The Muslim Vote

American Muslims have tended to vote for Republican candidates, aligning themselves with traditionally conservative political values such as abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. However, in this year’s election, it seems that many American Muslims are favoring Democratic candidates. The Iraq war, religious and ethnic profiling, and foreign policy concerns are among the frustrations that many Muslim voters are feeling concerning the politics of the past eight years. Muslim voters are feeling motivated in this election to make their voices heard, in line with values that have an impact on their lives.

New play canvasses women’s sexual issues

A controversial play looking addressing topics of sexuality including rape, circumcision, and homosexuality, has opened in Brussels. The play, entitled ‘The Veiled Monologues,’ was written by Dutch writer Adelheid Roosen and inspired by the American play, The Vagina Monologues. The Veiled Monologues draws on subjects of female sexuality and was developed from interviews with over 70 Muslim women in Holland, of various ethnic and cultural origins. The play is being performed in French for the first time in Brussels at the Teatre de Poche until February 9th, 2008.

Keeping the Faith

Most critics of Pope Benedict XVI’s University of Regenburg speech draw attention to his misrepresentation of Islam; these criticisms overlook his more passionate dismissal of European secularism–an area ironically in which he and many Muslims may find common ground. Muslims in Europe have brought to the surface the anti-religious nature of European secularism. Both struggle against the hostility of European secularism; there is a sense in which Christians and Muslims in Europe see themselves as being in the same boat. Many Catholics act sympathetically toward Islam. The Vatican, as protector of the weak, supports churches which have provided refuge to Muslim asylum-seekers. Ratzinger’s positions on Islam are mixed: on one hand, he scathingly compared contemporary Europe with resurgent Islam as examples of extremism; on the other, he seems to admire the omnipresence of Islam in the lives of most Muslims. Islam today is capable of offering a valid spiritual basis for the life of the peoples, a basis that seems to have slipped out of the hands of old [declining] Europe.” The pope’s eurocentric vision involves faith and reason coming together; the Catholic Church, as a tradition filtered through the Enlightenment, will be a bridge between “godless rationalism and religious fundamentalism.” In this vision, the Church sits between rabidly secular Europe and violent, zealous Islam. This seeming jealousy may reflect sensitivities of a Catholic Church in decline that is increasingly upstaged by the prominence of European Muslims. Many are looking to the Catholic Church as the only Institution to restore the credibility of religion in Europe; sexual abuse scandals of the past decade and the tension between Church hierarchy and modern individualism have created a crisis of authority. Sexual abuse scandals, high divorce rates, and the social acceptability of homosexuality and birth control are indications of a church having long lost its grip. The pope’s efforts to revitalize European society by integrating faith and rationality may be compromised by his assertion of the absolute authority of Rome. The suppression of discussion and debate and anxiety about orthodoxy and loyalty make his end goals that much more difficult to achieve.

In Germany, Citizenship Tests Stir up Muslims, and Public Debate

Brahms, beer and Beethoven are German, but can a Muslim head scarf be German too? Islamic communities throughout this country are beginning to wonder. What it means to be German is an excruciating riddle, not something casually broached in a cafe. But efforts to sharpen national identity through new citizenship tests have caused a furor over accusations that Muslims are being unfairly targeted for exclusion by questions concerning head scarves, arranged marriages, homosexuality and Israel’s right to exist.

Muslims Must Abide By Uk Code, Says Cre Chief

MUSLIMS living in the UK must accept that British values include a commitment to freedom of speech, even if that means offending people, says the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. Speaking in the wake of worldwide demonstrations against cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, Sir Trevor Phillips said that the right to offend was an “absolutely precious” part of British identity, which could not be bargained away. And he suggested that any Muslims who want to live under a system of Shariah law should leave the country. However, Sir Trevor – who has recently sparked controversy with his attacks on multiculturalism and calls on ethnic minorities to integrate – said that the other side of the coin of freedom of speech was that non-Muslims must accept the right of imams to denounce homosexuality in a way that many people find offensive. Sir Trevor told ITV1’s Jonathan Dimbleby programme that he wanted to promote a sense of “Britishness” among all those living in the UK. “What some minorities have to accept is that there are certain central things we all agree about, which are about the way we treat each other – that we have an attachment to democracy, that we sort things out by voting, not by violence and intimidation, that we tolerate things that we don’t like,” he said. “Short of people menacing and threatening each other, we have freedom of expression. We allow people to offend each other.” And that commitment to freedom of expression should also allow Muslim preachers to make comments about homosexuality that are offensive to broad segments of the British population, he said. “One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is,” said Sir Trevor. “That’s why I believe that freedom of expression – including Muslim leaders’ right to say they think homosexuality is harmful – is absolutely precious. In the end, once we start to limit freedom of expression, the people who suffer most are minorities.” Sir Trevor rejected the idea that British Muslims should be allowed to live under Shariah law in their own communities. “I don’t think that’s conceivable,” he said. “We have one set of laws. They are decided on by one group of people, members of parliament, and that’s the end of the story. Anybody who lives here has to accept that’s the way we do it. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.”

‘Even Pope Would Fail German Conscience Test for Citizenship’

Reactions against the conscience test applied to Muslims who want to become German citizens in Germany’s Baden-Wurttemberg province continue. The German Alliance 90/Greens Party Federal Assembly Group submitted a parliamentary motion to terminate the practice of examining the private life of applicants. The party’s Co-Chair Claudia Roth, criticizing the test’s questions on homosexuality as well, said, Even German-origin Pope Benedict XVI could not become a citizen if he took the test.

Germans To Put Muslims Through Loyalty Test

By Kate Connolly Muslims intent on becoming German citizens will have to undergo a rigorous cultural test to gauge their views on subjects ranging from bigamy to homosexuality. Believed to be the first test of its kind in Europe, the southern state of Baden-W_rttemberg has created the two-hour oral exam to test the loyalty of Muslims towards Germany. It is to be taken on top of the standard test for foreigners wishing to become German citizens, which includes language proficiency skills and general knowledge. It also requires applicants to prove that they can provide for themselves and their families. Those applying must also have resided in Germany for the previous eight years and have no criminal record. Germany’s 15 other states will monitor the progress of the policy when the tests begin this week before deciding whether they wish to adopt similar legislation. The 30 questions, which have been set by a special commission, range from sexual equality to school sports and are meant to trigger a more detailed discussion between the applicants and officials. Until now, all applicants have simply had to tick a Yes or No box to answer whether they felt loyalty to Germany. But now they will be quizzed on their attitudes to homosexuality and western clothing for young women, and whether husbands should be allowed to beat their wives. Other questions covering topics such as bigamy and whether parents should allow their children to participate in school sports have been called “trick questions”, meant to catch people off guard. The state interior ministry said the test would be used to filter out Muslims who were unsuited for life in Germany. Those who answered “correctly” but later acted against expected behaviour, such as wife-beating, could have their citizenship removed. Critics say that the test is biased and discriminatory and that if Muslims are obliged to take it, so should all applicants for citizenship. Brigitte L_sch, a leading member of the Green party in the Baden-Wurttemberg parliament, called for the oral exam to be dropped, arguing that it inferred from the outset that all Muslims were “violent per se” and unable to abide by German law. “This list of questions is only to be used for applicants from Islamic countries. It is an unbelievable form of discrimination,” she said. “If Germans were asked some of the questions, they would find it difficult to answer them.” The European Assembly of Turkish Academics rejected the questionnaire as “strongly discriminatory and racist” against Germany’s three million-strong Muslim population, most of whom are Turkish. Kerim Arpad, an assembly spokesman, said: “The test is shaped by stereotypes and damages integration.” But Dieter Biller, of the foreign ministry in Stuttgart, the state capital, said the test would help bureaucrats to form opinions as to whether citizenship applicants were suitable or not. “It covers everything from sexual equality, violence, school sports and religious freedom,” he said. “How the applicants stand on the question of the attacks of September 11 will also be a key question.” Holland announced yesterday that it was introducing ceremonies for new immigrants as part of efforts to reduce racial tensions and to integrate immigrant communities. The government is worried that immigrants who do not move outside their ethnic or religious groups hamper integration and stoke fears of militancy. New Dutch citizens will also have to take an “oath of allegiance”.