British amateur boxer ‘killed fighting jihad in Syria’

February 13, 2014

 

An amateur boxer has become the tenth known Briton to have died fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. On Thursday police were searching the house where Anil Khalil Raoufi, 20, a mechanical engineering student, lived with his family in a suburb of Manchester. Police said they were assessing how Britons were being drawn into travelling to Syria and “how to prevent others doing the same”.

Neighbours of the family, who were not at the property yesterday, spoke of their shock as police carried on searches at the family’s detached home on a quiet, tree-lined street in Didsbury.

Raoufi’s father runs two restaurants on Manchester’s “Curry Mile” and his mother, Kamala, is a housewife. They are believed to have come to the UK from Afghanistan around 10 years ago. Their eldest son is a pharmacist and they also have a daughter and a young son, aged around nine.

He also railed against news articles calling ISIS extremists, and in one posting expressed pride that two boys “not older than 14” had joined him at a training camp. “We’re not like barbaric Victorians who sent their children up their fireplaces to die sweeping chimneys for a few shillings. Islam breeds heroes,” he said.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was aware of reports of Raoufi’s death but could not confirm them.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10636842/British-amateur-boxer-killed-fighting-jihad-in-Syria.html

Ukip MEP says British Muslims should sign charter rejecting violence

February 4, 2014

 

A Ukip MEP believes that British Muslims should sign a special code of conduct and warns that it was a big mistake for Europe to allow “an explosion of mosques across their land”. Gerard Batten, who represents London and is member of the party’s executive, told the Guardian on Tuesday that he stood by a “charter of Muslim understanding“, which he commissioned in 2006.

The document asks Muslims to sign a declaration rejecting violence and says parts of the Qur’an that promote “violent physical Jihad” should be regarded as “inapplicable, invalid and non-Islamic”.

Asked on Tuesday about the charter, Batten told the Guardian he had written it with a friend, who is an Islamic scholar, and could not see why “any reasonable, normal person” would object to signing it.

Batten also repeated his view that some Muslim texts need updating, claiming some say “kill Jews wherever you find them and various things like that. If that represents the thinking of modern people, there’s something wrong, in which case maybe they need to revise their thinking. If they say they can’t revise their thinking on those issues, then who’s got the problem – us or them?”

Asked why Muslims have been singled out, rather than followers of other faiths, Batten said: “Christians aren’t blowing people up at the moment, are they? Are there any bombs going off round the world claimed by Christian organisations? I don’t think so.”

With Ukip hoping to top the polls in May’s European elections, Batten is top of the party’s MEP candidate list for London, having passed a round of psychometric testing to make sure his views were acceptable. However, Batten – Ukip’s spokesman on immigration and a former candidate for London mayor – appears to have held some controversial positions on Islam for some time. His “proposed charter of Muslim understanding” was written in 2006 by Sam Solomon, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, with a foreword by the MEP himself.

In a press release from the time, published on Ukip’s website, Batten calls on Muslims to sign a five-point affirmation, in which they would promise to accept equality, reject violence in the name of religion, and accept a need to “re-examine and address the meaning and application of certain Islamic texts and doctrines”.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/04/ukip-mep-gerard-batten-muslims-sign-charter-rejecting-violence

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/ukip-batten-muslims-halal-banned

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/tory-mp-ukip-muslim-code-conduct-frightening-halfon-batten

Nigel Farage distances himself from MEP over ‘Muslim code of conduct’

February 5, 2014

 

UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage has disowned “insulting” proposals from one of his MEPs for Muslims to be asked to sign a peace charter. In a statement, Mr Farage said: “This was a private publication from Gerard Batten (Ukip MEP) in 2006 and its contents are not and never have been Ukip policy. No such policy proposals would have been accepted by Ukip in any case. Ukip believes in treating people equally.”

His reaction comes after, Gerard Batten, who sits on the party’s National Executive Committee, told The Guardian that he stood by the “charter of Muslim understanding” which he co-authored in 2006. It calls on Muslims to reject parts of the Koran which he claims promote “violent physical jihad”.

The Conservative leader in the European Parliament, Syed Kamall, left a letter on Mr Batten’s empty seat at the Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, offering him a guarantee that he had no intention to commit acts of violence or promote extremism. “Do you have a form I can sign already?” asked Mr Kamall. “I am anxious to assure you that I have no intention of mounting any attacks on unsuspecting infidels, nor of attempting to radicalise you or anyone else. If the forms aren’t ready yet, perhaps you would take this note as my guarantee? My wife and family would be most reassured to know you will allow me to stay in Britain, especially since I was born here. Please feel free to drop into my office to discuss this over a cup of tea. I promise you will be entirely safe.”

Mohammed Shafiq, the Chief Executive of Muslim think-tank the Ramadhan Foundation, said that suggesting that one particular community should be required to sign a “loyalty pledge” against violence was “offensive and an insult to all decent people”.

Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Ludford, who speaks for the party on justice and human rights, said: “Gerard Batten’s comments rip apart Ukip’s pretence to be Eurosceptic but not racist. His offensive blanket stereotyping of Muslims as jihadists speaks volumes about Ukip’s extremism and should warn voters that voting Ukip means associating with hatred and Islamophobia.”

Rehman Chishti, the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, said Batten’s position was “shocking”, particularly the “charter of understanding” suggestion that parts of the Qur’an should be rendered “inapplicable”. “If Nigel Farage had any credibility, he would quite clearly not allow this individual to stand for office in Ukip,” he said.

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow London minister, also said he was “appalled at the ignorance that Gerard Batten appears to have shown when speaking about the faith that I and hundreds of thousands of British Muslims practice”.

Mary Honeyball, a Labour MEP for London, said that Batten “represents the ugliest side of Ukip. Batten’s views overlap with the far-right. The idea that Muslims should be singled out in the way he suggests is a relic from a darker, more prejudiced time.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ukip-leader-nigel-farage-rejects-muslim-charter-9109806.html

The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/nigel-farage-ukip-mep-batten-muslim-code-conduct

Nick Clegg will not drop Lib Dem candidate Maajid Nawaz who tweeted a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus

January 30, 2014

 

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the liberal Democrats) has said he will not drop a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate who sparked widespread protests among some Muslims by tweeting a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed. Maajid Nawaz says he has received death threats since posting the image earlier this month, while a petition calling for him to be ditched as Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn in next year’s general election has gathered more than 20,000 signatures, and a rival petition in his defence has more than 7,000.

Mr Clegg told LBC 97.3 radio that he would not personally have tweeted the controversial cartoon of a stick figure of Jesus saying “Hi” to a stick figure called Mo, who replies “How you doin’?”But it is important to show respect to people of all faiths, beliefs and religious persuasions when discussing religious matters. But the Lib Dem leader said: “He is not going to be dropped as a Liberal Democrat candidate. He has the right – as any Muslim, non-Muslim or anyone of any faith or none in this country has – to say things even if that causes offence to other people.

Mr Nawaz, the co-founder of counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, posted the image after appearing in a BBC television debate about religious tolerance which featured two students wearing it on T-shirts. He said that he was sending out the “bland” cartoon to show that, as a Muslim, he did not feel it was a threat to his faith and to demonstrate that “Muslims are able to see things we don’t like, yet remain calm and pluralist. My intention was not to speak for any Muslim but myself – rather, it was to defend my religion from those who have hijacked it just because they shout the loudest”.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nick-clegg-will-not-drop-lib-dem-candidate-maajid-nawaz-who-tweeted-a-cartoon-of-the-prophet-mohammed-and-jesusclegg-will-not-drop-lib-dem-candidate-9095691.html

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/28/speaking-islam-loudmouths-hijacked

Muslim woman will not testify after being told she must remove face veil

January 27, 2014

 

A Muslim woman standing trial in a full-face veil, who was told she must remove it if she gives evidence in her defence, will not take to the witness box, a court has heard. Rebekah Dawson, 22, has been allowed to appear at her trial for alleged witness intimidation in a niqab showing just her eyes. The trial judge, Peter Murphy, ruled last September that she could wear the Islamic garment in court but he said she would have to let the jury of five women and seven men see her face if she gave evidence.

Her barrister, Susan Meek, told the jury at Blackfriars crown court in London on Monday that she would not be giving evidence in her own defence.

Earlier in the trial, Murphy told the jury that Dawson was “fully entitled” to dress how she chose to in court. He told jurors to put aside any feelings they might have about her appearance because they would have nothing to do with the case.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/27/muslim-woman-face-veil-court-trial-witness

Shehneela Ahmed, football agent

January 26, 2014

 

The first Muslim woman to qualify as an FA-approved football agent, Shehneela Ahmed, has announced that she is on a mission to open up the sport to more female players and people from ethnic minorities. Her sentiments exactly. The daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Ms Ahmed, 42, who moved from Rochdale to London after graduating from Staffordshire University and also works as a duty solicitor, said: “This will have a big impact on my career as I intend to promote more people from the Asian background to encourage their children to take part in the sports industry.”

“After spending all day dealing with criminals, footballers are a doddle,” Ms Ahmed explained. Ms Ahmed, who received her license in September added: “I’ve had clients approach me, from players, managers and clubs, and I’ve had some really good feedback so far.”

With only eight of the 4,000 players in the Football League of Asian descent, you find Ms Ahmed is not resting on her laurels. “I want to prove to ethnic minorities and females that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything,” she said.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/i/page-3-profile-shehneela-ahmed-football-agent-9073254.html

 

Allah vs atheism: ‘Leaving Islam was the hardest thing I’ve done’

January 19, 2014

 

Amal Farah, a 32-year-old banking executive, is laughing about a contestant singing off-key in the last series of The X Factor. For a woman who was not allowed to listen to music when she was growing up, this is a delight. After years of turmoil, she is in control of her own life.

On the face of it, she is a product of modern Britain. Born in Somalia to Muslim parents, she grew up in Yemen and came to the UK in her late teens. After questioning her faith, she became an atheist and married a Jewish lawyer. But this has come at a cost. When she turned her back on her religion, she was disowned by her family and received death threats. She has not seen her mother or her siblings for eight years. None of them have met her husband or daughter.

It can be difficult to leave any religion, and those that do can face stigma and even threats of violence. But there is a growing movement, led by former Muslims, to recognise their existence. In more than a dozen countries people who espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam can be executed under the law, according to a recent report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. But there is an ongoing debate about the “Islamic” way to deal with apostates. Broadcaster Mohammed Ansar says the idea that apostates should be put to death is “not applicable” in Islam today because the act was traditionally conflated with state treason.

“The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave,” said Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “I don’t believe they should be discriminated against or harmed in any way whatsoever. There is no compulsion in religion.”

Baroness Warsi, the Minister of State for Faith and Communities, agreed. “One of the things I’ve done is put freedom of religion and belief as top priority at the Foreign Office,” she said.

The Ex-Muslim Forum, a group of former Muslims, was set up seven years ago. Then, about 15 people were involved; now they have more than 3,000 members around the world. Membership has reportedly doubled in the past two years. Another affiliated group, the Ex-Muslims of North America, was launched last year.

Zaheer Rayasat, 26, from London, has not yet told his parents that he is an atheist. Born into a traditional Pakistani family, he said he knew he didn’t believe in God from the age of 15. “For a lot of older Muslims, to be a Muslim is an identity, whereas, for me, it’s a theological, philosophical position. They might feel they have failed as parents; some malicious people might call them up, gloating about it. Some would see it as an act of betrayal. My hope is that they will eventually forgive me for it.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/allah-vs-atheism-leaving-islam-was-the-hardest-thing-ive-done-9069598.html

 

Student and women’s groups write open letter to UN condemning gender segregation in UK universities

January 15, 2014

 

Students and women’s groups have written an open letter to the UN to condemn gender segregation at British universities. Writing to the UN’s special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, the signatories are hoping to build pressure on UK universities to ban segregation of any kind.

They write: “Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.”

The letter appeared on the LSE student union page on Tuesday, and has been signed by various people including Chris Moos, the secretary of LSE’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, and Nahla Mahmoud, the spokesperson for the council of ex-Muslims of Britain.

Mr Moos, who was recently involved in a freedom of expression battle with LSE, believes that any type of segregation should be fought and that the UN pressure would help public discussion.

Universities UK and the Federation of Islamic Students Societies were both targets in the open letter. Last December, UUK said in a report that “Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination”, but later clarified their position, saying: “[UUK] agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers”.

FOISS were mentioned as their guidelines recommend societies “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interactions between them at a minimum”.

A march has also been planned which will take place on March 8th.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/student-and-womens-groups-write-open-letter-to-un-condemning-gender-segregation-in-uk-universities-9061327.html

Elderly British schizophrenic sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan

January 25, 2014

 

A British pensioner with a history of severe mental illness has been sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of breaching the country’s blasphemy laws. Muhammad Asghar, 69, from Edinburgh, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is unaware that he is ill following a stroke, was convicted at the end of a trial in Rawalpindi in which it was alleged he claimed to be the prophet Mohammed. During the case, which was heard without a jury, the judge forcibly removed his independent lawyers from the court and appointed a state counsel on the defendant’s behalf.

His treatment has been severely criticised by human rights organisations which have long campaigned against Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy legislation which, according to Amnesty International, has created a climate of fear and murderous vigilantism in the devoutly Muslim country where allegations of religious crime are routinely used to persecute minorities.

Mr Asghar’s lawyers and his doctor are desperately concerned for his wellbeing after he attempted suicide following his incarceration in 2010. His condition is getting worse and he requires complex daily medication as well as psychological and social care but is instead sharing a crowded cell with other prisoners. The conviction is now being appealed although it could take five years before it is heard.

Dr Jane McLennan of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh – a leading authority on psychiatric illness in older people – said that to properly analyse his behaviour she would be required to repeat her patient’s claims – potentially running the risk of being considered blasphemous herself. Thus the very nature of the charges in Pakistan makes it difficult for a mental health professional to indulge in a full discussion of the proper diagnosis.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We strongly object to the use of the death penalty and will continue to provide consular assistance to him and his family during this difficult time. We have continuously made representations to the Pakistan government on behalf of Mr Asghar and we will continue to do so. We are opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and we are dedicated to doing all we can to prevent the execution of any British national.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/death-sentence-for-british-pensioner-accused-of-blasphemy-in-pakistan-9083235.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/exclusive-lawyers-denied-access-to-severely-mentally-ill-british-pensioner-facing-execution-in-pakistan-over-blasphemy-9086318.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/10595398/British-schizophrenic-sentenced-to-death-for-blasphemy-in-Pakistan.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/10594765/British-man-sentenced-to-death-for-blasphemy-in-Pakistan.html