Islam body to guide UK government

Britain has taken the lead among Western countries with large resident Muslim communities to fund a board of Islamic theologians who will pronounce on some of the knottiest, most controversial issues of faith such as women’s rights and kamikaze religiosity, in what many see as an attempt to create an Anglo-Saxon version of Islam. The British body, which is yet to be given a name, will bring together 20 leading Islamist thinkers. It will be financially sponsored by the government but is advertised as committed to the baseline of independent thought, with no reference to political considerations. The British body will be distinct from its five-year-old French forbear, the Council for the Muslim Religion and will have more authority and weight than the UK’s most important, existing Muslim representative body, the Muslim Council of Britain. Analysts said the new British body has emerged as an attempt to sideline violent extremists who preach a hate-filled version of Islam dedicated to the destruction of Western systems and patterns of thought. The new British body, which was publicly endorsed as a good idea whose time has come by communities secretary Hazel Blears, will see Oxford and Cambridge Universities host a group of scholars to lead the debate on key British Muslim issues such as women’s rights and responsibilities and loyalty to the host country, Britain.

Mosque visit by prison officers

Prison staff visited a city mosque to help prevent young Muslim prisoners from being “radicalised” by extremist inmates. Luke Serjeant, governor of Woodhill prison on Tattenhoe Street, said staff aimed to develop better understanding and links with Muslim communities to help protect the 100 Muslim prisoners at Woodhill from being targeted by Islamic extremists. Serjeant was featured on Channel 4 documentary Dispatches on Monday night, as it focused on the spread of Islamic extremism throughout British prisons. The programme revealed evidence that extremists were targeting young, vulnerable inmates that feel alienated from society and want a sense of purpose. One of the ways the service is responding is to provide a carefully vetted Islamic leader, or Imam, in each jail to guide and teach followers of the religion.

Inside the world of UK Muslim women

A major survey shows most want to marry their soulmates and enjoy high street fashion, while keeping a delicate balance with their Islamic values. She wants to marry her soulmate, shops in Primark, TK Maxx and Topshop, and dreams of starting her own business. Meet the typical Muslim woman in Britain today. A thousand women throughout the country have responded to the biggest lifestyle study of Muslim women undertaken in the UK. It appears to show that Muslim women have established a delicate balance between a desire to live a contemporary lifestyle and tap into consumer trends while sticking to values underpinning the Islamic guide to life. The survey shows that 58 per cent of Muslim women do not think the racial background of a partner matters, although two-thirds believe it is very important for their man to be knowledgeable about Islam. Success to 37 per cent of women means being a good Muslim, while 32 per cent say it is about combining work with family life, with 52 per cent wanting to run their own businesses. When asked which Muslim causes were most important, 70 per cent of women said matters affecting Muslims in their own community or in the UK were a priority against 21 per cent who said that the Middle East was the most important issue facing Muslims today. Talat Ahmed, 32, from Redbridge in east London, is a married with a three-year-old daughter and works in human resources for a charity. She said: ‘I become so English when the Rugby World Cup is on. We’re British and we love it here. Nick Mathiason and Huma Qureshi report.

McCain advisor: Destroy Islam

The US televangelist Rod Parsley, a key John McCain ally and spiritual advisor, called for the eradication of Islam as a false religion. Parsley, the leader of a 12,000-member congregation, has written several books discussing his religion and beliefs. In his book The 2005 Silent No More and a chapter entitled Islam: The Deception of Allah, Parsley warns that there is a war between Islam and Christian civilizations. He also calls Islam an anti-Christ religion and urges the US to launch a new crusade to eradicate Islam. Last month, Republican presidential nominee McCain appeared at a campaign rally in Ohio with Reverent Parsley, in which he called the evangelical minister his spiritual guide.

Sufi Muslims focus on Islam in Rome

The Sufi Muslim order of Burhaniya has organized a series of meetings in Rome, entitled _The East in the West. These meetings are expected to take place twice a month until April, and will explore central themes of figures of Sufi Islam, friends of God, [and] saints for love. The next meeting will take place in Rome, and will be held in the zawiya – a prayer and meeting area for the Sufi brotherhood in the Italian capital. Abdul Ghafur Franco Grassi, the spiritual guide for the order, says that he hopes that these meetings can help let people know the more spiritual and acceptable aspects of Islam in the West.

A new guide highlights Rome’s ethnic assets

A city guide celebrating Rome’s ethnic diversity is in the works to be released to promote the city’s diverse cultural attractions. The publication, called ‘Roma Multietnica’ contains information related to cultural, artistic, and other activities involving migrants from Africa, Latin America, the Arab world, China, and other countries. The guide will be divided into geographic areas, and include cultural centers, associations, places of worship, language and culture sources, and restaurants. While it will published in Italian, it is expected to be available in other languages online. “Integration is only possible if we convince ourselves of Rome’s multi-ethnic identity,” said Silvio di Francia, councillor for cultural policies from the city of Rome.

Tax guide published in Arabic

Italy’s tax collection agency has produced a tax guide in Arabic, as well as several other foreign languages, to help immigrant workers pay their taxes. The 28-page guide can be downloaded from the tax agency’s website, and is available in Arabic, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Italian. “The guide for foreigners contains key information on taxation, personal tax codes and VAT numbers, as well as the purchase and rental of properties, tax returns and rebates, inheritance, and communication of tax irregularities,” the agency said on its website. The initiative is part of a plan by the government to clamp down on rampant tax evasion in Italy.

Islamic Board believes that Catholic bishops ought not to impose rules

The Islamic board asserted that while Catholic bishops have the right to guide and direct their faithful, it is not acceptable for them to impose moral standards on society as a whole. The chairman of the Islamic board, Mansur Escudero, referred to statements concerning bishops in southern Spain who told believers not to vote for those candidates in upcoming elections that advocate abortion or euthanasia. Escudero said that religious leaders have to appreciate that we live in a pluralistic society… and that the State should be neutral. Escudero added, it is not reasonable that one religions denomination impose their rules on society as a whole.

Minneapolis airport cabbies who refuse fares face tough penalties

Muslim cabdrivers at Minnesota’s biggest airport will face new penalties, including a two-year revocation of their taxi permits, if they refuse to give rides to travelers carrying liquor or accompanied by dogs, the board overseeing operations ruled Monday. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, which was responding to complaints about the liquor issue, voted unanimously to impose the penalties, which take effect in May. A large number of taxi drivers in the area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Muslim Somali immigrants. Many say they believe that the faith’s ban on alcohol consumption includes transporting anyone who carries it. Some also have refused to transport dogs, both pets and guide dogs, saying that they are unclean. The rules cover any driver who refuses a ride for unwarranted reasons. Under the new regulations, a first offense would result in a 30-day cab license suspension. A second offense would mean a two-year taxi license revocation. The current penalty requires only that drivers who refuse a fare go to the end of the taxi queue, which costs them time and money.

Muslims And Labour Vote

The word “ethnic” is misused in the article below. We talk about metropolitan districts with large “ethnic communities”. The Guardian style guide says: “Neversay ethnic when you mean ethnic minority. It leads to such nonsense as the constituency has a small ethnic population.” Tony Blair’s hopes of patching up relations with the Muslim community have been dealt a fresh blow by a leading Islamic organisation which is urging its members not to vote Labour at next week’s European elections.