The general mood in the United States has grown increasingly intolerant towards Muslims. Charlotte Wiedemann was in New York and spoke with Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Afro-American and President of the Islamic Leadership Council, on the mood in this election year and about his criticism of some Muslims for what he sees as opportunism
Imam, you stood on the street with a sign that said “Muslims demand equal rights!” Against what were you directing your protest?
Talib Abdur-Rashid: The surveillance of Muslim communities, mosques, meeting places, and student groups is a grave violation of the American constitution. Under the pretext of security, the New York police and their “Intelligence Division” have assumed the right to snoop around wherever they like. We will not put up with this. The matter must be decided by the courts.
Opinion polls indicate that almost every other American holds a negative view of Islam. And every third Republican supporter calls Barack Obama a Muslim, here synonymous with being un-American. Is religious tolerance in the USA a thing of the past?
Rashid: The atmosphere today is even more negative for Muslims than after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. We were all traumatized by 9/11, but back then there were efforts to support each other as Americans and not to fall into the trap of a collective guilt mindset. Today, the Republicans and, in particular, the Tea Party, have made Islamophobia an integral part of their political platform. They utilize fears, traumas, and a lack of knowledge to further their political aims. We have observed in recent times that there is a rise in anti-Islamic emotions during every election year. This was the situation at the time of Obama’s election and equally the case in local elections in New York two years ago.
British PM David Cameron has presented a proposal to redefine marrigae and legalise gay marriage. Acording to Cameron, this redefinition is necessary, as any kind of relationships based on stability and commitment should be supported. Yet, Cameron’s proposal was attacked my Muslims and Sikhs in the UK. The Muslim Council of Britain, for instance, said that Cameron’s plans were „unnecessary and unhelpful“ (The Telegraph) and, furthermore, the proposal was „strikingly weak“. In their opinion, the recognition of civil partnerships was sufficient, as it gives homosexual and heterosexual couples equal rights.
22 Oct 2010
In Germany, centres for Islamic studies are to be set up in three universities in order to train imams and religion teachers. Muslim associations like the Schuras, or associations of mosques, in northern Germany have been calling for years both for the introduction of Muslim religious education in schools and for the training of Muslim clerics in Germany.
All the same, there’s a substantial difference between the aims of the associations and those of the politicians making the decisions. The politicians have been led to make this historic decision by considerations of integration and security policy.
For the Muslim associations there have been other issues: equal rights; the development of an authentic Muslim theology in a European context; independence; and the emancipation from the Muslim countries of origin.
Volunteers from the Minnesota chapter of Islamic Circle of North America took to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” to repair the image of Muslims in America. A poll released last week showed many Americans have the same mixed feelings about the Muslim faith. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that most Americans doubt that Islam is likelier than other faiths to encourage violence and believe Muslims should have equal rights to build houses of worship. But more people have an unfavorable than favorable view of Islam by 38 to 30 percent – nearly a reversal of findings on the same poll question in 2005, when 41 percent had favorable views compared with 36 percent unfavorable.
When Mosa Sayed, researcher at the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University, defended his thesis, “Islam och arvsrätt i det mångkulturella Sverige. En internationellt privaträttslig och jämförande studie” (“Islam and inheritence law in multicultural Sweden”) it was spoken about as controversial already, and as a result the hall was packed and had to be guarded by watchmen. Even so the disputation ran without interruptions.
Dr. Sayed himself says the dissertation is to be considered a contribution to the debate of multiculturalism in Sweden.
In a response, well known debater on Islam related subjects Dilsa Demirbag-Stan says Sayed is pleading for the introduction of Shari’a inheritance laws for Muslims in Sweden – and this, she states, would give women half the inheritance of men. “Eager to express their sympathy for multiculturalism, the faculty of law in Uppsala have let Sayed’s sniper-shooting at the Swedish constitution and the citizen’s equal rights pass as law.”
In a response to Demirbag-Sten, Torbjörn Andersson – Dean of the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University – states that “Sayed’s thesis is a pioneering work in a field in need of exchange of opinions and research, but which also is charged with political tension. To discuss multi- and mono-cultural value structures, equality issues, and people need to be able to arrange their family affairs in a predictable way, requires nuance and objectivity. Sayed shoulders his responsibility.”
France’s currently most successful rapper, Diam’s, has turned to an entirely religious life. The 29-year-old woman, who converted to Islam in 2000, has so far not displayed her religion publicly or reflected about it in her lyrics. She was rather known for her rebellious and feminist position, voicing the needs of youths from Paris’s banlieues.
Now Diam’s has released a new album, “S.O.S”, which is very different from her previous ones in terms of lyrics and underlying ideas. Diam’s struggle is no longer for freedom and equal rights, but rather for traditional gender roles. “Because no one can change these roles,” she assured in her song “Rose du bitume”. If her husband was a Kalashnikov, she sings, she would gladly be the shoulder supporting him.
Diam’s has also decided to put on the veil, which many fans and feminists regard as a step backwards. The artist, who suffered mentally from a difficult upbringing, claims that where doctors failed to help her, religion will now step in. She refuses to explain her decision to journalists.
An Amsterdam court has backed the decision of the Amsterdam Welfare Agency (DWI) to fine a Muslim man who refused work which would require him to shake hands with women and cut his beard. The man was fined 200 Euros by the DWI on the grounds that his convictions prevented him from accepting work as a security guard. According to the DWI this would also have frustrated efforts to get the man employed as traffic warden or seniors’ home. The court argued that in this case, finding a job
takes precedence over freedom of religious expression.
The philosopher Şeyla Benhabib has identified a deficit in Germany’s democracy. She calls for the right to vote in local elections for non-nationals – and the same legal status for Islam as for other religions. “From the equal rights point of view, Islam has to be acknowledged as a religious community. There’s room for discussion on which form this should take and what consequences it should have, but the first priority is to abolish this plain and public form of unequal treatment. It is blocking the debate.”
After the wife of a Pakistani man filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Irfan Aleem responded to the move in writing in 2003 – and not just in the courtroom. Aleem went to the Pakistani Embassy in the nation’s capital, where he asserted that he was divorcing his wife, Farah Aleem. Irfan performed talaq – an exercise of Islamic religious and Pakistani secular law that allows husbands to divorce their wives by declaring I divorce thee three times. However, this month, Maryland’s highest court has stated that talaq can’t be used in the state. The state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 21-page opinion declaring that talaq is contrary to Maryland’s provision giving women and men equal rights. In Islamic tradition, talaq can only be invoked by the husband, unless he grants the same right to his wife. Irfan Aleem, who worked for the World Bank and is worth an estimated $2 million, may have to give Farah Aleem half of this under Maryland law. Farah has stated that over the years, the lack of financial support from her husband has been a hardship for her and her daughter, currently a college student.
The Dutch immigration minister says she will look into the legality of banning the burqa, the robes worn by some Muslim women to cover their bodies. Rita Verdonk made the pledge after a majority in parliament said it would support such a ban. The proposal was put forward by independent politician Geert Wilders. “That women should walk the streets in a totally unrecognisable manner is an insult to everyone who believes in equal rights,” he said. “This law is a comfort to moderate Muslims and will contribute to integration in the Netherlands,” he added in a statement. His proposal is supported by two of the parties in the governing centre-right coalition, as well as the opposition right-wing party founded by the late Pim Fortuyn. Mrs Verdonk did not say when she might complete her investigation. If the Netherlands does decide to ban the burqa, it will be the first European country to do so.