To break bread or to boycott: that's Muslim Australia's choice | Joseph Wakim

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 August, 2014 - 00:29

Refusing to eat with someone is a gesture indicating theyve dishonoured you. Thats why Muslim leaders are boycotting high profile events in an attempt to be heard

In recent weeks, three high-profile boycotts have been launched by Australias Muslim leaders against the backdrop of the current conflict in Gaza. As a form of political activism, the boycotts are novel, but perhaps the response to them isnt: they have been described as divisive and unproductive and a barrier to constructive dialogue.

Those remarks came from Vic Alhadeff, who was the subject of the first boycott. In his capacity as CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Alhadeff issued a community update on 9 July which justified Israels Operation Protective Edge by republishing a statement from Israels ministry of foreign affairs. By doing so, I and others argued, he abrogated his responsibility to remain neutral as chairman of the NSW community relations commission (CRC).

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Claire Dyer and the LB Bill

Indigo Jo Blogs - 11 August, 2014 - 19:47

Picture of Claire Dyer, a young white woman with shoulder-length hair, looking through a closed window at her dog, Jonjo, who is being held up to the window by a person in a black raincoat.On Friday 1st August, Claire Dyer’s family lost their legal bid to stop her being transferred from an assessment and treatment unit in Swansea, where her family live, to a medium-secure unit near Brighton, some 230 miles from her home. Claire was transported within an hour of the decision being made, without any of her family being given the chance to say goodbye. A number of charities have spoken out over this dreadful decision, including Mencap, after Claire’s supporters contacted them en masse through Twitter in the days before her transfer. Hamish Laing, medical director of the local health board, promised a number of people who alerted him on Twitter that he would “speak with MH team to get more info”, but it didn’t have the desired effect, if he said anything (although she is still under the board’s care, even though she is a long way out of area).

The disadvantages of the move to everyone except the staff at her old unit (and the American-owned company that runs the unit where she is now) are obvious: it’s more than 200 miles from home, a five-hour car journey (one of the family gets car-sick, by the way), which makes it not only a lot more difficult to visit her but also to attend care team meetings and to communicate with the staff, all of which could be done easily while she was in Swansea. That she does not need to be in secure conditions is borne out by the fact that she was allowed out almost every day during the entire period she was sectioned (since last September), including after the supposed need for a secure unit was determined, except for about three days in the last month, including spending almost every weekend at home. There is plenty of photographic evidence of this, and if the unit could be bothered to contact the management of the various public places Claire has been, they could easily verify it. The health board’s solicitor said that they believed that the family had been under-reporting incidents (while they, of course, had been meticulously logging all of them), but they were not, it seems, called on to provide evidence, and the fact that the places Claire goes have allowed her back time and again, including various public sports facilities, demonstrates that there have not been that many outside the unit.

In addition, there is concern about the types of other patients Claire is being exposed to at this unit. I searched for the name of the unit and three separate stories appeared; two of them were about suicides of women who were referred there for serious crimes, and another of a woman who died of a heart attack and an ambulance was not called for 25 minutes after she was found unresponsive. That woman, who was sectioned after being admitted voluntarily, had recently complained that family visits were being made difficult (and she only lived in south London). The unit’s main patient focus is identified on their website as mental illness and personality disorder, and the website mentions “mild learning disability” and not autism at all. Claire is, in other words, being housed in a unit known to be unsuited to her needs among women with severe mental health problems and a history of serious violence who are mostly of normal intelligence, which puts her in considerable danger, when she could be out in the community if the authorities were willing to provide the necessary support. It also appears that the staff do not understand either her autism or her communication difficulties; she cannot attend meetings without having someone to explain what is going on in simple language (which her parents previously did), which has not been provided.

Picture of Connor Sparrowhawk, a young white man wearing a blue shirt and denim shorts, squatting on dry muddy ground in front of a wire fence, behind which is a green fieldThere has been a movement to introduce an “LB Bill”, named after Connor Sparrowhawk who died in an ATU in Oxford last July as a result of negligence. Of course, poor care and neglect happens in a variety of different types of homes and hospitals, and a report by Mencap in 2007, Death by Indifference, found that people with learning disabilities were more likely to die preventable deaths and that they were not receiving equal healthcare. Unlawful or abusive long-term deprivation liberty is a different issue facing people with learning disabilities, and their families, as they try to access care and suitable accommodation. The main thrust of the “LB Bill” would be to enshrine in English law the right to independent living which is part of article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Although the UK has ratified this treaty, it does not become enforceable without an Act of Parliament.

The problem is that merely legislating a “right” does not mean that this right will be honoured; there are numerous countries which have constitutions that supposedly enshrine rights, but these rights can often be overridden, especially when the political class and most of society believes it should be (usually during times of war or other crisis). In this case, a right on its own could easily fail to be delivered because of lack of money, lack of suitable alternatives to needing to “balance their rights with others’ rights”, or because other legislation prevents it. And an important piece of such legislation that is being used to deprive people with learning disabilities of their liberty is the Mental Health Act, under which Claire is being held and which is what facilitated her transfer. Mental health hospitals are often unnecessarily restrictive environments; they often restrict family visits and ban under-18s from visiting altogether, even on adolescent units; they confiscate personal possessions on “safety” grounds without reference to whether they pose a risk to that individual’s safety; they bar access to the Internet, often for no good reason (a common excuse is that the cameras could be used to violate other patients’ confidentiality, but if only used in patients’ rooms, this problem can easily be avoided). Patients who are newly transferred are often put on the most restrictive level of security on arrival, regardless of what ‘privileges’ they enjoyed before (and regardless of the reason for their transfer). In Claire’s case, she has not been allowed out of doors since moving on 1st August. This could have been avoided if the responsible clinician had not been on holiday, but why are patients allowed to be transferred at such times, other than in emergencies?

Others have covered such issues as reforms that need making to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, especially in the light of recent court rulings that have resulted in a dramatic rise in applications for Deprivation of Liberty authorisations under the Mental Capacity Act (although there, more money to handle the volume of cases is needed as well). Besides the relevant section of the CRPD, the right to family life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights should be emphasised in protecting the rights of people like Claire, and Steven Neary (who was threatened with similar machinations under the Mental Health Act to transfer him to Wales, of all places) before her. However, the Mental Health Act is widely being used to side-step the safeguards and abusively detain people with learning disabilities, particularly autism, for the convenience of staff rather than their own best interests. Among the reforms which must be implemented are:

  • It should be less easy to detain a person with a learning disability under section 3, and there should be a distinct mental illness rather than the effects of their disability (in cases of their causing severe injury to someone, court orders should be available to allow them to be held securely).
  • Sectionings should be subject to review, so as to make sure there is a genuine reason and not a mere pretext (e.g. “s/he behaves better when on the section than when off it”).
  • There should be a requirement to distinguish between behaviour in a unit setting (where there are often particular stresses, such as a hospital environment, chemical smells, unfamiliar rules, other autistic patients, obstructive staff behaviour etc) and their behaviour when out in the community or with their family.
  • Their best interests should be paramount in any transfer decision, not those of the staff unless they pose a dire threat which cannot be handled by increasing staff.
  • MHA Tribunals should be convened promptly, should not be subject to undue delays and should not lapse if a section lapses and is renewed.
  • Patients’ security status should be passed on when they are moved to new wards or units, and maintained.
  • Patients should not be transferred when the responsible clinician at their new units are away, except in an emergency.
  • People with learning disabilities should not be accommodated alongside those without, especially where staff are not specialists in (their) learning disability.

I have been following the updates in Claire’s situation and it is appalling. Her treatment is simply cruel; she has not been allowed out of doors in all the time she has been there; she has been allowed to see her family only in a visitors’ room and only with staff present; she has been told off for crying in front of unit management; she has not been provided with the means to communicate with her sister, who is deaf. She should, however, simply not be in a secure unit, let alone one hundreds of miles from home. She should not be in a mental health environment, or in any kind of detention, at all. She should be home with her family, or in a suitable residential care placement nearby. The law needs reforming so that such abuses cannot keep happening to vulnerable people.

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The rise of Isis, blowback and religion | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 August, 2014 - 19:37

The advances by Isis across parts of northern Iraq are blowback from US intervention in Iraq and the Middle East in general (Report, 9 August). Isis has been able to move across areas so quickly because of the lack of justice for various groups in Iraq and Syria and some old remnants of Saddams regime wanting influence again through a temporary alliance with a jihadist grouping. Western reporting has been alarmist and stereotypical of any group which is opposed to US and western interests. The temporary gains by Isis would fade very quickly if Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq were brought into serious discussion about the future of the area. In Syria, all western powers should stop intervening at will. This may lead to its disintegration, but this may be the only realistic future. The Palestinian catastrophe must be addressed. Alternatively Obama can drop bombs and hope for the best; I think his predecessors tried this.
Derek Fraser

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More UK bank accounts held by Muslim organisations risk closure

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 August, 2014 - 18:12
Money laundering and counter-terrorism legislation behind move to close accounts at HSBC, not Islamophobia, analyst says

An increasing number of Muslim NGOs are likely to suffer the same fate as three groups that were told their bank accounts are to close because they are too risky, a finance and security expert has warned.

Finsbury Park mosque in north London, international development charity the Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT) and the Cordoba Foundation thinktank received identical letters from HSBC dated 22 July giving them two months notice because their accounts fell outside of our risk appetite, prompting allegations of Islamophobia, strenuously denied by the bank, and calls for a boycott.

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Coward John Patrick Deuel Charged For Attempting to Rip Off Muslim Mother’s Veil, Cloak

Loon Watch - 10 August, 2014 - 11:33

Smirky coward Deuel. He won't be smirking in jail.

Smirky coward Deuel. He won’t be smirking in jail.

Cretins such as Deuel exist in this world. Isn’t it time we asked what is wrong with privileged White males taking their aggression out on women?

Michigan man charged for attempting to pull off Muslim mom’s veil, cloak: report

By Carol Kuruvulla (NYDailyNews)

A Michigan man is facing jail time for an alleged assault against a Muslim mom.

Jonathan Patrick Deuel, 29, was charged with ethnic intimidation and misdemeanor assault and battery on Thursday for what Muslim activists are calling a “hate crime.”

The July 19 attack came as the woman and her family were enjoying a day at a Meridian Township mall. The 26-year-old woman was walking to her car with her 5-year-old daughter when a group of three — two men and one woman — surrounded her. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the attackers attempted to pull off the woman’s niqab and abaya — the traditional veil and cloak that some Muslim women wear in public.

The woman was allegedly knocked to the ground while her attackers shouted slurs and cursed at her. The assailants fled after the woman’s husband heard her cries and rushed to the scene.

The mom was hospitalized for 36 hours, complaining of chest pain and a numbness in her left arm.

Meridian Township Police announced that Deuel will be the only suspect charged in the attack. The ethnic intimidation charge is a felony which could cost Deuel up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, MLive reports. The misdemeanor charge could carry an imprisonment of up to 93 days and fines of up to $500.

CAIR-Michigan’s executive director Dawud Walid welcomed the charges against Deuel on Friday, but said he was “disappointed” that the other two attackers remained on the loose.

“There are two other reported culprits and neither one of them has been charged,” Walid told The News.

Walid said that the woman and her husband, a PhD student, were Saudi nationals.

“She’s recuperated from the physical injuries, which weren’t very severe,” Walid said. “But she’s still traumatized mentally.”

Versatile Drumming Legend Idris Muhammad Passes Away

Loon Watch - 10 August, 2014 - 11:14


The influence that Black Muslim jazz artist have had on music has been deep and profound, their cultural contribution is inconvenient to the bigots whose careers depend on attempting to erase the significant Muslim contribution to the best of our culture.

A nice, if short eulogy to jazz legend by Nate Chinen.

Idris Muhammad, Drummer Whose Beat Still Echoes, Dies at 74

(New York Times)

Idris Muhammad, a drummer whose deep groove propelled both a broad career in jazz and an array of hits spanning rhythm and blues, funk and soul, died on July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 74.

His death was confirmed by Dan Williams, a friend affiliated with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. The cause was not specified.

Mr. Muhammad was a proud product of New Orleans, whose strutting parade rhythms always lurked just beneath the surface of his style. A busy sideman as early as his teenage years, he later backed Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, Roberta Flack and the jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and as a key member of the house band laid the rhythmic foundation for the original Broadway production of “Hair.”

But the heart of his work was at the intersection of jazz, R&B and funk, especially as they converged in the 1970s. He made a string of albums now prized by connoisseurs of funk, including “Power of Soul” (1974), “House of the Rising Sun” (1976) and “Turn This Mutha Out” (1977) with a supporting cast including players like the trumpeter Randy Brecker and the keyboardist Bob James.

Mr. Muhammad’s in-the-pocket backbeat also bolstered crossover efforts by the guitarists Grant Green and George Benson and the saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Grover Washington Jr. Within the last 20 years he had worked more in an acoustic mode, most prominently with the pianist Ahmad Jamal. Among the others he worked with were the guitarist John Scofield and the saxophonist Joe Lovano, who once honored him with a tune titled “Idris.”

He was born Leo Morris on Nov. 13, 1939, in New Orleans. His father played banjo, and four of his siblings were drummers. Naturally drawn to the sound of Mardi Gras parade bands, he found his calling with no formal training. He was 15 when he played on Art Neville and the Hawketts’ enduring 1954 recording of “Mardi Gras Mambo,” and not much older when he appeared on Fats Domino’s hit version of “Blueberry Hill.”

In 1966 he married Delores Brooks, lead singer for the Crystals, a girl group with a string of pop hits, including “Da Doo Ron Ron.” The couple converted to Islam, changing their names to Idris and Sakinah Muhammad, and lived in London and Vienna before their marriage ended in divorce in 1999. They had two sons and two daughters; he also had a daughter from a previous marriage, to the former Gracie Lee Edwards.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Muhammad was widely sampled by hip-hop artists, including Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, Lupe Fiasco and Drake. The Beastie Boys album “Paul’s Boutique” opens with a lengthy sample of “Loran’s Dance,” from “The Power of Soul.” Asked in an interview how he felt about other people using his music, he told Wax Poetics magazine, “It don’t really belong to me, man,” adding: “The gift the Creator has given me, I can’t be selfish with. If I keep it in my pocket, it’s not going to go anyplace.”

Teens attack Sikh man, call him ‘Osama Bin Laden’ in Roosevelt Island hate crime

Loon Watch - 10 August, 2014 - 11:03


All people of conscience must be made aware of the significant and under reported hatred that Sikhs face by a largely ignorant populace. It’s heartening that Muslim communities and organizations have involved themselves in outreach to Sikhs, since Sikhs, primarily men, often face the horrific consequences of Islamophobia. However, much more needs to be done in regard to solidarity between both communities.:

Teens attack Sikh man, call him ‘Osama Bin Laden’ in Roosevelt Island hate crime


A Sikh man was called “Osama Bin Laden” and assaulted during a hate crime on Roosevelt Island — the second attack against a member of the religion in recent weeks, authorities said Friday.

The victim, 34, said he and his mother were nearing his car on Main St. at 8:15 p.m. Thursday when a group of teens ran up and started yelling at them, calling the woman “a b—- with facial hair.” They then punched the man in the face and in the back of the neck, leaving him with minor injuries.

'Isis has shattered the ancient ties that bound Iraq's minorities'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 August, 2014 - 23:09
The jihadists' advance through north-west Iraq has put to the sword an understanding between communities that had survived for generations

In the grounds of Archbishop Bashar Warda's cathedral, the last Christians of northern Iraq are trying to find shelter. Some huddle under parched shrubs. Others move in sync with the shadow from the church office that gives them a reprieve from the baking sun. Children and women mill around a makeshift food hall, while old men stare vacantly. There are 4,000 desperate souls in the church grounds. And all seem shocked to be here.

Inside, the archbishop is reflecting on a week that has all but ended coexistence in Iraq's Arab north-west. A multi-ethnic and religious understanding that had prevailed throughout millenniums of war and insurrection could not withstand the latest purge, led by the ruthless jihadists of the Islamic State (formerly Isis) that rampaged through the area over the last week.

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Zionist Charged With Hate Crime For Disrupting Ramadan Services at Williamsburg Mosque

Loon Watch - 8 August, 2014 - 22:37

Willamsburg_Mosque_Ramadan Man accused of disrupting Ramadan at Bay Ridge mosque


A Williamsburg man allegedly disrupted Ramadan for Muslim worshipers in Bay Ridge, after he repeatedly drove by their mosque blasting Israeli music, law enforcement sources said Friday.

The 20-year-old Chaim Weiss decorated his 2013 Honda with a handful of Israeli flags and pumped up the music as worshipers were inside a mosque at 68th Street and Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge at 4 a.m. July 20, a criminal court document states.

Mohamed Elnashar, executive director of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, captured the whole thing on video surveillance, which shows the man driving by at least six times in the flagged ride, the court documents charge.

Weiss allegedly then parked in front of the mosque, which was filled with a large congregation of people who approached and tried to stop him, law enforcement sources said.

Weiss fled the scene and drove back and forth four more times with the Israeli hits playing as the religious ceremony was in session, the sources said.

He then set up shop in front of the mosque again, displaying the Israeli flags on his ride, all while Elnashar read from the Quran — though he had to stop because the music was too loud, the documents show.

According to a criminal court complaint, Weiss allegedly knew the neighborhood was predominantly Muslim and he intended to demonstrate “support for the Israeli people in Israel,” the documents state.

Weiss was cuffed in front of the mosque by Hate Crime Task Force members who responded, the sources said.

He later was charged with disruption or disturbance of a religious service, funeral burial or memorial service, and disorderly conduct, the documents show.

How an Extremist Buddhist Network Is Sowing Hatred Across Asia

Loon Watch - 8 August, 2014 - 22:28

Nafeesathiek Thahira Sahabdeen, 68, at her ransacked home in Dharga Town, Sri Lanka.

Nafeesathiek Thahira Sahabdeen, 68, at her ransacked home in Dharga Town, Sri Lanka.

How an Extremist Buddhist Network Is Sowing Hatred Across Asia


During her long career as a teacher, Nafeesathiek Thahira Sahabdeen prided herself on treating children of all backgrounds the same. That didn’t help her on June 15, though, when a radical Buddhist mob ransacked her home in Dharga Town, a thriving trading hub in southwest Sri Lanka. The 68-year-old Muslim was left “penniless, homeless and heartbroken,” she says. “I thought I would die. I was so afraid.”

The anti-Muslim violence that ravaged Dharga Town, along with the nearby tourist enclave of Aluthgama, peppered with five-star resorts, has been attributed to a burgeoning Buddhist supremacy movement that has embarked on an organized campaign of religious hate.

Sahabdeen speaks to TIME in the ransacked living room of her gutted home. The ceiling fan lies in splinters, the sink ripped from the wall, a portrait of her long-deceased father torn in two. She was alone at prayer when around 200 young men “armed with knives, iron bars, chains” arrived at her home just after dusk. “I could hear them smashing, smashing, smashing,” she says, eyes welling up and fingers clasped together in supplication. “All around were flames.”

Touring her scorched neighborhood, the bevy of gutted buildings and roofless homes indicates Sahabdeen actually fared better than many. Three people died in the violence, all Muslims shot by police shepherding a 7,000-strong mob, claim locals, while another two people had legs amputated after receiving gunshot wounds. At least 80 more were injured.

What sparked this bloodletting between two communities with virtually no historical grievances? Throughout the ashes of Dharga Town, scrawled graffiti reading “BBS Did This” leaves little doubt where the victims lay blame.

BBS, or Bodu Bala Sena, otherwise known as Buddhist Power Force, is a Buddhist supremacist group accused of stirring sectarian hated in Sri Lanka. Led by a monk, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, BBS accuses Sri Lanka’s Muslims of threatening the nation’s Buddhist identity, and enjoys support at high levels. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the President’s brother who also serves as Secretary of Defense, has been an outspoken supporter of BBS in the past.

“BBS echoes the sympathies and the prejudices of the majority Buddhist population,” says Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council NGO. “So the views have a certain resonance, and the media gives voice to that, and the counter view is toned down or even censored.”

The June 15 violence was sparked by an innocuous traffic dispute between a Muslim man and a Buddhist monk. Immediately afterward, Buddhist extremists descended on the monk and urged him to report the matter to the authorities. When the police declined to take action, a rally was organized. Gnanasara was there, addressing the mob. “If a Muslim or any other foreigner puts so much as a hand on a Sinhala person — let alone a monk — it will be the end of all of them!” he bellowed to raucous cheers. When the mob approached Muslim-majority Dharga Town, some people started throwing stones. This was all the provocation needed for a night of bedlam. In the aftermath of the riots, 135 people were arrested, say officials. To date, no one has been charged.

Gnanasara denies that BBS organized the march, and blames the “uncontrolled behavior of some of the extreme Muslim communities in the area” for the ensuing bloodshed during a phone interview with TIME. But even before his firebrand oration, portents of trouble were clear; on the Facebook post to announce the gathering, one of the first comments asked: “Shall I bring a can of gasoline?”

So why is Sri Lanka, a nation of 20 million that for three decades was decimated by a vicious civil war between the Buddhist state and largely Hindu Tamil minority, suddenly gripped by anti-Muslim hatred? Historically, the island’s Muslim community had always been a staunch supporter of the Sinhala-Buddhist political establishment, as it similarly suffered at the hands of the LTTE rebel group, more commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, who expelled all Muslims from northern provinces.

“Prejudices are growing because there is a small but influential group of extremist Buddhists who are having a relatively free run and are able to articulate very national sentiments and highlight the insecurity of the Sinhalese,” says Perera, himself a Sinhalese Christian.

The Sri Lankan experience is far from unique. In Burma, officially known as Myanmar, just 1,000 miles (1,600 km) across the Bay of Bengal, an extremist Buddhist movement called 969 is waging a parallel war, using identical tactics as BBS. (Both groups rose to prominence around 2012. Its leader is also a monk, Wirathu. When anti-Muslim riots erupted in the central Burmese town of Meiktila in April last year, clashes that killed dozens and displaced thousands, he arrived in the middle of the carnage, although later claimed to have tried to halt the bloodshed. Then, during last month’s communal riots in Mandalay, where Wirathu’s monastery is based, he fanned the flames through an incendiary Facebook post warning of Muslims “armed to teeth with swords and spears” preparing a jihad against local Buddhists.

Both he and Gnanasara make virtually identical xenophobic claims about Muslims converting Buddhist women and luring them into unholy polygamous unions, and using their corrupt business acumen to swindle hard-working Buddhists. “[Muslims] are breeding so fast, and they are stealing our women, raping them,” Wirathu told TIME’s Hannah Beech last year. “They would like to occupy our country, but I won’t let them. We must keep Myanmar Buddhist.” (In fact, neither Burma nor Sri Lanka has seen a Muslim population explosion).

BBS speeches are very similar. Halal certification is apparently funding al-Qaeda and Hamas; Islamic blood sacrifices are summoning forth “ghosts and demons;” Muslim perverts are using burqas as disguises to carry out licentious deeds; and, most bizarrely, the Quran requires Muslims to spit three times into any food or beverage served to a person of another faith.

“I think they are learning from each other,” says Hilmy Ahmed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka. “It started in Myanmar, but Gnanasara has perfected it.”

Certainly, the similarities between these nations are striking. Both Sri Lanka and Burma have large, state-backed Theravada Buddhist majorities comprising around 70% to 80% of the population. Both nations have Muslim communities, of around 10% of the population, that historically backed the establishment. Both are going through the aftermath of decades-long civil conflicts against other ethnic minorities — the Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka; a smattering of mainly Christian rebel groups in Burma. Now both boast extremist Buddhist movements led by rabble-rousing saffron-clad clerics.

Gnanasara is quick to laud his Burmese counterpart, and admits the pair met over the summer to “establish an international network of activists stationed in Buddhist countries.”

“We are all in the same boat in terms of attacks on Buddhist communities,” he says. “What is happening in Burma and Thailand, especially the southern part of Thailand, [resembles] what happened recently in Bangladesh.”

BBS and 969 are embarking on a partnership with similar organizations and activists across the region to face off “international threats,” reveals Gnanasara. “It would be better to have some sort of cohesion between us so we can respond collectively.”

Gnanasara maintains he did not “discuss any tactics” during his meeting with Wirathu, yet a shared modus operandi is obvious. The Burmese incidents, just like the Aluthgama clashes and hundreds of others, were sparked by a personal grievance between a Muslim and Buddhist — an argument between shopkeeper and customer over gold rings in Meiktila; an allegation of rape in Mandalay that the accuser eventually admitted was a total fabrication — that quickly spiraled out of control. After the initial complaint, an extremist clique descends on the town to aid the “wronged” Buddhist party. Before long there are lootings, beatings and torched houses.

Now that existentialist threats to Sri Lanka and Burma have disappeared with the end of their respective civil conflicts, the specter of Muslim extremism is convenient means of justifying political control.

“It’s in this government’s narrow political interests of winning elections to foster the divide, to foster Sinhala nationalism,” says Perera. Hilmy agrees: “We feel that it’s likely to be government-orchestrated as the government has lost the confidence of the minorities. The Tamils and Christians are completely alienated.”

Sahabdeen, for one, needs no convincing. When hundreds of young men ripped her home apart, the security services stood idly by, just a block away. Eventually, two rioters escorted her toward these officers before returning, unhindered, to resume their plunder. “They took me out the gate as if I was being walked to the gallows,” she says. “The police just stood there.”

Ironically, while the reality of creeping Islamization is almost certainly bogus, the perceived threat may be instrumental in fomenting its creation. “Muslims don’t have any option but to live here and die here, and so I’m very worried if Muslims are pushed beyond a certain point forces from outside could exploit that,” says Hilmy.

If that happens, Sri Lanka and Burma could head straight back toward a fresh round of civil conflict.

Islamist flag removed: 'There is no place for hate in Tower Hamlets'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 20:41
Opinions over the Islamist flag's meaning remain divided, but it no longer flies over an east London housing estate

It fell to a middle-aged Roman Catholic nun to take down the controversial black Islamist flag that had flown for several days in the shadow of Canary Wharf.

Sister Christine Frost, a well-known community activist in east London, was yesterday morning preparing to take a group of residents on a day trip to the seaside at Clacton-on-Sea, when she and members of the local Muslim community decided the banner fluttering provocatively at the entrance to the Will Crooks estate had to be removed.

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A call to arms for atheists (minus the arms)

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 19:51
The message from this year's World Humanist Congress is clear: the earth has never been in more urgent need of secularism

I never thought secular society would be something that would, in my lifetime, need defending. Yet, without having become any more religious, en masse, we find that state education has been handed over to any have-a-go Harry that feels up to it, which in a quarter of cases means religious people, and in a handful of cases, people like the advocates of Rudolf Steiner.

We have a new minister of state for faith and communities who talks about "militant atheism". That doesn't exist if militant means anything at all distinct from "argumentative", it means advocating violence, and when did you last hear an atheist advocating violence in the name of his or her belief?

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This Islamic State nightmare is not a holy war but an unholy mess | Jonathan Freedland

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 19:50

It isnt religious zeal but the collapse of state power that makes the clash in Iraq feel like a return to the dark ages

US begins air strikes against Isis targets in Iraq, Pentagon says

In a voice pleading and in despair, the woman who had fled for her life asked: What century are we in? She was an Iraqi Christian, reached by the BBC World Service even as she sought to escape the self-declared Islamic State, or IS (formerly Isis). They will sell us, she said. They will rape us. Her words echoed this weeks tearful warning to the Iraqi parliament from a Kurdish MP who described the fate befalling her fellow Yazidis. Mr Speaker, our women are being taken as slaves and sold in the slave market.

The year is 2014 and yet 40,000 followers of a 1,000-year-old faith are huddling on a mountainside said to be the final resting place of Noahs Ark, fearing their women are to be dragged to a slave market. As the woman asked, what century are we in?

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Isis persecution of Iraqi Christians has become genocide, says religious leaders

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 19:40
Calls for UK to give asylum to those fleeing violence come as Syrian Kurdish fighters resisting jihadist attacks appeal for help

Isis's persecution of Iraqi Christians, which has already forced tens of thousands of men, women and children to flee for their lives, is fast becoming a genocide, religious leaders have warned.

Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that Isis's capture of Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city, had marked a turning point for Christians in the country.

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Political unity is seen as only force that can halt accelerating Isis offensive

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 19:37
Many believe the political vacuum among the Sunni communities in Syria and Iraq needs to be addressed in order to defeat Isis

The spread of the Islamic State's dominance across the map of the Syria and Iraq has come at such an explosive speed, obliterating the barriers put in its way, that it has spread panic from Washington to Iran.

The relentless advance of the Islamic State (Isis) movement has been exponential because each victory has made the next battle easier. Its seizure of the oil fields brought in a flood of cash; the capture of Syrian and Iraqi army bases has given its fighters an almost limitless arsenal, most recently augmented by US heavy weaponry. And its rolling success, culminating in the declaration of a new caliphate, has drawn volunteers from local tribes and around the world.

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Isis looms over Gaza sideshow | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 19:34

Giles Fraser's report on Gideon Levy and the enthusiasm of 95% of Israelis for crushing Hamas in Gaza (Report, 7 August) is not merely "depressing" but truly alarming for Israel's future not just for its commitment to democracy and free speech, both clearly in peril, but for Israel's own existence. There is indeed a deadly power threatening Israel, but it is not Hamas, which despite its hopes and intentions has actually managed to kill very few Israelis. The imminent danger is the truly terrifying Islamo-fascist Isis caliphate, which occupies an area the size of Britain. The recent fighting in Lebanon and Syria shows that Isis territory is now only a hundred miles from Israel's borders.

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From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians

Mahdi Hassan - 8 August, 2014 - 16:34

The inconvenient truth is that the collective punishment of the Pales­tinian people in Gaza is a collective endeavour in its own right – led by Israel, enforced by Egypt, endorsed by Saudi Arabia.

 GettyA Palestinian boy plays with balloons as families leave their homes in Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood. Photo: Getty

Forget for one moment the timid pronouncements of Barack Obama and David Cameron. When will Arab rulers dare raise their voice against Israel’s pounding of Gaza? “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummelling of Hamas,” the former US diplomat Aaron David Miller, who advised Presidents Clinton and Bush on the Middle East, told the New York Times on 30 July. Their silence, he said, “is deafening”.

But their silence isn’t the worst part; their complicity is. Take the collective punishment of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza which is referred to as the “blockade”. Israeli officials may have bragged to their US counterparts that they wanted to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge”, but they couldn’t have maintained their seven-year siege of Gaza without help.

Remember: Israel controls only three sides of the strip. Who controls the fourth? Egypt, the proud, self-styled “heart of the Arab world”. Yet, from Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak to General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Arab Republic of Egypt has been a keen accomplice in Israel’s strangulation of Gaza. The former Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, may have been willing to consider easing the blockade between 2012 and 2013, but Sisi, “elected” president in May this year after a military coup, is a sworn enemy of the Brotherhood and its Hamas affiliate.

In recent months, the junta in Cairo has resealed its border with Gaza, destroyed most of the tunnels that were lifelines for its residents and allowed a mere 140 injured Palestinians to cross into Egypt through Rafah – the only exit from the Strip that isn’t controlled by the Israelis. The blockade of Gaza is, thus, a joint Israeli-Egyptian crime.

Consider also the stance of Saudi Arabia. “Attack on Gaza by Saudi royal appointment”, read the headline on a Huffington Post blog on 20 July by the veteran foreign correspondent David Hearst, who claimed that “Mossad and Saudi intelligence officials meet regularly . . . and they are hand in glove on Iran”.

On 1 August, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia released a statement denouncing the killings in Gaza as a “collective massacre” but conveniently, as the Associated Press pointed out, “stopped short of directly condemning Israel” and “did not call for any specific action to be taken against Israel”. Meanwhile, the kingdom’s Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz al ash-Sheikh, claimed that pro-Palestinian demonstrations were “just demagogic actions that won’t help Palestinians”.

Then there is Syria. The Respect MP, George Galloway, may have praised the Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad once as the “last Arab ruler” because of the latter’s supposed willingness to stand up to Israel, but Assad’s brutal security forces have bombed and besieged the Palestinian refugees of Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus. According to Amnesty International, Syrian forces have also been “committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon” and have forced the refugees to “resort to eating cats and dogs”.

The rest of the Arab countries don’t have much better records. In Lebanon, 400,000-odd Palestinian refugees languish in refugee camps where the conditions are nothing short of horrific. They are prevented by law from working in the public sector or using state medical and education facilities and are also barred from buying property.

In Jordan, ethnic Jordanians or “East Bankers” resent the “West Bank” Palestinian majority, including their queen, Rania. And in Kuwait in 1991, after the first Gulf war, as many as 200,000 Palestinians were forced out of the country as punishment for Yasser Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein; up to 4,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in vigilante attacks.

This Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause has deep roots. In his 1988 book, Collusion Across the Jordan, the Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim described how King Abdullah of (what was then) Transjordan worked with the Israelis, behind the scenes, to prevent the Palestinians from establishing their own state in 1948.

“Palestine has been the dominant issue on the agenda of the Arab League since its birth in 1945,” Shlaim, now emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford, tells me. “But ideological commitment to the Palestinian cause has never been translated into effective support. “So one has to distinguish between the rhetorical and the practical level of Arab foreign policy.”

Today, most of the unelected leaders of the Arab world, from the generals of North Africa to the petromonarchs of the Gulf, see the Muslim Brotherhood and fellow-travellers such as Hamas as a bigger threat to their own rule than the Israel Defence Forces. Only the emirate of Qatar maintains close ties with both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza; the rest of the region’s despots and dictators would be delighted to see the Israelis deliver a knockout blow to the Sunni Islamists of Gaza – and, for that matter, to the Shia Islamists of Iran.

Let’s be clear: the inconvenient truth is that the collective punishment of the Pales­tinian people in Gaza is a collective endeavour in its own right – led by Israel, enforced by Egypt, endorsed by Saudi Arabia.

Pity the poor Palestinians. Their territories are occupied by the Jewish state; their cause is abandoned by the Arab world. 

Mehdi Hasan is an NS contributing writer, and works for al-Jazeera English and the Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted

US air strikes to help Iraqs Yazidis have come at the 11th hour | Christine Allison

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2014 - 10:42
Five days after jihadist forces triggered mass emigration in northern Iraq, the west is acting to avert an extinction event lets hope it is not too late

Obama acts to save Iraqis besieged on mountain

The world is now aware of the desperate plight of the Yazidis, a little-known minority in northern Iraq. President Obama has, in the last 24 hours, decided to act. This help has come none too soon, since it is five days since jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) seized control of Mount Sinjar from Kurdish forces, triggering mass emigration of the Yazidi population.

Of the estimated 200,000 refugees, many have reached towns in the Kurdish zone, where emergency supplies are running low; others are stranded on the mountain, dying of hunger and thirst but too afraid to move, aware that IS is killing Yazidis it finds or forcibly converting them to Islam, since it sees them as polytheists or worse devil worshippers. Some supplies have now been dropped, and air strikes have been announced.

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