The Dutch cabinet recently presented an Action Plan for Self-determination. The cabinet will provide a yearly one million euros until 2017 to combat forced marriages, homophobia and violence related to honor. More than 150 specially trained volunteers will be supported to bring these taboo themes up for discussion among their own communities. Additionally a social media campaign will be initiated with stories related by people who support a change of mentality on these themes. This was written to the Dutch Lower House by Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher.
November 14, 2013
The man wept as he told how his beautiful, dark-eyed child died in a hospital cot with medical tubes snaking from his frail body as nurses fought unsuccessfully to save him. Sick with pneumonia, the two-year-old gave up the battle for life.
A heartbroken Mr Rehman told the inquest that he and his wife were unsure whether to have any more children. The coroner expressed deep sympathy before saying that Hamza’s death should serve as a warning to others. ‘This highlights a cultural and religious issue relating to first-cousin marriages and the potential risk to children that some medical experts say can result from such unions.’
This week, leading geneticist Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, warned that ‘inbreeding’ in Islamic communities was threatening the health of generations of children. This is not the first time the distressing issue has been raised. Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for nearby Keighley, has said that cousin marriages are medieval, harm children and are arranged in order to keep wealth and property within families.
One in ten children from these cousin marriages either dies in infancy or develops a serious life-threatening disability. While British Pakistanis account for three per cent of the births in this country, they are responsible for 33 per cent of the 15,000 to 20,000 children born each year with genetic defects. The vast majority of problems are caused by recessive gene disorders, according to London’s Genetic Interest Group, which advises affected families.
As one British-Pakistani put it bluntly on a similar website: ‘A main reason why this corrupt practice is still followed in Britain is because the family wants to keep their property, land, jewelry and money in the family – with many parents believing it is an ‘act of God’ or the ‘will of Allah’ that their children are born disabled.
Sex is taboo subject for most Muslims. However, a growing number of young Muslim women are talking about what they really want when in the bedroom. Shelina Janmohamed, author of Love in a Headscarf, explains how women are leading the way in her faith when it comes to understanding sexuality.
The author mentions examples such as Abdelaziz Aouragh who runs an online sex shop for Muslims, as well as how Muslim women are leading their male counterparts in the discussion about sexuality and intimacy. According to Islamic law, sex is limited to between those who are married. But when it comes to exactly what you can do, and how sex is generally discussed, Islam itself is quite open. Sex is of course for procreation, but it’s also for pleasure. This openness has been lost over time, and discussions about sex have become taboo. However, things are slowly changing.
The author recalls a story about a woman came to see Mohammed on her wedding night, to complain her husband was too busy praying and hadn’t come near her. The Prophet went to see the husband, admonished him for being too engrossed in religious prayer and instructed him to pay more attention to his bride.
Wedad Lootah is a UAE marriage counsellor who published an Arabic sex guide, Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples, on how to achieve sexual intimacy with your partner. Her book was blessed by the mufti of the UAE. But she received intense criticism.
There are accounts regarding pre-marital seminars, included sex education. The aim is that the young women receive this education, and criticism is kept at bay because “The girls don’t know what should be happening in their intimate lives and the men tell them to do X or Y and they don’t know any better.”
There are descriptions of books that Muslim women themselves are using to try to open a discussion about sexuality, its role in their identity, and their fears and aspirations. For those Muslims who want to live a chaste life, the pressures are immense especially as their surroundings are increasingly sexualised. Virginity is seen as abnormal. And rejection of ‘sexual liberation’ is seen as backward.
The article points out that if contextually appropriate teachings are not available – whether at home, in the mosque or in other social settings – then the taboos about sexuality become entrenched, lead to diminished knowledge, and pleasure or even negativity about sex.
The new Five Star party headed by Beppo Grillo swept Italian politics during the most recent elections, winning more candidates in the Chamber of Deputies than any other party. Grillo, a former comedian, organized a movement that will likely bring the Italian government to its knees unless the traditional parties of the Left and Right can form a coalition, which is doubtful. Grillo has not made any direct comments about the Islam faith since the recent elections, however, back in June 2012, the International Business Times reported that Grillo believes, “Islam is not a fundamentalist religion and talks over the state of Israel have become taboo.”
News agencies – December 2, 2012
A Muslim prayer centre, which has been dubbed Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque, opened in Paris. Its founder described it as the first step in breaking “prejudices in Islam”, but it has been criticised by religious leaders for going “against the spirit of Islam”. The new “mosque”, which opened on Friday in a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk, has smashed a taboo in Islam by welcoming transgender and transsexual Muslims. But the prayer room located in the eastern suburbs of Paris is not supported by any formal Muslim institution and many imams in France oppose it.
While a handful of gay-friendly mosques now exist in Canada, South Africa and the United States, Zahed believes his project is breaking new boundaries in France and Europe. It now boasts over 300 members.
How does one explain the phenomenon of Salafism? And what causes young Islamists the world over to take up jihad? Wolf Schmidt offers some answers in his insightful book “Young, German, Taliban”. Albrecht Metzger has read the book
The recent riots in the Islamic world triggered by a crude film about the Prophet Mohammed once again demonstrates how deep the cultural divisions have become between the Islamic world and the West over the past decades.
Most Muslims regard it as taboo to ridicule religion, whereas most people in the USA and Europe have no problem with such insulting behaviour, even when directed against prophets, whether Christian or Muslim. These are differences that cannot be so easily bridged.
At the very least, non-Muslims should try to understand the nature of these religious sensibilities in the Islamic world and what can set them off. For many Muslims, the defence of religious honour is a way of challenging the political, cultural, and economic dominance of the West – even through the use of violence.
This disposition to violence is unsettling, particularly in a prosperous society like Germany, where most people appear to live well in comparison to other countries. Anxiety rises whenever religious motives are involved, as the notion of going to war for the sake of the cross is one that has been lost long ago.
The height of misunderstanding, however, is reached in cases where someone is prepared to sacrifice their life for a religion. Most people in Germany see this world-view as a relic from the Middle Ages.
16 September, 2010
Following the publication of a report on forced marriages in Zurich, the Ministry of Justice is now drawing up a bill on the issue which is expected by the end of 2010. The bill may lead to tougher penalties, and is designed to improving the legal tools which can be used to fight forced marriages.
Many of the cases in the Zurich report involve Muslim families, however the issue is “not related to Islam as such,” according to Janine Dahinden, professor of transnational studies at Neuchâtel University. “It is more of a generational conflict between parents and children.”
The report also indicates that the number of people seeking advice with regard to forced marriages is growing. This is seen as a positive step by Karin Aeberhard, co-director of the Mädchenhaus Zürich, Switzerland’s only girls’ refuge. “It’s not such a taboo anymore,” she says.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls is facing legal challenges from faith groups and individuals over his announcement of mandatory sex education lessons for pupils. Religious groups reacted with anger to the move by the Schools Secretary, which will make it compulsory for all pupils aged 15 will learn about relationships, sex and drugs over the course of a year. The age of consent in the UK is 16.
The Muslim Council of Britain vowed to mount a challenge to the new laws that it says contravene the right for children to be taught according to their parents’ tradition. Shahid Akmal, chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain’s education committee, said parents would be forced to break the law because of their beliefs. “It will cause difficulty,” he said. “I cannot condone people breaking the law, but it will be an individual decision and some parents will feel that it’s the only option open to them.”
The new legislation will also force faith schools – at least one forth of all British schools – to teach more than just the biology of reproduction and include lessons on contraception, homosexuality and civil partnerships.
Germany has four million Muslim inhabitants but the market for halal food — produced according to Islamic law — is still in its infancy, partly because firms fear the wrath of animal rights groups. But companies are slowly waking up to this fast-growing market.
The potential market for halal food in Germany is huge. An estimated four million Muslims live in Germany, and the community is pre-programmed to grow because Muslims have a higher birth rate than non-Muslims. Halal already accounts for 17 percent of the global food market, according to the World Halal Forum based in Malaysia.
“German companies are too cautious,” says Levent Akgül of ethnic marketing agency Akkar Media in Hanover. “They don’t know the different culture and they can’t calculate the risks.”
In addition, German food retailers are worried that putting halal food products on grocery store shelves will deter non-Muslim customers, says Akgül. Advertising for halal products in Germany is still taboo for many German companies, he says.
Pav Akhtar is not usually a fan of soaps. But the 30-year-old local councillor and Unison worker has been paying special attention since EastEnders introduced its first gay Muslim character. Akhtar, the chair of Imaan, an organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims, advised the BBC on the storyline in the hope that the character of Syed Masood would help tackle the double discrimination of homophobia and Islamophobia that many gay Muslims face.
The Muslim theologian Amanullah De Sondy said recently that the vast majority of Muslims were “deeply homophobic”, and a survey carried out this summer among British Muslims reported that 0% of those questioned thought homosexuality was “morally acceptable”. Yet, so far, the taboo-busting EastEnders storyline has not sparked the expected deluge of complaints — in fact, the soap’s first gay Muslim kiss attracted a healthy 7.9 million viewers. But what is it like being gay and Muslim in the UK today? The author has interviewed four gay British Muslims between 30 and 40 and reports their experiences.