The first representative study of scarf-wearing Muslim women shows: they are pretty normal women. Muslim women seem to feel that everything has been said with regards to the headscarf. It has been eight years since the state of Baden-Wurtemburg refused to allow teaching candidate Fereshda Ludin to wear her hair-covering while acting as an official of the government. In the folowing years great controversy has raged over the alleged danger of an Islamist seizure of power in the German courts, talkshows, and newspapers. Politically the case is decided: almost all states have issued prohibitions of the headscarf. After the plaintiff’s success, the legal confrontation against the new national dress ordinances is going to the next round.
In France and even neighboring Germany the Muslim population has a massive presence, but after 9/11 they face the problem of massive insecurity. In France the controversy of headscarves, the Mohammed Cartoons in Denmark and the mistake of profiling many from the community in Paris has only led to more heartburn and more cause for concern. Localised riots after the deaths of two boys in a North African Paris suburb grew into a nationwide insurrection. It was waiting to happen as vast Arab and African populations had been restive after constant police harassment. The invisible minorities of Europe were tired of being victimised. Le Pen Openly xenophobic leader Le Pen shocked most, when he won more votes in the last Presidential election than the main opposition party led by former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. A once tolerant France also banned religious symbols in schools and politicians in Germany and Belgium wanted similar laws. The rationale a necessity to secure the country from extremism and preserve its secular credentials. And that immediately invited the charge that it would only radicalize an already disillusioned and disenfranchised Muslim population. There are fears radical Islam of Osama’s kind is luring descendants of Muslim immigrants. Many say that’s because the governments here are unable to address issues like integration, especially at a time when anti-terror laws are becoming so stringent.
WASHINGTON — Denmark is determined to rebuild ties to its own Muslim population and to the greater Islamic world — and may look to the United States as a model, Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen said yesterday. Denmark found itself at the center of a global firestorm after a local newspaper last fall printed a series of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. After other European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, angry demonstrations — some violent — erupted across the Islamic world — and several Danish diplomatic posts and businesses were targeted in the outburst. “I think we can learn from the United States, on matters such as integration and assimilation of our minority communities,” Mr. Petersen told a forum sponsored by the Pakistan chapter of the Universal Peace Foundation and the Ambassadors for Peace Foundation held at The Washington Times. “I think we in Denmark and in Europe generally have to become more aware of religious sensibilities. We are interested in building bridges, not burning them,” he said. The government of center-right Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has turned aside demands from some Muslim leaders for an official apology for the cartoons, saying freedom of expression and a free press are bulwarks of Danish democracy. But Mr. Petersen said Danish officials also have looked for ways to use the crisis to improve relations with the country’s Muslim minority and with Islamic states. A major conference Friday in Copenhagen brought together Muslim and Christian scholars, many of whom urged the West and Islam to come together to foster understanding and rebuild ties damaged in the cartoon controversy. At yesterday’s forum, Mr. Petersen said moderates on both sides of the global debate had to “transcend” the temptation to paint the cartoon uproar as a stark choice between pure freedom of expression and respect for religion. “Democracy is the basis of the discussion, but for us Danes, the dialogue must be based on mutual respect,” he said. “There can never be any doubt about that.” The diplomat said Danes traditionally have enjoyed frank debate, questioning authority and a reputation for tolerance, but conceded that his small country was still reeling from the fact that it was at the center of a worldwide controversy. “We Danes tend to see our country as a role model,” he said. “We never could have imagined that we would see Danish embassies burning. “We never wanted this; we never asked for it,” he added. “Some Danes do not understand the reaction, and so we get worried, we get disturbed, we get overwhelmed.” Mr. Petersen said most Muslims in Denmark are being accepted into society, although some still resist learning the language and accepting all of the country’s traditional political values. He said countries across Europe are increasingly working with religious leaders, scholars, private groups and other governments on how best to accommodate sizable Muslim populations now in Europe. He said many on the continent are looking to the American model for ideas. “Look at any European country today, and I would say they have not been as successful as the United States in this matter,” he said.
By Paul Farhi Washington Post Staff Writer Washington radio station WMAL-AM fired talk show host Michael Graham yesterday after he refused to soften his description of Islam as “a terrorist organization” on the air last month. Graham had been suspended without pay from his daily three-hour show since making his comments July 25. The station had conditioned his return to the midmorning shift on reading a station-approved statement in which Graham would have said that his anti-Muslim statements were “too broad” and that he sometimes uses “hyperbole” in the course of his program. WMAL also asked Graham to speak to the station’s advertisers and its employees about the controversy. But Graham refused both conditions, prompting the station to drop him. According to WMAL, Graham said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times on his July 25 program. On the same show, he also said repeatedly that “moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews” and that “the problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam.” The comments drew complaints and prompted an organized letter-writing campaign against WMAL and its advertisers by a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) of Washington. The protests led several advertisers to ask WMAL to stop airing their ads during Graham’s weekday show, although the station says it didn’t lose any advertisers amid the controversy. In a statement yesterday, Graham blamed CAIR for his firing and defended his comments: “As a fan of talk radio, I find it absolutely outrageous that pressure from a special interest group like CAIR can result in the abandonment of free speech and open discourse on a talk radio show.” Graham, in an interview last night, said he and the station had reached an agreement on terms of his return last week, but the station called back to withdraw. “It was a done deal,” he said. “They revoked it because, after further consideration, it didn’t contain an apology. And I will not apologize for something that is true.” Chris Berry, WMAL’s president and general manager, disputed Graham’s characterization, saying in an interview that “no one involved in this decision ever had any contact with anyone from CAIR.” Instead, he said, Graham was terminated because he violated station policy and disregarded “management direction” to redress it. Officials at WMAL, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., had initially declined to take disciplinary action against Graham, defending his comments as part of the overheated rhetoric of talk radio. But that stance began to change as complaints about Graham’s remarks mounted. Graham, 43, is one of several conservative talk hosts featured on the station. WMAL (630 AM) also carries Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio shows. Graham’s WMAL show is not syndicated. The station had hoped to work out an agreement that would return Graham to the air, Berry said, but it was evident by early yesterday that Graham would not agree to the station’s terms. He added in a statement: “Some of Michael’s statements about Islam went over the line — and this isn’t the first time that he has been reprimanded for insensitive language and comments. In this case, as previously, Michael’s on-air statements do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of station management. I asked Michael for an on-air acknowledgment that some of his remarks were overly broad, and inexplicably he refused.” In 1999, Graham was fired from a Charlotte station for saying that the killing of athletes was a “minor benefit” of the Columbine shootings. He apologized the next day. CAIR applauded WMAL’s decision. The organization had asked the station for a retraction or an apology, but “we didn’t get specific on what [Graham] should say,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman. “We were looking for an acknowledgment that his statements were anti-Muslim and hateful, and harmful to our community and our country’s image.” Berry said no permanent replacement for Graham has been chosen because the station until yesterday thought Graham would be returning to work. He said WMAL will try several hosts in Graham’s slot over the next few weeks. Graham has clashed with CAIR in the past. Last year, the group said comments he made on WMAL implicitly advocated violence against Muslims, and it cited him in a campaign called “Hate Hurts America.”
Perhaps no other issue has stirred as much controversy both inside and outside France as the recent decision to ban the veil in French public schools. In the heat of the passions this issue has ignited over the conflict between Islam and the West and western racism against Arabs and Muslims, it was easy to lose sight of the political and cultural context in which this ban was promulgated, a context that suggests that the problems at hand pertain more to the nature of, and perhaps a crisis in, French secularism than they do to the fight against Islam.
President Jacques Chirac has called on for a law banning Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from French state schools. “In all conscience, I consider that the wearing of dress or symbols which conspicuously show religious affiliation should be banned in schools,” he said in a speech on the long controversy over the role of religion in French public life.