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

Westminster University students ‘furious’ after controversial Islamic preacher booked for charity dinner talk

November 14, 2013

 

National Charity Week began in controversy after Westminster Islamic Society (ISOC) asked an anti-gay and anti-Semitic Muslim scholar to give a speech to over 300 students. ISOC had originally arranged for the moderate Wasim Kempson to come in as a guest speaker, but students were left confused after the controversial figure Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad replaced Kempson less than 24 hours before the dinner.

Al-Haddad’s views on many subjects are outspoken to say the least. In a recent article published online with his name underneath it, entitled “Standing up against homosexuality and LGBTs”, the words “the scourge of homosexuality” are used, which is referred to as a “criminal act”.

During his speech the Sheikh revealed that he had been “invited to Westminster many times” before going on to talk about how “privileged” he had felt by his welcome.

While many students were left up in arms about the last-minute swap, the student union claims that ISOC “passed all requirements” and that “all relevant processes were followed” in Al-Haddad’s invitation.

A statement was later released which read: “UWSU as an organisation does not endorse or support any views expressed by external speakers, neither does it seek to prevent freedom of speech.”

The Islamic Society at the University of Westminster could not be reached for comment.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/westminster-university-students-furious-after-controversial-islamic-preacher-booked-for-charity-dinner-talk-8939980.html

Comments by Rector of Islamic University Rotterdam Draw Attention

October 18, 2013

 

The rector of the Islamic University of Rotterdam (IUR) has become the target of press attention after publishing an article stating his views on various aspects of Islamic practice for Sunni and Alevi Muslims and his perspectives on current political events in Turkey. The publication appeared on the personal website of rector Ahmet Akgündüz in Turkish. It has been summarized in Dutch and English news sources in the Netherlands with considerable variation.

Newspaper Trouw notes that Akgündüz states the impossibility of dialogue with anyone who does not adhere to the six principles of faith and five pillars of Islam, and that it is not permissible to intermarry with or eat food slaughtered by some Alevi Muslims. According to Trouw, he further opposes the building of a Sunni-Alevi mosque complex nearby Ankara.

The English publication NIS news claims that Akgündüz’s publication calls opponents of Turkish Premier Erdogan “enemies of Islam”. Their quotation of Akgündüz’s statement that stoning is “one of the prescribed punishment within Islam” is amplified as material for the headline of their article “Islamic University Dean Supports Stoning”.

The unclarity over Akgündüz’s position and the controversial article prompted attention from the Dutch government, with members of the Liberal (VVD), Labour (PvDA), and Christian Democrat parties citing concern about the article, primarily due to the role of the Islamic University of Rotterdam in training Imams in the Netherlands.

In response to the controversy, the IUR has issued a press release stating that it stands in solidarity with the rector, emphasizing his academic qualifications and asserting that the views he presents in his writings are sufficiently neutral and not politically motivated. The press release also asserts that the statements in the media misquote Akgündüz’s position, directly contradicting the quoted positions regarding the acceptability of marriage to or eating meat slaughtered by Alevi Muslims.

Conversation in the press, and clarifications of Akgündüz’s position, is ongoing.

 

 

Personal website post of Ahmet Akgündüz (Turkish)- http://new.ahmetakgunduz.com/?p=112

NIS News (English)- http://www.nisnews.nl/islamic-university-dean-supports-stoning.html

Trouw (Dutch)- http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/5091/Religie/article/detail/3528817/2013/10/17/Rector-Islamitische-Uni-dialoog-met-niet-moslims-is-onmogelijk.dhtml

Press release IUR (Dutch)- http://www.nieuwwij.nl/nieuws/iur-onjuiste-berichtgeving/

Al-Madinah free faith school expected to be closed by the government

October 17, 2013

 

A controversial free school condemned in an official report as “dysfunctional” is expected to be closed by the government by the end of the year after ministers seemingly concluded that it is beyond rescue.

As Labour claimed that Michael Gove had suffered a devastating blow to his flagship free schools policy after the Al-Madinah school in Derby was labelled by Ofsted as chaotic, David Cameron said that he would not hesitate to close it.

Lord Nash, the schools minister, indicated that the Al-Madinah school was facing closure when he warned the chair of governors that the Ofsted report had confirmed his “very serious concerns” which prompted him to order the inspectorate to bring forward its report by two months. “The report is further compelling evidence of the breaches of the funding agreement I have required you to address,” he wrote. ” I am even more convinced of the need for very decisive and urgent action on the part of the trust to comply with all your obligations and remedy the serious failings at the school.”

The school, which has been placed in special measures, will face regular inspections over the next few weeks. The education department will decide on 1 November whether to terminate the school’s funding agreement, effectively forcing it to close. The school could technically continue if it can raise funds independently although it is thought it would be unable to do so.

The closure of the first free school since the launch of Gove’s controversial new policy will mean that the 412 pupils at the school, aged between four and 16, would have to be sent to other schools in Derby.

The move will raise questions about the money that has been spent on the school that is likely to have run into the millions. The average school is given £3,500 per pupil a year plus around an extra £700 for pupils from deprived backgrounds.

A current teacher at Al-Madinah said the atmosphere in the school was tense on Thursday after it was surrounded by media asking for comment on the Ofsted report. The teacher said there was no surprise that the report was so scathing but that the media was wrong to focus on the Islamic practices at the school, such as alleged segregation of boys and girls and asking female teachers to cover their heads. “This is not about Islam at all. The problem here is poor management, poor financial management, a lack of proper governance and a lack of focus on teaching and learning – not Islam,” said the source.

The Ofsted inspectors agreed, reporting that “failures in leadership and management are at the heart of the school’s dysfunctional situation.” The inspectors placed the blame firmly at the governors’ door, saying: “Despite their commitment to the vision for the school, the governors have failed the parents of this community who have placed their trust in them.”

 

The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/17/al-madinah-free-school-faces-closure-government

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/16/faith-school-dammed-by-ofsted-dysfunctional

Derby Muslim faith school closes on first day of Ofsted inspection

A controversial Islamic faith school in Derby – under fire for forcing female staff to wear headscarves – abruptly shut its doors on Wednesday hours after the arrival of inspectors from Ofsted, citing unspecified “health and safety” as the reason.

 

Parents who visited the Al-Madinah school, which opened last year as part of the government’s free school programme, said they were told by staff that the reason for the sudden closure was confidential. In a statement, Ofsted said: “We can confirm that Ofsted is currently undertaking a two-day inspection of the Al-Madinah school in Derby.

 

The inspection and the closure comes less than two weeks after a teacher quit the school which has about 200 pupils from reception class to age 13, saying all female staff were being required to follow Islamic dress codes and that pupils were being segregated in classrooms, with girls sitting at the back.

 

The inspection by Ofsted was triggered by complaints about the school after the Derby Telegraph revealed the allegations. The school is also being investigated by the Education Funding Agency, the schools’ financial watchdog, over alleged irregularities involving contracts with suppliers, while the Department for Education is said to have had the school under review before the public allegations were made. The Department for Education said: “We are waiting for Ofsted’s final report and considering all legal options.”

 

A note to parents on the school’s website from head teacher Stuart Wilson told parents: “Owing to a health and safety issue, I have taken the decision to close the school to primary and secondary pupils until I am confident that all children are safe on site.” The school is expected to reopen “in the very near future,” according to the message.

 

Le Pen wants collaborate with Geert Wilders

Le Monde

 

15.09.2013

 

In a recent interview with the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right-wing party Front Nationale (FN), expressed her wish to collaborate with the Dutch right-wing party, Freedom Party (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, for the upcoming European election campaign. Le Pen intents to shows right-wing voters in Europe that xenophobic and racist national movements, which she terms as ‘patriotic’, aren’t isolated but exist in every EU member state. Both parties are infamous for their anti-immigrant, islamophobic and pro-white Christian rhetoric.

 

Despite the many similarities, however, the leader of the FN acknowledges differences with Wilders in regards to the subject of Muslims and Islam. In her view, she has “nothing against the religion itself”, but is predominantly concerned and against the “influ of Muslim immigrants and the visibility of Islam in society”. Wilders, the author of the controversial Islam critical film “Fitna”, on the other hand is all together against the prohibition of the Quran which he compares to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.

A ban of the hijab in higher education?

05.08.2013

The High Council for Integration (HCI) called for a controversial ban of the Islamic headscarf in higher education in a report leaked to the public. The publication of the report caused confusion in social networks. Questioned by the AFP, the secretary general of HCI, Benoît Normand, said that the report had been submitted in April to the President of the new National Observatory of Secularism, Jean-Louis Bianco and  should not be released before the end of the year.

For his part, Jean-Louis Bianco expressed regret over the “misunderstanding”. “The report commits only the Chair of Secularism of the HCI  who is no longer in office.” The issue of the headscarves in higher education is, according to Bianco, not part of the task plan of the National Observatory of Secularism. The 2004 national law on banning the wearing of  religious symbols in secondary schools does not apply to higher education. Only the niqab remains to be banned in public spaces including universities in France, not the hijab.

PBS series ‘Life of Muhammad’ explores diverse opinions of prophet

The portrait of the Muslim prophet, which emerges from a PBS documentary “Life of Muhammad,” may surprise some American viewers.

 

“As major polls by Gallup, Pew, and others have reported, astonishing numbers of Americans, as well as Europeans, are not only ignorant of Islam but have deep fears and prejudices towards their Muslim populations,” said John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University who appears in the three-part series that debuts Tuesday (Aug. 20) on PBS.

 

Esposito praised the series’ “balance,” and its attempts to describe controversial aspects of the prophet’s life with a diversity of opinions.

 

Produced for the BBC in 2011, the series examines the world into which Muhammad was born and his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah. The second hour focuses on the “Night Journey to Jerusalem,” his departure from Mecca and the eight-year war with the Meccan tribes. The third analyzes events during his later life, including the introduction of the moral code known as Shariah and the concept of jihad.

 

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born journalist, the series presents Muhammad in a respectful, positive light, though it doesn’t shirk from the controversies that surround Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 A.D.

 

Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at University of Oxford, says in the film, “We never represent or have any images of any of the prophets.”

 

Omaar’s signoff at the end of the three-hour documentary attempts to contextualize all of the stories—flattering and damning—surrounding the prophet.  “He left Arabia a better place than he found it,” Omaar says.

Council defends decision to stock extremist books in Woolwich library

A council has defended its decision to stock extremist books at Woolwich library – yards from where Lee Rigby died (The soldier who was killed in an attack in Woolwich on 22nd May 2013) – including one by a banned cleric claiming “every Muslim should be a terrorist”. Radical preacher Dr Zakir Naik was banned from entering Britain after his presence was deemed not conducive to the public good, yet three of his works are available in the public library. Greenwich Council has defended their right to stock the texts, written in Urdu, which contain controversial statements on women, Jews and terrorism in a library 200 metres from the spot where Lee Rigby was killed in May.

 

“We are not aware of any lists of books banned by the Home Secretary,” a spokesperson said. “Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf has been publicly available on the shelves of Britain’s public libraries for decades and remains available for any citizen in the UK to purchase.” The book is said to be available at libraries up and down the country.

 

In one of the texts Dr Naik states he is “proud to be a fundamentalist”, adding: “Every Muslim should be a terrorist. A terrorist is somebody who spreads terror and fear.” The statement was specifically examined by the Court of Appeal when it upheld Theresa May’s decision to ban the Islamic scholar from the UK.

 

Former Islamic extremist Dr Usama Hasan, of counter-extremist think tank Quilliam, said it was “strange” that such “niche” works should be available, warning that there was a small risk potential jihadist could use the text as “justification”. “It is difficult to see how the council justify it and defend their decision,” Dr Hasan said.

 

Photographer who shot Dzhokhar Tsarnaev capture is placed on restricted duty by State Police

FRAMINGHAM — A State Police sergeant has been placed on restricted duty while an internal investigation is conducted of his unauthorized release of dramatic photos of the capture of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in April in Watertown.

Sergeant Sean P. Murphy essentially will be on desk duty while the agency’s internal affairs unit probes his actions, officials said.

State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said after a hearing on Murphy’s status at State Police headquarters this morning that he held Murphy in “high regard” and considered him a “man of character” and a “man of honor.”

However, Alben said, said the integrity of the Marathon bombing probe and every criminal investigation needed to be maintained.

Murphy, a tactical photographer who is a 25-year veteran of the force, has said he released the photos — which, among other things, show a wounded and disheveled Tsarnaev surrendering with a laser bead from a police gun on his forehead — as a response to Rolling Stone magazine’s controversial decision to put an attractive self-portrait of Tsarnaev on its cover.

Federal prosecutors handling the Marathon bombing case said last week that the leak of the State Police photos was “completely unacceptable.” But an array of backers have given Murphy enthusiastic support.