Islam not Compatible with German Constitution, says far-right AfD party

April 18, 2016

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) said on Sunday Islam is not compatible with the German constitution and vowed to press for bans on minarets and burqas at its party congress in two weeks’ time.

The AfD punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats in three regional elections last month, profiting from popular angst about how Germany can cope with an influx of migrants, over a million of whom arrived last year.

“Islam is in itself a political ideology that is not compatible with the constitution,” AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

“We are in favor of a ban on minarets, on muezzins and a ban on full veils,” added Storch, who is a member of the European Parliament.

Merkel’s conservatives have also called for an effective ban on the burqa, saying the full body covering worn by some Muslim women should not be worn in public. But they have not said Islam is incompatible with Germany’s constitution.

The AfD’s rise, which has coincided with strong gains by other European anti-immigrant parties including the National Front in France, has punctured the centrist consensus around which the mainstream parties have formed alliances in Germany.

Last month, the party grabbed 24 percent of the vote in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, surpassing even the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel’s coalition partner in Berlin. The AfD, founded in 2013, also performed strongly in two other states.

The party’s rise has been controversial. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, has said Germany’s far-right, led by the AfD party, is using language similar to that of Hitler’s Nazis.

Such accusations have not swayed the party from its anti-immigration course.

“Islam is not a religion like Catholic or Protestant Christianity, but rather intellectually always associated with the takeover of the state,” said Alexander Gauland, who leads the AfD in Brandenburg.

“That is why the Islamization of Germany is a danger,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

France lawmakers pass bill to strip terrorists of citizenship

French lawmakers gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow terrorists to be stripped of French citizenship, or at least of rights associated with it.

The National Assembly, the French Parliament’s lower house, approved the measure by a 317-199 vote.

The Senate must still approve the bill if it is to become a part of the French Constitution.

But the legislation has already split the ruling Socialist Party badly. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira resigned in opposition to the measure. “I am leaving the government over a major political disagreement,” Taubira said. “I choose to be true to myself.”

President Francois Hollande put forward the proposal in the wake of the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks in the wake of the attack that killed 130 people.

Overall, the legislation is intended to give the president greater powers to declare a state of emergency without, as is now the case, first asking for a vote in the Parliament.

A U.N. convention discourages countries from leaving people without any citizenship. France is a signatory to that convention. The first draft of the measure called for stripping those with a second nationality who committed crimes against the nation to be stripped of their French citizenship. It caused outrage in some quarters, particularly on the left, on the grounds it would penalize those with second citizenships but not most of the French, who have only French passports.

The new measure still calls for stripping those with another nationality of their French citizenship. But it adds that those with French citizenship can be stripped of “the rights attached to it,” implying that those with only one citizenship will face similar punishment to those with two or more. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill March 22.

Any constitutional changes require both chambers of the Parliament to convene in a Congress in Versailles and proceed to a vote that receives a three-fifths majority. The Constitutional Council, France’s highest court, must then review the text before the constitution can be amended.

Anti-Terrorism bill: a departure from the principle of justice

July 10, 2014

Several aspects of the recent “anti-jihad” law, presented July 9 to the Council of Ministers, were judged unconstitutional by the Alain Jakubowicz, president of LICRA (International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism.) He declared: “Without objective evidence of the intention of a criminal act or without proof of deliberately planning to commit one” it would be “extremely complicated” to prevent someone from leaving France on the grounds that they are suspected of committing an act of terrorism. “How can one consider for a single second to restrict an individual’s freedom of movement based on suspicion?” asked Jakubowicz. “Honestly, it’s constitutionally impossible.

The bill, primarily aimed at preventing Frenchmen from leaving to fight in Syria, was called an “infringement even of the principle of justice.” “We would find ourselves in the situation where intelligence services, the Minister of the Interior, the administration, would say to the judges: ‘Believe me, I’m telling you that this person is dangerous,’” stated Jakubowicz.

The president of LICRA said that the government must also “reflect on its measures to prevent jihadists from coming back.” When asked about the possibility of Internet shutdowns of sites that glorify terrorism, the president said the problem was “more nuanced.” He spoke of the “risk of opening Pandora’s box and the direct threat to freedom of expression.”

The No-Fly List Is Unconstitutional

June 25, 2014

The federal government’s no-fly list, which prevents those suspected of terrorist ties from boarding flights in the United States or flying through American airspace, is reported to include more than 20,000 names—a number that metastasized after the Sept. 11 attacks. There’s a low evidentiary standard for getting on the list. Once on, it’s not only difficult to get off but almost impossible to find out why, exactly, one was added in the first place.

In a ruling on Tuesday, a federal judge recognized that the shadowy procedures surrounding the list are unconstitutional. Judge Anna Brown of the U.S. District Court in Oregon found that the government’s failure to provide any notice, explanation or meaningful way to challenge a no-fly designation violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, as well as Congress’s instruction to provide a chance to appeal one’s inclusion on the list and correct inaccurate information.

The new ruling came in response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 U.S. citizens prevented from boarding flights, including four military veterans. The inability to fly caused them real harm.

Judge Brown cited prolonged separation from spouses and children, loss of employment opportunities and government benefits, the inability to participate in religious rites and pursue educational choices. She also cited the stigma of being identified to airline employees and potentially other travelers of having suspected ties to terrorism.

Hina Shamsi, one of the A.C.L.U. lawyers who argued the case, made the point that “it doesn’t help either national security or due process rights to have a bloated system in which many innocent people land on the list mistakenly without a meaningful process to clear their names.”

“This should serve as wakeup call to the government,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Hina Shamsi said in a statement. “This decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the no-fly list because it affords them [an opportunity to challenge] a Kafkaesque bureaucracy.”

Supreme Court upholds legislative prayer in Town of Greece v. Galloway

This morning the Supreme Court held in Town of Greece v. Galloway, that the town’s practice of beginning legislative sessions with prayers does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It was a 5-4 decision, split along traditional right-left lines, though there is not a clear majority opinion.

Justice Kennedy wrote for the Court, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Alito in full and Justices Scalia and Thomas in part.  Scalia and Thomas refused to join part Part II-B of Kennedy’s opinion, which concluded that a “fact-intensive” inquiry of the specific practice at issue in this case did not unconstitutionally coerce individuals to engage in religious observance. Justice Alito wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Scalia. Justice Thomas wrote an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, joined by Justice Scalia in part. On the other side, Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion for himself, and Justice Kagan wrote a dissent joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.

Justice Kennedy’s decision appears to rest squarely on the Court’s decision in Marsh v. Chambers, which upheld the state of Nebraska’s practice of opening legislative sessions with a state-appointed chaplain.  Although the practice might appear to constitute an establishment of religion under the Lemon test, the Court in Marsh noted that such legislative prayers date back to the First Continental Congress and concluded that such a well-established tradition could not violate the Establishment Clause.   Thus unless the Court were willing to overturn Marsh, the only way to invalidate the prayer at issue here would be to conclude that it was more sectarian or more coercive.

Justice Kagan, writing for the four dissenters, sought to distinguish the prayers at issue here from those upheld in Marsh.  Her dissent begins:

For centuries now, people have come to this country from every corner of the world to share in the blessing of religious freedom. Our Constitution promises that they may worship in their own way, without fear of penalty or danger, and that in itself is a momentous offering. Yet our Constitution makes a commitment still more remarkable— that however those individuals worship, they will countas full and equal American citizens. A Christian, a Jew, a Muslim (and so forth)—each stands in the same relationship with her country, with her state and local communities, and with every level and body of government. So that when each person performs the duties or seeks the benefits of citizenship, she does so not as an adherent to one or another religion, but simply as an American.

Anger and an Arrest as a Leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Visits Brooklyn

The tension that has gripped Egypt in recent weeks over a draft constitution written by Islamists briefly erupted on a New York street on Saturday night, with the arrest of a protester who disrupted a discussion of the document byEssam El-Erian, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr. Erian, who is also the vice president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told a standing-room-only crowd at the private Noor Islamic School in Brooklyn that the draft constitution would weaken the traditionally autocratic Egyptian presidency and strengthen Parliament.

During the discussion, Mr. Erian reassured Egyptian expatriates, who can vote on the draft in a referendum on Wednesday, that “it is not true when people say it is like the Koran and cannot be changed.”

The event continued after protesters were ejected from the room, but members of the audience seated in the women’s section continued to pepper Mr. Erian with hostile questions about the Brotherhood’s domination of the constitution-drafting process and the protests that have erupted in recent weeks against President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member who granted himself expanded powers to push the draft to completion.

Mr. Erian addressed controversy over his visit on Facebook, writing: “Everything that has been published and broadcast about meetings, consultations, protests and attacks during my short visit to New York have been fabrications and lies. Some people owe me an apology to maintain cordiality.”

Tennessee mosque receives final occupancy permit, was subject of 2-year legal battle

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A Tennessee mosque has received its final approval after a nearly two-year legal battle to prevent it from opening.

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro board chairman Essam Fathy said Thursday he was relieved and happy the mosque has its permanent occupancy permit.

Since construction was approved in May 2010, the mosque has been targeted by vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.

A group of neighbors sued Rutherford County to try to stop construction. Among other things, they claimed that local Muslims were compelled by their religion to try to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and replace it with Islamic law.

That claim was dismissed, but construction approvals were voided briefly for other reasons before a federal judge last month cleared the way for the mosque to open.

New Report: Danish Regulation of Religion, State of Affairs and Qualitative Reflections

From the Centre for European Islamic Thought, this report is part of the socio-legal research done in the European research project, RELIGARE. The report is based on qualitative interviews among Danish key profiles, religious and secular, and will feed into both Danish debate and into the ongoing work in RELIGARE.

In addition to supplying data from the interviews, the report works well as an introduction to Danish regulation of religion and as a discussion of current affairs.

———————-

1. State, Church and Religion in Denmark
1.1 Introduction to the socio-legal frame
Presenting a status of Danish legislation and the regulation of religion is by
nature a complex task that includes capturing political discourse, reflecting
theological discussions on especially the Folkekirke,1 and formulating a
careful analysis of administrative and legal practice. It would have been a
straightforward task if relations between the Danish State, the Church and
Religion had conformed to the rudimentary models suggested by Silvio
Ferrari (Ferrari & Bradney 2000) or by Roland Minnerath (2001).
However, the Danish regulative model of these matters differs in several
specific ways. Regarding its history and its legal state of affairs, Danish
regulation of religion cannot be said to conform to a single model based on
a civil judicial structure that would allow the churches to act independently,
as is the case in Germany, nor can it be claimed that Denmark has a
concordat or bilateral agreement between state, church and religion as in
the case of many countries with majority Catholic churches. Nor is
Denmark a secular country with a clear separation of religious communities
from the state, as is to some extent the case in France and even more so in
the United States (Christoffersen 2010B).
Rather, Denmark has a history of regulating religion that on the one hand
represents a particular understanding of Lutheranism in a majority context
after the European wars of religion (1524-1648, cujus regio, ejus religio),
and on the other hand presents some tense and difficult compromises in
Danish realpolitik. Since the introduction of the democratic constitution of
1849, Danish regulation of religion has firmly established the Evangelical
Lutheran Church as one of the four pillars of Danish society (§4 of the
constitution, Christoffersen 2010A) coupled with a dual constitutional
promise of autonomy and establishment. On the one hand, a law was
envisaged that would establish the Folkekirke as a self-determining and
autonomous institution independent of, but supported by, the state (§66 and
§4), and on the other hand, a law was to be framed to regulate on equal
terms the status of other religious communities with an expectation of
similar freedoms and responsibilities granted to the Folkekirke (§69).
However, no such laws were ever passed and instead of becoming a
societal institution supported by the state, the Folkekirke still resembles
more a state church than anything imagined by Martin Luther (Andersen
2010, 393). Furthermore, the constitution applied a legal framework for
1 It is common at this stage of a study to discuss how to translate the name of the
majority Evangelical Lutheran church in Denmark, which literally means the national
church or the people’s church (see Christoffersen 2010A). We have chosen to use the
Danish name Folkekirke.
10 Structural and Methodological Reflections
explicit recognition by royal decree of the few religious communities that
were already a reality in 1849. Among these is the Jewish community
(Danish: Mosaisk Trossamfund), which was recognised already in 1685.
This system of administrative recognition was extended after the
introduction of the constitution to include a list of Christian churches, such
as the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Russian church in
Copenhagen, the Norwegian, the Swedish and the English (Anglican)
Churches, the reformed churches, the Baptists, and the Methodists. The
system of recognition was changed just after the Second World War so that
religious communities such as Muslims and Buddhists who arrived after
1960 have only been ‘approved’ by the Minister of Church Affairs. They
are thus relegated to the administrative competences of the ministers and
permanent secretaries of changing ministerial departments and offices
(Christoffersen 2012).
During the 19th and 20th century several attempts were made to re-ignite
both the political and public debates and to re-open the legislative agendas
promised in the 1849 constitution. Three short-lived crises and subsequent
changes managed to put religion on the political agenda, only for it to be
neglected in the dawning reality of the succeeding governments. The first
change came in 1849, when three commissions were set up to clarify and
begin the promised legislative processes. The first two commissions of
1853 and 1868 were marooned in internal disagreement amongst the
different wings of the Folkekirke, while the Church Council of 1883 that
was set up to finally produce a workable political, ecclesiastical, and legal
compromise was disbanded in 1901. By this time the entire political
structure had been reformed with the introduction of the parliamentary
system, the end of any effective political power of the king, and the
formation of governments based on the mandate of the popular vote.
The second change came with the politico-economic arrangement of
1933 that aimed, firstly, to end a general conflict on the reduction of wages
between unions and employers; secondly, to avoid a threatening crisis for
Danish agricultural exports; and thirdly to open up for social reforms that
would build the foundation of the modern welfare state. Although religion
and church affairs had resurfaced in the Church Council that was active
from 1928 to 1939, the religio-political agenda gave way to the social
reformist agenda of the Social Democrat party, which in turn backed away
from a traditional leftist opposition to established religion. This reframed
and re-systematised the entire social welfare system and made it primarily
an issue of state rather than of other actors, including the churches. In
research on the subject (Østergaard 2005, Hansen, Petersen & Petersen
2010 and others) there is widespread disagreement as to whether the
Danish welfare state is built on Lutheran ethics – in their adaptation
following N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783–1872), who stressed individual
Structural and Methodological Reflections 11
engagement and voluntarism – or it is the product of a social democratic
agenda that succeeded to the extent of its own obsoleteness – or it is a
combination of both normative and ideological sources. Whatever the case,
the very nature of the crisis of the 1920s and 1930s paved the way for the
social and economic empowerment instituted in the settlement of 1933.
Danish welfare became a matter for the state, and religious issues
disappeared once again from the political agenda.
A third attempt was made by a commission (strukturkommissionen) set
up in 1964 to establish the nature of the relationship between the state, the
people, and the Folkekirke. The Social Democrat Minister of Church
Affairs, Bodil Koch (1903-72), wanted to know how best to establish
church and religion as the ‘marrow and muscle of the people’.
Unfortunately, the work of the commission ceased with a change of
government and the death of the minister. The result was the reaffirmation
of Danish church law by permanent secretary August Roesen (1909-87) on
the argument that the Folkekirke had become a part of public
administration and in effect had no independent governance. All matters
pertaining to the Folkekirke would be regulated by Parliament and the
Minister of Church Affairs, while the 10 bishops would remain ‘inspectors’
of the Folkekirke and consultants to the Ministry (Roesen 1976; Huulgaard
2004, 29).
The two promised sets of legal norms that would ideally give autonomy
to the Folkekirke and equality of religion at least among other religious
communities (ideally speaking also in relation to the Folkekirke) never
came into being. The political and public debates always ended without
substantial change, the legislative agenda was never revived, and the
administrative handling of religious issues remained the law of the land.
Over time, the best of worlds envisioned by the constitution made way for
the dual reality of regulating religion in Denmark. Firstly, the sociological
reality that the actual number of “other religions” was insignificant, and
secondly, the closely related political reality that there were no problems to
mention, no dissidents, no media attention, and most importantly, no votes
to be gathered in a political engagement with religion, on the contrary.
From the time of the 1849 constitution until very recently, religion
functioned as a modus vivendi that declared Denmark to be Christian by
history and culture on the one hand, and secular in all legal, public, and
administrative matters on the other. This has now been not only challenged,
but is perhaps also being found to be a myth.
This presentation of the state of affairs of Danish regulation of religion
proposes in the following (1.2) a short introduction to the legal and
normative realities of contemporary Denmark, and continues with (1.3) a
brief description of the basic sociological realities. Under (1.4) the more
recent frame from 2001 to 2011 – from 11 September 2001 to the Arab
12 Structural and Methodological Reflections
spring – is presented as the actual frame of the RELIGARE survey. Lastly,
(1.5) there are a few comments on the change of government of October
2011 and how this seems to open up for new waves of discussion on the
roles of religion and secularity in Danish society and also more concretely
on the promises from the constitution.

Muslim Teacher’s Application for Civil Service Rejected

12.01.2012

A 30-year-old Muslim secondary school teacher, who had completed his teacher training in August 2009 and subsequently applied for a position as a teacher (and, thus, civil servant), was denied the position as a teacher, as he is under suspicion of having links to Islamist organisations. According to the Bavarian office for the protection of the constitution, the young man has expressed his support for the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Community in Germany (IGD), which is openly directed against the free democratic basic order. As he did not distance himself from this ideology, the school authority in Munich does not consider him to be a suitable candidate for a teaching position.

Dutch Turkish Celebrations Condemned by Dutch Anti-Islam Politician

18 November 2011

Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders has commented in de Volkskrant that next year’s celebrations marking 400 years of Dutch-Turkish relations should be stopped. According to Wilders the ‘Islamic regime’ in Turkey under President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan threatens the country’s secular constitution and seeks to “re-Islamise the country”.