A small travel agent from Birmingham has been found guilty of ripping off a Muslim family over Hajj pilgrimage package to Saudi Arabia bought in July 2009. As the Birmingham Mail reports, during a five-day trial at Birmingham Court, the jury heard about the family’s trip to Mecca and Medina that was blighted by a “catalogue of disasters” and then found the owner of the agency, Chowdhury Ahmad, guilty of one charge of fraud and three counts of flouting package holiday regulations. Ahmad was released on unconditional bail, but could be jailed when he is sentenced on December 9th.
25 March 2011
The film “West is West”, after its highly successful predecessor “East is East”, has been released at cinemas, telling the story of a Muslim family in Manchester. The author of this article takes the opportunity to skim through all movies of the past years that deal with Islamic issues to study the range of Muslim characters and actors in the cinemas. She finds a few, and few good ones, but is generally disappointed by the lack of differentiation, if not lack of Muslims altogether: “Where is the soulful, female Muslim singer, the wily, kebab millionaire, the two-timing Pakistani cricketer, the Arab heartthrob? They do all exist, but these roles are not written into scripts”, she writes. She describes the current “West is West” as witty and authentic, but as a lone star among currents films.
Nabahet Moulay Slimane and her husband were arrested in their house in a suburb
of Cork, Ireland, for their connection with Colleen LaRose, an American convert
who became known as ‘Jihad Jane’. On 9 March 2010, the police detained seven
persons in Ireland for allegedly plotting to murder the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks
who depicted Muhammad in 2007. After three days of questioning by the police,
Slimane and her husband were released without charge. In this article, she tells her
story. LaRose spent time in Slimane’s house during her stay in Ireland in 2009, using
her phone and internet, until her sudden departure after a few weeks. LaRose was
introduced to Slimane and her husband by a family friend as an American convert,
maltreated by her own family due to her conversion to Islam. Slimane describes
the shock and horror the sudden arrest has brought to her family. She was forced
to shut down their small family business, her family has been stigmatised in the
local community and by the media, and she has been suffering from psychological
distress since then.
Wednesday 30 June, 2010, p. 19
‘Our Jihad Jane Link’
‘The Cork-based Muslim family arrested for links to ‘Jihad Jane’ in March have
decided to tell their story to Sharon Ní Choncúir’
Two British films are coming out in April and May, both of which dare to approach religion with a comic touch. They will, of course, be castigated by the uncompromisingly religious, the usual suspects who believe that faith can never be a laughing matter and revel in demonstrating their beliefs through the medium of a violent punch up.
The first film, David Baddiel’s new offering, The Infidel, tells the story of a middle-aged Muslim family man who discovers he was actually born a Jew. To try and make sense of this sudden identity crisis, Mahmud, played by Iranian-born comic Omid Djalili, seeks out his neighbor, a drunken Jewish cabdriver called Lenny. The hilarity that ensues is largely based around the Muslim and Jewish communities’ deep misunderstanding of each other and how two flawed but instantly lovable characters learn to respect each other and their faiths.
The second film follows an even more controversial line. Four Lions is Christ Morris’s much anticipated movie debut and revolves around five wannabe jihadists from Sheffield who plan a series of coordinated suicide bombs in London. Their stupidity and haplessness is matched by the police, who are as incompetent and ill-informed as the people they are trying to catch.
Navid Akhtar, a film-maker who has specialized in serious documentaries on the nature of British Islam, including the film Young, Angry and Muslim, agrees. “I think after July 7 and the Danish cartoons there were plenty of British Muslims who felt equally concerned as anyone else about the global reaction and the ridiculousness of it all,” he says. “What we’re getting as a result is a more sophisticated and developed Western Islam that gets comedy and understands that it’s OK to poke a little fun at yourself.”
Despite efforts by courts in Ohio and Florida, Rifqa Bary, a runaway teenager from Ohio says reconciliation with her Muslim family is not possible. Ms. Bary converted from Islam to Christianity and fled home with the alleged assistance of a Christian pastor claiming she would be in danger due to her conversion. Ms. Bary’s attorney argued that the continuing fear of being hurt by her family makes reconciliation impossible.
A Muslim cleric and his wife have been killed in their own house in an arson attack, with two of their children injured, in Blackburn near Manchester. Abdullah Mohammed, 41, was killed in the fire in October. His wife, Ayesha, 39, died a week later. The 14-year old daughter is still hospitalized. Her 9-year old brother has been released and taken care of by extended family.
Two men have already been charged with murder and remanded in custody, while two more men have now been arrested on suspicion of murder. The police have not yet commented on the motive for the attack.
A French physicist with the European atomic research center near Geneva was charged with terrorism by a Paris judge last night after investigators said that he offered to work with the North African branch of al-Qaeda.
Adlène Hicheur, 32, who is of Algerian origin, was arrested last week with his younger brother after intelligence agents intercepted his alleged internet contacts with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The physicist, who works at the giant atomic collider at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), which straddles Swiss and French territory, told the Islamic group that he was interested in committing an attack but had not begun any material preparation, according to police sources. He had acknowledged contacting the militant organization, they said.
Residents in the suspect’s home town of Vienne, in eastern France, said that his success had made him a role model for young Muslims. “They are good boys,” said one neighbor of the suspect and his brother. “They are from a family of six children and from a very moderate Muslim family which is seen as a model of integration.”
Three petrol bombers have admitted an honour attack on a Swindon family. Sandip Rooprai, 20, Jasdev Dogra, 18, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons pleaded guilty to twice attacking the home of Alpona Begum in Swindon. They also launched another arson attack on a house in Bristol, and set light to a parked car close to their Swindon target.
The men threw Molotov cocktails through the front windows of the home because Miss Begum knew that Rooprai’s Sikh sister was dating a Hindu man. They also bombed the Bristol home of Kamlesh Vyas, the priest believed to have married the pair. At an earlier hearing, Swindon Magistrates’ Court was told by prosecutor Stacey Turner: “Bangladeshi Muslim Alpona Begum was a good friend of Pardeep Rooprai, the sister of the defendant. They were friends at college and would talk to each other. It was clearly a very strong friendship and the friends shared intimate secrets.”
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Moroccan authorities were happy for boy to make a home in Britain but officials in Surrey were not so sure.
When Robert and Jo Garofalo decided they wanted to adopt a child in Morocco they knew it would not be easy. Although the law in the Muslim state had been changed to allow foreign adoptions, the couple were required to convert to Islam first. But in the end it was not the Moroccan authorities that proved the biggest hurdle for the film director and his wife — it was their own local social services. For three months, during which Mrs Garofalo lived with their adopted son in a rented flat in Tangier, the couple were subjected to a series of what they believe were unecessarily harsh and intrusive interviews in which every aspect of their lives was scrutinised. Finally they were approved and were able to bring young Samuel back to their home, where he has thrived. So when, earlier this year, they approached Surrey social services for approval to adopt again from the same Moroccan orphanage, they were surprised to discover that they would have to go through the whole process again. The couple were particularly concerned that, in order to assess Samuel’s “attachment” to them, he would have to be monitored and even filmed while playing. Equally disconcerting was that even though social workers indicated in an initial report that they would be prepared to support the second application, the couple were left with the impression that they were being asked to do more to show they were living a Muslim lifestyle. “The Moroccan orphanage felt it would be good for Samuel to have a brother and were very positive and encouraging. They were happy with the way we dealt with Samuel’s cultural and religious needs,” Mrs Garofalo, a 40-year-old actress, said. But this was not enough for Surrey, who made clear that an assessment would go ahead only if the couple proved that they were making enough effort to live a Muslim lifestyle. In their report, social workers noted that although the couple had stated their religion was Islam “there is no outward sign that this is a Muslim family . . . Joanne and Robert are aware that the socio-religious element is an aspect of Samuel’s identity and heritage which this agency takes very seriously.” It recommended that “particular attention be given to sharing techniques and strategies with Joanne and Robert that will enhance their children’s sense of identity and legacy, particularly in view of their very public statement they made deciding to convert to Islam in order to adopt”. Rachel Kaufman reports.
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Tonight, at the City Circle, the Muslim Institute will launch a radical marriage contract (pdf) it hopes will change the face of British Muslim family life. Currently, the Islamic marriage ceremony (nikkah), performed by an imam in the presence of two witnesses, is not recognised by British law and often involves little or no paperwork. If things go awry and the couple divorce, the woman – and it is almost always the woman – experiences great difficulty securing the financial rights guaranteed to her under sharia law. The terms and conditions of this new contract, signed at the nikkah, clarify both husband and wife’s rights and obligations in all eventualities. For example, it ensures that the right to divorce (talaq-i-tafweed), is automatically delegated to the wife, something that is practised in most Muslim countries. The contract is not just about divorce, though. It seeks to establish healthy relationships by highlighting difficult scenarios the couple may encounter in the future. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Institute explains: “By laying out the terms and conditions of the marriage it encourages both parties to establish consensus on issues such as where they will live.” Many couples bring to a marriage a certain amount of cultural baggage. They can find they have vastly differing approaches to lifestyle, such as the division of housework and personal finances. The architect of the contract, Mufti Barkatulla, has spent the past 25 years presiding over thousands of divorce cases at the Islamic Sharia Council. “Problems arise when couples don’t know what to expect. The lack of respect for each other’s personality and choices is shocking,” he says. The contract is the culmination of a four-year consultation process to address the pervasive gender inequality in Muslim marriages across the UK – inequalities based not in theology, but in culture. A major fault line is the role of in-laws. Sharia law explicitly states that a wife has the right to a separate living space, yet some Muslim communities in the UK, such as those from the subcontinent, cherish a rigid cultural attitude that living with in-laws is an Islamic convention. Polygamy is another contentious issue the new contract clarifies, illegal under British law and subject to strict conditions set down in the Qur’an. Samia Rahman reports.