CFCM slips into new crisis

23.06.2013

The Algerian dominated Great Mosque of Paris (GMP) quit a meeting of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) which was about to endorse the appointment of its director, Dalil Boubaker, as President of the Council.

The spokesperson of the GMP explained that “we left the meeting of the Board because we realized that there was a strategic alliance between Moroccans and Turks against the Great Mosque of Paris, challenging an agreement that we signed yesterday to exit the impasse to which the CFCM was heading to”.

As the crisis loomed, the GMP agreed to withdraw its candidate for the presidency of the CFCM, Chems Eddine Hafiz, disputed by other federations, especially the Morrocan led Rally of French Muslim (RMF).The RMF challenged the candidacy of Hafiz who acts as the lawyer of the Polisario Front, which is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, annexed by the Rabat government in 1975. Instead of Mr. Hafiz, the GMP was eventually offered to name its director, Boubakeur,  as the President of the CFCM. Boubakeur had at first refused to take the presidency of the CFCM, which witnessed a landslide election win by the RMF in the elections for its regional councils on June 8. The pro-Morocco group dominated with 25 seats, against 8 seats for the Algerians and 7 for the Turks.

The CFCM was established in 2003 to provide the several million strong Muslim population of France a representative body.

Muslim woman loses baby after attack

18.06.2013

Liberation

The 21-year-old Muslim woman who was attacked by two men in what is believed to be a racist attack was in her fourth month of pregnancy and suffered a miscarriage following the attack. The woman was attacked on Thursday by two men, who were reported to have ripped off her hijab in Argenteuil, Val-d’Oise, before kicking her in the hip. The woman’s husband reported that the women lost her baby on Monday.

The attack follows another attack on a veiled Muslim woman three weeks ago and days after clashes erupted between Muslim residents and the police after a veiled woman was arrested by the authorities. The local Muslim community reported to be angered and concerned about the rise of Islamophobia in recent weeks. Hundreds of people gathered in a protest condemning the attacks and the French state’s reluctant response to it. Following the family’s loss, the Coalition against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI) expressed its “condolences and solidarity with the family”. The group demands that the “wave of attacks and Islamophobic behaviour requires a strong and uncompromising response from the French Republic, which must express its solidarity with all victims and not just those who the Minister of Internal Affairs deems worthy to empathize with”. The CRI and the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) have denounced on a meeting at the city of hall of Argenteuil the French authority’s lack of consideration of Islamophobic attacks and sympathy shown to its victims. As a response, the adjunct director of cabinet to the French Minister of Internal Affairs, Manuel Valls, sent out letters to both victims and received the first of the two in the Ministry in Paris.

2013 Stockholm Riots: a brief overview

Emin Poljarevic

 

The riots have exhausted their destructive energy sweeping through several of Stockholm’s suburbs. In the northern suburb of Husby where the unrests started, the rioting lasted from Sunday evening, May 19 until Wednesday, May 22. Several other Stockholm suburbs, similar to Husby, 23 in total, experienced unrest albeit on the smaller scale. These suburbs are primarily inhabited by a second and third generation immigrants as well as newly arrived immigrant residents many of those have fled from the devastating conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The unrests were primarily been expressed through burning of a large number of private cars followed by stone throwing on the arriving police units and the fire fighters. Curiously, this seemingly senseless wave of destruction of cars did not include burning shops or residential buildings in any direct way, nor did it include looting of stores and local shops. The reasons behind the riots are certainly complex and multifaceted, nevertheless, deeply rooted in segregation manifested in a range of socio-economic parameters.

 

Many of the local residents, especially the younger generations have been experiencing higher rates of unemployment in comparison to other residential areas of Stockholm both in relative and real terms. Subsequently, the media and public perception that the crime rates as being higher in these areas has effected the law enforcement strategies which had become stricter and more violent over the course of years. It is reported that during the recent period the police has started to stop-and-search a large number of teenagers in Husby and neighbouring suburbs as a strategy to disrupt narcotics distribution and consumption. This strategy included a controversial policing method, which increasingly targeted teenagers without previous criminal record through which the authorities frequently conducted house searches thus intensely invading people’s privacy on weak or non-existent ground. This is something that would be unimaginable in the more exclusive suburbs. It is during one of the police-raids in Husby that a police officer shot and killed an aggressive 68-year old man (May 13), which was later interpreted as a flagrant brutality by the neighbours and residents in the area. The 29-year-old officer has also been placed under investigation for the alleged overuse of violence during the incident. Numerous witnesses have also complained of open racism among a number of police officers that had used racial slurs when addressing young people in the suburbs. Such incidents are readily narrated and certainly overstressed in conversations adding to the collective frustrations. These and other similar fragments of perceived grievances are easily detectable however they are insufficient to explain the reason behind the rioting.

 

For instance, it is impossible to disregard that the rate of unemployment in Husby is 8,8% while it is only 3,3% in the city of Stockholm, or that the average salary in Husby is 195,000 SEK/year (€21,600/year) before taxes, while its equivalent in the city of Stockholm is 68% higher. Is this sufficient to explain the causes behind rioting? It is unlikely, to say the least. Nevertheless, one needs to keep in mind that in a welfare state of the Swedish model there has been a traditional focus on (economic and social) equality involving the welfare of children and young people expectation on the state/municipalities to deliver a high standard of civic services is high. Public places of gathering, such as parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and municipal public facilities are some of the areas where the current (centre-right) government has, if not neglected, but seriously mismanaged. A deep sense of distrust and neglect is what can be heard from some of the young people in the suburbs, “we will continue until we are noticed”. In addition, many of the residents, including the young rioters, understood the prime minister’s (Fredrik Reinfeldt) choice not to go to Husby or any other affected areas to address the people there as the confirmation of being neglected.

 

Another important component behind the rioting in the suburbs is an element of hooliganism directly related criminal activities of a substantial number of rioters (30-100). A well-known Professor of Criminology at the University of Stockholm, Jerzy Sarnecki, commented that there are a thousand reasons for the “bad boys” to start rioting, however, their activities are fundamentally criminal. The group dynamic often triggers more and more audacious behaviour that assumes a destructive logic of its own and that is often replicated by other impudent groups of young individual males. This is also shown by the number of arrested youth, which topped 44 individuals within a week of the start of the unrests. Out of 44 young males, an overwhelming majority was “known to the police” as having criminal records adding some strength to the previous assertion. A social activists and resident of Husby, said that one of the instigators of violent attacks on the police has long been a trouble–maker in the area, involved in an assortment of criminal activity with an extensive network of contacts among the youth in northern Stockholm (reported to the author June 2). Moreover, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) has reported that there have been a substantial number of left-wing extremists who had participated in the unrests (i.e. stone-throwing on the police). This indicates that there has been a presence of both “professional” demonstrators and individuals with extensive criminal records adding to the complexity of these events.

 

But, where does Islam, fit in this overview? It is not unreasonable to assume that a large part of the residents are either from or have family ties to the Muslim majority societies. There is no official statistic over religious affiliation of Swedish citizens; nevertheless, the assumption is based on a large number of media sources and field research of a small number of academics in this area. First reactions of various community leaders that I spoke to expressly condemn the behaviour of the rioters, regardless of their faith. I gathered from several Friday sermons that the violence in the suburbs is condemned and viewed as a failure of the (Muslim) community in their efforts to engage the young individuals in more constructive endeavours. This can be translated into a notion that community leaders’ inability to create group activities interesting and exciting enough to attract those young people in the “risk zone” of “behaving badly” (author’s interviews with Muslim community leaders in Stockholm and Uppsala, May 26-June 2, 2013).

 

The Swedish mainstream media has not given any attention to the “religious factor” as an explanation for the unrests focusing instead its analysis on the related subject – integration. The articles and various interpretations in the newspaper articles and columns are riddled with statements such as “integration has failed” or “more is needed to carry the integration process forward”. If one is to believe these readings it is easy to argue that there are structural mechanisms that need attention and calibration to correct the “failures” (of integration process). This part of the explanation includes discrimination and segregation of immigrants and/or their descendants (i.e. second and third generation), which is being introduced into the policy agenda of both the government and the opposition. The mainstream political debate is therefore becoming increasingly focused on how to improve the system to come to a set of solutions that will defuse the risks of recurrence of the recent riots. The debate effectively excludes religion as any relevant element of recent rioting.

 

The only people linking Islam and Muslims directly as causes to the suburban upheavals are the extreme-right parties, including the Swedish Democrats – the only far-right party represented in the Swedish parliament, and its supporters. Virtual discussion forums, blogs and commentaries are riddled with “politically incorrect” arguments claiming to have “proved” their long-held convictions that the Muslims are in Sweden to essentially take over the country (e.g. Eurabia conspiracy etc.). Some more radical groups among the right wing extremists and neo-Nazi activists had attempted to organize “citizen militias” in order to patrol the outskirts of the affected suburbs thus assisting the police. Nevertheless, their efforts were either disrupted by the police or disbanded due to the organisational incoherence.

 

Now, in the end of the violent rioting, there is an upsurge of civil engagement in searching for long-term solutions to the youth-crisis. Secular and religious associations are coming together to discuss the recent violence and various strategies. Local residents, parents, groups of mothers and large numbers of young people seem to have realized that only they themselves can contribute to provide positive attitude and care for the disenfranchised youth, but also contribute to the improvement of the negative effects of segregation, racism and the perceived government neglect. At the moment we see several attempts to form neighbourhood committees and public forums through which both parents and teenagers are supposed to exchange both experiences and ideas about how to move forward. Religious communities are certainly highly important in this evolving process.

 

Keywords: Stockholm riots, Husby, Youth violence, Integration, Racism

 

 

“Riots – day by day” – “Upploppen – dag för dag” (Dagens Nyheter – Daily News)

http://www.dn.se/sthlm/upploppen-dag-for-dag

 

“The Police’s drug bust may have contributed to the riots” – “Polisens knarkinsats kan ha bidragit till upploppen” (Metro) http://www.metro.se/stockholm/polisens-knarkinsats-kan-ha-bidragit-till-upploppen/EVHmeE!21yn93g8g2zYY/

 

“The Police practical manual might have prevented the riots in Husby” – “Polisens handbok kunde stoppat upplopp i Husby” (Metro)

www.metro.se/nyheter/polisens-handbok-kunde-stoppat-upplopp-i-husby/EVHmeE!GrekMC9XyROzQ/

 

A Police officer is suspected of negligence – a 69-year-old died” – “Polis misstänks ha varit klantig – 69-åringen dog” (Nyheter24 – News24) nyheter24.se/nyheter/kronikor/746823-polisen-misstanks-ha-varit-klantig-69-aringen-dog

 

“Unrest in 23 places in Stockholm” – “Oroligheter på 23 platser i upploppens Stockholm” (Svenska Dagbladet – Swedish Daily News) www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_8207046.svd

 

“A survey on rioting in Stockholm’s suburbs” – “Undersökning om upploppen i Stockholms förorter” (Demoskop – Public Opinion Nalysis) www.demoskop.se/aktuellt/nyhet/undersokning-om-upploppen-i-stockholms-fororter/

 

“We will continue until we get noticed” – “Vi håller på tills vi blir sedda” (Svensk Television – Swedish Public Television)

http://www.svt.se/nyheter/sverige/forskaren-vastra-stockholm-ar-i-niva-med-rosengard

 

“If I see teenagers, I send them home” – “Ser jag tonåringar ute skickar jag hem dem” (Expressen – www.expressen.se/nyheter/dokument/ser-jag-tonaringar-ute-skickar-jag-hem-dem/

 

“After the Husby-riots, the police has been reported (for negligence) – by the police” – “Efter Husby-upploppen: Nu anmäls polisen – av polisen” (Nyheter24 – News24)

http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/inrikes/746347-efter-upploppen-i-husby-nu-anmals-polisen-av-polisen

Bomb disposal experts are called to mosque in Walsall after suspicious item discovered

Police examining a suspicious item found in a Walsall mosque have confirmed they are treating the incident as a hate crime. A police spokesperson said an explosion was heard by residents on Friday evening. On Saturday, the item was discovered by a member of the public and handed into the police. Superintendent Keith Fraser, the head of crime and operations for Walsall Police, said the incident was being treated as hate crime but the motive for placing the item near a mosque remained unclear.

 

Army experts ordered the evacuation of nearly 40 homes near the Rutter Street mosque in Walsall, West Midlands Police said. “We have launched a full investigation into the suspicious item that has been found, and what’s going to be the key to this is the public’s help in relation to helping us to understand why that suspicious item was in the area. ”So if anybody saw anything over the weekend I’d like them to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers  0800 555 111 .”

 

Officials from Walsall Council are working closely with the emergency services to support local people and minimise disruption in the area. Zahid Ali, Cabinet Member for Public Protection at Walsall Council, also spoke outside the mosque. Describing the incident as “unfortunate”, Mr Ali added: “It’s absolutely wonderful to see that the communities have come together supporting the residents, and most of those residents are now back in their homes.”

 

Zia Ul-Haq, who acts as a spokesman for the mosque and also sits on its committee, said: “First of all can I thank the police force and the local council for really supporting us on this occasion.

Right-wing American speakers planning to join the EDL’s Woolwich march ‘should be banned from entering the country’

The Home Secretary is understood to be considering a request to ban two of the people behind a campaign against New York’s “Ground Zero Mosque” from entering the UK. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who are among America’s most notorious anti-Muslim campaigners, have been invited to speak at an English Defence League rally in Woolwich to mark Armed Forces Day and the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. But the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz has written to Ms May expressing his concern and labelling them “incendiary speakers”. In his letter, Mr Vaz wrote: “These individuals are infamous in America for inciting racial hatred, including sponsoring discriminatory advertisements placed on public transport. “It is clear that the location, motivation and attendees at this march will incite hatred. Adding incendiary speakers such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer just fuels the fire.”

 

Mr Vaz said: “I am alarmed that the EDL is planning this type of march in Woolwich. Before we have to pay the costs for the extra policing required for this demonstration the Home Secretary should consider using her discretion to ban these two speakers from entering the country. A ban should be enforced properly and physically stop people entering our borders.” Scotland Yard said that it was aware of the march and would have an appropriate policing plan in place.

 

A government source indicated that the Home Secretary was looking into the proposal to ban the pair. However, a spokesman refused to confirm this, saying that it would not be appropriate to discuss individual cases.

 

EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – who also goes by the name ‘Tommy Robinson’ – said: “It is ridiculous. We want other extremists to be banned from entering the country. These two people have never been arrested, they are well-respected in America. It is fascism, to me.”

 

Neither Ms Geller nor Mr Spencer responded to requests for comment.

Why Charles Moore is wrong about British Muslims by Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan is the MP for Tooting, Shadow Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor and Shadow Minister for London

 

Much has been written in the past month in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. One unifying message has been the importance of communities standing together, in the face of the threats posed by those claiming to follow a particularly violent political version of Islam, and from far-right groups such as the EDL and BNP. One recent contribution to the debate came from the esteemed journalist Charles Moore, whose recent biography of Margaret Thatcher is a mighty tome of diligence and detail. In contrast, his words in last Saturday’s Telegraph were a clumsy foray into a territory about which he appears to know very little.

 

In his piece, Moore states that “the EDL is merely reactive” as if that’s OK. It’s far from OK. Many of the darkest chapters in recent human history have sprung from reactionary movements gaining a foothold in society. But to go on and equate the EDL with groups like Tell Mama, the charity that records incidents against the Muslim community as well as providing advice and support on how to deal with Islamophobia, as Charles Moore’s piece does, is ridiculous. I don’t recall seeing those running Tell Mama flicking fascist salutes while standing next to memorials for the war dead.

 

For decades, the British Jewish community has had to contend with the belittling of anti-Semitic attacks, whether they be on headstones in cemeteries or to Synagogues or schools. While we cannot be complacent, there is, rightly, a zero tolerance to anti-Semitism whether it be oral, viral or physical. Would we be comfortable with a respected journalist writing about the Community Security Trust the way Tell Mama has been written about? Or aspersions being cast on a politician due to their Jewish faith? Would we accept the Jewish community being talked about the way the Muslim community are? The piece would be roundly criticised, and rightly so. And that’s the point – in a tolerant society that won’t stand for division and hatred, attacks on any particular part of our society are an attack on all of our society. I don’t meet “young people taught to detest the freedom in which they live”, as Charles Moore claims. I meet British Muslims proud to be both British and Muslim, in many cases living their lives freer of the shackles of prejudice and social inequality than did their parents, or their parents before them. That is a real positive that living in Britain has fostered.

 

As a British Muslim, I understand that “Islam” and “Britishness” are not incompatible and, according to polling, 83 per cent of my fellow Muslims would agree – they are “proud” to be British, compared to 79 per cent of the wider public. And who could fail to be heartened by the custard cream diplomacy of the mosque in York when faced by an EDL protest, a very British response to a difficult situation. Like “Britishness”, Islam is about respect, tolerance and understanding.

Tony Blair’s Muslim sister-in-law fears attacks

Cherie Blair’s half-sister, 45, said she felt like men want to hit her when they see her wearing her traditional Islamic dress and a hijab head-covering. Ms Booth told ITV’s Daybreak: “When I came to Islam two years ago and I first put on the scarf I was nervous about going on the Underground, I thought everyone is going to see me differently, and everyone was beautiful towards me. “I was invisible for a few weeks and then I noticed that British people were smiling, same as we always do, we’re really good at that, we’re really good at absorbing and accepting people. “But honestly, in the last two weeks I’ve been getting public transport and there are grown men looking like they want to hit Muslim women, and I’m a tall, white woman, I’m not easily threatened, but I have felt scared at times, so there is a change unfortunately.”

 

Ms Booth’s brother-in-law, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, previously said there is a ‘problem within Islam’ which allows the seeds of extremism to be sown in the wake of the killing. Asked if he was right, Ms Booth replied: ‘Absolutely not, and I think it’s very dangerous to take a summary of a religion from a man who’s overseen the invasion of several Muslim countries, and overseen a war where a million people whom are Muslim have been killed and millions displaced, so I wouldn’t take that as a kind of basis for any information on Islam.’

‘Hero’ police officer stabbed at mosque is discharged from hospital

The police officer heralded a hero after being stabbed in the chest and stomach while he disarmed a knife-wielding attacker at a mosque is to be discharged from hospital. The 31-year-old officer was brutally attacked when he responded to an incident in Birmingham where a man who had brandished a knife was shouting “don’t mock Islam” and attacking worshippers. The alleged attacker was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and remains at a secure mental health unit after doctors deemed him unfit to be interviewed, West Midlands Police have confirmed.

 

Commenting on an official West Midlands Police Twitter account, the unidentified injured officer said: “Consultant has been in to see me this morning. Op went great. Will be discharged later today.” In the comment posted in the early hours of this morning, he also thanked medics and people at the mosque for their help during the incident last weekend, adding: “It means a lot to know the community has our backs.” Chief Superintendent Alex Murray, speaking yesterday, said there was nothing to suggest the incident was a hate crime, or that it was connected with other similar incidents in the wake of Drummer Lee Rigby’s death in Woolwich, south east London.

 

A 28-year-old man stabbed in the arm during the attack and a 36-year-old man who was stabbed once in the thigh remain in hospital in a stable condition, while a third man who suffered a hand injury is recovering at home.

Concerns over online Qur’an teaching as ex-Pakistan militants instruct pupils

With his track record as a member of the political arm of a banned terrorist organisation, Mian Shahzib is unlikely to ever be given a visa to enter Britain. But that does not stop the jovial 33-year-old from giving British children religious instruction every day from the comfort of his home in Pakistan. He spends hours each night sitting under a fluorescent light in the courtyard of a small mosque in Lahore, peering into a laptop as children first from the Middle East, then Europe and North America spend half an hour after school talking to him over a faltering Skype line. The fact that a hardcore Islamist and long-term follower of the UN-proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) has daily access to children in the west is likely to fuel concerns about religious radicals spreading their message. The organisation is on the UN’s list of sanctioned organisations because of its alleged association with al-Qaida and is considered a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

 

Shahzib’s website, Easy Qur’an Memorising, makes no mention of his history and is one of hundreds of such online companies, some of which advertise on satellite channels broadcasting to the Pakistani diaspora. They are part of a little-known outsourcing boom fuelled by parents of Pakistani origin turning to Qur’an teachers in Pakistan.

The Guardian was told of other online tutors with radical backgrounds or who are members of extreme or sectarian organisations, but it is impossible to know how widespread the phenomenon is in a completely unregulated industry.

 

Sultan Chaudri, the owner of Faiz-e-Quran, said his company is at pains to scrutinise all 13 teachers who work for him to ensure radicals are not employed. “All the problems we are seeing in Pakistan and Afghanistan is because these young children get sent to madrasas where no one knows what sort of education they are getting or what kind of indoctrination is taking place.” Outsourced Qur’an teaching started about six years ago and there are now a handful of big players. Although there are no reliable figures on how many children around the world are being taught by Pakistan-based teachers everyone seems to think it is growing fast.

The best way to fight the EDL’s anti-Muslim bigotry is by showing solidarity on the streets

Before the renewed wave of anti-Muslim bile after the horrendous murder of Lee Rigby, the EDL seemed to be staring into the abyss. Their rallies attracted increasingly derisory turnouts, notable for punch-ups between drunk racists: impressive shows of force by anti-racists in Walthamstow and elsewhere humiliated them.

 

But last week, their leader – who operates under the pseudonym “Tommy Robinson”– was treated to a reprehensibly soft interview on BBC’s Today programme: the activities and beliefs of Robinson and his gangs were barely scrutinised. Such appearances do nothing but help legitimise racism, treating it as just another valid political perspective that can be calmly engaged and debated with just like any other set of beliefs. A bunch of thuggish racists are running rings around the Establishment. In the Daily Telegraph, its former editor Charles Moore defends the EDL as “merely reactive”, as non-violent, as “the instinctive reaction of elements of an indigenous working class which rightly perceives itself [as] marginalised by authority, whereas Muslim groups are subsidised and excused by it”. Allegations of racism or fascism “are not strictly accurate”, he reassures us. Tommy Robinson himself demands that Muslims follow British law: odd from someone who struggles with the same advice, having served a 12-month prison sentence for assaulting an off-duty police officer who tried to stop a domestic incident with his partner, as well as convictions for “threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour.” He once warned “every single Muslim watching” that the “Islamic community” would face “the full force of the English Defence League” if any British citizen was hurt or killed. Here are Moore’s non-racist, non-violent “reactive” band.

 

Anti-Muslim prejudice, however, remains worryingly widespread. Over a third of Britons think they pose a serious threat to democracy; and while the number who believe Muslims are compatible with the “British way of life” has increased, just one in three believe that. The EDL threat has to be taken seriously, but it needs careful thought. The truth is the EDL are simply a striking symptom of a society where anti-Muslim bigotry is acceptable: it passes the “dinner table test”, as Tory minister Sayeeda Warsi has put it. Now it’s Muslims; once it was Irish people who faced racist scapegoating after terrorist attacks: a twisted irony, then, that Tommy Robinson is himself the son of Irish immigrant parents. But this prejudice is not confined to the right. Some on the left seem to believe defending Muslims  is somehow a betrayal of secularism. Studies show newspapers routinely portray Muslims in a negative light. And so here is the dark truth. After a month in which the EDL have enjoyed a resurgence; Muslims abused on the streets and online; mosques firebombed – all those who have fanned bigotry, take responsibility, because these thugs are your children.