Christian Preacher in London may hold vital information on ISIS

A Christian preacher in London may hold vital information about a man suspected by the security services of being an accomplice of Jihadi John, the Islamic State murderer.

Daniel Downer, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, was sent a message by Nero Saraiva, who travelled to Syria two years ago. Mr Downer, from Chingford, east London, was asked to provide photographs of Saraiva’s young son, who is thought to live in the capital with Saraiva’s former partner.

It is believed the security services are keen to speak to everyone with knowledge of Saraiva’s movements after it emerged that he appeared to have advance knowledge of an ISIL beheading video.

Dutch Political Party: “Walking time bombs” should report themselves

Dutch political party CDA (Christian Democratic Appel) wants to make it mandatory for radicalized Muslims, who cannot be imprisoned, to report themselves with the municipality of their town. This, so the authorities know where they are.

According CDA leader Sybrand Buma returnees from Syria and Iraq should be jailed upon their return. But there is also a group of radicalized Muslims from whom it is not known if they have been to Syria or Iraq. For those people it should be mandatory to report themselves with the authorities. Radicalized Muslims should also get counseling to deal with possible trauma’s.

Prominent Dutch academic critiques minister’s plans to ban “sharia parties”

A majority of parties in the Dutch House of Representatives have agreed on the desirability of a ban for political parties based on the Islamic sharia law. A bill that suggested so was put forward by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and supported by the two parties currently in the government, the Labour Party (PvdA) and the Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). It was also supported by the Christian Union (CU) and the Political Reformed Party (SGP). The Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher has expressed his willingness to investigate possibilities within Dutch law that would support such a ban.

The bill has been criticized by emeritus professor of integration and migration studies Han Entzinger. He posed that it is unclear what Muslims mean by sharia and that many diverse interpretations of it exist. He suggested that some interpretations of sharia might contain aspects that are in conflict with democracy. Alluding to the ban on extreme right parties such as the Centre Party ‘ 86 (CP ’86) in the nineties he suggested that it might in fact be possible to ban parties with an undemocratic character.

Entzinger suggested however that it remains questionable if such a threat is really at hand. He maintains that the majority of Dutch Muslims are not proponents of the implementation of Islamic sharia law in the Netherlands. He fears that the current discussion on a ban will unnecessarily enhance the already existing polarization in Dutch society, thus enhancing stigmatization of Muslims and xenophobia amongst Dutch natives. Entzinger also suggested that since such political parties are currently not in existence in the Netherlands the whole discussion could be seen as an example of “symboolpolitiek” (politics based on symbolism) as a prelude to the Dutch elections.

Local religious leaders unite for change in immigration law

April 4, 2014

 

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Southern California hold vigil calling for a revamp in federal immigration laws.

Several of Southern California’s most prominent religious leaders held a vigil for immigration reform in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, underscoring a growing interfaith effort to change the nation’s laws.

Immigrants who are in the United States illegally “need mercy and they need justice,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez, welcoming an array of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to the gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“Times have changed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “Some have framed the issue as a monolithic issue of a particular denomination. But that is a myth. The immigration issue transcends all creeds, all colors, all languages.

“It does not matter whether my particular people are suffering,” he said. “But we look at it as our people are suffering. And we stand with those suffering people.”

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-interfaith-immigration-20140405,0,4994674.story#ixzz2yE27uDp5

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-immigrant-vigil-la-20140404,0,4480623.story#axzz2yE3oOxsF

In Virginia House of Delegates, a push for inclusive prayers

February 28, 2014

 

RICHMOND — Every day they’re in session, as they have for hundreds of years, the members of Virginia’s House of Delegates stand together and pray.

At least most of them do.

Nearly every legislature in the country begins sessions with a prayer, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as does Congress. It’s a tradition that dates back to the British Parliament. The Supreme Court ruled 30 years ago that legislative prayers were constitutional, as they were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country” as well as “a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people.” But a Jew and an atheist in Greece, N.Y., have challenged the prayers that began their town council meetings as violating the court’s requirement that prayers not favor one religion. The justices are reviewing an appeals court ruling that agreed with the women that eight years of almost exclusively Christian prayers violated constitutional protections.

“I’d like to be able to take part in the prayer,” said Del. Marcus B. Simon, a freshman Democrat from Fairfax County and one of the few Jewish lawmakers in the House who has made a point of standing in the back of the chamber when prayers are read. “I wish it was one I felt like I could take part.”

In part to reflect the seismic demographic shifts in recent decades that have helped JewishMuslimBuddhistHindu and Sikh communities take root in the commonwealth, prayers in the House are supposed to be “ecumenical” — not tied to a specific faith. Too often for some, they’re not.

“We start with a prayer to feel energized and rejuvenated,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), who is Jewish. “Why not be inclusive?”

This isn’t the only instance in which the legislature’s allegiance to Christian traditions — many of which are still championed by conservative lawmakers — have clashed with the changing sensibilities of the state’s population centers.

On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vowed to veto a bill that would allow students to pray and make religious remarks in public schools. The measure was hailed by some in the legislature, including Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun), who said that lawmakers should “give to our students the same religious freedom and same religious rights that we have granted ourselves.”

Prayers in the House have become contentious before. In 2010, delegates were urged toboycott a prayer from an imam because two of the Sept. 11 hijackers briefly worshiped at his Falls Church mosque — and because a former imam at the mosque is suspected by U.S. authorities of having aided al-Qaeda in terrorist activities. About a dozen delegates were not in the chamber for that day’s prayer.

That same year, then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) reversed a policy banning state police chaplains from referring to Jesus in public prayers.

Although the concerned delegates in Virginia appreciated Nardo’s response, prayers invoking specific Christian beliefs continue in the legislature. But signs of change are apparent.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/in-virginia-house-of-delegates-a-push-for-inclusive-prayers/2014/02/20/25c1eb6a-9971-11e3-b88d-f36c07223d88_story.html?wprss=rss_story-courts_law-NW3&_monetaClick=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

Muslim Christmas Celebrations Gain Footing In America

December 24, 2013

By Omar Sacirbey

 

RNS – A generation or two ago, when America’s Muslims were new immigrants who made up an even smaller minority of Americans than they do today, the lights, trees, carols, gifts and festive spirit of Christmas were viewed by many Muslims as a threat to their children’s Islamic faith.

But these days, a growing number of Muslims celebrate Christmas, or at least partake in some ways, even if they don’t decorate their homes with trees and a light show. Indeed, many Muslim families have created their own unique Christmas traditions.

“I teach my three children, who attend public school and happen to be born into an interfaith Christian-Muslim family, that we absolutely do celebrate Christmas because we are Muslim,” Hannah Hawk of Houston wrote in an email. Rather than putting up a tree or lights, “we celebrate the reason for the season, Jesus, by studying all that is written about him in the Quran and by examining historical theories.”

The Hawks also give to charity, bake treats for neighbors, invite them to dinner, and wish friends, colleagues and teachers “Merry Christmas” with cards and phone calls. Hawk’s kids get together with Christian friends to perform various good deeds. This year, they will play songs (violins, viola, trumpet, cellos, bells) at a local community hospital for patients recovering from surgery.

To be sure, some Muslim leaders still criticize Christmas celebrations as assimilation gone too far.

Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, a former president of the Islamic Society of North America, has argued that Muslims should not celebrate Christmas because the holiday commemorates the birth of a figure revered by Christians as the Son of God, which violates Islamic beliefs.

“We should tell our children that we are Muslims and this is not our holiday,” Siddiqi said in comments posted at the website OnIslam.net. “This is the holiday of our Christian neighbors and friends.”

To protect their children from the attraction of Christmas, he said, Muslim parents should take advantage of Islamic camps and conferences established at this time of year for this very reason.

But others see a new generation of Muslims born or reared in the United States who feel secure enough to view Christmas as another tradition they can relate to, and to celebrate it in a wide variety of ways — as do their Christian neighbors.

“Muslims should join their Christian neighbors to celebrate Christmas,” said Rizwan Kadir, a financial adviser who is active in his Muslim community in suburban Chicago. “We also believe in Isa,” Kadir added, using the Arabic name for Jesus, “and he has a very special place in Islam.”

While Muslims don’t believe Jesus was crucified or that he is part of the triune Godhead, they do believe in the Virgin birth, and claim Jesus as a prophet — a predecessor to Muhammad — who ascended to heaven, and will return as part of the Second Coming.

Kadir adds that Muslims shouldn’t retreat from Christmas festivities. His family doesn’t put up a tree or lights, but Kadir does go to holiday parties at work, wishes friends and neighbors a “Merry Christmas,” and watches “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and “Home Alone” — a Kadir family tradition.

“To me, those are just fun things that people do around this time of year,” said Kadir. “It doesn’t make you a Christian. It doesn’t mean you’re compromising your faith.”

That view, however, has taken time to evolve.

Zeyna Ahmed, the American-born daughter of Egyptian parents, remembers that her mother liked some aspects of Christmas. But her father “stifled it.”

“Their way of holding on to their heritage was just pushing everything that was Muslim,” said Ahmed, who lives in Easton, Pa.

When her four children started asking why the family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she felt it wasn’t adequate to say, “because we’re Muslim,” since “we also believe in Jesus,” Ahmed said.

So, for the last seven years, Ahmed, who is divorced, has celebrated Christmas with a tree, lights, and acts of charity. She also gets a menorah for Hanukkah and cooks a big meal on the last night.

“I want to expose them to different traditions,” Ahmed said, referring to her kids. “I feel like if you respect their holidays, they’ll respect our holidays. It develops mutual respect.”

Hawk agreed. “Christmas, like Ramadan, is the perfect interfaith footbridge for Muslim-Christian fellowship,” she wrote. “Both are the perfect times to hold interfaith vigils, pray together for peace, and pledge to uphold God’s message to spread goodwill and reach out to and help the less fortunate in our society.”

Some Islamic leaders have come on board, too.

Imam Talal Eid of Quincy, Mass., a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, cited the 13th verse of the Quran’s 49th chapter, which states that God created “peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

And, he added, at a time when some Christians and Jews in America have fasted in solidarity with Muslims during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Muslims should reciprocate.

“This is not about theological details,” said Eid. “This is a matter of fellowship and social activity. There is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts and participating.”

 

Religion News Service/Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/muslim-christmas-celebrations_n_4494836.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

A New Report on Islamic fundamentalism in Europe

December 16, 2013

 

In Western Europe, religious fundamentalism is not a marginal phenomenon but a trend. This is the conclusion of a German study whose results were presented last week in Berlin at WZB, a center for research in the social sciences.

This comparative study between Muslims of Turkish or Moroccan origin and Christians is based on a survey conducted on about 9,000 people in six European countries, including Germany and France.

44% of Muslims polled believed in a return to the origins of Islam and that the rules dictated by their religious beliefs are more important than those of the country in which they live. Contrastingly, in the Christian population this was the case for only 4%.

To determine the extent to which Muslim and Christian fundamentalists are considered hostile to the other groups, the researchers asked them whether they agreed with the following three statements :

“I do not want to have a homosexual friend”
“You just cannot trust Jews”
“Western countries want to destroy Islam / Muslims want to destroy western culture”

The results of the survey showed that 60% of Muslims and 13% of Christians did not like the idea of having a homosexual friend. Muslims who do not trust Jews were 45% compared to 9% of Christians.
About 25% of Christians think that Muslims want to destroy western culture, while 45% of Muslims are convinced that Western countries want to destroy Islam.

In the conclusion, the study’s author, sociologist Rudd Koopmans, emphasizes, however, that the results should be relativized: “We must not forget that Muslims are a relatively small minority in western Europe. Considered in a relative manner, the levels of fundamentalism and hostility are certainly higher among the Muslims, but in absolute terms the Christian fundamentalists are just as numerous.”

Ticino Live: http://www.ticinolive.ch/2013/12/16/allarme-fondamentalismo-islamico-europa/

 

Fundamentalism and out-group hostility: Muslim immigrants and Christian natives in Western Europe

December 2013

 

In the heated controversies over immigration and Islam in the early 21st century, Muslims have widely become associated in media debates and the popular imagery with religious fundamentalism. Against this, others have argued that religiously fundamentalist ideas are found among only a small minority of Muslims living in the West, and that religious fundamentalism can equally be found among adherents of other religions, including Christianity. However, claims on both sides of this debate lack a sound empirical base because very little is known about the extent of religious fundamentalism among Muslim immigrants, and virtually no evidence is available that allows a comparison with native Christians.

 

View full report here: Fundamentalism and out-group hostility – Muslim immigrants and Christian natives in Western Europe

Author: Ruud Koopmans

Published in: WZB Mitteilungen

Dual citizenship and reactions from Muslim groups

December 5, 2013

 

The new coalition of the German government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Christian Democratic (CDU) and the Christian Socialist Party (CSU) is planning to reform the citizenship law, enabling immigrants to obtain dual citizenship. The citizenship decree of the year 2000 obliged every German-born child to choose between German citizenship and the citizenship of its parents’ origins by the age of 23. If they refused to choose, they would automatically become foreign citizens.

While the issue was discussed controversially in German media, the Turkish Islamic Union Institute for Religion (DITIB) criticized the rhetoric of German politicians such as Minister of Interior Friedrich (CSU). He had raised his concerns about the loss of German identity when permitting a significant number of immigrants to become Germans. According to DITIB, Turkish immigrants would be an integral part of German society and there would be no need to question their loyalty and efforts for integration.

 

DITIB: http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=383&lang=de

MIGAZIN: http://www.migazin.de/2013/11/28/integrationspolitik-zwischen-reformen-stillstand/