Charity concert to raise awareness about immigrants

Two concerts were held on the island of Lampedusa to raise awareness about the plight of illegal immigrants. International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo said that “the concerts can do that little extra bit to help the Italian public and institutions understand the problems these people face.” Di Giacomo added that the migrants, who arrive to Lampedusa almost daily, are likely trying to achieve political asylum, and many are fleeing war and political persecution. IOM regional representative Peter Schatzzer said that he hopes the concerts will send a message of solidarity between Italy and other Mediterranean countries.

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Immigrants to stage first cricket tournament in Sicily

About 150 immigrants from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are expected to take part in a cricket tournament in Palermo. Palermo Councillor Giampiero Cannella said “the tournament is part of a municipal initiative in order to foment a real and concrete integration of immigrants that have chosen to live in Sicily, between them and Sicilians.” He continued saying that the tournament is an opportunity for Italians to get to know the game as an introduction to a sport popular to many of the city’s inhabitants, and for the immigrant community to be “able to practice the sport of their country of origin.”

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Bosnia: Gay festival closes after clashes with hardline Muslims

Bosnia’s first gay pride festival has been forced underground after 10 people were injured when protestors attacked visitors on the festival’s opening night. Dozens of people chanting “kill the gays” punched, kicked, and threw stones at people leaving the event. Islamic leaders were angry that the festival of pride, which includes art, films, and workshops about sexual minorities, is being held during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Lead organizers of the event said that they are not canceling the festival, but changing the format from public to private, hoping that this will deter some of the harassment and violence.

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The Irish Times

Agence-France Presse

Agence-France Presse

RELIGION STUDY: ‘There Is Absolutely No Reason for Islamophobia’

Germany’s Muslims are pious and yet more tolerant than most assume, a new study has found. Its authors are urging authorities to draw the country’s Muslim children away from Koran schools by offering public religious instruction. Dr. Martin Rieger of the Bertelman Stiftung thinks Muslim children should have their own religion classes. Rieger was the director of the study “Muslim Religiosity in Germany,” which was provided to SPIEGEL ONLINE ahead of its scheduled publication on Friday. The study reveals that 90 percent of Muslims define themselves as religous. In contrast a separate survey by the nonprofit German think tank found that only 70 percent of the entire population admitted to being religous. “We need to get the younger Muslims out of the Koran schools,” Rieger urges, “and offer them professionally taught classes on Islam.” Calls like that are welcome news to Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen, which keeps track of the religiosity of Turkish Muslims. It’s a demand, Ulusoy says, “that we’ve been making for decades because, for Muslims, faith is a very important part of their identity.” In his opinion, if the school system doesn’t pay any attention to this fact, it only hurts the chances of successfully integrating Muslims into German culture. Even Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, the body responsible for the country’s Catholic Churches, backs the plan. On Thursday, Zollitsch voiced his support for the call for Islamic religious instruction and the construction of “fitting Muslim houses of worship that are well-integrated into their respective urban plans.” Peter Wensierski and Christina Hebel report.

Toronto Man Found Guilty in Canada’s Landmark Case Under Anti-Terrorism Law

A Toronto man has been found guilty of taking part in the activities of a terrorist group known as the “Toronto 18”. The man, the first case for Canada’s antiterrorism laws, was charged in 2006 and cannot be named because he was a juvenile at that time. Arrested after a series of police raids in June 2006, the police and prosecutors claim that the suspects had planned to bomb government buildings and assassinate Prime Minister Harper.

Referring to the young man as an “eager acolyte,” Justice John Sproat of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said in his reading of his 94-page judgment, “I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a terrorist group existed,” adding that the group’s actions “were motivated by an interpretation of Islam which required an attack upon the near enemy, including the Canadian military and Parliament.” The key informant to the police, Mubain Shaikh, said outside the courthouse that he did not agree with the ruling because he did not believe the defendant was aware of the group’s violent plans.

Charges against seven of the 18 suspects have been dropped. Prosecutors and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police declined comment as the pending case of the remaining suspects accused are part of the same group. The young man faces up to 10 years in prison, but his lawyers suggest a stiff sentence is unlikely. Some critics have called into question civil liberties for those charged under this new antiterrorism legislation.

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The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail

International Herald Tribune

Overview of the case and the defendant available here.

The National Post

The Toronto Star

Young Muslims in France Attending Private Catholic Schools

Many of the 8,847 private Roman Catholic schools in France have welcomed Muslim students. The country currently has four Muslim schools. While there are no national statistics, Muslim and Catholic educators estimate that Muslim students make up more than 10 percent of the 2 million students enrolled in Catholic schools. In more ethnically-mixed neighbourhoods and in the northern part of the country, that percentage can rise up to more than half. 80% of the students at the Saint Mauront Catholic school in Marseille, featured in this article, are Muslim. Soheib Bencheikh, former grand mufti in Marseille whose eldest daughter attends a Catholic school, claims that “It’s ironic, but today the Catholic church is more tolerant of, and knowledgeable about, Islam than the French state.”
In return for teaching the national curriculum and opening its doors to students of all faiths, the government pays teachers’ salaries and a subsidy per student. Catholic schools are free to allow girls to wear the headscarf.

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Islam comforts Spanish intellectuals

Thousands of Spaniards, especially academics, intellectuals, and anti-globalization activists are finding solace in Islam. “Embracing Islam is on the rise despite ferocious Western media campaigns,” Abdul-Nour Brado, the head of the Islamic Society of Catalonia. It is estimated that three to four thousand Catalonians have accepted Islam recently, with some suggesting that the numbers are even higher. No specific reasons have been cited concerning the spike in Islamic practice, but leaders of various Spanish Islamic societies cite the trend as a global one, and not just limited to Spain. Nevertheless, there are differences that can be seen among these “new Muslims,” such as where they choose to attend prayers. Overall, the differences are welcomed as a positive sign for living in a democratic country.

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Islam Online

Europe News

UK suspect ‘key al-Qaeda member’

A British Muslim man was an important member of al-Qaeda with a terrorist contacts book that had sections written in invisible ink, a court has heard. Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, of Manchester, denies directing terrorism and being a member of al-Qaeda. The prosecution at Manchester Crown Court alleged he was assisted by Habib Ahmed, 28, a city taxi driver. It is alleged Habib Ahmed, who denies all charges, travelled to Pakistan to receive terrorist training. The trip is also said to have included explosives training. And the prosecution claims that Habib Ahmed’s wife, Mehreen Haji, 27, sent £4,000 to fund his training. She is accused of two counts of arranging funding for the purposes of terrorism.

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Bulgaria: Imam shortage forces 200 mosques to close

Bulgaria’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Haji announced the closure of 200 mosques in the country due to a lack of imams or religious leaders. “Although the number of faithful has grown, we are forced to close the mosques due to a lack of religious leaders. Many years of Communist rule and a lack of funds are the reasons for this crisis,” said Haji. Bulgaria has about 1,500 mosques, but only 900 have been open for the faithful – of which 200 are likely to closed.

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Muslim Group Reports Jump in Workplace Bias Complaints

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a report this week outlining 2,652 incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination, and harassment that occurred in 2007. These numbers reflect the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in the group’s report. The higher number is due in part to the inclusion of a new category related to mailed, faxed, and e-mailed messages of hatred or harassment. The study also found that discrimination in the workplace against the already employed increased by eighteen percent – with 452 cases reported in the United States in 2007, compared to 383 in 2006. Cases involving those seeking employment jumped a significant thirty-four percent.

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International Business Times