Dutch Mosques Release Statements of Tolerance

August 1, 2014

The Netherlands’ Council of Mosques and the Union of Dutch Moroccan Mosques are emphasizing tolerance and opposing anti-Semitic sentiment. Both organizations are concerned with increases in violence and expressions of hatred towards Jews and Muslims. The Council of Mosques has adopted a declaration expressly criticize Muslims guilty of anti-Semitic incidents. Regarding such incidents, a spokesman for the Islamic organizations commented that “there are many people who claim to use the freedom of speech. We are not opposed, but in this country we have to be protective of one another.”

According to the mosques, it is not prohibited to criticize Israel, but this is not a license for anti-Semitic nor anti-Muslim statements or actions. The declaration reads, “Jews in the Netherlands are brothers of the holy book and maintain a fraternal relationship”.

According to the spokesman for the organizations, almost all mosques in the Netherlands are working along with the declaration.

CAIR-NY Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Attack on Muslims Outside Mosque

July 21, 2014

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today called on law enforcement authorities and public officials to investigate an alleged attack on Muslim worshippers on their way to prayers at a Brooklyn mosque as a possible hate crime.

On Friday evening, witnesses say passengers in a Lexus drove by the Tayba Islamic Center shouting anti-Muslim slurs, including “This is for your Allah,” and threw eggs at several members dressed in traditional Muslim attire. A 70-year-old Muslim in traditional Pakistani attire and wearing an Islamic Kufi (scullcap) was reportedly hit in the chest by an egg.

“We urge law enforcement authorities and elected officials to investigate this apparent hate crime and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice,” said CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadyia Khalique. “Public officials need to send the message that our community will not tolerate acts of hate or attacks on houses of worship.”

Germany: Dismissal because of headscarf

July 10, 2014

A hospital in the city of Dortmund has nonretained a nurse because of her decision to wear a headscarf. The thirty six- year-old nurse decided to wear a headscarf after returning from her second parental leave. Manager Günther Nierhoff explained that the headscarf ban for hospital staff is well known and openly communicated: “We employ a great deal of nurses and doctors which are Muslims”. The manager emphasized that this procedure has nothing to do with discrimination since the hospital offers a room for silence and a special washroom for Muslims.

German ZMD statement concerned with the war in Palestine

July 17, 2014

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) issued a statement concerned with the continued bloodshed in the Holy Land. It called upon the European Union as well as the United Nations to undertake their utmost to cease the extrajudicial killing and collective punishment of the Palestinian civil population taking place in Gaza. Likewise the ZMD utterly condemned the kidnapping and killing of four innocent teens (3 Israeli and 1 Palestinian). Finally, the statement called upon all Abrahamic communities in Germany and Europe to distance themselves explicitly from any forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism as well as appealed to the media to give an unbiased and unprejudiced account of the conflict.

 

 

Muslim woman harassed by men in Paris

July 17, 2014

Just before midnight on July 3 a veiled Muslim woman was returning to her home in Paris’s banlieue. As she approached her home two men began to harass her. They began to push and insult her, saying “‘We’re going to make you break Ramadan, we’re going to make you try pork and drink alcohol, we’re going to show you what it is to be a submissive woman,’” the woman reported. “‘One of the two put his foot on my head, while the other kicked my arms and stomach. The one who had the white hat began to straddle my chest’” and exposed himself to her saying “‘this is what a real man looks like.”

They continued to insult her and hit her and sexually harass her. “‘I told them that if they wanted my phone I would give it to them,’” she said. “’The one with the white hat took it and hit it against a railing. Then he threw it on the ground.’” Then one of them tore her veil off her head and “‘pretended to masturbate on it. He told me that from now on that was what my veil was good for. I heard laughter from farther away. The two men turned around and left immediately.’” Shocked, she remained in her house for over a week and has recently submitted a complaint for “sexual assault” and “aggravated violence.”

Women targeted in rising tide of attacks on Muslims

June 28, 2014

More than half of Islamophobic attacks in Britain are committed against women, who are typically targeted because they are wearing clothing associated with Islam, new data reveals. The figures of anti-Muslim attacks, compiled in the nine months following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013, come days after Saudi Arabian student Nahid Almanea was stabbed to death in Essex, with detectives believing that she may have been attacked because she was wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

In a study of calls to the Tell Mama hotline, which records Islamophobic crimes, academics at Teesside University found there were on average two incidents every day over the period. Victims reported a total of 734 incidents to the hotline between the start of May last year and 28 February 2014, broken down into 599 incidents of online abuse and 135 offline attacks – an increase of almost 20% on the same period the previous year. One aspect of the figures indicates an apparent lack of trust in police to deal with Islamophobic incidents, with one in six victims choosing not to report the incident to authorities.

The Teesside report, says more effort is required to foster greater trust between the Muslim community and authorities. “Supporting victims and encouraging them to come forward to report a hate crime remains the highest priority,” the report says. “Alongside addressing under-reporting, authorities should be encouraged to disaggregate hate crimes by strand, and to take seriously the increased incidence of anti-Muslim hate crime.”

The data also revealed that – unlike most incidents of hate crime, which overwhelmingly involve male perpetrators and victims – 54% of the victims of Islamophobia were female. One theory is that Muslim women are more “visibly” Muslim because of traditional clothing such as the hijab or abaya. The figures show that four in five victims attacked in the street or elsewhere were females wearing visibly Muslim clothing; almost the same proportion of alleged perpetrators offline were young, white men.

Overall, the data are in contrast to the trend for hate crime, with government figures showing the number of reported attacks falling. Other findings from the report confirm that a significant number of incidents reported to the hotline involved a link to far-right groups such as the English Defence League. A far-right connection was traceable in almost half of reported Islamophobic online abuse.

Saudi student may have been murdered because she was wearing a hijab

June 18, 2014

Detectives are investigating whether a Saudi student was murdered in a frenzied knife attack because her traditional Islamic dress marked her out as a Muslim. Nahid Almanea, a 31-year-old student at the University of Essex, was wearing a hijab and a full-length navy blue robe, called an abaya, when she was knifed to death on a footpath in Colchester on Tuesday morning. She died at the scene from injuries to her head and body, said police. Ms Almanea arrived in Britain several months ago with her younger brother to study at the university, according to a fellow student.

Nothing was stolen from Ms Almanea and police have asked residents living on the nearby Greenstead estate to check their bins for a discarded weapon. “We are also conscious the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion,” said Detective Superintendent Tracy Hawkings. A 52-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and was being held at a police station last night.

Officers are also looking at possible links with the murder of James Attfield, a vulnerable man with brain damage, who died after being stabbed more than 100 times at a park in the town in March. “There are some immediate similarities between this murder and that of James Attfield but there are also a large number of differences as well,” said the detective. “There is no current known motive for this attack and we are keeping an open mind and exploring all possible avenues of investigation.”

Dispelling myths about British Muslims

June 21, 2014

Many people have come to regard Muslims as a backward group of religious extremists estranged from wider society and incapable of coming to terms with what it means to be British. This impression has been heightened by misleading press reporting and inflammatory statements from senior politicians. The so-called “Trojan horse” controversy concerning an alleged Muslim takeover of Birmingham schools – based on what looks like a fabricated document – has brought fresh ugliness to an already putrid public debate.

There are elements of truth in the popular narrative about British Islam, but much of it is based on ignorance. A 2011 Demos survey showed that Muslims are more patriotic than other Britons (83 per cent said they were proud to be British as opposed to 79 per cent of the general population), and are more integrated than is often thought to be the case. So the publication of these two books could not be timelier. Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam by Innes Bowen and The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani.

Innes Bowen, a BBC radio journalist, has written an admirable and clear- headed study which has much to teach anyone with an interest in British Islam. She explains the beliefs, historical background and political engagement of the main Muslim sects and organisations: Deobandis, Barelwis, Tablighi Jamaat, Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, Shia and Ismailis.

Bowman dispels a long list of myths about the role of Saudi teaching in mosques, the influence of Iran among British Shia (very little), the connection between the doctrines of Tablighi Jamaat and terrorism (none), and the alleged shortage of British-born imams (there are plenty). Bowen’s book is gentle and optimistic. She suggests that over time there is no fundamental contradiction between Islam and the modern Western state.

Arun Kundnani has written a very different kind of work. It is angrier and more polemical. Yet it too is grounded in research from both sides of the Atlantic. The case studies from the United States are shocking. He shows how Muslims there can be ensnared by the FBI into so-called plots which have been devised by the US government, arguing convincingly that Islam has taken over the role of public enemy from communism. It dispels myths, pointing out that “there is no Islamic doctrine of ‘kill the unbelievers’ as anti-Islam propagandists often maintain. Islam, like other religions, provides a broad moral framework for thinking about questions of violence.” Again and again this book challenges your assumptions. It is worth reading for its examination of the word “extremism” alone. Martin Luther King, Kundnani points out, was denounced in this way. Kundnani is fiercer and more pessimistic.

‘Trojan Horse schools plot’: What was the Trojan Horse letter?

July 6, 2014

 

In March, an anonymous letter was made public that claimed to be a template illustrating how state schools could be taken over and pushed into adopting a more Islamic culture. The document – now thought to be a hoax – proposed a campaign of installing governors and undermining and then replacing school leaders with staff who would be more sympathetic to their religious agenda.

It refers to “Operation Trojan Horse” as the name of the alleged conspiracy. This classical allusion refers to using a device to get past the defences and to take over the school system from within. It was apparently intended for schools serving areas with a large Muslim population. The tactics it proposed had already been used in Birmingham, the Operation Trojan Horse letter claimed. It has emerged that Birmingham City Council, the Department for Education’s Extremist Unit, the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Unit and the National Association of Head Teachers were already aware of the letter.

A former head teacher at a Birmingham school said that such religiously-motivated, concerted attempts at forcing out heads had been taking place since the 1990s. Another head teacher said he had told the Department for Education (DfE) about the problem in 2010.

 

What are the claims?

There have been claims that boys and girls are being taught separately, assemblies have put forward extremist Islamist views and that a culture is created in which other religions are downgraded. Schools have rejected claims of extremism. There are also claims that teachers and head teachers have been discredited and undermined.

 

How seriously are claims of takeover plots being taken?

Michael Gove appointed former counter-terror chief, Peter Clarke, to investigate “the background behind many of the broader allegations in the Trojan Horse letter” for the DfE. Mr Gove says he expects to publish these findings in July. This appointment has created a controversy of its own, with the chief constable of West Midlands police calling it “desperately unfortunate” as people could draw “unwarranted conclusions” from Mr Clarke’s former role in counter terrorism. Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw took personal charge of the education watchdog’s investigations.

Khalid Mahmood, MP for Perry Barr, believes there are reasons to be concerned. “All the information I’m getting… is there has been a serious bid to take over most of the schools in the east and south of the city,” he said.

The National Association of Head Teachers says it takes the claims “extremely seriously”.

Tahir Alam, chair of governors at Park View School, says claims are “ridiculous”

How are the claims being investigated?

Including Ofsted’s, there are four investigations – carried out by Birmingham City Council, the DfE and the Education Funding Agency.

Ofsted said this was “new territory” – when it launched its biggest ever co-ordinated set of inspections over fears of extremism. It inspected 21 schools – a mix of primary, secondary, local authority and academies. They carried out unannounced inspections of a type which focuses on a single concern, rather than the overall quality of teaching and learning. When inspectors do not like what they find they have wide-ranging powers to intervene and order a change of direction.

The city council says that it is investigating 25 schools – prompted by more than 200 contacts from the public. An adviser has been appointed and there will be a review group of MPs, councillors, teachers’ organisations, police and faith leaders. But the politics of education have also become involved, with the council saying it is frustrated that it cannot investigate academies which operate outside of local authority control.

The government and Ofsted have produced an array of proposed changes to school governance after the publication of an inspection report on 21 Birmingham schools. Ofsted found “a culture of fear and intimidation” had taken grip in schools at the centre of the so-called Trojan Horse allegations.

The inspections followed claims in an anonymous letter that hard-line Muslims were trying to impose their views on some of the city’s schools.

Five have been placed in special measures, among them three academies from the Park View Educational Trust.

 

What are the main proposals?

Mr Gove said the government would require all schools to “promote British values” and would back Ofsted’s plan to introduce no-notice school inspections in England.

The chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, recommended:

  • Mandatory training for school governors
  • Changes to funding agreements for academies and free schools
  • An end to the exemption of free schools and academies from the national curriculum

 

What will happen to the five schools in special measures?

In his speech to the House of Commons, Mr Gove said the need for action was “urgent”.

Michael Gove Michael Gove says no pupil should be exposed to extremist views. “Academies will receive letters saying I am minded to terminate funding agreements,” he told MPs.

If this goes ahead, it would mean that Park View Education Trust, which runs Park View and two primary schools, would no longer receive funding to run the schools. The same will apply to Oldknow Academy. A DfE spokesman said this would be the first time this had happened. The DfE is awaiting a response from the trust and would have to find new sponsors for the three schools.

Mr Gove said the governors at local authority run Saltley School would be replaced. The Department for Education said Birmingham City Council had already started the process of imposing an interim executive board at Saltley. A sixth school, local authority run Alston Primary which has been in special measures since May, is already in the process of being turned into an academy “under a strong sponsor”, said the DfE.

 

How does the government define British values?

The prime minister defined British values as “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions”. David Cameron said he hoped these values would be inculcated in any school in Britain “whether it was a private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else”.

The Department for Education added: “We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”

 

How will British values be applied to all schools?

The Department for Education says the Independent School Standards, which apply to private schools, academies and free schools, already require schools to “respect” British values. It plans to consult shortly on tighter wording that will require schools to actively “promote” British values. The DfE says it is working with Ofsted on how inspectors will assess the new requirement. Ofsted will also update its training and guidance of inspectors.

School governors will be expected to play a role “in setting and securing an appropriate ethos and monitoring practice” in schools, says the DfE.

 

How might governors’ training change?

Training for governors is currently optional. It can be provided by local authorities or by the National College of Teaching and Leadership. The Department for Education and the National Governors’ Association (NGA) have both produced handbooks. The NGA says training is essential to help governors understand their complex and challenging role and responsibilities. Governors are expected to develop the ethos of the school, hold the head teacher to account and have financial oversight.

The NGA says the academies programme has brought more autonomy to schools so governing boards have more responsibility than ever and need training. “If a governor fails persistently to do this, then they will be in breach of the code of conduct and may bring the governing body or the office of a governor into disrepute – and as such provide grounds for the governing body to consider suspension,” said a spokesman.

 

How could the oversight of academies change?

Traditionally, local authorities have had a role in monitoring standards in the schools they control, acting as a “middle tier” between schools and the Department for Education. Now more than half of secondary schools are academies, funded directly by central government, free of local authority control and able to decide their own curriculum. Concerns have been expressed about the viability of Whitehall monitoring thousands of academies. The government is introducing regional schools commissioners and Head Teacher Boards to improve oversight of academies, while the Labour party proposes a network of regional school standards directors.

 

How did Home Secretary Theresa May become involved?

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Mrs May has raised concerns about the DfE’s handling of the allegations of extremism. She said concerns had been raised about the “inability” of local and central government to tackle the alleged problem in Birmingham’s schools. She also questioned whether Mr Gove’s department was warned about the allegations in 2010 and asked: “If so, why did nobody act?”

The two senior Cabinet members have now moved to dampen down speculation of a rift. They have taken the unusual step of issuing a joint statement insisting they are “working together” on the issue. Commentators are seeing the row as two Conservative heavy-weights jostling for position should there be any change to the party’s leadership.

 

How widespread is this problem?

The biggest inquiry so far is the council’s, which is looking at 25 schools in Birmingham, out of more than 400 in the city. The council says that it will also be talking to local authorities in Bradford and Manchester.

 

Sources:

The Guardian 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/06/michael-gove-defend-liberal-values-islamist-extremism

The BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-27020970

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-26482599

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27024881

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-27012861

The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/trojan-horse-row-teachers-suspended-for-refusing-to-impose-strict-islamic-model-9530535.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/trojan-horse-school-when-i-go-to-college-people-are-going-to-say-is-he-carrying-a-bomb-9517826.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trojan-horse-row-theresa-may-accused-of-writing-letter-slating-department-of-eduction-just-to-leak-it-9517286.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/trojan-horse-schools-ofsted-finds-culture-of-fear-and-intimidation-9515306.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/trojan-horse-schools-tried-to-fool-inspectors-ofsted-report-reveals-9511895.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trojan-horse-row-theresa-may-breached-ministerial-code-in-feud-with-michael-gove-over-extremism-in-schools-labour-claims-9509342.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trojan-horse-row-michael-gove-ordered-to-apologise-to-cameron-for-times-briefing-9507170.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/michael-gove-promises-to-push-on-with-controversial-school-reforms-9503822.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/gross-negligence-tristram-hunt-challenges-goves-handling-of-trojan-horse-schools-crisis-9503534.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/trojan-horse-pupils-not-safe-from-extreme-views-claims-ofsted-report-9494642.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/michael-gove-denies-war-with-theresa-may-over-antiextremism-strategy-9492098.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lib-dems-in-call-for-all-state-teachers-to-be-qualified-9533271.html

The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10963620/Trojan-Horse-hardliner-runs-teacher-recruiting-agency.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10956859/Ofsted-tougher-inspections-in-wake-of-Trojan-Horse-plot.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10949131/Trojan-Horse-plot-school-pays-campaigner-5000-in-public-money-to-thwart-Ofsted.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10949930/Trojan-Horse-Birmingham-council-ignored-warnings-for-12-years.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10892606/Trojan-Horse-debate-We-were-wrong-all-cultures-are-not-equal.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10883151/Trojan-Horse-plot-school-criticised-in-Ofsted-report.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10899804/Trojan-Horse-how-we-revealed-the-truth-behind-the-plot.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10900683/Ofsted-head-to-meet-parents-in-Trojan-Horse-plot.html

Anti-Terrorism bill: a departure from the principle of justice

July 10, 2014

Several aspects of the recent “anti-jihad” law, presented July 9 to the Council of Ministers, were judged unconstitutional by the Alain Jakubowicz, president of LICRA (International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism.) He declared: “Without objective evidence of the intention of a criminal act or without proof of deliberately planning to commit one” it would be “extremely complicated” to prevent someone from leaving France on the grounds that they are suspected of committing an act of terrorism. “How can one consider for a single second to restrict an individual’s freedom of movement based on suspicion?” asked Jakubowicz. “Honestly, it’s constitutionally impossible.

The bill, primarily aimed at preventing Frenchmen from leaving to fight in Syria, was called an “infringement even of the principle of justice.” “We would find ourselves in the situation where intelligence services, the Minister of the Interior, the administration, would say to the judges: ‘Believe me, I’m telling you that this person is dangerous,’” stated Jakubowicz.

The president of LICRA said that the government must also “reflect on its measures to prevent jihadists from coming back.” When asked about the possibility of Internet shutdowns of sites that glorify terrorism, the president said the problem was “more nuanced.” He spoke of the “risk of opening Pandora’s box and the direct threat to freedom of expression.”