Lars Vilks: maverick artist who knows what it is to be a target

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 February, 2015 - 21:34
Even before gunmen attacked the cafe where he was speaking, Vilks had armed protection at home and on the road

Lars Vilks has long known he is a prime target. He lives with a daily threat to his life and plans his activities with precision, placing huge emphasis on personal security. He did so on Saturday at the event to mark the anniversary of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

At home in Sweden he has round-the-clock armed police protection and while in Denmark he travels with bodyguards from the Swedish security service, Säpo. After the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, Vilks requested that the security around him be stepped up and later confirmed it had been, without giving details. Yet the events at the Copenhagen cafe proved that the best protection will never be enough to prevent tragedy.

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Texas mosque fire raises suspicion of arson as one building is destroyed

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 February, 2015 - 21:21

Houston fire department says the cause of the incident had not yet been officially released but mosque leaders say they were told the fire was started deliberately

Arson investigators are examining a fire at an Islamic centre that has put many in Houston’s Muslim community further on edge in the wake of this week’s killings of three Muslims in North Carolina.

Firefighters were called to a blaze at the Quba Islamic Institute in south-east Houston at around 5.30am on Friday, 45 minutes before morning prayers were scheduled to begin. No one was injured and the flames were extinguished in less than an hour, but one of three buildings was destroyed.

Related: In aftermath of Chapel Hill shootings a community still searches for answers

Related: Three Muslim students dead in North Carolina shooting as suspect arrested

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In aftermath of Chapel Hill shootings a community still searches for answers

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 February, 2015 - 17:26

Life on the campus of University of North Carolina is slowly returning to normal but the killings of three Muslims are a haunting reminder of Islamophobia

By Friday morning at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as students walked briskly to class in the brittle February sunshine, life seemed almost to be returning to normal.

Almost, but not quite normal. This was where thousands of students, faculty and members of the community gathered on Wednesday night in a stunning vigil to show their solidarity with the family and friends of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, who police say were fatally shot by their upstairs neighbour on Tuesday.

Related: FBI opens inquiry into North Carolina shooting deaths of Muslim students

Related: Remember Yusor Abu-Salha as more than just a victim of the Chapel Hill shooting | Rana Odeh

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

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A Letter to the Families of Razan, Yusor and Deah from a No-one American Muslim

Muslim Matters - 13 February, 2015 - 21:54

Dear families of Razan, Yusor and Deah,

Can I please tell you that you guys are incredible—just incredible. And the three precious lives that God has taken back from your midst, are only a reflection of what you guys are made up of.

I will not tell you what you have heard many times and what you have internalized better than what any of us can imagine-—that these three are in a blessed place, better than where we are. That the separation is temporary because if it was not, then our Lord would be unjust. And we all know that if the Lord of the worlds was unjust, then no lord at all would be just.

I will tell you that while the world loses people everyday, no passing of three lives has touched so many of us than your children's. Not because they were beautiful and vivacious and so full of life. But because their lives reflected a will to serve others, not themselves.

Many of us had never heard of these three yesterday. But none of us will forget them tomorrow. We didn't know them because they were quietly doing work. While so many of us “activists” are busy with empty words, empty slogans and empty aspirations, these three were working on the ground; quietly, steadily. Creating results that touched lives directly, no hashtags required.

Please know that your children have touched so many of us in so many different ways: made us feel guilty in how selfish we are in our lives- paying little attention to those around us, made us feel weak when we compare ourselves to how strong they were in their beliefs and their “American Muslim” ways, made us feel helpless in the face of increasing anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia.

But much more than negative emotions, they also made us feel proud, of how Muslims who “act Islam” can be and should be. They made us feel hopeful, in what each of us can achieve. They made us feel confident in the potential and potency of our youth and future generations to change the caustic environment around us.

The three angelic lives didn't just touch us, they shook us. We, men and women alike, cried, shed tears for individuals we never knew.

They shook our mostly lethargic and constantly infighting organizations into organizing— together, with resilience and in one direction. To shake off our constant battles, some online, some offline; to shake off our individualistic garbs of ego in joining together for what is most important: The lives of our children, born and unborn. Their future, their place in the American landscape, their hopes and their aspirations.

Dear mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of Razan, Deah and Yusar,

You gave us the gift of Razan, Yusor and Deah. A gift that was undoubtedly beautiful for you, and whom you have now shared with all of us. For this, we can never be grateful enough. We share your love with them. There are probably no more loved  Americans Muslim today than these three, and we hope and pray that this love becomes wings, upon which they fly higher and higher in the Everlasting Paradise.

Your children have left behind a legacy that they never imagined or prepared for. And our children and grandchildren shall share the fruits of the legacy. For this, we can never be grateful enough.

For Razan, Yusor and Deah. Our love. Our prayers and our gratefulness.

A no-one American Muslim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friend: This Was No ‘Parking’ Murder

Muslim Matters - 13 February, 2015 - 05:01

By Dean Obeidallah

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thousands attend funeral for Muslim students shot in Chapel Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Erdogan chides Obama for silence on Chapel Hill murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chapel Hill neighbors speak of fearing gunman who killed Muslim students

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

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

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

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

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

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