Saturday, 26 February 2011
David Leask Investigations Reporter
Herald Scotland, Copyright
15 Feb 2011
POLICE have launched child assault probes at three of Scotland’s most prominent mosques, The Herald can reveal.
Detectives last night confirmed they are investigating claims boys have been beaten in madrassas – or Islamic schools – in Glasgow.
Their probe is understood to be focusing on madrassas at Glasgow Central Mosque, Scotland’s biggest place of worship of any faith, the influential Masjid Noor in Pollokshields and the smaller Zia ul-Quran nearby.
A spokeswoman said a report on a 49-year- old woman has already been sent to the procurator-fiscal.
The investigations came after prominent Scottish Muslims raised concerns about teaching methods and child safety regimes at the mosques and their associated madrassas.
Scottish-born parents are understood to have complained that some teachers in the madrassas recruited from Pakistan were using corporal punishment against their children.
Ali Khan, the chairman of Roshni – a charity that focuses on child abuse in ethnic minority communities – last night stressed that there was no excuse for hitting children at madrassas.
Mr Khan said: “Corporal punishment is completely unacceptable in Scotland.
“And it is also totally unacceptable in Islam, which does not condone the beating of young children.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Organisations must take the time to find out what the rules on child protection are. Roshni and several other groups are ready to help.”
Roshni has spent much of the past two years on a major campaign to sign up mosques, madrassas and minority faith and other groups to Scotland’s system of vetting for people who work with children.
The charity is already working with some 40 bodies and has helped about 200 members of staff and volunteers to get Disclosure Scotland checks.
As recently as 2009 it emerged 40 out of Scotland’s 50 main mosques and madrassas had not complied with the Disclosure Scotland regime. However, there is no way for authorities to force organisations to do so.
Sources last night stressed at least some of the allegations were of the kind of physical punishments meted out to children in Scotland until 25 years ago.
However, corporal punishment, including the infamous Rooster or Murgha where youngsters are expected to adopt a painful yogic pose, is still frequently used in Pakistani madrassas.
“This is a cultural thing, not a religious thing,” explained Salim Aslam, chairman of the popular Taleem ul-Islam, also in Pollokshields. “But it is totally wrong to use corporal punishment.
“Scottish children and their parents will not put up with it. We believe we should avoid all such extremes at our madrassa because they will only drive children away from our faith.”
Mr Aslam’s madrassa – based in a landmark former synagogue built by Alexander “Greek” Thomson in Nithsdale Street, Pollokshields – has had all its staff and volunteers vetted with the help of Roshni and has put in place exactly the same kind of child protection procedures as in Scottish state schools.
Mr Aslam said: “I think our parents would expect us to be as good if not better than their local schools.”
Hundreds of children go to Taleem ul-Islam, where they learn their faith and the Arabic language.
Child protection experts have long expressed concerns about some of the other 3000 children who regularly attend madrassas in Scotland.
“They have no idea what they are doing,” said one concerned parent about her son’s madrassa. “They have hundreds of children but haven’t even ever organised a fire drill. Sometimes you don’t even know who the teacher is.”
Today’s revelations come after Channel 4 last night aired a documentary showing pupils being hit and kicked at a mosque school in Birmingham.
Teenagers and a teacher were caught on a hidden camera assaulting children as young as six and seven in a Dispatches documentary.
The programme also revealed evidence of extremist views being taught at Muslim schools.
A class of 11-year-olds at the school were told not to trust more liberal Muslims. Their teacher said: “The person who’s got less than a fistful of beard, then you should stay away from him the same way you should stay away from a serpent or a snake.”
Another group of pupils are told in an assembly at the school: “The disbelievers, they are the worst of all people.”
A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm we are investigating allegations of assault at three religious centres in Glasgow.
“A 49-year-old woman is subject of a report to the procurator-fiscal. Inquiries are ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
No-one was available for comment at the Central Mosque, Masjid Noor or Zia ul-Quran.
Friday, 25 February 2011
Columnist for the London Independent
Posted: February 24, 2011 11:48 PM
Last autumn, mysterious posters began to appear all over the East End of London announcing it is now a "Gay-Free Zone." They warned: "And Fear Allah: Verily Allah is Severe in Punishment." One of them was plastered outside the apartment block I lived in for nearly ten years, next to adverts for club nights and classes at the local library, as if it was natural and normal. I'd like to say I'm shocked - but anybody who lives there knows this has been a long time coming.
Here's a few portents from the East End that we have chosen to ignore. In May 2008, a 15 year old Muslim girl tells her teacher she thinks she might be gay, and the Muslim teacher in a state-funded comprehensive tells her "there are no gays round here" and she will "burn in hell" if she ever acts on it. (I know because she emailed me, suicidal and begging for help). In September 2008, a young gay man called Oliver Hemsley, is walking home from the gay pub the George and Dragon when a gang of young Muslims stabs him eight times, in the back, in the lungs, and in his spinal column. In January 2010, when the thug who did it is convicted, a gang of thirty Muslims storms the George and Dragon in revenge and violently attacks everybody there. All through, it was normal to see young men handing out leaflets outside the Whitechapel Ideas Store saying gays are "evil." Most people accept them politely.
These are not isolated incidents. East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain, and some of the worst in Europe. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it. It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant attitude towards gay people to incubate there, in the name of "tolerance". The most detailed opinion survey of British Muslims was carried out by Gallup, who correctly predicted the result of the last general election. In their extensive polling, they found literally no British Muslims who would say homosexuality is "morally acceptable." Every one of the Muslims they polled objected to it. Even more worryingly, younger Muslims had more stridently anti-gay views than older Muslims. These attitudes have consequences - and they are worst of all for gay Muslims, who have to live a sham half-life of lies, or be shunned by their families.
No, Muslims are not the only homophobes among us. But the gap between them and the rest is startling. It's zero percent of British Muslims vs. 58 percent of other Brits who say we are "acceptable."
Why does nobody want to talk about this? No, it's not because Muslims have "taken over" Europe, as ludicrous hysterics like Mark Steyn claim. I debunk that nonsense here: Muslims are 3 percent of the population of Europe.
So why the silence? It is true that British Muslims are themselves frequently the victims of bigotry -- just as in the US and across most of the Western world, especially since 9/11. They are often harassed by the police, denied jobs, and abused in the street, and they are forced to watch as our government senselessly incinerates many Muslims abroad. (I have written many articles detailing and deploring these ugly facts.) So gay people are naturally reluctant to pile in onto minority who are being oppressed. We are rightly sympathetic. We know what it is like to be treated like this. We instinctively respond with solidarity, not suspicion.
But this can easily morph into excuse-making. When there was a wave of vicious gay-bashings in Amsterdam by Morroccan immigrants -- ending the city's easy, hand-holding culture -- the gay spokesman for Human Rights Watch, Scott Long, said: "There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society. Gays often becomes victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities they have had to suffer." What? How is it a "retaliation" to beat up a gay couple? What have they done to Muslims? What other human rights abuse would Human Rights Watch make excuses for? Would they say the Burmese junta beats dissidents in order to "retaliate for the inequities they have had to suffer"?
When gay people were cruelly oppressed, we didn't form gangs to beat up other minorities. We organized democratically and appealed to our fellow citizens' sense of decency. It's patronizing -- and authentically racist -- to treat Muslims as if they are children, or animals, who can only react to their oppression by jeering at or attacking people who have done them no harm, and who they object to because of a book written in the sixth century. Muslims are human beings who can choose not to do this. The vast majority, of course, do not attack anyone. But they should go further. They should choose instead to see us as equal human beings, who live and love just like them, and do not deserve scorn and prejudice.
Yes, it is "Muslim culture" today to be bigoted against gay people. It was British culture to be anti-gay thirty years ago. Cultures change. They change all the time. They are not sacred and fixed. They are constantly in motion. But they only change if we admit there is a problem publicly and openly and search for solutions. We should not "respect" the bigotry of Muslims, any more than we would respect the bigotry of Christians or Jews or the Ku Klux Klan. The only consistent and reasonable position is to oppose bigotry against Muslims, and oppose bigotry by Muslims.
So how do we do it? There are plenty of practical steps. The most crucial is in the school system. Today, schools in Muslim areas like Tower Hamlets and across Europe are deeply reluctant to explain that homosexuality is a natural and harmless phenomenon that occurs in every human society: they know that many parents will go crazy. Tough. It should be a legal requirement, tightly policed by the school inspectors, and any school that refuses should be shut down. Every one of those schools has gay kids who are terrified and isolated and are at a high risk of self-harm or suicide. We need to get simple facts and practical help to them, over the heads of religiously-inspired bigots. No school should be a "faith school", inspired by medieval holy books that demand death for gay people. Every school should be a safe school for gay children, and every school should educate straight children to live alongside them.
There are other crucial changes. We should be lauding -- and funding -- the few Muslim groups that are brave and humane enough to take a stand and defend the equality of gay people. They do exist: British Muslims for Secular Democracy is a heroic example. The same goes, even more crucially, for the gay Muslims who have come out and formed groups like Imaan. Only they can show their fellow Muslims that when they advocate discrimination against gay people, they are advocating discrimination against their own sisters and sons, brothers and daughters.
And we need to make it plain that accepting the existence of gay people -- and our right to live peacefully and openly -- is a non-negotiable value for living in a democracy. In the Netherlands, they now show all new immigrants images of men kissing, and if they object, they tell them they should go and live somewhere else. We should be doing the same -- starting with imams, who are almost entirely imported into British mosques at the moment from countries where homosexuality is a crime punished with death.
I believe Muslims can change. I believe they can accept and love their gay children, just as surely as my parents -- who also grew up in horribly homophobic places -- accepted and loved me. I think of all the good kind Muslims I met in my years living in Tower Hamlets, and I believe that over time they were capable of understanding that my sexuality is natural and innate and hurts nobody. But it won't happen if we pretend we "respect" their bigotry, and that it is a legitimate expression of difference. It is not, any more than hating black people was the "legitimate" culture of the Deep South, or Apartheid South Africa.
No, we will not tolerate the idea that we are "immoral" for loving each other. No, we will not tolerate posters declaring East London a "gay free zone." We will see them as a reason, at last and at least, to end this taboo -- and demand much better of our fellow citizens.
This article appeared in Attitude, Europe's best-selling gay magazine. To subscribe for just £27 and read these articles a month before they appear on this site, click here. A charity has been set up to raise funds for Oliver Hemsley's care. For information click here. To donate to the brave gay Muslim group Imaan click here. For updates on this issue and others you can follow Johann on Twitter at www.twitter.com/johannhari101
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Azeem Ibrahim: To Really Address the Roots of Muslim Radicalization, First Make Sure You Understand It
I admire the work of Azeem and believe he makes Scotland proud but this is a contradictory and worrying article that is limiting Islam rather than addressing the more liberating concerns associated with a broader understanding of the Qur'an and Islamic traditions that have always allowed diversity and differences. Azeem's statement that "Islam contains many different theological groups, branches, and strands. The vast majority are pietistic and apolitical." does not square well with what seems to be a call for a romantacised 'traditional, mainstream' Islam when Azeem advocates, "The Salafi brand of conservative and insular Islam which Saudi Arabia promotes spreads a strand of Islam which has certain doctrinal similarities to jihadism, and which can act as a gateway to ideas which encourage violence. This naturally makes it harder to educate young Muslims in traditional, mainstream, pietistic Islam, which is as compatible with David Cameron's brand of liberalism as the Church of England." I am concerned and worried by the narrowness of what Ibrahim perceives as 'traditional, mainstream, pietistic' without practicing what he is preaching earlier on in this piece.
Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School’s International Security Program
Published by Huffington Post (All Rights Reserved, Copyright)
February 16th 2011
Last Saturday, the British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech about how the government viewed the future of multiculturalism and Muslim community relations in the UK.
On the face of it, his argument was reasonable enough: that his government will be more careful in future only to fund Muslim groups who not only don't advocate violence in the UK, but also don't advocate violence anywhere else, either.
The risks to this strategy comes less in what he said, and more in how he said it. You can't make a speech on this without taking into account how sensitive an issue it is.
It will not have escaped Cameron's attention that the English Defence League, a group devoted to anti-Islamic prejudice, organized a 3,000-strong rally on the same day, and that papers like the Daily Express spew out anti-Muslim propaganda day after day. In this context, there is a significant minority of the population who have a deep-seated prejudice against all Muslims, and who aren't going to take the time to make the kind of distinctions on which Cameron's speech is based.
But the ability to make these distinctions is essential to understanding why certain Muslims see fit to advocate violence in the first place. Islam contains many different theological groups, branches, and strands. The vast majority are pietistic and apolitical. Historically, it is only one minority strand - Salafism - which is deeply socially conservative, and only one rogue offshoot of Salafism, Jihadism, which encourages violent terrorism. Salafism has its roots in Saudi Arabia, and entails a broad spectrum of opinions, from the non-violent to the political and violent, and Salafi Muslims tend to hold many conservative social opinions which most Muslims don't agree with. For example, mainstream Salafism is culturally isolationist and allows interaction with non-Muslims only in cases of necessity. Mainstream Salafism, however, does not advocate violence and terrorism, whereas Jihadism does.
The problem is that for a long time Salafism has been actively promoted by Saudi Arabia, and it is exactly Salafism which makes it harder to prevent jihadist radicalization. The Salafi brand of conservative and insular Islam which Saudi Arabia promotes spreads a strand of Islam which has certain doctrinal similarities to jihadism, and which can act as a gateway to ideas which encourage violence. This naturally makes it harder to educate young Muslims in traditional, mainstream, pietistic Islam, which is as compatible with David Cameron's brand of liberalism as the Church of England. In other words, Saudi Salafism impedes the efforts made by educational organizations to prevent Islamic radicalization.
I have recently written a new policy memo for the US Congress outlining the role of the Saudi government in promoting Salafism. It is estimated that somewhere between $2 and $3 billion dollars is spent yearly by the Saudi government on the effort to globalize Salafism. Books that promote Salafism at the expense of traditional Islamic teachings are published in abundance and often given free of charge, and, in many instance, non-Salafi publishing houses have been bought out. As in many countries around the world, some British Muslim institutions readily accept Saudi funding, thereby ensuring the propagation of Salafism, and more recently, a number of established western academic publishing houses have published historical accounts of Salafism presenting it as a tolerant tradition.
While the Saudi government has not explicitly promoted terrorism or violence, its practice of bankrolling the global publishing of Salafi doctrine for decades has promoted a harmful doctrine, which is the parent of one that is actively dangerous. At best, it advocates isolationism and minimal engagement with non-Salafis and non-Muslims, and at worst, it has been used as a basis to justify animosity and hatred to wider society.
My memo argues that the government would do well to counter this by engaging with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, and encourage them in private of the urgent need for further reforms, encouraging Saudi Arabia to manage and create platforms for dissent, (as history shows that when Salafism interacts with more moderate forms of Islam, it itself becomes more moderate), and encouraging more cultural exchanges between Saudi leading clerics and their European counterparts to expose them to new ideas and ways of challenging common threats.
All Muslims who see their faith twisted into unrecognizable and violent forms wish to see policymakers act against this challenge, and help us to reclaim the Islam we know - one that advocates for ethical standards of behavior, coexistence, and peace.
The Prophet Muhammad foresaw the twisting of Islam to violent un-Islamic ends. He even foresaw how this would take place: "Truly," he said, "God does not remove knowledge by extracting it from [His] servants. Rather He removes knowledge by removing the scholars, until when no scholar remains the people take ignoramuses as their leaders. Then they are consulted and give fatwas without knowledge. So they are astray and lead others astray."
Let us hope that the present government gets the message and engages the Saudi government, and in the meantime, stops making noises which help people to confuse the extremists with the mainstream.
Azeem Ibrahim is a Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and a former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and World Fellow at Yale.
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Sunday, November 8, 2009
American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
Kecia Ali, Boston University
Ahmet Karamustafa, Washington University, St. Louis
Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford
Omid Safi, University of North Carolina, Presiding
Monday, 21 February 2011
Jean-Marie Riachi (born May 24, 1970 in Ras Baalbek, Bekaa) is a Lebanese arranger, composer and record producer. Riachi grew up in a non-musical family, however his passion and talent in music was obvious when he started playing the keyboard at the age of eight. In 1988, at 18 years of age, he participated in Studio el Fan, a Lebanese talent show, where he performed as a keyboard player. He was attending USEK University faculty of fine art at the time.
He began his music career performing in local bars and clubs. He then achieved success in the nightlife and restaurant industries as partnering manager of a number of establishments, including Mandaloun sur mer, a highly-prominent seafood restaurant in Beirut.