Yusuf Islam: Some will associate Orlando with Islam – that’s criminal

I am here to talk to Yusuf Islam, the Muslim singer and humanitarian formerly

known as Sixties icon Cat Stevens, about his charity concert for child refugees at

Westminster’s Central Hall tonight.

But the mass shooting at Florida gay club Pulse by an alleged Islamic State

terrorist has overtaken us. “This guy is demented, a distortion, and it is

detestable and horrendous, but it does not reflect Islam,” says Yusuf, 67, who

looks like a benign if nattily dressed cleric.

“Yes, some people will try and associate this incident with Islam as a whole —

Donald Trump, probably — and that’s criminal.

You wouldn’t blame the whole of Britain for those football hooligans who have

gone to Marseille.”

He sounds slightly exasperated, once again compelled to defend the faith he

embraced in 1977 after almost drowing off Malibu.

But with Orlando gunman Omar Mateen’s father stating that homosexuals should

be “punished by God”, and fears of an attack at London’s own Pride celebrations,

I wonder if Yusuf will express solidarity with the gay community when he gets

on stage tonight.

“I don’t think I need to,” he says. “That’s the problem with tagging these things

with ‘Islam’. The most important thing Islam preserves is the privacy of one’s

sexual activity.

It’s up to you how you behave behind closed doors or in the privacy of your own

bedroom. We are here for a humanitarian cause and we don’t want to dis-focus

from the issue, which is the lone refugee.”

Of the estimated five million people displaced by the murder spree of IS, the war

in Syria and unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, one million have sought refuge in

Europe, and 95,000 of those are children travelling alone.

It is these children, who may have experienced nothing but conflict, and who

may never know a stable home or school life, that Yusuf wants to help.

So through his charity Small Kindness he has hooked up with Save the Children

and Penny Appeal to highlight their plight. He has recorded a new song, He Was

Alone, created the campaign hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, and arranged the gig.

The disparate likes of Ricky Gervais, Steve McQueen, Naomi Campbell, Emma

Thompson, several Kardashians, New Order, Queen and Miley Cyrus’s Happy

Hippie Foundation have all pledged support.

The idea “came out of just watching the news on a daily basis: seeing the tragedy

unfolding, refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, trying to get to safer

lands”, says Yusuf (I’ll call him that to avoid confusion).
http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/yusuf- islam-some- will-

associate-orlando- with-islam- thats-criminal- a3271121.html

EEOC details employer rules as religious worker complaints rise

March 6, 2014

 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, detailed guidelines for employers Thursday (March 6) as the number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013.

An EEOC spokesperson, Justine Lisser, said Thursday that the 20-year trend shows “a persistent uptick in religious discrimination charges that continues unabated.” Complaints have more than doubled since 1997. Lisser also said that representatives of religious groups have asked for more EEOC outreach in this area.

There have been guidelines in the past but the EEOC spelled out workplace rights and responsibilities in a new question-and-answer guide and accompanying fact sheet.

The new guidelines detail how businesses with more than 15 employees must accommodate workers with “sincerely” held religious beliefs — and unbelievers who “sincerely” refuse religious garb or insignia. Businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban or a Christian wearing a cross. Neither can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress.

In 2013, Umme-Hani Khan won her case against Abercrombie & Fitch, filed in 2011, after a supervisor said she didn’t fit the model look for their San Mateo, Calif., store because she wore a headscarf.

Title VII, which is enforced by the EEOC, “defines religion very broadly to include not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or may seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”

The rules apply to the sincerely unreligious as well, as long as these views relate to “what is right or wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”

According to the EEOC, in fiscal year 2013, the commission received 3,721charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997.

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/03/06/eeoc-details-employer-rules-religious-worker-complaints-rise/

Sympathy for the Devil Worshipers

November 6, 2013

 

It’s easy enough to be in favor of a “nonsectarian” prayer before a legislative session — some invocation of a higher power that theoretically doesn’t exclude anyone (besides atheists, that is) — but what exactly does such a prayer sound like?

That was Justice Samuel Alito’s question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court Wednesday morning in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, and it got to the heart of the court’s basic discomfort with cases asking it to decide whether specific government-sponsored prayers cross the constitutional line and “establish” religion in violation of the First Amendment.

In Greece, a town of just under 100,000 in western New York, town officials invite local clergy to offer a prayer before monthly town board meetings. The prayers may technically be given by anyone, but for nine years they were exclusively Christian, many using language such as “in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.” Two residents sued the town under the First Amendment.

Standing before the court, the residents’ lawyer, Douglas Laycock, suggested that a nonsectarian prayer would be satisfactory. Justice Alito wasn’t so sure.

“How could you do it?” Justice Alito asked. “Give me an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … Wiccans, Baha’i.”

“And atheists,” Justice Antonin Scalia added. “Throw in atheists, too.”

And so it went, the justices trying in vain to determine what sort of prayer, if any, would be sufficiently nonsectarian, and who should be responsible for making that determination. None of them seemed to relish the idea of playing at prayer editor.

As the argument progressed it was increasingly difficult to discern any grounds on which to justify legislative prayer other than the fact that it’s something we’ve always done — which was the basis for the court’s ruling upholding such a prayer in the Nebraska legislature in 1983, when it last considered the question.

 

New York Times: http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/sympathy-for-the-devil-worshippers/

Police, FBI investigate vandalism at Delaware mosque in Newark

October 27, 2013

Police are trying to determine who vandalized a mosque and school in Newark.

Investigators believe it happened early Friday morning at the Islamic Society of Delaware’s community center in Newark. Vandals tore down a fence and used rocks to damage a digital sign. Pieces of the fence were used to make a cross on the property.

Delaware State Police and the FBI are investigating the case.

On Monday, the group CAIR-Philadelphia will hold a news conference to respond to the vandalism.

The Islamic Society of Delaware has about 2,000 members. Officials say this is the first time the facility has been vandalized in 25 years.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/police-fbi-investigate-vandalism-at-delaware-mosque-in-newark/2013/10/27/cfb894a4-3f5b-11e3-b028-de922d7a3f47_story.html

‘Why it is so important for us to wear the veil’

Amongst the 1.4 million Muslim women in Britain, Shalina Litt is one of a tiny minority who choose to cover their face entirely. This choice has come under intense scrutiny over the last few days, after a judge ruled that a 22-year-old woman from Hackney, East London, could not wear the full veil while being cross-examined in court. So when Birmingham community worker Shalina steps out in her niqab, she has come to expect the worst. “It gets a really bad reaction,” the 34 year-old mother of two says. “I’ve had glass kicked at me and when you drive people are extra aggressive. They will roll down their window to shout at you and at times like this when hatred of covered-up women becomes most heated you find that people are very aggressive,”

 

Unlike some who wear the niqab, Shalina does not feel obliged to keep it on at all non-family occasions. She explains: “Nobody is forcing me to do it and I can lift it up at any time. When I see my elderly white neighbour, I make sure I lift it up and show her my face. I actually find it cooler to wear on a hot day, but if it’s uncomfortable or I’ve got a cold and I’m bunged up, I’m not going to wear it. It’s a religious choice. Shalina, who has two young children, says she would be happy for her daughter to wear a veil, but that it would be her choice. “It’s a very liberating and empowering experience. I’m not oppressed by ageism, sexism or racism because nobody can see.”

 

Julie Siddiqi, executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, who converted to Islam in 1995, believes the niqab is unnecessary but worries that there has been an overreaction to it. “It’s pathetic that some people are presenting this as a national issue”, she said. “This is a few thousand women and we need to keep that in perspective.

 

Rabiha Hannan, co-editor of Islam and the Veil, a book which examines Muslim women’s use of face and hair covering, believes that people’s fears about those wearing niqabs and burqas need to be addressed.

Beauty Pageants Draw Social Media Critics

“Miss America victory marred by racist slurs.” — Time, Sept. 16

Not since so-called “bra-burning” protests upended the 1968 Miss America contest have beauty pageants attracted so much controversy.

 

Last Sunday, the Miss America pageant crowned a 24-year-old of Indian descent, Nina Davuluri from Syracuse, which was seen as a sign of cultural progress until racist messages popped up on Twitter.

 

Those who had written off pageants as anachronisms of the tail-fin era suddenly found that the swimsuit-in-heels rituals were back in the cultural-wars cross-fire.

 

In the case of Miss America, no sooner had the glimmering crown been placed on Ms. Davuluri than the furor erupted.

 

 

 

 

“Congratulations Al Qaeda,” tweeted one user, @Blayne_MkItRain (the account has since been deleted). “Our Miss America is one of you.”

 

Bloggers were quickly compiling lists of the most inflammatory tweets, including a Buzzfeed listicle that generated more than five million views.

 

“Idiot racists got so mad, they started mixing up Indian, Indian-American, Arab, Muslim, and everything in between,” wrote Laura Beck on Jezebel, summarizing a collection of hate-tweets that she included in her post. “It’s (literarily) a most impressive display of dumb mixed with intolerance and even more stupidity.”

 

The cultural relevance of pageants, it seems, only spikes whenever they can be dragged through the mud.

 

All the chatter on blogs and social media did not seem to hurt the show’s popularity. According to Nielsen, the ABC broadcast of the pageant, which crowned the winner for 2014, had its best ratings in nearly decade: it drew an average of 8.6 million viewers, a 21 percent increase compared with the contest for 2013, which was in January.

Breaking bread and Islam myths

Mosques have been opening their doors to people of all faiths, and none, to share iftar, the meal Muslims have when they break their fast each evening during Ramadan. These events have been taking place in scores of community centres, living rooms, parks – even flash mobs – across the country.

 

It’s all part of the “Big Iftar”: a month-long opportunity to show Islam in practice. It comes at a time when myth-busting is more important than ever; research earlier this year showed that nearly half of all Britons thought that a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam was inevitable, and less than a quarter thought that Muslims were compatible with the British way of life.

 

This follows unprecedented crackdowns on anti-Muslim hatred. The setting up of a cross-government working group to advise the government on Islamophobia and the government being the first to fund an organisation to record anti-Muslim attacks and support victims.

 

We can take inspiration from the Somali community of Muswell Hill, whose centre was razed last month. With the help of the Al-Khoei foundation, they held their own Big Iftar this weekend, to which they invited Mr Pickles. This is a community which has defied those who tried to create division; it has kept calm and carried on. And there couldn’t be anything more British than that.

Islamist nasheeds embrace modern technology while staying true to ideals

In his head shot, he’s posed like Leonardo DiCaprio for Tag Heuer, eyes upward in a pensive stare with a giant watch beside his cheek. Photos on Facebook show him in a production studio, the creative home base for the songs and videos he has become famous for. Muhammed Abu ‘Azrael al-Karbalai seems boyish and accessible — the singer even lists his mobile number on his Facebook page. But the 23 year-old Iraqi’s latest track, which surfaced online sometime between April and May, contains Arabic lyrics that translate roughly to:

Do not cross the line. . . We will silence you

Oh Syrian army, focus and show them what you can do

“This one is complex,” said Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland, who recently posted the video and translated lyrics on Jihadology.net, a Web site that tracks digital material released by jihadist organizations. “The groups out of Iraq are sophisticated. Some of them even have their own production companies.”

With easy access to home production studios and widespread social media presence, jihadist nasheeds are becoming ubiquitous, employed by both Sunni and Shia groups. Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has been chronicling the nasheeds since 2010, when he created Jihadology.net. He has found Auto-Tuned nasheeds that date back to the 1990s, and he isn’t surprised by high-quality production.

“Jihadists are some of the earliest adopters of technologies,” Zelin said. “Every top level group uses HD-quality production, Photoshop, voice-overs. It’s all top shelf.”

Madonna and the Chains of Islam

July 7, 2013

 

Depicted with a facial veil made of steel. A Battle for Women or Marketing? Awaiting her New Project

 

After the cross, Madonna breaks down to the sound of metal. The latest provocation is likely to unleash a wave of protests more incendiary than those created by the burning of the Koran. But the material girl explains on Instagram: “The revolution of love is the game … Inshallah,” which in Arabic means “if God wills.”
The latest gossip would suggest that this will be the last project of the pop star. Not just a publicity stunt, which was launched on the eve of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting that begins on July 9.
Madonna, the artist has posted a picture of her face covered by a niqab (Islamic veil that covers the face of women) in steel mesh.
SADO MASO-ISLAMIC. The photo is part of a series that will be released soon in the magazine Harper’s Bazaar, in which Madonna performs with her teeth in gold and diamonds – the latest fad among the stars of Hollywood – while shaking the metal veil.

Imams promote grooming rings, Muslim leader claims

Dr Taj Hargey, imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, said race and religion were inextricably linked to the recent spate of grooming rings in which Muslim men have targeted under-age white girls. Earlier this week seven members of a child sex ring from Oxford were found guilty of forcing underage girls to commit acts of “extreme depravity”. Their victims, aged between 11 and 15, were groomed and plied with alcohol and drugs before being sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution. They targeted “out of control” teenagers. Dr Hargey said that the case brought shame on the city and the community and is a setback for cross community harmony. The activities of the Oxford sex ring are “bound up with religion and race” because all the men – though of different nationalities – were Muslim and they “deliberately targeted vulnerable white girls, whom they appeared to regard as ‘easy meat’, to use one of their revealing, racist phrases”, Dr Hargey said. That attitude has been promoted by religious leaders, he believes. “On one level, most imams in the UK are simply using their puritanical sermons to promote the wearing of the hijab and even the burka among their female adherents. But the dire result can be the brutish misogyny we see in the Oxford sex ring.” To pretend it is not a problem is the Islamic community is “ideological denial”, Dr Hargey said. The men were allowed, he said, to come and go from care homes by the authorities, and if the situation had been reversed with gangs of white men preying on Muslim teenagers”the state’s agencies would have acted with greater alacrity.” True Islam preaches respect for women but in mosques across the country a different doctrine is preached – “one that denigrates all women, but treats whites with particular contempt,” men are taught that women are “second-class citizens, little more than chattels or possessions over whom they have absolute authority,”.