Rediscovery of the first truly European Muslim Muhammad Asad

Murad Hofmann, a German Muslim scholar and former ambassador, fosters the rediscovery of Muhammad Asad, one of the first European Muslim thinkers. Muhammad Asad, born 1900 in Austria as Jewish Leopold Weiss, converted to Islam during his trips to the Arabian Peninsula as a journalist. He soon distanced himself from traditional Islam and sought to reconcile it with human rights and democracy.

Asad provided a new translation of the Qur’an into English, a very modern one (too modern for some), with some notions deliberately left ambiguous, fluctuating and West-compatible. He also demanded of Muslims to question the interpretations of established scholars and rejected the punishment of stoning and beating women. Murad Hofmann has now republished Asad’s Qur’an interpretation in German. He claims that Asad’s reformist Islam is essential for European Islam today and hopes that more people will be open to this view that during Asad’s lifetime.

New Dissertation makes the news

When Mosa Sayed, researcher at the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University, defended his thesis, “Islam och arvsrätt i det mångkulturella Sverige. En internationellt privaträttslig och jämförande studie” (“Islam and inheritence law in multicultural Sweden”) it was spoken about as controversial already, and as a result the hall was packed and had to be guarded by watchmen. Even so the disputation ran without interruptions.

Dr. Sayed himself says the dissertation is to be considered a contribution to the debate of multiculturalism in Sweden.

In a response, well known debater on Islam related subjects Dilsa Demirbag-Stan says Sayed is pleading for the introduction of Shari’a inheritance laws for Muslims in Sweden – and this, she states, would give women half the inheritance of men. “Eager to express their sympathy for multiculturalism, the faculty of law in Uppsala have let Sayed’s sniper-shooting at the Swedish constitution and the citizen’s equal rights pass as law.”

In a response to Demirbag-Sten, Torbjörn Andersson – Dean of the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University – states that “Sayed’s thesis is a pioneering work in a field in need of exchange of opinions and research, but which also is charged with political tension. To discuss multi- and mono-cultural value structures, equality issues, and people need to be able to arrange their family affairs in a predictable way, requires nuance and objectivity. Sayed shoulders his responsibility.”

Human rights watch condemns possible French burqa ban

Human Rights Watch has condemned France’s possible burqa ban for violating rights of Muslim women, warning the move could stigmatize the whole Muslim minority in the country. “We are still very concerned that the restrictions will seriously interfere with the rights of Muslim women in France – the right to manifest their religion and the right to personal autonomy,” Judith Sunderland, senior researcher for Western Europe at Human Rights Watch, told the Inter Press Service.

The rights group accused politicians championing the ban of taking the wrong approach to the integration of Muslim women. The human rights group warned that the French ban would stigmatize the Muslim minority in the country.

Muslim prison chaplains to be standardized

Following an agreement reached between the justice minister, Claudia Bandion-Ortner and the president of the Islamic Religious Community, Anas Schakfeh, Muslim chaplains in prisons are to be standardized across the country. At around 1300 Muslim inmates, Islam has come to represent the second largest religion in Austrian penal institutions. Earlier religious services had been the result of local and regional cooperation, which meant regular visits by Muslim chaplains had been limited to ten prisons. The goal of the agreement is that such regular visits be possible in all prisons where a demand exists.

The agreement also lays out a number of minimum standards for the chaplains and conditions for the prisons visits. This includes a high school diploma; good knowledge of German, in order to hold religious services in German; and basic knowledge of the prison system, so as to ensure an optimal balance between safety and religious practice.

In the press release, Bandion-Ortner stressed the importance of the chaplain’s assistance in the resocialization of inmates, while Schakfeh expressed his happiness that an important step had been taken towards the broader institutionalization of Muslim prison chaplains.

Passport fraud problems neglected in rush to implement full body scanners

Chief of Interpol Ronald Noble reports the biggest problem in travel is passport fraud, the stolen documentation terrorists use to travel the globe. He says 11 million stolen passports have been reported, could be being used by human traffickers, drug traffickers, terrorists, or war criminals.

He says it’s difficult to discern the motivations behind anyone carrying a passport, and if terrorists intend to board planes, they won’t do it with explosives that can be detected.

He feels the solution is better intelligence and better intelligence sharing, not large-scale implementations of full body scanners.

The increased use of body scanners is already occurring across the US as the result of the attempted Christmas Day terror attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Inaugural Spanish Muslim Fair to be held in Lavapies (Madrid)

From the 19th to the 21st of February, the first Spanish Muslim Fair will be celebrated in Lavapies, a neighborhood in Madrid. This event is promoted by the Muslim federation (FEME), the CISCOVA (Federation of Muslim Associations in Valencia) and the Halal Institute (an organization within the Muslim association Junta Islámica).The aim of the event is to increase the visibility of Muslims and Islamic culture in Spain. There are a lot of activities scheduled, including conferences, musical performances and food sampling. The fair will include 32 booths representing different Islamic entities and other associations and institutions that work in this field.

Reconciling pop culture and Islam: Interview with Melih Kesmen

Melih Kesmen, the creator of fashion label Styleislam, recounts the success story of this small company. The German designer of Turkish background made his first t-shirt, bearing the slogan “I love my Prophet”, during the cartoon controversy in Europe. He received a lot of positive feedback from Muslims and non-Muslims, which caused him to open a fashion label for street wear with Islamic slogans. Reconciling the two cultures he grew up with, Turkish-Islamic and German street art, his label has become very popular and the most successful in this niche market.

Annual report on integration by The Netherlands Institute for Social Research

The annual report on integration from the Netherlands’ Institute for Social Research (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau) was released in December 2009.

This report is designed to track the trends in immigration in the country, providing demographic information and statistics. The Netherlands’ Moroccan and Turkish populations, and particularly their second-generations, feature prominently in the report, followed by populations of Surinamese, Somalian, and Chinese background.

The report provides information on language, living conditions, employment, criminality, and social/cultural status among the country’s many diverse immigrant communities. Special chapters address the position of women, and of youth from non-western backgrounds.

Report:

http://www.vrom.nl/Docs/Jaarrapport%20Integratie%202009.pdf

Homepage Netherlands Institute for Social Research:

www.scp.nl/english

Homegrown terrorism more possible than US thought, PhD lecturer Bruce Newsome claims

Dr. Newsome, lecturer on counterterrorism at University of Pennsylvania claims Americans have felt too free, their Muslims too integrated to be able to engender homegrown radicals that would launch attacks against the US. But Dr. Newsome says the jump to radicalism can and is happening in the US, and in a spontaneous manner.

He notes violent jihadists are usually troubled, could be seeking a holy redemption for a troubled past, has interactions with other terrorists, and has been politically marginalized. He says most jihadism is locally inspired and rarely supported by foreign terrorists.

SPD politician Lale Akgün calls for banning the burqa

After the French debate, calls for banning the burqa are also being heard in Germany. Former MP Lale Akgün of the Social Democrat Party (SPD) said the burqa was a “full body prison”, violating human rights immensely. The German politician of Turkish background called for a ban in public spaces such as universities and schools as well as high security areas like banks and airports.

Most of her fellow SPD politicians, however, do not see a requirement for establishing a new law. Conservative party CDU and liberal FDP would only proscribe it where it conflicts with other liberties such as at schools. Green party leader Cem Özdemir says he cannot tolerate the burqa in public spaces, neither as a citizen, nor as a member of the Green party, but he also pointed out that the debate is a symbolic one and not tackling true conflicts; the number of women wearing a burqa in Germany was near to none.