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.

The World from Berlin: Germany’s Difficult Debate with its Muslim Community

Germany’s ongoing talks with its Muslim community continued on Thursday. In principal, everyone agreed to broaden Islam instruction in German schools. But deep divisions remain among the country’s Muslims. It hasn’t been easy. But on Thursday evening, after another session of the two-year-old Islam Conference led by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch_uble, government representatives and Muslim leaders announced an agreement to work toward introducing Islam instruction in German schools. Furthermore, Sch_uble expressed his support for the building of new mosques and the group likewise urged German states to change rules in order to allow Muslim burials. “We have agreed that this should be the way forward,” Sch_uble told reporters after the conference. “We are moving ahead step by step.” Still, the parties to the conference were hesitant to play up the announcement due to the difficult negotiations and at times deep divisions that have characterized the ongoing conference. On the one hand, Sch_uble’s Christian Democrats have at times made their distaste for widespread immigration clear, with Roland Koch’s recent re-election campaign in Hesse veering decidedly toward xenophobia. The recent fire in Ludwigshafen (more…), in which nine people of Turkish background died, likewise increased tensions with Germany’s immigrant community.

German state plans burka ban in schools

The prime minister of the German state of Hesse said in an interview Sunday that he wants a ban on the wearing of Islamic dress covering the whole body in schools. This was the best way to improve the integration of Muslim female students and counteract religious pressure on them from within their own culture, Premier Roland Koch told the news magazine Focus. He said girls wearing a burka, a traditional outer garment that cloaks the entire body, could not take part in lessons as equals because of their conspicuous dress. But Koch, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said he had no plans for a ban on students wearing headscarves, attire which teachers in the state are forbidden to wear.

Bavarian Leader Edmund Stoiber Says Mosques Must not Dwarf Churches

Bavaria’s conservative leader Edmund Stoiber won thunderous applause in his farewell speech for saying mosques were getting too big. . “When the mosques in our cities are bigger than cathedrals and churches, then we must tell our Muslim fellow citizens: ‘No, that is going too far.’ the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), said. “Church towers, not minarets, should be what you see when you look out across the state.” His remarks caused a new debate about Islam in Germany.

German Judge Condemned for Citing Quran

Politicians and Muslim leaders denounced a German judge for citing the Quran in her rejection of a Muslim woman’s request for a quick divorce on grounds she was abused by her husband. Judge Christa Datz-Winter said in a recommendation earlier this year that both partners came from a “Moroccan cultural environment in which it is not uncommon for a man to exert a right of corporal punishment over his wife,” according to the court. The woman is a German of Moroccan descent married to a Moroccan citizen. The judge argued that her case was not one of exceptional hardship in which fast-track divorce proceedings would be justified. When the woman protested, Datz-Winter cited a passage from the Quran that reads in part, “men are in charge of women.” The judge was removed from the case on Wednesday and the Frankfurt administrative court said it was considering disciplinary action. Court vice president Bernhard Olp said Thursday the judge “regrets that the impression arose that she approves of violence in marriage.” While the Quranic verse cited does say that husbands are allowed to beat their wives if they are disobedient, Germany’s Institute for Islamic Questions noted that such an interpretation was no longer standard. “Of course not all Muslims use violence against their wives,” the group said in a statement. Olp said the judge thought she was protecting the woman, who had been granted a restraining order against her husband. She had seen no reason to grant help in paying court costs for a fast-track divorce. Olp said her reasoning was unacceptable, but insisted it was a “one-time event” that would not have an effect on other cases, or on the final ruling in the divorce proceedings. The latest uproar comes amid an ongoing debate in Germany about integrating its more than 3 million Muslims, most of them from Turkey. A decision last year to cancel an opera featuring the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures out of security concerns caused a furor and was later retracted. Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries condemned the judge’s decision. “Every so often, there are individual rulings that seem completely incomprehensible,” she said. Lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said traditional Islamic law, or Sharia, had no place in Germany. “The legal and moral concepts of Sharia have nothing to do with German jurisprudence,” Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker with the Christian Democrats, told N24 television. “One thing must be clear: In Germany, only German law applies. Period.” Ronald Pofalla, the party’s general secretary, told Bild: “When the Quran is put above the German constitution, I can only say: Good night, Germany.” Representatives of Germany’s Muslim population were also critical of the ruling. “Violence and abuse of people – whether against men or women – are, of course, naturally reasons to warrant a divorce in Islam as well,” the country’s Central Council of Muslims said in a statement. The mass-circulation Bild daily asked in a front-page article: “Where are we living?” The left-leaning Tageszeitung headlined its Thursday edition: “In the name of the people: Beating allowed.”

Netherlands government sworn in

The new Dutch government has been by sworn in by Queen Beatrix after meeting for the first time to formally adopt its policy guidelines. (…) The new governing coalition, led by Jan Peter Balkenende, the incumbent prime minister and head of the Christian Democrats party, will be further to the political left than the previous government which sought to limit non-Western immigration to the Netherlands. (…) The new cabinet contains the first Muslims to reach the inner core of political power in the Netherlands. Ahmed Aboutaleb, the son of a Moroccan imam, was sworn in as a state secretary, or junior minister, while Nebahat Albayrak, a Turkish-born lawyer, becomes junior justice minister. Balkenende’s previous coalitions, dominated by the Christian Democrats and free market VVD, had tried to reduce immigration in a country which once had the some of the weakest controls on immigrants and asylum seekers of any European country. Softer line on immigrants The new government has already demonstrated its leftwards shift by allowing thousands of illegal immigrants due for deportation to remain in the country. But it also will keep in place policies designed to force new arrivals to integrate, such as mandatory assimilation classes and Dutch language lessons.

Another German State To Curb Hijab; North Rhine-Westphalia Is The Latest State To Target The Hijab

Germany’s most populous state has moved to ban Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves in classrooms. Deputies from the ruling Christian Democrats and Free Democrats in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia agreed unanimously on Tuesday to put the measure to a vote in the state legislature in November. “With the ban, we will send a message to affirm our system of values against Islamic fundamentalism,” the head of the Free Democrats’ parliamentary group, Gerhard Papke, said. The regional education ministry said there were 20 Muslim teachers known to wear headscarves (hijab) at public schools in the state. Headscarf bans for teachers have already been introduced in the German states of Hesse, Lower Saxony, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Saarland. In Hesse the ban applies to all civil servants. However, the rules stop short of banning school pupils from wearing Islamic headscarves. Germany is home to more than three million Muslims.

Parliament Keeps Faith With Blasphemy Law

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch parliament has rejected a bid to scrap the prohibition on blasphemy. The motion was drawn up by MP Lousewies van der Laan of the small government party D66 last week. The move was a response to an announcement by Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner that he planned to strengthen the blasphemy law. Initially Van der Laan’s motion seemed to have majority support. Only Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s Christian Democrats and two small religious parties opposed it.