Paris denies French school is teaching sharia law in Qatar

February 5, 2014

 

France’s Foreign Ministry has denied media reports that a French international school in Qatar has agreed to teach Islamic sharia law and separate boys and girls into different classrooms.

A recent agreement between the Lycée Voltaire in Doha and French authorities does not involve changes to religion classes or dividing classes by sex, Paris said after reports of the accord sparked outrage in France.

Under French law, state-run schools are barred from providing religious education. However, the state does subsidize private schools, like Doha’s, provided they follow the French state curriculum, do not force religious teaching upon students, and do not discriminate according to religion or sex.

“By signing the accord, the [Doha] school has committed itself to respecting the “Charter of French Teaching Abroad”, which outline the principles of secularism and religious neutrality in education,” the Foreign Ministry said on its website. “The school, which goes from kindergarten to sixth grade, is mixed-sex. All of its classes include both boys and girls, in accordance with the spirit and practices of French education,” it added.

Prominent French news outlets, including the left-leaning weekly Marianne, blasted the country’s international school agency last week for allegedly allowing the Doha school to teach strict Muslim sharia law and place boys and girls in separate classrooms from a certain age.

France’s Foreign Ministry, which helps oversee hundreds of French international schools around the world, said that while religion classes were taught at the Lycée Voltaire, they were part of an after-school program, as is the case in many other international French schools.

Religious education was compulsory for Qatari students at the school, as per Qatari law, but not students of other nationalities, it said.

However, some observers said French officials were not being completely transparent about the situation at the Lycée Voltaire, which boast an enrollment of around 1,000 students, roughly 40% of which are Qatari nationals. Marianne journalist Martine Gozlan said the school’s sixth grade class would not open until next year, and that discussions were ongoing over the question of separating pupils by sex at that level.

“Voltaire come back, Qatar is driving them crazy!” Gazlan wrote in the left-wing magazine, referring to the Enlightenment philosopher famous for his advocacy of secularism and his fierce attacks on religious dogma.

This is not the first time the Doha-based school makes headlines in France. In November 2012, the eviction of the school’s director prompted accusations of repeated interference by Qatari authorities.

 

Source: http://www.france24.com/en/20140205-france-qatar-education-sharia-mixed-sex-classes-agreement/

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

Outcry at ‘gender apartheid’ in new guidance for UK universities

December 13, 2013

 

Over 100 demonstrators attended a rally last night in protest against “legitimisation of sex apartheid” by Universities UK (UUK).

Protesters are up in arms over controversial new guidelines from the body on the laws affecting external speaker events. They claim that the new guidance will allow “ultra-orthodox religious groups” to separate men from women at events.

Demonstrators in Tavistock Square in central London carried banners with slogans such as “separate is never equal” and “no gender apartheid”. Several speakers addressed the crowd, condemning UUK’s actions, including Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the Independent journalist.

UUK’s guidelines state that gender segregation might not necessarily discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way”.

It continues: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

UUK insists that “assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating”.

Maryam Namazie, an organiser of the rally and spokesperson for Fitnah, which champions women’s liberation in Islam, told the Independent: “it’s fitting that this rally is on International Human Rights Day, as well as the day of Mandela’s Memorial Service, as it goes to show that the fight against all forms of apartheid is not over.”

She added: “Any form of separation can never be equal as segregation is a restriction of equality and freedom. Women must not be separated. People have a right to religious beliefs, but this is about equality and universities should protect that equality.”

Meanwhile, In response to claims that the NUS supports the guidelines, a spokesperson said that the “NUS supports the rights of groups to self-organise how they wish but would be concerned about enforced segregation and certainly does not endorse it.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, has accused Universities UK of “pandering to extremism” with controversial guidance endorsing the segregation of men and women at campus events, urging it to be withdrawn immediately.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/13/michael-gove-university-gender-segregation

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10517111/Campus-segregation-religious-freedom-cannot-be-allowed-to-trump-equality.html

The Independent:

Chancellor Angela Merkel dismisses the idea of segregated sports education for Muslim boys and girls

April 6

 

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) dismissed the idea of gender segregation. Her government spokesman Streiter described the segregation of Muslim boys and girls as “the absolute wrong signal for the integration policy of Germany”.

 

Before, Peer Steinbrück the chancellor candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) refused a clear statement; neither denying nor welcoming gender segregation.

University of Leicester Launches Inquiry into Segregated Seating

15 April 2013

 

The University of Leicester announced that it will launch an inquiry into an on-campus event, hosted last month by the student Islamic Society, which featured gender-segregated seating and separate entrances for males and females. The event, a talk entitled, “Does God Exist?,” featured Hamza Tzortzis, a lecturer on Islam. Mr. Tzortzis was also a participant in the 9 March debate at the University of London which garnered attention for a similar segregated seating policy, though that policy was abandoned after Professor Lawrence Krauss threatened to walk out of the debate.

 

Regarding the matter, the Guardian is reporting that a spokesman for the University of Leicester said, “The University of Leicester does not permit enforced segregation at public events. The university will investigate whether entrances to the hall for this event were segregated by the society and will ensure there is no recurrence of this.” A statement on the Islamic Society’s website stating that all events hosted by the society adhere to a strict gender-segregated seating policy was recently taken down. However, a note under the “Weekly Activities” section of the group’s “About Us” page says that all classes put on by the group will be fully gender-segregated.

 

As was the case with the University of London debate, one of the central issues regarding the University of Leicester talk is to what extent the gender-segregation was forced on attendees. The Daily Mail reports that gender-segregation was indeed forced on students, while an official for the University of Leicester claimed that, to his knowledge, the seating policy was not made mandatory. Said the official: “If there is evidence of enforced segregation, that would be a matter the university and students’ union would investigate.”

Radical Preacher Bilal Philips Asked to Leave After Giving Speech in Germany

21 April 2011

German security forces expelled radical Islamist preacher Bilal Philips from Germany. Philips participated in a rally, “Islam – the misunderstood religion”, organised by Salafists in Frankfurt and gave a speech together with his German radical counterpart Pierre Vogel. The Interior Ministry was not aware of when or where Philips had entered Germany, and he was asked to leave within three days.

The rally had been cancelled at first and was only permitted at the last minute with 16 requirements, including a prohibition to force gender segregation upon the audience – although the event turned out to be segregated in the end. Philips and Vogel adhered to keeping to a peaceful rally without inciting hatred or issuing any condescending or discriminatory remarks about people of different faith, knowing that they were closely watched. In the past, Philips has called for the death penalty for homosexuals, which he did not repeat at this occasion, however he underlined that homosexuality was a sin, but that he did not hate these people. Salafist groups have been increasingly monitored after the Frankfurt attack in March, in which two US soldiers were killed by a radicalised Islamist who had previously had contacts with Salafists in Frankfurt.

British swimming pools are imposing Muslim dress codes

Under the rules, swimmers — including non-Muslims — are barred from entering the pool in normal swimming attire. Instead they are told that they must comply with the “modest” code of dress required by Islamic custom, with women covered from the neck to the ankles and men, who swim separately, covered from the navel to the knees.

The phenomenon runs counter to developments in France, where last week a woman was evicted from a public pool for wearing a burkini — the headscarf, tunic and trouser outfit which allows Muslim women to preserve their modesty in the water.

But across the UK municipal pools are holding swimming sessions specifically aimed at Muslims, in some case imposing strict dress codes. Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that “during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists”.

Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose Keighley, West Yorkshire constituency has a large number of Muslims, said: “Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations. It’s seen as yet another demand for special treatment. I can’t see why special clothing is needed for what is a single-sex session.”

Government minister under fire for walking out of segregated Muslim wedding

A government minister was accused today of bad manners and political expediency for walking out of a Muslim wedding in London after being told he could not sit with his wife.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the minister for food, farming and environment, left a constituent’s wedding at the London Muslim Centre, next door to and run by the East London mosque in Whitechapel, after being told that male and female guests were to be segregated.

Fitzpatrick said it was “strange” he could not sit with his GP wife Sheila at the ceremony on Sunday. “We’ve been attending [Muslim] weddings together for years but only recently has this strict line been taken. We left so as not to cause offence,” he said. But the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) accused the minister of turning a private matter for the families concerned into a political issue.

Clashes as Muslim extremists attempt to segregate women

A public debate organised by a banned Islamist group sparked scuffles and angry confrontations over segregated seating for women. Police were called after members of Al Muhajiroun physically prevented men and women from sitting next to each other leading to claims of assault and intimidation.

The event titled Sharia law versus British law was meant to see radical preacher Anjem Choudary debate Douglas Murray, director of the right-wing thinktank the Centre for Social Cohesion at Conway Hall in central London. However the venue’s owners cancelled the meeting before it even got under way because of “fundamentalist thugs” who clashed with Mr Murray’s supporters at the entrance.

It led to a noisy stand-off outside the building in Red Lion Square for more than an hour as police intervened to keep the two sides apart. Mr Choudary planned to use the event to publicly relaunch Al Muhajiroun five years after it was supposedly disbanded. It was led by Omar Bakri until his deportation for glorifying terrorism after praising the 9/11 hijackers as “the Magnificent 19”.