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:
Gender segregation at UK universities
A briefing by Student Rights documents 46 events on UK campuses from March 2012 to March 2013 that "either explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that this would be the case." The Commentator reports: "The events in question have been primarily hosted by Islamic societies on campuses, who often use separate telephone numbers for men and women to book their attendance." Some groups advertise specific events as segregated; others have general policies to that effect. Student Rights concludes that these "are not 'isolated incidents' but rather form a part of a wider, discriminatory trend on UK university campuses."
A March 9 debate at University College London (UCL) ignited the issue. The Islamic Education and Research Academy held "Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?" It pitted lecturer Hamza Tzortzis, who has said that "we as Muslims reject … even the idea of freedom," against physicist Lawrence Krauss. When Krauss threatened to leave once he realized that segregation was being enforced, the organizers relented. "You are in a public arena and not in a mosque, not in a private event," he told a woman who objected to mixing. He added: "It is the obligation of people who don't feel comfortable with that to decide how they are going to mesh with broader society, not the other way around." UCL has banned the group from taking part in future events.
Left: A cell phone captured Lawrence Krauss (seated) warning, "Quit the segregation or I'm out of here." Right: These signs were posted at a University of Leicester event in March.
Muslims fill Christian schools, accommodations follow
Christian schools with large Muslim student populations frequently dial back the Christianity, a truth demonstrated by the state-funded Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College, where three-quarters of the pupils, aged 11 to 19, are Muslim. "Hymns have been dropped from assemblies at a Church of England school which has also introduced separate prayer rooms for girls and boys," the Daily Mail explains in a summary of a story published by the Sunday Times. The assemblies "are not based specifically on the Bible"; they merely "make reference to it alongside other religious texts." Unsurprisingly, the meat is halal as well.
The article notes that many Church of England schools are more than 80 percent Muslim. Catholic schools face similar challenges. The Telegraph reported in 2009: "At English Martyrs in Sparkhill, Birmingham, just 36 of the 410 pupils are Catholic while the vast majority are Muslim. At Sacred Heart Primary in Salford, there are only seven Catholic pupils," and "an inspection by the diocese in 2007 said the situation was 'seriously affecting the school's ability to provide a traditional Catholic education.'" According to the piece, Catholic authorities still recommended "multi-faith prayer rooms" and facilities for ritual cleansing in church-run schools.
Two cheers for the BBC
IW has criticized the BBC for pandering to Islamists, but the network's recent efforts on a pair of controversial topics deserve praise: BBC One's medical drama Casualty broke new ground in April by becoming the first mainstream series to spotlight female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure that is prevalent in many Muslim-majority countries and involves the partial or complete removal of the external genitalia. Efua Dorkenoo, an anti-FGM activist, lauded the show for "bringing down the walls of silence." It is estimated that 66,000 residents of the UK have been subjected to FGM and 20,000 additional girls are at risk.
Furthermore, Panorama, BBC One's current affairs program, ran a documentary last month exposing how the Leyton Islamic Sharia Council — one of dozens of such bodies operating in the country — stacks the deck against women, pressures wives to remain in abusive marriages, and discourages them from reporting violent husbands to police. Though the decisions are not legally binding, many women feel compelled to follow them. Nazir Afzal, a Muslim who serves as chief crown prosecutor for the region, described the council's work as "dangerous." Amid calls for greater recognition of these "courts," the Panorama piece appeared at the perfect time.
Left: The Casualty episode focuses on Tamasha, a young FGM victim attempting to protect her sister. Right: Led by Suhaib Hasan, the Leyton Islamic Sharia Council has issued rulings on child access and other matters that contradict English law.
Can hijabs and bangers coexist?
To mark the feast day of St. George, whose red cross was a favorite during the Crusades, a coalition of religious groups released a statement decrying how England's patron saint has been "used as a symbol of triumphalism and division by those on the extreme right." Wanting him to become "a national symbol of inclusivity rather than a symbol of hatred," the organizations aim to foster "a new … English national identity" and create "a place where a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash." Yet how welcome will the latter be in their multicultural utopia?
Ironically, bangers (sausages typically made from pork) are under attack from the same class of do-gooders obsessed with accommodating Islam. See, for example, a 2012 article on a "bangers ban in hundreds of schools," which "are deciding for 'cultural' and 'religious' reasons to drop traditional sausages and ham from children's lunches." MP Philip Davies called it "totally wrong for schools to in effect force all pupils to abide by the religious beliefs of some by denying them the opportunity to choose to have pork." The moral of the story: efforts to make Muslims feel welcome too often degenerate into restrictive policies that make everyone else feel less welcome.
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For additional news and analysis, please visit the IW website.