BRUSSELS, Belgium: Police arrested two leaders of a Belgian far-right party Tuesday for staging an illegal protest against the Islamization of Europe, six years to the day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Police scuffled with some of the 200 people who converged on two squares in the EU district of Brussels to protest against what they perceived as the rise of Islam as a significant political force across Europe. Officers handcuffed two leaders of the far-right Flemish Interest Party, which is very critical of Muslim immigrants, and took them away in police vans. Protesters sought to use the Sept. 11 anniversary to point out that Islam threatens democracy and the rule of law in Europe. The demonstration was initially planned by Stop Islamization of Europe, a loose alliance with roots in Germany, Britain and Denmark, which had predicted that 20,000 people would come to Brussels from all over Europe. Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans banned the protest last month, calling SIOE an inflammatory group and its proposed demonstration a threat to public order. An appeals court upheld the ban Aug. 29. Only 200 or so protesters showed up Tuesday for a protest lasting only 30 minutes. The demonstrators faced more than 100 police, backed up by water cannons and helicopters, who closed off streets around the EU headquarters.
Brussels’ mayor has forbidden a demonstration that several anti-Muslim associations wanted to organize on September 11th. These associations called their sympathizers to come anyway. They plan to stand in the 2009 European elections. The reasons invoked to forbid this gathering – it was considered as a threat to public order, and an incitement to discrimination and hatred – raised a heated debate, that recalled the debate that surrounded the publication of Mahomet’s cartoons in a Danish daily two years ago.
Brussels – Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans fears that a demonstration against Islam will be provocative for Muslims living in Brussels. SIOE [Stop the Islamization of Europe], which organizes the demonstration, says this ban proves it is in the right. On Tuesday, 11 September, the sixth anniversary of the attacks on the WTC towers in New York, thousands of demonstrators from all over Europe were to demonstrate in Brussels against the progressive Islamization of Europe. This would be the first demonstration of its kind. […]
LONDON (Reuters) – Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia, or Islamic law, introduced in predominantly Muslim parts of the country, a poll showed on Sunday. One in five of those polled for the Sunday Telegraph also said they sympathised with the “feelings and motives” of suicide bombers who killed 52 people in attacks on the London transport system last July. British Muslims emerged from the poll as becoming more radicalised and alienated from mainstream society but 91 percent did say they feel “loyal” to the United Kingdom. Sharia is implemented to varying degrees in several Muslim countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia, where religious courts can impose punishments including stoning, amputation and execution. In other countries sharia is applied to specific areas such as family law, banking, or religious rituals. The poll came just one day after 10,000 Muslims took to the streets of London to express their anger and hurt over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. They were first published in September in a Danish newspaper and were then reprinted by papers in other countries but not Britain. The publication prompted uproar in the Islamic world, with thousands taking to the streets to protest. Five people were killed in protests in Pakistan and 10 people were reported to have died in clashes in Libya. Sixteen died in Nigerian riots. Many Muslims believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. In London, a small demonstration in front of the Danish embassy earlier in the month provoked outrage as masked men called for those who insulted Islam to be beheaded.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Hundreds of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad tried to storm the U.S. Embassy today, smashing the windows of a guard post but failing to push through the gates. Several people were injured. Pakistani security forces, meanwhile, sealed off the capital of Islamabad to block a planned mass demonstration and fired tear gas and gunshots to chase off protesters. In Turkey, tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul chanting slogans against Denmark, Israel and the United States.
TEHERAN – Police used tear gas to briefly disperse hundreds of angry protesters who hurled stones and fire bombs at the Danish Embassy in the second attack on a Western mission in the Iranian capital on Monday over the publication of blasphemous caricatures. Police had encircled the embassy building but were unable to hold back the mob of 400 demonstrators as they pelted the walled brick villa that houses only the Danish mission with stones and Molotov cocktails. At least nine demonstrators were hurt in the melee, police said. About an hour into the demonstration, police fired tear gas into the mob, driving it into a nearby park. Later about 20 protesters returned and tried to break through police lines to enter the compound but were blocked by security forces. As the tear gas clouds dispersed, most of the rest of the crowd filtered back to the embassy and continued burning Danish flags and chanting anti-Danish slogans and God is Great. Two trees inside the embassy compound were set on fire by the gasoline bombs. The embassy gate was burned as was a police booth along the wall protecting the building. The Danish Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any staff inside the building, which had closed for the day before the demonstration began. In a live television interview with the DR public television in Denmark, Ambassador Claus Juul Nielsen said the protesters vandalised the ground floor of the embassy, which included the trade and the visa departments. It now seems that the police control the situation, Juul Nielsen said. We have had no injuries among our staff, we were able to get out before it all started. The mob, which included about 100 women, ignored police orders to disperse continued to hurl firebombs, before they were hit with tear gas. The crowd disperesed by midnight. Earlier in the day, 200 student demonstrators threw stones at the Austrian Embassy, breaking some windows and starting small fires. Also on Monday, 200 members of Iran’s parliament issued a statement warning that those who published the cartoons should remember the case of Salman Rushdie – the British author against whom the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death warrant for his novel The Satanic Verses. Apparently they have not learned from miserable life of the person who wrote Satanic Verses, the lawmakers said in the statement, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Parliamentarians do not have the authority to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, like the one in which Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death in 1989. The Austrian mission in Teheran was targeted because Austria currently holds the presidency of the European Union. The demonstration at the Austrian Embassy lasted two hours, with protesters also throwing firecrackers that sparked the fires. Police quickly extinguished the blazes and stopped some protesters from throwing stones. On Monday night, a firebomb was thrown at the Austrian Cultural Centre in Teheran, causing no injuries, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said. Outside the embassy – located in a four-storey building in Teheran, the protesters chanted, Death to Denmark, death to Israel, and some burned flags of Germany, Denmark and France. One protester carried a caricature of German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was the first instance of violence over the drawings in Iran, though protests have occurred there. It came a day after thousands of Muslim demonstrators in Beirut set fire to the building housing the Danish mission in Beirut.
By Sakhr Al-Makhadhi in London Protesters say their rights as Muslims are being threatened Imperial College in London is battling controversy over the ban of the face veil on campus. The College in West London has banned the niqab as a security measure. But the hijab, which covers only the hair and has been banned in French schools, is allowed. Tony Mitcheson, the college secretary, said that the ban was needed “in light of security concerns raised by the terrorist incidents which occurred over the summer”, referring to the bombings in the capital on 7 July and the attempted bombings on 21 July. Abigail Smith, a spokesman for the college, said that it needed to be able to identify everyone on campus. “It’s not a blanket ban on religious dress – we’re just asking people not to cover their faces for security reasons,” she said. Hugo Charlton, a human rights barrister, said that the college was within its legal jurisdiction to implement such a measure. “I expect that the college does have a right, because this is private property,” he said. “But I expect that the courts would say that they need a good justification for it.” Protest denounced On Friday, about 35 students demonstrated against the measure. Ruji Rahman said the ban on face veils is the latest in a string of measures designed to drive Muslims out of Imperial. “I studied hard, I got into a top university and now I’m being asked to sacrifice that because of my religion,” she said. The president of the Student Union dismissed the demonstration as scaremongering. Sameena Misbahuddin said: “[The protest] is based on something that’s not true – it’s based on the banning of hijabs, which quite clearly is not the case.” Nevertheless, the Student Union is concerned that the Muslim community could feel targeted. “There’s religious discrimination that it could provoke, with the full-veil and half-veil [ban], it’s open to any sort of interpretation, it could be used any time the college wants to have a problem with someone,” Misbahuddin said. Misbahuddin will be taking those concerns to college officials next week. Scaring potential students The ban on the niqab and the subsequent demonstration has created controversy which seems to be scaring potential students away from Imperial. Smith told Aljazeera.net that a potential student had called her to ask if she would be able to wear her hijab at the college. “She was thinking about cancelling her application,” Smith said, adding: “And that’s very worrying.” That is a fear that Rahman shares. “We’ll end up getting no Muslim students coming to university – just like France,” she said.
AMSTERDAM – Moroccan and Turkish groups in the Netherlands have set up a new action committee named “Genoeg is genoeg” (enough is enough) to organise a campaign against the Dutch government’s tough immigration and integration policies. The organisers are calling for a national demonstration on 17 September in Amsterdam. Two spokesmen for the new organisation outlined the plans for the demonstration during a press conference in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Monday. Dutch Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk arrived in Rabat for an official visit on Monday. She toured the Dutch embassy where modifications have been made to house the new integration tests that are to be introduced for would-be immigrants to the Netherlands. While there was news on Monday that other European countries are interested in the immigration policies being pioneered by Verdonk, the spokesmen for the new action committee described her policies as discriminatory and racist. “These policies are creating a greater rift between ‘us and them’, one of the representatives said. The ‘Genoeg is genoeg’ group wanted to hold a demonstration in Rabat to coincide with Verdonk’s visit but the authorities did not grant them a permit to do so. The group says there should be no difference between the treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims. It argues that the Cabinet’s integration plans as well as limitations on family reunification and dual nationality hits at the principle of equal rights for all dutch citizens. “We don’t want a separate policy for one group as that leads to Apartheid,” one of the spokesmen said.
Up to a thousand people demanding zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium gathered in Antwerp on Monday to protest about last week’s stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths in the city. Members of Belgium’s Jewish community want the government to do more to deal with what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks by a minority of Muslims living in the country. “We want the authorities to adopt a zero tolerance policy,” a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp, who asked not to be named, told Expatica. “We should not bring the war between Israel and the Palestinians here to Belgium. If they want to fight, they should go over there,” he added. According to the spokesman at least 1000 people turned up to Monday’s demonstration, which was held in front of Antwerp’s Portuguese synagogue. Police put the number of protestors at between 800 and 900. The young boy at the centre of the furore was stabbed shortly after he and three friends left a Jewish school in the Antwerp suburb of Wilrijk on Thursday night. The four boys were chased by a gang of 10 to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments. Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition but is now out of danger. According to the Jewish community spokesman, the boy, who has not been named, is lucky to be alive. “They were clearly trying to kill him. His lung was damaged by the knife. We are lucky today’s demonstration was not a funeral,” he said. The Antwerp protest followed a similar show of anger in Brussels on Sunday, which was attended by some of Belgium’s leading politicians. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx told demonstrators on Sunday that the government would do everything it could to catch the youths responsible for the Antwerp stabbing. Jewish community leaders recognised on Monday that the Muslim community as a whole in Belgium was not anti-Semitic. “The Muslim community is not attacking the Jewish community. Relations between us are actually very good. But it is a minority of young Muslims who are attacking Jews,” the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp told Expatica.
For Moroccans to demonstrate against French President Jacques Chirac’s decision of banning the veil as a religious symbol at schools, it reflects a religious position more than a political one. Although it is difficult to reduce the Islamic issue to the wearing of the veil, or not, it is obvious that extremist circles in France, and outside, will find in the argument a pretext to accuse Islam of extremism and exaggeration.