Court Ruling: No Automatic Right for Muslim Pupils to Pray in School

30.11./ 01.12.2011

The federal administrative court in Leipzig had ruled last week that a student does not have an automatic right to pray at school. This decision brings to an end a four-year legal case, which was brought forward by Yunus M., a Muslim pupil at a Berlin school. In November 2007, after having prayed according to Islamic rites with seven other Muslim pupils in a school corridor during their break, Yunus M. was told by the head teacher that prayer was not allowed on the school grounds. With a diverse range of students of more than 30 nationalities and most major religions, the head teacher feared that allowing specific prayer rituals could harm the peaceful running of the school. Insisting on his right to religious freedom, however, Yunus M. filed a lawsuit and, initially, won his case in front of a regional court in 2009. The school appealed and the ruling was then overturned in May 2010.

While last week’s court decision banned Muslim prayers from a specific school in Berlin, the judges stressed that this was not a ruling that banned all forms of prayer at school. The decision to ban prayer needs to be made on a case by case basis and schools must decide whether it is necessary to restrict their pupils’ right to religious freedom and expression in order to keep the peace at their school.

The ruling and its consequences are closely watched and could echo nationwide, with schools following the Berlin ban and, thus, ending years of a flexible approach to Muslim prayers.

Taboos and Fear among German Muslim Girls

Young Muslim women are often forced to lead double lives in Europe. They have sex in public restrooms and stuff mobile phones in their bras to hide their secret existences from strict families. They are often forbidden from visiting gynaecologists or receiving sex ed. In the worst cases, they undergo hymen reconstruction surgery, have late-term abortions or even commit suicide.

Hardly any other issue is as fraught with prohibition and fear among Germany’s Muslim immigrants as sex. Many Muslim families adhere to moral values from a pre-modern era, and the separation of the sexes affects almost all aspects of daily life. At the same time, young female immigrants are faced with the temptations of a free life unrestrained by religious and cultural traditions. Their daily lives are a constant tug-of-war between two value systems.

Many of them suffer from this contradiction, and some crack under the strain. Doctors and social workers report on desperate young women coming to them with requests to reconstruct the hymen or perform late-term abortions. The elevated risk of suicide among young immigrant women even prompted Berlin’s Charité Hospital to establish a suicide prevention initiative for women from Turkish immigrant families. In a multi-year study, the group hopes to discover why the suicide rate within this population is apparently twice as high as it is among ethnic German women of the same age.

The consequences of living this double life have been poorly studied. Almost no governmental and non-governmental organizations, from family and education ministries to immigration authorities and self-help groups, can offer reliable figures or well-founded conclusions on the issue.

Islamophobia, the new anti-Semitism

15 October 2010

Having seen the disastrous consequences of virulent anti-Semitism firsthand, Germany must lead the fight against Europe’s rising intolerance towards Muslims, writes The Local’s Marc Young in this op-ed: “Let me be painfully clear here — I am in no way equating the persecution Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis with the anti-Muslim sentiment now simmering in modern, democratic Germany. However, just as it was once acceptable to badmouth Jews and scapegoat them for society’s ills — in Germany as well as Western democracies like America and Britain — millions of law-abiding, well-integrated Muslims are now being targeted unfairly.”

Op-ed: The new anti-Semitism

15 October 2010

Having seen the disastrous consequences of virulent anti-Semitism firsthand, Germany must lead the fight against Europe’s rising intolerance towards Muslims, writes The Local’s Marc Young in this op-ed.

“Pedants never tire of pointing out that the term anti-Semitism should not solely apply to prejudice against Jews, but also other Semitic peoples like the Arabs. For once, I’m for backing such Semitic semantics in light of the increasingly acrid debate about the integration of Arab and Turkish immigrants in Germany. In recent weeks, it’s become rather apparent that bigotry towards Muslims is Europe’s new anti-Semitism”, he writes.

Hizb ut-Tahrir: No such thing as a ’Danish-Muslim’

October 4, 2010
At its annual conference this weekend, Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir called on Muslims to be proud of their faith and not label themselves as Danish Muslims, British Muslims, French Muslims etc. During the conference, themed on the Muslims’ role in the West’, the message to Muslims was that their faith should be their identity.
At the conference, Jaweed Yusuf, a member of the group, explained that it was their duty to call others to Islam, however difficult that might be and whatever consequences it might entail.
The group, which has been subject to controversy in Denmark, had invited several MP’s, whom however chose not to participate in the conference. Hizb ut-Tahrir denied rumours that its members plan to run for parliamentary election, or that it supports the use violence to achieve its goals.

Lessons From The Whole Quran Episode

When Terry Jones, a Florida pastor, announced his plan to burn Qurans on 9/11 with a tweet and an “International Burn a Koran Day” page on Facebook, he ignited an international conflagration of outrage.

As news spread, worldwide condemnation and anxiety mounted. At least two people died in a demonstration in Afghanistan. It seemed this obscure self-proclaimed pastor in Gainesville, Florida, was determined to carry out an action of catastrophic global consequences.

Now that the crisis is over, CNN asked contributors to write their observations of what happened, and what lessons the pastor’s threat and the events that followed can teach us.

Dutch muslims fear consequences of freedom party’s popularity

There is considerable fear among Dutch Muslims in the city of Almere regarding the potential success of the anti-Islamic Freedom Party (PVV) in upcoming national elections. The PVV, led by Geert Wilders, currently has nine of 150 seats in parliament.  It is predicted to win 17 seats next week and become the country’s fourth biggest party in the process. The party topped the March 3 municipal poll in Almere, east of Amsterdam, with 21.6 per cent, and came in second in The Hague.

Muslims in Almere express anxiety about possibility of the party gaining influence after the success of the party in the local elections. “Muslim people in Almere are looking differently at their indigenous Dutch compatriots” since the PVV election success, Shangram Karim, the Dutch Muslim Party leader in the city, told AFP. 

”People are thinking: ‘It is probable that my neighbour, or someone in my street, voted for the PVV and thus against me.”

Despite the party’s initial successes, however, it remains politically isolated.
 Coalition governments unwilling to compromise on some of Wilders’ more controversial proposals (such as a ban on headscarves) have ignored it.

Why not an Anti-Muslim Brigade?

Erich Kocina reacts to the recent IMAS study (see above) in this op-ed piece, pointing out two main points made clear by results: firstly, in coming out 59% against minarets, Austrians do not think much differently than the Swiss. And secondly, demagogues have done just as good a job in Austria as they have next door. In other words, to what degree one has personally been affected becomes a non-issue, in the same way that those Swiss most against minarets were in areas where no Muslims live.

Kocina states that we can imagine already the consequences of these results: instead of policies, which serve to ensure social peace and attempt to resolve (very real) problems, we will see cosmetic measures taken to heighten the repression of one section of the population in the name of enhancing the general population’s “subjective feeling of security.” In the end, the goal is to win votes. In the same fashion as the just as expensive and pointless current involvement of the Austrian army in patrolling the border in Burgenland, “Anti-Muslim Protective Brigades” could be brought in to patrol the country. Seem ridiculous? He asks rhetorically, – in these times, unfortunately not.

“Debate”: Bizarre row with Islam

In this article, Michael Prüller comments on the overreactions and bizarre turns in the current debate with regard to Islam in many European countries, and especially in Austria. He highlights one “worrying trend,” whereby criminal law seems to be increasingly emerging as an instrument for immigration and culture politics. In turn, this trend has opened the door for three possible developments which may have serious consequences for freedom, rule of law and actual European values.

The first development is the establishment of a new state religion: the “European way of life,” exemplified by the Austrian justice minister’s desire to oppose “general behavior which attempts to impose upon someone a lifestyle that is not consistent with our society.” Secondly, in order to uphold and maintain this “European way of life” the state is given ever more opportunity to punish its citizens. An example for this can be seen in the current debate concerning the burqa in France, where Saudi Arabia-style legal penalities with regard to clothing is now being suggested with the goal of upholding fundamental European values. Finally, under the beguiling influence of stricter penalties against troublemakers, the plaintive nature of those who might potentially be disturbed is strengthened. In other words, more groups will wish to be brought under the protection of the state and its criminal law.

This has been seen in the recent broadening of Paragraph 283 in Austrian criminal law, which used to protect only religious and ethnic groups from hate speech, and which now will include hate speech based on any criteria, from sexual orientation to age, and from skin color to gender. This extension of state legal protection to a larger number of groups should not, however, be a restriction to free speech. Freedom and rule of law are things which can be clearly defined, while national identity and “European values” can change with each person and with each day. Thus it follows that they should not qualify as the basis for any legal framework that hopes to attain some degree of clarity.
Die Presse (German)

Swedish Secret Police to investigate Islamism in Sweden

The Swedish government have asked Swedish Secret Police (SÄPO) for a report on radical Islamism in Sweden. “There are indications coming from SÄPO”, says Minister of Integration Nyamko Sabuni, “that violent, radical Islamism is recruiting in Sweden. Even if this is not a big problem, it can have grave consequences for some individuals.”

The report is to be turned in December 15, 2010.