French President Sarkozy Appears to Have Forgotten About Arabic Language Instruction

This article in Libération charts Nicolas Sarkozy’s discourse on Arabic language instruction in France. The author suggests that while he has been extremely involved in the structuring of Islam in France and has presented himself as open to relationships with Mediterranean nations, there has been little advancement on his earlier promises related to Arabic instruction in public schools.

Increasing Number of French Muslim Girls Attend Private Schools

This article profiles Reussite, one of the first Muslim private schools in France. Several associations and activities are grouped under the umbrella of Reussite, which means “success.” The school first opened in 2001 in the densely populated suburb of Aubervilliers, northeast of Paris. Initially the school had a handful of middle school students, but today 138 pupils in junior and senior high school study there. Many girls come specifically because of problems they’ve had in public schools related to the veil ban, said Belkhier Okachi, the school’s treasurer.

The school has become a victim of its own success and regularly turns away students in order to keep class sizes small — the average is 24 — so students can benefit from individual attention from teachers.

Recognized by the state, the school follows the same national curriculum as its public school counterparts with some notable differences. Students are required to take Arabic language classes as well as one hour of religion per week. Although the midday prayer is not a requirement, most students participate in the 15-minute exercise.

The school’s enrollment is almost equally split between girls and boys, although it enrolls slightly more girls because they have a harder time in public schools. For funding, Reussite relies largely on the 2,500 euro annual tuition per student as well as donations from local businesses and private sources. Nevertheless, the school is facing grave financial difficulties.

Moroccan man physically assults wife for accepting a job.

A Moroccan Muslim man has been imprisoned for continuously threatening and abusing his wife. The wife is a 43 year educated woman, with two sons, and was offered a job as an Arabic language teacher at an army base, Ancona. Her husband forced her to quit the job using violence, threats and insults. Her Moroccan Muslim husband holds very orthodox views and disapproves of her potential interactions with male students. After putting up with years of abuse and his insistence that she stay at home to raise their children—the woman has finally obtained a separation. Despite, the separation and court orders to maintain distance, the husbands assaults did not subside and has landed him in jail until next October.

Controversy over Turkish and Arabic posters in Netherlands’ election

Several candidates running in the Netherlands’ March 3 local elections have published campaign material in languages other than Dutch, sparking criticism from other campaigners. Turkish and Arabic-language election posters have appeared at various places in the country, as Labour (PvdA), the Christian democrats (CDA), centre-left D66, the Socialist Party (SP) and the leftwing Greens have posters up on which Islamic candidates are seeking their ethnic group’s voting support. The materials were printed by candidates without the permission of their party executive, and other parties have been reluctant to criticize the poster because they also have candidates publishing non-Dutch material.

Nonetheless, Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan has called on all parties to stop producing election campaign posters in other languages because they ‘do not fit in with the message’ that immigrants should learn Dutch. But the city’s Labour party has refused to withdraw leaflets in other languages, Dutch News reports. ‘The reality is that not everyone in Amsterdam speaks good Dutch. But these people should be able to vote as well,’ campaign leader Lodewijk Asscher said.

Abdulmutallab met with Anwar al-Awlaki after finishing Arabic language course

While some say his views on Islam were considered to be within the mainstream, Abdulmutallab has also been described by some friends and acquaintances as being opaque and unknowable.

Experts have uncovered puzzling character traits and interests as their investigation of how and when he was radicalized moves forward. They have also discovered an interesting path of world travel, and now know that he pursued relationships with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and al-Qaida operatives, from the time he was in London until he boarded the flight to Detroit strapped with explosives.

Barcelona exhibits Islamic art

An exhibit showcasing Islamic art, organized in collaboration with The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, has opened in Barcelona. The CaixaForum exhibition, titled “The Worlds of Islam” runs through January 2010 and showcases, for the first time in Barcelona, 190 pieces bound by “the common denominator of the Arabic language and Muslim religion”, QNA reports.

The exhibit travels to Barcelona from Madrid, where the pieces were seen by 160,000 people. It contains 190 objects spanning 1,400 years of history, “artistic markers of a world that stretches from ancient Al-Andalus to India”.

Decreasing Availability of Arabic Classes in France

Le Monde reports a decline in the availability of Arabic language classes in France. There are currently 7,300 high school student studying Arabic; there were twice as many students enrolled at the end of the 1970s. Chinese-language classes, in comparison, attract 15,000 students annually.

Morocco strengthens ties with Moroccans in the Netherlands

The Moroccan government is aiming to strengthen ties with Moroccans abroad, and wants the Arabic language and Moroccan culture to be propagated more among Moroccans living abroad. According to Volkskrant, Rabat now wants to create stronger ties with emigrants by stressing their Arab identity. The Hague responded with concern We have difficulty getting Moroccan youth that have gone adrift to take part in the society… I’m not happy about Morocco exercising pressure in the opposite direction said Madeleine van Toorenburg, CDA MP. The Moroccan government has aims to double the number of emigrant children learning Arabic and becoming familiar with Moroccan culture. About 80% of Moroccans in the Netherlands speak one of the Berber languages; Arabic is just as much a second language as Dutch for many Moroccans in the country. Labour MP Khadija Arib, who is of Moroccan descent, argues that Moroccans in the Netherlands should focus on their lives here, so they can get ahead.

Ceremony for the late Salim Azzam

The Fatiha Ceremony and Consolation gathering for late Ustaz Salim Azzam took place in London last Saturday at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park. Representatives from different Islamic organisations attended to offer their condolences to the family and close friends of Mr Azzam. Some representatives gave short speeches about the bravery, generosity and involvement of Mr Azzam in support of different Islamic causes and issues all over the world. These included Palestine, Bosnia, Somali, Afghanistan, Kashmir and many others. He also founded the European Islamic Council, Britain’s first European Muslim Institution in UK. Mr Salim Azzam, was born in Cairo, Egypt, in the District of Helwan on 8 July 1924. He was from a distinguished family well known over the Muslim world. His uncle Abdul Rahman Azzam is the founder and the first President of the Arab League. His uncle Abdulwahab Azzam is the well known scholar, poet and thinker who translated Mohammad Iqbal into the Arabic language. Although Mr Azzam was born into a wealthy family, he was said to be very kind and merciful to the poor and lower classes in society. (link temporary; some news sites may require registration)

The City of Alcorcón offers Arabic language courses

The city of Alcorc_n plans to offer Arabic as part of its _Libraries Open’ program seeking to promote multiculturalism and expose its citizens to the social realities of other cultures. Arabic will be taught in courses divided into three categories – basic, intermediate, and advanced. The courses will be taught in the library of Jose Iron Alcorc_n.