In Germany, Immigrants Face A Tough Road

By Katrin Bennhold BERLIN Behind the sterile white brick walls of Brunnenplatz school, Ahmet Ruhi Cosgun dreams of a professional soccer career – not at a German club, but at Galatasaray in Istanbul. At 15, this son of Turkish immigrants knows just how unlikely that is. But international soccer stardom still seems more feasible than college in his native Germany. “If you didn’t have to go to university, I might try to become a lawyer instead – I think I’d be quite good at it,” said Cosgun, a black woolen hat pulled low over his forehead, as he leaned forward over a classroom table one recent afternoon. But a university, he added categorically, “is just not an option.” Brunnenplatz is in the heart of Wedding, a poor neighborhood that used to mark one stretch of the heavily fortified border with East Berlin. That wall is gone. But with three out of four students here of immigrant origin and at least half of their parents out of work, plenty of barriers remain. Europe’s failure to integrate a growing population of immigrants, many of them Muslims, starts desperately early: in education systems that still systematically neglect these and other disadvantaged children, trapping them in uneducated poverty and depriving them of a sense of worth and belonging. The daughters and sons of Turks in Germany, North Africans in France and Pakistanis in Britain are more likely to do worse in school, drop out and end up jobless than their German, French and British peers. Many are grouped together in poor schools and disproportionately few make it to universities. The result is anger – as the autumn rioting in France so powerfully illustrated – and a waste of youth and potential at a time when Western Europe shows lackluster growth and has an aging population. According to Andreas Schleicher, an education expert at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the precondition for turning Europe’s uneasy side-by-side with immigrants into a successful multicultural society is to build an education system that actively fights rather than perpetuates inequality of opportunity. “Immigration in Europe is still considered a problem rather than an opportunity, and nowhere is that more obvious than in education,” said Schleicher, who co-authored the recent study by the Program for International Student Assessment, which compared the quality of schooling in OECD member countries. School reform has been on the agenda in several European Union countries in recent years, as a combination of palpable tension in immigrant communities, the rise of terrorism and the need to remain competitive in a global economy has focused governments’ minds. Following the violence in its immigrant suburbs, the French government hastily presented an education reform bill on Dec. 1. But with the exception of the Scandinavian countries, where the education system largely alleviates the social inequalities suffered by immigrants, those inequalities are perpetuated everywhere else on the Continent, the student assessment study showed in November. In Germany, where immigrants now account for 22 percent of 15-year-olds, compared with 9 percent of the population as a whole, the inequalities are actually reinforced by the school system. Mention “integration” to Evelyn R_hle, one of Cosgun’s teachers, and she only manages a sad smile. “Disintegration, more like,” she says quietly, admitting that she is glad her son does not have to go to school in Wedding. In Wedding, R_hle says, immigrant children today speak poorer German and have less contact with German culture than when she started teaching 20 years ago. Many Muslim students, like Cosgun, go to Koran classes outside of school and speak only Turkish or Arabic at home. Meanwhile, the growth of digital television has made a host of Turkish- and Arabic-language channels available, intensifying language problems and nurturing identities that are informed more by the Israeli- Palestinian conflict or the war in Iraq than by the local German environment. “Some of these kids have never even been to Alexanderplatz,” a bustling square in the center of Berlin a 15-minute subway ride away, R_hle said. “They live in a parallel universe that has very little to do with the Federal Republic of Germany.” It is a fine line between tolerating, or even celebrating, cultural diversity and indulging a refusal to integrate, teachers here say. Unlike in France, where young Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a head scarf in public schools, girls at Brunnenplatz school carry their religious identity with pride. Deniz Celik, a soft-spoken 16-year-old of Turkish origin, matches the color of her head scarf with her Western garb, from sneakers to nose ring. But as parents multiply their demands to separate girls and boys in sports or take their children out of biology classes, teachers like R_hle worry that too much tolerance could become counterproductive – and that even more German parents will desert schools with high proportions of immigrants. Indeed, she says, the language skills of some of her German students have suffered, with many now routinely dropping definite articles in everyday speech. Some German boys are also imitating their Turkish counterparts in macho gestures. Much of the damage is done by the time the students arrive in secondary school, R_hle said. In Germany, kindergarten and other preschool activities rarely start before the age of 3. In school, classes tend to finish at lunchtime, sending students back to their families for substantial amounts of time instead of organizing activities during the afternoon as in most other countries. In addition, the educational fate of students is often decided between the ages of 10 and 12, when teachers recommend which of three tracks of secondary schooling they should attend. Only the top branch, called the gymnasium, paves the way to a university. The proportion of immigrant children who make it to this top track stood at 18 percent last year, compared with 47 percent for German students, government statistics show. The share falls to 12 percent for children of Turkish origin, the biggest immigrant group. Only 3.3 percent of immigrants who go through the German school system make it to universities. Meanwhile, 40 percent of immigrant children attend the lowest branch of secondary school, twice the German proportion. An estimated 19 percent end up in special-needs schools and another 19 percent leave school without diplomas, compared with only 8 percent of German students. “We are basically creating an army of long-term unemployed,” said Dagmar Beer-Kern, who is in charge of education in the government’s office for integration. “Rather than forcing teachers to find ways of maximizing the potential of immigrant students, the system has inbuilt mechanisms to offload problems to a lower level.” Many policy makers in Germany acknowledge that the system is not delivering the results it should. The assessment study was damning on Germany’s school performance overall and particularly damning on its inability to provide equal opportunities to underprivileged Germans and ethnic minorities. “If we were to sit down now to devise a school system for our society today, it would be a no-brainer: The three-track system is inappropriate,” said Klaus B_ger, senator for education and youth in Berlin’s city administration. “But education reform is an ideological minefield in Germany, so it’s more productive to focus on reform within the system.” While German politicians shy away from a bitter three-decade-old debate about introducing an integrated high school system, Cosgun and his friends in Wedding tell of the shame in being stuck in the lowest school track, the Hauptschule. “It’s embarrassing – it’s like you have a sign on your forehead that reads ‘stupid,”‘ said Cosgun. Outside the school, ask a group of his friends whose parents are out of work, and every single one raises a hand. Their own fate? “Our destiny,” says S_leyman Karaman, 16, matter-of-factly, “is Hartz IV,” shorthand for the welfare category for the long-term unemployed in a country with 4.5 million jobless. At the near
by Theodor-Plivier school, the headmistress, Angelika Prase-Mansmann, gazes through her office windows into a dense curtain of falling snow. “Snow is tempting – we had four teachers supervise during break today to break up fights,” she said. “Luckily no one got hurt today.” Fights are common, snow or not. Accumulated frustration and aggression will come out, Prase-Mansmann said. Eerily, the worst insult among boys in Wedding these days is “opfer,” or victim. Teachers say the term, which emerged about two years ago, has replaced more traditional invectives. “Are they victims? Yes. But it doesn’t help that they think of themselves as victims,” Prase-Mansmann said. “It’s a vicious cycle,” she added. “They know there are no jobs and that as foreigners they are the last ones to be hired, so they don’t really try and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” German pupils completing the lowest school track are competing for apprenticeships and jobs with those from the middle track at a time when both are scarce. Unemployment runs at 10.9 percent, but for immigrants it is almost twice as high. The share of immigrants among those holding apprenticeships fell from 8 percent in 1994 to 5 percent in 2003. In some cases, teachers say, students are offered opportunities they do not take. R_hle tells of language tutoring sessions and educational trips that end up half-empty. Prase-Mansmann says her school has a teacher 15 hours a week to counsel seniors on jobs and apprenticeships, but few ever show up. Yet both agree that schools need still more funds and human resources to provide more individualized educational attention to immigrant children. Countries like Finland and Sweden, which performed well in the student assessment both overall and in integrating minorities, spend more money on schools and equip them with more and better-trained staff than their bigger European neighbors. They also teach all students together until at least age 14 and give students verbal assessments, rather than grades, in the early years. In Germany, some schools are trying to emulate some of these features. At Brunnenplatz, for example, the headmaster, Karl Reism_ller, fought long and hard to get special permission for a dual-track setup that blurs the line between the lowest and middle secondary tracks. He also wants to get parents teaching other parents German in casual conversation groups to “anchor the school in the community.” Many reforms in Germany’s decentralized education system have concentrated on the preschool and primary school levels. The number of all-day primary schools is rising and language training at the preschool level has intensified, especially in places like Berlin and Hamburg where immigrants are numerous. A growing number of primary schools also offer bilingual tracks to nurture native languages alongside German. And the central government is trying to establish more specialized teacher training and quality control for schools across the boundaries of the 16 states, which are responsible for education. At Erika-Mann, an all-day primary school, small groups of students are huddled over different tasks – a math problem, biology and reading exercises – with two teachers moving swiftly between them. Eighty-five percent of students here are of immigrant origin and about 40 percent of them come from unemployed households. But a full one-third of Erika-Mann students go on to the academic track, one-third to the middle track and only one-third to the bottom track. “If we can do this, anyone can,” the headmistress, Karin Babbe, said. “All children want to learn. You should see the excited faces of the first-graders on their first day of school. The trouble is that all too often this motivation is killed off.” According to Babbe, an energetic 51-year-old who seems to know the names of all her pupils, the key is self- confidence. Mahmod Hejazi, a shy 12-year-old whose Lebanese parents speak hardly any German, arrived at Erika-Mann 11 months ago, along with a fat file explaining that he suffered from learning disabilities and required special instruction. His new teacher, Heidemarie Tandel, worked hard to integrate him, bringing him up to speed with the class material in afternoon tutorials. The breakthrough occurred onstage last spring. “Suddenly he was no longer Mahmod, who is too shy to say or do anything, but a self-confident and feisty toad that saves a little girl,” Tandel recalled. Late last month, her petition to remove his special-needs status was finally granted by the authorities and Mahmod published his first article in the student newspaper. But so far schools like this remain scarce. One reason is that such efforts rely largely on the energy and tenacity of staff.

Catholics Should Not Marry Muslims

ITALIAN bishops gave warning yesterday against Catholics marrying Muslims, citing cultural differences and fears that children born to mixed marriages would shun Christianity. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, said: In addition to the problems that any couple encounters when forming a family, Catholics and Muslims have to reckon with the difficulties that inevitably arise from deep cultural differences. Cardinal Ruini, one of the right-hand men of Pope Benedict XVI, said that it was often the woman who married a Muslim man and it was she who converted to Islam. In a statement, the bishops said that if an Italian woman married a Muslim immigrant and then settled in his country of origin, her rights were not guaranteed in the way they are in Italy or in other Western nations. In addition the children of mixed marriages tended to be brought up as Muslims and not as Catholics. Such marriages should, therefore, be discouraged. Church officials said that there were 200,000 mixed marriages in Italy, with 20,000 this year alone, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. The statement enraged liberal groups, which accused the Roman Catholic Church of interfering in Italian affairs. Emma Bonino, a leader of the Transnational Radical Party, accused the Vatican of seeking to affect the general election, due in April, as politicians from the Right and Left courted the Vatican to gain Catholic votes. She said that the Vatican had taken strong stances on issues such as abortion, same-sex unions, and euthanasia in violation of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between the Vatican and the Italian State. Mara Tognetti Borgogna, a sociologist at Bicocca University, Milan, said of mixed marriages: Each case is different. It depends on the circumstances.The most critical moment usually comes when the children reach adolescence and come into conflict with one parent or both over their life choices. Signora Borgogna said that they could work, but you need a high level of mutual tolerance between two languages, two religions, two ways of looking at the world. On the other hand, the mixed marriages we have now are a kind of social laboratory, because that is the way our society is going.

Muslim Youth Find A Bridge In A U.S. Tradition: Scouting

By Tara Bahrampour Washington Post Staff Writer Standing before 100 or so girls in green, brown and blue Girl Scouts vests, Sarah Hasan, the leader of Brownie Troop No. 503, explained the Islamic Ramadan fast. “We’re not allowed to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk for a whole month,” she said, noticing that some girls looked shocked. “It’s a month to be grateful for all the things that you have.” Ramadan, which fell this year in October and November, ends with a big feast called Eid al-Fitr. Last week, five Girl Scout troops from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling hosted an Eid party for five Herndon area troops, their mothers and troop leaders, to share a meal and help demystify Muslim cultural and religious traditions. The annual event, in its fifth year, was one of the activities many Muslim families — especially those with one or more immigrant parents — say are important to help integrate their sons and daughters into the rituals of American childhood. For many Muslim children, living in the United States means constantly balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid — identities that aren’t always in sync. “Unlike where we grew up [in Muslim countries], when they walk out the door, they’re seeing something different from what we teach them,” Hasan said. “So you can’t say, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ It’s always like, ‘But why? But how?’ ” Many Muslim immigrants have sought to bridge their old and new worlds since they began coming to the United States in large numbers during the 1960s. But since Sept. 11, 2001, as they have faced increasing hostility and scrutiny, parents and community leaders say, cultural integration is more vital than ever. “How do we deal with harassment, post-9/11? That’s part of our education program: letting people know who Muslims are,” said Rizwan Jaka, president of the Muslim society and a Cub Scout den leader. Like anyone else, he said, Muslims “want to be sure [our children] grow up with good character and good citizenship,” and they seek out activities accordingly. In the Washington area, home to about 250,000 Muslims from several countries, those activities include scouting, basketball, football, cricket and table tennis. The Muslim society’s center, which attracts Muslims from across Virginia, the District and Maryland, has hosted Muslim comedians and Muslim concerts and held interfaith exchanges with churches and an Eid festival with a moonbounce. “This is part of the normal progression of our community,” Jaka said. “They’re wholesome community activities that are compatible with who we are, which is wholesome Americans.” Many on the Muslim society’s board are, like Jaka, younger than 35 and born in the United States to immigrant parents. “We’ve gone through the system here, so we have a better idea of what our young people are facing,” he said. “As other mosques progress and more young people take over, you’ll see more transformation toward that.” U.S. Muslim scout troops have been increasing in the past two decades, said Donald York, director of the relationship division of the Boy Scouts of America: 112 troops with 1,948 members are chartered through an Islamic school or mosque. “What’s happening now in the Islamic community is very similar to what was happening in the 1920s and ’30s in Boy Scouts . . . with the Jewish community,” York said. “They used scouting to assimilate their young people into America.” York said scouting values — which include an adherence to faith — mesh well with Muslim ones. “Islamic families and clergies want the same thing for young people,” he said. “They want them to grow up in their faith and learn their histories and cultures,” he said. “Things like trustworthy, obedient, clean and helpful” — elements of Scout Law — “these are predominant Muslim ideas. They’re very attractive to an Islamic family.” A spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the United States of America said the organization does not ask scouts’ religious affiliation but does encourage spirituality. Troops often meet in churches, synagogues, and, increasingly, mosques. “It’s a pretty common thing,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “In fact, we did an ad campaign trying to show Muslims as regular people, and that was one of the things we showed: a Muslim Girl Scout troop in California.” Most Muslim children attend public schools and absorb American culture there, Hooper said. But people whose children attend Islamic school or are home-schooled also say connections with non-Muslims are important. “In this society, everybody has to learn to live together,” said Zohra Sharief, a Pakistani living in Woodbridge who home-schools her five children and co-leads Troop No. 503. “If I isolate myself from the society, it’s my loss.” It helps to have non-Muslim peers who understand the traditions, Hasan said. Still, she said, as immigrants arrive from Muslim countries and start families here, they must differentiate between what is religious and what is cultural and decide which American cultural practices to embrace and incorporate. Many note, for example, that dress is a cultural choice. Some immigrants arrive accustomed to wearing Western attire; some hew to the sartorial traditions of their home countries; some make compromises, such as forgoing headscarves but forbidding miniskirts. Hasan, 34, who is of Indian descent and was raised in Kuwait, said she and her three daughters do not wear head coverings except during prayers. “I tell them, ‘We’re in America; you can wear pants.’ ” But she has a blanket rule against another American ritual: sleepovers. “It’s not religious,” she said of her reasoning, “but I remember my mom said it’s not decent for young ladies to be sleeping in a house other than their own.” At the center last week, in a large room that serves as a prayer hall, party room and indoor gym, girls in headbands and jeans sat beside girls in headscarves and shalwar kameez — tunics and trousers — to make crepe-paper Eid necklaces. Hasan told the girls about Eid rituals, such as putting henna on their hands; taught them to say ” Salaam -u- aleikum ,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you”; and read a story about a family celebrating Eid. Afterward, Mona Magid, 6, a Brownie in a magenta headscarf who is the daughter of the society’s imam, explained more about fasting. “Like if you weren’t eating for the entire day, the way your throat would get dry is how the poor feel,” she said. “So Muslims want to try to help the poor.” Ashley d’Hedouville, 7, a second-grader at Clearview Elementary School in Herndon, said she learned that “Ramadan is when you eat at night.” Her sister Ann Marie, 8, said she knew about fasting from a classmate. “My friend does that. She goes to the library” during lunch. Once she and her classmates learned the reason, “we wouldn’t talk about food in front of her, or drinks.” While the Girl Scouts munched on halal, or religiously sanctioned, hot dogs, the center’s Muslim Boy Scout troops met downstairs for pizza, and the adults had their own cultural exchange. The Muslim mothers brought dishes from their home countries (chicken curry, rice, lamb and samosas) and from the United States (pasta casserole) and a large cake wishing a happy Eid. Gina Gallagher, a Herndon resident attending the dinner for the second consecutive year, said getting to know the Muslim mothers had been a revelation. “A lot of people look at the women with the head scarves, and they can’t relate,” she said. “You look at a woman like that and you’re like, ‘I don’t have anything in common with her.’ And then you sit down, you eat, you realize you all have the same problems.”

Would-Be Citizens Face Britishness Test

AMIT ROY Foreigners who want to apply for British nationality will have to pass a Britishness test from tomorrow, the home office announced today. Out of 24 multiple choice questions, candidates will have to get three-quarters right before being eligible to apply for British nationality. The idea, which has gained momentum after the London bombings of June 7, is to create a society in which people feel proud to belong to Britain. Tony McNulty, Tony Blair’s immigration minister, said today: Becoming a British citizen is a milestone event in an individual’s life. He explained: The measures we are introducing today will help new citizens to gain a greater appreciation of the civic and political dimension of British citizenship and, in particular to understanding the rights and responsibilities that come with the acquisition of British citizenship. While urging people to become more British, the government has pursued policies which is having the opposite effect. It is allowing the setting up of faith schools, mainly Muslim, within the state system. Their supporters have argued that if Christians and Jews can have their own schools, Muslims, too, should be allowed the same right. While this argument has intellectual force, it does encourage children to grow up without developing natural friendships with pupils from other faiths. There are a couple of Hindu schools and a Sikh one is in the pipeline. But Hindus and Sikhs seem less enthusiastic about sending their children to faith schools. On the other hand, a whole generation of Indian immigrants, mainly women, has lived in Britain for more than 30 years without bothering to learn English. The same is true of Pakistanis, notably Mirpuris, in Bradford and other cities in Yorkshire and the West Midlands. As for the Britishness test, foreigners will have to pay _34 to sit the 45-minute exam, which can be taken at any one of 90 centres through the country. Those who fail can take the computer-based exam again and again. The Life in the UK test, based on a handbook, is intended to examine a candidate’s knowledge of everyday life in the country in such areas as British regional accents, the Church of England, the courts and the telephone system. Sample Questions Revealed Today Are Of The Type: _ Where are the Geordie, Cockney, and Scouse dialects spoken? What are MPs? What is the Church of England and who is its head? _ What is the Queen’s official role and what ceremonial duties does she have? Do many children live in single parent families or step-families? _ Which of these courts uses a jury system? Magistrates’ Court? Crown Court? Youth Court? County Court. _ Is the statement below true or false? Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union. _ Which two telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services? 112? 123? 555? 999? _ Which of these statements is correct? A television licence is required for each television in a home. A single television licence covers all televisions in a home. (Answers to the last four questions are: 1. Crown Court 2. False 3. 112 and 999 4. A single television licence covers all televisions in a home) Last year more than 110,000 people were awarded British citizenship, according to the home office.

Making Room For Muslim Educators

By Jeffrey Fleishman The son of an immigrant coal miner, Musa Bagrac was raised in a city of steam and smoke, a place where men walked with crumpled lunch bags in calloused hands and Muslims felt adrift in makeshift mosques shadowed by church steeples. Bagrac moved like an unsure spirit between two worlds. In Hamm, his hometown about 20 miles south of here, he attended St. Joseph’s Elementary, where he sang “O Tannenbaum” in the choir. Twice a week he went to an Islamic school, learning the Koran and about the prophet Muhammad, wondering how to escape the working-class life of most German Turks. “We need poets, doctors and a middle class that German Muslims can aspire to,” said Bagrac, a 28-year-old university student with a wide face and sideburns. “Germans have come to see Islam as a religion of the working class. But Islam is a religion of all classes. That’s why it’s so important to get more Muslim teachers into schools.” Bagrac is a missionary of sorts in this nation of 3 million Muslims – nearly 4% of the population. He and about a dozen other students at the University of Muenster are enrolled in the first course of its kind in Germany: a curriculum preparing Muslim instructors to teach Islam in public schools while being sensitive to Western culture. Such ambitions have arisen against the backdrop of a troubling arc of violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks to last year’s train bombings in Madrid to this summer’s assaults on London’s transit system. The Islamic extremists’ war against Europe is widening, and conservative and liberal politicians across the continent are perplexed about how to better integrate a Muslim community that has doubled since the 1980s but remains in a largely parallel universe. Young Muslims such as Bagrac personify the intersection of the Islamic creed and European life. They carry iPods and hang out at dance clubs. Many are more attuned to reality TV than the bloody politics of Iraq. But they also pray five times a day, wanting to be devout without being stereotyped as fanatical. Most believe they can keep their faith despite the increasingly secular atmosphere around them. They move not apprehensively, but in a manner that suggests there is an invisible yet impenetrable divide between them and native Europeans. Some are demure. Others are quiet but forthright. A few are angry. They sip nonalcoholic beer and sweet tea; some of the more intense among them quote from both the Bible and the Koran. They have learned how to politely refuse “currywurst,” or pork sausage, sandwiches. And most have grown used to, though some still blush at, the public nudity in parks and on billboards advertising sex shows. This is a continent where Christmas, Hanukkah and Ramadan coexist, and national constitutions eloquently uphold human rights. But the rising militancy among young Muslims has challenged those constitutions and cast a shadow on the meaning of being European. “Learning Islam in school will finally give Muslim children the feeling of being home,” Bagrac said of his course, which awaits final state approval and may start graduating prospective teachers within three years. […]

Muslims Sue, Alleging Discrimination

Families in Anaheim apartments say they are victims of religious and housing bias. Manager calls it just a landlord-tenant dispute. By David Reyes, Times Staff Writer Seven Muslim families filed a lawsuit Friday alleging religious and housing discrimination at an Anaheim apartment complex. The suit alleges that the owner and the manager of Chaumont Villas refused to make repairs to apartments, don’t allow Muslim children to play in public areas and have harassed Muslim families because of their faith. The suit was announced at a news conference in front of the complex at 1600 W. Broadway, attended by several tenants and representatives of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The suit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Tawfiq M. Mousa, Mustafa A. Suleiman, Waleed M. Abdullah, Jamal Almasri, Mohammed Wali Hakami, Abdullah T. Assaf and Issam H. Wahby. Listed as defendants were property management firm Swami International, businessman Ram K. Mittal, and corporations DKM Investments and RKM Investments. “This is nothing more than a landlord-tenant dispute,” said Pat Mitchell, a vice president for Swami, located in Rolling Hills Estates. Mousa said he, his wife and three children had lived three years in their $1,450-a-month, 3-bedroom unit with no problems until a new manager arrived at the complex a year ago. “Since then, there’s been a pattern of harassment against Muslims renting here,” said Mousa, 43, an engineer. Manager Bridgett Phillips yelled at Muslim children and chased them from common areas, and frequently referred to Muslim tenants with profanity, the suit alleges. Phillips, named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment. In June, the dispute escalated when Mousa circulated a petition seeking a new manager and asking for repairs to units, including fixing rusted plumbing and peeling paint. It was signed by two dozen Muslim and non-Muslim tenants at the 61-unit complex. “That’s when I was handed a 60-day eviction notice,” he said. But Mitchell said Mousa was evicted for causing friction between Muslim tenants and the apartment manager and said Mousa followed Phillips around the complex snapping her picture. “He has been harassing the manager and not allowing her to do her job,” Mitchell said. “We can’t have somebody creating a hostile environment.” Although Southern California is home to an estimated 500,000 Muslims, it’s a population that doesn’t file many housing complaints, said Connie Der Torossian, a spokeswoman for the Fair Housing Council of Orange County. “It’s a hard population to reach and similar to some of the ethnic minorities like Vietnamese,” Der Torossian said. “They’re afraid to make complaints out of fear of retaliation.” According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 27 cases of religious discrimination were filed statewide in the year ending Sept. 1. Of those, five were brought by Muslims. Of the seven families that are plaintiffs in the suit, two have moved out of Chaumont Villas after they sought larger apartments there but were told none were available, said their attorney, Federico C. Sayre. The apartments were then rented to non-Muslims, the suit alleges.

Establish Body To Train Imams: UK Muslim Leaders

British Muslim leaders called on the government to establish a national body to oversee mosques and imams as part of efforts to combat extremism following the July bombings in London. Working groups advising the government said that the proposed National Advisory Council of Imams and Mosques could recommend ways for mosques to prevent extremism, train Imams and encourage British-born Muslims to become clerics. Lord Ahmed, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords who headed one of the groups on Thursday, said that 1,700 of the estimated 2,000 Imams in Britain were educated and trained abroad. “As British Muslims we need to be prepared to modernise the way we operate, encouraging integration and helping our children to feel proud to be British,” he said. “I and my colleagues believe that the establishment of this Advisory Council is an important step towards this goal.” European governments seeking to counter the spread of extremism within some mosques are concerned that sermons are often not conducted in the country’s predominant language and that many clerics come from abroad rather than from local Muslim communities. The Dutch government earlier this year revoked the residency permits of three Imams whom it accused of preaching hate. In France, where a third of the 1,200 Imams do not speak French, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently called for better oversight of mosques in order to root out radicals.

In Germany, Harder Line Looms; Bavarian Probes Into Muslim Groups May Foretell Deeper Scrutiny

MUNICH, Germany — Local officials have started taking steps against one of the historic centers of Islamism in the West, after years of tolerating and even supporting it. At the center of attention is the Islamic Community of Germany, which has its headquarters in a Munich mosque that also has been a key base for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was founded in 1920s Egypt as a reform movement to Islamicize society but since then has spawned a host of radical organizations. Now, attorneys in the state of Bavaria have launched two separate investigations. One is aimed at determining whether the Islamic Community of Germany misappropriated state funds, a move that could force the group to pay back more than _700,000 ($868,070) to the state. Prosecutors also are investigating an allegedly related organization that runs a nearby school. Officials denied an education license to the school just as the school year was about to start, a move confirmed by courts last week. The actions in Bavaria could signal that Germany will take a harder line nationally against Islamist organizations. One of the driving figures behind the moves is G_nther Beckstein, the Bavarian interior minister who is widely expected to become Germany’s interior minister after national elections on Sept. 18. Mr. Beckstein believes that the Islamic Community of Germany’s allegedly ideological links with the Muslim Brotherhood make it an undemocratic force. Taking Aim “The Islamic Community of Germany is a group that is against the constitution,” Mr. Beckstein said in an interview. “It is justified that the state not support such organizations.” For decades, the Munich mosque and its related organizations have been cornerstones of the Muslim Brotherhood network that gradually spanned Europe. In early July, The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article detailing the history of the Islamic Center of Munich, which was founded in the late 1950s by a group of ex-German World War II soldiers and exiled leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. The center’s legal successor is the Islamic Community of Germany, which is still based in the mosque although most of its operations have moved to Cologne. For almost a decade, domestic intelligence had observed and published warnings about the group’s allegedly radical ideology. Public officials, however, continued to deal with the organization, financing its private school with _340,000 a year. The organization maintained nonprofit status, which allowed donors to write off their contributions. “It was always a thorn in our side that extremist organizations were obtaining public money,” said Michael Feiler, spokesman for the Bavarian branch of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, a domestic intelligence agency that tracks groups believed to threaten Germany’s democratic order. In the late 1990s, the Islamic Community of Germany began to attract unwanted attention: A man sentenced for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center had been a regular at the Munich mosque and, later, a high-ranking al Qaeda suspect who had contact with mosque members was arrested nearby. In 1998, the group was put on the domestic intelligence agency’s watch list. The next year, the Islamic Community of Germany lost its nonprofit status because of sloppy bookkeeping, Bavarian state officials say. Although the matter is still in court, donations to the group are no longer tax-deductible. That led to the current investigation. Officials say the Islamic Community of Germany deliberately misled state education officials by failing to tell them about its loss of nonprofit status. From 1999 onward, the Islamic Community continued to receive roughly _340,000 a year to run the school, which last year had seven teachers and 111 pupils. Officials say the group may have to pay back some of the money it received from 1999, when it lost nonprofit status, to 2003, when a new organization took over the school. Ibrahim El-Zayat, the head of the Islamic Community of Germany, didn’t respond to requests for comment. In a previous interview, Mr. El-Zayat denied bookkeeping irregularities at his organization. The Islamic Community of Germany’s direct involvement with the school ended in 2003, when a group called the German-Islamic Educational Enterprise was founded to run the school. It obtained nonprofit status and received roughly the same amount of state support to run the school, officials say. Now, state prosecutors are investigating whether the new group may have forged the signatures of members who weren’t present at its founding. German-Islamic Educational Enterprise couldn’t be reached for comment. Local officials denied the school a license for the current school year because they say it is a dummy organization set up to disguise links to the Islamic Community of Germany. “We are afraid that the group running the school, which belongs to the Islamic Community of Germany, is using the school to spread Islamist ideology,” said Thomas Huber, spokesman for the district government of Upper Bavaria. He said the district hadn’t analyzed the school’s textbooks but that the alleged links to the Islamic Community of Germany were enough to deny the school its license. The group running the school has denied a direct link to the Islamic Community of Germany. Its members couldn’t be reached for comment but have said in local media reports that any links were informal. Sealed registration documents reviewed by the Journal show that most of the school group’s founding members had been members of organizations allied with the Islamic Community of Germany or are active in its mosques. Parents say the maneuvering between the government and the organization is hurting their children. Hisham Awwad, spokesman for the German-Islamic School Parent Committee, said the school wasn’t spreading Islamist ideology. “I don’t know anything about links to the Islamic Community of Germany,” said Mr. Awwad, a German citizen who emigrated from Egypt. “All we parents want is a way for our children to learn some of our Arabic heritage. We have no interest in radicalism, and I never noticed anything radical.” Mr. Awwad and other parents say they want to form their own nonprofit organization to run the school. Last Tuesday, a court denied the parents’ attempts to prevent implementation of the decision denying the school a license. Although the parents have other legal channels, their children will attend other schools this year.

Pressure Is Growing On Muslims In Italy

By Elisabeth Rosenthal ROME As a second wave of London bomb attacks hit the news Thursday, Imam Khaldi Samir clicked nervously at his office computer, next to the prayer hall at the Alhuda Islamic Cultural Association on the outskirts of Rome. Bombs in London, he has seen, produce fallout for him. Just two days earlier, with Italy stepping up surveillance after the first round of London attacks, 10 plainclothes police officers with a search warrant turned up at 7 a.m. at the imam’s home in Latina, 70 kilometers, or 40 miles, south of Rome. During a three-hour raid, while his children slept, they scoured the home he shares with his Italian wife, and then downloaded numbers from his cellphone. The police explained that they were looking for clues related to the London bombings, although they found nothing, said the imam, who preaches to up to 800 mostly poor immigrant worshipers each week. The search warrant did not indicate that the imam himself was suspected of a crime. Instead, the police politely explained, the search was “preventive” – the warrant stating he might have “unknowingly” had contact with people connected to terrorism. Five other leaders of the Italy’s Muslims were searched the same day, he said. “The state is punishing its best links to the Muslim community – we never expected that the Italian state would do something like this,” said Samir, a soft-spoken man in a shirt and slacks, clearly shaken by the course of events. “Every day I stress the need for moderation and integration,” Samir said, “but these searches bring into question my credibility in our community. People will say, ‘This is your payback for your moderation.'” He said such events served to radicalize young people. As antiterrorism officials across Europe are intensifying their hunt to root out sleeper cells, they walk a delicate line between thwarting terrorists and radicalizing innocent Muslims who are already largely isolated and marginalized in many European nations. The challenge of controlling terrorism without creating new terrorists, is particularly acute in countries like France and Italy. In those two countries, large and growing Muslim populations are kept by law and by custom on the fringes of mainstream society. There are an estimated 1.5 million Muslims in Italy, a country of about 58 million people. The vast majority of the Muslims are immigrants, who have little chance of getting citizenship. Less than 10 percent have an Italian passport. An official at Italy’s law enforcement agency, the Ministry of the Interior, said that he did not know specifics of recent raids, but that he was “not surprised” that such searches were occurring. “This is an ongoing process,” he said. On Friday, Italy’s Council of Ministers adopted a series of new antiterrorism provisions, which are likely to take effect soon. These include new registration requirements for Internet caf_s and cellphone users, new limits on pilots licenses, and quick expulsions for foreigners considered a danger to national security or who assist in terrorist activities. But the search on the imam’s house occurred legally under the current rules, which give judges wide leeway in issuing warrants. “What if I had reason to believe that a terrorist had gone to your house and was worried he left something – some documents or even a suitcase?” said a senior Italian antiterrorism official, explaining the search. In 2001, the police searched the Alhuda center, which includes a prayer hall and a cultural center and where Arabic and Islamic culture are taught to children. Last year, they searched the home of Ben Mohamed Mohamed, the center’s president. But since the attacks in London, the Italian government has beefed up security measures and has also attempted to reach out to Muslims. In Michelangelo’s beautiful Campidoglio, on the afternoon of the second London bombings, the city of Rome invited prominent Muslims to convey a message of coexistence. “Rome is a city that it open to everybody,” said Giuseppe Mannino, chairman of the City Council. “You are our brothers.” He shared the podium with Mahmoud Hammad Sheweita, imam of Rome’s only official mosque, the Grand Mosque – an architectural masterpiece filled with light and soaring arches, which operates with the permission and cooperation of the Ministry of the Interior. Samir and Mohamed listened from the back row. Unlike the Alhuda center, a subterranean former warehouse where young men wander in and out all day, the luxurious official mosque is open to worshipers only on Friday. For the rest of the week, its primary function is to serve as a sort of liaison between Islam and the Italian government. From here, Mario Scialoja, a former Italian diplomat and convert to Islam, who is head of the Italian branch of the World Muslim League, meets with Islamic ambassadors and lobbies Italian politicians, pushing them to allow Muslims better access to citizenship, and religious education for Muslim children. Scialoja said that the worshipers in his mosque, filled on Fridays, were typical Italian Muslims – poor immigrants who come to Italy for a better existence. He said that “99.7 percent of them couldn’t care less about fundamentalism” and that only 4 percent of Italy’s Muslims attend mosque on a regular basis. While he has noted some acts of intolerance since the London bombings, he praised Giuseppe Pisanu, the interior minister, whom he meets with regularly, and he called Italy’s new antiterrorism proposals “very responsible.” And though he blames the U.S. invasion of Iraq for creating terrorism, he does not support an immediate withdrawal. Italy has troops in Iraq in support of the U.S.-led invasion. “To stay is to feed this anger, but to leave now would create a mess,” he said. But his official version of Islam seems to have little resonance or even connection with Samir’s prayer hall, where many worshipers speak halting Italian and the lingua franca is Arabic. When Scialoja tried to form a national association of Muslim groups five years ago, “the experiment was a failure,” he said, “since some groups had views I couldn’t support.” In 2003, when the Grand Mosque expelled its new Imam for a fiery sermon that justified Palestinian bombings in Israel (though not in Italy), Alhuda’s Web site posted an article defending his right to free speech. In part because Italy does not recognize Islam as a religion, Samir’s flock does not have a real mosque. Italian Muslims must work on their religion’s holy days. As aliens, the vast majority have no right to vote. “Now, with the increasing security, they search our houses – this is a very bad sign,” Samir said. “We hear all about the policies on integration, but we never seen any concrete measures.” They remain largely outsiders and, especially now, visitors to the Alhuda center and the surrounding Islamic shops were greeted with intense suspicion. Requests to interview the Imam were met with deflections and questions: Where are you from? Why do you want him? Samir, a Tunisian who has lived in Italy for 15 years, insists that he would report suspicious activity to the police. Asked if anyone from the Alhuda had attended the religious schools in Pakistan that have been a breeding ground for terrorists, he said: “Not that I know of, but they certainly wouldn’t tell me if they had.”

Muslims In Philly Shun Men Who Abuse Wives

By Kristin E. Holmes PHILADELPHIA — The veil shrouding spouse abuse in Muslim families is being torn away by some mosque leaders — putting them at the forefront of efforts by American Muslims to stem domestic violence. The Philadelphia clergy council — known as the Majlis Ash’Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley — has adopted a tough policy of public shunning of Muslims who abuse their spouses or abandon their families. Under the initiative, adopted in May, offenders will go on a list circulated among area Muslims. They will be banned from future marriages in communities that adhere to the policy. Fellow Muslims will be discouraged from patronizing any businesses they own. “We need to take a public stand,” said Imam Isa Abdul-Mateen, secretary of the Majlis Ash’Shura, an association of 30 imams. “We want people to know that this will not be tolerated.” In coming months, the council will address issues such as the criteria for putting names on the list and safeguards to protect spouses who step forward. Domestic violence appears no more prevalent in Muslim communities than elsewhere, but Islamic advocacy groups and others have tried to push the problem into the open. With the new policy, Philadelphia leaps over other Muslim communities that are just starting to confront the issue, said Maha Alkhateeb, project manager of the Peaceful Families Project, a Virginia-based nonprofit that addresses domestic violence among Muslims. A striking aspect of the initiative is that it was started not by female advocates but by the male leadership, said Amina Wadud, author of “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text From a Woman’s Perspective.” “This is setting a new precedent, globally.” The Rev. Marie Fortune of the FaithTrust Institute in Seattle, a leading domestic-violence policy center, said she knew of no other religious community in the country that had “so specific and rigorous” a policy. Within Muslim families, domestic violence remains largely a taboo subject, Alkhateeb said. Some Muslims deny its existence in a faith in which men are supposed to be protectors of women and children. Some immigrant families are too focused on building a better life to deal with the issue. Activists also cite a widespread reluctance to air problems and expose fellow Muslims to public scandal. As a consequence, there is little data on the extent of the problem. One study, done in 2000, surveyed 500 Arab women in Dearborn, Mich., and found that 18 percent to 20 percent said they had suffered spouse abuse, a rate similar to that in the general population. Approximately 98 percent of the sample was Muslim, said Anahid Kulwicki, a professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., who did the study. There are signs that Muslims are awakening to the problem. A group of imams signed a pledge to fight domestic violence at a recent Peaceful Families conference in Washington. A turning point in Philadelphia may have come in 2001 when a city police officer killed his wife and then himself. Both were Muslims, and the incident shook the Muslim community, said Taalibah Kariem-White, of Germantown, a domestic-violence expert who lectures nationally on the issue. The policy applies to both men and women. Though there are few female batterers, Mateen envisions the sanctions applying to women who make or threaten false claims to police or vindictively deny a man visitation with his children.