Most New British Muslims Are Women

Lauren Booth, Tony Blair's sister-in-law and revert to Islam

This past January, I wrote about a study put out by Kevin Brice called “A Minority Within a Minority” which documented the rising number of British reverts over the past 10 years. (In Islam everyone is believed to be born Muslim, so when they begin practicing the faith later in their life, they are seen as returning or “reverting” to their original state.) According to Brice, the average revert is a 27-year-old women. An article in The Independent appeared at the beginning of November that highlighted not only the numbers of British reverts but also the obstacles that they face.

According to the article, 50% of British reverts are white and 75% of them are women. This is interesting considering all the negative images surrounding Islam and women. One of the most common stereotypes of the faith is that it is oppressive towards women. Yet the article emphasizes that 25% of the female reverts actually said they became Muslim because of the status Islam affords them. Continue reading

Niqab-Clad Woman Runs for French Presidency

Kenza Drider in front of her campaign posters

At the end of September, Kenza Drider, a French citizen of Morroccan descent, announced that she would run in the next presidential election against Nicolas Sarkozy. Drider, a mother of 4 who wears a niqab or face veil, has become a well-known opponent of the French ban on the veil that went into effect in April. She was the only woman to testify before an information commission of lawmakers before the ban was passed. She was also one of the first women to be fined under the new law. This ban affects less than an estimated 2000 women and can result in a 150 euro fine and in some cases citizenship classes. Continue reading

On Polygamy

A recent radio program on Asian Network Reports Special focused on the increase of polygamy among British Muslim men. Although bigamy is banned in the United Kingdom, according to Islamic Sharia Council, there has been a noticeable increase in the rates of polygamous marriages in the last 15 years. Continue reading

The History of Hate

The revered 20th century Catalan Painter Salvador Dali also created images gruesomely depicting the Prophet Muhammad

Today, Thursday, October 6, Luis Bernabé Pons, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Alicante in Spain, will be speaking about Islam and Christianity in 16th century Spain. The event will focus upon the Lead Books of Sacromonte and will take place at the Pyle Center in Madison Wisconsin @ 7 PM.

Earlier this week, Reem and I had the privilege to speak with Luis Bernabé. We discussed a variety of topics related to the history of Islam, but his presentation exploring the history of the Occident‘s misrepresentation of Islam stood out the most. Continue reading

Finding a Place to Pray in the Land of Yogurt

The Acropolis, Athens, Greece Photo: Colin Christopher

While traveling around the Balkans a few year back, it was crystal clear to me that the people of the region have a long memory of their history, and that racism and hatred are far from notions of the past. The Balkans have been the stage for a host of conflicts, both recent and ancient, and the latest developments in Athens highlight age-old tensions related to identity. Amid “fear of an uprising from Muslims,” the Greek Parliament passed an environmental bill with an amendment approving the construction of a large Athens mosque. Nearly two-thirds of Parliament supported the bill. The mosque would serve as a central point of Islamic worship for Athens’s approximately 200,000 Muslim residents. Anti-Muslim activists have accused the Greek Government of “giving in,” and often point to the violent clashes of 2010 between Muslims and other groups related to a Greek law enforcement official stepping on a Qur’an.

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Making It More Difficult for Moderate Muslims

As surely everyone knows, this Friday, April 29th, the UK’s Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married at Westminster Abbey. People around the world will be watching the wedding and participating in the celebration. Not all are happy with the upcoming event. An anti-war and extremist Muslim group in Britain called “Muslims against Crusades” (MAC) made plans to protest the royal wedding and the “English Defense League” (EDL) an ultra-nationalist group said that they would counter-protest.

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Violence Against Women: A New Direction?

In 2010, journalist-actress-writer-director Feo Aladag released When We Leave (Die Fremde in German), an award-winning film that explores the hardships that characterize one young Turkish-German woman’s transition from a suffocating marriage in Istanbul back to a new life in her native Berlin. Despite her intentions of running from her abusive relationship, she endures further physical abuse from her husband, and is unsupported by her family in her decision to run away with her son. When We Leave blends a number of issues into one story–from Germany’s struggles with multiculturalism to the concept of honor in many Turkish families.

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Unveiled: A Balanced Portrait

Among many events in Madison this week raising awareness about Islam and Muslims was the film, Unveiled, hosted by UW-Madison’s International Student Services and the LGBT Campus Center. The film (Fremde Haut in German), directed by Angelina Maccarone, follows Fariba, an Irani woman seeking asylum in a small, industrial German town. Following the discovery of Fariba’s love affair with a married woman in Tehran, the Irani government threatens to prosecute her for her relationship, which is illegal under Iranian legal code. Fariba’s lover begs forgiveness and swears under oath that she will change and is freed, but Fariba decides to leave Tehran for good.

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Religion and Secularism: Debate or just Islamophobia?

Today, April 5th, Nicholas Sarkozy’s ruling party will hold a national debate on the role of religion and secularism in France. Even though it is being framed as a discussion on France’s doctrine of laïcité (secularism), many believe that it is singling out Islam. Among the topics that will be examined in the debate is overcrowding in mosques, serving halal meat in school cafeterias, and whether patients should be allowed to request doctors of a certain gender.

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Tespihe in Albania

Man with Prayer Beads Photo: Colin Christopher

From Tirana to Tetova, they can be seen in public and in private, hanging from the rear view mirrors of taxis, and lying atop intricate prayer rugs. For some, tespihe (“prayer beads” in Albanian) are used as religious, intentional acts of worship and remembrance of God–zikr. For most Albanians however, sliding the 33 circularly attached beads through one’s fingers has been stripped of its religious significance. Now, tespihe represent a tradition or habit Albanian men saw their father’s fathers pass time with while sipping small cups of thick, muddy-colored coffee in the town square.

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