New Poll Finds Young Arab are Less Swayed by the Islamic State

Two years after proclaiming a new “caliphate” for Muslims in the Middle East, the Islamic State is seeing a steep slide in support among the young Arab men and women it most wants to attract, a new poll shows.

Overwhelming majorities of Arab teens and young adults now strongly oppose the terrorist group, the survey suggests, with nearly 80 percent ruling out any possibility of supporting the Islamic State, even if it were to renounce its brutal tactics.

A year ago, about 60 percent expressed that view, according to the 16-country survey released Tuesday.

“Tacit support for the militant group is declining,” concludes a summary report by the poll’s sponsor, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm that has tracked young Arabs’ views in annual surveys for the past eight years. Other recent surveys have found similarly high disapproval rates for the Islamic State among general populations in Muslim-majority countries.

The new poll, based on face-to-face interviews with 3,500 respondents ages 18 to 24, suggests that young Arabs are both increasingly fearful of the terrorist group and less swayed by its propaganda, compared with previous years. More than half the participants ranked the Islamic State as the No. 1 problem facing the Middle East, and 3 out of 4 said they believed that the group would ultimately fail in its quest to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The survey suggests that religious fervor plays a secondary role, at best, when young Arabs do decide to sign up with the Islamic State. When asked why Middle Easterners join the group, the participants listed joblessness or poor economic prospects as the top reason. Only 18 percent cited religious views — a “belief that their interpretation of Islam is superior to others” — and nearly as many picked sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites as the chief motivating factor.

Young Arabs from countries with high unemployment rates were more likely to list economic hardship as a top reason for wanting to join the Islamic State, the survey found. The results align with the findings of other researchers who have noted that many recruits use religion mostly as a rationalization.

“Members do not say they join for economic reasons, but other factors they identify — including ones related to religious reasons — could be a proxy of economic or social factors,” Hassan Hassan, an Islamic State expert at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, said in an analysis of the survey’s findings. “In other words, members may consciously or unconsciously conceal true motives.”

The survey, taken in January and February of this year, also shows growing disillusionment with the Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2011. Of the 16 countries in the poll, only in Egypt did a majority describe their homeland as better off now than it was five years ago. Overall, the share of survey participants who said they have seen improving conditions since the uprisings dropped from 72 percent in 2012 to 36 percent this year.

Accordingly, respondents tended to rank stability over democracy as a coveted virtue for an Arab state. For the fifth straight year, young Arabs picked the United Arab Emirates as the top country to live in, with a 22 percent ranking, followed by the United States, with 15 percent.

The margin of error for the survey was 1.65 percent.

 

Law aims to boost halal, kosher food for poor

DETROIT — For the first time, the federal government is required to purchase and provide food banks emergency supplies of kosher or halal products, serving a population whose survival could otherwise be at odds with strictures of faith.

The void was first revealed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the East Coast in the fall of 2012 and led to food shortages for those most in need.

A Jewish philanthropic organization in New York alerted lawmakers to the rising numbers of people coming to its food banks and often finding shelves devoid of kosher offerings. That led to legislation aimed at boosting emergency supplies for food prepared in accordance with Jewish and Muslim dietary rules, and, after some unsuccessful attempts at passage, the measure was tucked into the sweeping federal farm bill signed into law in February.

Federal agriculture officials now must implement the novel law, which requires them to buy food prepared in accordance with the faiths’ dietary rules but isn’t more expensive than regularly produced food. Then, it must be tracked through the distribution chain and properly labeled to ensure it gets to food bank operators and meets the needs of their clients.

The U.S. Agriculture Department’s challenges include gauging the demand and finding vendors that can supply the appropriate amount of food to keep it cost-neutral.

Demand for kosher food is high in the New York metropolitan area, and both the New York and Detroit areas are major centers of halal consumption.

The USDA currently buys some kosher and halal foods but not in an organized, regulated fashion. It’s hard to know how soon the full effort can launch or how successful it will be, but a test run that predates the Farm Bill’s passage is underway.

Troubled Islamic free school in Derby to close its secondary school

February 9, 2014

 

A troubled free school is to stop teaching pupils of secondary school age from September. Schools Minister Lord Nash, the man responsible for free schools and academies, announced that the Al-Madinah free school in Derby would close its secondary school because of the poor quality of teaching.

In a letter to Barry Day, the new chairman of the trust which runs the school, he said: “I am particularly concerned at the poor quality of secondary teaching and the lack of breadth in the secondary curriculum. I have come to the conclusion that it would simply not be in the interests of parents or pupils at the secondary school to continue to fund provision which has failed them in the manner now apparent.”

The Al-Madinah school opened in September 2012 but there were later claims that it was imposing strict Islamic practices such as forcing women to wear headscarves.

Ofsted [the education standards watchdog] judged that Al-Madinah is completely dysfunctional and ordered a temporary closure on health and safety grounds as adequate checks on staff had not been carried out.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/troubled-derby-free-school-to-close-its-secondary-school-9115056.html

Killer Marine told he ‘increased risk of revenge attacks’ and sentenced to minimum 10 years

December 6, 2013

 

A Royal Marine who murdered a badly wounded Taliban insurgent must serve at least 10 years in prison for a cold blooded killing that tarnished the reputation of the Armed Forces, a judge has said. Sgt Alexander Blackman was dismissed in disgrace and told his crime had betrayed the Marines and potentially increased the risk of revenge attacks on British troops.

Blackman was given a life sentence at court martial for the battlefield execution of a badly wounded Taliban fighter during a patrol in Helmand province in September 2011. Jeff Blackett, Judge Advocate General, said Blackman’s behaviour during the murder, inadvertently captured on helmet camera, had been “chilling”. The video showed Blackman shoot the insurgent in the chest, telling him to “shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.” He then told the rest of his patrol to keep quiet because he had broken the Geneva Convention.

The judge said: “You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood.” “By doing so you have betrayed your Corps and all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan and you have tarnished their reputation.” He continued: “Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed.

Judge Blackett said the seven-strong military board, which included three Royal Marine officers, had taken 15 years as the starting point for deliberations on Blackman’s minimum sentence. They had reduced the term because of his record, the strains he was under and the provocation of brutal fighting against the Taliban.

The case is unprecedented in modern times, with no other serviceman having been convicted of murder on a foreign battlefield since at least the Second World War.

A consultant psychiatrist report concluded Blackman had suffered fatigue, poor sleep, grief from the recent death of his father and “the feeling, though unspoken, of paranoia that he was there to be shot at every time he went out.”

Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said he was surprised by the severity of the sentence. A minimum sentence of 10 years is comparable with what some murderers received in Britain and Blackman could not be seen as a common criminal.

Lord West, a former First Sea Lord, said he had concerns about the decision to name Blackman and felt it had put his family at risk from domestic terrorists.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/10500133/Killer-Marine-told-he-increased-risk-of-revenge-attacks-and-sentenced-to-minimum-10-years.html

Al-Madinah free faith school expected to be closed by the government

October 17, 2013

 

A controversial free school condemned in an official report as “dysfunctional” is expected to be closed by the government by the end of the year after ministers seemingly concluded that it is beyond rescue.

As Labour claimed that Michael Gove had suffered a devastating blow to his flagship free schools policy after the Al-Madinah school in Derby was labelled by Ofsted as chaotic, David Cameron said that he would not hesitate to close it.

Lord Nash, the schools minister, indicated that the Al-Madinah school was facing closure when he warned the chair of governors that the Ofsted report had confirmed his “very serious concerns” which prompted him to order the inspectorate to bring forward its report by two months. “The report is further compelling evidence of the breaches of the funding agreement I have required you to address,” he wrote. ” I am even more convinced of the need for very decisive and urgent action on the part of the trust to comply with all your obligations and remedy the serious failings at the school.”

The school, which has been placed in special measures, will face regular inspections over the next few weeks. The education department will decide on 1 November whether to terminate the school’s funding agreement, effectively forcing it to close. The school could technically continue if it can raise funds independently although it is thought it would be unable to do so.

The closure of the first free school since the launch of Gove’s controversial new policy will mean that the 412 pupils at the school, aged between four and 16, would have to be sent to other schools in Derby.

The move will raise questions about the money that has been spent on the school that is likely to have run into the millions. The average school is given £3,500 per pupil a year plus around an extra £700 for pupils from deprived backgrounds.

A current teacher at Al-Madinah said the atmosphere in the school was tense on Thursday after it was surrounded by media asking for comment on the Ofsted report. The teacher said there was no surprise that the report was so scathing but that the media was wrong to focus on the Islamic practices at the school, such as alleged segregation of boys and girls and asking female teachers to cover their heads. “This is not about Islam at all. The problem here is poor management, poor financial management, a lack of proper governance and a lack of focus on teaching and learning – not Islam,” said the source.

The Ofsted inspectors agreed, reporting that “failures in leadership and management are at the heart of the school’s dysfunctional situation.” The inspectors placed the blame firmly at the governors’ door, saying: “Despite their commitment to the vision for the school, the governors have failed the parents of this community who have placed their trust in them.”

 

The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/17/al-madinah-free-school-faces-closure-government

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/16/faith-school-dammed-by-ofsted-dysfunctional

Philadelphia mosque to open food pantry

The Zubaida Foundation will host the grand opening of its food pantry Saturday in Lower Makefield, organizers said.

“The pantry aims to serve the working poor and others who may be homeless,” said Lee Phillips, a spokeswoman for the mosque. “This is part of the mission of Zubaida Foundation to create opportunities for its membership to do hasanaat (good deeds) for the community.”

 

The foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2005.

Its purpose is to improve the community’s spiritual, moral and social health, Phillips said.

The mosque achieves its goals through congregational prayers, educational programs, social activities and interfaith dialogues and peace efforts with all faiths “in conformity with the teachings of Islam,” she said.

 

Unity Walk celebrates all faiths in remembrance of 9/11

A microphone reverberated with the deep and sonorous Muslim call to prayer shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. “Allaaaaaah — uh — Akbar!” An entire congregation bowed its head in prayer — a Jewish synagogue filled with Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Pentecostals, Greek Orthodox, Baha’i and others.

On Sunday, days before the nation commemorates the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and as a bitterly divided Congress and country debate whether to authorize missile strikes against another Middle Eastern country, hundreds of Washingtonians gathered for the ninth annual 9/11 Unity Walk, seeking to find what people of different faiths share in common rather than what divides them.

Throughout the afternoon, Christians learned to chant with Hare Krishnas, carefully holding laminated mantras on their laps. Sikhs gave turban-tying demonstrations. Others practiced yoga and tai chi or danced in peace circles. The faithful or the plain curious could help the poor by bagging potatoes at St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox church or making trail mix at the Embassy of the Vatican, open to walkers for the first time in honor of Pope Francis and his dedication to the poor.

A Syrian American who would only give his name as Wasim out of fear for his family still in that country, said he would never have imagined as a boy that he would be so comfortable in a synagogue, praying for peace, for an end to war, for President Obama not to drop bombs on his country, with others of so many different faiths.

It was that spirit, he said, that drew him to the Unity Walk. So often, religion is about converting other souls to the “One True Faith,” about destroying others who don’t believe the same things you do.

 

Hofstad Group Member to be Released from Prison

30 August 2013

 

Samir Azzouz, serving a nine year sentence for terrorism in Rotterdam, is to be released on 6 September. He will have served two thirds of the sentence. Azzouz was a member of the “Hofstad Group”, and was jailed for preparing attacks on targets including politicians and the head office of the AIVD secret service.

The Public Prosecutor requested a one year delay in Azzouz’s release, on the basis of poor behavior in prison and continued “radical Islamic convictions.” Azzouz was re-arrested in his cell in 2012 under suspicion of planning another attack. The judge rejected the request due to a lack of plan from the Public Prosecutor proving how the danger of repetition would be reduced by an extension of Azzouz’s time in prison.

Lady Gaga’s burqa is good for Muslim women

gaga_burkaThis article approaches the question as to whether Lady Gaga’s recent choice to wear various “Islamic” items of clothing, is a shameless exploitation of orientalist fetishes to promote herself as a pseudo-edgy ‘artiste’? Which she argues it is yet at the same time feeling strangely satisfied at the uproar caused by her neon pink burqa, because it challenges the discursive monopoly on the meaning of Muslim women’s clothing.

 

In 2009, Lady Gaga held a press conference to which she turned up wearing a bizarre full face covering. Unfazed by her typically outrageous fashion choices, the journalists proceeded to quiz her on her music, none storming out in protest that it was “impossible to read her facial features” or concerned about the “true identity” of who sat before them – no, not one even complained that it was “hampering communication”. Because so much of the public narrative – from justifications for war to bans on Muslim women’s attire, depends on the perception of veils as inherently misogynistic, any suggestion they could be empowering is met not merely with consternation, but faux indignation at the poor brown women presumably insulted by this.

 

The accusations of white privilege levelled at Gaga do hold some sway – after all, it is absolutely and unequivocally because she is white/wealthy/famous that she goes unchallenged in her choice to cover her head, hair or body. But the inherent double standard in the treatment of white/powerful women who cover their faces versus the treatment of poor/disenfranchised/ brown women who do.

 

Now it’s unfortunate for Muslim women who choose to wear some sort of veil that there are sadly a number of oppressive countries who like to dictate to women what they consider to be Islamic clothing and that the easy assumption often follows that wearing one implies support/sympathy/approbation of the latter. It does not.

 

The contention levelled at Gaga on this occasion is that by wearing an overtly glamorous face veil, or a neon pink transparent burka or using lyrics which appear to ‘glamorise’ (God forbid!) aspects of some Muslim women’s clothing, she is unwittingly supporting the patriarchy and insulting those women who are forced to wear the garb in question. The fact her act subverts the monopoly on meaning typically associated with the face veil as the evil imposition of male domination. Perhaps now there’ll be a little more room for different Muslim women to contribute their understanding of these symbols and in so doing, move from object, to subject in that discussion.

 

Although Lady Gaga isn’t changing the game for Muslim women – she’s far more concerned with selling records than with taking a political stance – but rather than be offended by her latest outlandishness as the author point out, she might be stopped by French officials while shopping in Galeries Lafayette or harangued at JFK airport as she returns to the US. Of course she probably won’t be. But the exceptionalism she’s afforded reveals a double standard far more concerning than the absurdity of a transparent burka.

Pope: with Muslims, Francis did not disappoint. After Ramadan a greeting “O’scia” [local dialect greeting] in Lampedusa

July 8, 2013

“It’s a historic gesture,” “beautiful words”: the Islamic Italian community welcomes with enthusiasm and gratitude the words of the Pope, who, now in Lampedusa has addressed Muslims: “to the dear Muslim immigrants who are tonight beginning the fast of Ramadan, the pope also wished them “O’scia” an affectionate greeting in the local Lampedusan dialect which means “my breath.”

“The Pope confirmed expectations that have sustained Muslims and immigrants about openness to dialogue and the promotion of tolerance” says Sherif El Sebaie, Egyptian intellectual and member of the Islamic Community in Turin “this is what we expected with from the new pontificate, and the Pope did not disappoint.”

The president of UCOII (Union of Islamic Italian Communities), Ezzildin Elzir explained “the beautiful words of the pope have meaning and are very important.”

Elzir emphasized “an interfaith dialogue which for previous decades has continued with the Catholic Church” and he also recalls how Pope John Paul II called for “our Christian brethren to dedicate a day of sharing with Muslims, October 27.” “This, I think, is the reality of the Muslim and Christian world: our dialogue, which will continue while we share our spirituality” the leader of UCOII added “Francis’s message is very important at this historical moment, in which the southern shores of the Mediterranean are experiencing very difficult times: people of good will can see this is a very important part in the world, more than 1 and a half billion Christians, have a hand open to dialogue and discussion. I believe that in this way we can overcome the extremists of this or that part.”

Speaking of “historical gestures” the president of the Community of the Arab world in Italy (Comai), Foad Aodi, expressed, on behalf of the whole community “gratitude” for the choice of the Pope to go to Lampedusa. He explained Francis’s gesture “is unique, important and tangible to remember all those invisible dead fallen in the sea of ​​Sicily” and “to remind politicians to field constructive solutions and human resources to help immigrants in distress — for the poor and refugees.” And it was “very significant” to visit  “Lampedusa one day before the start of Ramadan, the holy month in Islam and also for immigrants, refugees and Muslim prisoners who are about to fast even though they are in very difficult conditions.”

The president of the Islamic center in Viale Jenner in Milan, Abdel Hamid Shaari, also appreciated the gesture, “it is a good thing that the Pope will travel to Lampedusa to meet those poor people who pay a high price to get to Italy.” “We thank you and say” he added “that we are open to any dialogue and inter-religious meetings.”