News Agencies – September 24, 2010
Unidentified assailants have toppled about 30 tombstones and scrawled swastikas into the ground at a Muslim cemetery plot in Strasbourg, in northeastern France. Mayor Roland Ries has denounced the desecration of the Muslim section of a cemetery in the city of Strasbourg as “an unbearable racist act.”
An umbrella group of French Muslim organizations, the CFCM (French Council of Muslim Faith) expressed its “indignation” about the vandalism overnight Thursday to Friday and called on authorities to track down and punish the attackers. France is home to Western Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and there are occasional attacks on their schools, cemeteries or places of worship. Many go unsolved and unprosecuted.
News Agencies – September 20, 2010
France is on heightened alert for possible terrorist attacks after receiving a tip-off that a female suicide bomber was planning to attack the transport system, a police source said this week. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said France was facing a real terrorism threat as it faces a backlash from al Qaeda militants in North Africa and fears grow of an attack from home-grown cells within its borders.
A police source told Reuters the authorities had been alerted from Algeria that there was a possible threat from a female suicide bomber to the Paris metro system. France has not suffered a major attack since 1995 when the Algerian Armed Islamic Group killed eight people and wounded dozens bombing a Paris metro station.
France’s overall alert level remains unchanged at “red,” the second highest level. Opposition MPs have suggested the government may be using the “terror card” to distract from a political financing scandal embroiling the labor minister and the international uproar on the repatriation of Roma from France. The French military presence in Afghanistan and the parliament adopting a ban on full Islamic veils are also issues of contention.
The controversy over the planned Park 51 community center in New York City is only one example of opposition to mosques and Islamic centers in the United States. Existing and proposed mosque sites across the country have been targeted for vandalism and other criminal acts, and there have been efforts to block or deny necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of other facilities.
A man who held federal agents at bay with fake explosives threatened to start a war between Muslims and Christians. He also threatened to kill President Barack Obama, according to charges filed against him Wednesday.
The eight-hour standoff Tuesday night began after FBI and Secret Service agents, accompanied by police, went to the home of Roman Otto Conaway, to query him about a report that he had been making threats. He eventually surrendered on the promise of getting a mental health evaluation.
Conaway said that he wanted to start a war between Christians and Muslims, kill Obama and other government officials, end the war in Afghanistan “which (expletive) Bush started” and ‘start an Apocalypse,” court documents say.
A few minutes later, Conaway posted an online message on the Facebook social network, claiming he would burn a Quran at 3 p.m. Several hours later, he posted, “i need everbody with a camera phone or video phone or video cameras to come to 9030 summit drive in fairview heights illinois. the media and your goverment thinks this isa joke. im not joking.”
“I humbly apologize for my actions,” Conaway later told agents.
The FBI is investigating an act of vandalism against a south St. Louis mosque, amid rising rhetoric against Muslims. Someone spray-painted a pentagram and the phrase, “worship satan” on an old coal chute door on the side of the building.
Two FBI agents took photographs and interviewed members of the Masjid Qooba at 1925 Allen, after someone spray painted the side of the building with a pentagram and the words “worship Satan.”
Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the United States population, however, they accounted for about one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the E.E.O.C. last year. At a time of growing tensions involving Muslims in the United States, a record number of Muslim workers are complaining of employment discrimination and prejudice, from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks. The rising number of complaints by Muslims, which exceeds even the amount filed in the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, comes as tensions rise between Muslim Americans and those of other faiths.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found enough merit in some of the complaints that it has filed several prominent lawsuits on behalf of Muslim workers.
Polls have shown that many Americans feel a growing wariness toward Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and after years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mosques and Islamic community centers in the United States — most prominently one proposed near ground zero in Manhattan — have faced substantial opposition. And a Florida pastor received national attention this month for threatening to burn the Koran on Sept. 11.
The Texas State Board of Education adopted a resolution Friday that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks, as social-conservative board members warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.
The board approved the one-page nonbinding resolution, which urges textbook publishers to limit what they print about Islam in world history books, by a 7-5 vote.
Critics say it’s another example of the ideologically focused board trying to politicize public education in the Lone Star State. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for religious freedom, questioned why the resolution came at a time when “anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country has reached fever pitch.”
24 September 2010
The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has wrapped up its election campaign in the East Styrian industrial city of Weiz with new attacks against Islam. The FPÖ top candidate, Gerhard Kurzmann, stated that the “boat is full,” and that he would rather hear church bells than the call of muezzins.
23 September 2010
In this opinion piece, Farid Hafez compares the anti-Jewish strategies that were pursued at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th and the current Islamophobic strategies of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
Aside from advocating the direct control of the sermons being preached in synagogues, right-wing parties argued for greater control of the architecture of religious building and called for the assimilation of the “unintegratable” Jews – all themes very similar to the headlines concerning Muslims today.
The last few months have also given rise to a new development: the leader of the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, recently called the Social-Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) an “Islamist Party,” thereby echoing his predecessors who, one century ago, also warned of the “Jewishization” of the Social-Democratic Worker’s Party (SDAP).
Finally, the FPÖ has managed to revive old conspiracy fears, unveiling election placards that warn that the SPÖ is “for obligatory headscarves and thus is encouraging the oppression of women.” This all presented as operating alongside international Islamic terrorism, just as the “international Jewry” was presented as a threat one hundred years ago.
19/21 September 2010
One year following the debate raised by Mouhanad Korchide’s study of Islamic religious education in Austria, not much has changed. In Korchide’s report, it was discovered that 40% of teachers did not have a pedagogical background, while 33% felt overwhelmed by the workload – partly due to a lack of fluency in German. Meanwhile, 27% stated that they were opposed to the declaration of human rights, as it was incompatible with Islam.
The uproar led the Minister of Education Claudia Schmied to propose a “Five-point-program” in February 2009, so as to assure better conditions for students and teachers of Islam; however, one year later even the new syllabus has not been approved. The proposal which had been drawn up by the commission in charge of the question was sent back by the Department of Religious Affairs due to technical concerns, while the subsequent proposal has not been fully inspected. Without a new syllabus, there have obviously been no new textbooks.
One of the main problems is the lack of personnel. This has led to a practice whereby students of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria’s (IGGiÖ) Islamic studies program have been employed even before finishing their degrees.
Finally, in response to the earlier uproar, Minister Schmied has stated all Islamic religious instructors will be required to sign a new employment contract. In this contract they will state their commitment to democracy, human right, and the constitution – something not required of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, nor of Orthodox religious instructors.
According to Aly El Ghoubashy, a large part of the problem lies with the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ), and its leader Anas Schakfeh. El Ghoubashy, a religious instructor who was suspended in February 2009 due to his criticism of the IGGiÖ, says that Schakfeh “represents only himself,” and that the IGGiÖ is “not a church.” He argues that the state needs to take on a larger role with regard to Islamic religious education in Austria so as to balance the influence of the associations, and to avoid the “importation” of imams and instructors from abroad.