California county government reaches out to Muslim residents: Mental health office seeking to build trust

By Jennifer Torres San Joaquin County’s mental health office is seeking help from a community organization to build trust among Muslim and Middle Eastern residents, who traditionally have been underserved in mental health programs. The effort is part of a wider county plan to improve mental health among Middle Eastern and Muslim, Laotian, Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Latino, American Indian and black communities and also people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The county will work with community agencies representing each of those groups to provide education, strengthen relationships and ultimately improve access to mental health care, Deputy Director Becky Gould said.

London as gateway to Islamic finance

The British government is working to ensure that Muslims can access financial products and services compatible with Islam in order to support both Muslims living in the UK and those seeking to do business there. This was stated in a press release from the British High Commission in Brunei Darussalam. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Kitty Ussher, has expressed Britain’s commitment to supporting the development of Islamic finance in the UK. “I can see the real benefits it will bring both to ensure a level playing field in retail financial services and to bring greater opportunities to the City of London, which will ultimately lead to more jobs in our economy. Aemy Azlena reports.

Muslims have duty ‘as a community’ to beat extremism

The Muslim community in Britain should abandon its retreat into a victim culture, a leading Conservative Muslim peer said yesterday. Baroness Warsi, the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, attacked hardliners and hotheads who claimed that it was un-Islamic to vote or for women to have access to schools and jobs. She said that Muslims had a particular responsibility to defeat extremism in Britain as the extremists claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. British Muslims should not allow misunderstandings about their religious duties and obligations to cut them off from wider society. Philip Webster reports.

Education Department forces Ceuta school to admit two veiled students

The Education and Science Ministry of Ceuta has issued a report that forces a local school to accept two girls wearing the hijab in class. The Ministry declared that education according to the Spanish Constitution comes before other matters. The prohibition to wear the veil was part of an agreement to deny student’s access to the institution if they wear certain items of clothing.

VB given access to mosque applications

BRUSSELS – Opposition party right-wing Vlaams Belang will be given access to the applications submitted by mosques for recognition by the Flemish government. The Internal Administration Agency had refused to release the documents, but this refusal is unjustified, says the appeal agency for freedom of information. Islam has been one of the six recognised religions in Belgium since 1974, but in contrast to other local religious communities, like churches and synagogues, mosques were not given subsidies until now. Flemish minister for integration Marino Keulen (Open Vld) wants to officially recognise the first mosques before the end of this year. Vlaams Belang requested access to the application files from eight mosques, but the Internal Administration Agency would not release the files, arguing that they were not yet complete and that the Flemish government had not yet taken a decision on the applications.

Dutch launch curriculum on Islam

AMSTERDAM (dpa) – As of the current school year all Dutch primary schools will have access to an official teaching curriculum about Islam for pupils aged four to 12. The new curriculum, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, was officially presented in the As Soeffah primary school in Amsterdam on Monday. The method was developed by the Foundation for Teaching Methods (SLO) and the Board of Islamic Schools Organisation (ISBO), an umbrella organisation of 42 Muslim schools in the Netherlands. This school year all 42 ISBO schools as well as four other Islamic schools in the Netherlands will begin to use the new study material. Public primary schools can also request that the textbooks be used, in accordance with the wishes of parents.

Feds Say N.J. Terror Attack Was at Hand

Federal authorities say they arrested six Muslim men suspected of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix because they feared the group was on the verge of carrying out the attack. “I think they were in the last stage of planning,” U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said Wednesday. “They had training, they had maps, and I think they were very close to moving on this. “Our view was they had pretty much gotten to concluding the planning phase of this and were looking to obtain heavy weaponry _ and if not from us, they were going to try to obtain it elsewhere.” Though it was not clear when the alleged attack was to take place, members of the group were arrested Monday night as they tried to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons from an FBI informant, authorities said. The men _ four born in the former Yugoslavia, one from Jordan and one from Turkey _ lived in Philadelphia and its suburbs with their immediate and extended families. Three were roofers, one drove a cab, and the two others worked at food stores. One of the six used his pizza delivery job to gain access to the Army base and scout it out, exposing what may be a security vulnerability, a congressman said Wednesday. Serdar Tatar was on the fort’s approved list of delivery people and given access to the base as part of his job with a nearby pizzeria run by his father, according to a Fort Dix spokeswoman. Tatar’s father, Muslim Tatar, 54, denied that his son had made deliveries to Fort Dix. However, Christie said the younger Tatar spoke of delivering pizzas on tapes made by informants. Another susect, Agron Abdullahu, was familiar with the base because it was the first place he landed when arriving in the United States as a refugee from Kosovo, according to a law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The United States allowed thousands of refugees into the United States after it intervened in the 1998-99 Kosovo war. Abdullahu arrived at Fort Dix as a teenager in 1999 as part of a group of about 4,400 refugees from Kosovo, officials said. The six _ Tatar, 23; Abdullahu, 24; Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22; Dritan “Anthony” or “Tony” Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; and Eljvir “Elvis” Duka, 23 _ appeared in federal court Tuesday in Camden and were ordered held without bail for a hearing Friday. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in the country permanently; and one is a U.S. citizen. The investigation began more than a year ago after a New Jersey store clerk was asked to transfer a videotape onto a DVD. The tape showed 10 men shooting weapons at a firing range and calling for jihad, prosecutors said. The 10 included the six men under arrest, authorities said. Christie would not comment on the identities of the four other men in the video or say whether they were considered suspects. But he said the investigation was still going on. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, whose district includes Fort Dix, said he has long been concerned about who has access to the sprawling 31,000-acre Army installation located in the Pinelands region of New Jersey, about 20 miles east of Philadelphia. “This whole affair just underscores the vulnerability,” Smith said. “You don’t know who’s on your base. What the pizza delivery man tells me is that when you have access, when you have frequent access, you get the lay of the land, so that if you do a terror attack it will cause that much more damage and loss of life.” The fort considers its policy for screening delivery people adequate for now, but said it could be reviewed in the future, base spokeswoman Carolee Nesbit said. Before they are cleared to make deliveries at Fort Dix, drivers must register in advance, undergo a criminal background check, and obtain an access pass that has to be reviewed every 30 days. Drivers who arrive at the military installation’s gate are greeted by armed guards, who check their identification and issue a pass. The delivery people are not followed or monitored once they clear security, Nesbit said. “There are 16,000 people that come through the gates every day,” she said. “It’s practically impossible to follow everyone.” Nisbet said security is present wherever military personnel are gathered at the fort, even if it is not visible from the road. In addition to the weapons each individual soldier may carry, she said, “There is security on these ranges.”

Mecca and Main Street

Islam is America’s fastest growing religion, with more than six million Muslims in the United States, all living in the shadow of 9/11. Who are our Muslim neighbors? What are their beliefs and desires? How are they coping with life under the War on Terror? Mecca and Main Street offers illuminating answers to these questions. Gaining unprecedented access to Muslim communities in America, Geneive Abdo traveled across the country, visiting schools, mosques, Islamic centers, radio stations, and homes. She brings these stories vividly to life, allowing us to hear their own voices and inviting us to understand their hopes and their fears. Inspiring, insightful, tough-minded, and even-handed, it will appeal to those curious (or fearful) about the Muslim presence in America. It will also be warmly welcomed by the Muslim community that it depicts.