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City of Ghosts: from Syria to Europe and the fight against the far-right.

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Image result for City of Ghosts

City of Ghosts was shown on BBC 4 last night.

This moving documentary about a group of Syrian activists, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.  (RBSS)

The hopes of an Arab Spring resounded in their home, the city of Raqqa in the north of Syria. Protests against the Assad regime were countered by violent repression. The arrival of ISIL, in April 2014, the country’s branch of  Islamic State, was followed by the rule of their version of Islamic ‘law’. There were public beheadings, firing squad executions, mock crucifixions and  Volkish placard shaming.

At great risk to themselves RBSS opposed the take-over in the only way they could. They reported and filmed undercover the regime of what became the de facto capital of Daesh.

The documentary showed images of clandestine protests against Daesh and the slaughters the jihadists committed. Perhaps the most disturbing moments were when the new rulers tried to bring the young into their fold. “Children are Isis’s firewood” they said, and we saw a band of joyful babes and youngsters following a bearded fighter chanting their hate. A near-infant was filmed being trained to stab and behead on a large teddy bear.

This backdrop confirmed the worst scenes in Peter Kosminsky’s The State.

Many RBSS activists left the city, though they kept a core group of courageous witness inside Raqqa.

They used social media and the Net to broadcast their message. ISIL devoted a great deal of time to trying to search their supporters out.

In May 2014, Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim was kidnapped by ISIL and murdered. In July 2015, ISIL released a video showing two men being strung up on trees and shot. Though ISIL claimed the two murdered men had worked with RBSS, one of the founders of RBSS denied they were members. Another friend of the group was similarly executed. Hamoud al-Mousa, the father of one of the group’s founders, was killed in ISIL custody. On October 30, 2015, RBSS activist Ibrahim Abdul Qadir (age 20) and his friend Fares Hamadi were found stabbed and beheaded in Urfa Turkey. It was the first acknowledged assassination outside of ISIL controlled territory. (Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently)

The sight of Hamoud al-Mousa’s execution, followed by that of the same RBSS activist’s brother’s murder, being watched in a safehouse in Germany was harrowing.

City of Ghosts deserved the highest awards.

But above all the activists of RBSS, merit the greatest respect we can possible give to other human beings.

Avoiding fruitless debate about the essential nature of ‘Islam’ one of them says,

“It is not my Islam”.

Europe.

Towards the end of the documentary there were scenes in which the Syrians were  confronted by  the German far-right Pegida calling for the removal of refugees.

There was also  commentary on the actions of Daesh in Europe, including the Bataclan massacre.

This opens up the issue of how we should both support the fight of groups of democrats like RBSS and combat the racist far-right.

With the Tommy Robinson campaign in Britain this has become an issue of burning importance.

People have noted that the groups Stand up to Racism and Unite against Fascism are dominated by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (“Both these groups are front organisations of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and receive their political direction from its leadership.”  Socialist Resistance)

In 2014, as Raqqa fell to the genociders Socialist Worker published this article by Hassan Mahamdallie, co-director of the Muslim Institute.

There is resistance to this frenzy of Islamophobia

The beheading of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, was horrific. But is the Nigerian military slitting the throats of 16 young men and boys any less horrific?

Or last week’s Israeli air strike that blew to smithereens the wife and seven month old son of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif? Surely that was horrific and disturbing too?

..

In the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army.

It must have been the fault of their Welsh Methodist upbringing.

But Howells’ drivel was modest fare compared to the truly millennial frenzy that was gathering pace.

In authentic End of Days tones, US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel said Isis represents “an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.

“They’re beyond just a terrorist group. This is beyond anything we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything.”

I much preferred the response of the spokesperson from south east London’s Lewisham Mosque.

The press asked him to condemn a tweet from a woman “Jihadi” in Syria who might have once attended the mosque.

He retorted, “The young woman’s desire to travel to Syria has nothing to do with the Centre. Unfortunately, the Muslim community are being subjected to a burden of proof based on a ‘guilty by association’ standard”.

He rightly attacked the press’s demand, as “loaded with an Islamophobic assumption that Muslims by default condone such brutality”.

It was good to see someone refusing to bow to the frenzy, a spark of resistance in a very dark week.

There was much in a similar vein, from the SWP and groups such as Counterfire, understanding the ‘radicalisation’ of those who volunteered to be part of Einsatzgruppen and concentrating their fire on the prospect of Western intervention in the civil war.

Unlike RBSS their criticisms of the Assad regime was fairly muted.

This ambiguity continued.

When Charlie Hebdo (12 deaths) and the Porte de Vincennes Hypercacher (5 deaths)  attacks took place  in 2015, the same forces took it upon themselves to understand why this “blowback” against France in general and the ‘Islamophobic” satirical weekly took place. Charlie “had it coming to them”. Counterfire railed against ” a crude and absolutist fetish of free speech”.

These people are unable to confront violent Islamism.

With such a tainted history these groups have no moral authority whatsoever.

There are many many people on the lest who do not back groups which fail to take a resolute stand against the jihadist Islamism, and against Assad.

The fight against Robinson’s supporters, many (from the Clarion to Socialist Resistance) suggest, should come from the mass organisations of the labour movement and the Labour Party.

We cannot unite around  “defeating fascism” as Lindsey German puts it, until we have a clear view that the violent jihadists and the mouvance around them, with roots in Europe as well as the Middle East and the Maghreb,  are also enemies of the far right.

And we need to back the Syrian democrats, whose heroism is so powerfully illustrated in City of Ghosts.

 

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2018 at 10:37 am

Christine Shawcroft quits over anti-Semitism case. What is anti-Semitism in the UK Today?

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Christine Shawcroft

Shawcroft: Facing Calls to Step Down from the NEC.

Christine Shawcroft resigns and becomes the first casualty of Labour’s new civil war. Stephen Bush.

Shawcroft is facing calls to step down early from the NEC, from Richard Angell, the director of the Corbynsceptic pressure group Progress, and Jennifer Gerber, head of the Labour Friends of Israel. She will be loath to do so as that would mean giving a position on the NEC to Eddie Izzard, who ran on the Corbynsceptic slate, but ultimately even if she is forced to stand down, it will make little difference to the balance of power on the NEC.

More important, though, is what it means for the composition of the vital NEC officers group, which among its wide powers has a vital role to play in selections, particularly selections in parliamentary by-elections. Shawcroft’s role as chair of the disputes panel gave her a seat around the NEC officers table, and although there is a “left” majority in the NEC officers, that is not the same as a majority for the Labour leadership and is different again from a “Momentum majority”. Shawcroft was the only true-blue Momentum representative on that group, with the major power brokers the representatives of three of Labour’s biggest trade unions: Unite, Unison, and the GMB.  Shawcroft’s departure may mean that the Momentumites find themselves shut out should a parliamentary seat fall vacant over the next few months.

That will put further pressure on intra-left relations in the Labour party. Shawcroft’s email was only sent to fellow members of the Labour left, and Jeremy Corbyn’s office had already backed sanctioning Bull. The leak, as well as doing further damage to Shawcroft’s reputation, comes at a time when the Labour leadership is under renewed pressure over the party’s failure to deal robustly with anti-Semitism in its ranks. That such unhelpful leaks are coming “from inside the house” as one senior Corbynite put it to me tonight, is a sign that while the Labour left may have won the civil war with the party’s right, its own internal battle may only just be beginning.

John McDonnell says Labour antisemitism will now be eradicated

McDonnell said: “We woke up to it two years ago when it was pointed out to us, we launched the Chakrabarti report, they [its recommendations] have not been implemented effectively. We have now brought in a new general secretary, they will be implemented.”

McDonnell added: “We will deal with it firmly and severely. We will not accept it, Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear. We are now meeting with the various representative groups of the community. We will be taking their advice, they will assist us in rooting out this problem and we will eradicate it from our party.”

Labour’s Disciplinary Chief Christine Shawcroft Quits Amid ‘Holocaust Denial’ Row

Shawcroft said she was “wrong and misguided” to have sent an email calling for Alan Bull to have his suspension lifted as she had not been aware of all the information in the case.

According to the Press Association, Shawcroft said: “I sent this email before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post. Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so.

“This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of anti-Semitism being denied and downplayed by others. In light of this, I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes.

“We must eliminate anti-Semitism from our party and wider society. To do this we must make sure our processes are as robust as possible and have the faith and confidence of our members.”

Over a quarter of British people ‘hold anti-Semitic attitudes’, study finds.

BBC. September 2017.

More than a quarter of British people hold at least one anti-Semitic view, according to a study of attitudes to Jewish people.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) said the finding came from the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Britain.

But it said the study did not mean that British people were anti-Semitic.

Researchers also found a correlation in anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes.

The study found a relatively small number of British adults – 2.4% – expressed multiple anti-Semitic attitudes “readily and confidently”.

But when questioned about whether they agreed with a number of statements, including “Jews think they are better than other people”, and “Jews exploit holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”, 30% agreed with at least one statement.

Despite this, the researchers said they found that levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain were among the lowest in the world.

The report said about 70% of the population of Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews and did not hold any anti-Semitic ideas or views.

Muslim views

The JPR’s researchers questioned 5,466 people face-to-face and online in the winter of 2016/17 – 995 of these were Muslims, although a smaller number of Muslims were included in the statisticians’ nationally representative sample.

They found more than half of Muslims (55%) held at least one anti-Semitic attitude.

Dr Jonathan Boyd, director of the JPR, said: “Our intention here was not to make any broad generalisations about the Muslim population and their attitudes towards Jews.

There does seem to be some relationship between levels of religiosity in the Muslim population and anti-Semitism.”

..

The researchers also questioned people about their views on statements about Israel and the conflict with the Palestinians.

Their report said fewer than one in five people questioned (17%) had a favourable opinion of Israel, whereas about one in three (33%) held an unfavourable view.

The report said: “The position of the British population towards Israel can be characterised as one of uncertainty or indifference, but among those who hold a view, people with sympathies towards the Palestinians are numerically dominant.”

Dr Boyd said: “Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views exist both together and in isolation.

“The higher the level of anti-Israel attitudes measured, the more likely they are to hold anti-Semitic views as well.”

The study also revealed that anti-Semitic attitudes were higher than normal among people who classified their politics as “very right-wing”.

Among this group they were two to four times higher than among the general population.

The researchers said the prevalence was considerably higher among right-wingers than on the left.

So there are two groups, those who are “very right wing” and some Muslims who are a particular problem.

Contemporary anti-semitism cannot be reduced to these categories, as some of the “conspi” themes of the far-right have crept into a fringe of the left.

The classic far-right is well known and their anti-Jewish racism is part of a wider set of prejudices, against black people,  Muslims, and against all foreigners

But this is also important to look at the issue of Islamist anti-Semitism, both classically religious and in its modern Salifist and Jihadist forms.

The following caused controversy in  April 2016.

C4 survey and documentary reveals What British Muslims Really Think

Between April and June 2015, polling company ICM undertook research on the views of British Muslims for Channel 4 and Juniper Television, including polling of British Muslims on their attitudes towards Jews and antisemitism.

44%

of British Muslims think Jews have too much power in the business world

90%

of British Muslims do not know how many Jews died in the Holocaust

26%

of British Muslims think antisemitism is a problem, compared to 46% of the general British population.

The below is a critique of these findings.

Trevor Phillips’ research on British Muslims is dangerous and wrong. No wonder Islamophobia is on the rise.

Channel 4 irresponsibly released its deeply flawed study. To claim, without sufficient evidence, that British Muslims are a separate “nation within a nation” – that they are not, or do not perceive themselves to be British – is to suggest that Islam and the West are at odds.

This is not to deny legitimate concern about extreme levels of social conservatism, anti-Semitism or alienation from mainstream society within some western Muslim communities. But the consistent misrepresentation of European and North American Muslims is likely to increase a worrying trust deficit and the “clash of civilisations” that Isis and right-wing xenophobes are keen to promote.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 29, 2018 at 12:30 pm

Jihadist Umar Haque taught Genocide at Islamic School.

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There is immense sadness, and anger, after the conviction of Umar Haque and his associates, Abuthather Mamun, Muhammad Abid, and Nadeem Patel (‘I’ News)

The Independent chose the right words in saying, “Isis fanatic tried to recruit children for ‘death squad‘ to launch terror attacks in London.”

The ‘self-radicalised’ supporter of ISIS has been found guilty of preparing “children for martyrdom by making them roleplay terrorist attacks in London.”

He was able to do this at the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school and the Ripple Road Mosque.

That Hacque’s activities went unnoticed by those in charge of these institutions, “staggers belief” as a former Policeman said on RT yesterday.

Deash, the Islamic State, and its adherents have committed genocide – against Yazidis (Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL), Christians, and Shiite Muslims (ISIS Is Committing Genocide. Huff Post).

Haque wanted to recruit for their genocidal racist Einsatsgruppen.

Were the preparations for murder carried out by those now convicted the work of the far-right, the entire liberal and left wing media would be boiling.

As it is most people are no doubt still numb.

Clearly Hacque’s systematic activities, helped by other, indicate that his ‘radicalisation’, was not a momentary or nihilistic coup de tête”.

He was able to ‘teach’ in Muslim institutions.

This is perhaps the first issue to look at, as the National Secular Society indicates today.

What of institutions like this school and the Mosque which have permitted these ideas to be broadcast?

There remain many more questions, not just about faith education, but about the fight against the genociders of Daesh and other jihadists.

On the ground, they have been fought back, with a key role played in Syria by the brave sisters and brothers of the Kurdish fighting units of the YPG.

But few are confident that support for their ideology has disappeared.

Lax home schooling laws exploited by extremists

 A half of 70 known extremists in London removed their children from state schools to educate them at home, according to Metropolitan Police study.

Details of the study into 70 extremists and their children emerged following Friday’s conviction of an unqualified teacher, Umar Haque, for plotting up to 30 terrorist attacks in London, reports the Sunday Times.

As previously reported by the NSS, Umar Haque brainwashed young boys attending the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, and made them carry out role-playing sessions where some took the part of police officers and others were jihadists. In one exercise they used imaginary knives to sever a head. Haque also taught at a private Islamic school in Leyton called Lantern of Knowledge.

The Met Police study appears to back up a previous warning from Neil Basu, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, that “segregated, isolated communities, unregulated education and home schooling are a breeding ground for future terrorists”.

Pressure is growing on the government to tighten lax home education laws after campaigners, including the NSS, have warned that they are being exploited by religious communities to educate their children in unregistered schools. Illegal schools have been found in Birmingham, Luton and a number of London boroughs. Some have links to extremist organisations, and many have almost no secular or English education. There is also evidence of children being exposed to hate-filled homophobic and misogynistic teaching material in them.

The NSS is supporting a new private member’s bill to safeguard children’s rights by better regulating home schooling. The Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill, moved by NSS honorary associate Lord Soley, would institute a duty for local authorities to monitor the educational, physical and emotional development of children receiving home education in England and Wales, and for a parent to register home-educated children with the local authority. It is due to be debated next month.

The NSS is also calling on the government to better regulate out of school educational settings, such as madrassas and yeshivas, that provide “intensive tuition, instruction or training” where children attend over six hours per week.

A government proposal for a system of registration and inspection of supplementary schools was recently shelved following opposition from the Church of England, which feared the registration of its Sunday schools, despite the fact they would be largely unaffected by the proposals.

At least 350 unregistered schools have been set up across Britain, according to Ofsted, which is calling for strengthened powers to tackle them. Warning notices have been issued to 50 suspected unregistered schools, 38 have closed or ceased to operate illegally and 12 are under criminal investigation. So far no proprietors of illegal schools have been prosecuted.

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Commons education committee, has said there should be no ‘grey areas’ and is worried about the lack of regulation concerning unregistered schools.

Stephen Evans, National Secular Society chief executive, said: “After years of campaigning, we are finally seeing wide recognition that it is completely unacceptable for British children to be left to languish in unregistered settings where they are indoctrinated by fundamentalists and left exposed to harm.

“There is a balance to be struck between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of the child to a proper education. But that balance must be struck in order to protect child rights.

“The denial of secular education and the teaching of intolerance and violence in unregistered schools has the clear potential to damage to the minds of young people and cause harm to wider society. The government can no longer look the other way.”

Background: the Guardian reported on Saturday,

Isis follower tried to create jihadist child army in east London

Umar Haque, 25, taught an Islamic studies class despite having no teaching qualifications and being employed as an administrator. He was allowed to supervise classes of 11- to 14-year-olds on his own, during which he re-enacted attacks on police officers and showed students videos of beheadings.

Police fear Haque attempted to radicalise at least 110 children, some of whom he was in contact with at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, east London. Thirty-five of the children are receiving long-term support.

Haque also worked at the £3,000-a-year Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school, where he was again allowed access to children alone under the pretence of teaching Islamic studies when he was in fact employed as an administrator.

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Haque was convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey on Friday of a number of offences, including plotting terrorist attacks. He had previously admitted four charges of collecting information useful for terrorism and one count of disseminating a terrorist document in relation to his attempts to radicalise children at the mosque. He was acquitted of conspiring to possess firearms.

Two other men, Abuthaher Mamun, 19, and Muhammad Abid, 27, were convicted for their roles in helping him. A fourth defendant, Nadeem Patel, 26, who had previously pleaded guilty to possessing a handgun, was acquitted of plotting with Haque.

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The schools watchdog, Ofsted, faces questions over how it was able to rate the Lantern of Knowledge school as outstanding after an inspection held at a time when Haque was allegedly preaching hate to the children.

The Charity Commission confirmed on Friday that it has opened a statutory inquiry into the Lantern of Knowledge Educational Trust. The commission is also investigating the Ripple Road mosque.

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His plan was to build an army of children,” said Commander Dean Haydon, the head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard. “He had shown them graphic terrorist videos of barbarity, beheading videos and serious injuries mostly in terrorist attacks overseas.

“He had instructed children not to say anything in relation to not telling their teachers or their parents. We had a wall of silence.

“He tried to prepare the children for martyrdom by making them roleplay terrorist attacks in London. Part of that re-enactment including attacking police officers.”

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He was also involved in running evening classes in a madrasa based in a large marquee attached to the mosque in Ripple Road in late 2016 and early 2017.

He told the boys, aged about 12 to 14, that he had established contact with Isis and showed them a series of videos projected on to the wall inside the marquee, ensuring the doors were closed.

The images included blood, wounds and people falling from buildings. One film showed the exhumation of a boy. Haque told the children the child’s body had deteriorated because he had been beaten after death when he was unable to answer questions put to him by angels.

He also had the children in the madrasa doing push-ups, races and grappling with each other in order to train them.

There were sessions of role-playing during which the children would be divided into police and attackers, and there were demonstrations of how to sever a head. After the Westminster Bridge attack by Khalid Masood last March, Haque used the atrocity as inspiration for the roleplays.

He said he intended to teach the children to drive as they got older so he could carry out attacks across London. He forced them take an oath not to tell their parents, friends or teachers, and it is claimed he aimed to recruit 300 jihadists.

The 35 children in long-term support were “paralysed in fear” by Haque, Haydon said. “He threatened them if they were to talk. It doesn’t appear that any of those children raised the alarm.”

Six children gave evidence in court. The trial was shown video of a police interview with a child, who said: “He is teaching us terrorism, like how to fight.”

The boy said: “He has been training us, kind of. Apparently fighting is good. If you fight for the sake of Allah, on judgment day when you get judged for your good deeds and bad deeds, fighting is good.”

Ofsted inspectors visited the Lantern of Knowledge school in November 2015, two months after Haque started working there. In their report, they said: “The strong sense of community, harmony and respect within the school reflects the school ethos and aims of leaders and governors to develop well-rounded citizens.

“The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is outstanding. They have an excellent understanding of the world around them and make a positive contribution to their community.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 4, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Atheists face prison in Egypt as Non-Belief may be made illegal.

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Charged in 2012 with “defamation of Islam and Christianity, insulting the divine and satirizing religious rituals and sanctities and the prophets under articles 98, 160 and 161 of the Egyptian Penal Code”

There are many countries where Atheism is a crime.

Atheists, and those accused of defection from the official religion, may be subject to discrimination and persecution in many Islamic countries. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, compared to other nations, “unbelievers… in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment” Wikipedia.

Last year the Independent reported,

In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith

1.    Afghanistan

2.    Iran

3.    Malaysia

4.    Maldives

5.    Mauritania

6.    Nigeria

7.    Pakistan

8.    Qatar

9.    Saudi Arabia

10.    Somalia

11.    Sudan

12.    United Arab Emirates

13.    Yemen.

These regimes have laws that put people to death for ” blasphemy or apostasy”.

In Egypt, a state where the Sharia is one of the ‘sources’ of legislation, there has long been intolerance and the criminalisation of non-belief.

In January 2015 this happened:

A student has been sentenced to three years in prison for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist and thereby “insulting Islam”. Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, aged 21, was arrested in November 2014 with a group of other people at a cafe in Cairo.

Police then closed down the so-called “atheists cafe” in what is being viewed as a coordinated government crackdown on atheists. A local administrator told a news website that the coffee shop was “known as a place for satan worship, rituals and dances”.

Egyptian police shutdown ‘atheist cafe’ accused of harbouring ‘Satan worship’

#EgyptTurmoil

The café, on Falaky Street in the downtown neighbourhood of Abdeen, was “destroyed” after local residents reported customers as spreading “wrong thoughts regarding religions”, Arabic-language daily Sada al-Baladreported.

“We have destroyed the café of the devil worshippers in Falaki Street for being illegal and for having a number of atheists spreading their thoughts,” local police chief Gamal Mohi told the daily.

However, when speaking to independent outlet Mada Masr, Mohi denied the café had been demolished and said it was actually shutdown in November “following noise complaints from local residents”.

“There was no demolition involved, only confiscation of the coffee shop’s property,” he said. “This was all done in accordance with the law and legal procedures.”

The café owner was the only person arrested in the raid, according to Mohi, who said he was being held “as his coffee shop was unauthorised, unlicensed, and also because drugs were found inside”.

“There was no sign reading ‘atheists’ café’ outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance,” the police chief said.

No publicly available evidence has been produced to verify the police chief’s allegations of Satan worship at the café and he did not explain why atheists – who reject the existence of both God and Satan – would be engaging in such practices.

Egyptian rights activists denounced the café closure as being “the wrong and criminal action”, providing the business was operating legally.

“No one has the right to arrest someone for his thoughts,” Ali Atef, from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post. “And to be fair and honest, usually these incidents happen for arresting atheists, and later they explain that the café papers were illegal, which is usually wrong.”

In August 2017 there was this,

Egyptian TV presenter El-Beheiry was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy—a charge filed against him by Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni authority. El-Beheiry’s show had tackled controversial issues on Islam such as punishments for apostasy, early marriage, and different interpretations of the Hadith—the sayings and teachings of Mohamed.

According to article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, those found guilty of insulting the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) could face a fine or up to five years in prison. But the blasphemy law works mostly in favour of Muslims because they are the ones who bring this charge against people the most.

As can be seen, ‘insulting’ religion is punishable by law, but atheism is not as such, yet, a crime.

But now the Egyptian authorities are considering extending this persecution to make atheism itself a crime.

Lawmakers in Egypt are seriously considering passing a law that would make atheism illegal.

Blasphemy is already illegal in Egypt, and people are frequently arrested for insulting or defaming religion under the country’s strict laws. The newly proposed rule would make it illegal for people not to believe in God, even if they don’t talk about it.

“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief, when this is totally wrong,” Amro Hamroush, head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, said when he introduced the bill in late December.

“[Atheism] must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions,” he wrote in the local daily paper Al-Shorouq.

As France Info points out in a new broadcast, you are obliged to declare your beliefs to the authorities., which will then appear on your identity card.

Already Christians and non-Muslims are second-class citizens.

Now, if the legislation is passed, you will not be a citizen at all, and a resident of a prison cell.

Égypte : les athées seront-ils bientôt mis en prison ?

Background:

Egypt’s war on atheism

There have been waves of panic about atheism in the predominantly conservative Islamic country for some years, largely driven from the top-down by government officials, religious leaders, and some media. The ‘crackdown’ on atheism has included a campaign to ‘inoculate’ or ‘educate’ young people away from atheism. Some highly questionable regional polling data in 2014 determined that there were precisely 866 atheists in the country. The figure was used as a justification for the ‘war on atheists’, though ironically the figure (which would represent just 0.001% of the population) is undoubtedly a huge underestimate and was dismissed by atheists locally as “highly unrealistic”.

The former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, in September 2014, put the level of atheism at 12.5 percent of young people (which is more realistic but the origin of the figure is unclear). Figures from the Family Court state that 6,500 women filed for a divorce in 2015 due to their husbands’ atheism. (Under the Personal Status Law, Muslim women can apply for divorce if their husbands denounce religion.)

The Sisi government has been pushing a line that has been described as “militantly mainstream“, targeting some conservatives and extremist interpretations of Islam as well as atheists and liberals.

Police have raided internet cafes that were alleged to be meeting places for atheists, and while atheism has become a hot topic in the country’s media, those invited to advocate atheism in televised debates have faced death threats and harassment.

Last month, a 29-year-old computer science graduate Ibrahim Khalil was detained on the accusation of ‘contempt of religion’. He was accused of running a Facebook page called ‘Atheism’ on which he allegedly published “distortions of the Quran” and advocated atheism.

Another student, 21-year-old Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, was sentenced to three years in November 2014 for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist.

The media, religious leaders and politicians sometimes link atheism to homosexuality, which is similarly reviled, and promote the idea that atheism and homosexuality are mutually reinforcing “psychological imbalances”.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

As Women Arrested In Iran for not wearing the Veil, Foreign Office promoted ‘World Hijab Day’ .

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Iranian Students Protest Against “liberation, respect and security” enforced by Religious Police.

Foreign Office employees invited to wear headscarves to work to mark World Hijab day

In an internal memo, the Foreign Office said that the headscarf is worn by some women who see it as representing “liberation, respect and security”

According to reports, an email sent to staff said: “Would you like to try on a hijab or learn why Muslim women wear the headscarf? Come along to our walk-in event.

“Free scarves for all those that choose to wear it for the day or part of the day.

“Muslim women, along with followers of many other religions, choose to wear the hijab. Many find liberation, respect and security through wearing it. #StrongInHijab. Join us for #WorldHijabDay.”

Evening Standard.

How Iran uses a compulsory hijab law to control its citizens – and why they are protesting

In 1985, it became mandatory for women to wear the hijab with a law that forced all women in Iran, regardless of their religious beliefs, to dress in accordance with Islamic teachings. The hijab became a tool for implementing the government’s strict religious ideology.

A symbol of oppression

The new law marked an ideological way of governing that continues today. The compulsory hijab law has been used to exclude women from various areas of public life, either by explicitly banning women from certain public spaces such as some sports stadiums, or by adding restrictions on their education and workplace etiquette. More generally, it is also used to exclude anyone who disagrees with the ideology of the regime, who are branded as having “bad-hijab”. Not adhering to hijab continues to be seen as a hallmark of opposition to the government.

The law is also used to justify the regime’s increasing involvement in citizens’ private lives. From an early age, girls are forced to wear headscarves in school and public places. Teenagers and young people in Iran are routinely stopped by the “morality police” responsible primarily for policing people’s appearances and adherence to wearing the hijab.

For women it is the way they wear their headscarves and the length of their overcoats. Men are prohibited from wearing shorts, having certain haircuts that could be seen as Western, and wearing tops with “Western” patterns or writings. In recent years, it has become common practice for the police to raid private parties, arresting both girls and boys on the basis of not adhering to the hijab law. Punishments range from fines to two months in jail.

NSS criticises Foreign Office for “fetishising” the hijab

The National Secular Society has criticised the Foreign Office for “fetishising Islamic head coverings” after it encouraged staff to mark ‘world hijab day’.

The Foreign Office sent an internal memo offering employees the chance to wear free hijabs on 1 February. Since 2013 some have called this ‘world hijab day’. Others have responded, particularly on social media, by declaring ‘no hijab day’.

The memo claimed “many” women see the headscarf as representing “liberation, respect and security”.

“Would you like to try on a hijab or learn why Muslim women wear the headscarf? Come along to our walk-in event. Free scarves for all those that choose to wear it for the day or part of the day.

“Muslim women, along with followers of many other religions, choose to wear the hijab. Many find liberation, respect and security through wearing it. #StrongInHijab. Join us for #WorldHijabDay.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Evening Standard the event was for staff at its London office who wanted to learn about ‘other cultures’.

‘World hijab day’ was created by a woman in New York in 2013. Its organisers say they created it “in recognition of millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty”. They also say it is designed to “fight discrimination against Muslim women through awareness and education”.

They claim the support of politicians including Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland.

Stephen Evans, NSS chief executive, said: “This appears to have been a well-intentioned event, but it is dubious whether civil service staff need their bosses to educate them on religious issues.

“If government departments wish to teach their staff about religion, they should do it warts and all. That means understanding that women are forced to wear the hijab across large parts of the world. And it means understanding the social pressure that encourages many others to wear it as a sign of ‘modesty’, submission to male-dominated religious authorities and a visible sign of commitment to one particular faith and community.

“Women who choose to wear the hijab should be able to do so in peace and without facing discrimination. But a critically-informed assessment of Islamic head coverings would not fetishise them. At a time when women in Iran are fighting for the right to remove their hijabs, the Foreign Office should be the first to realise this.”

More solidarity with the Iranian religious police:

On Feb. 1, Rabea Ali brought World Hijab Day to perhaps an unlikely place – Manhattan College, the Roman Catholic school she attends in the Bronx. Nazma Khan, who grew up in the borough, started the annual event in 2013 to promote religious tolerance and encourage non-Muslims and non-Hijabis to wear the hijab for a day.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2018 at 12:40 pm

As Protests continue, half of Iranians say No to Compulsory Veils.

with 2 comments

 

https://asiapacificreport.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Girls-of-Revolution-Street-680wide.png

The “Girls of Revolution Street”.

Iranian authorities have arrested 29 people as part of a crack down on protests against the compulsory hijab.

The movement, which has been named “the Girls of Revolution Street”, started after a woman took off her headscarf in central Tehran. (BBC).

Woman Arrested For Removing Hijab in Tehran Refuses to Repent Despite Facing 10 Years in Prison.

Centre for Human Rights in Iran. February the 6th.

Narges Hosseini, who was arrested for protesting against Iran’s compulsory hijab, refused to appear in court to face charges punishable by up to 10 years, including “encouraging immorality or prostitution.”

“Ms. Hosseini did not even appear in court to express remorse for her action. She said she objects to the forced hijab and considers it her legal right to express her protest,” Hosseini’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on February 5, 2018.

Hosseini, 32, has been in detention since January 29, 2018. She was unable to pay the $135,000 USD bail set by the judge presiding over her case.

She was arrested on January 29, 2018, for posting a photo on social media of herself standing on a bench holding her white headscarf like a flag on Tehran’s Revolution’s Street.

All women in Iran are required to cover their hair and bodies in public.

Vida Movahed was the first woman to be arrested after she did the same thing in late December 2017 in Tehran. The act of removing your headscarf in public and waving it like a flag has become a symbol for the “Girls of Revolution Streetmovement, which advocates choice over compulsion for women’s clothing.

“Ms. Hosseini is being held in difficult circumstances in Gharchak Prison [south of Tehran] but she is not prepared to say she is sorry,” Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, told CHRI. “She believes she’s innocent.”

Hosseini is facing the charges of, “openly committing a harām [sinful] act” and “violating public prudency” under Article 638 and “encouraging immorality or prostitution” under Article 639.

Compulsory Veils? Half of Iranians Say ‘No’ to Pillar of Revolution.

New York Times.

The office of Iran’s president on Sunday charged into the middle of one of the most contentious debates over the character of the Islamic Republic, suddenly releasing a three-year-old report showing that nearly half of Iranians wanted an end to the requirement that women cover their heads in public.

The report’s release comes as dozens of women in recent weeks have protested in public against being forced to wear the veil, a symbol of Iran’s revolution as much as it is deemed a religious requirement.

The decision to release the report — which found that 49.8 percent of Iranians, both women and men, consider the Islamic veil a private matter and think the government should have no say in it — appears to pit President Hassan Rouhani directly against Iran’s hard-line judiciary, which on Friday said that 29 people had been detained in connection with the protests. They have called the demonstrations “childish,” insist that the large majority of Iranians support Islamic veiling and have called for harsher measures against those protesting the veil.

At least as striking as the report’s findings was the timing of its release. The study is from 2014, and publishing it now suggests that the president saw this as a moment to challenge the hard-liners, who hold ultimate power, about such a symbolically potent issue.

Observers said the release of the report, by one of Mr. Rouhani’s closest advisers, was probably a politically calculated decision by the president, an Islamic cleric, to bolster support for social reforms and to signal to the authorities to temper their response to the veil protests.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Tariq Ramadan’s UK defenders cite, “rock solid faith that Ramadan is innocent of the accusations of rape.”

with 5 comments

Image result for tariq ramadan channel four news

Rape Charges a “stitch up” says 5Pillars interviewee. 

This has just appeared:

CAGE:  The trial by media of Professor Tariq Ramadan erodes the presumption of innocence

In all cases of serious sexual assault it is fundamental that the rights of all parties are protected. All efforts must be made to safeguard the interests of victims particularly when the perpetrator is a well know personality. However, the requirement for due process also enshrines the right to a fair hearing. These are basic universal principles that underline the work of CAGE.

 it is undermining to the interests of justice to use the case of Professor Ramadan as a tool to fan the flames of Islamophobia and play into the dog whistle politics of the far right.

Furthermore,

Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for CAGE, said:

“CAGE is deeply concerned about the role of those engaged in instigating and perpetuating anti-Muslim sentiments based on the political and religious views of Professor Ramadan in France and beyond.”

“It is important for the legal process to arrive at a fair and just conclusion for all concerned. However, recent and past history shows us that governments are capable of hijacking the very serious issue of sexual offence in order to further smear campaigns against individuals who they perceive to have influence on the public discourse, especially on matters pertaining to civil rights, political dissent, community empowerment, whistleblowing and resisting government overreach.”

Perhaps CAGE is arguing that Vanity Fair should not have published this harrowing account Tariq Ramadan : le récit de celle qui a fait basculer l’affaire (2.2.18)

Or that they simply should not be allowed to print these claims – something one can see desolating the rights of the accusers in another well-known case, of Harvey Weinstein.

Perhaps people should be prevented from drawing comparisons between Ramadan’s public role as an advocate for Islam and his positions, such as  director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), and these accusations.

Or compare the charges with his writings, such as this, in one of his favourite vehicles, the Guardian,

Islamic literature is full of injunctions about the centrality of an education based on ethics and proper ends. Individual responsibility, when it comes to communicating, learning and teaching is central to the Islamic message. Muslims are expected to be “witnesses to their message before people”, which means speaking in a decent way, preventing cheating and corruption, and respecting the environment. Integrity in politics and the rejection of usurious speculation in economics are principles that are pushing Muslim citizens and scholars to explore new avenues that bring public life and interpersonal ethics together.

Islam’s role in an ethical society 

Few will have missed that there is no concern by CAGE in the above statement for the (alleged) victims,. who have to be placed under police protection after threats from Ramadan supporters.

This by contrast shows how he bullied and his friends continue to bully his accusers.

From the same camp  there is not even the hint of a qualm  about the  presumption of innocence from 5 Pillars in this piece.

Journalist Hafsa Kara-Mustapha explains why she doesn’t believe the accusations of rape levelled against the prominent Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan.

It feels odd to write about Tariq Ramadan and his accusations of rape, mainly because I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the Muslim academic.

I never adhered to his views on the need to structure a “European Islamic identity,” and I find his political stance naïve at best and above all his faith in “Western led human rights” in the light of the disasters in Iraq, Libya and of course Palestine.

That said, I write with the rock solid faith that Ramadan is innocent of the accusations of rape he now faces. I certainly don’t believe the man to be perfect or infallible, no mere human is, but I am all too familiar with France, French society and French racism so I recognise a stitch-up when I see one.

..

Attempts to silence the Swiss-born theologian had been made ever since he emerged as a fierce critic of both Israel and Neo-conservative Zionist politics in the Middle East.

Consistently referred to as at the “Muslim thinker” he once engaged a panel of prominent Jewish intellectuals on French TV who were staunch advocates of Bush’s war in Iraq. When he reciprocated to their “Muslim” remark by pointing to their Jewishness, France gasped in stupor and accusations of “antisemitism” duly ensued.

Of course the word “antisemitism” has now been emptied of all its meaning and is merely a political tool used by pro-Israel supporters to silence critics of the colonial entity. Nevertheless, that powerful word used in Britain as well to destroy political careers, is the one that puts all Palestine supporters on the slippery slope of destruction.

Tariq Ramadan did not help his case when he publically denounced the deeply offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo. Asked to back down from his criticism after the editorial team of the controversial magazine was gunned down, Ramadan confronted his critics maintaining that there was no humour or honour in making crass drawings whose sole purpose was to offend and humiliate a community.

In this climate it’s difficult to imagine a prominent Muslim benefiting from a fair trial or even a fair investigation. We have come to recognise that the US legal system simply won’t deliever a fair verdict for a black person accused of crime, in France the same can be expected for a Muslim.

The far-right Islamist site also publishes this,

Tariq Ramadan charged with rape as supporters continue to back him

Meanwhile, more than 24,000 people have signed a letter to express their full support for Tariq Ramadan, who has a huge following among Muslims in the francophone and anglophone world especially.

The letter says: “Over and above the presumption of innocence to which Tariq Ramadan, like everyone else, is entitled, we support him because such a stance is dictated by our religious and/or ethical principles. It is unthinkable that we withdraw our esteem and our confidence following accusations that are highly questionable at best…

“We express our support for Professor Ramadan because we, like most people, have seen that the accusations leveled against him are now being treated by a section of the French political and media establishment as guilty verdicts.

“The same accusations are part of an ongoing campaign that has attempted to demonise him ever since the beginning of his involvement as an intellectual and an activist in the early 1990s.

“Professor Ramadan and his ideas have never left people indifferent. But instead of confronting him in open debate, his ideological and political opponents have unfailingly used the most underhanded methods to discredit him as a Muslim intellectual and to discredit his thought.”

Written by Andrew Coates

February 6, 2018 at 1:21 pm