Anti-Muslim violence on the increase in France

Le Monde

21.03.2013

This year’s annual report on racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism released by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reveals a notably rise in racist violence in France. After a two year low, 2012 showed a 23% increase in racial violence in the country. 1530 acts of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic violence were recorded last year alone, five times more than 20 years ago.

The rise in racist attacks and threats in France can be traced and specified to the rise of anti-Semitic (55%) and Islamophobic attacks (30%). Most of these attacks and threats have taken place in France’s urban and industrial regions such as the Île-de-France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Alsace. The CNCDH reasons the geographic distribution of such attacks in the rise of unemployment in traditional industrial regions as well as the social restructuring in the areas. 40% of the victims are of North African origin.

The CNCDH’s head, Christine Lazerges, explains that both, the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, have very different reasons: whereas the rise of anti-Semitism is connected to the Merah affair, the case of Islamophobia is severely different. According to Lazerges, a larger structural problem can be indicated by the numbers which have been consecutively rising since the last three years. In numbers they might be low but they only show the tip of the iceberg, says Lazerges.

cncdh-racisme-02-basse-def-pdf

Racism: Muslims are the people most affected by discrimination in Europe according to the 2012 ENAR report on discrimination in Europe

Italy discrimination reportMarch 21, 2013

Muslim citizens are most affected by episodes of discrimination in Europe. This is what emerges from the report on racism in the EU 2011-2012, published by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). The report was released on March 21, International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Particularly affected are women, accounting for 85 percent of reported cases of Islamophobia. The latter in fact suffer from gender discrimination as well as religious discrimination.

The report notes, Islam is often used as a scapegoat by politicians to divert public attention from other, more serious problems. Islamophobia makes it difficult for many Muslims in all Member States, to access education, housing, employment and other services. In addition, Muslims are treated differently by the police and are often unable to access justice.

Several recommendations are made for Italy, where the economic crisis seems to have significantly reduced if not nullified the little progress made in previous years including adopting a specific law on freedom of religion, providing more places of worship for non-Catholics, passing a new amnesty for illegal immigrants already working in Italy, allowing better access to housing and education, and adopting a law on the right to vote in local elections.

The report does note a decrease in reports of discrimination in access to goods and services by immigrants, this declined between 2010 and 2012 from 3.3 to 1 per cent. The report blames media operators that in Italy, seem to be less able to cover unbiased news regarding immigration and minorities.

Italy discrimination report

CLEAR Project Issues Report on Impact of NYPD Surveillance on American Muslims

mapping muslimsMarch 11, 2013 – American Muslim civil liberties groups released a new report today, Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims, documenting the devastating impacts of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) extensive surveillance program that targeted American Muslims throughout the Northeast and spread outrage throughout the nation.

Since 2002, the NYPD embarked on a covert domestic surveillance program that monitored American Muslims throughout the Northeast, from spying on neighborhood cafes and places of worship to infiltrating student whitewater-rafting trips – a program that continued despite the NYPD’s own acknowledgment that, over the course of six years, these efforts had not generated a single lead. The report is an unprecedented collection of voices from affected community members reflecting how the NYPD spying and infiltration creates a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion that encroaches upon every aspect of their religious, political, and community lives.

The report was prepared by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, and its partner organizations the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at Main Street Legal Services, Inc. of the CUNY School of Law, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). American Muslim community members delivered the report to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen today at 1 Police Plaza.

Mapping-Muslims.pdf

A study of Arab attitudes to sexuality reminds us of a liberal Islamic tradition

sex-and-the-citadel-intimate-life-in-a-changing-arab-world.jpgThe book Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, by Shereen El Feki was reviewed by Roula Khalaf in the Financial Times.

The article reviews the book which aims to offer insight into this highly sensitive subject whilst also establishing that there are a multitude of views held by Muslims around the globe on the subject of sex and sexuality. The review goes on to explain the structure of the book and it’s usage of historical examples. These historical examples have a variety of uses, for example: they can be to illustrate historical precedents that contrast or compare to the current situation or how the current practice has grown out of the historical background.

Islam is a Religion for Women: New Publication Tre donne: una sfida (Three women: a Challenge)

3/8/2013 tre donne

ANSAmed

 

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti both condemn the use of the Islamic faith to suppress women, denouncing those who do this as “tyrants” during a meeting in Rome on women and Islam. The discussion in Rome stemmed from the presentation of Three Women: A Challenge a book which presents an interview with three Muslim women of differing generations and countries, but united by the “challenge” of Islam and its treatment of women.

The author, Marisa Paolucci, interviewed an Iranian woman, Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, a Sudanese woman, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman elected to a parliament in Africa, and Malalai Joya an Afghan woman and former parliamentarian. Three profiles, which according to the author illustrate the same thing, that women are respected in Islam. To purchase the book visit http://www.emi.it/schede/2028-2.html

 

New Publication: “Terrorismo e fondamentalismo islamico”

3/8/2013 Terrorismo book

primonumero.it

“Terrorismo e fondamentalismo islamico” Terrorism and Fundamental Islam by Roberto Colella, a Political Scientist and Journalist. An open session with the author and local politicians took place March 8, 2013.

Report describes the participation of UK Muslims in governance

31 January 2013

 

One of the most comprehensive studies to date on UK Muslim-government relations, entitled “Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance”, describes how British Muslims have been taking part in governance in the three policy fields of equality, diversity and cohesion; faith sector governance; and security. It describes how modes of Muslim representation have developed into a broader ‘democratic constellation’.

 

The report, published by Centre for the Study and Citizenship at University of Bristol, included an analysis of public policy since 1997, a total of 112 interviews with key policymakers and Muslim civil society actors, and in-depth local case studies of Birmingham, Leicester, and Tower Hamlets, London.

 

According to the report, Muslims have become increasingly visible in governance recently. This inevitably led to the debates regarding “Muslim identities, alliances, rights, claims-making and the place of Muslims and Islam within the West.” The report highlights that the current visibility of Muslims in British politics is also a result of the increasing activism of Muslims.

click here for full report

Doug Saunders, “The Myth of the Muslim Tide”

Myth of the muslim tideIn his book “The Myth of the Muslim Tide”, Doug Saunders puts theories from critics of immigration under the microscope. He talked to Aygül Cizmecioglu about extremism, xenophobia and successful integration

Mr. Saunders, prominent public figures such as Thilo Sarrazin in Germany and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands believe that the West is being overrun with Muslims – at least demographically. Is that true?

Doug Saunders: No, I think the facts clearly contradict that. I’ve spent a lot of time in the largest Muslim countries, in Iran, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, doing various forms of journalism and research into migration and urbanization. And I hired a research team, people who are not partisans and weren’t activists, but who are good scholars, who know demographics, who know radicalism, who know the history of integration. And first of all, what we found out was that these countries have the fastest falling reproduction rates in the world. Bangladesh now has a population growth rate falling very quickly toward a European level. The situation in Turkey is very similar.

Moreover, in Europe and North America, Muslims are not the largest group of immigrants at all. And what we’re seeing is the pattern that poor religious minorities always – after some time – follow the trend of the majority society. The second generation of immigrants has considerably fewer children than the first generation, and by the third generation they have almost completely adapted to their environment, in terms of the birth rate.

Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the image of violent Muslims with extremist tendencies is ingrained in many people’s psyches…

Saunders: I didn’t use any data that was supported by only one organization. I’m talking about universities, government bodies, United Nations bodies, intelligence agencies. And the big surveys of extremism done by the CIA and MI5 were extremely useful for this book. Those surveys found that almost all Islamic extremists and terrorists do not come from tightly clustered immigrant neighbourhoods. Extremists don’t usually come from communities of strong belief.

First of all, the most religious groups of people do not produce extremism and terrorism. And second of all, if you survey all people who have become extremists and terrorists, religious faith is almost never a big cause. They use the language of religion as part of their extremism.

The New York police department just wasted something like six years investigating tens of thousands of ordinary Muslims in New York who had strong Islamic believes in the hope of finding some evidence of terrorism. And they had to admit that they had not found after this enormous spying program one piece of useful evidence for extremism.

But where do these fears come from?

Saunders: I passed through that set of views myself. I had deep fears, certainly when extremism and terrorism hit my own neighbourhood – when my local mosque was taken over by one of the most extreme al Qaida supporters around, when one of my neighbours had both of her legs blown off in the July 7, 2005 London transport bombings. Of course I wondered, of course I thought, is the western liberal world threatened by Islam?

What factors make it difficult for us to overcome these prejudices?

Saunders: I would not say that Muslims are an average. Now, you’re talking about very different people. There’s no generalizing about Muslims. You’re talking about extremely moderate practices like Alevi next to very ascetic, and rigid practices like Wahhabis and Salafists. And we can also show that immigrants from the same place of different religions have the same problems and difficulties. So religion is not a major causal factor.

Are areas populated mainly by Arabs or Turks, such as those in Berlin, parallel societies?

Saunders: Most of the successful immigrant groups in western history who have become very well integrated into the society around them have been clustered into ethically concentrated neighbourhoods. For instance, the Lower East Side of New York has seen about five different ethnic groups pass through it: eastern-European Jews, Irish, southern-European Catholics, Latin Americans, Greeks. All of whom have passed through and formed these densely clustered neighbourhoods, and their neighbourhoods were widely seen as being criminal.

 

The numbers of French Muslims and Muslims in France are exaggerated

12 January 2013

The Nouvel Observateur has sat down with the French-Syrian historian and co-author of the book ‘Notre France’ (Our France), Farouk Mardam Bey, to discuss his work on identity, integration and the idea of France.

Bey describes his work as a product of the previous French presidential campaign, when polemic debates on French national identity and the position of Islam and Muslims in France transformed to become a well contested national sport. In his book, Bey and his co-authors analyze their external imagination of France, their actual physical contact with the country and their interpretation of their home country. He describes it as a conversation about ‘our France, its history, its political life, its culture and landscapse’.

When asked whether his work still holds relevance in the post-Sarkozy area, Bey responds that the as he calls it ‘right-ing’ (‘droitisé’) of Sarkozy’s politics is a trend that has mainstreamed by also influencing the Socialist party. As such, the rhetoric appears demagogic, dangerous and counterproductive to social cohesion. Throughout the interview, Bey problematizes the history of immigration in France as well as the paranoia created through the deliberate inflation of the number of French Muslims and Muslims in France. He further denounces the political right for its instrumental role in creating and maintaining the monolithic image of Muslims, and people descending from majority Muslim states, as people with homogenous culture, identities, desires and aspirations. Bey asserts that by generalizing Muslims the threat of the Other is secured.

Saladin Ahmed’s ”Throne of the Crescent Moon” An Arab-American Fantasy Epic

Saladin Ahmed’s fantasy novel “Throne of the Crescent Moon” is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. In his review, Richard Marcus says the epic adds much needed diversity to the fantasy genre

Being a fan of a particular genre of work doesn’t blind you to its flaws. So being an unabashed admirer of both Science Fiction and Fantasy hasn’t prevented me from seeing how, aside from a few notable exceptions, lily white and Euro-centric both genres happen to be. While apologists can probably make a case for writers like Tolkien describing his villains as either “swarthy” or “svart” while his heroes are universally pale-skinned by employing the well-worn “product of his times” argument, those writing in the latter decades of the twentieth century can’t be offered the same out.

In fact one would have hoped those in the business of writing about the future would have taken that opportunity to create worlds reflecting the social changes that occurred during the years they were writing. At the very least it would have been nice to see a few darker skinned characters created without the adjective exotic tagged onto their description.

When you consider the wealth of material from around the world that could spark an author’s imagination, or the fact that you can’t walk down a street in any major Western city without seeing an exciting mix of ethnicities among the populace, it is a little disconcerting to be reading freshly published books perpetuating old stereotypes of dark villains threatening the virtue of some pale-skinned lovely.

A “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant only” club

Part of the explanation could lie in the fact that when you look at photos taken at gatherings of fantasy writers, you’ll notice quite a difference from what you’d see on the street. It’s awfully reminiscent of shots taken at what used to be referred to as exclusive or restricted clubs, i.e. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant only.

This isn’t a deliberate thing, nor is racism implied, but it is a fact, and one that doesn’t look like its changing with any speed. For in spite of the subject matter, science fiction and fantasy publishers are just as conservative, if not more so, than their mainstream counterparts. All of which goes a long way in explaining my interest in Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed.

The combination of the book’s title and the author’s name led me to correctly assume the book wouldn’t be drawing upon the usual European cultural pool for its inspiration. Even the little I know about the rich tradition of myths and legends in the Islamic world is sufficient to know there’s a rich vein of material waiting to be mined by the right fantasy writer. Ahmed has a solid history as a short story writer, even being a finalist for a couple of awards, however this is his first full-length novel, and it’s not always a smooth transition from one format to another. While I was happy to see an author looking to other traditions for inspiration, what really matters is how well he or she is able to handle the basics of storytelling.

In this case the answer to that question is as good as, if not better than, anyone else out there writing fantasy today. Ahmed has created a vibrant and exciting world where his characters both live and have the adventures which form the basis of the story. Like many fantasy writers, he has chosen to base his world on a version of our past.

In this case he has looked to the ancient east African city states of the Islamic world. The majority of the tale takes place within the walls of the great city Dhamsawaat with the characters making only occasional forays beyond its walls into the countryside surrounding it. While there are five main characters involved in telling us the story, the city becomes another character who lives and breathes alongside everybody else. Ahmed’s descriptions of the city are so vivid she takes on the type of distinct personality we ascribe to the places we are most familiar with.

Fighting ghuls and demons

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is feeling every one of his three score and ten years these days. A good many of those years have been spent keeping the people of his beloved Dhamsawaat safe from the monsters sent to plague mankind by the Traitorous Angel. While it’s true the doctor has been doing the work of the Blessed God, he’s as profane as any street urchin trying to spot a pocket ripe for the picking. In order to be able to perform the magic necessary to dispatch the ghuls and assorted demons he faces in his work, the Doctor has had to make sacrifices, chief among them not being able to marry and raise a family.

As this story commences he’s forcibly reminded of this prohibition when he’s asked to investigate reports of a ghul attack by the woman who has been the love of his live for decades. Only his calling has prevented him from marrying her. While in the past he’d been able to make peace with this trade-off, recently he’s began to feel the beginning of resentment towards having been denied the simple pleasures of a normal life.

Unlike the good Doctor his young assistant, Raseed bas Raseed, a warrior in the holy order of dervishes, is pious to the point of being inflexible in his judgements of others and himself. You either live according to the dictates of the Traditions or you’re morally lacking. However he finds himself sorely tested when he and the Doctor meet a young tribeswomen, Zamia Badawi, during their pursuit of the ghuls responsible for the most recent attack.

The fact that she is blessed by the angels with the ability to assume the shape of a lioness armed with silver claws and teeth and saves both men’s lives is only part of the problem. For the first time in his life Raseed finds himself beset with feelings that have nothing to do with his sacred calling and everything to do with Zamia.

Unfortunately he’s picked the worst time possible to be plagued with doubts and distractions, for it turns out this new attack isn’t just some minor magic user, but something far more ancient and evil. These days most spell casters are only able to raise one or two ghuls and have to keep them in site in order to control them. However the creatures the Doctor, Raseed and Zamia defeated outside the city were on their own and far stronger than anything Makhslood has faced in decades.

Then upon their return to the city they are attacked in the Doctor’s home by more ghuls and something even more deadly. A creature made of shadow, part man, part jackal, who can’t be harmed by normal weapons, only by those made of silver. It’s only through the timely intervention of his close friends and neighbours, Dawoud Son-of-Wajeed, a magus, and his wife Litaz, the alchemist, they survive the attack. For while Zamia’s silver claws were able to wound the thing that called itself Mouw Awa, it also gave her a horrible festering wound which untreated would have gradually eaten her soul. Only the combined workings of Dawoud and Litaz were able to save her.

Finding out who is behind the attacks is only the first hurdle the Doctor and his allies face. The shadow creature had mentioned something about its “blessed friend” sitting on the Cobra Throne and thus gaining the power needed to rule and create armies of monsters. If that wasn’t bad enough the city is also in the midst of a power struggle on the mortal plane.

The current Khalif is a brutal and greedy man who makes life miserable for most of his citizens through crippling taxes and his cruel version of justice. A bandit calling himself the Falcon Prince has been carrying out a covert war against the Khalif for a while now, and judging by his actions he looks to be preparing his final push against the throne. Is it merely a coincidence the Falcon Prince’s uprising is coming to a head at the same time as the mysterious ghul attacks are increasing? Or is there some insidious connection between the two seemingly unrelated events?

Effortlessly convincing

In Throne of the Crescent Moon Ahmed does a wonderful job of not only spinning a fascinating story that will hold a reader’s attention from beginning to end, but of bringing an environment most of his audience won’t be familiar with to life. While some authors might have over-explained and filled the story with unnecessary details, supplying background information about the culture his world is based on, he is able to paint his picture solely through the deeds and thoughts of his characters.

Whether it’s something simple like describing the type of tea the Doctor prefers to start his morning with or a little more involved such as Raseed quoting scripture as he lambastes himself for his failings, by the end of the book you’ll be as comfortable reading in this environment as you would one based on a culture and society you’re more knowledgeable about.

However, don’t read this book because it’s different. Read it because its well written. The fact that it adds some much needed diversity to the genre is a bonus. Even better is the promise of more stories set in this world the sub-title, Book One of The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, offers. Now that’s something to look forward to.