California governor signs law protecting Sikhs, Muslims, from workplace bias

California employers face new restrictions against shunting Sikh and Muslim workers to backroom jobs out of public view based on their wearing of turbans, beards and hijabs, under a law signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“This bill, AB 1964, makes it very clear that wearing any type of religious clothing or hairstyle, particularly such as Sikhs do, that that  is protected by law and nobody can discriminate against you because of that,” Brown told some 400 Sikhs and supporters at a rally of the North American Punjabi Assn. on the steps of the Capitol.

Brown also signed SB 1540, which requires the state Board of Education to consider a new history framework for schools that the governor said will include “the role and contributions of the Sikh community in California.”

The new law restricts employers from segregating an employee from customers and the public as a means of accommodating the employee’s religious beliefs. It clarifies that employers must accommodate a worker’s religious practices unless it creates “significant difficulty or expense” for the employer.

New Report – Understanding Trends in North American Muslim Divorce and Marriage

This report by Julie Macfarlane (University of Windsor) for the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding addresses the shortcomings of Muslim communities when dealing with divorce, and what support and services counselors and community leaders can provide in times of marital crisis. The report has important conclusions and recommendations that can be a resource and discussion guide for couples, community leaders, and the public. The goal of the four year empirical study was to explore what North American Muslims understand as their Islamic obligations in marriage, the challenges they face in their married lives, and under what circumstances they might consider divorce – including their decision-making process, where they turn for help, and what rituals of closure and divorce outcomes are important to them.

When States Legally Sanction Discrimination

Integrating Islamic law in family law in European and North American societies poses a serious threat to women’s rights – and to national integrity, writes Elham Manea, Swiss-Yemeni political scientist

Every time the suggestion of introducing Islamic law in Western legal system is mentioned, it is tempered by its proponents with the sentence: this would only affect the family law. Ye it is precisely because this suggestion concerns family law, it should be rejected. For the issue here relates to nothing but legally sanctioned discrimination against women and children.

Calls for the introduction of forms of Islamic Law, Sharia, into European and North American legal systems have often been made by three groups of people.

First, from Islamic organizations which often represent a traditional if not conservative reading of Islam. Second, from high European or North American officials or figures, who seem to be genuinely concerned about the integration of Muslim communities in their respective countries, and consider the move inevitable for any “successful” integration of Muslims. Third, from within the circle of legal anthropology academics, who are leading a theoretical and intellectual discourse on the state.

American Muslims Against Shariah Law in US Courts, Study Finds

North American Muslims are more than satisfied with the secular legal system and do not want a set of parallel courts for Islamic law, according to a new study of U.S. and Canadian Muslims by a Washington-based think tank.

The study, by University of Windsor law professor Judy Macfarlane for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, would seem to refute critics’ claims that American Muslims want to impose Shariah, or Islamic law.

In fact, the study indicates that Muslims are just as unwilling to accept Islamic law as non-Muslims.

Executive Summary:

This is the first empirical study to ask North American Muslims what shari’a means to
them in their everyday lives. The study demonstrates that the present “moral panic” over
shari’a and its alleged impact on American legal and social culture is wildly overblown. For
most American Muslims shari’a represents a private system of morality and identity, primarily
focused on marriage and divorce rituals. None of the American Muslims interviewed for this
study expected American courts to enforce shari’a. Just like other Americans, they will access
the courts for adjudication according to American family law if they cannot make a private agreement (relating to divorce) that meets their needs and values.

Mississauga, Ontario mosque offers free hot meals

Toronto Star – September 28, 2011

Heeding the Qur’anic instruction to assist the needy, Jamia Riyadhul Jannah mosque in Mississauga, Ontario will start offering free meals, seven days a week from noon to 7 p.m., starting Friday. The Sunni/Sufi mosque, located in an industrial park near Credit View and Argentia Rds., is the first North American mosque to provide hot meals to all regardless of faith, organizers claim. The halal menu will vary daily, with the entrees ranging from burgers to pasta and other items.

Community outreach was a founding principle of the mosque when it opened last August, Sohawardy said. Future plans include providing temporary shelter for recent immigrants. The mosque has been putting the word out with flyers distributed through food banks and other community services. Initially, the food will be brought in, kept warm on site and be served in a small 18-square-metre dining room. But the mosque is equipped with a kitchen and additional dining space, leaving room for expansion.

Forensic Psychiatrist Reflects Canadian Omar Khadr and Islamic Fundamentalism in Guantanamo Bay

The National Post – February 19, 2011
This article reflects the opinion of Dr. Michael Welner, an expert forensic psychiatrist witness in numerous high profile civil and criminal proceedings in the United States. Here he reflects on the impact of prison relating to the fundamentalism of Omar Khadr:
Against the backdrop of these competing forces, the United States Department of Defense asked me as a veteran of highly sensitive forensic psychiatric assessments to appraise the risk of one such Guantanamo detainee, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, by his own statements in 2002 and most recently in October 2010, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Sfc. Christopher Speer as he inspected the scene of a recently completed battle. Khadr was 15 at the time that he killed Speer.
When I interviewed Khadr last June in my capacity as a forensic psychiatrist, he was an English-speaking, socially agile 23-year-old with the kind of easy smile that so similarly warms those who encounter the Dalai Lama and Bin Laden alike. Anticipating his eventual release, the military commission asked me to go beyond the natural tendency of advocates and adversaries to see what they want to see in Omar the man.
In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year. Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.

Sweden’s young muslims cancel visit by criticized imam

Sweden’s Young Muslims (SUM) is hosting a conference in Stockholm this weekend where the North-American imam Abdullah Hakim Quick were supposed to talk about the future of young Muslims in the west. According to different sources the imam has been rallying against homosexuals and Jews in earlier speeches – and after a week of massive protests SUM decided to cancel Quick’s lecture.

Homophobe imam invited to speak to Sweden’s Young Muslims

The North-American Imam Abdullah Hakim Quick has been invited to give a speech at a conference initiated by Sweden’s Young Muslims (SUM). Abdullah Hakim Quick is, in earlier speeches, to have described Jews as “filthy” and to advocate the execution of homosexuals. According to SUM’s homepage he says this is misunderstanding created by Western Islamophobes.

Sören Juvas, chairperson of the Swedish Gay Right group RFSL says that SUM’s invitation “shows a complete lack of responsibility. I was previously under the impression that this organization respected principles of equal rights for everybody but now it seems they couldn’t care less about the values they claim to stand for.” RFSL are hoping for SUM to withdraw their invitation.

Mohammad Kharraki, spokesperson of SUM, says they promote multitude and reject extremism in any form. Even so they will not withdraw Quicks invitation as “it would mean too many changes in the program.” Kharraki says the Imam is not invited to lecture on homosexuality, but to talk about “Muslim identity and about what goals one is to set for oneself as a young Muslim.”

The conference is to be held Easter weekend.

Reviving the Islamic spirits attracts 17 thousand in Toronto

Approximately 17,000 Muslims came to Metro Toronto’s Convention Centre over three days to learn about their religion and being a Muslim in a modern world. They heard from Islamic scholars, prayed, visited with family and friends and shopped in a bazaar that offered up a variety of wares, including hand-embroidered shawls, books, T-shirts, hijabs for both women and children, jewellery and hijab pins. It will feature Yusuf Islam, the name Mr. Stevens – one of the best-known folk singers from the 1970s – now goes by.

It was all part of a three-day convention “Reviving the Islamic Spirit,” an annual conference with its roots in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. It is designed, organizers say, as a way to help young Muslims understand their faith in a North American context.

At the bazaar, about 150 stalls were open. A prayer area was sectioned off behind the stalls. The message conference organizers wanted participants to take home was that they must find a way to practise their religion in a broader, secular, democratic society.

Jewish and Muslim congregations visit one another outside of Toronto

“I’ve never been inside a synagogue, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Imaan Javeed, 14, a member of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto (IFT). He was one of the 250 members of Congregation Darchei Noam and the IFT who took part in a Jewish-Muslim twinning weekend for the first time.

This is the second year more than 100 North American Jewish and Muslim congregations have visited each other’s places of worship. For Darchei Noam and IFT, it started at the Sheppard Ave. W. synagogue on Friday, with prayers to begin the sabbath.