Switzerland: Second sharia compliant bank

As Islamic finance and banking products continue to grow and attract more clients, Switzerland, a world financial hub, will soon get its second Shari`ah-compliant bank in less that two years.

"There is demand," Ibrahim Dabdoub, chief executive officer of the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) which plans to set up the new bank, told the Financial Times on Monday, March 31.

NBK applied for regulatory approval to set up the bank with a Saudi partner, Dabdoub said.

The Islamic institution, set to be launched before the end of year, will target investors and wealthy individuals from the Gulf region, which is currently awash with liquidity fueled by the windfall from unprecedented, sky-high oil prices.

"Switzerland is still a haven for people who want to keep money outside," Dabdoub explained.

The new bank will be the second private Islamic bank established in Switzerland.

In 2006, Faisal Private Bank opened in Geneva, becoming the first in the country to operate according to Shari`ah principles.

Islam forbids Muslims from usury, receiving or paying interest on loans.

Islamic bankers and finance institutions cannot receive or provide funds for anything involving alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco, weapons or pork.

Shari`ah-compliant banking deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships.

Growing Demand

Switzerland's new Islamic bank is only the latest of Shari`ah-compliant finance institutions in the West.

"At some point some of the big investment managers will set up Islamic funds, both in London and the US," said Davide Barzilai, senior associate in Islamic finance at London-based law firm Norton Rose.

Responding to local customers with Pakistani and Middle Eastern immigrants, Devon Bank in Chicago has over the years transformed itself into a specialist in no-interest Islamic financing.

Islamic financing now accounts for more than 75 percent f the bank's mortgage portfolio.

Devon, which has assets of just $250 million, has made mortgages compliant with Shari`ah in 36 US states.

In a report last month, credit-rating agency Moody's Investors Service said that the global Islamic finance market has grown about 15 percent in each of the past three years and is now worth about $700 billion worldwide.

The heavyweights of global finance, including Citigroup, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and others, have taken notice and have affiliates devoted to Islamic finance.

Currently, there are nearly 300 Islamic banks and financial institutions worldwide.

In addition to Islamic loans and credit cards, Islamic bonds — known as sukuk — are booming.

"The sukuk market has held up fairly well," Geert Bossuyt, head of structuring for the Middle East and Africa at Deutsche Bank, told the Times.

"Deals are being done, unlike in some other markets," he noted.

Nearly $33 billion of Islamic bonds were issued last year, up from $5.5 billion in 2001.

Sukuk are already available in the US, Britain and Japan.

Other countries, like Thailand, are contemplating issuing Islamic bonds of their own.

"The Bahrain government and Khazanah, the investment arm of the Malaysian government, have both issued sukuk in recent weeks," said Arul Kandasamy, head of Islamic financing solutions at Barclays Capital in Dubai.

"The market is still open."

Source: Islam Online (English)

Norway: First terrorism trial opens

Norway's first terrorism trial opened today. The three suspects are Arfan Qadeer Bhatti (30), Andreas Bog Kristiansen (28) and Ibrahim Øzbabacan. Bhatti, the main suspect, is Norwegian-Pakistani. Born in Norway, he is married and has two children.

When he was 13 he became the youngest member of the Young Guns gang. For 15 years Oslo police suspected he was one of the underworld's influential and dangerous men, but could not get their hands on him. Bhatti was respected in the Oslo underworld and nobody dared say anything against him. In the past few years he 'freelanced' in crime, but the police were never able to find enough evidence against him.

In an interview in Dagbladet in August 26, 2002, Bhatti expressed Islamist points of view, and got the PST, the Norwegian security service, interested. In the interview he said his thoughts are with his Muslim brothers who fight the Hindus, Jews, and Americans who oppress his people. He also said he lives for Islam and has a lot of sympathy for his Muslim brothers.

He also spoke about homos, saying that in Norway are in the best position, even getting to adopt children. Pedophiles and rapists are protected in the prisons, and this is called a society of Christian values. How can that be called values, he asked?

Dagbladet has gotten confirmation that this interview had set off the alarm clock for the PST.

For a long time he also lived in Pakistan, his parent's homeland.

In June 2006 Arfan Qadeer Bhatti traveled to Germany to meet "wise men" so he could learn how he could contribute to the war for Palestine. When he was stopped by the police in Lübeck for a routine check he had trouble explaining the rocket pictures in his car. The germans suspected he was planning an attack during the World Cup and this led officials to start an investigation against him.

Today in court he spoke of his trip, saying he was shocked by what was going on in the Middle East - the injustice, oppression and death. He wanted to do something, but had to meet somebody before he could decide what he was going to do. At that point in time he was very uncertain of what he would do. He thought of contributing through help organizations, or going to war against Israel from the Palestinian side.

In his car he had pictures of rockets and notes about them he had made a few days earlier, in a hotel in London. In addition he had a picture of a little Palestinian kid who had been killed.

The police released Bhatti after a few days. He never met the men for fear of being followed. He continued on through Budapest till Kosovo, where he visited an old friend, Princ Dobroshi. Dobroshi had been described in the past as Norway's most dangerous man.

Once he got back home, Bhatti considered going to the Middle East. He spoke with a journalist girlfriend of his about his thoughts regarding contributing to the war against Israel. [the reporter was later forced to go on leave, but kept her job]

Bhatti had bought tickets but canceled the trip. He says if his life would have ended in the Middle East he wouldn't have achieved any big goal. He couldn't have continued to do good deeds for Palestine or for his family.

A little over a month after he went to Germany, around August 8, 2006, he spoke with a co-suspect. As police taped the conversation, Bhatti aired his frustrations. He spoke of carrying out an attack against the Israeli or American embassy, or against the Jewish synagogue.

In court today Bhatti said that he spoke for half an hour. He says that he's accused of planning an attack but that he spoke about school, family, and his thoughts on politics. It was a conversation in a private room and was never meant to be heard by others. He has no idea idea what terrorism the court is speaking of.

However, according to the PST and prosecution, Bhatti did more than just air frustrations. He was observed staking out the synagogue. He also got himself a good pair of binoculars.

On September 19, 2006, the days shots were fired at the synagogue, Vhatti was in Torshov park. The prosecution think he was taking a trip before the attack.

Source: Nettavisen, Dagbladet (Norwegian). More on the trial in

See also: Norway: Terror or crime, Norway: Terrorism, Norway: Arrests in synagogue shooting, Norway: Terror suspect suspected of planning Jew's murder, Scandinavian terror stories

Denmark: New Islamic Party (?)

In what appears to be an April Fool's joke, Danish newspapers were informed of a new political party based on Islamic ideology. Islam Democrats (Islam Demokraterne) claims on its site to offer an alternative for the 300,00 Muslims in Denmark.

They claim to be working on collecting the 19,185 signatures needed for participating in the next parliamentary elections. They want to get rid of the 24 year rule, put Islam on the school curriculum and forbid abortions.

There are no phone numbers on the site, and the address listed is that of parliament, however nobody in parliament or in the Muslim community has heard of this party. One is not allowed to use parliament's address unless one is based there. They do not reply to emails and trying to track down their website brought people to a wrong phone number.

Parliament member Yildiz Akdogan says that she had never heard of the party, but if it's for real she thinks Denmark is democratic and offers religious freedom and there is no need for an Islamic party.

Source: Nyhedsavisen 1, 2, Ekstrabladet (Danish)

See also: Netherlands: Islamic political party hoax

Denmark: Proposal to ban headscarf in public schools

Medhat Khattab of the Ny Alliance party has proposed to ban girls under 18 from wearing a headscarf in Svendborg public schools. The proposal will be discussed by the city council on Tuesday.

Helle Sjelles of the Conservatives said the proposal was very reasonable, saying that small girls shouldn't be wearing a headscarf if it affects their integration and their contact with schoolmates.

The Danish People's Party will now ask the Education Ministry to state their opinion on such a move on a national level.

Sources: BT, Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)

Fitna Release Roundup #2

Fitna, The Movie

* LiveLeak has removed Fitna from their server, due to threats, but it's still available on line. It can be found on YouTube, RuTube (Russian) and Viddler. The movie can also be seen in Dutch on the AD news site

* SIAD (Stop Islamiseringen af Danmarks) and Gates of Vienna both have lists where the movie can be seen. Email fitnalink@siad.dk to update the list.

* Both the Danish and Dutch foreign ministers deplored the threats on LiveLeak. (Danish , Dutch)

* Wilders will change his film to prevent lawsuits. Mainly, he will put in the correct picture of Mohammed Bouyeri and remove Westergaard's cartoons of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. He will also give proper mention to radio host Robbie Muntz, who can be heard in the movie interviewing Van Gogh (Dutch, Dutch)

Muslim World

* Muslim countries condemned the movie (Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, and Egypt, among others)

* Friday sermons in Riyadh and Al Azhar (Cairo) did not mention Fitna. (Danish)

* A Saudi publisher, Mudeer, intends to publish 50,000 copies of "Jesus and Islam in the Koran", translated into Dutch and distribute them free. "We send books, not bombs, to the Netherlands," he says. (Dutch)

* Malaysian former Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad calls to boycott Dutch products. (English)

* In Jordan the organization "Allah Unites Us" calls for a boycott of Dutch products. 48 out of 110 parliament members want to break relations with the Netherlands. (Dutch)

* Indonesia: Minister of Social affairs Bachtiar Chamsyah called on organizations nationwide to protest Fitna. Hundreds of students showed up for the protest to demand shutting down sites showing the movie. The Dutch embassy was attacked with eggs by dozens of protesters. (Dutch, Dutch)

* The Iranian terrorist organization Ahwaz Liberation Organization, formerly headed by Dutch-Iranian refugee Abdullah al Mansouri, linked to the movie on the United American Committee site. (Dutch)

* Pakistan: Not everybody got Wilders name right. In one protest the protesters put a sign on a dummy saying "Garret Weldon" (Dutch, +pic)

* Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood sees the film as a declaration of war. Like many others, they don't need to see the film to decide it mis-portrays Muslims. (Dutch)

* On Friday, the Dutch embassy in Iran explained the movie to Iranian authorities and pointed out that the Dutch authorities asked not to release the film and regretted its publication (Dutch)

* The Consul General of Moroccan spoke to mosque visitors in Amsterdam on Friday, praising their peaceful reactions (Dutch)

Muslim Reactions in the West

* Expatica summarized reactions by Flemish Muslims (English)

* The Contact Organ Muslims and Government organization generally ignored the film. The Dutch Muslim Council thinks that reaction shows it's normal to insult Islam in the Netherlands. (Dutch)

* Radical imam Sheik Fawaz Jneid of the As-Soennah mosque in the Hague says that Wilders did not succeed in insulting Muslims with his movie. He called on Muslims worldwide to keep calm. (Dutch)

* The Arab European League (AEL) put out its own movie, Al Mouftinoun (Dutch, YouTube)

* The Norwegian Islamic Council criticized Fitna and called on Muslim to ignore the movie. (Norwegian)

* Bilal Assaad of the Danish Islamic Society says the movie is pure provocation, saying it judges 1.5 million Muslims based on a few extremists groups. He also worries it will be seen as a Danish movie, due to the Mohammed cartoon featuring in it. (Danish)

* Danish radical Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen also says the movie is an unneeded provocation. Pedersen did not see the movie. he doesn't think it will get as much attention as the Mohammad cartoons. (Danish)

Political Responses

* After releasing Fitna, a poll shows Wilders 'won' a seat in parliament, bringing his party up to a possible 15 seats, compared with today's 9. (Dutch)
* Expatica summarized reactions by Dutch political parties. (English)

* Dutch Prime minister Balkenende is proud of the Muslim community for their reaction to the movie. He says it's important to debate and name the problematic issues in the integration debate. (Dutch)

* Danish Prime Minster Rasmussen hadn't seen Fitna and since he sees it as "pure provocation" he does not intend to see it. (Danish)

* Dutch Minister of Justice Ernst Ballin called on Eshan Jami not to make his movie about the life of Mohammad. (Dutch)

* Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen visited mosques on Friday and spoke about Fitna. His visit was appreciated by the mosque visitors (Dutch)

* Siv Jensen, Chairman of the Norwegian Progress Party, calls on Norwegian movie makers to prepare their own Islam critical movies (Norwegian)

* The EU and UN condemned Fitna this past Friday. (Dutch)

* Australia: Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says Fitna is an insult to Islam. He says Australia believes in freedom of speech but not int the right to abuse it to promote hatred. (Dutch)

* Belgium increased security measures around Dutch installations. (Dutch)

* Filip Dewinter, head of Vlaams Belang, was very satisfied with the movie, saying it was a non-provocative movie. He wants the debate in Flanders to also discuss the dark sides of Islam. (Dutch)


* The Dutch Central Jewish Board says fitna's focus on anti-Jewish preachings was counterproductive and generalizing. (English)

* Danish TV2 will show clips of Fitna, since it can be found on the internet and is of interest to both Danish and European politicians (Danish)

* Geert Wilders didn't show up for the first debate about his film, in a church in Slotervaart, Amsterdam. The place was on high alert for the event. (Dutch)

* For those who want to apologize to the Muslim world, A Dutch site Sorry for the Film offers people the opportunity to upload their picture and thereby show their regret for Fitna. (Dutch)

* Wilders interview by Spiegel Online (English)

See also: Fitna release roundup

France: Extremists Dream of Jihad in Iraq

Boubakeur el Hakim traded his Paris neighborhood of boulangeries and halal butcher shops for the insurgent camps of Iraq. When he came home, he told his war stories to other young men on the forgotten edges of French society, allegedly persuading some to follow in his footsteps.

His younger brother did, and died fighting U.S. forces.

After years of investigation by French authorities, el Hakim, 24, went on trial this month in a case exposing how the Iraq war has sucked
radical youths from Europe to a battlefield where they have learned skills that officials fear may one day be used in domestic terror attacks.

Along with four other young Frenchmen, a Moroccan and an Algerian, el Hakim is accused of funneling French Muslim fighters to Iraq. All the Frenchmen except suspected ringleader Farid Benyettou, 26, have acknowledged going to Iraq or planning to go. All deny inciting others to go.

All seven men are accused of criminal association with a terrorist enterprise, a vague charge that carries a maximum 10-year sentence, though the prosecutor only asked for between three and eight years.

The case is a delicate one in France, which strongly opposed the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq but has long struggled against homegrown terrorism. It also highlights a dilemma in many European nations with growing Muslim populations: Cracking down hard risks alienating or radicalizing moderate Muslims and betraying western ideals of tolerance.

The suspected nucleus of the network, janitor-turned-street preacher Benyettou, told the court the case against him was "fantasy" and an affront to his freedom of speech. He told the judge he had served only as a friendly ear to young people in his neighborhood, answering questions about Islam that went ignored by France's secular schools and institutions.

In one interrogation session with anti-terrorist agents, however, Benyettou said: "I taught that suicide attacks are legitimate under Islam."

"Jihad is justified," he said in another session in the days following his January 2005 arrest, according to the depositions viewed by The Associated Press.

El Hakim described placing and detonating roadside bombs with equipment that resembled a cordless phone, the transcript of one deposition says. He claimed 10 American troops were killed in the last three operations he took part in, it says.

In a French radio interview broadcast from Baghdad in 2003, he urged Parisian friends to join him on the battlefields. "I'm ready to set off dynamite and boom! Boom! We kill all the Americans!" he said on RTL radio.

In court, while he didn't deny his radio appeal, el Hakim said some of his statements to police were made under duress and that his role in Iraq was primarily "humanitarian."

Investigators say the alleged network funneled about a dozen French fighters to camps linked to al-Qaida in Iraq head Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and sought to send more before he was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006. At least seven French insurgents have died, some in suicide bombings, police say.

The classified case file could fill a suitcase. It includes transcripts of taped phone conversations; suspects' family trees; extremist Islamic sermons; excerpts from a Web site explaining how to use Kalashnikov rifles; and grainy images of dozens of people questioned in the case.

Since the group was dismantled in 2005, young French Muslims wanting to fight abroad have largely steered clear of such organized cells, according to a senior French police official not authorized to be named publicly because of agency policy. Instead, youths are heading to war zones individually, to better avoid detection.

The key concern for French police is not where the fighters go but what they do when they come back to France, home to Europe's largest Muslim population, nearly 10 percent of its 62 million people.

There has been no mention in the Paris trial of any plan to attack French sites, but officials say they remain worried about the possibility — and that fear bolsters the prosecutor's case.

The so-called 19th arrondissement network is named for the Paris district where it was based, a multi-national neighborhood where families with roots in one-time French colonies in North Africa crowd into housing projects that rise above street markets offering Moroccan melons and pungent French cheese.

Frustration among youth of immigrant backgrounds over discrimination and bleak job prospects helped fuel riots in suburban housing projects around France in 2005. That same frustration, defense lawyer Dominique Many said, pushes some toward Islamic extremism.

Benyettou practiced a strict Salafist interpretation of Islam, and enjoyed credibility among radicals because his brother-in-law was a convicted member of an Algerian insurgency movement.

Benyettou exhibited little charisma during the trial, his gaunt frame hunched on the bench, occasionally brushing back his chest-length hair or nudging up his oversized glasses.

But back in the 19th arrondissement, he persuaded — by his own admission to investigators — about 10 young people to leave France for Iraq. In court, he acknowledged he had had "a role" in helping fighters who wanted to go to Iraq, but said there was no organized network.

"I really believed in the idea," said one of his students, defendant Cherif Kouachi, 25. He said he was motivated by his outrage at television images of torture of Iraqi inmates at the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib.

Another alleged member of the group, Peter Cherif, was arrested by U.S. authorities and his mother says he was held in Abu Ghraib. He faces a separate trial in France.

Another, 25-year-old Mohammed El Ayouni, who lost an arm and an eye in 2004 in a U.S. tank shelling near Fallujah, described administering IVs and shots to injured fighters and keeping watch for American troops. He said Iraqi families welcomed the French fighters, preparing their meals and laundering their clothes.

The fighters said they traveled through Syria first, taking Arabic lessons and getting basic weapons training.

When Boubakeur's brother Redouane el Hakim was killed in July 2004 — found in an insurgent hideout in Fallujah bombarded by U.S. forces — his mother organized a memorial celebration of her son's martyrdom, according to court documents and two defense lawyers on the case.

It was American authorities who first confirmed the presence of French citizens among Iraqi insurgents, judicial documents show.

Other European countries have also fed fighters to Iraq.

Two men considered linked to Europe's deadliest Islamic terror attack, the 2004 bombings in Madrid, are believed to have later killed themselves in suicide attacks in Iraq. Spanish authorities have arrested dozens of people suspected of recruiting Islamic fighters for the Iraq insurgency.

Italian courts have convicted several North Africans of recruiting militants for Iraq in Italy in recent years.

Source: AP (English)

See also: Paris: al-Qaeda Iraq recruiting network trial

Finland: Immigrant Integration Is a Shared Responsibility

Integration is indeed a shared responsibility. A government cannot integrate people who do not want to integrate, and it cannot integrate people if the host population isn't interested in them integrating. This article deals with the latter, but it doesn't really explain why immigration is needed or wanted in Finland.


Over the past few decades, Finland has become a more diverse society. This is now leading to a shift in focus from refugee welfare, to the integration of immigrants into Finnish society.

Immigrants come in all shapes and sizes, in many colours and for many different reasons.

Depending on how one defines an immigrant, be it by origin or language, estimates are that there are up to 155,000 immigrants in Finland today.

The number of non-Finnish citizens living in the country has shot up by a factor of five since the start of the 1990s. Most immigrants living in Finland have made the country their permanent home.

Calling Finland Home

Making a new home, integrating into a new culture, is not easy for immigrants, nor for society.

"You cannot make the best choices for yourself or for your children or for your family if you don't know how the things are functioning here, what is the system, what is the Finnish society or the Finnish school system like," says Anne Alitolppa-Niitamo, who is an anthropologist, psychologist and manager in multicultural issues at the Family Federation.

Today there is a major shift underway from a focus on refugee welfare to the real integration of immigrants into society. To a growing extent, practical integration work is done by various national and international networks.

Integration Efforts in the Comminity

Rather than being confined to certain authorities, integration is seen in terms of a shared responsibility.

"The problem is that everybody thinks there is one certain authority that does what is called integration work. That there is one certain office somewhere, where this work is done. But that is not the case. It's everybody's responsibility," adds Alitolppa-Niitamo.

A shared responsibility in welcoming newcomers manifests itself in small, everyday gestures:

"When you meet somebody in the workplace, or in the neighbourhood, you see that this is, well this is a person who has moved from another country, you should go say, hey, I see you are a newcomer here -- how are you doing? Is there something I could help you with? Do you have any questions and so forth."

Finland cannot go back to the past. Building the future calls for opening doors.

Source: YLE (English)

London: Bus driver kicks off passengers to pray

A MUSLIM bus driver told stunned passengers to get off so he could PRAY. The white Islamic convert rolled out his prayer mat in the aisle and knelt on the floor facing Mecca. Passengers watched in amazement as he held out his palms towards the sky, bowed his head and began to chant.

One, who filmed the man on his mobile phone, said: "He was clearly praying and chanting in Arabic. We thought it was a wind-up at first, like Jeremy Beadle." The 21-year-old plumber added: "He looked English and had a London accent. He looked like a Muslim convert, with a big, bushy beard. Eventually everyone started complaining. One woman said, 'What the hell are you doing? I'm going to be late for work'."

After a few minutes the driver calmly got up, opened the doors and asked everyone back on board. But they saw a rucksack lying on the floor of the red single-decker and feared he might be a fanatic. So they all refused. The passenger added: "One chap said, 'I'm not getting on there now'. An elderly couple also looked really confused and worried. After seeing that no-one wanted to get on he drove off and we all waited until the next bus came about 20 minutes later. I was left totally stunned. It made me not want to get on a bus again."

The bizarre event unfolded on the number 81 in Langley, Berkshire, at around 1.30pm on Thursday.

The passenger said he rang the bus firm to complain but claimed it did not believe him. He said: "They asked me, 'Are you sure?'. Then they said they would get back to me, but they weren't taking me seriously at all."

Yesterday the driver, who said his name was Hrun, told The Sun: "I asked everyone to get off because I needed to pray. I was running late and had not had time. I pray five times a day as a Muslim — but I don't normally ask people to get off the bus to do it." Muslims pray at pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening.

A spokesperson for bus company London United said: "We are aware of a reported incident involving our route 81. We are currently undertaking a full investigation into the matter."

Source: The Sun (English), video available

Germany: Police-bomber video may radicalise Islamists

The head of Germany's Federal Crime Office (BKA) said on Friday a video which appears to show Germany's first Muslim suicide bomber in Afghanistan might radicalise Islamists in Germany.

Spiegel Online has published a video allegedly from the Taliban showing a man of Turkish origin who grew up in the state of Bavaria. He is suspected of involvement in a suicide attack this month on a compound used by NATO and Afghan forces which caused several casualties.

The recording showed 28-year-old Cuneyt Ciftci and several other men planning the attack, studying plans, carrying chemicals and constructing an improvised bomb.

"We think the video could produce an imitation effect," BKA President Joerg Ziercke told a conference in the western city of Wiesbaden. "We share the concern that it will have a stimulating effect on fanatics, also in Germany."

He added, however, that it was not yet clear whether the man was in fact the perpetrator and the BKA was still trying to identify the body of the killer.

The video showed the man in question, but did not picture him directly carrying out the attack at the beginning of March in eastern Afghanistan.

One picture in the video obtained by Spiegel Online shows Ciftci at the wheel of the car with the bomb and at the end of the video he is seen praying next to the car.

A few frames later, the attack on the Sabari District Centre in the province of Khost is shown.

Source: Reuters (English)

See also: Spiegel and Spiegel video (English)

Oslo: 'Kill Muslims' grafitti

"Kill Muslims" and "Norway is for Norwegians" were some of the graffiti messages that Ibrahim Salem (30) saw on house walls and entrances last week. Throughout the weekend several blocks on Welhavens street in the center of Oslo were painted over with graffiti. The messages were clearly racist. Foreign names on buzzers and postboxes were written over and painted with swastikas.

The area residents had gotten used to such racist hate messages, according to Ibrahim. He says that this has happened 20 times in the six years he's lived there. He asks to clean the walls, and the graffiti reappears after several weeks.

He in the past he was content with getting it cleaned up, but this time he's scared of the messages calling for murder. In the past they wrote things like 'go home', he says, but now come they come directly with threats. He says his 8 year old son was very scared when he read it. He doesn't dare be here anymore, so Ibrahim sent him to his mother who lives elsewhere in Oslo. Many of the children living in the area were also really scared.

Ibrahim reported the graffiti but feels he doesn't get much understanding from the police. The doors in several blocks are not hard to open. He says they don't sleep well at night, what if they come back and burn down the house?

Dagbladet hadn't managed to contact the police.

Elsewhere in Norway, recently some people tried to reproduce one of the Muhammad caricatures on the walls of a shopping center in Sandnes. It's the first time this has happened in the neighborhood, according to the center's manager Cato Helmersen. He hadn't seen the actual graffiti. He says graffiti is something that happens from time to time. There are different types, but they paint over it.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian), with pictures

Limburg: Youth converting to Islam

A growing group of ethnic Dutch youth in Limburg are converting to Islam. According to different Muslim organizations, one hundred men and women had converted in the province in the past three years.

According to the Limburg Islamic Council (Limburgse Islamitische Raad, LIR) mostly seek very orthodox Islamic movements.

The orthodox Muslim youth organization Alefth in Roermond reports that in the city alone 'dozens of youth' had recently started learning Islam. They are also converting to Islam. Sometimes these are girls who marry Muslim men and afterwards become stricter in following the Koran.

But according to Alefth also young, highly educated men join popular youth mosques such as Jamatoel Mouslinin in order to become Muslims. This mosque is designated by the authorities and security services as "Dawa domain": youth are actively persuaded to become Muslims. Alefth says that in Roermond Muslims don't go out into the streets to missionize, but according to a spokesperson the internet is a medium to be able to immerse oneself in the true word of the Koran quickly and in Dutch.

President Bouchaib Saadane of the LIR is aware of the 'trend' of conversion by ethnic Dutch youth. He doesn't want to speak of a large movement but confirms that the group of converts has increased sharply in the past few years.

Source: Limburg Dagblad (Dutch)

See also: Tilburg: More male converts

Scandinavia: 2030 population projection

A recent article by Daniel Rauhut for the Journal of Nordregio, sketches out a population projection for the Scandinavian countries in 2030. Generally it expects the city population to increase and the rural areas to almost completely depopulate. It doesn't really mention the population demographics except when it comes to immigrants emigrating out. It's not a long article, but I bring here only the issues I found relevant.

The population of the Nordic countries will have increased by almost 10 % in 2030 as compared to that of today. Moreover, further concentration of the population to the urban and metropolitan areas will continue to influence population development. The family will play a more important role, with higher fertility and nuptality rates. Obesity and increased socio-economic polarisation will however lower life expectancy. The Nordic countries will also have to face up to the emigration of persons with an immigrant background
as a consequence of failed integration policies. Problems with labour shortage will persist due to imperfections in the workings of the labour market.

Populations in million inhabitants (present and projected)
Denmark 5.4 -> 5.7
Finland 5.2 -> 5.4
Iceland 0.3 -> 0.4
Norway 4.6 -> 5.4
Sweden 9.1 -> 10.1
Total 24.6 -> 27.0

We will also see a geographical concentration of the population to metropolitan and urban areas in the coming 20 years. Rural and peripheral parts of the Nordic area will have to face up to declining population levels, while urban and metropolitan areas will experience a population increase. In sparsely populated areas depopulation will become a reality. The Nordic regions currently showing a negative population development will, by 2020, have decreased and this decrease, in general, will smooth over time.

Higher fertility rates The retreat of the welfare state, with social security systems supporting us 'from the cradle to the grave', has led to a revival of the family. As a result, fertility rates will increase as compared to the current levels. An increase in nuptality (the marriage rate) can also be expected.

The coming generations will likely display preferences other than those chosen by the ´baby-boomers` from the 1940's in respect of family and children. Since the 1960s we have seen a regional convergence in fertility rates across the Nordic countries. Around 2020 this convergence trend will be replaced by one of increasing divergence in regional fertility rates. To some extent this can be explained by the fact that an overwhelming majority of the population will live in a rather limited geographical area in the Nordic countries.

Emigration countries By 2030 it is not just well educated high income earners who will leave the Nordic countries due to the high tax-burden. Increasingly those with immigrant backgrounds will also have done so due to the discrimination they face and the problems that arise in relation to the imperfect nature of the labour market.

The second and third generation immigrants who have invested in tertiary education will simply not accept being unemployed or taking jobs in peripheral or rural parts of the Nordic countries.

Source: Journal of Nordregio, 2008, #1 (English)

Censorship, pre-censorship and freedom of speech

LiveLeak had removed Fitna from their servers, according to them, due to threats they have received.

Twenty years ago, Muslims rioted after a Muslim insulted Islam. Two years ago Muslim rioted after a non-Muslim insulted Islam. Today, Muslims riot if a non-Muslim might say something that would insult Islam.

I don't agree with everything Wilders says or does, but it's scary when we get down to pre-censorship or preemptive censorship (two words I didn't know existed a week ago).

Should censorship exist? Of course. I do believe that there are limits to freedom of speech. Inciting hate and murder are two examples of problematic issues when it comes to freedom of speech. Voicing your opinion on the problems of immigration and the dangers of fanatic religiosity don't fall into that category.

For me, Fitna exemplifies how much freedom of speech had eroded in the past few years in Western countries. The Dutch gov't considered banning a movie they've never seen. A US company banned it before it came out after receiving complaints, and a British company removed it from their servers after receiving threats. Wilders had made his point just by announcing he wanted to make a movie, an enviable position for any politician.

I have not yet seen the movie in full. I don't usually watch movies with disturbing pictures, not even when they appear on the news.

Is it insulting to Islam? Are beheadings, stonings, female genital mutilations, honor killings and other such things done in the name of Islam insulting to Islam? I would think they would be insulting to any civilized person. But Wilders is not the one responsible for that.

Netherlands: Muslims offended by Fitna, Dutch against banning it

75% of Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands think Fitna is offensive. According to the survey by Motivaction for the Netwerk program among 276 Turks and Moroccans, they will not be provoked by Wilders. Barely 29% think that there will be riots. 12% want to demonstrate. 85% see Geert Wilders as responsible if there are negative consequences for the Netherlands.

According to a survey by Maurice de Hond on Friday among 1200 people, almost a third of the Dutch had seen the movie wholly or partially. 20% thought it was good that Wilders made and released the movie, 25% thought it was better if it wasn't made, and 48% were neutral.

A clear majority of the Dutch think the cabinet had reacted too severely to Wilder's intention to release the film. This was especially true for PVV and VVD supporters.

According to a TNS Nipo survey for RTL among 853 people, 61% think after the fact that it was correct for the movie not to be forbidden. 55% of those who had seen it say it was a bad movie.

57% still fear that relations with Arab countries would get worse, compared to 81% a month ago. 44% of the Dutch expects a boycot of Dutch goods, compared to 68% a month ago.

Sources: Netwerk, Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Dutch fear of riots drops, fear of Islam increases

Netherlands: Dutch fear of riots drops, fear of Islam increases

TV show EenVandaag ran a survey of opinions about Wilders' film and Islam.

44% agree with Wilders that "Islam is out to destroy Western civilization." 88% of Wilders' supporters think so.

At the beginning of March 52% of the Dutch feared riots in the Netherlands and 62% expected attacks on Dutch embassies and companies abroad. Now just 20% expect riots at home and 30% expect riots abroad.

90% thought the film exceeded their expectations. 82% says that 'a lot of fuss was made about nothing'. 70% think the film is not insulting to Muslims.

About three quarters of those surveyed who had seen Fitna said their image of Islam did not change. 23% think of it more negatively. Three quarters of Wilders' followed had seen the movie in its entirety and the rest want to see it. 93% of supporters thought the film was good to very good.

The study was conducted among 10,000 member of the EenVandaag opinion panel.

Source: EenVandaag (Dutch)

Denmark: Muslim World League puts ads in papers

The following advertisement appeared in Denmark's largest national newspapers this week (in Danish):

Freedom of expression at any price?

Appeal to the Danish people

Freedom of expression and the right to your own opinion are guaranteed in Islam and is one of Islam's most important contributions to the world more than 1400 years ago. Factually it ensures all heavenly revealed religions and denominations and promises humanity the right to think and express oneself freely, as long as those expressions don't cause insult or discrimination of others or rouse hate based on religion or race. One of the worst forms of religious discrimination is ridiculing the prophets and the messengers.

In connection with our continuing efforts to lessen the consequences of the Danish caricatures we have visited Denmark several times. We have seen the Danes as a peace-loving people, who prize coexistence of different cultures, civilizations and religions, and therefore we are now convinced that the reprinting of the insulting cartoons are not typical of the Danish people.

In Muslim perception all prophets, including Moses, Jesus and Muhammed, peace be with them all, are in a special status, which will keep them from insult or ridicule. They should be respect by all people instead of having false accusations directed at them.

We were very surprised with the connection made between charges against several individual people of wanting to take revenge on one of the cartoonists, and a deliberate insult of Muslim nations deep in their most dearly religious feelings by reprinting the cartoons. We will stress here that Islam condemns all actions which weaken society's security, in particular murder and arson. Factually Muslims still lack a formal dissociation from the reprinting of the insulting cartoons from relevant authorities. We are convinced that a dissociation will contribute to preventing additional repetitions of such unfortunate measures.

Finally, we would like to call on all rational and peace-loving people and economic and cultural organization to to make an effort to the extreme for ensure good cultural and economic relations between people from Denmark and the Muslim world.

The Danish Conservative party sees this ad as mafia-like threats against Danish authorities. They say that the organization is trying to threaten Danish authorities so that they'll condemn the Muhammad cartoons in order to prevent more unfortunate measures.

Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, who had helped with the phrasing of the ad, thinks it's been misunderstood. He says it's simply people expressing their concern. The whole text and they way they address things should be seen as a a helping hand to attempt to go forward. There's nothing wrong with saying that people lack something.

He says the people responsible for the ad had been in Denmark on a business visit, and they are concerned that the relationship between Denmark and the Arab world are so strained. Therefore they send a signal now that we prefer to extend their hand and look forward.

The advertisement was brought by "The Global Program for Introducing the Prophet of Mercy", an organization of the Muslim World League. Their headquarters are in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and they are responsible for other extensive and expensive projects. The Muslim World League is chiefly financed by Saudi Arabia.

Rivka Yadlin, Islam expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says that it's always difficult to find who who gives money to what and how much. She thinks it's not that important whether the money comes from Saudi Arabia, Iran or other Muslim countries in the Middle East, but rather that this is an issue that is getting Muslim countries to agree and to make a combined effort to change the current situation.

When it comes to promoting Muhammad in the West, it's almost inconsequential for countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia how much it costs. These countries are already deeply involved in what is popularly called the clash of civilizations and they see it as a duty to strengthen Islam and Muslim society in the West.

Former Russian defector and Islam expert Evgenii Novikov is considered one of the leading experts in the field, who cover the projects of Muslim countries in the West, especially Europe. He sees many of the so-called projects as an type of investment in advancing radical Islam in Europe.

In Terrorism Monitor he writes that the documents published on the Muslim World League site show that religious leaders from Saudi Arabia focus on Europe as a target for spreading the ideology of the so-called Wahhabi Islam.

"The Global Program" was established due to the religious discrimination Muslims face in the West. In a time where suicide attack and other terrorism acts are justified in the name of Islam the organization tried to change Islam's signature mark and emphasize Muhammed's deeds.

One of the organization's declared goals is to get the whole world to learn about the Muahmmad and get to know his positive, merciful, tolerant and moral character. One of the methods is to produce simple but scholarly information for the world media when the organization feels that Muhammed is being unjustly displayed negatively.

Other methods consist of international conferences focusing on Muhammad's character and creating a database which includes scientific information about the Muslim prophet. Within this effort they will also establish a list of experts qualified to talk about the prophet which will be distributed to the international media.

The organization will also put in money to support satellite channel for non-Muslims and translate the best Arabic books about Muhammad with the aim of distributing them for free among non-Muslims.

Sources: Kristeligt Dagblad, Jyllands-Posten, Snaphanen (Danish), h/t Hodja (Danish)

Antwerp: Less, bigger mosques

Antwerp has 36 mosques and according to the alderman in charge of diversity, Monica De Coninck, this is 75% too much. She would like to see up to nine medium sized, well equipped and safe mosques. The initiative must come from the Muslim community.

Many Islamic mosques are located in old buildings which are too small. Some mosques are simply dangerous, for example since they lack an emergency exit.

De Coninck says that the new mosques should be built in existing neighborhoods, but planning wise that is not obvious. A work-group tackled the issue of what are the requirements for religious spaces. The Flanders urban planner could start a project to see how a mosque can be architecturally integrated into the western street scene.

A study of mosques in Antwerp started last year shows that barely two complied with the NPO law. After threats from the attorney general, most had meanwhile fixed the problems.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Fitna release roundup

There's a lot of news about Fitna. I think it's amazing that so many people bother to write about this movie that it's 'nothing new' or 'nothing much'. It might be, btw, but I can't think of so many other 'so-so' movies which got so much attention.

I'll give here a quick summary. I'm sure there will be more and more news throughout the day, as every politician, statesman and men on the street feels he must voice his opinion.


* Netherlands was mostly calm Thursday night. Wilders is still in the Netherlands. Police did close off Parliament and the Binnenhof. In the Hague a handful of demonstrators held up a sign "Wilders is a Zionist" for about 15 minutes.

* There are quite a few discussions about whether the movie is insulting to Muslims or not. My answer: Don't expect logic on this.

The Movie

* In the Netherlands, at least one news site is showing the film (Dutch version of course). quite a few sites worldwide are showing pictures of the film. DR, the Danish public broadcaster, says they don't intend to show any pictures at all at the moment.

* Fitna can also be seen here: (thanks to Klein Verzet and fdesouche): Alain Jean-Mairet's blog (dedicated server), Jihad Watch, themoviefitna.com, Google Video, Daily Motion, uTorrent(Both NL and EN version), Download of FLV format, Rapidshare (download). It's also available on YouTube, though they seem to be having broadcasting problems.


* The Dutch public prosecution will check whether the movie is against the law.

* Lawyer Els Lucas already lodged a complaint by the police against Wilders. For those who want to complain about the film, several Dutch police districts together with the public prosecution prepared a pre-filled form. You just need to fill in Wilders' name and the name of the film. (Probably would be useful in the future as well)

* The movie uses a photo of Dutch rapper Salah Edin instead of Mohammed Bouyeri. The rapper is considering complaining. The photo, where he poses as a radical Muslim, had appeared on the news before in place of Bouyeri's.

* Kurt Westergaard is upset at the use of his Mohammed cartoon in the film. He says it was taken out of context and he wants it removed from the movie. As a side note: he was also upset when SIAD (Stop the Islamization of Denmark) used his cartoon in a protest. He did not yet lodge a complaint against the Muslims who used his cartoon in their protests.

Dutch non-Muslim reactions

* The prime minister said the government distances itself from the film and that he regrets it was released. (video here in English, together with a small anti-Wilders protest and the head of the Intercultural Center in the Netherlands.)

* Political reactions range from 'it's nothing new' to 'Wilders' is showing all Muslims as terrorists' to 'Wilders doesn't offer a solution'.

* The ministers of Integration and Justice will speak with Muslim and minority delegations today.

* The Dutch minister of the economy finished her trip to Turkey today. Not a word about Wilders from her hosts. Turkish lack of freedom of speech was not discussed either.

* The Protestant Church: The movie is not a true picture of Muslims. The Secretary General is currently in Cairo with a delegation of Dutch Muslims and Christian clergy to discuss the movie.

* The Council of Churches rejects the caricature of Islam as portrayed in the movie.

* Amsterdam Mayor: The film shows images from the news. As long as the film shows facts we won't fight it, but it doesn't depict Muslims, only the extremes.

Dutch Muslim reactions

* The National Council of Moroccans say they're very relieved by the movie and that it's due to the efforts of the Dutch government.

* Most Dutch imams interviewed said they did not see the film and did not want to talk about it. Several people interviewed complained that Wilders can insult Islam and other religions are protected. One said the Koran has been attacked since it was published and that the Koran and Islam are strong enough to withstand this.

* Some Dutch mosques opened their doors Friday for people who want to see and discuss things.

* Even before the movie was out, the importer of a special Koran MP3-player said that he was doing extremely good business, selling ten times as many as before talk started of the movie.

Other reactions

* Several Belgian Muslim organizations condemned the movie, saying it will cause a wave of Islamophobia. They say it has nothing to do with freedom of speech and call on Belgian politicians to condemn it.

* Danish Mostafa Chendid, head of the Islamic Society wasn't impressed with the film, saying you can find gorier video on YouTube. He says he can make a similar film with what Sharon said and dead children from Gaza.

* Danish Naser Khader, head of the Ny Alliance party says there's nothing new in the film. What Wilders shows is true, but it's the opinion of the extremists he's been fighting for 15 years.

* Norwegian Basim Ghozlan of the Islamic Association thinks the movie is extreme and so is displaying it. He says Wilders wants to cause confrontation in society, but that the best reaction is to ignore him.

* Danish political reactions: The Social Democrats say the movie is like Nazi propaganda. Danish People's Party says there's hysteria about the movie and that they think the discussion is necessary.

* A Lebanese site showed the film yesterday, and by 9pm (about an hour later) was seen 410,000 times.


Dutch: Trouw 1, 2; NOS; AD 1, 2, 3; Telegraaf 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ; Brabants Dagblad; Nieuws.nl; marokko.nl; HLN
Danish: DR, Nyhedsavisen, BT 1, 2
Norwegian: VG
English: Expatica

Fitna released

Fitna has apparently been released and Geert Wilders' site is down.


Movie available on LiveLeak in English and Dutch.

Update 2

LiveLeak is now under attack by hackers, and the movie is therefore now always available.

After all the complaints and all the attacks against Wilders, Yusuf Altuntas, head of the Contact Organ Muslims and Government, said on Dutch TV tonight that the film is just within the limits of the acceptable. He expects Dutch Muslims to react calmly, though it might be different abroad. If anybody would want to whip up crowds in the Muslim world, the easiest day would be tomorrow, Friday.

Wilders had released his film the day before a Turkish immigrant group was about to take him to court, to try and prevent the movie's release.

As for all the attempts to confuse people trying to find the movie through Google - it didn't work. 'Fitna' on Wikipedia gets top billing, and they provide the links.

Source: Telegraaf 1, 2 (Dutch)

UK: Immigrants from Europe attracted to Britain

Public concern over immigration has led the government to announce a stop on unskilled workers arriving from non-EU countries. But every year refugees and immigrants who have gained citizenship elsewhere in the EU migrate for a second time - to Britain.

Abdi Mohamed is one of 10,000 Somalis who have come to Leicester in recent years from other EU countries.

When his wife got a Dutch passport he joined her in the Netherlands - and then brought the whole family to Leicester.

"We eat on the floor. We can't keep chairs here; no room for them," he says in his tiny kitchen. Then it's up a narrow, steep staircase into the small room where his three children sleep.

Abdi abandoned a spacious four-bedroom house in the Netherlands for this poky two-bedroom terrace. But he's adamant this was the right decision.

"We can get here a Muslim community who can stay together. In Netherlands you're scattered, it's hard to find a Muslim community."

As we talk, a Somali neighbour drops his kids off from school - underlining his point. All the Somalis I spoke to complained that in the Netherlands they were dispersed around the country rather than living together.

High unemployment

But Abdi, a trainee teacher in Somalia, has not found work.

"We did research in 2004 and the unemployment rate within the community is almost 85 percent," says Jawaahir Daahir, head of Somali Development Services, which provides training, help and advice.

"You will see now in Leicester there are a lot of Somali businesses, I think about 400, because the Somali people are very entrepreneurial people. But also because many people could not find a suitable job they go self-employed."

The café Kilimanjaro is a typical Somali business. Built in a former textile factory, it is filled with the aroma of East African cooking and the blare of Arab satellite TV.

Sipping tea here, self-employed cab driver Ali Barre said he had to do factory work in the Netherlands because the bureaucracy required to get a cab licence was unbearable. "There are more opportunities here," he says.

Most of the new Somali arrivals have come from Scandinavian countries. Hinda Ahmed Awad arrived from Denmark 18 months ago. A soft-spoken single mother of seven children, she works 10 hours a week as a school cleaner, but has no regrets.

"In Denmark, my children were the only blacks in their school. Here there are other black or Muslim children. Leicester is multi-cultural."

Dramatic impacts

Indeed, Leicester is set to become Europe's first majority non-white city. But when the Somalis first arrived the city council called for help.

A submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2005 noted: "The absence of any mechanisms to provide assistance in the occasional circumstances where a community, usually a city, is expected to cope with mass migration is a potential crisis in waiting."

"No increase in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant has occurred to reflect these major changes and stresses. Even the modest £500 per pupil identified by the Home Office for asylum seeker children (for which EU citizens are generally ineligible) would have generated £700,000 for our estimates of new arrivals in the current year alone."

So there can be dramatic local impacts even though the numbers are not large in terms of overall national immigration.

"It's a continuing means of coming to the UK that could take on a significant scale," warns Sir Andrew Green, head of Migrationwatch.

Pointing to amnesties granted to illegal immigrants in Spain and Italy, he adds: "There's no European standard on how to get citizenship - the scope for onward movement is substantial."

Hundreds moving

Leicester is not an isolated case. It is hard to get reliable figures, but in Milton Keynes, for example, there is anecdotal evidence of hundreds of Ghanaians who have come from Germany, France, and the Benelux countries.

Nana Ohene Gyan-Boatey came from Hamburg five years ago. He says racism in German schools led him to relocate.

"The children were not happy at school, because of what we know the Germans are. So we decided to come here."

Another big group are Tamils. A recent paper by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University noted: "Asylum applications by Tamils in the UK have dwindled since the 2002 ceasefire in Sri Lanka," but that preliminary research "suggests a substantial movement of Tamils from continental Europe to the UK is underway."

The relative economic buoyancy of the UK in recent years compared to continental Europe seems to have been a key draw.

But many of the people I spoke to, including Tamils and Ghanaians in Milton Keynes, said getting their children educated in English was a key factor in deciding to migrate a second time.

"When we came, my daughter didn't have a word of English," says Nana Ohene Gyan-Boatey. "But the primary school got a special teacher to assist her to learn English. It's a big difference. We never had these chances in Germany."

Source: BBC (English), h/t Immigration In Europe

See also: Denmark: 25% of immigrant youth want to emigrate, Netherlands: Back to Turkey

Denmark: New national Muslim organization

Quite a few Muslim organizations don't think that the Islamic Society of Denmark represents all Danish Muslims. Those organizations are currently establishing the Danish Muslim Union (DMU), which includes Muslims regardless of ethnic background.

The initiative, which has been underway for three years, comes from the umbrella organization of Muslim immigrant associations (Sammenslutningen af Muslimske Indvandrer Foreninger, DMGT), which has succeeded in getting together Turkish, Arab, Pakistani and Somali Muslim associations.

Nuri Ünlü, national secretary for DMGT, says that they would like to have an organization which would hold all Muslims in Denmark, so there isn't one group that speaks for all Muslims and so the Islamic society is not the only one who appears in the media and represents all Muslims.

He also thinks that the media bear part of the blame for the intense exposure of the Islamic Society.

Nuri Ünlü: We have for example existed since the mid 1980s and totally seen we are the largest Muslim organization in the country with 3,500 members and 28 chapters in the whole of Denmark. But it's very smart of the media to choose the Islamic Society since they will probably commit errors.

Nuri Ünlü thinks that Hizb ut-Tahrir and the organization's spokesperson, Fadi Abdullatif, have also gotten too much attention from the media.

Nuri Ünlü: It's the extremes that come to represent the whole of Muslim society and we are tired of it. If I was a journalist I wouldn't interview Jonni Hansen (head of the National Socialist Movement of Denmark) and say that he represents all Christians.

The DMU will be officially established on March 29 and will at first consist of the heads of the different organizations and associations. Later the council will get its own leader.

Nuri Ünlü explains that the different organizations will keep their independence. It will be a bit like the EU.

The members have already signed a declaration of intention. the Islamic Society was interested at first, but did not sign the declaration. Ünlü says he doesn't know why but expects them to come back in a year when they see that they are no longer seen as representatives for all Danish Muslims.

Source: JP (Danish) h/t Gülay Kocbay (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Turkish Muslims oppose Islamic Society

Denmark: DPP against green flags

Søren Krarup wants to replace green flags in the upcoming celebration of the Danish Royal Guards' 350 year jubilee celebration.

Green is traditionally the color of hope, but for Søren Krarup of the Danish People's Party it brings up repulsion when they're presented on a flag. The green color namely represents Islamism, he thinks.

Just ten green flags will be part of the facade decoration of the guards' barracks in Rosenborg Castle in the heart of Copenhagen when they celebrate their 350 year jubilee this summer.

Krarup says that it's ugly and can't be prevented from being understood as an Islamic symbol. Instead he thinks they should use the traditional red-white flags, that dominate the decorations.

Wednesday in parliament he asked army minister Søren Gade for his position on the issue, but the minister wasn't interested in going into the issue.

Source: BT (Danish) h/t Gülay Kocbay (Danish)

Amsterdam: Councillor threatened by mosque administration

A labor party counsellor in the Amsterdam neighborhood De Baarsjes was threatened by the administration of the Aya Sofia mosque. They had also denied him entrance to the mosque. The Turkish mosque association, part of Milli Görüs, didn't agree with Kuskel Kaplan expressing criticism of the administration of the yet to be built Wester mosque.

The labor party in the neighborhood was told earlier this month that the Turkish-Dutch coucillor may not make critical comment about the mosque leadership and that if he does do so, there will be something in store for him, fraction chairman Martijn de Keizer confirmed Wednesday. The party had meanwhile lodged a complaint by the police, but De Keizer didn't want to speak about its contents. Milli Görüs is deliberating on a response.

A day before the suspected threat Kaplan fell out with a man when he visited the mosque in order to pray. The politician was attacked by him, and other visitors had to pull the two men apart. The also also lodged a complaint about this incident. Other mosque visitors had also done so, since they also feel intimidated.

The social-democrats in De Baarsjes took the threats hard. The neighborhood administration immediately took the leadership of the Aya Sofia mosque to task. Last week the party received letters from both Milli Görüs Nederland and Aya Sofia expressing regret. In it they promised that Kaplan can freely do his political work in the neighborhood. The mosque ban however would stay in place.

De Keizer calls it "completely unacceptable" that a councillor would be kept back in this manner from expressing his points of view. "It is of critical importance that politicians can do their work in freedom. This hurts the freedom of expression."

His party withdrew their trust in the mosque administration already a year and a half ago, since the threats were expressed towards Amsterdam residents if the building will not go through. The chairman says that now it appears correctly that the administration doesn't deserve their trust and that they're causing much damage to their own community with the way things are going. He says that through all this business the building of the Wester Mosque will be put off even further.

The plans for the mosque have been coupled for years with disagreements between De Baarsje, building corporation Het Oosten and the Aya Sofia mosque administration, about the religious course of the mosque. It is unclear when the mosque will be built.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

See also: Amsterdam: Threats over a mosque, Amsterdam: Company threatens to stop mosque building

Oslo: 13 years in prison in revenge murder case

Haidar Hussain and Ali Ayaz Shafa were sentenced today for murdering a 41 year old woman in Torshov two years ago.

The drama occurred just before midnight on June 25th, 2006, and was according to the prosecution a pure liquidation of the 41 year old drug addict. The Oslo court did not support the prosecution's charges of premeditated murder and found the suspects guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

A majority of the judges didn't think the prosecution had brought enough evidence of the murder being planned and judicious. The court however did describe the shooting as a revenge murder.

Haidar Hussain (23) and Ali Ayaz Shafa (21) were sentenced to 13 years in prison. the prosecution had asked for 20 years.

A 21 year old man, who according to the charges kept watch outside the apartment, was acquitted because a majority of the judges thought the prosecutor had not brought sufficient evidence. The 21 year old was also charged with premeditated murder, and the prosecution asked for 16 years in prison for him.

According the court Hussain and Shafa fired 18 shots together, each with his own pistol. The murdered woman was hit in the abdomen, chest and head and died immediately of her injuries.

The reason for the murder, according ot the court, was that the woman had given Hussain's girlfriend a deadly dose of heroin a week earlier. Hussain himself was present in the apartment at the time.

The 41 year old woman was suspected of involuntary manslaughter after this episode, which according to friends had crushed Hussain. He blamed the female drug addict for his girlfriend's death, and that had brought about a fatal act of revenge.

The murdered woman's boyfriend, John Hongslo (49), was also shot several times. He survived after serious injuries in his stomach and intestine areas.

Source: VG (Norwegian)

See also: Norway: Murder after overdose

Rotterdam: Home care company suspected of fraud

A home-care company is suspected of swindling elderly Muslims who barely speak Dutch out of up to several millions of Euros.

The administration of the 'U en Zo' care company , aimed at helping Muslims, coaxed clients of money meant for their care. According to the prosecution the administration fooled the elderly saying that they should hand over their home-care money to 'U en Zo', and the company would then handle all the care for the clients. But this care never materialized and the administrators pocketed it.

The swindle was possible since the suspects acted as an agent in spending the individual budget and extending care in kind. The prosecution suspects that the clients don't know how much money they had been tricked out of. It is still not clear how many people were victimized.

In order to get a definite answer, police searched the 'U en Zo' headquarters in Rotterdam and branches in Amsterdam, Schiedam and Eindhoven yesterday, and took the paper-work as well. Four of the administrators were arrested - three Moroccan Rotterdam residents aged 21, 33 and 34 and one 50 year old Moroccan from Schiedam.

Police suspect the men of forgery, embezzlement, money laundering and being part of a criminal organization. According to the articles of 'U and Zo' the administrators left the company in 2005. It is unclear if they had continued working for the company.

One of the current managers didn't want to comment, saying only that they will first look internally at what precisely has happened. He didn't want to say if he was informed of the possible fraud by his colleagues.

According to reports from Rotterdam law week, immigrants in need of help are more and more often approached in bad faith by offices who help in spending their personal budge. In order to prevent fraud, the ombudsman and Per Saldo, are working together to make an approval mark.

The four arrested former administrators of 'U en Zo' are known in the neighborhood as 'strict Muslims' with their long beards, djellabas and orthodox behavior. A good acquaintance says that he can't believe they stole from elderly needing help. It's in conflict with Islam.

The strong Islamic tinge of the big swindle investigation attracted the AIVD's attention. Probably especially due to Bouchta T. (50) from Sciedam. The imam of a Tilburg mosque, 'Brother Bouchta' is well known outside Brabant among Muslim youth for his internet koran lessons. The Rotterdam prosecution says that the security service is not involved in the investigation any more. The millions of euros were embezzled purely for their own financial gain and the Moroccans are suspected only of theft and nothing points to terrorism.

The three men are especially known in the Oude Noorden area of Rotterdam. The oldest is himself paralyzed. After years of experiences with care institutes he set up 'U en Zo' in 2003 due to cultural differences. A home-care club which is strict in Islamic doctrine: men and women work in different offices, just as the help is separated. A Muslim needing help would only be washed by somebody of the same sex. The young men brought in clients also through the Abou Bark Mosque, where they waited for visitors. Until several months ago they came here to pray.

Chairman Abdel Kaddouri never heard bad stories. The same goes for an administration member of the Moroccan Cultural Association of Rotterdam (MCVR). "My mother-in-law was very happy with her help. Especially because of the language."

This Rotterdam resident particularly knows the youngest suspect, an old neighbor that he saw grow up to a believing Muslim. "He didn't want to shake hands with women. With his beard and dress he was a special man, but also a good man. he never spoke badly of others. How can he have stolen money now?" He thinks that the suspects always worked at 'U en Zo' even though they weren't part of the administration anymore.

In the care institution on Bergsingel the day after the police raid, where all the paperwork was taken away, is a day like all others. Young Muslim men rush here and there. An employee who opens the door emphasizes that the care continues and that they have informed all their clients of that.

Nobody wants to say anything further about the case, which started after large amounts of cash - once even 100,000 euro - were picked up several times.

Sources: AD 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Muslim home-care

Rotterdam: Immigrant youth stay 'immigrants'

Immigrants can integrate as much as they want, they will still stay "that immigrant". This is the most important results of a large-scale study of Turkish, Moroccan and ethnic Dutch youth in Rotterdam.

Professor Han Entzinger of Erasmus University in Rotterdam met the lamentation often during his study: Moroccan and Turkish youth who say, 'when will I now finally finish with integrating?'

The results of Entzinger's study is that Turkish and Moroccan youth integrate more and more, but that the chasm between ethnic Dutch youth grows regardless. Immigrants remain unchanging positive of ethnic Dutch, but in the opposite direction immigrants are seen more and more often in a negative light, especially Moroccan youth.

Nationalism markedly increased among ethnic Dutch youth. In 1999 10% said they were willing to defend Dutch identity if it was being crushed. In 2006 the percentage tripled.

Ethnic Dutch youth want their immigrant colleagues to adapt more. Entzinger: "In other words, they raise the bar still higher. Language fluency is a good example of that. More knowledge of Dutch is required." He says though that the crazy thing is that not much is added if you ask them to be more specific about what adapting means.

Just like ethnic Dutch youth, immigrant youth in Rotterdam emphasize their own identity since the attacks of 9/11 and the murder of Van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn. Especially Moroccan youth are becoming more intensively believers. In 1999, 40% of Moroccan youth strictly followed the rules of Islam, seven years later that grew to 60%. A similar movement is presented when it comes to adaptation. In 1999, a quarter of Moroccans thought they don't need to adapt, and now that went up to 40%.

Ethnic Dutch as well as immigrant youth agree that opportunities for Turkish and Moroccan youth have decreased the past few years.

Rector Steven Lambers of Erasmus University in Rotterdam had noticed that too. Though immigrants go to university more often (currently 4,000 of 20,000 students) their first job is often at a lower level.

Meanwhile, Turkish and Moroccan youth integrate more and more. Their educational level is yet lower than their ethnic Dutch colleagues, but the they're in the process of catching up. They're a member of a sports club more often, and thanks to free newspapers such as Spits and Metro, they read the newspapers more often.

For counsellors Kaya (integration), that's a reason for optimism. At the same time he says in reaction to the study that he's concerned about the tensions between the different ethnic groups in Rotterdam. He says not to give immigrants the constant feeling that they must pass tests. At a certain moment tell them they simply belong.

Source: AD (Dutch)

See also: Why are there still all those questions?, Rotterdam: Moroccans often feel discriminated, Netherlands: Immigrants should stop living split lives

Denmark to correct IslamOnline

IslamOnline published an article this week headlined "Danish Islamophobia kills Muslim Teen". (Btw, this was the first and only reference I saw in the news to the boy's religion). The article describes the recent murder of Deniz Özgür Uzun (16) by three Danish teens as a racist and Islamophobic murder, which was brought about by the reprinting of the Mohamed cartoons.

According to witness reports the attackers did shout racist slurs at the victims (slurs which change according to different news reports), but the IslamOnline article doesn't mention at all that police and social services in the neighborhood don't think this murder was racially or religiously motivated. The three Danish teens were part of a gang, and had been involved in violent criminal activity.

Denmark's foreign ministry will now try to get IslamOnline, considered one of the most read and influential Muslim news sites in the world, to nuance their coverage of the case, that there is currently nothing that shows that the victim's religion played a role in the murder.

Klaus Holm of the foreign ministry says that when there's public and serious errors it's damaging for Denmark's reputations, and that is why they want to correct it.

The foreign ministry will contact the people responsible for the site. Klaus Holm says that Denmark wants a balanced picture of the case. They had already informed ambassadors from Muslim countries about the case, and will now do so for IslamOnline.

Jihad Alfara, from the Danish Islamic Council, who was interviewed by IslamOnline, did not want to comment on Danish radio.

In a recent case where a Danish politician was misquoted in an Egyptian newspaper, Denmark had complained to the paper, which later published an apology.

Source: DR (Danish)

See also: Copenhagen: Reactions to murder of Turkish boy, Egypt: Danish politician misquoted


Ayman Qenawi, news editor at Islam Online, says that they will write a new article mentioning that the police doesn't think the murder was racist or islamophobic, as well as getting Alfara's response to it. Qenawi will not apologize for the article, since he thinks Alfara is responsible for the statements in it.

Source: Nyhedsavisen (Danish)

Update 2

IslamOnline: Danish Muslim Teen Murder Not Racist