The many ways Muslim prisoners are denied religious rights in prison

“a federal judge affirmed that Jake Angeli, the Capitol rioter known as “Q Shaman,” should be granted his request for organic food while being held in a Washington, DC, jail, citing his religious beliefs. It is puzzling that Angeli’s accommodations were met, not only because the DC jail found no research to show that an organic diet was a tenet of Shamanism — but also because it’s deeply hypocritical given the treatment of so many Muslim prisoners in this country who are denied, among other things, halal food. This demonstrates how so many white practitioners of faith are not just immune to discrimination, but are even awarded favors when it comes to treatment in prison.”

Biden is ending Trump’s travel ban

“The policy, colloquially known as the “Muslim ban,” first went into effect in January 2017 and became one of Trump’s signature immigration policies. The ban has slowed or altogether halted legal immigration from certain countries that the former administration deemed to be security threats, keeping families apart and even stymieing refugee resettlement.”

“The ban was amended several times in the face of numerous court challenges arguing that Trump did not have the legal authority to issue it and that it unlawfully discriminated against Muslims. The third version of the ban, ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, barred citizens of seven countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea — from obtaining any kind of visas, largely preventing them from entering the US. (Chad was taken off the list of countries subject to the ban in April 2019 after it met the Trump administration’s demands to share information with US authorities that could aid in efforts to vet foreigners.)
Trump expanded the ban last February to include additional restrictions on citizens of six more countries: Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. While they could still visit the US, citizens of these countries were, for the most part, barred from settling in the US permanently.”

“The human cost of the travel ban has been devastating. Not only has the policy torn families apart, but it has also contributed to crises including doctor shortages in rural America and a dramatic drop in enrollment among foreign students from affected countries.

More than 41,000 people have been denied visas due to the ban. Citizens of any of the banned countries could qualify for a waiver that would grant them entry to the US if, for example, they needed urgent medical care or were trying to reunite with their immediate family in the US. But those waivers proved exceedingly difficult to obtain.

Data from the State Department suggests that fewer people have been applying for visas since the ban was enacted: In fiscal year 2019, immigration authorities granted about 39,000 visas to noncitizens from the original seven countries covered by the ban as compared to almost 338,000 just three years prior — about an 88 percent drop. Iran and Venezuela saw the biggest declines.”

“National security experts have argued that the suffering of those like Alghazzouli was largely in vain: The travel ban has not made America safer, despite the Trump administration’s arguments to the contrary.
The Trump administration claimed that all the affected countries pose threats to US national security based on the findings of multiple government agencies. But the agencies’ findings were never made public, meaning the nature of those threats remains unclear. The administration broadly cited terrorist activity, failure of the countries to properly document their own travelers, and insufficient efforts to cooperate and share information with US authorities as justification for the ban.

But dozens of former intelligence officials have opposed the ban. Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Homeland Security Department under the Trump administration, said in a press call earlier this month that the ban has hurt America’s relationships with foreign governments, which are critical to US national security interests. The US government should have worked with foreign governments to improve their own security procedures and information-sharing structures, without punishing them for not already being up to standard, she said.”

France, the way to Islamic reformation is to challenge institutions — not stigmatize Muslims

“Recent events underscore the need for a reformed reading of Islam. But such reformation will not be brought about by stigmatizing Islam or Muslim communities, as the French president did. What is needed is to challenge Muslim institutions to take a clear position on Islamic jurisprudence justifying violence.”

“It was a policy statement about cracking down on “radical Islamist” influence among French Muslims to prevent their transformation into a “counter-republican” community. However, Macron’s bizarre remark that Islam “is in crisis all over the world today” unsurprisingly got most of the attention in the Middle East.”

“What was meant to be a debate about combating Islamic radicals in France turned into an outcry against “Macron’s stigmatization of Islam.” Nuanced Muslim voices got lost in the noise.
The Macron fiasco didn’t overshadow the problem of violence in the name of Islam for long. The beheading of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, on Oct. 16 for showing his students images of a caricature depicting Islam’s prophet came as a crude reminder of the problem. Calling it an isolated act, as the grand mufti of Egypt did, doesn’t cut it any longer. Nor does the lamentation over French atrocities in Algeria half a century ago. The problem of violence motivated by a certain interpretation of Islam is real.”

“Three key premises held by the Islamic Salafist tradition lie at the source of the problem. First, the idea that sovereignty lies with “God,” not the people, restricts the role of legislatures to enacting Islamic law, which is also understood in its most literalist interpretation. Rulers who don’t uphold this principle are deemed idolatrous. Second, Muslims’ “apostasy,” often defined as having a different interpretation of their faith, is punishable by death. Third, when Muslim leaders fail to enact these rules, individual Muslims have a duty, under certain conditions, to carry them out themselves.

These interpretations of Islam underpin most of the violence in its name, since the Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb wrote his call for Jihad more than half a century ago, all the way to the Islamic State and “lone wolves” violently punishing those who “insult Islam” today. Islamic institutions such as Al-Azhar often denounce that violence and insist that its perpetrators do not represent “true Islam,” as Egypt’s mufti just did. Yet they rarely address the intellectual foundations of these belligerent interpretations of Islamic texts.

Independent-minded Islamic thinkers have long been advocating more clement readings of Islam, its laws and its relationship with non-Muslims. From Muhammad Abduh in the 19th century to Nasr Abu Zayd, Mohammed Arkoun and many others more recently, thinkers have critically reviewed Islamic jurisprudence to show its emphasis on reason, individual freedom and equality. But religious institutions and movements did not follow their lead. And political leaders, including those of the so-called secular regimes, hedged their bets and walked a fine line between reformers and Salafists. Decades of social, economic and political decay, foreign encroachment and military interventions, along with Saudi support, helped Salafi thought grow. Today, Salafi thought is no longer a fringe: It has penetrated mainstream religious institutions as well as the Islamist movements that had started off as modernist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Those who are interested in promoting a reformist vision of Islam should challenge the foundations of Salafism within these institutions and movements — not “Islam” as a whole, as Macron did, nor the already stigmatized Muslim minorities who are struggling with racism and discrimination in Western countries.
Instead, Islamic institutions and movements should be pressed to come up with unambiguous answers to the key questions that Salafism poses: Does their interpretation of “true Islam” allow Muslims to use violence against others? Does it allow Muslims to uphold modern political institutions and their laws? Does it allow Muslims to live peacefully with people they consider apostates or infidels?

Challenging these institutions and movements will help, not undermine, the debate among Muslims over what Islam is — the debate that will shape the future of Islam.”

Macron steps up fight against radical Islam (and his critics)

“Macron announced the Cabinet will on Wednesday dissolve a pro-Hamas organization known as Cheikh Yassine, which he said was “directly involved” in the gruesome assassination of Samuel Paty, the eighth-grade teacher who was killed after he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed during a class discussion on freedom of speech.

The teacher reportedly tried to be mindful of the sensitivity of the subject for some of his pupils by asking those who might be offended to either leave the class or look away, sparking the ire of one pupil’s father, among others.

After the disgruntled parent and several others posted a video on social media denouncing the teacher, calling for mobilization against him and mentioning the address of the school, an 18-year-old man, without apparent ties to the school, waited for Paty and beheaded him. On Tuesday, French media reported the investigation into the beheading revealed the assailant had been in touch with the father prior to the killing.

The assailant was of Chechen origin, and Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Tuesday evening, according to the Elysée, which said Macron “wants to reinforce Franco-Russian cooperation in the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration.”

The attack is not the first beheading or the bloodiest terror attack France has suffered in recent years, but it has struck a nerve. Schools and teachers, though underpaid and under-equipped, hold a unique place in the collective imagination of the French, who see themselves as the torchbearers of enlightenment. It also goes to the heart of the unique French conception of freedom of speech — one that prides itself on offending and tackling all sacred cows.”

“France has had a homegrown radical Islam problem for decades. It has caused problems for successive presidents and governments, which have struggled to reconcile the repression necessary to stamp it out with French laws, due process and freedom of speech. It culminated in 2015 with the bloodiest string of terror attacks in Europe: In January, assailants attacked satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and then in November, the Bataclan concert hall as well as cafés and restaurants in Paris.

The place of Islam in French society has been a lightning rod issue since former President Jacques Chirac passed a law banning French public service employees from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols, widely interpreted as a roundabout way of banning the Muslim headscarf.”

“Macron will award Paty the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian honor, and will lead a national tribute to him. It will take place at the Sorbonne University, a location chosen by Paty’s family.

“The Sorbonne is the symbolic monument of the spirit of enlightenment and of French cultural, literary and educational influence,” according to an Elysée official.”

A terror attack in Nice threatens to turbocharge France’s debate on free speech and Islam

“The killing of three people in southern France on Thursday has been deemed a terrorist attack by French officials — and it looks to be related to the country’s ongoing controversy over the public display of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and the government’s general approach toward Islam.

Around 9 am local time Thursday in Nice, an assailant used a knife to kill three people, two women and a man, at the Notre-Dame Basilica. One of the women died inside the church, as did the man; the second woman “fled to a nearby bar but was mortally wounded,” according to the AP.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told reporters he believes the attack was perpetrated by an Islamist extremist. “He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured” by police, Estrosi said. (“Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” is a common expression used by Muslims, especially during prayers.) “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt,” Estrosi added.

The suspect is now in custody and has been hospitalized.

Two other incidents occurred on Thursday, the same day some Muslims observe Mawlid, a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In Montfavet, also in southern France, a man was shot dead after threatening police with a handgun; in Saudi Arabia, a guard outside the French consulate in Jeddah was stabbed. The guard was hospitalized but his condition remains stable, the French embassy in Riyadh said in a statement, and the suspect has been arrested.”

“Earlier this month, a suspected Islamist extremist beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old secondary-school teacher, as he walked home from school. Days earlier, as part of a class discussion on freedom of speech, Paty had showed his 12- to 14-year-old students two caricatures of Muhammad that had been published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — the same images that inspired jihadists to kill 11 staff members at the magazine and six others in Paris in 2015.

Police found a Twitter account suspected of belonging to Paty’s attacker that featured a picture of the severed head along with a message: “I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down.”

Macron’s government turned Paty into a freedom-of-expression hero. At a national memorial for the slain teacher last week, Macron said France “will continue the fight for freedom” and “intensify” efforts to end Islamist extremism in the country.”

“French police raided numerous homes across the country as part of its probe into Paty’s killing. About 15 people have been taken into custody, and 51 Islamic organizations are under investigation.

The aftermath of Paty’s killing has rekindled a contentious debate in France about how to balance freedom of expression with respect for a religion.”