UK minister issues warning against rise of Islamophia

24 January 2013

 

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a senior member of the Conservative Party and a

Minister of State for Faith and Communities, has said that more Muslims are victims of hate crimes now than at any other time in Britain’s history, showing a rise in Isalmophobia which needs to be dealt with effectively.

 

Citing figures from a recent You Gov survey, she presented her evidence. According to the poll results just 23% of people said that Islam was not a threat to Western civilization. Further, only 24% of the respondents thought Muslims were compatible with the British way of life – with nearly half of people disagreeing that Muslims were compatible. Finally, nearly half of people polled thought there would be a clash of civilizations between and Muslims and other Britons.

She further mentioned new figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers showing that between 50 to 60 per cent of all religious hate crimes reported to police in Britain are now perpetrated against Muslims.

“My fear is that seeing one community as the ‘other’ is a slippery slope that will enable extremists to advance their twisted interests unchecked, I don’t have to remind anyone what happens when an unfounded suspicion of one people can escalate into unspeakable horror.”

Two years ago Baroness Warsi was criticized for saying that that Islamophobia in Britain “had passed the dinner table test” but the latest police figures show that she was right in raising the issue.

Muslim speaks out against Muslim ‘vigilantes’

27 January 2013

 

Last week East London witnessed so-called “vigilante patrols” by a handful of “radical Muslim” men targeting women, gays and public drinkers. When the videos of harassment became available on YouTube, it caused widespread public outrage and the police launched an investigation and have arrested six people who were then bailed out.

 

According to the Independent, locals say the “patrols” have failed to spark the kind of inter-communal animosity they were hoping to achieve with their attacks. Yet the Muslim groups strongly condemned the incident calling it “abhorrent”.

Shaikh Shams Ad Duha, principle of  the Ebrahim College in East London, in a sermon at East London Mosque which was placed on YouTube and has been viewed 20,000 times in less than a week, lambasted the men in the video for being “complete bigots” who were contravening Islamic law, not enforcing it.

Muslim Council of Britain and other Muslim organizations have also condemned the “vigilantes”.

Hispanic immigrants increasingly finding home is Islam

A growing community of Hispanic American immigrants, as well as Hispanics in their home country, are choosing to convert from their predominantly Christian religions to Islam. It’s especially common for women.

Tucked away in a quiet rural neighborhood in Somerset, N.J., is an old brownstone that houses the New Jersey Chapter of the Islamic Center of North America’s WhyIslam Project.

Within its confines, in a second floor office decorated with rose-colored walls, sits the administrative assistant and only female employee of the department, Nahela Morales.

In a long black garment and gray headscarf, Morales sits in front of a computer entering notes and taking phone calls from the program’s hotline, 1-877-WhyIslam, a resource for individuals hoping to learn more about the religion. A Mexican immigrant and recent convert, Morales is the national Spanish-language outreach coordinator for the program, part of ICNA’s mission to disseminate information about Islam nationwide.

But Morales’ efforts go beyond U.S. borders: the 37-year-old recently led a trip to bring Islamic literature, food and clothing to her native Mexico.

Morales, who was born in Mexico City but later moved to California and then New York, is part of a growing population of immigrant Muslim converts from Latin America, many of them women, now helping to bring the religion back to their home countries.

According to WhyIslam’s 2012 annual report, 19 percent of the some 3,000 converts it assisted in 2011 were Latinos, and more than half of those (55 percent) were women. The 2011 U.S. Mosque Survey, which interviewed leaders at 524 mosques across the country, found the number of new female converts had increased 8 percent since 2000, and that Latinos accounted for 12 percent of all new converts in the United States in 2011.

Experts attribute the phenomenon to recent migration trends.

Wilfredo Ruiz, a native of Puerto Rico who converted to Islam in 2003, is an attorney and political analyst specializing in the Islamic world. In addition to working with various non-profit organizations, including the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), he also serves as the imam at his local mosque in South Florida.

“More women than men convert, both in AMANA offices and in the mosques in Southern Florida,” Ruiz said.

NYPD Muslim Spying Lawsuit Moves Forward and Media is Blamed

NEW YORK — “I’m laughing. I’m laughing on the phone right now,” said Syed Farhaj Hassan. “That’s hysterical.”

That’s how Hassan reacted when he heard that the New York City Police Department blames the press for exposing its Muslim surveillance program — and not its own cops for running it.

Hassan is the lead plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit by the non-profit group Muslim Advocates over the NYPD’s extension of its spying program into New Jersey. The group dropped its latest filing in the case on Friday.

For Hassan, a 36-year-old resident of central New Jersey, the case is far more serious than the NYPD’s legal arguments. It gets to the heart of why he joined the Army months before 9/11 and served his country in the Iraq War.

“I have always been patriotic,” he said. “I have always loved being an American and I knew from a very long time ago that we … were afforded a lot of rights and responsibilities.” But the rights part of that equation was put in jeopardy, he said, when he found out about the NYPD’s extensive post-9/11 program of surveillance of Muslim sites and neighborhoods from Queens to Newark.

In August 2011, the Associated Press began publishing a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of reports on the NYPD’s surveillance practices. The AP revealed the department had sent its officers across state lines to surveil mosques, businesses and even a girls’ school frequented by Muslims. When Hassan learned that the Masjid-e-Ali, a mosque in Somerset, N.J., that he regularly attended, was under the NYPD’s gaze, he stopped going.

In December, the NYPD moved to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it had done nothing wrong. Some legal experts have opined that Hassan and Muslim Advocates face an uphill battle in winning their case. As the NYPD pointed out in its filing, courts have ruled in the past that surveillance by itself, as long as there is no discriminatory intent, is constitutional.

New Jerseyans, including Republican Gov. Chris Christie, were angered to find out that the NYPD had been crossing state lines to conduct its surveillance. So far, no corresponding lawsuit has been filed in New York City against the NYPD for its surveillance activities, but Katon noted a special, long-running legal framework for the NYPD called the Handschu decree complicates making a case in New York.

Hassan says his participation in the lawsuit isn’t motivated by territorial pride — or even solely by his religion.

“This is for everybody, this isn’t just for Muslim Americans. This is for all Americans,” he said. “This is just another way of my personal little bit to defend the Constitution.”

Leadership in Tallahassee must stand against in-toleration

Over the past two legislative sessions, the Florida House and Senate wasted precious taxpayer dollars hearing harmful and unnecessary anti-Sharia legislation. Indeed, it came perilously close to passage in 2012 — passing the House and ultimately dying awaiting a final vote in the Senate.So no Floridian should be surprised that an anti-Sharia bill was once again filed for the 2013 session.

The real uncertainty is whether Tallahassee leadership will finally stand up to this intolerance, or again give into it and, in the process, waste valuable taxpayer dollars.The neutrally titled and worded “Application of Foreign Law” bill, which applies to family law provisions, is nothing more than camouflaged bigotry.

It is based on model language drafted by a controversial attorney, David Yerushalmi, who has a record of espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and racist views.This legislation is a classic example of the proverbial “solution in search of a problem.” Its supposed purpose is to counter the infiltration of our judicial and legal system by Sharia (Islamic) law.

But for the past two legislative sessions, proponents have failed to cite even one Florida court decision, or any other court decision, demonstrating an actual need for this legislation.  They can’t provide any examples because — as pointed out by a recent American Bar Association resolution and report opposing anti-Sharia measures — state and federal laws already prohibit courts from applying religious or foreign law in any way that would be against public policy, or constitute government advancement of or entanglement with religion.

This reckless legislation, however, imprudently goes far beyond these proven limitations.  This legislation is applicable to all religious law. So, for instance, the observant Jewish community regularly uses religious tribunals (Bet Dins) to resolve all kinds of disputes, including divorce settlements, which often are the basis for civil court divorce decrees and orders.

But this legislation would prevent a Jewish couple in Florida from voluntarily using a Bet Din to resolve their divorce settlement, and also would invalidate an out-of state divorce based on a Bet Din arbitration.  It also could negatively impact the use of Christian religious tribunals or certain applications of Canon law.

The leadership in Tallahassee needs to send a clear message that Florida values its diversity and welcomes persons of all backgrounds. They can do that by blocking this offensive bill, and unifying Floridians through legislation that finds common ground to move the state forward.

Prince George’s Co. school lets Muslim students out of class to pray

The growing number of Muslim students seeking accommodations to practice their religion in public schools has stirred debate about the long-contentious issue of prayer in America’s public institutions.

But a Prince George’s County high school principal believes she has found a way to accommodate Muslim students: She gives those with parental permission and high grades a pass out of class every day to pray.

At Parkdale High School, about 10 Muslim students get out of class for about eight minutes each day to pray together on campus, said Principal Cheryl J. Logan. Another student is working hard to raise his grades so he too can join the group of students, who belong to the school’s chapter of the Muslim Students’ Association, she said.

When Muslim students began praying during the school day at Parkdale, she said, some Christian teachers got upset and told the students that “it was a Christian school.” She said she explained to the students that public schools are not religious, but are legally allowed to accommodate students to practice their religion in some ways.

According to Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum who writes and speaks on religious liberty and religion in American public life, the accommodations that Logan is providing to the Muslim students are “certainly permissible” under the U.S. Constitution though probably not required.

Religious accommodations in public schools vary depending on state law, he said. Some states have passed laws that allow schools to “simply treat everyone the same way and not give exemptions or special accommodations for religious reasons.”

Last November, the Montgomery County Board of Education told leaders of the county’s growing Muslim community that it would be impossible to add an Islamic holy day to the school calendar. There are Christian and Jewish holidays on the school calendar because it was determined long ago that even if class stayed open on those days there would be too many students and teachers taking the day off anyway to operate viable classrooms.

And in some schools, female teachers and students are not allowed to wear Islamic head scarves, or have been harassed for doing so, according to the American Civil Liberties Association.

Omar Abdel Rahman: The push to free the imprisoned Islamist extremist

Before bin Laden, there was the blind sheik.  A generation ago, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman stood as the embodiment of Islamist terrorism: A bearded, religious extremist with a trademark red and white cap and dark sunglasses who helped orchestrate the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and plotted several unrealized attacks against other New York landmarks.

Two decades of imprisonment in high-security detention centers in the United States have diminished his public profile. But the Egyptian cleric is gaining notoriety among a new generation of Muslim holy warriors, and he has become a cause celebrate for Islamist political leaders who came to power during the Arab Spring.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi came into office with a pledge to press the case with the United States for Abdel Rahman’s release.

And Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of a jihadist brigade that attacked American and European oil workers this month at a natural gas facility in Algeria, placed Abdel Rahman’s liberty on his list of political demands.

The 74-year-old spiritual leader of the extremist Gama’a Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, Abdel Rahman has been a revered figure in Islamic extremist circles since the early 1980s, when he was charged, and acquitted, for his alleged role in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat.

Preached in Brooklyn, N.J.

Branded a political outlaw in his homeland, Abdel Rahman traveled to the United States in 1990, where the blind cleric preached at mosques in Brooklyn and New Jersey and, according to federal prosecutors, plotted the killing of hundreds of Americans.

He was convicted in October 1995 on charges of conspiring to “levy a war of urban terrorism against the United States,” including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people, and a plan to blow up the United Nations headquarters and other New York landmarks. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

Abdallah insists that his family does not condone violence, but he said that the United States is responsible for turning his father into a symbol of violent resistance.

“All those actions did not come from nothing, for it was America that pushed the Muslim youth to revolt,” Abdallah said. “America is using force, and what is taken by force must be returned by force.”

Radicals leave Spain to fight in Mali

15 January 2013

Twenty individuals, identified as radical Islamists, have disappeared from their homes in the Spain, Ceuta and Melilla and they are believed to have traveled through Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania to Mali to join”jihadists”  factions who have occupied the North African country and are now the subject of a military operation by the French Army.
Young “Polisario” members and other radicals who have traveled to Mali in recent weeks, are tempted by AQIM Salafists and other two formations found in the area, the MUYAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad North Africa) and Ansar el Dine (Followers of the Faith) to join the cause of jihad (struggle) and to incorporate the north camps of that country. The total number of Islamist terrorists is about 5,000.

The Ministers of Internal Affairs of Spain, Morocco, France and Portugal sign the “Rabat Declaration”

25 January 2013

The Ministers of Internal Affairs of Morocco, France, Spain and Portugal signed in Rabat the ‘Rabat Declaration’ in which they materialize a closer police cooperation among the four countries.
The statement was expressed in four main areas: management of migration flows, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism (with special attention to the Sahel region and its consequences), police cooperation and training.

Liège searches for burial places for Muslims

25.1.2013

Two cemetries in Liège contain burial grounds reserved for its Muslim residents. One of them has since years surpassed its level of accomodation of Muslim dead and the other is about to reach its saturation level within a year or two.

In order to find space, the authorities have analysed the soil of the cemetry for possible future burial grounds to ensure there are no human remains to be found within them. For several dozen burial places this has been the case and the civil authorities will be able to reopen them after notifying the families.

The 1400 Muslim burial places in the Robermont cemetry have been used up a long time ago. Hassan Bousetta, a Socialist  local councelor says that “the city has been on the forefront of this matter since the 1950s. Muslims from all corners of Belgium have been burried in Liege. It is thus possible to recover the space as in Muslim countries burial grounds don’t remain eternally unopened. The reusage of the soil is practiced there as well.”

In order to avoid the burial places reserved for Muslims in the cemetries of the city to fill up as quickly as before he advises the neighbouring municipalities to also recover its burial grounds.  According to the author of the article, this could also help to diminish the number of repatriation of Muslim dead to their places of ancestral origin as Belgium is their country of origin as well.