More than just a Muslim punk band

Since setting up their band, The Kominas have come under fire from all sides: some punks say they aren’t real punks, while conservatives are critical of their politics. But who decides what punk is anyway? Isn’t the very essence of punk to push boundaries and upset the status quo? According to Richard Marcus, despite feeling ostracised by the white indie/punk scene and being the focus of media articles for reasons completely outside their control, the Kominas just keep on speaking their minds and making great music

Like any other creed, punk rock is widely open to personal interpretation. British punk of the 1970s was wildly different from American punk of the same period; New York punk was different from California punk, while Toronto’s punk scene was a sort of mash-up of all three. After nearly 40 years of listening to punk, the only generalisation I’m willing to make on the subject is that it’s more of an attitude than a style of music. Punk is a willingness to speak your mind and live with the consequences; it’s about taking chances and not accepting the status quo.

So using a catch-all phrase like “punk Islam” or Taqwacore (a name derived from the book of the same name by American author Michael Muhammad Knight) won’t give you an idea of a band’s nature, save that the members might share the same religious background. While using this term also seems to be fairly insulting (after all, how many “Christian punk” or “white punk” bands do you know of?), that hasn’t stopped the labelling from happening.

This is part of an overall syndrome that the band The Kominas was railing against in a recent post on their Facebook page: “There’s a lot of publicity that comes with Muslims performing normalcy for the West. ‘Oh wow, look at these Muslims who skateboard and are totally average,’ ‘hey, look at these Muslims who listen to & make music,’ ‘wow, this Muslim is just a normal shithead (just like me!)’. You can call it whatever you want (we would say tatti, but it’s your choice), we just wanted to say fuck that. We are more than a label. Fuck your binaries. Fuck all of them, fuck American:Muslim, Male:Female, white:other…” (Kominas Facebook page, 13 June 2015)

The Kominas have been associated with Taqwacore through both their association with Knight and with a documentary movie they were featured in, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. The movie was split between documenting “Islamic” punk bands touring together with Knight on an old school bus around America and a trip by Knight to Pakistan where he visited various Sufi shrines, the madrassa he had attended and the Kominas, who were in the midst of a two year sojourn in the country.

Breaking the mould

This was when I first ran into the band and over the years, I’ve stumbled across them on the Internet and been impressed by their music and what they have to say about it: why they perform and what punk means to them. Founding members Basim Usmani (bass) and Shahjehan Khan (guitar) started the band in 2005 when they met up at university in Boston. Karna Ray soon joined as drummer, and over the years, the rest of the band’s membership has shifted and evolved to where the original trio is now, augmented by Hassin Ali Malik.

While they have only released a couple of full-length CDs (Kominas and Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay), a couple of singles (“BariyaN Ashiq Mizaj AkhaN TeriaN” and “Sharia Law in the U.S.A.”) and a six-song CD (Escape To Blackout Beach), they have garnered a great deal of attention. Some of it has obviously been from American media trying to get their heads around the fact young Muslims are in a popular music band, but mostly it is because of their appeal to people both in America and in South-East Asia. With songs written in English, Urdu and Punjabi, they can cross cultural boundaries few American-based groups even know exist.

However, that doesn’t mean they are universally popular. In fact, they come under fire from all ends of the political, musical and religious spectrum. In an interview given to Vanyaland, a Boston-based music magazine, Usmani touches on this when he mentions how they get flak from anti-religion Pakistani punks for being identified as Muslim and from Indonesian punks who say they aren’t real Muslim punks.

Of course, their politics – and maybe their existence – also upset conservatives of all types (political, religious and musical) at home. As evident from the quote above, they have strong opinions, which they don’t hesitate to express. However, that’s what a punk band is supposed to do – upset the status quo. Sure, there are punks out there who claim The Kominas aren’t punk enough because they play more than three chords and experiment with different styles and genres of music, but their approach to music and their lyrical content is pure punk. As definitive a figure as John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) has said the whole idea of a punk orthodoxy – that you can only listen to or play certain types of music to be punk – is ridiculous.

 

Can a Muslim be a punk?

Unfortunately there’s also the issue of colour: brown-skinned people from South-East Asia aren’t supposed to thrash about on stage with guitars and drums and their hair spiked up in Mohawks. They’re supposed to play sitars and other ethnic instruments. In an interview on the MTV website given earlier this year, Malik responded to a question about how being Muslim has impacted on the way the music community has treated them by saying he felt they were ostracised by the white indie/punk scene – as much as that scene even exists anymore.

The hardest thing for The Kominas is being treated like any other band. In reply to the same question above, Usmani said the press only seems to be interested in them when Islamophobia is in the news or as a token for an article about assimilation. Yes, they began life as a supposed Muslim punk band, (drummer Ray is a secular Hindu born in the States to academic parents) but they’re more than that. Not only are they breaking down stereotypes by playing music people of colour aren’t “supposed” to play, they are playing really good music.

The irony of an article like this one, of course, is that it only perpetuates the problem of them being treated like any other band. However, hopefully the release of their new album, Stereotype, later this year will garner them the attention they deserve as a band, not just as the Islamic punks from Boston. True to their punk natures, it will be released on their own label – most likely as a digital download from their website. Wherever you are, and whoever you are, make sure to grab a copy.

Curriculum initiative by British Muslims

On the initiative of the Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, British Muslims have introduced an “anti-terror curriculum” designed to supply Muslim clerics with arguments against the misuse of theological arguments by terrorist organisations such as IS. By Stefan Weidner

In principle, one can only welcome the fact that Muslims’ reactions to the terrorist misinterpretation of religion are becoming more and more sophisticated and explicit – with every attack, as it were.

They can achieve a variety of goals at once here. For one, they show resistance to attempts made to equate Islam with terrorism, an attitude that is fuelled just as much by notorious enemies of Islam as it is by political events, with the self-proclaimed “Islamic State in Syria and Iraq” at the forefront. Secondly, they are repudiating the allegation that Muslims are not distancing themselves sufficiently from terrorism. This is important, even if this insinuation is nearly always the product of ignorance, for example of the debates being waged in Arabic, and is partly based on plain distortion.

The initiative for a Muslim curriculum against terrorism is, however, not only geared toward appeasing Islam-critical observers; it is also an attempt to defeat with their own arguments those who espouse an aggressive and narrow-minded understanding of religion. The arguments against terrorism are derived here theologically from the religion itself and not, as so often is the case, from common sense, which is unfortunately in short supply among those who look to the religion to justify violence.

Of course, many scholars of Islam have tried to do this in the past. However, they have never before worked out such a systematic plan for a theological fight against terrorism and undertaken such great efforts to publicise it in the world press. That this has not yet been attempted can be explained by the religious diversity and local fragmentation of Islam, rather than assuming that Islam offers no arguments against violence.

IS supporters in Syria (photo: DW)

IS supporters in Syria. “We must not forget with regard to this initiative that religion is often used only as a pretext when young Muslims make their way to Syria. Very few of those who go to war are theologically savvy. And precisely because they lack religious education, they are susceptible to radical arguments that present themselves in a religious guise,” writes Stefan Weidner

No choice anymore

Such an initiative takes to its logical conclusion the fact that the Muslims have no choice anymore but to do the same thing with good arguments that the preachers of hate and violence are trying to do with bad ones, namely to reach a broad spectrum of Muslims all over the world. This is admittedly a Herculean task, but it just might lead – if it succeeds – to the kind of Islam that believers around the world are longing to see: a religion whose global standards would be supported by undisputed, universal and humane principles.

We must not forget with regard to this initiative that religion is often used only as a pretext when young Muslims make their way to Syria. Very few of those who go to war are theologically savvy. And precisely because they lack religious education, they are susceptible to radical arguments that present themselves in a religious guise. In this respect, the curriculum initiative could indeed provide a remedy. However, it also reinforces the misleading notion that “terror tourism” really does have primarily religious and cultural motives.

This form of culturalisation, as one might call it, hides other, more likely reasons for the suicidal decampment to the war zone, namely the social, political and economic marginalisation of many immigrants. And it could be, therefore, that the initiative seeks more to meet the expectations of Western policymakers and suspicious non-Muslim observers than to fulfil the needs of the Muslims concerned.

Seen in this light, the initiative could even end up having the opposite effect to what it purports to achieve. By chiming in with the chorus of those who interpret the phenomenon of Muslim terrorism as a problem with the religion, it relieves neo-liberal policymakers of their responsibility for the poverty and neglect of wide swathes of the population, including, of course, the converts looking to compensate for the lack of fulfilment and prospects in their lives in West by fighting for Islamic State, where they can earn the recognition they are denied in the West, even if they have to pay for it with their lives.

David Cameron (photo: Reuters/O. Scarff)

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Says Weidner: “That multiculturalism has failed, as conservative politicians like Merkel and Cameron like to claim today, must not be understood to imply that some Muslims are not interested in taking part in an open society, but indicates instead that this society is perhaps not as open as we would like to believe.”

Model Muslims and marginalised migrants

Finally, Western societies need to ask themselves some probing questions. What good is it if Muslims distance themselves from IS and come up with good arguments against radicalisation as long as the West still does its most lucrative business with countries that have supported this very radicalisation for decades and to this day have in many ways more in common with the social ideology of IS than they do with the Western nations? We are talking here about Saudi Arabia and other states on the Persian Gulf that may have neo-liberal economies but are, in political terms, decidedly anti-democratic.

A second question we must ask ourselves – and one that is perhaps even more important – is to what extent Western democracies are really willing to offer people from different backgrounds and cultures, besides a few very well-integrated model Muslims (and even they can be found above all in the purely symbolic worlds of culture and the media, but not in the crucial realms of business and politics) an equal opportunity and to show them respect and appreciation.

That multiculturalism has failed, as conservative politicians like Merkel and Cameron like to claim today, must not be understood to imply that some Muslims are not interested in participating in an open society, but indicates instead that this society is perhaps not really as open as we like to believe.

And it could soon prove to be the case – to the horror of conservative politicians in particular – that, despite the inherent risk of specific groups sealing themselves off, multiculturalism was a comparatively inexpensive solution to integration issues – at any rate compared to the aspiration to grant immigrants, no matter what their origin, a genuine opportunity in accordance with their abilities and desires and to provide the requisite, government-funded structures for this purpose.

Stefan Weidner

The Virtual Iftar Project

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an international multimedia initiative that brings people across various cultures together at the dinner table. Breaking bread and barriers in one go, this platform launched the Virtual Iftar Project across Europe during the month of Ramadan, which has just ended. Roma Rajpal Weiß spoke to the project founder, Eric Maddox, about the project and about cultural tension between Muslims and non-Muslims

What motivated you to launch the Virtual Iftar Project in Europe?

Eric Maddox: It is a combination of factors. I spent quite a bit of time living in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few years for the Virtual Dinner Guest Project, with the idea being to connect across cultures that have some sort of political, cultural or social conflict. The focus was the Middle East because the United States has left a pretty big footprint in that part of the world and people clearly have mixed feelings about that, to put it delicately.

This project has been a platform to facilitate opportunities for people and depoliticise the environment across a universal social form at the dinner table. It is harder to ignore, vilify or harm those with whom we have broken bread. So that was the original impetus for doing it.

The Virtual Dinner Guest project is not very different from the Virtual Iftar Project. Recent events inspired me to narrow my focus for the month of Ramadan. It has been at the back of my mind for a few years to do this, but this is the first year that I actually saw an opportunity to do it.

There has been heavy media focus on the attacks that have taken place in Europe. There have been attacks that have been taking place in many countries, but there has been a lot of publicity. It is hard to say whether it is intercultural tension or whether that’s just the media narrative. We see a lot of news articles and content that seem to suggest that there is a lot of cultural tension between Muslim and non-Muslim communities – or immigrants who happen to be Muslim or not – and “the native population” in different countries. Not just in Europe, but in the West.

What is motivating me to address this particular issue right now is this media narrative, I don’t even know if I want to call it a climate of fear and mistrust of how to separate the reality on the ground from what is being presented by the media. Do people genuinely not trust each other in Europe, in the US, the Western countries, in the Muslim and non-Muslim communities? Or is it just a hyped-up media narrative? People are being told that this is widespread. I wanted to go out and personally gauge the distance between perception and presentation and reality on the ground.

A Virtual Iftar Project dinner (photo: Eric Maddox)

A Ramadan road trip film: “This project has been a platform to facilitate opportunities for people and depoliticise the environment across a universal social form at the dinner table,” says project founder Eric Maddox

How was your experience filming the project?

Maddox: On the whole, I would say that people were very receptive to the street interviews in all of the communities where we completed the project. Our filming focused primarily on the cities where we hosted our Virtual Iftar exchanges: Pristina, Kosovo; Marburg, Germany; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. However, we also took time to film and talk to people as we travelled across Europe. I would point out that circumstances are definitely quite different for our filmmaking partners in Gaza, Egypt and Pakistan. Those are the places that we connected to with our Virtual Iftar tables.

One thing that I really want people to take away from this project is the understanding that the value of the films goes way beyond the end product. The Virtual Iftar participants are closely involved in each stage of the film-making process. When the Virtual Iftar exchange is over, each of our participants is challenged to go out and interact with their own communities to find people with whom they might not normally engage in their own cultural context.

Put another way, this project is an invitation to people to engage with their own communities as more than a platform for international connections. That has to be the first priority in any initiative like this one. If we don’t know our own communities, how can we speak about them and represent them accurately to others?

How did you find your hosts across Europe, and what has the experience been like?

A Virtual Iftar Project dinner (photo: Eric Maddox)

Challenging, rewarding and life-defining. “This project is an invitation to people to engage with their own communities as more than a platform for international connections. That has to be the first priority in any initiative like this one. If we don’t know our own communities, how can we speak about them and represent them accurately to others?” says Maddox

Maddox: It’s really been an interesting experience. We set out to try and stay exclusively with members of the Muslim community across Europe, but it quickly became clear that our tight schedule would require a more open and organic approach.

In Kosovo, young members of the Albanian Muslim community hosted us for the first week. This was a core group of young women who helped us to organise everything related to the Virtual Iftar exchange and the film-making, took us out in the evenings, and went out of their way to answer questions and made sure we saw as much as possible in our short time in Kosovo. From there, friends of friends lined up places for us to stay all along the way. We basically crowd-sourced our accommodations across Europe, and it has been amazing to see where the wave of social media has floated us.

At one point, friends connected us to an Al Jazeera journalist in Sarajevo, a Croatian guy who hosted us and ended up driving us all the way to Zagreb to stay in his family home for a few days. Though we have stayed with Muslims and non-Muslims on our travels, a huge network of Middle East connections and Muslims from across the MENA region have made this European road trip possible. Basically I just post on Facebook that we’re about to show up in “X” city, and this amazing network of people gets together and just makes it happen. Slovenia is the only place where we had to pay for a place to stay, and that was more because it was really last minute.

What did you learn from the people you met?

Maddox: People want this idea to succeed. Not everyone is in a position to make a financial contribution, but so many people have contributed a place to stay, a hot meal (one guy in Serbia insisted on paying for my dinner when he found out that I spoke a little Arabic … our only common language), a few hours of assistance with translating our street interview footage, contacts in various communities to ensure that we have access to a broad range of voices, local insights about their communities, and even a car ride from Sarajevo to Zagreb.

We’ve learned so much from this trip (including how much work it is to produce something like this on a very limited budget while travelling), and it makes one thing very clear … this should be the first of many Virtual Iftar Projects. I would love to do this every year, perhaps taking a road trip across the US or different European countries, or Africa, etc. in the future. It’s been challenging; but most rewarding and life-defining experiences are.

Interview conducted by Roma Rajpal Weiss

Moderate Muslims Counter ISIS Propaganda With Their Own Media Strategy

 

U.S. officials are concerned about the recruiting efforts of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as the group has stepped up its online outreach.

One team in southwestern Indiana who opposes the radical Islamist group is taking to the Web to reclaim the message of Islam.

Dozens of four-minute Web episodes, targeting young people with questions about Islam and its relationship to violence, are being released by Reclamation Studios.

In one episode, Zac Parsons is walking side by side with Imam Omar Atia on a sunny day in Evansville, Ind., asking him a question about Islam: “You’re a Muslim guy, a peaceful guy, and yet, you know, we see all this stuff in the news all the time about, you know, terrorism and violence and killing, you know, in the name of Islam — which is supposed to be a religion of peace. How is it that for them it’s not peaceful, but for you it is?”

“It’s not even left for question,” Atia says. “Unjust killing is completely forbidden.”

The video “Does Islam Encourage Violence?” is simply an interaction between Parsons and Atia, the leader of the Islamic Society of Evansville.

Atia, co-founder of Reclamation Studios’ initiative, wants to try to dispel the image that Islam is a foreign religion that forces believers to choose between nation and faith.

“There’s still this identity crisis that a lot of Muslim-Americans live, unfortunately,” Atia says, “because right now, still, the concept that Islam is a foreign faith to America.”

Parsons, a digital marketer, says these videos try to be engaging enough to reach younger viewers.

“Unfortunately, ISIS is doing a great job of creating that really compelling ‘this is something you can do to change the world,’ ” he says, “and we hope that we’re able to use some of those same ideas and technology to say, ‘No, this is actually what the religion of Islam teaches.’ ”

Nour Shams, who works on Reclamation Studios’ website from Egypt, says it’s important to get this information across as directly as possible.

“They can ask us questions, we can do consultations, we can give them further answers for any questions that they have,” she says. “We can even host people and just have everything transparent in front of the camera, and listen to people and answer their questions.”

Richard Maass, who researches international security at the University of Evansville, says the Islamic State has been successful at targeting isolated people who have little or no knowledge of Islam.

“So the more initiatives like this one that openly refute ISIS ideology, especially online — and especially through live communications with people online — the more difficult it will be for ISIS to monopolize the perceptions of those vulnerable individuals,” he says.

There are now more than a dozen people working on this project; the goal is to produce 70 Web episodes, all in an effort to help counter what they see as misinformation about Islam.

The “mipster” phenomenon

Most people have heard of the term “hipster”, which conjures up images of hip young, middle-class urban adults with progressive ideas who are into indie music. But what of the mipster, the “Muslim hipster”? Is it a real or just an imaginary concept? And for young American Muslims, is the label a blessing or a curse? By Joseph Mayton in San Francisco

It’s a normal afternoon in San Francisco’s Mission District. The usual range of beard-toting, tight pants-wearing techies has gathered in the area’s open air park or the myriad cafes that have popped up to serve the recent influx of tech workers who have moved into the city.

The unsuspecting eye might not have noticed a group of five sitting at a café near Dolores Park. The men have neatly trimmed beards, their computers are on the table, and the conversation has turned to some grassroots Indie rock band. The five are all practicing Muslims; one of the women is wearing a veil. These are not your ordinary hipsters, but maybe “mipsters”, Muslim hipsters.

Ammar, a 27-year-old Syrian-American programmer, is quick to shy away from the newly minted term used to refer to young Muslim-American professionals who espouse similar notions of the world to “hipsters”.

“I don’t know if I like that term,” he begins. “I don’t think we are supposed to like being referred to as a hipster in any way, right? But, if people are calling us mipsters, then that’s fine because it at least means we are American.” The hint of antagonism towards Muslims that has flourished in the United States over the nearly 15 years since the September 11 attacks in 2001 is still being felt by Muslim-Americans.

For this group and thousands of other young Muslims across the country, the identity of the “mipster” is going mainstream. “I guess you could say we have made it,” Ammar continues. “At least they are making fun of us because we are supposedly hipsters who happen to be Muslim. But I don’t really like it.”

Young Muslims making bag lunches for homeless people (photo: Abdel-Rahman Bassa)

“A mipster has a social mind and yearning for a more just order, a more inclusive community unbounded by stale categories, unwilling to plod blindly along in a world as obsessed with class as it is unmindful of its consequences” says the Facebook group Mipsterz. Pictured here: young Muslim men making bag lunches for homeless people in San Francisco

What is a “mipster”?

A “hipster,” at least in San Francisco parlance, refers to young, usually tech-savvy or tech workers with tight jeans, well-groomed beards and what locals grimace and refer to as an “aura of superiority”.

“A mipster has a social mind and yearning for a more just order, a more inclusive community unbounded by stale categories, unwilling to plod blindly along in a world as obsessed with class as it is unmindful of its consequences,” the Facebook group Mipsterz declares in something of a manifesto. “The mipster is a bold, yet humble mind, open to disparate ideas and firm enough in conviction to act, speak out and drop the hammer when the time is right.”

For 25-year-old Heba, an American of Egyptian ancestry, the idea is not necessarily a negative one, but she hopes that the conversation can grow into allowing non-Muslim Americans to understand how Muslims live and interact in the country.

“I don’t mind the idea of a mipster because it means we are part of something that is truly an American identity,” she said. “I enjoy and can get to know non-Muslims because we have similar interests. We like the same bands and we go to the same concerts. It just makes sense.”

She goes on to say that her veil, or hijab, has become a fashion accessory to her friends, and she admits that they comment on the many different styles she has in her closet. She believes that the hipster culture is helping many young Muslim women get outside their norm and experience more life, even with the veil.

“I guess for many of us young Muslim women, we still want to be fashionable and be different and that’s where my hijab comes into play because I can wear it a number of different ways and the many colours is part of my identity of change,” she continues.

“I think I am a much different and more open person since I have been doing the things that make me happy and if that means calling me a hipster or a mipster, I’m okay with that,” she added.

A young Muslim woman making bag lunches for homeless people (photo: Abdel-Rahman Bassa)

According to Joseph Mayton, “the idea of the mipster has gained traction among Muslim-American communities, who believe the cultural identity around mipsters may be imaginary in concept. But on the ground, Muslims hope it will be a way to express their individuality while also showing their faith.” Pictured here: a young Muslim woman making bag lunches for homeless people in San Francisco

Recent phenomenon

The hipster culture has become part of the American urban identity, and in San Francisco, it has its own uber-techie twinge to it. But for Muslims, becoming a part of that culture has largely been a recent affair.

The Mipsterz Facebook group last year published a video of veiled Muslim women riding skateboards around and snapping selfies. That video sparked the initial publicity surrounding the mipster culture and put it firmly on the map.

Commentators have been quick to praise the group. “I applaud Mipsterz for their initiative and creativity,” Yazmine Hafiz wrote in the Huffington Post. “The Muslim community needs more innovation, more risks, more boundary-pushing, because the response to this video is a wake-up call to what American Islam really needs — an open mind.”

The idea has gained traction among Muslim-American communities, who believe the cultural identity around mipsters may be imaginary in concept. But on the ground, Muslims hope it will be a way to express their individuality while also showing their faith.

Heba nods in agreement. Mariam, the non-veiled woman in the group, jumps in at the last moment, saying she hopes that people will begin to see Muslim-Americans not for their religion, but for their personality and who they are as people.

“I hope that even if this whole mipster thing is just a passing idea that the future for Muslim-Americans can be one where we are considered as people and not by our headscarves or our beards, but by who we are as people, as Americans.”

Government deradicalisation plan will brand Muslims with beards as terrorists, say academics

The Government’s flagship counter-radicalisation strategy leads Muslims who grow beards to be labelled as terrorists and could be used to clamp down on anti-austerity and environmental campaigners, hundreds of academics have claimed in an open letter to The Independent.

 

Wide-ranging powers brought in this month under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act force teachers, social workers, prison officers and NHS managers to report signs of radicalisation. Those suspected of extremism will be sent on deradicalisation programmes, while the whole system is to be policed by Government inspectors.

But the new law has been criticised as a direct assault on freedom of speech and a move towards a police state. In an unprecedented intervention, 280 academics, lawyers and public figures claim the controversial law will make Britain less safe as it will force radical political discussion underground.

Among the leading academics who want the Government to rethink the strategy are Karen Armstrong, one of the country’s most prominent writers on religion, and Baroness Ruth Lister, emeritus professor of social policy at Loughborough University.

The new regime, part of the Government’s counter-terrorism policy, Prevent, places public-sector workers under a statutory duty to confront radicalisation. Prevent was introduced by Labour in the wake of 9/11 and remains the frontline policy for combating radicalisation. Last month David Cameron said the Government would provide “a full spectrum” response to counter-terrorism, to include the vetting of external speakers at universities and banning those with extremist views. There are also plans to vet broadcast programmes for extremist content.

But the letter claims that “growing a beard, wearing a hijab or mixing with those who believe Islam has a comprehensive political philosophy are key markers used to identify ‘potential’ terrorism”. Moreover, “Prevent will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent. It will create an environment in which political change can no longer be discussed openly, and will withdraw to unsupervised spaces. Therefore, Prevent will make us less safe.”

Karen Armstrong said: “The Government’s emphasis on religious ideology as the chief driving force for extremism is both dangerous and ill-informed… It ignores the fact that influential Muslim leaders – Sunni and Shi’i, Salafi and liberal alike – have roundly condemned the policies of [Isis] as un-Islamic.

“It ignores the Gallup Poll conducted between 2001 and 2007 in 35 Muslim-majority countries in which 93 per cent of respondents asserted emphatically that there was no justification for the 9/11 attacks and the reasons they gave were entirely religious; the reasons given by the 7 per cent who claimed that the attacks were justifiable were wholly political.”

Government’s 'Prevent' strategy condemned by coalition of academics and public figures
Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy condemned by coalition of academics and public figures

Ms Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, added: “After interviewing over 500 people involved in the 9/11 atrocities, former CIA officer and forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman concluded that the problem is not Islam, but rather ignorance of Islam.”

7/7 bombings: British Muslims use ‘breaking the fast’ at Ramadan to remember victims

Mosques all over the UK will open their doors to people of all faiths and none tonight during the “Iftar” meal at sunset on the 10th anniversary of the London 7/7 bombings.

The “Peace Iftars”, which have already begun taking place, are a chance to “remember and pray for all victims of terrorism and stand in solidarity in peace”.

Today’s events are set to take place around the country with mosques inviting their local communities to join in commemoration and to “break bread with Muslims as they break their fast in this holy month of Ramadan”. A national “Iftar” has been organised at the Islamic Cultural Centre in London.

The Islamic Cultural Centre said: “Our thoughts, our prayers and condolences go out to all the victims of these terrible terrorist attacks. As citizens and co-workers of this great city, we share the concerns and fears of fellow Londoners. We use the same transport and live and work in the same buildings and any attack is an attack on us all.”

At Friday prayers this week, the Muslim Council urged imams to discuss the 7/7 anniversary and more recent terror attacks including in Tunisia. The religious leaders were encouraged to remind people “that these killers do not respect the sanctity of life as laid down in Islam”.

Mosques in London, Birmingham and Nottingham will dedicate their 'Iftar' meal at sundown to the victims and survivors of the 2005 terrorist attacks
Mosques in London, Birmingham and Nottingham will dedicate their ‘Iftar’ meal at sundown to the victims and survivors of the 2005 terrorist attacks

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Despite the evil that was visited upon us on 7/7, we come here hoping for peace and praying for a world free from violence.”

Tributes Paid As Head Of Britain’s Largest Muslim Student Society Drowns

Tributes are being paid to the president of Britain’s largest Muslim student society after he drowned in a freak swimming accident in Switzerland last weekend. Bashir Osman had headed up the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) since 2014, and had been visiting colleagues at a youth organisation for European Muslims. He had been swimming in a river in the Landquart District of Graubünden on Saturday, when a freak current swept him away.

A statement from FOSIS, which represents more than 115,000 students, read: “Bashir passed away in a drowning incident having fallen under rough waters for over 10 minutes. By the time the rescue services found him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.Bashir

Former president Omar Ali added: “He was a man who made everyone smile and laugh. He was a brother who cared for those around him. He was a Muslim who worked tirelessly to help humanity. He was an inspiration to the young and old all around the UK and Ireland. He had a unique ability to make so many feel special and hold a place in their heart for him.”

New Islam TV service launching in UK

As Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid, the end of the holy month of Ramadan, many are concerned that Islam is too often associated with negative images on TV and online.

A new on demand TV service called Alchemiya is launching in the UK hoping to change perceptions and misconceptions of Islam. Alchemiya wants to counter what it calls the “constant media discourse… shining only a black and white light on what should be a whole array of colours”.

It will broadcast award-winning films, independent documentaries, travel, lifestyle, children’s programmes, history and religion.

David Cameron tells teenage jihadists they are ‘cannon fodder’

Muslims who travel to the Middle East for the “glamour” of jihad will become nothing more than “cannon fodder” for terrorists, David Cameron warns.

 

The “sick and brutal reality” is that young men will be used as suicide bombers, while women who join the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant will face horrific abuse, the Prime Minister will say.

In a major speech, heralding a five-year plan to tackle extremism, Mr Cameron will say British values are “our strongest weapon” in the battle against the twisted narrative of extremists. It came as Mr Cameron confirmed he was drawing up plans to expand Britain’s military action against Isil into Syria.

UK aircraft have been launching air strikes against terrorist targets in Iraq since September but Parliament is likely to be asked to approve bombing raids in the skies over Syria too because Britain should “do more” to defeat Isil, he told NBC News in America.

The Prime Minister’s upcoming speech will mark a new phase in the government’s assault on the ideology behind the rise of Islamist terrorism, in the aftermath of the mass gun attack that killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia last month. A new counter-extremism strategy will be published later this year, setting out in detail how government will seek to confront and stamp out the “twisted” ideology that justifies terrorism.

The Prime Minister will call for a new drive to promote traditional British values “much more” assertively across the country. “And here’s my message to any young person here in Britain thinking of going out there: You won’t be some valued member of a movement. You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you. If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you. That is the sick and brutal reality of Isil.”

AP
AP

 

“We should together challenge the ludicrous conspiracy theories of the extremists. The world is not conspiring against Islam; the security services aren’t behind terrorist attacks; our new Prevent duty for schools is not about criminalising or spying on Muslim children. This is paranoia in the extreme. In fact that duty will empower parents and teachers to protect children from all forms of extremism – whether Islamist or neo-Nazi.”