West Point cadets visit NJ city to witness the cultural diversity they will encounter overseas

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The men and women in crisp U.S. military uniforms walked in close formation through the bustling, traffic-choked streets, passing women in full Muslim hijab, sari-clad Indian mothers pushing strollers, worshippers heading to an Egyptian Coptic church, and small shops with signs in Arabic, Hindi, Korean and a dozen other languages.

It wasn’t a tour of duty overseas, but a field trip to Jersey City, just 60 miles down the Hudson River from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The city of 250,000 is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse places in America, and the West Point cadets are visiting as part of a class at the academy on peacekeeping and reconstruction called “Winning the Peace.” The class ends in a three-day crash course designed to make the future officers — and, ultimately, the soldiers under their command — more sensitive to cultural differences.

The program is in its eighth year but has taken on new urgency as the Army deals with the fallout from a string of embarrassing episodes in Afghanistan, including reports of U.S. soldiers posing with the bloody remains of suicide bombers, urinating on Afghan corpses and burning Muslim holy books.

White House releases public/private guidelines

WASHINGTON — A new White House report that offers guidance on public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups leaves critical questions unanswered and does not resolve the issue of religious groups’ ability to discriminate in hiring and firing, church-state watchdogs said.

The 50-page report, issued Friday (April 28), comes 18 months after President Obama issued an executive order calling for more transparency as faith-based groups work with the government to meet social needs.

The report breaks little new ground, but reaffirms that:

— A faith-based organization can provide federally funded social services without removing religious art, scriptures and symbols from their facilities.

— Explicitly religious activities can’t be supported by federal funds but are permitted if they are funded privately and occur at a separate time and location from programs that receive government money.

— Beneficiaries who object to the religious character of a provider must be referred promptly to an alternative.

Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, called the guidance “an important step” in implementing the recommendations from a blue-ribbon advisory board.

Dutch Politician’s New Book Draws Criticism

3 May 2012

 

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV (Freedom Party) will be officially released in the United States this week. The autobiographical Marked for Death: Islam’s War against the West and Me has drawn criticism from Muslims. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has released a statement on their website stating that “the new book is nothing but a repetition of Mr. Wilders campaign of hate mongering against Islam…”. Wilders is currently touring the United States to promote the book.

Netherlands May Drop Planned Burqa Ban

2 May 2012

 

The Netherlands may drop the planned ban on the burqa and on dual nationality which are currently making their way through the national parliament. The change comes with the fall of the minority government, as those aspects of government policy influenced by the presence of the anti-Islam  PVV (Freedom Party)  enter into renegotiation. Notably, MPs have implored outgoing Interior Minister Liesbeth Spies (CDA) to eliminate the country’s planned burqa ban. Spies has responded that she “wouldn’t shed a tear” if the PVV-sponsored bill was scrapped, but will leave it up to parliament to decide. The proposed ban on dual nationality is now also under contention.

Spies had previously defended both policies, stating in regards to the burqa ban that “it is important that people in an open society meet each other in an open way.” This week, however, Volkskrant quotes her statement that, “now that the cabinet has fallen, there’s no longer any payoff”  to supporting PVV sponsored bills. Immigration Minister Gerd Leers has also said that he will no longer support PVV causes within Europe.

Spanish Court, “The terrorist act is more than the expression of radical ideas”

26 April 2012

To condemn the thought of an individual it is not the task of the Court and based on this affirmation the Audiencia Nacional (Spanish Court) has sustained the acquittal of nine Ceuti citizens charged with terrorist practices in the operation Dune (operation started in 2006 by the judge Baltasar Garzon accusing the individuals of being a jihadist cell with connections to the Al-Qaeda).

“The terrorist act is more than the expression of radical ideas, because freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas, thoughts or doctrines is a feature of the democratic system and must protect even those who disagree and advocate a system change other democratic political system, provided, that defense of these ideas will not be carried by violent means, ” concluded the judge.
The acquittal of Ceuta occurs, stating, “it is not enough to prove that the defendants think a certain way or that they contact or are related to others of the same ideology, it is necessary to show that they have decided to take action and that was not proven.

Amnesty International on the distress of calling yourself Muslim

29 April 2012

According to an Amnesty International report released this week, Muslims in Europe face discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in employment and education. After analyzing the situation of those who profess this religion in Belgium, Spain, France, Netherlands and Switzerland, the NGO said that the opinion polls reflect “fear, mistrust and negative opinions about Muslims and Islamic culture.” ‘Go to your country’ “The most common phrase we hear is’ go to your country.” I’m tired and I do not answer … it does not enter the head of many that I’m not a foreign, I’m Spanish, Basque “complains Jennifer Chamizo, now 25 years old and who embraced Islam (expression that Muslims prefer to the word ‘convert’) when she was 20.

Amnesty International collected a study that sets the number of Muslims in Spain on about 2.3% of the population. Many of the enquired people acknowledged having to hide at work that they are Muslims. Sources familiar with the Muslim community in Madrid say that, with rare exceptions, those who go to mosques to make the ‘Shahada’ never do it accompanied by their family, despite being a very important event for them. “Many believe that Spain is tolerant, I also thought so, but when you’re the different one, you understand, and feel, that there is still a lot of rejection,” says Habiba. 37% of the Spanish believe it is acceptable to expel a student from school simply because she is wearing headscarves and the same percentage said to have supported protests against the construction of Muslim places of worship, according to the AI report.

Spanish Islamic Community examines “The Role of women in the integration of family in society.”

30 April 2012

 

On Sunday, April 22 of 2012, in Montmelo, the Islamic Community with the collaboration of the Union of Islamic Communities of Catalonia organized a conference for female members of the community under the title “The Role of women in the integration of family in society. ”
At the end of the conference it was clear for all participants the degree of concern that women have over the education of children, communication with neighbors and direct involvement in civic participation.