Belgian National Labor Council: Muslim workers may not change their holidays

The Belgian National Labor Council (NAR) announced that employees may not make decisions about work holidays on their own. Muslim workers and organizations arguing on their behalf have asked for employers to enact “floating holidays,” in which employees would be able to choose whether religious holidays, such as Muslim Eid celebrations, would be a vacation day – but would use the “floating holiday” in exchange for working on another holiday – generally more officially recognized holidays. The NAR dismissed the proposal, saying that such a move would cause too many organizational problems and require too much restructuring. Joelle Milquet, the Belgian Minister of Employment, agrees with NAR’s standpoint.

Terror trial begins: four men stand accused of German terror plot

Germany on Wednesday kicked off the country’s biggest terror trial since the 9/11 attacks. Four men accused of plotting to carry out bomb attacks on targets across Germany are the focus of a high-profile case expected to last up to two years. Under tight security, four men aged between 23 and 30 took to the dock on Wednesday in Düsseldorf to answer accusations of plotting a spate of bombings in discos, restaurants, airports, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and US army installations. The alleged plot, which was in its final stages when it was thwarted by police in September 2007, would have been the most destructive in Germany’s postwar history. Sitting behind panes of bulletproof glass, the suspects being tried — Fritz Gelowicz, Adem Yilmaz, Daniel Schneider and Atilla Selek — face charges of conspiring to commit murder, plotting to launch explosive attacks and membership in a terrorist organization, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). The men have remained silent since their arrest 18 months ago. Police detained three of the so-called “Sauerland cell” members during a sweep on a holiday home in a quiet village in the Sauerland region in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The raid was Germany’s biggest anti-terror operation to date. Police said they had been tracking the terror cell for months but stormed the cottage when it appeared that the suspects were nearly ready to strike. They are accused of having turned the unassuming holiday cottage into a bomb-making base. Among the evidence, police impounded hydrogen peroxide-based liquid explosives more potent than those used in the 2004 Madrid bombings or the 2005 attack in London.

Amsterdam borough chairman wants local gays and Muslims to get along

Ahmed Marcouch, chairman of the heavily immigrant Amsterdam neighborhood of Slotervaart, is taking it upon himself to fight persistent homophobia in the locality, including presenting a memorandum with measures to make the neighborhood more gay-friendly.

Name-calling, being spit on, and harassment are common experiences for gay persons passing street corners – and a number of Muslim youth are believed to be responsible for the attacks, in an apparent clash between the public acceptability of homosexuality in Amsterdam and rejection of homosexuality in Islamic practice.

Marcouch, a Muslim himself who was born in Morocco, is hoping to heal such clashes and put an end to such attacks. He has made an appearance at “Pink Eid al-Fitr” – a gay celebration of the Muslim holiday marking the end of the Ramadan, and debated religious leaders by arguing that Islam and homosexuality can co-exist. “Taking things one step further, we’re going to take the confrontational approach and it will be painful at times,” says Marcouch, who plans to assist the organization of a gay pride parade to start in Slotervaart this year.

Politician rejects exchanging Christian for Muslim holidays

State Secretary of Social Affairs and Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has said that he thinks it is “absurd” to propose that Christian holidays of Easter Monday and Pentecost Monday ought to be replaced with Muslim holidays. Aboutaleb added that such Christian holidays have been embedded in the Dutch calendar, and cannot be touched.

He does, however, support introducing a separate Islamic holiday, and that it ought to be an extra free day for all. Aboutaleb does not foresee this as a possibility in the immediate future, noting that there is significant conflict about the integration of foreigners at the moment, but added: “we are currently in a transition phase, a changeover phase. When that is over, we could discuss it.”

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Reformatorisch Dagblad (Dutch)


A tale of tolerance for German Muslims

To Indonesian eyes, there does not seem to be anything special about the photos of soaring minarets and people praying in mosques currently on display in an auditorium in Paramadina University in South Jakarta. Indeed, they seem an everyday thing, much like what you’d see on any ordinary Friday or Islamic holiday. But the 60-odd shots of mosques and Islamic activities in a number of German cities taken by Stuttgart-based photographer Wilfried Dechau have a rather deeper story to tell.

Dechau’s work in the exhibition titled “Mosques in Germany” tries to convey a narrative of minorities, human rights, tolerance and conflict. “I embarked on this project without blinkers and without prejudice, motivated by an almost naive curiosity,” Dechau said of his work. Through his mostly architectural approach, the seasoned photographer, who has twice won the German Photo Book Award, captured images from Pforzheim, Penzberg, Manheim, Wolfsburg, Aachen, Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Stuttgart – all cities with large Muslim populations – during his two-month tour of the country. “All the positive experiences and encounters made my work into an affair of the heart,” he said. “This does not mean that I am about to become a Muslim. But we must talk to each other. That much I learned during those eight weeks.”

It is always intriguing to talk about minorities, a category that the some 3.5 million Muslims in Germany still fall into, despite forming the nation’s second largest religious group after Christians – especially given the Western country has a long history of Islamic culture that began from diplomatic ties dating back to Charlemagne and Caliph Harun al-Rashid in the 8th century. Until the 18th century, Islamic culture was for Europeans something of an exotic penchant from the Orient, documented in various forms of arts, from Karl May’s tales of the Ottoman Empire to a couple of architectural remnants of secular buildings constructed in the style of mosques, according to German magazine Der Spiegel. It was only recently that Germany had to create a different kind of understanding of the “exotic” culture because the Turkish and Kurdistan migrants who brought Islam closer to Germans back in the 1960s have planted deep roots in the country, while still holding on to their religious beliefs.

Jakarta Post

Open Mosque Day Welcomes Non-Muslims in Germany

An estimated 2,000 mosques and Islamic prayer halls in Germany opened to the public during a holiday Wednesday, with non-Muslims invited to come in, look around and ask about Islam. Open Mosque Day has been an annual event in Germany since 1997. Despite the added strain of observing Ramadan at the same time this year, Muslims agreed to keep the customary date, the public holiday of German Unity Day.

Lines of people waiting before the Moroccan consulate of Barcelona

Taking advantage of the holiday and the beginning of the Ramadan, many Moroccan citizens have gathered in front of the consulate of their country in Barcelona to take care of legal issues. These lines are now routine since the embassy opened a year ago. This consulate serves the entire region of Catalonia, the Spanish Mediterranean islands and part of France, which explains the long lines and complaints of the Moroccan citizens of delays in service.

German Muslim Held, Denied U.S. Entry

A German businessman of Syrian descent who wanted to surprise his daughter with a holiday visit was detained for four days in a Las Vegas holding cell before being sent back home without explanation. A civil rights group called authorities’ treatment of Majed Shehadeh a case of anti-Muslim discrimination. Shehadeh, 62, flew from Frankfurt to Las Vegas last Thursday, hoping to meet with his wife and drive to Bakersfield, Calif., where his American-born daughter had just gotten news she’d passed the California bar exam. On Sunday, he was released and sent back to Frankfurt on the same charter airline. The detention follows a series of similar incidents involving Muslim passengers, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving with halal turkeys

WASHINGTON – Mohammad Malik, owner of Bismillah Halal Meat in Langley Park, doesn’t have Thanksgiving off. He will spend the day in his store, cooking the food his Muslim customers want for the holiday – lamb and goat roasts and pound after pound of rice. But recently, more people have come in requesting something different: turkey. “I guess more and more people getting into that tradition,” said Mr. Malik, 34, of Gaithersburg. “Just as an American, they are celebrating Thanksgiving. I guess more people, Muslim people, are going, ‘Why not have a turkey?”‘ Although there is still no nationwide distributor of turkeys that are “halal,” or slaughtered according to Islamic law, halal food stores in Maryland and around the country report increasing demand for the birds as more Muslims immigrate to the United States and assimilate into the mainstream. In 2000, Maryland had an estimated 52,867 Muslims, the eighth-highest population of any state, according to the Glenmary Research Center, a leading religion research group. Most of the state’s Muslim population is concentrated in Baltimore and suburban Washington. Like the Pilgrims who first stepped onto Plymouth Rock centuries ago, Mohammad Sizar, owner of Sizar’s Food Market in Columbia, is an immigrant who fled persecution for a new world. Now a citizen, he left Iran during the revolution more than 20 years ago, but was constantly drawn back to his homeland because he had a good job there. “I had to choose, American or Iran,” he said. “When I decide I want to be an American, I read about Thanksgiving and I say, ‘OK, why not?”‘ Some Muslim immigrants refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving at first, thinking it is a Christian holiday that does not apply to them, Mr. Sizar said. But as they become more informed about American culture, they understand the tradition. “Thanksgiving is a nice holiday and it has very good message, you know,” said Mr. Sizar, 46. “It is a time to bring everybody together and it is not something that belongs to the religion.” Last year, Mr. Sizar took 35 orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, but this year he had 50 orders a week before the holiday. He’ll probably order 75 from his distributor, American Halal Meat in Springfield, Va., and still run out, he said. Although it was too early to tell a week before Thanksgiving, Mr. Malik estimated he would take more turkey orders this year as well. Years ago, one of Mr. Sizar’s Muslim friends who did not celebrate the holiday asked him why he did. “I said there was nothing wrong,” Mr. Sizar said. “I am Muslim but I am American, you know?”

Popular Tv Host Calls America A ‘Judeo-Christian Country’

By Khalid Hasan WASHINGTON: American Muslims have expressed outrage following the assertion by popular right-wing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Muslim holidays should not be observed since America is a Judeo-Christian country. On the October 27 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly called the idea of closing public schools for the observance of Muslim holidays _absurd’. He made the remark during a discussion with Hillsborough County (Florida) Commissioner Brian Blair, who opposed the Hillsborough County School board’s decision to keep public schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-07 school year, a departure from the school district’s earlier practice of closing schools on those days. In December 2004, Hillsborough County Muslims, with the backing of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked the school board to close schools on the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr. Instead of giving students the day off on Eid-ul-Fitr, the school board voted to keep schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-2007 school year, arguing that the school district could close schools on days when a substantial number of students would be absent, but could not close schools specifically for the observance of religious holidays. Students however can take the day off on such occasions. In his discussion on the question with Blair, Bill O’Reilly said, So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean we can’t be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions. Those traditions have been in play for more than 200 years. Christmas is a federal holiday. You know, somebody walks in and says, _Well, I just moved here and I want, you know, this Shinto shrine.’ And you’re going, _Well, look, this is a traditional American situation that we’ve done for hundreds of years.’ But now you knocked it out.