The Guardian World news: Islam

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Saudi Arabia opens high-speed rail linking Islam's holy cities

25 September, 2018 - 16:16

Haramain railway connecting Mecca and Medina part of plan to increase visitor numbers

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has inaugurated a high-speed rail link between the two holiest cities in Islam, part of efforts to boost tourism as the country seeks to shed dependence on oil exports.

The 280-mile (450-km) Haramain railway connecting Mecca and Medina with the Red Sea city of Jeddah cost £6bn ($7.87bn) and is one of the largest transport projects in the Middle East, targeting nearly 60 million passengers annually. Commercial operations are due to begin next week.

Related: Hajj 2018: the annual Islamic pilgrimage – in pictures

Related: After the hajj: Mecca residents grow hostile to changes in the holy city

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Memo to Bodyguard writers: Muslim women are more than victims or terrorists | Tasnim Nazeer

24 September, 2018 - 19:24

At a time when Islamophobic attacks are soaring, it’s despairing to see the BBC pander to dangerous stereotypes of hijab wearers
• WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Frustratingly, right from the onset of the BBC’s hugely popular drama Bodyguard, we were bombarded with negative stereotypes of Muslim women. We first see a hijab-wearing woman hiding in the toilet of a busy train, about to detonate a vest she is wearing packed with bombs (stereotype one: Muslim woman as terrorist). It then transpires she is actually a victim who looks frightened and vulnerable while our hero steps in to save the day (stereotype two: the oppressed Muslim woman).

Related: Record number of anti-Muslim attacks reported in UK last year

Related: Bodyguard finale: why I'm not convinced by the 'best' show of 2018

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For rightwing hypocrisy on free speech, look at Anjem Choudary | Michael Segalov

21 September, 2018 - 10:02

Choudary was sent to jail – no-platformed by the state – and rightly so. The law treats hate speech the same whether it’s from the far right or Islamic extremists

Nobody called Lord Holroyde a “snowflake” when in 2016 he sentenced hate preacher Anjem Choudary to five and a half years in prison for words that he’d said. Choudary was encouraging people to join Islamic State – a proscribed, banned terrorist organisation. Be in no doubt: it was language, not action, which led to a conviction.

Unsurprisingly there was no outpouring of outrage claiming Holroyde was turning the nation into a mollycoddled mass of censorious drips too afraid to tackle Choudary’s abhorrent views with sensible arguments. Many celebrated his imprisonment, and now some conservative commentators are demanding – if his views are unchanged – that he should remain locked up for longer rather than be released next month as is planned.

Related: Hate preacher Anjem Choudary, to be freed in weeks, is 'still a threat'

Related: Tommy Robinson and the editor: how a newspaper ‘sows division’ where Jo Cox died

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Danish mayors vow to ignore citizenship handshake plan

20 September, 2018 - 14:26

Rightwing government wants to make handshake mandatory in naturalisation ceremonies

Opposition is growing in Denmark to plans by the ruling rightwing coalition to deny citizenship to any immigrant who declines to shake hands with their local mayor during a revamped naturalisation ceremony – a measure widely seen as targeting Muslims.

An opinion poll published on Thursday showed 52% of respondents opposed the proposal, part of tough new rules for obtaining Danish citizenship introduced by the minority conservative government in June. Several mayors have said they will ignore the requirement if the law is passed.

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Tartuffe review – RSC's buoyant satire of modern religious hypocrisy

19 September, 2018 - 20:00

The Swan, Stratford-on-Avon
This striking new take on Molière by the writers behind Citizen Khan sends up religious phoniness and secular pretension

These days, every classic play seems to be updated or “reimagined”. In the case of this new version of Molière’s Tartuffe by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, who collaborated on TV’s Citizen Khan and The Kumars at No 42, it makes total sense. What we see is a satire on modern religious hypocrisy that respects Molière’s flawless comic structure.

The action has been relocated to a Birmingham suburb where a British Pakistani family live a life of comfortable affluence. Imran, the parvenu patriarch, was once proud of his Norwegian spruce decking, but has fallen under the spell of a seemingly straitlaced holy man, Tartuffe. Not only does Imran decide the family has to live as “real Muslims”, he also plans to marry his progressive daughter, studying the plight of women in sub-Saharan Africa, to Tartuffe and even signs over his property to the two-faced intruder.

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'Isis will be looking for targets': guns and fear mark Afghan Ashura

19 September, 2018 - 18:53

Shias in Kabul prepared for annual commemorations by scrambling to arm themselves

Two months ago, Mohammed Murtaza Turkmeni gathered up his savings and bought his first Kalashnikov. He was born, educated and started a family against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s civil war, but until now the 27-year-old telecoms engineer had never fought or wanted to fight.

This year, he didn’t feel he had a choice. He is one of hundreds of men from Kabul’s Shia population who have taken up arms to protect themselves and their community during Ashura, a ceremony that has been a frequent target for sectarian attacks from Pakistan to Iraq.

Related: Pakistan's Imran Khan skirts issue of Afghan refugees' citizenship

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All those who are displaced by crisis and conflict need help and protection | Letter

19 September, 2018 - 14:39

57 leaders of faith and religious organisations, groups and communities, call for national governments and their leaders to ensure that internally displaced people get the help they need

We, leaders of faith and religious organisations, groups and communities, including those supporting the Charter for Faith-Based Humanitarian Action, are compelled by our faiths to come together to speak out for those most marginalised. All faiths and religions actively encourage the recognition and support of those most in need and are uniquely placed to respond. Many of us live near, or are part of, populations affected by crisis, and enjoy special relationships of trust with as well as insights into and access to our communities beyond those of non-faith actors. We are present before crises occur and are key providers of assistance and protection both during them and afterwards.

We can no longer stand by as the number of people forced from their homes but who have not crossed a border continues to rise in the wake of protracted crises and climate change. Currently there are more than 65 million people displaced due to conflict and violence, and 40.5 million of these remain in their countries of origin. It would take more than a year to read all their names. Millions more are displaced due to climate-related events and disasters. We call on leaders of national governments to do more to ensure that the needs and rights of internally displaced people are addressed and upheld.

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Raise Your Gaze: “Islamic feminism is overlooked in the mainstream’

16 September, 2018 - 08:00
A group of Muslim feminists determined to shape a non-judgmental space in which to practise their faith

• Michael Sheen introduces the 2018 New Radicals winners
• Disrupt Disability: designing wheelchairs with a difference

Raise Your Gaze began as tongue-in-cheek conversation between members of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative about the ways in which Muslim women have been expected to maintain propriety – by being modest, averting their eyes and so on – and has expanded to become a core part of the mosque’s offering.

“We have put together seminars,” explains trustee Naima Khan, “from conversations on Islamophobia and resilience, on creativity and healing, on Islam’s feminist history.” The purpose is to make people think in new ways about social injustice “that we’re missing by not really looking at it”.

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The Guardian view on Xinjiang: China’s secret camps are at last in the spotlight | Editorial

13 September, 2018 - 18:16
As increasing evidence emerges of the arbitrary detention of Muslim minorities on a shocking scale in the north-western region, the new UN rights chief and others are speaking out

It is unthinkable. Yet week by week, the evidence mounts that in north-western China’s Xinjiang region, as many as a million people are being held in extralegal indoctrination camps where inmates are forced to write self-criticisms, sing patriotic songs and chant slogans praising the Communist party. According to former detainees, people appear to have been pulled in because they went abroad, because they engaged in conventional religious practices, or even because they do not speak Chinese. Many are held indefinitely. Some say they were tortured. Most of those held are Uighurs, who make up less than half of the 23 million population of the region, or belong to Kazakh or other Muslim minorities. One report, drawing upon official sources, suggests some areas have detention quotas.

The camps are the most shocking aspect of an intense and all-encompassing crackdown, described by Human Rights Watch this week as amounting to rights violations of a scope and scale not seen in China since the Cultural Revolution unleashed in 1966. According to the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, official data suggests a fifth of all arrests in China last year were in Xinjiang, which has just 1.5% of its population. The human cost is immense, as a new Guardian report reveals.

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Pollution and corruption are choking the life out of Basra | Diaa Jubaili

13 September, 2018 - 10:00

The Iraqi city is caught in a trap between the growing influence of Iran and government neglect

Salty, foul water flows through the pipes of Basra: a city racked by high unemployment, broken healthcare and education systems, drugs smuggled in across the borders and cooked up at home with Iranian raw materials. Millions of landmines from wars past hem in the city, even as militias – the armed wings of Shia political parties, given new life by the fight against Isis – tyrannise its people. Even the clean, clear river that my brother and I used to fish from is now a muddy creek filled with sewage and sickness.

All this and more came together in the explosion of fury in Basra this past week, driving thousands of citizens into the streets to demand their rights. This unrest may surprise many in the west, where the conflicts of the region are often seen through the lens of sectarian strife. Yet many Iraqis are tired of Iran treating Iraq like its own backyard – a shared Shiite faith has been used to exploit Iraq’s wealth rather than build up its people. Most of the demonstrators are young people, under the age of 30. They were children when the United States, the United Kingdom and others invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime – paving the way for Iran’s expanded influence through the Shia parties that took power in Baghdad.

Related: Protesters set fire to Iranian consulate in Basra

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A good time for the next generation to renew Jewish-Palestinian dialogue | Letters

10 September, 2018 - 18:47
Tony Klug, who was involved in a previous initiative to bring the two communities together, applauds Michael Segalov’s call for serious talks. Plus, Ya’ir Klein on Israel’s conception of Jewishness

Michael Segalov’s call for dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian groups in Britain in the light of the tensions over the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism and the question of free speech on Israel/Palestine is one of the few constructive proposals to emerge from this whole wretched issue (Journal, 6 September). But it is not a new idea. In 1984, a number of Jews and Palestinians in the UK started to meet regularly in an effort to break the silent hostility that had largely characterised their relations until then and to help “promote a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. At the time, the idea of conversing was regarded by both communities as very radical, requiring the group to meet clandestinely until 1991 when it finally went public as the Council for Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue, with an elected executive board co-chaired by Saida Nusseibeh and myself.

Serious dialogue is not an easy option. It is not about exchanging niceties or sounding off in front of the other. As we noted at the time in a published leaflet: “The early tendency by participants on both sides to sermonize to the other … soon came to be replaced by a mutual recognition that each had much to learn from the other.” It went on: “The dialogue process can be one of profound discomfort to begin with, as it frequently forces the participants to reconsider deeply held convictions concerning the beliefs, motives and deeds of the other side – and also of their own side. Above all, it is a humanizing process. It is much easier to despise, humiliate and destroy a stereotype than a fellow human being with feelings, frailties and hopes not so different from one’s own. Palestinians and Jews engaged in dialogue … tend to lose their susceptibility to the hate propaganda and demonic imagery which have been employed by all sides over the decades.”

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Muslim group calls for preacher linked to Trump to be denied UK visa

9 September, 2018 - 11:20

Franklin Graham, who has called Islam ‘evil’, is due to speak at a festival in Blackpool

Britain’s leading Muslim organisation has called on the Home Office to refuse a UK visa to a prominent US evangelical preacher with links to Donald Trump and a track record of Islamophobic and homophobic statements.

Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, has been invited to preach at a Christian festival in Blackpool this month.

Related: 'Exvangelicals': why more religious people are rejecting the evangelical label

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One Day in the Haram review – a fascinating glimpse inside Islam's holiest site

6 September, 2018 - 14:00

This insider’s look at the day-to-day workings of the Great Mosque of Mecca is reverent and impressive

With a release timed to coincide with Muharram, the Islamic new year, on 11 September, this very reverent documentary proffers an access-all-areas look at the Haram, the Great Mosque of Mecca (or Makkah), built to house Islam’s most holy shrine, the Kaaba. Only Muslims are permitted to enter Mecca, and this look inside the mosque offers an exceptionally rare glimpse into what goes on there, how it is run, what the daily routines are like and so on. It also provides a useful teaching tool for younger Muslim viewers and recent converts to the faith.

Marshalling pin-sharp footage shot from on high, and sequences shot among worshippers participating in the rituals of hajj or pilgrimage, often in mesmerising slow motion, director Abrar Hussain takes pains to balance the big picture with plenty of minute and fascinating detail. The Kaaba, the big black cube at the centre of the Haram, is a major focal point – what it represents, how it’s maintained, which prayers are said there, and when. But the excursions to the outer spokes of the Haram, the factories and offices that all service it, the minarets from which calls to prayer are projected, are just as fascinating to explore. Textile fans will be entranced by footage at a factory that makes the black coverings that are embroidered with Qur’anic scripture in special gold thread and wire.

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Indonesian province bans men and women from dining together

5 September, 2018 - 16:37

Islamic Aceh district rules only married or related couples can eat out at the same table

A district in Indonesia’s deeply Islamic Aceh province has banned men and women from dining together unless they are married or related, according to an official who said it would help women be "more well behaved".

Aceh is the only region in the world’s most populous Muslim majority country that imposes Islamic law and has been criticised in the past for putting moral restrictions on women.

Related: The public flogging of two gay men and what it says about Indonesia's future

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Manto: the writer who felt the pain of India's partition

5 September, 2018 - 06:00

Saadat Hasan Manto chronicled Bombay life in all its ugly beauty – until sectarian horrors were unleashed on the streets he loved. A new biopic by director Nandita Das retells his stories

It took just a moment to cleave India in two. At midnight between 14 and 15 August 1947, the country of Pakistan was born and India was liberated from British rule. In the months leading to the end of the British Raj, one of the world’s largest migrations occurred. Fourteen million people were displaced, leading to acts of mass violence, turning Hindu, Muslim and Sikh against one another.

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'We need to grow up': Malaysian MPs condemn caning over lesbian sex

4 September, 2018 - 06:33

Politician calls for decriminalisation of homosexuality amid outrage over punishment in sharia court

A Malaysian MP has called for laws that criminalise homosexuality to be immediately abolished amid outcry over the caning of two women convicted by a sharia court of attempting to have lesbian sex.

Charles Santiago, a parliamentary member from the Malaysian state of Selangor, expressed his outrage in a series of tweets after the punishment was carried out in the Terengganu court on Monday morning.

Related: Women caned in Malaysia for attempting to have lesbian sex

Related: Malaysia accused of 'state-sponsored homophobia' after LGBT crackdown

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Shahira Yusuf: 'I have always felt beautiful'

2 September, 2018 - 08:00

Signed by the model agency that discovered Kate Moss, Londoner Shahira Yusuf is the outspoken and politically engaged Muslim model who is fast becoming the new face of ‘modest fashion’

When Shahira Yusuf signed with Storm Models, the first thing she did was sit down with her agent and write a list. These were her “boundaries”, the rules that stylists and photographers should be made aware of before a shoot. She must have her arms covered, she must have her chest covered, and her hair. She must not be expected to wear clothes that are very tight, nor anything that makes her feel uncomfortable. “I’m fully prepared for some people not to like me, but it’s just as possible that would be because I’m a woman as because I wear the hijab,” she says. “But I’m firm, and headstrong, and I’m not going to succumb to negative voices.”

The office of an international model agency is an interesting place in which to consider beauty. In reception a middle-aged man makes notes on the products he needs to buy to perfect his teenage daughter’s hair – she wobbles down the corridor in heels re-learning how to walk. The walls are covered with head shots: these are the faces that sell things, and these are the faces that define, for a season anyway, what beauty is. When only white girls, when only white girls with blonde hair and flat chests and shiny skin lead fashion campaigns and appear on the covers of magazines, then the implication is that other types of women are not beautiful. The impact of that ripples through women’s lives, influencing their self-worth, their identities, the limits of what is possible. Which is why this stuff matters. It matters that 21-year-old Yusuf, the youngest of eight siblings brought up in Stratford, east London, was signed by the agency that discovered Kate Moss. It matters that she is being promoted as the new face of “modest fashion”. Although, she says, matter-of-factly, “I have always felt beautiful.”

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The far-right activist and the editor: how paper ‘sows division’ where an MP died

2 September, 2018 - 07:00
Danny Lockwood’s outspoken editorials and his meeting with Tommy Robinson have split opinion in Batley, home town of murdered MP Jo Cox

In the centre of Batley stands Jo Cox House, named after the MP murdered by a rightwing extremist during the EU referendum campaign. For many in the West Yorkshire town it stands as a reminder of the perils of extremism and the need for unity. Close by stand the offices of the town’s weekly newspaper, whose editor and proprietor is accused of aggravating community tensions through a series of anti-Muslim opinion pieces.

In January, Danny Lockwood, owner of The Press, met Tommy Robinson, former English Defence League leader and notorious Islamo-phobe, near Jo Cox House to discuss how the town’s Muslim and “established” white community were “completely at odds with each other”.

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The dark secret of Thailand’s child brides

1 September, 2018 - 22:00
Underage Muslim girls are regularly forced into marriage with Malaysian men, and the government turns a blind eye

One day this summer, 11-year-old Ayu married 41-year-old Che Abdul Karim Che Hamid at a small pink mosque on the banks of the Golok river in the far south of Thailand. Earlier that morning, Che Abdul Karim and his soon-to-be child bride had travelled over the border from Malaysia into the Thai province of Narathiwat for the wedding. After a short ceremony at 11am and a trip to the Islamic Council offices to get their marriage certificate stamped, the couple crossed back over the border. Ayu, was now Che Abdul Karim’s third wife.

In Malaysia, where men can legally marry girls under 18 if they get Islamic sharia court approval, Ayu’s case caused a national outcry in parliament and protests on the streets. But over the border in Thailand, where the controversial union took place, the response by the government and religious authorities has been notably muted.

A girl raped in her village was taken to a shelter, but the Islamic Council visited to try to make her marry her rapist

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Exhibition showcasing Muslim fashion to open in San Francisco

31 August, 2018 - 14:21

From Nike hijabs to couture gowns, the show explores the diversity of Islamic style

A major exhibition exploring the diverse dress codes of Muslims, and the first of its kind dedicated to displaying Islamic culture within a fashion context, is to open in September.

From the launch of Vogue Arabia to Uniqlo and Dolce & Gabbana branching into modest fashion lines, Islamic style has become a burgeoning global market in recent years – and a profitable one, too. Figures from Thomson Reuters forecast that the global fashion spend by Muslims will reach $373bn (£288bn) by 2022.

Related: Got it covered: fashion wakes up to Muslim women’s style

Related: Generation M: how young Muslim women are driving a modest fashion revolution

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