The European Assembly of Imams and Spiritual Guides had their inaugural two-day conference in Brussels, Belgium on February 25-26, 2008. More than 150 Imams from 28 countries attended the event which was organized by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE). The European Assembly of Imams and Spiritual Guides stressed the importance of creating an Islamic European identity and also discussed issues of Islamophobia and other contemporary politics in the Muslim World.
The European Assembly of Muslim Imams and Spiritual Guides (Al-Tagammu Al-Urubi Lillaimah val Murshideen) has been established following meetings in Brussels over more than 100 Imams from around Europe at the end of February 2008. According to Shakib Benmakhlouf, the President of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), the assembly’s goal is to preserve Muslim identity and prepare Muslims to play a civilizing role in their European homelands. It also aims to educate imams about European history, law, culture, society and politics. The Assembly is a non-governmental organization and will be based in Brussels with branches in other European countries. Wanis El-Mabrook was elected as the leader. El-Mabrook has an MA which examined fatwa in Western countries from Wales University and is the former manager of an Islamic Center in Sheffield, England. He is also currently a professor of Fiqh and director of the European Institute for Humanitarian Studies in Birmingham.
By Kate Connolly Muslims intent on becoming German citizens will have to undergo a rigorous cultural test to gauge their views on subjects ranging from bigamy to homosexuality. Believed to be the first test of its kind in Europe, the southern state of Baden-W_rttemberg has created the two-hour oral exam to test the loyalty of Muslims towards Germany. It is to be taken on top of the standard test for foreigners wishing to become German citizens, which includes language proficiency skills and general knowledge. It also requires applicants to prove that they can provide for themselves and their families. Those applying must also have resided in Germany for the previous eight years and have no criminal record. Germany’s 15 other states will monitor the progress of the policy when the tests begin this week before deciding whether they wish to adopt similar legislation. The 30 questions, which have been set by a special commission, range from sexual equality to school sports and are meant to trigger a more detailed discussion between the applicants and officials. Until now, all applicants have simply had to tick a Yes or No box to answer whether they felt loyalty to Germany. But now they will be quizzed on their attitudes to homosexuality and western clothing for young women, and whether husbands should be allowed to beat their wives. Other questions covering topics such as bigamy and whether parents should allow their children to participate in school sports have been called “trick questions”, meant to catch people off guard. The state interior ministry said the test would be used to filter out Muslims who were unsuited for life in Germany. Those who answered “correctly” but later acted against expected behaviour, such as wife-beating, could have their citizenship removed. Critics say that the test is biased and discriminatory and that if Muslims are obliged to take it, so should all applicants for citizenship. Brigitte L_sch, a leading member of the Green party in the Baden-Wurttemberg parliament, called for the oral exam to be dropped, arguing that it inferred from the outset that all Muslims were “violent per se” and unable to abide by German law. “This list of questions is only to be used for applicants from Islamic countries. It is an unbelievable form of discrimination,” she said. “If Germans were asked some of the questions, they would find it difficult to answer them.” The European Assembly of Turkish Academics rejected the questionnaire as “strongly discriminatory and racist” against Germany’s three million-strong Muslim population, most of whom are Turkish. Kerim Arpad, an assembly spokesman, said: “The test is shaped by stereotypes and damages integration.” But Dieter Biller, of the foreign ministry in Stuttgart, the state capital, said the test would help bureaucrats to form opinions as to whether citizenship applicants were suitable or not. “It covers everything from sexual equality, violence, school sports and religious freedom,” he said. “How the applicants stand on the question of the attacks of September 11 will also be a key question.” Holland announced yesterday that it was introducing ceremonies for new immigrants as part of efforts to reduce racial tensions and to integrate immigrant communities. The government is worried that immigrants who do not move outside their ethnic or religious groups hamper integration and stoke fears of militancy. New Dutch citizens will also have to take an “oath of allegiance”.