First woman to lead friday prayers in UK

A Canadian author will become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation through Friday prayers tomorrow in a highly controversial move that will attempt to spark a debate about the role of female leadership within Islam.

Raheel Raza, a rights activist and Toronto-based author, has been asked to lead prayers and deliver the khutbah at a small prayer session in Oxford. She has been invited by Dr Taj Hargey, a self-described imam who preaches an ultra-liberal interpretation of Islam which includes, among other things, that men and women should be allowed to pray together and that female imams should lead mixed congregations in prayer.

Raza, 60, is part of a small but growing group of Muslim feminists who have tried to challenge the mindset that has traditionally excluded women from leadership roles within the mosque. They argue that nowhere in the Koran are female imams expressly forbidden. Instead scholars rely on the hadiths (the words and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed) to exclude women — although Muslim feminists and some progressive scholars argue that even these are not clear enough to say with confidence that women are altogether banned.

“Silent Majority”of Dutch Muslims Waking Up

A conference in Utrecht this week, organized as part of the MultiFestijn Festival, explored “whether the unease about Islam in the Netherlands is due to a lack of leadership”, Reformatorisch Dagblad reports. Abdulwahid Van Bommel, a translator and guest lecturer at the University of Groningen, spoke at the conference and identified a sense of unease about the presence of Islam in the Netherlands. He suggested that the “silent majority” of the Muslim community should take a stronger role in leadership within Islam in the country.

Lord Pearson plays the Islam card to win leadership of UK Independence Party

A millionaire peer was elected leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) yesterday after putting “the growing threat of Islamism” and curbing immigration at the heart of his campaign.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who defected from the Conservatives two years ago, comfortably beat four rivals to assume command of the anti-European Union party.

One of two UKIP peers, he has protested that the “political class” is complacent about Islamism and claimed that some of “our people” were “strangers in our own land”.

The 67-year-old former insurance broker invited the right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders in February to screen a controversial film about radical Islam. He has called for a zero net increase in immigration, arguing that the issue was the main concern for many voters, and strongly supports the party’s main idea that the UK leave the European Union.

Globe and Mail opinion piece claims divide between those who run Canadian Mosques and those who attend

Sheema Khan suggests in this opinion piece that there is a growing separation between leadership and those who attend mosques in the West. She claims that this disconnect is being played out in Ottawa, Ontario where the city’s largest mosque has been embroiled in controversy as it searches for a permanent imam. The mosque’s directors initially sought an imam familiar with Western culture. Instead, they chose one from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, paid for by the Egyptian government. As a result, many mosque members revolted. Khan praises the community members who want their voices heard and more accountability from directors as a healthy development.

Future Muslim leaders take part in UK summer school

Muslim delegates from across the world have been taking part in a two-week project designed to inspire future leaders. Eighty-six people have come together at the Mosaic International Summer School to take part in the project which has been supported by The Prince of Wales who spoke of his delight over the interest the school has created.

Sponsored by HSBC Bank Middle East Limited and developed in association with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the summer school will take place in various locations around the UK. The delegates will spend the first week in Cambridge taking part in daily sessions covering discussion topics including leadership in life, international community building, cultures and community and a session on environmental sustainability.

In the second week, the delegates will be divided into four groups where they will visit the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, London and Manchester spending time at key cultural and community centres including the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester and the London 2012 Olympic site.

A Turk at the Top

Politician Cem Özdemir is set to soon become Germany’s first national party leader of Turkish descent. As head of the Green Party, he will break through a glass ceiling that still persists for most of the country’s estimated 2.5 million ethnic Turks. Cem Özdemir raises his vodka-orange and winks.
“Serefe.” He seems to relax. There was a crowd outside the bar, packed into Berlin’s KulturBrauerei for the mid-September Radio Multikulti festival, and the way to the small upstairs table had been full of random greetings and handshakes. Özdemir became a political cult hero in 1994, when, at 28, he became the first person of Turkish descent to enter Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. Now an influential member of the European Parliament in Brussels with three books and countless public appearances under his belt, the charismatic politician recently acquired the aura of a future titan within the country’s influential Green Party. Nine days earlier, Volker Ratzmann withdrew from the November 14 race for the party’s top leadership post, clearing the way for Özdemir to claim another high-profile milestone as the first member of an ethnic minority to lead a German national party. Michael Giglio reports.

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MCB instructed on engaging with Muslims

UK’s largest Muslim Umbrella body has welcomed Sadiq Khan MP’s “incisive and thoughtful analysis” of the Muslim community in his Fabian Society pamphlet Fairness not Favours: How to reconnect with British Muslims. Mr Khan proposed a number of recommendations for The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in the pamphlet published on Wednesday. “Some may be challenging, and will require debate – and the Muslim Council of Britain seeks a dispassionate discourse devoid of the usual rhetoric that comes with discussion about Muslims. MCB supports Mr Khan’s proposal that government should deal with Muslims on the basis of ‘engagement’ rather than ‘endorsement’, on a fair and equal footing,” it said in response. Khurshid Drabu, Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the MCB, said: “This is an insightful and candid contribution to a challenging and much misunderstood agenda. Sadiq Khan’s experience, intellect and standing can be trusted to voice the legitimate expectations of the political establishment from Muslims as citizens and of Muslims for fair and equal treatment. “His analysis of relevant issues is courageous and his recommendations require positive action from all sides. The MCB welcomes this excellent intervention. We are very pleased to note that Sadiq Khan asks for introduction of positive duty in the legislative framework for elimination of discrimination on grounds of religion in the areas of the provision of goods, facilities and services. The MCB has for many years been campaigning for this pressing need. Muslims do not seek favours. We seek fairness.”

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Minister proposes a registry for imams and mosques

Italian European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi has proposed a registry for imams in Italy, in order to control the building of mosques, and a referendum to urge for more integration of places of worship according to the social and urban contexts where they are based. Ronchi made the proposals suggesting that the initiatives would improve religious dialogue. He also stated that he would like to restart dialogue between Muslims and institutions including the Islamic Council or Consulta per l’Islam. However, Ronchi said that he did not want the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy to take part in the initiative, even though it is the country’s largest Muslim group – calling them “the real exponents of non-dialogue” concerning the group’s denial of the existence of Israel.

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