British Muslim women against ISIS


This music video is about a song by a young Syrian Kurdish singer.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

The British Muslim women making a stand against Isis

Tuesday 30th September 2014

As the US-led coalition launches air strikes, LOUISE RAW talks to Muslim women who reject ‘Islamist’ extremism and misogyny

LOOKING at a huge, rather beautiful poster of a young Muslim woman wearing a vivid Union Jack hijab, I know I’m not in standard leftie territory — and that’s before Theresa May pops in to press the flesh.

Not many media launches are both timed to coincide with the school run and surrounded by heavy security either. But Sara Khan is used to doing things differently.

Khan is the driving force behind new anti-extremism group Making a Stand, launched last week in Whitehall.

She is also the Director of Inspire, a group which I note is described by the Guardian as a “women’s human rights organisation.”

I don’t particularly want to give Alan Rusbridger a heart attack, but women technically are human beings. There, I’ve said it.

And while an increasing number of men accept that “women’s issues” are everyone’s issues, there’s still a tendency to see anything particularly affecting the female population as niche.

If it affects Muslim women, it’s usually even more a case of Nothing to Do With Us.

Khan is not letting Britain off the hook that easily, however, and is trenchant on the wrong-headedness of using supposed “cultural sensitivities” as an excuse not to oppose extremism and gender inequality wherever they’re found.

On this basis I’d asked her to speak at this July’s Matchwomen’s Festival, and she did so passionately, happily answering some “Everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-Islam-but-were-afraid-to-ask” questions from guests afterwards.

However, she was criticised for Islamophobia by two delegates over her condemnation of the murder of Lee Rigby.

The line on such atrocities from some on the British left is that the West has only itself to blame for “retaliations” to its foreign policy.

She replied that she was a practising Muslim who rejected such violence as outside her faith. The same went for the radical preachers who encouraged it.

As for the Islamic “women question,” Khan says that those in favour of gender inequality “don’t know [their] own faith. The prophet’s wives weren’t submissive women.”

She is adamant that we will see more and more young British women joining Isis, and about where part of the blame lies.

“We need to educate women better to improve this marginalisation problem in Muslim communities. For far too long mosques have marginalised Muslim women and their participation.”

However she’s also keenly aware that the perception of Islam as the ultimate oppressor of women is manipulated by the far-right, which publicly condemns the religion on this pretext even as supporters attack Muslim women on the street.

Some women won’t speak out against gender-based discrimination even though they loathe it, precisely because to do so may fuel anti-Muslim attacks, of which they could end up the victims.

So they can be caught between a rock and a hard place, suffering both fascist violence and gender discrimination from within their own communities. The resultant trauma and alienation is a risk in itself.

Khan says: “We know Muslim women who wear the headscarf are more likely to experience attacks. Will that make them feel they don’t belong? Are they [joining Isis] because all they’ve come across in this country in Muslim communities is a narrow view of women?”

This is the sort of difficult, and potentially dangerous, political terrain Khan has to constantly navigate.

It goes without saying then that “making a stand” will have required considerable courage for at least some of the women present at the launch last Wednesday. This was underlined by a total advance publicity embargo launch for security reasons.

But Khan made it clear on the day that silence was no longer an option when young British Muslims were being drawn to Isis — and there have been reports of British female recruits joining the al-Khanssaa brigade, an all-women militia set up by Isis which punishes women for “unislamic” behaviour.

“They have bought into a pack of lies,” says Khan.

“They think they’re following Islam, but actually it’s a patriarchal ideology that seeks to treat women as second-class citizens.”

Making A Stand has practical proposals for British Muslim communities — they ask mosques to start treating women more equally, communities to take more responsibility for women and women and young people to speak out on social media using the hashtag #MakingAStand, to directly challenge Isis sympathisers.

Later, over lunch, I spoke to some of the women present about the causes of radicalisation.

Sufiya Ahmed, Tamina Mir and immigration lawyer Piya Mayenim identified multiple factors that they saw as contributing.

High unemployment and institutionalised racism which limited Muslim young people’s futures made them feel they didn’t belong in Britain.

The three women saw Isis as something of a trend, though no less dangerous for that.

A generation with generally more liberal parents could only rebel by becoming more extreme, and Mayenim was aware of instances of teenagers criticising their parents for being “too Western.”

The black-clad, macabre chic of Isis could seem an appealing alternative to Western decadence and consumerism.

We talked about the government’s response to date. The Prevent initiative was launched in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11 2001 to counter radicalisation at community level, and continues to do so, but with significantly less funding under the coalition.

It hit another major roadblock in 2010 when it emerged that CCTV cameras placed in Muslim areas of Birmingham, 72 of them covertly, were partly funded by Prevent cash.

The resultant loss of confidence and trust was enormously damaging.

The women had also seen secular youth clubs close due to cutbacks, to be replaced with self-organised single-race or religious groups, decreasing cultural cross-pollenation.

Although May had come to praise the launch, there were no new commitments that day either — while promising the government would support Making A Stand “if you can do this” (ie counter and monitor extremism) we were left not knowing if this would mean an occasional fist-bump or anything more concrete.

I spoke also to Mehmoo Dah, an older Muslim woman living in sheltered accommodation who had travelled from Leicester for the launch.

She was visibly distressed as she spoke about the racism she says she personally experiences after every Isis incident, with locals saying: “You’re all terrorists.”

Khan has her work cut out for her, but is deeply committed to her mission.

“Extremist views from both sides blight the lives of British women and weaken our country,” she says.

“As a country that stands for equality, justice and women’s rights, we cannot allow extremists of any kind to deny British women their rights.”

Louise Raw is author of Striking A Light: The History of the Bryant and May Matchwomen’s Strike (Continuum). She will be chairing and speaking at the Freedom For Sussex 2014 Conference: Children and Young People on Thursday October 16 at the Pavilion Theatre, Marine Parade, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 3PX, 10.15am-4.30pm (registration opens at 9.45am). For more information visit http://www.safeinsussex.org.

As US and allied warplanes continued to strike targets inside Syria, the Obama administration is marshalling support for a war that is more and more explicitly aimed against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rather than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): here.

This week, to bestow legitimacy on the US war on Syria, the US media suddenly discovered the coalition “leader”, Hadi Al-Bahrah, and highlighted his calls for US bombing of his country. But none of the US media mentioned the revolt against him and the call by his own Military Council to oust him: here.

Le Monde is serving as a mouthpiece of the French state’s war propaganda, trying to browbeat the public into accepting a massive, long-term escalation of war in the Middle East and Africa with mendacious claims that Paris and its imperialist allies are waging a “war on terror”: here.

British Islamophobe’s hatred of lesbian rabbi


This video, with Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah from England, is called Women in Judaism seminar – Part 1/2.

This video is the sequel.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

What did this lesbian rabbi do to make Julie Burchill mad?

A lesbian Jewish leader says she has endured years of vitriol from the writer renowned for her strident style

Emily Dugan

Friday 26 September 2014

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah had been warned that welcoming one of Britain’s most controversial writers into her synagogue might have its pitfalls.

But when Julie Burchill, who lists “spite” among her hobbies, showed an interest in the Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue in spring 2009, the rabbi was keen to give her a chance. “I thought she was a very good writer and I knew she was interested in Jews,” Rabbi Sarah recalls. “I also knew that she was a bit of a loose cannon but… we don’t try to label people.”

Things began well. Burchill attended the Saturday shul regularly and was talking about converting. After a few weeks Rabbi Sarah and her civil partner, Jess Woods, even had the journalist and a friend over for a Shabbat dinner at their home.

But a couple of months later the rabbi got a sharp insight into her new congregant’s views. An email had gone round asking whether people would help with the synagogue’s 75th anniversary celebrations. Burchill replied: “No, because your rabbi respects PIG ISLAM”.

“I could have done a big public exposure,” Rabbi Sarah told The Independent this week. “But what I did was email her and said: ‘Julie, firstly this is deeply, deeply offensive. Both Jews and Muslims don’t eat pig. I don’t know what you’re doing but this is really unacceptable and offensive. I was incredibly polite.”

When this newspaper asked Burchill about the email, she replied: “PIGS AND APES are what some Muslims call Christians and Jews, by the way. Even in school textbooks! Google it.”

Burchill is not Jewish but describes herself as a Philo-Semite,

‘Philo-Semites’ of the Burchill type are basically anti-Semites turned inside out. They want to use Jews as battering ram cannon fodder in their Islamophobic violent crusade fantasies. If Jews don’t want to play along with these delusions, then these Jews become objects of hatred by these ‘Philo-Semites’.

Let us imagine that Islamophobic racists like Burchill succeed in their aim of cleansing all Muslims, supposedly the cause of all problems in Britain, ethnically from the United Kingdom. Then, people would find out there would still be problems. And who would people like Burchill blame for that, now that the Muslims were gone? Wouldn’t they blame ‘the Jews?’

and has become a vociferous defender of Israel. In a book out next month, The Unchosen, she charts her love affair with Judaism – but ends with an acerbic 23-page rant against Rabbi Sarah, whom she dubs “Call-Me-Elli” for her informal style.

In one of many withering put-downs, Burchill writes: “When not boasting about being gay and cool, she was – via the scenic route – boasting about how tolerant she was by ceaselessly ramming the merits of Islam down the collective throats of her captive audience.”

Looking at a copy of the book for the first time, in the home she shares with her partner overlooking the South Downs, Rabbi Sarah is appalled by Burchill’s words. “What do you do about somebody who has such vile attitudes which really stoke Islamophobia?” she asks.

She reads aloud a phrase about her partner Ms Wood, where she is described as “the partner-in-petting during that fateful Shabbat dinner” – and yelps. Burchill makes many more overblown references to the couple’s “canoodling” at the Shabbat dinner and whether it would “turn into a full-on Sapphic free-for-all”.

Rabbi Sarah is mortified. “It’s outrageous. In good faith I invited her into my home. My partner and I – anybody will tell you we’re not like that at all. On Shabbat what you do is greet everyone. Everybody is kissed and she will have been too. If you met my partner – I mean, how were we in our home? We are so not outrageous. We’re so ordinary and boring and middle aged. Do me a favour.”

Burchill’s deconstruction of the meal extends to the drinks the hosts did (and did not) serve, after Burchill brought bottles of champagne. “Surely I started to dislike Call-Me-Elli at the moment she substituted her homebrew for my Veuve Clicquot,” she writes.

For Rabbi Sarah, the critique epitomises the writer’s betrayal of their hospitality. “It’s such an invasion… We served the elderflower [wine] that my partner had actually made,” she says. Burchill is unrepentant, telling The Independent: “I don’t call giving someone home-brewed elderflower filth when they’ve brought two bottles of Bolly ‘hospitality’.”

Rabbi Sarah had tasted public criticism from Burchill before the book came out. In a Jewish Chronicle column in December 2009 the polemicist complained about the rabbi’s sermons, but did not name her. Ms Wood, Rabbi Sarah’s partner, who has an MBE for her charitable work with young LGBT people in Brighton, even took Burchill to the Press Complaints Commission over claims that Christians are persecuted all across the Muslim world. She lost the case because the article was judged to be fair comment.

As one of the first two lesbians to become Rabbis in Britain, 25 years ago, and as a Jewish supporter of a two state solution, Rabbi Sarah is used to being pilloried. But few have made their attacks so personal – or so concerted. Her chief crime, in Burchill’s eyes, was “nagging about the Palestinians” and using “her pulpit to hammer home the joys of Islam”.

The rabbi believes Burchill’s religious views are dangerously simplistic. “The problem is she doesn’t have any in-depth knowledge. I can imagine her endlessly watching the film Exodus with Paul Newman. She’s got a kind of Hollywood view of Jews. You know, ‘Jews are so clever, we’ve survived…’,” she says.

After five years of abuse in print from Burchill, Rabbi Sarah has come to the conclusion that the author is fixated on her. “One has to question Julie Burchill’s psychological motivation,” she says. “Here’s someone who claims she loves Jews who’s actually persecuting an individual Jew. She’s being a persecutor.”

Spanish women’s movement victory over government


Spanish demonstrators for women's reproductive rights

From The Local in Spain:

Spain scraps plans for tough new abortion law

Published: 23 Sep 2014 14:02 GMT+02:00

Updated: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday announced his government would shelve plans for a tough new law on abortions, saying there was not enough support for the legislation.

The draft reform, approved in January, would have allowed abortions only in cases of rape which had been reported to the police or when there was a medically-certified threat to the mother’s physical or psychological health.

Current legislation will now be revamped to ensure that 16 and 17-year-olds have to obtain parental permission before having an abortion, meaning that the most controversial aspects of the planned reforms will fall by the wayside.

The discarded draft bill caused divisions within Spain’s ruling conservative Popular Party and angered thousands of pro-choicers who took to the streets to voice their discontent.

The government’s official announcement of plans to shelve the reforms comes shortly after centre-right daily El Mundo reported that Rajoy had allegedly changed his mind, quoting sources from within the government.

“There’s no consensus regarding this bill, it’s looking unlikely that it will be approved,” Popular Party sources purportedly told the daily.

Under current Spanish legislation brought in by the previous Socialist government in 2010, women in Spain have the right to abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into their pregnancy.

Women also have the legal right to abort up to the 22nd week of pregnancy in cases where the mother’s health is at risk or the foetus shows serious deformities.

Under the previous 1985 law, abortion was a crime in Spain except in cases of rape, risk to the mother’s health or deformation of the foetus.

Again, Bahraini blogger arrested


Ghada Jamsheer

From Front Line Defenders:

2014/9/19

Bahrain – Human rights defender Ms Ghada Jamsheer detained for tweeting

Take action

On the evening of 14 September 2014, human rights defender Ms Ghada Jamsheer was arrested after the Public Prosecution ordered her detention for one week, during which she will be interrogated on allegations of defamation. She is currently detained at the Isa Town Detention Center for Women. No date has yet been scheduled for her trial.

Ghada Jamsheer is a human rights defender and the Head of the Women’s Petition Committee. She is an author, blogger, and an advocate for women’s rights and freedom of religion. Ghada Jamsheer attended the Fourth Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders in 2007.

On 9 September 2014 at 6:00 p.m., Ghada Jamsheer was summoned to appear before the Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security on the following day. This summons came in connection with messages posted via her Twitter account criticising alleged corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain. On 10 September 2014, the human rights defender was interrogated by the General Directorate for four hours on the basis of ten complaints filed against her for posting “insulting” tweets, after which she was released.

On 14 September 2014, Ghada Jamsheer was again detained for further questioning and she is to be held for one week. It is reported that the human rights defender has access to legal representation and her family has been able to visit her in detention.

Front Line Defenders is concerned at the ongoing pattern of intimidation and harassment by the Bahraini authorities against human rights defenders as well as the increasing prosecution of social media activists advocating for human rights in Bahrain.

Take action

The United States, a long-time ally of the al-Khalifa regime currently governing Bahrain, is in a unique position to pressure the country to change its policies. The United States must take concrete action to condemn the Bahraini regime for its ongoing human rights violations, such as the persecution of activists, and urge it to prioritize human rights and engage in a dialogue with the opposition. The United States has recently experienced some tension with its ally, with the expulsion of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski and the denial of entry to U.S. Representative James McGovern, but it has not yet taken any real steps against the government of Bahrain. Continued inaction by the U.S. government leaves the regime under the impression that the world will stand by and allow for impunity regardless of its egregious violations of human rights: here.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain. New information: The Observatory has been informed by the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) about the provisional release pending trial of Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja, GCHR Co-Director and a member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR): here.

ATTEMPTED suicides among young people in Bahrain are on the increase, according to a leading expert: here.