The Supreme Court against wearing a full veil at school

On February 22 the Supreme Court decided in favor of a school that had expelled a 12-year-old Muslim student who exercized her right to wear the niqab, the full face veil, during class. In other news, in the trial of those accused of the July 21, 2005 attacks in London, a surveillance video showed that one of them was disguised, hidden in an islamic robe.

Saudis protest Dutch politician’s anti-Islam remarks

The Saudi ambassador to the Netherlands, Waleed al-Khareejy, has demanded that a Dutch anti-immigration politician apologise and retract his recent attack on Islam and the Koran. The demand, made informally, was immediately rejected by Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV).

Low Rate of German-Turkish Marriages Impedes Integration

Many German Turks are pressured to marry only within their ethnic and religious group. But the practice of “importing” partners from Turkey creates new immigrants and stands in the way of integration. “Whether Turks are prepared to marry Germans depends a lot on the importance of religion,” said Amparo Gonzalez-Ferrer, a comparative sociologist at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. The vast majority of Turks are Muslims in a predominantly Christian culture that has become increasingly secular. “One reason why more [Turkish] men marry Germans is that Islam permits them and not women to marry non-Muslims,” Gonzalez-Ferrer said. According to the latest 2006 figures from the Federal Statistics Office, Turkish men accounted for 14 percent all foreigners that German women marry, followed by Italians and Americans.

Row over Dutch Muslim ministers

The appointment of two Muslim politicians to the new Dutch cabinet has reawakened a row in the country over dual nationality. Nebahat Albayrak and Ahmed Aboutaleb are both Dutch passport holders, but also have Turkish and Moroccan passports respectively. Right-wing opposition parties want to see an end to dual nationality. The row has led to a call for Princess Maxima, the wife of the Crown Prince, to give up her Argentine nationality. Ahmed Aboutaleb, from Morocco, is the State Secretary for Social Affairs in the new cabinet. Nebahat Albayrak is Turkish and becomes the State Secretary for Justice. Lowered popularity They are the first Muslims to reach the heart of Dutch politics. The opposition right-wing Freedom Party has objected to the new centrist government being allowed to have members with dual nationality. The outgoing right-wing Integration Minister, Rita Verdonk, said Princess Maxima, who is married to the heir to the Dutch throne, Prince Willem Alexander, should give up her Argentine passport. Opinion polls show the row over dual nationality has lowered the popularity of the new government. But Ahmed Aboutaleb is credited with helping immigrants to find jobs as well as pushing for more integration.

Netherlands government sworn in

The new Dutch government has been by sworn in by Queen Beatrix after meeting for the first time to formally adopt its policy guidelines. (…) The new governing coalition, led by Jan Peter Balkenende, the incumbent prime minister and head of the Christian Democrats party, will be further to the political left than the previous government which sought to limit non-Western immigration to the Netherlands. (…) The new cabinet contains the first Muslims to reach the inner core of political power in the Netherlands. Ahmed Aboutaleb, the son of a Moroccan imam, was sworn in as a state secretary, or junior minister, while Nebahat Albayrak, a Turkish-born lawyer, becomes junior justice minister. Balkenende’s previous coalitions, dominated by the Christian Democrats and free market VVD, had tried to reduce immigration in a country which once had the some of the weakest controls on immigrants and asylum seekers of any European country. Softer line on immigrants The new government has already demonstrated its leftwards shift by allowing thousands of illegal immigrants due for deportation to remain in the country. But it also will keep in place policies designed to force new arrivals to integrate, such as mandatory assimilation classes and Dutch language lessons.

The UOIF denounces “the offensive of the Socialist Party”

The leaders of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) were stunned by a press release from “the offensive of the Socialist Party” against their federation. After the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) became concerned about “the political and electoral usage of the debates surrounding Islam in France”, the UOIF denounced the platforms contained in a document published by the Socialist Party in the course of the electoral campaign; this document describes the UOIF as “fundamentalist”.

Justifying Marital Violence: A German Judge Cites Koran in Divorce Case

By Veit Medick and Anna Reimann He beat her and threatened her with murder. But because husband and wife were both from Morocco, a German divorce court judge saw no cause for alarm. It’s a religion thing, she argued. The case seems simply too strange to be true. A 26-year-old mother of two wanted to free herself from what had become a miserable and abusive marriage. The police had even been called to their apartment to separate the two — both of Moroccan origin — after her husband got violent in May 2006. The husband was forced to move out, but the terror continued: Even after they separated, the spurned husband threatened to kill his wife. A quick divorce seemed to be the only solution — the 26-year-old was unwilling to wait the year between separation and divorce mandated by German law. She hoped that as soon as they were no longer married, her husband would leave her alone. Her lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk agreed and she filed for immediate divorce with a Frankfurt court last October. They both felt that the domestic violence and death threats easily fulfilled the “hardship” criteria necessary for such an accelerated split. In January, though, a letter arrived from the judge adjudicating the case (…)

Muslims in Germany Choose to be Buried Abroad

By Michael Scott Moore As the first generation of Muslim immigrants to Germany get older, over 70 percent still plan to be buried in the country of their birth. Is integration a problem even in death? Yemos Vurgun was the frail matriarch of a Turkish immigrant family when she died in 1994, aged 90, and although she’d spent her last 14 years in Berlin, her son Ali Riza put her travel papers in order: She had one last trip to make. “We had to have her passport stamped,” said Ali, who traveled with the casket to Turkey. The stamp from German officials proved she was dead. Ali needed it so Turkish officials would admit her body back into her homeland. A full five days after her death — three days of paperwork in Berlin, then two plane trips and a ride in a van — Vurgun’s casket arrived in the mountain village of Akyurt, in eastern Turkey, where the old woman was laid to rest beside her husband. “We never considered burying her in Berlin,” said Ali. “Our neighbors in Akyurt wouldn’t have forgiven us.” Vurgun’s children had left home in the ’60s as part of the first wave of guest workers from Turkey, and she’d joined them only as a widow, in 1980. She was less integrated than most immigrants to Germany, but her story is still the rule for most Muslims here. Islamic undertakers estimate that 70 to 80 percent of Muslim immigrants arrange to have their bodies sent home — mainly to Turkey, but also to other countries like Lebanon or Egypt — rather than face a nontraditional burial in cold German ground. The reasons aren’t always religious — sometimes they’re financial, sometimes just nostalgic — and the German system gets in the way as much as Islamic law. But integration, it seems, can be a problem even in death (…)

The Muslim Council of Britain’s expectations: “Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools”

The Muslim Council of Britain launched its information and guidance document for schools entitled ‘Towards Greater Understanding- Meeting the Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools’ on Wednesday 21 February. Based on best practice, the document gives information and guidance on how schools can respond positively to some commonly raised issues concerning Muslim pupils including halal food, dress code, Ramadan, provision for prayers, collective worship etc.

French Court Backs Muslim School

LYON – A French court in the east-central city of Lyon has overturned a decision by the city’s top educational authority to close a Muslim secondary school. “Justice is served,” the school’s principal Nazir Hakim told on Tuesday, February 20. “We were confident that the French judiciary would give us back our right to open the school under relevant laws that guarantee freedom of establishing private schools in accordance with the state by-laws,” added Hakim, in an upbeat mood. The renovated building in the Lyon suburb of D’cines will be fully operating next year and will mainly teach state curricula in addition to Qur`an, jurisprudence, Islamic civilization and history. Private Muslim schools were an urgent demand by many Muslim families in France, especially after the state banned hijab and religious symbols at public schools.