“The Response”

This book is the result of a lengthy collaboration between scholars of Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University and Islamic Hotline or El-Hatef El-Islami organization. Put simply, far too simply, its aim is to contest the growing number of intolerant and/or simply mistaken legal opinions that often go unchallenged in Muslim communities today. Deeply rooted in the legal tradition of ikhtilaf writings, yet utilizing modern means of communication, “The Response” applies the wisdom of the classical jurists to the complex realities of the contemporary Muslim world (courtesy of FixYourDeen.com).

Sinterklaas invited to Dutch mosque

The Turkish Ayasofya mosque in Hengelo invited Saint Nicholas to make an appearance at a party on Friday December 4.

During Sinterklaas, the annual festival held on December 5 in the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas visits children’s homes and leaves sweets and gifts for them in their shoes. As preparation for the party are underway, a board member of the cultural association for Islam in the city explains that she has agreed to the party as “a gesture of overture. We’re open to Dutch culture… And for that matter… Saint Nicholas originally comes from Turkey.”

French thinkers Kouchner, Williame and Benbassa weigh in on Swiss minaret ban

Bernard Kouchner claims to be scandalized by the Swiss vote on minarets, calling it an “expression of intolerance.” Marine Le Pen, the vice-president of the extreme right congratulated the Swiss populace for the vote.

Jean-Paul Willaime, director of the European Institute of Religious Sciences, claims that the Swiss response is more of a secularist response to religion in the public sphere than one counter to Islam. However, he warns that it is the state and public institutions which are secular, however, not civil society. Islam, says Willaime, has become the litmus for European interrogations on identity, particularly because the vestiges of religious heritage and concern for religion still remain despite widespread secularism. Esther Benbassa, director of the Ecole pratique des hautes études (EPHE) suggests that in the era of globalization, fear creates a desire to create oneself against an Other, who today, are Muslims.

Minaret ban aftermath: The reactions inside the Muslim community and in front of the Parliament

With banners saying “This is not my Switzerland” some Swiss took to the street to protest against a ban on minarets approved at the polls. Members of the Muslim community expressed their disappointment and incomprehension.

Survey: German and Turkish value systems

A survey, conducted by the little known institutes INFO GmbH (Berlin) and Liljeberg Research International (Antalya/Turkey), compares values systems of Germans, Turks and Turks in Germany for the first time. About 1,000 people were polled about their values, religiosity, life views and consumption.

While general values of friendship, family cohesion, freedom, democracy and political participation were highly regarded in all three groups, they differed in more concrete issues, especially regarding sexuality. 9 percent of the Germans, but 32 percent of German Turks and 52 percent of Turks thought that raising children is entirely a female responsibility. 18 percent of Germans, 41 percent of German Turks and 62 percent of Turks thought that the husband/father externally represents the family.

Similarly strong tendencies could be observed in questions of condemning premarital sex or regarding virginity of the bride as a prerequisite for marriage. In general, the values of German Turks resemble those of their counterparts in Turkey much more than those of the Germans.

Examination into the importance of Muslim cemeteries in France

In this opinion piece, Atmane Aggoun, sociologist and CNRS researcher, points to the important issue of Muslim cemeteries in France, particularly as the immigrant Muslim population grows older. Fewer Muslims in France seek to be buried in their countries of origin. There are some spaces available at the Thiais cemetery (in Val-de-Marne) outside of Paris. Aggoun claims we might be witnesses a strong sense of integration as more immigrants choose to be buried in France, even if it happens underground.

Reactions to the minaret ban: results reveal a “turning point” in Swiss-Islamic relations

Swiss voters’ clear decision on Sunday to ban the construction of minarets has generated a wide range of emotions, from stunned joy to rueful concern. Supporters of the initiative said the Swiss electorate wanted to put a brake on the Islamicisation of their country, whereas opponents were concerned about the violation of rights, not to mention an international backlash and possible boycott of Swiss products.

Nevertheless, Saida Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for an Advanced Islam, said the public’s fears had been too great and “hatred had won over reason”. She said there would now be legal consequences, since the ban violated the freedom of religion. The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland also regretted the result, saying the propaganda of the campaign supporters had succeeded in frightening the majority of voters.

“Switzerland has lost,” said Rifa’at Lenzin from the European Project for Interreligious Learning in Zurich, adding that the country was “leading the way” for Islamophobia. Reinhard Schulze, a professor of Islamic studies at Bern University, said he was “very surprised” by the acceptance of the initiative. He described the result as a “turning point”, in that after many years of going in the other direction, voters had once again spoken for an unequal treatment of faiths.

The Council of Religions, a body comprising Christian churches, Jews and Muslims, said in a statement it regretted the result. People of all faiths must work together even harder, it said, for the respect of rights of freedom, for dialogue with the Muslim community and for integration.

“These are values that make Switzerland strong,” it said.

Dutch government investigates halal fraud

The Dutch government is investigating possible fraud with halal certificates in the country, Volkskrant reports. The General Inspection Service, a division of the Agricultural Ministry, last month revealed that a meat wholesaler from Breda had used forged documents to sell several thousand tons of meat to Muslims in France.

Ben Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, an organization granting halal certificates in Leiden, says that documents of his certifying bureau are forged en-masse for meat cargoes which don’t deserve the title of halal.

Although the term halal seems to have been naturalized in the Netherlands, it is not legally protected. Controversy surrounding the certification and authenticity of halal meats continues as demand for halal products has produced a boom in certifying agencies.

Swiss voters approve minaret ban by 57 percent

To the great surprise of pollsters and the regret of the government, the Swiss on Sunday said yes to a ban on the construction of minarets. According to final results, 57.5 percent of voters and a majority of cantons backed the initiative. Turnout was high at around 55 percent. The result comes as a major surprise and a slap in the face of the government. Opinion polls ahead of the vote had predicted the ban would be rejected by 53 percent of the electorate.

The proposal on banning minaret construction was championed by rightwing and ultra-conservative groups. The government and most political parties as well as churches and the business community came out strongly against it.

“A majority of the Swiss people and the cantons have adopted the popular initiative against the construction of minarets. The Federal Council respects this decision”, a government statement said. “Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain. It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques.”

The statement said freedom of belief would not be affected. “Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before.”

Bardot Foundation condemns Eid slaughter in France

On the occasion of the first day of Eid al-Adha, the Bardot foundation critiqued President Nicolas Sarkozy for not having created more parameters around the slaughter of sheep. Every year members of the foundation go to certain slaughterhouses to survey; they claim that more than 70,000 sheep were illegally slaughtered.