New poll reveals that “Belgians discriminate too much, too often” against Turkish and North African minorities

According to a survey recently revealed by the European Fundamental Rights Agency, 75 percent of Turkish or North African origin feel the are discriminated against too much and too often. Also of note, is that 80% of those surveyed said that they did not go to the police when the were victims of a racist incident, citing that such action is largely “pointless.” These statistics essentially reveal that there are far more crimes based on racism, than reflected in the official statistics, when taking into account those incidents that go unreported. More than 1,000 people living in Brussels and Antwerp were interviewed in the survey.

US asks Germany to take Gitmo prisoners

The United States has asked Germany to accept some Guantanamo prisoners when the facility is closed, the Interior Ministry said Sunday, confirming German media reports. An Interior Ministry spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with the ministry’s policy, confirmed a report in Der Spiegel magazine that the U.S. has provided a list of names of prisoners it would like Germany to accept. “There is a concrete request,” the spokesman said, saying he could not provide any further details. Der Spiegel reported, without citing sources, that the U.S. had asked Germany to accept 10 prisoners. Top-selling Bild newspaper, meanwhile, reported the 10 were Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs. It also did not cite sources. President Barack Obama has ordered the military prison in Cuba shuttered in the next nine months. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at the end of April that the U.S. Justice Department is still trying to determine how many of the 241 prisoners in Guantanamo will be taken by other countries. Also at the end of April, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spent several days privately asking European leaders in London, Prague and Berlin for help relocating prisoners the United States wants to set free. In Berlin, Holder said the United States had made decisions on a group of about 30 prisoners, but had not yet decided where it wants to send them. Torsten Holtz reports.

US asks Germany to take 10 Guantánamo inmates

The US government has officially asked Germany to accept as many as 10 inmates from the Guantánamo Bay prison, handing over a list to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and the Foreign Ministry. The request was made last week during a visit by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who spent four days in Europe talking to top judicial and interior officials from the European Union about how President Barack Obama intended to close the prison within the year. “A specific request has been made,” a German Interior Ministry spokesman said Sunday. After his talks in Berlin, Mr. Holder said Wednesday that 30 inmates could be freed immediately if a host country would be willing to take them in. In all, about 50 of the 241 inmates cannot be sent back to their own countries because they may be tortured or face the death penalty there. In an apparent contradiction to the Interior Ministry, Mr. Holder had added that no “specific requests” or “specific promises” had been made. The German interior and foreign ministries said Daniel Fried, a senior diplomat and a member of Mr. Holder’s team, had presented the list. Mr. Fried, who has been the assistant secretary of state for European affairs and is a former ambassador to Poland, is now Washington’s top diplomat dealing with the closing of the Guantánamo prison. The issue has divided the German government. Mrs. Merkel’s conservatives are in no hurry to accept any former inmates, fearing that they could pose a security threat. The Social Democrats, Mrs. Merkel’s coalition partners, are more eager to accept them, for moral reasons but also because they want to give the Obama administration tangible help. Wolfgang Schäuble, the interior minister and a member of Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, discussed with Mr. Holder in detail the logistics of taking in any inmates. Mr. Schäuble has always made it clear that the United States has primary responsibility for the inmates, because it opened the camp after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But in recent weeks, Mr. Schäuble also said Germany might consider taking some detainees, under certain conditions.

Washington Post

Court hearings consider whether Muslims may testify in Canada wearing veil

An Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled there is no blanket right of a Muslim woman to wear a veil while testifying in court. Justice Frank Marrocco did not issue a broad finding under the Charter of Rights, however, and instead suggested this should be decided by judges on an individual basis in court proceedings. The Superior Court judge released his ruling after hearing arguments this spring in a high-profile case about the clash between religious freedoms and the fair trial rights of a criminal defendant. “The Canadian approach may be a compromise,” wrote Judge Marrocco. ”

Judge Marrocco presided over the appeal of a 32-year old alleged sexual assault victim in Toronto, who was ordered to remove her veil while testifying at the preliminary hearing of the two defendants. If Judge Weisman determines that the statements given while wearing the niqab is not proper evidence, he may order the woman to testify again without the veil. If she refuses, the charges could be dropped against the two men.

According to the United States, Spain remains “important logistical base” for terrorists

According to its annual report on terrorism, the U.S. State Department stated that “Spain remained an important transit and logistical base for terrorist organizations operating in Western Europe.” The State Department also said that Spain’s government and citizenry “were concerned that their country remained a principal target of domestic terrorism and Islamic extremism.” During 2008, Spain made 65 arrests of persons suspected of Islamic terrorism, including alleged sympathizers of groups like al-Qaeda. Despite the ongoing threat within Spain, the State Department said that Spain has made great efforts to prevent terrorists from getting access to its national financial institutions.

This news article highlights the importance of transnational cooperation in the fight against terrorism, and the reality that in order to strengthen its intelligence in areas of national security, international agencies require the working together across national lines and boundaries.

Islamic banking making its way to Spain

Islamic finance is coming to Spain, where an estimated two million possible clients await in its potential market. The Halal Institute, the center of Islamic quality certification in Cordoba operating under the Spanish Islamic Commission, plans to sign an agreement for the creation of an Islamic current account with the Sa Nostra building society. Since 2006, the Halal Institute has been in talks with numerous banks on the issue of introducing Islamic finance. Some market analysts have forecasted that Islamic banking will be one of the cornerstones of a credit system re-launched by a worldwide recession and mounting discontent over market management. Islamic banking partnered between the Halal Institute and Sa Nostra is planned to be launched shortly, beginning first in the Spanish archipelago; a specific date has not yet been announced.

Yusuf Islam to release his new album

Yusuf Islam, until 1977 known as Cat Stevens, will release his new album Roadsong on 8 May. Islam, who had stopped playing and writing music for 28 years, reappeared on stage with his album ‘An Other Cup’ in 2006. In the years between he had dedicated himself to religion and philanthropy, e.g. founding an Islamic primary school in London in 1981. Critics say that his new album combines a lot of Cat Stevens and Yusuf Islam – although he himself claims no separation is possible between the two ‘concepts’. Spirituality has always been present in his works. The album gives a preview of his upcoming project, a musical of his work called Moonshadow.

Islamophobia in Austria (3:42)

Abendland in Christenhand (The West is Christian) is the slogan the FPÖ, the Austrian Freedom Party, is using for the European elections. But many Austrians don’t find the slogan Christian at all, and are distancing themselves from the mayhem surrounding it. The Kitzbühel tourism board is alarmed too. They’ve invested a lot of money in advertising to Islamic countries, and the tourists feel the placards are insulting. The city council finds itself in the hot seat.

CNN Commentary: “New media, new Muslim voices” – Michael Wolfe urges more Muslim participation in new forms of media and communication

Author and non-profit founder Michael Wolfe contributes a special commentary on CNN, concerning the needed voices of Muslims in US Media and journalism. Wolfe asks: “With all the focus on Islam and Muslims in the news, the voices of American Muslim civic leaders, or even ordinary Muslims going about their daily business, are too often missing in stories about their own communities here and abroad. Why is it we so often hear what this or that expert thinks about Muslims yet so rarely hear what Muslims themselves think?” His CNN commentary questions the all the all too common remarks that Muslims don’t show their faces to American media enough, but Wolfe argues that Muslim Americans are still striving to make their voices heard on various American media platforms. Wolfe points to the increasing vocality of Muslim American bloggers such as Eboo Patel, Wajahat Ali, and Souheila Al-Jada – who are contributing to the marketplace of ideas online and sharing their perspectives on important issues. For those “American Muslims, who have often found themselves left out of mainstream media discourse, the possibilities are now vastly improved,” he writes.

Gallup Poll: Obama receives highest approval from Muslims, among other faiths

A new Gallup Poll during President Obama’s first 100 days in office finds broad support for him among Americans affiliated with most major US religions. US Muslims and Jews gave Obama his highest approval rating, at 85 percent and 79 percent respectively. He also received a favorable response from the majority of Roman Catholics and Protestants polled. According to this latest polling, Obama’s highest approval came from Muslims – more than all other faiths polled. The results of this poll are based on telephone interviews with nearly 100,000 adults polled nationally, conducted between January 21-April 29, 2009.