Though polygamous marriages are illegal in Italy, they are reportedly on the rise. While few Italian Muslims admit such unions, Muslim scholars put the number between 15,000-20,000 nationwide. Opinions in Italy are divided over the practice – “It’s a statistically irrelevant phenomenon that affects very few families, within which the presence of more than one wife doesn’t create problems,” said sociologist Stefano Allievi. However, Italy’s Moroccan Women’s Association president and parliamentary candidate for the centre-right People of Freedom Alliance, Souad Sbai, has a different view: There are thousands of cases of polygamy and in most instances, women suffer abuse. Husbands beat wives who don’t want to accept another wife… After a few years, polygamists sometimes abandon their second wives, who then find they are not entitled to benefits and have no rights – they cannot file for divorce, because in the eyes of the state, they were never married.”
The provincial government of Carinthia, a southern Austrian province, on Tuesday passed a law effectively banning the construction of mosques or minarets. The controversial legislation, passed with the votes of the Conservative People’s party and the right-wing Alliance for Austria’s Future was a sign against the “advancement of Islam”, provincial governor Joerg Haider said. The legislation links the construction of mosques with rules concerning the overall look and harmony of towns and villages, thereby aiming at preventing their construction. While Haider, a former leader of the right-wing Freedom Party that in its heyday enjoyed the support of up to 27 percent of Austria’s voters with its anti-immigration rhetoric, praised the new rules as a “guidepost” for Europe, the province’s Social Democrats slammed the measure as a populist farce.
Spanish government and UN leaders plan to hold the first Alliance of Civilizations forum in mid-January. The conference, which will take place in Madrid, will foster dialogue on such topics like terrorism and cultural clashes. The alliance was created after the September 11th, 2001 attacks to foster an understanding between Islam and the West, and to address issues that continue to cause tensions. International delegates and leaders from Malaysia, Algeria, Turkey, Portugal, in addition to representatives from many organizations and universities plan to attend the conference.
The President of the Spanish Islamic Council, Mansur Escudero, praised the position of General Secretary of the Arabic League Amr Moussa that the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba should accept the Muslim praying in its facilities. Such action, according to Escudero, would promote interfaith dialogue and should be understood as a positive action of proximity and not as a confrontation.
The Austrian extreme-Right Freedom Party (FP_) tried to initiate the threat of a creeping Islamization into a Parliament debate. In June, the Freedom Party, joined by the second extreme-Right Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZ_) had already initiated a parliamentary debate about the threat mosques and minarets posed to the ambience of Austrian towns which needed to be protected against the danger of creeping Islamisation.
On Monday, the New Alliance, under Dutch Parliamentarian Naser Khader, split from the social-liberal party, the Radical Venstre (RV). Khaser is an advocate of free speech and Muslim dialogue. His political maneuver is designed to combat the right-wing Danish People’s Party, which has taken increasingly antagonistic positions against foreigners. Syrian-born Khader gained national attention during last year’s cartoon controversy. He also founded the Association of Democratic Muslims. Through this organization, he urges dialogue within the community and appeals to the Danish people to differentiate between radical Muslims and those with moderate positions.
Only 28 miles separate Imam Talib’s mosque in Harlem from the Islamic Center of Long Island. The congregations they each serve – African-Americans at the city mosque and immigrants of South Asian and Arab descent in the suburbs – represent the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Yet a vast gulf divides them, one marked by race and class, culture and history. For many African-American converts, Islam is an experience both spiritual and political, an expression of empowerment in a country they feel is dominated by a white elite. For many immigrant Muslims, Islam is an inherited identity, and America a place of assimilation and prosperity. For decades, these two Muslim worlds remained largely separate. But last fall, Imam Talib hoped to cross that distance in a venture that has become increasingly common since Sept. 11. Black Muslims have begun advising immigrants on how to mount a civil rights campaign. Foreign-born Muslims are giving African-Americans roles of leadership in some of their largest organizations. The two groups have joined forces politically, forming coalitions and backing the same candidates. It is a tentative and uneasy union, seen more typically among leaders at the pulpit than along the prayer line. But it is critical, a growing number of Muslims believe, to surviving a hostile new era. Muslims will not be successful in America until there is a marriage between the indigenous and immigrant communities, said Siraj Wahhaj, an African-American imam in New York with a rare national following among immigrant Muslims. There has to be a marriage. The divide between black and immigrant Muslims reflects a unique struggle facing Islam in America. Perhaps nowhere else in the world are Muslims from so many racial, cultural and theological backgrounds trying their hands at coexistence. Only in Mecca, during the obligatory hajj, or pilgrimage, does such diversity in the faith come to life, between black and white, rich and poor, Sunni and Shiite (…) African-Americans possess a cultural and historical fluency that immigrants lack, said Dr. Khan; they hold an unassailable place in America from which to defend their faith. For Imam Talib, immigrants provide a crucial link to the Muslim world and its tradition of scholarship, as well as the wisdom that comes with an unshattered Islamic heritage. Both groups have their practical virtues, too. African-Americans know better how to mobilize in America, both men say, and immigrants tend to have deeper pockets. (…)
The newspaper headlines here have been astonishing. “So Far So Good,” read one banner headline; “Alliance of Faiths,” read another. And splashed across the front page of most papers Thursday was a picture of a smiling Pope Benedict XVI waving a Turkish flag. With gentle gestures and well-timed words, Benedict managed to charm the Turkish people and transformed his image from a crusty old anti-Turkish Islamaphobe to a politically savvy statesman in a matter of days.
MADRID – Spain, the Western country most marked by Arab civilization, solemnly decided to reopen the annals of its Arab past and to rebuild the bridges with the Muslim world, demolished with the fall of Granada in 1492, by signing the founding charters of “la Casa _rabe”, and of the International Institute of Arab Studies and the Muslim World. The Arab League and the UN Alliance of Civilizations co-sponsor the two new institutions.
Reactions against the conscience test applied to Muslims who want to become German citizens in Germany’s Baden-Wurttemberg province continue. The German Alliance 90/Greens Party Federal Assembly Group submitted a parliamentary motion to terminate the practice of examining the private life of applicants. The party’s Co-Chair Claudia Roth, criticizing the test’s questions on homosexuality as well, said, Even German-origin Pope Benedict XVI could not become a citizen if he took the test.