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Christians and Muslims have co-existed peacefully before and must do so again | Fuad Nahdi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 November, 2014 - 08:59

I hope my presence as the first Muslim to address the General Synod shows that followers of these great religions can be allies

Today I’ll be the first Muslim to address the General Synod of the Church of England. It is a blessing and an honour, and I am humbled by this historic opportunity. But the journey from Noor mosque in my native Mombasa, Kenya, to Church House has been a long and meandering one – full of trials and adventure, but ultimately worth it.

A couple of days ago, Humera, my wife of more than 25 years, asked what would make me consider my life a success. Recovering from a long bout of debilitating illness, I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to pursue the new lease of life that had been granted to me.

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Iran fears Isis militants are part of wider Sunni backlash

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 November, 2014 - 05:00

With Islamic State militants just kilometres from the country’s western border, and increasingly radical anti-Shia militants to the east in Pakistan, Gareth Smyth examines Iran’s Sunni problem

Nearly ten years ago, a story circulating in Tehran had Mohammad Khatami say of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his successor as president, “No matter how extreme you are, you will always be in a queue behind Ousama [bin Laden].”

This may well have been an urban folk tale, but it highlighted a fear that Ahmadinejad’s assertive Shi’ism was not in Iran’s best interests. Rather than spread Iranian influence, unleash a revolution of the world’s dispossessed, or liberate Jerusalem from the Israelis, Iranian radicalism carried the danger of a backlash from Sunnis Muslims, who are around 80% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, while Shia are 10-15% and a majority in only Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

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National Front Try To Disrupt Islamic Society Peaceful March in Newport

Loon Watch - 17 November, 2014 - 23:39

Newport-Ashura-procession

via. IslamophobiaWatch

Members of far-right party the National Front tried to disrupt a peaceful march of more than 500 Muslims from across Wales in Newport today.

The annual march, organised by the Islamic Society of Wales, commemorates the anniversary of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hussain, who was martyred more than 1,300 years ago.

The 32nd march to be held in Newport should have taken place last Sunday – the 10th day in the Muslim calendar – but was put back so the city’s Muslims could join in the Remembrance Sunday services.

But yesterday afternoon police stepped in when anti-Muslim protestors attempted to disrupt the peaceful march. As the hundreds of men, women and children walked along Commercial Street, two men carrying National Front flags attempted to enter the crowd from a side street.

They were joined by six more protestors who held up British and Welsh flags and shouted abuse including, “These are our streets” and “Muslims, burn in hell”.

Officers from Gwent Police and private security firms formed a barrier around the men. Two of the men were later seen in the Red Lion pub on Stow Hill, shouting abuse from inside while police blocked the entrance.

Fuelling Islamophobia in the US

Loon Watch - 17 November, 2014 - 23:33

Khaled_Beydoun

(h/t:Saqib Ahmed)

via. AlJazeera English

By Khaled A Beydoun

The United Arab Emirates designated two Muslim-American civil rights groups – the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society – among the 83 institutions included in its new terrorist group list. The designations were announced on the state’s official news agency on November 15, marking a nefarious precedent where a government of a Muslim-majority state has designated a Muslim-American institution as a “terrorist organisation”.

While the classification of both organisations as terrorist groups is alarming, the allegation against CAIR is particularly concerning. The advocacy organisation based out of Washington, DC, which encompasses 28 chapters across the United States, has stood as a vital and vocal opponent of state-sponsored discrimination against Muslim-Americans. In addition, CAIR – principally through its chapters – has carried forward unapologetic initiatives aimed at eroding Islamophobia and defending Muslim-American individuals and institutions during the post-9/11 era.

Regional politics, not CAIR’s work stateside, moved the UAE to designate the civil rights organisation a terrorist group. More specifically, hearsay tying CAIR with the Muslim Brotherhood, a political nemesis of the UAE, is believed to be the principal catalyst behind the designation.

Although distant geopolitical concerns are behind the UAE designating CAIR as a terrorist organisation, what impact will the classification have on the advocacy group, its civil rights mission, and collaterally, Muslim-Americans at large? The ramifications are not only acute, but also extensive.

A widening ‘gulf’

Centuries old stereotypes, still embedded in the American imagination, conflate Muslims – regardless of their nationality or locale – as one and the same. Therefore, Muslim Americans – the overwhelming majority of whom have no connection to the UAE – are consistently lumped up with the prevailing stereotypes attributed to the people of the oil-rich state: endless wealth, modern slavery, and conspicuous expression of religious conservativism cloaking commercial insatiability.

Yet, the differences between Muslims in monarchical Gulf States and Muslim-America are as ample, and extensive, as the differences between Dubai and Detroit – their respective hubs.

The recent designation of CAIR as a terrorist organisation not only provides further evidence that Muslims are anything but a monolith, but also manifests a widening political and interests’ gulf between Muslims in the UAE and Muslim-Americans.

Since 9/11, the UAE has expressed only passing concern for the civil liberties crackdown experienced by Muslim-Americans. This apathy may be a surprise to everyone in the US aside from Muslim-Americans, who can point to the dehumanisation of Muslim migrant workers within the Gulf region to highlight how religious affinity is seldom a source of apathy.

With heightening state and societal animosity toward Islam in the US, particularly with the recent emergence of ISIL, the UAE’s designation of CAIR as “terrorists” shifts their state stance from apathy toward full-fledged assault. The designation has two considerable effects: first, it endorses specific allegations from right-wing US groups that CAIR colludes with terrorist networks; and second, functions as testimony, from a native state informant, deepening the stereotype that critical Muslim-American civil rights organisations are subversive and anti-American.

Abetting Islamophobia

CAIR is not designated a terrorist group within the US. However, the organisation and its leadership have fended off allegations of direct or indirect links with state-designated terrorist groups for many years. The allegations, although legally tenuous, curried public perception that CAIR itself had terrorist affiliations. This led to increased government surveillance of its Executive Director, Nihad Awad, FBI probing of CAIR chapters and community outreach work, monitoring of Muslim-Americans seeking their counsel, and intensified slander from right-wing political leaders and media pundits.

By classifying CAIR as a terrorist organisation, among the likes of ISIL, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram, the move will embolden Islamophobic elements to pronounce their hateful rhetoric, and expedite draconian policies against Muslim-Americans.

Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of CAIR’s Greater Los Angeles chapter, echoes that the designation will “fuel Islamophobia, and undermine the safety and well being of Muslim communities [in the United States] around the world”.

Furthermore, the UAE designation will further complicate CAIR’s ability to carry forward advocacy work protecting Muslim-Americans. Instead of marshaling manpower and resources to handling hate crimes cases, public workshops, and other direly needed initiatives, the designation will compel the organisation and its staff to respond to its placement on the terrorist list, and collaterally, deal with the barrage of political and private hate that is sure to follow.

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Pig’s Head At Blackpool Mosque: Four Face Jail

Loon Watch - 17 November, 2014 - 22:47

Blackpool-Gazette-front-page

Is it a shocking attack? Perhaps, but there have been many such incidences and to myself is not that surprising. Is it insulting? Perhaps since the intent was malicious but how long is it going to take for the Islamophobic dolts who continue to commit such acts to realize that Muslims aren’t going to melt at the sight of a pig, they just can’t eat them.

via. IslamophobiaWatch

A pig’s head was left in the grounds of a mosque in a “shocking” and “insulting” attack.

The offence, which took place just two days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists, “sent a shiver” down the spine of a volunteer at Blackpool Central Mosque, Preston Crown Court heard.

But today the mosque’s Imam, Ashfaq Patel, called on the judge in the case not to jail the four men who 
admitted religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress. He said: “I don’t think they should be put behind bars.”

However, a judge warned the four Fylde coast men they could potentially face up to two years in prison.

Blackpool Gazette, 15 November 2014

Read the full report here.

The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage

Muslim Matters - 17 November, 2014 - 06:37

The viral NYC Catcall video, recording a woman receiving over 100 catcalls from men as she walks the streets of New York for 10 hours, has caused a stir in social media and online forums.

Just consider the 100,000+ youtube comments alone. While most commenters found the behavior of the catcalling men disgusting, some took issue with how the woman in the video was dressed. These commenters were daring enough to suggest that perhaps she would have attracted less negative attention had she dressed more “modestly.”

This suggestion, in turn, was met with backlash. How dare anyone “blame the victim” by suggesting that a woman change the way she dresses because men cannot or will not act with common decency!

What do we make of all this?

Is it completely outlandish to suggest that the way a woman (or man) dresses has an impact on how others treat her (or him)?

A Different Kind of Sexual Harassment

Here is another suggestion: why can't we recognize that sexual harassment goes both ways?

Often, we characterize catcalling men as the predators who harass helpless women. What about immodest dress? If a person dresses in “sexy” clothes and goes out in public, why shouldn't we consider this a form of sexual harassment in its own right?

Let me be frank. As a Muslim man, it is not easy walking through the streets these days. Women's fashion continues to get increasingly “sexy” and provocative, and, in effect, public spaces are increasingly sexualized. From an Islamic perspective, the harm caused to individuals by this is clear and inarguable. Even from a non-religious perspective, constantly bombarding men with sexiness can be tortuous. Think of men, especially adolescent males, who for whatever reason cannot find a sexual partner. Or think of married men being endlessly tempted by strangers as soon as they step out of the house. And, of course, the same or analogous harm can be inflicted on women by provocatively dressed men.

So, given the extent of this harm, why can't concerned members of society raise their voices and say, enough is enough?

Unfortunately, people who do suggest that public dress should abide by basic standards of decency are characterized as prudes and out-of-touch religious fundamentalists.

“So what if a woman wants to show some skin?” is the typical line. “A woman's right to bare it all is what freedom and equality is all about! This is the 21st century. Are we still talking about women dressing 'modestly'? How quaint! Modesty is dead. Women have the right to express their sexuality any way they please. If some women want to dress in long skirts, cover their hair, wear burkas, etc., that's fine, but don't tell anyone else how to dress.”

These are the arguments, more or less, from self-proclaimed “feminists” and others on the subject of modest dress.

But look at the hypocrisy.

When it comes to street harassment, catcalling is considered indecent, disrespectful, and immodest, to say the least. That means that, contrary to the above rant about “modesty being dead,” people recognize and understand the value of these concepts, at least in certain contexts. And that means that people do recognize some standard of decency, modesty, and respect. So why don't we similarly recognize that a person's dress could (and should) also abide by standards of modesty and decency?

In other words, it is hypocritical to bemoan the lack of decency/modesty on the part of catcallers but then, in the same breath, deny that those same concepts of decency/modesty can apply to the way people dress.

If feminists wanted to be consistent, they should adopt the same hands-off attitude with respect to catcallers as they have for fashion. If it is okay for women to bare it all in public without regard to the sensitivities of those around them, why is it not ok for men to make comments regarding women's dress without regard to their sensitivities? Perhaps catcallers are just sexually expressing themselves. Perhaps that is what freedom and equality are all about.

Besides, on what basis can it be argued that a woman being catcalled suffers any real harm? Are comments like, “Hey beautiful,” by strange men in actuality harmful to a woman? How so?

Of course, I believe there is harm, but I also believe that immodest dress can be equally if not more harmful to onlookers.

Blaming the Victim

The suggestion that people modify their behavior or dress in order to avoid sexual harassment or assault is widely considered as nothing more than “blaming the victim.” What do we make of this?

First of all, as I have already said, certain kinds of behavior and dress should be understood as unacceptable due to the fact that they cause harm to others. A woman or man dressed provocatively, walking in public causes acute harm to those around her or him. As Muslims, we recognize this harm in the Islamic sense, but it should not be too difficult for non-Muslims to recognize — or at least acknowledge the possibility of — this harm as well. A few examples:

  1. Workplace standards of dress: All places of business in the West have dress codes. The idea is that dressing provocatively is inappropriate as it can cause distraction and unneeded sexual tension that can contribute to a hostile working environment. If those standards are commonplace, why is it so hard to understand that provocative dress can be cause for a hostile public space?
  2. Children: Everyone seems to recognize that children should not be exposed to certain kinds of scenes or images. That is why the MPAA in the US puts out movie ratings (PG, PG-13, etc.) and pundits question the presence of dancing cheerleaders at professional sporting events where children are present. No one denies that there is harm, psychological or otherwise, that can afflict children exposed to sexually provocative imagery. Well, why can't we extend that logic to adults? Could regular exposure to sexually provocative imagery cause psychological or neurological harm in adults? Scientific research has already concluded as much.
  3. Indecent exposure laws: As it turns out, Saudia Arabia, Iran, and the Taliban are not the only governments that dictate to their populations how much to cover themselves. Secular countries also have laws about what parts of the human body can or cannot be exposed in public spaces. Oftentimes, these laws simply represent Western cultural norms and, thus, go unquestioned, whereas analogous laws in Muslim countries that do not reflect Western norms are criticized. But, as far as Western norms go, who gets to decide that certain parts of the body, such as genitalia or a woman's chest, are the only two areas on the body that need to be covered in public? As any anthropologist can explain, different cultures have different views on dress, nudity, and the metaphysical and social significance of displaying the body. What is considered “naked” in one culture might be “modest,” even “prudish,” in another and vice versa. By means of colonialism and mass media, however, Western standards of dress and nudity have been mass imposed around the globe to such an extent that much of the world's intuitions and subjective views on bodily propriety reflect Western sensibilities. In contrast to these idiosyncratic sensibilities, Islamic norms are seen (and experienced) as restrictive, alien, even barbaric. Even many Muslim women in hijab consciously feel like the veil is burdensome and would prefer to dress “normally” and only refrain from doing so due to their (commendable) religious devotion. If these Muslim women were taken back in time to, say, the year 1910 in America or Europe, the hijab would not stand out at all, since, even then, it was considered improper for a woman to expose her hair in public, let alone wear miniskirts and high heels. While the “normal” in secular society is in constant flux, Islamic principles of `awrah have remained consistent.

With these examples in mind, it is not hard to motivate the idea that, even from a secular perspective, immodest dress can cause harm. Does this mean that the woman in the viral video deserved the disrespectful treatment? Does this mean that a scantily dressed woman (or man) deserves to be sexually assaulted?

Absolutely not. Such harassment is never justifiable. But that fact has no bearing on the question of what is or is not appropriate dress and behavior. As Muslims, we should not be hesitant to denounce sexual harassment in the form of catcalling while also noting that immodest displays are in their own way a form of harassment that ought to be curbed with appropriate dress.

Of course, some will be quick to point out that modestly dressed women, even women in full hijab, are still victims of catcalling and sexual assault. This response completely misses the point.

No one claims that dressing modestly will completely foreclose on the possibility of receiving negative attention. The claim is simply that, all else being equal, modest dress, e.g., hijab, significantly reduces the likelihood of such harassment. In fact, a recent youtube video demonstrated precisely this claim in spectacular fashion. So, yes, while women in hijab are, unfortunately, frequent victims of catcalling in Cairo's busy streets, for example, the undeniable fact remains that the harassment would be much, much worse if these same women were dressed in yoga pants, tank tops, and other common Western styles.

Defining the Provocative

Throughout this post, I have expounded on the harm of “provocative dress” without defining exactly what this phrase means. Are short sleeves “provocative”? Are skinny jeans? Are maxi dresses? Is a one-piece swimsuit more or less provocative than a bikini?

I do not need to define the term because, as US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about the concept of obscenity, I know it when I see it. Clearly, what is or is not provocative is in the eye of the beholder, and cultural standards shift all the time. But all is not lost to radical subjectivity and relativism. For example, at the very least, people today generally share this notion of “sexiness” within a given culture. In fact, being sexy is a sought after quality when it comes to dress and general demeanor. So, it is this commonplace notion that I would tie to “provocativeness” in benchmarking a more extensive discussion of appropriate dress in the public sphere. In other words, let's scale back the sex appeal.

It is noteworthy that in many cultures and religions throughout time we find parallels to the Muslim standards of hijab. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covering the hair and donning loose fitting clothes were the norm. These archetypal modes of dress can also be found in non-Abrahamic traditions. For the majority of human history, numerous civilizations independently maintained a common conception of modesty, virtue, and honor, as if these standards emanated from a universal source. Even in Western society, up until 60 or 70 years ago, these values still had currency. But, ever since, everything has been up in the air.

Rules of Engagement

If anyone can be blamed for the erosion of basic norms of sexual propriety as seen in the catcalling video and elsewhere, it has to be the feminists and sexual revolutionaries. What is obvious is that the hypersexualization of the public space in modern times, driven by the “sexual revolution” of the past 50 years, is directly contributing to the catcalling and harassment happening on the streets of our cities, among other things.

How so?

The 20th century sexual revolution in the West was meant to subvert sexual norms and standards of behavior between the sexes — norms and standards deemed coquettish at best, oppressive at worst. What feminists, modernists, and sexual revolutionaries failed to realize in their haste to overturn the old rules is that some of those mores might have actually served a crucial purpose.

For example, is it appropriate to shamelessly proposition a stranger in public by way of catcall?

Apparently not.

But what about “hitting on” said stranger?

Well, depends on the situation.

Is it appropriate to meet someone at a bar and decide to go home with her for the night?

In today's culture, yes.

What if that person has had too much to drink?

Well, that becomes a little trickier…

How much is too much? What if the stranger is willing and ready? What if the stranger has boyfriend? What if the stranger is willing now, but changes her mind half way through? Or the next day? What if the person is not a stranger but a coworker? What if the location is not a bar but an office party? What if the coworker is married? etc., etc., etc.

The point is there are countless rules and standards of behavior — both explicit and implicit, of varying degrees of subtlety — that dictate appropriate sexual behavior even in “sexually liberated” Western culture. But the very existence of these rules conflicts with the “no rules,” “no inhibitions,” free love,” “free sexual expression” ethos of the post-sexual revolution world we inhabit.

Hypocrisy Upon Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy is we are teaching and conditioning members of society, men and women, that “free sexual expression” is the only way to be healthy but, then, we are outraged by certain kinds of “indecency,” e.g., catcalling. Is it really that surprising that when people are incessantly told to, “Throw away your inhibitions,” “Don't be a prude,” “Let the inner animal loose,” that the result will be an increase of indecency and socially taboo behaviors? Again, from a certain perspective, cat-callers are essentially just expressing their sexuality. Maybe it would be “prudish” of us to suggest that they hold their tongues.

The lasting effects of the “sexual revolution” are reverberating in the street, in our homes, and in our psyches. Young people are the unfortunate victims. Things are so confused that girls are having trouble understanding if they have been victims of rape or not. Boys are insecure if they have not lost their virginity by the end of middle school.

Just look at the contradictions in the field of fashion itself. Girls as young as 10 are encouraged to dress sexy, but what does this amount to other than attracting sexual attention from others? Obviously certain kinds of attention are socially acceptable and others are not, but what are these standards grounded in? Not tradition, not cultural memory, not elderly counsel, not organized religion. The rules exist and the consequences are steep but the institutions that historically were responsible for instilling these norms have all been undermined by the vicious anti-authoritarianism of modern sexual liberation. Yet the same voices calling for liberation are also the ones bemoaning the acts of cat-callers and sexual harassers.

We are all victims of this hypocrisy.

The post The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Ignorant jihadis 'have bought into fantasy fuelled by social media'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 November, 2014 - 05:23

The book aspiring Isis militants most commonly order before taking off to Syria is Islam for Dummies, human rights activist Qanta Ahmed says

Young Australians travelling overseas to take up arms with the militant group Islamic State have naively bought into a fictional fantasy fuelled by social media, a human rights activist says.

Dr Qanta Ahmed, who is visiting Melbourne, is a vocal critic of Islamist extremism. After practising medicine in Saudi Arabia for a year, she published a book about the misogyny and racism she experienced there, called In the Land of Invisible Women.

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Gulf state ambassadors return to Qatar after eight-month rift

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 November, 2014 - 22:50
Return of Saudi Arabia, UEA and Bahrain diplomats announced after rift over Dohas support for Islamist groups

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have agreed to return their ambassadors to Qatar, signalling an end to an eight-month rift over Dohas support for Islamist groups.

The announcement was made by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and came after an emergency meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss the dispute, which was threatening an annual summit set to be held in Qatars capital Doha in December.

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Quarter of Charity Commission inquiries target Muslim groups

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 November, 2014 - 18:58
Islamic groups say they are being unfairly singled out, with five British charities operating in Syria under full investigation

More than a quarter of the statutory investigations that have been launched by the Charity Commission since April 2012 and remain open have targeted Muslim organisations, an analysis by the Guardian can reveal drawing criticism from Islamic groups that they are being unfairly singled out.

Responses to freedom of information requests show that more than 20 of the 76 live investigations focus on Muslim charities associated with running mosques, providing humanitarian relief and, in a number of high-profile cases, aid efforts in Syria.

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Would it be better for society to let bigots openly say what they think?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 November, 2014 - 17:00

There is evidence that equality legislation has forced racist and homophobic behaviour underground. If people were allowed to express their views, would it be easier to take them on?

Hugh Muir on politics and immigration

My day so far: an eastern European guy picks me up in a minicab and takes me to Londons Victoria station, where more eastern European people sell me a cappuccino. Two black British men check my ticket at the barrier and a Sikh guard is on the platform. The train to Gatwick is full of foreigners.

Last month, a Ukip organiser on Humberside complained to me that we are not even allowed to use the word foreigners any more. Clearly thats not true, as Ive just used it here, but it probably wouldnt have been my word of choice. It feels more like terminology from the past, like labour exchange or wireless used to describe a radio.

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Why does sport welcome violent men?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 16 November, 2014 - 12:26

A picture of a street with a football stand backing onto it, with "Cobbold Stand" and "Ipswich Town Football Club" on the sides, and shops fronting onto the street. Another stand is to the left with turnstiles below.It’s not often that I write about sport here, mainly because I pay so little attention to it. I’ve watched only one football match in person (Ipswich v Oxford at Portman Road in 1991 I think; Ipswich won 1-0), and I don’t think I’ve ever watched one end to end on TV. I’ve long been disturbed by how much money is spent on it, how much the players in the top divisions earn for very little activity, and how much public inconvenience is tolerated for major sporting events. It’s great entertainment, but that’s all it is at the end of the day, and it isn’t an achievable life goal for most people. Recently, the news has been full of controversy about whether two men convicted of serious acts of violence should be allowed to compete again: Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner convicted of killing his girlfriend, and Ched Evans, convicted of rape in 2012 and now training again for Sheffield United FC in England, having served less than half his five-year sentence.

In the first case, the International Paralympic Committee decided that he cannot compete until his sentence elapses, even if he is released after ten months as is possible under South African law, although it is also possible that his sentence or conviction could be increased on appeal. During the period between his conviction and sentencing when two (male) members of the Committee suggested that he might compete again, Lisa Egan wrote this about how different oppressed groups don’t often support each other, even when they can both be murdered for existing. This past week there has been a huge amount of protest about the decision of Sheffield United to allow their former striker to train again; their shirt sponsor, a local logistics company, has threatened to remove its sponsorship if they sign him to play, and the Olympic runner Jessica Ennis-Hill has asked for her name to be taken off a stand at their ground if this happens (and received rape threats over Twitter for her stance). Evans still protests his innocence, and his supporters have harassed both the victim and her family, and anyone (particularly women) who speaks out against Evans’s return to the game. A group of feminists held a demonstration in Sheffield in which they chanted “kick rapists out of football” and “Sheffield loves football, not rapists!”. Last night the club (who are currently fifth in League One, or the third division, meaning they have a chance of promotion to the Championship if they keep up present form, so are doing well enough without Evans) decided not to re-sign Evans and (months too late) condemned the abuse issued to critics of Evans’s return by their fans.

Our sport culture is different from that in the USA; an incident like Steubenville could not happen here, because schools and colleges do not rely on sports for income and therefore sportsmen are not considered indispensible either for the school’s finances or its reputation. (Our legal system is also different; we have very few individually elected posts and no district attorneys, so decisions about prosecutions for serious crimes are not made locally.) The conviction of Ched Evans itself shows that being rich and famous is no bar to being held accountable (indeed, it may make it more likely as the papers will be more interested in a story about a rapist if he was a footballer than if he was a bricklayer). However, violence surrounding games is often commensurate with the inherent violence of the game. The entire football family of games is inherently violent; they may involve kicking balls with some force at other players, who are expected to deflect it with their heads or bodies if necessary; some of them feature tackles which involve throwing people to the ground which can cause serious injury (rugby in particular has a long record of spinal-cord injuries) and the rules of the games raise the pitch of excitement among spectators, even those watching on TV, such that a small setback for one’s team an provoke a disproportionate response. It is known, for example, that rates of domestic violence peak during major football tournaments, whether the team of the country in question wins or loses. One might excuse the inherent violence of the game by saying that professional players are consenting adults, but boys forced to play these games at school are not. Schools should not, in my opinion, foster or indulge football; they should tolerate it only inasmuch as it does not interfere with other children’s right to play or enjoy themselves in peace. There are better ways of keeping boys fit.

At school it was always the bigger boys (I cannot speak for girls here, as I was in genuinely mixed schools for very little of my school years) who were best at sport, especially football, and I made a half-hearted attempt to show an interest in the 1986 World Cup, but couldn’t disguise the fact that I hated having to actually play it, because I did not like having a ball kicked at me and avoided it instead of trying to deflect it. Worse, boys who were violent to other boys off the pitch (and sometimes even on it) found that was no bar to being praised for their sporting achievements. The result is that, in many of these places which are meant to be there to educate, children who are late developers physically who are weak at sport are at the bottom of the pile, regardless of how well they do in their school work. Sports in general do not shut out people for offensive behaviour away from the game, only on it, e.g. doping, cheating, match-fixing, arguing with a referee or violent fouls (and sometimes it takes years to prove, as with Lance Armstrong, during which time a cheat can shove many an honest sportsman out of the way). This means that someone with a well-known record for petty violence off the pitch, for getting into fights in pubs, for drink-driving, or for beating his wife or girlfriend, can still prosper and be respected as a sportsman (look at Paul Gascoigne or George Best). This is perhaps because we regard football as a low-class game, a way out of poverty for men from poor backgrounds who aren’t very bright, so we do not expect particularly high standards of behaviour from them.

I think we would have less violence surrounding sport and less of these controversies about players who are criminals if sport had an ethos that being a sportsman (or woman) entails being of good character. This does not mean they should go through people’s lifestyles with a fine-tooth comb, but it does mean that if someone has convictions for serious violent crimes, or crimes which are likely to affect their behaviour on the pitch (e.g. fraud), or if they have a long record of minor violent crimes, reckless use of guns where they are legal, or drink-driving, they should not be allowed to play, and teams should not be allowed to pay them either, much as any firm is entitled to fire a person who is convicted of a criminal offence, however minor. This should start in school; someone who is known to be a bully, for example, should not be picked to play for their school or house, no matter their sporting prowess. This is because sporting ability is in itself inconsequential, besides the money it can raise, mostly for the player and his team, but the same abilities can be used to harm others, and there is no virtue in being able to score goals or outrun a bunch of other people if you cannot control your temper, or you have no respect for other people. Such people are not fit to be held up as role models, especially for young men who are themselves in danger of falling into such behaviour. There should be no question that these men should be banned from competing, and not just after they have been released from prison or their sentences have ended, but potentially for life.

Image source: Wikipedia; author is Solipsist, released under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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I love my boyfriend but were different religions. Will that matter when we wed?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 November, 2014 - 06:00

A Muslim woman set to marry a Christian man worries about their different religions. Mariella Frostrup says its her family and partner who matter most

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk

The dilemma I am a 30-year-old woman of Indian ethnicity. I am a doctor and living alone, away from my family. Two years ago I met a wonderful man and we now feel its time to tie the knot. I have never been particularly religious, but my family is Muslim though quite liberal. My parents have yet to meet my boyfriend, but I am sure they will love him. My problem is that in Islam a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man any marriage which takes place is invalid.  My boyfriend is Christian and 100% sure he does not want to convert. I fully respect his decision, but it means that we could only marry legally and not religiously. This is bugging me, as I strongly feel I would like a religious wedding blessed by God or at least the God I understand there to be. I feel like a fanatic for having these thoughts, as I dont do anything that a Muslim woman is expected to do. Should I ignore my conscience and marry him legally, or is this a sign to break up?

Mariella replies I wonder if its conscience or your sub-conscious thats at play here. Either way, you may be asking the wrong person. If I was apathetic about religion when I was younger, Im fast becoming radicalised against it. I never felt stirrings of faith apart from when faced with natural wonders such as the multilayered celestial splendour of a night sky, my newborn babies, an epic coastline so I embraced tolerance and tried to remain open to the multitude of organised belief systems I dont share.

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Islamophobia Doesn’t Only Harm Muslims

Loon Watch - 15 November, 2014 - 23:14

emirates

It’s well known that Islamophobia effects non-Muslims as well, it hurts those who are perceived to be Muslims or friendly to Muslims, this includes: Sikhs, Hindus, Arab Christians, Turkish Atheists, Norwegian teenagers and others.

It also effects economic relationships, remember the Dubai Ports controversy? Now in Australia, after a concerted Islamophobic controversy, a South Australian company is set to lose its contract with an airline giant.

The Advertiser

Fleurieu Milk Company, and other South Australian food and drink manufacturers such as Vili’s and Coopers, have been targeted by Facebook pages like Halal Choices and Boycott Halal in Australia for their decision to pursue the certification. Halal is a term used by Muslims meaning the food has been prepared or slaughtered according to ­Islamic law.

Fleurieu Milk Company sales and marketing manager Nick Hutchinson said the decision to drop the halal certification would mean the Myponga-based dairy would lose a yoghurt supply deal with Emirates worth around $50,000 a year.

Mr Hutchinson said the decision was regrettable, but that the company had decided the possible damage to its brand outweighed the benefits of being halal certified.

“We’ve copped a pasting online,” he said.

“We saw the barrage of comments on these sites and the calls to boycott our products and decided it wasn’t worth it. I suppose we’ve given in to a vocal minority.

“It is important for people to realise that being a business owner in Australia can be challenging. In order to remain financially viable companies are forced to look to expand into new markets. Fleurieu Milk had the opportunity to supply Emirates airlines given they became halal approved. We decided the $1000 annual fee was worth it and proceeded.”

The anti-halal sites make a number of claims about the certification, including that it is essentially a religious tax that forces up the price of food, that it is cruel to slaughtered animals and that money could be used to fund Islamist terrorists overseas. The sites encourage consumers to boycott any products displaying the halal accreditation symbol.

Mr Hutchinson said he believed the anti-halal sites were wrong in targeting Australian food producers.

“Other company’s make tens of millions of dollars through being halal certified and cannot walk away like we have,” Mr Hutchinson said. “These business owners are true-blue Aussies bringing a lot of international dollars back into the local economy and would prefer not to pay the certification fee as well.

“The question must be asked: what is worse – paying the $1000 fee or making hundreds of employees around SA redundant?

“People will argue for both sides, but what we want people to ask themselves is ‘are you directing your anger in the right direction?’ Do these business owners, in our case the local farmers, deserve this or should you be petitioning above them to stop the fee having to be paid?”

Iconic pie and pastry manufacturer Vili’s confirmed the company had also been the target of the anti-halal group, but said it had no plans to bend to pressure from “hate mail and ignorant comments”.

A spokesman for Vili’s said the company had been halal certified since 1997, and that it had helped the company grow both in Australia and overseas.

“From a purely economic viewpoint, halal certification brings a lot of money into Australia,” the spokesman said.

“Vili’s also tries to be an ­inclusive company. We have no plans to change anything.” The spokesman said while he would never tell the Fleurieu Milk Company how to run its business, he hoped that the company “isn’t being influenced unnecessarily”.

“When you look at these sites you get the impression that a lot of the comments are written in the same voice and probably come from the same source,” he said. “A lot of it is very similar, suggesting that these sites might not be as strong as they say they are.”

Imams failing young Britons, says Ahmadiyya Muslim leader

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 November, 2014 - 13:28
Caliph believes we must forgive jihadis and put pressure on those countries who fund Isis

Young British Muslims are being let down by clerics who are under-educated and fail to preach in English, according to a leading religious figure who called for higher standards to be set down for those who can become imams.

Mirza Masroor Ahmad, spiritual leader or caliph to millions of Ahmadiyya Muslims around the world, said it was shameful that Britain had lost 500 or so young people to Islamic State (Isis) and attacked the group for paying money to teenagers to join their barbaric fight. He said Islamic leaders in the UK should be teaching love of country as well as love of god to disaffected young men and women and working harder to promote the peaceful message of Islam.

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Do Muslims Believe in Aliens? ~ Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Muslim Matters - 15 November, 2014 - 05:00

 

 

There are many incidences documented of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and weird creatures from another world coming to our world.

Some believe it to be true, others believe it to be a hoax – what is the correct 'theological' Islamic position on other life forms?

In this video clip Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi answers – Do Muslims believe in Aliens?

What was the position of ibn Taymiyyah on other life forms?

The post Do Muslims Believe in Aliens? ~ Dr. Yasir Qadhi appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

PHOTOS: W. Bank Mosque, Qurans Set On Fire In Suspected Hate Crime

Loon Watch - 14 November, 2014 - 23:44

W_Bank_Qurans_Burned

via. +972

Speaking to +972, one local resident noted that this was not the first time settlers have set a mosque on fire. The man added that investigations into such incidents by Israeli authorities have brought no justice.

“This is a direct continuation of Israeli policy at Al Aqsa [Mosque],” the resident of Al Mughayir said. “Every mosque is in danger from the settlers.”

Last month a mosque in the village of Aqraba was set alight in a similar attack.

Palestinian police and firefighters were on the scene.

Israeli media reported that Israeli police had not arrived at the scene to investigate due to clashes taking place nearby.

In northern Israel overnight Tuesday a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a centuries-old synagogue in the Palestinian town of Shfar’am (Shefa-’Amr). The flames did not penetrate the building.

A man inspects a Quran damaged in a suspected arson hate crime against a mosque in the West Bank village of Al Mughayir, November 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Local officials and Palestinian police stand in a mosque damaged in a suspected arson hate crime in the West Bank village of Al Mughayir, November 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Human rights organization Yesh Din this week released a data sheet on Israeli police failures in investigating crimes committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

According to this data, in 2005-2014, a mere 7.4 percent of investigation files led to indictments of Israeli civilians suspected of attacking Palestinians and their property, reflecting a decline of approximately one percent in the rate of such indictments.

Over the past nine years, according to their data, only 7.4 percent of investigations “led to indictments of Israeli civilians suspected of attacking Palestinians and their property.”

In the past two years, following a spate of higher-than-usual settler attacks against Palestinians, the government ordered the creation of a special police investigatory unit dealing exclusively with what Israel describes as “nationalistic crimes.”

Since the creation of the Nationalistic Crimes Unit in the West Bank, “the failure rate of the Israel Police in properly investigating ideological offenses against Palestinians has in fact worsened,” according to Yesh Din.

In 2013-2014, a statement by Yesh Din said, that nearly 90 percent of police investigations in the past two years were closed without indictment due to what the organization terms “investigative failures.”

Read the entire article…

Read more: ‘Settler violence: It comes with the territory’

Heckler interrupts first Muslim prayer service at Washington cathedral

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 November, 2014 - 21:20
  • Woman shouts Why cant you worship in your mosque
  • Planners call event at Christian church a powerful symbolic gesture

A woman shouting leave our churches alone disrupted the first Muslim prayer service hosted by Washington National Cathedral.

Planners had said they hoped Fridays service at the historic cathedral would foster more understanding and acceptance between Christians and Muslims around the world.

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