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Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 July, 2019 - 07:00

Mail on Sunday named worst offender amid growing scrutiny of Tory Islamophobia

Most coverage of Muslims in British news outlets has a negative slant, according to a major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain, which concludes that news stories in the mainstream media are contributing to Islamophobia.

The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes – above an already-high industry average of 59%.

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The Guardian view on religious liberty: the freedom to be wrong | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 July, 2019 - 18:43
You can believe what you like if you do not act to harm others

Conservative religious believers, of whom there are perhaps 4 billion in the world today, mostly Christians and Muslims, still suppose that homosexuality is sinful. Sometimes their belief is an expression of genuine hatred; sometimes it is an unconsidered expression of belonging in a prejudiced society. In countries where this is a generally accepted prejudice, they probably don’t think about it much. In countries where gay people are accepted and affirmed as equals, fundamentalists have to think more carefully. Some retain their beliefs but place them in a context where homosexuality becomes merely one sin among many others – most of which the believer shares – and nothing to get worked up about. Others turn homophobia into a central point of doctrine, and fight against equality for gay people.

In Britain, Christian Concern is a pressure group which has brought numerous lawsuits in an attempt to establish a right for its members to discriminate against gay people. Almost all of these have been lost. Last week, though, it won a partial victory in an important case at the court of appeal, even though the judgment dismissed most of the argument that the organisation had brought. The case concerned a trainee social worker originally from Cameroon, Felix Ngole, who was thrown off his course by Sheffield University in 2017 after some posts he had made in an argument in the comment section of an American news site two years before were drawn anonymously to the university’s attention. There is no suggestion that Mr Ngole had discriminated against gay people in practice, but the university took the view that “any expression of disapproval of same-sex relations (however mildly expressed) on a public social media or other platform which could be traced back to the person making it, was a breach of the professional guidelines” as the court summarised it.

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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

Muslim Matters - 5 July, 2019 - 20:51

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

The post Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Restorative justice is no substitute for prison

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 July, 2019 - 22:26
A photograph of the bronze sculpture of "Lady Justice" on top of the Old Bailey criminal court in London, England. The statue has a sword in her right hand and the scales of justice in her left hand.Lady Justice, the Old Bailey, London. (Source: Andrew Middleton.)

Recently I came across a long thread (starting here) arguing against ‘carceral’ (prison-based) responses to serious crimes and, in particular, rape. The argument is that the justice system serves the state’s purpose, which is incarceration, that trials re-traumatise victims (which is certainly true), that victims often sink into depression after trials “primarily because they expected to gain some measure of healing through the criminal justice system that they just didn’t get”, that prisons cause PTSD which increases re-offending (as does having a criminal record), and that a better way of dealing with the crime, assuming the rapist (as it is mostly about rape) admits responsibility, is to require both to undergo a year of intensive therapy and then to allow the victim to place conditions on the attacker’s life. Most of the premises and solutions I find, to say the least, dubious.

Really? I’m sure some survivors would find great comfort in knowing that the person who assaulted them is behind bars and no longer has access to them and cannot attack anyone else. This is particularly the case if the rapist was a man and the victim a woman; of course, a man who attacks boys and men and is sent to prison may well have access to vulnerable men.

This is where we start to see the US-centricity of this whole thread. The American legal system has particular problems; you have elected prosecutors and judges who are looking to score points with the public and media in expectation of re-election, for example. There have been cases where judges have adjudicated young people as delinquent because they had been receiving bribes from the prison industry; in other cases, there is covert lobbying by the prison industry to impose harsher sentences which make them more money. However valid the claim that the state’s goal is incarceration is in the USA, it is not the case in every country where there is a criminal justice system where the default punishment for serious crimes is prison. Historically, societies dealt with serious crimes that posed threats to public safety with either imprisonment or physical punishment, such as flogging, amputation and the death penalty; in many western societies, these have been abolished, either because they were seen as barbaric or because they were irrevocable and innocent people were known to be being killed. To do away with prison will mean society will have no means of keeping the public safe from repetitively violent offenders.

As for victims being forced into testifying: sometimes this is necessary to protect the public, or to avoid the collapse of the trial where there are other offences or defendants, or because large amounts of money have been spent on the trial, a jury dragged away from their lives and sworn in and so on. To make a point I will come back to: the purpose of prison is not just to punish, but to protect.

There are a few tweets following this about the traumatic effect of rape trials themselves: that victims’ accounts are scrutinised to make sure that the incident fits the legal definition of rape, that victims are questioned about what they were wearing at the time, and so on. These are not arguments against having rape trials or a ‘carceral’ justice system to deal with rape but in favour of reforming the way rape trials are conducted and eliminating irrelevant questions that are calculated to simply discredit the victim as a witness. As it is a fact that the victim’s dress makes no contribution to any rape that starts with an attack in the street, such questions should not be asked. Some progress has been made in this area in the UK; maybe not in the USA, or at least in many jurisdictions as laws on rape differ from state to state.

A rape victim experiencing mental illness after the conclusion of a rape trial may not be because she is dissatisfied with the outcome or the penalty; it could well be because this is the hurdle of the trial is past and this is the first time in months that she has time to think about the situation. Some feel intense guilt at having been responsible for someone else’s suffering (see, for example, Maya Angelou in her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, after the man who raped her as a child was murdered after she reported it; also, the 1992 interview in the Guardian with the victim of the 1988 London rape known as the “Babes in the wood” rape, whose attacker was jailed for 12 years, who said that this “seemed like too much power for a 15-year-old to have” but also that “when everyone else stopped caring, [she] started caring”). It shows the importance of counselling being available in the aftermath of a trial, whichever way the verdict goes.

Therapy is not a replacement for a criminal-justice response to a serious crime. It should not be linked to it at all. In the UK, rape counselling centres have been closing because of funding cuts linked to austerity policies; in some cases, abuse victims have been told not to access therapy before a trial as it could result in their evidence being deemed unreliable. There are other ways to “tell your story to an empathetic other” and other “empathetic others” besides therapists; they could be a relative or friend who believes you rather than instinctively doubting you or telling you all the ways you brought the situation on yourself. But none of these things are alternatives to punishment of the offender or getting them off the streets.

And the problem with using restorative justice as a substitute for a criminal-law penalty is that it assumes that the rapist is a first-time offender or is amenable to being taught the error of his ways or that learning to empathise with the suffering of his victim will necessarily ensure he never offends again. The truth is that many rapists are recidivists and that even if the victim that comes forward is his first, she might not be his last. There is more at stake than the feelings or ongoing mental health of this particular victim; everyone in society who might be a future victim has to be protected from him. There are two ways of doing this: imprison him, or kill him. And I am sceptical about empathy-based approaches to serious crime for the same reason as I am about its usefulness in tackling bullying; the offender knows that his behaviour hurts his victim; it is often the reason he does it. The traumatising effect of any of these things, of any element in a street rape, for example, is obvious. They often enjoy the power it gives them; to a torturer, like the torturer in Orwell’s 1984, ‘real’ power comes not only from making someone do what you want, but from making them suffer.

As for the effect of prison on the offender, of course prisons should be safe and sanitary and free of needless infringements of prisoners’ dignity; of course, they should be free of bullying and abuse. These aren’t arguments for abolishing prisons because society as a whole should be free of these things as well. As for it being difficult for ex-offenders to get jobs, many countries have a set time during which they may be required to disclose a conviction but if they are going into certain professions, this is for life, for the protection of whomever they may be working with (e.g. children, disabled people, sick people). Some US jurisdictions have particularly harsh rules on this, or allow employers to require any applicant to declare any conviction up-front (hence the recent “ban the box” campaigns in some states), but they can be reformed in such a way as to protect the public from the most serious offenders while leaving open the possibility of rehabilitation for the less serious ones.

There are cases where restorative justice can work in rape, but they are at the lowest end of the severity scale, where the rapist may not have intended rape as such or realised that this is what he was doing, or with disturbed juvenile offenders. Any case involving premeditation has to be dealt with through the criminal justice system for the protection of the public. If there is only one victim and no realistic prospect of conviction for some reason, it needs to be kept on file because of the very likely prospect of their being more. Prison abolitionism seems to be popular among a certain type of American idealist, largely because their criminal justice system is racist, corrupt and riddled with political interference, but we must not generalise from the American particular to every criminal justice system everywhere. The aim of the state should not be to incarcerate people for its own sake, but to ensure both justice and public safety and this sometimes involves imprisonment.

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999 (is no joke)

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 July, 2019 - 18:33
An iPhone screenshot of What3Words, showing a stretch of the M1 running north to south outside the grounds of Hardwick Hall. There is a dark blue dot with a square showing three slashes, and near the top is a box showing the words "neater, begun, reporting".What3Words’ three words for roughly where I saw the pick-up truck. Though “outside Hardwick Hall” would have been more useful.

Last Saturday I was driving an articulated lorry down the M1 in Derbyshire, on the way back from delivering a trailer load of Mars bars to a depot outside Chesterfield, and I saw a broken down pick-up truck partly obstructing the inside lane (as it was a “smart motorway”, which was installed in two to three years of roadworks a few years ago, there was no hard shoulder he could have pulled over onto). About a hundred yards further on was an overhead matrix sign showing a reduced speed limit because of a “report of obstruction”. I immediately called 999, as this is what you are supposed to do to report a hazard to life and limb (not just an ongoing crime or accident just happened). I got through straight away and when I asked for the police, I got through to them without delay. I then told the operator the issue and he asked me exactly where. I told him the number of the mile post it was nearest to; he told me that “Highways [England] use those; we don’t” and wanted an approximate distance between one junction and another, which I could not give him. Before ending the call, he wanted to know my full address and date of birth.

I must say, it was very surprising to me that the police did not have any way of identifying a location on a motorway from a mile post, as these are found along every British motorway and a fair proportion of A-roads, and in the early 2000s, when mobile phones started to be used routinely to report accidents, larger signs were installed every 500m so that drivers could see them more easily. If the police do not know where a given mile point is, they should — it should be easy enough for a computer to pinpoint a location from a milepost on any given motorway (and there is actually only one motorway in Derbyshire) and they should have a list of which point each junction is at. While I was trying to explain where the broken-down vehicle was, any number of cars and trucks were passing it, quite possibly narrowly avoiding it because the driver will have seen the matrix sign above before they saw the vehicle itself. And why the need for my address and date of birth? He could have just asked my name; he had my phone number as I have been called back by the police after reporting things in the past. 999 is for reporting emergencies, and time is of the essence; it is not for carrying out surveys.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, someone suggested I use the app What3Words on my phone. I was unaware of this at the time; it assigns a unique set of three words to every location in the UK which you can relay to the call handler in any participating emergency service so as to identify the location. Derbyshire police indicated on Twitter last September that they do use the app. However, reading out three random words on what might be a bad phone line (especially on a hands-free in a noisy truck cab) is not the most reliable way of doing this as there is a danger of the word being misheard or the operator misspelling it, even if they have taken trouble to eliminate homophones from the database. I have installed it; it works, and you can use Siri on an iPhone to bring the app up, but it does take a couple of seconds, and if you are doing 56mph (let alone 70mph), your location will have changed by the time it starts looking for the three words; Siri will not open it if you just say “hey Siri, which three words?” and if the environment is noisy, it might not understand you anyway. Quite apart from that, why should I have to install a third-party app when there are marker posts by the side of the road? Why is the police not availing itself of readily-available information?

Of course, I would likely not have had to make the call and distract myself from driving if there had been a hard shoulder and the pick-up truck driver had had somewhere to pull in rather than park halfway onto the inside running lane of a motorway with traffic doing 70mph. Yes, these motorways allow the ‘management’ to put lanes out of action and reduce speed limits when there’s a “report of an obstruction” but if they do not know where you are talking about when you give a specific milepost reference then they cannot do it very accurately, though it may well explain why speed limits are reduced over whole sections rather than the mile or so before the obstruction. It only takes a driver to be distracted for a second to hit a stationary vehicle and if you’re reading a sign that’s just above and beyond a hazard, you might not see the hazard until it’s too late. This is why I’m not convinced by ‘studies’ that show that hard shoulders do not in fact increase safety and removing them is quite safe; it’s very convenient that this discovery was only made when they needed to increase road capacity and did not have the money to actually widen the road. (If they are not necessary, why is the hard shoulder not used as a running lane all the time in places where it can be, such as Luton?) There should be no more of these; road safety should not be sacrificed for the sake of cheap extra capacity and if traffic is flowing at 60 or 70mph most of the time, there must be a hard shoulder or, as on most A-road dual carriageways, frequent stopping places.

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A Code of Conduct To Protect Against Spiritual Abuse

Muslim Matters - 1 July, 2019 - 15:03

When there is a claim of spiritual abuse, the initial reaction of concerned Muslims is often to go to another Muslim leader and expect that leader to take care of it.  Most of the time, however, religious leaders in the community have no authority over other religious leaders who are found abusing their position. Many of these leaders feel a foreboding sense of powerlessness to exert change, leaving those who abuse, to do so freely and with impunity. 

There have been attempts by some leaders to take action against abusive religious figures. However, when this happens, it is usually followed by a public or ‘in-group’ campaign against the abusive figure, and the abusive figure and his supporters return in kind. This becomes messy, quickly. There is name-calling, mud-slinging, and threats, but in the end, it amounts to nothing, in the end, leaving everyone involved to make their own decision as to whether or not to continue support for the alleged perpetrator. Other religious leaders may know the accused is guilty, but due to friendships or programs they wish to continue doing with the accused, they will cover for them, especially when there is only a perceived low level of evidence that the public could ever discover it. 

There are several methods and excuses through which abuse is covered up.

The Wall of Silence

In cases of tightly knit groups, whether Sufi tariqas, super Salafi cliques, activist groups, or preachers who have formed a team, the abuser will be protected by a wall of silence, while the victim is targeted, maligned, and ostracized for speaking out against the leader. They, not the abuser, are held accountable, liable, and blamed. While the abuser is expected to be ‘forgiven,’ the victim is socially shamed for a crime committed against him or her. More often than not, the victim is intimidated into silence, while the perpetrator is left free to continue abusing. 

The Kafir Court Rationale

There have been countless situations when there have been legal claims made against a transgressing spiritual leader, but through coercion and pressure, the shaykh (or those close to him) will be able to convince his victim that they are not allowed to go to kafir court systems to solve issues between Muslims. Ironically, these same shaykhs see no difficulty signing legally binding contracts with other Muslims they do business with, or when they give classes, which stands to reason, they are perfectly fine accepting the same ‘kafir court’ as a source of protection when it is for themselves. 

Stop Hurting the Dawah Plea

In other cases, when the disputes are between fellow students, or representatives of the shaykh and those lower ranking students, the shaykh himself is able to get on the phone with the disgruntled victim, give him or her special attention, and convince the person to drop it and not pursue justice, as that may ‘hurt the dawah.’ Sometimes, the shaykhs will ostensibly push for Islamic mechanisms of justice and call for arbitration by other religious figures who they know will decide in his favor. It is critical not to fall victim to these arguments. 

Your Vile Nafs Culpe

Far too often in these groups, particularly the more spiritually inclined ones, everyone will acknowledge the abuse, whether illicit sexual behavior, groping, financial fraud, secret temporary marriages, or bullying by a Shaykh, but steadfastly invoke the ‘only prophets are perfect, and our Shaykh is a wali–– but he can make mistakes’ refrain. Then, when those seeking recourse dare disclose these issues, even when there is no dispute about the factuality of their claims, they are browbeaten into compliance; told their focus on the negative is a sign that they are ‘veiled from the more important, positive efforts of the group, and it is they who should overcome their vile nafs.’ With such groups, leaving may be the only solution. 

Pray it Away Pretext

Sometimes, a target of abuse may go to other teachers or other people in the community to seek help, guidance, or direction. The victims hold these teachers in high regard and believe that they can trust them. However, instead of these teachers acting to protect the victims, the victims are often placated, told to pray it away. They are left with empty platitudes, but nothing concrete is ever done to protect them, nor is there any follow-up. 

The Forgive and Forget Pardon

They are told to forgive…

Forgiveness has its place and time, but at that critical moment, when a victim is in crisis and requires guidance and help, their wellbeing should remain paramount. To counsel victims that their primary job and focus at that pivotal juncture is to forgive their abuser is highly objectionable. Forgiveness is not the obligation of the victim and for any teacher or religious leader to invalidate the wrong that took place is not only counterproductive but dangerous––even if the intention behind the advice came from a wholesome place.

The Dire Need For A Code of Conduct

It is very easy to feel let down when nothing is done about teachers who abuse, but we have to understand that without a Code of Conduct, there really isn’t much that can be done when the spiritual abuse is not considered illegal. It is the duty of Islamic institutions to protect employees, attendees, and religious leaders. We also must demand that. 

Justice is a process. It is not a net result. This means that sometimes we will follow the process of justice and still come up short. The best thing we can do to hold abusers accountable for our institutions is to set up a process of accountability. A code of conduct will not eliminate spiritual abuse. Institutions that adopt this code may still cover up abuse, in which case victims will need to take action against the institution for violating the code. This code of conduct will also protect teachers who can be targetted and falsely accused.

As members of the community, we should expect more.  Here is how:

  •  Demand your Islamic institutions to have and instill a code of conduct. 
  •  If you are in a group outside of an institution, get clarity on the limits of the Shaykh.
  •  Understand that anyone, no matter their social status, is capable of doing horrible things, even the religious figures who talk about the importance of justice, accountability, and transparency. 
  • When it comes to money, expect more from your leadership than emotional appeals. Fundraising causes follow trends, and while supporting good causes is a positive thing, doing so without a proper audit or accountability is not. It lends itself to financial abuse, mistrust, and misappropriation.  
Establish a Protocol

A lot of hurt can be saved and distrust salvaged if victims are provided with honest non-judgment. Even in the event that there is a lack of concrete evidence, a protocol to handle these kinds of sensitive situations can provide a victim with a safe space to go to where they know they won’t be ignored or treated callously. We may not be able to guarantee an outcome, but we can ensure that we’ll try.

Using Contract Law to Hold Abusers Accountable – Danya Shakfeh

In cases of spiritual abuse, legal recourse (or any recourse for that matter) has been rare due to there being no standard of conduct and no legal means to hold abusers accountable.  In order to solve this problem, our Code of Conduct creates a legal mechanism of enforcement through contract law.

The reason why contract law is important and applicable is that the law does not always address unethical behavior.  You have heard the refrain “Just because it is legal, it does not mean it is ethical.” The law, for varying reasons, has its limits. Although we associate the law with justice and morality, the law and justice and morality are not always interchangeable and can even be at odds with each other.  

Ultimately, specifically in a secular society, the law is a set man-made rules and sometimes those rules are arbitrary and actually unfair. For example, there is a class of laws called ‘strict liability’ laws. These laws make a defendant liable even if the person committed the offense by accident.  One example of strict liability law is selling alcohol to a minor. In some states, even if the person tried to confirm the minor’s legal age, the seller could still be held liable for the offense. On the flip-side, there are is a lack of anti-bullying laws on the books in the United States. This allows employers to cause serious emotional damage to employees, yet the employer can get away with such offensive behavior.  Accordingly, the law does not always protect nor is it always ‘just.’

On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

This is one of the reasons that victims of spiritual abuse have had little success in having their claims addressed at a legal level.  Because abuses are not legally recognized as such, there is often no associated remedy. For example, when a woman enters into a secret second marriage only to find that the husband is not giving her all her Islamic legal rights, that woman’s recourse is very limited because the law does not recognize this as abuse and does not even recognize the marriage.

Further, if a victim of spiritual abuse is abused due to religious manipulation unless the abuser engaged in a stand-alone crime or civil claim, the victim also has no legal recourse. For example, if a religious scholar exploits a congregant’s vulnerabilities in order to convince the congregant to turn over large amounts of money and the congregant later learns that the Islamic scholar did not really need the money, he or she may have no legal recourse.  This is because manipulation (as long as there is no fraud) is not illegal and depending on how clever the religious scholar was, the congregant would have no legal recourse. Our way of solving this problem is by using contract law to set and enforce the standard for ethical behavior.

Use of Institutional Handbooks

Whether people realize it or not, institutional handbooks are a type of contract. Though an attorney should be consulted in order to ensure that they these documents are binding, policies do not necessarily need to be signed by every party nor do they need to be called a “contract” in order to be legally binding.  By creating institutional handbooks and employment policies that relate to common issues of spiritual abuse, we can finally provide guidelines and remedies.

When an employee at an institution violates the institution’s policies, this is a “breach of contract” that can result in firing or even monetary damages. In other words, the policy is that document which victims and institutions can use to back their cases when there are allegations involving abuse.  Policies can also hold institutions themselves liable for not enforcing the policy and remedies as to victims’ abuse. Policies also serve the purpose of putting the community and their beneficiaries and patrons on notice as to what is expected of them.

Our Code of Conduct is the most comprehensive of created ethical guidelines for Muslims leaders and institutions for making spiritual abuse remedies actionable. We believe it will provide remedies to victims that would otherwise not be available through other legal means.  By binding the parties to a contract, victims and institutions can take these contracts, along with the abusers, to court and use the contract to fill in the gap for appropriate behavior that the law otherwise does not fill.

Download the Code of Conduct For Islamic Leadership By In Shaykh’s Clothing

Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse

The post A Code of Conduct To Protect Against Spiritual Abuse appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Prevent is stopping free speech on campus and demonising Muslims | Nadine El-Enany

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 July, 2019 - 12:51
New figures confirm that the government’s McCarthyistic counter-terrorism strategy is curtailing progressive dissent

Many staff and students at universities across Britain will have welcomed Liberty’s condemnation of the chilling effect the government’s counter-terrorism strategy is having on free speech on campuses. Recently published figures from the Office for Students showed that more than 2,000 events across Britain’s 300 or so higher education institutions have been affected by Prevent.

While some events were allowed to take place with conditions attached, 53 events or speaker requests on campuses were rejected altogether by university authorities. The demonisation of Muslims through the Prevent strategy has led to progressive dissent more broadly being curtailed.

Related: UK's Prevent strategy 'biggest threat to free speech on campus'

Related: An Islamophobic security agenda shouldn't mix with arts funding | Naz Shah

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Just 22 mosques given funding for hate crime security last year

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 June, 2019 - 17:51

Distrust of Prevent scheme among reasons cited for lack of uptake of government scheme

Widespread distrust of the Home Office’s counter-extremism strategy by British Muslims has been cited as one of the obstacles to mosques using a government scheme to protect places of worship from hate crime, after figures showed just 22 received funding last year.

The £375,413 awarded to the mosques under the scheme is a tiny fraction of the £14m provided by a separate government fund for assisting the Jewish community. Applications by 24 mosques failed.

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It’s in the Times.

Indigo Jo Blogs - 29 June, 2019 - 20:11

Last week a detailed report into three stories ‘researched’ and written by Andrew Norfolk, the Times’ chief investigative reporter, was published, all of which involved Islam or Muslims, painted them in the worst possible light and demonstrated negligence about making sure of basic facts. One was the notorious Muslim foster care case from August 2017, about which the report reveals that Norfolk was advised by an expert not to touch the story as the details “didn’t ring true” but published it anyway; the others involve a Muslim-run charity in Yorkshire called Just Yorkshire which closed as a result of an inaccurate story by Norfolk in the Times, and the rapist (of Pakistani origin) supposedly given visitation rights to the child he fathered with his victim, which was not true, but what was done was in keeping with official guidelines (right or wrong as these may be). The report, by journalists Brian Cathcart (also a professor at Kingston University in London) and Paddy French, can be found in PDF form here at the Hacking Inquiry website.

A front page from The Times, with the headline "Corbyn too frail to be PM, fears civil service".Today’s Times front page

Talking of stuff that doesn’t ring true … the same paper had a story in today’s edition in which unnamed civil servants are alleged to speculate that Jeremy Corbyn is likely to have to step down before very long for health reasons, that he is too frail to be Labour leader, let alone prime minister, and that he is being “propped up” by his inner circle. People who actually know him say he runs every day and cycles regularly. Corbyn is 70 years old and while that is certainly not young, it is not extremely old by today’s standards, it is a good 15 years short of average male life expectancy, and lots of people that age are not frail nowadays. The idea of his being a ‘stooge’ and that the real power will lie with advisors or other shadowy figures is a classic trope of fear-mongering about the Left; think of the suggestions that “union bosses” (really elected leaders) will enter 10 Downing Street by the back door and call the shots, as was routinely alleged during Neil Kinnock’s time as Labour leader. Civil servants are not allowed to openly make commentary about politics; they are supposed to be neutral and to serve whoever is in government.

I’ve made no secret of my reservations about Corbyn. But this is classic right-wing fear mongering from the Murdoch press. The biggest cause to doubt this story is the masthead it appears under. It’s in the Times, a paper notorious for shoddy or malicious reporting which uses its past reputation as a cover.

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My Jewish friend, your Asian friend

Indigo Jo Blogs - 28 June, 2019 - 18:00
A front page of the Spectator with the headline "Boris wants you! The former mayor talks to James Forsyth about Brexit, sovereignty and aubergines". It features a cartoon of Johnson pointing at the reader and wearing a "Vote Leave" cap. Other articles referred to include "The War on Trump by Jacob Heilbrunn" and "The death of Internet Freedom by Brendan O'Neill".“Boris wants you”: a previous adulatory front page from the Spectator about Boris Johnson and Brexit.

Yesterday I came across the outgoing edition of the Spectator at Smith’s and there were about four articles hymning Boris Johnson in anticipation of his crowning as prime minister, as was expected when it went to press. I thought it was the new edition, but that was on the shelves today and so I realised that those articles went to press before his row with his girlfriend became headline news. Today there was a little more of the same, including one from Conrad Black, former proprietor of the Telegraph group and the Spectator calling Max Hastings a ‘flake’ (despite his having employed him as editor of the Telegraph for nine years) and claiming he has more confidence in Boris Johnson than in Hastings, who is not running to be Tory leader or prime minister. But one of the articles, by James Forsyth, claimed that Johnson’s Britain would be a more liberal place than Theresa May’s and he airily dismissed fears about his racism and prejudice towards Muslims in a few short sentences. The piece does not seem to be on the website, so perhaps they thought better of it after last weekend’s news. But I’m sure the attitude is widespread.

The article referred to the incidences of racism as a few isolated sentences from his back catalogue and dismissed the idea that he is Islamophobic by mentioning Sajid Javid’s support for him. This last is a classic example of the “Black friend defence”, in which a person accused of racism falls back on having Black friends or on the support of one or two Black (or in this case Asian) supporters. Sajid Javid is in no way representative of Muslims, having risen to prominence in a party most British Muslims do not support, having a spouse who is not Muslim, having said that only one religion is practised in his household and it is not Islam. His right-wing White friends will of course never forget his origins, as we witnessed when others in the leadership race were invited to meet Donald Trump during his state visit and he was not; as an Asian friend of mine said, “they will never allow a P**i, even a ‘house’ one, to become leader”. We have to understand that anti-Asian racism is not the same as Islamophobia, which is prejudice against Islam itself or people understood to be Muslims, and Boris Johnson’s hostility was clearly in the latter category as clearly demonstrated during his editorship. As for the racist language, there were multiple incidents of it; it was not an isolated case of inappropriate language where the person responsible apologised. He was writing for a sympathetic audience which is more than willing to overlook the racism.

Also this week, the Derby North MP, Chris Williamson, was reinstated to the party (though this has now been overturned) having been suspended over numerous accusations of anti-Semitism; this action has led to widespread protests from Labour MPs, staff members and from people outside the party as well as sanctimonious condemnations from Tories whose party does much less than Labour does to keep much worse racists out. One of the more common accusations that has been made is that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters rely too heavily on the support of left-wing, often secular Jews (though there are a minority of ultra-religious Jews who loudly oppose Zionism as well), and ignore the ‘mainstream’ religious Jews who are sympathetic to Zionism. These people will cast aspersions on the Jewishness of members of Jewish Voice for Labour and Jewdas (claiming that they have one Jewish ancestor generations ago, for example) and have made it clear that their approval is no defence against any charge of anti-Semitism when it comes from the ‘official’ voices of “real Jews”, even when these groups are either self-appointed or not fully elected (e.g. elected from synagogues that do not allow women to vote).

I’m well aware that Boris Johnson is not in the Labour party, but there are many who are willing to do whatever it takes to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister even if it means getting Boris Johnson instead (or another Tory who will give him a cabinet post, until Johnson stabs him, the country or some hapless Brit abroad in the back again). There is a sense, rarely expressed openly, that anti-Semitism is a prejudice apart that does not bear comparison to any other form of racism; the reality is that, despite some differences in how anti-Semitism has manifested itself over the generations, any prejudice can lead to violence, oppression, mass murder and genocide. There does not even have to be any visible racial or religious difference. Displays of revulsion at anti-Semitism (and willingness to accept the dictates of the Jewish ‘mainstream’ as to what is anti-Semitism, which they will not when a mainstream Muslim group alleges, or tries to define, Islamophobia) are simply how white middle-class people who will often tolerate racism against visible minorities or policies with a racist effect persuade each other that they are not the worst kind of racist. The real reason is that Jews are an acceptable minority: white, Anglicised and not associated with poverty.

So, let’s be clear: if you will not let Jeremy Corbyn or his supporters fall back on their numerous Jewish friends or the years of service some of them have shown to their communities, including Jewish members, don’t insult us by reminding us that Boris Johnson has a Pakistani friend or that, say, Zac Goldsmith’s former brother-in-law is Imran Khan. If you don’t mind shaking hands with Narendra Modi, on whose watch Hindu fascists staged a re-run of Kristallnacht in Gujarat when he was state governor, resulting in thousands of Muslims being killed and on whose watch as Indian prime minister Indian Muslims have been lynched on the pretext of slaughtering cows, please don’t be pointing fingers at anyone dubiously accused of anti-Semitism. Many a racist has Black friends. Many a racist has had sex with a person not of their race, or produced children with them. A racist politician is not the same as an ordinary racist; it does not depend on personal prejudice but on a tendency to use prejudice for political advantage. Boris Johnson has amply demonstrated both, over pages and pages in the Telegraph and Spectator. If Jeremy Corbyn as PM turns your stomach but Johnson does not, it does not make you less of a racist, just a different type of racist.

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French city shuts down public pools after two women wear burkinis

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 June, 2019 - 17:00

Grenoble authorities say shutdown was requested by lifeguards at the pool

Despite the unprecedented heatwave sweeping across western Europe, lifeguards in Grenoble have shut down the city’s two municipal swimming pools after Muslim women went swimming in burkinis.

The women went to the pools twice at the initiative of the Alliance Citoyenne rights group to challenge a city ban on the full-body swimwear.

Related: Why we wear the burkini: five women on dressing modestly at the beach

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An Islamophobic security agenda shouldn't mix with arts funding | Naz Shah

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 June, 2019 - 17:02

Bradford literature festival speakers are right to withdraw in protest at Home Office funds. Muslims want meaningful engagement

  • Naz Shah is the MP for Bradford West

The last few days have seen a furore over the Bradford literature festival’s decision to accept funding from the Home Office. Some 12 speakers have pulled out of the event so far, in protest at the source of the money, the government’s “Building a Stronger Britain Together” fund, a scheme that supports projects that supposedly counter extremism. As a result of the row, reputational damage has been done to this award-winning festival.

Let’s be clear why this has happened: the government refuses to engage with Muslim communities in a meaningful way – unless it is under the auspices of counter- extremism or counter-terrorism. Why does funding offered to Muslim communities so often appear under this guise? We’ve also seen this in the form of the goverment’s terrible Prevent counter terror strategy, which is a toxic presence and is already under review.

Had this government cared, it would not continuously brush Tory Islamophobia under the carpet

Related: Does Bradford festival's counter-extremism funding warrant a boycott? | Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and Saima Mir

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Pakistan plays down accusations of Christian persecution

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 June, 2019 - 14:02

Foreign minister says there are ‘individual incidents’ that can be compared to UK knife crime

Pakistan’s foreign minister has sought to dismiss accusations of Christian persecution, claiming there were “individual incidents” comparable to knife crime in the UK.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, speaking during a visit to Brussels, said reports of religious minorities being targeted in Pakistan did not constitute a trend and the recent claims of Christian persecution were an example of “western interests” that “want to paint Pakistan in a particular way”.

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Boris Johnson and the Stasi

Indigo Jo Blogs - 24 June, 2019 - 23:01
A front page of the Evening Standard, with the headline "Boris's show of unity" with a picture of Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds, sitting on wooden chairs in a garden looking at each other.Today’s Evening Standard, the London evening paper also known as the Evening Boris.

So, last weekend the story broke of a row between Boris Johnson, the man who looked until then as if he was certain to become the leader of the Tory party and Prime Minister, and his girlfriend at her house in south London, which was reported to the police and then taped by the neighbours and the recording sent to the Guardian. As I was on a delivery run to Kettering and Dartford last Saturday, I spent much of the day glued to Radio 4 which ran an interview with the author of a critical biography of Johnson, who had worked with him in Brussels and told us that he was notorious for his temper, and Allison Pearson of the Daily Telegraph who compared the neighbours to the Stasi, the former East German secret police. Over the weekend, Twitter was abuzz with two different narratives: one saying that many women have died because neighbours heard fights and other signs of abuse and did not call the police or otherwise intervene and that women have been saved because they did, and the other making Johnson out to be the victim of a politically-motivated action by nosy neighbours acting like self-appointed secret police and to take one example, from a pro-Brexit radio presenter:

I found the reference to the Stasi grotesquely inappropriate. The Stasi, like other secret police forces in other dictatorships, did not principally spy on their communist bosses but on ordinary people and particularly for any signs of dissent; it was an organ of the state and consisted of people employed by the state. Although it did use information sourced from ordinary people, it also relied on paid spies and informants and on people tempted by inducements and blackmail. What was reported in this case was not Boris Johnson using crass racial slurs, printing inflammatory nonsense about a minority community or expounding ridiculous theories about Britain’s place outside the EU; he does that in public, often in the same newspapers that have been backing him. It was a domestic argument that disturbed his neighbours and gave them concern for the welfare of his girlfriend, who (despite being of similar political mind to him) said things that ring true with many people: that he is selfish, spoiled, and unconcerned enough with money (because he’s never been short of it) that he thinks red wine on the sofa is no big deal.

Let’s not forget, the Tory press (and the smaller liberal tabloid press) have themselves behaved in a manner reminiscent of a secret police force over the years, relying on malicious stories, employing people to search people’s bins, using material from people who illegally access others’ voicemails, and using outright harassment with packs of reporters waiting outside people’s doors and following them down the street, such that people have sometimes had to be bundled into a car with a blanket over their head to avoid their demands. They ruin lives and end careers. Only a few weeks ago the Daily Mail ran a front-page story (and several pages inside) to an “expose” of Jeremy Corbyn filled with tittle-tattle about petty details of his private behaviour from so-called friends and maybe one of his ex-wives. If this is appropriate treatment for Corbyn, an incident of actual inconsiderate and possibly abusive behaviour from Johnson, who unlike Corbyn is likely to be appointed prime minister within a few weeks without a public vote, is just as much in the public interest. Come to think of it, another common feature of a dictatorship is a cowed or sycophantic press which is full of propaganda and this is exactly what the Daily Telegraph in particular looks like right now: one front page after another praising Boris Johnson, who has a high-profile weekly column, and attacking his critics.

I don’t think this incident would have become public knowledge if it were not for the fact that Johnson is likely to become prime minister without a public vote, and were not so obviously unfit for the job; if he had not displayed racism so repeatedly, if he had not sowed the seeds of discontent about the EU by fabricating stories while employed at the Telegraph, if he had not embarrassed this country repeatedly with his ridiculous remarks and exposed British citizens abroad to danger. His supporters seem at best absolutely blind to his faults and at worst they regard them as strengths, or as a sign of how powerful they are that they do not need to worry about pesky minorities that he has offended or, worse, endangered. The prevailing attitude among them seems to be: never mind the snowflakes. I even heard Vanessa Feltz today suggest that Johnson is the opposite of what Theresa May was accused of being, the “Maybot” always reading from the script and reciting stock phrases again and again; it was suggested that his “colourful” character inspires people rather than boring them. The Tories’ attitude to ordinary people was also prevalent in the assault by Mark Field on a Greenpeace activist who protested at a bankers’ and politicians’ banquet last Friday, which prompted a stream of Tory politicians to excuse an obviously unnecessary act of violence.

I don’t think that, politically, there is much to choose between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson; they are both Brexiteers, open to a no-deal exit from the EU, and both slavishly devoted to the US president and willing to follow Trump into war with Iran. Johnson is just more openly racist, a proven liar, a philanderer and a man with zero diplomatic ability. After seeing the disaster with Trump I do not believe anyone should be taking chances by calling for people with a vote to vote for him in the hope that he will lose a general election, or his seat; we cannot guarantee that there are not enough Labour members with an “anyone but Corbyn” attitude or Labour Brexiteers fearful for their seats to keep him in office. This man is simply unfit for any position of public responsibility whatsoever; he should not even be an MP, let alone prime minister, and it sickens me that he has got away with so much while people have been expelled from the Labour party for things interpreted as anti-Semitism which are much milder than the things Johnson has come out with in mainstream journals again and again. So, well done to the people who leaked this to the Guardian. If the Tory party had not been about to foist this wretch on all of us, it would not have been necessary. As it is, the disaster may have been averted.

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Nearly half of Tory members would not want Muslim PM – poll

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 June, 2019 - 15:14

Islamophobia survey finds just 8% believe it is a problem within the Conservative party

Nearly half of Conservative party members would prefer not to have a Muslim prime minister, a survey into the scale of Islamophobia in the party has suggested.

The poll, carried out by YouGov for the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, also found that more than two-thirds of Tory members believe the myth that parts of the UK are under Sharia law, and 45% think some areas are not safe for non-Muslims.

Related: Javid says new migration salary rules could vary region by region as May's £30k threshold shelved – live news

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Home Office thwarted return home of Isis suspect Jack Letts

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 June, 2019 - 09:02

Letts was disillusioned in Syria but his case officer was told to ‘back off’ by the government

British Islamic State fighter Jack Letts, whose parents were convicted of funding terrorism, wanted to return to the UK, but the Home Office pulled the plug on attempts to rehabilitate him.

The 23-year-old – known as “Jihadi Jack” – who joined Isis as a teenager, had discussed leaving Syria in 2016 with a counter-radicalisation expert until the UK government took him off the Letts case, the Observer has learned.

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Is Greater London really London?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 20 June, 2019 - 15:49

Yesterday I saw an article on Medium from Bob Pitt, a socialist writer who used to run Islamophobia Watch, on why Boris Johnson was able to twice win the mayoralty of a city often regarded as left-leaning or at least liberal. It was, he says, because the electoral region of Greater London includes large tracts which are not really London but were included in an expansion of London in the 1960s by a Tory government which wanted to weaken the Labour party’s hold on London local government after it dominated the London County Council from the 1930s until the 60s. In some of the areas included in Greater London, most people are right-wing, provincial, Tory voters who do not see themselves as Londoners:

In order to overcome the fact that London is indeed “a city that leans firmly towards Labour” the Tories included large swathes of suburbia in this new electoral region. Bexley, Bromley, Havering — places like that.

The people living in these areas don’t regard themselves as Londoners. They talk about going into London, or up to London. They don’t think of themselves as living in London. That’s because they don’t. These suburban boroughs don’t even have London postcodes.

I was brought up in one of these boroughs (Croydon) and live in another today (Kingston). I have family living in the borough in between (Sutton). It’s true that parts of them are wealthy, mostly white, Tory-voting and have more in common with the neighbouring parts of their old counties (in our case, Surrey) than anywhere in the former London County but they also have more in common with those places than with the parts of their own borough that are closer to central London. This was particularly evident in Croydon where the northern parts, such as Broad Green, Thornton Heath and Norbury, had substantial minority-ethnic and working-class populations. When I was at sixth-form college, the students arrived on one bus or the other depending on which areas they came from: those from the north on the number 50, as was, and those from the central and eastern parts (like me) usually on the 409, still a green country bus, and the students on the number 50 were much more likely to be Black or Asian. North of the Thames, very much of what we now call inner-city London, such as Haringey (which includes Tottenham), Brent (which includes Wembley and Harlesden) and Ealing (which includes Acton), were in Middlesex county before 1965; East and West Ham (now Newham) and Walthamstow were in Essex; despite the core of London always having been north of the river, most of the LCC was on the south side. These areas also have strong Black and Asian populations as well as other minorities and strong white working-class populations. Ken Livingstone’s constituency in between his GLC and mayoral days, Brent East, was part of former Middlesex. The North Circular was north London’s M25; unlike the South Circular Road which passes very close to central London, no part of it was in London County.

It’s also true that the old postal counties remained in place and Croydon’s was Surrey. But the mayoralty was established in 2000 and postal counties were abolished in 1996. That they have their own postcodes is irrelevant: those postal areas, the RM code (which also includes Thurrock) aside, were mostly confined to those suburban areas and some of the London postal areas extended into the outer counties: the N, NW and W area into Middlesex, the E area into Essex (the E4 postcode still does), and the SW and SE areas into Surrey. But postal areas have always transgressed county and even country boundaries; the Guildford postcodes go well into Hampshire and my university town, Aberystwyth, had a Shrewsbury postcode (SY23). We may have talked of going into or up to London, but when talking to people from outside London altogether, we say we live in London or we’re from London, especially as many of us moved out from inner London or moved to those places because they were at least near London.

A picture of a 1970s poster showing a clock tower with lights shining from two sides, with the words in red underneath, "Croydon lunar research facility", in a covered walkway with shuttered shops on the right-hand side and two BT phone boxes in the background.St George’s Walk, Croydon, 2017. (Source: Duncan C)

Bob Pitt says it was the presence of these outer-suburban non-Londoners in Greater London that allowed Boris Johnson to take the mayoralty twice. But three of the five mayoral elections so far were won by either Labour or, as in 2000, an independent Left-wing candidate (Ken Livingstone). Livingstone won a very comfortable victory and, when second preferences were counted, won every district in London except Bromley-Bexley and the west central area; this includes all but one of those outer-suburban districts, although it should be noted that it is a one-voter, one-vote election and there are no block votes, so Labour votes from north Croydon, say, still counted. Subsequent elections have divided voters between the inner city and outer suburbs with Zac Goldsmith in 2016 accused of using a “doughnut strategy” under the influence of Lynton Crosby, and he may have won some votes in south-west London as a result of opposition to Heathrow expansion (which Boris Johnson also previously opposed), but he still lost.

The GLC, during its lifetime, had a pattern of being dominated by whichever party was in opposition in central government; by 2000, the demographics had changed somewhat, certainly compared to the 1960s, and the political scene had changed as well. Croydon North, for example, has been a safe Labour seat for many years and Croydon borough council changed to Labour domination in the 1990s despite having been Tory-dominated previously. Ken Livingstone was elected because he had a vision, the Congestion Charge for vehicles driven into central London during the daytime which was to be invested in public transport being a major plank of it. By 2008, after a second term, Livingstone was unpopular in large part because of the western extension of the Congestion Charge which took in a large tract of residential inner suburbia around Ladbroke Grove (the area now associated with Grenfell Tower) and he had antagonised an awful lot of people; the Evening Standard was, as it is now, heavily right-leaning and was critical of his association with people like Hugo Chavez and Yusuf al-Qaradawi (it became known as the “Evening Boris” while Johnson was mayor). Many people who had supported him previously believed he had become arrogant and that he had run out of ideas. After losing in 2008, he stood again in 2012 and lost again.

Yes, being a large urban area rather than a fairly small city-county which covers barely half, if that, of the metropolitan area does mean that Labour is no longer guaranteed control of the mayoralty. But London had grown by the mid-1960s and the LCC’s geography no longer made sense; the GLC was a weaker entity than the LCC was, with the enlarged boroughs taking on many of the functions performed by counties elsewhere, such as road management (public transport was a GLC function for much of its existence). The record of the London mayoralty proves that a strong Labour candidate can win comfortably; Boris Johnson may have used his charm and exploited the support of the popular press, but his main asset in 2008 was the incumbent’s rapidly decreasing popularity and, in 2012, the foolishness of the Labour party in letting him stand for a fourth time. Of course, London voted heavily to remain in the EU in 2016 and even though the mayor has no power over whether we stay or leave, a pro-Brexit mayoral candidate is unlikely to win now. But let’s not pretend it was just the demographics or the geography; a strong Labour candidate could have won at least 2012 if not 2008, and Ken Livingstone no longer fitted the bill.

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Six pull out of Bradford festival over counter-extremism funding

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 June, 2019 - 15:36

Writers and activists quit literature festival over funding by Home Office programme

Six writers and activists have pulled out of the Bradford literature festival (BLF) in protest after it emerged it received funding from a government counter-extremism programme.

The group withdrew from planned appearances after learning that the 10-day event, which was founded in 2014, has accepted money provided as part of the Home Office’s counter-extremism strategy for the first time.

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Uighur author dies following detention in Chinese 're-education' camp

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 June, 2019 - 13:42

PEN America condemns death of Nurmuhammad Tohti, who had been held in a Xinjiang internment camp, as a grave example of China’s violations of free expression

The death of the prominent Uighur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti after being held in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps has been condemned as a tragic loss by human rights organisations.

Radio Free Asia reported that Tohti, who was 70, had been detained in one of the controversial “re-education” camps from November 2018 to March 2019. His granddaughter, Zorigul, who is based in Canada, said he had been denied treatment for diabetes and heart disease, and was only released once his medical condition meant he had become incapacitated. She wrote on a Facebook page for the Uighur exile community that she had only learned of his death 11 days after it happened because her family in Xinjiang had been frightened that making the information public would make them a target for detention.

Related: Revealed: new evidence of China's mission to raze the mosques of Xinjiang

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'Disappointing and deluded': Imam lambasts Tory hopefuls on Islamophobia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 June, 2019 - 03:03

Teacher Abdullah Patel singled out Boris Johnson, who forgot his name, and urged candidates to accept role in stoking hate speech

The imam who questioned Conservative leadership candidates about Islamophobia during Tuesday’s TV debate has called responses from the MPs “disappointing and deluded”.

Abdullah Patel, who is also deputy head of a primary school in Gloucester, asked a question via videolink from Bristol about the impact of Islamophobia, saying: “Do you accept words have consequences?”

Related: TV debate brought home a terrifying truth: one of these men will be PM | Jonathan Freedland

Have to thank @MuslimCouncil and @MatesJacob because it was their detailed document which gave me the backing to ask the Q on #BBCOurNextPM

My name is Abdullah btw @BorisJohnson pic.twitter.com/08eFuwo5Ku

5/@Jeremy_Hunt used the chance to speak about how he can't be racist because he has an immigrant wife, and @RoryStewartUK forgot that this is also OUR country. The only positive from the debate was @sajidjavid making them all commit to an independent investigation into...

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