lunes, 27 de junio de 2011

Turkish gay pride march draws thousands

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- Thousands of Turks marched through Istanbul in a demonstration calling for improved rights and greater social acceptance for the country's homosexual community.

Activists say the annual Turkish Gay Pride Parade, now in its ninth year, is the only march of its kind in a majority-Muslim country. Several thousand supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights carried signs and rainbow flags as they made their way down one of Istanbul's busiest pedestrian thoroughfares.

Participants chanted slogans against harassment and blew whistles, waved large rainbow flags and carried signs in Turkish and English that sported messages like "We're everywhere, get used to it" and "Dance, dance, against homophobia, dance."

Other signs referenced Ahmet Yildiz, a 26-year-old who was shot to death in Istanbul in 2008. Yildiz's father has been accused of traveling almost 600 miles to shoot him in what has been called an "honor killing."

According to Yildiz's partner, Ibo, Yildiz sought protection from prosecutors after receiving threats of violence from his family. His case was featured in an Amnesty International report on the status of gays, lesbians, and transsexuals in Turkey entitled "Not An Illness, Nor A Crime."

The report says it later emerged that the prosecutor's office erroneously transferred the complaint to another office and failed to investigate the claims, in what some activists view as the unwillingness of the authorities to confront homophobic violence.

Sunday's march blurred ethnic and religious lines. A group of about 20 Kurdish activists, fleeing police tear gas that was fired at an unrelated nearby political demonstration, were greeted by a round of applause as they joined the colorful crowd.

Tear gas from the same demonstration wafted over parts of the crowd, causing the march to stall briefly as people took cover to stave off its effects.

Gay rights organizations have accused Turkey's government of expressing hostile attitudes toward the country's homosexual community. Activists point to a statement made by Aliye Kavaf, Turkey's minister for women and family affairs.

"I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder, an illness, and should be treated," she said in a 2010 interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

One parade-goer, who was a part of a tango group moving through the crowd, wore a bright red head scarf with a checkered red, black, and white tie as she danced with her partner. The dancer, who wears a head scarf in daily life, said that Islam and homosexuality are not incongruous.

"Religion is not a fixed thing," said Iz, who declined to provide her last name. "It has been interpreted throughout history, is still being interpreted and it needs to evolve."

In accession talks with the European Union, Turkey has been gradually improving its record on homosexuality as it makes changes to conform to EU policy on human rights laws. Many marchers on Sunday came out to improve social consciousness of homosexuality.

"The big-bellied, mustached men are looking, trying to figure out what's going on. They're learning what a rainbow is," said Natalie Aslan, 23.

CNN - 27/06/2011

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2011


The Liberal Muslims'conference in London, this two-day conference organized by ‘Inspire’ has been a melting pot of thoughts and ideas, an indulgence of sorts. It brought together a ‘who’s who’ of liberal Muslims whose opinions and interpretations of the Qur’an have been a slap in the face to some in the classical-conservative field of view.
By Farrukh I. Younus, Freelance Writer - United Kingdom

One of the speakers, Chris Allen, addressed a rather subtle point, the tie between a Muslim woman’s dress and societies’ perception of Islam. A recent subject of discussion in the news, the burkini illustrated the divergence of opinion. Simply, when a Muslim woman dresses in such a way she is oppressed because she is hiding and covering herself, all the while when non-Muslim woman such as Nigella Lawson, a famous personality chooses to go onto a beach in a burkini, did it, she is hiding her modesty from prying eyes. What is oppression for one is liberating for another, thus the dress code isn’t really the subject, rather it is the creation of fear of, and anger towards a faith i.e. Islam. In this context, another of the speakers, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, used her slot to address a number of the commonly misunderstood hadith relating to women. The classic example being a false narration where one of the companions Abu Huraira said that a man cannot pray if a woman or a dog is in front of him, to which Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, objected angrily saying that he has compared women to dogs. She then corrected him giving her own example of how the Prophet would pray and when he would prostrate he would tap her legs and she would move them out of the way so he could prostrate. Aside from the literal meaning of this hadith, it addresses a much wider concern, that is the attitude that even men who were close to the Prophet had with regards to women. If it happened here, where else did it happen? And more importantly, how have these attitudes remained to the point that the self-proclaimed champions of Islam do not view women as women but rather as sexualized objects that often need ‘protecting’?

Taking this further, Riba Mir-Hosseini, pointed out something which I hadn’t thought of previously. That is at a time of revolution and change, where some societies were trying to become more ‘Islamic’, in doing so, they simply uplifted conservative classical interpretation of Islam, integrating elements of them into their state’s legal code, without going through the same due process that took place throughout the differing periods of Islam. Even in early Islam where interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith varied between the different regions to which Islam spread reflecting the conditions and circumstance of the societies that lived there, one set of opinions were established as the norm. While in theory this may sound like a good idea, the problem is that it included vast statements and opinions based on a patriarchal interpretation of Islam, which in many cases didn’t reflect the example of the Prophet Muhammad himself. As a result, in the Western world specifically, you have a much stronger conservatism of Islam than you do in many of the Muslim countries e.g. attitudes to music, where all music in the west to some Muslims is ‘haram’ but elsewhere in the Muslim world good music is good while bad music is bad. Further, and this is what really struck me, is that in place of intellectual discovery which has been made possible in the west on account of the wider freedoms enjoyed by general society, when these evidences and discovery are then shared with the wider Muslim world – particularly with regards to women’s rights, they are disregarded for not adhering to the status quo, irrespective of whether they are sound or not. For me, a truth is a truth, irrespective of how it is derived. And for me, refusing to acknowledge the integrity of that truth is a reflection of the Qur’anic verse where people are criticized for following what their forefathers did blindly, more often than not, under the guise of tradition.

End of Inspire Conference
The conference concluded with the launch of an initiative named Jihad Against Violence (JAV). The initiative driven by the team at Inspire along with the support of Daisy Khan and Uasama Hasan, which is built upon a single philosophy of the Prophet Muhammad, that is, to seek peace instead of war. That is to say that we haven’t been created different to disagree with one another, rather our differences should be adding value to the wider human experience. One of the most important reminders this conference left me with is the knowledge and understanding of the relationship between man and Allah Almighty, one that is based on understanding and piety, not arrogance and self-righteousness. We are taught in the Qur’an that faith is a blessing. It is thus through our own individual actions that we must reflect the values of faith, from modesty to justice. However, all too often Muslims suffer from a superiority complex that is to say that we are on truth and others are on the path to hell. This attitude does not reflect the approach the Prophet himself had with others. Rather, his approach to any and every person was first that they are a human being, and that every human being as a descendant of Adam and Eve has the same rights with regards to freedom and justice as every other human being. Whether this is freeing women from pre-Islamic (and now post-Islamic) oppression, running the affairs of a state, or simply matters relating to everyday life, until such time as we adopt the Prophetic advice, ‘A person is not a believer until they want for the other what they want for themselves’; until we have understood and apply this in our daily lives, we as people have little right to claim that we are upon the path of truth.

In 2010, the journal Psychological Sciences reported on a study commissioned by the University of Arizona which found idle talk made people unhappy, going on to say “that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial." So I return to my opening quote from the Quran which reads, (There are some people who purchase idle talk in order to lead away from Allah’s path without any knowledge.) And I ask myself, who exactly is facilitating this ‘idle talk’? Is it the person who accepts (all of) the status quo (as is), or is it the person who perhaps challenges (some of) the status quo, seeking clarification and better understanding of faith?

On Islam – 17/06/2011

viernes, 17 de junio de 2011


The camp is being organised by the Party of Swedes (Svenskarnas parti -- SVP), which has its roots in Sweden's neo-Nazi movement. “Targeting young people is a very conscious strategy of these organisations. It is easier to reach young people with Nazi-propaganda before they have really made their mind up on what Nazism stands for,” journalist Johannes Jakobsson told The Local. Jakobsson, who writes for Swedish magasine Expo, which studies and maps anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society, said there is little doubt about the party's heritage. “The party leadership is the same as the old National Socialistic Front (National Socialistisk Front – NSF), they represent an ethnic nationalism and they believe in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” he said. In July, the party is organising a gathering for “all nationalists” under the name of Nordisk Vision 2011 ('Nordic Vision 2011'). The camp, which is described as a “summer-camp with drive” has on its agenda “several interesting lectures, speeches, workshops, competitions, self-defence classes, airsoft, rounders and a lot more,” according to the party's website.

The location of the camp is a secret as organisers fear harassment. “We have a fixed gathering point but from there the directions are secret. We can’t make the location official after all the harassment we have been subjected to in the past,” organiser Andreas Carlsson told Dagens Nyheter (DN). According to Carlsson, there is no political agenda to the gathering. He told daily DN that the aim is to “have fun, creating kinship and meeting new people". Carlsson told daily Aftonbladet that the focus for the kids would be on “having fun” but that everyone will be able to take part in a debate on the Sunday where one of the topics will be “Who is a Swede and who isn’t?”. But the organisers would not agree that the camp itself is targeting young people, despite Swedish media calling it a "Nazi children's camp". They are marketing the camp as having activities for both “young and old” and claim that children under 15 go in for free as it is a family event and they want to subsidize the price for families.

However, that doesn't mean that everyone is invited. “You can have a foreign name, but if it is from outside Europe it becomes more difficult. And we don’t necessarily see someone as Swedish just because they have a Swedish citizenship,” Carlsson told DN. Jakobsson says that there is no reason to doubt that the participants won't be paddling, playing rounders and taking part in all the activities advertised on the webpage. However, he doesn't believe that the gathering is without a political agenda. “They have said that they will have political speeches and discussions so when they say that it’s not political they are contradicting themselves,” he told The Local. The Party of Swedes party is formerly known as the People's Front (Folkfronten) and was founded by members of the former National Socialist Front (Nationalsocialistisk front, NSF) in November 2008. At the time it dissolved, NSF was the largest neo-Nazi political party in Sweden. It became a political party on April 20th, 1999, the 110th birthday of Adolf Hitler.
© The Local - Sweden - 14/06/2011

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

Rabbi Praises Spain's Progress in Jewish Relations

GRANADA, SPAIN — To mark the first visit to Granada by a Jewish religious leader since Jews were expelled from Spain over five centuries ago, the city authorities had hoped to be host to a luncheon for Shlomo Moshe Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.

Nowadays, however, Granada, a city of about 250,000, does not have any strict kosher establishments. So the chief rabbi had to settle last week for a garden picnic, in the beautiful surroundings of the Alhambra, the former Moorish palace in whose throne room one of the 1492 expulsion edicts for Jews was said to have been signed.

As he considered whether to tuck into a plastic tub of hummus or a plate of biscuits, the chief rabbi sounded unfazed by the informal and frugal lunch.

“Birds don’t eat kosher,” he said. “When you have a place that no longer has Jews, you also cannot expect it to have the proper structures to cater to the needs and eating habits of Jews.”

Indeed, the Jewish presence in Granada is “almost nil today,” said José María Castillo Sánchez, a former theology professor at the University of Granada, who was part of the welcoming committee for the rabbi. And while estimates differ, the Jewish community in Spain — 25,000 to 45,000 in a country of 47 million people — is a tiny fraction of that living there before 1492.

Still, the chief rabbi focused on praising Spain’s recent progress in rekindling the relationship with the Jews. Visiting the Granada City Hall, he told the mayor, José Torres Hurtado, “We now see that this city is full of the light of wisdom, liberty and splendor.”

Sitting in a salon decorated with religious paintings depicting scenes of the birth and death of Jesus Christ, the chief rabbi added, “I consider this visit to be very special because, after centuries, we are erasing the darkness that has covered this relationship.”

In response, Mr. Torres Hurtado highlighted “the perfect harmony between cultures” that prevails in modern Granada.

He also jokingly told his guest that “let us hope that not so much time goes by until the next visit” by a Jewish religious leader.

In an interview during his picnic, the chief rabbi went a step further by suggesting that Spain had become such “a beacon” that it was likely to attract more Jews from Latin America, where some Jews, he argued, are struggling amid “social instability.”

The 1492 expulsion marks one of the bleakest moments in the history of European Jewry. But the chief rabbi, who represents, among others, Jews descended from those who were forced to flee the Iberian Peninsula, suggested that no further steps needed be taken to ensure complete reconciliation.

“We are not asking for the official abolition of the edicts of expulsion because they have no legal relevance now and are like a plate which has been used and should just be thrown away,” he said. “Trying to work out what exactly convinced people here to issue such edicts would require an infinite amount of work, when we should instead be looking to the future and not the past.”

This visit to Granada comes as the Spanish authorities have shown greater willingness to confront such low points in their country’s history.

Last month, the authorities on the island of Majorca held a memorial for Jews who were burned in the city of Palma in May 1691, in what was the first such commemoration staged by a Spanish regional government.

Some studies have suggested Spain continues to be plagued by anti-Semitism, notably a 2008 Pew Global Attitudes survey that found that 46 percent of Spaniards viewed Jews unfavorably, which gave Spain the highest negative rating in Europe.

But more recent Spanish studies have played down such findings, including one last year by Casa Sefarad-Israel, an agency of the Spanish Foreign Ministry set up to promote good relations with Spanish Jewry and Israel. Its study found that negative views had dropped to 34.6 of the Spanish population.

“What the polls really show is that much of Spanish society is not in agreement with Israel’s policy toward Palestine, but that view then sometimes gets confused with anti-Semitism,” said José María Contreras, subdirector for religious affairs in the Spanish Justice Ministry. “Many people in this country just don’t make a difference between Israelis and Jews, just as they often also don’t distinguish between Spaniards and Catholics, however much of a plural society Spain has become.”

Meanwhile, outside Granada’s City Hall, protesters were occupying the square, surrounded by banners condemning political corruption and authoritarianism, as part of a youth-led movement seeking an overhaul of Spain’s political system that started in Madrid on May 15 before spreading nationwide. “This makes for a bit of an ugly landscape, sorry about that,” Granada’s mayor told the chief rabbi.

While no words of apology were pronounced by the mayor and other Spanish officials concerning the 1492 expulsion, those in attendance suggested that the chief rabbi’s visit was in itself significant enough to draw a line under this dark episode in Spanish history.

“It should not have taken 519 years for a Jewish religious leader to come back here, but what matters is that this has finally taken place,” said Diego de Ojeda, director of Casa Sefarad-Israel.

By Raphael Minder - June 6, 2011.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2011

MCI claims to change the Penal Code in order to stop Nazi impunity.

On Friday, the president of Movement against Intolerance, Esteban Ibarra, lamented the Supreme Court decision to absolve the four members of Kalki library for selling Nazi ideology material.

"We respect, we accept, but we don’t share and sadly receive the sentence, which is a step backwards in the eradication of racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic and homophobic behaviours," said Ibarra.

He stressed that the European Union, in a framework decision on racism and xenophobia, required Spain to revise and adjust the Penal Code - which punishes provocation to racism and discrimination, but not incitement – but these changes haven’t been done, although the deadline was November 28, 2010.

This statement, according to Ibarra, creates a new stage for the victims and takes "to suffer that Spain is a country where neo-Nazi groups, racist propaganda and xenophobia campaigns go unpunished."

The four perpetrators, who had a far-right bookshop and publishing house in Barcelona, had been sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Court of Barcelona, ​​but the Supreme Court has now acquitted holding that the Constitution doesn’t prohibit ideologies and that Neo-Nazi ideas are illegal only when they clearly risked 'creating a hostile climate' which could lead to violence.