Deadline for Canadian Muslim woman held hostage by the Taliban extended

The Islamic militants holding a Canadian hostage at the Afghan-Pakistani border region have extended the deadline for their ransom demands to be met, according to an associate of the Taliban commander thought to be in control of her. In a video released last month, West Vancouver resident Beverly Giesbrecht, 53, said her captors would behead her if their demands for $350,000 (U.S.) weren’t met by the end of March. She was seized at gunpoint in the Bannu region of northern Pakistan in November.

CIA launches recruitment drive on internet and TV

The Central Intelligence Agency is attempting to recruit more spies by advertising on the internet, radio, and television, and holding meetings with American Muslims to make up for a severe shortage of Arabic speakers.

Leon Panetta, the new CIA director, will meet with Muslim groups in cities such as Detroit to spearhead the new drive to recruit more Arabic speakers and Muslims. Urdu and Pashtu speakers are also among those being sought in the continuation of an anti-terror initiative launched by former U.S. president George W. Bush.

“We want to emphasize to those communities that we welcome first-generation Americans to apply. They bring critical language skills and a knowledge of culture to support our intelligence mission.” Earlier this month Scott White, third in command at the CIA, held meetings with Arab-American and Chaldean-American representatives in Detroit, which has heavily populated American Muslim suburbs. He told the groups that he would bring Mr. Panetta to a future meeting.

Racism against minorities in Rome on the rise, says community leader

After several immigrants of South Asian backgrounds were beaten in Rome in the last couple of weeks, a leader of the Pakistani community in the city said that episodes of racism in the Italian capital are on the rise. “Episodes of racism are on the rise in Rome, above all in certain neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city which are full of hate and frustration,” said Ejaz Ahmad of the Consulta Islamica. Ahmed cited deteriorated conditions of neighborhoods in which minorities live, saying that there are political interests involved in the lack of concern for neighborhood infrastructure. Most recently, a Pakistani immigrant was left in a coma after being beaten last week by five Italian youths, in what investigators are saying was a racially-motivated attack.

Dutch authorities enforce new Moroccan law on citizenship

Local governments are enforcing a new law which calls for every Dutch person born to a Moroccan mother, to be compelled to accept Moroccan nationality.

For many years, Moroccan law stipulated that children born to a Moroccan father are automatically Moroccan nationals. The legislation is being tightened further, now calling for children of a Moroccan mother – and the father of a different nationality – to also automatically obtain Moroccan citizenship.

Local authorities in the Netherlands are obeying the new law from Rabat. In accordance with Morocco’s wishes, Dutch municipalities are registering children of at least one Moroccan parent as Moroccan. Such cooperation is drawing criticism from a number of Dutch politicians. Conservative MP Paul de Krom says that the move is “bizarre and shocking that the Dutch government is pro-actively cooperating with the territorial inclinations of another country, even when parents have not requested it themselves.” Dual nationality is not usually permitted in the Netherlands, but Moroccan citizens are among those exempted from this rule, as Morocco does not allow for its citizens to renounce their Moroccan nationality.

UK is best country for Euro-Muslims

Practicing Islam in the United Kingdom has become as easy – if not easier – than in many majority-Muslim states, according to a leading British Muslim cleric. But concerns have been raised over rumors that the British government is preparing anti-terror legislation (known as Contest 2) that would classify British Muslims as extremists if they have refused to condemn the killing of British soldiers in conflict or have described homosexuality as a sin.

Supporting jihad in any form, including in the Palestinian territories, or promoting the institution of Shari’a law or the establishment of a Caliphate (an Islamic state transcending national borders) would also legally fall within the parameters of extremism.

Even so, many British Muslims believe that leading a truly pious Islamic life is facilitated by the benefits of living in a liberal democratic society such as the United Kingdom.

“In some respects, living in the UK can actually make leading a ‘God-centered’ life easier than living in some, or even many Muslim countries,” said Abdur Raheem Green, an imam at the London Central Mosque. “This is partly due to certain freedoms, civil liberties and adherence to a code of human rights that are essential components of liberal democracies.”

A British convert to Islam, Green explained that because of these key features of democratic societies, “one is able to practice all of the essential components of the religion and even many non-essential ones, as well as being able to invite others to accept this truth.”

Sweden: Muslim group: “Make halal slaughter legal”

The Muslim Association of Sweden (SMF) is renewing calls for the legalization of religious slaughter practices, such as halal and kosher dietary requirements. SMF chairperson Mahmoud Aldebe is challenging the government to respect the democratic rights of Sweden’s Muslims, to exercise their “religious freedoms” and help find a way to permit the practice.

At stake is the key issue of pain killers administered to the animal; the agriculture ministry requires that an electric shock be made to an animal before a cut is made. This method is prohibited by most Muslim and Jewish slaughter practices, as the risk of the animal dying before the cut is made is high.

The ban on slaughtering animals by cutting the jugular vein has been in force since 1937 in Sweden.

Christian Science Monitor explores 10 terms not to use with Muslims

Chris Seiple of the Christian Science Monitor writes in this piece of ten terms in which we ought to “be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.” The terms, Seiple says, are stemmed from his travels and discussions with Muslims in which such phrases and words are not aiding the building of solid relationships with the Muslim world and community. They are the following: The Clash of Civilizations, Secular, Assimilation, Reformation, Jihadi, Moderate, Interfaith, Freedom, Religious Freedom, and Tolerance.

Seiple acknowledges that such words and phrases will differ and change over the years according to cultural and ethnic context and (mis)perceptions, but argues that earnestly listening to understand each other better is the chief goal.

Ontario Superior Court judge told that justice “cannot be veiled”

Permitting alleged victims or any witness to wear a veil while testifying would fundamentally change core principles in the Canadian justice system, an Ontario Superior Court judge was told yesterday. Defense lawyer Jack Pinkofsky claimed that, “The face of justice cannot be faceless.” Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco has been asked to decide whether an alleged victim in a sexual-assault case in Toronto will be permitted to testify while wearing her niqab.

The provincial court judge presiding over the preliminary hearing of the two defendants ruled last fall that the woman’s religious beliefs were not that strong and ordered her to remove the veil. She refused and was granted the right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court. The Criminal Code permits witnesses such as alleged sexual-assault victims or children to testify by video or behind a one-way screen. In both situations, the defense lawyer and accused can see the witness. The woman’s lawyer explained that this would not be acceptable for his client because men could see her without the veil. The hearing is set to continue on April 3.

Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister continues public battle with the Canadian Arab Federation; Muslim Canadian Congress founder responds

Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney claims he is reshaping Canada’s approach to immigration and multiculturalism. Kenney claims: “We want to avoid the kind of ethnic enclaves or parallel communities that exist in some European countries. So far, we’ve been pretty successful at that, but I think it’s going to require greater effort in the future to make sure that we have . . . social cohesion rather than fracturing.” Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress applauds Kenney’s efforts. “He’s standing up for Canadian values. I would like every politician to stand up for this country the way Jason Kenney has.”

Kenney has recently, among other recent controversies, criticized Muslim-led attempts to censor Canadian writers through human rights commissions, and slamming certain groups that would stoke Middle East enmities, leading to accusations in Arab communities, and in some corners of the media, that the Minister has abandoned an unprejudiced approach and made Canada a stooge for the so-called Israel lobby: The CAF called him a “professional whore;” the Toronto Star a “professional fool”.