Follow Me, Akhi by Hussein Kesvani review – how social media is changing liberal Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 June, 2019 - 09:00

A thoughtful and witty account of how British Muslims interact with the online world

In 2014, as around 2 million Muslims gathered in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca to perform the hajj, Islam’s largest annual pilgrimage saw the launch of a new practice. Young and devout Muslims standing in front of the Great Mosque and other locations around Old Mecca began posting self-portraits to Twitter. The hashtag #HajjSelfie went viral within hours.

While most religious clerics adopted a diplomatic silence on the inevitable arrival of cameraphones during major religious gatherings, a handful of Muslim scholars spoke out. One Jeddah-based scholar said photography contravened the spirit of the hajj. “Taking such selfies and videos defy the wish of our Prophet,” he said, with sincerity. An Islamic Studies teacher said worshippers were ruining their prayers by “humble-bragging”.

In 2018, women used #MosqueMeToo to share stories of sexual assault and abuse in places of worship

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The distraction of in-car touch screens

Indigo Jo Blogs - 17 June, 2019 - 23:12
Part of a car's central dashboard showing two touch screens, one of which shows a map of the whole of North America with various cities highlighted, with the words "Not on a digitised road" at the bottom, under which is the hazard light switch and a CD slot, and then another touch screen with various menu buttons such as Bluetooth and iPod. There are ventilation outlets on both sides.A recent (presumably American) car’s infotainment system

From Popular Mechanics, via OSNews:

When I’m in charge of a car company, we’re going to have one strict rule about interior design: Make it so it doesn’t cause you to crash the car. 

You’d think this would already be in effect everywhere, but no. Ever since the arrival of the iPhone, car designers have aspired to replicate that sleek, glassy aesthetic within the cabin. And it never works, because you tend to look at a phone while you use it. In a car, you have this other thing you should be looking at, out there, beyond the high-resolution panoramic screen that separates your face from the splattering june bugs. 

If a designer came to me with a bunch of screens, touch pads, or voice-activated haptic-palm-pad gesture controls, I’d trigger a trapdoor that caused the offender to plummet down into the driver’s seat of a Cadillac fitted with the first version of the CUE system—which incorporated a motion sensor that would actually change the screen as your finger approached it. And I’d trigger my trapdoor by turning a knob. I wouldn’t even have to look at it.

I drive different makes of trucks on an almost daily basis, and finding the way to get the result you want is amazingly complicated; there is often no obvious way to turn the traffic news feature off, for example, which means it will interrupt your listening about every five minutes to give you a traffic bulletin from each of the surrounding areas, particularly when you are near the border between areas (e.g. around Heathrow, which gets London, Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire local radio). But touch screens are a particular pain in the backside.

To answer a call on a lot of these things, you have to press firmly on a green panel on the screen. Often, this panel will be barely bigger than the average finger and right next to the red panel, which rejects the call. This means you have to take your eye off the road for long enough to make sure you’ve pressed it right. Even without actually handling your phone while driving (which is a specific offence), if you cause an accident while distracted, the law will come down hard on you. This system was in an MAN truck; MAN is owned by VW, so a similar system may be found in their cars and vans too. At least the phone pairs easily; in Mercedes in-car stereos, it’s a hit and (usually) miss process to get the system to ‘see’ your phone.

With my car, you answer or refuse a call by pressing a button on the steering wheel. That’s how it should be.

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Quebec law banning hijab at work creates ‘politics of fear', say critics

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 June, 2019 - 17:42

Civil liberties groups vow to challenge new law that bans public employees from wearing religious symbols

Civil liberties and Muslim groups have vowed to challenge a new law in the Canadian province of Quebec that bans some public sector employees from wearing religious symbols during work hours, arguing it triggered the “politics of fear”.

Critics said the long-expected Bill 21 that was passed by the predominately French-speaking province’s legislature on Sunday mainly targeted Muslim women who wear hijabs.

Related: 'It’s part of who I am': proposed Quebec law could push hijab-wearers out of jobs

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The EU's Islamophobia is getting worse – Britain must fight this from within | Yasmin Qureshi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 June, 2019 - 12:45

The EU abets Aung San Suu Kyi and Viktor Orbán, while also failing to challenge China’s abuse of its Muslim populations

The European elections last month were widely seen as a test of the EU’s resilience. Many were relieved that far-right parties did not do as well as feared. However, nationalism is still on the rise across the continent, and the EU is not an innocent bystander.

A meeting of two Islamophobes earlier this month brought this home to me. That day, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi met with her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán. At the top of their agenda was the danger of “continuously growing Muslim populations”. No surprises there. While Aung San Suu Kyi is complicit in the genocidal “ethnic cleansing” of some 1.1 million Rohingya Muslim refugees into Bangladesh, Orbán spearheaded the abhorrent fiction that the Jewish philanthropist George Soros is funding the mass migration of Muslims to Europe.

Related: The far right may not have cleaned up, but its influence now dominates Europe | Cas Mudde

Related: Far-right fundraising not taken seriously by UK, report finds

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The sickening prospect of Boris Johnson as PM

Indigo Jo Blogs - 16 June, 2019 - 22:27
A front page from the Spectator, with the headline "Eurabian nightmare" in yellow font, with a map of Europe with a red crescent superimposed on it with several large cities with small red stars, and a big red star where London is. At the bottom, in white, it says "Rod Liddle, Mark Steyn, Patrick Sookhdeo, Matthew Parris and Charles Moore".Front page of the Spectator from November 2005 during Boris Johnson’s editorship.

Like many people following the Tory party leadership contest, I’ve been filled with a sense of dread that we are looking at Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and the man who, as foreign secretary, threw a British citizen under the Iranian bus by making baseless claims about her activities, being anointed as prime minister by an internal vote in the Conservative party. The ‘logic’, such as it is, is that short of electing a ‘confirmed’ Brexit supporter as leader (and therefore prime minister), unlike Theresa May who was a ‘unity’ candidate who had previously supported remaining in the EU and then negotiated a deal which failed four attempts at getting a majority in Parliament, the party will be trounced in any subsequent general election by either the Brexit Party or (horror of horrors) Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party (never just Labour now); what is ‘needed’ is someone who will “get Brexit done” and who is willing to leave without a deal at the end of October. With Michael Gove now seriously damaged by revelations about cocaine at his parties (while he had ordinary people punished harshly for possession), Johnson polled 114 votes from Tory MPs on Thursday, more than double his nearest rival, Jeremy Hunt, who won the support of 43 MPs. (Michael Gove came third with 37; Rory Stewart, who has been running a high-profile ‘moderate’ campaign, came last of all those not eliminated with 19 votes.)

Boris Johnson is essentially a more upper-class version of Donald Trump, without his business acumen (such as that is). He’s an Old Etonian well-known for being part of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford (along with David Cameron) who pulled such stunts as burning banknotes in front of homeless people in the city. He clearly represents a sort of populist Right and has had a high media profile, appearing on talk shows including Have I Got News For You? and writing regular columns in the Tory broadsheet papers and editing the weekly magazine long associated with the party, the Spectator, in the early 2000s (this role is now challenged by Standpoint, founded by Daniel Johnson, son of Paul and no relation to Boris Johnson). His media profile was strengthened by being mayor of London during the 2012 Olympics, although (like many of the achievements credited to him) it was actually during Ken Livingstone’s second term that London secured the Olympics. The bicycles for hire known as Boris Bikes were also Livingstone’s idea.

There were two good things that can be said about Boris Johnson’s term as mayor of London. One is that he got rid of the unwanted western extension to the Congestion Charge, without which I suspect Ken Livingstone would have beaten him in the third mayoral election in 2008. The other is that he was not quite the disaster I had expected him to be. The mayor’s role, although mostly unconstrained by any elected council (the London Assembly only has the power to vote down the mayor’s budget), is not as powerful as might be imagined; his powers chiefly have to do with transport, and public transport and the maintenance of designated major roads (red routes) are the responsibility of Transport for London which is run out of the mayor’s office. Most local authority functions such as housing, education, social care, waste collection and so on are controlled by the boroughs which are essentially unitary authorities. Other than that, his role is mostly ceremonial, functioning as a “voice for London”; his word often has weight, and can prompt the resignation of a major official, but he cannot, for example, sack the Metropolitan Police commissioner. But he did also cancel a number of access improvements (other than those linked to the Olympics) that had been planned by the previous mayor and then wasted tens of millions of public money on a “garden bridge” project supported by his family friend, the actress Joanna Lumley, which never came to fruition and was hugely unpopular.

The reason I expected him to be a disaster as mayor was because his role as a journalist had been to foment bigotry against Muslims in particular while editor of the Spectator. He was editor at the time of the 9/11 and London bomb attacks and his attitude was firmly that Islam was to blame for this and had no truck with the idea that this was ‘blowback’ from western military adventures or that the result would be more of the same. In one column, he demanded “when is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”, a reference to a line from the film Pulp Fiction in which a man who has just been raped tells his attacker that he will “get medieval on your ass”. He also published a long article by Patrick Sookhdeo, then self-appointed voice of the Christian persecuted in the Muslim world, who made a series of fanciful claims such as that Muslims used marches for the purpose of “sacralising whole neighbourhoods, such as Birmingham” (which is, of course, a city) — there were pages of this nonsense. After riots in France triggered by the death by electrocution of a young man who had run into an electricity substation to escape pursuing police, his magazine displayed a map of Europe with a “burning crescent” and a star where London was, under the headline “Eurabian nightmare”, an invocation of a common conspiracy theory popular with American right-wing bloggers. He also published articles by Mark Steyn claiming that Europe was falling to Muslims who would outbreed the native Christians, leaving “America alone” (which was the title of a novel he wrote).

Johnson has in the past (while campaigning for the London mayoralty) apologised for another article he allowed to be published written by the columnist Taki Theodoracopoulos which claimed that the most intelligent people on earth were ‘Orientals’ while “Blacks are at the other pole”. He claimed that this “does not reflect what is in [his] heart”. Well, all we have to judge what might be in his heart is what comes out of his mouth and his pen, and he has said and written, and published, vastly more offensive and damaging material (note: not “material vastly more offensive”) than this for which he has not offered any apology. In regard to his comments about Muslim women who wear the niqaab resembling letter-boxes and bank robbers, his supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg, when questioned (rather weakly) by ITN reporter Paul Bland over these remarks, said “people mustn’t be snowflakes, and I can’t imagine that your viewers are snowflakes”. Tories have stated more than once in the past couple of weeks that Johnson says what voters really think and that this is an asset, rather than a weakness. This shift to openly condoning racism is disturbing to anyone who might be on the receiving end of it, such as the women targeted in Johnson’s bank-robber comparison. (Bank robbers don’t wear niqaab; they may wear balaclavas or something like a motorcycle helmet.)

And this makes it doubly sickening to see the Labour party tear itself apart over a mere whiff of anti-Semitism (as I’ve said before, most of the accusations are bogus and often based on specious theories) while the other major party indulges in racism quite openly. Someone who displays racism, including anti-Semitism, in such a way as to endanger ordinary people would not become a Labour district councillor, let alone MP or leader. We hear people claim that they will not vote Labour while he remains leader, preferring a party which has imposed the austerity which led to the vote to leave the EU and has demonised disabled people and immigrants throughout its time in office, even without Boris Johnson holding a ministerial office or the leadership. This weekend, with Jeremy Corbyn (rightly) expressing scepticism about Iran’s involvement in the attack on oil vessels in the Strait of Hormuz last week, some Labour Bitterites ridiculed him (along with the Tories, of course) for not accepting the Trumpist and Tory version of events at face value despite Trump having pursued, unprovoked, a policy of confrontation with Iran since taking office. I can understand them hankering for the days when Labour were in power, but they seem determined to repeat Blair’s mistakes as well as his achievements which, let’s not forget, were dismantled by David Cameron and Nick Clegg in one term.

“Not as big a disaster as mayor as I thought he’d be” is not a ringing endorsement for a man expecting to be prime minister. Boris Johnson is not fit to hold ministerial office. The prime minister is effectively Britain’s top diplomat; he or she will be Britain’s political representative on the world stage. Boris Johnson has no filter; he cannot keep his mouth shut when it matters. This has already had devastating consequences for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family; it will happen to others if he is in that position again. He is all bluster and no substance; his dishonesty is plain from having been dismissed twice by major newspapers for it, and he is known to have been the source of many of the false stories about the EU that filled right-wing newspapers in the 1980s and 90s. Anyone who backs him for prime minister makes a statement that all kinds of racism and bigotry, not just Islamophobia, are acceptable if they ring a chord with white voters in “middle England”.

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I will quit if Boris Johnson becomes PM - Tory Muslim chairman

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 June, 2019 - 10:11

Mohammed Amin calls frontrunner a ‘buffoon’ and compares popularity to Hitler’s

The chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum has drawn a comparison between Adolf Hitler and Boris Johnson, saying “many horrible people have been popular” and that he would quit the Tory party if the former foreign secretary was elected leader.

Mohammed Amin, a longtime party member, called the Tory leadership frontrunner a “buffoon” and criticised how he “mocked Muslim women who wear niqab and burka for his own purposes”.

"We don't expect our politicians, our prime ministers to be saints, but we do require a basic level of morality and integrity."

Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum @Mohammed_Amin criticises Boris Johnson for his previous remarks about Muslim women #r4today

Related: Jeremy Hunt: 'What would Churchill say of Johnson hiding away?'

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Lord Patel of Blackburn obituary

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 June, 2019 - 15:31

Businessman, Labour politician and pioneer in the field of community relations

Like so many other young men of his generation, Adam Patel left India in 1965 seeking business qualifications in the UK and headed for Blackburn, Lancashire, because of its long established connections with textile manufacturing in his home state of Gujarat.

He was encouraged by a temporary boom in the Lancashire textile industry, which meant that he could finance his studies at Blackburn College by working in a cotton mill, with the intention of returning home to practise accountancy. Instead he remained to become a leading businessman, a pioneer in the development of successful community relations and a hugely respected character in the political and commercial life of what became his adopted home town.

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US envoy decries lack of response from Islamic world to China's attacks on Uighurs

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 June, 2019 - 00:00

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have been silent in the face of the mass incarceration of Muslims in Xinjiang

The US envoy on religious liberty has said he is “disappointed” at the response of governments in the Islamic world to China’s mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims, suggesting they had been threatened by Beijing.

Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said some majority-Muslim states did not want to draw attention to their own human rights record. He was hopeful that the more Muslim populations around the world heard about the imprisonment of an estimated more than 1 million Uighurs, the more they will put pressure on their governments to speak out.

Related: 'If you enter a camp, you never come out': inside China's war on Islam

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

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Don’t call us haters

Indigo Jo Blogs - 9 June, 2019 - 23:33
A picture of the new moon in the red evening sky above London; St Paul's cathedral, Tower Bridge and other buildings are lit up below.The new moon sighted in London on 4th June. (Source: New Crescent Society, Facebook)

This past Eid, the recurring problem of spurious moon sighting reports emanating from Saudi Arabia and Muslim institutions overseas declaring ‘Eid’ the following day on the basis of them reared its head yet again. As so often happens, people in Saudi Arabia itself and in the surrounding countries attempted to sight the new moon the same day; they all failed. Astronomical data indicated that the new moon would not be visible in any part of the Old World and only with an optical aid, if at all, in parts of North and South America and the Caribbean; in the event, as the relevant page on the Moonsighting website shows, no positive sighting occurred on 3rd June even there. Many of us were hoping for a unified start and end to Eid and the charts seemed to indicate that everyone would celebrate Eid on Wednesday, 5th June. But we didn’t; many of our mosques followed the announcement from Saudi Arabia and held it on the 4th.

The other day, someone shared an article on Facebook from Muslim Matters pleading to the “Religious” to stop attacking imams and religious institutions for following what he considered valid scholarly positions such as following global moon sighting or calculations and sightings using telescopes. He compared this to people griping about mosques holding a taraweeh just for women, with a female imam, also considered by most scholars to be quite valid. There is a long divergence into the etiquettes of disagreement (adab al-ikhtilaaf) in Islam, that scholars have different methodologies and thus may come to a different conclusion about the meaning of a given verse in the Qur’an on the basis of them. Near the start of this piece, the shaikh suggests that people might advise him to “let the haters hate”, which is an astonishingly disrespectful way to talk about Muslims who are trying to practise their religion properly and follow the Sunnah with regard to a pillar of the faith, and to establish a situation where everyone can do this, even if it is not the most convenient way of doing it because the exact day is not always known.

We are not ‘haters’; we are well aware of the issue of different opinions around scholars. We follow all four (well, mostly three of the four) schools of thought (madhahib). We do not even all follow the same position about moon sighting; some of us follow a position of local or at least in-country sighting, while others follow reliable easterly sightings. The watchword here is reliable. We have mosques up and down the UK, but particularly the so-called major mosques which are the most famous mosques which often have the most extensive community facilities besides the prayer space and often have links to governments in the Middle East, such that they can get imams from the two Holy Cities to recite the Qur’an or occasionally lead prayers, following announcements from Saudi Arabia year after year which are based on demonstrably spurious reports of the moon having been sighted. This is not, at least ostensibly, about the use of calculations (very few mosques in the UK use calculations alone); the scholarly position is that the moon has to be sighted. But sighting reports are being manufactured when the moon could not have, and has not, been seen.

In North America it appears that some major Muslim organisations have settled on calculations so as to be able to predict when Eid will be so as to make it easier to book days off work and the such-like. The Americas and Caribbean are where the new moon is visible first, so that position is a stronger one there than it is here in Europe. Some Muslims feel that having unpredictable festival dates makes Islam look backward compared to Christianity, which has festivals on set or predictable dates every year. Even, although it relays reports about human moon sightings around the world, is run by people who endorse the calculation method; many of us rely on calculations to filter out spurious sightings. But the fact remains that for most of Muslim history we relied on our eyes to tell us when the new months were upon us, much as we relied on them to know when to offer each prayer, and that some communities would be celebrating Eid the same day as others were still fasting because the new moon had been sighted in one place but not another. In some parts of the world which have rainy seasons, it will be impossible to sight the new moon for several months at a time, so this would make the use of calculations necessary, but we are seeing false Eids foisted on the community in places where it is usually possible to tell whether the new moon is visible or not. It was possible in the UK this year, for example.

So, please don’t call us haters. We know about and respect differences of opinion. This is not about fiqh; it’s about fact, and the fact is that the community has been lied to again and again, and some of us are not willing to stand by and say nothing. There has been a real grassroots effort to revive the Sunnah of human moon sighting and to correct the misinformation spread through official channels and through satellite TV every year. If Muslim leaders want respect from ordinary Muslims, they should behave likewise towards us. And Allah knows best.

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Muslims, Eid and the sanctimonious vegan

Indigo Jo Blogs - 8 June, 2019 - 23:31
A picture of a sheep or goat being dragged along the floor with its lamb or kid running after it. Above is the slogan "She's not meat -- she's my mother".A still from the video attached to PETA’s Eid tweet

This past Eid, the American-based Vegan advocacy group that calls itself People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posted a series of tweets suggesting that Muslims should have a “vegan holiday” because “animals don’t need to die for you to celebrate Eid al-Fitr”, accompanied by a video of a sheep being dragged along by a group of men while its lamb runs along behind it, with the slogan “she’s not meat — she’s my mother”. The tweet attracted widespread scorn for having confused Eid al-Fitr, which follows the end of Ramadan, with Eid al-Adha, which is the feast of the sacrifice and this is when the sacrifice of a sheep or cow by every head of household is mandatory. (In practice, we usually pay for one to be carried out in a place where it is needed because of poverty.) There were some Muslims who seemed to have taken on board the idea that we shouldn’t eat meat and the fact that it is permitted in Islam was not a good enough reason to do it.

Over the years, I have found animal rights activists and vegans to be among the most extreme, irrational and sanctimonious types of activists out there. Often they seem unconnected to the real world, in which human beings depend on animals for survival. It is not just a protest against the widespread suffering and unhealthy practices in commercial farming; it is based on a belief that animals are not on this earth to be our food, shelter and medicine. A brief look through the PETA Twitter feed will reveal that this is their world-view. Someone on my Twitter feed suggested that PETA might really be seeking to make the cause of veganism look bad, but in fact such behaviour is par for the course for what is an inherently extremist and non-reality-based movement. They are merely the ‘cuddly’, publicity-seeking, ‘acceptable’ face of it; the more extreme in the sect harass and abuse families whose farms supply animals for testing, vandalise their property, dig up their relatives’ graves and more. As we all know, some of them will resort to racism when they hear that a particular nation enjoys a lot of meat and especially that of dogs, for some reason; they are also notorious for misogyny, comparing the hunting of animals to violence against women, having women parade naked but for the banner “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”, comparing them to dumb animals and depicting them in cages.

Every so often, a post will come up on our social media feeds with a title like “10 Excuses for not becoming vegan”. I’ve never read them because in truth we do not need an excuse. I eat meat because I enjoy it. I’ve tried to cut down recently, but that’s more for my own health reasons than because I am opposed to it. When I go out, I always eat meat; at home, I do not eat meat every day although I do drink milk every day. Humans have always eaten meat and the only exceptions are members of one or two religious groups and, more often, monastics who embrace vegetarianism or veganism for ascetic reasons. The same with drinking milk, eating cheese and eggs, wearing leather and wool, and using animal skins and fleeces for warmth. We have always got most of the protein in our diet from meat, milk and eggs. True, in other countries, soya and pulses are plentiful, but they are much less so here. In many parts of the UK, the soil is not much use for anything except pasture for sheep.

A picture of three young women walking along a road in London, past the doors of Somerset House, with a slogan "We'd rather go naked than wear fur" covering their breasts and private parts though their upper chests and most of their legs are exposed. They are wearing white gloves and high-heeled shoes.A PETA anti-fur demonstration. (Source: PETA)

A plant-based diet has the potential to be just as harmful, cruel and otherwise unethical as one that uses animal products. Do you check on how far your vegetables have had to travel, burning up fossil fuel on the way from Spain, India or South Africa? Do you check on how well the farmers paid those who picked the fruit, or what conditions they were expected to live in, or whether they were well-treated? Do you not run an electric fridge, requiring more energy likely derived from fossil fuel? Do you check on where the cotton in your clothes comes from, how much water was used in growing it, whether it came from a country where people are subjected to forced labour to grow it, whether its irrigation caused an entire inland sea to dry up, or whether the dyeing of the garment (cotton or otherwise) was done in a factory where labour conditions are good and which does not pollute the local air or waterways? Or is human health and welfare no concern of yours?

For us Muslims, there is no escaping the fact that it is the Sunnah to eat at least some meat on at least some occasions. It is a fact that the Sahaba did not eat meat every day, though they did eat it from time to time. They did not eat as much of it as we do today, but eat it they did. They ate the meat of sheep, goats, cattle and camels, and drank the milk of all four. The slaughtering of an animal as a sacrifice is part of one of our Eids; much of the meat is given to the poor. Many families have been too poor to eat meat a lot; Eid is the occasion, once or twice a year, when they may get to eat some. There are certain criteria for what makes meat (other than fish) halal, or permitted to eat by Muslims; the major one is that it has to be slaughtered in the name of Allah, and Allah Alone. Many scholars, though not all, prohibit stunning on the grounds that the animal must be healthy before slaughter; all stipulate that the slaughter be done by hand, and not by machine, and that the blessing be read by a human voice, not played from a tape.

Some Muslims point to the Qur’anic verse that tells us to “eat of what is halal (lawful) and tayyib (wholesome) on the Earth” and draw from it the idea that we should not eat meat from farms which feed the animals unnatural food or keep them in unhealthy conditions, among other things. But if we are to be this scrupulous about meat, why are we much less so about the source of our grain, fruit and vegetables, many of which require the extensive use of pesticides, irrigation from precious water sources and so on, followed by fuel-intensive transportation?

And we must be aware that for some of us, meat in our diet is important. Growing children require high levels of protein; lack of it results in a malnourished child with a swollen belly (kwashiorkor), as seen in many a war zone in recent years. Many women require it because they lose much blood at every period; if they do not eat meat, they will become anaemic and vegan fake meats, leafy vegetables and iron supplements are no substitute. Some scholars say that young people, men in particular, should refrain from meat and milk to lessen sexual desire or build up one’s restraint to it, but this has to be balanced against one’s physical health needs.

Islam is not an ascetic religion; it does not demand that we renounce all pleasures in this life, but that we be scrupulous about making sure our food is lawful to us, both in nature and in how we acquired it. Vegetarianism or veganism as a way of life is a form of asceticism which is found in other religions but not ours; it tends to be associated with Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, while celibacy (as a way of life) is associated with Christianity. In mediaeval Christian Europe, the only intellectuals were celibate priests and monks; in the Muslim world, our scholars married. Islam is meant for the whole world, including parts of the world where meat is plentiful and chickpeas and lentils are not. If you are concerned about unhealthy, unnatural or cruel farming practices, feel free not to eat meat yourself, or to seek out organic meat and (especially) milk, which is likely to be expensive enough that you will consume less of it. Eat less meat; the early Muslims ate much less than we do. But there is no room to make veganism the way of life for Muslims. To them be their way of life; to us, ours.

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What do the anti-Corbynites even want?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 7 June, 2019 - 22:22
Picture of Lisa Forbes, a white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing a black jacket over a white top, next to Amir Khan, a young South Asian man with a short moustache and beard wearing a black T-shirt and, over it, a black jacket with red swirly patterns on it.Lisa Forbes with boxer Amir Khan, at a Peterborough iftar event

So, last night there was a by-election in Peterborough following the recall of a Labour MP who spent time in prison after a conviction for lying about a speeding ticket, and it was widely expected, as this was an area which voted 60.9% in favour of leaving the EU in 2019 and where the Brexit Party scored the highest plurality of votes in last month’s European elections (38.3%), that the Brexit Party would win their first seat in Parliament. But no: Lisa Forbes, the Labour candidate, won 31% of the vote while the Brexit Party’s Mike Greene won 29%; the difference was just 683 votes. The candidate had been ‘exposed’ as having ‘liked’ a Facebook post by which was deemed anti-Semitic; the post consisted of a video about a group of high-school students who organised a Friday prayer in their school playground in England, but concluded, “Unfortunately our leader Theresa May feeds off this rhetoric [of hate] to keep her Zionist Slave Masters agenda alive”. The upshot was that instead of celebrating a Labour party victory this morning, some people inside the Labour party and some who have recently left were bemoaning a victory for anti-Semitism instead, and some of them were indulging in race-baiting of their own:

Any Muslim reading the offensive post by the Evoca drinks company manager Ismail ibn Saeed would notice that the word used was Zionist, not Jewish, and would know that he was not talking entirely or even mostly about Jews but about people who uphold the current world order in which there is a “free world” and a “third world” which is either mired in poverty and debt or dominated by dictatorships supported by countries in the “free world”. One aspect of this world order is that the interests of Israel are held to be paramount, such that it is supplied with massive military aid and the abuses it inflicts on its occupied Palestinian native population are overlooked; at most, there will be bland statements about condemning violence on all sides and a two-state solution but the elephant in the room, namely that Israel intends to preserve the status quo as it is very convenient for them, is conveniently overlooked. Although the ‘mainstream’ Jewish community organisations support this position, when Muslims talk about Zionists, they do not always mean Jews and the same was true here. Many of us notice a strong overlap between supporters of Israeli policy and hostility to Muslims or Islam and Jewish Zionists often fail to realise that anti-Zionism today is often inspired by revulsion at Israeli military or settler behaviour, not hostility to the idea of a Jewish state or to Jews per se. So, the accusation that this was anti-Semitic is at most dubious. It was a Muslim calling out injustice.

Let us look at who Lisa Forbes’s major opponent was: not only a representative of a party with no other policies than leaving the EU albeit one led (and indeed owned) by a man known to be committed to an “insurance-based” model of healthcare and is also notorious for diverting a discussion on almost any issue onto immigration, but an ignorant representative at that. Oli Dugmore from JOE interviewed Greene and pressed him to name a single area in which the EU had imposed anything related to education policy on Britain. He claimed, “education is affected by what we’ve got to teach, how we’ve got to teach, when we’ve got to teach”, but anyone who has travelled in Europe or done the most basic research knows that this is not true: school curricula, school structures such as selectivity or comprehensivity, school rules, examinations, dress policies such as uniforms and restrictions on cultural dress, school hours, attendance policies such as the legality or otherwise of home education and the required qualifications for teachers all differ from country to country and indeed within countries. He is either woefully ignorant or lying.

If you support remaining in the EU, why would you hope for even a small victory for a party dedicated to ensuring we leave, with or without a deal, or not be glad that frankly any party except the BNP (or similar) won the seat instead? The simple answer is that you might be so obsessed with the idea of removing Jeremy Corbyn from the leadership that any setback is welcome, even if it is also bad for everyone. If you call the Labour leadership “unfit for public office” on the grounds of the “anti-Semitism” so far displayed, it is inconsistent to behave in such a way that someone as obviously unfit and obviously, repeatedly, overtly racist as Boris Johnson might gain, or retain, the office of Prime Minister, to say nothing of the underbelly of racism and Islamophobia in the same party. If you believe, as some openly say, that one prejudice is not morally equivalent to the other, what you are really saying is that some ethnic groups deserve racist treatment and others do not.

On a related issue, the Guardian printed an article by Keith Kahn-Harris last week, calling for what he called a “radical new form of anti-racism” to be adopted so as to resolve the ‘impasse’ over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party:

The only way out of this impasse is to recast anti-racist solidarity so that it is completely decoupled from political solidarity. Anti-racism must become unconditional, absolute, and not requiring reciprocity. Anti-racism must be explicitly understood as fighting for the right of minorities to pursue their own political agendas, even if they are abhorrent to you. Anti-racism requires being scrupulous in how one talks or acts around those one might politically despise.

This isn’t just an issue that applies to Jews and antisemitism. We are beginning to see the strains in other forms of anti-racism too, when minorities start becoming politically awkward. The opposition from some British Muslim groups to teaching LGBT issues in school is one example of this. Yet opposition to Islamophobia is as vital as opposition to homophobia and one must not be sacrificed on the altar of the other.

The problem here is that a lot of the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party relate to political stances, not to any display of prejudice or hostility towards Jews as such. There are those who demand that support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel not be tolerated, for example, and indeed one of the accusations against Lisa Forbes is that she signed a letter (along with a number of other Labour constituency party representatives) that among other things supported BDS and called Israel undemocratic and racist. Palestinian rights advocates bend over backwards to avoid actual anti-Semitism and when someone they thought was one of them displays such attitudes (even if he is Israeli, as with Gilad Atzmon) they are ostracised. Israel’s partisans, call them what you will, are not satisfied; they want the total silencing of independent advocacy for Palestinians and total submission by the Palestinians themselves to permanent Israeli domination. Anyone who has worked for enough time in the mainstream media will be aware of the letter bombardment campaigns that can ensue when a newspaper or broadcasting station fails to treat the Palestinians’ rights with the same contempt they have.

It’s not about anti-racism. Anti-racism is already largely independent of demands on people’s political stances, except, increasingly, those of Muslims and it’s no coincidence that the ‘issue’ with Lisa Forbes was agreeing with a Muslim who is not polite enough for their liking. It’s precisely about censorship.

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