Leading imam quits as debate over women’s ‘hypersexuality’ boils over at major U.S. mosque

Shaker Elsayed, the lead imam of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., one of the nation’s largest and oft-embattled mosques, drew a wave of condemnation from young Muslim activists after he he appeared to endorse a certain form of female genital mutilation as sometimes necessary to prevent “hypersexuality.”

In response, Johari Abdul-Malik, a fellow imam and the public face of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center resigned after he said the mosque’s board failed to adequately address a brewing controversy over the banned practice of female genital mutilation.

Elsayed said last month during a videotaped lecture that limited “circumcision” of girls is sometimes necessary to curb women’s sex drive, advising congregants to consult with a Muslim gynecologist before proceeding.

FGM is a common practice among some Muslim and Christian populations in parts of Africa and Asia. Experts say it has no health benefits and can lead to infections, hemorrhaging, childbirth complications and death.  Communities that engage in the practice do so for a variety of reasons, including societal pressure and myths that it serves health or religious purposes.

Abdul-Malik was hired 15 years ago, after the mosque came under intense scrutiny for being the onetime house of worship for two of the 9/11 hijackers. Later, the mosque’s former imam, Anwar al-Aulaqi, invited further investigation of the mosque after he began espousing terrorist ideology from a hideout in Yemen. Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, had also visited the mosque at some point in the years prior to his rampage.

Spanish army veteran led a jihadist cell in Morocco

January 25, 2014

 

Morocco has uncovered a jihadist cell led by a Spanish army veteran who later fought in Afghanistan with Al-Qaeda, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

The cell was active in the north of Morocco, where Spain retains two sovereign enclaves, and around Marrakesh in the south, the ministry said in statement carried by the MAP national news agency.

The ministry did not identify the alleged leader of the cell nor specify how many arrests had been made. It said the suspects would be brought to trial after the investigation had been completed.

Morocco has announced the dismantling of several alleged jihadist cells in recent months.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the network’s North Africa affiliate, released a video in September calling for jihad in Morocco, which it referred to as a “kingdom of corruption and despotism”.

 

Global Post: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140125/morocco-uncovers-new-jihadist-cell

Semantics of Islamophobia in France

20.09.2013

In two separate newspaper articles on Libération and Le Monde, the papers discussed the polemics surrounding the word Islamophobia and the reluctance of certain politicians and organisations in using the term to describe anti-Muslim violence in France. The debate surrounding the roots of the term appears to be crucial to the question of who is comfortable in using the word and who refrains from doing so. For many politicians, including some leading politician in the current government, who reject to use the term, Islamophobia is a concept that misleads by being in allegiance with forces that attempt to undermine democracy and secularism.  Many consider the term to be of coinage by the Iranian government, who are accused of using the word in order to forward its radical agenda.

Marwan Mohammed and Abdellali Hajjat, two sociologists who have written a book on the genealogy of Islamophobia in France, have however revealed a completely different story of the term. According to them, French anthropologists used the term Islamophobia in 1910 to describe a way to administer French colonies in East Africa and reappeared in in the 1980s where in the UK where its politically coinage later took place.

German ‘Desert Flower’ centre to help circumcised women

Haunted by experience of genital mutilation at four, Somali former supermodel Waris Dirie opens Berlin centre that offers remonstrative surgery to circumcised women and girls

Somali-born activist and former supermodel Waris Dirie on Wednesday opens a centre in Germany to treat victims of female genital mutilation, which she was subjected to as a child.

About 8,000 young girls are circumcised every day in Africa and the Middle East, and the Desert Flower Medical Center, located in a Berlin hospital, will offer reconstructive surgery and psychological help to those among the 50,000 girls and women in Germany who need it.

 

Islam: The Grand Mosque of Rome, the 10 of July Ramadan will Begin

July 8, 2013

“On this occasion” said the Secretary-General of the Great Mosque of Rome, Abdellah Redouane “I present greetings to all Muslims of Italy calling upon God Almighty to spread peace over the whole world. Also this month of Ramadan is an opportunity for reconciliation and harmony between peoples. I ask all Muslims of Italy to take action to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable in this holy month and share this experience with them not only in the practice of worship but also in the spirit of solidarity made in Ramadan, mercy, and to make this Ramadan a month of brotherhood and harmony.”

Ramadan will begin on July 10 in Italy and the Arab countries of the Gulf and North Africa. The Muslim faithful fast from dawn to dusk and complete evening prayers (Tarawih). Families gather in the evening to break the fast together and have dinner.

Somali American caught up in a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign

In MINNEAPOLIS — Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia. Packed with news and controversial opinions, it rapidly became a magnet for Somalis dispersed around the world, including tens of thousands in Minnesota.

The popularity of the site, Somalimidnimo.com, or United Somalia, also attracted the attention of the Defense Department. A military contractor, working for U.S. Special Operations forces to “counter nefarious influences” in Africa, began monitoring the Web site and compiled a confidential research dossier about its founder and its content.

In a May 2012 report, the contractor, the Northern Virginia-based Navanti Group, branded the Web site “extremist” and asserted that its “chief goal is to disseminate propaganda supportive” of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group. The contractor then delivered a copy of its dossier — including Warsame’s Minnesota home address and phone number — to the FBI. A few days later, federal agents knocked on the webmaster’s door.

Although he did not know it, Warsame had been caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation, according to public records and interviews.

 

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).

RestrictionsIV-web

African nations and predominantly Muslim countries are among the least accepting of homosexuality

The world is divided over the acceptance of homosexuality, a survey released Tuesday (June 4) finds.

There is broad acceptance of homosexuality in North America, the European Union, and much of Latin America, according to the Pew Research Center survey. The survey was conducted by telephone and face to face in 39 countries among 37,653 respondents from March 2 to May 1. The margin of error for the survey ranges from plus or minus 3.1 to plus or minus 7.7 percentage points.

Juliana Horowitz, the report’s lead author and a senior researcher at Pew, says, “I can’t think of any question we have asked where we have this sort of global polarization. In North America, Europe and several countries in Latin America, we have really high acceptance of homosexuality. In predominantly Muslim nations and in sub-Saharan Africa, we have equally widespread views on the other side.”

African nations and predominantly Muslim countries are among the least accepting of homosexuality. For example, about 98 percent of people in Nigeria say homosexuality should not be accepted. In Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country in Southeast Asia, 93 percent say homosexuality should be rejected.

The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Immigrants: Majority Christian, Rising Share of Other Faiths

Overview

Over the past 20 years, the United States has granted permanent residency status to an average of about 1 million immigrants each year. These new “green card” recipients qualify for residency in a wide variety of ways – as family members of current U.S. residents, recipients of employment visas, refugees and asylum seekers, or winners of a visa lottery – and they include people from nearly every country in the world. But their geographic origins gradually have been shifting. U.S. government statistics show that a smaller percentage come from Europe and the Americas than did so 20 years ago, and a growing share now come from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region.

With this geographic shift, it is likely that the religious makeup of legal immigrants also has been changing. The U.S. government, however, does not keep track of the religion of new permanent residents. As a result, the figures on religious affiliation in this report are estimates produced by combining government statistics on the birthplaces of new green card recipients over the period between 1992 and 2012 with the best available U.S. survey data on the religious self-identification of new immigrants from each major country of origin.

While Christians continue to make up a majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one-in-five (19%) to one-in-four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012) and Hindus (3% in 1992, 7% in 2012). The share of Buddhists, however, is slightly smaller (7% in 1992, 6% in 2012), while the portion of legal immigrants who are religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular) has remained relatively stable, at about 14% per year.1

Unauthorized immigrants, by contrast, come primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the overwhelming majority of them – an estimated 83% – are Christian. That share is slightly higher than the percentage of Christians in the U.S. population as a whole (estimated at just under 80% of U.S. residents of all ages, as of 2010).2

These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life examining recent trends in the geographic origins and religious affiliation of immigrants to the United States. (For information on religion among migrants not just in the U.S. but globally, see the Pew Research Center’s 2012 report “Faith on the Move: The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants.”)

Muslim Immigrants

The estimated number of new Muslim immigrants varies from year to year but generally has been on the rise, going from roughly 50,000 in 1992 to 100,000 in 2012. Since 2008, the estimated number of Muslims becoming U.S. permanent residents has remained at or above the 100,000 level each year.

Between 1992 and 2012, a total of about 1.7 million Muslims entered the U.S. as legal permanent residents. That constitutes a large portion of the overall U.S. Muslim population (estimated at 2.75 million as of 2011).

In the early 1990s, the great majority of Muslim green card recipients came from Asia and the Pacific or the Middle East-North Africa region. The most common countries of origin among Muslim immigrants in 1992 included Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh. Those countries, as well as Iraq, also were among the most likely birthplaces of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012.

In recent years, a higher percentage of Muslim immigrants have been coming from sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 16% of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012 were born in countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia. In 1992, only about 5% of new Muslim immigrants came from sub-Saharan Africa.

Al Jazeera to launch French language channel

18.03.2013

Liberation

The Qatar based TV news channel Al Jazeera has recently announced the launch of a French news channel based in the United Kingdom. Al Jazeera French aims to build a bridge to the cultures and people of Europe, Africa and North America, according to the networks CEO Sheikh Ahmed Ben Jassem Al-Thani.

The French news channel follows Al Jazeera’s attempts to provincialise its network by opening branches in the Balkan region, Turkey, the US and in the near future the United Kingdom as well. The Qatari channel aims to expand as a media network that addresses different cultures in a number of languages. Localized media should help to attract larger audiences around the globe and aid to diversify Al Jazeera’s media profile. The Al Jazeera network was launched in 1996 as a pan-Arabic satellite station before opening its English branch, Al Jazeera English, in 2006 and is financed by the Emir of Qatar.