Italy’s Interior Minister Presents Members Of Islamic Council

Two imams and the leaders of two main Muslim associations in Italy were among the appointed members of a newly created advisory council aimed at developing dialogue between the Italian government and the Muslim community, the interior minister confirmed Wednesday. Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, presenting the 16 members of the council in Rome, said moderate Islamic representatives are “our natural allies in the fight against extremism.” “The council is the hand that we stretch out to moderate Muslims in order to move on together on the path of integration,” Pisanu told. “Many of the members have already taken an official position against terrorism,” he added. Half of the council members have Italian nationality, while the others are a Tunisian, two Moroccans, a Libyan, an Algerian, a Somali, an Albanian and a Senegalese. There are about 1.1 million Muslims in Italy, an overwhelmingly Catholic country of about 58 million people. Among the members of the council are Italian imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, based in Milan, and Algerian Rachid Amadia, imam of Salerno, southern Italy. Mario Scialoja, the president of the Muslim World League in Italy, and Mohamed Nour Dachan, head of the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy, were also appointed. The Islamic council, which was created in September, responds directly to the Interior Ministry, and is responsible for counseling the government on various issues concerning the integration of Muslims, the AP reports.

French Fighters In Iraq Puzzle Paris

Confirmed reports of French-born Muslims leaving the country to fight the US-led occupation forces in Iraq are puzzling the European country, which fears a future backlash. “There is confusion as to what is motivating young French to travel to Iraq to join the fighting,” a French judicial source told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, November 29, on condition of anonymity. “A possible scenario is that they are being recruited by non-French individuals on ideological grounds.” He stressed that the issue is causing a major headache for French security authorities. “Paris fears that such young people might carry out operations inside France or other European countries once the Iraqi war is over,” he added. A recent study put at 22 the number of French fighting with the Iraqi resistance, seven of them were confirmed killed in attacks and three in US custody. Vanishing Hajj Aziza, a French Muslim mother, recalled how her 20-year-old son, Mohammad, disappeared last summer. “He called me from Istanbul saying he was embarking on a short trip to learn Arabic in Syria,” the mother, who lives in Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, told IOL. “Later, he phoned me saying he was in a Baghdad district, and was ok,” she said, adding he promised to return home soon. Heart-broken Aziza has not heard from her son ever since and is dying to know if he is still alive. Her story is similar to that of many Muslim mothers in France whose sons have disappeared into thin air over the past two years, only to discover later they were fighting against the US forces in Iraq. Most of the young French believed to be fighting in Iraq hail from districts mostly inhabited by immigrants of north African background. Why? French experts well versed in Islamic movement affairs have given different accounts as to the possible motives for joining the Iraqi resistance. Analyst Olivier Roy believes this has to do with “globalization of the Islamist phenomenon” which trespasses borders and cultures. “There is also the feeling of marginalization and identity crisis experienced by the second and third generations of French Muslims,” he told IOL. This argument was contradicted by Gilles Kepel in the introduction of his book Al-Qaeda dans le texte. He refuted any link between joining the Iraqi resistance and the identity crisis, saying Al-Qaeda was playing the religion tune. A study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the US occupation of Iraq has radicalized Arabs and Muslims to join Al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden. Saying that foreign fighters represent less than five percent of the Iraqi resistance, the study said most of them were motivated by “revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country.” The London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs has also said that the Iraq war gave a momentum to Al-Qaeda’s recruitment and fundraising and made Britain more vulnerable to terror attacks. Patrick Cockburn, an award-winning British reporter, has also charged that the Anglo-American “ill-considered venture” of invading Iraq has turned into a “mess” fueling attacks around the world and providing Al-Qaeda with sympathizers it did not possess before the invasion of 2003.

Las Comunidades Islámicas Respaldan El Texto Pero Reclaman Mayor Oferta De Profesores De Islam En La Pública

The Union of Islamic Communities accepted the new text on the implementation of Islamic education in Spain. There are worries about the number of professors available, and concerns about the length of time to implementation. However, the general reaction was positive. Aceptan el dise_o de la clase de religi_n y cree que garantiza el apoyo a alumnos con necesidades de formaci_n. La Uni_n de Comunidades Isl_micas valora de manera positiva el proyecto de Ley Org_nica de Educaci_n que negocia el Gobierno pero reclaman que se aumente la oferta de profesores de Islam en la escuela p_blica, seg_n un informe de esta confesi_n religiosa remitido a Europa Press. A su juicio, el nuevo proyecto de ley “no aporta modificaciones sustanciales” a las leyes anteriores, teniendo en cuenta que la asignatura de religi_n se mantiene como oferta obligatoria para los centros educativos y de car_cter opcional para los alumnos y sus padres. Por otra parte, las Comunidades Isl_micas no encuentran inconveniente en que la nota de religi_n no se compute a los efectos del ingreso en la universidad o para la obtenci_n de becas porque “la capacidad para el estudio o el trabajo es independiente de su mayor o menor preparaci_n religiosa”. Sin embargo, en lo que se refiere a las clases de religi_n isl_mica, el informe advierte de que, hasta el momento, salvo una peque_a oferta de contrataci_n (37 profesores en toda Espa_a), “la inmensa mayor_a de alumnos musulmanes carecen de clases, pese a las solicitudes, negociaciones e intentos de salvar obst_culos y prejuicios centenarios”. REDACCI_N SUFICIENTEMENTE AMPLIA A pesar de ello, las Comunidades Isl_micas entienden que la LOE “mantiene una redacci_n suficientemente amplia para abarcar situaciones diversas”. “Se muestra positiva a la libre elecci_n de los padres del centro educativo, ya sea p_blico o privado, concertado o no, “sin intervencionismo por parte de la Administraci_n”. As_, cree que deja el camino abierto para que todos los centros dispongan de recursos educativos, incluidos los privados, y poder acceder as_ a las ayudas, subvenciones o colaboraciones pertinentes, como los programas de educaci_n compensatoria para alumnos con deficiencias de formaci_n previas a su ingreso”. Por ello, esta confesi_n religiosa entiende que “se debe y se puede preparar y promulgar una LOE en normalidad democr_tica, sin crispaciones, trabajando todos para una mejor regulaci_n social del sistema educativo”. Para este colectivo, el debate actual est_ generando “enfrentamientos sociales innecesarios, con actitudes hostiles y virulentas, que no son deseables para la construcci_n del entramado legal del pa_s que regir_ nuestras vidas”.

Metro Arabs Don’t Feel France’s Alienation, Discrimination Here

BY NIRAJ WARIKOO, FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER Abed Hammoud had an OK life in France. After graduating with an engineering degree from a top university in Lyon, the Arab immigrant secured a job at a heating and cooling company. But despite his achievements, Hammoud sensed he would never be considered French. At work, he said, he was referred to as “the Lebanese guy.” His Arab friends struggled to find work. And Hammoud saw how hard it was for people like him to enter politics and start businesses. So in 1990, he left France for the United States. In just over a decade, the Dearborn resident earned master’s degrees in law and business, became a Wayne County assistant prosecutor and emerged as an activist recognized nationwide for politically organizing Arab Americans. “It’s easier here,” said Hammoud, a 39-year-old married father of two sons. “People are more open. … In France, you’re never considered French” if you’re of Arab descent. That sense of alienation among France’s large Arab and Muslim populations — among the largest in Europe — may help explain the outbreak of violence this month that resulted in thousands of torched cars and a lingering unease that the country had failed its minority communities. That violence, coupled with last summer’s suicide attacks in London, has raised the question: Can Arabs and Muslims integrate into Western countries? Arab Americans say their success proves that they can. Indeed, across metro Detroit, many have found success in a number of fields — a marked contrast to the high unemployment and unrest that pervades much of Europe’s Arab and Muslim communities. […]

British University In Veil-Ban Row

By Sakhr Al-Makhadhi in London Protesters say their rights as Muslims are being threatened Imperial College in London is battling controversy over the ban of the face veil on campus. The College in West London has banned the niqab as a security measure. But the hijab, which covers only the hair and has been banned in French schools, is allowed. Tony Mitcheson, the college secretary, said that the ban was needed “in light of security concerns raised by the terrorist incidents which occurred over the summer”, referring to the bombings in the capital on 7 July and the attempted bombings on 21 July. Abigail Smith, a spokesman for the college, said that it needed to be able to identify everyone on campus. “It’s not a blanket ban on religious dress – we’re just asking people not to cover their faces for security reasons,” she said. Hugo Charlton, a human rights barrister, said that the college was within its legal jurisdiction to implement such a measure. “I expect that the college does have a right, because this is private property,” he said. “But I expect that the courts would say that they need a good justification for it.” Protest denounced On Friday, about 35 students demonstrated against the measure. Ruji Rahman said the ban on face veils is the latest in a string of measures designed to drive Muslims out of Imperial. “I studied hard, I got into a top university and now I’m being asked to sacrifice that because of my religion,” she said. The president of the Student Union dismissed the demonstration as scaremongering. Sameena Misbahuddin said: “[The protest] is based on something that’s not true – it’s based on the banning of hijabs, which quite clearly is not the case.” Nevertheless, the Student Union is concerned that the Muslim community could feel targeted. “There’s religious discrimination that it could provoke, with the full-veil and half-veil [ban], it’s open to any sort of interpretation, it could be used any time the college wants to have a problem with someone,” Misbahuddin said. Misbahuddin will be taking those concerns to college officials next week. Scaring potential students The ban on the niqab and the subsequent demonstration has created controversy which seems to be scaring potential students away from Imperial. Smith told Aljazeera.net that a potential student had called her to ask if she would be able to wear her hijab at the college. “She was thinking about cancelling her application,” Smith said, adding: “And that’s very worrying.” That is a fear that Rahman shares. “We’ll end up getting no Muslim students coming to university – just like France,” she said.

Muslim Youth Find A Bridge In A U.S. Tradition: Scouting

By Tara Bahrampour Washington Post Staff Writer Standing before 100 or so girls in green, brown and blue Girl Scouts vests, Sarah Hasan, the leader of Brownie Troop No. 503, explained the Islamic Ramadan fast. “We’re not allowed to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk for a whole month,” she said, noticing that some girls looked shocked. “It’s a month to be grateful for all the things that you have.” Ramadan, which fell this year in October and November, ends with a big feast called Eid al-Fitr. Last week, five Girl Scout troops from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling hosted an Eid party for five Herndon area troops, their mothers and troop leaders, to share a meal and help demystify Muslim cultural and religious traditions. The annual event, in its fifth year, was one of the activities many Muslim families — especially those with one or more immigrant parents — say are important to help integrate their sons and daughters into the rituals of American childhood. For many Muslim children, living in the United States means constantly balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid — identities that aren’t always in sync. “Unlike where we grew up [in Muslim countries], when they walk out the door, they’re seeing something different from what we teach them,” Hasan said. “So you can’t say, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ It’s always like, ‘But why? But how?’ ” Many Muslim immigrants have sought to bridge their old and new worlds since they began coming to the United States in large numbers during the 1960s. But since Sept. 11, 2001, as they have faced increasing hostility and scrutiny, parents and community leaders say, cultural integration is more vital than ever. “How do we deal with harassment, post-9/11? That’s part of our education program: letting people know who Muslims are,” said Rizwan Jaka, president of the Muslim society and a Cub Scout den leader. Like anyone else, he said, Muslims “want to be sure [our children] grow up with good character and good citizenship,” and they seek out activities accordingly. In the Washington area, home to about 250,000 Muslims from several countries, those activities include scouting, basketball, football, cricket and table tennis. The Muslim society’s center, which attracts Muslims from across Virginia, the District and Maryland, has hosted Muslim comedians and Muslim concerts and held interfaith exchanges with churches and an Eid festival with a moonbounce. “This is part of the normal progression of our community,” Jaka said. “They’re wholesome community activities that are compatible with who we are, which is wholesome Americans.” Many on the Muslim society’s board are, like Jaka, younger than 35 and born in the United States to immigrant parents. “We’ve gone through the system here, so we have a better idea of what our young people are facing,” he said. “As other mosques progress and more young people take over, you’ll see more transformation toward that.” U.S. Muslim scout troops have been increasing in the past two decades, said Donald York, director of the relationship division of the Boy Scouts of America: 112 troops with 1,948 members are chartered through an Islamic school or mosque. “What’s happening now in the Islamic community is very similar to what was happening in the 1920s and ’30s in Boy Scouts . . . with the Jewish community,” York said. “They used scouting to assimilate their young people into America.” York said scouting values — which include an adherence to faith — mesh well with Muslim ones. “Islamic families and clergies want the same thing for young people,” he said. “They want them to grow up in their faith and learn their histories and cultures,” he said. “Things like trustworthy, obedient, clean and helpful” — elements of Scout Law — “these are predominant Muslim ideas. They’re very attractive to an Islamic family.” A spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the United States of America said the organization does not ask scouts’ religious affiliation but does encourage spirituality. Troops often meet in churches, synagogues, and, increasingly, mosques. “It’s a pretty common thing,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “In fact, we did an ad campaign trying to show Muslims as regular people, and that was one of the things we showed: a Muslim Girl Scout troop in California.” Most Muslim children attend public schools and absorb American culture there, Hooper said. But people whose children attend Islamic school or are home-schooled also say connections with non-Muslims are important. “In this society, everybody has to learn to live together,” said Zohra Sharief, a Pakistani living in Woodbridge who home-schools her five children and co-leads Troop No. 503. “If I isolate myself from the society, it’s my loss.” It helps to have non-Muslim peers who understand the traditions, Hasan said. Still, she said, as immigrants arrive from Muslim countries and start families here, they must differentiate between what is religious and what is cultural and decide which American cultural practices to embrace and incorporate. Many note, for example, that dress is a cultural choice. Some immigrants arrive accustomed to wearing Western attire; some hew to the sartorial traditions of their home countries; some make compromises, such as forgoing headscarves but forbidding miniskirts. Hasan, 34, who is of Indian descent and was raised in Kuwait, said she and her three daughters do not wear head coverings except during prayers. “I tell them, ‘We’re in America; you can wear pants.’ ” But she has a blanket rule against another American ritual: sleepovers. “It’s not religious,” she said of her reasoning, “but I remember my mom said it’s not decent for young ladies to be sleeping in a house other than their own.” At the center last week, in a large room that serves as a prayer hall, party room and indoor gym, girls in headbands and jeans sat beside girls in headscarves and shalwar kameez — tunics and trousers — to make crepe-paper Eid necklaces. Hasan told the girls about Eid rituals, such as putting henna on their hands; taught them to say ” Salaam -u- aleikum ,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you”; and read a story about a family celebrating Eid. Afterward, Mona Magid, 6, a Brownie in a magenta headscarf who is the daughter of the society’s imam, explained more about fasting. “Like if you weren’t eating for the entire day, the way your throat would get dry is how the poor feel,” she said. “So Muslims want to try to help the poor.” Ashley d’Hedouville, 7, a second-grader at Clearview Elementary School in Herndon, said she learned that “Ramadan is when you eat at night.” Her sister Ann Marie, 8, said she knew about fasting from a classmate. “My friend does that. She goes to the library” during lunch. Once she and her classmates learned the reason, “we wouldn’t talk about food in front of her, or drinks.” While the Girl Scouts munched on halal, or religiously sanctioned, hot dogs, the center’s Muslim Boy Scout troops met downstairs for pizza, and the adults had their own cultural exchange. The Muslim mothers brought dishes from their home countries (chicken curry, rice, lamb and samosas) and from the United States (pasta casserole) and a large cake wishing a happy Eid. Gina Gallagher, a Herndon resident attending the dinner for the second consecutive year, said getting to know the Muslim mothers had been a revelation. “A lot of people look at the women with the head scarves, and they can’t relate,” she said. “You look at a woman like that and you’re like, ‘I don’t have anything in common with her.’ And then you sit down, you eat, you realize you all have the same problems.”

Us Muslims Not Involved In Aiding Terrorism: Senate Probe Report

WASHINGTON, Nov 20: The US Senate has wrapped up a high-profile investigation into US Muslim organizations and terrorism financing, saying it found no evidence to suggest a link between the two. The finance committee of the Senate, which went to a two-week break this weekend, concluded that none of nearly two dozen Muslim groups investigated raised funds for terrorist activities. This highly unusual inquiry took two years to complete the investigation during which the Senate committee was allowed to go through private financial information held by the government. The US Internal Revenue Service had provided the panel with financial records and donor lists of Muslim charities, think tanks and other organizations. Nine were based in the Washington area. We did not find anything alarming enough that required additional follow-up beyond what law-enforcement agencies are already doing, said Sen Charles E. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who headed the inquiry. Since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the US government has frozen millions of dollars in assets allegedly linked to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups and shut down some of the biggest US-based Islamic charities. Even mainstream Muslim organizations, like the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America, were investigated but have now been absolved of any involvement with terrorist activities. In September, when ISNA was still under investigation, Karen Hughes, the US undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, attended its annual convention. Some charities, such as the Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation, had their assets frozen. In 2002, the GRF was also designated a terrorist-financing entity by the US Treasury Department. In launching their inquiry in December 2003, Senators Grassley and Max Baucus, the committee’s ranking Democrat, had expressed concerns that charities and foundations play a crucial role in terror financing. Some Muslims, however, protested that the Senate investigation unfairly cast a cloud over many groups. It was really just a fishing expedition, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They didn’t catch any fish. ISNA’s executive director, Louay Safi, said the group always knew there was nothing wrong with its finances. But it is good to see that they have come to that conclusion as well. Mr Safi regretted that many innocent Muslim groups have been smeared in the investigation. In August 2003, US President George Bush froze the assets of five pro-Palestinian charities abroad, depriving Palestinian orphans of their much-needed aid. Thousands of Palestinian orphans and destitute families took to the streets the same month to protest President Bush’s decision. We’re very pleased but not surprised, as there’s never been any funding of anything remotely related to terrorist activities, said Nancy Luque, an attorney for Muslim charities and institutes in Herndon, near Washington. Wendell Belew, an attorney for a Muslim charity association, said: We’re very pleased that their examination uncovered no problems on the part of our members. His group includes two Falls Church nonprofits: the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the Muslim World League. Several of the organizations targeted in the inquiry remain under investigation by the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security.

An American Imam: Moderate Muslim Clerics In The U.S. Tend To Their Faithful–And Help The Fbi Fight Terrorists

By DOUGLAS WALLER STERLING IT WAS ON SEPT. 10, A DAY SHY OF THE fourth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, that Imam Mohamed Magid met terrorism’s victims face to face. He was presiding at the funeral on Long Island for the daughter and son-in-law of Bangladeshi Americans from his Sterling, Va., mosque. The children, who were at work in the North Tower, perished in the Sept. 11 attack, but not until this past August had medical examiners identified enough of their charred tissue and bone fragments for the parents to hold a funeral. Staring at the two wooden boxes covered with green embroidered cloth and surrounded by grieving family members, the Muslim cleric was gripped by both sadness and rage. “The terrorists who kill in the name of Islam claim they are the martyrs,” Magid told TIME later, the anger still roiling him. “But the victims are the martyrs. The terrorists are the murderers, and God will deal with them on Judgment Day.” From his mosque in Virginia, Magid, like many of the some 600 full-time imams across the country, is fighting his own war against radicals trying to hijack his religion. For Magid that has meant not only condemning terrorism but also working closely with the FBI in battling it. He regularly opens doors for agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community, and he alerts the bureau when suspicious persons approach his congregation. That puts him in a precarious position: How does he maintain credibility as a spiritual adviser while, in effect, he is informing on fellow Muslims? To understand that balancing act, TIME spent two weeks following Magid as he raced from prayer to prayer, meeting to meeting, in the strange new world of American Muslim ministry. Breaking with tradition hasn’t bothered Magid. Born 40 years ago in the northern Sudanese village of Alrakabih along the Nile River, he studied Islam under African Sunni scholars, who included his father. Magid immigrated to the U.S. in 1987, when his ailing father came seeking medical treatment. Unlike many foreign imams, who find America’s open society too jolting and withdraw to their mosques, he reveled in the cultural diversity. “I never had a Jewish friend until I came to the U.S.,” says the gregarious imam. “And the questioning of all religions here helped me strengthen my own beliefs.” Magid reached out, taking college courses in psychology and family counseling, teaching classes on the Koran at the Islamic Center and Howard University in Washington. One of his African-American students at Howard–Amaarah Decuir, who had recently converted to Islam from Catholicism and was getting a master’s degree in education–eventually became his wife and educated him on women’s issues. In 1997, Magid became imam of a mosque just west of Washington called ADAMS, an acronym for All Dulles Area Muslim Society. An imam can be a layman sufficiently versed in the Koran to lead daily prayers, but larger, more established mosques hire professional imams, comparable to Christian ministers or Jewish rabbis, who are trained in Islamic seminaries or mentored by scholars. Of the some 1,500 mosques in the U.S., ADAMS is one of the more progressive. Its $5 million center in Sterling serves 5,000 mostly middle- and upper-middle-income Sunni and Shi’ite families from more than a dozen ethnic backgrounds. In many mosques abroad and in the U.S., women are required to pray in rooms separate from the men. At ADAMS, women not only pray in the same room with the men (although in a partitioned-off section in the back), they hold four of the 13 seats on the mosque’s board of trustees and chair a majority of its committees. An American imam becomes de facto mayor of his Muslim community. A line of congregants often stretches outside Magid’s office filled with followers asking for all kinds of help. Finding love, for example, can be difficult for observant Muslims scattered in U.S. cities; Islam forbids physical contact in dating or cruising for mates in nightclubs that serve alcohol. A breathless young man once phoned Magid in the middle of the night to ask if he could perform a marriage in a parking lot “right now” so the suitor and the woman in his car wouldn’t feel guilty about what they wanted to do next. “I’m not a 7-Eleven,” the imam barked into the phone. To help with romances, Magid and his wife run a matchmaking service, holding daylong retreats at which young Muslim men and women can mix under the watchful eye of chaperones. Magid has no qualms about grappling with problems that Muslim families often don’t deal with openly. He has organized mosque programs to treat depression among Muslim teens and stocks the women’s restroom at ADAMS with brochures on where to get help if they have an abusive husband. Teenagers and young adults come to him with questions about everything from underage drinking to premarital sex to whether the Koran allows a woman to have a bikini wax. He advises abstaining from alcohol and sex before marriage but knows his advice won’t always be followed, so he also counsels on safe sex and the health dangers of binge drinking. As for the bikini wax, Islam’s rules on female modesty allow it, he decided–if a wife’s husband will be the only one to see the result. “He’s not some big, scary imam sitting in his office passing judgment,” says Zohra Atmar, a 25-year-old legal assistant who is a mosque member. But Sept. 11, 2001, “changed the role of the American imam for good,” Magid believes. Muslims in this country found their religion under attack. His female congregants who wore the hijab, or traditional scarf, on their head were harassed at shopping centers. Last year a man shouted “Terrorists!” at the mosque’s Girl Scouts as they sold cookies at a nearby grocery store. And since 9/11, the ADAMS center has been vandalized four times and the graffiti GO HOME painted on its walls. But this is home, and Magid began mobilizing his mosque to protect it. “There’s no way you can be a quarter-citizen in this country,” he told his congregants during Friday prayers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. “You have to be a full citizen and defend it.” For Magid, that meant working with the FBI. In early 2002, leaders of two Arab-American organizations who had been conferring with the agency on counterterrorism programs asked Magid and other local imams if they too would work with the bureau. The lawmen badly needed contacts among Washington’s Muslims to help them check out leads and alert them to anything out of the ordinary, but they were getting nowhere in setting up those ties because “there was so much fear and animosity toward the FBI in that community,” says an agent. Magid was willing to cooperate, but he knew he would have to convince his congregation that getting cozy with the FBI was in their interest. Some members–particularly those who had come from countries with repressive regimes where the security service was an organization to be avoided–were uneasy. The imam invited agents to the mosque to explain how Muslims could help, but the initial meetings were heated, and the lawmen had to sit through “some very harsh questioning,” says Uzma Unus, vice president of the ADAMS board of trustees. The congregants vented about law-enforcement profiling, which they felt targeted all Muslims as suspects. Agents were showing up at their workplaces to make routine inquiries about anyone they might want to report, and some Muslims were fired because of the public stigma of being questioned by the FBI. The agents promised to be less heavy-handed in investigations, and over the next three years relations improved. Now Magid often serves as an intermediary, coaxing reluctant congregants who might have useful information about unusual activities in their neighborhoods into meeting with the FBI and advising the bureau on how to be more culturally sensitive–for example, by having male agents schedule interviews with women only when their husbands could be present. Magid regularly tips off the bureau when a stranger with a questionable background wanders into his center. In one case, mosque members alerted him to a newcomer who deal
t only in cash and wanted to list the ADAMS-center address as his home on his driver’s license application. The next time the imam saw the man in his mosque, he kept the newcomer in his office until agents showed up to question him. In the end, the FBI cleared the man. It turned out he had gone through a messy divorce in another state and was simply trying to start a new life in Virginia. So far as Magid knows, no terrorist has tried to infiltrate the mosque, but he always worries that one might. ADAMS prides itself on being an extremist-free zone. Newcomers who mutter thoughts of jihad quickly discover they are not welcome. During Ramadan, guest speakers for evening prayers were carefully screened to make sure they preached religious tolerance. Magid keeps close watch on younger members of the mosque who might be drawn to the diatribes of radical clerics. Before 9/11, he recalls, a teenager who had read a fatwa on an extremist website walked into his office and asked whether the Koran sanctioned suicide bombings. “Absolutely not!” he sternly told the boy. Since the attacks, no young person has approached him with that kind of question, but Magid constantly lectures in Koran classes: “Don’t blindly follow how any religious leader interprets Islam–even me.” After last July’s bombings in London, which were carried out by young British-born Muslims who had turned to extremism, ADAMS parents came to him fearful that their children could be similarly swayed. Magid says he convened more classes with his younger congregants to talk “about using democratic means–not violence–to convey their frustrations and disagreements with U.S. foreign policy.” As riots by mostly disaffected young Muslims swept France this month, he preached the same message of nonviolence in his youth classes. Distrust remains. The collaboration between the FBI and the imam “has not been popular in certain wings,” concedes Michael Rolince, the Washington field office’s special agent in charge of counterterrorism. The bureau has come under fire from hard-line pundits, who charge that it is reaching out to American Muslim leaders sympathetic to extremists. “They are providing an endorsement of these individuals, which enhances their credibility,” says Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank in Philadelphia. (The FBI insists it works only with moderates like Magid.) But some ADAMS members are still uncomfortable about their imam’s talking to an intelligence service, while other conservative clerics have complained to Magid that he is selling out. Although they keep those reservations private for fear they will be investigated, Magid says, “they ask, ‘How can you open a dialogue with the government when it has been so hostile to Muslims?'” But progressive imams like Magid realize they are on the front line between the Muslim community and a country awakening–often fearfully–to the knowledge that it has a Muslim community. “It’s time for Islam in America to be American,” he says. For the FBI, that kind of thinking may be one of its best weapons in the war on terrorism.M2509

Germany Copes With Integrating Turkish Minority; Immigration Reform On Agenda After Decades Of Separate, Unequal Treatment

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer In the streets of Kreuzberg, a Berlin neighborhood known as Little Istanbul, a cultural tug-of-war is plain to see. Women with Muslim head scarves and long cloaks linger in doorways of kebab and spice shops, young Turkish men play video games in Internet parlors, while German hipsters sip espresso in ultra-modern cafes. Turks remain a separate and unequal population in Germany. “People don’t feel accepted,” said Safter Cimar, a spokesman for the Turkish Union of Berlin. Cimar, a secularist who represents the decades-old anti-religious bent of mainstream Turkish society, laments that conservative religious views are spreading quickly. “People are going back to nationalism, to Islam, to the worst combination of both,” he said. “Young people especially are becoming radical. Many of them are deciding, ‘OK, if they want us to be foreigners, we will act like foreigners. We don’t like German society.’ ” About 2.5 million Turks or people of Turkish descent live in Germany. While the country has not been beset by the riots France has experienced among its frustrated immigrant communities, Germany is grappling with questions that echo the debate in Washington over immigration reform: How can millions of foreigners be brought in as a cheap workforce without becoming a resentful underclass? Should immigrants mold themselves to the dominant culture, or should the country adopt a lenient multiculturalism? Unemployment among Turks is estimated at 25 percent, more than twice the national average of 11 percent, and in Berlin it reaches 42 percent. About 30 percent of Turkish students drop out of high school, and another 40 percent graduate in the hauptschule, or vocational program, which trains them for industrial jobs that are becoming increasingly scarce. Discrimination against Turks and other Muslim immigrants is widely reported to be common in jobs and housing. Anger among Turks is rising, although most observers agree that a France-style explosion is unlikely. Five cars were burned in Berlin on Monday, in apparent arson attacks intended to echo France’s violence. Germany’s Turkish leaders condemned the violence, but warned that alienation is deep-seated. “With Turks, the government has no problem, but with Muslims, the government has a very big problem,” said Burhan Kesici, president of the Islamic Federation, which represents conservative mosques catering to 250,000 Muslims in Berlin, of whom 200,000 are Turks and most of the rest are Arabs. “No institution wants to talk with Islamic groups. There is no cooperation with the government. There are a lot of problems with police officers.” Although some Turks are middle-class shopkeepers and small business owners who are integrated into German society, what grabs public attention are cases highlighting poor Turks and their traditional ways. Kesici’s organization won a long court battle to teach Islam in Berlin public schools alongside the Catholic and Protestant theology classes that have long been part of the traditional curriculum. Kesici, who was born in Germany, also has lobbied for swimming classes to be divided by sex so that boys could not see girls in their swimsuits. Meanwhile, millions of Germans are fixated on TV coverage of the trial for the “honor killing” in February of a 23-year-old Turkish woman by her three brothers, who said she “lived like a whore.” These issues have been heavily covered in the nation’s media and have led to a public backlash. Angela Merkel, the conservative Christian Democrat leader who completed a deal Friday with rival Social Democrats to become Germany’s next chancellor, rode a wave of anti-Turkish public sentiment by promising a tougher stance toward immigrants and by pledging to block Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Public opposition to EU entry for Turkey is high — 74 percent, according to a major poll in July. Similar sentiments were found elsewhere, with 80 percent opposed in Austria, 70 percent in France and 52 percent throughout the EU. Like nearly every European nation, Germany has insisted that immigrants either remain separate from local society or assimilate fully into it. Since Turks were first recruited in the 1960s and early 1970s as temporary workers, Germans have rejected the American-style concept of multiculturalism and demanded that newcomers who want permanent residence absorb the leitkultur, or mainstream German culture. “For 40 years, we have been a country of immigration, but we have denied this,” said Rita Suessmuth, a former Christian Democratic federal legislator who chaired a government commission in 2000-01 that helped shape an immigration reform law that took effect in January this year. The law broadened Germany’s welcome for asylum seekers and made government-funded German-language and civics courses obligatory for newcomers, but kept tight limits on new immigration. “There are so many prejudices,” Suessmuth said. “In Germany, there is a desire to be similar. We are very suspicious of others.” Cimar, the Turkish Union spokesman, said his fellow immigrants bear some of the blame for the failure to integrate. “Until the 1990s, nobody demanded that the Turks speak German, because they were just expected to do the dirty jobs, and everyone thought they would go back to Turkey and not stay here,” he said. “So people didn’t bother learning the language or putting down roots. They didn’t integrate, they didn’t adapt.” Mehmet Okyayuz, a migration expert and professor of political science at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, the Turkish capital, said many Turks in Germany are “caught in a time warp,” clinging to traditions that in many parts of Turkey no longer exist. “The majority of Turks in Germany are more traditional than many Turks here,” said Okyayuz, who lived for 33 years in Germany and returned to his native country in 1994. He cited the case of a friend who has long lived in Germany, “a normal Turk, not an intellectual,” and who has visited his home country several times in recent years. “I invited him to speak to my classes, and he was astonished by what he saw there among the students — young men with long hair and earrings, women in the same kind of dress you probably see in San Francisco.” Compared with many European countries, Germany has taken a more welfare-state-oriented, less law-and-order approach to immigrants and Islam. In France, wearing Muslim head coverings has been banned in state schools. The government routinely arrests and deports foreign imams accused of supporting holy war against the West or espousing anti-Semitism. The domestic intelligence service closely monitors radical mosques, immigrant organizations and even Islamic butcher shops and travel agencies. Anti-terrorism judges have wide-ranging powers enabling them to jail suspects for as long as four years without trial. French police officers — the vast majority of whom are white — have a long-held reputation for tough tactics in immigrant neighborhoods. In Britain, 10 extremist clerics were arrested recently and targeted for deportation under Prime Minister Tony Blair’s new anti-terrorism measures, instituted after bombings in London killed more than 50 people in July. Because of Germans’ sensitivity to their history of ethnic and religious hatred, culminating in the Holocaust, government leaders have tried to avoid accusations of discrimination and thus have not aggressively policed immigrant neighborhoods. The new immigration law allows the government to deport foreigners for security reasons. A Muslim imam in Berlin was ordered expelled in March for calling Germans “useless, stinking atheists,” although the move was later blocked by the country’s constitutional court. In Washington, the Bush administration and Congress are expected to begin debate early next year on immigration reform, including a temporary-worker program that would be similar to the program that brought Turks to Germany and other European nations in the 1960s and 1970s. Lines are being drawn in Congress over whether to offer illegal immigrants, most of them Mexican, temporary U.S. visas that coul
d last, depending on the proposal, as long as six years before the holder is obligated to return home. “The greatest lesson that Americans need to understand up front is that when you design a temporary guest worker program, no matter how much you intend the workers to return (to their home countries), one-third to 50 percent of the guest workers eventually will become permanent,” said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “The objective should not be to keep up the lie that they will all go back, but … to find a smart way to select people who really try hard to stay. What makes for a successful immigrant? Do you want him to learn our language, pay taxes, play by the rules? If so, he should have all of the labor rights and standards of a citizen. If you do those things well, you don’t have problems,” Papademetriou said. “In Europe, they didn’t do one or the other, and they wound up with extreme resentment.”

Muslims March Over Cartoons Of The Prophet

By Kate Connolly in Berlin A Danish experiment in testing “the limits of freedom of speech” has backfired – or succeeded spectacularly – after newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed provoked an outcry. Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets in protest at the caricatures, the newspaper that published them has received death threats and two of its cartoonists have been forced into hiding. Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s leading daily, defied Islam’s ban on images of the Prophet by printing cartoons by 12 different artists. In one he is depicted as a sabre-wielding terrorist accompanied by women in burqas, in another his turban appears to be a bomb and in a third he is portrayed as a schoolboy by a blackboard. The ambassadors of 11 Muslim countries called on Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister, to take “necessary steps” against the “defamation of Islam”. But Mr Rasmussen, the head of a centre-Right minority coalition dependent for its survival on support from an anti-foreigner party, called the cartoons a “necessary provocation” and refused to act. “I will never accept that respect for a religious stance leads to the curtailment of criticism, humour and satire in the press,” he said. The Danish debate over how to integrate Muslims has raged for years, with nursery school menus and women-only opening hours for swimming pools particular battlegrounds. But the cartoons satirising the Prophet have injected a dangerous new element into the controversy. “This is a pubescent demonstration of freedom of expression that consciously and totally without reason has trampled over the feelings of many people,” said Uffe Ellemann Jensen, a former foreign minister and member of Mr Rasmussen’s party. Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands-Posten, spurned demands that he apologise, saying he “would not dream” of saying sorry. “To demand that we take religious feelings into consideration is irreconcilable with western democracy and freedom of expression,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that we want to insult any Muslims.” Juste commissioned the cartoons after learning of the difficulties a children’s writer, Kare Bluitgen, had in finding an illustrator for his book on the Koran and the Prophet’s life. Bluitgen said all the artists he approached feared the wrath of Muslims if they drew images of Mohammed. Many cited the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamist as a reason for refusal. Juste said he wanted to counter growing “self censorship” and see how many cartoonists would be “bold enough” to draw the Prophet. One artist, Franz F_chsel, said he intended no offence. “But I live in 2005, not 905 and I use my quill in the way that Danish law allows me.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch MP famous for her criticism of Islam and author of the screenplay for Mr Van Gogh’s film Submission, supported the paper. “It’s necessary to taunt Muslims on their relationship with Mohammed,” she said. “Otherwise we will never have the dialogue we need to establish with Muslims on the most central question: ‘Do you really feel that every Muslim in 2005 should follow the way of life the Prophet had 1,400 years ago, as the Koran dictates?’ “