Parliament is more Diverse

While a lot of talk after Britain’s General Election last week has been on the Conservatives special friendship with the DUP, or the Labour Party making big increases in the number of MPs they have in Parliament, there has also been some quiet appreciation of how diverse Parliament is finally becoming.

  • 45 out of the 650 MPs openly define themselves as being LGBT
  • In 2015 there were 41 MPs from ethnic minorities and now there are 52
  • In 2015 there were 191 female MPs and now there are 208 women MPs who’ll sit in the House of Commons
  • There are no specific figures on MPs with disability
  • In 2015 only 43% of MPs were educated in the comprehensive system (i.e. not private and not selective) but that has increased in 2017 to 51% (this is compared to 88% of the UK population who received comprehensive education!)
  • Notable firsts are the first female Sikh MP, a blind MP and an MP with a richly diverse international heritage

 

Why we need to know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims for a GCSE

A few weeks back you heard the President of the USA criticise Iran for supporting terrorism, whilst he was standing in Saudi Arabia.

Then this week after a terrorist attack carried out by Islamic State killed 17 innocent civilians in Iran, President Trump’s sent both his condolences: “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” and these additional comments: “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” You can imagine how Iran felt about this latter comment.

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted: “Repugnant WH (White House) statement … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.”

This is where what we learn in GCSE Religious Studies comes in handy in making sense of all this. It is so important that when you read about world politics you are aware of the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam.  The Sunni jihadis of Isis (Islamic State) consider Shia Iran to be apostates (a defection or revolt against the true Islam), and Iran is deeply involved in fighting the group in both Syria and Iraq. To make things trickier for Iran they have a sizeable Sunni population along their restive borders with Iraq and Pakistan, and it is from here that Isis is hoping to recruit. Understanding the Syrian Civil War also needs you to know about Sunni and Shia Muslims, as Newsround tried to explain.

sunni and shia

Update on Humanist Wedding Win in High Court

Here is an update on a story we wrote about a few weeks ago, where a footballer and his model fiance had gone to the Belfast High Court in an effort to get their Humanist Wedding seen as legal without also having to do a registry office wedding.

Eunan O’Kane and Laura Lacole had told the court they wanted a ceremony that reflected their beliefs, but the only legal options available to them were a religious or civil service. And they won!

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Laura said, “Our humanist ceremony will speak to our values and the love Eunan and I have for each other in a way no other marriage ceremony could. We’re thrilled that our action has extended the same choice to thousands of other couples.” Unfortunately though, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General is now going to appeal the verdict, so Euanan and Laura can’t completely celebrate yet.

what is humanism

 

Ramadan – a time of fasting as well as devotion through prayer and giving to the needy

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar and one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan, when Muslims over the age of puberty fast during daylight hours, is a time for people of the Islamic faith to show gratitude to Allah, devote time to prayer, ask Allah for forgiveness and read the Qur’an as well as help those people in needy.

If you don’t know much about Ramadan perhaps you should start with the absolute basics on PBS; moving on to the Daily Telegraph’s summary of Ramadan (though strangely they have extra information about the Eid Ul Adha festival which is after Hajj rather than Eid Ul Fitr which is after Ramadan); and then perhaps ending with the iWonder review of Ramadan from 2016 or the BBC schools page.

I really like this highway code from Australia about Ramadan:

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Dhikr is saying Allah’s divine names, verses from the Qur’an, or sayings of the Prophet in order to glorify Allah.

Duda is calling out and conversing with God, so in everyday English we might say it is prayer.

Today an Imam from London travelled to London Bridge and Borough Market where the terrorist attack had taken place on Saturday evening to “show solidarity” to Londoners who suffered and lost their lives in the attack. Imam Abdul Arif, 27, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said “I’m a Londoner, I came here because it happened to my home city and it happened in the name of my religion. I came to show solidarity and to show it’s not in my name.” He was breaking fast and finishing his evening prayer as part of Ramadan when he heard the news of the attack.

“Ramadan is a time when you should be worshiping and serving humanity more than ever and these people perpetrated such a crime. My hope is that everybody is united and show the individuals who want to divide us they won’t be successful.”

2,000 Food Banks in UK giving out food parcels

New research by the Independent Food Aid Network has supported what the Trussell Trust (the biggest food bank network in the UK) has been saying: food banks are having to give support to more and more people in the UK and the needs have been increasing over the last nine years. Professor Jon May and chair of Ifan announced: “There are now food banks in almost every community, from the East End of London to the Cotswolds. The spread of food banks maps growing problems of poverty across the UK, but also the growing drive among many thousands of people across the country to try and do something about those problems”.

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The reasons why people are having to turn to Food Banks to provide their food are varied:

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The Ifan survey revealed a wide variety of food-banks with some faith-based, others non-religious; some with strict rules on the amount of food given to individual clients, others with open-ended commitments to families in need; some requiring clients to have a voucher validated by outside agencies, others operating a self-referral system.

British government have repeatedly played down the rise of food banks, rejecting growing evidence that financial pressures on families caused by welfare cuts, benefit delays and low income have pushed a demand for emergency food. Recently, the prime minister, Theresa May, attempted to brush off claims that nurses had been forced to use food banks by saying there were “many complex reasons” why people use them. The graph above showed that there are different reasons why people use them but basically families in 2017 Britain are starving and need emergency food to survive.

Food bank investigation by the Sunday Mirror

The Trussell Trust is a 400 strong network of food banks in the UK and a case study in our GCSE Religious Studies.

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It is a charity founded on Christian principles. They work with people of all faiths and none (just like Christian Aid), and are inspired by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 35 – 36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Students will recognise this as coming from the Parable of the Sheep and Goats which we learn in our studies of evil and suffering, as well as Christian beliefs and teachings. In the parable Jesus returns to reward all those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, and cared for the sick, teaching Christians to care for those who are suffering. Jesus’ message here is that by ignoring a sick or hungry person, a Christian would be ignoring Jesus himself.

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The Trussell Trust’s vision is to end hunger and poverty in the UK and their mission is to bring communities together to end hunger and poverty in the UK by providing compassionate, practical help with dignity whilst challenging injustice.

Pogba performs Umrah in Makkah to say ‘thank you’

Paul Pogba the French footballer who plays for Manchester United posted the following photo to his 15 million Instagram followers with the caption: “Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life 🕋🙏🏾

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He is wearing the ihram – a simple set of clothing consisting of two un-stitched sheets, with the Ka’bah behind him. The Ihram demonstrates that we are all equal before God no matter how rich or famous one may be.

Pogba also sent a tweet wishing everyone a “happy Ramadan”.  Out in Makkah he is attending Umrah, a non-compulsary Muslim pilgrimage. During Umrah, pilgrims do not go to Mina, Arafaat and Muzdalifah or throw pebbles on the Jamrahs (stone pillars representing devils) or offer animal sacrifice which we would know from Hajj. These rites are only performed during Hajj. Pogba is reported to have visited Makkah at least once before, when he performed the Hajj, a journey every healthy adult Muslim who can afford it is supposed to make at least once in their lives. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam:

five pillarsThe 24-year-old became the most expensive footballer in history last summer, after Manchester United paid Juventus a reported £89m fee. Last Wednesday, he lifted the Europa League cup after Manchester United beat Ajax in the final in Stockholm. Here he is on the right with his team-mate Fellaini a Belgian international.

pogba

It is no surprise that Pogba was in awe of the Ka’bah behind him.

The Ka’bah is a huge black stone structure that sits at the heart of the Grand Mosque, Islam’s most sacred place of worship. When Muslims pray as part of Salat they face the Ka’bah from wherever they are in the world. Some of its parts are connected to important episodes in Islamic tradition. On the eastern corner of the Ka’bah, to the left of the door, is the Black Stone, which according to Muslim tradition fell from heaven at the time of Adam and Eve. During Hajj pilgrims try to kiss the stone, emulating the kiss the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have placed on it.

kabah

The cube-shaped structure is roughly 15 metres high, and it is about 10 by 14 metres at its base. Constructed of gray stone and marble, it is oriented so that its corners roughly correspond to the points of the compass. The interior contains nothing but the three pillars supporting the roof and a number of suspended silver and gold lamps.The Ka’bah is covered with the Kiswa which is a black brocade cloth. The Muslim declaration of faith, as well as Qu’ranic verses, are embroidered on it. A new Kiswa is made every year.

Footballer tries to get a Humanist wedding which is legal without a civil ceremony

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Laura Lacole, a model, is marrying the Leeds United and Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan O’Kane in Northern Ireland next month. The couple, both humanists, want a ceremony that reflects their beliefs, but the only legal options available to them are a religious or civil service. They have taken the case to the courts because they say it is discrimination under European laws protecting freedom of belief that as Humanists they’ve got to have a civil ceremony to make their humanist wedding legal. It is quite a big news story in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and a landmark case for Humanists wanting to get married there.

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To learn more about Humanism you can check out the Humanists UK website, as well their YouTube channel.

Badge - Good Without God