New data on charitable involvement in refugee help shows German Muslims’ civil society activism

A new study by the Bertelsmann Foundation has taken a closer look at Germans’ charitable work for refugees. According to the survey, 44 per cent of German Muslims volunteered their time by helping in asylum shelters or elsewhere over the course of the year 2016.

The study’s coordinators emphasised that these numbers could refute the widespread assumption that Muslims were neither invested in refugee aid programmes nor willing to take on responsibilities in civil society more generally.

This reproach had surfaced more and more often in recent political debates. For instance, Germany’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, asserted that not enough German Muslims were involved in integrating the recently arrived refugees.((http://www.n-tv.de/politik/De-Maiziere-nimmt-Muslime-in-die-Pflicht-article18682541.html ))

Breakdown of the numbers

The study revealed that Muslims are considerably more active in charitable causes linked with refugees and asylum-seekers than their Christian counter-parts: of the latter, only 21 per cent became involved in these causes, compared with 17 per cent of respondents unaffiliated with any religion.

Within the heterogeneous group of German Muslims, 53 per cent of all those with roots in the Middle East were active in refugee aid efforts, compared with 42 per cent of their ethnically Turkish counterparts. This reflects the ethnic and linguistic origins of the large number of Syrian and Iraqi arrivals.((https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article163148827/Muslime-in-Deutschland-helfen-besonders-haeufig-Fluechtlingen.html ))

The study also revealed that while initially in many neighbourhoods considerable scepticism had reigned vis-à-vis the opening of large housing units for asylum-seekers, only a small fraction of neighbours (8 per cent in West Germany and 15 per cent in East Germany, respectively) subsequently felt disturbed by these housing complexes and their inhabitants.

Limited missionary zeal…

The authors of the study stressed that activists of Muslim faith did not seek to use their position in refugee aid efforts to proselytise. This had been another much-evoked fear in recent months. Yet three quarters of Muslim respondents asserted that they did not see themselves in a position to convince others of their religious convictions. This number mirrors the close to four fifths of Christian and atheist aid workers evincing the same missionary restraint.

This is not to deny the existence of smaller currents more actively engaged in missionary activity. Salafi preachers have sought to gain access to refugees’ housing projects, although the scope of the phenomenon remains unclear.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/krude-missionierung-salafisten-werben-nahe-fluechtlingsheimen-13793462.html ))

Similar—and, judging from the press echo, even more aggressive—proselytization activities have been conducted by Evangelical churches, as well as by the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/fluechtlinge-wie-evangelikale-christen-fluechtlinge-bekehren-wollen-1.3022011 ))

… but also limited institutional capacities

All of this should not suggest, however, that there are no obstacles to German Muslims’ engagement for Iraqis, Syrians, and other Middle Eastern or Muslim refugees. To be sure, on a personal level they often work as the kind of invaluable “cultural mediators” the report of the Bertelsmann Foundation describes. With respect to their institutional capacities, however, German Muslims’ possibilities are more limited.

Perhaps most notably, mosques across the country are still confronted with severe spatial and monetary constraints. This is partly due to the fact that Islamic communities have so far not managed to obtain a legal status comparable to the Christian churches or a of Jewish congregations; a status that would bring not just legal recognition but also a host of financial perks.

While Turkey remains a – controversial – source of funding for the mosques affiliated to the German branch of its DİTİB organisation, other, mainly non-Turkish communities have at times turned to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for funding.(( http://www.zeit.de/2016/30/muslime-in-deutschland-moschee-glauben-staat/komplettansicht ))

As a result, these mosques have often taken an increasingly conservative stance. These tendencies have, in turn, perturbed Syrian refugees who, when looking for Arab-speaking religious spaces, were often left with Wahhabi-tinged offers only.(( https://de.qantara.de/inhalt/syrische-fluechtlinge-und-arabische-moscheen-in-deutschland-allah-hoert-zu ))

Strengthening religious institutions

Thus, considerable work remains to be done to ensure that German Muslims can effectively realise their willingness to aid their fellow Muslims in making Germany their home. Indeed, the Bertelsmann study has shown that this willingness is strong. Some charitable organisations have latched on to this, with for instance the Bosch Foundation offering special financial support for civil society projects carried out by young Muslims.(( http://www.bosch-stiftung.de/content/language1/html/49624.asp ))

The more enduring challenge is the strengthening of Muslims’ religious institutions in Germany. Studies have consistently highlighted the importance of well-functioning Islamic (religious) organisations as a springboard for broader societal participation. Involvement in the charitable work of local mosques does not, therefore, lead to increased segregation – contrary to the oft-voiced fear.(( http://www.migazin.de/2016/10/12/geheimnis-der-integrationsdebatte-muslime-engagieren-sich-mehr-als-viele-glauben-wollen/ ))

Against this backdrop, enabling German mosques to leave behind their drab backyard quarters without having to rely on funding from the Gulf that often comes with strings attached re-emerges as an all-important concern.

Democratic Union for French Muslims receives only three sponsorships

Kamel Messaoudi, candidate for the Democratic Union for French Muslims in the upcoming presidential elections, received three elected sponsorships according to the latest official figures. The number falls far below the 500 sponsorships necessary to validate his candidacy, he thus officially fails to take part in the elections.

“In a time of the ‘battle against the burkini’, amidst proposals of banning the veil in universities or public places, our social rights are being sacrificed,” he stated. “While political actors have worked to create categories of citizens, we campaign to strengthen our country by enhancing its richness, which is based in all of its citizens, without distinguishing among them.”

 

 

Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM ) will interview presidential candidates on secularism and discrimination

One month before the first round of elections, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) sent letters to the presidential candidates on March 23 requesting interviews. According to the CFCM, contacts have already been made to “solicit a meeting.”

“We have have reached an agreement with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Benoît Hamon, Emmanuel Macron and François Fillon” stated CFCM’s president Anouar Kbibech. “As for Marine Le Pen, we must decide on the course of action to be taken. It all depends on what happens in the next few weeks.”

The themes the CFCM intends to discuss are broken into two principal categories: their “vision for secularism” and their response to “the fears and worries” of French Muslims regarding discrimination and amalgamations that are made between their religion and terrorism.

 

CNRS study measures French youth support for terrorism

A recent CNRS study has attempted to measure support for “radical beliefs” among high schoolers in France following the November 2015 attacks. 7,000 students, ages 14-16, were interviewed about their opinions on radical religion and violence, the combination of these two factors demonstrating a possible susceptibility to jihadist propaganda.

Regarding religion, a minority adhere to “fundamentalism”: 11% believe there is “one true and correct religion” and that “religion is [more correct] than science,” regarding the Earth’s creation. This figure is 6% for those who are Christian and 32% for those who are Muslim.

Moreover, 25% of those interviewed believed in “violence and deviance”–33% among Muslims interviewed. They believed it was “acceptable” to “participate in violent action in support of one’s beliefs.” Researchers predicted this population is likely to “face run-ins with the police” in the future. “There is, among certain segments of the youth, a culture of violence and delinquency that has become commonplace,” stated Olivier Galland, one of the researchers. “When this culture combines with radical religion, it becomes very worrying.”

 

 

“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain”

“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain “. This is how Tania Saeed’s book is presented on her publisher’s page.

Islamophobia and Securitization. Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice – published in the “Politics of identity and citizenship” series – addresses the connection between gender, islamophobia and security in the UK.

The book explores “the narratives of securitization and islamophobia as described by young Muslim women” and how these women try to challenge them. The author who has previously worked on radicalization and counter-radicalization in British universities, analyses here how the securitization of the “Muslim question” and the growing suspicion towards Muslims that it entails impact the daily life of young British Muslim women.

Contrary to the Muslim men who are perceived as “dangerous” and posing a “more direct physical threat”, young British Muslim women are considered as “vulnerable fanatics”, “susceptible to radicalize and therefore in need of being rescued”.

The author specifically looks at the British Muslim female student, perceived as problematic inside and outside educational institutions, since educated British Muslim women were indicted for charges of terrorism.

Though this interdisciplinary work focuses on “British-Muslim-Pakistani-female identity”, the connection between gender, islamophobia and securitization will be relevant for many other national contexts.

Source :

Saeed, Tania, Islamophobia and Securitization Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice, Palgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

https://www.palgrave.com/de/book/9783319326795#reviews

British Muslims respond to London terrorist attack

Muslims in the UK are condemning Wednesday’s terrorist attack.

A Muslim convert, Khalid Masood, killed 4 people on and near Westminster Bridge in London. Police believe that Masood was inspired by international terrorist organizations; Daesh (the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Muslim Council of Britain was one of the first organisations to issue a response to the attack on Wednesday, offering condolences for the victims’ families and condemning the attack. The organisation issued an extended statement on Thursday.

Muslim leaders also participated in a conversation with other faith leaders to discuss responses to the attack. Specific mosques, such as Finsbury Park, have added their strong condemnations of the attack.

London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, spoke about how Londoners should not allow the attack to divide them and spread hatred.

Muslim Members of Parliament, Naz Shah and Yasmin Qureshi, and a community leader who was in Parliament at the time of the attack, Muddassar Ahmed, have also launched a campaign to support victims and their families financially. The project, Muslims Unite for London, has already raised about £18,000.

 

The new European Islamophobia Report denounces a phenomenon on the rise

The second annual edition of the European islamophobia report has been published this week by the Turkish foundation for political, economic and social research (SETA). Co-edited by Farid Hafez and Enes Bayrakli, this report monitors the rise of islamophobia in 2016. 27 European countries are analysed by different scholars or NGO-activists.

For the editors of the report : « Islamophobia has (…) become the main challenge to the social peace and coexistence of different cultures, religions and ethnicities in Europe ». Unsurprisingly, reports show that Islamophobia has increased in various forms: rhetorical (hate speech, cyber-violence), physical (assaults occurring in the public space, especially towards covered women). Not to forget the consequences of anti-Muslim discrimination in terms of access to employment and accommodation.

Migration crises, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right in many European countries are among the factors that create a stronger climate of tension towards European Muslim citizens and an increasingly negative perception of them in most countries. The reports deplore the role of political figures and media actors in the generalization of anti-Muslim discourses. However, the authors also underline the initiatives taken by the civil society and NGOs.

The reports, which contain an analysis of the situation and the chronology of major events connected to anti-Muslim attitudes in each country – also present very concrete recommendations for policy makers and NGOs on a national and supranational level. Among these recommandations : the inclusion of “ Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate crime”  as a category in European countries’ statistics.

Though one might disagree with the authors of some reports on what exactly constitutes an “anti-Muslim” or an “islamophobic” act, this report presents a rich collection of data and events, which makes it a good resource for researchers interested in Islam in Europe.

By Farida Belkacem

 

Source :

http://www.islamophobiaeurope.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/EIR_2016.pdf

 

Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) changes its name

The UOIF, which is frequently portrayed negatively in the media, has changed its name. During a general assembly held in late February, the organization voted to replace the name it has had since 1983 to “Muslims of France”.

The name won out over others such as “Union of French Muslims” and “National Union of French Muslims”.

Bernard Cazeneuve presents Legion of Honor to the Head of the Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman, Anouar Kbibech

Bernard Cazeneuve recently presented Anouar Kbibech, President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), with the prestigious Legion of Honor.

“It’s impossible not to see your love for the Republic that has always guided you, in the same title as your religious convictions and your intention to ardently defend the interests and the reputation of French Muslims,” Cazeneuve said, recognizing Kbibech as “an important leader in religious dialogue and organizer of the Muslim faith in France.”

“Following the murder of Jacques Hamel, you called on Muslims to attend Mass at churches the following Sunday to bear witness to their mourning and compassion. Such an action is a gesture of determined calm, similar to the remarks made by leaders in the Catholic Church, in light of the suffering felt by the people of our country.”

“Respect is the most important Republican value, without which there would be no democracy, the Republic, or vivre-ensemble,” the Prime Minister concluded.

 

 

Blogger Mehdi Meklat caught posting anti-Semitic tweets

Mehdi Meklat, a 24-year-old writer/blogger has come under fire after revelations that he has for years been posting anti-Semitic, mysogynistic, homophobic and pro-jihadi tweets.

Meklat, along with writing partner Badrouine Said Abdallah, shot to fame through the Bondy Blog, a site created for and by sub-Saharan and North African second-generation immigrants seeking to celebrate “ethnic diversity” and insert “the stories from the ‘hood into the larger national debates.”

Meklat tweeted more than 50,000 offensive tweets from 2012 to 2014. Before the Césars he tweeted: “Bring on Hitler to kill the Jews.” Just before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, he tweeted about the magazine’s editor Stephane Charbonnier “Charb, what I’d really like to do is shove some Laguiole knives up his …” He praised Mohammad Merah, who murdered Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse: “I find the phrase, ‘I love death the way you love life,’ of Mohammed Merah troubling in its beauty.” In blatant homophobia: “Long live the fags, long live AIDS under President Francois Hollande.”

Of far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, he wrote that he would “slit her throat the Muslim way.”

In a lengthy note on Facebook Meklat apologized for the posts while attempting to absolve himself of culpability, claiming to be victim of a time when Twitter was “a digital Wild West. A new object, almost confidential, where no rule was enacted, no moderation exercised.” 

He had tweeted under the name Marcelin Deschamps, inspired by French Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. The stunt, he said, was a commentary on the racism of France’s Old Guard, but “quickly became an evil villain … who couldn’t be stopped” in his attempts to “provoke.” The social media alter-ego had “nothing to do with me… It is now dead and should have never existed,” Meklat wrote.

“You have life on your side, you have your experiences, your wanderings, your loves, your past that sticks to your present, anchored in you. But it does not matter until you have no money. You are therefore a slave,” wrote Meklat with his writing partner Badrouine Said Abdallah in their recent novel Minute. As Meklat gained accolades for his creative projects, the media discovered his second Twitter account, but barely responded. That was until a French tweeter, identified by Le Monde as a teacher, expressed outrage at one of Meklat’s television appearances. The teacher pleaded, successfully, for the country to demand the author answer for Meklat’s obscene and offensive tweets.

The “Meklat affair” has also given fuel to France’s rising far-right, including Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Le Pen, who placed the blame with France’s left-wing media.