How are Palestinians supposed to speak with their gullets compressed by the gun butts of the Israeli army?
Only a handful of attackers have been indicted for the mob killing of Haftom Zarhum.
Education secretary’s comment comes after PM ruled out French-style ban but backed institutions with ‘sensible rules’
The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has said it is “very much up to schools” if they want to ban the full-face veil, arguing that being able to see a person’s mouth was important for teaching.
Morgan was speaking after the chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said inspectors had found that religious dress that covered the face sometimes caused communication problems.Continue reading...
There is no way to do business with settlements without participating in Israel’s crimes, report says.
Here's a little exercise. Try naming 5 prominent Muslims of African origin from the history of Islam. Pick from any period right from the early Makkan period to the last few decades. Aside from Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Bilal who else do you have on the list? I'm going to be presumptive and say that there aren't many of us who've managed to get to 5.
How is that possible? There were quite a few Sahaaba of African origin, and not just a token one. Islam had spread to the African continent properly during the lifetime of the Prophet himself – in fact, even before it reached Madinah. Within a generation of the Prophet's passing, a significant part of Africa was under Islamic rule and has stayed Muslim ever since. So why is so little known about prominent African Muslims?
The sad thing is that I could replace “African” with pretty much every major Muslim ethnicity or region. Whether it be the South East Asian Archipelago (with almost as many Muslims as there are in the Middle East), the Central Asian Republics, or the Turkic tribes in the Caucasus regions – the dearth of knowledge about our Islamic heritage is noticeable.
Islamic history is too often the history of the Arabs. Sure, the Ottomans get a cameo appearance, but that is partially because their history became intertwined with that of the Arab heartlands. The rest of the history of Islam beyond the Middle East seems to be relegated to the footnotes of dry academic works. Actually, they often don't even make it to the footnotes.
Some commentators like Will Kymlicka make a case for Arab ethnic chauvinism as an explanation for the lack of a multicultural history. While there may be some truth to this, there is little evidence to show that there is a concerted campaign to suppress non-Arab Islamic history. It seems more likely that this neglect is a consequence of a variety of factors including the lingering effects of the brutal colonization of most of the non-Arab world over the last few centuries and the pathetic socio-economic situation that they have been mired in ever since.
The resulting selective Arab-centric view of history is unfortunate in a Muslim world that largely lies outside the the Middle East and has been significantly shaped by non-Arabs. It has had many unintended and profound consequences, some of which I will discuss below:
When your history is largely devoid of characters and role models that you can relate to, you will become detached from it. The average Muslim seeking to enhance their knowledge of the faith often prioritises sciences such as tafsir, hadith studies, fiqh, tajweed – anything but Islamic history. This relative indifference is reflected also at the societal level where non-Arab Muslims are rarely inspired by historical figures or incidents that would potentially be easier for them to relate to. The few times that we are able to break this trend (e.g. Malcolm X in America or imam Shamil in the Caucuses), we are rewarded with transformative figures that capture the imaginations of generation after generation of their countrymen.
When your history is geographically and ethnically restricted, your worldview will be limited and parochial. One of the unique attributes of the spread of Islam was its ability to enhance existing cultures rather than dissolve them into a worldwide mono-culture. Knowledge of the historical perspectives of Muslims from other parts of the world helps guard against narrow-mindedness – a particularly virulent feature of the modern Muslim world. Indeed, one of the life-changing aspects of the Hajj is to witness the unity of purpose despite the lack of uniformity of views, cultures or experiences of the pilgrims from every corner of the globe.
When your history fails to acknowledge the contributions and legacies of other races, you make it easier to dehumanise them. This may sound like an extrapolation too far, but many historians including Gerda Lerner (in her seminal work “Why history matters”) have convincingly shown how glossing over the positive contribution of other races and ethnicities is a political strategy used to perpetuate injustice. This selective reading of history explains how the slave trade flourished in many Muslim lands and still does in the form of modern indentured labour in parts of the Middle East. Racism, nationalism or sectarianism rarely coexist in the same space with cultural and historical awareness.
There can be no denying that Islam was born in the Arab world, but it is telling that the most diverse and multicultural period that most people are likely to read about in Islamic history is Madinah during the lifetime of the Prophet . Shining a spotlight on the contributions and legacies of non-Arab Muslims and cultures would connect many more Muslims to their history in a meaningful way, expand our horizons, and guard against oppression of one group by another. Most importantly, it would enhance the appreciation of traditional Islamic history by making it part of a larger, more intricate historical universe. That's something – insha'Allah – that we can all look forward to.Image credits: Featured image: Askia Muhammad by Leo Dillon Muslim world image: Der spiegel online
The Jihadi Next Door will feature Abu Rumaysah, the London Muslim convert thought to have overseen the murder of five men
Unseen footage of the man suspected of being the latest British face of Islamic State propaganda is to be shown by Channel 4 on Tuesday night.
The man who oversaw the murder of five men in an Isis video released in January was thought to be a London Muslim convert called Siddhartha Dhar, who appears in a Channel 4 documentary about extremists titled the Jihadis Next Door.Continue reading...
Slain activist’s family recalls Rickman as “gifted, funny, generous, thoughtful, wise and courageous.”
The prime minister could have made the sound case that language education is empowering. Instead, by suggesting a link to terrorism, he sounded as if he was once again scolding Muslims
Over two terms as prime minister David Cameron has perfected the art of doing just enough and muddling through. With the day-to-day challenges of running a country, that skill should not be undervalued. The problem is that some of the challenges that confront him are not easily solved by his short-term, tactical approach, sometimes dubbed his “essay crisis” mode of governing. Belatedly, he is attempting to construct a narrative that might keep Britain in the EU. And now, when events in the UK and abroad conspire to force his hand, he ventures into leadership on the thorny, multi-layered but vital issue of integration.
Mr Cameron has every right, and indeed an obligation, to worry about the often-unfavourable position of Muslim women in mainstream society and in the mainstream economy. He is right, having reviewed government-commissioned research, which says 22% of British Muslim women speak little or no English, to seek to assist them in seeking to do so. He cannot really be criticised for wanting to look at the backgrounds of people who have either perpetrated terrorist atrocities here or who have fled to Syria to fight with Isis, and wondering whether there might be more his government could usefully do to intervene, or at the very least to understand.Continue reading...
Shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, says ‘clumsy and simplistic approach’ could end up stoking extremism
David Cameron has been accused of stigmatising Muslim women after he announced plans to help them learn English and warned that migrant spouses who fail language tests may have to leave the UK.
Announcing the plans on Monday, the prime minister suggested the language classes for Muslim women could help stop radicalisation.Continue reading...
When other countries impose weapons bans on regimes that commit atrocities, Israel sniffs an opportunity.
Prime minister’s drive to integrate Muslim women into society is latest intervention to draw criticism from Muslim groups
David Cameron’s warning that migrants who fail language tests may have to leave the UK as part of a drive to integrate Muslim women into society has prompted criticism from Muslim groups.
The Ramadhan Foundation accused the prime minister of “disgraceful stereotyping of British Muslims” . It is the latest in a series of moves by Cameron and his government that have offended some members of the UK’s Muslim community.
Too often we hear the argument that radicalisation is the fault of someone else. That blame game is wrong – and it is dangerous. By accepting the finger-pointing – whether it’s at agencies or authorities – we are ignoring the fact that the radicalisation starts with the individual.
The government is aware of how disengaged it is from large sections of the British Muslim community. So advisers would have known how this intervention, with its misguided emphasis and call to action, would at best fall on deaf ears, and at worst further alienate.
My concern is that this call to Muslims to do more, without an understanding of what they already do now, will demoralise the very people who will continue to lead this fight.
The British Muslim community will be able to do that better with a government stood alongside it and collaborating with the community … Sadly, over the past six or seven years, there has been a policy of disengagement with British Muslim communities.
It is incredibly odd and incredibly worrying that over time, more and more individuals, more and more organisations, are considered by the government to be beyond the pale and therefore not to be engaged with … Unfortunately, the coalition government carried on that policy. It is now time to end that policy of disengagement and start speaking to the British Muslim communities, and empowering them to do more.”
We have seen the Trojan Horse plot to take over state schools in Birmingham. Concerns about religious supplementary schools. Widespread allegations of corruption, cronyism, extremism, homophobia and antisemitism in Tower Hamlets. Hate speakers invited to speak at British colleges and universities. Segregation by gender allowed at universities and even endorsed by Universities UK.
Charities and the generosity of the giving public abused by extremists. Examples of sharia law being used to discriminate against women. Thousands of ‘honour’ crimes committed every year. And hundreds of British citizens who have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq.Continue reading...
Fifteen centuries ago, Arab armies fanned out from the Middle East in search of conquest. For some who took part, the incentives were material – rich prizes were on offer from cities that paid tribute, surrendered or were sacked. For others, it was the spiritual rewards that appealed most: spreading the words that had been handed down to the prophet Muhammad, and which were later recorded in the Qur’an.Continue reading...
You’d think, from the way politicians tend to frame the issue, that there were legions of misguided voters passionately intent on protecting the right of controlling men to isolate their wives from all influence but theirs. David Cameron, in 2016, sounds no different to David Blunkett in 2002, when he insists that immigrant women must be empowered to learn English, or else. Except that they don’t say “migrant women”. They say “Muslim women” when speaking of the “alarming picture of forced gender segregation, discrimination and social isolation”. Misogyny, it seems, is only a problem when it’s Islamic misogyny.Continue reading...
David Cameron says no guarantee that people who enter UK on spousal visa can stay if they fail to improve language
Migrants who fail language tests after two and a half years in the UK may be forced to leave, David Cameron has said, as he unveiled plans to encourage greater integration of Muslim women.Continue reading...
The scheme will help to counter extremism and confront a minority of men who have ‘damaging control’ over families, says David Cameron
Tens of thousands of Muslim women unable to speak English are to be given the chance to learn the language in a new government drive to build community integration and counter extremism.
Launching a £20m language fund, David Cameron called for an end to the “passive tolerance” of separate communities which left many Muslim women facing discrimination and social isolation.Continue reading...
There have been two knee-jerk reactions in response to the release of Dolce and Gabbana's hijab and abaya collection: The Allure of the Middle East; First came the yay-sayers (for want of a better term) who with true Arab-style ululation lauded the fashion house for taking such a bold stance regarding highly politicised garb, that too during a particularly sensitive time. This category suddenly felt validated and instantaneously proud of their Muslim dress and identity. Then arrived the cynics, who took serious offense at this shallow attempt to represent Muslim women and their fashion needs with D&G's insignia and uncharacteristically-Muslim embellishments on what is traditional Muslim apparel. 'Ain't nobody got time fo dat,' so to speak.
The fact of the matter remains that D&G have themselves made no outright claim at either. While there is of course contention over the extravagance of the new line and how the overkill of ornamentation contradicts the simple modesty of what is Islamically expected of a Muslim woman's dress, anyone visiting a high-end shopping district in any of the monied petro-states of the Middle East will be instantaneously brought to the realisation that D&G (and numerous other high-profile, luxury names) know exactly what they're doing here. The hijab-abaya combination -previously a quiet representation of feminine modesty- is now the quintessential sartorial piece of the wealthy Gulf states – charmeuse, stonework, and all the (lace) trimmings. All D&G is trying to do is to capitalise on a market with a spending power that is estimated at more than $8.7 billion a year – and they are quite likely to succeed.
While the philosophy of orientalism is oft-associated with socio-politics and perception of world order, there is an increasingly discernible divide brought about by orientalists of the fashion industry.
The dichotomy is clear, if not obvious; The Asian and Middle Eastern dress (particularly those of womenfolk) has always been ingrained in Western psyche as quaint, traditionalist, and bound by the many social shackles that come with any country that is non-democratic in governance. The West on the other hand, are the prophets and prophetesses of vogue – visionary, current, and a representation of all that is free.
This would explain the great sense of social attestation we feel when deemed 'worthy' of the runway from the powers that be, following a move such as that of D&G's and many others before them, all the while ignoring the fact that we as Muslims too have fallen in line to strut the catwalk, becoming increasingly vulnerable to capitalist bait. There is nothing quite as oxymoronic as the label 'Muslim consumer.'
While my opinion is that D&G are faultless for having been honest about their intentions with this new gilded modest-wear collection, and that any claims of political stance and representation are inadvertent, this does bring to light however the increasingly worrying trend of Muslim marketability.
For Western brands have pounced many a time at capitalising on the exoticism of the ethnic. Let's not forget the instances we've misconstrued cultural appropriation for flattery, basking in the heady glow of social and sartorial attestation. Remember the 'dress-over-pants' rendition of the South Asian shalwar kameez that filled our fashion pages early last year? Also recollect Paul Smith's 'Robert sandals' – a not-so-subtle attempt at plagiarising the ubiquitous Peshwari chappal. Where were the fashion police when you needed them?
I digress. While cultural appropriation is a power dynamic worthy of a rave on its own, what truly needs to be lamented about is the devaluation of our dress, proportionate to its increase in bankability. Now I'm not one to over-extol the virtues of the hijab, but the headscarf and abaya are undeniably, a testament to all that is anti-capitalist and anti-establishment. By choosing to don the headscarf, the Muslim woman of the west –either consciously or unwittingly- signs up for a wilful disregard for modern convention in deference to her faith. Her attire revolves around what she feels is acceptable as an ambassador of Islam, and not what is dictated by a consumerist agenda.
It is true that in the Middle East (the Gulf particularly) the abaya does not necessarily represent something as consequential in that it is more an expression of cultural symbolism than one of spiritual or ideological choice -which is perhaps what makes them all the more sought after by the likes of D&G in the first place- but the preservation of ideals and everything else the attire of Muslim women represents is a collective Islamic responsibility all the same.
Surely alarm bells should sound when fashion houses renowned for leaving less to the imagination with their seasonal revisions of what's in and what's not, take a sudden interest in modest-wear? We'd be naive to assume that genuine feel-good altruism is behind these highly-publicised shows of 'catering to the stylish Muslim woman.' Muslims around the world spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013 alone, amounting to more than the total fashion spending of Japan and Italy combined. That figure is expected to reach $484 billion by 2019. Big brands like to make big money, and they will tap into wherever it is that profits them best. And they can't be faulted for that.
Rather, as hard as this is to swallow, the accusatory finger from the arm concealed in a bejewelled abaya sleeve points back at us. We have only ourselves to blame when we need a billboard to finally convince ourselves to endorse our own attire. We have only ourselves to blame when a global fashion house learns that Ramadhan, rather than being our holiest, most devotional month of the year, is instead 'a month of extravagant spending rivalled only by Christmas.' We have only ourselves to blame for allowing a designer label to be sewn onto the hem of a garment worth far more than all of this season's best fabrics combined.
We've surrendered our shields to the other side, only for us to have to buy them back, albeit much prettier, but stripped of purpose.
So let's spare D&G the tirade, and give ourselves the talking to we truly deserve.
Far from being an international pariah for the way it treats refugees, Australia’s policies are becoming envied and copied
Australia first introduced onshore detention facilities in 1991 at Villawood in Sydney and Port Hedland in Western Australia. Mandatory detention came in 1992. Bob Hawke’s government announced it was because “Australia could be on the threshold of a major wave of unauthorised boat arrivals from south-east Asia, which will severely test both our resolve and our capacity to ensure that immigration in this country is conducted within a planned and controlled framework”.
More than 20 years later, the rhetoric has only worsened against the most vulnerable arriving from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka. Policies that years ago seemed unimaginable, such as imprisoning refugees on remote Pacific islands, are the norm and blessed with bipartisan support.Continue reading...
Last weekend David Bowie died, and amid the non-stop media tributes (which have been compared to the relentless coverage of Lady Diana’s death in 1997, although they can’t have really approached that — normal TV programming was stopped for most of that Sunday), there were a few dissenters who called Bowie a ‘rapist’ because he slept with a teenage groupie (or more than one) in LA some time in the 1970s. There is an unusually balanced view from Julie Burchill in the Spectator, who called Bowie’s behaviour ‘creepy’ but criticised feminists for their tendency to “strip women they do not agree with of agency, and seek to paint them as confused poltroons suffering from good old ‘false consciousness’”. A number of feminist blogs have no such qualms, however, with Louise Pennington (referred to in Burchill’s article) writing anoymously on a site called “Everyday Victim Blaming” about her own experience of sexual abuse as a (much younger) child and drawing dubious links between Bowie’s behaviour and that of Bill Cosby and Jimmy Savile. She has published two separate articles on her own blog also (, ). There have been a number of other articles expressing a similar viewpoint (, , , ), as well as a more balanced piece by Mic Wright here.
I was never a huge Bowie fan; I was a child in the 80s, not the 70s, and most of the music I heard by him in the 80s was pretty boring (Absolute Beginners, the title track from the flop 1986 film he starred in, excepted) and his later output was even less inspiring to me (the NME in the mid-90s, when I used to read it, called his more recent albums at that time “careericidal” and suggested that many people regarded him as a “cretinous windbag”). Others found him inspirational, called him a hero and said that his songs were their companion at difficult times in their lives, particularly because of his take on sexuality and gender. For me, he was a generic 80s pop star; there are no memories to tarnish. But there is a good reason why the matter hardly came up in the tributes on the radio, which is that for most people, this issue does not overshadow his work.
It’s not an excuse, of course, that other sexual abusers were worse. But others were much worse, even those (like Jimmy Page) who involved themselves with the LA “Baby Groupies”. One could say that Bowie dipped his feet in those waters while others were up to their necks, persistently abusing both adults and children throughout their careers. However, the biggest difference is that the girl he had sex with, Lori Maddix, agreed to do it and expresses no regrets about it as an adult. Feminists often talk about how girls and women can be ‘groomed’ to accept sex with men who are much older than them and are clearly (to them) exploiting them, but it’s difficult to see how a middle-aged woman can still be ‘groomed’ forty years after the event. It’s not Lori Maddix who is calling Bowie a rapist; it’s others.
To call this ‘rape’, whatever the law says, is absurd, because rape clearly refers to sex which is forced or where the victim was not capable of agreeing (because of unconsciousness, intoxication or severe intellectual disability, for example). A law that says someone cannot consent does not mean they cannot in reality. Merely breaking a law, even a well-meaning one, is not the same as sexually assaulting anyone. Even calling it sexual abuse is dubious, because this term can refer to sexual assaults, including rape, but also refers to sex which may be submitted to because the victim is intimidated by their abuser’s power — they may be able to threaten to make their lives difficult, or they may be pretending to be friendly when others (in an institutional setting, for example) are openly (sometimes physically) hostile. It is not agreed to enthusiastically out of desire. It refers to situations where one party has power over the other to begin with.
I believe Louise Pennington about her own experiences, but her comparison of Bowie’s behaviour with those of Savile and Cosby does not carry any weight. Savile’s and Cosby’s victims came forward; they knew they had been raped or assaulted and said so, apparently without needing someone like Louise Pennington to tell them this is what they had experienced; Maddix said she had not been. Maddix sought out Bowie; Savile sought out his victims, some of whom were in an extremely vulnerable situation such as being incapacitated following spinal injury or surgery (or both), and some of whom were in other hospitals or special boarding schools. As is now known, authorities were reluctant to move against Savile because the money he raised was vital to the running of their institutions — in large part because government policy made them dependent on such benefactors. None of this was the case with Bowie.
Radical feminists, in my experience, aren’t capable of discussing these issues rationally, as I have made clear on two previous occasions. In the second of those links, we see a feminist of the same circle as Pennington call a 15-year-old boy a rapist for having sex with a 13-year-old girl (who, as I pointed out, may well have been in the year below him or even the same year at school; the age difference was nearer one full year than two). They expect the rest of us to believe them when they tell us that women do not lie about rape, but they proceed to call things ‘rape’ that are not, and to call women ‘victims’ who are not, and who do not claim to be. In truth, they believe women only when they stick to the script. As derided as expressions like “real rape” and “rape rape” are, no dictionary definition of rape includes “a sexual encounter that someone enjoys until someone who thinks they know better tells them it was rape”.
If David Bowie had really been a serial abuser of women and girls, it’s highly likely that a large number of victims would have come forward in the last ten years or so. He has really not been the all-conquering superstar the tributes last week suggested; as noted in the Observer today, his early shows were played in concert halls and arenas, not stadia, and when his mother criticised his lifestyle, it was the NME that reported it, not the tabloids; the past 20 years or so, he’s been a forgotten has-been and if his music has been played (except shortly after album launches), it’s been his music from the 60s to the early 80s. He is too dead to atone for these actions now, but even when he was alive, his ‘victim’ said she had a great time and had no regrets. I am not saying people should approve of his behaviour, but it was not the pattern of his life and he did not make a career out of it. There would not be this degree of adulatory coverage of his career if that were the case. If Bowie had actually raped someone (adult or child), I would agree that he did not deserve any of this coverage, but as his ‘victim’ did not hold it against him, the public cannot be expected to either.
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Terror charges brought against Shabir Ahmed who accused Anwar Ali, 15, of blasphemy in mosque
A Muslim cleric has been arrested in Pakistan on terror charges after a teenage boy he accused of blasphemy responded by sawing off his own hand.
Anwar Ali, 15, performed the act of self-amputation with a scythe after attending a religious gathering in his local mosque last Monday.Continue reading...