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Snooping round our door

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 September, 2017 - 22:12

Picture of Martin Narey, a clean-shaven middle-aged white man with greying hair wearing a white shirt and a blue and silver striped tie.Earlier today I heard an interview with Sir Martin Narey, a former director-general of the prisons service and later chief executive of the Natoinal Offender Management Service, then CEO of Barnardo’s and more recently an advisor to Michael Gove on children’s social care when he was Secretary of State for education, on Radio 5 Live in which he spelled out what was wrong with the Times’s Tower Hamlets foster care story last Monday. When the presenter, Adrian Chiles, asked him if Andrew Norfolk, the ‘investigator’ who uncovered the ‘scandal’, or the Times’s motive for publishing it was racist, he said absolutely not and praised Andrew Norfolk for his previous ‘brave’ reporting on the Rochdale grooming affair. (The interview is near the beginning of the show.) Also last night, I saw a series of tweets from Murad Ahmed, a Muslim journalist who used to work at the Times and now works for the Financial Times on “sport, hotels, sport, gambling, other fun stuff” and previously about technology (the tweets start here). He also cannot accept that there is any Islamophobia at the paper; he says it’s a “great paper” and that the author was a “fantastic journalist”, that his Rochdale story was “high class”.

If the motive in researching and publishing the story was not racism, what was it? I can think of one other possible motive, as I cannot imagine that a paper with access to the Times’s lawyers would do something this stupid by mistake. In the early 2000s a series of miscarriages of justice unravelled in which several mothers had been imprisoned for killing their babies who had in fact died of natural causes. The ‘science’ that sealed their fates came from Roy Meadow, a paediatrician knighted for previously uncovering so-called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (now known as Factitious or Induced Illness), a phenomenon in which parents harm their babies or seek unnecessary medical treatment for them in order to get attention for themselves. In one case, he secretly recorded a woman who submitted a urine sample from her baby which contained blood; it turned out that she was contaminating the samples with her own menstrual blood. In the first situation he was right, and his achievements justly celebrated; in the second, he was very dramatically wrong in both the conclusion and the science that led to it, and it resulted in years of unnecessary suffering, at least two broken marriages, and ultimately the death of one of the women.

Like Roy Meadow, Andrew Norfolk gained recognition for identifying wrongdoing among one section of the population — mothers, in Meadow’s case; Asian or Muslim men, in Norfolk’s. Both were right the first time and wrong the second time. It seems they both decided to mine the same seam again, looking for wrongdoing among the same group of people which had yielded results the first time round, and when they encountered what looked like ‘evidence’ of it, they could not conceive of it being anything else. Narey also called Norfolk “brave” for the Rochdale grooming investigation, which I really must question. Did he need to wear a flak jacket when going into that part of Rochdale? Reporting from a war, where there is very real risk to one’s own life (or the risk of kidnap) might be called brave; the likelihood of being called racist doesn’t really match up to that. Writing a story which incriminates a minority already held under widespread suspicion really is not, especially when writing for a paper with a long history of antagonism towards that minority. (The same paper and its parent company also has a history of antagonism to Labour councils, manifesting in spurious stories about “schools/childminders having to make white children wear saris” and other such things in “loony left” Labour council areas. So, this story ticked both those boxes.)

And for those of us affected by the stream of propaganda papers like the Times puts out, whether their intention was racist really is of secondary importance; what matters is its impact. I’m not talking about the occasional ignorant or off-colour remark here; I’m talking about a stream of articles in several newspapers over the course of several years which draws hostile attention to behaviours which are not harmful but simply different, and paints them as offensive or threatening, giving out the message that Muslims really have no place in public life and really should not be visible in public. Then when one of the papers involved make a front-page story out of a lady offering foster care who had some rules in her own house, we’re expected to believe it’s just a momentary lapse? Really?

You tell me he’s high class … well, I can see through that.

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'We are an example to the Arab world': Tunisia's radical marriage proposals

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 September, 2017 - 11:09

Against strong opposition, Tunisia is pushing ahead with laws that will allow women to marry outside the Muslim faith and grant them equal inheritance rights

Tunisia is pressing ahead with ambitious proposals to reform the country’s laws on marriage and inheritance, despite widespread resistance from inside and outside the predominately Muslim country.

Last month, president Beji Caid Essebsi announced his intention to allow women to marry outside the Islamic faith, and to give them equal rights under the country’s inheritance laws.

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Climate Change And The Water Crisis : A Muslim Responsibility

Muslim Matters - 4 September, 2017 - 05:00

By Khaled Dardir

When we think of water, we don’t initially think of life, nor do we think of our deen.

The Quran mentions how all life is made of water:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا ۖ وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ ۖ أَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

“Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the Earth were meshed together then We ripped them apart? And then We made of water everything living? Would they still not believe?” [Surah Anbiya;30]

This was declared over 1400 years ago, long before it was confirmed by modern science. Science tells us that the average human body of an infant is close to 80% water, and for an adult it is approximately 60%. That is why it is considered the most valuable resource to any human being. The reason why for this valuable resource, people are willing to flee their lands, wage war, or buy out land and resources. Major companies have been doing this for decades.

The ecosystems were developed with such perfection in terms of balance, that one disruption by man can alter it permanently.

“Protoplasm is the basis of all living matter, and ‘the vital power of protoplasm seems to depend on the constant presence of water’” [Lowsons’ Text-book of Botany, Indian Edition.  London 1922, p. 23]. Imagine then how the protoplasm would be impacted if water was contaminated or gone?

وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ الْأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165]

We look at the obvious sins, such as murder, adultery, lying, and stealing, not realizing what the duty is upon us. We are oblivious because we choose to ignore the impacts and the side effect of such actions. It was that important, that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentioned it in the Quran, to remind us, and for us to reflect on it.

In another verse:

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا

“Indeed, We (God) offered the Trust to the heavens and the Earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant” [Surah Al-Ahzab;72]

We took on the responsibility and now have to deal with the consequences. Homo sapien is the latin name of our species, its literal translation is “Man Wise”. How wise could we be to hurt ourselves in this world and the next? Our ignorance is overshadowed by our arrogance.

We need to hold onto this precious resource and be conservative in its use and care. With severe climate changes happening, it is a matter of time before droughts, famine, and even civil strife reach critical points. We have not upheld our trust of the water that was left to us.

Our oceans and rivers are contaminated to levels humanity has never seen before. Mercury levels are high, not just making water unsafe to drink, but harming wildlife and oceanic ecosystems in the process. When life in the ocean is gone, life on Earth won’t last much longer. Plastic compounds fill our oceans and sea life, filling the stomachs of fish and birds.

Climate change is real and it isn’t going away

It impacts water, which impacts livelihood. It can cause war, as it has in our past and present. The world’s earliest documented water war happened 4,500 years ago, when the armies of Lagash and Umma, city-states near the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, battled with spears and chariots after Umma’s king drained an irrigation canal leading from the Tigris. “Enannatum, ruler of Lagash, went into battle,” reads an account carved into an ancient stone cylinder, and “left behind 60 soldiers [dead] on the bank of the canal,” according to a Smithsonian Article from 2013. Between 2003 and 2009 water was measured at the Tigris-Euphrates Basin; comprising of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran. They discovered that the bodies of water are the fastest losing bodies of water on the planet after Northern India. This has caused thousands of rural residents that relied on farmland, to relocate to urban area, making them more densely populated. This puts considerable pressure on the economy and, in turn, strains the political climate which is often a precursor to uprisings and war. Some might see this connection as an exaggeration, but it is myopic to see these issues as separate entities, and by treating them as such we further demonstrate our arrogance.

We may start to create water treaties to avoid similar scenarios in the near future. The world’s first international water treaty, a cuneiform tablet now hanging in the Louvre, ended the war between Lagash and Umma. We can explore further west and see how Egypt built the dam and relocated the Nubians, or the ramifications of the drought in South Sudan. We can even look here at home in the Western parts of America and how the Colorado River was suffering a drought that lasted many years, that just ended recently.

Recently, researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have found that the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region might be uninhabitable by 2050. May of 2016 was the 11th month in a row of average record temperatures. The situation becomes more and more dire for the people residing in those regions. As temperature increases, water becomes scarcer which equates to less vegetation and less food overall. People will retaliate and civil strife will manifest.

Some examples of water wars or water crises are directly caused by the ignorant interference of man, and that is a major sin. As narrated by Abu HurairaraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

“The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ‘There are three types of people whom Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will neither talk to, nor look at, on the Day of Resurrection. (They are): 1. A man who takes an oath falsely that he has been offered for his goods so much more than what he is given. 2. A man who takes a false oath after the ‘Asr prayer in order to grab a Muslim’s property, and 3. A man who withholds his superfluous water. Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will say to him, Today I will withhold My Grace from you as you withheld the superfluity of what you had not created.” [Bukhari;2370]

Think of countries withholding it from citizens, or corporations looting poor countries of their water. Corporations like Nestle or Coca Cola. They see the economic value of water and deprive natives of it for consumers of their products. The list of cities fighting Nestle through protesting, boycotting, and legally are growing. From San Bernardino to Ontario and many small towns in between. What is your socio-economic role in this? What is your role as a Muslim, who was sent us a steward to take care of this amaanah (trust)? Do not belittle your business with any company, or miss the value of your consumerism with said companies.

We take unsung heroes for granted. I can’t think of any group of people that has a better chance of saving us than women. Yes women! Because what needs to be implemented is more of a cultural change, and women have the authority to make that change. The burden is not on them, it is on all of us.

“A man came to the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and said: ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?’ The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Your mother.’ The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Then your mother.’ The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Then your mother.’ The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Then your father.'”[Bukhari, Muslim]

Aren’t our mothers companionship and love worth the extra effort?

When Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) left Sayida Hajer in the desert with Ismael'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and the water sprouted from under his foot, who then was in charge of that water? That water that created a civilization, that eventually became the the city where Islam started. Makkah started with water, the water of Zam Zam.

The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was reported to have told one of his wives, Ai’shahraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him): “The day you give water to people out of charity, and especially if it is the time when people are in dire need of water, or during the dry season when people are greatly suffering from scarcity of water, you will have the reward of one who sets a slave-girl free.” [Ahmed]

It is the women that walk miles in developing countries to fetch water for their children; they understand its value, they appreciate its purpose. Over 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water which is about ⅙ of the world population. Half of the children born in the developing world will live in homes that do not have accessibility to an improved water and sanitation system. This in turn will greatly increase the chances of  their survival and development. With that type of situation, 1.5 million children under five die every year because of diarrhoeal diseases alone. Ensuring that our brothers and sisters in all parts of the world have easy access to safe drinking water is our responsibility as Muslims.

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” [Bukhari;5665 and 2586]

Based on hadith narrated by the Prophet’sṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wife, Ai’sharaḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the women in my life, and the ones I read about, I feel that they have a greater awareness of the surrounding environment, and are able to convince others in their community of its importance. There are grassroots all over the world led by women and are extremely prosperous. Launched in Kenya on Earth Day in 1977, The Green Belt Movement was one of the first efforts to incorporate the links between gender and natural resources within a grassroots environmental campaign – in this case, by mobilizing women to plant indigenous trees.

Since its inception, the Movement has created a national network of 6,000 village nurseries, designed to combat creeping desertification, restore soil health and protect water catchment areas. About 20 million trees have been planted by the Movement’s 50,000 women members. This is a great way to empower women. This is a great initiative to empower the largest oppressed group in the world. How is someone so valued by their children, oppressed all over the world, at different levels, in this day and age? That is something for us to ponder, and lose sleep over.

The world in which we reside is a trust bestowed upon us for future generations. We seem too distracted with many global issues to focus on water and how we impact our environment. Before this topic is pushed aside for the latest breaking news story, or a trendy new cause, consider this: would these stories and causes matter if there is no Earth to sustain us?

From my experience, true peace, true harmony, comes from working together to save our homes, our resources, and the natural environment.  When we solve our environmental issues, a lot of our worldly issues will be alleviated. Less demand and fighting over oil, more accessibility to clean water, abundance of food distributed to the hungry, and an equal opportunity for all humans to succeed.

 

Dardir has recently completed his first Masters specializing in chemistry and his second in Educational Leadership. He is currently enrolled as a student in Mishkah pursuing a bachelors in Islamic Studies. He is working at the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) as an educational advisor. He is the founder and Chief Coordinator of the non-profit organization The Building Blocks of New Jersey whose mission is: “To aid self development, promote activism, and bolster community building”

 

Pauline Hanson's burqa stunt could change Australian Senate's dress code

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 September, 2017 - 04:30

Committee may also give Senate president and deputy president power to suspend senators from chamber based on dress

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt could lead to an overhaul of the Senate’s dress code.

The Senate president, Stephen Parry, said on Monday he had written to the Senate procedure committee asking it to consider whether the dress code ought to be modified.

Related: Dealing with Pauline Hanson requires facts. That's why George Brandis got it right | Lenore Taylor

Related: Brandis stands up for decency after burqa stunt – but that's exactly what Hanson wanted | Katharine Murphy

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Why did they lie?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 September, 2017 - 19:32

A front page of the "Times" newspaper, with the headline "Christian child forced into Muslim foster care"Earlier today I saw an article on Medium titled “Why did Andrew Norfolk lie?”. Andrew Norfolk is the investigative reporter who wrote the story about the “Christian” girl being fostered with the Muslim foster family in east London that appeared last Monday. The article was written by Abdul-Azim Ahmed, editor of the On Religion magazine (not sure if he means the print magazine or the website). He writes:

Andrew Norfolk, in writing these words, knew they amounted to lies. The girl’s racial and religious background is mixed according to court documents, with foreign-born Muslim grandparents (though the mother disputes the religious identity).

The entire story, from headline to closing to paragraph, was a series of lies and lies by omission. Others have detailed this, the shoddy basis of the story, and the wider context of poor reporting on Muslims.

According to Islam it’s enough that a man repeats everything he hears that one may call him a liar. In British law the definition is more exacting: it’s libel to call someone a liar unless you can prove they knew at the time that what they were saying was false (I’ve been threatened with a libel suit in the past for calling Shiv Malik a liar on this blog). I don’t know how much Andrew Norfolk or his editor knew about the facts behind the story they were given but I can lay a fairly safe bet on why they published a story that anyone with any knowledge of issues surrounding fostering could have told them might be at least partly untrue, and which fell apart so dramatically within days: an agenda to demonise and stigmatise Islam and Muslims in this country.

In the past I have said that the Times is a right-wing newspaper but is in general not sensationalist, and although I subscribe to the Guardian I might have bought the Times if it was not available. In recent years the paper’s reporting on issues that have anything to do with Islam or Muslims have taken on a fear-mongering and hostility-baiting quality. In the 2000s they ran a number of stories, many of which appeared to originate from “Harry’s Place”, a generally Blairite, pro-Israel and anti-Muslim blog run by a bunch of people who wrote under pseudonyms, which drew attention to ‘extremist’ sentiments that had been expressed by people who were scheduled to speak at events in the UK and voiced demands that their visa be cancelled, often successfully. At the time, the government had a policy of barring anyone who had a record of public statements which could stir hatred, whether they were white or from a minority (Louis Farrakhan was banned for many years for this reason), and this was at least consistent.

In recent years they have crossed a line from exposing public figures accused of extremism to ‘exposing’ private citizens for demanding a bit too much or doing things differently to how white people usually do them. In keeping with a similar agenda in the Cameron government, such issues are often lumped into the ‘security’ (i.e. threat) category; for example, when the Times reported on the “Trojan Horse” affair in Birmingham (for more on which see this recent long read in the Guardian, which is quite comprehensive other than in not even hinting at the origin of the original hoax letter), in which a number of teachers and school governors were accused of turning academies into Islamic schools by the back door (and at the same time, drove up GCSE achievements such that Ofsted rated them as outstanding; most of the accusations were shown to be baseless and most of the formally accused individuals cleared), the article in question was co-written with Richard Kerbaj, the security correspondent; the government’s investigation into the matter was headed by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism division. Only today, the Sunday Times put the ‘issue’ of primary school age girls wearing hijaab as part of the uniform on the front page; a harmless practice made to seem otherwise by a few busybodies who speculate on what it really means or symbolises when an adult woman wears it, an issue I covered in another recent entry.

Abdul-Azim Ahmed offers a number of explanations for why Andrew Norfolk wrote the Tower Hamlets story: is he just thick? Is he just a liar? Is he desperate, or an Islamophobe? Personally I believe he shares the wider agenda of the Times; it was not just about his own attitudes. If his editor had cared to do his job, he would have seen that the story was paper-thin and a potential embarrassment, and liable to do great harm. The Times is part of the same Murdoch-owned group as The Sun, and is aimed at a wealthier and better-educated audience than the Sun which is targeted at working-class and lower-middle-class readers. It is aimed at peeling off middle-class support for multiculturalism by appealing to ‘liberal’ sentiments (hence the propaganda about “homophobia”, “gender segregation” — though not when it’s happening in mixed schools, not single-sex grammar or church schools in affluent areas — and “hijab sexualising young girls’ bodies”) and continually casting any controversy involving Muslims in a threatening light. Murdoch himself has written in the past that “maybe most Moslems (sic) peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible”.

The paper also knows its readers in the UK; it’s sold quite profitably for the past decade and a half with a regular diet of anti-Muslim stories from both its news desk and from its pro-war and pro-Israel writers, both Blairite and Conservative. It also has an eye on the American audience (the story was syndicated or at least repeated on various US right-wing media sites including Breitbart) and accuracy about Muslims is not high on the agenda in the American blogosphere. It’s an echo chamber where only ideological fact is treated as fact and ‘bias’ means not being biased in their favour. One suspects that the people behind this knew it would take on a life of its own, that it would continue being repeated elsewhere even after the truth came out, and that people would forget that the Times was its origin as almost every paper would print a version of it.

When it comes to hatemongers and bigots, we must remember that the ‘facts’ behind their stories are less important than the intention they represent. In this case they are laying the groundwork for future acts of hostility and even violence against ordinary Muslims in the West — not Hizbut-Tahrir, not the Muslim Brotherhood, but the average Ahmed and Khadijah who work in ordinary jobs, or socially beneficial jobs such as medicine and nursing, or who stay at home to raise their children, and are not necessarily involved in politics but live their lives according to Islam and look and speak differently and eat halaal. They want a way of distracting the public if Brexit goes ahead and causes economc disaster, but their main aim is to make it difficult for Muslims to live in this country by encouraging legal crackdowns on Muslim schools, marriage councils and slaughtering, as well as by fostering an undercurrent of personal hostility and violence against Muslims going about their business. Some of them are motivated by loyalty to Israel, but others hanker for the old days when “Britain was great”, and that meant white. The aim of the Right always was to keep Britain white.

The motive for this was nothing other than malice.

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Same-sex marriage debate: conservative Muslims steer clear for fear of backlash

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 September, 2017 - 19:00

Community leader says they face being labelled extremists – even by Christian conservatives who support the no side

Muslim Australians who oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled extremists, including by Christian conservatives who themselves oppose it, a Muslim community leader has said.

Ali Kadri, a spokesman for the Islamic Council of Queensland, told Guardian Australia that imams and community leaders “who represent the vast majority of the Muslim community” were staying out of the postal survey debate for fear of backlash.

Related: Postal plebiscite on marriage equality would cost 'up to $122m'

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Related: Public mood turns against marriage equality postal vote, poll shows

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Words still fail us when we attempt to talk about Muslims in Britain | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 September, 2017 - 00:05
Open, rational discussion is all too rare in the polarised ways in which we discuss millions of Britons. Instead, debates get trapped between hostility towards Muslims and a fear of giving offence

Court cases involving children being taken into care are inevitably messy. There are deep emotions involved and conflicting viewpoints. Parents are often angry, children confused and fearful. Those outside the process can find it difficult to discern the facts, as much of the decision-making takes place behind closed doors.

Given all this, it was perhaps inevitable that the explosive report in the Times last week – about the distress of a five-year-old girl in east London placed in foster care with a Muslim family – should unravel. What was not inevitable was the way in which it unravelled or the way that the story was framed to begin with. From the opening headline – “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” – this was a polemic in the guise of an investigation.

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Muslim fostering row: Times journalist defends story

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 September, 2017 - 10:47

Reporter Andrew Norfolk says story is in public interest, while council mayor criticises ‘sensationalist’ claims ‘not based in fact’

The journalist behind a controversial story about a fostering placement in Tower Hamlets has defended his coverage in the face of further criticism from the mayor of the local authority.

After seeing leaked confidential documents, the Times reported that a “white Christian child” had been left distressed after being placed with two Muslim households in the east London borough over the past six months. The initial claims have proven to be a one-sided account as the week unfolded.

Related: Muslim fostering row: how the Times and Mail gave a skewed portrayal

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Erdoğan accuses Myanmar of ‘genocide’ as thousands of Rohingya flee to Bangladesh

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 September, 2017 - 07:39

Almost 400 people have died in violence that Myanmar’s military said was triggered by attacks on security forces by Rohingya insurgents

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority, who have fled in the tens of thousands across the border into Bangladesh to escape ethnic violence.

“There is a genocide there,” Erdoğan said in a speech in Istanbul during the Islamic Eid al-Adha feast, which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

Related: Fears mount of Myanmar atrocities as fleeing Rohingya families drown

Related: Dozens killed in fighting between Myanmar army and Rohingya militants

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Trojan horse: the real story behind the fake 'Islamic plot' to take over schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 September, 2017 - 06:00

In 2014, documents alleging a conspiracy to Islamise Birmingham schools were leaked to the media, sparking a national scandal. The papers were debunked – but the story remains as divisive as ever. What really happened? By Samira Shackle

In November 2013, Birmingham city council received a strange document in the post. It was a photocopy of a letter, which seemed to be part of a correspondence between Muslims conspiring to take over local schools and run them according to strict Islamic principles. The photocopy was accompanied by a note from an anonymous person claiming that they had found these pages in their boss’s office.

The letter – supposedly written by an Islamist offering advice to a co-conspirator – outlined a five-stage strategy called “Operation Trojan Horse”. Step one: identify vulnerable schools where most of the pupils are Muslim. Next, identify a group of sympathetic parents to agitate for an Islamic agenda. Then put in place governors who adhere to the same conservative Islamic beliefs. Next, identify staff to disrupt the school from within by changing rules and undermining unsympathetic colleagues. Finally, run anonymous letter and PR campaigns with the aim of forcing the headteacher to resign. The letter stated that this strategy “is tried and tested within Birmingham”, and named specific schools where it had supposedly been carried out.

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The Muslim fostering row is a culture war in action | Gaby Hinsliff

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 August, 2017 - 19:46

Pity the families who unwittingly get caught up in these politically charged stories. They need help, but end up as collateral damage

Wherever there is war there is invariably propaganda. Conflict feeds on half-truths, twisted out of shape; on myths and misinformation, and sometimes downright lies. The challenge for reporters is to pick through all these competing versions of the truth, in places where emotions run high and facts are hard to prove. And that is becoming as true of the culture wars now gripping Britain and the US as it always was of conventional battlefields.

A little white Christian girl is taken from her London home and fostered by a niqab-wearing Muslim mother who doesn’t speak English. The cross around this five-year-old’s neck is supposedly snatched away and she is denied her favourite food, spaghetti carbonara, because it contains bacon. The clear and inflammatory inference of the Times’s exclusive story this week was that a child’s identity was being heinously erased while a council unwilling to confront religious intolerance – at least, when perpetrated by Muslims – stood back and let it happen.

There’s a scandal in the foster care story all right, but not the one you think

Related: We dedicate our lives to fostering. So why are we treated with such disdain? | Sarah Anderson

Related: Child in fostering row 'should live with non-practising Muslim' grandmother

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So, it was all a lie

Indigo Jo Blogs - 31 August, 2017 - 18:36

A stock picture of a six-storey red-brick block of flats, with grey skyscrapers in the background, one of them bearing an HSBC logo. In the foreground is the car park for the block of flats.The truth about the young girl fostered with a Muslim family in east London that appeared in the Times on Monday was revealed yesterday in an anonymised court judgement (PDF). The Times’ story was rubbish, based wholly on spurious claims either sourced from a third party, maybe friends of the family or maybe rogue employees of social services in Tower Hamlets, or maybe just made up by the newspaper. It turns out that the girl was not a “white Christian” at all; her grandparents were Muslims, albeit non-practising. The foster family is in fact mixed race and they do speak English. Not only had an independent guardian found no fault with the foster family but the mother offered no objections to her daughter being with the foster carers at all, nor it seems to her parents taking her daughter back to their home country. Tom Pride has published a breakdown of the claims and the facts here. Some other blog responses are worth reading:

  • Suddenly Mummy
  • Amaliah, a story by a Muslim mother who adopted children who had been fostered by non-Muslims
  • Tell MAMA: How did a fostering row in Tower Hamlets become about religion?

Despite the facts having been made known well before close of business yesterday, the Sun printed an opinion piece by Trevor Phillips which assumes that the Times’ inaccurate story is true. He speculates that the girl had been expected to learn Arabic “presumably because the women of the household were less than ­proficient in English”, when we now know they were (and by the way: Arabs are a small minority in Tower Hamlets). It claims that the judge “briskly dismissed the council’s objections and ordered them to take the child back to her grandmother”, when the court’s case management order states that the local authority’s position was that “the child AB is placed in the interim care of the maternal grandmother subject to Regulation 24 and a Written Agreement”. Phillips then witters on about how adoption in a family of a different race is preferable to a miserable childhood in care, but adoption is irrelevant to this case as nobody was seeking to have this girl adopted; she was in care because she was taken from her mother by the police in an emergency, and everyone agreed that the maternal grandparents were to look after her once the necessary checks had been made.

Phillips then says that it’s different for this particular child because “the test of a placement’s success isn’t some bureaucratic Dulux colour chart test — it is whether the child is happy and flourishing”, and “this child was frightened and lonely”. But this is only to be expected when a five-year-old child is suddenly taken from her home and sent to live with a strange family for six months, however competent and loving the foster family is. The point wasn’t that the council favoured its “pro-Muslim reputation” over the girl’s welfare; the grandparents were not known to the council, and their ability to look after the child (such matters as whether they were in good health, whether they even had a room for her, whether they were complicit in her mother’s drug abuse, among many other concerns) had to be assessed before she could be sent to live with them; otherwise the result could have been yet another tragedy along the lines of Victoria Climbie’s or Peter Connolly’s deaths.

Two women wearing black niqaabs, one of them wearing black gloves on both hands, the other wearing a mitten on one hand and using a mobile phone in the other.Maybe Trevor Phillips didn’t properly read the court documents, and therefore didn’t know the facts. Maybe he did. His editors, who would have had access to the court order which was published at 4:30pm yesterday (you can find the timestamp in the source of the Judiciary website’s announcement), had no excuse for printing a piece which ignores facts which had become known since the original story was printed; I suspect that they assumed their readers had not followed the story online and thus would believe the story they were presenting, which showed the council rather than the Times (owned by the same company as the Sun) in a bad light. (Even after the court ruling, the Times took to Twitter to solicit other stories of “children who were harmed/distressed after being placed with ‘culturally unmatched’ carers”.) But Trev declares that he writes “at the risk of being branded an Islamophobe”; he has in fact already proven himself to be one on at least one occasion. Most of his career over the past 20 years has been spent stirring up trouble over race or religion, claiming to be saying “unsayable” things that are in fact said all the time in high-circulation tabloids, and telling the public “what Muslims really think” on the basis of a tiny survey.

“Don’t get me wrong. I have no objection to children living in families who do not share their ethnicity or even their faith”, he proclaims. Well, if you put children with a Muslim foster family, they’ll be exposed to Islam. Don’t pretend you are open-minded about that — that you regard a child’s welfare as more important than your views on religion — and justify an intrusive and inaccurate story about a child being placed with a Muslim family when no other was available for miles, based on claims sourced from anonymous sources in the family or social services (who should be investigated for professional misconduct if they are the source), if indeed there is any source.

Trev is right about one thing. There should be an investigation into Tower Hamlets social services. The focus should be: who supplied this story.

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England is now more pro-immigrant – but it’s more Islamophobic too | Phil McDuff

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 August, 2017 - 11:09
A new survey shows that attitudes towards race and immigration are increasingly polarised. Progressives must still fight the dangerous bigotry in our society

Reading through Hope Not Hate’s latest report on their surveys of English attitudes towards race and immigration, one comes away with a mix of optimism and pessimism. Those of us who are what the organisation describes as “confident multiculturals” – or what the tabloids would describe as out-of-touch liberal elitists – can be heartened by what seem to be an increase in our ranks. We now make up 22% of the sample, up from 8% in the first survey in 2011. The two most pro-immigrant groups now make up 39% of the overall total.

At the other end of the spectrum, those who are “hostile” to immigration have remained consistent, but with a shift from those who are most fiercely opposed – down from 13% to 5% since 2011 – to the group described as “latently hostile,” up to 17% from 10% in the same period. This indicates that even those people harbouring anti-immigrant views are more likely to engage with the political process than to resort to direct violence themselves or support it in others.

Related: May says Islamophobia is a form of extremism, marking shift in rhetoric

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