How Multiculturalism Can be Saved

The conflict between Western society and Muslim extremism has called into question the reality of multiculturalism in the Netherlands. In a guest article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, writer Ian Buruma, born in the Hague in 1951, sees this as a result of the complacency that Netherlanders have had about the functioning of their multicultural system.

Violent Muslims “Overemphasised”

The Mayor of London has condemned what he said was greater publicity given to Muslim extremists over and above non-Islamic groups. Ken Livingstone told BBC radio too much emphasis was placed on Muslim extremism while the vast majority of faiths wanted to live together in harmony. He said a situation had been reached where any comment by politicians on Muslims had “front page coverage”.

Kelly Challenges Muslim Groups

Ruth Kelly yesterday challenged Muslim groups who have boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day, in a speech warning Islamic organisations that sitting on the sidelines in the struggle against extremism was “not good enough”. The communities secretary announced that funding for groups would depend on their willingness to take a lead on the issue, and defended the government’s record, insisting: “Britain is a good place to be a Muslim.”

Cash to Help Root Out Extremism

Muslim groups which prove they are trying to outlaw extremism within their ranks are to receive financial support, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says. Cash will be available for projects that involve women, that build bridges between communities and are in touch with young people, she said. She said it was “not good enough” to pay lip service to tackling extremism. But some Muslim groups condemned her, saying the government was trying to create its own “state-sponsored Islam”.

Minister Backs New Muslim Group

{The government has backed a new body for Muslims which says not enough has been done to tackle extremism}. By Dominic Casciani LONDON – Politicians from the main parties welcomed the launch of the Sufi Muslim Council at Westminster in London. The group’s leaders say that it represents a silent majority frustrated with slow progress since the London bombings in July last year. The move is being seen as a direct challenge to the leadership of Muslim communities in the UK. The new organisation seeks to represent Sufi Muslims, a form of Islam which claims to cut across nationalities and ethnicities by focusing on purity of thought and deed. Its leaders say this approach differs from a politicised presentation of Islam that presents Muslims as separate to other people, something considered to be a key element in radicalisation and extremism. It is one of two major groups to have emerged since the London bombings offering different views to the dominant Muslim Council of Britain. Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for communities, attended the launch, saying that her department welcomed the new body saying she wanted to work with a broad range of groups. “We need to always ask ourselves whether we are working with the right groups in the right way,” she said. “Organisations such as the Sufi Muslim Council are an important part of that work … I welcome the council’s core principles condemning terrorism in all its forms and its partnership approach to taking forward joint initiatives and activities.” Radicalization Crucially, the Westminster launch also included Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians, along with Anglicans and members of the Jewish community. Haras Rafiq, co-founder of the council, said the SMC had already formed a partnership with the British Muslim Forum (BMF), an organisation emerging as the representative of 300 mosques in the Midlands and northern England. The BMF was recently at the centre of a deal that brought competing Muslim bodies together to develop a watchdog for standards in mosques. ‘Silent majority’ Mr Rafiq said: “The prime minister and others have on many occasions rightly called for moderate Muslims to stand up and be counted. “In response to this call, and following extensive consultations within the Muslim community, we have decided to establish the Sufi Muslim Council.” He added: “Sufis count among the vast silent majority of Britain’s two million strong Muslim community. “Up to now they have lacked an externally visible voice and the intent of forming this council is to provide just such a strong voice.” Mr Rafiq said the council would immediately seek to build alliances both inside and outside of the community “to combat the evil political ideology” caused by a vacuum of leadership. He said: “There is an urgent need for the British Muslim community to engage in an internal debate to isolate the ideologies who falsely claim to represent Islam, to develop a strong field of moderate, intellectually astute, forward-thinking leaders and scholars who can promote the moderate values of civic society, engagement and diversity which characterize classical Islam.” ‘Groundwork needed’ The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) remains the largest community body in the UK, saying its dealings with ministers speak on behalf of hundreds of affiliated groups. But some Muslim figures, particularly among younger people in the large communities outside of London, believe that the MCB has not done enough to both combat extremism or to help tackle critical issues such as education and deprivation. But Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that he doubted a new body could be launched with a press release and some political support in Parliament. “The key factor is the support in the wider Muslim community,” said Mr Bunglawala. “When we launched the MCB in 1997, it was only after three years of groundwork and careful consultations. The Muslim community is extremely diverse and we have worked hard to reflect that diversity, rather than seeking to represent just one strand of opinion. “It’s true that the MCB has had its critics, particularly the Board of Deputies of British Jews. But that is because we do not hide the concern of Muslims [over Israel and the Palestinians]. “The signals from the SMC talk of a so-called politicised Islam – well young Muslims are living an Islam which is quest for justice.”

Watchdog For Uk Mosques Launches

A potentially influential body aimed at tackling extremism is being launched a year after the London bombings. LONDON – The mosques standards body was a key proposal from a government-backed extremism taskforce. In a unique move, leaders of four major British Muslim groups have agreed the body is essential to modernise and open up religious institutions. The body’s launch document speaks about the failings of some mosques, including the exclusion of women and youth. The proposal for a Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body (Minab) was one of more than 100 recommendations to emerge from a Home Office-organised taskforce on extremism in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings. But the plan has been mired in controversy with many mosques resistant to the idea of a watchdog, believing that they would be ultimately controlled by the government. But the four groups backing its creation said that it was a major step forward in modernising a key institution. Community leadership Many younger Muslims, particularly women, have long complained mosques are run by small cliques of men from distinct clans or families, rather than by the wider community. In an unprecedented move for a major policy publication from Muslim organisations, that complaint is accepted in the document setting out Minab’s aims. Crucially, it accepts many imams are not up to the job of giving guidance to alienated young people. It sets a priority of developing the careers of British-born or educated preachers who can relate to young Muslims in English and understand western culture. The founders of Minab say it will also champion more access for women and ask mosque elders to bring on board highly-educated Muslims in professional positions, such as lawyers and teachers, to help run the institutions. Khurshid Ahmed, of the British Muslim Forum, one of the key national bodies behind the reforms, said they would now start work on ensuring that Minab would be a properly constituted, professional organisation. While Muslims did not believe mosques were the source of extremism, said Mr Ahmed, communities had an unprecedented opportunity to achieve much-needed change. “There are problems of governance within mosques and we need to build their capacity and make sure they are properly resourced. “We need to be very realistic and honest with ourselves. The vast majority of our imams lack the capacity to intellectually engage with our young people. We need to help them build that capacity.” Yusuf Al-Khoei of the Al-Khoei Foundation, which represents Shia Muslims in the UK, said the launch of Minab was a major step forward for British Muslims, not least because the different strands of the faith had united. “Four organisations have come together for the first time and reached a consensus. It’s a very positive move because the voice of moderation is coming up loud and clear. We are trying to decouple Islam from images and allegations of violence. “We need more involvement of the youth, of our women – and more involvement in our neighbourhoods. “We need our mosques to be more than places of worship, they need to be proper community centres. “For too long there has really been no structure. I have seen people claim to be imams in mosques who could not even read or write.”

£5M To Steer Young Muslims From Extremism

Michael Settle A PACKAGE of measures to steer young Muslims away from extremism and to get them to integrate better into mainstream British society was put forward by community leaders yesterday in response to the July 7 London bombings. Seven working groups set up by Charles Clarke, the home secretary, in the wake of the terrorist attacks recommended: A national advisory council of imams and mosques to teach English to imams, encourage more UK-born Muslims to become Islamic clerics so as to reduce the reliance on foreign-based ones and to advise mosques on how to prevent them being used by extremists; A national forum against extremism and Islamaphobia to provide a regular discussion point for Muslims to talk about issues as they affect their local communities, with access to government to “share outcomes and understandings”; and A nationwide road show of influential, populist religious scholars to explain the true meaning of Islam and condemn extremism. The home secretary praised the “constructive” work of the groups and said he broadly supported their proposals, announcing the government would spent _5m over the next 18 months to pursue them. “The initial take we have on the recommendations is overwhelmingly positive,” stressed Mr Clarke. Lord Ahmed, convener of the mosques and imams group, said of the proposed national advisory council: “For the first time we’ve had a debate in the Muslim community and in the mosques with the imams. They know we can’t continue to deliver sermons in Arabic and you can’t exclude youths and women from mosque committees.” The Labour peer added: “We can’t have illiterate people on mosque committees or people with criminal records on mosque committees, or anywhere near the mosques.” Lord Ahmed said that of the estimated 2000 imams in Britain, about 1700 were educated and trained abroad. Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, described the ideas as “sensible . . . and well-intended”. But he added: “While helping create better community relations and understanding between Muslims and the wider community, one feature of these proposals is that public money should be spent on schemes promoting Islam. “We are concerned that this could cause resentment in other faith groups and be wholly counter-productive if it is distinct from other multi-faith initiatives.”

Establish Body To Train Imams: UK Muslim Leaders

British Muslim leaders called on the government to establish a national body to oversee mosques and imams as part of efforts to combat extremism following the July bombings in London. Working groups advising the government said that the proposed National Advisory Council of Imams and Mosques could recommend ways for mosques to prevent extremism, train Imams and encourage British-born Muslims to become clerics. Lord Ahmed, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords who headed one of the groups on Thursday, said that 1,700 of the estimated 2,000 Imams in Britain were educated and trained abroad. “As British Muslims we need to be prepared to modernise the way we operate, encouraging integration and helping our children to feel proud to be British,” he said. “I and my colleagues believe that the establishment of this Advisory Council is an important step towards this goal.” European governments seeking to counter the spread of extremism within some mosques are concerned that sermons are often not conducted in the country’s predominant language and that many clerics come from abroad rather than from local Muslim communities. The Dutch government earlier this year revoked the residency permits of three Imams whom it accused of preaching hate. In France, where a third of the 1,200 Imams do not speak French, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently called for better oversight of mosques in order to root out radicals.

Bush Aide Meets With Muslims

By TARA BURGHART Associated Press writer ROSEMONT, Ill. – Karen Hughes, one of President Bush’s closest advisers, told a gathering of American Muslims on Friday that part of her new State Department job is to help amplify the voices of groups like theirs that are condemning terrorism and religious extremism. The Islamic Society of North America had invited Bush to attend its annual convention. He sent Hughes, who was recently confirmed as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Her tasks include improving the U.S. image in Muslims countries. “We need to foster a sense of common interest and common values among Americans and people of different faiths and different cultures,” Hughes said at a news conference opening the three-day event. “Frankly, who better to do that than many of our American Muslims themselves, who have friends and families and roots in countries across our world,” she said. The Indiana-based ISNA serves as an umbrella association for Muslim groups and mosques in the United States and Canada. Its convention comes just over a month after U.S. Muslim scholars issued a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning terrorism following deadly terrorist attacks this summer in London and Egypt. “The fatwa says that there is no justification in Islam for terrorism. Those are words the entire world needs to hear,” Hughes said. “And in delivering that message, I know that the most credible voices are of Muslims themselves. My job is to help amplify and magnify these voices.” At the news conference, ISNA unveiled a brochure outlining the Islamic position against terrorism and religious extremism. The pamphlet states that terrorism “is the epitome of injustice because it targets innocent people.” Kareem Irfan chaired the committee that produced the brochure and will be launching other initiatives to promote what ISNA calls “balanced Islam.” Despite “crystal clear statements stating the position of Islam and Muslims” against terrorism, there remains “inklings of doubt from segments of society,” he said. He said convention attendees, expected to total more than 30,000, will be asked to sign a pledge stating that they agree with the pamphlet’s position, and it will be distributed to mosques and churches. The convention was also attended by a 19-member delegation from Britain, where four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London’s transit system in July. The British group held a private meeting with Hughes, and she also met separately with ISNA leaders, women and young people. ISNA’s vice president, Ingrid Mattson, said those attending the meetings with Hughes were frank about their disagreements with the Bush administration on everything from foreign policy to concerns over the erosion of civil liberties. Several told her about the problems they regularly have with air travel because their Muslim names or dress prompt suspicion. One man who was supposed to be in a Thursday night meeting with Hughes walked in at the end because he was held by airport security for three hours until his name was cleared, Mattson said.

Controversial Muslim Assigned To Taskforce

LONDON: A controversial Muslim academic has been chosen by the Government to sit on a new taskforce designed to combat Islamic extremism. Professor Tariq Ramadan, who has been banned from the US and France, is a member of the Government’s working group on tackling extremism which met for the first time last week. Days after the July 7 bombings, right-wing newspapers described the decision to allow Prof Ramadan into the UK as utter madness. The Egyptian-born academic has been accused of supporting the use of violence – an allegation he refutes. Asked by an Italian magazine if car bombings against US forces in Iraq were justified, he was quoted as saying: Iraq was colonised by the Americans. Resistance against the army is just. But speaking in London on July 24, Prof Ramadan said: What happens sometimes in the name of Islam has nothing to do with our religion and we have to say it and we have to condemn it. We condemn terrorists, but I really think we have to do something more to promote the right education and to say where this is wrong. The new working group will report to Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Prime Minister Tony Blair by the end of September on the way to prevent British Muslims turning towards violence and extremism. Last year the Department of Homeland Security revoked Prof Ramadan’s visa nine days before he was due to take up a professorship in the US, claiming he had endorsed terrorist activity. A Home Office spokeswoman said: We haven’t yet agreed the final make-up of the working group and are not able to confirm its membership.