Progressive Muslims seek to open Islamic Academy in Berlin

As Euro-Islam reported, the political disputes of the past months have taken a heavy toll on Turkish-dominated DİTİB, numerically still Germany’s largest Islamic association.

German politicians have castigated the organisation for its proximity to the Turkish government, particularly when it was revealed that some of its Imam’s had spied on suspected members of the Gülen movement on behalf of Turkish state authorities.

Internal pressures

Internally, DİTİB has been rocked by successive waves of dissent, dismissals, and disputes. While some functionaries left the organisation of their own accord, others were de facto purged upon Ankara’s request. Out of protest, DİTİB’s entire youth board resigned in May 2017, signalling a generational split within the association.

Ender Çetin, former chairman of Berlin’s Şehitlik mosque, was one of the victims of the purge. Deemed too progressive and too disloyal to the Turkish point of view, Çetin was ousted from his post at the mosque in December 2016. In the past, he had gained renown for gradually turning the mosque into an open space for encounters and debates, including on controversial matters such as homosexuality.

A forum for debate

Now, Çetin and around 30 predominantly younger Muslims formerly active in DİTİB communities in Berlin seek to build an Islamic institution to their liking out of DİTİB’s reach. They have announced plans to open an Islamic Academy that is to serve as a forum for discussions and cultural events.((https://www.rbb-online.de/politik/beitrag/2017/06/berlin-muslimische-akademie-geplant.html ))

The Academy is to be modelled upon other comparable confessional institutions in Germany: both Catholic and Protestant churches have their “academies” – open centres that bridge the divide between religion and society by hosting conferences, debates, and projects on contemporary issues.

Aiming at a young audience

The Academy aims at catering primarily to a younger audience. Its initiators noted that young Muslims were in desperate need of a modern and societally open spiritual forum. As of late, DİTİB’s internal clampdown and the association’s rigid hierarchies had made open debate all but impossible, or so they argued.

As of now, the initiators are still organising the logistics of their project. Making the Academy real will necessitate overcoming many challenges, not least of a financial nature: in the past, a number of progressive endeavours that sought to establish themselves beyond the purview of the conservative associations have foundered on insufficient funding.

Nevertheless, the idea of a Muslim Academy holds the promise of building a genuinely open and proactive civil society institution that is capable of asking hard questions and of projecting progressive Muslim voices – without falling into the trap of a “liberal Islam” that remains a chimaera.

Report: France ‘worst in the world’ at guessing Muslim population

French people are the most likely to hold misconceptions about the current and predicted Muslim population in their country, according to a study by Ipsos Mori published on Wednesday.

French people believed that 31 percent of the population was Muslim, when the real figure according to Pew research in 2010 was 7.5 percent.

Among the 40 countries polled, respondents in South Africa, the Philippines, and Italy also wildly overestimated the Muslim population.

French respondents also predicted that 40 percent of the population will be Muslim by 2020, but the same researchers predict the current number will rise to 8.3 percent (see graph below).

In Britain, respondents put the Muslim population at 15 percent – three times higher than reality.

The survey also asked people about their country’s views on issues like homosexuality and abortion, and how much they thought the government spends on healthcare every year.

Ipsos said that nearly all countries overestimate their Muslim population, and many are “extraordinarily wrong”.

Death of Malek Chebel, defender of an ‘Enlightened Islam’

Champion of an ‘Enlightened’ Islam, the Algerian anthropologist and psychoanalyst Malek Chebel died in Paris on November 12 from cancer at the age of 63.

Born in Skikda, Algeria in 1953, Malek Chebel enrolled at the university of Ain El Bey in 1973. After, he went to France with a grant from the French consulate and received a degree in clinical psychopathology and clinical psychology from Paris 7.

In 1982 Chebel obtained a doctorate in anthropology, ethnology and science of religions at Jussieu. In 1984 he earned a doctorate in political science and later worked at the Sorbonne.

Chebel, who established the Foundation for an Enlightened Islam in France in 2004, published some 20 books on Islam, in which he addressed many sensitive subjects, such as eroticism. He condemned the strict fundamentalist approach to relations between men and women. He has also tackled such taboos as wine and homosexuality in Islam. His publications include a Love Dictionary of Islam (Plon, 2004) and an Encyclopedia of Love in Islam (Payot, 1995). His other main focus is reform of Islam, to which he has dedicated two major books: Islam and Reason: The Struggle of Ideas (Perrin, 2005), and Manifesto for an Enlightened Islam: 27 Propositions for Reforming Islam (Hachette, 2004).

 

 

Turkish Community Associations join German pride festivals

Signalling solidarity and allying against discrimination

Turkish community associations have joined gay pride marches in Stuttgart and Hamburg, in a bid to broach questions surrounding sexuality and to demonstrate their openness to diversity. The Federal Chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), Gökay Sofuoglu, noted with regard to ongoing difficulties faced by the LGBT+ community that “as an association taking a stand against discrimination of any kind, we cannot close our eyes to this”.((http://www.swr.de/landesschau-aktuell/bw/csd-in-stuttgart-tuerkische-gemeinde-bricht-mit-tabu/-/id=1622/did=17791268/nid=1622/tvsne5/))

Sofuoglu, speaking in the context of the Stuttgart gay pride, noted that there had been some resistance to the decision to participate. Such resistance had also been felt by the chairwoman of the Hamburg Turkish Community association, Nebahat Güçlü: In previous years, Güçlü had failed to overcome her fellow board members’ reservations about joining the local pride march.((https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/hamburg/CSD-Veranstalter-Parade-wird-politischer,csd640.html))

This year, however, the Hamburg community released a statement on its website arguing that “the vindication of equal rights for minorities is a concern for all of us. This includes the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. We are conscious of the fact that as a managing committee in our community we are taking an important but also provocative step that could also trigger negative reactions. Nevertheless, we deem it important and right to stand against all kinds of discriminations in our society and we also face up to the discussion within our organisations”.((http://www.tghamburg.de/news/?nid=149))

That the Turkish community’s participation in local pride festivals is more forthcoming this year must perhaps also be seen in relation to the spate recent attacks more or less straightforwardly motivated by Islamic radicalism, including Omar Mateen’s shooting at the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. After this event, Muslim organisations elsewhere have also taken a conscious decision to join pride marches in order to demonstrate their solidarity and open-mindedness.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/06/28/muslim-community-joins-regina-pride-parade-1st-time/))

The ambivalence of Islamic associations

As Euro-Islam reported at the time, the initial reaction of explicitly Islamic associations in Germany remained muted.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/06/20/muted-reaction-of-german-muslim-leaders-to-orlando-touches-upon-uncomfortable-issues-of-homophobia-and-media-discourses/)) Since then, Ayman Mazyek, prolific chairman of one of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), has stated in a public speech that when any person irrespective of race, religion, or sexual orientation were attacked, the Muslim community would “rally to their protection”, “defend freedom” and “protect the dignity of the human being and therefore our own dignity”.((http://zentralrat.de/27631.php))

Yet the difficult contortions that underlie Mazyek’s view were on ample display in an interview published ten days before the shooting at Pulse: when stating his view on homosexuality, Mazyek asserted that “I am a citizen of this country and the chairman of a German religious community. For me the Basic Law is decisive. I don’t accept homosexuality personally and religiously. But at the same time I stand up against homophobia, as a Muslim.”((http://www.volksstimme.de/sachsen-anhalt/islam-mazyek-abschottung-weg-der-angsthasen))

To be sure, such a statement is not substantially different from the disconnect between, for instance, contemporary Catholic teachings on homosexuality on the one hand and the Church’s stance on the worth of the dignity of the human individual on the other hand. It does elucidate, however, why participation in a gay pride march might still be one step to far for many explicitly Islamic associations.

GOP Rep: American Muslim Community ‘Would Kill Every Homosexual’ In U.S.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (AL) said Thursday that Democrats “are in a perplexing position” between appealing to the gay community and “to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America.”
Brooks made the remarks, first picked up by BuzzFeed, on the Matt & Aunie show on WAPI radio, where he was asked why “the left refuses to face this fact” that “mainstream Muslim thought” says homosexuality is punishable by death.
“Well, it’s probably because they’re counting votes,” Brooks told the radio show. “And they’re seeking a block vote from the Muslim community in the United States and that’s a community that is increasing in political power, as it’s doing in Europe. More and more votes are there. And the Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America.”

Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. But so do western conservatives

Omar Mateen – who shot dead 50 people in an Orlando gay club – was both an

Islamist terrorist and a violent homophobe.

These things are not mutually exclusive. They are concomitant. Mateen attacked

the West in general but targeted gay people in particular. Inevitably some people

say Islam is incompatible with Western life because it is incompatible with our

attitudes towards sexuality.

Are they right? Well, it’s complicated. And on a matter as sensitive as this, there

is nothing wrong with admitting that it’s complicated.

Liberals, say the Right, must find themselves in a terrible quandary. As

supporters of both gay liberation and multiculturalism, how do they process the

fact that many Muslims believe homosexuality is a crime?

Conservatives insist that their confident defence of Western history and

philosophy is more gay-friendly than liberal multiculturalism.

Liberals listening to Trump and Spahn might choke on their tofu. When, they

would counter, did Western conservatives suddenly become fans of sexual

freedom? Haven’t they spent decades fighting gay rights?

Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, was one of the first Republicans to say that

Orlando was an attack on gay people – and good for him. But Left-wing critics

argued that his outspoken opposition to gay marriage was part of the cultural

environment in which Mateen’s bigotry grew.

Islam wasn’t the only religious authority that Mateen would have encountered in

Florida telling him that gay people are going to Hell. He could have tuned in to

any evangelical radio show to hear that.

When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their

community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly.

It is not.

Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality

should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since

the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still

bitterly resented by social conservatives.

The conservatives are right: Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. Yet

so do many conservatives. And it would be an inversion of Western values to

insist that any individual suddenly rethink their religious beliefs if they want to

be accepted into society.

But Muslims, I’m sure, would welcome a social contract requiring everyone to

obey the law and respect the distinction between church and state. And, most of

all, live and let live.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/islam-does- have-a- problem-

with-homosexuality- but-so- do-western- c/

British Islamic scholar faces ban from Australia for preaching ‘death is the sentence’ for homosexuality

Australia is urgently reviewing the visa of a British Islamic scholar who toured

Orlando in March and had preached that “death is the sentence” for homosexual

acts.

Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a senior Shi'ite Muslim scholar, is currently giving a series

of lectures at an Islamic centre in Sydney on the topic of spirituality throughout

the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Sekaleshfar said in a lecture in Michigan in 2013 that in an Islamic society, the

death penalty should be carried out for homosexuals who engaged in sodomy

and that in Islam this was “nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals it’s the same.

Out of compassion, let's get rid of him now, because he's contaminating society,”

he said in a lecture.

There is no evidence of any link between his comments and the American

Muslim man, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando

on Sunday – the deadliest mass shooting in the United States – or that Mateen

attended Sekaleshfar’s lectures.

Sekaleshfar said he condemned the Orlando shooting as a “barbaric act of terror

that was in no way justified.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he has “zero tolerance for

people to come to Australia who preach hatred” and his government was

reviewing Sekaleshfar's visa “as we speak.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/islam-scholar-

australia-visa- ban-orlando- shooting-farrokh- sekaleshfa-a7081096.html

Muted reaction of German Muslim leaders to Orlando touches upon uncomfortable issues of homophobia and media discourses

The response of German Muslim leaders and organisations to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando has generally been relatively muted. Whilst the main federations – DITIB, ZMD, VIKZ, and IGMG – had been quick to denounce recent attacks in Brussels and Paris in official press releases on their websites, these organisations have remained comparatively silent after Orlando. In two tweets from his personal account, ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek denounced the “mad deed” and expressed his solidarity with the perpetrator’s victims and their families. Mazyek then went on to criticise the media for pouncing on the supposed religious motivations of shooter Omar Mateen and refrained from further substantive comments on the events of Orlando. An article on the IGMG-leaning website Islamiq.de took the same line: instead of seeking the rationale for Mateen’s actions in his Muslim faith, the shooting ought to be seen as a non-religious hate crime, or so the article’s author argued. Only the small Liberal-Islamic Federation (LIB) released a statement explicitly condemning the attack and the religious references employed by Mateen. The LIB also vowed to fight homophobic prejudice.

 

The mainstream associations’ limited response might be due in part to the confusion that still reigns about the nature of attacker’s motives. As Yassin Musharbash notes in a piece for Die Zeit titled ‘But he did say IS though!’, Mateen’s ostentatious pledge of allegiance to the so-called Islamic State must be counterbalanced by an appreciation of his personal history of psychological instability and potentially suppressed homosexual tendencies. As Musharbash points out, the Orlando attack was not connected to the IS in a direct operational manner, nor does it seem to have been backed up by a clear politico-ideological outlook on the part of Mateen himself. Rather than being due to recognisably ‘religious’ factors, then, Musharbash sees Mateen’s reference to Islam and to the IS as a testimony to the power of the IS’s iconography and to its capability to establish itself and its vision as a countercultural force. On this view, the silence of Muslim associations is understandable and reasonable, since from an Islamic religious perspective there is comparatively little about the attacker that is worth commenting on.

 

However, the limited nature of German Muslim organisations’ reactions has also been criticised. In the Tagesspiegel newspaper, psychologist and anti-radicalisation activist Ahmad Mansour denounces Muslim leaders for giving in to the initial reflex-like claim that the attack ‘has nothing to do with Islam’. Mansour argues that Mateen’s jihadist leanings need to be taken seriously, and that the Muslim organisations and their leading personnel are averse to fighting the homophobic prejudice that has taken hold in their communities. Whilst many commentators in the German media – including renowned academic scholar Thomas Bauer – have pointed out that attitudes towards homosexuality have been historically more relaxed in Muslim societies than in the West, Mansour replies that this historically accurate observation must not detract from the fact that today homophobic discriminations and attacks are justified in recognisably ‘Islamic’ terms. The failure of the main Muslim associations to react to the Orlando shooting is thus seen as indicative of the unwillingness to recognise homosexuality as legitimate and to unquestioningly denounce homophobia.

 

http://www.islamiq.de/2016/06/13/muslime-verurteilen-massaker-von-orlando/

http://lib-ev.jimdo.com/

http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-06/orlando-attentaeter-islamischer-staat-medien

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/ahmad-mansour-ueber-islam-und-terror-der-islam-muss-sich-reformieren/13751768.html

SCP-research: Low Rate of Acceptance Homosexuality Among Conservative Believers [PDF Download]

A recent research executed by the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP) among conservative muslims and protestants shows that a majority disapproves of homosexuality. 53 percent of Muslims and 58 percent of Protestants (outside of the mainstream Dutch Protestant Church) believes homosexuality is wrong.

Both groups show little difference in views among youth and elders. The research also shows that seventy 5 percent of conservative muslims and protestants would find it problematic if their children would have a partner of the same gender.

The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker has expressed the need for more investment into the acceptance of homosexuality. In the Dutch parliament the Labour Party (PvdA) – the party of which Bussemaker is a member – wants to organize a public hearing of experts and consequently hold a debate with the Dutch cabinet.

The research furthermore shows that Dutch natives are more acceptive of homosexuality than Dutch citizens with an immigrant background. 10 percent of Dutch natives see homosexuality as something thats wrong while 50 percent of Dutch citizens with Turkish or Moroccan backgrounds think this is the case.

COC – an interest group for gay rights – believes that change should come from within migrant communities. Gays with a Moroccan or Turkish background could play an important role the organization thinks. The COC did express their opinion that the government should support relevant initiatives from these groups more frequently.

[Click Here to Download Full Report]