Norway: Saudis finance northenmost mosque

The Muslim community in Tromsø. Norway, wants to build the world's northernmost mosque. With the help of funding from Saudi Arabia, the mosque is planned as a local landmark building.
The mosque will not be traditional one with towers and arches but a modern building which can become a local attraction both for locals and visitors, the initiators say to NRK.
The Muslim community in Tromsø has about 1000 members. They have long worked for the construction of their own mosque. Now, the community has secured funding with the help of a 20 million NOK grant from a Saudi Arabian financer. Also other donors are reported to have signaled interest in the project.
Municipal authorities have expressed their support to the project. The community might get land for the building centrally located by the seaside.
Tromsø is the administrative centre for the county of Troms. It has about 53,000 inhabitants.
The Tromsø mosque will be located slightly further north than the planned mosque in Murmansk, Russia. That project has the last couple of years been deadlocked however following major protests from local inhabitants.
Source: Barents Observer (English)

Belgium: Terror ring arrests

The Belgian Federal Police conducted twelve house searches Thursday in Brussels, Aarlen, Nijvel and Tongeren.  This occurred as part of an investigation regarding Abdelkader Belliraj, the Belgian Moroccan who is under arrest in Morocco on suspicion of terrorism.  Eleven people were arrested and seven will most probably be extradited to Morocco.  The police action was partially by request of the Moroccan authorities, but took place also as part of the investigation by the federal police into the terrorist organization of which Belliraj was part of.

Lieve Pellens, spokesperson for the police, said that after the arrest of Belliraj in Morocco they opened an investigation themselves into the possible terrorist organization that was or is active in Belgium and Morocco.  After the statements Abdelkader Belliraj gave in Morocco, the Moroccan authorities wrote out seventeen international arrest warrants.  Fourteen of those wanted people are staying in Belgium.

The federal police then checked who of those fourteen are considered for extradition, according to the spokesperson.  Several have double nationality, and therefore they had to check whether they were Belgian at the time of the crimes.  If that was so, they could not be extradited in any case.  For three people the police thought their files were not serious enough in order to justify their extradition.

In the end seven people could be extradited, and these seven were arrested in Thursday's searches.  They will be brought to court, which will start their extradition process.

Besides the seven for which extradition was requested, the investigators arrested four other people Thursday.  The Moroccan authorities also asked for their extradition, but they will not be put under consideration for that.  They will be interrogated, but will in principal not be arrested.

Of the eleven arrested, three incurred sentences in the past.  One was sentenced for terrorism in the GICM file, a second in the GIA file in the mid-90s and a third has a crime sheet for serious crimes.

Some of the house searches were conducted as part of an investigation by the Brussels police.  In the connection, one suspect was arrested, but the Brussels police asked that no further information be given out, since the investigation is still in a too delicate phase, according to Estelle Arpigny, spokesperson for the Brussels police.


A rocket launcher was found during a series of house searches against a gang of weapon traders, according to VRT news.

This was a portable model that can easily be fired by a person.  The find was striking since the head of the gang, Abderrahim Bekhti, was also named in the ABdelkader Belliraj file.

It is possible the gang therefore sold weapons to Islamic terrorists.
Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

Netherlands: New Mohammad movie

According to Moroccan newspaper Al-Jarida al-Ula, European Islamist organizations are calling for a boycott of Dutch products because of Ehsan Jami's movie.  The movie will premier December 10th, Jami announced this week in an interview with weekly HP/De Tijd.

The unnamed organization are upset that Jami is coming out with a cartoon move about Mohammed.  The ex-Muslim originally planed that, but called it off at the end of March at the urging of justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin.  The organizations are calling, according to the newspaper, for a boycott because of the publication of 'a cartoon movie about the wives of the prophet Muhammad."  Already since last month there have been calls to boycott Dutch products circulating on the internet.

In the 10 minute long movie "Interview with Mohammed", the former chairperson of the Committee for Ex-Muslims questions Muhammed about women's rights, Jews and apostasy.  In the clip the actor who plays Muhammed will be unrecognizable.  The movie will be in English.  Jami invited Hirsch Ballin to the movie's pre-premiere.  The anti-Koran movie Fitna of PVV head Geert Wilders led in the past to protests in the Muslim world and several calls to a boycott of Dutch products.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Paris: Tunisian terror suspects connected to Belgian cell

Four Tunisian Islamists, who are suspected of having connections with the terror cell which sent a Belgian suicide bomber to Iraq in November 2005, appeared in court in Paris.  The four men are accused of membership in a group with terrorist aims.  A number are also accused of using false documentation and being in the country illegally.

Ahmed Bentaieb (30), who was interrogated this morning, was arrested by the French police in Paris on November 30, 2005.  He's suspected of rendering logistical support to a Belgian recruiting cell of terrorists who sent Belgian kamikaze Muriel Degauque to Iraq.

Degauque, a Belgian who converted to Islam, blew herself up on November 9, 2005, when she was 38 years old.  She was the first Western female suicide bomber in Iraq.  She blew herself up in an attack on an American convoy.  Her husband, Issam Gorris, was killed by American soldiers just before he wanted to commit suicide.  [ed: suicide bombers don't 'commit suicide'.  They kill. ]

When Ahmed Bentaieb was arrested there was also a raid in Belgium, where Bilal Soughir was arrested.  he was suspected of being the leader of a Belgian network and was sentenced in Belgium to ten years in prison.

The French police also succeeded in arresting three other suspected Islamists: Kamel Mosbah (47), Fredj Aloulou (34) and Mourad Loghmari (25)

Source: De Morgen (Dutch)

Norway: Taliban's health minister avoiding war crimes tribunal

He's an imam for a little community in Oslo, but was the health minister in the Taliban government in Afghanistan for three years.

Most of those who'd been in the government with him are either arrested or wanted.  He himself lives safely in Norway since he came here in 2000.

NRK was further informed that several of the Afghans in Norway cooperated with the Police Security Service (PST) or with the allied forces in Afghanistan.  NRK has documents that show the former Taliban minister is one of those.

The imam is on the KRIPOS (National Criminal Investigation Service) list of people who are suspect of war crimes, but until now he's escaped investigation.

The imam admitted to NRK that he was contacted by the PST, but he rejected any type of cooperation.

"They were by my home and said that if there are more from the Taliban who want to defect, we are willing to help them."  The Taliban minister insists that he rejected the offer.

"I said that the Taliban are after me.  How will I be able to contact any of them?" asks the imam.

But he currently doesn't want to take part in an interview to explain more about his connection to the PST.

When he asked for asylum after his arrival in 2000, he said in the interview that he has a network in the Taliban.

"That alone is reason enough to start an investigation," thinks Sam Zia-Zarifi.  he heads the Asia department of Amnesty International.

He says that bureaucrats at this level are responsible for realizing the Taliban's policies and that they are therefore partially responsible for serious crimes against human rights.

He describes the Taliban's policies in this way: They are responsible for serious ethnic discrimination.  It's a serious crime against human rights to refuse entrance to schools and health services for women.  The Taliban is responsible for serious brutality like torture of prisoners."

Zia-Zarifi is fed up with the statement that "everybody in Afghanistan has blood on their hands".  He thinks this functions as a bad excuse not to investigate the truly serious cases.

"There are millions of people in Afghanistan who don't have blood on their hands.  They have a demand for truth."

NRK reported Tuesday of a high-ranking general who wasn't investigated, despite being connected to a famous massacre of several thousand victims in Afghanistan in 1997.

Lawyer Heidi Bache-Wiig, who defended the suspect in Norway's only court case of war crimes, is upset.

"It looks like Norwegian police and authorities don't dare investigate the big political cases.  Instead they take the small war criminals and crush them," she says.

Niether the PST nor justice minister Knut Storberget wanted to comment on this case.

Source: NRK (Norwegian)

Moscow: Saudis want mosque in Moscow, Russians want Church in Riyadh

King of Saudi Arabia has initiated construction of a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Moscow.

"If Russian authorities allocate a parcel of land, then Saudi Arabia will finance the building," Head of Foreign Department at the Russian Muftis Council Rushan Abbyasov told

He went on to say that, the question of building a mosque was discussed in the Moscow meeting of the Chair of the Russian Muftis Council Ravil Gainutdin, with the Saudi Ambassador Ali Hassan Jafar.



Representatives of Orthodox public organizations addressed the King of Saudi Arabia an open letter with a request to build an Orthodox Church in his country.

The address, conveyed to
Interfax-Religion, was initiated after the Saudi Kingdom announced its plans to build a mosque in Moscow.

"You often say that Islam is a religion of justice. However, if Saudi Arabia builds mosques in dozens of Christian countries, isn't it just to build a church for Christians living in Your Kingdom!" the letter says.

To support their words the authors quoted Chairman of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran who said that "if Muslims believe it right to have a great striking mosque in Rome, than it is right for Christians to build a church in Riyadh."



Co-chairman of Russian Mufti Council Nafigullah Ashirov has recognized the right of Saudi Arabia not to let Christians to Mecca and Medina, though Christians have the right to build their own church in the country.

He told this to an
Interfax-Religion correspondent commenting on the address of Russian Orthodox public figures to the Saudi king with the request to observe the rights of Christian living in Arabia.

"We can't give instructions that contradict the acting laws of other country, no matter if it is America, Great Britain or Israel. My personal opinion is inseparable from acting laws," the Mufti said.

"If Christians can visit Mecca and Medina or not - this question doesn't fall within my province, but it is an absolutely different country, they have their own leaders and laws. Israel also has its own laws: for example, people under 45 are not allowed to Al-Aqsa Mosque, it is their country, and they decided such wise. There is a country – there is a law, the laws should be respected and stick to," he went on to say.

Ashirov believes, when the number of Orthodox believers in Saudi Arabia will reach such a level that they could organize their own community, "there will be no problems with building an Orthodox Church in Saudi Arabia."


Sources: Interfax 1, 2, 3 (English)

Spain: New Taliban threat video

The video threatens Denmark, Israel, Australia, the UN, the US, Spain and France, though the flags all seem to be backwards.

Click here for a clip from the video.

The Taliban has threatened to stage attacks on five Western nations deploying troops in Afghanistan in a video discovered by Spanish security forces, a local radio station said Wednesday.

The United States, Spain, France, Denmark and Australia are warned in the 42-minute video along with Israel, news radio Cadena Ser said.

It "threatens NATO and US troops with attacks against their interests inside and outside of Afghan territory if they do not withdraw from Afghanistan," the radio said.

Cadena Ser said the video was distributed on 14 November, five days after two Spanish soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack on their convoy in western Afghanistan.

In the opening minutes of the video, posted on the radio station's website, the flags of the six threatened nations and that of the United Nations are suddenly engulfed in flames and then replaced by a solitary Islamic flag.

A man who is thought to be a Taliban leader and surrounded by four armed men, is then shown speaking in Dari, a dialect of Persian widely spoken in Afghanistan. The faces of the five men are covered.

Spanish security forces have given "total credibility" to the video, which is believed to have been produced in northern Afghanistan and then broadcast on a jihadist television channel, the radio station said.

It was not clear when the video was recorded.


Source: Expatica (English)

Sweden: Interview with Lars Vilks

The Musical "Dogs" of Swedish artists Lars Vilks premiered this past week in Sweden. See also here: Swedish artist's Muhammad musical courts new controversy.

Tundra Tabloids published on his blog an exclusive interview with Vilks where the artist talks about his Mohammed cartoons, art and censorship.

See also: Oslo: Gallery refuses to exhibit Muhammad caricatures, Sweden: Muhammad protest in Uppsala, Sweden: 'Mohammad crisis' update

Norway: Imam tries to recruit refugee for suicide attack

Spokesperson Martin Bernsen of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) confirms to Dagbladet that the security police is aware with what he describes as special religious activity at asylum shelters. PST has no evidence that the recruiting attempts succeeded.

Dagbladet got confirmation that there was an attempt to recruit an Afghan citizen who sought asylum in Norway by an Imam. The PST was informed of the recruiting attempt in the summer.

The asylum seeker told a Norwegian citizen of the recruiting attempt. A short time later the Norwegian citizen contacted the PST and informed them of the imam's recruiting attempt.

"The asylum seeker said that an imam from Oslo attempted to talk about Jihad - holy war. He wanted to recruit the asylum seeker so that he would go back to Afghanistan. There he would participate in a suicide attack and blow himself up," says Dagbladet's source.

The Afghan, who first left Norway voluntarily - after his asylum request was rejected - was later sent back to Norway by the Italian authorities after he was arrested in Italy.

It was impossible to confirm yesterday at which shelter the recruiting attempt was.

The asylum seeker in question declared that he was in the prayer room at the asylum shelter when he was contacted.

"The asylum seeker pretended that he would be willing to go back to Afghanistan and participate in a suicide attack. At the same time he made a condition that the imam will also come along," says Dagbladet's source.

The imam excused himself saying he was busy in Oslo, says the man who warned the PST about the recruitment attempt.

The PST was warned about the recruiting attempt in the summer. Nobody was yet arrested in the case.

Spokesperson Martin Bernsen of the PST confirmed yesterday to Dagbladet that recruitment of suicide bombers isn't an unknown problem for for the terrorist hunters in the security police.

"We are aware that various forms of religious activity is taking place at the asylum shelters and that several imams visit asylum seekers," says Bernsen.

At the same time he stresses that even if several imams go to asylum shelters, that doesn't mean necessarily that they do anything illegal.

"If anybody will be incited to violence and terror it's naturally something we are very interested in," says Bernsen.

Dagbladet got confirmation that the PST has information of other recruitment attempts among asylum seekers in Norway. The PST got information from different communities about similar attempts to recruit asylum seekers to Jihad - holy war.

It was emphasized to Dagbladet that the PST doesn't have information that people who sought asylum in Norway - after their request was rejected - had taken part in suicide attacks and blew themselves up in Afghanistan.

At the same time it was it was specified that it can't be ruled out that former asylum seekers in Norway blew themselves up during attacks against allied soldiers in Afghanistan.

In the fall of 2006 Dagbladet revealed that at least three Norwegian citizens of ethnic Pakistani background - had been at training camps of the militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba — later known by the name Jamaat ud Dawa.

An Islamist organization with direct ties to the terrorist network al-Qaeda. One of the Norwegian participants had later described to Dagbladet his stay at Lashkar-e-Taiba as a combination of a religious and militant training camp.

The Afghan for whom there was a recruitment attempt at the asylum shelter, said that the imam first made contact when no outsider could hear what they spoke about.

The language used during the recruitment attempt was not Norwegian.

"We are very interested in making contact with people who know more or have information about attempts to recruit suicide bombers in Norwegian asylum shelters," says spokesperson Martin Bernsen of the PST.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian), h/t Mitt Sverige

Netherlands: Politician rejects exchanging Christian for Muslim holidays

State Secretary of Social Affairs Aboutaleb thinks it's 'absurd' to propose that Easter Monday and Pentecost Monday will be exchanged for a Muslim holiday.

"The Netherlands is a country with a Christian tradition."  Such days have been achieved and you must not touch them, said Aboutaleb in Rotterdam Saturday.  The politician, who is of Muslim background, spoke on the second and last day of the SGP (Reformed Political Party) youth congress.

The politician does support introducing an Islamic holiday, but then it should be an extra free day for everybody.  He says that is not strange.  He points to the United States, where a holiday for Jews shuts down all public life.

Aboutaleb thinks it's really not sensible to put the introduction of an Islamic holiday on the agenda at this moment, seeing the unrest of society currently about integration of foreigners.  "We are currently in a transition phase, a changeover phase.  When that is over, we could discuss it."

The politician thinks that citizens in this country should think in religions, but in people.  "Thus we don't speak about Islam, but about Muslims."  Further he advises the SGP youth not to judge Muslims based on the extremist deeds of some.  "That is just as idiotic as saying that all Christians are bad on the basis of extremist deeds of some Christians who kill abortion doctors."

Aboutaleb, who will start work as mayor of Rotterdam on January 1, appreciates that the government treats all religions equally.  He would emigrate if article 1 of the constitution, which guarantees equal treatment of all citizens by the government, would disappear.  "If a Muslim doesn't serve a Jew at the counter, then we have a problem.  If you won't help me as a Muslim, too," the politician impressed the SGP youth.

Source: Reformatorisch Dagblad (Dutch)

Malmö: Youth protest mosque eviction

The real estate company chose not to renew the mosque's contract. The local municipality doesn't think the mosque activities fit in and wants to use the place to teach refugees about living in an apartment in Sweden. (Sydsvenskan)


About 30 youth stayed in the mosque on Ramles way in Rosengård, despite the fact that the association which runs the mosque was to be evicted today.

"We youth are doing this for ourselves and for all of Rosengård."

The Islamic Cultural Association has been in this place in Rosengård for 16 years. And the youth have been here for just as long.

"This was like a youth center for us. We played ping pong and studied homework here. We the older take care of the younger. It worked well and we have respect among the kids," says Mohammed Khalid, who is one of those who are now protesting by staying in the place.

But now the eviction will take place and hundred of Rosengård youth will lose their place of meeting. Despite the fact that the rent always came o time, real estate company Contentus evicted the association that used the place. But a new place wasn't offered.

"No to discrimination, we will have our rights."
"No to eviction without cause. Yes to cooperation."

It's not the place itself which is important, even if Mohammad Khalid will miss it. "Obviously it hurts. I've been here since I was a kid," he says. It's the activity which the youth themselves built up for several years and which according to Mohammad Khalid prevented many youth from ending up badly. "We have done much here. why not just continue to build on it. They seem to ignore everything we built up.

Mohammad Khalid says he often talks with the kids who come to the place, some not older than 8 or 9.

"If somebody starts hanging around with the wrong gang or thinks it's fun to throw stones at the police or so, we spoke with them. That it isn't good, that it's bad for them and we have respect," he says.

He brings as an example that the windows of a nearby school are often smashed by stone throwing. "The windows of the mosque are never smashed. Nobody will ever do that," he says.

Source: KVP (Swedish)

See also: Malmö: Muslims evicted from basement mosque

Belgium: Threat or joke?

Belgian broadcasters VRT and TRM, as well as independent news site Indymedia, received a DVD terrorist threat. More on the DVD here.

Belgian authorities have decided in the meantime not to change the threat level, which is currently at its lowest.

What can we learn from the DVD? Here's my pop-analysis:

1. The text uses Flemish regional slang which means the creators probably live in Belgium.

2. The only words in Arabic are those which appear at the beginning and end of the clip. They are written in the Roman alphabet, which shows that the creators know it from spoken language, but can't necessarily write them. However, the Dutch text is clear and concise, which shows the creators are not thinking in Arabic.

3. The film is subtitled and not spoken, my guess is that this is so as not to give any clue to the accent or age of the speaker. It is not improbable that the video itself was taken off a Jihadi website and is not that of the creators themselves.

4. The film does not mention the Koran or quote from it and therefore I would guess the creators don't know enough about it, or don't care enough to base their terrorist threats on it. Yet, I think the phrase 'caravan of victory' points to knowledge of Islam.

5. The text itself seems threatening to me. It does not look like something written by bored kids. It mentions all the basic points, seeing the people as an accomplice to the government and responsible for its actions, mentioning Western decadence, yet not going overboard with it. It is clear and to the point. As far as I can see, it is very similar to other threatening videos, but does not contain the same imagery. In other words, it was written by somebody who thought of the essence and not of the additional Arabic sounding themes.

Is there a real threat here? Even if the DVD is 'real', it does not necessarily follow that whoever prepared it can make true on their threats.

I suppose we'll know soon enough whether it was a joke or not. I'm guessing it's not a joke, but that the creators aren't 'real' Jihadis. What do you think?

Belgium: Broadcasters receive video terror threat

Update: Dutch TV show Netwerk also got the same DVD. According to analysis, the video itself seems to have been montaged together from an existing clip. The Belgian Muslim community condemns the video and says it casts a stain on the Muslims in Belgium.

Source: GvA (Dutch)


Video and translation below.


Muslim terrorists are threatening Belgium with 'chaos, bloodshed and atrocious attacks' in a DVD they sent to various news editors. The police is checking if this is more than a sick joke.

In total three DVDs were sent to the editors of broadcasters VRT and VTM and to the alternative news site Indymedia. The DVDs show three masked men against a background of a sheet with Muslim writing.

One of the men sits down and recites a four minute long unintelligible text which is drown out by Islamic war-songs.

Two armed men stand in the background: one holding an AK-47 Kalashnikov machine gun, the other is a living bomb with explosives around his waist and on his chest.

The Dutch subtitles, which is written decent but not error-free Dutch and with knowledge of Islam, is a complaint against the Belgian military presence in Afghanistan and in particular of the F-16s which were recently sent over there by the minister of defense, Pieter De Crem. The minister announced at the beginning of the month that yet more soldiers will be sent to the north of Afghanistan in January.

The DVDs reputedly arrived last Thursday to VRT, VTM and Indymedia but were revealed only today.

They were in an envelope with the sender marked the Arabic broadcaster Al-Jazeera with an address in the Brussels Louizalaan. But Al-Jazeera do not have an office there, and at the address in question there was no clue to the sender.

The federal police picked up the videos from the editors of VTM and VRT yesterday afternoon. The people of Indymedia delivered their DVD themselves to the Schaarbeek local police.

The federal police made a first analysis of the DVDs already yesterday. Today there will be further voice and lab analyses. After the first analyses, OCAD (the organ for coordinating threats) decided yesterday that there is currently no reason to raise the threat level, which is currently at the lowest level, level 1. In comparison, during the Christmas alarm last year the terror threat was 4. The threat level will be analyzed again today.

The detectives are taking the DVDs very seriously but naturally have not ruled out that this is a sick joke. It is possible that the jokers took an existing film from the internet and made up the Dutch text themselves. But even than it's clear the perpetrators didn't just write whatever.

"It is the first time that we find such films in our country,' says Jaak Raes of the government crisis center.

Jayshou Alkitaal [ed: army of war]

I take refuge with Allah against the cursed Satan. In the name of Allah the merciful, the compassionate the most merciful, all praise belongs to Allah.

Him we love and him we ask for help and forgiveness. Whoever is led by Allah knows no deception. And whoever he puts on the wrong track knows no guidance. I bear witness that there is no true God besides Allah alone.

And I bear witness that Mohammed is his servant and his messenger, peace be with him.

And with his family members and his companions, may Allah be satisfied with them. Till now Belgium kept aloof from the war that the neo-crusaders started against Islam.

We however understood that this situation has been changed by sending F16's and people to Afghanistan. This decision by the Belgian government is a clear signal and an expression of hostility towards Islam.

Therefore we respond with this message.

First, to the Belgian government: the mistake that you are making, concerns not only your government but every citizen in this small country. Or do you think you can shoot our brothers, children and women; while your women and children sit safely at home?

The honor of one Muslim is dearer to us than this whole country, with its residents, democracy together.

Your land will therefore dwell in chaos, bloodshed and atrocious attacks that could happen at any moment, in any place.

Second, to the Belgian population: You hide behind man-made laws, called democracy, to continue further with your bestial and shameful customs such as pedophilia, murder and adultery.

But there's another side to this coin, namely that you are also responsible for the deeds of your government. Don't forget that it will be YOUR blood that will flow, through a decision that your government took of its own interest.

Your only way out is the following:

Pressure the government to immediately withdraw the troops in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries.

Know that silence is approval of atrocities and that making your voice heard condemns evil. Learn from history and take care that Madrid, London and New York don't repeat themselves in Belgium.

Know that we have no pity on you and that we desire death just as you love this life.

A fighter on the path of Allah has just one goal: martyrdom.

Third, to our Muslim brothers and sisters: We advise you not to be bullied by the political game of the government and the media. Don't speak out of fear or despair, provided that these unbelievers declared war on Allah and the outcome of it is clear.

Victory belongs to Allah, to his messenger and to his believers. Trust Allah, be not afraid, join the caravan of victory.

Muslim brothers and sisters: avoid public and busy places and places of fornication.

Forget us not in your prayers.

Sources: De Standaard, GvA (Dutch)

See also: Transcript of Samir Azzouz's Statement

Gouda: Church firebombed

Four teenagers of Moroccan origin were arrested Saturday evening for setting fire to the Vaste Burcht Reformed church in Gouda.  A Molotov cocktail was thrown at the door of the church, according to the police.  The bottom part of the door and the doormat were damaged.

The four Gouda residents, three aged 14 and one aged 15, are suspected of arson.  The fire was reported at 5:45pm and the directions given by the reporter led to the residence of one of them, where three youth were arrested.  The 15 year old suspect was arrested later that evening.

Three of the suspects spent the night in jail.  They will appear in court Tuesday.  A 14 year old was released after interrogation since there was no evidence of his involvement.  The police is continuing with the investigation.

A spokesperson of the church said that there are often fights there but this is the first time a Molotov cocktail was thrown at them.  The administrator of the church said that they had windows broken in in the past which they put down to street youth.

The parishioners were informed of the events and were told that the police and mayor are taking the case seriously.

Sources: TrouwTelegraaf, AD (Dutch)

Is Europe Trying to Build a Fundamentalist Islam?

People with a Muslim background living in Europe are often reduced to their religious identity by the authorities in their countries. "Muslims" are seen as a problem group. But many immigrants do not identify themselves by religion. The American historian Philip Jenkins says that this religious identification by the authorities has highly damaging consequences

Treating all European Muslims under the single inflexible label of "Islam" encourages a sense of supranational religious identity that runs flat contrary to goals of assimilation, writes Jenkins | Most Europeans recognize that the arrival of immigrant communities over the past few decades will change their societies, although they disagree just how radical those changes will have to be. Usually, the debate lies between those who want to accommodate Islam, and those who try to limit its impact.

At one extreme, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, attracted national fury in Britain when he declared that the establishment of a parallel Sharia law system in that country was "unavoidable".

But a more basic issue is at stake: when European governments try to respond to a "Muslim problem", are they actually making communities much more solidly Muslim? Do they not realize that in practice, they are helping create a monolithic Islam?

Of course, Europe has a large population drawn from traditionally Muslim societies, probably some 24 million people in the lands west of the Russian frontier, or 4.6 percent of the whole. But we have no idea how many of those regard themselves primarily as Muslim by faith and culture.

In all societies, people have multiple identities from which to choose, and religion may or may not occupy a primary place. Class, culture, nationality, region, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and age can all present rival loyalties.

Just because many Germans or Italians describe themselves as Christian does not mean that this religious identity trumps all others, and we cannot make the same assumption about Muslims.


Source: Quantara (English)

Marseille: Mosque shut down

One of the oldest mosques in Marseilles was closed down due to structural problems, Salah Bariki of the Marseilles municipality announced last week.

The building, opened in 1976 and located on Camille Pelletan avenue in the center of Marseilles, is well known in the Muslim community, which is estimated to have about 200,000 members.  Managed by the Errahmania religious association the mosque can hold about 500 or 600 people.

The building was ordered shut down in July 2002, but after the roof collapsed the mayor ordered to shut it down immediately due to the imminent danger, according to Bariki.

Source: Le Figaro (French)

Germany: Wary of Islamic banking

Despite a huge potential client base, Germany has proven reluctant to adapt its legal and tax systems to attract Islamic finance, which has enjoyed stellar success in Britain.

However Islamic investment funds based abroad are beginning to make considerable inroads into the property market of Europe's biggest economy.

What sets Islamic finance apart from other banking systems is that no interest is collected on loans, as this is seen as usury, a practice banned in Islamic law, and speculation.

The risks and rewards are shared between the bank and the client and debt levels are carefully monitored.

In recent years, Islamic finance has grown exponentially in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Britain. Global assets held by Islamic banking institutions stood at nearly $500 billion in 2008, compared to $260 billion in 2004, according to management consultancy firm Booz and Company.

With some 3.5 million Muslims, mainly of Turkish origin, Germany offers enormous potential demand for banks providing retail Islamic financing, said Zaid el-Mogaddedi, president of the Institute for Islamic Banking and Finance in Frankfurt.

"But the German legal and financial system is not yet geared towards the development of Islamic finance. Politicians are very wary," El-Mogaddedi said.

For their part, German banks have been quick to offer products that conform to Islamic Sharia law. But only outside Germany.

Deutsche Bank has been issuing "Sukuks" (bonds without interest payments) in cooperation with Saudi Arabian banks since 2005.

Dresdner Kleinwort, a subsidiary of Dresdner Bank, co-organised a similar issuance of one billion dollars in Bahrain in 2007, said Simon Grieser, company lawyer at Mayer Brown in Frankfurt.

However, the collapse of Commerzbank's Al-Sukoor equity fund is a less heartening example. When it was wound up after five years, it had tapped a mere €4 million ($5 million), a long way from the amount it needed to make a profit.

"Unlike in Britain, not many rich families from the Gulf have settled in Germany and the Turkish community puts its money in savings banks like everyone else," said Volker Nienhaus, president of Philipps University in Marburg and a researcher of Islamic finance.

On the other hand, Islamic investors are beginning to move into the German property market, if only tentatively.


German officials are wary of Islamic finance because certain funds are said to be shaky and sometimes lacking in transparency.

An internal Deutsche Bank survey in 2007 showed that "the Islamic money market is based mainly on commodity trading by brokers who are not very reliable in certain cases."

The survey also warned there concerns about a potential liquidity crisis surrounding Islamic banking.


Source: The Local (English)

Sweden: Proposal for 'Swedish contract'

Those immigrating to Sweden should sign a contract to testify that they are familiar with Swedish laws, rules and values. If the contract is not met then their benefits should be reviewed, the Moderate party has proposed.

A working committee from within the Moderate has developed the proposal and the party will consider the idea at its future convention, reports Sveriges Radio's Ekot news program.

"It is important that when people from different cultures congregate in the same country, that we are very clear over how things are done in Sweden," said Moderate party secretary Per Schlingmann to Ekot.

"The purpose is ensure that we pass on core Swedish values about equality and so on."


Source: The Local (English)

Netherlands: Freedom of religion should be given to orthodox Muslims

Dutch politics and society should also give orthodox Muslims space to practice their faith and by that show that freedom of religion is high on the agenda, said chairman Ahmed Marcouch of the Amsterdam neighborhood of Slotervaart in a Dutch Labor Party meeting in Utrecht Saturdya.

According to Marcouch, freedom of religion in modern society is always demonstrated in connection with the orthodox believer. They are strange.  They are troublesome.  But the freedom should be demonstrated exactly there.  In principal social should tolerate orthodox believer as well as possible.

The politician said that Dutch "Islam-politics" should consist of fighting extremist violence.  According to him that is 'a plague'.  Politics and society must unequivocally express their support for the emancipation of women and gays.

Marcouch said that politicians who are afraid of the Islamization of the Netherlands are seeing it wrong.

In reality the reverse is taking place before our eyes.  We are all witnessing the Dutchification of Islam, he said.  He also agreed with former minister of integration Ella Vogelaar when she said that Islam would be part of Dutch traditions.  He said she expressed herself too carefully.  Islam is already a Dutch religion.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Belgium: French intelligence specialist talks about the threat of radical Islam

I don't usually repost my own articles, but this is the first time I've posted a video and since then I've learned how to add subtitles.

Eric Denécé heads the Centre français de recherche sur le renseignement (French Center for Intelligence Research) and is editor of the magazine Renseignement et opérations spéciales (intelligence and special operations).

He was interviewed by Belgian broadcaster VRT on occasion of an intelligence agency conference in Brussels. In the interview he spoke quite openly about the threat of Islamic radicalism.

I upload the movie to YouTube a couple of days ago, together with a written translation, but since then I've been toying with ways to add the subtitles into the clip. I first tried using YouTube's own subtitles tool, but not everybody is aware that the subtitles exist. Therefore I integrated the subtitles and uploaded again.

Denmark: US ambassador and mosque visits

James Cain was interviewed on the Danish TV show Deadline recently and expressed his views on how Denmark should deal with the Muslim minority. He doesn't want to get involved in Danish internal politics, but his suggestion to Danish leaders: go visit a mosque.


The American ambassador to Denmark, James Cain, aplauded Jan Boye, Odense's mayor, for visiting the city's mosque. The mayor had visited the mosque about a month ago, and had now lost the support of the Danish People's Party on the city's council.

According to newspaper BT, the ambassdor is surprised that the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, never visited a mosque. The ambassador thinks it can be of great positive significance if the country's most powerful people meet the minorities.

Odense's deputy mayor, Alex Ahrendtsen, of the Danish People's Party says that it's good taht the ambassador is going home to the USA.

Imran Khan, spokesperson for the Islamic Faith Society in Denmark (IFS) says that Rasmussen promised already in 2005 to visit a mosque, as soon as he had time. But three years later, he still hadn't answered the invitation from the IFS.

She says they would love to have the prime minister for a visit and would love to send him an invitation, if that's what's missing. They would like to see Rasmussen come and meet with them, just like he meets other groups in the country and they are part of Denmark so it will be natural. In this way they can actively participate in the democratic debate and like all other citizens try to affect the decisions with their points of view.

In September 2005 Rasmussen conducted "dialog-meetings" at Marienborg with several prominent Muslims, and told them that he would like to visit a mosque 'as soon as the calendar allows it'. The high profile meetings at the official prime minister's residence was meant to prevent radicalization of Danish Muslims, but three years later Rasmussen has yet to visit a mosque.

Though James P. Cain stressed he needed to be indirect in his call to Rasmussen, he emphasized the value of having a state leader meet the minorities in this way and show that "Islam isn't our enemy". Two days after the World Trade Center's twin towers were destoryed by planes hijacked by al-Qaeda, US president George W. Bush went to a mosque.

The colorful ambassador, who would soon leave Denmark as the US elected a new president, had worked hard to meet young Muslims and other minority groups in Denmark since he came to the country in 2005. He himself went to a mosque and played basktball with young disaffected Muslims.

Sources: DR, Kristeligt-dagblad (Danish)

Eid: Lack of sheep, slaughterhouses

In Marseille Muslims are concerned about lack of slaughterhouses, in Belgium about lack of sheep.


Thousands of Muslims in Marseille are left without a place for the ritual slaughter of Eid ul-Adha, which is on Dec. 7 or 8 this year, following a decision by the mayor not to put at their disposal the Saint-Louis slaughterhouses, used for more than 20 years.

More than 20,000 people frequented this place in 2007 and 5,000 animals passed through, according to the Marseille meat sellers committee (CCM)

According to the Marseille mayor, a security commission which stopped by at the end of the summer declared the place  unsanitary, resulting in his decision.

Several meetings in the capital with the health services, mayor, CCM and regional Muslim council ended Wednesday with a memorandum of understanding for a temporary solutions for this year, but the veterinary services have yet to agree, according to the prefecture.

The solution consists of installing a tent in the area next to the Saint-Louis slaughterhouses where the sellers will transfer the slaughter lines.  The mayor undertook to level out the terrain and to address the logistics and cleaning out of the premises.

Nassera Benmarnia, head of the Union of Muslim Families, said that they are now three weeks away from the holiday and some families still don't know where to go.  It's a shame.  They started to progress, the consumers started to find a place and now they'll go back to killing sheep in the bathtub.  She wants a lasting solution for the 250,000 Muslims in Marseille, making up a quarter of the population.

She deplored the decision by the mayor made without announcing an alternative solution, and says that the Muslim citizens and consumers are taken hostage.

Martine Vassal, deputy mayor, said that they want, like other cities, to enable Muslims to slaughter with European standards.


Belgium is threatened with a shortage of sheep for the Islamic Eid ul-Adha at the beginning of December.  This is due to the bluetongue virus currently running rampant in the Netherlands and Germany. Many Belgian farmers have sheep meant for Eid ul-Adha stranded in Germany and the Netherlands, according to various Belgian media on Tuesday.

Because of the bluetongue virus in Belgium and German, no animals may currently be transported within a radius of 50 km of the contaminated area.

Sheep from areas outside of the contaminated zones may only be transported to recognized slaughterhouses and not to temporary slaughterhouses, such as those set up in Belgium for the holiday.

Sources: La Croix (French), h/t François Desouche; AD (Dutch)

Finland: Ministry struggling with influx of refugees

A similar situation currently exists in Norway and Sweden.


The Interior Ministry is boosting funding to cope with a projected rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers. It has reserved about 14 million euros in extra funding for municipal costs and reception centre maintenance.

The ministry has revised upward its estimate of how many refugees and asylum seekers will be placed in municipalities as of the end of this year. It now expects more than 2,000 refugees, which exceeds the previous estimate by over 700. Meanwhile the estimated number of asylum seekers has been increased by 1,000.

More funds are particularly needed because of a larger-than-expected number of underage asylum seekers. Ministry officials expect that 500 will arrive this year. Last month alone, 144 underage asylum seekers arrived in Finland.

Authorities have had to hastily arrange places for children and youth, usually in already-full group homes.

Reception centres run by the state and municipalities are also nearly full, despite expanded capacity. At the Joutseno centre in eastern Finland, 250 new beds have been quickly added for a total of 400, while the Oulu centre has been nearly doubled to hold 190 people.

With the latest funding increase, the state is spending more than 80 million euros this year to place refugees and asylum seekers.

Source: YLE (English)

Netherlands: Schools should be more alert to honor violence

Schools must be more alert to honor-murder.  Offenses based on honor-violence happen more often than realized.  Intervening in time can prevent victims, according to a study by research agency Sardes for the Ministry of Integration.  The results were published Thursday in the conference "Honor related violence in and around the school" (Eergerelateerd geweld in en om de school).

Sardes studied 40 middle-schools and regional educational centers (ROCs) all over the Netherlands.  Twenty four of these had dealt with honor-related violence in previous years.  Students were threatened or even murdered by family members because they had blemished the family honor.  Sometimes the perpetrators sat in class.  Most victims were girls of Turkish or Moroccan origins who had lived too loosely, according to their families.

Schools often don't know how they must arm their students against these types of family violence, claims research agency Sardes.  Teachers prefer not to get 'burned' in class.  They're already busy enough with paying attention to the other social problems like alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and loverboys.

The problem happens particularity in ROCs with a 'colored' student population.  Almost all 14 ROCs surveyed dealt with honor-related violence.  In middle-schools with many immigrant students there is less honor-violence.

The large majority of schools don't have a specific policy in this area.  Barely two ROCs in Rotterdam and Twente have a program to inform students about honor-violence and which helps them to note violence and seek help.

The researchers ask that schools in risk would appoint somebody that can seek help if students have to deal with honor-violence.  "But the solution must not be sought exclusively in the schools," according to the report.  Working together with social workers, police and the courts is crucial.

Earlier this year the cabinet set aside 18 million euro extra to help victims of honor-murder, domestic violence and human trade.  This amount will go up to 32 million in 2012.

The umbrella organizations for ROCs and middle-schools, the MBO and VO councils, think that schools are tasked with noting violence and referring students.

Source: ND (Dutch)

Brussels: Allah Ackbar

The following video was taken in a protest of illegal immigrants in Brussels. The protesters are shouting 'free our friends (comrades)' and then 'allah ackbar'.

In the past few days the Brussels suburb of Elsene (Ixelles), has been the focus of illegal immigrant protests. About 200 illegal immigrants were chased out of an Electrabel building in the city. The immigrants then took over an INSAS college building, not far from it. One hundred managed to break into the building, while police held the 100 others off. The immigrants spent the night in a ULB university sports hall.

Sources: HLN (Dutch), h/t François Desouche

France: Interview with a security service agent


I've uploaded the clip again, this time with integrated subtitles.


The interviewee is Eric Denécé, who heads the Centre français de recherche sur le renseignement (French Center for Intelligence Research) and is editor of the magazine Renseignement et opérations spéciales (intelligence and special operations).


Belgian TV station VRT interviewed a top French security service agent about the threat of terrorism and radical Islam. The clip is in French with Dutch subtitles.
The interview starts at about 00:30 into the clip. I've added English subtitles, available by clicking on the bottom right side arrow.

There is still always very present in Europe a serious terrorist threat. This threat has not diminished because Bin Laden and al-Qaeda lost power, the threat just evolved.
There are two types of threats at the moment. One comes from the countries of North Africa, particularly Algeria. The other comes from our own European suburbs where the radical fundamentalist groups are active and are ready to act against the West.

Many radicals, who are not necessarily terrorists, are convinced that they can change French society from the inside. For them attacks would thwart this strategy because it would create a rejection phenomena against them. Compare for example with the Netherlands where Theo van Gogh was murdered. There there was an immediate harsh response because the Dutch authorities felt their society was threatened.

In France we have a long history of living together with people from North African countries. We think it's normal that we have a considerable concentration of Muslims in France and anyhow we are a secular (laïcité) state. Therefore any attack would call that model into question. Many radicals in France prevent the terrorists from acting because they expect in the coming years to win local elections. Therefore they say: spare us your terrorist attacks.

What most struck us in the suburbs and municipalities in France but also in private companies is the rise of this sectarian type of society representing radical Islamism or several individuals who pretend to follow Islam but that has nothing to do with the doctrine of the prophet. They systematically look for ways to impose their new rules of the game, such as in companies where they continuously ask for prayer areas, continuously ask that women can be veiled, ask for Muslim holidays instead of the holidays on the regular calendar. Or demand that alcohol won't be served anymore in the company cafeteria, that pork won't be on the menu anymore. So little by little through actions of that type they perform a repeating undermining action. But it can also go further, for example by installing a real parallel network system. Some even control recruitment in some companies and even the company’s computer networks. There is thus sometimes a real threat.

In France there are three important economic sectors influenced by the increase of radical Islam. The first is large-scale distribution: all the big chains like Carrefour, Auchan etc. They put many youth to work who are not educated and who come from the suburbs and who are sensitive to the influence of radical Islam that is well represented there. The second sector is that of guarding and surveillance. Also here many youth find work as guards in large-scale distribution etc. Also again youth who didn't get much education, as is the case for many immigrant youth. The third sector is that of transport of all kinds. There you see a similar phenomenon. These are the three sectors which are most threatened.

Unfortunately in France you also see in administration, in hospitals, in the police, in prisons, where radical Muslims are very much present who try to impose their system of standards and values: that of a radical Islam which is exclusive and completely intolerant. The first victims are the normal Muslims, the common French citizens who suffer under this fascism of ideological radicals.

Source: VRT (French/Dutch)

Denmark: Terror suspect acquitted

Intelligence agency PET's methods are being scrutinised after an acquittal on Tuesday - the fifth in the nation's four biggest terror cases

A third man who was part of the much-publicised Glasvej terror case was found not guilty on Tuesday by a district court in Glostrup.

The 23-year-old SÜ had been charged with planning the kidnapping of Danish soldiers abroad, who were then to be used as bargaining chips for the release of his two friends. The friends had been previously convicted in the Glasvej case for planning a terror action in Denmark.

SÜ had allegedly chatted on the internet with a since-convicted Al-Qaeda member about taking the hostages, but prosecutors failed to prove the young man's plans were anything more than talk.

But SÜ's release has put intelligence agency PET under the microscope, as he is the fifth person to be cleared of charges in Denmark's four big terror trials over the past three years.

Lars Lindhard, chairman of the Danish Bar and Law Society, said that in some cases PET has been too eager dub an action 'terrorism'.

'PET needs to be more down-to-earth in these cases,' he said. 'These trials have shown that the agency isn't above the legal system and won't be favouritised by the courts.'

Lindhard said PET should be 'very certain' that charges against suspects will stick before sending a case to the courts.

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Russia: Newsweek warned not to incite ethnic, religious enmity

The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has warned the Russian Newsweek magazine that publishing stories instigating ethnic and religious hatred is illegal and unacceptable.

The warning was issued to the editor-in-chief following an inquiry conducted by the prosecutor's office of Moscow's North-Еastern District, the Moscow Prosecutor's Office said.

"Issue 40 of September 29 to October 5 2008 carried two stories entitled "He Who Comes with the Mosque" (a play on the phrase "He who comes to Russia with the sword will perish by the sword" and "Mosque Carriers," in which Muslims and Christians are in opposition," the prosecutor's office said.

"The articles in question have captions satirizing the Prophet Muhammad, taken, among other photos, from the Danish newspaper Jullands-Posten, which provoked mass ethnic and religious disturbances in Europe back in 2005. The way the information was presented, as well as the illustrations and photographs attached, can sound insulting and humiliating for social groups professing Islam, shape a negative image of Muslims, and picture the Muslim and Christian cultures as opposed to one another," the prosecutors said.

Source: interfax (English), h/t Islam In Action

Denmark: Proposal to ban child circumcision

Several parliamentary parties are considering creating legislation that would spare all children from circumcision - not just girls

A proposal to ban circumcision for boys may be on its way to parliament after intense discussions by MPs over the past week, reports Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper.

Although circumcision of girls was outlawed in response to the practice being common among immigrants from some Muslim countries, boys may still be circumcised if a certified physician is present.

Jewish traditions calls for the circumcision of newborn boys, and many Muslims and Christians support the practice as well. But both the Ethics Council and the National Council for Children have recently criticised the practice, stating that a boy should be able to decide for himself if he wants the procedure performed when he reaches the age of 15 - the legal age in Denmark for a child to have sole jurisdiction over his own body.

While the Social Democrats, Red-Green Alliance and Liberal Alliance have come out in support of a ban, the Danish People's Party called it 'tyranny'.

'It's completely ridiculous to compare the circumcision of girls - which is a barbaric mutilation - with that of boys, where it's just the removal of a skin flap,' said the party's Jesper Langballe.

But the party's own health spokeswoman, Liselott Brixt, said she supports a ban.

'A lot of parents want it done to their children because they themselves had it done. But we're living in the present and it isn't fair to expose healthy children to religious circumcision.'


Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

Europe: Attitudes towards Muslims

The German Marshall Fund published a joint American-European survey on immigration. The survey checked how different nations view nationality and immigration.

The study and all the data are available in various languages on the Transatlantic Trends site.

The following are the study conclusions regarding Muslims.

Views about Muslim culture are nuanced in all countries

Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the following two statements: “Muslim immigrants have a lot to offer your country’s culture,” and “Western European (or American) and Muslim ways of life are irreconcilable.”

click to enlarge

Examining the answers to both questions, a nuanced perception of Muslim immigrants emerges. Overall, majorities of American and French respondents were the most optimistic about the cultural influence of Muslim immigrants and the reconcilability of Western and Muslim ways of life. A majority (52%) in the United Kingdom also thought that Muslims have a lot to offer British culture.

German, Dutch, and Italian responses were some of the most complex; in each of those countries, it was not uncommon for a respondent to a) agree that Muslims have a lot to
offer their culture, but b) indicate that their ways of life are irreconcilable.

Americans and Europeans agree that Muslim immigrants want to integrate

A strong majority of Americans (60%) and a plurality of Europeans (47%) agreed that Muslims coming to their countries want to integrate. However, Europeans were aware that integration has not been easy, especially for young, often second-generation Muslims. Forty-nine percent of Europeans thought that Muslim youth are frustrated by their economic situation. The strongest examples of this view were in France (64%) and Germany (60%).

Social contact with immigrants affects attitudes towards Muslims

In all countries surveyed, except Poland (see Country Profile box), a majority of respondents had friends or colleagues who came from other countries. Depending on the frequency of their social contacts with immigrants, people entertained different views regarding the compatibility of Muslim and Western cultures. On both sides of the Atlantic, those who have several friends who come from other countries tended to be more optimistic about the reconcilability
of cultures.

click to enlarge

Brussels: A Muslim neighborhood

Every time the adhan is raised in Molenbeek, the Muslim call to prayer echoes 20 times in the Belgian capital's western neighborhood.

That's because the district is home to 21 mosques, rightfully earning it the reputation of Brussels' Islamic center.

At the heart of Molenbeek, lies Al-Khalil, the biggest mosque in all Belgium.

"The building was originally a factory and the Muslim community came together to turn it into a mosque in 1985," Abdel-Karim Al-Kebdani, the mosque director, told

The mosque, which accommodates up to 1,000 worshippers every week at the Friday prayer, also serves as a cultural and social center.


In the immigrant-dominant neighborhood, where Muslims constitute two thirds of the 83,000 population, it is hardly possible to come across a blue-eyed or blonde haired person.

Walking down Molenbeek streets, one cannot mistake the Islamic aura and spirit coloring the neighborhood.

Young women in colorful hijab and young men sporting beards are the common face.

Conversations and chatting flip between French and Arabic.

The cafes of Molenbeek offer the famous Arabic tea instead of alcohol.

The sound of recitation of the Noble Qur'an resonates from the shops dotting the neighborhood with signs bearing distinctive Arabic names.

"My neighbors got used to listen to Qur'an every Friday," the owner of an Islamic bookstore told IOL.

A secondary Islamic school named after renowned Islamic philosopher and physician Avicenna was opened this year.

Kebdani, Al-Khalil mosque's director, believes that Molenbeek stands as the perfect symbol of tolerance in Belgium, which became in 1974 the first European country to recognize Islam.

"Our neighborhood perfectly reflects the diversity and tolerance of the Belgian society."

Source: Islam Online (English)

See also: Brussels: Less and less women on the street, Book Review: Undercover in Little Morocco, The Middle East in the heart of Brussels

Södertälje:Immigrant infighting

Muslims and newly arrived refugees in Södertälje, just south of Stockholm, are being subjected to harassment and hate crimes, according to police.

The attacks have been concentrated in the town's Hovsjö district and police believe that youth gangs comprised of members with different immigrant backgrounds are responsible.

In the past year, Södertälje has gained international recognition for the large number of Iraqi refugees who have settled in the city, resulting in the town being dubbed "Little Baghdad".

Hovsjö is known as a multiethnic neighbourhood with a high concentration of residents with non-Swedish backgrounds.

"They don't realize the terror they are spreading to the families. What we used to call mischief when we were younger has crossed over to pure hate crimes," said the police's Thomas Mattisson to the Länstidningen newspaper in Södertälje.

The newspaper described several cases reported to police, including that of a 5-year-old who was attacked by a gang of young people aged 8 to 17-years-old, and adults who poured urine into mail slots of apartments occupied by Muslims.

Authorities have long been aware that newly arrived Muslims have been targeted by groups of Christian immigrants, but more recently Iraqi Christians have also been the victims of hate crimes.


Source: The Local (English)

Netherlands: Immigrant women prefer giving birth in hospitals

Almost 75% of immigrant women in the Netherlands prefer to give birth in a hospital.  75% of Dutch women prefer giving birth at home.  Research agency TNO came to these conclusions after analyzing 1.4 million births over eight years.  

According to TNO There are big difference between the different ethnic groups.  Among Turks and Moroccan women, a third prefer giving birth at home, among Surinamese and Antillean women about a quarter prefer this option.  For a third of Dutch women the actual birth happens at home, compared to one in eight among Turkish and Moroccan women and one in twelve among Surinamese and Antillean women.

TNO suspects that immigrant women are not well informed about the Dutch care system and the possibilities it offers.  A former study of the agency showed that immigrants get little maternity care, because they don't know what it's for.  "That a midwife has the knowledge and experience to independently attend to a birth is often unknown."  In the land of origin of immigrant women is is often unusual to give birth at home, or it's a sign of poverty, says TNO.

According to TNO it is important that not only Dutch, but also immigrant women be informed when choosing the place of birth.  Researcher Dineke Korfker wants to know whether immigrant women choose to give birth in hospitals based on complete and good information.  She says that if it appears that they're not informed enough of the options, more attention should be paid to guidance.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Netherlands: Youth want more support to practice Islam

Muslim youth think that they don't get enough support to develop their faith in the Netherlands.  They think that society often doesn't give room to 'their Islam' and that they must practice tricks in order to do what they want as Muslims.  For example, they must pray furtively during breaks in school or work.

This according to a study "Youth and their Islam" ('Jongeren en hun islam') by the Verwey-Jonker Institute published Thursday.  The youth do need counseling, such as coaching relating to difficult questions about Islam or insults.  They also want more accessible mosques (also for women), educational support and meditation areas in schools and companies.  Currently the Internet or friends, who also don't know everything, form the most important support

The place occupied by faith varies sharply among the study participants.  In general the youth think it's possible to be Muslim in the Netherlands, but that the Islam debate and the negative treatment give the feeling that aren't always accepted as full citizens.

In particular young Moroccan women who want to practice Islam more strictly and cover up more, experience life as a Muslim in the country as a relatively tough task.  Taking part in society comes more harder to them, they feel treated differently and misunderstood.  They also think that it's hard being themselves and take a gloomy view of their opportunities in the work market.

For that matter, the support should come not only from the regular organizations or from the mosque, according to the researchers.  Personal initiative is also of great importance.  The respondents warned of a victim-mentality.  Particularly young, practicing Muslims run the risk of ending up in a downward spiral, mostly caused by the negative attitude of society towards Islam.

The youth think that religion can't be an alibi to stay on the sidelines.  There will only be regulations regarding Islamic holidays, for example, if you start talks.  They also think that society should be better informed about Islam and the regular lives of Muslims.  They think that Islam should sounds themselves more and inform themselves better about society, participate and contribute to the bridging of the rift.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch), Study page (Dutch)

Europe: Morocco wants to renew interest in Islam among European Moroccans

Morocco's minister for Moroccans overseas, Mohammed Amer, on Monday visited Rome's Averroe cultural centre. He is on the Italian leg of a European tour aimed at bringing second generation Moroccan immigrants closer to their roots.

"I came here to strengthen ties with Moroccan communities overseas through cultural and religious orientation," Amer told a group of Moroccan women.

The Moroccan government is planning to open cultural centres in various European countries, including France, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium, as a part of a major push to renew interest in religion among Moroccans abroad, Amer told the women.

During his visit to Italy, Amer will visit several cities and meet members of the Moroccan community here, which numbers close to 400,000 people.

"We are investigating agreements with Italy on social security contributions for immigrants who wish to return to Morocco in the future," said Amer.

Source: AKI (English)

UK: North London Central Mosque voted 'Best Islamic Center'

After a nearly two-month competition based on audience nominations and views, North London Central Mosque won's audience's award for the Best Islamic Center in Europe.

"It is really good to hear that we have achieved something, thanks be to Allah," said Ahmed Saad, Imam of North London Central Mosque.

On September 15, IOL's European Muslims Page asked the audience to nominate their favorite Islamic centers to complete for the Best European Islamic Center.

The criteria for nomination included community-based services, educational and cultural programs, charitable projects as well as facilities, especially for women and youth.

For the next 45 days, a flood of e-mails and comments were received.

A tally for the nominations put the North London Central Mosque at the top, earning it the Best European Islamic Center Certificate.

The London Central Mosque and the East London Mosque come second and third respectively.

The three winners will be featured on IOL's European Muslims as a model for others.

Saad will be hosted later on Tuesday, November 12, in a Live Dialogue with IOL audience.

Representatives of the two other centers will also be invited to similar Live Dialogues in the coming days.

Community First  

The center offers a wide range of educational and cultural programs that cater to different sectors of the community.

Saad believes that his mosque won the top spot in the competition for setting an example in providing community-based services.

"We are catering for everyone, women, youth and elders," the Egyptian-born imam told IOL.

"People in general like simple and genuine activities, and this is what we tried to deliver."

Saad said a top priority for his mosque is the youth, adding that they are building a gym and youth club.

"Our youth have carried out programs that interest youth and bring them to the masjid."

The center, formerly known as the Finsbury Park Mosque, also offers a wide range of educational and cultural programs that cater to different sectors of the community.

"We are trying to cover sectors of the community who nobody else cares about, make the mosque an interesting place for them," says imam Saad.

"At the moment, we have got activities running in the mosque where Arabic, English, Somali, Kurdish, Albanian, Urdu and Bengali languages are spoken.


Source: Islam Online (English)

France: Court overrules annulled marriage

The Douai (Nord) court of appeals overruled today the decision by the Lille court from April 1st annulling a marriage because the wife lied about her virginity.  The court thereby 'remarried' both spouses, according to the husband's lawyer.

Source: Le Figaro (French)

See also: France: Marriage annulled since bride wasn't virgin

Germany: Professor features on WSJ

The Wall Street Journal published an article a couple of days ago titled "Professor Hired for Outreach to Muslims Delivers a Jolt - Islamic Theologian's Theory: It's Likely the Prophet Muhammad Never Existed".  The WSJ also has a translation of an article written by Professor Kalisch, in April, apparently.

This story hit the news in early September, when Muslim groups cut ties to the professor, who was in charge of writing up the Muslim education curriculum in German schools.  I've seen it reported on various news outlets since, but this story did not make a splash until a WSJ reporter decided to write about it.  Kalisch and his university are taking precautions, but nobody claims that there had been any real threats.

Btw, despite the Wall Street Journal reporting to the contrary, the address of Kalisch's center is still displayed on their website.

UK: Swindon Muslims surprised by faith school initiative

A proposal floated by an Islamic center to turn a primary school in Swindon, the southwest of England, into a faith school is astonishing the city's Muslim community.

"I am very surprised about these plans," Azim Khan, chairman of the Thamesdown Islamic Association, told the local daily Swindon Advertiser on Friday, November 14.

"I am concerned that members of the Muslim community in Swindon have not been consulted."

Al-Habib Islamic Center on Thursday proposed turning a primary school in Oakhurst in northern Swindon into a faith school.

The center's chairman Shahid Sahu said that if the bid to run the school was successful, it would become a single faith school.

But Swindon Muslims showed a poor appetite for the proposed school.

"I think they should have asked people in the community before putting in their bid, to make sure the need was there," said Khan.

Khan said many areas with a bigger Muslim community need faith schools other than Swindon.

"I'm not sure that Swindon is a big enough place for this kind of school," he said.


Source: Islam Online (English)

Odense: Debate over education project for women

The Odense municipality plans to send a group of Muslim women to Danish classes in the Vollsmose Church in Odense.  And that's a bad idea, think councilors Mohammed Mansour and Anna Rytter.  They fear that the women will be scared off if the classes are in a church.

"Regardless if we want it or not, many of the women that the project is aimed at, live isolated from Danish society.  And they will find it hard to take classes in the church premises.  Contrary to the intent, there's a risk of pushing away the women," says Anna Rytter to Fyens Stiftstidende newspaper.

Mohammed Mansour also thinks that the municipality missed the point by choosing the church as the place for classes.

"Activating is good, but this here is completely wrong.  Education of immigrants shouldn't be mixed together with religion.  It should on the contrary be conducted on neutral ground like a language school or a cultural center," says the social-democrat.

Jane Jegind, responsible for Children and Youth, who together with Erik Simonsen, responsible for social issues, is behind the activating project, rejects the criticism.  She stresses that the classes will not take place in the church hall.

She told the newspaper that she completely agrees that the Danish Church shouldn't get involved in this project, but that's not the issue.  The Vollsmose Church owns empty premises that fit what they need and that's all there is to it.

Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)

France: 2nd generation immigrants reject French names

They are born in France and called Louis, Laurent or Marie but they want to become Abdel, Said or Rachida. Such requests from immigrants' children for name changes are mounting in the French courts and worrying a state that lays store on melding a single national culture.

In a sign of a new assertiveness, children with families from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco are reversing the old custom in which immigrants from the old colonies gave French names to their children.

Driven by a feeling that they do not belong to their Gallic Christian names, the applicants are meeting resistance from judges who are reluctant to endorse what they see as a rejection of France.

Under France's strict administrative laws, an official change of first name requires court consent. Until 1992 parents could only register their babies with names from an approved list.

"The way I look is out of sync with my name," said Jacques, 25, who wants to adopt a name from his parents' native Algeria. He rejected the standard view that a French name overcomes the persisting reluctance of French employers to recruit nonwhite minorities.

"There is a double-take when I send a job application and then turn up for the interview. They hesitate, as if the person they have summoned could not be me," he said.


Source: Times (English), h/t Weasel Zippers

Germany: Green party elects Turkish leader

German politics has its first party leader of ethnic origin. The Green Party has elected as one of its co-chairmen Cem Ozdemir, the German-born son of Turkish immigrants. It may not be a landmark moment of Barack Obama proportions but in European politics, party leaders from ethnic minorities remain very rare.

Ozdemir will the share the leadership of the Greens with Claudia Roth and if the party performs well in next year's election, he could even be in the running for a cabinet post in a coalition government. Ozdemir says he wants to use his new position to improve cultural integration in Germany, where some 18 percent of the population are immigrants or children of immigrants.

Source: EuroNews (English), + video