Chapel Hill shooting: death penalty possible for man who killed students

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 April, 2015 - 21:05
  • Judge rules that Craig Stephen Hicks is ‘death penalty qualified’
  • FBI has yet to determine if murder of Muslim students violates hate crime laws

A man charged with first-degree murder in the killing of three Muslim college students can face a death penalty trial, a judge ruled Monday.

Superior court judge Orlando Hudson Jr said prosecutors had two aggravating factors and that Craig Stephen Hicks is “death penalty qualified”.

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Unveiled: 'Nobody expects Muslim women to be comedians'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 April, 2015 - 18:45

A group of Muslim Pakistani-American women are pushing the boundaries on how Muslim women are perceived – on the nation’s comedy scene

One of the last things many people might expect a Muslim Pakistani-American woman to do when she takes the stage is crack a joke, openly talk about smoking weed, or say that she is gay. Conversations about South Asian women in America are more usually limited to topics like early marriages, abuse and oppression. If the woman happens to be Muslim, fundamentalism and terrorism are often added to the narrative.

As Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie summed it up: “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

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A Thousand Shames

Muslimah Media Watch - 6 April, 2015 - 18:18
This article was originally published at Sixteen Minutes to Palestine  by Sami Kishawi. Saying that this photograph recently resurfaced would imply that it had somehow gotten buried. But that is simply not true. Published for the New York Times just days after Israel pulled back on its most deadly assault on the Gaza Strip yet, the [Read More...]

Ferrari Plus Value Dua’a

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2015 - 17:39

As-salaamu alaykum,

I will be sharing with you 1 outstanding du'a'a learned through  one outstanding story.

The family of Abu Salamah –may Allah be pleased with them- was known to be a family full of love, respect and iman. They were the first family to apply the command of Allah –subhanahu wa ta'ala- and His prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- which was to immigrate from Mecca to Madinah.

While they were in Madinah, Abu Salamah came back home all excited and said to his wife, Umm Salamah: “I have heard today from the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- words that are more beloved to me than being given red camels [i.e. being given the most precious type of ride known! In our times it would perhaps be a Ferrari or so].”

  • So what he is saying is: if I had the option to either learn these few words, which he just heard from the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam-, or be given all the wealth in the world he would chose to learn these words. Allahu akbar! WOW!

Umm Salamah asked: “What is it that you heard Abu Salamah?”

Abu Salamah responded with stating the du'a'a the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- taught his companions. This du'a'a can be found in Saheeh Muslim as follows:

The Prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- said:

  • ما من مسلمٍ تصيبُه مصيبةٌ
    • There is no Muslim that is afflicted with an affliction
  • فيقولُ : ما أمره اللهُ :
    • And says what Allah ordered him or her to say
      • إنَّا للهِ وإنَّا إليه راجعون .
        • To Allah we belong and to Allah we shall return
        • Inna lil-laahi wa ennaa elayhe raje'oon
      • اللهمَّ ! أْجُرْني في مصيبتي
        • O Allah reward me for my affliction
        • Allahumma-ajurnee fee muSebatee
      • وأَخْلِفْ لي خيرًا منها
        • And give me in exchange for it (i.e. the affliction) something that is better than it
        • Wa 'akhlef lee khairun menhaa
    • إلَّا آجَرَهُ اللهُ في مصيبَتِهِ
      • Except that Allah would reward him or her for the affliction
    •  وأَخْلَفَ اللهُ لَهُ خيرًا منها
      • And Allah would give him or her something better than it in exchange.

Back to the story: After sometime what happened? Umm Salamah faced one of the most tragic events a married woman who was blessed with a respectful and caring husband may ever face which was the death of Abu Salamah.

She said: “When Abu Salamah died I said what the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- ordered those who have been afflicted with a calamity to say: To Allah we belong and to Allah we shall return. O Allah reward me for my affliction…”

And then she was about to say the last and 3rd part of the du'a'a but she paused and said: “I was about to say: “give me something better than it in exchange.” But then said to (myself): And who is better than Abu Salamah?”

  • Basically, she is saying what can I be given that would replace Abu Salamah. What amount of money, or what man would propose or what good in the world that can happen to her life that would be better than having Abu Salamah as her husband. She knows that she is now widowed, got old in age and already have a son.
  • But with all of that, she pushed herself towards fulfilling the orders of Allah and His prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- and she was certain that Allah is capable and will fulfill His promise and her du'a.

Umm Salamah said: “ثمَّ قلتُها” “Then I said it! (i.e. وأَخْلِفْ لي خيرًا منها) [And give me in exchange for the affliction something that is better than it.”

Not too long after that, someone knocked on the door of the house of Umm Salamah. She opened the door. The person who knocked explained himself and said to Umm Salamah that he was asked by the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- to go to her. But why? To tell her that the prophet –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam- is asking for her hand in marriage! (Allahu Akbar!)

  • Can you imagine her facial expressions and her reaction!? May Allah allow me and you to be in Jannah and have Allah show us how was her reaction when she was right at the door after hearing this :)
    • Did she cry… Did she say: “Me!? Do I really deserve it”… Did she look up in the sky and say:
      • “الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي صَدَقَنَا وَعْدَهُ” Praise be to Allah the one who fulfilled His promise.
      • Allah knows best but surely it a memorable moment.

Umm Salamah accepted the proposal and said afterwards: “أبدلني الله بأبي سلمة خيرا منه ، رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم Indeed Allah has given me someone better than Abu Salam, Rasoolo Allah –salla Allahu alayhe wa sallam-.”

My dear beloved brother and sister, remember to follow the command of Allah of saying these 3 statements when facing a calamity and Allah will substitute you with something better than what you lost in addition to the great reward you will get in the afterlife for putting your trust in Allah. May Allah ease your hardships, make them means of reward and substitute you with something better than what you faced and lost.

Wassalaamu alaykum,

Your Brother Majed Mahmoud


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Reclaim Australia rallies 'hurtful' to new migrants and refugees

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 April, 2015 - 06:11

Community leaders say nationwide anti-Islam rallies held on Saturday have left new arrivals feeling isolated and vulnerable

Refugees and new migrants feel more isolated and vulnerable following last weekend’s Reclaim Australia rallies, community leaders said.

The anti-Islam rallies on Saturday attracted hundreds of demonstrators nationwide who were protesting against halal certification, sharia law and increased Muslim migration.

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The Essential Muaddhin

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2015 - 05:32

By Jameel A. Syed


There are over 7 billion people in the world and 1.6 billion of them are Muslim. That accounts for approximately 23% of the world's population across all seven continents. As diverse as they may be in the way they look, the food they eat, the languages they speak or the way that they dress, when the Muaddhin makes the call: “Come to prayer, come to success,” Muslims all around the world respond in kind. In a matter of minutes, people wrap up their worldly affairs, perform ablution and face the holy sanctuary in Mecca to engage in prayer. This happens five times a day for 365 days a year, without fail.

The First Muaddhin

A Muaddhin is the one who makes the call to prayer, the adhan. This beautiful tradition of making the call to prayer dates back almost 1500 years ago to the days of early Islam. It was reported that multiple companions saw the same dream which showcased the words to the adhan by means of a man making the call. They related the dream to Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who then appointed the first Muaddhin of Islam – Bilal ibn Rabah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), a companion of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who was a freed Abyssinian slave, the seventh person to accept Islam with the title Muaddhin Ar-Rasul (the Muaddhin of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him))

Muhammad Abdul-Rauf describes his appearance in his book Bilal ibn Rabah:

“He [Bilal] was of a handsome and impressive stature, dark brown complexion with sparkling eyes, a fine nose and bright skin. He was also gifted with a deep, melodious, resonant voice. He wore a beard which was thin on both cheeks. He was endowed with great wisdom and a sense of dignity and self-esteem”

He raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was the perfect model for millions of Muaddhins that would follow in his footsteps throughout the centuries.

Rewards for the Muaddhin

The position of the Muaddhin is a coveted station that brings with it both honor and prestige in the communities they reside in, and in the eyes of the Creator. According to prophetic tradition, the Muaddhin enjoys a differentiated rank of elevation and reward above all other parties associated with the practice of prayer. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His angels send blessings upon the front row, and the Muaddhin is forgiven as far as his voice reaches, and whatever hears him, animate or inanimate, confirms what he says, and he will have a reward like that of those who pray with him.” Narrated by al-Nasaa'i, 646; classed as saheeh by al-Mundhiri and al-Albaani, as it says in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 235.

-Reported by Bara' ibn 'Aazib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)

The position by its nature was designed for the best of people to compete in the best of ways:

“If the people knew what there is in the call to prayer and the first row, and they had no other way but drawing lots, then they would draw lots.” Narrated by al-Bukhari, 590; Muslim, 437.

– Reported by Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)

The stakes are high and the reward is immense, so the prospective Muaddhin really needs to be in top form. You will find that most Muaddhins have a deep respect for time. They are fully aware that the adhan is an appointment that cannot be missed. You will usually find them ahead of schedule waiting anxiously for the time of prayer to arrive. As mentioned before, Muaddhins are competitive and aggressive in their nature. They're not ones to give up their positions to just anyone. On occasion, they may do so, if another Muaddhin has a superior style or there is a guest visiting their facility. Even then, the guest Muaddhin and their style will be under tremendous scrutiny and study for the purpose of replication and acquisition of style; an eternal competition to one up each other by way of good deeds. They are the ones who check for the rows to be aligned and to ensure that the mobile phones have been turned off before prayer begins.

Challenges of being Muaddhin

One of the biggest challenges of the Muaddhin however is sincerity. The position brings with it notoriety and, if he is good at what he does, then praise will follow. The pitfall is to avoid sharpening ones' craft for the sake of worldly gain and praise from people. This brings with it arrogance, the seed of all failure. An excellent remedy for the Muaddhin in this situation is to praise the one who is worthy of being praised. Replying with a simple tradition of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) should suffice:

“Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty” – Muslim

The focus of all his effort is aimed towards achieving two things: First the beautification of the adhan. Pronunciation, control of voice, melody and measure, all of which are core attributes of this work. The second is its amplification. What good is the caller if the call itself is not heard? A loud voice, the ability to manipulate a proper sound system or a vantage point to make the call is necessary so that the call can be heard effectively. The whole point is that the recipient hears the call and is drawn to it.

The adhan is architected by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to pull the strings of our hearts. It's designed to make humanity respond to a higher call. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens (The famous singer-songwriter) testified that his first exposure to Islam as a non-Muslim was the adhan and that it affected him in a way that totally drew him in. A wonderful attribute of the adhan is that you don't have to be Muslim or understand Arabic to appreciate it. By itself it has an affinity towards latching on to your very soul. Today, there are millions of Muaddhins across the world in every country, each one a master in his own right. From Mecca to Istanbul, the styles of the adhan are as diverse as they come and the Muaddhins are the zenith of their respective masajids, communities, and nations.

Make adhan at Home

One of the biggest tragedies in all of this is that making the adhan to a large degree is a practice reduced and restricted now-a-days only to the institutional level of the masajids or elite social events. Question: Should we not make the adhan and establish prayer in our homes? We are living in a time where Muslims around the world are facing tremendous difficulties that are quite complex in their nature. It is times like these where we as a community need to turn to the guidance of our Creator and the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Islam has a way of solving complex problems with the simplest of solutions – Prayer!

Make the call to prayer and the people will come! Every household should have a designated Muaddhin. The leadership of the household should make it a point to set an example by making the adhan and calling everyone to pray. The adhan brings people together for prayer and prayer brings us close to one another and the Divine. Children can eventually be vested with the responsibility and incentivized to make the adhan and bring the rest of the family together. This is how our youth will learn, take responsibility, gain confidence in who they are and move Islam forward. You can shut off the alarm on your phone or a wall clock, but you can't and shouldn't mute a real live person.

Someone recently asked me “What do you feel when you hear the adhan?” I answered: “When I hear the adhan, I become nostalgic. I think of Mecca and Madinah, of Hajj, Umrah, billions of Muslims around the world that come in all different shapes and forms, prostrating in the direction of the Holy Sanctuary. There's an image that pops into my head of Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) making the call to prayer from the top of the Kabah with 10,000 strong during the time of the conquest of Mecca; and there's an image imprinted on my heart of him making the adhan for the last time upon the insistence of the Khalifah Umar-Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) surrounded by the Prophets' companions [ranhuma] who wept as they reminisced about the days of the final Messenger of Allah, Sayyidina Muhammad Mustafa ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Editorial Note:

On April 3rd, 2015, Jameel Syed sets off on a journey to be the first Muaddhin in history to recite the call to prayer and the Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ in all fifty states across the United States. The ultimate goal? To reclaim the American Muslim narrative and give masjids the opportunity to deliver a positive message to the world. The entire trip will be chronicled in real time, through photographs, videos and blog updates. Follow the trip here:


Jameel A. Syed is the founder and CEO of the Fluidvisions Marketing Firm. His concentration and focus is Strategy Consulting, Building Brand Equity and Launching New Ventures. He has over 20 years of corporate experience across a very broad spectrum of industries and through Fluidvisions, he has serviced hundreds of accounts in the past ten years. As an Executive Consultant, he has worked exclusively with key decision makers within his respective clientele base. He has a special concentration in working with the American Muslim community as over 90% of all clients within his portfolio are Muslim owned and/or managed.

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A new speed limit at midnight

Indigo Jo Blogs - 6 April, 2015 - 00:01

A red DAF XF articulated truck with red tractor and curtain trailer with the name "Dünya" and a globe with the land in light blue on it.Tonight at midnight, the speed limits for trucks on roads in England and Wales go up by 10mph: the maximum speed on single-carriageway roads to 50mph, and on dual carriageways to 60mph (in practice, vehicles will not be able to exceed 56mph as they are all fitted with speed restrictors). This is something the industry has been campaigning for for some time, but safety charities have criticised it as giving into law-breaking and some drivers complain that it will mean they are paid less as they can complete jobs more quickly. Personally, I welcome it, although I think it should be accompanied by speed limit adjustments for other vehicles as it still leaves trucks doing 10mph less than cars.

The speed limits at present were set in the 1950s when trucks were slower than they are today, but had less effective brakes (previously, the truck speed limit was 20mph!). The speed limits were already among the highest in Europe, where motorway speed limits for Europe are 80km/h (50mph) in most countries and lower on normal roads (for example, it’s 60km/h or 37mph on main roads in Germany) and now are probably, on average, easily the highest. In the 1950s there were no motorways (the first motorway as such was opened in 1956) and far fewer dual carriageways. These days there are sections of dual carriageways which are distinguished from motorways only by having green signs (in particular, the A2 in Kent and part of the A3 in Surrey), longer stretches where the road conditions do not merit having the lower speed limits, and wide or straight single-carriageway roads where trucks doing 40mph are an annoyance to other drivers.

These days large parts of the country do not have motorways, only long stretches of dual carriageway: most of these are away from the big cities, such as in eastern England (the Humber region being an exception) and the south-west. In other areas, dual carriageways have been built to avoid the cost or environmental impact of a previously planned motorway (e.g. the A50 from Leicester to Stoke on Trent, which was built in place of a planned motorway, the M64). These roads are not always greatly inferior to actual motorways; the M1 in particular has narrower lanes than some newer motorways, like the M40, while dual carriageways often have wider lanes. Their junctions are often (but not always) tighter, which does present a hazard, but specific speed limits can be applied in these areas rather than across the whole road.

The road safety charity Brake issued a formal response (.docx) to the changes, claiming that the limit increases “average speeds”. The problem with this is that average speeds do not cause accidents; specific vehicles’ speeds at particular moments cause or contribute to accidents, along with poor observation, lane discipline or other forms of bad driving, along with other factors such as road and weather conditions. They also claim it “sets a dangerous precedent that if traffic laws are persistently flouted; the government would rather change them than enforce them”. In fact, even the police have at times understood that the limits are an unnecessary nuisance and have encouraged truck drivers to do 50mph on long, straight stretches of single carriageway. Right now, they don’t expend much effort in enforcing the speed limits on some (long) stretches — last time I drove the A1 from Worksop to London (which I did quite frequently on one job I did last summer), there was only one speed camera north of Huntingdon.

I don’t buy the argument that higher speed limits will mean drivers will get paid less as they will finish jobs quicker. This might happen on some runs, but on others, the time saved will allow an extra drop or two which will add hours and, with it, pay, and in any case, if the journey is mostly by motorway, this time saving already exists and nobody is campaigning to bring the motorway truck speed limit down. What is more likely is that transport supervisors will expect drivers to do 50mph when previously they had been doing 40mph, when the road conditions make it safe to do 45mph or so but not 50, at least not all the way. Sometimes I’m more concerned about finishing the job quickly and getting home than I am about squeezing a bit of extra money out of it, and it’s only likely to make a big difference if you are on a long journey and can do 56 most of the way (like 20 minutes on a 200-mile journey). If you’re stopping and starting a lot, being able to do a few stretches a bit faster won’t make much difference.

I would support harmonising speed limits for different types of vehicle. On two-lane carriageways on dual carriageways, for example, I would advocate a speed limit of 60mph for everyone. Why? Because when people join these roads, especially at the tight junctions that they often have (e.g. the A1), people in the inside lane have to move across to let them on, and when someone is coming from behind at 70mph (or more), this becomes impossible, making it necessary to slow down rapidly. If the speed limit on single carriageways was 50mph for everyone, the remaining annoyance of being stuck behind a ‘slow’ truck when you ‘should’ be doing 60mph would be reduced, and a fairly large number of single-carriageway roads are not suitable for doing 60mph anyway. It would also make it easier for drivers to slow down when entering villages as they have less speed to lose.

The majority of truck drivers are responsible adults and not joy-riders or maniacs. A few already drive their trucks too fast or otherwise dangerously — tipper drivers being the worst offenders — and for these people there needs to be better enforcement on safe driving other than speed. The new limits apply on roads where a limit above 40mph, or the national speed limit, already applies; it will not mean that truck drivers can drive any faster on urban roads where the speed limit is 30mph — that isn’t changing. We also don’t want to get into accidents (particularly with other trucks, where we are more vulnerable because we sit at the front of our vehicles on top of the engine, not behind it) or put our insurance costs up. For me, the new limit will make driving a bit less stressful: I will no longer be constantly checking my speedometer, watching for police or speed cameras, or worrying about holding up other traffic or about unsafe overtakes. But don’t expect all the slow movers to suddenly speed up: if we’re fully laden, we won’t be able to go much faster, especially up hills, and some roads are just not safe to do 50mph on in a large truck.

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Yasir Qadhi On American Foreign Policy And The Rise Of ISIS

Loon Watch - 5 April, 2015 - 22:29


Muslim American Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi faces his share of death threats, from not only the right-wing in America but also now from the extremist ISIS organization.  In the following video he goes into depth on the reasons why ISIS emerged, the Iraq War and what part US policy has played in creating the conditions that gave birth to the group.

It is a definite must watch.

Kenya shock and defiance as al-Shabaab gunman revealed to be official's son

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 April, 2015 - 17:35

President Uhuru Kenyatta promises to counter terrorism at home, while authorities criticised for handling of Islamist university siege in which 148 died

Christians across Kenya sang the national anthem before Easter Sunday services in a message of defiance aimed at Islamist militants who killed almost 150 students last week, as the nation reacted with shock at the news that one of the gunmen had been a young Kenyan law graduate.

The interior ministry named the gunman as Abdirahim Abdullahi, a formerly straight-A student who received his degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya’s most prestigious law school, before slipping into Somalia.

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Sunni v Shia: why the conflict is more political than religious

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 April, 2015 - 16:26

Across the Middle East, sectarianism has always been linked to the battle for power, resources and territory

Time was, across the Arab world, that it was simply rude to ask people their religion or sect, even if it was obvious from their name, their accent, from where they lived or worshipped or the pictures on their walls that they were a Sunni Muslim, Shia, or Christian.

In the glory days of the post-colonial era the focus was on creating an overarching Arab and national identity. Syria, with its mosaic of Sunnis, Alawites, Druze and many Christian communities, boasted of being the “beating heart of Arabism”. Even in Lebanon, with its elaborate power-sharing arrangements, confessional identity remained a private matter. Intermarriage was common.

Related: Iraqi Sunnis forced to abandon homes and identity in battle for survival

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Bill Shorten condemns violence at Reclaim Australia and counter protests

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 April, 2015 - 01:39

Clashes between ‘anti-Islamisation’ and anti-racism groups in Melbourne and Hobart led to four arrests and several people needing medical treatment

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has condemned violence at protests on Saturday. Violence erupted at rival rallies, particularly in Melbourne, as anti-Islamisation and anti-racism groups clashed.

“There’s no place for violence in any protests or any expressions of freedom of speech,” Shorten told the Nine Network on Sunday.

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Diversity and immigration are not the problem. Political courage is… | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 April, 2015 - 00:05
Last week, nine British Muslims were arrested on the Syrian border as Nigel Farage tapped into his constituency’s unease about modern Britain. We need our leaders to respond to this unease with reason – and a positive vision

Two events last week, some 2,000 miles apart, captured the fraught character of the current debate about multicultural Britain. On Wednesday, nine Britons from Rochdale were stopped in Turkey, apparently as they tried to cross the border into Syria. One was the son of a local Labour councillor Shakil Ahmed, who said he was “shocked” to hear of the arrests. “My son,” he added, “is a good Muslim and his loyalties belong to Britain, so I don’t understand what he’s doing there.”

The next evening in Salford, a hop and a skip from Rochdale, came the general election leaders’ TV debate. Nigel Farage elicited outrage by blaming foreigners for seemingly all Britain’s social ills. But while his claims about “health tourism” and foreigners with HIV undermining the NHS might have enraged liberals, they seemed to play well to his core constituency. While many despise what they regard as racism, others applaud the Ukip leader for, as they see it, speaking the truth.

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Activists Call China’s Jailing Of Muslim Over Beard And His Wife For Wearing A Veil ‘Absurd’

Loon Watch - 4 April, 2015 - 20:19

headlineImage.adapt.1460.high.xinjiang_beard_china_0330.1427733150160 Sam Harris must be proud.

Activists call China’s jailing of Muslim over beard ‘absurd’

The man’s wife was reportedly sentenced to two years for wearing a veil

March 30, 2015 10:54AM ET

A six-year prison sentence reportedly given to a man in China’s traditionally Muslim Xinjiang region for growing a beard was “absurd,” an overseas advocacy group said.

The sentence comes as Beijing continues its crackdown on visible signs of Muslim religious observance among the country’s Uighur ethnic minority. Chinese authorities have warned of a violent separatist movement among Uighurs, but international rights activists have broadly criticized China’s treatment of the group. Hours after Chinese state media reported the man’s sentencing on Sunday, the incident was reported in the international media as another example of China’s repression of Uighur religious freedom. Accounts of the sentencing online on Chinese state media have since disappeared.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress advocacy organization, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday that the Chinese media reports of the punishment were “typical of the political persecution” faced by Uighurs.

“This is a case that would not happen in any other country in the world,” Raxit said in a statement. “It is unacceptable and absurd. It exposes China’s hostile attitude and crisis of governance.”

“If a Chinese person grows a beard, it is a personal fashion he is allowed to choose freely. If a Uighur grows a beard, he is a religious extremist,” he added.

On Sunday, the state-owned newspaper China Youth Daily reported that a court in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar sentenced a 38-year-old Uighur man to six years in jail for growing a beard, while his wife was given two years for veiling herself.

The man “had started growing his beard in 2010″ and his wife “wore a veil hiding her face and a burqa,” the paper said. Both practices are discouraged by local authorities.

The couple were found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague accusation regularly used in the Chinese judicial system against dissidents

An employee of Kashgar’s propaganda department declined to confirm the report Monday, telling AFP, “I know nothing about this.”

Chinese state media later appeared to retract its own accounts of the sentencing, after the story was picked up by international English-language media Monday, in an apparent attempt to prevent further criticism of China’s human rights record. The China Youth Daily report and several other articles on the case had been deleted from mainland news sites hours after an article on The Washington Post publicized the incident.

The initial accounts spurred debate among users of China’s popular online social networks.

Some said the punishment was an appropriate way to guard against extremism. “Anyone dressed that way is a terrorist, not a Muslim!” wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

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Israeli Spin Trumps Ethics in The NY Times

Marathon runners gathered in Bethlehem recently to run loops through the walled-in city, aiming to make a point: Israel’s separation barrier has cut the city off from the rest of the West Bank and confined its residents inside a prison wall. The New York Times was on hand to observe and report, but the result was something less than an honest view of the scene.

The event was named “The Right to Movement: Palestine Marathon,” and reporter Diaa Hadid tells us that it took place in Bethlehem in order “to draw attention to the constraints Palestinians say they face in their daily lives.”

Note her use of the phrase “Palestinians say they face.” This is a familiar construction in the Times. Palestinians suffer from undeniable rights abuses under the Israeli occupation, but this cannot be stated outright. Times stories tend to reduce these facts to “claims,” issues that readers can dismiss as the grumblings of Israel’s adversaries.

Thus we also read in the marathon story that “Bethlehem is a postcard-perfect location to display Palestinian grievances.” With the single word “grievances” oppressive policies are dismissed as mere complaints.

This is not the case when it comes to the Israeli side of the narrative. Hadid writes, “Israel built the barrier in response to a wave of suicide bombings during the Second Intifada. Palestinians see it more as a land grab because it frequently dips into the West Bank swallowing what they see as their traditional lands.”

So Israel’s stated rationale for building the barrier is taken at face value, as a “response” pure and simple. But it is a different situation for the Palestinians: Once again we have their problems framed as a point of view, something they “see more as” a land grab. And the territory in question is no longer theirs; it has become “what they see as their traditional lands.”

Any story that deals so directly with the Separation Wall should remind readers of these facts: The International Court of Justice has declared the barrier to be illegal under international law, and 85 percent of the planned route runs within the West Bank not on the boundary with Israel. (Thus, when Hadid writes that the wall “dips into” Palestinian territory, she is minimizing the actual state of affairs.)

In its 2004 14-to-1 decision the ICJ declared that the wall was not necessary for Israel’s security and that it should be dismantled and reparations made for the extensive damage it had caused. Israel rejected to ICJ’s findings and continues to build on Palestinian land, cutting off farmers from their fields and dividing families and communities.

Israeli officials like to say that the wall has prevented suicide bombings, but the fact is that Hamas on its own abandoned the tactic in 2006. It was not the wall that stopped the bombings; it was the decision by Hamas.

In fact, the wall has never been an impermeable barrier. It has failed to keep out some 15,000 to 30,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who work illegally inside Israel and is obviously no obstacle to would-be bombers.

It is also worth noting that suicide bombings ended when the wall was only partially completed, and now, long after the threat ended, Israel continues to build, citing a rationale that no longer applies.

Nevertheless, in the Times story the wall is a “response” to bombings, while the abuses of the occupation, clearly revealed under the adjudication of international law, have become nothing more than claims. In the newspaper of record readers are shortchanged once again as Israeli spin trumps the demands of ethical journalism.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Israeli Spin in New York Times Tagged: Bethlehem, Israel, Media Bias, New York Times, Palestine, Palestine Marathon, West Bank

Reclaim Australia rallies: tensions flare in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2015 - 04:43

Pauline Hanson tells the Brisbane anti-Islam rally she is not a racist, as protests and counter-protests in Melbourne and Sydney trigger scuffles and police intervention

Mounted police were forced to form a barrier between Reclaim Australia and Socialist Alliance protesters at opposing rallies in Melbourne.

Tensions among crowds led to scuffles and paramedics were treating several injured people.

Related: Anti-Islamic group Reclaim Australia plans 16 rallies across the country

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Far-right groups and Islamists face off outside London mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2015 - 19:51

Supporters of Britain First and EDL gather to oppose radical Islamist Anjem Choudary, whose group handed out leaflets urging Muslims not to vote

Opposing sides from Britain’s extremist fringes have been kept apart by police amid tense scenes as thousands of Muslims emerged from one of Britain’s largest mosques after Friday prayers.

Passersby and tourists had watched with bemusement and alarm earlier on Friday as dozens of supporters of Britain First – a nationalist group that has been seeking to displace the British National party (BNP) as the standard bearer of the UK far right – marched through central London brandishing large St George and union flags.

Britain First March to central London mosque. Edl already there (one chants "Britain First off our streets")

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