Neither oppressed nor trailblazing, Muslim women need to be heard | Raifa Rafiq

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 March, 2019 - 16:40
The representation of us in media and politics is too often decided by others – but we can speak for ourselves

The politics of the Muslim woman remains wrapped up in “debate”. The oppressed-terrorist-bride complex is rampant within our societal infrastructures – and it’s still deeply ingrained in the consciousness of the supposedly reasonable “man on the Clapham omnibus”. Are we now, though, seeing any visible difference in the representation of Muslim women within mainstream media and politics? I’m inclined to think not.

Her identity is still up for discussion by others: if she is perceived to be oppressed, then the secular, white British media must highlight the oppressive nature of her religion and save her from it; if she is on the terrorist-bride-Shamima-Begum side of the scale, she must be reminded that she is not an actual citizen of this country and resides here at the mercy of public and political opinion.

Any visual indicator of ‘Muslimness’ is now argued to have no place in contemporary society

Related: Long before Shamima Begum, Muslim women were already targets | Shelina Janmohamed

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The Tories’ Islamophobia will not be stopped from within | Fiyaz Mughal

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 March, 2019 - 14:29
Anti-Muslim hate has flourished in sections of the party. Help from outside is the only way to root it out

The news that 14 Conservative members were suspended this week, alongside the reinstatement of Peter Lamb, a Conservative council candidate in Harlow (who then resigned on Tuesday), demonstrates that the party has a significant amount of work to do to counter anti-Muslim hate. Lamb had previously tweeted: “Islam [is] like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem.” Yet he was reintroduced into the party to be a council candidate.

Sadly, as the founder and former director of the hate-crime reporting project Tell Mama, I know that views such as these have been picked up and circulated among groups that vehemently dislike Muslims. There has been a steady drip of cases of anti-Muslim bigotry in statements made by party members and councillors. Serving Conservative councillors such as Hashim Bhatti have talked about a deeper problem within the party, and the chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin, said that the party has failed to take action against anti-Muslim bigotry.

Related: The Tories’ response to raging Islamophobia? Turn a blind eye | Miqdaad Versi

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Tory chairman accused of repeatedly ignoring racism complaints

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 March, 2019 - 14:03

Brandon Lewis failed to investigate claim councillor was called an orangutan, party members say

The Conservative party chairman, Brandon Lewis, has been accused of ignoring repeated pleas by Tory members to investigate alleged racist and Islamophobic incidents, including a claim that a white senior party official referred to an Asian councillor as an orangutan.

Lewis, a key ally of Theresa May, wrote to party officers earlier this month to reassure them that he would “continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to any form of discrimination, intimidating behaviour or abuse”.

Related: Crisis? What crisis? Senior Tories shrug off Islamophobia warning

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Rushdie urged to withdraw Satanic Verses and 'end suffering' - archive, 7 March 1989

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 March, 2019 - 05:30

7 March 1989 Chairman of the Islamic Society for Religious tolerance in the UK asks Salman Rushdie to withdraw his book

Dismissing ‘fellow-writers, who are supporting you to the last drop of their ink,’ one of the earliest Muslim campaigners against The Satanic Verses asked Mr Salman Rushdie last night to ‘end the suffering’ and withdraw the book.

Related: 1989: The Satanic Verses

Related: Looking back at Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses

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Tories are prejudiced against Islam, says council candidate

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 March, 2019 - 21:30

Amir Sadjady told to ‘suck it up’ and stop complaining after alleging discrimination

A Muslim Conservative who was told to stop complaining that he had been discriminated against after he failed to become a councillor says his experiences led him to conclude the party was “prejudiced against Islam”.

Amir Sadjady, a small business owner, said he was the victim of “passive aggressive discrimination” when he was not selected last year for a winnable seat in two west London boroughs, and wanted to speak out in the hope the party would reform.

Related: Crisis? What crisis? Senior Tories shrug off Islamophobia warning

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Crisis? What crisis? Senior Tories shrug off Islamophobia warning

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 March, 2019 - 19:25

Conservatives largely silent as Lady Warsi says party is institutionally anti-Muslim

Conservative MPs did not seem too concerned as Lady Warsi sounded the alarm that their party was institutionally riven with Islamophobia.

“I don’t really believe we have that big a problem,” said one former minister, who seemed surprised to be asked about the issue.

Related: Forgive and forget Zac Goldsmith’s racist campaign? No chance | Owen Jones

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Steps the Labour party must now take in antisemitism row | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 March, 2019 - 17:43
Readers respond to the ongoing controversy about alleged antisemitism within the Labour party

When my father, the son of a rabbi, went in the 1930s to Oxford University from Edinburgh, he encountered antisemitism for the first time. It was sometimes overt; more often implicit (The unanswered question: why do antisemites think Labour is the party for them?, 4 March). From the time he arrived in Scotland a century ago, my grandfather worked hard and successfully to break down barriers and establish a role in the wider Scottish community. He believed – as did my father and as do I – that a dual identity as Scot and Jew was not only possible but beneficial, for individuals and for society generally.

It is heartbreaking to see the re-emergence of hostility to Jewish identity. It has no doubt been latent for decades, but that leading public figures, through silence and ineptitude if not active encouragement, should now be endorsing the vilification of Jewish life and individuals is appalling. That this endorsement is emanating from a political party that my parents, I and my children have supported all our lives is distressing beyond measure. That it is clearly linked to wider hostility to all forms of difference makes it all the more disturbing and dangerous.

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The Tories are tough on Islamophobia? What a joke | Jonathan Freedland

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 March, 2019 - 12:16
They talk about decisive action, but anti-Muslim prejudice in the Conservative party goes right to the top

Conservatives are doubtless congratulating themselves for acting swiftly and decisively, following the suspension of 14 party members for allegedly making Islamophobic comments online – including calls to “get rid of all mosques” and to “turf all Muslims out of public office”. Tories will similarly point to yesterday’s resignation from the party of a local council candidate in Harlow as evidence that they are getting a grip. Peter Lamb – who in 2015 tweeted: “Islam [is] like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem” – was suspended over that, and yet as picked once again to contest the local elections in May. Now he is gone.

The Conservative top brass will hope that voters will see these moves as proof that the Tories have zero tolerance for racism in their ranks, drawing an implied contrast with Labour and its ongoing travails over antisemitism. And yet, the departure of these low-level activists serves only to draw attention to the Islamophobia exhibited by much more senior Tory figures, anti-Muslim prejudice that has gone entirely unpunished.

Related: Tories suspend 14 members over alleged Islamophobia

Related: Sayeeda Warsi calls for inquiry into Islamophobia within Tory party

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Tories suspend 14 members over alleged Islamophobia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 17:01

Conservative party responds to collection of abusive remarks found on social media

The Conservative party has suspended 14 members for allegedly making Islamophobic comments after a string of abusive posts were uncovered on social media.

The party was responding to racist and abusive remarks that were discovered and collected online by the @matesjacob Twitter account, and made by people who had said or indicated they were members of the party.

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If we reject gender discrimination in every other arena, why do we accept it in religion? | Beatrice Alba

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 17:01

Young women and girls deserve better than what mainstream religion offers them

Cardinal Pell’s recent child sexual abuse conviction has been the catalyst for criticisms of women’s lack of authority in the Catholic church. But why has it taken a crime of this magnitude for criticism of the church patriarchy to gain traction?

Perhaps it’s partly timing – with the rise of online activism and in the wake of the #metoo movement, many feminist causes are gaining mainstream support.

Related: Lucía, 11, was raped. Then Argentina’s church conspired to deny her an abortion | Claudia Piñeiro

Teaching girls that they are equal and deserve full participation in public life is inherently at odds with many religions

Related: God is a Woman: Ariana Grande taps into a long herstory of a female lord

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Pupils shouldn’t be denied LGBT lessons – whatever their parents say | Benali Hamdache

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 16:18
Growing up gay and Muslim, I know I would have benefited. Parkfield school should continue its ‘No Outsiders’ programme

Parkfield community school in Birmingham has found itself in the headlines once again after protests against its No Outsiders lessons. The protests by the school’s largely Muslim parent body garnered a lot of coverage and raised a fundamental question: how can inclusive education reach every child when many households of faith remain deeply opposed?

No Outsiders is a teaching package designed for primary school children. The lessons cover gender, sexual orientation and the idea that discrimination is wrong. Andrew Moffat, the author of the package and assistant headteacher of Parkfield, had been trialling the resource at the school when the controversy erupted.

Related: Birmingham school stops LGBT lessons after parents protest

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Far right ‘infiltrating children’s charities with anti-Islam agenda’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 06:00

Anti-extremism officials say Ukip is among groups seeking to fuel tension over child abuse

Rightwing groups including Ukip are attempting to “infiltrate” child protection charities to further an anti-Islam agenda, officials from the government’s counter-extremism programme believe.

Officers from Prevent said far-right figures were using voluntary groups to stir up tension in towns with historical problems of child sexual exploitation.

Related: We’re told 84% of grooming gangs are Asian. But where’s the evidence? | Kenan Malik

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Autism, driving, and changes to British notification rules

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 March, 2019 - 18:28

Last weekend, by chance, some of us found out that people with autism spectrum disorders (principally Asperger’s syndrome) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) were required to notify the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) of their condition, something they had not been previously required to do unless it affected their driving. This guidance appeared to have been issued recently without any consultation or indeed any notification, leaving many of us worried that we would have to choose between risking incurring large fines by not notifying or insurance refusals or dealing with both bureaucrats and medical professionals who are either ignorant of our condition or influenced by prejudice. People I follow online who know about autism are horrified and regarded this as both discriminatory and based on ignorance. There seemed to be evidence that the DVLA did not know what they are doing, and different people who have approached the DVLA had different responses. (The guidance was reverted while I was writing this article, but the matter is likely to still be under consideration.)

A boarded-up, two-storey, red-brick building with concrete blocks and metal fencing in front of it. In the foreground is a blue sign that says "Welcome to Roselands Clinic", and above it, on a white background, the logos "Your Healthcare, providing services for the NHS" and "Kingston NHS Primary Care Trust".Roselands Clinic, New Malden, where my diagnosis took place.

For one thing, the form people are expected to use to notify the DVLA (the M1 form, available in PDF form here) is outdated and geared towards conditions which dictate regular medical attention, which this does not. It asks you to state your GP’s name and address, and your consultant’s name and address and the last time you saw them for this condition. The problem is that not everyone has seen the consultant who diagnosed them since the day of diagnosis; after this is done, people are usually referred to services such as those which help with finding employment and securing benefits, if they are available, which is the reason many of us sought a diagnosis (or why our relatives encouraged us to do so). Does a consultant mean only a medical consultant, or will a consultant psychologist (such as the one who diagnosed me) do? The consultant may have moved on, as mine did in 2017, and the clinic in question closed, as mine (pictured) has been. The form assumes we have a single GP; this has not been the case for many of us for many years, as we are registered with large clinics and see whichever GP is available, which may change from appointment to appointment. The form should really be updated to take this into account.

Different people who approached the DVLA had different responses. One person on Twitter said that their son’s condition had been notified to the DVLA by the police last year, but they were not interested. Another person who contacted the DVLA was also told that people who had been driving for years before their diagnosis without incident were of no interest to them. Yet others who contacted the DVLA by phone were told that their phone-call had ‘flagged’ them and they should therefore get their M1 form in within two weeks. However, we do not yet know what they will do with the form and many of us are worried about over-reaction or prejudice, particularly those (like me) who drive for a living or could not get to work without our cars (or motorcycles) because of where we live or work. In 2016, an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found that disabled people and those with various medical conditions were being refused licences or having their licence restorations delayed for unacceptably and unnecessarily long periods, sometimes leading to them losing their jobs or businesses. People I know who, for example, had seizures on one occasion while ill were kept waiting years to have their licences restored, simply becuase the DVLA did not know what to do. This is a new issue; how do we know that we will not suffer the same treatment despite having driven without incident for years before diagnosis?

 The DVLA Autism Test, Explained (Picture of young woman holding L-plate.) Here is Sam. Sam is autistic. Sam has been autistic all of their life.
Sam took driving lessons while autistic.
Sam took a theory test and passed it.
Sam took a practical driving test and passed it.
This is Sam as a safe, qualified driver, driving for years afterwards.

(Picture of a middle-aged woman in a flourescent yellow jacket, holding a clipboard.) This is a highly experienced Driving Examiner. They test every element of a driver's safety. If someone is not safe, they don't pass them.

(Picture of a man in late middle age with a stethoscope round his neck.) This is a Doctor. The DVLA want the Doctor to say if Sam is a good driver. The DVLA do not believe the Driving Examiner. The DVLA do not want to know if Sam is already a safe, good driver with years of experience.
The Doctor has never seen Sam drive.
The Doctor does not know if Sam is a good driver.
The Doctor has hundreds of actual patients to see, and is already overworked. The Doctor is not happy.

The National Autistic Society made an inquiry with the DVLA who told them that previous guidance had been wrong and that autism had always been a notifiable condition; the NAS say they believe that this guidance should be changed as they “don’t believe that the DVLA guidance reflects the potential impact of autism on driving properly”. An autistic blogger named Kat Williams contacted the DVLA and was passed from pillar to post while on the phone (see thread) but got a call back from a manager who told them that it was the General Medical Council who told them that all autistic drivers needed to be “looked into” (she has put in a Freedom of Information request for clarification on this). There was also suspicion voiced that this was an information gathering exercise prompted by the Department for Work and Pensions, seeking to find out who was claiming disability benefits and free public transport passes (which were issued to people with ASDs in some districts, including mine, until recently) when they could drive.

The NAS advised that people should notify, but again, there was no guarantee that the disclosure will be dealt with appropriately and the DVLA’s website really does not give much reassurance. They tell us that they might contact our GP or consultant, arrange for us to be examined, or expect us to take a further driving assessment; we really need more specific information on what they will do with a disclosure of an autism diagnosis. Again, some of us have not seen our consultant for years, but many GPs are not well-trained on autism and even psychiatrists, as many an inpatient with an ASD has discovered to their cost, are often woefully ignorant of the subject. (When I saw one of the GPs at my clinic to ask for referral for diagnosis, he left the request on his desk for months until I called to remind him!) And as has been noted, doctors who have plenty of patients to see will not be happy about having these requests dumped on them when they have never seen the individuals driving. The DVLA do, after all, already have driving examiners for this and the people concerned have already passed their tests (often more than one test, if they are bus or truck drivers).

As it happened, the DVLA today reverted the guidance on their website to its previous wording: “You must tell DVLA if your autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) affects your ability to drive safely”. Had they not done this, I would have waited for reports from other drivers who notified the DVLA about this issue before I did so myself. I currently have no other way of making a living and have been driving without any serious incident since 1995, have passed three driving tests and a HIAB (loading crane) equipment operation course, have held a Certificate of Professional Competency (CQC) since 2014 (when it became compulsory) and have no personal doubts about being safe to drive. I have no confidence that the DVLA would handle my disclosure appropriately and would have waited to hear exactly what their criteria are for allowing a person with a diagnosed autistic spectrum disorder to drive or continue driving.

I do have a suspicion that this is the result of Asperger’s syndrome being merged with autism in the recent diagnostic manual or DSM, something that many disability activists supported; they called the opponents of this change such insults as “Aspie snobs”. The reason was that the main criteria for the distinction of Asperger’s syndrome was that someone’s speech was not delayed; without that identifier, someone would always have been diagnosed with autism, not Asperger’s syndrome. It’s true that the name has fallen out of favour since it was discovered that Johann Asperger was a more committed Nazi than had previously been thought. However, as autism is generally considered a severe disability while Asperger’s syndrome was not, I feared that people previously diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome would be subject to the same legal and official disabilities as those with more severe autism, such as being refused the right to settle in another country on the grounds of being a potential “drain on the system”. If this is the reason, my fears about this have been confirmed, and people are likely to be subjected to unnecessary hardships and scrutiny because their condition is no longer considered distinct from a similar but more severe one. As a community, we should think very carefully before welcoming or celebrating such changes in future.

(It is, of course, true that there are often co-morbid mental health issues with autism and some autistic people have required mental health treatment for these or for the after-effects of trauma. However, these conditions have names and are diagnoses in their own right; autism on its own is not a psychiatric disorder and should not be treated as such.)

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