Operation Nehemiah: News Update #226

United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand

USA: Couple charged with slavery offences use defence that slavery is legal under shari‘a

A Qatari man and his wife living in San Antonio appeared in court charged with slavery after keeping a Bangladeshi and Indonesian woman in "virtual slavery". However, the couple, Hassan al-Homoud, 46, and his wife Zainab al-Hosani, 39, argued in court that the prophet Muhammad kept slaves and that punishing them is thus "Islamophobic."

Read Liberty Unyielding article

Comment: in 1807 the campaign led by Christian MP William Wilberforce finally succeeded in making the slave trade a criminal offence in both Britain and her overseas colonies. By 1833 Britain had criminalised slavery itself. By 1863 a range of other countries including the Netherlands and USA similarly abolishied slavery. It was unquestionably Christian influence that led to the abolition of slavery. In countries such as Britain there had never been a law declaring slavery legal it had simply developed – until parliament passed a law banning it. The same cannot be said for Islamic law as shari‘a specifically permits the enslavement of non-Muslims. During the latter part of the nineteenth century slavery was abolished in a number of Muslim majority contexts such as Nigeria simply because they came under the rule of western governments that had themselves abolished slavery. Other Muslim majority countries did not abolish slavery until well into the twentieth century – and then largely due to western pressure, Afghanistan (1923), Iran (1928), Bahrain (1937), Kuwait (1949), Qatar (1952), Saudi Arabia (1962), Yemen (1962), Oman (1970) and finally Mauritania (1981).

Yet the legitimisation of slavery by shar’ia mean it never disappeared in many Islamic countries. In March 2013 Boko Haram announced that they had reinstituted those aspects of shari‘a relating to slavery, a move that was shortly afterwards followed by ISIL.


UK: Prominent Muslim journalist says the virus of anti-Semitism has infected the British Muslim community

"It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article – if they are honest with themselves – will know instantly what I am referring to. It’s our dirty little secret. You could call it the banality of Muslim anti-Semitism.

To be honest, I’ve always been reluctant to write a column such as this. To accuse my fellow Muslims of being soft on the scourge of anti-Semitism isn’t easy; I feel as if I am "dobbing in" the community, telling tales to the non-Muslim teacher. Nor do I particularly want…to demonise all Muslims everywhere, as extremists and bigots. We aren’t. And we’re not all anti-Semites. But, as a community, we do have a "Jewish problem". There is no point pretending otherwise. The time has come for us to own up to a rather shameful fact: Muslims are not only the victims of racial and religious prejudice but purveyors of it, too."

Read New Statesman article

Comment: one of the problems of political correctness in the West is that it categorises people into groups. In particular it categorises them into a) those who are deemed to have historically been victims of oppression, which includes Muslims and other minorities who are deemed to be in need of special protection; and b) those belonging to groups that are deemed to have historically oppressed the former groups, which include Jews and Christians. The categorisation is arbitrary – for example it ignores the fact that six million Jews died in the holocaust. It is also grossly unfair to blame one generation for the alleged actions of previous generations. It can also lead to a hierarchy of rights, with the rights of members of some minorities sometimes being seen as more important than those of, for example Christians. However, one of its most disturbing aspects is that political correctness seeks to prevent any criticism being made of members of protected groups, which has allowed terms such as Islamophobia to be used to prohibit any criticism of Islam. Yet, there are some very real issues that need to be subject to criticism and public debate, one of which is anti-Semitism which thankfully one Muslim journalist has had the courage to speak about. Yet there is a further underlying problem here that is not Islamic, it is Western. This is that the Judaeo-Christian ethic that all people are worthy of dignity because they are equally made in the image of God and therefore should be treated equally by the law, actually worked to towards creating fairness in society. Attempts by some Western politicians to replace that principle with ideas such as political correctness do the exact opposite.


UK: Concern that new head of equalities commission will be biased against Christians

Campaigners called for the appointment of the new Equalities Commission chairman to be blocked over claims he would be biased against Christians. Christian Concern has called on MPs to veto the appointment of David Isaac as chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph they point out that Nicky Morgan, the equalities minister, has said that a main reason for his proposed appointment is his chairmanship of Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity, which under him, "successfully lobbied to secure major legislative change, including…gay marriage." The letter observes:

"In this role, it would be his duty to act impartially to promote and protect human rights, eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity across nine areas – including religion and belief."

Christian Concern says the drafting of the Equality Act 2010 has resulted in the "the rights of those who identify as homosexual being consistently privileged over the rights of Christians, particularly with regards to historic views on marriage and sexual ethics". It says that has effectively forced practicing Christians into the shadows by limiting the exercise of their faith "to a private setting".

Read Telegraph article

Comment: Over the last 400 years Britain has moved from a position where individuals had to subscribe to a particular set of beliefs to hold public office to being a free society. For example, since 1719 you could be a teacher, since 1791 you could be a lawyer, since 1828 a mayor or local councillor and since 1858 you could be an MP without having to hold a particular worldview. That historic march towards full freedom of religion is now being turned backwards. One of reasons for this is that certain elements within the gay rights movement have lobbied for new laws to force everyone to, at least notionally, assent to their worldview. The gay community is not monolithic though and there have been gay rights activists who have spoken out against this. One example is Peter Tatchell who recently spoke out in support of the Christian bakery in Northern Ireland who were prosecuted by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland for declining an order to make a cake campaigning for gay marriage. Sadly, other gay rights activists condemned him for doing so, arguing that free speech should not extend to any groups that disagree with them. Similarly, in 2011 TV historian Dr David Starkey voiced support for Christian foster parents who were told they could no longer foster due to their views on sexual ethics. Dr Starkey told BBC’s Question Time

"I am gay and I am atheist, but I have profound doubts about this case. It seems to me that what we are doing is producing a tyrannous new morality that is every bit as oppressive as the old… I am very, very concerned that a new sort of morality is coming in that is intolerant…"

The new intolerance Dr Starkey speaks of includes legal attempts in both the UK and USA to force churches to conduct gay marriages.

Mr Isaac may indeed be the best qualified person for the job. However, Mrs Morgan’s suggestion that the main reason he is suitable is his organisation’s successful lobbying for the redefinition of marriage suggests that the equalities minister has confused "equality" with promoting the agenda of a particular group. We wonder if she would really wish her legacy as a minister to be putting into reverse the UK’s 400 year struggle towards full freedom of religion?


UK: Western countries must speak up for Syria's genocide victims

America has finally acknowledged that Christians and other religious minorities are facing genocide in Iraq and Syria. Last week the UK government declined to do the same. An amendment to a government immigration bill tabled by Lord Alton called for UK courts to determine whether genocide is happening in Syria and Iraq with a presumption that those facing genocide should be granted asylum in the UK. However, the amendment was defeated by 37 votes after both the government and the Labour opposition opposed it.

Read Catholic Herald article

Read BBC article

Comment: It is important to understand that this amendment was NOT defeated because parliamentarians did not believe that genocide is happening in Syria and Iraq to Christians, Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims. It was defeated on a procedural issue related to how asylum is claimed. Both government and opposition were concerned at the implications of changing the rules to allow people to claim asylum in the UK without them actually having first arrived there and the numbers of people who might do so if they were allowed to claim asylum from outside the UK. What this means is that the campaign to get the UK and other Western governments to recognise that genocide is happening amongst Christians in Iraq and Syria carries on. However, even more than simply affixing the label "genocide" to what is happening, Western governments needs to provide safe havens for Christians and other minorities fleeing jihadist groups such as Islamic State. So far, they are largely failing to do so, with only a tiny percentage of Syrians and Iraqis granted asylum in countries such as the UK and USA being Christians.


NZ: attempts to deny that NZ Islam has anything to do with jihadi brides

A storm has blown up in New Zealand over a statement made to parliament in December by Rebecca Kitteridge, the head of NZ’s security service that there was a growing trend of NZ women travelling to areas controlled by Islamic State. The subsequent revelation that these NZ women travelled from Australia not NZ has led to claims that she was scaremongering and strident demands that she should apologise to Muslim women in New Zealand.

Read RHZ article

Read TVNZ article

Comment: The attempts to refute the warning given to parliament by the head of NZ’s security services is extraordinary. NZ women are travelling to join IS. Those seeking to deny this imply that the radicalisation of these women took place in Australia and could not have happened in NZ. New Zealand’s Muslim population is only around 40,000 – a tenth the size of Australia’s. Yet there has been longstanding concerns about radicalisation in the Christchurch area. In fact, since 2009 a number of jihadists from this area have travelled abroad to join groups such as al Qaeda. A recent study by the NZ Institute for International Affairs which discussed a number of NZ jihadists who had travelled to Syria suggested that there could in fact be 50-60 or more in total.