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

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Why wear a black headscarf to visit the Pope but not a hijab when visiting Saudi royalty?

At first glance it seems odd that Melania Trump (a Christian) and Ivanka Trump (converted to Judaism) would both wear black and also have black lace headscarves to visit the Catholic Pope in the Vatican Rome, but would a few days previously not wear any headscarves in Muslim Saudi Arabia. It might appear that they are going out of their way to be incredibly respectful to the religious beliefs of Catholicism and less so to Islam.

wearing black

But first appearances are not always completely what they seem. Female foreign dignitaries such as politicians or royalty are not required to cover their heads when they visit the Saudi Arabia- only Saudi nationals are. Meanwhile the Vatican (where the Pope lives) did speak of a dress protocol to Mrs Trump’s office at the White House, but no such requests had been made by Saudi Arabia. The Vatican website lays out some of the rules: modest dress, with your shoulders covered, for those attending a Papal Audience – especially if indoors. In fact women visiting sometimes wear deep lace mantillas to just a black veil. When the Queen went to see the Pope when as a young woman, she dressed up like the Spanish infanta, even though she is a Protestant Head of State.

Apparently Melania Trump, President Trump of the USA’s wife, asked the Pope to bless her rosary beads.

How_to_Pray_the_Rosary  praying-beads

 

Imagine you’re on a school trip and your Muslim teacher isn’t allowed to get on the flight because he’s Muslim

On 16th February Juhel Miah a teacher from a Welsh school was flying with students and other teachers to the USA via Iceland. Already one week earlier a court had upheld the decision to suspend President Trump from the US’s executive order temporarily banning the travel from seven mostly Muslim countries. So why was Mr Miah, a British citizen with only a British passport removed from the flight in Iceland and not permitted to fly to the US? Was it simply because he is Muslim?

A spokesperson from the Maths teacher’s employer Port Talbot council said: “Juhel Miah was with a party from Llangatwg comprehensive who travelled initially to Iceland en route to New York last week. Mr Miah boarded the onward flight in Reykjavik on 16 February but was escorted from the aircraft by security personnel. Whilst the school trip proceeded as planned, Mr Miah’s removal from the flight left pupils and colleagues shocked and distressed.”

The spokesman continued: “We are appalled by the treatment of Mr Miah and are demanding an explanation. The matter has also been raised with our local MP.”

United Nations Keeps Cropping Up

In Religious Studies lessons about war and conflict whether it be in the Autumn term of Year 9 or the Autumn term of Year 10 at GCSE level we delve in to the organisation: The United Nations. We look at why it was created and what it does to promote world peace.

In recent days and I imagine in the weeks and months to come this organisation will appear increasingly in the news, or it certainly needs to. It will respond to world events concerning refugees and discrimination against Muslims, because that was what it was designed to do.

Today news reports say that the German Chancellor (Germany’s equivalent of Prime Minister) had to explain to the US President Donald Trump what the UN Geneva Refugee Convention means. Since 1951 the Refugee Convention has defined exactly what a refugee is and agreed that refugees should never be sent back to place where they face serious threats to the life and freedom. The UNHCFR, United Nations Refugee Agency, has some interested stories to tell of how British people have welcomed refugees. Sir Mo Farah the Olympic long distance runner who was a refugee from Somalia and settled in Britain as a child, has spoken out against the US President’s actions in recent days where certain nationalities (people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) have been banned from travelling to the US for 90 days, all of them Muslim majority countries.

A spokesperson for Angela Merkel said:  “The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries. 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.”

united-nations-flag

 

 

Does the new US President believe in Climate Change?

Evidence 1: U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website.

Evidence 2: Trump’s nominee for for Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt accepted more than $250,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry over the course of four campaigns for attorney general, lieutenant governor and state senator. In a joint op-ed in the National Review, Pruitt wrote that the debate on climate change is “far from settled”, adding: “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

Evidence 3: In 2012 Trump dismissed climate change as a hoax cooked up by the Chinese

Evidence 4: In May 2016 Trump said he would “cancel” the Paris climate change agreement, though in November 2016 he said he now had an “open mind” about the accord.

Evidence 5: President Trump has signed executive orders to allow two controversial oil pipelines to be built in the US which tie the country to years more dependence on fossil fuels and all the environmental damage the construction of the pipelines will bring.

Below is a diagram showing the link between greenhouse gases and climate change:

greenhouse-effect-09-2014

The best short video I’ve seen on the changes in the earth’s atmosphere is from a retro BBC Bitesize Science video lasting about 12 minutes.

Trump’s disinterest in the frightening consequences of global warming is in stark contrast to Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic church, who has called for urgent action to stop climate change.  Francis described man’s destruction of the environment as a sin and accused mankind of turning the planet into a “polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation and filth”. “Global warming continues,” the pope said. “2015 was the warmest year on record, and 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events. Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact. ”

drought-and-death-climate-change pope-francis