State Council rules burkini ban ‘a serious violation of fundamental freedoms’

The State Council has suspended the burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes) in a much-anticipated ruling.

“The judge of the State Council concludes that article 4.3 of the disputed decree represents a serious and illegal violation of fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of movement, freedom of conscience, and personal freedom,” the State Council wrote in its press statement. “As the urgent situation requires, it cancels the order of the judge of the administrative court of Nice,” which validated the decree, “and orders the article’s suspension.”

The judge wrote that if “the mayor is responsible for the local police,” he “must reconcile his mission’s goal to maintain public order with respect for freedoms guaranteed by the law.” The restriction of these freedoms should therefore be “adequate, necessary and proportionate to the need for public order.” But in Villeneuve-Loubet, “no element produced before [the Council] showed that risks to public order occurred, on public beaches…regarding the dress worn by certain persons.”

This decision is a victory for the opponents of the burkini ban decrees, which judged that the items of clothing were not “respectful of morality and of secularism” and even allowed police in Nice and Cannes to ticket women wearing a simple veil.

CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Muslim Inmate’s Religious Rights [PRESS RELEASE]

PRESS RELEASE: “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”

CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Muslim Inmate’s Religious Rights [Press Release]

Muslim inmates in the Jumu'ah prayer service in the chapel of the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles County during the month of Ramadan. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Muslim inmates in the Jumu’ah prayer service in the chapel of the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County during the month of Ramadan. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/20/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”

SEE: Supreme Court Rules for Muslim Inmate Over Prison Beard Policy (Reuters)
Supreme Court Upholds Religious Rights of Prisoners (USA Today)

“We applaud the ruling in this important case, which firmly underscores that courts should not blindly defer when the government invokes ‘security’ as a reason to curtail rights,” said CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks. “The state has the burden of proving that a compelling government interest justifies its burden on the exercise of religion beliefs and practices. In this case, the court rightfully rejected arguments the growing of a beard in any way harmed prison safety and security.”

Wicks noted that CAIR recently filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief on inmate religious rights with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is considering whether the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) policy requiring direct supervision by a chaplain or outside volunteer of inmates who gather in groups for religious services is unconstitutional.

Late last year, CAIR also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s refusal to hire a Muslim woman wearing a religious headscarf (hijab) was discriminatory.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

How to spot a Muslim according to the Board of Education in Poitiers

Charles Martel has returned to the Board of Education in Poitiers. A document meant to help teachers detect signs of radicalization in students is said to have taken a “dislike” to Islam, according to information from Mediapart.

The document classifies signs of radicalization in the following manner: having a long beard, wearing religious clothing, shaving one’s head, refusing to get tattoos or practicing intensive fasts. The information was presented in a PowerPoint and also discusses Palestine, Chechnya and Iraq. According to Mediapart, the presentation was made by a section of the “mobile security team” (EMS) whose members are ex-police officers or gendarmes. EMS was created in 2009 to ensure the security of educational establishments.

After being interviewed on France Bleu, Magali Espinasse, member of the union Snes-FSU, expressed her disapproval of the document. She referred to it as a “gross caricature” that contained “outrageous simplifications,” calling it “racism, pure and simple.”

Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said “maybe the words aren’t perfect, and we will indeed improve things.”

 

Women targeted in rising tide of attacks on Muslims

June 28, 2014

More than half of Islamophobic attacks in Britain are committed against women, who are typically targeted because they are wearing clothing associated with Islam, new data reveals. The figures of anti-Muslim attacks, compiled in the nine months following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013, come days after Saudi Arabian student Nahid Almanea was stabbed to death in Essex, with detectives believing that she may have been attacked because she was wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

In a study of calls to the Tell Mama hotline, which records Islamophobic crimes, academics at Teesside University found there were on average two incidents every day over the period. Victims reported a total of 734 incidents to the hotline between the start of May last year and 28 February 2014, broken down into 599 incidents of online abuse and 135 offline attacks – an increase of almost 20% on the same period the previous year. One aspect of the figures indicates an apparent lack of trust in police to deal with Islamophobic incidents, with one in six victims choosing not to report the incident to authorities.

The Teesside report, says more effort is required to foster greater trust between the Muslim community and authorities. “Supporting victims and encouraging them to come forward to report a hate crime remains the highest priority,” the report says. “Alongside addressing under-reporting, authorities should be encouraged to disaggregate hate crimes by strand, and to take seriously the increased incidence of anti-Muslim hate crime.”

The data also revealed that – unlike most incidents of hate crime, which overwhelmingly involve male perpetrators and victims – 54% of the victims of Islamophobia were female. One theory is that Muslim women are more “visibly” Muslim because of traditional clothing such as the hijab or abaya. The figures show that four in five victims attacked in the street or elsewhere were females wearing visibly Muslim clothing; almost the same proportion of alleged perpetrators offline were young, white men.

Overall, the data are in contrast to the trend for hate crime, with government figures showing the number of reported attacks falling. Other findings from the report confirm that a significant number of incidents reported to the hotline involved a link to far-right groups such as the English Defence League. A far-right connection was traceable in almost half of reported Islamophobic online abuse.

Dress like a jihadist: Isis and terror-related merchandise flogged online and in Indonesian stores

June 24, 2014

As Isis whips up a tsunami of violence, barrelling through Iraq capturing towns and borders on a daily basis in its quest to create an Islamic state, a few entrepreneurial businessmen are capitalising on the exposure by selling a range of “terror”-related merchandise. All publicity is good publicity, particularly in the sale of jihadist apparel, with baseball T-shirts, caps and hoodies being flogged online emblazoned with “ISIS” or supporting the insurgent cause.

A number of Facebook groups marketing the Islamic goods have since been taken offline, including pages such as the “Koas Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” or “Muzalzil production.” The t-shirts, stamped with the al-Qa’ida splinter group’s name and bordered by automatic weapons, have been available for at least a few months and originate from Indonesian vendors. Islamic clothing has also, however, been seen in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

One Facebook account that’s still live, Rezji Militant, has pictures of a store that it says is in Pabelan, central Java, and proudly displays items it sells including an “Always Fight Against Jews Zionism” poster, camouflage vests, and militant dolls-come piggy banks. Another website, Zirah Moslem, has computer game-style images of men with scarves wrapped around their faces illustrated on t-shirts with the words “Muslim Brotherhood,” Fight For Freedom Till Last Drop of Blood,” or “Mujahideen Around the World.” Zirah Moslem has almost 5,000 friends on Facebook and shows off merchandise supporting Hamas, the Taliban and the Free Syrian Army.

 

TAGS: Radicalization, Security and Counterterrorism, Soldiers and Military Conflict, Public opinion and Islam in the media, and Issues in Politics and Immigration and Integration

Interview with designer Belkis Baharcieva

February 24, 2014

 

Belkis Baharcieva came to Germany as a refugee in 2001. At the age of 30, she began studying fashion design in Trier. Baharcieva recently set up an online fashion shop, selling her own designs to Muslim women who want to wear high-quality, beautiful Islamic clothing.

 

Qantara: http://en.qantara.de/content/interview-with-designer-belkis-baharcieva-fashion-for-the-modern-muslim-woman

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

January 21, 2014

 

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?
Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

“What dress is most appropriate for a Muslim woman in public?”

Researchers at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan asked the same question to both men and women of various age groups and different religious faiths in seven countries with a Muslim majority. The real focus of the research was post- revolution Tunisia, but scholars also decided to investigate responses in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. Each respondent was shown images of women. The left most image showed a women who was totally covered (burqa ), decreasing the pieces of cloth covering the woman from image to image until the last drawing, which depicted the subject as completely uncovered.

The findings concluded that on average the hijab (veil that covers the hair, forehead, ears and neck) was considered the most appropriate. You could say this is a compromise between the two extreme images. Another important aspect that the research shows is the partial open-ness to different styles of dress in Saudi Arabia as opposed to a greater closure in “post-spring” Egypt.

The research also included a question that went beyond mere aesthetics. Respondents were also asked: “Should the woman decide what to wear?

And this confirms the above trend:  in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, and Tunisia, 50% of respondents where in favor of the free choice of women, as opposed to 22% and 14% in Pakistan and Egypt, respectively.

I must say that by scrolling through the research data, I returned several times to the word used in the original question: appropriate.

What do the researchers mean by this term? Appropriate for whom? For others or for the woman? Who can decide when attire is appropriate or not?

Beyond the specific object of this analysis, veil or no veil, I am always convinced that there is only one parameter to decide how a woman should dress: personal choice. Do not take me for naive, I am aware of the incendiary debates that surround these issues, especially in our cities. In my opinion, the most appropriate clothing is what makes a woman feel free and proud to express herself regardless of expectations or fashions of the moment.

The external influences on not only clothing but also on the image of a woman’s own body, is not unique to Muslim women, but rather something that applies to all women in the world. Let me give you another example. Last year a global campaign was launched called “Dark is beautiful” with the aim to emphasize the beauty of dark skin in societies like the West where fair skin is favored. The pressures of fair skin often prompt many black women to resort to toxic products that promise to lighten skin. We must reverse this situation.

Corriere della sera: http://lacittanuova.milano.corriere.it/2014/01/21/velo-donne-islam-qual-e-labbigliamento-giusto-in-pubblico-e-chi-lo-decide/

Original report: http://mevs.org/files/tmp/Tunisia_FinalReport.pdf

 

M&S apologises after Muslim assistant refused to sell customer alcohol

December 23, 2013

 

Marks & Spencer has apologised after a Muslim member of staff refused to sell a customer alcohol. “The issue arose after an unnamed customer at a London store was “taken aback” when an “extremely apologetic” Muslim checkout worker asked them to wait for another till to become available.

The customer told the newspaper: “I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available. I was taken aback. I was a bit surprised. I’ve never come across that before.”

Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and some Muslims refuse to handle it. M&S said its policy applied to staff of all religions, not just Islam. The spokeswoman said: “Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our members of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department or bakery in foods.

The case highlighted differences among retailers on whether religious staff should have to carry out certain jobs, the Telegraph said. Sainsbury’s guidelines say there is no reason why staff who do not drink alcohol or eat pork on religious grounds cannot handle them, the newspaper reported, while Tesco said it made “no sense” for staff that refused to touch items for religious reasons to work on a till. Muslim employees at Asda do not have to work on tills if they object to handling alcohol, while Morrisons said it would “respect and work around anyone’s wishes not to handle specific products for religious or cultural reasons”, the Telegraph said.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/dec/23/marks-and-spencer-muslim-alcohol

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10533728/MandS-faces-furious-backlash-from-customers-over-Muslim-policy.html

Muslim cabbie sues St. Louis, taxicab commission over clothing rules

St. Louis – A Muslim taxicab driver is suing the city of St. Louis, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission and a private security company, saying he has been harassed and arrested because he insists on wearing religious garb.

Raja Awais Naeem, who works for Harris Cab and manages a shuttle service called A-1 Shuttle, says his religious beliefs require him to wear modest, loose-fitting clothing and a hat called a kufi. But that garb has run afoul of the taxicab commission’s dress code for cabbies, Naeem claims in the suit filed Thursday morning in St. Louis Circuit Court.

Naeem, originally from Pakistan but now a U.S. citizen living in St. Louis County, said he has been told he must adhere to the commission’s rules requiring a white shirt, black pants and no kufi. Baseball caps are allowed, as long as they have no logo other than the taxi certificate holder.

He claims he has been harassed and had his taxi license suspended when he continued wearing clothing he says is required by Islam, including the kufi, a loose shirt called a kurta and loose-fitting pants called shalwar. Naeem said the clothing maintains modesty by concealing the figure.

Representatives of the city, the taxicab commission and Whelan either could not be reached for comment or declined to comment on the suit.

In his lawsuit, Naeem says he was written a citation by a Whelan Security guard in June 2011 for wearing “foreign country religious dress.” Other times he had his taxi license suspended or was told he would be arrested for trespassing if he worked in his religious clothing, he said.

He said he tried to seek approval from the taxicab commission to wear his religious dress, providing the commission an affidavit in October about the importance of the clothing he wears.

Naeem says he filed complaints with the Human Rights Commission of Missouri, which issued him right-to-sue letters on each complaint.

His suit seeks an injunction to allow religious dress for cabdrivers and civil damages including attorney’s fees and other costs.

 

St. Louis Post-Dispatches: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/muslim-cabbie-sues-st-louis-taxicab-commission-over-clothing-rules/article_5e88f07f-7c5e-5a89-85b6-fb4f67bb451d.html