DEBATE: “European Muslims: Model Citizens or Forever Foreign?” on Wednesday, November 10th at the British Council and European Policy Centre, Brussels

A debate organised by the British Council in collaboration with the European Policy Centre and the European Muslim Network.

10 November 2010, European Parliament, Brussels, Room A5E2, 10:00 to 12:30 (Registration and Coffee from 09:15)

Are western societies becoming too individualistic? Are we more concerned with ourselves than our communities? If good citizenship is defined by giving something back to society, are we all becoming bad citizens?

We hear no end of criticism against European Muslims for having divided loyalties; for failing to integrate and for living in closed communities with traditional values, out of tune with ‘our’ Western values.

But perhaps Muslims in Europe are actually the model of good citizenship, with stronger family ties, increasing political participation, more respect for their community and more engagement in voluntary organisations..…

In this open and frank debate, we discuss what it takes to be a good ‘European citizen’. We ask whether strong communities are a hindrance to proper integration; whether citizenship is more than just nationality; and whether hyphenated citizenship should be embraced or challenged.

Participants include

Sajjad Karim, Conservative Member of the European Parliament, Host of the Debate
Belinda Pyke, Director for Equality between Men/Women, Action against discrimination, European Commission
Saad Amrani, Police Commissioner in charge of foreign community and international issues, Brussels city
Tareq Oubrou, Imam, Mosque of Bordeaux
Sophie Heine, Research Fellow, Université Libre de Bruxelles

This debate will be moderated by Shada Islam, from the European Policy Centre.

If you would like to register, please contact us at

If you require a pass for the European Parliament, please RSVP before 29th October, including your full name, date of birth and place of residence.

The Spanish Headscarf and burqa debate

After the Najwa Malha affair and the ban on the burqa and the niqab in Lleida some political and religious actors have fixed their opinions on headscarves.

The Speaker in the European Parliament of the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE), López Aguilar, compared the hijab to the Catholic nuns’ head covering.

Socialists lose in European Parliament

With the lowest turnout figures in European Parliament elections since 1979, the fear that racist and far-right parties would sweep the European elections did not materialise, although in the Netherlands, Austria, Britain and Hungary, they were quite successful. In Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Poland and Bulgaria, racist and far-right parties did worse than expected. In the UK for the first time two members of the right wing British National Party (BNP) were elected.

French authorities seek to ban French comedian from fielding candidates

The French government is looking for ways to bar a prominent comedian from fielding candidates for European Parliamentary elections because of his anti-Semitic proposals. The comedian is on trial on charges of inciting hatred against Jews.

French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala has long been a controversial figure. He is a longtime friend of far-right French politician Jean Marie Le Pen. And he has long been known for his anti-Semitic remarks as an entertainer. He has also tried and failed twice to run for presidency. Those remarks have landed him in court on charges of inciting hatred.

But now he is taking on the political arena as his leftist party hopes to field candidates for June elections to the European Parliament. Dieudonné denies he is anti-Semitic. Rather, he said, he is fighting against a powerful Zionist lobby.

Close Call for MEPS: Europe Strongly Condemns Attacks

European officials strongly condemned the attacks in Mumbai. Three members of European Parliament were among those trapped in the Taj Mahal hotel. They escaped unscathed, but will return to Brussels with harrowing memories. On Thursday morning, officials from the European Union and its member states strongly condemned the terror attacks in Mumbai. “Terrorism is never justified and is no means to achieve any goal. We stand by the Indian government in its fight against terrorism,” the European Commission said. The European Council, currently headed by France, said that “it joins in the mourning of the Indian nation and stands beside it during this distressing trial.” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the attacked “outrageous”; German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was personally “distraught” by the news. German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent her condolences to Indian prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday. “The German government sharply condemns these crimes,” she wrote. “I would like to express my deeply felt sympathy to you and the citizens of your country. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families in this difficult hour.”

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

French Appeals Court Restores Marriage in Virginity Case

A French appeals court in Douai has overturned a lower tribunal of Lille from April 1st 2008 that had annulled the marriage of two Muslims because the bride misrepresented her virginity. The marriage was annulled when the court held that the woman had lied over what was considered “an essential quality,” and therein the marriage contract was invalid.

In the wake of outrage expressed by feminists and human rights activists, the court ruled that virginity “is not an essential quality in that its absence has no repercussion on matrimonial life.” Others expressed concern that the original ruling was an affront to France’s fiercely protected secularism. In a petition sent to French Justice Minister Rachida Dati in June, 150 members of the European Parliament said an annulment in the case would “only comfort fundamentalists in their archaic fight whilst the main barrier against this fanaticism should precisely be the law.”

The new ruling means that the marriage, which neither husband nor wife wishes to continue, stands. A court official aptly noted, “We’re back to the situation before the first ruling.”

See full-text articles:

International Herald Tribune

Le Figaro


The Globe and Mail

The National Post

A Turk at the Top

Politician Cem Özdemir is set to soon become Germany’s first national party leader of Turkish descent. As head of the Green Party, he will break through a glass ceiling that still persists for most of the country’s estimated 2.5 million ethnic Turks. Cem Özdemir raises his vodka-orange and winks.
“Serefe.” He seems to relax. There was a crowd outside the bar, packed into Berlin’s KulturBrauerei for the mid-September Radio Multikulti festival, and the way to the small upstairs table had been full of random greetings and handshakes. Özdemir became a political cult hero in 1994, when, at 28, he became the first person of Turkish descent to enter Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. Now an influential member of the European Parliament in Brussels with three books and countless public appearances under his belt, the charismatic politician recently acquired the aura of a future titan within the country’s influential Green Party. Nine days earlier, Volker Ratzmann withdrew from the November 14 race for the party’s top leadership post, clearing the way for Özdemir to claim another high-profile milestone as the first member of an ethnic minority to lead a German national party. Michael Giglio reports.

Full-text article continues here.(Some news sites may require registration)

Immigrants urge arrest of Moroccan drink-drive suspect

Immigrants in the northern city of Padua are urging for the arrest of a Moroccan man who killed a young Italian while driving under intoxication of alcohol. The group of immigrants, led by Muhammad Ahmed, a Moroccan journalist, launched their appeal during a taping that later appeared on Italian television. The unnamed Moroccan man had blood alcohol levels that were reportedly four times “normal” limits, when his car struck and killed Simone Bacchini on a scooter, and injured two others. The man is believed to have fled Italy to his native Morocco. Anti-immigrant Northern League members are also lobbying the European Parliament for the man’s arrest.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Hirsi Ali to receive protection across Europe, says Frattini

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch activist facing threats from her controversial criticism of Islam, will receive national protection anywhere in the European Union, said a top justice official in Brussels. Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs said that Hirsi Ali and others who face threats for their opinions or writings would be guaranteed protection wherever they went in the EU and that the host country would bear the expenses. Frattini said: “the protection of people vulnerable or under threat is under the full competence of the member states. Hirsi Ali went to the European Parliament two weeks ago to demand that the EU pay for her protection when living in the United States. Last autumn, the Dutch government withdrew funding for her security expenses, prompting her return to Europe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Asks EU Lawmakers for Protection

After spending the last two years in the US and recently requesting French citizenship, Ayaan Hirsi Ali went before a group of 100 EU lawmakers to request assistance in protecting her life from Muslim jihadists who vowed to hunt her down. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch lawmaker whose criticism of Islam (more…) has kept her on the run since 2004, was in front of the European Parliament on Thursday pleading for a measure to help her fund a personal security detail. “The threats to my life have not subsided and the cost is beyond anything I can pay,” Hirsi Ali said to a group of European Union lawmakers on Thursday. “I find myself in a very desperate position. I don’t want to die. I want to live and I love life. I’m going to do anything legal to get help.” Hirsi Ali went before a gathering of 100 EU lawmakers who signed a declaration requesting EU member nations to assume the costs of Hirsi Ali’s security. Support by more than half of the 785 members of the European Parliament is needed by mid-March for the EU to formally take up the request.