Demonstrations against the IS, violence between Kurds, Turks and Chechen and the Islamic law

In several Austrian cities Kurds have demonstrated against the violence of the IS and for an international intervention to save their countrymen in Kobane. During some of the mentioned demonstrations people were seriously injured (for example in Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg). According to Austrian newspapers Muslims with Chechen or Turkish origin were attacking Kurds; however, there are also reports, which are accusing Kurds for acting violently against Chechens or Turks.

At the same time the Austrian government tries to stop such developments by redesigning the Islamic law. However, the leader of the Austrian Muslim community, Fuat Sanac, criticizes the efforts of the government; according to him the government is not interested in a dialog with Muslims, it rather wants to control the Muslim community.

Beside the Kurdish demonstrations, members of the green party have demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in Vienna. They accuse the Turkish state to not do enough to save the Kurds in Kobane; and to not do enough to fight the IS.

Scalia on Muslim Beard Case: “Religious Beliefs Aren’t Reasonable”

 On Tuesday October 14,  the Supreme Court heard arguments in Holt v. Hobbs, a case about whether a prisoner in Arkansas has the right to grow a ½-inch beard for religious reasons. One of the more interesting threads of the oral argument was Justice Scalia’s assertion that religious directives are “categorical” and not open to a reasonableness analysis.

Britons ‘liable to Sharia divorces’ in UAE

August 5, 2014

The Foreign Office has warned expatriates living in the United Arab Emirates they could face Sharia courts in divorce or child custody cases. UAE personal status law provides expatriates, even if they are not Muslim, with the right to have their case heard under the Islamic law.

It comes after a British mother lost custody of her son to her French ex-husband following a Sharia hearing. In February, Afsana Lachaux was given a suspended prison sentence in Dubai. Ms Lachaux, from London, was found guilty of kidnap charges for failing to attend an access meeting between her son and her ex-husband. The 46-year-old claims she was scared – having been the victim of domestic abuse, which her former partner strongly denies.

She told the BBC’s Asian Network had she known Sharia law could be used by non-Muslims in court cases to decide divorce and child custody, she would not have moved to the UAE. “The fact that I didn’t obey my husband, that shouldn’t be a matter to condemn… it shouldn’t be a reason to take my child away from me,” she explained. The former civil servant was branded an unfit and un-Islamic mother for refusing to obey her husband and having gay friends. It also ruled she was a bad mother as her son had eczema. “I can’t see my son now until he’s 18. I don’t even know if my son is dead or alive. [My ex-husband] got custody through false information,” she said.

Since coming back to London, she has been campaigning for the British government to provide more support to women like her in the UAE.

Tess Lorrigan, from Southampton, also lost custody of her adopted daughter, Olianne, in a Sharia court. She was deported from the UAE in 2011 having been convicted of working without her British husband’s permission.

Human Rights Watch says UAE authorities are failing to respond adequately to reports of domestic violence and is calling on the country to revise its laws to recognise domestic violence as a crime.

Court rejects Islam-influenced post-marital agreement

I have long argued that American courts should deal with Islam-related religious issues by simply applying existing American law, without any special rules either favoring or disfavoring Islam or Muslims. Sometimes that means Muslim claimants might win, for instance when they claim reasonable religious exemptions under existing American religious exemption rules (which are available to people of all religions), or when they enforce valid contracts or wills inspired by Islamic legal principles. Sometimes they should lose, for instance when their religious exemption claims are treated as unreasonable under existing American law, or when their contracts violate established American legal principles.

The court held that the contract was unenforceable — not because there’s something improper about working religious principles, or Islamic principles, into a contract, but because it violated established religious-neutral principles of family law:

As I’ve argued before, this is exactly the right approach for courts to take. Muslims are entitled to enter into contracts or leave wills that reflect Islamic religious principles — such as wills that leave more property to sons than daughters, or union contracts that provide for days off on Islamic holidays, or arbitration agreements that call for Islamic arbitration — just as Christians or Jews may enter into contracts or leave wills that reflect Christian or Jewish religious principles. But Muslims are bound by the same limits on contractual freedom as Christians, Jews, and others are. We can debate what those limits should be, especially in the complicated area of family relationships, but they shouldn’t be Muslim-specific limits.

Islamic Banks, Stuffed With Cash, Explore Partnerships in West

December 25, 2013

By Nathaniel Popper

 

A noted Muslim law scholar, Yusuf DeLorenzo, recently pored through the books of Continental Rail, a business that runs freight trains up and down the East Coast.

Along with examining the company’s financial health, Mr. DeLorenzo sought to make sure that the rail cars didn’t transport pork, tobacco or alcohol. He was brought in by American investment bankers who want to take rail cars bought by Continental Rail and package their leases into a security. The investment is being built for banks that are run according to Islamic law, which, among other things, prohibits investments in those three commodities. If the cars are acceptable, or halal, the deal will be one of the first in the United States to be completed in compliance with Islamic law.

“It’s a new territory for all of us,” said John H. Marino Jr., chief executive of Continental Rail.

The deal is a sign of how banks that comply with Islamic law are making inroads into the global banking scene and how Western businesses are working to meet the expectations of those banks. The banks can’t find enough acceptable places to park their money, many industry insiders say, so investment bankers are scurrying to assemble deals.

Over the last 30 years, the Islamic financial sector has grown from virtually nothing to over $1.6 trillion in assets, according to data from the Global Islamic Financial Review, an industry publication. The financial crisis has only encouraged the growth. Industry assets grew 19 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2012, in contrast to the less than 10 percent growth at non-Islamic banks in most of the world.

Until recently, Islamic banks have largely put their money to work in the Middle East — or, if they invested in other parts of the world, in real estate. Real estate is among the most popular investments under Islamic law, also known as Shariah, because a deal can be structured that does not require interest payments, which are prohibited by Shariah. But as the banks grow larger they are looking for new, more diverse places to put their money.

The deal with Continental Rail is attractive because the rail cars will spin off lease payments, rather than interest, and can be bought in bulk. The cars are also in the United States, which will help bring geographic diversity to the bank portfolios. The deal was brokered by a newly created team at Taylor-DeJongh, a Washington investment bank, looking to bring money from Islamic banks to the United States.

There are similar pushes around the world. A few non-Muslim African countries, including South Africa, have recently been talking about raising money using the Islamic financial instruments known as sukuk, which function much like bonds. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain announced in late October that England planned to become the first European country to issue sukuk. The global bank Société Générale is preparing to raise money from Islamic banks in the coming months.

“There is a gap between all the money coming in to Islamic banks and the deployment of that money into real economic assets,” said Sayd Farook, the global head of Islamic finance atThomson Reuters. “A crazy amount of money has gone into their coffers and they need somewhere to invest it.”

The first modern Islamic banks were founded in the 1970s, motivated by the Quran’s ban on riba, which has been interpreted as any fixed payment charged for money lending. Islamic banks have focused instead on putting their money into real assets and property, and sharing any resulting profits from the performance of an asset. Muslim mortgages, for instance, are structured so that the bank buys the house and then sells it to the occupant slowly over time. Stocks are generally considered acceptable as long as the companies issuing the stock adhere to Islamic law; casinos, banks and weapons companies are forbidden.

Islamic banks have religious scholars, like Mr. DeLorenzo, review their operations on a regular basis. Yet some Islamic scholars have criticized the banks for straying too far from the spirit of the Quran into the speculative realms of Wall Street. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a Western investment and a Shariah one. For instance, an Islamic bank’s fixed-deposit account ties up a customer’s money for a set period of time, like a certificate of deposit. Instead of offering interest, the account offers a share of the profit from its investments. The “profit rate” of a one-year deposit currently is 1.9 percent at one major Middle Eastern bank.

There is a debate among Islamic scholars about what qualifies as halal. “The industry is going through soul-searching,” said Ayman A. Khaleq, a lawyer specializing in Islamic finance at the Morgan Lewis law firm in Dubai. “It’s far from settled.”

But these problems have not stopped the flood of deposits into banks like the Sharjah Islamic Bank, which is named for the city in the United Arab Emirates where it is based. The bank has 24 branches, some of which offer separate spaces for female and male customers. From 2006 to 2012, deposits there almost tripled to about $3 billion.

Muhammed Ishaq, the head of the treasury division at Sharjah, said that the bank’s problem was not attracting money, it was figuring out what to do with it. “It’s not very easy when any financing needs to be backed by some kind of asset,” Mr. Ishaq said.

Real estate has been a very popular investment in the Islamic world, but when real estate was hit hard during the 2008 financial crisis, many investors were reminded of the need for more diverse portfolios. For many banks the answer is sukuk. Like bonds, sukuk make regular payments to investors. But unlike a bond, which is a money loan, sukuk are structured as investments in hard assets that generate payments.

The amount of sukuk sold each year has grown sixfold from 2006 to 2012, to some $133 billion, according to Thomson Reuters’s Islamic financial data service, Zawya. A joint venture between Dow Chemical and Saudi Arabia’s national oil company sold a $2 billion sukuk this year to raise money for an oil complex. But this is falling far short of the demand from banks. “There are serious supply-side bottlenecks,” said Ashar Nazim, head of Ernst & Young’s Global Islamic Banking Center.

Now there are several efforts to create more supply. The Bank of London and the Middle East was founded in London with Kuwaiti money to find these new investment opportunities. “They wanted a wider range of Islamic assets that could be originated away from the Middle East,” said Nigel Denison, the bank’s treasurer.

Yavar Moini, the former head of Islamic banking at Morgan Stanley, said he was establishing an operation in Dubai that would gather assets from around the world that can be packaged into sukuk, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do in the United States with mortgages. Mr. Moini said that “it’s the absence of sufficient product or opportunities for Islamic investors that drives them into the conventional arena.”

In the United States there have been a few attempts at sukuk. In 2006, a Texas oil company sold a $166 million sukuk to finance oil exploration, but the company went bankrupt during the financial crisis. Then in 2009, General Electric issued a $500 million sukuk tied to aircraft leases.

Taylor-DeJongh, the 30-year old, energy-focused investment bank, is hoping to take advantage of the shortage. Ibrahim Mardam-Bey, who worked on the 2006 Texas sukuk, joined Taylor-DeJongh at the end of 2012 and has built a team of five bankers working on Islamic finance.

One deal would provide financing for private toll bridges. The other, which is further along, will bundle the rail cars managed by Continental Rail. The team has already signed a deal to buy 1,000 rail cars in Pennsylvania, and is looking to acquire 5,000 more.

Mr. Mardam-Bey said that some American businesses were hesitant to take money from Islamic banks, perhaps a byproduct of negative associations with Shariah since the Sept. 11 attacks. But in the Texas deal, and in many others, that tends to fade as the financial possibilities become clear.

“The borrower was a Texan wildcatter who couldn’t spell ‘sukuk,’ ” Mr. Mardam-Bey said. “But at the end of the day when I brought the check he didn’t care if I prayed to Allah. He just wanted the money.”

 

Dealbook/New York Times: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/12/25/islamic-banks-stuffed-with-cash-explore-partnerships-in-west/?_r=0

Move over organic – the new big business in food is halal

The Haloodies, a growing group of food lovers who are bored of curries, fed up with kebabs, and long for nothing more exotic than a shepherd’s pie. Their increasing spending power has sparked a race among retailers, wholesalers and canny restaurateurs to carve out a chunk of a market that is worth about £420bn globally.

 

This week an estimated 20,000 Haloodies will congregate in east London at the Halal Food Festival, the world’s first gastronomic celebration of halal produce. All of the UK’s major supermarket chains are sending scouts to help them find ways to exploit the trend. Attendees can browse food stalls offering anything from hot dogs and sushi to French and Moroccan dishes without worrying how the meat was killed or even transported.

 

Imran Kausar, a doctor by training, who masterminded the festival, said British Muslims were no longer “economic migrants trying to make do [but] affluent and aspirational members of the middle class [who wanted to] expand their culinary horizon.” He added: “While typical British dishes have got more exotic, Muslims want the reverse. We want regular stuff like shepherd’s pie, which we see everywhere but we can’t try.”

 

Contrary to stereotypes, not all those planning to go will be Muslim by faith: there is a small but expanding group of people who opt for halal much as they might choose free-range or organic meat. Around 4 per cent of the UK’s population is Muslim, yet halal produce comprises more than 15 per cent of all meat sold in the UK, according to Saqib Mohammed, the chief executive of the Halal Food Authority, one of the two main organisations that regulate Britain’s halal food industry. “Some is exported but the rest is being consumed by non-Muslims,” he said, adding: “Educated non-Muslims are convinced that halal meat is more hygienic.”

 

Restaurant chains are changing their menus to use only halal chicken. Although halal is most often used in connection with meat, the word simply means “lawful” and refers to any object, not just food, or action or behaviour that is deemed permissible under Islamic law. For meat to be considered halal the animal must be alive and healthy before it is killed, crucially with a single cut across the jugular. All the blood must be drained from the body and the slaughterer must recite a special Islamic prayer as the animal is killed.

 

The point that arouses controversy is whether the animal has been stunned first: stunning livestock is compulsory throughout the EU but most member states, including the UK, grant exemptions to Muslims and Jews. That said, Food Standards Agency data published last year shows that 84 per cent of all cattle and calves slaughtered by the halal method in the UK in 2011 were stunned first.

Anti-Sharia Bill Passed In North Carolina Without Governor Pat McCrory’s Signature

(RNS) North Carolina became the seventh state to prohibit its judges from considering Islamic law after Gov. Pat McCrory allowed the bill to become law without formally signing it.

 

McCory, a Republican, called the law “unnecessary,” but declined to veto it. The bill became law on Sunday (Aug. 25).

 

The state joins Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee.

Supporters hailed the bill as an important safeguard that protects the American legal system from foreign laws that are incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, while critics argued that the bill’s only purpose is to whip-up anti Muslim hatred because the Constitution already overrides foreign laws.

 

Although the bill does not specifically identify Islamic law, critics argue that the bill’s only purpose is to invoke anti-Muslim sentiments since the US Constitution already supersedes foreign law. In an action alert [text] urging McCrory to veto the bill, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stated “The bill itself is intended to marginalize and stigmatize North Carolina Muslims and will have a negative impact on the rights of people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

 

The North Carolina ban is limited to family law; bans in other states are broader, applying to commercial law, contract law and other types of laws.

 

Critics of sharia law, the very individuals who encourage banning it, would probably be the first to ask: If U.S. laws do in fact trump sharia laws for American Muslims who live in the United States, then why would a ban bother them? The answer to this question is simple: Because banning sharia law is unconstitutional and an infringement on their religious freedoms as American citizens.

 

NC Muslims hope Gov. Pat McCrory vetoes anti-Shariah bill

North Carolina Muslims hope they can persuade Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, to veto a bill that prohibits state judges from considering “foreign law.”
“It’s going to be tough,” said Rose Hamid of Charlotte. “But I do believe there is a chance.”
Muslims across the state oppose the bill they think is motivated by intolerance and may potentially infringe on other religious groups. Bills against judicial consideration of “foreign laws” are believed to really be opposing Shariah, or Islamic law.
If McCrory signs the bill, North Carolina would become the seventh state to have an anti-Shariah law, joining Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In May, Alabama lawmakers approved a like-minded constitutional amendment that state voters will consider in 2014.
Dozens of anti-Shariah law bills have been proposed in roughly 30 states in the last few years, and Muslim Americans expect many more bills in the years to come. “It’s not a trend that’s going away,” said Saylor.

Company Peddles Pork-Covered Bullets Designed To Kill ‘An Islamist In Jihad’

“Peace through pork” is their company’s slogan. Selling bullets coated with pig-derived paint, designed to keep Muslims out of heaven, is Jihawg Ammo’s business.

 

The Idaho-based company was the result of an “adult beverage” symposium on the construction of the Park51 Muslim community center in New York City — the location at the heart of the so-called Ground Zero mosque controversy. Meeting over a campfire, Jihawg’s creators set out to draw up “possible solutions to stop such a great insult.”

 

These intrepid inventors settled on “the truest form of defensive ammunition ever created in history:” ammunition coated in a “Porcine Coating (Pattern [sic] Pending)” designed to “strike fear into the hearts of those bent upon hate.” Jihawg Ammo’s theory is that because the consumption of pork products is forbidden (haraam) in Islamic law, then any Muslim hit by a pork bullet would be unable to enter heaven. “Jihawg Ammo is a natural deterrent to radical and suicidal acts of violence,” Jihawg claims.

 

Florida State Senator: We Need to “Vaccinate” Against Shariah

As I reported in a piece for the print magazine last summer, Florida has emerged as sort of the Thunderdome of the anti-Shariah movement, with a host of lawmakers at the municipal, state, and federal level working hand-in-hand with a dedicated group of activists to combat the invisible spectre of Islamic law. Shariah isn’t coming to South Florida, but that hasn’t stopped the state legislature from trying—again—to ban it from being used in state courts.

 

On Friday, the South Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations blasted out this video, in which state Sen. Alan Hays, the bill’s Republican sponsor, compares stopping Shariah to getting a polio vaccination:

 

By all accounts, Hays considers the threat posed by Islamic law quite dire. The Miami Herald reported earlier in March that the senator had distributed anti-Shariah literature in the halls of the state capitol. Per the Herald, the fliers “present Islam as a threat to the United States,” and invoke lawmakers to pass legislation to “save us from an internal attack” and “protect our freedom.”

 

That is, if the pythons don’t get us first.