Religious leaders removed from the board of the National Advisory Council on Ethics

January 27, 2014

 

In nominating the new board of the Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique (CCNE) or National Advisory Council on Ethics in September 2013, President Francois Hollande chose not to include any religious leaders, and replaced them with secular figures.

This Council, created in 1983, is in charge of providing advisory guidelines on bioethical questions raised by medical, scientific and health research. The CCNE may have an advisory purpose but remains nonetheless influential.  Under its influence, the abortion limit went from 10 to 12 weeks in 2000. The Council opposed medically assisted reproduction in 2005, surrogate motherhood in 2010, and assisted suicide by euthanasia in 2013.

The 1983 founding decree states that the interdisciplinary board must be composed of forty members including ‘five belonging to the main philosophical and spiritual families’. Until 2013, two clerics had been chairing: Pastor Louis Schweitzer and Rabbi Michael Azoulay. Islam wasn’t represented by an Imam but by a Muslim thinker, Ali Benmakhlouf. Likewise, Catholicism wasn’t represented by an ecclesial figure but by a professor of theology, Xavier Lacroix. All four have now been replaced with more secular figures.

In theory, Francois Hollande respected the founding decree, which implied that the five religious board members could be secular but not necessarily clerics. However, the President changed a tradition. ‘We want to return to the founding principals of the Council in 1983, and to call on secular figures to represent the religious communities’, said the Elysée.

According to a former president of the CCNE, ‘nominating civilian figures over clerics is a good thing, because they always end up deploying religion in the debates.’ Mohammed Moussaoui, former president of the CFCM (Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman) deplores the eviction of Rabbi Azoulay and the other religious members. To him, it reflects Hollande’s changing vision of state secularism.

 

Source: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/pourquoi-religieux-ont-ete-ecartes-comite-consultatif-national-dethique-7505.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=08cb84806d-Zamanfrance+28_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-08cb84806d-315948881

Why One Muslim Group Gave The NYPD’s Ray Kelly An Award

December 17, 2013

By Matt Sledge

 

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly received an award this month from a source that may seem unlikely: a group of Muslim community leaders.

“The Muslim community appears to be softening its stance toward Ray Kelly as he walks out the door,” one tabloid crowed, suggesting that a Muslim council of 10 members hand-picked by the NYPD represented Muslim New Yorkers in all their diversity. But the meaning of the award granted Dec. 9 by the Muslim Advisory Council, set up by the NYPD in 2012, is very much up for debate.

New York’s hundreds of thousands of Muslims come from backgrounds rich and poor, from lands far away to uptown Harlem. The Muslim Advisory Council award — derided by the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islam Relations as a “cheap public relations stunt” — highlights the diverse reactions to revelations of police surveillance of Muslims. Some Muslims have retreated into silent distrust. Others have expressed outrage. A third group sees a different path — trying to engage.

“The idea of the council is great,” said Dr. Ahmed Jaber, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who used to sit on the Muslim Advisory Council. “We were discussing it years before Kelly. We wanted that relationship with the higher authority.”

At almost the same time it was giving Kelly his award, the advisory council submitted a Dec. 1 memo highlighting controversies that have marred the relations of Kelly’s police department with Muslims: a “radicalization” study panned by civil liberties groups, an Islamophobic screed featuring an interview with Kelly that was screened as a training video for NYPD cadets, and “terrorism enterprise investigations” that have listened in on imams as they deliver sermons.

Those issues, the council wrote in its memo, have “strained the relationship between the Muslim Community and the NYPD” and “served to erode some of the goodwill the NYPD has fostered by other means.”

But the memo also called the NYPD’s efforts to build relationships with communities a “model of cooperation,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner John McCarthy noted in a statement to HuffPost.

 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/17/ray-kelly-muslim-award_n_4455537.html

 

 

Muslim group says Coffee County meeting was ‘hijacked’

The background:  Last month, Coffee County, Tennessee commissioner Barry West posted a photo on Facebook of a man squinting down the barrel of a gun, with a caption reading, “How to wink at a Muslim.”  The Muslim community in Tennessee and across the nation was outraged, and many were frightened by the implications of the photo and caption, especially coming from an elected official. The photo below is a capture of the Facebook page by the Mail Online.  There is no way to see this as anything but threatening.

The American Muslim Advisory Council decided to host a meeting to allow local Muslims to share with their neighbors about who the Muslim community is, and to talk about American Muslims and public discourse, and they invited a representative of the DOJ and the FBI to attend and talk about what’s considered free speech and what’s illegal hate speech, and where the line is where speech can be prosecuted.    The situation in Tennessee was that there was a lot of tension between the Muslim community and their neighbors.  There had been a series of anti-Muslim incidents, and an elected official had posted something that the Muslim community believed to have crossed the line between protected speech and hate speech.  This is exactly the sort of situation that the DOJ’s community outreach program is designed to address.  Bill Killian, U.S., Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee was to speak about the Constitution, the first and fourteenth amendments, and to clarify what constitutes hate speech, and what are the existing legal consequences.

Middle Tennessee got socked by outside instigators who “hijacked” a public meeting last week, turning what was meant to be a step toward harmony into something more akin to a KKK rally, according to a member of the Muslim panel that sponsored the event.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and representatives of the American Muslim Advisory Council faced a barrage of hostile comments Tuesday in Manchester, Tenn. Dorothy Zwayyed, East Tennessee coordinator for AMAC, said they were mostly out-of-towners who derailed an assembly of fellowship and learning.

Coffee County lies in mostly white Middle Tennessee where local communities have seen a significant influx of immigrants in recent years. The foreign-born population around Nashville jumped 83.1 percent, from 58,539 to 107,184. That growth represents the fourth-largest percentage increase in the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Muslim group’s TN forum with feds disrupted by heckling

MANCHESTER — Hundreds of people turned out at the Manchester Convention Center Tuesday evening for an event billed as a discussion of public discourse in a diverse society, with a particular focus on the Muslim religion.

People were turned away at the door because the facility was too full. Some grew angry and started hurling terms such as “communist,” “socialist” and “Muslim” at law enforcement officials.

The indoor event, sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council, was countered by a large group of protesters, both outside and inside the facility. Some who made it in before admission was cut off continuously interrupted the speakers.

The interruptions were so intense at times that attendee Elaine Smith, 55, of Bedford County, said she was afraid of other audience members.

During the keynote speech given by Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee, audience members continually interrupted, making it difficult to understand what was said. Killian brought a PowerPoint presentation that covered the First and 14th amendments and what constitutes a hate crime, among other things. He read the First Amendment verbatim, between interruptions.

Moore said the FBI was continually working to build relationships with worshippers of Islam and other faiths because “they are essential” to keeping the country safe.

Allah or the Advisory Council, Islamic Religious Education in Germany

A few weeks ago, a new school subject was introduced in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia: Islamic religious education. The new subject is a provisional arrangement and is not uncontroversial. By Ellen Hoffers

Aya frowns. In the back row, Ayman starts a kind of sing-song “Shalom, salaam, shalom.” Bernd Ridwan Bauknecht sighs. He has just explained to his fourth graders that the Arabic greeting “Salaam aleykum” is similar to the Hebrew greeting “Shalom alechem.” Both of them mean peace.

“And do you know what?” he continues. “In church, Christians shake hands with each other before they take communion and they say to each other, ‘Peace be with you.'” Aya’s not sure about all this: “And what do the Catholics say?” Bauknecht smiles: “You’ll have to ask them yourself,” he says. She won’t have far to go: “the Catholics” have their class next door.

Since the beginning of this school year, 2,500 of the 320,000 Muslim school pupils in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia have been receiving faith-based “Islamic religious education” for the first time in the history of education in Germany. The Am Domhof Catholic primary school in Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn, at which Bauknecht teaches, is one of the first 33 schools to offer the new subject.

The law introducing the subject was passed in December 2011 by the Social Democrat–Green coalition in the state, with the support of the opposition Christian Democrats. The move has widespread support, although there’s annoyance over the organisational model that the government has introduced. This model features an advisory council, and that has been criticised above all by those who have been campaigning for Islamic religious education for years.

“The mentality of a religious bouncer”

Lamya Kaddor is one of them. She has been teaching Islamic Studies in schools for ten years. She helped set up the first university chair in Islamic religious education, temporarily filled a vacant professorship and is the author of three textbooks.

In 2011, she was awarded the Integration Medal by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin; in Madrid in 2010, she was voted one of the most influential Muslim women in Europe. On that occasion, Cherie Blair shook her hand. Now she’s afraid that she might end up unemployed.

That’s because Kaddor is also chairperson of the Liberal Islamic Association. She says that equal rights for men and women are rooted in Islam. She also calls the idea that only those who believe the right things will end up in paradise “the mentality of a religious bouncer” and rejects any ban on showing the video that defamed Muhammad and caused such a storm in the Arab world. She insists: Muslims in Germany don’t need special treatment.

But these views are not welcome both in conservative and traditional Muslim circles and in the four big Muslim associations in Germany. It’s these four associations – which only represent 15 per cent of the Muslims in Germany – that will soon decide whether she has the “religious aptitude” to continue to teach. She says the situation is absurd.

“What do I say when they ask me why I’m not wearing a headscarf?” she asks. “And what happens when they discover that I’ve written a paper on that issue? Will they reject me?”

The ministry’s trick

In the twelve years before the new subject was introduced, a course called “Islamic Studies in German” was taught in North Rhine-Westphalia in a pilot project. That was all that was possible back then because in Germany, in order to teach a religion on the basis of the beliefs of that religion, there has to be a religious organisation. But since Islam doesn’t have the same kind of structures as the Christian Churches, the Islamic Studies subject was introduced, officially, as a school curriculum on Islamic Studies from an academic point of view.

But from the start, things all looked different in practice. The reason for this is that the Ministry for Education only appointed practicing Muslims. “It was clear to everyone involved that the aim of the project was faith-based religious education,” says Dorothea Paschen, head of St. Andrew’s school in Bad Godesberg. “What was missing was legal equality with the other denominational religious education classes.”

To achieve that, the ministry used a trick: in consultation with the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM), an advisory council was set up to take on the role of the required religious organisation. In practice, this council tests teachers on their “religious aptitude” and approves the textbooks.

Opponents of this model speak of a “failed attempt to churchify” Islam. The state education minister, Sylvia Löhrmann of the Greens, recognises the problem but pleads for pragmatism: “We have to institutionalise Islam like the other religions, otherwise we won’t make any progress. Obviously, we will never have full unanimity.”

“The liberal camp was ignored”

The purpose of the current model is to ensure that the state retains its neutrality by having the Muslim community decide – in the same way as the Christian Churches do – what counts as the teachings of Islam and what doesn’t.

The problem is: who represents the Muslim community? The advisory council has eight members; four have been chosen by the ministry in consultation with the Muslim associations, and the four associations – DITIB, the Council of Muslims, the Association of Muslim Cultural Centres and the Central Council of Muslims – send one member each.

All these organisations are conservative and traditional. “The liberal camp was ignored when the members of the advisory council were chosen,” says Lamya Kaddor. Before it was set up, the Liberal Islamic Association and the Association of Democratic European Muslims warned the minister that the council would be one-sided. But she chose to negotiate the membership of the council with the KRM, whose four member associations are now all represented on the council.

The KRM’s spokesman is the veteran functionary Ali Kizilkaya. He came to Germany from Turkey in 1973 and spent a long time as an official in the German headquarters of the highly conservative, Turkish association Milli Görüs. He then became chairperson of the Council of Muslims and spokesperson for the KRM. In 2006, he caused a storm when he said that the wearing of a headscarf was a “religious commandment” which “cannot be contextualised according to different countries or places.”

Religious aptitude test needed

Kizilkaya is a product of the decades-long fight by the Muslim associations for official recognition. Nevertheless, he sees the current arrangement on religious education as only a compromise: in his opinion, the associations should really have “sole competence” to decide on the religious aptitude of teachers.

He says that they had no choice but to “tolerate” the Islamic Studies classes and that they held back with their criticism. But that’s over now. It is, of course, the “duty and the task” of the associations “to examine the faith and the behaviour of teachers”. After all, that’s what the Churches do. “People will have to get used to that,” he says.

Bernd Ridwan Bauknecht has done the “religious aptitude test” and was quite shocked by it. In the 20-minute interview, the main issue was his loyalty to the associations. He was accused of “not being religious enough.” Two weeks after the interview, he received a letter from one of the members of the advisory council asking him to join one of the four associations.

“Can you imagine it?” he says. “I am a German convert, an expert in Islamic Studies and a committed Muslim! Why should I join an association like DITIB, which is controlled from Turkey? Or one of the Arab associations? Or the Council of Muslims, which is dominated by Milli Görüs? It’s laughable.”

If he didn’t want to join, he was told in the letter, he should at least have an imam confirm that he regularly played an active part in community life, preferably in a mosque belonging to one of the associations.

Kizilkaya doesn’t see the problem: “You have to be a member of the Church too,” he points out. Imams will be trained to provide certificates to prove that teachers lead a religiously correct way of life and are active in the communities. In a recent public discussion in which Löhrmann also took part, Kizilkaya said training was not the decisive point; it was “active involvement in a community and the correct belief” that mattered, and in the system set up by the state, it was the job of the associations to check on those issues. Löhrmann replied that the advisory council was still in the process of finding its role.

Bauknecht has been teaching Islamic Studies in Bad Godesberg for the last 9 years. Just a few hundred metres from his school is the Saudi King Fahd Academy, which hit the headlines in 2004 over texts in its textbooks glorifying violence; three streets further along, there’s a mosque that is especially popular with Moroccans and where Salafists have a big say; then there’s the DITIB mosque with its strong roots in Turkey.

Bauknecht has always considered his teaching as a bulwark against radical forms of Islam. He wants to give children space to think about themselves and their religion – a space in which they can also express their doubts. His children come from many different Muslim movements, and he feels that they have to learn how much variety there is in their religion.

Many potential conflicts

“The classes must be measured against the needs of our children,” says one father of four, “and not some political skirmish.” This father originally sent his children to Catholic religion classes. “They also dealt there with social and ethical questions,” he remembers. “Those are important for all children.”

Then Islamic Studies were introduced, and now he’s proud that the subject has the same status as that of other religions. He says Mr Bauknecht has been teaching the subject well for the last ten years, and that’s the most important thing – “whether the teacher is involved in a community or not is his own business.”

For the pupils, nothing has changed. In their classroom there’s a cross made of mosaic pieces and a calligraphy. On top of the board are the “99 beautiful names of Allah” in gold letters – next to them is a list of all the people who are mentioned in the Christian bible as well as in the Koran. Maryam/Mary; Ayoub/Job, Yusuf/Joseph.

“Quiet now,” calls Bauknecht. Today’s topic is conflict and reconciliation. He draws an iceberg on the board. Only the tip is out of the water. He explains that beneath the surface of any conflict, there are always deeper wounds. You have to recognise that before you can solve the conflict.

Lamya Kaddor thinks that there’s plenty of room for future teachers to find themselves in conflict with the advisory council. “What happens when a teacher marries someone from another religion?” she asks. “Or when a teacher is homosexual? Nobody thought about such issues when the subject was introduced.”

For her part, the minister has recently been saying that one should remember that the advisory council is legally only a temporary arrangement until 2019. After that, the issues will have to be discussed anew.

Ellen Hoffers

© Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2012

Translated from the German by Michael Lawton

Editor: Aingeal Flanagan

Canadian Blind Muslim sisters recognized with Jubilee medals

On Islam – June 24, 2012

 

Rabia Khedr and her younger sister Uzma Khan were awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals for their efforts in advocating for disabled people. The blind Muslim sisters were among more than 600 Canadian receiving the medals at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall last week.

Khedr is a well-known Canadian Muslim who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness around disability issues. At university, she became actively involved with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) where she played a leadership role within the association but never stepped into the limelight. Her activism increased after university. Within days of graduation, Khedr started wearing a hijab.

Khedr, who is married and has four children, runs her own consultancy company and she has consulted for the Canadian Association for Community Living and Providence Health Care. She sits on the board of the Ontario Women’s Health Network and is a member of the City of Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Khedr’s younger sister, Uzma Khan, has also been active in disability issues. Khan works in information technology with a Canadian bank and was vice-chair of the former Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario. In keeping with the tradition of honoring Queen Elizabeth II milestone years of service, the commemorative medal has been created to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen’s accession to the Throne.

German Muslims Identify More With Germany Than the General Public

A new report published today by Gallup and the Coexist Foundation shows that German Muslims identify more with Germany than the general public do. The report, The Gallup Coexist Index 2009: A Global Study of Interfaith Relations, is the first annual report on the state of faith relations in countries around the world and reveals that more than two out of every five German Muslims (40%) identify with Germany compared to a third (32%) of the general public. It also shows there is gulf of misunderstanding; nearly four out of ten (39%) of the general public believe that Muslims living in Germany are loyal to Germany. This compares to more than seven out of ten (71%) German Muslims who say Muslims are loyal to Germany. The German public and German Muslims are very much aligned in their views when it comes to what drives integration. 97% of the public believe that mastering German is crucial as do 96% of Muslims; 94% of both groups believe finding a job is important; and 95% of Muslims say getting a better education is critical compared to 86% among the general public. The report’s authors say this research shows that religion and national identity are complementary rather than competing and dispels the myth that Muslims do not feel loyalty to Germany, despite the preconceptions among the general public. The Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed says there needs to be a renewed debate about the views of the majority of Muslims. Ms Mogahed, who was recently appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, highlighted how the report had broken down many of the myths about Muslim’s attitudes. “This research shows that many of the assumptions about Muslims and integration are wide of the mark. German Muslims want to be part of the wider community and contribute even more to society. “The trust that German Muslims place in the country’s institutions proves that strong religious beliefs don’t translate into a lack of loyalty,” she said at the launch of the findings.

Muslim woman’s appointment as Obama advisor draws optimism in US-Muslim relations

Dalia Mogahed, a senior executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, was appointed to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The selection by Mogahed is viewed by many Muslims in the US and many in the Middle East as a step by the Obama Administration to move beyond the stereotypes and prejudices that they believe have been cast upon Muslims since September 11, 2008. The move to appoint a hijab-wearing Muslim woman is also seen as step to improve relations with Islam, which many Muslims see has badly damaged during the Bush administration.

Oklahoma: Koran Controversy

Several Oklahoma lawmakers plan to return copies of the Koran to a state panel on diversity after a lawmaker claimed the Muslim holy book condones the killing of innocent people. The books were given to Oklahoma’s 149 senators and representatives by the panel, the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council. At least 24 legislators, including Representative Rex Duncan, a Republican, have notified the panel they will return the gift. Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, chairwoman of the council and a Muslim, denounced Mr. Duncan’s assessment of Islam. I know he referred to Islam as an ideology, Ms. Seirafi-Pour said. That is not a fact. It is a religion. It is very peaceful, very inclusive.

Establish Body To Train Imams: UK Muslim Leaders

British Muslim leaders called on the government to establish a national body to oversee mosques and imams as part of efforts to combat extremism following the July bombings in London. Working groups advising the government said that the proposed National Advisory Council of Imams and Mosques could recommend ways for mosques to prevent extremism, train Imams and encourage British-born Muslims to become clerics. Lord Ahmed, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords who headed one of the groups on Thursday, said that 1,700 of the estimated 2,000 Imams in Britain were educated and trained abroad. “As British Muslims we need to be prepared to modernise the way we operate, encouraging integration and helping our children to feel proud to be British,” he said. “I and my colleagues believe that the establishment of this Advisory Council is an important step towards this goal.” European governments seeking to counter the spread of extremism within some mosques are concerned that sermons are often not conducted in the country’s predominant language and that many clerics come from abroad rather than from local Muslim communities. The Dutch government earlier this year revoked the residency permits of three Imams whom it accused of preaching hate. In France, where a third of the 1,200 Imams do not speak French, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently called for better oversight of mosques in order to root out radicals.