Presidential candidate: No abortions, no minarets

Rudolf Gehring, president of the Christian Party of Austria, has stated that were he to be elected president he would not permit any further construction of minarets in the country. “There are already prayer spaces; there is no need for minarets,” he said in an interview with Der Standard, before making allusion to the militant character of Islam, and its beginnings as a religion connected with violence.

The woman with the headscarf

In debates on integration the headscarf is of seen as a symbol of unwillingness to integrate. However, what about women who wear the headscarf of their own free will, who speak perfect German, and who pursue higher studies? In the case of Esma and Meryem, both born in Austria, students at the University of Vienna, and both of whom wear headscarves, the idea that the headscarf oppresses women is paradoxical, and it is the conservation of their Turkish identity which bothers people. Neither sees the headscarf as an obstacle to integration, and both have difficulty in understanding why their personality must be reduced to their religious affiliation. They believe that people would think differently about them were they to try and get to know them better, and according to them, “if they don’t come to us, we’ll go to them.”

Policeforce in Quebec issue statement: remove veil for mugshots of face further charges

Police forces in different parts of Canada claim charges will be laid against anyone who refuses to remove religious face-coverings such as Muslim niqabs when being booked after an arrest.

The RCMP and the Montreal police forces, who outlined the policy in interviews, laid down one notable caveat: such a case has never actually come up in either of their jurisdictions.

“This is getting absurd, really,” said Wahida Valiante, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. “There are only, in the entire Quebec province, 25 women who wear the niqab so they can’t be in the highest number of criminals expected to be arrested.”

The RCMP and the Montreal force confirmed that to their knowledge no one wearing a niqab has ever refused to remove it for a mugshot. In fact, they can’t actually recall arresting anyone with a full veil either. While Montreal police sought legal advice on the issue a year ago, the RCMP say they’ve always followed the Identification of Criminals Act, part of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Representatives of Muslims, democratically elected? Thoughts on the composition of the German Islam Conference

In an article for Qantara.de, Hilal Sezgin addresses the peculiar and questionable composition of the German Islam Conference. First, she criticizes the invention of “secular Muslim” that are so welcome at the Conference: either they are in favor of separating church and state, which applies to roughly all German Muslims, or they are not religious, which is fair enough, but then they do not need to be essentialized as Muslims and be invited to form part of the Islam Conference.

Second, Sezgin shrewdly remarks that no place in the Conference is designed for hosting a Muslim politician – half of the members are non-Muslim politicians, the other half are Muslim representatives, no overlap intended. “The German Germans please take a seat on the political side. The rest, the ones with the funny names, kindly be seated on the Muslim bench”, she writes.

In conclusion, Sezgin attests that the participation policy has “deeply paternalistic, even un-democratic” traits and that the Conference is unlikely to result in true dialogue.

Interest-Free credit card available for Canadian Muslims

A new interest-free credit card, the first of its kind in North America, aims to reconcile Islamic canonical law and Western consumer culture. Until now, observant Muslims have been precluded from owning credit cards on which they pay interest, a violation of shariah law.

The iFreedom Plus Master-Card, set to be available in the coming days, promises no bills, no interest and no credit card debt. With the iFreedom Plus MasterCard, holders load up their card with cash in advance, up to $6,000. Each purchase draws down on the account without accruing interest.
Because the new product doesn’t actually involve credit, applicants are approved without a credit check. The card, which is primarily aimed at younger newcomers, was launched at the inaugural conference of the Usury-Free Association of North America in Toronto.

Michigan’s smoking ban versus hooka business

New state law in Michigan bans hooka, the Arabic water pipe with flavored tobacco, from cafes serving their customers with food. Hooka will be offered only in specialty tobacco stores. The law is to be enforced on May 1, 2010. In Arab-American capital of the United States, the change implies important social impacts.

French told full burqa ban could fail court challenge

News Agencies

France’s top administrative body has advised the government against a complete ban on the full Islamic veil, instead suggesting outlawing the burqa in some places for security reasons. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is planning to present a bill to parliament in the coming weeks to restrict Muslim women from wearing full-face veils such as the niqab or burqa. Prime Minister Francois Fillon asked the State Council in
January 2010 for a legal opinion before drafting the bill that he said would ban the burqa in as many places as possible.

But in its report, the council warned that a blanket ban would likely not stand up to a court challenge and that there were no legal grounds for it. The council said however that the government could invoke security and public order to require that faces be uncovered in public venues such as courts, schools, hospitals and during university exams, for example.

The council however did not spell out the specific places where the ban could be enforced and suggested that local prefects who represent the state in French departments could issue directives. Muslim women who insist on covering themselves in violation of the law should be spared from paying a fine and instead be referred for counseling to a women’s rights association, the council said.

The female Islamic guerrilla deemed unworthy of Jihad: The Debate

In the aftermath of the Moscow events, a debate on the role of Muslim women as suicide bombers is taking place on the Internet. Many religious authorities around the world have been interrogated on the matter, giving different and interesting answers. Some, although recognizing the possibility at a theoretical level, end up denying woman’s participation to such activities for practical reasons, as it would imply promiscuity which is forbidden in the Quran: women should only offer financial support to mujaheddin or send their brothers, sons or husbands instead. Others accept female suicide bombers but specify the differences in terms of the heavenly recompense. A woman, in fact, won’t receive the 72 brides promised to male martyrs; rather, if married, she will wait the reunion with her husband and if unmarried, she will be assigned to a man already in Heaven. With the blessing of gender equality!!

Re-assessing the “Prevent” strategie against Muslim extremists in Britain

As delivered so far, the Prevent program has stigmatized and alienated those it is most important to engage, and tainted many positive community cohesion projects, says a cross-party committee of MPs. Moreover, the government’s strategy to limit the development of violent extremism in the UK sits poorly within a counter-terrorism strategy.

Who is the German state supposed to chose as representatives of Islam?

This article discusses the difficult task of Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière of choosing Muslim representatives for the upcoming Islam conference. While it is true that the Islamic Associations are not representative of all German Muslims, the author argues, the latter also fail to exercise their right to form religious associations. If those who feel unrepresented by the current associations do not organize themselves, the state can do little about it. Meanwhile the state has tried to address this problem by inviting individuals (Muslim intellectuals or artists), but the author criticizes that this is the wrong approach, because individuals do not represent any larger group either and do not have to report back to anyone. To his opinion, the state is left with the associations currently active in Germany and it is up to the Muslim population at large to found other bodies if they feel unrepresented.