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.

Derby Muslim faith school closes on first day of Ofsted inspection

A controversial Islamic faith school in Derby – under fire for forcing female staff to wear headscarves – abruptly shut its doors on Wednesday hours after the arrival of inspectors from Ofsted, citing unspecified “health and safety” as the reason.

 

Parents who visited the Al-Madinah school, which opened last year as part of the government’s free school programme, said they were told by staff that the reason for the sudden closure was confidential. In a statement, Ofsted said: “We can confirm that Ofsted is currently undertaking a two-day inspection of the Al-Madinah school in Derby.

 

The inspection and the closure comes less than two weeks after a teacher quit the school which has about 200 pupils from reception class to age 13, saying all female staff were being required to follow Islamic dress codes and that pupils were being segregated in classrooms, with girls sitting at the back.

 

The inspection by Ofsted was triggered by complaints about the school after the Derby Telegraph revealed the allegations. The school is also being investigated by the Education Funding Agency, the schools’ financial watchdog, over alleged irregularities involving contracts with suppliers, while the Department for Education is said to have had the school under review before the public allegations were made. The Department for Education said: “We are waiting for Ofsted’s final report and considering all legal options.”

 

A note to parents on the school’s website from head teacher Stuart Wilson told parents: “Owing to a health and safety issue, I have taken the decision to close the school to primary and secondary pupils until I am confident that all children are safe on site.” The school is expected to reopen “in the very near future,” according to the message.

 

The truth about the ‘wave of attacks on Muslims’ after Woolwich murder

Fiyaz Mughal runs a project called Tell Mama, which receives £214,000 a year from the Government to monitor anti-Muslim attacks in Britain. In the wake of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder, he has been understandably busy.

 

The media, especially the BBC, have accepted the claims without question. A presenter on Radio 4’s influential Today programme stated that attacks on Muslims were now “on a very serious scale”.

 

Talk of a “massive anti-Muslim backlash” has become routine. And it is that figure issued by Tell Mama – of, to date, 212 “anti-Muslim incidents” since the Woolwich murder – which has formed the basis of nearly all this reporting.

The unending “cycle of violence” against Muslims, the unprecedented “wave of attacks” against them from strangers in the street, the “underlying Islamophobia in our society” – all turn out to be yet more things we thought we knew about Woolwich that are not really supported by the evidence.

 

Although the service says its caseworkers “carefully handle each report as it comes in, to determine whether it can be verified and justified as an anti-Muslim incident”, Mr Mughal admitted that a further 35 of the 212 post-Woolwich incidents, or 16 per cent, had yet to be verified. He justified publishing the figure, however, saying he expected that all but a handful of incidents would be verified.

 

Fewer than one in 12 of the 212 “incidents” reported to Tell Mama since Woolwich – 17 cases (8 per cent) – involved individuals being physically targeted. Six people had things thrown at them, said Mr Mughal, and most of the other 11 cases were attempts to pull off the hijab or other items of Islamic dress.

 

Perhaps the most serious manifestation of anti-Muslim feeling after the killing was a number of attacks on mosques. These are believed to total 11, though here again evidence for a “wave of violence” is lacking. With only two exceptions, a mosque in Grimsby into which firebombs were thrown and another one in Essex where a man entered with a knife, all the incidents were relatively minor, such as window-breaking or graffiti.

 

According to the Charity Commission, there are between 1,100 and 1,500 mosques in the UK, so the number attacked is less than 1 per cent.

 

What the data broadly show, in short, is that Drummer Rigby’s killers have failed. The breakdown in community relations has not come. There has been a rise in incidents, but it appears to be very short-term, overwhelmingly non-violent and even then almost entirely at the lower end of the scale.

 

Yet this is not a message the Islamophobia industry wants heard, now or ever. Two months before the Woolwich killing, Tell Mama was already claiming that anti-Muslim incidents were “rising”, on the basis of reports made to its service. But at that point it had only been going for a year, so it had no previous figures to compare.

 

What evidence there is simply does not support the claims. There is anti-Muslim hatred in Britain, and it is disgraceful. But nearly all the evidence shows it is diminishing. In 2009 there were 368 anti-Muslim crimes in London; in 2012, there were 337. In the first 11 weeks of 2013, there were 64 crimes, equating at that point to 303 across the year, though the Woolwich attack will drive that up.

 

Broader political developments suggest a country increasingly at ease with Muslims. In 2009 the main anti-Islamic party, the BNP, had 55 councillors. Now it has two. The number of Muslim MPs doubled at the last election, some elected for entirely non-Muslim seats such as Bromsgrove, Gillingham, or Stratford-upon-Avon with no backlash whatever.

 

Canadian man accused of murder rejects notion of ‘honour killing’

News Agencies – November 1, 2012

When the Canadian Crown asked Peer Khairi the Afghan immigrant — accused of murdering his culturally permissive wife to preserve the family’s Muslim honour — whether he expected his children to adhere to Islamic dress codes, he became indignant. “This is a free country, [so] how could I deny people of such freedom?” Mr. Khairi testified, speaking through a Dari interpreter.

Now in its fourth week, Mr. Khairi’s second-degree murder trial in Ontario Superior Court is focused on the accused’s state of mind on March 18, 2008, the day he killed Randjida Khairi at the peak of a heated argument. The Crown characterizes the slaying as an honour crime, alleging Mr. Khairi was driven by his growing frustration at his wife’s willingness to embrace Canadian values and to allow their children to do the same. Mr. Khairi, who began testifying in his own defence this week, has offered a myriad of alternative motives: in one, he was provoked by his wife’s ceaseless insults; in another, he acted out of self-defence when she lunged at him with a knife; in a third, he killed her in a moment of blind insanity.

Dutch Queen and Princess Cover Heads for Mosque Visit

8 January 2012

Considerable press attention has followed an appearance by Queen Beatrix and Princess Maxima in long robes and head coverings during a visit to the biggest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. The Queen tucked a blue headscarf around her hat at the Sheikh Zayed grand mosque as part of the 50th state visit of her reign. Both she and Princess Maxima donned long gowns. Their dress prompted considerable press attention in the Netherlands, of both praise and critique.

Members of the PVV raised the issue in parliament, suggesting that the Queen’s dress legitimized the oppression of women. In an unusual move, the Queen publicly responded to the criticism, calling it “utter nonsense”. According to the NRC it is unusual for the Queen to publicly react to politically sensitive issues such as this. She further said that she had no problem complying with Islamic dress as a mark of respect to the space she visited. Supporting the Queen’s assertion that there is no question of oppression for many women in the United Arab Emirates, Princess Maxima noted that it is rather the region’s young boys who may be at risk.

N.Y. bomb plot: What radicalizes some converts to Islam?

The case of Jose Pimentel, an “al-Qaida sympathizer” accused of plotting a bomb attack in New York, has once again focused our attention on why converts to Islam appear to be so fascinated by violent jihad. Is there something in the act of conversion that transforms normal citizens into messengers of death?

For the answer, let us look at the pattern of converts to Islam in the West. In the last generation we have had many high profile converts such as Yusuf Islam, a.k.a Cat Stevens, Sheik Hamza Yusef, Ingrid Mattson, and of course, one of the most famous of them all, Muhammad Ali, the great boxer. Each one of them brought their extraordinary talents to Islam and promoted better understanding between Muslims and non Muslims.

So what has changed today? Why are we seeing a number of American converts to Islam plotting against this country? In order to answer this question, I travelled recently for almost a year through the United States with a team of young researchers. We published the findings in Journey into America (2010). What we found was a Muslim community that very much appreciative of being in the United States as proud citizens, but was also sharing a sense of being under siege after 9/11. They saw their religion, culture, and traditions mocked mercilessly. They were conscious of the attacks on mosques and women wearing Islamic dress.

Muslim schoolgirls show that faith and fashion are not incompatible

In a first floor classroom in the Hackney campus of the London School of Fashion a small group of young schoolgirls are wrapping clothes on to tailor’s dummies. They are using conventional clothes in unconventional ways – turning ties into belts and baggy T-shirts into neckwear. The idea is to challenge traditional notions of normality in fashion.

The approach is a common one for aspiring designers but it feels especially appropriate for the 20 assembled schoolgirls, all of whom are British and Muslim and all of whom are in traditional Islamic dress.

The girls are taking part in an initiative called Faith and Fashion that is using the widespread fixation of Muslim women’s dress as a starting point for a discussion on how to create fashion that reflects a British Muslim sensibility. Sophia Tillie, the 28-year-old white, British woman who runs the scheme, converted to Islam while at university. She is now engaged in trying to examine how the concept of modesty – so essential to Islamic thinking – can be interpreted differently depending on the context of time and place.

Conservative MP refuses to meet with women wearing the face veil

A Conservative MP says he will refuse to hold meetings with Muslim women wearing full Islamic dress at his constituency surgery unless they lift their face veil. Last night Muslim groups condemned Philip Hollobone and accused him of failing in his duty as an MP.

In an interview with The Independent, the Kettering MP said: “I would ask her to remove her veil. If she said: ‘No’, I would take the view that she could see my face, I could not see hers, I am not able to satisfy myself she is who she says she is. I would invite her to communicate with me in a different way, probably in the form of a letter.”

British debate on banning Islamic dress unlikely to resemble the French

The French burqa debate has crossed the Channel. Despite calls from some groups for a full or partial ban on veils, there is currently no ban on Islamic dress in the UK – although schools were allowed to set out their own dress code in 2007 after several high-profile court cases. In January 2010, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street.

But writing in the Independent, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who chairs the group British Muslims for Secular Democracy, said she supported restrictions on wearing the face veil in key public spaces. “This covering makes women invisible, invalidates their participatory rights and confirms them as evil temptresses.”

Only three women in Denmark wear burqa

Only a small number of Muslim women in Denmark wear the burqa, a new study has found, as the government considers possible restrictions on Islamic dress in public places.

While it is estimated that only three women wear burqa between 150 to 200 women use the niqab. Some 60 to 80 of these women are Danish converts to Islam, according to a survey that was conducted for a special commission looking into the contentious issue.

In August 2009 the Conservative People’s Party suggested a ban against wearing the burqa. The idea was eventually dropped because of constitutional and human rights concerns.

The issue now before the government is not an outright ban but whether there should be restrictions in some public circumstances.