Bernard Cazeneuve presents Legion of Honor to the Head of the Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman, Anouar Kbibech

Bernard Cazeneuve recently presented Anouar Kbibech, President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), with the prestigious Legion of Honor.

“It’s impossible not to see your love for the Republic that has always guided you, in the same title as your religious convictions and your intention to ardently defend the interests and the reputation of French Muslims,” Cazeneuve said, recognizing Kbibech as “an important leader in religious dialogue and organizer of the Muslim faith in France.”

“Following the murder of Jacques Hamel, you called on Muslims to attend Mass at churches the following Sunday to bear witness to their mourning and compassion. Such an action is a gesture of determined calm, similar to the remarks made by leaders in the Catholic Church, in light of the suffering felt by the people of our country.”

“Respect is the most important Republican value, without which there would be no democracy, the Republic, or vivre-ensemble,” the Prime Minister concluded.

 

 

Muslim theology faculties develop an ‘Islam for Germany’

(RNS) While Germany’s politicians are loudly debating whether Islam is compatible with democracy, five of its state universities are quietly developing pioneering new Islamic theology faculties to try to ensure that it is.
The five universities — in Muenster, Osnabrueck, Frankfurt, Tubingen and Erlangen-Nuremberg — recently passed their first official evaluations by Muslim and Christian experts and were granted 20 million euros (or $22 million) to continue for another five years.
The programs now have a total of over 1,800 students and plan to grow. The largest program, in Muenster, has 700 students in its three-year bachelor’s program and received more than double that number of applicants this academic year alone.

Islamophobia Threatens Democracy in Europe, Report Says

In a report on the health of democracy in the post-Soviet world, Freedom House painted a bleak picture of the state of liberal values in parts of Europe. The Washington-based human rights advocacy organization, which publishes a global freedom index every year, highlighted a number of worrying trends in 29 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.

Chief among them was the strengthening of authoritarian politics in a number of countries, as well as the rise of “illiberal nationalism” in others, particular European Union democracies like Poland and Hungary. The European struggle to come to grips with the migrant crisis on its borders, as well as ongoing economic turmoil, are the leading causes of this democratic malaise, according to Freedom House.

The new assessments were published this week in Freedom House’s annual Nations In Transit report, focused on the countries that started transitioning toward democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. It usesthe organization’s specific ratings that evaluate nations across a range of criteria, from corruption to the strength of electoral institutions to the independence of the media. Weighted for population, the average Democracy Score in the 29 countries profiled by Freedom House has declined for 12 years in a row.

“The biggest challenge to democracy in Europe is the spread of deeply illiberal politics,” details Freedom House’s press release. This, as WorldViews has charted over the past year, has been very much on display in the response to an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries. Right-wing politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fanned populist flames by grandstanding over the threat of Muslim migration.

Their rhetoric, garbed in ominous declarations of a clash of civilizations, played to domestic audiences and, in a few cases, boosted the political prospects of some ruling parties. Governments from Poland to Slovakia to Hungary rejected E.U. proposals to accommodate tiny numbers of refugees.

Leaders in these countries, the report states, “exploited the crisis to strengthen their populist appeal, disregarding fundamental humanitarian principles and the ideals of democratic pluralism for short-term partisan gain.”

The mood exacerbated wider strains within the European Union, whichfaces an existential moment in June as Britain votes in a referendum on its membership in Europe.

“Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit, said in a statement. “This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees.”

The report also digs into various social and political crises in Eurasia sparked by the drop in global oil prices, the scourge of corruption in Ukraine and the deepening dictatorships of Central Asia. You can read it in full here.

INTERVIEW: Dutch professor Jean Tilly compares recent controversial student protests to Muslim radicalism

Background information:

The high ranking Dutch University of Amsterdam (UvA) had been occupied by unsatisfied students for months (since February 25th) before being violently cleared out by the riot police last week. Students were camping in the occupied “Maagdenhuis” which is the main administrative building of the university. Critical students and university professors unified themselves in a new movement called “De Nieuwe Universiteit” (English: The New University) criticizing the university management for their neo-liberal policies and focus on financial revenue. Some of the main demands of the occupiers are more democratization in the university and more influence in the decision making process and university policies for students and teachers. After the violent clearing out by riot police the movement’s latest demand is for the university management to vacate their positions. UvA professor of politics Jean Tillie was interviewed by the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. In the interview Tillie makes comparisons between radical students and Muslim radicals. What follows is a full translation of the Dutch interview. To read the interview in Dutch follow this link:

http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/4/AMSTERDAM/article/detail/3943357/2015/04/02/Moslimradicalen-Ook-radicaliserende-studenten-zijn-een-gevaar.dhtml

The interview:

Muslim radicals and radicalized students are almost the same

Jean Tillie, professor of politics at the UvA, expects a radical group will unify itself in the student protests. And he warns. In radicalism we can observe democratic phenomenon but it can also be innovative. If students radicalize we all [trans. i.e. prominent figures] visit them in order to profile ourselves. But when Muslims radicalize we view that as a security threat.

The joy over the “Maagdenhuis” started when Jean Tillie (54) saw a picture of parliamentary members Mei Li Vos (Partij van de Arbeid / Labour Party) and Jasper van Dijk (Socialistische Partij / Socialist Party) in conversation with students in the occupied administrative room of the UvA college-chairman Louise Gunning. On the picture you can see someone in the background looking at books about administrative thought.

Tille has been doing research on radicalism for years. When thinking of radicalism people mostly think of Muslim radicals. This is not fair, he thinks. Student who are occupying the “Maagdenhuis” should also be seen as radical. So what then is a radical? “A large amount of distrust towards established elites, combined with an interest in their thought.” This is symbolized by the person in the background of the picture studying the bookshelves.

Do politicians then associate with radicals?

“I can say so because I used to be a radical anarchist. Aside from that radicalism may exist in a democracy right? It is not the same as extremism. But behind radicalism may lurk potential innovative changes. If students radicalize we [i.e. prominent figures, trans.] all visit them because we want to profile ourselves. But if Muslims radicalize we view that as a security threat.”

You think that is hypocrite?

“Radicalism can have something in and of itself that can be revitalizing and innovative. But it also contains democratic phenomena, even if the persons involved claim to be autonomous. I have never experienced democratic people as with the anarchists.”

“The terminology that is used I also find embellishing. My colleague professor Ewald Engelen pleads for the establishment of a “commission of truth” at the UvA [‘waarheidscommissie’ in Dutch. A term used for the commission responsible for the research on the infringement on human rights during the Apartheid regime of South Africa, trans.]. ‘Exactly!’ I think at such a point. Because through that you are actually saying that the UvA college board – just like the regimes of South Africa and Uganda – should be taken to account for their past mistakes, should get out of their position as an elite with an us-and-them mentality, and should reconcile themselves with those who actually give them their worth. In that way you can also see the value of the radicalizing professor, dangerous for powerful elite that operates in the shadow!”

Must politicians always associate themselves with groups that are radical?

“The offices of the management board should always be open. Even for students. And especially for radical renewers. As a politician you should get excited by such means. You must be able to connect aims and means.”

How did such things happen in your time?

“I’ve been a squatter and an anarchist for eight years. I participated in the crowning riots [i.e. the riots during the crowning of the former Dutch Queen Beatrix in 1980, trans.]. When I became 24 years old I stopped. Now I am 54. So I have had thirty years to think about it. And this is my conclusion: leftist radicalism is the same as rightist radicalism is the same as Muslim radicalism. But if it is from the Muslim community, from low educated youth, we tend to act hypocritically and untrusting. If it is about right-radicalism it already becomes much more complicated – take the examples of Breivik and Hans Janmaat [a former extreme rightist Dutch politician, trans.] – and if it is from the leftist community then listening is suddenly seen as a value…

The reasoning of activists is: the elite does not want to listen. Sometimes more radical actions are necessary to be able to achieve something.

“In my time as an activist we also we also organized rather firm actions. And did it have a result? Yes. If we take a look to the anarchist movement – that got little money and support – the profits were not minor. We were against nuclear energy and a further development of nuclear power station did not come to pas. We were against cruise missiles but unfortunately we stumbled upon deff ears there. You could say the housing has improved but not that squatters have been stigmatized as extremists and isolated their public support and because of that their engagement has been lost.

The occupiers of the Maagdenhuis say that it has not been up until now that they are being heard. Before the protests there was no serious discussion going on at the universities.

“If you want to be really effective it takes a much longer process. Then you should have a look at educational programs and departments. And you should translate the radical movement into renewed and better politics. It is not until then that the movement becomes meaningful. So the students should above all be persistent.

Must the students leave the Maagdenhuis?

“No. My proposition is that if you can warrant your own sympathetic aims you don’t have to go away. It was not up until now that serious conversations took place with the college board. I expect a slow recuperation of the communicative trust between the elite who at first did not want a conversation and the group of radicals who are careful of an all-to-quick settlement without the political renewal I just spoke about. If they will leave de “Maagdenhuis” a new divide will come into existence between the elite and the people and a disappointed ever more radicalizing group of students.”

What will happen with such a hardened group?

“It is a very uncomfortable story. Such a hardcore group could be further stigmatized, which was already seen during the student demonstrations and for which a ritual from 1969 was criminalized. Then it becomes extreme. It remains attractive to fight for justice. It is the attraction of democracy, dissimilar to what the racist and aristocratic Le Bon claimed about the mass. Something you get from beautiful human things such as sex of dancing but also through commercial surrogates such as drugs and violence – opium of the people – to obstruct them from real democracy.”

You eschewed violence. Why did you yourself stop being an activist for peace?

“I became a father. But a few years before that another incident happened. We were at a big party in the squatting house “De Groote Keijser” and supporters of the extreme-rightist Hans Janmaat – who just won a seat in parliament – were also present. They celebrated this by beating up a black friend of mine. It became a huge fight and I almost died: I was hit in the face with an iron rod. When I was recovered and returned into the movement people reacted as if I was whining. I was simply the victim of an international struggle. Romanticism withers away in such an activist movement.”

Date: 02-04-2015

– Translated by Jeroen Vlug –

Half of Muslims sees no place for democracy in Islam

Wednesday February 25th there was a public hearing on radicalization and jihadism in the Dutch parliament. There, Paul Scheffer, specialized in integration issues, stated that according to a big minority and perhaps a majority of Dutch Muslims democracy and Islam do not fit together. Scheffer is basing himself on a research conducted by Ruud Koopmans. On the other side, ‘native’ Dutch people see no place for Islam in their democracy.

Thus a question arises: “How does one from an islamic standpoint relates to democracy and how relates democracy itself towards new religions?”

According to Scheffer authorities and educational institutions lack the promotion of freedom for everyone. “If the Muslim community states: you should be accepting towards us, I say: Yes, but are you also accepting towards the Dutch society? This is a fair question. Are you then also accepting the equality between man and woman and do you accept homosexuals in our community?”
He also thinks that part of radicalization can be explained because of inconsistence when it comes to the norms of freedom. The Netherlands is preaching freedom, but has at the same time Saudi Arabia as its ally.

Representatives from the Muslim community disagreed during the hearing on their responsibility against radicalization and jihadism in the Netherlands. According to Ibrahim Wijbenga (youth worker) the Muslim community should speak out more clearly against jihadism and radicalization. Politician Selcuk Őztürk disagrees with him. Said Idbid, board member of the Ibn Khattab mosque in the city of Almere says he is already trying for years to keep youth from radicalizing. He thinks that youth becomes radicalized because of ideological and theological convictions, but according to Latifa Bakrimi from the Hague municipality a lack of perspectives also play a role. Habib El Kaddouri from the Collaboration Dutch Moroccans says what is needed is to invest in prevention.

The CFCM Condemns the Attack Against Charlie Hebdo [Press Release]

“The French Council of the Muslim Faith and French Muslims condemn with the greatest resolve the terrorist attack of exceptional violence committed against Charlie Hebdo. This barbaric act of extreme gravity is also an attack on democracy and freedom of the press.

Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families and we express our complete solidarity during this terrible ordeal.

In an international political circumstance filled with tensions fueled by terrorist groups unfairly claiming Islam as their own, we call on all those who are committed to the Republic’s values and to democracy to avoid provocations that only serve to add fuel to the fire.

Faced with this national tragedy, we call on the Muslim community to exercise the utmost vigilance against any possible manipulations from extremist groups of any kind.”
Dr. Dalil Boubakeur
President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith

Dutch universities host study to ask: Why would you become a jihad activist? [PDF DOWNLOAD]

coverdawaactivism-207x300Why would you become a jihad activist? Three reasons.

A group researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Amsterdam presented their study among radical Muslims and why they’re interested in extremist ideologies. Three conclusions can be drawn.

1. Democracy is hypocrisy: events and the way the USA and other western governments have responded after 9/11 have caused a lot of anger among (radical) Muslims. According to them, Muslim are not allowed to express their opinion, while they themselves and their religion are being insulted regularly in the name of ‘freedom of speech’, by for example Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, Geert Wilders and the Mohammed cartoon in Denmark. They also feel that Muslims have been treated very badly in the name of democracy, referring for instance to the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and drone attacks in Muslim countries.

2. Discrimination of Muslims: Muslims feel discriminated and get annoyed because of the ‘Islam debate’, (judgmental) questions about Islam and the ban on the burqa and the negative coverage of the topic in the media.

3. Together against the rest: they feel safe within their own network, where they won’t feel judged by their opinions and where the kafir outer world won’t distract them from their ‘pure’ interpretation of the Islam. They enunciate however also their message outside this network, for example online.

A copy of the report (in Dutch) is available for download here.

Doubts about research: are Turkish Dutch fan of jihad?

According to the research 87% of the by Motivaction interviewed people (18-34 years) is happy with support from Dutch Muslims for IS and they don’t want the Dutch government to prevent them. However, they also don’t believe in prosperity without democracy and don’t believe in a caliphate. But groups of jihadi’s do establish some welcoming changes in the region. Turkish youth seem to be much more positive about IS and the ‘holy war’ in Syria and Iraq than their Moroccan counterparts.

Minister of Social Affairs and Employment and vice premier, Asscher expressed his worries about the research, explaining that he already was worried about the Turkish community who according to him, does not seem to feel ‘at home’ in the Netherlands. But the next day he was somehow doubtful about the research because of its inconsistencies. How can this youth support IS-fighters, but at the same time be against a caliphate and for democracy? He questioned.
Ahmet Kaya, PhD researcher used an own inquiry among Turkish Dutch people. According to his research, 90% of the more than 1000 respondents condemn IS-violence. Kaya admits he cannot control if the respondents are part of the target group, since the inquiry was done online, but the results do correlate with the ideas he experiences around himself.

According to Kaya the research done by Motivaction should not be taken seriously. Verheggen, Motivaction-researcher disagrees and says that nuances in a research are very easy to get lost. Being against Assad, does not automatically mean that you’re supportive of a caliphate. A possible explanation for the (so-called) support of Turkish youth for IS might be the Turkish media, that is often pro-Erdogan and anti-Assad. Verheggen says this is however not completely clear and is pleased with more thorough research.

Asscher: inconsistencies in research on Turkish youth.

Research done by Motivaction on the support of Turkish youth for IS, is marked by inconsistencies. An example is that the youth indeed think that IS-fighters are heroes, but at the same time they are against a caliphate and for democracy. Asscher wants a more thorough research on the matter. He visited the Kuba-mosque in the city of IJmuiden, where apparently everyone attending is against IS.