German mosques open their doors

Hundreds of mosques throughout Germany opened their doors to the general public on Friday, allowing people from other faiths to get first-hand information about Islam, organizers said.
More than 50,000 visitors took advantage of the 12th ‘Day of Open Mosques’ to explore the houses of worship and pose questions about Islam, according to the Coordination Council of Muslims and the Turkish Muslim group DITIB. Around 2,500 mostly bigger mosques organized exhibitions, held round-table discussions on religion or briefings on integration and language courses. The annual event coincided this year with the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. A heavy rush of visitors to mosques was reported in major German cities like Cologne, Mannheim and Berlin. The planned construction of numerous mosques across Germany has sparked an Islamophobic debate aimed at fanning anti-Muslim sentiments in the media. While most Germans view positively the building of mosques, a small but vocal minority has criticized it as a “display of Muslim power.”

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Suspects Tried in France Over Bomb Plot

Nine suspects, deemed Islamist militants, went on trial in Paris accused of plotting bomb attacks. Safe Bourada, 38, the suspected leader of the group, served a 10-year sentence for his role in Islamist attacks in France in 1995. Prosecutors claim he recruited most of the defendants while in prison.

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The largest survey of Muslim women in the UK

A poll of 1,000 British Muslim women finds they are both religiously observant and keen shoppers at Primark: A unique and groundbreaking “1000 Sisters’ voices” survey carried out by Ummah Foods, a “new generation” British Muslim food company, and by SISTERS, the inspirational new magazine for Muslim women, has found that, while an overwhelming majority view Islam as their guide to life, read the Qur’an and observe hijab, they also shop at high street stores, go out to eat and travel regularly. The picture that emerges is one of a population balancing the demands of their faith with the opportunities afforded by life in the UK. Khalid Sharif, founder of Ummah Foods, and Na’ima B. Robert, editor of SISTERS Magazine, began asking some interesting questions about the lives of Muslim women in the UK so they could improve their products for them. The result has been a groundbreaking look at the thoughts, opinions and ideas of Muslim women in the UK. The survey, which is the largest ever, gathered respondents from all walks of life, from around the UK, all eager to give their views on issues as diverse as their relationship with Islam, their opinions of hijab, halal shopping, Internet use, entrepreneurship and of course Muslim men and marriage. One of the most surprising findings was that British Muslim women, married and unmarried, are still romantics at heart. Finding a soul mate and settling down in a happy family environment were top of the women’s list with 96 per cent of women saying that this is what marriage meant to them. But they were also keen to find ways of successfully combining work with family life. As in all communities everywhere, the respondents believed that “good men are hard to find”. Education, personality and a high affinity with the principles of Islam were top of most lists. Also of interest to Muslim men is the fact that, while character and Islamic knowledge come top of the Muslim woman’s wish list, racial background is ranked as one of the least important aspects. Outside of family life, finding ways of helping to resolve the challenges facing the British Muslim Community far outweighed thoughts or concerns about global issues with 70 per cent opting for issues in the UK with the remaining looking to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

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UK Islamic banks to double in five years

With the Sharia-compliant market growing by up to 15 per cent a year and estimated to be worth a trillion dollars (Dh3.67tn) by 2010, the number of Islamic investment banks in the UK is predicted to double within five years, said Samer Merhi, the executive director of the Gatehouse Bank, an Islamic finance house based in the UK. “It has the potential to grow because of the high demand and the interest to make the UK the international heart of Islamic finance business,” Mr Merhi said at an Islamic finance forum in Kuala Lumpur last week. Gatehouse, a subsidiary of the Securities House of Kuwait, which started operating in London in April, is one of five Islamic investment banks based in the UK. There is also one fully fledged retail bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain, which became the first independent Islamic bank in Britain to register with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2004.

It was an institution established with considerable input from the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank to give the two million-plus Muslims in the UK a bank of their own, although now more than 20 other conventional UK banks are offering customers Sharia-compliant products. With active encouragement from the government – and, particularly, then-chancellor Gordon Brown – the UK became the first EU member state to authorise Islamic banks. Though the French are now doing their best to catch up, it has maintained its lead by adopting a level regulatory playing field for both traditional and Sharia-compliant banks. David Sapsted reports.

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The Third Season of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” begins

The third season of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Little Mosque on the Prairie has begun, picking up the storyline from the end of the second season as to whether the character of Rayann will accept or reject a marriage proposal. This National Post reviewer, Robert Cushman, is critical of the program and its comedy of “culture clash,” which while seeking to create humor leaves in its wake “generic storylines in which the women just happen to have their heads covered.” He adds that this version of the challenges of Muslims in small town Canada is not very inventive. Assimilation, Cushman concludes, is almost the opposite of funny.

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Anger at Europe’s far right ‘anti-Islam’ conference

A German far right group has stirred Muslim anger worldwide by holding a three-day “Anti-Islamisation Conference” to protest against the construction of mosques and Muslim immigration.

Prominent members of Europe’s far right, including French “Front National” leader Jean-Marie le Pen and Belgian far-right politician Filip Dewinter, have said they will attend the meeting in Cologne which is aimed at forging a European alliance against “Islamisation.” The conference will include a rally in the centre of Cologne tomorrow which police say could lead to clashes with left-wing groups that plan a counter-demonstration. Trade unions, churches and other groups have also announced plans to protest against the conference. The conference organiser is a local protest group called “Pro-Cologne” which campaigned against the city’s recent decision to allow the construction of a large new mosque with two 55-metre tall minarets. Around 330,000 immigrants live in Cologne, about a third of the city’s population. “Mosques are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms, the muezzin call and headscarves are flooding our streets,” Pro-Cologne said on its website. It said 150 “politicians and publicists” from all over Europe and 1,500 other participants will attend the conference at which it plans to launch a petition “against the Islamisation of our cities”. The meeting has drawn fierce criticism from German politicians and city leaders in Cologne. The premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Juergen Ruettgers, said: “Those who abuse the cosmopolitan and democratic city of Cologne as a meeting place for right-wing radicals are against tolerance, against reconciliation, against humanity.” David Crossland reports.

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Security Manual Highlights Muslim Radicalization in Prisons

Security officials in France, Germany and Austria have developed a manual to assist prison authorities in curbing Muslim extremism among inmates. The manual was distributed in Saint-Denis, outside of Paris, in a two-day closed-door conference of European security experts with the aim of distributing it to prison personnel. Christophe Chaboud, head of France’s Anti-Terrorist Coordination Unit, suggests that the prison system “can be a facilitator and an accelerator” of radicalization and inmates are often “strongly destabilized” and therefore malleable and vulnerable. A disproportionate number of Muslims can be found in prisons throughout the European Union. For security reasons, the manual has not been made public.

National Prison Administration Director Claude d’Harcourt claims that the problem isn’t the 80 inmates currently in France considered to be hardcore extremists, “It’s the circle around them – 200 to 300 who could be tempted.” President of the Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie, also listed the internet and universities as possible spaces for training and passing along of information used in religious radicalism.

Secularism, State Policies, and Muslims in Europe

Islam has increasingly become an internal affair in several western European countries, where the Muslim population has grown to ten to fifteen million. In recent years, the European public has intensely discussed Muslims and Islam on several occasions, from terrorist attacks in London and Madrid to the debates on Danish cartoons. In short, there is today a “Muslim question” in the minds of many European politicians when it comes to the issues of immigration, integration, and security. European states have pursued diverse policies to regulate their Muslim populations. The most controversial of these policies is France’s recent ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public schools, which has been discussed in France and abroad since 1989. Other European countries, however, have taken Muslim students’ headscarves as a part of their individual freedom and have not prohibited them.