UK: Muslim community shuns women released from prison, says report

Of note. Likely varies within the different Muslim communities:

The Muslim community in Britain shuns women who have been to prison while forgiving convicted men, “no matter what they’ve done”, according to a report.

Female former prisoners told researchers, Muslim experts in the criminal justice system, that they suffered a “conspiracy of silence” after being released from jail, having to hide or move away in order to not bring shame on their families.

“Our situation is made that much more worse because we are women and within our community being a woman caught up in crime is one of the most unacceptable things that can happen to a family, regardless of the reasons. There is a more forgiving attitude towards Muslim men who offend,” say the former convicts in a foreword to a report by the Muslim Women in Prison rehabilitation project, which calls for a “cultural shift in the community’s approach to women’s criminality and also a fundamental shift in the institutions in their treatment of Muslim women”.

The Muslim Women in Prison project worked with 55 women on their release from HMP New Hall and Askham Grange, two Yorkshire jails, helping them reconnect with their families – or to start a new life if that was impossible.

One woman, speaking at the launch of the report in Bradford on Monday, described how her family would make her hide upstairs if they had visitors, following her release from prison five years ago after serving seven and a half years of an indeterminate public protection sentence.

In a film made to accompany the report, the mother of one jailed woman said that Muslim men could be convicted of “10 crimes – they could even kill someone” and they would be accepted back into the community, while her daughter and others were ostracised.

The report describes how women of Islamic faith serve an “unfair community sentence” upon release, when they are shunned by their community – “in contrast to the liberal and sympathetic treatment that Muslim men are often given”.

The authors, Sofia Buncy and Ishtiaq Ahmed, say that “izzat” (honour) plays a disproportionate role in British Muslim life: “Defamation of the family name, particularly by a female going to prison, can be the ultimate calamity on the good name, status and the social standing of the family.

“This can potentially result in marginalisation of the family by others – people no longer wanting to associate with them. Worse still, people may not wish to sustain existing or new marriages ties into the family, thus ruining family aspirations.”

One father told them: “What would people say if we took her back? I have other daughters of marriageable age. Who would want to ask for their hand knowing she lives in the house?”

One client at Bradford’s Khidmat Centre, where Muslim Women in Prison runs its resettlement programme, said: “People are usually very unforgiving if you’re a Muslim woman coming out of prison. A lot of the time we are cut off by family and community so no one else wants to bother with us either. Men are just able to come back out and fit in no matter what they have done.”

Other women told researchers that the Islamic faith was “sometimes unjustifiably used to maintain family norms and traditions which are based more on cultural and patriarchal constructs”.

Imran Hussain, a Bradford Labour MP who is the shadow justice minister, hailed the report as “groundbreaking”.

“It’s fine civil servants in London writing their reports about different communities … but this is a report where communities themselves take ownership of some very difficult and complex situations,” he said.

But Julie Siddiqi, a veteran campaigner, said the “elephant in the room” was that Muslim community leadership was still very male-dominated. She said: “If we are talking about community-led solutions, if we think that one-third of mosques don’t even have a space for women to pray, we have a long way to go … Unless we change the leaders in our communities, this work isn’t really going to get embedded properly.”

The proportion of prisoners in England and Wales who are Muslim has increased from 8% in 2002 to 15% in 2018, despite Muslims making up 5% of the general population. The proportion of Muslim women in jail increased from 5.2% in March 2014 to 6.3% in March 2017, when there were 251 incarcerated, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Source: Muslim community shuns women released from prison, says report

Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

Not unique to the UK, both in terms of coverage and which outlets have greater negative focus:

Most coverage of Muslims in British news outlets has a negative slant, according to a major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain, which concludes that news stories in the mainstream media are contributing to Islamophobia.

The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes – above an already-high industry average of 59%.

The New Statesman, Observer and Guardian were the least likely to portray Muslims in a negative light, according to the analysis of 11,000 articles and news broadcasts during the final three months of last year.

The findings come amid growing scrutiny of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and whether its roots lie in rightwing media coverage. A YouGov poll of Tory members by the campaign group Hope Not Hate found that 60% believe “Islam is generally a threat to western civilisation” and more than half believe “Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life”.

Source: Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

Hier les italophones, aujourd’hui les musulmans

On the politics of anti-immigration sentiment and a reminder that earlier waves also were affected:

Avec la marginalisation du Parti québécois et le remplacement du Parti libéral par la CAQ, nous assistons à un cycle politique caractérisé par l’alternance sans réelle alternative, en conformité avec l’ordre néolibéral. Ce gouvernement nationaliste de droite élu par 25 % de l’électorat, si l’on tient compte des abstentions, a recours à une recette éprouvée pour, à la fois, consolider et légitimer son pouvoir : détermination d’un problème réel ou imaginaire (la laïcité), élaboration d’une rhétorique alarmiste (retour du religieux) et désignation des responsables du problème (les musulmans). Les stratèges de François Legault n’ont rien inventé. Il y a une cinquantaine d’années, le mouvement nationaliste de l’époque s’est servi de la même recette mais avec d’autres ingrédients : la langue française, l’anglicisation et les italophones.

Il a fallu près d’une décennie pour que le psychodrame linguistique, se déroulant aux dépens des Québécois d’origine italienne, se dénoue enfin par l’adoption de la loi 101. Les relations entre ces derniers et les francophones se détériorèrent à tel point, et pendant si longtemps, que la méfiance et le ressentiment eurent raison de Giuseppe Sciortino, candidat péquiste dans Mercier, lors de l’élection précédant le dernier référendum. Il fut obligé, in extremis, de céder la place à un francophone d’ascendance canadienne-française à la suite de manoeuvres douteuses. Récemment, Michel David, chroniqueur au Devoir, écrivait que la présence de Sciortino, avocat éminemment ministrable au sein du futur gouvernement Parizeau, aurait probablement apporté au camp souverainiste les 45 000 voix qui lui manquaient pour remporter le référendum de 1995. Le nationalisme mesquin et revanchard est parfois suicidaire.

Aujourd’hui, ce sont les musulmans, en particulier les musulmanes, qui ont le mauvais rôle. Pourtant, il y a une vingtaine d’années, près des deux tiers des Québécois étaient contre l’interdiction du voile islamique. Selon un sondage récent, ils sont maintenant au moins autant à vouloir l’interdire. Pourquoi ce revirement ? Nul besoin d’être un exégète de Gramsci pour savoir que l’adhésion à un projet politique ou de société (ou perçu comme tel) est précédée par une longue période de propagation des idées et d’imprégnation des esprits auxquelles contribuent, consciemment ou non, de nombreux acteurs sociaux. En France (source d’inspiration pour certains Québécois) comme ici, politiques, chroniqueurs et essayistes se sont employés avec autant de ferveur que de constance à élaborer une rhétorique hostile à l’immigration et à la diversité culturelle — assimilée au multiculturalisme trudeauiste pour mieux la dénoncer — tout en souscrivant au mythe du choc des civilisations : une idéologie servant, entre autres, à dénigrer l’islam. Partout en Occident, l’islam est devenu l’ennemi à abattre. Le Québec ne fait pas exception. Il faut être d’une grande naïveté pour croire que le projet de loi 21 existerait sans la présence des musulmans.

Nationalistes conservateurs

Ce discours n’aurait pas eu autant de succès sans la contribution, depuis le tournant du millénaire, de nationalistes conservateurs, défenseurs d’une nation ethnoculturelle qui, craignant sans raison valable « la tyrannie des minorités » et « le reniement de soi », poursuivent, tout en le niant, la chimère d’un Québec assimilationniste et homogène. Il y a de cela aussi dans l’interdiction du port du foulard musulman. Ces hérauts d’un temps révolu, aux accents groulciens, doivent nous expliquer pourquoi l’assimilation que les francophones d’Amérique ont combattue avec autant de détermination serait souhaitable pour les immigrants.

Mais pourquoi la laïcité est-elle devenue la priorité de ce gouvernement, auquel on a dû rappeler l’importance de l’environnement, alors que deux millions et demi de Québécois ont un revenu inférieur à 25 000 $, que le système scolaire est le plus inégalitaire au Canada en raison de sa double ségrégation sociale et ethnique, et que les Québécois francophones sont sous-scolarisés par rapport aux immigrants (21 % contre 39 % de diplômés universitaires) et aux anglophones ? L’hégémonie néolibérale est telle, en Occident, que les partis de gouvernement, et non pas les formations politiques marginales, ne se distinguent presque plus sur les questions fondamentales et cherchent à tout prix à se différencier sur des questions secondaires ou fallacieuses, comme la laïcité ici ou l’islamisation et d’autres mythes ailleurs. C’est l’alternance sans véritable alternative. Ceux qui doutent de l’emprise, sur ce gouvernement, de cette rationalité mortifère, fondée principalement sur la concurrence généralisée, n’ont qu’à penser à la mise en concurrence de l’industrie du taxi avec Uber, aux immigrants réguliers avec les travailleurs temporaires et aux maternelles quatre ans avec les CPE.

Mais, au-delà de ce qui précède, il y a une réponse très simple à cette question : la laïcité est devenue une priorité parce que s’en prendre aux immigrants est politiquement rentable, comme partout en Occident. Le psychodrame d’il y a cinquante ans nous a peut-être coûté la souveraineté. Quel prix paierons-nous pour celui qui se déroule maintenant aux dépens des musulmans ?

Danish Muslims feel backlash as immigration becomes election issue

Of note how a far right party can influence political discourse and shift the positions of mainstream parties:

Growing numbers of Danish Muslims say they have faced verbal abuse, exclusion and hate crimes since mainstream political parties began adopting anti-immigrant policies previously the preserve of the far right.

The ruling centre-right Liberal Party and the opposition Social Democrats both say a tough stance in immigration is needed to protect Denmark’s cherished welfare system and to integrate the migrants and refugees already in the country.

But Manilla Ghafuri, 26, who came to Denmark from Afghanistan in 2001 as a refugee, fears that anti-Muslim attitudes could harden further as the immigration debate heats up ahead of a general election on June 5.

“In 2015 I thought: ‘Wow, what’s happening?’ and I think it has got a lot worse over the last few years,” she told Reuters.

Ghafuri, who has more than once been told to go back to her “own country”, said she has been kicked out of a supermarket while shopping with her family. While she was working at a bakery a male customer refused to be served by her.

“I asked if I could help him, but he didn’t look at me at all. He just stood and waited for another girl who is an ethnic Danish girl,” said Ghafuri, who also works as a teacher and has a degree in Danish.

The number of immigrants from non-Western countries and their descendants who have experienced discrimination because of their ethnic background rose to 48% last year from 43% two years earlier, according to the National Integration Barometer.

“If people are ready and willing to be part of Danish society and want to contribute to it, then we invite them to become part of one of the best-functioning societies in the world,” said Mads Fuglede, the Liberal Party’s immigration spokesman.

“But we need to be able to discuss openly if there are problems with groups of people,” he said, citing the large number of immigrant women from the Middle East who have not found work in Denmark.

He did not see any connection between racist incidents and the tone of the immigration debate.

Tarek Ziad Hussein, 26, a Danish-born Muslim of Palestinian origin, has written a book about being Muslim in Denmark. He told Reuters he has received death threats.

“An environment has been created where you can say crazy things without too many people even raising an eyebrow,” said Hussein, who works as a lawyer.

“I and a lot of others from my generation feel that no matter what we do, we are not good enough in the eyes of society,” he added. “No matter how educated we are or how integrated we become, we are not good enough because of our skin colour or our religion.”

The number of racially or religiously motivated hate crimes registered by Danish police jumped to 365 in 2017 from 228 the year before. That could be higher as not all cases are reported.

The Danish Institute For Human Rights has urged politicians to draw up plans to combat racism and hate crimes, especially against Muslims and Jews.

“The politicians are moving very close to the boundaries of human rights,” said Louise Holck, the institute’s deputy director.

Denmark’s 320,000 Muslims are about 5.5 percent of the population, a slightly higher proportion than in the rest of Europe, according to Danish and U.S. estimates.

The shift to the right by Denmark’s mainstream parties runs counter to outsiders’ traditional views of liberal Scandinavia, but has its parallels elsewhere in Europe, particularly since large numbers of migrants arrived there in 2015.

CAKE

The immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, has meanwhile been criticised for celebrating her 50th piece of legislation tightening immigration laws with a big cake. A tracker on the ministry’s website shows immigration law has been tightened 114 times under the present government.

Earlier this year, the government passed a law that would mean more refugees could be repatriated, the latest move to discourage non-western immigration.

The law was passed with support from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a key ally of the minority government, and the Social Democrats, the country’s biggest party, which has hitherto had a softer stance on immigration.

It means residence permits for refugees will be temporary, there will be a limit on the number of family reunifications, and a cut in benefits for immigrants.

The law has been criticised by the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the United Nations refugee agency. Trade organisations and unions have warned that tight immigration policies could worsen labour shortages and put a brake on growth.

Fuglede of the Liberal Party said lower benefits would encourage people to work.

Around 43% of refugees who have lived in Denmark for more than 3 years were employed by the end of 2018, up from just 20% by the end of 2015. However, only 19% of women had jobs compared to 57% of men.

But while employment has risen, assimilation of immigrants has not always kept pace. More young men descended from non-western immigrants commit crimes than Danes, official figures show.

HISTORY BOOKS

The Social Democrats declined to comment for this article because of a tight pre-election schedule, but they have repeatedly said they want to limit the number refugees.

“You are not a bad person, just because you are worried about immigration,” party leader Mette Frederiksen said earlier this month.

With the mainstream parties toughening up on immigration, Denmark’s biggest populist group, The Danish People’s Party (DF) has lost some of its appeal and opinion polls show it is likely to shed almost half of its voters in the election.

This is partly because voters are moving to the Social Democrats. DF also faces competition from far-right parties the New Right and Hard Line, the latter a new grouping that wants Islam banned and Muslims deported.

But even though the DF is losing voters fast, its impact on Danish politics is undeniable.

“They have completely changed the discussion and politics in Denmark over the past 20 years,” according to Rune Stubager, professor of political science at Aarhus University. “For the history books, this is definitely a big victory for them.”

Source: Danish Muslims feel backlash as immigration becomes election issue

Why old, false claims about Canadian Muslims are resurfacing online

Of note:

In the summer of 2017, signs that seemed engineered to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment first appeared in a city park in Pitt Meadows, B.C.

“Many Muslims live in this area and dogs are considered filthy in Islam,” said the signs, which included the city’s logo. “Please keep your dogs on a leash and away from the Muslims who live in this community.”

After a spate of media coverage questioning their authenticity — and a statement from Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker that the city didn’t make them — the signs were discredited and largely forgotten.

But almost two years later, a mix of right-wing American websites, Russian state media, and Canadian Facebook groups have made them go viral again, unleashing hateful comments and claims that Muslims are trying to “colonize” Western society.

The revival of this story shows how false, even discredited claims about Muslims in Canada find an eager audience in Facebook groups and on websites originating on both sides of the border, and how easily misinformation can be recirculated as the federal election approaches.

“Many people who harbour (or have been encouraged to hold) anti-Muslim feelings are looking for information to confirm their view that these people aren’t like them. This story plays into this,” Danah Boyd, a principal researcher at Microsoft and the founder of Data & Society, a non-profit research institute that studies disinformation and media manipulation, wrote in an email.

Boyd said a dubious story like this keeps recirculating “because the underlying fear and hate-oriented sentiment hasn’t faded.”

Daniel Funke, a reporter covering misinformation for the International Fact-Checking Network, said old stories with anti-Muslim aspects also recirculated after the recent fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

“Social media users took real newspaper articles out of their original context, often years after they were first published, to falsely claim that the culprits behind the fire were Muslims,” he said. “The same thing has happened with health misinformation, when real news stories about product recalls or disease outbreaks go viral years after they were originally published.”

The signs about dogs first appeared in Hoffman Park in September 2017, and were designed to look official. They carried the logo of the city of Pitt Meadows and that of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim advocacy organization.

Media outlets reported on them after an image of one sign was shared online. Many noted that the city logo was falsely used and there was no evidence that actual Muslims were behind the messages.

A representative for CAIR told CBC News in 2017 that his organization had no involvement in the B.C. signs, but he did have an idea about why they were created.

“We see this on occasion where people try to be kind of an agent provocateur and use these kinds of messages to promote hostility towards Muslims and Islam,” Ibrahim Hooper said in an interview with CBC. “Sometimes people use the direct bigoted approach — we see that all too often in America and Canada, unfortunately — but other times they try and be a little more sophisticated or subtle.”

The Muslims of Vancouver Facebook page had a similar view, labelling it a case of “Bigots attempting to incite resentment and hatred towards Muslims.”

After the initial frenzy of articles about the signs, the story died down — until last week, when an American conservative website called The Stream published a story. It cited a 2017 report from CTV Vancouver, without noting that the incident was almost two years old.

“No Dogs: It Offends the Muslims,” read the headline on a story that cited the signs as an example of Muslims not integrating into Western society.

“That sign in the Canadian dog park tells us much that we’d rather not think about. That kind of sign notifies you when your country has been colonized,” John Zmirak wrote.

Zmirak’s post was soon summarized by state-funded Russian website Sputnik, and picked up by American conservative site Red State. Writing in Red State, Elizabeth Vaughn said “Muslims cannot expect Americans or Brits or anybody else to change their ways of life to accommodate them.” Conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted the Red State link to her 2.14 million followers, and the story was also cited by the right-wing website WND.

The Stream and Red State did not respond to emailed requests for comment. A spokesperson for Sputnik said its story made it clear to readers that the original incident happened in 2017. “I would like to stress that Sputnik has never mentioned that the flyers in question were created by Muslims, Sputnik just reported facts and indicated the sources,” Dmitry Borschevsky wrote in an email.

Nonetheless, the three stories generated more than 60,000 shares, reactions and comments on Facebook in less than a week. Some of that engagement also came thanks to right-wing Canadian Facebook groups and pages, bringing the dubious tale back to its original Canadian audience.

“Dogs can pick out evil! That’s why Death Cult adherents despise these lil canine truth detectors!” wrote one person in the “Canadians 1st Movement” Facebook group after seeing the Red State link.

“How about no muslims!” wrote one person after the Sputnik story was shared in the Canadian Combat Coalition National Facebook group. Another commenter in the group said he’d prefer to see Muslims “put down” instead of dogs.

On the page of anti-Muslim organization Pegida Canada, one commenter wrote, “I will take any dog over these animals.”

Those reactions were likely intended by whoever created the signs, according to Boyd, and it wasn’t the first incident of this type. In July 2016, flyers appeared in Manchester, England that asked residents to “limit the presence of dogs in the public sphere” out of sensitivity to the area’s “large Muslim community.”

The origin of the flyers was equally dubious, with evidence suggesting the idea may have been part of a campaign hatched on the anonymous message board 4chan. That’s where internet trolls often plan online harassment and disinformation campaigns aimed at generating outrage and media coverage.

“At this point, actors in 4chan have a lot of different motives, but there is no doubt that there are some who hold white nationalist attitudes and espouse racist anti-Muslim views,” Boyd said.

“There are also trolls who relish playing on political antagonisms to increase hostility and polarization. At the end of the day, the motivation doesn’t matter as much as the impact. And the impact is clear: these posters — and the conspiracists who amplify them — help intensify anti-Muslim sentiment in a way that is destructive to democracy.”

Source: Why old, false claims about Canadian Muslims are resurfacing online

In a survey of American Muslims, 0% identified as lesbian or gay. Here’s the story behind that statistic

Interesting:

In the United States, you could count the number of mosques like Masjid al-Rabia on two hands. It’s a small community built on “five pillars of inclusivity,” including pledges to be “women-centered,” anti-racist LGBTQ-affirming and welcoming to a variety of Islamic traditions.

Mahdia Lynn, a transgender woman, helped found the mosque in Chicago in 2016.
For several years, Lynn attended a mosque in a small conservative Muslim community in Oklahoma, where people believed she was a straight, cisgender woman.

“There was always the risk of being outed,” said Lynn, a Shiite Muslim. “But at the time, I just wanted to focus on my faith.”

There are a few mosques like Masjid al-Rabia around the world, notably in Berlin and Toronto. But the number of LGBT-affirming mosques and Islamic centers in the United States remains small.

Muslims for Progressive Values has eight “inclusive communities” in the United States, from Atlanta to San Francisco. Berkeley’s Qal-bu Maryam Women’s Mosque, which calls itself “America’s first all-inclusive mosque,” opened in 2017. Other like-minded mosques have struggled to find consistent congregants in recent years and closed down.

Imam Daiyiee Abdullah, 65, is one of the few openly gay Muslim clerics. For four years, he labored to build a mosque for LGBT Muslims in Washington, DC.

Frustrated, tired and running out of money, Abdullah gave up and moved to the mountains of Colorado, where the nearest inclusive mosque is an eight-hour drive away.

Liberal Muslims say there are hints of change. The percentage of American Muslims who said society should accept homosexuality has doubled in the last decade, to 52%, and is even higher among Millennials.

Still, for many LGBT Muslims, coming out of the closet to their families and religious communities can be a fraught decision.

Ani Zonneveld says she receives calls regularly from young gay and lesbian Muslims who have been threatened by their family or are afraid to reveal their sexual identity.

“I tell them that, unless you have a fantastic relationship with your parents, keep it in the closet until you finish high school and can leave the house,” said Zonneveld, who heads Muslims for Progressive Values.

Religious spaces can be just as alienating, Zonneveld said. “What we have seen is that LGBT Muslims are not comfortable going to a mosque, and if they do, they definitely keep closeted.”

They may even be reluctant to tell anonymous pollsters. According to a recent survey of more than 800 American Muslims, 0% identified as gay or lesbian.

‘Islam is too important to leave anyone behind’

Muslims in the United States are among the most diverse religious communities in the world. While 82% are American citizens, nearly a third have been in the country for less than two decades. A plurality (41%) are white, but no racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of Muslim American adults.

That diversity also applies to attitudes towards gay, lesbian and transgender people. According to a recent survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 31% of Muslim-Americans said they hold a favorable opinion of LGBT people, 23% said “unfavorable” and 45% said they had “no opinion.”

Among the Catholics, Jews and Protestants polled, only white evangelicals held less favorable views of LGBT people, the survey found.

Some Muslims have, like Lynn, hidden aspects of their identity for fear of being alienated or even endangered. But she said bigotry is no worse among American Muslims than in society at large.

“To act as if discrimination is unique to American Muslims is to buy into the Islamophobic narrative pushed by the right wing in this country, which is ironic, because it’s the right wing that is systematically erasing transgender people’s rights.”

Lynn transitioned as a teenager, and converted to Islam later on, during a particularly painful period. Islam’s spiritual regimens and rules for living offered a scaffolding on which to rebuild her life, the 31-year-old said.

“Islam saved my life, so I made the decision to give my life over to Islam.”

She founded Masjid al-Rabia with two other Muslims in 2016.

“Part of our role as a community center is to create a space for those healing from spiritual violence,” Lynn said.

This year, it’s celebrating its first Ramadan as a fully operational community center.

Lynn described her community as both idealistic and incremental. It’s small — Friday prayers draw about a dozen worshipers to its downtown Chicago space — but its very existence makes a radical statement.

While pushing for greater inclusivity in American mosques, she said it also provides a hospitable space where Muslims can practice their faith openly, regardless of race, gender, sect or sexual identity.

“We believe that everyone has a right to come to Islam as they are. Islam is too important to leave anyone behind.”

Support in society, but not in mosques

Muslims disagree on how to interpret the Pew survey that showed an increasing acceptance of homosexuality.

Some said it signals growing support for LGBT political rights, but not in religious spaces like mosques and Islamic centers.

LGBT activists have broadly supported Muslim-Americans, rallying to their side in recent years to protest Trump administration policies. Prominent Muslim activists have argued that they need all the political allies they can muster.

“I will fight for anyone who fights for our community,” activist Linda Sarsour said during a contentious panel discussion at an Islamic convention last year.

“And everybody is created by Allah and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. That is how we Muslims have to show up in these United States of America.”

But Yasir Qadhi, an influential scholar and dean of academic affairs at the new Islamic Seminary of America in Dallas, said pro-LGBT-rights political activists are confusing young Muslims.

“You are sending a mixed message,” he said at the Islamic conference. “Because at the end of the day, we do not believe that it is morally healthy to engage in intercourse outside of the bonds of marriage.”

Contentious questions

In a recent interview, Qadhi said that he is grateful for LGBT Americans’ political support. While he hasn’t changed his theological views, he said he has softened his rhetoric.

“I will be the first to admit that we were overly harsh and perhaps we did marginalize people and make them feel as if they were not human or worthy of love,” the scholar said.

Now, Qadhi often prefaces his remarks about homosexuality by noting that “feelings and inclinations” are not themselves sinful, and that homosexual acts should not be singled out for special condemnation.

LGBTQ Muslims should be welcomed at mosques, he said, but should not push for changes in Islamic theology or practice on mosque grounds.

“Whatever anyone does in their private life is not our business,” Qadhi said. “I am never going to single out anyone in sermons for any sinful conduct. At the same time, in the mosque I am a part of, there is a clear red line: They cannot preach onto others that this is part of Islam, the same way I would not let a person sell liquor on our property.”

The Fiqh Council of North America, a body of scholars who issue legal opinions based on Islamic texts, will take up transgenderism this year, said Qadhi, a council-member. Sexual reassignment surgery is permitted in Shiite Islam, but not among Sunnis, who comprise the majority American Muslims.

In most mosques, the genders are separated, and there have been conflicts about where Muslims in the process of gender transition should sit, Qadhi said. “Gender identity issues will be the big questions for the next several years.”

But external and internal tensions can make it hard for Muslim-Americans to directly address contentious questions, said Dalia Mogahed, director of research for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

“This is a huge source of division in the community right now,” she said. “There are a lot of different opinions and, frankly, there is a lack of space to discuss it.”

“When you have a community that is so under the microscope and being subjected to litmus tests for civility and tolerance, people become afraid and self-censoring”

Mogahed herself came under attack several years ago after a Gallup survey showed that no British Muslims — as in, 0% — said homosexuality was morally acceptable. Right wing provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos seized on the survey to portray Muslims as a threat to gays and lesbians.

But Muslims in the United States and Britain have not mounted political or social campaigns against the LGBT community, Mogahed said.

“To conflate a religious belief with one community being a threat to another is unfair.”

Behind the 0%

Like a lot of pro-LGBT Muslims, Imam Abdullah has migrated to online projects. He now runs the Mecca Institute, an Internet-based program to train a new generation of likeminded clerics. The program has three part-time students.

Because of media attention on his life and work, he said he draws attention when he visits American mosques.

“Sometimes people make derogatory remarks, like: There’s that gay imam,” Abdullah said.

“I’ve been asked in different parts of the country to leave the mosque, which is fine. I’m not going in to any mosque to try to change them. I am going there to pray.”

In Washington, DC, weeks would go by without anyone showing up at his former mosque. Some closeted LGBT Muslims feared of being associated with “the gay mosque,” he said.

“The personal trauma that so many went through made it hard for them to be public about their identity,” Abdullah said.

The ISPU survey provides statistical backing for that sentiment. Of the 804 American Muslims polled, not one identified as gay or lesbian. Four percent identified as bisexual, 2% said they were “something else” and another 2% refused to answer the question.

Asked about the 0% statistic, Mogahed offered a nuanced interpretation. If 92% of American Muslims identified as straight, she said, then the remaining 8% may be lesbian or gay, even if they’re reluctant say so.

“The fact that there is a segment of Muslims who identify as something other than straight means that, even though they may not be acting on that inclination or orientation, they have negotiated a space where they can still be Muslim,” Mogahed said.

“There is enough space within the theology to be able to do that.”

German inter-faith scheme criticised for using beermats to explain Islam

Well, if one wants to reach non-Muslims (the intent), beer mats are not a bad way to go about it:

A scheme to promote better understanding of Islam in Germany has run into controversy — after Muslim groups objected to the use of beer mats to provide information.

Under the scheme, beer mats are provided to pubs and restaurants with questions about Islam. On the reverse is an internet link to the answers.

Rather than using formal German, the beer mats are printed in regional dialect for each city, complete with local slang.

Typical questions include “Mohammed, what was he like?” and “What is it with Muslims and pork?”

The scheme has run in a number of German cities since it was first launched in 2016, and the beer mats have been translated into three dialects.

But a bid to introduce it in the small central German town of Maintal, close to Frankfurt, has run into opposition from local Muslims, who say beer mats are an inappropriate way to educate people about a religion that forbids alcohol.

“They could have used postcards, or adverts on the side of a bus. Why did it have to be the pub?” Salih Tasdirek, the head of the local foreigners’ advisory council, told Spiegel magazine.

The local council has defended the scheme. “We wanted to bring big social issues into conversation,” said Verena Strub, the council’s integration officer.

“I can understand if someone associates beer mats with alcohol, but not that anyone would associate Islam with alcohol just because the questions are on beer mats.”

The scheme is the work of Orient Network, a small German NGO that promotes interfaith understanding.

“We wanted to give answers in local language to the questions that our members, mostly Islamic scholars, are always asked,” said Raban Kluger, the scheme’s main organiser. “It is not our intention to associate alcohol with Islam.”

The questions and answers on the beer mats were all drawn up by Muslims and checked by Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Mr Kluger said.

Tens of thousands of beerm ats featuring the questions have been printed. So far, they have been translated into the local dialects of Saxony, the Baden region, and Hesse, where Maintal is located.

Source: German inter-faith scheme criticised for using beermats to explain Islam

Muslim Australians found to suffer the ‘most disturbing’ experiences in public among all faiths

Not surprising and not unique to Australia:

A four-year study into faith communities in Australia and the UK has found Muslims experience acts of violence on an individual basis like no other religious adherents, leading to calls for better early education in religious awareness.

Key points:

  • The Interfaith Childhoods project has already spoken to 340 people from religious communities in six cities across Australia, Great Britain
  • The lead researcher has found difficulties of religious life in Australia is felt most strongly by Muslim women
  • The study will form the basis of a large-scale public art program discussing social values in relation to different faiths in young children

In the midst of conducting her research, RMIT University’s Professor Anna Hickey-Moody said she was disturbed when she heard the experiences of Muslim Australians, prompting her to lead the call.

“The mosque [where] I spent most of the week in Adelaide has had young men, white men, driving around the mosque in a car with the windows rolled down pretending to shoot it. I mean, that’s terrifying,” she said.

Since 2016, 340 people from religious communities have been interviewed in six cities across Australia and Great Britain for the Interfaith Childhoods project.

They included lower socio-economic communities in Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, London and Manchester.

Professor Hickey-Moody brought together children and their parents, asking the children to create art about their identities and then interviewing their parents in-depth about their experiences of living in Australia.

Ending in 2020 and funded by the Australian Research Council, it will be the first Australian study to create a large-scale public art program discussing social values in relation to different faiths in young children.

“One child in south-east London drew a globe where he pinned where he began, as in where he was born in Somalia, and then the flight around the world and the different places where he’s been and where he ended up. It was his story of home,” Professor Hickey-Moody said.

But it was when she interviewed the parents, particularly the Muslim women, when she heard the full extent of difficulties of religious life in Australia.

a child painting of a mosque in a city landscape “She was talking about how complicated that is to experience as a mother. She wants her daughter to have a religious life, but she’s also scared to teach her daughter a way of life that might allow her to be vulnerable.

“One story that stuck in my head … [a woman] and her sister were in town in Adelaide and they saw an older woman that was struggling with her walking frame and they went to try and help her because they realised she wasn’t going to make it across the lights.

“When they got to the walking frame to try and help her, she looked at them with this visceral hate and said ‘get your hands of me you bitches, I’m just coming for you, I’m coming to tell you to get back where you came from’.

“Her sister burst into tears because she was so shocked, and she [the older woman] burst into laughter.”

Adelaide seen to be the most unaccepting city

Across all of the cities involved in the project, the researchers found stories from Adelaide to be the most distressing.

“It has a less multicultural community, it’s a less international community, and I think there’s not the kind of cosmopolitan consciousness that requires understanding social difference,” Professor Hickey-Moody said.

One Muslim woman in the Adelaide focus group burst into tears as she recalled the moment another women came right up to her face and yelled at her to “get out of here”.

Source: Muslim Australians found to suffer the ‘most disturbing’ experiences in public among all faiths

Why Narendra Modi has an enduring Muslim problem in India

Interesting article on some of the underlying and long-standing tensions with and prejudices regarding Muslims in India and how PM Modi has increased them:

Lucille Eichengreen was a school girl in Hamburg. Like most children she had many friends and a carefree childhood. Her world changed overnight. “Hitler came to power in January 1933. The children that lived in the same building…no longer spoke to us. They threw stones at us, they called us names, and that was maybe three months after Hitler came to power, and we could not understand what we had done to deserve this…And when we asked at home the answer pretty much was, ‘Oh it’s a passing phase, it won’t matter, it will normalise.’ What that actually meant we did not know. But we could not understand the change.”

“Well, Levine, have you got your ticket to Palestine?”

She was not alone.  Eugene Levine used to study in a mixed religion school where, one day, he was taunted by a non-Jewish boy, who was his friend, “Well, Levine, have you got your ticket to Palestine?” Eugene was shocked. “But, you see, anti-Semitism’s always there beneath the surface.” These incidents are a part of a history that even the Germans don’t want to remember any longer. Both the statements, together, hint at a fact that is distasteful, dangerous and apocalyptical.

It is a lesserknown fact of history that Hindenburg who appointed Hitler as chancellor, had refused twice before to appoint him to the post. He had said in November 1932, that a presidential cabinet headed by Hitler would inevitably develop into a party dictatorship with all its consequences, resulting in a worsening of the antagonisms within the German people.

Unlike Hindenburg, Indian president Pranab Mukherjee did not have any choice but to obey the will of the people; and at that time if he had any reservations about the turn of events, he did not share it with anyone. But it is to be noted that a section of the intelligentsia had always viewed Modi as a polarising figure who unabashedly pursued Hindutva and did not hide his views vis-a-vis minorities. His image as a Hindutva icon was one of the major reasons for his success and he did not flinch in exploiting it to the hilt, though he did marry it with the utopia of development and the idea of making India great again.

He could succeed only because like in Germany prejudice against Muslims had been lying dormant in a section of Hindus for long. To be fair to Modi and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), this prejudice against Muslims existed even before the RSS was formed in 1925.

The problem with the RSS is that it has failed to understand, that in independent India, two incidents—the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the 2002 Gujarat riots—have majorly impacted the Muslims’ collective psyche, scarred them emotionally, and shaken their belief in the Indian legal system.

Modi’s identification with Gujarat riots is too overwhelming in the Muslim community. And his rule since 2014 has not helped lessen the burden of history; rather it has created new fissures in their minds, inflicted much deeper emotional wounds and constructed a regime of alienation, helplessness and betrayal.

Modi’s identification with Gujarat riots is too overwhelming in the Muslim community.

The killing of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Junaid and others by cow vigilantes; the subsequent collaboration of state machinery to save the perpetrators; no urgent and unequivocal condemnation of these incidents from Modi and Bhagwat; felicitation of mob lynching accused and convicted Hindutvavadis by central ministers; provocative statements by BJP/RSS leaders targeting Muslims; sudden closure of abattoirs in UP and other states without any opportunities for alternate ways of livelihood; forced ban on beef in northern and western states by BJP governments at a time when India is the leading beef exporter in the world; the arrest and brutal beatings of Muslim youth in the name of love jihad; insulting and intimidating Muslims who tried to offer namaaz in an open space; regular violations of the symbols of Muslim identity; a nonstop attempt to portray and lampoon them as terrorist and anti-national by the Hindutva Brigade on TV Channels and social media; the Modi government’s effort to abrogate instant triple Talaq and through that to build a narrative that the community is regressive, and so on, has built a perception in the community that the Indian state has become anti-Muslim in its ethos and practice.

Since 2014, a section of Hindus have rediscovered their Hindutva which if scratched a bit, reveals an anti-Muslim point of view. Flaunting an anti-Muslim attitude is definitely massively on the rise. The stereotyping of Muslims has increased manifold. The present status of Muslims in India, reminds me of Silvia Vesela, a Slovakian Jew, who was held in a temporary camp in 1942, where death was staring her in the face. She said, “It hurt, it really hurt when I, for example, saw many schoolmates shouting with fists raised, ‘It serves you right!’ Since that time I do not expect anything of people.”

Since Modi took over the reins of the government a paradigm shift has taken place. Muslims have started feeling that the state had now started interfering in matters of their religion and culture. Anwar Alam writes, “It is the religio-cultural alienation which might strengthen the process of radicalistion among Indian Muslims. The demolition of Babri masjid was a jolt to the faith of the Muslim community. Since 2014 when the present NDA government came into power at the Centre, it has initiated a series of policy measures including the issue of criminalising instant triple talaq and keeping a distance from sharing Muslim/Islamic symbolism in the public domain that deeply concerns the Muslim community: whether they are any longer free to practice their religion freely in this nation.”

“Hindus are not seen as religious enemies. The problem is the RSS and Hindutva.”

During research for this book I met many Muslim intellectuals and leaders. I could sense that there was a definite unease in the Muslim community vis-a-vis the Modi government, guarded by a rather deceptive silence. The present crisis is being perceived as an existential crisis. Therefore a lot of internal churning is going on. It has been acknowledged by the community that the traditional leadership of the Muslim community has let them down. Now, young and educated leaders are taking the lead and trying to organise the community. Older leaders are extremely cautious in articulating their views on issues related to politics, and it has been communicated to all, especially the youth to not get provoked, whatever be the nature of the provocation. Anand Vivek Taneja, assistant professor of anthropology and religious studies at the University of Vanderbilt, USA, had been touring areas such as Aligarh, Lucknow, Kolkata, Patna, Hyderabad and so on, across the country for his research on Muslims. During an interview with me, he said, “[The] Muslim community is definitely in a self -reflective mood and there is an extraordinary amount of restraint but (the) community also makes a clear distinction that the present problems it is facing is because of the current politics. There is no ill feeling against Hindus per se. Hindus are not seen as religious enemies. The problem is the RSS and Hindutva.”

Source: Why Narendra Modi has an enduring Muslim problem in India

Indonesia’s largest Islamic group says non-Muslims shouldn’t be called ‘kafir’

Positive step:

Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, has issued a call to end the usage of the term “kafir”, or infidel, to refer to non-Muslims in state or citizenship matters, a move that may be aimed at calming religious tensions ahead of the presidential election.

Nahdlatul Ulama, with around 140 million members, said at its recent National Conference that non-Muslims shouldn’t be referred to as “kafir” as they have equal standing in state affairs.

The conference concluded non-Muslims should be referred to as “muwathin,” or citizens with the same rights and obligations as Muslim Indonesians, according to Ahmad Muntaha, secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama’s East Java Ulama Assembly.

Muntaha said in a statement published on the group’s website on Friday that a Muslim shouldn’t address non-Muslims as “kafir” in any social context.

The conference also emphasised that as a state, Indonesia wasn’t established by Muslims only, the statement said.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s recommendation comes as citizens of the world’s largest Muslim-majority country prepare for a presidential poll on Apr 17.

Religious issues have fueled divisions between supporters of incumbent President Joko Widodo and rival Prabowo Subianto.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, has faced protests from some Muslim groups that allege he has treated some Islamic clerics unfairly.

The president’s running partner for the poll, Ma’ruf Amin, is an Islamic scholar and head of a nationwide council of Muslim religious leaders, as well as chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama’s advisory council.

Jokowi has dismissed the claims against him as baseless.

Source: Indonesia’s largest Islamic group says non-Muslims shouldn’t be called ‘kafir’