The butterfly and the tornado

Before the Muslim world exploded ... before the riots and the arson and the murder ... before a Danish newspaper printed 12 cartoons, Kaare Bluitgen was an author trying to find an illustrator for his biography of the Prophet Muhammad. What happened next seemed bizarre. But to others, it was almost predictable

A (somewhat long) overview of the Danish cartoon riots by Dan Gardner appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

Rikke Hvilshoj doesn't resemble anyone's image of a bigot, but the petite, 36- year-old blond represents a government that has been accused of bigotry.

The Danish minister of refugee, immigration and integration says her government's program is far from the radical rejection of immigration and multiculturalism it has been made out to be.

"What we see is communities in Denmark that live in the Danish geography but in their minds they live in another part of the world," she says. "And that is a problem. For me, successful integration is that everyone in Danish society feels a part of the same community, that they see themselves as active citizens in this society."

That doesn't mean the end of multiculturalism, she insists. "We are not trying to assimilate people. That is not our vision. As a Liberal, as I am, we shall always respect different religions, different cultural backgrounds."

What's needed, she says, is an agreement among all Danes, whatever their faith or culture, that certain values are fundamental and must be respected. "They are not especially Danish values," she says, "but they are Western fundamental values. It's democracy. It's freedom of speech, freedom to choose your religion, or to not choose your religion, that's just as important. It's rule of law.

"And it's equality between men and women. I want to make sure Denmark is a place where there is room for different cultures, different religions, but I also have a limit."

Rikke Hvilshoj manages to hit it right on the nail. What Europe needs right now is to define its values, to decide what it is that makes European countries liberal and democratic. It's not the right to vote, it's the personal freedoms afforded each and every resident.

Source: Ottawa Citizen (English)

Denmark: language course cuts down on uemployment

Intensive language courses at Århus Language Centre is one of the ways the municipality is helping immigrants find their way to the job market

A concentrated effort by Århus county in preparing foreigners for the job market has been a big success in cutting down immigrant unemployment.

The number of unemployed refugees and immigrants in the county has been nearly halved since 2004, daily newspaper Århus Stiftstidende reported Sunday.

'Municipalities currently have excellent opportunities to help public welfare recipients join the labour force,' said Christian Aagaard, the chair of the Labour Market Council for Århus County.

Just two years ago, about 3000 unemployed refugees and immigrants from non-Western countries in the county were listed as unemployed. Today, that number is fast approaching only 1500, and the positive trend appears to be continuing, according to labour market officials.

Århus Language Centre has played a key role in helping the county reduce the number of immigrants on its unemployment rolls. Intensive language courses have provided a helping hand for a number of analphabetic immigrants, according to Poul Neergaard, the centre's principal.

'We can't keep track of all of the participants after they have left us, but some of them find jobs during their courses, while others find jobs afterward,' said Neergaard.

The centre has a number of cooperative agreements with the postal service, construction companies and the police.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Norway: 50% of original immigrants on welfare

Half of the first immigrants to Norway in the first half of the 1970s are now living on state payments.

The figure comes from a new study by the Frisch Center for Socio-economic Research and is supported by the University of Oslo, newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reports.

The study focused on 2,500 immigrants from Pakistan, India, Turkey and Morocco born between 1936 and 1955, and compared with a control group of Norwegians of the same age.

In their first ten years the immigrants were actively employed, and as many were employed as Norwegians. But after this period their activity declined sharply, and by 2000 half of the immigrants were unemployed, compared to 13 percent of their Norwegian peers.

Of the unemployed immigrants, 74 percent were on disability payments and 17 percent were receiving other types of welfare compensation.

"I was surprised by how great the fall was, and how many immigrants who are caught up in various forms of welfare benefits. These are people who came here to work, not to flee from war and persecution," said Knut Røed, one of the authors of the study.

There are two main theories for why so many immigrants are no longer employed. One is that immigrants are far more vulnerable than Norwegians to unemployment during hard times and the other is that it pays to be on welfare.

"It is especially people who have poorly paid jobs, wives who don't work and many children that can profit by getting disability pay," said researcher Oddbjørn Raum.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Yemen: Westerners arrested for terrorism

Last Wednesday Danish news reported that an ethnic Danish national was arrested in Yemen for weapons smuggling. Turns out he was part of a weapons smuggling ring that is now being charged with terrorism. All together, eight westerners were arrested, apparently all converts to Islam.

Eight foreigners with alleged links to al-Qaeda have been arrested in Yemen on suspicion of trying to smuggle weapons to Somalia, the interior ministry says.

An official said the alleged smugglers included three Australians, one Danish national, a Briton and a German, but gave no details on the identities of the two others.

"The eight foreigners were arrested because they smuggled weapons to Somalia from Yemen," the official said in a statement posted on the state-run news agency Saba.

"Preliminary investigations indicate that they are members of al-Qaeda."

Government sources in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, told Reuters news agency that the eight men had converted to Islam earlier this year and received religious instruction in the country.

A security official told Associated Press that at least four of the men had been studying at the Iman University, which is run by Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani. The US considers al-Zindani to be an al-Qaeda supporter.

Danish national

A Danish foreign ministry official confirmed the arrest of the Dane, but refused to identify him.

"All I can say is that a Danish national has been arrested according to our information," said Uffe Wolffheckel of the foreign ministry's consular service.

Danish media said the suspect is a 23-year-old male who converted to Islam and moved to Yemen two months ago with his wife and child.

Yemen is believed to be a frequent route for smuggling arms to Somali factions.

Last month, Yemen claimed that it had broken up an al-Qaeda-linked cell that was behind foiled attacks on oil and gas installations.

Source: Aljazeera (English)

See also: Scandinavian Terrorism

Belgium: More stuff burning

Two attempts at torching trash cans were recorded in the Brussels suburb of Neder-Over-Heembeek Saturday night. The arsonist was identified and located. The trash cans were lined up next to a youth club. There was no damage and no injuries.

A day ealier six cars were torched in the same municipality.

Source: HLN (Dutch)


In Sint-Jans-Molenbeek this Sunday, a group of youth stoned the Brussels fire brigade when it came to put out a fire. Sint-Jans-Molenbeek is a suburb of Brussels with a high percentage of Moroccan residents. The fire broke out in a residence at about 1pm. While the fire brigade was trying to put out the fire, a group of youth began to throw stones at the firemen. The police had to be called in and the fire brigade made tracks after it put out the fire. There were no injuries.

More on the trash can torching incident: It turns out that the fire brigade were first called to put out a fire in the youth center. While the fire brigade was busy putting out the fire, somebody set the trash cans outside the center on fire. The incidents took place at about 2 am.

The youth center had been broken into, but it is unclear whether anything was stolen. The damage to the youth center is considerable.

The police is therefore contradicting its original version of events, as brought above.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Cars burning

Belgium: Cars burning

A gang of youth set a car on fire in Tubize this past Saturday night, around 8pm. Tubize is a municipality in the province of Walloon Brabant. The fire brigade found fire inducers on the site and evidence pointing to criminal intent.

Meanwhile, on Friday 6 cars were set on fire in Neder-Over-Heembeek, a suburb of Brussels. The cars, in two different streets, were set on fire at around 4 am. The fire brigade was called to the scene but could not prevent the cars from burning up. The police and fire brigade originally suspected the arson was related to the anniversary of the riots in France, but discovered later that the cars had been burglarized, thereby coming to the conclusion that the thieves wanted to mask their trail.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

Flemish taboos: Jesus vs. Allah

A recent survey in the Netherlands investigated what are the big taboos in Dutch culture. Following up on that, De Standaard surveyed what are the big taboos in Flemish culture.

What I found interesting are the taboos rounding the top ten list:

9. Believing in Jesus

It is not so easy to be a believing Christian. Rik Torfs, professor of church law: "For a long time we've lived under the whip of the church and now that we are freed of the church institute, we also freed ourselves from the faith. Even so terrible that you don't dare anymore to admit that you still believe. I am often asked: 'How can it be that an intelligent man is religious?' Also believing in the resurrection of Jesus is a taboo."

10. Not believing in Allah

In Christianity believing is a taboo, but in Islam the taboo is not to believe. Philosoph Tarek Fraihi: "It is difficult as a Muslim to say to the Muslim community that you believe in the cultural aspects of Islam but not in the religious. I believe in the values of Islam, but not in prayer. Saying that you don't take part in Ramadan and therefore eat, is a taboo in the Muslim community."

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Dutch study: why are Moroccans schizophrenic

According to a study in The Hague, the risk for schizophrenia by Moroccan men in the Netherlands is six times greater than by ethnic Dutch, but the risk by women is not significantly higher.

For Moroccans of the second generation, the chance of this psychiatric disorder is 11 times as high than for ethnic members of the same age group. For the second generation the total number of patients was too small in order to draw conclusion about sex differences.

On the other hand, the risk for migrants form Turkey were only slightly higher by men and not high at all for women.

Doctor JP Selten is now running a study to find the cause for these difference.

Source: ZonMw (Study site, Dutch)

Relationship between press and politics

This is not really related to Islam in Europe, but it shows how the press is seen in the Arab world. Tunisia is upset at how it is being portrayed by Aljazeera, which is based in Qatar and so in protest, it closed its embassy in Qatar.

In other words, it saw a report in what is supposedly a free enterprise TV station, as a political statement for which the gov't is reponsible. This is quite similar to the Arab expectations of Denmark. Arabs expected the Danish gov't to take steps against Jyllands-Posten after it published the cartoons, since there is no such concept as "free press" in the Arab world. If a Danish newspaper published something, it must be endorsed by its gov't as well.

If Aljazeera is indeed a free press, then this move should worry all those who support freedom of the press.

Aljazeera has denied that it is pursuing a "political agenda" against Tunisia, after Tunis closed its embassy in Doha to protest against an alleged "hostile campaign" by the Qatar-based television channel.

Waddah Khanfar, the director general of Aljazeera network, told AFP: "We do not have a political agenda against Tunisia or any other side.

"We regret the Tunisian decision, and we reaffirm that we are committed to [providing a platform for] different views".

Aljazeera would welcome "any Tunisian official who would want to speak to the channel," Khanfar said.

"When we host certain figures, it does not mean that Aljazeera endorses their positions," he said.

No comment

"When we host certain figures, it does not mean that Aljazeera endorses their positions"

Waddah Khanfar, chairman, Aljazeera network

The Qatari government has not commented on Tunisia's decision to close its Doha embassy.

Thursday's Qatari press reported the news but withheld editorial comment.

The Tunisian move followed the airing by Aljazeera of interviews with Moncef Marzouki, an opposition activist based in Paris who called for "civil resistance".

The Tunisian foreign ministry released a statement on Wednesday accusing Aljazeera of ignoring “truth and objectivity every time that it deals with current affairs in Tunisia ... apparently waging a hostile campaign aimed at harming Tunisia".

Source: Aljazeera (English)

EU: Veils an obstacle to communication

The veils in this article are obviously niqabs and burqas.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, has called veils worn by Muslim women obstacles to communication.

Barroso made the comments in an interview published in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper on Thursday.

Commenting on a controversy that has broken out most recently in Europe in Britain, Barroso was quoted as saying that he opposed laws that said what could and could not be worn.

"But there are matters of common sense," he said.

"I give you an example: a teacher who presents herself to students with a completely veiled face is not doing something reasonable in our society.

"And in general, if a person wants to communicate she can't present herself with a veil that covers her entire face, except for a small opening for the eyes. It's clear that that's an obstacle."

The controversy

By making such comments, Barroso threw himself into the highly charged debate that has broken out in some European countries.

"If a person wants to communicate she can't present herself with a veil that covers her entire face, except for a small opening for the eyes. It's clear that that's an obstacle"

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president

The controversy about veils in Europe was rekindled when Jack Straw, Britain's former foreign minister, said Muslim women who wore full veils made community relations difficult, calling veils a "visible statement of separation and difference".

Tony Blair, the British prime minister, called veils a "mark of separation", while Romano Prodi, the Italian prime minister said it was a matter of common sense that people show their faces in public.

The question of whether Europe is doing enough to integrate Muslims has been addressed by the government since the attacks in July last year when British-born Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people.

Source: Al Jazeera (English)

Norway: Terror or crime

Four men arrested in connection with firing at Oslo's synagogue have been accused of a terror plot to blow up the US and Israeli embassies, as well as to abduct the Israeli ambassador to Norway and behead her.

The question is if there's enough evidence.

Police have admitted that part of what they thought were plans for a terrorist act were discussions about robbing a grocery store.

A secretly taped conversation between a 29-year-old chief suspect and a Norwegian during a drive through Oslo's embassy district is the key piece of evidence turned up by the Police Security Service (PST).

The 29-year-old has been charged with firing on the Oslo synagogue and plotting to attack the Israeli and US embassies.

Police now acknowledge that parts of the recorded conversation in fact involve plans to rob a budget grocery store in the Skillebekk district of Oslo, newspaper VG reports.

Both of the men on the tape give this version of events, and recently a friend of David Toska, the so-called mastermind of the Norwegian Cash Service (NOKAS) heist, Norway's biggest ever robbery, supported the story.

According to VG, police still believe that the two men also discussed plans to blow up the US and Israeli embassies in Oslo.

An appeals court on Friday rejected a petition to release these two from custody, and their period in remand will now continue. There are a total of four men charged with planning terrorism and firing on the synagogue.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Norway: Terrorism

Belgians not optimistic of relations between religions

Belgians are not optimistic about the relationship between Muslims and Christians. 61% think tensions will only go up, according to a survey by research group Ipsos of 783 Belgians.

Barely 7% of those surveyed think that the tensions will decline, 61% are frankly pessimistic and think that tensions will rise. Especially Flemish and men fear that tensions will escalate.

It's striking that the older one is, the more people think that tensions will subside. Those with higher education are again pessimistic and see a "clash of civilizations" coming closer. Muslims are more optimistic than Catholics.

Most of those surveyed think that criticism of religion is allowed (59%), on condition that the convictions of the believers are respected. In contrast, 23% are of the opinion that criticism of religion is simply not allowed. Practicing believers especially are reserved of criticism of religion. Barely 16% think that any form of criticism is allowed, without taking account of the believers.

Veils in the street do not extremely bother the Belgians. A majority of Belgians (58%) say that religious symbols should be allowed in public. Also here it is especially the practicing believers who support religious symbols in public.

The majority of those surveyed (71%) think of themselves as Catholic, but barely 27% of them are (relatively) practicing. Those who follow another religious are much more practicing (44%).

Other results of this survey can be found on Expatica (English).

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Denmark: Court throws out cartoons defamation suit

The drawings of Mohammed printed in Jyllands-Posten newspaper were not racist, a court in Århus has decided

Two editors of Jyllands-Posten newspaper have been acquitted of racism charges stemming from its publication of 12 drawings of the prophet Mohammed in September 2005.

Seven Muslim organisations had charged editor in chief Carsten Juste and culture editor Flemming Rose with racism in civil suit.

The court said the organisations had not proven that the drawings or the accompanying articles had intentionally offended Muslims.

The decision is the third time the Muslim organisations have had their efforts to have the newspaper charged with racism turned down by the courts. They will appeal today's decision.

The courts rejected other attempts to have the paper tried for criminal charges of blasphemy, racism and hate speech.

The decision came as no surprise to Juste.

'Anything other than an acquittal would have been a catastrophe for freedom of the press,' he said. 'You can say what you want about the drawings and the decision to publish them, but the paper's inalienable right to do so has been confirmed by the courts.'

Representatives from Muslim organisations were disappointed with the decision, but said they would respect it. Others said they feared it would re-open sores created by violent protests against Denmark earlier this year.

'The court has given Jyllands-Posten the right to offend Muslims and Muslims' feelings and to associate us with terrorism,' said Kasem Said Ahmad, the spokesman for the Islamic Faith Association, one of the groups bringing charges.

'I don't think anyone will understand the decision,' he added, referring to how it would be received by Muslims in Denmark and abroad.

Ahmad added that his group would use 'all the legal options available to it' to try to overturn the decision and win 'society's understanding' for its position.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

France: Bus attacked

On Wednesday a non-violent organization, AC-Le Feu ("enough fire"), marched through Paris and presented a collection of 20,000 complaints to French legislators.

Later that night, a "group of youths" attacked a bus with its passengers.

A group of youths, some wearing hoods, forced passengers off of a public bus in a western Paris suburb on Wednesday night and then set it alight, regional authorities said. No one was hurt in the incident, the second bus attack this week.

The attack in the suburb of Nanterre came as France prepares to mark on Friday the one-year anniversary of riots last year by suburban youth, and raised the specter of a repeat of the three weeks of violence.

"A certain number of hooded individuals got on" the bus around 10:00 p.m. local time and "threw a bottle of flammable liquid," the Hauts-de-Seine region said. "Luckily, there were fewer than ten people on the bus," and "the people had the time to get off" the burning bus.

"This could have been very serious: If any of the passengers were not completely mobile, they could have burned," regional authorities said. They added that the bus line, which passes near Paris' financial district, La Defense, was not considered a high-risk line.

Though two units of firefighters quickly put out the flames, the bus was left a tangled carcass of metal, firefighters said.

Dominque Planchon, a spokesman for SGP police union, said between six and ten people were involved in the assault. No arrests have yet been made.

Planchon drew a direct connection between the attack and the rioting that rocked the suburbs that ring France's larger cities almost exactly a year ago.

"We can imagine is has to do with the one year anniversary of 2005 and naturally my colleagues fear the worst for 2006," Planchon told Associated Press Television News.

In a similar incident last Sunday, a band of youths forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight, set it afire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue. Police cordoned off the neighborhood in Grigny, in the Essonne region.

Meanwhile, the Essonne's transit authority on Wednesday suspended nighttime bus service for security reasons following "multiple incidents," including a tear gas bomb.

The transit authority's Web site said "multiple incidents" were behind the decision to suspend service, and warned that traffic on the lines would likely be affected on Thursday.

"We had a tear gas bomb in a bus today, and bus drivers were threatened in sensitive neighborhoods," Stephane Beaudet, president of the transit authority, told France Info radio on Wednesday. He said he preferred to err on the side of caution, as the "risk is real for drivers and passengers."

Beaudet said the buses would stop service before nightfall at about 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. local time. He also said lines would be modified to avoid certain neighborhoods where the risk of an attack was judged to be higher.

Source: International Herald Tribune 1, 2(English)


Another bus attacked

A similar attack happened in Bagnolet, eastern Paris, where a youth held a gun to the bus driver's head while others set it on fire, officials said.

Police report a spate of youth violence ahead of the anniversary.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie accused the youths of attempted murder in the latest incidents.

A security services report leaked to a French newspaper this week said that the conditions that led to last year's riots were still in place.

Source: BBC (English)

Denmark: kirpan banned

The kirpan is a knife or sword worn by Sikhs, as part of their religious obligations. It might not be used today as a weapon, and according to Sikh tradition it is there to symbolize non-aggression, but in essence it is a weapon and it is there to be used for defensive purposes. In western countries, it brings to the forefront the clash between the freedom of religion as it is understood today, the freedom to do whatever your religion requires, and the between the country's laws and regulations. This problem comes up especially in schools, since Sikh children are also required to carry the kirpan. In Canada, for example, a ban on the kirpan in schools was overturned by the Supreme Court.

In Denmark a court decided recently that a kirpan is not exempt from the Danish arms law.

The article below criticizes the Danish courts and compares the banning of the kirpan to the banning of the niqab. There might be similarities, in the sense that both are required by religious law, but other than that, they are very different. The kirpan is a weapon. It can be big and small, and nothing forces it to be over 7 cm long as Danish law requires.

Freedom of religion was thought up in order to make sure that people could believe whatever they wanted. It is not a coverall for anything people want to do.

Sikhs in Denmark can no longer carry a kirpan in public. The eastern high court has upheld a ruling by a Copenhagen court last year, which convicted Ripudaman Singh, an Indian, for violating Danish arms law that prohibits carrying knives longer than 7cm.

Singh, a 31-year-old scientist visiting the US embassy in Copenhagen in 2004, handed in his kirpan while going through a security check. Instead of allowing him into the embassy, the authorities called police. Singh was arrested and the case went to court.

The court said that though Singh wore the blunt knife as a religious symbol, it violated a ban on carrying knives except for carrying out a trade, hunting, fishing, or other recreational activities.

But the court ruled that Singh would not have to pay the 3,000 kroner fine ordered by the lower court last year.

“Carrying of kirpan is a basic tenet of Sikhism,” said Singh’s father Gurcharan Singh Lamba, who lives in Punjab. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee viewed the Danish court ruling with concern and said it would take up the issue with the central government.

Source: DNA (English)

Belgium: Jeweller robbed

Last Saturday A jeweller in Lede was robbed and killed by three men. The only suspect arrested so far was the driver of the getaway car, Mustapha Aazzani, a 23 year old Belgian-Moroccan from Saint-Gilles.

On Monday Aazzani tried to commit suicide in jail by slitting his wrists, but wasn't seriously wounded. The suspect was later interrogated as to why he tried to commit suicide, but did not co-operate with the investigation. Aazzani had so far denied any involvement in the attack.

The public prosecution has now decided to charge Aazzani as an accomplice to the attack. "The prosecution has enough indications that the arrest suspect is not only an accessory but also an accomplice", says the public prosecution spokesman Theo Byl. Byl did not reveal what those indications were but did point out that Aazzani was present in the store during the events.

The prosecutor has confirmed that the victim died due to the physical violence used by the attackers. According to the autopsy, the cause of death was a combination of the punches that the man received and the violent manner in which he was grabbed and held held down by the throat. The stress and fear that the victim withstood were not the cause of death, though they could have played a part in it.

Source: VRT (Dutch)

Netherlands: Money being transferred illegaly through mosques

According to a reporty by Ecorys, commissioned by NFX, a Dutch bank umbrella organization, Moroccans in the Netherlands transfer to Morocco between 5.5 and 8 million euro a year through mosques. Moroccans bring their money to Dutch mosques, and afterward friends or family collect the money from mosques in Morocco. The mosques settle the bills between themselves later.

Through this route the money route is hidden from inspection of the Dutch financial authorities. The mosques do not have the necessary permits for transferring money.

According to the Ecorys study, every year about 93 to 132 million euro make their way from the Netherlands to Morocco. The greatest part of the money comes from Moroccans who live in the Netherlands and support their family in their homeland. The financial contributions from the Netherlands make up 0.5% of the Moroccan GDP and the flow of money is going to continue to grow in the upcoming years.

Most of the money is transferred through banks, firms such as Western Union (through money transfers) and through exchange offices. A quarter of all transactions goes through informal channels: the money is carried as cash or transferred via mosques.

Source: Elsevier (Dutch)

The Muslim Veil in Europe

Much has been written about the Muslim veil recently. All across Europe debates are raging, concerning issues such as the freedom of religion, the freedom to wear whatever one wants, security and integration.

However, in many news stories I have read, I see a confusion as to what is being discussed.

I was once asked why I call it a "veil", when I really should be calling it a "headscarf". My answer was simple, I call it a veil because that's the regular term used, specifically on Muslim sites.

This article comes to give a simple explanation of the different types of veil and a run down of what's happening across Europe. I hope to keep it updated as things change.

The following pictures are taken from the BBC site, which brings an example of the different types of veil.

The hijab, which leaves the face uncovered.

The niqab which only leaves the eyes uncovered, and the burqa, which covers everything.


Burqa banned in public.


The hijab is banned in public schools.
The burqa/niqab is banned in public.


On going debate.


North League proposes burqa ban.
Burqa banned in some cities.


Parliament pushes to ban the wearing of the burqa. PVV party wants referendum. Currently in discussions in the government.


Niqab banned in schools in Oslo


Several cities banned the burqa.
No national school headscarf policy.


Gov't minister wants to ban hijab for girls under 15.
Niqab/Burka can be banned in schools. National Agency for Education affirms the right to wear a veil.


Ongoing debate.

Last updated: Oct. 26, 2011

Denmark: Marriage immigration drops

In the Netherlands, a new law forcing prospective immigrants to take integration exams in their home countries is credited for causing a significant drop in immigrants coming in for marriage. The current law also puts restrictions on the age and salary of the Dutch wanting to get married with an immigrant. In 2005, 2500 immigrants came a month, while in the past half year only 1384 people immigrated in order to get married (~230 a month). A drop of 90%. (Allochtonen Weblog, Dutch).

In Denmark, immigration for reasons of marriage is also dropping.

The minister of integration believes the law requiring Danes and their immigrant partners to be at least 24 years old to wed has been successful

A controversial law requiring Danes and their immigrant partners to be at least 24 years old to marry and legally live in Denmark has been successful, according to the minister of integration, Rikke Hvilshøj.

The law was implemented primarily to prevent 'forced' or 'arranged' marriages between Danish children of immigrant parents and foreigners. Such a pair could previously, along with the foreign spouse's family members, seek legal residence in Denmark.

'The immigration policy works exactly as it is intended. We've gotten a handle on immigration and broken the pattern where generations of young people primarily found their spouses abroad,' said Hvilshøj.

Figures presented by the Ministry of Integration indicated the number of marriages in Denmark between foreigners and immigrants or their descendants fell from 62.7 percent in 2001 to 37.9 in 2005.

Not everyone believed the law was having an effect on improving integration.

'There is a completely different tendency now amongst younger groups of immigrants and their children to instead look for a partner here in Denmark or in Europe,' said Zubair Butt Hussain, spokesperson for Muslims in Dialogue.

The law applies to anyone under the age of 24 - whether that person has an immigrant background or is an ethnic Dane. Hvilshøj acknowledged the law had caused problems for many people, but reiterated that easing the ban for specific ethnic groups was illegal.

Hvilshøj said she hoped the law could be repealed at some point in the future, but that for now it would remain in place and unchanged.

'I know perfectly well that some think they are unfairly affected by the rule, but it works and has been necessary these past years. But as long as we have the challenge of forced marriages and integration, there won't be any changes in the law,' she said.

In addition to the age requirement, foreign spouses must have at least DKK 55,000 for self-support, and the couple's connection to Denmark must be greater than to the foreign spouse's land in terms of total years and/or family members.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)


Critics are saying that the new laws made no difference, since the Muslim community is still marrying within itself and still practices forced marriages. However, I think this is incorrect. There is no comparison between bringing in a bride/groom, who have grown up in a completely different culture and do not know the language, values and norms of the society they will now be living in, and marrying somebody who might be Muslim, but has grown up in Denmark.

While the prime minister claimed success in preventing forced marriages for immigrants, critics say not much has changed

Statistics might support Anders Fogh Rasmussen's claim that the '24-year' law, which requires Danish residents and their foreign partner to both be at least 24 years old to marry, has been successful in preventing forced marriages.

Critics, however, suggest that the prime minister look at other statistics - namely that non-ethnic Danes, primarily Muslims, simply find their spouses here and often under the same, restrictive conditions.

Ministry statistics show that the number of non-ethnic Danes marrying foreigners dropped from 62.7 percent in 2001 to 37.9 percent in 2005. However, the number of those who married other non-ethnic Danes rose from 17.3 percent to 29.1 percent over the same period.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Norway: Muslims want national holiday

Muslim politicians in Norway are lobbying for establishment of a new national holiday to celebrate the end of a month of fasting. They think the holiday should be recognized along the same lines as Christmas.

"The best would be to get Eid-al-Fitr (most commonly called "id" in Norway) on the calendar as a public free day for everyone," Yousef Gilani, a city politician in Drammen, told newspaper VG. Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Fast of Ramadan, was celebrated on October 24 this year.

It's an occasion of family feasts and celebration for thousands of Norway's immigrants and descendants of immigrants, the majority of whom are from Pakistan. Muslim families and groups were celebrating their religious holiday around the country on Monday night, rather like Christmas Eve for the Christian community, but all had to work or go to school as usual the next day.

The Fast of Ramadan, meanwhile, began on September 23 and lasted for an entire month. Muslims observe it by fasting during the daylight hours and eating only in the evening before visiting friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation, Muslims say, a time to strengthen family and community ties.

Gilani believes that at least the Muslim community should get the day off when "id" is marked. The actual day changes from year to year, depending on the Muslim calendar.

In some organizations, they already do. The state ombudsman for issues dealing with equality and discrimination gives Muslim employees the day off if they request it.

"All groups will benefit when Muslims are free on their important holidays," said ombud Beate Gangås. "It's a win-win situation. Some religious groups can work during the Christmas holidays, for example, and get another day off in return."

She thinks all employers should be open to such a system. At present, nine of Norway's 12 national holidays are linked to Christian traditions

Needless to say, there are no national holidays linked to non-Christian traditions.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Belgium: Muslims want public broadcasting time

The Muslim Executive of Belgium wants to improve the image of Muslims using radio and TV. For that purpose, it is asking VRT and RTBF (the Flemish and Wallon public broadcasting services) for broadcasting time.

After a successful experiment, the Muslim Executive started broadcasting on the Brussels station Midi 1. The Executive received broadcasting time of two hours on Fridays and makes the programs in its own studio. For Dutch language areas the Contact radio station is being considered, but the Executive is looking also for other broadcasters and wants to broadcast on the internet.

The French speaking board of the Executive has already started talks with RTBF. The Dutch speaking board will now claim broadcasting time from VRT, on radio as well as on television.

The VRT management says they are autonomous to decide about the broadcast time and will calmly consider a request from the Muslim Executive.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Burqas unchecked at airport

Recently a British journalist travelled to France wearing a burqa. She discovered that nobody at the UK side of her trip bothered asking her to identify herself. She could have been anybody.

A Danish journalist now did the same in Denmark and discovered that they weren't checked in Denmark either, though in their case - they were checked in the UK airport.

A quick search on the net shows that it is not that uncommon for burqa clad women to pass without going through an ID check. I wonder when journalists will take the next step and actually try to fly as somebody else.

ID checks at airports are there fore a reason. To protect other passengers and to prevent unwanted people from entering the country. Hopefully, airport security worldwide will take notice before those they're trying to stop decide to give it a try.

A journalist dressed in a Muslim burka was not required to reveal her face to Copenhagen airport security

A reporter from daily newspaper B.T. dressed in a burka was able to pass through at Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport without being asked to reveal her face to security personnel.

Burkas are an item of Muslim clothing worn by women and exposing only the hands and eyes of their wearers. B.T.'s female reporter was required only to pull down the outfit's veil past her nose when passing through the security checkpoint.

The reporter flew from Copenhagen to London Stansted airport, where she was required to fully reveal her face to security personnel there - both on the incoming and return flights.

Police acknowledged that the woman should have been checked more thoroughly, but said the incident will not lead to any procedural changes for airport security.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Norway: Stolen cars used for terror

In Iraq, of course.

More and more cars stolen in Norway are turning up in Iraq, with some of them being used by suicide bombers.

These three cars stolen in Norway were found in northern Iraq. They were photographed at the Turkish border, waiting to get sent back to Norway.

The car thefts in Norway are thus being linked to terrorist activity and the financing of terrorism.

Car thefts have often been carried out by criminals who later use them in armed robberies, the drug trade or for sale in developing countries. Investigators are now tracking them to the Middle East, where sometimes their license plates are merely covered over by local plates.

Many of the cars carry large loans, meaning their theft amounts to a swindle against the lender financing them or the car's insurance company. Nearly 60 stolen cars worth as much as NOK 20 million are believed to have been sent to northern Iraq via Syria and Turkey as early as 2004.

Geir Skjelstad, whose company Hera AS works for an automobile finance company, claims some of the cars were then smuggled into southern Iraq. "The information we're getting is that they are used in suicide bombings or in other terrorist operations," he told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend.

Skjelstad's job, though, is to track the actual asset and try to recover it. All additional investigations are a job for the police.

Norway's special police unit handling economic crime (Økokrim) is working with Norwegian intelligence forces to track the criminal organizations that finance terrorism with assets stolen in Norway, reports Aftenposten.

Police officials won't comment on Skjelstad's specific cases, but confirms that terrorist activity is being investigated in connection with organized crime believed to be behind armed robbery, the weapons trade and narcotics trafficking.

"Norway, as an open democracy, is a country that can be used for activities within terrorism," said Trond Hugubakken of the intelligence unit PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste). "We don't see that terrorism is isolated from other crimes."

Around 10,000 cars are stolen in Norway every year, but only about one in five are ever recovered. The rest of the cases are left unresolved, meaning huge payouts for the insurance companies.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

UK: Warning of riots

This article appeared in summarized form in various news sites, but I think it is worth reading through, as it brings up several interesting points.

Trevor Phillips does not take one thing into account: the UK might be "failing to adjust to changes" in their society, but before the question of adjusting comes up, they real discussion is whether the UK should adjust at all.

Talk now, or reap the whirlwind

Race relations chief Trevor Phillips warns that unless we have an honest debate about the difficulties of integration and the real anxieties out there tensions will increase

Last week, as Tony Blair described the wearing of the niqab as “a mark of separation”, something remarkable was happening across London. At the Albert Hall 500 pupils, teachers and parents from all over the UK applauded Shajeda Rahman, a 15- year-old from Dudley, as she accepted a prize for her painting of an Asian woman wearing a hijab.

Shajeda’s painting was part of a competition in which young people create art that expresses how they see themselves in Britain. “In my piece there is a girl looking into the mirror . . . the girl is me as a western girl. The reflection of the western me is showing me as a religious Bengali Muslim . . . [the union jack and the castle] represent where I am from, and the reflections, in the mirror [of the Bangladeshi flag] represent my background. So overall my painting shows I am a British Asian Muslim and I am a Dudley citizen,” she said.

It became clear from their contributions that Shajeda and the 800 or so others in the Young Brits at Art competition share none of the agonised soul-searching about multiculturalism and integration that has been obsessing the rest of us. These young Britons do not seem too bothered by human difference.

This is not to say that they have been producing cheery postcards for some happy-clappy version of multicultural Britain. Far from it. They are clear-eyed and unsentimental in their assessment of multi-ethnic Britain; their pictures show gang violence, anger and deprivation. But they also show wit, daring and hope. And most of all they reveal a desire for a Britain with a shared culture where we maximise what we share and minimise what drives us apart. This is a generation that has reached the place that Britain needs to go. They are a generation at ease with their diversity.

Frankly, these young people seemed puzzled by the fuss over the face-covering in the classroom. I imagine they would think the arguments about the rights and wrongs of wearing a Christian cross at check-in desks equally absurd. There is only one question about these two cases: does it get in the way of the job? The answers are probably yes for the first and no for the second. Although, as I understand it, the second case was about wearing jewellery as part of a uniform rather than about religion.

These incidents have touched a nerve. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE, which I chair) publishes an employment code to offer guidance in these tricky situations. But it’s clear that we need to offer extra advice. To this end I intend to invite Rita Donaghy, head of the conciliation service Acas, to advise on the best way forward. Her blend of tact and toughness should help us to decide how to tackle problems such as dress codes, who should get time off when, and the myriad small issues that can bring a workplace to a stop.

However, getting it right in the workplace is not the biggest problem. The tensions go much deeper. That is why in the past two weeks the so-called debate on the veil in the classroom has been racing up a blind alley. Don’t get me wrong. I am not with those who moan that politicians should stay out of all this. At the CRE we have taken to saying that in the 21st century there are only two big political questions: one is how we live with the planet, and the other is how we live with each other. If politicians can’t talk about this, then we can’t criticise them for being irrelevant.

The debate about how we live together in this rapidly changing Britain has to be conducted in plain English without any of the mealy-mouthed politeness that stops us openly speaking the secret “truths” that we might share with people who look like us: “Muslims hide terrorists”, “white women are slags”, “Jews control everything secretly”.

Just as our reasonable desire to recognise diversity has sometimes ossified into a version of multiculturalism that preserves difference at the expense of equality, it may be that the necessary drive to stop offensive racial “jokes” and stereotyping is beginning to be warped into a stifling suppression of free expression. There is a danger that increasingly we are so afraid to speak to each other about our differences that nobody can say what they mean and nobody can hear what is meant. Such barriers to honesty and understanding are a disaster for race relations.

These words will of course be taken by some as a licence to offend; they should not be, as the CRE will use its powers strenuously against racist speech. But anything that forces us to address our prejudices publicly has to be an aid to integration. I prefer the person who tells me to my face that he dislikes or fears me because of my colour, than the hypocrite who smiles at me, then whispers slyly about “them” in the safety of his all-white circle of friends. For too long the far right and some racial and religious minority extremists have been able to peddle their lies without challenge, in the back rooms of pubs, in places of worship and even at the school gates. The opening up of the debate about difference is the most potent defence against bigotry; prejudice is a worm that thrives in the dark and shrivels in the daylight.

So I welcome the debate. The problem with it so far is that it has been conducted in the wrong place between the wrong people and about the wrong things. I had no concerns about Jack Straw’s initial careful expression of concern about the wearing of the veil in his surgery. After all, this was as much a comment about him and his generation as it was about the niqab. It may be that people like Straw have greater difficulty coping with the social gap that not seeing someone’s face undoubtedly creates; for the internet generation, who can conduct entire relationships through a computer screen, this may not be quite the same kind of barrier. Either way, it was entirely reasonable for him to express his discomfort.

Straw’s comments could have liberated us to say that sometimes we don’t like the way others behave, without turning it into an accusation about their faith or race. The so-called Muslim leaders who initially attacked Straw were wrong. They were overly defensive and need to accept that in a diverse society we should be free to make polite requests of this kind.

Then something went wrong. This important but fragile piece of ground that needed a gentle, nuanced discussion about how we talk to each other with respect in a diverse society turned into what the political folk call an air war, fought on TV studio couches and radio phone-ins across the land.

On one side of the trenches we have those who want a fully fledged auto-da-fé against British Muslims, in which anything any Muslim does or says must be condemned as a signal of their wilful alienation and separation; on the other hand the defensiveness of some in the Muslim communities has hardened into a sensitivity that turns the most neutral of comments into yet another act of persecution. This is not what anyone intended and it is the last thing Britain needs. This could be the trigger for the grim spiral that produced riots in the north of England five years ago. Only this time the conflict would be much worse. We need to chill.

All the recent evidence shows that we are, as a society, becoming more socially polarised by race and faith. The only place where this may not be true is in our schools and the main reason is that in many of our cities things cannot get any worse. Many of our schools are almost mono-ethnic and white flight is entrenching these damaging patterns.

Add to that the rapid change in the composition of our communities; the faces we see in the high street are changing colour; the accents in the shops are more varied. It’s unsettling and there are people, notably the far right, ready to poison the communal well with sly attacks on anyone who can be painted as a “foreigner”. Even the “white” incomers bring their problems; the CRE is already receiving reports of eastern Europeans bringing pre-1960s attitudes from countries pervaded by deep racism, attacking black and Asian people in our streets.

The real problem that Britain faces is not Muslims’ way of life. Nor is it Islamophobia, poverty or foreign policy, although all these things are contributing to the turmoil. The real crisis is our failure to adjust to change in our society and our failure to find a civilised way of talking about our diversity.

In the past, of course, it was easier. We could turn to authoritative institutions — the church, the school, the employer — to tell us the answer. But today, even if the church had the courage to lead — and there is no sign of that in this debate — its authority has gone. Today the people speak for themselves and we think it’s time that they heard each other.

Next month the CRE will host the largest race convention held in Europe. It will mark our 30th anniversary and the start of the final year of our existence before we hand over to the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. At the convention we intend to launch a national conversation that will allow people of all backgrounds to talk openly about some of the issues that have surfaced in the past two weeks. Its theme will echo the question made famous by Rodney King, the victim of a brutal police beating in Los Angeles 15 years ago: “Why can’t we just get along?”

The debate will not just be London-based. In every region where the exhibition is shown we will mount an evening’s open debate on the Rodney King question, led by young people and chaired by a distinguished local figure. The transcripts will be posted on our website and we will invite further debate about how we manage the deep differences emerging in our society. This is a debate we must have. But we have to have it in the right way. We must celebrate our differences, but if that is all we do we ignore the feelings of the many millions of every race, faith and culture for whom the frictions of diversity are much more evident than its benefits. No amount of lecturing from comfortable middle-class liberals will brush away the anxiety felt in many of our towns and cities.

If we don’t talk about this honestly, we have seen in this country, in Holland, in France and in the United States what happens next. In 1963 the great African-American writer James Baldwin quoted an old spiritual in a famous essay, correctly predicting the civil strife that was to come: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, Said no more water, but the fire next time.”

Source: Sunday Times (English)

The meaning of intifada

Last year, when riots broke out in France, bloggers started calling it "The French Intifada". In a recent article, I read that a French police union also referred to it as such, saying they were facing a "permanent intifada".

I wrote about this briefly in the previous article, but thinking about it I realized this could be analyzed deeper.

"Initifada" is the Arabic word for "uprising".

In the popular conception it refers to An uprising among Palestinian Arabs of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, beginning in late 1987 and continuing sporadically into the early 1990s, in protest against continued Israeli occupation of these territories. (American Heritage Dictionary).

In Israel a 2nd Intifada started in 2000, and though some Israelis believe it had never stopped, now Hamas is talking about yet a 3rd Intifada.

There are several issues here, which I bring as points for thought.

1. France is known as a country which upholds its purity of language. Why use a foreign term? Is the usage of an Arabic word meant to imply that the rioters are Arab? Or that there is no other way to describe what is happening? The Palestinian Intifada is seen by many as a popular uprising, coming from the lowest levels and not from the politicians and leaders.

Investigation shows that the ambushes are done by criminal gangs intent on revenge from the police. Is that really a 'popular uprising'?

2. What does 'uprising' mean in this case? An uprising of whom against whom? Is the French police union saying that the French are occupiers or seen as such by the rioters? the rioters do not claim to be fighting for "freedom" from France.

3. Maybe "intifada" points at the tactics used. the rioters are not a militia and only have stones and molotov cocktails at their disposal. They have not (yet) opened fire at police, and do not use regular terrorist methods such as bombs.

3. Supposedly, the Palestinian Intifada is meant to achieve a certain goal, ie: the end of Israeli occupation. What does a "permanent" intifada mean? Is there no goal? Or do they believe that the goal is unachievable? (I will put aside the implicit assumption that the Palestinian Intifada is not "permanent").

France: Revenge cause for ambush

The violent attacks in France continue, with police now saying they might be facing a "permanent intifada". Curious phrase, as 'intifada' means 'uprising'. Uprising against what? Or is the usage of the word 'initifada' meant to imply that the rioters are Arabs?

According to the French State Prosecutor, the attacks are not random acts of violence, but rather revenge attacks against the police for earlier police actions.

Five people were placed under investigation Saturday for attempted murder after ambushing police in a northern Paris suburb and officials reported new attacks on police, days before France marks the first anniversary of fiery suburban riots.

In the new violence, about 30 youths threw stones and two Molotov cocktails at a police car as it arrived Friday night to respond to a garbage bin fire in a neighborhood of the town of Orleans, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Paris, police said, adding that no one was injured.

Less than 24 hours earlier, a band of hooded attackers doused a female police officer with gasoline in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois after luring police to the scene, officials said.

The increasing targeting of police raised the tension a notch, ahead of the one-year marker this Friday of the start of three weeks of rioting that shook France to its core and laid bare layers of discrimination against the large minority communities living in suburban housing projects.

In Bobigny, in the Seine-Saint-Denis region where the rioting started, five people on Saturday were placed under investigation — a step short of being charged — on counts of attempted murder with premeditation on public agents, criminal association and making death threats, judicial officials said.

The five are suspects in an Oct. 13 ambush in the town of Epinay-sur-Seine, north of Paris, in which police were lured to a housing project then attacked by about 30 youths. One officer hit by a rock required 30 stitches to the face. Four of the five suspects were jailed. Four other people initially detained were freed.

The state prosecutor, Francois Molins, said the well-planned ambush was a revenge attack for a recent drug arrest. The suspect in question in that arrest, identified only as Silimaka, was among the five placed under investigation, officials said. They were not authorized to speak publicly and asked that their names be withheld. Saturday was Salimaka's 18th birthday, they said.

Prosecutor Molins painted a similar scenario for the attack early Friday in Aulnay-sous-Bois, telling reporters that hooded youths set a trap to seek revenge for a companion sentenced last week to three months in prison, with two months suspended, for stoning a police car.

"What is new is the growing violence against police and this phenomenon of ambushes used to avenge earlier (police) interventions," said David Skuli, department director for public security.

Police also have been attacked in the southern suburb of Corbeille-Essonnes and in Les Mureaux, to the west of Paris.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, responding to the growing attacks on police officers, has urged tougher punishment for such acts.

Source: IHT (English)

France: Baggage handlers barred from airport

Apparently the only crime of these baggage handlers, who just happen to be Muslims, is that they have gone to learn in Islamic schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There is no reason why this should be a security risk. After all, we all know that there are no terrorist training camps in those two countries and that all madras there teach to love humandkind.

Several Muslim workers have been barred from working at the Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris after police withdrew their access badges for security reasons, with suspended employees complaining that they were suspended because they were practicing Muslims.

The staff lost their security clearances -- which allowed them to work in sensitive airport customs zones -- because France's Anti-terrorist Coordination Unit (UCLAT) said they posed "a risk to the airport's security" or were simply deemed "dangerous," Jacques Lebrot, the airport's deputy chief of police, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Friday, October 20.

The decision came from the Seine-Saint-Denis police district where the airport is located.

Lebrot said religion was not a criterion and their suspension had everything to do with security.

"When UCLAT concludes that a person presents a risk to the airport's security, I have no reason not to remove his authorization to work in a reserved zone," Lebrot said.

During the inquiry before a suspension, a worker may be asked about his behavior and religious practices, the official said.

He gave the example of airport workers who lost their badges because they had attended Islamic schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The public prosecutors' office of nearby Bobigny has launched a preliminary inquiry into the matter, following a complaint of discrimination filed by the CFDT union on behalf of Muslim baggage handlers at the airport.

The suspended workers, whose number has not been stated, claim they lost their permit to work there because of their Islamic faith.

Four luggage handlers have separately filed charges at an administrative tribunal in the Paris suburb of Cergy against the decision to suspend their work badges, which gives airport personnel access to customs zones sensitive areas near runways.

Security fears involving workers at the Charles de Gaulle airport have been raised before, and a book claiming the airport was infiltrated by "Islamic militants" stirred a furor when it was published in April.

Anti-terrorist officials cast doubts on claims made in "The Mosques of Roissy," by right-wing French politician Philippe de Villiers.

And an airport union, Sud Aerien, accused Villiers -- a presidential hopeful in next year's elections -- of playing on public fears of Islamic radicals to win votes.

In 2002, a French-Algerian airport baggage handler was arrested when weapons and explosives were found in his car. Police later said he had been the victim of a set up.

France has a sizable Muslim minority of six million people, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.

Source: Islam Online (English)

EU’s fight against radical Islam

An article from Ynet, an Israeli news portal, focusing specifically on Germany.

Religious leaders, politician say only if Muslim immigrants accept western values tensions would subside

Henrik Broder, a prominent Jewish journalist in Germany, recently published a book titled, “Hooray! We Surrender!” which criticizes what the author refers to as ‘Europe’s weakness in its battle against Islam.’

“We must define what sets us aside as a society, and what values we must uphold in our struggle against Islam,” Broder tells Ynet.

Broder’s remarks come amid the ever-increasing tension in Europe between the traditional values and those of radical Islam, which are beginning to spread throughout the continent. It began with the Madrid terror attack, which was carried out by a cell of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East and continued with the London bombings, which were carried out by UK-born Muslims, and the attempts to attack airliners in Britain and trains in Germany. In the interim there were the violent riots in response to the prophet Muhammad caricatures, the outrage and threats over Pope Benedict XVI’s accusations and the public outcry following the UK veils affair.

With the end of the Cold War 17 years ago, Europe was able to unite around values of democracy, individualism and a free market. But lately the atmosphere ion Europe has begun to change, and tolerant Europe has started to organize against radical Islam (and some say Islam in general), an ideology that is being referred to more and more as ‘an enemy of modern western society’s lifestyle.

Until recently political correctness reigned in Europe, and those who dared point an accusatory finger at minorities were ostracized. When immigrants attacked their host-countries in Europe, the Europeans blamed western society for ‘inadequately absorbing them.’

Dialogue, not confrontation was the solution to the absorption difficulties of immigrants; criticism of the Muslim minority, part of which refused to accept the social ideals of the majority, was dismissed as racist - and so the Muslims in Europe did not integrate with the western population.

But following Madrid and London attacks, as well as the Muslim riots over the Mohammad caricatures, there are more and more signs indicating that the European Union is beginning to view Islam and the Muslim immigrants as an existential threat.

Mission: Intelligence

About 15 million Muslims live In Europe today, which constitute about 3-4 percent of the population in most European countries. In France, Muslims make up and estimated 10 percent. Police forces across Europe have already started to focus efforts on collecting intelligence information among their countries’ Islamic communities.

For German intelligence, for instance, this is virgin territory. German police, who confer regularly with Jewish officials to assess the threat to their safety, admitted to them that they have know idea of the goings-on in Germany’s Muslim communities.

Senior police officials themselves confessed to Ynet that, “There are whole areas in German cities that in our view are ‘out of bounds’, and we don’t enter them anymore. For too long we thought that as long as we let them manage themselves, they won’t bother us. Now this attitude is taking its revenge on us.”

Germany Defense Ministry official Christian Schmidt, a member of the governing Christian Democrats party (CDU), told Ynet that among the Muslim community in his country, “Thousands tend towards extremism and pose a threat to us.”

He said that contrary to absorption processes in other communities, among Muslims future generations become more fanatic, with “the third generation being the most extremist.”

Currently various German states are considering legislation to obligate imams to carry sermons in German, to “increase the transparency of Muslim communities and abate concern and suspicion.” In effect, this reflects the shortage of Turkish and Arabic speakers in the German intelligence community and the difficulties hindering them from collecting crucial information from this sector.

Tensions between communities have been rising since last summer's thwarted terror attacks in Britain and Germany. Two and a half month ago plans to blow up two trains in Koln failed to materialize due to technical failures in the makeshift bombs hidden in two suitcases.

German authorities nabbed a number of suspects and the mastermind of the attempted attacks, which prompted a debate about whether the government should make it obligatory for transportation operators to install CCTV cameras on trains.

In Britain a plot to blow up a number of US-bound planes using liquid explosives, shook a nation that was still trying to come to terms with the July 7 attacks two years earlier.

Relations between 1.8 British Muslims and the rest of the country suffered another set back as tension grew and a wide-scale arrest raids conducted against Muslim terror suspects across the country only added fuel to the fire.

The government said it is weighing plans to cut public funds to Muslim schools, although no such plans were considered for the 36 Jewish and 7,000 Christian schools in the monarchy.

In another dramatic development, the Ministry of Education announced new regulation to the higher education system which would make it obligatory for British universities to keep track of the activities of Muslim students and report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement authorities.

Many countries did not suffice with discussions: The governments of Germany and Britain launched dialogue with Muslim organizations in the hope that a European form of Islam – one that is pragmatic and pacifist - would emerge.

In Berlin, the home of many Germans of Turkish origins, Turkish kindergartens would be forced to adopt the German language as the only communication tool in the hope to inoculate minority children with the values of democracy and civil rights.

In Switzerland meanwhile, where Muslims constitute less than one percent of the population, referendums held in a number of cantons reflected the will of an overwhelming majority to limit the spread of Islam. More so, strict immigration laws were introduced, and in many areas the construction of new Mosques has been banned.

Debate on values

But for many this is not enough. While individualism has been a supreme value in Europe for many decades, common European values have been subject to intense debate especially to the backdrop of Turkey's impending membership in the European Union.

"We need to start public discussions about our values, which we have to communicate in a resolute manner," Michael Geller, a member of the European parliament representing Germany's CDU told Ynet.

"Islam is not a threat yet, but a challenge that forces us to define our common values. Citizen rights and the status of women especially are things that should be assimilated among Muslim immigrants," he said.

Henrik Broder however is a skeptic. "I don't think Europe know to do something besides to surrender. People have no idea what they are fighting for. We can't set the clock back, and I don't want Europe to give up on its Muslims. But when the Dutch justice minister says it is possible for Sharia to become the basis for Dutch laws and when in England there are independent Sharia courts – that's the end of European societu as we know it," he said.

Source: Ynet (English)

Humour and pragmatism characterize Dutch Ramadan

Cross-cultural difference come to the fore in the month of Ramadan for many Muslims in the Netherlands, but a sense of humour on both sides combined with the pragmatism for which the country is famous have led to an easy-going atmosphere this year.

Under the themes of peace and promoting relations between different faith communities, the month was opened with public events on September 24, the largest in Amsterdam and Rotterdam being linked by video.

Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen and Government Reform Minister Atzo Nikolai attended in the Dutch capital, while Education Minister Maria van den Hoeven was present in Rotterdam.

Abdel Ezzaki, a man of Moroccan origin who lives in the picturesque city of Leiden, remains amused that the Dutch year after year forget that Muslims fast during the day.

At the beginning of Ramadan he is greeted as usual when he enters the office where he works with the query, 'Cup of coffee, Ab?'

'Sorry, Ramadan,' comes his response, which has to be repeated at regular intervals through the day.

By mid-month, the Dutch have got used to it and no longer offer him anything. But there is a down-side.

Ezzaki predicts that, as in years past, once Ramadan is over it will be a couple of weeks before it becomes clear to his colleagues once more that he does actually enjoy a cup of coffee with them.

Sportsmen and women have a particular problem, as the European sports calendar pays no heed to Muslim needs.

Foppe de Haan, coach of the Dutch under-23 football team, says problems arise during training, as he realized with his players, the striker Ali Elkhattabi and the goalkeeper Khalid Sinouh.

'With the keeper there is no problem, but there certainly is with other players,' De Haan told the NRC Handelsblad. 'You certainly notice that players tire more quickly.'

The team sought the advice of a dietician and cut out afternoon training for its Muslim members.

For many Muslims, an exception is made to the fasting rule on match days. The father of one of the players, Ismail Aissati, is an imam, who takes the view that fasting is not required on match days.

But De Haan acknowledges: 'I have left people out of the team for this reason.'

Boxing trainer Hennie Mandemaker, who coaches Husnu Kocabas, a lightweight of Turkish origin, notes a problem of a different kind.

'Most people put on weight during Ramadan, because they fast during the day and eat more than usual at night,' he says, and this is a problem for a lightweight boxer.

This year the Ramadan Festival organization, on the internet at, has arranged a series of lectures with themes like 'Jews and Moroccans in the Netherlands' and a whole series entitled 'Islam and Christianity.'

Chrisje Aardening, who helped organize some of the debates in Amsterdam, said they had made a definite contribution to easing tensions in the Dutch capital that rose sharply after the murder of film maker Theo van Gogh in November 2004.

'The aim was dialogue and approaching each other, rather than having people present opposing views,' she said, adding the debates had been held in a cordial atmosphere with attendance from a broad spectrum of Amsterdam society.

Source: Monsters and Critics (English)

See also: Why are there still all those questions?

Netherlands: abortion rate higher by immigrants

A recent research by Rutgers Nisso Groep looked at abortions by teenagers in the Netherlands.

Generally teenagers are choosing abortion more often (60% in 2001 compared to 65% in 2005).
By Moroccans and Turks the percent has gone up much higher (Moroccans: 59% -> 67%, Turks: 44% -> 53%)

According to researcher Cecile Wijsen, immigrant girls are often confronted with a double message from two cultures which means they are not fully equipped to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

By women the situation is different: Immigrant women choose abortion much more often then the ethnic Dutch. The increase is most striking by the Moroccans and Turks, which compared to other immigrant groups have a relatively low abortion rate.

0.5% of ethnic Dutch preganant women do an abortion, compared to 2% by Moroccans and Turks and 5% by women from Central and South America, Africa, Surinaam and the Antilles

A study at abortion clinics shows that 20% of immigrant women coming for an abortion did not fully understand the written and oral information offered in Dutch.

According to researcher Ineke Mouthaan: "Besides an inadequate command of the language there are also culture related impediments in the transfer of information, such as the attitude relating to contraception [women should stay virgins and therefore no need for contraception] and the (intercultural) communication skills of the social worker."

Sources: FOK (Dutch), Rutgers Nisso Groep (Dutch)

Netherlands: Recognizing Eid

A research by MarketResponse among 500 people, 18 and older shows the following:

20% the Dutch think that Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, should become a national holiday. 70% don't care, though about half (45%) support recognizing Eid as a hliday and letting people decide if they want to take it instead of another national holiday.

31% would support recognizing Eid as a national holiday, if it would be an additional vacation day. Only 9% support recognizing it in exchange for another national holiday.

61% would come to a celebration of Eid, if invited.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Trade union supports recognizing Muslim holiday, Update on recent news

Netherlands: Stepping into the veil debate

In a discussion in the Dutch parliament, the Minister in Integration, Rita Verdonk, said she thinks burqas should be banned in public. The burka does not fit the integration of Muslims and the emancipation of women.

The Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, did not want to say if he shares that viewpoint. However he did say that Verdonk spoke from the viewpoint of integration and that a commission of experts which has been set up to advise the cabinet regarding a ban on burqas has a wider mandate. They need to also weigh the basic rights of citizens vs. the opposition that the burqa evokes. They need to examine how the Muslim community sees the burqa. The seven person commission includes jurists as well as an Arabist an an imam.

Verdonk promised the parliament that the commission will advise the cabinet at the beginning of November, after which the cabinet will quickly come to a decision on the matter.

The commission is looking into whether a ban on burqas is possible under the current laws. It is then considering whether the burqa can be banned based on security and public order. The last possibility is to ban the burqa by using current laws such as putting out a general order adding to the law requiring ID.

The politicians had to explain why the kabinet did not comply with the parliament's wish to ban the burqa. The parliament had asked the cabinet to do so last December.

Source: Het Parool (Dutch)

Spain: New Islam primer

Spain has devised a school textbook it calls unique in Europe — a primer for Muslim first-graders to learn about Islam but do so in the local language and thus not feel like outsiders, officials said Wednesday.

A first run of 15,000 copies of the Spanish-language book "Discovering Islam" was printed as part of the project, said Jose Manuel Lopez, managing director of the Pluralism and Harmony Foundation, which is part of the Justice Ministry. The ministry oversees religious issues.

The book, written by a Spanish Muslim leader and financed by the foundation, was exhibited at the Frankfurt book fair this month and drew keen interest from people in other European countries. The same thing happened when it was formally unveiled in Spain on Tuesday, as representatives of the governments of Germany, France and Italy attended the ceremony, Lopez said.

"Europe has 40 million Muslims and governments don't know what to do to assimilate them," Lopez said in an interview. "This book is a hint."

In other European Union countries with significant Muslim immigrant communities, primers on Islam are written in Arabic or French if they exist at all, Lopez said.

Indeed, in major EU countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Italy, there is nothing equivalent to the book now out in Spain, officials in those nations said.

The idea in Spain is to help Muslim children in public schools learn about their faith in Spanish and thus integrate better into society, Lopez said.

Spain has a Muslim community of around 800,000 people out of a total population of 44 million.

But only an estimated 3,500 Muslim first-graders — 6-year-olds — study Islam formally in public schools and there are only 33 teachers who give those classes, Lopez said.

Under Spain's system of giving self-rule to its regions, some of these have complete say over their education systems. Others still depend on the Education Ministry in Madrid.

And it in these latter regions — mainly in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the coast of Morocco — where a handful of Muslim children are taught Islam in public schools.

In larger, powerful ones like Madrid, there is no formal teaching of Islam in public schools even though the law says that if 10 families at a given school ask for classes in Islam for their children, the school has to provide them.

Riay Tatary, the Spanish Muslim leader who wrote the primer, complained at its unveiling Tuesday that the Madrid region still offers no classes in Islam, despite 6,000 requests for such schooling.

The vast majority of Spain's Muslims are immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. But it is just a matter of time before the country has a significant native-born population of Muslims, and the government aims to be ready for that new duality — children who are both Muslim and as Spanish as any of their classmates.

"What we want to do is integrate the Muslim students," Lopez said.

Source: IHT (English)

Rotterdam: Cheering for 9/11

Moroccan youth cheered loudly during a showing of the film World Trade Center in Rotterdam. The cheering started the minute the terrorists in the movie hit the Twin Towers with an abducted plane.

Several viewers left the hall angry and disgusted, finding it inappropriate that popcorn was used as confetti. Security was immediately called to oust the youth.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Update on recent news

Update on Netherlands: Trade union supports recognizing Muslim holiday

CNV scrapped its plans to exchange a Christian vacation day for a Muslim one. The trade union received many negative responses to its plan and according to its president "many people see Whit Monday as part of the Dutch culture."

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Update on Netherlands: Find another way to show respect

The Municipality of Rotterdam refused to accept Enait as Customer Relations Officer. According to them "Gov't officials with a public function can be expected to meet citizens in an equal manner" and "Shaking hands with all clients belongs to the normal manner of dealings in the relationsip Customer Relations Officer - Customer".

Source: (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: More on respect

Netherlands: More on respect

Klein Verzet reports on interview given by Mohammed Faizel Ali Enait, a Muslim who was turned down for a job at the Rotterdam Municipality for refusing to shake hands with women and his insistence on Muslim dress.

So here's his philosophy on life. Remember, the guy wants to be a Customer Relations Officer:

- He does not shake hands with either men or women. Instead he puts his hand to his heart in greetings. He therefore does not discriminate.

- He thinks civil servants have a constitutional right to wear whatever they wish.

"It looks like a good job to me. The current boss of the social services also began this way. Now he earns two to three hundred thousand euros a month. I want that too."

On the CGB decision: "The mono-cultural society got a silent funeral that day. A point of no return. It is important that Muslims occupy key positions and not wander about the dark outskirts of society."

He wrote his plea on his own, against the municipality's lawyers. "I studied this issues for six months. You need to fight foxes with foxes and crooks with crooks. What do I mean? You need to be smarter than the smartest."

The municipality is supposed to announce whether he got the job tomorrow, and he has it all planned. If he doesn't get the job, he'll sue. If he gets the job but gets no compensation (for the salary he supposedly lost) then he'll sue. He calculates his lost income, counting from February in the tens of thousands of euros.

But he think he'll succeed. "I think that I'll be a Customer Relations Officer and that the aborigines, because that's what I call the ethnic population, will stand on their hind feet. Especially Leefbaar Rotterdam will make trouble. Than I'll wake up, yawn, turn over and sleep on. I'm used to running into brick walls."

Sources: Trouw (Dutch), (Dutch), h/t Klein Verzet

See also: Netherlands: Find another way to show respect


The meaning and usage of "aborigine". The noun usually refers to the native peoples of Australia, but can be used also in a more general sense.


Indigenous peoples, peoples with a prior or historical association with a land, and who maintain (at least in part) their distinct traditions and association with the land, and are differentiated in some way from the surrounding populations and dominant nation-state culture and governance

Merriam Webster:

An aboriginal inhabitant especially as contrasted with an invading or colonizing people

American Heritage Dictionary:

When used in reference to a member of an indigenous people, the noun native, like its synonym aborigine, can evoke unwelcome stereotypes of primitiveness or cultural backwardness that many people now seek to avoid. As is often the case with words that categorize people, the use of the noun is more problematic than the use of the corresponding adjective.

I am not sure why the municipality of Rotterdam even got into all this trouble. Enait should not be working as a customer representative, regardless of who he shakes hands with or what he wears.

Belgium: Most immigrants living under poverty line

According to a recent survey at least 58.9% of the Turks and 55.6% of the Moroccans in Belgium are living under the EU mandated poverty line (777 Euro a month)

This results compare to 21.5% of Italians and 10.16% of ethnic Belgians. It is strikin that all other immigrant groups run a high risk of poverty.

Additionally, 38.7% of Turks and 25% of Moroccans live on less than 500 Euro a month.

Asked about their subjective level of poverty, 29.2% of Turks and 37.7% of Moroccans said it was hard or very hard for them to make ends meet. For ethnic Belgians 12.2% answered that way.

According to the researchers, immigrants run a higher risk of poverty due to their low level of education, their lack of Dutch and/or French and discrimination on the job market, in education, and housing.

Additionally, the first generation of workers was convinced that they would return to their home land and therefore did not invest in a future in Belgium.

Finally, the great solidarity in the immigrant community has been waning with dramatic results for the most vulnerable members. Additionally, some, such as devorced women, are excluded from this solidarity. This solidarity is sometimes experienced as oppersive and integration-inhibiting.

This is the first time a study of poverty by immigrants was done in Belgium.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

Norway: Fake asylum seekers

Immigration authorities suspect that as many as half of the would-be refugees arriving from Somalia are bluffing their way into Norway.

The Norwegian authorities say many of the Somalian asylum seekers claim they're from the war-torn south, when they instead may come from the more peaceful north and thus be inelibigle for refugee status.

The authorities therefore have been using language tests in an effort to expose asylum seekers who may be lying about their background. Test results show that as many as half speak dialects found in the north, and not the south.

Most of those arriving from Somalia lack passports, and many also have scraped fingertips, making it difficult to determine their identity. More than 320 Somalians were asked to take language tests between January and July, and 37 percent didn't speak the dialect of the south. Test results were inconclusive in another 11 percent of the cases.

That placed nearly half under suspicion of lying about their origins, and that they didn't qualify for the asylum protection they claimed they needed.

Asylum advocates claim that many Somalians have moved from the south to the north, which could explain the dialect confusion, and that they therefore should still be granted asulum.

The authorities are quick to point out that language test results alone aren't the only means of determining whether an aylum application will be approved. Arne Jørgen Olafsen of the police unit charged with enforcing immigration criteria told newspaper Aftenposten, though, that the tests can quickly indicate who is speaking truthfully.

The number of Somalian asylum-seekers arriving in Norway, meanwhile, has declined, from 84 in January to just 30 in September.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

UK: Birmingham Hospital bans veil

THE backlash against the veil grew yesterday as it was banned from hospitals.

Muslim medical students were barred from wearing it when they talk to hospital patients.

The move was ordered to "help to aid good communications" between Muslim medical students, their colleagues and patients.

Details of the purge of faceless medics surfaced as the nationwide storm about Islamic veils continued.

Race minister Phil Woolas demanded the sacking of a primary school teaching assistant suspended for refusing to remove her veil in classes.

He said Aishah Azmi, 24, "put herself in a position where she can’t do her job" at the Church of England school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Also, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis accused Muslim leaders of taking Britain towards "voluntary apartheid" by expecting preferential treatment.

The bar on a full-face veil was ordered at Birmingham University school of medicine. Chiefs decided that Islamic women can cover their faces in lectures and around campus but not in the "clinical environments" of hospital buildings and GPs’ surgeries.

Its women Muslim students must show their faces if they are talking to patients in hospital or surgery or if they are in meetings with other medical staff.

The school has 450 students of all faiths and sends them for practice to a number of different hospitals and primary care units, including the University Hospital of Birmingham NHS Trust.

Only in the sterile surroundings of an operating theatre can they cover their faces – with regulation surgical masks.

A spokesman said: "We do not place restrictions on the wearing of headscarves by staff or students, except in cases where they are required to work in a clinical environment.

"This is particularly the case when it involves direct contact with patients. In these cases students are allowed to wear a headdress as part of their religious observance, as long as it does not cover the face.

"This is necessary to help aid communications with patients and other colleagues."

Last year, Imperial College in London banned students from wearing Islamic headscarves in a security clampdown in the wake of the London suicide bombings.

Security guards were ordered to challenge "unrecognisable individuals" and throw them off the campus if they refused to expose their faces – despite protests from the college’s large Islamic contingent.

But the issue has sparked debate among young Muslims who are studying to become doctors and conflict has arisen between students and patients.

One report in the student version of the British Medical Journal outlined the difficulties witnessed by students and fully-trained staff.

"Although no one is deliberately obstructive or discriminatory against such students, there is a tension between the needs of the students, the expectations of the medical profession and the needs and expectations of the patients," it said.

Aideen Soke, policy officer for the Council of Heads of medical Schools, told the magazine: "Most schools would expect students’ faces to be visible at all times.

"When this was discussed by the council’s education sub-committee, it was believed that covering the face while meeting a patient is unacceptable as it breaches the duty ‘to make the care of the patient your first concern’ and to ‘make sure your personal beliefs do not prejudice your patient’s care’.

"There was general agreement that many patients would be upset by meeting a student or doctor who insisted on keeping their face covered."

Although the General Medical Council has not published any guidance on the issue, it has issued a statement warning of the possible dangers.

It said: "We do not consider that wearing a face veil, in and of itself, necessarily has any effect on a doctor’s ability to practise medicine.

"However, good communication between patients and doctors is essential to effective care and relationships of trust, and patients may find that a face veil presents an obstacle to effective communication."

Yesterday, Birmingham’s move was backed by Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell who said he supported universities which banned Muslim students and staff from wearing the veil.

"Many teachers would feel uncomfortable about their ability to teach students who were covering their faces," he said.

Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, whose constituency is in Birmingham, said: "We have to consider the safety and security of all, as there are times when people must be identified.

"Removal is fine where professional issues are called into question, when doctors and nurses meet with patients."

The debate was sparked by Commons Leader Jack Straw’s admission that he asked Muslim women to remove their veils at his constituency surgeries.

Former Home Secretary Mr Straw said he felt the veil made community relations "difficult" and removing it would improve communication. On Saturday, scores of Muslims protested outside Mr Straw’s morning surgery in Blackburn.

Shadow Home Secretary Mr Davis warned that isolated Muslim communities would create more home-grown terrorists and claimed Labour had a "confused, confusing and counter-productive attitude towards integration".

Muslim leaders risked "voluntary apartheid" in Britain and there was a feeling that some expected special protection from criticism, he said.

He added: "Religious leaders have to understand that they should not try to change Britain."

Source: Daily Express (English)