Switzerland to Muslim Students: Shake Your Teacher’s Hand or Pay $5,000

25 May 2016

When two teenage Muslim students from Syria told their school in Switzerland that to shake their female teacher’s hand would violate their religious beliefs, administrators were sympathetic. So they made an exception: Unlike the school’s other students, who shake each teacher’s hand at the beginning and end of each class period, the two boys would be exempt from shaking anyone’s hand at all.

Turns out the Swiss national government takes their handshakes seriously. So seriously, in fact, that a regional authority announced Wednesday that the two boys would shake their female teachers’ hands from now on — or pay a $5,000 fine.  The local education department in Therwil, which is near the city of Basel, said in a statement Wednesday that the final decision was made because “the public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of religion.”

This came after the citizenship process for the teens’ family was halted due to the incident. Authorities are now looking into their father’s 2001 asylum claim. He is an imam.

Last month, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga went on television to say that “the handshake is part of our culture.”

“We cannot accept this in the name of religious freedom,” she said.

There are roughly 350,000 Muslims in Switzerland, and it’s unclear whether other exceptions were quietly made before this one. It’s also unclear what the two boys will do next. In an interview with Swiss media, one said they “could not just delete [their] culture as if it were a hard drive.”

Burqa law ban in Catalonia

In 2010 a ban against women wearing burqas in public buildings was approved by the city of Lleida in Catalonia. Women who would disobey such ban would incur in a fine between €300 and €600. The ban was adopted by several other localities in the area on the basis of public space control and public safety.

Later in 2013, all bans against the use of burqas and niqab in the region of Catalonia were annulled by theSpanish Supreme Court claiming that local authorities do not have the juridical right to legislate about fundamental rights.

Following the Strasbourg Court recent conclusions that the use of burqa or niqab in public buildings is not against the European Convention of Human Rights, the Catalonian Government announced that they will begin to prepare a new set of laws to regulate the use of integral veils and burqas in these spaces. The new conclusion of the European Court opens according to the Catalonia Government a new perspective that concerns the women’s right of dignity.

Populist party “Alternative for Germany” initiates debate about Islam

November 7, 2013

 

Bernd Lucke, speaker of the new party “Alternative for Germany” (AFD), has questioned the comments of former president Christian Wulff who positioned Islam as an integral part of Germany. Since its foundation in February 2013, the party mainly focused on economic issues such as the Euro, the economic crisis and the free market. The party represents a free liberal position, but it is said to possess partial close ties to right-wing populist groups and initiatives such as the anti-Islamic Pro Cologne movement. These groups have been targeting Islam and Muslim immigration, positioning them as core challenges for western liberal democracies.

Bernd Lucke who has been trying to stay away from these tendencies in the public, refers to the German constitution, which is guaranteeing the freedom of religion. Having included a populist note, Lucke has defended the freedom of religion, saying that in contrast to Muslim dominated countries, where Christians suffer persecution, every Muslim would be free to practice its his/her religion, educate his/her children and gather in mosques. Nevertheless religion should be limited, as Islamic values and the Sharia would undermine the equality of men and women. This would be incompatible with the secular nature of the German State and its deep-rooted Christian orientation.

 

Die Welt: http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article121656967/AfD-Chef-Lucke-zettelt-Islam-Debatte-an.html

“Beating a Woman is a right”

The phrase on live TV from the President of the Central Islamic Council, a convert to Islam was heavily criticized by the main Muslim organizations in the country, has raised an immense controversy in the Swiss media.

Invited to a political debate on Swiss television, Central Islamic Council President Nicolas Blancho, argued that “beating a woman is a human right,” attracting a controversy in today’s Swiss media.

After Blancho said this, he did go pale in reaction to the realization of other guests in the studio, including National Councillor Oskar Freysinger. And another director sitting in the audience, Gerhard Pfister, invited Blancho to apologize publicly, both distanced themselves from Blancho’s statement as it is inconsistent with the values of Swiss law.

“This is not far from stoning and FGM, and other things like that,” shouted the two politicians against the president of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland.

Blancho, local media reported, and ‘was silent for a while,’ and was visibly embarrassed after he yelled “Beating women is part of the freedom of religion.”

“I will not provide any justification” said Blancho “because I have not committed any crime. Everyone is free to believe what they want, as long as they respect the law.”

 

Commemoration for Marwa El-Sherbini

June 28

 

The council for Muslims participated at the commemoration ceremony for the Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini, who was murdered four years ago in the court of the city of Dresden. The pregnant woman was murdered in front of her husband and her son. The murder had planned the action and was motivated by his hatred against Muslims. The court sentenced him to lifelong imprisonment.

 

Aiman Mazyek, head of the council for Muslims is also the speaker of the coordination council of Muslims in Germany. He described El-Sherbini as an idol for civil courage, who has paid with her life for the freedom of religion and tolerance.  

Right to Asylum: the Court of Justice of the European Union defines religious persecution and reinforces freedom of religion

September 5

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg has issued an important sentence in favor of religious freedom. The sentence defines what type of infringement on freedom of religion justifies the granting of refugee status. According to this directive, Member States of the European Union should in principle grant refugee status to foreigners who face persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a social group in their country of origin.

The specific case concerns two Pakistani nationals belonging to the Ahmadi Muslim minority (a minority not recognized by the Muslim majority) and seeking asylum in Germany. According to the Pakistani Penal Code, the two were liable to up to three years imprisonment if they claimed to be Muslims, preached or tried to spread their religion. The German authorities have rejected their application on the ground that the restrictions on the practice of religion in public imposed on Ahmadis were not “persecution” in the eyes of the right of asylum. Both applicants then complained to the German administrative courts, arguing that the German authorities’ position was contrary to Directive 2004/83/EC.

By declaring that “certain forms of serious interference with the public manifestation of religion may constitute persecution for reasons of religion”, the Court corrected this interpretation, and admitted the possibility that two Pakistanis are given refugee status.

 

American Taliban Lindh says Ind. prison’s ban on daily group prayer violates religious freedom

INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. government claims it has the ultimate proof that American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh might foment hate and violence among fellow Muslim inmates if they’re allowed to pray together daily. He has already tried, it argues.
But Lindh, 31, accuses the government of going too far in its drive for security and trampling on his freedom of religion by restricting group prayers among Muslim inmates in the Terre Haute, Ind., prison unit where he has been housed since 2007.
Lindh is expected to testify Monday in federal court in Indianapolis during the first day of a trial that will examine how far prison officials can go to ensure security in the age of terrorism.
Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and the Hanbali school to which Lindh belongs requires group prayer if it is possible. But inmates in the Communications Management Unit are allowed to pray together only once a week except during Ramadan. At other times, they must pray in their individual cells. Lindh claims that doesn’t meet the Quran’s requirements and is inappropriate because he is forced to kneel in close proximity to his toilet.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is representing Lindh, contends the policy violates a federal law barring the government from restricting religious activities without showing a compelling need.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates in the unit. Lindh joined the lawsuit in 2010, and the case has drawn far more attention since then. The other plaintiffs have dropped out as they were released from prison or transferred to other units.
Lindh had been charged with conspiring to kill Americans and support terrorists, but those charges were dropped in a plea agreement. He is serving a 20-year sentence for supplying services to the now-defunct Taliban government of Afghanistan and carrying explosives for them. He is eligible for release in 2019.

Ruling on circumcision

June 29

A German District court in Cologne has decided to penalize religiously motivated circumcision. It would be counted as an element of assault and battery against individuals. Neither religious and cultural motivations nor medical argumentations would justify circumcision.

Ali Demir, representative of the community of Islam criticized the decision, because it would discriminate believers. Circumcision is a harmless intervention which has been rooted in different traditions throughout the last 1000 years, he declared. Demir also pointed at the potential of circumcision in reducing infections. A ban would actually encourage “circumcision tourism” of Muslim people to neighboring countries.

The President of the Jewish Central council in Germany Dieter Graumann condemned the decision as an unexampled intervention in the right to self-determination of religious communities.

The representative of the council of Muslims in Germany Aiman Mazyek criticized the decision as an inappropriate intervention in the rights of religious communities and parents. In his words, freedom of religion is a valuable good and should not become a cue ball of a one-dimensional jurisdiction.

The Turkish community in Germany expects a correction of the decision by a higher court. Many doctors will have to face a dilemma: Muslim communities will continue to ask their services even if circumcision has been compared to crime.

Only the human rights association “terre de femmes” and its representative Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk have welcomed the decision as “a pioneering step”, helping to prevent female genital mutilation and religiously motivated harm to the human body.

Mosque construction continues to attract opposition across U.S.

CHICAGO — In the decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, animosity toward Muslims sometimes has taken the form of opposition to construction of mosques and other Islamic facilities. National debate erupted over plans for an Islamic community center that became known as the “Ground Zero mosque” in Lower Manhattan.
In the last five years, there has been “anti-mosque activity” in more than half of U.S. states, according to the ACLU. Some mosques were vandalized — a $5,000 reward is being offered in a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case — and others were targets of efforts to deny zoning permits .
Mosque opponents often raise concerns about traffic and parking, but Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s freedom of religion program, says they can be “sham arguments” that mask anti-Muslim sentiment.
“I hope that eventually there will be greater acceptance for all faiths, including Islam,” Mach said.
One thing is clear: The number of mosques is on the rise. In 2010, there were 2,106 mosques in the U.S., up from 1,209 in 2000, according to a study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and other groups. A 2011 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life estimated there are 2.75 million Muslims in the U.S.