Dutch Schools Supported in Headscarf Ban

January 25 2011

The Netherlands Equal Treatment Commission has ruled in favour of schools whose dress codes regulate wearing headscarves. The commission was responding to the case of the Gerrit Rietveld College in Utrecht, where a new dresscode permitted headscarves only when 90% of the face remains visible. The school suggested that headgear covering the chin or eyebrows prevents communication between student and teacher, which the commission found sufficient reasoning for the dresscode.

More than 50 students refused to comply with the dresscode, at which point the school took the issue to the Equal Treatment Commission. Further the Commission ruled that the dresscode only applies to students who began at the college this academic year, after the law was introduced. The Commission’s ruling is not legally binding.

Somali-born teen held in Oregon car-bomb plot

Federal law enforcement officials arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, and accused him of plotting to bomb the square during a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The charges against Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born 19-year-old who was caught in a federal sting operation, are testing tolerance in a state that has been largely accepting of Muslims.

Many questions remain about the extent of Mr. Mohamud’s connections to Islamic extremists, whom investigators say he wrote to and plotted with, as well as about the apparent contradictions in his personal life, as a studious, friendly teenager and a young man seeking to wage jihad within his adopted country.
Many Muslims in Oregon worried that they would face a backlash. And on Sunday, local Muslim leaders emphasized that the case was an isolated incident. Portland Mayor Sam Adams said Sunday that he beefed up protection around mosques “and other facilities that might be vulnerable to knuckle-headed retribution” after hearing of the bomb plot. The move followed a fire Sunday at the Islamic center in Corvallis, a college town about 75 miles southwest of Portland, where suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud occasionally worshipped, prompting an FBI arson investigation and concern about the potential for more retaliation.

The first Muslim college in America

Zaytuna College is the first Muslim college in the US; the college is currently seeking accreditation from accrediting bodies in the United States, as well as recognition from major educational institutions in the Muslim world, such as Egypt’s al-Azhar University.

Its very existence in America repudiates notions of Islam as an exclusively Eastern ideology, and it indicates that Islam and Muslims can be authentically American, writes Shazia Kamal. The college’s very existence in America repudiates notions of Islam as an exclusively Eastern ideology. Its presence instead indicates that Islam and Muslims can be authentically American, and can contribute to the nation’s sociological, political and cultural advancement.

Zaytuna College seeks to promote the same vision in its students, which it welcomes from all faith traditions. It endeavours to draw on principles from the Qur’an and from the teachings of some of the greatest Muslim scholars in history, like Imam Al Bukhari, a 9th century scholar of the study of hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) and Imam al Ghazali, an 11th century jurist and Sufi mystic. Zaytuna College will communicate Islam’s tenets and practices to the broader American public and serve as an alternative source of information to five-second media bytes that perpetuate a one-dimensional Islam.

Quebecois Premier Jean Charest proposes bill limiting public services for niqab wearers

Quebec will refuse all government services, including education and non-emergency health care, to fully veiled Muslim women under legislation tabled yesterday in the National Assembly.

Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier, said the bill establishing guidelines for the accommodation of religious minorities is aimed at “drawing a line” to demonstrate that gender equality is a paramount Quebec value. The bill applies not only to government departments and Crown corporations but also to hospitals, schools, universities and daycares that receive funding from the province.

The proposed guidelines in Bill 94 follow an uproar this month over the expulsion of a niqab-wearing woman from French courses after she insisted that male students in her class not see her face. Quebec’s Immigration Department tracked her to a second college where she was studying French and had her expelled again because she would not remove her niqab, a veil that leaves open a slit for the eyes.
Quebec, which for more than three years has been grappling with the issue of accommodating religious differences, is the first province to take such a stance against the niqab and burqa. In Ontario, women wearing a full veil can make special arrangements to receive government services without exposing their faces to male bureaucrats.

Mr. Weinstock said Quebec is addressing head-on issues that are being ignored elsewhere in Canada. “This is a very good thing,” he said. “Whatever happens as a result of the debates in the National Assembly over this bill, and whatever the final form of this legislation is, we are having a very interesting societal debate here in Quebec that has to do with issues that are not specific to Quebec.”

“Islam in Vienna” conference series

The West Vienna community college is planning a series of conferences on the theme “Islam in Vienna.” Between 19 March 2010 and 12 June 2010, twenty-eight events will be organized on themes ranging from Islamic theology, mysticism, and the image of Islam in Europe. The conferences are being organized in cooperation with the Vienna Islamic Institute for Adult Education (WIIEB), which aims to bring both the concerns and know-how of immigrants to the conference series.

Niqab-wearing Student Kicked out of Class for a Second Time in Montreal

A Muslim woman in Quebec has been kicked out of a language course for the second time because of her refusal to remove a religiously-understood face covering. The Egyptian immigrant made headlines when it was revealed provincial Immigration Department officials expelled her from a government-sponsored French class several months ago after she refused to take off her niqab. Known only as Naema in Quebec media, she had since enrolled in another government-sponsored French class, this time at a community centre for immigrants in Montreal.

But almost as soon as the Quebec government got word she was attending class in her niqab, it confronted her again, forcing her to make the same decision she made in November 2009. “It is a copy and paste of what happened last week,” said Samer Majzoub, who heads the Canadian Muslim Forum, a non-profit organization that has been providing support for Naema.

Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James appeared to move quickly in addressing the latest contribution to the province’s ongoing debate over the accommodation of religious and ethnic minorities. Some commentators have argued Naema had been unreasonable in her demands, which reportedly included giving oral presentations with her back facing the co-ed class. She had been enrolled in the part-time course for around 45 days and had yet to hear of any complaints from her teachers, Majzoub said.

Her expulsion from the college French course in November is the subject of a complaint the woman filed with the Quebec human rights commission.

Niqab-wearing student expelled from Montreal, Canada school

After months of balancing a woman’s religious beliefs with her desire to learn French, the Quebec government stepped into her classroom to offer an ultimatum: take off the niqab or drop the course. The woman opted to keep her Islamic face-covering and has filed a human rights complaint against the government. In the province of Quebec where the government frequently faces accusations of doing too much to accommodate minorities, these actions have prompted a fair bit of praise.

The woman began taking a French course designed for immigrants at a Montreal college in February 2009 but she refused to remove her niqab while men were present. The college was initially willing to accommodate her, but eventually balked as her demands escalated. In what appears to be a highly unusual move, provincial Immigration Minister Yolande James intervened. Officials from her department, acting with the minister’s knowledge, met with the woman to discuss her options.

Several groups, including several teachers’ unions, applauded the government for drawing a line in the sand. So did moderate Muslim groups. “When people come to Canada, we’re not coming to the Islamic Republic of Canada,” said Raheel Raza, a Muslim women’s-rights activist who has argued for a public ban on religious face coverings. The Canadian Muslim Forum, which claimed the woman was intimidated by other members of her class, said the move amounts to a misreading of the situation.”In Quebec people have the right to wear what they want,” spokeswoman Kathy Malas said.

Islamic college in Netherlands to close

Due to poor test results and a shortage of pupils, the government will cease funding for the Amsterdam Islamtitische College, Junior Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt announced. The college is one of only two Islamic colleges in the Netherlands. School chairman Farid Zaari says the college is ‘extremely disappointed’. The minister could use her discretion to carry on subsidising the school, but inspections suggest that it is unlikely conditions at the college will improve. Funding for new pupils will be stopped on August 1, although current pupils will be able to complete their education at the school.

Hizb ut-Tahrir barred from London University debate

The University of London has cancelled the appearance of a speaker from an Islamic group that opposes democracy and integration into British society.

A representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir was due to appear at Queen Mary college in east London to debate shari’a law in the modern world. But the group was told it could not take part after students campaigned about its “blatantly aggressive” views. The university’s union said the debate organizers acted to avoid controversy.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has previously said “those who believe in democracy are Kafir” [unbelievers] and said it was “dangerous” for Muslims to integrate into British society. A leaflet displayed on its website once urged Muslims to “kill [Jews] wherever you find them”. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s UK spokesmen deny links to terrorism and say the group, which is a legal organisation in the UK, opposes violence.

African-Americans still attracted and converting to Islam

Despite the string of recent terror arrests in the US, the Muslim faith continues to convert many average African-Americans, who say they are attracted by Islam’s emphasis on equality, discipline and family.

But American black Muslim Sekou Jackson admits the life is not without its challenges. “It’s kind of a double whammy to be African-American and Muslim,” said Jackson, who studies the Navy at the National Academy of Science in Washington. “You’re going to be judged.”

“The unique history African-Americans have faced, we’re primed for accepting Islam,” said Jackson. “When someone comes to you with a message that everyone is equal, that the only difference is the deeds that they do, of course people who have been oppressed will embrace that message…it’s a message of fairness.”

A Pew survey estimated that 35 percent of all American Muslims are African-Americans, mostly orthodox Sunnis.

At the Quba Institute in Philadelphia, a black Sunni mosque, the worshippers are a mix of blue-collar workers, young college graduates, professors, law enforcement officers, and “regular people who are just trying to worship God and live a decent life,” said the imam, Anwar Muhaimin.

Marc Manley, a local black Muslim, said that many blacks who have struggled with crime, drugs or alcohol are drawn to Islam’s regimented lifestyle, which includes prayers five times a day.

“Especially in the urban context, it provides a vehicle for African-Americans to deal with those ills,” he said. “It provides a buffer or a barrier.”