Carleton University Fires Professor Accused in Paris Bomb Plot

An Ottawa university has replaced a professor accused of involvement in a deadly Paris bombing nearly three decades ago. Hassan Diab was teaching a part-time summer course in sociology at Carleton University. He has been a Canadian citizen since 1993.

The university said it had hired Mr. Diab to teach in the summer session because of an unforeseen leave taken by the course’s original instructor.

Mr. Diab has maintained his innocence since he was arrested in late 2008. He was released on bail March 31, 2008, under strict conditions that include wearing a GPS-monitored ankle bracelet. A Canadian Jewish organization had criticized Mr. Diab’s hiring, saying that an alleged terrorist should not be teaching impressionable university students.

Mr. Diab is expected to face a hearing in January, when a judge will decide whether he should be sent to France to face allegations he participated in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and wounded dozens of others. The university said the action was being taken “in the interest of providing its students with a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning.” His colleagues at Carleton have issued several petition letters.

Quebecois Journalists Revisit Reasonable Accommodation Following “Honor” Killings

Speculation that the deaths of three Montreal-area sisters and their female caregiver could have been “honor” killings has rekindled the reasonable accommodation debate in the Quebec press.

Le Devoir columnist Jean-Claude Leclerc called the tragedy, which took place in Kingston, “the pretext for another dispute over tolerance in Canada.” Le Journal de Montreal’s Richard Martineau declared the killings a result of a “barbaric” extremist ideology and concluded by quoting French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement regarding the banning of the burqa in France: “We should not be ashamed of our values, we should not be afraid to defend them.”

In La Presse, Patrick Lagacé reserved some of his outrage for the police officers involved in last week’s press conference.

Dutch Opposition Questions Degrees Granted by New Universities

Dutch opposition party SP has asked the government to prevent training institutions from implying that they grant university degrees. Seven institutions of the Hague have recently been registered by the Chamber of Commerce. At the Free University in the Hague all teaching is in Arabic, and students obtain training in various subjects including political science, philosophy and law. However the Netherlands does not recognize their diplomas as university degrees. Parliament has asked the government to make “university” a protected title to clarify the
granting of degrees. Minister Ronald Plasterk has promised to investigate.

Four Dutch Citizens Arrested in Belgium on Suspicion of Terrorism

Four men have been arrested in Belgium on a Dutch warrant following their expulsion from Kenya. The men were detained last Friday at the border of Kenya and Somalia. “They are alleged to have been on their way to a jihadist training camp”, the prosecution service in the Netherlands said in a statement. An investigation has been launched in the Netherlands regarding their “possible involvement with terrorism” and connections to the group al-Shabab. Police have searched the homes of two men in the Hague, and authorities have requested their extradition to the Netherlands.

The suspects’ backgrounds remain unclear: while the Dutch foreign affairs ministry identified the suspects as three Dutch citizens and a Moroccan with residency status, the prosecutors cited by AFP identified all four as Dutch nationals. News agencies also vary in their profiles, as Dutchnews.nl “reports them to be three Dutch Moroccans and one with a Somali background; NRC Handelsblad reports ‘three Dutchmen and a
Somali with residence in the Netherlands’”. There appears to be consensus that all four are aged 21.

Report Claims that Burqa use in France is Marginal

Two French police intelligence agencies have issued reports calling burqa use in the country a “marginal phenomenon,” one of which claimed fewer than 400 women wear the full-body covering. The wearing of burqas has been a controversial issue in France. French legislators have pondered banning the use of burqas and niqabs, full-face veils that ,unlike burqas, do no not obscure use of the wearer’s eyes altogether.

One of the reports, released by French intelligence agency Sous-direction de l’information générale, found only 367 women in France wear the burqa. But the report does not claim that number is a comprehensive figure, and urges further study into the issue, Le Monde reported. A committee of 32 legislators from all four major political parties in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, is expected to deliver its report on whether burqas should be banned by the end of the year. André Gerin called the new estimates “ridiculous.”

What’s it like being a gay Muslim?

Pav Akhtar is not usually a fan of soaps. But the 30-year-old local councillor and Unison worker has been paying special attention since EastEnders introduced its first gay Muslim character. Akhtar, the chair of Imaan, an organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims, advised the BBC on the storyline in the hope that the character of Syed Masood would help tackle the double discrimination of homophobia and Islamophobia that many gay Muslims face.

The Muslim theologian Amanullah De Sondy said recently that the vast majority of Muslims were “deeply homophobic”, and a survey carried out this summer among British Muslims reported that 0% of those questioned thought homosexuality was “morally acceptable”. Yet, so far, the taboo-busting EastEnders storyline has not sparked the expected deluge of complaints — in fact, the soap’s first gay Muslim kiss attracted a healthy 7.9 million viewers. But what is it like being gay and Muslim in the UK today? The author has interviewed four gay British Muslims between 30 and 40 and reports their experiences.

Decline in Mosque and Church Attendance in the Netherlands

Mosque and church attendance in the Netherlands has dropped over the past ten years, according to a publication from the Central Statistics Bureau (CBS) outlining religion at the beginning of the 21st century. Last year 29% of the Netherlands’ 825,000 Muslims attended mosque at least once a month, a decline from 35% in 2004-2008 and 47% in 1998-1999. The study found analogous pattern in attendance at other religious institutions, noting that attendance at Catholic churches has also declined. Mosque and church attendance differed in terms of age demographics, as 40% of those attending mosques are under the age of 18.

Researchers attribute the decrease in mosque and church attendance to a “general shift towards individualization” in religious practice. However Emin Ates of the Turkish Islamic Cultural Federation has not noticed a decline in mosque attendance and reports that imams cannot complain about a lack of listeners: “For us it’s just not a matter for discussion.”

Anthropologist John Bowen Interviewed About Burqas in France

Author of Why the French Don’t like Headscarves (Princeton UP, 2007), Professor John Bowen of the University of Washington in St. Louis is interviewed about the new commission on the burqa and niqab, set to give its recommendations in December 2009. Bowen describes other European positions against the burqa and how it has trespassed French positions of religion in the public sphere. He suggests that new forms of dialogue which privilege Muslim interlocutors are important to normalize the presence of Islam in France.

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

Caldwell frames the issue of Muslim immigration to Europe as a question of whether you can have the same Europe with different people. The author, a columnist for the Financial Times and a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, answers this question unequivocally in the negative. He offers a brief demographic analysis of the potential impact of Muslim immigration—estimating that between 20% and 32% of the populations of most European countries will be foreign-born by the middle of the century—and traces the origins of this mass immigration to a postwar labor crisis. He considers the social, political and cultural implications of this sea change, from the banlieue riots and the ban on the veil in French public schools to terrorism across Europe and the question of Turkey’s accession to the E.U. Caldwell sees immigration as a particular problem for Europe because he believes Muslim immigrants retain a Muslim identity, which he defines monolithically and unsympathetically, rather than assimilating to their new homelands. This thorough, big-thinking book, which tackles its controversial subject with a conviction that is alternately powerful and narrow-minded, will likely challenge some readers while alienating others. (July) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review by the National Post

Review by The Guardian

Review by Financial Times

European rabbis, imams to promote understanding

Delegation of spiritual leaders from Europe visits US to learn about ‘twinning synagogues’ initiative aimed at advancing interfaith dialogue, battle anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A delegation of over two dozen European imams and rabbis in a meeting late last week at the White House pledged participation in American-led efforts to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The declaration, signed by leading clerics from nine European nations came at the conclusion of a four-day interreligious mission to the United States that brought the group to the White House, State Department, Congress, United Nations, Ground Zero, US Memorial Holocaust Museum and even Yankee Stadium. The mission was hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress United States and the Islamic Society of North America.