Rotterdam: Fight over cremation

Muslims in the Netherlands have been fighting in order to enable them to be buried properly according to Islamic law. But what if a person who comes from a Muslim family decides not to be buried properly?

Police agent Habiba Yaakoubi died two weeks ago at the age of 34, apparently from a brain hemorrhage. Since then, her body has been in dispute.

Yaakubi, a senior police officer in Rotterdam, had specified in her will that she wants to be cremated. Her mother, saying that her daughter would spend eternity in hell if the cremation goes through, turned to court to get an injuction not to comply with her daughter's wish. The court rejected the petition. The judicial decision had caused emotional reactions from some of the women's relatives.

Ibrahim Spalburg, of an umbrella association of Muslim organizations in Rijnmod explains that being buried correctly is important for Muslims. "The body comes from the earth and must be returned to the earth. that's why all over the world there's barely a Muslim who will have themselves cremated.

There were several hundred participants, when at the last moment it was announced that the cremation will not take place. A police spokesperson said there had been nothing pointing to a criminal offense.

It seems that due to the family's insistence, the court wants to take a closer look at the cause of death. According to the Public Prosecution new information had come in and that they wouldn't have rushed to do an autopsy.

Her boyfriend, Denise, whom she had met when they were both volunteering as "Desert Cops" says: "You don't wish this on your worst enemy. You want to conclude a difficult period. The announcement at the cremation was a surprise for me as well".

The family cannot believe that she had signed a declaration saying she wants to be cremated. According to the family the signature on the funeral center form is not hers.

The family's lawyer says there are enough reason for an autopsy since the death was completely unexpected and only an external examination was done to check for cause of death.

Abraham Wijbenga, president of the Muslim burial society says that there was no sense in appealing the result of the injunction, considering the date of the cremation and that he had been in contact with the family about what other possible approaches there were.

The family claims that the woman wanted to be buried in the Netherlands. Also though she upheld a Western lifestyle she had made overtures to her family. "Although she had nothing more to do with the faith as such, she carried Islam deep in her heart" is the way the injunction decision cites the family's opinion.

Her friend Dennis is resolute over Yaakubi: "She was good looking. She ate everything, smoked, dressed regularly. Not particularly a Muslim. Just look at the photos from the trip to Africa where we got to know each other. We drove also through her land, which she thought was very beautiful. She wasn't veiled and didn't wear a head covering.

"That she's a Muslim and therefore didn't want to be cremated doesn't seem right to me. I hadn't seen that form from the funeral center. But she did joke about being cremated. That she would prefer being burned because she always had cold feet. Typical for her. And she also didn't say grace before eating."

He confirms that she was brought up by Dutch people due to circumstances. "I know that the contact with the Moroccan family wasn't so good. She did have respect for her own parent. She had never said anything bad about them."

Dennis can't imagine that Habiba was a practicing Muslim in another sense: "Because why would she go out with me? I believe nothing."

He says the two were planning to buy a house together. They had spent a lot of time together, where sometime he brought his two daughter and she would bring her 8-year old son.

In the meantime the court had decided to allow her body to be buried, until an inquiry can be done into her will. Her next of kin can ask for her to be cremated after May 1st, assuming
it turns out her will had not been forged.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Cemetery turned, Netherlands: Promote freedom of religion

Bergen: Muslims shouldn't pray in main square

United Nations soldiers in Somalia and Lebanon fought with pig's feet?

Norwegian anti-immigration politicians in Bergen have promised to chase off Muslims with pigs feet and squealing noises if Bergen's central square is used for prayers.

The leader of the Demokratene, an extreme populist party formed by outcasts of the populist Progress Party, Vidar Kleppe, said Wednesday that he backed the remarks of city council representative Kenneth Rasmussen.

Rasmussen reacted with threats of porcine tactics after Labour Party politician Jerad Abdelmajid said that the city's Muslims could take their Friday prayers in Torgallmenningen, Bergen's central square, when they will be without a mosque from March 31. Building of a new mosque is behind schedule.

Abdelmajid's announcement provoked heated public debate.

"I completely agree with Kenneth Rasmussen that Muslims having their Friday prayers with their butts in the air in the city center is no solution. They can find other places," Kleppe told news agency NTB.

Kenneth Rasmussen told newspaper Dagbladet's web site that Bergen residents should hang up pig's feet and play pig squeals over loudspeakers to scare off Muslims, and claimed these tactics worked when he was a soldier for the United Nations in Somalia and Lebanon in the 1990s.

Kleppe was willing to admit that this was provocative, but that it was correct of his party colleague to propose vigorous solutions.

"It is healthy with lively debates... his main point is surely that Bergen's residents do not appreciate Friday prayers in the city's main square," Kleppe said.

"This will do more damage than good. A threat does not justify another threat, no matter who proposes it," entrepreneur Shahzad Rana told newspaper VG. "Here there have been provocations from both sides. Is it not possible for them to sit down and talk?" Rana asked.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Norway: Don't link between Islam and rape

Cabinet minister Bjarne Håkon Hanssen reacted to the suggestion that imams be asked to stop the rapes in Oslo saying "I have never appealed to Norwegian bishops when a Norwegian raped".

Hannsen met Monday afternoon with Muslim religious leaders to discuss marginalization and inclusion. To the suggestion that the immigrant community must contribute to preventing rapes Hannsen lifted a warning finger: "There is just as little connection between rapists, white Norwegians and Christianity as there is between Africans, Muslim and rapists"

"I'll be very careful when the main challenge goes to the imams, since that couples it to religion." he said.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

See also: Norway and Rapes: Ask imams to help


This relates to another story that had appeared in the news for the past few days: an employee (52) of the Church City Mission raped a Vietnamese asylum seeker (23) for two years, the attacks taking place in and around the organization's missions.

The man, who had quit the day the accusations come to light, was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail and to pay compensation to the victim.
Sturla Stålsett, head of the organization said they are shocked such a thing could take place by them and that they see it as a major breach of confidence against them as employers, as well.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian), Kikens Bymisjon (Norwegian)

Denmark: New integration test

Starting in May, foreigners will have to pass a citizenship test to earn a Danish passport and the right to vote in parliamentary elections

The Integration Ministry unveiled a test Tuesday that any foreigner will have to pass in order to be granted citizenship.

While the test is currently being evaluated at language schools, the ministry made its 200 questions and answers available on the internet so foreigners could bone up on the test before having to take it.

A quick scan of the test revealed a mix of questions in 11 areas ranging from the Danish royalty, local geography and the economy. When the test goes into use in May, applicants will have 60 minutes to answer 35 of the standard questions as well as five problems dealing with current events.

Applicants must correctly answer 28 questions to pass the test. And while they can re-take the test as many times as they wish, the test costs DKK 600 to take.

Reactions to the citizenship test have been mixed. A number of politicians and education experts have suggested it concentrates too much on obscure historical and political details that even full-blooded Danes might have difficulty answering correctly.

Several university students, for example, struggled to pass the test when Dato newspaper administered it to them.

One student, Patrick, only managed to answer 29 questions correctly and admitted he found the test difficult.

'I learned about a lot of the things it asks in school, but I've forgotten them again,' he said.

Another student, Natalia, felt the test concentrated too much on history.

'I would like to see more questions about current events. Whether people follow major issues up for debate says more about people's actual integration,' she said.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Temse: Veiled women kicked out of pool

Two immigrant women were kicked out of the Temse pool because they weren't wearing traditional bathing suits but rather leggings, t-shirt and a veil.

In the East-Flemish town of Temse 13% of the population is of foreign origin, and they had yet to grapple with the question is veiled women can take a dip in the public swimming pool. According to the municipal sports official Erik Vermeulen that's simply because they have never been confronted with such a situation before.

On Wed. Feb. 7th "Two young women with a veil, a long t-shirt and leggings coming under their knees came for an instructional swim for children. On top of that, they kept everybody out of their vicinity, also and especially the male lifeguards."

The three week old incident, that just now made the news, happened during the women's hour.

The women were in the end kicked out of the pool. "The reason being not only the veils but the entire outfit" says Erik Vermeulen.

Swimming veiled is not explicitly forbidden in the house rules of the pool. The Temse alderman of Sport, Marc Cordeel, adds that the rules are open for interpretation. "Last summer, for example, we had kids - immigrant as well as ethnic - that kept their boxer shorts under their swimming trunks. We took actions against that too, even though such a ban was not specifically described in the regulations.

Researcher Meyrem Almaci, who specializes in ethnic diversity at the Free University of Brussels, says security is rather a reason to keep out veils and loose clothing from swimming pools. "I can imagine that such a veil or a piece of clothing gets tangled in a filtering system. There are known cases where the victim had drowned by it." says Almaci.

According to her, the rejected pool goers can't quote "religious objections" because the incident took place during the women's hour. "There are no unknown men in the area and they can show themselves in a swimming suit and without a veil".

In Australia a Lebanese-Australian came up with the Burkini - a tight suit covering the entire body leaving the hand, feet and face clear.

In anticipation of the adapted house rules the pool personnel in Temse were instructed to send swimmers in "unfit outfits" back to the changing rooms.

Source: Nieuwsblad (Dutch)

Netherlands: Promote freedom of religion

Journalist Michiel Hegener is calling to promote freedom of religion in a special issue "Religion and basic law", a publication of the Ministry of Justice.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the constitution. Everybody can decide on his own which religion he will follow, and thus also which religion he won't. But, writes Hegener, "Hundred of thousands of Dutch are busy impeding the freedom of religion of others. They are not hindered by the government or politics. They are underrating the problem, or haven't even noticed it."

Hegener is alluding specifically to Muslims. He says that also in the Netherlands they mostly don't tolerate their fellow believers leaving the faith. "Skeptics don't dare express themselves even to their best friends, because they know the rules of Islam for apostasy: there's a death sentence for that". That conflicts the constitution, but according to Hegener there aren't any means to fight such religious coercion.

Hegener therefore calls for having freedom of religion take shape like the ban on discrimination, that also appears in the constitution. For example, commercials varying on the theme that "discrimination is not allowed", should also appear for freedom of religion. "Interfering with the freedom of religion and life outlook of others is not allowed".

Hegener: Have the government spread the idea, also in brochures in Turkish and Arabic.

For that matter, he writes, this message should be spread among atheists as well. "They can sometimes be surprising intolerant against skeptic fellow believers".

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Antwerp: Daring to tell the truth about radicalization

Marijke Uijt den bogaard, an "immigrant" of dutch origin worked for six years in Berchem, Antwerp, as a field worker for a municipal organization under supervision of the alderman of society construction, Chantal Pauwels. She was busy with building up society, positive imagery and dialog and had close contact with Berchemens of turkish or Moroccan origins.

She describes it as a success story, precisely because she did not approach the Berchemens according to their ideas, but as Antwerp residents, who were asked what they would do for a positive, diverse society.

"I played up the feeling of identification and saw the immigrant not as a sort of 'noble savage', but as a resident of the city with whom you better talk and can realize things. The many successful projects in dialog prove that that is so.

A musical evening was organized withe the Moroccan Rachid Kasmi in which many residents came. In that evening we were all Antwerp residents. The evening was closed with Bolero van Ravel, which was performed by musicians from Turkish, Moroccan and Flemish origin. A Turkish singer sang an old Hebrew song"

Uijt den bogaard was fired in the summer. The organization saw her as a problematic figure, and didn't like her reports about the situation by some of the Muslim community. In these reorts and during work meetings she warned of disturbing tendencies among Antwerp Muslims, and said there is a clear and structural radicalization.

[Esther: Three months ago Pauwels was quoted as saying that she was aware of signals of radicalization by specific Muslim groups in the city.]

Uijt den bogaard had received til then only excellent evaluations, and she fought her dismissal. she also received a "undesired behavior at work" citation by the municipal commission, which found that the administration didn't function as it should.

Uijt den bogaard says that by setting her aside and branding her reports as biased the city is ignoring this alarming evolution.

"Among some of the Muslim in Antwerp there's a group that says contact with non-Muslims is necessary only if you as a Muslim can make a profit out of it. They think that infidels aren't equal to Muslims. They are not interested in our society model of equality and conference."

"how much weight do they carry?"

"Their self assurance is rising and they are already better organized. They use modern means to reach the youth, with a website and possibilities to pose questions by internet. They give advice, but from a very strict method of Islam. For example, strict social separation between men and women is important to them. That's possible, but it leads to problems if you advise woman to demand a female doctor at the hospital. It's in conflict with the equality principle according to which our society is organized.

Another example is the social connection between Muslims and others. I once heard a youth ask if you as a Muslim can drink with a colleague after work. The answer was appalling: 'you go with non-Muslims only if you get benefit by it'. In a diverse society that must live together that is, with all respect, a radical standpoint.

In their ideology the Koran and Islam are above the law. You can see that they are serious with the manner in which they see Islam by the way the cultural center in Berchem wanted to organize an evening. People wanted to split the hall with curtains, women behind the curtain and separate from men. Luckily the center administration managed to sidelay their plan. There was an exhibition there. Photos that were indecent were turned around.

"Is their message accepted by the immigrants?"

According to the organization itself they have a few thousand members. What alarms me more is that this trend is carried through to some mosques. They follow the strategies of what happened in Rotterdam, with which the association, according to them, had cooperation. In Rotterdam and The Hague the activities of these organizations draw attention because of their radical ideas.

The standpoint of Vlaams Belang gets enormous attention,and people even call the voters dung-beetles. But when such extreme ideas are spread among Muslims, we barely pay attention.

In the end, for the Muslims I was an enemy with that radical idea, the "Christian enemy". I had reported these alarming developments and my superior equated my reports with Vlaams Belang texts, but she advised me not to write anymore. But if a doctor wants to cure something, he must dare to look at the wound.

If you show such alarming evolution, you must assume you'll hit a wall. The identity of Antwerp residents must be defined, and the midfield Turkish and Moroccan organizations can play a role here. But I don't see that happening much by most Turkish and Moroccan organizations. In all these time only one Turkish associations - Meva - did so.

But because ethnic and faith convictions color the club life, the mutual understanding between the Turkish and Moroccan associations are sometimes a mine field. In this sense I don't believe the spokespeople. Everyone stands for a sub-group.

"What do the mosques say about this evolution?"

The management of such a mosque has, by me, too little solidarity with society, they sometimes don't understand much of what's happening. Often the administration is composed of first generation immigrants, people around the age of sixty. I admire their success in running the mosque, but they speak little to bad Dutch. By some their knowledge of Islam is very rudimentary.

By the Turks it's different. Their imams come from the homeland and are followed up both here and there. The consul is responsible for them they have finished studies. The Moroccan imams are chosen by the administration here and must therefore preach for their bosses. Their knowledge of Islam and which interpretation they follow strongly differs.

"If the administration doesn't follow up on your findings, who should do it?"

I continue to ask myself when the first debate evening would come in which Muslims and especially the famous Muslims, would say out loud that they are being pushed out by these hardliners in the name of the Koran and they don't recognize their place anymore. But yes, to criticize a brother or sister is very difficult. The vision that these radical Muslims spread, however, is doing injustice to many other Muslims and stigmatizes a whole religion. That should concern every Muslim in Antwerp. They shouldn't wait anymore, it is already too late."

Source: FaithFreedom (Dutch), from De Standaard

See also: Antwerp: Screening fundamentalist Muslims

Norway and Rapes: Ask imams to help

This year there have already been 16 attack rapes and rape attempts in Oslo. Thre men are suspected of four of the attack and they have one thing in common: they are of “foreign origin”. The man suspected of trying to rape three women last week was described as African (likely Somalian).

"There’s a need to work on prevention in the community that is overrepresented i the statistics. It best thing is if the immigrant community itself would put it on its agenda", says Rita Sletner. Formerly State Secretary of Justice and Police, she is now head of Voldtektsutvalget, an organization working to better the situation of rape victims and to get more reports of attacks.

Sletner points specifically to the imams. They are an important spokesperson in the immigrant community that can contribute constructively to the prevention work. "We can’t allow people to run aground because of political correctness," she says.

Fouzia Hashi, a member of Voldtektsutvalget, is originally from Somalia. She has lived in Norway 19 years. “I’ve seen that there are many immigrant rapists in the recent past and we must talk about it.” She says.

Statics from 2004 show that about 65% percent of rapists responsible for rapes and rape attempts in the Oslo district were not ethnic Norwegians. Among that foreign atacker the most were Iraqi and Somalians.

The analysis from 2005 and 2006 is not yet complete but show a similar tendency. According to police lawyer Anne Maria Haarr, who is a secretary at Voldtektsutvalget, an additional tendency is that rapists of foreign origin prefer the tendency is

Immigrants currently comprise 23% of Oslo’s population. They are also clearly overrepresented in the violence statistics.

"Regardless of cultural affiliation, rape is unacceptable. It must be clear and apparent to all that safety in the streets is part of Norwegian welfare" says Sletner.

Fouzia Hashi explains that in some cultures the woman is the one responsible for rape. It can be sufficient that she is out alone or dressed provocatively.

”Women are citizens, with the same rights as men. We must raise children to understand that.” She says.

- ”What with grownups?”

Hashi: ”We must inform Muslims here in Norway. For me, a Muslim, that is first the meetings in the mosques. Imams can influence their members, therefore the Norwegian government must have an open channel and dialog with the imams. Imams should be included in the solution to the problem.”

During the New Year’s holiday there were five rapes and rape attempts. Since it has hardly been a weekend in the capital without a woman being exposed to rape or attack. In only two of the cases suspects have been arrested. In all other cases, the attackers are still free.

”It is often difficult for the victim to identify the attacker, but there are many that interpret from that that these are people who are not established here” says Terje Kristiansen, head of the violence and vice department of the Oslo Police.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

Norway: Better cooperation needed with Pakistan

Norway's ambassador to Pakistan is calling for more and closer cooperation between the two countries, both in criminal cases and ensuring citizens' legal rights.

Newspaper Aftenposten has recently written a series of articles about criminals who are exploiting a current lack of cooperation between Norwegian and Pakistani police.

In recent months alone, gang members have fled from Oslo to Pakistan, taxi drivers suspected of tax evasion in Oslo have built huge homes in Pakistan, and increasing amounts of Norwegian currency are being sent to Pakistan. Police in Oslo suspect money laundering.

There also have been cases where Norwegian citizens of Pakistani descent have been killed in Pakistan, and the issues of kidnapping and forced marriages arise frequently.

Much of the activity stems from long-term family ties between Pakistanis and relatives who immigrated to Norway. Pakistani police have claimed they will gladly cooperate more closely with their Norwegian counterparts, but only of it's reciprocated.

"The cooperation has to get better than it is today," says Janis Bjørn Kanavin, Norway's ambassador to Pakistan.

"We can't allow that Pakistan be viewed as a 'free state' of sorts," Kanavin told Aftenposten. "If people think that, we have a problem."

The issue has been taken up at the highest levels, between Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. But local police in Pakistan express frustration that their counterparts in countries like Norway don't take them seriously.

"We're always getting requests for help with investigations, but when we ask for help, we often get the cold shoulder," said one police official who asked to remain anonymous. "Australia is the only country where we feel we're taken seriously."

Another hindrance to better cooperation is Pakistan's widespread use of the death penalty, along with documented cases that suspects often are subjected to torture.

"The Pakistani courts don't want to relinquish their right to impose the death penalty," said Kanavin. "We need to find a practical solution for dealing with that."

Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Norway: Request for extradition of Norwegian-Pakistani, Oslo: Pakistani taxi drivers over-represented in tax fraud case

Norway: Request for extradition of Norwegian-Pakistani

Abdul Rehman (54) disappeared 16 months ago in Pakistan. In October 2005 Abdul Rehman set out on his motorcycle with another Pakistani. The two were supposed to drive from huta Rai Bahadur to Lala Musa where Rehamn would change Norwegian money to Pakistani Rupies. That was the last time Rehman's family saw him.

The Pakistani is suspect of murdering Rehman, who is a Norwegian citizen, but Pakistani police think Rehman was killed on commission of another Norwegian-Pakistani, a man in his late thirties.

The Pakistani police is attaching the Norwegian-Pakistani to the case via telephone print outs that show that he had frequent contact with the man they suspect of killing Rehman. The contacts occurred before and after Rehman disappeared.

Abdul Rehman has family in Norway. He had wanted to divorce because he has married again in Thuta Rai Bahadur. He new wife, Sakina Rehman, is now responsible for the couple's three small children in Pakistan. This new marriage has led to a family conflict. Police suspect that this conflict is the cause for the disappearance.

Ahsan Mehboob, police commissioner for the Gujrat district in Punjab, says that they will apply to the Norwegian embassy in Islamabad to formally ask for an extradition from the Norwegian police. They want the Norwegian police to arrest the man and to extradite him to Gujrat.

The police in Gujrat had already put out a warrant in August of last year for the arrest of the Norwegian-Pakistani, should he come back to Pakistan.

The Norwegian-Pakistani says he doesn't understand why he should be imprisoned and that he was in Norway when the Pakistani disappeared. He says the suspect Pakistani rang
he rang him the day Abdul Rehman disappeared, but that he didn't answer because he was sleeping. When he woke up there were 6-7 unanswered calls on the telephone. He called back immediately as he is a close relative and they speak often.

The case is a problem for the Norwegian government. Abdul Rehman hasn't been found and there isn't therefore concrete evidence to show a murder had taken place. Additionally, Justice Minister Knut Storberget has taken the initiative for better police cooperation between Norway and Pakistan. Mehboob wants to prove that there is a good relationship between Norwegian and Pakistani police.

Norwegian police doesn't want to comment on the case. According to police lawyer Torunn Omvik from the Østfold police district, they will wait until they get a request for extradition.

Police are working on three theories - Rehman ran away, he is being held in captivity, or he has been killed. The last seems more likely.

The suspect Pakistani fled his home in Thuta Rai Bahadur. Aftenposten spoke with his mother, wife and brother, all who claim that he is innocent. His two kids (5 and 3) ask after their father often, said the mother.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

UK: Jewish school has 50% Muslims

This is an interesting story, with two points in particular:

1. Judaism might be the only religion taught in this school, but the Jewish school is aware of its Muslim students and enables them to follow their own religion. I am aware of Jews who study in Catholic religious schools, but I doubt they are enabled to do the same.

2. The parents sending their kids to the Jewish schools are described as devout Muslims and yet they do not mind having their kids praying Jewish prayers. I find it hard to reconcile the two claims. If one is truly religious he would not have his kids brought up learning a different religious belief.

It's infant prize day at King David School, a state primary in Moseley, Birmingham. The children sit cross-legged on the floor, their parents fiddling with their video cameras. The head, Steve Langford, is wearing a Sesame Street tie.

A typical end-of-term school event, then. But at King David there's a twist that gives it a claim to be one of the most extraordinary schools in the country: King David is a strictly Jewish school. Judaism is the only religion taught. There's a synagogue on site. The children learn modern Hebrew - Ivrit - the language of Israel. And they celebrate Israeli independence day.

But half the 247 pupils at the 40-year-old local authority-supported school are Muslim, and apparently the Muslim parents go through all sorts of hoops, including moving into the school's catchment area, to get their children into King David to learn Hebrew, wave Israeli flags on independence day and hang out with the people some would have us believe that they hate more than anyone in the world.

The Muslim parents, mostly devout and many of the women wearing the hijab, say they love the ethos of the school, and even the kosher school lunches, which are suitable because halal and kosher dietary rules are virtually identical. The school is also respectful to Islam, setting aside a prayer room for the children and supplying Muslim teachers during Ramadan. At Eid, the Muslim children are wished Eid Mubarak in assembly, and all year round, if they wish, can wear a kufi (hat). Amazingly, dozens of the Muslim children choose instead to wear the Jewish kipah.

At the prize morning Carol Cooper, the RE teacher, says: "Boker tov," (Ivrit for "Good morning").

"Good morning Mrs Cooper," the children chant in reply. The entire school, Muslims, Jews, plus the handful of Christians and Sikhs then say the Shema, the holiest Jewish prayer, all together.

The Year Four violin club (five Muslims, two Jews) play "Little Bird, I Have Heard". Just as many prizes are being distributed to Hussains and Hassans and Shabinas as there are to Sauls and Rebeccas and Ruths. In fact, if anything, the Muslim children have beaten the Jewish ones. Thus does the Elsie Davis Prize for Progress go to a beaming little lad called Walid, the religious studies prize to a boy called Imran wearing a kipah and the progress prizes for Hebrew, to a boy called Habib and a girl called Alia.

Times being as they are, King David doesn't advertise its presence in a city where its pioneering multiculturalism could raise all kinds of unwelcome attention. There's a discreet signboard outside that reveals little about the school's unique nature. There are watchful video cameras high up on the walls, plus two electronic gates to pass through. Sadly, it is, to a significant extent, says Laurence Sharman, the (Christian) chairman of the PTA, "an undercover school".

The Muslim parents, however, are only too keen to talk in the playground about what might be seen by some in their communities as a controversial schooling decision.

"We actually bought a flat in the catchment area for the children to come here," says Nahid Shafiq, the mother of Zainah, four, and Hamza, nine, and wife of Mohammed, a taxi driver. "We were attracted by the high moral values of the school, and that's what we wanted our kids to have. None of us has any problem with it being a Jewish school. Why on earth should we? Our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences. It's not even an issue.

"At the mosque, occasionally, people ask why we send the children here, but there is no antagonism whatsoever, and neither is there from anyone in our family. In fact, it was a big family decision to try and get them into King David. This is the real world. This is the way real people do things in the real world. All the violence and prejudice and problems - that's not real, that's just what you see on the news."

Fawzia Ismail (the mother of Aly-Raza, nine, and Aliah, six) is equally positive. "My nephew came here and my brother showed me the school, so it's a bit of a family tradition now. We're very, very pleased with the school. It's so friendly. All the kids mix and go to one another's parties and are in and out of each other's houses. They teach a bit about Israel, but we don't have any problem with that. There are such similarities between our people and our societies."

Irum Rashid (mother of Hanan, nine, and Maryam, four) says that a lot of people in Small Heath are considering moving to Moseley because of King David. "It's a very happy school, the behaviour is fantastic, the food is great - because it's kosher - and so are the SATs results."

But what about learning Hebrew and the Jewish prayers? "I think it's great. The more knowledge, the more understanding," says one of the mothers. "They learn all they need about Islam at mosque school. Actually, the kids often sing Hebrew songs in the bath, which is a bit confusing because we speak Gujarati at home, but I think it's great."

Source: The Independent (English)

Netherlands: Morocco trying to strengthen ties

The article talks about the fact that younger Moroccans aren't as connected to their Moroccan homeland, but disregards the fact that most younger Moroccans marry somebody from "back home".

Morocco is trying to tighten its grip on its subjects in the Netherlands. A meeting of the most prominent Moroccans in the Netherlands took place in Amsterdam this weekend, by request of the Moroccan king,

About two hundred Moroccan employers, politicians and mosque representatives took part.

Driss Jazami of the human rights organization CCDH organized the gathering: "Morocco has a problem with the new generation of Moroccans outside the homeland. We want to fund a counseling body to strengthen the ties with this group, so that they come here on vacation more often again and take part in economic projects".

Yazami adds that too many Moroccans run into bureaucratic problems. The question of double citizenship was also discussed during the weekend and according to Yazami should not be a problem.

Ahmed Marcouch, a local councilman from Stervaart was invited but didn't come, saying he has nothing much to do with the subject and that time is scarce.

According to Marcouch Morocco noticed that the 3rd and 4th generation have little ties to Morocco. Moroccans outside the homeland form an important economic factor: Morocco has a minister, Nouzha Chekrouni, who is responsible for those Moroccans.

Marcouch summarizes the Moroccan vision saying that Moroccans have integrated too well: In the past Morocco still a podium in the Netherlands through the mosque, but that's beginning to change. Especially the youth are turning more and more away from Moroccan politics.

Source: Parool (Dutch)

UK: Possibly 2000 citizen-terrorists

In Israel there are tens of terrorist threats every day. In fact, by now Israeli security forces usually only talk about the "concrete threats". That is, the terrorist attacks for which security services know who the terrorist is and where he plans to attack. Reading this, it looks like the UK is in exactly the same position. The only difference is that unlike Israel, the terrorist here might be your next door neighbor.

The terrorist threat facing Britain from home-grown al-Qaeda agents is higher than at any time since the September 11 attacks in 2001, secret intelligence documents reveal.

The number of British-based Islamic terrorists plotting suicide attacks against "soft" targets in this country is far greater than the Security Services had previously believed, the government paperwork discloses. It is thought the plotters could number more than 2,000.

Under the heading "International Terrorism in the UK", the document - seen by The Sunday Telegraph - states: "The scale of al-Qaeda's ambitions towards attacking the UK and the number of UK extremists prepared to participate in attacks are even greater than we had previously judged."

It warns that terrorist "attack planning" against Britain will increase in 2007, and adds: "We still believe that AQ [al-Qaeda] will continue to seek opportunities for mass casualty attacks against soft targets and key infrastructure. These attacks are likely to involve the use of suicide operatives."

The document, which has been circulated across Whitehall to MI5, Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorist Command, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, also reveals that al-Qaeda has grown into a world-wide organisation with a foothold in virtually every Muslim country in North Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director general of MI5, warned recently that there were more than 1,600 "identified individuals" actively engaged in plotting terrorist attacks. There were 200 known networks involved in at least 30 terrorist plots. It is thought that the number of British citizens involved in plots could be well in excess of 2,000.

MI5 believes that soft targets, such as the transport system and economic targets such as the City of London and Canary Wharf, are most at risk.

Source: Telegraph (English)

Blog Troubles

I usually post by email. Recently I've been having trouble - posts I send never arrive. This means double work, sometimes.

The "recent comments" on my blog has also been having trouble and for a few days was stuck with old comments. Currently it's set to show the last comments starting with the one before last, which seems to fix things somewhat.

I hope Blogger will fix up these problems in the near future.

Norway: Illegal money export

Four men and a woman are suspected of illegal export of over 35 million kroner (~5.5 million USD) from Norway to a bank account in Turkey.

Suspicions were raised last summer, when 6.6 million Kroner were sent to the account in Turkey. The police charged two Kurds and a Norwegian, suspected of receiving stolen goods.

The suspected heads in the cases were arrested somewhat later and have since been remanded in custody.

Police think the money came from the unlawful sale of a big amount of cigarettes. Police suspect that other trades are also connected to this case and are continuing to investigate. There are signs showing that the suspects were involved in other trades as well.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

Denmark: Attracting immigrant youth to teaching positions

Integration minister Rikke Hvilshøj, and education minister Bertel Haarder, are launching a campaign that shall get more students with immigrant background into the country's teacher seminaries.

The reason for the campaign is that teachers with an ethnic background other than Danish are underrepresented in elementary schools.

"Children in Denmark need bright, committed teachers, that go forward and display a good example. And with the rising number of bilingual pupils in public schools there is a need for more danish teachers of an immigrant background, that among other things can act as role-models for the pupils" said Hvilshøj.

Haarder added: "In the future public schools shall have a more professional focus, and therefore there is a need for many skilled, bright teachers. We know that among the bilingual pupils there are many with a big potential. With this campaign we would like to make an effort to get the best students for teacher training."

The campaign "Holding hands for the future" is part of a campaign started in 2002 called "Need for All Youngsters" and designated to cut down on immigrant drop-outs, specifically from vocational training, and to make sure they enter the job market. Information is in English, French, Bosnian, Turkish, Somali, Persian, Arabic and Urdu.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (Danish)

Netherlands: Burqa should be allowed

New Dutch minister for living, neighbourhoods and integration Ella Vogelaar, has stated that Muslim women should be allowed to wear the face-concealing burka on the street if they want to. However, the burqa should be avoided in jobs where women come into contact with the public, she said on Dutch television. The Labour Party minister cited education and health as examples of professions where it is important to have face-to-face contact.

Volegaar's comments came despite an earlier announcement by the newly formed Dutch cabinet that it planned to ban the wearing of face-concealing garments if this is required to maintain public order.

Meanwhile a survey by Maurice de Hond shows that 66% of the Dutch support such a ban.  32% are against it.

Geert Wilders, whose supporters are 97% for such a ban, said he will bring it up as a bill if Vogelaar doesn't apply the current laws to support such a ban.

Sources: Adnkronos (English), (Dutch)

Turkey: Dutch state visit and the Muslim veil

Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Turkish president, will be absent from a concert organized by Queen Beatrix during her state visit in Turkey. Officially it was said that protocol forbids him from attending, but the problem is actually a Turkish law from 1924 that forbids wearing a veil in public buildings.

The Nederlands Blazers Ensemble concert is taking place in the University of Ankara. There are many people invited, some of whom will wear the Muslim veil.

Last year Sezer was absent for the same reason from a gala organized by the Swedish king.

Source: Spits (Dutch)

Hague: Threats in online forum

The court in the Hague has sentenced a 25 year old resident to 100 hours of community service for threatening Moroccan-born author Naima El Bezaz in on online forum. The man wrote about her on the forum: "I call all diehards who meet this bitch to spit at her, stone her, have her chased out of the Netherlands, because here she makes fun of us Moroccans."

The post stayed on the forum for 5 days until the author complained by the Amsterdam police. the police found the man by tracing his IP-address and thereby arrested him.

According to the judge there was not enough evidence of threats. However, the poster was guilty of insulting and inciting.

Naima El Bezaz recently wrote a book called "The Outcast" (De Verstotene) about a Muslim woman who breaks away from her conservative society. She describes her book as a "controversial novel about sex, taboos, Islam and Jew-hatred". El Bezaz was born in Morocco in 1974 and came to the Netherlands with her family when she was four. She's considered an unconventional woman with an outspoken opinion about conservative Muslims.

Source: Fok! (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: More terror planned

Denmark: Recommendations for integration

A number of publicly financed dialog meetings in Århus ended with a desire to more Islam in everyday life. On Monday politicians introduced 15 recommendation for better integration.

The most significant is that Islam and imams will have a more prominent role in kindergartens, schools, criminality prevention and in activities. Freedom of speech should be employed cautiously.

Tina Magaard, an Islam researches, says these demands are taken from Islamist thought and she cautions against accepting the recommendations which, she thinks, will cause future clashes in society. It will force all Muslim kids to be part of the Muslim collective as they'll be seen as Muslims first and citizens later and it will condition their integration into society on abiding by the imam's interpretation of Islam.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (Danish)

Magaard's recommendations fall in line with Policy Exchange's recent study "Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism" (PDF). According to the study, by focusing on a person's community and ethnic background (ie, "multi-culturalism") instead of a person's individual needs and the most basic fact of citizenship, the UK had caused Muslim youth to turn away from integration. The study had made headlines with its findings, but their conclusions are also quite thought provoking.

See also: UK: Survey shows British Muslim youth are radicalizing

Denmark: Danish mosque planned

A group of Danish Muslims wants to open an Islamic Center and mosque where everything except Koran reading will be run in Danish.

A record number of Danes converted to Islam this year and therefore there is now a need for a place where Danish-speaking Muslims can meet, say the initiators of the idea.

One of the initiators is the Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, who is himself a convert.

The group does not yet have funding but intend to open the center by this summer.

Researchers guess that there are about 3000 ethnic Danish Muslims. However, today they usually have no access to Muslim services since services, Muslim education and even regular discussion at the mosque are usually in Arabic or other foreign language.

This is also a problem for young people that are left out of the existing mosques and associations. Pedersen explains that at the same time the idea is to de-mystify the mosques for the common Dane.

Source: Jyllands Posten (Danish)

Spiegel: A Parallel Muslim Universe

Excerpts from an article in Spiegel: A Parallel Muslim Universe

Germany's Muslim population is becoming more religious and more conservative. Islamic associations are fostering the trend, particularly through their work with the young -- accelerating the drift towards a parallel Muslim society.

Surveys in the country have charted a significant increase in fundamentalist attitudes, particularly among younger Muslims. The experiences of Ekin Deligöz, a member of the German parliament representing the Green Party, underscore the potential dangers. Having called on Muslim women to remove their headscarves, Deligöz faced death threats and now receives police protection.

Disturbing as this trend may be, it cannot be pinned exclusively on Muslim groups. Under the guise of religious tolerance, German society stood blithely by as some parts of its Muslim communities began turning into parallel societies. For years, the country's courts have been excusing Muslim girls from coed swimming lessons and class outings - citing the most absurd reasons for their rulings.

In the following years, the German courts stuck to their guns. In another regional case, the judges had to decide whether a class excursion was mandatory for a Muslim girl. In their ruling of 2002, they parroted the language of a fatwa issued two years previously. The former chairman of the Islamic Religious Community in Hesse had stipulated that a Muslim woman not accompanied by a mahram, a male blood relative, must not stray more than 50 miles from her home - because this is the distance a caravan of camels can travel in 24 hours.

Camels are something of an anomaly on the German autobahn these days. Sympathetic judges nonetheless recommended sending the 15-year-old brother along as a mahram. Given her fear of losing her headscarf or violating other religious laws, the schoolgirl's condition, they argued, was comparable to that of a "partially mentally handicapped person." She therefore needed somebody to accompany her; otherwise, she should not be forced to take part in the trip, they reasoned.

University of Marburg professor and VIKZ expert Ursula Spuler-Stegemann is even more outspoken. The Islam expert was commissioned to review the association's institutions by the region's social services authority. "I failed to find a single home where there were no major misrepresentations," she concluded.

That is "definitely untrue," Sam retorts. While there might have been errors "now and then" - in clear contravention of instructions from the VIKZ executive - "there has certainly been no deception of the authorities or deliberate breaches of the law."

But in her 2004 report, Spuler-Stegemann presents detailed proof of her allegations. Despite assertions to the contrary, the homes were "almost exclusively devoted to Islamic teaching and practice of the faith," she wrote. They were "an unequivocal obstacle to integration." The pupils were "indoctrinated" into a "rigidly sharia-oriented" form of Islam and "immunized" against Christianity, the West and the German constitution. She described VIKZ as an elitist organization within Islam that made sure its pupils were trained to accept strict obedience and an even stricter segregation of the sexes.

VIKZ refutes these censures as "factually incorrect" and "biased." They represent a "blanket condemnation," says Sam, adding that his association had never been subject to surveillance by Germany's security agencies.

Yet the regional government was so alarmed by the concerns that it halted approvals of new VIKZ homes. "The VIKZ officials are full of promises but end up doing whatever they want," says Hanspeter Pohl, who is responsible for children's and adolescents' homes in Hesse's social services department. Religious instruction took place "on a much larger scale" than was admitted, and children were regularly woken up in the middle of the night for prayers, he said.

Criticisms that the VIKZ is keen to challenge: "Prayer is voluntary; no child is ever coerced to join in." A junior-high school teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia, whose school is in the catchment area of an unofficial VIKZ home, has been observing the situation for years. She witnessed how the pupils suddenly adopted "extremely anti-Semitic and anti-American attitudes." English was seen as the enemy's language. "Today, some of them refuse to speak it at all, even if it means failing their exams." They reject the theory of evolution in biology lessons, the age of the Earth as discussed in geography, and anything remotely satirical in their German classes, she said.

The teacher made a further observation. When the boys in the home "had been reciting the Koran until 11 o'clock at night, as they did regularly," they were so sleep-deprived the next day that they simply dozed off during class. Sam rejects these complaints as well: "That is alien to the VIKZ's work, and the very opposite of its teaching practices." In some VIKZ homes, he claims, you can "even find books by the Jewish satirist Ephraim Kishon."

Source: Spiegel (English)

Netherlands: Cemetery turned

The municipality of Hengelo has re-arranged the new Muslim area of the cemetery, rotating the paths and hedges a quarter turn.

The new landscaping was done after a Muslim woman was buried there recently not according to Muslim tradition, despite the municipality's assurance to the family that the cemetery followed Muslim custom.

The municipality has not turned to Muslim organizations before setting out the plots. According to Ibrahim Wijbenga, president of the Muslim burial society, it's essential for the deceased's relatives to know what will happen with her grave and there is clearly no flexibility in the issue of burial direction.

The Muslim graves in Hengelo were laid out facing Mecca. However, according to Islamists, the graves should be turned a quarter of a turn so that the head of the deceased would be facing Mecca, with the deceased lying on their side.

The woman, though, will not be reinterred.

Sources: Tubantia 1, 2 (Dutch)

Netherlands: First Muslim ministers

As a city councilman, Ahmed Aboutaleb, the son of a Moroccan clergyman, helped immigrants find jobs, put their toddlers in school to learn Dutch and doled out stern advice: integrate or leave.

On Thursday, Aboutaleb is being sworn in as a junior minister in the Dutch Cabinet. Joining him will be Nebahat Albayrak, a Turkish-born member of parliament. They are the first Muslims to reach the inner core of political power in the Netherlands, and are among only a few immigrants to rise to even second-rung Cabinet positions in Western Europe.

Albayrak and Aboutaleb are among immigrants who call themselves the ``New Dutch.'' Many have worked their way up in politics or business at a time when some doubt the Netherlands can comfortably absorb its Muslim minority.

They comprise a counterpoint to the alienated immigrant underclass in the Netherlands, the squalid neighborhoods ringing French cities and the Muslim terror cells being uncovered throughout Europe.

At the same time, their rarity highlights how hard it is to break into what some immigrants see as an exclusive network of the native elite. About 1 million of Holland's 16 million people are from families of Muslim background, and they still struggle to enter the professional ranks.

Aboutaleb, the incoming deputy minister for social affairs, and Albayrak, the deputy minister of justice, are among the most visible successes in a nation troubled by failNetherlands is setting the example,'' said Sadik Harchaoui, a Moroccan who heads the national Institute of Multicultural Development.

``This is the moment when Dutch citizens of migrant backgrounds can take these kind of jobs, not only in government but in business,'' he said.

But he said there is a long way to go. ``In 15 to 20 years it will be a normal thing.''

While statistics are difficult to come by, Muslim integration does appear to be happening in many areas of the Netherlands.

In Dutch municipal elections last year, the number of city council members from Turkey and Morocco, the Muslim countries with the largest populations in the Netherlands, grew by 62 percent, to 223 from 139, according to a Dutch research group. Immigrants from those countries in the 150-seat national parliament rose to seven from five.

Aboutaleb and Albayrak belong to the Labor Party, which draws a disproportionately large immigrant vote in national and local elections.

Albayrak, 38, came from Turkey with her six siblings when she was 18 months old. Her parents moved to the Netherlands to work and intended to return to Turkey after their children were educated. They never did.

She joined the Labor Party while a university student, earned a degree in international law and was elected to parliament in 1998. In last November's elections, she was placed second on the list of candidates after the party leader.

Aboutaleb, 45, left Morocco at age 15 with his mother and brothers to join his father, who had come to the Netherlands several years earlier. He studied telecommunications and worked as a news broadcaster, but always had political ambitions.

``The frame of reference I left behind was a small house without electricity or running water; a cow, a donkey and a few rocks,'' he says.

Aboutaleb gained attention in 2004 after the Van Gogh slaying. The Amsterdam-born assailant, Mohammed Bouyeri, believed the filmmaker had insulted Islam in his work. Bouyeri pegged a five-page diatribe into Van Gogh's chest with a knife threatening other Dutch leaders, including Aboutaleb, who now has 24-hour police protection.

The day after the murder, Aboutaleb spoke at a mosque about the need for Muslims to become part of Dutch society. ``Anyone who doesn't share these values would be wise to draw their conclusions and leave,'' he said.

Swift outreach by Aboutaleb and Amsterdam's Jewish mayor, Job Cohen, to the city's Muslims was credited with keeping a lid on ethnic tensions, which flared in other Dutch cities.

``A lot of people who have trouble finding a job, who have difficulty adapting to this society, think they're not accepted. And sometimes that is the case,'' said Amsterdam councilman Lodewijk Asscher. ``To them, it's a very important message that Ahmed Aboutaleb has made it to the national government.''

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States and deadly bombings in London and Madrid, studies have focused on an intensifying clash between Europeans and a flood of immigrants who hold fast to their own cultures. But some say a new reality is emerging, even though many Europeans do not realize it.

Moroccan-born Khalid Boutachekourt, 33, advises corporations on employment practices. He sees people of his age and background moving up as businesses reach out to a new client base of immigrants.

``Diversity at the management level is increasing, and that's a good thing,'' he said. ``You see people advance rapidly. They have the advantage of being the first in an establishment that needs new faces and new voices.''

Source: Guardian (English)

Denmark: Teaching prison guards Arabic

In Denmark a prison is teaching employees Arabic language and culture in order to cut down on criminality inside the prison.

Prison inspector Arne Tornvig Christensen from Nyborg State Prison thinks that by learning Arabic his personnel will better understand the inmates and prevent confrontations between inmates and prison guards, that are tied to linguistic and cultural misunderstandings and ensure better communication with the inmates.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (Danish)

Norway: DNA helps identify rape suspect

By bringing this story I am only presenting a partial picture. As it is the topic of this blog to concentrate on issues relating to the Muslim community, I do not usually follow up on non-Muslim related stories. When it comes to rape, there are quite a few of those.

Using DNA traces police located a man that raped a woman and tried to rape and choke another woman on New Year's eve in Oslo

According to police lawyer Sjak Haaheim the man's DNA was taken in another case and it tied him to those two cases as well.

The 27 year old is an Iraqi national. The second woman was attacked so badly that she needed emergency medical help. DNA found at her neck helped police trace the suspect.

The man was checked a few years ago for bothersome conduct against a woman, but at the time police did not have enough to go on to show that a DNA test was in order.

Police do not know if the suspect is responsible for any more unsolved rapes in the capital, but this is now being routinely checked.

In the cases of such rape-assaults, when the victim doesn't know the attacker and there is usually alcohol and intoxicants involved along with the obvious trauma, it is hard for the victim to give a description of the attacker. Police stress, however, the importance of coming forward immediately to ensure evidence.

Since New Year's there have been twelve rape-assaults in Oslo. In the latest a 14 year old girl was raped by two men she described as foreigners last Saturday night. Police were notified only two hours later. DNA tests will show whether there is any connection to previous attacks.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian), Dagavisen (Norwegian)

Sweden: People smugglers arrested

Fourteen people were arrested on Tuesday in Sweden suspected of illegally smuggling and planning to smuggle people primarily from Iraq to the Scandinavian country, police said.

The 14 were taken into custody after raids on several addresses in and around Gothenburg on Sweden's southwestern coast.

Those arrested were suspected of "planning to smuggle people, people smuggling and falsification of documents," police said in a statement. The suspects are believed to have smuggled primarily asylum seekers from Iraq. The offences were committed from 2006 up until Tuesday, police said. Police did not disclose the suspects' nationalities, nor the number of people they smuggled into Sweden. Tuesday's arrests were the latest in a series involving suspects believed to have smuggled people from Iraq to Sweden, amid a large influx of Iraqi asylum seekers to the Scandinavian country. In 2006, a total of 9,065 Iraqis sought asylum in Sweden, compared to 2,330 the previous year, according to the Swedish government. Sweden currently takes in more than half of all Iraqi asylum seekers to the European Union, the government has said.

Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden and Norway: Yet more on ID scam, Sweden: Demanding help with Iraqi refugees

Belgium: Terror sweep causes complaints

During this past week French and Belgian police conducted an anti-terrorism sweep. I think it stayed mostly out of the news.

Residents of an apartment house in Anderlecht, a Brussels suburb, are complaining about the brutal actions of police during searches in relation to Muslim terrorism. The residents lived next to a suspect and according to them on Friday the entire building was taken over by security services. A lot of damage was caused.

Police took over all floors and caused damage such as breaking in doors and breaking the banisters. The residents were shocked especially because of the "extreme violence" that was used. Police say the operation required setting u pa security parameter around the suspect's apartment.

Nine people were questioned Friday in Brussels, Nijvel and Verviers. All were set free later. The operation was a continuation of a related investigation in France.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Four of six Muslims being held in France on suspicion of recruiting Islamist fighters for Iraq were remanded in custody yesterday, a police source said.

The men were among a group of seven men and a number of wives who were detained for questioning this week as part of a Franco-Belgian operation against a group suspected of having links with Al Qaeda.

The women and one man held in France had already been freed. Two other men were released yesterday but remained under investigation, the source said.

The six men are suspected of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation while three are additionally suspected of financing terrorism. All are French nationals.

The French Justice Ministry said on Friday that it believed a recruitment ring had been sending trainees to Egypt to learn Arabic and radical Islamic doctrine, then on to Syria, with the help of a cell in Saudi Arabia linked to Al Qaeda.

Source: The Peninsula On-Line (English)

I know what you did last summer

For anybody who wondered what else happened during the Israel-Hizb-allah war.

MIDDLE EASTERN countries secretly armed and supported suspected Al-Qaeda recruits in the failed state of Somalia in a direct challenge to western interests in east Africa, according to a United Nations report.

Hundreds of Islamist fighters were flown, with Eritrean assistance, from Somalia to Syria and Libya for military training. Others were taken to Lebanon to fight with Hezbollah
, the report to the UN security council has revealed.

UN investigators also detailed military aid given to the Islamists by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Arab states friendly to the West. Iran also supplied 125 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, 80 of which arrived by sea in dhows and the rest by air.

A clandestine operation to smuggle the fighters out of Somalia began in July last year.

In an interview, Evgueny Zakharov, the owner of Aerolift, an airline with a fleet of ageing Antonov and Ilyushin transport aircraft, based in Johannesburg but registered in the British Virgin Islands, said: "We transported lots of men in uniform — Arabian men with masks.

"They were disciplined men and although none of them had rank badges there were obviously people in charge. They got on the aircraft as if they had done it many times before."Zakharov said his involvement began after he was approached by a General Tambi of the Eritrean People's Defence Forces. Eritrea, a neighbour of Somalia in the volatile Horn of Africa, was a major supporter of the Islamists.

Source: Times Online (English)

France: New Muslim school to open

The school which this summer was planning to offer 150 places will now be able to offer tuition to 500 students.

A Muslim school in Lyon, Frances's first aiming to offer both primary and high school classes, is to open its doors after a court ruled it could operate in the east-central French city.

In its decision announced on Thursday, the administrative tribunal dismissed an objection to the Al-Kindi school's opening lodged by France's higher education council.

The council took up the issue after the head of the Academy of Lyon, which oversees local area schools, decided not to allow the school to open in September citing safety and hygiene including ground pollution and a high pressure gas pipe near the school.

But some said that permission for the school to open had been denied because of its Muslim character.

However, the administrative court ruled that the objection raised by the state education council did not provide enough grounds for denying the school permission to open.

The school which will receive financial support from France's Muslim community will cost some 700,000 euros a year to operate

Source: Al-arab Online (English)

See also: France: new Muslim high school

Netherlands: Complaints against Wilders

MDI, the Dutch agency in charge of reporting discrimination on the internet, will be making a complaint by the police against Geert Wilders.

MDI has received many reports about Wilder's statements. According to them the statemnet "We want enough. Closed borders, no more Islamists, many Muslims out of the Netherlands, de-naturalization of Islamic criminals" is punishable by law. By these statement Wilders is showing that he sees the Muslims as an inferior group and that this minority will be wiped out of the Netherlands.

The statement was made during an interview to the newspaper De Pers, but appears in various places on the net, including Wilders' own site.

Meanwhile, the Saudi embassy in the Netherlands made a formal complain to the Dutch foreign office for his statements about the Koran. According to the Saudi paper Al-Watan Wilders had called on Muslims to cancel "half of what it says in the Koran".

The Saudis demand Wilders go back on what he said and apologize to the Muslims. The Saudi ambassador in The Hague said a complaint had been made but that he prefers working out of the limelight to put an end to the "insult to Islam".

Sources: Blik op Nieuws (Dutch), Arab Insider (Hebrew)

See also: Netherlands: More terror planned

Pakistan: Minister accused of people smuggling

The Norwegian embassy in Islamabad reported a Pakistani minister for people smuggling. Professor Mushtaq Victor, the Minister of State for Minorities has apparently enabled 7 women and 21 children to go to Europe, saying they were part of his family.

The deception was discovered by Tor Moe, a policeman working for the Scandinavian embassies in the country, when an application was made at the Finnish embassy. According to Bjørn Jahnsen, a spokesman for the foreign service the data Moe discovered will be forwarded to the Pakistani police.

According to TV 2 the people were sent to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy after they paid 30,000 kroner each (almost 5000 USD).

Moe has formerly discovered people smuggling by the Swiss ambassador.

Sources: Aftenposten (Norwegian), Nettavisen (Norwegian)

Germany: No passport for supporters of "honor" murder

According to an explanatory memorandum of a new bill that Bavaria and other states would like to pass foreigners who support "honor" murder and Islamic terror attacks will not be able to get a German passport.

Doubts about supporting the state would also lead to denial of citizenship.

Bavaria is also arguing in favor of having prospective Germans sign that they are not members of specific extremist organizations. Lying on such a form would be grounds for later revocation of citizenship.

Source: Dagblad van het Noorden (Dutch)

Norway: Minister suggests banning niqab in education

The Minister of Education, Oystein Djupedal says that the use of niqab and other headdresses that cover the face should not be allowed in classrooms. He is now encouraging educational institutions at all levels to ban the use of such headdresses in class. However, he does not want to make it a law, and says that each school must handle the situation on an individual basis. - The use of such headdresses makes proper contact between teacher and student difficult, Djupedal says. Last week, the dean of the Oslo College of Art, Lars Gule, demanded a ban on niqab at all universities and colleges in Norway, on the same grounds. The principal of the college, Per Lilleengen, says they now want to consider introducing such a ban.

Source: Norway Post (English)

See also: Norway: Debate about the niqab, Oslo: Clearance for banning Niquab

Denmark: Responses after terror trial

Judges overturned the jury decision last week in the Glostrup terror case, releasing three out of the four suspects. The jury had found all four guilty of being involved in planning a terror attack in Europe but the judges decided there was insufficient evidence for three of the suspects.

The fourth suspect, Abdul Basit Abu-Lifa, 17, was found guilty.

Politicians interviewed after the ruling were nearly all in agreement that dissension between the jury and judges in a case of such great importance was unsatisfactory.

'Regardless of whether they were found guilty or not, it would have been best if everyone had been in agreement,' said Karen Hækkerup, the Social Democratic judicial spokesperson. 'This was a landmark case, but now it's just mud. But as law makers we have to trust our legal system.'

Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen of the "Muslims in Dialogue" organization said that the sentence will hopefully deter other young people who are flirting with extremism.

The Islamic Society in Denmark, formerly headed by Abu Laban, called on the Danish government to help Muslims fight extremists. The organization requested that the government research how and why young Muslims become extremists and why 2nd generation immigrants want to harm Danish security.

Kasem Ahmad, the organization's spokesman says that the Islamic Society will work together with the government on this issue.

He said that they are doing everything possible to have contact with these young people but at the same time they are aware that they are attracted by strong extremist forces. He added that they can't deal with the problem on their own.

Rikke Hvilshøj, the Danish integration minister, reacted positively to the Society's statement and said she would like to discuss concrete initiatives.

Mustafa Chendid, the favorite for taking over Abu Laban's position at the Islamic Society referred to the case in his Friday sermon at the organization's Dortheavej mosque.

The Moroccan born imam, a Danish citizen since 2002, spoke in English to a packed mosque. He said the following (from translation): "Denmark is our land. We are more involved in this land than any other land. Everybody should be interested in having peace in this land. Nobody thinks of harming the country where one lives. If you can't endure living here, go away. We live under this country's government and under this country's constitution. We are here of our own free will. Nobody has forced us to live here. "

Source: Copenhagen Post (English), Jyllands-Posten 1, 2, 3 (Danish)

See also: Terror trials, Bosnia: Scandinavian terrorists jailed, Danish Jihad - a study

Oslo: Pakistani taxi drivers over-represented in tax fraud case

It should be noted that many ethnic Norwegians see nothing wrong with smuggling and tax evasion. They simply don't agree with their country's laws so they disobey them. They just disobey different laws that those the Pakistanis chose to disobey.

The Oslo tax assessment office released figures on the national background of tax evaders among taxi owners. 232 of the total 320 taxi owners, or 73%, belong to the Norwegian-Pakistani minority, while they compose only a third of taxi owners in the city.

Reactions by taxi owners were varied. "They're destroying the branch from within. This is tragic and very sad for us that act by the law", says taxi owner Geir Harstad.

"All Norwegian-Pakistanis are not scoundrels. We must not judge everyone alike. I think yet that the economic culture they come from doesn't fit with our economic culture" says Kolbjørn Grøholt.

Taxi owners are suspected of having evaded paying taxes on 400 million kroner (~50 million Euro). The two largest cases are for turnovers of respectively 20 and 18 million kroner (~2 million euro). Both these taxi owners are of Pakistani background.

Inspection chief Jan Egil Kristiansen of the Oslo tax assessment office says that there aren't many ethnic Norwegians suspect in the case and that their part is barely 10%.

He said that after seeing there were many Pakistanis involved they researched the case, and were surprised to find that a very high percent - 90% - were not ethnic Norwegian.

Khalid Mahmood, a representative in the Storting, is of Pakistani origin. He responds sharply to this information. "This is unfortunate and sad. that our minority is over-represented hits hard. At the same time, people should remember that there has been a certain pattern in the taxi industry for many years. more inspection is required and higher demands from taxi owners" says Mahmood.

Aftenposten spoke with a high-ranked police official in Pakistan. He explains that tax fraud does not seem criminal there. Pakistanis who preferred to stay anonymous told Aftenposten that they see no reason to pay taxes when the state gives them nothing.

The Norwegian ambassador in Pakistan, Janis Bjørn Kanavin confirms that the attitude to taxes is different in Pakistan and that it is a big problem to collect taxes.

When asked if he's surprised he answers: "Yes, when I asked Norwegian-Pakistanis as to why they defy the cold and winter to be in Norway, they say that they are glad to be in a land with law and order."

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

Sweden: No discrimination against immigrants

Private employers do not systemically discriminate against job-seekers with foreign names or a different skin colour than their own, according to a new report from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

The findings run counter to assertions made in a number of previous reports, including one completed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in December of last year.

In the ILO report it is claimed that individuals with parents from the Middle East need to apply for three times as many jobs as those with Swedish parents if they are to get to the second step of the application procedure.

"It is far too easy to blame immigrant unemployment on the prejudiced attitudes of employers. There are no statistics to support such a claim.

"Instead, immigrants to Sweden have difficulties gaining a foothold on the labour market because of ineffective integration policies and long waiting periods," said Farbod Rezania from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in a statement.

According to Sweden's foremost pro-business organisation, the number of immigrants employed in Sweden has been on the increase since the beginning of the 1990s.

"This can partly be explained by an improvement in attitudes among employers," said Rezania.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise considers that employers have found themselves in the firing line as a result of the blunt tools used by government agencies to present labour market statistics.

"There is a correlation between employment and the number of years spent in Sweden. This is where the focus should lie, rather than lumping together all people with the same ethnic background regardless of whether they have been here for 15 years or a few months. It creates a false impression of the real situation," said Rezania.

Since it can take many years for a new immigrant to learn the language and assimilate into Swedish society, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise is calling for a more nuanced debate on the issue.

"People with a good education should not have have to go through the same education in Sweden, but we do not currently have a functioning system of accreditation for foreign exams," said Rezania.

Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden: Immigrants have harder time getting interviewed for jobs

Belgium: Immigrants account for 40% of abortions

40% of women who undergo an abortion in Belgium are immigrants, according to a study by KU Leuven. These are especially young women from Central and Eastern Europe as well as West, Central and Eastern Africa.

17,314 abortions were performed in 2005, of which 6,200 were for women younger than 24.

Flemish parliament member Vera Jans says it is "A striking trend that the part of immigrant girls and women is so high".

27.5% of the immigrant women who had an abortion were first generation immigrant who had been in Belgium less than five years. Many of them wrote on their application that they live in precarious circumstances.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Belgium: Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites

The Chancellor raises the question whether the statements "should be judged differently, and be considered allowed, because they are used by one side in a continuing profound conflict, where battle cries and invectives are part of everyday occurrences in the rhetoric that surround the conflict.
The above was said by the Swedish Chancellor of Justice, Goran Lambertz, when he decided to discontinued his preliminary investigation against the great mosque in Stockholm. The great mosque was accused of selling inciteful material calling to kill Jews.

Those who understand and accept it when European born Muslims attack Jews because of the Arab/Israeli conflict should be just as understanding and accepting when Muslims import their own foreign strife.


A Shiite mosque in Anderlecht, a suburb of Brussels, fears attacks by Sunnis, especially as a result of the war in Iraq. Threats have already been made according to the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique.

The mosque and its association " Rida-Association islamique" (Rida Islamic Association) are located in Dokter de Meersmanstraat in Anderlecht. There have been several incidents in the past few weeks in the area around the mosque. Tensions are high and there is fear these tensions will come to Brussels as well.

The Rida association has notified the Anderlecht police of its misgivings and the police is taking the case seriously. Police patrols were asked to be especially vigilant and the central bureau of operations is collecting information.

According to
Jacques Simonet, Anderlecht's mayor, the fear of the Rida association must be seen "in light of the Iraqi context".

Sources: Brussels Nieuws (Dutch), HLN (Dutch)

See also: Sweden: When incitement is allowed

Halal vs. Kosher

Geert Lambert is the leader of the Flemish Spirit party. He wrote the following on a public forum (Dutch):

"I don't push religious issues into state education. I do have respect for diversity. But isn't it strange that we have had no problems with kosher food yet we have difficulties with halal? I don't have a problem with both of these, just as I don't have a problem with those older people who still want to eat fish on Fridays.

I don't force anybody to eat fish on Friday, while many rest homes rarely have a different menu on that day."
[Eating fish on Friday is a Catholic custom]

Lambert was asked why he felt it necessary to bring up the issue of kosher food. After all, kosher food was never served, not to say forced, in state schools. Was he trying to stigmatize the Jewish community? Or redirect the anger from the Muslim community to the Jewish one?

Lambert took offense and replied that it is unfair to say he is anti-Semitic since he did say he was pro-diversity and that he had no problem with kosher food. That is, he preferred to ignore the sentence where he brings up the issue and focus on his conclusion - we don't have a problem with kosher food, therefore we shouldn't have a problem with halal either. He ignored the additional conclusion that can be reached: those who have a problem with halal food must also, by default, complain about kosher food and the Jewish community as well.

As to the when was the last time kosher food was forced on students in state schools? he simply ignored the question.

But that is the basic fact behind the question he himself has posed: why are there no problems with kosher food in state schools? Because state schools do not serve kosher food. So, isn't is strange that we have no problems with kosher food? No, it isn't.

Maybe Lambert should look into why Jews have never demanded that kosher food be served in state schools. He might learn something about how a minority learns to live with a majority instead of the other way around.

This might be a moot point soon, though, since in Antwerp already now the majority of pupils come from immigrant homes. In a study I recently read a Turkish mother who married a Turk explained why she would certainly speak Dutch to her kids: otherwise her kid would never hear Dutch spoken at all. Out on the street, they'll only hear Turkish.

I am not sure what point he's trying to make comparing Catholic customs and Islamic customs in a land with an overbearing Catholic majority, besides the fact that he's comparing private businesses to state run education. I would assume that next we'll wonder why nobody says a word when everybody takes off time on Christmas and Easter, which are century-old established holidays, but everybody complains when Muslims want Eid Al-Adha as a state holiday?

See also: Antwerp: Halal school trips, Antwerp: 65% of students come from non-Dutch speaking homes

I had originally mistranslated Lambert's point regarding eating fish on Fridays. As per Catholic Girl's comment below, I had reviewed what Lambert had said in the original post and fixed my translation accordingly.