The roles of Muslims and ethnic minorities in the Grenfell Tower tragedy

The fire at Grenfell Tower killed more than 80 people. Many Muslims lived in and nearby the tower. Muslims residents and neighbours were instrumental in saving lives. The fire occurred after midnight. While many in the area were asleep, Muslims were often awake for the observances of Ramadan. Muslim residents awoke people in other flats and Muslim neighbours were among the first on the scene to assist. Muslim organisations, such as Muslim Aid, continued to be active in relief efforts.

The next evening volunteers held an iftar to allow Muslim victims and volunteers to break their fast. Many were working hard to support each other despite their fast.

Racial and economic discrimination may have contributed to the causes of the fire, as “it’s difficult to imagine this disaster–caused by a huge dereliction of duty and refusal to listen to residents’ concerns–befalling a community of white Britons.” Grenfell Tower was social housing provided by the government for people who require housing assistance.

Black and South Asian survivors felt that the government did not act as though they had a right to complain about the terrible safety conditions of the building prior to the fire.

Linda Sarsour: Why this has been the worst year for American Muslims since 9/11

The number of hate crimes against members of the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities has dramatically increased. There is a growing disconnect between freedom of speech and the freedom to practice religion without fear or intimidation: Increasingly, irresponsible and rhetorical bullying is leading to violent acts against a vulnerable minority.
Recent articles have questioned the shady practices of FBI counterterrorism strategies: Informants have been sought out and coerced through torture; fictitious entrapment scenarios have been created; and in the midst of this there are still many unanswered questions about the shooting of a black Muslim man under surveillance by a joint terrorism task force in Boston. Where was law enforcement when a white man from Georgia plantedProtesters a bomb in a city park in order to sow fear against Muslims?

New York City public school kids getting new Muslim, Lunar New Year holidays

February 4, 2014

 

Mayor de Blasio said Monday that he’d move forward with closing schools for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two Muslim holy days, and for Lunar New Year. But he was hesitant regarding Hindu festival Diwali.

Appearing on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” on Monday, the mayor said he hadn’t taken a position on whether Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated in India and other South Asian countries, should be a day off from school.

But he said he’d move forward with closing schools for Lunar New Year and for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Muslim holy days.

“It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget. But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame,” he said.

 

NY Daily News:  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/nyc-public-school-kids-new-holidays-article-1.1601237#ixzz2tY0E5Rjl

Diesel Burqa Ad: Islamophobic Or Empowering?

(RNS) Islamophobic or empowering? Those are among the reactions to a new Diesel jeans ad featuring a heavily tattooed, topless white woman wearing a redesigned, denim burqa.

The slogan next to her: “I Am Not What I Appear To Be.”

Racist and condescending are among the criticisms that have been leveled at the ad, created by Nicola Formichetti, former stylist to Lady Gaga, who made waves last month with her song “Burqa.” But others, including a female Muslim marketing consultant who advised Diesel, said the idea was to make people question assumptions and stereotypes.

“This was to challenge that idea that when you see a woman in a burqa, or niqab or even hijab, that you assume certain things about her,” said Ameena Meer, an observant Muslim and founder and principal of Take-Out Media, the consulting firm that advised Diesel.

Not everyone sees it that way. Sana Saeed, senior editor at the Islamic legal news website Islawmix, tweeted that she has dreaded the day when capitalism would consume the veil.

And Shruti Parekh, a New York City videographer and member of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, wrote that the ad is “rife with Islamophobia and attacks on the Muslim world.”

While Muslim women in the West who wear burqas must suffer through negative connotations and open hostility, Parekh wrote, the white model in Diesel’s ad doesn’t.

Sermons preached in mosques will do nothing to prevent child sex abuse in south Asian communities

Last Friday, Muslim leaders across the country united in openly condemning instances of child grooming and trafficking gangs within their communities. Organised by the non-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and supported by the Muslim Council of Britain, a sermon delivered in around 500 mosques highlighted both the “moral depravity” and Quranic condemnation of such acts, which have no place in the Islamic faith.

There is no doubt that the intentions of the lectures were amicable, particularly in light of recent cases involving grooming gangs in Oxford and Rochdale. Yet in attempting to disassociate the wider Muslim community from such deplorable acts, they may have instead found themselves contributing to the toxic narrative often espoused by anti-Islamic groups such as the English Defence League, who argue that paedophilia and abuse are inherent within the religion. Further, while the gesture may have been widely praised by the media, it will have achieved little in getting to the roots of the problem, or preventing further such cases.

 

That’s largely because the relationship between Islam and grooming gangs is spurious at best. Some may argue that while these men were far from pious, Muslim leaders have a civic duty to address these issues. Where mosques are integral parts of local communities, they should play an active part in addressing issues that affect wider society. But we shouldn’t simply place pressure onto mosques and imams, for in reality they can do little but continue stating the obvious: that such acts are abhorrent and impermissible. In fact, a more effective way of tackling the epidemic of grooming gangs lies in encouraging the quieter voices within Asian communities – residents, community groups and local business owners – to speak out. Victims of abuse often find themselves at the mercy of the perpetrators, who are empowered simply because those around them are more than willing to keep quiet and look the other way. In fact, their silence highlights a far more complex cultural issue – notably the cult of shame and honour that forms the basis of social organisation within many South Asian communities. Indeed, it is not just the young victims of abuse that these grooming gangs were exploiting, but also the sensitivities of their cultural heritage.

 

The truth is that beyond the names of the perpetrators, Islam has little to do with these crimes. The real problem instead lies with cultural taboos and a hesitance by traditional communities to engage with such sensitive topics, which is readily exploited by criminal groups. The result of this continued silence is more victims of abuse and further hostility toward the majority of law abiding Muslims.

 

FBI’s bus ads taken down over Muslim/terrorist stereotyping

After a wave of criticism from politicians, advocacy groups and the public, 46 bus ads featuring photos of wanted terrorists will be taken down within the next few weeks, officials said Tuesday.

The “Faces of Global Terrorism” ad was criticized for promoting stereotypes of Muslims and painting a broad brush against one group.

The ad is part of a campaign launched earlier this month by the Puget Sound Joint Terrorism Task Force for the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program. It features 16 photos of wanted terrorists sandwiched between the taglines “Faces of Global Terrorism” and “Stop a Terrorist. Save Lives. Up to $25 Million Reward.”

The decision to remove the bus ads was “a result of our continued engagement with the community and the feedback we are getting,” FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt said.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott wrote a letter last week to FBI Director Robert Mueller expressing concern over the ads, saying the ad would “only serve to exacerbate the disturbing trend of hate crimes against Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim-Americans.”

“When you start saying that this is the face of terrorism, you are really stigmatizing a whole group of people,” McDermott, D-Seattle, said Tuesday.

King County Metro received a half-dozen complaints through the customer information line, Switzer said.

CAIR is calling on all people of conscience to contact the SUBWAY restaurant chain to request that a formal apology

CAIR is asking people of conscience to contact the SUBWAY restaurant chain to request that a formal apology be given to a Louisiana Muslim who was allegedly locked out of a sandwich shop in that state because of his faith. [SUBWAY, based in Milford, Conn., has more than 38,000 locations in 100 countries.]

A retired 63-year-old U.S. citizen of South Asian heritage who lives in New Orleans reported to CAIR that on November 21, 2012, he and his wife stopped at the SUBWAY restaurant in Shreveport, La. Before ordering, they went to the restrooms in the facility. The husband exited the restroom first and went outside the restaurant to wait for his wife in anticipation of re-entering to order their food.

While his wife was still inside the restaurant, the victim attempted to re-enter, but was blocked at the door by a female SUBWAY employee who allegedly asked him “Are you Muslim?” When the victim replied that he is indeed Muslim, the SUBWAY employee reportedly responded, “We can’t serve you.” The employee then went inside the restaurant and locked the door behind her. Fearing for his wife’s safety and distraught at the violation of his civil rights, the man called 911.

When the Shreveport Police Department arrived, an officer went inside the SUBWAY restaurant and later came out to tell the victim that the manager was “scared” of him and that he “better leave.”

‘Sikhs are not Muslims’ sends a sinister message

Op-Ed: Such declarations by the news media and others has an insidious subtext: that there’s something wrong with being a Muslim in America.

Almost from the beginning of their coverage of the horrific and deadly shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, CNN and other news media went out of their way to send a message to the American public: “Sikhs are not Muslims.”

But what were we to make of that message? If the temple’s members had been Muslims, would the attack have then been justified?

We say we don’t endorse prejudice against one group or another, but for some reason we also want to make sure people know who the “we” and the “they” really are. CNN would probably say it was simply trying to clear up a common misunderstanding that, in this case, may have been shared by the gunman himself. Fair enough. The assertion that Sikhs are not Muslims is certainly true. Jains are not Hindus, and Mormons are not Methodists either.

WHO THEY WERE: Sikh temple shooting victims

But in the post-9/11context of a deadly act committed by an apparent white supremacist against a congregation that is largely ethnically South Asian — a congregation that includes bearded men in turbans — broadcasting the mantra that “Sikhs are not Muslims” takes on a far more insidious subtext: Don’t blame these people, it implies, for the unspeakable crimes of 9/11. It’s Muslims you want.

The media aren’t alone in conveying, however unintentionally, this sinister message. When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he responded to the inaccurate but surprisingly persistent assertion that he was a Muslim with this statement in a 2008 debate: “The facts are I am Christian. I have been sworn in [as a U.S. senator] with a Bible.”

Canadian Irshad Manji book tour in Indonesia runs into trouble

News Agencies –  May 10, 2012

 

Police crackdowns and attacks by religious extremists have attempted to derail the book tour of famed Muslim Canadian author Irshad Manji through Indonesia, a country she previously described as a symbol of “meaningful moderation in Islam.” “Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness and pluralism,” said Ms. Manji. “Things have changed.”

Raised in Vancouver, Ms. Manji rose to prominence as an advocate for progressive Islam with her 2003 book The Trouble With Islam Today. Most controversially to many of her religious critics, she is openly lesbian. Ms. Manji was in the South Asian country to promote the Indonesian release of Allah, Liberty and Love. Amid laying out a blueprint for Muslim reformation modelled on the U.S. civil rights movement, the book singles out Indonesia as a model Muslim society.

South Asian Sweets in High Demand with the End of Ramadan in Toronto

The Globe and Mail – August 23, 2011

 

It’s a blur of activity in the kitchen of Al-Karam Sweets in Scarborough, where mithai makers are working up to 14-hour days simmering milk, roasting almonds and clarifying butter, all in high demand this last week of Ramadan.

The days leading up to Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of the month of fasting next week, are among the busiest of the year for South Asian sweet makers across Canada. In a typical week, Al-Karam sells about two dozen different mithais from the shop’s glass display counter, using 400 litres of milk to prepare them. This week, however, they expect to turn 2,000 litres of milk into the delicacies. Around Eid, they sell 10 times their normal inventory, with some customers walking away with as much as four to five kilograms of treats.