Female genital mutilation ‘rising in soft-touch Scotland’

November 15, 2013

 

A BBC investigation has revealed concerns that young girls are being brought to Scotland to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) because the country is seen as a “soft touch”. Agencies claim that families from England and Europe have travelled to Scotland to have their daughters cut. They also said girls living in Glasgow and Edinburgh have undergone FGM in Scotland and the problem is increasing.

UK legislation to criminalise FGM was introduced in 1985 but since then there has not been a single prosecution. Scottish legislation in 2005 made it illegal to take girls abroad to conduct the practice. New Scottish government figures, seen by the BBC, revealed that between 1997 and 2011, 2,403 girls were born in Scotland to a mother from an FGM-practicing country.

The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests about FGM to each of Scotland’s 32 local councils and 14 health boards. The majority of health boards were unable to say how many cases they had encountered. Less than a third of the 32 councils had specific local guidelines on FGM and less than 10 cases had been referred to social work.

Anela Anwar, of Scottish charity Roshni, said: “Because Scotland has been lacking somewhat in a prosecutions, families are coming up from England and Wales into Scotland to have the practice carried out and that is certainly concerning if Scotland is now being viewed as a place that doesn’t take the issue of female genital mutilation seriously.”

Fatou Baldeh, of the Dignity Alert and Research Forum (DARF) in Edinburgh said: “The UK is behind and among the UK, Scotland is very poor in tackling FGM and supporting victims.”

She added: “Because it’s getting expensive to take a daughter back home and circumcise or mutilate them, women are putting together money and bringing over someone who can cut the girls and it’s cheaper.”

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) set up a national FGM helpline this year, and over the course of the first three months, there were 102 calls relating to girls at risk of FGM.

 

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24915967

 

Many young Britons do not trust Muslims, poll finds

Some 27% of the thousand 18 to 24-year-olds questioned said they did not trust them, while fewer than three in 10 (29%) thought Muslims were doing enough to tackle extremism in their communities. A similar proportion of the young people polled (28%) said the country would be better off with fewer Muslims and almost half (44%) felt Muslims did not share the same values as everyone else.

 

The BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat survey was carried out by the pollsters Comres in June after the soldier Lee Rigby was murdered in the street in Woolwich, south east London, in May. Despite its findings on the degree to which Muslims were mistrusted, it showed that young adults were more likely to agree (48%) than disagree (27%) that Islam is a peaceful religion.

 

They were also found to be divided over the question of whether immigration is good for the UK. Around two fifths (42%) believe it is a good thing but more than a third disagree (35%), the survey showed.

 

Terror groups operating in foreign countries were held responsible for Islamophobia in Britain by 26% of respondents, while 23% blamed the media and 21% placed the blame on UK Muslims who have committed terrorist acts.

 

Of the young adults polled, 16% said they did not trust Hindus or Sikhs, 15% said they did not trust Jews, 13% mistrusted Buddhists and 12% did not trust Christians.

 

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Islam’s ability to empower is a magnet to black British youths

A seminar was hosted last month by Christians Together in England to consider ways to “stem the flight of black British youths to Islam and radicalisation”. In an unprecedented move, Muslims were invited to attend – and they did. Together, both faith groups discussed the reasons why a growing number of young black people are choosing Islam in preference to Christianity. According to this morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, one in nine black Christian men are converting to Islam.

The passivity that Christianity promotes is perceived as alien and disconnected to black youths growing up in often violent and challenging urban environments in Britain today. “Turning the other cheek” invites potential ridicule and abuse whereas resilience, strength and self-dignity evokes respect and, in some cases, fear from unwanted attention.

 

Islam holds there is only one God – Allah who does not share his divinity with anything. This made sense and is easy to comprehend. Islam recognises and reveres the prophets mentioned in Judaism and Christianity, therefore a natural and final progression of these earlier religions. The religious guidelines provide spiritual and behavioural codes of conduct with role models such as Malcolm X only helping to reinforce the perception that Islam enabled the empowerment of one’s masculinity coupled with righteous and virtuous conduct as a strength, not a weakness.

 

My personal experiences are supported by academic research on the same topic: Richard Reddie, who is himself a Christian, conducted research on black British converts to Islam. His studies reveal that the majority of young people interviewed converted from Christianity to Islam for similar reasons as mentioned above. Islam’s way of life and sense of brotherhood were attractive to 50% of interviewees, whereas another 30% and 10% respectively converted because of the religion’s monotheistic foundations and the fact that, holistically, the religion “made sense” and there were “no contradictions”.

 

The author’s research examined whether such converts were more susceptible to violent radicalisation or more effective at countering it. The overwhelming conclusion points to the latter – provided there are avenues to channel these individuals’ newly discovered sense of empowerment and identity towards constructive participation in society, as opposed to a destructive insularity which can be exploited by extremists. Many Muslim converts – not just black British ones – will confirm the sense of empowerment Islam provides, both spiritually and mentally. It also provides a context within which such individuals are able to rise above the social, cultural and often economic challenges that tend to thwart their progress in today’s society. Turning the other cheek therefore is never an option.

PBS series ‘Life of Muhammad’ explores diverse opinions of prophet

The portrait of the Muslim prophet, which emerges from a PBS documentary “Life of Muhammad,” may surprise some American viewers.

 

“As major polls by Gallup, Pew, and others have reported, astonishing numbers of Americans, as well as Europeans, are not only ignorant of Islam but have deep fears and prejudices towards their Muslim populations,” said John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University who appears in the three-part series that debuts Tuesday (Aug. 20) on PBS.

 

Esposito praised the series’ “balance,” and its attempts to describe controversial aspects of the prophet’s life with a diversity of opinions.

 

Produced for the BBC in 2011, the series examines the world into which Muhammad was born and his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah. The second hour focuses on the “Night Journey to Jerusalem,” his departure from Mecca and the eight-year war with the Meccan tribes. The third analyzes events during his later life, including the introduction of the moral code known as Shariah and the concept of jihad.

 

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born journalist, the series presents Muhammad in a respectful, positive light, though it doesn’t shirk from the controversies that surround Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 A.D.

 

Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at University of Oxford, says in the film, “We never represent or have any images of any of the prophets.”

 

Omaar’s signoff at the end of the three-hour documentary attempts to contextualize all of the stories—flattering and damning—surrounding the prophet.  “He left Arabia a better place than he found it,” Omaar says.

Moving in the right direction on Somalia

David Cameron, speaking to the BBC Breakfast show, described the reason for sending aid to countries like Somalia, was essentially to keep Somalis out of Britain. By investing, the Prime Minister claimed, “we can stop them ending up on our shores”.

However as the author critiques the prime minister he highlights that there are many better reasons for investing in Somalia than preventing immigration. We might start in 2010, when the failure of rains, coming on top of two decades of absent government, lead to a famine that over the next two years would kill 258,000 people, roughly 5 per cent of the population. Or you might instead emphasise the need to build security and quell Islamic jihadist group Al-Shabaab, who have issued threats against Britain in the past. Then again, though Mr Cameron would be loath to admit it, you could argue that the main reason we invest in Somalia is in fact to fund Islamic extremism. It was revealed this weekend that £500,000 worth of supplies from the Department for International Development has been stolen by Al-Shabaab. We’ve been here before. In 1993, so much aid was ending up in the hands of Somali militants that it contributed to the US-led ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the country, a disastrous failure which ended after Black Hawk Down.

That DfID have owned up to this latest loss, albeit quietly, is a fine thing. They must learn from it. Mo Farah (a Somali-born distance runner for great Britain recently took the 5,000m and 10,000m world title in Moscow – and is seen by some as the greatest British athlete of all time) is currently campaigning to stop Barclays shutting down its money-transfer services to Somalia, a service upon which 40 per cent of the country is said to rely and through which £100m is sent from Britain every year. Since the UK government is not perfect at helping Somalia, closing a route through which Somalis can help themselves seems crazy. Farah’s campaign should be backed to the hilt.

Ofcom examines appearance of Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary in TV coverage of Lee Rigby murder

Ofcom has launched an investigation into whether appearances by the radical Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby were editorially justified. Mr Choudary was interviewed on the BBC’s Newsnight and Channel 4 News the day after Fusilier Rigby was killed on the streets of Woolwich on 22 May. He also featured on Daybreak on 24 May, refusing to condemn the attack. His comments during the appearances drew criticism from the Faith and Communities minister, Baroness Warsi, and Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary. Ofcom must decide whether Mr Choudary’s comments were justified by the context of the story. This falls under rule 2.3 in the Broadcasting Code, which states: “Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.”

 

Is the Muslim call to prayer really such a menace?

The author Patrick Strudwick questions the outrage caused by Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhan by likening it to the ever present BBC broadcasting of songs of praise on a Sunday. Songs of praise is aimed at the devout. Its purpose is clear: to call followers to prayer, to convert non-believers, to ring out across the land like an air-raid siren from on high. The programmes, for transmission on British terrestrial television, will, I fear, inflame community tensions; whip up divisions between religious groups and even spark hate crimes against its devotees. So let’s ban Songs of Praise. The BBC is set to continue its weekly indoctrination of impressionable young viewers with this vile, dangerous programme. Call it a publicity stunt; call it the deliberate provocation of right-thinking atheists, but this supposedly innocent show about Christians flaunting their religion with hymns – some of which contain such incitements to holy war as, “Onward, Christian soldiers… Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe” – exposes once and for all the sinister agenda of the BBC: to turn all our children Anglican.

 

The Sun, the Ukip, and Tory MP Conor Burns however are “Vibrating with indignation at a frequency inaudible to rational adults” over Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, every morning during Ramadan, which begins next Tuesday. A spokesman for Ukip said: “It will inflame community tension”. Burns called it “politically-correct tokenism”. They fear, seemingly, that so soon after the Woolwich murder, such chanting could prompt further Islamophobic attacks, entirely unaware that theirs is an Islamophobic attack and that censoring religious worship would gain the respect of Mao.

 

They seem ignorant too of the entirely obvious truism that the more people know of a culture, the greater our understanding of the complexities, rituals and history of a faith, the more irrational fear is neutralised. Their broadcast, in three-part disharmony, is a hymn for a very un-British hate.

The best way to fight the EDL’s anti-Muslim bigotry is by showing solidarity on the streets

Before the renewed wave of anti-Muslim bile after the horrendous murder of Lee Rigby, the EDL seemed to be staring into the abyss. Their rallies attracted increasingly derisory turnouts, notable for punch-ups between drunk racists: impressive shows of force by anti-racists in Walthamstow and elsewhere humiliated them.

 

But last week, their leader – who operates under the pseudonym “Tommy Robinson”– was treated to a reprehensibly soft interview on BBC’s Today programme: the activities and beliefs of Robinson and his gangs were barely scrutinised. Such appearances do nothing but help legitimise racism, treating it as just another valid political perspective that can be calmly engaged and debated with just like any other set of beliefs. A bunch of thuggish racists are running rings around the Establishment. In the Daily Telegraph, its former editor Charles Moore defends the EDL as “merely reactive”, as non-violent, as “the instinctive reaction of elements of an indigenous working class which rightly perceives itself [as] marginalised by authority, whereas Muslim groups are subsidised and excused by it”. Allegations of racism or fascism “are not strictly accurate”, he reassures us. Tommy Robinson himself demands that Muslims follow British law: odd from someone who struggles with the same advice, having served a 12-month prison sentence for assaulting an off-duty police officer who tried to stop a domestic incident with his partner, as well as convictions for “threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour.” He once warned “every single Muslim watching” that the “Islamic community” would face “the full force of the English Defence League” if any British citizen was hurt or killed. Here are Moore’s non-racist, non-violent “reactive” band.

 

Anti-Muslim prejudice, however, remains worryingly widespread. Over a third of Britons think they pose a serious threat to democracy; and while the number who believe Muslims are compatible with the “British way of life” has increased, just one in three believe that. The EDL threat has to be taken seriously, but it needs careful thought. The truth is the EDL are simply a striking symptom of a society where anti-Muslim bigotry is acceptable: it passes the “dinner table test”, as Tory minister Sayeeda Warsi has put it. Now it’s Muslims; once it was Irish people who faced racist scapegoating after terrorist attacks: a twisted irony, then, that Tommy Robinson is himself the son of Irish immigrant parents. But this prejudice is not confined to the right. Some on the left seem to believe defending Muslims  is somehow a betrayal of secularism. Studies show newspapers routinely portray Muslims in a negative light. And so here is the dark truth. After a month in which the EDL have enjoyed a resurgence; Muslims abused on the streets and online; mosques firebombed – all those who have fanned bigotry, take responsibility, because these thugs are your children.

EDL leader Tommy Robinson ‘utterly condemns’ attacks on Muslims

The leader of the English Defence League has said he “utterly condemns” attacks on Muslims, and called for the internment of Islamic extremists. Tommy Robinson’s comments, made on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, come the day after six extremists were jailed for a total of more than 100 years for plotting a gun and bomb attack on an EDL rally in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. He also denied claims his group had firebombed an Islamic community centre in north London on which “EDL” was spray-painted. He called for the internment of Islamist extremists and the outlawing of all aspects of Sharia law. “I’d stop the building of mosques in this country until Islam reforms in such a way and works in this country with Western democracy and freedom,” he added.