Mosque to open ‘citizenship school’ for immigrants

Immigrants living near the mosque in the northern Italian town of Sesto Calende will be able to attend a citizenship course every Tuesday night to learn about Italian history, the principals of the Italian constitution, and labor laws in the country. The project is a pilot experience part of a wider project known as Open City which is being promoted by the Italian Recreational and Cultural Association of Milan. The imam of the mosque is expected to participate in the course along with members of the Islamic association and community. The point of the school is nothing other than to inform the immigrants of the fundamental institutions, ethics and laws of the society that is hosting them, with the hope that this will help familiarize them with the concept of a society that is Western, secular and plural,” said Suleiman La Spina, a mosque representative.

Breaking Through: Europe’s Muslim Success Stories

By Carla Power When Famile Arslan showed up for her first day of work, the receptionist pointed her toward the broom closet. “‘The cleaning supplies are over there,'” Arslan recalls being told. “I had to say, ‘No, I’m not the cleaner. I’m the lawyer.'” In fairness to the receptionist, Arslan was making history that morning, as the first attorney to wear a hijab in the Netherlands. Ten years on, she has her own practice in the Hague. Her name’s on the door, her cat Hussein pads around and a veiled assistant fields phone calls. “People keep telling me how successful I am,” says Arslan. “But I’m not all that successful. Had I not been a migrant woman in a hijab, I could have gone much further.” Still, when younger Muslims ask Arslan how to climb the professional ladder, she’s optimistic. “If you think strategically, this is a great time to be a European Muslim,” she argues. “Everyone’s focused on us, so it’s an opportunity – if you take it.”

Denmark: Danish Library Wants to Preserve Inflammatory Drawings

Copenhagen’s Royal Library is working to acquire controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed for its permanent collection. The 12 drawings would be preserved for posterity — but probably never put on display, to the dismay of some. A dozen of the most inflammatory newspaper sketches in history may soon share shelves with some of Denmark’s most prized historical documents. The Danish Royal Library, founded more than 350 years ago, is working to acquire 12 cartoons of Muhammad that angered Muslims and resulted in deadly riots worldwide in 2006. Andrew Curry reports.

Reading the Koran

For Muslims the Koran stands as the Text of reference, the source and the essence of the message transmitted to humanity by the creator. It is the last of a lengthy series of revelations addressed to humans down through history. It is the Word of God – but it is not God. The Koran makes known, reveals and guides: it is a light that responds to the quest for meaning. The Koran is remembrance of all previous messages, those of Noah and Abraham, of Moses and Jesus. Like them, it reminds and instructs our consciousness: life has meaning, facts are signs.

Halal cheese range launched

A North West dairy launched a range of halal cheese for the first time in its 50-year history. Bosses at Dew-Lay Products Ltd of Garstang, Lancashire, established in 1957, were so convinced of the growing consumer appetite for Halal produce, they were awarded a licence from the Halal Food Authority (HFA) for formulating and processing Halal named varieties of cheese for the retail and catering trade with permissible ingredients and approved methods of manufacture. [Full-text here.->

The Institute of Islamic Studies of Aragon aspires to be “reference center” in Arab studies

The Institute of Islamic Studies and the Middle East of Aragon (IEIOP)is in collaborative works with the University of Zaragoza and the Superior Center for Investigative Sciences to create three research ares related to Arab studies. The three projects include: Humanities (centered on Arab and Islamic studies), Middle East research, and Islamic Art History. The IEIOP saw a change in leadership this week, from Gonzalo Borras to Francisco Pina, signaling a new chapter in the organization’s history and new endeavors on Islam and Arab studies in Spain.

France gets new immigration museum as DNA row rages

A new museum in Paris opened this week, celebrating the role of immigration in French history. Hailed by some as France’s “Ellis Island,” the museum opens amidst a controversial proposal by President Nicolas Sarkozy to introduce DNA tests for those seeking immigration to join relatives in France.

A new ‘dirty war’ threatens Algerians

Paris/Algiers (dpa) – On September 7 in Batna, 425 kilometres east of Algiers, hundreds of people had gathered near the city’s mosque to await President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Shortly before the president arrived, an explosion ripped through the crowd, shredding bodies and sending survivors fleeing in panic. Twenty-two people were killed and 107 were injured in what might have been just another bloody chapter in Algeria’s long history of terrorism, but for the fact that it was the first ever to involve a terrorist carrying the explosives on his body. It was unclear if the bombing targeted Bouteflika. According to the Algerian Interior Ministry, the bomber fled after failing to penetrate a security cordon and then blew himself up.

Radicalisation, ’Extremism’ and ’Islamism’: Realities and Myths in the ’War on Terror’

The Muslim community in Britain has been under a continuous spotlight since the events of 9/11 and 7/7 in particular. The bombings triggered a wide-ranging debate that sought to understand the processes at work within the Muslim community, map its changes, scrutinise the influences it is subject to and identify events in its recent history that may explain why Muslim British citizens would want to turn on Britain.

This debate to date has blamed a number of different factors for contributing to this heightened terror threat, but has been offset by sensationalist claims and alarmist comments that have only acted to obscure an accurate picture and to entrench stereotypes in an already polarised debate. It has sought to discredit legitimate Islamic political ideas by suggesting they increase the Muslim community’s susceptibility to using violence. To date, the debate has lacked an honest, dispassionate assessment of the forces at play within the Muslim community. The impact of which has been dangerous characterisations of Islam and the Muslim community, misinformed public fear and misguided government policy.

This report by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain aims to expose the many inconsistencies in the ’War on Terror’ narrative and the manipulation of security fears to attack political ideas that carry considerable support in the Muslim world. Our report challenges misconceptions about radicalisation, ’extremism’ and political violence, explains Islam’s political tenets and maps a way forward for the future.

The report describes how the language used in the security debate has become politicised to counter dissenting voices, particularly to falsely claim Islamic political ideas are at the part of the problem. It challenges the view that the association between Islam and contemporary politics – often termed ‘Islamism’ – is part of a process that increases the Muslim community’s vulnerability to the use of violence. It is an assumption that it is built on a false characterisation of the relationship between Islam and politics in general. The report argues that there has, over many years, been a process that first saw a general ‘politicisation’ of the Muslim community and subsequent ‘Islamicisation’ of Muslim politics in Britain, rather than ‘radicalisation’. The false labelling reflects a failure to understand Islam and therefore to position its ideas within a secular political system. The report goes on to cite credible research that calls into question the Bush-Blair argument that Islamic political ideas inherently cause violence and insecurity. The trend towards greater Islamic political practice, far from being a precursor to violence, often provides people with an alternative.

The report argues that politically motivated violence is a broader issue often occurring as a response to political oppression and injustice rather than because of ideology or theology. Hence, the association of Islamic political ideas with violence is misleading. Importantly, recent poll evidence shows there is little support for violence as a means of change in the Muslim world, polls which simultaneously show increasingly levels of support for Islamic politics. The report also highlights the need to separate goals from means so as to not to link widely held legitimate political ideas with violence.

The report challenges attempts to discredit one of the central goals of current Islamic political activity in the Muslim world: the establishment of an independent Islamic political system in the Muslim world, or Caliphate. Just as with Islamic politics more generally, a host of arguments have been forwarded to suggest such the Caliphate would be unwelcome prospect and that its emergence should be opposed, including attempts to link its reality with violence. The report address failures in the Western discourse on the Caliphate, explains the position of the Caliphate in Islamic orthodoxy and describes how the Caliphate is a distinct and alternative political system. Crucially, it argues the Caliphate will be a stabilising force for the Muslim world.

In discussing a way forward, the report highlights how attempts at reforming Islam itself have been discredited and gained little traction amongst Muslims – Islamic orthodoxy has won the opinion in the Muslim world. As part of diagnosing the problem, the report argues Western colonialism not Islam has been at the heart of the political instability and crises of the Muslim world. The onset of colonisation also disrupted indigenous efforts at modernising the Muslim world. Importantly, Islam played a historic role in preventing political excess, tyranny and totalitarianism in the Muslim world and its absence has allowed these to go unchecked, as has been acknowledged by senior academics. Importantly, the Muslim world should be allowed to determine its own political future, not the West.

Through examining the statements of senior politicians, the report demonstrates the primary concern of many has, and still remains, preventing Islamic political change so as to protect the US and Britain’s unrivalled influence over events in the Muslim world. In the corridors of Washington and Westminster, Islam’s political ideas are seen as a potential threat – not to security – but to the control, exploitation and interference that has continued for decades. Yet on the ’Muslim street’ these ideas mean liberation from tyranny and oppression, a connection to their beliefs and history and the ability to shape their own political destiny.

Top German Cardinal: Christianity Needs Special Status in Europe

Germany’s highest-ranking cardinal has warned against indifference and uncritical tolerance which he says could lead to Islam enjoying equal standing with Christianity in the country. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, who is head of the German conference of bishops, expressed concern about religious freedom leading to all faiths being treated equally regardless of the size of their flock and their history. Germany’s constitution obliges the state to maintain strict religious neutrality. But Lehmann pointed to Christianity’s role in shaping European history and even its legal culture.