UK: I'm a Muslim, Get Me out of Here!

For nearly two million Muslims living in Britain, the legacy of the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks has been one of continuing public suspicion and distrust. The intense media spotlight has led many to question whether their future here is secure, even those who have professional jobs and previously felt well integrated.

Navid Akhtar meets such families who are contemplating leaving the UK, and visits others who have already left for greener Islamic pastures abroad.

The radio show can be heard through the Radio 4 website.

London: First halal McDonald's

Muslims flocked to a McDonalds restaurant in London yesterday for their first taste of halal chicken nuggets.

The fast food giant is putting several halal products on trial for a month at its Southall branch to see if it is feasible to introduce them in Britain.

Meat only qualifies as halal, an Arabic term meaning permissible, if the animal is blessed in the name of Allah then slaughtered facing Mecca. A company spokesman said: "The product cannot have come into contact with non-halal products so there are logistical issues. We hope to see if it is possible for us to do."

McDonalds says British Muslims have been pleading with them to introduce halal meals here for years.

Sales doubled when two McDonalds restaurants in Melbourne, Australia, began serving halal fast-food meals last December, despite initial protests by non-Muslims.

When halal chicken went on sale in Detroit last September, Muslims travelled there from as far away as New York to sample it.

Source: Daily Express (English)

UK police: you can't fight terror without working with extremist Muslims

Robert Lambert of the Muslim Contact Unit with the Metropolitan Police in London was a guest speaker by the Danish Police intelligence services conference on terror, and the following is based on his talk.

Terror is not fought by contact with moderate Muslims.  Instead the police looks for partnerships with the Salafists - the most radical Muslims that hold a most strict and primitive form of Islam.  They have the necessary credibility among young Muslims who are intrigued by al-Qaeda.  

Eight people are working daily in this special unit on plans to establish contacts in the Muslim society in the British capital.

He said that that is done by making partnerships with the Salafists.  We will understand the extremists way of thought before they manage anything effective, and we can do that  by making contact with the right people, who have the extremists and Salafist's trust.

In his own department, for example, there's a Salafist who's working for the police.

In recent years police succeeded in getting several known Al Qaeda sympathizers in jail, such as Al Qaeda preacher Abu Qatada, and Afghanistan veteran Abu Hamza, but often their influence grows among the prison walls.  

Abu Hamza had for many years preached his hate towards the west every Friday, in his extremists mosque at Finchley Road in North London.  Many were surprised that the police did not act towards his supporters, but Robert Lambert explains that they wanted to go after the real evil guys and not just after the young followers.

According to him today they have contact with some of those who had followed Hamza and they have changed careers.  Today they play according to the democratic rules - perhaps to the annoyance of some in the political system - but that is more positive.  Today they search for those of Mohammed Sidiqui Khan's type.

Isn't the police risking being misused by the extremists?

Lambert says such a risk exists and that they're accused of indulging the extremists, but that it will be cowardice not to take the chance.  He continued saying that they certainly don't talk with terrorists but with people who have a whole other ideology than us.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)

Netherlands: Terror report

The Dutch security service (AIVD) had no indications last year that Muslim terrorists intended to commit an attack in the Netherlands.  According to the 2006 yearly report that was presented Friday, it is still possible for such an attack to take place.

In general the AIVD says that the threat of so called Jihadist terrorism by Dutch born terrorist has gone down since 2005.  In that helped the criminal prosecution of terror suspects and the deportation of members of extremist Muslim networks who had been declared persona non grata due to AIVD supplied information.  The threat is less acute due to the internal discord and the (temporary) lack of "true leader figures".

However, the radicalization of part of the Muslim youth continues.  An important boos is the Salafist movement, which preaches a very rigid interpretation of Islam, though on its own it doesn't call to violence.

Sybrand van Hulst, head of the AIVD stressed that radicalization does not lead to violence by definition, but that it can be a threat since it causes tension between groups in society and leads to polarization.  Part of the approach to radicalization must be to provide a counterweight which would take the wind out of the sails of the radical movements.

Regarding jihadism, the approach to the internet is becoming more professional.  "Besides more or less open and accessible websites there are also meanwhile professionally protected jihadist websites," according to the AIVD.  The function of the internet has also shifted somewhat.  In the past radical Muslims used it mainly to spread their message.  In 2006 the service saw it being used more and more to start up networks.

Van Hulst thinks it is harder to assess the threat of international terrorism for the Netherlands.  "The successful attack in Great Britain and the unsuccessful attacks in Germany show that the tide can quickly change," he concludes.

"The chance for an attack continues to exist," also from within the Netherlands, he emphasizes.  "The networks in the Netherlands have lost their readiness.  New leaders don't exist yet.  But can however quickly change.  Radicalization can run very quickly."

Source: Parool (Dutch)

Belgium: Terror report

In a new report of the Comité I, the Belgian state security service estimates the total number of Muslim extremists in Belgium at "maximum 2%".  With 403,000 Muslims, this comes up to 8,000 people.  Comité I is a permanent parliamentary committee established to follow up on the activities of the security services.

According to the report three attacks by Muslims had been foiled.  An attack by Nizar Trabelsi on the NATO base at Kleine-Brogel and two attacks in 2004 in Antwerp, one on a Jewish school and one at the opening ceremony of the HST tunnel.

The federal attorney, Johan Delmulle, said in an interview Saturday to De Tijd that there is information about terrorist training camps in Belgium.

"Last year we received 318 report about possible terrorist activities in our country.  We treat each report as if there is really an attack involved.  The error margin must be zero." according to Delmulle.  There is information about terrorist training camps, "but I can't say more than that".

Delmulle also said that the federal prosecutor started up a record number of terror investigations in 2006, with 106 new files compared to 89 in 2005 and 134 in the last three years.

The number of judicial investigations also went up: 26 in 2006 compared to 14 in the year before.  In Brussels itself there were 17 investigations, followed by Antwerp and Charleroi with 3 each.

Source: GVA (Dutch)

Göthenborg: Mosque financed by Saudis

The Sweden Muslim Association in Gothenburg had to fight for 15 years to get a mosque.  The plans have been ready for a long time.  Now the money is coming from Saudi Arabia.  Critics think the association is getting itself into a dependency situation.

Dressed in suits and ties, a delegation of four from the Saudi Finance Department enters the Muslim school Römosseskolan's hall in Angered outside Gothenburg.  They have come to write up a contract with the Swedish Muslim Association.

"We want Muslims to have an official place to exercise their religious actions in Gothenburg.  We don't want them to be in out of the way places," says Saleh al-Rechadi, director of the Saudi Finance Department.

"It feels incredibly good since we have waited for about 20 years now," says Bachar Gahnom, who has pushed for building the mosque.

The mosque at Hisingen will be the first in Sweden to be wholly financed by another state.  Critics think that the Saudi government is buying influence over Gothenburg's Muslims and that the association is now choosing to land itself in a dependence situation.

The Saudi interpretation of Islam is considered severed and conservative.

But according to the association the Saudis have not demanded administration posts or a say in who will hold the important position of imam.  The Saudis have, however, opinions on how the mosque shall be run.

"It isn't an absurd demand that the mosque will serve both Muslims and non-Muslims.  This mosque will be a sort of official front for the Muslims in Gothenburg," says Bachar Gahnom.

Åke Sander, who works at Gothenburg University followed up the issue and he thinks that there's a schism between Gothenburg's Muslims.  Among others the liberal and feminist Muslims are very skeptic about the Saudi money.

He says that many think that if the money comes only from them and not from anybody else, it will give them influence, he says.

Source: Swedish Radio (Swedish), h/t FOMI (Swedish)

Beveren: Tighter rules at swimming pool

It is not the first time that problems arise with immigrant youth in the recreation pool in Beveren. According to mayor Van de Vijver it's the same kids who repeatedly cause problems at the recreation area De Ster in Sint-Niklaas. The situation in Beveren has recently escalated, says the city council.

"During the Easter vacation 80% of the visitors were immigrant and they terrorized other visitors," accord gin to the mayor. "From pestering other children to sexual intimidation. They also totally didn't abide by the rules, coming to swim in underpants and taking in various foods into the pool which doesn't help hygiene."

Meanwhile the municipality got many complaints from concerned parents. In one case two kids were threatened and stayed for hours in the pool since they didn't dare come out.

"We can't tolerate this sort of behaviour any longer," stresses the mayor. The municipality is therefore adopting a range of regulations. In the weekends, on Wednesday afternoon [when school lets off early] and during vacation period there will be two guards who will check the identity of the visitors. Whoever causes trouble will be put on a blacklist. The first infringement will lead to a month ban. Whoever causes problems a second time risks a 6 month ban and a third time means definite exclusion. That can also happen faster by weighty facts. There will also be a zero-tolerance policy in the area of the swimming pool and on the buses to the sport area.

The police will pick up troublemakers immediately and send them back towards Antwerp. Even if they won't be identified, the entire group would be sent out. Further, the parents of the youth would be contacted, as well as the Moroccan community in Antwerp. As a last measure, the mayor says that he will dramatically increase prices for non-residents. However, this would only be done if there's no other choice as it will affect also residents in neighboring municipalities.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Netherlands: You haven't integrated yet

This article confuses the difference between being officially considered "immigrant", which is the case for most of the kids in the Dutch royal family, and being considered an "outsider" by society.


"The Dutch hold on to their cheese sandwiches [traditional food]. We meanwhile eat the cheese. We are integrated, you aren't yet."

A young Dutch woman of Moroccan origin speaking during an integration debate in the Halderberge municipality house. Municipal alderman sat together with immigrants and people who are involved with immigrants. Many of the immigrants blamed Dutch Halderberge residents for showing too little interest in their culture. "I still have a feeling that we don't belong. Why is my child seen as an immigrant during school sign-up? I am Dutch and she is Dutch. Is it for the double subsidy that the school receives? Give her the feeling that she is Dutch," says Houria Mekkaoui.

There was much criticism for the proposition that Moroccan youth for the greatest risk group for integration also in Halderberge.

"If it's about integration, the Lonsdale youth groups are a greater risk than the Moroccan youth," says youth workers Mels Hoogeboom, who agrees that part of the Halderberge youth get their lack of tolerance for other cultures from their parents.

Nobody found it strange that immigrant new-comers look for each other. "Dutch do that abroad too," says Selim Sahin.

Is integration not on the whole a problem of immigrants? The education representatives said that by staying away from nursery school the kids develop a language deficiency and due to the same language problems it is hard to approach the parents.

Source: BN De Stem (Dutch)

See also: Why are there still all those questions?

Rotterdam: Agent's signature is not hers

The signature on the will of Vlaarding police agent Habibia Yaakoubi, is probably not hers. That is the conclusion of the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI), who compared a copy of the document with thirty other documents which she had signed. In the will the agent declared that she wanted to be cremated.

According to NFI, "The results of this research do not support the proposition that the disputed signature was written by H. herself." After questioning by the public prosecution the researchers explained that they seldom write that a signature was *not* written by somebody, since it is quit hard to to prove that. However, they do state that it is more probably that the signature is not the agent's, than that it is.

The agent, a 34 year old woman of Moroccan origins, died unexpectedly in February of a brain hemorrhage. Her boyfriend and her family have since fought over what to do with her body.

Her family wants to bury her, as is always the case in Muslim circles. but according to her boyfriend and her friends Habiba wanted to have nothing more to do with her Muslim background and wanted to be cremated.

Source: Volkskrant (Dutch)

See also: Rotterdam: Fight over cremation

Netherlands: Muslim anger at Wilders

Geert Wilders, head of the Party for Freedom, received advice in confidential talks with the Dutch security services, to moderate his direct criticism of Islam.

His statements about tearing up the Koran, among other things, have lead to anger eruptions by clerics in Arabic countries. Ayatollas called to revenge, variating from killing Wilders to a boycott of the Netherlands and recalling ambassadors.

The fuss over Wilders' statements has gone up the past months so much, according to security services, that there's a threat that the situation would get to a level of the cartoon riots. Arab attention to Wilders had actually subsided after the row about Jewish excavations near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

After a 3 hour meeting earlier this month, a worker of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism informed Wilders that it would be better if he expressed his political message in a milder manner. According to Wilders he received this advice during a presentation in Tjibbe Joustra's office (the Dutch coordinator), and the Dutch Security Service (AIVD) were also present. " Joustra withdrew his coworker's advice, but it had already been said," says Wilders, who adds that he felt intimidated by the statement.

During the presentation the politician heard that ayatollah Noori Hamedani from Iran had called on Islamic governments to recall their ambassadors from the Netherlands. Another cleric issued a fatwa against Wilders, calling Muslims to kill him.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Muslims complain against Wilders, Netherlands: Complaints against Wilders, Netherlands: More terror planned

Belgium: Suicide bombing network

A year and a half after the suicide attack by the Belgian Muriel Degauque in Iraq, the state security service and the federal prosecutor identified several fellow Belgians involved in the Iraqi terrorist network, reports Le Soir.

The main concern of the intelligence agents is that once these people have been trained, they returned to Europe and Belgium to set up support networks for future terrorist acts.

The state security has regularly warned the Minister of Justice in 2005 and 2006, as well as SitCen, the operation headquarters of Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: More Belgian suicide bombers , Patterns of terrorists shifting

Copenhagen: Design for city's first mosque approved

A place for a mosque had been reserved for at least the past ten years, but problems with funding and specifically with getting the Danish Muslim community to work together, have stalled it.

Construction of Copenhagen's first mosque moved closer to reality Wednesday after the Tabah Foundation, a moderate Muslim group, approved a design by Danish architect to Jan Wenzel to build 'The Grand Mosque of Copenhagen'.
The minaret-less mosque, if approved by the city, would likely be built in the city's new Ørestad district. According to the design, the mosque itself will have room for 3000 worshippers, while the entire complex will feature a multi-cultural centre, hotel and student housing. The mosque's DKK 3.2 billion (EUR 427 million) estimated cost will be raised by the Tabah Foundation, the same organisation that hosted last spring's 'Search for Mutual Understanding' conference in which a group of 60 young Danes met with young Muslims in the United Arab Emirates. Wenzel expected that the backing of the group would ensure that funding came from moderate Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups. Prior to Wednesday's presentation in New York, where Wenzel lives and works, the architect said he saw his futuristic, crescent-moon shaped mosque as a way to create understanding. 'The Mohammed cartoon affair underscored Copenhagen's lack of a proper mosque,' he told Politiken newspaper. 'Our design is different so we can break some of the taboos associated with Islam.' The city has already expressed its willingess to build a mosque in Copenhagen. The council has been informed of Tabah's interest, but the foundation said it would only request a meeting with city representatives once it had secured sufficient funding.
Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Tilburg: Sharia in Europe symposium

The Netherlands panicked when Piet-Hein Donner announced that it is possible to introduce Sharia in the Netherlands if two-third of Dutch citizens would prefer that. In Great-Britain, Islamic inheritance law is already accepted and 40% of British Muslims would like a complete application of Islamic law. In Germany a woman recently lost a case in court because the beatings she suffered at the hands of her husband was claimed to be due to her own choice to live according to Moroccan culture (and some would claim, the Koran). What is Sharia? What are the difficulties for Westerners? Is sharia-law by definition disadvantageous to women? Do Muslim jurists introduce Islamic law into Europe by fatwas?
The University of Tilburg is holding a symposium on Sharia in Europe on May 3rd. More information can be found on their site .

Belgium: Updates in court

A couple of updates on stories I've brought recently.

Head covers in court

Antwerp judge Walter De Smedt had turned to the arbitration court to decide whether the court does not violates the rule of equality when it allows an accused to keep his head covering on due to religious reasons. Two people appeared today in front of De Smedt, one Muslim male who refused to remove his cap because he said it was too cold in the court and one female who refused to remove her veil because of religious conviction.

De Smedt would like to know whether he should make a distinction between them.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Covering your head in court

Forced abortion suspects conditionally freed

The family - two parents and their son - accused of trying to force an abortion by the son's Moroccan girlfriend had been conditionally freed.

The court saw no reason to keep them in custody, but stipulated that they may not have any contact with the victim. They also need to get treatment at a mental health care center.

According to their lawyer, there is no question of hours-long torture, though the suspects did admit to hitting and electrifying their victim. The public prosecution still wants to charge the three with torture.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Ghent: Three arrested for trying to force abortion

Norway: 48% say women who flirt are responsible for rape

Once again, surveys show that even in the West women are blamed for their own rape.  Though Muslims and non-Muslims may not agree on the definition of "flirtatious behavior", there is no real difference in attitude.

Every other Norwegian man believes that flirtatious women have themselves to blame if they are raped.

The shock results appear in a report compiled by Amnesty in cooperation with Reform - resource center for men.

One in five men surveyed said that a woman known to have several partners is fully or partly responsible if sexually assaulted, and 28 percent believed that a woman who dresses sexily is wholly or partly responsible for a sexual assault.

"I think the results of this study are frightening. I am the father of a teenage girl. It is disturbing to see that Norwegian men believe she is responsible if she should be assaulted after flirting with a man," John Peder Egenæs, secretary general of Amnesty International Norway told newspaper VG.

Fully 48 percent of those surveyed believe that women are fully or partly responsible for a sexual assault if they openly flirt before the attack.

"It is unacceptable to blame women who have been exposed to sexual assault and violence. This confirms that female-hostile attitudes are alive and well," said victim's legal counsel Trine Rjukan.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he was disappointed over Norwegian men's attitude towards women and found the study's results frightening.

"I had hoped and believed that we had come further than that in terms of men's view of violence against women," Stoltenberg said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Study: women are to blame for rape

Norway: Professor Unni Wikan on rape

This is an exercise in facts and context, which I found quite interesting.

In the debate about rapes by Muslims in Norway, you will often find a quote by a "Norwegian professor" who said that "Norwegian women should adapt". I myself have referenced this attitude in past articles.

The professor in question is Unni Wikan, and her words appear all over the net. For example, this one:

Oslo Professor of Anthropology, Unni Wikan, said Norwegian women must take responsibility for the fact that Muslim men find their manner of dress provocative. And since these men believe women are responsible for rape, she stated, the women must adapt to the multicultural society around them. (

Who is Professor Unni Wikan? Is she 'just' another leftist-socialist-Muslim-lover-multiculturalist? I found it hard to understand. Her book "Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe" says that excessive respect for the immigrant's culture brought about lack of equality and freedom for the immigrants themselves. Her book was reviewed as follows:

Unsympathetic readers might reasonably accuse Wikan of engaging in a racist polemic, of being an apologist for anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim politics. Overall, the book tends to portray immigrants as lazy, criminally inclined, mostly illiterate men who steal welfare benefits and violently repress their daughters' and sisters' life chances. (American Ethnologist)

Is she an apologist for anti-Muslim politics or for pro-Muslim politics?

I contacted Professor Wikan and got the following response:

Nobody has been able to come up with the source where I allegedly said the outrageous thing that has been attributed to me. My name is being misused, but not in Norway or Sweden or Denmark where my position on violence in the name of religion or culture is so well known that it would be absurd to attribute a defense of rape to me.

Did she say the things attributed to her?

Like most everything else, the answer is a bit complicated. After a bit of searching, I found the original article from which the quote comes from. Professor Wikan did not reply to my questions on that article.

I bring the full translation below. It is important to notice, when reading it, exactly what she is quoted as saying, and what the reporter added. It is also important to note her conclusion.

Yes, she says that Norwegian women should adapt themselves. But the most important issue - how they are supposed to do that - is usually not quoted. What does she suggest, after all? That Norwegian women be careful around Muslim men? That they should assume that Muslim men will be more likely to rape them? That they don't invite them home?

Taking her quote in context, I doubt there are many people who wouldn't agree with her.

Here's the original article, translated from Dagbladet, with my added emphasis and comments:

"Thinks Norwegian girls invite sex"

Professor Unni Wikan isn't surprised by numbers showing that 65% of rapists in Oslo last year are non-Western men. Now she's asking Norwegian women to dress themselves less boldly. [since this claim does not appear as a later quote, I am not sure whether it is a quote or the reporter's understanding or what Wikan said]

"It is sensational how blind and naive Norwegian can be towards non-Western men. Norwegian women must use common sense," says Wikan to Dagbladet. Shocking numbers were published yesterday which show that the total number of rapes in Oslo went up by 40% from 1999 to 2000. For the first time, police classified rapists by ethnic background. The statistics show that fully 65% of the rapists come from a non-Western country.

Wikan, who is a profession of social anthropology, thinks Norwegian women must take their share in the responsibility for having rapes occur. She explains the appalling number by among other things, the culture conflicts that often arise between Norwegian women and foreign men.

"The numbers don't surprise me at all. Many immigrants think Norwegian women send them signals that ask for sexual contact. And then it can quickly go wrong. Many Norwegian women have by far poor knowledge of non-Western men's attitude towards women," says Wikan.

"It is never acceptable with rape. But it is understandable that some men from non-Western countries think that they get sexual invitations from Norwegian women who on their side are just acting normal for a Norwegian woman. It is sensational how blind and naive Norwegian women can be towards non-Western men," says Wikan.

She knows that she will be criticized for these statements, but thinks the debate is important.

"I will not blame Norwegian women for the rapes. But Norwegian women must understand that we live in a multi-cultural society and adapt themselves to it."

Unless they have a desire for sex Wikan advises Norwegian women, as strongly as possible, not to invite home, for example, Muslim men with little knowledge of Norwegian culture.

She points out also that rapists in most Muslim countries are hardly punished.

"In most places people think that it is the woman who holds the blame for the rape. And it is reasonable that immigrants take with them such attitudes when they flee here to the country," says the professor, who herself has lived many years in Muslim lands.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

Antwerp: A different take on the alcohol debate

Last week Belgian news reported about fundamentalist Muslims pressuring Muslim restaurant owners in Antwerp to stop serving alcohol. The story hit a nerve by a lot of people and generated a lot of feedback.

I was contacted by Abdelhay ben Abdellah, a Moroccan-Belgian currently working in Bahrain and former member of the Muslim Executive in Belgium. Abdelhay runs his own blog (Dutch), where he wrote his own take on the "alcohol ban" story.

Abdelhay points out that this story should be taken in the local context - there are local elections on June 10th, and this story has been blown out of proportion in preparation for those elections. (emphasis added by me).

As for the first point I think we must clearly distinguish a threat from an advice. Believe me I know this community in Antwerp very well and I know the area Borgerhout. There is a marginal group of "Ahl Adda3wa" [ed: Dawah] who think to bring salvation by visiting coffee shops, restaurants owned by Muslims. Myself years ago when I noticed them entering a pub, I always thought: "There we go again, common guys give me a break I don't need your religious advice!". But however they are not threatening people, they are very marginal and they don't have any intimidating character. They might influence someone by giving him/her a feeling of guilt but that's it. The media and some politicians are portraiting these guys as if people are afraid of them. That's not the case.

It's all about politics. June 10 is near and some people just invent whatever to get the spotlight on them. As long as they attack a group/community which is very weak in communication.

It's not up to the politicians or opinion maker to react on behalf of the shop owners when there is no evidence of any threat or pression made by this group(s). I am still waiting for the first shop owner in Antwerp to say: "Yes I was put under pressure." When that happens then we have a case. Making noise without a case is an overreaction caused by an allergy to Islam or

I agree with his point that it is the shop owners who should be complaining, if they are under threat. No shop-owners were interviewed to complain. But it is also hard for me to see this story without looking at the global context. Muslims are being killed around the world for not being Muslim enough in the eyes of some.

See also: Antwerp: Dropping alcohol from the menu

Malmö: Burqa on bus

A bus driver in Malmö has been suspended after he allegedly tried to stop a woman from boarding because she was wearing a burqa.

The incident happened on Tuessday morning when the woman boarded the number 35 bus on her usual route between the Rosengård housing estate and the city's central station. According to the woman, the driver stopped her from boarding, saying that her burqa made her hard to identify.

A burqa covers a woman from head to toe, leaving a small gap for her eyes.

"I have never before needed to identify myself on a public bus. Wearing a burqa is my own choice and doesn't make me any more threatening than anyone else," she told Metro.

The woman stayed on the bus anyway, but claims that the driver mocked her and looked at her angrily.

Bus operator Arriva says that the driver has a different version of events, but he has been suspended while an investigation is carried out. The driver has also been reported to police. There are no rules on Malmö public buses requiring passengers to identify themselves.

Source: The Local (English)

Norway: Fired for wearing the hijab

"I think it is shocking that there are still Muslim girls who can't work anywhere just because they put on hijab," says Badrkhan.

Arve Bernsten, who employed her, confirms that Badrkhan could have continued in her position if she had stopped using a hijab or other head covering.

In recent years young Muslim women have had big problems on many occasions due to the hijab.  In December 2003, Ambreen Pervez was told by her employer, A-Møbler, that she couldn't come to work again unless she stopped wearing the hijab.  Politicians from many parties went out to support Pervez. Demonstrations were carried out to support her and newspapers were flood with letters.  A-Møbler held fast till the current Gender Equality Ombud at the time, Kirstin Mile, concluded that A-Møbler's uniform regulations broke the equality laws.
Since then many companies gave their employees a green light to wear the hijab.  Others went even further and developed their own job-hijab, such as Ullevål university-hospital and IKEA.

But still not everybody accepts the hijab in the workplace.  Badrkhan found that out a short time after she began to work for the clothing enterprise Oscar Jacobson Norge AS, which has premises at Steen & Strøm at the center of Oslo.

The 30-year old says she was wearing a hijab during the interview and that it was discussed then. 

"I began to use a veil about a year ago of my own volition."

Badrkhan came to Norway when she was seven.  Her parents are originally from Iraqi Kurdistan.  In 2003 she completed her education as a fashion designer at the international French fashion school Esmod.

Arve Berntsen, the store manager, was impressed with Badrkhan's qualifications and gave her the job.

"We agreed that I will try to work a while and see if I liked it there and see if the clients didn't react to me wearing a veil.  But none of the clients did that."

Yet it wasn't long before Badrkhan got an ultimatum from her boss.

"Employees in other stores of Steen & Strøm, together with Arve Berntsens's Swedish boss, reacted to my wearing the hijab and sometimes a hat over the hijab," says Badrkhan.

Berntsen confirms that.  He says he has nothing against the hijab.  If he had, he wouldn't have employed Badrkhan.  But he got reactions from employees and from his boss in Sweden.  They thoughts it was too much to use a head covering indoors.  That she put on caps and hats was ok by him, but he couldn't deal with the daily reactions from those who thought it wasn't alright.  If she would have adapted and stopped wearing a head covering indoors, he says, she could have continued her test period for the month, since Badrkhan is a very professional and smart woman.

"Was any of the clients negative?"

"No, I didn't receive any direct negative reactions from clients," says Berntsen.

Badrkan reacts to the statement that it would have been a test-period.

"In the job advertisement Oscar Jacboson was looking for a permanent part-time employee two days a week and more if needed.  I went to a completely ordinary interview.  There were many who were searching, but he chose me because of my qualifications.  In the advertisement it only said permanent employee - nothing about a test period due to a veil.  I think it is ridiculous to say that people should be allowed to wear a hijab indoor. I think people should be allowed to do so because they heed Islam.  People can't choose to take off the hijab indoors - because it's there to cover the hair and neck from strange men."

"It must be illegal to have a test-period because people wear hijab.  Berntsen thought that 10% of elderly Norwegian men and women who could react to me having a veil, and he said he was anxious about these client's opinion.  But in reality I lost my job because some employees in other stores of Steen & Strøm and Oscar Jacobsen's boss in Sweden had reacted to me wearing the veil,and Berntsen listened to them."

Badrkhan has made contact with the equal opportunity and discrimination ombudsman.

"I want the ombudsman to react to what happened to me.  There is so much talk that Muslim girls should contribute to change, but when we don't get an opportunity to work just because we wear a hijab, it becomes difficult to contribute to integration," she says.

Source: Dagsavisen (Norwegian)

Zeist: Complaints from Moroccan families against intervention teams

An intervention team that messes up your house ruthlessly. Three families from Zeist, next to Utrecht, think that it is so threatening and intimidating that they turned to the court.

The intervention team already visited at least 40 addresses. the goal of the house search is to strike at a network of criminal youth. Lawyer Erik Olof says that in all cases it was aimed at Moroccan families.

A house visit of the Project Interventie Jongeren (Youth Intervention Project) goes as follows: The team rings the bells, asks if they may come in, and then fills the living room with about ten people. the team leader calls everybody together and reads a letter from the mayor. There is says what the team has come to do: inspection. Then comes a thorough inspection: is the house in order, is the data by the municipality correct, are there any tax debts.

The intervention team consists of representatives from the municipality, police, social service, tax service and housing corporations. It visits youth who have been causing trouble and their friends and family.

Olof , lawyer for the three families, says that the visited households are scared, shivering and intimidated. Two more families have signed up with his colleague Tiny Wiertz. They don't want to take legal action. "the people are afraid and want to stay out of the public eye as much as possible," according to Wiertz.

The lawyer is trying to come to a solution through the Utrecht and national ombudsman. "In this way we're trying to have the municipality admit that they can't do this. People feel intimidated. The team says that people co-operate willingly, but these families are so stunned and dare not say to the police that they can't come in."

If a resident does not let the intervention team in, they must go away. but thereafter the family gets many letters, says Olof.

The Zeist municipality did not want to react as long as there was no judgment. Earlier alderman Van Kuijk said he was satisfied with the result of the project. With this project Zeist is trying to get off the list of the top 10 municipalities with high criminality rates.

A judgment is expected May 4th.

Source: (Dutch)

How a British jihadi saw the light

An interesting article in Times Online: Ed Hussain, once a proponent of radical Islam in London, tells how his time as a teacher in Saudi Arabia led him to turn against extremism

He tells of the racism and sexual immorality in Saudi Arabia.

Why had the veil and segregation not prevented such behaviour? My Saudi acquaintances, many of them university graduates, argued strongly that, on the contrary, it was the veil and other social norms that were responsible for such widespread sexual frustration among Saudi youth.

At work the British Council introduced free internet access for educational purposes. Within days the students had downloaded the most obscene pornography from sites banned in Saudi Arabia, but easily accessed via the British Council's satellite connection. Segregation of the sexes, made worse by the veil, had spawned a culture of pent-up sexual frustration that expressed itself in the unhealthiest ways.

Using Bluetooth technology on mobile phones, strangers sent pornographic clips to one another. Many of the clips were recordings of homosexual acts between Saudis and many featured young Saudis in orgies in Lebanon and Egypt. The obsession with sex in Saudi Arabia had reached worrying levels: rape and abuse of both sexes occurred frequently, some cases even reaching the usually censored national press.

It might be the social norms, but I wouldn't blame the veil for sexual immorality. Men do not start thirsting for pornography and thinking in sexually dirty language just because they can't see a woman's face. They do so because it is the social norm.

Ultra-religious Jews have high moral sexual norms. The sexes are separated, almost completely, from a very young age. And yet, a woman could walk in a Jewish religious neighborhood without being accosted, without being jeered at and definitely without having men stare at her. At the most, there will be a demand that she follow the social norms and dress modestly.

Two weeks after the terrorist attacks in London another Saudi student raised his hand and asked: "Teacher, how can I go to London?"

"Much depends on your reason for going to Britain. Do you want to study or just be a tourist?"

"Teacher, I want to go London next month. I want bomb, big bomb in London, again. I want make jihad!"

"What?" I exclaimed. Another student raised both hands and shouted: "Me too! Me too!"

Other students applauded those who had just articulated what many of them were thinking. I was incandescent. In protest I walked out of the classroom to a chorus of jeering and catcalls.

Source: Times Online

Netherlands: Different prison approach for different cultures

Most parliament members support forbidding "blinging" and reinstating prison uniform in youth prisons.

Parliament member Dijsselbloem wants to "break the taboo" in which a prison sentence doesn't take into account the cultural background. De facto it means that immigrants are treated differently than ethnics.

Dijsselbloem wants to break the macho-culture among immigrant detainees. "Take away from the kids, for example, expensive brand name clothing and bling-bling."

His party, the PvdA, had spoken earlier about differentiating treatment on basis of cultural differences. This is the first time that the party makes a direct link to Moroccan and Antillean criminal youth.

In an explanation Dijsselbloem said that he wants to "radically break the ghetto culture and group identity, that are now common inside the institutions."

Parliament member Cörüz (CDA) said that he is happy with the PvdA support. "Ethnic youth grow up with a guilt culture, immigrants more with a shame culture. to therefore adapt the punishments is logical". He is not talking about tougher measures, but rather different ones. "Take them off quicker from their scooters and jewelry, and they'll understand that crime doesn't pay."

The union of prison personnel is less enthusiastic about re-introducing prison uniforms. "If you do that they you can't do it only by youth installations, but everywhere. We did away with it a decade ago because it was too expensive. It won't be any different now," says chairman Aalbers. He doubts the effectiveness. "Personnel don't look at the clothing of detainees, but at their behaviour."

Source: NRC (Dutch)

Norway: Demand to ban male circumcision

Two midwives want to forbid male circumcision with medical reasons. The two, Eli Aaby and Ann Kristin von Ubisch, work at Akershus university hospital and asked Health Minister Silvia Brustad to forbid the procedure in Norway.

The two wrote the health minister last year that they think the practice doesn't offer anything or can be explained ethically. But more than a year later, the health ministry is still dealing with the related questions and have no time set for a decision.

The two maintain they're only taking care of the boys' health. They say they are asked to help with circumcising of newborn boys. In their work they set complications such as infections, hemorrhaging, and need for re-operations. They therefore think there is an ethical dilemma in operating on healthy boys and excising healthy tissue, without the patient being able to offer their consent.

This goes along with the Norwegian Council for Medical Ethics decision on the topic from 2001.

Aaby and von Ubisch equate between male and female circumicion, saying the same cultural, religious and social arguments are used for the circumcision of small kids. They say the law against female circumcision is discriminatory since it doesn't include boys.

In Feb. 2005 the hospital decided to stop getting circumcision services from private clinics. Last year 100 boys under three months were circumcised at the Ringvold Clinic as well as 17 boys between 3-6 months.

In Sweden the law from 2001 requires anesthetic and qualified personnel, an attempt to stop amateur operations.

Irma Iversen, Ombudsman for patients in Akershus, says in an interview in March that Muslim boys are disabled for life in circumcisions in private homes. Since 2004 the operation is covered, but parents can decide to pay for it on their own.

The world health organization said in March that they support male circumcision in order to prevent HIV in countries with an HIV epidemic.

Source: Klassekampen (Norwegian)

Netherlands: Debate needed about Islam

Dutch Minister of Integration, Ella Vogelaar, wants a debate about the position of Islam in the Netherlands, in order to "take the wind" out of Geert Wilders' sails.

In a party meetings in Amsterdam she said that there is still "a taboo about the position of Islam in society". "I think that we have an incomplete answer about it. Wilders unfailingly manipulates the fear people have of Islam. We have given him that opportunity because till now we kept away from that debate."

Vogelaar came to the idea due to the debate about the burka ban and double nationality, initiated by Wilders. According to her those are just the symbols, and not the real issue, which is the fear people have of Islam. She emphasized that in a land with a million Muslim there must be a place for Islam.

The minister said she was very positive about the recent test run in Nijmegen with anonymous job applications. According to first results, immigrants have a greater chance to be invited to an interview if their name, nationality and birthplace are kept out of CVs.

"It is worth the difficult to continue experimenting," said Vogelaar. "It is a form of positive discrimination which I know would cuase strong reactions. You can't introduce anonymous job applications in the entire country, I understand that too. But as incentive to make people aware of how this sort of things work, I find it very good."

Amsterdam alderman Henna Buyne who also took part in the discussion completely disagreed. "It is a sad low point that you must stoop to this." she said about about the Nijmegen test.

Vogelaar said that she would like to take the "polarization" out of the integration debate, since it offers nothing besides further radicalization of specific groups.

Buyne said that integration is a matter for every Amsterdam resident, and not only for foreigners and immigrants.

Source: Parool (Dutch)

Sweden: Why should Muslims be a terror threat?

Sweden must be the only country to run a terror threat exercise and not come out and say outright who they're trying to protect their citizens from. Not that it helps any.. they're still being accused of harassing Muslims.

Sweden has been directly threatened with a Muslim terror attack, already had a possible attack thwarted and has arrested several terrorists in its territory. Making up stories about the Bogalanders will not reduce that very real threat.

A major crisis management training exercise taking place in Stockholm next week will contribute to further stigmatization of Muslims, according to two leading members of the Green Party.
"The security police constantly engages in harassing Muslims and actively contributes to fuelling Islamophobia," wrote Stockholm's opposition vice mayor Yvonne Ruwaida and member of parliament Mehmet Kaplan on Dagens Nyheter's opinion page. The politicians believe that the crisis exercise which the Swedish Emergency Management Agency (Krisberedskapsmyndigheten) is starting on Wednesday will follow this pattern. Around 4,000 people will participate in the exercise and the scenario which they will attempt to deal with is described as "a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction". The terrorists in the exercise have been given the fictional name of 'Bogalanders'. They live in one of the predominantly immigrant ' Million Homes ' areas, their religion is split into two factions and they are protesting against the occupation of holy ground in 'Bogaland'. "The parallels with Muslims and Islam are not exactly hard to find," wrote Kaplan and Ruwaida. They want to know why the security police (Säpo) is "specifically targeting Muslims" and are proposing a parliamentary inquiry into Säpo's future operations. In the article, which was published on Sunday, Ruwaida and Kaplan also called for a retrospective investigation into Säpo's surveillance of Muslims in Sweden.
Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden: Jordanian terror suspect extradited to Germany Sweden: Moroccan terror suspect to be extradited to Germany, Scandinavian terror stories, Morocco: Swedish terror suspected interrogated about Swedish contacts, Sweden: possible terror attack thwarted

Antwerp: Dropping alcohol from the menu

Immigrant snackbar owners in Antwerp are cutting out alcohol from their menu more and more often, due to pressure from fundamentalist Muslims.

"Extremists go into the restaurants and point out to the owner that it is contrary to Islam to serve alcohol. They continue to do that until the owners yield," says Farid Hemdane, president for the district council of Borgerhout.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Antwerp: Muslim protest against music

Denmark: Hijab is as totalitarian as a swastika

A Danish member of parliament on Thursday sparked angry reactions after comparing the Muslim head scarf, hejab, to a "totalitarian symbol" like the swastika.

Soren Krarup, a theologian and member of parliament for the populist Danish People's Party, made the remark in an interview published in Thursday's edition of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

He repeated in parliament that he stood by his views that "the head scarf is a totalitarian symbol comparable with totalitarian symbols we know from the Nazis and Communism."

The remarks proved too contentious for members of other parties that protested during a debate on some aspects of the current immigration legislation. One parliamentarian was warned for using abusive language against Krarup during the exchange.

The Danish People's Party provides backing to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's minority centre-right government.

Source: IOL (English)

See also: Denmark: Can a parliament member wear hijab

Netherlands: No help for male "honor" crime victims

There is barely any help available for male victims of "honor" murder. Men are just as often victims as women, according to consultancy firm In-pact, and it is urgent that they get more help.

It is untrue that women are exclusively the victims of family violence. Immigrant homosexual men are regularly troubled by their family, threatened and even murdered. Also, men who shirk from marriage or upkeep an inter-ethnic relationship, are blamed for defiling the family honor. The consequences are intimidation or physical violence.

These victims greatly need shelter and help.

In-pact, working for the Ministry of Welfare, researched the honor violence phenomenon.
The founder of the shelter for men, Carina Smeets: "Often the situation at home is unbearable. A safe place is that the only thing that men then seek. In practice they often get on a waiting list and sustain weeks of unnecessary danger."

Source: Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch)

See also:
Netherlands: Women offenders in "honor" murder

Belgium: "Attacking" Turkish

HP Pelzer, a supplier of Ford Genk, located in Genk, wants immigrant employees to speak Dutch, in the cafetria as well. Three infringements of the rule could lead to dismissal. The Turks call it an attack on their Turkish.

The company decided that all 125 employees must speak Dutch inside company premises, out of security consideration and respect for their colleagues. The company has about 70% immigrant employees, fram many different nationalities.

In the past months a counter-movement sprung up among the Turkish employees . They complained by unions and politicians.
Selahattin Kocak, one of those politicians, justifies using Dutch at work, but he doesn't think that it should be part of a dismissal mechanism. Kocak also said that the Turks are beginning to feel that Turkish should be allowed.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Overvecht: A look into a problem neighborhood

Prem Radhakishun, of Premtime, went to interview residents (Dutch) in the Overvecht neighborhood of Utrecht. Overvecht has recently hit the news due to the young age of the "problem kids" there, where kids as young as 10 take part in gang warfare.

See also: Utrecht: Problem youth unmanageable

Denmark: Family threatens to kill released murder suspect

The acquittal of a man suspected of stabbing another to death got friends and family member of the victim to rush the suspect and court representatives A 21 year-old man was found not guilty of murder in an Århus court Tuesday, resulting in friends and family members of the victim leaping over the courtroom railings in an effort to attack the accused, the judge and the jury. Up to 50 of the victim's supporters threatened to kill the defendant and had to be restrained by the five police officers on the scene, who used truncheons and pepper spray against the mob while reinforcements were called in. Chairs and other objects were thrown at the police and court participants by the angry group, several of whom were arrested. 'It was like a tsunami wave rolling over the railing,' said Judge Peter Lilholt, who presided over the case. The man acquitted, a Lebanese Dane, had been charged with stabbing 21 year-old Turk Murat Karabulut to death during a brawl outside an Århus pizzeria 7 June last year. Despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence, the prosecution lacked the murder weapon and had only witness statements from the other group involved in the altercation and a purportedly missing getaway car. It was not the first time family members to Karabulut caused trouble for the police, as a similar but less destructive demonstration took place at the suspect's preliminary hearing last June. After the incident, the victim's family members reiterated threats outside the courthouse that they would kill the acquitted man.
Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Denmark: Less benefits cause immigrants to integrate into work better

The government's Start Help unemployment assistance program for immigrants has been successful in pushing them into work Immigrants receiving reduced public assistance have integrated themselves into the labour market far better than those who are eligible to receive full unemployment benefits, according to a study from the highly respected Rockwool Foundation Research Unit. The study of 11,347 immigrants showed that under the government's Start Help program, instituted in July 2002, were nearly twice as likely to find a job than those covered by the previous public assistance regulations. One reason for the program's success, according to the report, is that unemployment benefits paid out to Start Help recipients - DKK 5638 per month per person - is nearly half the normal amount. The employment minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, told Politiken newspaper he was pleased with the study's results and said it proves that the program is serving its intended purpose. 'We created Start Help because we could see that it simply didn't pay for immigrants to find work. I realise there are other barriers for immigrants, such as learning Danish and getting to know Danish society, but we had to address the most serious obstacle first.' Opposition parties are not convinced the study proves anything at all, pointing out that only 14 percent of immigrants eligible for only Start Help are in jobs, compared with 9 percent of immigrants eligible for full unemployment benefits. 'That's still only one in seven that have jobs, and the consequences for those people who have to live on Start Help far offsets the tiny positive results of the study,' said Lotte Bundsgaard, the Social Democratic integration spokesperson. Torben Tranæs, head of research for the Rockwell Foundation, confirmed that the program has had a notable effect, but also cautioned reading too much into the results. 'If you look solely at the employment part of the study, then you'd have to say the program is a success. But whether that's enough to say the new rules are good, that's a political issue.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Netherlands: Moroccan babies get only names approved by Morocco

In case anybody wondered why Muhammed will continue to be a popular name... While the Dutch government talks about the problems of integration, it makes sure its Moroccan and Turkish citizens will continue to get non-Dutch names.


It is insulting that the Netherlands cooperates with the discriminatory and Arabic-nationalistic police of the Moroccan government, according to Haarlem city council member Moussa Aynan. It bothers him that Dutch municipalities, including Haarlem, gives Moroccan parents, without any request for it, a list of names approved by the Moroccan government, when they want to register a birth.

Aynan: The list only contains Arabic names, not Berber or Christian and is therefore discriminatory.

Aynan (34) recently became the father of a son. "During my registration it was pointed otu to me that I would have problems with "my government" if I don't choose an approved name for my son. As if the Moroccan government is percieved as "my government"."

It especially bothers Aynan that the list is handed over without request to anybody with a Moroccan name. "I would feel somewhat better with it if it was first asked if somebody wanted to use the list."

A spokesperson for the municipality said the list was offered as a service in case parents also wanted to register their baby by the Moroccan embassy. "Haarlem accepts all names, unless it's insulting. In the Moroccan embassy they only accept names from teh list. That can lead to a whole lot of expenses if people don't know it."

Haarlem also has a Turkish name list.

Source:Haarlem Dagblad (Dutch)

EU: Parliament can't prevent hijab wearing member

While Denmark is considering it, The EU Court has its say.

European Court of Human Rights says Turkey at fault for expelling Member of Parliament for wearing Muslim headscarf.

On April 6, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey violated international human rights standards by ejecting an elected representative from Parliament merely because she wore a Muslim headscarf.

In 1999, militant secularists kept Merve Kavakci from taking her seat in the Turkish parliament, shouting her down for hours, and then ejecting her from the Parliamentary Chamber altogether—solely because she was wearing the hijab, or Muslim headscarf. Weeks later the Turkish government stripped Kavakci of both her parliamentary seat and her citizenship, again for wearing the headscarf in the Turkish Parliament.

"The human right of religious expression is not restricted to just the home or the heart," said Angela Wu, International Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which advised Kavakci on her appeal to the ECHR. "Religious expression in public and in public institutions is a natural part of religious faith, and its peaceful exercise is expressly protected by the ECHR."

The Court said that Turkey's behavior violated the right to "the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature" protected by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. The Court awarded Kavakci 4,000 euros in damages.

"We're thankful the ECHR vindicated Merve Kavakci after so many years," said Wu. "She's been through a long ordeal and has suffered an unimaginable amount just for expressing her faith."

The Court's decision is listed as Kavakci v. Turkey (application no. 71907/01).

Source: Spero News (English)

See also: Denmark: Can a parliament member wear hijab

Norway: Largest welfare scandal

A longtime general practitioner in Oslo has admitted to his role in a welfare fraud scandal that prosecutors say may rank as the largest in Norwegian history.

The doctor and an unlicensed psychologist are charged with falsifying, for high fees, medical certification that allowed around 50 patients to receive as much as NOK 150 million in welfare payments (such as early retirement or disability benefits) between 1983 and 1999.

Most of the recipients are of Moroccan background, and some own property both in Norway and Morocco
. Several received relatively large welfare payments, of more than NOK 30,000 (USD 5,000) a month, based on the doctor's false certification.

He and the psychologist also worked in partnership with a psychiatrist, who remains under investigation. All three allegedly demanded high payments from their patients for the false certification, as much as NOK 15,000.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, called on Tuesday for the government to make sure that state bureaucrats in charge of welfare services also report to the police all those who wrongly received welfare payments.

Someone has paid for the fraudulent doctor statements, claimed Martin Engeset of the Conservatives, suggesting they should be prosecuted as well.

The head of state welfare agency NAV said his agency is in the process of evaluating whether there are grounds for filing charges against any of the recipients.

The doctor and psychologist face prison terms of up to nine years. Prosecutor Elisabeth Roscher said more charges may be filed against other defendants.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Sweden: Don't give Islamic laws a place in Sweden

I recently posted quotes from an opinion article written by Mahmoud Aldebe of the Muslim Association of Sweden regarding the demand to let Muslim women be divorced in Sweden according to Muslim law. Here is a translation of the original article he was referring to, written by Mehrdad Darvishpour and Zenia Hellgren, sociologists at Stockholm University.


Mahmoud Khalfi, president of the Islamic Association and imam in Stockholm has recently expressed himself about women's difficulties in getting divorces approved according to the Muslim faith verdicts in Swedish courts. According to Khalfi, Sweden's imams need more support and resources to strengthen their position in Swedish society.

Khalfi thinks that imams in Sweden should have a right to decide if a divorce is authorized according to Islam, side by side with Swedish laws. At the same time, the president of Sweden's Muslim association, Mahmoud Aldebe, wants to facilitate Swedish Muslims "living according to Swedish and Islamic law". He thinks moreover that the religious courts in Muslim countries "in priciple are like courts in Western countries" and denies that they systematically discriminate against women.

We think that the thought of requiring the implementation of parallel legal systems in a multicultural society builds on a stereotypical and static perception of "culture" , and that it an illusion to find cultural unity among ethnic minorities. That stereotype is often blind to the different perceptions and power relations that exist within ethnic or religious groups. Who defines which living conditions and norms should hold for an ethnic group and specifically for a Swedish Muslim, and which laws should be left behind?

Many women who come from Muslim countries, fight, both in those countries and in Sweden for more power over their own lives and the right to interpret Islam on their own and are hardly served when Swedish society promotes the enforcement of religious laws which explicitly subordinate the woman to the man.

To accept unequal divorce laws for Muslim women - as would never be accepted for any other group of women in Swedish society - is nothing but treachery, a way to show that these women are worth less in the eye of the law.

We think instead that Sweden should work towards having divorce according to Swedish family law for the country's immigrants - regardless of origin - be accepted and recognized in other countries.

Moreover, we suggest to increase resources given to efforts for promoting equality among Swedish Muslim, from a perspective that emphasizes that men also have what to gain from a more equal relation with women.

Not least, the Islamic association, Sweden's Muslim association and all imams active in Sweden have an important function to fill here. A clear standpoint for equality will also lessen the rift between Swedish Muslims and the majority society and show that equality is fully consistent with Islamic belief and practices. Khalfi's and Aldebe's remarks are rather a step in the opposite direction.

Source: City (Swedish)

See also: Sweden: The problems of civil divorce

Denmark: Can a parliament member wear hijab

The Danish People's Party says that if Odense politician Asmaa Abdol-Hamid will be elected to the parliament as Denmark's first Muslim female parliamentarian, she can forget about wearing a Muslim veil.  Abdol-Hamid, a 25 year old Palestinian-Dane made headlines when she hosted a TV show while wearing a hijab.

According to the Hans Kristian Skibby, the veil is oppressive to women and does not belong in the country's parliament.  The speaker of parliemant, Christian Mejdahl, did not say whether he will allow a member of parliament to speak while wearing a veil.

There have been previous cases in which parliament members were not allowed to speak due to their dress.

Source: Jyllands-Posten (Danish), h/t Hodja (Danish)

Brussels: 56.5% immigrant population

56.5% of the population in Brussels is of foreign origin. In 1961 it was barely 7.3%.

"That is an impressive and unique evolution in a European of even world perspective," according to sociologist Jan Hertogen.

According to his calculations, in 1991, 28.5% of the Brussels population was of foreign nationality, in addition to 4.5% naturalized or new Belgians. In 2005 the total number of foreigners stabilized on 26.3%, but the total number of new Belgians grew to 30.2%.

According to news reports yesterday, the "Fast-Belgian" law, which allows for naturalization after being in the country legally for seven years, allowed for 337,904 people to get Belgian citizenship till the end of 2006. The law came into effect May 1st, 2000. That's an average 4,277 a month.

In Flanders, 128,682 people got Belgian citizenship, with the following breakdown:
Antwerp - 32,580 new Belgians
Ghent - 13,395
Mechelen - 4,851
Sint-Niklaas - 2,029
Lokeren - 1,817
Brugge - 1,272
Dendermonde - 528

The Brussels Region has 114,583 new Belgians and Wallonia has 94,639.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Vlaams Belang's lose accounted by immigrant vote

Malmö: Youth attack police

According to Ida Texell, fire engineer with Räddningstjänsten, it was extremely frustrating as well as unpleasant to be attacked when the firemen were just trying to do their job. Police suspect that the fire had been set on purpose, a supposition Texell tends to support.

Youths throwing stones and eggs came to blows with police and fire officers in Malmö's Rosengård housing estate on Saturday night.
At two points in the evening the demonstrators were judged so threatening that fire officers refused to enter the area without a police escort. The troubles started at about 7:30pm when police received a call from a member of the public alleging that they had been threatened. A police patrol went to Ramels Väg in Rosengård to respond to the report, and while officers investigated youths gathered and started throwing stones. By 8:30pm around 15 young people were throwing stones and eggs at police. When the fire brigade arrived to extinguish a fire in a warehouse on the same street, the stone-throwing youths turned on fire officers. "Because of this and because the situation is tense in the area, the emergency services will from now on wait for the police before entering the area," the emergency services said in a press release on Saturday night. "The emergency services will also send extra resources in the event of an alert," the statement continued. By 11pm two warehouses were burning on Ramels Väg. Extra police had to be called in to protect the fire brigade as they battled to extinguish the blazes. The situation had quietened down by midnight, emergency services said. Police said that no arrests had been made, although officers have made formal reports alleging that they were the victims of assault. The Rosengård estate is known for suffering from high levels of unemployment, and for having the highest concentration of immigrant communities of any area in Sweden.
Source: The Local (English), Sveriges Radio (Swedish)

Germany: Muslim council demands church privileges for Islam

I have read quite a few studies that stressed that Islam is not organized like a church, but those studies usually ignore the fact that Judaism is also not organized like a church. Yet, in Europe, most Jews managed to organized themselves in such a way that would be recognized by the European countries as an organized religion. Many Jews in those countries are dues-paying members of those organizations. Not because "that's how it is" in Judaism, but because "that's how it is" in the countries where they live.

Maybe Mr. Koehler should turn to his community first and make sure that those Muslims who pray in mosques, and want to make sure those mosques are recognized by the government, also become dues-paying members.

An umbrella group set up this week by Muslims in Germany called Thursday for Islam to be granted many of the same legal privileges as the main Christian churches and Judaism. Ayyub Axel Koehler, the German Muslim leader who is taking the first, six-month turn as spokesman for the Muslim Coordination Council, said in Cologne, "Islamic instruction in public schools, running Islamic cemeteries: you have to have legal status first." Germany has more than 3.2 million residents of Muslim heritage in an overall population of 82 million. Their mosques are owned by incorporated societies with no especial religious status under German law. "We are concerned about the integration of Islam and Muslims into the German legal system," said Koehler, who heads the German Council of Muslims, one of four rival bodies that established the umbrella group. He said that wherever German law granted rights to a "religious community," a legal term embracing the Catholic and Lutheran churches and the Jewish community, Islam ought to be included as well. German officials have to date rejected this, arguing that only tiny numbers of Muslims are dues-paying members of Islamic societies such as mosque councils, so their federations are not representative. Hans-Peter Uhl, an interior-policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said this week many German Muslims would never grant the umbrella group the authority to speak in their name. "Islam is not organized like a church," responded Koehler, adding that Germany had to accept that far more Muslims prayed than joined mosque assemblies. "When the call to Friday prayers goes out, almost all of them come in," he said. Source: Expatica (English)

Utrecht: Problem youth unmanageable

Welfare organizations in Utrecht are sounding the alarm because more and more youth are unmanageable. The kids in the age group of 8-12 show serious problematic behaviour.

The kids, especially Moroccans pester, intimidate, make a nuisance and are totally inapproachable. Especially in the Overvecht neighborhood, one of the Utrecht neighborhoods that the cabinet wants to give extra support to, solutions are needed.

Utrecht says it needs help from the government to force parents to take upbringing classes. Other cities are also wrestling with the approach to this new group of problem-kids.

Source: NOS (Dutch)

Norway: Attack on Islam critic

Norwegian-Somalian Kadra, who became famous in Norway for exposing imam support of female circumcision, was beaten unconscious on Thursday. Kadra was attacked and beaten senseless by seven or eight persons of Somali origin, newspaper VG reports. "I was terrified. While I lay on the pavement they kicked me and screamed that I had trampled on the Koran. Several shouted Allah-o-akbar (God is great) and also recited from the Koran ," Kadra told VG. Kadra linked the attack to recent remarks in VG where she said that the Koran's views on women needed to be reinterpreted. Kadra said that the gang of Somali men attacked her around 3 a.m. in downtown Oslo on Thursday. A medical examination found that she had several broken ribs, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) reports. Kadra filed charges and was due to speak with police on Friday. The Islamic Council Norway (IRN) condemned the attack on Kadra and urged that she pursue the matter with police. "Behavior where one goes to physical attack on someone you disagree with violates Islamic teaching and the prophet Muhammad's sunnah (lifestyle). We strongly object to such behavior," the IRN said in a press release. Kadra's role in a 2000 hidden camera TV documentary revealing the positive attitude of Muslim leaders to female circumcision had a massive impact on Norway, and sparked new legislation.
Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Norway: Koran should be reinterpreted

Norway: Koran should be reinterpreted

Norwegian Muslim Kadra is tired of women being kept out and says that it is time for the Koran to be retranslated.

In the magazine WHERE2GO, Kadra challenges the Islamic Council of Norway with a quite controversial challenge.

"There is the Koran's attitude towards women which should be interpreted. I miss a debate over which rights and obligations the Muslim women has," says Kadra to VG.

The 26 year old stresses that she still believes in much of the Koran. Yet she thinks that the time for an interpretation is getting nearer by leaps and bounds.

"There is little place for the modern women in the Koran. An example; When [Norwegian minister] Jonas Gahr Støre visited the mosque in Grønland for a lecture, there were only men in the hall. Only three women were in the mosque, but they had to stand in the gallery so that nobody could see them. We can't have that in 2007," says Kadra.

She's been met with a cold Muslim, male shoulder: spokesperson Gular Sarwar of Central Jamaat-e Ahl-E Sunnat in Oslo says Kadra can't decide what happens."

"We can't interpret the Koran or Islam due to her. We distance ourselves from her statements, she has nothing with insulting our religion," says Sarwar.

Central Jamaat is one of the central communities in the Islamic Council of Norway.

"She can say what she want, and is certainly nice and has a fine body but we can't change the Koran based on what a woman thinks," says Sarwar.

"The Koran is that which comes from heaven. That's how it is," he says.

Kadra became land-known seven years ago when with the help of a hidden microphone, exposed the imam's relation to female circumcision on the TV program "Rikets tilstand".

"I wanted to cause fear. I wanted people to think that if I circumcise my daughter, then I have done something dreadful and I can land in prison," says Kadra to WHERE2GO.

Even if Kadra wants an interpretation now, she believes this can be very difficult to carry out in practice.

"Women's position has never been brought up before. The few women who have tried to set this theme on the agenda have been labeled infidels. The Islamic Council should definitely take up this problem," but, she points out - all the people who sit on the Islamic Council are men.

Source: VG (Norwegian)

Sweden: Teenager arrested in Somalia speaks up

A pregnant Swedish teenager has told of how she was arrested by American soldiers on the border between Somalia and Kenya. Now back in Sweden, she has expressed her concern for her husband, whom she has not seen since she was released from prison. She has also criticized Sweden's silence over her imprisonment. Safia Benaouda, 17, travelled to Dubai last December with her husband. There they met a man from Stockholm with whom they travelled to Somalia. When the war started in January they tried to return to Sweden, travelling in convoy towards Kenya, where Sweden has an embassy. "I was scared. All you could think about was escaping," she told Svenska Dagbladet. Benaouda was separated from her husband in the coastal town Kismayo. She ended up in a car with other foreign women and was arrested in the desert. The soldiers shot one woman in the party and arrested the other women and children. Benaouda says that the three men who arrested her were white and wearing American uniforms. They were leading a patrol of Kenyan soldiers. The women were first taken to Nairobi. They were then taken back to war-torn Somalia, guarded by Kenyan troops. From Somalia she was taken on to Ethiopia, where she was put in a secret jail. She found her husband in the same jail. He had been arrested by Kenyan soldiers together with other foreigners. In February they were taken to a prison in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Benaouda has criticized Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt for his inaction over the Swedes in East African jails. "I wish that Carl Bildt would show that he even cares," she told Svenska Dagbladet.
Source: The Local (English)

See also: SvD (Swedish), Sweden: 17 year old girl Somali fighter released

Netherlands' Greatest Nightmare

Netherland's Greatest Nightmare is the name of 26 year old Moroccan-Dutch rapper Salah Edin's first Dutch language album. One of the songs making the hit in the news right now is "Het Land Van" (The Land Of) - which talks about the problems in the Netherlands. Said originally to be too "heavy" by some music channels, it shows Salah Edin himself radicalizing, finally ending up in a Guantanamo Bay prisoner's uniform, but not really doing anything, while around him the Ethnic Dutch are having the real problems.

Source: NOS (Dutch)

Netherlands: Immigration going up

After several years of a downward trend, immigration is going up again in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics.

In 2000 and 2001 about 130,000 people immigrated to the Netherlands. From 2002 that number went down. In 2005 there were 92,000 immigrants. In 2006 the downward trend ended and about 100,000 people immigrated. Emigration is still higher than immigration. Last year about 132,000 people emigrated.

The upward trend was not an overall one. Less people came from European countries who are not EU members. The total number of immigrants from Africa and Suriname went down. Turkish and Moroccan immigration stayed stable.

More immigrants came from Asia and EU-countries such as Poland and Germany. More Dutch returned as well. Last year about 24,000 Dutch born returned to the Netherlands, almost 4,000 more than in 2005.

Currently the statistics bureau expects 117,000 immigrants this year, with about 39,000 non-Western immigrants and 53,000 Western. The higher immigration has to do with the attractive economy and the falling rate of unemployment.

The number of emigrants has been going up since the end of the 90's. 120,000 people emigrated in 2005. Especially emigration to neighboring countries like Belgium and Germany has gone up. The reason is apparently lower housing prices. It is also possible, since 2001, to get a mortgage tax deduction on houses in those countries, which also affect the emigration numbers.

The upward trend in emigration is especially going up by Dutch born. Last year 62,000 Ethnic Dutch and 2nd generation immigrants emigrated, 8,000 more than in 2005. The total number of EU-citizen emigrants went up by 3,000 to 22,000. Emigration of Antilleans, Arubans and non-EU residents went down.

The emigration trend is explained by the economic situation in the Netherlands and neighboring countries, by the housing prices in the border regions and immigration policy in other countries. The attractiveness of the Netherlands for the current population, as well as the political and social climate also play a role.

Source: Skoeps (Dutch)

Denmark: Terrorist sentenced to prison

A Danish national born in Morocco was found guilty on Wednesday of inciting terrorism. The Copenhagen City Court handed Said Mansour a prison sentence of three years and six months, claiming he spread propaganda that encouraged radical Islamist groups to commit terror acts. Police accused Mansour of being in contact, for example, with the four young men from Glostrup, who were recently tried for planning a terror act in Denmark. During Mansour's trial, which began in September 2005, prosecuting attorney Lone Damgaard presented the court with hundreds of videotapes and CD-ROMs confiscated from the defendant's apartment which documented various terrorist acts and showed Americans being decapitated. The prosecution also established that Mansour had been in close contact with Omar Abdelrahman, the blind sheik who received a 240-year prison sentence for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Mansour maintained his innocence throughout the trial, however, claiming he was studying terrorism rather than propagating it. Experts agreed the court decision was historic, because it marked the first time somebody has been convicted using a new anti-terrorism law enacted in 2002 which prohibits the promotion of terrorism on Danish soil. The court decision effectively put a limit on how much radical propaganda can be distributed without being convicted for inciting terrorism.
Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

See also: Denmark: Terrorism suspect said he's just like the Danish Resistance, Denmark: al-Qaeda supporter to be tried