Norway police ban Qur'an burning protest after Turkiye summons Oslo envoy

Norway police ban Qur'an burning protest after Turkiye summons Oslo envoy
A woman holds a copy of the Qur'an during a protest following the burning of the Qur'an in Stockholm, in Istanbul, on Jan. 29, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 February 2023

Norway police ban Qur'an burning protest after Turkiye summons Oslo envoy

Norway police ban Qur'an burning protest after Turkiye summons Oslo envoy

ANKARA/OSLO: Norwegian police on Thursday banned a planned anti-Islam protest including the burning of a copy of the Qur'an this week for security reasons, hours after the Turkish foreign ministry summoned Norway’s ambassador to complain.
A group of protesters planned to burn a copy of the Qur'an outside the Turkish embassy in Oslo on Friday, police said, echoing similar demonstrations last month in Sweden and Denmark.
“Burning the Qur'an remains a legal way to express political views in Norway. But this event cannot be carried out for security reasons,” Oslo police said in a statement, citing intelligence it had received.
Earlier on Thursday, Ankara strongly condemned the anti-Islam group’s plans, which it said were a “provocative act,” a source from the Turkish foreign ministry said, adding that the ministry had asked for the demonstration to be called off.
Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Turkiye had raised the planned demonstration in a meeting.
“Our ambassador referred to the constitutional right to freedom of expression in Norway, and added that the Norwegian government neither supports nor is involved with the planned demonstration,” said a ministry spokesperson.
The police can only ban a demonstration if there is a danger to the public.
A protest including the burning a copy of Qur'an last month near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm by an anti-immigrant Danish-Swedish politician from the far-right fringe drew strong condemnation from Ankara.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkiye and have since sought to win its support.
Sweden said on Thursday it would tighten laws covering membership of terrorist organizations.

Prince Harry back in court for phone hacking hearing finale

Prince Harry back in court for phone hacking hearing finale
Updated 13 sec ago

Prince Harry back in court for phone hacking hearing finale

Prince Harry back in court for phone hacking hearing finale
LONDON: A London judge said Thursday he would rule as soon as possible on whether to throw out or limit a phone hacking lawsuit brought by Prince Harry, Elton John and other well-known figures against a British tabloid publisher.
The Duke of Sussex made a late arrival and early departure for the finale of a four-day High Court hearing on his invasion of privacy case against the company that publishes The Daily Mail. His surprise appearance during three days of the legal wrangling indicates the lawsuit’s importance in the prince’s broader battle against the British press.
Harry, John, and actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost are among a group of seven people suing Associated Newspapers Ltd. for allegedly paying private investigators to illegally bug homes and cars and to record phone conversations.
The publisher denied the allegations and has argued that lawsuits based on alleged incidents dating as far back as 1993 should be thrown out because the cases were not filed within a six-year limitation period.
Attorney David Sherborne, who represents Harry and the other famous claimants, argued that the deadline for filing the lawsuits should be extended because the alleged snooping was covert and the publisher concealed evidence of it through denials “likely to lead the claimants off the scent.”
The claimants said they were unaware of phone hacking done for Associated Newspapers until private investigators, including Gavin Burrows, came forward in the last couple of years to disclose the covert work they allegedly did.
Burrows, who said in a 2021 witness statement that he came forward to “do the right thing” and help the people he targeted, has since issued another sworn statement saying he had not been commissioned by Associated Newspapers to do unlawful work.
In his earlier admission, however, he described how much he charged for different jobs and how Harry, John and his husband, David Furnish, and Hurley and Frost were “just a small handful of my targets.”
He said he “must have done hundreds of jobs” between 2000 and 2005 for a Mail on Sunday journalist whose name is redacted.
In one section cited by Sherborne, Burrows described tapping Hurley’s home phone, hacking her voicemail and digging up travel and medical details on her when she was pregnant. Burrows said that John didn’t have a mobile phone but he got a lot of information about the singer from Hurley’s phone because she was close friends with him, and through the phone of John’s gardener.
“I hacked, tapped and bugged Liz a number of times,” Burrows said in his earlier statement. “She (like Hugh Grant) was a huge earner for me. I could get an itemized phone bill for Liz and Hugh and sell each one for 5,000 pounds (about $6,185), much more than the average price on my menu.”
Until she read Burrows statement, Hurley did not know who had been the source of the information about her, Sherborne said.
“That’s the trigger. That’s when the scales fall from her eyes,” Sherborne said.
Attorney Adrian Beltrami said the claims had been brought “far too late” and should be tossed out. He argued that a national scandal on phone hacking by journalists at other papers a decade ago could have inspired the claimants to look into articles written about them and file their lawsuits alleging wrongdoing within the time limits.
Justice Matthew Nicklin said there was a difference between applying time limits to discovery of the alleged unlawful information gathering and the articles that resulted from some of those acts.
“It’s clear what the claimants are not entitled to pursue because of limitation,” Nicklin said. “But what they are entitled to pursue is slightly more nuanced than simply striking out reference to the articles.”
Attorney Steven Heffer, who is not involved in the case, said the defense is unlikely to prevail at this stage if they concealed the unlawful activity.
“Other newspaper groups emphatically denied phone hacking or any unlawful information gathering, but have had to pay millions in damages and costs,” Heffer said.
The publisher is also seeking to have evidence of payments to investigators barred from being used by claimants because it was protected by confidentiality rules when it was turned over by the publisher to a government inquiry into media law breaking.
Sherborne argued the evidence is in the public domain.
Attorney Michael Gardner, who also is not involved in the litigation, said Harry and the other claimants face an uphill battle on several fronts.
“First, the events in question took place so long ago that they may now be statute barred,” Gardner said. “Secondly, the evidence they are relying on includes material that may be inadmissible. Thirdly, a key witness in the case appears to have signed two completely contradictory statements.”

Indonesian Buddhists step out to support Muslims in Ramadan fast 

Indonesian Buddhists step out to support Muslims in Ramadan fast 
Updated 30 March 2023

Indonesian Buddhists step out to support Muslims in Ramadan fast 

Indonesian Buddhists step out to support Muslims in Ramadan fast 
  • Buddhism has about 2 million followers in Muslim-majority Indonesia 
  • Temples offer snacks to break the fast, some cook iftar meals 

JAKARTA: As millions of people in Muslim-majority Indonesia are observing the fasting month of Ramadan, members of the Buddhist community have been extending their support and preparing iftar meals for those breaking their fast at dusk. 

Muslims comprise nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 277 million population, but the multifaith nation officially recognizes six religions, including Buddhism, which has an estimated 2 million followers. Since Ramadan began last week, many Buddhist temples across the country have been extending support to their Muslim neighbors. 

In Cirebon, West Java province, members of the Dewi Welas Asih Temple congregation have come together to prepare iftar meals throughout the fasting month. 

They hand out meal boxes around 4 p.m., right before sunset, hoping to reach the people who need their support the most. Each box consists of rice, sauteed vegetables, fried eggs and either chicken or beef, all home-cooked. 

“It doesn’t matter what religion you have, if there is one good moment to do good deeds, all of us here at the Dewi Welas Asih Temple believe that it’s very wise, right, and honorable to give back, even if it’s not on your own religious holiday,” Yulia Hiyanto, who has been organizing the temple’s iftar activities, told Arab News. 

“When we are able to give back and it is accepted with a smile…my heart feels something that can neither be described nor bought, and I hear this from other friends too, this feeling of utmost happiness.” 

In a similar spirit, the youth of the Dhanagun Temple in Bogor, also in West Java, are dedicating their Sundays throughout Ramadan month to reach out as many people as they can across the city and hand out snacks commonly eaten in Indonesia to break the fast. 

“It is our hope that our program can help people in need, especially Muslims in Bogor, who are now fasting,” said Hansen, the temple’s youth leader. 

“Ramadan is a good month, a month filled with love…That is why we want to join in sharing kindness and love.” 

UK ‘urged to boost monitoring of Islamic schools’ in new report

UK ‘urged to boost monitoring of Islamic schools’ in new report
Updated 30 March 2023

UK ‘urged to boost monitoring of Islamic schools’ in new report

UK ‘urged to boost monitoring of Islamic schools’ in new report
  • Bloom consultation likely to support calls for stricter state oversight of unregistered madrasas
  • Muslim leaders say the government has failed to engage with religious community

LONDON: Britain should do more to monitor Islamic groups and schools, crack down on forced marriages and help people to leave oppressive religious groups, a government consultation is reported to recommend.

The report, to be released within weeks, is set to be what the Guardian described on Wednesday as “the most sweeping review of the relationship between faith and the state in recent times”. It is led by Colin Bloom, a former head of the Conservative Christian Fellowship who was appointed in 2019 to review the government’s engagement with various faiths. 

Several sources have told the Guardian that the report, which is due to be published by the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities, will call for the monitoring of unregistered faith schools, where there are concerns about abuse and radicalization.

It however also warns that such measures risk clashes with faith leaders, who have previously resisted attempts by ministers to intervene in religious affairs.

Other sections will also call on the government to do more to combat forced marriages and offer more help to those attempting to leave oppressive religious groups. 

The recommendations are likely to boost calls for stricter monitoring of Islamic groups by Secretary of State for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove. 

The Muslim Council of Britain told the Guardian: “There remains a lack of any meaningful engagement by government with diverse British Muslim communities.

“We would hope that the Bloom report recognizes how vital it is for the government to establish meaningful engagement with British Muslim communities more broadly and the key role Muslim-led representative bodies can play in facilitating this.”

In the past, Conservative ministers have attempted to regulate such schools before but were forced to back down due to protests from mainstream religious groups. 

Following the “Trojan horse” scandal in 2015, the then-Prime Minister David Cameron wanted to crack down on Islamic madrasas by allowing inspectors to visit any institution where children are taught for more than six hours a week. 

Islamic groups claimed they were being unfairly singled out premised on shaky evidence of systemic radicalization within their community. 

Cameron reportedly abandoned the plans after Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby warned that it would make running Sunday schools more difficult.

Some of the Bloom proposals will also be intended to strengthen religion as a core component of British society. This includes providing resources for religious education in schools and increased funding for chaplains in prisons, schools, and universities. 

“I have never seen a report on religion and the state which is this comprehensive,” one source familiar with large parts of the report told the Guardian.

“Colin [Bloom] has gone in-depth into many areas of public and religious life from which ministers normally stay well away,” they added.

Richy Thompson, the director of public affairs at Humanists UK, said: “In the past, the government has sometimes been nervous about tackling problems caused by religious groups, but those problems can extend to the most extreme forms of abuse. 

“If this report is to see the government change tack here, then that is to be welcomed.”

To fight climate change, Islamic seminary in southern Pakistan turns to fruit plantations

To fight climate change, Islamic seminary in southern Pakistan turns to fruit plantations
Updated 30 March 2023

To fight climate change, Islamic seminary in southern Pakistan turns to fruit plantations

To fight climate change, Islamic seminary in southern Pakistan turns to fruit plantations
  • Pakistan is among countries most vulnerable to changing climate
  • School in Sindh started tree-planting drive 4 years ago

KARACHI: A seminary in southern Pakistan has set a new trend for religious schools as it cultivates large swathes of land to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Pakistan contributes less than 1 percent of the global greenhouse gases that warm our planet but its geography makes it one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Last year, one-third of the country was submerged by unprecedented monsoon floods that claimed the lives of more than 1,700 people and caused an estimated $30 billion in damage.
Located in Hala village in Sindh, a province that was one of the worst affected by the floods, the Jamia-Tul-Uloom-il-Islamia boarding school also saw its orchards destroyed, which made it even more determined in its tree-planting drive.
“What’s happening due to climate change makes it essential for us to plant more and more trees to stop its adverse effects,” Umar Farooq, who supervises the institute’s agricultural land, told Arab News.
The seminary, which is also a trailblazer in introducing science alongside religious education, has been planting trees for the past four years.
It now has 8,500 mango trees, 1,400 date palms and a lemon orchard.
“Seeing the havoc that floods wreaked recently, we will have to plant more trees,” Farooq said. “We have been expanding our orchards with the help of scientific methods.”
When it was established in the 1950s, the school received farmland to grow crops and meet its administrative needs. The idea was unique as most Islamic boarding schools in South Asia rely on external funding.
But it was only with the tree-planting drive that this potential began to be realized, as Jamia-Tul-Uloom-il-Islamia’s management observed that its orchards could bear fruit that could be sold for income.
“We have planted orchards in the surrounding fields, which will improve the weather conditions and also increase the income and resources of our seminary,” Maulana Muhammad Ahsan Bhutto, the seminary’s administrator, told Arab News.
The management is aware of the worsening impacts of the changing climate and is trying to engage students as well in efforts to mitigate it, at least to lessen their contribution to global warming and raise awareness.
“We teach our children to plant trees in their areas,” Bhutto said. “We ask every child to plant one tree annually and look after it.”


British Muslims welcome Humza Yousaf’s election as Scotland’s first minister

British Muslims welcome Humza Yousaf’s election as Scotland’s first minister
Updated 30 March 2023

British Muslims welcome Humza Yousaf’s election as Scotland’s first minister

British Muslims welcome Humza Yousaf’s election as Scotland’s first minister
  • His win adds to successes in Muslim representation within UK political establishment in recent years
  • 37-year-old, whose family is of Pakistani heritage, is first Muslim leader of a major party in Western Europe

LONDON: Muslim community leaders and MPs have welcomed the election of Humza Yousaf as leader of the Scottish National Party and Scotland’s first minister.

His win adds to successes in Muslim representation within the UK’s political establishment in recent years, including Sadiq Khan’s election as London mayor in 2016 and re-election in 2021, the election of a record 18 Muslim MPs in the 2019 general election, and the SNP’s Anum Qaisar taking a by-election victory two years later.  

Sunder Katwala, director of think tank British Future, which looks to foster diversity and inclusion, singled out the “pressure” that built following 9/11 and the London bombings of July 7, 2005, as a catalyst in this movement.  

“In that moment of pressure and scrutiny, there was something that seemed to catalyze the determination among British Muslims to push toward greater integration and inclusion, and push back against the negativity surrounding Islam in the UK,” he told Arab News.

“If you travel abroad, it couldn’t be clearer. Maybe Canada aside, Britain is alone in its cross-party diversity.

“France has candidates from minority backgrounds on the left but not on the right. It has been normalized now (in Britain), rather than seen as exceptional, which can only be good.”

In Holyrood, Scotland’s Parliament, Yousaf — who in replacing Nicola Sturgeon became the first Muslim leader of a major political party in Western Europe — faces off against another Muslim at the despatch box, head of Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar.

Afzal Khan, elected as MP for Manchester Gorton in 2017, said “despite our political differences it’s excellent news to see Humza win,” telling Arab News that each minority success in politics is a “manifestation of change and improvement.”

Afzal added: “Before becoming an MP, I was the youngest Lord Mayor of Manchester and I became the UK’s first Muslim minister for the European Parliament by beating the British National Party’s Nick Griffin, and I’m from a working-class background.

“They talk about Sadiq Khan being the son of a bus driver. I was a bus driver, and I think this is very important.

“We’re all from different backgrounds. Even when I look at (British Prime Minister) Rishi Sunak, he’s not Muslim and he’s from incredible wealth, but his success sends a powerful message.”

Katwala said the participation of Muslim Britons in national life remains underexplored despite there being more than a century’s worth of Muslims living in the country, with the community largely ignored by wider society and the press until the 1990s.

But Noor Ahmed, general manager of the Citizens’ Archive of Pakistan, said the “long and interlinked history” of the UK and South Asia detailed in the archives she administers showed that there had always been involvement in political life, if not representation.

“Involvement was always there. It wasn’t as prominent as it is now, and it’s definitely new to see these communities represented in the way they are now — it sort of gives a formality to it,” Ahmed told Arab News.

“It’s a rising trend that we’re certainly seeing play out, and the appointment of Humza, whose family is of Pakistani heritage, to lead Scotland’s largest party and the third-largest party in the UK was lauded in Pakistan and offers an incredibly aspirational story.”

Yousaf, 37, narrowly won the leadership race on Monday after a bruising contest that followed the surprise resignation last month of Sturgeon, who had dominated Scottish politics for almost a decade.

As much as his win, it is Yousaf’s willingness to not only discuss but show his faith that offers Mustafa Field, director of the Faiths Forum for London, the greatest encouragement that the UK is becoming increasingly accepting.

“It’s really exciting having someone showing their cultural and religious sides comfortably. There was something incredibly powerful about Yousaf tweeting a picture of himself praying — that visual display of his comfort in showing his faith,” Field told Arab News.

“There are conservative voices asking how one can reconcile faith and politics, and we saw this with the SNP election, but I think Yousaf shows the way you can separate faith and duty, with the latter recognition of your constituency.

“Unlike other politicians, Humza has been open about his faith. This is important, and it’s why there has been a lot of celebration in the Muslim community over his success, even from those who differ with him politically.”

Dr. Rima Saini, senior lecturer in sociology at Middlesex University London, said in recent years the Conservative Party had been “framed” as a political home for aspirational ethnic minority politicians, “albeit upper-middle-class and right-wing” ones.

But she added that this appears to be shifting, with greater traction and mainstream support for Muslims in senior political leadership outside of the Conservatives, pointing to the numbers elected in both the Labour Party and the SNP on “relatively progressive platforms.”

Saini told Arab News: “This signals that these parties hold a home for minorities, particularly those with a Muslim background who are — and this is important — hyper-racialized and more socioeconomically diverse than the British Hindu and Sikh diaspora, for example.

“Whether these political appointments point to a general decline in racism and Islamophobia is unclear, especially if we consider how strong xenophobic and racist sentiment has been in the UK since Brexit, and the government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration.

“Furthermore, politics in all corners still lacks class inclusivity, particularly at the top. At the risk of homogenizing a diverse sub-population, these are nonetheless meaningful symbolic gains for British Muslims.”

Afzal warned that “we have to be careful” when presenting stories of progress, which he stressed often involve “steps back as well as forward,” but with “pressure” there is a “clear trajectory.”