Iraqi Deputy PM: Extremists abuse democratic freedoms

British news recently revealed that during a visit to Blackburn in 2005, Dr. Barham Salih, The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, had said that the extremism in the Blackburn mosques he saw would not be legal in Iraq. This caused a bit of ruckus, especially from the Muslim side.

Asian Image wrote an article about how Salih could not possibly have been to an extremist mosque in 2005, and insinuating that he must have been affected by anti-Iraq protests. They then brought an interview with Salih in which he clarifies his remarks (see below). Salih did not mean to imply that all British Muslims were more extreme than Iraqi extremists. Just that some of them are. And that he sees no reason for the Muslim community to isolate itself from the mainstream British one.

In a different interview, Salih says things much more clearly:

Mr Salih said his comments had been taken out of context but warned, "Unfortunately, some extremists have abused freedom of expression in democratic societies to preach violence and isolation."

Since Asian Image think freedom of speech should be limited when it insults people, they would of course agree that preaching violence and isolation are completely off limits.


In his response to the row, Dr Salih said: "It has come to my attention that comments I made at an informal meeting regarding extremism among the Muslim community in Britain have been taken out of context and misconstrued.

"As a Muslim, it is my duty to speak out when injustices are committed against Islam. My statements must not be taken out of the wider context of the efforts of millions of Muslims world-wide who are concerned about acts of hijacking of their faith by extremists. Iraq has been a victim of terrible acts of violence that are perpetuated in the name of Islam and hence our priority in Iraq to combat violent extremism."

Dr Salih, who has lived and studied in the UK, said the "overwhelming majority" of British Muslims were law abiding and true to the tolerant spirit of Islam, but said intolerance and fanaticism were a "major threat" to world peace. Muslims and other people of faith have a duty to confront extremism and protect the true values of tolerance and peace enshrined in our faith."

British Muslims should retain their identity but not use this as an excuse to become isolated from society, he said. "There are extremists who want to keep the Muslim communities isolated from the wider world and preach hatred. It is our duty as Muslims to confront such distortions of the true values of Islam."

Describing his visit to Blackburn, Dr Salih, who used it to urge people not to vote against Mr Straw because of the war in Iraq, added: "I had the good fortune to visit a mosque in Blackburn three years ago and I am grateful for the gracious hospitality shown to me there.

"I was heartened to hear of the Imam preaching tolerance and inclusiveness. It is crucial not to discount the good work of many community leaders in Blackburn and other parts of the United Kingdom. My statements were not meant in any way to discredit their work."

Sources: Asian Image 1, 2; ic Wales (English)

See also: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: English mosques are more extreme

Sweden: Regular flights to Iraq resumed

Swedish aviation authorities said on Thursday they would allow one airline to resume flights to northern Iraq, nearly six months after all Swedish flights to the country were grounded following a suspected missile attack on a plane.

"The Swedish Civil Aviation Authority has decided to issue a traffic permit to Viking Airlines for regular flights from Sweden to Arbil in Iraq," the agency said in a statement.

"We will resume the flights shortly," Viking Airlines said in a separate statement, adding that "initially, we will operate from Stockholm and Copenhagen."

The Swedish aviation authority grounded all Swedish flights to Iraq on August 10, a day after the pilots of a Nordic Airways MD-83 aircraft reported seeing flashes of light after taking off from Sulaimaniyah Airport in northern Iraq.

Aviation officials from Iraq's Kurdish region have dismissed reports that the airliner was targeted, but Swedish officials said there was no doubt the airliner had been fired upon.

"We can't prove it, but we have three people in the cockpit who said they saw it. It is clear that it was some form of shelling. But we don't know if they (the attackers) knew it was a Swedish plane," he told AFP at the time.

He said the plane was at an altitude of 1,400 metres (4,500 feet) when the incident occurred.

Viking Airlines and Nordic Airways, which at the time were the only Swedish carriers flying to Iraq, had along with several other companies applied to resume flights to the north of the country.

Viking Airlines was however the only firm to receive authorisation.

"Our decision was based on among other things the Foreign Ministry's report on the security situation in the area and on a security analysis from the airline," the aviation authority said, adding that the permit was good until March 29 and would be retracted if the situation in the region worsened.

The flights cater to the many Iraqis in Sweden, the European country that currently takes in the most refugees from the wartorn country.

Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden: Flights to Iraq stopped

Denmark: Royal Library not to display Mohammed cartoons

Two months ago I reported that there were two Danish institutions who wanted to buy the Mohammed cartoons: the Danish Royal Library (AKA 'the Black Diamond') and the Danish Media Museum. The Media Museum wants to buy them and exhibit them. The Royal Library wants to get them for free and hide them away. They've now announced, that they will be the ones acquiring them.

Why not exhibit them?

Jytte Kjærgaard, communications consultant for the library: Those who want to see the cartoons can easily find them on the internet. [ed.: so easily, that the Guardian site, who apparently didn't want to display them themselves, linked to a Wikipedia article which had since been deleted]. Seeing the originals doesn't enhance the experience. Therefore there's no reason for setting up an exhibition.

The Royal Library wants to get the cartoons in order to preserve them for future generations. "We hope we can ensure that all the cartoon are preserved for the future. The cartoons have become a part of Danish history."

She adds that they're not buying the cartoons, but are currently in dialog with the cartoonists to have them donated. Some have already agreed to donate them, but the library has yet to get them.

The Media Museum still hopes they'll get the chance to exhibit the cartoons.

Sources: Avisen (Danish), Guardian (English)

See also: Denmark: Mohammed cartoons to be displayed in museum, Denmark: Mohammed cartoons to museum

Denmark: Moderate imams answer to prison radicalization

Jon Olsen, of the Danish Institute for International Studies studied radicalization of Muslims in prisons for several years and has recently published a study on the subject. His study is part of a greater attempt to map the radicalization of Muslims in Europe.

After speaking with prison employees, Jon Olsen's opinion is that there is radicalization going on, but that it is not widespread. He thinks the best way to prevent it is by employing moderate imams.

They can ensure that newly-faithful Muslims develop according to good role models rather than the contrary. Without access to imams there's a risk that strong prisoners with extreme interpretations of Islam will strengthen their position as religious authorities and will find people for their religious cause.

It's well-known that many receive extreme points of view during their prison time. The prison systems leads prisoners to group themselves according to their different characteristics: what crime they committed, where they come from etc. Many of Muslim background suddenly become aware of their faith in prison and keep a distance from non-believers. By dividing the word into the believer and the non-believers, the radical Islamist puts himself in a position to exclude others, and not as a victim of other's exclusion.

Once outside prison, the new-found identity loses its meaning for most, but several go further. The most extreme case is the shoe-bomber, who tried to blow up a plane from France to the US with the help of explosives hidden in his shoe. He converted to Islam in a British prison.

Olsen says it is important that imams be given the opportunity to keep in touch with prisoners even after they've left prison, to ensure that they do not fall prey to radical recruiters, and link up with moderate mosque communities.

All prisoners in Danish prisons have a right to meet a representative of their faith but for Muslims that's more difficult than for Christians. All Danish prisons and closed institutes have an affiliated priest, but only Nyborg prison employs an imam. All prisons have a church room, but only Vestre prison has a proper prayer room. In other prisons every Friday Muslims must find a place for their Friday prayers and clean it up before they can begin prayers.

Tove Brøchner, deputy head of the Prison and Probation Service didn't want to comment on the issue of radicalization in prisons but said that there are more imams on the way. She points out that the service has two work-groups which are changed with giving their recommendations until the summer. The groups will prepare employment criteria to ensure that prison imams recognize democracy and can encourage the prisoners to leave crime.

Sources: DR, Study site (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Teaching prison guards Arabic

Delft: Mohammed cartoon removed from university site

Delft University of Technology removed one of the Mohammed cartoons from a website at the insistence of a number of doctoral students from abroad. The picture, showing the prophet with a bomb as a turban, was placed next to an announcement about three lectures about the historical Mohammed., which would be given next month by the famous Arabist Hans Jansen.

According to Stadium Generale, which organizes the presentation, said the Mohammed cartoon ended up on the site due to a type of stupidity.

Foreign students weren't happy with it and complained, after which the disputed cartoon was immediately removed. "The picture wasn't functional and also had no relation with the lecture," says a university spokesperson.

For Studium Generale the issue is cause for a follow-up debate. For example, about why people from other culture come to study in the Netherlands when they have a restricted view of the culture of the country where they're guests.

In his lectures Jansen will try to make a historical construction of the life of the prophet. He hopes to make a meaningful contribution while everybody is waiting for the Wilders film, by showing what type of man Mohammed was.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Antwerp: Driving theory exam fraud

38 people appeared in front of the Antwerp court Wednesday for participating in driving theory exam fraud. 22 suspects were accused of having somebody else take their exam for them, the others were accused of taking the exam for somebody else.

The Antwerp prosecution wants to make a statement with this 'group case'. "Traffic safety begins somewhere, especially with the knowledge of traffic regulations," says prosecution spokesperson Dominique Reyniers. Reyniers adds that the suspects were exclusively immigrants or Moroccan and black-African origin.

These would not be the only suspects, as the first fraud cases of 2008 were already caught and will appear in court in the near future. Marc Massaert, chief examiner at the Kontich driving exam center, says they catch two people a month.

Though the theoretical exam costs just 15 euro, some of the suspects paid 500 euro for their accomplices to take the exam for them. Many went through several failed attempts before they turned to fraud.

Source: Marokko Nieuws, Knack (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Immigrants discriminated in driving schools

Flanders: State Security Service prevents recognition of two mosques

Twee of the eight mosques nominated by the Belgian Muslim Executive for recognition, were not recognized after negative advice was received from the State Security Service. This information was provided by Flemish Minister of Integration and Internal Affairs in answer to a question posed by Vlaams Belang representative Wim Van Dijck.

In December minister Keulen recognized the first six mosques in Flanders. Starting this year they will get subsidies and their imams will be paid by the state.

the Muslim Executive, the representative body of Muslims in Belgium, had nominated eight Islamic communities. A mosque can be recognized after advice from the province and municipality administration and from the Minister of Justice. In December it was said that the procedure of the two mosques was still ongoing.

"The reason why State Security didn't provide favorable advice for the two mosques is unknown to me. The State Security Service didn't give any commentary."

The two mosque communities are Arabic-speaking.

The minster wants to recognize 30 mosques by the end of his term.

Minister Keulen also said in his answer that the Muslim Executive had notified him that the system of 'rotating' imams will not be practiced in the recognized mosques any more. The imam is therefore linked to the mosque, similarly to the case by Catholic priests and their church. The minister also said that an imam who works in a government recognized and subsidized mosque will indeed not be exempt from the integration course requirement.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Wallonia: 10% of mosque recognition requests denied, West Flanders: Advice against recognizing Muslim community

Århus: Diabetes school

A school educating about diabetes, food and exercise has been offered to 31 Turkish and Arab mean and women from Gellerup in Århus, who had taken part in a project teach about diabetes. Aaruhus University and Region Midtjylland, evaluate the project in a report. In the project ethnic minorities were taught about preventing and dealing with diabetes.

The school has shown itself to be a success. The patients were educated in gender-segregated groups, which they commended. Many patients already knew that food and drink were important for diabetes. What surprised them was that exercise was also important for regulating diabetes.

The school will now be a permanent offering for citizens of Arab and Turkish background, and doctors in hospitals can send their patients to get educated about diabetes.

Inge Wittrup, health consultant, says that the main conclusion of the participants was that it's difficult to live with diabetes and that they need local support, direction and more knowledge. They therefore hope to be able to use their experience from the diabetes-school to develop a special-purpose offering, and are glad with the municipality's decision with the new health center.

Source: DR (Danish)

Netherlands: Third of immigrant youth want to leave

A third of young immigrants want to leave the Netherlands, according to a Motivaction study commissioned by Forum, the institute for multicultural development, among 792 immigrant and 200 ethnic Dutch aged 15-35.

According to the Contact Organ Muslims and Government (CMO), a part will wait in Belgium and France will immigrants again have a better image in the Netherlands. About 40% of immigrant and ethnic Dutch youth think that the mutual relations will get worse in the coming years. they expect that incidents between groups of youth of different origin will get worse.

Regarding their identity, no more than a third of Surinamese and Antillians said they feel Dutch. By Turks that was 19% and by Moroccans 23%.

Sadik Harchaoui of Forum recognizes that the report doesn't paint a rose-colored picture. "The departure of these youth, mostly highly educated, is bad for the economy. A lot of property is never gotten from pessimism." Turks prefer going back to their parent's homeland, Morrocans don't care as much and just want to leave. Despite a greater feeling of Dutchness among Antillians, the wish to leave among them is the highest down the line.

The number don't surprise the CMO, which represents a large number of Turkish and Moroccan national organizations. "It's a reaction to the current discussion which lays a strong emphasis on problem youth among young immigrants. Immigrants have the feeling that they're less welcome in the Netherlands than five years ago. I see dozens of young people leaving, especially highly educated, to Belgium and France," says chairman Driss el Boujoufi.

"They hold a Dutch passport and do want to come back again, when immigrants won't be placed wholesale in bad light. Eight years ago nobody thought of leaving."

According to El Boujoufi there's been an enormous change in the last few years, such as the rise of Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, who have changed the tone of the discussion about integration and that can now bee seen in the data.

He says Fortuyn started off a good development, and we can now stop taking into consideration the culture of denying and ignoring problems. The concept of respect has been used for too long in order to prevent talking about mistakes. The issue is now only that in addition we should begin building up and naming positive issues.

Almost half the youth think that mutual relations between immigrants and ethnic Dutch will get worse in the upcoming years. Among Moroccans 66% thought so. Indeed, Moroccan youth, especially under 25, were most negative on many issues.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Back to Turkey

Trondheim: Muslim child placed with lesbian foster family

A Muslim mother reacted severely after her child was placed by lesbian foster parents in Trondheim.

The municipality regrets the choice of the family but thinks they have handled things correctly when they placed a Muslim child in a lesbian home.

The parents have psychological injuries after being tortured in their homeland, and that increased the urgency of finding a family. The child also has big problems.

Jorid Midtlyng of the municipal council wrote in a letter to the Muslim community that due to the children's need it was both right and necessary to place them.

After inquiries from the Muslims, the municipality has changed the routine to ensure children's cultural, language and religious connections were taken care of in the best possible manner.

Still, they will not change the foster home for the child in question.

Source: TV2 (Norwegian)

Belgium: Iranian people smuggler ring sentenced

The court in Kortrijk sentenced five Iranian people smugglers to prison sentences ranging from six months to six years. They were found guilty of organizing or assisting international people trade of Iranians to Great Britain via Belgium, and got a fine of 550 to 5,500 euro each. They were also deprived of their rights for five years. The judge ordered the immediately arrest of five of the accused.

Four victims of the people smuggling got restitution of 2,000 euro, as well as getting back the money they had paid to the smugglers, 4,000 to 5,000 euro.

According to the public prosecution, Mousa Azad Kaleh Naderagh (31) from Roeselare, Davoud Nikpay (35) from Woluwe and Davoud Ghorbani were in charge of the organization. The trio got 4-6 years in prison.

According to the public prosecution, Iranian citizens were transported to Turkey as merchandise, where they had to wait in abominable conditions, sometimes for two months, before they were brought to an apartment in Athens. The victims were threatened and had to pay a lot of money in order to finally get to Belgium.

Counterfeit stolen Polish, Italian and Swedish passports were brought from Brussels. Through airports in German Weeze and Düsseldorf, Hungary and Romania, the victims were in the end brought to Great Britain. The public prosecution based their summons on the results of a telephone investigation, bank investigation, analysis of passenger lists of airports, observations and house searches. Two of the accused were acquitted.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: illegal smuggling case

Rotterdam: Labor Party representative wishes city would be openly Muslim

Arie Broere, a non-Muslim local politician in Rotterdam, serving on the Hoogvliet neighborhood council, wrote a letter published in AD, January 26th:

I don't agree with the notion that labor party neighborhood councillor Bouchra Ismaili slipped up twice by sending hate-mail and signing a petition of the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement. Though Rotterdam is a port city, the Netherlands is continuously busy with apartheid. When I applied to the Labor Party, I expressed my hope that the Euromast, built in my youth, would be considered a minaret. Then it would be possible to publicly pray in the park where I had learned to skate.

Source: Het Vrije Volk (Dutch)

See also: Rotterdam: Politician signs Hizb ut-Tahrir petition, but stays anyway, Rotterdam: An email to a devil worshiper

Netherlands: Hizb ut-Tahrir petition update

Following up on my recent posting Netherlands: More labor politicians sign Hizb ut-Tahrir petition, here's a translation of what they wrote in the petition.

Hatice Can-Engin:

I could not find her signature on the petition site. However, it appears in the Google archive.

hatice can, signed Monday January 7, 2008 19:45:52 CET
islam hak ve segi dinidir

According to a Turkish speaking friend this means: Islam is a religion of love and justice (with a slight spelling mistake).

Najia Siamari:

Her signature can be seen here. (though as more signatures are added, the page will move)

Najia Siamari, signed Wednesday, Dec 26, 2007 19:19:12 CET

It is regrettable how some in this country and all over the world, are resentful and therefore led to sow unrest and destruction. I truly hope from my heart that these people open their heart for the religion of others and for others.

We can't just hope for this miracle, therefore it's a great responsibility for everybody to protect the peace and to call a halt to these slanderous and racist lies.

Sweden: Veiled women win appeal against swimming pool

Two Muslim mothers have won a court appeal against a municipal pool in Gothenburg that required them to take off their veils and body-covering clothing.

The Court of Appeal for western Sweden found the City of Gothenburg guilty of ethnic discrimination and ordered the authorities to pay the women 20,000 kronor ($3,000) each in damages.

The women, Houda Morabet and Hayal Eroglu, were at the pool separately on two different occasions in April 2004, accompanying their young children but not to swim themselves.

Both were wearing veils, long pants and long-sleeved tee-shirts because their religion does not allow them to reveal parts of their body in public.

In its judgment, the court said that the actions of the swimming pool lifeguards, who insisted that the women should change into tee-shirts, could be deemed discriminatory even if this had not been their intention.

The nature of Sweden's discrimination laws mean that it was up to the City of Gothenburg to prove that the request for the women to remove some of their clothing had nothing to do with their religion.

"In the view of the Court of Appeal, the City of Gothenburg did not succeed in doing this," the court said in a statement.

In March last year, Gothenburg District Court ruled that the municipal pool had not discriminated against the women.

It ordered the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination, which had brought the case on their behalf, to pay the City of Gothenburg's costs of 30,850 kronor ($4,720 dollars).

The lifeguards testified that although there was nothing in the security regulations about veils, the rules did require people in the pool area to wear shorts and tee-shirts, even if they don't plan to swim.

The mothers' cumbersome clothing would have prevented them from coming to the rescue of their children if necessary, they argued.

Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden: Veiled women lose case against swimming pool

Netherlands: More labor politicians sign Hizb ut-Tahrir petition

Two more local Dutch politicians signed the Hizb ut-Tahrir petition, both belonging to the Labor Party.
- Hatice Can-Engin, alderwoman in Gilze-Rijen, immigrated to the Netherlands from Turkey in 1978. Originally she denied signing the petition.
- Najia Siamari, until recently alderwoman in IJsselstein

See also: Netherlands: Hizb ut-Tahrir petition update

Alderwoman in Gilze-Rijen Hatice Can-Engin (Labour PvdA) signed a petition from controversial organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir two weeks ago. This emerged from a statement that the alderwoman had sent round on Monday evening.

After it became clear to her that the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) considers the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir to be radical Muslims, the alderwoman of Turkish descent distanced herself from the group and has rescinded her support for the petition, which protests the defamation of Islam.

"I supported this message because I place a high value on dialogue and harmony in Dutch society. Since I am such a champion of democracy, dialogue and harmony, I now emphatically distance myself from this organisation. I regret any misunderstandings that may have arisen," the statement from the local politician read.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party) is banned in many Islamic countries and a number of countries in Europe. The organisation's name was also on pamphlets circulated in the Netherlands at the beginning of the year protesting the film on the Koran by Freedom party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders.

Another PvdA politician has been reprimanded in connection with the petition. The PvdA faction in the Rotterdam submunicipality of Charlois asked council member Bouchra Ismaili to resign from her seat after it became known that she had signed the petition as well.

Source: Expatica (English), Trouw, DePers 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Rotterdam: It's a wonder the rest are ok, Rotterdam: Politician signs Hizb ut-Tahrir petition, but stays anyway, Netherlands: Hizb ut-Tahrir youth in campaign against Geert Wilders

Netherlands: Drop in immigrant unemployment

Non-Western immigrants are somewhat closing the gap on the job market. In the third quarter of last year, Turks and Moroccans were twice as more likely to be unemployed as ethnic Dutch. The year beforehand, unemployment for non-Western immigrants in July, August and September was three times as high.

This according to new data presented by Piet Hein Donner Minister of Social Affairs to parliament during a debate about discrimination in the job market. The average unemployment by non-Westerners was 8.7% in the 3rd quarter of 2007, compared to 3.7% by ethnic Dutch. In 2006, 14.2% of non-Western immigrants were unemployed, and 4.3% of ethnic Dutch.

The FNV trade union federation wants speedy cabinet action explaining the unemployment numbers of non-Western immigrants and getting more insight into the issue of discrimination in the job market.

According to a report titled 'Discrimination monitor of non-Western immigrants in the job market 2007 ('Discriminatiemonitor van niet-westerse allochtonen op de arbeidsmarkt 2007'), the difference between employment figures of non-Western immigrant and ethnic Dutch is partially explained by education, age, job exerience and gender in combination with the age of the youngest child.

For all groups there's a big 'unaccounted reminder'. For non-Western immigrants there's an unaccounted reminder of 44%. The researchers think discrimination plays a role in that.

The report says that immigrants usually feel discriminated when looking for a job, but not once they have found one. 60% of Moroccans felt they were discriminated when rejected for a job, 49% of Turks and 17% of Surinamese and Antillians.

Immigrants have the impression that they are often rejected for functions requiring contact with clients, especially for women wearing a headscarf.

Many immigrants feel they are constantly expected to prove themselves at work: to show they're trustworthy, come on time, make no language mistakes, don't steal, are up for the job etc. The continuing negative imaging of immigrant group is projected onto the individual job-applicant or employee.

Anti-discrimination bureaus receive about 400 complaints of discrimination annually, with 81% being on the grounds of race, and 17% on the grounds of religion. That is suspected to be the tip of the iceberg.

The feeling of being treated unequally due to wearing a headscarf is often a reason to lodge a complaint. Often there are applicants for positions or training of a public function or client contact. Complaints are most often lodged by Moroccans (31%), followed by Turks (14%) and Surinamese (19%).

The FNV asks minister Donner to translate the conclusions of the report into concrete policy measure with clear and measurable objectives.

Sources: Trouw, HR Praktijk, Report homepage, SCP (Dutch)

See also: Flanders: Moroccan and Turkish youth unemployment decreasing

Religious Tolerance, Free Speech, and Blogging

From PoliGazette, explaining why they removed a post about Wilders:

This is a blog. We enjoy posting our analysis of current events and we hope that you enjoy reading it, at least some of the time. But this is not something that should be a matter of life or death. By doing this, are we allowing the possibly idle threats of anonymous people to interfere with our speech? Yes, I am afraid that we are. But I don't see a responsible alternative, knowing what we know to be possible.

I will say this: Those who threaten death against those who have been allies of Muslims merely for posting a story talking about an anti-Muslim bigot are doing more for that bigot than for anyone else. Those who wrongly believe Muslims to be intrinsically violent or intolerant gain ammunition when such irresponsible and intolerant threats are issued. Those who actually hate Muslims win when those who love Muslims are wrongly targeted for threats.

Source: PoliGazette (English)

France: Muslim candidates in local elections

Left or right, centrist or independent, Muslim candidates are leading a potpourri of party slates for the upcoming municipal polls in the French department of Seine-Saint-Denis, better known as L'neuf Trois and home to the largest Muslim concentration in France.

"We want French of immigrant backgrounds, especially Muslims, to be heavily represented in municipal elections," Youssef Alzawi, who is leading the independent Bobigny for All list, told Monday, January 28.

"Our election list features a mosaic of candidates; We have Muslims and non-Muslims from different backgrounds."

Running for the first time in French elections, Alzawi's program in the city of Bobigny, in which citizens of immigrant blood make up nearly 21 percent of its 46,000 population, pays undivided attention to youth.

"We are targeting the marginalized youth and want to re-channel money wasted by incumbent councilors into educational and cultural programs for youths."

Three years ago, Seine-Saint-Denis, located north-east to Paris, was the scene of the worst youth riots France witnessed in decades after the death of two young men of immigrant background while fleeing police.

The deaths ignited pent up frustration among the department's youth, many of North African origin, at racism, unemployment, marginalization and mistreatment by police.

Leila Bouzidi, a French Muslim of Algerian descent, is also leading slate of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

French municipal elections will be held on March 9 and 16. Up for grabs are all city mayors and municipal councilors in France's 100 departments.

France is home to some six to seven million.

Win-win Situation

Pascale Monftfort, a 36-year-old Muslim revert, is leading the Socialist Party's slate for the city of Aunlnay Sou Bois.

"I'm running to become a representative of all French; Muslims and non-Muslims," he said.

Monftfort, 36, is facing competition from two fellow Muslims: Rezak Bezzaouya for the independent Le Modem movement; and Mokhtar Farahat representing the UMP.

In Aubervilliers, Faycal Menia is leading the UMP slate.

"I was picked by the UMP since I have been active in Aubervilliers since 2002," he said.

Menia is campaigning for improving security and economic conditions in the city.

"Our campaign focuses on lowering unemployment rates, increasing public funding and improving housing and city planning.

"We also want to build a new mosque for Muslims in the city because the existing mosque is bursting at the seams with worshippers."

Hasan Farsado, leader of the Union of Muslim Association in Seine-Saint-Denis, said the potpourri of Muslim-led slates is a win-win situation for French Muslims.

"It is definitely a healthy phenomenon," he said. "Muslim are going to benefit from this competition."

Source: Islam Online (English)

See also: France: Mosques top issue in local elections

Cases of derogatory remarks


Coop Danmark, a retail chain, must pay restitution of 175,000 kroner ($35,000) to a worker who was fired for calling a veiled Muslim a "black-headed gull". The court said that the comment was stupid but wasn't harassment, and even if the expression is derogatory, the employee was not abusive before and did not get to explain himself before he was dismissed.

Coop's lawyer said the sentence was very severe. It's the employer's responsibility to ensure a wholesome working environment, where the workers don't discriminate or harass each other. He says calling a colleague 'black-headed gull' could be seen as discriminating and humiliating and they had to react to that.

The court emphasized that the co-worked didn't call the Muslim colleague that directly. Based on the dismissed worker's own explanation, the court decided that the remark was stupid and thoughtless, but not directly harassment.


An employee at Salberga prison in Sala, Sweden's largest prison, was reported to the Justice Ombudsman for not treating Muslims well. Among other things he called Muslims dogs. He also threatened with isolation without any reason.

The report stated that many at the prison were very irritated with the employee and that it was increasing the risk of trouble if nothing was done.

Sources: DR (Danish), SR (Swedish)

Oslo: Muhammad most popular boy's name

Muhammad, taking together all its different spellings, is the most popular boy's name in Oslo. Nationally, it's in 53rd place.

Jørgen Ouren of Statistics Norway says that Mohammed being the most popular name in Oslo is not new, but this is the first time they've dared say that.

Ouren says that last year Muhammad was also the most popular, and has been in second place for quite a few years back with the regular spelling. It's probable that even then it was the most popular name if all spellings would have been counted together, though Ouren couldn't say for certain.

Taking Mohammad and Muhammad together, there were 80 boys with that name born last year, giving it first place in Oslo. Kristian was given to 70 boys.

There are six ways to spell Muhammed in Norwegian: Mohamed, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad and Muhammed.

Sources: TV2, Statistics Norway (Norwegian)

Austria: Law proposal against 'unusual buildings'

A far-right party in the Austrian state of Carinthia, led by the notorious right-wing politician Jörg Haider, is trying to ban the construction of mosques and minarets. They've presented a draft law designed to prohibit "unusual" buildings which don't fit in with traditional architecture.

The party of Austrian right-wing populist Jörg Haider is trying to get the construction of mosques banned. In the latest anti-Islam initiative by right-wing politicians in Austria, the government in the state of Carinthia, which is led by right-wing populist Jörg Haider, has presented a bill that would hinder the building of mosques in the state in the future.

"With the help of this law, it will be de facto impossible to construct mosques or minarets in Carinthia," Uwe Scheuch, the minister responsible for urban planning, told journalists Saturday at a press conference where he presented the draft law. Scheuch, who belongs to Haider's right-wing Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) party, insisted, however, that the law would not infringe on Austria's constitutional right to freedom of religion.

Officially, the law is not aimed directly at mosques and minarets, but at "unusual" buildings which stand out "because of their unusual architecture or size (height)." In the future, a special commission will determine if an unusual construction project "blends in with the neighborhood's existing architecture." If not, it will be possible to block its construction.

BZÖ will need the support of the conservative Austrian People's Party if it is to get the draft law passed in the state government. That seems assured, however, as the People's Party had asked the state government last year to prepare a draft law to ban the construction of mosques and minarets. The Social Democrats and Greens, who are also in the state's unity government, have spoken out against the law.The draft law reflects a growing wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Austria, where Muslims make up around 4 percent of the population. Another Austrian state, Vorarlberg, which has the highest proportion of Muslims in Austria, is also considering a ban on minarets.

Erwin Pröll, the governor of the state of Lower Austria, who belongs to the People's Party, recently described minarets as "alien" to Austrian culture in a television interview. Susanne Winter, a politician for the right-wing Freedom Party, which Haider used to belong to before splitting off to set up the BZÖ, called the Prophet Muhammad a "child molester" during a recent election campaign.

Meanwhile in Germany, a planned mosque in Cologne has also been causing controversy. A right-wing citizens' initiative called Pro Cologne has been protesting the construction with the help of far-right politicians from Austria's Freedom Party.

Source: Spiegel (English)

See also: Germany: The new anti-mosque movements, Switzerland: Move for vote on minarets

Belgium: Hymenoplasty

This story comes through a Spanish newspaper, which I attempted to translate below.


A recent message on a Muslim French language forum asked for help in hymen reconstruction, a life or death issue. A fellow poster jumped to the rescue, offering her own experience - a 300 euro operation, sympathetic gynecologist and a successful wedding night.

Posts such as these show the dilemma of Muslim girls in Europe - living between their family's cultural demands and their daily European-style life. They grow up just like Belgian kids, going to school and out shopping together, but once marriage looms on the horizon, they are in a completely different world.

Hymenoplasty is not covered by social security in Belgium, but reimbursement is possible if the doctor agrees to write that the operation was done due to postpartum complications, according to Marleen Temmerman, of the obstetrics department in Ghent University Hospital.

INAMI, which manages social security payments in Belgium, reimbursed 2,760 hymen reconstructions in 2004, almost double the number in 2000. However, most women who choose to do this operation prefer to stay anonymous and do not appear in official statistics.

Gynecologist Rock Goerdin says that these youth are like every other European youth, but when marriage comes up and their parents want them to have a virginity test, they look for a solution. He has been offering a 'solution for such kids for 2,100 euro, for the past 12 years. In his clinic in Genk he does about 30 hymen reconstructions a year. He estimates that 75% of his patients are 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants originally from Morocco or Turkey. In recent years demand has increased, thanks to the internet. He sees his work as 'social work', saving the youth from 'dishonor'.

Not all European doctors agree and some see such operations as an attack on sexual freedom and the woman's body without medical justification. In 2006 the French gynecologist council recommended that doctors do not do hymenoplasty and encourage their patients to oppose the tradition.

There is no data about how many hymenoplasties are done but local estimates suggest the phenomenon is increasing. Marleen Temmerman thinks Muslim women should end the hymen-myth, and points out some women are born without it. Twenty women have the operation every year in her clinic, but only in cases where the woman are despearate, under a lot of stress and have no other solution.

Mina Chebaa (38) emigrated from Morocco and now lives in Antwerp. Chebaa leads a women's emancipation association. She educates her three daughters to be good Muslims, but admits its not easy. Her eldest, 15, would like to do what other kids do, but she tells her: If you go to the disco, what will happen? Her daughter knows she can only go to women-parties and she's aware that one day she'll find the person she's going to marry, and when that day comes around, she'll be pure.

Many young European Muslims choose to marry Turkish and Moroccan women who have not been to Europe and been 'polluted' by the West.

Coskun Beyazgü, of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, says that employment discrimination that Muslim women suffer due to the veil worries him much more. He says the veil and virginity (the two Vs) have become the hallmarks of the community, which has to assert itself against attacks and lack of understanding. He does recognize that Muslim families have a conflict when bringing up their kids with the values of Islam, but he says it's not only a European issue. Kids see American TV shows and want to emulate what they see on TV. He says that men who only want to marry a virgin should be respected.

Both advocates and opponents of the operation want it to be brought out of the shadows, and for European countries to decide on their position in what they see as a growing social problem.

Source: El Pais (Spanish), Le Soir (French)

See also: Netherlands: High demand for "virgin pill", Netherlands: restoring virginity, Netherlands: Restoring virginity (2), European Muslim women go to extremes to be virgins (again)

UK: Muslim Council of Britain ends boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day

For the first time ever, representatives of Great Britain's largest Muslim umbrella organization will take part Sunday in the international Holocaust Memorial Day. Two months ago, the Muslim Council of Britain (MBC) decided to put an end to their six year boycott of the Memorial Day. The international Remembrance Day was first instituted by the UN in 2001 on the day - January 27th - that the Auschwitz extermination camp was liberated by the Allied forces.

"More than 60 years after the liberation of Belsen, Treblinka and Auschwitz, and as the last of the survivors now grow old, we simply cannot afford to forget," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a letter publicized in the London Telegraph Sunday.

"Each generation must learn and understand the dark forces and culpable failures that allowed prejudice, discrimination and persecution to lead to a vast programme of mass slaughter that spanned a continent."

Brown noted that 4000 British students are expected to visit the Auschwitz death camp next year.

The official ceremony will take place in Liverpool, however their will be commemorative ceremonies through out the country. U.K. chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will speak at the memorial service.

The MBC's decision to take part in the memorial day comes after they were harshly criticized of anti-Semitism by Jewish groups and the British government.

"The decision was taken because staying away was doing more harm than good and being misconstrued," a MCB spokesperson told The London Times last month.

Source: Haaretz (English)

See also: British Muslim council boycotts Holocaust Memorial Day

EU: New party against immigration, Islamization and globalization

Leaders of right-wing nationalist parties from four EU member states have announced plans to create a European "patriotic" party that would protect the continent against immigration, "Islamization" and globalization.

The heads of Austria's Freedom Party, France's Nationalist Front, the Bulgarian Attaca party and Belgium's Vlaams Belang on Friday, Jan. 25, told journalists in Vienna that they had agreed to set up a new party in order to defend Europe from numerous challenges that it faces today.

"We say: patriots of all the countries of Europe, unite," Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said at the news conference, also attended by French right-winger Jean-Marie le Pen, among others. "Because only together will we solve our problems."

Warning about the dangers that immigration and "Islamization" pose for Europe, the right-wing leaders said that that the new party would be based on European Christian traditions across the continent -- including non-EU members such as Serbia and Russia -- and that it would fight against the EU's centralized bureaucracy.

"It's important to have a federation of honest Europeans in Europe," said Bulgarian right-winger Volen Siderov. "We are for a federal Europe made up of fatherlands working together… We don't want a centralist federalized states."

The leaders declined to name any other parties the new movement was negotiating with, but ruled out talks with German right-wing extremists NPD and VDU.

The plans for a pan-European nationalist party draw a stinging rebuke from Austria's Social Democrats (SPÖ) who called it "completely absurd and contradictory."

"The project of European integration is aimed at a peaceful cooperation of EU states and, without any doubt, against nationalist efforts" said Elisabeth Grossman, SPÖ's spokesperson for European affairs.

What's in a name?

The new party -- which is yet to get an official name -- is currently referred to as the "European Patriotic Party" or the European Freedom Party."

In order to launch a party on the European level that would receive benefits from the 27-member block, the right-wing caucus still needs to get the support of parties from three additional EU countries.

The group, however, hopes to extend their membership beyond the bare minimum and surpass the 20-seat threshold necessary to be recognized by the European Parliament.

"Our goal is clear, we want more than 10 parties as members and ideally one party from each EU country," Starche said.

An extremist deja-vu

A previous attempt by European right-wingers to form a European parliamentary block called Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) was short-lived because of internal disagreements.

The bloc was dissolved on Nov. 14 after Romanian deputies quit the group in response to racially insulting comments by an Italian politician.

Asked about the chances of success of the new party, Le Pen said "it's not necessary to hope in order to try, nor to succeed in order to persevere."

The new grouping does not want to see Turkey become a member of the European Union and vehemently opposes the efforts of the predominantly Muslim Kosovo Albanians to secede from Serbia.

The party is expected to be officially launched by November 2008.

Source: Deutsche Welle (English)

Netherlands: Fear of Muslims understandable

"That fear of Muslims, it's there. Muslims must not play it down. The task on Muslims is to do something there. Seek contact, open your mosques and show that the rooms in the back are washrooms, and that there aren't bombs being made there."

State Secretary Ahmed Aboutaleb made this call to Muslims during a work trip to Breda, organized by the local chapter of the labor party. He was accompanied, by labor politicians from parliament, and Bredsa alderman and council-members.

In a packed community center he called on Muslims, in the Netherlands in general and in Breda in particular, not to seek confrontation but rather to make contact. "It's important that immigrants ask themselves where this hate comes from. And we need bridge-builders. If you consider that there are in this world several idiots who blow themselves up, than you must conclude that they haven't understood the Koran well. But the consequence is that there's enormous fear of Muslims."

A fear which currently Geert Wilders is playing on. "Let him make his film. Let me see me the next day, I'm not afraid. Because I believe in the power of discussion and there's no better means of cleansing than democracy."

Aboutaleb did not refrain from firm statemetns. He repeated his standpoint about wearing headscarves: "If the consequences is that you can't find a job, then accept the consquences. Than you won't have any income. If you jump down from the fifth floor, you know that it will also have consequences."

Source: BN DeStem (Dutch)

See also: Miscellaneous Roundup (No benefits with burka), Netherlands: First Muslim ministers

Amsterdam/Copenhagen: Demonstrations

Two demonstrations this past Saturday, which didn't get much media attention:

In Amsterdam:

About 80-100 people participated in a demonstration against the "Islamization of Europe" in Amsterdam, organized by Stop Islamization of Europe (SIOE). The group had expected about 300 people.

A counter-demonstration taking place at the same time attracted 30-40 people, organized by "Stop the witchunt against Muslims". They gave out flyers and engaged demonstrators and passerbys in discussion.

The police was at hand to intervene, and reported that it was a calm protest.

A video of the protest is available here, as well as a pre-protest interview (partially in English)

In Copenhagen:

In Copenhagen, Hizb ut-Tahrir organized a demonstration in front of the Egyptian embassy. According to what the organization told the Copenhagen police, the aim was to draw attention to the situation in Gaza.

"The Jewish state escalated its war against the Muslims in Palestine, where it commits one crime after the other: outpouring of the children's blood, murder of innocent civilians and initiation of a malicious siege against the population of Gaza with full support from the Egyptian kufr regime," said a Hizb ut-Tahrir's press release (Danish).

Hizb ut-Tahrir describes itself as "a political party whose ideology is Islam". The organization expected several hundred demonstrators.

Since this didn't make the news, it's unclear whether it took place at all, and if so how many people showed up.

Sources: AT5 1, 2, (Dutch), Nyhedsavisen (Danish)

If the Muslims would have won

An interview with David Levering Lewis about his book God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

Q: Was Europe, in a sense, created by Islam as much as by Christianity?

A: Cautiously I would say yes, and that's what I wanted to emphasize. The Renaissance is profoundly indebted to what I call the conveyor belt of knowledge coming out of Toledo. We would all applaud that, the maintenance and enrichment of the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle, the science of the academy of Athens, the Hindu [mathematics]. In the negative sense, Islam also becomes the template against which Europe compares itself, fights, profits. Finally, the kind of theocracy that emerges in Europe is directly a consequence of Charles Martel's victory over Islam at the Battle of Poitiers in 732.

Q: What if that battle had gone differently?

A: I honestly am impartial about this, but I think the following argument is a fair one based on what happened elsewhere: That if the heartland of what becomes Europe had been incorporated in the Islamic empire, then it would have profited from the commercial, economic, technological, cultural levels of achievement of the Muslims. Europe would have been spared three or four centuries of its laborious, fratricidal, and economically retarded development. Muslim victory would have also meant that the historian Edward Gibbon would have been right when he wrote that "the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford." Well, so what? The wars of religion are right around the corner in Europe, so there you are.

Q: What do you think will most surprise the general reader here?

A: That's always dicey. I tried not to overdo the period of pluralistic collaboration, but it is real. . . . What may also surprise readers is the way in which Charlemagne transformed the Christian faith into a holy war, which, unlike the Muslim jihad, was totally intolerant. In the Islamic empire, much like the Roman empire, as long as you paid your taxes you were pretty much left alone. But with the Carolingians, the Europeans, the Franks, that is not an option. So otherness becomes embedded in European culture in a way that never obtained in Islam and perhaps only today is beginning to be characteristic of that faith.

Source: The Boston Globe (English)

See also: Bernard Lewis: Europe to blame for Muslim authoritarianism, Book Review: The Muslim Discovery of Europe

Antwerp: Moroccan mothers opening nurseries

About 10% of new nurseries opened in Antwerp in 2007 were established by Moroccan mothers. Of the 13 nurseries with a Moroccan babysitter, 9 were opened last year. Mechelen also follows this new trend, reports De Morgen.

According to Kind en Gezin, the Flemish agency for children and families, the increase is due to the long waiting lists with which brand new parents are confronted. Moroccan mothers are also going out to work more and more often and bump into this problem. Babysitting is an ideal job for Moroccan women without a diploma.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Netherlands: Wilders film roundup 2

Wilders is now saying is film might only be completed in March. In order to prove that he is indeed working on it and that it isn't just talk, he sent Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf the opening shot.

"Warning: this book contains shocking pictures."

Wilders says he has bought this Koran in East Jerusalem during his recent visit to Israel. He says his film will 'play out' in the Koran itself. After the opening shot, the book will open and he would show scenes of Sharia applied in practice: beheading in Iraq, stoning in Iran, or an execution in Saudi Arabia.

"Whoever thinks that's shocking, shouldn't be upset at me, but at the people who have done those things," says Wilders. He will have 'something' ready to show only in February.


Meanwhile, quite a few people have already decided that the film is insulting. Quite an achievement for a film which obviously hasn't been prepared yet.

Fearing uncalculated negative impacts on Islam-West relations, EU justice ministers expressed Saturday, January 26, deep concern over far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders' plan to produce an inflammatory anti-Qur`an movie.

"It would, of course, have important repercussions for other countries of the European Union as well," Luxembourg Justice Minister Luc Frieden told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the sidelines of the talks in this Slovenian city.

Frieden urged all Europeans not to misuse the freedom of expressions.

"It is our moral duty to call upon everybody, to make people aware, so that they do not abuse their fundamental rights" of freedom of expression, he said.

"We must also protect those who may be hurt or harmed by irresponsible statements."


Moroccan organisations in the Netherlands want the public prosecution department to prosecute Freedom party PVV leader Geert Wilders for discrimination against Muslims. If the justice department refuses, then the organisations will approach the court to force the prosecution department to take action.

Chairman of the National Moroccan Council (LBM) Mohamed Rabbae said this on Thursday, partly in response to the film on the Koran that Wilders is currently working on.

Rabbae says that the public prosecution department is hesitant to follow through on the many complaints filed against Wilders and that there is some fear of taking legal action against him. "We want to force that action," says the former GroenLinks MP.

"The Netherlands is not only Wilders' country, but a home for many Muslims. Every measure against the Netherlands affects us too," says Rabbae. He is going to approach the Iranian ambassador this week to ask him not to break diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.


The moderate National Moroccan Council said Thursday it will try to "neutralize the threat" posed by the upcoming film, which Wilders says is still under production.

"At the moment, practically all Muslim groups ... are working to ensure a peaceful and responsible reaction" to the film, said the group's chairman, Mohamed Rabbae, at a news conference in The Hague.

"We will have succeeded if, after the film, Mr. Wilders is frustrated," Rabbae said. "If he sees there are no riots and Muslims are cleverer and more democratic than he thinks."


Dutch police chiefs say they will not have a more flexible complaint policy for people who want to complain of discrimination after Wilders comes out with his film, though some mayors (Willem Ridder van Rappard of Nooroostpolder) think that the police should be more considerate of people who feel insulted by the film and serve as a sort of "thermometer for social safety."

As one police chief pointed out: all this hype, over a movie which hasn't been made yet. Wilders is getting too much of a podium.

He has the moderate Muslims of the Netherlands to thank for it.


Prominent Christian democrat CDA member and chairman of the secondary school council, Doekle Terpstra, was interviewed two months ago: "Wilders is evil and that evil must be stopped. I get cold shivers down my back when I hear him speak. It is time for the debate about integration to be removed from politics. Let's not be passive any longer. It is important that also ethnic Dutch stand up and call Wilders to stop."

He says Wilders' ideas are un-Dutch. "Problems with immigrants must be named, but it's absurd to treat people with contempt and to put them to the sword as he does."


Several representatives of Muslim organizations are organizing a 'hugging protest". The initators, and Academica Islamica, gave a teddybear and a "Wilders-friendly" Koran to parliament member Bouchibti, to pass on to Wilders. also offers a site to 'send Wilders a hug'.


Two Dutch have called for a "National Headscarf Day", for the day after the showing of the film. One of the initiators, a midwife, says that she thinks Muslims are much more sensual than the Dutch. "It must be noted that a headscarf is not unusual. I come from Brabant and there women in the 50s all wore a headscarf. And Máxima always has a hat on. I'm mad about hats. I think headgear is very sexy. And headscarves are better than all those bare breasts on TV."

Sources: Telegraaf 1, 2, 3, 4 h/t Brussels Journal, PZC (Dutch), Islam Online, Expatica, IHT (English)

See also: Netherlands: Wilders film roundup, Netherlands: Call for tolerance and respect

Denmark: Fear of terrorism backlash

In a somewhat related case, Scandinavian airline SAS recently decided to drop an interview with Naser Khader in their in-flight magazine Scanorama. Khader said it was giving in to Islamists. Scanorama was apparently concerned with security issues. The article, about Khader's fight against Islamists, was being prepared for a quite a while and was supposed to be the lead article in their upcoming magazine. Scanorama did not want to comment on their course of action, or explain what kind of security concerns they had in mind. They also did not update Khader on why they dropped the interview. Their spokesperson in Sweden, Bertil Ternert, said that neither SAS management nor their security division were involved in the decision.


Bent Melchior accuses the Justice Ministry of keeping their hands off the Palestinians in a terrorism case from 1988, which can have parallels to the Blekinge Street Gang [a group of left-wing activists who committed robberies in order to support such groups as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Red Army.]

Bent Melchior, former head of the Jewish community in Denmark, thinks the truth still hasn't been told about the 20 year old terrorism case. In 1988, Palestinian terrorists apparently planned an attack to kill him, and now he accuses the Justice ministry of keeping their hands off the terrorists. According to Melchior the Justice ministry did not deport the terrorists, because they feared Palestinian retaliation in the form of a plane hijacking or terrorism act.

"People were more willing to risk my life than to attract a Palestinian terrorist act. It was my clear experience that people were afraid of a Palestinian retaliatory attack, if Denmark deported the Palestinians," says Bent Melchior.

In 1988 two people from the Danish Security Intelligence Service (PET) visited him at home. They told him that a group of Palestinian men who belonged to Force 17, one of Yassir Arafat's elite units, had planned to kill him. The plan was to murder Bent Melchior during a trip to Israel that he was leading. PET managed to uncover the plans for the attacks, which also included Politiken's former chief editor, Herbert Pundik, and a female agent of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, and Israel's president at the time, who was on an official visit to Denmark.

Melchior wonders today why the authorities, according to him, didn't intervene. When it was discovered that the suspects had connections to the PLO's office in Amager, he thought it was natural that they would be deported. He says he turned to the Justice Ministry to hear if those responsible would be deported, but was told that there was no basis for it. The Justice Ministry couldn't say yesterday whether there were deportations in the case.

Bent Melchior is critical of the Justice ministery because he thinks that a new book about the Danish Blekinge Street Gang supports the suspicion he's had for years. According to the book, "Blekingegadebanden – Den hårde kerne" (The Blekinge Street Gang - The Hard Core) - the Justice Ministry prevented the extradition of two Palestinian terror suspects to Denmark in 1983 out of fear of a retaliatory attack. That same fear played also in his case, five years earlier, says Melchior.

Fathi el-Abed, head of the Danish-Palestnian Friendship Association, worked as a volunteer at the PLO's office from 1989. He resents Melchior's accusations and wants an investigation.

"Let us get an investigation. Let us clear the people he's pointing at. There were no murder plans. The case was a campaign to close the PLO's office in Denmark," says Fathi el-Abed, who thinks that Israel was running a campaign in different countries to paint the PLO in a bad light. He also thinks that a terror bombing against the Jewish synagogue in Krytal Street in 1985 was part of the campaign against the PLO. According to him suspicion was immediately cast at the PLO office. he asks why bombs should go off in Krystal Street and other places at the same time that the PLO office was opened. "The whole thing was pure fiction to again display the Zionists as victims," says Fathi el-Abed.

Moreover, he thinks it unrealistic that the assumed murder would have been planned in one country but carried out in another.

Lene Espersen, the Justice minister, doesn't reject an investgation of the Justice Ministry's role in the case. She is waiting first for a report from the PET commision, which is investigating PET's activities from 1945 to 1989. "Then we must assess what will eventually happen. That also holds, naturally, in connection to the data Nyhedsavisen brings today," says the Justice Minister.

Neither PET head at the time, Hanne Bech Hansen, nor PET wished to comment on Melchior's accusations. It wasn't possible to contact the former Conservative Justice Minister Erik Ninn-Hansen.

According to the Foreign Minister at the time, Uffe Ellemann Jensen, there's still missing information to cast light on the case. "I hope that one day we'll get the whole story. It's known that there were serious threats against Jews' lives."

Sources: Nyhedsavisen (Danish), (Danish) h/t AntiJihad Norge (Norwegian)

Rotterdam: Moroccan physicians' association

A group of Moroccan doctors will establish their own organization, AMAN, in Rotterdam this Sunday. The doctors want to form a think-tank which will advise Dutch hospitals, institutions and doctors about an effective health policy for Moroccan patients.

According to one of the initiators, Mhamed El Abdouni, there are many problems with Moroccans in health care. Often they don't know what type of care is available. Once the immigrant enters a hospital or institute for treatment, there is a lot of mutual cultural misunderstandings and they don't get the care they deserve.

There are already many immigrant health advisers but according to El Abdouni they aren't succeeding in breaking through the impasse. He emphasizes that the Dutch health care is not to blame for the culture problems, "Because it's now just very difficult to get to a solution."

AMAN would like to cooperate with other immigrant organizations. And the Moroccan physicians' association will also put in efforts into improving health care in Morocco.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Barcelona cell planned European metro attack, three terrorists on the loose

Members of a terror cell nabbed in Barcelona last weekend are suspected of planning to hit public transportation targets in several European cities, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported over the weekend.

According to the testimony of a police informant, the 14-member terror cell affiliated with al-Qaeda planned to strike cities in Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, and Britain. The police source said the suspects focused their attention on public transportation targets, including subways, in various cities across Europe.

"If we strike at subways, rescue forces won't be able to get there," one cell member reportedly told the police informant. The cell planned to send two pairs of would-be-attackers to the Barcelona subway carrying bags packed with explosives. The terror suspects planned to detonate the bombs using remote controlled devices.

Security officials in Barcelona estimated that the terror attack was scheduled to be carried out in the next two weeks. According to the report, other cell members were tasked with similar missions in other European cities based on the same modus operandi.

After the 12 Pakistanis and two Indian nationals were arrested in connection with the plot, four suspects were released due to lack of evidence against them. During the operation, security forces also recovered explosive devices and other means aimed at producing explosive devices.


Spanish police have alerted Interpol of the possible presence of three Pakistani potential suicide bombers in France and Germany, the daily Periodico de Catalunya reported Friday.

The three were thought to have links with 12 Pakistanis and two Indians who were arrested in Barcelona on Saturday. Ten of the detainees remain in jail while four were released.

The group is believed to have been preparing an imminent attack in the Barcelona transport network. Three of them were prepared to die in suicide bombings, according to judicial sources.

Spanish police suspect that three other Pakistanis travelled directly to France and Germany to stage attacks there.

Spanish police were searching for a cache where the terrorists may have kept explosives.

Sources: Ynet, Expatica (English)

Norway: Muslim tricked into drinking alcohol, then arrested for drunk driving

What started as a bad joke ended up badly for a 23 year old Muslim man from Moss, Norway.

In a company party in Sept, 2007, he experienced his life's nightmare. The deaf man was sitting at the table with his immediate boss. They managed to communicate in a good way and had a good relationship of trust. The man, a practicing Muslim, was uncertain of what he could eat and drink at the party. He asked his boss, who gave him a bottle marked plum-wine.

The man drunk a lot from the bottle and helped himself to the buffet, after he had made sure with the boss that he wasn't eating pork.

During the evening the man noticed that more and more people were starting to point and laugh at him. The reason was that the boss had tricked the man to drink alcohol and eat pork. The man got upset and got into his car to drive home.

On the way home he began feeling bad and thought it was because he had eaten pork. An attendant at a gas station saw the man's conduct and called the police. A breath analyzer test showed he had blood alcohol content level of 0.096%. [the law allows driving with up to 0.02%]

During his court case, his boss confirmed the story. The young man lost his job as a result of the episode. However he is still friends with his (former) boss, who is fighting for him to get his job back, and had meanwhile given him a good recommendation.

The judges in Moss concluded this week that even though the 23 year old didn't drink alcohol of his free will, he should have made sure that what he drank was safe. Even if he had never drank alcohol before, he should have noticed the taste of the plum-wine and found out before he drank it.

He was sentenced to 16 days conditional jail time and 5,000 kroner in fines. Additionally, his driving license was taken away for six months.

The man's company, Fretex, part of the Norwegian Salvation Army, was very concerned to hear about the story. The company boss in Moss was on holiday, but Eivind Madsen, from Fretex Øst-Norge was interviewed saying that this was a private party, since alcohol is banned at company events, and the man was not fired from a permanent position, as Madsen would have had to approve it.

Fretex says they are looking into the story. On their website they say they are taking the story very seriously. they also add that the man was tricked by a colleague, not by one of the bosses.

The man's lawyer, Per-Markus Grundesen, says his client had trouble getting into the job market, due to his deafness. This was his first regular job.

SOS Rasisme in Moss planned to protest outside the company offices.

Sources: Moss Dagblad, Dagbladet, Fretex (Norwegian)

Rotterdam: It's a wonder the rest are ok

Wouter Bos, the head of the Labor party said in an interview in 2006 that he expected mishaps with the new immigrant council members. At the time, it brought him a storm of criticism.

Muslim Bouchra Ismaili (30) was considered a "warm and very involved" neighborhood councillor in Charlois, a neighborhood in Rotterdam-Zuid. Wednesday evening she was kicked out of the party. Mishaps in quick succession made further functioning impossible.

The row began with an email in which Ismaili vehemently let fly at one of her apparent provocateurs. Ismaili immediately expressed apologies that she had gone on so unashamedly. Her party was content with it and asked for understanding for the young politician which had been frequently troubled by Muslim haters both in and outside her mailbox.

Leefbaar Rotterdam nevertheless smelled an opportunity and discovered Ismaili had signed a petition of the radical Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The politician, now driven into a tight spot, denied she had signed the petition.

The fraction chairman challenged her accusers to show evidence, and they immediately delivered it, plucked from the internet. The labor party fraction looked foolish and Ismaili's political fate was sealed. "This can't be fixed anymore," said vice fraction chairman Maroc van Dijck.

Peter van Heemst, labor party faction leader in the Rotterdam council said: "The labor party has 130 neighborhood councillors in Rotterdam, and 95% of them are new. Than maybe it goes wrong with five of them. It's a wonder that it goes so well with the rest."

Meanwhile Ismaili is considering whether to continue in Charlois as a solo-fraction.

Sources: Volkskrant, PvdA (Dutch)

See also: Rotterdam: Politician signs Hizb ut-Tahrir petition, but stays anyway, Rotterdam: An email to a devil worshiper

Federation of Islamic Organisation in Europe - Gaza Protest

See also: Norway: Waiting for the fatwa


Who is the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe? They were recently in the news when they organized a European Muslim 'code of conduct'. Signed by 400 Muslim groups for all over Europe, though apparently by not one major representative body. The list of 400 signatories was never revealed. Their site, which has never been very informative, had disappeared. They are somehow connected to the European Council of Fatwa and Research, another group which appears on the news quite often, but which keeps itself as hidden as possible.

They are apparently responsible for the top-secret "pro-Gaza" campaign yesterday.

Federation of Islamic Organisation in Europe protesting against Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip and power and water cutoff, offered to switch off electric lamps and start candlelight march at 20.00 on January 24, imam of Icherisheher Juma mosque Haji Ilgar Ibrahimoglu told APA. The protest action lasted for 20 minutes.

Haji Ilgar said that a group of religious men from Azerbaijan also joined this initiative.

“The world community should pay attention to this disaster and condemn the actions of Zionists against thousands of civilians. People of goodwill should expose the regime torturing defenseless people,” he said.

Source: APA (English)

See also:
Muslims to sign 'historic code of conduct'

Norway: Rape Council suggests courses for immigrants

.. and for elementary schools, and for soldiers. My original translation of this article was eaten up by the computer, so this is the summary version.

The Norwegian Rape Council (Voldtektsutvalget), a gov't authority with representatives from the police, prosecution, health services, research community and support groups, published its report about rape in Norway yesterday. Their report states that just 10% of rapes are reported. Less than 1% of rapists are sentenced. The vulnerable groups: immigrants, prostitutes and men, barely report rapes.

The Rape Council suggests that immigrants (responsible for 65% of rapes in Oslo), and specifically non-Western immigrants, be taught about Norwegian attitudes, limit-setting and culture, under the themes of rape and equality. This can be done as part of the introduction course these immigrants go through anyway. Immigrant women should become acquainted with their rights in Norway.

The number of rapes among youth is also increasing, with girls as young as 13-14 being raped, especially in connection with intoxication. This is not only narcotics but also alcohol in a typical party. The Rape Council suggests the elementary school and religious studies curriculum includes the topics of rape and assault. The current study material about the body, sexuality and rape is outdated and missing important themes. The school curriculum should teach about the clear connection between intoxication and unwilling sex, without sounding too moralizing.

Soldiers being called up for their induction should also be informed about rape and assault, to prevent assault against the local population, assault during service aboard and assault internally within the military. The Defense Department is trying to increase the number of women who join the army, but there have been reports of women who had been harassed and raped without it ever being investigated.

The Rape Council also suggests the following:
- Having a central police unit to coordinate rape investigation.
- Having free follow-up support for rape victims - pointing out that vulnerable groups might not be able to afford psychiatric or psychological care.

The Council's report is based on the experience of the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Great Britain and the US.

Source: Aftenposten 1, 2 (Norwegian)

See also: Voldtektsutvalget report (Norwegian), Norway, Rape and Muslims - A Study

Netherlands: Halal cosmetics

After halal food and halal banking, Muslims are more and more conscious of what they put on their face.

Three years ago Pascalle and Abdellatif Driouech from Lelystad had the idea to start their own halal cosmetics line. Pascalle Driouch says that they thought of it during Ramadan, when they were in a pharmacy reading labels to see if the ingredient list included alcohol or animal products. They thought it would be much easier if they would package it specially.

It wasn't so simple to develop such a new product. "Everybody knows about halal food, but for halal cosmetics we had to investigate a lot," explains Driouech. Halal means allowed according to Islamic laws, in contrast to 'haram', that means 'illegal'. Halal cosmetics may not contains alcohol, animal products or genetically manipulated ingredients. Micro-organisms wiped out with help of radioactive radiation are also taboo.

Dutch bathrooms are apparently full of 'haram' cosmetics. Often there is alcohol in ordinary soap, shampoo, body lotions, hairspray, perfume, shaving creme, lipsticks and nail polish.

Halal cosmetics is big business in the Middle East. About 25% of all sold cosmetics is now halal there, according to cosmetic organization Biz Com. consumers are more and more conscious of ingredients and production methods. "In Europe we'll see the same thing," expects Mirna Van Donselaar of Cosmetitext. Van Donselaar is a beauty trend watcher.

In the cosmetics fair they found an increasing interest in ethnic target groups. "Make-up and skin-care for darker skin and halal cosmetic come up. Halal cosmetics relates mostly to the Muslim life style, but there are also non-Muslims who absolutely prefer pure care products. In the Netherlands, 1 in 15 people are Muslims, and there are about 50,000 ethnic employers; you can thus expect that this is a potentially profitably target group. Plus: the new generation of Muslims is critical and has money for this type of products," says Donselaar.

cosmetics giants like L'Oréal and Unilever currently don't see Muslims as a separate target group (yet). Whoever wants to use halal cosmetics is for now directed to small companies and Islamic web-shops.

Under the label Sahfee Halal Care, Pascalle and Abdellatif Driouech came out recently with 100% halal shampoo in the Dutch market. The ingredients, quantities and production method of this official version are approved by the Halal Quality Control Office (HQC) in The Hague. "They send it through to Dubai and Malaysia, because there they know a lot more about it," explains Driouech. Last summer the HQC gave the green light for the women's shampoo formula and this could be put into production. Sahfee's men's shampoo, shower gel and deodorant are still waiting for official approval.

Halal cosmetics is somewhat more expensive than regular cosmetics. The recommended price for a bottle of Sahfree shampoo is 3.50 euro. Driouech: "The costs are higher for us than for normal shampoo, because we must also pay for the certificate. Additionally some ingredients are also more expensive, because they are replaced by natural ingredients. You must also have an official statement of the ingredients, which again must be paid for."

Muslim scholar Mohammed Cheppih doesn't understand the fuss about halal cosmetics. Cheppih: "If you look at it from a theological perspective, the usage of shampoo and such products is not 'consuming'. According to Islam you may use alcohol in some cases, for example also as medicine. The danger is that those who don't have any knowledge, will think in terms of allowed and not allowed." He supposes they want to deal away with the chemical and then do something pretty according to the Islamic principles.

Labor parliament member Samira Bouchibti - known for her well-cared for appearance - also think that halal cosmetics is unnecessary. She uses animal-free products of natural ingredients. Bouchibti: "Because I think I'm obligated. Not for religious reasons, but for ethical reasons. Such a halal stamp is typical for present day Dutch society. On the one hand there's a fight with Islam, on the other hand there's a market of 850,000 Muslims. If enterpreneurs found a demand in the market, than they would spring on it. If people on the left or right prefer buying animal-friendly cosmetics, I would say: join the club."

Source: De Pers (Dutch)