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Pakistani activist fears he will be killed like his father over blasphemy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 January, 2017 - 17:34

Fatwa issued against Shaan Taseer for allegedly insulting Islam six years after his governor father died in similar controversy

A Pakistani rights activist whose politician father was assassinated in 2011 for supposedly insulting Islam says he fears the same fate after a hardline religious group issued a fatwa demanding his execution and the police launched an investigation into allegations he had committed blasphemy.

Shaan Taseer said the Sunni Tehreek, a grouping of clerics drawn from the Barelvi movement, was “gunning for my blood and provoking people to take my life” over a Christmas video he posted on social media in which he criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Related: How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan

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The Reina atrocity shows how deeply Islamic fanaticism has taken hold in Turkey | Elif Shafak

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 January, 2017 - 16:54
My country has been in the grip of intolerance, culminating in the New Year’s Eve massacre. Hopes that Turkey could be a model for the Muslim world have died

Last year was one of incessant tension and sorrow for Turkey. A series of deadly terror attacks left the entire country fearful, traumatised. There were public funerals in almost every town, but even grief can’t unite a society as polarised as ours.

Related: Istanbul nightclub attack caps off dreadful year for Turkey

A group of students produced an inflatable Santa Claus, which they first circumcised and then stabbed multiple times

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Cory Bernardi and George Christensen to speak at $150-a-head dinner for anti-Islam group

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 January, 2017 - 07:12

Conservative Liberal parliamentarians to appear at dinner hosted by Q Society to raise funds to defend a defamation case brought by a halal certifier

Conservative Liberal party members George Christensen and Cory Bernardi will be drawcard speakers at a $150-a-head dinner next month to help raise funds for an anti-Islam organisation to defend a defamation case brought by a halal certifier.

The dinner will be held in Melbourne on 10 February, with the cost of the tickets including a “sparkling welcome, a variety of fine finger food and a generous serve of free speech”.

Related: Anti-halal campaigner sued over claims Islamic certification supports terrorism

Related: George Christensen on poverty, priesthood and a flirtation with One Nation

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Burkinis and belonging: 'It's this feeling the beach and hijab don't mix'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 January, 2017 - 20:58

Australia prides itself on its relaxed beach culture but many Muslim women fear stares – and stereotyping

When I was 13, I started wearing hijab. I had always loved swimming but had to give it up until my mother bought some Lycra fabric from Lincraft and sewed me a fluorescent pink-and-blue two-piece wetsuit with a matching swimming cap. The local pools refused to admit me wearing the suit but I was free to go to the beach. So go to the beach I did.

Related: Why we wear the burkini: five women on dressing modestly at the beach

Related: Who belongs on the Australian beach? A history of gendered and racial possession

Related: I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away | Aheda Zanetti

Related: France’s burkini ban exposes the hypocrisy of its secularist state | Iman Amrani

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Mohammed Ramzan obituary

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 January, 2017 - 18:00

My father, Mohammed Ramzan (“Abu”), who has died aged 79, was a community activist and religious teacher in the Sufi tradition.

In 1969 on a trip to Pakistan he met Barkat Ali, a former British Indian Army officer who had renounced the world, vowing to live the life of a fakir. Barkat Ali began a movement, Dar-ul-Ehsan (“House of Blessings”) with three aims: selfless service to all without discrimination, zikr or the rhythmic chanting of the names of Allah in communal worship and the active communication of Islam in what he considered its true form. Abu became his murid (disciple) and was appointed Barkat Ali’s representative in the UK.

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Top Ten Good News Stories of 2016

altmuslim - 31 December, 2016 - 20:09

In Altmuslim tradition, we want to usher out the year and welcome 2017 by relating the Top Ten (in our opinion) Good Muslim News Stories of 2016. From triumphant stories at the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to the breakout Muslim stars -- Khizr and Ghazala Khan -- from the Democratic National Convention to an all girls, all Muslim FemSTEM robotics team in California that defied the odds, there was plenty of joy and celebration as well! Check it out, in no particular order!

The post Top Ten Good News Stories of 2016 appeared first on altmuslim.

Intolerant post-Brexit Britain: history shows we can be better than this | Hugh Muir

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 December, 2016 - 11:29
The surge in hate crimes after 23 June stands in stark contrast to the decency shown to black GIs in the UK during the second world war

Are we the nation suggested by the 41% spike in hate crimes that followed the Brexit vote? Where non-white Britons are abused in the street and people harangued for wearing the wrong clothes or presuming that they might speak in anything but English? Where Nadiya Hussain’s popularity after winning The Great British Bake Off could not save her from being confronted by the boor on a train who declared “I ain’t sitting near a Muslim”?

Where women wearing the hijab are attacked in the street. Where a dark-skinned woman exercising her constitutional legal right to challenge the executive is threatened and bullied by assailants who tell her – not that she may be wrong – but that she should leave the country? It feels close to that now. The spike has fallen from its peak; still equilibrium seems distant: the air seems toxic.

When white GIs objected to black GIs at a village dance, they themselves were ordered to leave

Related: National anti-hate crime campaign to launch after spike in incidents

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Letter to Michelle Obama From a Christian Pastor: Aafia is to Pakistanis what Kayla is to Americans

Muslim Matters - 31 December, 2016 - 02:45

December 25, 2016

Dear Mrs. Obama,

I was the campus minister for Kayla Mueller when she was a student at Northern Arizona University, and maintained close contact with Kayla until she was taken hostage by ISIS in August of 2013.   Kayla was a mentor to my daughter as she became involved in human rights advocacy.  I have worked closely with Kayla’s family since she was taken hostage and have continued to work with the Muellers since Kayla’s death, as they continue to try to learn all that they can about Kayla’s captivity and death. I participated in the Hostage Policy Review, and like you, my heart is heavy with all the suffering we continue to see in Syria and among the Syrian refugees.

I write to you as mother to mother; and also as a mother whose heart and care extends far beyond my circle of family to all God’s children.  As you know, in July of 2014, ISIS issued an ultimatum demanding the payment of a 5 million Euro ransom or the release of Aafia Siddiqui, or Kayla Mueller would be killed in 30 days.  I did not know Aafia’s story at that time, and from my perspective, the Muellers were never told of the allegations of rendition and torture or grievances with respect to Aafia’s human rights, one of many important aspects of Kayla’s kidnapping and captivity that was not shared with the Muellers.  I still wonder how that could be so if we (the USA) were serious about understanding the reasons behind the ISIS kidnapping, torture and eventual murder of our US citizens; in order for the families to respond in a way that would have given them the greatest perspective and clarity in securing their loved ones safe return, sparing the American hostages from the horrific torture and brutal taking of their lives.

Once it was learned that Kayla had been given a life sentence in retaliation for Aafia’s sentence, I thought we should reach out to the Siddiqui family, but we were strongly discouraged by the FBI.  With only 72 hours or less until the timeline to meet the demands was set to expire, I reached out to Mauri Saalakhan, President of Peace thru Justice (now The Aafia Foundation). Mr. Saalakhan’s response was one of unreserved compassion and assurance that Aafia and her family would not want violence done to anyone in Aafia’s name, under any circumstance.

Despite their grievances and grief, Aafia’s mother and sister in Pakistan were unwilling to remain silent in the face of the torture of a young woman they did not know, even though Kayla Mueller was a citizen of a country they felt were doing great harm to their own daughter.  On the eve, which I thought was to be Kayla’s last, we received a letter from Aafia’s family urging Kayla’s captors to release her without condition, ransom or barter, but out of compassion and righteousness.  We also received a letter from Mauri Saalakhan, an American Muslim human rights leader, making a public plea drawing from the Koran’s teaching of righteousness and compassion, that also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Kayla Mueller.

We shared with Mauri and Aafia’s family the letter sent to President Obama pleading that consideration be given to Aafia’s situation, with hopes that both women could be returned to their families and their countries.  The Siddiqui family acted with urgency and care, holding Kayla’s situation in confidence.  To this day, they have spoken little of their efforts to gain Kayla’s freedom, allowing Kayla’s family to always lead with what is shared and what is held, understanding the pain of a mother whose daughter has been taken and tortured.

Mrs. Obama, I think you can imagine the hope those letters brought in that 11th hour, and yet the Muellers were instructed to wait—to not immediately forward them to Kayla’s captors despite her dire situation.  One could only imagine that the reason was because Kayla’s release was imminent through other channels, but as you know, that was not the case.  We were told to request that Peace thru Justice not release this plea publicly despite the influence it could possibly have through the many influential and international Muslim leaders that are part of their 100,000 plus network.

At the time that we were trying to save Kayla’s life, the Siddiqui family was also trying to determine if Aafia was still alive in Carswell Federal prison, as their access to Aafia has too often and for too long been compromised.  There has been far too much secrecy about Aafia’s care in our federal correction system; allegations of rendition, torture, solitary confinement—denial of basic human rights.  All of this fuels a cycle of violence, as Aafia is to Pakistanis what Kayla is to Americans—a symbol of injustice and torture imposed for political reasons.  We as a country are better than this, we should not be afraid of transparency in our corrections system.  We should be eager to either demonstrate beyond a doubt the standard of care and human rights we proclaim, or take the necessary steps to correct a situation as best we can.

There are many steps that could have been taken that would have assured Aafia’s human rights were being protected, but also would have possibly made a way for Kayla Mueller’s safe return.  Why did we not even quietly give the International Red Cross and Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, immediate access to Aafia to determine her medical condition, asking that the same access be given to Kayla Mueller?  Why not, in light of the Senate Torture Report, look seriously at the circumstances of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s disappearance, allegations of being held and tortured in our CIA prison in Afghanistan, and the ongoing secrecy and allegations of mistreatment in Carswell prison?  I came to the devastating conclusion that Kayla was left behind in the hands of ISIS because keeping the truth of Aafia’s situation hidden was more important than the safe return of a bright and committed American aide worker.  We must right our wrongs and we must afford Aafia Siddiqui her human rights under international law.  This is the time when we, as a country, must face these allegations and act with justice, righteousness and compassion, for Aafia and her loved ones’ sake, and as a step to end this horrific cycle of violence that continues to claims victims across this world.

I am writing to you this Christmas night, as I believe that like me, you and President Obama seek the peace and hope of this holy season for people of all faiths and all nations.  I know that what we are asking takes tremendous moral courage in the face of hatred, bigotry, racism and fear, but that is our Christian calling—our response—to the gift of Christmas in our Christian tradition.  I continue to hold Kayla close to my heart, remembering her compassion, moral courage, resiliency, strength and the unwavering compassion that claimed her life.  It has always been my belief that had Kayla been released she would have worked tirelessly for the release of all captives, including Aafia Siddiqui, having been drawn into Aafia’s situation through her own kidnapping, solitary confinement and torture.    I have vivid memories of Kayla protesting the torture at Abu Graib while a student at Northern Arizona University, and can picture her in front of a hand-painted “No to Torture” sign as if it was yesterday.

Mrs. Obama, I feel a great debt to the family and loved ones of Aafia Siddiqui, for the seriousness and urgency in which they responded when they learned of Kayla Mueller’s situation.  I pray and I hope, that in the name of peace and compassion, and in response to a Divine goodness that transcends our knowledge and understanding that you will urge President Obama to do what is just and right by Aafia Siddiqui.

Peace,

Rev. Kathleen Day
Campus Minister
United Christian Ministry
Northern Arizona University
Kmd.day@gmail.com

________________________________

Please sign the petition asking First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama for a compassionate release and repatriation of Aafia Siddiqui.

Watership Down: the significance of Cowslip

Indigo Jo Blogs - 30 December, 2016 - 23:09

A yellowish book cover with the words "Watership Down" and the author's name "Richard Adams" on it, with a drawing of two rabbits among some bushes.In today’s Guardian, there is a piece by Giles Fraser about what might be the significance of the book Watership Down, whose author Richard Adams died earlier this week. Focusing on the part of the story where the migrant rabbits are briefly taken into Cowslip’s warren, where the rabbits had ready supply of vegetables (flayrah), are uninterested in the old stories of El-Ahrairah, the “prince of a thousand enemies”, that they knew and regularly were caught in snares, Fraser cites an American theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, who opined that story “contained an important message about the relationship between stories and moral values; that Adams’ rabbits – like human beings – are shaped into a community by the power of the stories they tell each other. And these stories are the bearers of our moral values”. This leads me to wonder how closely he or Fraser read the book.

Cowslip’s warren was essentially a supply of wild rabbit meat for a nearby farmer; farmers normally apply pesticides to keep rabbits from eating their crops (and it’s quite legal to shoot them also), but he wanted well-fed rabbits. As they no longer had to stray far from the warren to find food - far enough to attract foxes or badgers, or to take a risk crossing a road, the stories Adams had the wild rabbits telling each other no longer had any meaning, though they had a statue (or ‘shape’) of El-Ahrairah on the wall of the warren. However, the rabbits were aware of the danger but lived in denial, which is why anyone who asked where another rabbit was was quickly interrupted - the likely answer was that the rabbit in question was lunch. The Cowslip rabbits did in fact have poets, “beautiful and sick” like the others as Fiver, the runt rabbit who had persuaded the migrants to leave the original warren which was about to be destroyed for a housing development, called them, but they were not telling stories that were about survival. So, the lack of interest in storytelling was not the cause of their situation but a symptom; the refusal to help Bigwig when he was caught in a snare was another.

Is there a political message in Watership Down? Adams always said there wasn’t, that it was a book intended to entertain his daughters. A lot of kids’ books are set in real places, but Watership Down is written in very adult language (complete with swear words) and most books aimed purely at children don’t come with a detailed map and aren’t based on serious research into the habits of the animals featured. The most important encounter the migrant rabbits had was not with the Cowslip warren but with Efrafa, the overcrowded police-state warren where most rabbits never saw daylight but were more likely to die of old age than of predation or disease. It was the 70s and comparisons with communism are inevitable, but the idea that a heavily controlled environment might make someone safer but might result in them having not much of a life is applicable to a lot of other situations - the lot of disabled or mentally-ill people in institutions, for example - whether or not Adams was thinking of you. It would also be easy to read a very conservative message into the book, that nature is as it is, “red in tooth and claw” and that the same applies to humans; whatever we do to improve life for everyone, if it means people can’t do what they want and when, is the start of a slippery slope to totalitarianism, the start of a “road to serfdom”.

I don’t think Watership Down is a political fable like Animal Farm. It’s more of a celebration of freedom in general, and of the “great outdoors”, of nature, of wildlife, and no doubt the stories would have brought the scenery to life on a long, slow journey to the West Country but it would also have encouraged people to get out there more and to take more notice of what they saw when they did. Like rabbits, people (and children especially) need to have the freedom to run around and play, to imagine, to live life, and being cooped up is no life.

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12 Issues and Stories that Captured the American Muslim Communities in 2016

altmuslim - 30 December, 2016 - 16:58

From the firing of Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins back in January for wearing a headscarf in solidarity with Muslims to the possibility of a Muslim registry with the election of Donald J. Trump as our next President of the United States in November – 2016 has been a banner year of issues, controversies, election coverage and the loss of some great Muslims.

The post 12 Issues and Stories that Captured the American Muslim Communities in 2016 appeared first on altmuslim.

First National Latino Muslim Conference “Convivencia” in the United States

Muslim Matters - 28 December, 2016 - 23:39

By Isa Parada

On January 31st 2016, the IslamInSpanish (Centro Islamico) was open to the public with over 500 community members eagerly waiting to see this unique center. It was an amazing sight watching people from all backgrounds and races coming in and out of the center for over five hours. Interestingly enough, in another room, over 20 Latino Muslim leaders from different parts of the U.S were discussing a very important question.

Where do we go from here?

In this meeting, the idea of having the first Latino Muslim Convention in the U.S. sprouted and almost 11 months later in the same city where the Centro Islamico opened (Houston), Muslims were present for this historic convention, in collaboration with the Muslimmatters sponsored Texas Dawah Convention.

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Sh Reymundo Nur, an Imam in California and one of the first Latino American Muslim to study overseas in 1984 (Imam Malik Saud University), set the tone by giving the khutbah on Dec 23, 2016, at the joint conference (TDC and Convention) in Arabic, Spanish and English. His message of inclusivity, diversity and celebrating these unique qualities to the congregation was well received. It was also a visual reality seeing a convert of over 45 years, Panamanian, Afro-Caribbean and speaking 3 Languages without his message skipping a beat to a diverse crowd.

As the convention started, participants saw a Latino Muslim family drive across the country from Sacramento, CA to a vanload of Latinos from Chicago to a busload of people coming from Dallas-FortWorth. We had people flying in from Buffalo, New York and Mobile, Alabama. We had brothers from the tri-state area to sisters from New Orleans. Close to 250 Latinos came to experience a historic event including curious observers from the Texas Dawah Convention.

islam in spanish

Issues that were discussed ranged from sisters being sought out for marriage for a Green Card to finding methods to combat the hostility that Muslims and Latinos are experiencing on a daily basis. These are issues that have a major impact on our community and it was wonderful to hear a diverse group of speakers leading the discussion and striving to find solutions to these difficult affairs.

We were blessed to have scholars like Sh Reymundo Nur to Sh Muhammad Isa Garcia, an Argentinean graduate from Umm AlQura. We had well experienced Imams like Sh Yusef Maisonet (Muslim for almost 50 years) from Masjid Salam in Mobile, Alabama to Imam Abdullah Hernandez in Pearland, Texas. The audience experienced advice from educators like Sh Omar Hernandez, first Guatemalan graduate from Madinah University to motivational speakers like Muhajid Fletcher, founder and CEO of IslamInSpanish.

From hearing therapist Haleh Banani give wonderful advice to all about the sanctity of marriage to having Wilfredo Ruiz, Head of CAIR en Espanol, speaking eloquently about all of us knowing our God given rights as Muslims and also as citizens of this country. Alhamdulillah, there was not an ounce of tension nor discord in the two days these issues were discussed; rather the environment was one of openness and healthy dialogue. All sessions were live streamed for a small fee.

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There was a Q&A session where participants openly disagreed with the format of the majority of sessions being both in English and Spanish. There were Latinos from the Southwest side of America who felt more comfortable with the lectures being in Spanish, while most of the Latinos from the East Coast and Chicago preferred learning in English. Young and old, men and women came to the microphone to express their most intimate feelings and to state their grievances. There were lessons to be learned from all who spoke.

One of the most important sessions of the convention was when the achievement of leaders and organizations, which have been tirelessly working to educate Latinos about Islam for over 20 years, were highlighted and recognized. To see Ustadh Abdurazaq Lebron, spokesperson for IslamInSpanish awarding a special plaque to a member of one of the oldest of Latino Muslim organizations, Omar Ocasio from Alianza Islamica was truly a special moment. Br Omar spoke about the brothers and sisters who dedicated their lives to dawah and who are no longer with us (May Allah have mercy on their souls) had many in the audience emotional, because of the realization of not knowing when Allah will take one’s soul and to work hard to accumulate good deeds for the sake of Allah. It is hoped that recognizing pioneers like Br. Omar Pena from Cuba, Br Abu Mujahid Fletcher and Sr Ruth Saleh, who planted the seed, taught the younger brothers and sisters about honoring and respecting the work and effort of those who came before them.

The future looks bright, knowing there are Latino American Muslims, brothers and sisters, striving to learn alongside one of the first institutes of Islamic Sciences in Barranquilla, Colombia being built for the development of future educators and leaders in the Muslim community.

This event was truly inspiring.

Imam Isa Parada is Educational Coordinator/Spiritual Advisor at Masjid Sabireen in Houston, TX and a graduate of the Islamic University of Madinah.

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