Update: Haitham al-Haddad Participates in Amsterdam Debate

18 February 2012

 

Islamic scholar Haitham al-Haddad participated in a public debate in Amsterdam cultural center De Balie following the decision by Amsterdam’s Vrij Universiteit (VU) to cancel his planned appearance. The controversial cleric had been invited to the VU by the Islamic Students’ Association, but the event was cancelled following protests from MPs.

After the VU cancelled the initial event, al-Haddad appeared instead in a public conversation at cultural organization De Balie, at a round table including MP Tofik Dibi (Green Left) and prominent journalist Kustaw Bessems, and others. During the debate al-Haddad reaffirmed the extreme sentiments upon which his controversial reputation is based, including commenting during the question period that apostates should be killed in a Muslim country. Dutch media coverage of the event included discussion regarding whether or not al-Haddad had made inflammatory and anti-Semitic statements on public record.

The full debate is available on YouTube. See also previous coverage on the cancellation of the VU debate.

Amsterdam’s Free University Cancels Debate with Controversial Islamic Scholar

16 February 2012

Amsterdam’s Free University (VU) has cancelled a debate organized by the Islamic
Student Union of Amsterdam, which was to see Haitham al-Haddad, a controversial
Saudi-born scholar living in London, in conversation with Yasser Ellethy of the
Centre for Islamic Theology. The subject of the debate was the role of the Muslim
scholar in the west.
Al-Haddad has faced criticism for making anti-semitic remarks, including reportedly
describing Jews as ‘the enemies of God and the descendents of apes and pigs’. The
Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), opposed his presence
in the Netherlands and requested that the VU rescind the invitation. MPs from the
country’s Freedom Party (PVV) and Christian Union Party urged the government to
bar al-Haddad from entering the Netherlands.
The VU initially continued with plans for the debate but cancelled the event on 16
February, following complaints from Jewish students.

Debate about the acceptability of Islamic finance in Canada

Macleans – January 16, 2012

Canada, with its 1.3 million Muslims, has lagged behind countries like the U.K. and the U.S. in embracing sharia-compliant financial products. None of the country’s big banks currently offer sharia-compliant services, though some smaller players do. Toronto-based UM Financial Inc., which issued home mortgages conforming to Islamic law, filed for bankruptcy last year, leaving 170 Muslim borrowers in limbo. Is the firm’s failure evidence that Canada should steer clear of Islamic finance; or proof that the country needs more of it–i.e. that the banks and policymakers need to bring the practice into the mainstream, with tighter rules and better oversight? This article features a debate with Tarek Fatah is the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, and Walid Hejazi is associate professor of international business at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, where he is currently teaching an MBA course on Islamic finance.

German State of Hesse Re-Ignites Burqa-Debate

12.01.2012

The Christian Democrats (CDU) in the German state of Hesse have reignited the debate about a burqa ban in Germany. CDU-politician Alexander Bauer presented the main ideas of the CDU’s integration policy on Thursday; while the party acknowledges Germany’s immigration reality and the diversity amongst Germany’s population, they are also inclined to impose a ban on full-face veils, as people have to be willing to “show their face” if they live in Germany.

Room for Debate: Is Americans’ Religious Freedom Under Threat?

Companies have pulled their ads from a TV show that portrays Muslims as benign. Religious groups may be required to offer insurance that covers drugs that can induce abortions. A federal judge rejected a ballot initiative on same-sex marriage partly because of its religious arguments. Are these just bubbles in the American melting pot, or signs that religious freedom is under threat?

Thomas Farr and Timothy Shah, of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, organized this discussion.

Religion in the Public Square by Tim Shah and Thomas Farr

Is religious freedom under threat in America today? Yes and no. Compared to Eritrea, where the government habitually forces Pentecostals into unventilated shipping containers until they renounce their beliefs, American religious freedom is in very good shape. But comparative evils abroad are a poor reason to be complacent about liberty at home. Today, in fact, multiple threats warrant special vigilance.

Liberty Is Elusive for Sikh Americans by Rajdeep Singh

For religious minorities in the United States, the promise of religious freedom remains unfulfilled. Sikh Americans, in particular, continue to face relentless challenges in the post-9/11 environment. Worse still, American law affords inadequate protection to Sikhs against religious discrimination and, in some cases, reflects deep-seated stereotypes about American identity.

As American as Religious Persecution by Noah Feldman

Religious liberty has two parts: freedom to worship and freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion. On the first front, the United States is doing great – and has been since the 1700s, well before we even had the First Amendment. Religious dissenters, dissidents and schismatics have long seen the United States as their Canaan, Mecca or Valhalla. Large spaces and the need for immigrants gave birth to the American tradition of laissez faire in religion, and a principled commitment to toleration has firmed up this commitment derived at first from self-interest.

A Campaign Against Patriotic Muslims by Salman Al-Marayati

Yes, religious freedom for the Muslim American is under threat. Fear-mongering toward America’s Muslims and their faith is very clear. The Center for American Progress issued a report this year concluding that anti-Islam groups are financed by a $43 million industry. This garrison of Muslim-haters views Islam as either a theological or political threat in the United States, and their work is reminiscent of the pre-Nazi propaganda produced by Wilhelm Marr that regarded Judaism as a threat to Germany.

Recently, a reality TV show called “All-American Muslim” was aired on TLC, and it became a controversy because it did not include a terrorist. Advertisers are being pressured to pull their support because the show was “offensive.” In other words, Islam cannot be defined by the mainstream in America. It must be defined through the lens of extremism.
Popular books about Islam in bookstores are “The Trouble With Islam Today” and “Why I Am Not a Muslim.” Law enforcement officials are being trained by anti-Muslim bigots so that profiling of Muslims is the norm. Hate against Muslim children in elementary and secondary schools is on the rise.

Human Rights vs. Religious Freedom? By Helen Alvare

Skepticism about the good of religious liberty is growing. Recently, the federal government stopped working with experienced, highly regarded agencies whose religious conscience prevented their providing abortions or contraception; federal employees said they awarded grants instead to lesser-ranked providers. Under proposed federal health care mandates, almost no religious employers would be exempt from providing insurance that covers contraception, including forms that function as early abortifacients; only organizations that primarily serve and hire co-believers qualify for the exemption. Commentators accurately quipped that the ministries of Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa would not qualify. The rhetoric accompanying these moves is hyberbolic: Representative Nancy Pelosi accused Catholic institutions of a willingness to let women “die on the floor.”

Federal Law, at Least, Is on Our Side by Hamza Yusuf

My friend, Cheikhna bin Mahfudh, was about to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco recently and needed a quiet spot for his noontime Muslim prayer. Fortunately, his business class ticket gave him access to an exclusive airport lounge. Just when he was about done praying, which involves four units of standing, bowing and prostrating, and can look like yoga to the uninitiated, an employee came up to him and said, “Sir, it is not permissible to pray here!” He replied: “I was just exercising. Is that a problem?” The bemused man then said: “Oh, sorry. I thought you were praying.”

Public space is sacred in America. It has the sanctity of that small space you carve out on the grocery checkout conveyor belt, where the little bar you set down lets others know that they cross that line with consequences. We don’t like it when others don’t conform, when they deviate from the norm, and when they do, we become flustered.

A Risk Even for the Majority by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

Asking whether religious freedom is under threat implies that we know what religious freedom is. Religious freedom has multiple histories and is understood differently in different times and places. For example, for some today, religious freedom connotes the possibility of an individual to believe or not as she chooses and to act consistently with that belief within the bounds of law. For others, religious freedom implies the right of religious communities to a degree of autonomy or self-governance. A few would argue that religious freedom demands withdrawal and separation from a larger society so as to enable a common way of life. Still others would say that the priority today should be religious coexistence, rather than freedom; that freedom is a misguided goal, whether for individuals or communities, the appropriate goal being to live with difference and without conflict. And of course, to enforce any version of religious freedom also requires a determination as to what counts as religion.

Falling Short of Our Ideals by Michael Mconnel

This nation was founded on the principle of freedom of religion – the right of individuals, families, churches and voluntary religious associations of all sorts to live their lives in accordance with their own understanding of God’s will. That commitment remains strong today.

But our practice often has fallen short of the ideal, as Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and others could attest.

Muslim Protestors Disrupt Amsterdam Debate about Liberal Islam

7 December 2011

During a public dialogue about a ‘liberal approach to Islam’ held in Amsterdam’s cultural venue de Balie, a group of Belgian Muslims entered the hall and disrupted the program. The debate featured Canadian Muslim activist Irshad Manji and Dutch Green Party parliamentarian Tofik DIbi. During their presentation, a group of about 20 Muslims entered the room shouting ‘ Sharia for Holland’. The group came from Belgium, and AD later reported they represented the Saria4Holland organization. Police were called to the hall after the disruption, during which the disrupters spat and threw eggs at Dibi and Manji. The two panelists remained on stage. Two members of the disrupting group were arrested.

Debate at Toronto school about Muslim prayer reignites

News Agencies – November 23, 2011

 

At Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto, a few dozen interested parties attended a discussion on religious accommodation within the Toronto District School Board. This may have the perverse effect of reigniting a debate that had died down since the summer, when a tiny group of angry Hindus objected to Muslim prayer services being conducted on Friday afternoons in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School, just across the street from Garneau C.I.

Jim Spyropoulos, who is the TDSB’s coordinating superintendent, inclusive schools, student, parent and community, laid out the rationale: Students were leaving school to go to mosque on Fridays. Some weren’t making it there, and some weren’t making it back – and were a disruption to the other students if they did return. The Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements stipulates that “where possible, schools should allocate space for congregational prayer.”

Moroccan Dutch Politicians Discuss Their Role in Islam Debate

9 November 2011

Moroccan Dutch politicians recently gathered in Utrecht to hold a debate regarding their work as political representatives and the position of Muslims in the Netherlands, NOS reports. The debate was an initiative by Labour councilor Latif Hasnaoui. Topics included those which will impact Muslims in the Netherlands, such as the proposed bans on ritual slaughter, circumcision, and the headscarf. The debate also involved conversation about the balance the politicians strike between speaking for Muslim supporters and adhering to their party’s political line.

 

Doctors in the Netherlands Call for Debate over Male Circumcision

15 September 2011

The Dutch federation of doctors (KNMG) is calling for explicit statements opposing male circumcision. The KNMG suggests that the “ritual practice” is “medically irresponsible…between five and 15 percent of cases lead to later complications”. Muslim and Jewish populations have released statements against the ban, with the union of Moroccan mosques explaining that “circumcision is a precept of our faith, which we want to continue observing”.

Dutch Anti-Islam Party to Boycott Debate on Xenophobia

7 September 2011

A planned parliamentary debate in the Netherlands will be boycotted by the country’s anti-Islam party PVV, headed by Geert Wilders. Member of Parliament Tofik Dibi has announced plans to call for such a debate in the wake of the Norwegian killings, but has not yet done so. While other parties support the debate they prefer that the discussion occur in distinction from the events in Norway. The PVV “sees no merit in any debate and will not attend”, according to party MP Joram van Klaveren.