British Army seeks to recruit more Muslim troops

British Muslims share information about Islam during Islam Awareness Week at the army's headquarters in Andover. (Photo: Library, UK Government/Armed Forces)
British Muslims share information about Islam during Islam Awareness Week at the army’s headquarters in Andover. (Photo: Library, UK Government/Armed Forces)

More must be done to recruit soldiers from ethnic minorities and in particular the Muslim community, the Head of the British Army has admitted. General Sir Nicholas Carter, who took up the role of Chief of the General Staff last year, said that ethic minority representation in the military is “nowhere near where it needs to be”.

“We have to do more. My highest priority is ensuring we continue to have the best possible talent throughout our Army,” he said. Figures released by the Ministry of Defence reveal there are only 480 Muslims serving in Army.

That is only 0.54% of the total regular force of 88,500. Moreover, not all of those Muslims are British – some joined from Commonwealth countries. Overall, all ethnic minorities – including black, Asian, Sikh, Hindu and Fijian people – make up less than 10% of the force.

The military’s Islamic Religious Advisor welcomed General Carter’s comments.
“In my view, the values of the Armed Forces are fully compatible with the values of Islam as well as other faiths,” said Imam Asim Hafiz.

“Anybody wishing to pursue a career in the Services, Regular or Reserve, and is prepared to work hard can be assured of a very rewarding experience.”

Senior figures in the military and Ministry of Defence recognise that conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to negative perceptions of the military in Muslim communities. General Carter wants that to change through closer interaction and engagement with ethnic minority communities.

How do we bring FGM to an end in Britain?

international-day-of-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation-547x410FGM originates in cultural rather than religious values and traditions, although justifications given for it vary across regions and cultures. Despite commonly being associated with Islam, there are a large number of Islamic countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, where it is not practiced. This does not mean that religion has no influence. There is no requirement for FGM in the Quran; however, many perpetrators invoke Islam to justify their acts. Therefore experts generally refer to religion as a “justification” or “rationalisation” rather than a “cause”.

Communities living abroad can more readily challenge the cultural norms of their country of origin, for example, questioning the beliefs, values and codes of conduct that underpin FGM. Studies examining the views of women and men in diasporic communities from countries where FGM is regularly practiced have identified three key factors behind the continuation of the practice: the preference for a circumcised wife, the wish to circumcise daughters, and the belief that FGM should continue albeit in a modified way.

In diasporic Somali communities, the decision to abandon the practice often results from internal debate about whether Islam demands FGM, with many ultimately concluding that it does not. In fact, close examination of the Quran often leads people to decide that FGM should be seen as forbidden and as a form of harm inflicted on God’s creation.

Rather than forming stereotypes of communities where FGM remains a problem, the problem is best tackled by exploiting this dynamism. Working with communities to change attitudes, rather than imposing judgements from outside, is essential to combat the practice in the UK.

Eric Pickles writes a letter to 1,000 imams to promote ‘Muslim British Identity’ sparks criticism

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is at the center of a new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate "how faith in Islam can be part of British identity."
Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is at the center of a new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.” (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA/The Guardian)

A new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”.

The letter, sent by Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to every mosque in England, provoked an angry response from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which accused the government of peddling far-right arguments about integration. “Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?” said Harun Khan, the deputy secretary-general of the MCB.

However the Prime Minister, David Cameron, intervened, saying that the council’s response showed that it – not Mr Pickles – had “a problem”.

Speaking at lawn mower factory in Ipswich, Mr Cameron said: “It’s absolutely right to write this letter, to say we all have a responsibility to fight extremism. Anyone who reads this letter will see that what he is saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution to our country.

Lady Warsi argues that while the letter was in fact positive, the timing and actions before the letter led to its failure: “The Muslim Council of Britain was one of a number of groups over which we never reached agreement, but one which nevertheless was never formally engaged with. I’m not here to defend the council. Unlike some colleagues, I never viewed it as extreme or dangerous. My criticism, which I have on numerous occasions discussed with it, is that it continues to produce a leadership that is neither equipped to represent, nor is genuinely reflective of, the contemporary aspirations of large sections of British Muslim communities. So while I welcome Eric’s attempt to reach out, the reality is that if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then the chances of success are limited. A letter out of the blue to a mosque that is potentially affiliated to an organisation like the Muslim Council of Britain – with whom the government has refused to engage – creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic. It makes it appear as if the government is neither listening nor genuine in its intentions. And it provokes a negative response, irrespective of the true motive.”

[Full text of the letter is here.]

Dutch cabinet presents plan to combat forced marriage, honor killings, and homophobia

The Dutch cabinet recently presented an Action Plan for Self-determination. The cabinet will provide a yearly one million euros until 2017 to combat forced marriages, homophobia and violence related to honor. More than 150 specially trained volunteers will be supported to bring these taboo themes up for discussion among their own communities. Additionally a social media campaign will be initiated with stories related by people who support a change of mentality on these themes. This was written to the Dutch Lower House by Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher.

Muslims of Créteil: whoever harms a Jew will face the Prophet

After a Jewish couple was attacked by three young Muslims in Créteil, the Muslim community condemned “a shameful act that is contrary to Islam,” and hoped both communities could live together in harmony.

While the local mosque’s imam did not bring up the recent attack at Friday prayer, it was on the minds of many attendees. “It’s disgusting. It’s a shameful act that is contrary to Islam,” declared 30 year-old Abdel. “Whoever harms a Jew will face the Prophet. It says in the Quran,” added 27 year-old Icham, who said that many of his neighbors are Jewish and are “far from being rich.”

“Our remarks are not always the same as our young ones who are 20 years-old. They talk differently. They don’t think about what they say,” said an older man who attended Friday prayer.

23 year-old Aïcha added, “as a woman and as a Muslim, I’m ashamed of what happened to that young woman. We all must carry peace in our hearts, not hatred.”

Mobilizing German Muslims against extremism

Minister of Integration, Bilkay Öney, emphasized on the role of Muslims communities in combatting radical Islamism. Arguing that Islamic extremism being not only a general threat to the German society but also a threat to the security of Muslims, Islamic organizations and communities should take adequate measures as well as support state authorities.

Mosques should provide support to families of jihadis

According to Contact Institution Muslims and Government (CMO), mosques need to provide more support to families of people going to Syria and Iraq. These people are in need of contact with people going through the same situation and also practical support, which they both don’t get from Islamic communities.

Yassin Elforkani, who is working for CMO, responds to the plan of establishing a support centre for families of jihadis’ (see: ‘Support centre for families of jihadis’), saying that this plan can only be successful when there is a ‘bond of trust’, since parents shouldn’t be afraid that their information will be handed over to the police, for instance.

Tory candidate for Brentwood South resigns after tweeting that Islam was the “religion of rape”

A Conservative local election candidate who tweeted that it was good to be anti-Islam and that the Islam was the “religion of rape”, has had to resign just weeks after being chosen to represent the party in the Brentwood local elections.

David Bishop, who was due to stand as the Conservative candidate for the ward of Brentwood South, Essex, later this month, resigned yesterday after local press discovered anti-Islamic and homophobic tweets on his twitter account.

 

In a tweet posted just two days after being selected Bishop posted that Islam was the “religion of peace’ & rape”, after it was announced that four Muslim men had been arrested for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

 

Initially, when questioned by The Brentwood Gazette about the tweets, Bishop has said that they had been posted to make such views look stupid.

 

He stated the following after handing in his resignation: “I recognise that someone standing for public office should show leadership and seek to unite communities, not divide them. I hope the residents of Brentwood South can forgive my lack of judgement in time.”

 

This was followed by a statement from Louise McKinlay, group leader of Brentwood Conservatives, which said that the views of Bishop had “no place in our team”.

 

Bishop’s inflammatory comments are on the same day when UKIP announced that they would be suspending one of their election candidates after he made similar comments on twitter. Harry Perry, who was seeking election in the Offerton ward in Stockport, was suspended by the party after tweeting that Islam was “evil” and homosexuality was an “abomination before god.”.

Halal, shechita and the politics of animal slaughter

March 6, 2014

 

The practice of slaughtering animals by slitting their throats (The traditional practice in Judaism and Islam) and draining the blood in line with religious custom should be adapted to prevent suffering, the leader of Britain’s vets has said. John Blackwell, head of the British Veterinary Association, said animals should be “stunned” before slaughter.

Mr Blackwell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that animals should be “stunned at the time of death”, which would render them “insensible to pain until death supervenes”.

“It’s important at the time of death for the animals’ welfare not to be compromised,” he said, while adding that he “respected the beliefs of religious sects”.

He said that sheep could remain conscious for up to seven seconds after having their throat cut, while for cattle it was two minutes and said there was “good evidence” that showed that animals could perceive pain at the point of having their throats slit, but he conceded that this research was not conclusive.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also disagreed with the views of Mr Blackwell .stating that stopping this type of slaughter would “remove the right of Jewish communities in this country, Muslim communities in this country, to stick to their religious beliefs about how they prepare food and how animals are slaughtered”.

UK legislation allows halal (Muslim) or shechita (Jewish) “non-stun” slaughter as long as it does not cause “unnecessary suffering”. Ritual slaughter is lawful in the UK and the EU to satisfy the dietary requirements of Jews and Muslims.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is a voice for the UK veterinary profession and has over 14,000 members.

Mr Arkush, who is the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Jewish slaughtering practice was a “humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly” and that Mr Blackwell’s comments were “misleading”.

 

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26463064

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/06/halal-shechita-politics-animal-slaughter

How Tarek Mehanna Went to Prison for a Thought Crime

December 31, 2014

By Amna Akbar

 

As the government embraces a “counter-radicalization” approach to counterterrorism, prosecutors are turning radical beliefs into criminal acts.

Since 9/11, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 500 terrorism cases, yet there remains scant public understanding of what these federal cases have actually looked like and the impact they have had on communities and families. Published by The Nation in collaboration with Educators for Civil Liberties, the America After 9/11 series features contributions from scholars, researchers and advocates to provide a systematic look at the patterns of civil rights abuses in the United States’ domestic “war on terror.”

From mosques to Muslim Student Association offices, American Muslim community spaces have been emptied of their politics, leeched of their dynamism as centers for religious and political debate. This new normal is the result of ten years of post-9/11 scrutiny combined with our government’s more recent embrace of “counter-radicalization” and “countering violent extremism” programs, which subject Muslim communities’ religious and political practices to aggressive surveillance, regulation and criminalization.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department helped seed radicalization theory, giving rise to an elaborate lattice of counterterrorism practices that touch on all aspects of Muslim life. From the NYPD’s infamous Demographics Unit, which created maps of Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey, to the FBI’s aggressive use of informants in mosques and community institutions, to the White House’s push for community engagement with Muslims, and the Department of Justice’s increasing emphasis on prosecuting speech activity, counter-radicalization and countering violent extremism, these policies have warped the basic currents of Muslim experience, turning them into threat indicators for the nation’s security.

Governments, including our own, laud these programs as soft counterterrorism measures. But this framing misses the shadowy side of these all-encompassing programs: the way counter-radicalization distends the government’s reach into the sacred and vulnerable turf of difference, debate, and democracy.

The rise of counter-radicalization and fall of the First Amendment

In recent years, journalists, advocates and Muslim community activists have helped expose part of the raw underbelly of the government’s counter-radicalization and countering violent extremism programs. But one area that has gone largely unexplored is the Justice Department’s growing embrace of a counter-radicalization ethos to prosecute national security cases. In framing expressions of political and religious belief as precursors to, and even evidence of, terrorism, these cases represent some of the most dramatic and alarming challenges in decades to the First Amendment’s core protections of free speech and freedom of religion.

The government’s prosecution of Tarek Mehanna is not the only case where prosecutors focused on speech the government finds unsavory. Zachary Chesser and Jesse Morton were two Muslim converts—Chesser in his early 20s from Virginia, and Morton in his early 30s from Brooklyn—charged in 2010 and 2012 with material support, conspiracy, and Internet-use-related charges, for posts to RevolutionMuslim.com and other Muslim-run websites; the government was centrally concerned with web ranting against South Park’s depiction of Muhammad. In 2011, Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani-born US legal permanent resident living in Virginia, was charged with material support for preparing a video containing a prayer in support of jihad on behalf of Lashkar-i-Taiba, a South Asia–based designated terrorist organization.

 

The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/177750/how-tarek-mehanna-went-prison-thought-crime#