December 4, 2013
Summary: Information is emerging that al-Qaeda’s growth in the region is extending into the Sinai Peninsula and across Egypt.
Author: Mohannad Sabry
December 4, 2013
Summary: Information is emerging that al-Qaeda’s growth in the region is extending into the Sinai Peninsula and across Egypt.
Author: Mohannad Sabry
November 28, 2011
The concept of European Islam has proved to be a constant source of controversy. For some it embodies the deliverance of Islam from everything that is perceived as backward looking and pre-modern. Others fear that a European Islam is a watered-down religion, a kind of government-controlled “state Islam”, prepared to fully accommodate to the wishes of the authorities. By Claudia Mende
Initial debate on European Islam was ill-fated. The German political scientist Bassam Tibi introduced the concept in the early 1990s. He linked the concept with a severe criticism of traditional Islam, which, in Tibi’s view, has experienced nothing akin to the Enlightenment. He thereby launched a head-on clash with many Muslims. Bassam Tibi proposed European Islam as an alternative model to the Islam practiced in the Arab world and to everything that appears deplorable there.
According to Tibi, Muslims should adopt the dominant European culture as their own, and many considered this to be nothing less than a call to assimilation. Since this inauspicious start, discussions on a European variety of Islam have been sharply polarized.
Varied lives of European Muslims
Of course, living in Europe influences the outlooks and beliefs of Muslims here. Yet, is it possible to reasonably speak of a European Islam? This question was the theme of an international conference recently hosted by the Catholic Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.
Some 15 million Muslims currently live in Europe. Their ways of life and identities are highly varied.
While the Muslim community in Western Europe consists mainly of immigrants who have arrived since the 1950s as well as their descendants into the fourth generation, Islam in the Balkans has a totally different face. In Bosnia, Muslims can look back upon a centuries-old history and they have long since regarded themselves as Europeans.
Even in Poland, in addition to recent immigrants, there exists a small minority of Muslim Tatars, who settled in the country 600 years ago. Islam in France has strong roots in North and West Africa, while in Britain, the vast majority of Muslims have immigrant backgrounds from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The German Islam Conference has also asserted its desire to make a contribution to European Islam, thereby giving it the air of a project imposed from above. Does the state intend to embrace the representatives of Islam for as long as it takes until some sort of secularized “Islam light” emerges? Would this be a “tamed” Islam, as its disturbing aspects will have been shed? And by disturbing, we mean here those aspects that sound “unenlightened” to European ears, such as the Sharia or the lack of a separation between church and state.
Some critics of the German Islam Conference, which was initiated by former Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, view such moves as an attempt by outsiders to interfere in an internal Islamic debate.
Parallels with Christianity
The German-Turkish sociologist Levent Tezcan from Tilburg University in the Netherlands sees Christianity as the reference point in the discussion about a European Islam. He says that European Islam may develop just like Christianity did. It would mean that Islam, as Christianity before it, eventually could overcome its conflict with modernity and reconcile itself with the modern world.
This is precisely where the critics view the danger and sense with foreboding a watering down of their religion. They see the empty pews in churches and express the fear of abandoned prayer rooms in the recently built mosques. The fear is that the forces binding the faithful to their own traditions will eventually wane. Just as Christian churches are struggling with declining membership, Muslims also dread the day when they lose their young people to a secular Europe. The prospect of such a decline arouses fear in many Muslims. As Tezcan puts it, the “landmines” are ready to explode in the debate on European Islam.
The situation is equally tense for those Muslims questioning for themselves what a European Islam really means. This question is especially pertinent for younger Muslims, those in the third and fourth generation, as they no longer feel closely bound to their “homeland.” This is particularly the case in Germany, where Turkey has traditionally claimed the right to influence the Turkish-Muslim community and its development. Ditib, the Turkish-Islamic Union, is an umbrella organization representing almost 900 mosque communities in Germany. It is closely tied to Diyanet, the Turkish religious authority in Ankara. Kerem Öktem from St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University has described Diyanet, with its close to 100,000 employees, as a kind of “Islamic mini Vatican.”
Close religious ties abroad
Through the religious authorities, the Turkish state exerts structural influence on Ditib, and thereby also on Turkish Muslims in Germany. The Turkish state pays the salaries of the hodjas, i.e. Muslim scholars, in the Ditib mosques, and the president of Ditib in Germany also serves as the embassy counsellor for religious affairs at the Turkish embassy in Berlin. Even Prime Minister Erdogan has frequently intervened in the debate on immigration in Germany and has warned his fellow countrymen against assimilation.
Such close ties to a foreign country are unimaginable for Muslims from Bosnia. They have a completely different perspective on this issue from the Islamic associations in Germany. Already back in 1882, Bosnia withdrew from the authority of Sheikh ul-Islam in Istanbul. “It was painful, but it was the right decision in the long run,” asserts Senad Kusur from the Bosnian Educational, Cultural, and Sports Association in Vienna. He asks provocatively, “Will Western European Muslims have their 1882, too?”
At the moment, this would be unthinkable for the representatives of Ditib and Milli Görüs, the Turkish diaspora organization in Europe. The question provokes fear in their hearts. In light of a growing Islamophobia in Europe, they are not at all certain whether their children will be able to enjoy equal rights as Muslims in Germany.
For many association representatives Turkey remains a lifeline, symbolically, at the very least. Mustafa Yeneroglu, Secretary General of Milli Görüs, says that the members of the association still live with one foot in Turkey. “If things don’t work out in Germany, then there is always the option of returning to Turkey,” he says. But do the subsequent generations see things the same way?
The structures of the religious organizations indicate another story. According to the sociologist Levent Tezcan, the sort of mosque associations that exist in Germany are not to be found in Turkey. The manner in which the mosque associations are organised is typically European, he claims. The more Islamic structures are created in Germany, the more an association such as Ditib would organize things in a manner specific to Germany, thereby loosening the ties to Diyanet. While the younger generation of Muslims is pushing for greater integration into German society, older Muslims fear the loss of connection to their homeland. They fear the day will come when their children no longer understand Turkish.
Critical voices sidelined
At present, significant structures for Islam in Germany are being created through the establishment of programmes in Islamic theology at German universities and the introduction of courses in Islam at schools in most German states. Rabeya Müller from the Centre for Islamic Women’s Research (ZIF) in Cologne cautions, however, that dialogue within the Muslim community leaves much to be desired and critical voices are sidelined.
Is the much-heralded European Islam merely a construct that has little to do with the daily reality of Muslims, as Taner Yüksel, head of the education department at Ditib, believes? In case of doubt, real life is one step ahead of the intellectual debates. A European Islam is already far more than what the Islamic functionaries are willing to acknowledge.
November 27, 2013
Attacks on Muslim establishments are on the increase in France. Most recently, the Grand Mosquée in Paris was daubed with racist slogans. Islamophobia and xenophobia are also featuring more prominently in the public discourse. Bernhard Schmid reports
A shockwave – or just a ripple of surprise? On 23 November the French news agency AFP published a report stating that the number of “Islamophobic acts had risen again”. The report is based on data from the “National Monitoring Centre for Islamophobia” which claims that attacks on Muslims and Islamic establishments in the first nine months of this year have increased by 11.3 percent on the same period last year.
Attacks such as this one, among others: On 19 November, the walls of the Grande Mosquée de Paris – the capital’s oldest mosque established in 1927 – were sprayed with abusive statements. The warden of the mosque, Dalili Boubakeur, expressed his most profound regret at this expression of what he called “racist violence and hostility”.
This is no isolated incident: Recently in the southern French town of Lesparre-Médoc near Bordeaux, police arrested two men aged 24 and 39 alleged to have been responsible for daubing swastikas on the walls of the local mosque last summer. Both men confessed the following day.
New Quality of Racism
As though that were not enough: In early November the news broke that two mosques in Besançon had also been daubed with inflammatory slogans. The perpetrators had scrawled statements such as “Arabs Out!” and “France for the French!” on the walls, as well as swastikas. Similar slogans had been painted on the walls of a mosque in the southern French town of Carpentras two weeks previously – along a total length of 30 metres.
Racially motivated, anti-Islamic vandalism such as this is not the only cause for concern at the monitoring centre set up some time ago by the French “Representative Council of Muslims” (CFCM). An increase in physical attacks on Muslim women wearing a veil or other head covering is also “a new phenomenon”, as the centre ascertains in its latest report.
Attacks on Muslim women
The first incidences of this nature emerged in early 2013 in the satellite town of Argenteuil, northwest of Paris. There, unknown attackers beat up several Muslim women; a 19-year-old suffered a miscarriage in June as a direct result of her ordeal. Two protest rallies then took place in Argenteuil.
But because it was Salafist groups, among others, that tried to capitalize on the sense of outrage and took to the streets in protest, the demonstrations attracted little national interest. This meant that any sense of solidarity among elements of the population failed to emerge, to the chagrin of many of those affected, but also of anti-racist groups – even though the victim who had suffered a miscarriage was given the opportunity to present her complaint in person to the interior ministry in late June 2013, as a gesture of sympathy.
The monitoring centre has documented a total of 14 cases of physical violence against women wearing a Muslim headcovering in the Paris suburbs of Argenteuil, Trappes and Reims. The wave of attacks occurring in the Parisianbanlieus is probably attributable to rightwing extremist skinheads, although police have so far been unable to apprehend any perpetrators.
But in the meantime, cases are being observed of acts of violence committed against Muslim women by people with no rightwing extremist background. Last July, the trial began in Orléans of a motorist who attacked three Muslim women following a traffic dispute. The man was accused of hurling racist taunts at the three women – a woman from the Maghreb region, her 15-year-old daughter and her sister – and pulling them out of their car. He was eventually sentenced to two months in prison.
At the annual national rally against violence against women, held on 24 November, for the first time Muslim women wearing headscarves formed their own bloc. They said they were taking a stand against domestic violence perpetrated by men, as well as expressing their growing fear of being attacked in the public sphere.
Many believed that the waves of outrage connected to the public perception of Muslims had been primarily incited by campaigning in the run-up to the French parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2012. During the campaign, the rightwing extremist “Front National”, but also elements of the conservative camp, had voiced objections to the “increased presence of halal meat in school canteens”, sometimes openly portraying this as evidence of the fact that the nation was being overrun with foreigners. Many people believed that the public debate over Islam would die down after the elections. But they were very wrong.
But assertions that the racism prevalent in French society is first and foremost taking on “culturalising” forms and being mainly directed at symbols and expressions of the Islamic faith have not been borne out. This is because racism against Romany communities in France has increased, as well as racism against black politicians such as the French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, who was repeatedly and publicly insulted by her political opponents who called her a “savage” and a “monkey”.
In the meantime, this increase in racist violence has triggered a counter movement: Large-scale protest events against racism and xenophobia are expected to be held in France at the end of this year. These are to mark the 30th anniversary of the spectacular “March for Equality and Against Racism”, when from October to December 1983, the sons and daughters of Maghreb immigrants marched on foot from Marseille via Lyon to Paris, to demonstrate for better rights and more foreigner-friendly policies.
November 26, 2013
A new study by Carnegie Mellon University found that in the most Republican states in the country, employers may be less likely to interview job candidates whose social networking profiles indicate that the applicants are Muslim.
As part of a social experiment, the researchers created four fictitious job candidates – each with a unique name that most likely points to someone who is male, U.S. born and Caucasian. The candidates had identical resumes. The researchers also created social network profiles for each of the candidates that revealed either his sexual orientation or whether he was a Muslim or Christian. All other information, including the profile photograph used for each candidate, was the same. The resumes, which did not mention the candidates’ online profile, were then sent out to more than 4,000 employers nationwide with job openings.
Readers should note that the study’s authors did not design the pool of open jobs to be representative of all jobs available in the country, or in Republican-leaning or Democrat-leaning states. The number of job vacancies varied from state to state, and overall, a smaller share of all open jobs was located in Republican states.
In both Republican and Democratic states, there was no difference between the call backs received by the gay candidate as compared with the straight candidate. But in the Republican states, the Christian candidate received more interview calls than the Muslim candidate. In the 10 states with the highest proportion of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney voters in the 2012 election, 17% of Christian applicants received interview calls, compared with 2% of the Muslim job candidates. There were no differences in call backs received by the Christian and Muslim candidates in the 10 states with the lowest proportion of Romney voters.
The study is not the first to pick up on perceived negative views of Muslims in America. Nearly half of Muslim Americans pointed to either negative views about Muslims (29%) or discrimination and prejudice (20%) as the most pressing issues facing their community in a 2011 Pew Research Center survey. At the same time, however, more than half (56%) of Muslim Americans surveyed also said that they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country.
The Carnegie Mellon study also seems to support our findings about workplace treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. An overwhelming proportion of LGBT Americans say they are more accepted in society today than they were 10 years ago, according to our 2013 survey. When asked about specific experiences with discrimination, 5% of LGBT Americans say that in the past year they have been treated unfairly by an employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
November 25, 2013
A sixth British jihadist has reportedly been killed fighting in Syria. The death of the man was first reported on the jihadist Twitter account @Zhoof21 yesterday afternoon. He has been named as Abu Naseebah al-Britani by Shiraz Maher, head of outreach at Kings College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). Charles Lister, an analyst at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, added that he is believed to have been killed fighting for the al-Qa’ida linked ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams) in Deir Atiyah, north of Damascus.
MI5 estimates suggest that 200-300 Britons have travelled to Syria to fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, some of which have joined forces influenced by Islamic extremism. The reports have raised concerns that the men may pose a threat to UK security when they return home after their part in the war is over.
November 25, 2013
French spies planned to assassinate the extremist preacher Abu Hamza on a London street after they grew frustrated with Britain’s failure to deal with him, it has been claimed. According to a major investigation by the organisation HOPE Not Hate, French intelligence services dubbed the UK capital “Londonistan” because of a growing reputation for harbouring Europe’s Muslim fundamentalists.
Seeking to take advantage of the fear surrounding the London nail bombings by the neo-Nazi militant David Copeland, security officials from Britain’s European neighbour hatched a plot to kill the cleric and blame it on the far-right extremist group Combat 18. Spies got as far as identifying the weapons they would use to mimic those favoured by the organisation, and would have sent Hamza faked death threats pretending to be from the group. It is not clear why the plans were not carried out.
In a completely separate earlier plot, the French spying network Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) contemplated kidnapping Hamza from his West London home, putting him in a ferry and moving him to France. Those plans came amid fears that Algerian terrorists were going to target the 1998 football World Cup in France.
Reports of the two plots come from the extensive investigation entitled “Gateway to Terror” and published today by the HOPE Not Hate group. It looks into the influence of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun group and its links to Hamza and the British Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary.
November 25, 2013
A network of groups led by the Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary has become the “single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history”, according to a major investigation. Groups linked to Mr Choudary have “facilitated or encouraged” up to 80 young Muslims from the UK – and 250 to 300 people from across Europe – to join al-Qa’ida-linked forces fighting President Assad in Syria, the Hope Not Hate report suggests.
The investigation also highlights links between Mr Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun network and the perpetrators of several major terrorist attacks, including the 7/7 suicide bombings in London. Mr Choudary is known for his controversial statements and has developed a reputation as a pantomime villain, but Hope Not Hate said he should be considered a “serious player on the international Islamist scene”.
Despite two decades of activism, the 46-year-old Briton has only ever been fined £500 for organising an illegal protest outside the Danish embassy in London over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. In January 2010, shortly before he become Prime Minister, David Cameron said Mr Choudary needed “to be looked at seriously” because he strays “extremely close to the line of encouraging hatred, extremism and violence”. In June, the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick told a Commons committee that they were “constantly assessing” whether any of Mr Choudary’s “proclamations are breaking the criminal law”.
The report stressed there was no evidence he or his associate Omar Bakri Mohamed had “directly instigated any terror plots”, but added: “We do believe they have given people the encouragement to take extreme actions”. The Syrian-born Mohamed founded the now-banned group al-Muhajiroun, but was refused permission to return to Britain after going to Lebanon.
Hope Not Hate said at least 70 people linked to al-Muhajiroun and its successor organisations had been convicted of terrorism, terrorist-related offences in the UK or died overseas during the last 14 years. The report claimed the 7/7 suicide bombers had links to al-Muhajiroun network. The report said Mr Choudary had “his own international network of affiliated and partner organisations” that often used the name Sharia4 followed by the name of the country, such as Sharia4Pakistan. This network was “best described as the Global Sharia Network”.
Mr Choudary said the idea that his groups were a “gateway to terror” was “fanciful thinking” by Hope Not Hate. “We’re not a gateway to anything,” he said. “Hope Not Hate have jumped on the so-called terrorism bandwagon. They are trying to point the finger at us for everything since 9/11.”
November 28, 2013
Britain’s mainstream banks may be reluctant to lend these days, but a Kuwait-backed Islamic bank is to become one of Britain’s biggest residential landlords with a plan to build 6,600 rental homes and gain from the shortage in decent housing stock. It promises to be one of the biggest privately run home building projects ever. Shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank hopes to gain from the big shift in the country’s housing market away from buying to renting, as mortgages have become more scarce and unaffordable and prices have risen out of the grasp of many families. Gatehouse already has a £1bn property portfolio across the UK and US.
November 29, 2013
One of the alleged killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby handed a letter explaining his attack to the woman who stroked the body of the fallen soldier in a final gesture of humanity, the court heard. Michael Adebolajo’s letter, scribbled on two pieces of lined A4 paper, was addressed to “my beloved children” and railed against the country’s political leaders. It says that “carnage” in Britain is a result of “oppression in our towns”. He handed the letter to Amanda Donnelly Martin, who was kneeling by the body of the dead soldier, before he charged at police and was shot and injured, the court heard.
The letter says fighting Allah’s enemies “is an obligation”. It goes on: “Do not spend your days in endless dispute with the cowardly and foolish if [that] will delay you meeting Allah’s enemies on the battlefield. Sometimes the cowardly and foolish could be those dearest to you, so be prepared to turn away from them.”
It adds: “If you find yourself curious as to why carnage is reaching your own towns, then know it is simply retaliation for your oppression in our towns. Mr Adebolajo made a number of comments after he was shot by police and was detained. “I am a Muslim extremist, this may be the only chance you meet one,” he told officers, the court heard.
Mr Adebolajo – a British citizen born in Lewisham – also said that “your people” had gone to Afghanistan where they had “raped and killed our women”.
“I am seeking retribution, I wouldn’t stoop so low as to rape and kill women,” he told them, the court heard. “I thank the person who shot me, because it is what Allah would have wanted. I love Allah more than my children.”