Muslims around the world are gathering for Friday prayers, and in one neighbourhood in the US state of Virginia, the worshippers will enter a building that could hardly be further from a traditional mosque.
At a time when religious differences are sparking conflict in the Middle East and beyond - it is cooperation between two faiths which is allowing this unique programme flourish.
The BBC's Katty Kay reports on how the Jewish community opened its doors because the area's mosques could not accommodate all of the growing Muslim population.
Judge attacks forced marriage that put disabled woman 'at riskâ€™
A judge has said the forced marriage of a Muslim woman with learning difficulties should be annulled and condemned the “insulated” families who arrange them. Mrs Justice Parker also criticised doctors and social workers for failing to raise the alarm when the woman was sent to Bangladesh to be married to a cousin, which allowed him to settle in England.
She said video of the wedding ceremony showed the bride (refered to as DD) was “almost comatose” and needed help to repeat vows she did not understand, while her relatives had made “false and misleading” statements about her condition.
And the judge brushed aside claims by the woman’s parents that having her marriage annulled would bring shame upon their family, in a case that was even considered at by the Government’s most senior lawyer, the Attorney General. . . the judge ruled that the woman’s foreign marriage should not be recognised as valid in England. She also declared it would be in the woman’s “best interests” for a nullity application to be issued.
“In my view it is the duty of a doctor or other health or social work professional who becomes aware that an incapacitated person may undergo a marriage abroad, to notify the learning disabilities team of Social Services and/or the Forced Marriage Unit if information comes to light that there are plans for an overseas marriage of a patient who has or may lack capacity.
“The communities where this is likely to happen also need to be told, loud and clear, that if a person, whether male or female, enters into a marriage when they do not have the capacity to understand what marriage is, its nature and duties, or its consequences, or to understand sexual relations, that that marriage may not be recognised, that sexual relations will constitute a criminal offence, and that the courts have the power to intervene.”
The judge said the council has “accepted its failures” while the woman’s GP had not raised concerns despite being asked on at least three occasions about “marriage and pregnancy”. He is probably a Muslim himself.
At a hearing in 2010 the judge ruled, “in the face of very strong resistance” from relatives, that DD lacked the capacity to marry or consent to sex and that it was unlawful for her husband to have intercourse with her. Although I suspect it was the UK spousal visa that was the biggest attraction.
Evidence was then considered as to whether or not the marriage should be annulled, leading to the latest ruling.
To London to join with March for England and those members of the Casuals and EDL who could get time off work to counter the annual Al Quds march through Ramadan. This has been widely advertised on London’s buses, much to our disgust.
The march started to form up behind the BBC building in Portland place. We could hear a rather hyper-active young man with a northern accent trying to fire up the gathering crowd.
Give me a T, give me an A what have you got - takfir…..!!!!
Jews from Neturei Karta arrived and at 4 pm the march moved off. These are a selection of photographs of the banners and the type of person who attended. Hijabed stewards handed out exactly the same flyers that I was given back in 2009 – Zainab is still wailing outside her olive grove.
There is a line in the Fiddler on the Roof song Matchmaker 'You bring the Bridegroom, slender and pale'. Not that slender and not that pale, please!
Marching past the BBC (above) and All Souls Church (below)
Being a dozy bint is not confined to the young women.
The march made its way slowly down Regent Street; we moved quickly to Grosvenor Square to see it form up outside the embassy.
There was a large police presence. There was a pen to the side of the embassy for March for England but they were told they were not compelled to stay in it but safety could not be guaranteed within the garden if any of the Al Quds marchers recognised them.
We believe that the robust challenge to this march in previous years (when it was held on a Saturday or Sunday) is the reason the organisers decided to change to a Friday (albeit that the third Friday of Ramadan was the day originally decreed by the Ayatollah Khomeni) when it would be difficult for working men and women to get time off.
The march formed up and speeches began with the assistance of a large screen for those at the back. It began with a recitation from the Koran and continued with a speech from Rabbi Jacob or Yaqub who was wearing a PLO scarf.
The hyper-active young man above aspires to be Freddie Mercury I fear.
Zionism has got to go – say eh oh, say eh oh.
It was less stadium rock and more Teletubbies.
The next speaker was Sister Saracena who declaimed one of her ‘poems’.
“They shoot my neighbours of the hell of it . . .
They say I am a terrorist because I wave my flag
I will wave my flag till all they can see
Is red, white, green and black, “
Some of the men of March for England made a formal complaint about the presence of the green and yellow Hezbullah flags with their picture of the AK47 rifle and promotion of violence. They asked the police to have them removed as this promotion of terrorism is offensive. I don’t know what the police said to the Al Quds organisers but the complaint did reach them. The gathering was told from the platform to ‘keep the flag up, enjoy it, it’s a beautiful flag, we love it, mwah, mwah, mwah (kissing noises and gesture)’
The next speech was from one of the Mullahs (or so I took him to be from his turban)
He said ‘Israel must be wiped off the map. Iran will not wipe Israel off the map. No country will wipe Israel off the map. Israel will wipe itself off the map.”
People were starting to drift away from the rally. Sneaky cigarettes and drinks from bottles of water were being taken behind posts. Mothers had been supervising their children playing by the fountain for some time. The usual suspects Yvonne Ridley and Lauren Booth were due to speak but I had not spotted them in the march past. Groups of youths were suddenly much in evidence and I decided we could live without hearing Ridley yet again. It seemed like a good time to leave.
Photographs by E Weatherwax, S Sto Helit and MfE
August 2012 London
In Tirba Spi, a small city 30 kilometers east of the Syrian Kurdistan capital of Kamishly in the Syrian Kurdish heartland, a rally of more than 10,000 Kurds showed up today with hand lettered posters in Arabic, Kurdish and English extolling the message of regional autonomy. One poster read:
We support Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria’s Call for forming Kurdistan Regional Government of Syria.
According to Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS) President Sherkoh Abbas, the posters’ messages in the city of Tirba Spi reflect the growing sentiments of the Syria’s Kurds for regional autonomy. That message has sent the Kurdish National Council (KNC) head Dr. Abdul Hakim Bashar scrambling to catch up with the Kurdish street. Bashar appeared in an interview on Al Arabiya TV today extolling the virtues of a federal Syria. KURDNAS appears to have captured a wave of popular support. Dr. Bashar was the head of a KNC delegation that came to Washington in May, to meet with US State Department officials, Ambassadors Robert Ford, Frederic Hof and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. The KNC is viewed as a Kurdish partner of the Syria National Council (SNC), a creation of the coalition of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Dr. Bashar takes his lead from President Massoud Barzani head of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. The KRG in fact pays Dr. Bashar a salary of $10,000 a month as head of the KNC. Bashar toes the line that Turkey is democratic and both Ankara and the KRG are working together on a solution for Syria’s Kurds. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu commenting in an August 9th Today’s Zaman article, suggested that Ankara might support Kurdish autonomy in Syria, subject to agreement with all of the parties, a herculean task at best. The US wants to keep the structure of the unified Syrian state and military intact believing that they learned lessons from the initial failures of the US occupation of Iraq. Problem is that any central government in Damascus is likely to be governed by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist elements drawn from the Syrian National Council and Free Syrian Army opposition.
Scheinmann presented the following arguments for a Federal Republic of Syria:
As planning for a post-Assad Syria accelerates, the Obama administration is signaling its desire to keep Syrian political and military institutions intact. However, America’s own, now lengthy and bloody, history of Middle East state building suggests that doing so may be costly, unwise, and at odds with the region’s natural proclivity. Rather than uphold the illusory political order installed by the century-old Sykes-Picot Agreement, the U.S. should encourage the creation of a federal Syrian republic with far greater autonomy for its component parts.
[. . .]
The Iraqi constitution, a document that enshrines federalism as well as recognition of the many, non-Arab Iraqi peoples (Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen), gives significant autonomy to Iraq’s 18 provinces as well as the three-province Kurdistan region, where the Kurdistan Regional Government has established a fully-functioning quasi-state, with its own parliamentary, diplomatic, and proto-military trappings
[. . .]
Rather than apply superglue to the widening cracks in Syria, as the U.S. tried to do in Lebanon and Iraq, Washington should encourage the establishment of a federal Syrian republic, enhancing the autonomy of its distinct, minority peoples, such as the Kurds and Alawites.
The problem of a unified Syria is that it needs central leadership in Damascus. Given the Sunni Arab majority in Syria, unfortunately the most likely source would be the Muslim Brotherhood Sunni leadership in the SNC and Free Syrian Army militia. That leadership would impose an Arab supremacist agenda inclusive of a Shariah compliant Constitution denying the minority rights of Kurds, Alawites, Druze, Christians and the secular Sunni merchant class.
That prospect was reflected in those posters carried by Kurds rallying in Tirba Spi calling for regional autonomy in North and Northeastern Syria, a reflection of the neighboring KRG in Iraq.
We understand that KURDNAS supporters will soon bring this message to a larger rally in the Kurdish regional capital in Kamishly. Moreover, a rally is in the planning stages to communicate this message to the worldwide media gathered at the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida on August 27th and 28th. Perhaps the presumptive Republican candidate, Governor George Romney and his Vice Presidential nominee, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, may take notice of this Kurdish quest for autonomy nearly six thousand miles from sectarian ravaged Syria.
Cornell Law Professor Takes SPLC HateWatch to Task
Jerry Kammer, Pulitzer-Prize winning jounalist and senior fellow at the Washington, DC -based Center for Immigration Studies sent a recent blog by William A Jacobson, Associate Professor of Clinical Practice at Cornell Law School, "SPLC's hatewatch gives cover to hate".
Here are excerpts from Jacobson post at his blog Legal Insurrection:
As long-time readers surely know, I have examined the pernicious methodology of the Southern Poverty Law Center in moving from fighting Klan and neo-Nazi groups to fighting for the Democratic Party agenda against conservatives and the Tea Party.
In seeking to justify its hefty salaries, budget and fundraising, SPLC made a very dangerous leap to treating political opponents as “hate groups” and speech it didn’t like as “hate speech.”
My first post about SPLC was when Mark Potok, head of SPLC’s Hatewatch project, smeared a prominent black female law professor at Vanderbilt as an “apologist for white supremacists,” based upon a complete misreading of her review of a movie involving racially inflammatory rhetoric. It was a vicious attack, taken apart by James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal.
Since then I examined the SPLC’s tendency to exaggerate hate group statistics for fundraising purposes, including inventing hate groups in my home State of Rhode Island:
•The Klan In Rhode Island? SPLC Exaggerates Again
•Confirmed – SPLC Exaggerated About Klan In Rhode Island
When it came to the Tea Party, I wrote that SPLC Completed Its Descent Into Madness when it called a speech by Sarah Palin at the National Tea Party Convention in February 2010 one of the landmark events in the “Patriot Movement” (which SPLC defined as Tim McVeigh-type anti-government violent groups):
Whatever SPLC once was, it now is a bastion of political hackery which, by equating legitimate political opposition with criminal violence, is doing substantial damage to our national fabric.
It is time for people of conscience to speak out against SPLC’s tactics.
SPLC continued its agenda against the Tea Party and conservatives when it persisted in claiming that Jared Loughner was “right wing” long after it was clear that was not the case.
SPLC also moved on to the issue of marriage, and named several groups — including the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage — as hate groups, SPLC Demonizes Supporters of Traditional Marriage:
Time and again SPLC, through its Hatewatch division, seeks to shut down debate by applying the “hate group” or similar epithets to political opponents, and those political opponents almost always are conservative.
Being labeled a “hate group” by SPLC can be devastating, because most of the country is unaware of how politicized SPLC has become….
SPLC is at it again, with a list of 18, “anti-gay”groups, 13 of whom also will make SPLC’s upcoming ”hate group” list….
Most of these groups are unknown to me, although a couple are well-known Christian groups, such as American Family Association and Family Research Council (both of these entities will be on SPLC’s upcoming Hate Group list). I don’t defend or not defend these groups because I don’t know much about them, but based upon SPLC’s past performance, the burden should be on SPLC to make the case for including a group on a hate list.
[. . .]
SPLC gave cover to those who use the “hate speech’ and “hate group” labels to shut down political and religious speech, and now it has spiralled out of control
Z Street leader Confronts National Jewish Federation Executives Denying â€œZionism
On July 28th, we posted revelations by Z Street President Lori Lowenthal Marcus concerning the alleged disappearance of "Zionism" from the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) Global Planning documents. I sent the post to a fellow blogger here in Florida who typically republishes many of the articles. However, in this case, he checked out Marcus’ story with a local Federation executive whom we both admired, because his Federation was the only one that had its board approve and sign the pledge we created against Boycott, Divestment and Sanction programs espoused by pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel Jewish ‘progressives’. We were taken aback when the local Federation executive came back and told my friend that National Federation said the story was untrue. We forwarded the Florida Federation Executive’s comments to Marcus for her response.
Yesterday, Marcus published an article in Israel National News (INN), her journalistic experience in relentless trying to nail down the allegations, only to be accused of spreading false rumors by National Federation Silverman and staff. It is entitled, “The Zionist Girl Jewish Federations Love to Hate”. I sent the INN article to my blogger friend and the friendly Florida Federation director to query National in Manhattan. We’ll see what they come back with.
Here are excerpts from Marcus' exasperating and frustrating tale reflective of our own observations on why many Jewish Federations, with some exceptions, have distanced themselves from their Zionist roots.
The battle against Zionism continues today, only now it's being fought inside the gates of the world's biggest Jewish charity. It’s not as if the Jewish establishment actually opposes Zionism. But Israel’s detractors have been so successful that, to put it bluntly: the term Zionism doesn’t poll well. And if Zionism doesn’t poll well, and your goal is to raise money to support Jews and the Jewish Homeland, you’re left with quite a conundrum, indeed, a veritable hornet’s nest.
One former high-ranking leader of global Jewish philanthropy has claimed that the largest Jewish charity in the world succumbed to the polling/fundraising dilemma by rejecting the use of the term Zionism - because that term is “too controversial” - at a recent high level meeting. When this reporter tried to investigate the truth, she unwittingly became, like the title of a popular book, the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
My news article about the Jewish Federations of North America alleged decision to avoid the use of the word Zionism in a major planning document unleashed a firestorm response by JFNA leadership so relentless, one-sided and shrill that their behavior, rather than the underlying original story, must now be laid bare.
On July 27, 2012, my article ran in The Jewish Press.
In writing the story, I did what reporters are supposed to do. First I researched and then interviewed the person making the claim. I then reached out to JFNA people who were at that meeting, and/or who are major players within the JFNA world. I reached out to them for hours, across several states, time zones and levels of leadership, in attempts to include in my story the JFNA response. I was explicit about who I was and what I was making contact about.
I contacted New York City UJA-Federation Chair John Ruskay, his press contact person Jane E. Rubinstein; president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland Steve Hoffman; JFNA’s senior vice president for Global Planning, Joanne Moore; JFNA Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington, D.C. JFNA office, William Daroff; and JFNA spokesman Joe Berkofsky. I was stonewalled at every turn: I got literally nothing of substance back.
After receiving repeated deadline extensions from my editor in Israel - as a daily reporter I am expected to submit a news story every day - I then engaged in a final, harried hour-long Direct Message Tweet exchange in which I implored Daroff to help me find someone from JFNA to comment on my story. I told him who I had already contacted, and explained, “I’d hate to run the story without your input.” Ultimately, after receiving an auto reply from the only person he finally suggested I contact whom I hadn’t yet, Joe Berkofsky, I sent my last message to Daroff: “Joe is out of the office until Aug. 6th. I’ll have to file it without a comment from any Federations folks. Too bad.” I got nothing back from that message either.
The article informed my readers --twice -- that JFNA officials involved in the decision had been contacted but had not responded. The article also pointed out that the alleged decision to remove the term “Zionism” was not, according to Wexler, a final decision and was one made only at a planning meeting, about a document that had not been finalized.
And then it really hit the fan.
What should have been a minor story about a credible critic’s claim that JFNA leadership had rejected the term Zionism as “too controversial,” followed by a JFNA response denying that that’s what happened, and making clear Federation’s Zionist credentials, disappeared in a barrage of personal and unfounded attacks on me.
[. . .]
I began receiving emails early the next morning, informing me that I would soon receive a JFNA statement to include in my (already completed and online!) article. Several hours later I was emailed a statement that did not in any way address the actual question I had raised with any of the half dozen JFNA leaders the day before, nor Wexler's claims in my article.
The JFNA statement did not deny that the term Zionism had been removed from a Federation planning document because it was “too controversial.” JFNA ignored that factual claim -- which was the sole point of my article. Instead, JFNA announced it was absurd to accuse them of abandoning Zionism - which I had not done - and then trumpeted its Zionist credentials. In their statement there is literally no reference to the factual claim to which Federation was supposed to be responding.
[ . . .]
Kathy Manning, Trustee Board Chair, and Jerry Silverman, President/CEO of JFNA, had sent out a mass email to all Federation executives, the subject line of which was “Urgent!” That email began: “On July 27, 2012, Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote accusing the Jewish Federations of North America of moving away from its support of Israel and Zionism." Of course, as anyone can see from reading the article I wrote, I had not done that at all. And I had tried repeatedly to get their rebuttal, which they refused to give. Some Federation executives merely forwarded the statement, some of them went further.
Eventually a JFNA statement was released that finally addressed, at least tangentially, the factual claim I had made. It presented a detailed, “official” version of what happened at the June Global Planning Table Committee meeting. This statement was also posted on The Jewish Press website.
[ . . .]
Silverman’s July 30th statement admitted that a choice had been made not to use the word Zionism in the document. In this version of the story the decision was simply made not to use, rather than to remove that word from, the document, but that decision was pooh-poohed as a mere matter of “wordsmithing.”
[. . .]
I and my article were labeled “scurrilous," "vituperative," "false," "evil," misleading,” and “lashon hara.” And in their latest statement, JFNA leadership used the most somber day in the Jewish calendar to reprimand me and to accuse me publicly of “sinat chinam”-- the baseless hatred of one Jew for another that, according to Jewish tradition, caused nothing less than the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for 2000 years. In Federation's narrative, I was presented as the one who needed to repent.
This “baseless hatred” statement not only went out to Federation executives, and was placed in the Comments section under my article on The Jewish Press website. It was also posted on the JFNA website, was sent out in Federation newsletters, and was emailed to thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Federation subscribers across the country. It showed up in the email boxes of people from Boston to Los Angeles, from Phoenix to Florida, from Detroit to Philadelphia, and many places in between. Federation officials also strong-armed people who had sent out the original article, telling them to atone for that sin by sending out their statement which, essentially, called me a liar.
[ . . .]
My editor joked that he wouldn’t be surprised to see me being used in JFNA fundraisers the way Rachel Maddow is used by Republican fundraisers and Sarah Palin by Democrats. He wrote: “I can see it now, a local Federation brochure: 'Lori Lowenthal Marcus wants you to hate Jewish Federations, but we won’t let her. Send your checks to the address below.'"
What I released when I inadvertently kicked that hornet’s nest is an ugly side of organized Jewish life. I am sure our true enemies - the ones who turned Zionism into a dirty word - are delighted.
So, like Marcus, I’m also waiting for a response from friends whom I value highly. I hope their response confirms what Marcus has conveyed in her published rebuttal of the leadership of the Jewish Federation of North America. Leadership who appear to have lost sight of what values their organizations represent. Problem is they are not accountable to the Jewish community from whom they solicit funds for support of worthy and unfortunately in all too many instances projects that defeat Zionism and criticize the Jewish State of Israel. Pity!