Muslim woman told abusive passenger ‘you don’t have freedom of hate’

A Muslim woman told an abusive passenger “You have freedom of speech, but you don’t have freedom of hate” on a crowded bus in Sheffield after interrupting their Islamophobic rant.

The incident occurred on October 11.

The Muslim woman, when speaking to Tell MAMA, described how the abusive woman targeted a white convert who wears the hijab, adding that the abuse included statements like “go back to where you came from” and “you’re coming over here, claiming all the benefits,” which the woman challenged despite being on the opposite side of the bus.

Her intervention, however, did not stop the verbal abuse as the witness to the tirade became subject to similar abuse.

The abusive woman told her: “I can say what I like, I have freedom of speech”. To which, she replied: “You have freedom of speech, but you don’t have freedom of hate”. Despite challenging the abuse, the woman then directed broad anti-Muslim and Islamophobic comments at her.

Another passenger then spoke out, accusing the abusive woman of being racist.

The bus driver had also threatened to remove the woman if she continued to abuse Muslim passengers but the perpetrator soon left the bus on her volition.

After speaking with the bus driver, who agreed to provide a witness statement, the Muslim woman reported the incident to South Yorkshire Police and praised the actions of the driver after speaking with his employer.

The abusive language, directed at two white converts, both of whom wear the hijab, demonstrates how Islamophobic and anti-Muslim language is often racialised, which can “incorporate cultural factors in addition to traditional, physical markers of race and ethnicity”. This form of racialisation, notable in the United States, has a long history which has been documented at length by various academics.

This incident reflects how some perpetrators demonstrate a conscious and outward rejection of the national identity of the person they are victimising. In broader terms, this would fall under the ‘Defensive’ typology, outlined in hate crime literature by McDevitt in 2002. Further research conducted in 2014, at the Leicester Hate Crime Project, found that such a desire manifested in public discourses around social welfare or employment, where a sense of resentment or hostility grew from the perceived unfairness that certain out-groups were ‘sponging’ welfare support or taking jobs away from the dominant in-group.

The perpetrator was described by the Muslim woman as being white, female, who was in her fifties or early sixties.

Reports of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia on transport networks to Tell MAMA increased by 25 per cent last year with 107 verified reports, up from 85 verified reports in the previous reporting cycle.

You can get advice through our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.




The post Muslim woman told abusive passenger ‘you don’t have freedom of hate’ appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: bus, hate crime, News, public transport, South Yorkshire police

What did the ECHR judgment on disparaging the Prophet Muhammad say?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has upheld the conviction of an Austrian woman who called the Prophet Muhammad a paedophile did not violate her freedom of speech.

This judgment, however, is not final as any party has three months to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

The details of the judgment are important to read in full, given the over-reliance of the 3-page press release, in understanding the ruling, and why the ECHR agreed that the Austrian courts had “carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and to have religious peace preserved in Austrian society.”

To understand this ECHR judgment, however, first requires an understanding of her conviction in Austria.

The applicant had, from January 2008, held several seminars entitled “Basic Information on Islam” at the educational institute of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), which were advertised online for the public.

An FPÖ leaflet targeting young voters had also promoted the seminars in the context of a wider education package.

Two seminars held in October and November 2009 attracted around 30 individuals to each event, including an undercover journalist whose employer then reported the comments to the police, which, in turn, resulted in charges for inciting hatred, per Article 283 of the Austrian Criminal Code.

The woman was found guilty of disparaging religious doctrines and ordered to pay a fine of €480, but mitigating circumstances meant that she avoided a custodial sentence which can carry a six-month sentence. Her repeated infractions, were, however, aggravating factors.

The court ruled that she had made three incriminating statements which included the claim that the Prophet Muhammad was a “warlord, he had many women, to put it like this, and liked to do it with children”.

The second incriminating statement concerned her claim that the canonical hadith of al-Bukhari referenced Aisha and child sex. And the final incriminating statement related to a quote she gave to her sister where she said: “A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? What do you call that? Give me an example? What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?”.

The Regional Court could not establish if the applicant had intended to malign all Muslims but did conclude that she intended to wrongfully accuse the Prophet Muhammad of ‘having paedophilic tendencies’ and of disregarding the notion that the marriage had continued until the Prophet’s death when Aisha had turned eighteen. And, given the public nature of the seminar, it was possible that some individuals might have been ‘disturbed’ by such statements.

The applicant had argued that her comments fell within the framework of freedom of expression and that religious groups must tolerate criticism.

But this particular judgment found that the woman was not neutral when presenting her impugned statements. She had no intention of furthering public understanding or had sought to provide the audience with an appropriate or relevant historical context or background.

The Austrian Court of Appeal stated that she was convicted because she had accused the Prophet Muhammad of paedophilia by referring to the plural form of ‘children’ and ‘child sex’, adding that she provided no evidence in her seminars to prove that his primary sexual interest in Aisha related to her prepubescent age. In her subsequent evidence to the Court of Appeal, she contradicted her claim by providing a text which confirmed that the Prophet Muhammad’s first wife was fifteen years his senior. Khadijah was Muhammad’s only wife during her lifetime. The prophet re-married following her death, to a widow named Sawdah. It was only after arriving in Medina, having fled persecution in Mecca, did Muhammad agree to other marriages for political alliances and to fulfil his responsibilities as the head of the Muslim community, according to the Oxford Dictionary on Islam.

The Austrian woman then took her appeal to the Supreme Court. But the ruling was like that of the Court of Appeal: it ruled that the woman had no intention of furthering public debate or knowledge, as they intended to defame the Prophet Muhammad as someone not worthy of worship.


The ECHR concluded that her statements went ‘beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate and classifying them as an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam’, which had the capacity to stir up prejudice and risk religious peace, hence why “the domestic courts came to the conclusion that the facts at issue contained elements of incitement to religious intolerance”.

The Court did agree that freedom of religion did not exempt individuals or groups from criticism or a denial of their religion. It cited other laws and international standards which do not seek to criminalise blasphemy or religious insult, including the views of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the European Commission for Democracy through Law.

Simon Cox, a migration lawyer, argued that the ruling was more concerned with maintaining peace and countering hatred against religious groups, rather than a question of blasphemy or religious feeling.

Douglas Murray framed the ruling in a civilizational context, alluding to the idea that criticism of Islam vis-a-vis the Prophet Muhammad has become sacrosanct, which has created a two-tier legal system. This falsehood has been challenged by Steve Peers, a professor of EU, Human Rights & World Trade Law at the University of Essex, who, in a long blog post, argued that the ECHR judgment, was, in principle, grounded in the idea of finding a balance between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Nor can the ECHR ‘overrule national decisions or annual national laws’. Others have gone to great lengths to challenge some of the enduring myths about the ECHR. Mr Peers, however, was critical of the judgment, arguing that such case law “places too much priority on the right not to be offended, and not enough on the right to offend.”

The case was always about the application (or, in the arguments of the applicant, about the misapplication of it) of Austrian law. No state is compelled to follow this ECHR ruling. Again, that is not the function of the Court.

Others have documented how similar cases related to other faiths have gone through the ECHR, including the banning of a film in Austria in 1994 as it would offend Austrian Roman Catholics.

Some used the judgment to attack the Prophet Muhammad as a paedophile, including the current leader of Ukip, Gerard Batten.

Mr Batten tweeted, “European Court of Human Rights rules that we cannot call a paedophile a paedophile.” Tell MAMA condemned this language, as we did with similar statements made by Mr Batten in July.

Freedom of expression is a vital tool in society. But it comes with the added responsibility to not harm the dignity of others or to promote hatred, violence, or discrimination. Sadly, for some, a disproportionate hatred of Islam is often interchangeable with a hatred of Muslims. Individuals also have the right to the right to change their religion or beliefs at any time without fear of violence or harassment.

In some cases, reported to Tell MAMA, perpetrators have targeted Muslims on social media or in public or private institutions, with statements about the Prophet Muhammad to cause them offence and upset. In 2017, a Muslim teacher at an adult learning centre felt antagonised by a student who asked several leading questions about her religion, including the question, “Why did your prophet get married to a nine-year-old?”. Other questions related to Rotherham and if the Quran was ‘full of crap’. When she complained, however, she was suspended by management for challenging his views and calling them ‘racist’ despite the student only receiving a verbal warning.

Our 2016 annual report noted that far-right inspired social media accounts had used hashtags to demonise the Prophet Muhammad – labelling him a rapist, warlord, and paedophile.

Some Muslim men have been targeted and threatened with paedophile slurs despite the overwhelming evidence that race is not a motivating factor for perpetrators.  Others have analysed data concerning sexual offences against children and found that a majority of perpetrators were white. The Full Fact analysis is succinct but points to some clear gaps in existing data collection methods.







The post What did the ECHR judgment on disparaging the Prophet Muhammad say? appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: Austria, ECHR, Europe, Freedom Party, News, Prophet Muhammad

Pittsburgh synagogue victims include 97-year-old, pair of brothers

A 97-year-old woman, two brothers in their 50s and a married couple in their 80s were among the 11 worshipers shot dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue during Sabbath prayers in the deadliest attack ever on America’s Jewish community, officials said on Sunday.

The names of the dead were released a day after a gunman, armed with an assault rifle and three handguns, stormed the Tree of Life temple in the city’s heavily Jewish Squirrel Hill neighbourhood yelling “All Jews must die” as he opened fire on the congregation.

In addition to the 11 mostly elderly victims who were killed, six people, including four police officers, were wounded before the suspect was arrested.

Robert Bowers, 46, who has a history of posting anti-Semitic material online, was charged under federal hate crime statutes, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

“The fact that this attack took place during a worship service makes it even more heinous,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said. Brady told a news conference that Bowers was to make his first court appearance on Monday afternoon before a federal judge in Pittsburgh.

The Squirrel Hill area was home to the late Fred Rogers whose long-running children’s television show “Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood” featured lessons on friendship and kindness. Five of the dead were from Squirrel Hill and the rest were from other parts of Pittsburgh.

The mass shooting sparked security alerts at houses of worship around the country and condemnation from politicians and religious leaders.

Some complained that the confrontational, nationalistic rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump has encouraged right-wing extremists and fed a surge in activity by hate groups.

Trump, who quickly branded Saturday’s shooting an act of pure evil and called on Americans to rise above hatred, was already facing similar criticism ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections following a spate of pipe bombs mailed last week to some of his prominent critics. The targets, mostly Democrats, included former U.S. President Barack Obama.


“Honestly I think this president’s whole modus operandi is to divide us. He gets up in the morning with new and inventive ways to divide us,” U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who is Jewish, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” broadcast on Sunday.

Trump told reporters the killings might have been prevented if there had been an armed guard at the temple. Synagogue officials said police would only normally have been present for security on high holidays.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Sunday said keeping guns out of the hands of irrational people was a better way to prevent violence, and called for unity in facing Saturday’s tragedy.

“We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh history by working together,” he told reporters.

Among those killed were: David Rosenthal, 54; his brother Cecil Rosenthal, 59; Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice Simon, 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69. The eldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News Sunday that DHS officials visited the Pittsburgh synagogue in March to provide training on active shooter responses.

FBI Special Agent Robert Jones said he did not know why Bowers targeted the Tree of Life synagogue.

Authorities believe the suspect entered the synagogue, opened fire on the worshippers and was fleeing when he encountered a police officer, Jones said. The two exchanged gunfire, he said, and Bowers reentered the building before a police tactical squad arrived.

Bowers surrendered and was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds.

News of the attack spread quickly through the surrounding neighbourhood. Congregants at a nearby Synagogue, Beth Shalom, were alarmed before learning that the perpetrator had been captured, said Ira Frank, a past president of the congregation. He said he could imagine a scene of pandemonium if the assailant showed up at his temple.

“What was going through my mind was people who were going to walk, or children who run in front of their parents, behind their parents, people in wheelchairs, in strollers,” he said. About half of the congregants at Beth Shalom do not drive on the Sabbath, he said.

Federal prosecutors charged Bowers late on Saturday with 29 criminal counts including violating U.S. civil rights laws.

Bowers’ virulent anti-Semitic views were evident in prolific online postings. In one, early on Saturday, he wrote that a Jewish refugee group, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in”.

The Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Council for Public Affairs described Saturday’s rampage as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.

In Israel, cabinet ministers stood for a moment of silence on Sunday to honour the victims of the shooting.


The post Pittsburgh synagogue victims include 97-year-old, pair of brothers appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: Antisemitism, News, Pittsburgh synagogue, Shabbath, Trump

UK Council for Internet Safety Disregards Online Anti-Muslim Hate

The Government recently set up an Executive Board of the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS).

The work of the Board is to look at online safety issues and have the ability to represent the impact of harms, as well as the ability to mobilise a response to online harms. As part of that process, you would expect that the Board would want representation from organisations working daily to ensure the safety of Black and Minority Ethnic communities, such as Muslim communities. Given the large rise in anti-Muslim hate which Tell MAMA has been documenting over the last 6 years and online risks to Muslim communities, you would assume that this would be an area that the Board would want represented. Instead, it has included a single voice from the Independent Advisory Board on Hate Crime, covering all strands. This is not good enough.

Once again, we are seeing a displacement of the concerns of BAME communities, in this case, Muslim communities, which are being relegated at a time when the far right are actively targeting Muslim communities online. The Department for Media Culture and Sports, much like the Department for Education, has relegated anti-Muslim hate to the bounds of peripheral work, as though the country is still stuck in 2008, when a decade later, fear within Muslim communities and hate crimes specifically against this set of communities has risen sharply.

Muslim communities frankly deserve better and the Department for Culture, Media and Sports and the UKCIS in particular, need an urgent rethink on this , if not a wake up call. It is, frankly, a disgrace.

The post UK Council for Internet Safety Disregards Online Anti-Muslim Hate appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: anti-Muslim hate, hate crime, IAG, Independent Advisory Group, News, Opinions, UKCIS

Celebrity Jewish-Arab wedding stirs mixed feelings in Israel

A surprise celebrity wedding bridging Israel’s Jewish-Muslim divide drew mixed public reaction on Thursday in a country where such inter-marriage is extremely rare.

Wednesday’s nuptials of Tsahi Halevi, an Arabic-fluent Jewish actor, and Lucy Aharish, a Muslim anchor on a top Hebrew news show, followed a four-year romance that, friends said, they had kept secret to avoid falling foul of cultural sensitivities.

“We Are Signing a Peace Accord,” the couple joked on their wedding invitation, quoted by the Israel Hayom newspaper.

The decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict has often fed tensions between Israel’s majority Jews and the 20 percent Arab minority. According to the most recent national marriage data available, for 2015, just 23 out of some 58,000 weddings were between Arabs and Jews.

Israel’s best-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth wished bride and groom “Mabrouk” – Arabic for “congratulations” – on its front page, writing the word in Hebrew transliteration.

But the marriage was rued by Arye Deri, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who serves as Israeli interior minister, a role that oversees the country’s population registry.

“It’s their own private affair. But, as a Jew, I have to tell you that I’m against such things because we must preserve the Jewish people,” Deri said in an interview on Israel’s Army Radio. “(Their) children will grow up, go to school and later want to get married, and then they’ll face difficult problems.”

Both bride and groom have had public brushes with geopolitics.

Halevi is a former undercover commando in the Palestinian territories – a role he re-enacted for the hit Netflix series “Fauda”. Aharish had complained, in media interviews, of suffering discrimination in Israel as well as pressure from her family over the prospect of her marrying outside of Islam.

The post Celebrity Jewish-Arab wedding stirs mixed feelings in Israel appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: Jewish-Muslim, Lucy Aharish, News, Tsahi Halevi, Yedioth Ahranoth

In Indonesia, transgender women find haven in Islamic boarding school

Shinta Ratri, the matron of an Indonesian Islamic boarding school, corrects the pronunciation of a group of fellow Muslims as they chant the phrase “only one God” in Arabic and prepare to pray together.

Nothing unusual in that, except that these worshippers, gathered in a cramped residential neighbourhood of the city of Yogyakarta, are all transgender women in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country where hostility against them has surged, forcing many underground.

Rights activists say hardline Islamist groups are fast eroding the country’s long-standing reputation for tolerance of minorities like the “waria” – a portmanteau of the Indonesian words for “woman” and “man” – as the trans community is locally known.

Ratri, 56, and her students and friends witnessed this intimidation first hand in 2016, when vigilante Islamists mobbed the Pesantren Waria Al-Fatah school and forced it to shut down.

Yuni Shara, 51, described how a group of “aggressive” men in white robes and skull caps descended on the school after Friday prayers.

“I felt angry that my freedom, especially my freedom of religion, was being violated,” said Shara, who lives at the school. “… Even the state can’t fully guarantee our safety from these groups,” she added as she took off her wig and make-up before joining the others in prayer.


The school, set up in 2008, was empty for months after the raid but people have gradually begun to return to what is now widely considered a safe space for the waria community.

But while the school is accepted by its immediate neighbours, opposition remains.

“We believe it is our duty as Muslims to prevent this kind of LGBT behaviour and forbid it,” said Umar Said, a senior cleric with the hardline Islamic People’s Forum which forcibly shut down the school two years ago.

While FUI does not “go looking for” waria, the group remains committed to preventing them from promoting their rights. Being transgender is a disease that can be cured through prayer, he said.

Historically, waria and other gender-fluid communities have been an accepted part of Indonesian society. The Bugis ethnic group on Sulawesi island for instance traditionally recognises five genders, including one that is said to “transcend”, or combine, the female and male.

Homosexuality is not regulated by law in Indonesia, except in the ultra-conservative province of Aceh where same-sex relations are banned. But parliament is considering revamping the national criminal code to impose restrictions on consensual sex outside marriage – a move that activists say could be used to target the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.


Even without legal barriers, many in the LGBT community face ostracism from their families and communities, discrimination in looking for work and, in some cases, violence and humiliation.

Many waria, banished from their homes, end up as sex workers, including some who have slowly started to gather again at Ratri’s boarding school to pray.

For Ustad Arif Nuh Safri, a preacher at the Yogyakarta boarding school, embracing the waria is part of his duty.

During a Koran study session, Safri encourages his congregation to ask candid questions about their sexuality and how it affects their relationship with God.

“As long as we can connect with each other on a human level, we can accept each other the way we are,” Safri said, adding he believes most Indonesians are as “open-minded” as him.

Ratri, dressed in a purple head scarf and bright red eye-shadow and lipstick, says it is this openness that allows the otherwise shunned waria to “make peace with God”.

“As waria, we are already under huge psychological stress,” she said. “Here we can believe we are not sinners for being trans.”

The post In Indonesia, transgender women find haven in Islamic boarding school appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: Indonesia, News, transgender, Waria, Yogyakarta

Oxford Islamic scholar Ramadan admits to ‘sex games’, denies rape

Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic studies, said on Monday he had engaged in “sex games” with two women in France who accuse him of rape, but said the “submissive-dominant” relationships were consensual.

It is the first time in the near one-year long case that the Oxford University professor, who has taken a leave of absence from the British institution, admits to having had sexual relations with the plaintiffs.

“He can finally speak freely, and he’s relieved,” his lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, told reporters after Ramadan, the grandson of an Islamist thinker who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, was heard by investigators in Paris.

Ramadan faced one of the accusers, named only as “Christelle”, during a 10-hour confrontation on September 18.

The woman, an Islam convert who suffers from disabilities arising from a car accident, says Ramadan raped her in October 2009 in a hotel room in Lyon, southeastern France.

Ramadan said he had “relations akin to sex games of the submissive-dominant kind, but always in a consensual and knowing way,” his lawyer said.

“It has been one year now that Mr Ramadan’s defendants have been playing tricks to save his cause. But the truth is that he lied from the beginning of this case by denying he had sexual relations and that it took one year to confess,” Jonas Haddad, a lawyer for the other plantiff, Henda Ayari, told Reuters.

“Will it take him another year to confess the rest?” he said.

Ramadan’s lawyer said a series of text messages found in the two women’s mobile phones showed the relations were consensual. He filed a request for Ramadan, in custody since he was notified of the French investigation on February 2, to be freed.

Married with four children, Ramadan is a grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna. He enjoys a substantial following among young Muslims and has challenged French restrictions on wearing veils.

He also faces a third criminal complaint for rape by a Swiss woman in Geneva.

The post Oxford Islamic scholar Ramadan admits to ‘sex games’, denies rape appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: France, Geneva, Hassan Al Banna, Henda Ayari, Muslim Brotherhood, News, Sex games, Swiss Woman, Tariq Ramadan

Man threatened Muslim teen and called her a ‘terrorist’ on London bus

The Metropolitan Police are investigating an Islamophobic incident on a London bus after a man called a Muslim teenager a ‘terrorist’ and threatened her by saying “we should kill her, we don’t want her or her family in this country.”

Frightened and fearful of violence, the young teen, who wears the hijab, moved onto the upper deck of the bus and spoke with her family who told her to speak to the driver.

A family member, who spoke to Tell MAMA, alleges that the driver declined to stop the bus and remove the perpetrator when informed of the abuse and threats, and also declined a request to speak with her family over the telephone.

The Muslim teen missed her stop out of fear of attack when the man remained on the bus.

The incident occurred on October 22.

Tell MAMA has declined to reveal the full details of the bus to protect the identity of the young teen.

The family have complained to Transport for London (TfL) and Tell MAMA will liaise further with TfL on this issue.

Our recent annual report highlighted several examples of when perpetrators felt emboldened by high-profile trigger events, like terror attacks, to call ordinary Muslims ‘terrorists’, and blame them for the attacks. And, again, we document the gendered nature of Islamophobic incidents, where men have been shown to target Muslim women, often in Islamic clothing.

Taken from Beyond the Incident: Outcomes for Victims of anti-Muslim Prejudice.

The perpetrator was described as being a white male, in his fifties or sixties, according to the family member who spoke to Tell MAMA.

You can get advice through our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.



The post Man threatened Muslim teen and called her a ‘terrorist’ on London bus appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: hate crime, London, News, TFL

Hijab Hysteria: Why As Muslims, We’re Getting It Very Very Wrong

Hijab Hysteria: Why As Muslims, We’re Getting It Very Very Wrong

A few weeks ago, Marks and Spencer came under fire for selling school hijabs (headscarves) for young British Muslim girls in the form of black all-in-one scarves are apparently able to fit school age girls as young as three years old. As you can imagine, after the news started to spread via several media outlets and across social media, wild debates subsequently broke out and it was not pretty.

This new financial adventure had unwillingly given rise to recurring polemic debates around consent, veiling and religious inclusion. With many different opinions working their way around social media, many people became very vocal in their support both for and against the sale of headscarves for school-age girls in a mainstream British shop.

Those in favour of M&S new decision declared:

  • What’s wrong if a young girl chooses to dress like mummy?
  • What’s wrong with a mainstream high street shop being inclusive?
  • They’re meeting a commercial need just like any other!
  • Aren’t you sexualising young girls to complain about hijab?

On the other side of the fence, Muslims and non-Muslims alike both spoke out against the sale of this scarves for young children but were once again faced with accusations of being Islamophobic and racist.

However, the truth is that as a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, I sadly found myself once again enraged and flabbergasted by the response of some Muslims to the concerns posed by the sale of a garment designed for mature girls to young children in the UK by a mainstream British outlet. Logic once again seemed to have been thrown out of the window. Children could no longer simply be children, yet to declare this meant you risked being deemed “racist” and “Islamophobic” by Muslims and Muslim “allies” alike.

Going back to theology: No room for “racial politics”

On reflection, it’s not Marks and Spencer who I blame. I appreciate their efforts to include Muslims (whether people deem their intentions to be socially or economically fuelled). I only wish however that there wasn’t such “need” in the first place. The people who I instead blame are the (albeit small number of) Muslim schools who requested the scarves and the wider Muslim population (in particular the parents) for normalising and mainstreaming hijab for children – an oxymoron if ever there was one.

You see, I ask myself time and time again the same question: Why are young girls wearing a garment designed for mature (young) women? And any time, when these questions are asked the responses are reactionary, fuelled with rage and cries of Islamophobia and racism. Oh, the irony of anyone against children wearing hijab being told they’re “sexualising young girls”!

The sad truth is that it’s us – the Muslim community – that have opened this awful debate. What is essentially garment designed to be worn by spiritually conscious mature girls and women is being (whether willing or not) used as a garment for children. Yes, no matter how much people may cry that their child “likes or chooses to wear it”, I urge you to reflect: many children like to dress up like mommy in heels and lipstick at home – does that mean that we should let them leave the house in such attire? Perhaps they may want to wear the scarf but that doesn’t mean that what a child wants is what a child should always (be allowed to) do!

Quite simply, whether people want to admit it or not, hijab is not for young children. Hijab is a spiritual commitment to Allah.  It’s a life choice – not merely a scarf or simple piece of cloth. It’s for those who have reached puberty and yes in today’s context, girls mature at a range of different ages but only when a girl is emotionally, spiritually and of the age when she is sexually maturing is it appropriate for her to wear the hijab.

A young child cannot make such a bold commitment. A child cannot understand and should not be allowed (or constrained) to go beyond the mere carefree worries of childhood and have to cover their hair and their entire body according to concepts of morality, sexuality and spiritual commitment. These are not appropriate themes for children in such entirety. You – the parents and community – are in fact the ones placing a garment which relates to the barrier between physical mature sexes into the realm of childhood, yet it is also you who cry out against the “sexualisation of children” if anyone dares to oppose you.

A child may wear hijab in the mosque or when praying but a child is above all a child. I am not denying children’s relationship with and curiosity about God but we have simply gone too far. Hijab is not for (young) children. That is a fact. I’ve travelled and lived in many Muslim countries across the MENA region and have never personally seen a child in hijab outside of a mosque. Child veiling does happen but so does child marriage and a number of inappropriate un-Islamic practices in the name of ultra-orthodoxy.  Here in the UK however, I can hand on my heart state that I have sadly seen the exaggeration of our faith to such extent that I once saw a child in their pram a wearing headscarf right here in London. I was flabbergasted!

Yes, I am quite frankly saddened by this reality as it is totally and utterly unnecessary and is a clear insult to our faith.  And here’s the point dear Muslim allies, Muslim brothers and sisters and far-right haters: the hijab is not for children – and certainly not those aged three years old.  As a community, we’re abusing Islam and it’s costing us dearly on all areas of the political spectrum. It’s costing us both as a faith community and on a wider level as a diverse society.

Dogmatism gone wild: Going back to spirituality

With these recurring debates around hijab, the fact is that in its truest sense – just as the hijab is more than a scarf – the “hijab hype” is also about the hijab itself. These debates go beyond multiculturalism and religious freedoms. They are symbolic of the way that we Muslims approach our faith. Yes, it’s about the wider picture – at picture seems to have become narrowed, magnified, blurred and muddied with political, social and cultural debates around race and belonging, self-entitlement and “being the best Muslim” at all costs.

With this, a beautiful symbol of faith and grace to Allah, has now become a tool of the far right and far-left. Well-meaning Muslim allies support Muslims at whatever cost, whilst Muslims like myself find that they have more in common with the ex-Muslims (albeit whilst in disagreement with their vocal narrative). These people often echo the sentiments of progressive Muslims who are demonised for standing up against this irrational approach towards dogmatism at every cost.

Stripping aside the hysteria: Islam was born of spirituality. Our Prophet (pbuh) used to sit and reflect in the caves of Mekkah and yearn for more to life. He lived and breathed his spirituality. Yet now I fear that the community has become obsessed with rituals and religious practices at the cost of rationality, spirituality and the real meaning of faith.

Have we forgotten that Islam is about the middle path? Have we forgotten that children were created as children? Please, let a child be a child and let’s look at the wider picture. Hijab is not “the sign of being a Muslim female”, its not the determiner of faith. And here’s the crux: faith is about so much more than clothing and “rules” – it’s about understanding, reflection, justice and truth. I urge the British Muslim public to reflect and I ask: In what world is a piece of cloth more important than the innocence of carefree childhood?

And with that, what we really must ask is: Where is our common sense? Where is our logic? Where has rationality, common sense and moderation gone? It’s ultimately up to us to reflect upon this key dilemma: Where are the guidelines of Allah in our community? Do we see Allah Almighty the All Wise and All Knowing – the Loving and Just – or are we living through the rules, wishes and desires of men (and women) in the name of Islam? It’s our question for us all to ponder upon…

The post Hijab Hysteria: Why As Muslims, We’re Getting It Very Very Wrong appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: Opinions

Pitiful Response from RyanAir Staff Shows That Staff Need Training in Dealing with Racism

A video circulating showing an elderly man abusing a black woman on a RyanAir flight has caused a social media backlash and rightly so. The video shows the individual calling the woman an “ugly black b*****d” and then goes onto shout, “don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow”.

The abuse continued even when the victim’s daughter stands up to the abuser and says that her mother is disabled. His response was, “I don’t care whether shees f******g disabled or not – if I tell her to get out she gets out”.

The response from RyanAir staff was pitiful and ended up with the perpetrator remaining on the flight and the victim being moved out of her seat. At no point can staff be seen to challenge the individual and move him off the flight.

The incident re-enforces the need for RyanAir staff to feel confident enough to challenge and remove racist perpetrator’s off their planes. In this incident, it was the victim who was moved and the response was inadequate and re-enforced in the mind of the perpetrator, a view that aggression and racism leads to a result. We call on RyanAir to review their training and support to staff after this incident, so that they can feel confident in challenging racist customers on their flights.

The post Pitiful Response from RyanAir Staff Shows That Staff Need Training in Dealing with Racism appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: abuse, News, Opinions, Ryanair