Judges in Danish courts will be banned from wearing headscarves and other religious apparel, under a new proposal put forth by the government. The bill, which also states that judges in all courts would be required to wear robes, is being supported by the parliament, including the Social Democrats – which is the largest opposition party. The proposal comes after almost a month of debate that would exclude Muslim women who wore headscarves from becoming judges. However, the ban, if passed, would apply to all forms of religious apparel, including Jewish yarmulkes and Christian crosses.
For all its good intentions, European multiculturalism fails to make a place for religion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams — the titular head of the 77-million strong worldwide Anglican Church — ignited a huge controversy last week when he suggested in a lecture in the Royal Courts of Law that Britain should adopt certain aspects of Shariah law. This was done with the benign intention of integrating into British law the practices and beliefs of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims. However, the archbishop’s apparent suggestion that Muslims could opt out of secular common law for separate arbitration and judgement in Islamic religious courts created the impression of one law for Muslims and another for everybody else.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury announced last month that British authorities should accommodate Sharia, he placed the Anglican church in the middle of a heated controversy. For many Brits, sharia is associated with amputation, whipping and stoning for even small infractions. Though others reject these associations, the prospect of a “plural jurisdiction” in which Muslims could choose to resolve disputes in secular or Muslim courts is no less appalling. The Archbishop’s statements have triggered debate about whether individuals have the option to “opt out” of secular institutions, as would be the case with the establishment of a parallel sharia legal system in Britain. This debate is closely watched by other Western countries who will be affected by Britain’s precedent.
A suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings has been arrested in Morocco, and will be tried there, judiciary officials said. Moroccan authorities detained the suspect, Abdelilah Hriz. Spain and Morocco do not have an extradition treaty, but a new legal agreement allows Moroccan courts to try suspects on charges drawn up by Spanish courts. “Morocco does not normally hand over its nationals and in order to be able to try him, a judge here has transferred the legal process there,” National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon said. Hriz’s DNA samples were found on several items found in a suburban Madrid apartment where the seven alleged ringleaders blew themselves up, as police moved in to arrest them three weeks after the bombings.
Islamic courts meet every week in the UK to rule on divorces and financial disputes. Clare Dwyer Hogg and Jonathan Wynne-Jones report on demands by senior Muslims that sharia be given legal authority. Amnah is a modern British Muslim. She is dressed in a denim skirt and her head is covered in a hijab. Poised and self-assured, she has come to meet Dr Suhaib Hasan, a silver-bearded sheikh who sits behind his desk, surrounded by religious books. But why would I have to observe the waiting period?” she asks him. “What are the reasons?” There is an urgency to her questions. Clare Dwyer Hogg and Jonathan Wynne-Jones report.
Twenty-five year-old Asmaa Abdol-Hamid announced her candidacy for the Danish parliament in Copenhagen, Folketing. Abdol-Hamid first became a national celebrity last year as a activist who fought in vain before the courts against the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. Turbulence surrounds her candidacy. The Right is outraged and the Left is skeptical about her place in their coalition.
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.
AMIT ROY Foreigners who want to apply for British nationality will have to pass a Britishness test from tomorrow, the home office announced today. Out of 24 multiple choice questions, candidates will have to get three-quarters right before being eligible to apply for British nationality. The idea, which has gained momentum after the London bombings of June 7, is to create a society in which people feel proud to belong to Britain. Tony McNulty, Tony Blair’s immigration minister, said today: Becoming a British citizen is a milestone event in an individual’s life. He explained: The measures we are introducing today will help new citizens to gain a greater appreciation of the civic and political dimension of British citizenship and, in particular to understanding the rights and responsibilities that come with the acquisition of British citizenship. While urging people to become more British, the government has pursued policies which is having the opposite effect. It is allowing the setting up of faith schools, mainly Muslim, within the state system. Their supporters have argued that if Christians and Jews can have their own schools, Muslims, too, should be allowed the same right. While this argument has intellectual force, it does encourage children to grow up without developing natural friendships with pupils from other faiths. There are a couple of Hindu schools and a Sikh one is in the pipeline. But Hindus and Sikhs seem less enthusiastic about sending their children to faith schools. On the other hand, a whole generation of Indian immigrants, mainly women, has lived in Britain for more than 30 years without bothering to learn English. The same is true of Pakistanis, notably Mirpuris, in Bradford and other cities in Yorkshire and the West Midlands. As for the Britishness test, foreigners will have to pay _34 to sit the 45-minute exam, which can be taken at any one of 90 centres through the country. Those who fail can take the computer-based exam again and again. The Life in the UK test, based on a handbook, is intended to examine a candidate’s knowledge of everyday life in the country in such areas as British regional accents, the Church of England, the courts and the telephone system. Sample Questions Revealed Today Are Of The Type: _ Where are the Geordie, Cockney, and Scouse dialects spoken? What are MPs? What is the Church of England and who is its head? _ What is the Queen’s official role and what ceremonial duties does she have? Do many children live in single parent families or step-families? _ Which of these courts uses a jury system? Magistrates’ Court? Crown Court? Youth Court? County Court. _ Is the statement below true or false? Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union. _ Which two telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services? 112? 123? 555? 999? _ Which of these statements is correct? A television licence is required for each television in a home. A single television licence covers all televisions in a home. (Answers to the last four questions are: 1. Crown Court 2. False 3. 112 and 999 4. A single television licence covers all televisions in a home) Last year more than 110,000 people were awarded British citizenship, according to the home office.
By SHELLEY EMLING LONDON – Almost a month after suicide bombers killed 52 people on London’s transit system, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday Britain will move to deport foreigners who spout hatred, sponsor violence, or belong to radical groups. Using strong language, Blair announced plans for anti-terrorist legislation this fall that will tighten the country’s longtime policy of hosting foreign extremists, which has earned London the nickname “Londonistan.” “Coming to Britain is not a right. And even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty,” Blair said at his monthly news conference. “That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life. “Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and its people have no place here,” he said. Blair said a list of extremist Web sites, bookshops, centers, networks, and particular organizations of concern would be drawn up, and that foreign nationals involved in them may be deported. Those who have participated in terrorist activity would automatically be denied asylum. In a particularly controversial move, Blair said the new legislation would make membership in extremist Islamic groups a crime. He cited Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a movement that sprouted in the Middle East during the 1950s and which has called for the creation of an Islamic state in Central Asia. The group’s spokesman, Imran Waheed, called the organization a nonviolent political party and said it would fight any move to ban it in the courts. Blair also said he was prepared to amend human rights legislation if necessary in order to make the deportation of those involved in inciting terrorism “more straightforward.” He also said that citizenship rules already requiring those seeking British citizenship to swear allegiance to the country would be reviewed to see if changes were needed. The foreign Muslims who might face deportation under the new measures could include some of Britain’s best-known Islamic clerics. Blair pledged to include Muslim leaders on a commission that would help shape the new legislation. But his statements still prompted the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain to react with “concern and alarm.” “Banning Hizb-ut-Tahrir is certainly not the solution, and may well prove to be counterproductive,” said Iqbal Sacranie, the council’s secretary-general. “We understand that Hizb-ut-Tahrir in the United Kingdom are an avowedly nonviolent group. “If there are groups thought to be contravening our laws, then they ought to be prosecuted in courts of law, not driven underground,” he said. Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties group Liberty, also expressed disappointment in Blair’s plans. “Shuffling people off around the globe is not an answer to national or world security,” she told BBC’s Radio 4. But Blair’s tough stance is sure to please critics who have long blasted Britain’s lax attitudes towards housing those who stir violence. In a recent editorial, the Daily Mail newspaper said that “the British state has taken an inexcusably relaxed attitude towards extreme Muslim sects and preachers, the worst of whom are anti-Semitic and homophobic and sympathetic to violence.” Other European countries have not been so tolerant. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, for example, has wasted no time since the July 7 terrorist bombings in weeding out those who preach anti-Western hatred. France announced earlier this week that it would expel two radical Islamist leaders and plans to send home up to two dozen more by the end of August. Now it appears that Britain is set to follow suit. Blair pointed out that steps to tighten anti-terrorism legislation have met with fierce opposition in the past. “But, for obvious reasons, the mood now is different,” he said. “The country knows the purpose of terrorism is to intimidate and it is not inclined to be intimidated.” Indeed, many Britons applauded the hard-line stance. “I think (deportation) is a reasonable price to pay if someone has talked out against their country and incited others to act violently,” said Karen Pollock, a market researcher. “People who want to do harm need to be punished.”
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has warned that racist crime in the country is rising because of the ongoing War on Terror. Figures published by the CPS and reported by The Indepnedent show prosecutions of racially aggravated offences have increased by 2,500 since race-hate laws were introduced in 1999. In the past two years, those prosecutions have jumped by more than 20 per cent. Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions warned that a growth in race-hate crime and a sharp rise in the number of young Asian men being stopped by the police threatened to alienate Britain’s Muslim communities. The CPS said there was also evidence of inter-racial religious hatred crime. Between April 2003 and the end of March 2004, the CPS dealt with 4,728 racially aggravated cases and prosecuted 3,616 of them. The figures also suggest other cases are not being prosecuted because of difficulties getting witnesses to give evidence in court. The CPS has pledged to tackle race crimes more vigorously after a report by its independent inspectorate in May 2002 found prosecutors were wrongly reducing charges in more than one in four racist incidents. Charges of racially aggravated crimes were regularly downgraded to remove the race element, while in other cases prosecutors accepted defendants’ guilty pleas to the crime minus the racial aggravation. The conviction rate for all those charged remains high at 86 per cent compared to 85 per cent in 2002-2003. The breakdown of religiously aggravated offences mirrors racially aggravated offences. Public order was the predominant offence followed by assault, criminal damage and harassment. The majority of the charges were prosecuted in the magistrates’ courts. In magistrates’, crown and youth courts the overall conviction rate was 77 per cent on religiously aggravated charges and 86 per cent on all charges. (ANI)