Leading imam quits as debate over women’s ‘hypersexuality’ boils over at major U.S. mosque

Shaker Elsayed, the lead imam of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., one of the nation’s largest and oft-embattled mosques, drew a wave of condemnation from young Muslim activists after he he appeared to endorse a certain form of female genital mutilation as sometimes necessary to prevent “hypersexuality.”

In response, Johari Abdul-Malik, a fellow imam and the public face of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center resigned after he said the mosque’s board failed to adequately address a brewing controversy over the banned practice of female genital mutilation.

Elsayed said last month during a videotaped lecture that limited “circumcision” of girls is sometimes necessary to curb women’s sex drive, advising congregants to consult with a Muslim gynecologist before proceeding.

FGM is a common practice among some Muslim and Christian populations in parts of Africa and Asia. Experts say it has no health benefits and can lead to infections, hemorrhaging, childbirth complications and death.  Communities that engage in the practice do so for a variety of reasons, including societal pressure and myths that it serves health or religious purposes.

Abdul-Malik was hired 15 years ago, after the mosque came under intense scrutiny for being the onetime house of worship for two of the 9/11 hijackers. Later, the mosque’s former imam, Anwar al-Aulaqi, invited further investigation of the mosque after he began espousing terrorist ideology from a hideout in Yemen. Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, had also visited the mosque at some point in the years prior to his rampage.

Elderly British schizophrenic sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan

January 25, 2014

 

A British pensioner with a history of severe mental illness has been sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of breaching the country’s blasphemy laws. Muhammad Asghar, 69, from Edinburgh, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is unaware that he is ill following a stroke, was convicted at the end of a trial in Rawalpindi in which it was alleged he claimed to be the prophet Mohammed. During the case, which was heard without a jury, the judge forcibly removed his independent lawyers from the court and appointed a state counsel on the defendant’s behalf.

His treatment has been severely criticised by human rights organisations which have long campaigned against Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy legislation which, according to Amnesty International, has created a climate of fear and murderous vigilantism in the devoutly Muslim country where allegations of religious crime are routinely used to persecute minorities.

Mr Asghar’s lawyers and his doctor are desperately concerned for his wellbeing after he attempted suicide following his incarceration in 2010. His condition is getting worse and he requires complex daily medication as well as psychological and social care but is instead sharing a crowded cell with other prisoners. The conviction is now being appealed although it could take five years before it is heard.

Dr Jane McLennan of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh – a leading authority on psychiatric illness in older people – said that to properly analyse his behaviour she would be required to repeat her patient’s claims – potentially running the risk of being considered blasphemous herself. Thus the very nature of the charges in Pakistan makes it difficult for a mental health professional to indulge in a full discussion of the proper diagnosis.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We strongly object to the use of the death penalty and will continue to provide consular assistance to him and his family during this difficult time. We have continuously made representations to the Pakistan government on behalf of Mr Asghar and we will continue to do so. We are opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and we are dedicated to doing all we can to prevent the execution of any British national.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/death-sentence-for-british-pensioner-accused-of-blasphemy-in-pakistan-9083235.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/exclusive-lawyers-denied-access-to-severely-mentally-ill-british-pensioner-facing-execution-in-pakistan-over-blasphemy-9086318.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/10595398/British-schizophrenic-sentenced-to-death-for-blasphemy-in-Pakistan.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/10594765/British-man-sentenced-to-death-for-blasphemy-in-Pakistan.html

We British go out of our way to avoid using the word ‘Muslim’

Have the Brits got a problem with “Muslims”? The author notices that on British television news coverage the lengths to which some reporters went to in order to avoid using the word “Muslim”.

 

Now if we categorise court defendants by their religion, we are saying – in effect – that their religion must have some relevance to their crime, or to their propensity to commit crime. We don’t routinely identify men or women charged with criminal offences as “Christian”, “Buddhist”, “Jewish” or, for that matter, atheist, because this, too, would suggest that our belief – or non-belief – in Jesus, Buddha or Yahweh has a connection to our criminal intent. We may be described as “British” in a court appearance – to distinguish us from French or Spanish citizens with whom we are accused of consorting in crime – but never as British Catholics.

 

Criminals of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, Muslims though they probably are, are technically of “Asian background”. The catch is that the word “Asian” – according to the author – means Chinese. Or Japanese. That’s not a dated or a racist idea. Visiting an Asian restaurant in London, people don’t expect to eat Arab food. If acquaintances say they are bringing an Asian friend to dinner, expect to see a Chinese or a Japanese or a Burmese or a Thai or a Malaysian. Or Indian (albeit they may be Muslims). Chinese, after all, constitute more than a quarter of Asia’s 4.3 billion population. But if they are bringing a Muslim friend, they would say just that, or Iranian or Pakistani or perhaps – if they were from the “Western” end of the Muslim world – Arabs. The real subject to be confronted here, is whether the misogynistic, patriarchal world in which so many Muslims do indeed live has somehow leached over into crime; whether there actually is a connection between the Muslim identity of the men in Oxford and their crime; no, not their religion, but their background, call it “social”, cultural”, political or whatever. The 500 Imams obviously thought there was a connection. That’s why they all preached the same sermon at the same time.

 

The author’s argument is far larger than this. The 9/11 attacks brought down a lot of the sensibilities about “Muslims”. The killers were Arab Muslims. And reporters said so. But what could not be discussed was that almost all were from Saudi Arabia and that the identity of these men might suggest there were problems in the Middle East, which must not be the subject of conversation since it might involve America’s relations with Israel. But nobody referred to the hijackers of 9/11 referred to as an “Asian gang”. Which they were, were they not?

African nations and predominantly Muslim countries are among the least accepting of homosexuality

The world is divided over the acceptance of homosexuality, a survey released Tuesday (June 4) finds.

There is broad acceptance of homosexuality in North America, the European Union, and much of Latin America, according to the Pew Research Center survey. The survey was conducted by telephone and face to face in 39 countries among 37,653 respondents from March 2 to May 1. The margin of error for the survey ranges from plus or minus 3.1 to plus or minus 7.7 percentage points.

Juliana Horowitz, the report’s lead author and a senior researcher at Pew, says, “I can’t think of any question we have asked where we have this sort of global polarization. In North America, Europe and several countries in Latin America, we have really high acceptance of homosexuality. In predominantly Muslim nations and in sub-Saharan Africa, we have equally widespread views on the other side.”

African nations and predominantly Muslim countries are among the least accepting of homosexuality. For example, about 98 percent of people in Nigeria say homosexuality should not be accepted. In Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country in Southeast Asia, 93 percent say homosexuality should be rejected.

On Being Brown in America

The recent bombings in Boston threw up many questions. One of the most pressing, in my somewhat narrow view, is the meaning of being brown in America.

On April 17, two days after the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring almost 200 others, CNN’s John King went on air to say that the suspect was a “dark-skinned male.” In the CNN video, which shows that the time of the broadcast was 1.15 p.m. on Wednesday, we see King pointing to a photograph from the front-page of The New York Times. A positive identification had been made based on a surveillance video from a Lord & Taylor store just outside the frame of the picture in the Times, King said. A little later that afternoon, King would go on to assure viewers that a subsequent arrest had been made.

No one had been arrested that day, of course, and, alas, there was no dark-skinned male. What is remarkable is that even while first reporting his piece of “exclusive” news, CNN’s King felt it necessary to qualify what he was saying.

This behavior isn’t entirely the product of the Internet. In fact, it is not even new. It has its roots in history and, arguably, in law. Let us go back to the days even before Maugham had his detective Ashenden looking at the photograph of a dark-skinned male. I’m referring here to the 1917 Immigration Act in the U.S. — also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act — which regarded as undesirable aliens all those individuals who had their origin in Asia, a region spanning the so-called Middle East to the Pacific Islands, thereby lumping them in with “homosexuals,” “idiots,” “feeble-minded persons,” “criminals,” “insane persons,” “alcoholics,” “professional beggars” and others.

Fewer Immigrants to the Netherlands

7 February 2013

 

The latest figures from the Netherlands Central Statistic Bureau reveal that the number of new immigrants arriving in the country in 2012 was 156,000, only 7,000 more than the number of people emigrating from the country. It is the first time the number of immigrants has dropped since 2006. More people emigrated from Netherlands to Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean Islands than immigrated to the Netherlands from these countries. Fewer asylum seekers from Asia and Africa immigrated to the country than in previous years.

 

Who loves and hates America: A revealing map of global opinion toward the U.S.

One of the most common answers I hear when I ask foreigners what they think about the U.S. is some variation of this: “You Americans are all so obsessed with how you’re perceived overseas.” In that spirit, even if it means reinforcing a stereotype, I’ve mapped some new data on global opinion of the United States, as part of a series of posts on Pew’s fascinating and just-out “global attitudes” study.

The map at the top of the post shows positive and negative opinions of the U.S. across the world. The poll works just like a presidential poll: Pew called people up and asked them if they had a favorable opinion of the U.S. or an unfavorable opinion (there was also a choice for no answer). Countries with a more favorable opinion are in blue (the darker the blue, the more favorable); red shows more unfavorable attitudes. A quick note about the data: most of it is from 2012, but I also pulled the 2011 numbers for Kenya, Ukraine, Indonesia and Lithuania; as well as the 2010 numbers for Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea; these countries were not included in the most recent survey.

The harshest views of America are in, no surprises, the Middle East and South Asia. Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and Pakistanis all seem to see the United States in an overwhelmingly unfavorable light. As Turkey’s economy grows, its foreign policy becomes more assertive and democratization gives the Turkish people a stronger role in government, the negative view of the U.S. there could become more important for the world.

Still, it’s important not to make the mistake of confusing these four anti-American countries, which have their own reasons for disliking the U.S. (drones in Pakistan, perceived support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), with the entire Middle East or “Muslim world.” Indonesia and India, which have two of the largest Muslim populations in the world, both returned mildly positive views of America. Views vary even in the Arab Middle East; Tunisians and Lebanese seemed ambivalent, reporting roughly equivalent favorable and unfavorable numbers. And Nigerians, half of whom are Muslim, positively beam pro-Americanism: They report a more favorable view of the U.S. than Americans themselves do.

The U.S. is most popular in continental Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the northeast Asian countries of South Korea and Japan.

How Are American Muslims Responding To The Anti-Islam Film?

Muslims have been demonstrating from North Africa to Southeast Asia, often violently, over the film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. But, in America, Muslims have been virtually silent over the video Innocence Of Muslims.

Why the subdued response in the U.S.?

Jonathan Brown, an assistant professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, offers one theory. He thinks some American Muslims are too scared to protest.

“In a post 9/11 world, they’re absolutely frightened to stick their heads out in any way, shape or form,” he says. “They are still apologizing for attacks they didn’t do.”

Many American Muslims are fearful of appearing suspicious, voicing discontent with government or showing any solidarity with Muslims overseas, he argues. And if they do express their opinions, Brown says, they are absolutely tripping over themselves to show how truly moderate and civil they are.

U.S. Muslim groups have come out and condemned the violence abroad, including the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. But aside from that, Muslims in America have stayed on the peripheries, not wanting to be drawn into a fire burning overseas.