Friday, 14 August 2015

Muslims seem happier to identify as Scottish than English

Scottish Muslims

The thistle and the crescent
Printed in The Economist
All Rights Reserved - Copyright 
Aug 15th 2015

WHEN Glasgow Central Mosque was commissioned in the early 1980s, the architect received an important instruction: “Make it Scottish”. It ended up sharing a feature of many Glaswegian public buildings (but not many mosques): large panels of glass, creating long shafts of natural light inside. Now, facing renovation, it will get more Scottish still: there are plans to remodel it in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow’s favourite architect.

Inside, people marry in kilts (the hem let down an inch, in keeping with the dress code for Muslim men) to the sound of bagpipes. Halal haggis is sold nearby, and across the River Clyde is the council office where in 2012 a new tartan was launched: blue for the Saltire, green for Islam.

 The relationship between Scottish nationalism and the Muslim community seems unusually harmonious. Six out of ten Scots believe Muslims are integrated into everyday Scottish life, according to a poll in 2010 by Ipsos Mori. A survey in 2011 by the Scottish government found Muslims in Scotland felt that being Scottish was an important part of their identity, and that for them “community” tended to mean the shop down the road, rather than a local or global network of other Muslims.

In last year’s referendum the pro-independence Yes campaign was backed by 64% of Asians, most of them Muslims, according to a poll by Scotland’s main Asian radio station. Mazhar Khan of the Muslim Council of Scotland says that Muslims in Scotland will define themselves as Scottish, while those in England are prepared only to call themselves British. Why?

Scottish Muslims have greater economic power than their English counterparts: many are involved in business, and arrived with the means to set themselves up (a large proportion are from Punjab, a relatively rich Indian state). Most English Muslims hail from poorer bits of Pakistan and Bangladesh, and often went into industries that have since faltered. In Scotland ethnic minorities sometimes benefit from “reverse discrimination”: as the National Health Service was the first employer to send minorities to some of Scotland’s farther-flung areas, it is often assumed that non-whites are doctors. Mohammad Sarwar, a Scot, was Britain’s first Muslim MP.

Theories abound: Scots regard themselves as a minority, persecuted by the English; left-leaning Scottish nationalism is friendlier to minorities than English Conservatism. And Scottish Muslims are few—they make up just 1.5% of the population, compared with 4.5% across Britain—giving them a greater incentive to integrate.

So far, so historical, but recent policy may have something to do with it too. Whereas the government in Westminster makes sweeping criticisms of Muslim extremism (see previous article), its counterpart in Holyrood does not dwell on the subject and therefore, says Mr Kahn, does not wind up local Muslims. Only a tiny minority of the 700 people reported to have left Britain for Syria appear to have come from Scotland. The happy relationship may not be the result of luck alone.

Pakistan’s transgender community rolls out 700-foot national flag for Independence Day 2015 by Zeresh John, DAWN News Pakistan

Pakistan’s transgender community came out to celebrate the county’s 69th Independence Day with a 700-foot long flag that they meticulously stitched together over 12 days.

Organised by the Sindh chapter of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), hundreds of Khawaja Sarras rolled out the gigantic flag at the Bagh-e-Quaid-e-Azam, previously known as the Polo Ground, in Karachi right before the clock struck 12 on August 13.

President of the Sindh chapter of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), Bindiya Rana.

Ecstatic and proud of their accomplishment, they walked across the length of the park holding up the flag, shouting “Pakistan Zinadabad!

As a result, they continue to face discrimination from society. They largely depend on a livelihood of singing and dancing at weddings and birth celebrations. They are also treated as sex objects and often become the victims of violent assault.

Transgenders in Pakistan were awarded the right to register as a third gender on their CNICs in 2012. The Supreme Court had also ordered free education and free health care for the Khawaja Sarra community. However, provincial welfare departments have yet to implement the decision.  

However, yesterday night, the open space at Bagh-e-Quaid-e-Azam rang with profound patriotism, thanks to this same community.

One day, hopefully, they will stop being stigmatised and start to gain social recognition in their own country.

According to the vice president of GIA, Mazhar Anjum the making of the flag cost 100,000 rupees.

“We wish to walk abreast all Pakistanis,” GIA’s vice president Mazhar Anjum said. “All we ask for is some respect,” Rani said.

The flag measures 700 feet in length and 50 feet in breadth.

“We put in a lot of hard over this flag; it is to show our love for Pakistan. We value this country with all our hearts and would not hesitate to die for it,” Sapna said.

 “I’m glad to see that so many people turned up to stand with us here for Pakistan. This is Pakistani unity!” Sheila said.

The Khawaja Sarra community stitched the flag over the course of 12 days.

“I’m here today because I want to spend this independence day with the country’s most tolerant community,” Sadaqat Ali said.


Monday, 10 August 2015

World's Oldest Qur'an

BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Monday 10th August 2015
Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork

The recent discovery of what is said to be the world’s oldest Qur’an at Birmingham University has us asking about how we deal with things that are old.  I’ve been following the different ways this new find has been welcomed.  The views vary.  From those who question whether it is that old by looking at the material, the way it is written, and even the ink that is used.  To the many Muslims around the world who present this as a way of showing the authenticity and ‘proof’ of Islam.

I can’t help but think that we might actually be missing the bigger point as we think about texts, religious or otherwise, and what really matters about them. Is it about how they came to be or if they are authentic or not - or is it more about what they say - how the text impacts on the lives of people who read it and live by it. Texts live through the lives of individuals.  Like Harry Potter, a great story that touched the mind and soul of many kids, and adults, in various ways because it had themes of good, evil, morals and ethics.  These key concepts of creating a good life and society are probably what every author wants their readers to think about.  But even the Qur’an, as we know it, is out of the hands of God and in the hands of every day Muslims. From its earliest time to the current day, it has been interpreted in various ways. 

And so we find that old and new texts can do harm too, especially religious texts that are used to promote only one type of understanding.  As a Muslim, I see first hand how the Qur’an is understood in a variety of ways, from whirling dervishes to terrorists.  Life is given to the text beyond how old or even how authentic it is.  For me, thinking more closely at the various ways to live a text out in a beautiful way is what it is all about.