Mosque 'deeply disappointed' by Cathy Newman's reaction to venue confusion

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 16:10

Mosque accepts new apology by Channel 4 News anchor, who falsely claimed she had been ‘ushered out’, but warns of a ‘fog of Islamophobia’ in national debate

The mosque at the heart of a dispute with the Channel 4 News anchor Cathy Newman has described the episode as the toughest in its small community’s history and warned of a “fog of Islamophobia” in the national debate.

The South London mosque in Streatham said it accepted a new apology from Newman, who had claimed falsely on Twitter that she was “ushered” out when trying to enter as part of an open day.

1/4 I have written to South London Islamic Centre and offered my sincere apologies for tweets sent in haste after I visited there in error.

2/4 I accept my tweets were inappropriate and regret the use of the word “ushered”.

3/4 My language was poorly chosen and has caused a great deal of offence. I deeply regret that this happened.

4/4 I shall now be taking a break from Twitter.

The last few weeks have been some of the toughest in our small mosque’s history. Never before in our 37 years of welcoming worshippers from South London have we been thrust into the national spotlight as we have this month. Cathy Newman’s tweets (suggesting she was forcibly ejected from our mosque for being a woman) and the ensuing controversy opened the way for Islamophobes to threaten South London Islamic Centre with attacks against its congregation and its property.

After initially standing by her claim that she was ‘ushered out’ of our mosque, CCTV evidence showed that no such thing had occurred.

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Mehdi Hasan: Five questions that trouble Ed Miliband’s many disillusioned supporters

Mahdi Hassan - 12 February, 2015 - 12:55

The questions the Labour leader can’t answer.

Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Forget the New Labour icons Tony Blair and Alan Milburn. Ignore the business bosses Stuart Rose and Stefano Pessina. If Ed Miliband isn’t prime minister after the general election in May, he has only one person to blame: himself.

The Labour leader, contrary to the lazy conventional wisdom, has the potential to be a good, even great, premier. He has, his friends say, a “Thatcher-esque” ambition to transform the British political and economic scene and has proved to be one of the most influential leaders of the opposition in living memory, forcing issues such as phone-hacking, the cost of living and Palestinian statehood on to the political agenda. If he wins on 7 May, he will walk through the door of No 10 with more high-level government experience – as a former cabinet minister and an ex-Treasury adviser – than Tony Blair and David Cameron combined when they entered Downing Street.

Yet it isn’t just his opponents who question whether Miliband will become prime minister. A growing number of his supporters do, too. Such is the right-wing reflex of much of our press that the only critique of the Labour leader which gets a hearing these days comes from either business bosses or Blairite ultras. There are, however, many centre-left MPs, peers and activists who backed Miliband’s insurgent leadership candidacy in the summer of 2010 but who now have their own issues with the Labour leader and his failures. They gather in the pubs and tearooms of Westminster to moan and groan about their man, more in sorrow than in anger.

Consider the following five questions that disillusioned “Ed-ites” often obsess over – and that Miliband has yet to address, in public or in private. First, why has a former television researcher – yes, Miliband worked briefly on Channel 4’s A Week in Politics in the early 1990s – failed to recognise how abjectly awful his performances on TV have been since 2010? Why hasn’t he taken urgent steps to improve them? In 2011 David Cameron hired Craig Oliver, a former editor of the BBC’s News at Ten, to be his director of communications. Miliband preferred to appoint three veteran lobby correspondents with zero experience in television, waiting until as late as September 2014 to recruit Matthew Laza, a former producer for the BBC of The One Show, to serve as his head of broadcasting.

Second, how did this son of Holocaust survivors allow his family’s compelling story to be ignored so easily, despite high-profile attacks from the Daily Mail and the pro-Israeli actress Maureen Lipman (who announced that she would be abandoning Labour until it was “led by mensches” – the Yiddish word for people of integrity)? How many are aware that Miliband publicly challenged a Sudanese diplomat over his “disgusting” comparison of efforts to fight climate change with the Holocaust in 2009? A video of him receiving a standing ovation from UN delegates sits unwatched on an obscure BBC News web page and unused by Labour Party spinners. (Google “‘Don’t wreck conference’ pleas Miliband [sic]” if you have three minutes to spare.)

Third, why is a former climate-change secretary who launched a “clean coal” policy, who debated against the climate sceptic Nigel Lawson and helped – in the words of the science writer Fred Pearce – “save” the Copenhagen summit in 2009 shedding voters to a resurgent Green Party? Forget “Red Ed”; whatever happened to “Green Ed”?

Fourth, why isn’t Miliband – whom the Daily Telegraph described in 2009 as one of the “saints” of the parliamentary expenses scandal – leading the assault on our sclerotic political establishment? Why has he ceded this fertile terrain to a former City trader named Nigel Farage, who once boasted he’d claimed up to £2m in expenses and allowances from the European Parliament?

Fifth, why has one of today’s few front-line Labour politicians who opposed the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq kept so quiet about his anti-war record? Why hasn’t he led the charge against the inexcusable delay in the publication of the Chilcot report? Labour is haemorrhaging voters to a range of anti-Iraq-war parties, from the Greens and the SNP to the Lib Dems. And yet, speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on 21 January, Miliband remarked, almost as an aside, “Frankly, my views on the Iraq war are well known.” Sorry, Ed, they aren’t.

The public doesn’t have a clue that in early 2003 he phoned Gordon Brown – as I revealed on these pages in 2010 – from the US, where he was on a sabbatical at Harvard, to urge the then chancellor to resist Tony Blair’s march to war. (A former Downing Street aide told me how Brown “took Ed’s phone call very seriously but, ultimately, other views prevailed”.)

Yet on Iraq, as on MPs’ expenses, Miliband has taken a vow of silence. Why? To avoid, I’m told, embarrassing or provoking front-bench colleagues who did abuse their expenses and did cheerlead for the war in Iraq – despite Labour’s private polling showing how Miliband’s record on these issues is of huge appeal to floating voters. “The price of unity has been radicalism,” a friend of the Labour leader says. Another one told me that he “has to stop rewarding bad behaviour . . . He accommodates too much to others and isn’t forceful enough.”

Miliband is said privately to declaim that he is “strategically bold but tactically cautious”. The inescapable problem for this wannabe prime minister is that, day after day, caution wins out. The Labour leader cannot afford to be his own worst enemy, as he approaches the closest general election in a generation. Cravenness doesn’t win political battles. Courage does.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the NS and the political director of the Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted

Cathy Newman to take break from Twitter after row over mosque visit

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 11:16

Channel 4 news anchor says she ‘deeply regrets’ phrasing of tweets she sent after she attempted to visit mosque in south London on Visit My Mosque day

The Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman has offered her “sincere apologies” for causing a “great deal of offence” after claiming she was ushered out of a south London mosque, saying she would now be take a break from Twitter.

Newman sparked controversy after she tweeted that she was “ushered out of” the South London Islamic Centre in Streatham after trying to enter it as part of Visit My Mosque day.

Related: Channel 4's Cathy Newman apologises for 'misunderstanding' over mosque

1/4 I have written to South London Islamic Centre and offered my sincere apologies for tweets sent in haste after I visited there in error.

2/4 I accept my tweets were inappropriate and regret the use of the word “ushered”.

3/4 My language was poorly chosen and has caused a great deal of offence. I deeply regret that this happened.

4/4 I shall now be taking a break from Twitter.

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Turkish parents complain of push towards religious schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 February, 2015 - 07:00
Critics say parental choice is being denied after government moves to convert secular institutions into Imam Hatip schools

When Itir Erhart, 39, wanted to enrol her daughter in primary school, she found that it was almost impossible to find somewhere that did not teach Sunni Islamic religion and Sunni religious practices.

“We are a non-religious family,” Erhart said. “I don’t want my child to learn about God in school.”

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The Supplication Series: My Religion, Worldly Life and Hereafter

Muslim Matters - 12 February, 2015 - 05:01


The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had a special gift known as “jawami' al-kalam” which means concise speech. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was able to say something with so much meaning in only a few words. As we continue learning supplications from the Prophetic tradition, we see more and more how the he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) combined so many benefits in one short supplication.

In today's supplication, we will see yet another example of his concise speech. In a narration recorded in Muslim, Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to supplicate:

اللَّهُمَّ أَصْلِحْ لِي دِينِي الَّذِي هُوَ عِصْمَةُ أَمْرِي ، وَأَصْلِحْ لِي دُنْيَايَ الَّتِي فِيهَا مَعَاشِي ، وَأَصْلِحْ لِي آخِرَتِي الَّتِي فِيهَا مَعَادِي

وَاجْعَلِ الْحَيَاةَ زِيَادَةً لِي فِي كُلِّ خَيْرٍ وَاجْعَلِ الْمَوْتَ رَاحَةً لِي مِنْ كُلِّ شَرٍّ

Allahumma aṣliḥ lī dīn al-lathi huwa 'iṣmatu amrī, wa aṣliḥ lī dunya-ya al-lati fīhā ma'āshī, wa aṣlih lī ākhirati al-lati fīhā ma'ādī, wa-ja'al al-ḥayāta ziyādatan lī fī kuli khayr, wa-ja'al al-mawta rāḥatan lī min kuli sharr

O Allah, set right for me my religion which is the safeguard of my affairs. And set right for me the affairs of my world wherein is my living. And set right for me my Hereafter to which is my return. And make the life for me (a source) of abundance for every good and make my death a source of comfort for me protecting me against every evil.


Listen to the duaa:

Download it here.

Selected Word Analysis

aṣliḥ: The root of this word has many meanings but in this duaa it means 'reformation, restoration, mending, improvement and rectification'. This word is the opposite of fasad which means when there is imbalance in things.

'Iṣmah: This word is from the root which means to protect, safeguard and defend. 'Ismah means something that is a preservation, safeguard and a protection. In this supplication, it means that our religion is the most important matter to us.

Ma'āsh: This word is from the root which means to be alive. Ma'ash means livelihood.

Ma'ād: From the root which means to return and go back, Ma'ad is the place of return or home.

Ziyādah: From the root which means to increase, enlarge and make abundant.

Rāḥah: This word means rest, comfort and to do something with ease.

Points of Benefit

“Set right for me my religion which is the safeguard of my affairs”

  • The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told Mu'adh (radi Allahu anhu), , “Shall I not inform you of the head of the matter, its pillar and its peak?” I said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The head of the matter is Islam.” [at-Tirmidhi]
  • Islam is the most important aspect of our life. Islam is everyday. It is our lifestyle. Allah (azza wa jal) addresses the believers by saying, “Believers! Enter completely into Islam.” (2:208)

Set right for me the affairs of my world wherein is my living.”

  • The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) recognized the importance of the worldly life. As Muslims, we do not remove ourselves completely from this world, rather we take our sustenance from the dunya but at the same time, our focus and goal is working for the hereafter.

“Set right for me my Hereafter to which is my return.”

  • Paradise is our home. When the believers enter Paradise and the Angels greet them, they will say, “Excellent indeed is the final home!” (13:24) On the other hand, Allah (azza wa jal) says about the inhabitants of the Fire, “for them is the unhappy (evil) home.” (13:25)

“Make the life for me (a source) of abundance for every good.”

  • As long as the righteous believer lives on this earth, his good deeds increase. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The best of people is the one who lives a long life and whose actions are good.”[at-Tirmidhi] Shaykh ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahullah) says about this hadith, “When someone lives a long life in obedience to Allah, their rank in the hereafter is augmented because every good deed they do brings them closer to Allah. Only Allah is in control of how long we live, but there are certain deeds that lengthen one's life such as joining ties of the womb. For some people, a longer life is not good for them because it only increases them in sin. This is why we never ask Allah for a longer life only, rather we say, “O Allah grant us a long life in your obedience and worship.” [Sharh Riyad as-Saliheen, 11/104]

“Make my death a source of comfort for me protecting me against every evil.”

  • Death is a relief (rāḥah) for the believer. A funeral procession passed by Allah's Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who said, “relieved (mustarīḥ) or relieving (mustarāḥ)?” The people asked, “O Allah's Apostle! What is relieved and relieving?” He said, “A believer is relieved (by death) from the troubles and hardships of the world and leaves for the Mercy of Allah, while (the death of) a wicked person relieves the people, the land, the trees, (and) the animals from him.” [Bukhari]
  • How can death be a relief when we all fear it? A'ishah asked a similar question to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and he said, “when the time of the death of a believer approaches, he receives the good news of Allah's pleasure with him and His blessings upon him, and so at that time nothing is dearer to him than what is in front of him. He therefore loves the meeting with Allah, and Allah  loves the meeting with him. But when the time of the death of a disbeliever approaches, he receives the evil news of Allah's torment and His Requital, whereupon nothing is more hateful to him than what is before him. Therefore, he hates the meeting with Allah, and Allah too, hates the meeting with him.” [Bukhari]
  • The Angels comfort the believer at the time of their death. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, Verily, those who say: “Our Lord is Allah (Alone),” and then they stand firm, on them the angels will descend (at the time of their death) (saying): “Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised!” (41:30)


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#ChapelHillShooting: Father Says This Was A Hate Crime

Loon Watch - 11 February, 2015 - 22:09

Deah Barakat, left, Yusor Mohammad, center, and Razan Mohammad Abu

Deah Barakat, left, Yusor Mohammad, center, and Razan Abu Salha

It seems remarkable that a parking dispute would lead to the apparent premeditated murder of three members of the same family! Usually parking disputes that to lead to violence occur spontaneously and in the heat of the moment.

Reports indicate that Hicks was an avowed anti-theist/atheist. How much of that ideology factored into what to me seems like an evident hate crime? The father of the murdered has stated that the three victims had run-ins with the terrorist neighbor and he had expressed hateful anti-Islam/Muslim views.

RIP to: Deah Barakat, Yosra Mohammad and Razan Abu-Salha.

via. HuffingtonPost

Three members of a Muslim family shot to death Tuesday in their home near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus may have been killed over a parking dispute.

The suspect, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, surrendered and was arrested on charges of first-degree murder. He is accused of killing Deah Barakat, 23, Barakat’s wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.

Police responded to reports of gunshots at about 5:15 p.m., Tuesday, when they found the victims’ bodies. The shooting happened in a neighborhood that is mostly rental apartments where students live, and crime there is low, according to the News and Observer.

That night, frantic parents waited outside Finley Forest Condominiums, where police were investigating the triple homicide, the Daily Tarheel reports. One mother broke down in tears after she inquired about her daughter and son-in-law, while a father screamed, “It’s been hours! Just tell me if he’s alive!”

“Why do I cry?” Farris Barakat, Deah’s brother, wrote on Facebook. “So many times I’ve grabbed my phone to text my brother, Yusor, and Razan. Except seconds later I realize that I’ve taken them for granted and imagine their phone laying by their bodies. That’s not okay guys.”

On Wednesday, police said the motive behind the shooting may have been an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking, rather than a hate crime.

“We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly,” Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department said at a press conference.

UPDATE 3:15 P.M.: In a press conference, Hicks’ wife of seven years, Karen, said she “never would have expected this.” She said that the shooting had nothing to do with race or religion, and everything to do with parking problems.

She said she didn’t know what drove Hicks to allegedly shoot three people, but her lawyers said that the suspect didn’t single out the victims and had problems with other neighbors in the past. Hicks’ ex-wife, Kristen, told The Huffington Post that she hadn’t “heard from or seen him in 10 years,” and had no further comment.


Still, the father of two victims, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, believes hate led to the killings.

“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” he told the News Observer. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

In a press conference Wednesday, Deah’s eldest sister Suzanne echoed Abu-Salha’s sentiments.

“We’re still in a state of shock and will never be able to make sense of this horrendous tragedy,” she said. “We ask that the authorities investigate these senseless and heinous murders as a hate crime … We ask that you celebrate the memories of our family members.”


The gruesome scene has sparked an outcry on Facebook and Twitter, as word circulated that Hicks described himself as an “anti-theist” and criticized religions online, according to The Independent. That revelation, as well as a lack of media attention to the shooting Tuesday night, reportedly led to a “#MuslimLivesMatter” hashtag.

Read the entire article…

Muslim population in England and Wales nearly doubles in 10 years

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 February, 2015 - 18:01

More children and fewer elderly people help Muslim population grow faster than population overall, analysis of latest census data shows

The Muslim population of England and Wales is growing faster than the overall population, with a higher proportion of children and a lower ratio of elderly people, according to an analysis of official data.

One in three Muslims is under 15, compared with fewer than one in five overall. There are also fewer elderly Muslims, with 4% aged over 65, compared with 16% of the overall population.

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It was never the police’s intention to monitor sales of Charlie Hebdo | Letters: Chief Constable Peter Fahy and Ruth Brown

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 February, 2015 - 17:14

As national policing lead for preventing extremism, I read with concern your article (More police forces ask who bought Charlie Hebdo, 11 February) suggesting that police had tried to monitor sales of the magazine. This was never our intention.

Following the attacks in Paris, there has been an increase in incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Officers have been actively monitoring possible sources of tension and investigating reports of hate crimes.

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Arab nations united in fury against Isis but divided on strategy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 February, 2015 - 08:00

Jordan seeks revenge for pilot’s horrific death, with UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in agreement – but only a ground offensive can destroy Islamic State

Islamic State (Isis) intended to terrorise its enemies when it filmed a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage and it clearly hoped to weaken the resolve of the Arab states that have joined the US-led global coalition fighting the jihadi group. But the sheer brutality of the execution, beamed round the world last week, seems instead to have galvanised Arab governments and Muslim religious authorities into more strident opposition to Isis – expressed in furious condemnation and high-profile but limited military moves.

Jordan, enraged by the immolation of Lieut Muadh al-Kasasbeh – and the threat that other pilots will meet the same grisly fate – has sent 20 fighter jets to bomb eastern Syria since last Thursday, its biggest air operation since the 1967 six-day war.

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Jews and Muslims: Its Complicated (II)

Loon Watch - 11 February, 2015 - 01:15


Original Guest Post by Mehdi

See part I in this series: Jews and Muslims: Its Complicated

The history of the relationship between Islam and Judaism cannot be done justice in this short series, not least because the topic is massive and has also been subjected to falsifications and manipulations by agenda driven commenters.

In my research on the topic I have come across a few interesting contributions of collective work that I highly recommend, such as the recent work led by respected historian Benjamin Stora and the late Abdelwahhab Meddeb.

That being said, the following points are clearly established:

  • Judaism’s presence in the Arabian peninsula before the birth of Islam was strongly established. Many tribes/clans were Jewish, established in locations such as Yathrib (the future Medina) or Khaybar, and had strong socio-political and commercial relations with other tribes.
  • Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was strongly influenced by his encounters with Jews and Christians before and after the beginning of his prophecy. As the Islamic doctrine was gradually established, not only did he insist on the direct continuity of his message from Judaism and Christianity, there were also many gestures towards Judaism not only in spiritual terms but also through rites like: fasting (especially before Ramadan was established), prayers (towards Jerusalem in the beginning), dietary rules about pork meat, etc.
  • The relationship between Jewish tribes (there wasn’t a single Jewish community) and the early Muslim community was driven by a complex mix of: theological proximity (as they had common practices, prayed to the same God, referred to the same Prophets), rivalry (theological differences, the fact that prophet Muhammad pbuh was not seen as a prophet by most Jews, and his growing successes made him and his emerging Ummah grow more confident and autonomous), as well as political alliances and political conflicts that resulted in moments of cooperation but also conflicts such as the fate of the Banu Qurayza or the battle of Khaybar.

When reading the Quran, hadith, and any historical document that sheds light on such events, it is important to have these aforementioned elements in mind. Many commentators tend to generalize about Muslim-Jewish relationships and completely toss aside the context behind events. Context was and has always been key when understanding the conditions that lead to proximity or conflict.

After the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the first Muslim conquests and expansion, a set of rules were codified and documented to establish the status of Christians and Jews living under Islamic law (herein enters the debate over the pact of Umar and whether it was a historical forgery).

These rules, which were not canonical from an Islamic perspective, impacted several aspects of Christians and Jews’ collective rights which were protected in exchange for allegiance, payment of Jizya tax, and acceptance of a ban on carrying weapons (except when recruited for military service, which would exempt them from the Jizya tax).

Rebellions or attempts to resist the conquest were repressed (as for al Kahina, whose fate is not clear, she is assumed to have died either fighting the Arab conquerors or by committing suicide, her children would later cooperate with them), which was consistent with war doctrines at the time.

Though the Dhimma status prohibited them from carrying weapons, many historical accounts show that Jews participated in military conquests. Jewish Berbers were directly involved in the conquest of Andalusia or during battles such as in Poitiers which shows that the concept of “Muslim conquests” is slightly simplistic. Besides, many stipulations of the Dhimma laws were not always executed or monitored completely, there were pragmatic usages depending on the time, place and general circumstance.

The Dhimma status, now subject to a lot of vilification by Islamophobes, while not ideal was advanced during its time (for instance compared to the Christian perpetual servitude). It represented a drastic improvement for Jews living in Wisigoth Spain. Dhimma status guaranteed protection and collective rights to communities though it was often subject to the goodwill of local rulers.


Ibn Nagrela

When times were good it opened the door to many prominent Jews to hold important positions, such as Hasdai Ibn Shaprut or Samuel Ibn Naghrela. Not only did Ibn Naghrela contribute to the revival of Hebrew poetry, he was also a respected military commander who liked to call himself “The David of my times” while leading a Muslim army for the Taifa kingdom of Granada. His son Joseph Ibn Naghrela would succeed to his father’s position as Vizier of Granada before being murdered during the Granada massacre. At times, the status of dhimma also meant that prominent intellectuals such as Moses Maimonides expressed public views and stirred controversies.

Nevertheless, that coexistence also had its low periods, such as the Granada massacre that happened after the Almoravids arrived in Andalusia, or the persecution of Maimonides himself by the Almohads, which pushed him to exile (first to Morocco and then to Egypt).

These episodes should be researched and analyzed, they underline that relations between Jews and Muslims were not some mythological utopia. Jews lived as second class citizens and suffered massacres during unstable times (in Granada as mentioned or Fez in 1033). Such instances were however less violent than the sectarian conflicts that were setting Europe ablaze during the Middle Ages: massacres committed by crusaders after the siege of Maa’rra (with instances of cannibalism) or the pillaging of Jerusalem.

Violent episodes such as those mentioned remain exceptions and not the general rule. Recent polemics and historical studies on these topics (such as Bernard Lewis’) are more often dictated by contemporary agendas than by historical research. This is a recurring problem, as historical events are hijacked by Islamophobes on the one hand and apologists on the other, then manipulated for contemporary political purposes.

I borrow this quote from the comprehensive article written by Danios on the topic. Israeli historian Nissim Rejwan addresses the situation under Ottoman rule, and sums matters well in his book “Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective”:

Under Ottoman Islam, which by the beginning of the sixteenth century dominated Syria [including Palestine] and Eygpt, the conditions under which the Jews were permitted to live contrasted so strikingly with those imposed on their coreligionists in various parts of Christendom that the fifteenth century witnessed a large influx of European Jews into the [Ottoman] Sultan’s dominions. During the first half of that century, persecutions had occurred in Bohemia, Austria, and Poland, and, at about this time, two German rabbis who sought and secured refuge in the Ottoman Empire wrote a letter to their community extolling the beauties and advantages of their new home.

But it was the measures taken against the Jews in Spain, culminating in their expulsion in 1492, that gave the greatest momentum to this migration. The Jews who chose to settle in various parts of the [Ottoman] empire found their surroundings rather congenial, and they, in turn contributed greatly to the flowering of Ottoman civilization…Marranos, who in Christian Spain had embraced Christianity to escape persecution and death, abandoned their disguise and returned to Judaism. Istanbul soon came to harbor the largest Jewish community in the whole of Europe, while Salonika became a predominantly Jewish city. The degree of the Jews’ integration into the life of Ottoman Islam was such, indeed, that two notable non-Jewish students of modern Islam found that there has been, in their words, “something sympathetic to the Jewish nature in the culture of Islam,” since “from the rise of the Caliphate till the abolition of the ghettos in Europe the most flourishing centers of Jewish life were to be found in Muslim countries: in Iraq during the Abbassid period, in Spain throughout the period of Moorish domination, and thereafter in the Ottoman Empire.”

…At the turn of the eighteenth century, the Jewish community in Jerusalem experienced a growth in numbers at an inordinate rate…According to a recent study by Tudor Parfitt, however, the startling increase in Jewish immigration to Jerusalem in the nineteenth century took place “not because the attraction of Jerusalem as the holy city grew, but because political and other factors made such immigration increasingly possible.”

…In nineteenth-century Palestine, he adds, such tolerance was “a consistent part of the relationship between the Ottoman authorities and the Jews.” He quotes European travelers as remarking on “the perfect religious freedom” that prevailed…One of these travelers, J. Wilson, is quoted as saying that “entire freedom of worship…is now accorded to [the Jews] and they are left to manage their own internal affairs without interference from any other quarter.” …

By way of conclusion, a word of caution is in order…It must be pointed out that the picture has not been uniformly so rosy and that instances of religious intolerance toward and discriminatory treatment of Jews under Islam are by no means difficult to find. This point is of special relevance at a time in which, following a reawakening of interest in the history of Arab-Jewish relations among Jewish writers and intellectuals, certain interested circles have been trying to…[question the] Judeo-Arabic tradition or symbiosis by digging up scattered pieces of evidence to show that Islam is essentially intolerant…and that Muslims’ contempt for Jews was even greater and more deep-seated than that manifested by Christians…

Such caricatures of the history of Jews under Islam continue to be disseminated by scholars as well as by interested publicists and ideologues. Indeed, all discussion of relations between Jews and Muslims…is beset by the most burning emotions and by highly charged sensitivities. In their eagerness to repudiate the generally accepted version of these relations (a version which, it is worthwhile pointing out, originates not in Muslim books of history but with Jewish historians and Orientalists in nineteenth-century Europe), certain partisan students of the Middle East conflict today seem to go out of their way to show that, far from being the record of harmonious coexistence it is often claimed to be, the story of Jewish-Muslim relations since the time of Muhammad was “a sorry array of conquest, massacre, subjection, spoilation in goods and women and children, contempt, expulsion–[and] even the yellow badge…”

…[But] by the standards then prevailing–and they are plainly the only ones by which a historian is entitled to pass judgment–Spanish Islamic tolerance was no myth but a reality of which present-day Muslim Arabs are fully justified in reminding their contemporaries…Tolerance, then, is a highly relative concept, and the only sensible way of gauging the extent of tolerance in a given society or culture in a given age is to compare it with that prevailing in other societies and cultures in the same period…

The only plausible conclusion one could draw from the whole debate is that, while Jewish life in Muslim Spain–and under Islam generally–was not exactly the idyllic paradise some would want us to believe, it was far from the veritable hell that was the Jews’ consistent lot under Christendom.

In general, Jews and Muslims shared a similar fate, together they were the target of horrible massacres during the crusades, and were both victims of the Spanish Reconquista. As a result of the massacres and expulsions (which today would be described as genocide/ethnic cleansing), most Spanish Jews chose to seek protection and flee to North Africa or lands under the rule of the Ottoman empire.

The cooperation between both Jews and Muslims in North Africa, Andalusia, the Middle East and Balkans has created a civilizational legacy that still lives on today in fields such as science, philosophy literature, music, etc. It contributed to the effervescence of ideas that provided a framework for the European renaissance.


Sabbatai Zevi

To be clear, Jews lived under the rule of Muslim empires and monarchies, which were subject to the appreciation of local rules, and had to respect those laws. The fate of messianic figures such as Sabbathai Zevi and his millenarian movement in 1666 (proclaiming himself as a messiah, expanding his movement before publicly ending it and undergoing a forced conversion to Islam) shows that there was a lot of room for expression but that there were red lines.

Religious freedom was prevalent but involved restrictions (such as non-Muslims being prevented from entering the Cave of the Patriarchs). That was a time where there was no sense of secularism, and little consideration for democracy or individual human rights. It was a time when rights were addressed for communities and less so for individuals. This is what makes any comparison with today’s political systems and world order problematic. On the other hand comparisons with political systems that existed at the same time show that the condition of Jews in the “Muslim world” was still far better than in many European lands.

Things started to change as the era of revolutions and imperialism gradually brought Muslim majority lands under the sphere of European domination. At the same time competing modernities brought new challenges and changed the rules of the game for minorities in these lands. In the next installment in the series I will discuss the great shifts caused by foreign interference, the many responses and interactions with various modes of modernity and the affect this had on Jewish-Muslim relations.

Muslims Infiltrate the White House! Me Included!

Loon Watch - 10 February, 2015 - 23:49


So the #MuslimMeeting has neo-cons and other assorted Islamophobes going haywire. Although it would be an understatement to say the Obama administration has a complicated relationship with the American Muslim community especially on civil liberties and foreign policy. Nonetheless this is a good effort to reach out to a diverse array of individuals from the American Muslim community.

Muslims Infiltrate the White House! Me Included!

I was one of the 14 ‘Muslim-American leaders’ invited to meet with President Obama on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what it was like.

By: Dean Obeidallah

I can’t believe it but Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann were right after all. Muslims have infiltrated the White House—and at the highest levels. Sharia law can’t be far behind, so I hope you like turkey bacon and non-alcoholic beer because that’s all you will be getting once these Muslims have their say.

What am I talking about? Well, on Wednesday, I was one of 14 Muslim-American leaders to attend a one-hour meeting with President Obama at the White House. I must admit I was thrilled at the prospect of actually having a conversation with the president about issues of concern to our community.

Once I was in The White House, two main thoughts came to mind. First, it looks just like House of Cards. I kept waiting for Frank Underwood to walk out and share his plans for world domination.

And secondly, after I sat down in the Roosevelt Room and observed the glasses and plates that bore the White House insignia, I immediately began plotting how to sneak one out with me. Seriously, you would’ve had the same thoughts if you saw it. They are really impressive/cool. (No plates or cups were ultimately stolen.)

In any event, why was this meeting happening? Farhana Khera, a lawyer and executive director of Muslim Advocates, who spearheaded the effort, explained, “We’ve been asking for a meeting with the president since he came to office.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Muslim-American leaders who have an ongoing working relationship with the administration. But there has never been a meeting with leaders from around the country with Obama before this. (And just so it’s clear, there are many other great Muslim-American leaders other than just the 14 at this meeting, but the White House wanted to keep this event small to encourage a discussion.)

So what happened at this meeting? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’m now the new ambassador to the United Kingdom. OK, not exactly. In fact, there are certain ground rules to these meetings, so I can’t disclose everything.

Continue reading …

List of those who attended:

Diego Arancibia, board member and associate director of the Ta’leef Collective; Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute; Hoda Elshishtawy, Muslim Public Affairs Council; Rahat Husain, Universal Muslim Association of America; Farhana Khera, president of Muslim Advocates; Dr. Sherman Jackson, professor of religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California; Farhan Latif, chief operating officer, Institute of Policy and Understanding; Imam Mohamed Magid, representative of the Adams Center; Haroon Mokhtarzada, CEO of Webs; Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania; Dean Obeidallah, comedian; Bilqis “Qisi” Abdul-Qaadir, director of women’s basketball operations at Indiana State University; Arshia Wajid, founder of American Muslim Health Professionals.

Anti-halal campaigner sued over claims Islamic certification supports terrorism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 February, 2015 - 23:19

New South Wales supreme court to hear case brought by head of Halal Certification Authority against Q Society and activist Kirralie Smith

A prominent anti-halal campaigner and the “Islam-critical” Q Society are being sued for defamation over their claims the Islamic certification industry is corrupt and funds “the push for sharia law in Australia”.

Mohammed El-Mouelhy, the head of one of Australia’s largest certifiers, Halal Certification Authority, began proceedings in the New South Wales supreme court last month against senior members of the Melbourne-based Q Society and Kirralie Smith, who runs the website HalalChoices.

Continue reading...

France: Islamic Declaration of Faith Lands a Moroccan in Prison

Loon Watch - 10 February, 2015 - 21:18


An appeal hearing is set to begin Monday to review the case of a Moroccan librarian who was arrested in the French city of Lille last month for publicly condoning an act of terrorism.

French Free Speech.

via. Morocco World News

The French-Moroccan man, 59,  was sentenced to one year in prison after the police allegedly found a small flag in his bookshop bearing the Islamic declaration of faith, or Shahada: There is no god but God, and Mohammed is the mssenger of God.

For non-Mulslims, the flag might bring to mind pictures of terrorist organization the Islamic State or other extremist groups, but the Shahada is a common affirmation of faith among Muslims.

For this `act of terrorism´, the bookshop owner has been under arrest for nearly a month now and his shop remains closed until further notice.

When asked by the judge if the flag found in the entrance of his bookshop was that of Daesh,the Arabic acronym of so-called Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, or Al Qaeda, the man replied that the flag does not belong to neither one or the other. He said that they are the flags of all Muslims.

´These people have taken them saying it’s ours,´ he said. It’s not theirs. They belong to one billion Muslims. Unfortunately, we cannot do anything against them. Suicide attacks are not allowed in Islam. It is forbidden to kill innocent Muslims.´

The Moroccan librarian was arrested on January 15th in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the Paris offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that claimed the lives of many cartoonists and police officers.

Collective hysteria has apparently engulfed France since the terrorist attacks.

Read the entire article…

Muslim rule and compass: the magic of Islamic geometric design

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 February, 2015 - 06:50

Islamic craftsmen turned geometry into an art form because pictures of people were not allowed in holy places. Dutchman Eric Broug - who lives in the north of England - has become a global ambassador for this design style. Here he explains why it fascinates him, and gives a step-by-step guide for a tiling of stars

To paraphrase Monty Python, what has Islam ever done for us? You know, apart from the algebra, the trigonometry, the optics, the astronomy and the many other scientific advances and inventions of the Islamic Golden Age.

Well, if you like art and interiors, there’s always the stunning patterns that grace mosques, madrasas and palaces around the world.

Continue reading...

Yogi Adityanath: Idols In Every Mosque If Given the Chance

Loon Watch - 9 February, 2015 - 20:55


A BJP member of parliament (the party that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to), Yogi Adityanath dreams of idols in mosques.

The Asian Age

In yet another statement that could raise hackles, BJP MP Mahant Yogi Adityanath has announced that he will install idols of Gauri-Ganesh in every mosque, if given a chance.

Mr Adityanath was speaking at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Virat Hindu Sammelan organised as part of its golden jubilee year celebrations in Varanasi.

The BJP MP, while referring to the Gyanvapi mosque which was built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after he demolished the original Kashi Vishwanath temple, said, “Has it happened anywhere in the world that Gauri and Ganesh are placed inside a mosque? Every time a Hindu visits the Vishwanath temple, the Gyanvapi mosque taunts us. If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque.”

He further said, “Everyone, irrespective of religion, can come to Kashi but only Muslims are allowed in Mecca and Medina. This is the century of Hindutva, not just in India but in the entire world.”

The firebrand MP also justified the ghar wapsi programme and asked, “When Christian missionaries carry out conversions by alluring innocent tribal people and dalits in the name of service to humanity, why do these secular forces keep quiet?”

Britain: Norwich Mosque Attacked

Loon Watch - 9 February, 2015 - 20:42


via. OnIslam

NORWICH – A mosque in Norwich city in the British central county of Norfolk was vandalized on Saturday, February 7, sending a shock wave among the Muslim community who vehemently condemned the Islamophobic attack.

“When I heard the glass being smashed I thought we were under attack,” Rashid, who was at the mosque during the attack, told EDP 24.

“It is not nice to feel scared in a place of peace.”

Norwich Ihsan mosque, in Chapelfield East, came under attack on Saturday at about 6:30am.

With 11 panes of mosque glass damaged, hundreds of dollars are needed to replace to glass and leading, according to the mosque board.

The attack, that comes almost a month after Paris attacks, has alarmed Norwich Muslim community who has been living in peace for decades.

According to Rashid, Saturdays’ attack was the first of its kind against Ihsan mosque.

“With what has been going on in the world lately I would not be surprised if it was a deliberate attack against us,” Rashid said.

Muslims in Europe have been facing an increasing resentment after Paris attacks that left 17 killed, including two Muslims.

The National Observatory Against Islamophobia said over one hundred incidents have been reported to the police since Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 7-9.

The rise in attacks over the last two weeks represents an increase of 110 percent over the whole of January 2014, the organization said.

Moreover, a Muslim father was stabbed to death in his own home in southern France this week by a neighbor who claimed to be avenging Charlie Hebdo.

Another Eritrean immigrant has been murdered in Germany’s Dresden.

Mosques in Sweden and Germany were also attacked following the attacks.

Mixed Reactions

Saturday’s Islamopobic attack against Norwich mosque has sparked mixed reactions from residents.

Many have condemned the attack, considering it “terrible”.

“Terrible news terrible,” one Facebook user said.

Another one wrote: “Mindless vandalism by louts, people need to realize and drop the hate you cannot blame a whole community for the actions of few.

“I have many friends at the Isher Mosque and have been there many times they are a peaceful community.”

On the other hand, that attack has fanned hate comments.

“Muslims behead, we smash windows!!! Sounds about right,” a Facebook user posted.

Other comments were more neutral. “When will people realize it’s not the Muslims that are the problem but the 0.1% of them that are extremists,” one wrote on Facebook.

Appealing for witnesses, Norwich police urged anybody with information to contact Sgt Dan Cocks at Bethel Street Police Station.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.

A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.


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