Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Iqra Bookshop allegations

Times Online, Iqra: the backstreet bookshop that taught frontline war, 29 Apr 09 "Every room breathed the Salafi jihadist creed. It was shouted by the radical websites, argued in the literature and proclaimed in the store’s collection of graphic videos and DVDs. That it was every Muslim’s duty to wage jihad was as unquestionable as the certainty that martyrdom was an honour to be sought. The group dynamic, the hiking and climbing trips, potholing and white-water rafting, tightened the bonds."

Derby: Muslim leaders say city is winning battle against extremism

This is Derbyshire, Muslim leaders say city is winning battle against extremism, 24 Apr 09

"Under the Derby City Council-run Channel Project, people like teachers, social workers or housing officers identify impressionable people they think may be at risk of radicalisation.

"This could mean, for example, that youngsters have shown an interest in extremist material on the internet or in books.

"After the person has been identified, a panel of different agencies, including members of the Muslim community and the police, create a tailored "programme of intervention"."

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Monday, 27 April 2009

Shah 'Abbas: The Remaking of Iran

Attended Shah 'Abbas: The Remaking of Iran at the British Museum during the weekend. Not really my academic area, but it was a comprehensive and well thought out exhibition, making good use of the old Reading Room (which I still miss!). I had expected a more critical reading of Shah 'Abbas in places. The audio commentary used Omid Djalili as narrator - I kept waiting for the punchline. I thought the exhibition was somewhat expensive - £12 (tickets for unemployed are £10); the obligatory shop at the end was also exorbitant (no surprises there!) - it was amazing what people would buy, way beyond the Shah 'Abbas t-shirt and mug. Softcover catalogues were £25 ... I ended up with a postcard. There are some related videos here. You can also explore some of the exhibits here. Exhibition runs to 14 June.


Mustafa Haji Abdinur, AFP/, Foreign jihadists heed call for holy war in lawless Somalia, 13 Apr 09

"Abu Muslim, who prefers not to reveal his real name, said he was inspired to quit his university course and job at a bakery in England after browsing the Internet to learn about the so-called U.S.-led "war on terror."

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


BBC News, Scam Healers prey on vulnerable, 20 Apr 09 "Police are warning about a scam involving bogus spiritual healers who are conning thousands of pounds out of vulnerable people.

"Posing as holy men, they prey on Britain's religious Asian community and those facing hardship or health trouble, and falsely promise to solve their problems in return for large sums of money."

This is a long term issue, so it's finally interesting that it is acquring some media attention

Monday, 20 April 2009

Conference: Britain & the Muslim World - edited highlights

Just back from the University of Exeter conference 'Britain & the Muslim World'. Something of a packed programme. I heard several useful papers, primarily from an historical perspective (check the link for details). Here are some edited highlights:

The conference included a screening of Sufi Soul, which is now on DVD (could do with a soundtrack CD).

There was a paper by Gerard Wiegers on Syed Mutawalli ad-Darsh's 'fatwas' from Q-News, some of which can be found online. It was somewhat nostalgic to think of those columns and their impact again.

Sophie Gilliat-Ray talked about her research on ulama in the UK, which links into her forthcoming book - there were also some good photos, I think some of them will turn up in the book.

Paul Auchterlonie updated on the DigiIslam project and related activities in HE. Read the report, if you haven't already.

Humayun Ansari gave a useful overview on 'Rethinking 'Orientalism'. I heard a number of papers on travellers and critical historical events, notably Nabil Matar's paper on Abu Mahilli and John Harrison.

There was a interesting paper and photos on 'Liberating Muslim Women', by Nadje Al-Ali (linked to her (and Nicola Pratt's) book What Kind of Liberation? : Women and the Occupation of Iraq).

There was a detailed paper focused on east London Muslims ('Faith, Class, Identity') by Rehana Ahmed - this is based on the OU/Oxford/Kings AHRC project Making Britain, which included important archive material.

Also a paper on 'Muslims in the media ghetto' by Amina Yaqin, which provided a welcome critical perspective on some of the BBC's output on Radio 4 (need to hear the programmes again now).

Inevitably at times there were several parallel sessions - which meant I missed a lot of potentially good material, even when running between sessions - but it was interesting to see the ways in which the emphasis was on diverse academic approaches to the study of Islam and Muslims in the UK and elsewhere.

RMW event

Radical Middle Way, Spittin' Light, Healing the Hood: Muslim Voices for Urban Renewal - UK Tour

Friday, 17 April 2009

Googling Islam

Just picked this up: The Register, Whitehall to train pro-West Islamic groups to game Google, 9 April 09 "The Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), a 200-strong Home Office unit created 18 months ago, has said in meetings it wants to "flood the internet" with "positive" interpretations of Islam. It plans to train government-approved groups in search engine optimisation techniques, which it's hoped will boost their profile online and battle radicalisation."

Obtained from Christine Benlafquih,, UK to Offer SEO Training for Moderate Islamic Groups, 12 Apr 09 "'m curious to see which groups sign on to this SEO training. Moderate Islamic groups alrready speak out against terrorism and extremism, and those with a web presence find their real competiton comes from anti-Islam sites, not extremist points of view. The UK is likely already aware of this. Makes you wonder if by offering SEO training,. the government isn't hoping to be in a position to make editorial suggestions as well. High Google ranking, reputable Islamic group, and controlled content – what more could they hope for in their online fight against extremism?"

Student Arrests

Newsmax, Arrest of Pakistani Students in Britain Angers Families, 17 Apr 09 "The arrests have sparked outrage in Pakistan, where government officials have issued a formal complaint against British law enforcement for refusing to reveal the suspects’ identities or grant Pakistani diplomats consular access to the men. Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, accused British officials not of leaking details of the allegations against the men, but of failing to hand over the evidence against them, according to a report in the Daily Mail."

Plenty of coverage in the media of this.

Pakistan & Britain

The Economist, The immigration superhighway, 16 Apr 09 "One reason why shop signs on the streets of Bradford are still written in Urdu, half a century after the first Pakistanis came to Britain, is that population flows between the two countries remain large (see chart). Each year 250,000 Pakistanis come to Britain to visit, work or marry, and some 350,000 British citizens journey in the opposite direction, mainly to visit family. Links are reinforced by ingrained marriage customs: six of ten ethnic Pakistanis in Britain pick a spouse from Pakistan."

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Taj Hargey

Independent, The imam who took on the 'Muslim McCarthyists', 9 Apr 09 "Taj Hargey was in an ebullient mood as he drank a cup of steaming hot chocolate in a coffee shop opposite the High Court yesterday morning. "Today is a great day for British Islam," he declared triumphantly. "Liberal, progressive Muslims have finally won a battle against the extremists that dominate the Muslim establishment in Britain.""

Monday, 6 April 2009

Interview: Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

Zahed Amanullah, altmuslim, “Life is on hold until you get married” "British blogger Shelina Zahra Janmohamed wants to tell you a story. Preferably with a cup of coffee – cappuccino, no sugar – and an open mind. In the years since she got married, she spilled her thoughts on Muslim issues and life in Britain into her blog Spirit 21, eventually winning a Brass Crescent Award for Best Blog in 2007, as voted on by readers. Encouraged by the reception she received by this and in the Muslim press, she looked back on her often tumultuous path to marriage and consolidated her thoughts into her first book, Love in a Headscarf, published in March by Aurum Press. In it, she discusses her thoughts on the disparities between how Muslim men and women are treated during the marriage process, a process that has become infinitely complicated by the diasporadic modern Muslim world. Taking her up on her offer (outlined in the prologue to her book), I sat down with her in a West London coffee shop near her home to find out more about her thoughts on the state of Muslim marriage and gender relations in today's society."

Spirit21 is recommended. I plan to read the book in due course.

Muslim Women in Britain, Politics lecturer named in Muslim women power list "A politics lecturer at the University of Kent has been named one of the top 20 most powerful Muslim women in Britain.

"Dr Gulnur Aybet, who is director of the BA in conflict, peace and security and of the MA in international security and the politics of terror, has held high-profile teaching positions around the world and has given evidence to the House of Commons and Lords committees on security issues."

Omar Bakri Muhammad

Dominik Lemanski, Daily Star, Bakri's A-Team on Global Jihad, 6 Apr 09, "Omar Bakri Mohammed claims he is training up to 400 extremist activists in a bid to win over the 'hearts and minds' of western converts ...

" ... We are already doing this in the UK with the use of the internet but we need Muslim intellectuals on the ground who can speak -English and French as well as Arabic."

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil, Victoria Lautman, Mosques, Moolah, and the Importance of Tradition, 1 Apr 09 profile of Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil, architect of (among other buildings) the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

More on ArchNet: Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil

It was 20 years ago... 'British Islam after Rushdie'

Anshuman A Mondal, Prospect Magazine, British Islam after Rushdie, April 09 "As I found out in a journey across Britain, the central conflict in Muslim communities is not between secular and Islamic values, but between the generations of the Muslim families who live here." Also available as a pdf

Also in Prospect:

Hanif Kureishi, Kureishi on the Rushdie Affair, April 09 "Kenan Malik talks to Hanif Kureishi about the Rushdie fatwa and why no one would write such a book today."

That interview is taken from Kenan Malik's "From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy" (Atlantic), which sounds like an interesting book (out this month).

Tariq Ramadan - review

Mona Siddiqui, Times Higher, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation, 2 Apr 09 review of Tariq Ramadan, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation, Oxford University Press

Siddiqui writes, in this useful review: "He wants the whole of Muslim civil society to come on board to find solutions to social and moral problems, without committing himself to various concrete positions. His is a pertinent voice, but in the end, it is just not bold enough."

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Opinion Piece on Channel Project

Saudi Gazette, Sabria S. Jawhar, Controversial program set to alienate Muslims in UK "We need to be vigilant to identify young people caught up on extremism but we shouldn’t be vigilantes. That is why if the Channel Project is to succeed then a transparent and thorough training program must be in place to establish what defines probable cause to identify a person as a potential extremist."


Times Online, Government moves to isolate Muslim Council of Britain with cash for mosques, 30 Mar 09 "Mosques and local Muslim community groups are to be given money and direct access to government ministers under a radical plan to isolate Britain’s largest Islamic organisation, which the Government accuses of endorsing violent extremism. "

Islamic Medical Treatment

Daily Star Malaysia, Evil, be gone!, 30 Mar 09

"Trimizi Zainal creates hell for unearthly spirits which haunt mortals.

"AT FIRST glance, Trimizi Zainal comes across as just another Malaysian student whom you’ll probably bump into in London’s Oxford Street.

"Like any IT-savvy youngster, the 23-year-old stays connected when abroad. With his Yahoo! Messenger, he sends text messages, makes PC calls or chats with friends over the Internet.

"Well, the similarity ends there. Trimizi is no ordinary Malaysian whom you would want to mess with.""

This is an interesting article. Trimizi is coming to the UK, and I found details of a course here at PISANG, Islamic Medical Treatment Course

And there's some blogger commentary on it here: Coffee Conversations (Zurairifm), Blame It On the Djinns

Also blogged at Virtually Islamic