Germany: Girls suspended from school for wearing burka

A high school in the German city of Bonn has suspended two Muslim girls for wearing a burka, an all-enveloping cloak worn by women in central and south Asia.

The two teenagers who returned to school following the Easter holidays dressed in burkas were considered to have disturbed the peaceful running of the school and were handed initial suspensions of two weeks, a school official said.

The Muslim council of Germany too has criticized the schoolgirls' decision to attend school in burkas. It said it was necessary for teachers to have eye contact with pupils in classes.

August Gmünd from the local government, which supports the suspension, said the action had caused disruption throughout the school.

“A heated discussion broke out in the school the instant the two girls turned up, not just amongst the kids, but also the teachers," said Gmünd. "It was just impossible to maintain a controlled environment in the school.”

The girls have been suspended from school for two weeks, for disrupting lessons. Officials say they are welcome to return to school, if they shed their all-enveloping garb. At the school playground, the appearance of the covered girls confused and annoyed pupils.

"Provocation" and "fundamentalist character"

“One of the girls was in class with me," said a student. "I find it very strange: before the Easter holidays, she was personable and outgoing. Now, after the holidays, she turns up in a Burka.”

Ulrich Stahnke, head master at the school in Tannenbusch on the outskirts of Bonn, said he spent days considering whether to suspend the girls. He added he and his colleagues had tried to convince them to discard their Burkas, without success.

“For me, this is a new development in Central Europe, which one is either aware of, or consciously brings into school as a provocation," Stahnke said. "Or, one takes a religious angle with it, which, in a very specific way, has a fundamentalist character.”

The two girls have cited freedom of religion in defense of their outfits. Their families have hired a lawyer, who has yet to issue a statement.

"Symbolizing female oppression"

Even those who wear headscarves at the school have little empathy for the girls. One pupil of Kurdish origin, is now campaigning for a completely headscarf free school.

“Class 11 and 12 have put together a petition with signatures from classmates who frown on their decision," she said. "We also have the full support of the school board. We think it’s out of order to show up at school like this. As a Kurd, and a woman, I feel it’s my responsibility to show that this isn’t on, and that it symbolizes female oppression.”

Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which was overthrown by U.S.-led forces in late 2001, introduced a law making it compulsory for all women to wear the garments.

Not helping integration

For head master Stahnke, the girls are harming the school’s integration policy. Around 30 percent of pupils either come from migrant families, or are themselves migrants. Stahnke said the school ‘wants to show these children that they can follow their religion without wearing Burkas’. He now hopes the girls will participate in counseling sessions with a theological expert, and reconsider their decision.

The case follows moves by France, home to Europe's largest Islamic minority, to ban Islamic headscarves and other "conspicuous religious signs" in state schools in 2004. The measures is aimed at stemming what it said was the rising influence of radical Islamists among youths.

Source: DW-World (English)

Update May 2nd, 2006:
Note correction to article: around 30 percent of pupils either come from migrant families, or are themselves migrants

Netherlands: Muslims in the armed forces

The yearly report of the Dutch military intelligence (MIVD) says that the Dutch intelligence service and military intelligence service are investigating an unknown number of radical Muslims serving in the armed forces. There has been a grown number of reports of military and civilian workers for defense who have profess and spread radical Islamic ideas, though the report does not state how many have been investigated.

The report says that the MIVD is very much on alert for signals of Islamic radicalism within the armed forces. It has been paying special attention to this issue as well since the Dutch Defense has decided to try and attract more Muslim youngsters. According to the report youngsters between the ages of 17 and 25 are much more susceptibe to radical Islam. Radicalism can also comes from experiences in such places as Afghanistan or Iraq.

The MIVD is also on alert for extreme right kids who join the army having extreme right or racist ideas.

People who are considered a risk have their "declaration of no objections" withdrawn, and are prevented from performing confidential duties. The declaration had been withdrawn in 2004 for 61 people, while in 2005 this went up to 98, usually as a result of a crimminal record or less severe previous judicial experience.

Source: Parool (Dutch)

Sweden: Against Muslim only laws

The Swedish government and moderate Muslims on Friday sharply rejected demands by an Islamic leader to enact special laws for Muslims living in the Scandinavian country.

Mahmoud Aldebe, head of Sweden's largest Islamic organization, SMF, said Muslims should be given time off work for Friday prayers and Islamic holidays and that imams should approve all divorces between Muslim couples.

His proposals, presented in a letter Thursday to Sweden's parliamentary parties, were rejected as "completely unacceptable" by Sweden's Integration Minister Jens Orback.

They also elicited a flood of criticism from moderate Muslims who said they were content with living under Swedish laws.

"If we are going to live here, we should adapt to the laws that exist - we should not have a separate law just because we have a different faith," said Mariam Osman Sherifay, a Muslim lawmaker with the governing Social Democratic Party.

Aldebe's letter also called for laws reserving public swimming pools to women one night a week, as many Muslim families forbid their daughters from bathing with boys for "ethical and religious reasons."

"Many Muslim girls finish their high school education without knowing how to swim at all," Aldebe wrote.

Other demands included giving imams the right to teach religion to Muslim children in public schools, and providing special burial grounds for Muslims.

Aldebe, whose organization has 70,000 members, backtracked on his proposal Friday, telling Swedish Radio he only meant Swedish laws should be adjusted to make Muslims feel safe in society.

Many Swedish Muslim leaders distanced themselves from Aldebe's demands, saying they had little support among Sweden's estimated 400,000 Muslims.

"He is lucky if he speaks for 70 of his members," said Abd al Haqq Kielan, an imam who heads the Swedish Islamic Society, one of five national Islamic organizations.

Kielan called the proposals "absurd," adding that they would lead to "a sort of Mullah-rule that people are scared of."

"If you open the gate for separate laws for different minorities, where will it end?" he said. "We have to have one law for all citizens. That is so obvious that I don't understand how he can come up with such an idea."

Source: Jerusalem Post (English)

Rotterdam: immigrants to pay for integration course

Tens of thousands of Rotterdam immigrants will shortly have to pass a test showing they’re fluent in Dutch. Whoever fails will wind up having to pay for an integration test that could cost up to 8000 euro. Job-seekers, educators and imams will only pay 275 euro.

Utrecht thinks immigrants drop out of such expensive courses and therefore is paying the bill itself, costing 24 million, the immigrant only having to come up with 275 euro.

These new measure are to prepare the municipalities for the new immigration law which, if it passes parliament, will take effect January 1st 2007.

The Rotterdam civil service is the first to work out the plans. Immigrants must reports to an integration office where it will be decided who will be taking the test. For this purpose a list will be composed of those Rotterdam residents who were not born in Europe and have attended Dutch elementary school for less than 8 years. This goes especially for people who have been in the country for a long time and had not been obligated till now to take integration courses.

Guus Extra, professor for multiple languages in the multicultural society says the test is unethical. “If you force ‘old comers’ to take the test, that often have Dutch citizenship, they must also force ethnic Dutch to take the test as well.”

Source: (Dutch)

Belgium: 1 million foreigners

Belgium has slightly more than 1 million aliens (1,004,071). Foreigners that have received Belgian nationality as well as illegal aliens are not included in this count.

The biggest group are the Italians (175,692) followed by French (123,236) and Dutch (113,570), Moroccans, Spanish and Turks. Moroccans and Turks are underrepresented as many of them do hold Belgian citizenship.

All Belgian municipalities have foreigners with Horebeke in East Flanders having the smallest number (19) and Antwerp having the most (71,813). The Brussels region has 307,430 foreigners.

The number of foreigners in Belgium grows every year by about 20,000-25,000. Most immigrants come through family reunification – both with immigrants bringing in a bride from their homeland, and with ethnic Belgians who seek a partner in “bride donor lands” in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.


Some more on the brothel story

A German brothel seeking to drum up business during the World Cup has been forced to remove the national flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran from an array of flags on its facade after threats from Muslims saying it was insulting their faith.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Europe's largest brothel, the Pascha in Cologne, which incidentally claims to be the world's only brothel with a money-back guarantee for dissatisfied customers, attached the flags of all 32 nations competing in the World Cup to its façade in a bid to demonstrate international flair and attract custom during the tournament this summer.

A giant poster covering the side of the seven-story, 126-apartment building showed a friendly-looking blonde woman lifting up her bra above the slogan "A Time to Make Girlfriends", in a play on the World Cup's official slogan "A Time to Make Friends." Right beneath her pink panties were posters of the flags, including those of strictly Islamic Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Pascha's manager Armin Lobscheid had also erected real flags of all the World Cup nations on another side of the building.

The campaign provoked excitement, but not the kind the management was hoping for. Men from the Muslim community came to the door complaining that showing the flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran was an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Later, some returned in masks.

"On Friday evening we were threatened by 11 masked men who demand that we take down the Saudi Arabian flag," Lobscheid told the Kölner Express, a local newspaper. Not wanting any trouble, the brothel obliged and removed it and the Iranian one. But that still left the flags printed on the poster.

"On Saturday night there were 20 masked men armed with knives and sticks. They threatened to get violent and even bomb the place unless we black out the Iranian and Saudia Arabian flags on the poster as well," said Lobscheid.

The men had left before the police arrived. But to spare his establishment any more trouble, Lobscheid ordered a crane to black out the two flags as well. Lobscheid is now considering filing a complaint but also wants to hold talks with the local Muslim community.

Source: Spiegel (English)

Denmark: Taking care of rejected refugees

What I find interesting about this article is that a refugee can have his application rejected but continue to live in the host country because of "unstable conditions" in his home country. Somebody would have to explain to me the difference then between these "refugees whose application has been rejected but continue living in the host country" and "refugees whose application has been accepted and continue living in the host country".

Members of the prime minister's party are demanding that he take steps to improve conditions at the nation's refugee centres Cramped living conditions at the nation's asylum centres can be blamed on refugees whose requests for asylum have been rejected, according to the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He was responding to criticism from within his own ranks that especially children face miserable conditions at the centres.

Rasmussen pointed out that many of the families, some of whom have lived at the refugee centres for up to six years, simply refused to leave the country.

'It is a problem, but these people's requests have been processed by competent authorities. And they have found that there is no ground for asylum. That means there is only one thing to do: find a way to send them home,' Rasmussen said on Tuesday.

Members of parliament's integration committee, led by Ejvind Vesselbo of the prime minister's Liberal Party, and Henriette Kjær of junior government partner the Conservatives, criticised conditions at the centres after the panel visited two Copenhagen-area centres last month.
'If there is a limit for how miserably people can live, I think we've passed it here,' Vesselbo said after visiting Kongelunden centre on Amager and Camp Sandholm near Birkerød.

The two centres were constructed to house families for up to a year. The average stay has increased from 300 days to 1000, according to Jørgen Chemnitz, the head of the Red Cross's Asylum Department.

Nearly 90 percent of refugees have their request for asylum rejected, but many of them are unable to leave Denmark due to unstable conditions in their home countries.

Vesselbo said the situation required centres to allocate more space for families unable to return home.

The committee's visits found that the extended stays were especially difficult for children, many of whom had lived most of their lives in the asylum centres.

'We need to give them more room and adequate free time activities, so that kids don't wind up in the care of parents who don't have time to stimulate or care for them,' Kjær said.

Kjær suggested that one way to improve conditions for refugees was to give families temporary residence permits until they could return home. She would allow refugees to live outside the centres and work as a way to give them 'a semblance of a normal daily life'.

Integration Minister Rikke Hvilshøj refused to comment on the committee's criticism, but said she would review any proposals they made.

The Red Cross hoped the committee's visit would result in improved conditions:

'After bombarding politicians, the government and the media for so long, it is nice to see that people are finally realising that the centres aren't built for long-term stays,' one official said.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (English)

Holland: clergymen to take special tests

Starting next September, foreign imams and other clergymen that would like to come to the Netherlands would have to pass a very strict exams. They would have to know more about Dutch society and be tested in various skills.

They will have to take a special course or risk fines and losing their residence permit.

Additionally, the organization for whom they will be working will be checked to make sure it’s lawful.

The clerics will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands for as long as they work for their community. After five years they can ask for a permanent residence permit.

Source: Elsevier (Dutch)

Flags removed from brothel ad

A brother in Cologne decided to advertise his business using the flags of all the countries taking part in the upcoming world cup soccer tournament. The ad was a 24 meter by 8 meter picture on the side of the brothel. After Muslims complained about the Saudi and Iranian flags being displayed, the owner of the brothel removed it by painting it over with black paint.

According to a police spokesperson “The group of Muslims saw it as an attack on their religious feelings that as a result of the usage of these flags in this ad were seriously threatened"

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch), includes pictures

Belgium: Polish kid confesses to MP3 murder

A Polish kid of 16 confessed yesterday to being the accomplice in the murder of 17 year old Joe Van Holsbeeck in Brussels Central Station. He also reported the name of the murderer to the police, another teenager, also Polish.

The accomplice was picked up after he was identified by teachers at the school where's he's learning.

The two were originally thought to be North Africans immigrants.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Allochtonen Weblog Roundup

Allochtonen Weblog collects news about the immigrant community in the Netherlands. Here’s a few interesting stories they’ve had this week.

Muslim schools should put more emphasis on western culture

Verwey-Jonker Institute has investigated the Othman Mosque in Rotterdam and has come to the conclusion that Muslim schools must put more emphasis on western culture in their studies in order to prepare their students for life in the Western world. Othman Mosque’s school attracted attention in 2004 and 2005 when teachers struck students. The city of Rotterdam then decided to investigate the teaching methods at the school. The two teachers were dismissed by the mosque and according to the researchers the current teachers are friendly and mild. The school gives lessons on weekends by volunteer teachers.

The books used by the students do not mention Holland at all and the education stresses especially the connection with Morocco and Islam. An investigation into two other Muslim schools in Rotterdam is continuing.

Picnics in museums

The Dutch parliament debated this week how to bring in more kids and immigrants to museums.

Annette Nijs, VVD parliament member, has suggested opening up places for picnics in museums in order to bring in more immigrants. According to Nijs immigrants like to picnic and being able to do so in a museum would tempt them to come visit.

A majority thought that national museums should offer free entrance, though there were people who thought differently. “If you pay 7 euro for a move and 20 for a soccer match, you should also have money to visit a museum”, says Van der Laan. It would be weird to have tourists pay for entering a museum while the Dutch don’t have to, she added

(Note: to the best of my knowledge, it is common in places like Egypt for tourists to pay and locals to enter free.)

Let immigrant youth guard the fair

Carnival organizer Frans Stuy is calling to employ immigrant youth as guards in order to prevent problems. The fair in Roosendaal was cut short this week after severe problems with rioting Moroccan kids.

According to Sty he had already done this in Amsterdam and as it turns out, immigrant youth don’t make as much trouble when faced with their own friends. Stuy claims the kids cause problems since they have no money to enter.

Immigrants are the biggest customers of the fairs in the great cities and in cities such as Roosendaal about 30% of the customers are immigrants.

Berlin: Opposition to new mosque

Germans in a small East Berlin neighborhood are protesting plans to build a mosque there. They'd prefer their small garden plots to a minaret on the skyline.

Mosques are by no means a new development in Germany. As far back as the 16th century, Prussian king Frederick William I had the first mosque built in Potsdam for his Turkish soldiers.

In Berlin, the first mosque was constructed in 1924.

Now there are some 30 Muslim places of worship in the German capital. But most of them are in Neukölln and Kreuzberg, in the western part of the city. These are the neighborhoods in which the erstwhile guest workers of the 1960s and 1970s lived.

In the former Communist and, at the time, internationally insular East Berlin, there are no mosques. But the Muslim Ahmadiyya community would now like to build prayer rooms with a minaret in Heinersdorf, in the Pankow district.

The Ahmadiyya community claims to have some 200 members in Berlin. They present themselves as relatively liberal and clearly distinguish themselves from any form of fundamentalism.

"Love for all, hate for no one" a sign behind the imam's desk reads. Abdul Basit Tariq says he doesn't understand the opposition in Heinersdorf.

"These are unfounded fears," imam Tariq says. "People listen to the news, see scenes on television and that's why they're scared of Muslims. They think Muslims are terrorists and suicide bombers. Their heads are full of these things."

The Ahmadiyya community says it is coming in good faith and the mosque will be open to all visitors. According to imam Tariq, the group does not want to recruit new followers, as many residents fear.

None of the community even wants to live in the neighborhood. Most reside in western Berlin, in the Wedding district. But they can easily reach the Heinersdorf location, which is why the community chose it. It wants to stick to its plans in Heinsersdorf, despite the opposition.

Source: Deutsche Welle (English)

Austria: divided welcome for Muslim jeans

A new Italian line of jeans designed for Muslims and named after the holy city of Al-Quds has drawn mixed reactions among young Austrian Muslims.

"It is a victory for Islam, to my way of thinking, when clothing makers race to lure Muslims into buying their designs," Egyptian-born student Haitham Abdul-Mohsen told Saturday, April 22.

Other Austrian Muslims are not enthusiastic to name clothes after Muslim sacred places like Al-Quds, seeing it as "cheap propaganda" from such profit-seeking companies.

"I'm pretty sure that the company at issue knows well how dear Al-Quds is held by the Muslims," Syrian researcher Samer Ziyad said.

"We have never heard about any products named after the Vatican, Knesset of the 'wailing wall.'"

And he has got a clear message for the Italian company: "Stop exploiting our sanctities and Al-Quds," which is home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine.

Other Muslim youths said the jeans entrench the stereotype that Muslims were isolationists, who tend to create ghettos or parallel societies inside their respective European countries.
Tunisian-born student Ahmad Salama said Muslims are in no need to specially-designed jeans.

"We can buy baggy jeans flooding the stores," added his colleague Ahmed Basiouni.

Source: Islam Online (English)

Miscellaneous Roundup

No benefits with burka - Amsterdam alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb suggests in a recent interview that women who wear a burka will not receive unemployment benefits.

“I think it just that the benefits be refused since such a woman places herself outside the job market. Nobody wants a worker with a burka. In that case I say: take off the burka and apply for a job. If you don’t want to do it: that’s also good, but then no benefits.” (Dutch)

Hip hijabIn 1999, while seeking a graduate project idea at the Design Academy of Eindhoven, Cindy van den Bremen found a problem-solving opportunity.

The Dutch Commission of Equal Treatment had recently ruled that high schools could prohibit Muslim girls from wearing head coverings in gym class. Girls were advised to wear turtlenecks teamed with swim caps. But some were ignoring the sartorial advice, preferring instead to skip gym all together.

For Ms. van den Bremen, the phys-ed class controversy offered a means to marry her political sense of injustice with her professional expertise. "I realized that if the hijabs did not look traditional, but hip and trendy, they could possibly change prejudice into some sort of admiration," says the young Dutch designer.

Within months, the "capster" was born, and quickly blossomed into a business. In four styles designed for tennis, skating, aerobics, and outdoor sports, van den Bremen's head coverings were sleek, safe, and - in the words of a local Islamic cleric - "Islamically correct."

UK Navy Gets First Muslim AdmiralThe Royal Navy has appointed its first Muslim Rear Admiral, Pakistan-born Amjad Hussain, a British newspaper said Friday, April 14.

"I count myself very lucky to live in a country where the opportunities have been beyond my imagination," Hussain told The Sun.

Rear Admiral is the fourth-highest rank in the Royal Navy, equivalent to a major-general in the Army or an Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force.

Belgium: Imams call on public to report MP3 killers to police

The Union of Mosque Associations in Brussels (Unie van Brusselse Moskeeverenigingen) have called upon their members to help out police in finding the MP3 killers.

Two North African teenagers killed 17 year old Joe Van Holsbeeck in Brussels Central Station last week when the boy refused to hand over his MP3 player. The two ran off and have yet to be caught or identified.

According to the union president, Said Dakkar: "Our spiritual leaders will ask to hand over the offenders to justice. Whoever knows them cannot stay silent any longer but must reveal their identity. As mosques we think that Belgian justice should be able to do its work in this case."

He added that the imams will also point out to their followers that the murder took place during Easter and pass on a clear message against violence. Additionally they will ask to pray for the family of the victim.

The imams of Brussels convened Saturday after the incident. They think it regrettable that the entire Muslim immigrant community shows up in a bad light.

The killers are of school age and an attempt is made to trace them through the school system.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Germany: serial killer targeting Turks

A SERIAL killer who has shot nine people in broad daylight is sparking fear in the Turkish community in Germany.

Police have set up a joint investigation unit with detectives in Turkey to track down the man, dubbed the Kebab Killer, before he strikes again.

"There has never been a series of murders like this in Germany," said Wolfgang Geier, the superintendent leading the search. "The killer goes into a place, shoots and disappears without leaving a single trace - only the bullets."

All nine killings were committed with a Czech-made CZ-83 pistol and there is speculation over whether the murderer is a racist, a loner or a gangland killer. The latest victim was Halit Yozgat, 21, who ran an internet cafe with his father in Kassel, central Germany.

Three customers were hunched over their computers on April 6 when the killer entered, went behind the counter and shot Yozgat twice in the head. The customers said they heard only a muffled bang, as if a chair had fallen over, and did not look up from their screens. No one could identify the man, who used a silencer.

Two days earlier, the same pistol was used to kill Mehmet Kubasik, a 39-year-old Turkish father of three, who was alone in his newspaper and tobacco kiosk in Dortmund. Five bullets were fired into his head.

The case has become Germany's most enigmatic.

"We are clearly dealing with a cold-blooded criminal who carries out mafia-style executions," said Peter Boie, the state prosecutor in Munich.

The killings began in Nuremberg in September 2000, when Enver Sinisek, the owner of a mobile flower stand, was shot. The trail of blood spread around the country: fruit and vegetable shop owners in Hamburg and Munich, others in Rostock, as well as two further killings in Nuremberg.

One victim, the owner of a key-cutting shop in Munich, was Greek; the rest were Turkish. None was robbed.

Mr Geier said: "There seems to be no connection between the victims. All we can establish is that they seem to be small links in a much bigger chain."

The initial theory - that all were victims of a nationwide protection racket - does not seem solid. One of the dead Turks had been in Germany barely nine days and had no property in the country.

Police also doubt that the killer is a racist loner. The use of the same weapon suggests that he is sending a message to the Turkish community and is not acting at random.

"He wants to say, 'You are not safe'," said Stephan Harbort, a Dusseldorf police officer who is one of Germany's leading experts on serial murders.

Mr Geier added: "The killer's message is that, 'we will get you wherever you are - you can't hide from us'."

That suggests a background in organised crime. Police believe the killer must be operating with a support team.

So far, the only description comes from witnesses who saw two men leaving a kebab shop in Nuremberg last northern summer after the owner was shot. The pair had parked bicycles next to an advertising billboard.

German and Turkish detectives are investigating whether the victims were laundering money for Turkish drug clans operating from The Netherlands.

Source: The Australian (English)

UK: Jail rebuilds toilets for Muslim prisoners

JAIL bosses are rebuilding toilets so Muslim inmates don’t have to use them while facing Mecca.
Thousands of pounds of taxpayers money are being spent to ensure lags are not offended.

The Islamic religion prohibits Muslims from facing or turning their backs on the Kiblah — the direction of prayer — when they visit the lav.

Muslim lags claimed they have had to sit sideways on prison WCs.

But after pressure from faith leaders the Home Office has agreed to turn the existing toilets 90 degrees at HMP Brixton in London.

The Home Office refused to reveal the cost of the new facilities — part of an “on-going refurbishment”.

One Muslim former inmate said: “The least the Prison Service can do is make sure people can practise their religion correctly in prison.”

But a Brixton jail officer said: “If they didn’t get locked up for committing crime they would not have this problem. Yet we have to sort out their loos. If we weren’t paying for it as taxpayers I’d laugh my socks off.”

Around a quarter of prisoners at the Category B jail are Muslims.

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said: “As far as I understand this rule only applies in a place of worship.”

Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: “Some common sense needs to be applied.”

Source: Sun (English)

Germany: 9 years for 'honor' murder

A court in Germany has sentenced a man of Turkish origin to nine years in prison for the so-called "honour killing" of his sister. Ayhan Surucu's two brothers were found not guilty of conspiring in the murder. Twenty-three-year old Hatun Surucu was shot in the head by her brother in February 2005 while standing at a bus stop in a Berlin suburb. After being forced to marry a cousin in Turkey at a young age, she later left him and cut ties with her family, living independently with her five-year old son.

Surucu who was being tried as a minor faced a maxiumum sentence of ten years. It was the latest in a series of so-called honour killings recorded in Germany in recent years and sent shockwaves through the country. The case has reignited the debate over Germany's staunchly conservative Muslim population - descendants of the mainly Turkish "guest workers" who helped rebuild the post-war economy.

Source: EuroNews (English)

More info on the BBC website.

Teenager killed in Brussels Central Station

It was pretty busy in the Brussels Central Station on Wednesday afternoon, when two friends sat down to wait for the arrival of a train.

Two boys of North African descent approached the friends and asked for directions. They they tried to take the MP3 player the two were listening to. The friends resisted trying to shake the attackers off, but then one of the attackers took out a knife and knifed the owner of the MP3 player in the heart.

The two attackers fled the scene and have not been caught yet. However, police have a good description of the suspects and enough witnesses who came forward. The 17 year old victim died later in the hospital of his wounds.

According to the prosecution, this type of theft happens almost daily in Brussels, though it usually doesn't end so badly.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Update (Apr. 25, 2006):
Two Polish kids were found to be the murderers after the accomplice confessed.


Islam in Europe Blog is going on vacation for the next two weeks. I might post if there's anything truly interesting out there.


The meaning of peace

A recent article on Islam Online says that the EU has decided to be more politically correct. The EU would not be talking any more about "Islamic Terror", but rather about the “abuse of Islam by fringe groups”. It would not talk about "Jihad" in the sense of "holy war" since Jihad only means “struggle” and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What I found interesting was the following quote:
Omar Faruk, a Muslim British barrister who has advised the government on community issues, said there was a strong need for a "new sort of political dialogue and terminology".

"Those words cannot sit side by side. Islam is actually very much against any form of terrorism ... Islam in itself means peace," he said.

Doesn’t Islam mean “submission”? I looked it up in Wikipedia, which says the following:
In Arabic islām derives from the triconsonantal root Sīn-Lām-Mīm, with a basic meaning of "to surrender; to obey". Islām is a verbal abstract to this root, and literally means "submission/obedience," referring to submission to God. Salām, meaning "peace", is from the same root, compare the cognate word in Hebrew, shalom, which derives from the cognate root meaning "completeness, fulfilment, well-being", a concept usually encapsulated by translation in the word "peace".

So there is something to it. "Islam" and "Salaam" (peace) do come from the same root. In fact, looking it up, the verb "sallama" means both "to greet" and "to submit/surrender". (In Hebrew the same root is the basis for the words: peace, completion, acceptance of a situation).

This means that when a european says “peace” and when an Arabic speaker says “peace”, the two may not be talking about the same thing.

In this context, it is interesting to note the writings of the 12th century Jewish scholar, Maimonides. Maimonides lived in a Muslim world, and throughout his writings, whenever he uses the Hebrew word for peace (shalom), he uses it in the context of forcing the other to submit. It is not used in the way we use the word today, in the sense of coming to mutual agreement, of tolerance, of “peace and quiet”.

In other words, Islam might mean peace. The only question is what does peace mean.

Source: Islam Online (English)

Note: So what does Islamic Jihad really mean?

"Muslims are the scapegoats"

Originally I thought this article in Reformatorisch Dagblad focused on why Islam is blamed for all the wrongs of society. Indeed it starts off that way, but what I find most interesting (and shocking) are the conclusions.

The Scientific council for government policy (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid, WRR) recently came out with a new report “Dynamics in Islamic Activism” in which they say that it is wrong to claim that Islam conflicts with democracy and human rights in principle.

Jan Schoonenboom, researcher for WRR says that Politicians must stop with “Islam bashing” and says that Muslims are the scapegoats for many problems.

There are streams within Islamic activism that strive to democratic reforms. The WRR report argues that the Netherlands and the EU should publicly support these movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Hezbollah in Lebanon and that talks must also be started with Hamas.

Ok, to stop here and analyze: the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah (whose name means “party of Allah”) are not pro-democracy. Along with Hamas, they are fundamentalist Islamic groups, anti-secularists, and their aim is to see Muslim religious law enacted in all Muslim lands and beyond. It is hard for me to see how or why the WRR think they're groups which strive for democratic reform.

In Political Trends in the Arab World (see my review), Majid Khadduri follows the Muslim Brotherhood step by step from the time they started off and till they tried to forcibly take over power in Egypt. According to him it is unclear whether they were actually trying to reestablish the caliphate. It is quite clear, however, that they were not about to make any democratic reforms beside those democratic aspects that are already supported by current day Islam.

Continuing with the article:
The WRR researched Sharia law in various Muslim lands and came to the conclusion that though Sudan, Iran and Saudi-Arabia are very strict, democratic reform is taking place in other countries (bringing as example pro-women laws in Morocco and Egypt).

[In other words, the WRR agrees that the lands which only follow Sharia law bring up the “usual” picture of Islam, and claims that lands which supposedly follow Sharia but are actually secular countries, are the example that Sharia can work.]

Fear of Islam and Muslims makes them feel unwanted, the WRR claims. A cultural turnaround must take place. Islam can play a role in democracy and human rights and calls for a Muslim-inspired political parties.

Source: Reformatorisch Dagblad (Dutch)

Iraq: US marine killed by fellow Iraqi solider

The Iraq I saw and filmed was hallucinatory.

The most hallucinatory was the training of what’s called “the new Iraqi army”. Accepting the fact that one day they’ll leave, the Americans are now trying to train an Iraqi army that will fill the void. The Americans, again, either due to naivety or to a vision I hadn’t grasped, or in the framework of that movie they’re in, are convinced that all Iraqis whoever they may be will abandon his fanatical aspirations as Shiite, Sunni or Kurd and enlist for one common goal that was drawn up in Washington.

According to news reports, an Iraqi solider killed a US Marine before he was shot and seriously injured by another marine.

US military statement: ''Just as we as American military men and women trust one another with our lives, we also trust our Iraqi counterparts, and that trust has not wavered."

France: 25 years for girl's torture murder

Sohane Benziane (1984–October 4, 2002) was a French Muslim girl who was murdered at the age of 17.

On October 4, 2002 in Vitry-sur-Seine, in a predominently Muslim satellite town of Paris, 17 year old Sohane Benziane, the daughter of Kabyle immigrants, was burned alive in front of her friends in a cellar by a Muslim gang leader after he had an argument with her former boyfriend. While a watch was kept outside, the aggressor, a local caid nicknamed Nono ,who had bought the bottle of gasoline a day before ,poured gasoline over Sohane and set her on fire with a lighter.

As Sohanne, engulfed in flames, managed to run out screaming in agony her death was witnessed by a dozen other students that were coming out of class.

The incident captured the attention of the French and International press and sparked outrage throughout France. It led to the founding of the Feminist rights movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises.

The local gang leader, Jamal Derrar, was sentenced today to 25 years in jail. The BBC, being overly politically correct, manages to somehow only mention in the last line that the victim was Muslim. The ethnic identity of the murderer is never mentioned.

Derrar was convicted of pouring petrol over Sohane in the basement depot, then approaching her with a cigarette lighter and setting her on fire.

She died later at a hospital with burns over 80% of her body.

Derrar claimed she was his former girlfriend - a claim denied by witnesses - and that he had only been trying to scare her.

The court heard she had been attacked because she was the girlfriend of another man with whom Derrar had quarrelled.

A second defendant, 23-year-old Tony Rocca, was sentenced to eight years for barring the door of the depot as Sohane screamed for help.

Demanding a heavy sentence, prosecutor Jean-Paul Content told the court on Friday that the image of a woman being burned alive was sending France "several centuries back".

"Her death has become the symbol of the most extreme violence against women," he added.

Source: BBC, Wikipedia (English)

Conference of European Imams

The following are excerpts from a speech given by Benita Ferrero-Waldner (European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy) at 2nd Imams and Female Preachers in Europe Conference which is taking place in Vienna.

The European Commission is fully committed to fostering dialogue with Europe’s major religions and communities of conviction.

It is particularly important that the Islamic communities of Europe hear that message at the moment, when there is renewed attention to the so-called clash of civilisations.

I say “so-called” because this term is a misnomer. What we are facing today is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance.

After all, we have our roots in the same civilisations. Our major religions stem from the same root, belief in one god and the revelation.

But unfortunately these commonalities are too-often overlooked. In today’s uncertain times, the need to enhance cooperation and deepen understanding between peoples, cultures and faiths has never been more pressing.

As we reflect on the meaning and identity of Europe in the 21st Century, this Conference’s reflection on Islam in Europe is extremely welcome.

Europe is home to an estimated 20 million Muslims. So it is clear that Islam is as much a part of modern day Europe as it has been part of its history.

Europeans are proud of our religious, cultural and linguistic diversity, and yet “unity in diversity”, the EU’s motto, has still to be achieved. The reaction to the cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed were just the latest example of the gulfs of misunderstanding within Europe and beyond.

Freedom of religion is non-negotiable. It is a fundamental right of individuals and communities and entails respect for the integrity of all religious convictions and all ways in which they are exercised. Similarly, freedom of expression is central to Europe’s values and traditions. It is also non-negotiable. But it does come with responsibilities and should be exercised with the necessary sensitivity to others.

Two principles should guide us. First, it is unacceptable that any one group in society – Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Secular – seek the sole right to fix the parameters. And second, respect and understanding are the keys to any acceptable outcome.

Against this background it is immensely encouraging that you are here from across Europe to discuss the key issues Muslims in Europe face today: integration, political participation, equal opportunities for women, youth, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect.

It is emphatically not a question of European versus Islamic values. Nor is it a question of assimilation or of any community giving up core beliefs and value which are closes to their heart. As the Graz Declaration made clear, it is about European Muslims exercising their religious identity as Muslims and their social identity as Europeans, without any contradiction.

As respected leaders of your communities, you can work with us in combating ignorance and fighting fundamentalism and extremism on all sides.

Source: Europa (English/German)

Denmark: new Muslim cemetery

Denmark has launched a peace message to the Islamic world following the tensions for the Mohammed cartoon, by allowing the construction of a Muslim cemetery. Seven years after the formal request, the Ministry for Ecclesiastic Affairs has authorised the construction of a structure on 50 thousand square metres south of Copenhagen. "We are happy, it is a sign that Islam and the Muslims are part of Danish society and it expresses the tolerance that, I believe, characterises this government," commented Kasem Said Ahmad, president of the Danish Islamic Foundation for Burials, which owns the land. Local politicians opposed the cemetery. 80% of the Danish population belongs to the national Lutheran church.

Source: AGI online (English)

Complaints about Amsterdam Muslim school "recruitment" methods

The Amsterdam municipality is asking for clarifications from the Islamic Elementary School Association (Stichting Islamitische Basisscholen Amsterdam, Siba) after parents complained they had been approached on school grounds to convince them to place their kids in a Muslim school.

Three of the four Siba school do not have enough students according to the national standards. The dropping number of students by the Siba schools is caused by the organizational and financial chaos going on there. Many parents have already pulled their kids out of school, while many others are considering doing so at the end of the year.

Mohamed Elahi, Siba president, denied any such claims saying it must have been parents of kids in the Islamic school who where just passing on word-of-mouth advertising.

Source: Parool (Dutch)

Sweden: When incitement is allowed

The following are parts of an opinion article written by four Swedish Jews about a recent decision by the Swedish government not to investigate Muslim incitement against Jews in Sweden.

Discussions about the limits of freedom of expression are running high right now, not least because of the Muhammed cartoons in Danish Jyllandsposten. The EU Council states in a controversial message on the 27th February, that it acknowledges and regrets that these cartoons were considered offensive and distressing by Muslims across the world and that a spirit of respect for religious and other beliefs should prevail.

It is a crime in Sweden to express derogatory statements about ethnic, racial, national, religious and sexual minorities or to incite hatred and violence against them. Simultaneously the limits of what one can express in Sweden against Jews are being expanded gradually. All Jewish institutions in Sweden are being continuously guarded because of threats directed to Jewish individuals as well as to Jewish institutions, and the Jewish communities spend 25% of their budget on security.

The hate website Radio Islam continues to spew forth its coarse Anti-Semitism, spread lists of Jews (real or imagined) and conspiracy theories on its site without the security police or the prosecuting authorities doing anything about it. When the radical right-wing party the Sweden Democrats on the other hand, had one of the Muhammed cartoons on its web-site, it was closed down after a quick and direct intervention by an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the beginning of this year, the Chancellor of Justice, Goran Lambertz, discontinued his preliminary investigation against the great mosque in Stockholm. Cassette tapes had been sold in the bookshop of the mosque with a violently Anti-Semitic contents. After a couple of broadcasts on the 26 and 27th November last year, the Stockholm mosque was reported to the police.

In his decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation Lambertz wrote that “the lecture at hand contains statements that are strongly degrading to Jews, among other things, they are throughout called brothers of apes and pigs.” Furthermore a curse is expressed over the Jews and “Jihad is called for, to kill the Jews, whereby suicide bombers - celebrated as martyrs - are the most effective weapon”. The Chancellor raises the question whether the statements “should be judged differently, and be considered allowed, because they are used by one side in a continuing profound conflict, where battle cries and invectives are part of everyday occurrences in the rhetoric that surround the conflict.” Lambertz thought that the “recently mentioned statements in spite of their contents are not to be considered “incitement against an ethnic group according to Swedish law”. His conclusions were that the preliminary investigation should be discontinued because this case of incitement against Jews could be said to originate from the Middle East conflict. That is, in spite of the calls for ”killing the Jews”, these statements are not a crime in the legal sense in Sweden, because of the current conflict in the Middle East, according to the Chancellor of Justice. The logical conclusion is clear. If one mentions Palestine in hate speeches and calls for massmurder against Jews, one risks nothing in Sweden.

One could say that the "battle cries and invectives" that are "everyday occurences" in the Middle East happen to come only from one side against the other. I have yet to see the Jewish rhetoric calling to wipe out all Muslims or Arabs from the Middle East.

However, I also find the general conclusion itneresting. What Lambertz is saying is that since Muslims call to kill Jews in the Middle East, it is fine for them to do it in Sweden as well. I wonder what would happen if Jews in Sweden would call for a holy war against Muslims (as part of the Middle East Conflict, of course). Would that be allowed? How about other things that Muslims do in the Middle East and that happen to be against Swedish law?

Source: European Jewish Press (English)

Denmark: employment and immigrants

A new study shows that the best way for immigrants to find a job is to be willing to integrate: learn the local language and have contact with the local people. They must need to actively look for a job and not just be willling to work.

Foreigners on the hunt for their first job in Denmark are faced with deflating reality: employers place most weight on work experience from another Danish company, according a study from SFI - The Danish National Institute of Social Research.

The SFI report, which studied how people with non-Western origins faired in the labour market, also named language skills and a social network as important tools for breaking down the barrier to employment.

'We were surprised that education and experience from abroad did not make it easier to find a job in Denmark,' said study leader Anders Rosendahl to business daily Idag. 'Education and experience have to be Danish if you want to increase your chances of finding a job.'

After looking at the reasons why some immigrants move off social benefits and into work, the
SFI study found that the group that remained unemployed blamed their situation on poor health or companies' preference for hiring Danes.

'Even though they haven't been discriminated against, they are convinced that Danish companies prefer Danes. That prevents them from looking for jobs,' Rosendahl said.

He suggests that companies clearly indicate that they do not discriminate. 'That shouldn't be necessary, but our study shows that it is.'

The study characterised immigrants that found work into two groups: those who wrote mounds of applications and were persistent in following up, and those who were willing, but not necessarily able due to their lack of knowledge of how the job market works.

The willing most often find work through municipal job placement programmes, which rely on the co-operation of companies that place an importance on social responsibility.

'There are a lot of the 'willing' in the group that never find work. If companies want to help out with this important task, they can take on workers on special conditions,' Rosendal said.
Despite record low unemployment, nearly a fourth of all 18-64 year olds with a non-Western heritage received temporary social benefits for most of 2003. Nearly 83 percent were still jobless in 2004.

Portrait of an employed immigrant
The SFI study found that employed immigrants had the following characteristics:
- In good health
- Spouse born in Denmark
- Spouse also employed
- Good Danish skills
- Job experience in Denmark
- Had employment insurance
- Social network with links to the job market
- Contact with ethnic Danes
- Not an asylum seeker or related to one
- Descendant of immigrants rather an immigrant
- Been in Denmark for several years
- Male
- Under 35

Source: Jyllands-Posten (English)

Muslim boycott over?

A group of prominent Muslim scholars has called for an end to the boycott of the Danish retailer Arla Foods, in what may prove to be a major step toward resolving the crisis between Muslim nations and Denmark over the publication last autumn of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The International Committee for the Support of the Final Prophet, in a statement issued at the end of a meeting of prominent religious leaders in Bahrain last week, advised that "Arla Foods should be withdrawn from the boycott on Denmark," in recognition of the company's efforts to reach out to the Muslim world.

Arla, the second-largest dairy products company in Europe and the largest Danish packaged foods supplier in the Middle East, saw its sales drop to nearly zero in the region when the boycott began in February. Although the statement names only Arla, the move is widely expected to break the embargo on other Danish suppliers in the region.

The scholars' statement said that their recommendation "is based on the announcements that Arla Foods had placed throughout the Middle East condemning the actions of the Danish newspaper, as well as refusing to accept any excuse in this regard."

Arla last week placed full-page ads in major Arab newspapers condemning the cartoons for insulting Islam, a move that sparked as much approbation in Denmark as it did applause in the Middle East.

Many muslim scholars were divided about ending the boycott.

"Any human being or a country that lifts the ban and stops boycotting Danish companies or the arrogant Danish government is not worthy of being a Muslim," said Abd Al Moaty Bayoumy, former dean of the faculty of theology at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The boycott must continue, he said, "until the government, not the companies apologize."

But Abdel Ghaffar Helal, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence and Koranic studies at Al-Azhar, applauded the step for emphasizing dialogue over anger.

"We urge Muslims not to boycott but to engage. All Westerners see of Muslims is the negative news in the media. They should see another side," he said.

Many retailers said they intended to keep Danish goods off their shelves. By Tuesday, Petersen said, Arla's products could be found in only 1,500 stores in the region, far from the 50,000 stores that carried its products before.

"The boycott is not in our hands or in the hands of the government. It's in the hands of the people and ultimately the consumer must decide," said a product manager at the Sharjah Cooperative Society, a retailer in the emirate of Sharjah, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. [I find this quote interesting.. wasn't it the stores who took the products off the shelf? If it were in the hands of the people, the stores would stock it and let the people decide, no?]

At least some customers have already decided. At a local Geant outlet in Dubai on Tuesday, Mansoureh Abidi, a housewife from Iran, said she was very happy to find Three Cows cheese on shelves again. "I bought it before and I like it very much. Last week, when I saw it on the shelf, I thought, 'This is my lucky day.' I bought 10 packages," she said.

Source: International Herald Tribune (English)

Germany: Merkel to meet Islamic leaders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to have talks later this year with leaders of the country's 3.3 million Muslims, a report said Wednesday.

Merkel is due to invite the heads of 16 Islamic groups to the chancellery before parliament's summer recess to boost dialogue after worldwide protests over cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, said the newspaper Die Welt.

The move comes amid unprecedented calls by German teachers for the closure of a Berlin high school following massive disruptions by Arab and Turkish students.

Chancellor Merkel expressed alarm over any such move and officials agreed to keep the school open with beefed up security and additional teachers.

"We must deal with the root of the problem," said Merkel.

In a related development, the Islamic Religious Community of Berlin, published a nine-page "state treaty" it is proposing to be signed by Merkel and German Muslim leaders.

The treaty calls on Berlin to provide Muslims with places of worship in public buildings and to mandate more coverage of Islam on state-funded public TV.

Muslim community members should be given access to German public schools in order to conduct Islamic religious instruction, the treaty says.

The German government should also start paying the Muslim community about 6.1 million euros (7.4 million dollars) a year to fund activities and administrative costs, says the draft treaty.

Mainly Muslim Turks numbering about 2.5 million are Germany's biggest minority out of a total population of 82 million.

Source: Expatica (English)

Undercover in Klein-Marokko

A review of this book is available here.

Moroccan-Belgian journalist Hind Fraihi researched radical Islam in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels. She published her reports in Het Nieuwsblad and has now come out with a book called "Undercover in Klein-Marokko" (Undercover in Little Morocco) detailing her findings.

The following are parts of an interview with Fraihi. She was also interviewed on Dutch TV and the interview can be seen online.

Q: During your research in Molenbeek you posed as a student sociologist in order to ferret out how strongly extremism has penetrated Muslim society. Didn’t it feel like treason when you later wrote your findings down – first in articles for our newspaper and now in a book?

I was told it was a hunt for sensation. I was seeing a problem that wasn’t there. But then it became known that a Belgian convert had blown herself up in Iraq. If admit that I thought then for a moment, “Voila, there you have it already. Just solve it now.” I’m no traitor. I see myself first as a doctor. One that tries to trace the painful areas in the hope that a cure would be found. I’ve received criticism, but I haven’t lost friends for it. And I could always count on my parents’ full support. I even think that they’re proud because their daughter has begun a necessary debate. Only that debate has not yet arrived by the Muslims. I’m especially disillusioned by the lack of support from moderate Muslims. They have left me out in the codl. I know that many agree with me, but they prefer to shut their eyes.

Q: The pro-integration sector even accused you that you’re playing into Vlaams Belang’s hands. In your book you strike back: The integration sector is on a drip. Like a terminal patient that doesn’t accept his fate, they continue to twitch.”

That sector is completely absurd. For me it’s simple. Whoever doesn’t want to integrate, won’t
feel here at home and then we don’t need to invest any money in it either. Integration is a superfluous word. Everybody must hold by the general applying social rules. And whoever doesn’t think those rules are good must leave. I have good advice for all who don’t feel here at home: bug off.

Further we must live together simply in peace. But then indeed “together”. The existence of separate islands, such as in Molenbeek, where a separate Muslim state is grown and where Belgium feels sometimes so far away.

Q: You’re also very critical of Muslims. You describe them as “satellite junkies”, as “willing marionette”. But who holds the strings?

The Arab leaders. With the satellite dishes, the connection with the Arab world stays so strong that many immigrants don’t even try to build up connections with Belgium. And those Arab broadcasters fill most of the days with news reports about Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.. Sensational pictures and stories, with the main goal to make sure that people don’t concern themselves with the enormous internal problems in the Arab countries.

Every now and then I don’t understand it at all. All those protests against the cartoons, for example. What difference could those silly cartoons make for me? There are so many much more terrible things. In most Arab lands medical care is lamentable, education is failing, and unemployment is sky high. There’s an enormous gulf between rich and poor. That is all blasphemy, that is against Islam. But against those they don’t go out on the street.

Q: Are you yourself religious?

Yes, Islam is my religion. I believe in Allah.

Q: During your talks with kids hanging around there was a lot of macho talk. Do you have the feeling that they really mean it when they say that they’ll sacrifice themselves for their Muslim brothers in Iraq?

I’m certain that some of these kids truly mean it. The frustration over their lack of future, their solidarity with the war victims and an ambition to be heroic is all swirling in their heads. They truly dream of their private hero tale. A few live with their head already in paradise. And yes, they truly believe in those virgins that wait there for them. It won’t surprise me if tomorrow a new suicide terrorist from Belgium will commit an attack in the Middle East.

Q: It’s clearly more than incomprehension by you. Here and there the anger bursts out of the pages

I’m angry. I love my religion and my origins. It pains me to see how some misuse that religion to incite people to violence. I see with sorry how those extremists get more and more influence. I feel how they try to force their vision also on moderate Muslims. In some neighborhoods you’ll be spit and swore at if you’re an unveiled Muslim women. Women like me are called “apostates”.

You also notice how those extremists talk about Belgians. A few years ago Belgians were simply Belgians, now they’re the “unbelievers”.

Q: At the end of your book you call to “do something”. But what?

The government must really tackle the problems in, for example, Molenbeek. They must show that they offer solution and not the extremists. Let them begin with the unemployment problem, especially that of the kids. Then they should put in effort into better education and the fight against filth and deterioration. Molenbeek should again look like a cheerful place.

But that is not only the task of the government. The Belgian Moroccan can also put in more effort, in place of always complaining that they’ve been left behind. Is it so difficult to sweep your own pavement clean and make sure that kids go to school? Why isn’t child care money taken away if kids don’t go to school? Why are there no fines when trash is thrown out on the pavement?

It sounds repressive? Maybe. But sometimes that is simply needed.

Source: Het Nieuwsblad (Dutch)

Mosque chosen prettiest building in Rotterdam

The Melvana Mosque, built in Ottoman style in 2001, was chosen by the people of Rotterdam as the most beautiful building in the city. The mosque was described as "timeless", and according to one voter: "It's graceful lines stands out against the rigid city architecture." Others saw it as a symbol of warmth and hospitality.

The vote was a close race, with the Erasmus Bridge and the "white house" coming close after.

Source: (Dutch) (hat tip, Wij Blijven Hier)

Villeurbanne gets mosque

French Muslims in the southeastern city of Villeurbanne will no longer be crammed into vault prayer rooms or perform the weekly Friday prayer in the open as a grand mosque, accommodating 1,000 worshipers, opens its doors on Sunday, April 2.

"Villeurbanne now has a mosque in the true, literal sense of the word," Azzedin Gaci, the imam of the new mosque and the chairman of the French Council for Muslim Faith (CFCM) chapter in the Rhone Alpes province, told

"A handful of Muslim places of worship in France can be called mosques," Gaci said.
"French Muslims are entitled to establish grand mosques to be a source of pride for both Muslims and Islam."

The three-storey Othman Mosque is built on 1,200 square meters with a huge library, school and a parking lot.

Gaci said what is unique about the new mosque is its absolute financial independence. "It is 100 percent funded by French Muslims and has received no foreign aid," he added. The Islamic Cultural League in France, which supervised the construction of the Othman Mosque, raised one million euros for the project from French Muslims. "This financial independence will consequently make the mosque politically independent from any foreign influences," said Gaci.

"It is open for all Muslims irrespective of their ethnic or communal backgrounds. It is, in fact, a stepping stone towards a 'French Islam' as the problems facing Muslims here are purely French."

Note: A 'grand mosque', also known as 'Friday mosque' is the mosque where the Muslim community congregates for Friday prayers.

Source: Islam Online (English)

Belgium: Work by immigrant women

Barely 11% of Turkish and Moroccan women (15 to 64 year olds) go out to work in Belgium, according to Belgian parliament member Annemie Turtleboom. Turtleboom sees several reasons: the language barrier, but also cultural elements. Many immigrants have a more traditional picture of society and by many, she’s sure, the woman is not allowed to go out.

Turtleboom wants to force women to make the choice – either they go out looking for a job, or they will lose their benefits.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

UK terrorist plots

Whitehall officials have told the BBC they are now facing an unprecedented number of terrorist plots in Britain.

They say the threat of home-grown terrorism has increased substantially since the Iraq invasion of 2003, and that 50% of recent disrupted plots are home-grown, involving British nationals living in Britain. (Note: The Arabic version of this article mentioned 55%)

Whitehall officials have also said that in practice, counter-terrorism in this age means stopping most but not necessarily all attacks.

The intelligence services are currently undergoing a major expansion with the aim of doubling in size to around 3,000 members each, but it will take years before new recruits are vetted and trained - time which would-be terrorists are expected to exploit.

Source: BBC (English)

Police called in to Berlin school

Police have been deployed at a Berlin school after teachers complained that they could not cope with their students' aggression and disrespect.

Six officers were posted at the Ruetli secondary school in Berlin's Neukoelln district to check students for weapons.

In a letter asking for help, the head teacher said it had become almost impossible to hold orderly lessons.

Students were said to be ignoring or even attacking the teachers and fighting among themselves.
A teacher who recently left the school told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that ethnic Arab pupils were in the majority and were bullying ethnic Turks, Germans and other nationalities.

A student at the school told German N24 television that pupils were coming to school armed. "Things have been getting worse and worse because people seem to be crazy here. They are bringing knives and weapons to school," the teenager said.

The education minister for Berlin, Klaus Boeger, said the school would soon be given two social workers and two psychologists to help pupils.

Source: BBC (English)