Radical Muslims Gaining Influence over Moderate Co-Religious

AMSTERDAM – Radical Muslims are gaining influence over their moderate co-religious at an increasing rate in the Netherlands. This was the main finding of the fourth progress report on combating terrorism which Interior Ministers Johan Remkes and Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on Wednesday. It said that ultra-orthodox Salafism in particular was making its presence felt in an increasing number of mosques. This is a radical branch that seeks to return to the “pure Islam” of the days of Mohammed. Adherents often shun western society and criticise efforts by other Muslims to integrate into Dutch society. The movement has been linked to the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia. Followers of radical Islam have successfully used the internet and lectures to win over more followers and gain control of moderate mosques, Remkes said. Both he and his colleague said the ideological influences exerted by radical Muslims was a cause for concern. Conservative MP and Muslim critic Geert Wilders criticised Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for her behaviour during a visit to a mosque in the Hague on 3 June. She removed her shoes on entering the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague and refrained from shaking hands with Muslim men there in accordance with their strict religious beliefs. The visit was to mark the 50th anniversary of the building of the mosque. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende praised the Queen’s behaviour as an example of the type of religious tolerance needed in the Netherlands.

Pankow Mosque Can be Built

Berlin – After indications from district mayor Burkhard Kleinert (Left Party), the construction of a mosque in Berlin-Pankow is no longer in question. When the Ahmadiyya Muslim Union applied for a building permit, they should have recieved one immediately. The opposition to their application had no legal foundation, said Kleinert in an interview. It will be the first mosque in eastern Berlin. Local opposition to the mosque is strong.

Denmark: Denmark Reopens Syria Mission

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark on Tuesday reopened its embassy in?Syria more than two months after it was set ablaze by demonstrators protesting the publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, the Danish foreign ministry said. The ministry said the Damascus mission was now open to the public but cautioned Danes in Syria to be vigilant as the cartoon row could still induce negative reactions in the country. “Recently, there have been several instances of verbal threats against Danes and other Westerners,” it said in a statement on its Web site. On February 4, several thousand Syrian demonstrators set the Danish and the Norwegian embassies on fire in violent protest over 12 caricatures of the Prophet first published by Danish Daily Jylland-Posten in September. The fire badly damaged the building that housed the Danish mission but no one was hurt as the embassy was closed. The cartoons were later reprinted in other European papers and sparked violent protests worldwide by Muslims, many of whom believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. Last month, Denmark reopened its mission to Indonesia saying the security situation there had improved, but embassies in several other Muslim nations remain closed.

Denmark: Danish Embassy In Teheran Firebombed

TEHERAN – Police used tear gas to briefly disperse hundreds of angry protesters who hurled stones and fire bombs at the Danish Embassy in the second attack on a Western mission in the Iranian capital on Monday over the publication of blasphemous caricatures. Police had encircled the embassy building but were unable to hold back the mob of 400 demonstrators as they pelted the walled brick villa that houses only the Danish mission with stones and Molotov cocktails. At least nine demonstrators were hurt in the melee, police said. About an hour into the demonstration, police fired tear gas into the mob, driving it into a nearby park. Later about 20 protesters returned and tried to break through police lines to enter the compound but were blocked by security forces. As the tear gas clouds dispersed, most of the rest of the crowd filtered back to the embassy and continued burning Danish flags and chanting anti-Danish slogans and God is Great. Two trees inside the embassy compound were set on fire by the gasoline bombs. The embassy gate was burned as was a police booth along the wall protecting the building. The Danish Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any staff inside the building, which had closed for the day before the demonstration began. In a live television interview with the DR public television in Denmark, Ambassador Claus Juul Nielsen said the protesters vandalised the ground floor of the embassy, which included the trade and the visa departments. It now seems that the police control the situation, Juul Nielsen said. We have had no injuries among our staff, we were able to get out before it all started. The mob, which included about 100 women, ignored police orders to disperse continued to hurl firebombs, before they were hit with tear gas. The crowd disperesed by midnight. Earlier in the day, 200 student demonstrators threw stones at the Austrian Embassy, breaking some windows and starting small fires. Also on Monday, 200 members of Iran’s parliament issued a statement warning that those who published the cartoons should remember the case of Salman Rushdie – the British author against whom the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death warrant for his novel The Satanic Verses. Apparently they have not learned from miserable life of the person who wrote Satanic Verses, the lawmakers said in the statement, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Parliamentarians do not have the authority to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, like the one in which Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death in 1989. The Austrian mission in Teheran was targeted because Austria currently holds the presidency of the European Union. The demonstration at the Austrian Embassy lasted two hours, with protesters also throwing firecrackers that sparked the fires. Police quickly extinguished the blazes and stopped some protesters from throwing stones. On Monday night, a firebomb was thrown at the Austrian Cultural Centre in Teheran, causing no injuries, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said. Outside the embassy – located in a four-storey building in Teheran, the protesters chanted, Death to Denmark, death to Israel, and some burned flags of Germany, Denmark and France. One protester carried a caricature of German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was the first instance of violence over the drawings in Iran, though protests have occurred there. It came a day after thousands of Muslim demonstrators in Beirut set fire to the building housing the Danish mission in Beirut.

Norway: Hebron Observers Evacuated

Protest related to the caricatures of Mohammed flared again in the Middle East, with the Norwegian-led observer force in Hebron forced to evacuate after a violent demonstration. About 300 protestors stormed the TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) office in Hebron. TIPH chief Arnstein _verkil confirmed that the force, which is comprised of largely Scandinavian members and includes 21 Norwegians, had to evacuate. About 60 unarmed international observers reside at the center. Palestinian police fired in the air to try to disperse the crowd, which smashed the windows of two buildings in a complex used by the observers in the city of Hebron. “We are in a state of emergency. Please call back in the afternoon,” a TIPH representative who answered the Hebron office’s telephone told Reuters. The demonstrators, mostly youths, at first managed to disperse Palestinian police guarding the building. The protestors, chanting “Denmark out of Hebron” tried to set fire to one of the buildings. The 12 Danish TIPH members have been temporarily evacuated to Tel Aviv. Palestinian police and eventual reinforcements of Israeli soldiers managed to keep the youth at bay, though by then nearly all of the windows in the three-story building and three TIPH vehicles had been destroyed. “This alone was unique – I have never before experienced armed Palestinians and Israelis cooperating like this,” said Norwegian TIPH press officer Gunhild Luise Forselv. The TIPH, staffed by personnel from Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, was established following the killing of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron by a Jewish settler in 1994. Its mandate is to monitor and report “efforts to maintain normal life” in the city. The TIPH had suspended its regular patrols in the wake of the caricature turmoil, but resumed routines on Wednesday, believing the unrest to be on the wane.

Israeli Arabs Jump Into Cartoon Fray By Agencies

For the first time since the international crisis began, Israeli Arabs took to the streets yesterday afternoon to protest cartoons deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed that were published in the European press. At least 500 demonstrators gathered peacefully in the Galilee city of Nazareth. A procession set off from the Al-Salaam mosque toward the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Christian tradition says Mary was informed of Jesus’ impending birth. Sheik Raed Salah, a radical leader of the Islamic Movement, was to address the crowd later. “Allah is the only God, and Mohammed is his prophet,” loudspeakers blared as the march began. Meanwhile in the Palestinian Authority, hundreds of Palestinians stormed European institutions and burned German and Danish flags in Gaza City. About two dozen protesters stormed the German cultural center, smashing windows and breaking doors. Down the street, about 30 Palestinians threw stones at the European Commission building, and replaced the EU flag with a Palestinian flag, before police brought them under control. About 50 schoolchildren and teenagers gathered on one corner of the street shortly after to try to resume the attacks on the two buildings, but Palestinian riot police, armed with batons, pushed them back. The youths threw stones at the police, then fled. Later in the day, about 400 protesters marched on the European Commission building, accompanied by a loudspeaker car that blared, “Insulting the prophet means insulting every Muslim,” and urged merchants to boycott Danish products: “With our blood and souls we defend you, O Prophet.” Protesters also set fire to a Danish flag. Police set up a cordon at the building to prevent stone-throwing, but protesters heeded organizers’ appeals and didn’t attack. Most of the demonstrators were merchants who called for a boycott of European goods, and many carried small books of the Koran. Elsewhere in Gaza City, armed men with links to the Fatah Party handed out red carnations to students, nuns and the priest at a Roman Catholic school to apologize for other Fatah gunmen who threatened earlier in the week to target churches as part of their protests. Danish and French members of the international observer team at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt stayed away from Gaza on Thursday, and instead worked from the group’s headquarters in the nearby Israeli city of Ashkelon, said a spokesman, Julio de La Guardia. Meanwhile in Damascus, demonstrators set fire to the building that houses the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish embassies in Syria. While no diplomats were reported injured, these attacks were the most violent so far in the protests against the cartoons. The cartoons have caused a furor across the Muslim world, in part because Islamic law is interpreted as forbidding any depictions of Islam’s holiest figure. Aggravating the affront was one caricature of Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. The cartoons were first published in Denmark, and then in newspapers elsewhere in Europe in a show of solidarity with freedom of the press. In Brussels, the European Union called on the Palestinian Authority to protect EU buildings from attack. Danish Foreign Minister Stig Moeller called the Damascus embassy attack “horrible and totally unacceptable” on public television. He said he telephoned his Syrian counterpart, Farouk al-Sharaa, “to tell him it was totally unacceptable that Syrian authorities have not been able to protect the embassy.” He said al-Sharaa said he regretted the incident. The United States condemned the cartoons, siding with Muslims outraged that newspapers put freedom of the press over respect for religion. “We … respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable,” said State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper. Major U.S. publications have not republished the cartoons. The U.S. response contrasted with that of European governments, which have generally accepted the newspapers’ rights to print the cartoons. The furor cuts to the question of which is more sacred in the Western world – freedom of expression or respect for religious beliefs. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, applauded the U.S. position. The State Department reaction “was a strong statement in support of Muslims around the world,” he said.

Tension Grows Over Mosque In Boston

BOSTON – It was to be the biggest mosque in the northeastern United States, a center of worship for Boston’s 70,000 Muslims and a milestone for America’s Muslim community.?Instead, construction of the $24.5 million center has been stalled by lawsuits and a deepening row between Jewish and Muslim leaders that reflects broader suspicions facing American Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Jewish leaders charge that former and current officials in the Islamic Society of Boston, which is building the 70,000-square-foot mosque, are linked to terrorist groups and have failed to distance themselves from radical Islam and anti-Jewish statements. The Islamic Society denies any connection to terrorism and considers itself victimized by a campaign to taint the mosque with accusations of ties to radical teachings. The society says it has repeatedly distanced itself from anti-Jewish statements by some of its leaders. Among Jewish concerns is whether a former Islamic Society trustee – outspoken Egyptian Sunni cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi – praised Hamas and Hezbollah, which the U.S. State Department regards as terrorist organizations. “There is a great deal of anxiety,” said Larry Lowenthal, executive director of the American Jewish Committee’s chapter in Boston, whose Jewish population of 240,000 is the fifth- largest of U.S. cities. American Muslims are watching the case closely. “Unfortunately, I see the Boston case as indicative of a growing trend in anti-Muslim rhetoric that has grown after 9/11,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights group.

Jury Awards $2.45 Million To Man Cleared Of Terrorism Link; Egyptian-Born Doctor Target Of 9/11 Probe

By Torsten Ove An Egyptian-born radiologist initially suspected of having terrorist ties in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 and later cleared was awarded $2.45 million yesterday by a federal jury that decided his right to privacy was violated. Dr. Basem Moustafa Hussein, 40, won the award from his former landlord in Neshannock Township outside New Castle, where he was living in 2001. The jury said his building manager at The Meadows Apartments, Sherri Lynn Wilson, was liable along with her company for violating his privacy when she walked into his unit on Sept. 11 and saw, among other items, a compact disc jacket that showed a jetliner flying through two buildings next to a fireball. Wilson called state police, leading to a federal investigation that ended a few days later when the FBI concluded Hussein had nothing to do with terrorism. The disc jacket turned out to be part of a flight simulator computer game, as was a flight manual Wilson saw next to it. Hussein filed suit later that year, saying he had endured repeated questioning from agents, lost his job in New Mexico, was evicted from his apartment and had his name mentioned as a potential terrorist in news reports. He said Egyptian police also ransacked his parent’s apartment in Egypt at the request of U.S. authorities and caused $200,000 in damage. Hussein named Wilson and her employer, Universal Development Management Inc., of Girard, Ohio, as defendants, along with UDE of Mitchell Road Ltd., of Girard, a limited partnership that owns the building. The jury actually ruled against Hussein on three of his four civil rights claims, saying the defendants did not trespass and did not discriminate against him because of his race. Hussein had said Wilson targeted him because he’s Arabic. But the jury did say she invaded his privacy. He won $850,000 in compensatory damages and another $1.6 million in punitive damages for “malice or reckless indifference” to his rights. Hussein, who travels the country as a contract radiologist, was on his way to a new job in Nashville, Tenn., yesterday and couldn’t be reached. His lawyer, Craig Fishman, said Hussein didn’t want to talk to the news media. Eric Hall, an Allentown-based lawyer for the defendants, didn’t return a call yesterday. For a while, the incident completely disrupted Hussein’s life. On Sept. 11, Hussein was reading X-rays at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., where he had started work Sept. 4. After the search in Neshannock, FBI agents in New Mexico began questioning him. He took a leave of absence from his job but said he was fired Sept. 13. That same day, he said, the apartment building management served notice that his lease was being terminated because his conduct “constitutes a health and safety risk to the apartment complex and other tenants.” That night, an FBI agent in New Mexico exonerated him in the investigation. He was later subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, but on Sept. 26 he met with federal prosecutors here to answer questions without having to testify. The U.S. attorney’s office said he was not a suspect. Hussein had said previously he was singled out because he appeared to be the ideal suspect. He has Arab roots, he’s Muslim and he’s a single doctor without social ties to his neighbors. It didn’t help that he has an affinity for aviation. Hussein moved from Egypt to Canada with his family when he was 6 years old. Although he’s a Canadian citizen, he has been a permanent resident of the United States since the 1980s and had been living in Neshannock for about two years when the terrorist attacks occurred.

Vatican Rebuff To Spanish Muslims

The Vatican will not allow Muslims to pray once more in the Mezquita, the former mosque that is now the cathedral of Cordoba, telling them they must “accept history” and not try to “take revenge” on the Catholic church. “We, too, want to live in peace with persons of other religions,” Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, told the Vatican’s AsiaNews agency. “However, we don’t want to be pushed, manipulated and go against the very rules of our faith.” Mgr Fitzgerald criticised the authorities of the southern Spanish city for lobbying to have the building, once one of the world’s biggest mosques, opened to Muslim prayer. “[They] have not the necessary theological sensitivity to understand the church’s position,” he said. He claimed Spanish Muslims who had been publicly lobbying for the right to pray had yet to make a formal request to the Vatican. The archbishop said the Vatican had been careful not to demand similar rights at mosques which were once Catholic churches – though he acknowledged that Pope John Paul II had prayed at a mosque at Damascus in Syria.

Cathedral May See Return Of Muslims

Centuries after Christian building was put at the centre of C_rdoba’s mosque, Vatican hears Spanish appeal to allow Islamic worship there. Muslims across Spain are lobbying the Roman Catholic church in the southern city of C_rdoba to make a symbolic gesture of reconciliation between faiths by allowing them to pray in the city’s cathedral. C_rdoba’s renaissance cathedral sits in the centre of an ancient mosque complex, and local Muslims want to be allowed to pray there again. They have appealed to the Vatican to intercede on their behalf.