A documentary film by Swiss Television entitled “Behind the Veil – Muslim Report Switzerland” has caused controversy due to the interference of the Swiss government’s integration officer. The film shows disturbing scenes which had shocked the country, such as the secretary of the Muslim community justifying the beating of wives, and an imam who preached that unbelievers were “lower than animals.” The integration officer was to see to it, that an interview of the documentary team was derailed.
Murad Hofmann, a German Muslim scholar and former ambassador, fosters the rediscovery of Muhammad Asad, one of the first European Muslim thinkers. Muhammad Asad, born 1900 in Austria as Jewish Leopold Weiss, converted to Islam during his trips to the Arabian Peninsula as a journalist. He soon distanced himself from traditional Islam and sought to reconcile it with human rights and democracy.
Asad provided a new translation of the Qur’an into English, a very modern one (too modern for some), with some notions deliberately left ambiguous, fluctuating and West-compatible. He also demanded of Muslims to question the interpretations of established scholars and rejected the punishment of stoning and beating women. Murad Hofmann has now republished Asad’s Qur’an interpretation in German. He claims that Asad’s reformist Islam is essential for European Islam today and hopes that more people will be open to this view that during Asad’s lifetime.
Two Moroccan men have been arrested by the Guardia Civil in Socuellamos, Ciudad Real, for allegedly beating a pregnant woman because she was not wearing a headscarf. The woman, who subsequently miscarried, was picking up her son from school when attacked.
A court has cleared a man on a charge of genital cutting in the Netherlands’ first trial linked to female circumcision. Haarlem District Court judges say there is no doubt the girl underwent female circumcision but there is insufficient evidence to convict her father. The father was convicted of beating and biting his daughter and was sentenced to three months imprisonment.
Italy is dealing with a rise in immigrant anger this week after protests erupted against the violent attacks directed at African immigrants. At Caserta, located in the north of Naples, riots sparked after the Naples mafia was linked to the gang-related killing of six Africans – three Ghanians, two Liberians, and a Togolese. In Milan, thousands took to the streets to condemn the beating to death of a young man from Burkina Faso, who was caught stealing biscuits from a local bar. While the events are unrelated, they show an increasing divide between African descended Italian citizens and migrants, and other Italians, with underlying tensions of skin color and racist concerns. The cabinet of Silvio Berlusconi approved 500 troops to monitor Caserta, and remain in the area for thee months to safeguard the area.
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French authorities are filing preliminary charges of “attempted murder with anti-Semitic motives” against three suspects charged with beating a Jewish teenager on June 21st in Paris, who later spent two days in a coma. Libération newspaper claims that such altercations are on the rise among youth gangs in the 19th district of Paris.
The June attack was immediately condemned by President Sarkozy, who was on a three-day visit to Israel at the time and “assure[d] the victim and his family of his support and renews his total determination to fight all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.” Mohamed Moussaoui, the new president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) stated in Le Figaro that he was concerned about the attack like “All other French people. Not especially as Muslims. We live in harmony with the other religions. The isolated incidents of anti-Semitism carried out by Muslims should be not over generalized.” France has the largest populations of Muslims and Jews living in close proximity outside of the Middle East.
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More details on the attack here.
Moussaoui’s comments in Le Figaro available here .
The Italian supreme court recently rejected an appeal by the prosecution in the case of a Moroccan girl who had been beaten by her family, her parents and her brother. The appeal was rejected on the grounds that it was for her own good and for her non-conformity with their culture, she had gone out with a friend and her life style was not accepted by her parents. This story starts in 2003 when the parents of Fatima R. (19), a Muslim girl from Bologna, were sentenced for tying Fatima up and beating her. The court of appeals reversed the decision and this past week the supreme court confirmed it. According to the Italian judges that girl had not been beaten out of anger and it was unusual for the father, who had only beat his daughter three times in his life. According to the prosecution Fatima had been tied to a chair and released only to be brutally beaten. However the supreme court ruled that Fatima had threatened suicide out of her fear and that she had been tied up in order to prevent her from doing so. Souad Sbai of the Italian Association of Moroccan Women said that this decision was worthy of an Arab country which observed sharia law. and accused the judges of applying a double standard in the name of multiculturalism. According to Sbai a Catholic father in a similar case would have been harshly punished. Sbai says that there is excessive tolerance towards certain behaviors both from the right and left wing, who prefer political correctness over applying the Italian law.
By Kate Connolly Muslims intent on becoming German citizens will have to undergo a rigorous cultural test to gauge their views on subjects ranging from bigamy to homosexuality. Believed to be the first test of its kind in Europe, the southern state of Baden-W_rttemberg has created the two-hour oral exam to test the loyalty of Muslims towards Germany. It is to be taken on top of the standard test for foreigners wishing to become German citizens, which includes language proficiency skills and general knowledge. It also requires applicants to prove that they can provide for themselves and their families. Those applying must also have resided in Germany for the previous eight years and have no criminal record. Germany’s 15 other states will monitor the progress of the policy when the tests begin this week before deciding whether they wish to adopt similar legislation. The 30 questions, which have been set by a special commission, range from sexual equality to school sports and are meant to trigger a more detailed discussion between the applicants and officials. Until now, all applicants have simply had to tick a Yes or No box to answer whether they felt loyalty to Germany. But now they will be quizzed on their attitudes to homosexuality and western clothing for young women, and whether husbands should be allowed to beat their wives. Other questions covering topics such as bigamy and whether parents should allow their children to participate in school sports have been called “trick questions”, meant to catch people off guard. The state interior ministry said the test would be used to filter out Muslims who were unsuited for life in Germany. Those who answered “correctly” but later acted against expected behaviour, such as wife-beating, could have their citizenship removed. Critics say that the test is biased and discriminatory and that if Muslims are obliged to take it, so should all applicants for citizenship. Brigitte L_sch, a leading member of the Green party in the Baden-Wurttemberg parliament, called for the oral exam to be dropped, arguing that it inferred from the outset that all Muslims were “violent per se” and unable to abide by German law. “This list of questions is only to be used for applicants from Islamic countries. It is an unbelievable form of discrimination,” she said. “If Germans were asked some of the questions, they would find it difficult to answer them.” The European Assembly of Turkish Academics rejected the questionnaire as “strongly discriminatory and racist” against Germany’s three million-strong Muslim population, most of whom are Turkish. Kerim Arpad, an assembly spokesman, said: “The test is shaped by stereotypes and damages integration.” But Dieter Biller, of the foreign ministry in Stuttgart, the state capital, said the test would help bureaucrats to form opinions as to whether citizenship applicants were suitable or not. “It covers everything from sexual equality, violence, school sports and religious freedom,” he said. “How the applicants stand on the question of the attacks of September 11 will also be a key question.” Holland announced yesterday that it was introducing ceremonies for new immigrants as part of efforts to reduce racial tensions and to integrate immigrant communities. The government is worried that immigrants who do not move outside their ethnic or religious groups hamper integration and stoke fears of militancy. New Dutch citizens will also have to take an “oath of allegiance”.
CHICAGO: While Arab Americans and Muslims suffered a spike in hate crimes after the September 11 attacks, they do not face the same level of disenfranchisement as their French counterparts, experts say. They’re discriminated against but they have jobs – this is the major difference from Europe, Yvonne Haddad, a professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University in Washington, said. Arab and Muslim immigrants in the US generally identify themselves as Americans and integrate with relative ease into a society that prides itself on social mobility and has more tolerance for cultural and religious differences, Haddad said. To identify as French you have to renounce your faith and have to renounce you previous identity as though your previous self didn’t exist. In the US you don’t have to, she said. Arabs are a tiny minority in the United States, making up less than 1% of the population, according to the census bureau. They also constitute only about a quarter to a third of the country’s Muslims, estimated at 6mn to 7mn people or about 2% of the population. Arab Americans and Muslims are better educated and have a higher income than the national average, said Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. There’s no clear connection between the European and the American Muslim experience, she said, explaining that Muslims in the United States are less isolated and homogeneous than their European counterpart. She cautioned against painting the riots as a religious issue rather than the result of economic and political disenfranchisement. This is the culmination of a series of events and it has very little or nothing to do with quote-unquote (Muslim) extremism, she said, noting that France has more Muslim-friendly foreign policy than the United States. French Muslims are not responding to the issues of Palestine or Iraq. They are responding to their domestic situation. The real parallel to the French riots is the African American race riots of the 1960s and following the Rodney King beating, said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. It’s the act of an underclass with expectations that have gone unfulfilled for a long period of time striking out, out of a combination of despair and anger, he said in a telephone interview. France and other European countries have maintained a national identity that is tied to ethnicity while the American identity has shifted over time as waves of immigrants reshape the country. As long as these kids grow up not only in an economic underclass but excluded from being French or Dutch it’s problematic, Zogby said. When people in my community get angry about American foreign policy they get angry as citizens and they fight back as citizens. The process is more open to including them. ?