Secularism, State Policies, and Muslims in Europe

Islam has increasingly become an internal affair in several western European countries, where the Muslim population has grown to ten to fifteen million. In recent years, the European public has intensely discussed Muslims and Islam on several occasions, from terrorist attacks in London and Madrid to the debates on Danish cartoons. In short, there is today a “Muslim question” in the minds of many European politicians when it comes to the issues of immigration, integration, and security. European states have pursued diverse policies to regulate their Muslim populations. The most controversial of these policies is France’s recent ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public schools, which has been discussed in France and abroad since 1989. Other European countries, however, have taken Muslim students’ headscarves as a part of their individual freedom and have not prohibited them.

The Charlie-Hebdo magazine in France Acquitted in Mohammad Cartoons Case

The Charlie-Hebdo weekly satirical Paris-based newspaper has been cleared of a charge of publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion. A group of French Muslim associations filed a complaint following their publication of the 2005 Danish cartoons in February 2006. The appeals court ruled that the cartoons were not aimed at insulting all Muslims, did not constitute an attack on Islam and did not go beyond the limits of free speech. The paper’s lawyer, Richard Malka, proclaimed the decision a beautiful victory for secularism and freedom of expression.

Protests continue in Afghanistan over Dutch film and Danish cartoons; demand troop withdrawal

Thousands of Afghanis demonstrated last weekend in Western Afghanistan, shouting slogans against Denmark and the Netherlands for alleged insults against Islam, concerning the re-printing of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers, and the upcoming release of an anti-Quran film by a Dutch lawmaker. An estimated 10,000 people took part in the protest, where shouts were heard of Death to Denmark for insulting our prophet” and “Death to the Netherlands for insulting our religion.” Protesters torched flags of each nation, and said that Kabul must sever ties with the Dutch and Danish governments, including the expulsion of their troops serving with a NATO-led force to tackle extremist insurgency.

French Muslims seek new representative body in mosque

French Muslims want new blood injected into the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the country’s main representative body, to redress deficiencies and start a new chapter. “Five years after the council came into being, it is time for a second reading to its policies,” Larbi Kechat, the rector of the Ad Dawa mosque in Paris, told IslamOnline.net. On June 8th, the CFCM will hold its third general elections, which will see some 5,232 mosque representatives casting the ballot to choose a 65-member general assembly; 14 days later, the new assembly will elect 17 members to the council’s board, who will then elect a president. Incumbent CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Paris Grand Mosque, has expressed desire for third 3-year term – but sources say he is lacking in support. Criticism abounds over the CFCM’s poor achievements over the past five years, and its mishandling over key issues like the hijab and Islamophobia. Many members also believe that it did not respond properly to the reprinting of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Dutch intelligence agency says terror threat is receding but radicalization continues

The threat of terror attacks is receding in the Netherlands thanks to tough new laws and the prosecution of key Islamic extremists, the head of the country’s national intelligence service said Friday. “The concrete threat of homegrown jihadist networks appears to have receded,” said Sybrand van Hulst, head of the Dutch Intelligence and Security Service, as he presented the group’s annual report. “Nevertheless, it is still conceivable that there could be terrorist attacks in the Netherlands,” he said. Van Hulst warned that radicalization of young Muslims was continuing, fueled by events such as the Iraq war and the crisis caused by Danish cartoons that many Muslims believe insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Van Hulst said that a trend was developing for radical Muslims to preach ultraorthodox Islam to mainly young second- or third-generation immigrant men (…)

Tv Skewing Americans’ View Of Peaceful Islam, Muslim Leaders Say

DETROIT – It was an image of Islam that might have startled many Americans: a young Muslim woman wearing a traditional head scarf standing in the center of a chandeliered banquet hall singing the U.S. national anthem. “It saddens me,” Denise Hazime, a 25-year-old, Muslim American law student remarked after watching the woman sing to kick off an Arab student fundraiser. “The way things are now, I bet the average American would never think of the image of a covered girl singing our national anthem.” The way things are now is this: American Muslim leaders say they are facing an increasingly tough public relations battle as they fight to portray their faith as non-violent. Some Muslims say conveying a peaceful image of Islam is tougher now than it was after the Sept. 11 attacks, and they blame a daily barrage of negative media images. They are referring to stories such as a Christian convert being threatened with execution in Afghanistan, coverage of thousands of Muslims expressing outrage at Danish cartoons and shouting anti-Western threats, and daily bloody images from Iraq. “We say we’re peaceful people, but it doesn’t matter what we say,” said Irfan Rydhan, 31, a spokesperson and organizer for the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, Calif. “They see these violent images on TV, and those people look like us.” American views of their Muslim neighbors had been improving. A Pew Research Center poll released in July 2005, after the London terrorist bombings, showed that 55% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Muslim Americans. But a Washington Post/ABC News poll released in March showed that a majority of Americans have a negative view of Islam. ‘It’s really hard right now’ It seems as if extremist voices “have taken over,” said Rana Abbas, a 26-year-old Muslim American who is deputy director of Michigan’s American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a nationwide civil rights group based in Washington, D.C. “It makes your struggle so much harder. It makes it seem as if all your efforts are in vain. It’s really hard right now for moderate Muslims to get their message out.” A large part of the public relations problem is that most Americans do not have a basic understanding of the turmoil that exists in parts of the Muslim world, said James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, a political advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Zogby said that many heavily Islamic regions have been destabilized by war. “The problem is not the nature of the religion; it is the dislocation and disruption of normal society brought on by the trauma of war,” he said. “It’s similar to what happened in our own country during the post-Civil War period where you had lynchings and the emergence of extremist currents that lasted for decades.” Imam Hassan Qazwini heads the largest mosque in the USA, the Islamic Center of America, based in Dearborn, Mich. Qazwini said he and other imams have grown weary of being made to answer for every violent act committed in the name of Mohammed. “This has become a daily nightmare for Muslims,” Qazwini said. “We’re upset. We’re frustrated. We cannot control every Muslim. We cannot be held responsible for everything.” Qazwini said he is confounded when Islam as a whole is blamed for the actions of individuals, while other religions are not. “How is it that when Pat Robertson calls for the murder of the president of a sovereign country that nobody said Christianity is promoting violence and murder?” Qazwini said, referring to Robertson’s call last August for the assassination Venezuelan President Hugo Ch_vez. Robertson later apologized. Qazwini said his mosque is trying to do its part to open dialogue. The mosque offers tours of the elaborate, 76,000-square-foot community and worship center, which is topped with a huge dome and accented with teak and mahogany doors carved in Turkey and the Philippines. ‘We’re not so different’ A group of 27 eighth-grade girls and boys from a Catholic school about an hour outside Detroit recently toured the mosque. The girls fidgeted with their makeshift headscarves, straw-blond hair poking out. A boy with shaggy bangs and pale skin asked the tour guide, a 46-year-old nurse consultant who sent her daughter to Catholic school, “How come you can’t draw Mohammed?” He was referring to recent news stories about the controversial Danish cartoons and the belief that any images of Mohammed are considered sacrilege in Islam. As guide Najah Bazzy waved goodbye to the students, one of their teachers stopped to thank her, saying it was her first time in a mosque. The teacher added, “We’re not so different.” Bazzy agreed. “That’s why these tours are so important,” Bazzy said after the teacher left. Muslims in San Jose are making special efforts at public relations, too. “Images are more powerful than any words,” the South Bay Islamic Association’s Rydhan said. With that in mind, Rydhan organized “Muslim Unity Day” last year at Paramount’s Great America amusement park. He said part of his mission was to provide an image of Muslims being carefree, and that’s his mission for this year’s unity day, too, which is Aug. 27. More than 4,000 Muslims from the area showed up for a day last year at the park in Santa Clara, Calif. The South Bay Islamic Association’s imam, wearing traditional loose, white religious clothing and a thick, long beard, got off a water ride with some friends at one point during the festivities. He was soaking wet and laughing. That’s a good picture, Rydhan says he thought to himself.

Church In Wales Recalls Magazine With Mohammed Cartoon

The Anglican Church in Wales said it was recalling all copies of its Welsh-languge Y Llan (Church) magazine that features a French cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Taken from the France-Soir newspaper, the cartoon shows Mohammed on a heavenly cloud with Buddha, Moses, and God who tells him: “Don’t complain, Mohammed, we’ve all been caricatured here.” “The Church in Wales is thoroughly investigating how this cartoon came to be reproduced in Y Llan,” a spokesman for Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, said Tuesday. He added that Morgan had sent apologies to the Muslim Council of Wales for any offence caused. The cartoon was used to illustrate an article in Y Llan — which has a circulation of about 400 copies — about the shared ancestry of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It first appeared in France-Soir on February 2, a day after the Paris-based daily reproduced a collection of Danish cartoons which touched off a wave of sometimes violent protests by Muslims around the world. Last month, a Cardiff University student union newspaper was withdrawn after it printed one of the Danish cartoons.