Europe: Muslims in Christian-Democratic parties

Europe: Muslims in Christian-Democratic parties

In the past I've been approached by journalists who were looking for information on Muslims in Europe. I generally help them out, answer questions and direct them to where they can find more information. That's usually the last I hear from them.

Philip Ebels, a Dutch journalist, was working on an article on Muslims in Christian-democratic parties. When he turned to me for information, I gladly helped him out, as I usually do.

However Philip Ebels deserves an honorary mention, for being the first to mention my blog, to quote me, and (as far as I can remember) to also get back to me with the article after it was published. It's also the first time I've seen a thorough treatment of this topic, which is usually overlooked in the discussion of Muslims in European politics. I'm therefore happy to be able to post it here (in translation).


Many Muslims in Europe are active in Christian-democratic parties. Together they appear to work against a growing secularism. A trend?

It had never so busy by the press section. From all the corners of the wold, they came to look at the swearing in of Mahinur Özdemir as regional parliament member of Brussels last month. It was a first in Europe. Never before was there a parliament member with a headscarf.

Less attention was paid to the fact that Ms. Özdemir, a practicing Muslim, represents a (traditional) Christian-democratic party, the Humanist Democratic Center (until recently the Social Christian Party). That is not a first, on the contrary. Everywhere in Europe Muslims are devoted to Christian-democratic parties.

In the Netherlands Coşkun Çörüz has been a member of parliament for the CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal) since May 2001. Until November 2006, Nihat Eski was as well. Ayhan Tonca is a municipality councilor in Apeldoorn and would have been in parliament if not for the commotion around his possible denial of the Armenian genocide. All three are of Turkish origin.

Two other elected party member of Ms. Özdemir are Muslims. The Flemish CD&V (Christian-Democratic & Flemish), the French Union for a Popular Movement (partially formed by the former Christian Democrats), the Italian People of Freedom, and the German Christian Democratic Union of Germany have Muslims in their ranks. Many thousands are probably active as members.

It seems paradoxical - certainly at a time of increasing extremism. According to some it's simply war. We against them, and vice versa. But it's not such a paradox. Because both see a common opponent in European secularism. "In my human and social ideas, religion plays a role, and the CDA accepts that," says Çörüz in an interview in de Volksrant. "I can be in other parties as an immigrant, but my religion plays no role."

Is this a trend? Not by the CDA, according to de Volkskrant. Last month it wrote that Muslims are leaving it wholesale. After leading an active multicultural policy in the 90s, the party seemed to make an about face after 9/11. Four months later Balkenende (current Dutch PM) declared: "For me the multicultural society is not something to strive for," The storm of hardening seems to have abated, but "the enthusiasm of the 90s will never return."

Professor Jean Tillie of the University of Amsterdam also doesn't see a trend. He's linked to the Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies. His study of voting behavior among immigrants even shows a drop of the number of Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch CDA voters.

Eddy Bilder, parliament member for the CDA and former chairman of the orthodox Christian Course Movement CDA (Beweging Christelijke Koers CDA), confirms this. "In my close vicinity I don't see an increase in the number of believers of other faiths. On the contrary, in the parliament fraction it's gone down."

The party spokesperson of the CDA, Marcel Meyer, draws a different picture. He emphasizes the common interests of all believers. "We think that faith does reach further than the private sphere. That appeals to everybody, also Hindus, Buddhists or Jews." He sees two trends. "First I see more and more believers of other faiths, second more and more youth who become members of the CDA."

So what is it? It's difficult to find reliable data about the number of Muslim members since religious convictions are not recorded. Yet it's reasonable to expect that more Muslims will join Christian-democratic parties. First simply because there's more Muslims. Through immigration and an above-average birthrate, the Muslim population of Europe grows faster than the rest.

Moreover, the estimated 20 million Muslims in Europe - of a total population of almost 500 million - are drastically underrepresented politically. Barely thirty are in parliament and a handful in government. According to the website, in 2004 eight of the 785 elected European parliament members were Muslims. (For 2009 data is not yet available). But as the second, third, fourth generation of immigration gets a better education and European nationality, they would also get more politically involved.

While some raise a hue-and-cry, integration quietly continues. The polder-mosque in Amsterdam which opened last year - where sermons are in Dutch and men and women can pray together - is a good example of that. "A handful of radicals aside, the majority speaks the local language properly, pays taxes and participates in the democratic process," says professor Jean Tillie.

Muslims in Europe traditionally vote for the Left. But that can also change. Now the choice of party is chiefly decided by concerns about social services or immigration policy. But as slowly but surely a middle-class forms, it can be expected that normative considerations will play a greater role.

And who other than the Christian democrats? They defend the traditional ethics and the place of faith in society. Regarding issues such as abortion, (gay) marriage, euthanasia, or stem-cell research, they don't think differently at all. "If you take a look at the values contained in the CDU party program, these are the same values that an enlightened Muslim can also find in Islam:" says Bülent Arslan, board member of the North Rhine-Westphalia CDU, "justice, freedom, the importance of family."

Madeleine van Toorenburg, integration spokesperson for the CDA says in an interview in De Pers: "it's clear that Muslims vote for us. We have many similarities through religion. Muslims are often closer to us than people who aren't religious."

The latter category has grown sharply in Europe in the last fifty years. In the past everybody was religious. Meanwhile, we're the most godless continent on Earth, after Australia. A survey of the European Commission from 2005 shows that just half the Europeans "believe in a god". In North and Central Europe a third believe, in Estonia, not more than 18%. Also youth believe significantly less. Enter a random church on a random Sunday morning and the couple of elderly widows will bear witness to this so-called post-Christian Europe.

The arrival of millions of Muslims brought faith back to the public space. Secular Europe responded allergically and had a fit. Turkey has banned all religious symbols in schools, universities and government buildings since 1997; France since 2004. At a Dutch school only the burka is banned. Since 2003, 8 of the 16 German states ban teachers from wearing the headscarf. Also during the swearing in of Ms. Özdemir there were voices of protest. Last month the last school in Antwerp announced a headscarf ban. In many countries the debate continues and one ban or another is on the agenda.

It's logical that moderate believers will know to find each other in such an environment. They disapprove of what they see as radical secularism. Van Toorenburg: "Sometimes it seems as if religion may not play any role in politics. Then I think: is it allowed, religion as an inspiration source?" More orthodox believers go a step further. "We find ourselves at a turning point," says Eddy Bilder. "Twenty years ago Christians thought to impose their ideas on society. Now it's different. Now the liberal society imposes its norms on the religious. Look for example at the position of women, or the acceptance of homosexuality."

Together we stand strong, is the idea. The CDA had even proposed once at a gathering to change the C (Christian) to S (Spiritual) or R (Religious), to unite all believers. Or in the worlds of John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter: "Beating back the wolf at the door in the form of hyper-secularization is going to require help from Muslims."

Will the believers truly unite in a growing godless world? Will Christian Democrats continue from now on as religious democrats? It won't get as bad. Esther Ben-David, the pseudonym of the moderator of the "Islam in Europe" blog, sees moderate believers getting closer more as a marriage of convenience. "The Church is not really interested in having a Muslim Europe, or a religious Europe. It's interested in having a Christian Europe and it might see Islam as a way of renewing interest in religion"

"It's more probable that Muslims will organize by their own identity," says also professor Tillie. "A party like the Dutch Muslim Party, which participated in the municipal elections last year, could do that very well." Bilder stresses that the gulf between the orthodox will not get smaller. Moderates getting closer he can somehow see happening.

Yet the trend can't be completely denied. So, for example, the Turkish AK-party, based on Islamic foundations, has been an acting member of the European People's Party, the umbrella organization of Christian democrats. the NMP (Dutch Muslim Party) also wants to be a party for Muslims and non-Muslims with a goal to "minimize the gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims and improve the (negative) image of Islam."

Moreover, there is data to back it. A recent survey of Moroccan Belgians by the King Baudouin Foundation shows that 4.3% of the first generation are members of a Christian-democratic party. Among the second generation that's 9.3%. A pan-European study has unfortunately not been conducted yet.

With an eye to the future, professor Tillie expects that Islam in the Netherlands will take a comparable place as Catholicism thirty years ago. Funny to think that the Catholics then united with the Protestants to form one party: the CDA.

Source: De Groene Amsterdammer (Dutch), Philip Ebels

Update: Fixed, NMP is the Dutch Muslim Party.

See also:
* Belgium: Who are the Belgian Moroccans?
* Brussels: First woman with headscarf in parliament
* Antwerp: Two schools ban headscarves

The Hague: Arrested youth part of known Jihadi group

The Hague: Arrested youth part of known Jihadi group

Four Dutch citizens were arrested in Kenya last week on suspicion of wanting to join the Jihad in Somalia. Apparently one of the suspects had already been caught in the past - when he disappeared with two other young men. Their families alerted the authorities they might have gone on Jihad. They were later found in Azerbaijan and claimed they had just gone shopping in Baku. At least one of the group had contact with Dutch terrorist Samir Azzouz and it was assumed they had actually been on their way to Iraq. The case led to the arrest of several suspected Jihad recruiters.


The four "Jihadists" deported by Kenya had been alienated from their family and coreligionists. Even their radical imam repudiated them.

The municipality of the Hague had been concerned for almost a year about a group of radicalized youth, which included the four suspected "Jihadists" who had been arrested in Kenya. About twenty youth went from neighborhood to neighborhood, and from mosque to mosque, in order to get their foot in the door. Nobody, neither parents nor the authorities, could control them. They saw them radicalizing and going to the forest in order - it was feared - to get in shape for the jihad.

On July 24, the expedition of four representatives from the group, including Driss D. (21), ended in Kenya. The Moroccan from the Hague was arrested with three others by the local police when they drove in a truck towards the Somali border. They supposedly were on their way to a jihadist training camp.

The AIVD has been keeping an eye on the ethnically mixed group of youth ages 17 to 28 for quite a while. In November 2005, Driss D., then 18, was arrested in Azerbaijan together with two friends with an expired visa. The youth from the Hague said they were on vacation. Their parents, who reported them missing, feared they had actually wanted to go on Jihad.

The role of the As Soennah mosque in the Hague was notable - notorious for its controversial imam Fawaz Jneid - the mosque reported the disappearance of their young visitors. the mosque placed an internet appeal and denied entrance to the suspect "jihad recruiter".

Barely a year later the As Soenna went a step further. Though the fundamentalist mosque is itself being followed by the AIVD, they informed the service about a group of visitors who maintained an extremely militant view. In culmination imam Fawaz - who had earlier cursed Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh before the film-maker was murdered - had a sermon in which he firmly rejected al Qaeda.

The group - consisting of a hard-core of 4-5 people and hangers-on - were set adrift. The municipality was desperate. Now the club did not have a spiritual leader - Fawaz was done with al-Qaeda in his sermon - they could make dangerous decisions on their own.

The alarms really went off when one of the older group member - a resident of the Hague of Turkish origin - was arrested in November 2008 with a weapon and silencer. According to the AIVD the man had been radicalized within a short period of time (at the beginning of the year he was sentenced to four months in jail due to illegal possession of firearms).

The a group possibly wanted to go on jihad training in Somalia, doesn't surprise various insiders. The youth were being pressured, persecuted and declared undesirable everywhere. The as-Soennah mosque should never have dropped them, some think. Thereby they became even more frustrated and isolated.

On Wednesday evening the four were put on a plane to Brussels. In Belgium they were arrested by request of the Dutch public prosecution for participating in a terrorist organization. Documents were found in two house searches. According to a spokesperson, investigation will show the nature of the material. Meanwhile, the public prosecution received a report from the AIVD with information about the suspects. The prosecution doesn't rule out that there would be more arrests.

The As-Soennah mosque was not available for comments yesterday. It's unclear when the suspects would be extradited by Belgium. If they resist it, the procedure can take up to a month.

Source: Volkskrant (Dutch)

See also:
* Somalia: Swedish citizen killed on Jihad, four Dutch citizens arrested
* Three Dutch recruited for Jihad
* Missing kids learned Koran by terror suspect
* Alleged Jihad recruiter denies accusations
* kids 'on vacation'
* Three Dutch Jihadists back home
* We just went shopping.. in Baku
* Netherlands: 6 arrested for jihad recruitment

Stockholm: Largest ever Muslim memorial ceremony for fire victims

Stockholm: Largest ever Muslim memorial ceremony for fire victims

Pictures from the ceremony available on Aftonbladet.

Hoda Sunyare desperately tried to save five of her seven children from a fire this past Saturday night in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby.  All five daughter died: Nasra (9 months), Hanna (7), Hibo (10), Najma (12) and Huda (16).  On Tuesday the children's cousin, Naimay Ahmed (13) succumbed to her injuries.  Naimy had been in Sweden for just a few months.  Her father died in the war in Somalia.  Her older brother had also sought asylum in Sweden but was rejected and was deported from the country a few hours before the fire. 

All are Muslim and according to their tradition the burial was to take place as fast as possible after death - preferably within 24 hours.  They were buried in the Muslim section of the Råcksta cemetery in Stockholm.

The father, Yuusuf Mohamoud Mohamed, and his two sons, survived.

Extra buses brought in residents of Rinkeby and Tensta to the Råcksta cemetery.  "It's so beautiful with all the people," says Faisa Ahmed, a close friend of Hoda.

Mona Shalin, head of the Social Democratic Party, and integration minister Nyamko Sambuni of the Liberal Party, came to the ceremony, together with police agents, firemen and representatives from the municipality.  "I'm here to show my solidarity," says Mona Sahlin.

The family asked that the funeral be open for everybody.  It's the biggest Muslim memorial ceremony to have ever been held in Sweden.  It's estimated that 1000-2000 people attended.  People were watching from around the cemetery.

"We belong to God and to him we return," said Dr. Eng Ben Mahmoud Rahmeh when he led the ceremony.  He first read a prayer from the mother.  The event was held in Somali, Arabic and Swedish.

Where the ceremony was over, the caskets were carried from the wooded shady area to the three graves.  Dr. Rahmeh said that the three graves are reaching out, and the siblings will share their resting place.

Faisa Ahmed was one of the women who followed the burial form the side.  When Aftonbladet spoke to her she tried to keep her tears in check, but they kept on coming.  "She had the world's sweetest kids, I'll miss them," she said.  Faisa comes from the same city in Somalia as Hoda Sunyare.  "I'll remember her as a close friend.  She was there for me, now I'll be there for her children who are still alive.  I'll always hug them we we meet."


The government will check how they can better inform about fire-safety and to see that it reaches all groups in society.

the inquiry into the accident is ongoing, but regardless of the cause, it's clear there's a need to do more to make sure that the information gets out, said Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors (Moderates). 

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) was additionally tasked to investigate how the protection against accidents law is working.

For example, will the informative material for property owners about fires in rental houses be available in several languages?  Today it's only available in Swedish.  An informative film on fire-safety which is about to be produced will be translate to several languages and distributed to associations were immigrants are active.

A special working-group will check how much immigrants are represented in fire-accidents.  Sten Tolgfors says that they've discussed swimming accidents in the past, as immigrant children are over-represented in drownings and know less about swimming.  He says it's obvious this is needed in more fields.

Sources: KVP, Aftonbladet, SVT, Expressen (Sweden)

France: Burka wearing 'marginal phenomenon', popular among converts

France: Burka wearing 'marginal phenomenon', popular among converts

French newspaper Le Monde reports on two recent reports prepared by the French police intelligence agencies for the government on the topic of the burka in France.  Both conclude that it's a very minor phenomenon, but the investigators point out that less than ten years ago, the burka and niqab, were unknown in France.  These documents, seen by Le Monde, come to inform the government, precisely at the moment when a parliamentary commission was set up on the topic.

The first report, from July 1st, is titled "Islam in France: the issues of wearing the full veil in France".  It was prepared by the SDIG.  The second study, which was published eight days later, was prepared by the DCRI.  It includes a precise tally of those wearing the full veil: 367 women in France.

This figure, which is not claimed to be comprehensive, is the result of observations through the country by the DCRI teams.  Starting from this 'snapshot' the service drew other conclusions: a majority of women identified as wearing the full veil do so voluntarily; more are under 30; 26% are French converts to Islam.  Almost all live in the major urban centers, in the Paris, PACA (Marseille), Nord (Lille) and Rhône-Alpes (Lyon) regions.  The DCRI report says that the youngest wearer of the full veil is 5 years old.

The SDGI report is 15 pages long and does not give any figures, but its conclusions are not different.  The agency estimates that it's a marginal praictice of young women.  Again, it emphasizes the importance of French converts.  The agents of the SDIG say that wearing the full veil comes from a desire to provoke society, or even her family.  It displays militancy, coming from Salafism.

The agency reports the case of fifteen young women who showed up, deliberately, at a commercial center in Marseilles.  The appearance of the group, which bought nothing, though it was at the date summer sales begin, was seen as a provocative act.

The SDIG describes the situation saying, similarly to the DCRI, that the phenomenon is focused in the major urban center in the Paris region and the Rhone valley.  Some examples have been identified in the rural department such as Haute-Vienne, Indre-et-Loire and Côte-d'Or, but also in the Eastern Pyrenees and Manche.  None have been seen in Brittany.

In contrast to the DCRI, the SDIG tried to list the positions of the various organization representing Islam in France, particularly in sensitive areas.  The fundamentalists, who 'denounce secular fundamentalism', and the rest of the Muslims, the vast majority of which reject the full veil and compare it's supports to a 'sect', according to the authors of the report.

However, many fear the the debate on the full veil will 'stigmatize Islam'.  The study concludes that even if there's a certain number of Muslim loners, most believe that wearing the full veil is from a different age.

Why two reports?  Le Monde says that both said it was their job.  Since the reform of police intelligence on July 1, 2008, the SDIG is tasked with public information on Islam in France, as well as other religions.  THe DCRI specializes in counter-terrorism and is responsible for monitoring the closed community of radical Islam.


Responses: André Gérin, the Communist Deputy who started this debate, says the figures in the study are 'ridicoulsous'.  while Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque, says the study confirms his opinion, that it's a marginal phenomenon.  People shouldn't be offended by such a small number, and there is no need for a national debate.  (full interviews on Europe1)

Sources: Le Monde, Europe1 (French)

See also: France: Proposal for inquiry commission on burkas

UK: Swine flu affecting religious activities

UK: Swine flu affecting religious activities

Fears about the spread of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, are curtailing religious activities of both Christians and Muslims as they worship and express their faith, especially in Britain.

Health authorities believe that the H1N1 flu pandemic is having a greater impact on Britain than on other European countries, with at least 31 deaths from the virus, in part because Britain is an international travel hub.


The Muslim Council of Britain released guidelines to Muslims on its website, urging imams and mosque leaders to increase the awareness of the dangers of using communal towels during cleansing rituals before worship.

Murtaza Shibli, a spokesman for the group, told Ecumenical News International that the council "concurs with the advice of Saudi Health Authorities and the World Health Organization that the current pandemic strain of swine flu was more likely to be severe in certain groups of individuals — elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic disease and children."

As a precaution against spreading the H1N1 virus, Arab health ministers in Cairo on Wednesday announced plans to ban children under the age of 12, the elderly, and the chronically ill from attending the annual Hajj pilgrimage.


Source: USA Today (English)

Somalia: Swedish citizen killed on Jihad, four Dutch citizens arrested

Somalia: Swedish citizen killed on Jihad, four Dutch citizens arrested

Another young Swedish-Somali man has been killed in the conflict in Somalia. According to the Swedish Security Service, he died in the beginning of July after being recruited in Sweden by the militia Al Shabab.

It’s well known in the Somali community that the group, which may have ties to terrorist network Al Qaida, has been recruiting youth in Sweden. Al Shabab has been especially active in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby, where a large number of Sweden’s Somali population lives.

Kadafi Hussein, youth leader at a Rinkeby community center, told SR International that he saw four young men recruit Somalis in a public square. “They talked about jihad and what was happening in Somalia. That it was right to go there, and that they’d help you out with a plane ticket if you needed it.”

According to Malena Rembe of the Swedish Security Service, the Swedish-Somali man who died in Somalia had lived in Sweden since he was very young. This type of radicalization may pose a danger for Sweden, she says.



Four Dutch citizens have been arrested in Kenya for "possible involvement in terrorism", the prosecution service in the Netherlands said on Wednesday.

"According to Kenyan authorities, the four were arrested on the border of Kenya and Somalia," last Friday, it said in a statement. "They are alleged to have been on their way to a jihadist training camp.

"An investigation has been launched by national police (in the Netherlands) into their possible involvement in terrorism."

An investigation has been launched by Dutch police into the activities of the four, who are expected to be sent back home, according to prosecution spokeswoman Marieke van der Molen.

She added that the Netherlands retained jurisdiction to prosecute its nationals alleged to have committed crimes abroad. Officials declined to give more details on the suspects including their genders.

While prosecutors identified them all as Dutch nationals, the Dutch foreign affairs ministry said the four included three citizens and a Moroccan with Dutch residence status.


All four are 21 years old. Three were born in Morocco, the fourth in Somalia. (NL)

Sources: SR, AFP (English)

Sweden: Municipalities reject teenage Afghan refugees

Sweden: Municipalities reject teenage Afghan refugees

A wave of teenage Afghan refugees has arrived in Malmö and other Swedish cities in recent weeks. Many remain in limbo as most Swedish municipalities refuse to accept them.

During the past week a record 64 juveniles have arrived in Sweden, according to Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) figures, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

In the southern Swedish city of Malmö alone, 45 teenagers have arrived and applied for asylum over the past fortnight.


The Migration Board's head Dan Eliasson has joined the migration minister Tobias Billström in calling on municipalities' local councils to take on a greater share of the burden.

"The situation demands that more municipalities sign agreements to help the most vulnerable. The municipalities claim that they lack expertise. But these kids are not from Mars. Their problems do not differ from those that other teenagers can need help with," Dan Eliasson said to the newspaper.

The flow of teenage boys, mostly from Afghanistan and Somalia, taking their chances on treacherous journeys to Europe has been increasing recently as conflicts escalate in their home countries.

One recent arrival to Sweden is 13-year-old Mehdi Heidari, who began his journey from Afghanistan seven months ago.

"My father was murdered by the Taliban," he told DN.

"The Taliban tries to recruit all the boys to their schools. They offer food and shelter. If you don’t accept, things can get violent. They hit my fingers with a hammer."

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) many of those arriving in European countries have taken up to a year to complete their journeys, living on the fringes of society in the countries they pass en route.


Source: The Local (English)

Iraq: Iranian-Swede killed in Iraqi army attack

Iraq: Iranian-Swede killed in Iraqi army attack

Al-Jazeera has a video report up about the attack.

According to Swedish news, one of the dead is Hanif Emami, who was born in Iraq but came to Sweden as a refugee when he was a child. He returned to Iraq ten years ago and settled in Camp Ashraf. His stepmother, who lives in Western Sweden, received news of his death. She says it's a disaster, and that two of her children, whom she loves, are in the camp. The situation is extremely bad and very worrying. She's been told her step-daughter, who's also in the camp, has been injured.

Iranians in Sweden are protesting the attack in front of the US embassy.

Seven members of an exiled Iranian opposition group have been killed in clashes with Iraqi police at a refugee camp over the past two days, authorities said Wednesday.

Security forces attempted to establish security control at Camp Ashraf in Iraq's Diyala province Tuesday and continued Wednesday to square off with members of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran.

The camp, which has housed Iranians since the mid-1980s, has been a refuge of the People's Mujahedeen.

Regarded as a terrorist group by the United States and Iran, the group allied with Saddam Hussein in Iraq during the 1980s with the goal of toppling the Iranian regime.

Since Hussein's overthrow in 2003, Iraq has established good relations with the Iranian government.

Iran wants to see the camp shut down, and the Iraqi government has said it would close the facility after it got control of the camp from the United States this year.



Around one hundred Swedish-Iranians have been demonstrating outside the American embassy in Stockholm following the storming of Baghdad's Camp Ashraf by Iraqi forces.

At least two policemen have died and around 420 people were wounded after Iraqi soldiers stormed the camp on Tuesday. Iran's People's Mujahedeen set up Camp Ashraf as a base to operate against the Iranian government.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that there are several Swedes in the camp.

One of the Stockholm demonstrators, Forough Shahriary, told Swedish Radio News that Sweden, which holds the European Union Presidency, should act, including putting pressure on the United States, as well as the Iraqi and Iranian authorities.


Sources: CNN, SR (English)

Brussels: Church-goers upset at imam speech during National Day celebration

Brussels: Church-goers upset at imam speech during National Day celebration

The speech of an imam during Belgium National Day (July 21) in a church in the Brussels suburb of  Sint-Joost-ten-Node has caused some consternation.  The imam cited suras - chapters from the Koran - about those who reject the faith, reports independent journalist Mehmet Koksal on his website.

The imam was present at the celebration by request of the community council of Sint-Joost-ten-Node.  They wanted to involve the various religious in the ceremony and so represent the diversity in the municipality.  But the quote chosen by the Turkish imam Sükrü Uymaz didn't go down well with the Catholic public of the parish.   These were mainly Catholics from the East Block, mostly from Armenia.

Among others the imam read the following passage [ed: apparently] from the al-Baqara sura (6-7):  "As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.  Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur)."


Beatrice Meulemans, religion alderman for the SP.A (Flemish socialists) says that the imam chanted in Arabic.  She did not understand it but thought it was very beautiful.  Later alderman Ibrahim Erkan told her it was scandalous since it referred to infidels.  The audience was primarily non-Muslim but there were other Arab speakers present who confirm this.

Ibrahim Erkan (CdH - Chrisitan Democrats) thinks it's shocking.  He says that there are beautiful suras in the Koran and the imam could have chosen something else for his first speech in a church.  Erkan, of Armenian origin, is fluent in both Arabic and Turkish.

Sükrü Uymaz is the Turkish imam in Meulebeke (West Flanders), working for Diyanet, and is known for his chanting skills.  He also recites online and organizes Koran competitions.
Alderman Clerckx Geoffroy (MR - Liberals) accuses the council of inappropriate planning, but Meulemans says that they spent three months discussing the issue.  They chose an imam working for Diyanet since it's linked to the official Turkish Islam and so would spare them a discussion of the various denominations.

Meulmans says that she met twice with Coskun Beyazgül, head of the Belgian Diyanet, and he sent the imam, who speaks neither Flemish nor French.  She says that the public in the parish is mostly sub-Saharan and Eastern Christian, and she think it's harder for the Eastern Christians to hear about Islam since they come from counties where the relations between the Christian minority and Muslims are tense.  Additionally, they oppose the Turkish government.  She thinks that if the imam would have been Moroccan, there would have been much less of a debate.


Koksal writes that the phrase in question is repeated 9 times in the Koran in 6 different suras, but I could not find it mentioned in the suras he cites.

Sources: HLN (Dutch), Parlamento (French)

Morocco: Children escape to Norway, father accuses Norway of abduction

Morocco: Children escape to Norway, father accuses Norway of abduction

Much as happened three and half years ago in the case of the Dutch Sarah and Ammar Hafez in Damascus, two children escaped from their father's home in Morocco and made their way to the Norwegian embassy asking for protection.  In this case, though, they stayed by the Norwegian diplomats for just one week before leaving the country and getting to Norway.  However, according to Moroccan law, the children could not leave the country without their father's permission. 

The father, Khalid Skah,  former Olympic medalist for Norway and a Norwegian citizen, is now wanted in Norway (NO) for kidnapping, threats and violence against his wife and two children.  He is accused of having threatned to kill them during a car-trip in Morocco.  Again, similarly to the Syrian case, Skah believes the embassy was involved in abducting his kids and has issued death threats against the ambassador.  One emabassy worker was attacked (NO) by unknown people.


A child custody battle between a Moroccan former Olympic athlete and his estranged Norwegian wife has strained diplomatic ties after Morocco said Norway helped spirit the two children away from their father.

The children aged 16 and 13 spent time at the Norwegian ambassador's residence in Rabat last week before they were smuggled out of the country, Morocco's Foreign Ministry said.

Norway says it did nothing wrong, that the children were held in Morocco against their will and it had feared for their safety. The two have joint Moroccan and Norwegian nationality.

"His Majesty the King's government denounces the clear involvement of the Norwegian embassy in this illegal exit from national territory," the Moroccan foreign ministry said in a statement after it summoned the Norwegian ambassador.

It said the Vienna Convention on diplomatic activity had been flouted and accused Norway's embassy of acting in an inconsiderate manner and making contradictory statements.

Moroccan newspapers said the children were kidnapped from their father Khalid Skah, who separated from his wife Anner Cecilie Hopstock in 2006. Skah won a gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

"On Sunday last week, the two Norwegian citizens approached the Norwegian embassy fearing for their lives," said a spokesman for the Norwegian government. "They were therefore accepted into the embassy to stay for a few days."

He said Hopstock came to take them back to Norway and denied that the Norwegian government had helped them leave Morocco.

"After so many months being concerned for their safety, we are happy they are back safely with their mother," he added.  Continued...

Hopstock told Norwegian media that she had travelled with Skah and their children to Morocco in 2006. She said he locked them up in separate rooms and took away their passports.

She returned to Norway in January 2007 and the children were meant to follow but Skah kept them in Morocco.


Source: Reuters (English)

Netherlands: Drop in mosque-visits

Netherlands: Drop in mosque-visits

Interesting to note, according to Statistics Netherlands the Dutch Muslim population decreased in the past two years, from 850,000 in 2006 to 825,000 in 2008.  While the number of Muslim Moroccans increased by 36,000, the number of Muslim Turks decreased by 40,000.   


About half of Dutch adults see themselves as belonging to a religious denomination or a certain life outlook. Of those 20% regularly go to religious gatherings, considerably less than in the past.

There was a sharp decrease in going to churches, mosques and religious gatherings in recent years.  The biggest drop is among Muslims.  In 2004-2008, on average 35% of Muslims went to a mosque at least once a month, compared with 47% in 1998-1999.

Among Catholics it dropped from 31% to 23%, while among protestants it church-going barely decreased.

Of the Dutch population 18 and up, 58% are religious.  Half are Catholic, 9% belong to the Dutch Reformed Church, 4% are Reformed and 6% belong to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. 

5% of the total population are Muslim, which comes to almost 825,000 people.  About 95% of them are of non-Western origin.  Moroccans, with 296,000 Muslims, make up the largest group, followed by the Turks, with 285,000 Muslims.

Source: Statistics Netherlands (Dutch)

See also:
* Netherlands: 24% of Turks, 22% of Moroccans over 65 in 2050
* Netherlands: 5% are Muslims

Belgium: Muslim convert involved in prison escape

Belgium: Muslim convert involved in prison escape

Three criminals escaped last week from the Bruges prison, in a daring escape.  One of the accomplices involved in the escape was caught.  The second accomplice, a Muslim convert, together with the three criminals, are still at large.

For more on this story sere here and here.


The court in Bruges identified the woman who rented a helicopter under the pseudonym "Kelly Verstraeten" last Thursday and freed three criminals from the Bruges prison.  The woman is Lesley D. (24) from the Hoboken suburb of Antwerp, who converted to Islam in 2004.

The court already knew the identity of the person responsible several days after the daring helicopter escape from the Bruges prison. The young woman who rented the helicopter, coerced the pilot and fled with the escaped criminals is a 24 year old woman from Hoboken.  Lesley D. is known as a girlfriend of Mohamed Johri, the 23-year old criminal from Antwerp who escaped.  Her voice was recognized by acquaintances.  The young woman wasn't found yet and has gone into hiding.

The revelations throws new light on the escape.  Until now it was supports that it was contrived by the Mechelen criminal Ashraf Sekkaki, the most well-known of the three escapees.  The suspcion was that the operation was carried out by people from his entourage.  Now it appears to have been a cooperative partnership.  Lahoucine El Haddouchi, the hijacker who was left behind during the rescue mission, is an old acquaintance of Sekkaki. The young woman who set up the operation did it for Johri.  How the cooperative effort came to be is still a mystery.  It is also still unclear what was the role of Abdelhaq Melloul-Khayari (42), the third escapee.

Lesley D. (24) from Hoboken appeared to the helicopter pilot as a 'jovial, easy-going Flemish girl' Thursday.  Ludwig Louwagie (51) said that the black-haired girl carried out small talk.  Until her accomplice Lahoucine El Haddouchi took out a pistol, put it to the pilot's head and forced him to land inside the prison.  During the hijacking the young woman took the pilot's headphones so that he wouldn't be able to inform anyone.

Lesley D. was exposed last weekend when acquaintances recognized her voice on the tape that a helicopter company from Wettern made on July 17th, when she tried to rent a helicopter.  The owner thought her call was suspicious and had kept it.  After the hijacking he made the connection.  Lesley D. had also visited her friend Johri in jail.

Last week detectives served the house in Hoboken where D. lives with her mother.  They fond several indications that Lesley D. was indeed involved in the planning of the helicopter escape.  She appeared to have studied the plans of the prison well.

According to Het Nieuwsblad, Lesely had a childhood like other children.  She played soccer, went to the Chiro youth group, went to school in Hoboken.  When she was about 18, she suddenly changed direction. She converted to Islam.  She began to wear a headscarf and observe the strict rules of Islam.  She made no secret of her choice, which she defended openly in the papers and on TV.  In interviews she appeared as a calm young woman, who wanted to keep away from violence and aggression.  "Sometimes friends think that I don't side enough with my Muslim brothers, but I don't side for somebody who attacks Jewish youth," she said.

It is still a mystery how she became the girlfriend of the violent young robber Mohamed Johri.  The young man is the least important of the three escapees, but had already committed several robberies.  Johri, also from Hoboken, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2008 for robbing a toy story and a supermarket.  His family describes him as a 'playboy', who liked having a lot of money and lavishly scattered it.  The family does not want to speak about the escape.  The older brother already announced that Mohamed should give himself up as quickly as possible.  The mother and father of Mohamed Johri have broken by the misery that their son had caused.

It's unclear if Lesley had already been in touch with the police.  But the daring escape doesn't appear to be the work of experienced criminals.  Leaving her voice on an answering marching was a serious beginner's error. Moreover, it appears that the escape route was badly prepared.  The escaped criminals had to land faster than planned then hastily car-jack a car.  Additionally, the Bruges prosecution already announced that the criminal who was left behind, Lahoucine El Haddouchi, was quickly identified because his had his ID with him.

Lesley's family did not want to make any comment.  The Bruges prosecution also did not want to confirm or deny the news about the identification.

Source: Het Niewusblad (Dutch)

Majorca: Tensions between Muslims, police after mosque arrests

Majorca: Tensions between Muslims, police after mosque arrests

The local council decided to investigate. The police are offended and say they're fed up with the council. (ES)

THREE arrests were made at Palma’s main mosque in Calle Joan Mestre after police followed a North African suspect into the building. He was arrested together with the president of the Moslem Defence League and the mosque caretaker, both of whom had reportedly tried to prevent the police from entering the premises, saying that the sanctuary of a mosque should be respected in the same way as that of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.

The Moslems claimed that the police had become violent and had used force in making the arrests. However, the police have a very different story to relate. They state they were following a man who had failed to stop when being flagged down on his motorcycle for a roadside check, and that he had taken refuge in the mosque.

On hearing of the incident, some 150 angry local Moslems protested outside the police station, saying that relations between the Islamic community and the security forces were now at an all-time low due to their holy site not being respected.


Source: EuroWeeklyNews (English)

Germany: University to open first Islamic theology department

Germany: University to open first Islamic theology department

The northern German state of Lower Saxony announced recently that it was establishing the country's first academic department of Islamic theology. The department, to be based at the University of Osnabrueck, will provide a place for theological research and will offer training for future imams.

The move reflects fresh efforts across Germany to address concerns about Islam that threaten to overshadow decades-old achievements in integrating Muslims into German society.

Those fears have mounted since the events of 9/11 and their aftermath stirred anxiety among many Germans over a perceived rise in radical Islam.

A perception has persisted that some immigrant-based population groups have already developed "parallel societies" that are inaccessible to the German mainstream but particularly susceptible to outside influence -- in this case, international Islamist groups.

Resulting demands for stronger efforts to integrate Germany's Muslim communities have grown louder and more frequent. Nowhere have they been more acute than in the debate about whether and how to integrate the Islamic religion into the German educational system.

Osnabrueck's new department of Islamic theology looks like one step, then, on what could be a very long road.


Source: RFE/RL (English)

Quote: The 80%

Quote: The 80%

"We estimate about 10% of our Islamic population are in a dynamic of rejection of the west and Europe, 10% are more European than the Europeans, and about 80% are in the middle, just trying to get by," said Alain Bauer, a criminologist and security adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy. "The concern is less home-grown or imported terrorists, but states such as Iran," he said.

The Guardian, Fears of an Islamic revolt in Europe begin to fade


[Like most articles on the subject, this one cherry-picks its facts to prove its point.  Europe is not facing an 'Islamic revolt', but it has serious problems with immigration, with integrating a continuous stream of third world immigrants, and with radicalization among European Muslims and converts to Islam.  The reason there have been no terror attacks in Europe has less to do with lack of will on the part of Islamic extremists than with swift action on the part of the security services.]

UK: British-Muslim fashion

UK: British-Muslim fashion

The Guardian interviews Sarah Elenany, who designs clothing for Muslim women.  She wants to make clothing relevant to Muslims, but also appealing to non-Muslims.

Towards the end of the interview, she's asked if she encountered any opposition.   She answers that she had: from Muslim men who think her designs are not modest enough.

See video interview here.  h/t euroISLAM

Netherlands: Mosques not interested in Dutch-trained imams

Netherlands: Mosques not interested in Dutch-trained imams

The cabinet wanted to stop with "imported imams", who don't speak Dutch and who bring with them radical ideas.  But the 'polder imams' who were to take their place aren't catching on.

Imams trained in the Netherlands can't count on a job right now.  Mosques have no money and no trust in the 'polder imam'.

The InHolland college, the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and the University of Leiden all developed imam training at the intercession of the cabinet who wants to stop importing imams from Morocco or Turkey.  They're conservative, stand in the way of the integration of Muslims and sometimes even incite to radicalizing.  The university and college education would prepare imams who speak Dutch and who would preach differently in the mosque, bringing with them the Dutch context.

It's now recognized that poor mosques have no money for expensive, trained imams.  Additionally, the older generation of mosque visitors, who make financial contributions and who therefore decide what happens there, don't want Dutch speaking imams.

"Dutch is the language of our future.  But the conservatism of the first generation is an hindrance," says Driss El Boujoufi, of the Union of Moroccan Muslim organizations in the Netherlands (Ummon).  Additionally, there are doubts about the religious knowledge of the polder imam.  "knowledge of Arabic and of the Koran: you simply don't learn that all in four, five years," says Amsterdam youth imam Yassin Elforkani.

Other critics say that the training of the imams shouldn't have been first on the list.  Halim El Madkouri, of the Forum institute: "Islam in the Netherlands needs its own theologists, who would develop new ideas.  So that the new imam doesn't need to embellish on sources from thirteen centuries ago.  The polder imam should be able to bring out a sort of polder Islam.

Professor Maurits Berger says they are aware of this in Leiden.  He says they're now training high-quality Islamic authorities who are firmly planted in the Dutch existence.  Than, he says, in the future we won't have to bring in "Tariq Ramadans".

Source: Trouw (Dutch), h/t NRP

Den Bosch: Muslim nurse fired for not wearing short sleeves

Den Bosch: Muslim nurse fired for not wearing short sleeves

Update: Fixed the headline.

A judge dissolved the employment agreement of a nurse from Den Bosch (the Netherlands), since she refused to come to work in the Jeroen Bosch hospital with bare arms.

The 33 year old nurse has been working since 2001 in the Den Bosch hospital. In 2007 she started becoming more engrossed in her faith, according to her lawyer, Frank Vermeeren. For this reason, she started wearing long sleeves under her work uniform.

But in the department the nursing staff has to wear shirts with short sleeves. Because the woman continued to refuse to appear with bare arms, she was not welcome at her work anymore in April 2008. The nurse then lodged several objections.

The judge in Den Bosch dissolved the nurse's employment agreement starting August 1, reports Nederlands Juridisch Dagblad. The woman received compensation of 8,500 euro.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Brussels: Belgian al-Qaeda branch planned to blow up metro, stadiums

Brussels: Belgian al-Qaeda branch planned to blow up metro, stadiums

This story made the news several times this past year.  Already at the time of their arrest last December, Belgian news fingered them as an al-Qaeda cell who planned to commit an attack against the Brussels metro.  The case is now going through the courts.

See also CNN's report on Bryant Neal Vinas' testimony.


The big group of Muslim fundamentalists who were arrested last December in Brussels, were actually a Belgian branch of the international terror-network al-Qaeda, according to an American crown witness who trained with the Belgian suspects in Afghanistan, report De Tijd and Het Laatste Nieuws.

The American confirms that the Belgians went through intensive combat training in Afghanistan and had contacts with top heads of al-Qaeda.  The new crown witness is a 26 year old Muslim from New York, Bryant Neal Vinas, AKA "Bashir el Ameriki".  HE was arrested last November in Peshawar by the Pakistani security services and handed over to the Americans.

Vinas made detailed confessions to the FBI, also regarding attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan and a planned terror attack on train traffic in New York.

The federal prosecution service confirmed to De Tijd that Vinas also made confessions regarding the case against the dozen plus members of the terrorist cell connected to the internationally notorious Muslim activist Malika El Aroud.  The examining magistrate, a federal magistrate and detectives of the Brussels Federal Judicial Police then went to the US.

The American trucker, who met the Belgians in a training camp says: They were trained in carrying out kidnappings and executions.  they wanted to attack the Brussels metro, as well as small and poorly-guarded targets, such as the European stadiums."

The Brussels court extended the arrest of four members of the cell: Malika El Aroud, the suspect suicide terrorist Hicham Beyayo, Abdulaziz Bastin and Youssef Arrisi.  The court put off a decision on the fifth suspect, Ali El Gannouti, until August 5th.

Source: HLN 1, 2, 3 (Dutch)

For more on the Belgian al-Qaeda cell and Malika el-Aroud see:
* Belgium: "Mother of al-Qaeda in Europe" saved by Belgian secret service
* Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (1)
* Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (2)
* Belgium: Al-Qaeda cell apprehended
* Switzerland: Islamist website owners found guilty
* France/Italy: Al-Qaeda cell investigation
* Belgium: Report on Belgian al-Qaeda
* Italy: Police charges suspected terrorists with planning France/UK attacks
* Belgium: Belgian cell discovers Islamic resistance is expensive
* Brussels: Terror attack planned
* Belgium: A female holy warrior for Al Qaeda

CR: Brno Muslims want new mosque

CR: Brno Muslims want new mosque

Muslims want to build a new mosque in Brno because the existing house shrine no longer meets their needs, Muneeb Hasan, chairman of the Brno-based Islamic foundation, told CTK Thursday, but the town is not much happy about the idea.

Hasan said the existing mosque does not have study and lecture rooms.

"It is our vision for the future," Hasan said about the considered project.

He said the Brno mosque was opened in Brno 11 years ago as the first Muslim place of prayer in the Czech Republic.

Some 120 Islam followers meet in it and their number is growing.

Hasan said he believes that a new mosque can be built in Brno without provoking the public's resistance. He said Muslims have coexisted with the other Brno inhabitants without any problem to date.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the mosque opening last year, the Muslims handed out 3653 roses as a sign of friendship. One rose was for one day in the ten years.

Brno deputy mayor Daniel Rychnovsky (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL, spoke with CTK about the project with reservation, but he stressed the town hall has not made any official decision on it.

"I think Brno has already once shown its tolerance when it agreed with the building of the mosque in Videnska street, and that this is enough," he told CTK.

Rychnovsky said the Muslim world is by far not so open to Christianity as the West to Islam.


Source: Prague Monitor (English)

London: Danish Muslim in critical condition after "honor attack"

London: Danish Muslim in critical condition after "honor attack"

A Muslim man is in a critical condition in hospital after having acid poured down his throat in an "honour attack" for having a relationship with a married woman.

Police have warned the woman, also a Muslim, that her life is now in danger and are discussing how best to protect her.

The 24-year-old man was attacked with sulphuric acid and stabbed by four men. He was blinded in one eye, suffered severe injuries to his tongue and throat and suffered 50 per cent burns. He was also stabbed twice in the back and attacked with bricks leaving him with fractures to his face.

The Danish man, who is of Asian origin, is said to have "insulted" a woman's religious family by becoming close to her, although she has denied to officers that the relationship was sexual.

He was attacked at about 2am on July 2 in Marchant Road, Leytonstone, east London, close to a bedsit in Mayville Road he had rented a few weeks earlier to be near the woman.


Source: Telegraph (English)

UK: Ahmadiyya leader urges followers to conform to British law

UK: Ahmadiyya leader urges followers to conform to British law

As a side note, I'm always amazed when we get news from the future.


Rafiq Hayat, head of the UK branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, will tell more than 30,000 followers that respecting the culture of the country they live in is key to their faith.

He will also urge against sending children to Islamic schools.

His remarks will be welcomed by ministers as a sign that Muslims are shunning political separatism. They follow growing concern over the spread of sharia courts.

Mr Hayat is to make his plea at Britain's biggest annual Islamic convention near Alton, Hants, this weekend.

He will say: "In countries such as the UK, where the laws are just and freedom of faith was enjoined, Muslims have a duty to contribute to the well-being of the society.

"Muslims should not press for the establishment of an alternative authority or so-called Islamic parliament."

Source: Daily Express (English)

Germany: Kurdish-Lebanese criminal clans

Germany: Kurdish-Lebanese criminal clans

They despise everything which doesn't belong to their cultural sphere: in Berlin, Bremen and Essen, Kurdish-Lebanese clans dominate entire streets - and even threaten the police.

When Hussein E was shot to death on Jan. 30, 2009, it was a murder with a message.

A few weeks before his death, the Lebanese sought help: he felt massively threatened and afraid, a victim of an upcoming act of revenge.  And in fact, his murderer ambushed him in the Bremen suburb of Schwanewede. Hussein E. (43) died at the scene of bullet wounds, his wife was seriously injured.  The murder on the street was the first conclusion to a typical bloody confrontation between the Kurdish-Lebanese clans in Bremen.

The feud began on Good Friday 2006, when Hussein E. together with six other men stormed into a pub to settle a score with members of enemy clans.  An 18 year old was killed in the attack, three other people were seriously injured.

It was probably about stolen drugs, in 35 days of trial the Bremen court could not clear up the exact background.

The four main perpetrators were deported to Lebanon, where they were freed on bail.  Three other attackers were given prison sentences in 2007 - including Hussein E., who knew that once he was released, he would be the target of a blood vendetta.

This is because the clans administer their own justice.


Dieter Kopetzki says these crimes are not uncommon. He heads the department for organized crime in the Bremen Police.  For years he and his colleagues of the Landeskriminalamt (national criminal investigation unit) are occupied by a very specific clientele: Members of the Kurdish-Lebanese clans dominate the cocaine market and the red-light district.  They provide a 'focal point of crime', as Kopetzki puts it - not only in Bremen, but also in Essen and particularly in Berlin.  These three cities are the German headquarter of the clans.

The chronically understaffed police are often powerless.  Agents can't infiltrate into the hermetically closed community of blood-ties.  It is already difficult to resolve the identity of suspect, as many Lebanese refugees destroy their passports when entering Germany.  Kopetzki says about Bremen that the problem won't be solved by the police.  The structures are too entrenched.

His colleagues in Essen and Berlin have similar stories about the clans.  There are stories of violence, but particularity of failed integration into German society.

In Berlin alone there are twelve Kurdish-Lebanese clans, according to the police, each with several hundred members and branches throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Most fled the civil war in their homeland in the 80s, while others took advantage of the chaos after the fall of the Berlin wall and crossed the border in 1990.  Overall, more than 200,000 people are estimated to have immigrated from Lebanon to Germany.

Asylum laws favored almost complete isolation: parents couldn't work for years, children were freed of obligatory schooling.

This produced a generation of near-illiterates, says Ralph Ghadban, a social scientist in Berlin, who himself comes from Lebanon.  These failures are now taking their toll.

Although half of the refugees now have German citizenship, most never really 'arrived' in their new home.  On the contrary, they isolate themselves more and more.  Ghadban says that by now the second generation of Lebanese immigrants constitute a danger to social peace.  From their ranks come many of the multiple-offenders, young men who already in primary school took up a criminal career.

The disastrous consequences of this development for the urban society can be seen in Berlin: in 2008 the police registered 1,200 such 'multiple offenders', 71% of which were of immigrant background, and of those the Lebanese were disproportionally represented.

Proper ghettos have emerged in the Neukölln and Wedding districts.  Here the clans rule, state regulations and laws barely apply. Disputes are judged privately - or, as in Bremen, decided with weapons.


A worker for the Neukölln district says that the clans never charge others and there's no way to know what happens on the inside.

He wants to remain anonymous, just like the lawyer who for years defended clan members all across Germany, but is nevertheless horrified by their patriarchal structures and violence.  He says that at least his fees are being paid promptly.  A large portion of his clients live on welfare, at least officially. 

Similarly, a Lebanese native, who for years has been promoting intercultural understanding, also doesn't want his name mentioned: he's considering moving from Neukölln , as did the German and Turkish middle-class before him.  Whoever wants to remain alive, goes away.  He says his children shouldn't go to school and not meet Germans.

Back in the neighborhood welfare recipients, Arab families, often with 8-10 children, are living in cramped apartments.  The list of integration projects in Neukölln alone is now thicker than a book, but the trend towards poverty can't be stopped by language courses and youth clubs.  If this trend continues, Berlin sociologist Hartmut Häußermann warned last year, then within a decade three quarters of Neukölln resident would live in 'precarious conditions'.

Kirsten Heisig knows what this means.  As a youth court judge in the Tiergarten court she is also responsible for Neukölln.  She says that in some streets in the districts conditions are abysmal, and that it's ghetto-like.

Heisig brought trouble upon herself with such declarations, since she expressed them publicly in an interview three years ago.

Her opponents in the Berlin justice department accused her of profiling, but Heisig doesn't want to stay silent.  As youth judge she deals with children of Arab family almost every day.  The boys are left to themselves, skip school, rob gambling halls, drugstores and sex-shops.

They despise everything which doesn't belong to their cultural sphere - German above all, but also Turkish: The parents reject the legal system and this carries over to the children, says Heisig.  Help is unwanted.  Social workers report to the court that on visiting families they are threatened and spat on.


Work has become risky for the police too.  Agents repeatedly face angry crowds, even when they just want to give parking tickets.

A recent example: when a special response unit arrested two con-men in Neukölln on May 6th, a riot started on the street: About 50 people of immigrant background threatened the agents, according to the police report.  The situation calmed down only when reinforcements were requested.

Eberhard Schönberg says that it's not a big thing in Berlin anymore since it happens almost every day.  The chairman of the GdP Police Union knows of cases in which colleagues had to barricade themselves inside shops.  He says that the state's authority is often completely lost here.

Berlin police reports rarely mention the origin of the offender for typical crimes in the community - out of fear of feeding racist resentments.  when in April four men committed a brutal attack on a supermarket, only the internal protocol stated that the perpetrators came from Lebanon and that all had been previously convicted for similar crimes.


According to Nader Khalil the taboo causes the exact opposite result: He says it must be clearly discussed. He says that people shouldn't give the political right the opportunity to exploit it.

Khalil immigrated to Germany from Lebanon 29 years ago.  As a Muslim he sits in the Neukölln council for the CDU (Christian Democratic Union).  He says that in addition social work, significant punishments are also needed: We have to enforce liberal order.

He is supported by German-Turkish journalist and author Güner Balci.  She says that organized crime in Kurdish-Lebanese clans functions partially on the basis of archaic tribal structures.  The causes for this must be taken into account for an honest analysis.

Güner Balci knows what she's talking about: she grew up in Neukölln and was a social worker there.  But in her experience many social workers see the police as the enemy and in this way promote criminal careers instead of preventing them.  It is the most important job  of the youth service, besides offering children attractive leisure activities and setting boundaries.

But in Berlin all that is far away: according to youth judge Heisig, 20% of elementary school children don't show up for class.  Others come weeks later after visiting relatives in Lebanon.  There are rarely consequences - though the school could fine the parents.  Heisig says that this conduct calls out for setting limits.  De-escalation is seen as retreat.

Apparently national norms are enforced in the clan world only by coercion.  Berlin authorities shy away from the confrontation, particularly when it comes to children of Arab families and when resistance is expected.


In Essen, the third metropolis of the clans, the police tried to deliberately display their presence, when several years ago agents were told at a checkpoint to 'fuck off, this is our street'.

Bremen investigator Kopetzki thinks it will have little effect: court rulings which allow for deportation of the perpetrators are more important.

The bottom line is that German social workers, police and justice officials make little impression on the clans.  On Jan. 25, 2009, several millions euro worth of jewelry were stolen from the Berlin KaDeWe department store.  The suspects included two Lebanese from Rotenburg in Lower Saxony, also members of a notorious clan who are responsible for many crimes.  The two 27 year old brothers Hassan and Abbas O. were freed soon after their arrest.  Because they are identical twins, the DNA traces found at the crime scene could not be clearly classified.  After their release in March they said they are proud of the German constitutional state and thank it.

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung (German), h/t Politically Incorrect

Italy: Muslims to hold summer camp in quake hit region

Italy: Muslims to hold summer camp in quake hit region

Italy's largest Muslim group, UCOII, will this month hold its annual summer camp in the quake-stricken central Italian Abruzzo region to show solidarity with the earthquake victims. The camp is taking place from 25-30 July at a hotel near the picturesque Lake Bomba outside the town of Chieti.

A total 294 people were killed and another 55,000 were left homeless by the powerful earthquake that struck Abruzzo's capital city of L'Aquila and surrounding areas on 6 April. Tens of thousands of people are still living in tents and temporary accommodation.

"We will be meeting as brothers to show solidarity with the people of Abruzzo," UCOII said.

"We will live together for several days in a highly spiritual atmosphere, holding meetings, studying, recharging our batteries and living our faith," the group added.

"Our choice of Abruzzo this year is a clear sign that we share in the pain and distress of the its people and support their efforts to recover from this emergency and rebuild the cities and villages seriously damaged or destroyed by the earthquake."

UCOII's decision to hold its 40th annual summer camp in Abruzzo follows Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's announcement last week that he planned to spend his summer holidays in Abruzzo instead of his usual stay at his luxury villa on the island of Sardinia.


Source: AKI (English)

Flanders: Attitudes towards immigrants/Muslims

Flanders: Attitudes towards immigrants/Muslims

See also: VRIND 2009 (Dutch)  h/t IIE reader.

The attitude of the Flemish towards immigrants hardly changed in recently years, according to the Flemish Regional Indicators 2009 published today.

The annual VRIND reports offers a slew of indicators on a number of domains.  This year's publications is 400 pages and 700 indicators.  They are based on data from last spring and so before the economic crisis set in in force and everything was fine.  It's expected therefore that next year's report will show a completely different picture for many indicators.

The diversity in Flanders in meanwhile on the increase.  The total number of foreigners has increased by 30% since 2002 and has gone up to 5.8% of the population, which is comparable to neighboring countries.  Counting people of foreign origin, the total comes to about 10%, with concentrations in Genk (46%), Antwerp (26%), and Ghent (16%).  The numbers show that the Flemish don't respond differently to the increasing diversity, though there are big internal differences.  Men, youth and the highly-educated are generally more tolerant.

Half of the Flemish think that the presence of immigrants enriches society and 25% think that they contribute to prosperity, and that they should be received warmly.  Their number has increased in recent years.

On the other hand, 25% remain very distrustful.  They think that immigrants shouldn't be trusted and 20% think that people who belong to ethnic minorities should marry among each other.  The distrust increases with age and is higher among those with lower education.

Moreover, 20% think that Muslim women should always be allowed to wear a headscarf everywhere.  In 2004% that was 25%.  90% of the Flemish think that foreigners should adapt to Flemish society.  Apparently the ethnic Flemish population doesn't have a stand towards non-Christian religions.  Two thirds have no clear standpoint when asked how they see members of non-Christian groups.  The case is different towards Muslims.  30% are negative to very negative and just 14% take a positive attitude.

Nobody thinks the ideal neighborhoods is one with many people of foreign origin.  But almost half of the population will live in a neighborhood where some foreigners live (though not of a different color).

Source: HLN (Dutch)

More data from the report:

The top foreigner groups in Flanders are: 31% Dutch, 8% Moroccans, 7% Italians, 6% Turks and 5% French.  In the past decade the number of Dutch increased by 6 percentage points while the number of Moroccans and Turks went down (8 and7 percentage points), mostly since they've naturalized.  65% of the foreigners in Belgium are from EU countries. 

The top groups of people of foreign origin (foreign nationality, naturalized and Belgian with a foreign mother): 21% Dutch, 15% Moroccans, 13% Turks, 7% Italians and 5% French.  Half come from EU countries.

60% think that the Moroccans and Turks they know are friendly people.  Minorities have more contact with the Flemish than vice-versa.  25% of the Turks and 20% of Moroccans speak every day to their Flemish neighbors.  60% of the Flemish never speak to people of another community. 

All three groups share a progressive attitude on social-economic issues.  On ethical issues Moroccans/Turks are quite conservative while the Flemish are quite progressive.  The Flemish give personal choice a much higher priority when it comes to abortion and euthanasia.  Regarding freedom of speech and the roles of men-women, all three groups are on the progressive side of the scale, though there are differences between them. 

More than 40% of people with foreign origin experienced discrimination last year.  66% of the Moroccans think that the police treats them harsher than the Flemish.  75% think that they're more likely to be discriminated by home owners.  85% think they're portrayed more negatively in the media than the Flemish.  Among Turks the numbers are slightly lower.

Two thirds of the population live in neighborhoods with no minorities.  Most would also keep it that way.  30% live in a neighborhood with some foreigners, 75% of them think it's the ideal neighborhood.  6% live in a neighborhood with many foreigners and 14% think it's an ideal neighborhood.

Attitudes towards immigrants/Muslims:
1. Immigrants contribute to prosperity in our country - 26.4%
2. Immigrants can't be trusted, in general - 25.4%
3. Muslim families are in general very hospitable - 44.8%
4. Immigrants come her to profit from our social security - 49.4%
5. Muslims are a threat to our culture and customs - 42.6%
6. The presence of different culture enriches our society - 51.4%
7. If the number of workplaces deceases, immigrants should be sent back to their own country - 33.5%
8. We should warmly welcome foreigners who want to live to Belgium - 25.9%
9. People who belong to ethnic minorities should marry among each other - 18.7%
10. When people would get to know Turks and Moroccan better they turn out to be friendly people, in general - 58.8%
11. Foreigners who live here should adapt to the culture and customs of our country- 87.7%
12. Muslim women and girls should be allowed to wear a headscarf at all times and everywhere - 19%

Switzerland: Muslims want local imam training

Switzerland: Muslims want local imam training

See also: Study site

Muslim communities and education authorities in Switzerland appear to agree that the country's universities could train future imams.

A study by the National Science Foundation has concluded that it is up to cantons to take the necessary steps to set up programmes, in cooperation with universities and Muslims.

Imams practising in Switzerland either leave the country for training or are imported from abroad. Researchers said that Muslim communities want "an authentic Islam and an Islam suitable for Switzerland" but are less enthusiastic about state intervention in training.

In 2008, the French government introduced a programme to sensitise Muslim leaders to the country's history customs.

Swiss researchers said the results of their study brought some surprises.

"It refutes the general prejudice that consensus is not possible among the Muslim community and of a rift between Muslims and Swiss society," said Ulrich Rudolph, professor at the Institute for Oriental Studies at Zurich University.

Rudolph said there is a widespread perception that the present situation of training mosque leaders is unsatisfactory, as imams from abroad are not familiar enough with the social and cultural background of Switzerland.

"Interviewees said teaching programmes for imams would increase the social competence of the clerics, facilitate integration and help ensure transparency as well as prevent Islamic extremism," Rudolf said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Rudolph pointed out that those interviewed considered the role of an imam in Switzerland to be similar to a Christian cleric. "He should not only be a preacher and teacher, but also an advisor in pastoral care".


Source: SwissInfo (English)

UK: Non-Muslim turn to Shariah courts

UK: Non-Muslim turn to Shariah courts

Increasing numbers of non-Muslims are turning to Sharia courts to resolve commercial disputes and other civil matters, The Times has learnt.

The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) said that 5 per cent of its cases involved non-Muslims who were using the courts because they were less cumbersome and more informal than the English legal system.

Freed Chedie, a spokesman for Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siqqiqi, a barrister who set up the tribunal, said: "We put weight on oral agreements, whereas the British courts do not."

In a case last month a non-Muslim Briton took his Muslim business partner to the tribunal to sort out a dispute over the profits in their car fleet company. "The non-Muslim claimed that there had been an oral agreement between the pair," said Mr Chedie. "The tribunal found that because of certain things the Muslim man did, that agreement had existed. The non-Muslim was awarded £48,000."

He said that the tribunal had adjudicated on at least 20 cases involving non-Muslims so far this year. The rulings of the tribunal are legally binding, provided that both parties agree to that condition at the beginning of any hearing.

Anti-Sharia campaigners, who claim that the Islamic system is radical and biased against women, expressed alarm at the news. Denis MacEoin, who wrote a recent report for the think-tank Civitas examining the spread of Sharia in Britain, said that MAT's claims about non-Muslim clients "raises all sorts of questions".

He added: "You really need to ask why. What advantages could that possibly have for them going to an Islamic court? Any [Sharia] court is going to be implementing aspects of a law that runs contrary to British law, because of the way it treats women for example."

Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that organisations should be free to conduct arbitration under Sharia, provided that it did not infringe British law and was a voluntary process.


Source: The Times (English)

TV: The Wanted

TV: The Wanted

NBC News launched a new show yesterday: The Wanted. The show features a team tracking down terrorists, intending to bring them to justice.

The first episodes focus on terrorists living in Europe. This week's episode (available on YouTube) focused on Mullah Krekar, who lives in Norway. The team tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Norwegian authorities to deport him to Iraq. Next week they will track down Mamoun Darkazanli in Germany and try to bring him to justice in Spain.

The show is drawing quite a lot of criticism: it's mix of journalism and drama, on the one hand, and the assumption that an American TV show can drop in by a foreign country and force its hand regarding an internal issue, on the other.

US: European imams, rabbis on interfaith tour

US: European imams, rabbis on interfaith tour

Imams and rabbis from across Europe are touring interfaith centers in the US to learn from the track record of success of their American counterparts in fostering inter-religious dialogue and Muslim-Jewish relations.

"Our success in America has given us the faith and confidence to reach out to Europe," Sayyid Mohammad Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of three hosts for the tour, told the Washington Times on Monday, July 20.

"We need them to witness firsthand what we are doing. I have been working toward this all my life."

Twenty eight imams and rabbis from 10 European countries will be touring interfaith centers and meetings American counterparts and experts in interfaith relations.

The aim is to get ideas and instructions on breaking new ground on Muslim-Jewish relations in their societies.

They will begin their visits on Monday in New York, where they will meet Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali, head of the Islamic Cultural Center who will talk about the experience of New York's largest mosque.

During their two days in New York, the European imams and rabbis will also meet prominent political, civic and religious leaders, and be hosted by the United Nations.

They will then travel to Washington, where they will be received by Muslim congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson and two leaders of the unofficial Congressional Jewish Caucus, Jerrold Nadler and Robert Wexler.

The delegation will also visit an exhibit at the US Holocaust Museum.

In addition to ISNA, the tour is also sponsored by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), a national organization dedicated to strengthening ties between ethnic and religious communities in North America.


Source: Islam Online (English)

Quote: Terrorist attack in Belgium

Quote: Terrorist attack in Belgium

"Insha'Allah, it [a terror attack] will happen to them [Belgium] one day. Then they'll understand what terrorism is."

-- Fuat Tanlay, Turkish ambassador to Belgium, in an interview to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. H/t Mehmet Koksal.

The interview came after an appeals court in Brussels postponed its ruling in the DHKP/C case. and offered defense lawyers an opportunity to prepare new defense arguments.

The seven suspected DHKP/C members were found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization, then acquitted on appeal. The acquittal was anulled and the appeal sent to retrial.

See also:
* Brussels: "An attack is just a matter of time"

Germany: Reluctant young Turks offered courses to learn Turkish

Germany: Reluctant young Turks offered courses to learn Turkish

Authorities and nongovernmental organizations in both Turkey and Germany are working to ensure that the younger generation of Germany's Turkish immigrant community remain fluent speakers of their native language, but it is proving to be a difficult mission as the children of these families increasingly perceive Turkish skills an unnecessary tool to succeed in their education and social life.

After 50 years, Turkish immigrants living in Germany are no longer considered guest workers; instead, they constitute a community which is viewed as one which should be integrated into German society as quickly as possible. However, attempts to integrate the Turkish minority into German society are causing identity problems, especially regarding the use of the community's native language.

Vedat Fındık, a university student from a Turkish family which migrated to Germany in the 1960s, says the children of immigrants are sandwiched between two languages, namely Turkish and German. "I have to speak German with my friends at university; however, since my parents can not speak German well, I must use only Turkish at home, which is quite difficult for me. But the worst thing happens with my 10-year-old nephew. His Turkish parents speak in German at home, but when he visits us I must translate what he said to my parents [his grandparents] because he speaks very limited Turkish," said Fındık.

Nükhet Kirvan, a manager of the Munich Education and Training Platform, a voluntary civil society group working to teach Turkish as a foreign language in elementary and high schools in Munich, said the group has successfully initiated Turkish courses in three high schools in the city. Speaking to Today's Zaman in an e-mail interview, she added, "The interesting thing is that not only Turkish students, but also German students and students from other ethnic backgrounds are also interested in Turkish courses."

Asked whether the third generation of Turks use Turkish correctly and frequently in their daily lives, Kirvan replied by describing personal experiences and emphasized the role of the family. "I, as a child of a Turkish immigrant family, personally observed that my family was not interested in teaching their national values or their native language to their children as they were struggling with the hard economic conditions they faced. Consequently, I could not speak Turkish correctly. Rather, I spoke a different language mixed with Turkish and German. When I noticed that, I forced myself to speak the languages separately and correctly," she said.

In an effort to keep the younger generations of the Turkish community connected to their culture, the Turkish government has been sending Turkish teachers to Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to offer Turkish lessons to Turkish students independent of their daily schooling.


Source: Today's Zaman (English)