Antwerp: AEL riots + Video

Antwerp: AEL riots + Video

Below is a video from the riots today. I tried sub-titling, but couldn't get both audio and subtitles to function together. I think it's pretty self-explanatory, though. The protesters are shouting "Hamas, Jihad, Hizbullah". The AEL-Belgium chairman says that people wanted to protest and that's why they organized the demonstration, the policeman says they didn't expect it, and the imam at the end says that Islam forbids using violence against the innocents. Some of the damaged cars belonged to the protesters themselves. More info on the events in the article below.

For more on the riots in Antwerp: Antwerp: Arab riots, Jewish neighborhood sealed (UPDATED)

For more on anti-Israel protests: Oslo: Anti-Israel protest turns violent, Denmark: 'The Jews are Allah's enemies'


Thirteen hot-heads were arrested. Two policemen were injured, says Fons Bastiaenssens of the local police.

About 200-250 AEL sympathizers showed up in the Kerkstraat in Borgerhout at 2pm in order to protest the bombing of the Gaza Strip. Bastiaenssens says that it was agreed with the organizers that the demonstration will be 'static'. In other words, that the protesters would stay in the Kerkstraat. After 20 minutes a number of youth wanted to move into the city. They attack a passing bus and a police car. The organizers and older people managed to talk to them and bring them back to the square in front of the church.

When the demonstration disbanded at 3pm, a big group of hot-heads marched through the Turnhoutsebaan to the Astrid Park Plaza. They tried to reach the Jewish neighborhood through there, but the police had closed off that entrance. A second attempt through the Van Ertbornstraat and the Quellinstraat streets followed, but also there the protesters were blocked. The attempts to get into the Jewish neighborhood were coupled with riots. The protesters threw stones, trash bags and street signs at the police agents and destroyed here and there car and shop windows.

"We hadn't expected riots. We had originally chosen not to be visibly present in order not to provoke reactions. During the demonstration in the Kerkstraat there were people from our diversity cell and info present. When the situation afterward threatened to get out of hand, all free teams were called in. Thanks to the imam calm was finally restored," says the police spokesperson.

The imam escorted the protesters together with the police to the mosque in the Van Monfortstraat, where he spoke to them. At about 5pm, the worst seems to have passed. The spokesperson says that naturally they will have to see whether it will stay that way. Here and there youth are trying again to make contact with each other. The police remains alert. The federal police has meanwhile sent a water cannon to Antwerp. Two policemen were injured in the riots. One broke a jaw and the other got a heavy brick on his foot.

Sources: HLN, VRT (Dutch)

Antwerp: Arab riots, Jewish neighborhood sealed (UPDATED)

Antwerp: Arab riots, Jewish neighborhood sealed

Update: Antwerp: AEL riots + Video


How do you protest violence against a civilian population? Attack a civilian population, of course. These riots were expected, given the massive incitement that accompanied the organization of the demonstrations.


The demonstration that the Arab European League (AEL) in Borgerhout (Antwerp) organized against the bombardments of the Gaza Strip, has gotten completely out of hand. After the protest disbanded the demonstrators marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp, clashing with the police. In particular car windows suffered, but also trams and buses were attacked.

The AEL held a protest action in the Kerkstraat in Borgerhout from 2pm. The protesters demanded the immediate suspension of the bombardments of the Gaza Strip and of the violence against the civilian population. Already during the demonstration in Borgerhout there were heated moments here and there.

The situation truly got out of hand when the demonstration disbanded at about 3:15pm. A group of protesters then marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp. The police had completely closed off the neighborhood upon which started a cat-and-mouse game. The situation threatened to get out of hand and at about 3:25pm the police arrived with more manpower in order to drive out the protesters. At about 4pm the riots moved again to Borgerhout, in the area of the Turnhoutsebaan.

The protesters caused much damage, in particular to car windows but also trams and basses were attacked. The De Lijn bus company is diverting all buses and trums on the Turnhoutsebaan-Carnotstraat-Rooseveltplaats route.


Many Jews don't dare anymore to go out on the streets in the area of the demonstrators. They fear vandalism and violence. An internal SMS service of the Jewish community of Antwerp warns Jews to avoid the areas of the Turnhoutsebaan and the Diamantwijk, reports Michael Freilich of the Jewish newspaper Joods Actueel.

"The protesters must realize that Antwerp Jews are also Flemish and not Israeli soldiers. They have nothing to do with what is currently happening in the Gaza Strip," says Freilich. According to him the the Jewish community fears that the situation can escalate. "We haven't seen anything like this since 2003, when it also got out of hand," says the chief editor of the Jewish monthly. There's currently no response from politicians, but Freilich's phone is getting many calls from anxious people who don't know what to do.

During today's demonstration damage was done, also in the Antwerp Diamantwijk (Diamond Center) where many Jews live and work. Today there is no activity in the sector, according to Freilich. Most shops are closed. Meanwhile the riots of isolated groups of protesters moved to Borgerhout and the Turnhoutsebaan area. The police is out in force.

There's also an issue of the Hamas flags which were present in the demonstration in Brussels for the suspension of the bombardments on the Gaza Strip . According to Freilich the green flag with the white text of Hamas is a banned symbol in Belgium of a terrorist organization. "Everybody has a right to express his opinion," says Freilich. "We as a community also oppose violence, although the side-comment must be made that everything began by the rocket attacks of Hamas on Israel.

Various protesters in Brussels held the famous Hamas flag. The Jewish community is shocked that this is allowed. "Hamas is and officially continues to be a not-allowed organization of terrorists," says Freilich. He doesn't understand how the organizers of the protest march allowed the symbol. "11.11.11 [one of the organizers] should do something against it. For that matter it's also striking that the protesters protest against violence towards the Palestinians, but that the suffering of the Israelis is not mentioned."

Sources: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

Odense: Attack against Israelis (BREAKING)

Odense: Attack against Israelis (BREAKING)

Details will be added as they come in.

According to first reports, a man, apparently a Palestinian, shot two Israelis working at a stand selling Israeli products in a shopping mall in the center of Odense. One was shot in the arms and the other in the legs. Both were transferred to a hospital. The situation of one is apparently not serious.

Police are currently chasing the perpetrator.


Two Israelis were lightly wounded when they were shot by a group of men in a mall in Copenhagen, Denmark on Wednesday afternoon.

The Israelis were selling Dead Sea cosmetics at a stand in the mall - a job many young Israelis pursue, usually following military service, in order to save money for their future, and to continue their travels.

A group of men with Middle Eastern-looking features approached them and an altercation developed. A man in the group then brandished a weapon and fired at the Israelis.

The public's assistance was requested in capturing the shooter, who was probably a Palestinian, police said. His getaway car was already found but he had fled on foot.

The Foreign Ministry said Israeli security services abroad were already put on high alert several days ago.

It was assumed that the incident was related to the IDF offensive against Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Source: Jpost (English)

Update 2:

The attacker yelled something in a Middle Eastern language, after which he began to shoot. One of the Israelis tried to flee but was then hit. The other threw a stool at him, but it didn't help much.

A witness heard three shots, but already shortly after the shooting 5-6 casings were found.

Source: BT (Danish)

Update 3:

According to the Odense police, security cameras caught the moment when the attacker, about 25 years old, suddenly pulled out a pistol and shot the two Israelis.

The Israeli stand had been in the shopping center for about a month. Police are currently trying to find out who the owner is. A group of 7-9 youth allegedly harassed the sales personnel. The two Israelis had only come to Denmark a week ago.

Source: DR (Danish)

Update 4:

Asked if there's a connection between the attack and what's happening in Gaza, Ashraf al-Khadra, the Norwegian-Palestinian journalist of Norwegian newssite Nettavisen answered that he wants to be careful with something he doesn't know much about, but he does know that there are many Palestinians who live in the area of the Rosengårdscentret shopping center.

Source: Nettavisen (Norwegian)

Netherlands: Community service for destroying Christ statues

Netherlands: Community service for destroying Christ statues

I'm assuming for now the man is not Christian, mostly because I expect that if he were, this would be specified in the article.


A 37 year old Amsterdam resident was sentenced yesterday to sixty hours of community service. In April of this year the man destroyed at least two statues of Christ in Nuenen and Deurne. The magistrate in Den Bosch also charged him with destroying five graves in the Lambertus parish in Helmond.

more pictures available here and here

The suspect came to the Netherlands from Turkey 11 years ago and worked in Amsterdam at a research institute. He was arrested in Venray on April 8 when he again went for a statue of Christ. He failed to appear yesterday.

To the police he had admitted to all the charges and said that he had 'acted by orders of God in order to warn people." He had already been sentenced in the past for similar crimes.

Besides the community service the judge also imposed on him two weeks conditional jail sentence. He'll be under surveillance by the rehabilitation service for two years of probation. He is also to pay compensation for the claimed damage: 2,700 euro to the Lambertus parish and 1,780 Euro to the Deurne municipality.

Source: Brabants Dagblad (Dutch)

Amsterdam: Muslims to clean the streets on New Year's

Amsterdam: Muslims to clean the streets on New Year's

While many other Dutch will be sleeping it off, a group of Muslim will be up at the crack of dawn on New Year's Day cleaning the streets.  These will be members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Amsterdam, according to spokesperson Fahim Dieffenthaler Wednesday.

The faithful will be out at a 6:15 for the first prayer of the New Year.  At 8am they will collect litter on the Papaverweg in Amsterdam-Noord.  According to Dieffenthaler other branches of the Muslim community will probably go out later in January to clean up streets in other parts of the country.

The Ahmadiyya Muslims had held similar operations in the past.  They do this since they think their task is to contribute to society.  The Ahmadiyya community is a separate movement within Islam, aside from the Sunnis and Shiites.  Many members in the Netherlands are of Pakistani origin.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Malmö: Police hire security guards

Malmö: Police hire security guards

The police have contracted a security firm to help with the surveillance and protection of the police station in the Malmö suburb of Rosengård.

In connection with unrest in Rosengård the station has on repeated occasions been the target of fireworks, vandalism and stone-throwing youths.

The security firm will be deployed to help to ensure that the vandalism is not repeated, according to a report by local TV4 news program.

Michael Storm at Malmö police pointed out to TV4 that the move in no way meant that the police were unable to look after themselves.

The security firm will instead render it unnecessary for police officers to keep watch outside their own police station and free up resources for other duties. The firm will help the police to monitor those moving in and around the area.

"We of course think that this is an insecure situation, but now it has happened and we are working on normalizing the situation," he said.

Source: The Local (English)

Previous reports:
* Malmö: Disturbances continue after mosque eviction
* Malmö: Mosque evicted
* Malmö: Youth protest mosque eviction
* Malmö: Disturbances calm down

Charleroi: Attack on Synagogue

Charleroi: Attack on Synagogue

DHnet speaks of rising tensions between Jews and Muslims.  On the one hand, there is no proof these acts were done by Muslims.  On the other, Jews are not attacking mosques.

The French language blog Philosemeitsm also writes about attacks against Jews in Brussels and Antwerp.


Tension is increasing between Jews and Muslims in Charleroi.

The synagogue at Pige au Croly in Chareloi has been the object of a small attack Tuesday afternoon.

The vandals threw a stone through a window before setting fire to the entrance door.
Fortunately, the fire did not have time to spread and damage was very limited.

The Museum of the Righteous (musée des Justes), dedicated to all who rescued Jews, wasn't touched, fortunately.

The local police of Charleroi was notified and descended upon the place, together with a lab.

Given the current context in the Middle East and the palpable tensions here between the Muslims and Jewish communities, the minister of the interior was informed of the situation.

Maurice Konopnicki, president of the Jewish community of Charleroi, condemned the hostile action against the synagogue.

"It's painful.  I am both shocked and afraid.  We are all Carolos [ie, residents of Charleroi], born  here, in this country.  What's happening in Israel isn't our responsibility.  Why then attack us?  Our religion deserves to be respected like all others.  I hope that this act remains exceptional."
Yet, in the Charleoi region other signs of tensions are sprouting.  In Acoz and Lausprelle, on the rue de Villers, a sinister slogan "Israel = assassins" was painted on a bus stop and residence.

These acts were condemned by both the Jewish community and the leaders of the Muslim community.

Source: DHNet (French)

Obama Advisor: It would help if Europe would take Guantanamo prisoners, and finance them.

Obama Advisor: It would help if Europe would take Guantanamo prisoners, and finance them.


SPIEGEL: A political discussion has started in Europe about accepting ex-Guantanamo prisoners. Germany and Portugal have already indicated that they might be willing to do so. How important would such support be to the United States?

Riedel: Even if European nations, such as Portugal or Germany, would only take a small number -- maybe half a dozen -- it would still be an important support. The United States needs all the help it can get to clean up the mess left by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: Are you thinking of any particular group that Europe could accept?

Riedel: The Chinese prisoners would be particularly suitable. They cannot go back to China, and they are not as serious a threat as others -- for example, the Yemenis.

SPIEGEL: Do you really consider the Chinese inmates at all dangerous?

Riedel: No matter how dangerous these people were when they came to Guantanamo, after six or seven years in prison, they have a very serious motive for revenge.

SPIEGEL: What would countries willing to accept former prisoners have to deal with?

Riedel: They would have to keep a very close eye on the former prisoners for some time; they have to be under surveillance. It would be a financial burden, and the former inmates may file lawsuits in Germany seeking some kind of redress for perceived injustices, which German courts would probably hear. Also, (the former inmates would) need financial support, and it's hard to imagine their finding employment.


Source: Spiegel (English)

UK: 'Jesus was a Muslim'

UK: 'Jesus was a Muslim'

ISLAMIC extremists have been condemned after plastering Burton streets with stickers bearing the slogan 'Jesus was a Muslim' - one day before Christmas.

News - Muslim extremists stickers ni Horninglow The stickers appeared on the morning of Christmas Eve on lampposts in the Horninglow and Shobnall areas of town, and outside religious buildings including St Chad's Church, in Hunter Street.

The stickers - believed to originate from fundamentalist Muslim group Islam For The UK, as they included the group's website address - provoked an angry response from people living nearby.

"I think it's disgusting that someone would do this the day before Christmas, when we are supposed to be spreading racial harmony," one resident, who asked not to be named, told The Mail. "It's a real slap in the face for Christians."

Another resident said: "Apart from anything else, they have made a right mess of the streets - the stickers are not easy to peel off."

Julia Elliot, churchwarden of St Chad's Church, said she found the stickers 'very hurtful and very offensive', while Ron Clarke, East Staffordshire Borough Council member for the Eton Park ward where the church is located, condemned the extremists responsible.

"I think it's very disappointing that we've got this small element making things difficult, as opposed to everyone else trying to integrate, harmonise and work together," he said.

"The fact that there are so many of these stickers shows it is a premeditated effort by this group, who are obviously out to create disharmony.

"I hope the people who have done this are caught and dealt with by the appropriate authority."

On its website, Islam For The UK calls for Islamic Shari'ah law to be implemented in Britain, and condemns those Muslims who take part in Christmas celebrations.


Source: Burton Mail (English), h/t Bivouac-ID

Netherlands: Labor Party calls for end to tolerance

Netherlands: Labor Party calls for end to tolerance

Two years ago, the Dutch could quietly congratulate themselves on having brought what seemed to be a fair measure of consensus and reason to the meanest intersection in their national political life: the one where integration of Muslim immigrants crossed Dutch identity.

In the run-up to choosing a new government in 2006, just 24 percent of the voters considered the issue important, and only 4 percent regarded it as the election's central theme.

What a turnabout, it seemed - and whatever the reason (spent passions, optimism, resignation?), it was a soothing respite for a country whose history of tolerance was the first in 21st-century Europe to clash with the on-street realities of its growing Muslim population.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the Netherlands had lived through something akin to a populist revolt against accommodating Islamic immigrants led by Pim Fortuyn, who was later murdered; the assassination of the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, accused of blasphemy by a homegrown Muslim killer; and the bitter departure from the Netherlands of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who became a member of Parliament before being marked for death for her criticism of radical Islam.

Now something fairly remarkable is happening again.

Two weeks ago, the country's biggest left-wing political grouping, the Labor Party, which has responsibility for integration as a member of the coalition government led by the Christian Democrats, issued a position paper calling for the end of the failed model of Dutch "tolerance."

It came at the same time Nicolas Sarkozy was making a case in France for greater opportunities for minorities that also contained an admission that the French notion of equality "doesn't work anymore."

But there was a difference. If judged on the standard scale of caution in dealing with cultural clashes and Muslims' obligations to their new homes in Europe, the language of the Dutch position paper and Lilianne Ploumen, Labor's chairperson, was  exceptional.

The paper said: "The mistake we can never repeat is stifling criticism of cultures and religions for reasons of tolerance."

Government and politicians had too long failed to acknowledge the feelings of "loss and estrangement" felt by Dutch society facing parallel communities that disregard its language, laws and customs.

Newcomers, according to Ploumen, must avoid "self-designated victimization."

She asserted, "the grip of the homeland has to disappear" for these immigrants who, news reports indicate, also retain their original nationality at a rate of about 80 percent once becoming Dutch citizens.

Instead of reflexively offering tolerance with the expectation that things would work out in the long run, she said, the government strategy should be "bringing our values into confrontation with people who think otherwise."

There was more: punishment for trouble-making young people has to become so effective such that when they emerge from jail they are not automatically big shots, Ploumen said.

For Ploumen, talking to the local media, "The street is mine, too. I don't want to walk away if they're standing in my path.

"Without a strategy to deal with these issues, all discussion about creating opportunities and acceptance of diversity will be blocked by suspicion and negative experience."

And that comes from the heart of the traditional, democratic European left, where placing the onus of compatibility on immigrants never found such comfort before.

It's a point of view that makes reference to work and education as essential, but without the emphasis that they are the single path to integration.

Rather, Labor's line seems to stand on its head the old equation of jobs-plus-education equals integration. Conforming to Dutch society's social standards now comes first. Strikingly, it turns its back on cultural relativism and uses the word emancipation in discussing the process of outsiders' becoming Dutch.

For the Netherlands' Arab and Turkish population (about 6 percent of a total of 16 million) it refers to jobs and educational opportunities as "machines of emancipation." Yet it also suggests that employment and advancement will not come in full measure until there is a consciousness engagement in Dutch life by immigrants that goes far beyond the present level.

Indeed, Ploumen says, "Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally." Immigrants must "take responsibility for this country" and cherish and protect its Dutch essence.

Not clear enough? Ploumen insists, "The success of the integration process is hindered by the disproportionate number of non-natives involved in criminality and trouble-making, by men who refuse to shake hands with women, by burqas and separate courses for women on citizenship.

"We have to stop the existence of parallel societies within our society."


Source: IHT (English)

Netherlands: Turkish couple fights placement of children in lesbian foster family

Netherlands: Turkish couple fights placement of children in lesbian foster family    

There's now a fuss in Turkey after Turkish-Dutch children were placed by a Dutch judge in a lesbian foster family.

The three children were taken out of their home by the Youth care department in 2004 due to suspicions of child abuse.  The mother let her kid fall then, and he broke his arm.  The Turkish-Dutch couple says that there was never any child abuse and has fought the removal of their kids already for years by the Dutch court.

Meanwhile the judge ordered that placing the children in a lesbian foster family is legitimate in the Netherlands.

The parents do not want the children to live by homosexual foster parents.  They think it does not fit with their Islamic religious notions.

The couple has meanwhile brought two of the three children to Turkey, where they supposedly live by an uncle.  The oldest boy is now eleven and says that he's happy in Turkey and that if he would be placed again with the lesbian foster family in the Netherlands, he'll certainly run away.

The mother is now talking to the Turkish media, who are writing about the case.  It's possible that the Turks would now ask for extradition of the children.  The lawyer of the parents thinks that the Turkish judge would not ask for extradition, given the background of hte family.

Upon being asked Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan said that he had no contact yet with any of those involved, but that he would do everything in his power.  "We help anyone who's in trouble, we are there where help is needed.  We do everything that a social state should do, and we'll do that too."

Sources: TurksNL, NOS (Dutch)

Belgium: Possible Belliraj hit list found

A document was confiscated during a search of the Belgian residence of the Belgian-Moroccan Abdelkader Belliraj, who is suspected of being the leader of a terrorist network, on which there are six names of French and Belgian Jews which he possibly wanted to kill.  One of the names is that of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, according to newspaper La Dernière Heure.

The Morocaan Belgian is currently standing trial in the Moroccan city of Salé, next to the capital Rabat, for murder and murder attempts.  He has confessed that he killed two Jews in Brussels and that he had given the orders for four other murders in Belgium in 1989 and 1990.  The list found in Belliraj's house brings up the gravest suspicions, according to La Dernière Heure.

The people on the list are:
- Simone Susskind, co-founder of the secular Jewish center
- Edmond Blattchen, who presents the program "Noms de Dieux" on the French language broadcaster RTBF
- Markus Pardes, chairman of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
- Rabbi Josy Eisenberg
- Jean-Claude Bologne, secretary general of the Societe des Gens de Lettres, the French assocaiton of authors
- Bernard-Henri Levy, French philosopher and writer

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Oslo: Anti-Israel protest turns violent

Oslo: Anti-Israel protest turns violent

Following a quiet protest in front of the Norwegian parliament by several hundred people, organized by various left wing organizations, about 100 protesters tried to break through police barricades in order to reach the Israeli embassy, throwing stones and flaming objects at the police. Police shot back with tear gas. Nine protesters were arrested, including four 16-year old boys.

Video clips of the rioting protesters are available at VG (where you can hear the protesters shouting 'allah akbar') and TV2 Nyhetene. I tried uploading these clips, but wasn't successful.

Naser Fuad (27), one of the protesters doesn't understand why the police behaved as they did towards him and his friends. One of his friends was arrested. Fuad thinks this friends acted calmly and peacefully.

"I don't understand the aggressive treatment from the police. Against some it's certainly right but not against all," he told

Fuad says that most protesters were acting peacefully, but that some threw stones at the police. He thinks this is 'a natural reaction to what Israel's doing'.

About the demonstration he said that "it's the least we could do to show the world that we have a problem with Israel and Israel's acts."

Several police agents and protesters were injured.

Sources: Aftenposten, VG, TV2 Nyhetene (Norwegian)

Denmark: 'The Jews are Allah's enemies'

About 600 people demonstrated Sunday afternoon in front of the Israeli embassy in Hellerup, Copenhagen in protests of the weekend's air strikes in Gaza, reports the Copenhagen police.

The demonstration proceeded without problems, says central investigative director Kenneth Vesth

"We were prepared for things to degenerate, but everything went calmly and peacefully and we hadn't made any arrests," he says.

In Gellerup, Aarhus, 300 demonstrators gathered at the Festpladsen in Dortesvej to protest the attack, which until now cost 290 lives.

According to the Østjylland police, this demonstration, arranged by several local organizations, also ended peacefully.

Source: DR (Danish), h/t Uriasposten

Zurich: Protesters in church step up pressure

Zurich: Protesters in church step up pressure

Illegal immigrants occupying a church in the city of Zurich say they are planning to extend their protest to press for better living conditions.

The church authorities have called on the 150 protestors to leave the building and urged the cantonal government to clarify its policy towards rejected asylum seekers.

The protestors said they would stage a demonstration and continue their ten-day-old stand-off at the Protestant Prediger Church.

He blamed the Zurich government for reneging on promises made to squatters after they ended a high-profile protest at another church in the city a year ago.

The cantonal authorities say they will meet a delegation of protestors on January 5 provided they leave the Prediger Church by then

Source: SwissInfo (English)

See also: Zurich: Church occupied by asylum seekers

Switzerland: Proposal to implement Sharia law

Switzerland: Proposal to implement Sharia law

Christian Giordano, professor for social anthropology at the University of Freiburg, argues in the Tangram journal (of the official commission against racism) that Sharia should be partially implemented in Switzerland.  In this way Giordano intends to take the wind out of the sails of those who want to ban minarets.  Giordano wants to implement Sharia in civil, financial and family law, so as to take into account cultural peculiarities and in order to deal with the cultural chasm between Swiss and immigrants.  Integration expert Thomas Kessler objects, saying that judges already take the personal background of the accused into account when passing sentence.

Source: Tages Anzeiger (German), summarized by NRP (Dutch)

See also: Switzerland: Proposal for Muslim official holidays

Denmark: 5000 converts

Denmark: 5000 converts

Abdullah Chihalfi was raised in Aarhus and until five years ago was called Dean Runge.  He belongs to an increasing number of Danes who convert to Islam.

Islam in Denmark has become more geared towards Danish Muslims.  They get speeches in Danish and they're offered educational material and such, says Cross-Cultural Phd Kate Østergaard to TV AVISEN.

She estimates that there are 5,000 converts today, compared to just 2,500 in 2005.

Most convert when they are young, most often due to love, or because they find justice in Islam.

"They see Islam as something anti-racism, and as a type of rebellion against the established system, and they see it as a way to fight injustice in the world," says Kate Østergaard.

This was also one of the reasons why Abdullah Chihalfi converted.  He says that he wants to stop the injustice which is meanwhile still ongoing.

About two thirds of all converts are men.

Source: DR (Danish)

UK: Hardliner Muslim chosen as schools inspector

UK: Hardliner Muslim chosen as schools inspector

A hardline Muslim teacher who caused a furore by denouncing pupils for celebrating Christmas has been made a Government schools inspector.

Israr Khan's Ofsted appointment was described by a former colleague as 'absolutely astonishing'.

Mr Khan, now headmaster of an Islamic school, launched into his tirade during a concert rehearsal at Washwood Heath Secondary School in Birmingham in 1996 after the choir including around 40 Muslim youngsters, had sung a number of popular Christmas songs, including carols.

He leapt from his seat, yelling: "Who is your God? Why are you saying Jesus and Jesus Christ? God is not your God - it is Allah."

As children in the audience began booing and clapping, a number of choir members - both white and Asian - walked out, some in tears.

Mr Khan, a maths teacher, was asked to work from home pending an investigation but there was no disciplinary action.

It has been claimed that Washwood Heath school was then a 'hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism'. Rashid Rauf - the airline terror bomb suspect whose extradition is currently being sought from Pakistan - was a pupil there at that time.

Mr Khan left Washwood Heath a year later to found the independent Islamic Hamd House Preparatory School in Small Heath, Birmingham, where he is headmaster.

Earlier this year, he was appointed as a governor of Anderton Park Primary School, in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

A former Washwood Heath colleague laughed openly when told of Mr Khan's role as an Ofsted inspector where he has the responsibility for passing or failing schools.

He said: "Given the man's history, it's absolutely astonishing. It's just the cheek of the man that he's been able to reach that position. He always was an extremely clever man.

"He gave me many insights into the Islamic cause and their hatred of the US and the Western World. He had a big support base among some of the Muslim parents.

"But there were some very influential, radical elements at Washwood Heath at that time and Israr Khan was very close to all that."


Source: Daily Mail (English)

Ireland: Burqa bad for your health

MUSLIM women who wear the burqa in Ireland are at increased risk of pelvic fractures during childbirth because of vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of sunlight, a consultant warns.

Babies born to women with vitamin D deficiency are also more prone to seizures in their first week of life, according to Dr Miriam Casey, of the Osteoporosis Unit in St James's hospital in Dublin.

A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by some Muslim women. In hot countries, enough sunlight gets through to give them sufficient vitamin D, but this may not happen in countries where there is limited sunshine, such as Ireland and Britain.

Casey said she was aware of cases involving pelvic fractures, and warned that these could become more frequent as Ireland's Muslim population increased. "Ireland's temperate climate doesn't have the intense sunlight that keeps burqa-clad women from becoming vitamin D-deficient in their own countries," she said.

Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and is crucial for making bones strong. The greatest source is sunlight.

Casey said the fractures occur at sites of particular weakness which develop in under-mineralised pelvic bones. In these women's babies, low calcium can cause "serious complications such as seizures, growth retardation, muscle weakness and fractures".

"As a toddler, carrying the weight of the torso can force the development of a bow-legged appearance and a waddling gait," she said. "Later, there can be rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency, with swollen wrists and bones that fail to fuse in adolescence."

Darker skins can produce as little as 1% of the vitamin D that fair skins produce. Moreover, studies have found that the rate of many diseases rises the further north one moves, leading researchers to suspect that vitamin D may play a greater role in health than previously thought.

Casey said: "As we see a rise in the number of Muslims in Ireland, it's going to become a massive problem. It's worse in England whose Muslim community is older. There are already problems in the Rotunda [a maternity hospital in Dublin] and the paediatric hospitals."

A spokeswoman for the Islamic community in Ireland said she was unaware of health problems suffered by women wearing burqas.


Source: Times Online (English)

Spain: Over 100 suicide bombers

Spain: Over 100 suicide bombers

Spain has become a major European breeding ground for al-Qaeda and its associated groups, who recruit Jihadists and suicide bomber to Iraq.  Since the US invasion in 2003 more than 100 youth, mostly North African immigrants, formed local cells which financed their trips with Zakat, the donations received in mosques, according to intelligence sources.

"Los sin vicio de Occidente" (without the faults of the West),  one of the most active cells in sending Mujaheddin to Iraq, operated in Catalonia and trained at least 9 candidates to suicide attacks.  One of them murdered 28 people in Nasirirya.  El Pais reconstructed with unpublished documents and testimonies the story of those who traveled this path, their route and secret contacts in Syria, the first stop in the sinister journey towards death.

The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), linked to the March 11 attacks, created an extensive support network in Damascus for aspiring 'Spaniards' who traveled from the 'wedding' (suicide) to Iraq: hotels, residences, study centers and contacts to cross the border and join the cells of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of the leaders of the insurgency.

The unsuccessful Jihadis returned to Spain and became sources for the new aspirants from these and other cells in Catalonia and Madrid.

The National Court extend the process against Mohamed Rabet, the alleged leader of Los sin vicio de Occidente, who's responsible for the deaths caused by his students in Iraq.  An anti-terrorsim agent says that it's impossible to know how much damage they've caused, but it's many dead.

The leader of this GICM network, a butcher in the town of Vilanova i la Geltrú, and some of the unsuccessful suicide bombers will be tried in the first hearing in Spain against the cells who nourish the Mujaheddin and the Iraqi insurgency.

Source: El Pais (Spanish)

Denmark: UN to decide legality of comparing Muslims to Nazis

Denmark: UN to decide legality of comparing Muslims to Nazis

The UN will decide if several prominent members of the Danish People's Party, including party chairman Pia Kjærsgaard, crossed the line when they compared Muslims with Nazis and headscarves with swastikas.

In the upcoming year the UN's Human Rights Committee in Geneva will receive a complaint from the Documentation and Counseling Center on Race Discrimination (DRC).

The complaint says that the state prosecutor refused to deal with a complaint from the Center about Pia Kjærsgaard, EU parliament member Mogens Camre and the two Danish parliament members Søren Krarup and Morten Messerschmidt.

The head of the center, Niels-Erik Hansen, accuses the prosecution of not willing to take a stand in the case.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)

France: Thousands of FGM reconstructions

France: Thousands of FGM reconstructions

In recent years around 2,800 women who immigrated to France from Africa or second generation immigrants, of the age group between 18 and 50, have turned to hospitals and centres in Paris and Nantes funded by national welfare to have their genitals reconstructed, devastated by the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Strangely, immigrant families often resort to inflicting this perverse on their own daughters in order to deal with difficult living conditions in a foreign country,

This news is circulating in the luxury hotel in Cairo where Egypt's first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, the first lady of Burkina Faso, Chantal Compaore, the deputy speaker of the Senate, Emma Bonino, and secretary-general of the Egyptian National Council for Maternity and Childhood have just finished sharing, in their opening speeches for the "Cairo Declaration on Fgm+Five", the most recent progress that has been made on both legislative and social levels.

The meeting was organised with funds of Italian Development Cooperation, UN agencies and the European Union, as well as private sponsors like Suez Cement, five years after the first conference on the issue.

"Women come from various countries - including African ones - to have this reconstruction. And certainly not in search for the sexual drive they have lost (it takes two to three years for those parts to regain sensitivity) but for psychological reasons. They tell me that they 'finally feel whole' and 'much better' after the operation", said Kady Khoita, a 50-year-old woman from Senegal, known for her anti-FGM action.

Khoita is also an author and president of "EURONET FGM", a network of 35 solidarity associations in Europe for immigrant women and children, with operates with limited funds (400,000 euros, 80% of which comes from the European Union). The initiative was organised by the National Academy of French Medicine, in collaboration with 'Gynecologie sans Frontieres', and the very active commitment of urologist Pierre Foldes.

"The Koran and other teachings of the prophet say that Islam is not in favour of these practices" said sheikh Mohamed Hussein, of the 'House of the Fatwa' Dar el Iftaah, the most important Sunni organisation appointed to determine what is 'haram' - prohibited by God's law - and what is allowed, "they preach the integrity of the human body, to which no harm must be done. There may be some less civilised religious figures who can sell this practice off as religious principle or postpone medical examination, but the recognition that these are practices that damage the bodies of young girls is an insurmountable limit".

Source: ANSAMed (English), h/t TheOPINIONATOR and La Yijad en Eurabia

Spain: Economic woes bring increasing tensions

Spain: Economic woes bring increasing tensions

Incidents between immigrants and Spaniards are multiplying, the deterioration of the economy and the increase in unemployment brings them to compete in seasonal work.

In El Ejido, one of the most prosperous Spanish municipalities, with its 14,000 hectares of greenhouse crops (1.5 million tons of fruits nad vegetables), the wounds of xenophobia seem to open anew.

In February 2000, after three murders committed by two mentally ill Moroccans, some of the local population was thrown into the worst race riots in Spain.  Eight and some years later, the Spaniards, mostly rich farmers, and the some 30,000 day immigrants still look at each other with hostility.

With the economic crisis which hit Spain, the rivalry to find a job has intensified between the foreigner community and the local residents.  Many Spaniards who lost their jobs in construction are returning to their original jobs in agriculture.  As a result thousands of immigrants find themselves without work, left to their own devices.

A dozen kilometers away, in Roquetas del Mar, there's palpable tension between Spaniards and immigrants who come to work harvesting tomatoes and peppers.  In September, in this city of 73,000 inhabitants, a Spanish gypsy murdered a Senegalese, causing riots between the Sub-Saharans and Spaniards.  For weeks the police had to intervene in order to restore the calm in the region.

At the beginning of December in Mojonera, another village in the greenhouse area, a Moroccan murdered a Malian following a rough discussion.  For days, the Sub-Saharians attacked the Moroccan shops in retaliation.

In this region of Almeria, considered the orchard of Europe with some 2.8 million tons of fruit and vegetables grown annually, not a day goes by without an incident between immigrants of different origin or between Spaniards and immigrants.  According to the local NGOs and the SOC agricultural union, 20 immigrants were victims of physical aggression in a year.  Mohammed Torabi (42) says: "In Santa Maria Aguila (subrub of El Ejido), half a dozen youth beat me without reason with baseball bats and called me a dirty Arab."

Tarek, a Moroccan who's been living for ten years in El Ejido, denounced in turn the 'racist attacks', 'police wrongdoings', 'limits to freedom of expression'.  He's a member of an association of North African agricultural workers, Ouafa 2000, but, he says, they don't have any means, are refused premises and any municipal aid. 

Sitting down in the Parada bar with a glass of mint tea, he denounces the insults of the Spaniards and the attacks of the Sub-Saharans.

Except for passing through, we're told, no Spaniard frequents this place nor other Moroccan shops.  "In recent years, more or less subtly, they don't accept us any more in their bars, their game hall or their discos.  We live like two communities back to back.  The locals don't want us any more," explains a Moroccan immigrant who's been there for a while.

Not to mention the rivalries between the black community and the Moroccans.  "the Moroccan do everything so that we blacks can't find work.  But now, it's over, we must fight also for the right to work in the greenhouses," says Ousman (28), a Senegalese.  For two months he looked for work in different areas of Spain.  He didn't find a job, not in Valence in the citrus harvest, nor in Jaen, in the olive harvest.  "I thought that in the Almeria greenhouses I'll find a little work, but there's none any more," Ousman is upset.

The farmers are more and more wary now taking on illegals.  And then there's now on the job market the 'phantom' Spaniards, who abandoned agriculture in favor of better paying jobs in construction.  With the collapse of the real estate market, many are using their network of friends and family solidarity to find a job.

Juan Gonzalez, a tomato greenhouse farmer, say he hired two cousins from Roquetas who lost their jobs in the public works sector and have taken the place of foreigners.  According to the latest statics, immigrants represented 40% of new unemployed in the first half of 2008.  "It's a real problem confronting the country: what will do with all these immigrants who find themselves without work?" wonder Juan Miralles, president of the Almeria Acoge NGO.

Source: Figaro (French)

Oslo: The Muslim Christmas hero

Oslo: The Muslim Christmas hero

Norwegian-Pakistani Jamil Syed ensured that over 30 people could celebrate Christmas Eve this week, when he arranged an evening filled with traditional Christmas food, Christmas presents and Christmas activities at the Furuset Forum arena in Oslo.

"I think it's a pity that singly people who have nobody to celebrate Christmas with, celebrate alone. There are many elderly, newly divorced and lonely people who come here to celebrate Christmas. Many of them have no family left or nearby, and Christmas as a starting point is about delighting each other and celebrating together with somebody," says environment therapist Jamil Syed.

Through several weeks of planning, Syed published invitations in the newspaper Akers avisen and with posters which were hung up in the neighborhood. The whole of Oslo was invited, but most who came were elderly people from the Grorud Valley area (Groruddalen). It's the tenth year in a row in which Syed arranges Christmas Even in the neighborhood. Egil Stokke has been invited since 1998.

"I'm impressed by Jamil and what he'd gotten to. He does exactly what our politicians are responsibility for, and he does it so generously. It's also good to see that he, with a minority background, accepts other religions than his own," says Stokke, who doesn't have any family members left other than his ill wife.

In the past Syyed had to use money from his own pocket to ensure that lonesome people would get to celebrate Christmas. This year he got financial assistance from the neighborhood, Furuset church and the Betanien association (Norwegian Methodist).

"This year we have very good finances and it's nice to see that it's going ahead. It's an important event that the municipality should have supported many years ago. It's good to give people another possibility for an alternative Christmas," says Syed

(Syed. top, and some of his helpers)

Syed got a lot of help from his family. His wife and three children have helped for many years. In addition this week he had help from over 15 people who contributed to the event, and were Syed's small helpers this week.

Kalle Holt (43) was there for the second time, and contributed by serving food and playing the guitar.

"I'm newly divorced and therefore have nobody to celebrate Christmas with. I think it's nice to help and could ensure that others also avoid celebrating Christmas alone. When I'll go home later this evening and lie down on the sofa in my jogging clothes, I'll feel a good feeling coursing through my body. That's what Christmas is all about," says Holt.

For Lykke Stavnes (24) this was her first time. "It's somebody like Jamil I look up to, and it's extra special when somebody who doesn't celebrate Christmas, takes the initiative so that others get to celebrate. For me Christmas Eve wasn't a traditional celebration in my family and it's therefore good to use my time to help others," she says.

For many of those who come to Furuset Forum this week, Christmas is an emotional time. When Christmas is a tradition that puts the family in focus, it's had for many who don't have family or friends.

"My son preferred celebrating Christmas together with his stepbrother's family. My ex-husband is dead and I have only this one son," says Øydis Doxrud (62), who celebrated Christmas at the Forumet for the first time.

"If it hadn't been for my friend who was here, I would have probably not come. It's strange to celebrate Christmas alone together with strange people. But this is nice, since I was prepared to celebrate the day alone, says Doxrud.

She knows many who still celebrate Christmas alone. Most are elderly people.

"It's strange to see how many celebrate such an important holiday alone, and that many of them are elderly. In my culture, I'm used to having the children take care of the elderly family members," says Sahra Jaber (16).

Muslim Sahra chose this year to use the Christmas vacation, together with more youth from the Furuset youth forum, to help Syed with the Christmas event. She thinks it's important to show that minority youth at Furuset care about the elderly in society.

"Furuset has done much for the minority youth here in the neighborhood, and it's good to be able to give something back," says Jaber.

Though Jamil Syed is both Pakistani and Muslim, he's lived in Norway since 1973 and learned much about Norwegian culture. In the decade that he's been having a Christmas feast for Norwegians he's also learned much about Christmas traditions. This week he ensured that the invited guests got their wish list filled.

"I prepared Christmas pork ribs, sauerkraut, pinnekjøtt (dried mutton ribs) and rice cream," says volunteer chef Bjørn Gulbrandsen.

Pakistani rice and meat stew and chicken were served next to the Christmas food. Syed's wife was responsible for the Muslim food.

After people were full, everybody went round the Christmas tree while singing Christmas songs. Several times the Norwegian-Pakistani man stopped to talk on the phone.

"You're on the way, you say?" he says and looks round the place for Iraj Shakari (25), who's dressed up as Santa Claus.

"Ho, ho, ho. Are there any good children here? I mean, are there any good people here?" says Iraj Shakari.

Source: Dagsavisen (Norwegian) + more pictures

Russia: Muslims oppose bell-ringing anthem

The Muslim community in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region is opposing plans to include church bells in a proposed new regional anthem. Local authorities had earlier set a competition to compose an anthem for the region.

The work is still being composed and officials say the last thing they want to do is to hurt people's feelings.

The Muslim community wanted the regional governor to change some of the rules of the contest. Using the sound of church bells was mandatory and Muslim leaders thought this alienated other ethnic and religious groups.

"There should be no political or religious themes in the anthem. It should be something that uplifts people and brings them together. I think including religion goes against this." Said Gayaz Zakirov, spiritual leader of the region's Muslims.

The national anthem contains church bells, which are seen as a sign of Russian tradition as much as a sign of Orthodox woship.


Source: Russia Today (English)

Norway: More favorable attitude towards immigrants

Norway: More favorable attitude towards immigrants

A study be Statistics Norway (SSB) shows that Norwegians has a more favorable attitude towards immigrants in 2008 than past years.

The study, which was conducted in the summer, and before the world economy slump occurred, looked at attitudes towards immigrants and immigration. SSB writes on their website that more people think that immigrants make a useful contribution to working life than previously, fewer believes that they unjustly burden social welfare services and fewer oppose that a son or daughter marries an immigrant.

Those who think that immigrants are more a source of insecurity in society, sunk by 13 points from 45% to 32%.

Researcher Svien Blom, who conducted the study, tells that he thinks foreign workers have much credit for that people are more tolerant towards immigrants." He says that the foreign workers have been widely appreciated and could have contributed to changing the associations of the term immigrants.

The study also shows that 70% completely or somewhat agree that 'immigrants most enrich cultural life in Norway," an increase of 4% from last year. The percent of those who have hesitations about having immigrants as neighbors is also going down and now comprise just 6%.

A new background variable, main economic activity, was presented, This shows that pensioners and welfare recipients are more skeptical towards immigrants and immigration then the employed and students or school pupils. A large part of these differences originate in the age differences.

There has been a decrease from 40% to 24% of the percent of people who say they disapprove of having a immigrant son or daughter in-law.

SSB researcher Svein Blom explained to that this might be because such alliances are gradually becoming somewhat less uncommon.

Source: Utrop (Norwegian)

Related posts:
* Norway: Immigrants subject to discrimination
* Norway: Study of attitudes towards immigrant neighbors

Denmark: Daughter held in Lebanon, father in Denmark

Denmark: Daughter held in Lebanon, father in Denmark

While police are attempting to untangle a complicated case of custody rights, a 17 year old girl from Aabenraa is being held in Lebanon.

The girl traveled with her husband on vacation, but when they couple wanted to go home, she was refused exit.  Nordsjælland Police brought her father to a remand hearing Wednesday, suspected for evading the custody rights of the young woman's mother.

Deputy police inspector Henning Svendsen says that according to a preliminary investigation that man contacted the Lebanese authorities and in an unknown way got them to stop the girl.  The investigation will now show if the dispute might possibly be that the woman married without the father's consent.

The family is from the Middle East, and the father is divorced from the mother.  The man, who doesn't have custody rights, lives in Hillerød while the girl lives with her mother in Sønderjylland.

Source: DR (Denmark)

France: Government participates in mosque funding

France: Government participates in mosque funding

The public authorities provide 30% of necessary funds for building places of worship.

"Today, mayors are the foremost constructors of Mosques," says Dalil Boubakeur, smiling.  The former president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) is thought to have contributed to the institutionalization of Islam in France.  Mosques are sprouting everywhere.  Some 150 projects were launched.  Often marked by excessive size.  Créteil  just inaugurated a cathedral mosque which cost 5 million euro.  With the support of the PS (Socialist Party) official, Laurent Cathala.

"By divine will, it's thanks to the deputy mayor that the project succeeded," says Karim Banissa.  An emphyteutic lease aided the construction by 1 million, just as an annual subsidy of 100,000 euro, officially directed at cultural activities: the mayor used all financial means available to him, without violating the 1905 law which provides that the 'Republic will not recognize nor subsidize any religion."

Imperceptibly, in five years, local officials moved from caution, even distrust of Islam, to consecration.  Certainly, reluctance persists here and there, 'but it's rapidly improving' according to the president of the CFCM, Mohammed Moussaoui.

The mayors involved sometimes wants more control but also to win votes in tight elections.  With the explosion of land prices, granting municipal land proves decisive.  The emphyteutic lease has become the principal tool of mayors, even if the court sometimes punish rents which are too low, seen as explicit financing of religion.  This was the case in Marseille and Montreuil.

Since then the system has become more refined.  Mayors use the additional cultural activities of the mosque, sometimes a simple tearoom, in order to give subsidies.  In total, the public authorities are contributing 30% of the financing of places of worship, according to an estimate by the ministry of the interior.

In the past the authorities already got to an arrangement with the 1905 law to deal with, for example, the arrival of the French Algerians.  With Islam, these small arrangements were amplified and politicized.  Nicolas Sarkozy called for a temporary amendment to the law, to allow 'catching up'.  And accompany the transfer of Islam, now the 'second religion of France'.  If observance concerns only 20% of Muslim families, the religious significance is much larger.  Ramadan never attracted so many followers just like halal and wearing headscarves.  On the holidays, the prayer halls overflow with kneeling believers, who pray on the roads.

This image is fueling speculations about the numbers of missing places of worship.  According to the CFCM we need to go from the current 2000 to 4000.  The mayors participate in this buildup, whatever their political affiliations.

Every big city is making its grand mosque, costing millions of Euros.  And the movement extends to the less urban zones.  Dozens of projects blocked due to lack of funds or lost in the maze of bureaucracy are now being restarted.. because since the creation of the CFCM in 2003 and despite its faults, the status of Islam in the Republic is slowly becoming common.  Especially when foreign finance has been reduced.  If the main countries of origin - Algeria, Morocco, Turkey - still contribute to building places or worship or sending imams, the Gulf monarchies are becoming stingier.

Since September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia had seen some of its donations blocked by Tracfin, a service of the Ministry of the Economy which monitors financial flows.  Aid also comes now through the great fortunes of the Gulf, confirms Antoine Sfeir, head of the Les Cahiers de l'Orient journal.

In total these funds still represent close to 50%.  Though there's no issue of interference, because in reality, the funding isn't conditioned on ideology, according to the expert.  The more Islam becomes official, the more it is moderate, police officers confirm.  This is the gamble taken by the mayors.

Faced with this triple source of funding - public authorities, foreign donors and collection by the faithful - Dalil Boubakeur warns against excessive size: "A Grand Mosque, it's a financial abyss."

"There are indeed enough places of worship today, entrusted to the Bureau of Religions.  What's needed is an improvement of nearby structures, more than gigantic mosques, which in ten years will be impossible to maintain."  Unless the mayors contribute.

Source: Figaro (French)

See also: Grab-bag, France: Mosques top issue in local elections

Paris/Brussels: Terrorism investigation started after woman flees marriage

Paris/Brussels: Terrorism investigation started after woman flees marriage

A young Turk who was supposedly abducted in France on December 7th by the PKK is actually in Brussels, where she escaped a violent husband.

The lawyer of Cemile Demir (23), Olivier Stein, is surprised at the speed with which the French authorities, he says, classified this case as terrorism.

Stein informed the Belgian police, who interrogated the young woman at the request of the French court.  The young woman confirms that she fled because her father, who lives in the Parisian suburbs, wanted her to live in Turkey with a cousin with whom she was forcibly religiously married and who beat her.

On December 11 media reported the launching of an abduction investigation by the the anti-terrorism court of Paris, of a young Turkish woman by two people connected to the PKK, on December 7 near the French capital.

Source: DHnet (French)

Denmark: Muslim drivers save Christmas dinner

Denmark: Muslim drivers save Christmas dinner

Christmas Eve is busy for the country's taxi companies and therefore people think that it's difficult to find a driver who's willing to ditch Christmas dinner with their family.

But at Taxa-Fyn it's not a problem.  Her many of the drivers don't celebrate Christmas, because they're Muslim, and therefore the ethnic Danish drivers get home for Christmas dinner, says manager to

"We have some foreign employees, and that naturally becomes an advantage for us on Christmas Eve, when there's some of our Danish drivers who go home and have Christmas between 6pm and 9pm, but our foreign drivers take care of the runs," he says.

And it's not just the Danish drivers who benefit that taxi companies have employees of different faiths and therefore celebrate different festivals.

"Some of the drivers celebrate Ramadan and so it's good for them that the Danish drivers are ready to drive so they can celebrate," says Peter Kjærgaard.  

Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)

Denmark: Supermarket rejects 'self-censorship' accusations

Denmark: Supermarket rejects 'self-censorship' accusations

The Liberal Party's political spokesperson, Inger Støjberg,resent the fact that many large shops removed religous symbols from the  Christmas displays of their shops.

'It sends a cold shiver down my spine when I hear Dansk Supermarked's spokesperson Erik Eisenberg say that they don't run a church but rather a place where everybody is allowed to come in.  That's imposing self-censurship, and that's posion for the free and democratic world," she told Danish news agency Ritzau.

Inger Støjberg doubts whether supermarket chains like Dansk Supermarked and Coop removed the angles and Christmas stars out of consideration for sales.

"There is absolutely small number of Muslims, who will feel hurt by this.  It will just be undemocratic, fundamentalist forces.  The completely common Muslim won't stop shopping in the shops because there's an angle hanging from the ceiling," she says.

Therefore  Inger Støjberg thinks that the shops should 'drop the mistaken consideration" and put back the religious Christmas decorations.

She says that there's nothing to hide.  "On the contrary, I think that it's important that we keep to our festival symbols, which we've always done," she says.

But according to Dansk Supermarked's spokesperson, Erik Eisenberg, the the politicians got it all wrong.

"The basis for the debate is wrong, because it's been stated that we have removed something.  There's never been this type of symbols in our decorations, that people talk about now."  he told Ritzau that retailers never had a tradition to use religiously motivated symbols.

Sources: DR, Berlingske (Danish)

Drammen: Halal Christmas dish

The sale of Muslim-slaughtered dried ribs (Pinnekjøtt, a traditional Norwegian Christmas dish), is going like never before. Kerem Kacar sold a ton of pinnekjøtt this Christmas season.

"I don't understand why people don't eat pinnekjøtt in the summer," says Kerem Kacar, the owner of the halal meat business in Drammen.

17% of the residents of Drammen are immigrants, most are Muslim.

Even if the Muslims themselves don't celebrate Christmas, halal pinnekjøtt is naturally on their table on Christmas eve.

"I could eat pinnekjøtt all year round," says Kacar.

When it's for Christmas, the meat that is eaten must be slaughtered in a halal manner.

"There's really no difference in the meat," admits Kacar.

"The difference is that I say a religious sentence during the slaughter," he says.  Kacar has a lot of experience from Gilde slaughtering and manages a meat business in Drammen which specializes in halal slaughter.  
Until now Kacar's business sold over a ton of pinnekjøtt slaughtered in the correct Muslim manner.

"And I have many more orders waiting," says Kacar.

He expects that everything will be sold out before Christmas eve.  Customers are both ethnic Norwegians and immigrants.

Kerem has lived in Norway for 20 years.  He is married with Heidi, who comes from Grong in Trøndelag. They've lived in Drammen for 19 years.

"I converted to Islam 12 years ago, so we don't celebrate Christmas," says Heidi.  "But we still enjoy ourselves when it's Christmas because we have time off together."

- what do you eat on Christmas eve?

"Halal pinnekjøtt, of course," grins her husband.

Source: NRK (Norwegian)

Italy: Mosques in nativity scenes

Italy: Mosques in nativity scenes

Update: Telegraph reports in English

... The anti-immigration Northern League has called for a referendum to before any more mosques are built. Mario Borghezio, a Northern League MEP, called the priest an "imbecile" and said: "What on earth possessed him to put a mosque in a traditional Christmas nativity scene? I hope that the Church authorities in Genova will investigate this as a matter of urgency.''

He added: "What will this priest do when he says Mass during Ramadan? Ask us to turn towards Mecca? He may as well have included a suicide bomber wearing dynamite."


Father Bonzani also responded to his fiercer critics. "They said that I was allowing Islam to infiltrate Catholicism. As for Mr Borghezio, he is showing complete ignorance of his so called Catholic faith to love thy neighbour as thyself."


A nativity scene set up in Venice at a college of the Italian Women's Center, a Catholic organization, also features a mosque.

Suad Kechman, a Bosnian Muslim, who built the scene together with Donatella Trevisan, a Catholic coworker, says she respects her host nation's traditions. She says she was inspired by Sarajevo, which used to be a multicultural, multi-religious city.

The principal of the school, Valentina Pontina, sees the mosque initiative as a positive thing. The school has 150 students, with about 40% immigrants coming from Albania, China, the Philippines, Macedonia, Morocco, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and the Ukraine.

Father Konrad Friedrich Ferdinand, priest at the Church of San Simon Piccolo was not happy about it. He says that Muslims and Christians do not have the same concept of Jesus. For Christians Jesus is a God while for Muslims he's not.

On the other hand, Father Dino Pistolato, director of the diocesan Caritas, says the mosque does not bother him and that the Christian message is that God is for everybody.


In Genoa, the priest of Oregina, Don Prospero, recreated contemporary Palestine in a nativity scene, and doesn't understand why there's a scandal about there being a mosque. He says that there's also a menorah in his scene.

He says that only one person in his parish complained and yet it got top headlines in Italian newspapers. Partially since there's already a controversy about building a mosque in Genoa.

Sources: La Nuova , le Repubblica (Italian)

Netherlands: Joint Christian/Muslim/Jewish declaration

Netherlands: Joint Christian/Muslim/Jewish declaration

Over the past couple of days I've collected several Christmas stories, which I'll be posting throughout the day.

"Dialog teaches us to work together," says Christian, Muslim and Jewish organizations in a joint declaration for Christmas and New Year's.  "Through dialog we contribute to a peaceful society, By conducting dialog we know to deal with diversity."

The declaration is signed by the Council of Churches in the Netherlands, the Contact Organ Muslims and Government and the Dutch League for Progressive Judaism.  The declaration will be officially presented Jan 4, during a television broadcast of the Dutch Islamic Broadcaster (NIO).  This is the first time that the organizations publish such a joint declaration.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

Belgium: Turkish-Belgian chosen as Miss Belgium

Zeynep Sever (19) from Molenbeek was chosen in the Spiroudome in Charleroi to be Miss Belgium 2009.

Cassandra D'Ermilio (21) of Henegouw came second and Michèle Thissen (20) of Limburgs came third.

Zynep is 1m76, born on July 9, 1989 and lives in Molenbeek. She studies secretarial-tourism studies and loves volleyball and music.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Turkish-Dutch chosen as Miss Netherlands

Russia: Abbas awarded by head mufti

Russia: Abbas awarded by head mufti

Head of the Council of Muftis of Russia Ravil Gainutdin has decorated Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas with the supreme Russian Islamic award, the
Al Fahr Order.

The ceremony took place at the Council of Muftis residence on Monday morning.

Abbas received the award for restoring Palestinian statehood, making a substantial contribution in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and the Middle East peace process, and promoting peace, accord and inter-religious dialog, as well as fraternal relations between the Palestinian and Russian peoples.

Source: Interfax (English)

UK: Report claims 60% of Muslim schools linked to fundamentalists

UK: Report claims 60% of Muslim schools linked to fundamentalists

Britain's Muslim schools have been sharply criticised in a controversial draft report commissioned by a leading think tank which suggests that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists.

An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in the private sector but supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection.

The report also claims that some of these schools teach "repugnant" beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews.

The claims in the report, written by Denis MacEoin in response to a commission from Civitas, will provoke ritual cries of "Islamophobia" from the Muslim Council of Britain and fellow travellers such as Koran Armstrong. MacEoin has been careful to back up his claims with evidence - in particular, screen captures of links to Islamic hate-mongers, including supporters of Al-Qaeda.

Civitas, however, is not prepared to endorse MacEoin's 61.6 per cent figure, which will not appear in the published version of When Worlds Collide. A spokesman for Civitas explains: "We want to concentrate on claims that are absolutely robust, rather than complicated material, some of it in Arabic, that might unjustly damage someone's reputation."

Perhaps the most alarming finding of the draft I've seen is that so many of these schools (including ones with no connections to political extremism) are bricking up their pupils behind a wall of Koranic injunctions and Sharia law.

The schools known as Darul Ulooms, which base their curriculum on a seventeenth-century Indian teaching system, include very few secular subjects, claims the report. It says: "Their aim is not to prepare pupils for life in the wider world, but to give them the tools for a more limited existence inside the Muslim enclaves."


Source: Telegraph (English)

Germany: Fertile Grounds for Islamic Banking

Germany: Fertile Grounds for Islamic Banking

The German economy is considered the strongest in the Eurozone [15-country bloc that uses the Euro currency] and the level of German exports surpassed China for the fifth year running in 2007, achieving a record export of €969 billion. Its imports amounted to €770 billion, giving Germany a trade surplus of €198 billion. According to the German Foreign Ministry, the Eurozone is Germany's number one economic partner, and Eurozone imports and exports constitute two-thirds of German trade figures.

Germany managed to acquire this position thanks to its geographical location at the heart of Europe allowing it to attract international companies. Berlin was awarded the title of 'City of the Future' in 2006/07 by the fDi [Foreign Direct Investment] magazine affiliated to the Financial Times Group. The award is given annually to the European region or city that offers the best opportunities for foreign investment. Germany is also renowned for the number of its scientific research centres that encourage creativity and innovation. Companies with distinctive brand-names such as Daimler-Benz, BMW, and Siemens invest €250 million into scientific research and development on an annual basis. Due to this cooperation between economic activity and scientific research, Berlin ranked second in the European Innovation Index. The city is also renowned for its social stability and rule of law.

According to the 2007 census, the number of Muslims in Germany amounts to 3.4 million, and constitutes 4.1% of the German population of 82 million. This makes Islam the second largest religion in Germany, after Christianity, and Germany has recently demonstrated its responsiveness to the Islamic faith with an average of one man and one woman converting to Islam per week.


Source: Asharq alawsat (English)

Norway: Asylum shelter removes mosque

Norway: Asylum shelter removes mosque

Muslims at the Kongsvinger national shelter won't get their own prayer room any longer.  The premises might become a billiard room.

The decision caused strong reactions among the more than 70 people who live in the shelter.

"About 80% of those who live at the shelter are Muslims.  In addition, there are many others who come here to pray every Friday," says Alaa Madi, throwing out his arms in resignation.

In what was a holy room for many just a short time ago, there is now painting equipment. The shelter manager decided that the place would serve as a social room instead, maybe with a billiard table, and the work is in full swing.

'Do you want a prayer room or billiard?" asks Madi.

"Prayer room" is the answer in unison from the many male residents who came to give their opinion.

Alaa Madi doesn't live in the shelter, but is a spokesperson for the local Muslims.  The Kongsvinger man, who knows many of those who live in the shelter, points out that they have no other prayer room or mosque in the district.

"Is there no freedom of religion in Norway?  Christian Norwegians certainly have many churches they can use, we have nothing."

Most of all the Muslims want their own activity center outside the shelter, where they can offer their own activities for children, women and their own mosque, where they can also help asylum seekers become integrated in Norwegian society.

"We turned to the municipality to get help finding our own premises.  We can do everything ourselves, it shouldn't cost the public  anything," says Alaa Madi.

There is now a room at the Konsvinger national shelter for meditation and reflection.  The room is religiously neutral.

"Regardless, here there's far too little place.  Besides which we can't use a room with such books," say the Muslims, and show the front cover of Jane Fonda's workout book for pregnancy, birth and recovery.


"We can't give preferential treatment to a group of resident and are just following the rules," says the manager of the shelter, Jon Ivar Bergersen.

He says the reason the Muslims lost their prayer room is an inspection by the Directorate of Immigration (DI).  The directorate made it clear that the prayer room is unacceptable by the current regulations.

"My intention isn't to spoil it for anybody.  At the moment we can't allow such groups to take the law into their own hands," says Bergersen to Glåmdalen.

"We have freedom of religion and there is permission to pray, but at the same time this is a private issue.  The Muslims belong to different groups and some of the residents might have fled the Islamic faith, therefore we will be careful," says the shelter manager.

He also says that women don't have access to the prayer room.  The women residents were furthermore harassed if they went in.

The shelter manager also says that outsiders go into the shelter and that this isn't allowed due to security reasons.

"If we had allowed, for example, Jewish asylum seekers to use their own room and decorated the walls with icons, would that have caused strong reactions from the Arabs," points out Jon Ivar Bergersen.

The manager thinks it's a good idea if the Muslims would get their own activity center or mosque and supports this initiative.

Source: glomdalen 1, 2 (Norwegian)

Zurich: Church occupied by asylum seekers

Zurich: Church occupied by asylum seekers

Over 100 asylum-seekers have occupied a church in the old town of Switzerland's financial capital Zurich to protest about delays in processing their papers, activists said on Sunday.

The peaceful occupation, in the days before Christmas, was intended to prompt sympathy from local people.

"It's a time when people expect a sign of humanity from each other," Tamara Rennaald of the activist group Bleiberecht (right to stay) told Reuters.

Bleiberecht said in a statement about 150 asylum-seekers and supporters had occupied the church since Friday. Rennaald said at least 100 of these were asylum-seekers.

The refugees -- men, women and children -- come from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Ethiopia, Somalia and other countries.


Source: Reuters (English), Bleiberecht (German) + more pictures.