Thursday, 23 March 2017

Trump's Muslim Travel Ban - Protests Demonstrations and Debate in the UK Parliament

Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban: Protests, Demonstration
and Debate in the UK Parliament

Dr. Mozammel Haque

As I have mentioned in my previous article, the reaction and response to Donald Trump’s Muslim Immigration ban in the United Kingdom will be dealt with in the next write-up. In this paper, I will narrate the protests and demonstrations against Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban in the UK as well as the Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom which was debated in the British parliament.

In the United Kingdom, public celebrities openly condemned Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration ban; people and political leaders angry at Donald Trump’s Travel ban came out on the street, protested against the ban and organised demonstration in front of 10 Downing Street.

Sir Mo Farah and Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative MP
Nazia Parveen and Sean Ingle reported in The Guardian on Sunday, 29 January 2017 about the personal reaction and response of some of the British celebrity to the Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. Sir Mo Farah, one of Britain’s most successful Olympians spoke out. Sir Mo Farah condemned Donald Trump’s decision to ban US arrivals from a series of predominantly Muslim countries in simple terms. In a riposte to Trump, Farah said: “I am a British citizen who has lived in America for the past six years – working hard, contributing to society, paying my taxes and bringing up our four children in the place they now call home. Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome. It’s deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that Daddy might not be able to come home – to explain why the president has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice. (The Guardian on Sunday, 29 January 2017)

Sir Farah also contrasted his treatment from the Queen, who recently gave him a knighthood, with that of Trump, saying: “On 1 January this year, Her Majesty the Queen made me a knight of the realm. On 27 January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien.” Sir Farah is a British citizen with a British passport, born in Somalia, reported in The Guardian.

Conservative MP  Nadhim Zahawi
Another British Celebrity and Conservative politician said he felt discriminated. Speaking to Andrew Marr, BBC, Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi said he felt discriminated against for the first time since his school days. The Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was born in Baghdad, said he felt “demeaned and discriminated against” by Trump’s border edict. Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “I don’t think I have felt discriminated since little school when the kids were very cruel, as a young boy coming from Iraq of Kurdish origin. For the first time in my life last night I felt discriminated against. It’s demeaning, it’s sad.” Reported in The Guardian.

Politicians and Political leaders
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, have all called for the visit to be cancelled.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has condemned Donald Trump’s ban on people from certain countries entering the United States as “shameful and cruel”. He said: “President Trump's ban on refugees and immigrants from certain countries is shameful and cruel. “The USA has a proud history of welcoming and resettling refugees. The President can't just turn his back on this global crisis - all countries need to play their part,” reported in The Independent online and added, “While every country has the right to set its own immigration policies, this new policy flies in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance that the USA was built upon,” he said and added, “As a nation that, like the USA, values tolerance, diversity and freedom, we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say: 'It's not our problem'.” (The Independent online, 29th of January, 2017)

Mr Khan’s comments came as mass demonstrations broke out across the US in protest at the anti-immigration policy.

It is also reported that Former cabinet minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi urged ministers to refer to Mr Trump’s immigration policy as a “Muslim ban”, arguing there could be no doubt that is what it is. Baroness Warsi also said: “Those who run and govern this country bowing down to a man who holds the views that he holds, values which are not the same as British values, I think is sending out a very wrong signal.” Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she went on: “[State visits] are an honour of the highest order that a country can bestow on a visiting dignitary, it’s lots of pomp and ceremony, banquets and gifts and welcome and flattering speeches and all at the cost of the British tax payer. (The Independent online, 29th of January, 2017)

“We have to question whether in Britain, this is something Britain should be doing for a man who has no respect for women, disdain for minorities, little value for LGBT communities, no compassion clearly for the vulnerable and whose policies are rooted in divisive rhetoric,” she said.

It follows calls from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and other Tories to cancel the trip, not to mention an official petition that has soared past one million signatures.

Political commentator Owen Jones has organised a London protest on Monday evening outside Downing Street.

Thousands of people gathered across the UK to protest against Trump’s travel ban and his planned UK state visit. About 10,000 people were thought to have marched on Downing Street in London. Meanwhile a petition set up a matter of days ago has now exceeded one million signatures, having past the 10,000 mark requiring a government response and the 100,000 mark meaning it must be considered for a debate in Parliament.

Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, while answering questions in front of the Commons home affairs committee on Tuesday, 31 January 2017, has strengthened UK criticism of move, saying it is divisive and wrong, but MPs question delay in airing concerns, reported by Alan Travis, in The Guardian.. The home secretary has strengthened Britain’s criticism of Donald Trump’s travel ban, branding it “a potential propaganda opportunity” for so-called Islamic State. .

Giving evidence before the home affairs select committee, Amber Rudd agreed that most attacks in the US, Britain and Europe had been carried out by domestic terrorists in the most recent years and said that Isis would “use every opportunity” to radicalise people. Rudd also said: “I think the important thing is for the government to state that we disagree with the ban and we have said it is divisive. It is wrong. I will continue to say that.” (Reported by Alan Travis, in The Guardian, 31 January, 2017)

Trump’s visit to the UK and the public demand
Demand for cancellation of Trump’s invitation
Political leaders came out demanding the government to cancel Donald Trump’s invitation. With both Jeremy Corbyn and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, calling on Theresa May to cancel Trump’s planned state visit to Britain if he does not rescind the ban.

Corbyn told the Guardian that May would be “failing the British people” if she did not call off the visit by Trump, planned for the summer. Davidson said state visits were designed “to celebrate and entrench the friendships and shared values between their respective countries”. She said: “A state visit from the current president of the United States could not possibly occur in the best traditions of the enterprise while a cruel and divisive policy which discriminates against citizens of the host nation is in place. “I hope President Trump immediately reconsiders his Muslim ban.” London Mayor sadiq Khan, Baroness Warsi and other politicians also joined in this demand.

Even there was a public protest which passed million signatures.

20 February 2017 was set as the date for MPs to debate a petition against Trump’s visit that has garnered 1.6m signatures. MPs unanimously passed a motion condemning the “Discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive” travel ban. The emergency debate was called by former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was born in Baghdad and risked being banned from the US. (Reported in The Guardian, 31st January 2017)

Donald Trump's Muslim Immigration Ban

Donald Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America on Friday, 20th of January 2017. There were protesters clashed with police outside in Washington DC. Next day, Saturday, there was hundreds and thousands of men and women of all ages took to the streets of Washington DC. In the first week of his full working week, President Trump issued around 13 Executive Orders, one of which is Muslim Immigration ban. President imposed a blanket Muslim Travel ban on all refugees coming from seven Muslim majority countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. That provoked outcry, concerns, condemnations and legal confrontation in USA and aboard.

In this paper, I will mainly concentrate on President Donald Trump’s Muslim Immigration ban, how the international community responded and reacted to it; what is the opinion of the world leaders? This cruel, inhumane Muslim immigration and refugee ban created another issue in the United Kingdom. Donald Trump was invited by the UK Prime Minister Theresa May for state visit in her first official meeting with the American President Donald Trump on 28 January 2017.

Later on, President Trump issued another Revised Travel Ban on 7th of March, 2017 which suffered legal setback again. Revised Travel Ban was blocked by two Federal Judges, judges in Hawaii and Maryland saying President was likely engaged in unconstitutional religious discrimination. (The Wall Street Journal, 16 March, 2017). Countries included in the Revised Travel Ban include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq was first included in the list, but was taken off when the second travel ban was rolled out.

Before narrating, discussing and analysing the Muslim Travel ban, I would like to start with President Donald Trump’s inauguration in rainy Friday amid spontaneous protests in capital, Washington, DC and global women march and issuance of executive orders. Muslim Travel ban is one of the executive orders which was protested, condemned and criticised in America and abroad.

The reaction and response to Donald Trump’s Muslim Immigration ban in the United Kingdom will be dealt with in the next write-up where it would also be mentioned about Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom which was debated in the British parliament.

Inauguration Ceremony
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on the rainy Friday, 20th of January 2017 amid anti-Trump protesters clashed with police in the US capital, Washington DC. The number of protests against and rallies for Trump taking place on Friday is far above what has been typical at recent US presidential inaugurations.
Women March on Washington
Hundreds of thousands of men and women of all ages have taken to the streets of Washington DC on Saturday, 21st of January 2017 to march in opposition to President Donald Trump, a day after the Republican took office, as sister demonstrations took place in cities across Africa, Asia and Europe. It was one of more than 600 rallies taking place worldwide on the new US President’s first full day in office rallying around issues like women's rights, reproductive rights and immigration. Protesters held signs like "Women's rights are human rights", "Break down walls, don't build them", and "Hell hath no fury as a nasty woman scorned", referencing the time Trump called his opponent, Hillary Clinton, a "nasty woman" during a debate, reported in Al-Jazeera, on 22 January, 2017.

Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women's Equality party, told Al Jazeera that protesters had gathered in a show of unity. “We are here to protest the hate and the division that Donald Trump puts forward as politics,” she said and added, “We are here to march against the rising xenophobia in this country. We're here to march against the normalisation of racism and misogyny and sexism.”

Global protests
Demonstrations against Trump's discriminatory rhetoric were also held in Australia, the UK, Germany, Japan and France, and others. It is reported in Al-Jazeera, “In Kenya, hundreds of protesters in Nairobi's Karura Forest waved placards and sang American protest songs. In Sydney, Australia's biggest city, about 3,000 men and women gathered for a rally in Hyde Park before marching on the US consulate downtown, while organisers said 5,000 people rallied in Melbourne. In Japan, hundreds of people joined protests in Tokyo, including many American expatriates.” (Al-Jazeera, 22 January, 2017).

UK protesters join anti-Trump rallies in London
Thousands of protesters have taken part in a Women's March in London on 21 January 2017 as part of global protests on the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency. They marched from the US embassy to Trafalgar Square - as part of UK-wide rallies to highlight women's rights. Organisers said up to 100,000 people took part in London, although that has not been independently verified, reported by Sian Grzeszczyk to BBC on 21 January 2017.
BBC also reported, “Protesters left the US embassy, in London's Grosvenor Square, shortly after midday and chanted ‘build bridges not walls’ as they made their way along Piccadilly. TV presenter Sandi Toksvig and Labour MP Yvette Cooper later addressed crowds, while London mayor Sadiq Khan was also in attendance. London organisers announced on stage that between 80,000 and 100,000 women and men had taken part in the rally, but police have not given an independent estimate. UK demonstrations have also been held in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol.”

Executive Orders
Into the first week into his Presidency, Donald Trump issued executive orders. James Reinl reported in Al-Jazeera on 27 January 2017: “Up until he was inaugurated as United States president this month, opinions were divided over whether Donald Trump would come good on his hard-line campaign pledges to tighten US borders, scrap Obamacare and exit free trade deals. One week into his presidency and it has become clear that Trump meant business. He hit the ground running with a flurry of executive actions that won cheers from his Republican admirers but alarmed liberals, environmentalists, minorities and others.”

After Trump's rainy inauguration ceremony on Friday, he quickly directed government agencies and issued executive orders. Al-Jazeera and BBC has mentioned the following executive actions and directives.

Opening salvo on Obamacare
President Trump directed government agencies to freeze regulations and start weakening Obamacare, the signature healthcare policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama, a Democrat. ii) Goodbye Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: On Monday, Trump signed an order formally withdrawing the US from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), once viewed as the crown jewel of Barack Obama’s international trade policy. iii) Cutting cash to global, pro-abortion charities: That same day, Trump re-instated the so-called "Mexico City policy", issuing an executive order barring foreign aid or federal funding to global aid groups that promote or provide abortions as a method of family planning. iv) On his second full working day, the President signed two orders to advance construction of two controversial pipelines - Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, which respectively link Canada and North Dakota with US Gulf Coast refiners. (BBC & Al-Jazeera)

Border Security: He pledged repeatedly at rallies to build wall along the southern border saying it would be big beautiful and powerful. On Wednesday, Trump signed a pair of executive orders to fulfil that campaign pledge. One order declared the building of a multibillion dollar wall along the 3,200km US-Mexico border and signalling tough action against the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, mostly Latinos. The second order pledges to hire 10,000 more immigration officers and to revoke federal grant money from so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ which refuse to deport undocumented immigrants. ( reported by BBC & Al-Jazeera)

As of Thursday, 26th of January, 2017, the Trump administration had signed 13 executive actions. Others, not listed above, dealt with cutting regulations on US manufacturing, a freeze on hiring new government employees and other issues. More are in the works. Most widely anticipated are new orders on national security, refugees and visa rules.

According to one draft order, Trump was expected to block refugees coming from war-torn Syria and to suspend the entry of any immigrants from seven mostly-Muslim countries: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.

Muslim Immigration Ban
On Friday, 27th of January, 2017, Mr Trump signed a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He claimed the moves would protect Americans from terrorism. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” he said in a ceremony at the Pentagon, where he also signed an order to boost the US military. President Trump announced last week of January 2017 that nationals from seven Muslim majority countries will now be refused access to the United States of America. (reported in The Independent online, 28th of January, 2017)

Lucy Pasha Robinson reported, “Trump has ordered a four-month ban on all refugees from entering the country as well as enacting an indefinite ban on all those who hail from Syria. For 90 days, visas will not be issued to nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Green card and visa holders were being blocked from boarding US-bound flights within hours of Donald Trump issuing an executive order limiting immigration from several Muslim countries, according to reports. (The Independent online, 28 January 2017)

The cruel inhumane bans affect travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and even extend to green card holders who are granted authorisation to live and work in the United States, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman.

Refugee admission
President Trump has imposed a blanket ban on all refugees from seven Muslim majority countries. He has signed Executive Order to ban refugees from entering the US. Syrian refugees will be banned 'indefinitely'. Refugees from the other six Muslim countries will be banned for 120 days. In this connection, it should be mentioned that Mr. Trump first promised to ban Muslims in December 2015. He got his wish just 13 months later.

Rachael Revesz reported from New York: “Mr Trump’s executive order, signed on the same day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, requested that the Department of Homeland Security imposes a 120-day blanket ban on all refugees coming from seven Muslim-majority countries. Syrian refugees would be banned "indefinitely", but Christian applicants would be given top priority.” (The Independent online, 28 January, 2017)

(a) Chaos Confusion and Anger:
Horror stories
Visas denied immediately, chaos created at airports and in the air. The decision has sparked chaos, outrage and anger around the world. Andrew Buncombe from New York wrote: “Donald Trump’s ban on refugees entering America has caused chaos, confusion and anger across the globe, as people were turned back from US-bound flights and others were detained on arrival at American airports. Mr Trump denied that his executive order amount to a Muslim ban, but he said: “This is working out very nicely.” (The Independent online, 28 January, 2017)

Narrating the horror stories after the Muslim Immigration banning executive order, Ms. Nesrine Malik wrote in The Guardian: “Within minutes of Donald Trump signing his executive order banning the entry of nationals from seven Muslim majority countries, the horror stories started coming through. “Some were turned back from boarding their flights; others were handcuffed in airports, patted down and interrogated on their political beliefs. Mothers, fathers, children, students, employees suddenly found that the unthinkable had happened. They had been banned from returning to their jobs and studies, to their families and homes because they were Muslims.” (Nesrine Malik, The Guardian, Sunday, 29 January, 2017)

She also mentioned, “The thought was almost too evil, too grotesque, to countenance. The hours after the ban felt like living through a chapter of history that we’d left behind. Events unfolded the likes of which we had only ever seen in documentaries, in fragments of newsreels from the archives. Travellers in tears, stern officers “just following orders”, refugees on the cusp of safe harbour wild with despair at the uncertain fate to which they must return, confused children huddled behind their parents as they plead with authorities, their faces speaking of fear, confusion and the sense that something is about to change for ever.” (Nesrine Malik, The Guardian, Sunday, 29 January, 2017)

(b) Condemnation and Criticism within the US
This Trump’s Muslim Immigration ban from seven Muslim majority countries was widely condemned and criticised both within the country and abroad. Muslim leaders filed lawsuit against Donald Trump’s refugee ban. There are around 3.3 million American Muslims in the US, just one percent of a national population of more than 120 million. “The American Muslim community has been the target of discriminatory policies for many years,” Lena Masri, CAIR’s national litigation director told Independent and added, “Generally speaking at this time the Muslim community is being attacked by this order. It’s important for Americans to stand together and rise together.” (The Independent online, 27 January, 2017)

Rachael Revesz from New York, reported, “CAIR will file lawsuit in the US District Court of the Western District of Virginia on Monday. The CAIR’s lawsuit is aimed to “challenge the constitutionality of the order which very clearly is designed to target Muslims.” “There is no evidence that refugees, the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation, are a threat to national security,” Ms Masri said in a statement released by CAIR. “This is an order that is based on bigotry, not reality.”(The Independent online, 27 January, 2017)

An estimated 400 lawyers have signed up to represent detainees, and dozens flocked to airports, many with signs in Arabic and Farsi to alert relatives that attorneys could help them find lost loved ones. From Saturday into Sunday, hundreds attended rallies against Trump’s “extreme vetting order” at 29 cities and airports across the country, reported by Edward Helmore. (The Guardian, on Sunday, 29 January, 2017).

In the report, Edward Helmore also mentioned that Executives at major tech companies that rely on foreign skilled labour also expressed concern. In a memo to staff, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said it had been “painful to see the personal cost” on our colleagues.

© Legal Challenges against the Executive Order
Four states filed lawsuit against Trump administration over ‘un-American’ travel ban. Joanna Walters from New York reported:  “New York, Massachusetts and Virginia on Tuesday joined Washington State on a growing list of states challenging the travel ban that caused chaos at airports in those states and beyond at the weekend as people with valid immigration documents were detained or deported after arriving on flights from overseas.” (The Guardian, on Wednesday, 1 February, 2017)

Lauren Gambino, Sabrina Siddiqui and David Smith from Washington reported, “On Tuesday, 31st of January, 2017 New York joined a federal lawsuit against Trump’s executive order brought by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Urban Justice Centre and others. Eric Schneiderman, the New York state attorney general, described the order as “unconstitutional, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American”. (The Guardian, 31st January 2017)

And the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, said the state was also filing its own case seeking to have the ban struck down.  “The executive order is harmful, discriminatory and unconstitutional. It discriminates on the basis of religion and national origin,” Healey said at a press briefing at her office. (Joanna Walters, The Guardian, 1 February, 2017)

Late Saturday night, Federal Judges in New York, Virginia and Massachusetts ordered a temporary halt to the President’s deportation of people who had arrived in the US with valid visas, reported by Edward Helmore from New York in The Guardian, Sunday, 29 January, 2017.
Amid a tremendous backlash in America and around the world, on Monday night Trump removed Sally Yates, acting Attorney General after she told justice department lawyers not to defend his executive order. The White House said she had “betrayed” the department by refusing to enforce a legal order that was “designed to protect the citizens of the United States”. (25) The dismissal of Sally Yates from her post as acting attorney general is just the latest.

After a federal judge in Seattle ordered a temporary halt on Donald Trump’s travel ban for refugees and people from seven predominantly-Muslim nations, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reportedly told US airlines that they could board travellers who had been barred. “We are a nation of laws. Not even the president can violate the constitution,” Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson told reporters outside the courtroom. “No one is above the law, not even the president.” “This decision shuts down the executive order immediately, shuts it down,” he added. “That relief is immediate, happens right now. That’s the bottom line.” (Reported by Martin Pengelly and Edward Helmore from New York in the Guardian, Saturday, 4th of February, 2017)

(d) United Nations Secretary General
Criticises Trump’s border policies
The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the US President to abandon his controversial policies. He criticises President Trump’s border policies. The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday, 1st February 2017 that U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions on seven countries and freeze on refugee resettlement should be lifted sooner than later.  “This is not the way to best protect the U.S. or any other country in relation to the serious concerns that exist about possible terrorist infiltration,” Guterres said to reporters. “I don’t think this is the effective way to do so. I think that these measures should be removed sooner rather than later.”

Travel ban is not the effective way of stopping terrorists entering U.S,” he said.

(e) International Organisations – UN
Civil rights and faith groups, activists and Democratic politicians were furious and vowed to fight the executive order. The Trump’s executive order provoked international outcry from human rights, humanitarian and faith groups, activists and democratic politicians, with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration and Amnesty International all condemning the ban.

The United Nations has condemned Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and order to stop Syrians and travellers from six other Muslim-majority countries entering the US amid mounting international anger. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) called on the new President’s administration to continue offering asylum to people fleeing war and persecution, a right protected by international law. (Reported by Lizzie Dearden, The Independent online, 28 January 2017)

Lizzie Dearden also mentioned in the report, “The UNHCR and IOM urged the new administration to continue its work with the UN and other agencies to ensure “vital” resettlement programmes for people fleeing conflict and persecution, whatever their background. “We strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race,” a spokesperson said.

(f) Concerns and Condemnation
from International leaders
US and European officials have expressed anxiety about the damage the Trump administration’s ban targeting Muslim refugees could inflict on western security. The ban is believed to have been drafted by an ideologically-driven group around Donald Trump without consultation with the justice, state, defence or homeland security departments, which could have weighed on its implications for US foreign relations, as well as the country’s security concerns and legal obligations, Julian Borger reported from Washington. (The Guardian, Sunday, 29 January, 2017)

Sam Jones and Philip Oltermann reported on Sunday, 29 January 2017 about the reaction of the international leaders. It is reported: Donald Trump’s Executive Order to halt travel from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – has provoked a wave of concern and condemnation from international leaders and politicians.

“A spokesman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted Trump’s decision to ban citizens of certain countries from entering the US. “The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement. “She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion. The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”

“The French President, François Hollande, said that “when [Trump] rejects the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we should respond to him”. Hollande said that in an unstable and uncertain world, “withdrawal into oneself is a dead-end response.”  Italy’s Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, in a tweet, said his country was committed to the values that bind Europe: “Open society; plural identity; no discrimination.” Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan, said that while US immigration policy was a matter for the US government,”It is clear that the most recent decisions could have far-reaching implications –both on humanitarian grounds and on relations between the US and the global Muslim community”. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, tweeted: Justin Trudeau @Justin Trudeau. To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #Welcome To Canada. Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister, Margot Wallström, said she was “deeply concerned” by a decision that “creates mistrust between people”. (Sam Jones and Philip Oltermann reported in The Guardian, 29 January 2017)

(g) Human Rights Organisations and NGOs
It provoked outcry from NGOs working to stem the worst ever global refugee crisis with more than 65 million people forced to flee their homes.

Amnesty International warned the move could have “catastrophic consequences”. Salil Shetty, the group’s secretary general, said: “These men, women and children are the victims of the same terror President Trump claims he wants to fight against. The irony beggars belief.” The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said Mr Trump’s “harmful and hasty” decision would impact thousands of innocent people, mostly women and children, awaiting resettlement to the US.  “In truth, refugees are fleeing terror – they are not terrorists,” said IRC president and CEO David Miliband, the former British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,” Help Refugees, a British charity working across camps in northern France, Greece and the Middle East, said news of Mr Trump’s order was “devastating”. “Refugees are, by definition, people seeking sanctuary from some of the most horrific circumstances and it is the duty of compassionate and progressive nations to accept their fair share,” a spokesperson said.  “Banning refugees on the basis of their religious beliefs is abhorrent.”(Lizzie Dearden reported in The Independent online, 27 January, 2017)

Summing up
I would like to draw conclusion with two very relevant observations: One by Robert Fisk who is a regular columnist and journalist in the Independent and another by Nesrine Malik, contributor in the Guardian.
Commenting on Donald Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban, Robert Fisk observed in The Independent online: “There’s no getting round it. Call it Nazi, Fascist, racist, vicious, illiberal, immoral, cruel. More dangerously, what Trump has done is a wicked precedent. If you can stop them coming, you can chuck them out. If you can demand "extreme vetting" of Muslims from seven countries, you can also demand a "values test" for those Muslims who have already made it to the USA. Those on visas. Those with residency only. Those – if they are American citizens – with dual citizenship. Or full US citizens of Muslim origin. Or just Americans who are Muslims. Or Hispanics. Or Jews? Refugees one day. Citizens the next. Then refugees again.”

While commenting on Donald Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban, Nesrine Malik observed in The Guardian: “This did not start with Trump, it’s something that is only reaching its climax. For years, as people warned against the mainstreaming of Islamophobia, they were met with equivocation. “Islam is not a race”, “we are criticising Islam, not Muslims”, “we condemn all religion, not just Islam”. Mosques were attacked, women were spat on and had their hijabs snatched from their heads. Western media, led by the British tabloid press, established an industry of hysteria against Muslims with fake news. The niqab and its banning commanded hours of debate in European parliaments. All the while Muslims repeatedly hit the panic button and were told that they needed to stop overreacting and being so precious. Rightwingers exploited Islamophobia to channel anti-immigration hatred, and liberalism took refuge in intellectual handwringing and posturing over prophet cartoons and freedom of speech and women’s rights, unable to ally itself with what it perceived to be a backward Muslim tradition, and failing to understand that the danger to everything the west stands for is not from Islamic extremism but from the response to it.”

No one was asking for forgiveness, merely an understanding that collective condemnation of a people via attacking their religion meant collective punishment. And here we are. It unfolded before our eyes and yet many still could not see it coming. It became apparent that people would pay attention only if something terrible happened, and by then it might be too late. Now something terrible has happened, but it can and will get worse. If the past seven days have taught us anything, it is that events that seem to happen overnight are actually the climax of years of complacency,” Malik concluded (49. ‘After banning orders, horror stories,’ by Nesrine Malik, The Guardian, Sunday, 29 January, 2017)

Monday, 13 February 2017

Fifth Forum of Imams In Britain

Fifth Forum of Imams in Britain

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Fifth Annual Forum of Imams in Britain was organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre, London in collaboration with the Dawah Office of Britain, held on Saturday 28th of January 2017, in the Conference Hall of the Centre. The conference was attended by more than 100 Imams and religious scholars of the United Kingdom.

The Forum is an annual event in which Imams from Mosques and Islamic organisations across Britain attended at workshops raising awareness of current affairs, challenges, updates of British regulations on Charities and ways to promote better practise of work and efforts of Imams and religious affairs in Britain.

The conference consisted of three parts and each part has sessions including opening and conclusion sessions. The first session was on Islamophobia in the UK. The second session was on Prominent Social Concerns facing Muslim Minorities in Britain and the third session was on Legal Issues Facing Religious Centres in the UK. In the Second Part, there was Presentation of Academic Papers from Imams in Britain. Then there was session on closing ceremony and recommendation.

Speeches in every session were delivered by specialists in the field of law, government policies, Social Services and Islamophobia. There was also presentation of academic papers by Imams in the final session.

The Opening Ceremony
Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan
The conference was opened with the recitation of verses from the Holy Qur’an. While welcoming Imams and religious scholars to the Forum, Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, thanked all the Imams and religious scholars for their participation in the Forum and highlighted the importance to support the Muslim communities. Dr. Al-Dubayan also pondered over the importance for Imams to regularly meet to discuss the current issues facing the Muslim community in Britain and ways in which we can overcome challenges and promote better practise in areas and fields in which we work in.

Dr Al Dubayan also mentioned how strong leadership and good governance over our organisations will help foster for a correct image and modelling of Islam in the media and help create better understanding with all community stakeholders. Dr. Al Dubayan also highlighted that this Forum will give way to introducing how governmental changes with the way in which charities operate will affect Islamic organisations and how we can raise standards in which our charities operate.

Mr Abdulaziz Al-Harbi, Director of the Dawah Office in Britain, welcomed the august audience of Heads of Islamic Organisations and Mosques and echoed the key points stressed by Dr Al Dubayan. He also paid tribute to bring together Imams in Britain to reflect on how standards can be raised and Mosques can be seen more as community centres to support the Muslim society as a whole. Mr Al-Harbi also paid tribute to His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al Saud, Ambassador of the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques in the United Kingdom for his invaluable provision, support and blessings for the success of the Forum.

First Session on Islamophobia in the UK
There was a presentation on Islamophobia in the UK in the first session. This was presented by Mr Sufiyan Ismail, Chief Executive Officer of the Muslim Engagement and Development Organisation (MEND). Mr. Ismail discussed pressing issues facing the Muslim Community which include Islamophobia. Sufiyan aimed to engage the Imams productively with the media and politics. He explained to the Imams and Heads of Muslim organisations of how Islam has recently been expressed in the media and the rise of the phenomenon Islamophobia in Britain.

CEO Ismail also gave an introduction of the history of Islamophobia in the world including Britain and presented statistics which has shown that over the year given recent troubles across the world hate crime; intolerance and abuse against Muslims have increased.

It was established that a vital ingredient in responding against Islamophobia is the presentation of Islam in a correct manner across the media. This can be achieved by organising workshops in the near future dedicated to Imams and religious affairs workers to training them in how they can represent their religion, Mosques and community in a correct manner across the media to portray the right message across.

Tributes were paid towards Muslim role models in Britain which include Olympic Gold Medallist Mohammed Farah, British Bake Off Winner Nadia Hussain and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who are all beacons of tolerance peace and provide good representation of Islam in Britain.

Second Session on Prominent Social Concerns
Facing Muslim Minorities in Britain
Mr. Ahmed Abd-Elghany, a social services advisor of Westminster Council and representative for English Teacher Working Abroad (ETWA), focused his talk on highlighting and pressing on social concerns and challenges facing the Muslim community particularly in households with lone parents, issues such as domestic violence, cyber crime.

Mr. Abd-Elghany mentioned how the year 2016 saw over 7,700 single mother Muslim families in Britain and how this figure has risen over the years and is expected to rise. Furthermore, divorce rates in the Muslim community also echoes this trends and children suffer dearly and if are not properly supported can lead to higher youth crime rates. It was also highlighted that if Imams were trained in social services aspects they would be better prepared, qualified to support families when giving religious advice as families tend to seek advice from Imams on all sorts of questions which is why Imams need to be recognised and be able to adapt to changes in the society to better support the community.

Mr. Abd-Elghany stressed on the duties of Imams and need to increase awareness and expertise in issues such as mental health, youth engagement, adoption and safeguarding children and the importance of Imams in understanding and acknowledge of these problems facing the Muslim community and supporting them accordingly.

Legal Issues Facing Religious Centres in the UK
In the same session, Ms. Aina Khan, Consultant Solicitor and Advisor to the UK Board of Sharia Council in the United Kingdom informed Imams and those representing Sharia Councils the importance of practising good ethics in their Councils with Marriages and Divorce. Ms Khan informed Imams that although an Islamic Marriage is fundamental ritual in Islam conducted by all Muslim under the legal system of Britain Islamic marriages are not legally binding and do not equate to a Civil Marriage.

A Civil marriage will protect the rights of both partners in the marriage and will also look after the children and is internationally recognised as well. Ms Khan endorsed the use of both a civil marriage and an Islamic marriage in a parallel system where both issues such as the mahir and Islamic ritual can be compiled by whilst also allowing the rights of the Wife and Husband being protected as well.

Ms Aina Khan encouraged Imams and Islamic Centres to promote the use of Civil marriages when conducting Nikahs as a form of good practise. Ms Khan looked at legal issues facing Imams and responsibility of Imams to promote people to register their marriages legally; this will protect the rights of women and also children.

Ms Khan encouraged all Centre to promote good practise as Sharia Councils are currently under investigation under the Counter-Terrorism Act and hearing have been undergone through the Home Office Individual review and the Houses of Parliament Select Committee.

Dr. Al Dubayan in his capacity as Chairman of the UK Board of Sharia Councils encouraged all Sharia Councils to join the Boards of Promoting Good Practise amongst Sharia Councils operating in Britain.

In this session, Mr Ayaz Zuberi of The Islamic Cultural Centre also looked at how we can build relationships with the community to promote the good efforts of Centres they represent.

Third Session: Presentation of Academic
 Papers from Imams in Britain
The Third Session incorporated presentation of Academic Papers from Imams across Britain with a Q & A (Question and Answer) session with the audience. The following papers were presented:
v     “An example of a successful experience in Dawa work” by Sheikh Rashad Al-Azami, Director Al Ehsan Mosque – Bath
v     “Phenomenon of Islamophobia in Britain” by Sheikh Mark Abdulwahid Stephenson, Principal of Medina College – London
v     “The Face of Extremism and ideological deviation” by Sheikh Hafiz Hamudol Rahman, Imam of Makki Masjid – Manchester
The Papers encompassed a wide range of different fields of research pertinent to the work of Imams in Britain and challenges facing them.

Closing Session
Dr. Ahmad Al Dubayan concluded the conference by first expressing appreciation to the Trustees of the Centre which includes Muslim Ambassadors of Missions in the United Kingdom for their supportive role in the Centre and the Muslim community at large. Dr Al Dubayan also paid tribute to the keynote speakers for their informative talks, the Imams for their participation, the UK Dawah Office in Britain for partnering in the event and his colleagues for organising the Forum. He looked forward to welcoming everyone to future events of the Centre. Dr Al Dubayan thanked all participants in the meeting for contributing to recommendations and the Director General welcomed their recommendations which are as follows:

During the course of the Forum recommendations were presented to the Director General- Dr Al Dubayan and the followings have been approved and will take place in the Centre: 
v     Undergo Training for Imams in the area of Islamophobia and how to engage with the Media to promote correct image of Islam.
v     Introduce another workshop Training for Imams and Islamic organisations in the field of studying social changes, particularly with Youth.
v     Invite the Charity Commission to promote good governance and better working with Muslim Communities in the United Kingdom.
v     Invite Members of the UK Board of Sharia Councils to promote good practise amongst marriages and divorce procedures and to standardise them.
v     Welcome a one-day workshop to train Imams on legal issues and how their Centre should comply with governmental regulations and make them more aware of current laws that concern Charities and Islamic organisations in the UK. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Islam and Democracy - Civic Responsibility

Islam & Democracy - Civic Responsibility

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Last month in January, two events were held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London. The first one was a meeting on “Islam & Democracy – Civic Responsibility,” organised by Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in collaboration with the UK Home Office, on Thursday, 26th of January, 2017. The second one was a conference on “Fifth Forum of Imams in Britain,” organised by Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in cooperation with the Dawah Office of Britain, on Saturday, 28th  of January, 2017. Followings are the write-up of those two events prepared on the basis of the draft reports of both the events received from the Islamic Cultural Centre. First is the meeting on Islam & Democracy – Civic Responsibility.

Islam & Democracy - Civic Responsibility
On Thursday, 26th of January 2017, Islamic Cultural Centre in cooperation with the UK Home Office held the first of four community question sessions under the theme of Islam and democracy; civic responsibility in the library Conference Hall of the Centre.

The event was attended by Trustees of the Centre, Cultural attaches, academics, researchers and many youths. With the sole aim of promoting dialogue to support the knowledge and understanding of the audience members in relation to pertinent issues as well as to provide communities with the opportunity to ask questions to specialists and government representatives and to offer their own views and reflections. The event was also designed to guide grievances towards positive and legitimate channels of democracy.

Each panellist was presented with a certain timeframe to present relevant views and points in relation to the theme of Islam and democracy which was followed by Q & A (Question and Answer) session and then dinner. 

Keynote speakers & Event Dignitaries
The Islamic Cultural Centre was pleased to welcome and host the following Trustees and Embassy/High Commission Representatives:
v     His Excellency Sheikh Fawaz Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain London.
v     His Excellency Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan Bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, High Commissioner for the Brunei Darussalam.
v     His Excellency Mr. Md Nazmul Quaunine, High Commissioner for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
v     Mr Saud Al Hamdan, Counsellor of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
v     Mr Asif Khan, Head of Chancery, High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
v     Mr Muneer Ahmed, Press Attaché, High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
v     Professor Dr Reem Baghat, Cultural Counsellor and Director of the Egyptian Cultural Bureau of the Embassy of the Republic of Egypt.
v     Mr Mohammed Higair, 1st Secretary, Embassy of The Republic of Sudan London.
The evening was entertained by a host of speakers with a collective rich vast background of skills and expertise; the panellists for the evening discussion include the following:
v     Director General of The Islamic Cultural Centre: Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan
v     Chair of Panel: Mr. Hassan Mujtaba – London Tigers Community Development officer, London Tigers is an award winning registered charity that engages with disadvantaged communities across London and beyond with community cohesion projects.
v     Panellist: Hon Rehman Chisty MP, Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham.
v     Panellist:  Mr. Hashi Mohamed, Barrister with No5 Chambers, and special advisor to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
v     Panellist: Sheikh Shafi Chowdury, Imam and religious advisor for Her Majesty’s Prison Services.

Forum Proceedings
The event was opened by Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre. In his opening speech, Dr Al Dubayan addressed the audience and highlighted how the moral and teaching of Islam does promote democracy and stressed on the pertinence of this Forum in addressing the challenges and common misconceptions with democracy and provides the opportunity for detailed Q & A (Question and Answer) sessions with the panellists.

The ‘Islam and Democracy: Civic Responsibility’ event is a response to two local concerns expressed by some community members. The first is theological: specifically, a concern that Muslims cannot be both British and Muslim and that Muslims should not engage in mainstream British society, including democratic processes. The second is practical: even if individuals want to become more engaged in society and affect change it is not possible and there are no opportunities to do so. The event sought to challenge such narratives and to highlight the importance of democratic and civic engagement, from a theological and practical perspective, and the ways in which this can be achieved.

Panel Chairman Hassan Mujtaba explained the parameters of the discussion and how the discussion will be run and invited the speakers onto the stage to present their key points to the audience.

Rehman Chishti MP covered ‘How to affect change locally and nationally – ways to engage with society and the importance and benefits of democratic participation’.

Sheikh Chowdhury gave a Theological discussion regarding ‘the importance of participation in society and a deconstruction of arguments about non-engagement’.

Hashi Mohamed spoke about the ‘Importance of engagement with the democratic process at a local level – practical ways to do so’.

Speeches were preceded by half-an hour Q & A (Question and Answer) session with the audience and Dr Al Dubayan concluded by thanking all for their attendance and participation within the Forum and was delighted to see such engagement and enthusiasm during the evening. Dr. Al Dubayan paid tribute to the Trustees of the Centre for their invaluable support in the activities of the Centre and thanked the UK Home Office for their collaboration in the Event and also thanked his colleagues in the Islamic Cultural Centre for their hard work and diligence in preparation of the event.

Forum Feedback and Data Analysis:
The participants of the event were asked a series of question in terms of how they felt towards the event with the first question that was answered being “Has this event improved your awareness of Islam and Civic Responsibility” and the results can be seen below:

Question “Has this event improved your awareness of Islam and Civic Responsibility”

It can be deduced from the results that attendees had their awareness of Islam and civic responsibilities improved overall throughout the event. Participants were then asked two comparative questions before and after the event:

Question: What were your feelings on your ability to engage with civic democratic processes Before and After the event:


How confident were you that you could influence positive local and societal change Before and After the event?

No Confidence

How did you feel about the event overall?

Evaluation & Recommendations from Results:
The Results displayed in the Data Analysis shows that overall an improvement from before the event to after the event in the following sectors:
o       Advocating for better understanding of Islam and Democracy 
o       Promoting The Civic Responsibilities of all in the Community
o       Creating awareness of civil rights of all communities in Britain
The results also indicate a high satisfaction rate in the participants’ attitude towards the event itself which help promote a positive atmosphere in the event itself.

General Comments and suggestions:
v     Most participants relayed to the Centre in the additional comments section that they much enjoyed the discussions and found it most informative.
v     It was also mentioned that the topics covered were highly relevant and important topics as they were current affairs facing the Muslim community was highlighted in the feedback.
v     Many people mentioned how they enjoyed appreciating the views of the speakers as each one came from a different professional background thus providing the forum with a wealth of knowledge and information.

Areas to improve on in future events:
v     Include perspectives of youth and ways in which youth can better connect and engage with the Muslim Community.
v     Include more women in events and promote initiatives to promote women and to inspire women in the community
v     Allocate timeframe and monitor length of speeches to better allow for the flow of punctuality in the forum.