Poland: Muslims thrive in tiny community

Warsaw's only mosque, with its arched brick entrance, lies in a quiet suburb and hardly stands out from the surrounding homes.

Inside, the mosque serves as the spiritual centre for Warsaw is tiny Muslim community: many of whom had slowly made their homes in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation - very few can trace their Polish roots back for centuries.

Friday Prayer services in Warsaw can draw up to 300 people. There are Arabic lessons on Saturdays, a halal food store next door and an Islamic Cultural Centre that offers booklets on Islam translated to the Polish language.

Switching between Polish and his native Syrian dialect, Imam Nezar Charif answers the telephone calls before leading the evening prayer during Ramadan. He tells a Polish woman the proper time to break the day-long fast, shares a joke in Arabic with a visitor and supervises renovations going on in the hall.

Before the three story family home was converted into a mosque in 1991, Warsaw's Muslims gathered for prayers inside the Egyptian embassy or rented out a dance hall before its nightly discotheque.

Now the mosque is so crowded there is talk of building another downtown to accommodate Muslims who work in the city.

Most estimate that Poland holds approximately 30,000 Muslims - less than 0.1 percent of the population – and is expected to grow. The Muslim community in Warsaw range from 5,000 to 7,000 and comprise businessmen, political refugees and students who remained behind during the 1980s.

Charif came from Damascus to study at university in 1982 when Poland was under communist rule and viewed as a relatively cheap country by Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan immigrants. Most of them returned to their homelands after graduation, but Charif stayed after he married a Polish woman.

Those who arrived during the 1970s and 1980s now make up a small percentage of Warsaw's Muslims, with many today coming from Turkey, Syria, Pakistan and Chechnya. Most of Warsaw's Muslims comprise a handful of Poles who converted after marrying Muslims and a few who became Muslims on their own accord.

Outside Warsaw, Poland boasts two historic mosques from the 17th and 18th century built in the villages of Bohoniki and Kruszyniany, which were settlements of Poland's first Muslims in the 14th century.

The Tartars made their home in the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth and practiced Islam freely in exchange for military service.

Their communities once numbered some 17,000 people however, as a result of many Tatar descendants having moved to cities for work, today only a dozen families remain.

Some 2,000 Muslim Tatars live in Poland, said Bronislaw Talkowski, who heads a Muslim community organization in Kruszyniany. Although the village is largely Catholic and conservative, Talkowski says there is more tolerance there than in many cosmopolitan cities.

"Tatars settled in Kruszyniany at the end of the 17th century -- locals know the Tatars from that time," Talkowski said. "And there's no animosity between Catholics and Muslims like you read about in certain places. That doesn't happen here."

But Muslims remain a tiny minority in a country that is 96 percent Catholic and who have rarely lived alongside immigrants.


Source: Expatica (English)

Trondheim: Koran read during church service

For the first time, texts from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, were read during a service in the Nidaros Cathedral.

The reading was met with applause by the students of the Kolstad and Tonstad schools in Trondheim, who had congregated in the national cathedral for a peace service on UN Day Friday.

The texts were read by two students from Kolstad and one from Tonstad.  They joined in after Tonstad students read famous Bible verses from the Old and New Testaments.  Much of content was about seeking peace and justice - both in the Christian and Muslim text.

Faiza from Somalia referenced the prophet Muhammad's call to "Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!" (41:34)

Laok from Iraq cited the prophet's definition of the required way.  It is to give a slave freedom and give food to the poor, according to the Koran. (90:13-14)

Parish priest Lars Sperre from Tiller congregation led the service together with colleague Bodil Slørdal of the Domkirken congregation.  Sperre didn't hide that he was proud of having been part of a historic event.

"By allowing  the Koran's message in our house of prayer, we wanted to show that this will be a service in the spirit of tolerance.  We live in a multi-religious society and this must be expressed in the Church, says Sperre, who led a procession of participating students both at the start and end of the service.

The priest also said that the children play together without thinking that they follow different religions.  The church must have the same attitude and not work divisively to indicate sharp differences between the religions.

"It is we adults who divide, while children unite and tear down borders," comments Sperre.

He's glad Tonstad and Kolstad - two schools with many immigrants - were the ones who took part in the peace service.  The cultural plurality was illustrated by having the word "peace" said in the 18 different languages used by the students at the two schools.

The students contributed further by reading various human rights articles, which were added to the UN regulations 60 years ago.  A speech was also given by Tonstad students Ingrid and Julie about peace prize winner Martti Ahtisaari.

Source: Adressavisen (Norwegian)

Milan: Mosque organizes multi-faith football league

An Islamic center in the northern city of Milan has organized a multi-faith football league that saw eight Muslim and non-Muslim squads vying for the mosque cup.

"We called it the Multi-Faith Tournament," Ali Abu Shwaima, the head of the Islamic Center, told IslamOnline.net.

Eight teams from across the northern province of Lombardy competed in the one-day competition, organized by the Islamic center as part of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of its Al-Rahman mosque, the first ever built in Italy.

Some of the teams represented local mosques in the region and others represented a number of Catholic churches.

One team had Muslim and non-Muslim players.

The matches were played in Milan stadium, which the city council dedicated for the event free of charge.

A Muslim team from the city of Turin snatched the title and Al-Rahman Cup, named after the mosque.

"We also gave all the players copies of the Qur'an translated into Italian," s Abu Shwaima.


Source: Islam Online (English)

See also: Italy: Muslim group organizes interfaith meetings, UK: Islamic Channel launches interfaith game show

UK: 'Muslim courts will always remain 'subservient' to English law'

Muslim courts will always remain 'subservient' to English law, Jack Straw declared last night.

In a speech to an Islamic conference, the Justice Secretary said the arguments against creating a parallel system of Sharia law in Britain were 'overwhelming'.

His remarks come less than a week after one of his junior ministers, Bridget Prentice, appeared to clear Islamic courts to deal with family and divorce disputes, including how a Muslim couple divide their money and property and who gets the children.

Mr Straw said that - while courts could consider a Sharia ruling - they would make their own judgments on the welfare of the children.

Mr Straw, who is also Lord Chancellor, added: 'It is ultimately up to the court to decide whether the agreement complies with English law.  No court will endorse an agreement which conflicts with English law.'

In the strongest passage of last night's speech, he continued: 'There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Sharia principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law.  

'There is no question about that.  But English law will always remain supreme, and religious councils subservient to it.'

Mr Straw earlier told the audience that 'many dreadful things have been done in the name of mainstream religions.  Barbaric practices such as stoning have been – quite wrongly – justified by reference to Islam, for instance'.

He added: 'I am firm in disagreeing with those who say that Sharia law should be made a separate system in the UK.  And there has been much misinformation in recent weeks about this issue.


Source: Daily Mail (English)

France: Survey of Muslims

The majority of Muslims in France feel very integrated, support laicite and state financing of mosques and and also wearing the headscarf, according to a CSA survey published today in Le Monde des religions.

Do they feel Muslims and French?  14% answered they considered themselves "French first", 60% "as much French as Muslims" and 22% "Muslims first ".  (4% didn't answer)

Nevertheless, two thirds (66%) feel that there's "very strong hostility or fairly strong against Islam" in France.  By contrast, 28% feel a "somewhat weak" or "very weak" hostility.
Regarding laicite and the separation of Church and State, 75% support it (48% "very much" and 27 "somewhat")

Concerning Islamic law (Sharia), 38% answered that it shouldn't be applied in a non-Muslim country, 37% that should be partially implemented and adapted to the rules of the country where one lives.  In contrast, 17% believe that Sharia should be fully applied regardless of the country where one lives.

Should a woman be subjected to her husband?  68% don't agree with this opinion "at all", and 11% "somewhat" don't agree.

70% agree that polygamy should be banned for all people living in France, regardless of their religion, while 22% think on the contrary that it should be allowed for people whose religion permits it.

A quite large majority (78%) favor state financing for mosque construction in France.

70% favor wearing the headscarf (43% and 27%), for two reasons, a sign of submission by the wife towards her husband for some and affirmation of individual liberties in a Western society, for others.
Source: Le Figaro (France), h/t Bivouac ID

See also: France: Muslims give more support to Socialists

Netherlands: Imams recalled to Morocco

The governing bodies of mosques in the Netherlands are alarmed by the departure of at least 40 imams on a government-paid trip to Morocco. [ed: paid by the Moroccan gov't]

After being invited to the authorities in Rabat to Morocco, the clerics left on Friday without consulting the boards which administer the mosques.

Nearly a quarter of the imams in the Netherlands are taking part in the trip.

Trouw reports that parliament wants an explanation for the sudden recall to Morocco of 50 imams, who were summoned to take part in 'religious talks'.

Labour MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem is concerned about the sudden departure of the clergymen. "I'm told they were recalled for instruction. It is unacceptable Morocco should interfere with Moroccans in the Netherlands this way. Many Moroccans don't want this at all, they want integration."

Christian Democratic MP Madeleine van Toorenburg says:  "This is once again proof that the Moroccan government is wrapping its tentacles around the Moroccan community in the Netherlands."

Director Farid Azarkan of the Association of Moroccans in the Netherlands says the Moroccan authorities have been increasingly interfering with the affairs of mosques in the Netherlands.

Azarkan says the situation is bizarre and unacceptable. "The imams are paid by the mosques, and yet the influence of Morocco is so strong that the imams immediately pack their backs when recalled by Rabat.  Some of them only go because they are afraid."

In February, the Moroccan foreign ministry announced it wanted to increase its influence on Moroccan migrant communities abroad, and created a council for overseas religious affairs.


Source: Expatica (English)

Denmark: Bad education level by immigrant youth

New data from the Danish Labor Union (DA) shows the education level of young men of immigrant background is bad.  70% of male Turkish immigrant descendants never get a post high-school degree, and almost the same amount of Pakistani male immigrant descendants are in the same situation.

In comparison, just 37% of Danish men never get a degree, according to an analysis of the DA's upcoming integration report.

The analysis also shows that girls do much better, though not close to Danish girls, when it comes to getting a degree.  Just half of Pakistani and Turkish girls don't get a degree, compared to a third of Danish girls.

Martin Bak Jørgensen, professor of European Studies at Ålborg University, researched the identity of Turkish youth in Denmark and their participation in the school system.  He thinks that a large part of the reason is the family's expectations.

He says the boys are encouraged to get an education, that traditionally gives much prestige in the original homeland, for example doctors and dentists.  This is typically too big a mouthful since the academic level the descendants obtained in public school doesn't put them in a position to be admitted or finish the course.  They're therefore set up for a serious letdown and see education negatively, he told Agenda, the Danish labor union magazine.

Martin Bak Jørgensen also blames the danish public schools.  They want to much in relation to what this group can do, he thinks.  He's spoken to school personnel who had to make their own school books, since the existing books didn't just teach students to do figures, for example, but also taught them critical and independent approach.  It's fine to want this, but he says the descendants of immigrants need to first learn basic math before going on further.

Source: DR (Danish)

See also:Denmark: 65% of immigrants with a diploma consider emigrating. Denmark: Immigrant girls do better than boys, Denmark: Immigrant's education hurt by bad Danish, Denmark: Immigrants overtake Danes in education

Liverpool: Somali youth killed for drinking alcohol

A gang of five men beat a Somali teenager to death because of a row over Muslims drinking alcohol, a court heard today.

Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim, 17, was repeatedly hit across the head with a samurai sword, baseball bat, machete and metal pole after being chased in Sefton Park, Liverpool, in March this year.

The teenager became embroiled in the fight after accompanying his cousin, Ahmed Mahamoud Ahmed, 16, to a "straightener" – a one-on-one fight – with the alleged killer Ali Mohammed, 19.

Liverpool crown court heard how Mohammed is believed to have accused Ahmed of breaking Muslim rules by drinking alcohol and held him down while a friend hit his head with a bat.

The 16-year-old boy was chased home where his mother's car windows were smashed, said Tim Holroyde QC, prosecuting.

The next day, Ahmed was lured to the fight - where Mohammed, his two brothers Khadar, 23, Essa, 22, and two cousins lay in wait, it was claimed.

During this attack, part-time student Ibrahim of Ritson Street, Toxeth, was killed and another cousin Abdhullah Mohammed Ahmed, 17, was severely injured and lost a finger.

"One of the defendants was heard to shout 'He's still alive'," Holroyde said.

"All five defendants then joined in a continued attack with weapons on the deceased as he lay, obviously helpless, on the ground.

"The deceased was left lying in the road with obvious and severe injuries to his head which were bleeding profusely.


Source: Guardian (English)

See also: UK: Sharia crime courts

Sweden: Anonymous job-applications unsuccessful

Seven government agencies that tested out anonymous job applications have ditched the method. It was hoped that by making sure all job-seekers were anonymous any possible sexism or racism would be taken out of the equation.

But the agencies say that they saw no real difference in the types of people that ended up coming in for interviews compared to more traditional methods. They also say the new system was more complicated and also more expensive.

Source: SR (English)

See also: Netherlands: Anonymous job applications aren't helpful, Sweden: Immigrants have harder time getting interviewed for jobs,, Belgium: Anonymous job applications

UK: Tougher measures against 'hate preachers' announced

Tougher measures to prevent extremists entering the UK have been announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

They are designed to stop people - including so-called "preachers of hate" - stirring up tension.

The names of some of the people being excluded will now be published. There have been 230 people barred since 2005.

Ms Smith said there would now be "a presumption in favour of exclusion" for those people "fostering, encouraging or spreading extremism and hatred".

The changes mean it will be up to the individual concerned to prove they will not "stir up tension".


Ms Smith added: "Through these tough new measures I will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.

"Coming to the UK is a privilege and I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life. "

The 230 previously blocked have included neo-Nazis, holocaust deniers and animal rights activists. About 80 of them have been religious extremists.


Source: BBC (English)

Netherlands: Turks/Moroccans go home for fertility treatments

Two thirds of Turkish and Moroccan couples who want to have a child, go for counseling and treatment back to their homeland. The couples don't understand the treatment in the Netherlands and don't trust their doctor.  The most important reason for that is that the doctor doesn't take into account enough the cultural values of the immigrant couple.

This according to a study published Monday by TNO.  According to the independent knowledge company, an immigrant counselor could be a solution.  TNO conducted the study among twenty family doctors and gynecologists.  105 Turkish, Moroccan and Dutch couples treated for fertility problems were also questioned.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Antwerp: New Muslim party

Two Antwerp residents of Moroccan origin are setting up a leftist Islamic party.  They want to participate in the 2012 municipal elections with the name MOSLIM.

"The tradition parties have forgotten that we exist," says Mohamed Sidi Habibi. "We are only good during election time, after that we don't exist anymore."  He was formerly a member of the Flemish Green party, then called Agalev, and was in the district council of the Antwerp Borgerhout neighborhood for six years.  In 2007 he tried going on independent lists in the Antwerp neighborhoods, but got no more than 1800 votes.

He thinks he'll have more success with the name MOSLIM.  He's still both left-wing and Green.  "We are a democratic party that has respect for the law.  The law of Belgium and the law of Islam.  The spirit of Islam has respect for everything that lives, and that is the heart of Green."

The new party will oppose the Antwerp ban on headscarves for civil servants.  "That ban just hinders the emancipation of women," says Sidi Habibi.  "A completely emancipated woman, a doctor of chemistry, was rejected by the University of Antwerp when they saw that she wore a headscarf."

The future party is not related to a similar initiative in the Netherlands by Mohamed Rabbae (formerly of the Dutch Green party).

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Sweden: Sweden Democrats supports school headscarf ban

On the Swedish political scene, the anti-immigrant party – the Sweden Democrats has held its 2nd local government level conference - approving a proposal to ban all head scarves in this Nordic nation's schools.

The party has been making use of the resentment of foreigners in some circles here in Sweden to win local government seats all over the country - and is hoping to win its first seats in parliament in the next election in 2 years' time.

Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democrats, the Greens and Left party continue their discussions on co-operation on such issues as taxes, energy, worker's rights, education and defense.

The parties are trying to create a convincing front to gain enough voter support to oust the present center-right coalition - which is lagging behind in the opinion polls.

Source: SR (English)

Germany: Thousands Attend Opening of New Mosque

One of Germany's largest mosques with room for 1,200 was inaugurated Sunday in the western city of Duisburg with none of the recriminations that have soured a mosque building plan in nearby Cologne.

Christian leaders spoke at the ceremonial opening and the City of Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra played as well as Turkish bands.  Police, who estimate that some 6,000 people attended Sunday's ceremony, said there were no protests.

In an inaugural speech, the premier of North Rhine Westphalia Juergen Ruettgers, affirmed the right of 3.3 million Muslims in Germany to build mosques as big as they liked.

"We need more mosques in this country, not in inner courtyards, but visible and recognizable ones," he said.


Glass windows, no loudspeakers


The opening of the mosque could not have been more different from the controversy surrounding a planned one in nearby Cologne. In that city, some civic leaders have charged that a planned mosque is "too big." The city witnessed violent rioting last month as far rightists vainly attempted to hold an anti-Islam rally.


Officials say ethnic Turkish Muslims form a major group in gritty, working-class Duisburg, an old coal and steel town, as opposed  to their affluent, middle-class counterparts in Cologne, 55 kilometers away.


In the Duisburg suburb of Marxloh where the mosque was built, Muslims make up about one-third of the 18,000 residents.


The designers of the 7.5-million-euro ($9.4-million) complex forestalled German criticisms by including plate-glass windows to make the mosque's inner workings more visible.


There will also be no muezzin calling to prayer by loudspeaker from the Duisburg mosque's 34-metre minaret, a practice that some anti-mosque groups elsewhere have seized on.


Source: Deutsche Welle (English)

Switzerland: Muslims can't be exempted from mixed swimming classes

A Swiss court ruling against exempting Muslim students from compulsory, mixed swimming classes has sparked a hot debate over respecting the religious beliefs of minorities.

"Muslim students in Europe should be granted the right to take swimming lessons that fit their religious beliefs," Chakib Benmakhlouf, head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), told IslamOnline.net.

"Some Western countries violate the principles of freedom by laws and court rulings that transgress on the rights of their minorities."

A Swiss court turned down on Friday, October 24, a request by a Swiss Muslim father to exempt his two sons from attending mixed swimming classes.

It argued that exempting students from mixed swimming classes for religious reasons must be very restricted.

Equality between the two sexes and the success of the integration process should be given priority over religious considerations, argued the court.

The verdict runs counter to a 1993 court ruling which allowed the exemption of a Muslim schoolgirl from attending mixed swimming lessons that violate her religious tents.


Some Swiss schools have taken measures to encourage Muslim students to attend swimming classes by allocating separate pools and changing rooms for boys and girls.

But many Muslim students had to dropped out from the mixed swimming classes when such accommodations were not make.

Sheikh Ounis Guergah, the head of the fatwa section of the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), said people should strike the right balance.


Source: IslamOnline (English)

See also: Germany: Muslim girl can't skip swimming lessonsOslo: Debate about segregated swimming classes, Sweden: Debate about swimming and sexual-education classes

Italy: Porn ring shut down

No religion discriminated.


The Italian police closed down an important child pornography site which operated out of Belarus.  An investigation has been started against 83 people in Italy. Two have been arrested, according to the police.  All suspects are male aged 26 to 59 years.

Eighty three House searches were conducted in 37 Italian provinces Friday.  According to the Italian news agency ANSA the suspects come from all social categories: laborers, students, clerks to representatives of the Catholic and Muslim faiths."

The site charged money (90 dollars, 72 euro), but is now shut down.  Some suspects paid up to 1,000 euro a month in order to see the site.  An amount of 3.2 million euro was confiscated in Belarus, together with about 600 videocassettes.

Source: Tijd (Dutch)

Sweden: Swedes positive about multiculturalism, don't want to live in it

The latest Diversity Poll, carried out every year by Uppsala University to follow attitudes to immigration shows that the numbers of those strongly negative to a multicultural society is growing, up from 4 percent last year to 6 percent this. However, over 85 percent had positive experiences.

45 percent of Swedes don't think headscarves should be worn at school or work, that's down compared to last year, and almost 60 percent are opposed to confessional schools, that's up compared to 2007.

Iraqis, Kurds, Iranians, Turks, Somalis, Greeks and Russians were considered to be immigrants for example, while Norwegians, Brits, Germans, Americans and Finns weren't.


The study also reported that less than one fourth of the survey's respondents – 23 percent – want to live in areas which feature cultural, ethnic, and social diversity.

The results come from a report entitled BoTrender 08 ('Living Tends '08') carried out by the Tyréns Temaplan consulting company and based on responses gathered in August from 5,000 Swedes aged 18- to 70-years-old who live in apartments or are considering living in apartments in the future.

Source: Radio Sweden, The Local (English)

Belgium: First female imam in Europe

A mosque in southern Belgium has named a female Muslim professor to the post of imam, the first such a move in the northwestern European country.

"Hawaria Fattah has been granted the rank of imam," Abdel-Jalel Al-Hajaji, the curator of Al-Sahaba Mosque in the southern city of Verviers, told IslamOnline.net on Saturday, October 25.

"It is the first move of its kind in Belgium and Europe."

Chosen along with two male imams, Fattah, a mother of three, will supervise the preaching activities for women at the mosque.

"But she will not deliver the sermon of the Friday prayers or lead the prayers," stressed Hajaji.

"Her role will focus on supervising the preaching and guidance activities for women at the mosque."

Fattah's selection was approved by the Belgian Justice Ministry, which is responsible for the country's religious affairs.

Born to an Algerian father and a Belgian mother, Fatah, 35, is a professor of social and Islamic studies.

She has worked as a preacher for Muslim women at a mosque in Verviers.


Source: Islam Online (English)

Norway: The definition of immigrant

Statistics Norway (SSB) is changing their word usage in order to better reflect the multiculturalism of Norwegian society.  With the new terms, 'immigrants' will only be people who were formerly defined as "first generation immigrants".

The term "immigrant population" will no longer be used in the statistics and will be replaced by "immigrants and Norwegian born with immigrant parents".

"Immigrant population" is used a lot as a catch-all category for immigrants and their Norwegian born children.  This is apparently a problematic category, first and foremost because Norwegian born children of immigrants aren't so much like their parents that it's suitable for a combined statistical grouping, according to NRK.no.

Source: Utrop (Norwegian)

Netherlands: Imam answers about polygamy

Controversial Hauge imam Jneid Fawaz of the orthodox As Soennah mosque gives his followers advise on the internet about marrying a second wife.  The imam neglects to mention that polygamy is strictly forbidden in the Netherlands.

On the website of the mosque, www.al-yaqeen.com, Fawaz has a question and answer column where he tells Dutch Muslims what's the sound Muslim way on various vital questions.  Muslims ask if they can vote, if they must follow the laws of non-Muslim countries and they can let their kids go to the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies.  Muslims also seem to be curious about the opinions of the radical imam on polygamy.  [Curiously this appears under the 'sexuality' category and not under 'marriage'.]

"Is is not obligatory to ask permission from the first wife and it's not one of the requirements that the first wife gives her permission," writes the imam to his followers.  "It is recommended that those who wise to marry more women to carefully think it over and to thoroughly study this topic.  This is namely because those who want to marry more women most often just think of their physical satisfaction and not of the other duties that are related to it."

Fawaz gives the Muslims more advise.  But he doesn't mention at all the ban on bigamy or polygamy in the Netherlands.  VVD parliament member Henk Kamp responded with much displeasure.  "People can keep the Islamic rules as long as they fit within Dutch law."

Fawaz's explanation about polygamy has already been read 3000 times.  The most-read questions are about sex, with the top one being a question about whether oral sex is permitted (15,000 hits).  [Followed by a question about sucking a woman's breast - with 12,000 hits].

Nobody was available to comment at the mosque.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Montpellier: University warned after headscarf incident

A French university professor allegedly acted in a discriminatory manner towards two students wearing the Muslim headscarf.

HALDE issued a warning to the presidency of the Montpellier 1 University (law, economy) after a professor deliberately ignored two students during his course who were wearing the Muslim veil during the university year 2007-2008.

HALDE, the anti-discrimination authority, got the two complaints of the students, who say they were victims of religious discrimination by their Spanish teacher, through the immigration NGO Cimade.

After affirming his secular convictions, the professor demanded of his students to come without a headscarf for his courses.  After they refused, the professor ignored them, banned them from participating and after they protested told them not to come anymore to the course veiled.

In its deliberations, a copy of which was obtained by the AFP, HALDE says that this behavior clearly showed differential treatment due to wearing the Islamic headscarf and can't be justified by the principal of laicite.  The authority reminded the university that the March 2004 law regarding wearing religious symbols applied to schools and public high schools but not to universities.

HALDE also cites the education code that stipulates that students have freedom of expression as long as they don't disturb the course or public order.

If the students questioned the professor's remarks it is because they were "in manifest contradiction with the elementary principles of respect of religious convictions" and seem to be a provocation.  This can't be seen as behavior disturbing the smooth functioning of education, says HALDE.  Furthermore, the fact that there was no warning to the professor by the university presidency seems like a mistake of a type that incurs liability.  If more such behavior would be brought to their attention despite this warning HALDE warns they would take appropriate action.  

The university has four months to inform HALDE of the outcome of its deliberations.

Source: Nouvel Obs (French)

Denmark: Muslim students in Catholic schools

Contrast with a recent report from France, where Muslim students go to Catholic schools in order to be able to practice their own religion.


Hymns, nativity scenes and Christian education are part of day to day life for about 100 Muslim children who are signed up in private Catholic schools, reports Jyllands-Posten.

Catholic schools in Copenhagen and Aarhus in particular see seen a lot of interest from Muslim students, while the country's other Catholic schools (altogether there are 21) only have a few Muslim students, says Georg Høhling, head of the association of Catholic schools in Denmark.

"Our impression is that the parents are attracted by the fact that there is a place for religion and differences in Catholic schools, where there are often students from many different countries," he says.

As a rule the Muslim students aren't excused from Church and religious traditions in the Catholic schools. They participate in everything from services to art class where everybody draws Jesus on the cross.

The concentration of Muslim students is greatest at the Skt. Ansgar Skole in Copenhagen, where 63 out of 277 students are Muslim. Catholic schools allow everybody to apply, regardless of religion.

Source: DR (Danish)

See also: France: Muslims in Catholic schools

Spain: Franco’s Moroccan soldiers

What exactly happened to the tens of thousands of Moroccans who fought alongside General Francisco Franco from 1936 to 1939, during the Spanish Civil War? That's the question which a Moroccan organisation wants answered.

Morocco's Centre for Collective Memory and the Future (CMCA) has just issued a call for an investigation into the fate of tens of thousands of Moroccan nationals who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War.

The CMCA is an independent rights organisation working to unveil the truth about Morocco's past. Its director, Abdessalam Boutayeb, has written to both the Spanish and Moroccan governments, demanding to know what happened to tens of thousands of Moroccans who fought alongside right-wing nationalist general Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939.

In 1936, from a base in northern Morocco's Riff Mountains, General Franco (pictured) led an armed uprising against Spain's democratically elected left-wing government in Madrid. The civil war lasted for three years.

General Franco gave his Berber soldiers free rein to sow terror and fear among the general public in their fight against the Republicans across Spain.

Moroccan units committed numerous crimes in many Spanish cities, including Toledo.

The Moroccan troops attacked civilians indiscriminately, and did not distinguish between soldiers, women, children and the elderly.

In her book 'Moroccans serving under Franco', Spanish historian María Roza de Madariaga describes how Moroccans were used by General Franco and the Nationalist junta to terrorise left-wing supporters of the Spanish government.

The Spanish were familiar with the Moroccan's fighting spirit through the 1921 to 1926 Spanish-Moroccan War in the Riff Mountains, and the events that took place during the battle of Anoual (July 1921) in particular lay fresh in the collective Spanish memory.

The soldiers - some of them forcibly recruited - served under General Franco in the Spanish colonial army. Franco's African forces were based in northern Morocco before they crossed to Spain and marched on the capital, Madrid.


Source: Radio Netherlands (English)

Berlin: Imams to learn about German society

Berlin senators and members of the Muslim community launched a scheme this week to teach imams more about German society and boost dialogue between religious and non-religious groups.

About 25 imams from all over the capital have registered to join the pilot program including German history and politics lessons, with the aim of becoming better informed about the ways of life in the country they live in.

"In today's world, imams are no longer just asked for advice on religious issues," Berlin Integration Commissioner Guenter Piening told Reuters.

"They are also quizzed about mundane, everyday life," said Piening, adding part of the course involved visiting the Bundestag lower house of parliament and then discussing Germany's democratic political system.

Germany is home to about 3.2 million Muslims, most of whom have Turkish roots. Although relations are largely peaceful, the lack of integration is a worry for politicians.

Many Turks live in small communities and cannot speak German fluently, limiting their job prospects.

"I was motivated to join the program because imams have a huge responsibility these days," said Suat Oezkan, 38, one of the imams attending the course, which has two lessons per week.

"The program offers a lot of support and is a wonderful way of creating more transparency between people from all religions," he told Reuters.  


Source: Reuters (English)

See also: Germany: Most imams unable to help integration

UK: Graves vandalized

Dozens of Muslim graves have been vandalised in what police believe is a racist attack in a Southall graveyard.

Several headstones were pushed over at the cemetery in Bridge Road, and flower pots and fencing around graves were also damaged on around 40 plots at the site.

Some damage was also done to Christian graves at the site.

Police say they are treating the damage.

Source: Asian Image (English)

France: Imam arrested for illegal marriages

The imam of the Al Bader mosque in Meaux (Seine-et-Marne) was indicted Tuesday for regularly celebrating religious marriage before the civil marriage and for unemployment fraud, and placed under judicial supervision, according to a judicial source.  A judicial inquiry was started the same day.

The imam, Nourdine Mamoun (33), a French citizen, was banned from meeting husbands and marriage witnesses, and from leaving the country.

He is suspected of having celebrated 8 illegal marriages from Jan. 2006 to Dec. 2007 and of having improperly received a monthly allowance of 930 euro from Assedic (the French unemployment agency) from  Aug. 2007 till today.

Laid off by the Islamic Association of Meaux, which runs the mosque, he in effect continued acting as an imam as regarding Assedic, according to the judicial source.

The president of the association, Nabil Jarboui, was interrogated without having been arrested or officially investigated.

About 80 Muslims demonstrated at Meaux Tuesday to show their support for their religious leader and claim a "place of worship worthy of the name", reported a police source.  The Al Badr mosque, principal Muslim place in the city, currently accommodates more than 1000 worshipers in a hangar.

According to the judicial source, Mamoun explained regarding the marriages that they were in fact "engagement parties".

Regarding fraud his lawyer, Henri Gerphagnon, said that Mamoun had  more contract work and that he continued to work voluntarily for several months in exchange for donations from the worshipers.

The lawyer, who is also the lawyer for the Meaux municipal opposition, denounced the "incredible harassment" and the "disproportionate surveillance" of his clients since the end of 2006 and blames the leaders of the other association, the Association of Muslims in Meaux, of being behind it.

The Association of Muslims in Meaux lodged a complaint at the end of 2006 against the Islamic Association for embezzlement, accusations that weren't substantiated by the investigation, according to judicial sources.

Source: Le Monde (French)

Netherlands: Police agents can take Muslim oath

Police agents of the Central Holland police corps have the possibility to take a Muslim oath, which the SGP (Political Reformed Party) thinks is extraordinarily bad.
For a long time the police agents had two possibilities: the oath ('so help me God') or the promise ('thos I state and promise').  For a number of years agents and workers of the Central Holland department can also declare a Muslim variant: "in the name of Allah, the merciful, and he is my witness that I promise this."  They swear this putting their right hand on the Koran.

SGP parliament member Van der Staaij is "very surprised".  He didn't know that it was already an existing practice.  Minister Ter Horst of Internal Affairs must stop it, he says.

Van der Staaij sent written questions to the minister.  He pointed out to her a decision by the Dutch Council of State, the highest governmental advisory body, from 2002.   The Council at the time decided, regarding an oath of a regional politician in South Holland, that alternative oaths were not permissible.  The SGP member thinks that this should also apply to police agents.

A spokesperson of the Central Holland police corps is surprised about the SGP questions saying that for years the police agents and department workers can take a Muslim variant of the oath.  She says that it's regularly used.

Source: Reformatorisch Dagblad (Dutch), h/t NRP

Spain: Burglaries finance African terrorism

Burglaries committed by an Islamist group in Spain financed dozens of terrorist killings in Algeria and Mauritania, the daily El Pais reported Tuesday.

The group was part of a network established by inmates at a prison near Salamanca between 1999 and 2002.

The proceedings from about 20 burglaries of villas on the southern coast were channelled to the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

The GSPC, now known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, used the money to finance attacks, including the killings of 15 soldiers in Algeria in May 2005 and of another 15 people in Mauritania a month later.

The burglars were headed by Fathi Abdellah, known as The Pakistani, who has been arrested and charged, alongside five other people, with belonging or collaborating with a terrorist organisation.

Abdellah had first-hand information about attacks in Algeria, according to the National Court.

The Supreme Court recently lifted jail terms handed to 14 among a total of 20 people suspected of belonging to the same network and of planning attacks in Spain.

Source: Expatica (English)

Denmark: Muslim girls get abortion without parents' consent

When abortion consultation agencies get inquiries about abortion without their parents' consent, it most often comes from a Muslim girl.  According to the law, everybody under 18 must have their parents' consent before they can have an abortion, but every year between 50 to 70 girls ask to do an abortion without their parents' knowledge and consent, according to the Danish Abortion Board's recent report this year.  Many Muslim youth don't dare tell their parents that they are pregnant because they fear physical or mental punishment and in the worst case, of being killed.

This according to the report from the Abortion Board and abortion consultation agency in the capital region, which had gotten 45 inquiries last year, the most inquiries from young girls under 18.

Torben Hviid, head of the Abortion Board, says that a vast majority of the inquiries come from girls of Muslim background.  They are afraid of being ostracized by their family and being sent to their homeland for re-education.  They fear for their health and their lives.

A smaller group which seeks permission are Catholic girls of foreign background, and there's also a group of Danish girls who fear their parents' reaction - they are typically rejected, says Hviid.

There must be serious disagreements between the girl and her parents in order to get permission, says Helle Mundus, social workers in the abortion consultation agency in the capital region.  She points out that several Muslim girls in other contexts have been monitored and beaten by older brothers because the girls didn't follow the family's traditions and norms.

"We recently had a girl who was beaten because she didn't comply with the family's wishes.  She wanted an education but the family didn't want it.  She was beaten so much by her older brother and threatened with her life that the police got involved and subsequently she was placed outside her home. When she soon after became pregnant, she didn't dare tell her mother about it," she says.

The girls usually have boyfriends in secret because the family don't want it.  Either because the family wants to be involved in choosing the boyfriend, or because many Muslims don't allow sex or a boyfriend before marriage.

"Some girls don't have the possibility to protect themselves with for example contraceptive pills, because the mothers rummage through their things.  They could go to the doctor and get a written prescription without the parents knowing anything, but they can't protect themselves because they are monitored," says Helle Mundus.

Amneh Hawwa, sexologist and gynecologist at Hvidovre Hospital, has dealt with many of the young girls.  She stresses that it isn't Islam, but on the contrary something cultural, which determines whether the girls get an abortion without the parents consent.

She says that the girls are torn between two cultures.  On the one hand they want to live a traditional life without sex before marriage, and that life they know from their family.  On the other hand they want to have boyfriends and sexual relations like other Danish youth.

She says it's a huge problem since the girls live a double-life instead of recognizing that they are modern women who want sex

Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)

Brussels: Cardinal warns against alienating immigrants

Second and third generation Muslim immigrants in Europe risk serious alienation from the societies in which they live, France's Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard told a conference in Brussels on Tuesday. The youngsters suffer "a lack of success at school, unemployment, the feeling of not truly belonging or having a stake in the future," said Ricard, whose diocese covers the southwestern French city of Bordeaux.

Ricard argued that Islam may appear to offer young Muslims an identity and pride that their societies do not. He said the anger and violence they feel towards what they perceive as an unjust 'police state' (photo) can drive them into the arms of extremists.

"They risk being attracted by most conservative and anti-Western strands (of Islam), and Muslim communities can be tempted to form an anti-society," he said.

This can lead to "a radical rejection" of the West by Muslims and the resulting rejection of Muslims by non-Muslims in Europe, Ricard warned.

He called for communities and politicians to work together to prevent situations that can spark violence and to integrate young Muslims in the countries in which they live.

France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe - five to six million out of a population of 62.3 million people or 8 to 9.6 percent.

French-born descendents of African and Arab immigrants complain of being marginalised, denied educational opportunities and forced to live in grim high-rise tower-block 'ghettos' on the outskirts of towns and cities.

Relations between young people and police are traditionally tense in some high-immigrant suburbs of Paris and other major French cities. Less than a year ago, the deaths of two teenage boys, whose motorbike collided with a police car last November, sparked riots in a northern Paris suburb.

The accidental death by electrocution of two immigrant youths in 2005, allegedly while they were hiding from police in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, sparked several weeks of rioting in cities across France - the worst it has seen.

Source: AKI (English)

UK: Bakri accuses Muslims of supporting British troops

RANTING Omar Bakri sparked a terror alert after claiming the X Factor was ANTI-MUSLIM for releasing a charity single for injured British troops.

The poisonous preacher hit out at Muslims who give out or wear Help For Heroes wristbands — or sell the show's charity single Hero, released next Monday.

Last night anti-terror cops were in talks with producers to boost security at Fountain Studios in Wembley, North London, where the X Factor is filmed.

A show source said: "Producers have spoken to CID and anti-terrorism officers about the potential threat level — it's being taken very seriously."

The massive operation came after Bakri claimed that even WATCHING the X Factor on TV was a "form of hatred".

Bakri, 50, ranted: "Some Muslims in Birmingham are wearing the armbands in support of British troops in Afghanistan. This is a form of muadaat (hatred) of the kuffar (non-believers) against the Muslims . . . and it has dangerous implications."

Bakri, in Lebanon, told followers in a recording put on a Muslim website: "Some people may find excuses for those people — ignorance and so on.

"If after three days, if they continue, you are barred from these people and their deeds. Even watching the show — those people are committing a form, a type, of muadaat (hatred). And that action is a form of kufr (non-belief)."

Security at the X Factor studios usually involves a bag search and name checks for guests.

But the show source said there were plans for X-ray scans and a police presence on Saturday — when finalists will perform the single.

Our source said: "We called in officers from Scotland Yard because of genuine safety fears. We are in the process of discussing extra security measures for Saturday night's live show."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We are aware of the recording and it will be assessed to see if any offences have been committed."


Source: The Sun (English)

Denmark: Two found guilty in Glasvej terrorism case

The two men found guilty of planning a terrorist attack by a jury earlier Tuesday have been sentenced to 12 and seven years in prison for their roles in the Glasvej case.

The ringleader, a Dane with Pakistani background, will serve a 12 year sentence. His accomplice, an Afghan, will serve seven years in prison before being deported.

The court found evidence that 22-year-old Hammad Khürshid had attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. He was found guilty of bringing bomb manuals back to Denmark, where together with Abdoul Ghani Togi, he made a bomb from the same materials used in the London transport bombings.

The two were arrested last year, after the Danish intelligence agency (PET) had secretly filmed the men inside their apartment making the TATP bomb and reciting martyrdom verses.

Film footage from both suspects' mobile phones showed the aftermath of a test explosion of the bomb in an apartment stairwell.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

See also: Denmark: Terror trial begins, Denmark: Danish Muslims training in al-Qaeda camps, planning attack against Denmark, Denmark: Three charged in Glasvej terror case

Antwerp: Abou Jahjah acquitted of riot charges

The court of appeal in Antwerp has acquitted Dyab Abou Jahjah, the former leader of the Arab European League and his companion Ahmed Azzuz.

Abou Jahjah and Ahmed Azzuz, two leading figures of the AEL, had been sentenced to one year in prison for incitement to riot in December last year.

The sentence was handed down on charges relating to incitement to riot. The riots occurred in the northern port city of Antwerp in 2002, after a Moroccan Islam teacher was killed by a mentally unstable assailant.

During the riots by youngsters belonging to the ethnic minorities cars and shops were damaged. Police officers and members of the public were attacked.

The court last year ruled that Abou Jahjah and Azzuz possessed great moral authority. They were in a position to quieten the mob, but did not do so, the court argued. In contrast they incited the youngsters to commit acts of vandalism. A third man was acquitted.

"No proof that Abou Jahjah was responsible for the riots"

Abou Jahjah said that  his conviction was "a scandal for democracy" and announced he would appeal against his sentence.

The court of appeal in Antwerp has now stated that there is no proof that Abou Jahjah and his Azzuz are responsible for the riots.

Source: Expatica (English)

Finland/Austria: Attacks on Turkish embassies

Turkey accuses the Kurds


Finnish police arrested Tuesday four people suspected of setting fire to the Turkish Embassy in Helsinki, injuring one employee, the AP reported. (UPDATED)

A Turkish Embassy employee was injured in the early morning arson attack on the embassy building in central Helsinki.

The door of the embassy building was set ablaze at around 3:00 a.m. (0000 GMT), though the fire was quickly detected by a police patrol and extinguished, Finnish police said.    

Turkish Ambassador Reha Keskintepe told AP that the incident appears to be linked to a similar attack on a Turkish diplomatic mission in Austria on Sunday.



A fire, thought to be deliberately started, broke out in the Turkish consulate in the western Austrian city of Salzburg early Sunday, local police said.

"There are signs of an attack with a fire bomb," the Austrian news agency APA reported Salzberg police spokesman, Hermann Rechberger, as saying.

He added that nobody was injured in the fire, which neighbours reported to the emergency services.

Fire fighters, who quickly put out the flames, said they found in one room stones and fragments from a broken bottle that could have contained a flammable substance.


Sources: Hurriyet 1, 2 (English)

France: Of mice and men

Philippe Geluck, a Belgian comedian, compared Muslims to mice during the radio show "Europe 1 Découverte", hosted by Michel Drucker. The show, aired Oct. 15, was about cats and also featured veterinarian Joël Dehasse.

The show can be heard here, and the exchange in question is at around 24 mins.

Joël Dehasse: .. two thousand years ago there were no mice, no rats.. Europe was invaded by invasions of mice and rats..

Michel Drucker: .. and then the cat was very useful for chasing away mice..

Joël Dehasse: .. it chased mice and rats and it protected against the plague..

Philippe Geluck: ... at that time Charles Martel tried to stop the mice at Poitier, but that didn't happen...

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) thinks Geluck had gone too far with his comments. Alexandre Bompard, executive director of Europe 1 sent a message to the CFCM regretting the statements brought into question were made as a joke by the great humorist of great moral strictness and which can shock Muslim listeners.

Bompard assured that Drucker and Geluck are deeply sorry and had no intention of going against the Muslims of France or provoking them. They will explain themselves on the air Monday.

Sources: TVNews Blog, Mosquee Lyon (French)

UK: Terrorism/child porn connection

A link between terrorism plots and hardcore child pornography is becoming clear after a string of police raids in Britain and across the Continent, an investigation by The Times has discovered. Images of child abuse have been found during Scotland Yard antiterrorism swoops and in big inquiries in Italy and Spain.

Secret coded messages are being embedded into child pornographic images, and paedophile websites are being exploited as a secure way of passing information between terrorists.

British security services are also aware of the trend and believe that it requires further investigation to improve understanding of terrorists' methods and mindsets. Concerns within the Metropolitan Police led to a plan to run a pilot research project exploring the nature of the link. One source familiar with the proposal said that this could eventually lead to the training of child welfare experts to identify signs of terrorist involvement as they monitor pornographic sites.

Concerns have already been expressed at Cabinet minister level about the risk of vulnerable Muslim youths being exploited by older men.

Officers have noted that child sex abuse images have been found during investigations into some of the most advanced suspected plots. However, it is understood that the proposed research project was never implemented because the AntiTerrorism Branch was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases it was having to deal with.

It is not clear whether the terrorists were more interested in the material for personal gratification or were drawn to child porn networks as a secure means of sending messages. In one case fewer than a dozen images were found; in another, 40,000.

British security sources confirmed that such a link had been discovered in several cases. They noted the contradiction between people supposedly devoted to theocracy and Islamic fundamentalism and their use of child pornography. "It shows that these people are very confused," a source said. "Here they are hating Western decadence but actually making use of it and finding that they enjoy this stuff."


Source: Times (English)

Rotterdam: Moroccan-born Muslim appointed mayor

Rotterdam is getting a Muslim as mayor. Social Affairs State Secretary Ahmed Aboutaleb will succeed Ivo Opstelten in the Netherlands' second-largest city.

Aboutaleb is a member of Labour (PvdA). The PvdA-dominated local council of Rotterdam nominated him yesterday. Home Affairs Minister Guusje ter Horst has yet to appoint him but her approval is a mere formality.

Aboutaleb, like all Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands. has both Dutch and Moroccan nationality. He combines his Muslim faith with a political style that is typically Dutch: consensus and dialogue are paramount.

Some Muslims consider him too 'white,' some 'whites' find him too soft. In reality, Aboutaleb is in the Labour (PvdA) tradition of anti-polarisation.

Aboutaleb was born in Beni Sidel, Morocco on 29 August 1961. His father was an Imam. He came to the Netherlands aged 16. In 1987, he graduated from a college (HBO) in electrical engineering and telecommunication. Instead of becoming a technician, Aboutaleb emerged as a journalist for a variety of TV broadcasters and news programmes, including NOS Radio and RTL Nieuws.


Aboutaleb's election is in two ways remarkable. Of course his Islamic faith makes the appointment unique. But also, a tradition has been broken of the established parties each claiming certain cities.

It is a public secret that the procedure of electing mayors, at least in the big cities, has been a closed circuit of agreements between the established parties. According to this logic, Gerd Leers should have emerged the winner. That is because he is a member of the Christian democrats (CDA) and the CDA was going to claim Rotterdam.

Rotterdam had to go to the CDA, because The Hague went earlier to the VVD. In the third-largest city, Jozias van Aartsen (VVD) recently took over the chain of office from CDA Mayor Wim Deetman. Insiders were convinced that CDA and VVD had swapped Rotterdam and The Hague.

Amsterdam and Utrecht, the biggest and fourth city respectively, already belong to the PvdA. Now that party, struggling in the polls, will be holding the mayoral position in three of the 'big four' cities.

The choice for PvdA's Aboutaleb might have been pushed by a poll conducted recently by Algemeen Dagblad. The newspaper reported Rotterdammers wanted State Secretary Nebahat Albayrak as their mayor. She was not a candidate, but like Aboutaleb, she is a Muslim, a faith that many Rotterdammers share with her.

Source: NIS News (English)

Germany: First mosque in former East Germany

The first mosque in the ex-communist eastern part of Germany opens Thursday after years of opposition from some residents and the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).

The mosque, with room for about 250 people, is on the site of an old sauerkraut factory in the Berlin suburb of Pankow-Heinersdorf.

Attacks on the site and protests, some by residents and others by the NPD, have dogged the mosque's construction.

Local politicians are due to attend the opening ceremony on Thursday evening and police are prepared for demonstrations, although the NPD has called off a march.

The resistance has highlighted Germany's difficulty in integrating its 3.2 million Muslims into mainstream society, especially in the former communist east where few have settled.

Supporters say the mosque will foster better ties.

"The mosque will be a hub of social activity, not just for praying," said Ijaz Ahmad, spokeswoman for the Ahmadiyya mosque.

"It will play a role in boosting integration and promoting dialogue with politicians and other religious groups."


Source: Reuters (English)

France's War with Jihadis

In the Western debate on how best to counter the rise and expansion of the Jihadi movement, particularly the Salafists, within liberal democracies, European experiences are important because of the sheer numbers of militants and the dissemination within many urban areas. France's counter terrorism experiences are one among these learning processes for all other European Govenrment but also for North American CT planning as well. In an article I published in the Middle East Times today I commented on France's Interior Minister remarks on the state of confrontation with the Jihadists. In a recent series of seminars in Paris, which I will report about on CTB, I also interacted with a number of French legislators and CT officials dealing with the French involvement in Afghanistan and the Sahel. In short, France is heading towards "increasing engagement with al Qaeda on two continents, Asia and Africa, as well as at home.

France's War with Jihadis, by Walid Phares

Belgium: Murders committed for Abu Nidal

Abdelkader Belliraj (51), the suspected terrorist from Evergem, will stand trial in Morocco starting today.  He is suspected of being the military leader of a 33-member terrorist group which wanted to violently overthrow the Moroccan regime.  Belliraj is also charged with six murders he committed in Belgium in the late 80s.  Murders which he confessed to the police but which he later denied to the magistrate.

Abdelkader Belliraj was interrogated by the Moroccan police four times after his arrest, on February 16, 18, 26 and 27.  The editors of Nieuwsblad were able to take a look at parts of the interrogation which had been translated from Arabic to French.

Belliraj told the police also about the attacks he committed in the late 80s in Belgium.  He said he met Palestinian Abu Ali in Algeria, who worked for the Abu Nidal Palestinian terrorist group, which was sponsored by Libya.

In his interrogation on Feb. 16, 2008 Belliraj said: "On request of Abu Ali I went back to Belgium in the late 80s in order to set up a jihadist cell.  He asked me to seek confrontation in Belgium with the Jews and the moderate Saudis.  Abu Nidal wanted to pressure also the Saudis since they only gave money to Arafat's PLO and not to Abu Nidal."

"The organization had a training camp in Saida in Lebanon, where the Arab volunteers were trained.  All men who wanted to fight for Palestine.  The men that I afterward recruited in Belgium went there."

"It was my task to look for and to execute in Belgium Jewish and Arab target.  For the reports that I made about possible targets I got 200 or 300 American dollars from Abu Ali."

In the interrogation Belliraj remembered barely one of the six targets by name: the Jewish doctor Joseph Wybran.  The investigators had had to find the names of the rest later based on the description of the events given by Belliraj.

In his statements Belliraj also described the weapons and cars used.  Some details fit, others don't.  Belliraj says that he committed the murders with a group of five accomplices.  In the interrogations he also named them.  This is what he stated about the victims:

Raoul Schouppé (65), grocer in the Brussels South station, July 23, 1988.  Belliraj: "the first victim was an herborist and former soldier who had a shop in the neighborhood where I lived.  He was a former soldier and a Jew.  Therefore he had to die.  I committed the execution myself."

Marcel Bille (53), tailor, August 1988.  Belliraj: "He was a deviant, an homosexual and a Jew. He paid Moroccan students for sexual relations.  My accomplices and I agreed that he had to die.  We approached him in a cafe at Brussels South and shot him in the car.  We dumped his body in a forest.

Abdullah Al Abdal (36), imam of the Great Mosque in Brussels, and his librarian Salem Bahri, March 26, 1989.

Belliraj: "The imam was a moderate Saudi and Abu Nidal wanted for strategic reason to kill Saudis.  He wanted to pressure the Saudi regime in this way.  The imam also expressed himself moderately about The Satanic Verses.  the other man was the deputy head.  He was accidentally in the area.  He was killed in the same way.  After the execution I was informed that the operation succeeded."

Samir Gahez Rasoul (24), Egyptian handyman of the Saudi Arabian embassy, June 20, 1989.  Belliraj: "The Egyptian was a mistake.  The executor panicked.  It was dark in the lobby of the apartment building. The executors shot the wrong one.  I informed Abu Ali.  He claimed the attack in the name of another organization in order to sow confusion."

Joseph Wybran (49), head of the coordinating committee of Jewish associations, Oct. 3, 1989.  Belliraj: "The Jewish doctor was an important target as head of the Jewish community and was therefore executed by a member of our group.  I was also on hand."

Meanwhile a Belgian committee of five investigators is already in Morocco for more than a week.  they could visit Belliraj there in his cell.  According to official sources he denied to the Belgian investigators that he knew anything of the six murders which were committed in Belgium.

Source: Nieuwsblad (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Terrorist leader committed six murders, Belgium: Terrorist leader interrogated already in 1989, Belgium: The Saudi murders, Belgium: Belliraj murders

Europe: Pakistani organized crime tamper with ATMs

A sophisticated "chip and pin" scam run by criminal gangs in China and Pakistan is netting millions of pounds from the bank accounts of British shoppers, America's top cyber security official has revealed.

Dr Joel Brenner, the US National Counterintelligence Executive, warned that hundreds of chip and pin machines in stores and supermarkets across Europe have been tampered with to allow details of shoppers' credit card accounts to be relayed to overseas fraudsters.

These details are then used to make cash withdrawals or siphon off money from card holders' accounts in what is one of the largest scams of its kind.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, America's counterintelligence chief said: "Previously only a nation state's intelligence service would have been capable of pulling off this type of operation. It's scary."

An organised crime syndicate is suspected of having tampered with the chip and pin machines, either during the manufacturing process at a factory in China, or shortly after they came off the production line.

In what is known as a "supply chain attack", criminals managed to bypass security measures and doctor the devices before they were dispatched from the factories where they were made.

The machines were opened, tampered with and perfectly resealed, said Dr Brenner, "so that it was impossible to tell even for someone working at the factory that they had been tampered with." They were then exported to Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium.

An investigation launched by Mastercard International is understood to have discovered several of the corrupted machines at British branches of Asda and Sainsbury's.

In all, hundreds of devices in Britian and other affected countries had been copying the account details and pin numbers of thousands of credit and debit cards over the past nine months and transmitting the data via mobile phone networks to underworld electronic experts in Lahore, Pakistan.

Once MasterCard had uncovered the scam it alerted stores which set about examining tens of thousands of chip and pin machines to find out which ones had been tampered with.

The corrupted devices are an extra three to four ounces heavier because of the additional parts they contain, and the simplest way to identify them has been to weigh them.


Source: Telegraph (English)

Iraq: Swedish al-Qaeda head killed

The Swedish citizen who on Wednesday evening was reported to have been killed by US forces in Iraq was Abu Qaswara - according to the UN and EU one of the most senior al-Qaeda leaders in the country.

Abu Qaswara was killed in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq on October 5th, reported Reuters. Born in Morocco and known also as Abu Sara, Abu Qaswara was described by the US as the second-in-command in al-Qaeda in Iraq and the leader of the organisation's groups in the north of the country.

Details about Qaswara's death were discussed at a press conference in Baghdad on Wednesday by US Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

According to Sweden's security police, Säpo, the man died in a fire fight with American forces when they tried to capture him.

"We've known about the man since the 1990s. He's suspected of having led an Islamist network which has supported terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Africa," said Säpo spokesperson Tina Israelsson to the TT news agency.

Among other activities, the network is believed to have sent jihadist volunteer fighters to Iraq, with the man having used Sweden as a base of operations.

"He came to Sweden in the middle of the 1980s, became a Swedish citizen in the mid-1990s and was here until 2006. In May 2006 he travelled to Iraq and hasn't returned since," said Israelsson.


Source: The Local (English)

Europe: Mosques moving from back alleys to boulevards

There are plans to build several hundred new and often magnificent mosques throughout Europe -- particularly in Germany. Architecture has become the field of a fierce ideological battle about the visibility of Europe's 16 million Muslims.

Just a few minutes ago, Mubashra Ilyas was still standing on her dusty construction site. Now the 30-year-old architect is striding through a gallery in the back courtyard of a building in Berlin's Mitte district in elegant black boots. As the room slowly fills up, Ilyas continues to stand out: She's the only woman wearing a headscarf.

The topic of the evening's discussion is "Mosques, Migration and Myth," and Ilyas doesn't want to miss it. She designed the first mosque to be built in eastern Berlin -- the first in all of eastern Germany, in fact -- and it's just about finished. The official opening is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16.

The next few hours at Berlin's Aedes Architecture Forum will be spent discussing the issues of how "back alley mosques" will soon become a thing of the past, the aesthetics of the new mosques and traditional versus modern styles. The real issue of debate, however, will be the fact that, stone by stone and minaret by minaret, Muslims in Germany want to become more visible -- they are no longer content to have their places of worship largely hidden from public view. In architectural terms, they want to be part of the cityscape in a way they have never been before.

In fact, if you wanted to give a name to the topic of discussion, it wouldn't be wrong to call it "confrontational architecture," as the passions it excites clearly show just how large the rift is between the immigrant community and the German majority.

Erecting vocal symbols of Islam could change society in ways that no one can yet imagine. In the face of this development, some are calling for calm, while others are warning fellow citizens about the growing influence by fundamentalist groups. Both standpoints are understandable -- which makes every dispute particularly touchy.

No country in Europe can simply dodge the debate. Immigration to Germany already has a 50-year history, and the time has now come for German society to finally integrate its Muslims, whose religion continues to be foreign to the average German. At the same time, Germany must not weaken its own values by practicing misguided tolerance or putting up with ideological attacks against the West's fundamental order in the name of encouraging religious freedom. Still, harboring prejudices is equally unacceptable. The situation is only getting touchier, and there is a lot at stake. Mosques are symbols of this, too.


Source: Spiegel (English)

France: Boos during anthem shock French (+video)

Figaro reports that 80% of the French were shocked by the boos accompaniying the singing of the French anthem.  46% were "very shocked", 34% "somewhat shocked", 5% "somewhat not shocked" and 10% "not shocked at all". (FR)

France24 has a video report of the anthem incident.


A warm autumn evening in Paris's Stade de France, the UFO-like landmark French stadium. Two teams : France and Tunisia, invited for a friendly game. Sixty thousand spectators, including many French youths of Tunisian or North-African descent. All in all just another ordinary football game. Only it wasn't.


Things went sour even before the game started, when loud boos and jeers nearly covered the voice of the young Franco-Tunisian singer performing the French national anthem. Afterwards, all through the game, incessant catcalls targeted Hatem Ben Arfa, born in France to Tunisian parents, who opted to play for his birth country despite overtures from the Tunisian Federation.


The next day, every French politician in the arena had something to say about the game. Strongly condemning these "scandalous incidents", French president Nicolas Sarkozy promptly summoned the French Football Federation Jean-Pierre Escalettes and demanded that in the future, all games where the national anthem is booed be immediately suspended. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Michèle Alliot Marie demanded that last night's offenders be indentified and sanctioned. In France, insulting the Marseillaise is a criminal offence.


"It's like watching a competition between your father and your mother"


Skander Gafsi, a 27-year-old French citizen of Tunisian descent, was at the game yesterday. "It's never easy when there is a game opposing France and Tunisia" he told FRANCE 24. "Most spectators for this type of game are Franco-Tunisian, and it's like watching a competition between your father and your mother. It's tough!"


Gafsi sang both hymns and "felt bad for Ben Arfa and Benzema", Tunisians on the French team especially targeted by boos. "I don't agree with the catcalls, but I understand why they did it", he says. "These are people whose voice is never heard, except once every three years at a football game. They feel the need to speak out."


Others go even further in the reactions they posted on FRANCE 24's website : "This incident reminds me of the Muslim uproar over the blasphemous caricatures of Mohammed last year. Sacred symbols were disrespected, so some Muslims feel the need to take revenge", wrote one anonymous contributor from Tanger, in Morocco.


The incident has sparked a harsh debate in France, however, and not everyone sympathizes with the booing supporters. "If these guys aren't happy, they should just hand in their passport," Lyes Ben Chedli, President of the Association of Friends of the Mediterranean Union told FRANCE 24. "I think the boos are a question of lack of education and lack of integration. I fully agree with the government's reaction: this type of attitude requires a strong response and appropriate sanctions."

"Anyone who boos the Marseillaise should not be in France"


This view is widely echoed by dozens of readers who reacted to the incident on France 24's website. "Anyone who boos the Marseillaise just should not be in France. We never asked them to come!" wrote one. A comment viewed as inacceptable by Christophe Bertossi, Director of the Migration Programme at the French Institute of International Relations. "We shouldn't confuse the symbol and what the symbol represents. Just because these youths reject the Marseillaise doesn't mean they hate France. The people who booed the anthem are just as probably proud of their French passport," Bertossi told FRANCE 24.


Source: France24 (English)

Belgium: Proposal not to fund 'virginity operations'

Belgian politician Anne-Marie Lizin of the Walloon Socialist Party wants to stop state subsidy of 'virginity operations'.

The enthusiastic senator presented a law proposal saying that hymen reconstruction operations will no longer be reimbursed by the RIVIZ national health insurance.  

Muslim men in particular want their future wives to be virgin during the wedding night.  In some cultures the bloodied sheet is displayed after the first night and girls who had sex previously cannot do so.

Therefore, more and more women are having their hymen reconstructed.  According to Lizin, some immigrant women are even urged to get a virginity certificate.

Hymen reconstruction is currently being reimbursed in Belgium by the RIZIV as "vagina and vulva plastic surgery".  This is really meant for repairing damage as a result of births, burns and abscesses.  Is there are medical reasons, then there would be reimbursement for the procedure.

In the Netherlands hymen reconstruction is fully reimbursed as part of the basic insurance.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Hymenoplasty, Belgium: Honor violence under-estimated

UK: Dealing with extremism in elementary school

The Danish Education Minister, Bertel Haarder, says he's following the British proposals with great interest, but the Danish teacher's union say that they doubt such methods can be effective and that it's most important to keep to the democratic traditions at Danish public schools (Berlinske, Danish)


The Schools Secretary suggested some primary school pupils were already displaying "early warning signs" of extremist attitudes.

He called on teachers to challenge pupils sympathising with terrorists.

Guidance published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families outlined a series of recent examples of schoolchildren being confronted by extremist groups.

This included a number of pupils targeted by a far right organisation in a school car park, encouraging them to attack a local ethnic minority community, it was claimed.

Officials also told how one primary age pupil started talking in a playground about "the duty of all true Muslims to prepare for jihad war as we grow up", as well as referring to the "7/7 martyrs" with admiration.

One supply teacher left a book in a school library containing a lengthy passage about martyrdom including the phrase: "This indicates that seeking to be killed and pursuing martyrdom are legitimate and praiseworthy acts."

And in another example, primary schoolchildren told a teacher how they had been "involved in physical attacks on children outside school 'to make them go back to their own country'".

They were outlined in a document - Learning Together to be Safe - designed to encourage schools to deal with early signs of extremism.

Speaking as it was launched at a school in north London, Mr Balls said: "Violent extremism influenced by Al-Qaeda currently poses the greatest security threat but other forms of extremism and hate- or race-based prejudice are also affecting our communities and causing alienation and disaffection amongst young people.

"Our goal must be to empower our young people to come together to expose violent extremists and reject cruelty and violence in whatever form it takes."


Source: Telegraph (English)

UK: Sharia law is 'not fit for the UK'

A Labour Muslim minister has warned that Islamic law is too unsophisticated for Britain.

Sadiq Khan said women could be ' abused' by sharia courts, which may give unequal bargaining power to the sexes.

He said: 'The burden is on those who want to open up these courts to persuade us why they should.'

Mr Khan, who was made a community cohesion minister in this month's Government reshuffle, rejected the argument that the courts could operate in the same way as the Jewish Beth Din courts.

He said Muslim life in Britain was not advanced enough to run a similar religious legal system.

The MP for Tooting in South London added: 'I would be very concerned about sharia courts applying in the UK.

'I don't think there is that level of sophistication that there is in Jewish law.'

He also said that sharia courts would discourage Muslims from developing links with other cultural and ethnic groups.

In February Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his support for the courts in Britain, saying that the legal recognition of them 'seems unavoidable'.

Mr Khan, who is a human rights lawyer and one of only a handful of Muslim MPs, said: 'The requirement to learn English is not colonial. English is a passport to participation in mainstream society - jobs, education and even being able to use health services.

'Having poor English creates multiple barriers to work,' he writes in the pamphlet for the left-of-centre Fabian Society. [see here]

But the pamphlet also contains suggestions likely to prove controversial.

Mr Khan, recently at the centre of a bugging scandal, when his prison visits to a constituent accused of terrorism were secretly recorded by police, said a law against discrimination should be extended to religion.

The forthcoming Single Equality Act, which could force public bodies to actively promote equality on grounds of gender, race and disability, must also tackle religion.

There should be an end to 'Islamophobia in the workplace', he suggested.

Other controversial proposals included increased 'support' from Government for larger families.

Mr Khan suggested this even though it might lead to Pakistani and Bangladeshi families, often larger than the British average, receiving 'disproportionate' levels of help.


Source: Daily Mail (English)