Muslim MPs unanimously support gay marriage in Germany, Islamic associations split on the issue

On June 30, the German Parliament voted to legalise gay marriage – or, as it has become known in Germany, the “marriage for all” (Ehe für alle). The path to this decision had been a tumultuous one; and the vote in the Bundestag came only after a surprise move in which Chancellor Angela Merkel, a long-time opponent of gay marriage, relinquished her principled opposition.

Downfall of a bastion of conservatism

While the Chancellor still voted against the marriage equality bill, her own party – the Christian Democratic Union – was split, with 225 CDU-parliamentarians opposing the bill, and 75 supporting it. The other parties – Social Democrats, Greens, and Left – gave the bill their quasi-unanimous backing.

Thus, many in the CDU were not willing to give up what has been perceived as one of the last core conservative positions of their party. A number of CDU politicians also adduced religious reasons for the rejection of the bill, deeming the opening of the marriage relation to homosexual couples a contravention of the Christian principles the CDU is grounded upon.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/gleichstellung-bundestag-beschliesst-ehe-fuer-alle-15084396.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Muslim MPs support “marriage for all”

Interestingly enough, none of the Muslim members of Parliament shared the qualms of the Christian conservatives. All parliamentarians of Islamic faith supported the bill. To be sure, the extent to which these men and women felt and identified as distinctly ‘Muslim’ when they made this decision is open to question. Most Muslims in Germany’s parliament are situated on the left of the political spectrum, in a milieu that is often quite secular.

The more interesting case in this respect is perhaps Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s only Muslim MP and a strong backer of gay marriage. Giousouf has stated that her religious convictions were a “determining factor” in her decision to join the CDU:

“The CDU gives space to religious feeling. This is important for me. It is a party that represents a value-bound politics derived from the Christian conception of man. For the CDU, religion is not a marginal phenomenon. There are more commonalities than differences between Christians and Muslims. We both feel responsible to man and to our Creator for our deeds. Thus there was no question for me that my political commitment was right only in this party.”((https://www.welt.de/regionales/duesseldorf/article114268231/So-etwas-hat-es-in-der-CDU-noch-nie-gegeben.html ))

The conundrum of organised religion

Organised religion and its representatives remain split on the issue of gay marriage. On the one hand, the German Lutheran churches have for a considerable while abandoned any past opposition to the legal and religious recognition of homosexual partnerships.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church, in line with dogma from Rome, continues to oppose the “marriage for all”. Yet ahead of the vote in the Bundestag, the voice of the Catholic Church was scarcely heard and it seemed as if the Roman clergy had resigned itself a long time ago to the fact that, in spite of its dismay, the full recognition of homosexual marriage would only be a matter of time.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2017-06/gleichgeschlechtliche-ehe-katholische-kirche-ablehnung-reformation ))

Liberal-Islamic Union backs gay marriage

Islamic religious organisations did not figure as prominently in the recent public debate as their Christian counterparts. Yet they have not been completely absent, either. Already in May, 2017, the Liberal-Islamic Union (LIB), a small socially progressive Muslim umbrella body, came out in support of gay marriage.

One of the LIB’s board members, Annika Mehmeti, highlighted that in no instance does the Quran explicitly define “marriage” as limited to a man and a woman. Nor does the holy book define the begetting of children as the sine qua non condition of the marriage relation. Instead, the Quran lays its focus on the mutual commitment of the spouses and on the duties they have towards each other, or so Mehmeti argues.(( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article164652401/Der-Koran-erlaubt-die-Homo-Ehe.html ))

Silence of the conservative associations

The other Islamic associations, which tend to be more conservative in outlook, have been much more equivocal than the LIB. For the most part, they have simply avoided to comment on the issue of homosexual partnerships.

While some of their members will undoubtedly support gay marriage (or perhaps do not see it as such a big deal), many will also hold deep reservations. Against this backdrop, keeping silent may be a preferred option, since it allows the associations to dodge uncomfortable questions.

The mental gymnastics that the mainline conservative forces have had to undertake in this respect mirror the contortions of the Catholic Church. They are epitomised by a statement by Aiman Mazyek, media-savvy chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), in a 2016 interview:

“For my own part, and from a religious standpoint, I do not accept homosexuality. Yet at the same time I stand up against homophobia, as a Muslim.”(( http://zentralrat.de/27637.php ))

Popular Muslim attitudes

Among the German population at large, support for gay marriage had been high for a considerable number of years: in a 2013 survey, 87% of individuals unaffiliated with any religion, 78% of Protestants, 70% of Catholics, and 48% of Muslims had supported full marriage equality for homosexual couples.

Yet survey results are far from unequivocal. A 2012 study among Turks in Germany reported that 51% of respondents agreed to the statement that “homosexuality is an illness”.(( https://web.archive.org/web/20121011112234/https://d171.keyingress.de/multimedia/document/228.pdf )) Conversely, a 2015 study found that 60% of German Muslims supported gay marriage.(( https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/de/presse-startpunkt/presse/pressemitteilungen/pressemitteilung/pid/muslime-in-deutschland-mit-staat-und-gesellschaft-eng-verbunden/ ))

Pressure from abroad

To some extent, the unease and hostility with which the LGBT community is viewed from many Islamic quarters is not only – perhaps not even primarily – rooted in (putative) homophobic sensibilities among German Muslims. Rather, religious institutions and societal pressures from abroad continue to play a large role.

This dynamic has been in evidence in the context of the fierce criticisms directed at the recently opened “gender-equal” mosque in Berlin by Turkish and Egyptian authorities. In cases such as these, it is voices from Middle Eastern countries that make an opening towards ‘divergent’ paths more difficult to achieve for Islamic associations operating in Germany.

Resistance to Muslim-LGBT dialogue

This lesson was also learned in 2014 by Ender Çetin, chairman of the DİTİB-run Şehitlik mosque in Berlin at the time. He agreed to convene a discussion round between Muslim and LGBT representatives at his mosque. The resulting backlash came first of all from DİTİB’s Turkish parent organisation and from Turkish media: Turkish newspapers accused Çetin of opening the mosque to “abnormal” homosexuals.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/diskussion-in-berlin-homosexualitaet-und-islam-unvereinbar-1.2237310 ))

As a response, the meeting did not take place at the mosque, and a number of DİTİB’s theologians and clerics that had initially agreed to participate in the forum withdrew.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/diskussion-in-berlin-homosexualitaet-und-islam-unvereinbar-1.2237310 )) Since then, the purges of Turkish state organisations in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt have not stopped short of DİTİB, and the liberal-leaning governing board of the Şehitlik mosque has been at least partly removed.

Majority of French believe that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are increasing

According to a recent Odoxa survey for The Parisien, the majority of French believe that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are increasing in France. Responding to the question: “Are you under the impression that within the last several years ‘anti-Semitism has increased?’” 68% of respondents answered affirmatively. Seventy-one percent believed that “within the last several years Islamophobia has increased.” The Parisien specified “that phobia signifies fear, so literally ‘fear of Islam,’ while anti-Semitism signifies hostility toward Jews.”

Those on the left were more likely to agree (84%, in contrast with 75% on the right, that Islamophobia has increased, while 75%, in contrast with 66% on the right, believed that anti-Semitism has increased.) “However the French are divided concerning the State’s role in organizing Islam,” stated the journal. To the question: “Should the State take measures to reform the ‘Islam the France,’ or should Muslims decide the organization of their religion for themselves?” 51% of respondents agreed with the first solution, while 48% preferred the second. The online survey took place from February 26-27 and gathered a sample of 1,003 people age 18 and over.

Canadian Muslims encounter increasing hostility: Siddiqui

October 13, 2013

By Haroon Siddiqui

 

Jews have historically been falsely accused of wielding too much power. Now Canadian Muslims are, especially in Quebec.

A national poll has taken a measure of bigots who exaggerate the power of those they dislike. Nearly a third of Canadians believe Muslims have too much influence in their province. In Quebec, 43 per cent think so. This is ironic, given that Canadian Muslims report feeling under siege and helpless to stop the demonization directed at them because of Muslim mayhem elsewhere in the world.

A second poll corroborates the increasing hostility toward Muslims — again, more so in Quebec.

The findings come amid an ugly debate in Quebec over its plan to ban religious symbols and clothing, especially the hijab, for those on the public payroll. And there are increasing incidents of hijabi women being harassed — not just in Quebec but in Ontario and elsewhere.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in Canada, as it is in the U.S. and Europe. The 2011 national census estimated the Canadian Muslim population at 1,053 million, up 73 per cent since 2001. In Quebec, it is 243,500.

This week on Tuesday and Wednesday, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the festival that marks the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, a gathering of about three million, including an estimated 1,500 from Canada.

Forum Research Inc. asked a representative sample of 1,527 Canadians about theirperception of the power of minorities.

Thirty per cent say Muslims have too much power. Twenty-one per cent think that about the Sikhs. And 18 per cent each say that about Jews and “Asians” (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, etc.)

In Quebec, suspicion of Muslims and Jews is much higher. While 43 per cent think that Muslims are too powerful, 32 per cent think that of Jews. Tellingly, more separatists think that way than others. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia common among Indépendendistes,” reads the headline on the Forum findings.

“If the Charter of Quebec Values is an example of the Parti Québécois practising dog whistle politics, it appears there are plenty of ears tuned to that particular frequency,” says Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum.

I presented him with an argument: The poll merely quantifies the bigotry that’s always present in society; that he asked leading questions (“Do Muslims have too much influence in your province?”); and that respondents mouth off against whatever group is in the news negatively.

Bozinoff had a crisp answer: “Respondents had a right to say no but a great many didn’t. It was an IVR (interactive voice response) poll — people were pressing 1 and 2 on their phones in response to questions. There was no human being influencing them.

“The results are shocking but informative.”

An Angus Reid poll asked a sample of 2,025 Canadians — divided into Quebec and the rest of Canada — their views about different faiths.

Nearly 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t like Islam. In the rest of Canada, 54 per cent don’t.

Next on Quebecers’ hit list is Sikhism, disliked by 43 per cent, followed by Judaism, disliked by 41 per cent.

In the rest of Canada, 39 per cent view Sikhism negatively, 29 per cent Hinduism and 22 per cent Judaism.

Who holds the most negative views? Both polls point to the old, the less educated and the less wealthy.

Forum also shows that across Canada, Conservative supporters are more likely, 36 per cent, than supporters of other parties to presume that Muslims are too powerful. In Quebec, 47 per cent of PQ and 53 per cent of Bloc Québécois supporters think so.

Angus Reid shows that younger and university-educated Canadians hold more favourable opinions of non-Judeo-Christian religions.

We may shrug off all this as a passing phenomenon.

After all, similar views have been held in the past against Catholics, Japanese, blacks and, especially, Jews. Over time, prejudices shift toward newer minorities, including by those who had once been victims of just such prejudice.

Or it may be that more people these days are willing to admit their biases and do so with a stridency we used to think of as un-Canadian.

Still, Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid says that leaving aside Quebec, the results do suggest that the rest of Canada, while more open-minded than Quebec, “may be operating under a veneer of acceptance rather than actual acceptance” of religious minorities.

For sure, Canada is not immune from post-9/11 fear of Muslims. We see that in the crude public discourse, especially in right-wing media and among some politicians, especially in Quebec, who feed at the Islamophobic trough.

 

The Star: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/10/13/canadian_muslims_encounter_increasing_hostility_siddiqui.html

Fundamentalism and out-group hostility: Muslim immigrants and Christian natives in Western Europe

December 2013

 

In the heated controversies over immigration and Islam in the early 21st century, Muslims have widely become associated in media debates and the popular imagery with religious fundamentalism. Against this, others have argued that religiously fundamentalist ideas are found among only a small minority of Muslims living in the West, and that religious fundamentalism can equally be found among adherents of other religions, including Christianity. However, claims on both sides of this debate lack a sound empirical base because very little is known about the extent of religious fundamentalism among Muslim immigrants, and virtually no evidence is available that allows a comparison with native Christians.

 

View full report here: Fundamentalism and out-group hostility – Muslim immigrants and Christian natives in Western Europe

Author: Ruud Koopmans

Published in: WZB Mitteilungen

Islam/ A Letter to Napolitano (the newly re-elected president): Guarantees or we will take to the piazzas

A Letter from the Islamic Community to Napolitano (the Newly re-elected President). Italian piazzas have become spaces of heated tensions where popular discontent is most visible. Today, on behalf of the Italian Islamic community Sharif Lorenzini, Vice President of the Islamic Community in Puglia wrote a letter to Giorgio Napolitano, the newly re-elected president. Lorenzini has become the face of resistance against Muslim hostility including leading the charge against those who call for Muslims to leave Italy. Lorenzini called for Napolitano to eliminate all forms of social tensions. If the tensions are not addressed, Muslims will protest in Piazzas across Italy according to Lorenzini.

Dutch Muslims Unfazed by Anti-Islamic Party Popularity

Hurriyet reports that while some Muslims in the Netherlands are
concerned about the rise of anti-Islam party PVV in recent elections,
others feel the hostility is unlikely to last long. Rather, they view
the antipathy as a symptom of a lack of knowledge about the religion
which does not reflect the day-to-day reality of their experience.
Despite the rise in popularity of the PVV, Muslims in the Netherlands
predict the hostile political atmosphere will be short lived, an idea
bolstered by the fact that they are facing no increase in
discrimination.

New Al-Qaeda Menace in France Regarding the Headscarf

The second in command of Al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri has threatened that France will “pay for its crimes” regarding its “hostility” toward the Islamic Headscarf according to an American surveillance Center of Islamicist websites called SITE. Al-Zawahiri claimed that “France claims to be a secular country, but at its heart it has a hatred for Muslims.” He also threatened American president Barack Obama.

Anger at Europe’s far right ‘anti-Islam’ conference

A German far right group has stirred Muslim anger worldwide by holding a three-day “Anti-Islamisation Conference” to protest against the construction of mosques and Muslim immigration.

Prominent members of Europe’s far right, including French “Front National” leader Jean-Marie le Pen and Belgian far-right politician Filip Dewinter, have said they will attend the meeting in Cologne which is aimed at forging a European alliance against “Islamisation.” The conference will include a rally in the centre of Cologne tomorrow which police say could lead to clashes with left-wing groups that plan a counter-demonstration. Trade unions, churches and other groups have also announced plans to protest against the conference. The conference organiser is a local protest group called “Pro-Cologne” which campaigned against the city’s recent decision to allow the construction of a large new mosque with two 55-metre tall minarets. Around 330,000 immigrants live in Cologne, about a third of the city’s population. “Mosques are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms, the muezzin call and headscarves are flooding our streets,” Pro-Cologne said on its website. It said 150 “politicians and publicists” from all over Europe and 1,500 other participants will attend the conference at which it plans to launch a petition “against the Islamisation of our cities”. The meeting has drawn fierce criticism from German politicians and city leaders in Cologne. The premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Juergen Ruettgers, said: “Those who abuse the cosmopolitan and democratic city of Cologne as a meeting place for right-wing radicals are against tolerance, against reconciliation, against humanity.” David Crossland reports.

Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Dutch ministers take action on street youth

Dutch ministers pledged to meet with local officials in neighborhoods where many immigrants live, in an effort to curb the “nuisance” caused by gangs of Dutch Moroccan youth. A heated debate in parliament erupted between home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst and justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin – this following growing unease about the behavior of Dutch-Moroccan youth who appear to be creating “no-go” areas in the city of Gouda. The ministers pledged that no-one ought to get away with making the streets unsafe. Verbal harassment, spitting, and swearing are some of the activities that the Dutch-Moroccan youth are accused of. Unemployment and leaving school early are citied among the reasons why these youth may be engaging in such activities.

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Expatica

Dutch News

Bosnia: Gay festival closes after clashes with hardline Muslims

Bosnia’s first gay pride festival has been forced underground after 10 people were injured when protestors attacked visitors on the festival’s opening night. Dozens of people chanting “kill the gays” punched, kicked, and threw stones at people leaving the event. Islamic leaders were angry that the festival of pride, which includes art, films, and workshops about sexual minorities, is being held during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Lead organizers of the event said that they are not canceling the festival, but changing the format from public to private, hoping that this will deter some of the harassment and violence.

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AKI

The Irish Times

Agence-France Presse

Agence-France Presse