Christian clerics praise Muslim leaders’ letter to Pope

Christian clerics from Italy’s top Islamic Studies institute praised the letter sent to the Pope earlier this month, written and signed by 138 Muslim scholars. Citing its broad scope, intent to actively seek peace, and believability of intention, the Christian clerics have high hopes that the letter will heal some of the divide between Muslims and Christians.

Blair unveils plan to train more imams in Britain

Tony Blair has unveiled plans for a new generation of Muslim imams, trained in the UK, to help counter extremism. In an attempt to reduce the number of overseas clerics teaching in British mosques, Mr Blair announced funding would be available for those studying in the UK. Overseas clerics have been accused of fuelling radicalism and failing to understand modern multicultural Britain. Some speak poor English and struggle to engage effectively with young people born and brought up here.

Blair Promises to Improve Teaching of Islamic Studies

By Stephen Bates and James Meikle — PM says politicians should listen to moderate voices — Report calls for more UK-trained Muslim clerics Tony Blair yesterday pledged to spend _1m improving the teaching of Islamic studies at universities, as Downing Street said more imams should be trained in Britain to reduce reliance on foreign-trained clerics. In a speech to a conference of moderate Muslims in London, the prime minister accepted that British politicians should listen more carefully to the views of “the calm voice of moderation and reason” within the community. He insisted that his government’s foreign interventions had not been based on religion. Mr Blair said: “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use in times gone by of torture to force conversion to Christianity represented the teachings of Christ.” Among those invited by the Cambridge inter-faith programme were the grand muftis of Egypt and Bosnia, but not representatives of more extreme or politicised lobbying groups. The guest list was criticised by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and also by the Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who told the BBC: “The conference is fronted by Cambridge University but organised by Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the communities department, who have deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with Government policy … It’s a colonial style of governing.”

Turkey: Pope Makes Turkish Mosque Visit

Pope Benedict XVI has visited one of Turkey’s most famous mosques in what is being seen as an attempt to mend relations with the Muslim community. During his tour of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the pontiff paused in silent prayer alongside senior Muslim clerics. It marks only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship.

Denmark: Muslims Ask Government to Recall Envoy from Denmark

The Muslim clerics on Tuesday asked India to recall its ambassador to Denmark in the wake of publication of the Prophet’s caricature in a Danish newspaper. They also decided to hold demonstrations in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Parliamentary constituencies of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively, to protest the government’s vote at the IAEA meeting against Iran for its controversial nuclear programme.

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.

Britain Sets Ground Rules For Banning Foreign Extremists

By Alan Cowell LONDON Charles Clarke, the British home secretary, published a catalogue of terrorism-related offenses on Wednesday, setting the ground rules for Britain to ban or deport foreigners accused of fomenting hatred, violence and extremism. The list is directed primarily at firebrand Muslim clerics and scholars suspected by the government of inspiring violence among British Muslims, like those who carried out the London bombings in July. The announcement by Clarke, Britain’s most senior law enforcement official, followed a promise from the British prime minister, Tony Blair, earlier this month to take action, including closing mosques and barring clerics, to forestall future terrorist attacks. The measures announced Wednesday seemed slightly less sweeping than first promised by Blair. A Home Office statement said Clarke had decided not to include a catchall definition of unacceptable behavior as being “the expression of views that the government considers to be extreme and that conflict with the U.K.’s culture of tolerance.” In a statement, Clarke said the new regulations covered the expression of views which “foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs” or which “seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.” The list also banned actions to “foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts” or to “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence” in Britain. The new regulations cover several means of expression “including writing, producing, publishing or distributing material; public speaking including preaching; running a Web site; or using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader,” the statement said. It was not immediately known who was most likely to be affected by the measures. Clarke said a “database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated these unacceptable behaviors will be developed.” Since Blair threatened to expel foreign-born militants earlier this month, the government has rounded up 10 men it plans to deport, including Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent accused by European investigators of being a spiritual guide to Al Qaeda. Britain also barred Omar Bakri Mohammed, born in Syria, from returning to Britain from a visit to Lebanon. The government said it was negotiating with various nations, including Jordan, for guarantees that militants sent back to their own countries would not be tortured or abused. “Individuals who seek to create fear, distrust and division in order to stir up terrorist activity will not be tolerated by the government or by our communities,” Clarke said. By publishing the list, “I make it absolutely clear that these are unacceptable behaviors, and will be the grounds for deporting and excluding such individuals” from Britain. Some civil rights groups challenged the measures. The “announcement fails to answer the fundamental question; will the government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture?,” said James Welch, the legal director of a civil rights group called Liberty. “What has always separated us from the terrorists is that we do not torture people or send them to be tortured – that is the standard we need to maintain.” But the regulations drew a broad welcome from the opposition Liberal Democrats because it included provisions for appeal. “It is good that the home secretary has seen sense on the deportation rules,” said Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs. “We broadly welcome the use of powers to deport people, as long as the individuals involved have a right to appeal and the case for deportation is reasonable.” Clarke said the measures would not limit free speech. “These powers are not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues,” he said. “Britain is rightly proud of its openness and diversity and we must not allow those driven by extremism of any sort to destroy that tradition.”

Purge On Extremists Uk To Deport 500 Muslims In Phases

LONDON, Aug 7:-In a massive crackdown on extremists following the London terror attacks, British authorities will deport in phases as many as 500 radical Muslims, out of which a dozen clerics will be sent to their homelands over the next two weeks, reports PTI. The move follows British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s announcement last week of a purge on terrorists and extremists. Immigration officials have already been given a list of names, compiled by MI5, and told to begin proceedings. Among the first to be deported will be a dozen radical clerics. But, hundreds of other foreign extremists, including some Islamic bookshop owners, writers, teachers and website operators will also go, the ‘News of the World’ report said. “Just as the police operation over the past four weeks has been dynamic and fast-paced, so will our response,” a senior home official was quoted as saying. All 500 names have been taken from a “watch list” of extremists compiled over the past five years by the Intelligence Service. Their identities are being kept secret so that they will not be able to go into hiding or mount a legal challenge. The deportation process will begin after Home Secretary Charles Clarke returns from holiday this week. An initial wave of up to 100 people will be booted out in the next month, officials at both the Home Office and the Foreign Office revealed. Another 100 foreign nationals will then be sent home by the end of the year. And 300 more will be sent home next year once the government has new laws in place to strip them of their British citizenship. Over the next week agreements will be completed with ten African and Middle Eastern countries to make sure they will accept the extremists.

Blair Terror Plans Are Hasty, Say Lawmaker, Muslims

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) — Measures proposed by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to crack down on Muslim extremists are ”hasty” and ”inappropriate” and may end up encouraging terrorism, leaders in Parliament and the Muslim community said. Blair failed to consult adequately before announcing plans on Aug. 5 to tackle extremism by deporting clerics, closing down mosques and banning parties such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, and John Denham, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee in Parliament. ”I don’t think enough thought and consideration has been given in terms of its repercussion and impact it has on the community,” Sacranie said in a telephone interview. ”Measures need to be taken, that’s understood; but the way they’re coming out at the moment is not really very helpful.” Blair has been under pressure to act against domestic Muslim extremists after the police reported that the suspects of the July 7 and July 21 bomb attacks in London, which killed 56 people including four bombers, were British residents. U.K. policies have let in extremist clerics who praise acts of terrorism, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi ambassador to London and former intelligence chief, said. The prime minister postponed his vacation plans by a day to announce the measures. It was followed by reports in the Times and other newspapers that the government was considering the introduction of secret courts for pre-trials of terrorism suspects as well as charging people under a treason law that hasn’t been used since World War II. Consensus After initially consulting with opposition leaders and Muslims about the government’s reaction to the bomb attacks, Blair failed to seek further consensus opinion, said Denham, former Home Affairs junior minister and currently chairman of the House of Commons Committee on Home Affairs. ”The last few days really give this sense that the government have got into a real state of nerves about the whole thing,” Denham told the British Broadcasting Corp. PM program. ”I think they’ve got to get a grip on it very, very quickly, stop floating half-baked ideas and get back to proper cross-party consensus on the serious measures that need to be taken.” Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, in charge of government while Blair is on vacation, said critics will have a chance to debate his proposals as they considered by Parliament. ”He’s told people to get on with it and see how we can flesh out these proposals,” Prescott said at a press conference in London. ”In the meantime, there’s bound to be speculation.”

Cabinet To Act Against ‘Extremist Mosques’

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch government has committed itself to a plan of action against the 10 to 25 mosques in the Netherlands where “extremist sermons” are delivered, Interior Minister Johan Remkes has said. Remkes told Parliament that if the criminal law can’t be used against these mosques, the government will consider withdrawing subsidies and residence permits for the Muslim clerics preaching at the mosques. He made his remarks during a parliamentary debate about terrorism on Wednesday.