Additional information on the Millatu Ibrahim group

June 15

 

Millatu Ibrahim defines itself as Takfiri, a radical interpret of Islam. Basic information retrieved from blog-pages describe the Millatu Ibrahim group call Muslims to witness Allah in front of the public with the “Shuhahda” and distance themselves from any other unbeliever “Kufr” in order to be on the “safe side” of Islam.

 

Denis Cuspert (36) alias Deso Dogg alias Abu Talha Al-Almani started is public activity as a “Gangster Rapper”. His songs are about violence and crime among youth in German cities. He was born and raised in Berlin by his German mother as his father, who was from Ghana left the family when Cuspert was a baby. Cuspert had a difficult childhood: he was often in conflict with his stepfather, a former American Army soldier and strict disciplinarian. He was sent to a home for difficult children and returned after five years. He experienced racism at school and begun to participate at demonstrations against the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the Iraq war in 2003. Having joined Turkish and Arab youth gangs in Berlin, he committed crimes for which he was sentenced to prison.

 

Cuspert became a known figure in the socially problematic areas of Berlin. His “nasheeds” (Islamic vocal songs) praising Al Qaeda’s late leader, Osama bin Laden (“Your name flows in our blood”), or the Taliban leader Mullah Omar have made him a high ranked rapper in the Jihadi scene. In 2011, he was prosecuted for possessing illegal weapons and ordered to pay a fine.

 

Recently, Cuspert has left Berlin for Bonn, calling the city a “lost case”. Little is known about Cuspert’s real motivation to move. Commentators speculate that the reason is the increasing authorities’ pressure after the release of his hate, violence-praising “nasheeds” in May 2012.

 

Cuspert is believed to have inspired the self-radicalized Arid Uka, who shot two American airmen at the Frankfurt airport in March 2011. His “nasheeds” would “incite violence and unrest through inflammatory videos and fiery speeches that praise terrorists and attack the West”.

 

Mohamed Mahmoud (27), also known as Abu Usama al-Gharib, was born in Vienna, Austria. His father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and asked for political asylum in Austria. Mahmoud joined an Al Qaeda training camp in Iraq in 2003 and founded the youth organization “Islamic youth in Austria”.

 

After moving to Berlin, he was sentenced to four years prison for hate speech and activities in terrorist and criminal organizations. Already during his time in prison, Mahmoud was in contact with Cuspert. They became closer after that Mahmoud was released in September 2011. In the same period, Mahmoud moved from Berlin to Solingen and became the dominant Imam of the local “Millatu Ibrahim mosque”.  Mahmoud and Cuspert have been regarded as “online pioneers” of the German Jihadi scene, providing Islamists with an entertaining and heterogeneous platform to interact on.

Representation of Islam in European Textbooks

September 16, 2011

The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Braunschweig, Germany) released the findings of a study on the representation of Islam in European textbooks. Following a systematic analysis of textbooks in Germany, Austria, France, Spain, and England, the researchers concluded that Islam is often (and in all five countries) represented in a simplified and distorted way; instead of reflecting the Islam’s diversity across the globe, textbook presentations often reduce it to a homogeneous entity. Similarly, Muslims are often represented as a religious and pre-modern collective, a non-European “Other” that appears to be in opposition to a modern (and also homogeneous) European society. The analysis also showed that differences and controversies between Islam and the West are often highlighted and emphasized, whereas similarities are hardly mentioned. Representatives of the institute and researchers involved in the study noted that this sort of representation does not help to improve any intercultural dialogue and fight Islamophobia; instead, it helps to maintain existing (negative) perceptions and prejudice.

ABSTRACT

Current textbooks from European countries cling to simplified portrayals of  Islam, thus stabilising perceptions of Muslims as a (primarily) religiously  defined collective of non-European ‘others’. Such are the findings of a  recent study by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook  Research in Brunswick.(1) Most of the history and politics textbooks  examined, from Germany, Austria, France, Spain and England, inspire  and/or reinforce the impression that Islam and ‘modern Europe’ exist as  mutually exclusive and in themselves homogeneous entities that share  confrontational encounters, yet practically no commonalities or  similarities.

This perspective is based on a lack of differentiation between Islam as a  religious model and cultural and political practices associated with it.  Consequently, depictions of Islam and Muslims in current textbooks from  European countries are dominated by essentialised images of religious  difference and collective associations. Particularly frequent are  judgements of Islam as an antiquated system of rules and regulations that  nevertheless still dominates all spheres of life for people of Muslim  religion. A lack of differentiation and collective references to Muslims can  foster a form of ‘cultural racism’ that takes religious difference to be  invariable. The focus of this polarisation is, however, not primarily the  presentation of Muslims as religious opponents in violent conflicts, such as  in narratives on the crusades, but in their portrayal as pre-modern and  thus as ‘others’ incompatible with Europe. Even historical depictions that  acknowledge and pay tribute to the Arab-Islamic Middle Ages do not  destabilise this polarised concept but rather underpin the perspective of  broken cultural advancement in reference to predominantly Muslim  societies.

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1 The study was carried out at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook  Research, Brunswick, by Susanne Kröhnert-Othman, Melanie Kamp and Constantin  Wagner between July and December 2010.

Long-Awaited Response to Sarrazin’s Book Hits German Bookshelves: A Review

25 March 2011

Patrick Bahners, editor-in-chief of the arts and culture pages of the conservative FAZ, has published a book about the hysteric German debate around Islam. In this article, the reviewer of “Die Panikmacher” (“The Alarmists”) finds that Bahners shrewdly dismantles the arguments of prominent Islam critics like Thilo Sarrazin, Henryk M. Broder and Necla Kelek. Bahners sheds light on the strategies of Islam critics, who oftentimes argue from an absolutist point of view, rejecting any form of dialogue as well as the model of the welfare state. Despite missing a few amendments, such as a comparison with neighbouring countries like Austria, the reviewer welcomes the publication very much.

Patrick Bahners: “Die Panikmacher. Die deutsche Angst vor dem Islam”. C. H. Beck Verlag, München 2011.

Right-Wing Islam Seminar Found Guilty of Denigrating Islam

15-16 February 2011

A verdict has been passed in the case of the controversial “Islam Seminar” taught at the party academy of the right-way Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). Judge Bettina Neubauer dismissed the charge of hate speech, however has fined the presenter of the seminar 480 Euros for denigrating and slandering Islam, due to the instructor’s insinuation that the prophet Mohammed was a pedophile. The defense has announced its intention to appeal the ruling.

Furthermore, the Office of the Federal Chancellor announced the following day that it would be withholding 1045.45 Euros from the FPÖ’s party academy budget during the next round of funding for the party institutes. The Office of the Chancellor had calculated this to be the amount spent by the FPÖ’s party academy for the funding of the controversial “Islam Seminar.”

ATIB: Cultural Association or Shelter for Islamists?

9 February 2011

ATIB, the “Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria,” is a favorite target for anti-Islam activists in Austria. The far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) maintains that the goal of ATIB is to spread Turkish values and the Qur’an in Austria, while local activists such as the spokesperson for the Dammstraße anti-mosque initiative Hannelore Schuster believe that “naturally” there are Islamists active within ATIB, and that the goal of the Turkish state is to use ATIB to promote the domination of Europe by Islam.

Cengiz Günay of the Austria Institute for International Politics agrees ATIB is “definitely not independent” of the Turkish state, however he says that it represents a more moderate form of Islam, and that there are no “underground currents attempting to invade Austria.” Günay in general refutes the idea that Islamic centers promote parallel societies in Austria: “they exist already,” he says, due mainly to the fact that Turkish migrants occupy the lowest level of the social ladder.

Citizens Forge a New Alliance against “Islamicization”

9 February 2011

A number of neighborhood anti-mosque initiatives in Vienna are coming together to create a new anti-Islam federation, the “Pro-Austria Movement” (BPÖ), also called the “Federation against Islamic Multipurpose Centers and the Islamicization of Austria.” The new federation brings together four separate citizens’ initiatives (Dammstraße, Trostgasse, Rappgasse, and the “Garten-Gallier”) which had been fighting against the construction of Islamic cultural centers in their neighborhoods.

While in many cases, the Islamic associations in question have already received permits for the construction of their respective centers, these associations still hold out hope that they may be able to stop the construction before it begins. “As long as there aren’t any construction machines showing up, I still have hope,” said Hannelore Schuster, spokesperson for the Dammstraße initiative.

In general, these citizens’ initiatives have protested against the noise and the traffic that these centers would supposedly bring with them, however on their web pages the main theme is Islam itself. According to Cengiz Günay, from the Austrian Institute for International Politics, there is a growing “ethnicization of everyday conflicts,” and that there would not be the same problems were non-Muslim groups to be interested in building such centers. He says the centers function merely as a “village square” for many immigrants who do in fact come from villages, and are simply seeking a place in which to meet. Nonetheless, he says he understands the feelings of the local residents involved in the anti-mosque initiatives, and regrets that the situation has now escalated to an “all or nothing” mindset on both sides.

Compromise is increasingly unlikely in many of these local conflicts. In the Dammstraße case, the local Turkish Muslim association ATIB is no longer speaking with the citizens’ initiative, though the latter would not accept the building of a smaller center as a compromise in any case.

Schuster continues to believe that with the new federation they will ultimately win. She points to positive signs from politicians, and not only the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), who finance the federation’s website: following the Vienna elections, the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) has been increasingly “reasonable.”

New Turkish Movie Sparks Interreligious Controversy

3 February 2010
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has called on the chancellors of both Austria and Germany to prohibit the new Turkish film, “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine,” characterizing it an “immediate danger to Muslim-Jewish relations.” Originally a popular Turkish TV series which has since been made into a number of movies, this latest one has been denounced as a “hate film” by Shimon Samuels, the director of international affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. One of the last of the series, “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” equally created controversy for its portrayal of a Jewish-American army doctor involved in organ trafficking.

The President of the Vienna Israelite Community (IKG) Ariel Muzicant has equally criticized the “telling silence” of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) on the subject, calling it “unacceptable,” while stating that is it further proof that the IGGiÖ “is not interested in any kind of open interconfessional dialogue.” The President of the IGGiÖ Anas Schakfeh has responded by saying that Muzicant’s criticism is “absurd:” not only does the IGGiÖ not have the authority to prohibit the screening of a move, but it cannot either take responsibility “for everything, that occurs in the Islamic world.” Moreover, Schakfeh contented that the IGGiÖ was always open for interreligious dialogue, and that it had been the IKG which had unilaterally ended dialogue some time ago.

The movie was equally defended by the far-right Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), which denounced attempts to “censure art and culture,” and which defended the film on the grounds of promoting “a critical discourse” on even in the Middle East.

Shifting the Middle to the Right – In Switzerland as well

31 October 2010

The rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe is discussed in this interview with the Austrian political scientist Reinhold Gärtner. In Gärtner’s opinion, Muslims and Islam have come to be the main scapegoats in many European countries, just as Jews or Roma have been in the past. The juxtaposition of criminality, immigration, and Muslims appeals to peoples’ fears, though there is certainly a limit to this appeal.
Nonetheless, there is no single recipe for dealing with these parties. In Switzerland and Italy, integrating them into the government seems to have worked to a certain degree. Meanwhile, the case of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and its spell in government shows how this participation can also fail, as the party finds that the easy solutions which it preaches do not exist.

Liberal Muslims Present a New Approach to Integration

27 October 2010

The Liberal Muslim Initiative of Austria (ILMÖ) has proposed to demand imams and Islamic preachers in the future to sign a declaration in which they agree to respect the principles of European values, democracy, human rights, freedom of opinion, equality of the sexes, respect of other beliefs and the freedom to change religion.
The proposal came during a meeting with the minister of the interior, Maria Fekter. Fekter had invited a number of different Muslim groups to a “dialogue round” as part of a larger national action plan for integration. An international academic conference is to follow in November.
The ILMÖ also heavily criticized the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) and its leader, Anas Schakfeh, saying the IGGiÖ is “not able to promote the integration of all Muslims” and “is not capable of integrating its own Muslims.”
In response, Omar Al-Rawi, both Social-Democrat (SPÖ) politician and the integration commissioner for the IGGiÖ, stated that the ILMÖ was the “minority of a minority in a minority.” According to Al-Rawi, the IGGiÖ as a federation represents all the different groups that can be found among the 500 000 Muslims in Austria.

Austria’s Media Tend towards Islamophobia

26 October 2010

Islam often shows up in the headlines in Austrian newspapers, though rarely in a positive light. According to Professor Farid Hafez at the University of Vienna, the debate surrounding a statement made by the president of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) Anas Schakfeh is symptomatic of the problem. Schakfeh had expressed his hope that in 50 years there would be a mosque in every provincial capital in Austria, a view which led to an enormous debate on minarets and mosques in Austria.
For Elizabeth Klaus, researcher at the University of Salzburg, the islamophobic tendencies in the media are evident. Klaus has been personally working on a study of the portrayal of Islam in a number of Austrian newspapers, and says that it is “frightening” how often the veil is used as a symbol for that which is “foreign, negative, and other.”
According to Cahit Kaya, president of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims, all those who call themselves Muslims must also accept that there will be criticism of Islam. Nonetheless, Hafez, Klaus, and Birol Kiliç, editor of the Turkish-language newspaper Yeni Vatan Gazetesi, all agree that the problem is that the criticism in question does not manage to differentiate between fundamentalists and the Islam practiced by the majority of Muslims.