By Tom Heneghan PARIS – The main mission of France’s Muslim Council is to protect France and its Islamic community from religious radicalism imported from abroad, its moderate leader said on Monday after being reelected for a second term. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said the victory of conservative and moderate mosque networks in elections for the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) showed a large majority of French Muslims rejected radicalism.
Hanife Karakus is the first woman to become regional president of the Muslim Council in France. Her background in law made her a competent and desirable candidate. She will represent the some 12,000 Muslims in the district of Limousin. Born in Mulhouse to Turkish parents, the 23 year old is in her second year of the law program at Limoges.
By Mary Beth Sheridan WASHINGTON — The federal government is waging part of the war against terrorism with a seemingly innocuous weapon: immigration law. In the past two years, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 suspects who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations, according to previously undisclosed government figures. Whereas terrorism charges can be difficult to prosecute, Department of Homeland Security officials say immigration laws can provide a quick, easy way to detain people who could be planning attacks. Authorities have used routine charges such as overstaying a visa to deport suspected supporters of terrorist groups. ”It’s an incredibly important piece of the terrorism response,” said Michael J. Garcia, who heads Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. And although immigration violations might seem humdrum, he said, ”They’re legitimate charges.” Muslim and civil liberties activists disagree. They argue that authorities are enforcing minor violations by Muslims and Arabs, while ignoring millions of other immigrants who flout the same laws. They note that many of those charged are not shown to be involved in terrorism. ”The approach is basically to target the Muslim and Arab community with a kind of zerotolerance immigration policy. No other community in the United States is treated to zero-tolerance enforcement,” said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and critic of the government’s antiterrorism policies. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, immigration agents were minor players in the world of counterterrorism. That changed during the investigation of the hijackings, when 768 suspects were secretly processed on immigration charges. Most were deported after being cleared of connections to terrorism. Unlike that controversial roundup, most of the recent arrests have not involved secret proceedings. Still, they can be hard to track. A few cases have turned into high-profile criminal trials, but others have centered on little-known individuals processed in obscure immigration courts, with no mention of a terrorism investigation. In some cases, the government ultimately concludes a suspect, while guilty of an immigration violation, has no terrorism ties. Authorities are often reluctant to disclose why an immigrant’s name emerged in a national security investigation, because the information is classified or part of a continuing inquiry. Homeland Security officials turned down a request for the names of all those charged in the past two years, making it difficult to assess how effective their strategy has been at thwarting terrorism.
London: Scouts in Britain now no longer have to invoke ‘God’ or the ‘Queen’ in their pledges of allegiance. Muslims can swear by Allah, Hindu’s by Dharma and even Republican’s can dump the Monarch in favour of the State, keeping in mind the increasing ethnic membership of the body. According to The Sun, latest guideline state that,”Scouting is available to all faiths and, therefore, must take account of the different religious obligations of its members”. However, not all are impressed by the development, with Labour MP Stephen Pound, chairman of the parliamentary scout group of the opinion that it would prove to be contradictory to the basic idea of scouting.
Zurich’s Muslim organisations have decided to fight prejudice by adopting a groundbreaking charter that underlines their commitment to Swiss values. The document, the first of its kind in Switzerland, aims to improve the integration and the image of Muslims. Ismail Amin, president of the umbrella association of Zurich’s Islamic organisations, said that a study carried out by the local university showed Muslims are portrayed negatively in three quarters of Swiss media reports about their community.
AMSTERDAM – Moroccan and Turkish groups in the Netherlands have set up a new action committee named “Genoeg is genoeg” (enough is enough) to organise a campaign against the Dutch government’s tough immigration and integration policies. The organisers are calling for a national demonstration on 17 September in Amsterdam. Two spokesmen for the new organisation outlined the plans for the demonstration during a press conference in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Monday. Dutch Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk arrived in Rabat for an official visit on Monday. She toured the Dutch embassy where modifications have been made to house the new integration tests that are to be introduced for would-be immigrants to the Netherlands. While there was news on Monday that other European countries are interested in the immigration policies being pioneered by Verdonk, the spokesmen for the new action committee described her policies as discriminatory and racist. “These policies are creating a greater rift between ‘us and them’, one of the representatives said. The ‘Genoeg is genoeg’ group wanted to hold a demonstration in Rabat to coincide with Verdonk’s visit but the authorities did not grant them a permit to do so. The group says there should be no difference between the treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims. It argues that the Cabinet’s integration plans as well as limitations on family reunification and dual nationality hits at the principle of equal rights for all dutch citizens. “We don’t want a separate policy for one group as that leads to Apartheid,” one of the spokesmen said.
By Hasan Suroor LONDON: Ignoring protests from secular groups and Opposition parties, the British Government has decided to go ahead with plans to make incitement to religious hatred an offence. A bill to this effect was introduced in the Commons amid fears among writers, satirists and rights activists that it would stifle free speech, but leaders of Hindu and Muslim groups welcomed it saying they needed protection against attacks on temples and mosques. Currently, the law protects ethnic groups against racial hatred but there is no protection against incitement on religious grounds. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill seeks to ban “hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.” A breach of the proposed law would be punishable by fine or a prison term. Novelists Hanif Kureishi and Monica Ali joined the chorus of criticism against the bill calling it a recipe for self-censorship. “What I’m certain of is the damage to freedom of speech that will come about as a result of self-censorship – it already exists and will be dramatically increased,” said Ms. Ali, the Bangladeshi-born author of Brick Lane. “Invitation To Censorship” Mr. Kureishi, who is of Pakistani origin, feared that the bill would “stifle” even legitimate criticism of religion. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said despite its “good intentions, the move was an invitation to “censorship”. But spokesmen for the Hindu Council and the Muslim Council of Britain said such a law was needed in a climate where religious groups were often targets of attack. ? The Home Office Minister Paul Goggins sought to allay fears that it would curb freedom of expression saying it would not stop debate on religion or prevent people from “poking fun” at religion as feared by satirists and comedians.
Authors: Jocelyne Cesari and Peter DeWan
This first report presents the state of the art of the situation of Muslims in Europe. The socio-economic marginality, the legal status of religions, the recognition of multiculturalism, the immigration laws, all dimensions that shape the condition of Muslims in Europe have been modified by the security policies of post 9/11. We will also draw the outlines for the next steps in the research.
PARIS (Reuters) – A top European human rights watchdog said on Wednesday Britain’s anti-terrorism laws breached European standards and could force London to opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite improvements, Britain still tended to see human rights as an obstacle to the criminal justice system, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles said in a report. He welcomed a decision by Britain’s top court which forced Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government to drop a measure allowing detention of foreign terrorist suspects without charge. But problems remained with the law that replaced it. The 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act allows Britain’s Home Secretary (interior minister) to issue “control orders” against terrorism suspects, which restrict their freedom of movement, where they live and with whom they may communicate. “The Act acknowledges some … of these restrictions may be incompatible with Article 5 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) on the right to liberty, in which case the possibility of derogating from the UK’s obligations under this article is foreseen,” the report said. Control orders replaced the criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive. Special laws might be necessary to counter the risk of terrorist attack but judicial guarantees should always be applied, it added. Andrew Bell, a spokesman for the British government, said London welcomed the report and would “give careful consideration to the issues and recommendations.” In London, the minister responsible for the modernisation of the criminal justice system, Baroness Scotland, defended Britain’s far-reaching anti-terrorism laws. “Those control orders are proportionate,” she told Channel 4 television news. “What we are doing is limiting the ability of those individuals who’ve been identified as potentially causing a risk to our country… “I absolutely do not accept that we are in any way exaggerating the threat,” she said. “What are the alternatives? What is being suggested that we should put in place to keep our country safe?” Some British Muslims, who say they have borne the brunt of laws which give police extra powers to stop and search suspects, welcomed Gil-Robles’ report. The British Islamic Human Rights Commission commended it “for clearly shaming the UK as a nation which, rather than improving, is rapidly digressing from the most basic of human rights obligations”. “The British government … continues to oppress the minorities in Britain through a general policy of fear,” IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said. “Fear of terrorism, fear of asylum seekers, fear of Muslims and general fear of ‘the Other’.”
M. Elizabeth Roman, Telegram & Gazette WORCESTER – On the door outside Juan Perez’s home, a hand-written sign asks visitors to respect the Islamic custom of removing shoes before entering. The sign is one of the only indicators that this young Latino father, his wife and four small children tend an Islamic household. Inside, a person is likely to see the Hispanic cartoon character “Dora the Explorer” on the television, hear the sound of a rhythmic salsa band on the radio, or smell the aroma of adobo cooking in the kitchen. “As Latinos, we are a passionate people,” Mr. Perez says as he cradles his 1-1/2-year-old baby while his 3-year-old daughter, Mia, lightly kisses the child on the cheek. “Islam covers every aspect of your life; it’s not just going to church and praying. It deals with marriage, divorce, wills, orphans, what to eat, what not to eat. As Latinos, when we do something, we go full-fledged into it.” The Perez family is among an estimated 150 Latino converts to Islam in Worcester, reflecting a trend that researchers have taken note of in recent years. A 2001 study on faith communities, coordinated by Hartford Institute for Religious Research and conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, indicated Latinos made up 6 percent of all converts, which at approximately 60,000, made them the third-largest segment. The growth of this population can also be seen by the creation of bilingual Islamic centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, California’s San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, Florida, New York and Atlanta. Each site reports having hundreds of members and offers publications translated into Spanish. In addition, chapters of the Hispanic Muslim organization Latino Dawah are located in Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas and Arizona. “It is easy to accept once they found out what it is,” said Jason Perez, who, like his brother Juan, converted to Islam. “It is almost impossible to find a Latino that is an atheist because of our struggle. Being poor, we know it is the miracle of God when we get food. We know that it is not just our own work that helps us survive; we survive with the help of God.” In addition, many Latino converts profess that they do not give up any of their heritage to convert to Islam, but in fact learn more about their cultural roots. “Islam connected me with the struggle for self-determination and the struggles with the natives of Puerto Rico,” Mr. Perez says, adding that many Latino expressions and surnames originate in Islamic culture. “It’s not an Arabic culture thing,” said Adolfo Arrastia, executive director of the Worcester Youth Center for 10 years. “Only 15 percent of the Islamic population around the world is Arab. It’s amazing the amount of people that are Muslim, including people from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Mexico.” Mr. Arrastia converted 31 years ago in New York City. “It fit me like a hand in a glove,” he said. “Islam tells you to be a part of the community; to stand up against injustice. It gives me guidelines in how to be an activist without hurting and causing injury.” Juan and Jason Perez grew up down the street from the mosque in Plumley Village with a group of close friends, most of whom have also converted to Islam. Some of the friends, including Jason, now live in Pennsylvania, where they are learning how to translate ancient African manuscripts at the Sankore Institute. They were raised Catholic and even attended Catholic school, but when they had questions about the Holy Trinity and other Catholic doctrine, the brothers say, they were admonished, which made them move away from the church. “But I was involved in the street life and it wasn’t bringing me happiness,” Jason Perez said in a telephone interview from the institute. So despite the fact that neighborhood friends used to think the mosque was a satanic church, Jason decided to visit after his Islamic roommate encouraged him. “I jumped in and loved it,” he said. He said his mother was not opposed to him converting to Islam because he stopped smoking marijuana and began respecting and helping her any way he could, as instructed by the religion. “Latinos love Jesus and Mary – the Muslims do too,” Juan Perez said when describing the similarities between Islam and Christianity.