Denmark: Other Kurt Westergaards suffer from threats

Three weeks ago three people were arrested for planning to kill Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew the famous 'bomb in the turban' Mohammed cartoon. But many of the 81 other Danes called Kurt Westergaard (with a 'v' or 'w') have also received death threats, either by phone or mail.

Nyhedsavisen had called over 20 of the Kurt Westergaards and found out that the Danish Security Service PET offers protection to some of them.

Inge Westergaard from Rødby is married to Kurt, and when called she said that just that Thursday an anonymous man called two times and started threatening. She called the police and was then contacted by the PET.

Kurt Westergaard from Aabenraa says he had gotten four death-threats by mail and four by telephone. He says the worst thing is that they had called his three children, all under 15. He's afraid that they will be kidnapped in the street. Two years ago it was the worst. Danes with a foreign accent threatened him that they will catch his family and murder him. He has spoken several times with the police about the threats against him and his family.

Source: Nyhedsavisen (Danish)

Belgium: Police to explain terrorism policy in mosques

Nordin Taouil, spokesperson for the Great Mosque in Brussels, says that the police will be welcomed with open arms. The head of the Federal Criminal Investigation Department, Glen Audenaert, had said that his will visit Belgian mosques to explain the policy against terrorism.

Taouil hopes that the Muslim community won't be targeted in the fight against terrorism. It's the responsibility of everybody, he says.

Audenaert says that they are not out to persecute Muslims, but to protect them. "I will extend a hand to the Muslim community, make it clear to them that we are for them."

According to the police chief, the continuing terrorism alert is justified in Belgium and especially in Brussels. He says that at the appropriate time they will inform the population and then everybody will understand why the alert had lasted for so long.

Sources: Brussel Nieuws , HLN (Dutch)

Netherlands: 2nd generation making up pension accrual differences

Immigrants of the second generation are making up the deficiency in pension accrual compared to ethnic Dutch. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2005 these immigrants had a higher pension accrual than their parents.

The first generation immigrant had a deficiency since they came to the Netherlands at a later age. The second generation of immigrants doesn't have this problem, declares CBS. A better education and better paying work also plays a role.

On average, a pension accrual of non-Western immigrants has about half that of ethnic Dutch. In certain age groups it's a third. The pension accrual of immigrants of the second generation shows a similar trend to that of ethnic Dutch. Antillians and Western immigrants of the second generation between 35 and 40 have about the same level as ethnic Dutch of that age.

The second generation Turks and Moroccans aged 35-40, have made the largest leap, according to CBS data. Their pension accrual is twice as high as their parents.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Denmark: Immigrant children learn to hate

With the recent uproar over a Hamas show calling to kill Danes, Denmark discovers hatred on Arab channels is not limited to the Arab world.


Many Danish families of Arabic background watch Arabic TV. This is noted especially by pedagogues, who experience hate expressions from the children.

"The Israelis and Bush are really disgusting and evil. When I'm big, I will pound them on the head." The words are those of a 4-year old girl in a kindergarten in Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

Several institutions describe similar cases, while other kindergartens haven't experienced such things.

A kindergarten teacher tells of a little boy who last week said: "The Danes are really dumb. They hate all the Arabs and will slay us. But then I'll shoot them first."

The children say in several cases that they had heard that on TV. Most Danish families of Arabic background can see over 400 Arab channels via satellite.

Fatih Al-Abed, chairman of the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association, says the the religious and extremist channels are popular. Many children are placed in front of Arab TV because the parents want them to learn the language, he says.

He points out that the parents don't always know what their children risk learning of the Arab children's programs.

Naser Khader, chairman of Ny Alliance, is personally acquainted of the problem of children in kindergartens who curse Danes, Jews and Americans.

The consequence is that children grow up with hate messages. Who knows if they'll keep them as grownups, he asks.

The children are not the only ones who are affected negatively by Arab TV. "Many families watch only Arab and religious channels. That means that many are mentally in the Middle East, even if they live in Denmark," says Naser Khader.

Fatih El-Abed agrees. "Many get a distorted image of reality. It's caused to high degree because they never see Danish TV and read Danish newspapers, but just get their information and news from Arab channels. They therefore see Denmark a the enemy, even if they live here," he says.

Arab TV is not just militant, Islamic messages. There are many Western programs there also.

Fatih El-Abed says that the viewer rates for Arabic X Factor and other entertainment programs go far beyond those of religious channels, also in Denmark.

Source: Nyhedsavisen (Danish)

See also: Denmark: New Arab monthly, Belgium: Jews want to act against Muslim broadcaster incitement, Norway: Hamas show message 'misinterpreted'

Muslim population in European prisons

I saw a number mentioned in one newspaper article, and so went looking for more. I will add to this article as I discover more data.

Estimating the percentages of Muslims in prisons across Europe is not simple. In some cases, such as Sweden, collecting such data is illegal. In many cases, the numbers are only estimates.

I linked to my sources, but note that not all sources have the same reliability level. EUMAP - EU Research program, NEWS - mentioned in the news.

Belgium - 16% (12.8% Moroccans, 3.1% Turks) (EUMAP), 35% (NEWS)

Denmark - 20% (NEWS)

England+Wales - 11% (NEWS)

France - 50%-70% (NEWS, NEWS, NEWS)

Germany - 18% foreigners, lowest estimate for Muslims - 5% (EUMAP)

Italy - 40% foreigners, 8% Moroccans (NEWS), ~13% Muslims (NEWS)

The Netherlands: 20%, youth prisons - 26% (EUMAP)

Norway: Over 30% (NEWS)

Spain - 70% (NEWS)

Switzerland - 57.8% in Champ-Dollon prison (Champ-Dollon PDF)

August 6, 2009

Berlin: Exhibition closes after Muslim threats

According to Danish newspaper BT, the poster in question featured the Kaaba shrine with the text "dumb stone". A poster with a Jewish man wearing a typical Jewish head covering had the inscription "dumb skullcap".

BT quotes the Tiergarten press release as saying: Muslims in Europe must accept that they can't censure an exhibition in a gallery.

A Berlin gallery has temporarily closed an exhibition of satirical works by a group of Danish artists after six Muslim youths threatened violence unless one of the posters depicting the Kaaba shrine in Mecca was removed, it said on Thursday. The Galerie Nord in central Berlin said it had closed its "Zionist Occupied Government" show of works by Surrend, a group of artists who say they poke fun at powerful people and ideological conflicts.

On Tuesday, four days after the exhibition opened, a group of angry Muslims stormed into the gallery, shouting demands that one of the 21 posters should be removed, said the gallery.

"They were very agrressive and shouted at an employee that the poster should be taken down otherwise they would throw stones and use violence," the gallery's artistic director Ralf Hartmann told Reuters.

The Muslims objected to a depiction of the Kaaba -- the ancient shrine in Mecca's Grand Mosque which Muslims face to say their prayers -- which gave a "bitingly satirical commentary against radicalism," said the gallery in a statement.


Hartmann said the gallery was working with German authorities to improve security and he hoped to re-open the show as soon as possible.

"It would be unacceptable if individual social groups were in a position to exercise censorship over art and the freedom of expression," said the gallery in a statement.

The show also contained pictures which ridiculed neo-Nazis who believe Jews dominate global politics and industry as well as the state of Israel and radical Jews.

Surrend members are mainly street artists and use stickers, advertisements, posters and Web sites to express irony.

In 2006, a Berlin opera house caused a storm in Germany when it cancelled a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" which showed the Prophet Mohammad's severed head, citing security fears.

And this month, Danish newspapers reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad which caused outrage in Islamic countries and sparked violent protests across the globe two years ago. They republished the drawings after police arrested three men on suspicion of plotting to kill a cartoonist who drew one of the images.

Source: Reuters (English), Berlingske Tidende (Danish)

Germany: The honor culture

A volunteer rescue operation in Germany has sheltered more than 100 Muslim women who fear they will be killed if they do not go through with marriages that their families have arranged for them.

I was unlocking my bicycle outside a shopping mall one afternoon when a group of teenage boys asked me in German if I knew how to break-dance. I thought I was hearing things, so I said, "Excuse me?"

They repeated their question in typical slang, complete with Berlin dialect, saying they would be glad to show off their hip-hop moves, if I shared some steps of my own.

I laughed and replied that, while I do love dancing, my knees are not quite up to the acrobatic task of break-dance.

Once we got talking, though, I was in for a mental head-spin that would defy any choreography.

All but one of the boys - of Turkish, Kurdish and Palestinian origin - were born in Germany. They wore jeans and T-shirts and their hair glistened with styling gel. One sported a gold earring. With their playful jostling, they seemed like teenagers in any Western backdrop, except for one thing: they swore they would kill their own sisters if any of them had sex before marriage. The boys were convinced that that would destroy their families' honour.

By coincidence, I had just attended a summit on the thorny subject of integration, where a female politician of Turkish descent had appealed for state support for a local organisation that rescues young women fleeing forced marriage, or the threat of an honour killing.

'Honour matters more'

When the teenagers agreed to let me record them, I asked if they really meant what they had said about killing their sisters.

They were adamant: "If a girl has sex with a boy without being married, we must kill both of them," said Ali, the teenager with the gold earring.

The contrast was baffling. These teens looked entirely at ease outside a 21st Century shopping mall but their views came straight out of the Middle Ages.

"You say you're Muslims," I reminded them, "and killing is forbidden in the Koran, right? If you love your sister, couldn't you just forgive her?"

"No," one of the boys replied, "because honour matters even more than religion."

The Kurdish teenager explained: "We have no money. We have nothing except our honour. If we lose that, it's the worst thing that can happen to us."

By now they were all talking at once. We might as well have been trying to converse in different languages.

One of the boys softened a bit: "Killing isn't really the answer," he said, "but what else can you do?"

"Lots of things," I ventured, "like talking about what honour really means. Besides, murder is against the law in Germany, remember?"

That is when Ali snapped, "to hell with laws" (only he used much stronger language).


One Berlin bureaucrat interprets this brand of Muslim machismo as mere provocation. She sees the need for immigrant youth in Germany to let off steam and assert their identity, however confused it might be. But after 20 years in the field, she admits a serious mistake.

Her staff focused so much attention on the empowerment of immigrant women and girls that no one bothered to reach out to their brothers, fathers and uncles. "We forgot the men," she said quietly.

Help group

But no-one has forgotten Hatun Surucu, a single mother who was training to become an electrician after quitting her forced marriage to a cousin in Turkey. Her lifestyle was deemed dishonourable by her family, and three years ago Hatun's brothers lured her to a bus stop near her Berlin flat and shot her in the head. Distraught, a German friend of hers formed an organisation to help other women avoid the same fate.

Funded by donations and staffed by volunteers, the group - named after Hatun and her son - has a telephone hotline, a website and drivers ready to rescue anyone fleeing a forced marriage, or worse.

The group works swiftly to sidestep Germany's baffling bureaucracy. Some women seeking help from city authorities are asked to provide written proof that their lives are in danger.

Escape route

That was not something 20-year-old Sibel was prepared to do. Beaten by her father and brothers most of her life, she needed an escape route when they started talking about a "family vacation" in Turkey. Knowing that meant she would be married off to some older cousin - just like Hatun Surucu was - Sibel fled her home in southern Germany.

The rescue organisation helped her start a new life in Berlin, where she wants to pursue a career in business, something her family would never allow. She says she got out just in time and added that if she were not a virgin and her family found out, it would be her death sentence.

One Muslim community leader told me that if he could talk to those boys, I met at the shopping mall, he would explain to them in no uncertain terms that killing one's own sister - or anyone for that matter - has nothing to do with being a good Muslim.

Meanwhile, the rescue organisation hotline is answering more and more calls for help.

Source: BBC (English)

Norway: Who's responsible for Palestinian suffering?

It depends which newspaper you read. 

Siv Jensen, a Norwegian politician was caught in a rocket attack in the Israeli border town of Sderot.  Here's Aftenposten's take on it, in English:

One thing is that I experienced this, but I gained new sympathy for the people who have to live with these threats and fears every single day," she said.

Jensen noted that the Israelis she has spoken with are also aware that "thousands and thousands of innocent Palestinians" also suffer as a result of the fighting between the Israelis and the radical Palestinian group Hamas.

Here's Aftenposten's take on it, in Norwegian (with my translation):

"One thing is that I experienced this, but I gained a new sympathy for the people who must live with these threats and fears every day.  This is part of the conflict in the Middle East that doesn't get so much column space in the Norwegian media."


"The Israelis I've spoken with didn't express any hate against the Palestinians as a people.  It's Hamas and their terrorist acts they want to stop.  Also Israel realizes that there are thousands and thousands of innocent Palestinians who suffer for this."


Apparently, Aftenposten understood 'this' to mean 'the fighting between Israel and Hamas', rather than 'Hamas and their terrorist acts', but in another interview to Nettavisen Jensen was much more emphatic:

Siv Jensen told Nettavisen that despite the dramatics she saw the whole thing as a useful experience.

"I have seen with my own eyes how Hamas terrorizes - both on the Israeli and Palestinian side.  I have a lot of sympathy with all who live under daily rocket attacks."

Sweden: Terrorism finance case update

Swedish security service Säpo has arrested three men in Stockholm suspected of preparing terrorist acts and financing terrorism.

All three men are Swedish citizens of Somali origin.

Prosecutor Ronnie Jacobsson confirmed that one of the men, a 42-year-old, was the same man who had a map of artist Lars Vilks' house confiscated by police late last year.

But Säpo stressed that the map had nothing to do with Thursday's arrests. Artist Lars Vilks outraged sections of the Muslim world last year with a series of caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.


Terrorist financing is viewed as a growing problem in many European countries. The Nordic region in particular has been described as a sanctuary for terrorist groups, where they can plan acts of terrorism with little risk of detection.

Säpo has previously referred to Sweden as a base for "recruitment, logistical support and financing" of terrorism.

At least 20 Swedes have been arrested globally on terror charges since 2001, many with suspected links to extreme Islamist organizations.

Most recently, a 23-year-old Swedish national was arrested in France on February 1st suspected of fighting with Somalia's Islamic courts.

Four Swedes were also arrested and imprisoned in Ethiopia when Somalia's Islamist movement was driven back by government forces in 2006.

Only a few cases have led to convictions however. In 2005, two Iraqi Kurds were jailed and deported by Sweden's Court of Appeal for financing terrorism.

The men, one of whom was an imam, had sent $148,000 to the Ansar al-Islam terrorist movement in northern Iraq.

Source: The Local (English)

See also: Sweden: Terror suspects had map of Vilks' house, Sweden: Arrests in terror financing probe, (European) foreign fighters in Iraq

Aarhus: Cartoonist's wife fired... and reinstated

Pressure from worried parents almost cost the wife of Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, her job at a kindergarten

Threats against the cartoonist responsible for the controversial Mohammed illustration, led to an attempt by parents to have his wife suspended from her job as a kindergarten teacher.

However the suspension was short-lived as a city councillor intervened and overturned the decision.

Gitte Westergaard, the cartoonist's wife, was told Wednesday night not to come to work the next day, at a kindergarten in the town of Århus.

According to a council spokesperson, the move had resulted from increasing pressure from worried parents.

'I am angry, disappointed and saddened. The threats have been directed towards my husband,' Westergaard said. 'I have not been in any danger.'

During the height of the cartoon crisis in 2006, Westergaard had worked in a different kindergarten and had agreed with the management to continue working, despite her husband, Kurt Westergaard, receiving death threats.

'I understand that some parents may be worried, but I would never go to work if I knew or suspected that the children or my colleagues were in danger,' she said.

Louise Gade, city alderman in Århus, who disagreed with the decision, was told after the decision was made and after Gitte Westergaard had been informed.

Gade reacted by making sure this morning that Westergaard would be reinstated, and said city council had consulted with PET, the domestic intelligence agency, that confirmed there was no threat concerning Gitte Westergaard.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Denmark: Abdol-Hamid taking one year break

Abdoll-Hamid's party has been pressuring her to leave, blaming her for the party's drop in support.


Asmaa Abdol-Hamid says she is taking a one-year break from her party duties - primarily due to the headscarf dispute

The Red-Green Alliance's earlier parliamentary candidate, Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, has stated she is taking a one-year break from the party and will not run in the next election due to the uproar over her wearing a headscarf.

Abdol-Hamid has been a controversial figure in Danish politics since she was selected as an MP candidate last year. She has since made several unpopular comments based on her Muslim faith and is again in the news for saying she would not remove her headscarf if she were to address the assembly.

In the last election, Abdol-Hamid was not selected for a seat because the Red-Green Party secured only four parliamentary seats and already had sitting MP's to fill those slots.

Abdol-Hamid told Politiken newspaper she was disappointed in both her critics and her own party.

'I have to admit that my disappointment in the left wing hasn't waned,' she said. 'And while there's all this hubbub out there over Muslims, with one over-the-top suggestion after the other, the Red-Green Alliance has been disturbingly silent.'

Abdol-Hamid also said she was troubled by comments from Socialist People's Party leader Villy Søvndal telling members of radical Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir they could 'go to hell'.

The Muslim politician did say, however, that she would remain with the Red-Green Alliance and would likely run for MP again after returning from her break.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

See also: Denmark: Hijab in parliament

Norway: Hamas show message 'misinterpreted'

Basim Ghozlan, chairman of the Islamic Association in Norway (Det islamske forbundet i Norge) thinks Norwegians are misinterpreting Hamas' controversial children's TV program. I don't interpret this as a request to kill Danes, he says to VG Nett.

The show, in which Assud the rabbit and the hostess Saraa Bahoum speak about killing Danes, has attracted a lot of attention in Norway. State secretary in the foreign office, Raymund Johansen, has called the segment an unacceptable brainwashing of children.

Ghozlan thinks Norwegians are reading too much into the dialog in the show. The dialog mentions that if the Danes print the Muhammad cartoons anew, they will kill them.

Most read this in English and Norwegian, and if you translate it in this way, then it's alarming. But as an Arab I interpret it differently. The language has different degrees and this isn't so alarming as people think, says Ghozlan.

Gunvor Mejdell, professor of Arabic at the University in Oslo, had seen the program and she can't see how the message can be misinterpreted. She says the program has been correctly translated into English. It speaks of insulting the prophet and that if the Danes dare do it again, 'then we'll kill them,' she says.

According to the professor, a few of the expressions used in the show are from known slogans from the political-religious rhetoric, to revenge the wrongs against one's land or one's religion with everything a man has to offer.

But regardless of the conflict level, she says it's tasteless, to say it mildly, when such strong and hateful messages are pounded into children.

Basim Ghozlan thinks words such as 'to kill', can mean something else in Arabic. He says that 'killing' or 'crushing' children can mean to 'cuddle' them. He says in this case the show didn't talk about either killing or cuddling. It's a way to say that a person is upset, that he disagrees and quarrels.

George El Jeries, spokesperson for the Palestinian association in Norway, disagrees with Gohzlan. He thinks there's no room for interpretation. He says he had seen the segment in Arabic and its calls to kill. The woman says, "they will pay the price in blood" and the rabbit answers, "yes, we will kill them." There is no room for interpretation. If his children would have seen this, they would have understood they need to kill the Danes.

He repudiates the children's tv show that was sent on the Hamas tv channel, Al Aqsa TV, on Feb. 22nd. He says it's horrible and that he's ashamed of it.

He says that the association condemns this in the strongest way possible and they are surprised at such expressions. It's very damaging for the Palestinian people, he adds.

Source: VG (Norwegian)

Sweden/Norway: Terror financing arrests

Three people were arrested in Oslo and three in the Stockholm area on suspicion of financing terror abroad. According to Dagbladet, the men arrested in Oslo are of Somali background.

In a previous terrorism financing case in Norway in 2001 two Norwegian hawala bankers were suspected of financing terrors. Three Somalis had been sentenced for laundering money.

In Sweden, in 2005 two Iraqi Kurds were sentenced to jail and to deportation for financing terror. The two men, one an imam, had sent $148,000 to Ansar Al-Islam in North Iraq.

Sweden had arrested several Somalis a month ago on similar charges.


Swedish security service Säpo has arrested three men in Stockholm suspected of preparing terrorist acts and financing terrorism.

All three men are Swedish citizens.

"The men were arrested at different addresses in the Stockholm region," Säpo spokesman Jakob Larsson told the TT news agency.

Säpo has not released details of the suspects' ages or said whether they have previous criminal records.

"I want to underline the fact that there is no connection whatsoever to the threats against Lars Vilks or the Muhammad caricatures," said Larsson.

Norway's security service PTS also arrested three men in Oslo on Thursday morning on similar charges in a raid coordinated with their Swedish counterparts.

The Oslo arrests followed a lengthy investigation carried out by Oslo police in cooperation with the police financial crimes unit.

The three men apprehended in Norway are suspected of financing acts of terrorism abroad.

The arrests were described by police in Oslo as undramatic.

Terrorist financing is viewed as a growing problem for many European countries. The Nordic region in particular has been described as a sanctuary for terrorist groups, where they can plan acts of terrorism with little risk of detection.

Säpo has previously referred to Sweden as a base for "recruitment, logistical support and financing" of terrorism.


Norway's special police unit in charge of intelligence gathering and national security has charged three persons with financing terrorist activities overseas.

The three suspects were arrested at various addresses in Oslo and have been formally charged, reported the police unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) on Thursday.

PST wrote in a press statement that the agency will seek remand custody for at least one if not all the suspects.

PST wouldn't immediately release any details about the three persons charged, or what led to their arrests.

The normally secretive Jørn Holme, chief of the PST, has recently been on a press offensive of sorts, claiming in newspaper Aftenposten that terrorists have actively tried to recruit young Norwegian Muslims and that money was suspected of being sent out of the country to finance terrorist attacks overseas.

Holme also spoke of "older, manipulative Islamic extremists" who were trying to motivate young Muslims into taking part in jihad in foreign countries.

Holme called the situation "more complex" than earlier, and said it therefore was necessary for PST to warn of the activity and make Norwegians aware of it.

"We need to counter this activity in the community," he said. "We rely on the cooperation of all those who have information about what's happening in extremist Islamic circles."

Sources: The Local, Aftenposten (English), Dagbladet 1, 2 (Norwegian)

See also: Sweden: France arrests Swedish Somalia fighter, Sweden: Arrests in terror financing probe

Belgium: Honor murder statistics

According to a study of the Belgian federal police and presented in the Senate, one honor murder is committed every four months in the country.  A honor murder is a murder in which a woman is killed because she had endangered the honor of the family, for example, but having a relationship with a Belgian man or getting pregnant by him.

Until now there hasn't been any data about honor murder.  The Federal police undertook a study and in the past five years registered 17 honor murders.  Most of the victims are women, but not always.  In some cases, the murder was preceded by years of abuse and threats.  An honor murder often involves dozens of accomplices from closed, not-integrated  immigrant communities, most from the lower classes.  The perpetrators are not always Muslims.  The mothers of the victims also participate, often even from conviction.

The murders are committed due to racism, especially against Belgian and blacks, and due to sexism.  Women are considered minors by the murderers.  It's striking that the younger generation crosses over to violence faster than the older generation, which first tries to negotiate.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Forced marriages punishable offense

UK: New anti-terror strategy

Senior police officers have drawn up a radical strategy to stop British Muslims turning to violence which will see every area of the country mapped for its potential to produce extremists and supporters for al-Qaida. The 40-page document, marked restricted, was approved by a top-level police counter-terrorism committee on Monday, and is expected to be formally adopted within weeks.

The Association of Chief Police Officers hopes it will help to stop al-Qaida's ideas gaining hold in primary schools, colleges, the internet and prisons. Other initiatives in the strategy include:

· guidance to parents on how to stop children searching for extremist websites

· an anti-extremism agenda to be included in "all state-maintained educational establishments from primary schooling through to universities" by 2008/9

· intervening to stop convicted al-Qaida terrorists and supporters from spreading extremist ideology in prison.

Acpo's plans have been prompted by a realisation that new recruits are being attracted to violent extremism despite scores of convictions, arrests and the disruption of plots. The country's most senior counter-terrorism officials believe the level of threat has remained severe and sustained since the July 2005 attacks on London killed 52 people.

More effort and new approaches will be made "to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism and violent extremism", the document says.

Though the document does not mention the Iraq war, it accepts that foreign policy can trigger a sense of grievance that can lead to violence. It urges officers across England and Wales to "effectively address grievances", and says: "This objective is not for the police alone. Some grievances will be international in dimension."

It includes a stark assessment about how far police have to go in building trust with Muslim communities. "Research last year revealed that the police service would be very low on the list of agencies that the Muslim community would turn to if they had concerns about a member of their community who embraced violent extremism ... the police service has a long way to go in building a relationship of trust around these issues..."

It cites the example of drug use, saying that in the 1980s people would not tell the police about those close to them who were using illegal substances. Now that reticence has lessened through intensive work by officers.

The new strategy will be rooted in "neighbourhood profiling". "This will allow us to connect with all groups and to understand what is normal and what is unusual," it says. "We need to continually improve our knowledge about communities and how they function both in a social and religious context."

A senior source with knowledge of the discussions leading up to the writing of the document said mapping was important: "You have to assess where the need is greatest. Just relying on the census data for the number of Muslims in an area is not detailed or sophisticated enough."

The plan also calls for guidance for parents about how to manage the use of the web by their children. "The internet is a potential area where a tendency towards violent extremism can be exploited ... Parents and carers have a need for advice on how to control access for their children and to understand what defines the legal/potentially illegal divide."

The document says there is a "pressing need to develop the growing relationships between the police and the education sector at every level with regard to preventing violent extremism".

With more terrorists and supporters being jailed, the document says those convicted must also be stopped from indoctrinating other inmates.

The senior source added that the plans were a radical change for the police: "It's a recognition that it is a major and important new area of work and the police should see it as a mainstream area of work."

Source: Guardian (English)

Malta: Archbishop visits Corradino mosque

The importance of inter-religious dialogue was yesterday highlighted by Malta's Archbishop who prayed side by side with the Muslim Imam at the Corradino Mosque.

Standing barefoot in the carpeted Mosque, Archbishop Paul Cremona and Imam Mohamed El Sadi faced Mecca when they immersed themselves in a few moments of silent prayer.

"Dialogue between different religions is very important," Mgr Cremona said during the first official visit of a Catholic Archbishop to the Muslim place of worship and neighbouring Islamic Centre and Mariam al Batool School.

On his arrival Mgr Cremona was greeted by the Imam, Islamic Centre director Wagdi Nashnosh, school principal Maria Camilleri, Libyan ambassador to Malta Saad El Shalmani as well as benefactors and staff members.

After a brief stop at the Mosque, where Mgr Cremona was also shown the Koran, he visited the various classrooms where enthusiastic students of various ages greeted him with a choir-like "Good morning". The younger students sang nursery rhymes in English and Arabic to the Archbishop who reacted with his trademark beaming smile.

He then visited the computer room where students delivered a presentation on different religions.

Next, Mgr Cremona was shown into the school hall where a choir of boys and girls sang songs in English, Maltese and Arabic. One particular song aimed to tell the truth about Islam as students sang: "Islam is all about peace. Terrorism it doesn't teach".

School principal Ms Camilleri explained how the school was set up 10 years ago after the Imam felt there was a need for a school that catered for Muslim students.

The mixed school, that has about 180 students throughout kindergarten, primary and secondary school, teaches the Maltese curriculum with the exception that Islam is taught during religion class and students are also taught Arabic.

She noted that the setting up of the school was a "unique project" as Catholic and Muslim teachers worked together with Muslim students and taught and exercised dialogue and respect towards the different religions.

During a brief address Mgr Cremona thanked the children for their "beautiful songs" and said he was thankful for the opportunity to visit the centre.

He pointed out that the harmony through which Catholic teachers and Muslims worked at the school "should be an example to the whole world" adding that dialogue between different religions was very important.

Mr Nashnosh said that the Archbishop's visit emphasised the mutual genuine will of both sides to enhance and strengthen the relations between the followers of Islam and Christianity.

"Today we confirm our will to strengthen the relations with the Catholic Church and to enhance dialogue and cooperation with it in different social and human spheres for the common good," he said.

Just over a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at Istanbul's Blue Mosque in only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship, following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II who made a stop at a mosque in Syria in 2001.

Pope Benedict's visit followed outrage sparked by his remarks on violence and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed, and was intended as a message of reconciliation to Muslims.

Source: Times of Malta (English) h/t Weasel Zippers

Iceland: American imam holds lectures on Islam

The Theology Department of the University of Iceland, in cooperation with the US Embassy in Iceland, will be sponsoring an open lecture entitled "Spiritualism in Islam" by the Imam Dr. Mohamad Bashar Arafat at the university today.

The lecture will be held at 12 noon in room 229 of the main building at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík.

The young people's organizations of the political parties in Iceland will be sponsoring another open lecture with Dr. Arafat entitled "Muslim Life in America" at Café Sólon in downtown Reykjavík tomorrow at 12 noon.

Dr. Arafat was born in Damascus, Syria. He graduated from the University of Damascus in 1987 with degrees in Islamic Studies and Arabic. The following year he graduated with a degree in Islamic Law. Later, he was awarded his PhD in Philosophy and Theology from Trinity College and University in the US.

Source: Iceland Review (English)

Spain: Terrorism trial sentencing

Spain's National Court on Wednesday handed 20 people prison sentences ranging from five to 14 years for links with Islamist terrorism, the court announced.

Thirty people had been charged in the three-month trial. Ten of them, five of whom had already been released, were acquitted.

Eighteen people were found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation and two of collaborating with an armed group.

Algerian cell leader Mohammed Achraf, who was sentenced to 14 years, was found to have tried to obtain explosives in order to blow up the National Court with a truck loaded with 500 kg of explosives in 2004.

Achraf had not, however, shared his plans with the other accused, for which reason there was no basis for conspiracy charges, the court said. Prosecution had requested 43 years for Achraf.

Achraf created an extremist cell in the prison near Salamanca where he was serving a sentence, proselytising about the need to stage suicide bombings, the court said.

The cell wrote letters to inmates in other prisons, where more cells were established.

The network called itself Martyrs for Morocco.

Achraf and several of the others had protested their innocence at the end of the trial, condemning terrorism.

In October 2007, the National Court convicted 21 people of involvement in the Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people in March 2004.

Three of the convicts, who were found to have planted or helped to prepare the bombs, were handed jail terms of more than 30,000 years each.

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Terrorism update, Switzerland: Arrests made

Netherlands: Death threats against Wilders

The anti-Koran film planned by Dutch MP Geert Wilders has led to several threats against his life. This was confirmed by a representative of the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism following a report in today's issue of the newspaper, De Telegraaf.

The paper reports a death threat found on a website linked to al-Qaeda. It says that Geert Wilders must be killed because he insults Islam and the prophet Muhammad.

Mr Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom (PVV), wants the Koran banned in the Netherlands because, he says, it is a fascistic book that initiates violence.

The announcement of the film in which he delivers such opinions has already prompted considerable concern within the Dutch cabinet. The police in a number of Dutch cities are preparing for disturbances when the film is shown.

Mr Wilders expects it to appear in March.

Source: Radio Netherlands (English)

According to De Telegraaf the al-Qaeda threats were posted Jan. 28th, just days after Wilders publicized how his film will begin. (De Telegraaf, Dutch). Klein Verzet has an extensive report on the al-Qaeda threats.

See also: Netherlands: Wilders film roundup 2

Denmark: Less tuberculosis

Tuberculosis isn't an illness that affects only undeveloped countries. Danes are also affected by the dangerous infectious disease. But while tuberculosis is on the increase all over the world, in Denmark the tend is the opposite. From a peak of about 600 cases in the 1990's, the registered number of tuberculosis cases has gone down to 377 in 2006.

According to Niels Seersholm, of Gentofte Hospital, there are two explanations for the decrease. One is that Danes have become better at, and more effort is put into, tracking and treating the disease, another is that immigration, especially from Somalia, had decreased.

Immigration from countries where tuberculosis was widespread was one of the most important reasons for the doubling of the number of tuberculosis cases in the 1990s, after having been at its lowest level in 1986.

But Danes are also affected by the infectious disease and can be most often found by people who suffer from alcohol or drug abuse, who don't swallow food, suffer from cancer or HIV.

Source: Berlingske Tidende (Danish)

Denmark: Black doesn't sell

Dark-skinned models do not often grace the covers of fashion magazines in Denmark. In fact, according to a questionnaire by MetroXpress newspaper, they don't appear on front covers at all.

Weeklies and monthlies such as Alt for Damerne, Woman, Q, Bazar, Sirene and Eurowoman have not had any women of colour on their covers in the past year.

According to Karen Klitgaard Povlsen, media expert at Århus University, Danish society is still very much a 'white society' and not many Danes are interested in other concepts of beauty other than their own, which is 'white and slim'.

'Danish media do not invite others in, and that's why ethnic minorities find other places to mirror themselves,' she said. 'It's a democratic problem.'

Sirene fashion magazine, targeted at women below 30, had a dark-skinned model on their cover once, but said sales were affected so much that the attempt was never repeated.

Fear of slumping sales and aiming for specific target groups were reasons most editors gave when questioned why only ethnic Danish cover models are used.

Camilla Kjems, editor-in-chief of Q and Bazar magazines, has never assigned a cover girl of colour and said: 'The industry is very narrow-minded and I've never come across models of ethnic minorities. It's thought-provoking.'

She said she would like to put a dark-skinned woman on one of her covers, but feared that magazine sales would fall.

Hanne Højberg, editor-in-chief of Alt for Damerne, concurred and said that it was important the cover models reflected their readers. The target group for her magazine are well-educated Danish women between 20 and 40 years old.

She added that the magazine has had interviews with women from ethnic minorities, but the cover needed to have a broader appeal.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Netherlands: Center of the burqini business

A mother and daughter from Meppel, the Netherlands are the key figures in the European and North African burqini business.

Dorelies Woortman, of Woortman Sportwear, thinks it's ridiculous that a manager of a pool in Zwolle removed a woman in a burqini. She says Muslims want to join in society and that is possible with this swimsuit.

Woortman has been selling burqinis over the internet and in shops for just over half a year. The burqini looks like a swimsuit with a hood and cover the whole body, leaving the hands, feet and face revealed. It takes into account the female body, with extra material around the buttocks and breasts.

In the Netherlands, Woortman has till now sold about fifty burqinis, but the demand will increase now that the new collection is in and the company is ready for it. Woortman says there are already 80 requests for the upcoming collection. In Sweden several shops had already orderd burqinis, most about a hundred per shop.

The burqini was developed by Aheda Zanetti, an Australian Muslim woman who hold the patent for it. Wortman made contact with Zanetti, since she regularly got questions from Muslim women who were looking for special swimsuits. The women had come to Woortman since she had a company specializing in UV-protecting swimsuits, which also sells swim-shirts with long sleeves.

Woortman made an exclusive contract with Zanetti, which gave her company the exclusive rights for distribution in Europe and North America. Zanetti first made the swimsuits herself in a workshop, but when demand increased she contracted it out, and they're now made by a factory in China.

According to Woortman the burqini is most popular in North African countries, where naturally many Muslims live. The first mega-order for Morocco of 20,000 burqinis will be leaving the Chinese factory soon.

In Europe the burqini costs 130-150 euros. The prise is too high for North Africa, says Woortman, and therefore her company makes cheaper burqinis for that area. The swimsuit is simpler and doesn't have special styles, like it does in Europe.

For the burqini to make it in the Netherlands, pools must cooperate. The ban by the Zwolle pool manager is not a stimulant. Woortman think that the commotion can also be positive. Due to the media attention, the company had gotten more orders. She had tried contacting the manager, but he didn't need to talk. He was quoted earlier as saying that other visitors were offended by the burqini and that Zwolle is not yet ready for it.

Whether there's protest in the Netherlands or not, the big market for Woortman is elsewhere. Besides North-Africa, she sees especially many opportunities in France, German and Sweden.

Source: De Pers (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Woman in Burqini kicked out of pool

Netherlands: Drop in emigration

Emigration from the Netherlands in 2006 was at an all time high, but in 2007 it dropped slightly.


Just over 123,000 people left the Netherlands in 2007, 9,000 less than in 2006. This is the first decline in emigration since 2000.

Emigration primarily dropped among first generation immigrants, according to figures published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on Wednesday.

The fall in emigration in 2007 follows on seven years of persistent increase. The number of 123,000 is still far above the average in the 2001-2005 period, when 103,000 people left the country each year.

Two in three emigrants are of foreign descent. Last year 64,000 first generation immigrants decided to leave the country, more than 7,000 less than a year earlier.

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Netherlands: Emigration increasing

Basel: Plans for compulsory language training for kindergarten kids

German language playgroups could become compulsory for immigrant children for the first time in Switzerland under plans by Basel City education bosses.

The canton says it wants to improve the education chances for kids from a foreign home. But kindergarten teachers question how feasible the plan is.

The canton's education department says children with foreign parents are at a disadvantage during their school years because of poor German language skills. German is the main language in Basel.

"We want to include every child that needs encouragement to learn the language. And we want to involve the parents too," project manager Herbert Knutti told swissinfo.

Plans to be submitted this summer would require parents to take part in a meeting at which their children's knowledge of German would be established.

"About six months before children go to kindergarten, we would identify groups by means of a questionnaire to parents about the everyday language use of their children," Knutti added.

For those in need of support the age of entry into kindergarten would be lowered from four to three years old, and children would take part in playgroups two times a week for a year to improve their knowledge.

Learning through play

Canton Basel City's school service emphasised children would not undergo any tests and playgroups would be focused on games that promote language learning.

A similar project is running in Zurich but is not mandatory, and the Basel authorities say others already exist in Germany and Austria for children aged four to five.

In Basel half of the youngsters entering kindergarten are foreign nationals and the education department estimates that around a third - around 500 children - do not speak German well enough.

The cost of the playgroups, estimated to be around SFr1.5 million ($1.38 million) a year, would be covered by the canton.

Open questions

Marie-Hélène Stäger of the Association of Kindergarten Teachers said she approved of the idea in theory but had doubts about how feasible it was.

"Education is based on language, therefore I'm in favour. But there are open questions about how it can be implemented.

"I cannot imagine how you make the selection and decide which children can and which cannot take part, who has to take the course and doesn't have to. This is difficult."

Parliamentarian Jean-Henri Dunant of the rightwing Swiss People's Party told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper it was wrong for the state to try to force children into education at such a tender age. "Three year olds are too young," he said.

Details on the implementation of the project will be submitted for consultation in the summer.

If approved, teachers in charge of these language groups would first need to be trained. The first courses could be on offer from 2010.

Source: SwissInfo (English)

See also: Norway: Force kids to go to kindergarten, Netherlands: Language problems in nursery school

Antwerp: Possible ban on headscarf for teachers

The Antwerp alderman for Education, Robert Voorhamme wants to implement a headscarf ban for employees of the municipal education system, says the organization Baas Over Eigen Hoofd (BOEH!, 'Boss of my own head'). They say they have heard about the resolution from 'a trustworthy source'. BOEH! calls the proposal unfriendly to women and discriminating.

BEOH! says that saying a teacher with a headscarf imposes her convictions on her students is a weak argument. If a teacher says or does something they shouldn't on the basis of political or religious convictions, then people should address that person's actions, not their outward appearance.

They press release continues: The education system should reflect the current multicultural and multi-religious society. A school that concerns itself with the personal and life philosophy choices of its teachers violates the neutrality principle. Neutrality must be guaranteed on the level of carrying out functions, not on the level of external characteristics.

BOEH! stress that the ban would be applied to barely eight employees of the municipal education system.

The city of Antwerp claims to have a diverse personnel policy and that it gives opportunities to diverse groups, but a headscarf ban does exactly the opposite, say BOEH!

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Lier: Headscarf ban, Antwerp: Politician wears hijab in protest, Antwerp: Municipal veil ban drawing protest

Supporting freedom of speech

The Danish Mohammed cartoons are currently starting off as a low-flame crisis again and countries like Egypt and Iran are actively fanning the flames. Sudan announced a boycott of Danish products, and Hamas children's TV is inciting children to go murder infidels who criticize Mohammad. There are protests in different Muslim countries and in Western countries are well, there are threats of more boycotts and burning of Danish flags, and all because a Danish cartoonist dared voice his opinion about Islamic terrorism several years ago, and Danish newspapers expressed their outrage at a Muslim plot to kill him a few weeks ago.

I do not support unlimited freedom of speech (as argued for in Islamists and Naivists), and I don't think John Stuart Mill imagined the freedom to express one's thoughts and opinions would be taken to the extremes of today. For example, I don't think a liberal country should allow people to incite others to commit murder or to undermine the liberal base of that country. I do agree with Mills, though, that freedom of speech is the basis of liberalism. Preventing one from expressing his opinion, no matter how hurtful it is, also prevents his listeners from responding. Protecting people from grappling with opinions they don't agree with not only prevents them from changing their opinions, but also prevents them from understanding their own truths.

What I haven't seen recently are protests to support Danish values. I don't believe that's due to the fact that people don't support Denmark or the values for which it stands.

Organizing a world-wide protest is not something one person can do, and so I have been thinking how a private individual could show his support.

My suggestion: Drop by your nearest Danish Embassy or Consulate, and thank them. If that is difficult, send them a token of appreciation - a letter, flowers, chocolates. I'm sure it would be appreciated, and it would serve as some sort of balance when that same embassy is visited by Islamists demanding Denmark curtail its freedom of speech.

Denmark: Immigrant youth not qualified for police

Despite years of campaigning, the police corps have been unable to draw young people of immigrant background into the force

After a 12-year push by the national police to recruit more young people of immigrant background into a law enforcement education, the group makes up only two percent of all police officers today.

The new figures, released by Statistics Denmark, have got the National Commission of the Danish Police to rethink its strategy for luring young people - especially those from Muslim backgrounds - away from criminality and into the police.

'One of the most important signs of integration is when someone of immigrant background can see one of their own become a policeman and have the authority to issue a ticket to a native Dane,' Torben Møller-Hansen, president of the integration organisation Foreningen Nydansker, told Politiken newspaper.

'There ought to be more signing up. But I can't see what the problem is because the police have really done all they can,' said Møller-Hansen.

But although 7 percent of the applications police receive come precisely from their target group, many immigrant background youths simply do not possess the qualifications necessary for police training.

Lars Nicolai, assistant inspector with Copenhagen Police's crime prevention division, also believes that the police's image in many immigrants' native countries is poor. Combine that with the strict regiment required to become a police officer in Denmark and few can make the cut.

'We really need more of them,' Nicolai says of officers with immigrant background. 'They have a knowledge that can rub off on their colleagues.'

Hanne Bech Hansen, Copenhagen's Chief of Police, agreed and said that knowledge could have helped in controlling the recent rioting episodes the city experienced.

'It would probably have been an advantage to have had more officers of immigrant background on the force.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

See also: Denmark: More immigrants fail written military conscription test, Norway: Police want to recruit in mosques

Pakistan: Dutch TV in al-Qaeda video

Harald Doornbos, a Dutch journalist currently in Pakistan, reports on his blog that al-Qaeda DVDs edited in Pakistan and Afghanistan are using video copied off Dutch TV.

The videos had been edited about three weeks ago and are not yet officially available, but Doornboos was able to get pictures.

He started watching the DVDs: they show Taliban fighters in Afghanistan setting up camp and later shoot on American troops. A Taliban commander taking a 16 year old kid to a car, with about 100 explosives in the back The kid gets into the car, drives on a mountain road towards an American patrol and blows himself up. The soldiers, Afghanis and apparently a few foreign troops, clap for the Afghani.

And suddenly, the logo of Dutch TV station Nederland 1 appears, together with Dutch subtitles.

The pictures, which are available on Doornbos' site, show two logos on the screen. In Arabic it says "Manba al Jihad" (Source of the Jihad), underneath, still in Arabic: Al Houda (The guidance). Both names represent al-Qaeda video production companies in Afghani and Pakistani tribe territory. They are fighter groups in Afghanistan, composed of Arabs and central-Asians (mostly al-Qaeda), together with local Afghanis and Pakistanis (mostly Taliban).

The video brings Dutch TV in order to show how an Afgani is hit by Western (maybe Dutch) and Afghani government soldiers.

The pictures are accompanied by a voice saying in Pashto: "They say that they came to help and to build our land, but this is what the infidels do." Throughout the video the same voice urges the viewers to fight against the infidels (kaffirs), with suicide attacks.

Doornbos assumes that al-Qaeda took the pictures off Dutch TV on the internet. He warns that the world is becoming a global village and that the Wilders' film would not be a local event.

What I find interesting is that this shows Dutch involvement. An Afghani without basic knowledge of Dutch would not have sat watching Dutch TV looking for relevant videos.

Source: Harryzzz (Dutch)

Flanders: Immigrants 20% of unemployed

A fifth of Flemish job-seekers are of non-European descent. That is more than was thought until now. A third of all Flemish immigrant job-seekers live in Antwerp, according to De Tijd.

A the basis of a more precise counting method of the VDAB, the number of job-seekers with non-European roots among the general unemployed has gone up from 16.9% to 19.7%. The number of people of Turkish or Maghrebian origin had not changed much. The difference is almost completely among the group of 'other' origin. Non-Turks and non-Maghrebians account for almost half of whole job-seekers with non-European roots.

45% of foreign job-seekers live in the Antwerp province. The city of Antwerp accounts for 33%. Among job seekers of EU origin, Antwerp contributes only 10%. Ghent follows far behind with 10% of immigrant unemployment, followed by Mechelen (4%) and Genk (3%).

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Flanders: Immigrant unemployment statistics

Belgium: Terrorist leader interrogated already in 1989

The suspected "leader of the terrorist network" disbanded in Morocco, Belgian-Moroccan Abdelkader Belliraj, had been questioned in Belgium in 1989 for the murder of the rector of the Great Mosque, Abdullah al Ahdal, reports Le Soir. The man was interrogated and then set free since there was not enough evidence to keep him under arrest.

The paper emphasizes that according to the information, dozens of Belgian-Moroccans had been arrested in Morocco and not just three. They are mainly known for banditism.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: Terrorist leader committed six murders, Belgium: Wife of murder-terrorist suspect denies connection to murders

Sweden: Discrimination in judicial system

A new report has shown that Sweden's judicial system suffers from discrimination.

According to a study by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet - Brå), people with foreign backgrounds risk unfair treatment in Sweden's courts.

"The essential judicial agencies are aware of the problem, but discrimination can be difficult to work against and correct. Highlighting and fighting discrimination in the judicial system is one of the most important confidence building measures to which judicial agencies can devote themselves," said Jan Andersson , head of the Council for Crime Prevention.

The Council's report shows that within the judicial system there are preconceived notions about certain minority groups which can affect the judicial process.

Other examples in the report show that those who are foreign-born are sometimes considered less trustworthy than ethnic Swedes.

According to the Council, methods for battling discrimination include a more wide-ranging recruitment process and raising the status attributed to interpreters.

Source: The Local (English), Study page (Swedish)

See also: Denmark: Intercultural courses for judges

Berlin: Turkish 'neighborhood mothers'

You can recognize them by their red shawl and a red and white bag, which resembles a school satchel.

"We always have to wear this when we are at work," said Hacer, fiddling with her red shawl around her neck that seems to melt with her yellowish orange and white headscarf. "In the bag is all the material we need," she added, tapping her bag. The 31-year-old mother of a daughter and a son is a "neighborhood mother" in Berlin-Neukölln, an area with a high Turkish population.

"Many people don't know where to go when they need to file an application for something," said Hacer. "Other people have problems with their kids." Neighborhood mothers receive special training and afterwards visit families from their own ethnicity and mother tongue. They must already have personal experience with children and speak at least two languages: German and the language of their origin. In the course of a six-month training a neighborhood mother-to-be acquires information on healthy nutrition, addiction prevention, children's rights, the authorities and the school system. Full-fledged neighborhood mothers know how to deal with bureaucracy and have learned how to impart the information to immigrants from their own ethnic group.

"I feel much more secure now that I can ask someone who knows the answers to all my questions," said Ayfer. The 34-year-old mother of a three-and-a-half year old son came from Ýzmir to Berlin in 2001. It is the fourth visit she has received from her neighborhood mother Hacer. "Ayfer does not speak German very well," Hacer said. "Therefore we do the program in Turkish." The information leaflets are usually in both languages.

Before the session starts, Ayfer, who used to work for a cultural institution in Ýzmir, switches off the television. Her son walks out of the room. He will spend the next hour at the neighbor's. On the living room table are the remains of a hamburger and some salad. "We are going to talk about healthy nutrition today," said Hacer and explained to Ayfer that children need to drink something warm, tea or milk, before going to school or kindergarten, that they should not eat more than two to three eggs a week and that it is important for them to brush their teeth after every meal. Hacer also explained that certain products contain artificial additives and told Ayfer what the names of those are. Together they look at tables and graphics that show what is generally good or bad to eat, for children as well as for grown ups.

A neighborhood mother usually pays 10 visits to a family. In most cases it is a meeting with the mother of the family. "We have 10 topics that we talk about: School system, sex education, children's accidents, children's rights, health improvement, language development, addiction prevention, media, motor development, healthy nutrition," said Hacer. "I usually ask what they are most interested in. Many people first want to know about children's rights." Like Ayfer, many divorced women are uncertain about the financial support they can expect and how to enforce their rights. "We fill out forms together," said Hacer. "I know who to turn to in order to receive the necessary information." Hacer also gives out advice on child education to the mothers she visits. "Children need attention. We need to listen to them. Otherwise they feel they are worth nothing," said Hacer.

The neighborhood mother project aims at making contact with more families in the area and encourages mothers to work together. One of their key messages is: Being a good parent requires active participation. Neighborhood mothers remind parents of children who already go to school that they should view their children's grades and pay attention. While many migrant parents shy away from communicating with their children's teachers because of lacking language skills, neighborhood mothers help to establish contacts.

Being a lone parent with little children in a foreign country is particularly hard. "I used to quickly loose patience and got angry easily," said Ayfer. "I guess I understand my son better now. We talk more, we get along better." Knowing that other people are in very similar situations and learning from each other can ease the tension.

"Everybody in my neighborhood knows me," said Hacer. "It's really like in a little village, I very much enjoy that." She received her neighborhood certificate last year in June. "I always wanted to work. Staying at home doing nothing does not make me happy." Having left school after the ninth grade and being a housewife for some years, Hacer never had much chance to gather work experience. "One day I found a flyer advertising the neighborhood mother project. They were looking for participants. I was fascinated right away and signed up," she said. "It's a good work."

The neighborhood mothers' project is an adoption of the originally Dutch "Rucksack" –concept. It has meanwhile been taken up by various organizations internationally. In Berlin, the neighborhood mother program is funded by different sources, the EU commission as well as the municipality. For many women it is a good, sometimes first opportunity to earn extra money and, more importantly, gain satisfaction out of work. "You learn a lot for yourself," Hacer said, "and I enjoy passing my knowledge on." Hacer, whose parents did not want her to continue her school education, is a very accurate and patient teacher. Her voice reaches another level of self-confidence when she talks about her job. Being able to answer questions and to help other people strengthens her. Her husband, a gardener from Istanbul, supports her in what she does: "The money is very little. But the job makes her happy." As an exception he sits next to his wife on Ayfer's sofa. "I wanted to see how it goes." While Hacer is giving her course, her husband listens carefully and sometimes interrupts with questions. "It is actually really good to know all these things," he said.

Source: Turkish Daily News (English)

UK: Encouraging British/Saudi ties

Britain wants an easy visa system for its businessmen to enter the Kingdom to promote bilateral trade, said Alderman David Lewis, the lord mayor of the City of London.

Lewis was speaking at a press briefing at the residence of British Ambassador William Patey during a reception held in his honor on Saturday.

"We want you to have an easy visa system to enable our businessmen to visit your country as and when needed," the lord mayor said, adding that in principle the Saudi government has approved the issuance of visas for 12 months for British businessmen. He added that, unfortunately, this has not been fully implemented at the Saudi Embassy in London and that visas are only issued for three months.

He noted that the British missions in the Kingdom have adopted a 24-hour visa service for Saudi students, businessmen and tourists. "A two-way service for the issuance of visas to and from Saudi Arabia would help boost bilateral relations," he said.

The lord mayor, who is currently leading a 20-member delegation comprising representatives from reputable financial institutions in Britain, described the bilateral trade relations as excellent.

"The Kingdom is one of Britain's closest friends and the biggest trading partner in the Middle East," he said, adding that he hoped there would be more Saudi investments in Britain in areas such as Islamic financing and Takaful insurance.

He said half of the properties in the City of London are owned by overseas investors, mainly from the Gulf countries.

He also said that the UK is interested in participating in the Kingdom's infrastructure development. "According to reports, some $630 billion will be spent on infrastructure development during the next 10 years. British expertise could contribute a great deal toward the development of some of the envisaged projects thus becoming partners in Saudi Arabia's national development," he said.

Lewis said that he is offering Britain's services to the development of human resources in Saudi Arabia and stressed that British expertise could be harnessed to develop young talent to become professionals in the field of Islamic financing and banking.

Patey said the British government is to issue sukuk bonds. "We want to make a benchmark for Islamic bonds so that we can have a secondary market," he said, adding that any bank in the United Kingdom can issue a Shariah compliant mortgage, a service that cannot be found even in a Muslim country.

Today, the mayor is scheduled to address the Jeddah Economic Forum at its closing session on the expansion of the Kingdom's economy and widening links between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

Source: Arab News (English), h/t Sharia Finance Watch

Denmark: Discrimination in disco entrance-policy

Being a well-integrated New Dane, born and raised in Denmark, is far from enough for getting an entrance ticket to parties in discos in the Danish nightlife. A new study by Catinét Research published in Ugebrevet A4, shows that it's exactly the opposite.

Catinét had asked men of immigrant background, if they have been refused entrance. In total, 52% of those asked who go to discos, had experienced getting a negative answer from the doorman, compared with just 17% of ethnic Danes.

The trend is strongest among 25-34 year old. Her, 59% of New Danes have been rejected, compared to 18% of ethnic Danes.

It's completely impossible if someone has darker skin. 79% of Somalis who go to discos had been refused entrance, as did 54% of Turks and 44% of ex-Yugoslavians.

New Danes can't hope that they'll be accepted with time. According to the study it's especially men who have been in Denmark for a long time who often experience being rejected. 62% of men who were born in the country or had lived here 16-20 years had been rejected.

Carsten Kruuse spokesperson for Danmarks Restauranter og Cafeer denies the study says his field practices different treatment or racism. It's rather an expression of the over-representation of troublemakers among young immigrants, and that owners of restaurants and doormen try to prevent potential troublemakers. He says there's statistical basis for it.

When more than half had experienced rejection, does that mean they were potential troublemakers?

"That you must interpret on your own. I can't confirm or disprove it." He says there are no such problems with rejecting foreign women, so it's not different treatment.

Integration consultant Manu Sareen disagrees. He says it was well known before and now there are numbers to show it. It's an expression of severe differences in treatment and that the darker a person is the more likely he is to meet the prejudice that he's going to cause trouble.

Sareen says that it's true that there's an over-representation of minority youth who cause problems. It just has nothing to do with skin color. This study shows a direct correspondence between skin color and rejection. he says he understand that restaurants have a business and if minorities cause trouble, it's bad for business. But what with the well-integrated youth that are denied entrance? If young people who wants to be part of the youth culture are rejected at the doors, they will look for other places together and begin to go in groups. It's not something we can suffer, and when the society they live in can't suffer them it contributes to that.

Both Kruuse and Sareen think that the best solution is registering troublesome guests, a register that would give restaurant owners and doormen the possibility to separate the wheat from the chaff. It's just not legal today.

Catinét Research based its study on answers from 200 men of immigrant background, and 181 ethnic Danish men.

Politiken did not get a comment from integration minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech.

Source: Politiken (Danish)

Source: Amsterdam: Discos discriminate against immigrants, Denmark: Demand for study on ethnic criminiality

Berlin: Broadcasting Burqa

Can a burqa be sexy? A Berlin-based artist has invented a digitally-enabled robe that will send an image of a woman's face -- or anything else -- via Bluetooth.

Women who would rather not wear a burqa can now slip around it electronically. [ed. why would a woman who would rather not wear a burqa actually wear one? ]

A burqa may not be the flirtiest garment ever invented for women. The highly modest head-to-toe robe even shrouds the eyes, so for centuries it's been difficult for women wearing them to send suggestive signals to men.

But now a German designer has debuted a digitally-enabled burqa that can broadcast a photo of the wearer to nearby mobile phones. Markus Kison calls it the "CharmingBurka," and says it isn't forbidden by Islamic law.

A model demonstrated a prototype of Kison's garment at the Seamless 2008 design and fashion show in Boston, a high-tech fashion event run with support from the Masschusetts Institute of Technology.

Kison says the burqa has a "digital layer" that incorporates a Bluetooth antenna, which lets women "decide for themselves where they want to position themselves virtually." Nearby mobile phones that also use Bluetooth will light up with any small file a woman chooses to broadcast as her identity -- a photo, a cartoon, a text file or even a sound clip.

Kison's broadcast technology started as a marketing tool; the so-called "Bluebot" system is meant to send digital advertisements to passing phones. But Kison's new design turns a burqa into a walking MySpace page.

A broadcasting burqa may not be explicitly forbidden by Islamic law -- since most interpreters of Shariah have never imagined such a thing -- but certain Muslim governments have tried to clamp down on electronic flirting. By 2002 it was so common for teenagers in Saudi Arabia to send each other pictures of themselves by phone that an import ban was imposed on camera phones. But demand was so high that the law was lifted two years later.

Source: Spiegel (English)

Netherlands: Hirsch Ballin wants rid of term "allochtoon"

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin would prefer if the words "allochtoon" and "autochtoon" were no longer used. The Dutch terms are used to refer to "people of immigrant or ethnic background," essentially people "from elsewhere," and people of "native Dutch background", those "from here", respectively.

"Perhaps we should just get rid of the words, since they create a false opposition," he said on radio programme De Ochtenden on Monday.

"We must realise that we have a great deal in common, all of us here in the country. I don't like the classifications that split our country in two, for instance the opposition that is so often created between those of 'ethnic background' and 'native Dutch'," the CDA minister said.

He said there are enough problems that need to be addressed. "If we continue to talk as if our country is divided, or create other false oppositions, we only aggravate things."

In the past years, there have regularly been calls on the national and local level to get rid of the terms 'allochtoon' and 'autochtoon' because of the negative connotations.

In 2005 however the government at the time indicated it would continue to use the terms to make a distinction between someone from "foreign extraction" and someone who is "an original inhabitant of the Netherlands."

Hirsch Ballin openly distanced himself from the way in which Freedom Party PVV leader Geert Wilders regularly attributes problems to the Muslims in the Netherlands.

"That is wrong. I want nothing to do with that," the minister said. "We are a country of minorities. There is no point at all in dividing the country into groups that are opposed to each other."

The government belongs to all the Dutch and it mustn't allow groups to be isolated, Hirsch Ballin said.

Nor may they be held responsible for problems with individuals that sometimes can be explained by their education, unemployment or lack of connection with society.

"It doesn't benefit anyone to divide people into groups."

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Flanders: New Flemish

German: Low Rate of German-Turkish Marriages Impede Integration

Many German Turks are pressured to marry only within their ethnic and religious group. But the practice of "importing" partners from Turkey creates new immigrants and stands in the way of integration.

"Whether Turks are prepared to marry Germans depends a lot on the importance of religion," said Amparo Gonzalez-Ferrer, a comparative sociologist at the Juan March Institute in Madrid.

The vast majority of Turks are Muslims in a predominantly Christian culture that has become increasingly secular.

"One reason why more [Turkish] men marry Germans is that Islam permits them and not women to marry non-Muslims," Gonzalez-Ferrer said.

According to the latest 2006 figures from the Federal Statistics Office, Turkish men accounted for 14 percent all foreigners that German women marry, followed by Italians and Americans.

German men had different partner preferences. Poles topped the list by far, followed by Russians, Turks and Thai women in roughly equal numbers. Turkish women accounted for only 8 percent of all foreigners that German men marry.

Considering, however, that Turkish citizens make up 25 percent of all foreign residents in Germany -- not counting an additional one-third ethnic Turks who are German citizens -- intermarriage rates are in reality very low, said Dirk Halm, a political scientist at the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen.

Integration problem

According to Gonzalez-Ferrer, even well-educated Turkish women vastly prefer to marry ethnic Turks over Germans and go as far as importing husbands from Turkey.

"This could be their strategy for living independently from the in-laws, who stay behind in Turkey" she said, adding that a German Turkish woman would also have the upper hand in a relationship with a migrant husband, who is unfamiliar with Germany.

But the practice of importing spouses creates a new generation of migrants continually. This becomes an integration problem, especially when Turkish men import much younger, uneducated brides, whose vulnerability sometimes makes them easy targets for domestic violence.

That is one reason why Germany has recently upped the age limit to 18 for such unions, and now requires imported spouses to learn German before getting an entry visa.

Parental approval

One should, however, make a distinction between forced marriages, in which a woman's life could be at risk for defying the parental choice of a partner, and arranged marriages, which is a far more common practice.

"Turks are far more likely to seek parental approval in the choice of a partner than Germans are," said Yasemin Karakasoglu, a migration expert at the University of Bremen.

"There is tremendous pressure for young women to be married by say 23, so worried parents start looking for potential suitors if they believe their daughter is 'over the hill'," she said.

Parental pressure in Turkish families, however, is not the only factor which impedes inter-ethnic marriages. Lale Akgun, a German-Turkish parliamentarian of the Social Democrat party, believes that some Germans too, feel uneasy about the prospect of a Turkish in-law.

"We need more dialogue between Turks and Germans, so that young people can feel free to make their own partner choices, without letting a person's ethnicity to get in the way," Akgun said.

Source: Deutsche Welle (English)

Ethnic Politicians Struggle in Europe; Find Hope in Obama Campaign

Although U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, an African-American, is enjoying momentum from 11 straight wins in Democratic presidential nominating contests, minority politicians in Europe are still struggling. They often make up only a small percentage in parliaments across Europe. And only a few hold high ranking positions in government. From the town of Thiais, west of Paris, Lisa Bryant reports times are beginning to change.

It is a frigid Sunday morning in Thiais as Zohra Bitan passes out flyers for her run as mayor of this conservative Paris suburb. It is Bitan's first run for office, and she is not a known face. Many residents hurry by to shop for fruits, vegetables and fish at the town's weekly outdoor market.

Bitan is the candidate of the opposition Socialist party. But the town has been voting for the same mayor of the ruling conservative UMP party, for more than two decades. And she faces another challenge. If elected during municipal voting next month, she will be the town's first ethnic North African mayor.

But Bitan, whose parents immigrated to France from Algeria, says her ethnic background should not be a factor.

Bitan agrees that that ethnic immigrants here need to be harder working and more determined to erase prejudices that might stand in their way. But she sees herself as French, not Algerian.

Still, minority politicians like Bitan, in France and in Europe, are struggling for a voice. Many of them are black and Muslim and their families came here seeking work decades ago.

In France, for example, only one of the almost 600 members of parliament is a racial minority. There are none in the Senate.

Patrick Lozes, is head of CRAN, an umbrella association of black groups in France.

In the March municipal elections, Lozes claims that the two leading French parties, the ruling UMP and the opposition Socialists, are fielding only a handful of minority candidates, in the largest towns and cities of France. He believes they should be doing more.

Similar criticism is aired elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, where ethnic Turks make up about 10 percent of the population, they hold less than one percent of the seats in parliament. Minorities have even less clout in Italy and Spain, where immigration is a more recent phenomenon.

Even in Britain, often considered a European model for multiculturalism, politicians like Diane Abbott complain of only painfully slow progress. Abbott became the first female black member of Parliament 20 years ago. Today she is among only 15 minority MPs.

"The problem is racism really. If 20 years after the first wave [of minorities entering British parliament] the wave has turned into a trickle, you have to look at racism," she said.

Europe is closely following the elections in the United States, in large part, experts like Thomas Valasek say, because Europeans are hoping for a change from the Bush administration. And, says Valasek, an analyst at the Center for European Reform in London, many Europeans consider the two Democratic contenders, senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the best candidates for change.

"And when you look at the two Democratic candidates, of course Obama is the bigger embodiment of change than Clinton. And also frankly because of who Obama is. He's seen by many as the embodiment of the American dream," he said.

In Thiais, Bitan is also following Barack Obama and his chance of becoming America's first black president. But she doubts a Barack Obama will emerge in France anytime soon.

Bitan says France is ready to elect mayors or members of parliament who are a racial minority. But she says the country is not ready for an ethnic minority as president.

Pap Ndiaye, an expert on American politics at EHESS, the High School of Social Studies in Paris, says France lags behind the U.S. in terms of diversity in politics.

"It's changing, but extremely slowly given the conservatism of French political life and French political organizations that pay lip service to diversity but don't do much when it comes to appointing minority candidates to various positions," he said.

Still, there are positive signs. Last year, President Nicolas Sarkozy selected an unusually diverse cabinet, choosing three women from African and Arab backgrounds for top posts, including justice minister.

In Italy, the fledgling New Immigrants Party is fielding candidates for April's parliamentary elections for the first time. And in the Netherlands, where two Muslims were selected to senior cabinet posts, another first, Coskun Coruz, a member of parliament who immigrated from Turkey, says the Dutch parliament is among the most diverse in Europe when it comes to minority representation.

Coruz too is looking at the U.S. election. If Obama wins, he believes, it might send a signal to Europe.

"Of course Obama give concrete evidence to the American dream. To be black and to become the next president of America. [It means that] if you work hard and you believe in yourself and you have a good message, there is always a possibility to reach a high position," he said.

Coruz has his own message for minorities in the Netherlands. If they're not happy with their situation, they must work for change. He says ethnic immigrants must learn how to be European citizens. Coruz, who arrived in the Netherlands from Turkey at age six, now says he feels "200 percent Dutch."

Source: VOA News (English)