Shake hands and read Goethe: attempt to define German values draws ire

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 May, 2017 - 05:45

Interior minister Thomas de Maizière’s newspaper column on Leitkultur seen by some as implicit attack on Muslim immigrants

An ear for Bach and Goethe, a willingness to shake hands, and pride in Europe, are just three of the distinguishing characteristics that the German interior minister has included in a catalogue of guidelines about what it means to be German.

The minister, Thomas de Maizière, has reignited a debate about the need to foster a Leitkultur – a dominant culture – which first surfaced in the 1990s and looks set to be one of the leading issues in the campaign for Germany’s general election in September.

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Australia’s grand mufti wins defamation case over News Corp articles

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 May, 2017 - 03:32

Media group consents to judgment as part of settlement with Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, after paper said he had not condemned Paris attacks

Australia’s grand mufti has won a defamation case over News Corp articles depicting him as an “unwise” monkey and asserting he had failed to condemn the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. News Corp consented to the judgment as part of a confidential settlement.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper published two stories highly critical of the response of the grand mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, to the co-ordinated terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in November 2015.

Related: Five things Australia's grand mufti may or may not have said about the Paris attacks

Related: Jacqui Lambie says grand mufti should be forced to wear ankle monitor

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Senate Holds Hearings on Hate Crimes, but No Muslims Were Invited to Speak

altmuslim - 5 May, 2017 - 01:16
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding a hearing on “Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes” at a time when the topic could not be more relevant. But, it is disappointing that no Muslims were invited to speak at the hearing, especially since hate crimes against Muslim Americans are on the rise.

Islamic and Arab art institute opening in New York aims to challenge stereotypes

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2017 - 17:04

The city’s first Institute of Arab and Islamic Art aims to counter misconceptions and provide a hub for exhibitions and interfaith dialogue

Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani noticed something missing in New York City’s cultural institutions – there is the Swiss Institute, the Asia Society and the Jewish Museum, but there isn’t anything to represent Arab Muslim artists, until now.

Related: The beauty of art can counter Islamophobia – but it won't be easy

Related: Artist Sophia Al-Maria: 'People hate Islam, but they're titillated by it too'

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Review: Colombia with Simon Reeve

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 May, 2017 - 14:43

Simon Reeves standing outside a wooden tent-like building in a FARC campA few years ago I wrote two reviews on here of programmes featuring Stacey Dooley, a BBC presenter who features on ‘youth-oriented’ documentary programmes, and I was pretty scathing about her manner and about how she didn’t do justice to a lot of the subject matter. The two reviews get a lot of hits every time she’s on the TV. Sadly, Stacey Dooley is not the only BBC presenter that does not take the subject matter as seriously as it should: two weeks ago the BBC put out Colombia with Simon Reeve, in which the young presenter does a tour of the country which is just emerging from a decades-long civil war involving FARC, the Marxist guerrilla group which funded itself through drug trafficking and kidnappings, and right-wing paramilitaries funded by wealthy landowners and international corporations; in the hour-long programme he visits the capital Bogotá, the city of Medellín, some islands on the Caribbean coast, a port city where the paramilitaries had once dominated, and meets a leader of FARC known as “The Medic”.

Simon Reeve, unlike Dooley, is a well-established presenter who has been working for the BBC since 2003 and has presented programmes on a variety of places around the world, most recently Greece and Turkey, so I don’t know if this is his regular style or not. He grated on my nerves with his continual banal observations and stupid questions. For example, when presenting the Caribbean coast islands, he suggested that not many people know that Colombia has a Caribbean coast. Well, that might be because not many people have looked at a map, because you don’t need a map of a South American country to go about your everyday business round here, and maybe people associate the term Caribbean with English-speaking islands like Jamaica and Trinidad, but the north coast of South America does indeed face the Caribbean. He informed us that the islands had hosted wealthy tourists from Colombia’s elite, including its drug elite, and that many of the tourists were locals, but suggested that the ending of the civil war might mean that they get ‘discovered’ by overseas tourists as well. This, of course, is naturally a good thing; that Colombians might not be able to holiday in their own country (or live on the islands they were brought up on) wasn’t considered.

When visiting Bogotá, he meets a group of women who are refugees from a war-affected rural area, who sang in order to beg for clothes and shoes from people. A woman named Luz told Reeve that her family had owned land but had been approached with an offer to sell up, and they refused as it was all they had to live on. The men returned armed the next day and forced them off, and while they were at it raped Luz and her sister. Reeve sat there holding Luz’s hand with what looked like a blank expression on his face, which the camera kept cutting to as Luz kept talking; it should have kept on Luz rather than showing Reeve’s face and his hand on hers, as she was talking, while Reeve’s emotional response to it wasn’t really relevant. This may have been the editors’ decision or Reeves’s, but either way, it makes it all about him, not about the subject matter, which ruins the impact of emotional testimonies which should be allowed to speak for themselves. In another scene, a man has just told him about hearing paramilitaries torture people in a “chop house” in a slum area and he asks, “what on earth was it like to hear these sounds at night?” — why does he need to ask that? The viewer does, generally, have an imagination.

He goes out into the forest and visits a FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) camp, and explains that the organisation were notorious for kidnappings, explaining that “one of the most famous, or infamous” of the victims had been held for six years, much of it chained by her neck to a tree (this may have been Ingrid Betancourt, who had been campaigning for the presidency when kidnapped in 2002). Actually, it was not she who was ‘infamous’, which means famous for bad character or deeds, but the incident — this slip should have been edited out, but wasn’t. His interview with “The Medic” produced the usual bland statements from him, claiming that “unfortunate things happen” during war, but that he personally committed no atrocities and did nothing that keeps him awake at night. Conveniently, at this point he’s called away to get in his helicopter to go and talk to FARC commanders elsewhere, but before getting on board he reassures Reeves of how important the peace process is. Reeves also follows the army as they destroy an illegal gold-mining operation, blowing up equipment including a mechanical digger, part of which lands a few feet away from them — because no war-tourist TV programme is complete without the presenter appearing to be in some sort of danger (Dooley did the “putting on a flak jacket and running with soldiers/armed police” too) but let’s face it: they would not have taken him to the FARC camp if there was still danger of his getting kidnapped.

To be fair, his behaviour isn’t as extremely inappropriate or crass as Dooley’s but the editing style does really put him front and centre rather than the subject matter; the sections where he is covering food and the new Medellín cable-car system were pretty good, although I question whether reconciliation might not take more than just getting a few ex-soldiers and ex-guerrillas together in a kitchen. He’s clearly done some research but the goal is clearly to make it ‘accessible’ and not to overestimate how much the viewer already knows about the country, hence the silly irrelevance about the Caribbean coast. I don’t think Simon Reeves’s presentation style is good for covering a country which is recovering from a civil war; perhaps it’s good for a programme which explores the culture, music and food of a country, but this should have taken someone with war-reporting experience or someone who could engage with people recounting traumatic experiences like rape rather than just sit there. Colombia’s a fascinating country but programmes about its civil war or the reconciliation process needs the right reporter, and that’s not Simon Reeve, I’m afraid.

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Is Discussing Hijab Off Limits? Overcoming Sexualizing Muslim Women

Muslim Matters - 3 May, 2017 - 17:38

By far, one of the most difficult experiences I faced in hijab was when I made the decision to wear niqaab (the face veil). As I discussed in my post “I’m Taking Off This Veil!” this decision exposed me to a host of confounding experiences, the most trying of which was the repeated assumption of what this decision represented about me.

One of the most offensive experiences I faced while wearing niqaab was receiving the repeated advice to cover my eyes due to the alleged fitnah men faced by seeing my eyes uncovered, while I was merely using my eyes to see where I was going. Amongst some Muslims who are deemed religious, a woman’s beauty itself is viewed as sinful, even if it involves no sin or wrongdoing on her part, hence my blog: “Is Beauty Evil?”

Repeated experiences of this nature, in which “naseehah” (religious advice) was given to me solely on the basis of what men might imagine about me, contributed greatly to my ultimate spiritual crisis which made me doubt my ability to even be Muslim anymore. The incessant harassment due to my hijab not being un-beautiful enough, my voice being heard at all in public, and any picture of me existing at all, made me actually fear for my soul if I continued to attend certain masjids or Islamic classes. It began to feel like “practicing Islam” (in the minds of these Muslims) was synonymous with following the faults of any woman who identified as Muslim. Till today, I feel (literally) sick when I read posts criticizing Muslim women who are covered in hijab but who inadvertently violated some manmade restriction on her behavior.

This phenomenon inspired this journal entry, which I shared in my book FAITH. From the Journal of Umm Zakiyyah:


Is following the faults of women now the sixth pillar of Islam? No matter how much some Muslims study this beautiful faith, they still come away with this bizarre manmade “principle of fiqh”: Any action by a woman that even has the possibility to involve the eyes or ears of men is by default evil and a sign of corruption and immodesty on her part.

So now we have to read endless posts about the decision of a woman who wears hijab or a woman who wears niqaab to post a picture, to do an online hijab tutorial, or to even recite Qur’an!

By Allah, I’ve even seen some women change the required Salaah movements to appease the possible wicked thoughts of men.

Laa ilaaha illaAllah! What is wrong with us?

Even in the face of apparent wrong, we are taught to make excuses for our brothers and sisters.

Must we be taught the same regarding the apparent good of believing women, since we now twist nearly every public deed of theirs to be evil?

The Sexualization of Women in Hijab

I suffered my own emotional trauma from the repeated harassment by Muslims who equated fulfilling the conditions of hijab with achieving the humanly impossible goal of no man finding you attractive, even if only in his imagination. As a result, when I was struggling to hold on to my Islam, I couldn’t stomach any video, post, or lecture on the subject, especially if it was done by a man.

Naturally, this struggle of mine was nobody’s fault, and it certainly doesn’t mean that videos, posts, and lectures on hijab should not exist. I share this experience only to say that I understand on a deeply personal level why hijab is such a sensitive topic for so many of us.

Unfortunately, this generation has seen the tragic shift of hijab as a female-centered act of obedience to Allah to hijab as a male-centered act that women must do to curb men’s insatiable sexual appetites and overactive imaginations. As with any new concept introduced into the religion, the result of this un-Islamic shift is disastrous in ways that we cannot even imagine. In my post “Is Beauty Evil?” I reflect on one result of this shift in the section entitled Men’s Loss of Manhood and Respect:

“When the narrative of women’s dress consistently revolves around men’s sexual weakness and arousal, especially regarding the dress of women who are already covered, there is a significant loss of respect for Muslim men in many women’s hearts. As Muslim women, we are taught that men are our leaders in private and public life, and it’s difficult to reconcile this divinely assigned role of manhood with the helpless, sexually weak image many men paint of themselves.

“Though it is natural for any human being to feel attracted to the opposite sex and sometimes become aroused (often for reasons inexplicable to others), it is bizarre to be expected to listen to a public narration of this attraction and arousal—from a pulpit or Islamic scholar—and in all seriousness be expected to change one’s dress based on the inner workings of random men’s minds and hearts… In the ‘real world’ (in which we all live), there will always be a variety of people, and some of them won’t be Muslim; and still others (Muslim or not) won’t make even the slightest effort at being modest or obedient to God’s laws. But men still need to be men, and they still need to lead. And regardless of what others are doing or wearing, if men can’t handle their assignment of manhood, then they need to reassess their own hearts and behavior in front of God, not women’s dress and behavior in front of men.”

In my post “The Danger of Covering for Men” I discuss in more detail the harms of making hijab about men instead of Allah.

Playboy Da’wah and Redefining Islamic Hijab

By the time the infamous Playboy magazine decided to do an online photo shoot of a Muslim woman and subsequently print an article by her, I’d all but left the topic of hijab alone in my blogs, at least for the time being. I’d heard that the magazine had opted to minimally cover the private parts of the women whom they sexually exploited in print, but because the publication was of no interest to me, I paid little attention to this “news.” As a Muslim, I saw nothing praiseworthy in an immoral publication shifting from a “bare-all” approach to objectifying women to a “sneak peak” approach to objectifying them (by displaying just enough ‘awrah to imagine the rest).

So when I finally heard the news of a Muslim woman being featured in the new “sneak peak” version of the sexually exploitive magazine, it took some time for me to process what was actually going on. I’d seen some of the footage from the online photo shoot before I actually knew what it was, so I didn’t really know what all the fuss was about. It was only after I realized that the entire purpose of the shoot and article was to present “the first hijabi” in Playboy magazine that I felt physically sick. It was similar to the sickness I’d felt when I heard men speak about hijab as if it was ordained to curb their sexual appetites.

It was while battling the feeling of physical weakness and sickness due to the emotional trigger that the “first hijabi in Playboy” fanfare incited that I realized that the shifting of the hijab from female-centered to male-centered had taken on an entirely new level of harm. In this, I do not mean that the actual photo shoot and article was male-centered (though the publication certainly is). I mean that this shift made it possible for the hijab itself to take on an entirely new meaning in the eyes of practicing Muslims themselves—with very little room for respectful disagreement or varying views.

As we women sought to reclaim the hijab as rightfully ours, there was very little trustworthy guidance and support in this journey. Practicing Islam openly, especially in hijab, had become an experience of voluntarily opening yourself up to daily harassment and mistreatment by fellow Muslims, even if you were committing no sin. The harassment had reached the point where even justified discussions on the topic had become deeply triggering to so many of us (as I myself experienced).

As a result, any mention of Islamic hijab in public felt like one of two experiences (emotionally speaking): verbal abuse or supportive compassion. Any and all reminders about our souls (telling us to cover properly) felt like verbal abuse, and any and all kind words about not wearing hijab (i.e. disobeying Allah) were viewed as supportive compassion. And there was almost no in between.

It was in this spiritually confusing environment that the “first hijabi in Playboy” was announced.

Is Discussing Hijab Off Limits Today?

I don’t mention the Muslim woman in Playboy to rehash the whole debate about whether or not her appearance in Playboy was correct or incorrect from an Islamic perspective. I’ve heard the arguments of support that ranged from the most sensible (“She gave da’wah to a new audience”) to the most ridiculous (“She’s similar to Malcolm X”); and I’ve heard the arguments of disagreement that ranged from the most balanced (“It was very inappropriate, but she’s still our Muslim sister”) to the most despicable ([I’m not going to repeat the name-calling and character assassination here]).

I mention the Playboy incident because it brought up a question for so many of us that before then was just mulling around in our minds: Is discussing hijab off-limits today? Has the shift to define hijab as primarily a sexual-desire-blocking cloth for men made it necessary to leave the topic alone completely in public platforms, except to offer compassion and support to anyone who is at least trying to cover? Is the best approach to just have the information on Islamic hijab available to whoever wants it instead of speaking about the topic openly— especially in correcting “wrong hijab” or inappropriate behavior (or magazine appearances)?

When I ask the question, I’m not asking rhetorically. I really want to know how to deal with this topic appropriately today. Judging by the number of messages and calls I received after the Playboy incident (many from confused Muslim youth), I know complete silence is not an option (which was why I ultimately opted to post on my own social media page respectful disagreement with the Playboy feature).

I know that we cannot abandon teaching about hijab entirely, as this goes against divine instruction. But there has to be a better way than what we’re doing now. So many of us are hurting. And while our hurt is not an excuse to declare the topic of hijab off limits, I do believe there has to be a middle ground that helps us heal our wounds and save our souls at the same time.

And Allah knows best.


Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, cognitive behavioral therapist.

To learn more about the author, visit or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

Iran is seeking 'to control Islamic world', says Saudi Arabian prince

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 May, 2017 - 22:46

Deputy crown prince and defence minister rejects notion of talks with ‘extremist’ Iran as proxy wars in Syria and Yemen grind on

Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince has said there is no space for dialogue with the Iran due to its ambitions “to control the Islamic world”.

The rare and wide-ranging interview, which aired on multiple Saudi TV channels, offered a glimpse into how Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud views the kingdom’s top rival. It also laid bare the breadth of his portfolio and powers.

Related: Mohammed bin Salman: the prince trying to wean Saudi Arabia off oil

Related: Yemen at 'point of no return' as conflict leaves almost 7 million close to famine

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Love trumps hate: five ways teachers can build solidarity and inclusion

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 May, 2017 - 12:21

Recent political events have fuelled an increase in hate crime and created division. This needs to be discussed and challenged in the classroom

How can teachers make classrooms places of inclusion and belonging? That’s the question we should ask in light of Trump’s victory, which has legitimised misogyny, Islamophobia and racism, and the rise in hate crime in the UK following the EU referendum.

We work with young women of colour from low-income backgrounds, many of whom are Muslim. In recent months, our participants have spoken about the growing fear they feel as a consequence of the current political rhetoric, and the hate crimes that have followed. .

We must help all young people understand that privilege is invisible to those who have it

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BADD 2017: On dignity

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 May, 2017 - 23:20

The logo for Blogging Against Disablism DayThis post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2017.

For the past couple of years, my BADD posts have focussed on the issue of people with autism and learning disabilities and the way they are treated in the British psychiatric system, and how they are prone to ending up there for reasons of funding, finding suitable care and lack of understanding on the part of professionals. Some have died; the inquest for Thomas Rawnsley, who died early in 2015 in a Sheffield care home, is still pending. Last year, I mentioned the cases of young people being sent hundreds of miles from home for inpatient mental health treatment as there was none available in their home areas. In the two areas mentioned, namely Hull and Cornwall, a new unit has been approved, though of course that means young people are still being sent away right now. In this post I want to talk about an issue which has come up twice, which is the lack of regard for the personal dignity of people experiencing inpatient treatment, and the impact this must be having on people’s future mental health.

A couple of weeks ago Claire Greaves, a mental health blogger who has a personality disorder and anorexia nervosa, posted about her experience in a secure unit, which she did not name although she has done in the past. It is run by the Priory Group, although when she first went, it was owned by Partnerships in Care, which also ran a chain of mental health units, including secure units, around the UK (including The Dene, the unit near Brighton to which Claire Dyer was sent, briefly, in 2014). Claire Greaves was sent to the secure unit in May 2016, having previously been in an acute mental health unit since late 2015. The things she describes are common in secure units; person-centred care takes second place to the ‘need’ for security, a response PIC made when the Care Quality Commission raised this issue at an inspection of one of their secure units, so someone who has had regular leave (escorted or otherwise), who was allowed access to the Internet and to a mobile phone, and enjoyed regular family visits in a previous unit will have none of these once transferred to a secure unit.

Claire was transferred from this unit to a general hospital, where she remains under supervision, in December 2016 after her anorexia became life-threatening. She is expected to be transferred to an eating-disorder specialist unit shortly.

I never went outside, the whole 8 months I was there the only times I went out of the tiny ward were to go to hospital. I wasn’t allowed anything in my room, not even cards people sent me, I wasn’t allowed a pen or cutlery or access to the Internet or my phone or iPad or computer. At one point I wasn’t even allowed my clothes and I wore anti rip smocks for months. One time early on in my admission when I was still having periods I wasn’t allowed a sanitary towel and I literally had blood running down the insides of my legs.

This last thing is also something I heard from the mother of a teenage girl with autism who was held in an adolescent PICU (psychiatric intensive care unit) run by Priory a couple of years ago. I do not see how this is supposed to keep anyone safe; it is possible to get anti-rip clothing which allows the wearing of a sanitary or incontinence pad underneath, so there is no excuse to just leave a woman or girl to bleed all over her clothing, or the floor. It is well-known that a major cause of eating disorders in girls is discomfort with the changing body, which includes starting periods, and part of recovering from malnutrition is starting periods again; the fear of further indignity will make this process an awful lot harder, especially if someone is out of hospital and not compelled to eat, or tube-fed. The insistence on ‘supervising’ people in the toilet also strikes me as an abuse stemming from disregard for dignity: some people find it difficult to ‘go’ when being watched, and it cannot be necessary for everyone, particularly when they are intensively supervised in everything else they do.

Disregard for dignity is a common feature of disablism; as the public’s idea of disability consists of a few impairments such as spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and so on, there is a perception that disability necessarily brings indignity, particularly in the form of incontinence. One remembers the case of Elaine MacDonald whose local council declined to provide a night carer to help her to the toilet as they decided incontinence briefs would suffice, when she was not incontinent. These sorts of attitudes when combined with the power that mental health professionals hold over inpatients can lead to ‘care’ which is devoid of compassion and understanding, and compound the existing illness with new trauma — and the person affected may, of course, already be dealing with other trauma. I hope more survivors speak out and there is serious debate about the indiscriminate use of dignity-denying supervision and restraint practices.

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Indian mob beats two Muslims to death over suspected cow theft

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 May, 2017 - 11:57

Attack on pair in Assam captured on video and comes amid spate of attacks by ‘cow protection’ vigilante groups

Two Muslim men were beaten to death by Indian villagers who suspected them of stealing cows, police said on Monday. It is the latest in a series of attacks over the animals, which are considered sacred by Hindus.

Police in Nagaon district, in Assam state in the country’s north-east, said they had registered a murder case over the deaths of Abu Hanifa and Riyazuddin Ali on Sunday. Two people have been detained for questioning.

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