Winterthur Approves Muslim Cemetery

November 1-9, 2010

Following Bern, Lucerne and Zurich, the city of Winterthur will soon become the latest Swiss city to have a Muslim section in the local cemetery. The project has been planned since 2008, and following a unanimous vote in the city council it will also receive a loan of 1.53 million Swiss francs. If, as expected, the project passes the communal council, Muslim burials could begin as soon as 2011.
12 per cent of the population of Winterthur is Muslim, and the new 380 graves were supported by all except one member of the Christian Democrats (CVP) who argued that it would symbolize yet another form of separation. Nevertheless, even the far-right Swiss People’s Party came out in support of the project, stating that “we don’t always have to be against everything.”

Conservatives call on Muslims to report radicals in their midst

25 November 2010

As police brace themselves for a possible terrorist attack, the ruling conservatives have called on Germany’s Muslim community to root out extremists at mosques and report them to authorities.

Stefan Müller, integration spokesman for the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union’s parliamentary group, said members of the 2,500 mosques in Germany should co-operate with anti-terrorism authorities more closely.

“In the face of the intensified situation, the mosque communities are called on to be especially watchful and keep an eye out for possible fanatics in their own ranks,” Müller said.

The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, has previously said that many Muslims in Germany feel they are under suspicion because of their faith alone. Mosques had been subject to hate mail and material damage, he said.

Anti-Islam Dutch Politician Stands Trial

October 4 2010
The trial for controversial politician Geert Wilders began in Amsterdam on Monday. Wilders is accused of inciting hatred against Muslims, Moroccans and non-Western immigrants through a number of actions, including statements likening the Quran to Mein Kampf.
The opening days of the trial included controversy. Wilders’ lawyer challenged the legitimacy of the court after the judge questions the defendant’s decision to remain silent during the trial, saying “people say that you’re good at putting forward your opinion, but then avoiding debate about it. And it looks like you’re doing that again here”. A special panel called in to determine whether these comments showed sufficient bias to justify the appointment of new judges ruled that the trial will continue unchanged. The hearing continued Wednesday with a screening of Wilders’ anti-Islam film Fitna, released in 2008.
The trial comes as Wilders takes a crucial position in the newly formed national government. The minority government of Liberal VVD and Christian Democrats depends on the support of Wilders’ Freedom Party to attain a one seat majority. Ruling on the trial is expected on November 4, 2010.

German president Wulff recognises Islam as part of Germany in reunification speech

5 October 2010
Leading conservative German politicians assailed President Christian Wulff on Tuesday for comments intimating Islam had gained a status comparable to Christianity and Judaism in Germany. Wulff riled his fellow Christian Democrats by saying Islam had become an important part of German society in a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification on Sunday.
While several Christian Democrats and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies grudgingly admitted Muslims had earned a place in Germany, they bristled at the idea they were changing the core social fabric of the country. “The speech was easily misunderstood,” CSU politician Norbert Geis told Bild on Tuesday. “If the president wanted to equate Islam in Germany with Christianity and Judaism, then I’d consider that wrong.”
In his first major speech on Sunday since taking office in July, Wulff extended the hand of friendship to Muslims, saying the challenge of integrating them into society was comparable to reunifying the country after the Cold War. “Christianity is of course part of Germany. Judaism is of course part of Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history… But now Islam is also part of Germany,” he said in his speech. “When German Muslims write to me to say ‘you are our president’, I reply with all my heart ‘yes, of course I am your president’.”
His comments were welcomed by leading German Muslim groups as an important sign that they were not second-class citizens in Germany.

A Muslim Candidate for the Christian Democrats

7 October 2010
“My dialect gives me away,” says Sara Rahman smiling, “I’m from Upper Austria.” Rahman, a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab, is 29th on the electoral list for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), a Christian democratic political party. For Rahman there is no contradiction between being Muslim and being part of a Christian political party: the ÖVP is a value-oriented party, and she sees many similarities with her own way of thinking.
Nevertheless, she is against a ban on the burqa, a position supported by the leader of the ÖVP, Christine Marek. Rahman believes that each woman should have the right to choose for herself, though personally she does not understand why someone would choose to wear a burqa. She finds the current debate on integration to be superfluous, while she understands that right-wing voters have legitimate fears, and initiatives need to be taken to dispel those fears. Though Rahman has no chance of joining the local council due to her position on the list, she says she finds the idea exciting, were the opportunity to present itself.

Every second Austrian sees Islam as a threat

(Martina Salomon)

According to a recent study by the research institute IMAS, 54 percent of Austrians believe that Islam is a “danger to the West.” Furthermore, those questioned for the study increasingly have the feeling that they cannot speak about such views in public. The study was commissioned by the International Institute for Liberal Politics, and has been made exclusively available to Die Presse.

The study found that only 4 percent would be comfortable if a family member married a Muslim, while this was in fact already the case for 3 percent, and much more common in Vienna. The minaret question was also included, with 59 percent “rather against,” while 51 percent responded that the construction of mosques in general as well as the wearing of Islamic headscarves should be prohibited.

72 percent of Austrians criticized the lack of willingness of Muslims to integrate into Austria society (Green Party supporters were the exception, at 38 percent), and 61 percent agreed that “Austria is a Christian country and should remain so.” 42 percent went further, opining that “the less foreigners, the better.” Not surprisingly, the followers of the FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) were most supportive (76 percent), while this radical view was also shared by 39 percent of Socialist (SPÖ) supporters and 37 percent of Christian Democrats (ÖVP).

Only Green Party supporters went against this trend. While merely one out of every fourteen Green supporters was opposed to the construction of minarets, only approximately a quarter believed that Austria should remain a Christian country. In addition, almost half of the Green supporters believe that immigration is an economic and social benefit for Austria, a view shared by only 15 percent of Socialists, 16 percent of Christian Democrats, and merely 5 percent of the FPÖ-BZÖ camp.

The study also found a rise of 10 percent (from 14 percent to 24 percent) of those who believe that it is better not to speak of such topics in public, leading the IMAS-researchers to conclude that there is are “flagrant contradictions between public and private opinions.”

A large majority (71 percent) believe Islam to be incompatible with Western ideas of democracy, freedom, and tolerance. Erich Reiter, who commissioned the study and is director of the Institute for Liberal Politics, stated that “from a liberal perspective Islam is perceived as a threat for our society. Politicians should take this seriously and react accordingly.”

Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they believed either in a biblical God (25 percent) or in a “spiritual power above us” (34%). However, when it comes to children’s education Christian beliefs come in next to last (followed only by “European ethos”). The most important values to promote in education were “independent thinking and acting,” reflecting as well the self-identification of the majority of those polled, who counted themselves among “people, for whom freedom and independence have great importance” (63 percent).

Muslims and the German elections

Until recently, the political rhetoric was the giveaway of real opinions of German political actors in Germany’s Muslim minority. While proclaiming openness, they found it sufficient to mention Islamic customs when referring to a case of honor killing in a Kurdish family or forced marriage among immigrants from Anatolia. German politicians too long equated Islam with what they saw as retrograde or dangerous characteristics of a whole group. Rare were those — mostly the Greens, partly the Socialists — who showed no unease about the immigrants’ difference.

The upcoming elections mark a shift in Germany’s policies toward German Muslims. Until the last elections, a clear cleavage existed between the conservative Christian Democrats suspicious of Muslims, on one hand, and the Social Democrats and the Greens advocating more openness and political solutions, on the other. The Conservatives’ comeback in 2005 led nevertheless to the most active policy the German state has ever held in integration matters. The rhetoric itself has changed direction consequently.

Dutch minister to appoint army imam chaplain as planned

By a narrow majority, the Dutch parliament approved a controversial appointment of Moroccan-born Ali Eddaoudi as a Muslim chaplain to the Dutch army. A joint motive by the right-wing VVD party and the Christian Democrats was narrowly defeated, with 69 members of parliament voting yes, and 70 no. Eddouadi’s appointment as a Dutcy army’s chaplain stirred controversy because of comments Eddaoudi made earlier about the NATO mission in Afghanistan, and comments about general relationships between Christian and Muslims. Opponents to his appointment felt that Eddaoudi’s statements were so “hurtful” that they made it impossible for him to function in the Dutch army. The criticisms were not enough, as parliament approved his appointment as a Muslim army chaplain by just one vote.

Amsterdam mayor wants to drop Moroccan name list in Dutch-Moroccan official registration

Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen plans to petition city hall stop using a list of first names approved by the government of Morocco.

Although city hall recognizes dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, the government in Rabat insists that people with a Moroccan parent are its nationals, and suggest using approved names to prevent future travel and inheritance problems by having a foreign name on their official documents.

Presently, persons of the local Dutch-Moroccan community have been given the list of approved names when officially registering their children. MPs from two senior members of the Christian Democrats and Labour have also called for Dutch-Moroccans to be able to choose whatever names they place on their registration documents.

Dutch Christian Democrats welcome Muslim texts

A new book of spiritual meditations was unveiled by the Dutch Christian Democratic Party, and includes meditations from both Christian and Islamic materials. The book, called “Reflections for political meanings” will be distributed among the CDA regional branches. According to CDA spokesperson Jo-Annes de Bat, the Muslim meditations were included to take into account non-Christian CDA members. “It is a common CDA tradition to open meetings with a meditation. But we noticed that branches sometimes found it difficult to find an appropriate text (as not all CDA members are Christian). That is why we put together the collection,” said de Bat.

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