Fillon wants ‘strict control over Muslim faith’ (video)

“I want strict control over the administration of the Muslim faith, seeing as its integration in the Republic has not been fully achieved,” he said during his first meeting as presidential candidate.

“Around us, there is an expansionist radical Islam that threatens our civilization,” he stated. He called for the “immediate dissolution of all movements associated with Salafism or the Muslim Brotherhood.”

For more, see the video.



The slow death of multiculturalism in Europe

October 28, 2010

Has multiculturalism run its course in Europe? If one takes a picture of
certain European countries today and freezes it, that would be the
logical conclusion.

The European right is thriving on anti-immigrant attitudes and is likely
to continue to reap the benefits in the short term. But there are forces
that are sure to keep multiculturalism alive whether we like it or not.

Take Germany as an example. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said bluntly
that Germany has failed to integrate large immigrant communities. The
complaint is that most Turks and Muslims who came to Germany in the
1960s to jumpstart the German economy after World War II have not
integrated into German society. They kept their language, religion and
most of their cultural habits. Instead of blending in, they created
their own parallel societies.

But is it logical to conclude that multiculturalism is dead because
certain European countries have failed to integrate their minority
communities? First of all, what some European countries present as
multicultural policies have very little to do with multiculturalism.
Again Germany is a case in point. German governments welcomed Greek,
Italian, Portuguese and Turkish workers in the 1950s and 1960s and
treated them as “guest workers.” But it never occurred to them that
these so-called guest workers were also human beings with social and
familial needs just like any other people. As a result, the German
governments made very little or no effort in creating a social and
political environment for them to integrate.

But it would be a mistake to think this is only a matter of policy. The
deeper issue is how culture and multiculturalism are understood in the
German context. “Multiculturalism” as a term has largely negative
connotations because “Kultur” in German means something rather different
than culture in French and/or English. Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler and
Thomas Mann used Kultur to denote the intellectual, spiritual, artistic
and religious values of a society. For many German thinkers in the 19th
century, civilization, which meant European civilization, was a sign of
decadence and loss of cultural purity. Culture, by contrast, meant
something more profound, something to be found in the Geist of a nation.
Given this definition of culture, how is any non-German-born person
supposed to participate in the German culture?

Besides these critical issues, what is the alternative to
multiculturalism? Forced integration? Assimilation? Walls of separation?
Or a complete halt of all immigration? The last option, which is the
never-ending political talk of all right-wing political parties from
Berlin and Paris to Washington, is not an option at all. The reason is
that the economic realities of globalization, the current state of labor
force and demographic trends in Europe make it impossible to stop

The age of cultural purism has ended. Europeans need to wake up to this
simple fact. As Fernand Braudel, the prominent French historian of
civilization, said: “The history of civilizations, in fact, is the
history of continual borrowings over many centuries, despite which each
civilization has kept its own original character. It must be admitted,
however, that now is the first time when one decisive aspect of a
particular civilization has been adopted willingly by all the
civilizations in the world…”

Instead of mourning the loss of an imaginary cultural heritage, we need
to articulate a new definition of culture. This definition will have to
be based not on some abstract notions and traits but on a deep sense of
social and filial empathy, a sense of reaching out to others, and
enriching oneself through the discovery of the other. An ethics of
coexistence can nourish a sense of cultural empathy without alienating

Panel on Teaching Islam in American Universities


[/This is the nineteenth in a series of my notes on the International
Institute of Islamic Thought conference on approaching the Qur’an and
Sunnah held in Herndon, VA. These notes are raw material for an edited
report I will write on the conference later and represent my perception
of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later
time. The Minaret of Freedom Institute thanks IIIT for the grant that
makes the publication of these notes possible. Responsibility for any
errors in the notes is mine alone./]

Session 19. Moderator: Iqbal Unus
“Panel on Teaching Islam in American Universities”

Panelist Cemil Aydin:

There are more Islamic scholars in America than any other non-Muslim
majority country. When Ismail Faruqi began teaching the Islamic section
of the Academy of teachers has only twenty teachers, but now it has
grown enormously. MESA started humbly forty years ago but now has a
membership of 3000. Why? America’s imperial interest is one reason, but
not the main one. American Universities in recent years have overcome
their Eurocentrism at the same time as the boom in the inflow of Muslim
immigrants, a nonimperial humanist interest. Muslims are about half of
the scholars in the field and may soon become the majority. I think that
90% of the scholars today are in the humanist camp. During the invasion
of Iraq the Neocons complained that the scholars of Islam were not
helping them. Edward Said’s legacy now dominates the organization that
he criticized (MESA). In Continental Europe they want teachers who can
explain Islam, but they don’t want them to be Muslims.

In the last 200 years Muslim scholars have strongly been concerned with
issues of reform, but they were focused only on Muslim societies and
Europe. They ignored other non-Muslim societies. American universities
offer an opportunity to consider the issue of reform in a broader global
context. Comparative engagement with the non-Muslim societies could help
us overcome the limitations imposed by the myth of golden age and decline.

Panelist Mahmoud Ayoub:

I would like to look at the history of Islamic studies in America to see
where we are and to where we may move. Islamic studies began in the
colonial countries of Europe, with the Germans joining in the 19^th
century under the influence of the special relations with the Ottoman
Empire. Between the two world wars there was shift of power from Europe
to the U.S. and the U.S. adopted a number of European projects,
including the study of Islam, as a form of area studies rather than
religious studies per se. What may have initiated a change in this
approach was the rising European interest in religious civilizations
like Islamic civilization and the rise of American imperialism, which
differs from the European style in that the Americans wanted to
establish business concerns. Their interest in Islam was both commercial
and cultural, especially as Islam in America began to grow. People like
Gibb and Gruenebaum came to teach on America. Americans also became
interested in establishing centers and journals that dealt with areas of
special economic interest in the U.S. Things began to change drastically
after WWII with the growth of indigenous educated Muslims in America.
Jewish scholars including rabbis like Goitien did important work in
Islamic studies. The missionaries also took an interest in Islam. The
journal /Muslim Worl/d was founded to understand Muslims better in order
to convert them to Christianity. Missionaries started American
universities in the Middle East. There were also students like Kenneth
Morgan who changed from other fields to Islamic studies. Morgan was
interested in all the traditions of the world and wanted them to be
taught by people within the tradition, provided only that they did not
advocate, i.e. attempt to convert. A final group are the Arabs and
Muslims. In the 80s and 90s there was a concern about Muslims taking
over Islamic studies. I came to Islamic studies from the history of
religion and my view will be different from someone who was a physician
or engineer or political scientist, but we played a role in changing the
field. After 9/11 there was shift in which we emphasized trying to
present ourselves as friendly and good citizens, which is good, but
carries the danger of ignoring or watering down aspects of our culture
in order to be acceptable to others. We need to be true to our culture
and promote peace at the same time.

For a long time universities sought to teach Middle East studies without
teaching Islam. I think things have changed. The question is how long
will this interest in Islamic studies go on? God knows. We shall have to
wait and see.

Panelist Aisha Musa:

One of my pet peeves is the Islam vs. the West dichotomy. I’m of
northern European background and changed my name when I converted, but
if I knew then what I know now I might not have, since I am now mistaken
as being from the Middle East. When students enter my class they have no
knowledge that Islam is an Abrahamic faith. Until recently the modality
of teaching Islam, as a subset of the study of ancient or modern Middle
East, has not helped. Religious studies as an academic discipline is
only 20-30 years old. Public universities are trying to study religion
as a force in the world without preaching the religion. The highest
levels of Islamic studies have mainly been restricted to a few schools
in the East. I see a growth of interest in hiring Islamic studies
professors at state universities. When Jane McAuliffe gave her talk on
“Reading the Qur’an with Fidelity and Freedom” she said twenty years
earlier almost all of her students were non-Muslims, but now most were
Muslims. I see great hope but we have to move away from the West vs.
Islam mentality.

Panelist Khaleel Mohammad:

What I say is purely my own view and has nothing to do with IIIT or San
Diego University. I say this because I enforce a stereotype. I am a
terrorist. At McGill University there was decision to make at least 40%
of the Islamic studies faculty Muslim, but they moved away from that.
Despite the increase in vacancies for Islamic studies professors, I do
not see a beneficial development. The stereotype still exists that
Muslim professors will try to convert people to Islam. In 1898 at the
world parliament of religions there was a sustained rhetoric against
Islam. A lot of the rhetoric now does not have a positive goal in mind.
What is the solution? When we write our texts and they need it be
edited, why can’t we have it edited by IIIT? Because of the name. It is
still an uphill battle.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad: When I taught at JHU’s Social Change and Development
Program, the head of the Dept. of Middle East Studies objected that
Islam was being taught outside of his department.

Ayoub: It is important not to use our position to proselytize.

Abu Baker Al-Shingieti: How do we teach Islam without appearing to
proselytize? How can we teach the will of God?

Aydin: Some non-Muslim scholars have done more than the Muslim scholars,
for example the history of Sufi tradition. I recall when Faruqi refused
to include a panel on Sufism over the objections of the non-Muslim
scholars. There should be an intra-scholar conversation outside the
classroom where we can talk about the Islamic tradition in turn of
creating a better person.

Imtiyaz Yusuf: Everybody asks me if John Esposito is a Muslim. He is
not. He is a Hanif. The best you could have.

Ahmad: In my class on Islamic civilization at the University of
Maryland, I tell the students up front this is not a theology class. Of
course, you cannot completely eliminate theology from a discussion of
Islamic civilization, so I tell them they may ask questions about
Islamic theology in the second and third sessions, but not afterward.

Ayoub: We can’t teach the will of God. That is something one must
discover. We can only teach the revelation. What we need here, and IIIT
is probably the best to do it, is an Islamic Seminary (which is probably
not a bad name) that would be respectable in academic standards and
thoroughly train religious leaders and imams in a nonsectarian way, not
tied to a particular /madhhab/.

Mohammed: When a Muslim is considered to teach Islamic studies there is
a problem that does not arise when a Buddhist is considered to teach
Buddhist studies.

Aydin: The links between academia and government are broken not just in
the area of Islamic studies. Washington think tanks are the
intermediaries between academia and the policymakers in government.

Ayoub: Two days before we were to meet to inaugurate the chair of
Islamic studies at Temple the chair yielded to pressure from Daniel
Pipes to cancel the chair.

Ahmad: The importance of think tanks as the bridge between academia and
policymakers is why the Minaret of Freedom Institute, IIIT, and the
Association of Muslim Social Scientists produced the /Directory of
Policy Experts on Islamic Studies and Muslim Affairs/.

Hisham Altalib: it would be interesting to compare the religious
affiliations of the teachers of Jewish, Christian and Islamic studies.

Aydin: There are very few Christians and no Muslims teaching Jewish
studies. There are many secularists and atheists teaching Christian
studies, leading to the phenomenon of student who “fail for Jesus.”

Ayoub: We all teach Christianity or Judaism in a sense in a world
religions course, as historians of religion. Regarding think tanks, they
are of different varieties. Some are funded by and belong to government
or intelligence agencies.

Ayoub: I think an introductory course in Islam should be an advanced
seminar with a focus on the rich civilization.

Mohammed: There is a new thrust that focuses on syllabus design. We have
boards that ask the students what they want to learn about.

Altalib: Why call Christianity, Islam and Judaism Western religions?

Ayoub: Because of the influence of Greek thought. We are all heirs of

Musa: You have to be a marketer in designing a course.

Ahmad: Judith Latham, now retired from Voice of America, has hosted a
salon in her home for many years she calls “Aristotle and Abraham: All
Their Children.” Even if you teach a course on theology, these other
questions will come up.

Yusuf: My students are surprised to learn that Christianity went to
Africa and Asia before coming to the West.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Two new books out in France: profession imam and pari de civilization

Tareq Oubrou, imam in Bordeaux, has published a new book on his vision of “Occidental Islam” in Profession Imam (Albin Michel, 2009). Raised in Morocco in a non-practicing family, fifty-year old Oubrou claims that this Islam is capable of secularization theologically-speaking. He advocates a “minority Shariah” adapted to French laicite, wherein in the Western world Muslims make their faith less publicly visible.

In Pari de civilization (Seuil, 2009), writer and university professor Abdelwahab Meddeb calls for a reinterpretation of the Qur’an, notably that it is a direct revelation from God. Renegotiating this point allows for a modernization and neutralization of Islam in the public sphere.

No place for burqas in France, says Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says there is no place for full face and body veils such as the burqa, or for the debasement of women, in France. Sarkozy claims that all beliefs will be respected in France but says “becoming French means adhering to a form of civilization, to values, to morals.”

In a speech on national identity on November 12th, Sarkozy stated that “France is a country where there is no place for the burqa.” Sarkozy said in June 2009 that burqas would not be welcome in France. Since then a parliamentary panel has been looking into the possibility of banning them in public.

Ambassador Cuntz: Teach Germans about Islam to overcome prejudices

The German ambassador to Turkey, Dr. Eckart Cuntz, has urged young Turkish theologians to teach German citizens about Islam while serving in Germany to help conquer people’s prejudices. Cuntz received 100 theologians from the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs who will work in Germany for four years, at the German Embassy on Wednesday. The theologians have attended a four-month course where they were taught German and familiarized themselves with German culture. “I congratulate you on your success in this course. During your service in Germany, you will teach Islam to Germans as well, to overcome their prejudices and try to awaken their interest in your religion. You will experience the importance of mutual respect in German society for yourselves,” said Cuntz. After the German ambassador, Deputy Director of Religious Affairs Mehmet Görmez addressed the young theologians and gave them advice regarding their term of employment in Germany. “I would like to identify you as volunteers of religion rather than workers of religion. Never cease your search for knowledge while you are working there. Teach our noble religion and its principles for peace to our citizens. Teach them that they are sons and daughters of a civilization who has hosted different religions side by side,” Görmez told the theologians. Ali Aslan Kilic reports.

Islam, Islamisms, and the West

Identity politics in the widest sense is now quite the norm, and it comes to us in many guises, in the actual conduct of politics as well as in political theories and analyses, from the right, the left, the liberal centre. Culturalism, or the view that culture is the primary and determining instance of social existence, is a by-product of this identitarianism, and wherever politics and religion come to inflame each other, religion itself becomes synonymous with culture, and culture with religion, so that, for example, a constitutive difference between Islam and Christianity, as regards the scope for egalitarian politics in their respective zones, can be posited from the left, while the most hard-nosed geopolitical prescriptions can come to us from the right, in the guise of a discourse on religion, culture and civilization.

Spain Revisits Its Arab Past, Rebuilds Bridges With Muslim World

MADRID – Spain, the Western country most marked by Arab civilization, solemnly decided to reopen the annals of its Arab past and to rebuild the bridges with the Muslim world, demolished with the fall of Granada in 1492, by signing the founding charters of “la Casa _rabe”, and of the International Institute of Arab Studies and the Muslim World. The Arab League and the UN Alliance of Civilizations co-sponsor the two new institutions.