Education, Culture, and Emancipation Minister Ronald Plasterk is hoping that Muslims would take a similar view to that of many Dutch Christians, in that everything in their holy books ought not to be taken literally. Citing the Bible’s creation stories and his own Catholic upbringing, Plasterk is encouraging Muslims in the Netherlands to have an open world-view. “If you have to take everything literally, you go mad in our times. I therefore wish Muslims the same as what happened with Protestants and Catholics he said. Plasterk made the comments in the Hague’s caf_ during a dialogue in intercultural issues.
According to Stefano Dambruoso, Italy’s best known anti-terrorism magistrate, Islamic extremism is widespread and has been deeply rooted in Italy and Europe for decades. Dambruoso says that anti-terrorism has improved in the past six years due the introduction of the European arrest warrant, and the creation of Eurojust – a body that fights terrorism. “Generally, cooperation to fight cross-border crime has improved, and is destined to continue to do so,” said Dambruoso. He asserts that mosques should not be targeted as breeding grounds for terrorism, and that most Muslims are there to pray and congregate. However, Dambruoso remains firm that some mosques have been used to proselytize, particularly in the south of Italy, and that we should not lower our guard.
A Berlin gallery displaying an art piece that makes fun of the Islamic shrine of the Kaaba in Mecca, has temporarily closed the exhibit after receiving threats. The exhibit, organized by the Danish group Surrend, is critical of religious extremism. The piece receiving criticism is a poster displaying the Kaaba with the words “stupid stone” superimposed in German.
A Berlin gallery has closed an exhibition of satirical art by the controversial Danish group Surrend after receiving threats from a group of Muslims. The men were objecting to a picture of the Kaaba at Mecca under the title “Dumb Stone.” Eighteen months ago, the severed head of Muhammad was enough to get an opera temporarily cancelled (more…) in Berlin. This time around, it’s an irreverent image of the Kaaba in Mecca that has caused an exhibition in the German capital to shut its doors. But there is one major difference between the two incidents: Whereas the mere spectre of possible attacks was enough to get the Deutsche Oper to put the kibosh on a Mozart opera in 2006, Berlin’s Galerie Nord closed its doors this week after a group of Muslims walked into the gallery and threatened staff with violence. “It was a very explosive situation,” Jan Egesborg, whose satirical art group Surrend created the Galerie Nord exhibition, told Spiegel Online. “We don’t want to be part of the current Islamophobic tendency in Europe. We weren’t trying to provoke Muslims.” The exhibition, called “ZOG — Surrend,” opened last Friday and was scheduled to run until the end of March. Conceived by the controversial Danish satirical art group, it included a picture of the black, cube-shaped Kaaba in the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Above the image, a headline read “Dumb Stone.” Gallery manager Ralf Hartmann decided on Tuesday to shut down the show after six men believed to have been Muslims turned up demanding that the image be removed. The men reportedly threatened the staff with violence should they not comply. David Gordon Smith reports.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch activist facing threats from her controversial criticism of Islam, will receive national protection anywhere in the European Union, said a top justice official in Brussels. Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs said that Hirsi Ali and others who face threats for their opinions or writings would be guaranteed protection wherever they went in the EU and that the host country would bear the expenses. Frattini said: “the protection of people vulnerable or under threat is under the full competence of the member states. Hirsi Ali went to the European Parliament two weeks ago to demand that the EU pay for her protection when living in the United States. Last autumn, the Dutch government withdrew funding for her security expenses, prompting her return to Europe.
A Ugandan was among seven men found guilty of involvement in terrorist training activities by a British court on Tuesday. Ugandan-born Yassin Mutegombwa, 23, was sentenced to three years and five months in jail by the Woolwich Crown Court during one of the largest terrorist trials in Britain. A resident of South London, Mutegombwa had pleaded guilty to attending the training camps. Under the UK 2006 Terrorism Act, receiving training in terrorism is illegal. He confessed having undergone weaponry training at Woodland near Matleywood caravan and camping site, Beaulieu, Lyndhurt, near Southampton in June 2006. Mutegombwa and his brother, Hassan, were arrested in September 2006 during Scotland Yard’s anti-terror raids across London. Norman Miwambo reports.
Immigrants living near the mosque in the northern Italian town of Sesto Calende will be able to attend a citizenship course every Tuesday night to learn about Italian history, the principals of the Italian constitution, and labor laws in the country. The project is a pilot experience part of a wider project known as Open City which is being promoted by the Italian Recreational and Cultural Association of Milan. The imam of the mosque is expected to participate in the course along with members of the Islamic association and community. The point of the school is nothing other than to inform the immigrants of the fundamental institutions, ethics and laws of the society that is hosting them, with the hope that this will help familiarize them with the concept of a society that is Western, secular and plural,” said Suleiman La Spina, a mosque representative.
The European Assembly of Imams and Spiritual Guides had their inaugural two-day conference in Brussels, Belgium on February 25-26, 2008. More than 150 Imams from 28 countries attended the event which was organized by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE). The European Assembly of Imams and Spiritual Guides stressed the importance of creating an Islamic European identity and also discussed issues of Islamophobia and other contemporary politics in the Muslim World.
American Muslims are complaining that their faith is being used as a scare tactic in the 2008 US presidential race. Controversy caused by a photograph of Democratic candidate Barack Obama dressed in African garb may be indicative of deeper anti-Muslim sentiments. Even though the photographs of Obama wearing a turban and dressed in tribal garb on a 2006 visit to Kenya, his father’s homeland, the vision strikes up uncomfortable images of Muslim-ness in the presidential hopeful. During Tuesday’s presidential debate, he was also questioned about support from Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, and is receiving criticisms from his opponent Hillary Clinton, even after denouncing Farrakhan’s endorsement. Obama, a Christian, has fought rumors about his religious allegiance, including uneasiness over _Hussein’ – his middle name. Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR said: When it comes to Muslims, the divisive rhetoric coming out of this year’s election ranges from the exclusionary to the just plain bigoted,” he said, adding that neither Obama nor any other candidate had adequately addressed the anti-Muslim climate. Rehab applauds the positive signs of having a black candidate for presidency being taken seriously and having tremendous success, but is saddened about the other evident prejudices – namely, the obsession with religion.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy would violate its obligations under the European Convention of Human rights if it deports Nassim Saadi, a Tunisian terror suspect from Italy, citing the very real risk of torture if he were to return to his home country. Human rights group Amnesty International applauded the ruling, as a landmark ruling on the absolute prohibition of torture, inhuman, and otherwise degrading treatment. Italian authorities sought to deport Saadi to Tunisia under the Pisanu Law which was urgently adopted to combat terrorism. Italian authorities argued that Saadi posed a security risk to the country. In 2005, Nassim was among five Tunisians acquitted by Italian courts of charges of helping to plan terrorist attacks and recruiting militants; however, he was found guilty of forgery and criminal conspiracy, and sentenced to 4.5 years in jail. Italy has unsuccessfully tried to report Saadi since 2006. In reference to reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which both describe the indignity of Tunisian jails, the court said Saadi would face ill-treatment if he were to be sent back. Concerning the prospect that Saadi might pose a threat to the community, the court stated that this did not diminish in any way the risk that he might suffer harm if deported.