Norway: Somalis support Islamists

Many of the Somalians living in Oslo strongly support the Islamist regime now on the run in their homeland.

"If the Ethiopians continue to occupy Somalia, we won't sit here. We will go back to Somalia and fight as one!" says Zakharia Ahmed, banging his fist on the table.

The scene is the Café Bolsho in Oslo's downtown immigrant district Grønland. Dozens of compatriots are gathered round in the noisy café, and Ahmed clearly has full support. "Yes, we will go back and fight," the others shout.

Aftenposten has chosen this Somali café at random. The conversation is animated, takes
place in Somali, English and Norwegian, and here there is total agreement.

Strong opinions

"What this is about is that the regime in Ethiopia has not forgotten the war in 1977 when Somalia went into the Ogaden province in Ethiopia. Now the rulers in Addis Abeba are out for revenge. The so-called UN-recognized government in Somalia is nothing but marionettes for the Ethiopians. I have been in contact with my relatives in Mogadishu. Ethiopian soldiers are already raping women and cutting the throats of civilians in the city. It is all in return for their humiliating defeat in 1977," says Abdi Muhamed, who lived in Mogadishu before coming to Norway four years ago.

The café crowd, entirely made up of young men, emphasize strongly that the Islamist regime in Somalia brought law and order to a country marked by 16 years of fear and chaos. Muhamed is convinced, though he hasn't seen it first hand.

"I have not been in Somalia for a long time but my sister has been back to Mogadishu after the Islamists came to power. She said that everything was better. This is also the impression I get when I talk to relatives in Somalia. There is virtually no one in Somalia, or Somalians here in Norway, who do not support the Islamist regime," Muhamed says.

Other opinions

Some Somalian leaders in Norway do take an opposing stance. Shirdon M. Abdikarim, head of the Somalian Council in Norway, which includes 11 member organizations, said his group wholeheartedly backs the UN-approved government in Somalia.

"Somalia has never been a sharia (Islamic) state and will not be one in the future," Abdikarim told Aftenposten.

Abdikarim has heard that some Somalians with Norwegian citizenship support the sharia tribunals, as Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi was quoted as saying in an interview with Norwegian web site Nettavisen on Thursday. Gedi also was cited as saying significant sums of money were being transferred to the Islamists via Norway.

"There are 8,000 Somalians with Norwegian citizenship. Quite a number of Somalian refugees have gone back to their homeland from Norway, but no one knows how many. Somalia's borders have been open in recent years, and there has been no checks of who has traveled in and out of the country," Abdikarim said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Lennik: Armed robbery of Muslim slaughterhouse

Three armed men tried to rob a Muslim slaughterhouse this past Saturday night in the Flemish-Brabant town of Lennik.

The slaughterhouse had been busy that day due to Eid ul-Adha and the assumption is that the robbers had chosen their target due to that reason. Around 8:25pm they broke into the slaughterhouse and threatened those present with firearms. They then fired several shots. One man, the manager, got a bullet in his foot.

Despite their show of strength the robbers left with no loot and fled in a Mercedes. The police searched the area but found no traces of the attackers.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Belgium: Gov't asks for understanding around Eid

Marino Keulen, Flemish Minister for the Interior, asks for understanding for the efforts that hundreds of government workers had to put in in order to make sure the Islamic holiday, Eid ul-Adha, passed successfully. Keulen said that during a visit to the temporary slaughter place in Lokeren, after the mayor, Filip Anthuenis was criticized by the Moroccan community.

"The local authorities made many arrangements to have the ritual slaughter take place on December 31st, according to the law and with respect for the freedom of religion." said Keulen. "The decision last week by the theologians in Saudi Arabia to start the holiday on December 30th caused some problems in the mobilization of different services. I therefore ask for understanding and thank mayor Anthuenis and all other people who assisted around the holiday."

Lokeren expected 229 sheep to be slaughtered during the weekend. The Turkish community stuck to Dec. 31st, but the Moroccan community wanted to slaughter sheep on Saturday in the municipal slaughterhouse. That was not possible, according to Anthuenis, who was criticized by part of the Moroccan community. Meanwhile the problems had been worked out said Anthuenis. The Moroccans could use three private slaughterhouses on Saturday.

These were organized by the Muslim community itself, with the consent of the Federal Food Agency and in the presence of a veterinarian. The local integration service is a great advocate of those private slaughterhouses since the religious atmosphere of the holiday can be better reached by smaller initiatives.

Keulen thinks private slaughterhouses are a good idea as long as they are of certain size. "Individual home-slaughter is still forbidden."

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Netherlands: Women offenders in "honor" murder

I think this article is a bit misleading. In the Arab culture, it is only the women who can hurt the family's honor and it is only the men who are responsible for restoring it. In many cases the women in the family help out.

Women are not exclusively victims of "honor" murder. They can also be active participants in the violent forms of restoring one's honor.

The police corps of Haaglanden and Zuid-Holland-Zuid came to this conclusion in their final report about honor related violence, which was published yesterday. In practice it seems that men are also regularly victims of honor related violence.

Honor murder means that a family member is punished for soiling the family's honor. It is necessary to get more insight into this issue and that is only possible with better information. Guidance for police agents, workers of the public prosecution and other authorities is necessary and more attention needs to be devoted to honor murder at the Dutch Police Academy.

The Haaglanden police, the public prosecution in The Hague and the Vereniging Federatie
Opvang (emergency services federation), developed a protocol in October for dealing with honor murder. The goal of which is especially to beter protect the victims. There are agreements in the protocol about what to do in crisis situations. The final report was an evaulation of this protocol.

The report shows that modern communication devices play a greater role. For example, several girls made contact on the internet with boys. That was seen by their families as dishonorable behavior. Mobile phones could also cause much suffering, for example in the form of threatening SMS or indecent photos. Family secrets can also be spread much faster with the help of these modern devices.

According to the police it is vital that a plan for dealing with the issue would be devised before the police gets involved or eventually searches for an intermediary.

Source: Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch)

Belgian Eid ul-Adha round-up

The Moroccan community celebrated Eid ul-Adha this Saturday.
Animaux en Péril protested outside the slaughterhouse. The protesters wearing sheep-masks lay down on the ground with bloody hands and neck in order to portray the suffering of the sheep. On Saturday afternoon GAIA organized a protest in Maasmechelen since the mayor allowed home slaughter there.

The Turkish community will be celebrating the holiday on Sunday. Two slaughter places will stay open then and there are 560 people expected.

Another slaughterhouse will be open in Dendermonde, serving about 1,150 families. This brings the total up to 4,000 families which is less than last year. According to Akhandaf due to the timing of the holiday this year (during the holiday break) many Muslims are currently visiting their families outside the country. Many families also choose to pay a financial gift as an alternative for slaughter.

Muslims in Brussels could use three slaughterhouses in Anderlech, Molenbeek and Brussals itself. In Anderlecht there were long lines of cars waiting to enter the slaughterhouse parking.

Once inside the Muslims could choose and buy a sheep. Two tents were set up especially for the occasion where the sheep could be slaughtered according to the Muslim ritualistic way. Several people chose to do it on their own while others chose to use a slaughterer. Tea was offered for those who were cold from the wind and rain.

On Sunday the slaughterhouse in Molenbeek will stay open, as well as one in Schaarbeek. Each one of the slaughterhouses can handle abuot 500 sheep. In the general area of Brussels there are 5 private slaughterhouses which can also handle 400-500 sheep.

Sources: De Standaard 1, 2 (Dutch), HLN (Dutch)

Sweden: Palestinian doctor refuses to treat American

An American woman has been refused treatment by a doctor in Blekinge in southern Sweden because of her ethnicity. The woman's husband has now reported the incident to the Medical Responsibility Board.

Valery Johansson, who lives in a small town just outside Nashville, Tennessee, was in Sweden to celebrate Christmas with her husband's family.

On Christmas Day, worried that she may have contracted strep throat, she sought medical help. Her husband and niece made an appointment for her at a clinic in the town of Karlshamn.

"We went up there and the nurses were really nice. They did some swab tests, which they then passed on to a doctor," Johansson told The Local.

But when the American woman, accompanied by her husband and niece, went to meet the doctor in his treatment room, he declined to examine her.

Rather than introduce himself, the doctor waved the patient's papers and shouted "she doesn't have strep throat, she doesn't have strep throat". He then added that he would not treat her.

"He said he didn't like Americans," said Johansson.

He also disliked hearing English spoken in his treatment room and soon walked out.

"We just couldn't believe it. We were left standing there with our mouths hanging open," said Johansson.

According to Johansson, the doctor was a Palestinian who objected to American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Her niece followed the doctor into the office to confront him but was told: "I don't deal with people like that".

When Johansson returned to the clinic the following day she was met by a manager, who apologised and encouraged her to report the matter to the Medical Responsibility Board.

The nurses were also embarrassed by the doctor's behaviour and repaid the 820 kronor that Johansson had handed over in advance for her treatment. They too advised her to report the doctor.

In the report Johansson has written that she was discriminated against because of her ethnic background.

Before returning to the United States at the beginning of January she also intends reporting the incident to the American Embassy in Stockholm.

Source: The Local (English)

Anderlecht: Getting ready for Eid ul-Adha

The municipality of Anderlecht, a suburb of Brussels, is reminding all Muslims that home slaughter is forbidden.

Eid ul-Adha will take place December 30th this year and for that the municipality has set up a temporary slaughter place on the grounds of the Anderlecht slaughter houses. According to the municipality, the police will punish violations and there will also be no containers in which slaughter waste could be deposited.

The temporary slaughter place will be open during the day Saturday. The Muslim community of Anderlecht as well as that of Sint-Gillis, Elsene, Etterbeek, Ukkel and Koekelberg will be able to use the place. Registering slaughters can be done Thursday and Friday by the hygiene department.

On the day of Eid ul-Adha Muslims need to report with their registration at the hygiene service stand and get permission to transport the slaughtered animal. In order to make the slaughter more efficient the municipality asks people to slaughter their sheep on their own. The municipality also announced it will be possible to offer and slaughter animals by the different sheep raisers located around Brussels.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Belgium: Paid Muslim chaplains in prisons

Due to the acute shortage of Muslim chaplains in prisons, a royal decree from Oct. 25th, 2005 opened up a new framework for chaplains and moral consultants in prisons. The intention was to take into account the religious and moral needs of the prisoners.

"According to a ruling from 2005, 26 Muslim consultants were provided. In the first trimester of 2007 they will start their duties. The 27 are equivalent to 18 full-time paid workers," according to Annaïk Voghel, spokesperson for Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx, who is also responsible for public worship functions. There are 18 French speakers and 9 Dutch speakers.

Coskun Beyazgül, president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, is waiting for the application of this decision with impatience. He regrets that the decision has been held up for so long. "I've received information that they would start within two weeks, from the moment their inspection is over."

The Muslim consultants were nominated by the Belgian Muslim Executive. At the moment they are being investigated by the state security services. Till now only Catholic chaplains were paid by the state, while the Islamic consultants worked as volunteers.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Comments on EUMC report

The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) recently put out a report "Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia". The report is divided into 3 parts - a general overview, a list of anti-Islam acts across the EU and recommendations from the EUMC.

First the good points: The report stresses quite often that there is a lack of statistical data. That is indeed very true and I do hope that the various EU countries would start collecting such data. The report also has a good overview of the Muslim veil/headscarf debate across the EU. I shall try to add on from it to my own summary in the near future.

The report, of course, talks about the connection between anti-Islamic acts and terrorism. However, though it mentions such 'events' as the September 11th terrorist attacks, the report does not come out and say things clearly. An alien from outer space reading this report would have a hard time understanding the connection in sentences such as these: "Muslims feel that since 9/11 they have been put under a general suspicion of terrorism".

Another interesting point: The report brings the 2005 Pew Survey saying that the majority state that "Muslims want to remain distinct" and that "they have an increasing sense of Islamic identity". This is brought as an example of anti-Islamic sentiments. But the report also mentions that "Muslims feel that acceptance by society is increasingly premised on 'assimilation' and the assumption that they should lose their Muslim identity." In other words, the majority in the 2005 Pew Survey just have a good perception.

I do see a difference between torching a mosque and asking a Muslim to show ID when boarding a bus. One is criminal behavior based on hate, the other is rational behavior based on the will to survive. While all of those are lumped under one heading it will be hard to deal with the real hate crimes. It is a shame, since those hate crimes are usually performed by extremist right-wing organizations for whom Muslims are just sometimes the easiest target.

The report also talks about the fact that Muslims do not have a hierarchical structure - and therefore have trouble forming umbrella organizations. I have read this in previous studies about Islam. This usually comes with a statement saying that Islam is discriminated in Europe since Europeans expect religion to be what they know and they do not take other religious organizations into account. This might come as a surprise to some, but Judaism doesn't have a hierarchical structure either. That did not prevent them from forming organizations and adapting to the countries in which they live.

What I found most interesting in this report was their outlook on the Mohammad cartoon debate, as I suppose it is representative. According to the report the time line went something like this:

- Danish imam tour of the middle east
- Norwegian magazine reprint cartoons
- Diplomatic protests
- Danish prime minister apologizes / Jyllands-Posten apologizes
- Other European newspapers republish images
- (as a result of reprints:) Violent protests

When I read this, I was sure they had it wrong. After all, the Danes did not apologize just because of diplomatic protests. And the violent were directed specifically at the Danes and Norwegians.. not really at every EU country that reprinted the articles.

Doing a bit of back reading, I discovered the time line went as follows:

- Danish imam tour of the middle east
- Norwegian magazine reprint cartoons
- Diplomatic protests
- Boycott against Denmark
- Danish prime minister apologizes / Jyllands-Posten apologizes
- Other European newspapers republish images
- Violent protests

Were the violent protests a result of the reprinting by other European newspapers, or a result of the Danes breaking down after the boycott announcement? I suppose it all comes down to your outlook.

See also: EU: Islamophobia Report

Damascus: Embassy planned kids' abduction

The Dutch embassy in Syria offered to help the Dutch kids who'd been abducted by their father. This, according to Ammar Hafez, 13, who had just recently returned from a half year stay in the embassy.

"Our mother came here in June." Says Ammar, "She stopped also by the embassy. They they told her that if Sara and Ammar want to go back to the Netherlands, they could come to the embassy."

The Dutch Foreign Ministry denies that the embassy had given such advice to the family. According to a spokesman, the embassy came into play only when the kids came to the gates of the embassy. The kids fled from their father after receiving a call from their mother in the Netherlands.

The kids' father had accused the embassy from the start of collaborating in the abduction of his kids.

More interviews (in Dutch) can be seen on the site of Jeugdjournaal.

Source: (Dutch)

eBay removes "Mohammed" print

"Music for Life" is a Belgian project designed to collect money for the Red Cross (see Wikipedia for more details). This year they collected money for victims of land mines.

This year as part of the money raising activities they auctioned off a print of a pen, with the proceeds to go to the Red Cross. The print appeared earlier this year in the Belgian magazine Knack. It was drawn by Knack's cartoonist, Gerard Alsteens when the Mohammed cartoon controversy broke out.

The print depicts a man with one broken leg which is replaced by a crutch.

However, eBay has decided to remove the print from their auction site. The reason? According to eBay: "Sellers may not offer objects that lead to hate, violence, propagate intolerance on the basis of ethnic origin or objects that promote organizations with such a philosophy."

Knack is now auctioning off the print on its own site.

Sources: (Dutch), Knack (Dutch)

Netherlands: The trouble of remigrating

Mohammed Chaara moved back to Morocco in 1994, hoping the warm weather would help his back. He could take along his disability insurance, but he gave up his Dutch citizenship.

What he didn't take into account was the adjustment problems of his kids. They did not like life in Morocco, they were less free and could not adjust to the filth and chaos in the streets and in the shops. Above all they were furious when they discovered that teachers could hit students in school.

Omar, the eldest, barely spoke Arabic, had little contact and felt as an outsider. Fatima, the eldest daughter married a Dutch-Moroccan and now lives again in Amsterdam. However, Omar, now 30, is unemployed in Morocco. It is hard to find a job and he spends his time hanging around aimlessly.

Omar speeks fluent Dutch and was in school in the Netherlands from the age of 4 to 17. Now Chaara would like to know whether Omar could go back to the Netherlands. For that he traveled to the help center for remigrants (Stichting Steunpunt Remigranten, SSR).

The help-center has heard many such stories. Parents with school age children always have problems. The transition is too great. Their advice: if you plan to remigrate is to do so when the kids are small or once they're out of the house.

The total number of remigrants has gone up slightly since 2000 with 1605 people in 2004 and 1981 in 2005. In order not to have to give up their Dutch passport many choose to commute, spending a few months in the Netherlands, then a few months in Morocco.

Men seem to miss their homeland more than women. Women fear that in Morocco they would lose the freedom they have in the Netherlands. Above all, they wish to stay close to their children and grandchildren.

There's another office of the SSR in Berkane. The area is home to many Dutch-Moroccans. Every summer you can see families going to their second home in the stuffy streets of north-east Morocco.

The support center for remigrants was founded in 1989 on the intiative of the Council of Churches working together with the Roman Catholic archbishop in Morocco and currently has two workers - Cynthia Plette and Mohamed Sayem.

Sayem and Plette advise remigrants about social-legal questions (about 3500 a year) and maintain contact with Dutch authorities. The SSR will also like to contribute to the development of North-east Morocco. Building a civil society is the watchword.

In Berkane itself there is not much to see, but 18 kilometer northword is the spa city of Seidia. In the summer many European Moroccan come the enjoy their vacation their, including scantily clad girls and fashion conscious boys. They share the beach with men and women who are covered from head to toe.

A few years ago the local population could not take the advancing immorality any longer. One day about 1000 djellaba wearing men walked to the beach, kneeled towards Mecca and prayed. Their message was: this is our beach.

Source: Vrij Nederland (Dutch)

Sweden: 'Swedes of the year' stood up to gangs

This apparently all happened in the Swedish Iranian community.

The owners of a Gothenburg restaurant who stood up to gangs that tried to extort protection money have been named Swedes of the year.

Masoud and Shahnaz Garakoei were awarded the honour by Fokus magazine at a ceremony in Stockholm on Thursday. The jury of journalists, business people and figures from the voluntary sector said that the couple had "acted with exceptional courage in a life-threatening situation."

"They have risked their own security and defended the value of democratic rights, laws and justice. Their acts are characterized by great courage and high integrity and are an inspiring role model for others."

The couple's ordeal started in 2003 when two men walked in their Persian restaurant in Gothenburg and asked to speak to Mr Garakoei.
"We are Bandidos. We own Hisinge and we are here to protect you from the Russian mob. Pay us and don't tell this to anyone," one of the men said.

Two days later, Mr. Garakoei handed over a bag with 120,000 kronor to them. His wife had wanted to go to the police, but he was afraid of what the gang might do to their children.

He later came to regret having given Bandidos the money. He started suffering from depression, and considered both divorce and suicide. Mrs Garakoei struggled to keep the restaurant up and running.

A year later, when Bandidos demanded a further 120,000 kronor, Mr. Garakoei refused. He walked over to Bandidos' headquarters, came face to face with the president and told him that he would not pay. He then ran home and called the police.

Two trials later, seven Bandidos members were convicted and many received long jail sentences for blackmail. The couple testified at the trials, despite receiving death threats.

But the threats and blackmail did not stop following the convictions. False rumors about the couple were spread in the neighborhood, their car's tyres were slashed eight times and parts of the restaurant were vandalized.

The couple's business also suffered – customers deserted the restaurant. The couple was ignored by the Iranian community in Gothenburg; many took the side of Iranian Mehdi Seyyed, the president of Bandidos . Even relatives stopped calling. The lives of their children were threatened and on December 26th 2005 their car was set on fire.

After this incident, a new police squad took over their case, installed cameras and an alarm system. They also made a short-lived attempt to join a witness protection programme, but soon grew tired of moving round hotel rooms and apartments rented by police.

Today the Garakoeis still live in fear of the criminal gangs. They say they would consider giving up the restaurant in exchange for peace but not without getting back what they invested.

"Why should we run away and hide? Why should we just give up everything and begin with two empty hands again? We hope a Jesus will come and save us from this restaurant," said Shahnaz to magazine Fokus.

Source: The Local (English)

Netherlands: Number of immigrants in Limburg rising

The total number of non-Western immigrants in Limburg is rising, and therefore the influence of Islam in the province will become more and more visible. According to the "Trend Report for Limburg Province" the province should become aware of multi-cultural problems. Currently 20% of the population are immigrants, with only 25% from non-Western lands. Nationally, there are more than 50% non-Western immigrants among the total number of immigrants.

Source: L1mburg (Dutch)

Sweden: Top address for Iraqi refugees

The increasingly volatile situation in Iraq is prompting a growing number of Iraqis to seek a safe haven in Europe, where Sweden is one of the most common destinations for refugees.

Of some 40 nationalities seeking asylum in Europe, Iraqis top the list with more than 8,100 applications in the first six months of the year, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

That is a 50 percent increase from the same period a year ago.

"The deteriorating situation in Iraq which is on the brink of a civil war" is the main reason for the rising number of refugees in Europe, UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid Van Genderen Stort told AFP.

Countries neighbouring Iraq remain, however, their preferred destination. At the beginning of November, there were more than 700,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, at least 600,000 in Syria and 100,000 in Egypt, the UNHCR said.

In Europe, Iraqis are choosing to flee to Sweden more than to other countries. They are drawn to the northern country because of its generous refugee policy, but also because many of their relatives fled there during earlier waves of Iraqi immigration in the 1990s.

Some 79,200 Iraqis now live in Sweden, making them the second-largest group of immigrants behind Finns, who number 181,600.

"Most Iraqis come to Sweden because they already have relatives or friends there ... Sweden has the reputation of being a humane country, a safe and democratic country that respects human rights," said Hikmet Hussain, the head of the Iraqi Federation in Sweden.

The influx of immigrants has accelerated since the start of the year. In November, 1,559 Iraqis requested asylum in the country, on the heels of 1,100 in September, 486 in May and 313 in January, according to statistics from Swedish immigration authorities.

Their chances of being granted a residency permit are good. Some 80 to 90 percent of requests have been approved since January.

"Those who get residency permits right now get permanent permits," said Krister Isaksson, an analyst at the Swedish Migration Board.

Most asylum seekers come from Baghdad and southern Iraq.

"There are few or no countries that send Iraqis back ... but what other (European) countries do is that they let them stay but they don't give them residency permits," Isaksson said.

Van Genderen Stort concurred, noting that "deportations ... are not rife during this time as a result of the very bad situation inside Iraq."

According to her, Iraqi asylum seekers are of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

In Switzerland, the Iraqi refugees are primarily Kurds, according to Dominique Boillat, a spokeswoman for the immigration authority there.

They are offered accommodations in a refugee centre and are allowed to stay temporarily. "They know we won't send them back," Boillat said.

Some 661 Iraqis sought asylum in Switzerland in the first 10 months of the year, compared to 468 in the whole of 2005.

But in Germany, where 1,918 Iraqis sought asylum in the first 11 months of 2006, only one to two percent are accepted, according to the government.

And in Denmark, a staunch ally of the United States in the war in Iraq and which has deployed troops in the country, there were some 650 Iraqi asylum seekers, 80 percent of whom are in the process of being deported.

In other European countries, UNHCR figures show that during the first six months of 2006, the Netherlands received 1,954 requests for political asylum from Iraqis, Britain received 325, Belgium had 291 and France only 48.

Isaksson suggested there may be many more Iraqis in some of these countries but they chose to remain illegal, deliberately not applying for asylum "because they don't think their request will be accepted".

"This is how Sweden is different," said Isaksson, "in Sweden they opt to seek asylum because they are likely to get permission to stay."

In a total 36 industrialized countries where the UNHCR has compiled Iraqi refugee figures, Sweden received by far the largest number of asylum requests for this six-month period – with nearly 2,500 applications.

Asked about the trend expected in Sweden for the coming months, Isaksson said there was nothing to indicate that the number of asylum seekers would decrease.

Damascus: Children coming home

Sara and Ammar, the two Dutch kids who have spent the last half year hiding in the Dutch embassy in Damscus, are finally coming home today and will be home for Christmas.

The children were supposed to board a plane this morning and are expected to land this afternoon in Schipol, according to a spokesman of the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

After months of negotiations between the Dutch and Syrian authorities, their father has finally agreed to have his children go back to the Netherlands.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Amsterdam: Victim took out knife first

The fight in the Indian neighborhood which took place in Amsterdam in September, in which 27 year old Mostafa Ait Haddouch was killed was not about a parking place or drugs as previously thought. There were also no lingering conflicts between Antillians and Moroccans.

The fight was actually divided into three fights between different neighbors. Additionally, it turns out that Mostafa was the first one to pull out a knife. Today a judge will start hearing the case and many witnesses are to follow.

The first fight began in the early evening of Sept 20th, when Mostafa drove out backwards in his bus into a street. He ran over a neighbor, David G. (22), who was walking with a friend, Franklin G. (24).

This started a fight between the man. After David went away, a second fight erupted between Frankling and Mostafa, in which Franklin was severely beaten up.

Somewhat later in the evening Franklin and David met with four other friends to drink beer. They saw Mostafa busy with his cellphone and were afraid he was calling up his friend. They stepped over. After some exchange of words, Mostafa took out a knife and went after David. When David got away he went after Franklin, wounding him in the hand. Franklin, in his turn, took out a kninfe and stabbed Mostafa. Mostafa ran into a store and later died.

Mostafa's wife, Hannan Achetouane Ait Haddouch, does not believe this reconstruction and says her husband never walked around with a knife.

Source: Parool (Dutch)

See also: Amsterdam: riots after knifing, "You need to understand those who smashed your windows"

The smiley, the veil and the urban legend

There is a well known story about Dutch Moroccan girls being punished for not wearing a veil by having a "smiley" cut on their faces. I have seen this story in various blogs, and making a quick search on the internet, I found this:

As the saying goes, the foolish innocent girl caught exposed is offered a choice, gang rape or a smiley. It is supposed to be a well known punishment doing its rounds across cultures.

"The German journalist Udo Ulfkotte told in a recent interview that in Holland, you can now see examples of young, unveiled Moroccan women with a so-called "smiley". It means that the girl gets one side of her face cut up from mouth to ear, serving as a warning to other Muslim girls who should refuse to wear the veil. In the Muslim suburb of Courneuve, France, 77 per cent of the veiled women carry veils reportedly because of fear of being harassed or molested by Islamic moral patrols."

This piece brings two completely different stories and places them together. One is about the "smiley gang", and one is about women wearing veils in order to prevent molestation. There is quite a big difference between the two. One is based on general knowledge, the other on a supposed poll.

I have read the story about the smiley in many places, and I supposed it therefore must be true. But recently I began realizing that though I have heard of Moroccan girls walking about the Netherlands with such a smiley, I have never seen an interview with one, or read about a specific victim, or even read about it in news reports.

I began researching into it, and as it turned out, I discovered that Peter Burger, a researcher into urban legends, had already done most of the researching for me.

The "smiley" story first appeared in England, apparently already in the 1950s, where it involved gang warfare. There is it called the Glasgow or Chelsea Smile (see Wikipedia). Somewhere in the 1990s the story got to France where it received the group rape option and was attributed to Algerians. From there it moved into Belgium and crossed the French/Dutch language divide.

In 2003 it reached the Netherlands, causing a wave of panic. News of girls disfigured after being given the "rape or smile" option appeared in the news and an frightening email warning about the gang made the rounds. It apparently appeared first in Leiden, where students were warned of a roving band of rapists. There the culprits belonged to one of the Dutch immigrant groups - Surinamese, Antillian or Moroccan.

The story appeared in other places in southern Netherlands, making its way north. Somewhere along the line it got the "moral patrol" flavor to it and centered on Moroccan gangs and Moroccan victims.

The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported that the story got police extremely busy all over the Netherlands, trying to track down the gang, or a victim for that matter. Police departments all over the country got to the conclusion that it was just a rumor and started an investigation into who started it. That investigation was closed with no results.

In 2004 it appeared again in Belgium. In that year there were riots in Antwerp. Flemings warned each other about a Moroccan gang and Moroccan women spread the story about a group of violent Flemings.

Like other urban legeneds this story spread by people who "knew" the victims, usually a friend or a friend, or a friend of a neighbor, or a neighbor of an uncle. These people are known by the collective term "Foaf" ("friend of a friend"). However, the police and hospital services are not aware of even one victim.

Are there really girls who are harassed for not putting on a veil? Probably. Are there girls walking around the Netherlands wearing a "smiley"? I have yet to see the story of one.

- Appearance in Leiden (Dutch)
- From FOAFtale to media legend: the case of the Smiley Gang (English)
- Ethnic conflict hoaxes in Dutch news media (English)

Sweden: Affirmative action only applies to equal cases

Uppsala University was guilty of discrimination when it reserved places on its law course for people with immigrant backgrounds, Sweden's Supreme Court has ruled.

The university was taken to court by two women who were rejected from the programme in 2003, even though they had better marks than all 30 immigrant applicants. The pair had previously won their case in the district court and court of appeal.

Related Articles

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the university discriminated against both women, awarding them 75,000 kronor in compensation. The state will also pay costs of 41,000 kronor.

The Supreme Court ruled that setting quotas is acceptable as long as applicants are treated equally. In this case, the immigrant applicants should have needed at least the same marks as the other applicants. The court ruled that in this case the non-Swedish applicants were "strongly" favoured in a manner which cannot be supported by law.
Source: The Local (English)

The 5 pillars of protestantism

A new idea from one of the Netherland's theologians: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. People are attracted to Islam, so why not copy what works? Klein Verzet has a report on idea of Bart Robbers.
His new "5 pillars", copied from the five pillars of Islam are as follows:

1. A daily praise to the Eternal at the start of the day.

2. Every week, if possible with family or cohabitants, honoring and a prayer for the memory of loved ones, evening prayer, for instance on Friday.

3. Celebrating in the community or at home the important days: The Christ celebrations of the birth of the Lord (This is a literal translation. Why isn't he just saying Christmas? -KV), the three days of Easter, Pentecost - or also other days to be honored.

4. Once every year going into retraite for at least three days in a spiritual surrounding, if possible with memebrs of your relgious community.

5. Once in ones life a year of special service [to the community or society]

Amsterdam: Mosques in vacant offices

Vacant offices in Amsterdam might serve as prayer rooms for immigrants, such as mosques. There is great demand for space for the diverse religions, as well as vacancies in many office buildings.
The newly created office chief Cor Brandsema is currently researching on behalf of the municipality how the enormous vacancy rate of offices (18%) can be brought down by finding other uses for the many buildings . "One of the possibilities is indeed a religious space. Especially in Amsterdam-Southeast the demand is very big and the offer of religious space is small. Vacant office buildings might be a good alternative." he explains.
Currently there are 1.2 million sqm.of vacant office space in Amsterdam. 480,000 sqm. will in all probability not be used for commercial use in the future and therefore should new uses should be found for them.
Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Antwerp: Screening fundamentalist Muslims

After the incidents at the Roma theater complex, the Antwerp city council commissioned the local integration service to write a report about the Muslim world in the city.

According to an alderman of the society building cabinet, Chantal Pauwels, there were signals already earlier that pointed to radicalization by specific Muslim groups. "In the report we will try to understand exactly what is going on." says that cabinet head, Erwin Lauriks.

The organization "Youth for Islam" ("Jongeren voor Islam") appears in the report. The organization has a lot of influence by younger Muslims and therefore has a lot of importance. According to Lauriks, the organization is well known by the city services but was not blacklisted as an organization that must be shunned. "Youth for Islam" is described as an organization connected to the Salafists, a neo-fundamentalist tendency.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Jongeren voor Islam website, Antwerp: Muslim protest against music, Antwerp: Condemnations for music protest

Netherlands: Polygamy/False marriage

A 46 year old main from Hoogezand, in northeaster Netherlands, was sentenced for three months for polygamy.

The man married in 1988 in Morocco. Later he moved to the Netherlands where he married again. According to the prosecution, he married a second time only to get Dutch citizenship. Once he received citizenship, he in fact applied for a divorce. Next he brought his Moroccan wife to the Netherlands.

The man's lawyer does not agree with the verdict and will appeal. According to him, the Moroccan marriage was not valid since an official was mission at the religious ceremony.

Source: RTV (Dutch)

Sweden: Record for immigration

More people migrated to Sweden in 2006 than during any other year since records began, 131 years ago.

A preliminary report from Statistics Sweden, SCB, estimates that by the end of the year, 96,800 immigrants will have entered Sweden; an increase of 48 percent compared to last year's figure.

The rise was partly down to a temporary asylum law, valid from November 15th 2005 to March 31st 2006. This law gave asylum seekers the chance to stay in the country after their asylum applications were rejected while their cases were reviewed.

The number of immigrants from Iraq, Poland and Serbia and Montenegro increased the most, with the figures also boosted by a large number of returning Swedish citizens.

Some 9,700 Iraqis came to Sweden in 2006 compared to only 2,900 last year
[ed. note that in a previous article, the number given for last year was 1532]. The number of Polish citizens increased from 3,400 in 2005 to 6,500 in 2006.

Most Iraqi immigrants applied for asylum, while Poles came to Sweden to work.

The record immigration levels have helped contribute to the largest population increase in Sweden for 12 years. But immigration was not the only factor - rising birth rates also played a role. Some 104,600 children have been born in Sweden so far this year, exceeding the number of deaths, which stands at 91,500.

The number of people emigrating from Sweden has increased by 17 percent since last year. By the end of the year, 44,700 people will have left the country. Of this number, 25,200 are Swedish citizens, compared to 22,300 last year. Three quarters of them were born in Sweden.
Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden: Iraqi immigration main source of population growth

Denmark: Koran becomes Christmas gift hit

Believers and non-believers alike look to a new Koran translation to give them insight into Islam

A new Danish translation of the Koran has been snapped up from bookstores' shelves, joining the ties, toasters and toys wrapped and waiting to be opened Christmas Eve.

In the first month of its release, nearly half of the book's first-run 10,000 copies have been sold, sending philologist Ellen Wulff's translation to number two on the non-fiction list.

Bookstore managers have reported that this translation of the central text of Islam has become a surprise Christmas gift hit.

'The majority of Korans we sell are for Christmas presents. I know, because we wrap a lot of them,' Maja Nordholm, manager of Arnold Busck bookstore in Odense, told daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.

The only other existing Danish translation of the Koran was published in 1967. It is neither acknowledged by Shia nor Sunni Muslims, however, as the translator, Abdul S. Madsen, belonged to the Muslim sect of Ahmadiyya, which teaches that a second prophet arrived after Mohammed.

The release of the new translation comes at a time when Islam is a highly debated subject, noted Jørgen Bæk Simonsen, an Islam expert and professor at the University of Copenhagen. He felt it could fill a need among non-Muslim Danes to gain an understanding of Islam.

'You can't read the newspaper, listen to the radio or turn on the TV without encountering Islam and Muslims,' said Simonsen. 'So there is a desire to learn what the Koran is about. Some will read it to find out what the Koran says. Others will read it to take part in the public debate.'

The translation has also opened a window for Muslims with an immigrant background who cannot read Arabic, according to Kate Østergaard, a researcher in religion at the University of Copenhagen. She believes the Danish translation fills a need among young Muslims to define and understand their religion.

'Their religion is continually in focus, so they want to look at what is in the Koran and find out what real Islam is,' she said.

Amir Mahdi, 24, a Muslim living in Odense, agrees. He has difficulty reading Arabic, so he was happy to receive a copy of the Danish version from his father.

'The Danish Koran opens doors for me to rediscover my religion and gain a greater understanding for something that means a lot in my life,' Mahdi said. 'Now I can make my own interpretations and go deeper into Islam.'
Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Amsterdam: Halal Christmas dinner

Residents of the Diamantbuurt in Amsterdam are furious over the intent of organizers of a Christmas dinner to serve only halal food.

All residents recently received an invitation from Cinetol, a center for activities and youth, and the Red Cross, to come to dinner on Saturday, bringing closer together immigrant and ethnic residents. "In itself very nice, but when I read through the letter I was outraged. 'all participants are asked to bring something for the main course. Pay attention, halal would be eaten!' it said. I didn't know what to do with that, this is truly mad," according to a neighborhood resident.

Especially the elderly are upset that halal food is prescribed for a Christian party.

The organization is not aware of any anger. "We have organized this party to bring everybody closer together and therefore have decided to eat halal. But if it annoys the residents, we might bring along other foods. But they have to make that perfectly clear." Says Meriam Tjin a Lin of the organization. "It very much surprises me that people are upset. I had not received yet any complaint."

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Norway: Norwegians completed al-Qaida course

Two men from Norway are among a group of Muslims who reportedly have been trained as terrorists by al-Qaida in Pakistan.

Twelve Muslims from Norway, Australia and Great Britain have completed a one-year training course conducted by al-Qaida, reports news magazine Newsweek.

The magazine claimed the course participants are already back in their respective countries, ready to lead terrorist cells and carry out bloody terrorist attacks when commanded to do so.

Newsweek based its report on information from a former prisoner at Guantanamo, known for having close links to both the Taliban and al-Qaida. The magazine's other source is a man using the name Omar Farooqi, who previously was an intelligence chief for the Taliban.

Farooqi said he spent five weeks involved in the training of the 12 foreign al-Qaida recruits in an area along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The group was known as "The English Brothers" because they spoke English amongst themselves.

The training reportedly ended in October, and the 12 recruits traveled home via Great Britain. Norwegian anti-terrorist experts declined comment on the report Monday morning.
Source: Aftenposten (English)

EU: Islamophobia Report

The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) put out a report "Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia". The bottom line is that Muslims are being discriminated against in every field: employment, education and housing.
The report can be download in here (PDF), as well as a summary.
I will go through the report and post my comments on it. As a first note, I see that Muslims have been compared to the majority population, but there is no comparison to other migrant groups.

Source: EUMC (English)

Liege: Update on riots

Two youth were arrested Saturday night in the Droixhe neighborhood of Liege after riots broke out there during the afternoon. When police agents wanted to inspect a group of seven youth, two of them became very unruly. The two, Mohammed I (20) and Mounir E. (18) punched the police officers and tried to knock them down many times. Police managed to overpower the two using cudgels and tear gas.

Meanwhile Mohammed threatened to take revenge on the police agents and that he will teach kids in the neighborhood how to make a molotov cocktail. Three police officers were wounded and are released from work for three days to a week. The two youth were brought in front of a court for assault and battery as well as disturbing the public order. The risk a jail sentence of three months to two years.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Liege: Riot next to police station

Rotterdam: Tariq Ramadan hired by municipality

The known and controversial islamogist Tariq Ramadan has been appointed by Rotterdam to lead the integration debate. Ramadan will serve for the next two years as part time professor for "Identity and Citizenship" at Erasmus University, holding a chair paid by the municipality.
The intention is that Ramadan will work not only at the university but also bring up the debate at schools, mosques and community centers.
Alderman Orhan Haya was quite happy yesterday with the appointment of Ramadan. "We know him from the Islam debates. It is a great success that we knew to bring in somebody of his caliber. He knows how to stimulate and reach people, Muslims and non-Muslims." Ramanda will be teaching in Rotterdam two days every two weeks.
Ramadan, born in Switzerland, researches how especially immigrants can be full citizens in a modern Western society and and preserve their identity.
According to him the Rotterdam society suffers, just like other big European cities, from a "lack of trust and lack of mutual knowledge."
He calls on immigrants to take an active part in citizenship, he said at a press conference.
The new chair will cost Rotterdam two hundred thousand euro.
Source: (Dutch)

Belgium: Tolerance policy for home-slaughter

According to senator Luc Willems and based on new official figures from the gov't, Belgium is practicing a tolerance policy against home-slaughter during Eid ul-Adha (the slaughter holiday).

Sheep are slaughtered during Eid ul-Adha in a ritual manner. Slaughtering at home is forbidden in Belgium. If that happens, the animals can be confiscated.

In the last Eid ul-Adha, which came out January 10th, 2006, the police counted 271 infringements of the law. 119 animals were confiscated or in other words - in less than half the cases.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Damascus: Kids to be freed soon

Syrian president Assad has assured Dutch Foreign minister Bot, that the two kids hiding in the Dutch embassy in Damascuss will be able to go back home by the end of the month.

Bot came to Syria prepared to bring the kids back with him, however various issues still had to be taken care of before the kids could leave. Assad has personally promised to make an effort so that this story will end well as soon as possible.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

UK: Sharia law gaining foothold

Islamic sharia law is gaining an increasing foothold in parts of Britain, a report claims.

Sharia, derived from several sources including the Koran, is applied to varying degrees in predominantly Muslim countries but it has no binding status in Britain.

However, the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali "court" sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.

Mr Yusuf said a group of Somali youths were arrested on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. The victim's family told the police it would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.

A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate their victim. "All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing."

Although Scotland Yard had no information about that case yesterday, a spokesman said it was common for the police not to proceed with assault cases if the victims decided not to press charges.

However, the spokesman said cases of domestic violence, including rape, might go to trial regardless of the victim's wishes.

Mr Yusuf told the programme he felt more bound by the traditional law of his birth than by the laws of his adopted country. "Us Somalis, wherever we are in the world, we have our own law," he said. "It's not sharia, it's not religious — it's just a cultural thing."

Sharia's great strength was the effectiveness of its penalties, he said. Those who appeared before religious courts would avoid re-offending so as not to bring shame on their families.

Some lawyers welcomed the advance of what has become known as "legal pluralism".

Dr Prakash Shah, a senior lecturer in law at Queen Mary University of London, said such tribunals "could be more effective than the formal legal system".

In his book Islam in Britain, Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, says there is an "alternative parallel unofficial legal system" that operates in the Muslim community on a voluntary basis.

"Sharia courts now operate in most larger cities, with different sectarian and ethnic groups operating their own courts that cater to their specific needs according to their traditions," he says. These are based on sharia councils, set up in Britain to help Muslims solve family and personal problems.

Sharia councils may grant divorces under religious law to a woman whose husband refuses to complete a civil divorce by declaring his marriage over. There is evidence that these councils are evolving into courts of arbitration.

Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi, a barrister and principal of Hijaz College Islamic University, near Nuneaton, Warwicks, said this type of court had advantages for Muslims. "It operates on a low budget, it operates on very small timescales and the process and the laws of evidence are far more lenient and it's less awesome an environment than the English courts," he said.

Mr Siddiqi predicted that there would be a formal network of Muslim courts within a decade.

"I was speaking to a police officer who said we no longer have the bobby on the beat who will give somebody a slap on the wrist.

"So I think there is a case to be made under which the elders sit together and reprimand people, trying to get them to change."

Source: Telegraph (English)

Labels - categorization

As promised quite a while ago, I have gone through all my posts and categorized them according to topic. All labels can be seen on the right bar.

An explanation for some labels:

"Crimes" - includes posts about crimes by and against Muslims, but doesn't include crimes motivated by hate against Muslims.
"French initifada" - includes all initifada like activities in France and other countries.
"Misc" - includes posts yet to be categorized

I hope to continue working on this in the future, changing the categories around as I see what works best.

Liege: Riot next to police station

About 50 youths rioted in Liege tonight next to a police station, and threw a molotov cocktail at a police car and then at the station where the police officers took shelter. There were no wounded, but a lot of damage was done. After throwing the molotov cocktail, the youths dispersed. The police is looking for the agitators of the violence and those who made and threw the molotov cocktail. One minor was arrested.

It is possible that it was all planned in advance, since it was called in anonymously to the editorial of RTL in Liege.

Sources: HLN (Dutch), De Standaard (Dutch)

Belgium: Moroccans choose mates from Morocco

A study by Antwerp University on request of the Equal Opportunities Minister, Kathleen Van Brempt, shows that young Moroccans choose more and more to marry somebody from their homeland. This translates into a rise in marriage-immigration, which is the largest form of immigration to Belgium.

In 1979, 41.4% of marriages in the Moroccan community were to somebody from Morocco. For marriages between 2000 and 2003 this went up to 65.4%.

According to the researchers the reasons are that Moroccans long for something "familiar" or for an "authentic culture". "But their future partners see the marriage simply as a step to a 'new' life". Both partners therefore have contrasting expectations. For many the marriage has become an instrument of migration.

"For many people this is about opportunity rather than love. They think to gain entrance to the "promised land" through marriage. But that is not always the case." Marriage immigrants are often dependent on their partner and in-laws, often have a low level of education and face social isolation because of their poor knowledge of Dutch.

In order to prevent such problems the researchers think is is essential for the involved countries to efficiently work together on the migration problem.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Lyons: Girl attacked for having non-Muslim boyfriend for more marriage statistics

Sweden: Immigrants have harder time getting interviewed for jobs

Individuals with a foreign background have to apply for three times as many jobs as ethnic Swedes before securing employment in Sweden, according to a new study. The International Labour Organization (ILO) conducted the investigation on behalf of the Swedish government.
What happens when a group of 20-24 year olds with exactly the same qualifications and language skills apply for jobs in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö?

All of the candidates in the study were born in Sweden. The birthplace of their parents was all that distinguished them, with one half originating from the Middle East and the other half from Sweden.

The ILO found that individuals with parents from the Middle East "need to apply for three times as many jobs as those with Swedish parents if they are to get to the next step of the application procedure," research coordinator Karin Attström told Sveriges Radio.

When requested by the government to present a report on discrimination on the employment market, the Swedish Migration Board looked to the ILO for assistance. The UN agency is well-versed in the use of the "situation testing method" to measure discriminatory practices.

The method involves getting two people to apply for the same job in a particular line of business. The only way employers can tell the applicants apart is by their names.

Prospective employers were not made aware of the study, in which a total of 1,000 job applications in Sweden's three largest cities were analysed.

The study found that far fewer applicants with foreign names made it to the interview stage. When called to interview however the chances of gaining employment improved considerably for applicants with non-Swedish names.

"What we can say is that there don't seem to be any significant differences in the actual interview situation, where the applicants are treated more equally," said Karin Attström.

The ILO is a UN agency that seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. The study is called "Discrimination against native Swedes with immigrant origin in access to employment".

Representatives from the organisation will visit Sweden in February to present the full results of their study.

Source: The Local (English)

Norway: Proposal for Norwegian-only religious services

The Progress Party have launched another controversial idea, taking the desire to have better Norwegian skills for imams in Norway and instead proposing that all religious services in the country must be conducted in Norwegian.

Progress Party politician Per-Willy Amundsen emphasizes that though the debate about better integrated imams inspired the idea, the new proposal is for all faiths.

Amundsen is the immigration policy spokesman for what is currently Norway's most popular political party, and leads his party's immigration policy committee.

"We are considering a requirement that religious communities that receive state support conduct their services in Norwegian," Amundsen said. Amundsen admitted that much of the motivation behind the proposal was due to "the attitudes to be found in mosques", but that it should apply to all.

After being asked what would happen to the Swedish Church in Oslo, Amundsen said a possible solution would be to hold services in a language that the majority of the nation understood, so Swedish and English would be acceptable as well.

Amundsen said exceptions could be made when congregations had foreign visitors, and did not see the proposal as coercive, saying that faiths had the option of giving up their state financial support.

Political reactions

Reactions were largely negative, though Conservative Party politician Kari Lise Holmberg said she understood the attraction of having services in Norwegian, but felt the suggestion was problematic due to freedom of expression.

"We demand that imams learn Norwegian and social customs, that is fundamental," Holmberg said.

Labor politician Arild Stokkan-Grande said that while it was important to stress that one should speak Norwegian in Norway, the invasion of religious services was not desirable.

Socialist Left politician Rolf Reikvam rejected the suggestion.

"We want to see the service held in the language that the religious community understands," Reikvam said.

Religious leaders react

Basim Ghozlan of the Islamic Association in Oslo said that such a measure would leave many of those attending services in mosques unable to understand what was being said, and he foresees a gradual and natural shift to Norwegian over time.

"The next generation will increasingly use the Norwegian language as their first, and Norwegian is already used in conversations and documents today," Ghozlan said.

Anne Sender of the Mosaic Religious Community in Oslo said that rabbis used Norwegian in services today but that it was impossible to change the language of rituals and reading of holy scripture.

"It cannot be the task of the state to decide how we practice our faith, and I think this suggestion by the Progress Party is silly. There are other ways to solve integration and communication problems," Sender said.

The Oslo Catholic Diocese said it was important to hold services in several languages, according to those attending, information chief Stian Erdal said. Erdal called the proposal a "completely unacceptable" attempt to intervene in the practice of religion.

"This would especially affect the Jews and Muslims who have many of their holy scriptures in Hebrew and Arabic. I hope and expect that this will not be carried through," Erdal said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Netherlands: Muslim extremism on the rise

The title of this article is "Dutch youngsters convert in a flash", but I doubt that Joustra is talking about conversions. Rather, he's talking about the ease of sliding into fundamentalist Islamism.

Growing numbers of Dutch youngsters are adopting radical Islam, sometimes developing extreme views in just a matter of months, the National Coordinator for Counter-terrorism said in an interview.

Although tough new anti-terrorism laws should prove a deterrent, militant Web sites in the Netherlands are still on the rise and threaten to indoctrinate teenagers, Tjibbe Joustra said.

"Here in the Netherlands we are seeing an increase in the radicalisation of young people and in how quickly youngsters become radicalised ... which is also taking place in schools," he told Reuters.

"Sometimes the radicalisation process can be very rapid."

Security officials across Europe, rocked by deadly Islamist bomb attacks in Madrid in 2004 and in London the following year, are concerned about the scale and pace of militant recruitment among disaffected young people.

"We are seeing a considerable number of young women among the radicals. Often they are converts of Dutch origin, and who become a strong driving force in some networks."

Joustra's organisation, the NCTB, was founded just months after filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by Dutch-Moroccan Muslim militant Mohamed Bouyeri in November 2004. It has led the country's anti-terrorist work through a period of unprecedented turbulence and public fear in the Netherlands, a country of 16-million that is home to 1-million Muslims.

The NCTB classed as "substantial" the risk of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands after the London bombings in 2005, the second-highest level in a four-stage warning system. It has remained at that level ever since.

"That means that an attack is distinctly possible but that we have no concrete evidence that something is being planned," Joustra said.

"It is very difficult to say how many groups are operating in the Netherlands. There are problems in defining a group, and then of course we also don't know how much is going on without our knowledge. But we believe there are about 10 to 20 active networks."

Joustra added some groups might focus on sending people abroad for jihad, or holy war, rather than attacks at home.

In 2007, the NCTB plans to launch campaigns aimed specifically at school children, warning them of the dangers of radical Islam and militant Web sites. Dutch authorities have also tried to separate those convicted of terrorist offences from other prisoners to prevent the spread of radical Islam in jails.

The country's two highest profile Muslim militants - Bouyeri, now serving a life sentence, and 20-year-old Samir Azzouz, jailed this month for eight years for planning attacks, have undoubtedly influenced others, Joustra said.

The Netherlands must do more to fight discrimination and a perceived lack of opportunities which leave young Muslims feeling excluded from Western society and at risk of radicalisation, he said. The Moroccan and Turkish communities in the country were already doing much more, he added.

Source: IOL (English)

See also: Norway: extremist recruiting, Allochtonen Weblog Roundup: French: A couple of weeks to turn out an extremist Muslim

Antwerp: Condemnations for music protest

The Federation of Moroccan Associations condemns the incidents last week in the cultural center De Roma, in Borgerhout (Antwerp). Several fundamentalist Muslims tried to prevent Muslims from coming to see Moroccan music groups.

The federation called it misconduct of individuals who misuse Islam and called upon everybody not to make the incident greater than it already is.

Source: RKnieuws (Dutch)

See also: Antwerp: Muslim protest against music

Germany: Deutsche Bank launches sharia-compatible funds

With Islamic banking attracting more and more investors, Deutsche Bank has launched a new set of mutual funds that are Shariah compliant. The market for such funds is growing quickly. Luckily for moneyed Muslims, there are a number of Islamic Financial Institutions (IFFs) out there catering to the needs of the devout. Over 250 of them to be exact managing funds totalling more than $300 billion. And with more and more Muslims interested in pious repositories for their assets, even financial institutions in the West are getting into the act. Indeed, last week, Deutsche Bank launched a range of "Shariah compliant" mutual funds. Initially, the funds will be available to investors in United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but will expand in Asia and Europe in 2007. With their five "Noor Islamic Funds," Deutsche Bank joins the Swiss bank UBS, Britain's HSBC and the American Citigroup, all of which have their own halal financial products on offer. Previously, a Deutsche Bank spokesperson told the Berliner Zeitung, "the lack of offers meant that Muslims had to hide their money under their pillows." Even as Deutsche Bank throws its hat into the ever growing ring, Islamic banking products are quickly expanding. The Islamic Bank of Britain was founded in 2004 to serve the UK's Muslim population and a growing number of pious consumer loan, mortgage, insurance products are on offer. The number of Muslim credit cards has likewise been quickly multiplying. According to the Koran, Allah allows trade but not interest. Thus Muslims are forbidden from paying or earning interest on their investments and Islamic banks cannot lend their money in the form of credit. Furthermore Muslims cannot invest in companies counter to their religious beliefs, such as those involved in alcohol or gambling, pork products, pornography, or armaments. Deutsche Bank seems to have discovered Islamic banking last year when Anshu Jain, co-director of Deutsche Bank's investment banking division, travelled to Riyadh to meet with Prinz Walid Ibn Talal, a major Citigroup investor in Saudi Arabia. Since then Deutsche Bank subsidiary DWS Investments has developed has developed the Noor Islamic Fund line together with Islamic scholars to ensure that they complied with Shariah law.
Source: Spiegel (English)

Belgium: Embezzlement suspicions by Muslim Executive of Belgium

Upon request by the Brussels investigating magistrate, house searches were conducted again Tuesday, in the scope of new suspicions of embezzlement by the Muslim Executive of Belgium (EMB)

The newspaper Le Soir wrote Tuesday that house searches had already been conducted on Monday. The residences of former president Mohamed Boulif and his brother-in-law were searched and computers and documents taken away.

The house searches are based on an investigation of an accountant that was taken by the magistrate to insect the accounts of the non-profit organization Gestion de l'Exécutif des Musulmans de Belgique.

The magistrate started the investigation after a complaint by the Ministry of Justice, on basis of an audit by an accountant, of suspicions of embezzlement by the former leaders of the Mulsim executive.

The investigation is concentrating on invoices that the organizaiton received from two companies in which the former president had family of even personal interests.

The investigators also want to check why somebody paid the Vorst prison the canteen costs of prisoner Nizar Trabelsi in the name of the organization. This was a limited amount, according to the Brussels public prosection.

The magistrate had already lead an investigation earlier on suspicions of embezzlement by Boulif's predecessor, Nordin Maloujahmoum. However he was aquitted of charges in June 2005.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also:
Belgium: One year jail demanded in case against Islamic radio station (re: Nizar Trabelsi)
Belgium Recognizes Muslim Executive Body (Islam Online, 2003)

Antwerp: Muslim protest against music

Eight bearded conservative Muslims in traditional Pakistani garb took up post by the entrance to De Roma, a club in Antwerp, this past Saturday night. The club was hosting two Moroccan groups that day. The men advised visitors against attending the performances, since they see them as haram.

The men, which according to some are connected to a Pakistani mosque, divided up into groups. Some stood by De Roma, others took up position by the tram stop. They spoke in Arabic to people of immigrant origin who wanted to enter De Roma.

Tickets were even taken away from some of the younger party-goers. Workers of De Roma tried to talk to the men, but without result.

"Music is haram," said one of the men. "Music makes you drink, smoke and use drugs and makes you crazy in your head. This sort of western function is bad."

Many onlookers were indignant by the aggressive and forceful manner in which the men set to work. "Those people are crazy, we live in a democracy and we are free to do what we want," said a youth from Antwerp. "According to Islam, every Muslim decides on his own what he does or permits. Their behavior is horrible."

Other onlookers reacted more cautiously. "They represent the religion and deserve respect."

It is unclear how many visitors had been convinced.

The conservative Muslims hung around De Roma the whole evening till a group of Moroccan youth burst into the entrance hall. When their entrance was refused since they had no tickets they smashed one of the entrance doors into smithereens. The police arrived at the scene but there was nobody there to catch by then. Is is unclear whether there is a connection between the conservative Muslims and the behavior of the youth.

Source: Gazet van Antwerp (Dutch)

Sint Niklaas: Shooter intended to shoot Moroccans

Two men and one woman were shot down on a street in Sint Niklaas Saturday night. One of the suspected shooters has declared that he wanted to shoot Moroccans.

The incident started after a birthday party in the Mike's Garage cafe. Gunter V.C. (28), drunk and under the influence of drugs, went after the party with three other friends to his girlfriend's house, right above the cafe. At some point around 3AM the friends decided to shoot at passerbys. A housewife and two young men, one of whom is a Moroccan, were hit. The Moroccan youth got a bullet in the back, but has since left the hospital. The second victim got a bullet in the head, which must be removed in an operation. The third victim was superficially wounded.

After the shooting, a large police force showed up. Gunther was arrested on the spot, and two of his friends were caught later. A fourth shooter is still on the run.

According to a reconstruction of the events on Sunday afternoon, all four friends took turns at shooting. During the reconstruction Gunther declared that he was a right wing extremist and that he intended to shoot Moroccans on the street.

According to the public prosecution two of the suspects have clear extreme right views, but it is yet unclear whether there was any connection between that and the shooting.

Source: Het Nieuwsblad (Dutch)

Danish Jihad - a study

Michael Taarnby Jensen of the Danish Institute for International Studies published a study of Jihadi activity in Denmark. The study itself can be read here: Jihad in Denmark - An Overview and Analysis of Jihadi Activity in Denmark 1990-2006

There were several points I thought were interesting to note:

1. Jihadi activity in Denmark started after Denmark accepted asylum seekers who were wanted in their own lands for terrorism. What started off as local terrorism developed later into global terrorism.

As one Egyptian official is quoted, regarding the arrest of one such terrorist/asylum seeker by Egyptian forces:

"His arrest proves what we have always said, which is that these terror groups are operating on a worldwide scale, using places like Afghanistan and Bosnia to form their fighters who come back to the middle east…. European countries like Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, England and others, which give sanctuary to these terrorists should now understand it will come back to haunt them where they live ."

2. The study divides the Muslim community in Denmark into four groups: the non-political, the democratic, the non-violent Islamists and the Jihadists. I found the division confusing, and especially I did not understand what the author meant by "non political". According to the study the democratic group includes all those abiding by democratic principles and not only those who are actively participating, so what do the non-political people abide by? I do not think one can be "neutral" on the issue of democracy. You either support it or you don't. I had turned to Jensen for clarification, but did not receive any response.

3. In summary, Jensen says that should there be an attack in Denmark the main victim would be societal cohesiveness and not the
personal damage.

That is true, in a way. If Jihadists would commit an attack in Denmark, their goal would not be to kill all Danes or against a specific train, but rather their goal would be to disrupt life and impose their own way of life over the Danes. Denmark might not need to worry about the personal damage, but the question is whether the ultimate victim would be the cohesiveness of society or its identity.

In this context it is interesting to note what Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

Asked by the Post if there was a distinction under human rights law between missile attacks aimed at killing civilians and military strikes in which civilians are unintentionally killed, Arbour said the two could not be equated.

"In one case you could have, for instance, a very objectionable intent - the intent to harm civilians, which is very bad - but effectively not a lot of harm is actually achieved," she said. "But how can you compare that with a case where you may not have an intent but you have recklessness [in which] civilian casualties are foreseeable? The culpability or the intent may not sound as severe, but the actual harm is catastrophic."

Most terror attacks do not get to the level of the World Trade Center attack. Every attack will kill and maim "only" a few dozen people at most and so the "personal damage" will be quite minimal, on a global level. However, as Jensen points out - the personal damage is only a fraction of the cost. It is a shame that somebody who represents Human Rights so casually ignores the aim of terrorists and the danger that they pose to society.

The Hague: High rate of suicide among immigrant girls

The topic of immigrant girl suicide in The Hague is coming more into focus thanks to a municipal project called 'On the borders" (Aan de grenzen). In the past four years an information center was set up, an aftercare project, a pool of "time out" families and a 24 hour crisis line.

The project was started after statistics showed that Surinamese/Hindu and Turkish women between the ages of 15 and 24 were much more likely to attempt suicide than those of Ethnic Dutch descent.

By the Ethnic Dutch 2 in every 1000 girls in that age group will attempt suicide every year. By the Surinamese the number goes up to 4 in every 1000 and by the Turks to 7 in every 1000. The suicide attempts usually have to do with the tensions caused by growing up in two cultures.

The effects of the project are hard to measure directly, but an evaluation showed that the project reaches many immigrant kids and their environment. A discussion group for immigrant girls has been started in seven schools. Meetings have been held with Hindu and Turkish leaders and organizations.

Suicidal kids who land in intensive care units are approached for aftercare help. The subject is brought up in theater and in movies and a lot of energy has been put into a pool of "time out" families, which allow a kid with problems to stay by them for up to 14 days.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Belgium: illegal smuggling case

This is a story from last week.

The trial of twelve people accused of running a large scale illegal alien smuggling ring has started in Brussels. The twelve form the Belgian part of a ring which had branches in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey and especially in the UK. The ring smuggled more than 100,000 illegal aliens for substantial sums. One of the accused who is suspected of being one of the leaders of the gang failed to appear in court.

According to the Center for Equal Opportunities the smugglers mistreated their customers. They paid enormous amounts of money, and women ran the risk of being sexually abused. There are also indications that some illegals found themselves in prostitution. Women who wanted to protect their honor had to pay more.

The smugglers also demanded more money for smuggling children. A woman offered to pay 15,000 pound to transport herself and her two children, but the organization didn't think it was enough "because children are more important and worth more money". They also gave children sedatives during transport so that they would not make any noise.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Norway: Foreign minister visits Muslim community

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre visited a mosque in Norway for the first time on Friday, and praised the local Muslim community for their willingness to cooperate after last winter's cartoon controversy.

Støre said it was "meaningful" to be invited "into one of your home arenas," noting that he felt rather like a foreigner in his own city. "I don't know your rituals, the languages, the codes," he said in a speech at the mosque in Åkebergveien.

His main message was that when he uses the term "we" in Norway, he means "all of us who live in Norway and are part of our community with its duties and responsibilities."

"And when we talk about 'us' it has to apply to all of us, also those who don't have blond hair and blue eyes, also those who are born in Morocco or Vietnam, also those who have Arabic as their first language," Støre said.

He noted that during the cartoon conflict last year, which unleashed Muslim fury around the world after a small Christian magazine published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, "dialogue helped us move forward." He said that the local Islamic Council and the Norwegian church played important roles.

"When meeting with others, we have to look for similarities before we let us be held captive by our differences," he said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Netherlands: Muslim highschool taken over by extremists?

According to former management sources in the Islamic College of Amsterdam (Islamitisch College Amsterdam, ICA), the school is in the grips of a religious conflict, torn between moderate and extreme forces.

The girls in the ICA all wear a Muslim veil, and feel quite at ease. "I don't need to explain why I wear a veil and it gives a feeling of solidarity to fast along with everybody on Ramadan", said a student a year and a half ago in an interview.

In the meantime, a conflict is raging in the school, between very religious Muslims on the one hand, and their liberal comrades and non-Muslims on the other.

In April 2005 the educational inspection services found that there were a lot of problems with the education at the school. Teachers who taught at the school were not fully fluent in Dutch and the turnover in teachers was very high.

A year later, the inspection concluded that the instruction level was not any better. The school was given tightened inspection. Too many students were failing national exams.

Until last May, when he was fired, the principal of the school was Erik Bijkerk. Shortly thereafter two additional management personnel resigned. The reason given was the latest inspection of the school. According to Bijkerk, however, who is not a Muslim, it was just an excuse to get rid of the more liberal members of management. He says that the internal pwer stuggle in the school is paralyzing it.

"All the energies go to discussion of whether something is allowed or not according to Islam. Teaching plans don't get off the ground. The identity is always more important than the education. The children are left to face the music in the end."

Since May the president of the school board is Farid Zaari. In addition he functions as spokesman for the Al Tawheed Mosque, a mosque which had been stamped as extremist by the Dutch security services (AIVD).

According to Zaari there is no issue here of conservative forces taking over the school and that new board intervened just in time. "We made a clean sweep of the dismissal of the principal and part of the board in May. We have since been hard at work to propose a reform plan."

According to Bijkerk, the religious issues of Islam were always a point of discord. And the influence of some of the conservative teachers on the students is very high. After one talk with a teacher, two students wanted to start wearing a niqab. Some students refused to go to some lessons since it did not fall in line with their religious beliefs. Some teachers approached board members without me around. They ignored the behavior of conservative teachers."

According to Bijkerk, the level of some teachers was another reason for the lacking educational level.

Source: NRC (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: demand to close down Muslim school