Sunday, October 09, 2016

UK: Islamic hate preacher who called for gay men to be beheaded is teaching children as young as six at a school in London

A hate preacher who has called for gay people to be beheaded or burned to death should be removed from the UK, the Home Secretary has been told.

Shaykh Hamza Sodagar is in London this week to deliver a series of lectures at the Islamic Republic of Iran School, which is run by the Iranian government.

The American-born radical, who describes himself as a 'role model for young Muslims all around the world', has previously posted a video listing five ways in which gay people should be killed.

The footage, from 2010, shows him saying: 'If there’s homosexual men, the punishment is one of five things.

'One - the easiest one maybe - chop their head off, that’s the easiest.

'Second - burn them to death.

'Third - throw ‘em off a cliff. Fourth - tear down a wall on them so they die under that.

'Fifth - a combination of the above.'

Sheikh Hamza Sodagar was born in Kentucky, and was raised in Maryland until his family moved to Iran. He is a scholar who currently lives in Iran, where he has spent the past 16 years pursuing Islamic studies.

He has previously described Americans and Europeans as 'kuffar' - and says they are puppets of Jewish lobby groups, describing Israel as a 'cancerous tumour'. He gives regular lectures around the world, and teaches students from the west.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called on the Home Secretary to revoke the preacher's visa. He said: 'In a free society, Hamza Sodagar has a right to believe that homosexuality is sinful but not to preach about ways to kill lesbians and gay men. 'Many people with far less extreme views, who have never advocated violence, have been banned from entering the UK.

'Calling for death to LGBT people crosses a red line. The Home Office was wrong to grant him a visa and should now revoke it.  'The cleric should be ordered out of the country.'

The Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases, but a spokesman told the Mail Online: 'An individual can be excluded on the grounds that their presence is "not conducive to the public good" if it is reasonable, consistent and proportionate based on the evidence available.'

The series of lectures is organised by the Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission - a nonprofit British group which says it was founded by a group of Muslim activists and thinkers.

A statement from the group defended the cleric, saying claims that he advocated beheading gay people was 'laughable and absurd'.

It said: 'In remarks made in 2010, as part of a series of lectures delivered on mercy, love and hatred in Islam through a commentary of a supplication from the Islamic tradition, Shaykh Hamza explained the position of Islam on homosexuality, and that it is not compatible with Islam.

'This is a clear and undeniable position that is upheld by Islam as found in Islamic scripture and tradition.

'In this regard, it must be understood, as was mentioned in the very same lecture series, that Islamic penal code cannot be administered outside the framework of law-enforcement and legal process within a legitimate government.

'De-contextualised excerpts of this series, were used by right-wing media to suggest that Shaykh Hamza was calling for ‘the beheading and burning of homosexuals’. This is untrue and a mischievous and malicious accusation to make.

The Islamic Republic of Iran School is an Iranian government-run small independent mixed Muslim school teaching pupils aged six to 17 in Maida Vale.

Iran has the death penalty for homosexuality.

The school opened in 2001 and follows the Iranian National Curriculum teaching in Farsi.

It seeks to help pupils achieve an understanding of their Muslim faith and culture, as well as Arabic and the Qur’an, which was rated as 'adequate' by Ofsted at the last inspection in 2013.

When the lectures were announced, the mission wrote: 'The Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission (AIM) is proud to announce that it has confirmed Shaykh Hamza Sodagar to speak for the 10 nights of Muharram in October 2016.

'The program is a joint effort from AIM, the Islamic Centre of England and the Lebanese Youth Foundation, and will be held nightly at the Iranian School on Carlton Vale in London.'


UK: Students, fight for your right to offend

Now the campus bores are in a flap over white t-shirt socials

Barely a week into the new academic year and the first student ban has already reared its ugly head. Exeter University’s Athletic Union has banned sports groups from holding white t-shirt socials, where students write and doodle on each other’s t-shirts as a way of breaking the ice and having a laugh. Why? Because a couple of students were photographed with offensive scribbles on their t-shirts during the snowsports club freshers’ event. One said ‘The Holocaust was a good time’; the other, ‘Don’t talk to me unless you are white’.

You are most likely thinking: well, it’s very distasteful and offensive to have written those things. But isn’t that the point of a white t-shirt social – to be offensive? At white t-shirt socials you don’t write ‘Bill, you are a lovely chap and I hope you have a nice night’. No, you draw genitalia and write offensive jokes to drop Bill in it. If you have been on a white t-shirt social and have not written something that could land you on the front page of the Guardian, then you’re either a liar or you’re doing it wrong.

Now that Exeter’s Athletic Union has taken it upon itself to ban the socials, will other universities follow suit? Now, when societies hold these kinds of events, students who should be able to let go, get drunk and relax with their new mates are going to find themselves walking on eggshells.

This isn’t the first time students have been censored for offensive clothing. At Aberystwyth University, the cricket society was banned because one member wore a shirt with his nickname, ‘casual rape’, written on the back. This censorship needs to stop. Students must be allowed to make mistakes, and, yes, be offensive.

In a similar vein to the popular-with-students card-game ‘Cards Against Humanity’ – in which Holocaust jokes are part of the game – the whole point of a white t-shirt social is to be offensive. Those who enjoy a hand of ‘Cards Against Humanity’, yet are furious about the behaviour at white t-shirt socials, are simply hypocrites. You don’t see unions slapping students down for playing that offensive game, so why punish those who take part in socials where the aim is to have fun through being offensive?

White t-shirt socials during freshers’ week are a chance to mock your new mates with distasteful banter. Do you actually believe your new geography-course friend is a sex offender? Of course you don’t. Do you believe the Holocaust was a joke? No, you don’t. Do you believe only white people should talk to you? Of course you don’t. The intent was obviously not to be abusive but to have a joke. Let’s stop punishing freshers for being freshers.


Trouble brewing for childcare in Australia
Just as the Education Minister has disabled the landmine that was Labor's troubled VET fee help scheme, he's having to deal with the news of rorting on a massive scale in family day care (FDC).

Now, I confess that a bit of a mea culpa is in order. Whenever a government says they can find budget savings (usually to offset larger spending) through cracking down on rort and fraud, my usual response is 'yeah, right!' In this case I was utterly wrong, as this reporting on a Canberra man charged with ripping upwards of a million dollars off the taxpayer shows.

It's too perfect. Labor in government almost immediately got set to work on this brand spanking new set of regulations, the National Quality Framework, to bring state-regulated childcare systems under one federal jurisdiction (when has that ever ended badly). And in the process of micromanaging every experience that children might have in care they forgot something pretty crucial -- making sure that subsidies are being paid for kids who are actually being cared for.

State governments are now blaming the federal government for not giving them enough money to handle compliance and accreditation. This is despite the Commonwealth already carrying the can for the increased costs of all this quality regulating, and funding ACECQA  -- the body in charge of the quality rating process.

The laws governing the NQF are codified at the state level, with each state and territory having its own separate Act that legislates broadly the same thing. But if the Minister wants to change it, he'll have to get them all to agree. Which, given the trajectory of other negotiations at the COAG level, is not going to be a painless exercise for him.

Furthermore, it spells trouble for the government's landmark childcare reforms which, in an effort to reduce the administrative costs, want to provide subsidies to providers rather than parents -- even though this is exactly the type of provision that has been taken advantage of.

So can the indefatigable Birmo [Senator Birmingham] fix it? As much as I think it is sad for governments to blame their policy problems on governments three years gone, in this case it's definitely a tough one for the poor Minister. Good luck to him.


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