Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca epidemic-free, says Saudi Arabia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 October, 2014 - 12:29
Health chief hired thousands of health workers to protect pilgrims from Ebola and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus

The annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which drew 2 million Muslims from around the world, has been epidemic-free, Saudi Arabias acting health minister has said.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, home to Islams holiest sites, engaged thousands of health workers to make sure pilgrims were protected from two deadly viruses, Ebola and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV).

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I know, I know, hijab makes you beautiful

Muslimah Media Watch - 6 October, 2014 - 11:01
When I was 19 years old and just exiting from the rebellious teenage years, I stepped out of the house with my hijabi sister. I was newly de-jabbed (the first tentative attempt of many), and feeling awkward and – for lack of a better description – naked. My neighbour happened to step out at the [Read More...]

Ben Affleck: Bill Maher and Sam Harris 'gross' and 'racist' in views of Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 October, 2014 - 10:34

The actor has won praise on social media for accusing both men of religious stereotyping while discussing Islam with them on Mahers HBO talk show

Ben Affleck has won praise for accusing TV host Bill Maher and author Sam Harris for what he called gross and racist depictions of Islam during a televised debate.

Appearing on HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night, Affleck reacted furiously to claims by Maher that Islam manifested as the only religion that acts like the mafia and which would fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.

Here I thought Ben Affleck couldn't be any cooler and then he slams Bill Maher's gross generalizations of Islam while promoting GONE GIRL.

Love this & go Ben! RT @HuffingtonPost: Watch Ben Affleck and Bill Maher fiercly debate over radical Islam

Bill Maher offered Muslims an Eid gift last night by demonizing Muslims but Thankfully Ben Affleck was on panel:

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The niqab makes me feel liberated, and no law will stop me from wearing it | Semaa Abdulwali

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 October, 2014 - 06:47

When we meet, I choose what you see. You deal with my mind and personality. I wasnt forced to wear the niqab, and forcing me to take it off would be oppression

Ive always been the sort of person who loved to experiment, but I never expected that wearing the niqab would be something Id try.

I felt conflicted before I began to wear it a few months ago. I am aware of the negative perceptions of the niqab, and thought it could change my life drastically. Would it be hard at university, where I study medical science? The majority of the students arent Muslim. I wondered whether I would have to be out of sight, out of mind, most of the time.

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3 Marriage Models We Need to Rethink

Muslim Matters - 6 October, 2014 - 06:45

We've all read those articles, “50 Ways to Make Your Husband/Wife Happy”, “7 Ways to a Great Marriage”, “11 Ways to Survive Marriage and Not Get Bored to Death”.  We've had our elders hand us pearls of wisdom (and unsolicited advice), had our peers tell us how being married really is (“for realz, bro”), and we've been to seminars that teach us the fiqh of love while others teach us the fiqh of staying together for the sake of the kids.

So instead of reinventing the marriage wheel, I'm going to point out some the weaknesses of the “marriage models” we all hold dear. Be prepared to get a little uncomfortable; maybe you've been struggling all this time to implement them and what I'm going to tell you will invalidate your efforts.  Nothing can invalidate your efforts; whatever effort you put in has, inshā'Allāh, brought you and your spouse some benefit.  Consider my insights instead as a way to keep your marital compass meticulously aligned.  Also of note, these models apply to healthy/normal marriages that are not abusive, physically or emotionally. If you feel you are in an abusive situation, it is important to immediately seek professional help and intervention.

Here comes the list.


Marriage Model Number 1

“I'll meet your needs and you meet mine” (i.e. the Islamic golden hit, “Rights and Responsibilities of Husbands and Wives” halaqa/seminar/khutbah).


This model has its value for sure.  From it we get a shari' understanding of marriage: who provides what to whom, what behavior encroaches on our spouse's “rights”, what behavior is considered sinful, what we can expect from them, etc.  All important information, no doubt.  After all, the sharī'ah should be the foundation of our marriages.

Beyond that, this model wants us to understand that our partner is different from us and we have to learn to love them through their “love language” i.e. “meet their needs” with an understanding of what those needs actually are.  We usually really get focused on gender here; men want sex, women want emotional connection, right? (I'm joking; both men and women want both of these things).  This model tells us that we need to meet our spouse's needs to keep them happy/fulfilled/satisfied (and married to us LOL).

But there are pitfalls.  Firstly, centering our marriage on meeting each other's needs often makes us two very needy people.  That's not very attractive.  Often times we end up getting whiny, passive-aggressive, angry, crabby, etc. that our “needs” are not being met; and all we can do is hope to punish this person with our relationship belly-aching until they finally hear loud and clear, “Hey, you're doing a lousy job meeting my needs!”

When was the last time you felt attracted to someone who did that to you?  When was the last time someone nagged you or yelled at you and you felt like you wanted to connect with them intimately (emotionally or sexually)?  Probably never.  Yet without realizing it this is how we are “working” to get the results we want in our marriages.

Another pitfall in this model is score-keeping.  We withhold love/sex/affection/help because we feel like the “score” is out of balance.  To complicate matters further, each spouse has their own personal scoreboard of the marriage that's completely left to their own biased umpire-ship.  Spouses withhold giving (or they do it without a lot of annoyed sighing) when they believe or perceive their spouse is doing too much taking without putting the same effort back in. Here's an example:


Husband thinking: Didn't I take her out to dinner, and now she's going to say she's too tired? (husband +1, wife -1)

Wife thinking: The evening was lousy because he put it together last-minute even though I reminded him for a week to make a reservation at a nice place. (wife +1, husband -1)


Another mistake we make in the religious crowd with this model is we boil down our marriage to a cookie-cutter-one-size-fits-all theoretical needs-meeting fiqh dilemma.  “Ya shaykh, whose takes precedence in making her happy, my mom or my wife?”  How many times have we heard this question, and we all know the answer.  Many years ago my husband asked Shaykh Yaser Birjas, “Shaykh, if I have to choose to make one happy, who do I choose, my mom or my wife?”  The shaykh gave a very wise answer: you have to make both happy (you won't believe how far that advice has gotten my husband today).

In other words, we can't get hung up on a hard and fast fiqhi answer, because it often ends up with someone being the “winner” and someone else being the “loser.”  Like the shaykh said, we need to create more win-win situations.  Our marriages cannot be sliced and diced to fit compartmentally into a fatwa.  We may be doing the “right” thing, but our spouse may be building up resentment that will harm us both later on.  We need to be a little more creative and practical.

To sum up, the major issue with this model is that ultimately needs-meeting keeps us “other” focused rather than self-focused; our behavior “waits” on our spouse's and we try to conjure it out of them in all the wrong ways.  If we want to try to change our marriages for the better, we must start by changing ourselves, because changing yourself is the easiest, fastest, and most dependable method of change there is.

If our marriage isn't too great, we had something to do with it.  We all co-created our marriages and there are definitely things we all can do to become better spouses.  As Muslims we should view our “half” of the marriage as ultimately a commitment to Allah, not to an individual.  We fulfill a promise we made before Allah to be a husband/wife and if that promise is too heavy, we should get help. One day we will be accountable for only ourselves before Allah for our marriage, so the only one we should think about “keeping score” with is Allah.  We don't want to “lose points” with our Lord just because our spouse is.  Being an adult means we act as we do on our own principles and taqwa, not as a reaction to someone else's behavior.  Believe it or not when we act out of principle, our spouse will begrudgingly respect us, and may even make their own changes for the better.

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Muslims call for stricter hate crime laws to go with national security powers

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 October, 2014 - 06:28

Queensland Muslim groups want increased penalties for hate crimes linked to the introduction of national security legislation

The Queensland Muslim community has called for a lower threshold for arrest and increased penalties for people convicted of hate crimes that can be linked to the introduction of national security legislation.

A submission to a parliamentary committee endorsed by a large number of groups and individuals underlines how the current debate has inflamed racial and religious tension, with Muslims the main target.

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My faith has been hijacked by extremists. After Alan Hennings murder, we must reclaim it | Sara Khan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 October, 2014 - 00:06
Could the senseless killing of Alan Henning lead to a watershed moment, a chance for a new narrative of hope?

How to respond to the inhumane, senseless and unjust murder of Alan Henning? Hoping against hope, I desperately wished that Alan would be reunited with his family. But at the brutal hands of Islamic State (Isis), his murder was sadly inevitable. There was no mercy. There was no compassion. Yet the news, even if expected, was heartbreaking.

Despite it being the weekend of Eid, I decided not to celebrate the festivities; instead, as I read my Eid prayers, I will pray for Alan and his family. This was the same Alan who selflessly sacrificed celebrating Christmas with his family to help the people of Syria.

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Would Braille have thrived in inclusive education?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 October, 2014 - 11:30

The other day I had a brief tweet discussion with Liz Ball, campaigns involvement officer with Sense, the British deafblind charity, about whether Braille would have become established as the major means of written communication for blind people had the Victorians embraced inclusive education. That was prompted by an article on the BBC’s Ouch (disability) section on a forgotten group of Victorian educationalists who deplored the trend towards segregated schools for deaf and blind children which often taught particular trades which sometimes enriched the institutions, not the pupils. In the 21st century, the majority of blind children in the UK are taught in mainstream schools and Braille has declined in popularity. I do not think that these two facts mean that Braille would have been forgotten without the segregated schools of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Image of a thin print volume on top of a large ring binder containing the same book in Braille, with a tape measure diagonally across the bottom-right corner.For one thing, at that time computers did not exist. The technology available now, with computers available on the High Street with inbuilt screen readers (Macs), was not even available at the turn of the current century, let alone in the Victorian era. These days many blind people find that talking computers are easier to use and more convenient than Braille, particularly for large volumes. Liz mentioned that this technology is also more convenient for teachers, not many of whom in mainstream education know Braille, which is still widely taught in special schools; she suggested that the raised print that was favoured in the 19th century (which was originally taught in the school Louis Braille was in) was favoured because it was easier for teachers. Braille’s system was originally opposed by his teachers, although the school adopted it after his death, at the pupils’ insistence.

I am not convinced by this argument. Braille was a pre-Victorian invention, first presented by Louis Braille to his fellow pupils when he was 15, in 1824. The raised-print system he was exposed to was dreadfully inefficient, and could only be read, not written, by a blind user, but it had the prestige of having been invented by the school’s founder, Valentin Haüy. Had he not been in that school, and yet received an education at all, he would likely not have been expected to read raised-print books but simply to learn books and facts from memory. However, he may still have learned about the Barbier raised-dot system used in the French military and may still have been inspired to develop his system. Without the environment of a boarding school, he may have had greater liberty to promote his invention, but may have had less time to develop it because of requirements to do house chores; however, his teachers may have been unencumbered by loyalty to someone like Haüy and embraced an invention that allowed blind people to read and write. During both that and the Victorian eras, there were more blind and deafblind people (at least relative to the population at large) because of the prevalence of diseases like measles, smallpox and rubella (although Braille himself was blinded by an accident), so he may still have known enough blind people to find a user base for his system.

Inclusive education can be good or bad, and have good or bad motives, much as with inclusion of disabled people (and mentally ill people) generally. It can be done for the welfare and educational betterment of the children, or it can be done because it costs less than special education, especially if you do little to accommodate the blind (or otherwise impaired) child’s needs. A progressive, inclusive school might pay for one or two of its teachers to learn Braille so as to make sure Braille learning material is available for blind pupils or students, while a badly-run school with a transient staff might provide them with a laptop but provide little support, let alone maintenance. In the Victorian era, it might not have seemed progressive to “integrate” blind children into schools that were not taught by proper teachers, where the methods were Gradgrind-esque, where discipline was harsh and physical and which were located in insanitary, polluted cities; the reason why many institutions for disabled people and the mentally ill were built in the countryside in that era was not to do with segregation but with its health benefits (élite schools were often similarly located). In the case of the better institutions, having a place there was seen as a benefit, not a way of getting rid of an embarrassing or burdensome disabled child; in the case of the inferior ones that taught basket-weaving and other manual crafts, how important were they in teaching and popularising Braille anyway?

I think Braille, or something a lot like it, may still have thrived if the Victorians had embraced inclusive education for positive reasons (as the BBC’s article says was already happening in France and Belgium). The same philanthropists who funded blind schools may well have instead funded Braille Institutes or something similar, to print and distribute texts in Braille and to train teachers and blind adults to use it. Despite raised print having the advantage of being easily readable by a sighted person and thus slightly more convenient for teachers, it is still a lot more limited than Braille; the letters are huge, and the resulting book would be enormous, or spread over several volumes. They would not have been considered in a school with only a handful of blind pupils, or just one. Braille has the clear technical superiority of being easier to produce than raised print, both by the blind writer and the commercial printer; the schoolteacher is only one link in the chain and will not dominate a child’s life forever (and does not teach someone blinded as an adult). Braille and talking computers both serve the purpose of allowing a blind person to both record and read back information; raised print was a one-way means of communication. Faced with the inefficiency and bulk of raised print, I suspect many blind people would have preferred memorisation, and the better-off would have hired scribes. Raised print could not have enjoyed widespread popularity; the need for something like Braille would have been obvious until it was met.

Image source: “Braille book” by Karl-Heinz Wellmann - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

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Family of Mohammad Asghar: We just want our father home

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 October, 2014 - 08:01
Last week an elderly, mentally ill British man was shot by a guard in the Pakistani prison he has been held in for four years. Why is no one helping, his daughter asks

In the bundle of family photographs and yellowing Polaroids in Jasmine Ranas lounge, the decades are muddled up. In one, her beaming father wears a bright blue salwar kameez and cradles her baby son. In another she is a teenager helping her father in his grocers shop. The next in which her father has a beard and a prayer cap is more familiar; it is the picture used in news reports last week announcing the 70-year-old had been shot.

Sitting in the Edinburgh flat Rana shares with her four children, its hard to imagine the dark turn her familys life has taken in the last six years. In 2008 Mohammad Asghar began having delusions that he was being watched, followed and spied upon. In 2010 he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sectioned for a month under the Mental Health Act. A few months later, against the wishes of his family, he and his wife travelled to Pakistan. He owns three properties in the country, and there, his family believe, he became entangled in a dispute with a tenant.

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Police called after reports of disorder at Trojan horse school in Birmingham

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2014 - 20:03
Parents allegedly involved in confrontation with headteacher at Welford primary school

Police are investigating an ugly confrontation between the headteacher of a primary school that came under scrutiny during the Trojan horse probe and a group of parents.

Officers were called to reports of disorder at Welford primary in Birmingham after a group of parents allegedly attacked the efforts headteacher Jamie Barry is making to improve diversity and inclusiveness at the school.

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The Moazzam Begg case shows how Muslims are criminalised | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2014 - 19:14

On 1 October, Moazzam Begg was released after seven months in detention because of allegations arising from his time in Syria which included charitable and investigative work (Report, 2 October). Days before a much-delayed court hearing, all charges have been dropped. Begg has been a role-model and mentor to many, young and not so young, and this new period of detention has caused great distress among those who look to him for inspiration. The manner in which he has been targeted and detained with, ultimately, no evidence being brought against him in an open court will confirm the view that this is a concerted campaign of intimidation, designed to scare Muslim communities away from active engagement in public life. While we celebrate his release, we remain concerned that he has spent another lengthy period in detention because of laws that are fundamentally unjust.

We write to express our extreme concern about the use of allegations of terrorism and the arrest and detention of charity workers to slur and curtail the work of Muslim charities and organisations such as Cage, Interpal, Ummah Trust and HHUGS, including through closing bank accounts, lengthy investigations into charitable status and, at the extreme, the arrest and detention of high-profile campaigners.

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When schoolgirls dream of jihad, society has a problem. Look at France | Nabila Ramdani

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2014 - 18:30
Dont underestimate the role of the burqa ban in turning teenagers into would-be militants

Teenage angst can cause all kinds of unfortunate behaviour, but when schoolgirls tell their parents they want to join the fight in Syria and Iraq, then society has a serious problem. Alarmingly, this is increasingly happening in France, as young Muslims express their desire for jihad. Worse still, an estimated 100-150 young women and girls have actually joined groups such as the self-styled Islamic State (Isis), travelling to a war zone to devote their lives to setting up a highly militarised caliphate and, if necessary, dying for the cause.

The situation has been replicated in Britain, but in smaller numbers, and women tend to be far less hateful of the country where they were often born and raised. There are no verified figures on either side of the Channel, but anecdotal evidence suggests that, in France, alienation from society is a far greater incentive to join a conflict than it is in Britain.

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Jonathan Freedland on antisemitism: Britain's Jews don't necessarily support what Israel does video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2014 - 16:06
The Huffington Post UK's Mehdi Hasan and the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland discuss Islamophobia and antisemitism at a Guardian Live event at the Royal Institution in London on 15 September. Here, Jonathan speaks about the separation of Jewishness and Zionism and how Britain's Jews should not be held accountable for the actions of Israel, with which they do not always agree

Guardian Live is our series of events, debates, interviews and festivals exclusively for Guardian members. Find out about future Guardian Live events here Continue reading...

Mehdi Hasan on Islamophobia and antisemitism: You won't change people's minds with data, facts and figures video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2014 - 16:06
The Huffington Post UK's Mehdi Hasan and the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland discuss Islamophobia and antisemitism at a Guardian Live event at the Royal Institution in London on 15 September. Here, Mehdi speaks about the challenges of tackling bigotry when the tools of a usual argument facts, case studies, statistics do not work in the face of conspiracy theories

Guardian Live is our series of events, debates, interviews and festivals exclusively for Guardian members Find out about future Guardian Live events here Continue reading...


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