Virginia’s Eloquent Lawsuit Brilliantly Connects the Muslim Ban to Segregation

On Friday, a federal judge allowed Virginia to intervene in ongoing litigation over Donald Trump’s Muslim ban in order to protect Virginians who might be detained, deported, or denied re-entry under the executive order.  The state’s complaint eloquently explains why the ban infringes upon immigrants’ due process and equal protection rights while violating The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. However, the most striking section arrives at the end when the state invokes Justice John Marshall Harlan’s famous dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson:

This is a monumental case involving a monumental abuse of Executive Power. So it is worth remembering another monumental case, Plessy v. Ferguson, that enshrined in American law—for more than a half century—the approval of government-mandated racial segregation. The majority in Plessy reasoned that government-mandated segregation “does not discriminate against either race, but prescribes a rule applicable alike to white and colored citizens.” We admire the first Justice Harlan for putting the lie to that claim: “Every one knows” what was being justified, he said. The same is true here.

Islamic preachers: the pied pipers of sexual apartheid?

February 9, 2014

 

A young man called Ishmael, with a wispy black beard and a slight blemish in one eye, is telling me why women should be covered up and kept apart.

“If I had two sweets – one wrapped and one unwrapped – and threw them in a bin, which one would you pick out and eat?” He grins, the amateur philosopher pleased with his analogy, and breaks off to shake the hand of a young man walking past the makeshift London Metropolitan University Islamic Society stall set up in the student canteen. Ishmael, who says he is a former head of the society (something the current president later denies), appears to know a lot of the students passing through. Women are man’s great temptation,” he turns back to face me. “They should be covered up.”

Spring term 2014 was supposed to bring an end to gender segregation at British universities. In December, the Prime Minister himself intervened over the issue, emphasising through a spokesman that he wanted it banned even where men and women voluntarily separate themselves (although not in places of worship). Mr Cameron – backed by the Education Secretary Michael Gove – made his comments after Universities UK (UUK), the body that represents vice-chancellors, published new guidelines endorsing segregation which, according to some student groups and human-rights organisations, were tantamount to “sexual apartheid”.

UUK’s controversial guidance, set out in a case study detailing how external speakers from “ultra-orthodox religious groups” could request that men and women sit separately, has now been withdrawn. It continues to work with senior legal counsel and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to clarify its position. The equality group Student Rights, which monitors preaching by extremists and discrimination through segregation at student events, says separated seating has become a widespread trend at many British universities.

Yet moderate Muslims find themselves at odds with this view of the relationship between the sexes. “That [position] isn’t something I recognise at all,” says Humayun Ansari, a professor of the history of Islam and culture at Royal Holloway, University of London, who specialises in researching the experience of Muslims in Britain. “What we’re talking about is various interpretations of Islam.”

Myriam Francois Cerrah, a journalist and DPhil student at Oxford University who regularly gives talks in front of mixed and intermingled audiences at Islamic societies up and down the country, says it is the London Islamic societies, in particular, that have become dominated by these ultra-traditional stances on the relationship between men and women.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/10625879/Islamic-preachers-the-pied-pipers-of-sexual-apartheid.html

Student and women’s groups write open letter to UN condemning gender segregation in UK universities

January 15, 2014

 

Students and women’s groups have written an open letter to the UN to condemn gender segregation at British universities. Writing to the UN’s special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, the signatories are hoping to build pressure on UK universities to ban segregation of any kind.

They write: “Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.”

The letter appeared on the LSE student union page on Tuesday, and has been signed by various people including Chris Moos, the secretary of LSE’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, and Nahla Mahmoud, the spokesperson for the council of ex-Muslims of Britain.

Mr Moos, who was recently involved in a freedom of expression battle with LSE, believes that any type of segregation should be fought and that the UN pressure would help public discussion.

Universities UK and the Federation of Islamic Students Societies were both targets in the open letter. Last December, UUK said in a report that “Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination”, but later clarified their position, saying: “[UUK] agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers”.

FOISS were mentioned as their guidelines recommend societies “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interactions between them at a minimum”.

A march has also been planned which will take place on March 8th.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/student-and-womens-groups-write-open-letter-to-un-condemning-gender-segregation-in-uk-universities-9061327.html

Outcry at ‘gender apartheid’ in new guidance for UK universities

December 13, 2013

 

Over 100 demonstrators attended a rally last night in protest against “legitimisation of sex apartheid” by Universities UK (UUK).

Protesters are up in arms over controversial new guidelines from the body on the laws affecting external speaker events. They claim that the new guidance will allow “ultra-orthodox religious groups” to separate men from women at events.

Demonstrators in Tavistock Square in central London carried banners with slogans such as “separate is never equal” and “no gender apartheid”. Several speakers addressed the crowd, condemning UUK’s actions, including Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the Independent journalist.

UUK’s guidelines state that gender segregation might not necessarily discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way”.

It continues: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

UUK insists that “assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating”.

Maryam Namazie, an organiser of the rally and spokesperson for Fitnah, which champions women’s liberation in Islam, told the Independent: “it’s fitting that this rally is on International Human Rights Day, as well as the day of Mandela’s Memorial Service, as it goes to show that the fight against all forms of apartheid is not over.”

She added: “Any form of separation can never be equal as segregation is a restriction of equality and freedom. Women must not be separated. People have a right to religious beliefs, but this is about equality and universities should protect that equality.”

Meanwhile, In response to claims that the NUS supports the guidelines, a spokesperson said that the “NUS supports the rights of groups to self-organise how they wish but would be concerned about enforced segregation and certainly does not endorse it.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, has accused Universities UK of “pandering to extremism” with controversial guidance endorsing the segregation of men and women at campus events, urging it to be withdrawn immediately.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/13/michael-gove-university-gender-segregation

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10517111/Campus-segregation-religious-freedom-cannot-be-allowed-to-trump-equality.html

The Independent:

Universities ‘can segregate men and women for debates’

November 22, 2013

 

Universities can segregate students during debates as long as the women are not forced to sit behind the men, university leaders have said. Segregation at the behest of a controversial speaker is an issue which arises “all the time” and banning men and women from sitting next to each during debates is a “big issue” facing universities, Universities UK has said.

As a result they have issued guidance which suggests that segregation is likely to be acceptable as long as men and women are seated side by side and one party is not at a disadvantage. In a new guidance on external speakers, vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK says that universities face a complex balance of promoting freedom of speech without breaking equality and discrimination laws.

When considering a request for segregation, they warn, planners must think about whether a seating plan could be discriminatory to one gender – for example if women were forced to sit at the back of the room it could prove harder for them to participate in the debate.

Apart from the controversies surrounding segregation, Universities UK say that academic institutions are facing a legal minefield when organising external speakers and their guidance aims to help them find the balance. An example of the fine balance is illustrated when the report goes on to say that if side-by-side seating was enforced without offering an alternative non-segregated seating area, it could be deemed as discriminatory against men or women who hold feminist beliefs. It adds: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

“These are issues that are arising all the time and these are really difficult issues,” said Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge. “What emerged from our work on this particular issue is that there is no clearly defined right or wrong here as to whether to allow or outlaw segregation. It is going to very much depend on the facts of the case.” She added: “External speakers play an important role in university life, not least in terms of encouraging students to think for themselves, challenge other people’s views and develop their own opinions.

“Although most speakers are uncontroversial, some will express contentious, even inflammatory or offensive views. Universities have to balance their obligation to encourage free speech with their duties to ensure that the law is observed, the safety and security of staff, students and visitors secured, and good campus relations promoted. In practice, achieving this balance is not always easy.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/10468115/Universities-can-segregate-men-and-women-for-debates.html

2013 Stockholm Riots: a brief overview

Emin Poljarevic

 

The riots have exhausted their destructive energy sweeping through several of Stockholm’s suburbs. In the northern suburb of Husby where the unrests started, the rioting lasted from Sunday evening, May 19 until Wednesday, May 22. Several other Stockholm suburbs, similar to Husby, 23 in total, experienced unrest albeit on the smaller scale. These suburbs are primarily inhabited by a second and third generation immigrants as well as newly arrived immigrant residents many of those have fled from the devastating conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The unrests were primarily been expressed through burning of a large number of private cars followed by stone throwing on the arriving police units and the fire fighters. Curiously, this seemingly senseless wave of destruction of cars did not include burning shops or residential buildings in any direct way, nor did it include looting of stores and local shops. The reasons behind the riots are certainly complex and multifaceted, nevertheless, deeply rooted in segregation manifested in a range of socio-economic parameters.

 

Many of the local residents, especially the younger generations have been experiencing higher rates of unemployment in comparison to other residential areas of Stockholm both in relative and real terms. Subsequently, the media and public perception that the crime rates as being higher in these areas has effected the law enforcement strategies which had become stricter and more violent over the course of years. It is reported that during the recent period the police has started to stop-and-search a large number of teenagers in Husby and neighbouring suburbs as a strategy to disrupt narcotics distribution and consumption. This strategy included a controversial policing method, which increasingly targeted teenagers without previous criminal record through which the authorities frequently conducted house searches thus intensely invading people’s privacy on weak or non-existent ground. This is something that would be unimaginable in the more exclusive suburbs. It is during one of the police-raids in Husby that a police officer shot and killed an aggressive 68-year old man (May 13), which was later interpreted as a flagrant brutality by the neighbours and residents in the area. The 29-year-old officer has also been placed under investigation for the alleged overuse of violence during the incident. Numerous witnesses have also complained of open racism among a number of police officers that had used racial slurs when addressing young people in the suburbs. Such incidents are readily narrated and certainly overstressed in conversations adding to the collective frustrations. These and other similar fragments of perceived grievances are easily detectable however they are insufficient to explain the reason behind the rioting.

 

For instance, it is impossible to disregard that the rate of unemployment in Husby is 8,8% while it is only 3,3% in the city of Stockholm, or that the average salary in Husby is 195,000 SEK/year (€21,600/year) before taxes, while its equivalent in the city of Stockholm is 68% higher. Is this sufficient to explain the causes behind rioting? It is unlikely, to say the least. Nevertheless, one needs to keep in mind that in a welfare state of the Swedish model there has been a traditional focus on (economic and social) equality involving the welfare of children and young people expectation on the state/municipalities to deliver a high standard of civic services is high. Public places of gathering, such as parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and municipal public facilities are some of the areas where the current (centre-right) government has, if not neglected, but seriously mismanaged. A deep sense of distrust and neglect is what can be heard from some of the young people in the suburbs, “we will continue until we are noticed”. In addition, many of the residents, including the young rioters, understood the prime minister’s (Fredrik Reinfeldt) choice not to go to Husby or any other affected areas to address the people there as the confirmation of being neglected.

 

Another important component behind the rioting in the suburbs is an element of hooliganism directly related criminal activities of a substantial number of rioters (30-100). A well-known Professor of Criminology at the University of Stockholm, Jerzy Sarnecki, commented that there are a thousand reasons for the “bad boys” to start rioting, however, their activities are fundamentally criminal. The group dynamic often triggers more and more audacious behaviour that assumes a destructive logic of its own and that is often replicated by other impudent groups of young individual males. This is also shown by the number of arrested youth, which topped 44 individuals within a week of the start of the unrests. Out of 44 young males, an overwhelming majority was “known to the police” as having criminal records adding some strength to the previous assertion. A social activists and resident of Husby, said that one of the instigators of violent attacks on the police has long been a trouble–maker in the area, involved in an assortment of criminal activity with an extensive network of contacts among the youth in northern Stockholm (reported to the author June 2). Moreover, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) has reported that there have been a substantial number of left-wing extremists who had participated in the unrests (i.e. stone-throwing on the police). This indicates that there has been a presence of both “professional” demonstrators and individuals with extensive criminal records adding to the complexity of these events.

 

But, where does Islam, fit in this overview? It is not unreasonable to assume that a large part of the residents are either from or have family ties to the Muslim majority societies. There is no official statistic over religious affiliation of Swedish citizens; nevertheless, the assumption is based on a large number of media sources and field research of a small number of academics in this area. First reactions of various community leaders that I spoke to expressly condemn the behaviour of the rioters, regardless of their faith. I gathered from several Friday sermons that the violence in the suburbs is condemned and viewed as a failure of the (Muslim) community in their efforts to engage the young individuals in more constructive endeavours. This can be translated into a notion that community leaders’ inability to create group activities interesting and exciting enough to attract those young people in the “risk zone” of “behaving badly” (author’s interviews with Muslim community leaders in Stockholm and Uppsala, May 26-June 2, 2013).

 

The Swedish mainstream media has not given any attention to the “religious factor” as an explanation for the unrests focusing instead its analysis on the related subject – integration. The articles and various interpretations in the newspaper articles and columns are riddled with statements such as “integration has failed” or “more is needed to carry the integration process forward”. If one is to believe these readings it is easy to argue that there are structural mechanisms that need attention and calibration to correct the “failures” (of integration process). This part of the explanation includes discrimination and segregation of immigrants and/or their descendants (i.e. second and third generation), which is being introduced into the policy agenda of both the government and the opposition. The mainstream political debate is therefore becoming increasingly focused on how to improve the system to come to a set of solutions that will defuse the risks of recurrence of the recent riots. The debate effectively excludes religion as any relevant element of recent rioting.

 

The only people linking Islam and Muslims directly as causes to the suburban upheavals are the extreme-right parties, including the Swedish Democrats – the only far-right party represented in the Swedish parliament, and its supporters. Virtual discussion forums, blogs and commentaries are riddled with “politically incorrect” arguments claiming to have “proved” their long-held convictions that the Muslims are in Sweden to essentially take over the country (e.g. Eurabia conspiracy etc.). Some more radical groups among the right wing extremists and neo-Nazi activists had attempted to organize “citizen militias” in order to patrol the outskirts of the affected suburbs thus assisting the police. Nevertheless, their efforts were either disrupted by the police or disbanded due to the organisational incoherence.

 

Now, in the end of the violent rioting, there is an upsurge of civil engagement in searching for long-term solutions to the youth-crisis. Secular and religious associations are coming together to discuss the recent violence and various strategies. Local residents, parents, groups of mothers and large numbers of young people seem to have realized that only they themselves can contribute to provide positive attitude and care for the disenfranchised youth, but also contribute to the improvement of the negative effects of segregation, racism and the perceived government neglect. At the moment we see several attempts to form neighbourhood committees and public forums through which both parents and teenagers are supposed to exchange both experiences and ideas about how to move forward. Religious communities are certainly highly important in this evolving process.

 

Keywords: Stockholm riots, Husby, Youth violence, Integration, Racism

 

 

“Riots – day by day” – “Upploppen – dag för dag” (Dagens Nyheter – Daily News)

http://www.dn.se/sthlm/upploppen-dag-for-dag

 

“The Police’s drug bust may have contributed to the riots” – “Polisens knarkinsats kan ha bidragit till upploppen” (Metro) http://www.metro.se/stockholm/polisens-knarkinsats-kan-ha-bidragit-till-upploppen/EVHmeE!21yn93g8g2zYY/

 

“The Police practical manual might have prevented the riots in Husby” – “Polisens handbok kunde stoppat upplopp i Husby” (Metro)

www.metro.se/nyheter/polisens-handbok-kunde-stoppat-upplopp-i-husby/EVHmeE!GrekMC9XyROzQ/

 

A Police officer is suspected of negligence – a 69-year-old died” – “Polis misstänks ha varit klantig – 69-åringen dog” (Nyheter24 – News24) nyheter24.se/nyheter/kronikor/746823-polisen-misstanks-ha-varit-klantig-69-aringen-dog

 

“Unrest in 23 places in Stockholm” – “Oroligheter på 23 platser i upploppens Stockholm” (Svenska Dagbladet – Swedish Daily News) www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_8207046.svd

 

“A survey on rioting in Stockholm’s suburbs” – “Undersökning om upploppen i Stockholms förorter” (Demoskop – Public Opinion Nalysis) www.demoskop.se/aktuellt/nyhet/undersokning-om-upploppen-i-stockholms-fororter/

 

“We will continue until we get noticed” – “Vi håller på tills vi blir sedda” (Svensk Television – Swedish Public Television)

http://www.svt.se/nyheter/sverige/forskaren-vastra-stockholm-ar-i-niva-med-rosengard

 

“If I see teenagers, I send them home” – “Ser jag tonåringar ute skickar jag hem dem” (Expressen – www.expressen.se/nyheter/dokument/ser-jag-tonaringar-ute-skickar-jag-hem-dem/

 

“After the Husby-riots, the police has been reported (for negligence) – by the police” – “Efter Husby-upploppen: Nu anmäls polisen – av polisen” (Nyheter24 – News24)

http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/inrikes/746347-efter-upploppen-i-husby-nu-anmals-polisen-av-polisen

Segregation on Campus: Is it discrimination or inclusiveness?

The segregation by gender of Muslim students has been in the news this week, after a pressure group claimed the practice was widespread. Reyhana Patel, herself a Muslim, believes that gender segregation can actually be empowering for her and her sisters. A report published this week by the group Student Rights argued that student Islamic societies (ISOCs) are promoting discrimination by encouraging segregated seating at university events. The study showed that 46 segregated events were promoted at 21 university campuses across the country between March 2012 and March 2013. Segregated seating is a practice that is encouraged in several faiths and at ISOC events across the country this ritual remains voluntary with many of those attending opting to sit with their gender counterparts. Does voluntary segregation promote gender discrimination, as argued by Student Rights, or does it provide a more inclusive society as counter-argued by many Muslim women? And should institutions have the right to force mixed seating? Voluntary segregation promotes inclusiveness and contributes greatly towards Muslim women participation in British Society – by allowing Muslim women to participate in campus activities without compromising their religious beliefs. It appears that Student Rights is now using gender as the new cloaked dagger to bash the Muslim community in an increasingly intolerant attempt to prove that Islam is incompatible with western society. What the group also failed to highlight in their so-called ‘expose’ was that at the heart of ISOCs across the country, females are the driving force to the operational success of these groups with many at the fore of empowering other Muslim students. Take for example, a recent women-only empowerment workshop, organised by FOSIS and the NUS, which provided training to equip female students with the skills needed to establish real change in their university and wider community. The sad fact is that the more groups like Student Rights continue to complain about Muslims doing things ‘differently’ and being ‘the other’ – they only serve to convince others of their own intolerance and illiberal ways. The down side of all the above, of course, is that segregation and the ‘disappearance of women’ actually got a lot worse in Muslim societies during the period of European colonisation – when the colonial master (having defeated the armies) demanded access to the most intimate parts of their conquered society – the family and the women. How ironic that that the trendy lot in Student Rights should be carrying on with this noble colonial impulse.

Chancellor Angela Merkel dismisses the idea of segregated sports education for Muslim boys and girls

April 6

 

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) dismissed the idea of gender segregation. Her government spokesman Streiter described the segregation of Muslim boys and girls as “the absolute wrong signal for the integration policy of Germany”.

 

Before, Peer Steinbrück the chancellor candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) refused a clear statement; neither denying nor welcoming gender segregation.

University of Leicester Launches Inquiry into Segregated Seating

15 April 2013

 

The University of Leicester announced that it will launch an inquiry into an on-campus event, hosted last month by the student Islamic Society, which featured gender-segregated seating and separate entrances for males and females. The event, a talk entitled, “Does God Exist?,” featured Hamza Tzortzis, a lecturer on Islam. Mr. Tzortzis was also a participant in the 9 March debate at the University of London which garnered attention for a similar segregated seating policy, though that policy was abandoned after Professor Lawrence Krauss threatened to walk out of the debate.

 

Regarding the matter, the Guardian is reporting that a spokesman for the University of Leicester said, “The University of Leicester does not permit enforced segregation at public events. The university will investigate whether entrances to the hall for this event were segregated by the society and will ensure there is no recurrence of this.” A statement on the Islamic Society’s website stating that all events hosted by the society adhere to a strict gender-segregated seating policy was recently taken down. However, a note under the “Weekly Activities” section of the group’s “About Us” page says that all classes put on by the group will be fully gender-segregated.

 

As was the case with the University of London debate, one of the central issues regarding the University of Leicester talk is to what extent the gender-segregation was forced on attendees. The Daily Mail reports that gender-segregation was indeed forced on students, while an official for the University of Leicester claimed that, to his knowledge, the seating policy was not made mandatory. Said the official: “If there is evidence of enforced segregation, that would be a matter the university and students’ union would investigate.”

Muslim protests against muslim free school in Oslo

A planned Muslim free school in Oslo meets with protests amongst Muslims. Tina Shagufta Kornmo from LIM (Equality, Integration and Multitude) says a Muslim free school will increase religious as well as ethnic segregation. Others believe a Muslim school will strengthen students’ Muslim identity and self confidence.