Fully veiled women hinder progressive Islam by Yasmin Alibhai Brown

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a founder member of British Muslims for Secular Democracy and argues that when firstly a British judge and then dedicated educationalists running a British college are defeated by the aggressive guerrilla army of Muslim Salafists and their misguided allies problems arise. At Blackfriars Crown Court, Judge Peter Murphy ordered a 21-year-old, veiled defendant to show her face. The accused had been charged with witness intimidation and pleaded not guilty. Whatever the results of that case, she and her supporters certainly intimidated the judge, who backed down so the trial could proceed.

 

Birmingham Metropolitan College was similarly cowed and had to reverse a directive forbidding students from covering their faces. One hooded lady crowd sourced a protest against the college. Some overexcited student union members, Muslim objectors and online petitioners have forced a U-turn. Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood, Birmingham, welcomed the capitulation.

 

Muslim women can now to go to courts and college in shrouds. That all-covering gown, that headscarf, that face mask – all affirm and reinforce the belief that women are a hazard to men and society. These are unacceptable, iniquitous values, enforced violently by Taliban, Saudi and Iranian oppressors. They have no place in our country. So why are so many British females sending out those messages about themselves?

 

Some think they are outsmarting anxious Western institutions by covering up, winning dispiriting culture wars which will give them no advantage in our fast moving world. Young women in niqabs are either testing the state as teenagers do their parents or think their garb is political action – but for what? Many women, mothers in particular, have been brainwashed by proselytisers who want to spread conservative Islamic worship across Europe and North America. They are well funded by sources based in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

 

The woman before the judge must know that she or others like her will never be judges or barristers. Will she make her daughters do the same? The system wasn’t picking on her – a defendant in a micro mini would have caused as much disquiet. And the aggrieved college student, what future does she imagine? She denies herself jobs for the sake of what? They keep apart from fellow Britons by withholding proper human interactions. It’s not right or fair.

 

None of our sacred texts command us to cover our faces. Some branches of Islam do not even require head coverings. These are manmade injunctions followed by unquestioning women. We are directed always to accept the rules of the countries we live in and their institutions, as long as they are reasonable. For security, justice, travel, education and health identification is vital. Why should these women be exempt? We Muslims are already unfairly thought of as the enemy within. Niqabs make us appear more alien, more dangerous and suspicious. If it is a provocation for Ku Klux Klan to cover up so they can’t be recognised, it is for Muslims too. The clothes symbolize an attempted takeover of the religion just when believers are looking for liberty, autonomy, democracy and gender equality. Malala Yousafzai doesn’t hide her determined face. Nor do our female Muslim MPs and peers or civil rights lawyers.

 

Some of the bravest human rights activists are Muslim women. Take Tamsila Tauquir awarded an MBE for her charitable work with Muslims and Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, which I co-founded seven years ago. The two of them, with other idealists, have embarked on an “inclusive mosque” initiative, with pop-up prayers in various venues, where men and women, gays and straights, humanists and modernists can pray together.

 

Many others are trying to promote progressive Islam, which fits our times and needs.

Islamic zealots must fear these developments and want to crush them. Whether they know it or not, fully veiled women are part of this reactionary mission. Our state must not aid and abet them. The judge and the college should not have retreated and handed them this victory.

America’s first Muslim fraternity gets ready for rush week

ALMThe Alpha Lambda Mu fraternity, known in Arabic as Alif Laam Meem, is preparing to welcome new students at the University of Texas, Dallas. The group encourages members to abstain from drinking and excessive partying. It is opening brand new chapters at four other college campuses this fall.

On college campuses across America, incoming freshman are crossing their fingers and pulling on their social networks to get noticed by their favorite fraternity or sorority.

This year, young, devout Muslim men can be frat boys too.

Alpha Lambdu Mu (ALM) is America’s first Muslim fraternity. It was founded in February by an inaugural group of 17 college students from the University of Texas, Dallas. The idea has gained some momentum and this fall, new chapters are opening up at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California-San Diego, and the University of Central Florida.

 

Some critics are asking—is this halal? It may not seem like these two concepts can mix. Islam challenges its followers to stay away from some of the things fraternities are known for—drinking, excessive partying, one night stands after late-night clubbing. But there are also many positive benefits that come from being involved in Greek life on campus, like a sense of belonging and career connections after graduation.

 

ALM founder Ali Mahmoud wanted to bridge that gap. When a childhood friend of his expressed interest in checking out the UT Dallas Greek scene purely for its social and postgraduate business connections, Mahmoud said he couldn’t blame him.

 

Single Muslim women on dating: ‘I don’t want to be a submissive wife’

Muslim dating has come of age with its own “a modern Muslim woman with an age-old dilemma”. She is seeking Mr Right but with no sex before marriage and no alcohol. In Britain, these women are part of a growing demographic: educated, independent career women, who struggle to find a partner, especially over 30. British Asians have long been early adopters of the technology to find marriage partners. Even the old aunty network of helpful family matriarchs has gone high tech, I’m told, with handwritten notes replaced, with Excel spread sheets of available “boys” and “girls” aged 20 to 55. Though originally Hindu-focused, the biggest marriage websites, such Shaadi.com, have separate Muslim sections. MuslimandSingle.com has a quick checklist on religiosity: Do you conduct salah (the five-times-a-day prayer ritual)? How often? Eat halal?

 

It seems there are reformations and counter-reformations under way in modern Muslim dating: Some websites encourage modern women to embrace the concept of the “submissive” first (or second) wife. Other couples though are quietly using the nikah (Islamic wedding contract) to try out cohabitation before the finality of a civil marriage. Some forward-looking imams want doctrine updated to allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslims, just as Muslim men can. Struck by “the huge numbers of confident college girls wearing wild and elaborate hijabs, loads of makeup and kissing their boyfriends in public”. Many women develop an assertive Muslim identity at university. Some may seem conservative, from their dress and religious practice, but meet and choose their own husbands on demonstrations or political events. They have married men from different ethnicities, challenging their parents’ racism and obsession with family background. After all, in Islam, all are equal. It’s a fascinating new combination of values from faith and the secular society in which they grew up.

 

The women interviewed say the biggest challenge has been to find a man on the same Islamic wavelength; not looking for a “submissive” wife nor so “liberal” that they’re drinking and sleeping around.

Muslim college carves niche in USA

Until Zaytuna opened its doors three years ago, American Muslims who wanted to study and grow in their faith mostly had to look overseas for a college education. That left students unprepared to engage with the U.S. culture to which they would return, say Zaytuna’s founders, well-known Islam scholars Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian.

The college grew out of the non-profit Zaytuna Institute, founded in 1996 as a local community organization.

Courses include Islamic theology and law, and they also cover the classic liberal arts, such as logic, rhetoric and astronomy. Students learn Arabic and study the Koran. And they read Western authors such as Aristotle, Einstein and Robert Frost.

The school, which raised $7 million last year, is funded by individual Muslim donors and tuition revenue. Tuition last year was $11,000, slightly less than the $12,192 UC campuses charged California-resident undergraduates.

Zaytuna is “trying to participate in this bigger story, this bigger historical narrative of religious minorities having a place here,” says Scott Korb, a New York-based religious studies and writing professor and author of Light Without Fire: The Making of America’s First Muslim College, which chronicles the school’s first years.

Zaytuna is not America’s first Muslim college. The Chicago-based American Islamic College was established in 1981 as a private, not-for-profit, four-year school but stopped offering classes more than a decade ago. A few years ago, it began offering non-credit courses and hopes to again offer bachelor’s degrees, says spokeswoman Hind Makki.

Imam Training Program Closes in the Netherlands

8 February 2013

 

Inholland College has announced that it will close its program offering professional training to become an Imam. The college attributes the closure to budget cuts, stating that with an enrollment of 150 students the course requires considerable supervision and resources.  Established in 2006 as a means for cultivating Islamic leaders integrated into the country. The program has been partly subsidized by the government. Students currently enrolled in the program will be permitted to finish. Amsterdam’s Vrij Universiteit offers a masters degree to become an Islamic spiritual leader.

Chicago is ground zero in U.S. Muslim renaissance

CHICAGO — Religious affiliation may be on the wane in America, a recent Pew study asserts, but you wouldn’t know it walking into the storefront near the corner of West 63rd Street and South Fairfield Avenue.

 

Inside a former bank in a neighborhood afflicted with gang violence, failed businesses and empty lots, a team of volunteers drawn by their religious faith is working to make life better for Chicago’s poorest residents.

 

The free medical clinic has expanded its hours; 20-something college graduates are clamoring to get into its internship program; rap stars swing by its alcohol-free poetry slams; and the budget has increased tenfold in the past decade.

 

The storefront belongs to Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and it is part of a wave of new Muslim institutions emerging at an unprecedented pace. More than a quarter of the nation’s 2,106 mosques were founded in the last decade, according to a recent University of Kentucky study, and new social service organizations, many of them run by 20- and 30-something American-born Muslims, are thriving as never before.

 

This surge in new Muslim institutions, led by a nationwide network of young activists, “is the most important story in Islam in America right now,” said Eboo Patel, founder of the college campus-based Interfaith Youth Core.

 

Young Muslims “are going about the process of institution building in concretely American ways,” said Kambiz GhaneaBassiri of Reed College, author of “A History of Islam in America,” adding that the 9/11 terrorist attacks shaped a generation of young Muslim activists.

 

NYC criminal justice college president says he is troubled by NYPD monitoring of campus group

NEW YORK — The president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said he is “deeply troubled” about reports that the New York Police Department sent a paid informant to spy on the school’s club for Muslim students.

School President Jeremy Travis sent a letter to students and professors Thursday reacting to an Associated Press report on the 19-year-old informant, Shamiur Rahman, who said he quit working for the NYPD at the end of the summer after growing uncomfortable with the job.

Rahman said his assignments included attending lectures hosted by John Jay’s Muslim Student Association, photographing people attending its events, and identifying its members and leaders.

In the letter, Travis said he was unaware of the spying, and expressed concerns about using informants for surveillance where there was no evidence of a crime.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the department’s intelligence-gathering operation as necessary to root out any potential terrorist plots.

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.

Images of terror suspect at odds: Jihad martyr to feds; ‘good Muslim kid’ to friends, family

NEW YORK — At the Missouri college where Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis enrolled, a classmate said he often remarked that true Muslims don’t believe in violence.

That image seemed startlingly at odds with the Bangladesh native’s arrest in an FBI sting this week on charges of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb.

Redmond Muslims’ Rental Car Targeted With Racist Graffiti

A group of nine college students—many of whom attend the MAPS center in Redmond—were vacationing near Lake Chelan when their vehicle was vandalized with hate-filled slogans.

A rental vehicle driven by a group of young Muslim men—at least one of whom lives in Redmond—was the target of racist graffiti during a recent vacation near Lake Chelan.

According to a news release from the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR), the vehicle was scrawled with racist phrases including “Sand N**gers” and “Doon Goons” (sic). The vandals also left several physical scratches on the car.