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: 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 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.


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?


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: 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.

You must be married by age______
What about my goals and aspirations?
Sister, your goal should be to serve your husband
— 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.