the Guardian has learned.

Among the issues highlighted were sixth formers at one school posting links to Islamist extremist matter via a Facebook page claiming to be associated with the school and separate entrances for boys and girls at the same school.

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