Saudi student may have been murdered because she was wearing a hijab

June 18, 2014

Detectives are investigating whether a Saudi student was murdered in a frenzied knife attack because her traditional Islamic dress marked her out as a Muslim. Nahid Almanea, a 31-year-old student at the University of Essex, was wearing a hijab and a full-length navy blue robe, called an abaya, when she was knifed to death on a footpath in Colchester on Tuesday morning. She died at the scene from injuries to her head and body, said police. Ms Almanea arrived in Britain several months ago with her younger brother to study at the university, according to a fellow student.

Nothing was stolen from Ms Almanea and police have asked residents living on the nearby Greenstead estate to check their bins for a discarded weapon. “We are also conscious the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion,” said Detective Superintendent Tracy Hawkings. A 52-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and was being held at a police station last night.

Officers are also looking at possible links with the murder of James Attfield, a vulnerable man with brain damage, who died after being stabbed more than 100 times at a park in the town in March. “There are some immediate similarities between this murder and that of James Attfield but there are also a large number of differences as well,” said the detective. “There is no current known motive for this attack and we are keeping an open mind and exploring all possible avenues of investigation.”

Update: Lack of Clarity in Supposed Saudi Arabian Boycott of the Netherlands

June 19, 2014

Although media in Saudi Arabia reported last month that the country would instigate a trade boycott against the Netherlands, a definite answer from the country has not yet been obtained.

The potential boycott pertained to the anti-Islam sticker Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders posted on his office door.

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans said that a senior civil servant’s visit to Saudi Arabia at the end of May had failed to produce clarity: “Neither during the visit nor in the weeks afterwards has any confirmation been sent that the Saudi government intends to take measures.”

Update: Dutch Politician’s Anti-Islam Sticker

31 May 2014

Dutch politician Geert Wilders continues to appear in news media regarding the anti-Islam sticker posted on his office door in December 2013. The Volkskrant reports that Wilders has distributed the sticker through the mail in parliamentary envelopes.

The Netherlands will send a top diplomat to Saudi Arabia to prevent the country from imposing trade sanctions in protest of the sticker. The Saudi authorities have not announced any sanctions, but Saudi media reports this week announced that such measures had already taken effect, citing unnamed officials.

The sticker is printed in the colors of the Saudi Arabian flag and bears the words, “Islam is a lie, Mohammed is a criminal, the Koran is poison.”

Scathing report could shut Muslim school for promoting Salafi beliefs

21st May 2014

Ofsted inspectors have harshly criticised an independent Muslim school for promoting Salafi fundamentalist beliefs and rated the school as inadequate, in a possible prelude to it being closed or taken over by the Department for Education. In their unpublished draft report, the inspectors said the school – the Olive Tree primary school in Luton – fails to prepare its pupils “for life in modern Britain, as opposed to life in a Muslim state”, and that its library contains books that are “abhorrent to British society” in their depiction of punishments under sharia law.

“Some books in the children’s library contain fundamentalist Islamic beliefs (Salafi) or are set firmly within a Saudi Arabian socio-religious context. Some of the views promoted by these books, for example about stoning women, have no place in British society,” the report argues.

But the school’s governors and trustees vehemently denied the findings of the inspectors, who had been forced to cut short their visit last week after being confronted by parents upset by their questioning of pupils about attitudes to homosexuality.

Farooq Murad, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, on Wednesday wrote to Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, asking him to clarify the watchdog’s policy on teaching about homosexuality in independent faith schools, in the wake of the Olive Tree inspection.

“We have a large number of books about different faiths, which the inspectors failed to notice, including The Diary of Ann Frank,” said Farasat Latif, the school’s chair of governors, who said the library also included works of fiction by authors such as Roald Dahl. Latif also denied the school was Salafist – a reference to the conservative form of Islam most associated with Saudi Arabia – although he said some members of staff might describe themselves that way.

The inspectors also criticised the mixed school – which had about 60 pupils – for inadequate attention to national guidelines on safeguarding and child protection, although it said pupils were well supervised and that staff appointments and record checks were followed correctly. The draft report criticised the Olive Tree school’s teaching, although it noted that pupils achieved good results in national standardised tests and were well behaved. It also praised the teaching of Arabic as “skilful”.

The report makes no reference to homosexuality, although the inspectors wrote: “Pupils’ contact with people from different cultures, faiths and traditions is too limited to promote tolerance and respect for the views, lifestyles and customs of other people.”

Dutch Diplomatic Moves to Smooth Wilders’  Saudi Arabia Sticker Row

19 May 2014

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans is to visit Saudi Arabia, following news that the country plans to take steps against the Netherlands such as excluding Dutch companies from participating in local projects and changing visa requirements. The economic sanctions are responses to the anti-Islam sticker parliamentarian Geert Wilders posted on his office door in December 2013, reading, “Islam is a lie, Mohammed is a criminal, the Koran is poison.” The sticker is a deliberate reference to the Saudi Arabian flag.

The Dutch government immediately condemned the action. Timmermans said at the time this sort of action is counterproductive. ‘Insulting their religion is not the way to combat extremism but plays into extremists’ hands,’ he said. ‘The Dutch government is distancing itself from this.’

ABC Family Drops Alice in Arabia Pilot After Complaints from Muslim Groups

March 22, 2014

 

ABC Family recently ordered a pilot of a potential new series called Alice in Arabia, about an American teenager who’s kidnapped and kept as a prisoner at a distant relative’s home in Saudi Arabia. The pilot script was written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously worked as a cryptologic linguist in Arabic while serving in the U.S. army, but it came under intense fire from Muslim advocacy groups for concerns it would paint unfair, broad stereotypes of the Muslim faith.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations panned a leaked copy of the script, with its “familiar narrative of a beautiful girl kidnapped from the United States by sinister Arabs, held against her will in the desert, and threatened with early marriage.”

And now ABC Family has officially shelved the pilot for good. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee touted the victory against a show that “perpetuates demeaning stereotypes” about Muslim individuals, and used the opportunity to highlight other issues they believe ABC should be addressing as well.

Mediaite.com: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/abc-family-drops-alice-in-arabia-pilot-after-complaints-from-muslim-groups/

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

January 21, 2014

 

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?
Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

“What dress is most appropriate for a Muslim woman in public?”

Researchers at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan asked the same question to both men and women of various age groups and different religious faiths in seven countries with a Muslim majority. The real focus of the research was post- revolution Tunisia, but scholars also decided to investigate responses in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. Each respondent was shown images of women. The left most image showed a women who was totally covered (burqa ), decreasing the pieces of cloth covering the woman from image to image until the last drawing, which depicted the subject as completely uncovered.

The findings concluded that on average the hijab (veil that covers the hair, forehead, ears and neck) was considered the most appropriate. You could say this is a compromise between the two extreme images. Another important aspect that the research shows is the partial open-ness to different styles of dress in Saudi Arabia as opposed to a greater closure in “post-spring” Egypt.

The research also included a question that went beyond mere aesthetics. Respondents were also asked: “Should the woman decide what to wear?

And this confirms the above trend:  in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, and Tunisia, 50% of respondents where in favor of the free choice of women, as opposed to 22% and 14% in Pakistan and Egypt, respectively.

I must say that by scrolling through the research data, I returned several times to the word used in the original question: appropriate.

What do the researchers mean by this term? Appropriate for whom? For others or for the woman? Who can decide when attire is appropriate or not?

Beyond the specific object of this analysis, veil or no veil, I am always convinced that there is only one parameter to decide how a woman should dress: personal choice. Do not take me for naive, I am aware of the incendiary debates that surround these issues, especially in our cities. In my opinion, the most appropriate clothing is what makes a woman feel free and proud to express herself regardless of expectations or fashions of the moment.

The external influences on not only clothing but also on the image of a woman’s own body, is not unique to Muslim women, but rather something that applies to all women in the world. Let me give you another example. Last year a global campaign was launched called “Dark is beautiful” with the aim to emphasize the beauty of dark skin in societies like the West where fair skin is favored. The pressures of fair skin often prompt many black women to resort to toxic products that promise to lighten skin. We must reverse this situation.

Corriere della sera: http://lacittanuova.milano.corriere.it/2014/01/21/velo-donne-islam-qual-e-labbigliamento-giusto-in-pubblico-e-chi-lo-decide/

Original report: http://mevs.org/files/tmp/Tunisia_FinalReport.pdf

 

Fewer Dutch Muslims to Travel to Mecca for Hajj

25 September 2013

 

Newspaper Trouw reports that the number of Dutch Muslims planning to travel to Mecca this year has almost halved in comparison to previous years. 16 travel agencies in the Netherlands are allotted 5,000 visas a year from Saudi Arabia to allow Dutch Muslims to make the journey. This year some agencies still have half their visa allocations left, with the Hajj taking place in mid October. Trouw suggests that the economic crisis accounts for the drop in numbers, with the trip costing between 3,500- 5,000 Euros per person.

Islamic Centre in Rotterdam Financed by Saudi Arabia

17 August 2013

 

A new Islamic centre is to be built in Rotterdam, thanks to a gift of 650,000 euros from the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. According to Karnis Gacha, director of the Netherlands Sociocultural Centre Foundation, the Islamic centre will offer space for 4,000 people, and will include a library. 500,000 euros of the Saudi contribution is to go towards purchase of the 2,500 metre site.

Ramadan: Things you might need to know

It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims have been fasting throughout it for more than 14 centuries. And yet non-Muslims are always full of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most common:

 

So you don’t eat at all?

No, we only fast during daylight hours – from dawn until sundown. This year in the UK, that means over 18 hours of nil by mouth – we can’t eat, drink, smoke, or have sex during those hours.

 

Don’t you get hungry?

Yes, we get hungry and thirsty, but that’s the point. We eat Sehri, a pre-dawn meal, and at sunset we break the fast (called Iftar), usually with a date and a glass of water.

 

A date with whom?

A date with introspection. Ramadan is an opportunity to focus on the soul rather than the body, so we get through the day trying to be more spiritual, as well as seeking to improve our behaviour. We empathise with those in need and give thanks for having food at the end of the day, when millions of people don’t have that luxury.

 

Surely kids don’t have that kind of self-control?

Children don’t have to fast, but they can if they really want to. Although once puberty hits, there is no escape. Also exempt are the elderly, the sick, and anyone who has a medical condition.

 

Isn’t it a bit hot to fast in July?

Muslims follow the lunar calendar, so every year it moves back 11 days. The last time Ramadan was in July was 1980. Go figure.

 

So it all started on Wednesday?

Well, not quite. Every year there is a bit of chaos, because of the different ways of measuring. Generally speaking, Muslims follow the traditional method of sighting the new moon with the naked eye and we look to Saudi Arabia to declare it. Then there is the local sighting issue – do we follow the moon being sighted in the UK or do we follow the opinion that the first Muslim to see the new moon, no matter where, means the rest of the world can start Ramadan? Or there is the argument for astronomical calculations rather than naked-eye sightings.

 

I’m confused. Do you celebrate it every time you see the moon?

No, that would be ridiculous. But it is confusing. Especially when it comes to Eid.

 

And who is this Eid?

Eid is basically a rave-up at the end of Ramadan, when families and friends get together to feast after fasting. It starts with a prayer at the mosque and then we eat as if we haven’t eaten in a month.