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Thomas Rawnsley: abuse, separation, unexplained injuries … heart attack

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 February, 2015 - 09:39

‭It was confirmed today that Thomas Rawnsley has indeed passed away.

Picture of Thomas Rawnsley, a young white man with Down's syndrome, squatting by the side of a lakeYesterday I learned that a young man with both autism and Down’s syndrome whose family were fighting to get him out of a ‘specialist’ hospital back to his family in Bradford had a heart attack in the unit and was in intensive care in hospital, with massive swelling of the brain, lungs and liver. It was initially thought that he was ‘clinically gone’ as a friend put it, but another doctor gave a second opinion and took him to ITU. The young man’s name is Thomas Rawnsley, and was the subject of various news reports in 2013 and 2014 as his mother tried to stop the authorities moving him from his home area in Bradford to one in Peterborough. As it is, he was given a deprivation of liberty authorisation and transferred to Sheffield last year, after having initially being promised a bespoke living placement.

Thomas Rawnsley had been living in a bungalow in a supported living facility, until October 2013 when he was transferred to an ATU under section because staff claimed that his “mistrust of staff” was a threat to them. He had been abused by staff at the bungalow, one of whom received a suspended sentence in February 2014 for the abuse. In the ATU he was given high doses of anti-psychotics, and when his mother Paula visited she said:

He can’t eat, he can’t talk – he just dribbles. He’s been turned into a junkie; he’s addicted to his anti-psychotic drugs because he’s kept on the maximum dose to make it easier for them to cope. It breaks my heart. He sits naked in a corridor just wrapped in a quilt. He has no modesty or dignity in there. He is my beautiful, beautiful little boy. When I ask the unit why he’s left naked like that they tell me it’s what he wants. I ask them lots of questions, I don’t get real answers. I think they see me as a trouble-maker but I’m not, I’m Thomas’s mum.

The plan to send him to Peterborough was blocked and an independent panel recommended that he be provided with his own flat with support staff, but this fell through last June because Bradford’s District Care Trust could not provide the care package Thomas needed, and as a result he was sent to a new hospital in Sheffield where for a while he was the only patient (it was even threatened that the hospital would have to close if Thomas was not sent there — as if that is any reason to send a vulnerable person anywhere). His mother was never happy with the care he received there, and last Christmas they initially agreed for him to go home for Christmas then withrdrew permission on the grounds that he would not want to return and his subsequent behaviour would be difficult; however, they did eventually agree to his going home, perhaps after realising that Thomas already knew about his trip home and that someone would have to tell Thomas that he would not be able to go home.

Last weekend when his family visited, they noticed ‘unexplained injuries’ including carpet burns, and he was “struggling with a chest infection that they knew was serious” as their friend and advocate Liz Wilson wrote on her blog yesterday; he was known to be prone to these infections. He collapsed on Sunday night and was given CPR; on Monday morning it was though that he would not make it, but was taken to ITU after another doctor gave a second opinion, although his chances are still slim. His mother spend last night in a hotel room as she was not allowed to stay with him in ITU.

Picture of Lucy Glennon, a young white woman sitting in a wheelchair wearing a light grey wooly hat, a blue shirt with a pink top underneath, and pink and blue patterned trousers with a white dressing on her right forearm and hand, next to Jon Snow, a middle-aged white man with white hair, wearing a dark coloured suit with an orange tie, and an 'I can' badge in his handI am not sure if his heart attack was caused by abuse at the unit, his medication or just his underlying condition, but even if the latter is true, if the last nine months turn out to be his last, he could and should have been allowed to spend them in a place where he was free of neglect and abuse, with his family or with easy access to them. In the current political climate, this is apparently a ‘luxury’ denied to many disabled people who are in frail health and have limited time left. Last week a disability activist I followed on Twitter, Lucy Glennon (left), died; she had written a number of articles about her condition (epidermolysis bullosa or EB) and her struggle to get support and accommodation (see this article) while her health was deteriorating, in the Guardian and on their website. As Kaliya Franklin put it in her tribute yesterday, “that fear and anxiety [caused by having to find a new home quickly and other disruption to her benefits] ruined a whole year for her, a year just as she was becoming ever more frail, a year she didn’t have spare to be spoiled”.

Three of Paula’s friends have set up a fund to be used for costs that are likely to come out of this, such as legal and travel costs, which can be found here. They have set a target of £5,000 (of which £545 has been raised so far), although if an inquest is required the costs are likely to be much higher.

 'Learning Disability, Autism, Down's Syndrome, Learning Disabled, Assessment & Treatment Units'.

Image sources: Paula Rawnsley via FB, Lucy Glennon via Twitter, Graphics on the GO via FB. For the Sohana Research Fund, which raises money for EB research, see here.

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21 Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet | Part 12

Muslim Matters - 3 February, 2015 - 06:00

Part 1 | Part 2  | Part 3 | Part 4  | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part11 

Law of Timing: When to Lead is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go

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The Law of Timing states that understanding and practicing good timing is a critical component of great leadership. When the leader chooses to do the right thing at the right time then great success follows. When the leader chooses to do the right thing at the wrong time, there is limited success. When the leader chooses to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, the people get a new leader.

When analyzing the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), we can see how clearly he understood this law. When the companions around him were calling for retaliation for the brutality and torture that they were suffering from, the Prophet understood the importance of timing.

When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) decided to climb the hill outside of Mecca and proclaim his message publicly, he knew it was the right time because he needed certain people to join their ranks in order to strengthen and grow.

When the Muslims were prevented from entering into Mecca to perform the pilgrimage, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) understood that this was a good time to sign the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Even though many of his companions disagree with him and were furious over the terms of the treaty, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) understood that the timing was right for a period of peace to ensure the continued spreading of the message.

Also, when the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was broken, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) knew that the time was right to gather the Muslims together and re-enter Mecca.

His entire life is a study in the law of timing.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • Think about a situation or circumstance that you've faced in the past in which you've followed the law of timing. What results ensued?
  • Think about a situation in which you did not heed the law of timing. How were your results different?

Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders

The Law of Explosive Growth states that if you really want to amplify your positive impact in the world, don't lead followers, lead leaders. It's good to reflect from time to time and ask ourselves, how many leaders have we developed?

I remember a conversation I had about 20 years ago with imam Siraj Wahhaj who I see as a modern day Malcolm X, in which he emphasized how important this issue of leadership is and how critical it is to develop leaders in our communities. I believe that imam Siraj understood this because he is a student of the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I'm not going to mention all of the leaders that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) developed. I'll just remind you of the 4 that stand out the most: Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali raḥimahā Allāh (may Allāh have mercy upon her). Consider the accomplishments of these 4 leaders within a relatively brief time period and we see just how powerful the Law of Explosive Growth really is. To really put that in perspective think about how their lives would have been different had they not received the tutelage and development from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that they did. What would Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali's lives been like had they chosen not to become followers of the Prophet's leadership? It's an interesting thing to consider hypothetically, but alhamdulillah for all of us that they did learn and develop under the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) leadership.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) developed so many leaders around him. He lifted them up; he set a perfect example for them to follow; he added valued to their lives in so many ways and they returned the favor; he empowered them and gave them responsibilities; he instilled confidence in them by believing in them; he gave them hope for a better future; he developed their hearts, minds, souls and character; he encouraged them to seek to be their best physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally; he helped them to become the best version of themselves, thereby creating the greatest generation of people to ever walk the face of the earth ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

What inevitably results when you lead leaders is a profound impact on not only the individuals themselves, but all those who they lead, their families and their communities.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What changes do you have to make in order to develop leaders rather than followers?

Law of Legacy: A Leader's Lasting Value is Measured by Succession

The Law of Legacy states that you can measure a leader's lasting impact by how effective their successors are. I personally understood this law the hard way. The first school that I was a principal of, I did not have a successor who was ready to take over when I left. Therefore, the changes that I implemented at the school didn't last because I did not set up the leadership moving forward.

Alhamdulillah, for all of us, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) didn't make those kinds of mistakes. He set up the leadership for our ummah not only immediately following his death, but gave us examples for us to always refer to until the end of time. I really want you to think about that and how profound it is. The lessons from the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  leadership and the leadership of his successors were examples for us to follow transcending both time and place. I would say without a doubt, that this is the greatest legacy that the world has ever seen!

This is the reason why I wrote this series of articles.

  • To help us better understand leadership and the leadership imperative for all of us.
  • To share some leadership lessons from the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) so that we can implement them in our own lives.
  • To appreciate and value how incredibly profound the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was by analyzing it through the lens of leadership.
  • To increase our love of him ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I hope that you have benefitted from this series of articles. I ask Allah to forgive me for any mistakes I may have made and I ask Him to accept any good that may come from it.

I think it's time that we step up to the plate and become the dynamic and inspirational leaders that our deen calls us to be and that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to be. I wish you all the best on your leadership journeys.

 

The post 21 Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet | Part 12 appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Power of Persistence: Art of Connection with Belal Khan

Muslim Matters - 3 February, 2015 - 05:00

Many times I feel like our generation gives up very easily. If they have one or two negative experiences around a pursuit they have then that's the idea they form about it.

I also feel like that our generation takes a lot of things for granted.

Take for example the American Muslim communities that we have and the institutions that are at the center of it, however dysfunctional they may be, we didn't build it. It was handed down to us and we take a lot of that for granted.

Sometimes in our attempts to add our on value to these institutions we get rejected, and we give up. Sometimes to communicate value, persistence is required. Sometimes you have to knock on 50 doors before one of them open up.

And, sometimes we might even have to make our own path and not ask for permission.

But, I feel like a lot of us aren't doing that.

In martial arts grappling, there's a technique known as the guard where your opponent gets their legs around you. There are several methods of getting out of that, among which is a technique called “the can opener.” But, if your opponent has strong legs and a flexible back, you may have to simply pump their knee as a means of adding to their fatigue so that you can get out of the guard.

The objective is the keep pushing and outlast the opponent.

The things your pursuing, how badly do you want it? And, how persistent are you willing to be to get it?

A lot of time when we want to share value, people may not see the value right away. You have to keep being persistent, and keep going back.

And if an institution shuts you out, that's okay. There are many more to go to.

You don't need people's permission to do what you need to do to give value to so many other people.

What you need is a solid heart and fire in your eyes, and work toward achieving that very dream that you have.

Our parents and the generation of our parents built institutions. What are we going to do?

Where are we going to take the community and society we live in today?

The post Power of Persistence: Art of Connection with Belal Khan appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Norway banishes Islamist preacher to remote village after prison release

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 February, 2015 - 23:17

Mullah Krekar served a two-year, 10-month sentence for making threats against the current prime minister and three Kurds

A court in Oslo on has authorised police to banish radical Iraqi Islamist preacher Mullah Krekar to a remote Norwegian village.

The mullah, 58, who has been living in Norway since 1991, founded the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam.

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Communist party bans believers in province of ‘China’s Jerusalem’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 February, 2015 - 14:57
Ban on admitting non-atheists into party in Zhejiang province suggests crackdown on Christianity continues after churches demolished in Wenzhou

Officials in Zhejiang province, south-east China, will reinforce a ban on admitting new Communist party members who practise religion, suggesting that a protracted crackdown on Christianity in the province will continue.

Last year, Zhejiang officials cracked down on churches Wenzhou, often called “China’s Jerusalem” for its reputation as a religious stronghold and where about an eighth of 8 million residents are Christian, according to state media.

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Cathy Newman turned away from mosque on #VisitMyMosque day

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 February, 2015 - 10:35

Channel 4 journalist, who was ‘respectfully dressed’ and without shoes, was ushered out of south London mosque as it was believed to be men-only

The Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman has revealed how she was turned away by her local mosque in south London because it would not allow women inside.

The journalist, who was attempting to take part in Visit My Mosque day, tweeted on Sunday afternoon how she was “ushered” out of the South London Islamic Centre in Streatham, even though she had her head covered and was not wearing shoes.

Well I just visited Streatham mosque for #VisitMyMosque day and was surprised to find myself ushered out of the door...

I was respectfully dressed, head covering and no shoes but a man ushered me back onto the street. I said I was there for #VisitMyMosque mf

But it made no difference

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Tony Abbott seeks advice on crackdown on Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 February, 2015 - 07:50

Spokesman confirms government is exploring options for action against radical group but does not confirm if banning it is on the table

Prime minister Tony Abbott is exploring options for a further crackdown on radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

“We are seeking advice from agencies on options for taking action against Hizb ut-Tahrir,” a spokesman for Abbott told Guardian Australia. The spokesman would not confirm if banning the organisation or the funding of the organisation was on the table.

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Mosques open their doors for the day to reach out and reassure

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 February, 2015 - 20:14
Finsbury Park mosque, with recent history of extremist members, among those that opened doors to media and public

Mohamed Said was roughly halfway through a potted lecture on the pillars of Islam, taking in everything from the DNA of wine grapes to Malcolm X, when he brought up the troubled history of the building in which he stood.

“You can check every place,” he told the 20 or so visitors in the men’s prayer room of Finsbury Park mosque, north London, during an inaugural national open day for Islamic places of worship. “We haven’t got any bombs. Yes, there is a bad history here, but we have changed that. Those people were not representative of Islam.”

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No rape culture except Muslim rape culture?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 February, 2015 - 11:23

A woman holding a banner which reads "You raped her because her clothes provoked you? I should break your face because your stupidity provokes me".Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, author of the book Love in a Headscarf, earlier posted a link to a ridiculous article by one Liam Deacon (whose other writings are at the Huffington Post) which was briefly published on the Spectator website and is due to go live on Monday, claiming that there is no such thing as “rape culture” in popular western culture, only among “minority non-western cultures” and, in particular, Muslims. He offers the examples of the supposed reasons why the hijab is worn, the (alleged) mass rape of Yazidi women in Iraq by ISIS, the “abuse of 1400 non-Muslim girls in Rotherham by predominantly Muslim men and the presence of concubines throughout the Islamic tradition”. He also accuses feminists of being too keen to point out examples of “rape culture” among westerners but too cowardly to accuse Muslim men.

He gives an unconvincing explanation as to what ‘rape culture’ is:

What is rape culture? The popular definition is a culture in which sexual violence is considered the norm — in which people aren’t taught not to rape, but are taught not to be raped.

This is really only one possible definition of it, and is perhaps a consequence of it rather than being rape culture. I suspect it is a phrase that means a different thing depending on who is using it, but generally means a culture in which rape is normalised, in which (many) men believe they are entitled to do it, or that some women deserve it, or know they have a reasonable chance of getting away with it, in which there is a ready supply of pornography which depicts women pretending to enjoy degrading and unhealthy sexual acts, and in which rape is difficult to prosecute because juries believe myths about rape and the defence will exploit this, in which rape is seen as trivial enough that it can be used as a joke (and rape jokes appear in mainstream comedy, some of them even directed at specific individuals), or that a defeat in a football match, for example, will be compared to it. At least some of these things are true in our culture, even if it is not saturated with rape and references to it.

Like so many, I simply didn’t recognise this cynical assertion about British society, which has become so widely accepted. British women may be the most liberated and safe in history; men are more socialised than ever; rates of recorded sexual violence are at near historic lows.

This should read “like so many men”. The vast majority of rapes happen to women and girls, and the vast majority of men and boys (the exceptions being mostly in institutions) have no reason to fear it. Liam Deacon, the author, lives in Sheffield, and I am sure he is well aware of a local football team which was on the brink of taking back a former player who is on parole following a conviction for rape, and of a campaign of harassment and intimidation against those (mainly women) who campaigned to keep him out, and that those fans refused to accept, despite ample evidence, that he was guilty.

Yet the hysteria over Britain’s supposed rape culture has brought with it ‘consent classes’ at many universities and the advent of new rape guidelines: men accused of rape will now need to prove a woman said ‘yes’. In general, British society has become ruthlessly opposed to rape culture. But if one does indeed exist, it is predominantly in relation to minority non-western cultures.

He will not actually have to ‘prove it’ in the sense of providing video evidence or a signed form, merely explain how he made sure there was consent, rather than claiming that the lack of obvious resistance is proof of consent.

Consider, for a moment, why the hijab is worn. According to some interpretations, it is needed to ‘preserve the modesty’ of women from men they are unrelated to. It is also meant to shield the men from ‘impure thoughts’ and temptation. Muslim women pressured to wear the veil are essentially being told they are responsible for the sexual conduct of men, and their uncovered selves are somewhat shameful. This is, quite inescapably, a type of ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘victim-blaming’ – two other central tenets of rape culture.

These ‘interpretations’ he refers to are merely attempts to explain why Muslims obey the commands in the Shari’ah. The truth is that we obey them because they are there; “because Allah and His Messenger say so”. In fact, in the Qur’an God explains why women are to cover their bodies: “so that they be recognised [as religious or respectable women] and not annoyed” (or molested, in some translations). The issue of anyone being responsible for controlling other people’s behaviour is a later accretion, and one over-emphasised in hostile western interpretations. Most of the material I have seen advocating that women wear the hijab focus on the textual proofs, not flimsy interpretations.

When a Muslim woman is sexual assaulted, too often it’s her own ‘honour’, over that of the assailant, which is regarded as compromised. In extreme cases, women are subjected to ‘honour’ violence for simply exercising their autonomy. Forced marriage (only recently made illegal) can directly facilitate rape. My intension here is not to be deliberatively provocative, but if there is a ‘rape culture’ alive in Britain today, it is most probably Islamic.

Forced marriage and honour-related violence occurs in specific ethnic communities in the UK. Some of them are Muslim, some not. It is not unknown for white men to kill their daughters for similar reasons either.

What is more shocking still, and even more fiercely avoided by western feminists, is the apparent permissibility of the rape of non-Muslim women according to some interpretations of the Koran. Such readings may be routinely denounced as ‘un-Islamic’. Yet the mass enslavement of Yazidi women by Isis, the abuse of 1400 non-Muslim girls in Rotherham by predominantly Muslim men and the presence of concubines throughout the Islamic tradition make the reality quite unavoidable.

What he has done is pulled three scrappy examples of things which aren’t typical of Muslim behaviour here in the UK, now in 2015, two of them not even happening in the UK at all, and presented them as if they are. Concubines existed across the ancient world, not just in the Muslim world, and in some places they were at the royal courts and in positions of political power, as with certain groups of slaves generally, notably in Egypt. It is assumed that the life of slaves was the same miserable one as found in the United States and that slave women whose masters had sex with them were always, or nearly always, raped. This is a misplaced assumption. Slaves had rights in the Muslim world that they did not have in the west, including the same quality clothing as their owners, and among other things the sale of slave women who had borne their masters’ children was banned. This was not the case in America.

The alleged use of Yazidi women as sex slaves by ISIS is completely against Islam. ISIS are not entitled to enslave anyone; the Yazidis and other non-Muslims in Iraq were allowed to live freely under (genuine) caliphal rule for centuries, and no new ruler can simply decide to enslave people at will. This is only done when new lands are conquered, and when the Muslims conquered that region, they did not enslave vast numbers of non-Muslim civilians, whether they were “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians) or otherwise. In addition, having sexual relations with a slave woman is only allowed if she is Christian or Jewish; Yazidis are neither. Any Muslim with a modicum of knowledge of the Shari’ah knows this; I suspect the story may be fabricated, or at least exaggerated.

As for the abuse in Rotherham and other places, the perpetrators were particular gangs, most of them involved in the cab and fast-food trades. It is now well-known that they were enabled to do this by police and social workers who often assumed that the girls were perfectly willing and underestimated the abuse they were being subjected to, and in any case were powerless to physically stop the girls leaving the care homes (the number of secure children’s homes is tiny, and dwindling). While the gang involved in the Rotherham abuse were Asian, a separate case in Derby involved white men. It’s not as if the only cab drivers who ever abused their women and child passengers were Asian (I dealt with plenty of abusive cabbies as a child, although the abuse was physical rather than sexual), and as we are now seeing a raft of cases of abuse going back decades, mostly by white men, some of them celebrities and politicians, it hardly proves that the only “rape culture” in the UK comes from Muslims.

Feminists are currently very keen to identify ‘rape culture’ in modern Britain, but are too cowardly to mention – let alone confront – the fact that facets of Islam are just what they’re looking for.

The most significant battles for this generation of feminists are within non-western cultures. But much feminism today is completely beholden to a crippling moral and cultural relativism. Feminists will often go as far as proclaiming the hijab a symbol of liberation, even of feminism itself, yet have a debilitating fear of confronting the more pressing plight of minority women. They are determined not to break their unshakeable commitment to both equality and diversity.

Accordingly, feminism has ended up pedalling a myth about wider British culture, while ignoring the women suffering the most. In doing so, they betray those who may genuinely be living within what they wish to brand ‘rape culture.’

Feminists are certainly not cowards; some of them face a barrage of abusive and threatening messages, including threats of rape, for sometimes very mild feminist stances such as demanding that there be a woman on at least one British banknote, or criticising the prevalence of objectification and violence against women in popular computer games. Most of this does not come from Muslim men but from white men. Only last week a man posted a video of himself screaming after he had crashed his mother’s Prius on the way to “sort out” Brianna Wu, a prominent feminist critic of violence in video games, and in the text below he accused his intended victim of sabotaging the car. In addition, feminists who criticise Islam on its position regarding women’s rights, or even advocate banning hijab or openly vituperate women who wear it, have never come to harm in the west for doing so, so they have nothing much to fear, perhaps because their attacks will hurt only Muslim women. In some countries the state will join their attacks.

It is not courage to attack perceived misogyny in a minority; it is attacking an easy target. If they do this, they will have the tabloids and politicians on their side, as we saw with the tabloid attack on the niqaab following Jack Straw’s comments in 2006 (accompanied by a whole lot of concern trolling about deaf people, none of it actually from deaf people, as far as I could remember). And it is not as if nobody has been concerned about forced marriage for the past 20 years before Liam Deacon noticed (it doesn’t take minutes to make a law, it takes years), or that there have not been groups of black, Asian and/or Muslim women forming groups of their own to protect abused women in their communities, or to change the attitudes that lead to these kinds of abuses. When outsiders (whites) try to interfere on the basis of what they think is best, they often do so from a position of ignorance and assumed superiority (it took years, for example, to grasp the difference between arranged marriages and forced ones). There is a tendency among white feminists, particularly in Europe, to think they know what is best for all women.

It’s a piece that fits neatly into a genre of defence of western culture from any criticism from within: “why not have a go at the Muslims, they’re worse than us! You only have a go at us because you know we won’t bomb you unlike them!”. Surely, women know better than a white male libertarian writer what threats they face, and where they come from. Mainstream feminists are better off criticising the faults in their own societies than launching clumsy attacks on minority communities for things they do not fully understand; Muslim women have demonstrated that they can speak for themselves and if they want the help of white feminists, they can ask for it. It is a lie that nobody will discuss Islam negatively or talk about problems in the Muslim community for fear of reprisal or being branded racist; the media has been saturated with it at least since 2001. The same newspapers that would be your ally if you attacked the Muslims are those that print topless pictures, that dissect and criticise women’s appearance but not men’s, that vilify feminists and others who challenge the status quo. “Rape culture” may not be typical of modern western culture, but it’s real and if you can avoid ever noticing it, you’re either very lucky, male, or both.

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What Would A Muslim Do As NFL Commissioner?

Muslim Matters - 1 February, 2015 - 03:21

In the fortnight of wall-to-wall media hype dedicated to Super Bowl XLIX, no storyline has gone unturned. From Bill Belichick's deflated footballs to Tom Brady's nasal congestion to Marshawn Lynch's camera shyness, every angle been covered ad nauseam. There are even stories about how it's not a story that Russell Wilson is starting in the Super Bowl as a Black quarterback.

And occasionally, in the midst of the all the hype, we've managed to talk a little bit about who is actually going to win Sunday's championship game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Ordinarily, this time of year would be a time of celebration for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. This is when the league that the 55-year-old Goodell oversees stands alone as the shining centerpiece of the sports world, crowns its new champion, and dominates one more Sunday on the calendar before taking a few months off to sit back, count the profits and get ready to do it all over again.

But thanks in part to one team's alleged cheating and another team's tense relationship with the media, the past two weeks for Goodell have been no different than the previous six months: The commissioner is still facing an unrelenting deluge of criticism and second-guessing, his integrity and competency being questioned every day as what was once a dictator-like power grip on the NFL appears to be weakening.

The 2014 season was not a good one for Roger Goodell. His league generated negative press related to domestic violence and sexual assault cases, drug and alcohol abuse, brain injuries and long-term health problems, controversial officiating on the field, controversial conduct off the field, and the inexplicable existence of an NFL-approved racially insensitive nickname for the league's Washington D.C. franchise.

And that's not counting the NFL's quick escape from a potential religious discrimination scandal, which began when Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Husain Abdullah was flagged for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after performing the Islamic prostration known as sajdah during a “Monday Night Football” game in late September. The league responded within hours that Abdullah should not have been penalized and saved itself from another public-relations black eye.

As much as the players, coaches, referees, league employees and team owners responsible for the NFL's incumbent black eyes were publicly taken to task by professional and social media for their behavior this season, Goodell himself has been under the heaviest scrutiny.

In his 48-minute state of the league address on Friday, Goodell admitted this has been a “tough year” for him and for the NFL. The commissioner, however, remains optimistic.

“It's an opportunity for us to get better,” Goodell said. “It's an opportunity for us and for our organization to get better, so we've all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly. We have taken action.”

Some of Goodell's critics believe he should be presiding over the NFL with the attitude of an athlete, keeping the players' best interest top of mind. Others say he should be a pure businessman, making financial growth the league's primary goal. And others will suggest Goodell be more of a cop, putting law and order above all else.

But what if the NFL commissioner were to instead approach the job through the lens of a deeply religious person? Through the lens of a Muslim?

Using religious principles to guide one's professional decisions is almost as old as religion itself. But is that a feasible course of action for the leader of the world's most popular and profitable sports league?

What would a Muslim do as NFL commissioner?

Before answering that question, I hope to make it clear that I am not trying to cast aspersions on Roger Goodell personally, either as a commissioner or as a man of faith (whatever his faith may be). This piece is more about exploring where the values and principles of Islam fit within the culture of today's NFL.

First things first: I don't think a Muslim NFL commissioner would allow the Washington D.C. franchise to keep its nickname.

Islam is strongly against all forms of racism and bigotry — as detailed in the Qur'an (49:13) and in the Prophet Muhammad's final sermon, most notably — and is also strongly for kindness and compassion. Having a racial slur represent the league in such a prominent fashion, particularly a slur aimed at a group of people who have already been treated horribly in this country's history, is a non-starter.

And if franchise owner Daniel Snyder keeps up with his ignorant comments meant to defend his team's choice of nickname, with a different commissioner he might find himself in a similar position as exiled former NBA team owner Donald Sterling.

Player safety would be another high-priority issue for a Muslim NFL commissioner.

While I don't expect any NFL commissioner sell the old lie that player safety is the league's first priority — if it really was, they'd change the game to flag football immediately — I would expect a Muslim commissioner to work within the framework of the sport as we know it to make things as safe as possible.

Islam teaches its followers to love your fellow man as if he is your brother. And when it's your brother's health on the line, of course it will mean more to you. Therefore, with a Muslim NFL commissioner, I don't think the league would have any more Thursday night games — a cruel bit of scheduling that forces some teams to play two games in five days — and I think the ongoing discussion about an 18-game regular-season schedule would cease.

Another byproduct of a commissioner's real commitment to player safety — as well as Islam's prohibition on gambling — would be an end to the practice of injury reports being released publicly.

Currently, NFL teams are required to release injury reports a few days before their game. And let's be real: The only reason this is a rule is to cater to the gambling industry. Oddsmakers, bookies, prognosticators and gamblers need to know which players are hurt and to which extent they are hurt in order to make accurate picks and continue pumping money into the system. And as many people realized during another recent NFL scandal — the “Bountygate” case of the New Orleans Saints — NFL teams do pay attention to injury reports and will target the injured area of an opponent's body.

Requiring teams to hand over sealed injury reports to the league office is a smart and probably necessary policy in the name of protecting players from being taken advantage of by team doctors who have conflicting interests. But there's no need for those reports to go public. By refusing to consider the desires of gamblers, and by essentially removing targets from players' bodies, this way of handling injury reports would help reduce injuries and long-term health problems for players and former players.

I also believe other injury-related policies — such as NFL rules regarding chop blocks and helmet-to-helmet hits — would regularly be reviewed by a safety-conscious Muslim commissioner, with the goal being that each athlete can walk away from this organized chaos we call pro football as healthy as possible. And keeping in line with the Islamic value of taking care of our elders as they once took care of us, retired players would also receive greater consideration regarding pensions and post-career health care.

Drugs and alcohol are prohibited by Islam, and yet I don't think a Muslim NFL commissioner would necessarily impose those values on the league's players as strictly as some may expect. There is no compulsion in religion, according to Islam, and a commissioner's duty is not to control the lifestyles that players live off the field. In other words, just because the commissioner conducts himself as a Muslim, that doesn't mean he can require those he works with to behave as Muslims do. But if players do break league policies or societal laws, they will have to face consequences.

Islam places a high value on qualities such as peacefulness, modesty, generosity, discipline, cleanliness, tolerance and honesty, among others. But a commissioner can only go so far without overstepping professional boundaries.

Would a Muslim NFL commissioner, however, allow the league to continue advertising with alcohol companies and selling alcohol at stadiums?

Ideally, they would not. But honestly, since the commissioner is technically working for each of the league's 32 franchise ownership entities, it would be a very hard sell to get those owners to give up the tremendous chunk of money that comes with advertising and selling alcohol.

And speaking of gameday atmosphere, what would a Muslim commissioner do (if anything) about NFL cheerleaders? About rude and unruly fans? Would more NFL stadiums have prayer and meditation rooms for religious fans?

The ideal Muslim NFL commissioner would approach contract and collective-bargaining negotiations from a place of fairness and avoid being needlessly greedy. So under this commissioner, is the likelihood greater that the 2011 NFL player lockout or the 2012 NFL referee lockout would not have happened? Would labor peace be more likely with a Muslim NFL commissioner?

There is no question, however, that the hottest of hot-button topics Goodell and the NFL faced in the past year has been domestic violence. The league had dealt with cases of players assaulting women in the past, but often those were handled quickly and relatively quietly. Things changed in 2014.

The case of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was, depending on who you ask, either a shocking eye-opener or a long overdue last straw when it came to football players and domestic violence. Rice, who was caught on video knocking his wife out with a punch and then dragging her unconscious body from the scene, has been vilified by the public and media more than perhaps any athlete since O.J. Simpson. Meanwhile, Goodell's handling of the Rice case has drawn the kind of negative attention and criticism that transcends the sports page.

And then just when it seemed the Rice story was fading from public consciousness, Minnesota Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on child-abuse charges for allegedly beating his four-year-old son in an excessive manner. Peterson's ensuing suspension was more strict and swift than Rice's punishment — the NFL had learned a lesson, after all — but Goodell and his league were again painted in a negative light.

Domestic violence is also a controversial topic in the Muslim community.

Although there are multiple hadiths quoting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on family life and describing him as a gentle husband and father — “The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women,” the Prophet said — there is still a disturbing and persistent culture of domestic abuse in many Muslim-majority countries and communities around the world. And the actions of those abusers support the misconception that Islam encourages domestic violence.

Would a Muslim NFL commissioner have handled the Rice case or the Peterson case any differently than Goodell handled them?

Given the importance that Islam places on justice, I think that if nothing else, Rice's initial suspension would've been longer than two games given the contents of the infamous videotape, even if Rice had not been convicted in a criminal court.

In the aftermath of the Rice and Peterson cases, the NFL began working on a tougher personal conduct policy, which it is now fighting with the NFL players union to implement sooner than later.

“The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association,” the NFL said in an official statement last week. “We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief.”

It is an admirable effort that will lead to a better league, insha'Allah. But I feel that under a commissioner who is following Islamic principles, a tougher conduct policy would've already been in place before Rice and Peterson damaged the league's reputation and deep-pocketed sponsors started questioning their affiliation with the NFL.

Of course, it is unfairly easy to criticize the actions (and inactions) of people who are in high-profile decision-making roles: men like Roger Goodell and Barack Obama, women like Angela Merkel and Stacey Allaster.

We not only have the benefit of hindsight, but we also don't face the coming-from-all-corners pressure these leaders live with every day.

While it seems everybody with even a casual interest in football is lining up to tell Goodell how to do his job, I don't think anyone is under the illusion that his job is an easy one.

The commissioner of the NFL must serve the interests of billionaire team owners without alienating millionaire athletes.

The commissioner must manage the egos of rich, talented and confident men and women who are accustomed to getting their way, all while maintaining goodwill with a mostly working-class fan base whose money makes the entire system go 'round.

The job of NFL commissioner requires an ability to balance justice with fairness, confidence with humility, forgiveness with accountability, patience with ambition, strength with kindness. It is a balancing act that many Muslims have experience in navigating; a job at which I would fully expect the right Muslim to succeed.

The post What Would A Muslim Do As NFL Commissioner? appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Kabul: anti-Charlie Hebdo protest turns violent

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 January, 2015 - 19:04
Riot police clash with crowds demonstrating against magazine’s practice of running satirical caricatures depicting prophet Muhammad

A protest in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Saturday against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, turned into a violent confrontation between riot police and demonstrators, police said.

Farid Afzeli, chief of the Kabul police department’s criminal investigations division, said several hundred demonstrators gathered in eastern Kabul on Saturday afternoon to protest the magazine’s ongoing practice of running satirical caricatures depicting the prophet Muhammad.

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Texas will honour American sniper by celebrating 'Chris Kyle Day'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 January, 2015 - 18:49

Governor announces 2 February as day to commemorate Navy Seal and ‘national hero’ as film continues to stoke fierce partisan debate

Texas will officially celebrate 2 February as “Chris Kyle Day”, in honour of the Navy Seal whose portrayal in the movie American Sniper has caused intense controversy while breaking box-office records.

Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 “probables” during four tours of duty in Iraq, is played by Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood’s film, which has six nominations for this year’s Oscars and earned almost $250m in its first two weeks in cinemas.

Related: The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero? | Lindy West

Related: American Sniper: anti-Muslim threats skyrocket in wake of film's release

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Thousands attend funerals for Pakistan mosque blast victims - video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 January, 2015 - 12:01
Thousands of mourners gather in the streets of Shikarpur, Pakistan for the mass funeral of victims of Friday's mosque bombing. The blast, which was caused by a suicide bomber or explosive device according to police, occurred when the Shia mosque was at its fullest during Friday prayers. Businesses remain closed on Saturday as the city mourns for the more than 49 people killed in the attack Continue reading...

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