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The Satanic Verses sowed the seeds of rifts that have grown ever wider | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 29 September, 2018 - 18:00
Three decades after Salman Rushdie’s novel ignited Muslim fury and shook the world, we’ve yet to learn the right lessons

Thirty years ago last week, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was published. Rushdie was then perhaps the most celebrated British novelist of his generation. His new novel, five years in the making, had been expected to set the world alight, though not quite in the way that it did.

The novel was, Rushdie suggested, both about “migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death” and “a serious attempt to write about religion and revelation from the point of view of a secular person”. At its heart was a clash of race, religion and identity that, ironically, prophesied the controversy that engulfed the novel and still shapes our lives today.

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Want justice? Tell us your whole life story first

Indigo Jo Blogs - 27 September, 2018 - 21:49

A stack of papers, including a ring binder at the bottomYesterday it was reported that the police in some parts of the UK, notably London and Merseyside, demand that women reporting rape submit both medical records and an extraordinary array of electronic data to them which can then be handed over to the Defence. Complainants are being asked to hand over all of their counselling notes and school health and social services records as well as all data from their electronic devices such as text messages, social media postings, documents and web browsing history; this data can then be kept for up to 100 years. People are being advised that if they fail to disclose what is demanded, the prosecution cannot go ahead; meanwhile, suspects cannot be forced to hand over this amount of information and police are complaining that they are inundated with data.

The obvious problem is that victims — as most complainants are — are being asked to submit virtually everything they have written down and everything anyone has written about them in the past several years, possibly their whole adult and adolescent lives, in order that the defence be furnished with a raft of mostly irrelevant information they can use to discredit the case against their client with baseless suggestions about the complainant’s history or character. This perhaps indicates that defence lawyers are having to get more sophisticated than simply making the complainant out to be a harlot (by, for example, getting a few of the accused’s friends to testify that they had sex with her) — they can portray her instead as mentally ill, or reveal that a teacher once said (ten years ago) that she was the kind of girl that made up stories or that she “had a fertile imagination”. In one particular case (in which a woman was attacked by a stranger in public), the prosecution service obtained a woman’s mental health records that revealed that she had an illness that sometimes made people prone to risky or unusual sexual behaviour and dropped the case, fearing that if the defence became aware of this it would fatally undermine the case; the rapist proceeded to rape another woman.

Such enormous demands for disclosure can only feature as a deterrent for women seeking to report anything but the most stereotypical of sexual assaults — the situation of the respectable librarian attacked out of a bush on her way home. However, what must also be feared is what else might be done with this information. It would no doubt give clues to a woman’s immigration status and that of a number of her friends, along with their whereabouts, as well as a whole raft of other information that might be used to incriminate her or her friends, particularly if they are involved in any kind of organised protest movement or a political movement that the security forces consider to be “of interest” (which may or may not be rational — see MI6’s obsession with Michael Foot’s supposed Russian connections). In other words, it’s an enormous database of information that the police could use to do anything they want with; let’s not be deceived by their complaints about being inundated. If the victim is someone they are interested in anyway, or associated with them, they will know what to do with the data.

We may think the police are there to serve us, the public; in fact, they serve the Queen, or in other words, the State. It should be no surprise that they make extraordinary demands for information which can be used for their own purposes as well as for making prosecuting rape more difficult (thus cutting costs) in all but the easiest cases. It does appear to be pandering to stereotypes about an awful lot of reports of rape being false and complainants being liars (currently it is only in cases of rape or sexual assault where such disclosures are required) but it still means that justice is not for all: it is only for those who have nothing to hide and no foibles or peccadilloes. It has to end.

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7 Things That Can Make or Break MSAs (Muslim Student Associations)

altmuslim - 26 September, 2018 - 18:42
Throughout the past decade, I’ve worked with a variety of MSAs (Muslim Student Associations) in different capacities. My first days as a Muslim were spent as an undergraduate, stumbling through leadership positions in my first MSA and largely failing to bring about good programming or developing a cohesive community. After graduating and working with other […]

Show some respect

Indigo Jo Blogs - 26 September, 2018 - 18:17

A view through an archway into the courtyard of the Qayrawiyyin mosque in Fes, Morocco. There is a tiled marble floor and a fountain in the middle, with a portico at the rear and a Moroccan type square minaret behind it.Yesterday I came across a tweet on Twitter which made some unpleasant generalisations about Muslim women and Islamic knowledge. It claimed that when men study the Shari’ah, it leads to “More ibadah > more humility > teaching others > dawah > serving the community” while when women do the same, they end up becoming hijabi fashion bloggers, then eventually taking off the hijab and dating non-Muslim men. I became aware of this because someone quoted him and noted that they were disgusted with his remarks, but I also discovered that a few of the people I follow also follow him. The man is not noted as a scholar or speaker on Islam but is a business copyrighter and branding consultant of some sort based in Dubai, and his website consists of endorsements by various customers. When this comment was challenged, another individual said that it was not all Muslim women who studied Islam that were described but just “SOAS students”, which is also a slur on a great many of them.

SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, is part of the University of London, England, and as the name implies, attracts a large ethnic minority student base, including Muslims, a lot of whom are politically engaged. The comment seems to be based on the example of one woman on Twitter who studied Islamic studies at SOAS, wore hijab until a year or so ago then stopped. That doesn’t mean she is dating non-Muslims (or indeed anyone) and certainly not that all Muslim women who study there and are practising Muslims on arrival, or graduation, stop practising or start doing things well-known to be haraam (forbidden in Islam) shortly after. Some students are Muslim, some are not, some are practising to one degree or another, some are not, just like in any British university.

The tweet mentioned in my introduction shows great ignorance about the importance for Muslims of gaining Islamic knowledge. In this day and age, the great majority of Islamic scholars are men, and the majority of Islamic colleges of learning only take men and boys. Typically when a community decides to establish a centre of learning it will be to teach imams and they are male, and a college for girls will be an afterthought. The reasons typically are that separate facilities are needed for boys and girls (or men and women) so that they mix as little as possible if at all, and it is a lot easier to just take one sex and that usually means males. This puts women at a great disadvantage in the community because, among other things, you will have a whole generation of teachers of Islam teaching about matters of physical purity who have little idea of what it is like to be a woman or how the female body works, or arbitrating a Muslim divorce case having never discussed the issues at stake with women — they may, however, have imbibed prejudices against women from hearing complaints from men over cups of tea or dinner over many years. A further reason why it is important for women to have access to Islamic learning is that they will be able to teach their children, which is important as they are likely to spend more time with them than their fathers who, regardless of their level of knowledge, will probably be out working when the mother might not be, especially when the children are very young. These are just a few of the many reasons. All in all, a community in which everyone has knowledge is of greater quality than one in which only 50% of the population do.

There are, of course, cases in which it is blameworthy to seek Islamic knowledge — anyone who does so in order to compete with scholars or argue with fools, according to a hadith, will go to Hell, as will someone who became a scholar to gain fame and admiration. However, we do not presume that this is the reason why anyone studied the religion. Early Islamic history is full of examples of very worthy female scholars, some of whom were the wives of well-known male scholars and some of whom gave public lectures attended by men and women, and some of whose students were well-known imams such as al-Shafi’i. They were particularly renowned as transmitters of hadith and it has been observed that none of them were liars, of which there were a large number among male hadith transmitters, for various reasons (e.g. sectarianism, raconteurs who used hadith as entertainment). Some of these are scholars of the salaf, and excepting the Sahabiyyat (whose knowledge of the deen came from living with the Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his Companions rather than from studying in a school), they are the best of women in Islam, yet according to this copywriter chap in Dubai, they should be considered the worst! How so?

There is a marked tendency nowadays among Muslim men on the Internet towards imbibing ideas from the alt-right and blaming ‘uppity’ women for their failures or the fact that they cannot get married or find a ‘good’ submissive wife. This is not entirely new; a few years ago articles from the “Save the Males” site (run by Henry Makow, inventor of the game Scruples) appeared on Muslim bulletin boards on a regular basis and nowadays Jordan Peterson is the favoured reactionary misogynist. They extol the virtues of patriarchy which they say is the Islamic model for the family and for how men and women should relate to each other, yet they do not ask if they are the sort of patriarch anyone would want in charge of their affairs. They are similar in mentality to the so-called hoteps among the Black community, men who hark back to a past in which men were kings and women were their willing and obedient servants. (They often idealise ancient Egypt, hence the name.)

And when vulgarity and misogyny meet, you get men who show no respect to women, however religious or chaste they might be. Every woman is a whore except their mother; there is always some reason to doubt that she is worthy, no matter if she does all her prayers, knows the Qur’an by heart and wears the requisite loose dress and headscarf or even covers her face. If she’s not corrupt now, she will be in the future; they all are. They will fault a woman if she is ignorant or if she has knowledge. Since we are expected in Islam to think the best of people, especially other Muslims, and not entertain undue suspicion or the claims of backbiters and gossips, we should not be listening to or chatting with a misogynist of this type who does not think of the implications of the things he says. If you are a man, how do you think your wife would feel if she found you bantering with a man who shows open disrespect for her and others like her? How would you feel if a white (non-Muslim) co-worker you thought was a friend kept an online feed that was full of material portraying your people as drug-dealers or child-molesters? Show her, and your sisters, mother, and other women some respect, and cut these men out of your circle.

Image source: Abdel Hassouni, sourced from Wikimedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (BY-SA 4.0) licence.

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Belief and Rationalism in Islamic Theology

Lost Islamic History - 26 September, 2018 - 03:08

The following is a translation of a section from Nūr al-Dīn al-Ṣābūnī’s al-Bidāyah fī Uṣūl al-Dīn in which he discusses the Māturīdī perspective on whether man is expected to recognize Divine Oneness (Tawḥīd) based purely on reason or if he is only responsible once he hears the Message. This is one of the larger points of disagreement between the two main schools of Sunni ʿaqīdah – the Māturīdī and the Ashʿarī.

Nūr al-Dīn al-Ṣābūnī was a Bukharan scholar of theology who likely lived his entire life in Central Asia. He died in Bukhara in 580/1184.

Īmān and Islām

Ahl al-Qibla have agreed that belief (īmān) in God is mandatory and disbelief (kufr) is forbidden. However, they differed on whether it is mandatory due to the mind’s rational capacities or [when one becomes aware of] revelation. So for he who never received the message, if he died upon disbelief, will he be punished or not?

al-Ḥākim al-Shahīd said in al-Muntaqā that Abū Ḥanīfa said “There is no excuse for one to be ignorant of his Creator when he sees the creation of the Heavens and the Earth and the creation of himself and all other created things.” Abū Ḥanīfa further stated, “If Allah had not sent a messenger, it would have been mandatory for creation to recognize Him through reason.”

The Ashʿarīs said that nothing is made mandatory through reason, but rather one can know the good and bad in things [through reason], and can recognize that the Universe is created in time and the eternality of the Maker.

The Atheists [Malāḥida], the Shīʿa [Rawāfiḍ], the Anthropomorphists [Mushabbiha], and the Khawārij said that one cannot know anything through reason, and [thus] it is not mandatory to believe anything through reason.

The Muʿtazila said that reason necessitates belief in Allah, thankfulness for His blessings, and establishes rulings itself.

As for Ahl al-Sunnah, reason is an instrument through which one can know the good and bad of things, the necessity of belief, and thankfulness to the Benefactor. And the One who causes man to know and necessitates in reality is Allah, but it is through the avenue of reason.

As for a youth who is sane, if he was in a situation which enables him to seek out proofs, is it necessary for him to recognize the existence of God, or not? Imām al-Māturīdī and many of the scholars of ʿIrāq said that it is necessary, while others said that nothing is necessary for him before puberty.

The proof for this approach towards the mind is His verse “Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned” [al-Isrāʾ: 36]. Hearing is characterized by the ability to hear things, sight is characterized by the ability to see things, and the heart is characterized by rationality.

Hearing and sight cannot dispense with reason because the ears can hear truth and falsehood and the eyes can see truth and falsehood, but it is impossible to distinguish between them without the rationality of the mind.

This is clarified through the fact the sayings of the Prophet are lone reports. In essence, a report can be true or false, but it is impossible [in this case] to distinguish between truth and falsehood without a miracle. What distinguishes between a miracle and trickery is the mind. Thus the pivot upon which things are known and made necessary is the verification of reason.

The prophets debated their people with rational proofs specifically. al-Khalīl [Prophet Ibrāhīm] debated with the king, his father, and his people, as Allah mentions in the Qurʾān, “And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said to his father Azar, “Do you take idols as deities?” [al-Anʿām: 74]. And His saying, “And recite to them the news of Abraham, when he said to his father and his people, ‘What do you worship?’” [al-Shuʿurāʾ: 69-70]. And His saying, “When he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these statues to which you are devoted?’” [al-Anbiyāʾ: 52]. The acquisition of knowledge through such rational proofs does not only exist through discussions with the prophets. Rather if they had thought with their minds, they would have known the same. And for this reason Allah urged them to observe and think in many verses of the Qurʾān, as He said, “Do they not look?” [al-Aʿrāf: 185] and “Do they not give thought?” [al-Aʿrāf: 184]. And it is thus known that the mind has control over knowledge of knowable things, and hearing does not have control over anything without the mind.

We do not conclude from the necessity of belief through reason that one necessarily deserves reward for good actions or punishment for inaction if they are both unknown except through receiving the message. Rather, our interpretation is a type of likelihood that knowing one’s Creator is more probable than rejection of Him and recognition of Divine Oneness is more worthy than assigning partners to Him [shirk], since the mind cannot come to both conclusions at once. As such, one’s thankfulness is an expression of blessings from the One who blesses, since one recognizes that he does not assign partners with Him.

Saudi Arabia opens high-speed rail linking Islam's holy cities

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 September, 2018 - 16:16

Haramain railway connecting Mecca and Medina part of plan to increase visitor numbers

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has inaugurated a high-speed rail link between the two holiest cities in Islam, part of efforts to boost tourism as the country seeks to shed dependence on oil exports.

The 280-mile (450-km) Haramain railway connecting Mecca and Medina with the Red Sea city of Jeddah cost £6bn ($7.87bn) and is one of the largest transport projects in the Middle East, targeting nearly 60 million passengers annually. Commercial operations are due to begin next week.

Related: Hajj 2018: the annual Islamic pilgrimage – in pictures

Related: After the hajj: Mecca residents grow hostile to changes in the holy city

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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
• WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

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
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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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