Elliot

Barcelona, Turku, Greenbelt and a Giant Samosa!

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image credit: Ruben Whitehouse/flickr

This week's media has been dominated by the Barcelona attack where a van was driven into people in a popular street, Las Ramblas, in Barcelona. 13 people were killed and another killed in a separate attack at a seaside town. Incredibly an Australian who survived the attack was also present in terrorist attacks in London and Paris.  Although recieving a lower profile in the media Finland also experienced its first ever terrorist attack.  where two women were killed and six injured. A Moroccan man has admitted his role in the attack and three other Moroccan men have appeared in court.  The President of Finland has stated:

“The people’s security and feeling of safety has been shaken.”
— https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/world/europe/finland-stabbing-terrorism.html?mcubz=0

In the aftermath of the attack in Barcelona thousands of Muslims have joined marches against terrorism attended by the President, Mayor and members of the local council.  A statement expressing support for the victims was read by representatives of the Islamic community in Spanish, Catalan and Arabic. Banners were also displayed throughout the protest.

The crowd held placards reading “We are also victims,” “Terrorism has no religion,” and “We are all Barcelona, not terrorisms.”

At the front of the procession was a large green banner reading: “We are Muslims, not terrorists.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/barcelona-attack-muslims-march-terrrorism-protest-islamist-violence-las-ramblas-a7909611.html

The situation in Europe will be further inflamed by yesterday's publication of a cartoon in the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine. The cover shows a white van and bodies on the floor with the words, " Islam, the religion of Eternal Peace."  The editor has justified the publication on the grounds that it is a message that the French leadership were to afraid to share. Former French MPs have stated that the publication was "very dangerous" and urged restraint. On social media many people have criticised the magazine for spreading Islamophobia

In the week after the attacks Channel 4 has aired a four part drama about Islamic State.(Available to watch here) The programme viewed by 1.4 million people has been criticised as a recruiting tool. The daughter of David Haines who was killed by ISIS in 2014 urged that programme be postponed in the wake of the Barcelona attacks. However many expressed a more positive opinion.

“One of the most thought provoking, brave and terrifying things I’ve ever seen.”
”extraordinary piece of work”.
”I thought #thestate was gripping and depressing...In no way did it glamourise ISIS if anything it should put people off.”
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-41035251

Following on from the drama one evening this week was a repeat of My Son the Jihadi. The award winning 2015 programme follows the story of how Thomas Evans, a 21 year old electrician, left High Wycombe to join al-Shabaab in Somalia. According to the Telegraph "it was a stunningly sad, detailed and dignified portrait of a devastated mother , and a masterful piece of television about British citizens being recruited to terrorist organisations abroad." After four years in Somalia his mum leaned that her son, a vulnerable convert to Islam, had been killed. 

Clothing is always in the media. One Muslim model has been celebrated for being the first contestant to appear in a Kaftan rather than a bikini. In another report a TV presenter has posted a picture of herself on holiday in a bikini and received death threats as a result. 

On a more upbeat note, Christians and Muslims are working together in Lebanon. Organised by a Carmalite nun based at a monastery two and a half miles away from the fighting with Islamic State, Working together up to 300 people work together to make lunches for 5000 soldiers who are battling against Islamic State.  Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross has stated, "...it is a beautiful expression of solidarity...All religions are unified with the purest love for our country, our wounded country,

In news closer to home, Greenbelt is  building bridges with the  Muslim Community as part of a commitment made after the 9/11 attacks.  However they stress that they are not promoting Islam rather to overcome the headlines and to share and to learn about one another.

And finally its official! The Guinness Book of Records has a new record. The biggest Samosa has been created by volunteers at Muslim Aid UK. They beat the previous 2012, 110.8 kg  record samosa that was held by Bradford College. The winning samosa took 12 volunteers 15 hours to make . It was created on a huge wire mesh, lowered into a massive vat of cooking oil and officially weighed in at an East London Mosque. The enormous samosa weighed in at a humungous  153.1 kg. It has been divided up into hundreds of portions to be distributed to homeless people in London by the Salvation Army.

 

A Case of Mistaken Identity, A Spectacular Mosque, Muslim Cycling Revolution and More

Image credit: Hijab Girl Peter MacLeod/ Flickr

Image credit: Hijab Girl Peter MacLeod/ Flickr

Happy holidays! Welcome to this week’s roundup. The purpose of this blog is to glimpse what is going on beyond our immediate location, to see a fraction of what the media is reporting about the quarter of the world’s population, to enable us to see the variety of people that are called Muslim.   This week there is the case of mistaken identity, a spectacular Mosque, cycling Muslims and more.

A Norwegian anti – immigrant group have been terrified and disgusted by what they saw recently. It was ‘really scary’ and they feared concealed bombs and weapons. Comments read: “Ghastly. This should never happen,” “Islam is and always will be a curse,” “Get them out of our country – frightening times we are living in,” 23 pages of outraged comments were also posted. What they think they saw was a group of women wearing burqas. The reality was a picture of six bus seats.  The group have been ridiculed for their comments and the story has gone viral.

The head of Norway’s Antiracist Centre, Rune Berglund Steen, told the site that people plainly “see what they want to see – and what these people want to see are dangerous Muslims”.
— https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/02/bus-seats-mistaken-burqas-anti-immigrant-group-norwegian

Something else that requires another look is a fantastically decorated mosque in the Turkish city of Kirsehir. The inside was designed by an Azerbaijani architect and includes trees painted on the walls, the ceiling is decorated as the sky and the floor is covered with a grass like carpet.  The inspiration for the design comes from a verse from the Quran which states

“(Allah) Who has made the earth a resting place for you, and the sky as a canopy, and sent down water (rain) from the sky and brought forth therewith fruits as a provision for you. Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know (that He Alone has the right to be worshipped).”

A group of eight Muslim cyclists from London are attempting to ride 2000 miles through 7 countries, with over 110,000 feet of elevation to Mecca.  The organisers of theride first met on a charity ride to Paris in 2015. Muhammed, one of the organisers, stated:

‘...honestly, I thought I was the only Muslim cyclist in London. I’d been cycling since the age of 9 or 10, and on a road bike since 2007, which I used to commute to university, work and to the mosque, where I currently work and am trying to get Muslims on bikes.
I think it’s working. There’s a cycling revolution happening in the Muslim community here.’
— http://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/2461/from-whitechapel-to-mecca-by-bicycle-2000-mile-pilgrimage-to-raise-funds-for-ambulances-in

They hope to raise a million pounds for ambulances in Syria. The progress of the cyclists- otherwise known as pedaller pilgrims can be followed on facebook.

This ride follows from the Ride 4 Your Mosque initiative. Now in its second year, this event aims to get people on their bikes as well as raising money for a Mosque in East London.

In other transport news, Transport for London has recently dropped a two million pound safety campaign after being accused of sexualising children. The campaign was ended after an investigation by a Times reporter, and a complaint by a Muslim mother. Sadiq Khan the mayor of London, who also chairs Transport for London, has apologised.

 

The portrayal of a pre-school female child wearing a hijab was most obviously offensive, because it is commonly accepted that Muslim women – if they choose to wear a hijab – do so in adolescence or after puberty because of the link to the growing sexuality of a woman’s body. But all the characters were lazy stereotypes. Political correctness gone awol, you might say.
— https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2017/aug/15/hijab-not-children-drop-images-transport-for-london-road-safety-campaign

You will probably have seen a lot about India and Pakistan in the news over the last few weeks as they are celebrating seventy years of independence. So today's last link goes to three Muslim women speaking about the partition of India

Lebanon, Miss World, Fashion & Mind blowing Halal Sex

image credit: flickr bellmon 1

image credit: flickr bellmon 1

Welcome to this week's edition of the roundup.

One of the Mahabba Facilitators has been in Lebanon recently and has met an inspirational couple who are running a school for refugee children.

They explain how they started the school and state:

This is a special time. You can look at the refugee issue and see it as either a problem or an opportunity. They are coming to us now, so we can ask, do we have something to give? And of course we have a lot to give...

The Syrians are coming to us. Instead of hating them, we should preach the gospel. Where others see horror, I see children of God; I see future pastors and apostles among them.

There is also an account of a Muslim lady who started to attend church in Lebanon and came to faith.

She saw the love of Jesus and got baptised and then her husband did the same after a month. They are now in another country, sharing about the Lord with Muslim people there.


I thought I was coming to help refugees, but I see now they are helping me, praying for me. All the relief work this church does is now done by Syrian people. It’s like living in the book of Acts. I’ve learned not to put God in a box; I knew he was big; now I’m seeing this with my own eyes.

I think that is a challenge to us, wherever we live!

A Muslim woman who spent time in a Bosnian refugee camp has been crowned Miss World Australia.

Twenty five year old Esma Voloder moved to Australia at five months old. She has a degree in psychology and currently works as a criminal profiler.

She has been reported to be using her new found fame to challenge Islamophobia.  She will go on to compete at the finals in China at the end of the year.

She has stated:

The Islam that I know, that is in the Quran, I don’t associate that with any acts that are occurring around the world.

Women's clothing is also once again in the news. The burkini which was often in the news last summer in France has now reached the the headlines in the Czech Republic.

Apparently complaints about wearing the garment aren't  abased on religious intolerance rather concerns regarding hygiene.

Water parks vary in their response to the burkini - with some banning them, others 'tolerating' them and other locations inspecting swim wear on arrival. 

A denim hijab, modelled by a Somali refugee, has also made the headlines.

Staying on the hijab theme, a new hijab emoji has been created by a Saudi teenager after being unable to find an emoji that represented her.

The design was accepted by Apple on Monday- and now headscarf wearing women around the world will have an emoji to represent them.

And finally a Muslim sex guide for women has been published - entitled The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide for Mind Blowing Sex.

Written anonymously, the author has received "disgusting messages" as well as praise.  

Muslim women’s organisations have praised her, saying the book will empower Muslim women and protect them from entering into sexually abusive relationships

The range of articles referred to today comes from Lebanon, Australia, America, The Czech Republic, and the UK. They are about people in different situations dealing with different issues.

I am sure there are other views. But I suggest that this week's media snap shot illustrates some of the diversity of the Muslim world.

So how should we respond?  I'll leave you with one suggestion:

Relax. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy their company along with the company of Jesus. Point Him out, freely, without fear or intimidation. You’re not responsible to sell Him to them. You’re simply saying what you’ve seen. You’re not the judge. You’re the witness. We’ll go further and further into this way of thinking until you’re free to speak of Jesus often and always. And you’ll see - people will listen. Not because we’re so good, but because He is compelling!

Elliot's Roundup: The hate preacher, the gay wedding and the baker

image credit: flickr Jamie Anderson

For those convinced that every Muslim is a terrorist, just try reading the news. My search came up with a few different stories. A radio station suspended for broadcasting al Qaeda recruiter's speeches, possibly the first Muslim gay wedding in the UK, and Nadia's thoughts about appearing on the Bake Off.

Twenty five hours of speeches by "the Bin Laden of the internet" were played on a Muslim radio station based in Sheffield during Ramadan.  After a complaint received about Anwar Al-Awlaki the watchdog Ofcom made the judgement that the lectures:

“amounted to a direct call to action to members of the Muslim community to prepare for and carry out violent action against non-Muslim people”.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/iman-fc-muslim-radio-station-sheffield-al-qaeda-anwar-al-awlaki-charlie-hebdo-hate-speech-jihadi-a7830256.html

Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan have been recently got married in Walsall. Their wedding has been reported as the first gay Muslim wedding in the UK.(although another gay couple- one of whom is Muslim married in Birmingham in October last year.)  Jaheed  has married after being bullied at school ,barred from attending the Mosque and attempting suicide because of his sexuality.

Now married and very much in love, the couple, who recently returned from their honeymoon in Spain, said they hope to show the world “that you can be gay and Muslim”.
— http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/uk-first-gay-muslim-marriage-jahed-choudhury-and-sean-rogan_uk_59648e64e4b03f144e2d4e67

They have recieved a lot of online abuse since getting married.  Many comments have been made online such as: 

“Just putting asian costumes doesn’t make it a Muslim marriage, there is no concept of gay marriage in Islam.
Another said: “They are not Muslims, we don’t have gays and lesbians.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-gay-wedding-couple-uk-first-online-abuse-jahed-choudhury-sean-rogan-walsall-west-midlands-a7836936.html

Nadia Hussain, winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015, has also been in the news this week. The article mentions the negativity and aggression she felt before appearing on The Great British Bake Off.  Although apprehensive of being the "token Muslim" on the programme. 

“We are so much more accepting than that: I never realised Britain had such open arms”... and realised “what a lovely country I live in”.
— http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2017/07/11/nadiya-hussain-felt-like-token-muslim-bake/

Is every Muslim a terrorist? Is every Muslim opposed of gay marriage? Has every Muslim baked cakes for the Queen?  Perhaps its time to let go of some of our stereotypes and get to know some of the individuals around us who happen to be Muslims.  

Please get in touch and tell us how it went.

Elliot's Roundup: Bullying, uniform, fish and chips, and celebrating Eid in Trafalgar Square

image: flickr- Chris Goldberg

image: flickr- Chris Goldberg

Since recent terror attacks the number of race based bullying incidents has jumped, with over 300 receiving counselling in the fortnight after the Manchester attack. Children as young as 9 have been called terrorists Some have stayed away from school to avoid the bullying, others have turned to self harm as a way to cope with the situation.

Muslim children have told Childline they’ve endured constant name-calling, been accused of being associated with Isis and been threatened with violence. Young girls have frequently been victimised when they wear a hijab or headscarf, the helpline said.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nine-year-old-children-terrorists-race-faith-hate-bullying-childline-manchester-arena-terror-attack-a7810051.html

Also in the news is a secondary school Sir John Thursby Community College in Burnley, Lancashire. Apparently the first school in the UK to offer headscarves as part of the school uniform has had complaints that the school's headscarves are not modest enough.  A petition has been signed by around 150 people which states the headscarves are too short and pose a suffocation hazard.  A working party comprised of students, parents, staff and governors are planning to meet to find an acceptable way forward

Ramadan has ended, which means 24% of the population can go back to eating and drinking in daylight hours once more. Wales Online asks a Muslim about his faith including some insights into how Muslims in Wales are feeling after recent events.  Muslims also share their view of living in Ireland in the following video. 

An article from York shows how all communities can become closer through food- this time shared fish and chips.  As Ramadan finished Eid was celebrated worldwide. Although already celebrated Eid will be celebrated again this Sunday 2nd July in Trafalgar Square.  There will be a range of events on the main stage as well as a global food market.  

“In these difficult times, it’s been truly inspiring to see how communities have come together in solidarity. Throughout Ramadan, I’ve joined Londoners from all faiths and backgrounds to break my fast at Iftars across our city. For me, this is what the holy month is all about – sharing time with others and showing empathy for one another.”
— http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/attractions/eid-in-trafalgar-square-2017-lineup-timings-and-sadiq-khans-statement-a3574331.html

Sadiq Khan's words remind me of the ancient, yet still challenging words, found in Isaiah about true fasting- working for justice, setting the oppressed free, sharing food, providing shelter as well as not neglecting our own families. 

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
— https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+58&version=NIV

Let's be those people. I would love to be known as Repairer of Broken Walls or Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Wouldn't you?

Elliot's Roundup: Hatred, heroism, hunger, heatwave...

image: flickr Moose

image: flickr Moose

The attack on Finsbury Park Mosque, the imam who has been hailed as a hero, fasting during a heatwave and more. 

Monday saw a 47 year old father of four from Cardiff drive into a crowd of Muslims outside a London Mosque in a rented van. One person died and eleven were injured. The man who had interest in far right groups had recently voiced hatred for Muslims. 

“This was quite clearly an attack on Muslims who looked like they were probably Muslims and they were coming from a prayer meeting,” said the Met police commissioner, Cressida Dick. “We treat this as a terrorist attack and we in the Met are as shocked as anybody in this local community or across the country at what has happened.”
— https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/19/finsbury-park-attack-suspect-named-as-cardiff-resident-darren-osborne

As the van driver was wrestled to the ground, the imam intervened to calm the situation.  

“The imam came from the mosque and he said, ‘Listen, we are fasting, this is Ramadan, we are not supposed to do these kinds of things, so please step back.’
“For that reason this guy is still alive today. This is the only reason. If the imam was not there, he wouldn’t be there today.”
— https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/19/imam-praised-for-protecting-finsbury-park-suspect-from-crowd

The imam has been widely praised for his actions  and recently visited by Prince Charles who was 'deeply impressed' by the imam's actions.  

Terrorist actions dominate the news. But daily life for many Muslims continues to be a struggle do to fasting for long hours in a heatwave. If fasting wasn't challenging enough, think of the estimated 148 million diabetic Muslims worldwide, according to the article, half of British diabetic Muslims fast.  Guidelines for managing diabetes during Ramadan are available, other Muslim diabetics have come to the conclusion that Ramadan is about fasting from the fast.  

Muslim women are also in the news this week. One article highlights the tradition of women only mosques in China. 

While Muslim women face restrictions in most mosques around the world, either being segregated by sex within the building or in some communities being banned from entering altogether, many Chinese Muslim women pray at institutions dedicated to serving their gender, a unique Chinese tradition.
— https://sputniknews.com/asia/201706221054863942-beijing-islam-female-only-mosque/

According to the article women only mosques have come about through merging of the Chinese and Islamic traditions. The idea has come about through  receiving the first Muslims in China as honoured guests and having a national culture of not barring women from public life.

Muslim women sporting pioneers have also been in the news. Dana Abdulkarim was teh first hijabi athlete to represent England- then teh first hijabi P.E. teacher.  Salma Bi was teh first Muslim woman to play cricket for Worcestershire, Anisa Ansar plays cricket for both Hampshire and England.

We have different tastes and preferences on how we live our lives and navigate our careers. Some of us wear hijabs, some don’t. Some have families who are supportive, some who aren’t and others that take a little more convincing.
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/40353279

Heroes, the hungry, Chinese, diabetic and athletic, it is clear there is no Muslim only many individual Muslims with their own interests, families and stories.

Could you be hospitable, share your interests and introduce them to your Father?

Elliot's Roundup: Hate is easy. Love takes courage.

image: clive wren flickr

image: clive wren flickr

Travelling through the city centre I was startled to see messages of sympathy and support for the victims of the Manchester attack. I pass the same way regularly but for some reason I had not seen it before. Just as that tragic news became our new reality, the London Bridge attack happened.  Following on from that- this week the the Grenfell Tower burst into flame and quickly spread through the building. Today's media roundup comes in the light of all these tragic events and loss of life.  The title for today's blog and picture come from a Muslim community rally against terrorism that was held in Sheffield less than a week ago.

There has been further condemnation of the London attack by various Muslim communities in the UK. Three thousand roses were handed out on London Bridge by Muslims as a show of unity with those who were injured and killed in the attack.

We are here to write narratives of love of love and solidarity. Not hate and division.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-muslims-london-bridge-red-roses-attack-borough-market-stabbing-terror-love-victims-islam-a7786291.html

Grimsby Islamic Community have also invited wider members of the community, including the North East Lincolnshire's Mayor,  councillors, members of the police and public to en event in the mosque. The aim was to show that the London Bridge attack was "not in my name."  Elsewhere in Glasgow a Muslim anti-terror rally has been held. 

The generosity of a Muslim in Surrey has been seen online. The article describes how a Muslim lady shared a meal with her non-Muslim neighbour as well as sharing some information about Ramadan. A picture of a Muslim who helped an elderly lady who had collapsed on a bus has also been shared tens of thousands of times on social media this week. 

“Her gesture has really made me think – it’s one of those things which stop you in your tracks, and make you look at yourself like ‘what am I doing now, and if I’m not doing anything, what could I do?’

“I’ve always grown up with the ‘someone else will do it’ attitude, but it’s about time I started being that person rather than observing that person.”
— http://www.irishnews.com/magazine/daily/2017/06/11/news/this-tale-of-a-muslim-woman-gifting-her-neighbours-with-food-and-letters-about-ramadan-will-warm-your-heart-1051952/

Since the London Bridge attack there has also been a rise in hate crime, a 500% increase in Islamophobic crime and a 40% rise in racist incidents has been reported. for example: recently  a Muslim mother was punched in the face in Birmingham,a bag of vomit was recently thrown at a car carrying two Muslim women in Blackburn, Lancashire. 

Perhaps this spike in incidents will be turned around by the reporting in the Telegraph, Independent, Sun, and Daily Mail and elsewhere. Many Muslims have been hailed as heroes for saving lives in the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London. The blaze tore through the 24 storey building causing many to be hospitalised and 17 at this time are known to have been killed. Muslims in the area were awake and so were able to help evacuate the building and prevent further loss of life. The fact that Muslims were awake because of Ramadan and so were able to help was also widely reported on TV news including Channel 4 and  BBC news.   The charity Muslim Hands have launched an appeal, as have Muslim Aid who are also working in conjunction with churches to aid those who have been left homeless. 

There are many opportunities to interact with our Muslim neighbours, colleagues and friends. Let's not be part of the problem. Let's choose love not hate. Many Muslims say that they got to know Jesus though supernatural dreams, reading the and having a longterm friendship with a follower of Jesus.  Let's be that friend this week. The message of Jesus comes wrapped in a person- that means you and me!

Elliot's Weekly Roundup: Have You Voted Yet?

image: flickr Radarsmum

It probably hasn't passed you by, but today is election day! Have you cast your vote yet? Which one of the 40,000 polling stations did you visit? Was it in in a school, launderette or someone's kitchen? Did you put a tick, cross, or smiley face in the box? Before being caught up in the election frenzy of which results will be declared first, graphics, graphs and swingometers, let's stop and reflect back on the last few days that have run up to this election.

Before the memorial concert was held for victims from the Manchester atrocity, London was attacked leaving eight dead and dozens injured. As more becomes known about the events more questions are being asked. Who knew what and why was it not acted upon? Party political leaders are blaming each other for reducing police numbers now that campaigning has resumed.  Debate about security and Islam have dominated the days before today's election. The phrase, "Enough is enough" has been seen and heard this week.

One violent response seen in the media was to wave around a machete, threaten to blow up mosques and kill Muslims. In the video that was posted the man also appeared to have a hand grenade attached to his shirt. Since uploading the video onto the internet he has claimed it was a joke, his drink was spiked and has now issued an apology.  Another response has been to ignore the memory of those who died in the attack by ignoring the minute's silence held at a world cup qualifier.

Another response seen in the media has been to challenge the Muslim response to terror attacks. Not just to condemn the terrorism but the ideology behind it.

What we need to hear from British Muslims is that they reject the vision from which terrorism comes. It is a vision of society unified by one political and religious ideology. It is a vision of pluralism, and secular politics, swept aside by this vision. It is a theocratic vision.
— https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/06/not-enough-muslims-say-condemn-terrorism/

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has stated there is a lack of religious literacy by some who are dealing with terrorist threats. He continued by saying:

“If we attack or persecute or go against a particular group of people on the grounds of their faith alone, rather than what they want to do or the arguments they are putting forward of violence and terror, the terrorists will give three cheers and say thank you, you’ve done our work for us. Every time a Muslim is abused on a bus or a mosque is attacked, the terrorists have taken another step forward.”
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054zbz7

At a vigil at Bradford Cathedral Bishop Toby Howarth stated that we don't choose how we feel but we can choose how we respond. At least one person chose to reach out to the Muslim community in London by chalking "London loves you,"  on the pavement outside a mosque.

Muslim taxi drivers have been praised for their role in helping victims immediately after the attack. Muslim communities have united in disgust against the attacks, have made signs to show their support and have left flowers at the scene. One hundred and thirty imams have refused to say funeral prayers for the perpetrators of the attack and called upon others to follow their example.

“Consequently, and in light of other such ethical principles which are quintessential to Islam, we will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer over the perpetrators and we also urge fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw such a privilege.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-bridge-terrorists-imams-refuse-funeral-prayer-khuram-shazad-butt-rachid-redouane-a7774291.html

Another article suggests the number of imams refusing to perform the traditional funeral prayers is much higher at around 500. Traditional funeral prayers called janaza  are often open for anyone to join. The more people who attend the more beneficial it is to the deceased according to the Islamic scholar and psychiatrist Dr Asim Yusuf. Anti extremist campaigner Ahmed Patel thinks that denying funeral prayers sends out out a very strong message to terrorists and could stop people from carrying out attacks.  

“I think the fact that they are saying we will not bury you, we will not even do your janaza, is a lot more powerful than going out with placards or holding vigils.
”It’s a very, very powerful message that no Muslim will bury him, no Muslim will wash his body, no Muslim will stand over him in prayer.”
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-40175088

Another response that has appeared in the media has been written by an accident and emergency consultant who works at The Royal London Hospital.  In a post that has been shared over 4000 times in recent days he states:

“When you think of the word Muslim I want you to think of the Muslim nurse that ran our casualty triage area, the Muslim surgeon who operated all night, the Muslim technician that helped arrange transport home for discharged casualties, the Muslim security officer that ran out relatives reception area, the Imams from our Muslim chaplaincy that stayed all night to help comfort the casualties and so many more.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/london-attack-muslims-islam-doctor-think-surgeons-not-terrorist-response-victims-treatment-karim-a7773971.html

In the light of all that has happened this week- vote wisely. If you are yet to decide on where to place your X, maybe consulting this manifesto comparison chart published by The Muslim Council of Britain will help.

However we vote, let's put greater faith in the Jesus who didn't travel on a campaign bus, publish a political manifesto or get elected.  Let's continue to pray for our nation, friends and colleagues, and share Jesus with those we encounter. 

Elliot's Weekly Roundup- Ramadan Mubarak

image credit: Salma Says flickr

image credit: Salma Says: flickr

In the aftermath of the Manchester bombing what is in the media?  Other tragedies such as Egypt, Baghdad, and Kabul should not be forgotten where many more were killed and injured. 

A mosque in Manchester was set alight as a response to the bomb attack in Manchester. Muslims have been targeted and blamed for the Manchester attack elsewhere. In one report taxi drivers in Leicester have been verbally abused and suffered from road rage style Isamophobia.  Owner of a Leicester taxi firm spoke about the difficulties he had encountered  since the Manchester attack,  "We know there were Muslim taxi drivers in Manchester offering people free rides to help the get home straight after the bomb went off but some people choose not to recognise that. I don't know if anyone will listen to me but I'd just ask people to show some respect and act properly towards people who are only trying to do a job."

Muslims in the UK have voiced their disgust at the killings, including the Chester Muslim Community.

But it needs to be more than a just a few words at the mosque. We want to be more open and transparent as a community and build understanding.
We shouldn’t be isolated and we need to integrate better in the community.
— http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/chesters-muslim-community-condemns-manchester-13116605

Muslims were joined by non Muslims on a peace walk in Manchester  organised by North Manchester's Jamia Mosque to show their support and solidarity for the bereaved. Around 500 joined in the demonstration against terrorism walking three miles from Cheetham to hold a vigil outside Manchester Arena.

I’m a Muslim and I trust you.
Do you trust me enough for a hug?
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/blindfolded-muslim-manchester-free-hugs-terrorist-attack-kindness-strangers-baktash-noori-a7761696.html

Baktash Noori has spent days blindfolded offering hugs to passers by in Manchester's Market Street.  The video he has made documenting his experience has been watched over thirty thousand times in recent days.  He stated: “I did not expect so many people to come and hug me, let alone give me such positive comments, but it was the best thing I've ever done.”  By the end of the day the queue snaked down the street with a long line of people waiting their turn to be hugged. 

Further afield in Iraq Muslim volunteers have shown solidarity with non Muslim members of their community by working on a ruined monastery near Mosul, with the aim of demonstrating that "Mosul is yours as it is ours" and that "our differences are our strength" 

Zain- the Kuwaiti mobile phone operator- has recently produced an advert.  The advert released at the start of Ramadan shows a man in a suicide vest walking through staged scenes based on recent bombings. The video has received a mix of positive and negative reactions. It has been criticised for using images of terrorism in an exploitative way. One image, perhaps familiar to us all, was of Omran Daqneesh- little boy who was pictured waiting for help after one of Bashar-al Assad's air strikes on Aleppo.  

 

Others have hailed the performer as a hero. The cast also includes people who have been victims in atrocities in Iraq Jordan and Kuwait and recreates some scenes of terror attacks. It has some great lines including:

You who come in the name of death. He is the creator of life.
Worship your God with love not terror.
Confront your enemy with peace not war.
Let’s bomb violence with mercy.
Let’s bomb hatred with love.
— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49nOBFv508

It kind of reminds me of something someone else said. Its a challenge to all of us. If you haven't seen the advert you can watch it here.  I'm not so interested in your intellectual analysis, discussion of camera angles,or artistic merit- as how your life is impacted by responding to this challenge today and this week.

Please get in touch we'd love to hear from you!

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
— The Message- www.biblegateway.com

Elliot's weekly roundup: a funeral, voting, a speech and hospitality CHALLENGING misconceptions

Image credit: unsplash

Image credit: unsplash

So what has been in the news in the week after the Mahabba National Gathering? There's a funeral,  voting, along with Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia. and hospitality challenging misconceptions.

You will probably remember the recent tragic accident in Drayton Manor theme park that resulted in the death of 11 year old Evha Jannath when she fell from a water ride. On Tuesday more than 600 people gathered at the Muslim Prayer Hall at Saffron Hill Cemetery in Leicester. Please pray for the family whom are grieving for their, " happy, laughing girl." 

“I loved my daughter too much, and she loved me too much. “I have no tears left in my eyes because I have cried so much.”
— http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/17/drayton-manor-death-girl-11-suffered-fatal-chest-injuriespost/

There is an election coming up just in case you hadn't heard! The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a list of 8 key issues affecting Muslim Communities.  These fall under the headings of engagement, religious liberty, bigotry, democracy, security, equality, free Palestine, and foreign policy. Muslim Engagement and development have also published their manifesto for the upcoming election. It focuses on investigating anti Muslim prejudice, discrimination, negative misrepresentations of Muslims in the media, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.  All of this highlights our need to pray for our country at this time.

1 Timothy 2 v 1-3
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Saviour God wants us to live.
— https://www.biblegateway.com

The same verse is applicable to the next article in the media as the American President flies off to Saudi Arabia. He is set to give an  “inspiring yet direct” speech on his “peaceful vision of Islam..." His speech is set to be controversial as at least part of it is to be penned by Stephen Miller- the person who was at the centre of developing and delivering Trump's immigration ban.

And finally I will leave you with a more uplifting article. A family in America have invited strangers to dine with a Muslim family to break down lack of understanding.  The article is well worth reading, demonstrates the value of hospitality and of overcoming prejudice with understanding.  I was challenged by their hospitality and openness to others. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of their book and be more welcoming. Let me know how you get on!

By the end, we were just a bunch of friends laughing together. Food has a magical way of doing that.”
— http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teen-invites-strangers-to-dine-with-her-muslim-family-to-fight-islamophobia_us_591c89bee4b034684b08cd37

Elliot's weekly roundup: cancer, eradication and refugee hunting

image credit: flickr cranky messiah

A Ukip parliamentary candidate has described Islam as a "cancer" as well has praising  the founder of the English Defence League. Ms Santos later said,

“It was a turn of phrase, I’m not referring to a quarter of the world’s population any more than I meant the word ‘cancer’ to be taken literally.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/ukip-islam-cancer-caroline-santos-tommy-robinson-tweet-a7716381.html

A Labour candidate has been sacked for reportedly making a number of comments about Islam.

Mr Merralls also allegedly engaged in conversation where he reportedly posted: “On a positive note that should eradicate islam from our continent for years”.
— http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/02/labour-sacks-candidate-investigation-calling-eradication-islam/

Further afield in Germany physical violence has taken over from verbal aggression. The article highlights the rise of  " vigilante mobs" that hunt down refugees.  According to the article four men set upon a refugee in his car with a baseball bat and knuckle duster. They also beat him when he was on teh ground and trying to escape. Nine days later the man died of his injuries including a fractured skull. His two children are traumatised by the death of their father.

The family’s lawyer, Christina Dissmann, said his wife “cannot comprehend how the perpetrators could continue attacking him when he was already lying on the ground…again and again they went after him and beat him”.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/four-men-germany-trial-beat-man-death-hunt-refugees-waldbroel-vigilante-gangs-bonn-court-migrants-a7715511.html

Reading the article reminded me of the violent attack in April on teenage asylum seeker Reker Ahmed in Croydon. These events are the very opposite of what we as Jesus followers stand for and seek to demonstrate. We have a choice how to relate to those around us. 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
— James 3 v 17-18

Elliot's weekly roundup: Bacon isn't Kryptonite

Image credit: Andrew Ridley, unsplash.com

Image credit: Andrew Ridley, unsplash.com

This week's media trawl has revealed a warning, criticism and that bacon isn't Kryptonite. If that is confusing read on...

The Church of England is warning against allowing children to be withdrawn from school RE lessons and learning about Islam. It claims that withdrawing children will hinder people from developing skills that will will be needed for living well together as adults.

Parents should be banned from withdrawing their children from religious education classes because they are preventing pupils from learning about Islam, the Church of England has warned.
Holding an election during Ramadan means there could be a disproportionate effect on voter turnout in those constituencies with a sizeable Muslim population.

If anyone thinks that their ability to go and vote will be affected, I urge them to register for a postal vote.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-may-criticised-by-muslim-mps-for-scheduling-election-during-ramadan-a3524506.html

Finally Cambridgeshire police have launched an investigation into a hate crime as bacon was left on a car door handle of a car belonging to a Muslim. This action gave rise to comments such as,

Bacon isn’t kryptonite for Muslims

https://www.indy100.com/article/muslim-pork-bacon-car-driver-door-cambridgeshire-police-7704961

Kryptonite is the fictional material that has power over fictional comic book hero Superman.

Lots of misunderstandings this week to do with education, the democratic process and pork products. Let's take the time to try and understand those around us so we can share Jesus more effectively.

Elliot's weekly roundup: How not to celebrate Easter

image credit: flickr aloush

image credit: flickr aloush

What' in the news this week? Clothes, photos, comedy and how not to celebrate Easter.

New York Hijabis, available on i player, gave an insight into the world of modest fashion in America. Fabian Muir's exhibition entitled Urban Burqa has been in the news. The exhibition showing a series burqa images in an urban setting as a critique of the far right, populist opinion, and Islamophobia. 

49% of Australians in a 2016 poll supported a ban on Muslims entering the country.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-39499321   

Comedienne  Maysoon Zayid has also shared her experience on being a disabled Muslim American on BBC Radio 4 programme Litter from America this week. In the wake of 9/11 she decided to use humour to fight against stereotypes and established the Arab American Comedy Festival. She is also one of the most watched TED presenters of all time.

 

The bigots like to attack me on twitter...

If you did this in your country, you would be beheaded!
You mean New Jersey?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08ljqct 

She continues by saying: "There are millions of people who really despise people like me, who are not white, who are not Christian, who are not able bodied..." Let's not be one of that group. Also let's not take the approach taken recently in Birmingham, supposedly to do with Easter, where large crosses were held and "Jesus be with you" shouted by extremist groups. Instead we will choose to live out the love of Jesus to those around us.

"What if the church was again known for being the people who love their cities and the people in them the most?"

Staying is the New Going

Happy Easter!

Elliot's weekly round up: The Sheep and The Goat

Image: CC Pop H,  Flickr

Image: CC Pop H, Flickr

Last Friday Reker Ahmed, a 17 year old Kurdish Iranian student, was waiting at a bus stop in Croydon south London.  What happened to him next has been given much media attention.

he thought he was going to die

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-39503183

He was subjected to an unprovoked attack by up to thirty people. As a result Reker has suffered a fractured eye socket, a fractured spine and a blood clot on the brain. He was unable to recognise his brother when he visited him in London's Kings College Hospital.  Iraqi Kurds have condemned the attack. We can join with them in expressing our sympathy.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Rekan Ahmed and we wish him a speedy recovery,”

 

 

http://aranews.net/2017/04/iraqi-kurds-condemn-attack-on-kurdish-asylum-seeker-in-uk/

Rather than being seen as an isolated event this attack can be seen as a part of a sustained increase in hate crime. As a result of the attack a number of people aged between 15 and 22 have been charged. Police are still investigating, there is an increased police presence on the streets surrounding the area.  In response to the attacks anti racist graffiti has appeared in the area.

I wonder if anti racist graffiti is enough?  The fact that this attack was launched from a pub named  The Goat reminds me of the passage in Matthew where the nations are separated as shepherds separate sheep and goats. 

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
— Matthew 25

Giving money is a start, as over two and a half thousand people have done on a just giving page for Reker Ahmed, but the passage in Matthew goes beyond that to get involved practically. Even if we don't know any asylum seekers personally we can champion their cause, speak on their behalf. And if we do count asylum speakers as friends we can share Jesus with them in practical ways. I'll leave you with a strong challenge that might apply to welcoming asylum seekers too.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
— James 2

Elliot's weekly round-up: Woman on the Bridge & Muslim Soldiers

ELLIOT'S WEEKLY ROUND-UP: WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE & MUSLIM SOLDIERS

This week in the media:

  • A Muslim woman responds to criticism of how she was portrayed on social media
  • Muslims stand in solidarity with victims of the Westminster and raise funds for the victims and British Muslim soldiers speak out

A photo of Muslim woman who was walking over Westminster Bridge soon after the Westminster attack has been in the media this week.

The picture of the woman has been widely circulated on social media. She has been criticised for 'casually' walking by and ignoring victims whilst on her mobile phone.

Jamie Lorriman, who took the photo, spoke out in defence of the woman telling Australia’s ABC: 

The people who took on that picture are being rather selective... It’s wrong it’s been misappropriated in that way.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/24/muslim-woman-bridge-westminster-attack-speaks-becoming-target/

Elsewhere a Muslim speaks of her shock at hearing of the stabbing of police officer Keith Palmer whilst in her office overlooking the Thames.

She then explains how British Muslims collected £25,000 for the victims of the attack. However, the amount raised now stands at more than £28,000.

On Sunday evening Muslim women formed a human chain to demonstrate solidarity for the victims.

On Wednesday tourists joined Muslims and Jews in a silent vigil on Westminster Bridge and outside the Houses of Parliament.

Some held signs reading, 'Love for all. Hatred for none.'

The secretary of Bangladeshi Muslims UK stated he wanted...

to show our solidarity with those killed here by this barbaric attack. We don’t support this kind of attack in the name of Islam or any other faith.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/29/love-for-all-hatred-for-none-hundreds-gather-for-westminster-attack-vigil

Elsewhere on BBC radio 4, Salaam to Queen and Country tells the story of Muslim soldiers in the British Army.

The soldiers tell of how some have had to overcome objections from family and friends to serve in the military.

The programme reveals what its like for the 16 Muslim women and 426 Muslim men in the British Army.

The media can give greater insight and understanding into Muslim life.

To further develop a more comprehensive understanding why not consider some study.

Taking some time for a module or a short course could help you to share Jesus more effectively.

It could be exactly what you need

SINCE YOU'RE HERE...

... we have recently reached a total of 40 local Mahabba prayer groups in the UK - awesome news!

With your help, though, we would like to continue to sow, plant and support Mahabba groups.

Our work involves a small team of regional reps and central hub personnel investing in local coordinators and groups, as well as spreading the word.

To continue this vital mission to Muslims, we need to increase our regular monthly income.

Our initial target is to raise up 100 individual regular donors, giving an average of £10 to £15 per month.

Could you be one of the 100?

Elliot's weekly round-up: Westminster Attack

Image: David Dibert, Unsplash

ELLIOT'S WEEKLY ROUND-UP: WESTMINSTER ATTACK

The news has been dominated by the attack on Westminster this week.

A car driving at speed ran into pedestrians and then a policeman was stabbed.

The person who carried out the attack has been referred to in a number of different ways including: Adrian, Khalid, a bright and sporty pupil, friendly and polite, a middle aged father, a soldier of Islamic State, a Muslim convert radicalised whilst in prison, a body builder, a portly man, violent, shy, friendly and approachable, nomadic, a former English teacher, middle aged murderer, pure evil scum, a good listener, a dad who gave football tips to boys in the neighbourhood, someone who would play football but was not very good, a grandfather, a criminal, a manager.

Who exactly was he?

But as Brendan Cox stated - husband of murdered MP Jo Cox - we should focus on the victims of the crime. Forty people have been injured and four have died: PC Palmer, Spanish teacher Aysha Frade, American tourist Kurt Cochran who was celebrating his silver wedding anniversary, and cricket loving Leslie Rhodes - a retired London window cleaner.

What the terrorist would like to happen is for us to fall apart and start blaming groups of people, to say that in some way this is Muslim or Islam as a whole.

https://www.indy100.com/article/westminster-london-terror-attack-parliament-brendan-cox-shooting-updated-7644936

The attack has been condemned by The Muslim Council of Britain. The Mayor of London has thanked the emergency services and warned Muslims to be vigilant against hate preachers. 

Terrorists want to attack London is because they hate the fact that we don’t just tolerate each other – whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, member of an organised faith or not, we respect, embrace and celebrate each other and that’s going to carry on

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-attack-isis-muslim-council-britain-westminster-terror-cowardly-depraved-harun-khan-solidarity-a7646201.html

Muslims from around The UK have condemned the attacks including groups from Lincoln , Blackburn and Muslim leaders from Waltham Forest.

Another group have gone beyond words to do something positive for the victims. It has raised funds for the families of the by setting up a website entitled Muslims United for London. At the time of writing it has raised over £20,000.  

Our response

Let's pray for the victims, let's pray against radicalisation and for those developing anti radicalisation strategies. Let's continue to reach out to our Muslim colleagues and neighbours with the love of Jesus.

We have to remember that the person who did this is no more representative of British Muslims than the person who killed Jo is representative of people that are from Yorkshire.

Elliot's weekly round-up: Immigration, Integration & Islam

janko-ferlic-184527.jpg

ELLIOT'S WEEKLY ROUND-UP: IMMIGRATION, INTEGRATION & ISLAM

The election  held in The Netherlands this week  was dominated by the theme  of immigration, integration and Islam.

Geet Wilders party which wanted to ban the Qur'an and mosques has only gained a few additional seats and so will be ruled out of talks about forming a coalition. 

The European Union has ruled that employers can ban visible religious symbols in the workplace. This has potentially huge implications for hijab wearing Muslim women all over Europe. Some have welcomed the ruling others have feel it discriminates against Muslims.

 

For Muslim women a headscarf is not an accessory; rather, it is a part of their belief. So, just like one’s ethnicity, it can’t be changed or replaced. The headscarf ban will keep Muslim women out of jobs and business

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/eu-hijab-ruling-affect-muslim-women-170316073040916.html

The final episode of Extremely British Muslims was shown this week on Channel 4. It was about how Muslims live by the rules from the Qur'an and Hadith.

It featured brothers Shaun and Lee, who couldn't be more different. Shaun has become a Muslim and is now known as Abdul. His wife is Pakistani. His brother, Lee, is/was a member of the English Defence League.

On their visits to each other, with their families, having frank chats in the back garden, they reminisce about the good old days.

“We liked going out and getting wrecked, didn’t we?” says Lee. Abdul, you didn’t! Oh, but he did. “The party was always at our house,” he smiles – is that nostalgia or regret?

They laugh together about Abdul’s ginger beard, while Lee admits he used to think Muslims were baddies and that, by attending EDL rallies, he was “sticking up for his country”. Asked if he would ever go to the mosque with his brother, Lee gives an honest no, prompting Abdul to say:

If any of his friends saw him in a mosque, that would look bad

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/17/extremely-british-muslims-review-the-only-extreme-thing-round-here-is-the-size-of-the-rats

How can we respond to en election, a European ruling, a TV documentary set in Birmingham. I have been reading a book this week - it has a suggestion.

Elliot's Weekly Round-up: Hijabs, frustration, Birmingham & asylum

female Muslim athletes are delighted
— http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/brands/nikes-first-high-performance-hijab-coming-female-muslim-athletes/

This is the big news that Nike are set to launch a sports hijab in 2018. The material it is made from has lots of little holes to ensure breathability.  It will be available in three colours. This demonstrates haw big business is becoming more aware of the Muslim pound. We too, as the church, need to become more aware of those around us.

#DearSister
You must be married by age______
What about my goals and aspirations?
Sister, your goal should be to serve your husband
(UGH)
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-39179674

A recent report states how Muslim women are frustrated about being told how to dress and behave. Women's comments in the article are very different to the often assumed repressed role.  

The second episode of Extremely British Muslims is on Channel 4 this Thursday.  The last episode was about the struggle to find a spouse using family connections, mosque matchmaking services, and Muslim dating sites.  This episode homes in on what it is like for young men growing up as Muslims in Birmingham. It highlights their difficulties when travelling internationally, their aid work with refugees in Greece, along with discussion of why some people become radicalised.

“You have people who are ex-bad boys who still have that gang mentality. And if you want to be in a gang, what’s the biggest gang in the world right now?

“ISIS is the biggest, baddest gang in the world. You can get an AK and get forgiven by God at the same time.
— http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/showbiz-tv/terrorists-why-extremely-british-muslims--12641261

Perhaps their conclusion is the most noticeable- and is a challenge.

“I know we have got to do more too, we have to work harder to mix. My community needs to be more outward looking.

“It’s up to all of us.”
— http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/showbiz-tv/terrorists-why-extremely-british-muslims--12641261

Finally a video that informs and may challenge preconceptions of asylum seekers.  Life as an asylum seeker here is tough.  Let's respond with Jesus love.

My new passport

My New Passport

My new passport just arrived in the post. Time for a trip. Perhaps a long haul destination, maybe a sunny beach to top up my tan, I guess would even consider a cultural/historical tour. Probably not a cruise though!

I didn’t need the shiny new passport for the train ride to my friend’s house. After eating, a game of Monopoly, and a couple of hours in bed I was ready for the off by 5:30am. A few hours down the road and we joined another friend and continued together.

What destination was worthy of the new passport and early start? Here’s a clue… it’s a place that many of my friends have been through, somewhere that has often been in the media,  a well-known location although no one wants to stay. It’s a place that over 10,000 called home until a few months ago. Now a home to none, although police still patrol the area. 

Welcome to the Calais Jungle! Running next to the road we could see the fence that cost millions to build.

We visited a warehouse that sprung up in 2015 as a response to a Facebook appeal. From then on volunteers have provided clothing, sleeping bags, wood for cooking as well as meals for those in The Jungle.

Since the dismantling of The Jungle the size of their work has downscaled, but they are still helping those in a nearby camp of Dunkirk. The energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers was inspiring. They continue to grapple with difficult questions such as how to assist unaccompanied minors returning to the region yet not to be seen to be encouraging others to return.

Later we arrived at the site that was once home to 10,000. As soon as we alighted from the car a van full of police descended to ask if we were journalists.

Hardly anything remains at the site. Empty cardboard boxes, spent tear gas used to disperse residents, first aid points, and white shipping containers used to house the most vulnerable. where asylum seekers could be carried before being met by the emergency services who were afraid to enter.

It was strange to see some of the graffiti that I was so familiar with from the media. Other graffiti spoke of people’s desperation and challenged inactivity.

After surveying the ghostly site we met up with a local Catholic group who welcome asylum seekers.

One of the group whom had been making a documentary tracking different individuals progress, another was a long term volunteer who had spent many years cooking for hundreds of people. A couple of refugees acted as our interpreters as our school French was rather rusty.

A trip through the Channel Tunnel, Tube across London, train ride, and half an hour walk and I was home. Travelling with that new passport was easy. How much easier was my onward travel than many of those who have had prolonged stays in the Calais Jungle.

I’ll leave you with thought I read in a magazine last summer…

It is our calling as Church to practise hospitality. Fear is the greatest enemy of hospitality.

Elliot's Weekly Roundup: statistics, something to pray about & is love in the air?

Image: Laura Ockel,  Unsplash

Image: Laura Ockel, Unsplash

In the media this week: statistics, something to pray about and is love in the air?

Islam is the only religion growing faster than the world’s population and it will be the largest in the world by 2070, researchers have found.
— telegraph.co.uk

The article also includes information about European attitudes towards Muslims. Reading this could be seen as overwhelming.  But let's make a choice not be overwhelmed by numbers and statics. Instead lets take the increasing opportunities that present themselves to share Jesus to those around us.  Even though the report states that attitudes to Muslims are not so negative in the UK there is still much room for us to model good relations and to help to shape attitudes positively.

Majorities in Hungary, Italy, Poland,and Greece say they view Muslims unfavourably, while negative attitudes towards Muslims are much less common in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Northern and Western Europe.
— telegraph.co.uk

Meanwhile a new project has been started by four newspapers in Europe documenting conditions experienced by refugees and asylum seekers.  It states that Britain is one of the worst destinations for people seeking asylum in Western Europe. The following video clip shows the desperate reality of asylum seekers- many of whom are Muslim.  The question that it left me thinking about is how can I respond as an individual/ as a family/as part of a church/ as a British citizen.  Come on let's help make this place more welcoming!

The UN is warning that thousands of Rohingya children are suffering as "indirect victims" of the crackdown against suspected militants in Burma. Let's continue to pray for a change in this situation.

There is going to be a new TV programme on Channel 4 starting on Thursday. The first programme follows young men and women as they attempt to find spouses with the help of family, dating sited and the mosque marriage bureau.  It is set in Birmingham where:

...a baby boy is more likely to be called Mohammed than any other name...
— bradfordzone.co.uk

The second programme deals with growing up as a young Muslim in the shadow of the news.  The third programme is about the rules of Islam and how they are interpreted.

In an insightful article, the creator of the show explained how the programme was made as a response to her daughter asking: "Mummy, what's a terrorist?"  She states the challenge of growing up as a Muslim in a post 9/11 world. " We grew up with Rosie and Jim, they are growing up with Jihadi John." 

...we did want to put ourselves in a Muslim community and explore and record the day to day lives and experiences of ordinary Muslims in the UK.

 I think I'll watch it. Pray.  Then use the insight gained from the programme in my interactions with my Muslim friends. Why don't you do the same. Let me know how you get on!