Duke University at center of Call to Prayer controversy

Duke University found itself at the center of a national controversy last week after it granted permission, then revoked it, and finally re-granted permission for Muslim students on campus to use the chapel for the weekly call to prayer (adhan). (Photo: Duke University)
Duke University found itself at the center of a national controversy last week after it granted permission, then revoked it, and finally re-granted permission for Muslim students on campus to use the chapel for the weekly call to prayer (adhan). (Photo: Duke University)

Duke University found itself at the center of a national controversy last week after it granted permission, then revoked it, and finally re-granted permission for Muslim students on campus to use the chapel for the weekly call to prayer (adhan). Initially, a Duke student was to perform the call to prayer at a “moderate volume” from the chapel bell tower, but after non-Muslim, mostly Christian, groups protested the decision, the university decided to cancel the event altogether, citing “security concerns.”

Televangelist Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, led the opposition to the Call for Prayer writing on his Facebook page, “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.” Meanwhile, Omid Safi, the director of Duke’s Islamic Studies program responded to Graham’s claims saying, “Every day from that same Duke chapel, church bells ring, and twice on Sunday,” he said. “The cross is on the emblem of Duke University. The entire quad, and the entire campus of Duke University is laid out as a cross. And the Christian chapel is the very symbol of Duke University. So the kind of fanatical proclamation that Christianity is being erased from Duke’s campus is frankly a poor indication of the intelligence of that argument.”

Last week, Duke reversed its position once-again after national media attention and protests by the student body in support of Muslim students on-campus. Permission to give the call to prayer was given to Muslim students on the quad in front of the university chapel. However, the decision was not without a caveat as the student will only be able to speak the adhan from the doorway of the chapel. Duke University’s Imam Adeel Zeb said that his students are “disappointed” with the administration’s decision and the lack of support from earlier allies. He advised his students to remain positive.

Eric Pickles writes a letter to 1,000 imams to promote ‘Muslim British Identity’ sparks criticism

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is at the center of a new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate "how faith in Islam can be part of British identity."
Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is at the center of a new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.” (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA/The Guardian)

A new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”.

The letter, sent by Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to every mosque in England, provoked an angry response from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which accused the government of peddling far-right arguments about integration. “Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?” said Harun Khan, the deputy secretary-general of the MCB.

However the Prime Minister, David Cameron, intervened, saying that the council’s response showed that it – not Mr Pickles – had “a problem”.

Speaking at lawn mower factory in Ipswich, Mr Cameron said: “It’s absolutely right to write this letter, to say we all have a responsibility to fight extremism. Anyone who reads this letter will see that what he is saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution to our country.

Lady Warsi argues that while the letter was in fact positive, the timing and actions before the letter led to its failure: “The Muslim Council of Britain was one of a number of groups over which we never reached agreement, but one which nevertheless was never formally engaged with. I’m not here to defend the council. Unlike some colleagues, I never viewed it as extreme or dangerous. My criticism, which I have on numerous occasions discussed with it, is that it continues to produce a leadership that is neither equipped to represent, nor is genuinely reflective of, the contemporary aspirations of large sections of British Muslim communities. So while I welcome Eric’s attempt to reach out, the reality is that if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then the chances of success are limited. A letter out of the blue to a mosque that is potentially affiliated to an organisation like the Muslim Council of Britain – with whom the government has refused to engage – creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic. It makes it appear as if the government is neither listening nor genuine in its intentions. And it provokes a negative response, irrespective of the true motive.”

[Full text of the letter is here.]

Dutch cabinet presents plan to combat forced marriage, honor killings, and homophobia

The Dutch cabinet recently presented an Action Plan for Self-determination. The cabinet will provide a yearly one million euros until 2017 to combat forced marriages, homophobia and violence related to honor. More than 150 specially trained volunteers will be supported to bring these taboo themes up for discussion among their own communities. Additionally a social media campaign will be initiated with stories related by people who support a change of mentality on these themes. This was written to the Dutch Lower House by Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher.

Dutch Minister wants school to work on the prevention of radicalization

Jet Bussemaker, minister of Education, says that teachers should be more aware of their ‘social role’. School is the place where different groups from society get in contact with each other and if signs of radicalization are being seen, the school should take action. For example when a boy decides he doesn’t want to sit with girls anymore.

In the same sense the minister doesn’t agree with schools that have plans to replace the lowest levels of education (The Dutch schooling system knows roughly 3 levels of education) to a different location. Cause school is the place where different groups, low- and high educated people can meet each other. Teachers have an important task to bring these people together and to make sure appreciation for each other will occur.

New Dutch think-tank initiated to analyze integration in the Netherlands

In the coming years a new Dutch think-tank called Knowledge Platform Integration & Society (Kennisplatform Integratie & Samenleving) will develop a new program pertaining to integration issues in the Netherlands. It will stimulate and facilitate current debates and present concrete solutions for inquiries by governments, business world, and societal organizations. The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment will finance the program that will be executed by the Verwey-Jonker Institute and Movisie. In the past similar projects were executed by Forum, a knowledge institute for multicultural issues, that ceased to exist last year.

British Muslim school children getting abuse following Paris Attacks

Muslim pupils across Britain are suffering a backlash of bullying and abuse following the Charlie Hebdo massacre amid a broad rise in Islamophobia in schools, which the Government is failing to tackle, campaigners have told The Independent. (Photo: Don McPhee/The Guardian)
Muslim pupils across Britain are suffering a backlash of bullying and abuse following the Charlie Hebdo massacre amid a broad rise in Islamophobia in schools, which the Government is failing to tackle, campaigners have told The Independent. (Photo: Don McPhee/The Guardian)

Muslim pupils across Britain are suffering a backlash of bullying and abuse following the Charlie Hebdo massacre amid a broad rise in Islamophobia in schools, which the Government is failing to tackle, campaigners have told The Independent.

The sole UK charity monitoring anti-Muslim hate crime said it had recorded a “significant” increase in incidents in schools in the wake of the killings in Paris with both parents and teachers reporting verbal and physical attacks against Muslim students.

Teachers unions and anti-racism groups told The Independent they have recorded an increase in Islamophobic incidents in schools with the 400,000 Muslim pupils in British schools increasingly likely to be taunted as “terrorists”, “paedophiles” or “immigrants”. The NASUWT, the teaching union, said the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment is causing “uncertainty and fear” in schools.

Tell MAMA, which monitors anti-Muslim hate crime in Britain, said it had logged 112 reports of physical and verbal violence in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, including nine incidents which related specifically to schools in locations from West Yorkshire to East Sussex.

The organisation, which was recommended by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last week in a letter subsequently criticised by Muslim groups for appearing to ask Muslims to prove their British identity, said it had been repeatedly rebuffed by a “short-sighted” Department for Education (DfE) in efforts to seek its support in offering training for schools in how to deal with Islamophobia.

PEGIDA UK marches to be in Britain

A German group that has made headlines – and drawn criticism – worldwide by organizing mass marches against the supposed “Islamisation of Europe” has now spawned a chapter in the United Kingdom, one that wants to hold demonstrations in two English cities in the coming weeks.

Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West, better known by its German acronym Pegida, is the mobilizing force behind a series of weekly demonstrations held every Monday in the eastern German city of Dresden. The marches have pulled up to 25,000 people at a time into the streets to protest against what they see as the spread of Muslim culture inside historically Christian parts of Europe.

Led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, equally large numbers of people have taken to the streets across Germany to protest against what they see as Pegida’s dangerous xenophobia. The group’s image problem worsened on Wednesday, when Pegida co-founder Lutz Bachmann resigned following the publication of a photograph of him posing as Adolf Hitler.

More than 10,000 people have clicked “like” for Pegida UK’s manifesto since the group launched on Facebook on Jan. 4. Two founders of the British chapter – who spoke to The Globe and Mail on the condition their family names not be used – say the movement is now planning to test whether those who support it online are willing to take to the streets.

However, the head of the German anti-Islamisation movement Pegida has stepped down after a picture of him posing as Adolf Hitler went viral. Lutz Bachmann, 41, a butcher’s son from Dresden and co-founder of the organisation, was seen as Pegida’s figurehead and his resignation throws the future of the group into doubt. Pegida’s popularity has led to widespread fears that Germany is in the grip of a new breed of far-right ideologues, and the picture raised questions about the group’s allegiance to the far-right scene.

Islamic community to fight against radicalisation of Irish Muslims

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(Image: Craig Considine)

 

Ireland’s Islamic community is to spearhead the fightback against radical fundamentalism after a top Imam admitted there has been a surge in Islamophobia nationwide in the wake of recent terror attacks.

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri launched a website for Irish Muslims aimed at helping youngsters to avoid radicalisation and to allow those concerned about so-called ‘Jihad messages’ from radical preachers at Irish mosques to raise the alarm.

The website – www.jihad.info – was launched at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) where Dr Al-Qadri warned that Irish people needed to realise that Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and not violence. He admitted it was a particularly difficult time for Irish Muslims who were fast becoming a target of hate attacks.

“People feel very isolated and very worried,” he told the Irish Independent.

Jihadi Achraf (17) from Amsterdam died in Syria

Achraf father Farid has confirmed that his son, Achraf – alias Abu Jihad, has died in an anti-IS bombing. He received photographs of his killed son. The man was trying to get his child back to the Netherlands.

Last November Farid told about his son in the media. About how he used to wear designer clothing and never went to the mosque. But suddenly this changed. He started praying and hang around with ‘men with beards’. Achraf always wanted to work for the police, but suddenly he viewed them with suspicion.

Farid says that official agencies have failed in keeping his son from leaving the country. He asked the doctor to institutionalize him, but Achraf was not considered to be a danger for himself or his surroundings.

Radicalization experts told the father not to be worried, that they kept an eye on Achraf. But on December 29 he was able to fly from Amsterdam to Turkey, even though is passport number was registered.

Imam of major Michigan mosque threatens to resign over ethnic controversy and claims of financial mismanagement

Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, the leader of one of Michigan’s biggest mosques and one of the most popular in the Detroit metro area threatened to resign on Friday. During Friday services at the Islamic Center of America, Al-Qazwini cited ongoing differences with the mosque’s board of directors. He stated that he is the victim of anti-Iraqi racism by the majority-Lebanese board of directors. The majority of the mosque’s members are of Lebanese descent.

Over a two month period last Fall, between October and December, anonymous letters were distributed to members in the mosque parking lot accusing Al-Qazwini of funneling mosque funds to his father’s company in Iraq and of having extra-marital relationships through the Shi’a concept of mut’a or “temporary marriage.” In part, the letters read: “Qazwini is the main obstacle which prevent the payment of all the debt… (he) takes the … contributions and revenues” and gives them to his father, a Shi’a religious leader in Iraq. The letters also criticized Al-Qazwini’s support of the board’s chair who, the author of the missives claimed, was not an observant or good Muslim.

One member of the mosque who supports Al-Qazwini said, “They want to turn the Islamic Center of America into the Islamic Center of Lebanon.”

The Islamic Center of America has long been heralded as one of the most “American” of mosques. Al-Qazwini has done much to establish good interfaith relationships with local church leaders and national politicians.