Unwelcome Government intrusion in Madrassas

“Wherever children access learning, particularly where they spend a lot of time in an out-of-school setting, we want to be confident that they are safe and are being taught in a way which prepares them for life in modern Britain and to actively contribute to society. We want to be sure that teaching is compatible with, and does not undermine, fundamental British values.”

The quotation is from the Government’s call for evidence for its controversial plans to regulate primarily Muslim madrasas. The brief consultation period was for some reason organised over the quiet Christmas period and furthermore uncommonly cut from the usual 12 week period to close on January 11. But already it has been overwhelming rejected by over 500 mosques and Islamic organisations throughout Britain.

It comes after Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to suddenly target voluntary out-of-school teaching and threatened to close some of them down. “In some madrasas, we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions; being beaten; swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people,” he told the annual Conservative Party Conference in October.

The Government goes through the formality of holding consultations as part of the policy making process ahead of introducing legislative changes. Currently more than 3,000 are being held though probably few as important as altering the fabric of society. It is a constant battle to broaden its powers by seeking to interfere with and control other pillars, including religion.

As reported elsewhere in this paper, the Conservatives are being accused of being trying to regulate religions under the guise of registering “out-of-school” education settings. “Government sanctioned religious education will lead to alienated faith communities and unduly encroaches on the legitimate right of faith providers to teach their children their faith”, the mosques warned in a joint statement warned.

For the first time, it seems that the targeting of Muslims is no longer underhand. The Prime Minister told The Daily Telegraph that these proposals won’t target Christian Sunday schools or scouts i.e. will focus on only on Islamic madrasas. And Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, was asked by Channel 4 News: “I take it if a teenager comes home and says they want to be a member of the C of E you wouldn’t expect teachers to press alarm buttons?”, to which she replied, “No, of course not” even though the website she just launched said that “recent rapid conversion to any new religion” should be considered a warning sign of radicalisation.

The encroachment like so many others into the lives of Muslims is being linked with the discredited Prevent Extremism strategy. “There is growing evidence in other educational settings that the application of ‘S.21 Prevent Duty’ within nurseries, schools, colleges and universities has been misapplied due to the vague nature of terms like extremism and the flawed theory of radicalisation,” the statement said.

The campaign against Government meddling is to ‘Keep Our Masjids and Madrasas Independent and Free From Government Interference.’ Suspicions that it has always been the intention of successive governments to have state control of Islam are not new; and want to repeat the control it already exerts over the Church of England to a large degree. The intrusion is highly unwelcome and unnecessary and the Prime Minister ought to take note to the replies to the consultations.

Islam should have a ‘quintessentially British’ version with minoret-less mosques and no burqas, Warsi says

British mosques should be built without minarets, former Conservative party chairwoman Baroness Warsi said yesterday, in a speech outlining her vision for a “quintessentially British” form of Islam.

Speaking at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where she was giving her inaugural lecture as a Visiting Professor, Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi called on Muslims to develop “a very British Islam” in line with Islamic tradition.

The former Minister for Faiths, who resigned from the Government last year over its failure to condemn Israeli strikes on Gaza, said: “Islam is different whenever and wherever it is found. If Islam always takes its cultural references from where it finds itself, British Islam must take cultural reference points from where it grows.”

Part of this, she said, meant building quintessentially British mosques. She argued that minarets, towers built alongside mosques from which the call to prayer is broadcast, were not culturally necessary in modern Britain.

“There is no need for a minaret. There is no need for a mosque to look like it doesn’t fit into its environment. It doesn’t need to be like that. I would love for there to be English-designed mosques.”

She also denied that Muslim women were obliged to wear full Islamic dress, such as the burqa, the full body covering, where it was not part of their social cultural tradition.

“I defend my right to dress modestly – but that doesn’t have to look like it would in Yemen. I cannot understand why you would want to look like someone who walked out of Yemen, unless your parents lived there,” she said. She called on the Government to reach out to Muslim groups from across the spectrum.

Government launches reform of “Islam in France”

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Following the January terror attacks in Paris, the French government has launched a reform of the “Islam of France,” pushing for a “dialogue forum,” which is believed to better represent Muslims in their diversity.

Following the January terror attacks in Paris, the French government has launched a reform of the “Islam of France,” pushing for a “dialogue forum,” which is believed to better represent Muslims in their diversity. Government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll announced that the “dialogue forum” would be instituted by this summer, highlighting the “willingness to work to engage in in-depth discussion with Islam’s major players.” Similar to the current situation put in place for Catholicism’s leaders, the forum will meet with the Prime Minister twice annually, stated Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve.

The body will address questions such as the training of imams in France, ritual slaughter, or the security of places for worship, “with the utmost respect for the principles of secularism,” stated Mr. Cazeneuve, insisting on the “Islam’s compatibility with the Republic.”

The idea is to provide more public representation than the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) currently provides. The CFCM was created in 2003 and has been criticized for its lack of representation of France’s Muslim community, estimated to contain between 4 and 5 million people. The CFCM will continue to exist, but “it is up to [the group] to assume its place,” stated Mr. Cazeneuve.

“The CFCM will represent the majority of the new forum and will maintain a pivotal role,” stated one of its vice presidents Anouar Kbibech. Currently, meetings will be held to determine possible members: associations, intellectuals, key figures, etc. The government denies any notion of a “takeover.” The initiative remains within the boundaries of the 1905 law, and the State “has neither the authority to organize a religion nor to determine who are the right Muslims,” indicated a source.

For Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, political scientist and research at IEP-Paris, this announcement is “a Jacobin response to a more complex question. We risk quickly encountering a paradox: in a supposedly secular state where the government is not allowed to interfere in religious affairs, I’m not sure if we’re following a secular approach.”

Another expected measure in a time of “great sensitivity to radicalization,” is the training of imams and chaplains, now encouraged to obtain a university diploma of civic and civil training, which will be instituted in a dozen institutions by the end of the year.

Certain imams have “an insufficient knowledge of the language and the laws,” said Mr. Cazeneuve. The idea is to “support the beginning of a generation of imams fully integrated into the Republic.” Many of the 2,300 mosques and prayer rooms in the country do not have a permanent imam, creating a void within which self-proclaimed imams can gain influence. Other proposed measures include the development of funding for PhD students and reinforcing control of educational establishments.

The reform was long awaited, but the attacks, which prompted increased risk of stigmatization, accelerated the process. 176 Islamophobic acts were reported in January 2012, altogether more than in 2014.

Mosques afraid of wave of violence from extreme right groups

After members of the extreme-right group Identitair Verzet [Identitair Resistance] shortly occupied the Al Hijra mosque in the city of Leiden, the Contact Body Muslims and Government (CMO) is afraid for an escalation of anti-Muslim violence.

CMO, representing 80% of the Dutch mosques takes the incident very serious, says spokesperson Yassin Elforkani. There have been incidents before, but this was the first time that an action was committed and coordinated by a ideological driven group. There are moreover signs that more actions will follow.

Mosques should provide support to families of jihadis

According to Contact Institution Muslims and Government (CMO), mosques need to provide more support to families of people going to Syria and Iraq. These people are in need of contact with people going through the same situation and also practical support, which they both don’t get from Islamic communities.

Yassin Elforkani, who is working for CMO, responds to the plan of establishing a support centre for families of jihadis’ (see: ‘Support centre for families of jihadis’), saying that this plan can only be successful when there is a ‘bond of trust’, since parents shouldn’t be afraid that their information will be handed over to the police, for instance.

Not sacrificing on Animal’s Day? We don’t ask the bio-industry to quit for a day’

The Party for the Animals has proposed not to slaughter sheep the fourth of October, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha and it is also Animal’s Day. Not everyone agrees: “Why are only Muslims being addressed?

Marianne Thieme (Party for the Animals) states that they don’t want to insult the religious tradition. But according to inspections, animals won’t be slaughtered individually and there won’t be time to sharpen the knifes in between. They therefore propose to give money, instead of slaughtering an animal.

Sandra van de Werd, spokesperson for three animal-organizations had contacted CMO (Contact device Muslims and Government) about the issue. According to CMO giving money is an important part of the fest, but offering an animal too.
Ibrahim Wijbenga, chairman of the Judea-Islamic Platform says it should be better to look at the bio-industry first.

The Animal Protection (dierenbescherming) was not involved in the proposals. “We don’t ask other slaughterhouses to quit for a day.”

Trojan Horse report finds ‘aggressive Islamist ethos’ in schools

July 22, 2014

A leaked report into the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot has found evidence there was an agenda to introduce “an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos” into some Birmingham schools. The report, revealed in The Guardian, was ordered by the government after claims some Muslim groups were trying to take control in some schools. The Department for Education (DfE) has said it will not comment on the leaks.

We must acknowledge today that Ian Kershaw’s report shows we have serious governance issues in a small number of schools in east Birmingham because of serious malpractice by members of governing bodies. This has been compounded by the inability of head teachers and other governors to counter this behaviour and by the failure of the city council to intervene to instil proper governance.

The government’s report was compiled by retired senior police officer Peter Clarke, the former head of the Met Police’s counter-terrorism unit. It is due to be published next week. It says he found evidence of “sustained and co-ordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hard-line and politicised strain of Sunni Islam”. He also found evidence of a “co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city”.

A spokesman for the DfE said: “The allegations made in relation to some schools in Birmingham are very serious and we are investigating all evidence put to us in conjunction with Ofsted and Birmingham City Council.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his union was disturbed by the Clarke review findings but not surprised.

On Tuesday, the board of trustees resigned at Park View Education Trust, which has been at the centre of claims, stating they had been the victims of a “co-ordinated and vicious” attack. The trust has been the focus of allegations made in the anonymous Trojan Horse letter alleging the existence of a clique of hard-line Muslims attempting to seize control of Birmingham schools. The origin of the letter and the intentions behind it has never been determined.

Government intervenes at school ‘taken over’ by Muslim radicals

March 22, 2014

 

The Birmingham school at the centre of an alleged campaign of “Islamisation” by Muslim radicals is to be placed in “special measures” by the Government’s education watchdog in a move that could see its head teacher and governors removed. Park View, previously rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, will be downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest possible score, in the category of leadership and management, senior education sources said. This enables Ofsted to place the school in special measures, allowing the watchdog, if it wishes, to remove the school’s entire leadership.

The move, described as “seismic” by senior educational sources, follows a highly unusual two Ofsted inspections in the past three weeks at the school, the alleged victim of a campaign by Islamists called a “Trojan Horse” to remove secular head teachers and install Islamic practices in Birmingham state schools. The disclosure comes as parents and school governors and staff describe in detail how the campaign has destabilised and undermined successful schools.

At the supposedly non-religious primary school, Oldknow, anti-Christian chanting has been reportedly led by one of their teachers at assembly, as well as conducting weekly Friday prayers, school trips to Mecca subsidised from public funds and Oldknow like Nansen Primary has the requirement that all pupils learn Arabic (this is almost unheard of at primary level). Oldknow’s highly successful non-Muslim head teacher has been driven from her post for resisting the “Islamising agenda”. At another successful primary school, Springfield, the head teacher received death threats, had his car tyres slashed and is under “non-stop attack” by radical governors.

Several sources said their schools had repeatedly appealed to Birmingham city council and the education inspectorate Ofsted for help, but were ignored.

According to the Telegraph one of the alleged leaders of the Trojan Horse plot is Tahir Alam, an Ofsted inspector and a “specialist in school governance” at Birmingham city council. Mr Alam says the plot is a fabrication and denies any involvement. Officials from the Department for Education were sent to three of the schools allegedly targeted: Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen Primary. All three state schools are run by Park View Education Trust, whose chairman is Mr Alam. The deputy head of Nansen Razwan Faraz is the brother of a convicted terrorist and is the administrator of an organisation called “Educational Activists” dedicated to pursuing what has been called an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools.

The Department of Education confirmed that its officials were sent into Park View as part of an “ongoing investigation” into “serious allegations”. Officials are also expected to carry out a snap inspection at Nansen and Golden Hillock.

Hard-line teachers were recruited with some of the teachers telling pupils that music was sinful and as a consequence the children started to refuse to take the music lesson even though it is compulsory on the National Curriculum.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10716855/Government-intervenes-at-school-taken-over-by-Muslim-radicals.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-26482599

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/07/alleged-plot-birmingham-schools-islamic-principles

Muslims Blacklisted For U.S. Citizenship Under Secret Government Program, Says ACLU

August 21, 2013

By Amy Taxin

 

LOS ANGELES — A government program to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

The criteria used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to blacklist immigrants are overly broad and include traveling through regions where there is terrorist activity, the report said. The criteria disproportionately target Muslim immigrants, who often wait years to get a response on their citizenship applications and in some cases are denied, advocates said.

The ACLU learned about the program through records requests after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.

“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalization and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the author of the report.

“I feel like ultimately this is just about politics. They don’t want to be seen as having granted citizenship to somebody who’s going to be the next Boston bomber,” she said.

It was not immediately clear how many immigrants have been reviewed under the program, which began in 2008 and is formally known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program.

Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency routinely checks the background of immigrants applying for benefits and prioritizes the country’s safety and the integrity of the immigration system.

“We are vigilant in executing these responsibilities, and will not sacrifice national security or public safety in the interest of expediting the review of benefit applications,” Bentley said in a statement.

Under the program, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about the immigrant. Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time. Most applications are eventually denied, as the program states that officers are not allowed to approve such cases without additional review, the report said.

Ahmad Muhanna, a 53-year-old Palestinian engineer, said he and his wife applied to become Americans as soon as they were eligible six years ago. They waited nearly four years for a response and were rejected because immigration officers said they failed to note on their application form an association with a Muslim charity to which they had donated money that U.S. authorities later declared a terrorist organization, he said.

Muhanna said the couple has appealed, but the wait has taken its toll. The couple, who lives in a Dallas suburb, missed their eldest daughter’s engagement in Gaza because they feared traveling abroad might jeopardize their green cards. And they haven’t been able to vote, something they’ve wanted to do for some time.

“You can’t just assume every Muslim is a guilty person, and every Muslim is a terrorist,” said Muhanna, adding that he agreed to be interviewed by the FBI with a lawyer present and has lived in the same house, with the same phone number for 15 years, making him easily traceable. “I have chosen this country to be my home and I want to be a citizen.”

 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/21/muslims-blacklisted-us-citizenship_n_3791799.html

Government crackdown on radicals ‘will lead to attacks on Muslims’

December 4, 2013

 

A fresh crackdown on Islamist extremism risks backfiring by fuelling anti-Muslim prejudice and driving hardliners underground, the Government was warned last night. A group that monitors attacks on Muslims said it was preparing for an upsurge of violence as a result of the moves being announced today by David Cameron.

Under the Prime Minister’s proposals, Islamist radicals face being expelled from mosques, Muslim community groups and universities in a fight-back against fundamentalism. The courts would be given new civil powers – similar to Asbos (Anti-social behaviour order) – to ban suspected extremists from preaching or indoctrinating others. At the same time internet companies have been asked to block terrorist material from overseas being accessed in this country.

Last night Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Tell Mama, which records anti-Muslim incidents, said he feared Mr Cameron’s announcements would reinforce negative perceptions of Muslims. Mr Mughal said he had asked extra staff to be on standby because of an anticipated surge in hate attacks. He added that the new rules should cover all forms of extremism, including the activities of the far right.

Isabella Sankey, the director of policy at Liberty, said it was important to confront “ugly ideologies across the spectrum”. But she added: “Driving those who despise diversity further underground does nothing to expose their beliefs and only acts as another recruitment tool. You cannot protect our democracy by shutting down the very freedoms that sustain it.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-crackdown-on-radicals-will-lead-to-attacks-on-muslims-8981288.html