With Noorassur, Sonia Mariji takes a chance on Islamic finance

February 28, 2016

Sonia Mariji constantly repeats the phrase, stating it was the “greed crisis” of 2008 that pushed her to become involved in Islamic finance. At age 44, Sonia Mariji refuses any communitarian association with her business. In 2012, she created Internet Noorassur, her insurance brokerage company based on the principles of Islamic finance.

After Chelles, she recently opened her second agency in Melun, and hopes to open others in Nantes, Argenteuil, or Aulnay-sous-Bois. She reportedly has over 1,500 clients already, most in Chelles, the others on the Internet and claims to have started the first franchise network that is in accordance with the Qur’an. “It’s another type of finance, more ethical, and it is called Islamic but it could have another name, such as ‘participatory,’ even if there is a room for worship in each agency. But I wanted to keep its name. There’s no reason to hide it.”

Noorassur offers life insurance developed by Swiss Life and is working toward offering health insurance. “There’s no obligation to be Muslim to work with us,” she said. “It’s true that our first clients will most certainly be Muslims because there are no alternatives. But we will have clients from every background. There are non-Muslims who go to halal butcheries. The important part is to be offered the choice.”

And to have a more ethical choice. After obtaining an internal business studies diploma in Bourg-en-Bresse, Mariji, born in Morocco, worked in a life insurance company for ten years. “The 2008 crisis bothered me. I felt like I had in part caused it. I worked with companies that invested in subprimes. And I thought people would sleep better knowing where their money was going, what enterprise it was supporting.” Mariji then became interested in ethical finance, via socially responsible investments, and attended a conference at the University of Paris-Dauphine, which offers a master’s in Islamic finance.

“Islamic finance offers possibilities for ethical contracts. And there is certainly a market to work with,” she said, while assuring that she acted “with conviction.” “If I wanted to make more money and have less worries I would have stayed in traditional finance,” she said. “It’s not easy to learn about this. I spend my time teaching.” This has not prevented attacks on an agency in Nantes, whose window was broken even before it has opened, or death threats received in Chelles.

Despite all of this Mariji remains positive, convinced that her vision of things could create a better vivre-ensemble. “It lessens the frustration felt by people who feel that there are no available financial options,” she argued, “it’s going to lift spirits and show there is no reason for fear.”

Libya: France led covert action against Islamic State

February 24, 2016

There are estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 Islamic State militants in Libya. According to military sources France has launched covert operations against them. While the United States announced the death of Tunisian Noureddine Chouchane and five others by US Air Force raids on a training camp, France was nearby. The killing of the highest leader of the Islamic State in Libya, the Iraqi Abou Nabil, was the result of French air strikes. France has also reportedly intervened with its special forces.

A defense leader told Le Monde that “the last thing we want to do is intervene in Libya. We must avoid all public military action, we must act discretely.” In a country that France surveyed for months, the objective isn’t to win a war but to target the leaders of the terrorist group, with the objective of slowing its rise to power. Actions were reportedly jointly directed by Washington, London, and Paris.

The precedent set by president Hollande rests for the moment on unofficial military involvement. These special forces–whose presence Le Monde became privy to, have been spotted in the east of Libya since mid-February. And that’s not all. Several sources told Le Monde that the fight against the terrorist group may also include covert operations, led by the Directorate-General for External Security. The former was spotted because although they acted discretely they were wearing French uniforms. The latter have also provided military support but thus far remain unseen.

Libya’s officials have rejected international intervention, an idea that has been discussed for months. Officials said they would tolerate targeted action but will not allow a foreign coalition on their soil. The principal Western actors that would be a part of the force–France, the United States, or Italy–appear generally unwilling after Muammar Gaddafi’s death in 2011 sent the region into chaos, especially without UN forces present. By applying new pressure to the Islamic State there is a risk that the problem will be transferred to fragile Tunisia or southern Europe. With a presence in Libya, “the Islamic State controls a coast for the first time,” said the General Staff of the French Navy, who revealed: “We are preparing scenarios on the hard sea.”

In a video released Monday by the press office of the Libyan Armed Forces, Haftar told soldiers in Benghazi: “Victory is valuable, there is nothing more valuable. So we need to protect this victory.”

On Wednesday, the Associated Press cited two Libyan military officials who reiterated the claims of French special forces’ involvement in the country. According to the Associated Press, the two sources “said that French forces work with Libyan troops to pinpoint [Islamic State] militant locations, plan operations and carry them out. They had also been training Libyan forces.”

The recent rise in Western operations against ISIS in Libya comes as officials increasingly fear that terrorists will use the chaos there as a staging ground for terror attacks against Europe, as well as entrench themselves amid another conflict.

Evidence of early Muslim burials unearthed in Nimes

February 28, 2016

Three sets of medieval-era remains found France may turn out to be some of the earliest evidence of Muslim presence outside of the Iberian Peninsula, scientists say.

The Early Middle Ages was a period of expansion and conquest for the Arab-Islamic world, culminating in the expansion of Islamic caliphates into what was once known as Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. The impact of several hundred years of Islamic rule in the Iberian region has had an indelible and unmistakable influence on Spanish, Portuguese, and Mediterranean history and culture, but the period has shown little in the way of evidence of an Islamic expansion outside of the region – that is until the discovery of these new graves.

As detailed in a newly published research study, the medieval graves dating to the 8th century CE were found in Nimes, near the Mediterranean coast of France northeast of the city of Montpelier, not far from the Côte d’Azur. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux and the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research examined the graves closely, claiming that evidence of the way the remains were interred seem to be in line with Islamic funerary practices. Additionally, preliminary DNA analysis and forensic examinations of the remains made in order to determine the age and sex of the individuals in life indicate the possibility of Arab-Islamic ancestry.

The evidence is slowly but surely mounting that these graves may be Islamic in origin. The remains were found to be buried with their bodies pointing towards Mecca, a widely-established Muslim funerary practice. Genetic markers also indicate North African ancestry for the exhumed individuals along their paternal genetic line. Finally, the remains themselves have been radiocarbon dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries. Researchers have drawn some initial conclusions from this data, theorizing that the individuals interred within the graves at one time could have been Berber soldiers that had been part of the Umayyad army after the caliphate expanded into North Africa.

The authors of the new research study into the identity of these graves say that the graves may be some of the only evidence discovered to date that indicates Muslim settlement north of the Pyrenees. While there does seem to be a high likelihood that these three individuals may have been North African Muslims that had traveled to the south of France via the caliphate’s occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, how or why they came to be, by themselves, so far into what would have been Frankish territory at the time remains a mystery.

Jean-Marie Le Pen endorses Donald Trump

February 28, 2016

On the heels of his endorsements from a trio of American governors, Donald Trump now has the backing of a leader overseas.

Jean-Marie Le Pen said Saturday on Twitter that he would support Trump if he were an American. The tweet closed with Le Pen offering God’s blessing to Trump.

The endorsement is not much of a surprise, given the beliefs shared by Trump and Le Pen. Trump has made immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, pledging to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

Those proposals would be right at home in Le Pen’s far-right National Front party.

The endorsement from abroad comes at a time when Republican leaders here in the U.S. are beginning to line up behind Trump as the party’s likely presidential nominee.

Six universities create courses on Islam and radicalization

February 20, 2016

Six universities or schools will acquire, in the upcoming academic year, new curricula and instructors, to strengthen research on Islam, as requested by the Ministry of Education.

Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem announced the plans with Secretary for Higher Education Thierry Mandon.

“The Ministry announces the creation of posts for instructor-researchers which will allow us to strengthen training and research projects on these issues by the beginning of the next academic year,” the statement announced.

Following the January 2015 attacks at Charlie Hebdo, the Ministry of National Education launched a “Mobilization of Schools for the Values of the Republic.” Six out of twenty seven schools that responded were chosen: Panthéon-Sorbonne, Strasbourg, Aix-Marseille, the University of Lyon, as well as the Ecole pratique des hautes études. A sixth selection will be announced according to the Ministry. “In total, these new posts will cost $650,000 for the university school year,” the statement clarified.

Larbi Kechat, ousted by Adda’wa mosque

February 24, 2016

Larbi Kechat, a central figure in France’s Muslim community for more than 40 years, lost his status as “honorary president” of the Adda’wa mosque, which he had held since 2004, as well as any associated power in the mosque and cultural central, following internal infighting.

The arguments began in 2013. The ACI, the Islamic Cultural Association, which manages worship, is presided over by Ahmed Ouali and the social-cultural center, in charge of the cultural section, by Aissa Amar, who became members in the mid-2000s.

Kechat, in his capacity as honorary president, gathered the Board of Directors on June 7, 2013 and June 22, and held a General Assembly with the purpose of electing new leaders. During the meetings tempers flared regarding doubts as to electing the two presidents. “I found myself in front of a jury, accused of taking gas money for my car even when it was used to go to the mosque,” claimed Ahmed Ouali.

A new board was elected for each association. But as the High Court of Paris would later remark, Kechat did not put things in order: the General Assembly should have, according to the laws, first elected an Administrative Council, which would be charged with constructing a new board.

Kechat’s entourage clarified that in the past this had never been an issue. The two sides refused to pass the power and in September 2013 filed a complaint for “violation of the association agreement.”

In the following two years each side claimed to represent the place of worship and took extensive measures to oust the others. In June 2015 the court annulled all decisions made by the two parties and appointed a temporary administrator, Mr. Lebossé, before organizing the election.

On December 9 the position of “honorary president” was eliminated, stripping Kechat of his powers.

“He has lost all of his powers and is only recognized as a worshipper,” confirmed Yacine Caouat, deputy to the 19th’s mayor.

Salah Abdeslam would have hidden in Brussels for three weeks (video)

February 20, 2016

Following the Paris attacks, one of the most-wanted men in Europe, reportedly would have hidden in Brussels for three weeks in an apartment that was searched several days after his escape by Belgian authorities. “It is rather difficult to think this group of men could have gone to Syria” after leaving their apartment, said Claude Moniquet, consultant at iTELE and terrorist specialist and intelligence.

France 2 report on BDS panics CRIF (video)

February 23, 2016

On February 10, France 2 published a report on the BDS movement that elicited a violent reaction from CRIF, who wrote to President of French Television Delphine Ernotte arguing that the report was “apologetic to the BDS movement and contributes to misinformation and the delegitimization of Israel.”

“The experience showed us that it is ok to promote hatred of Israel and the Jews of France and thus to legitimize and encourage attacks against Jews” added CRIF president Roger Cukierman, whose priority is to protect the interests of the State of Israel.

Link to Video: http://oumma.com/222541/reportage-de-france-2-bds-a-mis-panique-crif-video

French court validates eviction of southern part of Calais ‘jungle’

February 26, 2016

Lille’s administrative court has validated the French government’s decision to demolish and evacuate the southern part of the “Jungle” camp in the northern port city of Calais.

“The order is applicable, except for common social areas [places of worship or schools],” the spokesman for the Pas-de-Calais prefect’s office said Thursday.

Last week, French authorities said residents of the southern half of what is commonly known as the “Jungle” had until 19:00 on Tuesday to leave. However, a French court– looking into the legality of such a move– said it was delaying its ruling, thus automatically delaying the eviction.

The presence of large numbers of refugees in the area has persisted since 1999 when the Red Cross Sangatte reception center became rapidly overcrowded and the “Jungle” was established in late 2014. The presence of more than 4,000 refugees– attracted by the nearby Channel tunnel terminal and the Calais port as a route to the U.K.– have been a constant in the area despite French attempts to disperse them.

The French government said the move aimed at reducing the population of the Jungle to 2,000 people and that it would only affect between 800 and 1,000 people who would be moved into refitted shipping containers set up nearby.

But according to Calais Migrant Solidarity, a charity working in the Calais camp, “there are still more than 5,000 undocumented people. Many more are on their way.” The U.K.-based NGO Calais Action said the exact figure was 5,497, with around 3,450 people living in the southern part, including 300 unaccompanied children.

Belgium temporarily introduced controls on its border with France on Tuesday in a bid to prevent possible refugee movement in case the camp was evacuated.

France lawmakers pass bill to strip terrorists of citizenship

French lawmakers gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow terrorists to be stripped of French citizenship, or at least of rights associated with it.

The National Assembly, the French Parliament’s lower house, approved the measure by a 317-199 vote.

The Senate must still approve the bill if it is to become a part of the French Constitution.

But the legislation has already split the ruling Socialist Party badly. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira resigned in opposition to the measure. “I am leaving the government over a major political disagreement,” Taubira said. “I choose to be true to myself.”

President Francois Hollande put forward the proposal in the wake of the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks in the wake of the attack that killed 130 people.

Overall, the legislation is intended to give the president greater powers to declare a state of emergency without, as is now the case, first asking for a vote in the Parliament.

A U.N. convention discourages countries from leaving people without any citizenship. France is a signatory to that convention. The first draft of the measure called for stripping those with a second nationality who committed crimes against the nation to be stripped of their French citizenship. It caused outrage in some quarters, particularly on the left, on the grounds it would penalize those with second citizenships but not most of the French, who have only French passports.

The new measure still calls for stripping those with another nationality of their French citizenship. But it adds that those with French citizenship can be stripped of “the rights attached to it,” implying that those with only one citizenship will face similar punishment to those with two or more. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill March 22.

Any constitutional changes require both chambers of the Parliament to convene in a Congress in Versailles and proceed to a vote that receives a three-fifths majority. The Constitutional Council, France’s highest court, must then review the text before the constitution can be amended.