Schools in Quebec to Celebrate Diverse Religious and Culture Holidays, Including Eid al-Adha

Schools in Québec are now required to note the passage of holidays like Eid al-Adha, Hanukkah, Diwali and the birth of Sikh guru Nanak. These dates are part of a controversial new course on ethics and religious culture making its debut in classrooms this fall. One school, Loyola High School in Montreal, is going to court in protest. More than 600 parents at the private Catholic school have requested exemptions to allow their children to opt out of the course. The school’s principal, Paul Donovan has stated that “if you’re going to allow Catholic schools to exist, then you have to allow them to be Catholic.”

Jean-Pierre Proulx, a University of Montreal education professor who advised the provincial government on the new course, stated, “We’re not aiming to form good Catholics or good Protestant or good Jews. We want to form good cultivated citizens, who are tolerant and able to enter into dialogue with others.”

The Dalai Lama will travel to the province next year to show his enthusiasm for the ethics and religious culture class.

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£3m to be spent on fight against extremism

Council chiefs in one Midland city are spending more than $3 million of taxpayers’ money on fighting extremism. Birmingham City Council has spent $525,000 in the last financial year under the Government’s controversial and secrecy-shrouded Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund (PVE). And it has secured a further $2.4 million under the scheme to spend over the next three years. Councils across the country have received PVE cash to help communities tackle extremism. But there are concerns over how effectively local authorities are using the money. Birmingham City Council used the $525,000 to fund projects at 10 mosques in the city. Dr Mashuq Ally, the council’s Head of Equality and Diversity, the department in charge of deciding how to spend the funds, said the money had been used for 11 projects. He said these focused on young people, religious institutions, and women and media. Among them was a scheme to teach imams English. Another was aimed at developing management structures in the mosques. “It was also about making sure they are embracing the involvement of young people and women in the decision-making process,” Dr Ally said.

Stereotyping in Flanders schoolbooks

The Center of Diversity and Learning from Ghent University recently investigated twelve schoolbooks for stereotyping. Among the assumptions include one textbook that uses all Flemish names, except for one story about an unruly student named _Hassan.’ In another instance, a book about fundamentalism brings up articles about the French headscarf ban as an illustration. According to a report, the book unintentionally labels a religious symbol as problematic.

Businesses Face Muslim Practices

The National Association of Human Resources Directors (L’Association nationale des directeurs des ressources humaines) has taken up the question of religious claims in the workplace, particularly for Muslims. For instance, Hamid, an employee of the Paris Airport, recently refused to move carts full of alcohol to airplanes claiming it was against his religious beliefs. Several large French companies like L`Or_al, Gaz de France, Total, and Vinci have participated for the last year with a group organized by the Association of Dynamic Diversity (L`association Dynamique Diversit_) led by anthropologist Dounia Bouzar to discuss these issues. Companies have begun making accommodations: employees often have to right to absent themselves on A_d-el-Kebir and many have created prayer rooms.

Islam in Europe: Diversity, Identity and Influence

Events over recent years have increased the global interest in Islam. This volume seeks to combat generalisations about the Muslim presence in Europe by illuminating its diversity across Europe and offering a more realistic, highly differentiated picture. It contends with the monist concept of identity that suggests Islam is the shared and main definition of Muslims living in Europe. The contributors also explore the influence of the European Union on the Muslim communities within its borders, and examine how the EU is in turn affected by the Muslim presence in Europe. This book comes at a critical moment in the evolution of the place of Islam within Europe and will appeal to scholars, students and practitioners in the fields of European studies, politics and policies of the European Union, sociology, sociology of religion, and international relations. It also addresses the wider framework of uncertainties and unease about religion in Europe (Cambridge UP).

Table of Contents

    Introduction—Effie Fokas
    Christians and Muslims: memory, amity, and enmities—Tarek Mitri
    The Question of Euro-Islam: restriction or opportunity?— Jorgen Nielsen
    Muslim identities in Europe: the snare of exceptionalism—Jocelyne Cesari
    From exile to diaspora: the development of transnational Islam in Europe—Werner Schiffauer
    Bosnian Islam as “european Islam”: limits and shifts of a concept—Xavier Bougarel
    Islam in the European Commission’s system of regulation of Religion—Berengere Massignon
    Development, discrimination and reverse discrimination: effects of EU integration and regional change on the Muslims of Southeast Europe—Dia Anagnostou
    Breaching the infernal cycle? Turkey, the European Union and Religion—Valerie Amiraux
    Afterword—Aziz Al-Azmeh

French Public Accepting of Religious and Ethnic Minorities: But most are uncomfortable with outward signs of piousness

PRINCETON, NJ — Hopes that France’s recent legislative elections would result in greater ethnic representation to reflect the country’s diversity were dashed when only one of the 555 National Assembly seats for metropolitan France went to a minority candidate. But at the Hôtel Matignon, the government’s Paris headquarters, the situation looked a bit brighter for advocates of diversity. Three individuals visibly identifiable as minorities out of 19 portfolios now hold minister-level posts. And President Nicolas Sarkozy’s highest profile appointment went to Rachida Dati, a female lawyer of North African ancestry, who heads the Justice Ministry.

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Election Of Muslims A Start To Changing Gop’s Image; Dupage Party Aims For More Diversity

By John Biemer Tribune staff reporter No one would mistake a gathering of DuPage County Republicans for the United Nations, but the party took a significant step last week toward shaking its image as a party dominated by “old white-haired men” when Moin Moon Khan and Esin Busche were elected township trustees. Party officials say as far as they can tell, Khan, an Indian-born longtime Chicago-area activist who works as a computer network administrator, and Busche, a Turkish-born chemist, are the first Muslim Republicans elected to public office anywhere in the state–and a symbol of the party’s new outreach effort in a rapidly diversifying county. “This is a small office, and for me it may be a very small individual achievement,” said Khan. “However, I think it’s a giant milestone for the minority communities in general and the Muslim American community in particular.” Rasheed Ahmed, coordinator of the Illinois Muslim Political Coordinating Council, also called their elections “an important milestone,” but noted that there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Illinois–and an estimated 6 million to 8 million across the United States. “It’s only natural,” he said. “I’m not surprised. One could say perhaps that it’s even late.” Khan, who lives in Lombard, won a York Township trustee seat last week with 12.6 percent of the vote. He finished last out of the four Republicans elected trustee, beating out Bob Wagner, who came closest of four Democratic trustee candidates with 11.8 percent of the vote. Busche, who lives in Naperville, was elected Naperville Township trustee last week with 17.9 percent of the vote–also last among four Republicans elected to that office, but five points ahead of the closest Democrat. Republicans won every one of the 72 township offices on the DuPage ballot in last week’s municipal election, so having the support of such a well-entrenched political organization didn’t hurt. Both Khan and Busche served as GOP committeemen for a handful of years before making their runs. Muslims don’t tend to naturally gravitate to either party, Ahmed said, because there are parts of both the Democratic and Republican positions that appeal to them. But Khan pledged as a candidate to reach out to a variety of immigrants that he says make up a sizable chunk of the tax base in his district, although they are underrepresented in government. That message resonated beyond the Muslim community–but so did Khan’s decades of work for such organizations as the DuPage Minority Caucus, the Asian American Institute and the Council of Islamic Organizations in Illinois. “I’ve seen him as a person who’s concerned with the welfare of people and such,” said Shanker Pillai, president of the Hindu Chinmaya Mission in Hinsdale. “And in this time of religious and social animosities developing, he’s stood beyond those barriers.” Asian populations in DuPage County have skyrocketed in recent years–growing by 80 percent from 1990 to 2000. As of 2000, Asians made up 7.9 percent of the suburban county, according to the U.S. Census, almost as much as the even faster growing Hispanic community–another group wooed by both political parties. DuPage Democratic Party Chairwoman Gayl Ferraro said her party also has tried to tap into the intensifying political activity of Asian immigrants in recent years. She points to Chodri Khokhar, chair of the Bloomingdale Township Democrats–a Muslim Pakistani immigrant. “We always welcome everybody into our party; we’re very diverse,” Ferraro said. “I’m kind of colorblind when it comes to all that stuff.” Republican officials concede that the GOP did not do a great job in the past of reaching out to new communities. But Paul Hinds, chairman of the York Township Republican Party, said the time has come for the party to better reflect the constituency. “We get pegged too much as 70-year-old white-haired men. That’s a stereotype we always have to work against,” he said. “That’s not what we are.” Still, there were risks involved. Khan acknowledges that Hinds may have displeased some party loyalists when he pushed Khan to run for the post. And party leaders questioned how voters would receive the candidates–noting that their vote counts did lag behind other Republican office-seekers. “I’m not going to kid anyone,” said state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), chairman of the DuPage County GOP. “I was worried that someone named Moon Khan would lose to someone named Susan O’Brien or Robert Wagner. But if Barack Obama could win, Moon Khan should clearly win, and he did.” “I know my name was quite different from other people,” Busche said in agreement. “But I tried to introduce myself to people in my community. I guess people, once they get to know you, the name doesn’t play any part.”