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7th October, 2005

Turmoil in Pakistan

by Al-Hack at 4:15 pm    

Our insensitive jerk from Pakistan is still paralysed over dealing with religious extremism in the country. When the fuck is he going to pull his head out of the sand? Eight died and over 20 injured when gunmen opened fire as worshippers from the Ahmadiyya sect in Punjab state.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said: “We condemn this attack. Any act of violence in which innocent people are killed should be condemned.”

Shahbaz Bhatti, head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, also condemned the killings, but said the government had failed to protect minorities.

In Pak, this doesn’t happen just to Ahmadiyyas, but also frequently to the Shias. Pakistan also had its first gay marriage, but its unlikely to open a flood of others.

On hearing of the wedding, a tribal council told the pair to leave the area or be killed for breaking religious and tribal “values and ethics”.

I’m more worried about the fact that the old man was buying the young kid. Hmmmm…

Filed under: South Asia, Religion
6th October, 2005

Muslims demand more change to something!

by Sunny at 6:47 pm    

Every week a new controversy comes up where Muslims have supposedly asked for something to be banned or changed.

But examine each issue and they are mostly either conjured up by the media or the result of “well-meaning but misguided” individuals.

The result is that Muslims are villified even though most are unaware of these controversies or, going by online chatter, scarcely care for them. In all of the cases I mention, there was no consultation or a grassroots campaign - just media hype.

Yet newspapers and blogs jump on board with another excuse to bash Muslims. Shouldn’t “liberals” be rising above it?

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Where is the love?

by Sunny at 5:10 pm    

Leslie from the new blog Points of Jew makes a good point:

I remember going along to an event organised by London Mayor Ken Livingstone a couple of years and I recall both Jews and Muslims there. But they didn’t really talk to each other.

At this time of year when both Jews and Muslims are having holy days, where are the joint events? Why hasn’t the Board of Deputies wished well the Muslim community during Ramadan and likewise, why hasn’t the Muslim Council of Britain wished the Jewish community well during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Ahhh, but that would be too much to ask for wouldn’t it?

Filed under: Religion
5th October, 2005

Tariq Ramadan and Amartya Sen

by Sunny at 12:42 pm    

The Guardian yesterday published a long-awaited interview with the scholar Tariq Ramdan, worthwhile reading. His best points are always on integration.

He picked apart the Islamic scriptures and considered the laws of liberal democracies, and concluded that both were flexible enough to coexist.

But to realise this, everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, had to be able to accept that their values might be different from those of people around them, but that they were still part of one society. He calls it “psychological integration”.

However, her makes a very good point also about Muslims becoming overly defensive and retreating back to their communities than engaging in debate over important issues (MCB take note).

It’s a seductive idea of tolerance and understanding. But when Muslims are being accused of terrorism and extremism, what is easier: to retreat into the safety of their own community, or work their way into the wider society? It’s a difficult psychological leap, Ramadan agrees. “We need an intellectual revolution. First it’s about education. It’s about self-confidence. Don’t look at yourself as part of a marginalised minority. At the moment, there is a ‘protect yourself’ mentality among Muslims. But the best way to be respected is to give something to your society. To give value and presence.”

He also makes a point about the Iraq war that many who support it try to skirt around.

“Of course there is a relationship between what is happening internationally and here. In one of the videotapes, [a bomber] said: ‘You are killing our brothers in Baghdad, we are going to kill you here.’ He is wrong. What he said is unacceptable. But he is building a political link. So give political answers. It’s not right to say this is a Muslim problem. It’s a political problem.”

Another article worth reading is the one written by Amartya Sen, the nobel peace Economics prize winner and generally a fantastic dude, published in the launch issue of Prospect magazine ten years ago. They’ve put it online to celebrate their 10th year. [Link]

Update: Madeleine Bunting has been asked to interview Al-Qaradawi by the Guardian, so that should be interesting to look out for, in about a month’s time.

4th October, 2005

It’s festival time

by Sunny at 2:42 am    

Happy Navratri, Ramadan Mubarak and happy Rosh Hashanah to you religious folk!

Filed under: Culture, Religion
3rd October, 2005

Quick web round up

by Sunny at 9:06 pm    

I wrote an article for the Independent, which was published today, on how Asians who want to do comedy on TV still suffer from stereotyping (taking the example Anil Gupta who produced The Office).

The BBC is investigating whether its coverage of Israel-Palestine is biased towards either side as both sides keep claiming (via PointsofJew).

Adloyada has written something nice (for once?) on Muslim-Jewish dialogue, and points out, thankfully, that Irshad Manji and Salman Rushdie are not a good place to start with.

London’s Evening Standard refuses to apologise for wrongly accusing a Muslim bookshop-owner of peddling hatred and carrying extremist literature even after being proved wrong..

Finally, Riz has written a funny piece on The Real Man Fraternity on Gillette continuously expanding the number of razor blades in their products; SA writes on Turkey and the EU; the Globalisation Institute has an interesting piece on Sumo going global.

Any other news or blog entry you want to flag up? Do it below!

1st October, 2005

Why Bali will continue to be a target

by Rohin at 7:05 pm    

Today the small Indonesian island of Bali was rocked by bomb attacks on two popular tourist areas, killing at least 22. BBC Coverage.

Bali is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Nowadays, post-Jason Donovan and Ricky Martin, it’s known for its tourist trade as much as it is for its natural wonders. One can only hope that it doesn’t develop a new, darker claim to fame. However I fear that Bali may become one of the most popular targets for Islamist terrorists.

For those who believe in the supremacy of their warped Islamic beliefs, Bali represents a triple-whammy. Three reasons to target the jewel in Indonesia’s crown.

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MCB plans another BBC complaint after Panorama rejects previous accusations

by Sunny at 5:26 am    

The war of words between the Muslim Council of Britain and the BBC has escalated again after the Panorama editor published a detailed response to accusations that their documentary on August 21st, A Question of Leadership, was “deeply unfair” and made to undermine the organisation.

The BBC published a detailed response yesterday by Mike Robinson of Panorama. In response:

MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala told the BBC News website: “We are not at all satisfied with Mike Robinson’s response and will be taking this up further by writing to the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit.”

There is so much to say about this controversy, I don’t know where to start. Funnily enough, the MCB quoted me too in their complaints.

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Filed under: Media, Religion
23rd September, 2005

When is a ‘terrorist’ simply a ‘radical?’

by Al-Hack at 10:47 pm    

So, a brother tries to blow up a holy place of worship and kill everyone in it, you might call him a ‘bloody terrorist’. So I’m a bit intrigued as to why the LA Times decided to simply call Earl Krugel a ‘Jewish radical‘ when he was sentenced to 20 years for trying to blow up a Los Angeles mosque and the office of a US congressman of Lebanese descent. Reuters goes as far as calling him a ‘militant Jewish activist‘. Don’t push it too far guys!

So the question is, when does he make the jump to being a terrorist? Or is that a term exclusively reserved for Muslims these days, just in case people get confused? Anyway, he got 20 years so its not all bad news.

But there is another comparison to make, as Brett Lock does. When Krugel and his comrade Irv Rubin were arrested in 2001, calling themselves the Jewish Defence League, the Anti-Defamation League of America condemned them unequivocally. They accused the two of promoting a “gross distortion of the position of Jews in America” and of fear-mongering.

They did not, like the MCB, or Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, or the monkey who runs the Birmingham Mosque (aka Mohammed Naseem), try to justify their actions by trying to make excuses for what might have motivated them. Point well made.

16th September, 2005

‘Allah’ ice cream banned by Burger King

by Sunny at 2:14 pm    

The Sun has a bizarre story today (thanks Laura) about Burger King recalling its ice-cream cones that have a swirly design that offends some Muslims.

The design on the lid apparently looks like the word ‘Allah’ in Arabic.

One customer told the Sun the design was “sacreligious”. BK says: “As a result of feedback our supplier is amending the design.” MCB’s Inayat Bunglawala: “We commend the sensitive and prompt action to prevent any hurt being caused to the religious sensibilities of others.”

It beggars belief that the Muslim Council of Britain keep giving credence to these stupid stories with their own quotes. For god’s sake, it only gives the impression that all Muslims are hyper-sensitive. BK should never have changed this, I haven’t seen a single campaign or email about this issue.

Filed under: Media, Religion

An irrational fear of all things Muslim?

by Al-Hack at 4:18 am    

I cannot be arsed to write a full piece on this, but this article by Haroon Siddiqui in the Toronto Star (via IW) shows how liberals sometimes work themselves into a lather just because Muslims are involved. He talks about the Sharia controversy in Ontario of course.

Faith-based arbitration for Muslims was not going to be sharia, even if one proponent said so. The term suited the critics just fine. They raised the red herring and the platitudes flowed: Multiculturalism was eroding common values. The line separating church and state was being erased. Theocracy was being grafted onto Canada.

As amusing as some of this has been at one level, at another it has been Islamophobic and deeply divisive, as Tory leader John Tory said Sunday.

Without really understanding what was at stake here - people seem to have conjured up pictures of women getting stoned in public randomly. I thought only conservatives were capable of irrational hysteria.

So, here’s the sum total of a year-long debate that has left Ontarians polarized: We will ban faith-based rulings from going to the courts where they were not going anyway. And we won’t allow the sharia that was not coming.

We are into this la-la land because we are engendering an atmosphere of fear and mutual hostility that we used to consider un-Canadian.

Not that anyone will get off their moral high-horse now.

Filed under: Culture, Religion, The World
13th September, 2005

So who’s side are you on, punk?

by Al-Hack at 3:44 am    

Okay this is quite a funny one. On the weekend Sunny linked to a Sunday Times story pointing out that Labour is considering making Holocaust day more inclusive to appease the MCB. Insert words of angry rumblings by Jewish groups here.

Except, some Jewish blogs have decided instead to take pot-shots at journalist Abul Taher too. Haha! If only they knew…

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Filed under: Media, Religion
12th September, 2005

Canada’s Shariah experiment opens religious can of worms

by Al-Hack at 5:24 pm    

A political storm is brewing, and getting bigger, over in Canada over Ontario’s decision to let Shariah law courts settle family disputes.

Protests have already been held around the country and more are planned in North America and Europe.

The government is only giving Muslims the same rights that Jews and Catholics already have. Those opposed argue that the move will lead to discrimination against women.

Sick of the hoo-haa, Canada is now planning the sensible thing - banning all religious courts. Catholics and Jews ain’t too happy.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture, Religion
10th September, 2005

Sania Mirza told to cover up by fatwa

by Sunny at 3:38 pm    

What is with little known Muslim clerics with too much time on their hands who keep telling other (usually women) what to do? First there was the Liverpool Islamic Institute lackey demanding Muslim girls withdraw from the Miss England contest.

Now, the Sunni Ulema Board, some organisation in India, has declared tennis star Sania Mirza should cover up because she is leading a bad example for other girls. Mirza recently became the first woman from India to enter the world top 50 after winning the Women’s Tennis Association title in her home city of Hyderabad. ‘Sania mania’ has gripped not only India, but the diaspora all over the world, with almost running commentary on her on Sepia Mutiny.

Haseeb-ul-hasan Siddiqui, a leading cleric with the Sunni Ulema Board, has issued the fatwa because of her “indecent dressing” on the court and in advertisements. “The dress she wears on the tennis courts not only doesn’t cover large parts of her body but leaves nothing to the imagination,” he said.

Clearly someone’s imagination is running wild. Mirza is known for her funky t-shirts. At a New York press conference last week she wore one saying ‘I’m cute?’. At Wimbledon, where she was getting all the publicity despite losing early, her top said: ‘Well-behaved women rarely make history’. With a top like that you can almost miss her nice legs *cough*
Google News stories.

Coming back to the point, don’t these people have better ways to spend their time? They could be enjoying the publicity, or have little concept of individual choice.

7th September, 2005

More Belgian schools ban headscarves

by Sunny at 1:24 pm    

United Press International reports today that two more Belgian schools will ban Muslim students from wearing headscarves when the new school year begins in September.

Marie Arena, education minister for the French Community, ruled Thursday that both schools can ban any ostentatious religious symbols, Expatica reported.

“The minister, having checked that these projects don`t breach the rights and liberties in our country, believes educational teams should be trusted,” the minister`s office said in a statement. “It`s they who, on a daily basis and on the ground, are best at acting on the interest of pupils and for the good organization of schools.”

A lawyer representing parents whose children would be affected by the ban at the two schools said officials had not tried to work with the parents or discuss the issue with them. About 70 percent of Belgium`s French-speaking schools now have similar rules.

This is not a good development because if Belgium also takes this policy up officially, it might spread to other European countries. It will also affect the Sikh community, who are also fighting the government ban in France.

Update:Harry’s Place also points out these two recent incidents:
1) A Moroccan woman living in a small town in Belgium has triggered a national debate on multiculturalism after refusing to obey a municipal injunction to stop wearing a burqa. Story here.
2) Hostility to the headscarf ban has sort of fizzled out in France a year after it happened. Most have just accepted it and carry on, according to the Times. OR maybe they want to give that impression.

6th September, 2005

Mistaken Identity - Sikhs under siege?

by Sunny at 2:38 am    

The Guardian published an interesting article yesterday about the strain felt by non-Muslim Asians since the London bombings. While all the focus has been on Muslims since, attacks on Hindus and Sikhs have apparently been forgotten.

I’m a bit disappointed by the article though, since it concentrates more on the growing chasm between Sikhs and Hindus on one side - Muslims on the other, rather than attacks on the former. Typically it has ‘religious leaders’ grinding their own axes.

In the weeks following July 7 it was widely reported that hate crimes against Asians had increased dramatically. They were not just attacks on Muslim Asians, of course: they were attacks on Asians of all faiths. The fact is that your average hate-crime perpetrator isn’t going to stop and ask what religion you are before attacking you - or even care, for that matter, about such distinctions. But this point seems to have been lost on the media. There’s been a huge focus on the impact on Britain’s Muslim community, but the plight of Britain’s 560,000 Hindus and 340,000 Sikhs has been largely ignored.

To start with, the debate on whether these t-shirts or bags with the logo are right is not a new one. We had this furious debate already on Barfi Culture. It surfaced after 9/11 too when Sikhs held a vigil outside the American embassy in London (incl. my brother I’m ashamed to say) with t-shirts saying ‘Sikhs are not Muslims’…

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Filed under: Culture, Religion
3rd September, 2005

The battle for Islam

by Sunny at 5:31 am    

I’ve always liked Ziauddin Sardar. He doesn’t sit around complaining of Zionist conspiracies and he says what he wants to - usually as a liberal commentator. It’s too bad he doesn’t get more involved in politics than the occasional cultural commentary and provide a more sensible alternative to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

By the way, he has written over 40 books on science and technology and Islam, most recently co-authoring ‘Why do People hate America’ and ‘American Dream, Global Nightmare’.

On Monday 5th Sept he will be presenting a primetime documentary on BBC2 - Battle for Islam - looking at how Islam is changing around the world and evolving with the people. He travels to five countries - Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia and Malaysia - to see how changes there are affecting the lives of ordinary Muslims.

In an article for the Guardian this week he said reform was Islam’s best kept secrets.

Islam is changing. But if you want to notice this change, you have to turn your gaze away from the threat of terrorism, the horizon of Islamophobic nightmares, the illegal militarised regime change and the morass of enforced democracy building. Islam has actually changed radically.

In Morocco, for example, women’s activism provoked the king to initiate a wholesale revision of Islamic law related to family affairs. A new sharia, derived from original sources by scholars and fitted for the 21st century, has been promulgated. Published editions of the new Islamic family code are best-sellers and a matter of earnest popular debate.

A similar redrafting of the sharia has been undertaken by a group of reform-minded scholars in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. The end of Suharto’s 30-year military rule has seen an outpouring of debate. Groups like the Liberal Islam Network are challenging the most central prop of Muslim movements: the idea that Islam provides a set of ready-made answers for all times and circumstances.

Ijtihad, it seems, is slowly coming back into fashion, which can only be a good thing.

Conservative Asians have a bad habit of believing that changing religious practice is a bad thing because it is deviating away from the religion. What they don’t realise is that Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism have long traditions of theological debate that encourages re-interpretation of the religious scriptures. This needs to change.

Update:RizwanD writes in to say that Channel 4 is showing a documentary tonight titled ‘The Road to 9/11′ at 8pm, “Examining the forces that have shaped the modern Middle East and yielded a crisis that now threatens global stability.”

Sidenote: Mediawatchwatch points out that the MCB is complaining to Ofcom over the Panorama programme. Let’s see if they get anywhere.

Filed under: Religion
2nd September, 2005

London bomber’s video airs on Al-Jazeera, someone tell B’ham mosque!

by Sunny at 2:19 am    

Al-Jazeera has aired a tape from one of the suicide bombers behind the 7th July attacks. A clearly brainwashed Mohammad Sidique Khan reckons he was a “soldier” and was inspired by Osama Bin Laden. The 30 year old came from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire and was the one who blew himself up at Edgware Road station - killing 6 people and injuring 120.

Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood. I and thousands like me have forsaken everything for what we believe.

Until we feel security, you will be our targets. Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.

BBC has the story and you can watch the video there too. CNN has the full text of the video.

There isn’t a lot to say here other than this was bound to turn up sooner or later. MCB spokesperson Inayat Bunglawala said it was “obscene” to suggest justice for the people of Iraq could be obtained by committing an act of injustice against the people of London.

There is never an excuse for acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. However, this tape does serve to confirm that the war in Iraq has indeed led to the radicalisation amongst a section of Muslim youth.

What about those leaflets by Hizb ut-Tahrir? Do they not lead to more radicalisation?

The best comment comes from grieving boyfriend of Neetu Jain (killed in the blasts), a Muslim guy called Gous Ali, who says “I just want to go on national television myself and expose their lies. It’s all brainwashing by some wacko scholar who believes his own version of the Koran and has made it his own battle.” Join the queue brother.

The big question now is, who is going to give the bad news to Dr Mohammed Naseem? The chairman of Birmingham’s Central Mosque declared on 26th July that there was nothing to prove that Muslims carried out bomb attacks in London on July 7 and 21. He also said Al-Qaeda didn’t exist.

Maybe someone can also tell Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri, who’s video came on straight after Sidique Khan’s - claiming responsibility for 7/7 and threatening new attacks.

Update: A reader emails in to alert us that al-Zawahri had a previous stint on Channel 4!
Ayman al-Zawahri on Channel 4

Another update: Dr Mohammed Naseem was grilled on the BBC Asian Network on Friday about his comments. Unsurprisingly, he tried to wiggle out of it by saying that the video must have been doctored. You can listen to the interview from here, fast-forward by 1hr 47 min.

Filed under: Media, Religion
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