German Turks ponder “existential” election results, gain 14 MPs

Germany’s federal elections of September 24th have propelled the far-right AfD party into parliament with 13 per cent of the popular vote, making it the third-largest group in the Bundestag.

Given the AfD’s anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platform, German-Turkish political scientist Said Rezek observed that for many German Turks the AfD’s rise poses an “existential” challenge.((http://www.migazin.de/2017/09/25/bundestagswahl2017-eigeninteresse-deutscher-muslim/))

Rise of anti-immigrant ethnonationalism

At heart, the AfD’s message has been an ethnonationalist one. Throughout the electoral campaign, the party plastered Germany’s streets with billboards encouraging the birth of larger numbers of ethnically German children or castigating the spread of Islam.

On election night, AfD leader Alexander Gauland vowed that his party’s entry to the Bundestag was only the first step on the long march to “take back our country and our people” – an allusion that to many appeared to play on the AfD’s fantasy of an ethnically pure Germany.

Public façade

To be sure, when invited to certain public fora, the party leadership often strikes a different tone. In a pre-election debate with German-Tunisian rapper Bushido, founding father of the German gangster rap genre, the leading AfD politician Beatrix von Storch claimed as a matter of course that the AfD considered the rapper and his children – all of whom hold German citizenship – as an integral part of the “German people”.((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3juZ-CwXG8))

This façade of inclusivity is quick to unravel, however. During a post-election TV debate among the major parties’ leading candidates, Alexander Gauland complained that Germany was too ethnically mixed and that true, ethnic Germans were becoming a rarity in the country’s cities. For the AfD, “our” people is thus always pitted against the immigrant “them” living in our midst.((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PrSk4wBArc))

German Turks go public after the elections

Against this backdrop, the voices of the targets of the AfD’s vitriol – who are often somewhat marginalised in German political discourse – have been more prominent than usual after the elections. The most vocal group in this respect have been German Turks. By virtue of their higher social capital compared to recently arrived immigrants they also serve as a proxy voice for the German Muslim community.

Many German Turks have come out with their thoughts on the elections, expressing their fears of increased discrimination, as well as their hopes that German constitutional safeguards might be able to prevent the AfD from doing more damage.((http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2017/09/27/bundestagswahl-afd-migration-migrationshintergrund-deutschland-zukunft-_n_18105126.html))

German Turks’ electoral participation

With respect to German Turks’ political participation at the ballot box on September 24th, no figures have been published yet. Joachim Schulte, analyst at the Data4U analytics company asserted that he had not been commissioned to gather data on German Turks’ voting behaviour.

After the 2013 elections, Data4U had conducted a survey among German Turkish voters at the behest of the UETD, a group with close ties to the AKP. Four years ago, 70 per cent of German Turks holding a German passport had gone to the polls. The Social Democrats had secured 64 per cent of the German Turkish vote, followed by 12 per cent for Greens and 12 per cent for The Left.((http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/deutschtuerken-bei-bundestagswahl-erdogans-boykott-aufruf-blieb-unerhoert/20381760.html))

In the run-up to the 2017 elections, the persistence of these tendencies – particularly the stability of German Turks’ affiliation with the political left – had been questioned. SPD leader Martin Schulz had taken a strong stance against the accession of Turkey to the EU. Moreover, President Erdoğan had urged German Turks to boycott CDU/CSU, SPD, and Green parties for being ‘hostile to Turkey’.

Limited impact of Erdoğan’s call for boycott

Yet the fact that the pro-Erdoğan UETD has not asked Data4U (or another company) to conduct another survey might point to the fact that the Turkish President’s call for boycott went relatively unheeded among German Turkish voters.

Speaking to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, members of Berlin’s Turkish community stressed that they saw the federal elections as unconnected to events in Turkey. As a consequence, they did not feel that President Erdoğan had the authority or the qualification to issue electoral recommendations.

In North-Rhine Westphalia – home to the largest number of German Turks – the openly Erdoğanist Alliance of German Democrats (ADD) party only managed to secure 0.4 per cent of the popular vote. Many saw this as a sign that even those supportive of the Turkish President and his authoritarian turn were unwilling to put ‘Turkish’ concerns first in a German election.((http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/deutschtuerken-bei-bundestagswahl-erdogans-boykott-aufruf-blieb-unerhoert/20381760.html))

Fourteen German-Turkish MPs on the left

The election also propelled fourteen German Turks to the Bundestag as parliamentarians – up from eleven after the 2013 poll. Six Social Democratic MPs, five Green party MPs, and three MPs of The Left are of Turkish extraction.

Conversely, the right-of-centre parties – Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU, the free-market Free Democrats, and the far-right AfD – field no parliamentarians of Turkish descent. Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s first and only Muslim MP failed to gain re-election.((https://dtj-online.de/14-tuerken-ziehen-in-den-bundestag-88537))

A relatively homogeneous Bundestag

Overall, the Bundestag is still far removed from capturing the diversity of the country’s population. Of 709 MPs, only 57 (8 per cent) have a ‘migration background’ – the official bureaucratic term connoting a person with at least one foreign-born parent.

This represents a minor uptick compared to the last Bundestag; yet it is still nowhere close to equalling the 22.5 per cent of Germany’s population that have a ‘migration background’. In terms of female representation, the current Bundestag is a step backwards (mainly because of the entry of the overwhelmingly male AfD party), with only 30.7 per cent of MPs being female – the lowest share in 20 years.((http://www.taz.de/!5448373/))

Cem Özdemir as foreign minister?

Beyond this modest increase in MPs, German Turks might be able to console themselves for the AfD’s rise by pointing to the fact that Cem Özdemir, co-leader of the Green Party, is dubbed to become Foreign Minister. Özdemir and Social Democrat Leyla Onur had been the first German MPs of Turkish heritage upon their entry to parliament in 1994.((http://www.taz.de/!5448373/))

Yet Özdemir’s relationship with the German Turkish community is anything but easy. The 51-year-old has been an extremely vocal critic of the Erdoğan administration; and together with the other German Turkish MPs, he supported the ‘Armenia Resolution’ of the Bundestag in 2016: via this decision, Germany officially designated the killings of Armenians in Turkey during WWI as a genocide.((https://dtj-online.de/14-tuerken-ziehen-in-den-bundestag-88537))

The passage of the Armenia Resolution has occasioned deep rifts between German Turkish politicians and an electorate that is still strongly wedded to the Turkish national account of history. Satisfaction with having a German Turkish voice figure prominently on the German political scene is thus counterbalanced by a fear that this voice might ‘sell out’ and adopt the discourses and positions of the political mainstream.

Muslims of Hérault and Gard are boycotting sheep slaughter for Eid

Muslims from Hérault and Gard have decided to use the money allotted for purchasing sheep for slaughter during Eid Al-Adha for a school project or for a charitable association. The “boycott” is to raise awareness among local authorities around problems faced during the holiday.

On September 8 Muslim residents received an anonymous text message calling for a boycott. Several days later, local Muslim leaders gathered and decided to “not sacrifice any sheep this year.”

Abdallah Zekri, member of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, confirmed their decision. “There are not enough slaughterhouses to properly proceed with the rite. This poses a problem. And then, as I’ve already said, it’s the Muslims that are sheared, not the sheep. The prices go from 120 Euros to 280 Euros!” For Zekri, the boycott could raise awareness and help the situation in the future.

“In Paca, there are mobile slaughterhouses, that works better,” he said. “If Muslims mobilize, that will give sellers and farmers something to think about!”

The same text message said that fines for underground slaughterhouses were increased. In reality this is false. Since 2010 there has been a fine of 15,000 Euros and up to 6 months in prison.

Currently the boycott is limited to communities in Hérault and Gare.

Tariq Ramadan: My Absence Would Certainly Be The Most Powerful Speech I Have Ever Given At ISNA

August 14, 2014

On Sunday, August 10th, 2014, renowned and notable scholar and professor Dr. Tariq Ramadan posted on his webpage a piece titled Why I Will Not Attend The ISNA And RIS Conferences. The post stirred much heated debate over social media, with notable scholars also responding and urging him to reconsider his position in light of points they raised. The President of ISNA also issued a formal statement.

Dr. Ramadan agreed to be interviewed, stating for now this will be his one response to his post.

The following is an edited conversation between Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Amina Chaudary of The Islamic Monthly (TIM) on August 11, 2014.

TIM: In your essay, you argue that Muslims should speak out against certain U.S. policies by basing their arguments in American values, not Islamic ones. Why did you choose this frame of reference?

Ramadan: As Western Muslims and American Muslims, we need to understand that the values and principles we promote are not only Muslim values.  American Muslims live in a country where justice, dignity, freedom and equality are essential values. The Muslim contribution to the future of America is to not only speak out as Muslims, but to also speak out as citizens in the name of our common values. Our main contribution is to reconcile the American society with its own values, those that are not in contradiction to Islam.  We have a duty of consistency.

TIM: ISNA wears many hats for Muslims in America, and its annual convention provides a venue for everything from family reunions to panel sessions on halal certifications to addressing many of the political issues you identified in your essay. Is it fair to place the burden on this one institution to articulate a position on all American policies both foreign and domestic? Are you asking specific individuals within ISNA’s leadership to articulate their position vis-a-vis these issues? Does this boycott extend to other groups guilty of the same silence, or is it specific to ISNA as the largest of them all?

Ramadan: As I wrote in the beginning of my post, I have a great deal of respect for the people who have been working and serving the community in America and Canada, and, among them, the two institutions I mentioned. I am not attacking the institution. Some have misunderstood my point or not read my paper carefully and they are saying “Tariq Ramadan is calling for a boycott and is creating divisions.” What I was trying to do is exactly the opposite. The divisions are already there and it is not by hiding the tensions that we are solving the problems. My position is clearly about the leadership. I can understand and respect the fact that you want to keep the channel open with American authority. But at the same time, you need to know your goals to serve your fellow citizens and the Muslim community in the name of your principles. Some people are responding by saying, “You are not an American, you do not understand. The priorities in Europe are not the same as in the U.S. or in Canada. You are obsessed with international issues!” Is that even a response? So why do they invite me in the first place if I do not understand the respective situations in the U.S. and in Canada? Am I suitable only when I am not critical? I have been visiting and studying the North American continent for almost 30 years and I am sad to hear such arguments. I do not deal with “international affairs” only; half of my work has been on Western Muslims. My point is straightforward: anyone who tries to separate or divorce domestic politics from international politics does not get it, and that might be dangerous for the future of Western Muslims. Shouldn’t the American leadership be addressing what is happening in America, with its domestic policies on racism, discrimination, illegal monitoring, solitary confinement, torture, Guantanamo Bay and any other social and political issues related to the American society not directly connected to Islam?  American Muslims must speak out and be involved as well in international policies and, through their institutions, they should raise their voice. This is the way you serve the community.  I understand the need to serve the community by talking about marriage or halal food. But you should also lead with vision, wisdom and  courage. Islam is a religion of justice and dignity, and we are taught to never keep silent when facing injustice, discrimination and double standards. This is our contribution. I am expecting institutions to be able to open up and break the silence. They should write with assertiveness about some of the critical issues. But this is not what is done now. I have great respect for the way they serve, but question their silence on critical issues.

TIM: Some scholars have asked you to reconsider your attendance of ISNA, not necessarily because they disagree with your critique, but because they fear your absence could irrevocably diminish an institution they consider an important cornerstone of Muslim America. How do you respond to them? Assuming this analysis is true and your actions would diminish the organization in an irretrievable way, would you still not attend ISNA?

Ramadan: It is not a question of boycotting. I am not calling for a boycott. I am sending a message and asking a question in a respectful, critical and constructive way. I received many e-mails from people saying, “Professor, please come, don’t do that.” Just ten minutes ago, I received a very moving e-mail from somebody telling me, “Sheikh, in the name of your knowledge, your contribution and what you have been teaching us, don’t boycott.” Once again, I am not calling for a boycott. My absence would certainly be the most powerful speech I have ever given at ISNA. And for the attendees, it is important to note that my intention was not to create division, but exactly the opposite. They must ask their institutions, what are your priorities? How are you going to deal with this? I have given talks to many people for years, at ISNA or RIS. And now what I am trying to say is that although I am not going, the people who will attend should make their voices heard in a constructive way.

Arab American group urges boycott of White House Iftar dinner

July 14, 2014

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urged all Arab and Muslims in the United States to boycott the Obama administration’s celebration of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday, arguing the president has condoned the killing of Palestinians in Gaza and the spying on some Americans based on their Muslim identities.

Like George W. Bush before him, Obama has hosted an Iftar dinner — the meal after sunset that breaks the day of fasting — each year he’s been in office. Other federal agencies, including the State Department, also hold iftar dinners to commemorate the holiday.

The ADC, the nation’s largest Arab American group, issued a statement citing both the administration’s support for Israel’s bombing campaign in response to airstrikes by the militant group Hamas as reasons not to participate in the administration’s celebrations.

Obama remains overwhelmingly popular with Muslims, although he has recently come under fire since Glenn Greewald and Murtza Hussain reported former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden had documents indicating the NSA had conducted surveillance on five American Muslim leaders.

The custom of celebrating Ramadan in the White House dates back at least to 1996, when then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted a dinner during Eid-al-Fitr, the three-day festival marking the end of Ramadan. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan noted in an e-mail Monday that the tradition may go back two centuries, according to accounts from the nation’s early days.

“Some consider President Thomas Jefferson to have hosted the first Iftar by a U.S. president, as he hosted a sunset dinner with an envoy from Tunisia over 200 years ago,” Meehan wrote. “The invited guests tonight include elected officials, members of the diplomatic corps, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, and leaders of diverse faiths.”

Update: Lack of Clarity in Supposed Saudi Arabian Boycott of the Netherlands

June 19, 2014

Although media in Saudi Arabia reported last month that the country would instigate a trade boycott against the Netherlands, a definite answer from the country has not yet been obtained.

The potential boycott pertained to the anti-Islam sticker Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders posted on his office door.

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans said that a senior civil servant’s visit to Saudi Arabia at the end of May had failed to produce clarity: “Neither during the visit nor in the weeks afterwards has any confirmation been sent that the Saudi government intends to take measures.”

Update: Dutch Politician’s Anti-Islam Sticker

31 May 2014

Dutch politician Geert Wilders continues to appear in news media regarding the anti-Islam sticker posted on his office door in December 2013. The Volkskrant reports that Wilders has distributed the sticker through the mail in parliamentary envelopes.

The Netherlands will send a top diplomat to Saudi Arabia to prevent the country from imposing trade sanctions in protest of the sticker. The Saudi authorities have not announced any sanctions, but Saudi media reports this week announced that such measures had already taken effect, citing unnamed officials.

The sticker is printed in the colors of the Saudi Arabian flag and bears the words, “Islam is a lie, Mohammed is a criminal, the Koran is poison.”

Salafist group calls for boycott of French local elections

March 20, 2014

 

The organization Anâ-Muslim (“I am Muslim”) is calling for a boycott of France’s local elections via its website, social network and brochures.

Anâ-Muslim is a nonprofit organization recognized by the French state. Its members share their vision of Islam on the organization’s website, on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and on YouTube. A few days ago, Anâ-Muslim called on Muslims to boycott French municipal elections, which will take place on March 23 and 30. They explain this decision by using various religious arguments and by saying that for a Muslim person, “voting is an act of submission … while abstaining is an act of resistance.”

On its website, the organization explains that this campaign is aimed at Muslim people between 18 and 40 years old. They argue that refusing to participate in French politics is a way to “preserve their faith”: “Voting means recognizing the power of men on earth and giving them absolutely sovereignty to create their own laws that have nothing to do with Islam.” The organization’s goal, as described in their mission statement, is to “teach Islam to Muslims … because Muslims are the only ones who can control their destiny … and contribute to Islam’s resurgence so that humanity may be saved”.

 

“This is the first time that a Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons” 

There have been similar calls for boycotts in the past, but these came from informal Islamist groups. This is the first time that a state-recognized Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons.

The Anâ-Muslim group and their website have existed for about three years. It became a state-recognized organization a little over a year ago. There are about 100 members and sympathizers who have signed up online. The organization is mainly targeted towards Muslim intellectuals and students.

The founders can be divided into two categories: some of them are close to jihadist movements but who believe Muslims living in France don’t have to wage jihad. Others are former jihadists who, today, believe that promoting their vision through legal means is the best solution. People from these two categories created Anâ-Muslim with the idea that they would work out in the open, and follow the law.

Anâ-Muslim is mostly active in the Paris region, but also in some other cities like Marseille and Lyon. Their main activities are preaching and distributing pamphlets in the street. They don’t want anyone to associate them with groups like Forsane-Alizza [an organization that the French authorities shut down in 2012 after members called for armed combat.]

To put it simply, the organization’s members are people who are close to the jihadist Salafist ideology, but without the war aspect. This involves, among other things, refusing the “Taghout”, meaning any leaders who do not respect the precepts of Islam.

 

Contacted by FRANCE 24, Dalil Boubaker, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, shared his thoughts on the organization:

“Anâ-Muslim is an epiphenomenon. It has no real weight. Most Muslims in France – the vast majority of whom are involved in public and political life – won’t pay any attention to their call for a boycott. We live in a democracy, and it’s obvious that not participating in elections would be counterproductive for the Muslim community. In fact, the call for a boycott goes against the precepts of Islam. When the Prophet Mohammad died, his companions gathered and voted for his successor Abu Bakr, the first caliph. The Great Mosque of Paris and the French Council of Muslim Faith encourages all Muslims in France to take part in the local elections, and all elections.”

 

Source: http://observers.france24.com/content/20140320-salafist-organisation-boycott-french-elections

In the run-up to the municipal elections, the UMP party seeks to renew the ‘Muslim vote’

February 13, 2014

 

As France’s municipal elections approach, the President of the center-right UMP party Jean-Francois Copé is targeting the constituents disappointed in Francois Hollande’s regime in the hopes of turning them away from the left. Among this category of people, he is particularly attentive to what he considers the ‘Muslim vote.’

‘Our Muslim compatriots would find themselves in phase with the values that I propose: economic liberty, authority of the state and an equality of chances’, Copé affirmed to Le Monde.

Whereas 90% of Muslims had voted for Hollande, the moment seems optimal to seek ties with these voters since a number of them have been destabilized by the government’s social reforms. During the Manif pour Tous (Protest for All) gathering on February 2nd, they were only a few dozen protestors under the banner ‘French Muslims say no to gay marriage’, but Copé noted that many had answered the call to boycott schools in protest against the ‘gender theory’ classes that were going to be introduced. He noted that dozens of Muslim families had participated in the school boycott of January 27th in his city of Meaux in the Seine-et-Marne region.

 

Source: http://www.lemonde.fr/municipales/article/2014/02/13/a-l-approche-des-municipales-l-ump-reve-de-renouer-avec-l-electorat-musulman_4365751_1828682.html?xtmc=islam&xtcr=14

A better alternative to boycotting the White House Iftar

This is the story of two Washington Iftar dinners.
First, the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren invited Muslim leaders to a diplomatic Iftardinner last week and Imam Antepli of Duke University wondered aloud if the event was meaningful. And then the Obama administration invited Muslim leaders to the White House Iftar dinner and Omid Saifi, the Islamic studies professor from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, called to boycott it.

It’s obvious: We, the American Muslims are struggling to identify the right posture: Boycott, and you sever a diplomatic tie; attend, and you are seen as endorsing a policy.
While I empathize with the demands laid out by Professor Saifi -I believe the Obama administration should abandon overseas drone attacks, halt nationwide racial and religious profiling, and release select Guantanamo Bay prisoners – I knew the boycott will fail to achieve anything beyond creating a social media ripple.

Obama celebrates Islamic holy month at White House with Ramadan dinner
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine.
Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
Obama said Ramadan is “a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate ones devotion to God through prayer and through fasting, but it’s also a time for family and friends to come together.”
He said it is a White House tradition to celebrate sacred days of various faiths, adding that these occasions celebrate diversity that defines the country and reaffirms the freedom to worship.

French Council of the Muslim Faith for critical internal reform

French Council of the Muslim Faith

14.05.2013

Following a reformation scandal that has profoundly affected and occupied the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) over several weeks, some of its leading members have published an open letter on the organisation’s homepage, which calls for a sincere and critical reform of the CFCM.

The letter calls the previous reforms and election as ‘harmful’  as well as futile. They blame the disastrous campaign to be the birth of power-hungry members who tried to take control over the organisation. According to the undersigned, ‘This robbery took place in broad daylight, without any kind of consultation with the CRCM or associations, without any information or collecting wishes, comments, opinions or comments of the faithful or their representatives. This proves, if proof were needed, that our current French Council of the Muslim Faith has nothing to do with the people in whose name it is supposed to act and exploits it to his advantage’.

They further call the current reforms as useless as they do not ‘promote the conditions for evolution by blocking the influx of new sensibilities and preventing the function of a democratic opposition’.

The undersigned call for a true reform and a boycott of CFCM’s early election on June 8 this year.  Amongst the undersigned are mostly leaders of the organisations regional councils.