The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that Bosnian refugees living in Slovenia have a difficult time integrating in the country. Groups with special needs are often overlooked when there re mass refugee movements, and those who are above the age of 60 have a much harder time adapting than young and middle-aged refugees. Among the difficulties they experience are adapting to new homes, achieving economic self-sufficiency, legal-recognition, and absorbing the socio-cultural characteristics of the host country.
The Islamic veil remains forbidden for Bavarian teachers. On Monday January 15, in Munic, the state constitutional tribunal rejected the appeal of an islamic religious community, originally from Berlin, to revoke the 2005 law that forbids the veil for teachers in the Bavarian schools. Arguing that the law restricts religious liberty and goes against the principle of equality, the plaintants denounced a situation where nuns are permitted to teach in their habit but women who wear the veil are not. The tribunal followed the arguments of the Bavarian governmnet, which considered the nun’s habit to be compatible with the fundamental values and the educational objectives of Bavarian law. The debate is far from over. In 2006, the administrative tribunal of Stuttgart rescinded the legislation of Baden-Wurtemburg, upholding the argument of a teacher who denounced the treatment of veiled teachers as unequal. In Bavaria, the battle could begin again. The Munich tribunal upheld the Bavarian legislation without making an explicit statement on the headscarf.
For the first time Austria has named a public place after a Muslim. The entrance to UN-City in Vienna will be named “Muhammad-Asad-Platz in spring. City officials declared that their decision should symbolize that Vienna is multicultural and a city which had always had Muslim life.
While the debate rages across Europe over the possibility of forbidding the Islamic veil, the CDU German minister of the Interior and EU president-elect, Wolfgang Schaueble, has chosen his camp. “I am against the burqa, because it impedes all communication,” he said yesterday. The German government, which has been silent thus far on the question of the veil, now places itself on the side of Jack Straw and Romano Prodi, who both oppose the full face veil, which, unlike the hijab, covers all but a woman’s eyes. Tolerance of the hijab remains the rule in Germany, despite several lawsuits in Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemburg in the past several years. Today, it is the state of Berlin that has the strictest legislation in the country. The hijab is forbidden here throughout the administration. But just as it does not intervene in the regional affairs of its country, the German government will not intervene on the European scale either. The presidency has no intention to legislate on this subject, nor to harmonize the various European laws, which remain quite dissimilar despite a recent trend towards forbidding the veil.
Germany’s interior minister has called for an EU-wide dialogue with Muslims in an effort to integrate them better. Wolfgang Schaeuble suggested that the EU should promote the training of imams to encourage Muslim leaders who were comfortable with European values. He compared parts of the Islamic world to pre-Enlightenment Europe, and criticised both the burka veil and traditional Muslim attitudes to women. He pledged to use his country’s EU presidency to promote integration. He wanted training for imams that could “strengthen those who can live with the European rule of law, universal rights and the achievements of the Enlightenment”, he said, referring to the 17th Century European movement that put reason and universal rights ahead of tradition. “There are still parts of the Muslim world where historical enlightenment still needs to be implemented,” he told Brussels-based journalists on Thursday. “We should not be arrogant but only helpful. After all, Christianity waged terrible conflicts for a few centuries until the process of Enlightenment took root.” He echoed senior British politician Jack Straw when he said he thought the all-over burka worn by some Muslim women was “an element that hinders communication”. But he said he did not believe it was politicians’ role to decide what people should wear. However, equal rights for women was a universal principle that should be defended everywhere, he said, not just “some peculiarity” of Europe.
Khaled Bouchama, a member of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), is also a member of the Ile-de-France Regional Council for the Muslim Religion, the CRCM Ile-de-France. Saphirnews.com: What problems have you run into with this year’s Eid? Khaled Bouchama : The problems are always the same. The lack of ritual slaughterhouses has been aggravated by the cosure of Mantes la Jolie which was not up to code. In Seine-Saint-Denis, there was not a single approved slaughterhouse… SN: The CFCM hasn’t done anything about these problems? KB : The CFCM has done nothing. It needs to own its responsibility in this business, because the job of the CFCM is to defend, in a correct and objective manner, the Muslim religion. The French Muslim community is part of the French nation. The state is responsible for this nation. The CFCM must put pressure on the state so that it facilitates the necessary conditions for the Eid sacrifices. For French Muslims, it is a local matter. But the local prefects can only execute the law. For the law to change, there must be a national political presence.
The construction of a mosque in easter Berlin, the first to be built in eastern Germany, has sparked a movement within the population. The laying of the first stone took place in relative calm on January 2, in the presence of some 90 police officers. The neonazis, who were involved in protests against the project in 2006, have remained silent. But a group of about a hundred people, carrying placards, reiterated the disapproval of this project on the part of a portion of the local residents. According to them, the politicians have acted arrogantly in refusing to hear them out.
A German businessman of Syrian descent who wanted to surprise his daughter with a holiday visit was detained for four days in a Las Vegas holding cell before being sent back home without explanation. A civil rights group called authorities’ treatment of Majed Shehadeh a case of anti-Muslim discrimination. Shehadeh, 62, flew from Frankfurt to Las Vegas last Thursday, hoping to meet with his wife and drive to Bakersfield, Calif., where his American-born daughter had just gotten news she’d passed the California bar exam. On Sunday, he was released and sent back to Frankfurt on the same charter airline. The detention follows a series of similar incidents involving Muslim passengers, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In Europe today, millions of Muslims are living in secular democratic states by their own choice, contributing to the societies they are living in and forming now a new part of European identity. European secular legal orders grant them religious freedom and equal rights. Nevertheless, certain challenges for both Muslims and European legal orders should not be neglected. Certainly, freedom of religion and equality before the law prevent legislation and administration from any religious bias. But current legal institutions were developed in a concrete historical and social framework, with Christianity playing a major if not crucial role in this regard. The legal integration of Islam, being much less institutionalised than Christianity or Judaism, has become a challenge for European legal orders. European countries have to find ways to grant the full range of rights to Muslim individuals and groups by re-reading the existing rules without altering their validity as such. This book discusses the above issues and tries to find answers to questions such as: Does Shari`a contain intrinsic instruments to develop rules consistent with this binding legal framework? Are Muslims defining themselves as a minority living in diaspora? Are there opportunities for them to actively participate in societal institutions, based on a self-understanding as an integral part of the societies they are living in?
An authoritative new report by Policy Exchange, the UK’s leading centre-right thinktank, entitled The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting Britain’s mosques, reveals the worrying extent of extremist penetration of mosques and other key institutions of the British Muslim community. The report is the most comprehensive academic survey of its kind ever produced in the UK and is based on a year-long investigation by several teams of specialist researchers into the availability of extremist literature and covers more than a hundred mosques and Islamic centres throughout the UK.