Belgium: Parliament to vote on burka ban (UPDATE: Law passed)

Belgium: Parliament to vote on burka ban

Update 3: Fixed typos, bumped to top post.

The French parliament is expected to vote on a similar bill in July. Both countries will probably have a burqa/niqab ban in place by the end of summer, but it's unclear who will do so first.

It should be noted that the burka is already banned in several towns in Belgium, including Brussels and Antwerp. These bans also include tourists. 29 women were fined in the Brussels region in 2009 for wearing the veil.

Update 2:

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives passed a law (NL) today banning the burka and niqab. The law itself doesn't mention any specific types of clothing, but rather bans any clothing which covers the face, wholly or partially, with the exception of festivals such as the carnival.

The law passed almost unanimously. Two SP.A. members abstained, in protest of the way that Vlaams Belang abused the good intentions of the bill for other purposes.

According to the law, wearing a burka could lead to a fine of 15-25 euro and a jail sentence of up to 7 days.

As mentioned below, the Senate will use its privilege to review the law, which means it will not yet go into effect.


Even if the law will pass in parliament, it now seems as though it won't become law so easily. The Flemish Open Vld and CD&V parties in the Senate already announced they would like to review the language of the law, which they say would not stand up in court. Given the political situation in Belgium, and the fact that the parliament is about to disband, this means in practice that the law will have to wait.


Last week the Belgian gov't fell, and the parliamentary session which was supposed to vote on a burka ban was postponed.

This week it's back on the agenda. Needless to say, yes or no to the burka ban is not what's been making headlines in Belgium recently.

I will post further updates as they occur.

EU: Benefits restriction on terror suspects' wives ruled illegal

EU: Benefits restriction on terror suspects' wives ruled illegal

Restrictions on the payment of welfare benefits to wives of terror suspects imposed by Ed Balls when he was a Treasury minister have been ruled illegal by the European court of justice.

The decision follows a challenge to the regime brought by three women whose husbands appear on a UN list of terror suspects who have been linked to al-Qaida, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

The bank accounts and other assets of those who appear on the UN sanctions list have been frozen under a European Union regulation.

The initial Treasury decision in 2006, endorsed by Balls, ruled that benefit payments to cover basic expenses such as food could be made to the wives of terror suspects as long as certain conditions were met to ensure that their husbands did not benefit.

The three conditions included withdrawing only £10 in cash for each member of the household from their personal bank account; sending a detailed monthly account with receipts to the Treasury, and accepting that making cash available to their husbands would be a criminal offence.

The EU's court, based in Luxembourg, has rejected this interpretation of the rules, saying the objective of the asset freezing regime was to stop them having access to resources to support terrorist activities.

The court's ruling said it was not in dispute that the benefit payments were being used to meet the essential needs of the household: "It is hard to imagine how those funds could be turned into means that could be used to support terrorist activities, for the benefits are fixed at a level intended to meet only the strictly vital needs of the persons concerned." The judges said the Treasury was wrong to assume that there was "any danger whatsover" that the benefit payments would be used to support terrorist activities.


Source: Guardian (English)

Denmark: Hirsi Ali receives Jyllands-Posten free speech award

Denmark: Hirsi Ali receives Jyllands-Posten free speech award

Somali-born rights icon Ayaan Hirsi Ali received a free speech award Wednesday from a Danish newspaper which sparked outrage by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005.

Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch lawmaker who was threatened with death for criticizing Islam, was named by Jyllands-Posten newspaper as the winner of its Prize for Freedom of Expression.

"The committee did not doubt for an instant that you deserved this award for your unshakeable faith that it was worth fighting for your points of view," editor Joern Mikkelsen said at the prizegiving ceremony in Copenhagen.

He said he was "proud" to give her the award, saying that "Hirsi Ali's fight for the freedom of expression is also our fight".


Source: Montreal Gazette (English)

Sweden: Comedy Central will not air South Park 'Mohammed episodes'

Sweden: Comedy Central will not air South Park 'Mohammed episodes'

The broadcaster says they strongly believe in artistic freedom, but that the safety of their employees is their top priority. (SV)


Broadcaster Comedy Central has pledged not to air controversial episodes of US satirical cartoon show South Park depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad in a bear costume, Aftonbladet reports.

"Comedy Central has decided not to show these two episodes of South Park. It is a decision we have taken very reluctantly," the broadcaster explained in an official statement.

"The safety of our staff is out undisputed top priority, which is why have decided to take these precautionary measures."

The Muhammad joke formed part of a 200th anniversary episode screened in the US on April 14th, prompting threats of retribution from an Islamist group directed towards the notoriously irreverent show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker.


Sources: The Local, Wiki (English)

Finland: Unemployment among Somalis high, but improving

Finland: Unemployment among Somalis high, but improving

Getting a job is the most important goal set in official immigration policy. Unemployment among those speaking Somali as a mother tongue was 43.3 per cent according to figures put out by Statistics Finland for 2008.

Among the Somalis, adults outside the work force, as housewives and as conscripts, outnumber those who are officially unemployed. The employment level is just 29.8 per cent.

Mervi Virtanen, Director of Immigration at the Ministry of the Interior, points out that the unemployed include those who have recently come to Finland, who have neither linguistic skills, nor a profession.

"On a general level there still seems to be prejudice against Somalis in society."

However, the situation is not necessarily all that grim. Employment should be examined over a longer period, says Annika Forsander, director of immigration issues for the City of Helsinki.

For the Somalis who came to Finland in the first wave, in 1989-1993, the employment rate in 2007 was 58 per cent, according to a study which is being prepared at the Urban Facts department of the City of Helsinki.

In the same year the employment rate for the whole population was 69.9 per cent.

"Employment has constantly improved, the more years have gone by", Forsander says. "This suggests that immigrants are growing out of their dependency on social welfare but it takes time, especially with refugees."

Some Somalis have found employment in work that takes place among other Somalis - as teachers, school assistants, or teachers of the Somali language, but there are no figures on that.


Source: HS (English)

EU: 53% oppose headscarves in schools

EU: 53% oppose headscarves in schools

The question seems to be about veils, and I'm not sure whether they're specifying they're talking about headscarves.


Just over half of Europeans surveyed opposed allowing Islamic headscarves in schools but backed the presence of crucifixes in classrooms, according to a Spanish study obtained by AFP Wednesday.

A total 52.6 per cent of those polled in 12 European Union member states along were "opposed" or "totally opposed" to the use of the garment in schools, according to the study carried out by the research department of BBVA, Spain's second-largest bank.


The BBVA study polled 1,500 people in 12 EU member states - Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden - as well as in Switzerland and Turkey on a variety of issues.


The full survey is available here (in PDF)

The question that is making headlines asks if you'll allow a veil, kippah or crucifix in educational centers (schools, universities etc).

Belgium, Greece, France, Germany, Bulgaria and Switzerland have a majority opposing the headscarf in school. Besides Switzerland, those countries also have a majority opposing the Jewish kippah in school. Bulgaria and Turkey are the only countries where a majority opposes the crucifix in school.

(click to enlarge)

The graph is pretty self-explanatory. Green = agree/totally agree, Pink - don't agree/don't oppose, Red - oppose/totally oppose

Support/Opposition for the veil by country:
EU - 26.4% / 52.6%
Denmark - 56.5% / 28.1%
Sweden - 46.5% / 37.0%
Poland - 40.8% / 25.6%
UK - 35.9% / 45.7%
Italy - 30.2% / 44.0%
Spain - 28.1% / 49.6%
Portugal - 25.6% / 41.6%
Belgium - 24.3% / 59.5%
Greece - 18.9% / 59.7%
France - 16.6% / 68.7%
Germany - 15.0% / 66.3%
Bulgaria - 5% / 84.3%

Switzerland - 9.3% / 60.4%
Turkey - 43.6% / 39.9%

Scotland: Muslims almost half of racist incident victims

Scotland: Muslims almost half of racist incident victims

Scotland's Chief Statistician today published Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2004-05 to 2008-09. This publication presents the latest figures on racist incidents recorded by Scottish Police Forces.

The main findings are:

There were 5,123 racist incidents recorded in 2008-09, compared to the 5,244 incidents recorded in 2007-08. This equates to a two per cent decrease on 2007-08.

The number of crimes decreased in 2008-09 (from 6,673 crimes in 2007-08 to 6,590 crimes in 2008-09), which equates to a decrease of one per cent.

In 2008-09, around 98 per cent of incidents reported resulted in one or more crimes being recorded.

The most frequently recorded crime in 2008-09 was racially aggravated conduct, accounting for 58 per cent of all racist related crimes recorded.

In 2008-09, around 48 per cent of victims, for which ethnic origin was known, were of Asian origin (that is, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other Asian), with the majority being Pakistani.

For those incidents where perpetrator information was available, approximately 96 per cent of perpetrators, for which ethnic origin was known, were of white origin.


Source: eGov Monitor (English)

Netherlands: Moroccans more likely to confess to authoritarian police agent

Netherlands: Moroccans more likely to confess to authoritarian police agent

A study shows that Moroccan suspects deny offenses much more often during interrogation than ethnic Dutch suspects. Investigators in the Gelderland-Zuid department discovered that an interrogation by somebody in a suit radiating authority leads to many more confessions, reports AD.

The police in Gelderland-Zuid did an experiment, in which Moroccan suspects were interrogated in an alternative way. They were taken out of their cell by somebody in casual clothes, but were then interrogated by an investigator in a suit, radiating authority.

The well-dressed interrogated didn't get his coffee by himself, as a deputy did that for him. By use of such tricks, the agent commanded more respect.

Generally, Moroccans suspects are inclined to deny offenses in any case, much more often than ethnic Dutch suspects, according to a study by the University of Groningen. With this new interrogation method, they seem more likely to change over to a confession.

According to the police department, the experiment, implemented with ten suspects, was a big success. Using the normal methods, barely 20% of Moroccans admitted to committing the crime. In the new interrogation method, 80% of the Moroccan suspects confessed.

Source: Elsevier (Dutch)

Netherlands: 20% of teachers avoid teaching about the Holocaust

Netherlands: 20% of teachers avoid teaching about the Holocaust

A fifth of history teachers in the four major Dutch cities have had to deal with not being able to or rarely bringing up the Holocaust because Muslim students in particular have difficulties with it.

This according to a survey among history teachers in secondary education by the Elsevier weekly and research agency ResearchNed. Teachers in VMBO schools in particular encounter resistance, reported. The teachers said that in the VMBO schools four major cities, in particular, immigrant students were less interested than ethnic Dutch.

There is also good news: the claim that the war was forgotten and youth don't know about WWII anymore is nonsense. Students in secondary education think WWII is very interesting.

80% of teachers say that of all the subject, students think WWII is most interesting. This is followed far behind by the second half of the 20th century and the Greeks and Romans. The persecution of the Jews is most interesting, the conquest and occupation of the Dutch-Indies by Japan the least.

According to 80% of the teachers, WWII helps students understand the consequences of intolerance towards other people. 70% say that WWII helps students recognized the values of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Source: AD (Dutch)

Austria: More Muslims leaving for terror training

Austria: More Muslims leaving for terror training

The Austrian government recently approved a contested anti-terrorism bill which would jail hate-preachers and anybody who attends or instructs a terrorist camp.

See also: Germany: Police investigating more Islamists


More and more Muslims are going from Austria to terrorism camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is the main claim on the topic of Islamic extremism, in a recent intelligence report by the Interior Ministry. On Monday, a 105 page dossier was published with information about terrorist risk sources for Austria in 2009.

The Interior Ministry remains silent about the number of people who are suspect of terrorsit training in the Middle East. Peter Gridling, head of the BVT (Austrian Security Service) said that this year (2010) they've already seen more departures than in the past four years combined. Gridling spoke of a number of people in the 'double digits', linked to terror camps, which the BVT is keeping an eye on.

The majority of these potential terrorist is 19-25 years old. Young people from Muslim families who completed their studies in Austria, as well as converts.

In most cases the recruitment is conducted on the Internet. According to the BVT, there are already 'libraries' available, which provide 'online training tutorials and manuals'.

It is difficult to prove that Muslims from Austria are being trained in terrorist camps. Travels are very creative, disguising the real reason for their absence. Often the suspect's community say that he's on a long 'language trip'.

The clues to the suspect's stay come from complex interrogations aboard, on the one hand, as well as from the family of the alleged terrorist camp participant. Gridling reported that in two cases they know that the suspects wrote their families a farewell letter. The BVT reports that the focus of the training is shifting to Somalia and Yemen.

Interior Minister Maria Fekter said that in general Islamic extremism does not pose such a big threat to Austria. Gridling added that radical Islam is not a mass phenomena in this country, and that just a few hundreds can be considered radicalized. The problem is with small groups who do not cooperate with al-Qaeda cells and are therefore more difficult to detect.

The new anti-terrorism law, which will institute punishments for terrorist camp training, is also aimed at radical preachers in mosques. Gridling said that at the moment there are only a few preachers in Austria for which the new law would apply. Nonetheless, he thinks it will change the tone and that it would be less aggressive.

Source: Die Presse (German)

Austria: Investigators link Chechen leader to Vienna murder

Austria: Investigators link Chechen leader to Vienna murder

The New York Times has a detailed article on this story. 


Austrian investigators believe that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov ordered the kidnapping of an exile in Vienna that went awry last year and ended in the man's killing, the Vienna prosecutors' office said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the prosecutors, Gerhard Jarosch, said a report on the findings of a year-long criminal investigation by Austria's police and domestic intelligence agency came to this conclusion based mostly on circumstantial evidence.

Kadyrov's spokesman denied the president's involvement and dismissed the Austrian allegations as unfounded.

Chechen exile Umar Israilov was shot dead on the street in January last year after shopping for groceries in a working class district of Vienna. Three suspects held in connection with the killing may be indicted in the coming weeks, Jarosch said.

Evidence including from witnesses to the shooting suggested the murder was not planned as such but that it was a kidnapping that went wrong, Jarosch said.

"The (agency's) report says, verbatim: 'It has to be assumed that the kidnapping was indeed ordered from the highest level -- in brackets Kadyrov'," Jarosch said.


Source: Reuters (English)

France: Salad manufacturer to launch halal line

France: Salad manufacturer to launch halal line

The Pierre Martinet group, specializing in the salads found on the shelves in major supermarkets, announced Wednesday they're launching halal dishes, a promising market in France, where they're in first place.

Already the market leader in salads and deli products (raw vegetables, tabboulehs, cheese, seafood, sausage-based..), the group, which achieved a turnover of 103.5 million euro in 2009, down by 2%, announced their move in a press conference.

Without specifying their prospects, Pierre Martinet said they aim to become number one in the halal deli market in France, occupying the 'upscale' niche market.

There are two other national brands in this sector: Herta and Fleury Michon.

Named "Nurdan's recopies" after Pierre Martinet's Turkish-origin wife, this new range of products will be sold by major retailers, like Auchan.

Negotiations are also ongoing with Casino, which has its own halal label, said Hassane Ouassidi, responsible for developing this new range.

The new products will also be sold in specialty shops and across the border, particularly in Belgium.

The Martinet group worked with the Lyon mosque for the certification. This procedure is a sensitive point. Halal food suffers from the lack of a single standard in France and the proliferation of certification bodies.

France does not have one halal label, recognized by the entire Muslim community, estimated at about 5 million people, the largest in Europe.

Three mosques - Paris, Lyon, Evry - are authorized to grant certificates, but there are many bodies which perform inspections, particularly in slaughterhouses, with different methods and definitions of halal.

The halal market is estimated at 5 billion euro in France and 15 billion in Europe, according to figures cited by the group.

Source: Le Parisien (French)

Hague: Neighbors upset about Turkish festival on Queen's Day

Hague: Neighbors upset about Turkish festival on Queen's Day

Residents of Transvaal in the Hague are upset a Turkish cultural event is planned to start in Wijkpark Transvaal on Queen's Day of all days.

"Queen's Day is simply being bartered away," said an angry man who lives by the park. "I'm proud that we live in a country where tolerance reigns, but this festival is in Turkish and for and by Turks. That isn't suited for a national holiday like Queen's Day. The day has a certain character and is for everybody. You shouldn't organize any event that is only aimed at a limited group of Turks."

The event is organized by the Turkish Islamic Cultural Foundation, and is part of the Turkish Cultural Days, which is being held April 30 and May 1 and 2. The program includes Turkish music, folklore, dance and food.

"Outrageous1" says a perplexed resident. "We have in this country one big national festival, and that's Queen's Day. That's disappearing now." "I have no problem with a Turkish festival, but all the Dutch people are celebrating Queen's Day. Let that stay that way!" according to another baffled neighbor.

Chairman Tahsin Cetinkaya of the Turkish Islamic Cultural Foundation is not aware of any anger. "We are part of Dutch society. With such a festival we can build a bridge between the cultures." He says attention will be devoted to Queen's Day on the first day of the three day event. "We're be putting on orange and hanging up Dutch flags."

Meanwhile, neighbors of the park don't understand why the municipality in the Hague grants a permit for a Turkish event on Queen's Day. "That the municipality abandons such a day!" one neighborhood residents asks.

According to a municipality spokesperson, there was no reason not to grant a permit. "The permit is granted if the organizer can show that he can organize the party in an orderly and secure manner. That it's taking place on Queen's Day is no reason to refuse a permit."

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

Malmö: Pre-school closed down for fear of youth gangs

Malmö: Pre-school closed down for fear of youth gangs

Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reports (SV) that children, parents and staff were dealing with threats and harassment. Amal Chekaidem, who has five children, all of whom went to this pre-school says: "Now they're moving the children, but those who live here, what should we do? It's a big problem for all of society. why don't they remove those who cause the problems?"

Some parents think it's good that the children will go to another school. Mahmoud Selman: "It's good they move and hope they'll get somewhere where they feel safe."


A pre-school in Malmö's Rosengård district was shut down on Monday morning in the interests of staff safety following an extended period of threats and harassment from a gang of local youths.

Henrik Wolter, a health and safety representative for the Swedish Teachers' Union, took the decision to close the pre-school with immediate effect following consultation with district leaders.

The 34 children who attend the Herrgården pre-school have been moved temporarily to a school in Käglinge in south-east Malmö, but district chief Eva Ahlgren expects the children to move to a new location in Rosengård on Wednesday. In the longer term, places have been set aside for the children at a pre-school affiliated with Rosengård School, which is currently being extended.

"The closure of Herrgården's pre-school was necessary. Staff have been repeatedly exposed to fighting and harassment. On one occasion a glass bottle was thrown from a window at one of the employees," said Ahlgren.

She added that she had not previously been aware of the problem.

The pre-school is located in an area at the centre of a housing standards scandal last year when its run-down apartment complexes were found to be riddled with mould and cockroaches.

Herrgården has also served as a flashpoint for many of the disturbances that have plagued the predominantly immigrant suburb of Rosengård in recent years.


Source: The Local (English)

Germany: Muslim group comes out in support of crucifixes in school

Germany: Muslim group comes out in support of crucifixes in school

Özkan started up a political storm when she said that both crucifies and headscarves do not belong in schools. She has since apologized for her interview.


A German Muslim group weighed into Germany's debate about crucifixes on Tuesday, saying it was fine for them to hang in German school classrooms because religion ought not to retreat from the public sphere.

The Central Council of Muslims, which supports the right of devout women to display their faith by wearing a headscarf, spoke out amid a storm over the views of a secular Muslim woman who was set to be sworn in Tuesday as a regional government minister.

"Religion needs to be visible in public space. That applies to all religions," Ayyub Axel Koehler, the German-born president of the Council, told the German Press Agency dpa in an interview in Cologne.


The Central Council of Muslims is one of four national groups of mosques. It went public this month with criticism of the government for inviting too many secular Muslims to a national conference on relations between Islam and the state.

"We live in country that is thoroughly shaped by Christianity," Koehler said. "That is why religion ought to be visible here."

Speaking on an issue that has also made waves in France, Koehler said that by the same token, Muslim women should be free to wear scarves.

"If we ban religion from public spaces, then we are undermining the secular constitution. That is the nub of the issue," he said. "The state must behave neutrally towards religious communities, but is also duty bound to cooperate with them."


Source: EarthTimes (English)

UK: Respect candidate spearheads quiet revolution to get Muslim women involved in politics

UK: Respect candidate spearheads quiet revolution to get Muslim women involved in politics

Drums, loudhailers, chanting slogans. It is a very old-fashioned kind of politics that can be heard on the high street in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

But Salma Yaqoob, the prospective parliament candidate at the centre of the hubbub, represents a quiet revolution. "Bankers bailed out, people sold out," she shouts into the loudhailer outside the banks. The passing cars sound their horns in support.

She is the most prominent Muslim woman in British public life. She wears a headscarf, a powerful symbol of a faith she has accommodated with her passionate leftwing politics. She is standing as a candidate for the tiny and fractured Respect party.


Yaqoob is one of a small group who has a good chance of making history as one of the first British Muslim women MPs. Her result is looking close, while across Birmingham, Shabana Mahmood is fighting Clare Short's old seat, Ladywood. In Bolton South, Yasmin Qureshi inherits a big Labour majority, and Rushanara Ali could well take the Bethnal Green seat back for Labour. Yaqoob's headscarf at Westminster may prompt a few headlines – both here and abroad – but few will fully grasp the small revolution these women are spearheading in these communities, and how they are introducing to British electoral politics a constituency of Muslim women, many of whom don't speak English and were in previous elections confined to the backroom, the private family areas of the house, whenever canvassers or candidates came to the doorstep.


Yaqoob was wooed by Labour after 2005.She acknowledges that "My values are traditional Labour, but New Labour has gone to the right". She was even courted by the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, a tribute to her rare capacity for fair-minded plain speaking, most evident in her Question Time appearance earlier this year, at Wootton Bassett, when she earned respect for her handling of questions about British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, a war she opposes.

But she has stuck with Respect, despite its internal disputes, since 2005, and is probably now better known than her party. She is accused by prominent Labour and Liberal Democrat Muslims of "leading the community into a "cul-de-sac" but defends her politics vigorously.

"I couldn't speak like I do if I was in Labour. I'm not here as a career politician, but because I want to offer an alternative to the neo-liberal model, which is patently failing. I now punch above my weight, working with other parties and influencing them. I want to try and open the space for discussion and debate, which is crucial right now, and nudge Labour into a more principled position."

She says she won't "make a tactic into a principle", clearly indicating that she would come back to Labour on the right terms. In the meantime, her gamble to be her own woman and to speak her mind without having to submit to party discipline is surviving against all the odds. A recent independent assessment argued that she is among Birmingham's three most influential councillors.

Ironically, her toughest battles are probably within the Muslim community. Contrary to assumptions that this is where the core of her support lies, she has had to pick her way very carefully through the sensitivities of conservatives within her community. The old Sparkbrook and Small Heath had the highest number of Muslim votes of any constituency in the country, and many of them are now in Yaqoob's patch.

"I've had death threats and criticism that I support gays – because I have a clear anti-discrimination position – and there have been claims that it is haram [forbidden in Islam] to vote for women. People say to me, 'Have you no shame?' and they accuse me of immodesty and ask my husband why he lets me speak in public. It's still an uphill struggle."

But she has been winning even her fiercest critics round. "Some people who made out fatwas against voting for a woman have now been saying that I'm the right candidate. I have been invited into mosques – some of which don't even have facilities for women to pray – to give the Friday sermons."

Yaqoob is well aware that she is a challenge to traditional Muslim political culture – not just because she is a woman, but because she is not afraid to speak her mind. She has openly criticised the way the postal vote has been misused in Birmingham to strengthen the traditional biraderi – clan affiliations. In practice, what this means is that a community fixer will offer a party hundreds of votes in return for favours.

She recognises that many non-Muslim voters can feel threatened by her as a Muslim. "I'm between a rock and a hard place," she says. "I have to jump hurdles because of the way I look. Firstly, I have to make it clear that I don't support terrorism, secondly, that I'm British, thirdly, that I don't just lobby for Muslims and lastly, that I'm not a Trojan horse for sinister Islamist plots.


Both are able to get beyond the "front room campaigning" of previous elections; candidates and canvassers sit in family sitting rooms and are served delicious tea spiced with green cardamom, while the conversations run on in Urdu or Mirpuri. The questions here are about family and which village the candidate is "from" back in Pakistan. There is no mistaking the pride and delight among these women to see a female candidate.

"My generation had a much more traditional life and you listened to your husband on who to vote for, but my daughters have a completely different outlook," says Maqsood Bibi through a translator. "It's a good thing for women to come forward so that it is not just men in politics. As a Muslim, I believe God gives you, as a woman, the same rights as he gives to the men. So why shouldn't you become an MP?"

Along the street, Gulshan Begum was even more forthright. "My generation of women are often illiterate and we need women in power to support us."

Their generation has waited a long time for the moment when this may finally come true.


Source: Guardian (English)

Italy: Moroccans top list of foreign company owners

Italy: Moroccans top list of foreign company owners

Some 57,621 businesses, out of the 599,036 managed by foreigners in Italy, are held by Moroccans, reported the Italian agency Adnkronos.

A study, conducted by the Association of craftsmen and small enterprises (CGIA) of the town of Mestre (north-eastern Italy), found that the number of businesses run by foreigners rose 40.5% in the last five years, at a time when even Italian companies are struggling to survive.

In the year 2009, which was one of the most difficult in Italy's recent history because of the global financial and economic crisis, these firms grew by 4.1%.

Moroccans top the list of foreign company owners in Italy, employing some two million people, followed by the Chinese (49,854), Romanians (49,132), the Swiss (43,973), Germans (36,325) and Albanians (34,982).

According to the CGIA, this growth is largely attributable to the fact that the numbers of foreigners have significantly increased during the past five years.

It seems that the creation of businesses is one of the ways of fighting the bad working conditions and the low salaries imposed by Italian companies on foreigners in general and Moroccans in particular.

A report published last year by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) had found that a large number of Moroccans in Italy are living in conditions close to slavery.


Source: Moroccan Business News (English)

France: Man accused of polygamy claims he only had mistresses

France: Man accused of polygamy claims he only had mistresses

A French muslim man accused by the government of practicing polygamy insisted on Monday that he had only one wife and several mistresses, and was not breaking French law.

At a press conference on Monday, Lies Hebbadj, an Algerian-born 35 year-old butcher, responded to suggestions by French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux that he should lose his French passport because he was believed to have four wives who had given him 12 children who were all receiving welfare benefits.

"As far as I know, it is not forbidden to have mistresses in France, nor is it forbidden under Islam," said Hebbadj. "If you lose your French nationality for having mistresses, then a lot of French men would have been stripped of their citizenship."

Hebbadj became a French citizen in 1999, after marrying a woman with French nationality.


The head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohamed Moussaoui, said Hebbadj's case had been inflated by the media.

"If there was polygamy, the laws are clear on that and Muslims in France are respectful of laws," said Moussaoui.

He added that, in contrast, a weekend gun attack on a mosque in southern France had received little attention.


Source: DW-World (English)

Kosovo: Headscarves banned in public schools

Kosovo: Headscarves banned in public schools

The young Kosovo Republic, with an overwhelming Muslim majority but a tradition of moderate Islam and a secular constitution, has joined Tunisia and France in prohibiting girls attending public schools from wearing the headscarf (hijab). As in Turkey, where the ban on headscarves, instituted in the 1920s, has become a matter for judicial controversy, decisions against the headscarf by local and school authorities have produced a legal case and complaints of discrimination.

For now, headscarves cannot be worn on school property in most of Kosovo. A 16-year-old girl, Arjeta Halimi, from the small town of Viti, which includes Albanian Catholics and Christian Orthodox Serbs, was barred from school in January 2009.  She was not been allowed to return, although school authorities will permit her to take her final examinations while in hijab. In the meantime, she is studying at home. She also takes three hours of Islamic religious classes each day.

According to local media, the teenager was ordered by the principal and a security guard at her school to remove the scarf or leave the institution's  grounds. She opted for the scarf over the schoolhouse, declaring that she had made the decision to cover her hair after five years of religious instruction. Halimi also said her mother wore a headscarf but that her sisters did not. "They are different," she said.  She further asserted that other students were allowed to wear Christian crosses, and that she should therefore be permitted to remain in hijab while at classes.

Her case produced a complaint by a local, non-Islamist NGO, the Center for Legal Aid and Regional Development, which claims she is a victim of religious discrimination.  A district court found in her favor, but school and municipal authorities in Viti rejected their opinion, and insisted that obtrusive religious symbols could not be worn in public schools.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), through a small English-language tabloid published in the republic's capital, Prishtina Insight, said that ten such cases have previously been observed in Kosovo. Three girls were excluded from public schools in the district of Skenderaj, which has been plagued by Islamist ructions, and one from a facility in the capital.  But according to Prishtina Insight, the headscarf is allowed in some schools near Viti.


Source: Weekly Standard (English)

France: Shots fired at mosque

France: Shots fired at mosque

FRANCE'S prime minister says gunshots were fired at a mosque in southern France. No one was hurt, and police are investigating.

Francois Fillon's office says he told Muslim leaders on Monday of his 'deep emotion and his support' after the incident at a mosque in the southern city of Istres.

Police say about 30 shots were fired at the mosque's facade before dawn on Sunday. Mosque officials discovered the damage later.



Faouzi Lamdaoui (PS, Socialist Party) condemned the shooting of the Istres mosque (Bouches-du-Rhône), a 'direct consequence', he says, of the 'hazardous' policies of the government, which 'stigmatize' French Muslims.  In the statement, the former national secretary of the PS also expressed his 'anger and outrage' at this 'unacceptable' act, a 'direct consequence of the hazardous policy led by the Fillon government, which involves stigmatizing part of the French population, whose only crime is of being Muslims or of being suspected of such."

He added that the manipulation and politicization of the issue of the full veil by Nicolas Sarkozy, also commits him to ensure security for certain small groups. Lamdaoui asked the democrats and republicans to block this 'suicidal policy' and demanded an effective instigation followed by exemplary punishments against the perpetrators of this heinous act.

Sources: Straits Times (English), Le Figaro (French)

Germany: Police investigating more Islamists

Germany: Police investigating more Islamists

Germany is conducting more investigations against Islamic terror suspects than ever before, as the country's involvement in Afghanistan deepens, the Federal Crime Office (BKA) says.

"Across the country, we now have 350 investigations into people with Islamic backgrounds, the most ever," Joerg Ziercke, the head of the BKA, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung regional daily.

Around one third of these probes concern attacks on German soldiers in Afghanistan, Ziercke added.

Authorities are tracking approximately 1,100 people in Germany "with Islamic terrorist potential," he said, adding that trips to terrorist training camps had risen significantly since 2009.

"Since then, a German community has established itself on the Hindu Kush," he said, referring to the mountain range connecting the north and south of Afghanistan.

"This group, containing between 10 and 12 people, is trying to win over fellow Germans with Jihadist propaganda and unfortunately, they are succeeding."


Source: TimesLIVE (English)

Admin: Comments on comments

Admin: Comments on comments

Over the past few days, comments on this site have gone completely wild. Since I'm not around 24/7, and I want to have a life outside of this blog, I can't catch every off-track comment the minute it's posted. By the time I get to it, it's already become a putrid discussion with dozens of hateful comments from all sides, and I get nauseous having to wade into it and start moderating.

I have a limited amount of blogging time, and I prefer spending it on posting rather than moderating.

I do not want to ban all comments, and I do not want to be in a position where I hesitate to post an article just because I fear the comments it will cause. When I start understanding journalists who practice self-censorship, I realize the situation is dire.

First, I updated the blog's comment policy. Read it and follow it.

Second, at the moment I don't have the option to only moderate certain users, and therefore, there isn't much I can do besides banning.

This is your last warning.

Finally, if you do see a comment that you think shouldn't be here - DO NOT REPLY TO IT! Certainly not by dragging the discussion to an even lower level. Instead, report it. It might take me a few hours, but if I agree with you, it will be deleted.

Thank you.

Germany: Police warns of radical converts

Germany: Police warns of radical converts

See also: Switzerland: Young converts could pose national security threat

Germans who convert to Islam are considered a growing security risk by the BKA (Federal Criminal Police), reports Focus magazine, citing a confidential BKA analysis. Thus, federal and state police consider 11 converts as 'dangerous' and 26 as 'relevant people', including three women. The Muslims are aged 20-42 years old and are suspected of planning terror attacks in Germany.

Accoridng to the BKA paper, the radical converts use 'certain mosques' as venues, according to Focus the facilitates are in Ulm/Neu-Ulm as well as the al-Kuds mosque in Hamburg, where some of the 9/11 attackers met, including Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah.

Three of the converts classified as threatening live in Baden-Württemberg, five in Bremen, four in Hamburg and in North Rhine-Westphalia. It was there that the police arrested the convert "Sauerland-terrorists" Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider in 2007.

In March 2010 they were sentenced to 12 years in prison. The terrorist threat in Germany is considered by the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Heinz Fromm, to be very high. On Saturday he said on SWR, that these were people who were determined to wage Jihad anywhere in the world, as well as in Germany.

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung (German), h/t TR

US: British al-Qaeda commander planned NY attack

US: British al-Qaeda commander planned NY attack

Rashid Rauf, who also planned the transatlantic airlines plot, allegedly told three Americans to attack targets in the United States.

His role in the plot emerged as a man pleaded guilty to the plot which was cracked by the FBI last September after a tip off from British intelligence.

It would have been the biggest attack on US soil since September 11, according to the US Attorney General, Eric Holder.

Rauf's role in the New York plot emerged as Zarein Ahmedzay, a 25-year-old former New York taxi driver, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

It is claimed they had bought the ingredients to make similar explosives as those used in the July 7 2005 bombings which killed 52 people on three tube trains and a bus in London.

In court Ahmedzay said he travelled to Pakistan with two other former school friends from Queen's, New York, Najibullah Zazi and Adis Medunjanin in the summer of 2008.

At the camp in the lawless region of North Waziristan, Ahmedzay said the three men offered to join the Taliban and fight US forces in Afghanistan, but were told they would be "more useful if we returned to New York City... to conduct operations."

Asked by the judge what kind of operations, he said: "Suicide-bombing operations."

The al-Qaeda commanders were identified as Rauf and a man called Saleh al-Somali by the Assistant US Attorney, Jeffrey Knox, as well as an unidentified third man.

Rauf, who is originally from Birmingham, fled Britain after the murder of his uncle in 2002 and has been connected to almost every significant terrorist plot in Britain since, including July 7, the failed attacks of July 21 and the plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic.


Source: Telegraph (English)

Germany: Muslim minister-designate backs school crucifix ban

Germany: Muslim minister-designate backs school crucifix ban

Ayguel Oezkan, the designated social minister in Lower Saxony who is set to be Germany's first Muslim minister of Turkish origin, has caused controversy by calling for a ban on crucifixes in state schools.

Ayguel Oezkan has created waves before even taking office as social minister in the north-western German state of Lower Saxony.

The 38-year-old, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said in an interview on Saturday that crucifixes have as little place in state schools as do headscarves.

"Christian symbols do not belong in state schools," Oezkan told German magazine Focus, adding that "schools should be neutral places where children can decide their religious orientation on their own. Just as head scarves do not belong in classrooms."

Oezkan's comments have ruffled feathers in her own conservative party.

Lower Saxony state premier, Christian Wulff, distanced himself from the designated minister's remarks

"Christian symbols, above all the crucifix in schools, are welcomed by the state government in Lower Saxony in keeping with the practice of tolerant education on the basis of Christian values," Wulff told news agency dpa.

He added that students wearing headscarves too were tolerated on grounds of religious freedom but not teachers.


Oezkan has been given police protection in recent days. According to authorities, she has received letters and emails threatening that "something would happen" if she accepts her post, which is scheduled for Tuesday.


Source: DW-World (English)

Sweden: University cancels Vilks lecture

Sweden: University cancels Vilks lecture

Artist Lars Vilks was invited by Jönköping University to speak about freedom of speech. But the seminar was canceled for security reasons.

"I've understood that Muslim students protested," says Lars Vilks.

The politically independent Foreign Policy Association at Jönköping University was forced to cancel a lecture with controversial artist Lars Vilks.

Vilks, who's known in the Middle East for his cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, was supposed to come to Jönköping on Thursday. But yesterday he was told that association canceled the lecture.

Due to the security risk, the International Business School, the Culture Center and Hotel Victoria, all refused to offer their premises.

"First we asked if we could have the event elsewhere instead of at the school, but we got the same answer from everybody that it's the main reason," says Johan Nordberg of the non-profit association.

Have there been any threats?

"We haven't received any direct threats at all, neither did Vilks. But we've heard angry voices, but it's well in the lecture's nature that it will be so."

Lars Vilks definitely thinks that Muslim students are behind the protests.

"We've seen it on Facebook. There's an option there to discuss the lecture and we saw that there was an agitated discussion with many Muslim students. Several strongly rejected [it] and thought the all thing was idiotic."

"I think it was the organizers who didn't want to have it," says Lars Vilks.

According to Johan Nordberg they've had continuous contact with the police in Jönköping before the lecture Lars Vilks was suppose to give. The lecture was about freedom of speech.

"Our purpose was to have a debate on an international level, so it's clear that it's unfortunate. We will see if we can do anything in the future. Still we tried until the very end," says

Lars Vilks is constantly guarded by Säpo (Swedish Security Service) and as recently as Wednesday was on a visit to Malmö for a similar event. He thinks it's unfortunate that his seminar had been canceled.

"Evidently somebody pressured the organizers and thinks that it will be xenophobic and racist. It's actually ironic that a seminar on freedom of speech should be censored."

Sources: Jnytt (Swedish), Wikipedia (English), h/t Fria Nyheter

Veils, headscarves, bans, surveys

Veils, headscarves, bans, surveys


Via T&P and El Mundo, The Muslim Federation in Spain announced they will turn to the Constitutional Court regarding the decision of a Madrid school to expel a hijab-wearing student.

"There is no negotiation because we are talking about a basic right. This is a battle for freedom of the Muslims and the Spanish people in general. We can not live in a state that violates human rights for free. We are undertaking this battle until the end of the Constitutional Court"he said. (more)


Following the story of a woman who was fined in Nantes for driving with a niqab, the five mosques in the city of Nantes published a joint press release (FR) saying that "once again Muslim and Islam have been given a lot of media coverage for an insignificant incident."

The mosques say that the ticket followed the current legal procedures and they are upset at the Islamization of such an event. They see this as a "systematic stigmatization which counter the values of the Republic" and "invite the authorities to assume their responsibility".

The woman's husband is meanwhile being accused of polygamy (FR) and welfare fraud. The man apparently has four wives and 12 kids, and each of his wives receives single-parent support.

The husband, L.H., was born in Algeria in 1975 and grew up in France. He acquired French citizenship in 1999. Brice Hortefeux, French Interior Minister asked Minister Eric Besson (Immigration) to check whether L.H.'s citizenship could be revoked.

Since June 1009 L.H. has served as head of the Rezé Muslim Cultural Association (ACRM), who goal is to construct a mosque in Rezé, a town next to Nantes. The association's treasurer says that the association and L.H.'s private life shouldn't be mixed together. The government lacks the courage, it's Islam which is being attacked, he said. An acquaintance who wished to remain anonymous, however, said that L.H. knew to ride the wave of Islam and that it's not correct to play with their religion. Most people are wary of this type, he said.

Just a third of the French (FR) support a veil (burka) ban as advocated by the government, according to a TNS Sofres survey for Europe 1.

The French are split on the issue, but the majority (64%) favor a total or limited ban, the survey shows. 33% think it should be banned all over France, 31% prefer banning it only in certain public places, 22% don't support the ban, but rather raising awareness of the population concerned, and 10% think that [the gov't] shouldn't intervene.

Almost all right-wingers support a legal ban (84%), but are split between a total ban (47%) and a limited one (37%). Front National supporters are more likely to want a total ban (67%) than UMP supporters (44%).

Left-wingers are far more torn between the different solutions: 27% support a law for a total ban, 29% a limited-ban law, and 32% for raising awareness (10% for doing nothing).


Almost half of PVV supporters (NL) think that Geert Wilders is running a campaign which is too harsh against Muslim women wearing headscarves. This according to a survey by Synovate for NRC Handelsblad.

The PVV supporters are very divided about the issue. 40% of PVV sympathizers think the PVV 'devotes too much attention to headscarves'. But almost as many (29%), don't agree and support Wilders' standpoint.


Three hundred people demonstrated in Brussels Saturday against headscarves in schools (NL) and government services. The protesters ask the French Community of Belgium to soon approve a decree banning the headscarves.

Organizer Nadia Geerts says that they get more and more testimonies from school who all say that the problem is becoming worse. It's not a problem of one school and the politicians should get involved.

The French Community will vote on the decree before the summer vacation, but the parties are split. MR is the only one clearly for the ban in both elementary schools and high-schools. Mischaël Mordrikamen of the Popular Party also supports it.

Via Islamization Watch, a CNN report on the proposed full-veil ban in Belgium:

At the end of this clip CNN correspondent Nic Robertson mentions that the Netherlands banned the burka in schools. As far as I know, though the cabinet discussed it, the proposal never made it into law.


The Norwegian government thinks a ban on body-covering veils such as the niqab might conflict with human rights, Aftenposten reports.

The Ministry of Justice concluded that a ban will likely conflict with Article 9 on religious freedom in the European Convention of Human Rights.

"We should rather identify measures that don't adversely affect the women and which actually have better effects. A legal ban, with associated punishments, will first and foremost adversely affect the women who are oppressed and who already carry a lot on their shoulders," Justice Minister Knut Storberget (AP) told Aftenposten.

The Progress Party proposed in March a ban on body-covering garments such as the niqab and burka in public. The party's immigration-policies spokesperson Per-Willy Amundsen says the government is hiding behind international conventions.

According to the Justice Ministry's legal department, a niqab ban is not justified on the grounds of public safety, order, health or morals, or with respect to protecting other rights and freedoms.

Norway: Krekar issues death threats for Koran burning

Norway: Krekar issues death threats for Koran burning

See also: Oslo: Attack on Mullah Krekar

The koran burning was posted on YouTube. Dagbladet posted parts of the death-threats clip.


Since shots were fired at Mulla Krekar's apartment in Tøyen, Oslo, the former Ansar al-Islam head has been living in a secret address, by police recommendation.

From his hidden existence Kreka, who is to be deported, recently made death threats, naming two Kurds living in Norway.

The threats came about in a closed chat-room on the PalTalk site.

"With this he's become a total infidel. Therefore it's completely legal to kill him, regardless of where he did this, whether the Koran was burned in Oslo in the infidel's home or in an Islamic home ruled by the Khalif. Both places he must be killed," it says in the audio clip.

The male voice, appearing with the profile name N. Krekar, then asks if there is someone brave enough to kill.

The voice calls on all Muslims, Pakistanis or Somalians, to kill because of the Koran-burning. Dagbladet heard the audio-clip in its entirety, and had it translated by several independent translators.

A 40 seconds long clip was also uploaded to YouTube.

The background for the serious threats is that Halmat Goran (34) and Marcos Boluri (46) held a protest three days ago, where parts of the Muslim holy writings, the Koran, were burned in front of a video camera.

Those were the parts of the Koran they think Iraq's former dictator, Saddam Hussein, used to justice the notorious al-Anfal campaign. It is estimated that as many as 180,000 were killed during Saddam Hussein's systematic attack against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

The clip of the Koran burning went wild, and Friday evening the two were notified they've been getting hate notices and threats on the internet.

"Naturally I'm afraid. I'm at a secret address and don't dare go out," says Halmat Goran (34), who believes he's been threatened to death by Krekar.

A new audio clip published Saturday afternoon, another person who participated in the video clip was also named, 46 year old Marcos Boluri, originally from Iran, but a Norwegian citizen living in Lillestrøm.

"I take the threats very serious. I't's clear I'm afraid and take the threats seriously. I have family here," Boluri told Dagbladet.

He spoke to Krekar on the phone after the threats against him were made public.

"He admitted the threats," says the 43 year old bus driver.

Boluri has been in contact with the Oslo police to report Krekar for death threats. Both Boluri and Goran say they will got to the police and report him Monday.

Krekar's lawyer, Brynjar Meling, told Dagbladet that he will wait to comment until the incident is reported to the police. He says meanwhile it's not the first time that such allegations are made against his client.

The Kurdish community is characterized by great oppositions. When shots were fired at Krekar's home in January, Krekar's family named a Kurdish leader as being responsible.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

UK: BNP calls to end immigration from Muslim countries

UK: BNP calls to end immigration from Muslim countries

The British National Party (BNP) are calling for an end to immigration from Muslim nations, saying this presents a "deadly threat" to the UK.

The pledge is contained in the party's election manifesto, launched by party leader Nick Griffin in Stoke.

The BNP also plan to give grants to encourage some UK residents to return to "their lands of ethnic origin".

The BNP recently changed their whites-only membership policy after it was ruled unlawful by the courts.

Their opponents say they are extreme and their policies divisive.

The BNP is targeting Stoke, where they currently have a number of city councillors, plus 333 other constituencies as they seek to get their first MP elected to Westminster.


The manifesto states "there should be absolutely no further immigration from any Muslim countries, as it presents one of the most deadly threats yet to the survival of our nation".

The party has previously said Islam is incompatible with modern secular democracy.

Mr Griffin said his party would support "decent settled minorities who accept that Britain should remain British".


Source: BBC (English)

Sweden: Municipality fined for FGM examination

Sweden: Municipality fined for FGM examination

See also:
* Sweden: Female circumcision exam reported to ombudsman
* Sweden: Girl wins compensation for FGM

Uppsala Municipality has been ordered to pay 60,000 kronor ($8,400) to the family of a girl of Somali origin who was forced to undergo an examination to check whether she had been circumcised.

Uppsala social workers forced the then 10-year-old girl to submit to the examination to see whether she had been subjected to genital mutilation (circumcision) while on a family holiday in Kenya in 2004. The girl was collected by police from school shortly after returning from a visit to relatives.

The girl's family took their case to the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) which ruled in 2007 that the social workers' suspicions constituted discrimination.

Discrimination Ombudsman Katri Linna concluded in her 2007 ruling that the suspicions "were based entirely on the fact that the parents have Somalian heritage."

The decision to examine the girl was taken despite the fact that the parents had told their district nurse and social workers that they were opposed to female circumcision and that they were going to Kenya with the sole purpose of seeing their relatives.

The examination showed that the girl had not been circumcised.

In taking the municipality to court, DO argued that officials had made no effort to gather evidence that would enable a proper decision to be reached. The girl herself was not given a chance to explain her situation and she was not offered any extra support.


Source: The Local (English)

Brussels: The visibility of Islam

Brussels: The visibility of Islam

Earlier this week I posted a translation of an article about demographics in Brussels from the French-language Belgian weekly Le Vif/L'Express. The following is another article from the same series, this time about the reality of Islam in Brussels.


In certain neighborhoods of Brussels, new cultural and religious codes are enforced. Religious demands enter uninvited into public life, work, school, hospitals. Islam, faith or collection of customs, is becoming more and more visible in Brussels.

Why speak of 'Muslims' when the ethnic patchwork of Brussels allows a thousand other labels? Because there's much that claims this characteristic loud and clear. In 2009, a survey by the King Baudouin Foundation on the population issues of the Moroccan immigration found that 55% of Belgian-Moroccans defined themselves first as Moroccans (compared to just 7% as Belgians). 36% of them also put being Muslim first. In 2008, the same sort of survey on Belgian-Turks again showed that 40.6% of Belgian Turks define themselves as Turks, and 31% as Muslim Turks.

[ Ed: The study here in PDF. Q: What defines you most? A: Turkish citizen: 21.8%, Turkish: 28.8%, Kurdish: 2.8%, Muslim: 19%, Muslim-Turk: 31%, Belgian citizen: 4.8%, Belgian-Turk: 19.8%, Euro-Turk: 3.8%, World citizen: 10.5%, Eu citizen: 3%]

The weight of the cultural systems of origin is far from fading away to a lasting presence, validated by access to double nationality.

Unlike Paris, where the minorities live in the suburbs (banlieus), in Brussels they rather have a tendency to gather in the central municipalities, inside the 'little belt' and on both sides of the canal. It's also where poverty shows up the most, where dropping out of school is at its maximum, where more than 50% of the youth are unemployed, and sometimes occupied by the 'business' of looking for things to steal. Recently those neighborhoods seemed to spin out of control. The quiet is back. But sudden clashes between youth and police, between 'Whites' and 'immigrants', and between urban religion-based gangs (Arabs Muslims against Protestant Pentecostal Africans) are always possible.

At other times these tensions have been explained by economic insecurity and uprooting. Why add the religious ingredient?

"Religion in itself says nothing about social issues," says sociologist Eric Corijn (Vrije Universitiet Brussels). "You always need the link between religion and other social phenomenon. In the 1960s and 1970s, immigrants defined themselves by their work. With the economic crisis they found warmth, mutual aid and protection within their own communities. They've become more dependent on the economic plan which emphasized their ethnic, cultural and religious identification. But its' always unhealthy and even dangerous to cover these social dynamics with generalizing prejudices towards religions."

All the more so as a large number of Muslims in Belgium try to succeed in their integration, adapting to the entirety of our society, and enriching it. Nonetheless, certain social dynamics appear under a religious label, presenting problematic aspects. Description in four points.

1. Neighborhoods tend to become halal and suffocating

The exclusive presence of a community can create ghettos, resulting sometimes in truly difficult relationships between the residents.

The arrival of Europe [ed: the EU offices] in the Schuman district led to the progressive disappearance of working-class life. The same goes in the neighborhoods where there's an overwhelming Muslim majority. The 'others' feel excluded. A paradox: while the Muslim community is trying to obtain the preservation of its peculiarities, in very stereotypical neighborhoods, a non-Muslim will look in vain for a non-halal butcher, or an alcohol bar. The simple effect of market law? Undoubtedly. But it changes daily life and modifies perceptions. With regrets and sadness for some. With anger for others.

In 'old Molenbeek', for example, alcoholic beverages aren't served anymore in the social restaurant and the cultural center, supported by the municipality, and in the small cafe across from the police station, run by a Turk. In the public markets Arabic is spoken and the veil is omnipresent, but it's the religious atmosphere that's disturbing.

Alderman François Schepmans says that a few months ago she told Le Vif/L'Express that the fact that the center of Molenbeek looks like Marrakesh isn't a problem, but that it shouldn't be allowed to be transformed into Peshawar. She says she was attacked by the socialists, who belong to the same coalition as she does, and that she had to explain to certain fellow party politicians that she didn't intend to emphasize ethnic origin, but rather the dangerous grip of a religion on life and society.

In the cafeterias of certain municipal schools pork also disappeared, but no municipality has crossed over to imposing halal meat, despite attempts by some elected officials in Molenbeek and Schaarbeek.

The new social codes enforced in the street are difficult to attribute to a religion rather than lack of parenting and respect for the 'other'. But the facts are thus: girls too shortly dressed or without a veil are called 'whores'. Malika (a pseudonym), a North African police agent, disinclined to ban the veil, revised her position. She says when she was in the Molenbeek market, she got disagreeable remarks from certain merchants just because she was dressed as a European. "Life isn't easy for the girls in the district," she says.

In certain streets an 'immigrants' who walks around with a visibly Belgian friend risks quickly being shouted at 'what are you doing with this Fleming?" [Belgian]. Gay couples and prostitutes don't have a saintly smell either and are sometimes attacked by the little hoodlums who emerge as the defenders of Islam.

During Ramadan or when leaving the mosque, the cars are double-parked and are a disaster, without anybody daring to comment. Guido Vanderhulst, activist for promoting heritage in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek (La Fonderie), former partner of Philippe Moureaux (PS) when the latter welcomed immigrants in the 1990s, says there was so much laxity regarding this uncivil behavior that only an authority to develop citizenship is capable of bringing back mutual respect in the streets. Due to the deterioration of the situation, he advocates setting up a committee of the wise to restore the rules of life together.

2. The 'deals' between mayors and mosques

The mosques are more than a place for prayer. They direct and govern the Muslims, better than the phantom Muslim Executive of Belgium. The politicians realized that, as did Philippe Moureaux, who goes several times a year and congratulates himself for their collaboration.

The mayor of Schaarbeek, Bernard Clerfayt (FDF) is determined to have their attention, even as he gave up his 'courtesy visits' during the elections period.

Not very well known to the public, the presidents of the mosques have access to real power of influence. Yet they're without democratic legitimacy and sometimes dependent on their country of origin. In Schaarbeek the president of the Turkish mosque seats on the municipal council for MR. Philippe Moureaux himself was proposed one day the presidency of a Moroccan mosque. A beautiful tribute to a man with practical experience, but nonetheless a confusion of genres.

According to Corrine Torrekens, author of Islam in Brussels, two municipalities give an annual subsidy to Muslim places of worship: Molenbeek (35,000 euro to be distributed by the advisory council of mosques) and Schaarbeek (50,000 euros to the Association of Mosques, which need to use it in part to organize the Festival of Sacrifice). Sint-Joost, in contrast, refuses to speak formally with the 'spiritual chiefs'. Emir Kir, regional minister for urbanization (PS), often presented as the successor of mayor Jean Demannez (PS), regrets that.

In the Brussels region, there are 80 mosques and 116 Catholic churches, 17 Protestant churches, 13 Orthodox churches, 2 Anglicans and about fifteen synagogues. According to Corinne Torrekens, 80% of the Muslim religious resources and associations are concentrated in the five municipalities (Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Brussels City, Sint-Joost and Schaarbeek) where 75% of the Muslims of Brussels live. And less and less Christians and Jews.. Is it conceivable that certain deserted places of worship are regained by the local Muslim communities? In the current climate, such a transfer will be perceived symbolically in terms of losing or gaining territory by the extremists on all sides, says a priest of a parish concerned with the issue. In principle, Cardinal Danneels has always been opposed. "The Catholic Church prefers to entrust its properties to the new Catholic arrivals, or to other Christian communities."

On Eloy street, in Kuregem, not far from the new apartment of Archbishop Léonard (Primate of Belgium), the St. Francis Xavier church is today taken over by Catholic Africans, but its stained-glass windows have already been broken in the past. The old synagogues of Anderlecht and Schaarbeek have been abandoned, both because the more well-off Jewish families moved to Vorst and Ukkel, but also because of the feeling of insecurity which reigns in the area.

Chief Rabbi [of Brussels] Albert Guigui explained to newspaper La Capitale that they're opened only for the Jewish high-holidays.

3. The clash of memories and debates

What attention will be given to the small museums, the religious edifices, the architecture and statues, testimony of a history that Muslims know poorly, with which they don't identify much, to which they're sometimes hostile? Or does the future or Brussels lie in their hands? The forming of these future municipal elites is crucial.

"You don't create a city by starting with a clean slate from the past," expects Giudo Vanderhulst. He says that in a historical continuity, the new communities must act like those that preceded them, that's to say, assuming part of the old heritage, from which follow the values such as democracy and solidarity.

The presence of Islam brings about new debates and 'memories' which sometimes enter into a conflict with the old. While the senate recognized in 1998 the existence of the genocide of Christians in the Ottoman Empire, sanctioned as 'jihad' by the Muslim scholars of the era, socialist Laurette Onkelinx, Justice Minister (PS) hedged in 2005 in order to avoid enabling the penalization of the denial [negationism] of the Armenian genocide. She was seeking then to be mayor of Schaarbeek, where there's an important Turkish community. The PS didn't want to deprive itself of its regional champion, Emir Kir, an author of negationist sentiments.

Another wound, antisemitism, is awakened under cover of solidarity with the Palestinian people or 'anti-Zionism' with Iranian sauce. In Ukkel the Jewish holidays must be guarded. Certain satellite TV channels continuously pour out anti-Western discourse and reinforce the phenomena of identifying with distant wars (Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan). In the margins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, certain community leaders test out their influence on Belgian diplomacy, and when they crash into failure, it leads to sentiments such as this: 'Don't wait for these young Brussels residents to be so estranged and stigmatized that they'll adopt 'your' values, because the latter are bloody red! As far as I'm concerned, a young delinquent has even more credit, and a right to even more respect than a minister, a politician or the parties who make their dough from the blood of children and the civilian population.. (blog of Mohsin Mouedden)

4. Less freedom of expression in the public space

As areas become homogeneous, the risk also exists that freedom won't be guaranteed anymore, to avoid offending part of the population quick to explode. An exhibition in the center of town showing red high-heeled shoes on a prayer mat was shut down after threats. Elected immigrant officials again demanded within the PS, that the route of the Gay Pride parade will be diverted. Debate on Islam is soon perceived as blasphemy and exposed to the accusation of 'Islamophobia', to an uproar, even to physical intimidation. The former have been aimed at Muslims themselves, when they distance themselves from their group.

Source: Le Vif/L'Express (French)

Netherlands: No Sharia courts

Netherlands: No Sharia courts

There are no Sharia courts.. in the narrow sense of the word.  But the big brouhaha about Sharia courts in the UK, for example, concerned using Sharia law in the process of arbitration.  As this study shows, such arbitration councils exist in the Netherlands.


There are no Sharia courts in the Netherlands, according to a study by Radboud University Nijmegen for the the Research and Documentation Center of the Ministry of Justice.

Due to the ethnic and religious diversity of Dutch Muslim groups, the existence of an official legal institute for all Muslims in the Netherlands is not really possible.

The study was sent by Minister Hirsch Ballin (Justice) and Middelkoop (Integration) to the Dutch parliament with the cabinet's response.

There are practices of counseling and conflict-arbitration on the basis of Sharia in the Netherlands.  Many Muslims in the Netherlands ask in their circle or among Islam scholars for advice about issues in which Islamic concepts and life in Dutch society offer choices.  Together they look for the best solution in the given circumstances: how can an individual Muslim live in an non-Islamic country by Islamic law.  These are much more often arbitration, rather than the settling disputes.

The most important conclusion from the study admittedly removes the concern about the possible existence of Sharia courts in the Netherlands, but the cabinet still sees it as its job to ensure that there will be no parallel societies in which people take the law into their own hands, or have their own legal system which goes outside our own legal order.
Source: Ministry of Justice (Dutch)

France: Veil law: Driver fined / Deputy threatened

France: Veil law: Driver fined / Deputy threatened

Two veil-related stories from France:

A French driver was fined 22 euro for driving veiled.  According to the police her field of vision was decreased by the niqab, a veil which covers everything but the eyes, French media reported Friday.

The 31 year old woman was stopped in Nantes, in western France.  She had to take off her veil in order to be identified.  The French woman, who says she's been wearing the niqab for years, says the ticket she got is discrimination and wants to turn to the courts.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)


The head of the UMP party in the French National Assembly, for several months at the forefront of the bill to ban the full veil, has been under the protection of a police agent since January, according to aids, who confirmed a story in Le Parisien.  According to the paper, the UMP head got police protection after receiving threats.

"It's more or less linked to the burka", said aids Friday, without specifying what type of threats he'd received,  citing only threats by 'letter and phone'.

The agent accompanies him everywhere, they said.

According to the Parisien-Aujourd'hui, it's classic protection in this type of case, as it's taken seriously, according to the paper.

The government plans to introduce in May to the cabinet a bill for a general ban on wearing the veil in public and not only in public service, a position advocated for a long time by the deputy/mayor of Meaux (ie, Copé)

Source: Le Parisien  (French)

France: Ban will also apply to tourists

France: Ban will also apply to tourists

Muslim tourists in France will be forbidden to wear the full-face veil along with French residents under the government's plan to ban the garment in public places, a minister said on Thursday.

"When you arrive in France, you respect the laws in force.... Everyone will have to respect the laws in France. That's how it is," Nadine Morano, a junior minister for families, said on the radio station France Info.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to France each year from the Middle East, according to estimates from the tourism ministry, and veiled women are a common sight in the luxury stores on Paris shopping boulevards.

Morano said women breaching the ban would be fined but would not be unveiled "on the spot".

Morano said the planned ban was in line with France's secular principles but also aimed to give "a message at international level" and would apply equally to visitors from abroad.


Source: Expatica (English)

Malmö: Anti-Islam party posters show Muhammad naked

Malmö: Anti-Islam party posters show Muhammad naked

Update: French blog Bivouac-ID posted a picture of the poster (content warning!). The caption reads "Mohammed with wife, he's 53, she's 9. Is this the type of marriage we want to see in Skåne?"

The anti-Islam Skåne Party put posters with cartoons in twenty different places in Malmö. The posters portray the prophet Muhammed naked with a 9 year old wife by his side. The posters have been reported to the police by both the police and at least one person. The reporters think it could be hate speech.

"There's no reason for that. We're attacking Islam, not people who believe in Islam. We consider Islam to be very dangerous and psyco-social infectious disease," said Carl P Herslow, head of the Skåne Party, who thinks the posters defend freedom of expression and the press.

The party held seats in municipal councils in the past. In the 2006 elections the party got 1.8% of the votes and therefore dropped out. The party will run in the next elections.

On Tueday Björn Lagerbäck (FP) contacted Sydsvenskan. He heads the municipality's recently established Dialog Forum, where different groups in Malmö can convene to discuss "the values that divide and unite".

"The city of Malmö clearly opposes the posters. We appeal to all Muslim groups not to let themselves be provoked. The Skåne Party is a small, isolated sect," he said.

According to the Skåne Party, at least nine of the posters were vandalized since they were put out Monday. The party did not want to say who designed the cartoons.

The Muslim Association of Sweden demands an apology from Skåne Party leader Carl P Herslow.

"The party's posters are hate speech," the association's leader Mahmoud Aldebe said in a statement.

"The Skåne Party is a small, isolated, terrorist sect which should be banned from participating in the fall elections," said Mahmoud Aldebe.

Source: Sydsvenskan 1, 2 (Swedish), h/t Muslimska friskolan