Immigration Street will show ‘thriving’ community

July 29, 2014

“Immigration Street”, a follow-up to Benefits Street, is being filmed in Southampton, despite residents campaigning against it. Channel 4 and Love Productions were criticised for showing people on benefits in a negative way in their previous programme. Mohammed Afzal Khan, secretary of nearby Abu Bakr Mosque on Argyle Road, agreed to be filmed and told BBC Asian Network: “This is a thriving community; there are Asians here and Polish. So far they have asked me questions about Islam and Muslims in general and about this mosque, which have been positive and I am pleased to be taking part.”

At the meeting Kieran Smith, creative director of Love Productions, said: “We would never come and film a series in order to cause division, or where there is harmony, cause disharmony.”

Councillor Satvir Kaur, who grew up in the area, said: “Just like me, the majority of people who live in Derby Road are not first generation immigrants. They will be second or third generation. This begs the question, at what point do me and my neighbours stop being classed or considered as immigrants and start being considered British?”

Britain First founder Jim Dowson quits over mosque invasions and ‘racists and extremists’

July 28, 2014

The founder of Britain First has resigned from the far-right group over its “provocative and counterproductive” mosque invasions. James “Jim” Dowson, a former British National Party (BNP) member and anti-abortion campaigner, announced his departure on Sunday. While Britain First blamed “media pressure” and family issues for the decision and said he would be missed “enormously” in a saccharine post, Mr Dowson publicly shamed the group’s tactics as “unacceptable and unchristian”.

The 49-year-old told the Mirror: “Most of the Muslims in this country are fine. They are worried about extremists the same as us. So going into their mosques and stirring them up and provoking them is political madness and a bit rude.”

Britain First posts triumphant videos of the so-called “invasions” on its website and Facebook page, where its paramilitary-style arm is seen confronting imams and worshippers. The group also organises “Christian patrols” in ethnically diverse areas and has been known to hand out Bibles to Muslims. The group ignored requests to take off their shoes in a place of worship, saying “when you respect women we’ll respect your mosques”.

The father-of-nine is facing criminal charges relating to loyalist flag protests in Belfast earlier this year and claims to be under “constant police surveillance”.

Arab Americans and American Muslims Are at Risk

American Attitudes Toward Arabs and Muslim [PDF download]

This past week the Arab American Institute (AAI) released its third biannual poll of American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims. Conducted by Zogby Analytics, 1100 likely voters were surveyed nationwide. The results were deeply troubling.

What we found was that there has been a continued erosion in the favorable ratings Americans have of both Arabs and Muslims, posing a threat to the civil rights and political inclusion of both Arab Americans and American Muslims. For example, in 2010 favorable ratings for Arabs were 43 percent. They have now declined to 32 percent. For Muslims, the ratings dropped from 36 percent in 2010, to 27 percent in the 2014 survey.

A direct consequence of this disturbing downward slide can be seen in the substantial number of Americans (42 percent) who say that they support the use of profiling by law enforcement against Arab Americans and American Muslims and a growing percentage of Americans who say that they lack confidence in the ability of individuals from either community to perform their duties as Americans should they be appointed to important government positions. Thirty-six percent of respondents felt that the decisions made by Arab Americans would be influenced by their ethnicity, while 42 percent of respondents felt that American Muslims would be negatively influenced by their religion.

Given the persistence of negative Arab and Muslim stereotypes in popular culture and the pervasive bias in media reporting, an explanation for these divides may be found in the different life experiences of these groups of Americans and the sources they utilize to get their news about the world. Other polling by Zogby Analytics demonstrates that younger Americans have developed a more inclusive and tolerant worldview as a result of their broader exposure to the internet and social media. Older Americans, on the other hand, rely on more limited traditional sources of information.

Another of the poll’s findings establishes that a majority of Americans say that they feel that do not know enough about Arab history and people (57 percent) or about Islam and Muslims (52 percent). Evidence of this lack of knowledge comes through clearly in other poll responses where respondents wrongly conflate the two communities. For example, by a two-to-one margin Americans say that they believe that most Arab Americans are Muslim, while in reality about one-third are. Similarly, opinions are evenly divided on whether the majority of American Muslims are Arab. In fact, only a one-quarter of all American Muslims are of Arab descent.

CAIR-NY Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Attack on Muslims Outside Mosque

July 21, 2014

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today called on law enforcement authorities and public officials to investigate an alleged attack on Muslim worshippers on their way to prayers at a Brooklyn mosque as a possible hate crime.

On Friday evening, witnesses say passengers in a Lexus drove by the Tayba Islamic Center shouting anti-Muslim slurs, including “This is for your Allah,” and threw eggs at several members dressed in traditional Muslim attire. A 70-year-old Muslim in traditional Pakistani attire and wearing an Islamic Kufi (scullcap) was reportedly hit in the chest by an egg.

“We urge law enforcement authorities and elected officials to investigate this apparent hate crime and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice,” said CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadyia Khalique. “Public officials need to send the message that our community will not tolerate acts of hate or attacks on houses of worship.”

German ZMD statement concerned with the war in Palestine

July 17, 2014

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) issued a statement concerned with the continued bloodshed in the Holy Land. It called upon the European Union as well as the United Nations to undertake their utmost to cease the extrajudicial killing and collective punishment of the Palestinian civil population taking place in Gaza. Likewise the ZMD utterly condemned the kidnapping and killing of four innocent teens (3 Israeli and 1 Palestinian). Finally, the statement called upon all Abrahamic communities in Germany and Europe to distance themselves explicitly from any forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism as well as appealed to the media to give an unbiased and unprejudiced account of the conflict.

 

 

Iman: ‘I am the face of a refugee’

June 29, 2014 

Its 24 years since Iman retired from modelling, but you’d never know it. She’s a completely unlikely looking 58 and is sitting in front of a stark all-white backdrop simply dressed all in black – black jeans and a black jumper that emphasises her extraordinary swan-like neck – and she is completely focused it’s not an accident that she was the world’s first black supermodel. The first black model to make serious cash, the first to become the face of global cosmetics brand (Revlon). That she seamlessly segued from model to businesswoman when she set up her own highly successful cosmetics brand. Or even, possibly, that she married an international music legend, David Bowie, and became one half of a global super-couple. Iman, you get the feeling, does it Iman’s way. Not least in that she is one of the surnameless, Mohamed Abdulmajid has played no part in Iman the brand.

Every model has a sort of creation myth, the chance encounter that led to global fame. She was walking down a street in Nairobi in 1975 and she was a 20-year-old Somali refugee living and studying in Kenya. The spotter was a man called Peter Beard, a well-connected photographer and Africophile. He asked to photograph her, and when she hesitated he offered to pay her. “How much?” she asked. “How much do you want?” he said. “$8,000,” she replied, the total amount of her university fees. It’s a fair amount of money even today. Back then it must have been an extraordinary sum. “Well, what could have happened?” she says. “He could have said no.” She shrugs. “I mean, what’s going to happen if you don’t ask? My mother taught me this. She said: ‘If God says to you: “I will grant you any wish you want – what would you ask for?” And I went: ‘Er…’ And she said: ‘If you have to think about it, you’re not worth it!’ And I said: ‘Why?’ and she said: ‘Look. Ask for everything! Ask for everything!'”

In 1975 an editor said she was like a white woman ‘dipped in chocolate’. And she didn’t even realise it was insulting: Iman continues, “I didn’t even understand it. People called me ‘Iman the black model’. In my country we’re all black so nobody called somebody else black. It was foreign to my ears. I was doing the same job as them. Why would I get less money? It didn’t even occur to me that it had anything to do with racism. I learned that quite fast. I wasn’t a major in political science for nothing, so I understood the politics of beauty and the politics of race when it comes to the fashion industry.”

Nearly 40 years on, not all that much has changed, it seems. Last year she launched a campaign with Bethann Hardison and Naomi Campbell to urge brands to use black models. They commissioned original research and discovered that some brands, like Chloé, had never used a non-white model and others like YSL, Versace, Gucci, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein hadn’t for years. “It sends a message that our girls are not beautiful enough,” she says. She had no issue with pointing the finger and calling them racist and urging a boycott until they changed their ways. But then she remembers the magazine editor who exclaimed at her beauty and said she was like a white woman “dipped in chocolate”.

“And she didn’t even realise it was insulting! I said: ‘Don’t take credit for it. I don’t have a white drop in me.'”

Iman supports, the Hawa Abdi Foundation, a Somalia-based organisation, run by three Somali women focused on bringing basic human rights – healthcare, education, agriculture – to vast swathes of the Somali population who currently have none. The foundation focuses its efforts on women and children.

“What has happened to women in Somalia? When I was growing up women wore traditional clothes or regular western clothes. We went to school. But the schools don’t exist anymore. And women are not even allowed to drive any more. It’s run by extremists. Somalia was 100% a Muslim country, but it had its own culture before it adopted Islam. So you were a Muslim, but you were a Somali first.”

Set up by Dr Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s first female gynaecologist and a nominee for the Nobel Prize, the foundation has fearlessly defended the rights of ordinary Somalis, caring for up to 90,000 people at a time despite attacks on both the compound and the foundation’s hospital by Somali forces. Dr Hawa wrote in her book that it was only when she lost her first baby that she realised she had undergone female genital mutilation, girls cannot go to school and the country has not had any schools open since 1990. Dr Hawa has built up the first school in the south of Somalia. Last year a documentary was made of its work, Through the Fire. Afterwards she stated that she didn’t know if anyone can fathom it but the Somalia she grew up in doesn’t exist anymore.

Do you think about if you’d taken a different street on a different day, I ask, and never met Peter Beard? “Absolutely.” You think it could have been another street, another girl? “I absolutely believe that. It was just my luck. I could be in a refugee camp now. There are people who have been in refugee camps for 20 years, and I could be one of them. That’s one of the reasons I’m compelled to help. First because overnight my life changed from a diplomatic daughter to a refugee and my father could not fend for us. The only time I’ve ever seen my father cry is when he couldn’t pay for us to finish our education. And the NGOs looked after us. They found me a hostel, a job, a university.”

There’s a genuine humility to the way she views her success. “I am the face of a refugee. I was once a refugee. I was with my family in exile. “

5 years after El-Sherbini’s murder: Anti-Muslim Racism and Islamophobia in Germany

July 2, 2014

Jürgen Martens (Minister of Justice) and Helma Orosz (Mayor of the city of Dresden) remembered the quinquennial of the murder of Marwa El-Sherbini; who was tragically killed by a White racist in 2009. Martens said that the terrible act should be a reminder to all of us to work against the presence of xenophobia. Aiman A. Mazyek, Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, criticized the lack of awareness and sensibility in regard to issues of racism and xenophobia.

In Tenn. mosque fight, religious freedom trumps Islamophobia

June 19, 2014

A Davidson County judge Thursday upheld a decision by the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals allowing burials at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro site.

Senior Judge Paul Summers, who heard the matter after all local judges recused themselves, dismissed a case filed by a group of residents opposed to the county-approved cemetery just off Veals Road at Bradyville Pike.

“The Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals did not act illegally, arbitrarily, or capriciously by approving the special use exception permit for the cemetery,” the judge concluded.

The judge found that the petitioners, led by Bonnie Golczynski, showed “no distinct and palpable injury” and, therefore, had no standing.

Summers also ruled that the BZA complied with adequate notice requirements for the Open Meetings Act for December 2013 and January 2014 meetings. He concluded that a special use permit issued for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is valid and denied the petitioner’s request for the BZA to rehear the matter.

In addition, Summers dismissed all other claims of the petitioners and assessed them court costs.

Opponents contended, among other things, that the cemetery site is too close to nearby homes and sits in a low-lying area prone to flooding. They also say it will create extra traffic congestion in the area.

Lou Ann Zelenik, a spokeswoman for the petitioners, said she researched five years of BZA decisions and found that the board had turned down other requests because of concern about flooding.

Initial planning commission approval in 2010 led to a protracted lawsuit in which mosque opponents challenged whether the county provided adequate public notice of the planning commission’s vote. Chancellor Robert Corlew ultimately ruled against the county, but a federal judge reversed his decision and allowed the ICM to occupy its building.

What’s heartening about this saga, however, is how local government officials stood up for religious freedom. Despite strong public opposition, members of the county planning commission voted to treat the building application of the Muslim community like applications from any other religious community.

That took courage. At the height of the conflict, political candidates and anti-Muslim activists worked hard to whip up opposition to the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro and beyond. Even televangelist Pat Robertson weighed in, suggesting that county officials may have fallen victim to Muslims’ “ability to bribe folks” and warning of a future Muslim takeover of the city council.

Marine who disappeared in Iraq in 2004 back in US

June 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — A Marine who was declared a deserter nearly 10 years ago after disappearing in Iraq and then returning to the U.S. claiming he had been kidnapped, only to disappear again, is back in U.S. custody, officials said Sunday.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in and was being flown Sunday from an undisclosed location in the Middle East to Norfolk, Va. He is to be moved Monday to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to a spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Lejeune, will determine whether to court martial Hassoun.

In a written statement from its headquarters at the Pentagon, the Marine Corps said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service “worked with” Hassoun to turn himself in and return to the U.S. to face charges.

Hassoun disappeared from his unit in Iraq’s western desert in June 2004. The following month he turned up unharmed in Beirut, Lebanon and blamed his disappearance on Islamic extremist kidnappers. He was returned to Lejeune and was about to face the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing when he disappeared again.

In a February 2005 interview with the Associated Press in Salt Lake City, Hassoun’s brother, Mohamad, said Wassef Ali Hassoun was a victim of anti-Muslim bias in the U.S. military. The Marine Corps denied this.

The brother also said the pressure of facing desertion charges was partly to blame for Hassoun’s decision to flee while in Utah.

“Instead of them giving him medals and making him feel good about his service and what he was doing for his country, they gave him an Article 32,” Hassoun said of the military court proceedings that his brother was to have faced in January 2005.

Family members have said they last saw him on Dec. 29, 2004.

‘Tyrant,’ FX’s Middle East drama, draws complaints of Arab and Muslim stereotypes

June 25, 2014

It’s no secret that FX’s new drama “Tyrant” — about the son of a Middle Eastern dictator who leaves his comfortable California life to return to his troubled home country — has had problems since its inception. Ang Lee was supposed to direct the pilot, but dropped out. People criticized the hiring of a white lead actor to play the main Middle Eastern character. The Hollywood Reporter has a long story about the struggle of making the show, which involved lot of behind-the-scenes issues for its creators.

Most notably, however, as the first episode aired Tuesday night, the series is getting many complaints for one particular issue: Arab and Muslim stereotypes.

“In the pilot of FX’s ‘Tyrant,’ Arab Muslim culture is devoid of any redeeming qualities and is represented by terrorists, murderous children, rapists, corrupt billionaires and powerless female victims,” said CAIR’s national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper. “In ‘Tryant,’ even the ‘good’ Arab Muslims are bad.”

Previously, CAIR had requested a meeting with FX to address potential “Islamophobic stereotyping.” Hooper did say that a producer told him that future episodes will be more nuanced. THR reported that showrunner Howard Gordon (behind “Homeland” and “24,” also heavy on Middle Eastern themes) has talked with the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Muslims on Screen and Television in regards to the show. He also hired a Palestinian to serve as a consultant on the series, which films in Israel.

In the Los Angeles Times, critic Mary McNamara said, “In attempting to mix West with Middle East, the show too often seems content with stereotyping both.” Time’s James Poniewozik pointed out in comparison to other shows, “If ‘Tyrant’ is meant to expand on the portrayals of the Middle Easterners peripheral to stories like ’24,’ it fails badly.”

NPR’s Eric Deggans sums up: “Most every Arab character outside of Bassam is seriously flawed,” he wrote, noting Jamal and another brutal general. “This is a show about the Middle East as seen through Americanized eyes, with little of the nuances in Arab or Muslim culture on display. The unfortunate effect is a constant, not-so-subtle message: If these people would just act like Americans, everything would be so much better.”