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Gun fired outside east London mosque during Ramadan prayers

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 May, 2019 - 03:09

Police say shot came from blank-firing handgun and have ruled out terrorism after incident at Ilford mosque

The Metropolitan police have launched an investigation after a shot was fired outside a London mosque during prayers for Ramadan.

Police said there were no injuries, and they believe the shot came from a blank-firing handgun, and significantly, they were not treating it as a terrorist incident.

The single shot was fired outside a mosque in Ilford in east London at 10.45pm.

The man with the weapon entered the mosque on the High Road in Seven Kings, but was “ushered out” by those inside, according to police. A shot was then heard.

The incident comes after 51 people were killed in the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand and nearly two years after a terrorist attacked worshippers close to the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, killing one person.

Related: Finsbury Park mosque worshippers shocked by New Zealand terror attack

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Tommy Robinson's offer of MEP salary rejected by charities

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 May, 2019 - 00:01

Women’s groups say pledge to donate hypothetical earnings to victims of grooming is insulting

Tommy Robinson’s pledge to donate his hypothetical European parliament salary to child victims of sexual grooming has been criticised as “an insult to survivors of abuse” by women’s groups who said he was “no ally for the children he claims to stand up for”.

More than 40 women and charities including the End Violence Against Women and Girls Coalition declared in a letter to voters and community leaders in the north-west that they would not accept money from the English Defence League founder, criticising Robinson for “factually incorrect messages about grooming”.

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Britain used to ask Muslims to move here. What happened to us? | Diana Darke

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 May, 2019 - 06:00
Arabic-speaking ‘recruitment’ videos the British government made in the 1960s show a more tolerant nation than today’s hostile environment

In the current climate of Islamophobia, I wonder how many British people are aware of a series of films made in the early 1960s, which were expressly designed to encourage people from Arab countries to come to Britain to work or study. The four films, all in Arabic, were made on behalf of the Foreign Office, and all begin with a mosque skyline and melodic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, the start of the Muslim call to prayer. They are unapologetically religious, eager to show Arabic-speaking Muslims how welcoming Britain is, how Islamic institutions exist in Britain to cater to their cultural and religious traditions, as a friendly home from home.

Related: Nearly 900 stateless children forced to pay UK citizenship fees

Related: Third of Britons believe Islam threatens British way of life, says report

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Asia Bibi begins new life in Canada – but her ordeal may not be over

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 May, 2019 - 11:04

Islamic extremists vow to pursue Christian acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan

Asia Bibi has arrived in Canada hoping to start a new life after her years on death row. But although there is huge relief among campaigners for religious freedom that she is out of Pakistan, her ordeal may not be over.

Islamic extremists have pledged to pursue the Christian woman and kill her for the act of blasphemy of which she was accused and later acquitted. Bibi may spend the rest of her days looking over her shoulder in fear of an international assassin.

Related: Asia Bibi arrives in Canada after leaving Pakistan

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Asia Bibi arrives in Canada after leaving Pakistan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 May, 2019 - 07:57

Christian woman freed last year after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy before she was freed last year, has flown to Canada where she has reunited with her family, her lawyer has said.

“It is a big day,” Saiful Malook told the Guardian. “Asia Bibi has left Pakistan and reached Canada. She has reunited with her family. Justice has been dispensed.”

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Why I defend Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Semitism

Indigo Jo Blogs - 7 May, 2019 - 17:17
 Introduced by Nathaniel Mehr, with a foreword by Jeremy Corbyn MP.Cover of a recent edition of JA Hobson’s Imperialism

Two things happened last week which gave rise to a lot of opinionating on the current state and future of the Labour party. One was another ‘revelation’ about Jeremy Corbyn displaying anti-Semitism, in this case writing a foreword to a 2011 edition of a book with a few anti-Semitic passages. The other was a round of local elections, mostly for district councils in England though with a few unitary authorities, in which Labour lost 84 council seats and suffered a net loss of control of six councils (in practice, they lost one to the Tories and ten to no overall control, while gaining two from the Tories and three from NOC) while the Tories lost 44 councils and 1,330 council seats. In the same elections, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats gained 10 councils and 704 seats and the anti-Brexit Green Party gained 194 seats while UKIP suffered a net loss of 145 council seats, being left with only 31. (The ‘Independent Group’ and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party were not running.) While this could be easily interpreted as evidence of widespread repudiation of Brexit, politicians have as ever interpreted them to mean what they want them to mean, with Theresa May claiming that it is a message from “the people” to politicians to get on with Brexit. Labour supporters, as ever, have taken to spinning a loss as a victory.

The work to which Jeremy Corbyn wrote a foreword, Imperialism by J. A. Hobson, is not one I am familiar with, but on hearing the claims, it seemed obvious that the book was written a long time ago when most people, including some whose ideas are still influential or whose legacy is widely celebrated or whose foundations are still in existence, had views that would be condemned now. It’s well-known, for example, that some thinkers who are regarded as progressives were strong supporters of eugenics, the idea that certain categories of human beings should be discouraged or actively prevented from having children, including disabled people whose impairments were, or were thought to be, hereditary but also including a host of other people presumed to be genetically inferior. This was ultimately discredited by association with Nazi eugenics (though it persisted in law in some countries into the 1970s) and the same can be said about anti-Semitism; however, casual expressions of anti-Semitism can be found in a lot of classic works of English literature, many of which are still taught in schools and colleges around the world including here. When we were taught philosophy at sixth form in the 1990s, the obvious racism in Friedrich Nietzsche’s comments about the Jews (“a people ‘born for slavery’, as Tacitus and the entire ancient world said”) was remarked on but when we saw it in Jane Eyre (“Do you think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land?”), as I recall, it was not. There is currently a campaign to tear down statues of men who committed crimes in the service of Empire and who profited from the slave trade from public spaces and the grounds of major colleges, which has been resisted by many pro-establishment writers with jibes about snowflakes trying to make academia a “safe space” and barely concealed resentment about ‘ingratitude’ or ‘uppityness’.

I have not read the book, so I do not know how much of the book’s content consisted of anti-Semitic statements; a letter in the Guardian last week from Donald Sassoon, emeritus professor at Queen Mary, University of London, claimed it was ten lines out of some 400 pages while Jonathan Freedland claimed that there were “pages and pages” of it. The Morning Star noted that Gordon Brown had cited the book in a Chatham House speech in 2005 and that Tony Blair had noted his importance in the early history of the Labour party by saying that he was “probably the most famous Liberal convert to what was then literally ‘new Labour’”. That others are racist is no excuse to be racist, of course, but it is odd that people have suddenly noticed the anti-Semitism in Hobson’s books when it provides a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with, and if you are willing to vote Tory (or at least in a way that lets a Tory in) despite the racism from some of their senior figures, including one tipped to be leader or prime minister, you need to ask why you care about this type of racism but not that. A common complaint is that people on the Left who are keen opponents of other racism have a “blind spot” about anti-Semitism and would not excuse the same comments being made about Black people, but as Prof Sassoon points out in his letter, nobody seems to have noticed other racist material in the same Hobson book: musings on the “lower races” (Black Africans) and what to do with them.

In the headline to Freedland’s article, he or his editor wail that Corbyn either does not understand anti-Semitism or he does not care. But the answer is more likely to be a third possibility, which is that he does not accept the definition of it that is in vogue right now: that it involves anything which diminishes the standing of the state of Israel, which diverges from Israeli narratives about their conflict with (i.e. oppression of) the Palestinian people, which does not accept Israelis’ right to dominance over them, as well as any questioning of claims from Jews that something is anti-Semitic or (in the light of dissent from secular Jews or people of Jewish origin) the right of the ‘mainstream’ pro-Israel religious Jewish establishment to dictate who we consider a Jew (a right not extended to other minorities, including Muslims as I have previously explained). We sometimes see demands that we show enormous sensitivity to their feelings because of things their teachers and parents and grandparents taught them about persecutions Jews experienced in other countries decades or centuries ago, such as that they always had a bag packed in case the majority population turned on them; one article demanded that we not use the term ‘bloodthirsty’ to describe Israeli treatment of Palestinians, especially children, since this ‘echoes’ the blood libel of Jews killing Christian children (this originated in England, but most people here have never heard of it; I only learned about it as an adult). Yet they demand that Palestinians (it ceased to be an Arab-Israeli conflict a long time ago) be expected to continue suffering so that Jews can dominate somewhere, regardless of the fact that Israel keeps electing governments that support settlement expansion, protect abusive settlers, harass Palestinians in the West Bank on a day-to-day basis and oppose a just peace.

Picture of a white woman wearing a green headwrap putting her face up to the window of a home, which has been reinforced with a metal wire fence, repeating the word "sharmoota" (whore) to the female Palestinian occupant.An Israeli settler woman abuses a Palestinian woman in her home by calling her “sharmoota” (whore) repeatedly. (Source: B’Tselem.)

I should add that non-Jewish Zionists are every bit as self-righteous and dogmatic about policing how other people talk about Israel or Israelis as Jewish ones are. The other day, the Corbynite activist known as Rachael Swindon tweeted a video of what were claimed to be Israeli police abusing Palestinian schoolchildren; the video had actually been shot in Guatemala. If such a mistake had been made about any other country, it would simply have been pointed out; with this, there were demands for apologies because it was assumed that the intention must have been anti-Semitic, or it was deemed racist because it was about Israel. Given that there is plenty of real footage about Israeli soldiers and settlers abusing Palestinians, including children, why are people professing to be outraged that someone circulated one by mistake?

This is not to say that there is nothing to criticise Jeremy Corbyn or his followers for, but most of the anti-Semitism claims are exaggerated or wilfully misinterpreted and unlike in the Conservative party, they concern low-ranking officials rather than MPs or anyone with leadership or ministerial prospects. My experience of them is that they are at worst cult-like, and at best too devoted to him to see any wrong in his actions and, coming back to these elections, they cannot call a spade a spade. They will present a trivial gain (such as in a parish council election) as if it were a great triumph and will present losses, especially if they are smaller than expected or smaller than someone else’s, as gains. There is a kind of “magical thinking” that holds that words or ‘attitudes’ can turn defeats into victories or make victories more likely if people only believe. For example, I saw Aaron Bastani hype up a result in Christchurch, Dorset, in which two Labour candidates won less than half the number of votes as the winning independent candidates, and claim “Labour will get that into four figures next time”. Although Labour did gain seats in areas they had not previously done (e.g. on some councils in West Sussex), they scored a net loss even though it was a smaller one than the Tories’ who are taking the blame for the ongoing Brexit debacle. The only parties to gain were the Liberal Democrats and Greens, both unequivocally anti-Brexit while Labour sits on the fence. As these were district council elections (districts are responsible for housing, planning and refuse collection; counties cover education, libraries, transport and social care) turnout was low and these are an easy target for protest votes. In general elections, people are more likely to vote for candidates who can win, which is usually the Tories, Labour or a smaller party with a strong local or regional base. Sadly, one thing Remainers may not foresee is people who voted to stay in 2016 changing their minds out of faith in Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed plans for, and ability to deliver, socialism outside the EU, despite no such plans having been made available for public scrutiny.

However, the agitators within the Labour Party, those who have left and those sniping from outside do not simply want to remove Corbyn from the leadership; they want to make it impossible for anyone to express a view about the state of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian native people that is inconvenient or damaging to the standing of Israel. The “exposes” have been targeted at people at every level of the Labour party for making statements which, if they were about any other country, would not be classed as racist and rarely called for the state of Israel to be abolished or destroyed but accused it of meddling in other countries’ affairs or used ‘intemperate’ language to describe the violence they saw on TV or in videos. There is also an ongoing movement to demonise the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement as anti-Semitic and people have had visas withdrawn in some countries or been threatened with losing their jobs for participating, or for refusing to sign agreements not to participate. Again, BDS is not aimed at destroying Israel; it is aimed at forcing Israel to the negotiating table to secure a just peace, not a Bantustan surrounded on all sides by a hostile Israel. This is not about combating racism; it is about protecting an oppressive, racist regime which is regarded as a western ally. It is no surprise that partisans of Tony Blair, of the Labour party of the Iraq war, compulsory ID cards, the “foreign criminals scandal”, of Jack Straw of “get rid of the squeegie merchants and winos” and the niqab ‘controversy’ fame, are the ones pushing this agenda. I saw the campaign being described on Twitter as an attempt “by racists to smear anti-racists as ‘racists’” and it is hard to disagree with that, whether they all realise their attitudes are racist or not.

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WuduMate – Coming to a Workplace Near You?

Inayat's Corner - 7 May, 2019 - 12:56

During the course of helping set up the network infrastructure for a large new building in London I went for a wander – curious git that I am. On one of the floors I saw two rooms marked “Male Contemplation Room” and “Female Contemplation Room” respectively. I have often come across these types of rooms in other buildings and they are very often utilised by Muslim members of staff to perform their daily prayers.

However, this was only the second time I had seen facilities specially installed to allow Muslims to perform their ablutions prior to saying their prayers. At a previous site in Milton Keynes I had seen actual wudu facilities as you would find in a mosque and I was very impressed. Admittedly that was at a very large employer and they could well afford to provide such amenities. Anyway, I took the above pic at the new building of something called “WuduMate” and it wasn’t half bad. The water gushed forth quite forcefully as soon as you placed your hands near the spout and there did not unfortunately appear to be any type of manual control so it all made a bit of a mess around the contraption and you would need to clean up afterwards to avoid inconveniencing others or causing a slip hazard. Nevertheless, it was a lovely gesture in the middle of the city of London.

I wonder how widespread such facilities are? It has to be good for the mental health and well-being of staff to be able to take a few minutes out of their working day to say their prayers so it is surely in the interests of employers to provide such facilities.

Anyway, with the month of Ramadan now underway I wish you all a blessed month and may we all use the opportunity to grow spiritually stronger. Amin.

George Clooney vows to keep up pressure on Brunei over gay-sex death penalty

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 May, 2019 - 11:23

Actor calls for sustained commercial boycott after Brunei puts moratorium on death penalty for gay sex

George Clooney has promised to keep up pressure on Brunei after the oil-rich country’s sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced it would not enforce the death penalty for gay sex.

Gay sex remains illegal in Brunei, punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

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Revealed: new evidence of China's mission to raze the mosques of Xinjiang

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 May, 2019 - 02:00

Guardian and Bellingcat investigation finds more than two dozen Islamic religious sites partly or completely demolished since 2016

Around this time of the year, the edge of the Taklamakan desert in far western China should be overflowing with people. For decades, every spring thousands of Uighur Muslims would converge on the Imam Asim shrine, a group of buildings and fences surrounding a small mud tomb believed to contain the remains of a holy warrior from the eighth century.

Pilgrims from across the Hotan oasis would come seeking healing, fertility, and absolution, trekking through the sand in the footsteps of those ahead of them. It was one of the largest shrine festivals in the region. People left offerings and tied pieces of cloth to branches, markers of their prayers.

Related: China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority – podcast

Related: Bulldozing mosques: the latest tactic in China’s war against Uighur culture | Rachel Harris

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Saatchi Gallery covers up artworks after Muslim visitors' complaints

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 May, 2019 - 17:15

Paintings by SKU deemed blasphemous for combining Islamic text with nude images

A leading contemporary art gallery covered up works featuring an Islamic declaration of faith after complaints from Muslim visitors who said the artworks were blasphemous.

The Saatchi Gallery in west London hosted an exhibition of new material by the artist SKU featuring a variety of works. However, it decided to cover up two paintings that incorporated the text of the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam, in Arabic script juxtaposed with images of nude women in the style of the US flag.

Related: Eyewitness: Saatchi Gallery, London

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Australians accepting of migrants but negative towards Islam, poll finds

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2019 - 23:00

New wide-ranging YouGov data gives insight into the Australian identity

Lovers of regulation, supporters of same-sex couples and very liberal when it comes to abortion – this is how a sample of a thousand Australians perceive themselves.

Australia is a country that accepts gay couples, hates the big banks, considers second-generation migrants “Australian”, but the majority feel negatively towards Islam.

Related: Almost half of Australians believe immigration should be reduced, poll finds

The project is a new annual survey of global attitudes in 23 of the world's biggest countries, covering almost 5 billion people.

Related: What is the Guardian YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project?

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