Norway: Football player insults praying teammates

Norway: Football player insults praying teammates

Meanwhlie, the Danish Football Federation is calling to ban religious manifestations during games.


Bosnian players Admir Rascic and Fenan Salcinovic scored a goal for their team, Sandefjord, putting them ahead in the Sunday match against Strømsgodset.  The two religious Muslim players went down on their knees for a little celebration prayer, when Espen Nystuen came from behind Salcinovic and made obscene gestures.  (video available here)

Salcinovic was shocked when he told of Nystuen's celebratory gestures.  He says it's not good at all and that it was nasty against him and his religion.  The Bosnian player said he'll speak to Nystuen and ask him never to do it again.

Espen Nystuen says it was very tempting.  The two do this every time and pose so invitingly that he just jumped in.  He did not tell the Bosnians of what he'd done.  He says he doesn't dare to and that they'll see it on TV.  In any case he expected to get a beating during their next training match.

Rascic, who scored the goal, says he sees the whole thing as a joke, but says that Salcinovic is more religious than he is.  But the issue is not completely dead.  Rascic told VG Nett that the season is long and he promises Nysteuen that he'll retaliate.

During Monday's training session, Salcinovic lost his temper at fellow teammate Erik Mjelde, who returned in kind, though he later regretted it.  Mjelde answered that Salcinovic was upset.  He says the joke shouldn't have been made, religion is in the picture and such things should be respected.

The team members spoke and Nystuen explained himself.  Nystuen said that they spoke and that the issue is now closed.  Fenan is fortunately a very understanding man, said Nystuen, who did not think that he's insulting his teammate's religion.  Nystuen explained that he did not realize how important Salcinovic's faith is for him.  He said his actions were a result of lack of thinking.

Espen Nystuen apologizes for having hurt his teammates, and says it was meant as a joke.  He was running to celebrate, and ended us doing something which would have fit better during the gay pride parade in Oslo.

Things were still tense in the team Tuesday, when Malick Mane got upset at Nystuen, and Salcinovic and Rune Hansen had to intervene in order to stop the fight.

Shoaib Sultan, General Secretary of the Islamic Council, told TV 2 Sporten that it should be seen rather seriously.  It's always easy to laugh when it applies to somebody else.  People should look at their own holy things, be they national symbols or other things, in such a context so they'll think that it isn't funny.

Shoaib says he doesn't read religious symbolism into it.  It was insulting and those involved were angry, and the solution is old-fashioned manners.

"I think Islam and the world's Muslims were insulted.  Espen should apologize to both Islam and Muslims.  I think that religion and Muslims were insulted," said 'the victim', Fenan Salcinovic to TV 2 Sporten on Tuesday.

Nystuen says he tried to be a little funny, but it wasn't successful.  He apologizes. 

Salcinovic said he forgives Espen for his actions since he asked the world's Muslims for forgiveness.

Sources: VG 1, 2; FVN; Dagbladet; TV2 Sporten (Norwegian)

Antwerp: Islamic loans conman sentenced to prison

Antwerp: Islamic loans conman sentenced to prison

The correctional court of Antwerp sentenced Mohamed Banyaich (59) to 18 months in prison and 2,500 euro in fines.  The Moroccan journalist from Antwerp conned several people out of considerable amounts of money through 'Islamic loans'.

These laws are without interest, but this religious law was sidestepped by paying other expenses in advance, such as for example paying for the files and insurance against bad debts.  These amounts severed as compensation for the interest.
The accused had the victims pay the preliminary costs, but they never saw the money for the loan.  Here and there he paid people back as a pretext not to pay the entire amount.The incidents occured between December 2000 and September 2003.  He was already convicted for similar incidents.

The court forfeited capital gains of 85,000.  Mohamed Benyaich has to pay four civil parties damages totalling 180,772.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Iraq: Iraqi-Swede woman attacked, attempted honor-murder suspected

Iraq: Iraqi-Swede woman attacked, attempted honor-murder suspected

Though the original article (Göteborgs-Posten) mentions it several times, The Local manages to write an entire article about the case without mentioning the word 'honor'.

According to Mikael Törn, social consultant for Västra Götaland county, with 15 years experience in working against honor-related violence, this case is fundamentally important.  Usually the involvement of relatives in such cases is not fully investigated - the perpetrator is investigated, but the other relatives and family who encouraged the crime go free.  He says it's important to have such court cases and that light will be shed on these issues.


The stabbing in Iraq of a local Swedish politician has prompted an investigation into whether or not the attack was paid for by the woman's relatives back in Sweden.

The woman, an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen who has lived in Sweden for 25 years, was attacked from behind while visiting her brother in Kirkuk in northern Iraq, the Göteborgs-Posten (GP)newspaper reports.

The assailant come up from behind and stabbed the woman several times, puncturing a lung and sending her to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Iraqi police arrested the man two days later, but the woman has long suspected that disgruntled relatives back in Sweden were behind the attack.

The trouble started when the woman, who friends describe as a strong and self-assured advocate for women's rights, refused to bow to the wishes of influential member of her extended family, many of whom live in western Sweden.

"I upset him. In December 2007 I was threatened and I reported him to police," she told the newspaper.

According to the woman, the man's anger escalated when he learned of the police report, leading to the nearly-fatal knife attack in Iraq.


Source: The Local (English)

Norway: Imam to publish book against FGM

Norway: Imam to publish book against FGM

Imam Abdinur Mahamud in Trondheim wants to show that FGM (female genital mutilation) is in conflict with Islam.  He therefore wrote a book on the issue, from the point of view of the Koran and Sharia.

He says he took the Koran and Sharia as the starting point in order to show that female circumcision isn't compatible with Islam.

The book discusses what is circumcision, and what Islam says about this, says Mahamud to Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen.

The manuscript is being translated now to Norwegian and English and afterward to Somali. The imams hopes it will be published by the end of the year.  There are references in the book to over 100 other sources including articles, books and statements by other imams.
Mahamud is crystal-clear that all forms of female circumcision are in conflict with Islam.  The Koran's starting point is that God's creation shouldn't be changed, says the imam.

Source: NRK (Norwegian)

UK: Study estimates 85 Sharia courts

UK: Study estimates 85 Sharia courts

At least 85 Islamic sharia courts are operating in Britain, a study claimed yesterday.

The astonishing figure is 17 times higher than previously accepted.

The tribunals, working mainly from mosques, settle financial and family disputes according to religious principles. They lay down judgments which can be given full legal status if approved in national law courts.

However, they operate behind doors that are closed to independent observers and their decisions are likely to be unfair to women and backed by intimidation, a report by independent think-tank Civitas said.

Commentators on the influence of sharia law often count only the five courts in London, Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham and Nuneaton that are run by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, a body whose rulings are enforced through the state courts under the 1996 Arbitration Act.

But the study by academic and Islamic specialist Denis MacEoin estimates there are at least 85 working tribunals.

The spread of sharia law has become increasingly controversial since its role was backed last year by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice who stepped down last October.

Dr Williams said a recognised role for sharia law seemed 'unavoidable' and Lord Phillips said there was no reason why decisions made on sharia principles should not be recognised by the national courts.

But the Civitas report said the principles on which sharia courts work are indicated by the fatwas - religious decrees - set out on websites run by British mosques.

Examples set out in his study include a ruling that no Muslim woman may marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam and that any children of a woman who does should be taken from her until she marries a Muslim.

Further rulings, according to the report, approve polygamous marriage and enforce a woman's duty to have sex with her husband on his demand.


Source: Daily Mail (English)

UK: Students, teacher told to remove veil during Catholic school visit

UK: Students, teacher told to remove veil during Catholic school visit

Two Muslim pupils and their teacher were told to remove their facial veils before they could make an official visit to a Catholic school.

The party were from an Islamic school in Great Harwood and were visiting St Mary's School in nearby Blackburn, Lancashire for its annual open day.

The town is the constituency of Justice Secretary Jack Straw who has previously been involved in rows over the wearing of the traditional Muslim veils by females.

The veil the 'niqab', which is worn with a headscarf or hijab, only allows slits for the wearer's eyes.

A spokesman for St Mary's said the request was made because the veils were against school policy.

The two pupils agreed to the removal but their teacher refused.

She was taken to an office at St Mary's and told she would not be allowed on the premises.

Abdul Quereshi from the Lancashire Council of Mosques spoke out against the ban.

'I thought St Mary's had a good reputation and am very disappointed,' he said.

'The information I have is that this was the action of one individual and now this will once again will become a big issue.'

'The wearing of the veil is to protect the nature of the Muslim family and avoid the temptation facing Muslim males.'


Source: Daily Mail (English)

Netherlands: Racist slogans painted on Turkish association, mosque

Netherlands: Racist slogans painted on Turkish association, mosque

The Veendam municipality put up pictures of the slogans on the walls on their site.

The building of the Turkish association Turk Der and the mosque in Veendam-Noord were covered with racist slogans Saturday night.  The administration of Turk Der calls this a 'serious attack for the Turkish community."  The municipality of Veendam already removed the slogans.

There is unrest within the Turkish community (1500 people).  There is fear from arson of the buildings.  It is the third time that the locality of Turk Der, active in Veendam since 1980, has been covered with graffiti.  The perpetrators were never caught.

The administration of Turk Der does not think this is a prank and calls on witnesses to report to the police.  The racist slogans were supposedly put on the walls around 3-4AM Saturday night.

Source: DvhN (Dutch)

Netherlands: 51% of Muslims considering leaving

Netherlands: 51% of Muslims considering leaving

More than a third of Turkish and Moroccan Muslims (36%) in the Netherlands want to emigrate due to the increasing popularity of Geert Wilders. More than half (51%) are considering leaving more and more often. This according to a survey by actuality program NCRV Netwerk.

Wilders' PVV party triumphed in the recent EU elections. Netwerk wanted to know what influence this had on the feeling of belonging among Muslims. 76% still feel they belong in the Netherlands, but for a majority of 57% that feeling has decreased, according to the survey which will be shown this evening on the show. Three quarters of the Muslims think it would be a threat if the PVV would be part of the cabinet after the next elections. Strikingly, 90% expect that such a cabinet will be unsuccessful.

Additionally, 75% have a feeling they're judged more negatively than in the past. 40% says they're more often discriminated. 24% says they're regularly discriminated against in the Netherlands.

18% do agree with Wilders' on some points and 4% even think that the politician will be able to solve many problems if he gets into government. Most of those interviewed say they are angry and disappointed about his statements, more than 20% say they feel hate. A third think it's logical that some of the Dutch vote for him.

40% think Wilders should just be ignored, while 35% think it's better to conduct talks with Wilders and his followers. Other ways to respond to the rise of the PVV include a loud counter-voice, dealing with the problems in the Muslim community and establishing a Muslim party.

Two thirds see a future for themselves in the Netherlands. This holds particularly for the youth. Of Muslims older than 35, 43% don't believe in staying longer. It is unclear how many of the Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands are Muslims.

The results of the study correspond to statements made by Rotterdam alderman Hamit Karakus in the Volkskrant newspaper on Monday. He says that young Muslims ask themselves more and more often if they have a future in the Netherlands, and he also named the rise of the PVV as a reason for it.

Sources: Telegraaf; Trouw 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also:
* Netherlands: Emigration increasing
* Netherlands: Third of immigrant youth want to leave
* Netherlands: Back to Turkey

Belgium: Belgian friend doubles chances of success

Belgium: Belgian friend doubles chances of success

According to the researchers, a Belgian friend serves as a bridge.  But maybe they should be looking at it completely differently: having a Belgian friend means you're better integrated and open to Belgian culture to begin with. 


Second generation Turkish and Moroccan Belgians are 50% less likely to succeed in higher education according to a study by the Catholic University of Leuven. The results have been published in the daily De Standaard. Youngsters of Turkish and Moroccan origin double their chance of succeeding when they have even just one 'ordinary' Belgian friend.

Only one in two youngsters of Turkish or Moroccan origin (second generation) that start secondary school go on to do higher education.

Researchers from KU Leuven questioned 1751 youngsters between the ages of 18 and 30, from Antwerp and Brussels. One third of the group were Belgians of Moroccan origin, one third Belgians of Turkish origin and one third just ordinary Belgians from the same neighbourhoods (so the same social standing) as the youngsters of foreign origin.

The study reveals that one in two of the second generation Turks or Moroccans go on to higher education. Important is the influence of 'ordinary' Belgian friends. The students of foreign origin who have Belgian friends are more likely to go on to do further studies than those who have friends mostly from their own demographic group. Even one Belgian friend is enough to double the chance of succeeding for the students of foreign origin.

"The second generation is confronted with really separate worlds. The 'ordinary' Belgian friend can be a bridge between them. It gives the youngster of foreign origin access to the 'white' world of teachers and other students. This appears to make a dramatic difference. So, a social mix is very important for policy-makers to keep in mind," says researcher Karen Phalet.

The support of a teacher is also influential. In the study it was the most influential element, after having a Belgian friend, for further education.

The chances of succeeding for second generation Turks or Moroccans is clearly less if more than half the students in their class are of foreign origin. Students who go to so-called 'concentration schools' have less chance of succeeding.


Source: flandersnews (English)

Moscow: Fitness center opens for Muslim women

Moscow: Fitness center opens for Muslim women

A fitness center for women, who want to get fit in compliance with Islamic norms, has opened in the Severnoye Butovo District, Moscow.

"There's a swimming pool with professional aqua aerobics trainer, a gym and a choreographic room especially for Muslim women. They can also visit a tennis court and a shooting gallery," the project's coordinator Sultan Galiyev has told Interfax-Religion on Thursday.

According to him, all trainers, administrator and security guard are women. No man aged above three can enter the center. Security sees to it.

Source: Interfax (English)

Quote: On Islamism and Nazism

Quote: On Islamism and Nazism

Q: In Algeria it's not yet possible to buy the book. Many Algerians who have managed to read it, as well as the Algerian population in France, have criticised it because it draws parallels between National Socialism and Islamism. Are you not exaggerating here? Islamism does not aim per se to eradicate or subjugate another race of people. And not all Islamists want to introduce Sharia law or hide women under veils.

Sansal: On the contrary! I have followed the development of Islamism from its beginnings to the present day and analysed its discourses. In my opinion there are enormous similarities, in every sense. There is the concept of conquering – the conquering of souls, but also of territories. And there is the idea of extermination, the extermination of all those who do not submit to the ideology of Islamism. To this extent I certainly do see parallels, and I believe we have to analyse National Socialism if we are to keep Islamism in check.

- Algerian writer Boualem Sansal, in an interview about his new book Le village de l'Allemand (due for release in English in September 2009 as The German Mujahid)

Antwerp: Imam backs down from boycott call

Antwerp: Imam backs down from boycott call

Antwerp imam Nordin Taouil faced a lot of criticism for his call to Muslim parents to keep their children home from school on September 1st.  The imam earned loud applause when he made this statement at the Royal Atheneum in Antwerp, during a protests against the headscarf ban.  Now he says that it will be nothing more than a symbolic act. 

In a debate on TV program De Zevende Dag Taouil said that his words were distorted.  "It was never the intention to keep students from school, it was only an emotional reaction.  We only wanted to open the debate and protest against this discriminatory ban."

The imam says he doesn't support schools for Muslims.  "People should learn to associate with other convictions of faith and if we open separate schools then that leads to a segregated society, and that is not healthy."

Taouil says his statements were a cry of distress.  Muslim girls have a right to show their identity and the veil is part of that.  It's therefore hypocritical to allow the headscarf in the street and not in school.  The imam says that only a dictatorial society can impose a headscarf ban.  "But Flanders is not a dictatorship.  That is France the headscarf is banned, is because that country is a secular state, Belgium is a kingdom," according to Taouil.

Sources: HLN 1, 2; De Redactie (Dutch)

See also: Antwerp: Following headscarf ban, imam calls to boycott Flemish schools

UK: Muslims oppose war in Afghanistan, Taliban

UK: Muslims oppose war in Afghanistan, Taliban

A survey of British Muslim opinion for the BBC has revealed significant divisions over the conflict with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said it was wrong for the West to intervene militarily in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At the same time, a similar number (78%) said they opposed Taliban attacks against Nato soldiers in Afghanistan.

Nine out of 10 of those surveyed said that they opposed Taliban fighters capturing territory in Pakistan.

ICM surveyed 500 Muslims in the UK over 16 years old between 15 and 20 June.

In the survey, 66% of respondents said they supported the authorities in their fight against al-Qaeda. Some 16% said they did not support the fight while 18% said they either did not know or had no opinion.

The survey found that 76% said it was wrong for the US and UK to militarily intervene in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some 15% said it would be right while almost one in 10 said they did not know.

Survey results showing most respondents did not support western military intervention - but that most also did not support the Taliban

When asked what they thought about British-born Muslim soldiers serving in the two countries, just over half said it would be wrong but almost a third said it would be right.

Some 11% said it was legitimate for guerrilla fighters to target British or Nato forces in Afghanistan while 78% were opposed to such attacks.

However, some 95% said it was wrong for the Taliban to use suicide bombers in Pakistan and just 2% said it was right. A similar number opposed the Taliban seeking to capture territory in Pakistan or attacking state targets.


Turning to attitudes towards security within the UK, eight out of 10 respondents said they would alert the police if they suspected a Muslim was involved in al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism. One in 10 said they would not contact the police.

Almost a third of respondents said they thought the police, government and British society were anti-Muslim. A majority of respondents said they did not think that was the case.


Source: BBC (English)

Belgium: Who are the Belgian Moroccans?

Belgium: Who are the Belgian Moroccans?

Researchers from the University of Rabat (Morocco) recently completed a study of Belgian Moroccans for the King Baudouin Foundation.  The study itself is available online in French and Dutch, with an English summary.  John De Wit reviewed the results for the Gazet Van Antwerpen, which I translate/summarize below.


According to a new study by the King Baudouin Foundation: The Moroccans who live in Belgium are happy, they think Belgium is better than Morocco in all areas, and yet just 7.7% feel Belgian.  Half (55%) think they're first and foremost Moroccans.  In Flanders just 21% know Dutch well, compared with 56% who speak French well.  Half of Belgian Moroccans live below the poverty line, but 60% have their own home in Morocco.  A quarter of Moroccan women say they feel pressured to wear a headscarf.  40% are socialists (socialist parties PS or sp.a.). 

On January 1, 2006 Belgium had 249,583 Belgium Moroccans.  These include Moroccans who live in Belgium as well as Belgians of Moroccan origin.  Three researchers from the University of Rabat - Abdallah Saaf, Bouchra Sidi Hida and Ahmed Aghbal - approached a random sample of this group of 401 people for the King Baudouin Foundation and interviewed them.  The percentages relate to what the random sample answered.  In a qualitative part of the study, six focus groups were organized in Liege, Brussels, Antwerp and Gent, and the researchers spoke to about fifty people.

The researchers wanted to know what is the identity of Belgian Moroccans, what they think of democracy and human rights, what are their moral values and opinions and how they can contribute to better relations between Belgium and Morocco.

Who are they?

* 78% have Belgian citizenship (89% in Flanders), and just 5.7% do not intend to apply for Belgian citizenship.

* More than half (53%) were born in Belgium, 46% in Morocco.  Of the latter, 77% are older then 30, of the former, 70% are younger than 30.  The Moroccans who were born in Morocco come half from the eastern region (Rif mountains), 20% from the Tangier-Tétouan area, and 10% from Casablanca.

* A third left Morocco before they were 20, 37% left when they were 21-25.  Two thirds of the Moroccans who came to Belgium already had family in the country.  Just 32.2% is the first from their family to come to Belgium.

* Why did they come?  16% to work, 10% to study, 13% to marry, 10.5% to live by their parents.  Just 0.7% were looking for a change.  Moroccans from the Rif mountain area come to marry twice as often as the others.

Family and work

* 53% are married, 38.7% are single.  Of the Moroccans born in Morocco, 71.5% are married, of those born in Belgium, only half.

* 86.5% of married Belgian Moroccans are married with a Moroccan, just 8.5% with an ethnic Belgian.

* 44.5% have children.  Of these almost half (44.6%) have 1 or 2 children, 30.5% have 3-4, 7.3% have seven or more.  In Wallonia families are smaller than in Flanders, but also here there's an evolution towards smaller families.

* Only 28.9% of Belgian Moroccans own a residence in Belgium.  In Flanders, that's 43%.

* Twice as many Belgian Moroccans (60.6%) have a residence in Morocco.  This is true for 71% of the Moroccans who live in Wallonia and only for 31% of those who live in Flanders.

* 56% of Belgian Moroccans own a car.

* 47.7% of Belgian Moroccans go back once a year to Morocco, 25.7% go every two years, 8% seldom and 3.7% never.

* Remarkably, only 21% of Moroccan in Flanders speak and write Dutch well.  Yet 55.8% in Flanders speak and write French well.  43.5% speak very good Berbers.  A third of all Belgian Moroccans have good English.

* Only 31.7% of the active Moroccan population have a permanent job, 5% have a temporary job.  209% get unemployment benefits, 5.2% are unemployed without benefits.

In short: the group of unemployed with and without benefits (not including students, pensioners and stay-at-home women) account for 32% of the active population.

In Flanders unemployment is lowest (22.6%), but Brussels has the most Moroccans with a permanent job (35.4).  28% of those who have a permanent job work in the service industry.

* Half of Belgian Moroccans live below the poverty line (860 euro a month).  In Flanders only 8.6% have less than 1,000 euro, in Wallonia there's four times as many (32.8%), in Brussels three times as many (24%).

Belgium and Moroccans

* What are the most considerable problems in Morocco, according to Belgian Moroccans?  The top three are: corruption (28.5%), cost of living and poverty (18.8%) and democracy and human rights (15.5).

* The top three most considerable problems in Belgium: being treated as a foreigner (23.3%), racism (15%), unemployment (14.8%)

* And what if you compare Belgium and Morocco?  There is a true consensus (91.7%) that Belgium is better than Morocco in the areas of health and social security, democracy (83.6%), work opportunities (83.1%).  But Belgium scores better than Morocco in all other fields as well: 32% think Belgium is more tolerant than Morocco, while only 22.7% think Morocco is more tolerant than Belgium.

* Trust in institutions:

The most trusted Moroccan institutions are: religious institutions (29.2%), royalty (22.9%) and the government (11%).

The most trust Belgian institutions are: mosques (21.9%), social security and health care (21.4%), government (13.2%).  But, in Flanders only 13% say mosques are most trustworthy (compared with 34.4% in Brussels).  Education figures above all for Flemish Moroccans (15.2%)   [The editors add that this is noteworthy taking in to the account the headscarf row in Antwerp]

* The least trusted Moroccan institutions: police (23.9%), government (15.2%), social security and health care (12%).

The least trusted Belgian institutions: media (19%), police (16.5) and political parties (16.2%).  The researchers say the media scores so badly because they portray a distorted and little appreciated image of Moroccans.


* Half say they're not interested in Moroccan politics, 85% don't identity with Moroccan political parties.

* Barely a fifth of Belgian Moroccan are not interested in Belgian politics.  In Wallonia there's more interest in politics, particularly among women.

* Almost 40% of Belgian Moroccans feel affinity with the PS of sp.a (socialist parties).  The greens are in second place (9.5%) particularly among the first generation and in Wallonia (14%, compared with 3% in Flanders).

But in the end, 42% say they don't feel affinity with any party.

* 38.6% think the entry of countries from the Eastern Bloc to the EU had negative consequences.  "The Poles take away our work," they say.  According to the researchers there's also enmity against people from the Eastern Bloc because they beg on the streets.


* Belgian Moroccans think they belong first and foremost to Morocco and only then to Europe: 55% think than and an additional 19% think they belong only to Morocco.  77% are certain they want to be buried in Morocco.  Moroccan citizenship is obviously above all. That also holds for Moroccans who were born in Belgium.

When the researchers asked who they are really: only 7.7% answered they're Belgian.  36.2% said they're first and foremost Muslims and an additional 22.9% said they're "Moroccan Muslim".

* Two thirds (58.5%) say they're religious, but only 12% practice.  44.6% say that their religious convictions are stronger than in the past.  That is the case in particular in Brussels.

* 83% of the Moroccans think that "nobody should adapt to anybody else, everybody has a right to live according to their own principles", but 52% think that Church and State should be separated.

* 26.5% think that people should never be punished for what they say and write, but only 19.8% think that a political party should never be banned.  9.3% think that a political party should be banned if it has Islamic ideas.

* Belgian Moroccans are happy (49.6%) or even very happy (37.7%), a score which certainly doesn't hold for ethnic Belgians.  The second generation is happier than the others.

Morals and relationships

* Honor still plays a big role for Moroccans (particularly for those who come from the Rif mountains): 16.7% of men say they would commit a murder to defend their honor.

* 53.% think homosexuality is one of the greatest dangers for morality.  73% condemn sexual relations before marriage for girls and 60.7% condemn it also for boys.

* Only 54% oppose the idea that young people should be forced to marry somebody they don't know.  The majority also think that a Moroccan should marry a Moroccan.  62% are explicitly against Moroccan women marrying a non-Muslim man.

* 12.6% never associate with ethnic Belgians and an additional 10% only if they must.  This is not due to lack of knowledge of the language, but due to differences in faith. 

57% of people who don't have contact with ethnic Belgian say that their Islamic faith convictions have become stronger in recent years.

In Flanders the situation is the worst: 24.6% says they never associate with ethnic  Belgians and an additional 9.4% says that they only do so if they must.

* A quarter (25%) of women says that they're under pressure regarding their clothing.  Various women told the researchers that they were forced to wear a headscarf in order to prevent conflicts with the family (father, brother, husband or even mother).  The less these women follow the dictates of Islam, the more pressure they experience.

Free time

This part of the study includes some data which is hard to believe.  64.5% of Belgian Moroccans say that they often go to the theater.  80% say that they never meet with friends.  79.5% never visit family members.

Only 46% would go to a mosque and barely 16% would send money or goods to family members in Morocco.

The researchers accept these number and conclude that 'the solidarity and the social fabric within the Moroccan community in Belgium is crumbling more and more."

* 67.6% watch Belgian TV every day, 37.4% watch Moroccan TV every day, 23.4% watches al-Jazeera every day.


1. The random sample for the report consists of just 401 people.  That is somewhat small to draw conclusions.  You have just 66 Moroccans from Wallonia, 7 from Limburg, 6 from West-Flanders.  Naturally, such a sample can still be representative, certainly if it is complemented by explanatory talks, but sometimes the numbers are too small for general conclusions.

This seems to be the case from some answers which simply can't be true. The number of Moroccans who often go to the theater (64.3%) and the number of Moroccans who never meet with friends (78.1%) are unrealistically high.  The researchers do not problematize these answers and decide that they simply indicate the social fabric of Moroccans is crumbling.  This seems to me to go too far.

2. The researches see a double evolution of identity among Belgian Moroccans: on the one hand a "national identity detached from the Moroccan territory," on the other hand, "a new civil identity which feels at home in the European cultural space in the wide sense and also more specifically in Belgium".  These two statements appear to them to cause a new synthesis in the form of a collective trans-nationality, branching to both sides of the borders.  It is not completely clear which facts this is derived from.  People keep their wishes above reality.

And isn't it so by Islam?  According to the researchers "Belgian Moroccan appear to be inclined to prefer a more secular Islam".  According to them this comes from the decrease in mosque visits, from the fact that Moroccans 'accept the principles of freedom of religion and separation of Church and State, and that a non-negligible portion Islam see Islam and Christianity even as two equal religions.

That is hopefully correct, but there are also contradictory indications, such as that 44% think that their religion have become stronger in recent years.

3. In general the researchers don't problematize much the Belgian Moroccans.  The appalling lack of knowledge of Dutch among Flemish Moroccans is for them not a problem, they don't propose any measures for it.  The fact that 'just' 54% think that people shouldn't be forced to marry people they've never seen, they see as positive.  This think it's obvious that ethnic Belgians discriminate against Moroccans, but if these Moroccans discriminate against Poles and people from the Eastern Bloc they think it's 'strange' and ask for deeper study.  From a study with 11 important people and organizations in the guiding committee, you would have expected more scientific seriousness.

Source: GvA (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Third of Moroccans feel Muslim, 7% Belgian

Netherlands: Prison only serves halal food

Netherlands: Prison only serves halal food
Detainees in a number of Dutch prisons get Islamic food.  The justice ministry apparently signed contracts where the suppliers only have to deliver halal food.  Having two different menus was found to be too expensive.  This means prisoners are only served ritually slaughtered beef or mutton.
In connection to the Muslim prisoners, pork was completely removed from the menu since these animals are considered impure according to Islam.
The issue came to light in a court case by lawyer S. van Berge Henegouwe against the prison in Sittard.  His client, a prisoner, complained that he was forced to eat halal.  He sees this as an extra punishment.
The lawyer says that freedom of religion is a great good and that his client does not want to have a religion inflicted on him, and simply wants to eat meatballs.  He demands 25 euro in damages for every halal meal.
The ministry of Justice announced, after a day of intensive study, that pork will soon be served in Sittard again.

The Justice Ministry will check whether there are more prisoners who are only served halal food.  According to a spokesperson Saturday, the starting point must be that the choice of menu is not specified by religious fellow prisoners.
According to the justice ministry the menu in the prison was limited to halal food since it was more practical, and they lost sight that religious prisoners should not be deciding the menu for other prisoners.  They will investigate whether this happens in other prisons as well.  This does not mean that halal food will disappear from the menu since a prisoner has a right to be able to follow his religious prescriptions.

Sources: Telegraaf, (Dutch)

Morocco/Spain: Terrorist cell arrested, ties with Swedish cell

Morocco/Spain: Terrorist cell arrested, ties with Swedish cell

Moroccan security services announced on Friday they disbanded a terrorist cell which has been active in the North African kingdom and southern Spain.

Five members of a terrorist cell belonging to a radical Islamic movement, and operating in Morocco and Spain, have been arrested, Morocco's Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) reported, citing security sources.

The five terrorists work under the Salafiya Jihadia, an extremist Islamist movement that aims to oust the Moroccan government and create an Islamic state, the sources said.

The cell is said to be led by a person identified as Abou Yassine, 34 years, a former Salafia Jihadia activist who served a two-year jail term for involvement with Ansar Al Mahdi cell.

Abou Yassine, who was released in 2008, has been every since trying to set up this cell in the Moroccan, Spanish-occupied town of Ceuta, and had also ties with the activists of a terrorist cell in Sweden and Afghan Moroccan the sources said. He has been providing to its members his experience as an inveterate militant and a former drug trafficker in Spain.
The group has also established ties with traffickers in Morocco and trade links with French terrorist Robert Richard Antoine Pierre, known as Abou Abderrahmane, the report added.
Source: KUNA (English), h/t Gudmundson

Sweden: Iranian embassy stormed by protesters

Sweden: Iranian embassy stormed by protesters

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, described a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Stockholm on Friday as a "terrorist attack" after around 100 protesters stormed the compound and a staff member was injured.

"Following the terrorist attack by anti-revolutionary groups on Iran's embassy in Stockholm on Friday, the Swedish ambassador was summoned immediately," the IRNA report said.
The employee, whose nationality was not known, was hurt when protesters entered the compound and attacked him, according to Stockholm police.
He was punched and kicked and received medical attention at the embassy.
The protest outside the Iranian embassy in Stockholm broke out on Friday afternoon. Around 150 demonstrators, some of them wearing masks, began throwing rocks and trying to break into the embassy.
"People were yelling chants and cheers at the Iranian embassy for about an hour, and then about an hour later around 100 of the protesters entered the embassy compound through a gate," Massood Mafan, a witness at the scene, told news agency TT.
"In the building itself they were stopped by guards."
Mafan said that he had seen at least three people who were injured, including an older woman who was hit in the back with a
"We are here because we demand that Sweden shut down the embassy and suspend all relations with Iran," Mohammad Mohammad Bagheri, 29, told TT.
Source: The Local (English)

Belgium: Third of Moroccans feel Muslim, 7% Belgian

Belgium: Third of Moroccans feel Muslim, 7% Belgian

Update: See here for more study results: Belgium: Who are the Belgian Moroccans?

More than a third of Moroccans in Belgium feel Muslim first, barely 7% identify with the Belgian nationality. Nevertheless, the majority is Belgian, according to a study by the King Baudouin Foundation, reports Belgian newspaper Le Soir. In collaboration with the King Baudouin Foundation, the University of Rabat questioned 400 people from the Moroccan community in Belgium.

Just a third of respondents (31.7%) have a work contract and a fifth (21%) receive unemployment benefits. The respondents invoke discrimination in order to explain their difficult integration into the work-market.

Women are less employed than men (38.3% compared to 55.4%). The number of inactive women, for family or other reasons, is 62%. More than half (53%) of the Belgian Moroccans interviewed live below the poverty line, particularly in Wallonia.

Belgian Moroccans prefer a non-mixed marriage. More than half of the respondents thinks it's good to have somebody come from their homeland for a marriage. 62% are against a marriage of a Muslim woman with a non-Muslims. Just 45% disapprove of the reverse.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Europe: Iranians mobilizing

Europe: Iranians mobilizing

Though there doesn't seem to be widespread concern within the European Muslim community, Iranians in Europe are mobilizing in support of the protesters in Iran.  Whether by demonstrations or by trying to keep the issue alive through online activism

Iranians in Europe are also helping their brothers publicize what's happening in Iran.  The death of Neda Soltani was made public by an Iranian asylum seeker in the Netherlands:

Shortly after 5pm on Saturday ­afternoon, Hamed, an Iranian asylum seeker in the ­Netherlands, took a frantic call from a friend in Tehran.

"A girl has just been killed right next to me," the friend said. It had all ­happened quickly. A young woman, chatting on her mobile phone, had been shot in the chest. She faded before a doctor, who was on the scene, could do anything to help.

There was more. Hamed's friend, who does not want to be named, filmed the incident on his phone. Within moments the footage had landed in Hamed's inbox. Five minutes later it was on YouTube and Facebook.

Within hours it had become one of the most potent threats faced by the ­Iranian regime in 30 years.

"He asked me, is it possible to publish everything right now," Hamed said. "I published it on YouTube and Facebook and five minutes later it started to get many emails and messages and it ­published everywhere.

"It shocked me very, very much and I was sure at that time everyone in the world if they see this movie they'll be shocked, and I felt that I must broadcast it because I try to show to the world what is going on in my country."

In another case, pictures showing Iranian riot police breaking car windows, supposedly in order to blame protesters for vandalism, were sent to the Norwegian news site by a student in Iran.    Apparently, a student with Norwegian connections.

Quote: Norway's response to Iran

Quote: Norway's response to Iran

Iranians in Norway thought they had come to a democratic country,but I am afraid the norwegian government is supporting a dictatorship -Iran

Norwegian-Iranian Elham Binai

Antwerp: Following headscarf ban, imam calls to boycott Flemish schools

Antwerp: Following headscarf ban, imam calls to boycott Flemish schools

On Tuesday two municipal schools in the Antwerp area announced their decision to ban religious symbols (ie, headscarves) starting in the upcoming school year.  The decision caused an uproar - as the Antwerp school is the last one in the city which allowed headscarves.  Antwerp imam Nordine Taouil called on Muslims to boycott all Flemish schools, a call which caused a political uproar as well.  I summarize the various responses below.


On Wednesday 300 students of the Royal Athenaeum of Antwerp, half the student body,  threatened to leave the school.  80% of the student body is Muslim and half of the girls wear a headscarf.  The principle is unfazed by the threat and says the students will fail if they drop out before the end of the school year.  So far, the threat did not materialize.

The students also organized a protest against the ban.  Nordine Taouil, Antwerp imam and chairman of the Muslim Council called on Muslim parents to keep their children home starting September 1st.

"By boycotting Flemish schools we protest against the headscarf ban and show our solidarity with the Muslim girls in the Atheneum," says Taouil.  "We will keep our children home until the headscarf ban will be lifted.  With that ban Muslim girls are oppressed.  Good education is only possible if there's freedom of religion."

The ban was announced after the exams, so as not to distract the students, and after the regional elections - so that politicians won't make an issue of it.

According to principal Karin Heremans she had no choice.  Her school is slowly becoming the only school in Antwerp where headscarves are allowed.  "In the past five year the number of Muslim children doubled by us.  We are becoming a Muslim school."

Heremans says that children without a headscarf beg to be moved to a different class because don't feel accepted anymore.  The social pressure on Muslim girls to cover their heads is also great and so she says they had to take measures.


On Wednesday evening the school organized a meeting about the ban.  The principal was confronted with 500 angry students, parents and representatives of Muslim organization who demanded she rescind the ban or they'll leave the school during the summer.

Imam Nordin Taouil called to take up democratic actions, preferably uniting all Muslims together.  He wants to ask the future Flemish education minister to grant more rights to the Muslims and to end what he calls "organized discrimination".  "We must continue to protest without violence," says the imam, who fears such measures lead to radicalization.

Imam Taouil: "Freedom of religion is a universal right.  The headscarf is not a symbol but part of the identity of the girls."  It disturbs him that a public school bans headscarves.  "This school is paid with tax money.  Muslims also pay taxes."  He announced new protests if the school won't reverse itself.

Several students spoke against the ban. "We are not feather-brains who  accept everything just like that," said one.  "This decision mortgages our future, because many Muslim girls will not graduate their school," said another.

Some asked to establish their own schools, because according to them the expansion of Islam is inevitable and the headscarf wearing girls can't go anywhere.

A spokesperson for a radical Muslim group even called the ban a 'criminal act'  and said they'll sue the school administration.

The parents also expressed their indignation.  Spokesperson Mina Chebaa said parents don't have a voice in the Antwerp schools and is organizing a new protest Sunday.

Heremans does not intend to rescind the ban and says that she protects the free choice of girls.  She is disappointed in the attitude of the indignant Muslims and says that as a school they gave so many more extra classes for immigrant student.  "If one time you then ask for something back, and you get such an answer, it's painful."

She gets hope from the headscarf wearing Muslim mother who told her Thursday morning that she's ashamed of her coreligionists.  "She told me her daughter will yet have enough time to wear a headscarf.  But not in school or in class."

In any case, the principal is not pressured by the threat, saying that there is no other school in Antwerp which allows the headscarf.

According to imam Taouil there are 101 solutions.  He says that Belgium has compulsory education, not compulsory schools, and that if need be, they'll establish their own institutions, or invite the teachers to the children's homes.


Farid El Machaoud, spokesperson for the Muslim League in Belgium and chairman of the Union of Mosques says that they do not agree with the call of the Antwerp imam to all Muslims not to send their children to school in September.  "The appeal runs counter to the basic principles of Islam."

El Machaoud says they oppose a ban on wearing a headscarf in school and that they naturally can't force the school to do anything.  Such a ban does not help integration at all and causes more discrimination and ghetto formation.

He says some girls might experience social pressure, but the majority wears a headscarf due to religious convictions and because they want to.


Vlaams Belang does not want imam Taouil to continue as a talks partner for the Antwerp and Flemish governments, says Filip Dewinter.  According to Dewinter the imam's irresponsible call illustrates the aggressive and arrogant attitude of a certain portion of the Muslim community.  "The government should not submit to such attempts at blackmail".

The party says that Muslims parents who refuse to send their children to school because of the headscarf ban should be sanctioned by taking away children benefits and eventually scholarships, if necessary.


The Lijst Dedecker party wants politicians to take responsibility in the debate.  Party head Jean-Marie Dedecker says that if municipal schools can't muster the authority to impose a clear social measure anymore, than the government should step in.  Dedecker thinks that the politicians systematically hide behind the autonomy of school principles, and says he wants a secular state following the French model.

The party points out the main reason for the failure of immigrants in the job market is because they fall behind in language and education, and therefore they think it's outrageous that an imam dares to advise Antwerp Muslim girls not to go to school if they can't wear their headscarf anymore.


N-VA chaiman Bart De Wever and Flemish parliament member Kris Van Dijck says imam Nordin Taouil overstepped the line.  They support the administration of the two Antwerp schools: if they determine that there are more and more Muslim girls who wear a headscarf and pressure other girls to do the same, they have a right in the interest of harmony in their schools to intervene.

According to Van Dijck the imam send a completely irresponsible signal with his call.  Van Dijck says that calling parents not to send their children to school is irresponsible and threatens the future of these already weak youth.  As if the current situation of many immigrant youth who fall behind is not bad enough.

The N-VA does not deny the right to wear a headscarf, but says that right is not absolute.  "Freedom of religion is a very important principle, but this does not mean that a certain religion can impose all external distinguishing marks of that religious conviction on our society," says Bart De Wever.

Sources: GvA, Volkskrant, HLN 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Dutch)

See also: Antwerp: Two schools ban headscarves

Berlin: Islam conference wraps up, focus on education

Berlin: Islam conference wraps up, focus on education

As the annual Islamic conference in Berlin drew to a close, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that, while there are still issues that need work, the conference was an overall success.

The German government wrapped up a four-year-long consultation as its German Islamic Conference drew to a close. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble addressed the final session and called for a "culture of listening."

"It can be an exemplary way for our society to acknowledge and overcome all the differences that confront us," said Schaeuble.


One of the key achievements of the conference was an acknowledgement by the participants of the importance the German legal system and adhering to the basic law.

Other positive outcomes were plans for the establishment of Islamic religious instruction and the adoptions of recommendations for such practical issues as the operation of mosques and dealing with Islamic funerals in Germany.

Schaeuble acknowledged that the conference had not settled every issue but underscored the changed relationship between the state and Muslims. The German minister said a process of integration had been launched.

Education was a major topic on the agenda. One key development was a decision on women or girls wearing headscarfs at schools.

"Freedom of religion means... that wearing the veil is not forbidden", concluded the German Islamic Conference (DIK). "However, covering the whole face is incompatible with the open communication that education...requires."

Both sides recommended that German schools make concessions on the the controversial issue of mixed sex swimming classes. They also discussed issues like participation in physical education classes, school trips, and fasting during Ramadan. Education ministers will debate the conference's findings in the Fall.

Other recommendations that came from the conference had to do with training imams in Germany, and creating Islamic theological faculties here. The conference also recommended establishing Islamic theology courses at universities and lessons on Islam in schools. Sex education will remain compulsory.


Source: DW-World (English)

Germany: Turk kills daughter for not following the Islamic way

Germany: Turk kills daughter for not following the Islamic way

Turkish Döner kebab saler Mehmet Ö (45) from the south German town of Schweinfurt stabbed his fifteen year old daughter Büsra to death with a kitchen knife because she refused to follow the "Islamic way", German police told German newspaper newspaper Bild.

The attack occurred Wednesday morning.  Mehmet stabbed his daughter several times while she slept.  About 3:30 AM Büsra's grandparents called emergency services.

Before the police arrived, the gravely injured girl bled to death.  Ö. meanwhile fled.

The police knew to arrest the Turk quickly.  He immediately confessed to the crime.  He said his motive was that he wanted to end the fight with his 'rebellious' daughter.

"She had to die because she refused to follow his Islamic way," according to a police spokesperson.

Büsra went to a high school in Schweinfurt. Though she wore a headscarf to please her father, she kept a Western lifestyle.  This led to bitter quarrels within the family.

Since 1996 there have been 50 'honor-murders' in Germany, most of which were committed by the large Turkish community.

Sources: Elsevier (Dutch), DR (Danish), see also: BILD (German)

Eindhoven: Imam to fight homophobia

Eindhoven: Imam to fight homophobia

The imam of the Arrahmaan mosque wants to make homosexuality more debatable among Muslim youth in Eindhoven (the Netherlands).  He will soon convene a meeting in the mosque in the Woensel district.

On Thursday evening imam Ahmed El-Ouazzani will visit the gay Eindhoven resident who has been intimated in recent months by youth of Moroccan origin.  The man had been pestered by a group of minor Moroccans since April: they called him names, pelted his house in Woensel-Zuid with eggs, and vandalized the entrance.  The victim had lodged a complaint.  The pestering stopped after Moroccan 'neighborhood-fathers' started patrolling the streets and speaking with parents about the behavior of their children.  Parent sent the man flowers.

The imam already spoke with the young perpetrators.  "They understand that what they've did is not acceptable.  I told them that we must live together in this country, respect each other and leave people alone.  I want them to offer their apologies," says El-Ouazzani, who spoke earlier this year in a panel evening in Eindhoven about homosexuality and Islam.

Source: Eindhovens Dagblad, Telegraaf (Dutch)

Sweden: Migration agency used anti-Muslim lawyer

Sweden: Migration agency used anti-Muslim lawyer

A lawyer contracted by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) to represent asylum seekers has a personal blog in which he espouses racist and anti-immigrant views, referring to Islam as a "psychosocial disease".

Hans-Ola Mårtensson is a lawyer based in southwest Sweden whose services were sought by the Migration Board on seven different occasions, most recently in January 2009, the Sydsvenskan newspaper reports.

His job was to represent the interests of asylum seekers during the judicial review of their applications for refugee status.

In his free time, however, Mårtensson publishes a blog featuring a number of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim postings.

"Muslims are multiplying like rabbits and want to take over Europe," he wrote in one post.

"Tear down Rosengård, Hammarkullen and Tensta and send those living there to Norrland and Lappland [in Sweden's far north]. There they can be integrated, learn Swedish, be de-Islamified, and be happy," reads another post, referring to areas in Malmö and Stockholm with high concentrations of immigrants.

Mårtensson also takes aim at homosexuals, feminists, Social Democrats, and host of other targets, including recent Nobel Prize winning author Doris Lessing, who he calls a "communist witch".

He adds, however, that giving the prize to Lessing was "still better than earlier choices of Arabs and Negroes."


Mårtensson defended his blog as a personal pursuit that didn't affect his professional work.

"I differentiate between by job responsibilities and my private opinions," he told Sydsvenskan.

"I have many friends who are Muslims."

Nevertheless, Mårtensson didn't hide his negative sentiments toward Islam.

"I'm hostile toward Islam, not those who practice it as a religion," he said.

Following the publishing of select contents from the blog in Sydsvenskan on Wednesday, Mårtensson promptly took the blog offline.

Attempts by the newspaper to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.


Source: The Local (English)

Germany: Muslim community larger, more diverse

Germany: Muslim community larger, more diverse

According to the latest figures, Germany's Muslim community numbers close to 4 million people, or about 5 percent of the entire population. Past estimates put the number of Muslims in the country at 3.1 to 3.4 million.

Additionally, the survey funded by the Interior Ministry found that Germany's Muslim community is very diverse.

To get a better sense of the views and customs of German Muslims, researchers phoned 6,000 households with 17,000 residents. The pollsters asked a variety of questions, such as whether the family ate pork or drank alcohol.

Researchers found that 91 percent of Sunnis said they followed Islamic food and drink practices. For Shiites, the rate was 60 percent and for Alawites the rate was 49 percent.

A third of respondents described themselves as "strongly religious," while half said they were "relatively religious." Respondents from Turkey and Africa most readily described themselves as devout.

The majority (63.2 percent) of German Muslims are of Turkish origin, followed by Muslims from Southeastern Europe (13.6 percent), the Middle East (8 percent) and Northern Africa (7 percent).

The German government funded the survey after complaints that there was no reliable information on the Islamic population or their views.


Source: DW-World (English)

See also: Netherlands: 5% are Muslims

Quote: UK should ban hijab in schools, burka

Quote: UK should ban hijab in schools, burka

Thanks to fundamentalist Muslims and 'hate' preachers working in Britain, the veiling of women is suddenly all-pervasive and promoted as a basic religious right. We are led to believe that we must live with this in the name of 'tolerance'.

And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.


So what should we do in Britain? For decades, Muslim fundamentalists, using the human rights laws, have been allowed to get their own way.

It is time for ministers and ordinary British Muslims to say, 'Enough is enough'. For the sake of women and children, the Government must ban the wearing of the hijab in school and the burkha in public places.


My message to those Muslims who want to live in a Talibanised society, and turn their face against Britain, is this: 'If you don't like living here and don't want to integrate, then what the hell are you doing here? Why don't you just go and live in an Islamic country?'

- Saira Khan, Daily Mail.

Following the public discussion in France, she is not the only British Muslim to call for banning the burka

Antwerp: Two schools ban headscarves

Antwerp: Two schools ban headscarves

Starting September 1, 2009, all political and religious symbols will be banned in the city high schools (koninklijke atheneum) of Antwerp and Hoboken (Belgium), according to the new school regulations.  The administration decided to take this step to protected their students against the increasing group pressure of,  for instance, wearing a headscarf.

"We notice that the equality and freedom of our students is suffering," declared the school administrations. "It is possible that students feel obliged due to social pressure to wear political and religious symbols.  Therefore we will not allow it anymore."

Both schools are known for their high percentages of students of immigrant origin.  They lead an enforced equal-opportunity policy and want to maintain the balance through the regulation, so that everybody can develop in complete freedom.

In Antwerp there are no general guidelines for education institutions regarding headscarves and other symbols.  The school use their autonomy, according to alderman for education Robert Voorhamme, and the city does not intervene.  In certain city schools the headscarf is already forbidden.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Quote: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

Quote: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

When the Danish cartoons furore was at its height, newspapers the length and breadth of Europe upheld the right of free speech - yet the vast majority of them somehow neglected to reprint the offending sketches. The code insists, says Caldwell, that Islam must always be defined as a peaceful religion, yet ignores the way in which Muslim leaders in Europe lay down red lines that the non-Muslim majority is not supposed to cross. Once Muslim majorities emerge in certain towns and areas, Muslims will demand the right to live not only differently, but also separately, and Europe will lose control, Caldwell believes, of significant chunks of its territory. He ignores, in this worrying forecast, the diversity of Islam in Europe, and the often hidden ways in which Muslims in Europe are changing, as well as the strength of the secular European reaction if such developments threatened to become reality. One might reflect on the anxiety over black immigration a generation ago, and note how overdone it turned out to be.

-- Martin Woollacott of the Guardian, reviewing the book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West by Christopher Caldwell.

Switzerland: Building a mosque harder than other religious buildings

Switzerland: Building a mosque harder than other religious buildings

See also: Pictures from the "Dome, temple, minaret" exhibition

Experts have been studying why it is easier for some non-native religions to build a temple or church in Switzerland, whereas others, such as Muslims, face resistance.

Lucerne University researchers have been examining the complex issue of new religious buildings and their symbols in the public domain, and the possible tensions that can arise from this. Their results form the basis for a special exhibition.

"Dome, temple, minaret: the new face of Switzerland", documenting the emergence of 18 new religious buildings in Switzerland since 1945, is currently being held in the town of Biel, before moving on to Bern, Basel, Zug and Nyon.

"We see that in the same city, two religions do not receive the same treatment," said Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, from the Religion Research Centre at Lucerne University and the exhibition's coordinator.

According to the researcher, the public is not that familiar with the small Swiss Sikh community, but the media is full of stories of Islamic terror, making Muslims an easy target for politicians.

The case of Langenthal underlines the deep transformations that are taking place in the Swiss religious landscape. Church attendance among the main traditional organised religions in Switzerland is very low, but migration has brought an increase in non-native, lesser-known religions.

While the majority of the population (75 per cent) are of either Catholic or Protestant faith, at the last census in 2000 there were more than 311,000 Muslims, 132,000 members of Orthodox churches, 18,000 Jews, 21,000 Buddhists and 28,000 Hindus. It is estimated the number of Muslims and Hindus now stand at around 400,000 and 50,000, respectively.

Public acceptance of a new religious building depends on a range of factors, like the political context, media climate and whether the religion is new or established, say researchers.


General public perception is also important, said Tunger-Zanetti: "Buddhism encounters less prejudice than Islamic communities, especially since September 11, but you can't say that Buddhists per se are much more peaceful than Muslims."

He added that it was easier to build a mosque in a big city, like Geneva or Zurich, than in a small location, and it helps if you carry out a proper communication campaign early on, have sufficient funds or a local backer.


Tunger-Zanetti is convinced that current frictions over minarets or other religious symbols are part of a "natural necessary process" that occurs in every society when foreigners are being integrated.

The difference in Switzerland is that direct democracy means people get to vote on proposals like the anti-minaret initiative.

"But the advantage is that Swiss society leads the discussion," said the researcher. "It will most probably conclude that it can cope with this emerging diversity and plurality in the same way that society coped with similar problems in the past, like between Catholics and Protestants."

"People tend to forget history," he said, pointing to the fact that the huge Catholic Valentin Church in predominantly Protestant Lausanne, built in 1832, was only allowed to have a bell tower in the 1930s.

"In the end it was built and Lausanne society didn't collapse," he said "Catholics and Protestants now live side by side and the same can be expected of us living next to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in 20 years time."


Source: SwissInfo (English)

Quote: Sarkozy on the burka

Quote: Sarkozy on the burka

"The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women's dignity," Sarkozy told a joint session of both houses of parliament, held at the Palace of Versailles.

"The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory," he said to strong applause.

Referring to a cross-party initiative by close to 60 legislators last week, who proposed a parliamentary commission to look into the spread of the burqa and find ways to combat the trend, Sarkozy said it was the right way to proceed.

"A debate has to take place and all views must be expressed. What better place than parliament for this? I tell you, we must not be ashamed of our values, we must not be afraid of defending them," he said.

- French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Helsinki: Bus drivers drop plans for atheist-buses boycott

Helsinki: Bus drivers drop plans for atheist-buses boycott

Update: Translation of the Helsingin Sanomat article by Tundra Tabloids.

Tapio Mäkinen is a (recent) Finnish convert to Islam.

Helsingin Sanomat interviewed a couple of Muslim drivers last week (FI, EN). Somed said they were deeply offended and would tear down or cover up the ads. However one Muslim driver, Muharrem Kartal, said he did not intend to join in, as religion and work are two separate things


Muslim drivers employed by Helsingin Bussiliikenne, which operates bus lines in Helsinki will not be taking any action against an international advertising campaign by the non-religious.

Last week, the prospect that they would have to drive buses with advertisements proclaiming "There probably is no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", caused a stir among religious drivers, some of whom had threatened to refuse to drive vehicles with the slogan.

The campaign, sponsored by the Freethinkers Association, and the Finnish Humanist Association is part of the international atheist bus campaign.

The leader of resistance by religious bus drivers, Tapani Mäkinen, said that there were few legal ways for Christian and Muslim drivers to refuse to drive buses with the offending ads.

The drivers asked their shop steward if it was possible to refuse to drive a certain bus out of religious conviction.

"We hit a dead end. Something like that would be seen as a refusal to work", Mäkinen said.


Source: HS (English)

Cairo: German Interior Minister speaks about Muslim integration in Germany

Cairo: German Interior Minister speaks about Muslim integration in Germany

The entire speech available here (in German).

In a speech at Cairo University in Egypt, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sought understanding for Germany's integration policies. The speech came just ahead of the next German Islam conference in Berlin.

In his Cairo speech, Schaeuble pointed out that there was legal equality for Muslims in Germany. The country's three million Muslims have "the same rights, because our state guarantees freedom of religion and is not limited to a singular world view."

The interior minister explained it was crucial that Muslims living in Germany learnt the language and added that the successful integration of Islam into western societies will only work if Muslims accept democratic constitutions "without condition."

"Whether we like it or not, there are many people who think that Islam and democracy don't mix. These are often people who have prejudices against Islam," Schaeuble told the audience of Egyptian politicians and intellectuals.

"But we must also not ignore the fact that there are some Muslims who also hold this opinion," Schaeuble continued. He warned that this minority was seeing to it "that their opinion is heard worldwide."

To combat anti-democratic tendencies, Schaeuble also said that Muslim children living in Germany should receive Islamic courses in German. He supported the plan that Islamic clerics in the country should also be trained at German universities.

Currently most of the clerics at Muslim mosques in Germany have received their religious training outside of Germany. This, Schaeuble stressed, could only be a temporary solution.


Source: DW (English)

Netherlands: Quarrels between Muslim broadcasters costing public money

Netherlands: Quarrels between Muslim broadcasters costing public money

The distrust between the Muslim broadcasters is so great that a lot of public money goes to waste.  The annual accounts are inspected by three different accountants.

Quarrels among the Muslim broadcasters cost hundred of thousands of public money annually, which in the end does not go to radio and TV, according to an analysis of annual accounts and budgets of the Stichting Verzorging Islamitische Zendtijd (SVIz, Foundation for Islamic Airtime), seen by Trouw.

The SVIZ was established in November 2007 in order to equally divide the airtime and broadcast money among the two quarreling Muslims broadcasters, the Dutch Muslim Broadcaster (Nederlandse Moslim Omroep, NMO) and the Netherlands Islamic Broadcaster (Nederlands Islamitische Omroep, NIO).  Meanwhile the costs for lawyers, accountants, external advisers and hired employers have gone up considerably.

Maurice Koopman, business manager of SVIZ, admits that a lot of unnecessary money goes to these issues.  Chairperson Tineke Bahlmann of the Dutch Media Authority said on being questioned that indeed a number of sums in the budget seem very high.

The lawyers in two court-cases since November 2007 along cost two hundred thousand.  The proceedings were instituted by both the Foundation and administrations.  The juicy detail in this story is that the lawyer-costs were all paid from the budget that the SVIZ divides among the broadcasters.  This means that the lawyers for both sides were being paid from the same pot.

Since the three associations do not want to work administratively with each other anymore, the yearly accounts are also each inspected by their own accountants.  This means that several accountants come to the SVIZ, each checking the same joint account over and over. Since November 2007 that cost almost a hundred thousand.

Koopman as business director also costs 1,500 euro a week for a day and a half of work.  In January of this year he appointed Roelof Vlieg as controller, costing 750 euro a day for one day a week.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Netherlands: 24% of Turks, 22% of Moroccans over 65 in 2050

Netherlands: 24% of Turks, 22% of Moroccans over 65 in 2050

The non-Western immigrants in the Netherlands will age quickly in the coming decades.  According to the news immigrant prognosis of the CBS (Statistics Netherlands), the number of non-Western 65+ will increase from just less than 70,000 today to about 520,000 in 2050.

The ethnic Dutch population is much more aged than the immigrant population.  currently just 1 in 27 (3.7%) non-Western immigrants in the Netherlands are 65 or over.  Among ethnic Dutch that's 1 in 6 (17%).  Around 2040 the aging of the ethnic Dutch population will reach its high point: 29% will be 65 or over then.

Among non-Western immigrants the percent of elderly will continue to grow after 2040.  It is expected that in 2050 almost 18% of the non-Western immigrants will be 65+.  The non-Western population of the Netherlands will then be as aged as the ethnic Dutch of 2009.

The three biggest non-Western groups: Turks, Moroccans and Surinamese, will increase less quickly than in the past and age a lot.  In 2050, 30% of the Surinamese in the Netherlands will be 65+, and thereby be even more aged than the ethnic Dutch population.  Among Turks, 24% will be 65+ and among Moroccans 22%.

Almost all non-Western elderly who now live in the Netherlands belong to the first generation.  In 2050 a fifth of non-Western elderly (65+) would have been born in the Netherlands and be part of the second generation.  The so-called third generation, which is made up of children of 2nd generation immigrants, is considered 'ethnic Dutch'.

Source: Statistics Netherlands (Dutch)

France: Mosque vandalized with swastikas

France: Mosque vandalized with swastikas

The graffiti included swastikas, "skinhead" and "Vive le cochon!" (long live the pig).  Similar graffiti was also painted on several bus-station and the walls of an elementary school in the town.  According to the Pas-de-Calais police, the mosque is not recognizable on the outside, and therefore they suppose it was done by locals.

The President of the CRCM (regional council of Muslims), Amar Lasfar, said he would lodge a complaint.  Lasfar says this attack has a national and international context and particularly citing the situation in Iran and the burka debate, said he regrets that French Muslims are at the mercy of such things.   Lasfar said that the mosque had been the target of such attacks several times.

The CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) put out a press release calling the public authorities to take the necessary steps to end these unspeakable acts which are detrimental to the serenity of religious practice in our country.


Police say vandals scrawled swastikas and racist insults across the doors and walls of a mosque in northern France.

Police in the Pas-de-Calais region say an imam discovered the inscriptions painted in red on the mosque in the town of Estevelles on Sunday.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie in a statement calls the incident an "intolerable" attack on "religious freedom and the dignity of a place of worship."


Sources: AP (English), AFP (French) [+ photos]

EU: Iranians demonstrate for democracy

EU: Iranians demonstrate for democracy

Protests continued today.  Eight hundred people from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and  France demonstrated in front of the Iranian embassy in Brussels on Saturday.  Various Belgian politicians participated in the protest. (De Stentor)


"We are a new generation.  We don't want war.  We don't want blood.  We want democracy."
Setareh Fathei, Iranian theater student demonstrating in front of the Iranian embassy in the Hague, the Netherlands (NRC)


Iranians demonstrated in capitals around Europe on Thursday to protest the disputed Iranian presidential election and the regime's treatment of its critics.

In Paris, Reporters without Borders, the media advocacy group, also held a rally across from the Iranian Embassy to protest a crackdown on Iranian and foreign media by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government.

Iranians in Paris, London, Stockholm and The Hague were out on the streets to show their support of opponents of Ahmadinejad and the powerful Islamic clerical elite.

The biggest demonstrations were in Stockholm, where up to 800 mainly expatriate Iranians gathered in the city's main square, and at The Hague, where about 300 people rallied outside the Dutch parliament.

Hundreds of protesters wearing green or holding green placards demonstrated outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Some held candles like the silent protesters in Tehran, while others shouted slogans. Police said there were no reports of arrests or violence.

Several separate protests in Paris drew fewer than 50 people each.

Some 30 Iranian protesters gathered near the National Assembly in central Paris held up banners, including one that said "Mullahs Terrorists." They chanted "Bye, bye dictator."

In The Hague, about 300 protesters sang and chanted outside the Dutch parliament to show support for protesters killed during demonstrations in Iran.

"We want to show our solidarity with all the people who have been killed on the streets of Tehran," said Cyrus Aryamanesh, who left Iran at age 13 in 1987.


But not all the Iranians in The Hague supported Mousavi.

History student Azadeh Achbari, 29, said Mousavi and hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were both products of the Islamic leaders who run Iran.

"We are against a theocracy. We want a democracy," Achbari said.


Source: AP (English)

Norway: If Norway had a Muslim majority

Norway: If Norway had a Muslim majority

Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet asked various people what  they think would happen if Norway had a Muslim majority.   Readers can vote who they most agree with: Hege Storhaug (Sharia will take over) or Nazneen Khan-Østrem (nothing will necessarily change).  At the moment, 78% agree with Storhaug.

The following is a summary of the various opinions, provided by Dagbladet.  The original article links to more extensive responses.

Everybody was asked three identical questions:
1. Do you think cities in Noway might have a Muslim majority in the future?  If so, how long would it take?
2. What are the most important things you think can change if Norway or areas in Norway have a Muslim majority?
3. What do you think of the Islam-debate in Norwegian society?

This week Norway Statistics came out with new forecasts which estimate the population in Norway to be 6.9 million in 2060.  Immigration is the most important reason for the increase.  SBB doesn't work meanwhile with forecasts by ethnic or religious group.  Several debaters in the Islam debate fear that Muslims will become a majority in various cities in Norway within a decade.  It is the higher birthrate among the minorities and continued high immigration which can lead to that.  Some speak of "Eurabia" and point to immigrant-stuffed cities such as Rotterdam and Marseilles with their problems.  Will Belgistan be next, or maybe the Moorish emirate of Iberia?

Opponents call this a conspiracy theory, an expression of "Islamophobia".  Muslims are so different, they claim, fundamentalists are a long way from everybody else,  those we speak of have barely been born and we can't suppose that they're be orthodox religious when they grow up.

Will Norway have a Muslim majority?  We asked various central debaters to answer the question, and their opinions differ greatly.

Columnist Mohammad Usman Rana thinks the discussion on a Muslim majority is based on myths and prejudices, and adds that Norway in 2060 will have between 4-11% Muslims.  He's supported by Islam-researcher Anne Sofie Roald who points out that Muslims are a small minority in Norway, and will continue to be so.  Aslak Nore also doubts a Muslim majority.

Spokesperson Hege Storhaug of the HRS think-tank says that they conducted estimates for Oslo.  She thinks the capital will have a Muslim majority in 40-50 years.  Author Bruce Bawer agrees with her that this will happen, but doesn't know when. debater Hans Rustad is also most concerned about Oslo.

Yousuf Gilani, a politician for the Liberal Party thinks there can be a Muslim majority in Norwegian cities, just like Abid Q. Raja, but it doesn't worry them.  College lecturer Nazneen Khan Østrem rejects the entire presentation of the problem as ridiculous.  Associate professor Berit S. Thorbjørnsrud thinks that it's science fiction, and Shoaib Sultan, general secretary in the Islamic Council, agrees.

What will happen in Norway if we have a Muslim majority?  Here are the answers of our debaters:

"Islam is in constant development, in 50 years Islam and Norwegian-Muslims will be as much Muslims as today's Christians are in Norway," says Yousuf Gilani, who thinks most Norwegians will just notice more halal food in the shop and more variation in skin color.

Gilani is concerned more about the rise of what he calls the right-wing radical forces which go on the offensive against Muslims.

"The feedback I get from the educated elite in Norway among the minority is that many consider moving from Norway, if there will a lot more right-wing radicalization of the country.  This trend appears to be more real in Norway now than what we've experienced in the past."


"The increase will happen in especially two places: Indre Oslo Øst and Øvre Romerike.  Indre Oslo Øst will likely become a ghetto-culture.    I assume that a high portion will be Muslims.  Elementary schools in Oslo have 39% students of immigrant background.  The portion of Muslims is probably high, but how high, I haven't seen any numbers for it, and I believe they aren't available," says Hans Rustad.

If the authorities don't do anything with this development, Rustad believes we'll have a segregated society.

"Then people will see changes in residence patterns, such that those who do not like to live under group pressure from other, move.  This will include individual Muslims and other immigrants."


Aslak Nore, will will publish a book about immigration in the fall, cites social-researcher Erik Kaufmann of Harvard, who discussed what can happen with an increasing Muslim population ('Eurabia?: the Foreign Policy Implications of West Europe's Religious Composition in 2025 and Beyond' (PDF)).  He sees two possible outcomes.

"One is violent riots of the type one has seen in England and France.  The other is pressure on foreign policy, to prevent support for Israel.  Here Norway got a taste during the trouble in January.  This appears rather likely.  On the long term, Kaufmann is concerned with the day that conserviative right-wing parties in Europe begin to woo Muslims, on religious grounds.  The day conservatism will go from being national to becoming a "moral majority".  This happened to a high degree in the USA in the latter half of the 20th century.   It can also happen in Europe in a few decades.  Then it won't be fun to be a homosexual or a religion critic."


Nazneen Khan Østrem says that a Muslims majority in one city will not necessarily change anything as few Muslims are fanatic Islamists.

"The question carries with it an underlying premise that Muslims represent other values and want a different legal system.  This doesn't add up at all.  The majority of Muslims in Norway are like most Norwegian.  It's time to take this in and stop with scaremongering," says Nazneen Khan Østrem.


"Just in Oslo we presumably have more than 20 different Muslim communities, which means that Muslims can't be described as one group with a determined goal.  Therefore one can't predict the significance of Muslims for political, social or cultural change," says Berit S. Thorbjørnsrud.


Abid Raja, Liberal Party politician and much more, thinks the question smells of fear of Muslims, but is concerned by preventing the development of parallel societies,  expectations that Sharia will be introduced in Norway, ghettos and internal justice if we don't make an effort at integration in the problem areas.


It's not sharia and FGM that Mohammad Usman Rana fears, but violence against Muslims.  He says it can have serious, and in one case - deadly, consequences for Muslims:

"A Norwegian-Muslim father of small children was killed in Nord-Norge in 2008 by a man who had for a while declared a wish "to kill a Muslim".  The female head of the Muslim Student Society,  Bushra Ishaq, received threats on her mobile phone in the wake of the police hijab debate.  Not least, the Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman Beate Gangås reports that it's worse to be a Muslim in Norway in this debate climate.  Gangås points for example to reports she got of Muslim children being harassed in the school yard, harassment in the workplace and a Muslim who didn't get to be appraiser due to his faith.  We can't have that in Norway.   The value of disagreement and debate is priceless, but if the debate becomes so tough and polarized that a vulnerable minority experiences increased discrimination and people creates breeding ground for segregation, then the value of such a debate is wiped out."


"The European Council has just recently points out that the Norwegian debate is characterized by generalizations and has typical undertones of racism and xenophobia.  This I've personally experiences as a debater when I was 'hung' as an Islamist, extremist and fundamentalist in the winter's Islam debate based on my defending standpoint of the right to wear a hijab," says Bushra Ishaq, who says that though she's a Muslims, going to the mountains on Easter and Christmas pudding delight her greatly as all other Norwegians.


Hege Storhaug sees a future clash with a Muslim majority:

"Then Norway will be subdued by sharia and Muslims will be, per Sharia,  the rulers, and other religious groups will get dhimmi-status, that's to say they will have fewer and different legal rights and will have to pay a special tax.  Will also have then a religious-fascist and gender-fascist society. Already today 40% of young British Muslims ages 16-24 want a Sharia-led UK.  If such anti-democratic forces, who are enemies of the freedom we hold so highly, win over among Europe's strongly increasing young Muslim population, then it's obvious which way Europe's going."


Anne Sofie Roald believes Muslims in Norway will have a typical "Norwegian" attitude to Islam: equality, democracy and tolerance.

"If Muslims, contrary to all expectation, should become a majority, it's important to understand that most Muslims are so-called 'secular' Muslims who don't practice Islam.  Among those who practice, many have a private religious perspective where Islam is practices in the private sphere in the same as many Christians in Norway.


"One word: Sharia law.  And even if there isn't yet a Muslim majority, there are also many in power positions in the country who are keen to sacrifice important freedoms in order to gratify the Sharia-supporters.  There was for example frightening to see how many big names agreed with Dag Solstad's repulsive statements on freedom.  This is just the beginning," says Bruce Bawer.


Freelancer and debater Ali Esbati thinks the demography discussion is racist, and doesn't want to participate in such a debate.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian), h/t P,  IsraelWhat