Sunday, September 1, 2013

Islamist Watch News Brief:

by David J. Rusin

Islamist Watch (IW) maintains an extensive archive of news items on nonviolent Islamism in the Western world. The complete collection can be found here; lists organized by topic are accessible on the right side of the IW homepage.

The following are some of the recent developments covered in the IW database:
American Brotherhood mobilizes for Morsi

Ever since the military deposed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, U.S. Brotherhood-linked groups have been working to resurrect the ousted regime. Beyond statements from the likes of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urging President Obama to condemn the army's crackdown and stop aid, U.S. Brotherhood entities have launched pro-Morsi demonstrations disguised as nothing more than apolitical calls for democracy and human rights. Multiple Islamist-run rallies have taken place in Washington. At a news conference preceding one on August 10, a receptionist even admitted to an Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) researcher that it was a Brotherhood gathering. On August 16, CAIR-Connecticut held events to "restore democracy and the rule of law in Egypt," and Houston branches of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim American Society (MAS) descended on Egypt's consulate.

The IPT's John Rossomando exposes their hypocrisy: American Islamists now decry "the undermining of democracy and the suppression of freedom of expression in Egypt," to quote ICNA, but they "failed to express similar concern when Morsi's regime engaged in its own violence and repression against dissidents." CAIR leaders defended Morsi's dictatorial power grab last year and reflexively backed his government when popular resistance erupted in June. Rossomando concludes that such groups' "loyalty to their Islamist ideology and to their Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood compatriots comes ahead of an even-handed approach to human rights."

Left: Islamists and fellow travelers protested in Washington, D.C., on August 10. Right: During Ramadan, the Muslim prayer call by muezzin Hassen Rasool was heard daily on Britain's Channel 4.

Ramadan recap: Deference and accommodation

The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which ended in early August, sparked controversies that highlight Islam's growing footprint in the West. Two memorable items emerged from Britain: Channel 4 became the first mainstream TV station to broadcast the call to prayer each morning, a move that it described as an act of "provocation" meant to reshape views of Islam. Further, in a case of forcing observance on others, a non-Muslim student at Portsmouth's Charles Dickens Primary School accused a teacher of denying him water because it would be "unfair" to drink in front of fasting Muslim pupils unable to do so. The school's deputy head later apologized.

Many familiar Ramadan themes reappeared in 2013: Per recent tradition, some non-Muslims voluntarily fasted in solidarity. Officials and academics legitimized Islamists by attending iftars (fast-breaking meals) hosted by them. Institutions from the German army to a Finnish refugee center adjusted menus and schedules. Pope Francis led the annual interfaith outreach by issuing "heartfelt greetings to dear Muslim immigrants" now overrunning Italy's island of Lampedusa, and a Virginia church reportedly invited Muslims to pray there, even removing the pews from its chapel. For more, see Soeren Kern's Ramadan wrap-up or browse the holiday section of the IW archive.

English soccer team stands firm in uniform dispute

Newcastle United, an English Premier League soccer club, refreshingly did not cave when one of its star Muslim players, Papiss Cissé, objected to a new uniform carrying the logo of Wonga, a payday loan company. Shari'a, he said, would forbid him from advertising a business that profits from lending money. With support from the players association, Cissé requested that he be permitted to don a special shirt without the branding, but United refused to budge. After Cissé was forced to train on his own and did not join teammates on a preseason tour, he finally gave in. The lesson: when faced with excessive demands for religious accommodation, try saying no.

More often than not, however, the world's most popular sport bends to Muslim sensibilities. Indeed, Newcastle United itself created a prayer room for Muslim players earlier this year. Germany's FC Bayern Munich also agreed to build a "mosque" at its stadium. Furthermore, soccer's international governing body recently dropped its headscarf ban. For additional examples of Islam's advances on the pitch, see Soeren Kern's overview from 2012.

Left: Papiss Cissé wears the jersey that he avoided for weeks. Right: Food worker Alison Waldock has paid the price for serving pork — accidentally, she says — to a Muslim girl.

English dinner lady gives pork dish to Muslim pupil, gets axed

A cafeteria worker at Queen Edith Primary School in Cambridge, England, was fired after serving pork to a Muslim. Alison Waldock claims that she asked seven-year-old Khadija Darr if she wanted gammon (cured meat from a pig's hind legs). Darr accepted, but the headteacher, who insists that it was "not a one-off" act of cultural negligence by Waldock, managed to intervene before the child could eat it. "I feel the school and catering company made me a scapegoat so they can't be seen as politically incorrect," Waldock explained. Even Muslim spokesmen criticized the "overreaction."

Feeding kids in multicultural Britain is no picnic. Another dinner lady got the sack this year for providing "non-halal meat" at Birmingham's "halal-only" Moseley School. Also, a Muslim father threatened to sue the Strong Close Day Nursery in Keighley because his son had eaten ham and "non-halal chicken." As a result, many schools in Englandand elsewhere — are nixing pork entirely. Needless to say, suspicions were raised when Sunset Elementary School in Brentwood, Tennessee, recently warned that "no meats containing pork" would be allowed as snacks. After complaints and speculation about motives, parents were told to ignore the memo.

David J. Rusin


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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