Accessing the Quran: Interview with Ahmad Milad Karimi

February 10, 2016

In an interview with Qantara.de, Ahmad Milad Karimi, professor for kalam in the Faculty for Islamic Studies at Münster University, offered a survey of the state of Islamic thought and theology in Germany. Karimi, who published a German translation of the Quran in 2009 that sought to capture the book’s poetic spirit and make it accessible to a German-speaking public, identified the need to “break through the foreignness of the Koran and the Islamic tradition” as the most important objective facing Muslim intellectuals in Western Europe. According to him, “[t]he greatest challenge is that Islam is not currently communicated well enough.” In this respect, the task of Muslim scholars must not primarily be to distance themselves and their religion from atrocities committed in its name; what is needed instead is a bold vision of the religion and the richness of its tradition: “We gain nothing by continuing to distance ourselves. We can only gain if we succeed in formulating debates ourselves, launching discourse and practising responsibility.”

Burger King to acquire Quick, will offer halal

Burger King is going halal in France, aiming for the business of that nation’s estimated 5 million Muslims, according to a new report.

English-language local reported that the U.S. burger chain recently took over the Quick chain of fast-food restaurants in France and is planning to make about 40 of them, about 10 percent of the total, totally halal.

That means they would scrap all pork and bacon products from their menu and require that the beef and chicken be certified halal, or slaughtered according to Islamic religious tradition.

The report said such restaurants have proven “to be winners” in a nation where there are more Muslims than anywhere else in Europe.

According to Le Parisien, the Bertrand Group, the biggest shareholder of Burger King France, is just following through on plans it announced when the acquisition was made public.

The details include that while most of the more than 400 Quick locations being acquired by Burger King will, in fact, become Burger King brand outlets, about 40 will remain labeled Quick, and will serve the Muslim community specifically.

The Quick chain already had multiple locations specializing in the halal food demanded by Muslims, and local franchisees confirmed that demand is strong.

The French halal market is estimated to be more than five billion euros, the report said.

The Local said French authorities just days ago approved the plan for Burger King’s takeover of the 405 Quick outlets.

The reports in France explained that the move was thought to be part of Burger King’s continuing attacks on McDonald’s – the big player in the fast food industry across France. It has about 1,300 stores. The reports said Quick employed 19,000 people and had $1.12 billion in revenue last year. More than 820 million of that, in euros, was in the French market.

The plan has a surge of Burger King locations in France from about 30 suddenly to well over 400.

Burger King also plunged headlong into the homosexual social-advocacy campaign across the United States in recent months.

Study reveals progress in accepting Islam in Germany

A study released by the Social Democratic affiliated Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation reveals progresses related to legal arrangements between the State and Islamic associations, allowing Islam to be part of everyday life. The study has been conducted by the ´Center for Islam and law in Europe´ in the city of Erlangen.

Although Islamic associations are not treated equal as Jewish and Christians institutions, for instance they are not accepted as corporate body under public law, most Federal States initiated regular communication with Islamic associations and implemented Islamic religious education at German Universities.

The study recommends to institutionalize Islamic associations as corporate body under public law facilitating Muslim life in Germany.

 

The study (in German):

http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/dialog/11386.pdf

Birmingham mosque teachers jailed for Koran boy beating

Two Islamic school teachers who beat a 10-year-old boy with a stick for reciting the Koran incorrectly have been jailed for a year. Mohammed Siddique, 60, and his son Mohammed Waqar, 24, admitted willful cruelty to a child under 16. The four attacks took place at the Jamia Mosque in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, between May and June 2014, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

The pair, from the Tyseley area of the city, also face a teaching ban.

Sam Forsyth, prosecuting, said the victim was beaten with a plastic stick and given back-of-the-hand slaps by each of his tutors for “talking in the classroom” at a Birmingham Islamic centre. The boy was hit during four separate incidents, with photographs of his injuries showing “extensive” bruising to the back of his legs.

Judge Mark Wall QC told them: “These were not assaults committed in ignorance of how inappropriate it was to use corporal punishment such as this.” He added: “Acts of brutality of this sort which you each indulged in, with a stick, will not be tolerated.”

Femen protesters target ‘women in Islam’ conference in France – video

Two topless Femen activists with slogans on their bodies disrupt the speech of two imams during a Muslim conference focused on women in Islam, held in Pontoise, north-west Paris, on Saturday. The two women are dragged from the stage and kicked at one point by security guards. Both activists are in custody according to Femen.

Chelles: opening of the first Islamic finance agency

The first agency dedicated to Islamic finance is coming to Chelles, NorrAssur announced on Friday. The startup, up until recently only active online, specializes in Islamic finance and respects Islamic law, shariah, and most notably prohibits speculation and interest or investments considered taboo in society (tobacco, alcohol, arms…)

For the moment it offers only investment and insurance. It will open on Pierre Mendes-France Boulevard and will include a prayer room. NoorAssur states it is committed to opening twenty agencies by 2016.

French court rules school lunches may include pork

A French court on Thursday (Aug. 13) upheld a local move to stop offering alternatives to pork in school cafeterias, sparking dismay on the part of Muslim leaders and possibly setting a precedent for municipalities elsewhere in the country.

The court found in favor of the mayor of a town in eastern France who announced in March that students would no longer be guaranteed a nonpork option at lunchtime for the coming school year.

“A first victory for secularity,” tweeted the mayor, Gilles Platret of Chalon-sur-Saone, after the court ruling.

But Abdallah Zekri, leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, expressed regret.

“I can only condemn this mayor’s decision, which is not taken to bring social peace to schools,” he said in a statement to the Agence France-Presse news agency. “All Muslims respect secularity. Muslims have never asked for Halal meat in school cafeterias.”

For her part, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who is Muslim, denounced the decision by the court in Dijon for “taking children hostage.”

This is not the first time religion and education have clashed in a country where a 1905 law cemented the separation of church and state. A government ban pushed through a decade ago against Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and other “ostentatious” displays of religion in French public schools stirred similar controversy. France has Europe’s largest population of Jews and Muslims.

There was no immediate from Jewish leaders to the latest ruling.

The pork ruling was reportedly based on procedural grounds, and lawyers from the Muslim Council may still appeal it. It addressed a tradition for many years of offering alternatives to pork in public school lunches, along with vegetarian meals.

Platret’s ban has earned applause from a variety of fronts, including staunch secularists and conservative politicians. Some local municipalities also complain that offering substitutes for pork is expensive and wasteful.

Beyond cost concerns, the tradition has also tapped simmering anti-immigrant sentiments in France. The far-right National Front party has vowed to enact similar bans against pork substitutes in the 11 towns that it controls.

“We will not accept any religious demands in school meals,” National Front leader Marine Le Pen said earlier this year. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere; that’s the law.” There may be one clear victor in Thursday’s ruling. French pig farmers have been staging angry protests against low pork prices and calling for more action from the government.

 

First Dutch halal-bank might open in the Netherlands

Islamic banking is on the rise in the Netherlands. The Turkish bank KuveytTürk opened its first halal-bank in Germany last week. Now the bank is looking towards the Netherlands for further options.

@anp
@anp

This was said by Kemal Ozan, the general manager of the German branch of the bank. “After the opening in Frankfurt we would like to expand to the Dutch market.” He points to the large Muslim community in the Netherlands which consists of almost a million people. “There is a lot of potential for Islamic banking in the Netherlands.”

In 2008 The Dutch Bank and the Authority for Financial Markets identified a “substantial latent need” for Islamic banking products. However this never materialized. The Rabobank did experiment with interest-free banking products but without result. “We did have a look at it then but at the time it was not commercially interesting enough,” a spokesperson of the bank said.

The impediments are abundant: the quantity of Muslims is hard to establish and not all Muslims are orthodox practitioners of their faith. The Central Bureau for Statistics does forecast a considerable growth of the amount of Muslims in the Netherlands. Similarly, the average gross income of that group is increasing.

The most important impediment of the Dutch consumer market is the deduction of interest for mortgages. As a rule, conventional mortgages are cheaper because buyers of houses can deduce those mortgage’s interest from their taxes. Islamic mortgages would be easier to implement if a comparable settlement would be set up.

When the first Dutch Islamic bank will open in the Netherlands is not sure yet according to Ozan: “If our expansion is stabilized we will focus our attention on the Dutch market.”

New book on Dutch Islam: Islam in transformation

A new book in Dutch was published recently on Islam in the Netherlands called: “Islam in transformation: Piety and pleasure amongst Muslims within and outside of the Netherlands,” edited by the prominent Dutch scholars on Islam Joas Wagemakers and Martijn de Koning (Radboud University).New Book

This is a translation of the pamphlet of the book:

The Islamic State, headscarves, questions regarding integration, and opinions in Dutch politics: Islam is continuously in the headlines. Is Islam inextricably connected to violence as the IS wants to assert? Or does Islam stand for peace, as many Muslims in the Netherlands tend to stress?

Often the impression arises that “the” Islam is dominated by ages old texts that determine the behavior of Muslims today. Based on personal research, specialists show that Islam is dynamic and that Muslims experience and apply their faith in various ways. Thus there are large differences in the experience of celebrations, cultural expressions, interpretations of the Qur’an, and multifarious approaches to relationships with  people of different persuasion.

Part 2 in the Series Islam in Transformation treads a broad band of subjects and makes accessible complex themes for those who wish to contribute to the public debate. An earlier publication in this series was “Salafism: Utopian ideals in an unruly reality” (see the item on Euro-Islam: http://www.euro-islam.info/2014/11/18/book-review-salafisme/)

Read the first chapter here (in Dutch):

http://www.uitgeverijparthenon.nl/inkijkexemplaar_islam_in_verandering.pdf

First Female Only Managed Mosque in Bradford

A mosque that will be open to all – men, women, children and worshippers of all sects, including Sunni and Shia. Prayers will be led by a male imam, yet the governance of the mosque will be run by women, in the first of its kind in Britain.

Bana Gora: ‘The alienation that women feel has profound consequences for younger generations.’ Photograph: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian
Bana Gora: ‘The alienation that women feel has profound consequences for younger generations.’ Photograph: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian

Gora co-founder and chief executive of the MWC, said: “When I was growing up across the Bradford district, there was never a practice of sisters going to the mosque. We prayed at the house. But why couldn’t we go to the mosque on a Friday with our brother and father?” Gora said. “We were told because it’s not the done thing. Women don’t go to the mosque. Well, actually, at the time of the prophet, women did, and they had the same access as men.”

Consultations for the new mosque began in June and are now at their second stage. The women’s group are seeking planning permission and looking at possible plots of land. Gora said she has been in talks with international architects, and that the building itself will not have minarets or domes. The community group, who also run weekly curry circles to distribute food to the homeless, said they will have a blueprint and funding strategy by September. They hope for the mosque to be ready within three years.

There are around 100 mosques in Bradford, where a quarter of the population identify as Muslim. However, according to a local audit of mosques carried out by Gora’s team, female worshippers often felt isolated from the space and cut off from the services offered by mosques.