Open Mosque Day Welcomes Non-Muslims in Germany

An estimated 2,000 mosques and Islamic prayer halls in Germany opened to the public during a holiday Wednesday, with non-Muslims invited to come in, look around and ask about Islam. Open Mosque Day has been an annual event in Germany since 1997. Despite the added strain of observing Ramadan at the same time this year, Muslims agreed to keep the customary date, the public holiday of German Unity Day.

Immigration Law ‘Hits Turks Below the Belt’

Four groups representing Germany’s Turkish population have refused to take part in Angela Merkel’s integration summit being held Thursday. German commentators are divided over whether the groups have a point or whether they are just proving that Turks in Germany don’t want to integrate. Four major organizations representing the Turkish community in Germany have boycotted Merkel’s integration summit. The boycott by four major organizations representing the Turkish community in Germany of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s much-vaunted integration summit (more…) threatened to overshadow the event as it took shape on Thursday.

Stanford limits audience for talk by ‘3 ex-terrorists’

They bill themselves as the “three ex-terrorists” and speak at campuses around the country. They like to be provocative and seem to invite controversy by characterizing the radical Islamic movement as a new form of Nazism. Their efforts to attract attention got a boost this week when Stanford University called their scheduled appearance Monday controversial and said members of the press and the public would be prohibited from attending. “This is a Stanford event and we have chosen to make sure this is a Stanford event where students can have an exchange of ideas in a constructive way,” said Elaine Ray, director of the Stanford News Service. “It’s not unusual to have an event that is not open to the public.” After students and the speakers’ representatives criticized the decision, the university said selected journalists would be allowed to attend. The three “ex-terrorists” are Middle Eastern men who say they engaged in violent activities as young Muslims before converting to Christianity. Walid Shoebat, an Israeli-born Palestinian, has been on the lecture circuit since 1993 and recently teamed up with the other two, Kamal Saleem, a Palestinian, and Zachariah Anani, who is Lebanese. Shoebat, 46, said in a telephone interview Friday that he calls himself an ex-terrorist because as a teenager he belonged to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and planted a bomb on the roof of an Israeli bank in the late 1970s. The bomb exploded but did not harm anyone. He was never charged. He was later arrested in Israel for allegedly inciting violence but says he spent only a few weeks in custody because his mother was a U.S. citizen and he had a U.S. passport. He moved to the United States in 1978 at the age of 18. Calling himself a fundamentalist Christian, he devotes his speeches to warning about the danger of a radical Islamic movement that he believes is bent on ruling the world. He has written several books, including “Why I Left Jihad” and his most recent, “Why We Want to Kill You.” “These are patriotic American topics we are talking about — how to protect America from radical Islam,” says Shoebat, who openly supports Israel. “We saw the error of our ways. We want to waken America to the threat of radical Islam.” Saleem was also a member of the PLO, and ferried explosives from Lebanon into Israel before he was shot by Israeli security forces, Shoebat said. He later moved to the United States and converted to Christianity after Christian doctors saved his life from injuries suffered in a car accident. Anani was born in Lebanon, where he joined a militia at age 13 and killed 223 people during the fighting of the 1970s, according to the speakers’ website, He says he met a Christian missionary and abandoned Islam before moving to Canada. Critics have questioned his body count and said that even if true, that would mean he was a militia fighter or insurgent, not a terrorist. Shoebat said he has spoken at 50 universities over the years, as well as synagogues and churches, mostly without incident. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his message became increasingly popular and the number of public appearances soared. Together, the speakers charge less than $10,000 for appearances, said a spokesman, Keith Davies. The views of Shoebat and his colleagues draw fire from some Muslims who say theirs is a peaceful religion and should not be blamed for extremist violence. Last year, Columbia University limited attendance to Shoebat’s lecture at the last minute, and Princeton canceled his appearance. At Stanford, where the appearance is sponsored in part by the Stanford College Republicans, spokeswoman Ray noted that the university, as a private institution, was not required to serve the broader public. “We have a lot of events that are not open to the community,” she said. *

Conference and Seminar about Sufism in Granada

The German Sufi Master Hussein Abdul Fattah Hill recognized by his high spiritual, religious and cultural capacity will be giving a conference about Sufism nowadays in Carmen de la Victoria de Granada on the 14 of March, and since the 16 until the 18 of March at the Puebla de Don Fadrique. The event will be open to any type of belief, sex, so that the traditional Islam of Andalusia can be explained.

Militants of the Popular Party and of the Falange insult Zapatero and scream Spain is Christian not Islamic

Murcia was the stage of manifestations against and in favour of Zapatero. The events were so serious that the event in which the Prime Minister was supposed to participate had to be cancelled. The militants of PP accused him of being the anti-Christ at the same time that members of the PSOE were thanking him for having reposed their faith.

Detroit Convention

Mansur Escudero, president of the Islamic Council has participated last month in the Annual Convention of the Nation of Islam in Detroit having been this the first time that a Spanish Muslim was participating in such event. The Islamic leader gave a public speech that was specially heard by the Latin Muslim community.; he also asked the government of the USA to change the drift of its imperialistic politics and to adopt a project of peace and prosperity. Another issue mentioned was the effort of Spanish Muslims to fight and to condemn terrorism expressed in the fatwa of March 2004 and affirm that one can not talk about Islamic terrorism as both words are not compatible.

Iftar and American Islam

Iftar (the breaking of daily fasts during the Islamic month of Ramadan) in interfaith settings is an increasingly widespread phenomenon. This year there were dozens of interfaith Iftar celebrations throughout New York City, where I live, and perhaps hundreds nation wide. Inviting non-Muslims to break fast has become a primary way in which Islam explains itself to the American public and extends friendship to the community. Ramadan began on September 24 this year, and the holy month saw numerous public Iftar events, including, for example, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Iftar and the Turkish Cultural Society’s Iftar, which took place at the Waldorf Astoria and was attended by judges, scholars, religious leaders, and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Meanwhile, an Iftar at the Dawood Mosque in Brooklyn included among its guests local shop owners, community leaders, two rabbis, and the Rev. Daniel Meeter of Old First Reformed Church of Brooklyn. At the end of the meal — which is always at the center of the program — the Jewish guests, along with Rev. Meeter and an imam from Egypt’s Al-Azar University, sat together on the floor to engage in a long discussion about politics and religion for the community to hear. Other such examples abound. Union Theological Seminary and the Muslim Consultative Network, with a little help from the Interfaith Center of New York and the Columbia Muslim Students Association, hosted an Iftar at James Chapel, where Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer once preached. (Union removed the cross from the chapel so that Muslims could pray without facing it.) During dinner, there was public discussion on human rights, with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim speakers. But not just monotheists are involved in interfaith Iftars. In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for example, an imam hosted Ven. Rey Fashi, a Chinese monk, pointing out that Chinese Buddhists and Arab Muslims share the neighborhood, have similar ethics, and should become better acquainted. There are also joint religious programs, such as Iftar-Sukkot gatherings, in which imams and rabbis explain to each other’s congregations the significance of shelter, food, and hospitality in their respective traditions. While mosques are likely locations for Iftar celebrations, many have been initiated by community leaders — often women — practicing outside traditional settings. In this way, these activists bring established religious authorities into contact with civil society, acting as important social interlocutors, and furthering alternative and complementary leadership models that reflect their communities. Organizers also use these opportunities to highlight social justice advocacy concerns, as with interfaith “fast-a-thons” for Darfur. Women’s groups such as New York’s Turning Point for Women and Families have hosted interfaith Iftars that provide religious context for highlighting the need to confront domestic violence. What has led to the pronounced growth in interfaith Iftars? The disaster of September 11, 2001, has much to do with it. While they existed before, numerous interfaith Iftar practices — both in local mosques as well as between mosques, synagogues, and churches — emerged in the weeks following the tragedy. And today, as in 2001, such occasions serve in part as quiet, accommodating responses to an event that will forever be recalled near the time of Ramadan, while also providing further opportunities for bringing Islam into conversation with the wider public. Indeed, for Muslims, breaking the fast during Ramadan is often very much a public event, an occasion for offering hospitality to their own community as well as the wider community. Here in America, it is rapidly becoming a primary way in which Muslims, especially among immigrant populations, can practice their religion while remaining open to other religious traditions and the public; the interfaith Iftar is therefore a way to be an “American Muslim,” with equal emphasis on each element in that term. Muslims have thus adapted a religious event into a civic activity in which local friends, civil authorities, and religious others may participate. In doing so, Muslims remain faithful to their tradition through acts of hospitality — hospitality that, one might hope, inspires reciprocity in our religiously pluralist America. Matthew Weiner is Director of Program Development at the Interfaith Center of New York, and a doctoral candidate at Union Theological Seminary.

Some Muslim Communities Concerned ‘United 93’ Creates Anti-Islam Sentiment

Take off your f***ing burqas and get the f*** out of this country. We don’t want you in this country. Go home. These words were allegedly spoken by a middle-aged couple to a group of three young Muslim women wearing head scarves Apr. 29 at the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Scottsdale, Ariz. According to the young women, the couple approached them calmly and asked if they were Muslim. After answering yes, the women said the couple became enraged and verbally abused them, indicating they had just watched the film United 93. The event raised concerns throughout several Muslim communities after one of the women, Bushra Khan, the office manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter, sent a message out to all 31 CAIR offices nationwide about the incident.

Strasbourg Lays The First Stone Of Its Large Mosque

By Thomas Calinon It is perhaps the end of an old alarm. After two decades of reflection, including four years of impassioned debates, the first stone of the large mosque of Strasbourg was placed Friday, during Ramadan, in muddy ground near the downtown area. “It is time!” said the mayor of Strasbourg, Fabienne Keller, as the ceremony of more than 500 faithful Moslems concluded with “Allah Akbar!”. The event included representatives of the four faiths (Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran and Jew) recognized by the right of Alsace-Moselle, which excuses Alsace from the law on separation of Church and State since 1905.