The new German parliament is far from being representative

Apart from male dominance and the average age being 49, the new Bundestag has only few migrant delegates. Of the 622 members of parliament only 15 have a migratory background (11 in the 2005 elections). None of them are from Eastern Europe, but most of them have a Turkish or Iranian family background.

Update: woman lifts burka to testify in Spanish court

Fatima Hssini, who was expelled from a Spanish courtroom last month when she refused to lift her burka, has testified with her veil raised and her back to the public audience. Speaking to journalists as she arrived to give her testimony Monday morning, Hssini said the controversy which arose after the interview last week was due to ignorance. Wearing the burka is seen as much more normal, she said, in other European countries than it is in Spain.

Hssini testified as a witness at the trial in the National Court for nine people charged with recruiting and sending Mujahedeen to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. Hssini, the sister of one of those who died, was originally in court last Wednesday but was expelled by Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez after refusing to lift her burka.

Cohen advocates reduced welfare for burka wearers

Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen says women who will not remove their burkas in order to get work should not receive welfare. Telegraaf reports that national politicians, including representatives from the CDA and PvDA parties, support this proposal. In 2006 Diemen local council attempted to introduce such a ban on benefits, but the decision was reversed by an Amsterdam court in 2007. There is every indication, De Telegraaf reports, that a vote on the issue would now get a majority.

Cohen said in an interview with Trouw that he opposes a general ban on the burka as he believes it is an expression of religious belief. However, he believes the burka is an obstacle in situation where contact with others is necessary, including work and school. There, women should choose a less restrictive head covering.

Debate sparked on Islamic finance in France

Islamic finance is sparking a heated debate in France. “We must not allow principles of Shari`ah law, or the ethics of the Qur`an to be introduced into French law,” said Socialist MP Henri Emmanuelli.

The parliament recently approved a number of adjustments to the banking laws to allow sukuk [Islamic bonds] to be issued for the first time. The Qatar Islamic Bank has applied for a license to operate in France as the first Islamic bank.

Emmanuelli’s Socialist Party has tried to block the law amendments but has failed. It is now challenging them before the Constitutional Council. The far-right National Front has also denounced Islamic finance as a “community-based peril” resulting from immigration.

In a report presented to the government last year, economist Elyes Jouini estimated France could tap into 120 billion euros in capital from Islamic finance if it made some adjustments to its tax and banking laws.

At Capitol, a day of Muslim prayer and unity

Nearly 3,000 people gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol on Friday for a mass Muslim prayer service that was part religion and part pep rally for the beleaguered U.S. Muslim community.

The service comes as the Muslim community has been rocked by verbal attacks from conservative Christians that have grown stronger since the election of President Obama and by the recent arrests in a terrorism investigation involving several Muslim men, including an imam.

“We wanted to bring people out to show you don’t need to fear America,” said Imam Ali Jaaber of Dar-ul-Islam mosque in Elizabeth N.J., the service’s main organizer. At the same time, he said, he wanted to remind non-Muslims that “we are decent Muslims. We work; we pay taxes. We are Muslims who truly love this country.”

More details about new Islamic Schools in France

Le Monde reports that a greater number of Muslim parents are seeking to educate their children in confessional schools. Three Muslim schools have been announced, one in Montigny-le-Bretonneux (with 29 students), another in Marseille (with approximately 40 students) and a third in Toulouse (with 30 students registered).

Update: Multicultural Institute to calculate cost of immigration

Forum, a Dutch institute for multicultural development, confirmed on Friday it is to carry out a cost benefit analysis of immigration in the Netherlands, ANP reports. The Amsterdam-based multicultural institute will conduct the study following the government’s refusal to do so. The investigation follows considerable political controversy, as earlier this summer the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) demanded a calculation of the costs of immigration, which Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan refused on “matters of principle”.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that Forum director Sadik Harchaoui says he does not want to stray into a political minefield, but rather to get the facts out in the open. That would keep the discussion unbiased and “prevent navel-gazing and strained debates” in the lower house, Mr. Harchaoui told Trouw.

Dallas terrorism suspect appears in court

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian, had a 20-minute hearing at the Dallas federal courthouse Friday, September 24. Smadi has been accused of terrorism after attempting to bomb the Fountain Plaza office tower in Dallas, Texas.

Judge Irma Ramirez set a probable cause hearing for October 5.

Neighbourhood tensions around Amersfoort Mosque

De Stad Amersfoort reports this week on ongoing tensions between the El Fath mosque and the wider community in in Liendert (Amersfoort). After several incidents of confrontation the local party BPA is pressing in the local council for police supervision, however the mosque administration says the unrest is exaggerated in the media.

Disagreements in recent months between mosque-visitors and residents have arisen regarding bicycling on the footpath parallel to the Valleikanaal, cars being double parked in the neighborhood, and dogs being let loose near the mosque. Abdelkarim Elkarti, the El Fath spokesperson and former board member says that a small number of residents are attempting to draw undue attention to the mosque on political grounds. He explains, “There’s absolutely no issue here of the situation escalating. We’re doing many activities for and with the neighborhood and we’ve received many expressions of support and positive reactions.”

Teen accused of terror plot in Dallas, Texas

19-year old Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Thursday, September 24 after attempting to detonate a bomb attached to a vehicle in Texas. Smadi targeted Dallas’s 60-story Fountain Plaza office tower.

Counterterrorism officials had been investigating the suspect because of frequently stated intentions to inflict damage and death upon the United States, which he believed to be an enemy of Islam. Smadi told an undercover agent he was targeting the building, and the FBI worked to ensure the vehicle contained an inactive explosive device that Smadi was unable to detonate.

Smadi is slated to appear in a Dallas court on Friday.