Responses: fundamentalism among Muslims

Sociologist Ruud Koopmans conducted a research on Muslims and concluded that 44% of the Muslims can be labelled as fundamentalist. Although most of them have a peaceful mindset, their ideas could be a breeding ground for terror, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks. A lot of readers reacted with enthusiasm to the article about Koopmans research. They felt ‘supported’ in their already existing ideas. There is however also some critique on the article and the research. Some of them referred to a different view on the same research, where Koopman argues that Islam nót the problem. Researcher Martijn de Koning criticized the research in itself, arguing that Koopman uses a certain (wide) definition of ‘fundamentalism’.

Third Muslim child questioned by police for “condoning terrorism”

A ten year-old child was stopped by gendarmes for not having supported the journalists of Charlie Hebdo killed by the Kouachi brothers. She is the third child to be questioned for “condoning terrorism.” The child had said, “I agree with the terrorists for killing the journalists because they made fun of our religion.” Accompanied by her parents she was questioned for 30 minutes by policemen and a child psychiatrist.

“It’s always worrying when we have this kind of remark,” explained Georges Gutierrez in Nice Matin, the prosecutor of the Republic of Grasse. The French court has decided to close the case. The prosecutor said that after the meeting the child no longer held the same belief and that she had been unable to explain what compelled her to say such remarks.

French comedian to go on trial for supporting terrorism

French comedian Dieudonné Mbala to stand trial for allegedly condoning terrorism via Facebook. (Photo: The Telegraph UK)
French comedian Dieudonné Mbala to stand trial for allegedly condoning terrorism via Facebook. (Photo: The Telegraph UK)

French comedian Dieudonné Mbala has been charged with condoning terrorism following a Facebook comment in which he expressed support for Ahmedy Coulibaly, the gunman who took hostages at a kosher supermarket and killed five people.

While in court Dieudonné stated: “of course I condemn the attacks without any restrain and without any ambiguity.”

He angered French officials after posting a statement online which read: “Je suis Charlie Coulibaly,” after thousands marched in Paris under the slogan “Je suis Charlie” in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Dieudonné was arrested January 14.

Following Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s request that authorities investigate the comedian’s remarks, Dieudonné responded that he was being “treated as a public enemy when all he wanted to do was make a joke.”

Many see his arrest as a violation of free speech and an example of the government’s double standard.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland said “The case has raised new questions about French values of freedom, equality and fraternity.” Dieudonné could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. In addition to the recent allegations he already faces already other charges after being convicted for inciting anti-Semitism.

“He is currently involved in several trials here, on charges ranging from slander, to incitement of racial hatred, to condoning terrorism. In all cases, he denies the charges,” an Al Jazeera correspondent said.

Members of extreme-right group protest on roof of mosque in Leiden

Extremists protest on roof of mosque in Leiden. (Photo: AD.nl/Facebook (Identitair Verzet))
Extremists protest on roof of mosque in Leiden. (Photo: AD.nl/Facebook (Identitair Verzet))

Members of extreme- right Group ‘Identitair Verzet’ [Identitair Resistance] were standing on the roof of de Al Hijra mosque in the city of Leiden. The activists stated that the Netherlands is at war with Salafism and its adherents. And upon this event, more actions will follow, they said. They have called upon activists in the country and Vlaanderen [province in Belgium] to resist themselves against islamization.

The Council of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands (RMMN) is shocked by the incident and has reminded the Dutch government they should pay attention to the protection of Muslims and their institutions – the government said they would made this an important matter after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Luz: “The majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo”

Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine's offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)
Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine’s offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)

Luz, the illustrator who escaped the January 7 attack at the Charlie Hebdo office, conducted a video interview with Vice. He recounts what he saw that day and discusses the magazine’s controversial headline.

“I was really lucky. It was my anniversary on January 7 and I stayed in bed with my wife for a long time. As a result, I was stupidly late to the meeting. When I arrived at Charlie, I saw people who stopped me and whole told me ‘Don’t go in there, there are two armed men who just entered the building.’”

Luz saw the two terrorists leave and reenter the building several minutes later. “I began to see traces of bloody footsteps. I understood after: it was the blood of my friends. I saw there were people on the ground. I saw a friend face down on the ground.” He continues between sobs: “They needed belts to stop the bleeding. I realized I didn’t have a belt. So now I wear belts.”

Since the attack there has been controversy surrounding the representation of Muhammad. Several demonstrations against the magazine have occurred in the Muslim world. “I think that the majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo,” says Luz. “I think that people who assume the right to say that the entire Muslim community was offended are people who take Muslims to be idiots.” He adds that it’s “sad” that newspapers such as The New York Times decided not to publish the cover.

How Many French Muslims? Public’s Estimation Incorrect

Following the attacks in Paris that killed seventeen people in three days, Le Monde published an article responding to the “distrust that has spread in public opinion for several weeks.” Using information gathered during an Ipsos study, Le Monde found that the French tended to overestimate the number of Muslims they believed to be living in France, believing the percentage to be 23% when it’s actually 8%.

While France forbids collecting data about religious affiliation, there are differing estimations about the number of Muslims in France. Certain polls say there are around 3 million, not including minors and the elderly. France’s Minister of the Interior recently stated that there are between 4 and 5 million Muslims living in France. In comparison, there are believed to be 11.5 million Catholics. He also stated that there are around 4,500 converts to Islam each year.

According to Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve and the Observatory Against Islamophobia, anti-Muslim acts have multiplied, with over 50 occurring since the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks.

France Security: Chechens arrested amid high alert

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack police in France have arrested five Chechens suspected of possessing explosives. Terrorism officials were not aware of the suspects prior to their arrest, although they were known to organized crime units.

Four men have also been charged with supporting Amedy Coulibaly and are due to appear in Paris court. Seventeen people were killed in three days of terror attacks in Paris.

The Chechens were apprehended during raids in Beziers and Saint-Jean-de-Vedas near Montpellier. Hidden explosives were found during the search and investigators are attempting to determine if they were planning an attack. Yvon Calvet said people “shouldn’t jump to conclusions” about the arrests. Chechnya has witnessed large demonstrations against the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo of the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslim organizations have plans to address hate preachers

In three weeks Islamic organizations will reveal their plans aimed at the tackling of hate preaching and to respond to the glorification of terrorism on social media. They agreed on the matter with minister of Social Affairs, Lodewijk Asscher. From both sides there is said to be respect with regards to the responds to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the social tensions that were the consequence of it.

New York Times: French rein in speech backing acts of terrorism

The French authorities are moving aggressively to rein in speech supporting terrorism, employing a new law to mete out tough prison sentences in a crackdown that is stoking a free-speech debate after last week’s attacks in Paris.

Those swept up under the new law include a 28-year-old man of French-Tunisian background who was sentenced to six months in prison after he was found guilty of shouting support for the attackers as he passed a police station in Bourgoin-Jallieu on Sunday. A 34-year-old man who hit a car while drunk on Saturday, injured the other driver and subsequently praised the acts of the gunmen when the police detained him was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.

All told, up to 100 people are under investigation for making or posting comments that support or try to justify terrorism, according to Cédric Cabut, a prosecutor in Bourgoin-Jallieu, in the east of France. The French news media have reported about cases in Paris, Toulouse, Nice, Strasbourg, Orléans and elsewhere in France.

The arrests have raised questions about a double standard for free speech here, with one set of rules for the cartoonists who freely skewered religions of all kinds, even when Muslims, Catholics and others objected, and yet were defended for their right to do so, and another set for the statements by Muslim supporters of the gunmen, which have led to their prosecution.

But French law does prohibit speech that might invoke or support violence. And prosecutors, who on Wednesday were urged by the Ministry of Justice to fight and prosecute “words or acts of hatred” with “utmost vigor,” are relying particularly on new tools under a law adopted in November to battle the threat of jihadism. The law includes prison sentences of up to seven years for backing terrorism.

Some of those who were cited under the new law have already been sentenced, with the criminal justice system greatly accelerated, moving from accusations to trial and imprisonment in as little as three days.

Prosecutors seized on the law in the days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 17 people dead — 12 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly newspaper that was targeted in retaliation for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. A notice from the Ministry of Justice on Jan. 12 directed prosecutors to react firmly.

The accused did not have to threaten actual violence to run afoul of the law. According to Mr. Cabut, who brought the case in Bourgoin-Jallieu, the man shouted: “They killed Charlie and I had a good laugh. In the past they killed Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Merah and many brothers. If I didn’t have a father or mother, I would train in Syria.”

The most prominent case now pending in the French courts is that of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a provocative humorist who has been a longtime symbol in France of the battle between free speech and public safety. With nearly 40 previous arrests on suspicion of violating antihate laws, for statements usually directed at Jews, he was again arrested on Wednesday, this time for condoning terrorism.

He faces trial in early February in connection with a Facebook message he posted, declaring, “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” It was a reference to the popular slogan of solidarity for the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists — “Je suis Charlie” — and to one of the attackers, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman and later four people in a kosher supermarket last Friday.
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Prosecutors and other lawyers say the difference is laid out in French law, which unlike United States laws, limits what can be said or done in specific categories. Because of its World War II history, for example, France has speech laws that specifically address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. In the case of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, prosecutors said, the targets were ideas and concepts, and though deemed extreme by some, the satire was meted out broadly.

“A lot of people say that it’s unjust to support Charlie Hebdo and then allow Dieudonné to be censored,” said Mathieu Davy, a lawyer who specializes in media rights. “But there are clear limits in our legal system. I have the right to criticize an idea, a concept or a religion. I have the right to criticize the powers in my country. But I don’t have the right to attack people and to incite hate.”

President Francois Hollande of France and Chancellor Angel Merkel of Germany on Thursday both sought to quash any backlash against Muslims in the wake of the Islamic militants’ attacks. As they have also done in recent days, they raised the issue of anti-Semitism.

“We must be clear between ourselves, lucid,” Mr. Hollande told an audience at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris. He said inequalities and conflicts that had persisted for years had fueled radical Islam. “The Muslims are the first victims of fanaticism, extremism and intolerance,” he said. “French Muslims have the same rights, the same duties as all citizens.” Pope Francis joined the debate while traveling to the Philippines from Sri Lanka, saying that while he defended freedom of expression, there were also limits.

“You cannot provoke,” he said. “You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Anti-Islam protests in Germany after Charlie Hebdo

The German anti-Islam protest movement European Patriots against the Islamization of Europe (PEGIDA) has mobilized less demonstrators within the last week. The thirteenth event of PEGIDA in Dresden mobilized approximately 17.000 adherents, while earlier events were supported by far more than 25.000 demonstrators. Anti-PEGIDA initiatives such as “Dresden nazifrei” gathered 5.000 supporters.

Some organizers of PEGIDA such as Kathrin Oertel have been invited to German talk shows at Prime time. Oertel blamed left-wing parties to ignore the “reasons for violence”, while avoiding any clear distance towards hooligans and Neonazi groups.

While German media and politicians discuss the causes and effects of PEGIDA on Germany, debating how to deal with the protesters, the Technical University of Dresden presented numbers of a study conducted three weeks ago. 400 demonstrators have been asked to participate and respond to questionnaires. Only 35% agreed to participate in the study. The aim was to identify the “typical” PEGIDA demonstrator. According the study, typical demonstrators are well educated, in the mid 40s and mainly male. These demonstrators are not religious and are not affiliated to any party. They are motivated by dissatisfaction with politics, media and public. Also, protesters share fundamental resentments against immigrants and asylum seekers, emphasizing their concerns about Muslims and Islam. However, the protests are interpreted as public articulation against the political elites.

In an interview, Ender Cetin the representative of the Sehitlik mosque, which is part of the Turkish Islamic Union and Institute for Religion (Ditib) in the district of Neukölln Berlin and the preacher Abdul Adhim Kamouss raised their concerns about public opinion towards Islam. Kamouss has been observed by the security authorities and said to be close to Salafist circles in Berlin. According to both, public need to understand that Islam and terror would share nothing in common. Kamouss and Cetin condemned the attacks against Charlie Hebdo as a brutal act and called their community members to participate at the manifestation for freedom of speech and against violence. Kamouss emphasized the importance of freedom of speech but expressed his regret about the offending character of the cartoons. These images would incite people and an illegal act against minorities. Dialogue would be the key to avoid hatred and terror as mosques and Islamic centers have been targets of assaults throughout the last months.