U.S. Paper Defends Printing Mohammad Cartoon

NEW YORK — The Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the few U.S. newspapers to publish a caricature of the Prophet Mohammad from a series that sparked a wave of protests by Muslims, defended the action on Sunday by saying it was just doing its job. “This is the kind of work that newspapers are in business to do,” said Amanda Bennett, the newspaper’s editor. The Inquirer on Saturday published the most controversial image, which depicted the Prophet with a turban resembling a lit bomb, and it posted on its Web site an Internet link to the rest of the cartoons.

Anti-Muslim Writer, Pope Meet In Secret

By John Hooper in Rome Oriana Fallaci, the controversial Italian journalist and author who is awaiting trial on charges of vilifying Islam, has been granted a secret audience with Pope Benedict. Fallaci’s diatribes against Muslims’ persuasions have turned her into a hate figure for the Italian left and a heroine for the anti-immigrant right. The Pope’s decision to grant her the privilege of a private meeting came after he appeared to reach out to Muslims on his first trip abroad as pontiff. Benedict’s discussions with Fallaci are bound to fuel concern among liberal Catholics, already dismayed by discussions on Monday between the Pope and leaders of an ultra-conservative group of breakaway Catholics. The Society of St Pius X, whose founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated in 1988, rejects many of the progressive initiatives taken by the Second Vatican Council. One of the society’s main objections is that the council opened a dialogue with other religions. Vatican sources were embarrassed by disclosure of the meeting with Fallaci. The Italian news agency APcom reported that the Pope had received Fallaci on Saturday at his summer residence near Rome. No announcement was made before or after their encounter and not even Fallaci’s family was aware that the writer, who lives in the US, had been in Italy. The newspaper La Repubblica said the writer, who is being treated for cancer, had driven herself to and from Castelgandolfo. Vatican sources said the audience had been brief and had been held at her request. Fallaci repeatedly berated the Pope’s predecessor for pursuing talks with Muslims. But she has been more positive about the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. However, after the London bombings, she said she had been astonished by his insistence on the need for dialogue. “Do you really think that they can change, mend their ways and give up planting bombs?” In June, a judge in the northern Italian city of Bergamo ordered that the 76-year-old Fallaci should stand trial next year on charges of slandering Islam in her book The Strength of Reason, one of three polemical works published since the September 11 attacks on the US. On his first visit to his native Germany since his election, the Pope last month made a point of meeting Muslim officials, addressing them as “my dear Muslim friends”.

British Lords Defeat Anti-Terror Law

In a humiliating defeat for British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, the House of Lords voted against the controversial anti-terror law, inflicting a series of blows on proposals to give the Home Secretary extensive powers over suspect terrorists. The Lords voted Monday, March 7, by 249 to 199 against the controversial bill, demanding judicial oversight of the extensive powers the government originally suggested be given to the Home Secretary, which ranges from electronic tagging to curfews and freedom of association, Reuters reported. “They have to be better than the awfulness of what is in this bill,” Helena Kennedy, a senior lawyer and peer in Blair’s Labour Party, said. The proposed law allows the government to place so-called control orders on persons it deems “terrorism suspects” on mere suspicion, imposing measures such as electronic tagging or even a form of indefinite house arrest without trial. If approved, the law would give the government powers unprecedented in peacetime to curtail the activities of both British citizens and foreign nationals’ suspects. It would replace an earlier law allowing “foreign terror suspects” to be jailed without trial, which Britain’s highest court of appeal struck down late last year after ruling it contravened human rights obligations. Adamant to pass the laws as they stand, Blair had rejected Conservative proposals to put a time limit on the measures, which sparked fears it would erode the country’s long-established human rights by targeting people on “mere suspicions”. “Reasonable Grounds” Giving the controversial bill the thumbs-down, the British Lords demanded a higher standard of proof before any restriction of movement could be imposed. In this regard, two amendments of the bill were pressed for by two members of the Liberal Democrats Party, according to the BBC News Online. One raises the standard of proof for making a control order from “reasonable grounds” for suspicion to a requirement that a judge must be satisfied on the “balance of probabilities” such an order is justified. Another introduces a requirement for the director of public prosecutions to deliver a statement to the court saying there was not reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution before an order was made. “Sunset Clause” “The speed with which this legislation is going through this House and has already gone through the Commons, I believe, is evidence enough that we need such a clause on the face of the bill,” said Lord Kingsland, the Shadow Lord Chancellor. He stressed that the opposition to the controversial legislation would also try Tuesday to introduce what he termed a “sunset clause”, which would see the bill lapse on November 30. Home Office minister Baroness Scotland, however, said the “sunset clause” would not be an appropriate step. “This Bill Should Not Be Seen As A Very Short Stopgap.” The Government’s failure to see off the opposition to the bill may force ministers to consider further concessions or risk losing its entire anti-terror bill. Scotland revealed Sunday that if the anti-terror proposals are rejected by the Lords, Blair plans to use the so-called Parliament Act to force them on to the statute book. It added that invoking the Parliament Act over house arrest plans would “expose ministers to renewed controversy at a time when they are desperately trying to rally opposition parties and their own MPs behind them”. Muslims in Britain are complaining that they are maltreated by police under the Terrorism Act for no apparent reason other than being Muslim, citing the routine stop-and-search operations. Senior British parliamentarians admitted last August that anti-terrorism laws are being used “disproportionately” against the Muslim minority.

Fading Liberal Dream Tears Dutch Apart

Immigration has polarised the Netherlands as never before but, as Alex Duval Smith reports, its traditional values of tolerance have found some unlikely defenders . Martyn Loosman, impeccably turned out in a traditional costume of baggy trousers and a red and white striped shirt, buffs up the Dutch Queen Wilhemina coins on his belt buckle. ‘The government is going too far by proposing body searches and forcing suspected terrorists to report weekly to police,’ he says before sloping off, his black clogs scraping nonchalantly against the cobblestones of the fishing village of Urk. Forty miles south, in an Amsterdam coffee shop, advertising copywriter Geert Beck toys with his blond dreadlocks while sucking on a joint. ‘There are too many immigrants in Holland. They are stealing our society.’ The men, both 29, represent the contradictions in the Netherlands’ liberal society and pose questions over whether it has died or was only ever superficial. In a country where euthanasia is legal, one million people are on sick leave with no questions asked, prostitutes pay income tax and you can buy cannabis with your coffee, the government has for the past three months been passing radically intolerant laws. Immigration tops the political agenda all over Europe – in Britain ahead of the general election, in Denmark where the right was re-elected last week on an anti-foreigner platform and in Spain, which has infuriated its European Union partners by launching an amnesty for thousands of people without work permits – the Netherlands has reasons for a clampdown. In November 2004 – 911 days after the 9/11 attacks – controversial film-maker Theo Van Gogh was brutally murdered in an Amsterdam street. His alleged attacker, Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri shot him, strangled him, then stuck a note on his chest with a knife threatening war on Europe in the name of Islam. Within hours of the killing, prompted by Van Gogh’s controversial short film, Submission, which criticises radical Islam’s attitude to women, Integration Minister Rita Verdonk told 10,000 mourners gathered in front of Amster dam’s royal palace that Dutch tolerance ‘stops here and will not go any further’. There followed a cascade of reprisals. By the end of the year, more than 20 mosques, religious schools and churches had been attacked. Submission’s screenwriter, Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, still receives regular death threats. ‘People say Holland changed after the Van Gogh murder but we started asking ourselves questions long before that,’ said Loosman, who is unemployed. ‘I have done many different jobs but right now I do not want to work. I will get a job when I want one,’ he says as he walks with two friends through Urk’s winter fair – a pageant of basket-weaving, lace-making and wood-turning, punctuated by the sounds of a fairground organ. The village is festooned with Urk’s flag, a mackerel on red, white and blue stripes, and stalls sell smoked fish. In Calvinist Urk, a picture-postcard fishing village, there are only white people. Urk was an island until the great damming projects of the Thirties, and its mentality remains insular. Its dialect is incomprehensible to other Dutch people, businesses close at noon on Saturdays because that is the start of the Lord’s Day, and women go to church in black dresses. There are 16 churches for 17,000 people and some people still do not watch television on Sundays, or use the phone or ride their bicycles. ‘We call ourselves Holland’s indigenous Muslims because we are different,’ said Loosman. ‘People in the rest of the country make fun of us, saying we are rigid and high and mighty. ‘But I am proud to be an Urker. We have a history going back 1,000 years. During the Second World War we hid hundreds of Jews in the reeds to save them from the Germans. The other day I saw a photograph which was an aerial view of Urk as an island, and I felt sorry that we are no longer that way.’ Being attached to the mainland has changed everything for the Urkers. Friday’s fair was Urk’s first, created to improve its image. ‘In the last two years things have happened here which are not good,’ said Loosman. ‘First there was a split in one of the Reform churches. It was very nasty. Then, when some Kurds came here to do road work, there was a fight with local people. It was all over the Dutch papers. We are holding the fair, in which everyone is invited to wear local costume, to show we are friendly.’ Urk’s idea of a good image is somewhat different from those of other towns and villages in the Netherlands now engaged in the national pastime of working out what it means to be one of the world’s 16 million Dutch people. Many individuals and local authorities have forged links with the immigrants, said to be 5.8 per cent of the population. A ‘white march’ for peace was launched by a web- site called ‘Don’t touch my neighbours’ and Moroccans in Amsterdam started a ‘We won’t tolerate it’ campaign reminiscent of the France’s ‘Don’t touch my mate’ anti-racism drive in the Eighties. In Delft, a local association has started courses in ‘Moroccan culture and civilisation’, partly as a protest against new rules making immigrants take ‘acclimatisation courses’ and exams before being granted residency. Halfway between The Hague and Amsterdam, the local council of Alphen aan den Rijn has gone further than most with a campaign, under the slogan: ‘Let’s throw away our prejudices.’ The mayor, Nico Schoof, has plastered these words on bus stops, dustcarts and on the wrappers of Dutch waffles and Surinamese pancakes in cafes. Supermarkets have even slapped it on ‘fair trade’ such as bananas. Yet at government level the victim of another murder, the far-right politician Pim Fortuyn, is enjoying posthumous triumph. Fortuyn, who called Islam a ‘retarded religion’ and was killed on the eve of elec tions in May 2002, had run on a ticket calling for the Netherlands’ borders to be closed, integration to be obligatory and for measures against Muslim extremists. After his death, his party won 26 seats, though it lost all but eight of them six months later. In the past two years, Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister, has done Fortuyn proud. The previous government of Social Democrat Wim Kok began the trend in 2001 by hardening the asylum laws so much that the country was condemned by Human Rights Watch. Asylum applications, which had totalled 43,000 in 2000, fell to 13,400 in 2003. Balkenede then pushed through rules banning all unsuccessful applicants fromstaying in the country. Now Fortuyn has a successor of sorts, Geert Wilders, 41, reckoned by opinion polls to have the third largest number of supporters in the country, though a general election is not due until 2007. Wilders, who left the liberal VVD last September because he objected to its moderate stance over Turkey joining the EU, appears to have wider support than Fortuyn, including some academics. But his party has not yet been tested in an election and he has no manifesto, apart from calls for a ban on extremist mosques. Yet most people in the Netherlands – Dutch or not – remain proud of their liberal traditions. Doing his bit for multiculturalism is the Surinamese comedian, J_rgen Raymann, 38, whose show at Emmeloord on Friday, had a all-white, often elderly, audience in stitches of laughter. His jokes – about food, dancing and accents – tackled racism head-on, making fun of immigrants and of the Dutch. ‘I try to hold up a mirror to myself and make them look at it, but I also hold up a mirror to them,’ said Raymann. ‘I try to put across the idea that Holland is a great country with fantastic health services, infrastructure, a tradition of compassion and no natural disasters. ‘Even though the weather is like a beautiful woman with premenstrual tension there are plenty of reasons to feel happy here. The Dutch have been spoilt and because they were so comfortable for many years, they felt guilty and became all politically correct. We are paying the price now. There is a panic. Everyone in a headscarf is a potential terrorist, and the media accentuates those views.’ Raymann believes the Netherlands ‘nee
ds to take a stand. We have to kick out the extremists and start a dialogue with the moderates. Dutch are not xenophobic, they are in a panic. When they have got over it, they will get back to their proud, tradition of moderation’. Others, however, feel lost. Loosman looks out to sea from Urk lighthouse, wishing his village was still an island. ‘Five years from now, I do not know where we will be. I am proud to be an Urker but the world seems to be pushing us in a direction we do not want to go.’ Geert Beck, the cannabis smoker at the Amsterdam coffee shop, does not want to be pushed either. ‘Our society is free, if you respect the rules. We Dutch know this but others have come here with different values and taken advantage of our trust.’

Denmark: Muslims Accuse Danish Tv Of Incitement To Religious Hatred

COPENHAGEN – A group of Muslims has reported a Danish broadcaster to the police for repeatedly airing a controversial film about Muslim oppression of women, Danish media reported on Sunday. Some 20 Muslims are pressing charges against Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) for airing recently-murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s film Submission in its entirety, as well as for repeatedly showing clips from the film in newscasts.

Dutch Mulling Limits On Freedom Of Expression

Many Dutch Decision-Makers Wondering Whether Reactions, Particularly Criticism Of Muslims, Did Not Go Too Far. By Isabelle Wesselingh Reeling from the slaying of a controversial filmmaker by a suspected Islamic extremist and a resulting backlash against Muslim institutions, the traditionally tolerant Dutch are mulling the limits of freedom of expression. “It is important today that we have a debate on freedom of expression: What are its limits, what is the meaning of tolerance, to what degree can you provoke someone and in this context I think it is important to look at what is being done abroad,” Foreign Minister Ben Bot told foreign correspondents here Monday.

Struggle for the Soul of Islam: A rare look at secretive Brotherhood in America

Muslims divided on Brotherhood: A group aiming to create Islamic states worldwide has established roots here, in large part under the guidance of Egypt-born Ahmed Elkadi By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Sam Roe and Laurie Cohen Tribune staff reporters Over the last 40 years, small groups of devout Muslim men have gathered in homes in U.S. cities to pray, memorize the Koran and discuss events of the day. But they also addressed their ultimate goal, one so controversial that it is a key reason they have operated in secrecy: to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday in America as well. These men are part of an underground U.S. chapter of the international Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Islamic fundamentalist group and an organization with a violent past in the Middle East. But fearing persecution, they rarely identify themselves as Brotherhood members and have operated largely behind the scenes, unbeknown even to many Muslims. Still, the U.S. Brotherhood has had a significant and ongoing impact on Islam in America, helping establish mosques, Islamic schools, summer youth camps and prominent Muslim organizations. It is a major factor, Islamic scholars say, in why many Muslim institutions in the nation have become more conservative in recent decades (…)

Thousands Turn Out For Islamic Rally In France

LE BOURGET, France, April 11 (AFP) – Twenty-two thousand people attended the annual rally of the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) outside Paris on Sunday, considerably higher than the attendance last year, police said. The rally was taking place in the context of the US-led occupation of Iraq and the French government’s controversial decision to ban the Islamic headscarf and other religious insignia in state schools.

New Book Calls Europe ‘Province Of Islam’?

By Alessandra Rizzo ROME – A new book by controversial journalist Oriana Fallaci that hit bookstores here Monday accuses Europe of having sold its soul to what she describes as an Islamic invasion. Entitled “The Strength of Reason,” (“La Forza della Ragione” in Italian), the book also accuses the Roman Catholic Church of being too weak before the Muslim world.