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    4th April, 2011

    EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh faces excommunication by global Sikh authorities

    by Jai at 9:00 am    

    Further to the recent joint statement by multiple British Sikh and Hindu groups condemning the English Defence League (EDL) and any Sikhs who support them, the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh has been given an ultimatum by the Sikh signatories involved: He must publicly renounce the EDL by the end of the major Sikh festival of Vaisakhi on 14 April 2011.

    Failure to do so will result in the matter being formally escalated directly to the most senior global Sikh authorities at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, India, who will be requested to issue an excommunication order to permanently expel Guramit Singh from the worldwide Sikh faith. As an ultimate sanction, this could result in him being formally declared a pariah to be ostracised by the world’s entire Sikh population, including being formally stripped of his right to be called a Sikh, along with being permanently banned from every Sikh temple in the world.

    As confirmed by the extensive list of signatories involved, this action is endorsed by the British Sikh population, including numerous influential Sikh temples & organisations across the United Kingdom, particularly in London and Birmingham. This includes the two largest Sikh temples outside India — one of which involves the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, which was given an award last year by the Queen for its exceptional humanitarian activities and is run by “Bhai Sahib” Mohinder Singh, one of the most senior and respected Sikh figures outside India. Bhai Sahib was previously discussed on Pickled Politics here and here, and has been involved in interfaith bridge-building activities on an international scale, including efforts to counteract the increasing bigotry towards ordinary Muslims in Britain in recent years. Bhai Sahib was also responsible for escorting the Queen around the Golden Temple during her visit to Amritsar in the late 1990s.

    In complete violation of core Sikh tenets, Guramit Singh has been heavily involved in the EDL’s persecution of ordinary Muslims en masse whilst explicitly representing himself as a Sikh and claiming to be acting in the name of Sikhism, including deliberately modifying & grossly distorting sacred verses by the Sikh Gurus in order to “inspire” EDL members present during his foul-mouthed public speeches demonising Muslims, Islam and the Prophet Mohammad. Guramit Singh’s excommunication would therefore be entirely in line with historical precedents during the time of the Sikh Gurus along with the temporal authority permanently bequeathed to the Khalsa by the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. As recently discussed on Pickled Politics, it has also been confirmed that one of the EDL’s founders is a convicted criminal for downloading child pornography, and that the EDL itself has multiple links to international terrorists.

    Continue Reading...
    14th March, 2011

    Poppy-burning extremist’s dad served 14 years in the Navy

    by Sunny at 9:40 am    

    Kudos to the Daily Mail for actually showing the other side of the extremist caricature it frequently perpetuates:

    The father of a Muslim extremist who burned poppies on Remembrance Day served in the Royal Navy as a police officer for 14 years, relatives have claimed. Mohammed Gouse Miah, 85, is said to be devastated by the actions of his estranged son Emdadur Choudhury, who was fined a paltry £50 by a judge for setting light to poppies and yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’ during the two-minute silence on November 11 last year.

    When he came to England, he worked for London Underground and later for British Rail as a ticket collector. Mr Miah, who is now retired, lives with his wife Hamida in a council flat in Bethnal Green,East London.

    9th March, 2011

    A growing campaign to defend Usama Hasan and free speech

    by Sunny at 2:55 pm    

    A group of people, including Yahya Birt, have set up a group on Facebook to rally people in support of Usama Hasan (background here):

    In the case of Dr Usama Hasan, an imam at Masjid Tawhid in Leyton, London, who has been persecuted and victimised, we call upon religious scholars, imams, mosque committees, Muslim community organisations and Muslim communities as a whole to reaffirm the following principles so that we may strengthen the basic conditions for civilised and principled Muslim community life:

    1. No imam or member of the Muslim community should be subjected to hate speech, intimidation or threats of violence on any matter regarding beliefs or religious rulings as this is contrary to the law of the land which British Muslims are bound to uphold, and most essentially that, under Islamic teachings and etiquette, mob rule has no legitimate place within our community life.

    2. No religious scholar or any ordinary Muslim has the legal jurisdiction to declare any fellow Muslim outside of the faith of Islam (takfir) in the United Kingdom, and furthermore that they are duty bound to affirm freedom of religious conscience which is upheld in the United Kingdom.

    3. Those who have made takfir of Dr Usama Hasan or who have acted in an intimidating or abusive fashion towards him must publicly retract their statements of takfir immediately and offer an unconditional public apology.

    4. That there is a positive duty to uphold the etiquette of differences of opinion, and to condemn those who actively promote hatred and division within our communities. We should all affirm the necessity of developing a mature and wise ethos within Muslim communities so that we may handle matters of controversy with tact and wisdom in recognition of our great diversity.

    5. All matters of mosque governance should conform to the Charity Commission’s guidance or any other relevant legislation, and no ad hoc measures should be undertaken in contravention of these rules or legislation in either letter or spirit.

    Those are good points that should apply generally too. I hope more people will stand up against this disgusting attempt at physical intimidation.

    Update: The MCB have also released a statement condemning the threats.

    Filed under: Islamists,Religion
    7th March, 2011

    Dr Usama Hasan and the campaign against him

    by Sunny at 12:05 am    

    Last week I blogged about a campaign against the London-based imam Dr Usama Hasan, by a group of Muslim fanatics. The fanatics wanted to oust him from his mosque in Leytonstone for talking about evolution, and saying women should be free not to cover their hair.

    Some clarifications for those already following the story. It turns out that the letter I posted saying he had been ousted was a fake, circulated by the fanatics to make it look like it came from the Mosque. It didn’t. Dr Hasan still remains the imam there, though the fanatics are still after him.

    The story has been picked up the Indy and the Guardian too.
    From the Guardian:

    Hasan, who has taken out extra security on his house where he lives with his wife and four children, said he was adamant he would not be leaving the mosque, although he would not be returning to give prayers for the time being.

    “I’m not leaving,” he said. “I’ve been here for 25 years and I fear that the mosque could fall into the hands of extremists. There are plenty of other mosques in the country that have gone that way. My supporters [at the mosque] don’t want that and are encouraging me to stay to fight our corner.

    “I’ve stopped giving prayers because they were interrupted by outsiders who were making some women members feel intimidated. Most people come to the mosque once a week for a quiet space to pray and find peace and inspiration and I want to respect that.”

    Inayat Bunglawala, chair of Muslims4UK, a group promoting Muslim engagement in British society, said there was “widespread ignorance” about evolution among the Muslim community. “Many traditional imams are grounded in ancient books in Arabic but have very little grounding in science. I find it staggering how they can be so strongly opposed to evolution without reading about it. That seems to be opposite of the very first commandment of the Qur’an, which is to read,” Bunglawala said.

    I’m going to keep an eye on this story to see how it develops.

    3rd March, 2011

    Anjem Choudhary and mates latest publicity stunt: ‘Shariah 4 America’

    by Sunny at 3:51 pm    

    Remember Islam4UK? They got banned but came back as ‘Muslims Against Crusades’. Before that they were Al-Ghuraaba and before that Al-Muhajiroun.

    Yes, it’s Anjem Choudhary and his 20 idiot mates back to their old publicity stunts again. Previous luminaries from this mob includes Abu Izzadeen and Omar Bakri (now reportedly hiding in Lebanon).

    Anyway, their latest project publicity stunt is: Shariah 4 America. The best I can say for them is they have some competent graphic designers who are good at putting the bejeesus into any Tea Party nutjob.

    You can tell its the same lot because they have a prominent ‘media enquiries’ page which links to a mobile number (07956 600 569) frequently given out by Anjem Choudhary & co.

    Right-wingers are already hyper-ventilating, even though the chances of any of these chumps being able to fly across to the US are less than nil. I hope the US national media pay less attention than the over-the-top reaction British journalists usually exhibit.

    Update: Yup, its Choudhary in front of the camera! Explaining why they’re ‘postponed’ their demonstration. (via @xbatasi).

    Filed under: Religion
    2nd March, 2011

    Mosque expels Imam for preaching evolution and moderation

    by Sunny at 9:30 am    

    This is very worrying. Leyton Mosque in London has expelled its imam Dr Usama Hasan for holding a lecture titled ‘Islam & Evolution’ and saying the two were not incompatible.

    He has also reported to have said in the past that Muslim women should be allowed to uncover their hair in public. You see read their letter here. (via Padraig Reidy)

    The website MuslimPolitics reports:

    In its announcement, the Mosque stated that the controversy first escalated following a declaration in late 2010 by a visiting Saudi cleric, Shaykh Salih al-Sadlan, that the Mosque congregation should not take part in prayers led by Dr. Hasan.

    Just days before his dismissal from the Mosque, Dr. Hasan published a statement stating that his “Islam and Evolution” lecture was “disrupted by a small mob of fanatics”. He also clarified his views on the subject in order, he says, to answer the “many vicious lies and slanderous statements [that] are circulating in some sections of society.”

    This is deeply troubling because it looks like we have Saudi nutjobs running McCarthyite campaigns against sensible and moderate Imams in the UK. I knew / know Dr Hasan from his time at City Circle. I’m glad he took a robust stance against these people and did not let them shout him down… but the actions of the mosque are utterly cowardly and worrying.

    Update: It seems the letter was ‘premature’ in that the people who wanted him ousted lost the vote to oust him. This letter may be fake… Dr Hasan remains an imam at the mosque I’m told… but there was/is definitely a campaign to oust him.

    Update 2 The Mosque has released a statement saying:

    This is an announcement by Masjid Al Tawhid & Sh[eikh] Suhaib Hasan that both have nothing to do with the so-called ‘Save Masjid Tawhid’ website.

    In other words, that letter was not by them.

    Filed under: Religion
    22nd February, 2011

    More Middle East demonstrations in favour of religious freedom

    by Rumbold at 10:45 am    

    After this, and this, now Tunisia is seeing protests in favour of religious harmony between Christians, Jews and Muslims:

    As many as 15,000 of the demonstrators on Saturday were protesting against Tunisia’s Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance a day after the Interior Ministry announced a Polish priest had been assassinated by an extremist group and following verbal attacks on Jews.

    “We need to live together and be tolerant of each other’s views,” said Ridha Ghozzi, 34, who was among the protesters carrying signs and chanting slogans including “Terrorism is not Tunisian,” “Religion is Personal” and “Muslims, Christians, and Jews – we’re all Tunisians.”

    8th February, 2011

    Recent anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks

    by Rumbold at 9:37 am    

    The Community Security Trust, a group which monitors anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in Britain, has reported a 31% drop in attacks in 2010, compared to 2009. Nevertheless, this good news is tempered by the fact that the number of attacks, 639, is still the second highest number since the Community Security Trust (CST) began reporting (and the 2009 figure was distorted by the war in Gaza). Part of the rise in the last two years (compared to historical averages), is no doubt in part down to a widening of the reporting net, with the CST now monitoring the internet as well. Even so, there was still plenty of physical assaults and verbal abuse too. The CST’s remit is quite narrow, as they deliberately exclude anti-Israeli attacks, and focus on incidents where it can be shown that an individual’s religion was the cause of the incident. This avoids the disingenuous argument that these attacks mostly occur because people dislike Israel’s policies, with the implication that if Israel behaved Jews would be safe.

    Peter Oborne, in the wake of Baroness Warsi’s speech on Islamophobia, asked where the Muslim equivalent of the CST is. He then went on to list a number of recent attacks on Muslims he managed to find in just a few hours, including:

    Police arrest four more men following attack on Mosque: Police have arrested four more man following last month’s attack on Kingston Mosque. The men were arrested yesterday on suspicion of involvement in the disorder and damage at the mosque in Park Road on Sunday, November 21. Elderly worshippers were terrified when a group of men tried to smash windows and threw beer and bacon at the building. (Kingston Guardian, 8 December 2010.)

    Why have I written on both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks? It is not to downplay the importance of either, or create a ‘league table’ of attacks. Rather it is because these attacks highlight the similarities of the abuse that ordinary Muslim and Jewish victims suffer: the broken windows of a religious house; the crude religious component to attacks; the hateful language; and the self-righteous justification of a number of attackers.

    4th February, 2011

    Now Christians protect Muslims in Egypt

    by Rumbold at 2:11 pm    

    After the uplifting scenes in Egypt during Coptic Christmas, when Muslims formed human shields to protect their Christian brethren at mass after terror attacks on Copts, Christians have returned the favour during prayers, protecting Muslim protestors who were worried about attacks from pro-Mubarak thugs.

    (Via: Maylor)

    3rd February, 2011

    British Sikh and Hindu groups release joint statement condemning EDL

    by Jai at 9:00 am    

    A number of the largest Sikh and Hindu organisations in Britain have formally released a joint statement forcefully condemning the EDL and any Sikhs who join them. The latter is of course particularly applicable to the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit (sometimes known as “Amit”) Singh; he was also one of the EDL members interviewed by BBC’s Newsnight as part of a documentary about the group which the programme showed earlier this week. As previously discussed on Pickled Politics, Guramit himself is currently being prosecuted by the police for “intentionally causing religiously aggravated harassment alarm or distress, under Section Four of the Public Order Act 1986”, following a public speech by Guramit which included the following remarks:

    “I’m going to tell you precisely right now what threat of Islam is. Muhammad and Islam is not a religion… Muhammad was a paedophilic pirate… Islam, in not just this country but around the world, has been using their disgusting threat, their threat has been going on for 1400 years, “if you do not bow before Muhammad and his so-called Allah, you are to be beheaded”… Hitler had fuck all on Muhammad.

    The Koran and the Hadiths is written in Arabic. Muslims are not allowed to be taught Arabic in the mosque. Muslims are told, “do not question what your Imam says, although they don’t even know what the Imam’s saying, because the Imam’s just a “Allah, fuck it”. Stick your Allah up your arse, you cunt. Fuck em, fuck em, fuck em. I’m not being funny, fuck em. I may get arrested for this shit, but fuck em, fuck em, I’m not having it, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em.”

    The speech is available on Youtube. Guramit has also previously boasted on his Facebook page about his murderous hatred of Muslims:

    “the muzzies wanna keep away from me im just looking for an excuse im fucked off at the mo fuck the pakis … i just think we shud burn the cunts now!!”

    Continue Reading...
    28th January, 2011

    Bulleh Shah, “blasphemy”, and Pakistan

    by Jai at 9:00 am    

    Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Salman Taseer (the assassinated Pakistani Governor of Punjab), recently wrote a poignant Guardian CiF article about her father’s murder which also mentioned Bulleh Shah:

    “My father was buried in Lahore on 5 January under high security. Cleric after cleric refused to lead his funeral prayers – as they had those of the sufi saint Bulleh Shah – and militants warned mourners to attend at their own peril. But thousands came to Governor House on that bitterly cold morning to pay their respects. Thousands more led candle-lit vigils across the country. But the battle is not going to be over any time soon.”

    Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) is one of the most famous and revered Sufi Muslims in South Asian history; he was also one of the historical role models of the late Pakistani Sufi Muslim singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his family, who have themselves been Sufis since the medieval period. The saint’s shrine is in the Punjabi city of Kasur, now in Pakistan, and can be seen in the photo at the top of this article.

    Continue Reading...
    21st January, 2011

    The hysterical reaction to Sayeeda Warsi’s speech

    by Sunny at 10:47 am    

    Sayeeda Warsi was of course right to say that Islamophobia has become the last piece of accepted bigotry in the UK. You only have to read the right-wing press and their continuing obsession with ‘Muslim demographics’ to see the obvious. The Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express and even the Spectator don’t even bother hiding it.

    Also predictable was the hysterical reaction from the same quarters: ‘ZOMG how dare she insult us all!!!‘. As usual, Peter Oborne, about the only intelligent and worth-reading Tory left in the British press, has it spot on:

    What she said yesterday has desperately needed saying by a mainstream politician for a very long time. I know this because, over the past few years, I have visited many Muslim communities and spoken to scores of Muslim leaders. With very few exceptions (such as Anjem Choudary, the fanatic who tried to organise a protest march by British Muslims through Wootton Bassett) they are decent people. Many have come from countries which persecute their citizens and trash human rights. So they are even more keenly aware of what it means to be a British citizen.

    But – and this is why what Baroness Warsi has to say is so important – British Muslims get spat at, abused, insulted and physically attacked. Vandalism and mosque burnings are common, and often unrecorded. The far?Right in Britain has changed its nature. In the 1980s, organisations such as the National Front and the BNP concentrated their hatred and odium on blacks and Jews. Today, racist organisations such as the English Defence League focus on Muslim immigrants.

    Over at the Spectator, they’ve gone with the ‘OMG, she didn’t clear that speech with No. 10!‘. I wonder why the Spectator had that reaction huh?

    Over at Harry’s Place, Edmund Standing patronisingly claims that Warsi’s comments are a ‘gift to Islamists‘ and cites several Muslims who he thinks would disagree. Except that, er, Mona Eltahawy has tweeted it approvingly and the Quilliam Foundation have come out in support of her comments. Nice try.

    Now the narrative has become that Warsi is accumulating enemies within the Conservative party and will soon be turfed out. I highly doubt it. Tories hysterically jump from applauding her like the next coming of Christ when she says something they agree with, and take out the knives when she doesn’t. I suspect the more liberal Cameron team are less jumpy about this than the ideological Tory frothing-at-the-mouth activists who inhabit the online discourse.

    Filed under: Religion
    20th January, 2011

    Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 2

    by Jai at 9:00 am    

    This article follows on directly from Part 1, which detailed the Mughal crown prince Dara Shukoh, his philosophy and his interpretation of Islam. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below.

    Shah Jahan temporarily fell ill during the late 1650s. False rumours spread, claiming that he had died and that Dara Shukoh was now the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb exploited this as an opportunity to grab power by mobilising his own military forces, ignoring his sister’s urgent correspondence confirming that their father was indeed still alive and that Aurangzeb was therefore committing an action of treason, and eventually imprisoned Shah Jahan opposite the Taj Mahal. During the resulting war of succession, Dara Shukoh was given some military assistance by the 7th Sikh Guru during one of the battles, but the prince was ultimately defeated later in the conflict, as Aurangzeb had greater experience as a military commander and was a far more ruthless individual. Dara’s weakened wife had already died while the family had been attempting to reach the safe haven of Persia, and Dara sent her body with an armed escort to Mian Mir’s shrine in Lahore for burial nearby.

    The 44-year-old Dara Shukoh and his 15-year-old son Sipihr Shukoh were captured after being betrayed by an Afghan “ally” they’d sought refuge with (ironically, Dara had previously saved the Afghan from being executed by Shah Jahan). A few days later, Dara was humiliatingly paraded through the Mughal capital of Delhi, resulting in a huge outcry from the city’s inhabitants due to his immense popularity. He wouldn’t even survive for a single day afterwards, because Aurangzeb could see that Dara’s popularity amongst the mass population posed a severe risk of a huge uprising against the fanatical regime attempting to engineer a political coup, and Dara was also a clear final barrier to his own desire for the imperial throne.

    Aurangzeb had access to some ultraconservative mullahs sympathetic to him, and rapidly had his brother impeached, declared an “apostate”, and sentenced to death on trumped-up charges of “heresy”. On the night of 30th August 1659, Dara Shukoh was unceremoniously beheaded in his prison cell, in front of his young son Sipihr, although Dara had put up a fight to try to physically defend himself. Dara’s older son Suleiman Shukoh was also eventually captured; as per Aurangzeb’s instructions, over an extended period of time the incarcerated Suleiman was gradually poisoned by being fed large quantities of opium extracts which, after effectively lobotomising him, ultimately killed him.

    Continue Reading...
    19th January, 2011

    Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 1

    by Jai at 9:00 am    

    The recent murder of the Governor of Punjab in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, and the increasing escalation of visible religious extremism in that country brings to mind a notable historical precedent, involving a major figure in South Asian history who was also the governor of Punjab for a time. There are some serious implications for both Pakistan and the rest of the world if history is allowed to repeat itself.

    The painting at the top of this article, commissioned circa 1650, depicts the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, meeting the crown prince Muhammad Dara Shukoh (sometimes also spelt “Shikoh” or “Shikuh”). Dara Shukoh is the figure standing on the right.

    Dara Shukoh, born in 1615, was Shah Jahan’s favourite son and nominated heir. Like most of the major Mughals during their reign in India, Dara was a liberal patron of music, dancing and arts (an example of an album of pictures he personally painted as a gift for his wife Nadira Banu can be viewed via the British Library); Dara was also closely affiliated with the Qadiri Sufi order, especially the Muslim saint Mian Mir, who had been invited by one of the Sikh Gurus to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The land for the temple complex and the city of Amritsar itself had been granted to the Sikhs by Dara’s great-grandfather, the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, justifiably known as Akbar the Great.

    Dara Shukoh himself was similarly heavily involved in promoting religious moderation, friendship and understanding between people of different faiths; with the assistance of some Hindu Brahmin priests, his activities included translating more than 50 of the most important ancient Hindu scriptures (especially the Upanishads) from Sanskrit into Persian so that Muslims could understand them better, with the intention that this would prevent unwarranted prejudice based on ignorance. Dara’s translations later proved invaluable in helping colonial-era Europeans understand the Hindu texts concerned, as they were originally more familiar with Persian than Sanskrit.

    Continue Reading...
    17th January, 2011

    The religious Muslims campaigning against Al-Muhajiroun

    by Sunny at 4:00 pm    

    A video from Luton, where a group of conservative Muslims are actively campaigning against the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun (aka ISlam4UK, Muslims Against Crusades).

    Update: Jerome Taylor at the Indy wrote a piece about one of the organisers in 2009.

    Filed under: Islamists,Religion
    10th January, 2011

    Egyptian Muslims protect Copts at church

    by Rumbold at 11:09 am    

    After the recent murderous attacks in Egypt on the Coptic Christian minority, thousands of Egyptian Muslims, outraged by these attacks (which many believe are due to foreign terrorists), have banded together to protect Copts at church:

    Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside. From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

    “We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea. Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

    (Hat Tip: A PP reader)

    25th December, 2010

    Merry Christmas

    by Jai at 8:30 am    

    According to Christian tradition, today marks the birthday of Jesus Christ. Christianity actually has a very long history in the subcontinent; there have been settled communities of Christians in India for hundreds of years longer than there have been Christians in northern Europe (including Britain). Thomas the Apostle is also believed to have been sent to India by Jesus to spread his message; St Thomas is buried in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Apocryphally, there are some unconfirmed legends of Jesus visiting Buddhist monasteries in northern India and Tibet during the “missing years” between his childhood and his early thirties.

    More recently (relatively speaking), several of the Mughal emperors, who were all Muslims, were particularly broad-minded about Jesus, Christianity, and Christian artefacts.

    For example, the arch over the gateway to the main mosque in Akbar the Great’s old imperial capital near Agra displays a quote attributed to Jesus; a large mural of the Nativity was displayed in Akbar’s sleeping chambers; and Jesuit missionaries were allowed to set up a chapel within the imperial palace itself.

    Akbar’s son & successor Jahangir, who owned a large carving of Jesus on the Cross, kept large-framed pictures of Jesus and the Madonna in his own sleeping quarters.

    In fact, Jahangir appeared to be so amenable to Christian theology that Jesuit missionaries mistakenly believed that he was on the brink of formally converting from Islam right until the very end. During the reigns of Akbar and Jahangir, missionaries built churches at several locations in the Mughal Empire, and Christians were free to openly celebrate major festivals such as Christmas and Easter.

    Multiple paintings and murals depicting various aspects of Jesus, Mary and Christian saints were commissioned by the Mughals, and were displayed not only on the walls of the palace but also on Mughal tombs and caravanserais. The picture at the top of this article is a painting of the Nativity, created during the reign of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah, circa 1720. During the 1850s, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s own physician formally converted to Christianity, to which the emperor simply replied that the man’s faith was his own private matter and “there was no cause for shame in what he had done”.

    In modern-day India, Christmas is a major national holiday.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: History,Religion
    22nd December, 2010

    Anjem Choudhary and mates behind ‘xmas is evil’ stunt

    by Sunny at 5:12 pm    

    The Daily Mail has found the ‘war on Christmas by Muslims‘ it always wanted. The news report is practically salivating at their amazing find. I went to www.xmasisevil.com - it doesn’t work but redirects to islamicrevival2010.com - run by Al-Muhajiroun / Islam4UK.

    Just to be clear, all Anjem Choudhary and his mates needed to do was set up a blog, put up a few posters, send the pictures and link to the Daily Mail. Job done
    via @mjrobbins

    Update: Oh look, Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick has also demanded they be ripped down. Now, I don’t really care for stunts etc, but when will it occur to this obnoxious MP that the best strategy is to ignore these idiots rather than fuelling tabloid rage / extremist stunts?

    Update 2 The Daily Mail has also recycled its ’40% of British Muslims want Sharia and to kill us all’ story from 2008. Martin Robbins has dissected the dishonest way it’s reported.

    Filed under: Religion
    21st December, 2010

    The bigger tragedy behind the assault on Afshan Azad

    by Sunny at 6:32 pm    

    The story of young actress Afshan Azad, assaulted by her brother because her boyfriend was not Muslim, has hit the headlines because she starred in Harry Potter.

    But there are thousands of girls like her every year who aren’t able to tell anyone their story. They don’t just face domestic violence, but are sometimes forced into marriages to avoid any further such embarrassments. In extreme cases she could also be the victim of “shame” based violence.

    Afshan Azad’s ordeal is common, and not just prevalent among Muslims.

    When my mother found out I was dating a Muslim girl while at university, I faced a stern, disapproving talk about how she wouldn’t tolerate me marrying a Muslim girl (yes,most Asian parents are obsessed with marriage). But I got off lightly.

    One night a group of Sikh guys came to our university and stabbed (in the leg) a Muslim guy who had been going out with a Sikh girl. In stark terms they told him to ‘leave our women alone.’

    Continue Reading...
    1st December, 2010

    Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so

    by guest at 5:02 pm    

    A guest post by Hannah Mudge:

    Today Christian Concern launches its ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign. This new intiative hopes to provide an opportunity for Christians in the UK to spend December standing publicly for their faith, due to concerns that Christianity is being erased from the public domain.

    Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has declared his support for Not Ashamed – on its website and in national newspapers - by speaking of the way Christianity is being ‘airbrushed’ from UK life, using examples of Christmas cards proclaiming ‘Season’s Greetings’ (forgive me if I’m wrong but cards like that have been around for decades, right?) and local councils using the word ‘winter’ instead of ‘Christmas’, which as we all know is part of our old favourite – the Winterval myth – the festival which, despite having only ever happened in one city in 1997 and 1998, continues to outrage tabloid readers every single year.

    Just recently I’ve become aware that Christian Concern is a sister organisation of The Christian Legal Centre, which is, to be honest, not a group I’d want to align myself with. CLC and its director, self-described fundamentalist Andrea Williams - have been on the radar for a while but in the past few years they’ve received much more attention with regard to the debate on abortion and also due to court cases involving Christians who feel they have been discriminated against because of their faith.

    The CLC and another group, The Christian Institute, have represented some of these people – such as Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who refused to officiate at civil partnerships due to her beliefs and lost her religious discrimination appeal. Other cases receiving media attention in recent months have been those of BA employee Nadia Eweida - who plans to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights – and nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended from her post after offering to pray for a patient who was worried that others might be uncomfortable with this. Mrs Petrie later returned to work.

    The inevitable focus on these cases – primarily covered by the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, have prompted a host of accusations that Christians are now being victimised by the law and by society, which is supposedly favouring minority groups at the expense of a faith group which has been a major part of British life for centuries. In October, a group of seven prominent clerics wrote to the Telegraph, warning that Christians’ freedom to express their faith is at risk. (more…)

    19th November, 2010

    Tabloids lie about Muslims (again) PCC does nothing

    by Sunny at 3:09 pm    

    In late October the Daily Mail ran with this story:

    Cafe owner ordered to remove extractor fan because neighbour claimed ‘smell of frying bacon offends Muslims’
    A hard-working cafe owner has been ordered to tear down an extractor fan - because the smell of her frying bacon ‘offends’ Muslims. Planning bosses acted against Beverley Akciecek, 49, after being told her next-door neighbour’s Muslim friends had felt ‘physically sick’ due to the ‘foul odour’.

    Councillors at Stockport Council in Greater Manchester say the smell from the fan is ‘unacceptable on the grounds of residential amenity’.

    You can predict the I’m outraged! These Muslims are taking over! comments. Given that the Telegraph has also become a tabloid rag, it followed up with a re-write of the same story. As did the Metro.

    The article was dissected by Tabloid Watch, which pointed out:

    But then it becomes clear that the complaints about the smell coming from the cafe’s extractor fan were not from random passing Muslims. Indeed, the planning application details appear to show that there was just one official complaint - and that was from the person who lives next door to the cafe:

    Notice he says the smell makes him ‘physically sick’, not his Muslim friends, as the Mail claimed in the second paragraph. And yes, he does mention his ‘Muslim friends’ couldn’t ‘stand the smell’. But using the term ‘Muslim friends’ strongly implies he’s not actually Muslim himself - if he was, it’s likely the Mail would have mentioned it somewhere.

    But of course that’s not how the Daily Mail and Telegraph wanted the narrative to be. They wanted it to be about Nasty Muslims Banning Our Way of Life.

    Anyway, after the Tabloid Watch blog went up, three people decided to complain to the Press Complaints Commission.

    The PCC has now cleared the Mail, on the grounds that, “readers would not be misled as to the circumstances surrounding the refusal for planning permission.”

    As Roy Greenslade points out - that is not the impression one gets from reading the comments in the article, which are aimed squarely at Muslims. Not only does the PCC downplay the importance of the misleading headline, but assumes people will actually read between the lines and get what the real story is. They don’t.
    But there is one comment on the original DM article worth highlighting:

    I am the neighbour who complained! Well done DM for asking for my comments on the matter, but if you had there would be No Story To Print! This vent is affecting my children’s health and that is why the council denied planning!

    Yes, I have some Muslim friends who it offended, but nothing was said about my English friends who avoid my house within opening hours of the shop!

    Shame on you Daily Mail. You have stirred up lots of racial tension in my area now, so for you its ‘mission accomplished.’

    Mission accomplished indeed. It’s worth noting these incidents of mainstream bigotry go largely unremarked in our media culture except one or two small places.

    Filed under: Media,Religion
    9th November, 2010

    Questions about the judge in the Roshonara Choudhry case

    by Sunny at 10:00 am    

    There’s an interesting blog here by Tom Leonard:

    The airwaves and the newspaper columns are presently awash with reports on the case of 21 year old Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed Labour MP Stephen Timms in the stomach as an act of revenge because he had voted for the bombing and invasion of Iraq.

    Mr Justice Cooke sentenced her to a minimum of 15 years. The tabloids are full with the to-be-expected wordstock about her being “warped”, “brainwashed” “evil” and so forth. And the judge wasn’t slow with the “evil” word himself. He told her “I hope that you will come to understand the distorted nature of your thinking, the evil that you have done and planned to do, and repent of it. You do not suffer from any mental disease. You have simply committed evil acts coolly and deliberately.”

    It wasn’t that word “evil” that struck me as a little odd, rather the word “repent”. Even more somewhat pointed it struck me, that in the trial of a Muslim, the judge should also say ‘I understand that he (Mr Timms) brings to bear his own faith, which upholds very different values from those which appear to have driven this defendant. Those values are those upon which the common law of this country was founded and include respect and love for one’s neighbour, for the foreigner in the land, and for those who consider themselves enemies, all as part of one’s love of God. These values were the basis of our system of law and justice and I trust that they will remain so as well as motivating those, like Mr Timms, who hold public office.’

    Could this judge possibly be telling this young woman to remember that this country of ours is a Christian country, and she ought perhaps to repent of her infidel ways? Surely not! But my curiosity had been aroused enough to start doing a bit of Googling on Mr Justice Cooke, who turns out to be Jeremy Cooke, who was a rugby blue at Oxford before becoming a solicitor in 1973, eventually being appointed a High Court judge in 2001.

    But that wasn’t the only lofty position he was to attain. Just two years later in 2003 Jeremy was appointed vice-president of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, whose website exhorts lawyers “ to think about joining LCF as an act of commitment that as a Christian lawyer you share in our mission to influence lawyers and the law for Christ… We believe that every Christian involved in the practice, administration, teaching or study of law in Britain, should become a member of LCF so that we can work with you and for you in your calling as a Christian lawyer…. we will work with you and support you in the exciting challenge of being a lawyer for Christ.”

    Of course - this doesn’t take away the heinous of the crime and there’s no doubt that Choudhry should have been sent to prison. But I was a bit taken aback by this. It’s a bit worrying if religion is brought into meting out judgements.

    Read the whole post here.

    Filed under: Religion
    5th November, 2010

    Happy Diwali

    by Jai at 8:30 am    

    Today is Diwali, popularly known as the “Festival of Lights”.

    It is celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus (often jointly), although the historical origins of the festivals in their respective religions are different. In Sikhism, the festival commemorates the return of the 6th Sikh Guru Hargobind to the city of Amritsar after his imprisonment in Gwalior Fort by the Mughal emperor Jahangir, as the Golden Temple along with the whole city had been decorated with lamps to celebrate the Guru’s return. Sikhs also refer to Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas, meaning “Day of the Release of Prisoners”, as the Guru had arranged for 52 royal political prisoners to be simultaneously freed from the fort. A photograph of Diwali celebrations at the Golden Temple complex a couple of years ago is displayed at the top of this article.

    North Indian Hindus in general celebrate Diwali primarily to mark the return of the Hindu deity Rama to the city of Ayodhya after his victory over Ravan, as described in the Ramayana. Many Hindus also celebrate the festival for a range of other reasons, including offering prayers to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi so that she blesses their families with prosperity during the following year. Public decorations of lights to mark the occasion are common worldwide wherever there are sizeable Hindu populations. Incidentally, last year Barack Obama was the first US president to personally celebrate Diwali in the White House.

    Some suitable music:

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Hindu,Religion,Sikh
    24th October, 2010

    A school that forces women to wear the niqab is attacking tolerance

    by guest at 8:15 pm    

    by Tehmina Kazi from British Muslims for Secular Democracy

    The website of the Madani Girls School in Tower Hamlets is replete with slogans about “educating for an Islamic life.” Amidst all the glittering reports of a 100% pass rate at GCSE, and a recent OFSTED inspection where inspectors praised the school for the “motivated staff and the enthusiastic and polite nature of the pupils,” one section lies conspicuously blank: school uniform policy.

    This school - as well as the Jameah Al Kauthar in Lancaster and Jameah Girls’ Academy in Leicester - came under fire this weekend for insisting that all girls must wear a niqab (face-veil) when travelling to and from school.

    The Sunday Telegraph, having captured the Madani Girls School uniform policy before it was removed from their website, confirmed: “The present uniform conforms to the Islamic Code of dressing. Outside the school, this comprises of the black Burka and Niqab.”

    Nobody is calling the school’s outstanding results into question; they go some way towards justifying the £1,900-a-year fees that parents have to pay (in cold, hard cash as opposed to cheques, which the school refuses to accept).

    It goes without saying that tolerance is a two-way street, which is why an absolute ban on niqab in public spaces was always going to be a bad idea.

    However, it is disingenuous for niqab advocates to use the language of choice and empowerment when advocating their religious freedoms, then to deny these same concepts to young girls in the same breath. It is one thing for a mature adult to make a decision about covering her face in public, but quite another to impose a face-covering onto girls as young as eleven.

    Continue Reading...
    13th October, 2010

    President of Islamic Sharia Council claims there ‘cannot’ be rape in marriage

    by Sunny at 10:30 am    

    This is astounding. The excellent blog The Samosa have done an interview with the head of the UK’s Islamic Sharia Council, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed. Note - this isn’t an official body, they just call themselves that. Nevertheless, they do handle case where both parties have agreed to have their civil dispute dealt with by a Shariah court in the UK.

    Chaminda Jayanetti reports:

    I asked Sheikh Sayeed whether he considered non-consensual marital sex to be rape. “No,” he replied. “Clearly there cannot be any ‘rape’ within the marriage. Maybe ‘aggression’, maybe ‘indecent activity’.”

    He said it was “not Islamic” to classify non-consensual marital sex as rape and prosecute offenders, adding that “to make it exactly as the Western culture demands is as if we are compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values.”

    The Islamic Sharia Council handles very few cases of alleged marital rape – Sheikh Sayeed said there had only been two or three such cases since the Council was founded in 1982. It is therefore unlikely that the Council’s views on this issue, or those of Sheikh Sayeed himself, directly impact upon a significant number of marital rape victims.

    He claims there have only been two or three cases, but there may have been more, which are quietly buried. And this is the problem I have with Shariah courts: unless they at least mirror national criminal and civil law on the important issues, there will be abuses like this.

    A Muslim woman raped within marriage, especially one afraid to go to the police or to courts, could be pressured to just go to a Sharia court where the offence may be buried. And who would know or do anything about it?

    Sayeed goes on to say:

    Because within the marriage contract it is inherent there that man will have sexual intercourse with his wife. Of course, if he does something against her wish or in a bad time etc, then he is not fulfilling the etiquettes, not that he is breaching any code of sharia – he is not coming to that point. He may be disciplined, and he may be made to ask forgiveness. That should be enough.

    I’m sorry but regardless of his interpretation of Islamic law - British law is clear that even within marriage, a man does not have automatic right to have non-consensual sex with his wife. Such a stance is in blatant contradiction of British law. The head of the Sharia Council needs to resign.

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