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War-torn Mali plans to build university in Timbuktu

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 October, 2014 - 19:43
Snowflake-shaped campus in Sahara to draw on citys Islamic heritage, as Bono backs plans to revive Tuareg music festival

It is famously remote, a byword for the impossible-to-reach. In recent times, it has been occupied by jihadis who took pickaxes to the tombs of its medieval saints and burnt or stole thousands of its manuscripts. Now, Timbuktu may be the setting for a $80m (£50m) university in the Sahara.

Architects drawings of Timbuktu university show a design in the shape of a snowflake, with roads radiating outwards from a central hub. The campus would be sited away from the town on the road between Timbuktu and Kabara, the historic trading port on the river Niger where goods were transferred from camel to canoe, and will contain a library and large central auditorium as well as lecture theatres and accommodation.

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Paris Opera Expels Veiled Woman During Performance

Loon Watch - 20 October, 2014 - 20:45

France_Opera

(h/t: Seyma)

via. Al-Arabiya

France’s government is drawing up a new set of rules for theatres after Paris Opera ejected woman for wearing a veil during a performance, the institution’s deputy director said Sunday.

The incident took place when a veiled woman was spotted on the front row of a performance of La Traviata at the Opera Bastille, Jean-Philippe Thiellay told AFP, confirming a media report.

France brought in a law in 2011 banning anyone from wearing clothing that conceals the face in a public space, or face a 150 euro ($190) fine.

The woman was sitting just behind the conductor, visible to monitors, wearing a scarf covering her hair and a veil over her mouth and nose during the performance on October 3.

“I was alerted in the second act,” said Thiellay, adding that “some performers said they did not want to sing” if something was not done.

France’s ministry of culture said a bill was currently being drafted to remind theatres, museums and other public institutions under its supervision of the rules regarding veils.

The spectator and her companion — tourists from the Gulf, according to MetroNews — were asked to leave by an inspector during the interval.

“He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the room. The man asked the woman to get up, they left,” Thiellay said.

“It’s never nice to ask someone to leave… But there was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave,” he said.

Central African Republic: What Really Happened and Why Does it Matter?

Loon Watch - 20 October, 2014 - 20:37

CAR Militia

People hide from gunfire near a church during a Feb. 18 firefight between African peacekeepers and fighters from the anti-balaka militia in Bangui, Central African Republic. CNS photo

This is the second article in a Loonwatch exclusive series entitled, This is Africa. The first article set the stage for understanding the scramble for Africa’s abundant resources, and is recommended as a prerequisite: Bleeding Africa: A Half Century of the Françafrique

by Ilisha

The Central African Republic (CAR) has fallen from the headlines, but what is happening there must not be forgotten. Beyond sensationalism, sound bites, and reflexive, self-serving narratives, what really happened and why does it matter?

It matters because the people have suffered and because they continue to suffer. It matters because the same macabre scenarios keep playing out, again and again. In CAR, Nigeria, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. Each conflict has a particular context, distinct from the others, but we are often led to believe they all intersect with Islam.

As violence raged across CAR, most of the major media focused myopically on the religious angle. We were told rebels known as the Seleka, comprised exclusively of Muslims, launched a blood-soaked campaign in March of last year and deposed the country’s Christian president, viciously attacking innocent Christian civilians in the process. After months of violence and unprovoked attacks, we were told, Christian militias formed to defend themselves against further attacks by Muslims. Violence subsequently spiraled out of control, leading to gruesome scenes of innocent people, including children, being slaughtered in the streets.

Violence reached unprecedented levels in December of last year. By March of this year, the UN reported most Muslims had been “cleansed” from the Western part of the country. The Muslims, according to this narrative, essentially brought about their own demise. Sure, it was the extremists who started it all, but isn’t it always the Muslims, striking out “in the name of Islam”?

What does it mean when people claim violence is done “in the name of Islam”? This accusation relies on assumptions that are rarely challenged. It seems we’re so conditioned to simply accept that religion in general, and Islam in particular, are the root cause of violence all over the world, most people have stopped asking critical questions.

Religion causes violence, and especially the religion of Islam. Everyone “knows” that. But is it true?

The real story behind the headlines is far more complex, and includes parties barely mentioned in the dominant narrative. Foreign countries, most notably France, played a significant role in the conflict as well, and not just as a peacekeeping force. The missing pieces shape the narrative with the contours of nuance, and prompt the questions that are rarely asked, even by the journalists.

Why did the Muslims of CAR suddenly launch a civil war in the Central African Republic? What did they stand to gain? Why is it so easy for so many people to believe that Muslims, Africans, and especially African Muslims, spontaneously indulge in bloodletting for no apparent reason? We are told the Muslim minority started kicking up dust and perhaps lopping off heads, just as we’ve come to expect.

For many, this curious narrative seems to spark no curiosity. We can simply assume the much-vaunted “free media” will tell us the unvarnished truth. Except that they often don’t, as well shall see.

False Religious Binary

We know there are Christians and Muslims in CAR because, collectively, these groups are the stars of the show. The protagonist and the antagonist, in the drama that unfolded, reaching a tragic climax with the blood of the innocent.

Pitting Christians and Muslims against one another makes good headlines in the current climate. Blaming religion for all the world’s problems is popular among the elites and broad swaths among the masses as well, and within that context, Muslims have taken center stage. The Muslims are allegedly always picking on Jews and Christians, and even Hindus, Yazidis and atheists. All non-Muslims are supposedly fair game. But for the West, it is the Christian victims who tug hardest at the heart strings. Christianity may be barely relevant in the West, but the hollowed out tradition still resonates when “jihad” is on the march.

The problem with the this Christian-Muslim binary is that it’s false.

The religious composition of CAR is more complex than a Christian majority and a Muslim minority. According to the CIA World Fact book, the religious breakdown in CAR is 35% indigenous beliefs, 60% Christian (25% Protestant, 35% Catholic), and 15% Muslim. An annotation explains “animistic beliefs and practices strongly influence the Christian majority.” At best, Christians comprise a small majority, heavily influenced by animist beliefs, while more than a third are animists outright.

Animists? You can be forgiven for not having the slightest notion what an animist is, even if you were absorbed daily in the news of CAR. Animists complicate the narrative. Animists don’t tug at heart strings. Animists are not part of the agenda, and so they mostly disappeared. Human rights matter mostly as props that distract us from the major plot, and for that role, animists don’t make the cut when the local Christians will do nicely.

Outrage peddlers have a far better chance of stoking the emotions of Western audiences with a narrative that pits “savage” Muslims against innocent, peace-loving Christians. Despite the glaring omission of animists from the lurid tales of bloodshed, there are some obvious clues suggesting the influence of their beliefs.

Cannibalism is not a Christian practice, yet we have seen several gruesome examples of “Christians” killing and eating their Muslim victims, a phenomenon also seen in Nigeria. Ouandja Magloire stands out in a crowd for his stunning barbarism. A mob of angry Christians murdered a Muslim passerby and desecrated his corpse. Among the perpetrators was “Mad Dog” Magloire, who ate the victim’s leg, and then saved a portion of the flesh for later, as if parts of the corpse were restaurant leftovers.

Magloire reported he put the leftover flesh of his victim between two halves of a baguette and ate it, with a side of okra. Mad Dog Magloire would have been a public relations bonanza for the hate brigades, if only  he had been a Muslim. Months ago, when a Syrian rebel bit into the heart of his victim, we saw headlines like this: Syrian Jihadist Eats Human Flesh In The Name Of Allah.

In the name of Allah? Where are the headlines accusing Mad Dog Magloire of feasting on a leg sandwich “in the name of Jesus”? In fact, neither Christianity nor Islam sanction cannibalism.

Ritual cannibalism is found in some streams of animism, where eating a part of a defeated enemy’s body is thought to pass the dead person’s spirit to the conqueror. This peculiar detail is largely ignored by the Western media, which does not bother to delve into why these nominal animist-influenced “Christians” have indulged in this horrifying spectacle on more than one occasion.

“The Muslims”

One thing the major media are clear on is who started the conflict in CAR. “The Muslims” are to blame, and any violence that has come in response is their own fault. Sure, we concede, some of the Muslim victims are not personally responsible, but collectively, the implication is the Muslims had it coming.

But who are “the Muslims” in this scenario?

The Seleka rebels are not a homogeneous group of local Muslims who have suddenly erupted into random violence “in the name of Islam.” We are led to believe “the Muslims,” presumably locals, led a blood-soaked campaign to oust the country’s Christian president, terrorizing, slaughtering, and looting Christian civilians in the process.

In fact, foreign mercenaries under the Seleka umbrella, largely from neighboring Chad and Sudan, have flooded the country, joining dissident factions of rebel groups that have banded together as Seleka. An estimated 1000-2000 armed mercenaries streamed into CAR. According to some reports, the ranks of the Seleka rebels swelled to as many as 25,000.  To put the relative strength of that force in perspective, consider the country’s entire army is comprised of only about 3,500 soldiers.

The Seleka do include some locals, not all of whom are Muslims. Some are non-religious rebels, thugs, and opportunists who have joined widespread looting and vandalism during the latest round of unrest. While there have been atrocities that appear to be religiously motivated, some of the rebels are clearly driven by non-religious motives, and have on occasion attacked Muslim communities as well. Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) troops that operated outside Bangui confirmed to Human Rights Watch that Seleka fighters in their zones were majority Chadian or Sudanese.

The Backdrop

Despite being almost the size of France, CAR is a sparsely populated country of only 4.5 million people. Porous borders and weak state authority leave the country vulnerable to infiltrators from neighboring countries, including Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan. Marauding foreign intruders often raid local villages, poach wildlife, and sometimes join local bandits known as “zaraguinas” for concerted crime sprees.

We are expected to believe criminal thugs and paid mercenaries are not motivated by self interest, but rather by religion. Paid mercenaries, we are to assume, are working “in the name of Islam” rather than following the orders of their paymasters in Chad, the Sudan, and elsewhere. In other words, we are being asked to set common sense aside and reflexively blame the local Muslims in particular and Islam in general for all of the unrest we see in the news.

Yet both Muslims and Christians in CAR have acknowledged historical co-existence between religious communities, and pointed to political factors as the driving force behind the conflict:

“The religious leaders warned against this risk. Political leaders have not paid attention to these warnings. They wanted to antagonize the Central African Republic along religious lines in order to remain in power.” ~ Catholic Bishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, Central African Republic

In the country’s capital city of Bangui, local Muslims expressed similar sentiments regarding the relatively peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians prior to descent into civil war:

“It’s not a conflict between Muslims and Christians. We are one nation,” said Ahmet Adam, son of the local imam.

“Here, we [in Bangui] have a mixture of populations that do not exist in other areas,” said Bash, a 28-year-old Muslim resident. “This diversity has prevented us from sinking into violence. We grew up together, people have intermarried. Here, you can find a child with a Muslim name in a Christian home because the father is Muslim.”

Serving briefly as interim prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye also confirmed CAR’s history of peaceful co-existence:

“Religious communities that have always lived together in perfect harmony are now massacring each other. The situation must be stopped as soon as possible.” ~ CAR Interim Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye

If religious communities in CAR have always “lived together in perfect harmony,” what has changed? What is the catalyst for this apparent spontaneous eruption of “religiously-motivated” violence? In a rare departure from the dominant narrative of a Muslim-led holy war, the Christian Science monitor concluded:

“This is neither jihad nor crusade. Fighting in the CAR is over political power, with the capitol city Bangui as the prize.” ~ Chaos in Central African Republic is about power, Christian Science Monitor

If the fighting is really about political power, then why is it so often portrayed as a holy war? Who is jockeying for political power in the Central African Republic and why? Political power is merely vehicle to the real prize: Africa’s abundant natural resources. As we discussed in the first article in this series, competition is emerging at a time when the Western imperial powers are poised to to sink their teeth deeper into the fat of African riches.

The next article in this series explores the economic dimension of the conflict in CAR, in the context of a broader scramble for treasure. In other words, we will assert that what is supposedly being done “in the name of Islam” obscures what is really being done “in the name of greed.”

Ali Mazrui obituary

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 October, 2014 - 15:36
Kenyan political thinker who was unafraid to confront contentious issues

The Kenyan political thinker Ali Mazrui, who has died aged 81, was best known in the west for writing and presenting a groundbreaking television series, The Africans: A Triple Heritage (1986). In the nine-part documentary, co-produced by the BBC and the US Public Broadcasting Service in association with the Nigerian Television Authority, Mazrui set out to explore wide-ranging aspects of African culture and society from the inside. Episodes focused on subjects including nature, the family, exploitation, conflict and political instability.

The common theme of the series was the impact on the continent of three distinct influences: indigenous African culture, Islam and Christianity. Drawing on a thesis first put forward by the Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah, Mazrui argued that this mix of non-traditional religious ideals and sentiments had made it difficult to identify an authentically African way of doing things. He painted a forceful picture of the damage done by colonialism, and touched on issues such as the potential benefits to Africans of closer links with the Arab world and the possibility that black Africa would soon possess nuclear weapons.

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I got 18 mosque problems and being a woman is one

Muslimah Media Watch - 20 October, 2014 - 11:00
This week, I came across the video “Things not to do in the masjid” in my Facebook feed. The two guys behind the video, Americans of Afghani background Shukran and Roshan under the moniker SRBRosEntertainment, acted out 18 different scenarios with another actor. The video is clearly a hit, with over 960,000 views to date. [Read More...]

Confessions of a Muslim Skeptic

Muslim Matters - 20 October, 2014 - 05:30

Questioning Faith

The other day, a Muslim teen asked me the purpose of prayer. Why should we believe in God? Why do bad things happen to good people? As it turns out, this barrage of questions only represented the tip of a big, ominous iceberg.

There are a whole host of questions like this that are festering in our community and causing many crises of faith. The unfortunate reality is that Muslims are leaving Islam due to these unanswered questions, a trend that is exacerbated by the decreasing popularity of organized religion in society at large.

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

How do we address this challenge?

As someone who grew up as an American teenager in the 90s, the questions I had then, only 15 years ago, were mere child's play compared to the soul-swallowing issues that Muslim youth are struggling with today. Topics like gay rights, the war on terrorism, scientific proof for the existence of God, the value of modesty, the merits of sexual abstinence, human evolution, the importance of family, etc. — anything and everything is up for debate, analysis, and, ultimately, disavowal.

In sum, religion is seen as lacking any intellectual credibility. The only way to restore that credibility in the minds of the doubting masses is to address these questions head on.

Skepticism Defined

Whether in the academic or professional sphere, the most effective way to address complicated, controversial questions is to take a step back and pinpoint the hidden assumptions that underlie those questions. This way, one can problematize (or undermine) the question itself and, thus, proactively address it on one's own terms.

Traditionally, this tendency to problematize and undermine common beliefs has been associated with skepticism. In the sense I am using the term, a skeptic is someone who will pause to deconstruct and critique a thought system in order to judge its intellectual merit (not to be confused with philosophical skeptics, who question the possibility of knowledge entirely).

Oftentimes, it is religious beliefs that are the target of skeptical questioning: Why should we believe God exists? Why should we believe the Qur'an to be the word of God? Why should we believe Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the messenger of God? Skeptical questioning of this nature originated with atheists and opponents of religion but, over time, has spread to all corners of the globe. Nowadays, even the faithful ask themselves these questions, and, when they cannot find answers, they either abandon the religion or ignore the questions entirely.

But there is another way.

themuslimskeptic

Intellectual Hypocrisy and Bill Maher

From my experience, skeptics of religion often are hypocrites in that they do not attack all thought systems equally. They save their most rabid lines of critique for religion, especially Islam, but give certain non-religious beliefs a free pass.

For example, someone like Bill Maher, a self-proclaimed liberal, has no shortage of animosity in critiquing Islam. But does he take that same critical, skeptical mindset to his evaluation of, say, liberalism? Has he spent any time on TV delving into the many different critiques and questions plaguing liberal thought? Has he dedicated any of his programming to contemplating the amount of violence and death modern liberalism has wrought?

Maher portrays himself as an objective, neutral analyst using the power of rational thought to discover the truth, but, in actuality, he is a propagandist, as detached from objectivity and rationality as the fervent Bible-thumpers he lampoons. The only difference is he proselytizes liberalism instead of Christianity.

The Muslim skeptic, then, is someone who gives such hypocrites a taste of their own medicine.  Why can't Muslims turn the tables by expressing skepticism about liberalism, the nation-state paradigm, scientism, humanism, progressivism, and the rest of the unquestioned modernist dogmas of our times?

Turning the Tables

Consider this small sample of “controversial” or “tough” questions:

  1. What is the scientific proof for the existence of Allah, angels, the afterlife, the soul, etc.?
  2. Why does Islamic Law require women to wear the hijab but not men?
  3. Why would an all-merciful God allow evil to exist?
  4. Do we have free-will to make our own choices?
  5. Why does Islamic Law prohibit homosexual acts?
  6. Why do many Muslims not accept the evolutionary theory of man's origins?

What we often fail to realize is that these questions do not arise in a vacuum. Most of these are not questions that troubled or even arose in the minds of Muslims 30, 40, or 500 years ago. These are questions that are characteristic of our time and intellectual culture in the 15th/21st century. As such, there are complex, deeply ingrained assumptions that underlie each of them. The only reason they may seem “tough” to address is that we are blind to those assumptions and take them for granted.

The Muslim skeptic must dig out these assumptions in order to scrutinize and interrogate them. In this way, rather than resolving such “tough” questions, the Muslim skeptic aims to dissolve them.

Given the number of such questions threatening the faith of our community, there is a pressing need for such a skeptical approach.

Skepticism in Action

As a brief example, consider the question of God's existence. Some modern Muslim commentators concede that there is no objective evidence for the existence of God, and it all boils down to a “leap of faith.” The Muslim skeptic's approach, in contrast, would be to first investigate the word “objective.” (Yes, the concept of “objectivity” itself has a convoluted and interesting history that we cannot take for granted.) Then, the Muslim skeptic would reflect on widely accepted standards of evidence used to undermine belief in God, e.g., scientific evidence, and evaluate them for consistency. For example, if we are supposed to reject the existence of God due to an alleged lack of scientific evidence, should we also reject the existence of things like the passage of time, human consciousness, mathematical entities, etc., that similarly lack scientific or physical modalities? Clearly, most people are not extreme enough to deny such things that clearly have a reality, despite a lack of scientific evidence. And so on.

In this way, the Muslim skeptic is not afraid to question widely held, cherished beliefs, such as the authority of science, in order to unpack hidden assumptions that cloud the issue and confuse people.

Conclusion

To be sure, skepticism is a negative, deconstructive exercise. Its purpose is to use rational argumentation to topple false idols so that the light of Truth has a chance to shine through. One of the greatest Muslim skeptics then, in these terms, was Prophet Ibrahim [alyahis] who cleverly undermined the idolatry of his people, as related in the Qur'an (6: 75-80). By pointing to a star, the moon, and the sun, saying, “This is my lord,” Ibrahim imitated the discourse of his detractors in order to reveal the internal inconsistency of their beliefs.

Muslim intellectual history is full of Muslim skeptics who employed all manner of rational stratagem to evaluate, undermine, critique, and overturn philosophies they deemed dangerous or subversive. This is a lost art Muslims today should be keen to revive, especially given that we find ourselves in an intellectual climate that has proved time and again to be hostile to our worldview. As Sayyidina `Umar once asked, rhetorically, “Are we not on the Truth?” It is time for us to start acting like it.

 

Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, TX. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou also studies traditional Islamic sciences part-time. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity as well as the intersection of western philosophical thought and Islamic intellectual history.

 

The post Confessions of a Muslim Skeptic appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Lega Nord marches against migrants and mosques

Loon Watch - 19 October, 2014 - 23:07

Lega-Nord-Milan-protest

via. IslamophobiaWatch

On Saturday some 40,000 supporters of the right-wing Lega Nord party took to the streets of Milan to protest against immigration, under the slogan “No to invasion”.

Lega Nord secretary Matteo Salvini, who headed the march, stopped the demonstration for several minutes outside the town hall to lead the protesters in chants against a plan to build a mosque in Milan.

The march was joined by a contingent of several hundred militants from the fascist organisation Casa Pound.

The Lega Nord demonstrators were confronted by an anti-racist counter-protest organised under the slogan “Those who love freedom hate racism. Stop Lega Nord”.

Milan protest against Lega Nord

'Burqa ban': Bronwyn Bishop backs down on parliament segregation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2014 - 22:10

Speaker and Senate president reverse decision to force visitors wearing facial coverings to sit in separate area of public gallery

Backdown over parliament house burqa ban politics live

The presiding officers of Australias parliament house have backed down from a controversial decision to segregate Muslim women wearing facial coverings such as burqas or niqabs in the public galleries.

The speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, and the Senate president, Stephen Parry, met on Sunday to reconsider the interim access arrangements announced just over two weeks ago.

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Julie Bindel does not deserve a “no-platform” policy

Indigo Jo Blogs - 19 October, 2014 - 19:31

Julie BindelThis week Julie Bindel (right) is due to speak in a debate at Essex University about pornography. Bindel is a radical feminist best known for her work with Justice for Women, a group that fought to get women who killed violent husbands and partners out of prison starting with Sara Thornton in the early 90s; she has also written extensively on violence against women, on prostitution and people-trafficking, transgenderism and pornography. Someone has started a petition to get her dis-invited, however, and so far it has attracted 200 signatures, mostly from well away from the university. The event she is due to speak at next week is aimed at first year undergrads and is part of their “Think!” seminars, organised by the social sciences faculty. While other attempts to prevent Julie Bindel appearing at university events have been successful, at present she is still listed as attending the event. (I read about this campaign on the Edinburgh-based feminist Louise Pennington’s blog, but she does not accept comments from men anymore. She covered a previous attempt to exclude Julie Bindel, and I did comment on that.)

The cause of the hostility is a series of articles Bindel wrote on transgenderism; she is known to be opposed to male-to-female transgenderism in particular, and is notorious for an article she wrote for the Guardian Weekend magazine in 2004. The article has since been deleted, but is available in image form here; it includes a number of nasty stereotypes of transsexuals such as “at least those women were women, and hadn’t gone to gender reassignment clinics to have their breasts sliced off and a penis made out of their beer bellies”, but the opinions are pretty typical of a certain type of lesbian radical feminist: that transgenderism is a reaction to homophobia, that it consists of reinforcing traditional gender roles rather than breaking them down, and that “a surgically constructed vagina and hormonally grown breasts [do not] make you a woman”. The latter is probably more widely shared outside the rad fem community than the first two, along with the notion that having been a man, and lived as a man, until middle age does not make one particularly well qualified to counsel (female) rape victims (it is possible that some will not mind, but others will).

This event is not about transgenderism, however; it’s about pornography, and radical feminists are well known to be opposed to the popularisation of pornography because it often depicts abuse (albeit of adults, not children) and because it depicts women appearing to enjoy sexual acts that are degrading to them. In addition, the widespread availability of this material means that children can also easily get hold of it, and it is known to have an effect on what boys expect from girls in a relationship and the way they treat them. Some feminists also cast doubt on the consent given to the acts they have to engage in when in pornography; while they may have signed a contract at the beginning, they may not have fully realised or been informed of what acts the ‘job’ would entail. The fact is that there are plenty of objections to pornography, and reasons why it should be restricted or kept away from children especially, and if they did not get a feminist to debate that side of the argument, they would have to get someone with a religious reason to be against pornography, and he would probably come across as not trying to sound too prudish or conservative and his (or her) arguments would not resonate very well, particularly with younger and non-religious students.

Having seen some of the ‘objections’ to Bindel’s appearance that are listed on the Change.org petition, it seems that much of it boils down to “she’s a TERF” (trans exclusionary radical feminist) and little else. The person who wrote the petition is a man, and is from Durham, which is a long way from Essex. Most of the signatories were not from the university, or the area, or even the UK. They all objected to her writings on transgenderism, suggesting that her mere presence would make the university an unsafe place for trans women, and did not even touch on her opinions on pornography or the sex trade (probably they do not know about her campaigning on violence against women). There is one comment (from someone in Hale, which is also a long way from Essex) that says:

It is one thing to tolerate the views of the hatefilled, it is quite another to invite them to toss vitriol into our faces

But having heard Julie Bindel talk about the sex trade (and discussing the idea of a legalised sex trade with a Nevada brothel owner on BBC Woman’s Hour), I can say that she doesn’t “toss vitriol” at anyone or indeed bring her work on other issues, whether it’s domestic violence or transgenderism, into her anti-sex-trade work. She sounded pretty calm and reasonable to me, and had clearly done her research, which is more than can be said for many of the signatories to this petition.

This is not the first time Bindel has faced efforts to prevent her speaking at a university event; sometimes they have involved appealing to the university or the venue concerned, and other times it has consisted of sending her death and rape threats. This reflects a sinister ‘creep’ of the no-platform policy from its original application to racists and fascists to pretty much anyone who has opinions that anyone considers bigoted, even if they are not being given a platform to express those particular opinions; there has been a wave of incidents in which conferences have been cancelled because they were to discuss views that were less than liberal on matters of sexuality, but were not violent, much less racist or fascist. It is right to ban racists and others whose presence on campus may cause violence or intimidate dissenting or minority students or staff; Julie Bindel is not a violent person, has no history of using political violence and is no threat to anyone. (And if you have ever joined in or supported an effort to get a Muslim speaker banned because he has expressed “anti-Semitic” or “homophobic” views at some point, or shared a platform with someone who has, you are participating in the same tendency of using censorship to defeat ideas you dislike.)

There is much I disagree with among Julie Bindel’s views, much as with a lot of other radical feminists, but these are things that can be debated, because they are not going to bring a bunch of thugs into the debate or to hang around the venue afterwards. In the case of feminists hostile to transgender people, one might make an exception for those who harassed them, outed them or tried to interfere in their education or medical treatment, but I have never heard of Julie Bindel doing this. The debate is about pornography and she is one of the best people to put the case against from a feminist point of view, as it is a genre that thrives on the exploitation of women (the other speaker that springs to mind is Gail Dines, who is also known to associate with the same group of radical feminists). I hope Essex University lets the debate go ahead and is not swayed by this small, noisy, self-selecting group of would-be censors.

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Humiliation replaces fear for the women kidnapped by Isis

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2014 - 18:32
Widow with child sold for marriage after raiding Isis militants shot her husband and took them into captivity

They sold Amsha for $12. Other girls and women went for more, much more. But Amsha had a small son and was pregnant with her second child. She had already seen Islamic State (Isis) militants execute her husband in front of her. Now the terror of that crime and the fear of captivity was to be replaced by the indignity and humiliation of being traded like cattle.

A 50-year-old man with a dark beard came to buy me, she recalls. From that day on, I didnt want to live any more.

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'Violent' Muslims? 'Amoral' atheists? It's time to stop shouting and start talking to each other | Reza Aslan and Chris Stedman

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 October, 2014 - 13:30

The logic of blanket statements falls apart when youre confronted with the diversity of the religious and nonreligious experience

Lost in the venomous arguments that have recently been flying back and forth between Muslims and atheists on HBO and on op-ed pages, in the United States and beyond is just how much these two marginalized, underrepresented groups have in common.

According to a Pew poll conducted this year, Muslims and atheists are the two least favorably viewed religious or ethical groups in the US. Both communities are severely underrepresented in the general population roughly 2% of Americans identify as atheists, compared to 1% for Muslims. Both face rising levels of animosity from the general public. And both tend to be defined by the loudest voices within their communities.

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The Lahore courts decision to uphold Asia Bibis death penalty is far from just | Samira Shackle

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2014 - 09:00
Unless influential people oppose Pakistans harsh blasphemy laws, theres no hope for her or many others facing execution

In November 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death in Pakistan. Her crime was allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument with some Muslim neighbours. The case caused an international outcry; politicians and international human rights organisations took it up; lawyers appealed. Today, the Lahore high court upheld the death sentence.

Bibis case shone a spotlight on Pakistans harsh blasphemy laws. The existence of blasphemy laws is not itself unusual. All over the world, different countries restrict what citizens can say about religion; Britain had a blasphemy law until 2008. What is exceptional in Pakistan is the extremity of the penalties, and the light burden of proof. Blasphemy carries a maximum penalty of death, yet the law sets out no standards for evidence, no requirement to prove intent, no punishment for false allegations and, indeed, no guidance on what actually constitutes blasphemy.

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Pig’s Head, Hate Slogans at Athens Muslim Center

Loon Watch - 17 October, 2014 - 23:28

pig head_athens_mosque

Associated Press

Greek police say unknown attackers have placed a severed pig’s head and painted anti-Muslim slogans outside an Islamic studies center in Athens.

Nobody has been arrested over the pre-dawn attack Friday, at a building that also functions as a Muslim prayer center.

The attackers sprayed an obscene slogan against Islam on the sidewalk outside the building, daubed a Christian cross on the door and threw paint at the walls.

The attack was discovered by worshippers going to Friday prayers.

Bigotry targeting Jews and Muslims has increased in Greece in recent years, which also saw the meteoric rise of a Nazi-inspired far-right party. Golden Dawn entered Parliament in 2012, but all its lawmakers now face trial for running a criminal organization that used violence to spread and impose its beliefs.

Religious hate crimes up almost 50% In London

Loon Watch - 17 October, 2014 - 23:14

Lee_Rigby_Memorial

via. IslamophobiaWatch

Religious hate crimes have shot up almost 50% in London in the wake of Lee Rigby’s murder.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that there were 918 religious hate crimes in 2013/14, compared to just 634 the previous year. Nationally, there were 2,273 reported cases of a religious hate crime, up 700 on the previous year.

Statisticians believe the rise is driven by higher levels of hate crime in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Fusillier Rigby was murdered by Michael Adebalajo and Michael Adebowale outside Woolwich Barracks in May last year.

John Flatley, from the Office for National Statistics, said: “We’ve seen a small rise in both racial and religiously motivated hate crime in the wake of the Lee Rigby murder. It is a backlash effect where people are being victimised possibly because of their Muslim origin.”

Speaking to LBC, people at the Brick Lane Mosque believes media coverage of ISIL is to blame. They said: “I am not surprised, with so much time given to Muslim extremist groups that you may get a reaction or a backlash which may result in increased attacks on Muslims.”

LBC, 16 October 2014

The actions of ISIS would not in fact have had much impact on the figures, which are for the financial year ending in April 2014. The first of the horrific beheadings of westerners by ISIS, which has prompted intensive media coverage of the movement, was of James Foley in August this year.

Together we can conquer hatred | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2014 - 18:59

Tomorrow afternoon a memorial service will be held for David Haines, one of the three Britons kidnapped by Isis in Syria. David and Alan Henning travelled to Syria to help their fellow man by delivering vital humanitarian support to those who needed it most. Their desire to help was not driven by their religion, race or politics, but by their humanity. David and Alan were never more alive than when helping to alleviate the suffering of others. They gave their lives to this cause and we are incredibly proud of them.

We are writing this letter because we will not allow the actions of a few people to undermine the unity of people of all faiths in our society. How we react to this threat is also about all of us. Together we have the power to defeat the most hateful acts. Acts of unity from us all will in turn make us stronger and those who wish to divide us weaker. David and Alans killers want to hurt all of us and stop us from believing in the very things which took them into conflict zones charity and human kindness. We condemn those who seek to drive us apart and spread hatred by attempting to place blame on Muslims or on the Islamic faith for the actions of these terrorists.

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As Ebola epidemic tightens grip, west Africa turns to religion for succour

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2014 - 18:48
Fears evangelical churches that hold thousands and services promising healing could ignite new chains of transmission

Every Sunday since she can remember, Annette Sanoh has attended church in Susans Bay, a slum of crowded tin-roofed homes in Freetown. Now as the Ebola epidemic mushrooms in the capital of Sierra Leone, Sanoh has started going to church services almost every night.

I believe we are all in Gods hands now. Business is bad because of this Ebola problem, so rather than sit at home, I prefer to go to church and pray because I dont know what else we can do, said Sanoh, a market trader. At the church she attends, a small building jammed between a hairdressers and two homes, she first washes her hands in a bucket of chlorinated water before joining hands with fellow church members as they pray together.

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