Anti-terror march highlights activism as well as divisions among German Muslims

Initially, reactions on the part of German Muslim leaders to the attacks in Manchester and London had been muted, with a sense of the routinized and somewhat hapless repetition of well-worn formulas of shock and condemnation prevailing.

Fighting against complacency

This limited response has not gone unnoticed, with many criticising Islamic associations and Muslim representatives for their relative silence on recent events. The psychologist and renowned expert on jihadi radicalisation Ahmad Mansour spoke for many when he accused the country’s Islamic organisations of complacency.(( https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/zdf-morgenmagazin/zdf-morgenmagazin-clip-14-242.html ))

Now, however, Islamic scholars and activists have called for a public demonstration in Cologne on Saturday, June 17. United under the slogan #NichtMitUns (#NotWithUs), protestors gathered to reclaim their religion from what they deem to be its usurpation by extremists.(( http://www.ramadan-friedensmarsch.de/ ))

Striving for greater visibility

One of the organisers, Islamic scholar and chairwoman of the Liberal-Islamic Union (LIB), Lamya Kaddor, asserted prior to the event that she was hoping for the demonstration to send a strong and noteworthy signal to terrorists and mainstream society alike.

Kaddor observed that “every Islamic organization writes a press release after every attack, and Islamic legal opinions have been drawn up by leading theologians. Yet these things are not publicly noticed.”(( http://www.ksta.de/koeln/muslime-demonstrieren-gegen-terror–manchester-hat-das-fass-zum-ueberlaufen-gebracht–27778146 ))

Broad endorsements

The initiative started by Kaddor and others, including peace activist Tarek Mohamad, has received broad support. Fellow religious leaders, such as Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Lutheran Church in Germany, have tweeted their support.(( https://twitter.com/landesbischof/status/875301959284248576 ))

Politicians, such as Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s first Muslim Member of Parliament, are equally supportive of the rally. Approving statements have also been made by Social Democratic and Green Party politicians.(( https://www.domradio.de/themen/islam-und-kirche/2017-06-16/kritik-ditib-wegen-absage-anti-terror-demo ))

Reception among Muslim representatives

The echo among other Muslim leaders has been somewhat more complex. Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), stated that his organization would take part in the march.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/aiman-mazyek-vom-zentralrat-der-muslime-zur-demo-in-koeln-aid-1.6873750 )) The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, so far the only Muslim group to obtain full legal recognition in some of Germany’s 16 states, also announced its participation.(( https://twitter.com/presseahmadiyya/status/874666652864040962 ))

Further support came from authors and activists, such as Islamic feminist Kübra Gümüsay, who called upon Muslims to “emancipate themselves” from a situation in which they are merely reactive to Islamophobic insinuations: according to her, the Cologne march offers the possibility for a Muslim voice to “become the driving force of a peace movement”.(( http://www.ndr.de/ndrkultur/sendungen/freitagsforum/Kommentar-Muslime-demonstrieren-fuer-Frieden,freitagsforum488.html ))

Critical voices

Nevertheless, even within ZMD, support for the march has not been unanimous. The association’s deputy, Mehmet Alparslan Çelebi, has voiced his suspicion that the event will merely reinforce the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims.

The chairman of the Islamic Council (IR), of which the Islamist-leaning Islamic Community Millî Görüş is the biggest member, has been even more categorical in his rejection of the demonstration. He points to the considerable number of comparable public events in the past two years; events that, according to him, have neither helped to dissipate Islamophobic prejudice (as exemplified by repeated calls for Muslims to ‘distance’ themselves anew after every attack), nor been conducive to addressing the root causes of terrorism.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2017/06/13/zeichen-gegen-terror-setzen/ ))

DITIB refuses to participate

Yet public attention has, once more, focused on Germany’s numerically largest Islamic association, DITIB. Although the organisation’s Chairman had initially welcomed the announcement of the rally((http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/friedensmarsch-in-berlin-tausende-muslime-wollen-gegen-terror-und-gewalt-demonstrieren-27783342 )), a DITIB press release subsequently stated that “demands for ‘Muslim’ anti-terrorism demonstrations fall short, stigmatise Muslims and unduly focus international terrorism on Muslims, their communities and mosques – this is the wrong path and the wrong signal, for this kind of assignation of blame divides society.”(( http://ditib.de/detail1.php?id=603&lang=de ))

On a practical level, DITIB asserted that – due to their commitment to fasting – Muslims could not be expected to take to the streets and demonstrate on a summery day in the month of Ramadan. (Although it might be noted that with the weather forecast predicting temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius and an overcast sky, health risks should have been manageable.)

Faultlines among Islamic associations

DITIB went on to castigate the organisers of the demonstration for what it perceived as a failure to consult with DITIB and others in order to reach a consensus prior to publicly announcing the rally. DITIB also accused Kaddor of being too eager to please and of being the instrument of ulterior and potentially Islamophobic political interests.

Kaddor herself had sought to pre-empt such criticism, by arguing that “it’s not about distancing. We have no reason to distance ourselves, because we are not close to these criminals. But what is at stake is a clear affirmation on our part to our open and pluralistic society. What is at stake is a condemnation of terrorism. For yes, it does have something to do with Islam if other people blow themselves up in its name and kill others.”

To accuse Kaddor of pandering to Islamophobic sentiments, is, however, at least questionable if not outrightly disingenuous. Kaddor herself had in the past repeatedly taken a bold stance against supposedly ‘liberal’ Islamic initiatives that may in fact only serve as a fig leaf for marginalising discourses.

Criticism from the other end of the spectrum

Given this political positioning of Kaddor’s, it is not surprising that those who have taken a much more confrontational line against Islamic conservatism in the past – and whose activism has often earned them the praise of those on the political right flirting with Islamophobic prejudice – have been almost as critical as DITIB of the protest march.

For instance, Seyran Ateş, a lawyer and activist for women’s rights who recently made headlines with her planned opening of a gender-equal mosque in Berlin, asserted that the march was in some sense too little too late and disparaged Lamya Kaddor’s statements as “sad”.(( http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/friedensmarsch-in-berlin-tausende-muslime-wollen-gegen-terror-und-gewalt-demonstrieren-27783342 ))

Ideological divergences, political differences

In these squabbles, ideological or doctrinal differences, personal enmities, and jockeying for public and political influence seem to intermingle quite freely. Ateş’ and Kaddor’s dispute is in part reflective of substantive disagreements: the two women have a different understanding of Islam, a different agenda, and a correspondingly different set of political sympathies.

Yet Ateş’ categorical rejection to participate in any of Kaddor’s events might also be linked to the fact that Ateş’ gender-equal mosque is due to open its doors on the eve of the planned peace march in Cologne and that Ateş is planning her own anti-terror demonstration in Berlin.(( http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/friedensmarsch-in-berlin-tausende-muslime-wollen-gegen-terror-und-gewalt-demonstrieren-27783342 )) Any competition over the leadership of a ‘liberal’ Islam is therefore most unwelcome.

Political momentum

Initially, the political momentum appeared to be with Kaddor: DITIB’s non-participation has been harshly criticised, with the federal government’s Commissioner for Integration, Aydan Özoguz, stating that DITIB “is positioning itself even further on the sidelines and is threatened with an altogether final loss of credibility.” (( https://www.domradio.de/themen/islam-und-kirche/2017-06-16/kritik-ditib-wegen-absage-anti-terror-demo ))

The Green Party leader Cem Özdemir echoed this criticism, asserting that “it is beyond me that DITIB does not make use of this possibility to send a clear signal of solidarity.”(( https://www.domradio.de/themen/islam-und-kirche/2017-06-16/kritik-ditib-wegen-absage-anti-terror-demo )) Even Chancellor Merkel stated her support for the rally.((https://twitter.com/RegSprecher/status/875699500043689986 ))

A disappointing turnout

Subsequently, however, the march suffered from a disappointingly low turnout. Instead of the up to 10,000 demonstrators that had been expected, only roughly 1,000 ended up congregating in Cologne.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/demonstration-in-koeln-den-islam-von-den-terroristen-zurueckerobern-1.3548979 ))

For now, further marches are planned by Kaddor in other German cities, including Berlin and Hamburg. Whether these marches will still take place, and how the politics around them will evolve, remains to be seen.

UK Far Right groups holds Islamophobic demonstration

At least 30 people were arrested Saturday night following a demonstration by a far-right group against a planned mosque construction in the small English town of Dudley. The protest was led by the English Defense League or EDL that saw participation of up to 1,000 of its members amid a heavy police presence.

“I have never seen so many policemen here,” said Maria Mina, owner of the only cafe shop that was open on what supposed to have been the busiest day for business in the small town. Extra police force was deployed in Dudley since early hours of Saturday and entrance to the town center was restricted for vehicles as hundreds of fascist EDL members came to the town by cars, coaches and trains.
EDL members were allowed to march to Priory Road where they made harsh anti-Islam speeches, carried Islamophobic banners and English flags in front of the Dudley Council. “Islam go to hell” and “More Islam less freedom” read some of the banners.

In a counter demonstration organized by United Against Fascism approximately 50 meters away from the Dudley Central Mosque at Castle Street, Dudley’s local people repeatedly gave out the messages of unity and togetherness. “Love music, hate racism” was the main slogan of the gathering that hosted about 300 people.

Dutch extreme right group organizes anti-Islam demonstration

Pro Patria, a Dutch extreme right group, announced to yet again take to the streets to demonstrate for the freedom of speech and against fundamentalistic Muslims. The organization will hold a “March for Freedom” on Saturday 28 February. The extreme right group says it wants to call upon Dutch political figures to “defend our freedoms.” “Looking away is no longer an option,” Pro Patria writes on her Facebook page.

In August 2014 Pro Patria organized a similar demonstration in the multicultural neighborhood Schilderswijk in The Hague. This resulted in a confrontation with (Islamic) youth. Shortly after the incident the Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen announced a temporary ban on demonstrations in residential areas of The Hague. The leadership of Pro Patria is thought to consist of members of various extreme right groups that are active in the Netherlands or have been in the past.

Hooligans against Salafism

Throughout October, hooligans from different football clubs marched in German cities against radical Islam and Salafism. Building a coalition and network under the heading “HoGeSa”, Hooligans Against Salafists (Hooligans gegen Salafisten), they demonstrated by the end of October in Cologne. Police and intelligence services were not only surprised by the number of attendees, which was tripled by the estimated 1500, but unable to cope with the violence involved. The demonstrations planned in Hamburg and Berlin for mid-November both were canceled. In case of Hamburg the organizers themselves withdraw the demonstration while in the case of Berlin the network never registered the demonstration properly. Now “HoGeSa” is planning another demonstration for the 15th November which is going to take place in Hannover.

 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations: Muslim leaders call for calm

July 16, 2014

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, called for peace and “strongly recommends respect for places of worship” following the incidents on Sunday, July 13 in front of two synagogues in Paris.

His statement condemned the “misbehaviors” that “should not disrupt the lives of Frenchmen, no matter their religious beliefs.”

His speech came in the wake of a pro-Palestinian demonstrations responding to the current conflict between Israel’s government and Hamas, some of which ended in violence. “The current Muslim opinion concerning this conflict must remain calm and work for peace in this blessed month of Ramadan,” wrote Boubakeur. “The escalation of violence has already caused several casualties and we call for all national and international authorities to stop the violence,” he declared. The Great Mosque of Paris announced that it would hold a “prayer for the absent” to honor the victims. The mosque “called for all other mosques to do the same.”

The president of the Union of French Mosques, Mohammed Moussaoui believes that peaceful demonstrations in support of Palestinians are “legitimate and justified,” while reaffirming that “nothing justifies an action that harms our Jewish citizens, their institutions, or their places of worship. Such an action, strongly condemnable and morally unjust and unacceptable, would also affect the interest of the Palestinian people and the support that they could have in French public opinion.”

The president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Roger Cukierman, expressed his “utmost concern” to Hollande concerning the demonstrations. The Jewish community views the incidents “as a break from the republican pact…the Jewish community feels isolated within its national community,” stated Cukierman after meeting with the president. “No pro-Palestinian supporter should confuse anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Because today there is identification between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Five people were sent to criminal court for violence and for disruption of public order after the demonstrations on July 13.

Prosecutors ask for 1 month’s arrest and 100-euro fine for Santanchè

November 18, 2013

 

Prosecutors asked that Daniela Santanchè who organized an unauthorized demonstration be jailed for a month and fined € 100. The anti-burka demonstration outside of Milan’s Muslim cultural center was conducted on September 20, 2009. The prosecutor also asked that a 2000-euro fine be instituted against an Egyptian, Ahmed El Badry, who allegedly punched Santanchè the then deputy of the political party Movement for Italy.

Daniela Santanchè is both defendant and the injured party, and by all accounts she was the “promoter” of that event and never sent a “formal communication” required by law. The event was held on the closing day of Ramadan and which was attended by protestors against the use of the Muslim burqa, which was defined in the courtroom as a “a portable prison.” Allegedly, Santanchè attempted to unveil some women angering Muslim men around her.

The representative of the prosecution, is asking for a month’s arrest and a fine of € 100. However, the judge specified the offense is a misdemeanor; he then pointed out that the then leader of the Movement for Italy deserves the granting of extenuating circumstances.

Contrastingly, the Egyptian who that day had allegedly hit Santanchè which took her to the hospital did not deserve extenuating circumstances stating that he did not have a reason to strike. Daniela Santanchè, in her testimony, repeated the version of the story she has always stated. She went during the prayer for the end of Ramadan, to see “in person” if Muslim women respected the “law of the Italian State,” which proscribes women from covering their faces.

 

Tiscali: http://notizie.tiscali.it/articoli/cronaca/13/11/18/chiesto_arresto_santanche.html

Protests against mosque construction in Leipzig

November 7, 2013

 
Members of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) have protested against the construction of a mosque in the Northern suburb of Leipzig. Among them is the CDU member Dorothee Dubrau who has initiated an online petition, which has been signed by approximately 3.000 citizens. Local political and religious representatives such as the Evangelical community raised their concerns about the construction of the mosque, whose construction is planned by the Ahmadiyya community. Even the right-wing extremist party NPD used this occasion to organize a demonstration against the mosque.

Meanwhile, CDU Federal parliamentarians criticized the initiative of Dorothee Dubrau, arguing in favor of the mosque construction. The project was approved and legalized months ago. Robert Clemen, parliamentary member of the CDU opposed the initiative, emphasizing that the “freedom of religion would guarantee the peaceful coexistence of religions”.

 

Die Tageszeitung: http://www.taz.de/Streit-um-Bau-einer-Moschee/!127041/

“Islam Must Stop:” Forza Nuova Organizes a Protest against a Mosque

It is a black October in Ravenna. Forza Nuova’s local militants are now promoting a protest in front of a new Mosque on the afternoon of Saturday, October 26. “Lepanto taught us, Islam must stop,” it’s that black and white. The first blitz against the Muslim community was carried out on October 10, a day marked in history by the neo-fascist Romagna group. It was carried out three days after the historic battle of 7 October 1571, which saw the defeat of the Ottoman fleet by the Holy League of Pope Pius V. Now the intention is to proceed with a second protest rally in front of the second largest mosque in Italy, assuming that the police grant the gathering.

Two days before the commemoration of the March on Rome, Ravenna Forza Nuova is keen to “declare their total opposition.” The group’s Facebook page states “we are always firmly against both the Islamic invasion and against the establishment of Islamic cultural centers and mosques; places of worship. Aggregation and integration of Catholicism is only a facade. The dialogue between Christians and Muslims will never exist, there can be no constructive dialogue with a religion based on hatred. Islam is a scourge of which we can and must respond and fight with our Roman and Christian roots.” It is clear that dialogue with the followers of Allah, fascists think like the chaplain Giulio Maria Tam, who every year harangue for those nostalgic days led by Duce Mussolini.

For now, the members of the garrison of 26 October number little more than fifty, but the event was created announced a few days ago. Desideria Raggi, provincial manager of Forza Nuova, ensures that many people will take part, “if state institutions filibuster my first request then we will be forced to move the garrison to another day. In that case the state will unleash anger from members and sympathizers of the movement, as happened in June with the procession in Rimini against the ius soli.”

The militants of Forza Nouva defaced a banner on October 10. When the defaced banner was discovered by Basel Ahmed, an Iraqi architect and the president of the center of culture and Islamic Studies in Romagna he was limited to stigmatize the act as “rude.” A balanced reaction, whose act was condemned by the council of Ravenna.

“The mosque was inaugurated in the presence of the prefect and all the heads of law enforcement” says the mayor of the Democratic Party Fabrizio Matteucci “because everyone has a right to pray to the god they believe. After the raid on October 10, I heard that someone is thinking of organizing a counter-demonstration, but my invitation is to ignore and isolate the initiative of Forza Nuova. The police will maintain order. The same Basel Ahmed has said he wants to completely trust the authorities; this is an example of great seriousness on the part of the Muslim community of Ravenna. Now we have to wait for a decision to be made on whether the demonstration will be allowed.

Il Fatto Emilia Romagna: http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/10/15/ravenna-forza-nuova-organizza-manifestazione-contro-moschea-islam-va-fermato/744925/

Christian manifestation against Islam in Valdocco, where two assaults of Sherif Azer took place in Porta Palazzo

July 25, 2013

Two attacks in the space of five days, the last happening as Sherif Azer left from the bank yesterday morning when two men threatened him. Sherif Azer, an Italian citizen born in Egypt and a Coptic Christian, became the victim of the Islamic world in the area of ​​Porta Palazzo. Sherif as the representative of the Coptic Christian community in Turin and vice-president of the “Save the Christians” was attacked and rescued by officers who continue to investigate the case. These are sufficient reasons to unleash the protest of a neighborhood that does not want to be known for violent acts or threats. The peaceful protest in the name of Sherif, took place last night on Rondò della Forca, on the corner of corso Valdocco.

A demonstration of solidarity against violence of Islam and in favor of law at Porta Palazzo, as well as solidarity with the victim of this story. Magdi Cristiano Allam just last night, launched an appeal asking the state to provide protection to Sherif Azer as he is a symbol of religious freedom and the defense of Christian civilization of Italy. Sherif, in fact, does not observe Ramadan and the Islamic fasting and this was enough to attract the antipathies of the entire Islamic world who see him as a kind of traitor. “Do not bow our heads in these abuses” said Allam “ Porta Palazzo, as in every other place in Italy, everyone does have a right to pray to the God whom they believe. This kind of retaliation is not tolerable.”

Allam echoed the opinion of Sherif Azer. “He who is not Muslim is seen as a sellout. I cannot even carry the crucifix at the risk of suffering a beating. This is terrorism, a cancer that Turin has to fight.” The parade that went through the whole center was also attended by many politicians. Including Vice President of the PDL citizen Silvio Magliano and regional councilors Augusta Montaruli and Giampiero Leo.

The Terrorism Threat: No opening to Islam, Statement by the Northern League

12 June 2013

 

“The arrest of Anas El Abboubi is yet another demonstration that Islamic extremism has taken root and is a looming threat. Radicalism is increasingly widespread among those who grew up in our country; even though they apparently seem to have accepted our rules of civil coexistence. While the policy underestimates phenomena of this kind that could cause disastrous consequences for our security and our future, despite the scarcity of resources, we thank the police station in Brescia who were able to intervene. The fear is that their work will soon be resized and disheartened by the government’s next steps on immigration, security and justice.” Said a statement by the provincial secretary of the Northern League Fabio Rolfi and the communications manager of the Northern League David Caparini.