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On mental health care and staying connected

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 September, 2018 - 19:46

A still image from the BBC documentary Don't Call Me Crazy, showing a girl sitting on the floor with her legs raised and her arm wrapped round her face.A few years ago I wrote a post on here (The Importance of Staying Connected) about how the Internet had changed from being a niche service which few people outside academia had access to, and which was a very definite luxury, to a mass medium which was a lifeline for very many people including disabled people. A friend who was a mental health inpatient had been transferred to a clinic in a remote part of Germany and had her phone and computer confiscated as the institution catered to people with dual diagnoses, including addictions, who could have used them to order drugs; after a few days, she jumped from a balcony. In that and other countries in Europe, including the UK, people receiving standard mental health inpatient care are allowed mobile phones and Internet access (though not provided with it) but not those in ‘secure’ units which house people who have been sent there on court orders as well as those detained under the Mental Health Act (which only needs two doctors) or in most adolescent units. In the USA, though, it appears to be different; people on mental health wards routinely have their phones taken away and a friend of mine who was recently admitted said she would not be able to keep in touch with us (or do the work she relies on the Internet to do) while in hospital.

Another friend of mine was recently discharged from an acute mental health unit in England. She had her phone with her all the time and kept in contact with me and other friends throughout this and a previous admission earlier this year. Wards can be stressful places with patients coming and going making it difficult to form friendships and some of them are difficult to get on with — this was a mixed ward and one of the male patients made threatening sexual advances and she needed advice as to what to do (in the end, the police were called and the man was transferred to the adjacent locked unit). She was able to arrange visits and meet-ups with friends locally during leave. Being able to keep in touch with friends staves off boredom and gives people distraction from their own thoughts which is important if those thoughts are distressing and often, because of lack of funds, mental health units are unable to provide any other adequate distraction. (This unit had a garden, for example, but patients were rarely allowed access to it.) However, a few years ago an acquaintance who had been in many different hospitals said that a previous ward she had been admitted to for more than a year had a strict no-phones and no-Internet policy and that confidentiality was given as the reason (nowadays, the policy is that patients are not allowed to photograph staff or other patients, but are allowed to keep their phones).

A while ago I read a question and answer on a medical website; the questioner was a doctor who was also a mother of a teenaged son with both Tourettes and co-morbid depression who had to be admitted to hospital from time to time to deal with the latter. One of his Tourette’s tics was to push at his teeth, which had over the years led to losing most of them; his usual way of keeping himself busy and his hands occupied was to play his electric guitar and to talk to his friends online, but the hospital had a policy of not allowing internet access because of concerns about privacy, and presumably the electric guitar would have caused disturbance to others. To avoid causing further damage to his teeth while being prevented from doing anything to distract him, he asked for restraints to be applied and he and his mother had had to persuade staff to apply them as the unit had an anti-restraint policy — as a lot of wards do, because they’re demeaning, often applied as punishments and almost never without alternatives. Worse, they set a time limit which was before the anxiety that led him to ask for the restraints had worn off. The person answering (another mental health professional) agreed with the decision to request restraints, but sensibly suggested that the hospital should reconsider its policy on electronics as this was clearly counter-therapeutic: someone who needed to be active was instead forced to lie idle in bed for hours or days.

That’s not to say that removing someone’s Internet access for a few days (or longer) isn’t sometimes beneficial; in some cases someone’s mental illness may be contributed to by online bullying, for example, and there are such things as “pro-ana” sites which encourage people with anorexia to continue slimming and resist treatment. Sometimes a person’s treatment requires them having a break from the stress of daily life and taking them away from the Internet is the only way of achieving this. But these issues do not apply to everyone who needs mental health inpatient treatment; many need to be able to talk to their friends, to get advice from someone who isn’t a mental health professional (or in some cases, other professionals who aren’t of the same mindset as those in charge of their ward) or to get help when there is danger on the ward and they may need to talk to outsiders without anyone on the ward hearing. It’s about time the people who still insist on cutting people off from the world for days or weeks a time when they need mental health treatment, regardless of individual circumstance, learned that it’s not necessary and can in fact be harmful.

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Hajj Reflections: ‘Come Back to God, Wherever You Are’

altmuslim - 13 September, 2018 - 21:59
I performed Hajj for the first time this year. It will most likely be my only time, although only Allah (swt) knows for sure. This I know: I want to go back. I am also wary, upon coming home, of being absorbed back into my former routines of daily living. Our group had it really […]

The Guardian view on Xinjiang: China’s secret camps are at last in the spotlight | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 September, 2018 - 18:16
As increasing evidence emerges of the arbitrary detention of Muslim minorities on a shocking scale in the north-western region, the new UN rights chief and others are speaking out

It is unthinkable. Yet week by week, the evidence mounts that in north-western China’s Xinjiang region, as many as a million people are being held in extralegal indoctrination camps where inmates are forced to write self-criticisms, sing patriotic songs and chant slogans praising the Communist party. According to former detainees, people appear to have been pulled in because they went abroad, because they engaged in conventional religious practices, or even because they do not speak Chinese. Many are held indefinitely. Some say they were tortured. Most of those held are Uighurs, who make up less than half of the 23 million population of the region, or belong to Kazakh or other Muslim minorities. One report, drawing upon official sources, suggests some areas have detention quotas.

The camps are the most shocking aspect of an intense and all-encompassing crackdown, described by Human Rights Watch this week as amounting to rights violations of a scope and scale not seen in China since the Cultural Revolution unleashed in 1966. According to the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, official data suggests a fifth of all arrests in China last year were in Xinjiang, which has just 1.5% of its population. The human cost is immense, as a new Guardian report reveals.

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Pollution and corruption are choking the life out of Basra | Diaa Jubaili

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 September, 2018 - 10:00

The Iraqi city is caught in a trap between the growing influence of Iran and government neglect

Salty, foul water flows through the pipes of Basra: a city racked by high unemployment, broken healthcare and education systems, drugs smuggled in across the borders and cooked up at home with Iranian raw materials. Millions of landmines from wars past hem in the city, even as militias – the armed wings of Shia political parties, given new life by the fight against Isis – tyrannise its people. Even the clean, clear river that my brother and I used to fish from is now a muddy creek filled with sewage and sickness.

All this and more came together in the explosion of fury in Basra this past week, driving thousands of citizens into the streets to demand their rights. This unrest may surprise many in the west, where the conflicts of the region are often seen through the lens of sectarian strife. Yet many Iraqis are tired of Iran treating Iraq like its own backyard – a shared Shiite faith has been used to exploit Iraq’s wealth rather than build up its people. Most of the demonstrators are young people, under the age of 30. They were children when the United States, the United Kingdom and others invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime – paving the way for Iran’s expanded influence through the Shia parties that took power in Baghdad.

Related: Protesters set fire to Iranian consulate in Basra

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How the Sacred Law of Gender Relations Can Teach Us R-E-S-P-E-C-T

altmuslim - 11 September, 2018 - 23:36
Recently while watching the internet light on fire at how a Bishop inappropriately touched a young musical artist, Ariana Grande, I was reminded again of the importance of the principles and laws that Islam stands for. Imagine for a moment: It’s the funeral of one of the most celebrated musical artists in history. A young […]

A good time for the next generation to renew Jewish-Palestinian dialogue | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 September, 2018 - 18:47
Tony Klug, who was involved in a previous initiative to bring the two communities together, applauds Michael Segalov’s call for serious talks. Plus, Ya’ir Klein on Israel’s conception of Jewishness

Michael Segalov’s call for dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian groups in Britain in the light of the tensions over the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism and the question of free speech on Israel/Palestine is one of the few constructive proposals to emerge from this whole wretched issue (Journal, 6 September). But it is not a new idea. In 1984, a number of Jews and Palestinians in the UK started to meet regularly in an effort to break the silent hostility that had largely characterised their relations until then and to help “promote a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. At the time, the idea of conversing was regarded by both communities as very radical, requiring the group to meet clandestinely until 1991 when it finally went public as the Council for Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue, with an elected executive board co-chaired by Saida Nusseibeh and myself.

Serious dialogue is not an easy option. It is not about exchanging niceties or sounding off in front of the other. As we noted at the time in a published leaflet: “The early tendency by participants on both sides to sermonize to the other … soon came to be replaced by a mutual recognition that each had much to learn from the other.” It went on: “The dialogue process can be one of profound discomfort to begin with, as it frequently forces the participants to reconsider deeply held convictions concerning the beliefs, motives and deeds of the other side – and also of their own side. Above all, it is a humanizing process. It is much easier to despise, humiliate and destroy a stereotype than a fellow human being with feelings, frailties and hopes not so different from one’s own. Palestinians and Jews engaged in dialogue … tend to lose their susceptibility to the hate propaganda and demonic imagery which have been employed by all sides over the decades.”

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Muslim group calls for preacher linked to Trump to be denied UK visa

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 September, 2018 - 11:20

Franklin Graham, who has called Islam ‘evil’, is due to speak at a festival in Blackpool

Britain’s leading Muslim organisation has called on the Home Office to refuse a UK visa to a prominent US evangelical preacher with links to Donald Trump and a track record of Islamophobic and homophobic statements.

Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, has been invited to preach at a Christian festival in Blackpool this month.

Related: 'Exvangelicals': why more religious people are rejecting the evangelical label

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Why Does Allah Allow Human Suffering? For What Purpose?

altmuslim - 7 September, 2018 - 22:44
A paradox formulated long ago by Greek philosopher Epicurus asks, if God is perfectly good and omnipotent, why do we suffer? He proposed two alternative answers: Either God is not perfectly good and thus not willing to stop human suffering; or God is not powerful enough to end all the pain in the world. In […]

One Day in the Haram review – a fascinating glimpse inside Islam's holiest site

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 September, 2018 - 14:00

This insider’s look at the day-to-day workings of the Great Mosque of Mecca is reverent and impressive

With a release timed to coincide with Muharram, the Islamic new year, on 11 September, this very reverent documentary proffers an access-all-areas look at the Haram, the Great Mosque of Mecca (or Makkah), built to house Islam’s most holy shrine, the Kaaba. Only Muslims are permitted to enter Mecca, and this look inside the mosque offers an exceptionally rare glimpse into what goes on there, how it is run, what the daily routines are like and so on. It also provides a useful teaching tool for younger Muslim viewers and recent converts to the faith.

Marshalling pin-sharp footage shot from on high, and sequences shot among worshippers participating in the rituals of hajj or pilgrimage, often in mesmerising slow motion, director Abrar Hussain takes pains to balance the big picture with plenty of minute and fascinating detail. The Kaaba, the big black cube at the centre of the Haram, is a major focal point – what it represents, how it’s maintained, which prayers are said there, and when. But the excursions to the outer spokes of the Haram, the factories and offices that all service it, the minarets from which calls to prayer are projected, are just as fascinating to explore. Textile fans will be entranced by footage at a factory that makes the black coverings that are embroidered with Qur’anic scripture in special gold thread and wire.

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In the Midst of Rampant Islamophobia, American Muslims are Making Political History

altmuslim - 5 September, 2018 - 22:15
American Muslims are making history. The unprecedented level of civic engagement and grassroots effort displayed by more than 90 Muslim political candidates and their supporters ended in victories for many last month. Nine Somali-American, Arab-American, South Asian and African-American Muslim candidates from Minnesota won a series of primaries. Among them was Ilhan Omar — a […]

Indonesian province bans men and women from dining together

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 September, 2018 - 16:37

Islamic Aceh district rules only married or related couples can eat out at the same table

A district in Indonesia’s deeply Islamic Aceh province has banned men and women from dining together unless they are married or related, according to an official who said it would help women be "more well behaved".

Aceh is the only region in the world’s most populous Muslim majority country that imposes Islamic law and has been criticised in the past for putting moral restrictions on women.

Related: The public flogging of two gay men and what it says about Indonesia's future

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Manto: the writer who felt the pain of India's partition

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 September, 2018 - 06:00

Saadat Hasan Manto chronicled Bombay life in all its ugly beauty – until sectarian horrors were unleashed on the streets he loved. A new biopic by director Nandita Das retells his stories

It took just a moment to cleave India in two. At midnight between 14 and 15 August 1947, the country of Pakistan was born and India was liberated from British rule. In the months leading to the end of the British Raj, one of the world’s largest migrations occurred. Fourteen million people were displaced, leading to acts of mass violence, turning Hindu, Muslim and Sikh against one another.

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How Moonsighting Wars Teach Us Greater Lessons on Choice and Faith

altmuslim - 4 September, 2018 - 22:34
Once again, we’ve watched news outlets to dust off their Hajj and Eid coverage, filled with shots of outdoor markets and prayers in far off places. Muslims have mostly recovered from the heady swirl of events leading up to Eid ul-Adha and await the return of the freshly minted hujjaj (those who have performed the […]

'We need to grow up': Malaysian MPs condemn caning over lesbian sex

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 September, 2018 - 06:33

Politician calls for decriminalisation of homosexuality amid outrage over punishment in sharia court

A Malaysian MP has called for laws that criminalise homosexuality to be immediately abolished amid outcry over the caning of two women convicted by a sharia court of attempting to have lesbian sex.

Charles Santiago, a parliamentary member from the Malaysian state of Selangor, expressed his outrage in a series of tweets after the punishment was carried out in the Terengganu court on Monday morning.

Related: Women caned in Malaysia for attempting to have lesbian sex

Related: Malaysia accused of 'state-sponsored homophobia' after LGBT crackdown

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Why Muslims should protest public insults to the Prophet

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 September, 2018 - 14:56

A photograph of a rally in Pakistan, showing South Asian men in a variety of headwear including turbans, holding aloft a sign that reads "Stop blasphemers at social media, blasphemous sketches contest in Holland".Geert Wilders (or Geert Hitlers as I call him), a far-right Dutch opposition politician, has cancelled an event he had been planning (or claimed to have been planning) this coming November, a contest for cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He claimed he had cancelled the contest as a result of having received death threats and because he did not want others to become the “victims of Islamic violence”. According to Al-Jazeera, around 10,000 people had taken part in a protest organised by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik party in Islamabad, Pakistan, against the event and to call on prime minister Imran Khan to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands (and there have been others elsewhere, though often organised by certain Islamic schools). AJ quotes a Dutch political analyst in London, Stijn van Kessel, as saying that the event was “a way for him to generate media attention; he hopes that will eventually translate to votes”. A 26-year-old man, reportedly also from Pakistan, was arrested in the Hague for making a threat against Wilders. Unlike in the case of the Danish cartoons ten years ago, there have not been widespread Muslim protests in Europe against the event.

Kessel’s analysis is key to why Muslims should object to and protest against public insults to the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and the public demeaning of Islam or Muslims. While I do not believe Muslims should turn into irrational raging mobs or lose our composure, we should raise our voices and use all legal means to ensure that such events are shut down and that, if a politician like Wilders wants to come to our country, he is refused a visa on “public good” grounds as has been the case with racist speakers of all stripes in the past, including Muslims accused of supporting anti-Semitism or terrorism. This goes far beyond the threat posed by The Satanic Verses, a novel by a writer beloved on the UK’s literary scene which would have sold few copies if it had not been for the protests and the infamous ‘fatwa’ from the Iranian leader who sought to bolster his prestige and power. Cartoons or literature insulting any religious figure, still living or otherwise, are quite legal in the UK but material intended to foster hatred against a minority is on much more shaky legal ground.

Some of the Danish cartoons (which were solicited by and published in a mainstream, right-wing newspaper, a bit like the Daily Mail) show what the cartoons that might have won a competition organised by Geert Wilders might have looked like: essentially they were stereotypes of a nasty Arab or Muslim — a man with a bomb in his turban, for example, or a man with an unkempt beard holding a dagger with two veiled wives behind him. The message was, “look at the kind of man these Moozlums aspire to be like”. In other words, it is a slur on all Muslims; the suggestion is that if we weren’t restrained by western norms or western-backed dictatorships, we would all be like the dirty, deranged-looking man in the cartoons; we are only feigning civilisation out of necessity or engaging in taqiyya or concealing our true beliefs or nature. The target is us. In addition, such events serve to embolden bigots and to chip away at inhibitions about what may be said about, and ultimately done to, Muslims. It gets people used to expressing hate, to shouting vile slogans, to repeating untruths without a second thought, and the next stage is violence.

A Muslim friend was asking why we only protest when it is our own Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) who is insulted rather than, say, Jesus (peace be upon him) or another prophet. The answer is that most of the people who would insult Jesus Christ are people of Christian background striking back at their own upbringings and, while it does offend us, it is no threat to us and additionally, most of what goes on in this country that we consider blasphemy against Jesus Christ is intended as reverence by those involved. On the rare occasions we hear earlier prophets insulted or condemned, it is based on very harsh descriptions of their behaviour from the Bible, which may or may not be accurate and are in some cases misunderstood (the story of prophet Solomon, peace be upon him, and the baby being a classic example). We do not have the resources to be every nation’s conscience and police about all these things.

Insisting on drawing cartoons or other pictures of the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is a tell-tale sign of someone with bad intentions towards Muslims or Islam. It’s widely known and understood that we do not do that in Islam (much as we do not play-act him or his Companions — despite its popularity, The Message remains banned in many Muslim countries), and we do not appreciate seeing others do it. Those who respect us, respect that tradition; only those who do not will go to the effort of drawing or painting such images — unlike with other mannerisms which can easily trap those who are unaware, it’s not a difficult taboo to observe. As for why, the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) forbade the drawing of pictures and making of statues in general, and we have always used the word rather than the image to inform and educate. Our aim in Islam is to know and please Allah, God, and not to confuse Him with His creation, even the best of creation. Even the flag of Islam contained the shahada, not a pictorial symbol (the battle flag also includes a sword). None of us knows what the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) looked like, although we have descriptions, but we have a lot of details about his behaviour, how he treated and interacted with people, right down to how he ate. We can all aspire to be like him in these traits; particularly as we are a multi-racial community, we cannot all look like him.

Some Muslims on Facebook have said that the best response to hate towards the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is to celebrate him with gatherings in which we remind ourselves of his life and his nature and read poems such as the Burda and the many mawlid (birthday) poetic suites, and that we should strive to educate the public on the truth about these matters. I agree. But we must remember that the true targets of these insults is the Muslims who live in the same lands as the people issuing them — namely, ourselves, and our rights and liberties and in the most extreme cases, our lives and our loved ones’ lives. This, and not our hurt feelings, is why we must fight them.

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Shahira Yusuf: 'I have always felt beautiful'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 September, 2018 - 08:00

Signed by the model agency that discovered Kate Moss, Londoner Shahira Yusuf is the outspoken and politically engaged Muslim model who is fast becoming the new face of ‘modest fashion’

When Shahira Yusuf signed with Storm Models, the first thing she did was sit down with her agent and write a list. These were her “boundaries”, the rules that stylists and photographers should be made aware of before a shoot. She must have her arms covered, she must have her chest covered, and her hair. She must not be expected to wear clothes that are very tight, nor anything that makes her feel uncomfortable. “I’m fully prepared for some people not to like me, but it’s just as possible that would be because I’m a woman as because I wear the hijab,” she says. “But I’m firm, and headstrong, and I’m not going to succumb to negative voices.”

The office of an international model agency is an interesting place in which to consider beauty. In reception a middle-aged man makes notes on the products he needs to buy to perfect his teenage daughter’s hair – she wobbles down the corridor in heels re-learning how to walk. The walls are covered with head shots: these are the faces that sell things, and these are the faces that define, for a season anyway, what beauty is. When only white girls, when only white girls with blonde hair and flat chests and shiny skin lead fashion campaigns and appear on the covers of magazines, then the implication is that other types of women are not beautiful. The impact of that ripples through women’s lives, influencing their self-worth, their identities, the limits of what is possible. Which is why this stuff matters. It matters that 21-year-old Yusuf, the youngest of eight siblings brought up in Stratford, east London, was signed by the agency that discovered Kate Moss. It matters that she is being promoted as the new face of “modest fashion”. Although, she says, matter-of-factly, “I have always felt beautiful.”

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The far-right activist and the editor: how paper ‘sows division’ where an MP died

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 September, 2018 - 07:00
Danny Lockwood’s outspoken editorials and his meeting with Tommy Robinson have split opinion in Batley, home town of murdered MP Jo Cox

In the centre of Batley stands Jo Cox House, named after the MP murdered by a rightwing extremist during the EU referendum campaign. For many in the West Yorkshire town it stands as a reminder of the perils of extremism and the need for unity. Close by stand the offices of the town’s weekly newspaper, whose editor and proprietor is accused of aggravating community tensions through a series of anti-Muslim opinion pieces.

In January, Danny Lockwood, owner of The Press, met Tommy Robinson, former English Defence League leader and notorious Islamo-phobe, near Jo Cox House to discuss how the town’s Muslim and “established” white community were “completely at odds with each other”.

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The dark secret of Thailand’s child brides

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 September, 2018 - 22:00
Underage Muslim girls are regularly forced into marriage with Malaysian men, and the government turns a blind eye

One day this summer, 11-year-old Ayu married 41-year-old Che Abdul Karim Che Hamid at a small pink mosque on the banks of the Golok river in the far south of Thailand. Earlier that morning, Che Abdul Karim and his soon-to-be child bride had travelled over the border from Malaysia into the Thai province of Narathiwat for the wedding. After a short ceremony at 11am and a trip to the Islamic Council offices to get their marriage certificate stamped, the couple crossed back over the border. Ayu, was now Che Abdul Karim’s third wife.

In Malaysia, where men can legally marry girls under 18 if they get Islamic sharia court approval, Ayu’s case caused a national outcry in parliament and protests on the streets. But over the border in Thailand, where the controversial union took place, the response by the government and religious authorities has been notably muted.

A girl raped in her village was taken to a shelter, but the Islamic Council visited to try to make her marry her rapist

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Why “Jewish fears”, even if genuine, are misplaced

Indigo Jo Blogs - 31 August, 2018 - 19:02

A man standing on grass holding a sign bearing the words "For the many, not the Jew" in white on a red background.Last week I saw two blog articles published by self-described left-wing Zionists, one of whom I know through disability activist circles, about why they are concerned about the “rising tide” of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party which they accuse Jeremy Corbyn of encouraging or condoning. Both of them spoke of their past; the father of one of the authors came to the UK in one of the pre-war Kindertransports from Nazi Germany, the other grew up in the Anglo-Jewish community which she fell away from in adulthood, but the state of the Labour Party since Corbyn’s rise has reminded her of her Jewishness and of the fear Jews traditionally felt, i.e. that however integrated they felt they were, they would always be reminded of being outsiders after a generation or two and had always lived in fear of having to pack their bags (or grab the one they had kept packed just in case) and run. One of the pieces is by Andrew Gilbert and titled The Stolen Pen: the resonance of anti-Semitism; the other is by ‘Ermintrude’, a social worker I know on Twitter, titled On Zionism, Anti-semitism and Racism — A personal response.

In other news, Frank Field yesterday (Thursday) resigned the Labour whip in the Commons citing the issue as the major reason, though there is also a campaign to deselect him in his constituency party; the New Statesman carried an interview with former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and an editorial demanding that the Labour Party adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism including the disputed examples. I have made clear my objection to this demand and what it would mean, namely that there would effectively be no place for Muslims in the party.

Ermintrude explains Zionism thus:

Zionism for me, and many like me is not an ideology based on destruction and expansion, it is based on a complex history of a persecuted race who desire a homeland to exist. This does not mean this land has to exclude others who live there although the current government is oppressive, without doubt. To me, the inability to humanise ‘Zionists’ and to understand this definition is a blind spot for Corbyn and his ilk. I can desperately strive for peace in the Middle East while still fundamentally supporting the existence of an Israeli state, albeit a very, very different one to the one that exists now.

I don’t disagree that the idea of a homeland or state for the Jews is not in itself racist; however, the demand for a state in a place where another people lives, a people who were not significantly responsible for the Jews’ persecutions, where they would be forced to “budge up” or leave to make way for Jewish incomers, makes way for racism very readily. Zionists used such slogans as “land without people for people without land”. This can be interpreted in one of two ways: either that the land was actually empty, which it was not (and is thus either extremely ignorant or mendacious), or that Arabs are less than people, which is racist. Zionists do not like hearing their beliefs likened to imperialism or colonialism; however, it exploited the fact that, at the time, Palestine was under the control of a sympathetic white colonial power which allowed large numbers of them to settle and build militias. Furthermore, European Jews were further up the European racial hierarchy than native Arabs were: they were Europeans, whites, not colonial subjects.

And as for wanting “a very different [Israeli state] to the one that exists now”, that one exists now because of the people who live there: the people who elected a war criminal as prime minister, who elect leaders that expand settlements and expand a segregation infrastructure to support them, who maintain military service to support an army that, now that two of their four former enemies have signed peace treaties, a third is in the throes of civil war and the fourth is currently more engaged in propping up the regime in that country, serves only to harass ordinary Palestinians going about their business. It’s this sort of behaviour, not the perpetrators’ religion or ethnic background, that is the cause of Palestinian resistance and movements like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) abroad, including here.

Regarding the Jews’ sense of endangerment and persecution, Ermintrude explains:

It was a lesson that was taught every hour of every day as we saw the tattooed numbers on the arms of our neighbours and family members. I don’t remember ‘learning’ about the Holocaust or the centuries of having to run because it just ‘was’. These were the stories discussed on Friday nights and Saturday lunches, the ones that just lived with us.

I remember my grandparents telling me that all ‘host’ countries turn against the Jews eventually. We are a race that can’t ever ‘settle’ beyond a couple of generations and nowhere will be safe, because eventually, eventually they will turn on the Jews.

But Jews have been living in the UK now for many more than two generations — more like four or five, at least — without any official persecution or any movement that makes anti-Semitism part of its platform having gained any significant traction. Even when the National Front made a certain amount of headway in the 1970s, its main targets were Commonwealth immigrants; even then, despite the demonstrably Nazi beliefs of the people at its centre, they knew they could not win votes by targeting Jews. This is not to say that no prejudice exists or that nobody is aware of Jewish stereotypes; there were Jewish boys at my boarding school and all of them were the target of racialised insults and, in some cases, violence (by contrast, I never heard of ‘Jew’ or Jewish stereotypes used as insults in three south London schools up until then). But the idea that Jews have no place living here, should “go home”, are not British or should not have the same rights as everyone else has no currency and has not had for a very long time, which is more than can be said for attitudes towards the more visible minorities that arrived after the War; it allows no-stun kosher slaughter which is banned in many countries in Europe and does not interfere in mainstream orthodox Jewish schooling, both of which benefit Muslims as well. To put it simply, Britain has been good to the Jews and the fact that Jews “feel threatened” does not mean they actually are.

And the substance of the claims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party does not equate to any real threat, in my opinion. Many of them bear no resemblance to anything that would be classed as racism if the ‘target’ was any other minority; few of them relate to British Jews in any case, but to Israel or Israelis and often in response to actual violence from Israel itself (e.g. bombing civilian targets in Gaza or Lebanon). The majority of the reports are not about new incidents (“Corbyn said X about Jews today”) but old incidents from before he became leader, all of which were known of in 2015 and could have been brought up then (or when Owen Smith challenged him a year later), but his opponents have chosen to draw attention to them one by one. And absolutely none of them involve the use of racial slurs, threats of violence or other threats to British Jews or to their rights or citizenship, things other minorities face on a routine basis and do not always result in a media-led outcry — in fact, as with Boris Johnson earlier in August, there are open suggestions that it may increase their popularity.

Lastly, both articles plead that Jews be allowed to “define their own oppression”, which echoes the demands that have been made both on Twitter and in the mainstream media by other so-called community leaders (none of them, incidentally, elected by the whole Jewish-origin community and some of them not at all), as other minorities are supposedly allowed to. I’ve covered this in the past, but to reiterate: other minorities define their ‘oppression’ in terms of violence, threats, discrimination, policies supporting these things and racial slurs, not someone’s stance on a conflict in a foreign country that they take a different side in. I have yet to hear Hindu leaders in the UK, for example, condemn anyone as racist for their stance on the situation in Kashmir, Gujarat or anything else in the Indian Subcontinent that Hindus or Hindu nationalists are implicated in. I have sometimes heard Black people allude to racism in media coverage of, say, Robert Mugabe’s farm seizures (often with some justice: I have indeed heard White people say “Black people can’t farm!”), but never to the extent of demanding the resignation of a politician for that reason. The things which trigger accusations of anti-Semitism are often much more obscure than in other alleged incidents of racism and often do not target the Jewish community here at all. In some cases there seems to have been no basis to the claims at all.

The Labour NEC meets next week to debate whether to adopt in full the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism or the modified version favoured by Corbyn and his supporters. Much as I oppose Corbyn’s stance on Brexit (and would gladly see him removed as there needs to be a major party in opposition to this disastrous policy), adopting this would silence any but the most polite criticism of Israel or Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories (and filter down to places like student unions which are often dominated by Labour party organisations) and must not pass, regardless of the threats of right-wing MPs to resign or defect. However genuine some Jews’ fears are about Corbyn’s leadership, this is a campaign manufactured in bad faith by his opponents — a mixture of Tories, who have largely been silent about more obvious racism in their own party, and Labour centrists — who have dredged up old news and presented it as new time and again.

It isn’t racist to support the Palestinians’ right to their country, and to a vote in the affairs of the country that rules them, or to arrange boycotts of their oppressors, and it isn’t racist to be angry when innocent people are killed in bombings or otherwise suffer. What would be racist — at least discriminatory — would be to adopt a policy that would mean an entire religious community in this country were shut out of the party or subjected to an inquisition about their views on Jews or Israel if they joined or tried to run for office. We are already under-represented enough as a community and it would be unjust of Labour to adopt a policy to make this worse, just to assuage some people’s baseless fears. The legality of it should also be under question.

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Exhibition showcasing Muslim fashion to open in San Francisco

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 August, 2018 - 14:21

From Nike hijabs to couture gowns, the show explores the diversity of Islamic style

A major exhibition exploring the diverse dress codes of Muslims, and the first of its kind dedicated to displaying Islamic culture within a fashion context, is to open in September.

From the launch of Vogue Arabia to Uniqlo and Dolce & Gabbana branching into modest fashion lines, Islamic style has become a burgeoning global market in recent years – and a profitable one, too. Figures from Thomson Reuters forecast that the global fashion spend by Muslims will reach $373bn (£288bn) by 2022.

Related: Got it covered: fashion wakes up to Muslim women’s style

Related: Generation M: how young Muslim women are driving a modest fashion revolution

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