United Kingdom

A Canadian author will become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation through Friday prayers tomorrow in a highly controversial move that will attempt to spark a debate about the role of female leadership within Islam. Raheel Raza, a rights activist and Toronto-based author, has been asked to lead prayers and deliver the khutbah at a small prayer session in Oxford. She has been invited by Dr Taj Hargey, a self-described imam who preaches an ultra-liberal interpretation of Islam which includes, among other things, that men and women should be allowed to pray together and that female imams should lead mixed congregations in prayer.

‘STOP COVERING UP OR WE START CLEANING UP’: 28th May 2010 is the 49th anniversary of Peter Benenson’s launch of Amnesty International. But as the organization begins planning celebrations, Gita Sahgal asks whether Amnesty International’s leaders have lost their grip on reality. Do sections of the human rights movement lend their credibility to protecting Islamists rather than protecting their rights?

Newly elected Conservative MP Michelle Donelan appears in this Channel 4 news video with Lesley Abdela debating the issue of women in politics. Watch and cringe - she is, of course, against quotas. We need quality, not quantity, she cries. 

UK Feminista's states that its mission is to get as many people as possible actively campaigning for a world where women and men live as equals. In the UK alone, 100,000 women are raped every year, women are paid 23% less than men, and just 22% of MPs are women. For too long, the myth has persisted that we live in a 'post-feminist' age - and the struggle for gender equality assumed to be over. But the times they are a-changin'. Feminism is stepping out from the margins and reclaiming its position as one of the most important movements for social justice of our age.

Sun, Sea and Halal is a project initiated by 'Islamic Circles' "to encourage Muslims to enjoy an Islamic Beach holiday around the Muslim world.... Away from the alcoholic resorts, located in the Mediterranean seaside city of Alanya, Turkey... enjoy a Golden beach holiday with all the activities but within an Islamic environment." Based in the UK, it states its Aims and Objectives as "Enjoying and relaxing in an Islamic Beach holiday without compromising your values.". On their website they state that "Sisters are permitted to travel and the Tour Lead will act as the Amir... Sisters who are travelling are advised to request permission from their Mahrams and if possible travel with them."

Gita Sahgal had to leave Amnesty International last week after questioning its association with a former detainee of Guantanamo Bay. Now, in an exclusive article for DNA, Sahgal asks human rights groups to introspect about the dangers of legitimising a violent ideology in their eagerness to find poster boys for their campaigns.

I, Kiana Firouz, an Iranian Lesbian, born in 1983 in Tehran/Iran, have sought asylum in the U.K but my application was turned down by the Home Office, despite accepting the fact that I am a lesbian. I accordingly submitted my appeal which was dismissed incredibly by the adjudicator. According to my solicitor’s point of view there is a little chance to grant a permission to appeal against the adjudicator’s decision. It means that I will face with deportation soon.

Below follow two statements on the departure of the Head of the Gender Unit from Amnesty International following her making public her concerns regarding Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee, now running an organisation called Cageprisoners which has championed the views of Anwar al Awlaki. Update to United Kingdom: WLUML Statement in Support of Gita Sahgal

Le Réseau international de solidarité Femmes sous lois musulmanes (WLUML), exprime sa solidarité à Gita Sahgal, une alliée de longue date, active dans diverses organisations, collectifs et mouvements engagés dans le combat pour le respect des droits humains universels. WLUML a appris qu'elle a, à maintes reprises, demandé des explications sur l’association d’Amnesty International à l'organisation "Cageprisoners", dirigée par Moazzam Begg, autour de la campagne judiciaire du Contre-Terrorisme. Le 07 février 2010, Sahgal était suspendue de sa fonction de Chef de la Division Genre d'Amnesty International. Vous pouvez agir en signant la Pétition globale en soutien à Gita Sahgal qui compte maintenant plus de 1800 signatures.

On Friday 9th April, 2010 Amnesty International announced Gita Sahgal's departure from Amnesty International. You can read her statement in full here. On 29 March 2010, the initiators of “The Global Petition: Restoring The Integrity of Human Rights” responded to Amnesty International's letter in which Claudio Cordone, Interim Secretary General of Amnesty International (AI), stated "Moazzam Begg and others in his group Cageprisoners also hold other views which they have clearly stated, for example on whether one should talk to the Taleban or on the role of jihad in self-defence. Are such views antithetical to human rights? Our answer is no, even if we may disagree with them...". Reiterating the imperative today for the public accountability of an organization such as Amnesty International, the initiators of the Global Petition set out why they believe that AI's attitude to defensive jihad raises very serious concerns: "The call for ‘defensive jihad’ is a thread running through many fundamentalist and specifically ‘salafi-jihadi’ texts. It is mentioned by Abdullah Azzam, mentor of Osama bin Laden, and founder of Lashkar e Tayyaba. It is the argument of ‘defensive jihad’ that the Taleban uses to legitimise its anti human rights actions such as the beheading of dissidents, including members of minority communities, and the public lashing of women...

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