Timbuktu marks rebuilding of mausoleums destroyed by Islamists

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 23:37

Desert city in Mali formally receives keys to shrines to Muslim saints after they were rebuilt with Unesco funding following damage in 2012

Timbuktu has celebrated the recovery of its historic mausoleums, destroyed during an Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and rebuilt thanks to the UN cultural agency, Unesco.

The desert city formally received the keys to the shrines to Muslim saints at a ceremony on Thursday in the Djingareyber mosque. Five head of cattle were ritually sacrificed just after dawn before a reading of the entire Qur’an and the handing of the keys to the families in charge of the shrines’ care.

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Cloak and dagger bid to save Lawrence’s effects | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 19:12

In a climate in which teachers may feel unable to express their concerns about the impact of counter-radicalisation measures on the growth and development of young people, David Anderson’s intervention feels like a breath of fresh air (Watchdog says Prevent is alienating Muslims, 4 February). In imposing this new duty on schools, nurseries and social services, the government has paid scant regard to the “best interests of the child” principle of the UN children’s rights convention. Discussion on the effectiveness of the Prevent duty, of its proportionality and its unintended consequences, should be welcomed by all those concerned about security, and all those concerned about children.
Liz Fekete
Director, Institute of Race Relations

• There is a curious link between the writer Elizabeth Jane Howard, championed by Hilary Mantel (Review, 30 January), and Lawrence of Arabia (Report, 3 February). In her autobiography, Elizabeth Jane Howard says that her mother-in-law, Lady Kathleen Kennet (previously Scott), once let her have breakfast dressed in Lawrence’s Arabian headgear. Is the headgear included with the robes recently sold by the Scott family, and, if not, what became of it, I wonder?
Elizabeth Manning
Malvern, Worcestershire

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Marco Rubio's comments about Muslims actually make a lot of sense

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 18:48

The Republican candidate was not pleased that Obama visited a mosque this week. Neither were many of the Americans that Rubio wants to vote for him

Barack Obama’s decision to visit a mosque on Wednesday (his first such visit as president) was not popular with Republican candidate Marco Rubio – nor among many American voters if public polling is anything to go by.

Addressing voters in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Rubio said:

Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam.

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Bloodthirsty terrorists and duplicitous spies: does TV have a Muslim problem?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 16:57

President Obama has called for Muslim characters who aren’t related to national security, so where are they and why can’t US television seem to get it right?

In a speech at a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland, yesterday, President Obama declared that “our TV shows should have Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security”. As with anything that Obama says about Muslims that’s not related to vaporizing them with a drone strike, it didn’t go over too well with conservatives. That wasn’t much of a surprise, as any show of compassion or empathy from the president is seen by the rightwing as cowardice or worse, treason. What was surprising, however, was that Obama would point to television as a means of easing cultural and religious tension, when it’s often used for exactly the opposite purpose.

One could point to instances in which TV was the harbinger of a more just, equal society. Star Trek featured a landmark interracial kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols in the late 1960s on NBC primetime. Sitcoms like Family Matters, Martin and The Cosby Show transmitted black culture across the country, into the homes of people who might not have ever met a black family otherwise. But TV can also be used to reinforce stereotypes just as often. NBC’s short-lived sitcom Outsourced got nuked by critics for its reliance on cliched characterizations of Indian people working in a call center. And every time a person of color pops up on an otherwise white show to play a criminal or cannon fodder for the bad guy, it further cements the idea that brown and black people are crooks or extraneous.

Related: 'Homeland is racist': artists sneak subversive graffiti on to TV show

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We welcome President Obama's words in his mosque visit. Now we need actions | Imam Khalid Latif and Linda Sarsour

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 12:15

American Muslims need meaningful reform to rebuild broken bridges. This can start with ending racial profiling and surveillance of Muslim communities

The majority of Americans have never stepped foot inside a mosque. Now, after seven years in office, Barack Obama has finally visited one on US soil. We hope others will follow suit. And we hope, most importantly, that the president’s words will be followed by actions.

Both of us are proud New Yorkers, parents, non-profit leaders and Muslims. On Wednesday we drove down to Maryland to participate in the president’s mosque visit. Obama has been absent from the Muslim community for many years. On the way down, we wondered what, if anything, he could do to make up for this and alleviate our concerns.

Related: Rubio criticizes Obama mosque speech for implying 'US discriminates against Muslims'

Related: Barack Obama uses mosque visit to call for rounded Muslim characters on TV

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Join us or die: the birth of Boko Haram | Andrew Walker

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 06:00
How the tattered remnants of an Islamist sect transformed into a relentless terrorist army that Nigeria cannot defeat

In February 2009, I was at a motor park in Maraba, a satellite of the Nigerian capital Abuja, looking for motorcyclists wearing dried vegetables on their heads. The Nigerian Police Force had recently tightened laws requiring drivers and passengers of motorcycles to wear helmets. In the case of motorcycle taxis – known as achabas in northern Nigeria – drivers would now have to provide helmets for their passengers. There was an uproar. Everyone knew that taking a trip on an achaba could be a dangerous thing; the drivers had a reputation for recklessness. But many Nigerians did not like the new rules.

Above all, the law gave the police an opportunity for extortion. One motorcycle taxi driver told me it was going to cost him 10,000 naira (around £40) to buy two helmets. As he made between 300 and 400 naira per day (less than £2), there was no way he could afford to obey the new law. Everyone knew what would happen. The police would set up flying checkpoints, near markets, motor parks and busy thoroughfares. They would swoop down on motorcyclists, flailing sticks and canes as the riders madly accelerated out of their traps.

In one part of the country this cat-and-mouse game between police and Nigerian motorists would have serious consequences

Related: Nigerian army storms Islamist sect's base

Related: Muhammadu Buhari: reformed dictator returns to power in democratic Nigeria

Related: Nigeria: Religious tensions put taxi drivers in Jos at a deadly crossroads

Questions still hang over the speed with which Yusuf was dispatched, and who exactly was served by his silencing

They said now I knew what they were and who they were, either I did what they wanted or they would kill me

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Why I Let My Child Quit The Quran

Muslim Matters - 4 February, 2016 - 05:54

By Hooyo Said (a pseudonym)

I write this on the evening that I told my daughter's Qur'an teacher that I wanted my child to quit memorising the Qur'an. That's right, quit.

Who am I? A highly experienced educator mother who's taught excluded children in Pupil Referral Units, mentored Muslim youth and consoled and advised parents about the “plight'” of their troublesome teenagers. Dealing with the challenging behaviour of “problem” pupils has always been intuitive to me. I enjoy the mental gymnastics involved in getting the best out the toughest kids. My husband is a polymath, a multidisciplinary creative and dynamic educator who also happens to be studying for his PhD. So how then have we managed to mould a child who dislikes memorising Qur'an?

Our home is a loving environment rich in Qur'anic recitation and exegesis. Whilst my daughter was invitro, her father and I would affectionately recite the Qur'an aloud. As a baby, we'd engage her active listening skills by playing short surahs in the car and at home, reciting along so that Allah's book became less background noise, more immersive audio experience. We'd recite in bed whilst having a cuddle under the duvet. Or pitch a makeshift tent in the living room reciting Qur'an and sharing Islamic stories illuminated by strobe light (a torch) and cinematic sound effects! By the age of two and a half, and without any formal teaching, my daughter knew many short surahs and would eagerly “sing” the Qur'an. At that point, her Qur'anic journey has been entirely organic; absorption by osmosis.

If our daughter's induction into Qur'anic memorisation had started so well then why would we let her quit? I'm too “Tiger Mother,” too Dweckian to allow that to happen to my children. My husband and I share an outlook found amongst many Chinese communities in that success (in any domain) is inextricably linked to work ethic before talent (although talent certainly helps). Moreover, we believe in the value of loving to learn as an end itself. So then, how do I reconcile my daughter “quitting” whilst not becoming a “quitter?” Easily. My role as a parent (in my estimation) is to nurture the best out of my children, cultivating their strengths and addressing areas to improve. My husband and I do so by inculcating a reflective/reflexive methodology in our children; we learn from our inevitable faux pas! And this is where my daughter trips up. My girl is a six-year-old going on sixteen: driven yet doting (to her baby brother); creative yet competitive; sensible but sensitive. Hyper sensitive in fact; a highly volatile package!

With such an explosive combination of characteristics, I was cognizant that the Madrasah would be the wrong place for my daughter to learn the Qur'an. Distracted Ustadhs fiddling with phones, reading newspapers or even dozing off; even more distracted children, off-task with their studies, talking amongst themselves and seeking elopement from the “learning” environment at the first opportunity by taking prolonged trips to the toilet. My husband and I knew we could only entrust our child's Qur'anic journey with the right teacher. Alhamdulilah, after much du'a we found just the person. A young sister whose first language was Arabic and had teaching experience in state and faith settings at home and abroad. So we had a great teacher and a child with good tarbiyah a great success story right? Wrong!

My daughter's first official Qur'an lesson began well. She was excited, engaged and eager to flaunt her skills of recitation to impress her new teacher. However, as the weeks progressed, she grew more and more frustrated with her errors in memorisation and pronunciation. Time after time my daughter would stumble and trip over the same ayah, not a story to dissimilar to most other children one imagines. I made it clear to my daughter that learning the Qur'an can be a challenge and that experiencing difficulties during the process was okay, in fact Allah would be even more proud of her effort! Nevertheless, I could see that my six year old wasn't responding to the teaching methods employed by her Ustadah so like any good practitioners, my husband and I ran an “audit.” We switched things up.


We gave the Qur'an teacher creative license to do whatever it took to engage our daughter. Some weeks that entailed warming up with a chat, other weeks playing with blocks of lego or drawing in her beloved sketchpad, all of this without even touching the mushaf. But my daughter was still stuck, trapped in a place where emotions consumed her. Fiercely competitive yet angry at not “winning,” our little competitor couldn't overcome her frustrations. Talking or laughing about it didn't help either. It only edified the emotional and psychological deadlock. So in my Amy Chua “manhaj,” I dug my heels in. Mademoiselle dug them in even further. Worst of all, it became disconcertingly apparent that my daughter's heart was no longer invested in learning the Book of Allah. In one lesson, she became so incensed that she flung the Qur'an across the room and stormed off! Calm and collected, I didn't react. I simply wrote my baby girl a note. It read: “When you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen. Love Hooyo.” I later find an apology letter she had penned to Allah hidden beneath her story books.

In spite of all the ire and resistance, my daughter had made some progress, but in the process I was losing her; the child whose eyes lit up when we spoke of Allah were now stony cold. The child who would happily “sing” the Qur'an would rather remain mute. I couldn't shake that image from my mind. I -the self-proclaimed “expert” – had unwittingly excised the love of learning the Uncreated Speech of Allah from her heart. That's when my husband and I decided our daughter was going to take a hiatus from Qur'anic memorisation – for the time being. Instead, we'll continue to live and enjoy a halal lifestyle rooted in Islamic identity, aesthetics and ethics with the Qur'an a constant presence, albeit in the background. And, as adoring parents, we'll continue to support our daughter's development in “antifragility” (to quote Nasim Nicholas Taleb) so that we may return to learning the Qur'an when she's emotionally ready for the rigors of recitation and memorisation.

Ultimately, my daughter knows learning to read the Qur'an just like praying salah is non-negotiable but as a “stakeholder” in her spiritual development she will have considerable input in how Qur'an is officially reintroduced. As emotionally intelligent educators responsive to our “pupil's” needs, my husband and I have decided to address the root cause of our daughter's “insurrection” rather than resorting to extrinsic motivators – be they sugary snacks, sticker charts, high-fives and/or sycophancy – to instil (begrudging) obedience. By allowing our daughter to quit the Qur'an, a bold and somewhat unconventional move for a “practising” Muslim family, we have emotionally accepted that the process of memorisation will be interrupted in the short-term. However, looking forward to the future, we hope and pray that our daughter's relationship with the Qur'an will be edified, enriched and ultimately enduring. Moreover, it is even more paramount that we address her “combustible cocktail” of character traits, as our cold world does not care about her sweet sensibilities. I'm already planning and engineering scenarios where my daughter has to deal with loss and defeat so that she may learn to become more robust and resilient. My baby girl is a work in progress – aren't we all? With diligence, determination and du'a I'm confident my daughter will emerge from her chrysalis and blossom just like Austin's Butterfly.

























Rubio criticizes Obama mosque speech for implying 'US discriminates against Muslims'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 February, 2016 - 03:46

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said at New Hampshire event that there is ‘discrimination of every kind’ in the US

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio criticized Barack Obama on Wednesday for giving a speech at a mosque that focused on discrimination against Muslims.

“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done,” Rubio, a senator from Florida, said at a town hall in New Hampshire. “Always pitting people against each other. Always.”

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Barack Obama uses mosque visit to call for rounded Muslim characters on TV

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 February, 2016 - 23:14

President decries anti-Muslim rhetoric in US election campaign and urges TV drama to present ‘some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security’

Barack Obama used his first presidential visit to an American mosque on Wednesday to call for writers and producers to create more rounded Muslim characters on television.

Related: Anti-Islam group publishes addresses of Muslims and 'Muslim sympathisers'

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Obama thanks Muslims for keeping America ‘strong and united’ – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 February, 2016 - 19:43

Barack Obama makes his first visit to an American mosque while in office on Wednesday and condemns the ‘inexcusable political rhetoric’ that has been targeted at Muslims in the US, saying it ‘has no place in our country’. Obama says that ‘too often’ people have conflated acts of terrorism ‘with the beliefs of an entire faith’, and extends his thanks to American Muslims for the role they play in the country

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Update: NY Times Hoaxers Come Forward

The authors of yesterday’s spoof edition of The New York Times have pulled back the veil and revealed their identities: the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!, organizations based in New York and dedicated to supporting the rights of Palestinians and Israelis.

The perpetrators of the hoax told Ben Norton of Salon that the parody had been months in the making. They also said that their website domain and Twitter accounts had been suspended, but in a separate statement, Jewish Voice for Peace published links to views of these and to a PDF of the full parody.

The Times was quoted in several news accounts as saying, “We’re extremely protective of our brand and other intellectual property and object to this group (or any group’s) attempt to cloak their political views under the banner of The New York Times. We believe strongly that those advocating for political positions are best served by speaking openly, in their own voice.”

We can be sure that the Times would adopt a much less huffy tone if the spoof had not managed to hit a nerve by focusing on Israel-Palestine. Their icy response to a good joke reveals a defensive posture at work. Could there be a conscience lurking somewhere in the depths of the Times leadership? We can only hope.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Hoax edition of NY Times Tagged: Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, New York Times, NY Times hoax, Salon


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