Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, census figures show

January 10, 2014

 

Census figures reveal a ‘startling’ shift in Britain’s demographic trend with almost a tenth of babies and toddlers born in England and Wales being Muslim. The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population. Less than one in 200 over 85s are Muslims – an indication of the extent to which birth rate is changing the UK’s religious demographic.

The figures show there were 3.5 million children aged 0-4 of whom 320,000 were Muslim. That proportion is more than nine per cent and compares with a total Muslim population among all age groups of less than five per cent.

Professor David Coleman, Professor of Demography at the University of Oxford said: “We have had substantial immigration of Muslims for a long time. Continuing immigration from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India has been added to by new immigration from African countries and from the Middle East. Birth rates of Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin remain quite high, although falling. There seem to be very low levels of falling away from religion among Muslims.”

Christians remain the largest religious group among those aged 0-4, at 1.5 million, 43 per cent.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/one-in-ten-children-under-five-in-england-and-wales-is-from-a-muslim-family-census-figures-show-9050293.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10562574/Almost-a-tenth-of-babies-and-toddlers-in-England-and-Wales-are-Muslim-census-figures-show.html

UK Muslim leader Chowdhury Mueen Uddin sentenced to death in Bangladesh

November 3, 2013

 

A Special Court in Dhaka has sentenced two former leaders of the al-Badr killing squad to death for war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971. Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, a Muslim leader based in London, and Ashrafuzzaman Khan, based in the US, were sentenced in absentia after the court found that they were involved in the abduction and murders of 18 people – nine Dhaka University teachers, six journalists and three physicians – in December 1971.

Prosecutor Sahidur Rahman told The Independent that he hoped that attempts by the Bangladesh government to bring the pair back to Bangladesh for punishment would be successful.

“Ashraf is a US citizen now, residing in Jamaica of New York City,” said Rahman. He is also involved with the Islamic Circle of North America.

During the trial, the prosecution had also informed the Court that Mueen, besides being the former chairman of the East London Mosque, he was also formerly Director of the Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the UK’s National Health Service, according to his website.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/uk-muslim-leader-chowdhury-mueen-uddin-sentenced-to-death-in-bangladesh-8919895.html

A Muslim daughter’s role in preparing her mother for burial – by Momtaz Begum-Hossain

October 25, 2013

I saw a wooden coffin, I answered the phone call to tell us that Umma, as we called our mother in Bengali, had left us, and later that same night saw her lying still like a ragdoll in the hospital ward. The burial was almost immediate. Within hours I was at the register office recording Umma’s death to get the certificate we needed to release her body. At home, my sisters were collating every teacup and saucer she had ever bought, for the well-wishers who were flooding our house with prayers.

We knew about the concept of heaven and hell and were warned that when a parent dies, their children’s prayers are the most important ones. Although a whole village in Bangladesh spent three days reading prayers for Umma, ours would have most impact.

Packed away in a suitcase in my parents’ bedroom was the white shroud that Umma was to be buried in. It had been washed in holy water from Mecca, for when the time came. She had been so busy talking about death and reminding us where to find the fabric that she never had a chance to explain to me and my three sisters that as her daughters we had duties after her death. In Islam it is a daughter’s duty to wash her mother and prepare her for the afterlife; boys attend to deceased fathers. Having never attended a funeral, I didn’t know what this involved. I soon discovered it wasn’t an elaborate bathe, but a wash down with sponges, towels, buckets of water and the bar of soap from my carrier bag.

There were two elder women in charge who directed us where and how to clean her. Umma was so devoted to her religion that I sensed she would be proud her daughters were taking part in such a symbolic ritual. As her limbs were lifted and we took it in turns to scrub her, it seemed as if her expressions were changing. She was a puppet, being moved, bent over, turned from side to side. I didn’t know it was possible to get this close to a dead person, let alone share in the most intimate experience their body would ever go through. She was washed an odd number of times. I can’t remember which number we settled on, just that the procedure was repeated until we were tired.

Afterwards she was dried with towels and scented with rose water. The room was suffused with the fragrance of Turkish delight, though she never wore perfume. Her beauty regime consisted of applying hair oil and moisturiser. I never saw her wear makeup and she had the smallest wardrobe of anyone I’ve ever known; just a handful of saris and blouses and petticoats she had made herself. Just as she had led a modest life, so it was for her funeral. Umma’s hair was combed and plaited and her body wrapped in the white fabric that Ubba, my father, had brought back from Mecca. When she was wrapped and laid to rest we anointed her with more rose water. We took her to a newly opened Muslim burial ground, she was buried there and her spot was marked with a hand-painted a plaque with my mother’s name and dates of birth and death.

Not everyone has a chance to say goodbye properly to someone they love, but I did more than that.

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/26/muslim-daughter-mother-burial

We’re all in this together: How Leicester became a model of multiculturalism (even if that was never the plan…)

You couldn’t ask for a better symbol of the present, paradoxical state of multicultural Britain than Jawaahir Daahir. She is a vigorous example of female empowerment: a Somali refugee in the Hague, she learnt Dutch and studied for seven years to become a social worker there, while bringing up her six children. She is also a conservative Muslim, like most of her compatriots. She combines the two – feminism and religious piety – with no apparent strain. And it was because that combination is one that Britain can deal with, while the Continent finds it unacceptable, that she is now happily settled in Leicester.

 

“When the Somali community came to Leicester there was a sense of support and a welcoming environment. For example, now there are lights, welcoming Ramadan. When I registered my children for school, there were welcome signs in so many languages, including Somali. It was a culture shock, because you don’t expect a Western city to welcome you in your own language. In Holland, even though I participated actively in all sorts of different areas, I still felt separate, different. But here in Leicester you feel a sense of belonging. You are not a foreigner, you are not an outsider. The society and the system acknowledge you and consider you.”

 

David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine, asks hard questions about the economic and political rationale for the mass immigration that has transformed the ethnic profile of so many of our towns and cities. Britain obtained its dazzling array of new citizens with little conscious planning. And, as Goodhart describes, in places such as Bradford and Tower Hamlets, the mixture of declining local industry and a large, tight-knit population of immigrants from rural parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh has produced severe social tension, culminating in the mill-town riots of 2001. But as Jawaahir Daahir’s story reveals, that is not the whole picture. Slap in the middle of England there is a city where an improbably rich mix of people and religions seems to be working rather well. Nobody planned for Leicester to become the most multicultural city on the planet. It just happened that way. And for the early immigrants, too, there was little thought that they might make their lives here.

 

In the past 40 years, Leicester has become the poster city for multicultural Britain, a place where the stunning number and size of the minorities – the 55 mosques, 18 Hindu temples, nine Sikh gurudwaras, two synagogues, two Buddhist centres and one Jain centre – are seen not as a recipe for conflict or a millstone around the city’s neck, but a badge of honour.

 

But in the 12 years since the attacks on America, punctuated by 7/7 and the Woolwich atrocity, Britain’s faith in multiculturalism has begun to erode. After every act of Islamist terrorism, there has been a spasm of revulsion. This is one of the conundrums of our age, one which laid-back, permissive Holland epitomises: how are the super-tolerant children of the European Enlightenment to react to the arrival of newcomers who refuse to adopt the uniform of secular liberalism? How far do you tolerate those who themselves have strict limits on what they will tolerate?

 

As atheists – who account for 23 per cent of Leicester’s population – like to point out, religion is not a reliable recipe for communal harmony. Quite the reverse: as every religion enshrines an exclusive explanation of the world, each has the potential to oppress and persecute those who think differently. And often that’s how it works out. Muslims are often treated like second-class citizens in India, Christians in Pakistan, Hindus in Bangladesh and Muslims in Burma.

 

While the mill towns of Burnley, Oldham and Bradford experienced race riots in 2001, Leicester has ridden out its multicultural decades in considerable peace and harmony. The white population, guided by the likes of Peter Soulsby, has responded with maturity and imagination to these epochal demographic changes. And while there will always be grumbling about the “cosseting” of immigrants, the facts speak for themselves. In the mid-1970s, the National Front was active in Leicester, and on one occasion came close to winning a single council seat. But since then, they and their successors have been notably unsuccessful in the city. If the minority of British whites are seething about the way the city is changing, they are keeping it very much to themselves.

Ramadan fasting dilemma when sun never sets

 

Practising Muslims across the world are observing Ramadan. For one month, they are fasting between first light and sunset. But what do Muslims do in a town where the sun never really goes down? The town of Rovaniemi in Finland lies in a land of extremes. At 66 degrees north it straddles the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. During midwinter it is cloaked in total darkness. But in the summer it is bathed in daylight. The long days pose a particular problem for fasting Muslims like Shah Jalal Miah Masud. The 28-year-old moved to Rovaniemi – 830km (515 mile) north of the capital, Helsinki – from Bangladesh five years ago to study IT. He has not had any food or water for 21 hours. Masud says it is difficult to fast according to Finnish time and admits he is tired. But despite the hunger and fatigue, he says it is a pleasure to observe Ramadan during the long Finnish days.

 

There is another option which reduces the number of fasting hours – mark its duration by the rising and setting of the sun in countries far to the south of Finland. Dr Abdul Mannan – a local Imam and president of the Islam Society of Northern Finland – says there are two schools of thought. “The Egyptian scholars say that if the days are long – more than 18 hours – then you can follow the Mecca time or Medina time, or the nearest Muslim country time,” says Dr Mannan. “The other (point of view) from the Saudi scholars says whatever the day is – long or short – you have to follow the local time.” Dr Mannan says the majority of Muslims in northern Finland observe either Mecca’s fasting hours or Turkish time because it is the nearest Muslim country to Finland.

 

Nafisa Yeasmin recalls her first Ramadan in Rovaniemi when she decided to fast according to Finnish daylight hours, going without food for up to 20 hours a day. “It was very difficult to follow because in Bangladesh we are used to 12 hours’ daytime and 12 hours’ night-time,” she says. “Then I thought, not any more. I have to follow Mecca’s timetable. But I’m a little bit worried whether Allah will accept it or not.”

The Land of St. Benedict is “open” to Islam

July 4, 2013

 

A center for prayer and for the promotion of Islamic culture will be inaugurated on Sunday afternoon in Cassino by the association of Islamic culture known as “the Light.” The event congregated provincial political institutions and the regent of the Abbey of Montecassino. “One of our goals “ said the president of the association, ironically, bears a name dear to Christianity, Massimiliano Evangelista, 41 year-old Cassino man, converted to Islam in 2004, was there to promote interfaith dialogue and in particular with the Catholic faith with which “we share so many things. We want to know what Islam is, and tell what it is not, dispelling stereotypes created by the Western media.” There are about 400 believers of the Islamic faith in Cassino. “We want a place where, among other things, to pray together so that every individual has the right to practice their religious beliefs. In Cassino there is a large Moroccan community, but there are also some Egyptians and Lebanese, Palestinians and Bangladesh. We had no difficulty in obtaining the necessary permits, because the martyr city has repeatedly demonstrated openings cultural integration among the people.” What do you say to those who fear that such centers can be meeting places for extremists? “It’s a risk that does not exist” says Evangelista.

You May Now Kiss the Computer Screen

Internet Marriages on Rise in Some Immigrant Communities

With a red embroidered veil draped over her dark hair, Punam Chowdhury held her breath last month as her fiancé said the words that would make them husband and wife. After she echoed them, they were married. Guests erupted in applause; the bride and groom traded bashful smiles.

 

Normally one of the most intimate moments two people can share, the marriage had taken place from opposite ends of the globe over the video chat program Skype, with Ms. Chowdhury, an American citizen, in a mosque in Jackson Heights, Queens, and her new husband, Tanvir Ahmmed, in his living room with a Shariah judge in his native Bangladesh.

Their courtship, like so many others, had taken place almost entirely over the Internet — they had met in person only once, years earlier, in passing. But in a twist that underscores technology’s ability to upend traditional notions about romance, people are not just finding their match online, but also saying “I do” there.

The practice of proxy marriage is particularly widespread in Islamic countries where the Koran has long been interpreted to explicitly endorse it.

“After all these advancements in technology and all kinds of telecommunication tools, scholars came to the conclusion that it is acceptable,” said the imam Shamsi Ali, of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens.

“Skype is making it easier,” he added. “These days you have Google Hangout, too.”

Terror suspect pleads guilty in phony NY plot to blow up Federal Reserve Bank in New York

NEW YORK — A Bangladesh native accused of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb pleaded guilty Thursday to terrorism charges stemming from an FBI sting.

“I had intentions to commit a violent jihadist act,” Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis said in a soft voice while entering the plea in federal court in Brooklyn.

He told the judge that he picked the Federal Reserve as the target, but he also expressed remorse, saying he no longer considers himself a jihadist.

“I deeply and sincerely regret my involvement in this case,” he said.

Nafis, 21, had been charged in October with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida. He faces a sentence of 30 years to life at his next court date on May 30.

While under investigation, Nafis spoke of his admiration for Osama bin Laden, talked of writing an article about his plot for an al-Qaida-affiliated magazine and said he would be willing to be a martyr but preferred to go home to his family after carrying out the attack, authorities said.

He also talked about wanting to kill President Barack Obama and bomb the New York Stock Exchange, officials said.

UK Muslims stage a protest against French intervention in Mali

13 January 2013

 

Around 60 Salafi Muslims gathered in front of the French Embassy in London to protest against French interventions in Mali. The protestors held placards reading “Ban Ki-moon Terrorist” and “French army, you will pay, the Muslims are on their way” during the demonstration on Saturday.

 

A speaker expressed his anger by saying that “We got rid of some of our dictators– Ben Ali, Mubarak, and al-Qadhafi. But now it’s time for the dictators in Mali, in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, and all over Muslim lands to be removed and replaced by the shariah, by Islam,”rasouli_amir

Officials say alleged Fed Bank bomber had big plans

Who is Quazi Mohammed Nafis? When CBS News asked his father, a banker in Bangladesh, he said he’d spent his life savings to send the quiet, timid boy to college in America.

At a small Missouri college, Nafis struck fellow students from Bangladesh as an intense young man who became more angry and radical over time. But prosecutors say Nafis had formed his plan to attack the U.S. even before he left Bangladesh.

In an interview with CBS News, Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York said: “What is clear is that when he arrived here, he had already conceived of the plan to construct a bomb of some sort and of large magnitude and to effect great destruction. What’s also clear is that he had already conceived of the plan to come here and recruit others already in the U.S. to join him, and that’s what he actually set about doing.”

Lynch is the chief prosecutor on the Nafis case. Her office has prosecuted major terrorism cases from the al Qaeda plot to bomb New York subways, to the plot to blow up the fuel lines supplying Kennedy Airport. Lynch says the Nafis case is another reminder of the key role the internet and social media play in terrorism.

When Nafis came onto the FBI’s radar, he was trying to “friend” his way into recruiting small cell.

“This defendant used Facebook. There are internet chat rooms, there are websites, there are blogs devoted to terrorist thinking that are out there that can draw people in,” Lynch said.

One of those Nafis recruited turned out to be an informant, who introduced the 21-year-old student to an FBI undercover agent posing as an al Qaeda facilitator. Critics of such sting operations have charged that the government becomes an enabler for a plot that the suspect could never achieve. In this case, the federal prosecutor takes exception.