Lleida City Council will not provide land to build a mosque

Lleida’s city council, governed by the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC), has blocked the administrative concession of land where the new mosque had to be built. The new mosque was intended to replace the North Street prayer’s room which has been closed since August. The Local Planning Commission rejected this project because the Islamic Community, lead by Abdelwhab Houzi, hasn’t provided the required documentation.

January, 25/2011

A new Islamic Council is founded in Basque Country

Twenty four Islamic associations have founded an Islamic Council in the Basque Country on 8th of December. The Council has the aim to represent the Islamic communities and to be a unique interlocutor with the regional government. The Muslim Basque Council is open to all cultural, political and religious associations mainly composed by Muslims and which work for the normalization of the Islam in the Basque society. Currently, the Council is composed by Muslims from countries as Morocco and Algeria, but also seek to represent Muslims from Senegal, Pakistan and other nationalities.

January, 24/2011

Swedish Parliament Debated Violent Extremism

28 Jan 2011

Wednesday January 27 the Swedish riksdag (parliament) held a debate about violent extremism, initiated by the far-right populist Sweden democrats (SD). SD leader Jimmie Åkesson started the debate off with a reference to the Stockholm suicide bombing in December 2010. He argued that the attack wasn’t an isolated event, pointing to the Swedes suspected of planning a terror attack on a Danish newspaper, as well as two Swedes of Somali descent who have been convicted of planning terror crimes. According to Åkesson, the debate in Sweden about Islamic extremism has been muffled, and because of political correctness there is no room to criticize Islam.

While Åkesson wanted to solely discuss Islamic extremism, ministers from the rest of the parties wanted to take this as an opportunity to discuss all sorts of extremist violence in Sweden, not just Islamic. For instance the case of a man who shot at a great number of individuals of foreign origin in Malmö in 2010, leaving many severely injured and in at least one case dead. Åkesson was annoyed by this comparison, and meant this had nothing to do with terrorism.

Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask countered by warning that one shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the Stockholm suicide bombing. “Sweden is an open society where people can have different backgrounds and religious convictions and live side by side,” she said. “There are people who refuse to accept the foundations of our society and who are ready to hurt others to have their way,” she continues. The government is currently reviewing its strategy for how best to prevent extremism from taking root in Sweden, the minister said.

At the debate, as well as in an op-ed published the day before, Åkesson called for a national action plan for fighting terrorism, arguing for laws that prohibit people from traveling abroad to participate in terrorist training camps. He also called for a closer examination of young muslims’ attitudes toward Islamism, saying that Islamism as such must be surveyed and combated.

In response to this Ask said that Sweden already has a national action plan and, in addition to that, co-operates with the EU in anti-terror operations. Then the Green Party’s Maria Ferm warned against increased right of surveillance.”If we give up a little of our freedom for a little more security, we risk losing both,” she said. She also held Åkesson responsible for collectively blaming Sweden’s Muslim population for the atrocity of one man. She cited statistics holding that only 0.34 percent of European terror attacks are carried out by Islamic extremists, while the greater numbers are the deeds of left-wing and right-wing extremists.

Sven-Erik Österberg, head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group, said the problem with “Muslim extremism” should not be overstated, but not ignored either. He said the Social Democrats want to co-operate with Muslims on this matter. But he also stated that those who take up the fight against extremism need our support against all forms of extremism”.

Johan Pehrsson of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) called for more resources and better measures for helping young people who want to leave extremist groups. Lena Olsson from the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) criticized Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats’ approach to the debate. “Listening to the Sweden Democrats and their xenophobic solutions is like listening to a guitar with only one string,” she said.

Most commentators concluded after the debate that the Sweden Democrats lost, that they forced open doors and that the established political parties kept together, across party lines, against the Sweden Democrats wanting to make it an anti-Muslim event, rather than an open debate on violent extremism.

Interview with Jimmie Åkesson on BBC Hard Talk:


Fatwa Council founded in Sweden

24 Jan 2011

A group of about 10-12 imams in Malmö have founded a Swedish Fatwa Council. The council is set up to be able to present Swedish Muslims with more unanimous answers to questions concerning how to practice Islam is Sweden in harmony with Swedish law and culture.

Jonas Otterbeck, assistant professor of Islamic Studies, Lund University, believes they have got a difficult task in front of them, but that it’s a brave initiative to try to find answers which can appeal to a majority of Sweden’s diverse Muslim population.

Some of the larger Muslim congregations and mosques in Sweden are not allied with the Fatwa council, which might complicate their work.

Wikileaks Reveals US Courted Dutch Muslims

January 21 2011

Wikileaks documents have revealed a concerted effort by Washington to court a series of prominent Dutch Muslims in the wake of the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that, following the murder, US authorities deemed the Netherlands home to the most poorly integrated Muslim community in Europe, and one with strongly anti-American views. Consequently, diplomats were instructed to contact leading members of the Dutch Muslim community in order to cultivate greater understanding for American views. This process also involved offering trips to the US for prominent journalists and politicians including Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam.

Dutch Schools Supported in Headscarf Ban

January 25 2011

The Netherlands Equal Treatment Commission has ruled in favour of schools whose dress codes regulate wearing headscarves. The commission was responding to the case of the Gerrit Rietveld College in Utrecht, where a new dresscode permitted headscarves only when 90% of the face remains visible. The school suggested that headgear covering the chin or eyebrows prevents communication between student and teacher, which the commission found sufficient reasoning for the dresscode.

More than 50 students refused to comply with the dresscode, at which point the school took the issue to the Equal Treatment Commission. Further the Commission ruled that the dresscode only applies to students who began at the college this academic year, after the law was introduced. The Commission’s ruling is not legally binding.

Man Attempts to Set Himself on Fire Outside Egyptian Embassy, The Hague

January 26 2011

An Egyptian man aged 52 attempted to set himself on fire outside of the Egyptian embassy in the Hague. When police approached, he covered himself with liquid; he was overpowered while attempting to start a lighter. According to a statement from Dutch police; however several people have tried to set themselves alight in Egypt in recent days following events in Tunisia.

Netherlands to Increase Muslim Clerics as Prison Chaplains

January 26 2011

More imams and fewer Christian chaplains are to be hired for work in the Dutch prison system. A story in Trouw reveals an internal justice ministry document showing that 12 of the current 32 positions for non-religious posts providing advice to inmates are to be eliminated. At the same time, the number of Islamic clerics ministering to inmates will rise from 35 to 47. The total number of religious advisors in the prison system will be reduced from 177 to 160.

Registration for Islamic school in Calgary, Canada draws long line-up

CBC News – January 28, 2011

About a hundred parents waited in line outside the Calgary Islamic School for a chance to enroll their children. The private school — which teaches kindergarten to Grade 11 — has room for about 20 new students next year, officials said.

But since it’s the only school of its kind in Calgary, which has a Muslim population of about 60,000 people, parents line up outside in the cold for a chance to register every year, said principal Moussa Ouarou. He added that the waiting list already has 300 names on it.

The school, which is located at 26th Street and 37 Avenue N.E., teaches the regular provincial curriculum in addition to Arabic language courses, Islamic studies and Qur’an recitation and memorization.