Happy British Muslims

April 18, 2014

 

The Happy British Muslims video was put together by a group of young British Muslims called the Honesty Policy, with a very simple aim: to spread positivity and a bit of empowerment along the way. Who are the Honesty Policy? They have chosen to remain anonymous. “Anonymity is a symbol of integrity, and integrity doesn’t need a face,” they state on their website.

Two days after the video was posted it has gained more than 570,000 views on YouTube, and counting. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive, with thousands of messages of support, although some have criticised the video and labelled it as sinful. The Honesty Policy group stated that “If this video has done anything, it is to galvanise a tremendous, unified and coherent community voice in its defence. Cross-cultural, inter-organisational, multi-ethnic; we have all become one. And what has been the unifying force? Happiness.”

The video’s participants include politicians, journalists, students, families and community leaders. Timothy Winter of Cambridge University, also known as Abdul Hakim Murad, makes an appearance. Renowned among Muslim academics for his stoic nature, Winter doesn’t dance, but poses with a sign reading “I’m happy!”

Winter has released a statement of support stating: “I’m delighted to see the outcome of the Happy British Muslims video, which has unlocked a remarkable tide of goodwill around the world, and significantly tilted the image of Muslims among many sceptics. Islamophobes must be grinding their teeth to see Muslims of different races and age-groups united by happiness. No one will produce a Sharia argument against jumping for joy!”

Although throughout the release of the positive responses some have questioned the need for such a video, with some suggesting that Muslims have to dance to “happy” to prove they don’t mean harm! That the Muslim presence in the media and in social and public engagements is always about proving that Muslims are not a threat and just like everyone else.

 

The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/sinful-video-of-british-muslims-dancing-to-pharrell-williamss-hit-happy-comes-under-attack-9268418.html

The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/music/shortcuts/2014/apr/18/happy-british-muslims-video-pharrell-williams

Syria is now the gravest terrorist threat to Britain

April 10, 2014

 

Every month a new batch of British Muslims leaves the country to risk their lives in Syria’s brutal civil war that after three years of bitter conflict that has now claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

Figures recently compiled by MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, indicate that at least 500 British Muslims have travelled to Syria as jihadis, where they have met up with radical Islamist groups such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which seeks to create a hardline Islamic state in “liberated” areas of Syria and Iraq. But, so far as our national security is concerned, the real problem centres on the hard core of British jihadis – those who return to Britain as hardened fighters fully versed in the latest terrorism techniques.

The danger posed by them was highlighted this week by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, when she published her annual report on the Government’s strategy for countering terrorism. “The growing threat from terrorist groups in Syria,” she said, had been the most significant development in the fight against terrorism in the past year.

Mrs May’s remarks neatly summarised the conclusions reached by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), whose latest assessment says that the threat to the UK from returning jihadis is equal, if not greater, to the long-standing threat posed by al-Qaeda terrorists based in the lawless tribal areas on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Apart from its closer geographical proximity, British jihadis have been drawn to Syria because, once they have entered the country, it becomes far harder for Western security agencies to disrupt their activities. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, constant surveillance by drones and other monitoring devices means al-Qaeda activists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, the organisation’s leader, are limited in their ability to travel and to communicate with the outside world. In Syria, however, such constraints do not apply. The country’s Russian-made anti-aircraft missile systems mean that drones are unable to monitor or disrupt the activities of Islamist terror cells so that, so long as they are able to survive the conflict, they are free to travel and act with impunity.

But while it may be harder to track the jihadis when they vanish into the Syrian cauldron, that does not mean the authorities are not waiting for them when they emerge. At least a dozen of the 250 or so British jihadis who have returned home so far have been detained on terrorism-related charges, while others have been relieved of their passports to stop them joining overseas terror groups.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10757598/Syria-is-now-the-gravest-terrorist-threat-to-Britain.html

Exam schedule needs to change to take account of Ramadan, say teachers

April 16, 2014

 

Teachers’ leaders are calling for a review of the GCSE and A-level exam schedule next year to help Muslim students cope with a clash between it and Ramadan. Students who will have to fast during the exam period are bound to lose marks as a result, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ annual conference in Manchester was told today.

Discussions are being held between the ATL, the Joint Council for Qualifications and leading Muslim groups to see if any can be offered to the students – possibly by ensuring that students do not have to sit too many exams on the same day. Barry Lingard, of the ATL executive said: “For up to half a million students, Muslim students, we can see a very large problem looming. The observance of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar entails fasting from sunrise to sunset.”

Ramadan moves 10 days forward every year – which means it will clash with exams for the next five years. The last time this happened was 25 years ago when there were far fewer Muslims in the UK. Next year Ramadan starts on 18 June, the following year 7 June, and in 2017, 27 May.

Abdul Choudhury, from Tower Hamlets, added: “I have no doubt whatsoever that standards will be affected by this. We work so hard to get them maybe that extra mark or two but if they go into the exam without any water or any food it will have an effect on their results.”

Michael Turner, director of the JCQ, said: “We’re consulting on the exams timetable for 2015 and we will be looking at the impact of Ramadan on that timetable.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/exam-schedule-needs-to-change-to-take-account-of-ramadan-say-teachers-9265456.html

 

Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation charity advisors ‘linked to Muslim Brotherhood’ – a group he himself condemned as pursuing ‘values that contradict everything we stand for’

April 14, 2014

 

Tony Blair has been accused of an embarrassing hypocrisy after reports emerged that his high-profile multi-faith charity has links to an international Islamist group which he himself dismissed earlier this year.

According to one international watchdog organisation, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation has two senior advisors with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The former British prime minister accused the Brotherhood of being in “pursuit of values that contradict everything we stand for”, and “taking the country away from its basic values of hope and progress”. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation says it exists to “help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism”, and Mr Blair will be embarrassed by the link between its council members and a group he has been so critical of as Dr Ismail Khudr Al-Shatti, an adviser to the Kuwaiti government and a member of Mr Blair’s advisory council, is a leading member of the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Another adviser, the former Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina Mustafa Ceric, was reportedly tied to the Brotherhood through his membership of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), headed by Youssef Qaradawi, considered the Brotherhood’s intellectual leader, and whose extremist views led to his ban from Britain in 2008.

A spokesperson for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said it had no knowledge of any link between its advisers and the Brotherhood, and said: “We are grateful for the contribution to our work of Dr Ismail Khudr Al-Shatti and Dr Mustafa Ceric.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/tony-blairs-faith-foundation-charity-advisors-linked-to-muslim-brotherhood–a-group-he-himself-condemned-as-pursuing-values-that-contradict-everything-we-stand-for-9259397.html

Gay teacher resigns after parent protest

April 7, 2014

 

A gay assistant head teacher has reportedly resigned after parents complained that they did not want their children to “learn that it’s OK to be gay”. Andrew Moffat, author of Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools, was targeted by a group of mainly Muslim parents in the dispute at Chilwell Croft Academy, in Birmingham, The Sunday Times reported.

Mr Moffat, who resigned from his post in December and will leave the primary school this month, said some Christian parents had also complained.

In a statement, the school said: “A minority group of parents… objected to some of the resource books being used in literacy lessons with some of the oldest children in the school, which explored relationships with different families. “The objections were primarily voiced by those whose own religion took an opposing stance to homosexuality.”

Mr Moffat, said that “Some Christian and some Muslim parents have told me they don’t want their children learning that it’s OK to be gay. I did come out at school in an assembly after a group of 11-year-olds held up a poster they made, with the heading ‘Gay is good’. It seemed like the right time to let the children know that they knew a gay person. Following my coming out, some parents from different communities complained to the school, but I maintain that my decision was the right one at that time.”

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “If parents are coming from a particular religious group, whether it is Islamic or Christian, and they have a concern at what they might consider the promotion of homosexuality, the school’s position should be made clear to them.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gay-birmingham-teacher-resigns-after-parents-complained-that-they-did-not-want-him-to-teach-their-children-9243922.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10749180/Gay-teacher-resigns-after-parent-protest.html

St Matthew’s school in Blackburn shows that a multi-faith approach can pay dividends

April 2, 2014

 

97 per cent of the 265 pupils schooled in the Lancastrian city are from Muslim families. The head teacher, Julian Rogers, believes that the word of God should be spoken and Christian values and morals upheld at the school no matter what background the children are from. Indeed, during assemblies, his biblical stories hold his audience – of excited, intrigued and sometimes confused-looking pupils – captive.

Most are second- or third-generation British Asians, whose parents/grandparents emigrated here from India and Pakistan from the 1960s onwards. But there are also children with families from countries such as Iran, Palestine, Turkey and Nigeria. So: a melting pot of cultures, languages and identities. Some have only just arrived with their families from the turmoil of their home country, and have found being taught about Christianity in English somewhat unexpected.

Maryam Pathan, who was born in India but has lived in England for 10 years and whose daughter is in the reception class. “We think it’s great that they are learning about other religions.” Mr Rogers says that the children are more receptive to the Christian teachings because they already come from a background of belief.

Overall, the school has had great success in maintaining religious and social harmony among the pupils, but there are unlikely to be any Muslim converts to Christianity any time soon. As one Muslim mother, Amina Patel, points out: “It’s good that our kids learn about Christianity, but it’s not going to change their religious faith or the way we teach them at home.”

The Muslim children at St Matthew’s also attend local Islamic schools from 4.30pm to 7pm every day, with a short break at home in between for tea and homework. A large number of them go to the Islamic Educational Society for their additional schooling. This consists of an impressive-looking mosque called Masjide Noorul Islam (place of worship) and the Madressa Noorul Islam in a basic brick building opposite where the children sit in classrooms to learn about Islam.

“Most of these kids were born in Britain and have adapted to the culture here, but it is important they learn about and identify with the religious beliefs of their forefathers” says the school’s leader Mufti Ashraf Sidat. Recitation of the Koran is a vital part of their education, along with learning about Islamic law, history, manners, etiquette, citizenship, languages and spiritual training.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/st-matthews-school-in-blackburn-shows-that-a-multifaith-approach-can-pay-dividends-9234081.html

 

Exclusive: Sharp increase in under-18s ‘at risk’ of being radicalised into jihadists

March 23, 2014

 

The number of children and vulnerable adults identified as potential violent extremists by a controversial Government anti-radicalisation initiative has surged by more than 25 per cent in the past year. Since last April at least 940 people have been referred for assessment under the Channel programme because of concerns they are at risk of being drawn into terrorism, according to official figures.

According to the figures, 153 children under 11, another 690 aged 12-15, and 554 aged 16-17 have been referred since 2007. A further 2,196 adults have also been assessed. The total of 940 so far for 2013-14 marks an increase of just over a quarter on 748 cases in 2012-13. The Government’s guide for those tasked with implementing Channel describes it as an early intervention process to safeguard children and adults from being drawn into terrorism-related activity. The programme is co-ordinated by the police but draws on input from across a spectrum of public services, including children’s and adult welfare centres, schools and healthcare providers.

In numbers:

940 people referred to Channel programme as potential violent extremists since last April

467 of those were under 18

153 were under 11

748 cases reported in 2012/2013

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/exclusive-sharp-increase-in-under18s-at-risk-of-being-radicalised-into-jihadists-9211135.html

Summary of reactions towards the Turkish council elections

April 10, 2014

 

Several reactions could be detected after the electoral outcome of Turkey´s council elections. The Turkish columnist Hatice Akyün fears Turkey to fall back into the last century. All democratic achievements would be at stake turning Turkey to an authoritarian State.

The former mayor of Hamburg Ole von Beust (CDU), expressed his compliments for Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan would have led his country to prosperity and economic development. Ole von Beust works for the official agency for the advancement of investments in Turkey (ISPAT).

The Hamburg based Turkish entrepreneur Vural Öger, founder of the Turkish touristic company “Öger Tours”, expressed his concerns. The society would be polarized between the urban sector being culturally westernized and the rural sector being oriented towards an Islamic conservatism. According to Öger, the elections will have no negative effects for the Turkish economy and its trade with Germany. The economy would be an strong independent sector.

The Turkish Professor for “Modern Turkey Studies” at the University of Duisburg-Essen Haci-Halil Usulcan is not surprised by the outcome of the electoral results. Western media would solely focus at urban areas such as Istanbul, excluding the immanent impact of rural areas for the victory of Erdogan. In cities such as Konya, Kayseri and Erzurum, more than 60% of voters would cast their vote for Erdogan. Although the focus shifted towards the political battle between the party of Erdogan and the Islamic Gülen movement, many Gülen supports would rather vote for the Islamic conservative party (AKP) of Erdogan than casting their vote for a “godless” secular opposition party. To many religious voters, Islam remains the core idea of their personal identity. This has been more important than any grievance towards Erdogan. Although corruption is a side effect of

Turkey´s current history, the positive economic emergence was not ignored by the Turkish voters. That said, Professor Usulcan assesses the Turkish voters of Erdogan not as ideological but very pragmatic and rational. Post-material values such as individuality, liberal citizenship and the way of life have not created their path through developing societies. Consumption and prosperity are gaining importance for the bourgeois-conservative middle class in central Anatolia. The Gezi protests and the heterogeneous share of groups would demonstrate another indicator for the lack of political alternatives in Turkey.

 

Der Tagesspiegel: http://www.tagesspiegel.de/meinung/andere-meinung/tuerkei-nach-der-wahl-ich-bin-stinkewuetend/9696858.html

Die Zeit: http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2014-04/Tuerkei-Erdogan-Wahl-Gastbeitrag

Die Welt: http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article126621873/Die-Tuerkei-entfernt-sich-von-europaeischen-Werten.html

Frankfurter Rundschau: http://www.fr-online.de/newsticker/tuerkei-berater-von-beust-verteidigt-erdogan,11005786,26765598.html

Sharia law for wills

March 23, 2014

 

The Law Society is to issue a practice note to solicitors who may be interested in drafting “Sharia-compliant” wills for their Muslim clients. Some have argued that by issuing the note the law society has opened the doors on the technical issues surrounding gender discrimination inherent in Sharia not only regarding the inheritance provisions, but more importantly endorsing a different set of laws for different groups of people. The idea of equality before the law is being threatened.

In Britain, unless you draw up a will, your estate on death will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. However, although people can do whatever they want with their assets and a lawyer must follow the client’s instructions; it has been argued that this guidance legitimises discrimination towards women, “illegitimate” and adopted children, and non-Muslim partners or offspring who may be the result of inter-marriage.

The key paragraph states: “The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.”

It adds: “This means you should amend or delete some standard will clauses. For example, you should consider excluding the provisions of s33 of the Wills Act 1837, because these operate to pass a gift to the children of a deceased ‘descendant’. Under Sharia rules, the children of a deceased heir have no entitlement, although they can benefit from the freely disposable third [the third of an estate that can be given to non-heirs or charities].

“Similarly, you should amend clauses which define the term ‘children’ or ‘issue’ to exclude those who are illegitimate or adopted.” It has been argued that the ruling advises solicitors on how to discriminate and avoid equality legislation. But a person has always been able to distribute their assets in any way they choose, and a Muslim may legally have done so according to Sharia principles without letting the lawyer know the basis of the instructions. But the question now is that a solicitor could offer this service and develop a product specifically designed for a Muslim client who wants to distribute their assets according to their religious requirement, which could be considered socially unacceptable. Suppose a client instructed that their assets should not go to a relative because they happened to be of a different race or religion. Would that be acceptable? If one were to accept that people have the right to act in a discriminatory fashion with their assets if they choose to, this guidance encourages solicitors to adopt a separate approach to clients who are deemed “different” – in this case, clients who are Muslim. The guidance also states that “there are specific differences between Sunni and Shia rules on succession.”

The code of conduct for solicitors which all solicitors must abide by says: “As a matter of general law, you must comply with requirements set out in legislation – including the Equality Act 2010 – as well as the conduct duties contained in this chapter.”

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10717676/Sharia-law-for-wills-and-then-what.html

The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/23/sharia-law-enshrined-in-uk-legal-system_n_5016396.html

British Muslims Condemn Anti-Muslim Bigotry Printed in the Daily Mail

February 22, 2014

 

Leading British Muslim and interfaith organisations today wrote to Paul Dacre, the Editor of the Daily Mail condemning an article by columnist Richard Littlejohn that deployed hateful Muslim stereotypes. The column purports to criticise an individual but instead uses slurs commonly found in racist and far-right websites to make its point.

Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, the article satirises a community event that is to be held at the theme park, organised through a private group booking. Mr Littlejohn uses hateful tropes to fill his article. Mr Littlejohn jokes that the group, which will in real life have parents and children in attendance, will travel to Legoland in a coach “…packed with explosives stops in Parliament Square. As Big Ben strikes ten, driver will blow himself up”.

As a result of Mr Littlejohn’s article, far-right groups are threatening to turn up at Legoland, thus causing distress to the children present.

The letter is signed by a cross-section of British Muslims. It is in no way a defence of the views attributed to the person Mr Littlejohn criticises, but rather a challenge to our media not to accept such hateful language in our discourse.

 

The letter reads:

Dear Mr Dacre,

We write to express our condemnation of a recent article published by Richard Littlejohn in your newspaper. Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, Mr Littlejohn deploys the most hateful stereotypes of Muslims to attack an individual.

Our condemnation is not about the attacks on Mr Haitham al-Haddad: he is perfectly capable of responding to the accusations put to him if minded to do so. Many of us may well disagree with the views attributed to him. Rather, we are speaking out at the insidious and hateful tropes Mr Littlejohn uses for his argument.

Mr Littlejohn may think he is humorous, satirical in fact. But there is nothing funny about inciting hatred. The language he deploys is exactly the same as those used by racists and the far-right. One needs only to peruse the comments below his article online to see the hatred against Muslims Mr Littlejohn has generated.

Would you allow similar hateful stereotypes to be used when writing about other faith or race communities?

Mr Littlejohn may suggest his words of hatred are directed at one figure rather than mainstream Muslims. This is a poor excuse. He accuses one figure of using hate speech by deploying hate speech himself.

As a cross section of Britain’s Muslim community, along with many of our fellow Britons, we state clearly and loudly that Mr Littlejohn’s article is the worst form of bigotry. This goes beyond causing offence. Your newspaper has published an incitement to hate Muslims.

So, we urge you, in the interests of decency and fairplay, to retract Mr Littlejohn’s article and to issue an apology not just to British Muslims, but to your readers and the great British public at large.

Yours,

 

 

Farooq Murad,

Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain

 

Fiyaz Mughal,

Founder and Director, Faith Matters and Tell Mama

 

Julian Bond

Director, Christian Muslim Forum

 

Steven Derby,

Director, Interfaith Matters

 

Ali Qureshi

Secretary General, Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO)

 

Maulana Sarfraz Madni,

Chairman, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board

 

Ameena Blake,

Vice-President, Muslim Association of Britain

 

Ali Master,

Council of European Jamaats (COEJ)

 

Saleha Islam

Chief Executive, Muslim Youth Helpline

 

Sufyan G Ismail,

Trustee, Engage

 

Mazhar Khan

Executive Board Member, Muslim Council of Scotland

 

Saleem Kidwai OBE,

Secretary General, Muslim Council of Wales

 

Mohammed Aslam-Ijaz,

General Secretary, Council of Mosques, South London and Southern Counties

 

Abdul Hamid Qureshi

Chair, Lancashire Council of Mosques

 

Ufuk Secgin

Chairman, London Islamic Culture and Recreation Society (LICARS)

 

Ahmed Khelloufi

Executive Director, Muslim Welfare House (London)

 

Mohammed Kozbar

British Muslim Initiative and Finsbury Park Mosque

 

Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy

Chair, Iqra Institute, Oxford

 

Shifa Shahab

Federation of Muslim Organisations Leicestershire

 

Muhammad Jinani

Young Muslim Organisation UK

 

Dr Mohammed Idrees

General Secretary, UK Islamic Mission

 

Ajmal Masroor

London Imam and Director of Barefoot Institute

 

Yusuf Al Khoei

Al-Khoei Foundation

 

Moulana Shahid Raza,

Founding Trustee, British Muslim Forum

 

Sir Iqbal Sacranie

Balham Mosque & Tooting Islamic Centre

 

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari

Author and Commentator

 

Talha Ahmad

Head of Media, Dawatul Islam UK & Eire

 

Yousuf Bhailok

Trustee /Chair. ‘Al Jamiah Al Islamiyah Darul Uloom Lancashire

 

Rashid Brora

General Secretary, Southampton Medina Mosque Trust Ltd

 

Unaiza Malik

Muslim Women’s Association

 

Muhammad Habibur-Rahman

Chairman, East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre

 

Dilowar Khan

President, Islamic Forum of Europe

 

 

The Muslim Council of Britain: http://www.mcb.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2463:pr-template&catid=40:press-release