Fifty Percent of Belgians Want Headscarf Ban

One in three people in Belgium is bothered by women wearing headscarves in public spaces. Over half would prefer that they be banned in certain places. Intolerance and racism are at the root of negative views on headscarves. This was the conclusion drawn by the religious faculty’s Center for Psychology at the Catholic University of Louvain-La-Neuve after two studies into Belgians’ attitude towards headscarves. Some 69 percent of those questioned see the headscarf as a sign of oppression and 53.3 percent thinks wearing one goes entirely against modern western values. Some 44.6 percent are disturbed by someone wearing a headscarf at school. The researchers said that this study is evidence that society still has a long way to go in the fight against racism and intolerance.

Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans finds them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.

The Pew Research Center conducted more than 55,000 interviews to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims living in the United States. Interviews were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. The resulting study, which draws on Pew’s survey research among Muslims around the world, finds that Muslim Americans are a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants. Nonetheless, they are decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes. This belief is reflected in Muslim American income and education levels, which generally mirror those of the public.

Key findings include:

  • Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.
  • A large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society. Fully 71% agree that most people who want to get ahead in the United States can make it if they are willing to work hard.
  • The survey shows that although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
  • Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.
  • Based on data from this survey, along with available Census Bureau data on immigrants’ nativity and nationality, the Pew Research Center estimates the total population of Muslims in the United States at 2.35 million.
  • Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. However, there is somewhat more acceptance of Islamic extremism in some segments of the U.S. Muslim public than others. Fewer native-born African American Muslims than others completely condemn al Qaeda. In addition, younger Muslims in the U.S. are much more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified. Nonetheless, absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world.
  • A majority of Muslim Americans (53%) say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Most also believe that the government “singles out” Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring. Relatively few Muslim Americans believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to reduce terrorism, and many doubt that Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Just 40% of Muslim Americans say groups of Arabs carried out those attacks.

Pew Center poll page

Download PDF of report

More Moroccans than Italians in Belgium

The Italians are no longer the largest group of immigrants to Belgium. The Moroccan immigrants have managed to outnumber them for the first time, according to sociologist Jan Hertogen. He says it is a “historic moment.” Hertogen based his analysis on figures from the General Department of Statistics and Economic Information of the federal ministry for the economy. Belgium counted 264,974 Moroccan and 262,120 Italian immigrants as of 1 January 2006. This includes both foreigners and naturalised Belgians. For the first time Italians are not the largest group of migrants in the country, but the second largest. After the Moroccans and Italians, the Turks are the next largest group, with 159,336 immigrants. The French (145,556) and Dutch (126,447) are once again the largest groups of European migrants. Hertogen says there are a total of 1,569,909 migrants. The statistics department was more cautious about Hertogen’s numbers. “The figures Hertogen is using are more or less accurate, but they are not the comprehensive official figures. He counted the naturalisations but did not take into account deaths or people who had re-emigrated,” they say.

Turkey: A fight for the soul of the new Turkey

{It is one of the most strategically important of nations – poised geographically, and symbolically, between Europe and Asia. But the tensions at the heart of Turkey are becoming increasingly severe. A fierce struggle is taking place between modernity and tradition, Islamism and secularism, democracy and repression. The outcome could have an explosive impact on us all} In Istanbul: Memories of a City, his mournful love letter to his hometown, Orhan Pamuk refers to the peculiar melancholy that haunts the grand buildings and dilapidated backstreets of the capital of the old Ottoman empire. He calls it ‘huzun’, a Turkish word that refers to spiritual loss or yearning. According to the Nobel Laureate, the monumental architecture and the little arches and fountains combine to ‘inflict heartache on all who live among them’. This, he writes, is because they ‘are reminders that the present city is so poor and confused that it can never again dream of rising to the same heights of wealth, power and culture’ of its glorious past. Reading these lines one wonders if it’s only coincidence that the city’s most famous landmark is known as the Blue Mosque.

It’s time for all Muslim women to stand up to male domination wrote Mukhtar Mai

Mukhtar Mai’s compelling story is one of “Heather’s Picks.” She is a Muslim woman who has suffered terrible violence in the name of “tradition.” There are few like her who have the courage to confront their cultural misogyny. She has refused to embrace silence and is determined to overturn centuries-old attitudes. New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof has placed her in the company of history’s greatest personalities. Gloria Steinem has lauded her extraordinary character. She has inspired Muslim women who are fed up with the miserable status quo of their gender in many Muslim cultures. Unlike Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she has not rejected Islam, nor made defamatory declarations against Prophet Mohammed. Instead, she has deepened her Islamic faith, choosing to tread in the footsteps of the Prophet. Her memoir, In the Name of Honor, was recently released without much fanfare (…) Mai was determined to combat the enemy: illiteracy. As government funds dwindled, she tried to keep the school running from her own meagre savings. It was clear to her that a child’s education was far more valuable than personal wealth. As her story reached the world, donations poured in. The Canadian International Development Agency and Margaret Huber, Canada’s ambassador to Pakistan, were instrumental in providing moral and financial support. In her memoir, Mai gratefully acknowledges Canada as one of the few nations to come through in her time of need. Mai has shunned the limelight, and has no immediate plans for a book tour. Her last trip to the United States was fraught with interference from the Pakistani government. (…)

Romney says immigration plan flawed; parts amount to ‘amnesty’

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Friday that a Senate compromise on immigration reform is flawed because it makes it too easy for illegal immigrants to continue to live in this country. The former Massachusetts governor was attending the state conference of the Georgia Republican Party. He said the immigration plan unveiled Thursday “has some positive features” but shouldn’t include the “Z-visa” provision. (…) Casting himself as the true conservative in a crowded Republican field, Romney said he believes voters in the South will be willing to support a former Northeastern governor because of stances like his opposition to abortion and gay marriage and support of lower taxes and a strong military. “Those values and those conservative perspectives are the values that voters in the South share,” he said. He also downplayed the possibility that his Mormon faith would turn off Republican voters in the Bible Belt. “I’m not running for pastor-in-chief; I’m running for a secular position,” Romney said. “I don’t think Americans anywhere choose their candidate based on what church you go to that’s what they do in other places,” like nations run by Islamic fundamentalists, he said.

Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan calls for ‘revolution of trust’

Canada is more tolerant of immigrants than Europe and less afraid of terrorist attacks than the United States, meaning it could be a model for faithful Muslims trying to integrate into Western society, a controversial Islamic scholar says. Tariq Ramadan has two reservations: Canada must stop thinking of itself as peripheral to the debate and it must not knuckle under to U.S. policies. Ramadan spoke to CanWest News Service from his office in London, England, just before leaving for Ottawa, where he will speak to the Islamic Society of North America conference this weekend. About 3,000 Muslims from across Canada and around the world are expected at the event. Ramadan will be speaking with Ingrid Mattson, the first female and first Canadian to become president of the society. The worst thing the Muslim community can do, he says, is isolate itself from the society around it, making itself a ghetto. “We are living in a state of fear, on both sides. You need to promote what I call a revolution of trust.” Public policy gets warped by this mistrust until “it’s all about control and security. It’s wrong. (Muslims) are citizens, they have the same rights.” He said the community needs to pool its leaders in all faiths and walks of life, so co-operation is already established before a crisis erupts.

Islamic cultural center gets the go-ahead in Serra Mesa

A local Afghan group won unanimous approval last night from a San Diego community advisory board to open an Islamic religious and cultural center in Serra Mesa. More than 65 residents filled a library meeting room for the issue before the Serra Mesa Community Planning Group. Last June, when the Afghani Community Islamic Center first proposed moving into a former bank building on Sandrock Road near Gramercy Drive, anonymous fliers on lampposts and in mailboxes had proclaimed “No Terrorists in Our Community.” But no anti-Islamic fears were voiced last night, only concerns common with any potential high-use project: traffic and parking. Leaders of the Afghan group, which has leased spaces in Kearny Mesa and Miramar since 1994, assured the committee that their center would rarely draw more than a few dozen people at a time, even during its main prayer services on Friday afternoons. Joseph Jawed Hayat, a board member and spokesman for the center, said one of its main aims will be to promote cross-cultural understanding between Afghan Muslims and the broader community. “Our goal is to create a dynamic so we can share information about each other,” he said. The group expects to open the center in two to three months, after obtaining design approvals and a conditional-use permit from the city planning officials.

Senators in Bipartisan Deal on Immigration Bill

Senators announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement on immigration reform that would constitute the biggest change in immigration law and policy in over 20 years. The bill would strengthen border patrol while creating a path toward legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Permission to immigrate would be granted to candidates according to a merit-based point system that rewards job skills, education and English language proficiency. The employment-based system is a deviation from the current family-based immigration policy. Proponents claim that family ties will continue to be honored as individuals with relatives within the U.S. would be favored over those without. Critics argue that close family members will continue to be separated because of the proposed policy.

Switzerland: Ministers attack minarets campaign

Three members of Switzerland’s seven-strong cabinet have publicly condemned a campaign by rightwingers to ban the construction of minarets On Monday Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who also holds the rotating Swiss presidency, told journalists in Geneva that such an initiative “could put Swiss interests and Swiss citizens in danger”. Her comments came a day after Defence Minister Samuel Schmid said the campaign was going down the “wrong road”. Then on Wednesday it was the turn of Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin to come out against the proposal, saying that a confrontation between people of different faiths had to be avoided. Their public statements against a public initiative at such an early stage is an unusual move. Their caution is attributed to anticipation of backlash in light of the Denmark cartoon controversy and the popularity of the minaret issue in the upcoming election. Though Schmid belongs to the same rightwing Swiss People’s Party as some who back the initiative, it’s believed that he feels the initiative has gone too far.