Quran Before, During and after Ramadan

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2016 - 05:40

By KN Gratwick




Some of us excel in math, some in fine arts (and there is of course the rare talent who does both). Our interests may be equally if not more so disparate, as environmental activists and coin collectors. And our professions may differentiate us still further, as neurosurgeons, homemakers and school principals. Nonetheless, there is a clear, singular goal for Muslims: aspiring to the character of Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). At the end of the day, and the beginning, life is not complicated if we follow this prescription. Few of us will play the esteemed role of sheikh, but each has the capacity to model our lives along that of God's blessed, final messenger.

Ramadan Quran

Too often we take this prescription literally, arguing about the merit of the miswak over the toothbrush, or insisting that our turban is a closer approximation to what Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wore. Disagreements ensue all too often about beard length. Reliving his life is not, however, our mission; instead, replicating his behavior is, and that is why he is as relevant to men as he is to women. Of course, at times, in aiming to replicate behavior we may venture into history and its minutiae.  Yet it is incumbent on all of us to constantly question form, content and the wisdom underlying them. Does, for instance, our use of miswak, donning of the turban and measuring beard length ultimately help us model prophetic qualities of cleanliness, modesty and taqwah, or are there alternate forms that are equally viable to help achieve these same prophetic characteristics?

And what relevance does this daily exercise in modeling behaviors, and struggling with form and content, have to do with preparing oneself and one's Qur'an for the holy month of Ramadan? Otherwise stated, how does the act of trying to replicate prophetic character relate to our engagement with our mushaf for 30 days and nights while fasting?

Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has been described as a living Qur'an; his thoughts and actions were all guided and inspired by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and he proved among the most obedient and perfect servants of us all. This perfection was in turn intended as a mercy and guide for humankind: to help navigate life, peacefully, productively, and in constant remembrance of the Creator. The Qur'an was sent down with the same purpose. Thus we received both living model and book, complements of each other, and a complete strategy for how to approach life (regardless of what time period we may live in, or the interests and the professional paths we choose). We were gifted a truly universal message embodied in the person of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the Qur'an.

If the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a compliment of the Qur'an and vice versa, then, to reiterate, what should we do specifically during Ramadan to engage with both the living model of the Qur'an and the Qur'an itself? There are well documented accounts of communal and individual ibaadah for Ramadan, from the taraweeh prayer to the i'tikaf, all of which were undertaken by the living Qur'an and his companions. It is not the goal of this short essay to replicate those efforts.

Ramadan is meant as intense character training and its lessons are applicable year-round. Therefore what follows is a short and hopefully simple series of recommendations to consider as we approach Ramadan. These recommendations seek to build on the main points above and are informed by elders and teachers modeling the Sunnah; the points are potentially relevant to 'reading' the Qur'an in Ramadan, but go beyond a mere literary experience to one which seeks embodiment of prophetic character insha'Allah:

  • In the month leading up to Ramadan, throughout all the holy month and thereafter, may we attempt to focus our gaze on both the wisdom of the Qur'an and the living model of Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and recognize that they are in fact compliments of one another.
  • For some, meditation and study may occur best in the early hours of the morning; for others, it will be mid-day; whatever may be the time and its duration, may we attempt each day to engage with the two greatest miracles of our life, through prayer, tilawat, reflection and action.
  • Just as the Qur'an is matched with a perfect example and teacher, our own reflection and growth is enhanced by an instructor. May we therefore seek out a trusted and qualified teacher and guide, in an effort at striving toward the actual character of Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the living Qur'an.
  • Related, every time we interact with the Qur'an and the model of Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), may we do so in an effort to improve our own character, not the character of our spouse, our non-Muslim neighbor, or our co-worker etc; the journey is one of inward perfection, and not outward judgment, as we each aspire in our own right to be living Qur'an as well.
  • To the world, may we be of service, for that was the Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and that is what is outlined ayah after ayah in the Qur'an. Just as we excel in different ways, service may take myriad forms. The nurses among us may heal; the artisans, craft; the architects, design; the relief workers, rescue etc. Regardless of what form it may take, striving toward the ideal of service, as a way of life, is what is key.

I pray that we are always in remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and that our striving to become living Qur'ans ourselves is unceasing. I pray that all our ibaadah are accepted and that there is profound healing and enlightenment before, during and after the blessed month of Ramadan, insha'Allah.


KN Gratwick, aka Umm Muhemmed, has been actively studying the deen for more than a decade, and prior to her own conversion in 2003. She began a more focused study of hifdh Al Qur'aan starting in 2010. She works as a development economist and is based in Texas. She is also the author of A Qur'aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz Amma (Greenbird Books, 2012) and Ya Sin: Towards the heart of the Qur'aan (Mindworks Publishing, forthcoming 2015), which describe a home-based hifdh experience with young children. Among her favorite activities is gardening.

Does the Left really have an anti-Semitism problem?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 5 April, 2016 - 23:16

Recently accusations have started flying that the Left, including the Labour party, has a ‘problem’ with anti-Semitism and that Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leader, hasn’t been doing enough to combat it. The accusations include that the Oxford University Labour society is a hostile environment for Jews, that various members and leaders of local Labour groups and affiliated organisations have made anti-Semitic remarks online, and that the Left in general has turned against Israel and that human rights campaigns that target Israel have become a “new front” in European anti-Semitism and a “new blood libel”. This type of rhetoric aimed at silencing criticism of Israel based on human rights principles is not new, but while anti-Semitism in far-left fringe groups has been known of for decades, the flurry of claims about anti-Semitism within the Labour party has only happened in the last few months.

An image of two men spliced together, with the slogan "ISIS is the only terrorist org (sic) that travels 2000 miles from Syria to attack Paris but can't travel 52 miles to attack Israel. Why? Because the dog doesn't bite its own tail".It goes without saying that the Labour party shouldn’t tolerate racism of any kind in the party. Apart from the fact that racism breeds discrimination and violence, it is a political dead end: it allows people to blame others for their problems rather than identify solutions. The problem is that the number of incidents has been tiny — a literal handful, if that — and those involved are an ordinary member who had written some conspiracy-minded material on a leftist website, the leader of a Momentum group in Thurrock, and the leader of the local party in Woking, a no-hope constituency for Labour (whose comments, similar to those in the image on the right, were utterly crass and ignorant; the reason ISIS hasn’t attacked Israel can easily be identified by looking at a map). All the people concerned have been expelled, and when someone was re-instated recently, a protest led to him being removed again. As is well-known, the leader of the party cannot unilaterally remove someone from the party, so it is unfair to blame Corbyn for failing to do so, or because he has brought these people in or they are his supporters, or whatever other reason.

The situation at Oxford university is rather more complicated, since it seems to consist of hostility to Israel being openly expressed and, in some cases, taken out indiscriminately on Jews here, rather than anti-Semitism in the traditional sense. Aaron Simons, a former president of the university’s Jewish society, alleged that “a committee member stated that all Jews should be expected to publicly denounce Zionism and the state of Israel, and that we should not associate with any Jew who fails to do so”, which is plainly unacceptable, much as it is when Muslims are expected to condemn ISIS or al-Qa’ida, which has happened frequently. He also alleges that “one OULC member argued that Hamas was justified in its killing of Jewish civilians and claimed all Jews were legitimate targets”, a heinous suggestion one might think before one considers that (a) this is one ordinary member of the society, not an office holder and (b) Israeli apologists routinely excuse the killing of Palestinian civilians with such claims as that Hamas works and launches rockets from civilian areas.

Simons traces the upsurge in “anti-Semitism” at Oxford to the left’s theory of racial oppression and white privilege in which Jews are treated as white. Well, that’s because they are — at least, the vast majority of Jews (especially if we mean practising ones) in western countries are. True, Ethiopian Jews aren’t, but they do not live here in any large number. He suggests that this theory erases Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, who migrated from the Middle East rather than Europe, but in fact the theory acknowledges that anyone can be part of a privileged and/or oppressor group (whites, for example) while simultaneously being part of a disadvantaged one (e.g. women, disabled people) but still benefiting from the power and privilege of the first group. Throughout the recent history of the white world, there have been ‘lesser whites’ (e.g. Irish and Italian Americans) who have nonetheless benefited from white privilege. Mizrahi Jews may not be the Ashkenazi elite but they are not the downtrodden of Israel by any means; Palestinians and African immigrants are.

He claims that when the theory of racial oppression is applied to Jews “it becomes a quagmire of prejudice” and “the consequence of seeing Jews as white is in effect antisemitic”. But they just are. This is no longer the 1940s in which Britain (the mother country, that is) was almost entirely White and the only significant minorities were Jews, Gypsies and the Irish. America always made an underclass of its Black population, even when white minorities such as Jews were subject to discrimination as well. It is not anti-Semitic to say that Jews are not a powerless and impoverished minority in the UK. They are not the Gypsies or Travellers who cannot be sure when their homes will be torn down, for example. They may not “control the media”, but there are a variety of Jewish voices in all the major British media, including some bigoted and reactionary ones (e.g. Melanie Phillips) as well as some fairly moderate ones (e.g. Jonathan Freedland). And the pro-Israel lobby in the USA has power far beyond its power here: it has been known to block or obstruct appointments of people who take a pro-Palestinian position, for example.

It suits the Zionist agenda to keep race relations, as well as ideas of what constitutes progressive politics, stuck in the pre-immigration 1940s when Zionism was seen as a liberal, progressive cause. People forget that progress meant a lot of different things then; progressive figures of that time endorsed eugenics and previous generations of liberals had supported other misguided resettlement schemes, such as Liberia which resulted in more than a century of tyranny followed by a brutal civil war starting in the late 20th century. At that time building roads and industry was considered progressive; even the highly racist Mississippi senator, Theodore Bilbo, was considered to be a progressive in that sense. Needless to say, the ethnic composition of the progressive left has changed during this period, and you could not expect them to insistently repeat the mistakes of previous generations of white, middle- and upper-class (mostly male) progressives. It stands to reason that people who endorse a misguided liberal project of a bygone era that turned a blind eye to its inherent racism, or at least conduciveness to racism, should not feel comfortable among progressives now, who see anti-racism as fundamental to their beliefs.

On a similar note was the article on Newsweek by Jonathan Sacks, the former British chief rabbi (that is, chief rabbi of the United Synagogues, the Modern Orthodox branch of Judaism), titled “Anti-Zionism is the New Anti-Semitism”. He concedes that that criticism of the Israeli government and even the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are not “inherently anti-Semitic” but that much of the intimidation that occurs is related to “Israeli Apartheid Weeks” and BDS events which “have become what Easter was in the Middle Ages, a time for attacks against Jews”.

He describes anti-Semitism as “a virus that survives by mutating”: that Jews were hated in different ages because of a different religion or because of their race, and “today … because of their nation state, Israel”:

The legitimization has also changed. Throughout history, when people have sought to justify anti-Semitism, they have done so by recourse to the highest source of authority available within the culture. In the Middle Ages, it was religion. In post-Enlightenment Europe it was science. Today it is human rights. It is why Israel—the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East with a free press and independent judiciary—is regularly accused of the five crimes against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. This is the blood libel of our time.

The term anti-Semitism was not actually coined until the 19th century when race started entering into European perceptions of Jews, rather than religion. Even up until that time in Russia, Jews who converted to Christianity were accepted as Christians. But to compare a false accusation originating in the superstitious Middle Ages with facts that are well-attested to about Israel’s human rights record is grotesque. Israel is not the only country that has ever been criticised on the basis of its human rights record, including among democracies. Israel is not the only country which elected a man connected to a massacre as its prime minister (India did very recently, and as is the case with Israel, he is being feted by politicians around the world). Israel is dominated by white Europeans, so it stands to reason that its form of government should be one based on what is usual in Europe, and the surrounding countries have dictatorships which were often supported by foreign powers, such as the USA or Russia, and some of which are friendly to Israel (Egypt and Jordan, for example). It’s not only because of anti-Semitism that western human rights activists attack Israel’s appalling treatment of the native population of the land it occupies; Jews who are oppressors should be subject to the same accountability as any other oppressors.

Of course, it was wrong to blame poor Jews in inter-war Poland for whatever the misdeeds of wealthy Jewish families like the Rothschilds (not all of whom remain Jewish by religion in any case). But that was then; the Jewish diaspora in the UK and USA is fairly prosperous, privileged, powerful and vocal, and despite the fact that we all know there are Jews who oppose its policies rigorously, or even its existence, as we see them in the BDS movement, support for Israel regardless of its human rights record is a mainstream position. Given that Muslims are regarded with enormous suspicion right now on the basis of a few acts of terrorism and a terrorist quasi-state entity that all the evidence suggests most of us do not support, and which all Muslim figures of any repute who have ever been asked have condemned, a few harsh words here and there is a small price to pay for openly supporting a state which has a history of terrorism both against foreign targets and the people under its occupation.

So, it may well be that some skeletons from the old sectarian Left that have joined Labour as a result of Corbyn’s victory (or who joined in the rush to vote for him) may be spreading their old ideas, but there isn’t much evidence of it beyond a bit of chatter on social media. (One tweep who kept remarking on “the Left and their anti-Semitism” linked to a blog entry and the offending comments were by someone in Germany.) But the mainstream progressive Left have moved on from the 1940s and will no longer indulge an obviously oppressive state in the Middle East on the grounds that it was founded as a result of a genocide in Europe, and will not indulge its supporters here either. Labour and other organisations which fight for social justice should make sure there is no intimidation or racism, but should not change this basic position. It’s not racist to oppose oppression wherever it comes from; what is racist is making an exception because the oppressor is special, and the victims particularly deserving.

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The NY Times on Gaza: Israel Is Just Trying to Help

Now, at last, The New York Times has turned its sights on Gaza fishermen, a much beleaguered group, which has persevered under constant harassment and crippling restrictions. It has long been well under the radar as far as the newspaper’s reporting is concerned.

This week, however, we have an above-the-fold story on page 5 accompanied by a color photo of two fishermen with their nets. What has prompted this long overdue attention? It is the opportunity to present Israel as the benevolent caretaker of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Thus we find a headline announcing the following: “Israel Expands Palestinians’ Fishing Zone Off Gaza.” The story below reports the decision to increase the allowed zone from 6 to 9 nautical miles and the relief and excitement of Gaza fishermen and officials.

The article ends with a quote from Israeli officials, saying that the expansion was part of an effort to “improve the economy and foster stability” in the West Bank and Gaza, and so the story is framed around Israeli efforts to help struggling fishermen and Palestinians in general.

Thanks no doubt to the efforts of Times stringer Majd Al Waheidi of Gaza, readers find hints of the grim reality that fishermen there have actually faced over several years. We learn that Israeli gunboats have been firing on fishermen as they go to sea, and we hear the story of Ismail al-Shrafi, 62, who lost his boat five months ago when Israeli sailors confiscated it, injuring his son with live fire in the process.

The story, however, provides no data to place the case of al-Shrafi in context. Readers do not learn that during 2015, the Israeli navy fired on Gaza fishermen at least 139 times, wounding 24 fishermen and damaging 16 boats. Another 22 boats were confiscated, and 71 fishermen were detained.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, all these incidents took place within the legal 6-mile zone, but the Times notes that an army spokesperson denied that the navy had fired on boats within the permitted area.

The article, by Al Waheidi and Isabel Kershner, also states that over the weekend the navy “sank a suspected smuggling boat,” but it fails to inform readers that witnesses have contradicted this account. According to Palestinian news sources, the navy fired on several boats near Rafah, setting fire to one fishing vessel and causing it to sink.

The Times is denying readers the complete story here, but its most egregious paragraph is the final one in which officials claim that the expansion of the fishing zone was “part of a policy of loosening restrictions” to help the Palestinian economy.

In fact, Israeli policy appears to be aimed at impeding, rather than bolstering, economic progress in Gaza and the West Bank. Here are just a few examples of how Israeli actions and regulations impact the Palestinian economy:

Times readers, however, are told that Israel is trying to help, loosening restrictions to “improve the economy.” Thus we find the headline this week announcing a generous move to allow fishermen more access to their own Gaza Sea.

It seems that the newspaper’s editors are credulous consumers of Israeli spin, readily quoting the self-serving claims of officials and making no attempt to verify the facts. Readers—as well as the courageous fishermen of Gaza—deserve better.

Barbara Erickson

[To subscribe to TimesWarp, scroll to the bottom of this page for email, follow @TimesWarp on Twitter or like Times Warp on Facebook.]


Filed under: Gaza Fishermen Tagged: Gaza, Israel, Media Bias, New York Times, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, United Nations, West Bank

Imams sent to New Zealand from Egypt to 'combat radicals'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 April, 2016 - 09:57

Muslim groups reject Egyptian ambassador’s claim mosques need to be ‘taken over’ saying recent influx due to growing Muslim population

Egypt’s ambassador to New Zealand has caused upset among Muslim groups by saying imams are being sent from his country to “take control” of mosques.

Tarek al-Wasimy told the New Zealand Herald that three imams were waiting for visas to enter New Zealand to fight the radicalisation of Muslims in the country.

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How did Charlie Hebdo get it so wrong? | Nesrine Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2016 - 19:24
In blaming all followers of Islam for terrorism, the French magazine is finding its catharsis in bigotry

This week, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published an editorial that answered once and for all the question “Is Charlie Hebdo racist?”. In a dispatch that read like a call to arms, the magazine – the target of a horrific terrorist attack last year that killed 11 people – considered what had happened in Paris and Brussels over the past year and asked: how did we end up here?

The editorial then laid the blame squarely on two factors – the complicity of the average, unaffiliated Muslim, and the erosion of secularism by a conspiracy of silence. Terrorism was fomented, it said, and people died because society could not voice discomfort at the many little “iceberg tips” of religious expression that had cumulatively eroded laïcité – the secularism written into the French constitution. Terrorism happened, in short, because freedom of speech was curbed.

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Drop the N-Word

Muslim Matters - 4 April, 2016 - 18:28

Margari Hill






And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. Qur'an 49:11


In late 2013, a group of activists, scholars, and concerned netizens coalesced around the issue of anti-Blackness perpetrated by Muslim youth on social media. Some of these actions included anti-Black slurs in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, and Yoruba, as well as the appropriation of the N-word by non-Black Muslims. Out that group,  Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative formed to organize social media campaigns to drop the A-Word and address #UmmahAntiBlackness,  as well to give voice to Black Muslims and celebrate their contributions in hashtag conversations that included #BeingBlackAndMuslim.  Responding to the call to educate Muslim communities about racism, MuslimARC- Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative,  was launched as a human rights education organization.  

Black American Muslim scholars, activists, leaders, parents, teachers, and conscious members are exhausted by having to explain why it is not okay for non-Black Muslims to use N-word.  The use of the N-word is controversial, even amongst African Americans. However, when a Black person uses the term, it does not spark the same outrage as non-Black people using it. This is because in many ways it is reclaiming the pejorative. Although the Black usage of the word may raise some hairs and spark vociferous debate within the Black community, it is not racist. Oppressed people cannot be racist, they may be prejudiced.

'But They Use It' Is Not an Excuse

When White people and NonBlack People of Color use the N-word, regardless of intent,  they are committing a racist act. When they use it as a pejorative, they are being actively racist asserting a hierarchy that dehumanizes Black people.  A non-Black person using the N-word to refer to themselves or others as a term of endearment is an act of cultural  appropriation, which is a form of passive racism. Cultural appropriation is copying elements of a culture in a colonizing manner and using them outside of their context. Cultural appropriators use those elements without having to suffer the same consequences that members of that culture. The N-word developed to highlight the othering, dehumanization, and exploitation of sub-Saharan Africans who were racialized as Black.  On occasion, upwardly mobile Black folks ascribing to respectability politics will distance themselves from other Black Americans and will use the term as a pejorative against poor Black people they don't approve of. This may be internalized racism, but it still does not equate to the usage of non-Black folks.

It doesn't matter if you are well meaning, and if your Black friends give you a pass– No individual Black person can give a non-Black person the weight of our historical experience and oppression. Cultural appropriation is harmful for the members of the oppressed group, especially when you are using a term that is so painful for many Black people.  When someone who is not Black uses the term it is often emotionally triggering.  When non-Black people argue with Black people who are offended by their appropriation  of the n-word, it further inflicts emotional violence. It does not matter if you hear the word a thousand times by Black comedians and hip-hop artists. The commodification of Black culture does not give anybody a right to appropriate the term. Period.

This is an Internal Community Discussion

Finally, White people and Non-Black People of Color who have no linkages with the brutal 400 years history of the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans in the Americas and Jim Crow, as well as the 18th century colonization of Africa which included forced slave labor, population movements, and mass deaths and depopulation, who continue  to face systemic racism and violence at the hands of the state and the police, your moral judgment on how Black people reclaim the term is not relevant to the discussion of why it is never okay for Non-Black People to use the term. This is an internal community discussion. The discourse around the N-word is sensitive topic for many Black Americans. The discourse is a source of many microaggressions that make workplaces, campuses, and friendships hostile environments for Black people. Non-Black people who police Black people on the moral repercussions of the term often misuse their non-Black privilege in forcing the issue.  Rather than policing Black people, they should focus on uprooting racism within themselves and their community.


The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why …

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word …


Articles and Websites


Stop Saying N***a If You're Not Black – Huffington Post

Straight Talk about the N-Word | Teaching Tolerance

4 Reasons White People Can't Use the N-Word (No Matter …

Don't Use The N-Word If You're Not Black. The End. But If …

The n-word: An interactive project exploring a singular word …



Charlie Hebdo criticised for linking all Muslims to Brussels bombings

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2016 - 17:19

French satirical magazine provokes furious reaction after saying Muslim presence had led to fear of being seen as Islamophobic

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked anger and condemnation after publishing an editorial which suggests that ordinary Muslims contributed to a climate in which the Brussels bombings took place.

The magazine – which itself was the target of a terrorist attack last year – published the editorial, How Did We End Up Here?, eight days after bombs at Brussels airport and metro system killed more than 30 people. It said that a fear of being seen as Islamophobic had inhibited the public from questioning or objecting to facets of Islam.

Never thought I'd see the day when a magazine ppl I know respect would argue that basically all conservative Muslims are complicit in terror

This #Charliehebdo editorial is wrong on so many levels: " How did we end up here?" via @Charlie_Hebdo_

Powerful editorial in Charlie Hebdo about the Brussels bombings

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The NY Times Joins Israel in Whitewashing (Yet Another) Scandal

A military scandal has rocked Israel, and The New York Times has been on hand to report developments: A soldier was arrested for killing a wounded and helpless Palestinian; the soldier was under investigation for murder, and some Israelis have protested, insisting that he is a hero.

These were the stories that made headlines in the Times after the murder was caught on video and spread through the Internet, provoking outrage worldwide. The newspaper, it seems, has been on this from the start.

But readers may not suspect that there is much more that the newspaper is withholding. After the early headlines, the Times has gone silent and has failed to report a number of developments connected with the story:

All of these items appeared in media outlets, some of them disseminated widely, such as the downgrade from murder to manslaughter, which made headlines in Israel, the West and the Arab world. In the Times, however, this news became nothing but a whispered conjecture buried in an article last Thursday. Far into her piece, author Isabel Kershner briefly mentioned that prosecutors were “appearing to have backed off from the idea of a murder charge.”

Since then, the Times has had nothing more to say about the scandal, leaving readers with the impression that Israeli officials were swift and firm in their effort to bring justice to bear. As authorities backed off from the murder charge and let the soldier go free, the Times fell silent.

It seems that the newspaper has endeavored to whitewash Israeli actions—spotlighting the first cries of outrage when the video emerged, the arrest of the soldier and the talk of a murder investigation and ignoring news that might expose the reality: nearly unlimited impunity for crimes against Palestinians.

The paper had nothing to say, for instance, about Netanyahu’s change of tone. When the video first emerged, the prime minister said the killing “does not represent the values of the IDF.” Later he spoke to the accused man’s father, assuring him that he personally understood the man’s distress and saying that the family should trust the army to be “professional and fair in its investigation.”

This was reported extensively in Israel, as was the Leahy letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate a “disturbing number of reports of gross violations of human rights by security forces” in Israel and Egypt. The letter mentions several specific cases of alleged extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces.

Senator Leahy’s signature is of particular importance because his name is on a law that prohibits the United States from providing military aid to security forces that violate human rights with impunity.

Nevertheless, the Times has ignored the appeal by Leahy and 10 other members of Congress, even though the event is eminently newsworthy and the letter led to a sharp exchange between Netanyahu and Leahy.

The newspaper has also overlooked the effect of the incident on Palestinians: the threats against the videographer, the harassment of his family and initial refusals to allow Palestinian participation in conducting the autopsy.

It seems that much of the news touching on this latest Israeli scandal is unfit to print in the Times. Readers are not to see evidence that the first official reaction to the disturbing video was little more than damage control, an attempt to show the world that Israel does not condone such crimes. The Times, as usual, has fallen into line, a willing partner in the official effort to exonerate Israel of its crimes.

Barbara Erickson


Filed under: Israeli Bias in the NY Times Tagged: extrajudicial executions, Israel, Israeli army, New York Times, Palestine, Patrick Leahy

Prevent gives people permission to hate Muslims – it has no place in schools | Fahid Qurashi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2016 - 11:44
Teachers are right to reject a counter-radicalisation strategy that frames terrorism as a Muslim problem and demonises an entire community

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has recently backed a motion to reject the government’s counter-radicalisation Prevent strategy at its annual conference. This motion follows the National Union of Students (NUS) motion to boycott the Prevent strategy and its subsequent activism under the banner of “students not suspects”.

Related: Teachers back motion calling for Prevent strategy to be scrapped

This kind of treatment sends a strong signal to wider society about the nature of Muslims in Britain

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Malek Fahd Islamic school loses appeal to retain government funding

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2016 - 05:33

Sydney school faces imminent closure after government axed in $19m funding over financial mismanagement allegations

Australia’s largest Islamic school has lost its appeal to retain federal funding, the federal education minister has confirmed.

In February, Simon Birmingham announced that Sydney’s Malek Fahd would have $19m worth of federal funding withdrawn over allegations of financial mismanagement.

Related: Government accuses six Islamic schools of breaching Education Act

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Elnathan John: ‘I want to show that things are never simple’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2016 - 09:00
The Nigerian writer and satirist on his first novel, Born on a Tuesday, a study of a young man caught up in Islamic fundamentalism

What part of Nigeria were you born in, and how much has the country changed since you were a child?
I was born in Kaduna, north-west Nigeria, in 1982. The place used to be very cosmopolitan – people living anywhere and it did not matter who you were. Now, there is self-imposed apartheid. After the 1990s riots, the city split into Christian and Muslim. If you were the wrong religion for an area, you’d have to move house in fear for your life. Today, there is an uneasy calm. Because of segregation, people can gather in their districts and speak out against one another. I think a crisis is brewing. Sadly, the government is not looking into ways of integrating people or bringing Kaduna back to where it was before.

Was there a particular seed from which your first novel, about a young man who gets caught up in Islamic fundamentalism, grew?
Born on a Tuesday was informed partly by my upbringing but also inspired by the almajiri [the name for those sent from their homes as children to study in Islamic schools] I met at university. I was interested in their lives and their thoughts and intrigued that they were [often] people without names. What is in a name? The question became important to me. The minimum a person can have is a name. I was interested in what happens when that basic form of identity is taken away. “Born on a Tuesday” is the protagonist’s name, but not a real name.

Satire depends upon people’s ability to feel or respond to shame. We live in a post-shame world

Related: Join us or die: the birth of Boko Haram

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Burkinis are nasty, but then fashion is seldom liberating | Catherine Bennett

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 April, 2016 - 00:03
As ‘modest wear’ hits the high street, the debate raging around it has more than a hint of hypocrisy

After an increasingly desperate few years, which the combined efforts of Emma Thompson, Doreen Lawrence and Alexa Chung have so far done little to relieve, Marks and Spencer has finally produced a garment that people want to talk about.

Yet more unusually, the object of interest, a blue burkini – a kind of whole-body swimming pyjama – is still, at the time of writing, available online, and looks as if it might be just the ticket for anyone planning a trip to broiling, jellyfish-infested waters. Though the suit’s purpose is not, you gather, physical protection. Rather, M&S stresses: “This burkini suit covers the whole body with the exception of the face, hands and feet, without compromising on style.”

Some women who like swimming in saturated clothes have responded with enthusiasm

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French Minister Compares Muslim Women Who Wear Hijab To “Slaves”

Loon Watch - 2 April, 2016 - 22:59

Laurence Rossignol

Oh, I wonder why Muslims feel alienated in France? France, continues to astound with outdoing its own racism and hate, especially of its Arab and Muslim populations.

By the way this is their minister for women’s rights.:

via. AlJazeera English

France’s minister for women’s rights has compared Muslim women who wear the veil to American “Negroes” who accepted slavery, in an interview with French media.

Laurence Rossignol made the comments to RMC radio and BFM TV, igniting accusations of racism on Wednesday across social media as a petition was launchedcalling on the minister to resign.

In just a few hours, the petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures.

Rossignol was a guest on a programme to discuss the Islamic fashion industry. She later said the use of the word Negro had been made in error, but stopped short of retracting the remark.

Many on social media pointed out that Rossignol previously founded an anti-racist coalition, SOS Racisme.

France has the largest Muslim minority in Europe and some of the continent’s most restrictive laws about expressions of faith in public. The veil was banned in 2011.

Elsewhere in the interview, the minister reportedly criticised those who made fashion items such as the so-called burqini, a modest swimsuit covering the head, arms and legs, as “irresponsible”.

Today, according to the  2015-2016 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report,Muslim consumers spend an estimated $230bn on clothing, a number that is projected to grow to  $327bn by 2019 – larger than the current combined clothing markets of the UK ($107bn), Germany ($99bn), and India ($96bn).

Earlier this year, the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana unveiled a new abaya and hijab collection aimed at Muslim women.

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Who needs Autism Awareness?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 2 April, 2016 - 22:55

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, an event organised by the United Nations since 2008 to “encourage member states … to take measures to raise awareness about children with autism throughout the world”. It’s become best known recently for Light It Up Blue, in which people are encouraged to wear blue, turn their websites blue and shine blue light on their buildings so as to “raise awareness” and to raise money for the genetic research funded by Autism Speaks, which is also notorious for scaremongering about the condition and, by extension, people affected by it. Not much talk is heard about the matter of how aware our professionals are of the needs of people, and particularly children, on the autism spectrum, despite the ample evidence, in the UK at least, that people empowered to make professional decisions about the lives and living arrangements of people with autism and other learning disabilities are woefully ignorant of them, and that people have died as a result.

Today the Guardian carried a long interview with Sara Ryan, the mother of Connor Sparrowhawk who died in an NHS learning disability inpatient unit in Oxford in 2013, in its Weekend supplement. He was known as Laughing Boy or LB and he drowned in a bath in the Slade House unit, having been left to bathe unsupervised despite his known epilepsy. His inquest last year found that his death was the result of neglect and the inquest and the reports surrounding it exposed the hideously inadequate nature of the care that unit provided. It also exposed the fact that NHS trusts are often more interested in protecting their reputations than with patients’ well-being and with doing the decent thing when they have failed them. It’s ironic that the same paper gave a whole page in the previous edition of the same supplement to a mother who had despatched a daughter to a private WWASP boot camp where she was held against her will for six weeks (others are held for years) with the help of private ‘escorts’ and some sleeping pills (see earlier entry; as of this writing, they have not responded to my letter to their Reader’s Editor). Two things make this ironic in the light of today’s feature. First, given that the behaviours which led to some of the young people being incarcerated in these camps consisted of skipping school and listening to ‘dark’ music, one wonders how many of them were on the spectrum but undiagnosed, and what effect the regime of the camps had on them. Second, it bears a close resemblance to how some of our autistic children and young people are treated: taken by force from home, sectioned in mental health units, moved miles from home for lack of facilities near home or the failure of the treating clinicians to understand that they are the reason the autistic person’s health and behaviour is deteriorating.

In this country, we still have people, children and adults, held in entirely unsuitable units miles (even hundreds of miles) from home, many of whom could live with their families with some support, or in their own homes if the care were made available. There is plenty of evidence that the psychiatric profession, which holds the power in these units, does not receive training in autism and does not understand the condition. Yet these people have the power to hold autistic people under sections 2 or 3 of the Mental Health Act for normal and manageable challenging behaviour, to control when they see their families and when or if they can go out, and to transfer them to other facilities if they decide they do not want to treat (or house) them any longer. In some cases, it appears that people have been sectioned on pretexts so as to make it possible to transfer them. It has been known for units to take autistic people in, knowing that they are not suited and bear no resemblance to their normal patient profile.

Connor’s has not been the only death in recent years. Thomas Rawnsley died in a private care home, where he was held under a Deprivation of Liberty order made under the Mental Capacity Act, in February 2015. His mother had been trying desperately to secure support for him so that he could live in the community with support, but the Court of Protection preferred to send him to this care home instead (where he was for a time the only resident). He died of a heart attack, and the injuries he had suffered in the weeks before his death remain unexplained. There was also the case of Stephanie Bincliffe, who died after spending seven years locked in a room at a Huntercombe hospital in Yorkshire; her weight gain, which led to her death by ventricular hypertrophy and obstructive sleep apnoea in mid-2013 was blamed on her self-mutilation and distress reaction when food wasn’t how she liked it rather than on the conditions of her confinement. That they failed to address this behaviour, the distress caused by her incarceration, or find somewhere that these things could be addressed in seven years is damnable, and the inquest did not question why she was in a unit for so long that did not know how to treat her properly.

Following some ongoing campaigns to get young people out of these units and into their own communities, two families have withdrawn from public view following threats from the staff holding their relatives; one had his leave cancelled over Easter just as his mother arrived to pick him up, and another nearly had his cancelled at short notice for spurious “risk assessment” reasons by a stand-in consultant. One might recall that the home where Thomas Rawnsley was held tried to cancel what would turn out to be his last Christmas leave as well. The need to avoid a difficult return always seems to trump his need, and his right, to be at home with his family (this has been used as an excuse to deny children in institutions family visits and outings and home leave for generations; it was suggested that my family visits at boarding school were bad for me as well). These ‘responsible clincians’ have such power to affect their patients’ lives and family relations at a moment’s notice, yet they have no obligation to understand their condition.

Picture of Maisie Shaw, a girl with autism from Hull who has been in psychiatric units miles from home because of the closure of her local unitWe may think we have moved on from the days when autistic people were called psychotic, retarded, naughty or just “little shits” rather than having an identifiable underlying condition, but autistic young people, whether they have a learning disability or not, still face a lack of understanding from staff in many schools, considerable difficulty and delay in getting diagnosed (especially girls) which is made worse by resistance by local authorities who would have to foot the bill for assistance or special education, a lack of a clear pathway after 18 for those with learning disabilities (the cause of a lot of crises in autistic people that age), difficulty and delay in arranging the appropriate care (which often takes years, as we have seen in the Josh Wills case and many others), a shortage or outright absence of inpatient facilities in the local area or even the same region (a result of it being fashionable to close them, as nobody who has no family connection to mental illness will mourn the closure of a psychiatric unit, even if it is really due to budget cuts, intractable maintenance problems or stupid bureaucratic reasons), and finally, cruelty and neglect in hospital, accompanied by separation from home and family and a long stay.

Autism awareness should not mean making the public scared of a ‘disease’ that isn’t. It should be about making sure our teaching, nursing, medical and allied professions know about autism, so that delayed diagnosis, crises and suffering can be avoided.

For more detail on the inadequacy of how autistic people are treated in our society, please read the following:

Ongoing petitions:

Young Muslim women take lead over men in race for degrees

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2016 - 20:01
Researchers find Muslim girls are more motivated to gain qualifications to survive in the jobs market

Muslim girls are academically outperforming their male counterparts for the first time, researchers have found.

A “new and remarkable” cultural shift will be revealed this week to the British Sociological Association annual conference, when it hears evidence that more young Muslim women have been gaining degrees at British universities than Muslim men, even though they have been under-represented for decades.

Related: Younger generation of British Muslims showing shift in attitude to gender roles

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Funeral of Glasgow shopkeeper killed in 'religiously prejudiced' attack takes place

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2016 - 16:13

Family and friends of Asad Shah, 40, pay their respects at the Bait-ur-Rahman mosque in the Yorkhill area of the city

The funeral of a respected Glasgow shopkeeper who was killed in what police have described as a religiously prejudiced attack took place on Saturday. Family and friends of Asad Shah gathered for prayers at the Bait-ur-Rahman mosque at the Ahmadiyya Muslim centre in the west of the city.

Related: Killed shopkeeper Asad Shah's family pay tribute to 'everyone's friend'

Related: Asad Shah death: online appeal raises £87,000 for shopkeeper's family

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