Scotland’s Evangelical Island Gets Its First Mosque

81854Despite its size and location, the Isle of Lewis off the northwest coast of Scotland occasionally makes national news in the United Kingdom because of its conservative religious practices—including the strict observance of the Sabbath by many on the island.

 Lewis was the site of the UK’s last great revival—beginning in 1949 and carrying on for three years—and remains one of the most devout parts of the country.

Over the years, there have been controversies relating to the operation of ferries to the mainland on Sundays. More recently, a movie theater has opened seven days a week, while a leisure center maintains its Sunday closure. All have drawn media coverage with quotes from Christian spokespeople reported as being “outraged” by the proposals.

The latest twist in religious affairs has occurred in Stornoway, with 8,000 people the largest town in the group of islands. However, it doesn’t involve Christians outraged about Sunday openings, but that a Free Church of Scotland minister was not outraged by plans to build the first mosque on the largely evangelical churchgoing island.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

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UK: ‘Hello, I am Muslim’

International event aims to encourage mutual understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

muslimsAn international event aiming to break fears and prejudices against Muslims and promote empathy has been launched in King’s Cross station in central London, the capital of Britain.

The event this week will see young Muslims promoting mutual understanding in public places in various countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Austria.

‘Hello, I am a Muslim’

The Islamic Community Milli Gorus (ICMG) group said in a statement on Thursday that thousands of young Muslims living in Europe, Australia and Canada will take to the streets to deliver “their ‘Hello, I am a Muslim’ message to introduce themselves”.

“Contacting people individually is the most natural and the best way of promoting understanding and empathy,” the ICMG said.

“We have prepared the ‘Hello, I am a Muslim’ events to encourage mutual communication and cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims,” said Kemal Ergun, the group’s president.

More than 500 mosques across Europe will also take part in the initiative, according to the ICMG statement.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

‘Punish a Muslim day’ generates anger, fear and solidarity in Britain

DX3OqvDVwAABpxRThe letters arrived in March. Sent anonymously to multiple communities, the letters with words in bold at the top declared that Tuesday, April 3, would become “Punish a Muslim day” in Britain.

Sent to homes, lawmakers and at least one business, the documents detailed a disturbing point-based system that would award attackers for acts of hatred and violence: 10 points for verbally abusing a Muslim; 500 points for “butchering a Muslim using a gun, knife, vehicle or otherwise.”

Police launched an investigation, urging communities to stand together.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police service told London’s Evening Standard that there is “no credible information” that any hate crimes would happen on Tuesday. By Tuesday evening, there were no news reports of hate crime incidents relating to the “Punish a Muslim day.”

At a time when hate crimes are on the rise and British Muslims are repeatedly feeling the sting of the xenophobia that surfaced during and after the 2016 Brexit vote, the letters caused distress, not just to those receiving them, but also in the broader Muslim community.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Reports of Islamophobia: 1997 and 2017

Reports_on_IslamophobiaTHE ROAD TRAVELLED

Earlier this month the Runnymede Trust launched a new report, Islamophobia: Still a challenge for us all, to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of the landmark 1997 report, Islamophobia; A challenge for us all. The significance of the original Report is hard to over-estimate. While it is the case that it did not coin the term Islamophobia, it certainly gave it legs.  And while it is also true that the report did not end Islamophobia, it did indict it.

The 1997 report was the first comprehensive combined survey and policy intervention on an increasingly prominent phenomenon and against the context of heightened global problematisation of Muslims as Muslims. This is worth remembering for two reasons. Firstly, whatever its final form as a document, the consultative nature of the work which fed into its pages generated a momentum and a sense of stake-holding important to its reception and impact. Whether adopted as leverage or contested in whole or in part, the report and the momentum of its discussion produced Muslim agency over Muslim agendas. The publication of the report propelled Islamophobia into public consciousness. It shaped the national and global conversation, even if much of that conversation was only to contest the vocabulary that the report sought to establish. Second, because it is worth being reminded that already in 1997 the report was a response to diverse interrelated historical shifts, both local and transnational: the post third worldist and post-67 global resurgence of Muslims signified by the Revolt of Islam; the increasing debasement of the grand narratives of modernisation come-secularisation in the social sciences; cumulative postcolonial and post-cold war challenges to the Eurocentric world order; the identification and ascriptive reclassification of ethnically marked and immigrant populations as Muslim, and concomitant mobilisations over the way in which existing race-relations based anti-discrimination legislation afforded them only uneven and inadequate protection, recourse, and redress as Muslims. This isn’t just about recasting a twenty year view into a longer genealogy. Against presentist fixation on framing the Muslim Question in the horizon of 9/11, it bears remembering that the report was published four years before George W. Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, and that in some ways this never-ending war was as much a reflection of Islamophobia as it was its intensification.

The 2017 report does not repeat the impact of the original report; perhaps never could. In any case, it is a very different document.  The 1997 report was the work of a commission; the present report is an edited collection. It is based neither on community consultation, nor on new research and evidence into the policy areas it covers, but rather on commissioned chapters by academics summarising their research in different registers. Each chapter, as their bibliographical references mostly attest, speaks in an individual voice, and the volume makes little effort to engage let alone convey or build upon the mounting and increasingly diverse body of academic scholarship on Islamophobia produced across the world, including in two specialist journals, and numerous reports.  Even its most significant departure from the 1997 report, that of defining Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism, is eroded by this lack of engagement. There is something to be said for an edited collection of single-theme focused chapters, but the absence of connection and engagement across the chapters is problematic.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRITICAL MUSLIMS STUDY (UK)

I’m a British Muslim man of the same age as the London and Manchester terrorists – and I know why we turned out so different

khuram-butt-jihadis-next-door-abzI am the same age as Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, and almost the same age as the recently named London Bridge terrorists; I also profess to be of the same faith. Thankfully, these are the only two things we have in common. As well as studying medicine at university, I currently serve as the president of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association. I spend a lot of my time working to organize interfaith dialogues and peace conferences. So how exactly did we turn out so different? And could knowing the answer to this help reduce the numbers of young people being brainwashed into extremism?

The primary answer to this is education. Even in childhood, I always asked questions about my religion – and as I grew up, I had access to imams and elders ready to answer them. I was free to challenge them, to ask the toughest and most sensitive questions about the most “controversial” aspects of Islam.

Through this process I learnt that Islam teaches there is no compulsion in religion, that taking even a single life is equivalent to killing to the whole of mankind, and that saving a life is equivalent to saving the whole of humanity. I learnt that the concept of jihad is not about spreading religion through force, but about struggling against one’s own evil desires in order to reform oneself and become a pure-hearted, decent individual.

I learnt that the Prophet Mohammed taught that loyalty to one’s nation of residence is part of one’s faith, reinforced by the fact that at least once a year at our religious functions we publicly make the pledge to serve our country whenever required. I learnt about the role of charity in Islam, and what the Qur’an calls the “steep ascent” – the true means of attaining nearness to God: “It is the freeing of a slave, or feeding in a day of hunger, an orphan near of kin, or a poor man lying in the dust.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

The battle for the soul of British Islam

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Fresh arrivals to any country feel blind and weakened: they seek jobs, housing and familiarity. Newcomers yearn for memories of their old nation state – Italian olive oil, south Indian dosas or Turkish kanafeh. Laws that appear foreign, and values that were never particularly strong at home, are slowly adopted through experience and navigation. Faith provides a shelter from tumultuous change.

In recent years, in no regard has the narrative about immigration and values proved more volcanic than in addressing the role of Muslims. Three new books attempt to cast a light on modern Islam’s contract with the West. Letters to a Young Muslim is a collection of missives written by the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia to his elder son, Saif, now aged 16. The author, Omar Saif Ghobash, was six years old when his own father, the UAE’s first foreign minister, was shot and killed by a teenage Palestinian assassin at Abu Dhabi International Airport in 1977. The intended target was the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad’s foreign minister, who was visiting the UAE; the 19-year-old gunman was later executed.

Ghobash’s book is part memoir and part instructional guide to the liberal values he would like to see flourish in conservative Islamic societies. He gives special prominence to educated imams, higher education and a greater tolerance of antithetical views. In the 40th-anniversary year of his father’s death, Letters to a Young Muslim is also a synthesis of grief and purpose. As he writes, “For me . . . it has been impossible to leave my father behind. I have carried his memory with me through the years, always imagining what he might have said to me, or done in my place.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW STATESMAN 

Muslims and Christians team up to help homeless

muslims-and-christiansFaith groups are working together to care for street sleepers and other vulnerable people in the run-up to Christmas.

Muslim and Christian groups in Britain are joining forces to help the country’s homeless and other vulnerable groups during the Christmas period.

Organisations including Muslim Aid, the Al-Khair Foundation, Streetlytes, and churches across the English capital of London are expanding their efforts by providing meals and shelter packs to rough sleepers.

Their aim is to make sure those most in need are protected from cold weather and hunger during the holidays when many shops and services are closed or operating at reduced capacity.

More than 100 homeless people attended a Christmas dinner event organised by the groups at the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.


READ MORE: UK families open doors to refugees


Alongside the seasonal staple of Turkey, volunteers dished out servings of South Asian dishes such as biryani.

“As Muslims, Islam teaches us that we can’t go to bed on a full stomach while our neighbour goes hungry,” said the Al-Khair Foundation’s Syed Hussain, as he managed a stall stacked with containers full of food.

“We’re working with people of all different backgrounds to show that Muslims care and we want to solve the problems facing everyone, not just our own.”

Streetlytes volunteer Chris Hatch, a Presbyterian priest, explained that while many of those working to help the homeless were religious, the project was not “inherently faith-based”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA