The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left

When the author was sixteen, he became an Islamic fundamentalist. Five years later, after much emotional turmoil, he rejected fundamentalist teachings and returned to normal life and his family. He tried to put his experiences behind him, but as the events of 7/7 unfolded, it became clear to him that Islamist groups pose a threat to this country.

Full-text of The Guardian’s review available here.

Immigrant chefs taking strong presence in Italian restaurants

The International Herald Tribune features an expose on the rising number of immigrant chefs taking a strong presence in Italy – a phenomenon causing debate concerning the strong national image of famed Italian cuisine. The article features several chefs of Indian, Tunisian, Jordanian, and other non-natives gaining respect for their work in the kitchen, and earning praise from prestigious restaurant reviewers. The author of the article writes: Italians take their food very seriously, not just as nourishment and pleasure but as a chief component of national and regional identity. Quotes in the article display both favorable and unfavorable opinions concerning the presence of non-Italian chefs, the introduction of new ingredients and spices to dishes, and immigration in the country as a whole.

Mohammed the mole digs author into a risky hole

A British children’s author who named a mole Mohammed to promote multiculturalism has renamed it Morgan for fear of offending Muslims. Kes Gray, a former advertising executive, first decided on his gesture of cross-cultural solidarity after meeting Muslims in Egypt. The character, Mohammed the Mole, appeared in Who’s Poorly Too, an illustrated children’s book, which also included Dipak Dalmatian and Pedro Penguin, in an effort to be inclusive. Chris Gourlay reports.

Bowing to the Islamists; Even police are giving succor

Last Thursday, a group of 80 people from 15 European countries, plus Israel, Canada and the United States, convened in a conference room on the seventh floor of the European Parliament building in Brussels for a “counterjihad” meeting. They listened to speakers such as the Egyptian-born scholar Bat Ye’or, author of the book “Eurabia,” who explained how the European Union (EU) has become a vehicle for the Islamization of Europe and how the EU has promoted “a massive Muslim immigration… hoping that the Euro-Arab symbiosis through economic development, soft diplomacy and multiculturalism would guarantee [Europe] peace, markets and oil”…

Religious freedom in UK second to none – embassy

By Dina El Shammaa Abu Dhabi: The British embassy, responding to author Martin Amis’ controversial Islamophobic comments, said the UK’s record on multiculturalism and religious freedom is “second to none”. “There is a clear distinction between extremist individuals and the faith they claim to be associated with or represent,” it said in a statement. Amis earlier proposed strip-searching of Muslims at airports and commented that Muslims should “suffer till it gets its house in order”…

German Author Wants to Read Satanic Verses in Mosque

A German book author said he wants to read aloud inside a Cologne mosque from “The Satanic Verses,” the 1988 novel by Salman Rushdie that some Muslims consider blasphemous and led to a 1989 fatwa against Rushdie. Just before political and religious leaders met in Berlin for the second national integration summit, journalist and author G_nter Wallraff, 64, proposed to read from Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” at a mosque to be built in Cologne by the western German city’s Turkish community. He said the Ankara-funded Ditib religious foundation had not been insulted and was discussing his proposal. The organization’s secretary for dialog, Bekir Alboga, said Wallraff’s idea had not been rejected outright, and that the Ditib board, would respond to the request.

Islamic text calls for election boycott

BRUSSELS – A French-language document is circulating in Brussels and on the internet calling on Muslims to boycott the elections on 10 June because they are “illegal,” Le Soir reports. The 12-page document is titled “Participer aux elections” (Taking part in the elections) and is being distributed among the Arab Muslim community in Brussels and online. The document states that only Allah has the authority to make absolute laws. “Every Muslim who takes part in the elections is unfaithful,” the text reads. The text is anonymous, but well written, Le Soir writes. The author makes reference to the Koran and various prophets and is based on a fatwa from Great Britain.

We, Myself and I

By RUTH LA FERLA FOR Aysha Hussain, getting dressed each day is a fraught negotiation. Ms. Hussain, a 24-year-old magazine writer in New York, is devoted to her pipe-stem Levi’s and determined to incorporate their brash modernity into her wardrobe while adhering to the tenets of her Muslim faith. ”It’s still a struggle,” Ms. Hussain, a Pakistani-American, confided. ”But I don’t think it’s impossible.” Ms. Hussain has worked out an artful compromise, concealing her curves under a mustard-tone cropped jacket and a tank top that is long enough to cover her hips. Some of her Muslim sisters follow a more conservative path. Leena al-Arian, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, joined a women’s worship group last Saturday night. Her companions, who sat cross-legged on prayer mats in a cramped apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood, were variously garbed in beaded tunics, harem-style trousers, gauzy veils and colorful pashminas. Ms. Arian herself wore a loose-fitting turquoise tunic over fluid jeans. She covered her hair, neck and shoulders with a brightly patterned hijab, the head scarf that is emblematic of the Islamic call to modesty. Like many of her contemporaries who come from diverse social and cultural backgrounds and nations, Ms. Arian has devised a strategy to reconcile her faith with the dictates of fashion — a challenge by turns stimulating and frustrating and, for some of her peers, a constant point of tension. Injecting fashion into a traditional Muslim wardrobe is ”walking a fine line,” said Dilshad D. Ali, the Islam editor of Beliefnet.com, a Web site for spiritual seekers. A flash point for controversy is the hijab, which is viewed by some as a politically charged symbol of radical Islam and of female subjugation that invites reactions from curiosity to outright hostility. In purely aesthetic terms, the devout must work to evolve a style that is attractive but not provocative, demure but not dour — friendly to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. ”Some young women follow the letter of the rule,” Ms. Ali observed. Others are more flexible. ”Maybe their shirts are tight. Maybe the scarf is not really covering their chest, and older Muslim women’s tongues will wag.” The search for balance makes getting dressed ”a really intentional, mindful event in our lives every day,” said Asra Nomani, the outspoken author of ”Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam” (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). Clothing is all the more significant, Ms. Nomani said, because what a Muslim woman chooses to wear ”is a critical part of her identity.” Many younger women seek proactively to shape that identity, adopting the hijab without pressure from family or friends, or from the Koran, which does not mandate covering the head. ”Family pressure is the exception, not the rule,” said Ausma Khan, the editor of Muslim Girl, a new magazine aimed at young women who, when it come to dress, ”make their own personal choice.” The decision can be difficult. Today few retailers cater to a growing American Muslim population that is variously estimated to be in the range of three to seven million. ”Looking for clothes that are covering can be a real challenge when you go to a typical store,” Ms. Khan said. Only a couple of years ago, Nordstrom conducted a fashion seminar at the Tysons Corner Center mall in McLean, Va., a magnet for affluent Muslim women in suburban Washington. The store sought to entice them with a profusion of head scarves, patterned blouses and subdued tailored pieces, but for the most part missed the nuances, said shoppers who attended the event. They were shown calf-length skirts and short-sleeve jackets of a type prohibited for the orthodox, who cover their legs and arms entirely. ”For me the biggest struggle is to find clothes in the department stores,” said Ms. Arian, who has worn the hijab since she was 13. She scours the Web and stores like Bebe, Zara, Express and H & M for skirts long enough to meet her standards. The majority, gathered through the hips, are ”not very flattering on women with curves,” she said, chuckling ruefully, ”and a lot of Middle Eastern women have curves.” Maryah Qureshi, a graduate student in Chicago, has a similarly tricky time navigating conventional stores. ”When we do find a sister-friendly item,” she said, ”we tend to buy it in every color.” Tam Naveed, a young freelance writer in New York, has devised an urbane uniform, tweed pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a snugly fastened scarf that dramatically sets off her features. Ms. Nomani, the author, improvises her own head covering by wearing a hoodie or a baseball cap to mosque. ”I call it ghetto hijab,” she said tartly. For everyday, she buys shirtdresses at the Gap. ”They cover your backside, but they’re still the Gap. That kind of gives you a visa between the two worlds.” In its fashion pages, Muslim Girl addresses concerns about fashion by encouraging young readers to mix and match current designs from a variety of sources, and reinforces the message that religion and fashion need not be mutually exclusive. ”We are trying to keep our finger on the pulse of what women want,” Ms. Khan said. Fashion pages, shown alongside columns offering romantic advice and articles on saving the environment, are among the more popular for the magazine’s teenage readers, she said, adding that the magazine’s circulation of 50,000 is expected to double next year. Aspiring style-setters also find inspiration on retail Web sites like Artizara.com, which offers a high-neck white lace shirtdress and a sleeveless wrap jumper; and thehijabshop.com, with its elasticized hijabs, which can be slipped over the head. Some women seek out fashions from a handful of designers who cater to them. ”I think people like me are starting to see that Muslim women make up a significant market and are expressing their entrepreneurial spirit,” said Brooke Samad, a 28-year-old Muslim woman who designs kimono-sleeve wrap coats and floor-length interpretations of the pencil skirt out of a guest room in her home in Highland Hills, N.J. ”We follow trends, but we do keep to our guidelines,” said Ms. Samad, whose label is called Marabo. ”And we’re careful with the fabrics to make sure they aren’t too clingy.” Today fashion itself is more in tune with the values of Islam, revealing styles having given way to a relatively modest layered look. Elena Kovyrzina, the creative director of Muslim Girl, pointed to of-the-moment runway designs, any one of which might be appropriate for the magazine’s fashion pages: a voluminous Ungaro blouse with a high neck and full, flowing sleeves; a billowing Marni coat discreetly belted at the waist; and a Prada satin turban. Among the more free-spirited looks Ms. Kovyrzina singled out was a DKNY long-sleeve shirt and man-tailored trousers, topped with a hair-concealing baseball cap. There are Muslim women who choose to cover as part of a journey of self-discovery. In ”Infidel” (Free Press, 2007), her memoir of rebellion, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recalls as a girl wearing a concealing long black robe. ”It had a thrill to it,” Ms. Hirsi Ali writes, ”a sensuous feeling. It made me feel powerful: underneath this screen lay a previously unsuspected but potentially lethal femininity. I was unique.” But adopting the hijab also invites adversity. A survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last year found that nearly half of Americans believe that Islam encourages the oppression of women. Referring to that survey, Ms. Hussain, the New York journalist, observed, ”Many of these people think, ‘Oh, if a woman is covered, she must be oppressed.’ ” Still, after 9/11, Ms. Hussain made a point of wearing the hijab. ”Politically,” she said, ”it lets people know you’re not trying to hide from them.” Among the young, Ms. Nomani said, ”there is a pressure to show your colors.” ”Young people aren’t empowered enough to change foreign policy,” she said, so they adopt a hybrid of modern and Muslim garb, which is ”their way to say, ‘I’m Muslim and I’m proud.’ ” Such bravado has its perils.
Jenan Mohajir, a member of the prayer group near the University of Chicago, spoke with some bitterness about being waylaid as she traveled. Ms. Mohajir, who works with the Interfaith Youth Core, which promotes cooperation among religions, recalled an official at airport security telling her: ”You might as well step aside. You have too many clothes on.” What was she wearing? ”Jeans, a tunic, sandals and a scarf.” Ms. Hussain no longer covers her head but has adopted a look meant to play down misconceptions without compromising her piety. ”Living in New York,” she said, ”has made me want to experiment more with colors and in general to be more bold. I don’t want to scare people. I want them to say, ‘Wow!’ ” She has noticed a like-minded tendency among her peers. ”In the way that we present ourselves to the rest of the world, we are definitely lightening up.”

Space for Islam? Urban policy, resources, and organizations

Published in Dutch only: “Ruimte voor de islam? Stedelijk beleid, voorzieningen, organisaties”

In deze minutieuze studie legt Marcel Maussen de gecompliceerde verhoudingen in de samenleving met `de’ islam bloot. Hij doet dit door de toon van het publieke en politieke debat, het gevoerde beleid en de relaties tussen islamitische groeperingen en instellingen en de gemeentelijke overheden nader te bekijken in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht en Zaanstad. Hij groepeert die onder vier beleidsvisies — marginalisering, pluralisme, dialoog en assimilatie — en laat de consequenties van die visies zien. Als contrast toont hij hoe men in vroeger tijden in Nederland met ‘de’ islam omging en, vergelijkenderwijs, hoe de dagelijkse praktijk in Frankrijk is.

Uit dit onderzoek blijkt dat er regelmatig afhankelijk van de politieke samenstelling van gemeentecolleges en van het Iandelijke politieke klimaat breuklijnen zijn in het gevoerde beleid. Veelal blijkt ook dat hoe directer het beleid bij en met burgers en organisaties op buurt of stadsdeelniveau wordt ontwikkeld en in praktijk gebracht, hoe minder ruis en confrontaties tussen de stad en haar islamitische bewoners voorkomen.

De opname van een relatief nieuwe godsdienst in onze samenleving raakt niet alleen aan fundamentele staatsrechtelijke waarden, maar vereist ook pragmatische regelingen. Lezing van deze studie helpt gemeentebestuurders en alien die hen bijstaan om vooral met gezond verstand, burgermansfatsoen en liefde voor democratie en burgerparticipatie zowel de rechtsstaat te beschermen als hun eigen stadsbewoners in deze rechtsstaat in te sluiten.

About the author:
Marcel Maussen is politicoloog en verbonden aan de afdeling Politicologie en het Instituut voorMigratie en Etnische Studies CIMES) van de Universiteit van Amsterdam.