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Austin: Mosque Under Construction Burned To The Ground

Loon Watch - 12 January, 2017 - 19:49

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating a fire that destroyed a mosque under construction near Lake Travis.

Authorities say no injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

The Islamic Center of Lake Travis is collecting donations to help rebuild the mosque. To donate, click here.

South Africa: ‘Islamophobia’ Behind Mosque Desecrations

Loon Watch - 12 January, 2017 - 19:39

The community of West Cape, South Africa has experienced two incidents of desecration against mosques. Authorities are saying that the incidents bear the hallmark of a “calculated use of Islamophobic methods.”

AlJazeera

Achmat Sity, the imam of the 110-year-old Kalk Bay Mosque, urged Muslims to remain calm and called for unity.

“This mosque has been here for over 100 years and this is the first time an incident like this has happened,” he told Al Jazeera.

“There have been burglaries in the past, but this was despicable.”

The local branch of the ruling ANC party condemned the attacks as “disgusting” and called on South Africans “to stand united in protecting the culture of coexistence”.

Pigs are an animal considered ritually unclean in Islam and believers are prohibited from consuming them.

The desecrations came less than a week after a white Western Cape resident posted a message on a community Facebook page calling for mosques to be burned down. The post has since been deleted.

Farid Sayed, the editor of Muslim Views, a national newspaper, said that while the attacks may be isolated in nature, they indicated a failure of some segments of post-apartheid South Africa to fully integrate.

“Racist attitudes are still very deeply embedded in post-apartheid South Africa, all it took was a simple Facebook post to spark this,” he said.

“People living in white-only communities believe they have to fight to keep Muslims out, they think they don’t have the state’s backing.

“This anger – from these racists and bigots – has been heightened by right-wing media outlets that continue to demonise and insult Muslims,” he added.

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President’s Obama’s Farewell Speech – Science and Reason Matter

Inayat's Corner - 11 January, 2017 - 21:26

President Barack Obama’s farewell speech last night in Chicago took a look at some of his positive achievements in the past eight years – and there have admittedly been quite a few. In his own words, his Presidency helped:

…reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history — if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11 — if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens…we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil; we’ve doubled our renewable energy …

Those are impressive achievements particularly when one remembers that there were many influential players, not least the Israel lobby, who were eagerly pushing for war against Iran. Who can forget the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who said “the day the United States finishes with Iraq, it should start with Iran” or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comical antics at the UN where he shrieked about the imminent danger of a nuclear capable Iran? Little wonder that Netanyahu has so warmly welcomed the election of Donald Trump.

Obama praised the spirit of the Enlightenment, the spirit that insists that “science and reason matter”, the spirit that:

… made us an economic powerhouse — the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

He urged people to value their democracy and its values and be vigilant in protecting them:

I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it…we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing…If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

He added that these Enlightenment values deserve to be spread around the world and that it was necessary to make the world a better and more safer place:

That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans…That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights — to expand democracy, and human rights, and women’s rights, and LGBT rights. No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

And he mentioned some of the dangers that continue to face America:

…violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets and open democracies and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Obama will have disappointed many Muslims around the world with his failure to make progress on the key issue of securing a just settlement for the Palestinians, yet it is fair to say – and perhaps particularly so given the impending handover of power to Donald Trump – that the world will miss him.


Yuna on hijab style: 'I feel like the world is catching up'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 January, 2017 - 12:16

The Malaysian pop star talks about moving to LA at 24, her mother’s style and how her refusal to compromise on modesty led to success as the face of Uniqlo

“When I started out, people were like: ‘Oh just take it off, it’s no big deal.’ But I like wearing a headscarf,” says Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, better known as Yuna, the Malaysian-born pop star who is the face of Uniqlo’s first hijab line in the UK.

“Muslim girls, we love fashion! Whether we wear the hijab or not – it’s our choice – and it’s time the industry took note. Finally, fashion stores are open to that idea,” says the 30-year-old, who has bossed the US Billboard charts as well as those in south-east Asia.

Related: D&G’s hijab range is aimed at people like me – so why do I feel excluded? | Ruqaiya Haris

Related: London show reflects global boom in Islamic fashion

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Jill Saward, the Press and civil liberties

Indigo Jo Blogs - 10 January, 2017 - 19:54

Last week Jill Saward (pronounced Say-ward), best known for having been the victim of the notorious “Ealing Vicarage” rape attack in 1986 in which she was raped and subjected to other sexual assaults and her father and boyfriend were beaten up and suffered head injuries during a burglary, died of a brain haemorrhage. In the 31 years since the attack she had become known as a campaigner on issues surrounding rape, at one point supporting the introduction of a kind of second-degree rape as found in the USA and perhaps other places, more recently for better education of jurors in rape trials. In the early 90s she testified about the intrusion her family had suffered from the press after the attack; more recently, she stood in a by-election in Yorkshire, in which the sitting MP had resigned in protest at extended detention for terrorist suspects; her platform was in favour of all of these things and of making the national DNA database universal; however, she made very little impact and lost her deposit.

Jill Saward is the person who first really made me aware of rape and the impact it has on victims with a programme she was featured in, titled No Great Trauma?, which I saw in late 1992; in the couple of years following that, when rape was used very widely as a weapon of war in Bosnia, with the perpetrators often people who knew the victims’ families before the war and there had been no previous hostility between them, there was much discussion in the press as to why men rape and whether “all men were potential rapists”, which the pattern of behaviour in Bosnia suggested to some that they are. At the same time there was a series of controversies about media intrusion, particularly into the lives of politicians and the royal family but crime victims, including the Sawards, were also affected. She gave evidence to the National Heritage Select Committee that year:

Ms Saward described how she and her family were besieged in the vicarage by the press after the attack. She told the committee that the press had hired a room in a pub across the road from the vicarage and used long-range cameras to take photographs. ‘The first thing the press wanted was to photograph me continually. They photographed anything that moved anywhere near the house. I had to leave the house covered by a blanket in a policewoman’s car so that the press could not photograph me,’ she said.

The law forbids the identification of rape victims, but she was offered large sums of money to sell her story exclusively to some newspapers. Ms Saward said the News of the World used a cartoon inaccurately depicting the attack, which she found ‘totally offensive’, and the Sun published a photograph of Ms Saward with her eyes blacked out, which she said was a ‘major invasion’ of her privacy.

A Tory MP asked her whether she preferred to see legal regulations of the Press or self-regulation; she answered that she preferred the latter, but did not trust the press to regulate themselves. The scandal disappeared, nothing much was done until 2011 when another scandal involving press intrusion into the lives of crime victims triggered the Leveson inquiry, at which Baroness Hollins, whose daughter Abigail Witchalls was attacked by a stranger in her home village in Surrey, leaving her permanently severely disabled, told a similar story of relentless intrusion and inaccurate or fabricated stories (particularly when the family refused to provide the Press with material), but as in 1992, despite a new corporate self-regulation body being set up, the state of the Press has not improved. It’s worth noting that the Daily Mail opined on its front page on Saturday that Jill Saward should have been given an honour, and that paper was sympathetic to her, but Hollins named them as the worst offender in the intrusion against her family. (Members of Jill’s family wrote two blog pieces on the press intrusion they suffered in the last week: here and here.)

She took a rather more reactionary turn during the “war on terror”, when she stood in the 2008 Haltemprice and Howden by-election on an explictly anti-civil liberties, “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” platform. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of David Davis (a long-time Tory outsider, though now secretary of state for leaving the EU) as a protest against the erosions of civil liberties represented by the Counter-Terrorism Bill, which extended the period of detention for people arrested on suspicion of terrorism to 42 days. (Extended periods of arrest had been a factor in previous miscarriages of justice; it gives the police time to pressure confessions out of arrestees, for example.)

I wrote about Saward’s position (and her earlier remarks about rape victims of lesser virtue than her own, which outraged feminists in the late 1990s) in an entry in 2008. She was interviewed by Julie Bindel and I quoted these two paragraphs:

Isn’t she worried that she’s deflecting debate from the important issue of detention? “I know that some people who support Davis’s stance on the 42-day issue will criticise me, but the reality is that terrorists are using increasingly clever methods to escape detention, and the investigation into these crimes are always complex. If the police say they need more time to work on these cases, then I support them. I want to be safe from terrorism.”

And what about the effect of the 42-day change on the Asian community? “It will target people who are seen to be a threat to our nation’s freedom. At the moment, that might be some Muslim men, 10 years ago it was the IRA - so people with Irish accents were the target - and soon it could be Mugabe’s men.” In this case, her sympathies tend towards victims of terror attacks and those who enforce the law, rather than potential victims of the detention policy.

42-day detention was not the only civil liberties issue affecting Muslims at that time; control orders (seemingly copied from the “banning orders” of Apartheid-era South Africa) and internment of foreign suspects (then extended to British citizens when reserving them for foreign nationals was ruled discriminatory and thus unlawful), often on the basis of mere association or dubious ‘intelligence’ from Arab governments, were also in force and although those directly affected were all men, as far as I remember, their families — women, children and men — were left to deal with the hardships they caused, visiting them in prison and dealing with the restrictions placed on their lives, such as curfews, seizure of assets, restrictions on who they could have at their house and on their Internet access, which was increasingly necessary for schoolwork. I concluded:

Her stance is a selfish one, buttressed by a spurious “victim’s licence”; perhaps she really expects a constituency of people like her - provincial, middle-class whites, unlikely to be caught up in the “war on terror” - to kick out a long-standing MP for her, at a time when the Tories are in the ascendant. It would be interesting to see if they fall for it.

In the event, Davis comfortably won with 71.6% of the vote; Saward came sixth, polling only 492 votes (2.1%); Labour and the Lib Dems did not stand, the Greens came second with 7.4% of the vote, and the English Democrats and National Front were behind them. (She was still peddling myths about short skirts and rape as recently as that, as the interview with Julie Bindel demonstrates.)

In recent years, she had begun a campaign with feminist Alison Boydell to educate potential jurors about common myths about rape and was involved in fundraising for research into Ehlers-Danlos syndrome ([1], [2]), which she had been diagnosed with in 2012. She had written a book about the rape (which appears to be out of print, but there are second-hand copies on Amazon — note that the music that link brings up is by a different Jill Saward), and was working on a follow-up at the time of her death.

In short, Jill Saward was a hero of mine when I was a teenager but became somewhat tarnished by reactionary stances on matters of importance to me and my fellow Muslims later on. However rare false accusations of rape are, false accusations of terrorism have blighted many lives during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and I do not favour giving the police ammunition to blight more during the “war on terror” (during which the threat to life and limb in this country has proven to be much less serious) when they, not ordinary people, are the main source of them. She supported these policies because they would not affect her; there are many women, including some rape victims no doubt, who didn’t have the privilege of being able to trust the police and security forces as readily as Jill Saward did.

Possibly Related Posts:


ECHR: Swiss Muslim girls must attend mixed-sex swimming lessons

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 January, 2017 - 12:24

Swiss authorities did not violate right to freedom of religion in rejecting parents’ request for exemption, court rules

Switzerland has won a case at the European court of human rights over its insistence that Muslim parents send their children to mixed-sex school swimming lessons.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Swiss authorities had not violated the right to freedom of religion by insisting that two Muslim parents send their daughters to mixed-sex swimming lessons.

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Whitbread restaurant chain sorry over pork found in beef lasagne

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 January, 2017 - 09:50

Group served almost 250,000 affected dishes despite staff saying they raised the issue with management

The restaurant chain Whitbread has apologised after it was found to be serving “beef lasagne” in which more than a third of the meat content was actually pork.

The Sun reported that almost 250,000 of the affected dishes were sold over three months at scores of the company’s outlets including Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Whitbread Inn.

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Losing the Black Banu Hashim

Muslim Matters - 9 January, 2017 - 11:53

By Kyle Ismail

“America is unique among western major democracies in that…a sizable number of its Muslims are native born converts…We are already a part of America, the Black community has secured that position for us. They are our Banu Hashim in the West… Through carelessness, through callousness, through… almost stupidity …we have not been taking care of our relationships in the Black community.”

–       Dr. Sherman Jackson, RIS 2016

I began studying Islam nearly 25 years ago in Southern Illinois, with teachers and mentors who were beloved by their community. They impressed upon me that compassion was the first prerequisite in working with people and transmitting knowledge. These teachers were living proof that this approach bore fruit because, until this day, they are respected business people, professors, and leaders. They garnered so much respect in the community, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, that when the town’s first masjid was to be built it was highly-anticipated and welcomed in this primarily Black community. In fact, it was to be built right across the street from the neighborhood’s community center where the soon-to-be Resident Imam had served as Executive Director for many years.

Members of this Muslim community talked for years about hosting an appreciation dinner for the community’s founders and all the residents and graduates that they assisted in coming to Islam. But just last year members of the local neighborhood beat them to the punch by hosting an appreciation dinner for the masjid’s Resident Imam. Such is the example of my very first Muslim community. They cultivated and inspired a Black Banu Hashim for the Muslim community. The Muslims in that small university town will never need to worry about their place there so long as they cherish and maintain the relationships facilitated by decades and decades of service to the community.

This is high standard to maintain in the very complex, larger Muslim-American community. Since the first Muslims in America were enslaved in the antebellum South, their faith tradition was seemingly erased from the trajectory of their people until the highly unlikely emergence of pro-Islamic movements that would build a protective housing for an unwieldy religious development that spanned the 20th century. The mainstream Muslim community now boasts two Muslim congressmen and one congresswoman (and it is of no coincidence that they are of African descent) and a deep set of relationships in the Black community that serve to ensure Islam’s place in America, come hell or high water.

If our experience is to be a durable one, moments like this one will have to be navigated strategically, as high water has indeed come, in the form of a white-lash that threatens to turn back the clock toward a more caustic environment of racial rhetoric and open overtures to white supremacy. In Trump’s America, police violence against people of color and Islamophobic rhetoric has fueled a pendulum swing in the political discourse. It is in this environment that the dialogue at RIS 2016 has taken place.

If we are to be agents in answering the prayers of our enslaved Muslim forbearers, African American Muslims must do one thing far better than we have over the past three decades – care as much about our engagement with the Black community as any other aspect of our religious community work. And the weight that falls on immigrant-based Muslim communities is to develop an authentic analysis of systemic racism that can lead to real alliances and partnerships.

Dr. Jackson’s statement didn’t strike me as praise of African American Muslims and our transformative history. It struck me as a reminder of the maxims of that history, and a call to return to the type of community engagement that has been our life-blood. It wasn’t a chastisement of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf for his misleading and insensitive racial statements. It was a reminder that when these statements come from someone so respected and influential, they need to be moderated and mitigated by people who can navigated the very difficult terrain of balancing our Islamic identity up against our many societal obligations and relationships.

As the Banu Hashim protected Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) from his enemies when he was vulnerable, the Black community is ready to take a stand for us. This solidarity is admirably exemplified in recent memory when Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee came onto the House floor to cogently lambast Congressman Peter King for his Islamophobic campaign (Rep. Peter King Hearings). This is a representation of a protection that extends from a distinguished civil rights history. But African American Muslims must ask ourselves:

  1. Have we embraced an understanding of Islam that renders non-Muslim Black people persona non-grata?
  2. Do we support Black institutions of any kind or are we merely appendages of immigrant-based organizations?
  3. What issues are we engaged in solving in the Black community?
  4. Do we engage in interfaith dialogue and work in the Black community?

If we cannot affirmatively answer these questions, we are the primary subject of Dr. Jackson’s critique, not the aloof and ill-informed immigrant-based community.

Muslims whose parents or grandparents migrated to the United States must ask themselves:

  1. Who do we care enough about to put ourselves on the line for?
  2. Do we understand American history well enough to have a trenchant social analysis that can feed our advocacy and community work?
  3. Do we have friends and associates of different races and faiths that prevent us from maintaining stereotypes about the “other”?
  4. Have we challenged ourselves well enough to shed the psychology of our former colonizers?

Every indication is that Trump’s America and the psychological and political violence that is likely to ensue will require that we look at this experience through a broader lens.

The statements made at RIS 2016 were more than just insensitive, they were dangerously misleading, and they serve as a sign-post of a much worse kind of thinking that will likely come from conservative quarters in government to turn back the progress we’ve made. A couple of points that were particularly problematic, and that we need to really understand for ourselves are:

Point 1: Black-on-Black crime accounts for the lion’s share of violence taking place in America, and this is the cause of police brutality.

This is misleading and very dangerous. No other community is branded with such a moniker to explain the violence taking place intra-community although the vast majority of crime in any community could be characterized this way. Why isn’t crime and killing in the White community called White-on-White crime? This is in part because, for most of our history, we were far more likely to be killed by White people. In the 1960s, as racial violence shifted away from its traditionally overt and psychopathic form, more typical crime patterns emerged. The term Black-on-Black was used to denote the end of the era of Whites as the primary purveyors of community violence. It has now served as a dog-whistle to criminalize the Black community, exculpate White guilt, and implement a set of policies that led to what would become the prison industrial complex. Recent anti-racism movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and others have worked to reduce the policy effectiveness of this trope, and turn both scrutiny and accountability on police departments. Statistics regarding police killings used by Shaykh Hamza are, sadly, false. We should know that there is no centralized data on the number of people the police actually kill because the FBI does not gather this statistic. Part of this movement for accountability is to request that the government actually gather this information.

If you are in doubt that such tropes are racist, ask yourself has any of the wanton violence happening in non-Black, Muslim-majority places ever been reduced to Syrian-on-Syrian violence or Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence? I sense that people who forget history don’t understand what the Black community in the US has endured and the casualties that we still suffer. Sections of our community constitute a forgotten underclass and those who would change that have to love the people instead of finding ways of blaming and indemnifying themselves through a condescending morality. It is the Prophetic example to obligate ourselves to do something with a real morality that has skin in the game.

Point 2: Racism isn’t the real issue for African Americans, it’s the breakdown of the Black family.

This represents an equally anti-intellectual formulation (I would invite readers to research articles or books by Professor William Julius Wilson to more deeply engage this topic). But it’s worth saying that any serious understanding of racism and white supremacy begins with a structural analysis. The family institution in our present time is largely impacted by the broader context of access to employment, affordable housing, education, and health care (not to mention the prison industrial complex). We work on these larger issues because of the fundamental impact that they have on our families. There will always be those who defeat the odds, but we strain the boundaries of reason and compassion when we expect that defeating the odds should be normative. When you consider that every system mentioned above is grounded in a history of institutional racism, to say that racism is not the problem but the breakdown of the Black family is the problem means that you understand neither.

It follows that we must seek solutions to these issues. Some points to keep in mind:

Alliance building is fundamental to the way forward, even with people with whom we don’t fully agree.

The Banu Hashim of the Prophet’s day (and our Black Banu Hashim) was a community fraught with issues and practices that we disagree with, but those sets of relationships still preserved a nascent Muslim community. We must have alliances with those who are fundamentally good, despite our serious disagreements. We would have no Black Banu Hashim if members of the Black community knew that the Muslim community had major anti-Black biases and that stereotypes about their violence, depravity, and pathology were so pervasive. These ideas among the broader Muslim community are part of what has hindered stronger alliances. We have to bother to actually know people and listen to their experiences. Immigrant-based communities have to step out of their narrow spaces so that when they hear disrespectful and half-baked formulations they won’t be tempted to applaud but can instead confidently discard them.

Just because you don’t see yourself as racist doesn’t mean that you don’t uphold racism in very substantial ways.

Anyone can think in stereotypes. Anyone can give wrong statistics and misleading information, and anyone can minimize the humanity of the other. We have no reason whatsoever to believe that people like Shaykh Hamza are racist. We have every reason to believe that the types of ideas he shared are counterproductive and feed into racist formulations that we are going to have to deal with, likely in the form of policies from the incoming administration.

I write this to encourage African American Muslims to engage in relationship-building within their own Black community. I also write this for Muslims who don’t understand why mistakes like this are a big deal, especially coming from trusted leadership. We need to fortify ourselves as a community against what promises to be a difficult four (or eight) years ahead. We have to address these types of ideas; because if we accept them they threaten our relationships in a black community that has preserved and protected us since our very origins in this country.

Kyle J. Isma’il is a program officer for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the largest funder of nonprofit organizations in the country. For the past 15 years, Kyle has worked in government and and nonprofits at all levels to create positive change. He has served as national programs manager for Islamic Relief USA, the largest Muslim charity in the world whose mission is to alleviate poverty as well as the first associate director of the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN).  Kyle has worked to strengthen the Muslim community as well as broader local community regarding issues of community development, employment training, and financial education. Kyle graduated in 1999 with an MA from the University of Illinois in management. Prior to this, he completed an MA in American history at Southern Illinois University where he participated in teaching the university’s first seminar on the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, world and American history, and African American studies.

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