The Muslim Taxi Driver

February 28, 2014

 

If you want to kill legislation that protects the right of Christians to withhold business services from same-sex couples, here’s one way to do it: Don’t warn people about Christians. Warn them about Muslims.

That strategy was on display in the campaign against Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which would have shielded businesses from discrimination suits if they acted on religious beliefs. Everyone understood that the bill would have allowed conservative Christians to refuse services for a gay wedding. But in Arizona, that wasn’t a strong enough argument against it. So opponents went for the Muslim angle.

Many Americans who talk about religious freedom are really just interested in the rights of conservative Christians. They’re not so keen on Muslims. In fact, they worry about Muslims imposing their beliefs on Christians. Two days ago, in praise of the Arizona bill, Rush Limbaugh complained, “Religious beliefs can’t be used to stop anything the left wants to impose—unless they’re Muslim religious beliefs, and then we have to honor those. But any other religious beliefs are not permitted.”

The first reference to Muslims in the Arizona fight, as far as I can tell, came from the Anti-Defamation League in a letter to state senators and in testimony before a state Senate committee on Jan. 16. If the bill were to pass, the ADL’s assistant regional director told the committee, “A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”

This week, as lawmakers voted on the bill and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer weighed whether to sign it, the chorus grew. On Feb. 20, the editorial board of the Arizona Republic warned Brewer, “The proposed law is so poorly crafted it could allow a Muslim taxi driver to refuse service to a woman traveling alone.” On Feb. 21, John Aravosis, the editor of Americablog and a political consultant, brought up theMuslim cab driver and other scenarios raised by the ADL. On Feb. 22, Box Turtle Bulletin, a gay rights blog, published a post titled “Did the Arizona Legislature Just Legalize Sharia Law?

On Feb. 24, USA Today columnist Owen Ullman asked, “if religious beliefs are a justification for refusing gay couples, shouldn’t Arizona extend the principle to all religious beliefs? Devout Muslims should have the right to refuse service to women who are not covered in burqas.” On Feb. 25, fellow columnist Kirsten Powers, a former communications consultantadded:

I can’t prove that all this Muslim talk influenced Brewer’s decision to veto the billlast night. But it definitely caused trouble. During the state Senate debate on Feb. 20, the bill’s sponsor struggled with the Muslim taxi driver question. (Skip to minute 1:22 of the video.) On Feb. 25 the state’s Capitol Media Services raised the taxi driver scenario in an analysis of the bill’s legal ramifications. On Feb. 26, CBS News asked the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which helped craft the bill, whether it would “protect a Muslim wedding photographer who does not want to photograph a Jewish wedding.” She said it would.

Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/blogs/saletan/2014/02/27/arizona_s_antigay_bill_did_warnings_about_muslim_religious_freedom_help.html

USA Today.com: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/24/voices-column-on-arizona-anti-gay-bill/5775081/

No obligations for the usage of coffins during Muslim funerals

December 11, 2013

 

The parliament of the State of Baden-Württemberg has agreed to abolish the obligation for coffins during funeral processes. More than 650.000 Muslims live in the State of Baden-Württemberg and were left uncertain, whether to return the bodies of their members to the countries of origin or to ask for a Muslim funeral. Also, there will be no need to prove the religious affiliation of Muslims. This was a controversial topic. Unlike many Christians, Muslims are not members of a formal recognized church. The fraction of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was concerned about the rise of Muslim funerals.

 

Die Welt: http://www.welt.de/regionales/stuttgart/article122820601/Das-Ende-der-Sargpflicht-soll-kommen.html

Will Islamic Stand-Up Play in Peoria? ‘The Muslims are Coming!,’ a Docu-comedy

“Every single solitary Butterball turkey in the United States of America has been sacrificed to Allah,” a conservative commentator says of halal meat in the montage that opens “The Muslims Are Coming!” Directed by the comedians Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, the documentary begins strongly with this collection of absurd hatemongering, cobbled from television clips. Unfortunately, the film peaks in those first few minutes.

The movie follows a group of Muslim-American comedians (who include Ms. Farsad and Mr. Obeidallah, documenting themselves) on a peace tour across the country to promote awareness. They travel in two cars to small towns and large cities to perform stand-up and also to stage goofy stunts — for instance, setting up an “Ask a Muslim” booth or holding a “Hug a Muslim” sign. Interspersed are interviews with the comedians and with better-known figures like Jon Stewart, David Cross and Rachel Maddow.

Returning to Islam: The Conversion of Italian Women

itri.jpgAugust 13, 2013

How do women in Italy choose to convert Islam? How many are there, and what is the reason for their choice? We asked to Valentina Itri, author of the book “Le conversioni femminili, Donne italiane ritornate all’Islam” [Female Conversions, Italian Women and the return to Islam]

Images like those of Elham Asghari, the Iranian athlete forced to swim with wetsuit in order to not to reveal the shape of her body. This is the frequent image of Islam as an oppresive and closed religion especially for women. It may seem a paradox then, that there are many women in in Europe, who choose to convert to Islam, and without regret. A recent study by the University of Cambridge, for example, have shown that, although women who convert in the UK often have problems with their family of origin, difficulties at work and in relationships, very few question the choice they made. As for us, understanding the Italian situation is not easy. One of the few books on the subject is “Female Conversions, Italian Women and the return to Islam” written by Valentina Itri, a Professor in Social Theory and research, and an expert in immigrants and refugees. We asked the author to tell us something about the women who choose to “return to Islam” in our country.

Dr. Itri, how many converted to Islam in our country?
Official numbers do not exist, because there is no central register, and each community cites different figures. The fact is that to convert, or as they prefer to say, making the choice to “return to Islam” only invloves the convert to go to a mosque with two witnesses and recite the shahada, a sentence in which converts testify that they believe in a single God, whose messenger is Muhammad. Given the simplicity of the rite, it is difficult even for the Italian Islamic organizations to keep track of the number of conversions.

How does one make the choice of conversion?
Many of these women come into contact with Islam by marrying a Muslim. It is unlikely, however, that this is instrumental in conversions, because in Islam, Muslim men are allowed to marry women of other faiths. If anything, the choice is likely “relational,” due to the desire to get closer to the culture of their partner. My research has shown that after the initial approach, women often deepen their knowledge of the culture and religion. The attraction to them is almost always a change of lifestyle. Many of them, for example, complain about not being able to keep up with the demands of Western society.

It is a conservative choice?
Not exactly. We can say that  conversion speaks to a “new subjectivity,” which illustrates a complaint against the effects of modernity. Faced with the a society that women have to navigate  which can be, at times, backward and sexist, these women decide to take a step back. In some ways it is as if to say: I withdraw from competition. That is why we often embrace the idea of ​​extremely orthodox Islam, and incorporate wearing a veil.

What difficulties do these women encounter?
The first problems arise in the relationship with their own family. If their fathers show solidarity, their mothers and sisters do not understand their choice, which is often seen as a step backwards. In the case of women married to Muslims, the relationship with the women of her husband’s family is complicated by excessively orthodox positions of the “return,” these women often hold ideas about religion that are even more conservative than those of their husbands. These women often tend to lose the friendships they had before the conversion, not because the relationship may be cut, but because these women are creating new social networks, incompatible with previous ones. Finally sometimes problems arise within the Muslim community, because they represent a good connection with the Italian community, and as such they are seen as competitors by those in power, the imam for example, often annoyed by the fact that they are women.

The Five Craziest Reactions To The Marriage Equality Rulings

Though the strong majorities of Americans who support marriage equality and equal federal benefits for gay couples celebrated today’s historic Supreme Court rulings, several prominent conservatives reacted with fear and fury. Though the conservative establishment (by in large) had little to say about the marriage equality cases, the vitriol that came from these particular conservatives stood out:

 

Rand Paul and Glenn Beck worry about Muslims and animals: In a video captured by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, the purportedly libertarian Senator and popular talk show host worry about a host of bizarre “logical” consequences of the moves toward marriage equality, with Beck asking “who are you to say that, if I’m a devout Muslim, I come over here and I have three wives, who are you to say if I’m an American citizen that I can’t have multiple wives?” Paul nodded, saying “people take it to one extension further — does it have to be humans?…I’m kinda with you…we should not just say ‘oh, we’re punting on it, marriage can be anything.”

 

The list goes on and on while Another fiery reaction — outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann’s declaration that “no man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted” — didn’t have quite the intended impact. “Who cares?” responded House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), when asked for comment on Bachmann’s outburst.

 

Ohio Mosque Arsonist Blames His Crime On Watching Fox News And Listening To Talk Radio

The man convicted of setting fire to an Ohio mosque earlier this year is now blaming his crime on having watched Fox News and listened to conservative talk radio shows, which he claims convinced him that Muslims are all “terrorists.”

The 52-year-old man, Randolph Linn of Indiana, recently pleaded guilty to charges of setting fire to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, resulting in a 20-year reduced prison sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for April 2013.

As part of his defense, the Digital Journal reports that Linn told the court that he was “riled up” from watching Fox News and consuming “45 beers” over a span of seven hours before committing his crime.

Tennessee Republican Primary Candidates Wage Anti-Islam Contest

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug 1 (Reuters) – An argument over who is more opposed to the Islamic faith and the construction of a mosque near Nashville has become an unlikely issue in a nasty Tennessee Republican congressional primary to be decided on Thursday.

Freshman Republican Representative Diane Black is challenged by Lou Ann Zelenik, who lost to Black in a primary to represent the rural district two years ago by less than 300 votes.

The heart of the struggle is over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Nashville, which has been controversial since construction began two years ago.

Zelenik, who vigorously opposed the mosque and warned of potential terrorist connections, said Black was not forceful enough in her opposition.

“I will work to stop the Islamization of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Sharia law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution,” Zelenik said.

Some states dominated by Republicans have passed laws to prevent Islamic or Sharia law from applying in U.S. court cases. The United States legal system is founded in the U.S. Constitution.

But a wealthy conservative donor, Nashville health care investor Andrew Miller, has weighed in on the side of Zelenik, contributing $105,100 to a new group called Citizens 4 Ethics in Government, according to the latest reports the group had submitted to the Federal Election Commission as of July 20.

The group has spent nearly $188,000 on media and automated telephone calls with the goal to unseat Black.

Miller is also chairman and executive director of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a conservative non-profit which lists as the top issue on its website: “Educate citizens on the realities of Sharia and stop the growth of Radical Islam.”

Anti-Islamic Activist Dumps $100 K into Tennessee Primary

A new super PAC targeting a Tennessee House primary has raised all its funds from a board member of a local anti-Islamic conservative group who is also the one-time finance chairman of one of the candidates in the race.

Citizens 4 Ethics in Government registered as a super PAC with the Federal Election Commission on July 2. Its first disclosure, filed today, shows that it has raised all of its $105,000 in funds from Andrew Miller, the owner of Nashville-based Healthmark Ventures and a conservative activist who helps lead the anti-Islamic Tennessee Freedom Coalition. The group has spent more than $30,000 so far on the 6th Congressional District primary contest between incumbent Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and tea party activist Lou Ann Zelenik.

Miller worked briefly with Zelenik’s campaign before quitting abruptly, according to Zelinek’s campaign manager Jay Heine. Zelenik, who has made opposition to the building of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. a major issue in her campaign, was the executive director of the Coalition before leaving to run for congress.
The Coalition lists opposition to the growth of radical Islam and the promotion of “cultural cohesion” among its goals, among other conservative causes. In April 2011 the group hosted Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders as a speaker; Wilders is known across Europe for his anti-immigration and anti-Islamic politics. He has called for the banning of the Quran and called Islam a totalitarian ideology rather than a religion.

Participants of the German Islam Conference

June 18

 

Hamed Abdel-Samad is a Political Scientist and a “secular Muslim” who has written about Islam and its challenges in modern times. He criticized the violent reactions and threats against the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard as a sign of backwardness, which Muslims would need to admit. He has been chosen as an”independent Muslim”.
Bernd Ridwan Bauknecht is a teacher of Islamic Studies at a public school. He can be categorized as a “liberal Muslim” whose goals are to assist young Muslim pupils and youngsters in their integration in society.

Sineb el Masrar is the Chief Editor of the Women and Migrant magazine “Gazelle”. She is a “liberal Muslim” with secular views and stands for the recognition of Muslims and of their contribution to German society. She tries to strengthen the role of Muslim women in society as they would try to bridge modernity with tradition.
Gönül Halat-Mec is a lawyer, specialized on family law with special focus on migrants. She perceives herself as a “secular Muslim” and thinks that religion should be a personal and private matter only. She identifies a serious challenge for cooperation in religious doctrines and their tendency to repress and discriminate women, in conflict with the plural democratic societal order.
Abdelmalik Hibaoui is an Imam and preacher. He can be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”. He expects the Islam Conference to provide the fundament for the construction of Centers for Islamic theology at Universities. Another goal is to have Islam as a subject in public schools.

 

Hamideh Mohagheghi has studied theology and writes on interreligious dialogue. She expects a mutual dialogue between Muslims and their “State”. Islam and Muslims should be perceived as a normal appearance. She might be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”, though, as an expert she has taken a scientific stand in her interviews.

 

Bülent Ucar is a Professor of Islamic Religious Education. He is a “liberal Muslim” declaring mutual participation and recognition as fundamental parts of integration. The state should recognize Muslim associations and organizations and facilitate a wide religious education for Muslim children. Moreover, it should institutionalize the education of Imams in Germany.

 

Turgut Yüksel is a sociologist and a “secular Muslim”. As a consultant, he works on projects related to migration and intercultural dialogue. He declared that religious practices should be a private matter only without any form of discrimination. The state should not risk losing it neutrality toward all religions. A clear borderline between Islam and Islamism would be necessary. A founder of the “Initiative for secular Muslims in Hessen”, he tries to represent the voices of Muslims without a representative organization or association.

 

 

Tuba Isik-Yigit is affiliated with the Center for Theology and Cultural Sciences at the Institute of Catholic Theology at the University of Paderborn. Dr. Isik-Yigit can be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”, supporting the establishment of centers for the education of theology students. Also, she is engaged in strengthening equality of women, especially those with headscarf.

 

 

Islam has made London a more conservative place than it was 50 years ago

One of the most common mistakes people make about cultural and politics is suggesting that history is inevitably heading in one direction. We hear it most commonly in the argument made that “we can’t turn the clock back” to the 1950s, as if anyone is planning to ban garlic bread or continental lager. (I don’t see why achieving 1950s levels of crime would be either undesirable or impossible).

History does not work like that, and in a strange way London today is even more conservative than it was in the 1950s – thanks to liberals.

This week London Metropolitan University’s vice-chancellor suggested that parts of the campus be made alcohol-free because some Muslim students believe it is “evil” and “immoral”.

This paper reports:

Prof Malcolm Gillies of London Metropolitan University said he wants to create alcohol free areas on campus out of “cultural sensitivity”. About a fifth of students at the university come from Muslim families – many of them young women from traditional homes. For many of them, the drinking culture among students marred rather than heightened their student experience, he said.

In principle there’s nothing wrong with this. If one university wants to make itself more attractive to teetotal students, then heavy-drinking students (ie 99 per cent of them) can go to the many colleges where cheap beer flows abundantly. That’s the free market. Muslims aside, many people would prefer a less boozy environment. But I can’t help but feel that this new puritanism is not what the young people who once shouted “disembowel Enoch Powell” in opposition to immigration restrictions had in mind.