About the French riots

A recent decision to make labor laws more flexible in France in order to help cut down unemployment has been received by student protests. I don't think student protests are unusual in France. I'm not even sure violent protests are that unusual in France. And yet.. these protests don't make the news as much as the previous "Arab protests" did.

I was trying to find out why, when I came across this interesting quote:

This is the broader social context within which the riots of last fall and of this spring have taken place, and ironically de Villepin's new labor law is meant to reduce youth unemployment by making it easier for employers to hire them. But the students have understandably focused rather on the way the law does this by making it easier to fire them. In their protest marches, they call themselves "the Kleenex generation" -- used once and discarded.

So it is interesting that there has not been more violence, and that most marches until late this week were calm and orderly. It seems that other groups are now infiltrating the demonstrations for their own purposes.

Cars were set alight and windscreens and shop windows smashed in the Invalides district of Paris Thursday when small groups of militants, said not to be students by the student organizers of the march, turned aside from the march to wreak havoc.

Some were from small left-wing revolutionary and anarchist groups, and others were young Arabs and blacks from the housing estates that unleashed a month of serious rioting across France last fall. Wearing hoods to avoid identification by police cameras, the young immigrants plundered the student marchers, stealing cell phones, purses and personal music systems.

Source: United Press International (English)

First Muslim scout group in Wales

The first Muslim scout group in Wales has been launched with more than 100 members.

Salah Aboulgasem, cub leader of the 1st Cathays al Huda group in Cardiff, said he wanted to help young Muslims become leaders in their community and society. Mr Aboulgasem said scouting - one of the longest-running youth organisation in the world - was the best way to achieve this.

Mr Aboulgasem, whose brother Yusuf is one of the cubs, said the first Welsh Muslim group would also be open to non-Muslims. But he told BBC Radio Wales that having a Muslim scout group was important to Muslim parents. "If [the parents] know they are with other Muslims who can understand them and treat them better - and suit their needs - then they will be more than happy to bring them along," he said.

Activities at the scout group include educational, spiritual, and creative programmes. Camping, outdoor activities and alternative leisure activities which are often not accessible to Muslim youths will also be available, the group said.

Mr Aboulgasem said there were problems with young Muslims under-achieving in education.
"There's a lack of integration with Muslims in wider society and scouting is the most successful, longest-running youth organisation in the world," he said.

"We try to promote and teach them individually and collectively to be active within their own communities and also within wider society.

"Scouting is an excellent opportunity for that because you have a district system... We meet with other groups from across the city and across the district and we get to know each other and combine activities together.
"We're trying to bring up and develop individuals so not only can they lead their local communities, but lead society.

"There's definitely a need for something and scouting is the best form of that."

Source: BBC (English)

UK: 'Positive Discrimination' in cemetery strike

A COUNCIL was accused last night of responding to the local government strike by barring burials at its cemetery for anyone who was not Muslim.

Funeral directors who attempted to arrange Christian interments at the council-run cemetery in Blackburn, Lancashire, were told that it would be closed throughout yesterday due to the industrial action.

Families were forced to re-arrange funeral plans and other mourners were told that they would not be allowed to visit the cemetery to read its book of remembrance.

Undertakers were subsequently outraged to discover that the closure would apply only to Christian burials. The local authority had ruled that an emergency service would be provided for Muslims, who — by religious tradition — must be buried as soon as possible after their death.

A council spokeswoman said that it did not discriminate. “We will bury anybody, irrespective of religion, if that's their request,” she said.

Unlike Blackburn, most local authorities yesterday adopted a policy of either entirely closing all their cemeteries — as in the case of Bradford and Darlington — or running them as normal, which happened in Sheffield and Birmingham

Source: Times Onlines (English)

Book Review: Political Trends in the Arab World

As promised, another review of a book I've recently read.

Political Trends in the Arab World : The Role of Ideas and Ideals in Politics
by Majid Khadduri

Like similar movements in the West, nationalism in Islamic lands passed through two major stages of development before it began to mature into a mode of loyalty to a modern nation-state. The first stage produced the territorial state governed by a dynasty whose interests were identified with interests of the nation. Justified as raison d’etat, the dynasty always sought to defend itself against foreign encroachment. In the second stage, when authority passed from the dynasty to the nation, the will of the people determined the national interests. This stage of development obviously has not yet been attained by the Arabs.

Originally, when I read this paragraph, I had to read it several more times, just to make sure I’ve read it right. In a way, it describes both this book’s attitude, and the problem of most people talking about Islam. There’s what you would like to say, and then there’s reality. If we try hard enough, we can believe that what we would like to have happened indeed happened.

Despite this, I found the book quite informative. Khadduri starts off by blaming the West for the lack of democracy in Muslim countries, but later he adds on insight into other reasons why Islam and democracy are not really compatible.

As its name implies, the book reviews various political trends or systems in the Arab world. Starting off with nationalism and going through democracy, Islam, socialism, communism, military takeovers and secularism. Each chapter is dedicated to examining one such political trend and its history in the past century. Though I found this helpful in understanding some points, it was also a weakness, as I felt quite confused by the historical timeline. Political ideas develop concurrently, and though Khadduri does refer to other political streams in each chapter, I felt it got lost among everything else.

The book I read was written in 1970, but I think the major points have not changed much. If at all, they’re just being reinforced by the US’s current “democratic experiment” in Iraq. Generally I found the chapters dealing with nationalism, democracy and military revolutions the most interesting, mainly because these were the ones which were started off by Muslims.

Discussing nationalism by the Arabs is not an easy thing to do and I found the book quite confusing at this point. Nationalism today is understood as a nation wanting to live in its own country. However, by the Arabs you could talk both about nationalism in the narrow sense (for example, Syrians feeling patriotic towards Syria) or in the wider sense (Arabs feeling a sense of nationhood, pan-Arabism). These two “trends” are contradictory, though they can both be called “nationalism”.

Additionally, there’s a major problem with the definition of the word “Arab”. According to Khadduri this includes anybody who speaks Arabic and feels a connection to the “Arab culture and tradition”. He sees Arab nationalism as cultural-based, rather than ethnic-based. As Europe becomes more ‘multi-cultural’ it might become an issue there as well.

Khadduri brings examples of both kinds of nationalism, though in his example of nationalism in the "narrow sense" he stresses how much it was not accepted by the general Arab population, who could not accept the rejection of "Arabism".

Moving on to Democracy, Khadduri first starts off by blaming the West. They forced democracy on the Muslims but did not seem to really believe it themselves. I think the Western powers did make a mistake when they put the emphasis on the trappings of democracy (i.e., having a parliament, conducting elections), rather than on the basis of what liberal democracy really is – protecting every person’s basic human rights. They did, however, force the Muslim countries to free their dhimmi subjects from their inhuman status, a point which Khadduri doesn’t mention at all.

The West is responsible for the collapse of democracy in Muslim countries, according to Khadduri, since the Western powers only ‘took over’ countries which had something to offer to them, and then used them in order to look after their own interests. The Arabs resented foreign dominion and their only example at the time for countries which were not dominated and ruled by the West were the poorer, more Islamic lands, such as the hinterlands of Arabia.

However, he then goes on to discuss the relationship between Islam and democracy:

At bottom, an inherent incompatibility between two political philosophies [Islam and representative government] was at fault. For centuries Islam provided a political system which commanded the allegiance and respect of its believers. It prescribed that authority belonged to God… A theory of the state, placing ultimate responsibility in God or his representatives or in both, is certainly not inherently democratic in principle. The believers were satisfied that their political system was an ideal that could not possibly be superseded or matched by any other system, since authority was derived from God, the embodiment of good and justice.”

In other words, the West may be partially to blame, but they were up against enormous odds. Under Islam there was no such things as “political parties”. Opposition was in its very essence heresy. Under Western influence political parties came about, but the main “goal” of the anti-government parties was only to fight the foreign influence. Once that goal was achieved, they simply faded away.

Almost all Muslim countries experienced military revolutions shortly after the Western powers departed; some going through several cycles before one man finally achieved and held power.

By its very nature, military training requires obedience and lack of responsibility are the very negation of democracy – but not of authoritarianism. Obedience discourages responsibility, creativity, and free expression of opinion and leads to submission and servility – qualities inconsistent with the ways of bringing up a new generation.”

Khadduri explains rather logically why Arab countries fell under military rule. Military officers wanted to hurry up the processes and decided that the old rulers (who usually ruled under the foreign powers) were not good enough. Taking over control, they then discovered that they liked being in power and therefore never gave it back to the people, in whose name they supposedly assumed it.

However, looking at the quote above, I was struck by the terms used, as they're very similar to those used in the very discussion of Islam. A Muslim (by definition) is one who subjugates himself to the will of Allah. Or in other words, Khadduri's description of military training might as well be a description of Islam itself. (Though not everybody who subjugates himself to God also subjugates himself to man, but that is another discussion).

In fact, Khadduri brings the words of Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani, one of Islam’s most renowned reformists who said that Islamic lands could not possibly be reformed save by a benevolent despot.

Immigrants are “waging war” against Swedes through robbery

The wave of robberies the city of Malmö has witnessed during this past year is part of a “war against Swedes.” This is the explanation given by young robbers with immigrant background on why they are only robbing native Swedes, in interviews with Petra Åkesson for her thesis in Sociology. “I read a report about young robbers in Stockholm and Malmö and wanted to know why they are robbing other youths. It usually doesn’t involve a lot of money,” she says. She interviewed boys between 15 and 17 years old, both individually and in groups.

Almost 90% of all robberies that are reported to the police were committed by gangs, not individuals. “When we are in the city and robbing, we are waging a war, waging a war against the Swedes.” This argument was repeated several times. “Power for me means that Swedes shall look at me, lie down on the ground and kiss my feet.” The boys explain, laughingly, that “there is a thrilling sensation in your body when you’re robbing, you feel satisfied and happy, it feels as if you’ve succeeded, it simply feels good.” “It’s so easy to rob Swedes, so easy.” “We rob every single day, as much as we want to, whenever we want to.” The immigrant youth view Swedes as stupid and cowardly: “The Swedes don’t do anything, they just give us the stuff. They’re so wimpy.” The young robbers don’t plan their crimes: “No, we just see some Swedes that look rich or have nice mobile phones and then we rob them.”

Why do they hate Swedes so much? “Well, they hate us,” they answer, according to Petra Åkesson. “When a Swede goes shopping, the lady behind the counter gives him the money back into his hand, looks him into the eyes and laughs. When we go shopping, she puts the money on the counter and looks another way.” Åkesson, who is adopted from Sri Lanka and thus doesn’t look like a native Swede, says it was not difficult to get the boys to talk about their crimes. They were rather bragging about who had committed the most robberies. Malin Åkerström, professor in Sociology, can see only one solution to the problem: “Jobs for everybody. If this entails a deregulation of the labor market to create more jobs, then we should do so.”

Source: Dagens Nyheter (Swedish), translation and commentary by Fjordman at Gates of Vienna (hat tip, KleinVerzet)

UK: Allah fish

HUNDREDS of Muslims are descending on a Liverpool house to witness what many are calling a miracle.

Two fish are causing huge excitement among the faithful, who say they are each inscribed with holy names. Worshippers are convinced two Oscar fish bear the names of Allah and Mohammed in their scales. Long queues have been building up outside the terraced house in Mulgrave Street, Toxteth, where the fish are being kept. Leaders at the nearby Al-Rahma mosque in Hatherley Street, are in no doubt about the authenticity. Sheikh Sadek Kassem, the mosque's Imam, said: "This is a proof and a sign not just to Liverpool's Muslims, but for everyone."

The fish were bought last week from a pet store in Speke by Ali AlWaqedi, 23. He spotted a squiggle on the side of one fish that mirrored the Arabic word for God - Allah. Then he noticed another fish, in a different tank, that seemed to bear the Arabic spelling of Mohammed, known by Muslims as Islam's last Messenger. Ali said: "This is a message from Allah to me, a reminder, and now my faith is stronger. Everyone is so excited by the discovery."

Andrew Chambers, a religious education teacher at Shorefields comprehensive school, said: "It's clear that the markings match the Arabic script."

The Merseyside marvel is a carbon copy of a discovery made earlier this year in Bury.
Locals flocked to village pet shop Water Aquatic after it was noticed that the markings on the scales of the two-year-old albino Oscar fish mimicked the Arabic script for Allah.

Source: icLiverpool (English)

Muslim student refused admittance to school unjustly

The Committee for Equal Treatment (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling, CGB) has recently decided that a school for vocational training which had refused to accept a female Muslim student did so unjustly. The student had said that she cannot shake hands with men due to her religion and the school therefore refused to accept her on the grounds that shaking hands is sometimes necessary in the educational field.

The CGB, however, decided that the school discriminated the student, as there are enough other ways to greet people. Additionally, the position for which she was studying, school assistant, does not require one to shake hands that frequently.

Source: RTL (Dutch)

Norway News

Several stories that appeared in Aftenposten recently:

1. Norway toughens up citizenship rules

Starting September 1, 2008, nearly all those seeking citizenship will be required to document that they've had 300 hours of lessons in the Norwegian language and in Norwegian life and society.

Those lacking documentation will have to take a language test that will measure comprehension of Norwegian and their ability to speak and write Norwegian. The state's goal is to make sure that would-be citizens can get along in Norwegian on a daily basis.

The only foreigners exempt from the language rules will be those under age 18 or over age 55. All, however, will still need to document seven years of legal residence in Norway.

2. Immigrant appointed to head UDI (the Norwegian immigration agency)

Ramin-Osmundsen, who came to Norway 14 years ago from Martinique, has been appointed to head Norway's immigration agency.

Many would-be immigrants view UDI as a faceless bureaucracy that takes months on end to review cases and issue the work and residence permits necessary to live in Norway. And then those permits must be renewed every year for three years, until permanent settlement permits can be granted.

In the meantime, immigrants live with a high degree of uncertainty, even when they've been recruited to Norway because of special job skills or education, when they're sponsored by an employer or married to a Norwegian citizen. Ramin-Osmundsen is acutely aware that decisions made by UDI play a huge role in the personal and everyday lives of many people, Norwegians and immigrants alike.

"Therefore we will be more sensitive towards our users, and develop services and channels that will offer good and effective service," she said after her appointment was made official on Friday.

3. And she's already facing a political uproar

The new director of Norway's immigration agency (UDI) is already calling on help to ensure that political mandates are carried out. Politicians from across party lines remain in an uproar after learning that UDI broke their rules by granting temporary residence permits to 182 Iraqis, several of whom have criminal records.

Former government minister in charge of immigration issues, Erna Solberg, opposed granting the permits and wanted the Iraqis sent back to Iraq. She claimed the would-be Iraqi immigrants had no permanent jobs, couldn't support themselves or their families and that several had been convicted of crimes.

Instead, UDI waited until Solberg, who heads the Conservative Party, was out of office and then issued the permits, in defiance of her instructions.

4. Comedian burns bible

Otto Jespersen, one of Norway's most controversial comedians, has caused another stir by burning pages from the Bible in the heart of a conservative West Coast city

This week, with the help of the local fire brigade, Jespersen lit a bonfire in front of Ålesund's city hall. With cameras rolling for his TV show "Rikets Røst," Jespersen first started burning some Norwegian books. Then, with the willing cooperation of Ålesund Mayor Arve Tonning, he threw paper money on the flames.

Tonning went along with the stunt to tease local residents known for their business sense and knack for making money. But then Jespersen ripped out several pages from the Bible's Old Testament and threw them on the fire. Tonning didn't like that and said he tried to stop Jespersen, but was ignored.

Odd Bondevik, the conservative local bishop, was also disgusted by Jespersen's stunt. "We've just been through a process in Norway about trying to understand how important it is to hold some things holy," said Bondevik, referring to the recent uproar over the publication of cartoons offensive to Muslims. "Otto Jespersen has lost respect for the holy with such an offense."

Bondevik said he won't pursue the matter, but hopes Jespersen's channel, TV2, will show "editorial responsibility" in the matter.

(The Old Testament is Judaism's holy book, but it seems nobody is going to pursue the matter.)

Afghan convert freed from prison

An Afghan man who could have faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity has been freed from jail.

Abdul Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam but his case was dismissed after he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, officials said.

Efforts are under way to find a country that will give him asylum.

The article goes on to deal with whether he was insane to begin with or just in order to get to a "peaceful" solution.. but the issue was really not dealt with. People who convert to any other religion in a country run according to Muslim Law would be executed. In this case, of course he was insane - wouldn't any man who converts under such circumstances have to be insane?

Source: BBC (English)

Another visit to the mosque cancelled

Another Dutch school cancels a planned visit to a mosque after parents and students protested.

Pieter Zandt College, a middle school in Kampen, canceled a planned visit of several hundred students to a local mosque after parents protested.

Several students approached a local clergyman asking for advice. In response he described the tour as “getting down on your knees before Islam”, objecting especially to the place of the meeting. “I advised them against visiting the mosque. Before you may enter you must take off your shoes. This action has religious implications. You step onto ground that is holy according to a religion with which we disagree.” (note: taking off your shoes is a sign of respect and has no religious connotations as far as I know. As most mosques are covered with rugs, it also has practical ramifications.)

This would have been the first time that students would have visited a mosque, in the framework of religion lessons and as part of a series of lessons on Islam.

The management of the school was surprised by the protest and according to the principal, many students and parents are disappointed at the cancellation. The school does not see the matter as closed. “We will talk it over here calmly and consider if doing this really went too far. If we would have invited an imam to the school, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem.”

Source: Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch)

France fighting forced marriages

The French parliament has raised the age at which a woman can get married - from 15 to 18 - as part of a package to combat domestic violence.

The law, which aims to prevent forced marriages, makes the age limit the same as that for men.
Tougher penalties for marital rape and assault will now be extended to partners and ex-partners in general.

MPs also backed measures to counter sex tourism, child pornography and female circumcision.
It will also become an offence to confiscate travel or identity documents to prevent a partner leaving.

The law on theft is also being amended: until now it has been impossible to bring theft charges against one spouse stealing from another.

Source: BBC (English)

Kid shot dead over honor

Babar, a 16 year old of either Iraqi or Iranian descent was shot dead in Amersfoort Saturday afternoon apparently trying to protect his friend’s ‘honor’. The story is a bit convoluted, but what it comes down to is that Babar decided that he’ll protect his friend’s honor and that S., the person who later shot him dead, will have to go through him in order to get to his friend. When they all met on Saturday, Babar shoved S. and S. pulled out his pistol. Now Babar’s friends are intent on revenge.

To the person who told me that he understands revenge – S. is now in police custody. Regardless of who ‘started’ the fight, he should not have responded to a push by pulling out a gun. Supposedly Dutch law would make sure he’s punished for his deed. When these guys talk about revenge, they’re saying that they don’t trust the Dutch law system to do justice. They don’t want him in jail for x years, they want him dead, in order to ‘make things right’.

Source: AD.nl 1, 2(Dutch)

Being a Muslim in America

"30 Days", a US reality show had a show last year about a Christian coming to live in a Muslim family for 30 days.

He had to abide by three rules:
1. he must act accordingly with all Muslim traditions, from what he wears to what he eats.
2. he must study the Qur'an daily.
3. he must grow a beard.

(note that this is a 45 minute show)

It can also be seen directly at the Video Google site.

UK: Big Brother contestant wins asylum fight

An immigrant from Zimbabwe comes to the UK to work as a nurse, getting a visa allowing her to work only as a nurse. She then decides to appear on the TV show Big Brother. Nothing wrong with that. As this goes against her visa terms, however, she is given notice of deportation. Sounds logical so far.. the only problem is that she now claims her appearance on the show, which included sexual 'antics', puts her in danger should she go back to her home country. She applies for asylum and her application is rejected, at which point she appeals. The central London asylum and immigration tribunal overrules and gives her asylum status.

Now.. what is wrong with this story?

Source: BBC (English)

Netherlands: Can Muslim kids be released from school on holidays?

A man in the Netherlands recently turned to Committee for Equal Treatment (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling, CGB), claiming that releasing Muslim kids on Muslim holidays is against the law.

The man, Frissen, has a 12 year old daughter who goes to Kempenhorst College, a Roman Catholic school. When 25 Muslims kids were released from school for Eid Ul-Fitr, he kept his daughter at home as well, in protest. He says he does not understand why different students get released from school for Islamic holidays.

According to Dutch law children may be released from school for official religious holidays if the parents inform the school two days in advance. According to Frissen the school released all Muslim students, even without request for permission. He also claims that the officers in charge of enforcing compulsory education have agreed to ignore Muslim kids who miss school on the Muslim holidays. This, despite the law against discrimination based on religion.The quality of education suffers because of this. So, for example, 8 kids were missing in his daughter’s class and lessons were not conducted normally that day. In addition, besides the Muslim holidays, the Muslim kids are released for Christian holidays such as Christmas.

The school replied that Frissen only turned to the CGB to explain away why he kept his daughter home, since the school had reported her absence to the authorities. The school claims all Muslim parents informed the school in advance of their children’s’ absence.

Source: Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch)

The new Dutch exam

The new test to be done by prospective immigrants to Holland consists of 30 questions out of a bank of 100. From what I understand, all the questions appear in a book that the candidate purchases ahead of time, along with a video. The exam itself is an oral exam, conducted in Dutch. You can try your hand at the exam in written form online as a multiple choice test, and look up the answers as well (my score was 8.8).

I found it interesting that the exam is directed very clearly towards "family reunification" immigrants. There are quite a few questions that relate to 'your partner' as if it's obvious that there would be one. Of course, it is also directed at people coming from lands where there is no democracy and no equal rights.

Source: AD.nl (Dutch)

Special jeans for praying Muslims

They're high around the waist, wide around the leg and have lots of pockets for holding watches, bracelets, glasses and other knick-knacks.

A new line of jeans designed by a small company in northern Italy caters to Muslims seeking to stay comfortable while they pray.

"As far as we know we're the first, at least in Italy," said Luca Corradi, who designed Al Quds jeans.

The bagginess is to ensure the wearer avoids stiffness while bending down repeatedly during prayers. The pockets are for holding all the accessories Muslims have to take off while they worship. And the jeans have green seams -- because green is the sacred colour of Islam.

Al Quds representatives said a year of research and testing went into the product, with models being asked to try different versions of the jeans while they prayed.

Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, said low-priced jeans specifically designed to keep Muslims comfortable could open up a big market in countries with large Muslim populations.

Source: Globe and Mail (English)

Joking and Islam

A Dutch Arabist, Maurits Berger, recently called for the Dutch to stop talking about Islam. It's not Islam that's really up for discussion, but rather immigration and integration, he said. The Dutch are "creating" Islam by talking about it so much, since we're in fact talking about many diverse and fragmented social groups (ie, Moroccans, Turks etc) and not one body.

That seemed rather strange to me, especially coming from somebody who is a certified researcher into Islam and Arabism. Looking up at his other articles, I thought I could start going over them all, though I was not sure it was worth the effort.

However, I thought I'll go over at least one. An article which looked interesting is titled "Muslims Laugh a Lot, But Not Over Everything". Can Arabs take a joke? Why did the Muslims go crazy over the Danish Mohammed cartoons? I found his conclusions to be very interesting.

The article starts off with a joke, which was found to be funny by Muslim friends of his as well as Christian.

A Christian comes to a sheikh and asks to convert. After making sure that the guy knows what he's doing he informs him he will have to be circumcised. The guy is frightened, but agrees. Not 5 months later, he comes back. He's had enough of all the praying and fasting. He wants to go back to Christianity. The sheikh asks the Christian if he realizes that this would be apostasy and that there's a death sentence for that. The Christian then cries out "What kind of religion is this? One in which your foreskin is cut off when you want in and your head when you want out?"

I didn't this this joke was very funny. I tried to think of all the "Jew converts to Christianity" jokes I know, and for some reason, none of them end with the guy getting killed. Today, when a man in Afghanistan is being put on trial for converting to Christianity and is facing a possible execution I find it even less funny. (And it is interesting that the Christian is called a "Christian" throughout. Didn't he convert and can't go back?)

Berger brings it as an example to show that Muslims can laugh at themselves and their religion. So what is it they don't laugh about? The icons of religion. There are three taboo subjects in the Arab world - religion, government and parents and no jokes can be made on those. As Berger calls it, "this has to do with the self-imposed limits on freedom of speech." (That is, it's not that we're dealing with dictatorships and police states who will prevent any criticism of the regime, but rather a cultural ban on making fun of authority figures).

In any case, these three taboos do not exist in the Western world. Religion's authority has been cut down by enlightment, the government's by democracy and the parents' by anti-authoritanism.

We want Muslims to lose their respect for religion. But what we don't understand is that Muslims, and according to Berger also Christian and Jewish Arabs (if there is still such a thing), see their religion as part of their identity. Your faith is not just a label you can change around whenever you feel like it, but something much deeper.

Berger suggests that the West comes to a ceasefire with the Islamic world. Not that we should give up our western morals and norms, of course, but we should understand where the Islamic/Arabic world is coming from.

I did not agree with almost every other sentence in his article. However.. let's say that he's right and that religion means so much more to the Arabs than the general (maybe even religious?) European. Then what is worse? A secular Dane making caricatures of Mohammed or a religious Muslim making caricatures of Jews? I would suppose the Dane thinks he's just making a statement about freedom of speech. The Muslim is actually attacking Jewish identity.

How about the flag burning? If Muslims have respect for authority figures, isn't burning a flag a much more serious offence than when somebody who doesn't care does it?

Leftist liberals like to point out that Muslims come from a different culture and that we should understand them. I tend to agree.

Source: Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Dutch)

UK: Islamic dress lawsuit

The House of Lords in Britain ruled in favor of a school's uniform policy. The policy was tested when one student, Shabina Begum, sued the school for the right to wear a jilbab (ie, tunic which covers the arms and legs).

The school, which had at the time 80% Muslim student body devised a uniform that could be worn by all students - Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.

Mr McManus said that, to try to accommodate all faiths, the school had adopted the shalwar kameez, a sleeveless, smock-like dress worn with tapered trousers and a sweater or shirt to cover the arms. This was worn by Hindus and Sikhs as well as Muslims. A headscarf could also be worn by Muslim girls. "An important attraction for the school was that the kameez was worn by different faith groups and it hoped that would minimise the differences between them," Mr McManus said.

I assume that if any non-immigrant students would attend this school they would be facing some problems as well. In any case, what I find more interesting is Begum's reasoing:

"Unfortunately, the reason for its appeal to the school is the same as one of the objections raised by Miss Begum's advisers, in that it is a dress worn by non-believers and not suitable for that reason."

That is, it is not the modesty of the school uniform that is in question at all. (Though after she changed lawyers, she dropped that claim).

And maybe even more important:

Mr McManus told the law lords that when Miss Begum began school there had been no suggestion that the kameez did not meet the requirements of modesty.

"For two years she wore it without complaint," he said.

But she turned up for the start of a new academic year in September 2002 wearing a jilbab and was sent home to change.


When Mr Moore telephoned Miss Begum's home, her brother told him that he was not prepared to let her attend school unless she wore the jilbab, said Mr McManus.

Or in other words, Begum's brother is forcing her to wear a jilbab. Apparently, he is yet to be taken to court for that.

Source: Telegraph 1, 2, (hat tip, Infidel Bloggers Alliance)

When I wrote the article I did not understand where Begum's parents were in all this story.

The school's supporters had claimed that after Shabina's parents had died, she had come under the undue influence of her brother Shuweb Rahman, a supporter of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. They also argued that if Shabina was allowed to attend classes wearing jilbab, other pupils would feel under pressure to adopt stricter forms of Islamic dress.

Or in other words: I think the real focus of this story should be how a brother can force his sister to wear a dress that will get her kicked out of the school she prefers going to, all in order to protect the family's "honor".

Source: Wikipedia (English)

The disgrace of honor murders

The Rotterdam branch of GroenLinks, a leftist liberal party, has recently come out with a new plan to help integrate immigrant women. Called "voorrang voor vrouwen" (priority for women), their general idea is that by dealing with the threats (immigrant) women face, it would be possible to help them come out to work and to join society.

One of these issues is a topic usually referred to as "honor murders". GroenLinks' proposal is to treat is much like domestic violence, by supporting organizations who help abused women in their own community. They also compared these murders of shame to any other murder where a family member (usually husband) goes into a rage and kills his wife and children.

I have asked GroenLinks for comments on my previous blog article on the subject and I was glad to see that they were open to engage in discussion.

Nadya van Putten, author of the plan, answered me as follows (translation below):

Bedankt voor je interesse in ons plan 'Voorrang voor vrouwen'. Fijn dat je ons 'metroplan' hebt gelezen zoals het bedoeld is: een veilige plek voor vrouwen op momenten dat zij geneigd zouden zijn anders binnen te blijven.Inderdaad is dat in zekere zin een zwaktebod, maar de maatschappij is nu eenmaal niet ideaal, en zeker niet om twee uur 's nachts.

Natuurlijk heb je gelijk dat er een verschil is tussen eerwraak enfamiliedrama. Het eerste hangt meer samen met cultuur, dat wil zeggennormen en waarden die in een bepaalde gemeenschap gevoeld worden. Debasisemotie, jaloezie, is echter dezelfde.

Voor GroenLinks doet sociale druk niks af aan de individuele verantwoordelijkheid van mensen voor hun daden. Daarom stellen we eerwraak en familiedrama op een lijn, al zul je totaal verschillende aanpakken moeten hanteren om beide te voorkomen.

met vriendelijke groet,
Nadya van Putten

And the English translation:
Thank you for your interest in our plan 'Voorrang voor vrouwen'. Nice that you have read our 'metroplan' like it's meant to be: a safe place for women at moments they tend to stay indoors otherwise. It's indeed to a certain degree a sign of weakness, but our society is not perfect, and especially not at 2am.

Of course you're right that there's a difference between “honor murder” and “family drama”. The first is more consistent with culture, meaning norms and values that are felt in a certain society. However, the main emotion, jealousy, is the same.

For GroenLinks social pressure doesn't change the individual responsibility of people for their actions. That's why we put “honor murder” and “family drama” on one line, even if you'll have to use completely different approaches to avoid both.

I have been in touch with one of their representatives regarding this issue, since I do not think "honor murder" stems from jealousy at all. Rather, as its name implies, it stems from wanting to "clean" the family's "honor". If it was stained by certain behavior, it can only be restored by killing that person.

Since I stressed that such murders should not be treated as any other, I was asked what my approach would be. I can understand wanting to "explain away" such things and to show how it is not that different from any other Dutch person who murders. However, by doing so, you will invariably take the wrong approach to solving the problem. Dutch society accepts that a murder is a disgrace. "Honor" murders can only be solved if the prospective murderer would feel that his or his family's honor would be tainted even more by such a murder.

A plan for dealing with disgrace killings

1. Change the name – it is a shameful murder, not one of pride and honor. Rename it- disgrace killings.

2. Start a public campaign emphasizing that such behavior/murder is abhorred - not acceptable by Dutch norms. A Dutch man will not kill to protect his family's honor. A murder will bring shame.

3. Make sure women's groups that manage support centers to assist women are aware of this issue and perceptive of symptoms. Make sure police treat any such claim with the utmost seriousness.

4. "Shame" murders are not regular murders and the law should recognize that. Planning such a murder or attempting it should be severely punished.

Additionally, steps should be taken so that people who contemplate such murders will be aware that it will bring about only shame and unwanted social consequences. The following are just examples, but implementation would of course depend on the possibilities by law and research into the subject.
1. Anybody involved in planning and executing such murders will lose welfare benefits.
2. Advertise such stories on national media.

Update: Please note that the plan above is my proposal, not GroenLinks.
I did not translate GroenLinks full plan. Their proposal for dealing with domestic violence is to support community organizations. Though they discuss 'honor murders' (in Dutch it actually means "honor revenge") as a separate issue they suggest treating it in the same way as domestic violence.

Veil = freedom?

Minister Peijs, Dutch minister of Transport, doesn’t see the Islamic veil as a sign of oppression anymore. The veil “gives women freedom”. She changed her mind after a visit to a “women as world leaders” conference in Abu Dhabi. “Wearing a veil is naturally culturally specific. And the women feel that as well, because they believe in their religion. Besides, a veil offers fair opportunities for women in some Muslim countries that without a veil cannot leave the house.”
Peijs doesn’t think a minister with a veil in the next cabinet would be such a bad idea. “It would certainly increase the cabinet’s recognizability. It would have to be somebody chosen for her abilities."

Hirsi Ali: "The minister is correct that the veil contributes to freedom of women in some Arab countries. They can go outside only if they’re veiled. That’s because a woman is considered there as an object of lust, that can show herself to men only in the family circle. But here in the Netherlands a woman is fully accepted. I therefore don’t see how a veil contributes to freedom of women in the Netherlands.”

Hirsi Ali doesn’t think a minister with a veil is a good idea. It would give a false signal to copy the sexual moral from Arabic lands to the Netherlands. “If you extend the logic behind the veil you would then have to conclude that the male cabinet members wouldn’t be able to control themselves in the presence of this minister. A minister with a veil is not the way to win immigrant votes because it’s a promise that you can’t keep. We should then all go back in time.”

(I was not able to find the original interview).

Source: NRC Handelsblad (Dutch)

Holland: Need for more Muslim schools

A new research of Nijmeegs Institute shows that there is need for another 100 Muslim elementary schools in the Netherlands. This, despite the fact that a big percentage of existing schools are suffering from lack of students.

According to the researcher, Nico van Kessel, the issue here is that the schools should be located in the right place and that the school get enough time to grown.

The survey was conducted among 10,000 families. 30% of Turkish and Moroccan parents of kids up to 11 year old would rather send their kids to a Muslim school on condition that it will be in their neighborhood. Many Muslim schools nowadays are allocated buildings by the municipality in areas where such schools are not needed.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

An interview about Jewish/Muslim relations in Europe

The following is an interview given by Rabbi Aba Dunner, Executive Director of the Conference of European Rabbis, to a chain of Orthodox Jewish Israeli newspapers on Feb. 16th, 2006 and that I've recently ran across.

The original interview appeared in Hebrew. It is a bit long, but I thought that he says some interesting things that deserve to be translated, especially as it does not appear online at all, as far as I know. I did not translate the entire thing, but only whatever seemed to relate to Jewish-Muslim relations in Europe and Islam in general.

Q: The increase in anti-Semitism, is it a passing phase or a consistent course?

A: Anti-Semitism is increasing in a consistent manner. If in the past the reason was Israel and conquering the territories, today it’s because of the Muslims. You should know that even if the Europeans hate the Muslims, there is sympathy to the approach which says: strangers, get out of our lands. The second group they’ll want to throw out will be the Jews. We’re always in the line of fire. “Esau hates Jacob” is an old hate, not new.

Q: There’s a difference between the countries in the manner of anti-Semitism?

A: In Russia it was always there and never stopped. It’s their own original anti-Semitism. Not imported from Europe. In England it’s getting stronger. There’s a right wing nationalistic leader who aims his attacks at the Muslims and as a result we’re starting to see vandalization of Jewish cemeteries, the graffiti calling against Jews.

Q: How is it expressed?

A: In attacking Jews, vandalizing property, vandalizing cemeteries, graffiti with hate slogans, and swastikas.

In Russia there was communism and they didn’t have freedom of the press, that’s why today where there is freedom of the press you can find libelous writings of the worst kind at every street corner, things that appeared in Nazi Germany. It inflames feelings that exist anyway in Russia. In France it’s already a burning fire; so much so that Rabbi Sitruk decreed that Jews should walk out on the streets with a beret and not with a yarmulke, because it’s life threatening.

Q: Are the Muslims the origin of the hate in France or is it that known French stranger-hating and their hidden anti-Semitism that affected the Muslims?

A: in France there’s horrible anti-Semitism originating from the Muslims.

I’m in Paris once every three months for a meeting with Rabbi Sitruk who’s the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, and it happens every so often that I stand in the Champs Elysees , a taxi stops, the driver looks at me, sees that I’m Jewish and continues on. It’s undisguised there. France has Le Penn’s extreme right wing party but that’s nothing compared to the Muslims. And it exists in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland. It all stems from the Muslims. Letting the Muslims enter Europe was one of the Europeans’ greatest mistakes. They flooded Europe completely.

Q: In view of the violent riots in the world and in Europe due to the Mohammed caricatures, do you notice a change in the attitudes of politicians towards Muslims?

A: If in the past they were seen as cheap labor, today they’re seen as a threat. The main reason is that suddenly they see that they number in the millions. A lot more than the official demographics show. In France alone they talk about 6 million Muslims. But they know the real number gets up to 12 million Muslims. The president of France, Jacques Chirac knows the real number; I’ve met with him twice about it. He knows and tells me straight out: I need the Muslims on my side at election time. The Jews are only 600,000; these are the facts we have to face. When we claimed that in every conflict he takes the Muslim side he answered: I’m a politician. In Israel people think he’s pro-Muslim, but it’s wrong, he’s pro-himself. He doesn’t like them but he plays the game that will bring him votes in the elections. Still, in the past week three events combined to catalyze a change in the attitude towards Muslims. The riots that broke out after the caricatures, the Hamas win in the Palestinian elections and the question of nuclear weapons in Iranian hands, whose president is sending out blatant threats against all of Europe. These three factors joined together and caused the leaders of the EU to show backbone against the Muslim threat that surrounds them from many sides. I think that it’s really God’s grace that these three events combined together at one time. It’s unbelievable, no matter where they look, in every newspaper they open; they see manifestation of Muslim aggressiveness that makes them understand that the demonstrations and manifestations of hate are not a result and reaction to the caricatures but simply the violent Muslim nature that does this to show they hate the West. The Muslims say it bluntly: we hate you. It just gave them the opportunity to do all those violent acts. Some of them didn’t even see the caricatures. There’s nobody to talk with on their side. After all, tomorrow morning another newspaper, or I, will say the wrong thing and who knows what will happen to me or my family. And like me, everybody else is afraid something will happen to them.

We’ve told the leaders and Chirac above all, but they’ve never accepted this theory, they’ve always tried to protect them; that this attack on this or that synagogue was the work of an extremist but that Muslims as a society are not like that. Now they see who they have to deal with and that’s a winning point for our side.

We’ve spoken to Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, and there the situation is better. They have a lot of Turks, but the Germans, because Germany brought the holocaust to the world, are very sensitive to every anti-Semitic flare-up.

Q: What is your stance regarding the caricatures?

A: We’re very much against the caricatures that were published. If anybody would have asked for our opinion we would have opposed the publication. But on the other hand, we say to the Muslims: you’re no better. Look at your books and see what you teach just 10 kilometers from my neighborhood in London. How much venom and incitement there is there against the Jews. It’s unbelievable what you write in your newspapers that are openly sold in the streets of London. I warn the police about it, all the time, with no results. I said that if I would write in English what the Arab journalists write here in London, I would have been in jail a long time ago. But they can write against the Jews, against the Nation of Israel, against the State of Israel and the authorities don’t do a thing.

I talked to the head Imam in London about the situation, I asked him why they didn’t publish anything years ago when Muslims in India rose against the Hindu and destroyed with tanks objects which are ancient and holy to the Hindu. Why then and in similar cases there was no protest against defaming religious feelings and persecuting people based on their religion. But when we’re talking about negligible caricatures, you burn the whole world. Why?

Q: You expect that Muslim religious leaders will condemn Iran’s announcement that they will run a contest of caricatures about the holocaust?

A: We don’t expect anything from them. Nothing will change; they’re the same evil people. It’s a fact of life. Maybe when they talk to me they’ll tell me I’m right and that they as Muslim religious leaders oppose violence, but they speak differently to the masses. The real voice of Islam is the voice of the masses in the street.

Q: Do you have connections with Muslim leaders?

A: We have connections with the senior sheikh in Kazakhstan, but what’s happening there is unusual. Even though it’s a Muslim country, it’s first of all a police state and the regime won’t let the masses dictate the mood. But here in Europe, the people who are willing to be in contact are modern spiritual leaders, not elements that influence. But we need to sit with somebody, so we sit with them.

Q: Why don’t you talk to those who do influence?

A: Because they don’t want to. Rabbi Jacobowitz of blessed memory, who was Britain’s Chief Rabbi, asked to meet the Chief Imam in Britain. Two years we tried and didn’t manage to get an appointment. They don’t want to. It’s enough to see them every Friday when they go out of the mosques, it’s really dangerous for a Jew to walk alongside them at that moment.

Q: In fact, you’re accusing Europe’s leaders who are permitting the Muslims to fan such hatred.

A: Right. Everybody knows what they say deep inside. But they can’t do anything. It’s difficult to come out against the imams in the mosques. It’s difficult to restrict them. They’re comforted that nothing serious happened yet.

You can see the results of the Muslim brainwashing in the field. The terrorist attack in Israel two years ago was executed by two Muslim terrorists with British citizenship. They were born in England and learned in the best schools. Also the subway attack was executed by English Muslims. One of them was a teacher in school who said goodbye to his wife and kids in the morning and went out to put explosives.

Why Nadia took off the niqab

Nadia, 19, had always caused her parents, Moroccan immigrants much trouble. It started when she walked about in tight jeans and ignored all rules. When she decided to wear a veil her parents were overjoyed. "I was the perfect daughter. They were very happy. But it wasn't what the koran meant for protecting women. I was still whistled at out in the street. And the Moroccan boys shouted that a veil means nothing these days. I was disappointed and searched on my own for the true Islam. That's how I got to the traditional clothing,jilbaab and khimar."

When she wore a niqab, her parents were furious. "In retrospect" she says, "I'm sorry abuot it. I should have talked things out with my parents. Maybe things would have then gone better with them. But my friends weren't practicing, my sisters weren't, my brothers weren't, nobody was." She finally found refuge in an Amsterdam mosque.

Her friend Maryam, also Moroccan explains it like this: "My parents' religion passed on to me as a culture, not as Islam. They did want me to wear a veil, but didn't explain why. Therefore I went to search for answers on my own. I didn't have big fights over religion, but the fact that my mother is a Muslim herself and said she doesn't need a khimar, caused disagreements. We got into arguments. My mother based her arguments on culture issues while I took my arguments from Islam. "

Nadia: "In retrospect I understand my mother. She belongs to the first generation of Moroccans in the Netherlands. She is illiterate, has never studied and speaks almost no Dutch. The only thing she does is watch the news on TV. And what does she see than? Islam in bad light. The woman walking about like I do now is oppressed. She is radical and extreme. It's all prejudices that are stuck onto my veil. My mother sees that. She doesn't aquire knowledge over her religion in other situtations. She sees her daughter exchange tight jeans for a black veil and has the same prejudice. She thinks she can't tolerate it because the Dutch don't tolerate it either. That is why I can't blame everything on her, but on the media. They poison the relationships between mothers and daughters with their prejudices. Adn between fathers and sons. Because what do you think of boys that don't have a beard because they've been called names by people from their own community? It's so sad that I need to tell my own mother: 'no mom, not every women with a veil is a radical'. They've already lost their kids to Dutch society. They're afraid to lose us again to someting that is new to them."

After a few months Nadia decided to take off her niqab. "That caused me a lot of pain. But I had to choose between the relationship with my family and the niquab - that is indeed not obliged by Islam. Above all, according to Islam my mother is the most important person after Allah and the Prophet." After her decision, her parents came around and things are going better at home. "But it's a pity that they don't fully support me. I wanted to try it out, that as teenagers do with drinking and smoking, simply out of curiosity. My parents didn't have to agree with me, but they could have just given me the freedom to find my own way.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)
For more info on Muslim dress, see the BBC site

Belgium child benefits

Belgium paid out 41 million Euro as child benefits in 2004 for 32,985 children living out of the country. 90.88% of these children received benefits based on EU regulations, mostly kids of workers from France and Holland. The rest received benefits based on bilateral agreements, generally kids from Morocco.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Pim Fortuyn books - English translation help

Pim's Ghost is organizing an English translation of Pim Fortuyn's books and is looking for any native Dutch speakers who might be interested in helping out with the project. For contact, please email me.

Sweden: honor killing

A father, mother and son from the same family have been charged with the murder of a 20 year old man in Högsby in Småland last November.

According to the prosecution, the man was killed by having hot oil poured over him. He was also stabbed a number of times and beaten on the body and head.

Prosecutor Kjell Yngvesson said that the 41 year old father, the 40 year old mother and the 17 year old son would be tried for murder.

The victim, a 20 year old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, was found dead in the family's home in Högsby. The incident was described as an honour killing, since the motive was thought to have been the 20 year old's relationship with the 16 year old daughter of the family, who also comes from Afghanistan.

As is usually the case, the minor son had primary responsiblity for the murder, since minors tend to be less harshly punished.

Source: The Local (English)

Dutch cabinet divided on burka ban

Dutch ministers have failed to agree a ban on the burka, the all-enveloping cloak worn by some Muslim women.

Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk (VVD) discussed a number of options with the relevant ministers on Tuesday, but none of the ideas received full backing. Verdonk was asked to rework her proposals, sources in The Hague said

The Minister announced in October she was investigating whether wearing of the burka could be banned in specific situations. This was in response to a suggestion by Independent Conservative MP Geert Wilders.

Source: Expatica (English)

Norway: preserving the family's honor

A court in Kristiansand, southern Norway, has sentenced a man to 120 days in jail for beating his teenage daughter with straps and a metal rod. The beatings were sparked by her admission that she no longer was a virgin.

The 49-year-old man, who emigrated to Norway from Iraq, claimed he'd done nothing wrong. He told the court that he was "much kinder" than many other fathers from his culture would have been.

He claimed most other men would have killed the girl, instead of "just beating her." He also complained that his daughter had put his family in a difficult situation by reporting the beatings to police. Kristiansand newspaper Fædrelandsvennen reported that he now fears he'll be deported.

The court decision marks the second time he's been convicted of assaulting his daughter. He was sentenced to 45 days in prison last June after he beat his daughter for coming home late and having a boyfriend.

The beatings continued after the daughter admitted she'd had sexual relations with two boyfriends. The father also allegedly threatened to decapitate her.

He told the court that he regrets bringing his family to Norway, because he believes the country is much less conservative than he had thought it was.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Success of Islamic banking

Islamic banking is growing rapidly worldwide with the Gulf region grabbing the lion's share, the head of the General Council for Islamic Banks said on Tuesday, March 14.

"We used to see banks with $40-$70 million capital each; now we hear of $1 billion and more," Izzedine Khojah told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an Islamic banking conference in Damascus, Syria.

Khojah said that the impressive strides made by the Islamic banking has whetted Western appetite to expand its Shari`ah-compliant dealings.

BNP Paribas has recently expanded its operations in Islamic finance and place it at the center of the French bank's Middle East retail strategy, Reuters said.

Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, is also planning to expand in producing services and products aimed at Muslim clients.

In 2003, HSBC banking group became the fist high street bank in Britain to offer mortgages and current accounts in accordance with Shari`ah.

Islamic banking operates by sharing profit or loss between the bank and its clients, instead of interest, which is forbidden by Shari`ah.

Under the system, the bank works closely with clients on financing, such as jointly setting up projects with the aim of selling them to third parties.

"Success came through raising the mantra of sharing profit and loss and furthering Islamic principles," said Khojah.

Source: Islam Online (English)

Norway: State should sponsor immigrants

Norway's Christian Democrats think the state should sponsor jobs in the private sector for immigrants, to ease an immigrant unemployment rate that's as much as four times higher than the jobless rate for ethnic Norwegians. There may be support in parliament for such a program, but opposition looms.

The leader of the Christian Democrats' party, Dagfinn Høybråten, told newspaper Aftenposten on Monday that "we must try some solutions that haven't been tried before."
Høybråten, a former government minister, stressed that jobs are the most important means of integrating immigrants into Norwegian society.

Høybråten thinks the state should subsidize private companies that offer to give a job to non-Norwegian applicants. His political party intends to float a measure in parliament that in its essence would sponsor jobs for immigrants in the private sector.

Politicians from the Labour and Socialist Left parties seem ready to back the measure, but want it to apply to other hard-pressed groups of job seekers as well, such as the physically disabled.

The Progress Party, Norway's most conservative party, is already voicing opposition, however. Per Sandberg, deputy leader of the party that currently ranks as Norway's largest in public opinion polls, called the proposal for state-sponsored salaries for immigrants "hopeless" because it would give certain groups special treatment and could result in reverse discrimination against Norwegians.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

German Rabbi receives Muslim center award

Augsburg Rabbi Henry Brandt is the first Jew to receive the prestigious Muhammad-Nafi-Tschelebi Prize for his commitment to interfaith dialogue – in particular for his rapprochement efforts with Islamic communities in Germany.

The Central Institute Islam–Archive honoured the rabbi with the 2,500 euro award “for the way in which he brought about understanding between Muslims and Jews”, according to the institute’s chairman, Salim Abdullah. Abdullah called Brandt, “a pioneer”.

“Such dialogue among Muslim communities can not be taken for granted,” writes Chaim Guski of the Jewish monthly Juedische Zeitung (JZ), unlike the 60-year tradition of dialogue between Christians and Jews.

JZ said the challenges faced by Jews and Muslims today were very similar. As far as these two minority groups are concerned, they often share the same problems that arise from religious precepts that are astoundingly similar - from analogous dietary regulations to comparable languages and timetables of prayer.

Source: European Jewish Press (English)

Holland launches the immigrant quiz

TWO MEN kissing in a park and a topless woman bather are featured in a film that will be shown to would-be immigrants to the Netherlands.

The reactions of applicants — including Muslims — will be examined to see whether they are able to accept the country’s liberal attitudes.

From this Wednesday, the DVD — which also shows the often crime-ridden ghettos where poorer immigrants might end up living — will form part of an entrance test, in Dutch, covering the language and culture of Holland.

Muslim leaders in Holland say the film is offensive. “It really is a provocation aimed to limit immigration. It has nothing to do with the rights of homosexuals. Even Dutch people don’t want to see that,” said Abdou Menebhi, the Moroccan-born director of Emcemo, an organisation that helps immigrants to settle.

He added: “They are trying to find every pretext to show that people should not come to the Netherlands because they are fundamentalist or not emancipated. They confront people with these things and then judge them afterwards.”

Dirk Nieuwboer, a Dutch journalist based in Istanbul, said the multiple-choice cultural test included a question about how to behave in a cafe if two men at the next table started kissing. “There was another question about which former Dutch colony a particular spice came from,” said Nieuwboer. “Most Dutch people don’t know these things.”

However, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a socialist from the parliament’s immigration committee, said the film had been created to help prepare people for “open-minded” attitudes on issues such as homosexuality. “We have lots of homo-discrimination, especially by Muslim youngsters who harass gay men and women on the streets. It is an issue here.”

And after all the issues brought up:
A spokeswoman for Verdonk said an edited version of the DVD would be available for showing in Middle Eastern countries such as Iran where it would be illegal to possess images of homosexuality.

Source: Times Online (English)

Dutch making religious Islam up?

Maurits Berger, Arabist at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, says that the Netherlands is facing an integration problem and that it is not an issue of religion. “We ourselves are Islamicizing the Netherlands”, he says.

According to him the Dutch are mixing together the Turks and Moroccans and thereby creating a threatening “Islam” group out of what are essentially different and fragmented social groups.

“To understand the Muslim, we study Islam.” He says, “That is the same as if a Japanese Buddhist would read the Old Testament to understand Europeans.”

Assuming this is a direct quote, I am quite surprised that this man is considered an Arabist. For one, I assume he meant to compare reading the Old Testament to reading the Koran. But even if that would be true, there is no comparison here at all. In order to understand the Muslims, one must study Islam and Islam draws its laws and manner of living directly from the Koran.

A European does not open the Old Testament in order to decide what to do in daily life. For that matter, neither does a Jew. A Jew would not even open up a Talmud to decide on any specific case. Instead, he would turn to the more modern books. It is quite evident that Muslims do look at the Koran and Hadith for practical guidance on day to day lives. That is why Koran lessons are so popular nowadays in the Netherlands.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch) - hat tip, Arjan Hooiveld

Book Review: The Dhimmi

I've recently put up a list of books I've either read in the past months or am in the process of reading now. I'd like to give a general review of each book as I finish, but I also have a bit of a backlog in that area.. so here's the first one.

The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam, by Bat Ye'or

I read this book sometime in the past year, and it is not as fresh in my mind as it was when I first read it. However, there were some points in it that made quite an impression on me.

To understand the book, I think it is first important to understand the author. Bat Ye'or is a pseudonym, meaning "Daughter of the Nile" in Hebrew. Bat Ye'or was indeed a Daughter of the Nile - a Jew, she was born in Egypt. Due to their Judaism her family was forced to flee, leaving Egypt in 1957.

I had witnessed the destruction, in a few short years, of a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years and which had existed from the time of Jeremiah the Prophet. I saw the disintegration and flight of families, dispossessed and humiliated, the destruction of their synagogues, the bombing of the Jewish quarters and the terrorizing of a peaceful population. I have personally experienced the hardships of exile, the misery of statelessness−and I wanted to get to the root cause of all this. I wanted to understand why the Jews from Arab countries, nearly a million, had shared my experience.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part gives an analysis of the laws discrimminating the Dhimmi (ie, Jews and Christians) in the Muslim world, as well as the various safeguards, such as consular protection and then the emancipation forced by the European powers that helped them escape their downtrodden condition. Bat Ye'or then moves on to a discussion of how the Muslims view the Dhimmi today, how they use these terms and what has evolved/changed in the past century. So, for example, we see in the recent past the claims that the Muslims are the real Jews (ie, taking away the Dhimmi's very existence in history) and there are similar claims regarding Christianity.

The 2nd part, which is much more extensive (~250 pages), consists of documents from different time periods and different locations throughout the Arab world showing how the Dhimmi were treated. Bat Ye'or brings documents from Muslim jurists, Dhimmi observations of their own situation as well as documents from travellers who passed through Muslim lands and recorded their impressions.

I confess I did not read all the documents, but mainly the documents referenced in the main part of the text.

I was already aware of the general condition of the non-Muslims in Muslim countries, having studied this subject in the past, but there were several points which struck me when I read this book.

1. The book shows how noble are those peoples who have managed to hang on to their religion through the ages of Muslim rule. Yes, there have always been time when the situation wasn't as bad as it could be, but there were other times when most people either fled or converted to Islam. In discussions about the minorities under Islam it is important to keep in mind that the minorities which remained did so despite enormous pressures. In some places - such as Arabia - they have been completely wiped out.

2. Most Jewish communities in Muslim lands have been decimated, the Jews forced to flee in the past 50 years, but there are still minorities in existence, mainly the Christians. According to Bat Ye'or the Christian community is in a very difficult situation, mainly because they see themselves as Arab and feel they share in the Arab destiny. Though on the surface they are accepted, Bat Ye'or feels (and brings quotes to support her position) that this is only a temporary situation. Many Muslims tolerate the Arab Christians and enable them to fight "for the cause", but feel that once these goals will be achieved, they would then be able to turn to "cleaning out" the Arab nation and making it into a fully Muslim one, as it should be.

3. I got a general impression from the book that there is nothing to be done. The relation of the Muslim to the non-Muslim is inherent in Islam. It is very hard for me to accept, as I believe that people can change. However, I do realize where Bat Ye'or is coming from. Having grown up believing she was part of the society in which she grew up, she was forced to realize that indeed she wasn't - it did not matter that her family had lived in Egypt for generations, she was still an outsider in a Muslim country.

I still think that we cannot face the future without believing that this situation can be changed. In fact, I think that it is wrong to face the future otherwise. This situation will never change as long as the world as a whole accepts the fact that Muslims cannot live alongside non-Muslims (as it did this past August when all Jews were forced out of Gaza and as it does when it stays silent when Christians are oppressed). It is up to the Western world to press the point and to make sure that non-Muslims can live safely within Muslim countries, just as Muslims can live safely in non-Muslim lands.

Babies of Dutch immigrant women lacking Vitamin D

According to a study in the past two years 55% of pregnant Turkish, Moroccan and other non-western immigrant women, as well as 54% of immigrant babies, are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. This is much higher than by the ethnic Dutch, where only 5% of women suffer from the deficiency and 6% of the babies.

Previous studies have shown that immigrant women are more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency since they cover their skin or by women with darker complexion. This was the first study by immigrant babies.

Doctors are calling to give women belonging to groups at risk vitamin D supplements.

Source: Maroc (Dutch)

Netherlands: school trip to mosque cancelled

A planned school trip to a mosque and its cancellation have been blown out of proportions, according to the Christian school principal, H. J. Altena, and the Dutch minister of Education.

The trip was planned in the framework of a project week about the "colorful school". A group of students chose "brown" as their topic and came up with such subjects as chocolate, bread, and people of other colors. That led to Islam and to the idea to visit a mosque.

However 3 of the 23 parents objected. Altena therefore canceled the trip, but visited the Turkish imam on his own. The imam was very understanding, saying there were people in his own mosque who would be against visiting a church.

The decision came up for discussion in parliament, since some parliament members see this as a lost opportunity to improve integration and cultural understanding.

Source: Reformatorisch Dagblad (Dutch)

Belgium: Law against forced marriages

A new bill in Belgium will sentence a person who forces another to get married (either by force or by threat) to anything between a month and two years in prison as well as a fine of 100 to 500 euro. Attempts to conclude such marriages will be punished with 15 days to a year in prison and a fine of 50-250 euro.

The law differentiates between forced marriages and arranged marriages. A forced marriage is one in which at least one of the parties does not agree to the marriage, or in which that agreement has been gotten by force.

The law recognizes that it might be hard sometimes to determine whether the marriage is forced or arranged.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

EU wants to improve relations with Muslim countries

Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, has proposed a ten-point plan to improve the dialog of the EU with Muslim countries. This plan includes better use of media, concrete projects for kids in Muslim countries and student exchange.

According to the commissioner, it's not a matter of pouring in more money, but rather better and more concrete projects to keep good relations and to prevent such scenes as have been seen recently.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Norway: Mosque violence update

The five suspects remanded in custody in connection with a violent attack on an Oslo mosque have been released after police admitted to a lack of cell space.

But one of the defense lawyers, Øyvind Bergøy Pedersen said he believed there were other reasons for the decision.

"The investigation probably has given the police a better overview of the case. The defense lawyers have always pointed out that in this conflict, which ended in a confrontation, there are two factions in this religious community. It is one side's word against the other's," Pedersen said.
With this in mind, he believes police had to weigh up the danger of tampering with evidence after release, and the jail conditions on offer.

The suspects have a different version of events, claiming one of them had been dragged into the mosque and attacked and that several of the others charged in to help him. Three of those in custody appeared in court with clear injuries resulting from stab wounds and blows.

Meanwhile, government officials are considering withdrawing state support for the mosque in question.

The County Governor's office told NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) that if the mosque's board is linked to illegal activities it could cost the organization its support.

Last year the congregation of about 5,000 received NOK 1.4 million (USD 211,000) in state support.

The Norwegian state extends financial support to religious institutions and generally withdraws such aid only in the case of demonstrated abuses of human rights.

Source: Aftenposten 1, 2 (English)

New UK immigration 'points' plan

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has defended plans for a new points-based immigration system for workers who want to come to the UK from outside the EU.
The scheme is designed to make it easier for highly skilled, younger workers to enter the country.

But it will be harder for low-skilled, non-EU workers to head to Britain.

Mr Clarke says the system will simplify immigration. But Tory Damian Green says the scheme is an "implicit admission that the current system has failed".

"The government has no control over our borders and no proper information about the most basic facts and figures," the shadow immigration minister said.

Highly skilled workers such as doctors, engineers and IT experts would get the most points under the system, due in place from mid-2007 at the earliest. They will be the only group able to come to Britain without a job offer. But skilled workers, like nurses, teachers and plumbers, would be able to come to the UK if they can plug shortages in the workforce.

A person applying as a low-skilled worker would be granted entry to fill specific job vacancies for fixed periods, with guarantees that they will leave at the end of their stay.

Other applicants would include students and special sectors such as sports people and employees of international companies based in the UK, plus visiting workers - such as musicians or those on working holiday visas.

Low-skilled workers, students and visitors would only be allowed entry if their home country has a formal agreement with Britain.

Danny Sriskandarajah, from the Institute for Public Policy Research, said the scheme would only work if it was flexible enough to find the right workers for the right jobs.

Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said it could lead to unskilled migrants being exploited.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said the scheme would not quell public concern about immigration as it imposed no annual limit on the number of people able to settle in the UK.

Source: BBC (English)

Study of Dutch immigrant women

A new study in Holland by the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP) shows that immigrant women are willing to do more paid work than they now do, and have less traditional notions than often thought.

However immigrant women are still educated less than average, work less, have lower incomes and feel less healthier than ethnic Dutch women. The 2nd generation is busy making up for the past differences.

The number of kids per Moroccan women has gone down from 6 in 1983 to 3.3 in 2005. Daughters aren’t kept home from school and marriage is no longer seen as a reason to stop work. Barely 25% of young women think that women should stay home to care for the children.

According to the SCP a high level of education is crucial for giving women a better place in society.

According to Minister Verdonk, Dutch minister of Integration, there is a need to make sure 1st generation women get a good education as well. 2/3 of the 1st generation Turkish and Moroccan women have no more than basic education, and that includes almost all of the 25,000 ‘imported’ brides that came to the Netherlands last year.

Source: Volkskrant (Dutch)

Polygamy in Europe

Polygamy is forbidden in Europe, but that doesn’t stop immigrants from countries such as Mali to go ahead with it.

Nienke Muurling, anthropologist from the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, has been conducting research in Mali and France to study the phenomenon. There are several ways this is done. For one, such marriages are sanctioned by the imams. And so, a man can get married through the civil courts for his first marriage, and then marry several other women at the local mosque. There are other ways to circumnavigate French restrictions. Married men come to France declaring themselves single and then marry another women, for example.

France does not grant family reunification for polygamy families, but in practice it does not stop such things from happening. It’s not unusual for co-wives to share ID cards and residence permits.

In Mali choosing your own partner and monogamy are on the rise, but in France there are many arranged marriages among the Mali immigrants. However, according to Muurling, women are never happy in such a marriage, having to share a husband.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Berlin school bans languages other than German

This is a bit old, but relating to the discussion in the Netherlands about speaking Dutch in public - a German school had already decided to enforce the rule.

A Berlin school has banned its students from speaking languages other than German while on school grounds.

"The language of our school is German, the official language of the Federal Republic of Germany," reads the 'house rules' of the Herbert-Hoover Realschule, which every pupil is required to sign.

The rules go on to say that, "Every pupil is obliged to only communicate in this language [German] within the jurisdiction of the house rules." The rules' jurisdiction is defined as
including not only the school itself and its grounds, but also school excursions.

Green politician Özcan Mutlu has protested to the school committee of Berlin's House of
Representatives, calling the rule anti-constitutional and discriminatory. "This kind of ban is okay in lessons," he told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel. "But everything else is going too far."

Education senator Klaus Böger is defending the rule in the school committee. According to his speaker Jens Stiller, parents were supporting the rule. Some parents brought their children to school precisely because they hoped they would then learn better German, Stiller told the Tagesspiegel.

According to Mutlu, about 90 percent of the children at the school were of non-German origin. The school is located in Berlin's impoverished Wedding district which is home to many immigrant families.

Source: Expatica (English)

A moderate Muslim manifesto

A new independent attempt at creating moderate Islam was penned up by two Turkish Muslim intellectuals: Zeyno Baran and Mustafa Akyol.

The Manifesto calls for moderation - rejecting violence and supporting democracy, secular law and women's rights.

The test of whether this attempt succeeds or fails depends on whether Muslims sign it - both the general population as well as religious and political leaders.

Sources: Spiegel (English), Muslim Manifesto (English)

Democratic Muslims growing stronger

The new Danish moderate Muslim group, Demokratiske Muslimer (Democratic Muslims) is growing stronger.

Support for the newly formed Democratic Muslims has come from unlikely places, said the group's chairman Naser Khader, after officially founding the group on Wednesday.

In its first month of existence, the group reported over 1000 official members and 15,000 supporters, people who seek to provide a visible example of moderate Muslims who embrace democracy.

Prominent business figures such as biotech CEO Asger Aamund and Flemming Østergaard, the chairman of Parken Sport & Entertainment, have also voiced their support.

'We have received enquiries from Norway, Sweden, Holland, Spain, France, the US, and Canada. I think it's a trend these days to stand up to Islamists and say: Enough is enough,' said Khader.

Khader, an MP for the opposition Social Liberals and arguably the most recognised Muslim politician in the country, founded the group after holding a speech for journalists from daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

They challenged Khader's statement that it was possible to be Danish, Muslim, and to support democratic values, saying he was the exception that proved the rule.

Khader set out to prove them wrong. He contacted like-minded individuals, held the group's first meeting in December, and has since been bombarded by emails from prospective members.

'Some people had gone around and believed that they were all alone with their beliefs. They realised that other people share the same ideas and that gave them courage. It's had a snowball effect,' said Khader.

As the membership lists continue to swell, he felt the group had a role to play, particularly in light of the worldwide crisis that erupted over the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

'We have said to the prime minister and the minister of integration affairs that they should use us. And that we want to participate in delegations. We can be ambassadors for Denmark, a contrast to imams and Islamists,' he said.

Solidifying support was the organisation's primary goal right now, however. He stated that he was worried hostile groups would try to infiltrate the Democratic Muslims. New members are therefore required to sign a declaration that they oppose Sharia laws and the death penalty.

'The network is fragile right now. To protect ourselves, we need to control the organisation by asking people to sign the declaration. You can also be excluded if you work against the organisation's principles.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (English)

Norway: Mosque violence

Five persons were remanded in custody on Monday, charged with bodily harm in connection with assaults carried out at the Central Jamat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat mosque in Oslo on Friday.

Chief Kåre Stølen at Grønland police station said that a sixth person, known by name, was being sought and that they hoped to make an arrest on Monday.

According to Stølen police have the names of about 40 persons who were in on by the mosque when violence broke out on Friday. A total of six were injured when men carrying knives and bats stormed the mosque in downtown Oslo's Grønland district during Friday prayers.

A member of Oslo city council, Labor politician Khalid Mahmood, was an eyewitness to the bloody battle, which Stølen believes is part of an internal feud in the mosque's community.
Mahmood said that it was only chance that no one was killed when the mosque was stormed, with men hacking wildly around with knives.

Mahmood told newspaper VG that the mosque has for years had internal squabbling that has resulted in lawsuits. The strife is said to due to a conflict between several clans who want to administer the finances of the organization, which has about 6,000 members.

Lieutenant Erik Andersen of the Oslo police has been trying to negotiate peace at five of Oslo's
mosques for the past two years. One of his assignments has been trying to calm the feud at the Jamat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat mosque, newspaper Dagbladet reports.

Source: Aftenposten (English)