Mosque expansion planned in Calgary, Alberta

News Agencies – January 21, 2012

Calgary Muslims have found a place to worship in the downtown. The Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, in the northeast neighbourhood of Falconridge, will be moving to a new location, at 421 Riverfront Ave. S.E. Iman Syed Soharwardy says the grand opening will take place Jan. 27 on Eid Milad un Nabi. The new location will be the site for five daily prayers, Friday and Eid prayers, youth and children’s Qur’an and Islamic studies classes, adult Qur’an and Islamic studies classes, women-only programs, interfaith dialogue and community events.

Canadian Minister Claims Wide Support for country’s ‘burqa ban’

News Agencies  – January 23, 2012

A month after Canada banned Muslim women from covering their faces during citizenship ceremonies, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the policy has won widespread support. Speaking at a Muslim Canadian Congress event honouring his “courageous decision,” Mr. Kenney said polling shows that eight out of 10 Canadians agreed with the decision while only 14% were opposed. He said he would not act on suggestions to hold separate citizenship ceremonies for Muslim women who cover their faces in public.

The minister characterized the new rule as part of a broader strategy to strengthen the value of citizenship in Canada, which he said has the highest rate of naturalization of any country in the developed world. While the audience gathered at a Toronto hotel spoke mostly in support of the niqab ban, one woman said she was “extremely offended” by the comments she had heard. “If somebody believes in it [the niqab] then it’s their right to practise it,” said Fatema Dada of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association.

Canada looks to Chicago to reduce ‘honour crimes’

The Globe and Mail – January 23, 2012

At first glance, gang crime in a U.S. city would seem to have little in common with the violence against women in Canada in recent years. But one Canadian group is taking ideas gleaned from the streets of Chicago to tackle the troubling phenomenon of so-called honour crimes.  The Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration in London, Ont. will announce that it has a partnership with the renowned Chicago anti-violence group CeaseFire to develop the Family Honour Project, which its creators hope will soon spread to other communities.

The initiative, the first of its kind in Canada, is based on the work of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, whose public-health approach to violence reduction has been credited with contributing to a significant reduction in gang shootings in Chicago. Although gang shootings and family honour crimes seem quite different, at their core they share one important cause: Both are driven primarily by the fear that a person’s reputation or image will be harmed if he or she doesn’t respond violently to being treated with a perceived lack of respect.

Norman Kerr, who was a director at CeaseFire for more than a decade and who is working with the MRC, said much of the work depends on building relationships. In Chicago, CeaseFire used ex-gang members as counsellors. In London, they expect to use social workers. Those social workers will need to be tapped into all aspects of a community’s life, from school, to the health system to the justice system, in order to gather all kinds of information about who needs support and how to provide it.

Canadian Muslim organizations not consulted on new Office of Religious Freedom

The Toronto Star – January 20, 2012

The Canadian Conservative government has launched a new office meant to promote religious freedom worldwide through a foreign policy focus to aid oppressed religious minorities in places such as Egypt, Pakistan, China and Iran. But in the months since the federal election, when the Office of Religious Freedom first appeared on the Tories’ platform, the foreign affairs department has released few details about how the new body will operate or when, exactly, it will come into being.

The new entity — which will cost $5 million, employ five and, Lavoie said, launch in early 2012 — has rankled a number of Canadian religious organizations, human rights groups and academics, who remain unsure of what it hopes to achieve and whose interests it will serve. Muslim groups especially have lamented the lack of information. Wahida Valiante, past president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said it was self-defeating for the ministry to stand behind a “wall of secrecy,” since religious issues are often racked with controversy. “We know very little,” echoed Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There is concern over how this is going to operate and what its methodology is going to be.”

A closed-door consultation between the minister and roughly 100 religious leaders and politicians, held in Ottawa on Oct. 3, drew criticism over the ministry’s invited speakers list: representatives from major Christian and Jewish organizations participated, while members of Eastern religions, like Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, were left out.

Also present at the October consultation was Thomas Farr, first director of the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom, a component of the U.S. State Department since 1998. Farr’s involvement signaled to some that the Canadian office would be heavily modeled on its American counterpart. That body was originally pushed by the evangelical Christian lobby, said University of Toronto law professor Karen Knop.

Prison sentences set in Paris bomb plot

News Agencies – January 26, 2012

A French court has sentenced three men to between two and six years in prison for plotting to carry out a car bomb attack on a public building near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Rany Arnaud, Nadir Badache and Adrien Guihal were arrested in December 2008 after they allegedly planned to set off a car bomb outside the offices of a national police investigation body in the centre of Paris.

Arnaud, a convert to Islam and the ringleader of the group, was targeted by police after posting calls on an Islamic fundamentalist website for France to be attacked because of its participation in the war in Afghanistan. Arnaud was sentenced to six years in prison on a charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation. On the same charge, Badache was sentenced to two years in prison, with six months suspended, and Guihal was sentenced to four years, with one year suspended.

New Report Accuses French Police of Discrimination

News Agencies – January 26, 2012

Human Rights Watch says police in France are singling out ethnic Arab and African youths for unwarranted and sometimes humiliating identity checks. The rights group says this apparent ethnic profiling is further exacerbating an already tense relationship between authorities and minority youths.

In a new report, the rights group says ethnic Africans and Arabs – some as young as 13 years old – are often targeted in police checks, even though they do not appear to be doing anything wrong. Another study, in 2009, found that French police were far more likely to stop blacks and Arabs than white people.

Dutch Cabinet Passes Ban on Burqas

The Dutch cabinet has passed a ban on burqas in the Netherlands which would take effect from next year, making the Netherlands the second European Union country to ban the burqa after France. The ban is to apply in public spaces, to face covering clothing including the niqab, but also balaclavas and motorcycle helmets worn “in inappropriate places”, Deputy Prime Minister Verhagen announced. Verhagen denied that this was a ban on religious clothing, and noted that uncovered faces are an important part of “open” communication in Dutch society.

The ban will not apply in religious spaces such as mosques and churches, or to those passing through Dutch airports on travel. The new law to be submitted to parliament next week still has to be approved by both houses of parliament but would see fines of up to 390 Euros for those covering their faces. Academics in the country note that the move is highly “symbolic” in the respect that only an estimated 100-400 women in the country currently wear face covering veils.

While Geert Wilders of the anti-Islam PVV sent a supportive tweet regarding the news, the ban has met with widespread criticism. In Parliament, Tofik Dibi of the Green Left expressed disappointment about the emphasis on this issue during a time when energy is better spent combating an economic crisis, as did the leader of the Christian Union party. Organizations representing Muslims condemned the move for preventing women from deciding for themselves whether to wear a burqa, as women’s group Al Nisa commented, “Self-determination is our top priority. Some women may now well decide to wear a burqa in defiance of the ban, but a number of women are now likely not to leave their home any longer.”  from interest groups supporting minority, women’s, and religious rights, as well as from politicians in the country’s Green Left Party.


Ray Kelly Resignation Called For By Muslims Angered By Anti-Islam Movie

NEW YORK — Muslim groups are calling for New York’s police commissioner to step down because of his appearance in a film they say puts their religion and its adherents in a bad light.

About 20 activists held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Thursday and criticized Ray Kelly for giving an interview to the producers of the movie “The Third Jihad.”

The movie uses dramatic footage to warn against the dangers of radical Islam and shariah, or Islamic law. Muslim groups say it encourages Americans to be suspicious of all Muslims.

“Terrorism is an evil that must be eliminated, but one cannot fight wrong with wrong,” said Talib Abdur-Rashid, a Muslim cleric.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he stood by Kelly and the commissioner’s spokesman, Paul Browne. Activists had also demanded Browne’s resignation.

However, the mayor said Kelly would have to redouble his outreach efforts to Muslims.

“Anything like this doesn’t help credibility, so Ray’s got to work at establishing, re-establishing or reinforcing the credibility that he does have,” Bloomberg said.