Get yourself a proper job

“How much do you get paid?” This is the first question I am asked by many of the A-level students I meet as part of a Muslim mentoring programme for schools in underprivileged areas of North London. Although they ask with a cheeky smirk, in the eyes of many of the students a satisfactory answer would cement my credibility as a mentor. Most are of Somali, Pakistani and Bengali origin, and the mentoring scheme kicks off in their first year of A-level study with the purpose of helping to motivate the students academically by providing successful examples of the fruits of a good education. If they make enough money, that is. Upon closer acquaintance, it appears that most of the students need very little academic motivation. They are second-generation immigrants whose families encourage them to perform and go to university in order to secure a good job and a healthy livelihood. If anything, they need motivation to take up more extra-curricular activities and be more involved with pursuits that would allow them to explore their talents and personal aptitudes. Every single one of the students in the programme was planning to enrol in either a science or maths-based discipline (except one girl, who wanted to study English and asked sheepishly whether an English degree would help her secure a lucrative role in today’s job market). Nesrine Malik reports.

Face to faith

The month of Ramadan and the virtues of generosity, sacrifice and sympathy that Ramadan emphasise are of enormous importance to me. Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and prayer. The fasting is intended to help teach self-discipline, generosity and appreciation of what we have, while empathising with those who have much less. It is a time not just to remember the suffering of the poor, but to do something about it. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and during the month of Ramadan Muslims are also encouraged to carry out their obligations to one of the other pillars of Islam: Zakah. The Arabic word means to purify by giving to the less fortunate. Zakah is a sum representing 2.5% of your savings which each year is given to the poor to relieve distress, to the needy so they are able to earn a livelihood, or to those struggling with debt. Payment of Zakah is a form of worship and its main importance lies in the fact that it fosters in us the quality of sacrifice and rids us of selfishness and greed. As a minister for international development, Ramadan really makes me appreciate the work that my staff at the department do. For people like me who had a romantic notion growing up that one day, through our politics, we would help change the world, working for the Department for International Development is nothing short of a blessing, because in our own small but not insignificant way, we are changing the world for the better. DfID is tasked with leading the UK’s fight against global poverty. More than a billion people, one in five of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty, on less than 65p a day. Ten million children die before their fifth birthday, most of them from preventable diseases. More than 113 million children do not go to school. In a world of growing wealth, such levels of human suffering and wasted potential are morally wrong. Shahid Malik reports.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Schools in Quebec to Celebrate Diverse Religious and Culture Holidays, Including Eid al-Adha

Schools in Québec are now required to note the passage of holidays like Eid al-Adha, Hanukkah, Diwali and the birth of Sikh guru Nanak. These dates are part of a controversial new course on ethics and religious culture making its debut in classrooms this fall. One school, Loyola High School in Montreal, is going to court in protest. More than 600 parents at the private Catholic school have requested exemptions to allow their children to opt out of the course. The school’s principal, Paul Donovan has stated that “if you’re going to allow Catholic schools to exist, then you have to allow them to be Catholic.”

Jean-Pierre Proulx, a University of Montreal education professor who advised the provincial government on the new course, stated, “We’re not aiming to form good Catholics or good Protestant or good Jews. We want to form good cultivated citizens, who are tolerant and able to enter into dialogue with others.”

The Dalai Lama will travel to the province next year to show his enthusiasm for the ethics and religious culture class.

See full-text articles:

The Globe and Mail

The Montreal Gazette

Association of Muslim Chaplains in Education launched

A one day conference to mark the launch of the Association of Muslim Chaplains in Education was hosted at Brunel University in West London. The conference, held on June 25, was attended by over 80 participants of different faith communities and from different parts of the UK. Bill Rammell, MP for Lifelong Learning and Education addressed the conference via video link and welcomed the launch of the Association. I am clear that a trained Muslim chaplain can be an effective safeguard for those students who may otherwise be vulnerable to violent extremist political influences. He said, Properly trained Muslim chaplains can play a significant part in meeting pastoral care needs and that a trained Muslim chaplain can be an effective safeguard for those students who may otherwise be vulnerable to violent extremist political influences. Professor Chris Jenks, Vice Chancellor of Brunel University talked about the importance of the presence of Muslim chaplains on campus and the path Brunel has taken towards a Multi Faith approach. Muslim Chaplains on campus was widely acknowledged as recognition of the fact that Islam was not the faith of the stranger or temporary resident but one of the mainstream faith traditions in our society. The work of Muslim Chaplains in education in promoting community cohesion was also acknowledged.

Forever a suspect?

Last week the Guardian uncovered a report by MI5 suggesting there is no single pathway to Islamic extremism. What a surprise! And in a further deconstruction of preconceptions, the report found evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation. If this is the case, what are the implications for racial and religious profiling? The report clearly dismantles any assumptions that can be made about the identity, background and religiosity of a would-be terrorist. The UK’s Muslim population is a mere 2.8% but is so ethnically diverse that the government could cynically use this report to sanction the continuing infringement of civil liberties of the entire population through ID cards, surveillance and so on. The sounding the death knell for racial profiling is something to celebrate, but I wonder whether my optimism is premature. Adam Khan, 28, from North London also has his reservations, after repeatedly being stopped and interrogated under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 when trying to return to the UK. Samia Rahman reports.

Despite Objections to Size, Cologne Approves Mosque

Cologne’s city council has approved building plans for what is slated to be Germany’s largest mosque. Politicians hope the structure’s glass design and bilingual program will help integrate the Islamic community. Cologne’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Left Party all voted for the construction of the mosque, which will include two minarets that stretch 55 meters (180 feet) into the sky, the Associated Press reported. Mayor Fritz Schramma was the only Christian Democratic Union (CDU) member to approve the plans. The rest of his party has criticized the mosque’s design as being “too imposing.” Builders from the Governing Body of the Turkish-Islamic Union (DiTiB) will construct the structure with a 37-meter high dome in the city district of Ehrenfeld.

Muslim Executive subsidies renewed

After having been taken away in January, the Belgium Executive is once again receiving subsidies. A Royal Order in the Belgian Official Journal granted 150,000 Euro to the Muslim Executive; the money was taken from the federal budget for religions. Minister of Justice Jo Vandeurzen, who is responsible for the administration of religions, postponed the subsidies after charges of forgery and abuse of public property were made against the Muslim Executive and the former president of the body. A new team was formed in May.

School boosts integration among immigrant students

Students at the Marius Torres school in Barcelona are studying the cultural traditions of their peers in an attempt to boost integration among the high immigrant population in the school. Approximately 90% of students at the school come from immigrant families who hail from South America, China, and North African countries. Students have shared food and clothing on special days, as part of the introduction to each others’ cultures. “Looking at how the kids get on, it’s as if they were all from the same country,” said one teacher. “We should learn from them, because they don’t have any prejudices.” The teacher also stressed that the lessons about each other are also passed from the students to their parents, resulting in a positive community strengthening.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Woman wearing veil told to leave Italian museum

The head of Venice’s Ca’ Rezzonico museum in Venice apologized to a Muslim woman who was asked to leave the building by a guard, because she was wearing a veil over her face. “I’m sorry for what happened and if she ever wants to return to our museum, she will be more than welcome,” said director Filippo Pedrocco. The unnamed woman was visiting the museum with her husband and children, and had successfully cleared security upon entering the building. However, a guard on the second floor told her that she must remove her face veiling, or niqab. The woman refused to take off the veil, and left the art museum. Italian media reported that the guard was a part-time worker and had been employed by an outside security firm, and would be disciplined for his actions and risked being fired.

Thousands to protest Islamophobic confab in Germany

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets of the German city of Cologne next month to protest a planned Islamophobic conference, news reports said Tuesday. Around 40,000 demonstrators are scheduled to voice outrage over the so-called ‘Anti-Islamization Congress’ due to take place from September 19-21 in Cologne. A wide spectrum of nationwide civic groups, among them labour, student, church and anti-racial groups, are due to join the protests and mass blockades.

Efforts to ban the event which will be hosted by the far-right group ‘Pro Koeln’, failed because of legal reasons, Cologne Police President Klaus Steffenhagen said. ‘Pro Koeln’ which is being observed by Germany’s domestic Verfassungsschutz intelligence agency, has invited around 1,000 right- wing extremists to the controversial meeting in Cologne, including leading far-right politicians from the US, France, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Spain and Italy. A major focus of ‘Pro Koeln’ has been its contentious opposition to the planned construction of a central mosque for Cologne’s nearly 150,000-strong Muslim community.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)