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Why so many Iranians have come to hate the hijab

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 April, 2016 - 09:00

Over the years the state crackdown on women’s dress has become more of a show to placate the country’s hardline base. Our correspondent shares stories from her personal repertoire illustrating the point

As summer approaches, police in Tehran have once again begun to crack down on Iranians who fail to comply with the country’s Islamic dress code. This year, besides the customary uniformed morality police, 7,000 undercover agents are reportedly also on the case. I was spared the early years of the Islamic Republic, but my mother recalls how diligent she had to be to avoid giving the morality police – or anyone else with the authority to judge appearances – any pretext to find fault with her, as jail sentences for “protesting” were all too common for dress-code transgressors.

It was a hot day in the early 1980s and my parents were going to an international exhibition in Tehran. As my older sister, then a baby, lay in her carriage, my mom wheeled her into the room filled with female agents who were in charge of checking the women’s compliance. They would ask some to fix their hijab, passing tissues to others to wipe off their makeup. As one agent finished scrutinizing my mother, she looked at my sister in the carriage.

Related: Iranian fashion: between the veils

Related: Iran's morality police: patrolling the streets by stealth

Related: How the hijab has made sexual harassment worse in Iran

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Warsan Shire: the Somali-British poet quoted by Beyoncé in Lemonade

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 April, 2016 - 15:00

She was London’s Young Poet Laureate, becoming a voice for its marginalised people – now her work has been recited by the queen of pop

She writes of places where many Beyoncé fans rarely go, the portions of London where the faces are black and brown, where men huddle outside shop-front mosques and veiled women are trailed by long chains of children. Warsan Shire, the Somali-British poet whose words are featured in Beyoncé’s new globe-shaking Lemonade album, is a bard of these marginalised areas – she was even named the first Young Poet Laureate for London at 25.

Beyoncé reads parts of Shire’s poems, including For Women Who Are Difficult To Love, The Unbearable Weight of Staying (the End of the Relationship) and Nail Technician as Palm Reader in interludes between songs in her 12-track, hour-long video album that premiered this week. Truly, Shire was a brilliant choice for Beyoncé’s unapologetically black and female album: like the people and places from which they are woven, Shire’s poems – published in a volume titled Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth – are laden with longing for other lands and complicated by the contradictions of belonging in new ones. In Conversations about Home, she writes: “I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I’m bloated with language I can’t afford to forget”, and: “They ask me how did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket.”

Related: 'Beyoncé is not a woman to be messed with' – Lemonade review

Related: How Beyoncé's Lemonade became a pop culture phenomenon

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Bangladesh's pluralism is at risk if Sheikh Hasina does not stop extremists

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 April, 2016 - 15:52

Murders of gay activists and secularists highlight culture of impunity, with Hasina and Awami League accused of failing to act

The government of Sheikh Hasina Wazed is under growing pressure in Bangladesh to end an apparent culture of impunity after a series of brutal murders of secular writers, bloggers and liberal intellectuals by radical Isla mists.

A torrent of protest followed the latest killings, on Monday night, of Xulhaz Mannan, editor of the country’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender magazine (LGBT), and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, an actor and fellow gay rights activist. Critics have accused the Awami League government of failing to act effectively to stop the carnage.

Related: Editor of Bangladesh's first and only LGBT magazine killed

Related: 'I must survive to seek justice,' says widow of murdered Bangladesh blogger

Related: Bangladesh's PM rejects claims of repression: 'I do politics for the people'

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Apologists for Israel, Touted in The NY Times

The New York Times this week touts Israeli-Canadian writer Matti Friedman‘s book, a war memoir and military analysis based partly on the author’s experience in southern Lebanon in 1998. The reviewer, Jennifer Senior, finds it all without blemish, calling the work “top-notch,” “persuasive” and “elegantly written.”

We learn that Friedman was stationed in a military outpost during the 22-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, that it was a dangerous place for Israeli soldiers, that Hezbollah was gaining in strength and that Israeli troops struggled to avoid the mistakes commonly made in the fog of war.

There is much to question in the way Senior puts forth the context of the conflict—the conflation of Hezbollah with ISIS, for instance, and the emphasis on Israeli losses over the far more numerous Lebanese casualties—but a more fundamental issue here is the fact that the Times has chosen to highlight this particular author.

Friedman is an apologist for Israel and has made some extreme statements. At the end of the 2014 war on Gaza, for instance, he wrote that criticism of Israel revealed “a hostile obsession with Jews” and added, “Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality.”

Two months later Friedman wrote in The Atlantic that a number of journalists had the Gaza war story wrong because many were cozy with humanitarian aid workers who had bought into the Palestinian narrative over the Israeli one. The reporters had been “co-opted by Hamas,” he wrote, and they were prone to “a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills.”

In her review, Senior mentions these two articles, saying that they generated “a small tempest of controversy,” which was mitigated by Friedman’s “temperate and careful” voice. It is difficult to understand how his comments can be taken as temperate or careful, however. They seem strangely deluded. Hamas, for instance, has received almost universally bad press in the mainstream media.

With Friedman’s tendency to find virulent anti-Semitism lurking in every critique of Israel, it is also odd that Senior takes his claims that Lebanese “loathe Jews” at face value. She fails to question this conclusion even though he reports that Lebanese everywhere extended him a warm welcome.

Most egregious of all is the fact that the Times has ignored a number of excellent books by Jewish American and Jewish Israeli writers who are critical of Israel, while it has promoted Friedman’s book and others with a similar pro-Israel view, such as Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. The aim, it seems, is to provide the facade of a united Jewish front in favor of Israel.

Here are a few of the many worthy Jewish authors writing about Israel and Palestine who have been snubbed by the Times:

  • Max Blumenthal, the author of Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013), which received the 2014 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Notable Book Award. It chronicles the Israel lurch to the far right and its crackdown on dissent. He also wrote The 51-Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza (2015), a devastating and heartbreaking account of the 2014 attacks on the enclave.
  • Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. The book reveals how he liberated himself from his racist upbringing and discovered the brutal reality of the Israeli occupation.
  • Nurit Peled Elhanan, the sister of Miko and a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her book, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education (2011), exposes the profound racism in Israeli school curricula.
  • Anna Baltzer, author of Witness in Palestine: A Jewish-American Woman in the Occupied Territories (2007, updated in 2014). Anna discovered that her past views of Israel were wrong during a visit to Palestine and became a committed activist on behalf of ending the occupation.
  • Jeff Halper, author of An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel (2008) and War Against the People: Israel, Palestine and Global Pacification (2015). Halper has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes.
  • Ilan Pappe, historian author of numerous books on Israel and Palestine, most notably The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), which describes events during the 1947-48 war that left some 750,000 Palestinians exiled from their homes. Pappe was forced to leave Israel after frequent death threats and now teaches at Exeter University in England.

And then there is Michael Chabon, the author of numerous books on Jewish life and the recipient of as many honors. He recently announced that he is contributing a chapter to an anthology of 24 essays by leading authors writing on the occupation of Palestine. After visiting the West Bank, Chabon stated in an interview with the Jewish newspaper Forward that the situation in occupied Hebron was “the most grievous injustice that I have ever seen in my life.”

The New York Times listed Chabon’s novel Telegraph Avenue as a Notable Book of 2012, and his name has appeared often in its pages. It will be worth noting what kind of attention (if any) the coming book and its authors receive in the newspaper. It is not impossible that Chabon will soon join those Jewish writers meticulously ostracized from the pages of the Times for betraying the accepted boundaries of commentary on Israel.

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: Israeli Bias in the New York Times Tagged: Israel, Jewish authors, Matti Friedman, New York Times, Palestine, Pro-Israel bias

Mosque opposed by far-right political groups likely to be blocked

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 April, 2016 - 05:43

Saarban Islamic Trust partly blames Islamophobia after report recommending rejection on planning grounds

A proposal to build a mosque in a suburb 40km south-east of Melbourne’s CBD is likely to be rejected over concerns about the scale of the development and its impact on the environment.

A special meeting of the City of Casey council will be held on Tuesday night to discuss a council report that recommends councillors not approve the application from the Saarban Islamic Trust for a 470-person mosque on the vacant rural site in Narre Warren. The mosque has been the subject of vehement opposition from far-right political groups.

Related: Battle over Bendigo: fear and bruised feelings in city that said yes to a mosque

Related: Gold Coast mosque: opponents celebrate after court rejects plan

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Sydney teenager charged with Anzac Day terrorism plot pleads not guilty

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 April, 2016 - 02:52

Police allege the 16-year-old boy, who was reportedly participating in a deradicalisation program, was trying to obtain a gun to use in an attack

A 16-year-old western Sydney boy has pleaded not guilty to trying to source a gun for use in an Anzac Day terrorist attack.

The Auburn teenager, who cannot be named, was arrested on Sunday afternoon after police reportedly intercepted encrypted messages they allege show the boy was trying to obtain a firearm.

Related: Malcolm Turnbull: multiculturalism and tolerance will combat terrorism

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The Prophetic Remedy to Islamophobia

altmuslim - 25 April, 2016 - 22:57
By Saud Inam For more than a decade the Muslim community has been in a struggle to overcome negative media, misconceptions and misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims. Our approach largely has been reactive and not proactive. But, the problem with being reactive is the Muslim community has let the Islamophobes and religious extremists dictate the narrative. [Read More...]

The Muslim Council of Britain is failing Ahmadis like Asad Shah | Tahir Nasser

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 April, 2016 - 16:18

These are difficult times in the UK for Ahmadi Muslims as some seek to demonise us – and the MCB is an enabler

In 2013, I organised an event at University College London for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association UK titled Innocence of Muhammad. The aim of the event was to portray the true and peaceful character of the prophet of Islam, in light of the wild and violent responses of some Muslims to the slanderous video, The Innocence of Muslims. Unfortunately, towards the end of the event, a prominent member of the university’s Islamic society entered and distributed leaflets calling for the social boycott and “capital punishment” of Ahmadi Muslims.

As an Ahmadi myself, I am sadly familiar with such harassment. This minority community of Islam faces persecution in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, and we are often treated with open hostility by many orthodox Muslims in the UK. The reason can seem arcane to those not of the Muslim faith: Ahmadis, who believe in their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the expected Messiah and Mahdi of Islam, differ from the mainstream belief that prophethood ceased after Muhammad, as orthodox Muslims believe is laid out in the Qur’an.

It couldn’t be any clearer that Khatam-e-Nabuwwat is a hate organisation dedicated to the demonisation of Ahmadi Muslims

Related: Shunned for saying they're Muslims: life for Ahmadis after Asad Shah's murder

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Stats not Stories: Problems with our Islamic History

Muslim Matters - 25 April, 2016 - 15:35

Admit it. You're bored by Islamic History. Sure, you might say that you find it fascinating, but the likelihood is that you are far more likely to be enamoured by the idea of what Islamic history should be like rather than the history itself.

How can I justify saying this? Well, lets take any other aspect of life that you are definitely not bored by. The latest Star Wars movie perhaps, Super Bowl 50 or all 7 Harry Potter books. Anything at all. Odds are that you can remember a lot about them in vivid detail. But if you're asked the same thing about pretty much any aspect of Islamic history, the details are likely to be nowhere near as clear or captivating.

islamic history book

Outsold by the story of a wizard kid by a factor of a Million to 1

Relax. For once, it is not your fault.

Islamic history is the poor cousin of the Islamic sciences. It can often be poorly taught, poorly understood and even more poorly preserved. The blame for this partly falls on the shoulders of the Islamic historians themselves. Apart from some notable exceptions, many Islamic history books are dreary affairs over-filled with numbers, dates and exceptionally long names of individuals who sound very similar.

history quote

It is not that Islamic history itself is boring. On the contrary, I would make the case that no other history is as palpitation inducing, full of giddy highs and dramatic – seemingly bottomless – lows. However, even the most amazing thriller can go from awe to yawn if the main focus is on the factual details rather than the story itself.

explainafilmplotbadly

If the Dark Knight was described like your average text on Islamic history

In 2007 Deborah Small at the Wharton School of Business conducted an experiment to see how people would react to a charity campaign that was presented primarily using facts and figures as compared to the same campaign presented as a story. The outcome wasn't even close. Stories trump stats every time. Or, as Stalin would say “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” He should know. He was kind of an expert on the subject.

stalin

Hipster Stalin – now he's taken things too far.

In fact, we don't need to look to modern research to prove this. The Qur'an itself is full of stories and lessons, but short on details. How many animals made it on to the Ark? Where exactly did Khidr live? What was the name of the Pharoah that was the arch-nemesis of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)? The lack of facts and figures detracts nothing from the power of these stories and their ability to inspire and transform those hearing them.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was explicit on this point when it came to the stories of the Companions of the Cave. Allah admonishes those who debate on the exact number of those in the cave saying “Now some say they were three and the fourth one is their dog and some will say they were five and the sixth one is their dog, guessing randomly at the unseen.” It is unfortunate that we don't heed this lesson when it comes to how we teach our own Islamic history.

stat-stories-vs-statistics

From “Made to stick” by Chip and Dan Heath

Maya Angelou said 'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' If we want our Islamic history to be relevant and life-changing, we need to put away the facts and figures and bring out the monsters and legends.

An Introduction to Methodology for Study of the Qur’an

Imran Hosein - 24 April, 2016 - 22:46

 

Methodology for the Study of Dajjāl in the Qur’ān was meant to be included as a chapter of my book on Dajjāl. However I realized that it was too long to function as a chapter, and hence I had to remove the material that was specific to Dajjāl, and then publish it as a separate book altogether. I have no regrets in doing so since it was my desire that this be my last effort at teaching basic methodology for the study of the Qur’ān. I have done no

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