Memo to Bodyguard writers: Muslim women are more than victims or terrorists | Tasnim Nazeer

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 September, 2018 - 19:24

At a time when Islamophobic attacks are soaring, it’s despairing to see the BBC pander to dangerous stereotypes of hijab wearers

Frustratingly, right from the onset of the BBC’s hugely popular drama Bodyguard, we were bombarded with negative stereotypes of Muslim women. We first see a hijab-wearing woman hiding in the toilet of a busy train, about to detonate a vest she is wearing packed with bombs (stereotype one: Muslim woman as terrorist). It then transpires she is actually a victim who looks frightened and vulnerable while our hero steps in to save the day (stereotype two: the oppressed Muslim woman).

Related: Record number of anti-Muslim attacks reported in UK last year

Related: Bodyguard finale: why I'm not convinced by the 'best' show of 2018

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Karanbir Cheema case: intention matters

Indigo Jo Blogs - 23 September, 2018 - 16:11

Picture of Karanbir Cheema, a young South Asian boy wearing thin, black-rimmed spectacles. He has a blue school uniform jumper on with a logo of two hands holding the world, with "Perivale Primary School" in white capital letters around the top, and an open-necked white shirt underneath.Last week an inquest opened on the case of a 13-year-old boy with a severe allergy to dairy products who died in a London school playground after allegedly having cheese put down his shirt. People were sharing the story on Twitter and saying “they killed him” and accusing the other children (allegedly) involved of murder. I pointed out that whether it was murder would depend on whether they intended to cause him serious harm and whether they knew about his allergy at all or whether it could cause such serious harm especially from mere skin contact (as opposed to ingesting the foods concerned). As a result of this I was deluged with tweets from people telling me that everyone will have known about his allergy, that it was at the very least manslaughter but that they probably did it deliberately because children are cruel to each other. I (and the lady who retweeted the story into my timeline) got a two-day flood of mentions and notifications as people all around the world reacted to the story.

The situation reminded me of an earlier case in which a young man, Steven Simpson, was doused with tanning oil and set alight by a group of ‘friends’ who also wrote anti-gay insults on his body at his 18th birthday party, resulting in his death. Simpson had what used to be called Asperger’s syndrome as well as a speech impediment and epilepsy. The man who poured the oil and lit the match, Jordan Sheard, got 3 1/2 years in prison for manslaughter. At the time, I wrote an open letter and asked others to sign it, and sent it to the then attorney general, Dominic Grieve, asking him to appeal his sentence as it seemed appallingly lenient given that they had poured an accelerant on his body and set him alight, causing him a prolonged and painful death. It appeared to me to be a classic case of “mate crime” in which a person with learning difficulties is subjected to cruelty by people they mistake for friends and continue to endure it either because they are unable to distinguish this behaviour from genuine affection or because they are so desperate for friendship that they prefer the friendship of abusers to that of nobody. I reminded Dr Grieve that causing someone grievous bodily harm resulting in death was murder, and that surely pouring what one believes to be an accelerant onto someone and then setting it alight constitutes causing GBH. However, Sheard’s sentence was not increased on appeal (see ruling in PDF format here).

This case is slightly different as both the victim, Karanbir Cheema (Karan), and the alleged assailants are children — we do not know what age they are because all we have is a paramedic’s word based on what unnamed school staff told him. We do not know how many there were or what was said. We do not know what exactly they knew about Karan’s allergy or how severely or how easily it could affect him. Most adults are aware nowadays that eating something you are allergic to could kill them, but not everyone is so aware that contact between the skin and a solid allergen could have the same effect. We do not know why they were chasing him or why they had the cheese in their hands (perhaps it was just their lunch). What criminal offence the other children involved are guilty of, if any, depends on how much they knew and what they intended; if they knew their actions could cause a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction and did so deliberately, it could be murder. If they thought it could just bring him out in a bit of a rash, it’s likely to be manslaughter.

But I’m not going to sit in judgement on a group of teenagers and call them murderers without knowing the full facts, which we are likely to once the full inquest and police investigation have taken place. It’s sad how many people are willing to do this in response to a report about a situation they know nothing about, early on in an investigation.

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Who gets believed?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 22 September, 2018 - 23:13

Recently a lot of people have been retweeting a tweet by one Amanda Brown Lierman, “political & Organizing Director for @theDemocrats” (not sure if she means the whole party or a local branch of it), which moans:

A lot of people retweeting it don’t stop to think because if they did, they might realise how factually wrong, inappropriate and offensive it is.

A small walled garden with a stone wall at the front, broken by a metal gate with a large cross mounted on its grille. At the back of the garden is a shrine. Behind the garden's rear stone walls are two pairs of semi-detached houses.To begin with, it’s not a competition; one should not complain about one group of victims being believed when another isn’t. Second, it was not only men who accused priests and other churchpeople of abusing them; particularly in Catholic countries, boys and girls, and some adults (particularly women) suffered abuse of many different kinds from all kinds of religious (priests and members of religious orders) and the facts, although they were widely known of at the time, came to be talked of openly years later. It was not just men complaining of being molested as boys by priests: it was girls being sexually abused and even raped, children being exploited in church-run industrial schools and beaten and otherwise physically abused in schools, children’s homes and other institutions. One of the scandals being exposed now involves babies who died in a Catholic mother and baby home in Ireland whose bodies were disposed of in a septic tank.

There has been a long history of young people of both sexes not being believed when they complained. In one case, young men who told the police that they had been sexually abused in a young offenders’ institution were told that it was a criminal offence to make such accusations against prison officers and roughly expelled from the station. When they were finally believed, the perpetrators were in most cases no longer in charge of children and in some cases were very old or dead and very few have been brought to justice — a few bishops have had their chances of becoming pope derailed but that’s about it. In the highest-profile abuse scandal in the UK, in which a celebrity gained access to hospitals, prisons and other establishments and sexually abused people (one of these places was a spinal injury rehabilitaiton centre), accusations were not made public until after he had died. Despite his fame having waned considerably, he was still very wealthy and the media feared litigation if they made any of it public. One or two of the accusers’ stories has not stood up and, although they have not been named, they have been characterised in the media as fantasists and the media have reverted to effusive sympathy for the well-heeled accused.

I spent four years in a ‘special’ all-boys boarding school in England. Physical abuse was rampant, particularly in the first year or so but throughout, staff used inappropriate restraint methods and overlooked physical violence among boys and some used violence in response to trivial personal slights or when shouted at. Complaints were made early on, but were not acted on despite police involvement in 1992. Nobody was prosecuted until 2006 and that was for sexual abuse early on in the history of the school; there was no serious investigation until after the celebrity scandal I mentioned earlier, which was nearly 20 years after the school closed and, crucially, nobody had a vested interest in keeping anyone at the school and even then nobody high-up in the school’s management was prosecuted, only a few old teachers and care staff. If we had been listened to then and the school had been closed, as it should have been, local authorities and parents would have had the headache of finding new schools when they thought the children affected were ‘settled’.

My point is that it’s not whether the complainer is a man or a woman that determines whether they are believed or not. It’s whether the person complained of is still powerful and whether acting on the complaint will be costly or inconvenient. In the case of Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses the US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault when he was 17 and she was 15, whether people believe or not seems to divide mostly along partisan lines. There is a huge difference between those situations and this: these were children, their abusers were their adult carers or people they were forced to live with, the abuse went on for years and was not a single assault at a party, people had lost years of their lives in some cases. So it’s unfair and distasteful to show resentment that people abused over years as children are believed, often without consequences for the abusers, just because a single accusation against a person running for high office is being questioned.

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For rightwing hypocrisy on free speech, look at Anjem Choudary | Michael Segalov

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 September, 2018 - 10:02

Choudary was sent to jail – no-platformed by the state – and rightly so. The law treats hate speech the same whether it’s from the far right or Islamic extremists

Nobody called Lord Holroyde a “snowflake” when in 2016 he sentenced hate preacher Anjem Choudary to five and a half years in prison for words that he’d said. Choudary was encouraging people to join Islamic State – a proscribed, banned terrorist organisation. Be in no doubt: it was language, not action, which led to a conviction.

Unsurprisingly there was no outpouring of outrage claiming Holroyde was turning the nation into a mollycoddled mass of censorious drips too afraid to tackle Choudary’s abhorrent views with sensible arguments. Many celebrated his imprisonment, and now some conservative commentators are demanding – if his views are unchanged – that he should remain locked up for longer rather than be released next month as is planned.

Related: Hate preacher Anjem Choudary, to be freed in weeks, is 'still a threat'

Related: Tommy Robinson and the editor: how a newspaper ‘sows division’ where Jo Cox died

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Teenage boys do know rape is wrong

Indigo Jo Blogs - 20 September, 2018 - 22:13

The seal of the US Supreme Court, consisting of a stylised eagle holding out arrows in one foot and an olive branch in the other, the slogan "E pluribus unum" on a banner round the back of its neck and the words "Seal of the Supreme Court of the United States" in all caps round the outside.In the debate over whether the conservative American judge Bret Kavanaugh is fit to serve as a Supreme Court judge, an accusation has emerged that when in high school, he held down and groped a female schoolmate, now a professor, named Christine Blasey Ford. One of the defences that has been used for him is that the incident happened years ago when he was a high school student and that it was just juvenile high jinks, and some are suggesting that teenage boys are too immature to understand issues of consent. A female high school student who identifies with the conservative Future Female Leader movement has tweeted that this is “probably one of the most unsettling things [she has] ever witnessed” despite having supported Kavanaugh before the accusations emerged. As someone who remembers my mid-teens rather well, I can say that we did in fact know that this sort of thing was wrong, and was illegal.

In most western countries, the age of criminal responsibility is around ten or twelve. In the USA, there are teenagers and adults serving life sentences with a minimum of 40 years or more for murders committed when they were 14 or even less, often people who did not kill anyone personally but took part in a robbery in which someone was killed. Only recently did the Supreme Court strike down laws which mandated life without parole sentences for anyone convicted of felony murder. Often their participation was not motivated by malice or avarice; they participated because their friends were doing so, because they demanded they prove themselves and may not have revealed that they were armed. Young people know that rape is a crime and that sexual assault is a crime. They may not know the technicalities but they know the basics.

There is bullying in a lot of schools, particularly secondary and high schools. This behaviour is not often brought to the attention of the authorities unless it results in serious injuries, even when it consists of physical assaults or sexual harassment, but very often the perpetrators do it because they seek to hurt or humiliate their victim and the same is true of the kind of assault Kavanaugh is accused of perpetrating. They do it because it hurts or because their pleasure is of greater importance in that moment than the comfort or dignity of the person assaulted. Such bullies often get away with it not only because victims are afraid to report it, or do not want to relive the incident in the police station and in court, but also becuase they know that the attacker is seen by society as more valuable than they are: they may be an athlete who brings prestige and funding to their school, or a “high flyer” whose degree might improve the schools’ or college’s statistics, whose later success in life would improve their reputation, and who might well donate money.

His supporters say that his life should not be ‘ruined’ over this (alleged) youthful indiscretion. The problem is that young lives are ruined over such ‘indiscretions’ all the time, as long as they are not white, middle-class or academically or athletically promising. In this case, however, his accuser is not calling for him to be prosecuted, just for him not to be appointed for life to the most powerful judicial office in the land, a member a panel of judges who sit in judgement not only on people but on laws. It’s only to be expected that, at a time when male executives in the entertainment industry in particular are being called to account for sexual harassment and discrimination (this being largely the result of a man who bragged of sexually assaulting women being elected president) that a putative Supreme Court judge will face the same scrutiny.

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Danish mayors vow to ignore citizenship handshake plan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 September, 2018 - 14:26

Rightwing government wants to make handshake mandatory in naturalisation ceremonies

Opposition is growing in Denmark to plans by the ruling rightwing coalition to deny citizenship to any immigrant who declines to shake hands with their local mayor during a revamped naturalisation ceremony – a measure widely seen as targeting Muslims.

An opinion poll published on Thursday showed 52% of respondents opposed the proposal, part of tough new rules for obtaining Danish citizenship introduced by the minority conservative government in June. Several mayors have said they will ignore the requirement if the law is passed.

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Tartuffe review – RSC's buoyant satire of modern religious hypocrisy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 September, 2018 - 20:00

The Swan, Stratford-on-Avon
This striking new take on Molière by the writers behind Citizen Khan sends up religious phoniness and secular pretension

These days, every classic play seems to be updated or “reimagined”. In the case of this new version of Molière’s Tartuffe by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, who collaborated on TV’s Citizen Khan and The Kumars at No 42, it makes total sense. What we see is a satire on modern religious hypocrisy that respects Molière’s flawless comic structure.

The action has been relocated to a Birmingham suburb where a British Pakistani family live a life of comfortable affluence. Imran, the parvenu patriarch, was once proud of his Norwegian spruce decking, but has fallen under the spell of a seemingly straitlaced holy man, Tartuffe. Not only does Imran decide the family has to live as “real Muslims”, he also plans to marry his progressive daughter, studying the plight of women in sub-Saharan Africa, to Tartuffe and even signs over his property to the two-faced intruder.

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'Isis will be looking for targets': guns and fear mark Afghan Ashura

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 September, 2018 - 18:53

Shias in Kabul prepared for annual commemorations by scrambling to arm themselves

Two months ago, Mohammed Murtaza Turkmeni gathered up his savings and bought his first Kalashnikov. He was born, educated and started a family against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s civil war, but until now the 27-year-old telecoms engineer had never fought or wanted to fight.

This year, he didn’t feel he had a choice. He is one of hundreds of men from Kabul’s Shia population who have taken up arms to protect themselves and their community during Ashura, a ceremony that has been a frequent target for sectarian attacks from Pakistan to Iraq.

Related: Pakistan's Imran Khan skirts issue of Afghan refugees' citizenship

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All those who are displaced by crisis and conflict need help and protection | Letter

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 September, 2018 - 14:39

57 leaders of faith and religious organisations, groups and communities, call for national governments and their leaders to ensure that internally displaced people get the help they need

We, leaders of faith and religious organisations, groups and communities, including those supporting the Charter for Faith-Based Humanitarian Action, are compelled by our faiths to come together to speak out for those most marginalised. All faiths and religions actively encourage the recognition and support of those most in need and are uniquely placed to respond. Many of us live near, or are part of, populations affected by crisis, and enjoy special relationships of trust with as well as insights into and access to our communities beyond those of non-faith actors. We are present before crises occur and are key providers of assistance and protection both during them and afterwards.

We can no longer stand by as the number of people forced from their homes but who have not crossed a border continues to rise in the wake of protracted crises and climate change. Currently there are more than 65 million people displaced due to conflict and violence, and 40.5 million of these remain in their countries of origin. It would take more than a year to read all their names. Millions more are displaced due to climate-related events and disasters. We call on leaders of national governments to do more to ensure that the needs and rights of internally displaced people are addressed and upheld.

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Ashura and the Story of Hussain – Achieving Victory Despite Oppression

altmuslim - 19 September, 2018 - 01:26
Muslims around the world commemorate in Muharram (the first month of the Muslim year) the death of Hussain ibn Ali, a leader who epitomized the struggle against tyranny. For some context, consider the following: A tyrannical leader comes to power exploiting an arcane political system. Having been handed everything by his father, this ruthless and […]

What is a garment of liberty, really?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 18 September, 2018 - 23:29

Two women in a clothing shop, one of which is trying on a long, black, sleeveless dress with a fitted bodice and a full skirt.A couple of years ago there was a sketch on a Canadian comedy show (starts at 01:26), the Baroness Von Sketch Show, in which a woman walks into a clothing store and tries on a long, sleeveless black dress. She was, she said, “not feeling it” though it fit well, until she discovered it had pockets. “This dress has pockets?” she exclaimed. “Yes,” said the shopkeeper, “it is a garment of liberty”. The lady ecstatically reeled off the list of things she could put in those pockets, that she could go out “like a dude” without the tyranny of a ‘purse’ (handbag), and in her excitement walked straight out of the shop in it without paying, presumably leaving all her existing clothes behind. The sketch was brought to mind by an article on Quartz I read last weekend (published February 2017) in which Lucy Rycroft-Smith described how she liberated herself from the tyranny of modern women’s clothing by switching to men’s clothing. The experiment showed her, she said, that female fashion is a sign that “the world does not want women to get too comfortable”. (She posted an earlier article on the same subject at The F Word.)

Women’s clothing, she said, always left a mark — bra straps on her shoulders, shoes on her heels, tights around her waist; she would always strip off everything tight when she got home from work; her clothing never quite fit and she was always fidgeting and adjusting, and having switched to shirts and men’s trousers, she is aware of other women doing the same. In the earlier article, where she explains that her initial month in menswear was partly inspired by a challenge called “Octieber”, of wearing ties for a month, she noted that for women formal dress often meant things that caused her discomfort — showing more flesh, wearing tighter and more uncomfortable clothes and foundations, while the suit she borrowed from her boyfriend was her idea of a garment of liberty:

My boyfriend appears from the loft with a three-piece subtle black pinstripe from French Connection he has grown out of. I try it on and it’s magic. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, and on no particular occasion. Happy Birth-of-A-New-Freedom-Day to me. This suit does not make me uncomfortable or pained in any way.

It looks smart and stylish but does not dig in, does not cling, pinch or make me frown at my reflection where it could be a little looser, a little longer and a little higher. It just is.

And they have pockets:

The clothes I’m wearing now have bountiful, multifaceted, capacious pockets. I have nine of them today. I counted ’em. On a typical day of wearing womenswear, I have NONE. Another realisation like a wet herring to the face: the ‘handbag vs pockets’ thing is huge confidence-underminer, another terribly effective, if inadvertent way, to hold women down. I remember being crouched over my handbag, furiously ferreting for a business card while my male colleague coolly produced one from his manly chest-cavity as though he lactated them to order.

As for the ties, however, she explains in her more recent article that “I never do it up to the point where I can feel it”. Which is the rub, so to speak. Because if you’re a man, and more so if you’re a schoolboy, you will be expected to do it up that far, and do up your top button so that it constricts your neck. This was an enormous source of discomfort for me at secondary school, and the source of numerous arguments with teachers and prefects who saw that I had left it undone and demanded that I do it up again. Girls at my first secondary school could wear blouses, which freed them from having to wear ties (though they did have to wear a skirt, with tights underneath; this, I’m sure, some found uncomfortable, though not all). So her going to work (or wherever) with her tie at “half mast”, as this used to be called when I was at school, is simply a case of her exercising the dress choices she has as a woman. (Admittedly, in some schools, the same is required of girls.)

When reviewing the various “privilege checklists” that did the rounds a number of years ago, I noticed that in some cases the privileges listed were in fact trade-offs, not straightforward advantages. In Barry Deutsch’s male privilege checklist, for example, he claimed:

My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.

“Fewer options” is often presented as an advantage — that a burdensome decision is taken off one’s hands and life is simpler — and this is often given as an advantage for school uniform, that the child does not have to decide what clothes to wear, it’s already decided for them; but in the case of clothing, it’s only an advantage if the clothing is neither ridiculous nor uncomfortable, which a lot of school uniforms in fact are. Rycroft-Smith herself names “simpler dressing decisions” as an advantage of wearing men’s clothes; in the case of office work, you don’t have to choose whether to wear a suit or something else; it’s just a question of which suit. But if you find suits and ties inherently uncomfortable or they bring back unpleasant memories, both of which are the case for me, that simplicity is no advantage at all. And much as a lot of ladies’ fashions are nowadays made of artificial fabrics (some form of polyester, usually) which is not as cooling as cotton, the same is true of a lot of men’s suits (T-shirts, however, are more likely to be cotton).

Rycroft-Smith describes the male clothing she has started wearing as being “looser, more flowing, and cut for comfort, without sacrificing formality and professionalism”. As far as tops go, she’s right. As for trousers, I’d like to know where she gets her loose and flowing men’s trousers. I’ve mostly worn chinos since I was in my early 20s and have had real difficulty in recent years finding trousers that have both enough backside room and fit around the waist. I did put on weight for a while a couple of years ago and found that chinos in my old size no longer fitted me, but also that I could not find chinos in slightly larger sizes that fit well either. In addition, I find that many of them are poorly cut and do not come up far enough, especially at the back, meaning that a T-shirt which is not quite long enough might come untucked. They are just not generous enough. I suppose I could go ‘ethnic’ and wear something like a shalwar-kameez, but they don’t have trouser pockets, though some do have hip pockets on the shirt (and forget wearing an Indonesian-style sarong, comfortable though it may be). If skirts for men ever take off, I’d be first in line.

Two white women in a clothing store; the woman wearing the black dress now has her hands in the dress's pockets and is holding the skirt out with an excited look on her face.In theory, having access to multiple dress formats such as trousers and skirts should mean that being able to find clothes that are comfortable is twice as likely. In practice, feminine and practical are treated in the fashion world as if they were mutually incompatible. (I even once saw an item of underwear being marketed as “practical, feminine, sophisticated” and it was an all-in-one bodystocking that you had to take off, along with anything on top, if you needed the loo.) ‘Feminine’ clothes such as skirts and dresses are often designed with the assumption that you wear them to look pretty rather than for comfort or convenience, and that maintaining the ‘line’ is so important that a bulge for cash, cards and a mobile phone would ruin the look. They are designed with the assumption that the wearer will keep all her belongings in a handbag which, unlike pockets which are sewn into one’s clothes, can easily be forgotten or stolen. While most women haven’t gone to the extreme of wearing mostly men’s clothing, this likely accounts for the fact that the long skirt, which was ubiquitous in the UK the 1980s and early 1990s, has become something only a minority of women wear when they do not have to today, which is sad because, regardless of the politics of it, there is so much more one can do with a skirt from a design point of view — they can be decorated with flowers, patterns, any colour one likes or not at all. Trousers, by and large, are pretty dull.

When I shared Lucy Rycroft-Smith’s article last weekend, I had responses from female friends saying that they had worn a lot of men’s clothing over the years because it fitted better and often because it was baggy and comfortable rather than fitted, though perhaps this was partly because it was built for bigger bodies than theirs, and had pockets. That said, if it’s what you wear all the time and it’s what you’re expected to wear, it’s not as confidence-building and empowering as if it’s a choice, and her solution is not going to appeal to all women who might find a skirt more comfortable or like the simplicity of a dress, which as the name implies, you can put on and be dressed, or find that putting on pretty clothes livens up their day a little, or for whom dress is an important part of “feeling like a woman”. There needs to be clothing which is practical, convenient, comfortable and, as most people see it, feminine.

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Raise Your Gaze: “Islamic feminism is overlooked in the mainstream’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 September, 2018 - 08:00
A group of Muslim feminists determined to shape a non-judgmental space in which to practise their faith

• Michael Sheen introduces the 2018 New Radicals winners
• Disrupt Disability: designing wheelchairs with a difference

Raise Your Gaze began as tongue-in-cheek conversation between members of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative about the ways in which Muslim women have been expected to maintain propriety – by being modest, averting their eyes and so on – and has expanded to become a core part of the mosque’s offering.

“We have put together seminars,” explains trustee Naima Khan, “from conversations on Islamophobia and resilience, on creativity and healing, on Islam’s feminist history.” The purpose is to make people think in new ways about social injustice “that we’re missing by not really looking at it”.

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On mental health care and staying connected

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 September, 2018 - 19:46

A still image from the BBC documentary Don't Call Me Crazy, showing a girl sitting on the floor with her legs raised and her arm wrapped round her face.A few years ago I wrote a post on here (The Importance of Staying Connected) about how the Internet had changed from being a niche service which few people outside academia had access to, and which was a very definite luxury, to a mass medium which was a lifeline for very many people including disabled people. A friend who was a mental health inpatient had been transferred to a clinic in a remote part of Germany and had her phone and computer confiscated as the institution catered to people with dual diagnoses, including addictions, who could have used them to order drugs; after a few days, she jumped from a balcony. In that and other countries in Europe, including the UK, people receiving standard mental health inpatient care are allowed mobile phones and Internet access (though not provided with it) but not those in ‘secure’ units which house people who have been sent there on court orders as well as those detained under the Mental Health Act (which only needs two doctors) or in most adolescent units. In the USA, though, it appears to be different; people on mental health wards routinely have their phones taken away and a friend of mine who was recently admitted said she would not be able to keep in touch with us (or do the work she relies on the Internet to do) while in hospital.

Another friend of mine was recently discharged from an acute mental health unit in England. She had her phone with her all the time and kept in contact with me and other friends throughout this and a previous admission earlier this year. Wards can be stressful places with patients coming and going making it difficult to form friendships and some of them are difficult to get on with — this was a mixed ward and one of the male patients made threatening sexual advances and she needed advice as to what to do (in the end, the police were called and the man was transferred to the adjacent locked unit). She was able to arrange visits and meet-ups with friends locally during leave. Being able to keep in touch with friends staves off boredom and gives people distraction from their own thoughts which is important if those thoughts are distressing and often, because of lack of funds, mental health units are unable to provide any other adequate distraction. (This unit had a garden, for example, but patients were rarely allowed access to it.) However, a few years ago an acquaintance who had been in many different hospitals said that a previous ward she had been admitted to for more than a year had a strict no-phones and no-Internet policy and that confidentiality was given as the reason (nowadays, the policy is that patients are not allowed to photograph staff or other patients, but are allowed to keep their phones).

A while ago I read a question and answer on a medical website; the questioner was a doctor who was also a mother of a teenaged son with both Tourettes and co-morbid depression who had to be admitted to hospital from time to time to deal with the latter. One of his Tourette’s tics was to push at his teeth, which had over the years led to losing most of them; his usual way of keeping himself busy and his hands occupied was to play his electric guitar and to talk to his friends online, but the hospital had a policy of not allowing internet access because of concerns about privacy, and presumably the electric guitar would have caused disturbance to others. To avoid causing further damage to his teeth while being prevented from doing anything to distract him, he asked for restraints to be applied and he and his mother had had to persuade staff to apply them as the unit had an anti-restraint policy — as a lot of wards do, because they’re demeaning, often applied as punishments and almost never without alternatives. Worse, they set a time limit which was before the anxiety that led him to ask for the restraints had worn off. The person answering (another mental health professional) agreed with the decision to request restraints, but sensibly suggested that the hospital should reconsider its policy on electronics as this was clearly counter-therapeutic: someone who needed to be active was instead forced to lie idle in bed for hours or days.

That’s not to say that removing someone’s Internet access for a few days (or longer) isn’t sometimes beneficial; in some cases someone’s mental illness may be contributed to by online bullying, for example, and there are such things as “pro-ana” sites which encourage people with anorexia to continue slimming and resist treatment. Sometimes a person’s treatment requires them having a break from the stress of daily life and taking them away from the Internet is the only way of achieving this. But these issues do not apply to everyone who needs mental health inpatient treatment; many need to be able to talk to their friends, to get advice from someone who isn’t a mental health professional (or in some cases, other professionals who aren’t of the same mindset as those in charge of their ward) or to get help when there is danger on the ward and they may need to talk to outsiders without anyone on the ward hearing. It’s about time the people who still insist on cutting people off from the world for days or weeks a time when they need mental health treatment, regardless of individual circumstance, learned that it’s not necessary and can in fact be harmful.

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Hajj Reflections: ‘Come Back to God, Wherever You Are’

altmuslim - 13 September, 2018 - 21:59
I performed Hajj for the first time this year. It will most likely be my only time, although only Allah (swt) knows for sure. This I know: I want to go back. I am also wary, upon coming home, of being absorbed back into my former routines of daily living. Our group had it really […]

The Guardian view on Xinjiang: China’s secret camps are at last in the spotlight | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 September, 2018 - 18:16
As increasing evidence emerges of the arbitrary detention of Muslim minorities on a shocking scale in the north-western region, the new UN rights chief and others are speaking out

It is unthinkable. Yet week by week, the evidence mounts that in north-western China’s Xinjiang region, as many as a million people are being held in extralegal indoctrination camps where inmates are forced to write self-criticisms, sing patriotic songs and chant slogans praising the Communist party. According to former detainees, people appear to have been pulled in because they went abroad, because they engaged in conventional religious practices, or even because they do not speak Chinese. Many are held indefinitely. Some say they were tortured. Most of those held are Uighurs, who make up less than half of the 23 million population of the region, or belong to Kazakh or other Muslim minorities. One report, drawing upon official sources, suggests some areas have detention quotas.

The camps are the most shocking aspect of an intense and all-encompassing crackdown, described by Human Rights Watch this week as amounting to rights violations of a scope and scale not seen in China since the Cultural Revolution unleashed in 1966. According to the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, official data suggests a fifth of all arrests in China last year were in Xinjiang, which has just 1.5% of its population. The human cost is immense, as a new Guardian report reveals.

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Pollution and corruption are choking the life out of Basra | Diaa Jubaili

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 September, 2018 - 10:00

The Iraqi city is caught in a trap between the growing influence of Iran and government neglect

Salty, foul water flows through the pipes of Basra: a city racked by high unemployment, broken healthcare and education systems, drugs smuggled in across the borders and cooked up at home with Iranian raw materials. Millions of landmines from wars past hem in the city, even as militias – the armed wings of Shia political parties, given new life by the fight against Isis – tyrannise its people. Even the clean, clear river that my brother and I used to fish from is now a muddy creek filled with sewage and sickness.

All this and more came together in the explosion of fury in Basra this past week, driving thousands of citizens into the streets to demand their rights. This unrest may surprise many in the west, where the conflicts of the region are often seen through the lens of sectarian strife. Yet many Iraqis are tired of Iran treating Iraq like its own backyard – a shared Shiite faith has been used to exploit Iraq’s wealth rather than build up its people. Most of the demonstrators are young people, under the age of 30. They were children when the United States, the United Kingdom and others invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime – paving the way for Iran’s expanded influence through the Shia parties that took power in Baghdad.

Related: Protesters set fire to Iranian consulate in Basra

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How the Sacred Law of Gender Relations Can Teach Us R-E-S-P-E-C-T

altmuslim - 11 September, 2018 - 23:36
Recently while watching the internet light on fire at how a Bishop inappropriately touched a young musical artist, Ariana Grande, I was reminded again of the importance of the principles and laws that Islam stands for. Imagine for a moment: It’s the funeral of one of the most celebrated musical artists in history. A young […]

A good time for the next generation to renew Jewish-Palestinian dialogue | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 September, 2018 - 18:47
Tony Klug, who was involved in a previous initiative to bring the two communities together, applauds Michael Segalov’s call for serious talks. Plus, Ya’ir Klein on Israel’s conception of Jewishness

Michael Segalov’s call for dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian groups in Britain in the light of the tensions over the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism and the question of free speech on Israel/Palestine is one of the few constructive proposals to emerge from this whole wretched issue (Journal, 6 September). But it is not a new idea. In 1984, a number of Jews and Palestinians in the UK started to meet regularly in an effort to break the silent hostility that had largely characterised their relations until then and to help “promote a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. At the time, the idea of conversing was regarded by both communities as very radical, requiring the group to meet clandestinely until 1991 when it finally went public as the Council for Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue, with an elected executive board co-chaired by Saida Nusseibeh and myself.

Serious dialogue is not an easy option. It is not about exchanging niceties or sounding off in front of the other. As we noted at the time in a published leaflet: “The early tendency by participants on both sides to sermonize to the other … soon came to be replaced by a mutual recognition that each had much to learn from the other.” It went on: “The dialogue process can be one of profound discomfort to begin with, as it frequently forces the participants to reconsider deeply held convictions concerning the beliefs, motives and deeds of the other side – and also of their own side. Above all, it is a humanizing process. It is much easier to despise, humiliate and destroy a stereotype than a fellow human being with feelings, frailties and hopes not so different from one’s own. Palestinians and Jews engaged in dialogue … tend to lose their susceptibility to the hate propaganda and demonic imagery which have been employed by all sides over the decades.”

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Muslim group calls for preacher linked to Trump to be denied UK visa

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 September, 2018 - 11:20

Franklin Graham, who has called Islam ‘evil’, is due to speak at a festival in Blackpool

Britain’s leading Muslim organisation has called on the Home Office to refuse a UK visa to a prominent US evangelical preacher with links to Donald Trump and a track record of Islamophobic and homophobic statements.

Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, has been invited to preach at a Christian festival in Blackpool this month.

Related: 'Exvangelicals': why more religious people are rejecting the evangelical label

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Why Does Allah Allow Human Suffering? For What Purpose?

altmuslim - 7 September, 2018 - 22:44
A paradox formulated long ago by Greek philosopher Epicurus asks, if God is perfectly good and omnipotent, why do we suffer? He proposed two alternative answers: Either God is not perfectly good and thus not willing to stop human suffering; or God is not powerful enough to end all the pain in the world. In […]


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