Wearing niqab should be woman’s choice, says Theresa May

The Government should not tell women what to wear, the Home Secretary has said amid ongoing debate over the use of full-face veils. Theresa May said it is for women to “make a choice” about what clothes they wear, including veils, although there will be some circumstances when it will be necessary to ask for them to be removed.

 

The ruling followed calls by Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.

 

Asked if parliament needs to issue formal guidance to courts and schools on whether women should be allowed to wear a veil, the Home Secretary told Sky News: “I start from the position that I don’t think Government should tell people, I don’t think the Government should tell women, what they should be wearing.

 

“I think it’s for women to make a choice about what clothes they wish to wear, if they wish to wear a veil that is for a woman to make a choice.” There will be some circumstances in which it’s right for public bodies, for example at the border, at airport security, to say there is a practical necessity for asking somebody to remove a veil. “I think it’s for public bodies like the Border Force officials, it’s for schools and colleges, and others like the judiciary, as we’ve recently seen, to make a judgment in relation to those cases as to whether it’s necessary to ask somebody to remove the veil.

 

“But in general women should be free to decide what to wear for themselves.”

California Assembly to affirm campus speech rights after resolution against anti-Israel protests

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A state lawmaker on Wednesday promised to introduce a fix to an Assembly resolution that stirred controversy a day earlier because it urged California colleges and universities to crack down on demonstrations against Israel.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal said she would work on a resolution that affirms free speech rights on campus when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

“I’m not sure what all it’s going to say, but I think it will boil down to a celebration of the First Amendment,” the Long Beach Democrat said in a statement. “And it will make clear in no uncertain terms that students in our universities should feel safe to have differing opinions.”

Lowenthal and 66 of the Assembly’s 80 lawmakers provoked a storm of criticism after they approved a resolution Tuesday that condemned anti-Semitism but also asked administrators at California’s public colleges and universities to combat anti-Israel actions.

Republican Assemblywoman Linda Halderman did not mention Israel when she introduced House Resolution 35, which is symbolic and does not carry policy implications.

Free-speech advocates and Muslim groups took umbrage because the resolution appeared to label criticism and protest of Israel as anti-Jewish hate speech. On Wednesday, several groups sent letters to lawmakers condemning the resolution, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the National Lawyers Guild and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Islamic college in Netherlands to close

Due to poor test results and a shortage of pupils, the government will cease funding for the Amsterdam Islamtitische College, Junior Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt announced. The college is one of only two Islamic colleges in the Netherlands. School chairman Farid Zaari says the college is ‘extremely disappointed’. The minister could use her discretion to carry on subsidising the school, but inspections suggest that it is unlikely conditions at the college will improve. Funding for new pupils will be stopped on August 1, although current pupils will be able to complete their education at the school.

FBI continues questioning Somali university students

The disappearances of young Somali men from Minneapolis have resulted in numerous other students being questioned by the FBI. Federal agents have been visiting local high schools, colleges and universities for information about the missing Somali men. Additionally, CAIR is calling on colleges to provide more legal help for students, as many have been approached by investigators just walking to class or the library, or receiving phone calls from investigators. Several students report receiving knocks at the door by investigators seeking information about local mosque activity and leaders, and information concerning the worshipping activity of several persons. Finding a lawyer has been a challenging experience for students seeking legal backing; CAIR cited that all of their lawyers were busy, and university legal services have not followed up on advice.

Halal food on US University campuses

Islam Online examines the availability of halal, or Islamically permissible foods on various US university and college campuses. At Stanford University, halal food is widely available on several places of the campus – though it is not already made, but must be done so on-demand. At Harvard University, already-made halal meals on campus have been stimulated by support from wealthy Arab countries. However, such availability is not always the case on other campuses with growing a growing Muslim student body. A Yale student reflects on the dining halls of the university’s New Haven, Connecticut campus. “I didn’t find any halal grocery or meat store on the campus. I had no car and we were frustrated,” reported Imtiaz Ali. Georgia Tech students reported sticking to vegetarian meals, without a halal option at school.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Niqab ban extended to colleges

Dutch Education Minister Ronald Plasterk confirmed extending a proposed ban on the face veil – also known as the niqab – from schools and universities, and the ban applying to students, teachers, and service providers. “It will forbid any kind of garment that covers the face. The intention is to ensure that all people who communicate with each other are able to look each other in the eye, to see each other’s faces,” said the minister.

The ban would apply to all women who enter the gates of such educational institutions. Presently, all schools could make their own decisions regarding the face veil.

Full text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

U.K. Tries to Thwart Al-Qaeda Recruitment in Schools

The U.K. government said schools in England must do more to prevent violent extremists and terrorist groups including al-Qaeda from recruiting students, and issued guidelines on how to combat the threat. A 44-page pamphlet released today by the Department for Children, Schools and Families advises teachers how to spot and help vulnerable pupils age 5 to 11 in schools across the country. “We have learned from past experience that a security response is not enough,” Schools Secretary Ed Balls said in the pamphlet. “We need to address the underlying issues that can attract people toward violent extremist causes.” The guidelines are part of a larger campaign unveiled by the government in June to raise awareness of extremism in local areas that include schools, colleges and universities. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said then Britain can’t wait for another attack like the July 2005 London suicide bombings in which 52 people were killed, and that preventative action is needed. Among the U.K. population of 61 million are 1.6 million followers of Islam. Some 800,000 of the Muslims in Britain are under 25, according to the government, which yesterday set up an advisory group to ensure young Muslims have access to democratic channels for dealing with concerns. There is no “typical profile” of U.K.-based extremists influenced by al-Qaeda, according to the pamphlet, titled “Learning to be Safe Together.” It advises teachers that they can come from diverse geographical areas, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and include converts to Islam. Caroline Alexander and Camilla Hall report.

British academics reject government plan to monitor Muslim students

A union of British academics voted unanimously to reject a government plan to tackle Islamic extremism in universities, likening the initiative to “witch hunts” that would single out Muslim students. The University and College Union, which represents more than 120,000 British academics, agreed to the motion Wednesday at its inaugural conference in Bournemouth in southern England. The motion calls for members to “resist attempts by government to engage colleges and universities in activities which amount to increased surveillance of Muslim or other minority students and to the use of members of staff for such witch hunts.” (…)

Campus extremism request rejected

By Hannah Goff {Lecturers have voted unanimously to oppose government plans urging them to fight against extremism on campuses.} They had been asked to monitor and report suspicious behaviour amongst Muslim students. But at the University and Colleges Union annual conference in Bournemouth, delegates rejected the demands, saying they amounted to spying on students. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said student trust would be undermined by fears of a “quasi-secret service”. In November, the government warned of what it described as the serious threat posed by radical Muslims and issued guidance to colleges and universities calling on them to monitor student activity.