Is anywhere in the world still safe for China’s Uighurs?

Amannisa Abdullah was in the last weeks of her pregnancy when her husband, Ahmad Talip, was arrested in Dubai. ‘He was on his way to buy a dress for our unborn girl,’ she says. Ahmad, who had lived and worked in Dubai for nearlyten years, never arrived at the shop and his family have not seen him since. He was held at a local police station for several days and then was deported to China in 2018, where he is reportedly in prison. ‘He just disappeared. We don’t know where he is or what he is accused of,’ says Amannisa, who fled to Istanbul. Ahmad is a Uighur Muslim. His

Labour’s worrying descent into communalism

Labour’s candidate in Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater, reportedly pulled out of a hustings featuring George Galloway over the weekend. This makes sense. Not only is Galloway a master of bluster whose pompous bombast has a steamroller quality in a debate, but Leadbeater would have been debating the person of whom she is currently doing a dubious impression. If the organisers were concerned about getting Labour’s perspective, they could have stuck a mirror in front of Galloway and given it equal time. The no-show came as Leadbeater, whose sister Jo Cox was murdered by a right-wing extremist five years ago, told the Independent: I think sadly there are a number

Austria’s ‘Islam map’ is dangerous

Austria’s government has unveiled a map detailing the locations of mosques and other Muslim associations all over the country. The publication has been swiftly condemned by Austrian Muslim groups, including the Muslim Youth Organisation which announced a lawsuit in response. But Austria’s government is so far refusing to back down.  The ‘Islam map’ is a project of the government-backed Political Islam Documentation Centre and the University of Vienna. The map has been designed ostensibly in response to growing Islamist radicalism in Austria, especially in the aftermath of November’s Vienna shooting. It marks a continuation of chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s self-proclaimed fight against ‘political Islam’. But whatever the intention, the map is unlikely to do much other than to ensure Austrian

The empire that sprang from nowhere under the banner of Islam

When the British formed the basis of their empire in the 1600s by acquiring territories in India and North America, they already had many centuries’ experience of foreign involvement. One of the most remarkable aspects of the force that reshaped Eurasia 1,000 years earlier is that there was no prelude: the Arab conquests, and the Islamic empire that they created, came out of nowhere. By the time of the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 most of the tribes of the Arabian peninsula had united under the banner of Islam, some out of faith, others from expediency. But few people outside Arabia knew who Muslims were or worried about

The Tories, Islam, and the importance of pluralism

The Conservatives will be relieved that an independent investigation has not found the party to be institutionally racist, though relief is about all they can feel. Professor Swaran Singh’s report, which has taken two years to arrive, paints a picture of a party at best complacent about how its members talk about Muslims.  Professor Singh examined 1,418 complaints about 727 incidents between 2015 and 2020, of which two-thirds were allegations of anti-Muslim discrimination and three-quarters were from social media. The former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) concludes that: Anti-Muslim sentiment has been evidenced at local association and individual levels, as demonstrated by a number of social

Richard Dawkins is an ally to the oppressed

Richard Dawkins is no longer a humanist. At least, not one that deserves to be honoured as such, according to the American Humanist Association (AHA), which excommunicated him from the Humanist of the Year award last week. The fatwa issued by the AHA, which generously includes ‘critical thinking’ in a list of its own Ten Commitments, accused the evolutionary biologist of ‘demean[ing] marginalized groups’ when he asked his Twitter followers to ‘discuss’ the vilification of critics of transgender theory. Proponents of the new blasphemy codes have seemingly forgotten the decades of humanist work in favour of free speech. More qualified persons can better comment on Dawkins’s implied scepticism of modern

What the demise of Quilliam teaches us about Britain and Islam

There was much rejoicing among Britain’s Islamists last week when the thinktank and campaigning organisation Quilliam announced that it was closing. The Islamists were pleased because for the 14 years since its founding Quilliam has been the most prominent Muslim-run organisation arguing for a progressive, non-Islamist Islam. The exact reasons why Quilliam has shut down are not clear. The co-founder, Maajid Nawaz, has blamed the difficulties of sustaining a non-profit in the era of Covid. Perhaps it is that, or perhaps it is something else. The group never had an easy ride. But the fact that it didn’t, and that so many prominent British Muslims are celebrating its demise, points

How Covid will change Ramadan

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, based on spiritual self-discipline. It is meant to strip away materialism and to connect Muslims to God through self-reflection, fasting and prayer, thereby enhancing the spiritual connection of Muslims to the Almighty. But just as it was for Christians celebrating Easter and Jews celebrating Passover, this year’s Ramadan will be quite different in a Covid world. For the virus continues to strip away so many of the familial and personal connections that we once took for granted. The virus continues to strip away so many of the familial and personal connections that we once took for granted In times of crisis

Why Muslims like me are worried about the Batley protests

To some, the persecution of a schoolteacher who showed his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed may seem like a local quarrel. Does it really matter, many Britons will ask, that a few dozen men gathered at the gates of a school in West Yorkshire? Surely it will blow over before long, goes the thinking. Alas, this view – all too common in officialdom throughout the western world – is deeply naïve. To those of us in the Muslim world who work to counter Islamist extremism, what is happening at Batley Grammar School is disturbingly familiar. What may look like a local incident is in fact one with national

Why will nobody publish my religious cartoons?

I am having very little success in getting my collection of cartoons of great religious founders published. Perhaps it is because I am not known as a draughtsman and publications are notoriously conservative in hiring new talent. It is all very dispiriting. My drawings are, I think, puckish and yet respectful. For example, there is one of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, the man somehow regarded as divine by Rastafarians. He is depicted in a game of ten-pin bowling with Benito Mussolini, the controversial former leader of Italy. Both men seem to be enjoying themselves — Benito is holding a pint of lager while Selassie is biting into an almond

Bangladesh could pay for failing to crack down on its Islamist threat

Bangladesh turned 50 last week and the country has much to celebrate. Having inherited a dismal GDP growth rate of -14 at its birth in 1971, Bangladesh’s most recent figures for the growth in the size of its economy (7.8 per cent) edged out India (6.1 per cent), and comfortably outdid Pakistan (5.8 per cent). Bangladesh overtook India in per capita income last year. And of the 14 World Development Indicators measured by the World Bank – including fertility rate and life expectancy – Bangladesh is faring better than Pakistan in all but one (air pollution), and outranking India in seven. The country’s life expectancy average of 72.3 is ahead

The Batley protestors don’t represent me

The protestors outside Batley Grammar School could be heard shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ — God is great. It’s a term I often use when I need spiritual strength, a basic prayer. But this time, the prayer was being used as a war cry by those who seemed to think that re-affirming their Muslim identity would help them sack a teacher in a school. It amounted to nothing less than the defamation of Islam. There are perhaps three million Muslims in Britain, the vast majority of us proud to live in one of the most tolerant countries on earth and feeling no conflict between our faith and our nationality. British values are liberal

The Batley Grammar school row is the perfect jihadist recruitment tool

As controversy continues to rage after pupils were shown an image of the prophet Muhammad by a teacher at Batley Grammar School, the primary beneficiaries will be violent extremists, both jihadist and far right. As a former jihadi extremist who once used similar circumstances to spew hate and spread dissension worldwide, I should know. But, here’s the truth: I couldn’t have cared less about the portrayal of the cartoon, and neither did those preachers I once worked with. In the wake of 9/11, I ran Revolution Muslim, which was described as a ‘relay station for Al Qaeda’s broader message’. Then, in April 2010, when the writers of South Park announced the show’s 201st episode would portray

Batley Grammar’s shameful capitulation

The capitulation of Batley Grammar School has been a truly dispiriting sight. In response to protests by angry Muslims it has suspended a teacher for the supposed offence of showing a caricature of Muhammad to his pupils. This is an extraordinary act of moral cowardice. Batley Grammar has buckled to religious extremists, cravenly begging for forgiveness for something that ought to be perfectly acceptable in an institution of learning — encouraging young people to engage with and discuss controversial issues. Everything about the Batley Grammar controversy stinks. It began when a teacher at the prestigious West Yorkshire school, as part of a religious education class, showed his pupils an image

Are Switzerland and France really ‘Islamophobic’?

Is Switzerland ‘Islamophobic’? Critics of the country’s decision to outlaw face coverings think so. The ‘Burqa ban’, which passed into law this week as a result of a narrow vote in a referendum, applies to any form of face covering in a public gathering, unless worn for health reasons, at religious congregations, or carnivals. The legislation is not, at least directly, aimed at Muslims. And, what’s more, very few Swiss Muslims wear a burqa or niqab: almost no-one in Switzerland wears a burka and only around 30 women wear the niqab, according to research by the University of Lucerne. But the condemnation has nonetheless been swift. It was ‘a dark day’ for Muslims, the Central Council of

Macron is using Islam to outmanoeuvre Le Pen

There was a rally in Paris on Sunday at which a couple of hundred protestors vented their anger at the French government’s ‘anti-separatist bill’ which was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday. It was a disparate but predictable gathering of what one broadcaster described as ‘anti-racism, left-wing, pro-Palestinian and other activist groups’. The demonstrators were repeating the claims made by some left-wing politicians that the bill will stigmatise the country’s Muslims. On the contrary, retort the government, who define the bill as a ‘Respect for Republican values’. They say it will protect the majority of Muslims from the minority of extremists whose objective is to create a separate society in

When will Pakistan take a stand against terror?

Last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the release of UK born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was accused of kidnapping and beheading the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The verdict came after Sindh High Court overturned the death penalty for Sheikh and three alleged abettors last year, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty of murder and stating that they had served their sentence for their role in the kidnapping. The decision has outraged Washington, with Joe Biden’s new State Department chief Antony Blinken dubbing it an ‘affront to terrorism victims everywhere’ and announcing his readiness to prosecute Sheikh in the US. As the Pearl family prepares to appeal

What the West can do about China’s Uyghur labour camps

Coca-Cola’s most controversial bottling plant is a huge factory located in an industrial zone just outside the city of Urumqi in western China. Logistically, the factory is well situated: the international airport is a short drive away, as is the high-speed train station close to the fashionable Wyndham hotel. But the problem for Coca-Cola — and other western companies such as Volkswagen and BASF, which operate plants in the same region — is the existence of hundreds of facilities not mentioned on any official map. The Cofco Coca-Cola plant, a joint venture with a Chinese state company, is surrounded by prisons and re-education camps in which China suppresses local ethnic

It’s been a tough year for socialites

New York Here we go again, the annual holiest of holies is upon us, although to this oldie last Christmas feels as though it was only yesterday. Funny how time never seemed to pass quickly during those lazy days of long ago, but now rolls off like a movie calendar showing the days, months, years flashing by. I wrote my first Christmas column for this magazine 43 years ago, sitting in my dad’s office on Albemarle Street. I remember it well because I used every cliché known to man and then some (patter of little feet… children’s noses pressed against snowy windows). The then editor, Alexander Chancellor, said nothing to

Islam must adopt the Moroccan model

After becoming the latest Arab state to formalise ties with Israel, the fourth in as many months, Morocco has gone a step further; it will start teaching Jewish history as part of the school curriculum. Morocco is now the first modern Arabic state to embrace its tradition of religious pluralism — a pluralism that has over the decades faded into mono-cultural Sunni Islam. Over the last 70 years, the number of Jews living in Morocco has fallen from half a million to just 2,000. In January, Moroccan King Mohammed VI visited a Jewish museum and synagogue in Essaouira to celebrate the country’s pluralistic past as well as the Moroccan monarch’s