Women And Mosques – Why Don’t We Feel More Welcome?

Islamicate - 4 May, 2015 - 23:53

The inclusivity of Women in mosques has recently become a hotly debated topic among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The lack of space and facilities for females in the vast majority of mosques in Britain has left many women feeling ‘unmosqued’ and excluded from their own communities. Although the faith does place greater emphasis for men to offer their prayers in the mosque than it does for women, this shouldn’t mean that the women’s section of a mosque be reduced to a poorly kempt, stuffy basement or in some cases, no room at all.

When women have confronted their local imams about the lack of facilities, some have been dismissed and even escorted away for questioning the “status quo.” Of course, it comes as no surprise that the board members of these mosques are usually male and of a singular cultural identity. This problematically results in a narrow-mindedness that neither connects with the community they are supposed to serve nor does it help in the inclusion of their female counterparts. The results of such lack of provision are indeed damaging and in an attempt to respond to the situation, some women have put forward Islamically aberrant ideas, such as female only mosques and mixed prayer congregations, turning to the prevailing wind of secularism to popularise their ideas.

Whilst many Muslims tirelessly work to fundraise to build mosques here in the UK, we must remember that the mosque is an amaanah (trust) from Allah and not the possession of any one man. Of course, people are free to erect their own buildings for the purposes of their communities to use as they wish, with their own rules and regulations. If communities wish to enact their own cultural norms as rules, they should refrain from calling these buildings masaajid, and instead refer to them as ‘cultural community centres'; after all, how can you possibly call a building a masjid if you’re going to turn people away from worship on the basis of their gender? Mosques are the houses of Allah and no one should be turned away from them.

As a Christian, I was never turned away from a church. However, on my journey through Islam, one of the issues that continues to perplex me is that some mosques think that it’s perfectly acceptable to turn me away from the masjid based on my gender, and prevent me from worshipping my Lord in a comfortable place if I happen to be out and about. Moreover, at a time when Muslim women perhaps need more support than ever before, turning them away from the doors of a mosque is extremely counter-productive, and in some instances, it can further feelings of isolation.

From my personal anecdotal experiences, I remember the instance of a young female who had recently converted to Islam that I found crying in the street. She was looking for some Muslim women to befriend to help her through her spiritual journey, so she decided to attend the mosque to pray and meet with some Muslim women. However, instead of being welcomed, she was sternly turned away. Feeling rejected and helpless, she walked away in tears as onlookers merely watched her. This woman turned to the mosque for support, but she was shown no empathy and was instead turned away. If women in a similar situation to her cannot turn to their mosques for support, where else are they supposed to go?

One of the ideas that underpins the lack of female provision in certain mosques is the notion that women are a ‘walking, talking fitna’ that need to be kept behind closed doors. Such thinking is problematic; it perpetuates the idea that women are sexual objects, inherently sinful and just waiting to invite someone to look upon them in a lustful way. Moreover, the internal misogyny that has developed within certain factions of the Muslim community is fed by hazardous ideas that women are a lesser part of the whole. One of the fundamental factors perpetuating this is cultural misogyny, which is mistakenly conflated with religion. Thus people misuse scripture to justify archaic ideas, such as the notion that women should stay at home. It is of course ironic that many Muslim apologists argue that Islam liberated women, and whilst many Muslim women do indeed find the faith empowering, the cultural oppression women face that prevents them from being an active part of their communities is anything but liberating.

The way that modern British Muslim women experience Islam is very different to the culturally motivated Muslims of previous generations. In an attempt to ‘protect’ their daughters, the older generation constricted their spiritual growth by keeping them away from the mosque. Certain parts of the deen are chosen for reinforcement and others are left, leaving British Muslim women in particular victims of their own family’s cultural preferences. Moreover, this isn’t just exclusive to going to the mosque. This type of cultural poison can leak into things such as choosing friends, choosing a spouse and even how their children are raised allowing the vicious cycle to continue.

The time has come for us to realise that we don’t live in a time where women are confined to small villages where they don’t travel much, and thus do not need to use the masjid often. Times have changed, and we must realise that our mosques need to be able and willing to accommodate female worshippers. Ignoring the issue will only cause further damage in the long-term.

Former Head of PEGIDA Disavows Group, Apologizes to Muslims

Loon Watch - 4 May, 2015 - 22:11


Lutz Bachmann, former head of PEGIDA discovered that she was a racist Islamophobe and now wants to be a leader for world peace.

Here she is, profiled in the Washington Post.:

By Rick Noack

Only few months ago, nobody would have imagined that one of the most emotional pro-tolerance speeches would one day come from one of Germany’s fiercest critics of Islam and immigrants.

Yet it was Kathrin Oertel – once the leader of Germany’s anti-immigrant Pegida movement, which drew tens of thousands of supporters at its peak – who apologized to Muslims in a video message published  Thursday on Facebook.

“Those still belonging to the Pegida movement need to understand that they are advocating for the wrong cause,” she said. “Asylum seekers are blamed for our problems in Europe and Germany. However, they’re not the root cause of our struggle,” she continued before directing her words to the immigrants she had previously condemned.

“I want to apologize to all migrants and to all Muslims among them who live peacefully and are assimilated with German society, who respect our culture and laws. They are in the vast majority and most Germans overlook this fact,” Oertel said.

Oertel had first been the spokeswoman and later the head of the popular movement which shocked the world. Since last November, right-wing extremists and ordinary citizens had marched in joint weekly rallies in opposition to Muslim immigration to Germany. The weekly protests continue, though the number of supporters has dwindled.

“I feel partially responsible for a campaign of hatred we caused. I want to apologize and the only thing I can do is to help resolve those tensions,” Oertel said in the statement which appeared to have been spontaneously recorded in a car.

“To achieve peace, one needs to be ready for dialogue,” Oertel said. “That’s the only way to get rid of prejudices.” The ex-Pegida leader made clear that she was no longer fighting against Islam, but instead for “world peace,” according to her own words. “Someone needs to start to connect people,” she said — implying that she was ready to be that person. She also acknowledged that she had failed to draw huge support for the goal of world peace, so far. “We were even verbally attacked by opponents,” Oertel said, sounding honestly outraged.

Read the rest of the article…

Word from the local Lib Dem office

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 May, 2015 - 20:50

Picture of a Liberal Democrat poster featuring two characters from the Wizard of Oz, with the slogan "The Liberal Democrats will add a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Tory one. Stronger economy, fairer society, opportunity for everyone"

Earlier today I left a message on the local Lib Dem constituency office’s answerphone, as our MP, who is defending his seat, is the Lib Dem Energy secretary Edward Davey. I asked him what his positions were on the matter of the Human Rights Act and us staying in the EU, as without these two things there was little to make it worth voting for him just to keep the Tories out. I didn’t get the caller’s name (it wasn’t Davey), but he did tell me that he couldn’t say if the HRA was a red line for the party but it was for Ed Davey, and that the party would agree to a referendum on the EU but would campaign for the UK to stay in. He said Davey would be writing to me himself later; I told him I’d like him to get clarification on party policy first.

On the HRA, the man told me that he knew Ed Davey to be passionate about the Act and that he had defended it on a number of occasions. However, I asked what would happen in the event that a Tory-led coalition put a bill through Parliament to abolish or replace it — if you are in the government, you are expected to vote with it or resign. He told me that he thought Ed Davey would resign in those circumstances, but hadn’t asked him that specific question. Quite frankly, given the numerous cave-ins by the Lib Dems in the past Parliament, his assurances would need to be rock solid.

On the matter of the EU, I made the point to him that in the event of a referendum, there would be some very powerful voices in the popular press arguing in favour of withdrawing and that supporters of the EU had not robustly defended it over the years. Most of what the public is aware of is news stories about nuisance legislation (e.g. “straight cucumbers”) and eastern European immigration (which, in fact, we were not required to accept and many other countries did not). I also mentioned that Labour had won three general elections on a platform that included staying in the EU, and that no party had won outright on a platform of withdrawal. As a country, we have a history of signing up to the parts of the European project that benefit business but not those that benefit individuals, such as the Social Chapter in the early 1990s, and the Schengen accord at any time. I also mentioned that parts of the press were heavily biased against, and that the public could be swayed by some brief scandal, perhaps exaggerated or even fabricated. He acknowledged that this was a danger of putting it to a vote, that it would not go our way, but it seems the party still agrees to a referendum.

I haven’t yet got that email from Ed Davey himself. Perhaps he’s taking the time to talk to his colleagues. But I find it pretty depressing that I’m contemplating voting for someone because they offer to only take the edge off a hard-right Tory government, that is if they even win enough seats, by defending two bits of legislation and not a whole lot of other very important things — Legal Aid, the Independent Living Fund, Disability Living Allowance and so on. There is no use them saying “Labour cannot win here”, as another flyer they delivered to my address today says, or that they’ll give “a heart to a Tory government and a brain to a Labour one”, if they do not distinguish themselves from the Tories. If they can’t work that out, one can assume they don’t have a brain to spare.

Possibly Related Posts:

The Guardian view on free speech after the Dallas shootings: the award to Charlie Hebdo is justified | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 19:32
The award is for maintaining the right of free speech in the face of threats to life and limb. It is not about the content of every skit, report and cartoon

The virus that first emerged in Denmark in 2005, after the newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed cartoons of Muhammad, is still working its toxic way through our lives, as yesterday’s deaths in Dallas demonstrate. Misguided and often violent protests over the Jyllands-Posten series of drawings led to attacks on embassies, the persecution of Christians, trade boycotts and a number of deaths in Muslim countries. Years later the cartoonists who were published at that time in the paper still need police protection. Many of the cartoonists who published similar cartoons in January this year in Charlie Hebdo, sadly, no longer need that kind of protection, because they are dead.

The attack on the magazine’s offices in January this year was followed by a great outpouring of emotion, in France and other western countries, by people who wanted to make a public stand against censorship by murder, and against the perverted idea that, in the modern world, respect for a religion can be enforced by the threat of death. Just over a month later a gunman in Copenhagen killed one person and injured three at a debate on free speech at which a well known Swedish conceptual artist was due to appear. The debate supposedly concerned what limits there might arguably be on freedom of speech and artistic expression. No matter: they were shot at anyway.

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Breakdown of the Recent Turmoil in Baltimore

Muslim Matters - 4 May, 2015 - 18:10

By Mikaeel Ahmed Smith What we have witnessed this past week in the city of Baltimore has caused many Americans to re-analyze the current state and condition of the inner-city standard of life and how that standard is viewed by fellow Americans. Questions have arose regarding the ever-growing gap between those living below the poverty line and the affluent. Questions regarding the educational standards set by local governments in inner cities, as well as those regarding racism in general. Equally important, many have begun to question the role that mainstream media plays in influencing the opinions of most Americans. Many of whom are often completely oblivious to realities on the ground, who swallow the stories given to them “hook, line and sinker.”

Poverty, education, media misrepresentation, and racism are the issues that inner-city Baltimore residents are protesting about. The police brutality and specifically the killing of Freddie Grey are part of a national problem, which has spun out of control in the last 4-10 years.

Racism in American Society

We are all aware of the natural racist tendencies that can arise due to ignorance among a people. America itself is no stranger to racism. In fact, the annuals of history are full of American legislated racist policies. Many of which in southern states of America are actually still in the books of law. Much of the police brutality we have seen in the recent years has been construed as a continuation of that racist tendency. As true as this may be, Baltimore is quite different and has led many to question this narrative. Simply because Baltimore is a city in which a large number of the leading officials are in fact African American. The citizens of Baltimore themselves say, “it is not racism that we are fed up with, rather wide spread corruption.”[1] In order to understand the situation from their perspective we must look historically at how slaves where controlled in America. Black African slaves were not only watched and monitored by white slave owners, but rather Black Privileged slaves were used to keep the rest of the slaves in line. Needless to say, the regular slaves despised the black masters even more so than their white masters.

Who Creates a Slum?

Baltimore has a deep history of government policies, which have shaped its slums and inner city into what it is today. Even Wells Fargo has blood on their hands. Wells Fargo agreed to pay millions of dollars to Baltimore and its residents to settle a landmark lawsuit brought by the city claiming the bank unfairly steered minorities who wanted to own homes into subprime mortgages. Before that was the deindustrialization of Baltimore, resulting in mass job losses. The outrage of Baltimore youth is not only due to the unjust killing of Freddie Grey, but rather the culmination of these problems and frustrations. Freddie's death was merely the straw that broke the camels back.

Poor Education Standards

In a rally that I attended the day after the riots, Baltimore residents gathered both young and old along with over 100 clergy of different faiths to discuss or vent their frustration. A common message voiced many times over, was the extremely poor standard of education in the public schools of Baltimore. Not only the quality of education but also the condition of the schools themselves. High school drop-out rates in the inner-city have reached epidemically high.

Media Coverage

Many Americans were extremely upset with the way in which the media covered the entire situation. And have again come to the realization that media often has their own agenda, and the language they use to frame a story can have many implication. The usage of the word “thug” to describe the rioters has been challenge strongly. Those opposed to the usage of this word claim that its usage stops others from looking to the deeper reasons why these people are rioting and upset. It encourages a form of mental lethargy by prohibiting others from asking the question, “why are these people upset?” I commend the swiftness with which this attempt of mental framing through language was resisted and contended.

Although the tension has subsided emotions and feeling in the city remain agitated, the indictment of the officers who killed Freddie unjustly has quelled the people for now but if our assessment is accurate, we will witness many more of these situations of unrest until the primary problems are solved.

Conclusion:  Advice to Muslims

Muslims are the new niggers of America. They can no longer live in post September 11th America behind their money in nice suburban bubbles. They are forced to go through the passage of rights that all American minorities went through. So what must Muslims do? How will they gain civil or human rights that other minorities are also fighting for?  Perhaps first by recognition that they are not white America. Secondly, by appreciation of the struggles of those who came before them. The status of elder African American Muslims in our Muslim American communities should be like that of the Companions of Badr's status to the other companions. They deserve a degree of respect simply due to the struggles they made. Struggles that have been made by indigenous Muslims made it easier for our immigrant Muslims. Unfortunately, most African American Muslims feel extremely disenfranchised in our masjid and community centers due to a number of factors which lie out of the scope of this article. I can only hope that we realize the importance in building bridges and joining hands with those who share our common values and objectives.


[1] As per a recent rally held at Empowerment temple, held the day after the riots.

imam Mikaeel Ahmed (Michael Smith)  is the Resident Scholar and imam at the Islamic Society of Annapolis and the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

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Texas suspect's home searched after attack on Muhammad cartoon event

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 13:57

Attack on event hosted by anti-Islam group in which two gunmen killed by police the latest in a series of incidents involving US Muslim communities

Two unnamed gunmen were killed and a security guard injured on Sunday night during what appears to have been an attack on a contest calling for cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad hosted by an anti-Islam group in a Dallas suburb.

An FBI official confirmed that authorities raided at least one apartment in Phoenix, Arizona, in connection with the shooting in Garland.

Related: Texas shooting: the group behind the Muhammad cartoon contest

Picture taken just before #garlandshooting . Thank God the heroes of SWAT-team prevented the worst.

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Twitter account that posted about Texas attack minutes before is closed down

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 12:56

Account that supported Islamic extremism tweeted minutes before two gunmen opened fire at ‘draw the prophet Muhammad’ cartoon competition in Texas

Follow the latest updates on the Garland, Texas shooting in our rolling report

A Twitter account that posted about a Texas attack minutes before gunmen opened fire on a security guard at a “draw the prophet Muhammad” competition exhibition in a Dallas suburb has been suspended.

The post said the user and his “bro” had pledged allegiance to Amirul Mu’mineen, Arabic for “commander of the faithful” and possibly a reference to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, before adding the hashtag #texasattack.

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Texas shooting: Two gunmen shot dead outside Muhammad exhibition – rolling coverage

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 09:25

6.15pm AEST

Attention is focusing on a tweet sent 15 minutes before the first reports of the shooting from a now-suspended account with the username “Shariah is Life”, in which an individual indicates he his preparing to make an attack. It includes the hashtag #texasattack.

The writer pledges allegiance (bay’ah) to Amirul Mu’mineen, Arabic for “Commander of the Faithful”, before adding: “May Allah accept us mujahideen”.

5.33pm AEST

Here’s a short summary of events as they stand at the moment:

4.42pm AEST

This audio is a brief excerpt from the immediate aftermath of the shooting inside the American Freedom Defense Initiative event in Garland, Texas.

4.03pm AEST

It appears that police are still attempting to determine whether any explosive devices are inside the car of the two gunmen.

Journalists and members of the public have been evacuated from the area, so information from the scene remains scant.

3.45pm AEST

Here’s a short video from Reuters with an update on the current situation:

3.44pm AEST

The Dallas Fort Worth scanner site aggregates information from the radio feeds of emergency services across Texas. The site has created this map with rolling updates of information.

NOW #GarlandShooting Law enforcement is investigating a shooting at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland off Naaman…

Update #GarlandShooting Perimeter has been requested. Please avoid this area.

Update #GarlandShooting Businesses in the general area will be shut down.

Update #GarlandShooting Evacuation ordered for the Walmart near the Curtis Culwell Center. Avoid this area!

3.37pm AEST

My colleague Bridie Jabour has just filed this explainer on the American Freedom Defense Initiative:

A co-founder of the group behind the contest to award $10,000 for the best cartoon depiction of Mohammed, is a New Yorker who runs a blog that campaigns to stop the “Islamification” of America.

Pamela Geller, used her blog Atlas Shrugs to declare “this is war” in the hours after the shooting of two gunmen at the contest, which had been organised by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group co-founded by Geller and Robert Spencer in 2010.

3.35pm AEST

Dutch politician Geert Wilders also posted this image shortly after the shooting.

Picture taken just before #garlandshooting . Thank God the heroes of SWAT-team prevented the worst.

3.33pm AEST

The contest depicting the prophet Muhammad was organised by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Here is some prior background to the group and their activities in the US in the Washington Post:

New Yorkers are used to aggressive advertising. Banners for breast implants. Billboards for condoms. But a federal judge’s ruling has opened the door for far more controversial posters on buses and subways across the city.

“Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” reads one such ad next to the image of a young man in a checkered headscarf. “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?”

3.25pm AEST

Dutch politician Geert Wilders was also attending the event in Garland. He also posted this update on twitter shortly after the shooting:

Shots fired at Garland Mohammed cartoon free speech event. I just left the building after speeching. #garlandshooting

3.22pm AEST

At the moment the bomb squad is now assessing the car driven by the two gunmen. There are reports from reporters at the scene of explosions that have been heard coming from the location.

BREAKING: Explosion heard as bomb teams worked around the vehicle police say was driven by two gunmen @NBCDFW

Police can't tell us about what happened yet but we heard an explosion. Can't see much activity from our vantage point n parking lot @NBCDFW

3.20pm AEST

Nor do we know identity of the shooters or the motivation for the attack. However, the shooting occurred outside a centre where the American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting an exhibition and contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

One of the organisers of the event, Pamela Geller, has directly linked the shooting to the event, and said it was an attack on free speech:

This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?

Two men with rifles and backpacks attacked police outside our event. A cop was shot; his injuries are not life-threatening, thank Gd. Please keep him in your prayers.

3.15pm AEST

At this point in time we still don’t have a full account of the circumstances of the shootings. A number of Texas officials have now provided some updates on the event.

This account from Douglas Athas, the mayor of Garland, is the most detailed account we have at the moment:

Two men in a car tried to drive into the parking lot, jumped out with automatic rifles. Started firing at an unarmed schools security officer who was hit in the leg. He was transported to the hospital.

The first suspect was shot immediately. The second was shot and wounded, reached for his backback and, of course, officers not knowing any idea what was in the back pack, shot him again and he was killed.

3.10pm AEST

Garland Police are also warning people to avoid the Culwell Event Centre and surrounding area.

Garland Police are asking people to avoid the area of the Culwell Event Center in North Garland.

3.08pm AEST

The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott has released this statement on the shooting:

Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack in Garland, Texas. This is a crime that was quickly ended thanks to the swift action by Garland law enforcement. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected tonight.

3.06pm AEST

Here’s a statement on the shooting released on the Garland Independent School District website:

Earlier this evening, during an event at the Curtis Culwell Center, two men exited a vehicle and began shooting at Garland ISD Security Officer Bruce Joiner. Garland Police, who were on scene, returned fire at the two men, killing both. Officer Joiner was shot in the ankle. He was transported to a local hospital, treated and released. Our thoughts are with him and his family.

Garland Police have secured the area around the Cuwlell Center and Naaman Forest High School. The district is working with Garland PD and will keep you informed as information becomes available.

3.01pm AEST

On Sunday evening in Texas two male gunmen were shot dead outside an exhibition at the Curtis Culwell Centre in Dallas, Texas.

We’ll be delivering rolling updates of events as they unfold throughout the night in the US. Here’s a summary of events so far:

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Idris Khan: blurred lines

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 08:00
Idris Khan takes photographs of photographs and sandblasts hundreds of minute lines of text on to marble and steel. Novelist Justin Cartwright meets the artist

Idris Khan’s studios are full of light, cluttered in an enviable and rather chic fashion, everything the successful young artist could aspire to, with assistants working away, a lovely kitchen, a palpable feeling of success and energy – and C-types up on the wall.

I must confess I did not know what a C-type was until I went to his studios in north London. I learned that it is essentially a photographic print that has been exposed using digital rather than darkroom methods. Khan starts most of his work by manipulating photographs, sometimes using computers. Some of these he has taken himself with his own camera; some he has borrowed from other sources. Essentially, his work is about exploring the deeper meaning buried in lines of writing, which he distils until they reveal some new truth. His work, be it a picture or an inscription on steel or board, speaks of a fascination with scripture.

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Texas shooting: the group behind the Muhammad cartoon contest

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 07:32

Pamela Geller is the co-founder and prolific blogger for the American Freedom Defense Initiative which rails at the ‘Islamification’ of America

The co-founder of the group behind the contest to award $10,000 for the best cartoon depiction of Muhammad is a New Yorker who runs a blog that campaigns to stop the “Islamification” of America.

Pamela Geller used her blog Atlas Shrugs to declare “this is war” in the hours after the shooting of two gunmen at the contest. The event had been organised by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group she set up with Robert Spencer in 2010.

Continue reading...

Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire: Trade Across an Inverted Imperial Divide

Muslim Matters - 4 May, 2015 - 06:41

By L Amatullah


Early modern interactions between Western Europe and the Ottomans were not only dynamic but a clarifying comment on an age in which global imperial authority was outside western hands.

Our modern discussion around the Western world's relationship with non-Western regions is often seen in terms of the former's political, economic and military superiority against the latter's relative inferiority. This is particularly true with Western European colonialism so fresh in our minds. Only in 1947, less than 70 years ago, did Britain finally leave India, the 'jewel in the crown' of the British Empire. Western European colonialism remains fresh within living memory. However, the balance of power was not always so.

In the early modern period, a timespan ranging from the late fifteenth century to the late eighteenth century, when Western Europe was just beginning to increase travel around the world, and long before a meaningful Western European colonialism had been conceived, the case was quite the reverse. This was especially seen in relation to the Islamic worlds, whose empires, against a far weaker Western Europe, were some of the most powerful entities in the world.

The leading empires of the Islamic worlds were the Turkish Ottoman Empire that stretched from Europe into the Middle East and North Africa, the Persian Safavid Empire in the Middle East, and the Indian Mughal Empire in Asia. These empires held the geopolitical advantage as powerful, wealthy and militarily advanced civilisations, far removed from prospects of Western European domination. I use the phrase “Western Europe” advisedly to refer to that particular region of the continent as opposed to the entire continent – the Ottomans too were a European entity, and present day Turkey is part of the continent, a fact often forgotten.

Our readings of history and literature has tended to a Eurocentric direction that has failed to give due attention to the rich tradition and heritage of engagement with non-Western European lands prior to the onset of Western European colonialism. Traders, travelers and diplomats from Western Europe would often travel to these regions seeking a slice of the vast and lucrative markets that contained rich commodities from spice to silk. These encounters were influenced by the very different balances of power at play; Western Europeans were the weaker figures seeking economic benefit in these powerful empires and markets.

In the early modern world, the most powerful empire in Europe was that of the Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans had been established on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait since the late fourteenth century and in 1453 the Conquest of Constantinople, led by Sultan Mehmed II, extinguished the thousand-year-old Byzantine Empire and rendered the city the new Ottoman capital. The Turkish conquest of Constantinople heralded a new age in Ottoman expansionism in Europe that would extend through the Balkans and central Europe reaching the gates of Vienna. Although in 1529 Sultan Suleiman I, who had conquered the Western Balkans and most of Hungary, laid an unsuccessful siege to Vienna, it would not be until the 1680s that the Ottomans suffered any permanent loss of land,  and by 1683 they were back at the gates of Vienna.

Educated Western European observers would be awed by the Ottomans; it was they who gave Suleiman the epithet 'the Magnificent' rather than the Ottomans, who named him 'the Lawgiver'. The early modern French jurist and historian, Jean Bodin (1529/30-96), would assert,

“If anywhere there exists an authority worthy of the name of empire or of authentic monarchy, it is surely the [Ottoman] sultan who wields it… It would be far more just to regard the Osmanli [i.e. Ottoman] sultan as the inheritor of the Roman Empire…”

The famed early modern English historian Richard Knolles (1545-1610) would comment on the impossibility of the task to 'set downe the bounds and limits' upon the Ottomans who accept 'no other limits than the uttermost bounds of the earth'. Meanwhile, as the Ottomans gained control of Islam's holiest sites of Mecca, Madinah and Jerusalem, they would come to formally claim the title of “Khalif”, assuming for themselves leadership of the global Islamic community. They were unique among the early modern Muslim empires in claiming this title.

For the English, the Ottomans were the leading eastern object of both fear and fantasy yet with flourishing trade and diplomatic relations they influenced England most significantly in this period. In 1580 William Harborne, the first official English Ambassador from the court of Queen Elizabeth I to the Ottomans, negotiated the first Anglo-Ottoman commercial treaty in Istanbul, culminating in the formation of The Levant Company that traded heavily across the Ottoman Empire. Of all Western Europe, Britain enjoyed the most commercial activity with the Islamic worlds in the seventeenth century; trade with the Ottomans alone accounted for a quarter of England's overseas commercial activity. Such was the centrality of Ottoman trade that when in the late 1500s an overzealous English gentleman, Anthony Sherley, attempted to form an Anglo-Persian alliance against Ottoman expansionism, thereby threatening the Levant trade, Queen Elizabeth's wrath was so severe that she banned Sherley from ever returning to England. Meanwhile, Anthony's brother Thomas, who fell afoul of the Turks and was imprisoned by them, would upon release and return to England in 1607 be arrested for interfering with the Levant trade.

Interestingly, even as England keenly traded in Ottoman goods, the Ottomans were often ambivalent about English goods, such that the English would often be forced to trade in gold or silver bullion rather than English commodities. This imbalanced reality was true for other Western European traders too and would cause a weakening outflow of capital in the absence of commodity export. While the Ottomans had desirable goods for the English and other Western Europeans, the latter had little to offer in return which the Ottomans could not produce for themselves as well and as cheaply. It was the Ottomans who were developed and Western Europe underdeveloped. The English commodity of wool was not hugely popular, although the English did succeed in trading in arms with the Ottomans; English scrap metal from old church bells were among the items the Ottomans favoured for the purpose of manufacturing arms. It is perhaps an irony that even as the Ottomans militarily threatened Western European borders, the English provided the means to create the arms to do so.

That Western Europe, and particularly the English under Queen Elizabeth I and later under King James I, continued to retain strong partnerships and trade agreements with the Ottomans, despite the latter's expansionism through the former's borders, is an interesting comment on the dynamics of the relationship. While foreign policy was at odds, in a world moving swiftly towards a globalised capitalist economy, profit won out and determined the terms of treaties and encounters.

Queen Elizabeth I recognised the importance of international trade and diplomatic alliances in an age of Eastern political authority, shifting economies and increasing globalisation, and was conscious of the significance of the Ottoman Empire within that picture. While the early modern period, where imperial authority lay firmly outside Western European hands, was far different from our present moment in geopolitical terms, in terms of international relations it seems things were not so different.

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Two dead after gunmen attack 'draw the prophet' anti-Islam art show in Texas - video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 05:39
Two men have been shot dead at a 'draw the prophet' Muhammad contest near Dallas, Texas. A security officer was reportedly also injured after he shot at the men, who drove up to the event and shot at a guard, authorities said. Police shot and killed the men, authorities also said. The American Freedom Defense Initiative had been hosting the exhibition and competition Continue reading...

Two gunmen shot dead at 'draw the prophet Muhammad' contest in Texas

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 May, 2015 - 02:07

Security officer injured after returning fire at suspects outside event in Garland awarding $12,500 for the best cartoon of the prophet

Two gunmen have been shot dead and a security guard injured at a contest for cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad in a Dallas suburb.

The gunmen were said to have driven up to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland on Sunday afternoon where the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) had been hosting the exhibition and contest.

As today’s Muhammad art exhibit event at the Curtis Culwell Center was coming to an end, two males drove up to the front of the building in a car. Both males were armed and began shooting at a Garland ISD security officer. Garland police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed.

Police suspect the vehicle may contain an incendiary device and the bomb squad is on the scene. The surrounding businesses including Academy Sports, Walmart and Sam’s are being evacuated. Event participants are also being evacuated from the Curtis Culwell Center for their safety.

Breaking: 3 ppl shot. 2 men arrived in vehicle opened fire hitting someone. Garland police shot/killed men. @NBCDFW

#JustNow: @PlanoPoliceDept bomb squad arrived at the scene assisting #Garland police. #GarlandShooting @NBCDFW

#BREAKING Officer blocking door. Hearing it was shooting involving officer. @wfaachannel8

Picture taken just before #garlandshooting . Thank God the heroes of SWAT-team prevented the worst.

Ppl evacuated singing patriotic songs. @wfaachannel8

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Why Kate Shouldn’t Be Criticised For Her Postnatal Appearance

Islamicate - 3 May, 2015 - 17:41

The arrival of the second royal baby has sent the country into a flurry with an assortment of responses ranging from many cooing over the newborn, and others grumbling about another over-privileged offspring being funded at the expense of the taxpayer. Additionally, there has been much scrutiny on the Duchess of Cambridge herself being able to walk out of hospital (in heels, no less) to introduce her daughter to the world.

Newspapers such as the Daily Mail are naturally obsessing over her clothes, her poise and her choice of hair and makeup. However, it’s the responses of other women that I have found to be most interesting; the constant commentary focused on scorning her for looking fresh and well ten hours after having given birth is apparently a problem for women. The argument is that the Duchess is setting an unrealistic precedent for ‘normal’ postnatal women to look as if they’ve just left the spa instead of producing a baby from their uterus with no evidence of the horrors of childbirth on display; that they might be bruised, torn, bleeding and maybe even using a catheter due to an inability to urinate. The definition of what constitutes a normal postnatal woman is rather vague, but perhaps what is being referred to here is a female member of the masses who isn’t royalty and doesn’t have the world scrutinising her every move; one who simply gives birth and is able to walk out of hospital in her pyjamas and slippers without a second thought as to who might be looking at her. In short, a normal postnatal woman is someone who isn’t obligated to meet with the public nor is she obligated to put her child in the public eye of millions within less than half a day of having entered the world.

For all the commentary on Kate and how she looks, I have yet to see any sympathy from other females who should understand that all a mother wants for at least the first six weeks of postnatal recovery is not to meet the public, but to just hide away at home with her husband, children and other helpful family members or friends whilst she spends time resting and adjusting to the new family dynamics of having a newborn in the home. Kate, who whilst willingly undertook these rules and regulations when marrying William, is not afforded that kind of privacy; she has been criticised for having a team of hair stylists, personal shoppers, chefs, nannies and all sorts of help which is considered to be a privilege by us ‘normal’ women, but who’s to say that that we wouldn’t do the same in her position? For those who deny that they would hire a hair stylist and make-up artist to make them look like a catwalk model if they had the means to do so, you’re lying to yourselves. Moreover, measures taken by Kate would actually be considered justified knowing that the media and public were waiting outside.

What’s even more surprising is that Muslim women, who are usually vehement proponents of mothers and motherhood itself, have made these same criticisms. Being critical of her appearance should be of little importance, but just like the newspapers, Muslim women on social media have descended upon Kate’s postnatal appearance like vultures on a fresh piece of meat. Such observations reek of sour grapes and expose us for being as superficial as the media. Furthermore, these remarks only exemplify how women are more than willing to tear strips off each other at their most vulnerable times; this behaviour shows that women themselves reinforce the barrier against female progression. Regrettably, the truth of the matter is that we as Muslim women, who should be godly in our approach to curbing spite and jealousy, are unable to feel happy for another woman who has birthed a daughter into a happy and loving family and will be receiving all the care and attention that a woman in postnatal recovery needs and deserves; she is receiving the kind of help that we should be championing for mothers as a status quo.

So what is so special about this royal princess that she should be celebrated? In a time where unwanted pregnancies, abusive marriages, extramarital affairs and single parenthood are rife, we should applaud Kate and William for being strong in the face of such societal challenges. They are celebrating the birth of a daughter, something that some culturally misogynistic Muslims look upon with contempt. William, who has been present at the birth of both his children has set a better example as an involved father than many British Muslim men do; he has supported his wife throughout both pregnancies, and even afterwards which we witnessed yesterday as she tried to walk down the steps of the Lindo Wing with their daughter. Whilst many men amongst non-Muslims might also be unsupportive, it is the Muslim men who should be present with their wives and children to celebrate their new God-given blessing; there isn’t much point in calling themselves a ‘protector’ for their family if they refuse to live up to that responsibility.

If there is anything to be said about the Duchess of Cambridge, it is that her happiness has very little, if at all, to do with her socio-economic situation. As was pretty evident from the marriage of Charles and Diana who in spite of being royal and aristocratic were unable to remain happy and together, one could conclude that Kate’s relaxed demeanour in the face of the parasitic media might be the product of her royal entourage, but it has infinitely more to do with the extensive support she receives from her own friends and family and above all, her husband.


Birmingham headteachers say they are subject to campaign of intimidation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2015 - 16:54

Schools in city caught in upheaval from the Trojan Horse investigation are targeted with dead animals in playgrounds and death threats on social media

Headteachers working in schools affected by the Birmingham Trojan Horse affair are facing a campaign of intimidation, including a death threat on Facebook and dead animals in the playground, it was claimed on Sunday.

Many, many of our members have suffered greatly from rogue governors

There is no place for extremism in our schools

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Caroline Criado-Perez: ‘We deserve to know about the women who show us what can be done and how to do it’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 May, 2015 - 10:00

She’s the feminist activist and writer who took on the Bank of England and Twitter when she campaigned for a female face on UK banknotes. Here she talks to pioneering women today, from the athlete who scaled the Shard for Greenpeace to the Iranian who started a hijab challenge on Facebook

Darling Caroline,
I don’t suppose you’ll hear about this during the day and worry, but it is already on the BBC website and it may be on the news tonight. So just to let you know I am, of course, fine: I’m in Bangui and this was in Boguila, in the north-east of the country.

“This” being the killing of about 20 people, including three of our national staff, inside the hospital run by MSF. It was armed militia looting, looking for money. Local leaders were having a meeting at the hospital and nobody knows yet what caused the shooting.

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Afghan trial begins for 49 people suspected in mob killing of woman

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 May, 2015 - 12:41

Trial opens in Kabul of suspects, including 19 police officers, in brutal lynching of Farkhunda after she was falsely accused of burning a copy of the Quran

The trial of 49 suspects, including 19 police officers, on charges relating to the brutal mob killing of an Afghan woman began in the capital, Kabul, on Saturday.

The opening of the trial at Afghanistan’s primary court was broadcast live on nationwide television. The suspects all face charges relating to the 19 March killing of a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda.

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Maldives arrests leaders of opposition parties after violent protests

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 May, 2015 - 10:59

Sheikh Imran Abdulla detained and accused of attempting to overthrow regime amid clashes with police, as thousands march on capital

Authorities in the Maldives arrested three opposition leaders and nearly 200 other people after clashes erupted between police and protesters demanding the resignation of the country’s president and the release of a jailed ex-leader.

With the arrests, nearly the entire opposition leadership behind Friday’s anti-government protests were detained, opposition lawmaker Eva Abdulla said Saturday.

Related: Release Mohamed Nasheed – an innocent man and the Maldives’ great hope | Amal Clooney

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