Mohammad Asghar case: 28,000 people sign a petition calling for the release of the mentally ill Scot on death row in Pakistan

February 20, 2014

 

More than 28,000 people have backed a petition calling for the release of a mentally ill Scottish man sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. Demands for Mohammad Asghar to be freed on humanitarian grounds have intensified since The Independent published an open letter today from politicians, academics, human rights campaigners and Islamic scholars appealing for clemency.

Mr Asghar, who has a history of mental illness and is thought to be a paranoid schizophrenic, had been detained under the Mental Health Act in 2010 shortly before he flew to Pakistan. Once there he became caught up in a dispute with a tenant who went to the police with letters written by Mr Asghar in which he claimed to be the Prophet Mohamed.

The online petition to David Cameron and Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, urges them to “intervene in the strongest possible terms to help save the life of a vulnerable British man”. The letter’s signatories raised concerns about the failing health of the 70-year-old grandfather and urged the Pakistani President, Mamnoon Hussain, to intervene stating: “We respectfully urge you to consider using your discretionary powers as President to pardon Mr Asghar and to allow him to be released from jail so he can receive his treatment and be reunited with his loving family.”

 

The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/mohammad-asghar-case-28000-people-sign-a-petition-calling-for-the-release-of-the-mentally-ill-scot-on-death-row-in-pakistan-9142349.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/mohammad-asghar-case-an-open-letter-to-pakistan-president-mamnoon-hussain-9139630.html

Al Andalus 2.0. La ciber-yihad contra España

This work analyzes the explosive combination of terrorism, new information technologies and historical grievances. The recovery of alandalusIslamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula remains an essential objective for Al Qaeda and their allies. The radicals found in the Internet an opportunity to enhance and reinterpret in harsh terms the myth of a paradise taken away by force. From abundant new information, the book explains the role that  Al Andalus plays in the jihadist universe is explained, details all corners of cyberspace where it is possible to find Spanish references as a vehicle to incite violence, traces back the role played by internet in the 11-M in Madrid, and delves into some of the major police operations against groups and individuals who have used cyberspace to wage jihad against Spain.

Divided into two parts, the first devoted to “Medium and Message” with the eternal justification for Al Qaeda and its franchises to hate the West as responsible for the assaults on Muslims.

The second part deals with cyber-jihadists arrested in Spain, which provides a comprehensive overview of police operations carried out against the people who have used the Internet as a means of radicalization.

This work analyzes the explosive combination of terrorism, new information technologies and historical grievances.

 

Manuel Ricardo Torres Soriano, Al Andalus 2.0. La ciber-yihad contra España (Granada: Biblioteca GESI). 210 pages. 2014. (ISBN: 978–84-616-7991-1)

Lee Rigby killer Michael Adebolajo launches appeal against conviction

January 30, 2014

 

One of the two men found guilty of murdering off-duty British soldier Lee Rigby, has lodged an application to appeal against his conviction, the Judicial Office confirmed today. Adebolajo, 29, from Romford, east London, said during the trial that he was a “soldier of Allah” and that the killing was an act of war. He and his co-defendant Michael Adebowale, 22, from Greenwich, south-east London, are currently awaiting sentencing.

The men were cleared of the attempted murder of a police officer, and had previously admitted possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. Mr Justice Sweeney said he will sentence the pair after a key Court of Appeal ruling on the use of whole-life jail terms. A date for the appeal judgment has not been announced following a recent hearing before a panel of five leading judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/rigby-killer-michael-adebolajo-launches-appeal-against-conviction-9095667.html

Survey shows Muslim population is fastest growing religion in Canada

May 8, 2013

By Jordan Press

 

OTTAWA — The Islamic centre in Saskatoon is experiencing growing pains. Friday services have been split in two so local streets aren’t clogged with traffic. City officials and nearby residents are working with the centre to answer questions like where to put more parking?

“We have been experiencing this kind of steady increase for a while,” said Amin Elshorbagy, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

“We can see this in terms of the need to expand our infrastructure. Most of our Islamic centres are becoming very crowded.”

Across the country, the Muslim population is growing at a rate exceeding other religions, according to Statistics Canada. It is even growing faster than the number of Canadians identifying as having no religion, though just barely, according to the National Household Survey released Wednesday.

The Muslim population exceeded the one million mark, according to the survey, almost doubling its population for the third-consecutive decade.

However, the survey results should be taken with caution. Experts say the voluntary nature of the survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census, leaves gaps in the data from groups that tend not to respond to such surveys, such as new immigrants.

Experts believe the data provide a fairly good, broad picture of Canada, but data on smaller groups may have less reliable information.

As mosques become more commonplace and more women wear the niqab, there are growing debates about religious accommodations.

“We need to sit down as Muslims, not as a community because there isn’t one community, and decide what we want to be accommodated and what we want to give up,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

That internal debate in the Muslim community sometimes gets sidetracked, largely because of the backdrop of violence done in the name of religion, which Canadian Muslims regularly condemn.

“It is an additional pressure and a big one on the Muslim community,” Elshorbagy said.

“We need to be extra nice just because we’re Muslims. We need to go beyond certain limits, which is very unfortunate for people like me,” he said. “Sometimes the media will call something Islamic terrorism — once you call it Islamic, you’ve brought me into the picture even though I haven’t done something wrong.”

And with their numbers now reportedly over the one million mark, the pressures are likely to mount.

“Polling has shown that Canadian Muslims are proud to be Canadian, more so than the average Canadian,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Canadian Muslims very much want to integrate and be part and parcel of the society.”

One-on-one, non-Muslims may have favourable views of their Islamic colleagues, but that feeling doesn’t always extend to the wider Muslim population, said Pamela Dickey Young, a professor of religion and culture at Queen’s University.

“It isn’t like Canadian Muslims have not tried to educate the Canadian populace…but for some reason there’s still that edge with it that some Canadians have problems getting over,” Dickey Young said.

Muslims now represent 3.2 per cent of the country’s total population, nudging up from the two per cent recorded in 2001.

Immigration has largely fuelled the increase, with the largest share coming from Pakistan over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada.

But the survey provides no breakdown of type of Muslims living in Canada, as the survey didn’t ask respondents, for instance, whether they were Shiite or Sunni.

“People keep blocking us into one cohesive mass and we’re not that at all,” Hogben said.

 

National Post: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/08/survey-shows-muslim-population-is-fastest-growing-religion-in-canada/

 

A New Report on Islamic fundamentalism in Europe

December 16, 2013

 

In Western Europe, religious fundamentalism is not a marginal phenomenon but a trend. This is the conclusion of a German study whose results were presented last week in Berlin at WZB, a center for research in the social sciences.

This comparative study between Muslims of Turkish or Moroccan origin and Christians is based on a survey conducted on about 9,000 people in six European countries, including Germany and France.

44% of Muslims polled believed in a return to the origins of Islam and that the rules dictated by their religious beliefs are more important than those of the country in which they live. Contrastingly, in the Christian population this was the case for only 4%.

To determine the extent to which Muslim and Christian fundamentalists are considered hostile to the other groups, the researchers asked them whether they agreed with the following three statements :

“I do not want to have a homosexual friend”
“You just cannot trust Jews”
“Western countries want to destroy Islam / Muslims want to destroy western culture”

The results of the survey showed that 60% of Muslims and 13% of Christians did not like the idea of having a homosexual friend. Muslims who do not trust Jews were 45% compared to 9% of Christians.
About 25% of Christians think that Muslims want to destroy western culture, while 45% of Muslims are convinced that Western countries want to destroy Islam.

In the conclusion, the study’s author, sociologist Rudd Koopmans, emphasizes, however, that the results should be relativized: “We must not forget that Muslims are a relatively small minority in western Europe. Considered in a relative manner, the levels of fundamentalism and hostility are certainly higher among the Muslims, but in absolute terms the Christian fundamentalists are just as numerous.”

Ticino Live: http://www.ticinolive.ch/2013/12/16/allarme-fondamentalismo-islamico-europa/

 

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

Why So Many U.S. Latinos Are Becoming Muslims

October 10, 2013

 

Most Latinos know the country is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month right now. What far fewer Latinos know is that next week marks Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s most sacred holidays.

And yet the two observances are more related now than most Latinos realize.

Just as the U.S. Latino population is on the rise — Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority — so is the number of Latino Muslims. And it’s not just a result of Arab Latin Americans emigrating to the United States.

According to organizations like WhyIslam.org, Latinos are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. About six percent of U.S. Muslims are now Latino — and as many as a fifth of new converts to Islam nationwide are Latino.

The American Muslim Association of North America, based in North Miami, says heavily Hispanic South Florida in particular is home to a rising number of Latino Muslims.

If it’s a surprise that many Latinos are moving from a predominantly Roman Catholic culture to an originally Arab faith, perhaps it shouldn’t be. For one thing, like African-Americans in the 1960s, Latinos are discovering their own historical and cultural ties to Islam and the Arab world. And that starts with what most defines Latinos: Spanish.

“Our language is nurtured by more than 4,000 words that come from Arabic,” says Wilfredo Ruiz, a Puerto Rican-born Muslim who converted a decade ago and is a lawyer for the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “Every word in Spanish that starts with ‘al,’ for example, like alcalde, alcantarilla, almohada.”

“What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz. “It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”

Ruiz points out that both Latinos and Arabs highly value the extended family and traditions like offering hospitality to strangers. In religious terms, Latinos like Gonzalez say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does. They also feel more structure than they see in the evangelical churches so many Latinos join today.

“The connection I have with God now is better than before,” says Gonzalez.

 

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/cair-in-the-news/12193-why-so-many-latinos-are-becoming-muslims.html

WLRN.org: http://wlrn.org/post/why-so-many-latinos-are-becoming-muslims

Demand for US-born imams up as mosques struggle to retain new generation of American Muslims

Mustafa UmarANAHEIM, Calif. — Mustafa Umar, an imam in Southern California, is popular with the Muslim teenagers who attend his mosque. They pepper him with questions about sensitive topics like marijuana use, dating and pornography.

Umar, 31, is a serious Islamic scholar who has studied the Quran in the Middle East, Europe and India — but he’s also a native Californian, who is well-versed in social media and pop culture, and can connect with teens on their own terms.

That pedigree is rare — 85 percent of fulltime, paid imams in the U.S. are foreign-born — but the demand for people like him is growing as American Muslim leaders look for ways to keep the religion relevant for young people in a secular country that cherishes freedom of expression.

“The demand for American-born imams is an articulation of something much deeper,” said Timur Yuskaev, director of the Islamic chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, which educates Islamic faith leaders.

“It’s a realization that assimilation is happening and it’s going to happen. Now, how do we control it, how do we channel it?” he said. “These congregations, if they do not provide the services that the congregants expect, then they will not survive.”

Abdel Rahman Murphy, a 25-year-old assistant imam in Knoxville, Tenn., is striking that balance with his newly founded Muslim youth group called Roots. Kids play sports, battle it out in video-game playing contests or strut in a girls’ Muslim fashion show with the tongue-in-cheek title “Cover Girl.”

Murphy, the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother and an Irish-American convert, was kicked out of a private Islamic middle school and strayed from the faith in high school — an experience he always keeps in mind.

“We can’t change what’s inside the package, but we can repackage it,” said Murphy, who tweets about college basketball and his faith.

MoE launches its “Charter of Secularism”

Le Monde

09.09.2013

Just a year ago, Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, has launched the idea of teaching “secular morals” beginning in French kindergartens up to high school level. The project was in the meanwhile enthusiastically received by the French public and  has been renamed “teaching moral and civic duties”. It’s due to be launched in 2005.

With the beginning of the French school and university terms, the Ministry of Education has presented its “Charter of Secularism”, which is aimed to be exhibited in every educational institution of the country with the exception of private schools. The details of the Charter are so far unclear, but scepticism has arisen amongst religious communities, including France’s Muslim community as to what influence such a charter will have on the right to freely express faith. During the presentation, Peillon made sure to calm his critics by reassuring that “the battle for secularism is not to oppose one another, but a fight against those who want to oppose one another”. In an interview to a regional newspaper days prior to the launch, Peillon stated that “the issue of secularism should not turn into an obsession of Islam” (…) The vast majority of our fellow Muslims are convinced of the benefits of secularism. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not to challenge education or miss a class . The charter recalls these principles.”

 

Muslim group demands tougher response to mosque attacks

One of Britain’s largest Islamic groups has said a “dramatic escalation in violence” against British Muslims needs a much tougher response from the government. Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said the bombings of three Midlands mosques marked “the crossing of a red line”.

 

The MCB said the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in an alleged terrorist act in Woolwich, south London, in May had unleashed an increase in violence. A series of incidents had added to “a palpable sense of fear” among Muslim communities, it said.

 

“The community has patiently borne the brunt of these attacks despite condemning in the strongest possible terms the tragic murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby,” Murad said. “Despite this spike in incidences, there has yet to be a co-ordinated national effort to ensure that these sorts of attacks never happen again. It cannot be right that a minority community is allowed to be targeted in this manner.”

 

He added: “There is an urgent need for the government and police to respond with a co-ordinated national strategy so as to prevent further attacks.”