Sympathy for the Devil Worshipers

November 6, 2013


It’s easy enough to be in favor of a “nonsectarian” prayer before a legislative session — some invocation of a higher power that theoretically doesn’t exclude anyone (besides atheists, that is) — but what exactly does such a prayer sound like?

That was Justice Samuel Alito’s question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court Wednesday morning in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, and it got to the heart of the court’s basic discomfort with cases asking it to decide whether specific government-sponsored prayers cross the constitutional line and “establish” religion in violation of the First Amendment.

In Greece, a town of just under 100,000 in western New York, town officials invite local clergy to offer a prayer before monthly town board meetings. The prayers may technically be given by anyone, but for nine years they were exclusively Christian, many using language such as “in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.” Two residents sued the town under the First Amendment.

Standing before the court, the residents’ lawyer, Douglas Laycock, suggested that a nonsectarian prayer would be satisfactory. Justice Alito wasn’t so sure.

“How could you do it?” Justice Alito asked. “Give me an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … Wiccans, Baha’i.”

“And atheists,” Justice Antonin Scalia added. “Throw in atheists, too.”

And so it went, the justices trying in vain to determine what sort of prayer, if any, would be sufficiently nonsectarian, and who should be responsible for making that determination. None of them seemed to relish the idea of playing at prayer editor.

As the argument progressed it was increasingly difficult to discern any grounds on which to justify legislative prayer other than the fact that it’s something we’ve always done — which was the basis for the court’s ruling upholding such a prayer in the Nebraska legislature in 1983, when it last considered the question.


New York Times:

Dutch Labour Party Accused of Creating “Islamic Voting Fodder”

20 May 2011


During a parliamentary debate anti-Islam politician and leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) Geert Wilders accused the Labour party of filling the country with “Islamic voting fodder”. Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer left the chamber in protest of the offensive remarks. Prime Minister Rutte called the term ‘inappropriate’. Wilders made the remark during a discussion about the provision of financial aid to Greece.


Turkey debates about the Swiss minaret ban and own religious minorities

In Turkey, the Swiss referendum banning the building of new minarets is perceived as just another example of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “This decision is primitive, outdated, and manifestation of a Western understanding.”

Warning that this decision rings alarm bells, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu added “There is an increase in Islamophobia. We will live together everywhere in the globalized world, and we need to develop a new spirit of tolerance.”

The article, however, also highlights the extent to which “a new spirit of tolerance” is needed in Turkey as well. While most people criticized the Swiss vote strongly, some also drew attention to Turkey’s own situation regarding tolerance to religious minorities.

The rights of the non-Muslim minorities in Turkey are regulated to a large extent by the Treaty of Lausanne, which gives reciprocal rights to the Muslim Turkish minority that lives in Greece and Christian Minorities in Turkey, but the article argues that neither the situation in Greece nor the one in Turkey is better than the situation in Switzerland.

Greece: Muslims protest alleged Quran destruction in Greece

Hundreds of Muslims marched through Athens on Thursday, protesting what they said was the destruction of a Quran by a Greek policeman. Naim Elgandour, the president of the Muslim Union of Greece, said that during police checks at a Syrian-owned coffee shop, a police officer took a customer’s Quran, tore it up, and threw it on the floor before stomping on it. In response, about one thousand Muslim migrants – mostly from Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, marched to central Omonia Square, where some had smashed shop windows and windows of about five course. Athens police said that an internal investigation would be launched in the Quran incident, but a name nor charges against the accused officer have not been given.

Administration of Islamic Affairs in Secular States Southeast European Experience

Call for Papers for the International Conference
The administration of Islamic affairs and representation of Muslims in secular states have become hot issues in Western European debates on the social integration of Muslim citizens. South East Europe has over a century of experience in this area. Muslim communities in the region have developed well-established autochthonous Islamic religious administrations. While this experience cannot simply be transplanted elsewhere, it offers many insights for policy-makers in an enlarging and ever more diverse Europe. Also important are alternative Islamic structures in the region. Heterodox Sufi organizations exist in parallel with official Sunni establishments. Both pan-Islamists and secularists have criticized clerical leaderships, and the established order is now facing a more radical challenge by Salafi networks. Independent Muslim women groups, too, are springing up. Leadership contests within the religious establishments, often tied to broader political conflicts, have led to schisms, parallel organizations, and local violence. All this calls for a systematic investigation of the Islamic administrations in the region. In recent years, there has been heightened interest in Islam in South East Europe in the context of European integration. The proposed conference is however the first to focus specifically on these key structural aspects, which have immediate social and political implications.

Papers are invited along the following thematic clusters:

1. Islamic Administrations in SE Europe – State of affairs, common features and issues, relations with the state: Country overviews for Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, Romania, Croatia, and Slovenia (one researcher may combine more than

2. Alternative, Parallel, Independent, and “Anti-Establishment” Groups: Pan-Islamists, Sufis, Salafis, women’s organizations

3. Leadership Contests and Organizational Schisms: esp. Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece

The following two themes will be covered by invited conference guests. However if you feel strongly about any of these please submit your abstract.

1. The SEE Model in Comparative Perspective: Between Turkey’s Diyanet and Western Europe’s mosque federations;

2. The SEE Model: Integration and Security Challenges: Islamic leadership and the containment of radicalism

Deadlines & Submission

Proposals (Abstracts) – 5 January 2009. Accepted proposals will be announced within two weeks. To submit a proposal, send an abstract (200 words) to: or Please supply a short biographical profile (150 words) with your abstract.

Papers – 27 March 2009.

Conference language: English

Travel & Accommodation

ISEEF has received a grant from the King Baudouin Foundation to pay travel and accommodation expenses in addition to symbolic honoraria (200 EUR) for selected presentations. However we would appreciate if your organization or institution could cover your travel and accommodation costs to allow us to invite more researchers who cannot afford to cover their expenses.

Greece: Greece to Pay Muslim Imams

The conservative government in Greece announced Thursday its decision to give a salary to 240 imams who serve the Muslim minority in Thrace, in the north-east of Greece, in a gesture of goodwill towards this population, which will also serve to better regulate the sermons. At present, only Orthodox priests are salaried by the Greek state. A commission made up of three government representatives, two university scholars of Islam, and two muftis from Thrace, also nominated by the state, will choose the imams to be salaried. “In principle, the reform is positive, but it’s important that there is not too much interventionism”, said the Muslim deputy Ilhan Ahmet, member of the conservative majority party.

Greece: Hijab no threat to secularism

On Saturday March 8th, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis defended the right of Muslim women to cover their heads, refuting claims that the headscarf poses a threat to secularism. Human rights and the secular nature of a state are not threatened by the headscarf. Nor are they safeguarded by a ban said Bakoyannis. Bakoyannis blamed western media as ignorant in its propagation about misconceptions of women in Islam, saying that the so-called Western world has more stereotypes than we care to admit. In addition, Greece’s top diplomat insisted that women and men are ensured equality in Islam.

“La Polysémie du Voile”: Enjeux politiques et sociaux

Journée d’étude du réseau européen V.E.I.L. Values Equality and Differences in Liberal Democracies

Lundi 25 juin 2006 Site Pouchet. 59 / 61 rue Pouchet. Paris 17e Salle de conférence (rez-de-chaussée)

Programme de la journée d’étude: La loi du 15 mars 2004 encadre désormais « le port de signes ou de tenues manifestant une appartenance religieuse dans les écoles, collèges et lycées public ». Les débats préalables à l’adoption de cette loi se sont principalement concentrés sur le foulard islamique et ont combiné, parfois jusqu’au contresens, des enjeux liés au principe de laïcité, à l’égalité homme / femme, à la liberté religieuse, au fait colonial, à l’intégrisme politique ou à la place de l’école. Trois ans plus tard, quel bilan tirer de ces débats ? Dans quelle mesure ont-ils façonné la mise en œuvre de la loi Comment analyser, sous le dispositif législatif, la polysémie du voile en France et en Europe

Introduction : Eleni Varikas 

Le voile sans la loi.

Discutante : Eleni Varikas

  • Leila Hadj-Abdou : “Unveiling the Austrian headscarf-debate”
  • Eirini Avramopoulou : “Veiling practices mediating fantasies of ‘self’ and ‘otherness’ in Greece”
  • Les Féminismes à l’épreuve du voile.

Table-ronde animée par Françoise Gaspard

  • Christine Cadot et Bruno Perreau: “De la République et de l’imaginaire colonial dans les débats féministes sur le port du voile en France”
  • Elsa Dorlin: “Voile v. string : pour une critique du “choc des féminismes”
  • Les pratiques du voile : sexualité, religion, culture.

Table-ronde animée par Azadeh Kian-Thiébaut<

  • Isabelle Clair : “L’ordre du genre dans les cités”
  • Magali della Sudda : “Le refus du port du voile chez les religieuses catholique (19e-20e siècle)”
  • Discussion générale

  • Eirini Avramopoulou : Doctorante en anthropologie (Université de Cambridge). Membre du réseau V.E.I.L.
  • Christine Cadot : Maître de conférences en science politique (Université Paris VIII – à compter de sept. 2007). Chercheuse au Centre d’Études Européennes de Harvard. Membre du réseau V.E.I.L.
  • Isabelle Clair : Docteure en sociologie (Université Paris V) et A.T.E.R. (Université de Reims).
  • Elsa Dorlin : Maîtresse de conférences en philosophie (Université Paris I). Membre du réseau V.E.I.L.
  • Françoise Gaspard : Maîtresse de conférences en sociologie (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales). Experte auprès du comité CEDAW (O.N.U.)
  • Leila Hadj-Abdou : Doctorante en science politique (Université de Vienne). Membre du réseau V.E.I.L.
  • Azadeh Kian-Thiébaut : Professeure en sociologie (Université Paris VII).
  • Bruno Perreau : Chargé de conférences à Sciences Po et membre de l’Institute for Advanced Studies (Université de Princeton). Membre du réseau V.E.I.L.
  • Magali della Sudda : Doctorante en histoire (ENS-EHESS / Université La Sapienza de Rome).
  • Eleni Varikas : Professeure de théorie politique et études de genre (Université Paris VIII). Membre du réseau V.E.I.L.
  • Projet V.E.I.L. Le projet V.E.I.L. fait partie du sixième programme de recherche de la commission européenne. Il consiste en l’étude des débats sur le port du foulard islamique en Europe et en l’analyse comparée de ses principaux cadres d’interprétation. À partir du dépouillement de ces débats et de la façon dont ils ont façonné les législations nationales, V.E.I.L. se propose de questionner la part du genre, de la race et de la religion dans la production des identités nationales et européennes.

    V.E.I.L. rassemble huit équipes et laboratoires de recherche sous la coordination de Birgit Sauer et Sigliende Rosenberger (département de science politique de l’université de Vienne). L’équipe française est installée au département de science politique de l’université Paris VIII Saint-Denis. Elle est dirigée par Eleni Varikas et Elsa Dorlin, et accueille deux post-doctorants : Christine Cadot et Bruno Perreau. Yves Sintomer, co-responsable de l’équipe française jusqu’en mai 2007, collabore également au projet.

  • Département de science politique. Université de Vienne (Autriche): Ilker Atac, Nora Gresch, Leila Hadj-Abdou, Sieglinde Rosenberger, Birgit Sauer.
  • Département d’histoire et d’études internationales. Université d’Aalborg (Danemark): Birte Siim, Rikke Andreassen.
  • Département de science politique. Université Paris VIII (France): Eleni Varikas, Elsa Dorlin, Christine Cadot, Bruno Perreau.
  • Département de science politique. Université libre de Berlin (Allemagne): Sabine Berghahn, Petra Rostock.
  • Département d’anthropologie sociale. Université du Panthéon. Athènes (Grèce): Athena Athanasiou, Eirini Avramopoulou.
  • Département des sciences sociales et culturelles. Université libre d’Amsterdam (Pays-Bas): Sawitri Saharso, Doutje Lettinga.
  • Département de sociologie et études de genre. Université technique du Moyen-Orient, Ankara (Turquie): Ayse Saktanber, Gul Corbacioglu.
  • Département d’études religieuses. Faculté des sciences sociales. Université de Lancaster (Royaume-Uni): Sevgi Kilic, Linda Woodhead.
  • Greece: Minority Report: rights for Turks in Greece

    {Greek nationals, whose mother-tongue is Turkish, are not allowed to identify themselves as Turks. Despite Greek reforms, Turkish-speakers still look to Turkey for relief.} By John Brady Kiesling Greek courts have refused since the 1980s to allow Greek citizens whose mother tongue is Turkish to identify themselves as Turks in official contexts. Legally and morally this is an untenable position. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne specified minimum human rights for Greece’s Muslim community, not maximum rights. A grand, half-forgotten bargain was sealed in Helsinki in 1975. The Soviet Union, the United States and their partners and satellites renounced armed conflict and acknowledged the existing borders of Europe. Nationalists unreconciled to those borders were appeased by guarantees for the rights of their “national minorities” stranded on the wrong side of them. The Helsinki Final Act was crafted to weaken the glue holding the Soviet system together. Even so, the US legal team at Helsinki had serious reservations about enshrining “national minorities” in international law. The American nation is every US citizen. The founding fathers insisted that civic and human rights belonged equally to each individual by virtue of membership in the human race. Each person is a minority of one. Minority rights are acceptable as the extension of the exercise of individual rights, but preferential treatment handed out by the state to some groups but not to others on the basis of language, religion or “blood” is incompatible with the fundamental principle of equality before the law.

    Greece: Athens Muslims To Get A Mosque

    By Andrew Burroughs Plans for the first mosque in Athens since Turkish rule under the Ottoman empire have been given the go-ahead by the Greek parliament. Over recent years immigration has brought hundreds of thousands of Muslims to the Greek capital. But while freedom of worship is guaranteed by Greece’s constitution as a member of the European Union, proposals for a new mosque have proved controversial in a country whose population is 96% Greek Orthodox. There are mosques dating from Ottoman times in the old part of Athens known as Plaka. The Fethiye or victory mosque dates back to 1458. But today these buildings are for tourists not for Muslim prayers. One is now a museum of Greek folk art. Athens is the only EU capital without a purpose-built place of worship for its Muslim population. The city’s 200,000 or so Muslims have been meeting in disused basements and whatever space the community can find. Technically these buildings lack proper legal permission to function as places of worship, though the city authorities, aware of the problem, have allowed meetings to continue while a solution is sought. Demonstrations In the run-up to the Olympics, and under pressure to portray Greece as internationalist and conciliatory, the then socialist government chose a site for a Saudi-sponsored mosque and Islamic centre east of Athens to be visible from the international airport. That provoked demonstrations by nearby residents of the staunchly conservative town of Peannia. Today there’s a small Greek Orthodox chapel on site, built to commemorate the protests which thwarted the mosque proposal. On special occasions a bell is rung, and on the hilltop a cross now defiantly looks towards the airport. “We are Orthodox Christians here,” says Angelo Kouias, a Peannia resident, involved in the protests. “We believe that when you arrive at the frontier of Greece it would be better to see a church to symbolise our country rather than a mosque.” “We don’t want another Kosovo here close to Athens,” says Dr Athanasius Papagiorgiou, a surgeon and president of the group which opposed the plan, the religiously conservative Association of St John. “Kosovo used to be a centre for the orthodox faith, and today it’s nothing.” Lost privilege Professor George Moustakis represents a different face of orthodoxy – a campaigner for interfaith understanding who joined a petition in favour of a mosque 17 years ago. “I’ve always opposed the connection of church and state here in Greece, which has meant the church took the decision about other denominations and other faiths and their buildings for worship,” he says. “Parliament has now voted and the church lost that privilege. So there is no problem about the mosque, the government supports it, so does the Orthodox Church.” With the church veto gone and support from the current centre-right government, Naim El Ghandour – who in daily life imports high fashion fabric designs – is the man coordinating plans for a new mosque to be built in the north of Athens. “The Muslims of Athens are Greek tax-payers and we have a right to pray in a respectful building,” he says “We’re asking the government for financial help. We’re not looking for foreign sponsors, this will be a Greek mosque for Greek Muslims.” The saga of the Athens mosque finds echoes elsewhere in Europe. The city of Grenada in Spain has just witnessed the opening of its first new mosque since the 15th Century when the Spanish re-conquered the Iberian peninsula from the Moorish Islamic rulers who built the historic mosques and palaces of Andalusia. The new mosque opened for worship only after two decades of objections from the local authorities on planning grounds. And in Italy a mosque planned for seven years in Colle di Val d’Elsa in a picturesque corner of Tuscany has divided the local community. There the local authority supports the need for a mosque but there have been objections from residents. It is a scenario likely to be repeated around the EU as the need for immigrant labour draws into the community those of a different faith, who then naturally wish to take up their equal right to a place of worship.