Runnymede Perspectives: The New Muslims

Runymed Reportn their pathbreaking report published in 1997, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, Runnymede examined the growth, features and consequences of anti-Muslim racism in Britain. The report warned then about the dangers of ‘closed’ views of Islam and Muslims, and pressured for a more ‘open’ perspective and dialogue, not only as a way of countering anti-Muslim racism but as a necessity ‘for the well-being of society as a whole’. Sixteen years on, it seems that the challenge remains as vital today as it did then – perhaps even more so.

The past two decades have seen an explosion of interest in Muslim communities in Britain and Europe. Migration and demographic change have contributed to a growing Muslim presence Terror and the resurgence of mainstream rightwing and Far Right political parties across Europe has fed heated discussions around the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, the borders and identity of ‘Fortress Europe’ and the possibilities and limits of citizenship.

In the wake of the 2001 ‘riots’ and the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and 7 Britain has experienced an intense political, media and policy scrutiny of British Muslims. These three events have triggered a two-fold approach to  ‘managing’ Muslims – with a focus on securitization and migration control at the borders, and, internally, on issues of integration, cohesion and citizenship. Such policies have impacted on all dimensions of Muslim life, from travel ‘back home’ to the intimacies of marriage and family formation, from schools to prisons, from political protest to religious practice, from internet usage to stop and search, from friendships to mode of dress.

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Many young Britons do not trust Muslims, poll finds

Some 27% of the thousand 18 to 24-year-olds questioned said they did not trust them, while fewer than three in 10 (29%) thought Muslims were doing enough to tackle extremism in their communities. A similar proportion of the young people polled (28%) said the country would be better off with fewer Muslims and almost half (44%) felt Muslims did not share the same values as everyone else.

 

The BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat survey was carried out by the pollsters Comres in June after the soldier Lee Rigby was murdered in the street in Woolwich, south east London, in May. Despite its findings on the degree to which Muslims were mistrusted, it showed that young adults were more likely to agree (48%) than disagree (27%) that Islam is a peaceful religion.

 

They were also found to be divided over the question of whether immigration is good for the UK. Around two fifths (42%) believe it is a good thing but more than a third disagree (35%), the survey showed.

 

Terror groups operating in foreign countries were held responsible for Islamophobia in Britain by 26% of respondents, while 23% blamed the media and 21% placed the blame on UK Muslims who have committed terrorist acts.

 

Of the young adults polled, 16% said they did not trust Hindus or Sikhs, 15% said they did not trust Jews, 13% mistrusted Buddhists and 12% did not trust Christians.

 

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Should Muslim veils be lifted in schools?

Photo by Peter Stitger for Capsters.com
Photo by Peter Stitger for Capsters.com

To some, it can seem intimidating. To others, it is outdated and oppressive. Yet to those whose faces are shrouded beneath it, it can be a liberator, symbolising religious modesty in an increasingly secular West. To others still, it is nothing more than a piece of cloth. The future of the veil, Liberal Democrat minister Jeremy Browne told this newspaper, must be urgently reconsidered. “There is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil. We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”

 

The matter is garnering political momentum. Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, has proposed a private member’s Bill that would make it an offence for a person to wear “a garment or other object” intended to obscure their face. Backing his proposal is Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes. Writing in this newspaper yesterday, she described veils as “deeply offensive”.

 

Striking the right balance – between an outright ban and leaving the issue to the discretion of schools – is difficult. Official guidance on facial coverings in schools – from the niqab, a veil in which the eyes are visible, to the burka, a full body veil in which the eyes are covered by mesh – was updated last year. Though the Department for Education has conspicuously avoided legislation, it backs head teachers who ban veils “on the grounds of health, safety and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

 

Now public opinion in Britain is swinging. A recent YouGov poll of 2,205 adults found that 67 per cent supported a complete sanction on wearing the burka. Proponents of a ban say schools in multicultural areas are calling out for clear restrictions on facial coverings, which, they argue, can impede learning, socialising and jeopardise an institution’s security policy.

A Candid Conversation Between a RABBI and an IMAM About Issues That Divide Jews and Muslims

New Book With a Foreword from PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON In SONS OF ABRAHAM

Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali pool their collective wisdom and compassion to achieve the unthinkable: They plot a realistic course towards a peaceful, co- existing future for the world’s Jews and Muslims—one that begins with understanding the fundamental similarities between the two faiths, and then cultivating mutual respect and appreciation for the differences.

Featuring a stirring, urgent foreword by President Bill Clinton (plus a nuanced introduction by renowned New York Times journalist Samuel G. Freedman), SONS OF ABRAHAM is the first time two leading religious figures from Judaism and Islam have come together for this crucial dialogue and published the results in book form.

The two authors alternate chapters, beginning with each describing his early years—in doing so exposing the dark roots of the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that many young Muslims and Jews are still being taught today by their teachers and communities. – See more at:

ACLU: Report exposes a covert U.S. Govt immigration program that unlawfully prevents many Muslim applicants from becoming citizens and lawful immigrants

LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO – The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), and the law firm of Mayer Brown today released a 70-page report exposing a covert government program called the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program” (CARRP), which was created in 2008 to make it all but impossible for many Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian individuals to become American citizens, or otherwise obtain legal residency or asylum status.

The government program was meant to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

The criteria used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to blacklist immigrants are overly broad and include traveling through regions where there is terrorist activity, the report said.

The ACLU learned about the program through records requests after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.

“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalization and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the author of the report.

Under the program, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about the immigrant. Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time. Most applications are eventually denied, as the program states that officers are not allowed to approve such cases without additional review, the report said.

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Reactions to the final report about the right-wing terrorist “National Socialist Underground”

August 22

 

The council of Muslims in Germany has described the results of the recently published report about the „National Social Underground“ NSU, as a sign for increased racism and Xenophobia in Germany. According to the Muslim association, anti-Muslim stereotypes in media explain the trend towards Xenophobic violence. The council of Muslims asks for an anti-racism commissioner who inspects the education of police and security authorities in Germany, reporting the results to the public. The police and security authorities have been heavily criticized in the NSU report for underestimating right-wing terrorism. Warning calls were simply ignored. In the first phase of the murder series, the authorities focused only at the social and cultural environment of the victims, suspecting criminal foreigners.

 

In the 2000´s, the right-wing terrorist cell NSU murdered one police officer and 9 immigrants in Germany. Most of the immigrants were of Turkish origins.

 

Report (German)

Returning to Islam: The Conversion of Italian Women

itri.jpgAugust 13, 2013

How do women in Italy choose to convert Islam? How many are there, and what is the reason for their choice? We asked to Valentina Itri, author of the book “Le conversioni femminili, Donne italiane ritornate all’Islam” [Female Conversions, Italian Women and the return to Islam]

Images like those of Elham Asghari, the Iranian athlete forced to swim with wetsuit in order to not to reveal the shape of her body. This is the frequent image of Islam as an oppresive and closed religion especially for women. It may seem a paradox then, that there are many women in in Europe, who choose to convert to Islam, and without regret. A recent study by the University of Cambridge, for example, have shown that, although women who convert in the UK often have problems with their family of origin, difficulties at work and in relationships, very few question the choice they made. As for us, understanding the Italian situation is not easy. One of the few books on the subject is “Female Conversions, Italian Women and the return to Islam” written by Valentina Itri, a Professor in Social Theory and research, and an expert in immigrants and refugees. We asked the author to tell us something about the women who choose to “return to Islam” in our country.

Dr. Itri, how many converted to Islam in our country?
Official numbers do not exist, because there is no central register, and each community cites different figures. The fact is that to convert, or as they prefer to say, making the choice to “return to Islam” only invloves the convert to go to a mosque with two witnesses and recite the shahada, a sentence in which converts testify that they believe in a single God, whose messenger is Muhammad. Given the simplicity of the rite, it is difficult even for the Italian Islamic organizations to keep track of the number of conversions.

How does one make the choice of conversion?
Many of these women come into contact with Islam by marrying a Muslim. It is unlikely, however, that this is instrumental in conversions, because in Islam, Muslim men are allowed to marry women of other faiths. If anything, the choice is likely “relational,” due to the desire to get closer to the culture of their partner. My research has shown that after the initial approach, women often deepen their knowledge of the culture and religion. The attraction to them is almost always a change of lifestyle. Many of them, for example, complain about not being able to keep up with the demands of Western society.

It is a conservative choice?
Not exactly. We can say that  conversion speaks to a “new subjectivity,” which illustrates a complaint against the effects of modernity. Faced with the a society that women have to navigate  which can be, at times, backward and sexist, these women decide to take a step back. In some ways it is as if to say: I withdraw from competition. That is why we often embrace the idea of ​​extremely orthodox Islam, and incorporate wearing a veil.

What difficulties do these women encounter?
The first problems arise in the relationship with their own family. If their fathers show solidarity, their mothers and sisters do not understand their choice, which is often seen as a step backwards. In the case of women married to Muslims, the relationship with the women of her husband’s family is complicated by excessively orthodox positions of the “return,” these women often hold ideas about religion that are even more conservative than those of their husbands. These women often tend to lose the friendships they had before the conversion, not because the relationship may be cut, but because these women are creating new social networks, incompatible with previous ones. Finally sometimes problems arise within the Muslim community, because they represent a good connection with the Italian community, and as such they are seen as competitors by those in power, the imam for example, often annoyed by the fact that they are women.

New Book: Why the West Fears Islam – An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies

Why the West Fears Islam flyer finalWhy the West Fears Islam
An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies

Jocelyne Cesari

Paperback Aug 2013 – 9781403969538
Hardback Aug 2013 – 9781403969804

About the book
Are Muslims threatening the core values of the West?

Jocelyne Cesari responds to this question by presenting testimonies from Muslims in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her book is an unprecedented exploration of Muslim religious and political life based on several years of field work in Europe and in the United States. It provides original insights into the ways Muslims act as believers and citizens and into the specifics of western liberalism  and secularism, particularly after 9/11. It shows how the visibility of Islam in secular spaces triggers  western politics of fear. Its unique interdisciplinary scope allows for an in depth analysis of data polls, political discourses as well as first hand interviews, and focus groups with Muslims.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Shari’a, Burqa, and Minarets: What Is the Problem With Muslims in the West? An Exploration of Islam in Liberal

  1. Muslims As the Internal and External Enemy
  2. Islam: Between Personal and Social Identity Markers
  3. Multiple Communities of Allegiance: How Do Muslims Say ‘We’?
  4. Religiosity, Political Participation, and Civic Engagement
  5. Securitization of Islam in Europe: The Embodiment of Islam As an Exception
  6. How Islam Questions the Universalism of Western Secularism
  7. Salafization of Islamic Norms and Its Influence on the Externalization of Islam

Conclusion: Naked Public Spheres: Islam within Liberal and Secular Democracies

 

About the Author

Jocelyne Cesari, is a political scientist, specializing in contemporary Islamic societies,
globalization and democratization. She is Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center
for Peace, Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University. At Harvard University,
she directs the international research program called “Islam in the West.” She has written
numerous articles and books on Islam, Globalization, Democratization and Secularism in
Western and Muslim-majority contexts.
Her most recent publications include Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States (2007),
Muslims in the West After 9/11: Religion, Politics and Law (2010), The Awakening of
Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity and the State (2013).

Praise for the book:

“This book is an eye-opener that denies all sides the luxury of willful ignorance or
unchallenged ideological projection. Bold, sophisticated and almost embarrassingly
informative, Jocelyne Cesari’s effort is certain to elevate the discourse around one of the
most important relationships of our time: that between Muslims and their Western
compatriots.” – Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, The
University of Southern California, and author of Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking
Towards the Third Resurrection

Most Muslims say they fast during Ramadan

A recent Pew Research Center survey of more than 38,000 Muslims around the world shows widespread observance of Ramadan. In the 39 countries and territories surveyed, a median of 93% say they fast during the holy month. Fasting is the second-most observed of the Five Pillars, behind only belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad (median of 97%).

 

By comparison, a median of 77% of Muslims in those 39 countries say they give zakat (an annual donation of a portion of one’s wealth to the needy). And a global median of 63% of Muslims surveyed say they perform five salat (prayers) a day. A median of just 9% of Muslims say they have already completed the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca), although this once-in-a-lifetime obligation applies only to those who are financially and physically capable.

 

Pew Research has not asked American Muslims whether they fast during Ramadan, but a 2007 survey found that three-quarters (77%) of Muslim Americans say fasting during Ramadan is very important to them.

Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion

pew restrictionsIVAt the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed hope that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region, including fewer restrictions on religious beliefs and practices. But a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the region’s already high overall level of restrictions on religion – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – continued to increase in 2011.

 

Before the Arab Spring, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion were higher in the Middle East and North Africa than in any other region of the world.1 Government restrictions in the region remained high in 2011, while social hostilities markedly increased. For instance, the number of countries in the region experiencing sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10. (See sidebar on the Middle East-North Africa region.)

The Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region all had increases in overall restrictions on religion in 2011. Government restrictions declined slightly in Europe, but social hostilities increased. Asia and the Pacific had the sharpest increase in government restrictions, though the level of social hostilities remained roughly the same. By contrast, social hostilities edged up in sub-Saharan Africa, but government restrictions stayed about the same. Both government restrictions and social hostilities increased slightly in the Americas.

The new study also finds that reports of harassment or intimidation of Muslims increased worldwide during 2011. Muslims were harassed by national, provincial or local governments or by individuals or groups in society in 101 countries, up from 90 countries the year before. Christians continued to be harassed in the largest number of countries (105), although this represented a decrease from the previous year (111 countries). Jews were harassed in 69 countries, about the same as the year before (68). (For details, see Number of Countries Where Religious Groups Were Harassed, by Year chart.)

The number of countries with overall increases in restrictions compared with the previous year outnumbered those with decreases. However, a larger share of countries (35%) had a decrease in at least one of the 20 types of government restrictions or 13 types of social hostilities measured by the study compared with the previous year (28%). Examples include a relaxation of registration requirements for religious groups in Austria; efforts to overturn a centuries-old law barring the British monarch from marrying a Catholic; and elimination of a requirement in Jordan that groups, including religious groups, obtain prior permission from the government before holding public meetings or demonstrations.6 (See sidebar on initiatives aimed at reducing religious restrictions.)

In the four countries with decreases of 1.0 to 1.9 points (Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United States), some hostilities that occurred in the year ending in mid-2010 did not reoccur in 2011. In the United States, for instance, multiple religion-related terrorist attacks occurred in the year ending in mid-2010, but none occurred in 2011.15

Among countries with small changes on the Social Hostilities Index (less than 1.0 point), 69 had increases (35%) and 59 had decreases (30%).

Considering all changes in social hostilities from mid-2010 to the end of 2011, regardless of magnitude, 49% of countries had increases and 32% of countries had decreases. The level of increase in social hostilities during the latest year studied remained unchanged from the previous year (from mid-2009 to mid-2010).

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