Anti-terrorism summit reinforces 'fear and hate' towards Muslims, critics warn

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 18:51

Muslim leaders say White House conference to ‘counter violent extremism’ is well intentioned but risks stigmatizing and endangering Muslims in America

As Barack Obama prepares to host a summit on preventing homegrown terrorism, he faces a backlash from those he says he wants to empower: American Muslim community leaders, who warn that the summit risks stigmatizing and even endangering them.

Hanging over the “countering violent extremism” (CVE) summit, to be held Tuesday through Thursday at the White House and State Department, is Wednesday’s brutal murder of three Muslim students in North Carolina.

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After the UNC Chapel Hill shootings, we hope for justice. And love | Omid Safi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 16:11

We need to end the poisonous vitriol against Muslims. This is the right way

In the religious tradition that gives shape to my life, justice is love; justice is simply what we call love when it comes into the public arena.

Our public arena in North Carolina at this moment feels anything but just. Three beautiful young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were taken from us when a gun-obsessed, self-avowed militant atheist named Craig Hicks allegedly killed them in their own homes in a gruesome execution-style murder. It breaks my heart to see how a few minutes of vile hatred and 10 bullets undid decades of love and sacrifice that went into raising those beautiful people.

[The martyred children] say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.

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Turkish police use water cannon on protesters denouncing 'Islamisation' of schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 15:02

Demonstrators clash with police in Izmir as concerns grow over growing influence of religion in Turkish schools

Turkish police have used water cannon to disperse scores of protesters in the western coastal city of Izmir who were boycotting schools over the growing influence of religion in the classroom.

Education is the latest flashpoint between the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and secularist Turks who accuse him of overseeing creeping Islamisation.

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The Chapel Hill shootings show how urgent it is that we abandon hatred

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 14:14
Three of my daughters were killed in Gaza, but I would not give in to hatred – it is a destructive disease we need to treat as a public health issue

Three young American students were killed this week in a horrific shooting in North Carolina. Their names were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, who was in his second year of a graduate school in dentistry, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, also a student.

Young lives cut short, ostensibly over a long-simmering dispute about a parking lot. I don’t accept this explanation for one second. In his pain, the young women’s father commented that his innocent daughters had died because today there is so much imagery of “Islamic terrorists”.

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Some people see me as Muslim first and a doctor second. That's how prejudice works | Haider Javed Warraich

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 12:45

I am Pakistani and about to move to Chapel Hill. I never thought I’d have to pick a house based on where I might not get shot

Recently, my wife and I have been searching for what could be our first home as we move from Boston, Massachusetts, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, trying to figure out what’s important to us – hardwood floors, a second garage or an updated kitchen. The killing of three Muslim students on Wednesday added a new wrinkle: which neighborhood offers the best chance of me not being shot in the head for my religious beliefs?

While these events have given me great pause about our move, I also know that I am not immune from prejudice in a city as diverse as Boston.

Related: Thousands attend funeral for Muslim students shot in Chapel Hill

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Ten years after Hariri's assassination, Lebanon badly needs his moderation

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 07:00

Lebanon dared to hope under Rafik Hariri, but the prime minister’s death exposed the country’s sectarian fault lines and lit the fuse that led to Syria’s civil war

When a truck bomb killed Rafik Hariri 10 years ago on Saturday, both Lebanon’s postwar recovery and a Bush-era plan for a phoenix-like resurgence in the Levant all but ground to a halt.

A decade later, the ramifications of the attack are still crippling the fragile state – and they have not stopped there. The fallout from the death of the so-called Mr Lebanon has spilled well beyond the country’s borders into the fast-disintegrating Middle East, where it is hailed as one of three events spanning a decade that have estranged the region’s Sunnis.

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Friend: This Was No ‘Parking’ Murder

Muslim Matters - 13 February, 2015 - 05:01

By Dean Obeidallah

This is a crosspost. The post first appeared on “The Daily Beast” and can be found here.

Official word is that the shooting of three young Muslims in North Carolina was over parking. The victims' friends and family insist it was over hate. Last week when I, along with 13 other Muslim Americans, met with President Obama at the White House, I explained my concern that given the recent rise in anti-Muslim bigotry, I feared that we could wake up one day to the news that someone had gone on a shooting spree targeting Muslim Americans.Tragically, less than a week later, that very thing may have happened in North Carolina.Yes, I know that we can't be certain at this moment exactly why the gunman murdered three Muslim-American students—Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; Yusor Muhammad Abu-Salha, 21; and Razan Muhammad Abu-Salha, 19—in cold blood. And true, the local police have noted that its “preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.”But I doubt very much that anti-Muslim hate didn't play some role in this attack. I say that based on a few factors. One is my conversation with two close friends of the victims and the comments made by the father of the two sisters killed. Second, we can't ignore that on the day of the shooting we saw wall-to-wall media coverage about the death of the American aid worker and ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller. And finally, we have to factor in the overall rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric we have witnessed on both the right and the left recently.

First, let's look at the undisputed facts of this crime. On Tuesday night, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks surrendered himself to local authorities, saying that he had shot and killed the three young people. The crime took place in the apartment of the Yusor and Deah, who had married just six weeks ago. The three victims were all shot in the head. There had been a dispute between the couple and the killer, but the precise reasons for Hicks's anger with the victims is still in question.


Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill appears in a police booking photograph provided by the Durham County Sheriff in Durham, North Carolina February 11, 2015. (Durham County Office of the Sheriff/Reuters)

One of Yusor's close friends, Amira Ata, who like Yusor wears a hijab, explained to me by phone that when she heard that her friends were killed, she immediately knew it was Hicks. Ata noted that about two months ago, Hicks had come to the door of the victims' apartment a short time after she had left.

According to Ata, Hicks, who had a gun in his hand, yelled at Yusor about an alleged parking issue, and claimed that the couple and Ata had been loud and woke up his wife. Yusor was so shaken by the incident that she called Ata and they discussed whether to report Hicks to the police. Yusor ultimately decided not to alert the authorities.

Amira Ata, who like Yusor wears an hijab, explained to me by phone that when she heard that her friends were killed, she immediately knew it was Hicks.

However, Ata didn't believe that Hicks was really angry about the parking spot because she explained that there were plenty of spots designated for visitors at the complex. She also denied being loud, saying they had a quiet dinner and played a board game.

Ata mentioned that Yusor had not complained again to her about Hicks. But Yusor's father, Dr. Muhammad Abu-Salha, told Raleigh's News & Observer, “This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt.”

Overall, Ata said she believes that Hicks killed them because they were the only Muslims in the apartment complex. “They were targeted because they're different and this is a hate crime,” she stated emphatically.

She also said that on the day of the murders, Deah had just returned by bus. The only one with a car was the younger sister Razan, who had already parked earlier in the day. The point being: There was no “parking dispute” in close proximity to the actual murders.

Dr. Abu-Salha made it clear that he, too, believed that Hicks had deliberately targeted the victims, noting: “It was execution style, a bullet in every head.” He added, “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime.” Abu-Salha also quoted his late daughter, who he said had told him, “'Honest to God, he hates us for what we are and how we look.

Sameer Abdel Khalek, a close friend of Deah, echoed the sentiment of Ata and Dr. Abu-Salha. While he never had any interaction with Hicks, he told me others in the local Muslim community had described him as “off putting.” According to Khalek, the Chapel Hill Muslim community believes that the murders were a hate crime given the current climate of anti-Muslim bigotry. (By Wednesday evening, a Facebook page celebrating Hicks as a man who “sacrificed his freedom for his fellow Americans” had surfaced.)

As of now, we have no public statements from Hicks as to his motivation for the murders, although his wife insists it had nothing to do with the victims' religion. Hicks's Facebook page sheds a little light but it also paints a complex picture of the man. Hicks wrote, “Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative.” He was apparently a supporter of gay marriage and a fan of certain progressive organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

He was also an avowed atheist and had expressed contempt for all faiths, including Islam. Hicks had posted passages from famed atheist Richard Dawkins and “liked” Sam Harris's Facebook page, both of which have spewed hateful comments about Islam. Dawkins has condemned the attack on Twitter.

The investigation will continue into this tragedy that ended the lives of three young Muslim Americans. I can't even imagine the heartbreak the parents feel, especially the father who lost two young daughters on the same day. And while part of me would prefer to wish that this was really a dispute over a parking space, I have little doubt that these three young people would be alive today if they were any other faith than Muslim.

The post Friend: This Was No ‘Parking’ Murder appeared first on

Thousands attend funeral for Muslim students shot in Chapel Hill

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 00:42

Around 5,500 mourners pay tribute to Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, gunned down in their apartment

On a soccer field lent for the occasion by North Carolina State University, thousands gathered for the funeral of three Muslim students killed in a brutal attack on Tuesday.

Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her younger sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were killed in the couple’s apartment in Chapel Hill in what family members have called an “execution-style” hate-crime. Barakat, 23, and Yusor, 21, were newlyweds. Razan was 19 years old.

Related: North Carolina shooting victims remembered for their 'amazing spirit'

Related: Family of North Carolina shooting victims denounce killings as 'hate crime'

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Erdogan chides Obama for silence on Chapel Hill murders

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 February, 2015 - 00:19

Relations appear to have deteriorated as Turkish president reveals he no longer talks directly to his US counterpart

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday criticised US President Barack Obama for his silence following the killings of three young Muslims in North Carolina this week, in the latest sign that relations between the two leaders have become strained.

Speaking alongside Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico, during a state visit there, Erdogan said the silence of Obama, vice-president Joe Biden and secretary of state John Kerry was “telling” and that they should take a position following such acts. “If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don’t make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you,” Erdogan said, condemning those responsible for the crime.

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Paris moves to sue Fox News for false reporting on Muslim 'no-go zones'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 22:55

City council approves lawsuit against ‘bloopers factory’ Fox News for incorrectly reporting in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack that some city areas ban non-Muslims

The Paris city council voted to green-light a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to hold Fox News responsible for incorrectly reporting that there are “no-go zones” in Paris where non-Muslims are unwelcome and sharia law holds sway.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, the main proponent of the lawsuit, said the “honor of Paris” was at stake. “I’ve received a lot of encouragements from Americans to try to make this kind of nonsense stop,” Hidalgo was quoted in the French press as saying Thursday. “I don’t accept insults to our city and its inhabitants.”

Related: Fox News man is 'idiot' for Birmingham Muslim comments – David Cameron

Related: Louisiana governor unapologetic after Muslim 'no-go zones' comments

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Why ban Hizb ut-Tahrir? They're not Isis – they're Isis's whipping boys | William Scates Frances

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 22:51

If the Australian government bans Hizb ut-Tahrir to crack down on Islamic State (Isis) supporters they’ll be making a basic error. The two organisations are foes

Another day, another Islamic State (Isis) meme. This one is a rather well done mimicry of the pamphlet style of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Its title reads “Hizb ut-Ta’khir” – translated roughly as the “party of delay” – and its bold headline reads “Establishing the Khilafah since 1953”.

Beneath, the disclaimer reads: “I know, we have got nowhere so far, but we have lots of conferences and heaps of flags and are really good at sitting in cafes …”

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Chapel Hill neighbors speak of fearing gunman who killed Muslim students

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 20:18

Details that have emerged about Craig Stephen Hicks a day after murders paint him as a second amendment advocate who argued often with those around him

As shock turned to grief in the North Carolina community where three Muslim students were shot to death on Tuesday, a blurry picture has emerged of the man accused of carrying out the horrific attack.

Craig Stephen Hicks – who was charged on Wednesday with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 – was feared by his neighbours.

Related: North Carolina shooting victims remembered for their 'amazing spirit'

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Mosque 'deeply disappointed' by Cathy Newman's reaction to venue confusion

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 16:10

Mosque accepts new apology by Channel 4 News anchor, who falsely claimed she had been ‘ushered out’, but warns of a ‘fog of Islamophobia’ in national debate

The mosque at the heart of a dispute with the Channel 4 News anchor Cathy Newman has described the episode as the toughest in its small community’s history and warned of a “fog of Islamophobia” in the national debate.

The South London mosque in Streatham said it accepted a new apology from Newman, who had claimed falsely on Twitter that she was “ushered” out when trying to enter as part of an open day.

1/4 I have written to South London Islamic Centre and offered my sincere apologies for tweets sent in haste after I visited there in error.

2/4 I accept my tweets were inappropriate and regret the use of the word “ushered”.

3/4 My language was poorly chosen and has caused a great deal of offence. I deeply regret that this happened.

4/4 I shall now be taking a break from Twitter.

The last few weeks have been some of the toughest in our small mosque’s history. Never before in our 37 years of welcoming worshippers from South London have we been thrust into the national spotlight as we have this month. Cathy Newman’s tweets (suggesting she was forcibly ejected from our mosque for being a woman) and the ensuing controversy opened the way for Islamophobes to threaten South London Islamic Centre with attacks against its congregation and its property.

After initially standing by her claim that she was ‘ushered out’ of our mosque, CCTV evidence showed that no such thing had occurred.

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Mehdi Hasan: Five questions that trouble Ed Miliband’s many disillusioned supporters

Mahdi Hassan - 12 February, 2015 - 12:55

The questions the Labour leader can’t answer.

Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Forget the New Labour icons Tony Blair and Alan Milburn. Ignore the business bosses Stuart Rose and Stefano Pessina. If Ed Miliband isn’t prime minister after the general election in May, he has only one person to blame: himself.

The Labour leader, contrary to the lazy conventional wisdom, has the potential to be a good, even great, premier. He has, his friends say, a “Thatcher-esque” ambition to transform the British political and economic scene and has proved to be one of the most influential leaders of the opposition in living memory, forcing issues such as phone-hacking, the cost of living and Palestinian statehood on to the political agenda. If he wins on 7 May, he will walk through the door of No 10 with more high-level government experience – as a former cabinet minister and an ex-Treasury adviser – than Tony Blair and David Cameron combined when they entered Downing Street.

Yet it isn’t just his opponents who question whether Miliband will become prime minister. A growing number of his supporters do, too. Such is the right-wing reflex of much of our press that the only critique of the Labour leader which gets a hearing these days comes from either business bosses or Blairite ultras. There are, however, many centre-left MPs, peers and activists who backed Miliband’s insurgent leadership candidacy in the summer of 2010 but who now have their own issues with the Labour leader and his failures. They gather in the pubs and tearooms of Westminster to moan and groan about their man, more in sorrow than in anger.

Consider the following five questions that disillusioned “Ed-ites” often obsess over – and that Miliband has yet to address, in public or in private. First, why has a former television researcher – yes, Miliband worked briefly on Channel 4’s A Week in Politics in the early 1990s – failed to recognise how abjectly awful his performances on TV have been since 2010? Why hasn’t he taken urgent steps to improve them? In 2011 David Cameron hired Craig Oliver, a former editor of the BBC’s News at Ten, to be his director of communications. Miliband preferred to appoint three veteran lobby correspondents with zero experience in television, waiting until as late as September 2014 to recruit Matthew Laza, a former producer for the BBC of The One Show, to serve as his head of broadcasting.

Second, how did this son of Holocaust survivors allow his family’s compelling story to be ignored so easily, despite high-profile attacks from the Daily Mail and the pro-Israeli actress Maureen Lipman (who announced that she would be abandoning Labour until it was “led by mensches” – the Yiddish word for people of integrity)? How many are aware that Miliband publicly challenged a Sudanese diplomat over his “disgusting” comparison of efforts to fight climate change with the Holocaust in 2009? A video of him receiving a standing ovation from UN delegates sits unwatched on an obscure BBC News web page and unused by Labour Party spinners. (Google “‘Don’t wreck conference’ pleas Miliband [sic]” if you have three minutes to spare.)

Third, why is a former climate-change secretary who launched a “clean coal” policy, who debated against the climate sceptic Nigel Lawson and helped – in the words of the science writer Fred Pearce – “save” the Copenhagen summit in 2009 shedding voters to a resurgent Green Party? Forget “Red Ed”; whatever happened to “Green Ed”?

Fourth, why isn’t Miliband – whom the Daily Telegraph described in 2009 as one of the “saints” of the parliamentary expenses scandal – leading the assault on our sclerotic political establishment? Why has he ceded this fertile terrain to a former City trader named Nigel Farage, who once boasted he’d claimed up to £2m in expenses and allowances from the European Parliament?

Fifth, why has one of today’s few front-line Labour politicians who opposed the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq kept so quiet about his anti-war record? Why hasn’t he led the charge against the inexcusable delay in the publication of the Chilcot report? Labour is haemorrhaging voters to a range of anti-Iraq-war parties, from the Greens and the SNP to the Lib Dems. And yet, speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on 21 January, Miliband remarked, almost as an aside, “Frankly, my views on the Iraq war are well known.” Sorry, Ed, they aren’t.

The public doesn’t have a clue that in early 2003 he phoned Gordon Brown – as I revealed on these pages in 2010 – from the US, where he was on a sabbatical at Harvard, to urge the then chancellor to resist Tony Blair’s march to war. (A former Downing Street aide told me how Brown “took Ed’s phone call very seriously but, ultimately, other views prevailed”.)

Yet on Iraq, as on MPs’ expenses, Miliband has taken a vow of silence. Why? To avoid, I’m told, embarrassing or provoking front-bench colleagues who did abuse their expenses and did cheerlead for the war in Iraq – despite Labour’s private polling showing how Miliband’s record on these issues is of huge appeal to floating voters. “The price of unity has been radicalism,” a friend of the Labour leader says. Another one told me that he “has to stop rewarding bad behaviour . . . He accommodates too much to others and isn’t forceful enough.”

Miliband is said privately to declaim that he is “strategically bold but tactically cautious”. The inescapable problem for this wannabe prime minister is that, day after day, caution wins out. The Labour leader cannot afford to be his own worst enemy, as he approaches the closest general election in a generation. Cravenness doesn’t win political battles. Courage does.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the NS and the political director of the Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted

Cathy Newman to take break from Twitter after row over mosque visit

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 11:16

Channel 4 news anchor says she ‘deeply regrets’ phrasing of tweets she sent after she attempted to visit mosque in south London on Visit My Mosque day

The Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman has offered her “sincere apologies” for causing a “great deal of offence” after claiming she was ushered out of a south London mosque, saying she would now be take a break from Twitter.

Newman sparked controversy after she tweeted that she was “ushered out of” the South London Islamic Centre in Streatham after trying to enter it as part of Visit My Mosque day.

Related: Channel 4's Cathy Newman apologises for 'misunderstanding' over mosque

1/4 I have written to South London Islamic Centre and offered my sincere apologies for tweets sent in haste after I visited there in error.

2/4 I accept my tweets were inappropriate and regret the use of the word “ushered”.

3/4 My language was poorly chosen and has caused a great deal of offence. I deeply regret that this happened.

4/4 I shall now be taking a break from Twitter.

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Turkish parents complain of push towards religious schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 07:00
Critics say parental choice is being denied after government moves to convert secular institutions into Imam Hatip schools

When Itir Erhart, 39, wanted to enrol her daughter in primary school, she found that it was almost impossible to find somewhere that did not teach Sunni Islamic religion and Sunni religious practices.

“We are a non-religious family,” Erhart said. “I don’t want my child to learn about God in school.”

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