Hijab debate splits feminists in Germany

In a new instalment of Germany’s long-running judicial battles over the hijab, the country’s highest court has in a new verdict upheld the legislator’s right to prohibit Muslim women from wearing the Islamic headcovering in certain circumstances.

 

Jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) rejected the application for interim relief filed by a junior lawyer from the state of Hesse working at a local court. Her employer, referring to a 2007 ministerial decree, had refused to let her wear the hijab when interacting with the public in an official role.

The Court’s decision appeared to be a reversal on a previously more concessionary interpretation of legal texts, and a turn to a more categorical upholding of a quasi-laic principle of state neutrality. In previous rulings, the Court had invalidated a blanket ban on headscarves worn by teachers at public schools and also rejected demands to outlaw the headscarf at public kindergartens.

“The sight of other religious convictions”

Yet while the Court had stated in its verdict on the kindergarten case that no one had a constitutional right to “be spared the sight of other religious or ideological confessions of faith”(( http://www.spiegel.de/karriere/eilantrag-gegen-kopftuchverbot-juristin-scheitert-vor-gericht-a-1155852.html )), the present judgement seems to be based at least partly on the exact opposite reasoning. In somewhat convoluted phrasing, the judges assert that

it appears understandable if persons involved in a trial feel violated in their right to remain untouched by the cultic actions of a faith they do not espouse if they are subjected to the unavoidable compulsion of having to lead a lawsuit under the involvement of state representatives who identifiably project their religious or ideological convictions to the outside.((http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2017/bvg17-055.html ))

In other words, at least in the sensitive domain of the justice system, people do have the right to be spared the sight of other religious convictions.

A crossroads for feminism

The significance of the verdict is, of course, not simply juridical: whilst phrased in the arcane language of Germany’s specific legal doctrine dealing with the relationship between Church (or religion more generally) and state – the so-called Staatskirchenrecht – the import of the judges’ decision lies in the ways in which it touches upon the place allocated to Islamic religiosity and Muslim women in the German public sphere.

In this context, the issue of the hijab regularly becomes a crossroads for progressive politics. Most notably, as Meredith Haaf writes in a thoughtful article for the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/debatte-tuch-oder-tussi-1.3585227 )) – translated into English here – feminism continues to struggle over its positioning vis-à-vis the Muslim headscarf.

Combatting ‘sexualisation’

Internationally, influential NGO Terre des Femmes recently called for a global ban on hijabs for underage girls – a move that Haaf identifies as part of “the discursive stoking of discrimination against a section of the population”.

Terre des Femmes argues that the headscarf stigmatises girls and women as “seductresses and sexual beings”. Yet even if Muslim parents should indeed be acting upon this rationale, Haaf points out that many non-Muslims do the same by making their (often pre-pubescent) daughters wear bikini tops or by dressing them in ostentatiously ‘girlish’ clothing. Whether ‘oriental’ sexualisation is a more powerful force than its ‘occidental’ counterpart is thus far from clear.

Headscarf and patriarchy

Many feminists have nevertheless picked up upon the headscarf as the prime symbol and tool of patriarchal oppression in our age. In this context, a number of feminists have not shied away from entering a de facto alliance with the populist right.

In Germany, only the openly Islamophobic AfD party has called for a ban on the hijab such as the one demanded by Terre des Femmes. Needlessly to say, the AfD also supports a curtailment of women’s reproductive rights and a strengthening of the traditional family model – hardly an agenda that Western feminists have traditionally espoused.

Feminism’s rightward turn

Haaf takes particular aim at Emma, the long-standing leading German feminist publication. Founded by Alice Schwarzer, dominant persona of the German feminist movement, Emma’s editorial line (as well as Ms. Schwarzer’s personal politics) has shifted sharply to the right on matters concerning Islam.

Especially following the mass sexual assaults by predominantly North African men on New Year’s Eve 2015/2016 in Cologne, Schwarzer became very vocal in her description of Islam as a violent and inherently patriarchal ideology. In 2017, Schwarzer published an edited volume entitled The Shock: The New Year’s Eve of Cologne. In this work, Schwarzer and her co-authors assert that sexual violence is based on and legitimised (even called for) by the Qur’an.

‘Islamic feminism’

For her positioning Schwarzer has received harsh criticism from a feminist perspective. Khola Maryam Hübsch, journalist, Muslim activist, and author of the book Freedom under the Veil: What Islam Can Add to a Truly Emancipated Image of Women attacked Schwarzer for replicating the discourses and argumentative patterns employed by misogynistic Islamist extremism.(( http://cicero.de/kultur/koelner-silvesternacht-so-hilft-alice-schwarzer-den-islamfeinden-der-afd/60902 ))

Hübsch decried the fact that interventions such as Schwarzer’s essentialise ‘Islam’ or ‘the Qur’an’ and in this way “torpedo the attempts of all those Muslims who don’t tire of pointing to the obvious: particular verses need to be interpreted in textual and historical context. They must not be abused selectively for egoistically motivated behaviour.”(( http://cicero.de/kultur/koelner-silvesternacht-so-hilft-alice-schwarzer-den-islamfeinden-der-afd/60902 ))

Clashing feminisms

In many respects, Hübsch’s comments are expressive of a self-consciously ‘Islamic’ feminism, represented in Germany by voices such as Kübra Gümüsay. Islamic feminists highlight the ways in which mainstream feminism has – in their view – sidelined Muslim women by denying them agency and by conceptualising them as passive objects in need of saving.

Yet Hübsch’s account stressing the possibility of uniting feminism and the hijab is, of course, far from uncontested. Other Muslim commentators strike a very different note. Activist Zana Ramadani, author of the book The Veiled Danger, accuses mainstream feminism of having become politically correct and complacent. Ramadani sees Gümüsay and others as using accusations of Islamophobia and racism in order to silence critical voices raising uncomfortable questions about the nature of Islamic religiosity.(( http://cicero.de/kultur/islam-und-frauenrechte-pseudo-feministinnen-mit-kopftuch ))

Reverting to ad hominem attacks against Islamic feminists, Ramadani asserts that “these ignorant headscarf women are part of an Islamist lobby that through trickery has managed to obtain the solidarity of not only leftist feminists. They have all been hoodwinked by the Muslim fake-feminists such as Gümüsay”.(( http://cicero.de/kultur/islam-und-frauenrechte-pseudo-feministinnen-mit-kopftuch ))

The different meanings of the hijab

Thus, both sides castigate one another as having undermined feminism’s progressive credentials. In spite of the often lacklustre nature of the arguments employed – especially on the part of those blindly accusing headscarf-wearing women and their defenders of complicity with terrorism – neither side is necessarily completely wrong: the hijab may be imposed as an oppressive garment; yet it may also be freely chosen.

Thus, what is often difficult to understand and appreciate for both sides is the polyvalence of the hijab as a symbol. Those feminists who only conceive of the hijab as a symbol and a tool of domination fail to accept the fact that women may choose to wear the headcovering of their own accord. Those who see it as a potentially liberating object fail to see that it is at times violently imposed.

Religious obligations

Another facet of the problem is, however, even more difficult to conceptualise. Religious precepts are – at least in their traditional understanding – not based on free-wheeling ‘individual choice’ but on a communal tradition that is perceived as binding on the individual. To give but one example: Jewish and Muslim parents circumcise their male offspring – without the child having much of a say in it.

In a highly remarkable verdict in 2012, a German court condemned this practice as violating the child’s right to bodily integrity. While the legislator in Berlin quickly passed a law creating a loophole that allowed for the continued legality of religiously motivated circumcision of boys, the underlying point still stands: free individual choice and the belonging to a religious community may frequently clash.

The hijab as the norm

The same could quite well apply to many women wearing the hijab: it is true that an increasing number of women particularly in Western societies might make the individualistic choice to wear the Muslim headcovering. Yet in many cases, they will wear it because their families and their (Muslim) environment have signalled them that this is “the way things are to be done” in the community.

In many respects, Islamic feminists and their feminist antagonists both argue from the standpoint of a radical, individualistic choice: the former assert that Muslim women ‘choose’ the headscarf; the latter claim that Muslim women should be enabled to become true individuals by abandoning the garment.

Communal obligations vs. individual choice

Neither side tackles the much harder question concerning the place of communal obligations in an increasingly individualised society. Does it per se make people ‘unfree’ in a relevant way if they conceive of themselves as part of a religious community that is seen as imposing certain rules that go unquestioned by the community’s individual members and that thus curtail individual choice?

The framers of Germany’s Basic Law did not seem to think so: in their Staatskirchenrecht, they enshrined far-reaching guarantees for citizens to be able to belong to religious communities and to project their communal affiliations and beliefs to the outside, including in the public sphere. Yet as the recent verdicts given by Germany’s top courts reveal, the renegotiation and actualisation of these foundational principles in today’s context continues to be a challenge – especially in relation to Islam.

May’s anti-Islamaphobia claims conflict with her political history

Following the attack on Muslims near the Finsbury Park Mosque, Prime Minister called for an end to anti-Muslim right-wing extremism.

Mehdi Hasan, a prominent Muslim British journalist, argues that May’s claim is contradictory with her own political history, which is steeped in support for Islamaphobic policy and tolerance of Islamaphobia in her Conservative party.

As Home Secretary, she largely ignored “hundreds” of incidents of anti-Muslim violent incidents while focusing intensely on the “Islamist” threat. She ignored a warning from an official in her department that this focus could foster right-wing violence. The official wrote, “I wouldn’t want to get to the point where something happens and we look back and think actually, we should have addressed that as well.”

In 2014, she was an active voice in claiming that Birmingham schools were being taken over by Muslims “extremists” despite limited evidence of radicalisation.

As home secretary, she never formerly met with the Cross-Government Anti-Mulsim Hatred Working group. The inattention to this important issue from the Conservative government resulted in leading academics resigning from the group.

Former Conservative minister Sayeeda Warsi has been disappointed in the limited support the Conservative party has given her in fighting Islamaphobia. Hasan believes she is being polite and measured in her condemnation, as she has been almost entirely ignored.

As Prime Minister, she hired a political strategist who told the conservatives to ignore “[explitive] Muslims” and supported the allegedly Islamaphobic campaigns, such as that of Zac Goldsmith.

She is also accused of purposefully limiting the presence of both Muslims and Muslim-related issues in the party. As such, the author is sceptical that she will fight Islamaphobia effectively.

 

The Bigotry That Armed the Quebec Mosque Attacker

TORONTO — On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people and wounding eight. Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, called the shootings a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”

Worshipers gunned down in a mosque — people here more readily associate such news with the United States than with Canada. That this happened in Quebec City has shocked many of us, myself included.

In Quebec, Islamophobia manifested itself in a series of sensational cases, in 2007 and 2008, over the “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities, Muslims in particular. The provincial soccer federation barred hijab-wearing girls on the pretext of safety. It took an official commission to calm public nerves. Its 2008 report, which had the eminent philosopher Charles Taylor as an author, found there was no crisis: Sensationalist media coverage had distorted perceptions, but Muslims were not making unreasonable demands.

I remain an incurably optimistic Canadian, and I want to believe that Canada is still not the United States. But as Sunday’s attack showed, we face the challenge of undoing the damage of years of suspicion and bigotry.

Journey through an Islamic Germany: A book seeks to give diverse Muslims a voice

Providing a counterpoint to the black-and-white narrative

Karen Krüger, journalist at culture desk of the conservative weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, has released a new book in which she embarks on a journey through what she terms an ‘Islamic Germany’, portraying diverse Muslim Germans in their daily lives.

Krüger’s self-professed goal is to show the diversity of the country’s Muslim population and the multifaceted nature of their religion, against the backdrop of a public perception of Islam as a monolithic unit: “My aim was to enable those Muslims to speak up whom you otherwise don’t hear because their religion simply is not bellicose.”((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

Pre-empting potential criticism claiming that she hand-picked ‘liberal’ Muslims to portray in her book, Krüger states that “I only show liberal Muslims because the large majority of Muslims living in Germany is liberal. One just doesn’t notice them that often because they don’t appear as talk show guests, because they don’t attract attention through spectacular demonstrations.”((http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/kultur/diwan/karen-krueger-reise-durch-das-islamische-deutschland-100.html))

Krüger thus seeks to work against a news cycle focused on terrorism and security concerns: “I wanted to confront this [focus] by showing that Muslims are not this homogeneous mass they’re often presented as in the media. It is really worth to look in people’s faces, to find contacts and to start a conversation with people – and then you will see that many [allegations] are not justified.”((http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/kultur/diwan/karen-krueger-reise-durch-das-islamische-deutschland-100.html))

Deficits in incorporating Islam into society

The author also notes the toll that the ongoing barrage of media scrutiny and public suspicion is taking on German Muslims: “With most Muslims you can feel a great deal of hurt because due to the worldwide political situation many Muslims often experience rejection, even though they feel as a part of German society.” Krüger notes that among many Muslims this rejection leads to a latent yet perceptible state of grief.((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

For Krüger, this state of affairs is a powerful driver of radicalisation: for young German Muslims, the starting point on the slippery slope towards jihadism is a situation in which “religion is transformed into an identitarian place of refuge” – a place particularly appealing to the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants who are neither deemed to be ‘properly German’ nor can simply claim to belong to their parents’ country of origin. Islam in general, and jihadist Islam with its transnational ideological and organisational structures in particular, appears to offer a way out of this dilemma.((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

What is required, Krüger argues, are better educational efforts, in order to offer relevant and theologically sound instruction to young Muslims. This would pre-empt the need for an auto-didactic and haphazard engagement with Islam on shady online fora. More importantly, however, Krüger calls upon mainstream society to allow and enable a Muslim German identity to grow: “Surely not for everyone but at least for wide sections [of the population] it is not yet imaginable that ‘being German’ and ‘being Muslim’ do not have to exclude each other but can come together.”((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

Krüger’s call comes at a particularly sensitive moment, as a number of conservative interior ministers of Germany’s federal states are putting forward drastic national security proposals. Among other measures on their list, they demand the prohibition of dual citizenship, a burqa ban, and tighter supervision of mosque finances.((http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Union-will-Anti-Terror-Gesetze-verschaerfen-article18381011.html))

Criticism of the Turkish-dominated Islamic federations

Yet in Krüger’s view, the emergence of a Muslim German identity has not just been hampered by fears and prejudices on the part of mainstream society. She is acutely critical of the existing Islamic associations and federations in the country whom she deems unable to develop a way of thinking about Islam that resonates with the experience of ordinary German Muslims. Whatever progress has been accomplished in this regard has not been attained because of the work of the federations but rather in spite of them.

Krüger reserves her particular ire for DITIB, still the most powerful Islamic association in Germany. A subsidiary of the a Turkish government agency – the Presidency for Religious Affairs – she accuses DITIB of importing a kind of Turkish state Islam that is backward and ill-equipped to develop a constructive vision for Muslim life in Germany. Against this backdrop, the author conceives of the arrival of Syrian and other refugees as an opportunity to break the dominance of Turkish governmental Islam.((http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/kultur/diwan/karen-krueger-reise-durch-das-islamische-deutschland-100.html))

This last point is of great salience in current German political debates. Diplomatic rows with the Erdogan administration have undermined the trust in the previously convenient arrangement that had outsourced Islamic religious services to Turkish government agencies. Unfortunately, however, virtually none of the voices present in these discussions offer constructive proposals as to how the gridlocked Islamic institutional landscape ought to be reformed. Krüger’s book appears valuable not as such an institutional blueprint but as a document of the diversity of Muslim life in Germany.

Karen Krüger, “Eine Reise durch das islamische Deutschland”, 352 pages, Rowohlt Berlin, 19,95 Euro

In a New Novel, a Secular Muslim American Rejects the Burden of Labels

Into this maelstrom comes Ali Eteraz’s debut novel, “Native Believer.” Eteraz is the author of a memoir, “Children of Dust” (2009), that chronicled his journey from boyhood in a small town in central Pakistan to sex-obsessed adolescence in the American South to pious Islamic young adulthood to the broadly humanist activism that has marked his past 10 years. “Children of Dust” is, essentially, a description of the birth of “Ali Eteraz” — a pen name that translates to “Noble Protest,” which the author adopted several years after Sept. 11.
 

Music Mix: Spirituality and Protest: ‘Rebel Music,’ by Hisham D. Aidi

The subject matter of “Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture” could not be more far-reaching unless its author, Hisham D. Aidi, had unearthed data about youth culture and musical influences on other planets. As far as Earth goes, his highly original and ambitious book has got it covered.

“Rebel Music” exhibits a breathtaking familiarity with different forms of radicalizing music and the widely different ways it is understood in different cultures, with a special emphasis on Islamic youth. Mr. Aidi starts his book simply in the South Bronx, an epicenter of young Muslims’ hip-hop obsession.

Mr. Aidi goes there, in part, because he hopes to talk to the French rap crew 3ème Oeil (Third Eye) from Marseille. They are equally glad to meet him when he tells them he’s from Columbia, mistaking the university (where he is a lecturer) with the record company. No matter. He has the illuminating experience of finding a French D.J. who says he has dreamed of visiting the Bronx his whole life, because his role model is the Bronx D.J. Afrika Bambaataa. Mr. Aidi meets others there who are simply searching for a Muslim-friendly environment. If this book has a unifying theme, it is the eagerness of young Muslims in every culture to find musical expression that feels honest and a safe haven in an endlessly combative world.

“Rebel Music” has no chance of ending on a note of peaceful resolution. But it does lay out an array of fascinating conflicts, taking on a subject that has rarely been addressed in book form. Its most tender chapter describes Judeo-Arabic music, which flowered in Algeria in the 1960s but later became a lightning rod for controversy. Like every topic brought up by Mr. Aidi’s jampacked compendium, it deserves a closer look.

¡Matadlos! Quién estuvo detrás del 11-M y por qué se atentó en España’

February 18, 2014

 

Author: Fernando Reinaressobre_matadlos_web

Title: ¡Matadlos! Quién estuvo detrás del 11-M y por qué se atentó en España’

Publisher: Galaxia Gutenberg, S.L., Colección: Ensayo

ISBN: 978-84-16072-00-2

 

Ten years have passed since the 11M terrorist attacks in Madrid and finally, the whole truth is exposed in this book. After years of rigorous research, Fernando Reinares reveals when and where the decision to attack was made in Spain. He explains how the terrorist network of 11-M was formed, what were the main components, their international connections and funding.
Matadlos!Kill them! concludes that the killings in the commuter trains in Madrid were planned for reasons of revenge, and were prepared by the criteria of opportunity and were executed for strategic reasons. In fact, the author says that the reasons for revenge   have their roots in the dismantlement of an Al-Qaeda Spanish cell in 1997, and the general role of Spain in the anti-terrorist fight. Al-Qaeda supported and helped the execution of the 11-M attacks and profited from the context of the Iraq war to placed the in the strategy of the organization.

 

Galaxiagutenberg

http://www.galaxiagutenberg.com/libros/%C2%A1matadlos!.aspx

 

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The 11M attacks were approved by al-Qaeda

The 2004 Islamist attacks in Madrid were not the result of an “isolated cell ” but they had the “approval and facilitation ” of Al- Qaeda. This has been assured on Tuesday by Spanish expert, Fernando Reinares who has spent years researching the facts. In his new book, “Matadlos! Quien estuvo detras del 11-M y por que se atento en Espana” (‘Kill them! Who was behind the 11-M and why was Spain attacked”)he concludes that “the decision to attack Spain was made in December 2001 in Karachi”, Pakistan.
According with Reinares, “the initial decision to attack Spain was due to motives of revenge”. In fact, the author says that the motives  have their roots in the dismantlement of an Al-Qaeda Spanish cell in 1997, and the general role of Spain in the anti-terrorist fight.

 

Abc.es: http://www.abc.es/espana/20140218/rc-atentados-fueron-aprobados-qaida-201402182001.html

Values and lessons of Eid Al-Adha

October 16, 2013

 

In an article on Zaman France, the question of the meaning of Eid al-Adha is being discussed.  Bahri, the author of the article writes, “While Eid al- Adha is approaching , what values ​​and what lessons can be learned from this celebration? Far from being limited to a religious festival , Eid is an opportunity to remember the very universal notions of selflessness and dedication”. According to Bahra, Eid provides a lesson during times of war and unrest that we should never stop  being reminding  of.

 

Zaman France: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/devouement-sacrifice-vraies-lecons-laid-aladha-5579.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=0acccea9ee-Zamanfrance+17_10_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-0acccea9ee-315948881

Returning to Islam: The Conversion of Italian Women

itri.jpgAugust 13, 2013

How do women in Italy choose to convert Islam? How many are there, and what is the reason for their choice? We asked to Valentina Itri, author of the book “Le conversioni femminili, Donne italiane ritornate all’Islam” [Female Conversions, Italian Women and the return to Islam]

Images like those of Elham Asghari, the Iranian athlete forced to swim with wetsuit in order to not to reveal the shape of her body. This is the frequent image of Islam as an oppresive and closed religion especially for women. It may seem a paradox then, that there are many women in in Europe, who choose to convert to Islam, and without regret. A recent study by the University of Cambridge, for example, have shown that, although women who convert in the UK often have problems with their family of origin, difficulties at work and in relationships, very few question the choice they made. As for us, understanding the Italian situation is not easy. One of the few books on the subject is “Female Conversions, Italian Women and the return to Islam” written by Valentina Itri, a Professor in Social Theory and research, and an expert in immigrants and refugees. We asked the author to tell us something about the women who choose to “return to Islam” in our country.

Dr. Itri, how many converted to Islam in our country?
Official numbers do not exist, because there is no central register, and each community cites different figures. The fact is that to convert, or as they prefer to say, making the choice to “return to Islam” only invloves the convert to go to a mosque with two witnesses and recite the shahada, a sentence in which converts testify that they believe in a single God, whose messenger is Muhammad. Given the simplicity of the rite, it is difficult even for the Italian Islamic organizations to keep track of the number of conversions.

How does one make the choice of conversion?
Many of these women come into contact with Islam by marrying a Muslim. It is unlikely, however, that this is instrumental in conversions, because in Islam, Muslim men are allowed to marry women of other faiths. If anything, the choice is likely “relational,” due to the desire to get closer to the culture of their partner. My research has shown that after the initial approach, women often deepen their knowledge of the culture and religion. The attraction to them is almost always a change of lifestyle. Many of them, for example, complain about not being able to keep up with the demands of Western society.

It is a conservative choice?
Not exactly. We can say that  conversion speaks to a “new subjectivity,” which illustrates a complaint against the effects of modernity. Faced with the a society that women have to navigate  which can be, at times, backward and sexist, these women decide to take a step back. In some ways it is as if to say: I withdraw from competition. That is why we often embrace the idea of ​​extremely orthodox Islam, and incorporate wearing a veil.

What difficulties do these women encounter?
The first problems arise in the relationship with their own family. If their fathers show solidarity, their mothers and sisters do not understand their choice, which is often seen as a step backwards. In the case of women married to Muslims, the relationship with the women of her husband’s family is complicated by excessively orthodox positions of the “return,” these women often hold ideas about religion that are even more conservative than those of their husbands. These women often tend to lose the friendships they had before the conversion, not because the relationship may be cut, but because these women are creating new social networks, incompatible with previous ones. Finally sometimes problems arise within the Muslim community, because they represent a good connection with the Italian community, and as such they are seen as competitors by those in power, the imam for example, often annoyed by the fact that they are women.