Sweden: Sweden takes aim at honor crimes

The oppression of women and girls in the name of family honor has become an urgent problem in Sweden with the arrival of growing numbers of immigrants over the past few years, the country’s integration minister said Tuesday. Nyamko Sabuni, herself a Congolese immigrant and Sweden’s first black minister, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Swedes should not accept traditions that clash with the Scandinavian nation’s fundamental values, including equality between the sexes. Sabuni has angered many Muslims in the past by calling for a ban on headscarves for teenage girls in Sweden. “Honor-related violence is an urgent gender equality issue,” said Sabuni, 37. “Everyone who works with it – the police, social services and women’s shelters – say that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It’s a big problem.” Many European countries have reported so-called honor crimes, in which women are punished or even killed by relatives for committing adultery or violating other sexual mores. But Sabuni, who took office with the center-right government in October, said the problem was much bigger than the handful of murders that have gained major media attention in Sweden in recent years. “I know there are girls who cannot choose with whom to marry. I know there are girls whose genitals are mutilated. I know there are girls whose virginity is checked before they marry,” Sabuni said. “For me it’s unacceptable that these phenomena exist in a democratic country.” About 12 percent of Sweden’s 9 million residents are foreign-born, and the proportion is growing. Last year, Sweden received about 80,000 immigrants – the highest number ever – led by an influx of Iraqi refugees. Many Muslims in Sweden have lashed out at Sabuni, saying they feel unfairly targeted by her campaign against honor crimes. They say such traditions date back hundreds of years in some Middle Eastern and African countries and have nothing to do with Islam. Sabuni, who was raised in a Muslim family but considers herself an agnostic, said: “I’m not that interested in what Islam stipulates. I am very interested in saying that some traditions, some practices are completely unacceptable and illegal.” Sabuni has also angered Muslims by calling for withdrawing state support to religious schools and a ban on headscarves for girls under 15, although those proposals have not won support in the four-party government. “Everything suggests this tradition is emerging here in Sweden, it’s not something you bring from your former home country,” Sabuni said about the Islamic headscarf. “And that brings the question: What is happening in our society that makes parents put headscarves on their children?” Unlike in France, there are no laws against wearing religious symbols in schools in Sweden. Sabuni said Sweden would be able to absorb the growing tide of refugees, but added that discrimination and self-imposed seclusion by some immigrants were hampering integration. “We have a generation today that does not really feel Swedish. Many with an African background, like myself, are not addressed as Afro-Swedes, but as Congolese or Somalis or something else,” she said. “In that respect I feel that we have failed.”

When religious needs test company policy

Companies find that accommodating the faith needs of workers can be a delicate issue. The increasing visibility of religion in society, from a president who speaks openly about his faith to the proliferation of religious television programming, has consequences in the workplace. Increasing demands are placed on companies to create environments that are comfortable and welcoming for employees of all faiths — and of none. It is a matter of retaining employees and avoiding lawsuits. Complaints of religious discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased 20 percent, to 2,541, from 2001 to 2006. The figures of discrimination unreported may be much higher. Research by the Tanenbaum Center indicates that only 23 percent of employees who believe they are experiencing religious bias complain — but of those who feel that way, 45 percent are looking for new jobs. Employers are required by law to make substantial accommodations for their employees’ religious practices, as long as doing so does not create a major hardship for them. Company responses are diverse. Some companies serve as hosts of employee-run groups that hold discussions on different faiths and the like. Other companies take a more hands-off. Particular areas of tension include photo id’s for veiled women, prayer rooms, and religious symbols worn visibly over company uniforms. Clashes sometimes end in litigation; otherwise, companies work discretely with employees toward resolution.

Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance

Only 28 miles separate Imam Talib’s mosque in Harlem from the Islamic Center of Long Island. The congregations they each serve – African-Americans at the city mosque and immigrants of South Asian and Arab descent in the suburbs – represent the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Yet a vast gulf divides them, one marked by race and class, culture and history. For many African-American converts, Islam is an experience both spiritual and political, an expression of empowerment in a country they feel is dominated by a white elite. For many immigrant Muslims, Islam is an inherited identity, and America a place of assimilation and prosperity. For decades, these two Muslim worlds remained largely separate. But last fall, Imam Talib hoped to cross that distance in a venture that has become increasingly common since Sept. 11. Black Muslims have begun advising immigrants on how to mount a civil rights campaign. Foreign-born Muslims are giving African-Americans roles of leadership in some of their largest organizations. The two groups have joined forces politically, forming coalitions and backing the same candidates. It is a tentative and uneasy union, seen more typically among leaders at the pulpit than along the prayer line. But it is critical, a growing number of Muslims believe, to surviving a hostile new era. Muslims will not be successful in America until there is a marriage between the indigenous and immigrant communities, said Siraj Wahhaj, an African-American imam in New York with a rare national following among immigrant Muslims. There has to be a marriage. The divide between black and immigrant Muslims reflects a unique struggle facing Islam in America. Perhaps nowhere else in the world are Muslims from so many racial, cultural and theological backgrounds trying their hands at coexistence. Only in Mecca, during the obligatory hajj, or pilgrimage, does such diversity in the faith come to life, between black and white, rich and poor, Sunni and Shiite (…) African-Americans possess a cultural and historical fluency that immigrants lack, said Dr. Khan; they hold an unassailable place in America from which to defend their faith. For Imam Talib, immigrants provide a crucial link to the Muslim world and its tradition of scholarship, as well as the wisdom that comes with an unshattered Islamic heritage. Both groups have their practical virtues, too. African-Americans know better how to mobilize in America, both men say, and immigrants tend to have deeper pockets. (…)

Detroit Convention

Mansur Escudero, president of the Islamic Council has participated last month in the Annual Convention of the Nation of Islam in Detroit having been this the first time that a Spanish Muslim was participating in such event. The Islamic leader gave a public speech that was specially heard by the Latin Muslim community.; he also asked the government of the USA to change the drift of its imperialistic politics and to adopt a project of peace and prosperity. Another issue mentioned was the effort of Spanish Muslims to fight and to condemn terrorism expressed in the fatwa of March 2004 and affirm that one can not talk about Islamic terrorism as both words are not compatible.

Militants of the Popular Party and of the Falange insult Zapatero and scream Spain is Christian not Islamic

Murcia was the stage of manifestations against and in favour of Zapatero. The events were so serious that the event in which the Prime Minister was supposed to participate had to be cancelled. The militants of PP accused him of being the anti-Christ at the same time that members of the PSOE were thanking him for having reposed their faith.

Conference and Seminar about Sufism in Granada

The German Sufi Master Hussein Abdul Fattah Hill recognized by his high spiritual, religious and cultural capacity will be giving a conference about Sufism nowadays in Carmen de la Victoria de Granada on the 14 of March, and since the 16 until the 18 of March at the Puebla de Don Fadrique. The event will be open to any type of belief, sex, so that the traditional Islam of Andalusia can be explained.

Umbrella Organization Planned: German Muslim Groups to Speak as One

Germany’s Islamic organizations aren’t lacking in number. But coherence has long been a problem. Now four groups are banding together to form an umbrella organization. German politicians applaud the initiative, but warn that it’s only one of several on the way to better inter-cultural dialogue. When Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch_uble held an Islam conference in Berlin last year, his goal was to establish a new basis for dialogue with Germany’s Muslim community, one rooted in democratic and constitutional values. But as the representatives of the various Muslim organizations, federations and groups pulled up their chairs around the table, it became clear that dialogue — in the sense of conversation between two parties — was a misnomer: To date, no single body has represented the interests of the 3.3 million Muslims living in Germany. Now, four organisations want to change that (…)

Bernard Lewis Applauds the Crusades

Famed Princeton Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis drew a standing ovation from a packed house of conservative luminaries Wednesday night in a lecture that described Muslim migration to Europe as an Islamic attack on the West and defended the Crusades as a late, limited and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad that spread Islam across much of the globe. Lewis gave the nearly hour-long speech at the annual black-tie dinner of the American Enterprise Institute after receiving the group’s Irving Kristol Award. Among the attendees were Vice President Dick Cheney, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and ex-Pentagon official Richard Perle. Notably absent was I. Lewis Scooter Libby, convicted this week of perjury and obstruction of justice. At last year’s event, Libby, then under indictment, received considerable support from attendees. The 90-year-old Lewis, seen by some as the intellectual godfather behind the administration’s decision to invade Iraq, warned in his lecture that the West – particularly Europe – was losing its fervor and conviction in the face of an epochal challenge from the Islamic world. The Islamic world, he said, was now attacking the West using two tactics: terrorism and migration. He listed ideological fervor and demography as two of the chief strengths that the Muslim world had in its favor in its face off against the West, but fell short of offering any prescriptions for what Europe should do to stem the flow of immigrants from North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Lewis, author of The Arabs in History and Islam and the West, among many other books, also gave a ringing endorsement for the ill-fated Crusades, which spanned two centuries starting in 1095, when various European armies tried to regain the Holy Land for Christendom. -Neil King Jr. CORRECTION: Bernard Lewis called the Crusades a late, limited and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad, not a successful imitation as incorrectly described in the original post. In the AEI speech, he made the point that the Crusades, as atrocious as they were, were nonetheless an understandable response to the Islamic onslaught of the preceding centuries, and that it was ridiculous to apologize for them. The more central point to his speech was that Europe in particular is now losing its conviction in facing off against Islamic extremism and migration.

Ellison talks up U.S. in Muslim circles

The State Department is turning to Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to help burnish the country’s image in the Muslim world – despite Ellison’s outspoken criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. “I plan to talk to people in the State Department and anywhere I can to help try to improve America’s image in the Muslim world, make friends for our country,” Ellison, a freshman Minnesota Democrat, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I want to help win friends for our country and to isolate true enemies.” In articles which included translations into Arabic and other languages, Ellison has been profiled by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which is distributed in foreign countries. He has meetings scheduled at the end of the month with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and with Karen Hughes, the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy; Ellison spoke with Hughes by phone a few weeks ago. A spokeswoman for Hughes, Rena Pederson, said that Hughes has talked to Ellison about being a “sounding board.” “She does believe Muslim Americans can be a bridge to reach out to the rest of the world,” said Pederson. “She has talked to Congressman Ellison, because public diplomacy is not Democratic or Republican – but American. We have a mandate to provide a balance of views.” Ellison, who has called for an immediate withdrawal of military forces from Iraq, said he didn’t find it difficult to reconcile his criticism of the administration’s foreign policy with his promotion of American values. “Look, you know, administrations come and go,” he said. “But the basic core message of this country – which is tolerance, human rights, opportunity – does not change, regardless of who happens to be the president.” “And just because sometimes administration policies don’t clearly reflect that – as in the Iraq war – doesn’t mean it’s not still a core value of the American people,” Ellison added. Ellison’s outreach with the State Department was first reported by McClatchy News Service. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil rights group, said that anything that can help the U.S. image in Muslim countries should be tried. “I think Keith Ellison is in a unique position to demonstrate the true nature of religious diversity in the United States to the Muslim world,” Hooper said. “I don’t think the State Department will ask him to endorse foreign policy – it will be a more generic, pro-American endeavor.”