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Operation Nehemiah: News Update #216

14 January 2016

A Muslim crown court judge in the UK has been allowed by the Judicial Office to also sit as a judge in a shari’a court

Read The Telegraph articleComment: This effectively grants a measure of official recognition to shari’a courts and is a step towards creating a dual legal system in the UK. It also pre-empts a review of shari’a courts that the UK government is about to start this year. In the past English law, particularly common law has been strongly based on Judaeo-Christian principles. Shari’a is based on very different principles and is inherently discriminatory against non-Muslims and women.


Despite pressure from Islamic organisations the timing of public exams will not be altered for Ramadan

Read The Guardian article
Read The Telegraph articleComment: The problem with making special rules for Muslims in schools is that it can create huge social pressure for many ordinary Muslim to ensure that their children act in a more conservative Islamic fashion than they would otherwise choose to. We have seen this with schools that allow the hijab – and suddenly there is huge pressure on all parents to ensure that their daughter wears the hijab at school. The same is true of fasting during Ramadan. Even in countries such as Pakistan, whilst Muslims are careful to avoid eating or drinking in public, a significant number of Muslims do not actually fast. The same is true in the UK and so changing exam dates so that Muslim children can keep Ramadan will in practice put pressure on children to conform to a particular religious practice they might otherwise not choose to. Muslim children deserve to be treated as individuals not simply treated as members of a religion with schools unquestioningly expecting them to conform to its religious practices.


MPs warn against government plans for compulsory registration and Ofsted inspection of Sunday schools

MPs raise concerns as the UK government’s consultation closed on controversial proposals to tackle extremism by requiring both mosque schools and Christian Sunday schools to be registered and inspected. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph the MPs state “if implemented these regulations could have a seriously detrimental effect on the freedom of religious organisations. These groups fear the prospect of an Ofsted inspector observing meetings and then imposing sanctions for the expression of traditional views on matters such as marriage – views which, until very recently, were considered mainstream in Britain.”

Read The Telegraph articleComment: Barnabas Fund led the way in first raising concerns about these proposals with a major report on the topic released as soon as the consultation proposals were released. The teaching of extremism is clearly a problem that is specific to some mosque schools and clearly does not occur in Sunday schools. However, we are profoundly concerned at attempts being made to hijack the definition of extremism to include any disagreement with a range of currently popular socially liberal ideas. This would massively undermine freedom of religion in the UK. We are also concerned at the impact of the government requiring places of religious instruction to be registered and inspection –the UK repealed such laws in 1812, so this would reverse a long march towards full freedom of religion. It would also potentially be followed by countries such as Pakistan, where Christians are already under pressure, but which does not currently require government registration of Sunday schools.


Obama administration counter IS strategy will NOT name Islam

Critics say the problem is that Mr. Obama and senior White House officials for years have refused to permit most of the U.S. government to identify Islamist terrorism using the terms Islam, Islamic or the politicized version known as Islamism, as part of a policy aimed at appeasing the Muslim world.

Read The Washington Times articleComment: For years the Obama administration has pursued a misguided policy of refusing to accept that there is any link between violent jihadism and Islam. However, Islam is a spectrum with groups such as IS at one end and many devout, ordinary Muslims who accept values such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech at the other end. Unless a government accepts this, then it will fail to recognise the enemy and make its people vulnerable to the enemy’s strategy. That enemy is emphatically NOT Muslims, but a politicised version of Islam that is intent on imposing Islamic government and shari’a enforcement quite literally across the world. Far from protecting ordinary Muslims from prejudice or worse, denying that there is any link between Islam and violence actually gives a degree of plausibility to the claims of racist extremist groups. These seek to stir up hatred against Muslims among ordinary Americans by telling that that their government has lied to them and then claim that it is Muslims in general who are the problem, rather than a particular strand of Islam.


Cologne attacks on Muslims show incompatibility of cultures

A Muslim journalist living in Germany comments on the group sexual assaults inflicted on German women on New Year’s Day. “As a Pakistani journalist working in Germany, I have been very skeptical about the German government's decision to allow thousands of refugees into the country without much scrutiny of their backgrounds. Of course, I am empathetic towards the plight of the people who are fleeing war-torn countries like Syria, who are facing immense oppression and violence at the hands of Islamic militants as well as President Bashar Assad. I understand their woes, the pain of losing their loved ones, their homes and livelihoods in a civil war that continues to ravage the once peaceful country. But at the same time, I was sure that the migrants' influx would ultimately disturb the harmony and balance of German society. I feel that Islamic culture and European norms are not compatible.”

Read Deutsche Welle articleComment: Germany is becoming torn between two unhelpful extremes, on the one hand are those who want to treat all cultures as being equally “good” and end up denying that there are any cultural factors at all involved in such terrible incidents. At the other extreme there is a growing tendency to stigmatise all Muslims. This is equally wrong. As Christians we believe that all cultures reflect our human nature. They contain good because we are all made in the image of God, but they also contain bad because that image has been corrupted by sin. Barnabas Fund has long raised concerns about the treatment of women in many Muslim majority contexts. As this Pakistani Muslim journalist observes “What happened in Cologne happens regularly in my homeland, Pakistan.” However, whilst we must resist any attempt to muzzle legitimate criticism of Islam as a religion and or certain aspects of culture in some Muslim majority contexts, we must also take a stand against those who suggest that all Muslims are somehow guilty, that is emphatically not true either in countries such as Pakistan or in Germany. As Christians we must resist any attempt so stir up anti-Muslim hatred in the West.