Carnival in Germany: Islam no longer taboo

In light of the Muhammad cartoon scandal in 2006, carnival jokesters in Germany went easy on Islam. This year, Muslim satire will return to at least one parade–the D_sseldorf carnival parade. Last year, 43-year-old Jacques Tilly’s float was called off because of fears it would provoke violence. The float he designed was of four Muslim women in a row, each more covered than the last. At the end, a woman tied inside a large trash bag. This year, though, Jacques Tilly has some catching up to do. “The clash of civilizations is still high up on the agenda of world politics,” the artist says. And this time, it’s fair game. On Feb. 19, Muslims will be fair game again. Only one motif has become public to date: A Hamas militant and an orthodox Jew hug each other while a Shiite cleric and an Indian cuddle each other and an Indian and a Pakistani dance together. It’s all too cuddly to be true Tilly, and the apparently conciliatory gestures are immediately unmasked: The display’s motto is “Peace Between Religions — The Greatest of Illusions.” Controversy is not new to the parade. In 2005, parade organizers were threatened by Catholics offended by a portrayal of conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner. He was shown preparing to burn a woman at the stake. The puppet of the woman featured the words: “I had an abortion.” Last year, a George W. Bush float was banned. In Cologne, Muslim satire will again be kept at a minimum. The director of the Rose Monday parade in Cologne, Christoph Kuckelkorn, does admit that one display features a Torah, a Bible and a Koran whose peaceful co-existence is disturbed only by fundamentalists and terrorists. “But we’re not injuring anyone’s religious sentiments,” he says — before defending the decision in light of Cologne’s traditionally live-and-let-live attitude. Kuckelhorn’s has tried to win Jacques Tilly for his own parade but Tilly has been uninterested. For it to be worth his effort, “There has to be a real ruckus,” Tilly says.

Danish Caricatures on Trial in France, Cartoons 1: Muhammad 0

A French republication of the controversial Muhammad cartoons from Denmark has led to a fierce legal battle. But France’s politicians — in a year when some of them are running for president — are clearly on the side of satire. France’s satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was taken to court by Islamic groups in France for reprinting the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The trial has been an event of high theatre, drawing the attention of celebrities and politicians. Everyone posed — in unexpected ways — as defenders of this or that French tradition. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, invoked the secular principles of the French constitution while Philippe Val, editor-in-chief of the intransigent (and often anti-clerical) Charlie Hebdo, quoted John Paul II. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy — not exactly famous for being gentle with journalists — used the trial to present himself as a champion of a free press. The paper went further than other European news sources who had published the caricatures as an act of solidarity with the original Dutch publisher. Charlie Hebdo added its own cartoon on the cover, showing Muhammad in a state of exasperation. “It’s tough being loved by idiots,” he complains, face buried in hands. French Muslim preachers smelled an outbreak of Islamophobia, and felt pious believers had been equated with brutal killers. Central figures at the trial included Boubakeur, who directs the Paris Great Mosque, Francois Hollande, first secretary of the French Socialist Party (PS), Francois Bayrou, presidential candidate from the liberal UDF party, and Sarkozy, this year’s candidate for president from the conservative UMP party. Charlie Hebdo, with an average circulation of 60,000, sold 400,000 of the cartoon edition–some indication of the French public’s position on the issue.

A New School Plans to Teach Half of Classes Using Arabic

The New York City school system will open its first public school dedicated to teaching the Arabic language and culture in September, with half of its classes eventually taught in Arabic, officials said yesterday. The school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, is one of 40 new schools that the Department of Education is opening for the 2007-8 school year. It will serve grades 6 to 12 and will be in Brooklyn, although a specific location has not been determined. Debbie Almontaser, a 15-year veteran of the school system who is the driving force behind the school and will be its principal, said that ideally, the school would serve an equal mix of students with backgrounds in Arabic language and culture and those without such backgrounds.

Muslim girl sues school disallowing her to wear the veil

Even as the ‘burqa’ issue is still hitting the headlines in the UK, a 12-year-old Muslim girl has reportedly sued her school, in Buckinghamshire, for barring her from wearing the ‘religious full-face veil’ in school. In a statement, she said that wearing the veil was a “sign of her faith” and that she felt it was compulsory to wear it. “I view the naqab as part of my identity. Nobody’s forcing me to wear the naqab, it’s something I choose to wear and something I am proud of,” she said. According to the Dawn, her lawyers have condemned in the High Court the decision of the school calling it as “irrational”. Justice Silber was told that the high-performing school in Buckinghamshire had permitted, for nine years, all the girl’s elder sisters to wear the naqab. Despite just 120 of the 1300 pupil-school being Muslim, the girls said that the school had been “very supportive of them as devout Muslims and the way they expressed their faith”, Dan Squires, counsel for the youngest sister, told the court. All girls had achieved high A-level results – one gaining four A-grades – and at least two had gone on to university, which demonstrated that it had not impaired their learning, he said. As a result, Squires argued, the ban on the youngest girl from wearing the veil was not only against the principles of rationality, but thwarted a “legitimate expectation” that she would be allowed to wear it and breached her right to freedom of “thought, conscience and religion” under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court heard that the 12-year-old, known only as Claimant X for legal reasons, had joined the grammar school in Buckinghamshire in September 2005. But after reaching puberty the following summer, she returned to school wearing the naqab. Three days into the new term, the headmistress contacted her parents. She was removed from the selective state school in October and moved to an alternative school where she could wear the veil. Although uniform rules are clearly laid out for most pupils, the dress code for Muslim girls at the school is not written down. In a statement, the headmistress, who took up her post in 2003, said that Muslim pupils understood that the scarf or hijab was acceptable, as long as it was in the uniform colours. During the hearing, Justice Silber asked the barristers to address the issue of school security and whether the veil hindered their need to see pupils’ faces. Referring to the 1996 Dunblane massacre – in which Thomas Hamilton, shot dead 16 pupils and their teacher in Scotland – he said: “Everyone knows these days how security-conscious head teachers have to be at school. They have to be able to glance around and recognise who’s there.” The Muslim Council of Britain has said that the policy of allowing the hijab headscarf is “quite sufficient to meet Islamic requirements” and the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford has emphasised that not all Muslims agree with wearing the naqab.

Full-face veil ’caused pupil mix-up’

A new headteacher who noted that one of her sixth form girls was wearing a Muslim full-face veil did not realise there were two of them – because she did not see them together. In evidence to the High Court, the headteacher said that, although she considered the niqab veil was a breach of uniform policy, she decided that “the girl” should be allowed to continue wearing it because the previous head had permitted it. “I did not, in fact, realise that there was a second girl (her sister), also in the sixth form, who also dressed in an identical, full jilbab (long dress) and niqab because I never saw them together,” she said. The girls eventually left the Buckinghamshire school and it was not until their younger sister became a pupil and also started wearing the veil that the updated uniform policy was enforced. She and her parents were told the niqab was not acceptable. That decision is now under challenge in court. Mr Justice Silber is being asked by the 12-year-old and her father to rule the ban on her wearing the niqab was irrational, in the light of the way her sisters’ wishes had been accommodated, and in breach of her human right to freedom of “thought, conscience and religion”. For legal reasons, neither the girl, referred to as X, nor the school, a top girls’ grammar, nor its headteacher can be identified. The niqab veil covers all of the face except the eyes. About 120 of the school’s 1,300-plus pupils are Muslims, and up to 60 of them wear the hijab headscarf. X is the only pupil demanding the right to wear the full-face veil when men are likely to be present. The girl is attending a different school which permits the niqab, but she wants to go back to the grammar. The headteacher, who took over at the school in September 2002, stated: “I believe that if the niqab becomes an accepted part of school uniform attire there may well be pressure brought to bear on other Muslim girls to wear one, either from the children’s families or from their friends at school.” For a girl to conceal her face was contrary to the ethos of the school. “As a girls’ school for over 100 years, we are very conscious of our duty to educate girls to regard themselves as equals to men and to gain the self-confidence to live and work in British and international society on the same level as men,” she said. She pointed out that being able to see facial expressions was a key component of effective classroom interaction; for instance, was a pupil paying attention or distressed or enthusiastic? An assessment made of X in the light of her shy, quiet and reserved manner emphasised the need for her to be able to communicate freely with her teachers and peers. The headteacher also spoke of her duty to ensure the safety of her pupils. “If a stranger is on site, then it is simple to approach and ask them (about) their business. “However, if pupils wore the niqab, then identifying those on site becomes difficult and it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for an unwelcome person wishing to move incognito to wear a niqab herself. “Of course it would be very difficult for a male teacher to challenge somebody wearing a niqab as the very reason it is being worn is to avoid being seen by the opposite sex.” The headteacher stressed that X had not been excluded from the school, which wanted her to return. She had been kept from school either at her own request or on instruction of her parents. An alternative school – Burnham Grammar, 12 miles from the girl’s home, where the niqab was allowed – was able to offer her a place. Transport would be provided. The girl’s lawyers argue that the niqab is simply an addition to school uniform – like a skullcap or turban – and that, in an emergency, a girl would simply remove it and show her face. The judge reserved judgment to a later date.

Muslim women don’t have to wear veils: Queen Rania

Islam does not require women to wear veils, Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan has said in an interview, calling on Muslim moderates to “make their voices be heard.” “Islam neither requires one to be practising, nor to dress in one way or another,” the stylish 36-year-old queen told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera during a visit to Rome on Friday. “So imposing the veil on a woman is contrary to the principles of Islam,” said Queen Rania, who is in Rome for the launch of a Group of Seven (G7) programme to develop vaccines against diseases that are endemic in poor countries. “Unfortunately, after all the suspicion weighing on Islam, many people have begun to consider the veil as a political problem, but this is not the case,” she told Corriere. “Wearing the veil is a free personal choice.” Queen Rania urged “all moderates to stand up and let their voices be heard.” She added: “Many people are frustrated in the Arab world. Many give in to the anger because they are accused of violence. But instead we should get up, explain who we are and what we believe in. “Over the last three years, most victims of terrorism have been Muslim. So there’s not a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between extremists and moderates of all the religions,” the queen said. “What is important is not to live in fear. The most dangerous (thing to do) is to give up and lose hope. The main enemy is not terrorism or extremism, but ignorance,” she said.

Les imams danois accusés d’avoir envenimé l’affaire en 2005 ont été relaxés

Ce n’est pas faute d’avoir essay_. L’affaire des douze caricatures de Mahomet publi_es le 30 septembre 2005 dans le quotidien Jyllands-Posten est pass_e _ trois reprises devant un tribunal danois _ la suite des plaintes pour injures et blasph_mes d_pos_es par des associations musulmanes locales. A chaque fois, le journal et ses repr_sentants, le directeur de la r_daction, Carsten Juste, et le r_dacteur en chef des pages culturelles, Flemming Rose, qui est venu en France apporter son soutien _ Charlie Hebdo, ont _t_ relax_s. Le tribunal avait estim_ que les plaignants n’avaient pas pu montrer que les dessins ou le texte les accompagnant avaient eu l’intention d’offenser les musulmans. Le dernier proc_s remonte _ octobre 2006. Dans l’autre sens, la justice danoise a _galement lav_ de tout soup_on, _ la mi-janvier 2007, les imams danois accus_s d’avoir envenim_ l’affaire au cours de voyages effectu_s au Moyen-Orient fin 2005 pour mobiliser l’opinion musulmane mondiale. Le tribunal n’avait rien trouv_ dans leur comportement qui aurait incit_ _ la violence contre le Danemark. L’imam le plus controvers_, Abou Laban, est mort il y a quelques jours d’un cancer. “R_GIMES AUTORITAIRES” Lors de son discours de nouvel an, le premier ministre du Danemark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, est revenu sur la publication des dessins, soutenue par une majorit_ de Danois, en d_clarant : “Nous avons tous la responsabilit_ d’administrer la libert_ de parole d’une mani_re qui ne provoque ni haine ni violence. Mais nous avons aussi la responsabilit_ de ne pas nous soumettre aux demandes de r_gimes autoritaires concernant ce sur quoi nous pouvons dessiner ou parler.” Si l’affaire en elle-m_me ne conna_t plus de rebondissements et que le Danemark tente de redorer son blason _ travers diff_rentes initiatives commerciales ou diplomatiques, l’islam est d_sormais tr_s largement discut_ au Danemark, comme le montre l’engouement pour une nouvelle traduction en danois du Coran sortie en novembre 2006, devenue _ la surprise g_n_rale l’un des cadeaux de No_l les plus _ la mode.

Islam : questions for the candidates

Islam : questions for the candidates, by Abdennour Bidar, Philosophy professor at the preparatory school of Sophia-Antipolis. Organization, imams, education key questions for Muslims in France As an intellectual Muslim engaging in reflection on the identity and future of Islam in France, I would like to pose four questions to the candidates in the presidential election: first of all, do you plan to maintain the CFCM? The work of sociologists has shown that the idea of religion has evolved radically for European Muslims. They don’t abandon their faith, but they adapt it to incorporate Western values of personal choice, autonomy, and responsibility. A new sense of subjectivity has appeared in Islamic culture, which I call a self-Islam, in which each Muslim understands himself to be master of himself and a judge of what he recieves from dogma and religious law. that is to say, he determines for himself the forms of his spiritual life… Can one ignore this evolution and continue to accept here in France that the CFCM functions as “religious power”, “guardian of the faith”, on the model of all the instances of theologico-political domination which have in the Muslim world persisted for centuries in making the spiritual the property of a caste of ulama, imams, rectors of mosques or of Islamic universities? Second question: do you want to create an institute of Imam formation? … Thirdly, do you want to give special rights to practicing Muslims? The issue of Muslim women refusing to be examined by male doctors in alerts us to a certain conservative Islam that is reclaimed as Muslims call for special rights, for a “differentiated treatment.” In the name of what? The right for difference to be recognied in public spaces. The issues are varied: the right to wear the veil at work, the right for children to have halal meals in the cafeteria, the right for women to have women’s-only hours at the swimming pool, the right for students to stay at school on Muslim holidays, the right to Friday as a holiday. Two militant camps are active in favor of these rights. First of all, the multiculturalist school of sociology, for whom the French republic discriminates against its citizens when it persists in negating their cultural differences in the name of a formal idea of equality and a fanatical la’cit’. Then there are the conserviatve Muslims whose figurehead is Tariq Ramadan: their strategy is to reclaim these special rights in the name of “religious freedom”, a category of the freedom of conscience. This is a simple repetition of the tactic of the Muslim Brotherhood, which consists of using the West’s own weapons against it: one uses the principle of freedom of conscience against true freedom. Finally, do you think that the Republic should finance the construction of places of worship? Can the secular Republic help in the financing of mosques? Obviously, along with this question is the debate over an eventual revision of the law of 1905 – is it necessary or not to review the conception and formulation of our principle of la’cit’, of separation between the state and religious groups? Should the Republic break with its principle of non-intervention in religious affairs? …

Caricatures : Muslim Organizations Hesitate to Begin Systematic Legal Suits

The Grand Mosque of Paris, the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, and the Global Islamic League brought complaint against the weekly magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, after its publication of the Danish caricatures of the prophet Mohammed in February 2006…