Germany’s Biggest Mosque Spurs Fear of `Islamization’ of Europe

The twin spires of Germany’s largest Gothic cathedral will soon be joined on the Cologne skyline by the minarets of the country’s biggest mosque. The $23 million Ehrenfeld Central Mosque, scheduled to be completed in about two years, will help bring Islam out of the back streets and reduce the influence of radicals, Mayor Fritz Schramma says. Others see the building as a symbol of Islamic extremism and further evidence that Cologne’s 120,000 Muslims, more than half of them Turkish immigrants, refuse to integrate. “I pray at the little chapel next to the Cologne Cathedral, and my prayer doesn’t become more valuable if I pray in the big cathedral,” said Laszlu Reischl, 56, a taxi driver. “I don’t understand why they insist on building a big mosque.” The controversy reflects Germany’s struggle over almost five decades to incorporate its largest ethnic minority. Tensions were revived in February when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turks at a Cologne rally that “assimilation is a crime against humanity.” Some lawmakers who oppose mostly Muslim Turkey’s bid to join the European Union accused him of preaching Turkish nationalism on German soil. Cologne has Germany’s highest concentration of Muslims, at 12 percent of the population. The new mosque will be built in the immigrant district of Ehrenfeld, about two miles from the 13th- century Cologne Cathedral. Seda Sezer reports.

Erdogan’s Visit Leaves German Conservatives Fuming

Conservative German politicians have accused Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan of interfering in German affairs and harming efforts to integrate the country’s Turks. Are they really that angry or do they just want to whip up sentiment against Turkey’s bid to join the EU? German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives have heaped criticism on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for telling Germany’s 2.5 million Turkish immigrants that assimilation is a crime against humanity. Erdogan, speaking in front of almost 20,000 people at a stadium in the German city of Cologne on Sunday, called for people of Turkish descent not to give up their cultural heritage. He encouraged Turks abroad to integrate in their new home countries, learn new languages and apply for political representation – without forgetting their Turkish background. It is important to learn German, but your Turkish language should not be neglected, he said. Erdogan had already caused controversy on Friday by calling for Turkish-Language High Schools ob e set up in Germany.

Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States

As part of its ongoing Transatlantic Dialogue on Terrorism, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC dedicated its seventh meeting in the series to Muslim integration and assimilation. In partnership with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, Germany, CSIS hosted a two-day event entitled, “The Transatlantic Dialogue on Muslims in Europe: Dealing with, and Looking Beyond, the Terrorist Threat ” to question and explore many of the conclusions Europeans and Americans have drawn about Muslim communities in their own countries.

As a summary to the meeting, CSIS commissioned six papers by U.S. and European experts on immigration, demographics, and integration policy, in order to further explore the situation facing Muslim communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the papers reveal the sometimes shaky foundations upon which European and U.S. policymakers are crafting integration policies. More importantly, the report also shows that despite efforts to improve the West’s collective understating of Islam and Muslim integration in American and European societies, many countries remain ill-equipped to fully incorporate these growing groups into society at large in terms of economic advancement, social mobility, and political participation. As such, the report highlights some of these shortcomings, puts forth a more accurate picture of European and U.S. Muslim communities, and presents recommendations for improving the status quo.

Muslim diversities: communities and contexts

“Muslim diversities: communities and contexts” seeks to bring together a collection of academic works that extends and informs knowledge and understanding about the diversity of communities and groups that constitute the contemporary Islamic and Muslim social, political, economic and theological landscapes in the UK, Europe and beyond.

To do this, chapters are required that focus upon a specific community (understood in terms of a community, organisation or group) that is then considered within a very specific contemporary context. It is vitally important that a specific context is therefore identified and established from the outset, as it is this that will provide the necessary framework from within which the necessary critical engagement of that community will be undertaken.

In being interdisciplinary and innovative in your approach, you may wish to consider some of the following communities (a list that is indicative rather than exhaustive):

  • Long established ethnic communities, e.g Turkish, Pakistanis
  •   Newly established communities, e.g. Eastern Europeans, Somalis
  •   Theological groups and movements, e.g. Shi’a (broad), Tablighi Jamaat (more specific)
  •   Political or politicised groups, e.g. Hizb ut-Tahrir, Stop the War (Muslim contingent)
  •   New and emergent communities, e.g. the Muslim Boys, converts/reverts
  •   Splinter and/or non-mainstream communities, e.g. Nation of Islam, Ismailies
  • In approaching these communities, you might wish to consider some of the following themes as a means of contextualisation:

  •   Political issues, e.g. integration, assimilation, belonging
  •   The media, e.g. how the community use the media, how the media represent the respective community
  •   Security, terrorism and associated legislation, e.g. responses both to and by Muslims organisations following major events such as 9/11, 7/7 and so on
  •   Theological differences, e.g. from orthodox forms of Islam, how these impact upon intra-community relationships and understandings
  •   Inter-faith perspectives and relationships
  •   Cultural aspects, e.g. music, art, literature, film
  •   The influence and effect of geography, e.g. from the simplest understanding of a given geographical location through to the perspective of minority status and all that this entails
  • Both established academics as well as postgraduates from across a variety of disciplines are encouraged in the first instance to submit an abstract of no more than 500 words that clearly sets out both the community concerned and the context within which the proposed chapter will undertake its exploration. Accompanying your abstract should be a short biography, full contact details and any academic affiliation. Submissions from suitably qualified practitioners outside the traditional academic environment will also be considered where appropriate.

    The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 May 2007. For those whose abstracts are successful, you will be required to submit a first draft of your chapter by 1 September 2007.

    To submit abstracts or to request further information, please contact Chris Allen at: info@chris-allen.co.uk / christopherallen@blueyonder.co.uk

    How Well Are American Muslims Fitting In? The Suicide Bombings In London Raise Questions Of Assimilation For The 3 Million Muslims In The US

    By Howard LaFranchi Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON – It’s called the “Virginia Jihad” case: Iraqi-American medical researcher Ali al-Yimimi, who preached in northern Virginia mosques and disseminated his radical thinking on the Web, was sentenced to life imprisonment last week. His crime: inciting followers, many of them young American-born Muslims, to a violent defense of Islam and war against the United States and its intervention in Islamic countries. Mr. Timimi’s sentencing in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom came against the backdrop of the London bombings, which British police now say were carried out by young British Muslims – and not foreign terrorists as in the case of the Sept. 11 attacks. They also say that the mastermind may have been a US-educated Egyptian chemist arrested Friday in Cairo. The London blasts not only brought the phenomenon of terrorists blowing themselves up to Western soil, but they raise new concerns of home-grown terrorism – not to mention a sense of dread about consequences among Britain’s predominately peaceful and moderate Muslim population of approximately 1.6 million. In the US, the attacks and events like the Virginia Jihad case are raising anxieties about immigrants and their allegiances in the midst of a rapidly expanding immigrant population. With a new report finding that births to foreign-born women in the US are at their highest level ever – nearly 1 in 4 – some experts are warning that the traditional rapid assimilation of immigrants risks breaking down – with potentially worrisome consequences. “Traditionally you had in the US an immigrant child learning to swim in a sea of native children, but increasingly it is the children of natives lost in a sea of children of immigrants,” says Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. His research of US Census figures shows that in 2002, 23 percent of US births were to immigrant mothers – up from 15 percent in 1990. The figure is closer to 25 percent today, Mr. Camarota adds, and could approach 30 percent by 2010. The vast majority of those children are born to Mexican and other immigrant Spanish-speaking women – a fact that prominent experts like Harvard’s Samuel Huntington, of “clash of civilizations” fame, say presents its own special challenges. Camarota estimates that the US Muslim population is about 3 million, including converts. Other organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, put the overall number much higher, at perhaps 6 million. Based on a 2002 study of US immigrants from the broader Middle East, Camarota estimates around 600,000 children of Muslim immigrants in the US. These facts, set in the context of new twists in Islamic terrorism, are raising questions about how well the children of Muslim immigrants are being assimilated. In California, the issue arose last month in the Central Valley town of Lodi – with a community of some 3,000 Muslims, mostly Pakistani immigrants or their descendants – where federal agents arrested two residents, a father and a son, for allegedly lying about links to terrorist-training camps in Pakistan, and two local imams. The Lodi case roiled the city’s Muslim community, raising worries about the sudden national spotlight, and drawing professions of allegiance and love for America from the local Muslim residents. Such cases appear to be feeding a growing sense of concern among Americans about immigration, and about Muslim immigrants in particular. In a new survey published last week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, Americans joined other Westerners in the perception that Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity, and want to remain distinct from the mainstream culture. “What we’re seeing is a relationship between a perception of separatism among Muslims living in these [North American and European] countries and serious concerns about extremism,” says Carolyn Funk, senior project director for the international survey of Islamic extremism. The survey of 17 countries did find that approval of terrorist acts such as suicide bombings is falling in many Muslim countries, with more Muslims expressing concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremism to their own country. Even Osama bin Laden is losing some of the shine he enjoyed in some countries, such as Morocco and Indonesia, although the survey shows esteem for him actually rising in Jordan and Pakistan. In Western countries with sizable Muslim minorities, the survey shows, concerns about unassimilating populations run parallelel to worries about extremist violence. In the US, where 70 percent said they worried about Islamic extremism in their country, half said they sensed an increasing interest in Islamic identity, and generally saw that as a bad thing. “The US is on the lower end [when compared to European countries],” says Ms. Funk, “but the same trend is there.” Americans seem to be of two minds about immigration, with a new Gallup poll confirming that ambivalence: It finds that a large majority of Americans think immigration is good for the country, while at the same time feeling that current levels of immigration are too high. For experts like CIS’s Camarota and others, those misgivings reflect a concern about the ability – or desire – of some groups to assimilate. At the same time, many Muslim community representatives say assimilation has become more difficult as Islamic extremism has risen to have an impact on the West. And they add that addressing the isolation and fanaticism that can feed homegrown extremism has to be the work of both the Islamic community and the broader society. “The challenges for immigrants, and in particular for Muslims, are more formidable in the post-9/11 era; the assimilation process is a much more difficult mountain to climb,” says Salam al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. Comparing the assimilation process to something of a two-way street, he says there are essential roles for both the minority Muslim community and the majority society “to make sure that Islam and Muslims play a positive role in American pluralism.” He also says that public officials must do more to acknowledge the cooperation they are getting from and relationships they are building with the Muslim community. He notes for example that his organization is working with the Department of Justice and the FBI on an antiterrorism campaign that has resulted in community forums and training in 20 cities. But he says officials have never held the press conference acknowledging the program as promised. “All I can think is that there are political calculations that keep them from doing it,” Mr. Marayati says. If true, that would run counter to what many experts say is a key factor in preventing another attack on US soil: the cooperation and allegiance of American Muslims. Clearly many have played key roles in cases where law enforcement has been able to target activities with potentially violent designs. But some Muslims say more encouragement is needed. “There’s a lack of space for Muslims to contribute to the political and social spheres,” Marayati says, “and you end up with an exclusion of the American Muslim voice.”