German court rules Muslim girls must take part in swimming lessons

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 December, 2016 - 21:20

Constitutional judges say schoolgirl cannot be excused mixed classes on grounds of Islamic dress codes

Germany’s highest court has ruled that ultra-conservative Muslim girls must take part in mixed swimming classes at school, finding against an 11-year-old pupil who had argued that even wearing a burkini, or full-body swimsuit, breached Islamic dress codes.

The constitutional court in Karlsruhe on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the girl’s parents that she should be excused from the classes because a burkini did not conform with Islam’s ethic of decency, German media reported.

Related: What do people in Germany think of the burqa ban?

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Every Muslim woman I’ve met is integrated | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 December, 2016 - 19:36

What does integration mean? Does it mean contributing to society? Or assimilating into British culture?

If the former then I believe every Muslim woman I have ever met is integrated. They go to university, work, take their kids to school and chat with their teachers, take part in school fairs and bake for every bake sale and charity event. Even when they struggle to speak English they contribute to British society and their local communities. For a Muslim, service and contribution to one’s country is a part of faith.

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Angela Merkel endorses party's call for partial ban on burqa and niqab

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 December, 2016 - 18:08

German chancellor tells CDU conference ‘full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible’

Angela Merkel has for the first time endorsed her party’s call for a partial ban on the burqa and the niqab in Germany, telling delegates at the Christian Democratic Union’s conference in Essen “the full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible”.

The German chancellor’s CDU party is expected this week to pass a motion proposing a ban on the full-face veil in some areas of public life such as courts, schools and universities, as well as in road traffic and during police checks. A full ban, as introduced in France in 2011, is seen as incompatible with Germany’s basic laws.

Related: German interior minister backs ban on full face veils in public places

Related: Germans want Merkel to take tough line with UK over Brexit, poll finds

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What does the future hold for integration and multiculturalism? | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 December, 2016 - 17:54

Louise Casey may be right that “huge progress” has been made in achieving social integration in recent years (Opinion, 5 December). But policies relating to integration have not improved much. In the early 1980s, the Commission for Racial Equality, of which I was chairman, defined integration in a multicultural society “as a way of describing how different people, with different religions, languages and attitudes, can establish sufficient common ground to enable them to live together (without trying to become the same as each other), in justice and peace”. Integration, so defined, is incompatible with multiculturalism, if that is thought to encourage separate development, separate schools, separate housing and – “surely not”, we wrote at the time – separate laws. The key words in that definition are “common ground” and “justice”. Values, British or other, are slippery things to instil in schools or elsewhere. Our laws are not. Political correctness, if it allows people to break the law, is itself unlawful. So are certain forms of discrimination.

What everyone needs to understand is that they are free to believe in actions that are unlawful but if they, or institutions such as schools, act in accordance with those unlawful beliefs, or incite others to do that, they may be prosecuted or closed down. What need to be avoided are policymakers who preach integration and then, as in England’s school system these days, practise disintegration by encouraging the creation of as many separate types of school as possible.
Sir Peter Newsam
Thornton le Dale, North Yorkshire

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Open Letter from 300+ American Muslims to President-Elect Trump

altmuslim - 6 December, 2016 - 17:40

This open letter is the first public communication from American Muslim leaders to the incoming Trump administration, and is signed by by 300+ American Muslim leaders from around the country who serve their communities and their country in their worship spaces, academic institutions, advocacy, civic life and entrepreneurship. After a year of being talked about on the campaign trail but never being talked to, American Muslim leaders are sharing their values and aspirations, their grave concerns policy proposals and cabinet appointments, and their unflinching defense of the Constitution and cherished American values.

The post Open Letter from 300+ American Muslims to President-Elect Trump appeared first on altmuslim.

The History of America’s Largest Muslim Organization

Muslim Matters - 6 December, 2016 - 16:36

Having never been involved with the Islamic Society of North America before joining as the Secretary General in 2014, I am interested in the history of the organization I head and the direction it is heading in. Here is what I have learned.

On April 22, 1964 the late Dr. Ahmad Sakr, then secretary of the year-old Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (MSA) wrote a letter to the members of MSA, about 200 in number. He reminded them that Eid al-Adha was around the corner and wrote: “If you do not have an Islamic center in your city, pray in the basement of someone's home. If there are not enough Muslims in your area, go to a nearby town to pray.” That was then. Now, thousands of Muslims pray on the Eid at perhaps a thousand places in this vast land. How did we get from then to now?

A small group of student visionaries who founded the 'mother MSA' in 1963 crisscrossed North America, seeking out and mobilizing Muslim students on university campuses until they had established campus chapters in most of the major colleges in the United States and Canada. Through frequent visits, publications, and numerous regional conferences, and the annual convention, the MSA prospered. So did the graduating students, who settled into jobs and began to raise families.

By mid-seventies MSA had fostered the founding of professional societies of scholars and practitioners in medicine, in social sciences and in science an engineering, established Islamic Teaching Center to train imams and distribute Islamic literature, and organized North American Trust (NAIT) to hold in trust local mosque properties and manage MSA's funds and services such as the Islamic Book Service, the leading sources of Islamic publications at that time.

As local Muslim communities grew in numbers and strength, time had come in the late seventies to restructure the Muslim presence in North America. After much deliberation, consultation and planning, community leaders decided that MSA should evolve in two directions – a new organization that will act as an umbrella and eventually as a national association with its focus on off-campus community development, and a student organization that will focus on the important work needed on American college campuses. In 1983, twenty years after the founders first met to lay the foundations of their historic undertaking, a duly elected Majlis ash Shura of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) met to initiate the new phase and face of Islamic activism in North America. After a few organizational hiccups, the MSA (now better known as MSA National) has become an effective organization on college campuses across the land.

From the start, ISNA's leadership recognized the new challenges that confronted them: education for the children of a growing community, training for the leadership of emerging mosques and other community institutions, fostering relationships with other faith-based and civic segments of the society at large. At the same time, ISNA would need to weave together a network of local community organizations into an effective representative group that would play its legitimate role in American society.

Bringing together Muslims across the land to educate, motivate and inspire them became ISNA's highest priority. The annual convention continued to grow as the Muslim event of the year in North America, bringing together tens of thousands of Muslims from around the continent with literally hundreds of prominent scholars and activists.

But the convention was and remains more than a mere gathering; it is the culmination of ISNA's efforts and accomplishments during the year past, and represents the depth and breadth of ISNA's role and responsibilities in developing a vibrant Muslim presence across the continent. Regional conferences enable ISNA to bring its message and its services closer to local issues and concerns, further strengthening Muslim identity and presence.

ISNA's volunteer elected leaders and its full-time professional staff team up to accomplish a busy agenda.

Meaningful relationships with other faith communities, with governments at all levels and with civic society are the hallmark of ISNA's outreach and engagement with fellow citizens. ISNA's Washington, D.C. office actively fosters strong relationships with U.S. congressional staff and federal government officials, serves as an outreach resource to the American Muslim community and helps ISNA promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims to the nation's political and faith leaders. ISNA partners with numerous faith-based and policy groups, such as the inter-faith Shoulder to Shoulder project, to establish a platform to advocate for social justice for all. Such efforts allow ISNA to promote a better understanding of Islam's place in the multi-faith public sphere.

ISNA's award-winning premier bi-monthly Muslim magazine Islamic Horizons links the Muslim community through reporting and writing on issues of concern and interest, and offers American society at large a window into who Muslims are and what they stand for. A weekly e-newsletter and periodical news articles, press releases and news briefs augment this effort.

Education at all levels has been among ISNA's highest priorities. ISNA supports children's education by bringing together teachers, administrators and board members at highly successful annual educations forums in Chicago and in California. Its affiliate, the Council of Islamic Schools in North America, helps Islamic schools attain accreditation and professional excellence. Similarly, the annual masjid forum offers learning and coordinating opportunities to masjid leadership.

The Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA), a long-standing program of ISNA, helps young Muslims improve their Islamic knowledge, deepen their Islamic commitment and develop their leadership potential through hands-on governance and operation of MYNA. This program of youth development is supplemented with several regional youth camps as well as parenting workshops for families to help them nurture the next generation of confident young Muslims, and build harmony within the home.

Through the generosity of donors, ISNA offers scholarships in certain critical fields of study for young American Muslims, helping develop the community's future scholars and professionals.

Now at the cusp of its 54th year, the Islamic society of North is a venerable organization that has well deserved its reputation as the largest and most effective representative of Muslims in this land. With its leadership consistently elected through open elections, ISNA prides itself on the stability, transparency, and inclusiveness it has enjoyed since its seeds were sown in the womb of the 'mother MSA'.

As for my personal involvement and inspiration, I am involved in this line of work because I am concerned about my kids, my wife and the larger community. I want all Muslims to love Allah, practice Islam and have a sense of community. I don't see that happening everywhere and that's a problem. If my generation does not step up and address these problems then who will? Working with ISNA is a way that I have found to address these issues.

Hazem Bata, Secretary General of ISNA, is a lawyer and activist. He holds a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from West Virginia University School of Law and a Master of Laws (LL.M) from Washington University in Saint Louis. He practiced law in Florida and was a partner in Bata & Associates, P.A. working in real estate development and business law. Prior to joining ISNA, he served as Operations Manager for Bank of America where he managed the Mortgage Resolution Team (MRT).


Why I’m against Universal Basic Income

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 December, 2016 - 21:58

A 32-tonne tipper truck dumps a load of coins in front of a town hall, as people stand and applaud.Recently the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has gained a lot of traction in Left circles in the UK, with calls for Jeremy Corbyn to adopt it and try and make it Labour party policy. This morning, I saw an article on Medium by Frances Coppola, Why the changing nature of work means we need a Universal Basic Income, which suggests that we cannot and shouldn’t try to turn the clock back to a time when there were plentiful jobs in manufacturing because they were “mind-numbing, repetitive jobs”, but rather we should embrace the automation that got rid of them: “bring on the robots, and let the humans go to the pub”. I think this is a rather naive view of both the problem and of UBI as a solution.

To begin with, automation is only one of the reasons why jobs have been destroyed. The other major reason is that manufacturing has been exported to third-world countries which can simply supply labour cheaply, in the case of China without the impediments of democracy or free trade unions, which goes a long way towards explaining why the cost of most manufactured goods, but especially technology, has stayed the same or come down since the late 1980s. A country which prides itself on high standards, in which well-paid workers manufacture high-quality goods, needs to resist unfair competition from sweatshop economies. Automation often does not free up human beings to do more interesting, creative work; it often destroys skilled craft jobs and replaces them with tedious and repetitive ones. In recent months there has been much talk of driverless cars and trucks replacing ones driven by human beings; even when the safety implications are ironed out (which will take a long time; even trains still have human drivers, except on a few closed systems such as the Docklands in London), the result will be the removal of an easy entry-level job (taxi driving) and a job that is often enjoyable without the stress, as some people would see it, of constant social interaction. So automation does not free people up to “go down the pub”.

The problems with UBI start with what it is: a guaranteed, unconditional basic income, presumably paid to everybody by the state. This means that people in work would be taxed to pay for an unconditional monetary gift to everyone else, regardless of the payers’ or recipients’ existing means or need. Unless other benefits were reduced or abolished at the same time, it would mean a huge increase in taxation for everyone at every income level, and possibly the removal of tax-free allowances. Assuming it is politically possible to institute it in the first place at all, the level would be a constant source of contention (which may delay its introduction, or keep it at a minuscule level, rendering it pointless). It would likely not be increased with inflation, ultimately reducing it to a token amount in real terms. Although, unlike with other benefits, everyone would receive the payment, the fact that a flat payment benefits the poor more than the rich would mean that any increase would be unpopular with upper to middle income earners, and these are the people more likely to enjoy their jobs.

UBI would become an excuse to deny funding or work to almost anyone. People would think it more acceptable even if it’s illegal. A boss would feel justified in denying extra working hours to someone who had caused him annoyance on the grounds that “he gets his UBI, doesn’t he?”. The same excuse could be used to refuse accommodation to disabled potential employees, deny disability benefits, funding for adaptations or disability-related equipment, funding for social care, legal aid or a host of other things. It would be an excuse to refuse wage increases, or even cut them. The fact that UBI would not be enough to live on would not change any of this. As the payment would likely only be made to citizens, not immigrants, it would fuel the perception that immigrants are harder workers because they have to work to get paid, unlike poorer citizens (citizens in highly-paid and professional occupations would be less affected by that stigma) — consider how British workers are already stereotyped as being inferior and lazy compared to “hard-working” Poles. This might be an incentive for industrialists to prefer immigrants or even ship jobs out, resulting in tension and resentment; it would be used as a pretext to make acquiring citizenship more difficult.

And we might also consider that not everyone has the means to receive and look after the money. I don’t mean spend it wisely (some people will squander it, but this can apply to people of any economic class and to any money, earned or otherwise); I mean physically look after it. A rough sleeper might be just as entitled to the money as someone with a three-bedroom house, but if he has no bank account, he would have cash on him and would be an easy mark for a thief when asleep (or for robbery when awake), particularly if there was a regular date for the money being distributed.

So, I do not believe that UBI would alleviate poverty or make the country a more generous place. On the contrary, it would reduce the perception of need without reducing need itself, and make the country a meaner place and make people feel justified in their meanness. The plain fact is that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that food, clothing etc have to be paid for, and that the money for UBI will have to come from ordinary taxpayers, who will understandably resent paying for it. Part of this may be down to our commercial press, which stokes envy and resentment about such things, but the same papers will have to be challenged if any fair or rational welfare system is to be established. UBI will mean that a payment (or tax rebate) to people who do not need it will take funding and benefits from where they are needed and result in underpayment of already low-paid workers.

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