In a second Scottish independence referendum, young Muslims would be likely to vote for independence

Scottish Muslims are likely to support independence from the UK due to British anti-terrorism policies, according to a qualitative study by scholars at Newcastle University. The UK government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy, which aims to stop Muslims from becoming radicalised, has been heavily criticised for encouraging Islamophobic suspicion.

Based on interviews and focus groups that included more than 600 Muslim Scottish participants, the researchers concluded that Muslims see Scottish nationalism as more inclusive than other types of nationalism. Its multicultural focus may provide ways for Muslims to engage politically.

The minority of Muslims who support continued union with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland cited economic and security factors.

British jihadist: UK should be afraid of terror skills I’ve learnt

July 2, 2014

A British jihadist fighting in Syria has signalled that the UK should be afraid of the terror skills he has learnt after posting a photo of apparent homemade bombs. A Twitter account believed to belong to Nasser Muthana, 20, shows an image of a stack improvised explosive devices in a garage. Alongside it is the stark warning: “So the UK is afraid I come back with the skills I’ve gained.”

Muthana, from Cardiff, appeared in a recruitment video Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), last month. In another apparent Twitter posting, he shows a home-made weapon believed to be taken from an enemy Shia Muslim and adds: “Look what we found on this shi’i, glad tidings we’ll make sure his head is detachable.”

He describes himself as a “soldier of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” on his Twitter profile and explains his beliefs as based on “a book that guides and a sword that supports it”.

Muthana’s younger brother Aseel, 17, is fighting alongside him and the teenager told the BBC he was willing to martyr himself for Allah. Aseel told BBC Wales programme Week In Week Out that there were “loads” of other men from Britain who have also joined up.

The comments made online by the men also appear to be celebrating the caliphate announced by Isis on Sunday and on Wednesday an 18-year-old from Cardiff was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences and police said they were investigating a possible connection to the British jihadists in the video.

Isis rebels declare new Islamic state as Iraq tightens security around Baghdad

June 30, 2014

Isis militants declare an Islamic state, or ‘caliphate’ in an area straddling the border between Iraq and Syria. Iraqi government forces are increasing security around Baghdad, and launching attacks to try to claw back some of the territory gained by the rebels. Meanwhile families fleeing the violence take refuge in makeshift camps

At least 1,500 British nationals are likely to have been recruited by extremists to fight in Iraq and Syria, a Birmingham MP has warned. Labour’s Khalid Mahmood said that with the increased radicalisation of young British Muslims in the past two years, the number who “will come back” to launch attacks in the UK was “certainly more than we are saying at the moment”.

“Originally you had the British Syrians settled here who wanted to go back and play a part, then you had the Kurdish community, then almost two years ago you had the young British Muslim community going across – so if you add all that up you’ve got serious figures that we need to look at. Those will come back – certainly more than we are saying at the moment – and we do need to look at that.” Mr Mahmood’s warning came as senior British security experts warned that the UK could be suffering from the repercussions of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts for “many years” to come.

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner and head of specialist operations, said Britain would feel the long-term consequences of the conflict, and young British Muslims who have travelled to fight in the war-torn country might commit violence when they returned.

Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, described the problem of fighters returning from the region as a “real worry”, and told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the government needed to reassess the funding and powers given to the security services with this threat in mind.

Sheikh Zane Abdo, imam of the South Wales Islamic Centre said a “platform” should not have been given to the recruitment video for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) adding: “I guarantee that many young people who are very susceptible to this type of message will have watched that video and maybe have been encouraged to now go and follow in the footsteps of Nasser and his brother, which is a real problem, the fact that a platform has been given to this video that really shouldn’t have been given.”

Haras Rafiq, from the anti-extremist think tank the Quilliam Foundation, told Good Morning Britain that the strongest influence on young men who end up going out to the region was the internet.



The Guardian

The Independent

Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, census figures show

January 10, 2014


Census figures reveal a ‘startling’ shift in Britain’s demographic trend with almost a tenth of babies and toddlers born in England and Wales being Muslim. The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population. Less than one in 200 over 85s are Muslims – an indication of the extent to which birth rate is changing the UK’s religious demographic.

The figures show there were 3.5 million children aged 0-4 of whom 320,000 were Muslim. That proportion is more than nine per cent and compares with a total Muslim population among all age groups of less than five per cent.

Professor David Coleman, Professor of Demography at the University of Oxford said: “We have had substantial immigration of Muslims for a long time. Continuing immigration from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India has been added to by new immigration from African countries and from the Middle East. Birth rates of Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin remain quite high, although falling. There seem to be very low levels of falling away from religion among Muslims.”

Christians remain the largest religious group among those aged 0-4, at 1.5 million, 43 per cent.


The Independent:

The Telegraph:

Prince Charles visits shrine to Sufi saint

November 11, 2013


The Prince of Wales laid flowers on the tomb of one of India’s most revered Sufi saints today as its imam prayed for the health and happiness of Britain’s royal family. The visit to the shrine or ‘dargah’ of Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, one of Mumbai’s most celebrated landmarks, was to support the restoration of its 500 year old building and to promote dialogue between different faiths.

The shrine commemorates the devotion of Haji Ali, a wealthy merchant who migrated from Bukhara and died while making his Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Prince entered the shrine to the sound of Sufi devotional music, celebrating the saint’s miracles, to pay his respects and inspect the extensive renovation works under way. ‘Haji Ali’ is a tiny mosque-like shrine with arches and minarets at the end of a promontory, surrounded by the sea.


The Telegraph:

Report: A million British Muslims reject extremists on poppy wearing

November 7, 2013


One million British Muslims support wearing a poppy to mark Remembrance Day, showing just how marginal the views of “anti-poppy” extremists like Anjem Choudary are, writes Steve Ballinger.

Figures from the latest Ethnic Minority British Election Survey (EMBES), in an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) study published by the Oxford University Press, show that over half of Pakistanis and 46% of Bangladeshis in Britain say that they wear the poppy to mark Remembrance Day.

Using figures from the 2011 Census in England and Wales, British Future calculates that these findings equate to approximately 800,000 poppy wearers from these two communities alone, who make up two-thirds of Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims. This figure grows to over a million once the remainder of Britain’s Muslim community is considered, based on the EMBES study’s findings on poppy wearing among African, Indian and other British ethnic minority communities.

The figures show just how marginal the views of extremists like Anjem Choudary really are, with significant numbers of British Muslims supporting the wearing of poppies as an act of remembrance at this time of year.

The figures come as Muslim leaders joined Imams and the London Faith Forum this week to urge more British Muslims to wear poppies and support Remembrance Day.

They want to drown out the marginal views of extremists like Choudary, who in a statement this week said that those who sell poppies today will “burn in hellfire tomorrow.”


British Future:

Veils in court: judges to be given guidance, says lord chief justice

November 5, 2013


The most senior judge in England and Wales has disclosed plans to launch a consultation on whether veils can be worn in court as he warned the issue had become highly divisive.

At his first press conference since taking up his judicial post last month, the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, also suggested that in future criminal defendants might be able to take part in preliminary hearings from home via Skype or FaceTime video systems on their computers.

The former justice secretary, Ken Clarke, at the weekend stirred the controversy over the niqab by declaring that a fair trial could not take place if a defendant is “in a kind of bag”. In September, a judge ruled a Muslim woman would be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but said she must remove it while giving evidence.

Thomas said: “The best way for dealing with this matter is to make a practice direction … The basic principle will be that it must be for the judge in any case to make his own or her own decision but we will give clear guidance.

Asked if he envisaged defendants appearing from home, he said: “I can see it happening for pre-trial hearings – whether one could go any further would depend – but certainly pre-trial hearing stage is one place we have to make changes.” We have to look at solutions that are innovative and will bring down the cost of litigation because we can’t afford to go on as we once did.”


The Guardian:

House of Commons Debates Sharia Councils

23 April 2013


On Tuesday, 23 April, the House of Commons held a debate on the role of sharia courts in the United Kingdom. With frequent reference to the BBC “Panorama” program on sharia councils which aired the previous evening, Kris Hopkins (Conservative MP for Keighley) sought clarification of the Government’s position on sharia councils and a guarantee that these council would not be allowed to constitute an alternative judicial system. Citing evidence presented in the BBC documentary, Mr. Hopkins raised particular concerns over the unequal treatment of women in matters of arbitration and divorce and called for the prosecution of those suspected of wrongdoing in these affairs.


Helen Grant, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, stated plainly that “Sharia law has no jurisdiction under the law of England and Wales and the courts do not recognize it” and that “there is no parallel court system in this country, and we [the Government] have no intention of changing the position in any part of England and Wales.” Both Mr. Hopkins and the Government were careful to emphasize Britain’s proud tradition of religious tolerance and voiced a strong determination to protect the rights of all British citizens.


Mr. Hopkins was motivated to broach the issue in Parliament at least in part by a statement from the Bradford Council of Mosques calling for the formalization of sharia councils. The MP expressed particular concern over calls for government recognition of sharia councils. However, local Muslim groups were quick to distance themselves from such a position. Mujeeb Rahman, a member of the Keighley Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, asserted that U.K. Muslims do not want a separate judicial system and that sharia councils in the U.K. would benefit from operating in a more rigorous legal framework.

Helpline Finds Most Victims of Islamophobia are Women

9 March 2013


Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), an official hotline established in February of 2012 with the intent to help quantify instances of anti-Muslim violence, found that of the more than 630 incidents reported in the hotline’s first 12 months of operation, the majority of victims were women.


58% of the incidents reported to Tell MAMA targeted Muslim women. Most of these incidents were characterized by the hotline as “abusive behaviour,” with 74% of these acts perpetrated online. The majority of public physical assaults were characterized as “random” in nature and directed primarily toward women wearing Islamic clothing.


The majority (54%) of the perpetrators were linked to far-right groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP). Of the instances reported, three-quarters of the perpetrators were men with an average age between 21 and 34.


These results emerge in the wake of a Chatham House report which found wide support for the claim that Islam and Muslim communities pose a threat to the nation.


The first results recorded by Tell Mama shocked Fiyaz Mughal, the hotline’s coordinator, who issued a call to public officials to combat what he referred to as a “shameful wave of fear and prejudice.” Currently, only the City of London police and the Metropolitan police record anti-Muslim crimes separately, a practice Mr. Mughal would like to see expanded. 2,000 hate crimes directed towards various religious communities in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales were reported to police officers in 2011, though officials are unable to determine exactly how many of those were perpetrated against Muslims.

Muslims ask for exclusion from gay laws

17 December 2012


Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which is an umbrella organization that represents 500 mosques across the UK, has strongly criticized the new government initiative to pass a law which would allow gay marriages to take place in religious establishments. According to the law however it is illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to conduct same-sex weddings.


The MCB statement found the law “utterly discriminatory” as it does not provide a similar exemption for Muslims. Farooq Murad, the Secretary General of the MCB said:


‘We find it incredible that while introducing the bill in the House, culture secretary Maria Miller could keep a straight face when offering exemption for the established Church while in the same breath claiming, “fairness to be at the heart of her proposals”… It is not just the ‘Church of England and Church in Wales’ who “explicitly” stated strong opposition’ as Mrs. Miller says, the Muslim Council of Britain along with most other faith groups also made equally strong representation… no one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law. It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions.’

Ministers expect the legislation to take up to 12 months to get through Parliament.

Conservative Party MPs, including ministers, will get a free vote amid private fears that at least 40 per cent of Tory MPs oppose the plans. Labour has also granted its backbenchers a free vote, in a surprise move.

uk-gay-muslim-500 photo by Andrew Hodges