UK: Supermarket staff can opt out on alcohol

MUSLIM supermarket checkout staff who refuse to sell alcohol are being allowed to opt out of handling customers' bottles and cans of drink. Islamic workers at Sainsbury's who object to alcohol on religious grounds are told to raise their hands when encountering any drink at their till so that a colleague can temporarily take their place or scan items for them. Other staff have refused to work stacking shelves with wine, beer and spirits and have been found alternative roles in the company. Sainsbury's said this weekend it was keen to accommodate the religious beliefs of all staff but some Islamic scholars condemned the practice, saying Muslims who refused to sell alcohol were reneging on their agreements with the store. Islam states that Muslims should not consume alcohol, but opinion is divided on whether it is permissible to be involved in the sale of it. Mustapha, a Muslim checkout worker at the company's store in Swiss Cottage, northwest London, interrupts his work to ensure that he does not have to sell or handle alcohol. Each time a bottle or can of alcohol comes along the conveyor belt in front of him, Mustapha either swaps places discreetly with a neighbouring attendant or raises his hand so that another member of staff can come over and pass the offending items in front of the scanner before he resumes work. Some of the staff delegated to handle the drink for Mustapha are themselves obviously Muslim, including women in hijab head coverings. However, a staff member at the store told a reporter that two other employees had asked to be given alternative duties after objecting to stacking drinks shelves. Mustapha told one customer: "I can't sell the alcohol because of my religion. It is Ramadan at the moment." His customers did not appear to have any objection to his polite refusal to work with alcohol. One said: "I have no issues with it at all, it really doesn't bother me." However, some senior Muslims were less approving. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, director of the Muslim Institute and leader of the Muslim parliament, said: "This is some kind of overenthusiasm. One expects professional behaviour from people working in a professional capacity and this shows a lack of maturity. "Sainsbury's is being very good, they are trying to accommodate the wishes of their employees and we commend that. The fault lies with the employee who is exploiting and misusing their goodwill. It makes no difference if it is only happening over Ramadan." Ibrahim Mogra, chairman of the inter-faith committee of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said: "Muslim employees should look at the allowances within Muslim law to enable them to be better operating employees and not be seen as rather difficult to cater for." A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's, confirming Mustapha's stance, said: "At the application stage we ask the relevant questions regarding any issues about handling different products and where we can we will try and accommodate any requirements people have, but it depends on the needs of the particular store."
Source: Times Online (English), h/t Nieuw Religieus Peil (Dutch)

Denmark: Islam in community colleges

Community college Krogerup Højskole in Nordsjælland is now offering courses in Islam. Principal Erik Boel explains he had to drop traditional courses such as ceramics, since he couldn't get 10-12 students together.

That wasn't a problem with the school's new courses in Islam, where student are streaming in to hear controversial lecturer Mona Sheikh explain what is sharia, Jihad and the Koran. The new subject had been picked up in many of the country's 79 colleges.

Erik Boel sees 9/11 and the Muhammad cartoon crisis as the main causes for the strong interest in Islam. Boel says they're not about to turn into a new koran school that will follow a certain interpretation of Islam, but that the school is a political college and that means it's part of the school's task as well as its reason for existence that it educate about Islam since Islam has marked the political agenda after September 11 and the Muhamed cartoons.

Rødding Højskole in Sønderjylland has the same experience, and offers students courses in "Islam" and "Middle East". Principal Mads Rykind-Eriksen explains on the school's site that the subject is extremely actual in a modern college education since students need to understand and learn to act in the society of which they're a part. He adds that it also fits in with their plans to generate interest in the world's oldest college.

Signe Bo, principal of one of Denmark's smallest community colleges, Haslev udvidede Højskole, says that it's the opportunity to attract new young people to the colleges that plays an important role, since the colleges suffer from a diminishing student count. Bo's college will offer a course in Islam next year. She says she doesn't see any problem with trying to attract new students by teaching about Islam. On the contrary, it's important that the colleges engage and create a dialog on the subject, since there is so much debate around it.

Source: Avisen (Danish), h/t Hodja (Danish)

Denmark: Danish Muslims participating in Yemeni Islam courses

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, a Red-Green Alliance candidate for the Danish parliament, was one of a group of young Danish Muslims from Syddansk University in Odense who participated in a 40-day intensive Islam course in Dar ul Mustafa (a well known Islamic school) in Tarim, Yemen, according to Jyllands-Posten.

Among the lecturers in the course, which was arranged by Muslimer i Dialog (Muslims in Dialog), was Habib Ali Al-Jifry (Al-Jifri), who is a founder of the Tabah foundation for Islamic Studies and Research. The Tabah Foundation was active during the Mohammed cartoon crisis in building bridges between Danes and Muslims. [The Tabah foundation is also involved in funding a Grand Mosque for Copenhagen].

Saliha Marie Fettah who teaches Arabic at Syddansk University in Odense and is herself a Muslim says she takes part in Arabic courses annually in Yemen and knows the area. She has been to Tarim and says that it's a small town where women don't walk out in the streets and that it's quite a long way from modern Danish society. She therefore dissuades young Danish Muslims from taking part in the Islam courses.

Fettah says that it's a traditional koran school of exclusively religious education and that there's nothing there that can be used in a modern society like Denmark's. The youth need to find how Islam can fit in Danish society and that isn't possible in such a school.

Abdol-Hamid said in a press release that Koran schools make people think of Taliban and terrorism, but in her case it was merely discussions of their religion.

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid explains that she took part in the school's lectures on the proper behavior for Muslims. She had travelled to Yemen in order to study the social infrastructure and equality between men and women. She says it's a completely different world and that she came back home with many things. She experienced having to cover her face, which was quite hard for her, and she had made a fuss over refusing to cover her face during the course.

The courses were criticized for being oppressive towards women but Abdol-Hamid says that she challenged religious norms which she had found unreasonable in the course. For example, she did not accept that female participants had to sit in the back or that she had to wear a niqab. She says that the unreasonable attitude towards women she had seen in Yemen strengthened her opinion that it was important to fight for women's rights.

Spokesperson for Muslimer i Dialog Zubair Butt Hussain did not wish to comment and referred reporters to the association's website. The site says that the course, which this year took place June 27-August 12th, is supposed to give young Muslims "insight into the basics of Islam, strengthern their faith, give them tools to work with their inner self and function in a non-Muslim society". The course focuses on tafseer (koranic commentary), hadith (oral traidtion), fiqh (islamic law), sulook (sufi philosophy), dawah (prostelyzation) and hifz (memorizing the koran). Muslimer i Dialog says that about 70-80 western students took part in the course.

Abdol-Hamid's party refused to comment.

Sources: Politiken 1, 2 (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Feminist, socialist, devout Muslim

Netherlands: Immigrants discriminated in driving schools

Dutch driving schools reject immigrant students in order to keep a high success rate. That's according to Trouw newspaper on the basis of visits by 25 driving schools. The schools' success rate is advertised on the internet and a lower success rate is a bad advertisement.

Eighteen of the twenty five driving instructors confirmed that immigrants who didn't know the language so well were discriminated against. Four didn't recognize the stories and three refused to comment.

"This behavior is reprehensible," says a spokesperson of Bovag, an association of 750 driving schools. "If we would have indications that one of our school discriminates, then we would immediately take appropriate action." CBR, the Dutch authority in charge of driving instruction, has been publishing the success rates for the past five years.

Trouw established that the differences in percentages on the CBR site were "markedly big". Many driving schools with foreign names scored on average very low, other driving schools had 50% success rates on the first exam.

Driving school instructor Jan Bakker from Alkmaar says that driving schools go by the law on the road, but off the road they're less particular. He says there's a lot of cheating, brought on by the murderous competition. One in three succeed on the first exam in his school. Bakker says that he himself does not care about the low scores and likes to help every student achieve a driving license, but that many of his colleagues are sensitive to it. They select their clients and play with the numbers.

A Turkish instructor from Schiedam says he sometimes feels like a "shelter for otherwise rejected or frustrated" students. A spokesperson for CBR says that they can only inspect if there's discrimination during the exam, not in the selection of students. The schools are independent enterprises and do not fall under the authority of the CBR.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Netherlands: Abuse of family reunification laws

A new book called "The Immigration Disaster' ('De Immigratieramp'), will be coming out in the Netherlands Monday. The book was written by Sietse Fritsma, who worked by the IND, the Dutch immigration service, from 2000 to 2006. In his book Fritsma cites out of secret IND files to show a failing immigration policy and non-functioning IND. The chaos he found by the IND was so great that in 2006 it motivated him to become a parliament member for Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom.

According to secret files of the IND, between 1977 and 2006 there were Moroccans and Turks who abused family reunification laws, bringing in more than 8 'partners' to the Netherlands, mostly from the same village.

After three years, once the partner got the right to a residence permit, the relationship was broken off and the story began again: the ex-wife and her ex-husband both brought in new 'partners', most from the same community, to the Netherlands.

It also turns out that through the years thousands of criminal foreigners had gotten residence permits through family reunification laws.

As of February 15, 2005 foreign criminals who want to join their Dutch partner do not get an automatic residence permit, but until then several thousands of foreigners with a criminal record (assault, drug trade, violence) got residence permits in the Netherlands.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch), h/t Nieuw Religieus Peil

Denmark: Less immigrants dropouts

A rule setting a minimum age for the immigration of foreign spouses has led to more Danes with immigrant backgrounds completing their education

More young people with immigrant backgrounds are completing an education, thanks in part to an immigration regulation aimed at preventing forced marriages.

The trend is especially apparent amongst young men. Figures from the Danish Institute of Governmental Research (AKF) showed that 20 percent fewer men with an immigrant background dropped their studies in 2004 compared with 2001.

Overall, the study showed that marriages between Danish residents and foreigners result in a 17 percent greater chance of not completing an education.

The '24-year rule' requires Danish residents and their foreign spouses both be 24 before they may seek residency in Denmark. The rule was enacted primarily as a way to prevent forced marriages between Danish citizens of immigrant background and foreigners, but it also sought to get young people to finish their educations before marrying.

Helena Skyt Nielsen from AKF said that the 24-year rule successfully helps integration through education.

Bertil Haarder, the education minister, agreed and said he was pleased with the development.

'I wouldn't call the statistic an added bonus, though. I'd call it the top prize,' he told public broadcaster DR. 'The goal of the 24-year rule was precisely that - to ensure that the young people would get an education before they got married.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

See also: Denmark: Immigrants overtake Danes in education , Denmark: Evading the 24 year law

Netherlands: Interest in Muslim loans unclear

The number of Muslims who would opt for an Islamic mortgage if it existed on the Dutch market is unclear, Rabobank spokesman Rene Loman told Deutsche-Presse Agentur dpa on Monday.

Loman was responding to news Monday by the Amsterdam city board that it will ask the Dutch Finance Ministry to enable banks to offer its clients Islamic mortgages.

Replying to questions by the city council's Labour faction, the board said it is "unacceptable that a group of Dutch nationals would not be able to purchase a home."

Muslim inhabitants should be able to enjoy the advantages of home ownership, including tax relief on mortgages, the city board added.

Officially, a prohibition on charging interest in Islam prohibits Muslims from taking a regular mortgage.

But spokesman Loman of Rabobank, which has a 29 percent market share of the Dutch mortgage market, says Dutch Muslims purchase homes also without Islamic mortgages available on the market.

"We have many Muslim clients who have regular mortgages," Loman said.

Almost two years ago, Rabobank produced what is so far the only Dutch study investigating possible interest in Islamic banking among Dutch Muslims.

According to the findings, some 200,000 of the Netherlands' 1.2 million Muslims expressed an interest in Islamic mortgages.

"These 200,000 do not represent the potential market," Loman stressed on Monday, "the actual number of people willing and capable to take a mortgage might be different."

Loman says Rabobank will not develop a financial product for the Orthodox Muslim community until after the Dutch government has adjusted the law so that Islamic mortgages will become tax deductible similar to interest-based mortgages.

The second obstacle - how to fund interest-free mortgages from financial resources that are also interest-free - remains to be tackled, Loman said.

"Islamic banking requires product development with all parties involved," Loman explained. "Apart from the finance ministry, we would also involve the Muslim community to ensure our product meets the Islamic standards."

On 16 July Finance Minister Bos told parliament he was investigating options of developing Islamic banking in the Netherlands. He indicated Islamic banking provides interesting business opportunities for the Dutch financial industry.

Islamic law prohibits the collection and payment of interest, as well as investment in businesses that are considered illegal or that engage in activities inconsistent with Islam. Instead of charging interest, Islamic banks share profits and losses to finance their activities.

At present, London and Dubai are the main centres involved in Islamic banking. Prestigious international banks, like Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank and HBSC have been operating interest-free windows in a number of West Asian countries, Europe and the USA for several years.

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Netherlands: No tax deduction for halal mortgage, Hague: Halal mortgages

Netherlands: Pill to replace hymen repair

The University Medical Center of Utrecht (UMC) is going to offer a pill as an alternative for hymen repair operations. The pill is a trick for Muslim women and girls to copy the bleeding of first sexual contact, the hospital reported Wednesday.

The vaginal suppository causes after a half hour a "slimy red secretion", says gynecologist Ineke van Seumeren.

UMC Utrecht receives about 20 requests annually from girls of Turkish and Moroccan origin to undergo a hymen repair. About half of the requests are accepted, says Van Seumeren.

Van Seumeren emphasizes during consultations that most women don't or rarely bleed during the first time. She says she offers them the pills as an alternative.

The gynecologist also says that the hymen is not a skin that must be pierced but rather a flexible tissue. About 60% of girls lose blood on the first time because the area is torn, but that happens to a varying degree. 40% of women don't notice anything the first time.

Source: (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: restoring virginity, Netherlands: Restoring virginity (2)

Norway: Muslims feel watched

Muslims in Norway feel they're being watched by the authorities as suspected terrorists.

"Many Muslims feel that the threshold for being watched have been lowered. Ordinary people watch what they say on the telephone or what they write in email," says Mohammad Usman Rana of the Muslim student society to NRK.They fear that the telephones are being tapped and that email is being read by the police.

The Norwegian Police Security Agency (PST) says they don't watch Muslims especially, but they confirm that there are groups in Norway who support terror aboard.

Jørn Holme, head of the PST denies that the police watches Muslims as a group.

"We don't keep watch on Muslims, Sikhs, vegetarians or people who wear jeans. We follow those of them we think can plan serious crime," says Holme. He does understand the fear in the Muslim community of being stamped.

"I know that many youth with a multicultural background feel stigmatized by the fear of terror we unfortunately have in Europe and it is important for me to listen to what they have to say," says Holme, who would like to demystify the work of the PST. He thinks it's important that all types of people work for the security service, saying that the PST should reflect the complexity of society. "We are also dependent on people who have a multicultural background," he says to NRK.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

Sweden: 50% support a ban on veils

Islamic headscarves ought to be banned at workplaces and in schools - that's the view of half the people surveyed in a new Swedish poll.

The poll, the third of its kind taken by Uppsala University to measure Swedes' views of diversity, shows a rising number of people supporting a headscarf ban.

In 2005, 43 percent wanted a ban on Islamic female head coverings. This year, 49.8 percent of the 1,065 people asked supported a ban.

The results the poll are open to some interpretation. The questionnaire asked people for their view on the banning of the 'slöja' or veil, indicating a garment covering the face as well as the top of the head, such as a burqa or a niqab. However, in common parlance, the word 'slöja' is often used to describe all sorts of female Islamic head coverings, including those that just cover the hair.

Hardening attitudes on the headscarf question were not the only sign of deteriorating race relations. More than one in three of those asked said they agreed with the statement that "many foreigners come to Sweden simply to take advantage of our social welfare."

On a more positive note, 80 percent of people said they had good experiences of contact with people of foreign origins. According to the study's authors only 5 percent have "extremely negative views" of immigrants - around the same percentage as last year, but higher than in 2005.

"There could be a link to how well the Sweden Democrats did in the last election - there are such tendencies in Sweden today," said Dr. Irving Palm, one of those behind the survey, to Svenska Dagbladet.

Source: The Local (English)

Netherlands: Concern about tone of Islam discussion

National Coordinator for Anti-terrorism (NCTb) Tjibbe Joustra fears the effects of the tone that some prominent Dutch are taking in the discussion of Islam, he says in the AD on Monday.

The paper claims that Joustra is referring to statements from MP Geert Wilders and Ehsan Jami, founder of the Committee for Former Muslims. But a spokesperson for Joustra says his comments were made in general, without reference to any specific individuals.

Joustra says in the paper: "When someone says those kinds of things, I have mixed feelings about that." "Radical statements like that can be the straw that breaks the camel's back for people who are on the verge of becoming violent."

The anti-terrorism coordinator stresses in the article that freedom of expression is all important. "Everyone may say what they like, but that does not mean that you have to say everything. You should think before you open your mouth."

Joustra adds: "We have almost a million Muslims in the Netherlands, and the large majority disapproves of any form of violence. The group of extremists that we are worried about consists of a few hundred people. If you listen to some of the discussions recently it seems as if people do not have that perspective on the situation."

Geert Wilders responds in the AD that Joustra's comments are "inappropriate." The politician had already received criticism from an NCTb office employee earlier this year about his rhetoric.

Liberal VVD leader Mark Rutte said on the Radio 1 Journaal that he was "surprised" that Joustra was getting involved in the discussion. He wants to pose questions to Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin on the matter on Tuesday.

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Netherlands: Muslim anger at Wilders

Oslo: Kids missing from schools

There are 144 elementary schools in Oslo with 50,000 students, out of which 18,000 are of minority background.

More than 100 students have failed to show up for school this fall, a month after the school year started. Officials fear the truant children, most of them from immigrant families, have been sent back to their parents' homeland.

Some of the truant children may be attending Koran or military schools in Pakistan or other countries, but school officials are worried.

"Many of the children lose their local network," Per Korsvik, principal of Sinsen School, told newspaper Dagsavisen this week. He's missing six students at his school who never showed up for classes.

Many school officials also fear that the children are being used as labourers in their parents' homelands. They fear for the children's futures.

The number of children kept out of school may be even higher, because some schools may have failed to report the students' absence. The prinicipals may expect the students to turn up, and they also risk losing as much as NOK 40,000 in funding per missing student.

Education officials toughened up truancy regulations four years ago, and any absence over 14 days is to be reported to state labour and welfare officials and to the tax office. Norway's child protective services (Barnevernet) and the police are also supposed to be notified.

Parents are rarely punished for failing to send their children to school, however. Dagsavisen reported that 127 sets of parents had been reported to police on truancy charges, but fully 106 cases were dropped and only one set of parents was ultimately convicted.

Source: Aftenposten (English), Dagbladet (Norwegian)

Netherlands: Trouble with Moroccan criminal youth

Klein Verzet is following up on this story as well.

In Utrecht mayor Annie Brouwer will set up a prohibition on gathering in a part of Kanaleiland-Noord. The situation is getting out of control according to a mayor spokesperson on "4 in het land" program.

The problem of criminal youth in the neighborhood is so big that the police say during the show that "there's no proper answer" for it.

The chief of police and the mayor say in the show that security could be brought back to the neighborhood only if problem children would be forcibly removed from their families already when they're about twelve, and placed in special educational centers

The program "4 in het land" spent several weeks investigating in Kanaleneiland-Noord after the municipality put up fences around a senior home in order to cut off escape routes for criminals on scooters.

The camera crew was chased out of the neighborhood three times by groups of youth, within five minutes. The first time a company car was destroyed and camera equipment was stolen In the following attempt a reporter was pelted with stones. On the third attempt the crew had to flee when a group of youth stormed the car and smashed it up. The editors of the show then decided to interview the residents undercover. Residents told the reporters that they didn't call the police anymore since the youth then get back at them.

Mayor Brouwer is setting aside money to bring in more agents to the neighborhood, but according to the mayor and the police the struggle won't be won just by more police.

The situation of Moroccan youth in Tilburg, meanwhile, is "alarming". The group of 12-16 year olds is described by the municipality 2006 report as "trouble makers, criminals and radical Muslims."

The municipality has now decided to deal with the Moroccans in the same way they have dealt with Antillean youth, who are rigidly counseled and coached.

"But without the Moroccan community itself we can do nothing," says Jan Hamming, responsible for integration in the municipality. "Luckily the Moroccan community in Tilburg realizes on its own that something must happen. It goes well with most kids, but if one in three ends up a criminal than that's simply not possible."

There are about 5,000 Moroccans in Tilburg, most of whom live in Tiburg-Noord and Tilburg-West. There are about 4,000 Antillean in the city. things have gone systematically wrong with those youth as well.

Hamming says that the direct approach and supervising of the Antillean problem youth since 2005 has had effect. According to the municipality school dropout rate went down by 67%, unemployment by 62% and there's a drop in criminality (22% less).

"In spite of it the criminality continued to be above average," says Hamming. Antillean youth are still the highest represented in (hard) criminality such as street robberies, theft and violence.

Moroccan and Antillean youth who have gotten in trouble with the police are also more likely to get into trouble again. Almost half get in trouble with the law a second or third time.

Seeing the results of coaching the Antilleans, in which slowly but surely they have improved their results at school and in society, the municipality believes that Moroccans would also benefit from a stricter approach.

Hamming says that the tide can be turned with family coaches, personal guidance and help of their own environment. Tilburg is investing almost 2 million euro in both projects.

Though the new approach will deal especially with boy and somewhat older Moroccan youth, the municipality warns that the girls are also in a bad position. They do not fall to criminality and have relatively higher education, "but also they have problem with finding their place in society. They're also confronted with identity problems, prejudices and social exclusion."

Sources: (Dutch), Brabants Dagblad (Dutch)

See also: Utrecht: Problem youth unmanageable

Book Review: The Muslim Discovery of Europe

The Muslim Discovery of Europe by Bernard Lewis is quite an interesting book, giving a view of history from the side of Muslims.

As I read this book I couldn't shake the feeling that history was already written, set into motion by events that happened long ago. On the other hand, maybe we can learn from the past as well.

The main thesis of the book is that Muslims simply didn't care about Europe. They were not interested in Europe and did not see Europeans as more than a bunch of native barbarians. This point is repeated over and over again through many examples. I was a bit disappointed, though, that Lewis didn't mention some meetings between Muslims and Europeans that I've read about elsewhere on the net, such as the connections between the Muslims and the Russ.

Reading through the book, the Muslim attitude to Europe seems quite logical and in fact is very much comparable to the attitude of the West towards Africa, or the rest of the world. Unlike the Muslim world which did not seem interested in the least in Europe, there are Westerners who learn about Africa, but most Westerners have no idea about the political systems there, the languages, the different tribes.

Lewis goes into explaining the slave trade, mostly of Turks and Slavs. Again, it fits in with European behavior after the discovery of the new world. Muslims might not be innocent on this point, but Europeans had no problem enslaving the 'other' either. Lewis mentions how the slave trade was first run by Europeans, until the Muslims conquered up to the Slavic areas and could get their slaves on their own. He also mentions the slave raids by the Barbary Pirates which he says was more of a Jihad than slave trade, though he doesn't mention that the far northern raids in England and Iceland were actually led by a Dutch Muslim convert.

Besides supplying the Muslims with slaves, the Europeans also supplied the Muslims with weapons. Despite attempts to stop the arms and technology trade, the lure of money was too much and the Europeans continued to sell arms, for the price of endangering themselves. It seems to me that we haven't learned from history on this point.

Ironically, it was Europe's intolerance and the Muslims' (comparable) openness that kicked off European exploration and prevented Muslims from understanding what was happening in Europe. Muslims didn't need to travel to Europe to meet Christians or Jews or many other foreigners. The Muslim lands were relatively safe and open for visitors, something which couldn't be said for Europe.

Following the Black Plague in the 14th century Europe insulated itself even further by instituting quarantine stations. Coming to Europe to 'explore' was simply not as easy as going out. It was easier for both Muslims and Europeans to have the situation as it was - Europeans come to visit Muslims and not the other way around. It would later give the Europeans a major advantage.

Lewis explains that Muslims assumed that others saw the world like they did, which is another lesson of history that I think most of us haven't learned yet. Since they saw everything in the prism of religion they assumed that the Christians did so as well. When addressing heads of state in Europe they stressed the leader's Christianity over their national affiliation. In fact, the Muslim leaders did not see themselves as the leaders of Morocco, the Ottoman or Persian empire, but rather as the leader of the 'Muslim lands'. When Muslims visited Europe they saw themselves as Muslims not as coming from a certain empire. It was the Europeans who put an emphasis on nationality.

The Muslims' view of Europe was colored by religion. They saw the Christians as backwards not only because they were, but because it logically followed from the fact that they were following an older unenlightened version of religion. In a way, it might be similar to the way Europeans felt the need to oppress Jews, as a living example of how God had forsaken them. Lewis also points out that Muslims used the term 'infidel' and 'House of War' almost exclusively for Christian Europeans. Everybody else was either idolaters, or did not pose much of a threat.

Muslims did not understand the different political systems in Europe and did not really care much about them. Compared with the Muslim empires, which had three languages, Europe seemed like a host of different tribes and different countries. A visiting Turk in Austria did notice the connection between Turkish and German, since they're both Indo-European languages, but there was no research into these things. Learning other languages was considered degrading, especially with the religious attachment to Arabic, and Muslims therefore put no emphasis on it. Translators were usually taken from the non-Muslim populations.

An interesting observations by Lewis is that though science flourished at first, Muslims soon lost the idea of scientific methodology. They could not understand the process of discovery and experimentation. For them, the truth was already written and it was just a matter of understanding it. Even in later ages, Muslim historians wrote about the history of early Christianity as if that's all there was to it, not bothering to follow up on the developments since. Lewis compares it to the process of religious thought, where the 'gates of ijtihad', ie independent thinking, were closed.

Lewis gives it a historical explanation. Europeans were lucky and had three major events happen at the same time: the discovery of the New World, the beginning of the Renaissance, and the stirrings of Reformation. By the Muslims on the other hand, the discovery of new worlds came several centuries before their own renaissance, and it was not accompanied by a religious reformation.

To me it seems like there was almost a continuity. Europeans picked up while the Muslims were nearing the end of their Golden Age. Europeans started translating manuscripts already in the 12th century, leading up to the age of Enlightenment.

Christianity and Islam are both missionary religions, with a zeal to prove that they are the one and true religion. It seems to me that the difference between the two is that Christianity succeeded in its goal: Christians have ruled over most of the world and missionaries had been sent out everywhere. It is therefore hard to talk about what would have happened if, or to point out that Christians today are not as missionary as they once were. Of course, they're either secular or know that Christianity had reached everywhere. I have met several 'regular' Christians who have told me quite earnestly that one day I will believe in Jesus, and I am therefore not sure at all that the Christian missionary zeal had died down.

Thanks again to those of my readers who have helped me buy books through the Amazon Gift Certificate service. I truly appreciate your gift and support.

Book Review: Breeding Betrayal (2)

This is a continuation of the book review I started earlier this week (part 1), this time focusing on Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe by Unni Wikan.

I highly recommend this book, and think it is a must read for anyone who deals with immigrants (social workers, teachers, etc). I had read this book a few months ago, and I found it hard to put down. It is written in a flowing and engaging manner, but it is also evident that Wikan is very careful with the words she uses. I have not reviewed this book till now out of fear, which still exists, that I'll forget important points.

In Zozo, a Swedish film, a young Lebanese boy escapes the horrors of the civil war to Sweden, where his grandparents live. Zozo's grandfather likes to eat apple with salt and Zozo picks up the habit. His new classmates, however, think it's Lebanese thing. At some point in the film a Swedish friend asks Zozo why Lebanese eat apples with salt, and Zozo finally lets him in on the big secret: Lebanese don't eat apples with salt either, only his grandfather is crazy in that way.

This story is an example of the major question discussed in Generous Betrayal: What is culture, anyway?

A girl is born in Norway, goes to a Norwegian school, speaks Norwegian, has Norwegian friends. One day her parents, who had immigrated to Norway, decide to abduct her back to their homeland. The girl tries to get help from the authorities, but they turn her away, betraying her trust. The authorities are doing what they think is best, letting the girl grow up in her 'own' culture, but what is her own culture?

Wikan, a Norwegian anthropologist, comes out against the attitude that says that culture is fixed and predetermined, and points out that this attitude, which is always used towards the 'other', is actually a new form of racism.

Immigrants who have grown up in Norway, or elsewhere in Europe, are expected to uphold their 'culture', without even asking them what *is* their culture. Why should a Norwegian kid whose parents came from Pakistan uphold his parent's culture? Doesn't he have a right to choose his own destiny just like every other Norwegian kid? After all, would anybody force a Norwegian born to Norwegian parents to follow his parent's path?

Though it has not yet entered public discourse, anthropologists are debating the meaning of culture. Especially in today's world, where immigration and globalization bring different people with different attitudes together, who decides what is culture?

Though she had been accused of being an Islamophobe, Wikan is not a 'right winger', quite the opposite. She does not expect immigrants to 'go back home' and she does not talk about the importance of preserving Norwegian culture. Having suffered from discrimination herself, she does not see Norway as a country with a uniform culture to begin with. She had also been accused of being a 'left-winger' and expecting Norwegians to adapt to immigrant culture.

The way I see her, she is a liberal humanist in the full meaning of the word. Both in this book and elsewhere, she has written that she had sat in on trials and felt empathy with the defendants. I don't always agree with her, and I think it can be extremely dangerous sometimes to emphasize with criminals, but I can understand her.

Wikan implements her humanistic attitude towards everybody, demanding that everybody deserves the same basic human rights. She comes out against the attitude that accepts 'culture' as an excuse for injustice. In her book she brings examples of such injustices from the Scandinavian countries, and it doesn't take much searching to find more such cases from across Europe. Recent cases from Germany and Italy show that even the courts sometimes forget where their loyalty should lie, and who it is they should be protecting. Horrible deeds are excused on cultural grounds, leaving those who really need judicial protection virtually defenseless.

Who decides what is culture? It is usually not the victims, the women and children. Most people are quite content to accept the definition as it comes from those in power, usually the men. However, Wikan points out that is isn't only the women and children who suffer. Even those 'in power' can get stuck with the expectations of culture. Wikan brings examples of imams who expressed conservative and Islamist views in public, but had asked for her help to change things around in private, afraid of appearing too liberal to their own people and losing whatever influence they have for change.

Wikan stresses that she is not talking about Islam, but rather about culture. To emphasize her point she brings the example of a forced marriage case in the Assyrian community.

The days of immigration are over, says Wikan. Today most people who move from one country to another are sojourners, who keep close ties with their homelands. As I mentioned in the first part of this review, Wikan stresses how important it is to keep in mind the general picture when discussing the social and economic status of immigrants.

In her book she discusses immigration to Norway, going over the fact and figures. She comes out against the fear of checking statistics and of stigmatizing immigrants. Only recently did governments wake up to the fact that it is impossible to approach a problem without knowing exactly what it is. Immigrants have learned to abuse the Scandinavian welfare policies with their cradle-to-grave support benefits. Wikan argues that by putting so many people on welfare, authorities are being 'generous', but they are also betraying those immigrants who have come to Europe in search of a better life. It is easy to give to others, and it puts the giver in a superior moral position. It is much harder to demand from the 'other' to integrate, and to enable them to do so, as well as to deal with the cultural problems this involves.

European citizenship is seen today as a ticket to a better life. However, for someone living in Europe, citizenship does not really enhance their chances in life. It might help in traveling "back home", but not everybody shares in that right equally. Some countries force women to have male companions, and children can be easily moved by parents against their wishes. Citizenship also gives a right to vote. Though in his book shore stresses the importance of political participation, many immigrants don't use this right, and more than that - voting rates in western countries in general are quite low.

Wikan points out that in liberal democracies it is really the right of residence that enhances one's opportunities and gives a person the right to work, study and take part in society. However, she does not underestimate the importance of citizenship. Wikan calls for citizenship to be viewed as a social contract with social, moral and legal commitments. The state should be committed to the welfare of all citizens and residents, and not only of communities and 'cultural' groups.

Wikan also discusses the problematics of double-citizenship, saying that not everybody enjoys the advantages. Double citizenship gives the 'home country' a right to enforce its laws over people who might have never been there, and who might not see any other country but Norway as their home.

She comes out against the fact that many immigrant kids grow up in Europe functionally illiterate, due to well-meaning programs which do everything but teach them the national language. She compares English speaking countries, where many kids grow up with English as their only language, to Dutch or Scandinavian speaking countries, showing that since the national language is not seen as 'global' enough, parents don't put an emphasis on learning it.

In Norway there's an option for immigrant children to learn in their native tongue, but even that is complicated, since many parents prefer their children to learn in Arabic and Urdu instead of Berber or other 'lower' language they really speak at home. In this sense, the kids have to learn three different languages, at the least (before they start learning English and other foreign languages in school), and come out not knowing any.

Language should not be an option. It is a basis for living in society and authorities should make sure that kids growing up in a country will know to read, write and speak the national language.

Wikan spends time talking about points which to me seem self-evident and I think it is sad that she even has to trouble. For example, the fact that immigration today, despite being clothed in asylum/family reunification, is still an economic immigration. The channeling of immigration into other avenues has actually contorted the meaning of asylum and of marriage. To this end she calls to stop family reunification, saying that it puts immigrant youth in unbearable situations.

In his book Shore talks about "Californication", a phrase which is usually used to mean something else, saying that the solution might lie in ethnic mixing as is common in California. Wikan also related to the issue and says that inter-ethnic marriage a reflection and predictor of cross-cultural integration. In fact, it's the highest level of integration possible. Both Shore and Wikan agree that inter-ethnic marriage is not occurring in Europe, however they explain it differently. Shore says Europe is "resistant to such a solution". Wikan sees the problem with family-reunification. I think she is right, but only partially, as many immigrants are held by back religious and cultural norms as well. After all, Wikan does talk in her book about the lack of 'intermarriage' even between different Somali clans or Pakistani tribes.

To end the review, I would like to again thank those of my readers who have helped me buy books through the Amazon Gift Certificate service. I truly appreciate your gift and support.

See also: Book Review: Breeding Betrayal (1), Norway: Professor Unni Wikan on rape

Sweden: Swimming topless

Two Swedish women want full equality with men and demand to swim topless. The swimming pool throws them out. Since it's obviously not the norm for the 'regular' Swede, what does this have to do with Islam?

But a spokeswoman for the leisure complex stood by their decision not to allow the women to bathe topless.

"Swimming pools generally require men to wear swimming trunks and women to wear either bikinis or one piece swimsuits," Inger Grotteblad told The Local.

"There are three reasons for this. First, there is a security aspect, then there is a hygiene issue and finally there is what we call 'prevailing manners and customs'. It is above all this last point which is important here," she added.

She also pointed out that the swimming complex always needed to bear in mind the preferences of its guests.

"We have a lot of visitors here, ranging from families with children to the elderly. We also have people from different ethnic backgrounds. We want all of them to be able to enjoy themselves when they come here.

"This issue is new to us and we welcome the debate. It is important that everybody gets to voice their opinion, from families with children to naturists, older people and Muslim women. We have asked our governing body to look into this and hope they will come back to us with recommendations," said Grotteblad.

Source: The Local (English)

Belgium: Former Jihadis

Glenn Audenaert, head of the federal police in Brussels, says that according to a study by the police and security services at least one thousand former Jihadis who had taken part in "holy wars" in the Middle East and Chechnya live in Belgium. These are people who have left Belgium to go to war and have then returned. The fighting had made them more radical.

Audenaert said that these are extremists, fundamentalists and experienced fighters, adding that he wasn't calling them terrorists but they could become terrorists.

"It's relatively young people who spent their youth in our country. Some also have Belgian citizenship. They left as 'jihadi' to Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chechnya. They fought there against a diabolized enemy, under a foreign flag. Their war experience made them more extreme. Their discourse is more fundamentalist than ever."

Source: HLN (Dutch), Expatica (English)

See also: Belgium: Terror report

Netherlands: Official Islam curriculum

As of the current school year all Dutch primary schools will have access to an official teaching curriculum about Islam for pupils aged four to 12.

The new curriculum, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, was officially presented in the As Soeffah primary school in Amsterdam on Monday.

The method was developed by the Foundation for Teaching Methods (SLO) and the Board of Islamic Schools Organisation (ISBO), an umbrella organisation of 42 Muslim schools in the Netherlands.

This school year all 42 ISBO schools as well as four other Islamic schools in the Netherlands will begin to use the new study material. Public primary schools can also request that the textbooks be used, in accordance with the wishes of parents.

The ISBO stresses that the teaching method is aimed not only at children studying at Muslim schools, but also at Muslim and non-Muslim children at public schools.

The new teaching method is seen as particularly important because Muslim teachers have so far been compiling their own teaching material.

Previously, textbooks were authored by conservative religious leaders from other parts of the world.

In 2002, the Dutch intelligence service said in a report that it was worried about the influence of fundamentalist Muslim organisations on Dutch Muslim schools.

The report encouraged former education minister Maria van der Hoeven to develop an official Dutch teaching curriculum about Islam.

The new Dutch material consists of four text books for grades 1-8, set in the context of Dutch society.

"It is aimed at integrating Islam in Dutch society," ISBO interim director Yassin Hartog told reporters. "The values we convey are similar to those of the Dutch constitutional state."

The new method reportedly teaches children to renounce the idea of Muslim exclusivism. Instead, it gives insight into the position of Islam among other faiths.

The textbooks contain information about the Muslim prophet Mohammed, explain the basics of being a proper Muslim and various Muslim customs and ideas.

The textbooks also deal with issues like the Hadj or pilgrimage to Mecca, the month of Ramadan and the head covering for women and girls.

"Our textbooks do not tell children: all Muslims wear head covering," Hartog said, "We say: Muslim girls wear head scarves, but may also choose not to."

The ISBO said it is already preparing the next part of the series, which deals with topics including sexuality and homosexuality.

Source: Expatica (English)

Netherlands: Moroccans ready to take over underworld

A group of young Moroccans is ready to take over the criminal underworld in the Netherlands. Outgoing head of investigation in Amsterdam Willem Woelders said this in an interview with the AD on Wednesday,

"Five years ago they were small time criminals, starting out in their own neighbourhoods, but now they are working nationally. They commit major burglaries and don't shy away from using violence," Woeders says.

Not only the Moroccans are eager to rule the criminal world, the sons of the current generation of criminals are also vying to be on top, the head of investigation at the Amsterdam police says.

He is referring to the children of John Mierement and others. "In a number of cases the adage "like father, like son" proves true. These boys grew up in a particular environment. That has had an effect."

Woelders, who will become deputy head of police in Utrecht, concludes that the older generation of Amsterdam criminal kingpins is gradually being knocked down.

"There are still a few people around, but within two years this generation will be gone. Some have been killed off, the rest is on the run or in prison," says Woelders. He served as head of investigation in the capital from 1991.

Source: Expatica (English)

Book Review: Breeding Betrayal (1)

As I've done with former books I've read and reviewed, I will review two more books together: Breeding Bin Ladens: America, Islam, and the Future of Europe by Zachary Shore and Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe by Unni Wikan.

Both books suggest how European countries can deal with (Muslim) immigrants, though they do approach the topic from different directions. Wikan's book is an anthropological study, while Shore's book is a more popular look at current events. I will therefore split up this review, giving each book its own focus, but referring to both in the overall review.

I'll start with Breeding Bin Ladens. Shore does a good job of reviewing the problems facing Muslims in Europe today and he puts his finger on the major problem: ambivalence towards America and the West. This ambivalence, if not dealt with, can lead the moderates, the "2nd circle", to hate, extremism and violence.

However, I found the book confusing and did not always follow how Shore got to his conclusions. For example, taking the issue of hijab Shore brings the different aspects of the argument, and mentions that the hijab ban was accepted in France also because Muslim parents requested such a ban. The ban was therefore meant to protect girls from immense peer-pressure to wear the hijab and protect school principals from taking on the responsibility (and danger) of making a decision to ban it. But what's his conclusion? That the hijab should be accepted as a cultural symbol, just as it is in America, while at the same time authorities should crack down on Islamists who compel it. But how do you fight peer-pressure?

The following quote from the book gives an or-or proposition. Either Europe adapts to what Muslims expect, or they will distance themselves from society.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Europe's Muslims, and Muslims around the world, do not wish to blow themselves up or harm anyone else just because they feel ambivalent about mainstream European values. What they want instead is to change those perceived values to favor their interpretation of greater social justice - mainly for workers, women, migrants ,and the poor. when they cannot change the mainstream society, they are separating themselves from it in small, but significant ways.

However, Shore never deals with the problem that this poses and he offers no solution. Living in the west means accepting that you might not be able to convince others of your values. If this is the source of Muslim's ambivalence towards the West, then Shore, maybe without meaning to, is bringing up a problem that cannot be solved.

With a growing group of 'outsiders', Shore brings an apocalyptic vision of the collapse of social democracy in Europe - with Europeans refusing to pay taxes which go to support the "other". However he also says that with an aging and diminishing population, European society won't be able to uphold its standard of living for long anyway.

Shore's suggestions are tauted as "controversial", but they don't seem too extreme to me. Some I think are quite basic, such as giving immigrant children special support in kindergarten in order to make sure they start off school on the right foot.

Others I would agree if it were done with a different focus. For example, Shore suggests setting up on advisory committee to the US president to follow up on the historical context of events in Muslim countries. I think it is much more important to follow up on the current context. Most people in the West don't care what happens in Pakistan, which is why when something does happen (Islamists get more power), they look around for the most convenient reason to blame it on.

Some I simply didn't understand, such as sending American students to universities in Muslim countries. How would Shore make sure those are not Muslims receiving radical Islamic studies? Another suggestion is to show the Muslim world that the West is dependent on it, by accepting help when offered. However, given the repeated calls to boycott, I doubt Muslims really believe the West is not dependent on them.

A few specific issues I've had with this book:

- According to Shore, Muslims feel like outsiders partially because they are an economic and social underclass. However, a point stressed in Wikan's book, he completely ignores the fact that immigrants today still have contacts with their "home" countries and they often own houses and property there. It is therefore wrong to look at immigrants only in their European context.

Studies of immigration show that part of the reason people continue to immigrate is that the immigrants themselves do their best to show they've "succeeded" by building ostentatious houses in their 'homelands' and coming on trips with flashy cars that are in some case bought specially for the trip. The fact that they live in terrible conditions in cramped apartments in Europe is not as important for them and is often a shock for those who follow in their footsteps.

- Building up the theory that European Muslims who feel they're not part of society because they are unrepresented in politics, Shore compares French Muslims to their German counterparts. German citizenship laws have been very strict until just recently and most German Muslims are therefore not citizens. Shore brings statistics showing that very low numbers of immigrants from the Maghreb in France have taken the opportunity to get French citizenship. However, he does not mention at all that their children have automatic citizenship and he later does bring the statistic that 50% of French Muslims are citizens. Are elections in France limited only to citizens? Do French Muslim citizens use their right to vote? Shore does not relate to these questions at all.

- Shore speaks of 4th generation Muslims, but he ignores the fact that many of them have (at least) one immigrant parent who does not speak the local language and was not brought up in the West, thereby blurring the distinction between 2nd generation, 3rd generation and 4th generation immigrants.

- The main cause for ambivalence towards the West, though, is that Muslims see European or Western cultural values as decadent. However, though the Islamist propaganda says wanton consumerism and seeing women as sexual objects are western "values" they really are a lack of direction at best, and immorality at worst. though it is easy to forget when starting to discuss rights to gay marriage and abhorrent artwork, Western values are liberalism and human rights. It is those values which European want to protect and which they feel are being threatened by a growing Islamic population.

- Shore brings the story of US Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell, whose speech disparaging Mohammed was widely reported in Pakistan. Shortly thereafter, Shore says, Islamists parties got 50 seats in the Pakistani parliament instead of their usual four. The claim that Falwell is single-handedly responsible for the power of Islamists in Pakistan shows an extremely shallow view of the global and local Pakistani context. It is also a good example of American arrogance, thinking that the whole world revolves around what people in America think or do.

- In one of the weirdest claims I saw, Shore says that not many people know that the Mohammed cartoon showing Mohammed with a bomb on his head mocks the Danish imam Abu Laban.

Frankly, besides the fact that they're both Muslims and have a beard, I don't see the resemblance. If at all, the Mohammed picture looks to me like a 19th century Turkish soldier.

- A main part of the book are quotes from discussions Shore has had with Muslims in Europe. From the most Western (wanting to ban hijab) to the most conservative (being against democracy). My impression is that many of those Shore considers moderate, aren't really that moderate. For example, he brings the story of Mahsa, an Iranian who came to the UK when she was 14 (later she's described as British-born). She has boycotted Marks and Spencer for years due to its Israel connection and more than that: she has returned to Iran because she did not want her tax money supporting British foreign policies. Shore doesn't bother asking if she has no problems with her tax money supporting Iran's religious intolerance, its support for terrorist groups, or its oppression of Iranian Arabs. However, he does point out that she's moderate. Why? Because she is a "sober scientist, not prone to fanaticism or irrational hatreds". I'm not sure I need to even point out that history had seen quite a few scientists who were both fanatics and prone to irrational hatreds.

Even the 'real' moderates are quoted as saying that the CIA or the Mossad organized the 9/11 attacks. Shore admits he cringes at the simplicity in which such sentiments are voiced. There are also quite a few examples of anti-Semitism, but Shore doesn't stop to point them out.

Oslo: Taxi drivers suspected of working with gangs

A large number of Oslo taxi drivers already have been charged with tax evasion and welfare fraud. Now Oslo police suspect around 40 drivers and even more taxi owners of having close contact with Pakistani gangs, and operating as couriers of arms and drugs.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday that in some cases, the taxis are used as getaway cars after gang offensives in Oslo and the surrounding area.

Aftenposten followed up over the weekend on earlier reports of what's known locally as taxijuks, that is, widespread fraud that's enriched Pakistani-Norwegian taxi drivers and owners, who in turn send much of their ill-gotten gains back to Pakistan in an effort to hide assets from Norwegian tax authorities.

Local tax officials claim 337 taxi owners have failed to report an estimated NOK 406 million in income, while 589 drivers have driven black-market taxi operations to the tune of NOK 116 million. Around 20 owners have been reported to the police, and prosecutors have brought formal charges against five of them.

Nearly 900 taxi owners and drivers have received more than NOK 100 million in state welfare payments, at the same time they're believed to have driven black-market operations. More than 100 of them have been reported to police, and 20 have been convicted of welfare fraud. Another 350 have been warned that they face welfare reimbursement demands totalling NOK 57 million.

Aftenposten reported on Sunday that a 39-year-old taxi owner sold his house just before he was forced into bankruptcy for failure to pay millions in taxes and fees owed to the state. It's unclear what became of the proceeds of the sale, however, and the 39-year-old now lives on Norwegian welfare, even though he's linked to successful businesses in Pakistan including a bus company, a gas station and several retail stores.

Other taxi owners and drivers charged with tax evasion in Norway are known to have large, expensive homes in Pakistan, where their families live affluent lives.

Gang ties

Oslo police, meanwhile, have also uncovered ties between criminal Pakistani gangs in Oslo and more than 40 taxi drivers. The drivers are suspected of carrying gang members and their weapons, as well as drugs.

Undercover police have, for years, observed a "striking" number of taxis with their lights turned off in the vicinity of gang operations, noted Tom Østreng of the Oslo Police Districe. Use of taxis, it's believed, is less risky than use of private cars that can pbe traced to their owners.

Many honest taxi drivers in Oslo and elsewhere in Norway now fear for the reputation of the entire industry. "There are many drivers who follow the rules and don't do anything wrong," driver Andivad Amin told Aftenposten. "This hurts everyone."

Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Oslo: Taxi driver fraud suspicions spreading, Oslo: Pakistani taxi drivers over-represented in tax fraud case

Netherlands: Attitudes towards leaving Islam

Three quarters of Muslims regard turning away from Islam as a personal choice, but there are few that applaud that choice.

A survey commissioned by television programme Nova indicates that 38 percent of the Muslims questioned disapprove of apostasy. 24 percent say they cut off all contact with a fellow Muslim who has turned their back on Islam.

6 percent is of the opinion that it is acceptable to use violence against an apostate.

The survey presented on Tuesday also indicates that 11 percent of Muslims feel that Ehsan Jami's committee for former Muslims is necessary. A large majority – 66 percent – does not think his committee serves a good purpose.

Source: Expatica (English)

Islamic Radicalism In Europe Reflects Spiritual Void

To what Bakker says regarding converts I would add also that Salafism is quickly becoming the 'baseline' against which other Muslims see themselves. A convert therefore is more likely to choose the "pure" Islam as it is seen by the Salafists rather then a moderate "Westernized" version.

The recent arrest in Vienna of three alleged Al-Qaeda sympathizers -- all Austrian citizens -- has again raised concerns across Europe about the threat posed by homegrown Islamic extremists. Edwin Bakker, head of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, is an expert on the subject. He spoke with RFE/RL about the threat of Islamist terrorism in Europe and about why some Europeans choose to convert to radical Islam.

RFE/RL: There are millions of Muslims in Europe who have either migrated to the continent or are the children of earlier migrants. In their overwhelming majority, they have no connection to extremism. But a few appear to be turning to radical brands of Islam. Who are they?

Edwin Bakker: [They are] youngsters who are attracted to a very strict interpretation of Islam, a very militant Islam, partly as a consequence of discrimination, their backward socioeconomic position, but most of all by their search for identity. They are in Europe. They are very much integrated – they speak Dutch, Danish, German or whatever [is] the language of their country , but they are not accepted as Dutch, Danish, German, etc. So many of them are seeking a new identity as being a Muslim, not a Moroccan, not a Turk or whatever. They go and look for material on the Internet and they find this very radical and very appealing Salafi stream of Islam, which is very strict, very extreme.

RFE/RL: The problem of religious radicalism does not seem to exist among other immigrant groups, like the Chinese or Vietnamese communities. What makes people with Islamic roots potentially more radical than other migrants?

Bakker: There is this idea in the air, there is this hype, there is this 9/11 appeal to youngsters; this ideology is there. And it is not the case for China. If you are Chinese in Europe, you still can be proud to be from China. China does not have this perception [that a] crusade [is being waged] against China or this perception of a fight. These Muslims identify themselves as Muslims and then they identify themselves as victims of aggression against Muslims, for instance in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq. So this identity is linked to identifying with [perceived] fights against Islam.

RFE/RL: But Iranians living in Europe, who are Muslims, seem to integrate well in European society and generally have not isolated themselves as much as people coming from the Middle East or Pakistan. Why is there such a difference?

Bakker: The Iranians who came to Europe are mostly highly educated. So there are many professors, doctors among them. And that is how they integrated better. They integrated into their new communities, communities of scholars, communities [of other professionals], and so on. And their numbers are a little bit smaller so they cannot organize themselves in such close-knit communities. There is also a big difference between Iranians and other [Muslims in Europe], Moroccans and Turks, for example. Most Moroccans [although they live] in Europe [tend to] marry somebody from their [home] village. Iranians marry either Iranians who also fled to Europe or they marry local [Europeans].

RFE/RL: How can you explain the fact that some Europeans by origin are converting to radical brands of militant Islam? Can we speak about some tendencies in this case?

Bakker: We have good contacts with, for instance, local police working in troublesome neighborhoods [in the Netherlands], so they see the same problem among Muslims but also among non-Muslims. This is a sense of [lack] of identity, purpose [in life] -- these kind of things. I think that this holds [true] for many Western European countries. There are also quite a number of women, actually, who convert to Islam. It's of course something new. It is an underdog religion, so it has an appeal to some people, who are attracted by such a religion, that is so much bashed and therefore perhaps more interesting to them.

RFE/RL: What trends in Islam do converts usually choose?

Bakker: I studied [the cases] of all those [Muslims] who have been arrested and have been convicted of terrorism in Europe and about 5 or 6 percent are converts. Actually, many groups have at least one or two converts among them. In general, there is a problem with converts in that they want to overcompensate for the fact that they are new to a community. They want to be "holier than the pope." And this is a general phenomenon with radicals or with converts.

RFE/RL: But radicals make up only a very small part of all Muslims. Why don't more European converts choose mainstream Islam?

Bakker: Because they are new to the religion, they are very susceptible to very radical interpretations. They don't know the other interpretations. So if you are new to Islam, you are not familiar with the fact that Islam is a very complicated religion, that it has a lot of different approaches. And if you are in the hands of the Salafi -- this very fundamental, traditional, puritan group -- you have no checks and balances, and there is nobody who would tell you, 'But that's not true.' So, you are falling into the hands of the most radical views or radical preachers. So being new to religion also does not give you the mind-set and the knowledge to resist very extreme views.

Source: Radio Free Europe (English)

Flanders: Refusing male gynecologists

According to gynecologists at Brussels AZ VUB and Ghent University Hospital (UZ), more and more Muslims refuse to have a male gynecologist deliver their children. The Flemish Association of Gynecologists argues for a stricter approach in all hospitals.

Many Flemish gynecologists can tell stories of gynecologists who directed a birth behind the door or fathers who go after doctors.

Luc Gerguts is head of the Gynecology departments in the Geel Sint-Dimpna hospital. In the recent doctor's magazine he tells how he was recently restrained by a Muslim father during a risky birth. The situation was serious: the mother already had gone through two stillbirths. When the father refused to yield, Verguts finally gave up and called in two experienced midwives. Verguts himself took position behind the door to help from afar.

The conflict in Geel in not a solitary case, according to inquiry by various hospitals. The phenomenon is known especially in cities with a large immigrant population. "We don't understand why but the problem has become more acute in recent years," says Elke Fleurs head of the clinic of obstetrics at AZ VUB. "As a rule we try not to give in. Certainly in emergency cases we usually take control of the situation. I remember a father in a multiple birth who would not yield. Only when i said: 'Then your babies will die', did he come round." Fleurs emphasizes that not all Muslims have problems with male gynecologists.

Ghent UZ also gets more and more obstinate Muslims fathers. "Daily we see people who specially ask for a female doctor," explains Marleen Temmerman, head of service. "During the day we can mostly respect that, the gynecology profession is after all becoming more and more female. But during the night it doesn't always work out. About once a month that leads to a serious conflict." She says that sometimes the fathers have to be manhandled away.

Temmerman somewhat understands the conflicts. "The decision to go through with a man is often taken at a moment when there isn't a lot of time to explain everything peacefully." Temmerman says that especially newcomers to Belgium remain inflexible.

Flanders is not the only region dealing with the problem. The national Order of Physicians discussed the growing problem in France and the UK regarding the choice of doctors.

The Flemish Association for Obstetrics and Gynecology (VVOG) is aware of the problem and asks for a stricter attitude. "In my own hospital every patient that absolutely insists on a woman is dismissed from the hospital," explain Johan Van Wiemeersch, head of Sint-Augustinus in Wilrijk (Antwerp). "As a gynecologist association we ask for the same strict rules in all maternity wards. In our own hospital we used to be more flexible, but then female gynecologists had to be called out of bed to come in. That's not acceptable." The stricter approach in Sint-Augustinus can't always prevent emergencies and related conflicts. Van Wiemeersch remembers how a father attacked the doctors when they came to his wife.

The Gasthuisberg hospital in Louvain is set up to be more accommodating. The problem here is also less acute than in cities where there are more immigrants, explains Bernard Spitz, department head of obstetrics. He adds that there's a real problem when patients ask for a male doctor, since there are less of them.

Source: De Morgen (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Muslim women and health care , Netherlands: Health care not a problem with Muslim women,


Dear Readers,

This blog will be on vacation from today until Sunday.

On occasion of the Jewish New Year, I wish all of us a healthy, happy and peaceful year.

Today/tomorrow we are also entering the month of Ramadan - I wish a happy and peaceful time for us all.


Brussels: Muslim schools

The following article was written by Marij Uijt den Bogaard , a former social worker working for the Antwerp municipality. She was fired after writing reports warning about radicalization in the Muslim community.

The article below appeared originally in Dutch on Brussels Journal.


The first Muslim school (in Belgium) had been opened in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek.

Let us not be hypocrites, Muslims have every right to do so. Because there are after all also Catholic, Jewish or Steiner schools, offering education from a certain viewpoint or ideology is allowed in Flanders, Muslims have equal rights. But does it go with obligations? Naturally the purpose of education can never be that kids leave school without a future of employment, or higher education.

Therefore we can ask the founders of this school several questions. And the parents who send their daughter there.

The school is for girls only, according to the BOEH women [organization supporting the right to wear a headscarf], it's our fault for the headscarf mess, look at the result! Because now some schools don't allow their pupils to wear a headscarf that "discrimination" leads to this initiative, your fault! I hope that media wakes up and has the courage to ask critical questions, since doesn't that mean you can also allow boys into such a school? Perfectly combined with girls with a headscarf, no?

I'm curious if there's enough honesty to admit that the school was set up because according to the strict Islamic principle the whole of Flemish education isn't good, the headscarf looks more like the excuse to get this discussion out of the way and look insulted towards Flemish society.

For strict Muslims, education should be separate from the age of puberty, before you know it temptation and the devil strike and you get immoral behavior, therefore after puberty free social intercourse is not allowed. Girls are especially vulnerable, rumor can wreck their future. It is for that matter totally incomprehensible to set up a separate school for girls, who are often already respectable enough, it would be better to put the Moroccan boys apart, seeing the high numbers who pick up a Flemish girlfriend at school or on the street, but apparently nobody shares this conclusion and people focus on the behavior of the future wives.

The discussion about the need for Muslim schools has been going on for a long time within the Muslim community, BOEH uses the opportunity to put down the Flemish again, hopefully nobody would dare to start up a serious dialog with those women.

But ok, a girls school, higher secondary education.

Does this high school give general or vocational education? Did those who give permission for this school take into account the level that these children will be encouraged to follow? Or will this school accept everybody since the Center for Educational Supervision (centrum voor leerlingenbegeleiding) will discriminate on that too? Nevertheless it seems to me logical that if everyone would be welcome it will lead to classes with great individual differences in learning pace between the kids. How will they get a diploma at the end? Or maybe it isn't important, since by that time we'll be obligated to accept anybody who's an immigrant to work? Also youth who come t the job market with a vague diploma, unrecognized as education according to the norm?

And how will biology be taught, or maybe it wouldn't be? And what with Darwin, listed as "haram"? What with showering, will we do it according to the strict Islamic norm, with clothes on? Fathers have pointed out to me in the past that showering naked was forbidden, certainly in the presence of a third party. Therefore those fathers wanted Muslim schools. Will girls learn this at school? Sexual education will not be given, the wedding night will teach enough about the future life as a wife?

Anyone who cares for girls of immigrant origin, who is worried about the participation of women in the job market and society, should now be concerned.

Information about sexuality should be the right of every kid, also of girls with a headscarf, especially taking into account the ignorance among adults in older traditional subgroups. This shows up during many talks and was also established by journalists Janny Groen and Annieke Kranenberg in their book about young strict Muslim women "Strijdsters van Allah" (Alla's female warriors), a book which brings clear insights.

A very strict teacher in this society can possibly also create a world view portraying the surroundings as the enemy, which leads to segregation between citizens.

Can somebody explain to me how within this school built according to Islamic principles these girls will get the social proficiencies that are necessary in order to live in a society with mixed social traffic! Will these girls take part in neighborhood parties, come to the social center open day where Jef would be standing with a glass of beer at the entrance, and will they get all the opportunities to maximally develop as an individual within this society? If yes then these schools will be an asset.

But chances are great that it won't happen, seeing the experience of Muslim schools in the Netherlands.

Therefore the initiators and parents who send their kids there must know what type of choice they're making. The whole may be Islamically justifiable but from a social perspective it's a ticket to less opportunities, if the future can include more than marriage and a matching role for women. Parents who put Islam above their daughter's social future naturally have the freedom to do so, but they shouldn't look insulted at society when their daughter has less opportunities because her schooling level is not good enough, when she has no work, with a headscarf.

And before anybody starts about the Jewish school: that comparison is gone if you compare the criminality, youth unemployment and low schooling statistics of kids of Jewish and Moroccan origins. Truly these schools show that it's only possible if you also have an answer for, for example, employment and further studies, abroad if need be.

In Flanders society restricts the place of religion. The Antwerp Jewish community accepts this and the consequences of their choice. In Islam this is not the case, there society is limited by the Koran, according to a growing number of subgroups. You can see the clash between these two starting points, religion or society with separation between church and state, more and more often and clearer. It looks to me more than logical that education that prepares girls for a world view in which religion is the starting point limits their opportunities, because society in Flanders is not restricted by religion anymore, hopefully Moroccan parents will think twice before Fatima's fate is decided.

Source: Brussels Journal (Dutch)

See also: Brussels: Muslim high school to be set up


Interesting links from this past week:

* Ferdy at Klein Verzet brings information and pictures about the German Muslim converts arrested for a terrorist plot.

* Tundra Tabloid reports about the first Finnish Islamic party.

* Ali Eteraz brings a short Spanish movie about the hijab and what it means as far as identity and religion. This is the first time I've run across Eteraz's blog. Eteraz is a religious Muslim who writes about reforming Islam and his blog looks quite interesting.

* Hind Fraihi is also a religious Muslim who deals with reformism in her own way. I had written in the past about her book , Undercover in Little Morocco. A movie sent to me by several readers and now making the rounds brings an old Deutsche Welle report on the Muslims of Molenbeek. The movie focuses on the fact that the reporters were hounded by some Muslims in the local market, and brings a lot of "off camera" quotes about radicalism and extremism, but it also shows the reporters were welcomed by some of the crowd, and ignored by most.

Sweden: Muhammad protest in Uppsala

The Örebro Muslim cultural center had called off the protest against local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, but that does not mean that Swedish Muslims as a whole have decided to drop the issue. This Friday a protest was organized against Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT), a local newspaper which had published Vilks' Muhammad drawing in August.

After the drawing was published, Uppsala Muslims were called upon to boycott the newspaper. In an interview from August 31st, Yehia Abou Zakaria, of the Arabic Cultural Association (Arabiska kulturföreningen) said they were waiting for the Muslim countries. "The next step is to wait for a response from the Arab countries. As Muslims in Uppsala we think that UNT should publish an apology to Muslims, on the same page where the picture was published by Lars Vilks." He didn't think anything positive will be done, though.

Upsala Nya Tidning put up pictures of the Friday protest on their site (available also as slideshow). The signs carried say "stop desecrating our prophet", "right + freedom = Islam", "freedom of the press or freedom of oppression", "never hit somebody who's down", and "we demand religious freedom". A video of the protest is also available (click on "se klippet" under "Demonstrationståget")

A large group of protesters gathered outside the offices of a second Swedish newspaper on Friday evening protesting at the publication in August of a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The demonstration outside the offices of newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT) in Uppsala, 70 kilometres north of Stockholm, attracted around 550 protesters.

Organizers pro-Palestinian group Palestinska Folkets Förening ('Palestinian People's Association') said they wanted to make Swedes in Uppsala aware of the publication and to extract an apology from the newspaper.

Per Erik Eriksson of Uppsala police said the demonstration had been give official authorization. "It's all very peaceful," he said. Another Swedish newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda, has also been the subject of protests from Muslim groups. Both papers published cartoons by Swedish artist Lars Vilks depicting Muhammad with the body of a dog.

Sources: The Local (English), Sverige Radio (Swedish)

See also: Sweden: Muslims call off protest

Book Review: Allah's witnesses

I've recently read two books which, though there are differences between them, essentially deal with the same subject: an Islamic approach for Muslims in the West.

The first is Muslim Communities in Non-Muslim States, published in 1980 by the Islamic Council of Europe. It contains a summary of lectures about the subject from different Muslim representatives at a conference in London. The conference ended with a list of resolutions which were later accepted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The conference was mostly concerned with persecuted Muslim minorities, but also dealt with Western Muslims and in general with the relationship between Islam and others.

The second book is Western Muslims and the Future of Islam by Tariq Ramadan, published in 2004. It is divided into two parts, a theological study of Islam and a practical application section.

Both books were written for a Muslim audience though Ramadan's book is much more accessible by the general public.

Ramadan's book is considered revolutionary and reformist ("a Muslim Martin Luther"), while the Islamic Society book is quoted on many sites as an example of of the "Muslim plot". However, reading them both I saw quite a few similarities between them. Some ideas Ramadan brings to "reshape Islam" were already discussed 20 years ago. To take as an example, Ramadan does stress values that may not be the most common in the Muslim street. For example, loyalty to one's own state, as opposed to the Muslim umma. But this idea is also mentioned in Ismail R. Faruqi's lecture "The Rights of Non-Muslims under Islam: Social and Cultural Aspects".

One aspect that stood out for me in both books was the proselytizing aspect of Islam. There are many people who think there is a Muslim plot to "take over the world". M. Ali Kettani's lecture on "The Problems of Muslim Minorities and Their Solutions" is quoted all over the internet as an example of just such a plot. I do not generally believe in conspiracy theories, and I do not believe there is a conspiracy in this case. However, both these books emphasized for me that Islam does a very strong proselytizing aspect. In Ramadan's case, even though he was trying to prove exactly the opposite.

In his book Ramadan says that the days of dividing the world into Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam are past (but, see below). Instead, the West should be seen as Dar a-Shahada (region of testimony) or Dar al-Dawa. He explains "dawa" as the obligation to "call to Islam" or to "invite to Islam" or in his words: the idea that Muslims should bring to the West the "universal Islamic message". He spends quite a bit of time explaining that this is not proselytizing, but for me that is simply playing with vocabulary. After all, what is proselytizing if not trying to convince everybody around you of your one truth?

As Khalid M. Ishaque says in his lecture "Evolution of Human Rights in the West and its Implications for Muslims": "All Muslims, wherever they be, are under an obligation to propagate the word of God."

In fact Ramadan explains it very clearly - Muslims are "witnesses" to God's message to the world and they therefore must go out and preach it, by words or deeds. In this sense, Islam uses the word "witnesses" in much the same way that Jehovah's Witnesses see it. Unlike most branches of Christianity, they believe that every member of their group has an obligation to call people to the word of God.

Ramadan may not want to see it as conversion (conversion is between God and man, he says), but that is exactly what it entails. Furthermore, the line between "convincing people your way is the right way" and "forcing people to follow the right way", can sometimes be very thin.

Though quite hard to follow, I found Ramadan's theological part of the book quite interesting. The very essence of Islam has a problem with plurality. Take the word "Sharia" which means roughly "the way to the spring" and which stresses the oneness of the way.

For example, Ramadan brings a discussion about how different scholars can give different answers to the same question, even at different times. His answer: there is only one "right" answer, there is only one "true way". The others must be wrong. If that is how Islam deals with differing opinions within, how can Islam deal with other opinions from outside?

Another basic theological aspect of Islam mentioned in both books is fitra: the notion that everybody is born with religion (or Islam or submission to the creator). This is the basis of Muslims seeing converts as "reverts" or "coming back". Though it is brought as one of the enlightened aspects of Islam, seeing all humans as partners in Revelation, I think it also shows Islam's feeling of superiority. Everybody is part of Islam's message to the world.

Ramdan has been accused of double-speak, but in this book, written in English and available for the general public he doesn't hide his true affiliation, for those willing to read it.

He sees six major tendencies in Islam: scholastic traditionalism, Salafi literalism, Salafi reformism, political literalist Salafism, "liberal" or "rationalist" reformism, and Sufism.

It is easy to see which trend he supports: Salafi reformism, which he says keeps the text as a point of reference, but applies ijtihad and remains open to interpretation. "The aim is to protect the Muslim identity.., to recognize the Western constitutional structure, to become involved as citizen at the social level, and to live with true loyalty to the country to which one belongs". He does bring some examples of reformists who wanted to bring liberal values to Muslim countries, but he also brings al-Adl wal-Ihsan (Morocco) and the Muslim Brothers (Egypt and Syria), groups which have been outlawed by the authorities for wanting to establish an Islamist state.

I do wonder how he sees Hamas' rise to power in Gaza. Hamas is a Salafi reformist group allied with the Muslim Brotherhood and is the only such group currently in power. If Ramadan is right, it should be the example everybody was waiting for on how to merge an Islamic state and liberalism.

Another aspect of both books that stood out for me was the basic misunderstanding of the Jewish community. Jews have been immigrants and outsiders for millenia. They have a similar legal structure to Islam, with laws that encompass every living moment of a person's life and a moral code that one must live by. I would have thought that surely the Jewish situation would be brought up in a discussion about how an all encompassing religion can integrate in the West. However, both books show a serious lack of understanding, if not actual antipathy toward Judaism.

Ramadan mentions Jews in the following contexts: Jews only take care of themselves championing Jewish or Israeli causes, and they have a lot of money. On the religious side, God punished them for usury by giving them their laws (which to me is a paradox).

Though he calls on Muslims to be involved in social issues, he mentions Jews only in the context of political lobbying. There is no mention of the significant contribution of Jews worldwide to social betterment, equality and human rights. As just one example: in 1964 three civil rights activists were lynched in Mississippi. One was black, the other two were Jewish. There is no mention of any such Jewish activism in Ramadan's book, though he spends a significant portion of his book urging Muslims to do exactly that. Paradoxically, Ramadan is against political lobbying but supports CAIR as a positive development.

Since Ramadan talks about the importance of interreligious dialog, this makes me wonder if he's at all involved in such issues and if yes, whether they're really effective. After all, it seems as if he subscribes to the antisemitic rhetoric.

This rhetoric is repeated in Muslim Communities. Faruqi in "The Rights of Non-Muslims" brings Judaism as the worst example of hatred for the non believer saying that there is no tradition elsewhere in the world that comes close to Judaism's "severity, harshness and absoluteness" in its condemnation of non-believers. A.K. Brohi ("Problems of Minorities") says Judaism is a racial religion which does not accept converts. It is a ridiculous claim, of course, and shows basic lack of knowledge. This lack of knowledge colors how these Muslim thinkers and leaders see the world and how they place Islam within it. It also affects their ability to cooperate with Jewish communities.

Ramadan spends a significant portion of his book talking about the universal values of Islam: defend justice for all, promote good, ensure the well being of all people. He talks about the importance of faith in a world enslaved by materialistic values.

What I found problematic with this message is that he talks to the West alone. Yes, his book is directed at Western Muslims, but these are Muslims who are aware of the world and what is happening in it. There are several countries whose laws comply with the Sharia, there are other countries who have a Muslim majority and are Muslim run, but none of these countries embodies the ideals Ramadan speaks of. Ramadan wants to bring the light of Islam to the world and urges Western Muslims to fight for universal Muslim values, but he never once demands the same from the Muslim countries. He accuses the west of supporting dictatorships and of state terrorism, but he barely voices any criticism of the dictators themselves.

Muslim immigrants have, at the least, escaped countries which do not provide the basic economic needs of their people, at the worst, don't bother about human rights. How can Ramadan expect those immigrants to come to the West and demand that the West shape up?

In this context it was enlightening to read Faruqi's "The Rights of Non-Muslims". Faruqi says that non-Muslims have every right to follow their religion, as long as it doesn't affect the surrounding Muslims. If the principles he brings would be applied to Muslims in the West, there would be a cry of discrimination: Any act which leads to fragmentation and exclusion from society is not allowed, private schools (if allowed) must abide by the curricula and general principles of the public schools, clothing and art may not infringe on the moral sentiment of the public, sound pollution is not tolerated and there are restrictions on working in the judiciary or the executive (since non-Muslims may not affect the policy of an Islamic state). And this in a chapter which is supposed to emphasize how an Islamic state ensures the rights of non-Muslims.

Is Ramadan truly a liberal? After reading through most of his book, I was actually surprised when Ramadan turned to talk about the financial world order. Ramadan wants nothing less tha the overturning of the current economical order, basing it on those same "universal" Islamic values.

If earlier in his book Ramadan explained that the West is not Dar al-Harb, now he talks about the whole world as Alam al-Harb (world of war), due to the neo-liberalist capitalist economics imposed by the West, and uses fighting language to so, calling for resistance. Western economic order is terrorism: he says the West is "sanctioning a cynical, silent, global terrorism" and imposes a "world order that sows terror". He accuses the West of new colonialism and of long distance slavery.

Muslims should create a new financial word order, one which is not based on speculation. He calls to support and ally with Fair Trade organizations and with movements fighting speculation and working for land redistribution.

Though I agree with some of his points, his vehemence is frightening. More than that, it might be overlooked since he is talking about economics, but he is using the same rhetoric against which he talks throughout his book. Many "Islamophobes" accuse Islam of exactly the things Ramadan calls for when he talks about economics: changing the world order, working in stages to achieve their goal and using the system in order to change it.

Ramdan expects the West to account for its errors in the past: slavery and colonialism, for example. But he does not demands the same from Islam. In fact, both books bring Islam as an example of everything that is good. Kettani in "The Problems of Muslim Minorities" explains that blacks aren't a minority in Muslim countries since skin color is not an issue there. Ramadan mentions that Islam was the original faith of the enslaved Africans. He also brings jizya tax and the protection offered by the state to its minorities/dhimmis as advantages offered by Islam.

Ramadan does mentions "regular" terrorism but only as the excuse used by the West to limit Muslims. According to Ramadan terrorism is "international situations in which Muslims are implicated", as if Muslims in the West are just bystanders in these events. He accuses the US of stepping up actions against Muslims even before 9/11, as if there was no Islamic terrorism in the US (or elsewhere) before that. There is no self-reflection, no self-criticism.

Two last points to consider:
1. Ramadan stresses ethics and humility. However, by definition, humility stands in the way of renewal and reformation. One cannot reform if one believes he is not worthy of doing.

2. One last point, and this is one that I am not sure even Ramadan realizes he is making.

In the context of the economic world order, Ramadan accuses the West of being responsible for immigration: "Policies proposed to combat immigration are dreadful.. Northern governments, our governments, apply repressive policies against the victims of their own regulations." (p. 172)

Later, in explaining how Islam does not call to fight against the West he quotes the Koran: "God forbids you to turn in friendship towards [or take as allies] only such as.. drive you forth from your homelands.." (p. 207)

Does the West then drive Muslims forth from their homelands? According to Ramadan it does. How does this fit in with his overall view on relations between Muslims and the West?