On September 8, 2011, the CMES Outreach Center, along with the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, hosted a campus-wide panel discussion on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The panel was comprised of Jocelyne Cesari, Director, Islam in the West Program and the Islamopedia Project; Research Associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Senior Research Fellow at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris; Duncan Kennedy, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Harvard Law School; and Charlie Clements, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.
Introduction by Outreach Director Paul Beran
Sabir Hussain, a hard line Muslim scholar and volunteer religious teacher at a mosque in West Yorkshire, has been sentenced to serve 10 weeks in jail for kicking and slapping young boys during religious classes at the mosque. The assaults were secretly filmed for a Channel 4 documentary, which was shown in February and subsequently led to a police inquiry. Hussain admitted to the charges of assault. While he emphasised that the attacks were not gratuitous, he admitted that he had gone too far in his attempts to chastise the boys. According to the Guardian, the District Judge Sue Bouch considered his action a gross breach of trust and a serious offence. Yet, while she originally intended to jail Hussain for 26 weeks, she reduced the sentence to 16 and then to 10 weeks, due to his early guilt please and a glowing series of references from ex-pupils.
Results of a new survey conducted by the British think tank Demos show that British Muslims feel a greater sense of pride in being British than the population as a whole and that they are significantly more optimistic about the country’s future. The poll of 2000 people was designed to explore what symbolised the best of Britain. More specifically, according to a Demos representative, they were looking ‘to find out what made people proud of modern Britain and why politicians fail to articulate a convincing vision of this’.
The survey then found that 83% of Muslim respondents agreed with the statement that they were proud to be a British citizen, compared to the national average of 79%. These figures help to shatter the prevailing myth that Britain’s Muslims are not patriotic, but dissatisfied with and in the UK.
The federal government of North Rhine-Westphalia is planning on initiating a political forum to intensify and improve the dialogue and cooperation with Muslims and Muslim organisations. Similar to the national “Islam Conference”, the “Dialogue Forum Islam” is meant to address important issues related to Muslims, such as their structural integration, educational opportunities, and inter-religious dialogue. Chair of the forum is going to be North Rhine-Westphalia’s integration minister Guntram Schneider.
Baden-Württemberg’s Integration Minister Bilkay Öney held the first “Round Table Islam” last week, which was initiated to improve the dialogue with Muslims (as reported). Öney invited more than 30 Muslim representatives of organisations, associations, and ministries to discuss topics such as the public perception of Islam, Islam and education, Islam and basic liberties, and Islam and gender roles. The participants of the round table did not only discuss these topics, but also searched for concrete measures to improve the integration of Muslims and Islam in Baden-Württemberg. Following the meeting, Öney stressed the need to train more teachers for Islamic education to meet the needs of more than 70,000 Muslim students. Furthermore, she expressed empathy for veiled Muslim women who feel discriminated against due to their headscarf. While Öney herself has been against the headscarf for women in civil service positions, she said she was willing to reconsider her opinion and re-open the debate about the headscarf. The next Round Table Islam is planned for May 2012.
In light of recent findings related to right-wing terrorism in Germany, many German Muslims are concerned about potential attacks and Muslim organisations have called for a firm fight against right-wing terrorism, racism, and Islamophobia. The chair of the Islam Council, Ali Kizilkaya, for instance, criticised that German security authorities have focused too much on Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism, while developments in the right-wing milieu have been largely ignored. He called on German authorities to ensure that people can feel safe again. Similarly, Bekir Alboga, spokesperson for the Coordindation Council of Muslims, the umbrella organisation established by four major Muslim organisations in Germany in 2007, summarised the current fear amongst Muslims and the call for action in an open letter to the government (Frankfurter Rundschau). Alboga criticised that the authorities’ focus on an “imaginary threat” posed by Islamism allowed right-wing extremism in Germany to flourish almost unrestrictedly. He then stressed the urgent need for action against right-wing extremism and to protect Muslims in Germany. The Coordination Council also called for a greater appreciation of Germany’s diversity and a culture of acceptance and tolerance.
Prior to the publication of Alboga’s open letter, Foreign Minister Westerwelle expressed his shock about the recent findings. He emphasized that there was no place in Germany for xenophobia, racism, and extremism. Furthermore, as Focus online reports, he promised a thorough investigation into the actions and workings of the Neo-Nazi network.
Meanwhile, Aiman Mazyek, Chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, welcomed the intention to hold a memorial service for those killed by the Neo-Nazi group. At the same time, he called on German authorities to publicly acknowledge Islam as part of German society and suggested to do so during the service by reading from the Koran.