When Social Conflicts Become Ethnicized

Prof. Christoph Butterwegge, head of the Political Science Dept. at K_ln University and member of the Forschungsstelle f_r interkulturelle Studien, was interviewed by Islamische Zeitung about the subjects of his new book, Massenmedien, Migration und Integration. He talked about the battle for control over the Western image of Islam, including right-wing extremists’ attempts in Germany to blur the distinction between immigrants and Muslims, the responsibility of intellectuals in discussing “parallel communities”, and the tepid risk-avoidance of German media in adhering closely to official statements on migration and integration. He suggested that more Muslims should go into and contribute to opinion-forming German media, and expressed his optimism about the humanising, anti-nationalist potential of globalisation that may facilitate genuine integration, which is unlikely to occur on the strength of legal obligations alone – however liberal the state enforcing them may be.

Watchdog For Uk Mosques Launches

A potentially influential body aimed at tackling extremism is being launched a year after the London bombings. LONDON – The mosques standards body was a key proposal from a government-backed extremism taskforce. In a unique move, leaders of four major British Muslim groups have agreed the body is essential to modernise and open up religious institutions. The body’s launch document speaks about the failings of some mosques, including the exclusion of women and youth. The proposal for a Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body (Minab) was one of more than 100 recommendations to emerge from a Home Office-organised taskforce on extremism in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings. But the plan has been mired in controversy with many mosques resistant to the idea of a watchdog, believing that they would be ultimately controlled by the government. But the four groups backing its creation said that it was a major step forward in modernising a key institution. Community leadership Many younger Muslims, particularly women, have long complained mosques are run by small cliques of men from distinct clans or families, rather than by the wider community. In an unprecedented move for a major policy publication from Muslim organisations, that complaint is accepted in the document setting out Minab’s aims. Crucially, it accepts many imams are not up to the job of giving guidance to alienated young people. It sets a priority of developing the careers of British-born or educated preachers who can relate to young Muslims in English and understand western culture. The founders of Minab say it will also champion more access for women and ask mosque elders to bring on board highly-educated Muslims in professional positions, such as lawyers and teachers, to help run the institutions. Khurshid Ahmed, of the British Muslim Forum, one of the key national bodies behind the reforms, said they would now start work on ensuring that Minab would be a properly constituted, professional organisation. While Muslims did not believe mosques were the source of extremism, said Mr Ahmed, communities had an unprecedented opportunity to achieve much-needed change. “There are problems of governance within mosques and we need to build their capacity and make sure they are properly resourced. “We need to be very realistic and honest with ourselves. The vast majority of our imams lack the capacity to intellectually engage with our young people. We need to help them build that capacity.” Yusuf Al-Khoei of the Al-Khoei Foundation, which represents Shia Muslims in the UK, said the launch of Minab was a major step forward for British Muslims, not least because the different strands of the faith had united. “Four organisations have come together for the first time and reached a consensus. It’s a very positive move because the voice of moderation is coming up loud and clear. We are trying to decouple Islam from images and allegations of violence. “We need more involvement of the youth, of our women – and more involvement in our neighbourhoods. “We need our mosques to be more than places of worship, they need to be proper community centres. “For too long there has really been no structure. I have seen people claim to be imams in mosques who could not even read or write.”

Global Migration Needs Pluralism Not Religious Sectarianism, Says Vatican Group

Migrant workers from Christian, Muslim and other backgrounds have common interests and should seek to support each other, the final text of the twelfth plenary session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People declared last week. Overall the statement also encourages the Catholic Church to move away from a Christendom mentality and to embrace social pluralism, women’s perspectives, integrated education, the rejection of religious sectarianism and violence, and a recognition of common humanity in and through differences of belief. Entitled ‘Migration and itinerancy from and towards majority Islamic countries’, the new Vatican document explores these issues through the global phenomenon of human mobility and examines a range of religious and spiritual challenges – alongside social, cultural, economic and political concerns. Says the Pontifical Council: Catholics, in particular, are called to practice solidarity with Muslim immigrants, to be open to sharing with them and to know more about their culture and religion. At the same time they are [able] to bear witness to their own Christian values in the light of [the] new evangelization, which of course respects freedom of conscience and religion. The _new evangelisation’ is a Catholic pastoral process of formation whereby the Gospel is discovered and shared through listening and dialogue – rather than through the manipulations of proselytism. The statement calls for a mutual process of acceptance and integration, claiming: While it is necessary to welcome Muslim immigrants with respect for their religious freedom, it is likewise indispensable for them to respect the cultural and religious identity of the host societies. The Council suggests that the principle of reciprocity requires a distinction to be drawn between elements of a religious or social culture which need to be respected and those which may threaten or marginalize others. The role of legislation is to maintain public space and civil rights for all. The statement continues: It is therefore necessary to move towards a distinction between the civil and the religious spheres in Islamic countries, too. In any case, it is fundamental, in this context, to distinguish between the West and Christianity, because often Christian values no longer inspire the attitude, position or actions (also with regard to public opinion) in the so-called western world. Regarding the situation in a number Islamic-majority countries, the Pontifical Council declares: Christians and migrant workers in general, who are [often] poor and without real contractual power, have great difficulty in having their human rights recognised. It says that Muslim nations should be expected to practice the minority rights they rightly expect elsewhere. The document also speaks of the need for a renewed commitment to involve women in decision making, especially in issues affecting them, as well as in the work of convincing parents to provide girls with an education equivalent to that given to boys, who should obviously include ethical formation. The section on schools and education emphasizes that it is also important to assure education to the new generations, because the school has a fundamental role to play in overcoming the conflict of ignorance and prejudices; and [it is also important] to have a correct and objective knowledge of the other’s [beliefs], with special attention to the freedom of conscience and religion. It goes on: Muslim parents and religious leaders must be helped to understand the righteous intentions of the western educational systems and the concrete consequences of their refusal of the education imparted in the schools of these systems within which their children live. The Pontifical Council argues that religious, civil and human rights are mutually necessary in secular, Muslim-majority and Christian-majority contexts, and that conflict needs to be addressed with a definite intention to prevent war, violence and terrorism. It is in any case necessary to avoid the abusive use of religion to inculcate hatred for believers of other religions, or for ideological and political reasons, the document asserts. It concludes: It is therefore hoped that Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in the name of a common humanism and out of their respective beliefs, would pose for themselves stark questions about the use of violence, often still perpetrated in the name of their religions.

North Rhine/Westphalia Wants to Improve Integration

The central challenge today is: integration by education, explained North-Rhine/Westphalia Prime Minister Juergen Ruettgers (CDU). Earlier, the cabinet approved a twenty-point “plan of action on integration”. The plan includes the development of an Islamic religious curriculum, in co-operation with Muslim organisations, to be taught in German by trained religious teachers and falling under the official school supervision system. The curriculum will be tested with pilot projects in Cologne and Duisburg. The plan of actions is also North-Rhine/Westphalia’s preparation for the forthcoming integration summit of the Federal Government on 14 July.

New Opinion Poll About Spanish Muslims

According to a new opinion poll, 83% of the Spaniards think of Muslims as “fanatics” and 58% of them believe that there is a “natural conflict” between being a practising Muslim and living in, and adapting to, a modern society. Spain is the only Western country where the perception of Muslims has gone into “free fall” over the last year: only 29% of Spaniards now have a positive image of Islam and Muslims, as opposed to 46% in 2005. Even more surprising is that 41% think that the overwhelming majority of Muslims who live in Spain (more than one million, including nearly 800.000 Morrocans) support extremists groups, whereas only 12% of Spanish Muslims think that Al Qaida radicals enjoy support within the Muslim community. The distorted image of the Muslims in Spain contrasts with the positive image of the Spaniards among the Muslims: 83% of the Spaniards believe that Muslims in Spain do not respect their wives, while 82% of these Muslims think that the Spanish treat their wives well.

Chirac Pays Homage To Muslim War Veterans

President Jacques Chirac paid homage Sunday to the hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from former colonies who fought for France in World War I, unveiling a memorial on the site of the battle of Verdun. “The Verdun army was the army of the people, and all the people took part,” Chirac said, inaugurating a white-walled Moorish-style monument. “It was France in all its diversity.” The commemoration has come at a time of turbulence in France’s relations with its ethnic minorities. A senior Muslim leader said he hoped the belated recognition of his community’s war dead would help ease the tensions. Chirac himself looked back almost with nostalgia at the way France rallied in 1916 to fight the Germans. “This ceremony reminds us how in that moment of history, at Verdun and for Verdun, the French nation knew how to unite,” he said after laying a wreath at the monument. Separate memorials already stand for the Christians and Jews who died in the mud and misery of the trenches, but up until Sunday the Muslims only had a small plaque dedicated to them. France mobilized close to 600,000 colonial subjects in World War I, including many from Muslim territories like Algeria and Tunisia, and 78,000 were killed. Total French dead numbered 1.2 million. Some of France’s former colonies have complained that France has been ungrateful to its colonial troops, arguing that without their efforts, Paris would have fallen to the Germans. Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Muslim Council, told reporters he hoped the new memorial would help close old wounds. He said he hoped it would provide “an impulse for the future for a closer integration of all of France’s Muslim communities,” adding that they are “completely French communities, thanks in no small part to the blood they have shed.” A wave of rioting in mainly poor, immigrant suburbs rocked France last autumn, laying bare the difficulties the country faces in integrating its multi- ethnic society. The government has responded with a mix of tough immigration laws and increased efforts to recognize minority groups. In May, France marked its first annual commemoration day for victims of the slave trade and last week Chirac opened a major new museum celebrating ethnic art from around the world. Verdun, where more than 300,000 troops died, lends itself to the task of reconciliation and was the setting for a memorable gesture of friendship between France and Germany, which fought three disastrous wars in less than a century. President Fran_ois Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany stood together in Verdun in 1984 to display the new ties between their two countries.

French Muslim Council: Muslims Don’t Want To Be Lumped Together With Fanatics

PARIS – Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Muslim Council, said that Muslims refuse to continue to be lumped together “with extremists, with fanatics, or with terrorists”. Boubakeur and Abdekkader Bouazza, president of one of the eight regional federations that comprise the Council, delivered a strong statement in support of a modern, tolerant, liberal, republican, French and truly Islamic way of life. {(continued below in French)} “L’islam de france ne peut _tre que lib_ral en sa forme. Toute autre option radicale est vou_e _ l’_chec”, a d_clar_ M. Boubakeur, _galement recteur de la Grande Mosqu_e de Paris, lors des assises nationales des F_d_rations r_gionales de la Grande Mosqu_e de Paris (FR-GMP). “Les musulmans en ont assez d’_tre amalgam_s _ des extr_mistes, _ des fanatiques ou _ des terroristes. Nous nous affirmons devant Dieu et les hommes de bonne foi, acquis aux droits des hommes et des femmes, soucieux de l’_panouissement social de nos jeunes et des plus faibles”, a ajout_ M. Boubakeur. “Au moment o_ il se trouve _ la crois_e de son histoire, parions en France pour un islam r_publicain, de renouveau, d’alternative lib_rale, ouvert et tol_rant, en contrepoids des extr_mismes, des radicalismes et de tous les fondamentalismes”, a poursuivi M. Boubakeur. De son c_t_, le pr_sident d’une des huit f_d_rations r_gionales, qui sont une composante du CFCM, Abdekkader Bouazza (pr_sident d’Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes), a affirm_ : la FN-GMP (F_d_ration nationale-Grande Mosqu_e de Paris) “se veut le trait d’union entre tous les musulmans et les non-musulmans de France”. Notre f_d_ration “est plus que n_cessaire, compte tenu des comportements de certaines organisations, de certains groupuscules qui occupent le terrain, qui parlent, agissent _ la place des repr_sentants de la majorit_ silencieuse des musulmans”, et qui “d_tournent l’islam de sa vraie direction”, a ajout_ M. Bouazza.