Against an Islam Center of Peri, Fontana: “Worries are well-founded”

June 6, 2013

 

Solidarity in Verona by the Brussels Northern League and citizens who have advanced a petition: “There is little difference between a cultural space and a mosque”

There were demonstrations against the Islamic Center of Peri in the city of Dolcè. Following a petition organized by some of the citizens of Verona, to push for more restrictions, Lorenzo Fontana, Head of Delegation of the Northern League to the European Parliament, wanted to express his support for the demands of the people of Verona.

“This is a delicate situation” explains Fontana “too often we had to take note of how subtle, in some cases, the difference between Islamic cultural center and mosque. The number of citizens who have expressed their concerns by signing a petition testifies to legitimate concerns.” Given that the concerns are arising from the social impact that an Islamic center would produce in the community and the importance of compliance with the safety standards at its core. Fontana explains “I hope that the request of citizens to be involved in the decision, via a public meeting should not ignored by the mayor and the council, which will have to assume responsibility to carry out a careful check on the compliance with health and urban planning of the initiative. “

How to tackle the EDL

Those wondering how to respond to English Defence League marches this weekend can look to the example of tea and non-confrontation we set at York mosque

 

When we first heard about the English Defence League protest that was to take place outside our local mosque in York last Sunday, my colleagues and I sat down and thought about how we should behave. We are non-violent people and the EDL say they are too, so any notion of aggressive confrontation was ruled out immediately. We came up with a different approach. Now I hear that 50 more EDL protests are being planned across the country this weekend and I thought it timely to consider why the York response worked.

 

It was up to us to provide an atmosphere that was representative of our culture. When I say “our culture”, I mean all of us, including the EDL and the members of the mosque. We all think of sitting down with a cup of tea as something quintessentially English, so we thought that offering a cup of good old-fashioned Yorkshire tea and hospitality would be a start.

 

When we listened, we realised the EDL may have thought that we supported extremist behaviour and the Taliban. We pointed out that we condemned both in the strongest terms. Assumptions are dangerous, untested assumptions can be lethal. They were surprised, and they understood. The day ended in a game of football.

 

This weekend, we should try to put assumptions aside. Elements of the far-right are planning demonstrations across the country, including Birmingham, Luton and Leeds, in what has been described as a “day of hate”. But we should be careful about using such labels and consider instead sitting down with these groups to try to understand what has driven them to organise such events.

 

Waiting for an Arab Spring of Ideas

By Tariq Ramadan

DURING a recent visit to the United States, I was asked by intellectuals and journalists: Were we misled, during the Arab awakening, into thinking that Muslims could actually embrace democratic ideals?

The short answer is no. Participants in the recent violent demonstrations over an Islamophobic video were a tiny minority. Their violence was unacceptable. They do not represent the millions of Muslims who have taken to the streets since 2010 in a disciplined, nonviolent manner to bring down dictatorships.

Many Americans were nonetheless shocked by the chaos and bloodshed across Muslim countries, believing that they had come generously to the aid of the Arab peoples during the uprisings. But Arabs, and Muslims in general, have a longer memory and a broader view. Their mistrust is fueled by America’s decades-long support for dictators who accommodated its economic and security interests; by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; by the humiliating treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay; and by America’s seemingly permanent and unconditional support for Israel.

The timeworn dichotomy of “Islam versus the West” is giving way to an era of multipolar relations. The world’s economic center of gravity is shifting eastward. But the growing prominence of China, India and Russia, and of emerging powers like Brazil, South Africa and Turkey, does not automatically guarantee more justice and more democracy. Some Muslims are too quick to rejoice at the decline of American power. They seem unaware that what might replace it could well lead to a regression in social and human rights and to new forms of international dependency.

The Arab world has shaken itself out of its lethargy after decades of apparent resignation and silence. But the uprisings do not yet amount to a revolution. The Arab world must confront its historical demons and tackle its infirmities and its contradictions: when it turns to the task, the awakening will truly have begun.

Dutch Muslim Response to Innocence of Islam

25 September 2012

 

Response to the movie Innocence of Islam among Dutch Muslim communities has not had a strong public presence. Two peaceful demonstrations occurred on the city. On Friday September 15 the women’s organization Cleopatra organized a protest to the movie at Amsterdam’s Dam Square. On Sunday  a group of about 50 people gathered at the Museumplein near the American consulate, under the instigation of the Islamic organization Behind Bars. Both demonstrations were peaceful, with the police and consulate informed in advance.

A spokesperson for Sharia4Holland spoke out against the film, predicting further protests. However the outspoken comments from this group have remained marginal. In contrast the most publicly visible Muslim voice responding to the movie has been a statement from Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. Speaking to RTV Rijnmond Aboutaleb said Muslims should not take the controversial film too seriously, commenting that demonstrations are acceptable so long as they do not get out of hand. The mayor sees no reason to block the film on YouTube and noted, “You can always make your own film on YouTube as a response.”

A Muslim Group Plans to Protest Derby Pride

Derby Muslim Action Force a group that has been organizing demonstrations against the annual gay pride in Derby. The last month, one of their members, Kabir Ahmed was convicted for causing harassment, alarm or distress with threatening language or behaviour at the 2011 pride march. He was given a two-year conditional discharge but three co-defendants were cleared.

The protest is expected to increase the tension during the Pride.

Strike against Salafi association in Solingen

June 14

 

On Thursday morning, German authorities have searched more than 70 offices, apartments and facilities related to the Salafi scene. Searches went on in at least seven German Federal States, in particular in North Rhine Westphalia and Hessen. Hereby, the Minister of Internal Affairs Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has issued a banning order for the Solingen-based Salafi association “Millatu Ibrahim”. Authorities had been monitoring the Salafi group since the May violent clashes in Bonn and Solingen. Among other measures, the police have shut down the group’s webpage. This, according to the Minister of Interior, means an immense logistic and organizational loss for the “Millatu”group. Allegedly, the group’s goals are: to call Muslims to fight against the constitutional order of Germany, to destroy the concept of understanding among peoples and to introduce Sharia by violent means.

 

The “Millatu Ibrahim” group belongs to the Jihadist arm of the Salafi movement in Germany. It has been extremely radical in its calls for violence and bloodshed. The group’s leading figure is the Austrian Mohamed Mahmoud also known as Abu Usama al-Gharib. In 2011, he was convicted for hate speech and Terrorist activities by a German court. Also, he had been a founding member of the Global Islamic Media front. After his release, he had moved to Berlin and afterwards to Solingen. He begun preaching at the Millatu-Ibrahim-Mosque but German authorities intervened to stop this activity. He then moved to the German State of Hessen and was finally deported from Germany. Abu Usama al-Gharib is now said to live in Egypt. His accomplice, and a popular figure in the Millatu group is the former rapper Denis Cuspert alias Deso Dogg, alias Abu Talha Al-Almani. Apparently, Cuspert has unsubscribed his Berlin apartment and is now wanted. The Ministry of Interior uses videos as evidence to prove how both leaders encouraged Salafi adherents to oppose police and right-wing supporters on May 1st and May 12th demonstrations by calling to bloodshed.

 

Authorities have initiated preliminary investigations also against the association “DawaFFM” in Frankfurt-am-Main and the Cologne-based association “The True Religion”. Given the lack of evidence against the groups, the Ministry has not yet issued banning orders. Earlier this spring the association “The True Religion” had initiated a campaign distributing copies of the Koran in German cities. The group interrupted the campaign after printing 300.000 copies, as the print shop had started attracting the public attention.

 

Other well-known activists have openly sympathized with the Jihadist arm of the Salafi movement and are therefore believed to be involved in its activities. Among them, there is the German Pierre Vogel, who converted to Islam eleven years ago. Another is the preacher and leading member of the association “The True Religion” Ibrahim Abou Nagie. Abou Nagie allegedly encourages young Muslims to stand against all Non-Muslims. He organizes Islamic seminars at schools and youth centers, and calls to execute the Islamic law Sharia on homosexual people.

Initially Nagie’s Koran distribution initiative sounded harmless. However, the German security forces became alert as soon as the radical leader Usama al-Gharib expressed his approval of the idea and offered to stand against possible attackers.

 

Security experts assume that the goal of Abou Nagie and Al-Gharib is to unify the Salafi scene and win more adherents in the form of converts. The Koran distributions and the demonstrations against the right-wing-initiated Muhammad cartoon campaigns are perceived as prestigious victories within the Salafi scene. All three associations are expected to be leading and coordinating Internet and street campaigns in Germany.

 

According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution there are more than 4000 Salafists in Germany, divided in two groups: a so-called political “missionary” arm and a “Jihadist” arm. Totally, 24 Salafi members are classified as “dangerous”. Although the Office for the Protection of the Constitution had issued warnings about Salafi activities and propaganda in Germany, authorities seemed to be little prepared for the outbreak of violence in May 2012. Salafi adherents had protested against demonstrations organized by the right-wing party Pro NRW, which had initiated a Muhammad cartoon campaign. Almost thirty police officers were injured during the clashes.

Toronto School board sees dueling demonstrations over Muslim prayers

The Toronto Star – August 8, 2011

 

About a hundred demonstrators congregated on the steps of the Toronto District School Board toting signs and shouting chants condemning the city’s public schools for allowing Muslim prayer groups. “No Islam in our schools! Never, never, never!” shouted Ron Banerjee, director of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. The demonstration comes several weeks after a similar one was held at the same location with groups such as the Jewish Defense League and the Christian Heritage Party.

On the edge of the street were about a dozen young Muslims clad in colourful hijabs, carrying signs supporting the school board. The controversy over Muslim prayers in public schools was recently ignited over Valley Park Middle School’s decision to bring in an imam to provide Friday prayer service to 300 Muslim students, who were reportedly failing to return to school after leaving early to attend a mosque.

A Fresh Perspective on British Muslim Women

29 April 2011

For this article, the author has met British Muslim women who have taken on the fight against Islamic extremism. Tehmina Kazi, for example, who defended imam and lecturer Usama Hasan, who had received death threats after declaring that evolution were compatible with Islam. She is also the director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, an organisation that has always been headed by a woman, supports a young Muslim leadership programme, holds demonstrations against radical groups like Islam4UK and stands for diversity within Islam. The article cites many examples of female activism within the Muslim community and in society.

Islamophobic group’s gathering draws protest in Toronto

As the leader of the controversial English Defence League prepared to speak to supporters in Toronto over the Internet, activists delivered a message of their own. “EDL go to hell,” demonstrators chanted on the street outside the Toronto Zionist Centre where Tommy Robinson, leader of the British anti-Islamist group, was to address about 50 supporters.

The “support rally” for Mr. Robinson was organized by the right-wing Jewish Defence League under the banner “stop political Islam,” but Canada’s largest Jewish organization, the Canadian Jewish Congress, opposed the event, citing the tactics of the EDL, known for demonstrations that often degenerate into violence.

The Toronto rally is believed to be the EDL’s first foray into Canada since the group was formed in 2009 in response to demonstrations by militant Islamists in Britain. The town of Luton, Bedfordshire, where the EDL started, has a large Muslim population and has been linked to several terrorist plots, most recently December’s suicide bombing that targeted Christmas shoppers in Sweden.

Marches by the far right “drive Muslims to militancy”

19 November 2010

Demonstrations by far right groups like the English Defence League (EDL) act like recruiting sergeants for Islamic militants across Britain, the head of a regional counter terrorism unit said on Friday.
Detective Superintendent John Larkin from West Midlands police said EDL marches and counter-demonstrations often ended in violence, with evidence they end up pushing some members of the community towards radicalisation.
“In some areas, we have evidence that once they have gone … there’s fertile ground for those groups (to say) ‘this is the way white Western society sees us,'” he told BBC Radio. “And that’s a potential recruiting carrot for people and that’s what some of these radicalisers look for — they look for the vulnerability, for the hook to pull people through and when the EDL have been and done what they’ve done, they perversely leave that behind.”
He said it was especially true if high-profile demos ended in the destruction of Muslim property or violence against community members. The EDL has held numerous demonstrations and marches against what it calls Islamic extremism in Britain since the group emerged last year.