Macron proposes extension of counterterrorism powers

President Macron’s government proposed an expansion of authorities’ powers to fight terrorism, alarming civil liberties advocates even as defenders said the plans would help keep French citizens safe.

The draft law was introduced after a series of attempted terrorist strikes in Paris and Brussels in recent weeks and several bloody attacks in Britain that were claimed by Islamic State-inspired militants.

The changes proposed Thursday seek to wind down a state of emergency that gave French security officials broad powers and was imposed after the November 2015 Paris attacks, which claimed 130 lives. Some of those powers would be made permanent, including the ability to temporarily shutter places of worship that promote extremism and conduct searches with fewer restrictions. The draft also strips some oversight powers from judges and gives security officials more latitude to act without judicial review.

 “I think we have achieved a good balance,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters after a meeting of the French cabinet Thursday during which he proposed the law. “The aim is to put an end to the state of emergency.”

 

Macron and his predecessor, François Hollande, have sought to end the state of emergency, which has been extended several times since the 2015 attacks. It is slated to expire July 15, although Macron has asked for it to be prolonged until November.

The proposal “tries to preserve the balance between controlling terrorism and respecting liberties,” French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said Wednesday on France’s TF1 television station. “We cannot give up what we are.” 

He acknowledged that the law was a work in progress, saying that consultation with parliament, where Macron has a majority, would “enrich the text.” Macron last month announced the formation of a terrorism task force that would streamline communication among branches of intelligence and law enforcement, an idea praised by terrorism experts.

 

Since November 2015, French police have conducted over 4,000 searches and raids using emergency powers and placed about 400 people under house arrest, according to statistics collected by Amnesty International.

 

Rising numbers of Islamic burials pose challenges to German cemeteries

For a long time, German Muslims have predominantly buried their dead abroad: especially the members of the country’s large Turkish community preferred to find their final resting place ‘back home’. Many of the so-called guest workers had envisaged a return to Turkey during their lifetimes but stayed on in Germany for work or for the sake of their families. The return home was delayed until after death.

Yet for some of the children of those who moved to Germany, the ties to their ancestors’ country of origin are increasingly remote. For others, the expense of a costly transfer of the body is simply too high; although this factor is often offset by the high cost of maintaining a grave in Germany. For yet others, warfare in their countries of origin makes a return for burial impossible.

All of this has led to a strong rise in demand for burials in conformity with Islamic rites in Germany. A seemingly innocuous issue, questions and perceptions surrounding these burials are indicative of the complex processes of adaptation Muslim communities undergo in the Western European context – as well as of the challenges this processes involves.

Running afoul of German law

To begin with, a number of Muslim traditions run counter to German legal regulations.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/menschen/bestattung-von-muslimen-teilweise-problematisch-14942392.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 )) In Germany, burial heeds to be carried out by an expressly hired professional undertaker; a notion unknown in other parts of the world. At the same time, there is not just a need for familiarity with the Islamic ritual on the part of the undertaker, but also for specific facilities to wash the dead body.

Muslim tradition encourages burial within 24 hours after death. Yet the slowly grinding mills of the German bureaucracy mean that burials cannot generally be accomplished in less than 48 hours. Medical regulations ate at times also adduced against quicker burial.

When it comes to the actual burial site itself, Muslims’ graves are customarily oriented towards Mecca – a requirement that cannot be fulfilled by most regular German cemeteries since the existing lines of graves are ordered differently.

What is more, in a somewhat macabre twist, an ‘eternal resting place’ in Germany generally means a maximum of 20 or 25 years – after that, graves are reallocated. Maintaining a grave beyond that point may be either impossible or dramatically increase the price of the grave lease. According to Muslim tradition, however, the dead should be buried in untouched earth and should have a genuinely eternal last home.

To name but one more hurdle, many administrations and cemeteries across the country require bodies to be buried in a coffin; a practice forbidden in Quranic tradition.

Pragmatic solutions

In many cases, practical solutions have been found.((https://www.welt.de/regionales/hamburg/article162782576/Wie-sich-deutsche-Friedhoefe-fuer-Muslime-veraendern.html )) Specialised Islamic undertaking businesses have cropped up all over the country, offering their services to a Muslim clientele. Especially larger towns and cities have begun to create Muslim sections in their cemeteries in order to accommodate graves oriented towards Mecca.

Some municipalities have been more lenient on the rules restricting early burial, provided that no medical reasons demand that the burial be postponed. A specifically Muslim cemetery is set to open in the city of Wuppertal, offering graves with an unlimited lease.

Enduring challenges

In some cases, however, such solutions have proved elusive. Three German states – Bavaria, Saxony, and Saxony-Anhalt – continue to categorically prohibit burials without a coffin while others no longer require the casket.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/menschen/bestattung-von-muslimen-teilweise-problematisch-14942392.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

For some on the political right, upholding the so-called ‘coffin obligation’ (Sargpflicht) has become a matter of principled defence of autochthon values and traditions. (It should perhaps be noted that burials in a coffin were only introduced in Germany in the 18th century, making it a tradition presumably less essential to local identity than one might think.(( http://www.brauchwiki.de/Beerdigungsriten )))

Acts of vandalism

Nor have Muslims’ graves gone unnoticed in largely (post-)Christian neighbourhoods, with some expressing anxieties about the expansion of cemeteries’ Islamic sections. Only a month ago a series of Muslim graves was vandalised and desecrated by swastika signs in the southern town of Aalen.(( http://www.swr.de/swraktuell/bw/aalen-muslimische-graeber-auf-friedhof-geschaendet/-/id=1622/did=19107694/nid=1622/1tyli8u/index.html ))

Yet apparently it is not only the far right that has been bent on destroying graves: in 2011, Islamic religious purists appear to have embarked on a purge in the Muslim section of a cemetery in Bielefeld, smashing angel figurines, terracotta sculptures and other ‘German-style’ adornments.

Since the graves themselves and a number of other Islamic symbols remained untouched, police surmised that the vandals only attacked those elements they deemed offensive to their restrictive understanding of Islam.(( http://www.nw.de/lokal/bielefeld/mitte/mitte/4902487_30-muslimische-Graeber-geschaendet.html ))

The salience of identity politics

The question of death and burial is thus surprisingly revelatory about the nature of Muslim life in Germany. The scope for pragmatic accommodation balancing German legal frameworks and Muslim traditions seem large; yet a fair amount of intransigence from various players in the system also makes this room for manoeuvre more difficult to use. Identity politics in its more toxic forms – emanating from ethnically German xenophobes and Islamist fundamentalists alike – leaves its mark.

More generally, when following this issue in the centre-right section of the mainstream media, one is struck by the whole range of contradictory emotions and expectations that German Muslims are faced with: the implicit reproach of a lack of loyalty is directed at those who choose burial abroad. Yet at the same time, the expansion of Islamic segments on German cemeteries is greeted with a certain amount of suspicion and civilizational angst.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/menschen/bestattung-von-muslimen-teilweise-problematisch-14942392.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

In this manner, all sides manage to project their political ambitions onto Muslims’ final resting places. At times, the resulting debate seems almost as eternal as the peace people from across religious divides are seeking for their dead.

GOP worries rise amid hostile Trump comments on Latinos and Muslims

A growing number of Republican lawmakers and strategists fear that Donald Trump’s hostile remarks about minorities and his un­or­tho­dox strategy have imperiled his campaign at the end of a five-week head start on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton that they hoped would fortify him heading into the general election.
Their concerns increased again Sunday after Trump said he thought a Muslim judge might treat him unfairly because he wants to temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from entering the country. The remark was an expansion on repeated assertions over the past week that an American-born judge overseeing a fraud case against him should recuse himself because of his “Mexican heritage.”
“If it were a Muslim judge, would you also feel like they wouldn’t be able to treat you fairly because of that policy of yours?” host John Dickerson asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”  “It’s possible, yes. Yeah. That would be possible, absolutely,” Trump replied.
 

Evidence of early Muslim burials unearthed in Nimes

February 28, 2016

Three sets of medieval-era remains found France may turn out to be some of the earliest evidence of Muslim presence outside of the Iberian Peninsula, scientists say.

The Early Middle Ages was a period of expansion and conquest for the Arab-Islamic world, culminating in the expansion of Islamic caliphates into what was once known as Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. The impact of several hundred years of Islamic rule in the Iberian region has had an indelible and unmistakable influence on Spanish, Portuguese, and Mediterranean history and culture, but the period has shown little in the way of evidence of an Islamic expansion outside of the region – that is until the discovery of these new graves.

As detailed in a newly published research study, the medieval graves dating to the 8th century CE were found in Nimes, near the Mediterranean coast of France northeast of the city of Montpelier, not far from the Côte d’Azur. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux and the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research examined the graves closely, claiming that evidence of the way the remains were interred seem to be in line with Islamic funerary practices. Additionally, preliminary DNA analysis and forensic examinations of the remains made in order to determine the age and sex of the individuals in life indicate the possibility of Arab-Islamic ancestry.

The evidence is slowly but surely mounting that these graves may be Islamic in origin. The remains were found to be buried with their bodies pointing towards Mecca, a widely-established Muslim funerary practice. Genetic markers also indicate North African ancestry for the exhumed individuals along their paternal genetic line. Finally, the remains themselves have been radiocarbon dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries. Researchers have drawn some initial conclusions from this data, theorizing that the individuals interred within the graves at one time could have been Berber soldiers that had been part of the Umayyad army after the caliphate expanded into North Africa.

The authors of the new research study into the identity of these graves say that the graves may be some of the only evidence discovered to date that indicates Muslim settlement north of the Pyrenees. While there does seem to be a high likelihood that these three individuals may have been North African Muslims that had traveled to the south of France via the caliphate’s occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, how or why they came to be, by themselves, so far into what would have been Frankish territory at the time remains a mystery.

First Dutch halal-bank might open in the Netherlands

Islamic banking is on the rise in the Netherlands. The Turkish bank KuveytTürk opened its first halal-bank in Germany last week. Now the bank is looking towards the Netherlands for further options.

@anp
@anp

This was said by Kemal Ozan, the general manager of the German branch of the bank. “After the opening in Frankfurt we would like to expand to the Dutch market.” He points to the large Muslim community in the Netherlands which consists of almost a million people. “There is a lot of potential for Islamic banking in the Netherlands.”

In 2008 The Dutch Bank and the Authority for Financial Markets identified a “substantial latent need” for Islamic banking products. However this never materialized. The Rabobank did experiment with interest-free banking products but without result. “We did have a look at it then but at the time it was not commercially interesting enough,” a spokesperson of the bank said.

The impediments are abundant: the quantity of Muslims is hard to establish and not all Muslims are orthodox practitioners of their faith. The Central Bureau for Statistics does forecast a considerable growth of the amount of Muslims in the Netherlands. Similarly, the average gross income of that group is increasing.

The most important impediment of the Dutch consumer market is the deduction of interest for mortgages. As a rule, conventional mortgages are cheaper because buyers of houses can deduce those mortgage’s interest from their taxes. Islamic mortgages would be easier to implement if a comparable settlement would be set up.

When the first Dutch Islamic bank will open in the Netherlands is not sure yet according to Ozan: “If our expansion is stabilized we will focus our attention on the Dutch market.”

German anti-Islam group marches in Britain

Pegida, a populist anti-Islam movement – in Germany. It only held its first march against the “Islamisation of the West” in the German city of Dresden last October; now, it seems, it is ready to spread its message internationally. Branches have been set up in several other countries, including France and Spain, and the Newcastle demonstration next Saturday will be its first in Britain. If it is successful, more marches are planned, for Birmingham and London, as well as Bathgate in Scotland.

It is a remarkably ambitious expansion plan for a group that has proved so shambolic at home. Its spokesmen initially insisted that it had no links to the far-Right, a position that was rather undermined when a picture emerged of its leader, Lutz Bachmann, sporting a Hitler moustache. Yet, for all the chaos, Pegida has clearly touched a nerve. Its weekly marches in Dresden have been attended by as many as 25,000 Germans, and were particularly well-attended in the aftermath of last month’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

Organisers expect only a tiny fraction of that figure at the march in Newcastle. Matthew Pope, its UK spokesman, said he hoped 1,000 supporters would show up. Even so, it will be a crucial test for Pegida, to see if it can tap into local disenchantment to build a broad-based movement in Britain to mirror the mass marches in Germany.

But why Newcastle? The number of Muslims in the city nearly doubled in the decade after 2001, but they still only account for around six percent of the overall population, a much lower concentration than in other northern cities such as Bolton and Manchester. The official line – put about by Pope, a 29-year-old born-again Christian from Cambridgeshire – is that the city was deliberately chosen because it is not a regular haunt of the far-Right, so that Pegida would not be tarnished by association.

However, Newcastle United fans have urged far-right activists to stay away from their city, amid growing tensions over the anti-Islamic movement Pegida’s first rally in Britain. NUFC Fans United supporters group made it clear that far-right protesters were not welcome in Newcastle, saying the city was “famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit”. In a statement, they warned: “There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

IS “fishing” for teenage girls in Spain

A view of the Principe District in Ceuta. Ceuta is inhabited by majority North Africans and is increasingly a hotspot of recruiting activity for ISIS. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP)
A view of the Principe District in Ceuta. Ceuta is inhabited by majority North Africans and is increasingly a hotspot of recruiting activity for ISIS. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

The Islamic State captures teenage girls in Spanish Muslim communities through propaganda disseminated through social networks. Ceuta is the area most affected by this trend. In one of the known cases a girl from the region (just under 14 years old) tried to travel to Iraq through Turkey, but was intercepted in Melilla. She wanted to join the jihad and marry some extremist fighter. In total there have already been at least five cases of successful ‘fishing’ of minors in Ceuta.

According to experts, the contents spread extremist movement militants are designed to ‘catch’ specifically to adolescents with traditional values, many are fascinated by very simple causes, others consider it a culmination of their practice of Islam. At their age, they perceive it as an adventure and want to participate in it.

In turn, to the extremists, the virgin girls are a key point in their strategy. Although its function is merely reproducing, the idea is to contribute to the expansion of radicalism through the repopulation of the ‘infidels’ nations.

 

Hundreds of extremists in Catalonia willing to act

December 16, 2013

 

In response to the expansion of Salafi-Wahabi extremism across Europe, Spanish State security has deployed a dense network of agents throughout Catalonia that have woven a stealthy early warning system for detecting terrorist threats from radical Islamist groups that have arrived to gain new supporters in the Catalan community. Several “conferences” held by Salafists in Catalonia during 2013 confirm the growing importance of Islamic extremism in Catalonia.

The general situation is as follows: although there has not been any recent terrorist activities in Spain, the danger posed by extremists has not disappeared. Instead, the jihadist message grows, especially in Catalonia. For example, security forces in the Barcelona area have calculated that the number of extremists willing to promote elaborate, violent actions is in the hundreds.

 

La vanguardia: http://www.lavanguardia.com/sucesos/20131215/54396209083/centenar-yihadistas-catalunya-dispuestos-actuar.html

“Industrial” Islam

October 19, 2013

 

In Catalonia, mosques continue to be pushed further away from the city centers and placed into industrial spaces.
From the 200 existing mosques in Catalonia, between 15 and 20 of them are located at industrial spaces, according to sociologist expert Jordi Moreras. Moreover, an investigation by the Mossos d’ Esquadra (local police) warned about the radical expansion of Salafism in these small mosques. Of the five places of worship which cultivate salafism, four of them are located in industrial spaces: Tarragona, Reus, Roda de Bara, and Torredembarra.

 

El Pais: http://ccaa.elpais.com/ccaa/2013/10/19/catalunya/1382203257_281728.html

Victims of Islam, the Pope Canonizes 800 Martyrs from Otranto

5/12/2013

 

Pope Francis: Many Christians still suffer violence today. Today we canonize the 800 who died in Otranto, killed by Muslims in 1480

Tens of thousands of people gathered starting in the early hours of the morning in St. Peter’s Square where the Pope canonized his first saints: the 800 Martyrs of Otranto and two Colombian and Mexican nuns. “Today” said the Pope “the Church canonizes a host of martyrs, who were called together in supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480.” On the facade of the basilica, as is tradition, the drapes were hung with effigies of the new saints. “About eight hundred people” the Pope said “stopped the invasion of the Ottomans and were beheaded near that town.”

Papa Francesco “inherits” the canonization of these saints which was proposed by Pope Benedict XVI on February 11 and officially announced on May 12. In addition to the 800 martyrs of Otranto, there were two nuns who founded religious orders: the Colombian Laura Montoya y Upegui and the Mexican María Guadalupe Garcia Zabala.
Today Francis Pope recalled the sacrifice of the martyrs of Otranto, “where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Just in faith, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, they contemplated the heavens and Christ at the right hand of the Father.” The 800 Martyrs of Otranto saved Italy and its Catholic identity allowing the country to remain Christian,” says Cardinal Amato explaining that this event helped to stop Muslim expansion in Europe, even before the battle of Lepanto (1571) and before the siege Vienna (1683).