Up to a thousand people demanding zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium gathered in Antwerp on Monday to protest about last week’s stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths in the city. Members of Belgium’s Jewish community want the government to do more to deal with what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks by a minority of Muslims living in the country. “We want the authorities to adopt a zero tolerance policy,” a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp, who asked not to be named, told Expatica. “We should not bring the war between Israel and the Palestinians here to Belgium. If they want to fight, they should go over there,” he added. According to the spokesman at least 1000 people turned up to Monday’s demonstration, which was held in front of Antwerp’s Portuguese synagogue. Police put the number of protestors at between 800 and 900. The young boy at the centre of the furore was stabbed shortly after he and three friends left a Jewish school in the Antwerp suburb of Wilrijk on Thursday night. The four boys were chased by a gang of 10 to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments. Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition but is now out of danger. According to the Jewish community spokesman, the boy, who has not been named, is lucky to be alive. “They were clearly trying to kill him. His lung was damaged by the knife. We are lucky today’s demonstration was not a funeral,” he said. The Antwerp protest followed a similar show of anger in Brussels on Sunday, which was attended by some of Belgium’s leading politicians. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx told demonstrators on Sunday that the government would do everything it could to catch the youths responsible for the Antwerp stabbing. Jewish community leaders recognised on Monday that the Muslim community as a whole in Belgium was not anti-Semitic. “The Muslim community is not attacking the Jewish community. Relations between us are actually very good. But it is a minority of young Muslims who are attacking Jews,” the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp told Expatica.
By Pola Manzila Uddin For much of my adult life I have dressed modestly, in shalwar kameez and sometimes saris. Only when visiting places of worship or in the presence of elders did I ever feel obliged to cover my head. However, earlier this year, I wore a scarf on Umrah, a mini pilgrimage, and it somehow felt natural to keep on wearing it when I got home. For me, this was simply an expression of a deepening knowledge of my faith and of my self. The first time I walked into the House of Lords with it on, I could feel the surprise. Some of my Labour friends were wonderful about it. But for others, shock soon gave way to suspicion, and the questioning began. Why was I doing it? When would I stop? Was my scarf a sign of my support of the French schoolgirls who’d been banned from wearing the hijab? And even, had I become a “fundamentalist”? And this from people who had known me, and my politics, for years. It was as if they thought that one piece of silk cloth over the hair changed one’s personality. Since that first day, this little piece of cloth has even coloured how some people receive my work. When I launched a report into faith schools earlier this month, it was suggested that I had an “obsession”, and was demanding more Muslim schools. Even some people who knew that I had sent my own four children to a Church of England school interpreted a simple call for parity as an expression of my new “extremism”. I am disappointed that, after so many years of political activism, so little seems to have changed. But this is not simply a personal disappointment. No one can have failed to notice what the recent election results confirmed – that Labour has lost the confidence of the minority communities, especially Muslims. Take my part of east London: the Respect candidate, coming from nothing to securing nearly 20,000 votes in boroughs where Labour should have walked home. As a party activist for three decades, I am frustrated that the government has come to be seen as complacent. And as a Muslim I am dismayed that there is no strategy to address this loss of support. Everyone has a story about why they feel let down, especially in areas where Muslim communities have settled over decades. Too often one still finds an all-white hierarchy in the town hall presiding over ghettos. Muslims feel powerless to change their communities – communities in which male unemployment is unacceptably high, schools are failing their children, and where inequalities in housing and health persist. And we have to acknowledge the impact of the “war on terror” – the huge increase in the number of Muslims now being subjected to stop and search adds to the feeling that the whole community is being criminalised. For over 50 years the Muslims of this country went about their business, obedient to the core. Our parents’ generation worked, ate, slept, they tolerated being spat at and being told to “go back”. When my generation, their children, grew up, we spoke English, ate fish and chips and became defiant when told to “go back”. That is why so many of us became politically active in the late 70s and early 80s. The Labour party was our natural home. We fought shoulder to shoulder, challenging the fascists on our streets. Our generation believed that we had a stake in Britain; we believed respect and understanding was just around the corner. Labour raised huge expectations when it professed to understand and value the Muslim community. But after September 11 everything changed. Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq has all but destroyed that partnership. The government does nothing to protect us from the onslaught of verbal and physical attacks we face every time there is another bomb explosion, or a further threat of terror attacks. There is a sense of vulnerability, that every savage act carried out elsewhere leads to repression of every one of us on the streets of Britain. It is in this atmosphere that new questions are asked about us, as though we had not been born or grown up here. Muslims are being challenged to prove that they are more British than anyone else. How women wear their clothes, the way men cut their beards and even the company we keep are all now up for debate. Just imagine these questions being asked not in a place of courtesy and kindness, and by your friends, but with real hostility. When one is not understood or respected, how can one begin to explain such complex and often personal choices? I am dismayed by the daily justifications demanded of us just so that some of us can be called “moderates”. Is this what we mean by integration? My 18-year-old son voted for the first time this year, and I know the talk among his friends was anything but Labour. By his age we were demonstrating against the far right; his peers are protesting against Labour – stop and search, anti-terror legislation, and the war in Iraq. We have to prove to them that they are valued by society and that their survival in the mainstream matters to us all. If we don’t, we may lose them to those vile preachers outside mosques and marketplaces. It is in this atmosphere that Shabina Begum’s fight to wear the jilbab to school came to court this week. The judge ruled that the school’s refusal to let Begum wear the full-length gown did not breach her right to education and religion. I wish this case had never come to court – not least because, once it had done so, no other ruling was possible. I admire the school’s commitment to meeting the needs of local pupils, 80% of whom are Muslim. The uniform policy was only implemented after consultation, and I would defend the school’s right to apply it. However, the school was wrong to cite health and safety concerns. This gives credence to the spurious, yet increasingly commonplace argument that Muslim girls are hampered by their clothes (and thus, by implication, by their communities and by their religion). This is absurd. In court it became clear that the school’s real concern was that Begum’s jilbab would create a hierarchy of piety among the pupils. I have seen for myself that where the majority of Muslim schoolgirls wear scarves there is peer pressure to comply. But the question we should be asking is, why is it that some of our young people are vulnerable to pressure to identify themselves as more Muslim than others? On my pilgrimage, I was struck by what is said as you enter Mecca (I paraphrase): “You are forbidden from covering your face.” And yet there were thousands who did. The fact that more young British Muslim women are choosing to wear scarves is not a phenomenon imported from aboard – what we have is what we have created. And in some respects we should welcome these developments, because they show that the Muslim community is returning to political activism, and trying to reclaim the agenda. For the major political parties this should be a time for reflection, because the clear message is that no vote is to be taken for granted. Labour must work out who it should be talking to within the community. Fine, talk to the imams, but also recognise that the vast majority will never see one except on religious occasions. Meanwhile there are professional men and women in every sphere who are denied a voice. Let’s give them a one. I have banged my head against this brick wall with colleague after colleague, with every institution and every figurehead. There have been too many reports – Swann, Macpherson, Parekh – and too much talk. I believe a new generation of Muslims is ready to represent the community at every level of government. We are in public view, just waiting to be called.
The Muslim Council of Britain views today’s landmark decision in the High Court to deny a fifteen year old Muslim schoolgirl in Luton her right to wear the jilbab to school as very worrying and objectionable. The British Muslim community is a diverse community in terms of the interpretation and understanding of their faith and its practice. Within this broad spectrum those that believe and choose to wear the jilbab and consider it to be part of their faith requirement for modest attire should be respected. “We hope that the family of Miss Shabina Begum will appeal against this ruling. Many other schools have willingly accommodated Muslim schoolgirls wearing the jilbab and have respected the religious practice of their pupils with reference to their attire. While Denbigh High School has accommodated other forms of Islamic dress, for some reason the school has chosen to make jilbab an issue. This should not really have been a concern in a school which has a Muslim pupil composition of almost 90%. Our schools need to respond positively to recognise and reflect the communities they are serving. This particular school opposed the jilbab on health and safety grounds. This appears to us to be a highly spurious justification. How many women have suffered injury because they have chosen to wear the Jilbab in or out of schools?” said Dr Abdul Bari, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. Note for Editors: The arabic word “Jilbab” refers to a loose outer garment that covers the body. The Muslim Council of Britain (www.mcb.org.uk) is the UK’s representative Muslim umbrella body with over 400 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
AHIDAR Fouad (Spa Spirit) : 1.825 _ BXL,Elu AZZOUZI Mohamed (PS) : 4.566, Elu BOUARFA Sfia (PS) : 5.278, Elue DA_F Mohamed (PS) : 6.676, Elu DERBAKI SBA_ Amina (PS): 2.730 Elue EL KTIBI Ahmed (PS) : 3.114, Elu EL YOUSFI Nadia (PS) : 3.043, Elue LAANAN Fadila (PS) : 3.913, Elue LAHLALI Mohamed (PS) : 2.518Elu MADRANE Rachid (PS): 3.127, Elu MOUSSAOUI Fatima (CDH): 2.662, Elue RAZZOUK Souad (MR-FDF) : 2.478, Elue ROMDHANI Mahfoudh (PS): 2.873, Elu SAIDI Fatiha (PS): 2.799, Elue Temsamani Anissa (Spa Spirit) : 8.921, Elue
BRUSSELS – A group of alleged Islamic fundamentalist militants arrested in Belgium and Italy earlier this week may have been plotting to blow up Nato headquarters or the European Parliament, both of which are housed in Brussels. According to the Wednesday edition of Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Italian investigators say one of the militants, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed or ‘Mohamed the Egyptian’, may have been plotting to bomb a “symbolic target” in the Belgian capital.
BRUSSELS – Four men condemned in Belgium in connection with terror-related offences on Wednesday failed in a bid to have their sentences reduced. A Brussels court on Wednesday found that one of the men, Tarek Maaroufi, should actually serve a longer sentence than he had originally received and increased the length of time he should spend in prison from six to seven years. Maaroufi was found guilty of helping to acquire forged papers and of recruiting fighters to be trained at a camp in Afghanistan run by the al-Qaeda network.
Muslims made to feel like an enemy within by Islamophobic attitudes, report concludes By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent Hardening prejudice against Islam is creating a disaffected underclass of young Muslim “time-bombs” likely to explode into violence, the Government was warned yesterday. The forecast of race riots followed a major investigation into “Islamophobia”, which concluded that British Muslims felt outsiders in their own country after the 11 September terrorist atrocities. A series of senior figures in the Muslim community told the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia think-tank of the aggression and hostility they regularly encountered. The commission concluded that some communities perceived themselves as ghettoised, leaving them vulnerable to the influence of extremists. It demanded urgent action to tackle discrimination against Muslims and criticised race relations organisations for acting too slowly on the problem.
By Emily Pennink Muslims are being urged to use their votes in the local and European elections to stop the threat from the far right, it was reported today. The Muslim Council of Britain has penned an open letter warning of BNP success in the event of a low turnout on June 10, the BBC says. The group claims a party political broadcast by the BNP last week was threatening and anti-Muslim, although the BNP insists it is not a threat to the Muslim community. The council said the BNP would need less than 10% of the vote to win a seat on the Greater London Authority or in the European Parliament – successes which would entitle it to public funding. “The rise of the far-right parties poses a dangerous threat to our communities,” the letter says.