Mechelen: school talk ended up as fistfight

Two members of the school management of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van de Ham Instituut in Mechelen are incapable of coming to work for the next month after a fight broke out at the school. A talk with the parents of a Turkish girl degenerated into a fistfight.

The parents were called in by the school management in order to talk about personal problems of their daughter. The public prosecution of Mechelen emphasizes that the two victims, the director and assistant director did not suffer grave physical injury, however, they've been severely affected by the events. They received medical care in a hospital and have been released home.

The parents of the student have been picked up for questioning but have been released.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Antwerps: Affirmative action in city jobs

The Antwerps city council had decided that a third of all new city jobs will go to immigrants, which is their relative part in the populace. The town will not introduce a quota, but rather enforce new regulations to entice companies to hire immigrants, and to prepare immigrants better for their application.

Currently 31% of the residents of Antwerp between 18 and 65 are of foreign origin, compared to 5.86% of city personnel. According to Marc Van Peel, who's in charge of personnel: "According to the new city council, the composition of the Antwerp city staff should be a much better reflection of the active residents in the city."

He emphasized that the selection procedures will not be made more lax. However, the city will put less emphasis on the diploma of potential employees. Whoever has relevant experience will be able to take part in a ability tests. Knowledge of Dutch will remain of course a condition to work for the city, but Val Peel promises that the requested language level will be better attuned to the job function.

Additionally, the city will work together more with immigrant associations in order to convince immigrants to take part in job trials.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Flanders: Affirmative action in transportation

Amsterdam: Turkish girls can stay

Dutch Minister of Integration, Rita Verdonk, has postponed the expulsion of two Turkish girls from the Netherlands. The girls, who have been living most of their lives in the Netherlands, were supposed to board a plane back to Turkey Tuesday night.

Officially the expulsion has been postponed due to questions brought up in the parliament about it.

Source: Parool (Dutch)

Rotterdam: Pedophile caught near mosque

A 61 year old living next to the Moroccan mosque About Bakr, was arrested on charges of sexually abusing children. His victims were mostly young Moroccan kids whom he tempted with money.

There are currently three reports made against him by the police and they are looking for more. Mosque goers are afraid the number can be anywhere between ten to forty children. There's also a rumor running around that he is HIV positive and many parents are afraid their kids had been infected.

The president of the mosque dismissed the idea that it could be forty kids, saying the case would have been found out much earlier in such a case.

Source: (Dutch)

UK: Do I have to answer all the questions?

Western Resistance reports that the UK teacher who refused to remove her niquab had been fired.
What I found most interesting was this TV interview with the woman. The sound quality is not so good, but it's pretty easy to follow.

She at first refused to answer the interviewer's question as to whether she was veiled in the job interview, which was conducted by a male interviewer.

"Do I have to answer all the questions?"

Really, why should she? Nobody is forcing her to appear on TV, nobody is forcing her to answer questions, nobody is forcing her to work in a non-segregated school, nobody is forcing her to wear a niquab or to walk without one. She lives in a completely free society, luckily for her. And we're free to draw our own conclusions too.

She seemed shocked at the very idea of working in a segregated or Muslim school.. why should she not work with male colleagues? One wonders.

Belgium: Comments on political correctness

In a previous article I reported on two shooting incidents in Belgium involving Turks. It was interesting to see how the two shooting incidents were mentioned in two newspapers Het

Laatste Nieuws (HLN) and De Standaard (DS). De Standaard manages to look politically correct but still manages to give out the information.

For the first incident the two headlines were as follows:

HLN: Eight Turks arrested.. in shooting incident
DS: Eight people arrested.. in shooting incident

Supposedly the De Standaard headline is completely neutral. However, the rest of the article went on to mention that the people involved were Turks, in much the same way that Het Laatste Nieuws did.

For the second incident both headlines just mention a shooting incident in Sleepstraat in Ghent. I will therefore compare the two articles themselves.

HLN: In Sleepstraat in Ghent there were several shots fired around midnight during a shooting fight between people of Turkish origin ... The street is known in Ghent for its concentration of Turkish and Indian restaurants.

DS: In Sleepstraat in Ghent there were several shots fired around midnight during a shooting fight... The street is known in Ghent for its concentration of Turkish restaurants.

Again, supposedly De Standaard is completely neutral and is it certainly less obvious. But anybody who reads the article will get the hint - the shooters were Turks.

Is De Standaard more politically correct or just more hypocritical about it?

Netherlands: Petition against Burka-ban

A petition against the upcoming Burka Ban has been set up on the internet by Muslim women.
The petition says that everybody has freedom of expression in the Netherlands and that includes clothing such as the burka. Muslim women of all types are indignant at this discussion and see an eventual ban as oppression. The equation of burka to balaclavas and helmets is shocking to these women since a burka is a religious expression and the other two have connections to criminality.

The peitition goes on to say that we live in a multicultural society and that means that besides that Dutch culture there are other cultures present. In order to live well with each other we need to reciprocally show respect for each other, and remember the slogan "what you you don't want done to you, don't do to others". Integration does not mean assimilation.

The Dutch are accused of being hypocrites - teaching their kids to understand the "other" on the one hand, but being shown an example of intolerance at the same time. The Dutch culture must be the norm and the ethnic Dutch can feel superior, pointing a punishing finger at what they see as an inferior group. Forcing your own vision of freedoms on the other people living in your country in this way is a very alarming and polarising act that will lead to more friction between Muslims and non-Muslim.

The petition declares that women who walk about veiled are not oppressed. The fact that these women continue irrespective of the (political) harassments and continue to go with raised heads to work, school and around town, shows great courage and perseverance, which should be rewarded and not punished. It is a question of acceptance. Nothing hampers a woman from taking part in work and the social lifes besides the dominant arrogance of some ethnic Dutch, driven on by politicians such as Verdonk, Pastors and Wilders.

The petition says that Muslim women are emancipated and their clothing is an expression of it. It goes on to compare the burka to the modern western occupation with women's looks, saying that make-up is the Wester's niquab. Muslim women want to be judged on their merits and not on their looks.

Lastly the petition deals with the charge of terrorism, asking how many women wearing a niquab have been charged with terrorism and going on to say that there should be laws against beards first, before talking about the burka.

Source: Anti Burka Ban Petition (Dutch)

Amsterdam: Two Turkish girls to be deported

Sumeyra (15) and Ceyda (14), two Turkish girls, have been living with their father and step-mother in Amsterdam since 1995. Their parents have Dutch nationality, but the girls have not received residence permits, despite the fact that their father has custody over them, and are set to be deported on Tuesday.

The girls barely speak Turkish and the rest of their family lives in the Netherlands and Germany. The family and their school are currently trying to cancel the deportation by turning to both local and state politicians.

Source: Het Parool (Dutch)

Belgium: Turkish shooting incidents

For the second time this week a shooting incident involving Turks took place. In both incidents there were no injuries.

The first took place on Wednesday in Antwerp. It started off as a fight in a building and quickly erupted outside. Police later arrested seven Turks and one Dutch-Turk on suspicion of being involved. Apparently there were either one or two shooters. Prosecution charged them with attempted murder, violating the weapons law, and intentional assault and battery.

The second incident took place in Ghent, at about midnight Saturday. Several shots were fired during a fight between Turks. Numerous cartridges were found in the street. The fight took place after a car drove into a pizzeria. The street in question has a high concentration of Turkish and Indian restaurants.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

UK: Debate over halal Christmas dinner

PARENTS expressed outrage last night over a school’s plans to serve pupils a Muslim Christmas dinner.

The headteacher announced that she intended to replace the children’s traditional turkey meal with halal chicken. She explained that eating poultry which had been slaughtered in the Muslim way would create an “integrated Christmas”.

But furious parents accused the school of undermining the Christian faith.They were backed by Labour MP Denis MacShane who demanded to know why the children were not being offered a choice.

Mr MacShane said: “No child should be obliged to eat food that is contrary to their personal convictions or religion. Schools should offer a choice and not allow the joyous celebrations of a Christmas dinner to become a divisive issue.

Source: Daily Express (English)

Belgium: Al-qaeda spy debunked

The Belgian Moroccan that surfaced last week as the "Al-qaeda spy" turns out to be a liar. Youssef El-Majda, from Brussels, calls himself now Omar Nasiri. He is a known Muslim terrorist that has been sentenced in Belgium twice already. His story is full of lies, according to the Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper. In 1995 he claims to have been in an Afghan training camp, while in reality he was sitting in a Belgian prison.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Belgium: One year jail demanded in case against Islamic radio station

The federal prosecutor demanded a year of jail time in the case against Mohammed Hadj Alla Marrakchi, the founder of Radio Sallam, and against the man who appeared on radio under the name of Abou Adam.

The two are on trial in Brussels, and are accused of being members of a criminal organization and of inciting racial hatred. Abou Adam is also accused of threatening a police agent and his family.

Radio Sallam was founded by the Belgian Islamic Center, but Marrakchi wanted to give the station the "necessary independence" as quickly as possible. The station caught the attention of the state security services when it called to collect funds for Nizar Trabelsi.

Trabelsi was sitting in preventive detention at the time and was later sentenced to 10 years in jail for trying to commit an assault on an American base in Belgium. In other shows North-Africans working for the police or intelligence services were specifically named and then accused of "betraying their brothers".

Regarding the threats received at the address of a police agent, Abou Adam claims that he only said that the agent should watch after himself and his family.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Lyons: Girl attacked for having non-Muslim boyfriend

An 18 year old French-Tunisian girl in the city of Lyons was shaved, kicked and locked up by her father (62) and brother (22). They were angry since she had a non-Muslim French boyfriend. The father and brother were arrested Friday and confessed to mishandling their daughter/sister. The father told the police that the reasons behind it were theft and "other bad behavior".

According to a local newspaper ''Le Progrès", this all happened under the watchful eye of her mother. The father held her down to the ground while her brother partially shaved her. Afterwards they kicked her, threatened to kill her and locked her up in the bathroom. There the girl wanted to jump out the window and poison herself with bleach. She was saved by the appearance of her sister. She then complained by the police.

France is the European leader in marriages between non-Western immigrants and ethnic locals. According to a 2005 report by French statistics bureau Insee, 46% of Algerians and 36% of Moroccans marry ethnic French. That's also 46% among French and Tunisians with Tunisian roots.

In comparison, a 2003 report of the Dutch Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute puts those numbers by the Dutch Moroccans at 13% and by the Turks at 11%.

The Hague: Saint Nicholas heckled

Saint Nicholas came to visit the Transvaal neighborhood of the Hague. The guest walked around with his two helpers, giving out candy to the pack of kids which followed. On the way back things turned unruly.

A short video of the incident can be seen here.

Source: (Dutch)

Ghent: Teenager attacks sister's boyfriend

Police in Ghent arrested a 19 year old resident on suspicion of attacking and injuring the boyfriend of his 15 year old sister. Both the attacker and the 16 year old friend are Turkish Belgians. The 19 year old saw his sister out with her boyfriend and roughly dragged her back home. He later called up the boyfriend, supposedly to talk over the incident.

He went out to pick up the boyfriend with his car, but then drove him to an unknown location. There, together with two others, he flogged the friend. The victim sustained heavy blows to the head. After his assailants dumped him in front of his house, he was brought to a hospital for medical care.

The police arrested the 19 year old today. He admitted the attack, but claimed that he acted alone. The police charged him with assault and injury.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Belgium: Rescue personnel ambushed

The following report does not mention who the attackers were, and I do not presume that they were Muslim immigrants. However, since this is something that Muslim immigrants have been accused of, it would be interesting to follow up whether that be the case here or not.

Unknown people attacked two ambulance personnel at Maasmechelen Monday evening at about 10pm. Maasmechelen is a town in the Belgian province of Limburg.

One of the nurses got a blow in the face from a fire extinguisher. The two were brought to a hospital.

The incident started when a telephone call was received about a suicide attempt. Two ambulances were sent out, but upon arriving at the scene, did not find anybody. They rode away, but then another call came in from the person who wanted to commit suicide.

The ambulances went out, but again did not find anybody. During the search a group of unknowns attacked the ambulance crew. The attackers are probably six or seven people, who disappeared without a trace.

Teams from the Maasmechelen (Belgian) and Maasland (Dutch) police have started a search, but currently without result. The fire brigade of Maasmechelen was also called to the scene.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

This story is getting a bit weird..

A 32 year old man was arrested for molesting the two rescue workers. Apparently after being called twice to the scene, the rescue workers went looking for the person about to commit suicide. The suspect jumped into the ambulance, and a fight ensued between him and the driver. The ambulance guys managed to subdue him, but then a group of 4-6 people appeared to free their comrade.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Denmark: Islam in Danish school books

Drawing reactions with caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, Denmark has once more disgraced itself by teaching elementary school students that "all Muslims are terrorists."

Religion books being taught in Denmark State Schools teach Muslim religion under the chapters called "fundamentalists" and "Terrorism." According to Haber Newspaper which is being published in Turkish in Denmark, 5th grader Danish students learn Islam religion under the name "terrorism." The book called "Us and Christianity" first teaches the Beslan school massacre and the September 11 attacks and Osama Bin Laden. Children then began reading about the Islam religion.


Politikien Newspaper of Denmark has revealed that the class book says: "Although not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims."

The book does not include other non-Muslim terrorist organizations such as ETA, Baader Meinhoff and IRA.

Source: SABAH (English)

Denmark: Islamic center arsonist caught

A mentally ill man was arrested by police Friday for several arson attempts against an Islamic culture centre in Nørrebro

Rumours of a racist motive behind several arson attempts at the Islamic Culture Centre in the Copenhagen area of Nørrebro were shown to be unfounded, as a mentally ill man of Iranian background was arrested for the crimes by police Friday.

The 56-year-old man was seen by witnesses leaving the scene and later apprehended on the street without incident. Police had been on the lookout for suspects, as the centre had reported five previous occasions of arson at the building's front door since March.

The man is thought to be responsible for those and also other incidents of vandalism in the city, including to a synagogue in the inner city. Still, police do not believe the motive was racism.

'He is a mentally ill man who will receive treatment,' said Copenhagen police's vice-superintendent Preben Kristensen to daily newspaper Politiken.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (English)

Germany: Plane bomb plan foiled

The big questions after reading this story are:

1. What would have happened if the accused and the person willing to smuggle the bomb aboard had come to an agreement
2. Wasn't that person arrested as well?

Six terror suspects have been arrested in Germany after a plot to bomb a passenger plane is allegedly foiled.

Germany's Federal Prosecutor's Office said on Monday a terrorist plot had been foiled and six people were temporarily taken into custody over an alleged plan to bomb a passenger jet here over the summer.

The suspects were believed to have been preparing explosives to be used in an attack on a passenger plane, the prosecutor's office stated.

So far, details are vague. Prosecutors claim that several of the suspects met in summer 2006 with a person who had access to the security area of an airport. The individual, prosecutors claim, had been prepared to smuggle a suitcase or bag packed with explosives onto a plane
for a fee.

Prosecutors said the accused had made contact with their terrorist backers, but they had been unable to reach a final agreement on the amount they would pay the smuggler.

On Friday, investigators with Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) searched nine apartments in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. Police took six suspects into temporary custody and interrorgated them. With the exception of one suspect, who was wanted on unrelated charges, all were released on Saturday. Prosecutors have not released any information about the nationalities or backgrounds of the suspects.

However, officials did say the measures taken on Friday and Saturday had enabled them to garnish "evidence about the status of planning, the people ... and terrorist groups involved."

Source: Spiegel (English)


None of the names or details of the suspects have been made public, although a security source told Reuters the suspects were from Jordan, Kuwait and Iraq.

Der Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that most were Jordanians of Palestinian origin

Source: ninemsn (English)

Berlin: Clashes between police and Turks

I received the following from Islam Info

Police in the German capital are on the alert for more trouble after a series of clashes with youths in three suburbs with a mainly immigrant background. The disturbances raised fears that parts of Berlin were becoming no-go areas and reawakened memories of the horrific clashes involving migrant youths in French cities last year.

They also rekindled the debate on how to deal with young people who see little perspective in a society that many feel treats them like second-class citizens.

The clashes erupted on Tuesday in the Kreuzberg district when around 100 Turkish and Arab youths attacked police who detained two 12-year-old Turks caught trying to steal another teenager's MP3 player.

The following night there were skirmishes after around 60 youths from Kreuzburg fought with a group of high school students in the neighbouring working-class suburb of Tempelhof.

On the same day around 80 people in a mostly Turkish populated part of Moabit prevented an ambulance from taking a 5-year-old boy who had been injured in a car accident to hospital.

The child had been knocked down by a motorist who left the scene and sought sanctuary in a police station. Police reinforcements were called in to allow the ambulance to continue its journey.

Berlin communal official Heinz Buschkowsky sees the problem as "a decline in values" that has led to a lack of respect for authority in areas with high unemployment and a large migration

"It appears that law enforcement officials are now regarded as interlopers in some suburbs," said Frank Henkel, a member of the opposition Christian Democrats in the Berlin senate.

Turks account for a quarter of the 464,000 foreigners who make up 14 per cent of the capital's 3.4 million population. Many of them are the children and grandchildren of immigrants who came in the 1950s.

But some residents who witnessed this week's disturbances blamed police for exacerbating the situation by acting in a heavy handed manner and hurling racial abuse at the youths involved.

Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch said Friday that some of the officers involved in Tuesday's incident in Kreuzberg were being questioned in connection
with the allegations.

"We take such accusations very seriously and will look into them exhaustively," he told a press conference. "It is not often that claims of this kind are made against the Berlin police."

He also dismissed the idea of no-go areas in city flashpoints. "We (the police) are visible everywhere and take action whenever it is necessary," Glietsch said.

Opposition Greens politicians in the Berlin parliament called on the police to use Turkish and Arabic-speaking officers when called into action in multi-cultural suburbs like Kreuzberg.

Berlin politicians said the clashes bore no comparison to last autumn's civil unrest in France that was triggered by the deaths of two North African youths being chased by police in a Paris suburb.

The city's senate plans to discuss the violence at a meeting of its internal affairs committee on Monday and Kreuzberg Mayor Franz Schulz has promised to hold talks with police, youth groups and community workers in a bid to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

Source: (English)

Flanders: Affirmative action in transportation

The Flemish gov't transportation company De Lijn will implement quotas for female and immigrant workers. These would be concrete quotas, to be reached within an agreed period of time. "It will be ambitious, but reachable. Everybody in the company would work towards reaching it," said general manager Ingrid Lieten. The number and timing are yet to be announced.

With that standpoint De Lijn goes against all over businesses which have refused to institute such a quote

The manager of the Center for Equality, Jozef De Witte, said he is against the quota. "For me it's an ultimate means for equal participation and not a goal. You should introduce the quota as late as possible, and remove it as quickly as possible."

Filip Dewinter, head of the right wing part Vlaams Belang, has filed a complaint against the quota policy, saying it is racist.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

Vatican: Muslim immigrants need to adapt to European laws

Though this piece of news appears in many news sources, most prefer to focus on other issues brought up in the speech, or to focus on the Muslim veil issue. The Dutch newspaper Elsevier, brings the most direct quote I've found. I'm sure the full speech will be available in the near future.

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who heads the Vatican department dealing with migration issues, declared yesterday that Muslims in Europe need to adapt to European laws. The Cardinal was presenting the Pope's message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Muslim immigrants in non-Muslim lands must "respect the traditions, symbols, cultur and religion of the lands to which they moved", and therefore subordinate their own religious regulations.

The cardinal brought up the Muslim veil as an example. If Muslims do not follow this or similar laws, the authorities must force observance of the law.

Source: Elsevier (Dutch)

Sweden: Iraqi immigration main source of population growth

Sweden's population has grown considerably so far this year. Immigration is the main source of the growth, with Iraq one of the main sources of immigrants.

So far, the population has increased by 55,799 people, the largest rise since 1994, taking Sweden comfortably clear of the nine million mark at 9,103,551.

Between January and September, 73,907 people moved to Sweden from abroad. This is 26,000 more, or 54 percent, than during the same period last year. According to a report by Statistics Sweden, the increase is mainly made up of Swedish citizens who have returned home. The number of foreigners, especially from Iraq, has also increased significantly.

During the first three quarters of the year, 7,094 Iraqis have come to Sweden. Last year, the number of Iraqis that came to Sweden was 1,532. Another nationality quickly increasing in numbers in Sweden is Polish.

But immigration is not the only cause of Sweden's population increase. Some 81,948 babies were born during the first three quarters of the year – a five percent increase compared to last year. Again, the last time this many babies were born in Sweden was in 1994. The total number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 14,095.

Marriage has also increased in popularity with the number of people tying the knot higher than at any time since 1989. Some 37,529 marriages took place during the first nine months of the year. Divorces have increased in number: 14, 826 couples got divorced this year compared to 14,727 divorces last year.
Source: The Local (English)

UN: Muslim-West divide an issue of politics not religion

The UN has now come up with a solution to the world's problems. What stands behind Islam's hate for the West? The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, for one. If we could only solve that one, everybody would live happily ever after and peace would reign. That must also be the reason why hundreds of thousands of Muslims are being slaughtered by their own brethern every day in Iraq and elsewhere round the world.

I agree that the problem is the believers and not the faith, but only in the sense that it is the believers who decide what of their faith they find relevant to their daily lives. "An eye for an eye" appears in the Jewish Torah, but there is no Jew who would read that literally, or wish to go back to the days when that was the general order of things.

Annan mentions the Quran, the Torah and the Bible, but the only believers who actually follow any of these books literally are the Muslims. The discussion whether the problem is the book, the religion or the followers then becomes just an academic discussion.

The symbol for the deepening rift between Islam and the West is not the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is the fact that so many Muslims get little or no education from their own gov't. That many Muslims live in abject poverty. It is the growing immigration from Muslim countries who offer no future to their residents towards the West, which offers freedoms and opportunities. There is no lack of money in the Muslim world. Only a general lack of willingness to act and do. When the Iranian president calls for volunteers to explode in the streets of Israel, thousands answer. How many would answer for a call to be volunteers in an internal Muslims peace-corps?

Politics, and not religion, is at the heart of the growing rift between the West and the Muslim world, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has said.

Annan made the comments on Monday, as he met scholars, politicians and religious leaders to discuss ways to improve relations between ''East'' and ''West''.

"We should start by reaffirming and demonstrating that the problem is not the Quran or the Torah or the Bible," Annan said in response to a report by the multinational group of scholars that sets out proposals to overcome the problem.

"Indeed, I have often said that the problem is never the faith, it is the faithful and how they behave towards each other."

The report said the Arab-Israeli conflict is a critical symbol of the deepening rift and called for the resumption of the Middle East peace process, UN officials said.

Source: Aljazeera (English)

Antwerp: Schools forbid Muslim veil

Only two secondary schools in the municipal educational system of Antwerp allow their students to come to school with a Muslim veil. Most refuse entrance to girls who come with a veil. More and more schools elsewhere in Flanders are also adding a ban on the Muslim veil to their regulations.

Various Flemish immigrant organization think that the gov't should intervene. They point out that banning the Muslim veil reduces the chances of getting a good education. "Immigrant girls can't choose freely anymore to which school they go and which subjects they will study there. That undermines their chances on the job market" says Nadia Babazia from the Support Point for Immigrant Girls and Women that researched the wearing of the Muslim veil in Flemish schools.

Antwerp alderman of Education, Robert Voorhamme confirms the trend but thinks it's not a problem. "The ban on the veil causes few problems in the schools of Antwerp. Most girls usually take off their veil at the school gate."

Frank Vandenbroucke, Flemish minister of Education and Work, does not want to get involved in the debate. "Every school can decide autonomously is the veil is allowed or not. The gov't may not intervene in it".

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Netherlands: What about the burqa ban?

The Sunday Telegraph came out yesterday with an announcement that the Dutch are planning to ban the Muslim veil. Expatica published an article with the title Verdonk: no Burka ban just yet.

The question is therefore: what's going on?

The short answer: The Sunday Telegraph likes eye catching headlines, but Expatica is closer to the truth.

Politics has never been my forte, but I'll try to summarize. The Dutch parliament voted to accept a complete ban on the burqa. This is not the Muslim veil, but rather a garment which covers the entire body and face. Though not mentioned, this probably also includes the niqab, a garment which covers the face, but leaves the eyes uncovered. This ban would supposedly affect about 50 women in the Netherlands.

The Dutch cabinet therefore set up a committee of experts to see whether such a ban is possible. After discussing the issue for quite some time the committee advised the cabinet that such a ban is not possible according to current Dutch law. However, Minister Verdonk, the intergration minister, announced she would do everything she can to make sure the burqa is banned in public. Though a general ban will probably not be realistic due to freedom of religion, she thinks it is already possible according to Dutch law to ban the burqa in public transport and in the educational system.

The cabinet will also actively check whether a general ban is feasible. Other ministers denied that assertion.

Such a ban could also include other face coverings such as helmets and balaclavas.

Sources: Sunday Telegraph (English), Expatica (English), Parool (Dutch)

See also: Banning the burka in Holland, Netherlands: Stepping into the veil debate

Netherlands: Mosque wins award for municipal planning

A mosque designed by Aida W. Rifai and showing how to combine Dutch and Muslim ideas won in the city planning category for the South Holland Design Award. The other two contestants in the category were a Moroccan style restaurant and an art-park.

The design can be seen here (pdf file).

Source: Zuid Hollandse Vormgevingsprijs (Dutch)

Netherlands: 6 arrested for jihad recruitment

Six people have been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of recruiting volunteers for jihad, or Islamic holy war, prosecutors said Tuesday after a year-long investigation.

The suspects, five men and a woman, were arrested in The Hague and Amsterdam late Monday and early Tuesday as part of a probe into an international Islamic terror network launched in November 2005, the prosecutor’s office said.

Among the suspects, who were not identified by name, are two Dutch nationals, a Turkish man, a Tunisian national, a Moroccan and one suspect with dual Dutch and Moroccan citizenship, prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin said. The six are suspected of “recruiting radical Muslims for the international jihad”, a crime under recently amended Dutch laws.

Police are still investigating whether the suspects can also be charged with forming a terrorist organisation, the prosecutor’s office said.

They were not linked to other convicted terrorists in the Netherlands, like Muslim radical Mohammed Bouyeri who was convicted for the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, or six terrorism suspects on trial in Amsterdam.

The investigation began after police received information about three men from The Hague who had travelled to Azerbaijan to take part in jihad. They were arrested by Azerbaijani authorities in Baku and sent back to the Netherlands.

“The three youths were suspected of being in contact with a network of extremist Muslims that was recruiting young men for the jihad,” prosecutors said.

Investigators discovered that potential jihadists were being recruited with inflammatory speeches, pamphlets and videos focusing on the supposed duty of all Muslims to take part in holy war.

Several suspects have also tried to get fake travel documents to travel to Iraq.

The six suspects are expected to appear before a judge later this week, who will then rule if they can be remanded in custody.

Source: Daily Times (English)

For the full story on the 3 "Jihad kids" see also:
Three Dutch recruited for Jihad, Missing kids learned Koran by terror suspect, Alleged Jihad recruiter denies accusations, kids 'on vacation', Three Dutch Jihadists back home, We just went shopping.. in Baku

To be a Jew in Denmark

Efraim Zuroff, a religious Jew, recently visited Denmark and brings his impression of the growning threat of Muslim anti-semitism.

It was Marcellus who asserted in the play Hamlet that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark," but one does not need the acumen of Shakespeare to discern that things have changed for the worse in the country that was once a symbol of European philo-Semitism.

As a result, the local Jewish community, which for decades could boast of the highest comfort level in Europe in terms of its acceptance, integration and absence of any deep-seated anti-Jewish hostility, now faces important battles on several fronts, not to mention a few extremely serious internal problems.

Upon arriving in the center of Copenhagen after an absence of a few years, one can immediately sense the palpable changes in the makeup of the population. Lily-white, blond Denmark has absorbed almost 200,000 Muslim immigrants from south Asia and north Africa over the past two decades and their physical presence is fairly pronounced in the streets of the capital; whether it is women and teenagers with various head-coverings, individuals whose skin color stands out in comparison to the rest of the local population, or the numerous fast-food stands selling shishlik and/or shishkebab.

Their arrival and the growing Islamic militancy of segments of this population have led to a worrying increase in anti-Semitic incidents in a country in which such incidents were practically unthinkable a few years ago. Jewish children are often the object of taunting and harassment by Muslim neighbors and there has been increasingly strident anti-Zionist rhetoric by local Muslim leaders in response to events in the Middle East.

Med Ryggen Mod Murren - With our Backs to the Wall - was the name of a day-long conference on anti-Semitism which I was invited to address. It reflects the deep angst among local Jews and supporters of Israel. Held in a hall in Christianborg, the Danish parliament, the program featured presentations on a wide range of topics related to contemporary anti-Semitism worldwide, Israel-bashing and Holocaust denial; but the dominant undercurrent was one of deep concern regarding the local situation.

TWO FORMER Israelis living in Denmark openly expressed their fears.

Tziyona, who works as a teacher in Copenhagen, and Elisheva, who lives in Jutland, spoke about their palpable concerns for their safety. The latter, for example, refuses to allow her teenage daughter to wear a Magen David necklace, although she herself does. When I humbly suggested that perhaps the time had come to return "home," she pointed to her Danish husband as if to say it wouldn't work.

A visit to the local Jewish school (Carolineskolen) only reinforced the sense of a community under pressure. The obvious security measures are a given, like practically everywhere else in Europe, but here in exchanges with the children, one felt their anxiety about prosaic matters. After a lecture on the life of Simon Wiesenthal (not a single student knew who he was!) and contemporary efforts to catch Nazi war criminals, my audience of eighth- and ninth-graders (there is no high school) were particularly interested in my views on anti-Semitism.

For them, as their teacher explained to me, this is no longer an abstract issue, but rather an omnipresent nuisance, if not an actual physical threat. Just recently some of the children were accosted by Muslim youths who knew they were Jewish since they had competed for a Jewish soccer team.

So the threats by Iranian President Ahmadinejad may sound scary, but the neighborhood Muslim bullies pose much more of an immediate problem.

On a visit to a friend who lives in the relatively tranquil suburb of Albertslund, my host, by no means a coward, warned me not to make eye-contact with a group of Muslim youths hanging out on a street corner on our way to his home. He also insisted on accompanying me back to my hotel since "People wearing a kippa are not necessarily safe these days in the city center."

Although the Jewish community is well-organized and relatively financially secure, its small numbers make local Jewish life less than appealing for many of its younger members. Add an extremely high intermarriage rate on the one hand and the aliya of many of the more committed Jewish youth raised in Denmark on the other, and the future of Danish Jewry does not appear very promising.

Or, as Hamlet himself asked in that same country: "To be or not to be, that is the question."

Source: Jerusalem Post (English)

Netherlands: Who said shaking hands is respectful anyway?

The Dutch Committee for Equal Treatment (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling) decided Tuesday that a teacher of a Dutch highschool may refuse to shake hands, provided she does not diffrentiate between men and women. The committee decided that the requirement to shake hands is not included among the respectful manners the the Utrecht school wants to disseminate.

Samira Dahri, an economics teachers, refused to shake hands following the summer vacation, since it conflicts with her Muslim faith. The school, Vader Rijn College, suspended the teacher last month.

In its manners code the school requires students and teacher to treat each other with respect. The educational institution says it dedicates itself in this way to disseminate Dutch norms and values, a pursuit that was praised by the committee.

However, the committee said this does not mean a teacher can be forced to shake hands. "That is considered by many as not respectful."

Not binding

The decision follows two earlier decision by the Committee for Equal Treatment in which two men refused to shake hands due to religious convictions. In both cases the committee concluded that it was their right to do so.

The school can ignore the advice. The decision of the committee is not binding. However, the school will not look well if the case comes before the courts.

According to the CGB site, the school has a majority of Turkish and Moroccan students and wants to teach them how to get along in Dutch society. However, the CGB still thinks there are other ways besides the shaking hands to respectfully greet others.

Sources: HLN (Dutch), h/t Rudi, CGB (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Find another way to show respect

Belgium: Imam school to be set up

Belgium plans on setting up an Imam school before the end of the 2006 -2007 academic year.
This school was requested by the Exécutif des musulmans de Belgique (the Belgian Muslim executive).

The Muslim executive also requests the presence of a mufti - a Muslim scholar who is also an interpreter and advocate of the Sharia, Islamic law, and who is, according to traditions, capable of issuing a fatwa, a judgment based on Islamic laws.

However, a Belgian mufti would not be given this right since it would conflict with Belgian's justice system.

A similar structure already exists in France and holds educational and informative functions.

Belgium professor will give civic training in both French and Dutch and 15 trainers from Morocco, Turkey and Egypt will give training in Arabic, Urdu and Turk. The requested mufti would be in charge of the school, as is the case in France.

The Exécutif des musulmans de Belgique counts on subsidies to finance the school and pay the professors and the mufti, therefore their request is well timed as the government is about to enter negotiations to rethink and reorganise subsidies for religious groups.

Experts recently pointed out a lack of transparency and fairness between different religions and organised secular groups.

There are also talks on an eventual legislation to control the foreign finance of mosques in Belgium in order to reduce outside ideological influence on Belgian Imams.

Source: Expatica (English)


I ran into this quite interesting article by Asra Nomani in the Jerusalem Post. Nomani is a Muslim modernist and initiated the first mixed-gender Muslim prayers. I bring just a few quotes, but it's a worthwhile article to read through. I feel that much like Irshad Manji, Nomani is taking herself out of the religious community, and as such will have less of a chance of affecting it. You do not need to support mixed-gender prayers in order to come out against wife beating. I hope that more Muslims will come to that conclusion.

Essay: Wife-beating, chapter and verse

When dealing with a "disobedient wife," a Muslim man has a number of options. First, he should remind her of "the importance of following the instructions of the husband in Islam." If that doesn't work, he can "leave the wife's bed." Finally, he may "beat" her, though it must be without "hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost."

Such appalling recommendations, drawn from the book Woman in the Shade of Islam by Saudi scholar Abdul Rahman al-Sheha, are inspired by as authoritative a source as any Muslim could hope to find: a literal reading of the 34th verse of the fourth chapter of the Koran: "[A]nd [as to] those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them," reads one widely accepted translation.

The notion of using physical punishment as a "disciplinary action," as Sheha suggests, especially for "controlling or mastering women" or others who "enjoy being beaten," is common throughout the Muslim world. Indeed, I first encountered Sheha's work at my Morgantown mosque, where a Muslim student group handed it out to male worshipers after Friday prayers one day a few years ago.

Verse 4:34 retains a strong following, even among many who say women must be treated as equals under Islam. Indeed, Muslim scholars and leaders have long been doing what I call "the 4:34 dance" - they reject outright violence against women, but accept a level of aggression that fits contemporary definitions of domestic violence.

Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, have recently focused on Muslim women's veils as an obstacle to integration in the West. But to me, it is 4:34 that poses the much deeper challenge. How the Muslim world interprets this passage will reveal whether Islam can be compatible with life in the 21st century. As Hadayai Majeed, an African-American Muslim who opened a shelter in Atlanta to serve Muslim women, put it: "If it's OK for me to be a savage in my home, it's OK for me to be a savage in the world."

Source: Jerusalem Post (English)

First Anniversary

I started this blog almost exactly one year ago. The issue of Islam in Europe had interested me greatly the past few years and I had spent a lot of time reading about it and participating in discussions on other blogs.

I had a lot of doubts before starting off this blog. Did I really have anything to add to what was already being said? I felt I did, and I felt there was no blog which was really following up on the Islamic issues in the Dutch speaking countries. Since then I became acquainted with several Dutch bloggers.

It is not my intention to show the evil of Islam. I am more interested in following up on the clash of cultures, the clash of values and the way each side is dealing with them.

It had been an interesting year, starting off with the riots in France, which were also copied somewhat in Belgium, the various travails of Samir Azzouz, who's now facing his 3rd terror trial all the way through the Mohammed cartoons and the debate that they caused, and now to the debate over the Muslim veil.

I was unsure whether others would be interested in reading what I had to say, but I am gratified to find that I do have an audience. 700 posts and almost 50,000 page loads later, I can say it has been an amazing year.

It is noteworthy that two issues especially perked the interest of my readers. The first was my posts on the Mohammed cartoons and my translation of the Jyllands Posten apology in Arabic to English. Though my Arabic is very basic and I am still struggling with learning the language and though Jyllands Posten later posted another version of their apology in English as well, it gave a general overview of what was said to the Arab public when no other source was available. The second was the story of the Dutch Moroccans who cheered the tragedy of the American people while watching the movie World Trade Center. This piece of news barely appeared in the Dutch press and was generally ignored by the world media.

I thank all my readers for their support and their comments. I am happy to open another venue of information for you and I thank my readers for contributing their thought provoking insights and for developing my own opinions. Without all of you, this blog wouldn't be here! :-)

I will not be blogging next week.. enjoy the break :-)

Sweden: Funds frozen in terror probe

Didn't Sweden grant visas to Hamas officials?

Swedish authorities have called for the accounts of a Malmö-based fund-raising foundation to be frozen as part of an ongoing terrorist investigation. The organisation, al-Aqsa Spannmål ('al-Aqsa Corn'), will be denied access to bank accounts containing over one million kronor, Sydsvenskan reports.

Last week the foundation's chairman Khalid al-Yousef was remanded in custody at Malmö district court suspected of preparing acts of terrorism and general destruction. But a lack of evidence meant that he was later released.

The district court concluded that there were grounds to supect that al-Yousef had broken with financing regulations. But the evidence was not strong enough to warrant detention.

The accounts are to be frozen on a temporary basis. A definite decision will be reached next week when the court hears from the other person authorised to sign in the foundation's name. Al-Yousef's colleague is not suspected of any crime.

Deputy chief prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström claims that organisations connected to Hamas have recieved 6 million kronor from the Malmö-based foundation. With this in mind she asked Malmö district court to freeze al-Aqsa Spannmål's accounts to the value of 1.3 million kronor.

"Last Friday I asked for him to be detained for breaking the law that prohibits the financing of serious crimes.

"I now have a one week time limit for indictment. Since this will not be resolved in such a short space of time I hope to get the time limit extended. If not, the possibility will be taken away," Hilding Qvarnström told The Local.

Al-Aqsa Spannmål claims to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territories. But the USA contends that the money is going to Hamas and for three years has demanded that Swedish authorities freeze the foundation's assets.

Source: The Local (English)

Copenhagen: Immigrant school chosen as City's Favorite'

The movie can be seen here [~15MB download]

Copenhagen's best elementary isn't hidden in the suburbs. It is an oasis of learning in an area where children are more likely to be named Mohammed than Magnus

The Tingbjerg neighbourhood is one of those places more likely to appear at the top of crime statistics than education statistics. Yesterday, however, it was blasting preconceived notions of what life at an 'immigrant' school is like.

In a ceremony at City Hall Tuesday, a ninth grade class at Tingbjerg School - where the student body is 90 percent non-ethnic Danes - was named as the winner of the city's inaugural 'City's Favourite' competition as the best school in the city.

Some 700 classes from the city's 65 elementary schools sent in video presentations of their schools to the organising committee. They posted them on the city's website and allowed the public to decide which school was the best place to learn.

Tingbjerg won the competition with a presentation of life through the eyes of non-ethnic Danes. The opening seconds of the video show idyllic views of the woods and lake in the outer-Copenhagen neighbourhood. It then cuts to a Muslim girl in a headscarf praising her school.

During the guided video tour of the school, rap music performed by the students plays in the background as smiling students - including one stereotypical non-ethnic Danish boy wearing a 'Denmark' t-shirt - testify to the good learning environment there.

City education officials and members of the prize's panel of experts felt the Tingberg presentation would go a long way to changing how people looked at similar schools - and how students at those schools looked at themselves.

'Tingbjerg's video is incredibly good,' said Morten Albæk, a member of the expert panel. 'It's about the way that non-ethnic Danes want to put an end to prejudice. They come up with a single answer: getting an education to make yourself smarter than your counterpart.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Germany: Veil controversy

The veil controversy has also hit Germany. Elkin Deligöz, a Turkish parliament member, has come out against wearing the veil in Germany and has received death threats in response. Being Turkish, her statements mean much more. German Muslim leaders came out in Deligöz' support, saying they did not agree with her but stood behind her right to voice her opinion.

German Muslim leaders on Tuesday defended a Turkish-born legislator's right to tell women they should take off their headscarves and condemned death threats against her — although they said they disagreed with her stance.

The Muslim representatives spoke after meeting with Greens party officials, who urged them to decry threats against party legislator Ekin Deligoz, who Greens officials say has been put under guard.

"The Central Council of Muslims strongly condemns the threats and we made it clear that we stand behind Ms. Deligoz," said Mounir Azzaoui, spokesman for the Central Council of Muslims.

"We have a different position regarding the head scarf, but that's not critical in these days. The most important thing is that all of us stand up for the freedom of opinion."

The head scarf issue echoes a recent controversy over Islamic dress in Britain, where former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he asked women to remove their veils before coming to see him in his office. It also underlines tension between the secular outlook of many Turkish immigrant women in Germany and more traditional Turkish Muslim ways.

Germany has more than 3 million Muslims, most of them from Turkey.

Five Muslim organizations accepted an invitation to meet on Tuesday with Deligoz and other Green lawmakers, the party said. Its co-leader in parliament, Renate Kuenast, said she wanted to discuss the importance of "behaving with respect toward each other."

Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, said that "Ms. Deligoz must be allowed to say anything she wants and must not be threatened."

But he said her statements against headscarves risked stirring anti-Islamic prejudices: "Still, it is also true that the public holds many prejudices against Islam and many people connect the head scarf with terrorism," he said. "If you say something like that, you also put at risk social peace."

"Integration cannot happen through assimilation," said Ali Kizilkaya of the Islamic Council, who opposes the call to take off headscarves. But he added: "Plurality also includes freedom of opinion, that one can also criticize Muslims. ... It's important that we show respect for the positions of one another, even if we don't share them."

Deligoz said after the meeting at parliamentary offices in Berlin that "We left with the message that all of us want that freedom of expression in this country is possible and that you can't play religion off against freedom of expression."

Two weeks ago, Deligoz was quoted in Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper as arguing that "the head scarf is a symbol of women's oppression."

"I appeal to Muslim women: Arrive in the present day, arrive in Germany — you live here, so take off the head scarf," she added. "Show that you have the same civil and human rights as men."

The Deligoz case follows the decision by Turkish-born lawyer and Muslim women's rights activist Seyran Ates, 43, to close her Berlin law practice, saying she was getting too many threats from the husbands of Turkish women she had represented in divorce and domestic violence cases.

She said Monday that she received a death threat two weeks ago, right after the Bild am Sonntag newspaper printed a critical comment by her on the head scarf debate.

Kuenast has complained to Turkey's ambassador in Berlin of "unacceptable" reactions in Turkish media to Deligoz's comments.

Those included one newspaper report that compared the lawmaker to the Nazis and another that drew a parallel with former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a prominent critic of Islam.

Kuenast wrote in a letter to the ambassador that Deligoz had been "insulted in writing, by telephone and also in person ... overwhelmingly by Turkish men."

She said Tuesday she has had no response yet from Turkey.

Germany's interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said it was "absolutely legitimate that a woman who is Muslim herself ... makes this appeal."

"If someone is threatened, then something is not right," he added. "But so long as something is not right, she will of course get police protection."

Faruk Sen, head of the Center for Turkish Studies at the University of Essen, said the extreme reactions against Deligoz come from the margins of the Turkish community.

"People shouldn't condemn Turks per se because of that," he said. "The vast majority stand behind Western values."

Source: IHT (English)

Islam in Europe in Omedia

An interview with me appeared yesterday on the Omedia site. The interview, published in Hebrew, was conducted by Dr. Yohai Sela. I was told an English version will be available in the future.

New Look

After getting several comments about my blog being unreadable, I decided it's time to do something about it. I hope this is a better, readable design.