May’s anti-Islamaphobia claims conflict with her political history

Following the attack on Muslims near the Finsbury Park Mosque, Prime Minister called for an end to anti-Muslim right-wing extremism.

Mehdi Hasan, a prominent Muslim British journalist, argues that May’s claim is contradictory with her own political history, which is steeped in support for Islamaphobic policy and tolerance of Islamaphobia in her Conservative party.

As Home Secretary, she largely ignored “hundreds” of incidents of anti-Muslim violent incidents while focusing intensely on the “Islamist” threat. She ignored a warning from an official in her department that this focus could foster right-wing violence. The official wrote, “I wouldn’t want to get to the point where something happens and we look back and think actually, we should have addressed that as well.”

In 2014, she was an active voice in claiming that Birmingham schools were being taken over by Muslims “extremists” despite limited evidence of radicalisation.

As home secretary, she never formerly met with the Cross-Government Anti-Mulsim Hatred Working group. The inattention to this important issue from the Conservative government resulted in leading academics resigning from the group.

Former Conservative minister Sayeeda Warsi has been disappointed in the limited support the Conservative party has given her in fighting Islamaphobia. Hasan believes she is being polite and measured in her condemnation, as she has been almost entirely ignored.

As Prime Minister, she hired a political strategist who told the conservatives to ignore “[explitive] Muslims” and supported the allegedly Islamaphobic campaigns, such as that of Zac Goldsmith.

She is also accused of purposefully limiting the presence of both Muslims and Muslim-related issues in the party. As such, the author is sceptical that she will fight Islamaphobia effectively.

 

Germany’s DİTİB rocked by internal dissent, dismissals, and disputes

 

Recent months have not been kind to Germany’s largest Islamic association, the Turkish DİTİB. Particularly since the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, the organisation has been under fire for its real and supposed proximity to the Turkish government.

This criticism received new force when it was revealed that DİTİB’s Imams had done the dirty work of the Turkish authorities by spying and informing on suspected members of the Gülen movement in Germany.

Growing internal dissent

In all of this, DİTİB as an organisation and its internal workings have often continued to appear inscrutable. Compared to the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and its ambitious chairman Aiman Mazyek, DİTİB is also less present and outspoken in the public debate, adding to the sense of mystery surrounding the association.

Yet the post-coup political maelstrom and the deteriorating German-Turkish diplomatic relations appear to lead to growing internal dissent and schisms within DİTİB that are increasingly visible from the outside.

Asylum for DİTİB Imams?

DİTİB’s Imams are Turkish state employees, sent to Germany for a number of years before returning back home to Turkey when their contracts with DİTİB’s close to 1,000 mosques in Germany run out.

Since the coup attempt, however, a number of DİTİB Imams have asked for political asylum in Germany, for fear of arrest and persecution should they return to Turkey, due to their (past) affiliation with the Gülenist movement.(( https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Ditib-Bei-den-Ermittlungen-wegen-Spionage-laeuft-erheblich-viel-schief-3664619.html ))

Internal criticism repressed

In February 2017, Murat Kayman, coordinator of DİTİB’s local German branches stepped down from all of his DİTİB offices. Kayman had also been a member of the powerful DİTİB section in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, home to a large share of German Turks.

Kayman had been widely perceived as one of the key advocates of a greater structural independence of DİTİB from the Turkish state, and his departure was seen as having occurred due to considerable internal pressure. At the time of his resignation, Kayman warned that all sides to the various ongoing German-Turkish disputes needed to “disarm verbally and to focus on substantive questions if they do not want to jeopardise durable coexistence”.(( http://www.ksta.de/koeln/murat-kayman-ditib-vorstand-legt-aemter-nieder—rueckt-verband-enger-an-ankara-heran–25773130 ))

Resignation of DİTİB’s youth leadership

Yet Kayman’s departure has not been the endpoint of DİTİB’s internal turmoil. In May 2017, the entire governing board of DİTİB’s youth organisation, the Union of Muslim Youth (Bund der Muslimischen Jugend, BDMJ), announced its collective resignation. The move came after the senior German DİTİB leadership had forcibly transferred two of BDMJ’s functionaries.

The BDMJ leadership complained that a meaningful continuation of their work had become impossible “in the face of the current situation that has been persisting for more than a year.” The youth leaders, who – like most of DİTİB’s grassroots functionaries, work on a voluntary basis – complained of “having been by-passed and not taken seriously once more” in the context of the dismissal of its two members.(( https://dtj-online.de/ditib-jugend-bdmj-ruecktritt-83748 ))

Local dismissals

The internal upheaval in the German DİTİB branch has also reached the very local level. In recent months, DİTİB’s highest functionary in Berlin apparently forced a change in the governing board of the German capital’s famous Şehitlik mosque (pictured above) by manipulating the list of candidates eligible to be elected.(( https://dtj-online.de/ditib-jugend-bdmj-ruecktritt-83748 ))

In other mosques, DİTİB Imams that were suspected of political disloyalty were fired. They subsequently contested their dismissal in court. Although the Imams lost their cases – the court stated that not DİTİB but the Turkish state was their employer – these affairs nevertheless cast a glaring light on the internal state of the association.(( http://www.lto.de/recht/nachrichten/n/arbg-koeln-entlassung-kuendigungsschutzklage-imame-ditib-moscheegemeinde-arbeitgeber/ ))

Pre-existing tensions

The recent events in Turkey and in German-Turkish relations have aggravated and brought to the fore a tension that, in fact, already predates these developments. In many respects, this is a tension over the future direction of DİTİB in particular and of Muslim associational life in Germany more generally.

The youth wings of Germany’s Muslim associations are filled by young men and women born and raised in Germany. Irrespective of their continued affinity to the country of origin of their parents or grand-parents, their upbringing in the German context has nevertheless shaped them in manifold ways.

Generational conflict

By contrast, the organisations’ ‘old guard’ remains essentially Turkish (in the case of DİTİB), with Imams and functionaries being sent by (and returning to) the Turkish state. Thus, the fallout between the DİTİB leadership and the association’s youth wing is also a generational dispute, in which the former is accusing the latter of having become “too German”.(( https://www.pressreader.com/germany/leipziger-volkszeitung/20170529/281608125386373 ))

DİTİB is not the first organisation to experience this conflict, either. In recent years, the German youth section of the Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG) has also clashed time and again with the old leadership. The IGMG’s youth wing wished to break with an orthodoxy that seemed too traditionalist and too ‘Turkish’.((See El-Menouar, Yasemin (2013). “Islam und Sozialkapital: Beispiele muslimischer Gruppierungen in Deutschland”. In Klaus Spenlen (ed.), Gehört der Islam zu Deutschland? Fakten und Analysen zu einem Meinungsstreit. Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf University Press, 2013, pp. 382 ff.)

Future prospects

All this highlights the ways in which the German Islamic associational scene is in turmoil; especially the parts that are predominantly Turkish or of Turkish heritage. What remains to be seen is the ultimate outcome of this unrest.

Some, such as Lamya Kaddor, Islamic scholar and leading member of the Liberal Islamic Union (LIB), see the personnel changes as indicative of a new era of contestation and of much-needed debate. Especially the dissatisfaction among younger members shows, according to Kaddor, that Germany’s Islamic associations need to become more open, more democratic, and more adapted to the needs of Muslims living in Germany if they want to stay relevant.

At the same time, the internal purge that appears to be going on within DİTİB also raises the obverse possibility – of an association that is more and more under the conclusive control of fierce loyalists of the AKP and President Erdoğan and bereft of any alternative voices. In that case, dissenters will be faced by a formidable task of organising themselves anew outside of any existing fora.

Comparing Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The State of the Field

An article by Farid Hafez, University of Salzburg, published in ISLAMOPHOBIA STUDIES JOURNAL VOLUME 3, NO. 2, Spring 2016, PP. 16-34.

ABSTRACT
In the European public discourse on Islamophobia, comparisons of antiSemitism and Islamophobia have provoked heated debates. The academic discourse has also touched on this issue, an example being the works of Edward Said, where he alludes to connections between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Following the 2003 publication of the Islamophobia report produced by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which discusses the similarities between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, scholars in various fields began a debate that compares and contrasts anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Participants in this debate include Matti Bunzl, Brian Klug, Sabine Schiffer, Nasar Meer, Wolfgang Benz, and many others. To some degree, the academias of the German- and English-speaking worlds have conducted this discourse separately. This paper surveys, to a degree, the state of the field of the comparative approach to studying Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as a pair, and also presents some central topoi and associated questions. It aims to highlight primary insights that have been gained from such a comparison, including how this comparison has been discussed and criticized, and what similarities and differences have been identified on which levels. It questions which epistemological assumptions were made in taking such a comparative approach, and which political discourses—especially regarding the Holocaust and the conflict in Israel/Palestine (which are not part of this discussion)—have shaped this debate in many forums, including academia. Furthermore, this paper discusses which possible aspects of comparative research on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have not yet been explored, and where there could perhaps lay more possibilities for further investigation.

Read more
Hafez, Farid. “Comparing Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The State of the Field.” Islamophobia Studies Journal, Volume 3, No. 2 (Spring 2016): 16-34.

 

Yusuf Islam: Some will associate Orlando with Islam – that’s criminal

I am here to talk to Yusuf Islam, the Muslim singer and humanitarian formerly

known as Sixties icon Cat Stevens, about his charity concert for child refugees at

Westminster’s Central Hall tonight.

But the mass shooting at Florida gay club Pulse by an alleged Islamic State

terrorist has overtaken us. “This guy is demented, a distortion, and it is

detestable and horrendous, but it does not reflect Islam,” says Yusuf, 67, who

looks like a benign if nattily dressed cleric.

“Yes, some people will try and associate this incident with Islam as a whole —

Donald Trump, probably — and that’s criminal.

You wouldn’t blame the whole of Britain for those football hooligans who have

gone to Marseille.”

He sounds slightly exasperated, once again compelled to defend the faith he

embraced in 1977 after almost drowing off Malibu.

But with Orlando gunman Omar Mateen’s father stating that homosexuals should

be “punished by God”, and fears of an attack at London’s own Pride celebrations,

I wonder if Yusuf will express solidarity with the gay community when he gets

on stage tonight.

“I don’t think I need to,” he says. “That’s the problem with tagging these things

with ‘Islam’. The most important thing Islam preserves is the privacy of one’s

sexual activity.

It’s up to you how you behave behind closed doors or in the privacy of your own

bedroom. We are here for a humanitarian cause and we don’t want to dis-focus

from the issue, which is the lone refugee.”

Of the estimated five million people displaced by the murder spree of IS, the war

in Syria and unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, one million have sought refuge in

Europe, and 95,000 of those are children travelling alone.

It is these children, who may have experienced nothing but conflict, and who

may never know a stable home or school life, that Yusuf wants to help.

So through his charity Small Kindness he has hooked up with Save the Children

and Penny Appeal to highlight their plight. He has recorded a new song, He Was

Alone, created the campaign hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, and arranged the gig.

The disparate likes of Ricky Gervais, Steve McQueen, Naomi Campbell, Emma

Thompson, several Kardashians, New Order, Queen and Miley Cyrus’s Happy

Hippie Foundation have all pledged support.

The idea “came out of just watching the news on a daily basis: seeing the tragedy

unfolding, refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, trying to get to safer

lands”, says Yusuf (I’ll call him that to avoid confusion).
http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/yusuf- islam-some- will-

associate-orlando- with-islam- thats-criminal- a3271121.html

Hollande’s hesitation on Muslim integration

On Jan. 17, 2015, roughly 10 days after the attacks by homegrown Islamic terrorists against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher market, François Hollande went to Tulle, a town in central France, to talk to the folks. He told them, “Life goes on. The sales are on now, so go and buy. Nothing has to change.”

The president chose the no-news-today approach because he saw no gain in addressing the question of Islam in France, an area where frankness and willingness to act have been virtual taboos for him and others for a decade.

Mr. Hollande did ask parliamentary leaders to look into “forms of engagement and the reinforcement of affiliation with the Republic.” That grotesque convolution was meant to mask an attempt at measuring where the country’s Muslims stood in terms of respect for the supremacy of French law, and the national ethos of liberty, equality and brotherhood.

“Nobody knew what to do,” Françoise Fressoz of Le Monde later wrote in describing the circumstances. “Habits and conformity take over. It’s a historic opportunity, but the country missed it.”

The same situation pertains now.

After the 130 murders committed in Paris last month by jihadists mostly with French backgrounds, Mr. Hollande was able to declare war on Islamic State, send an aircraft carrier to the Middle East to fight it, and order a three-month state of emergency in France, which accounted for 1,233 searches and 266 assignments to house arrest during its first 10 days—while ignoring polling over the past three months that shows a clear majority of voters want to send French ground troops to Syria.

Strikingly, the president has turned away from another kind of determination at home. He is showing no signs of listening to the large segments of French society—60% to 70% at intervals over the past five years—that see French Islam as unwilling to commit to the rule of law and French Muslims as responsible for their own failed integration.

The circumstances are more tortured now than ever. The intelligent notion of a potential trade-off between France and its largely Arab Muslim population of five-plus million died with November’s attacks.

The idea was that France could offer an affirmative-action program of jobs, educational advantages and antidiscrimination measures to the Muslim community in exchange for its acceptance of an official charter for Islamic assimilation. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy had once argued in that direction but abandoned the issue. Mr. Hollande has never touched it.

Challenged as a wrong-minded giveaway, recommending a trade-off would be poison in the coming elections for the democratic right and left, and pure delight for Marine Le Pen’s right-wing extremists of the National Front.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls now says Islam must “stand up” and “cut out all excuses” for jihadism and terror, but the president hasn’t endorsed the statement. Mr. Hollande’s silence also met Mr. Valls’s remark, coming well before the recent terrorist attacks, that France faced “a war of civilization.”

With a considerable slice of Muslim voters having backed him in the past, the president may be trying to avoid accusations of Islamophobia. His approach certainly isn’t one that deals with what Alain Minc, a French intellectual of stature, writes is an “Islam that resembles a subterranean territory within French society.”

How can Mr. Hollande and France deal with the problem at the lowest level of possible confrontation or conflict?

Mr. Minc and others (notably a high-level French civil servant writing under the pen-name of Camille Desmoulins about French Islam’s lack of responsible governance) have talked of the state consulting representative Muslims about granting Islam the unique status of a consistory or religious council. That would give Islam a binding, official role equal to that of French Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews, while requiring its allegiance to the primacy of French law. For Islam in everyday French life, that signifies the Civil Code superseding the Koran.

En route, in the manner of Napoleon in 1806 when he began a process extending official status to the Jews, the Muslims would likely be asked to affirm an obligation to defend France ahead of any other consideration. Importantly, Islam’s French representatives could be required to take responsibility for those misusing its name. The obstacles are more than vast, but Mr. Minc says “the results of a delicate truth-operation are predictable”: firm adherence among Muslims to the principles of the Republic.

Then there’s reality.

Accused throughout his years in office of coming up short on authority, a newly hang-out-more-flags Mr. Hollande, aiming at re-election in 2017, has recast himself as a war president battling Islamic State in the Middle East.

And as a president of deconfliction at home? On that front, Mr. Hollande has given no indication about when, or how hard, he is willing to fight.

New Political Party Established by Dutch Muslims

Two former Dutch Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid) members – Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk – have established a new political party called “Denk” (English: Think). The two parliamentary members left the Labour Party after a conflict about the integration policies of the party.

Kuzu says in an interview with the Dutch news paper Het Parool: “We’re implementing an integration policy in this country while it has only resulted in the fact that we are further apart then ever.” Öztürk: “The Labour Party has a Minister of Integration, we want a Minister of Acceptation.” Kuzu again: “In the Netherlands there are many more people who should accept integrated people than there are people who are supposed to integrate.”

Open the link below to read the whole interview (in Dutch):

http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/224/BINNENLAND/article/detail/3847611/2015/02/09/Ex-PvdA-ers-komen-met-nieuwe-partij-in-een-naar-Geert-Wilders-gevormde-wereld.dhtml

Dutch Ministers introduce measures to combat radicalization

Dutch parliamentary ministers have agreed on a package of measures to combat the growth of Muslim radicalization and stop youngsters from traveling abroad to take part in war. Ministers Lodewijk Asscher and Ivo Opstelten said in a briefing to Members of Parliament introducing the program, “the Jihadist movement is the opposite of everything our country stands for.”

Around 120 Dutch nationals are thought to be fighting with organizations such as IS and at least 30 have since returned home. Measures to be introduced include: a planned increase in options for withdrawing Dutch nationality from dual nationals; measures to deal with people returning to the Netherlands from conflict zones; a special team focusing on social media; and attention to youth vulnerable to radicalization through involvement of social workers, teachers and experts.

The Justice Minister confirms that the passport of 33 people have been cancelled so far. Most recently, officials have cancelled the passports of two couples from the city of Huizen and taken their children into care because of fears they planned to travel to Syria to join IS. The six children have been taken to a ‘place of safety’ but are not together, and their passports have also been cancelled.

In the Hague, a man and woman have been arrested for allegedly attempting to recruit people to fight in Syria and Iraq, and are suspected of “spreading hatred” via social media and news websites. In total, police in the Hague have now arrested nine people for recruiting fighters and five remain in jail.

Dispute about Islamic theology

March 6, 2014

 

The public dispute about Islamic theology at German Universities and the Islamic theologist Professor Mouhanad Khorchide at the University of Münster has attracted the attention of the wider public. Since 2010, Islamic theology has been established at different German Universities in Münster/Osnabrück in Frankfurt/Gießen und Erlangen/Nürnberg.

Two conflicts have been arousing the issue of Islamic theology. First, the dispute between the Center for Islamic theology at the University of Münster and Islamic associations began in 2011, when the Center proposed different Islam experts for its science council and advisory board. Many of these candidates were dismissed by the Islamic associations. While some candidates of the Islamic associations were rejected, as the Federal Ministry of Interior assessed them inappropriate. In practice, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution assessed one of the candidates proposed by the Islamic Community – Milli Görüs as extremist.

The second conflict aroused about the person Mouhanad Khorchide. Having approved his engagement, Islamic associations rejected Khorchide´s employment at the Center, criticizing him for his remarks in favor of a liberal Islam. According to Engin Karahan, a representative of the Islam council, there is no trust left between Professor Khorchide and the Islamic associations. Thus, it would not be legitimate to continue his engagement at the University. It would be senseless for the University of Münster to offer Islamic theology without the cooperation with Islamic associations.

The coordination council of Muslims assessed the work of Khorchide as “not scientific enough”. Other theologists such as Professor Bernhard Uhde from the University of Freiburg called criticized the assessment of the coordination council of Muslims as dilettantish and an evidence for the power clash between Turkish associations and other Muslims.

Serda Günes, an Islam scientist from the University of Frankfurt believes the schools of Islamic theology processing a period of maturing. Islamic associations would not be able to respond to normative questions as solid and confident as churches would do. Therefore, they would try to compensate this lack with theological views, reacting irritated when being challenged by antagonizing positions.

 

Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/islamische-theologie-streit-in-muenster-um-mouhanad-khorchide-a-956587.html#

 

Dispute about Islamic theology

March 6, 2014

 

The public dispute about Islamic theology at German Universities and the Islamic theologist Professor Mouhanad Khorchide at the University of Münster has attracted the attention of the wider public. Since 2010, Islamic theology has been established at different German Universities in Münster/Osnabrück in Frankfurt/Gießen und Erlangen/Nürnberg.

Two conflicts have been arousing the issue of Islamic theology. First, the dispute between the Center for Islamic theology at the University of Münster and Islamic associations began in 2011, when the Center proposed different Islam experts for its science council and advisory board. Many of these candidates were dismissed by the Islamic associations. While some candidates of the Islamic associations were rejected, as the Federal Ministry of Interior assessed them inappropriate. In practice, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution assessed one of the candidates proposed by the Islamic Community – Milli Görüs as extremist.

The second conflict aroused about the person Mouhanad Khorchide. Having approved his engagement, Islamic associations rejected Khorchide´s employment at the Center, criticizing him for his remarks in favor of a liberal Islam. According to Engin Karahan, a representative of the Islam council, there is no trust left between Professor Khorchide and the Islamic associations. Thus, it would not be legitimate to continue his engagement at the University. It would be senseless for the University of Münster to offer Islamic theology without the cooperation with Islamic associations.

The coordination council of Muslims assessed the work of Khorchide as “not scientific enough”. Other theologists such as Professor Bernhard Uhde from the University of Freiburg called criticized the assessment of the coordination council of Muslims as dilettantish and an evidence for the power clash between Turkish associations and other Muslims.

Serda Günes, an Islam scientist from the University of Frankfurt believes the schools of Islamic theology processing a period of maturing. Islamic associations would not be able to respond to normative questions as solid and confident as churches would do. Therefore, they would try to compensate this lack with theological views, reacting irritated when being challenged by antagonizing positions.

 

Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/islamische-theologie-streit-in-muenster-um-mouhanad-khorchide-a-956587.html#

 

Dutch NCTV Terror Threat Remains “Substantial”

February 24, 2014

 

The terrorist threat in the Netherlands remains ‘substantial’, according to the latest threat report from the Dutch counter terrorism body NCTV. The risk remains at this level due to ongoing concerns about residents traveling to Syria to engage in armed conflict. NCTV says some 100 Dutch nationals have so far travelled to Syria, of whom some 70 remain in the country.

Dutch News – http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/02/terror_threat_remains_substant.php#sthash.7NsLuf33.dpuf