Michigan Case Adds U.S. Dimension to Debate on Genital Mutilation

NYT Op ED:

The arrest of 3 doctors in Michigan for performing female genital mutilation prompted Tasneem Raja, 34, a journalist, to write about being cut in New Jersey. She said she had received “an outpouring of emails from people saying thank you.”

“This Michigan case made me think I want to speak out,” said Nazia Mirza, 34, who was cut at age 6 in her hometown, Houston. “To me it’s very much like a rape survivor. If you don’t say anything, then how are you going to expose it and bring awareness?”

But Ms. Raja said the case was exposing a spectrum of feelings. Even among Bohra women who oppose cutting, she said, views range from “women who say this has greatly impacted their sex life and their ability to enjoy sex, to people like me who walked away with lifelong emotional trauma, to people who say, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.’”

CAIR-AZ Condemns ADL’s Stereotyping of Muslims in Bill 1062 Debate

February 28, 2014

 

The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ) today called on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to apologize for stereotypical statements made about Muslims during recent debate over Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which would have shielded businesses from lawsuits if employees acted on religious beliefs to discriminate against customers.

In testimony before a state Senate committee the ADL’s assistant regional director posed a scenario in which, “A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”

“It is unconscionable that a group purporting to defend civil rights would resort to religious bigotry to promote its political agenda,” said CAIR-AZ Board Chair Imraan Siddiqi. “The introduction of this stereotypical scenario gave way to the narrative that Muslims are in some way serial abusers of ‘religious freedom based denials of service,’ which is completely baseless.”

Siddiqi noted that Muslims, like the majority of other Arizonans, believe that those serving the public must treat all customers equally, or be prepared to seek another line of work.

In 2010, CAIR’s New York chapter called on the ADL to retract its statement against the construction of an Islamic community center in New York City.

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12390-cair-az-condemns-adl-stereotyping-of-muslims-in-bill-1062-debate.html

Dual Nationality in Germany: Double Standards in the Citizenship Debate

December 5, 2013

 

Summary: If a Turk receives and keeps German citizenship in addition to his own Turkish nationality, then he suffers an identity crisis. If a German were to additionally obtain Turkish citizenship however, this would be no problem at all. A commentary by Prof. Klaus J. Bade.

Full story at Qantara.de – http://en.qantara.de/content/dual-nationality-in-germany-double-standards-in-the-citizenship-debate

Debate on European Islam: A Mined Terrain

November 28, 2011

The concept of European Islam has proved to be a constant source of controversy. For some it embodies the deliverance of Islam from everything that is perceived as backward looking and pre-modern. Others fear that a European Islam is a watered-down religion, a kind of government-controlled “state Islam”, prepared to fully accommodate to the wishes of the authorities. By Claudia Mende

Initial debate on European Islam was ill-fated. The German political scientist Bassam Tibi introduced the concept in the early 1990s. He linked the concept with a severe criticism of traditional Islam, which, in Tibi’s view, has experienced nothing akin to the Enlightenment. He thereby launched a head-on clash with many Muslims. Bassam Tibi proposed European Islam as an alternative model to the Islam practiced in the Arab world and to everything that appears deplorable there.

According to Tibi, Muslims should adopt the dominant European culture as their own, and many considered this to be nothing less than a call to assimilation. Since this inauspicious start, discussions on a European variety of Islam have been sharply polarized.

Varied lives of European Muslims

Of course, living in Europe influences the outlooks and beliefs of Muslims here. Yet, is it possible to reasonably speak of a European Islam? This question was the theme of an international conference recently hosted by the Catholic Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.

Some 15 million Muslims currently live in Europe. Their ways of life and identities are highly varied.

While the Muslim community in Western Europe consists mainly of immigrants who have arrived since the 1950s as well as their descendants into the fourth generation, Islam in the Balkans has a totally different face. In Bosnia, Muslims can look back upon a centuries-old history and they have long since regarded themselves as Europeans.

Even in Poland, in addition to recent immigrants, there exists a small minority of Muslim Tatars, who settled in the country 600 years ago. Islam in France has strong roots in North and West Africa, while in Britain, the vast majority of Muslims have immigrant backgrounds from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The German Islam Conference has also asserted its desire to make a contribution to European Islam, thereby giving it the air of a project imposed from above. Does the state intend to embrace the representatives of Islam for as long as it takes until some sort of secularized “Islam light” emerges? Would this be a “tamed” Islam, as its disturbing aspects will have been shed? And by disturbing, we mean here those aspects that sound “unenlightened” to European ears, such as the Sharia or the lack of a separation between church and state.

Some critics of the German Islam Conference, which was initiated by former Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, view such moves as an attempt by outsiders to interfere in an internal Islamic debate.

Parallels with Christianity

The German-Turkish sociologist Levent Tezcan from Tilburg University in the Netherlands sees Christianity as the reference point in the discussion about a European Islam. He says that European Islam may develop just like Christianity did. It would mean that Islam, as Christianity before it, eventually could overcome its conflict with modernity and reconcile itself with the modern world.

This is precisely where the critics view the danger and sense with foreboding a watering down of their religion. They see the empty pews in churches and express the fear of abandoned prayer rooms in the recently built mosques. The fear is that the forces binding the faithful to their own traditions will eventually wane. Just as Christian churches are struggling with declining membership, Muslims also dread the day when they lose their young people to a secular Europe. The prospect of such a decline arouses fear in many Muslims. As Tezcan puts it, the “landmines” are ready to explode in the debate on European Islam.

The situation is equally tense for those Muslims questioning for themselves what a European Islam really means. This question is especially pertinent for younger Muslims, those in the third and fourth generation, as they no longer feel closely bound to their “homeland.” This is particularly the case in Germany, where Turkey has traditionally claimed the right to influence the Turkish-Muslim community and its development. Ditib, the Turkish-Islamic Union, is an umbrella organization representing almost 900 mosque communities in Germany. It is closely tied to Diyanet, the Turkish religious authority in Ankara. Kerem Öktem from St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University has described Diyanet, with its close to 100,000 employees, as a kind of “Islamic mini Vatican.”

Close religious ties abroad

Through the religious authorities, the Turkish state exerts structural influence on Ditib, and thereby also on Turkish Muslims in Germany. The Turkish state pays the salaries of the hodjas, i.e. Muslim scholars, in the Ditib mosques, and the president of Ditib in Germany also serves as the embassy counsellor for religious affairs at the Turkish embassy in Berlin. Even Prime Minister Erdogan has frequently intervened in the debate on immigration in Germany and has warned his fellow countrymen against assimilation.

Such close ties to a foreign country are unimaginable for Muslims from Bosnia. They have a completely different perspective on this issue from the Islamic associations in Germany. Already back in 1882, Bosnia withdrew from the authority of Sheikh ul-Islam in Istanbul. “It was painful, but it was the right decision in the long run,” asserts Senad Kusur from the Bosnian Educational, Cultural, and Sports Association in Vienna. He asks provocatively, “Will Western European Muslims have their 1882, too?”

At the moment, this would be unthinkable for the representatives of Ditib and Milli Görüs, the Turkish diaspora organization in Europe. The question provokes fear in their hearts. In light of a growing Islamophobia in Europe, they are not at all certain whether their children will be able to enjoy equal rights as Muslims in Germany.

For many association representatives Turkey remains a lifeline, symbolically, at the very least. Mustafa Yeneroglu, Secretary General of Milli Görüs, says that the members of the association still live with one foot in Turkey. “If things don’t work out in Germany, then there is always the option of returning to Turkey,” he says. But do the subsequent generations see things the same way?

The structures of the religious organizations indicate another story. According to the sociologist Levent Tezcan, the sort of mosque associations that exist in Germany are not to be found in Turkey. The manner in which the mosque associations are organised is typically European, he claims. The more Islamic structures are created in Germany, the more an association such as Ditib would organize things in a manner specific to Germany, thereby loosening the ties to Diyanet. While the younger generation of Muslims is pushing for greater integration into German society, older Muslims fear the loss of connection to their homeland. They fear the day will come when their children no longer understand Turkish.

Critical voices sidelined

At present, significant structures for Islam in Germany are being created through the establishment of programmes in Islamic theology at German universities and the introduction of courses in Islam at schools in most German states. Rabeya Müller from the Centre for Islamic Women’s Research (ZIF) in Cologne cautions, however, that dialogue within the Muslim community leaves much to be desired and critical voices are sidelined.

Is the much-heralded European Islam merely a construct that has little to do with the daily reality of Muslims, as Taner Yüksel, head of the education department at Ditib, believes? In case of doubt, real life is one step ahead of the intellectual debates. A European Islam is already far more than what the Islamic functionaries are willing to acknowledge.

Qantara.de – http://en.qantara.de/content/debate-on-european-islam-a-mined-terrain

France’s Peculiar Same-Sex Marriage Debate

May 28, 2013
On May 18, French president Francois Hollande signed the Marriage for All bill, legalizing same-sex marriage in France. Why should it be surprising? From the American point of view, French are known for their strong secular culture, their praise of sexual freedom, and their commitment to abortion. So no surprise there. But the conditions surrounding the vote were very surprising and unusual in the French secular context. It brought to the streets a strong opposition led by Catholics like Frigid Barjot, the self-proclaimed “press secretary for Jesus.” Opposition was both religious and secular, creating strange alliances of secular leftist and religious conservative figures. Most notably, the main argument against the law drew on natural and social sciences, not on religion.The same-sex marriage debate has divided French society in a way not seen for nearly three decades. The split was reflected in the vote for the law itself that passed by a slim margin (331 to 225). And the vote was the outcome of several months of heated and passionate debate, including demonstrations in major French cities that rallied more than three hundred thousand people at a time. Columnist and right-wing political activist Virginie Merle, better known as Frigide Barjot (a pun on Brigitte Bardot), has emerged as the spokesperson of the opposition. Outspoken and witty, she became a born-again Catholic in 2004 after making a pilgrimage to Lourdes. As early as last fall, she took the lead in coordinating protesters under the umbrella movement La Manif Pour Tous, (Demonstration for All). Since January the group has organized several demonstrations and continues to protest despite passage of the law. In the last stages of the parliamentary debate, the protests even took a radical turn with clashes between the demonstrators and the police. Barjot called “for blood” while Beatrice Bourges, co-leader of La Manif Pour Tous, threatened civil disobedience if the law passed, and called for a French Spring. Other protests continue as well. On May 21, seventy-eight-year-old historian and writer Dominique Venner, known for his extreme-right-wing positions, shot himself on the altar of Notre Dame in front of fifteen hundred visitors after professing his support for ongoing demonstrations on his blog.Even if the majority of protesters come from groups close to the conservative branch of the Catholic Church, what is striking from an American perspective is the ideological and religious diversity of the movement. It includes various political groups and personalities from the entire ideological spectrum, as well as representatives of religions other than Catholicism, and even gay groups in favor of the status quo. The contrast with the United States, where the opponents belong mostly to evangelical or Catholic groups in alliance with the Republican Party, is stark. Even if we limit the comparison between the two countries to religious groups, the difference is striking. The 2012 U.S. presidential elections showed a shift among young Republican voters toward support for same-sex marriage, while the protests against the same-sex marriage in France reveal the emergence of “les catholiques intransigeants” (uncompromising Catholics). They are urban, well educated and lean toward the extreme right. For example, 27 percent of 18-35 years olds who belong to this group voted for the National Front of Marine Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen) in the last presidential election. This is a significant change from the previous generation of Catholic activists who were enthusiast supporters of Vatican II and tended to vote for left-wing parties.

Most interestingly, the protests have mobilized a vast array of political and religious personalities. For this reason, the debate was rarely coined in religious terms (except by a few clerics like Cardinal Vingt-Trois). It was grounded instead on anthropological and sociological arguments about family, social stability and the survival of the human species. In stark opposition with the United States, where scientists and scholars have usually spoken in favor of same-sex marriage using scientific arguments, the same groups in France have used science against same-sex marriage. On March 16, 170 law professors sent an open letter to the French Senate stating their opinion that children adopted by same-sex couples will be deprived of knowing their biological origin. The letter also argued that same-sex marriage legitimizes the commodification of procreation by producing a “market where children can be fabricated and sold like goods”. Psychoanalysts Pierre Levy-Soussan, Jean Pierre Winter, and Christian Flavigny weighed in warning of the negative effects of same-sex families in the psychological development of children, calling such couples a biological experiment. Philosophers and sociologists also joined in, the most prominent being Sylviane Agacenski, the wife of former socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin. She raised concerns about the survival of the marriage as a fundamental institution for the transmission of social identities based on gender and generations. Philosopher Pierre-Yves Zarka argued that same-sex marriage legitimizes extreme individualism that puts the social cohesion of democratic communities at risk by undermining social cohesion in favor of personal desires and lifestyles.

These biological and sociological arguments against the law reveal an anxiety about the meaning of social identities and the nature of social cohesion that is very specific to French society and goes far beyond the religious condemnation of homosexuality. At the same time, it highlights that French collective values remain unconsciously connected to a traditional vision of society, and that the religious conception of the family has not been completely eroded by centuries of French secularization.

Jocelyne Cesari is senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and director of Harvard University’s program on Islam in the West.

Segregated Seating at University College London Debate Between Islam and Atheism Sparks Controversy

11 March 2013

 

A debate held on the campus of University College London (UCL) and hosted by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) between Professor Lawrence Krauss, a leading atheist, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a lecturer on Islam, sparked controversy when event organizers instituted a gender-segregated seating policy, though the specifics of this policy are contested. The debate was held on 9 March and was entitled, “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?”

 

Reports indicate that Professor Krauss, upon seeing women directed toward the back of the auditorium and three men being removed from the women’s section, threatened to walk out of the debate. This apparently prompted event organizers to abandon the seating policy and the event was held as scheduled.

 

Accounts differ as to the nature of the seating policy, with one member of the iERA claiming that women attendees merely had the option to sit in a women’s only section and were not forced to do so. The arrangement was instituted to respect those Muslim women who desired to “adhere to orthodox Islamic principles” by sitting in their own section. The member further emphasized that the seating arrangement, consisting of one all-male section, one all-female section, and one mixed section, was approved by UCL representatives prior to the debate.

 

For its part, UCL has launched an investigation into the issue to determine whether any university policies had been violated.

Debate on the implementation of Islamic law in Britain

8 November 2012

 

Implementations of Islamic law in the UK and their effect on the integration of the Muslim community have been debated in the public. Many argue that such a move would disturb the secular nature of the society and lead to problems in creating a coherent society. On the other hand, some argue that whether or not it is allowed, it is being implemented by the Muslim community and allowing it would help the further integration of Muslims in the Britain.

 

The article touches upon these issues while giving examples how the Islamic law that is combined with the British law is implemented to solve the problems of British Muslims.

The Circumcision Debate in Germany: A Miscalculation

Is it possible to justify a Cologne court’s ruling on the legality of circumcision on the basis of Germany’s Basic Law? In this essay, Patrick Bahners takes a closer look at both the Basic Law and the ruling and concludes that the judges in Cologne must have made a serious error of judgement

Anyone who toils over his tax returns, painstakingly adding up write-offs and tax-free contributions, and finally comes to the conclusion that he can expect to receive a refund the size of the federal budget will instantly realise that the result cannot possibly be correct. Such obviously absurd conclusions also occur in the field of practical reason.

A ruling by a German regional court, which, if observed, would mean that all Jews would have to leave the country, cannot possibly be correct. Our human faculties of reason, better known as common sense, tell us so. This also explains the prompt and unequivocal reactions of leading politicians to the Cologne circumcision ruling. Their intuition is intact, which is certainly a relief.

Interview with Kenan Kolat”: We Need an Open Debate about Institutional Racism”

The failure of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency to halt the activities of a neo-Nazi terror cell and recent revelations about the destruction of key files have led to accusations of institutional racism. Kenan Kolat, the head of the Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland (the Turkish Community in Germany), an advocacy group representing the interests of Turkish people in Germany, says faith in the country’s security organs has hit rock bottom. Samira Sammer spoke to him.

 

Chancellor Merkel and the Debate on integration

May 14

 

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has publicly expressed support for the view that Islam is integral part of German society. Doing so, she openly disagreed with opinions voiced in the last months by the Minister of Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) and the head of political Union parties CDU/CSU in the parliament, Volker Kauder (CDU). In front of the pupils of a Berlin school, chancellor Merkel talked about the significant presence of Muslims in German society and their belonging to it. Muslims are part of today’s environment, and many of them are German citizens, Merkel declared. Thus, Islam becomes a part of society, too. Many things known today in Germany have been transported through Islam.

 

This is the first time after the pro Islam speech of former German president Christian Wulff (CDU) in 2010, that chancellor Merkel speaks in favor of Islam as an integral part of Germany. Minister of Interior Friedrich had repeatedly disagreed with recognizing Islam as a part of Germany, emphasizing the Christian-Jewish occidental culture of Germany.