Islamic preachers: the pied pipers of sexual apartheid?

February 9, 2014

 

A young man called Ishmael, with a wispy black beard and a slight blemish in one eye, is telling me why women should be covered up and kept apart.

“If I had two sweets – one wrapped and one unwrapped – and threw them in a bin, which one would you pick out and eat?” He grins, the amateur philosopher pleased with his analogy, and breaks off to shake the hand of a young man walking past the makeshift London Metropolitan University Islamic Society stall set up in the student canteen. Ishmael, who says he is a former head of the society (something the current president later denies), appears to know a lot of the students passing through. Women are man’s great temptation,” he turns back to face me. “They should be covered up.”

Spring term 2014 was supposed to bring an end to gender segregation at British universities. In December, the Prime Minister himself intervened over the issue, emphasising through a spokesman that he wanted it banned even where men and women voluntarily separate themselves (although not in places of worship). Mr Cameron – backed by the Education Secretary Michael Gove – made his comments after Universities UK (UUK), the body that represents vice-chancellors, published new guidelines endorsing segregation which, according to some student groups and human-rights organisations, were tantamount to “sexual apartheid”.

UUK’s controversial guidance, set out in a case study detailing how external speakers from “ultra-orthodox religious groups” could request that men and women sit separately, has now been withdrawn. It continues to work with senior legal counsel and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to clarify its position. The equality group Student Rights, which monitors preaching by extremists and discrimination through segregation at student events, says separated seating has become a widespread trend at many British universities.

Yet moderate Muslims find themselves at odds with this view of the relationship between the sexes. “That [position] isn’t something I recognise at all,” says Humayun Ansari, a professor of the history of Islam and culture at Royal Holloway, University of London, who specialises in researching the experience of Muslims in Britain. “What we’re talking about is various interpretations of Islam.”

Myriam Francois Cerrah, a journalist and DPhil student at Oxford University who regularly gives talks in front of mixed and intermingled audiences at Islamic societies up and down the country, says it is the London Islamic societies, in particular, that have become dominated by these ultra-traditional stances on the relationship between men and women.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/10625879/Islamic-preachers-the-pied-pipers-of-sexual-apartheid.html

Supreme Court says Arkansas prison inmate can grow beard to meet religious beliefs, for now

November 14, 2013

 

The Supreme Court says an Arkansas prison inmate must be allowed to grow a short beard in accordance with his religious beliefs, at least temporarily.

The justices said in a brief order Thursday that state corrections officials may not enforce their grooming policy prohibiting beards against Gregory Holt, who says his Muslim beliefs require him to grow a beard.

Holt filed a handwritten plea to the court asking that he be allowed to grow and keep a half-inch beard, at least until the justices decide whether to take up his full appeal.

The 38-year-old Holt is serving a life sentence for domestic violence and burglary. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said in 2012 that prosecutors said Holt cut his girlfriend’s throat and stabbed her in the chest at her mobile home.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-says-arkansas-prison-inmate-can-grow-beard-to-meet-religious-beliefs-for-now/2013/11/14/e0e8146c-4d79-11e3-97f6-ed8e3053083b_story.html

Washington state man fired over religious beard wins court fight

October 10, 2013

A Seattle-area Muslim man who said his former employer fired him because of the beard he wears for religious reason has been awarded more than $66,000, although most of that will go to attorney fees.

Abdulkadir Omar said he doesn’t care about the money.

“It’s not even about the money,” he said. “It’s about standing up for something you believe in.”

In 2011, Omar filed his federal lawsuit in Seattle against Sacramento, Calif.-based American Patriot Security, seeking back pay and unspecified damages for emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life, among other reasons.

According to the lawsuit, Omar was hired by a local manager of the security company in May 2009 and earned $9 an hour guarding a FedEx warehouse in Kent, Wash. He said he started the same day he was hired, and was not told about the clean-shaven policy.

In November 2009, a supervisor from headquarters told him he had to shave his beard because of the policy. Omar refused, saying his beard is part of his religious beliefs. He was suspended, and fired the following spring, the lawsuit said.

Born in Yemen, Omar said he immigrated to the United States when he was 10.

“I grew up in this country, I’ve been living here all of my life. Just like everybody else, I’m an American,” he said.

The default judgment says that more than $50,000 of the $66,000 award is for attorney fees, while most of the rest goes to Omar, who said he was unemployed for nine months after being dismissed by American Patriot.

Omar sued the security firm with the help of the Washington chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/washington-state-man-fired-over-religious-beard-wins-court-fight/2013/10/10/39279faa-31d0-11e3-ad00-ec4c6b31cbed_story.html

Muslim boys told their beards breach school rules

Two Muslim schoolboys have been barred from classes because they will not shave off their beards. Both 14-year-olds were placed in “isolation” from the start of the new term at Mount Carmel Roman Catholic high school in Accrington, Lancashire.

 

The head teacher said the matter was not one of religion but about dress code. Xavier Bowers told the Lancashire Evening Telegraph: “We have not taken this decision lightly. I have spent quite a lot of time researching the issue and speaking to Muslim elders.

 

A relative of one of the youngsters said it was “pure discrimination”. The family member, who did not wish to be named, told the paper: “Because these boys cannot shave their beards for religious reasons, they are being put in isolation for six-and-a-half hours every day. They are not being allowed to mix with anybody or speak to friends. It is pure discrimination.

 

In response to this week’s beard ban, Bowers added that the clean shaven rule had been in place for some time, although two boys were allowed to keep their beards on religious grounds as an “exception” last year as their exams approached and the school did not want to place them under “unfair pressure”. He said that a number of other Asian boys were then spoken to and it was made clear they must return from the summer clean shaven.

 

It is understood talks are on-going between the families of the two boys and the school to resolve the issue.

Fort Hood gunman who killed 13 forcibly shaved in military prison

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.

Maj. Nidal Hasan began growing a beard in the years after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. The beard prompted delays to his court-martial because it violated Army grooming regulations. He was convicted of all charges last month at his court-martial at the Central Texas Army post and sentenced to death.

Now, Hasan is an inmate at the U.S. Detention Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home to the military death row. Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday that Hasan had been shaved. He did not specify when or provide details, however.

Officials at Fort Leavenworth previously had said Hasan would be subject to Army regulations.

Hasan said he grew the beard because his Muslim faith required it and was not meant as a show of disrespect. However, Col. Gregory Gross, the original judge presiding over Hasan’s court-martial, ordered Hasan to be clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved before his trial.

The dispute over that decision led to appeals that delayed the trial by more than three months before the appeals court ousted the judge. The appeals court ruled that Gross did not appear impartial while presiding over Hasan’s case and that the command, not a judge, is responsible for enforcing military grooming standards.

 

From Acton to Aleppo: how one British Muslim’s quest to Syria ended in death

Ali Almanasfi, who was killed along with a US woman and third westerner, hoped to atone for a wrong by fighting with rebels. After five months fighting in Syria with the rebels, Ali Almanasfi’s luck finally ran out. On Wednesday the 22-year-old Briton took a wrong turn and drove into a government checkpoint near the city of Idlib. Syrian soldiers immediately opened fire. They killed Almanasfi together with his two fellow passengers: an American woman and Islamic convert, Nicole Mansfield from Michigan, and a third, so far unidentified man, possibly Canadian.

 

Syrian TV showed the bloody aftermath of this one-sided encounter: a black VW Golf riddled with bullets and a haul of Kalashnikovs. Also visible was Almanasfi’s maroon British passport. It gave his place of birth – London – and date of birth, June 1990.

 

Almanasfi’s family were conservative Sunnis from Damascus, Syria’s capital. But he grew up in west London, the son of a bus driver, who later split stormily with Almanasfi’s mother and remarried twice. As a teenager, according to his friend Tam Hussein, Almanasfi drifted into trouble. He got involved in street fights with other Acton gangs and petty crime: drugs, stealing, booze. In 2008 his father sent him to Syria to cool down. Apparently this didn’t work. A year later he did something he would bitterly regret: drunk, he attacked an older man. The details are hazy. But he was caught, sentenced to four or five years in jail, and initially imprisoned in Feltham young offenders institute. In Arabic culture it is shameful to disrespect an elder, to beat up an old man an act of terrible dishonour. Almanasfi appeared haunted by this ghost. He looked at fighting for the rebel cause “almost like a redemptive act”, Hussein said.

 

It was in prison that he became interested in religion. He discovered an identity. He grew a beard. Hussein recalled: “He became increasingly religious; the ghetto talk, the accent, the slang slowly disappeared.

 

It was at this point that Britain’s secret services appeared on the scene. Almanasfi had begun attending a radical mosque in west London. He popped up on MI5’s radar, intelligence sources made clear on Friday.

 

In January Almanasfi went over, despite MI5 warnings: he left the third-floor Acton flat he shared with his mum and disappeared. He sent a valedictory text to his half-brother Safwan in Halifax. It read: “I’m off. I love you.” He seemed aware of the risks but also confident that he would survive his idealistic adventure unscathed. “He told me about some guys who were killed there. He said these guys were hotheads who didn’t know what they were doing,” Hussein said.

 

Almanasfi’s final five months in Syria are a mystery. In west London his family reported him missing; police called round at his flat, but found no trace. Like other foreign volunteers – at least 600 have gone to Syria since 2011 from at least 14 European countries including the UK.

 

Army’s highest legal branch appoints new judge to preside over Fort Hood shooting case

FORT WORTH, Texas — The military’s highest court ousted the judge in the Fort Hood shooting case Monday and threw out his order to have the suspect’s beard forcibly shaved before his court-martial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Col. Gregory Gross didn’t appear impartial while presiding over the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.

But the court said it was not ruling on whether the judge’s order violated Hasan’s religious rights. Hasan has argued that his beard is a requirement of his Muslim faith, although facial hair violates Army regulations.

In a statement issued Monday night, Fort Hood officials said proceedings in the case will resume after a new judge is appointed by the Army’s highest legal branch. That indicates Army prosecutors will not appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An Army appeals court had upheld the shaving requirement in October. But on Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said the command, not the judge, was responsible for enforcing grooming standards. The ruling said that was one example of how Gross did not appear impartial in the case.

Gross had repeatedly said Hasan’s beard was a disruption to the court proceedings, but the military appeals court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to show that his beard interfered with the hearings.

Police: Anti-Muslim bigot beat Sikh cab driver

A Federal Way man accused of viciously beating a Sikh cab driver while shouting anti-Muslim slurs now faces a hate crime charge.

King County prosecutors contend Jamie W. Larson attacked the cab driver during an Oct. 17 ride after commenting on the man’s turban.  According to charging documents, Larson, 48, tore out chunks of the man’s beard during the assault, which also loosened one of the driver’s teeth.

According to charging documents, the STITA Taxi driver arrived at the Auburn police station to retrieve Larson. During the drive to Larson’s Federal Way home, Larson began questioning the driver about his turban.

Larson then attacked the driver while making anti-Muslim comments, a Federal Way detective told the court. The driver was able to stop the car in the 1200 block of Southwest 301st Street, where police found him injured and Larson attempting to return to the parked taxi.

During the attack, Larson pulled out parts of the driver’s beard and punched him repeatedly, according to charging documents. Police report the attack left the driver dazed and with a loose tooth.

Pentagon: 9/11 ‘mastermind’ did not get henna or other dye to color his beard at Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The Pentagon has given a partial explanation to a Guantanamo mystery: How the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks managed to dye his beard.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s bushy grey beard has been colored a rusty orange during court appearances. Spectators had assumed he used henna, which is used by some Muslims as a hair dye.

A Pentagon spokesman says Mohammed used “natural means,” such as juice from berries that he receives in his meals. Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said Tuesday that Mohammed did not receive any “outside” means to color his beard.

Mohammed is kept under such heavy security that his lawyers can’t even reveal routine conversations with their client.

He is charged with four other prisoners with aiding and planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Defendant Told to Shave

An Army appeals court has ruled that the defendant in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that killed 13 can have his facial hair forcibly shaved off before his murder trial. The United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals’ opinion issued Thursday upheld the military trial judge’s decision to order Maj. Nidal Hasan to appear in court clean shaven or be forcibly shaved. Major Hasan has said the beard is an expression of his Muslim faith. His lawyers say he will appeal. Major Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted.