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In the British elections earlier this month, 16 Muslims were elected to the British Parliament, a dozen of these Members of Parliament (MPs) from Pakistani backgrounds.
Labour party Muslim MPs include Khalid Mehmood, Shabana Mehmood, Rozeena-Allin Khan, Yasmin Qureshi, Naz Shah, Imran Hussain, Afzal Khan, Mohammed Yasin and Faisal Rasheed, Roshanara Ali, Rupa Huq, and Tulip Siddique.
Conservative Muslims MPs in the new parliament include Nusrat Ghani, Rehman Chishti, and Sajid Javed, the communities minister.
Scottish National Party politician, Tasmeena Sheikh, lost her seat. Liberal Democratic and Conservative parties had reduced the number of Muslims running for election.
This increase was not affected by the fact that the Liberal Democratic and Conservative parties had reduced the number of Muslims running for election by nearly half.
The Bavarian capital of Munich is one of Germany’s boom towns: rapid population growth in the past few years has driven up rents and strained public services.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/einwohnerprognosen-warum-das-bevoelkerungswachstum-in-muenchen-probleme-macht-1.2984306 )) Now, another consequence of the city’s expansion has become clear: a lack of mosques and Islamic prayer spaces.
By 2014, 100,000 of Munich’s 1.5 million inhabitants were Muslim.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/moschee-projekt-in-muenchen-schmid-will-idriz-unterstuetzen-1.2061937 )) This figure has only been on the rise since then, due to the arrival of large numbers of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the city.
In spite of the increased demand for Islamic religious spaces and services, mosques within Munich’s city limits have, in fact, been closing down in recent years. At the end of March, 2017, the Kuba mosque, the last of what used to be nine mosques in the area surrounding the central train station – home to many Muslim shopkeepers and employees – shut its doors.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/moscheen-muslime-haben-in-muenchen-kaum-platz-zum-beten-1.3445341 ))
The stories of mosque closures tend to mirror each other: local Muslim associations have their rental lease agreements cancelled since their premises are overcrowded and hence violate fire safety regulations. In the case of the Kuba mosque, at Friday prayers up to 450 believers had crammed into a room designed to hold a maximum of 90.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/moscheen-muslime-haben-in-muenchen-kaum-platz-zum-beten-1.3445341 ))
In the case of Munich, plans to build a larger mosque have been mooted for years without ever coming to fruition. The Munich Forum for Islam (MFI), an association bringing together Muslim representatives as well as local politicians from various political parties, had proposed the construction of a representative mosque north of the city centre.(( http://www.islam-muenchen.de/ ))
The project was set to include not only an Islamic house of prayer, but also training facilities for Imams, a library, a cultural space, and a café grouped around a public plaza. However, the project failed to gather the necessary funds to acquire the plot of land on which it was to be built.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/moschee-fuer-muenchen-muenchen-bekommt-kein-islamzentrum-zumindest-erst-einmal-1.3055209 ))
The reasons for this failure were manifold. The notoriously divided and financially weak Muslim associational scene did not always speak with one voice and did not manage to function as a convincing lobby for the project.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/gescheitertes-projekt-mit-dem-aus-fuer-die-muenchner-moschee-scheitert-mehr-als-eine-idee-1.3055211 ))
What is more, the MFI always put great stress on the need to emancipate itself from any ties to the countries of origin of Muslim immigrants. Such ties have emerged as a core obstacle to the political and societal recognition of existing Muslim institutions in Germany. At the same time, however, the MFI’s attempts to gather donations focused mostly on attracting Arab funds from the Gulf. For many outside observers, this approach was not conducive to building confidence and trust.
Some commentators have pointed out, however, that another reason for the project’s miscarriage was a lack of political will on the part of the local administration: when it came to the crunch – notably the acquisition of the plot for the construction site – the political support on the part of the city’s decision-makers was lacklustre at best.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/gescheitertes-projekt-mit-dem-aus-fuer-die-muenchner-moschee-scheitert-mehr-als-eine-idee-1.3055211 ))
The fate of the MFI mosque highlights the enduring dilemma faced by comparable efforts elsewhere in Germany: a lack of financial and political capital confines Muslim prayer to the outskirts of town – Munich’s largest mosque is located on the city’s northern edge next to a sewage treatment plant – or to small and often insalubrious prayer spaces in apartments, ancient warehouses, or disused factories – so-called ‘backyard mosques’ (Hinterhofmoscheen).
Whilst politically ostracised as tools of authoritarian Middle Eastern governments, only those mosque communities backed by wealthy donors or state agencies from Turkey and the Gulf are, as of now, capable of building appropriate houses of worship. Any community wishing to emancipate itself from these backers – such as Munich’s MFI – is thus caught in a real bind.
To draw attention to this state of affairs, a number of Munich’s Muslims got together on social media and sought to organise a public Friday prayer at Marienplatz square, the city’s historical heart in front of the town hall.
Yet the right-wing backlash online against the planned public prayer was so fierce that the organisers decided to cancel the event. They feared both that they would not be able to guarantee the safety of potential attendees, and that such a highly public demonstration would make their attempt to raise awareness of the lack of prayer space seem too confrontational and thus counter-productive.(( http://www.br.de/nachrichten/moscheen-muenchen-demo-100.html ))
This week, the local Jesuit community of Saint Michael offered a pray er room to all those who had wished to attend the event at Marienplatz. Whilst this amounts to a precious gesture of interreligious dialogue, the picture of Munich’s Muslims having to pray under an almost life-sized crucifix struck many belivers and observers as at the very least odd.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/raumnot-moscheenot-in-muenchen-muslime-beten-in-der-michaelskirche-1.3513855 ))
“That which is of the greatest concern to me, it’s the growing strength each year, more and more, of communitarianism,” stated Gérard Longuet, an associate of François Fillon, even if certain communities “posed no problems.”
“The Chinese in the XIII arrondissement don’t, to my knowledge, pose any particular problem,” he said. According to Longuet, the problems “in general, are not north XVI or Issy-les-Moulineaux” but “where there are communities of Muslim origin, whether of French nationality or not.”
Asked about the “institutional racism” highlighted by the “Théo affair,” he denounced the accusation and stressed that “France is without a doubt one of the most open countries in Europe, the most conciliatory, where there are the most multiracial and multi-faith families.”
“The French are not deeply racist,” he assured.
Leading members of the CSU party, Bavarian sister organisation to Angela Merkel’s CDU, have called for an ‘Islam Law’ that would curb foreign influence on German mosques. CSU Secretary General Andreas Scheuer asserted that “German has to become the language of the mosques”, with Imams being trained in Germany and being steeped in German “basic values”. In order to curb what Scheuer described as imported extremism, mosques, Islamic cultural centres and Muslim institutions should also no longer be allowed to receive money from abroad. These proposals follow the lead set by Austria, who adopted similar measures in 2015.
While Scheuer explicitly mentioned Saudi Arabia’s practice of funding Wahhabi and Salafist organisations as dangers to domestic German stability, in the context of recent diplomatic rows between Germany and Turkey, the Turkish connection of many of Germany’s Islamic institutions has now also come into the focus of the political debate. Up to 1000 Imams in Germany are trained in Turkey, and are sent to Germany by the Turkish presidency of religious affairs, Diyanet. They work in mosques administered by DITIB, Diyanet’s German affiliate, and continue to be paid by the Turkish state.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, DITIB has been extremely critical of the CSU proposals, arguing that they violate the German constitution and the right for religious self-determination anchored therein. The DITIB Secretary General dismissed the proposal for an Islam Law as “discriminatory”, “populist”, and as playing into the hands of the far-right AfD party. Other, more Islamist-tinged functionaries of the German Islam Council (IRD) and the Millî Gorüs community (IGMG) equally castigated the proposals as an attempt by the CSU to gain undue state influence over Muslim religious life.
Other commentators have noted the with approval that the CSU – in contrast to its past positions – now appears willing to recognise the existence of Muslim communities in Germany and the need to provide some sort of institutional infrastructure for the exercise of their religiosity. However, in an opinion piece for the newspaper Die Zeit, Parvin Sadigh notes that many mosque communities in the country are already using German as their primarily language, due to the diversity of origins of the attendees, as well as due to the fact that the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants often no longer speak the language of their parents and grandparents well enough to be able to follow religious instruction in Turkish or Arabic. Conversely, most Salafi and jihadi preachers are fluent in the German language and extremely well-versed in the sociocultural features of young Muslims’ lives. Ostentatious ‘integration’ in the mainstream of German society is thus not synonymous with theological liberalism.
Sadigh notes that degree programmes for Islamic Theology at German universities have only been in existence for 6 years, meaning that for the foreseeable future there will remain an acute shortage of German-educated Imams for mosques and of religious education teachers for public schools. Moreover, Sadigh notes that German mosques often do not have the necessary financial resources to offer adequate salaries to their Imams: without the constitutionally recognised status as a ‘religious corporation’, they have been unable to construct a durable financial infrastructure and thus continue to depend on charitable offerings from their members and on large-scale funding from abroad in order to be able to offer religious and social services.
Another CSU politician, Alexander Radwan, reacted to these criticism and proposed to enable Muslim associations in Germany to levy a church tax, analogous to the practice of the Catholic and Protestant churches. This, according to Radwan, would remedy the need of mosque communities to rely on foreign funding. What Radwan did not mention, however, is that the attainment of the requisite status of a ‘religious corporation’ that would enable Muslim associations to levy such a tax has remained elusive for most of the deeply divided Islamic organisations operating in the country.
WASHINGTON (RNS) An evangelical pastor from Texas joined American Muslim leaders Thursday (July 23) in denouncing recent anti-Muslim comments by evangelist Franklin Graham as they announced upcoming efforts to build bridges between their religious communities.
In response to the killing of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., last week, Graham, son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, wrote on Facebook that the U.S. should bar Muslims from immigrating.
Months after the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks, questions remain about Europe’s Islamic communities. How strong is the lure of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS for Islamic youth in France or the UK? Why do so many Muslims, including those born and raised in affluent European states, feel disconnected from their societies? Georgetown’s Jocylene Cesari and University of Michigan’s Juan Cole take a nuanced look at these misunderstood communities.
For complete audio and transcript and video clips from Cesari’s talk, please go here: http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20150414b/index.html
For Cole’s talk, please go here: http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20150413/index.html
Photo Credit: Francisco Osorio: https://www.flickr.com/photos/francisco_osorio/4977990504; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
A leader in the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, hoped for a “gesture of appeasement’ from the President of the CRIF, whose comments about young Muslims and anti-Semitism have caused controversy. In a recent interview Roger Cukierman stated that all anti-Semitic violence was committed by “young Muslims,” which caused the CFCM to boycott the annual dinner. “Dialogue never ceased with the CRIF as an organization,” declared the CFCM’s President Dalil Boubakeur. “The two communities are mature enough to find common ground and to overcome any disquiet which was created by these unacceptable remarks.”
“I think it’s necessary for him to make a gesture, appeasing remarks, which would allow for dialogue,” said Mr. Moussaoui. He denounced “all extremism, no matter what type it is,” and condemned “terrorism which claims to be Islam,” deploring amalgamations between extremism and Islam.
Following the January attacks Prime Minister Valls invited Muslim representatives to take part in the fight against terror. “Taking responsibility is to ensure that there is a debate within Islam,” he stated. “It’s what we ask of the main majority of our Muslim compatriots who can no longer be confused with this terror.”