“Muslims are in the Streets like it’s their home:” In Borgo Allegri, citizens are exhausted

The residents of Borgo Allegri in Florence are exhausted, as they protest against the deterioration of their neighborhood in an area surrounding the city’s Islamic Cultural Center. The place of prayer has existed since 2007 and is located in the back of an old warehouse, not very spacious and extremely close to surrounding homes. The Muslim community, over the years, has increased in number (a community that is 30,000 strong in Florence) and this increase is paralleled by a worsening situation in the area: fights, late night noise and loitering on the sidewalk and in front of the place of prayer and other illegal activities.

The most difficult time was during Ramadan (a month of prayer, during which the Islamic center was stormed) and every Friday during the rest of the year: during these times residents stay in, and don’t have company over to their homes, staying locked in their homes. “We have signatures and we have asked for help from over 100 organizations and no one will help” explained Laura Battistoni, a resident of the area, who yesterday sent an email to Mayor Matteo Renzi, explaining the difficulties in the area around the Islamic Center.

“The crux of the matter is that there is no more law in this space: everyone does what they want. The faithful who come to the Islamic Center pray in terrible conditions, stretching out on rugs in the middle of the street, eating on the sidewalks. They pray at 4 am, often using a megaphone, making it impossible for anyone to sleep.”

The problem is not only from the residents in the area. “We are the cradle of the renaissance” said one resident “but we have a bad image abroad. There are tourists who have complained, and discourage others from renting a home in the area.” The faithful are also sometimes the most educated of the Italians, most of them are good people, but tourists do not expect this commotion on the street. Women and the elderly are afraid. I think being able to sleep at night and come and go freely from home, at any time , is within the rights of a citizen,” says the resident.

“The Muslims also have a right to pray, but it is only right to that they have a safe and dignified place to do so.” In this regard, that the Imam of Florence Elzir Izzedin asks for a mosque in the city. This has raised many issues like whether to allow it and where to put it. A number of places have been identified including southern Florence in viale Nenni.

 

Muslim Bloggers in Germany: Creating a Counter-public to Traditional Media

Germany’s Muslim bloggers offer alternative opinions and perspectives on Muslim life. In so doing, they correct the image of Muslims that is portrayed in traditional media. Canan Topçu reports

Rukiye Dogan blogs sporadically. Initially, she just wrote about the things she saw in her daily life, observed in the world around her, or discovered by chance. “There are so many stories on the streets; you just have to write them down,” says the young blogger. But as time passed, the “stories from the street” on her blog were supplemented by a growing number of posts on other subjects.

Of late, Rukiye Dogan has been shifting her focus to the political. Some things, she says, are just crying out to be blogged about. One such a thing, for example, was a programme on German television hosted by the famous German TV personality, Günther Jauch. The theme of the talk show, which was broadcast in spring 2013 on ARD, Germany’s first public, national broadcaster, was “In Allah’s name: what can be done to counteract Germany’s holy warriors?”

Rukiye felt that she just had to comment on the guests, their discussions, and what she considered to be Jauch’s disastrous hosting of the show. So she sat down and wrote a letter to the editorial team behind the show. Instead of printing and sending it, however, she posted it on her blog.

 

Lose the Lads Mags: It’s not about the nudity

How can covering up women at one time oppress them, and at other times empower them? Why, when some women take their clothes off for money, are they objectifying themselves, and at other times simply performing? Why are some images of women objectification and others simply art? Essentially, how can the same action mean two different things? One thing must be understood: it’s not about nudity.

 

The recent Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign is spearheaded by two organisations which fight for gender equality (UK Feminista and Object), but some have argued that covering up lads’ mags in shops is actually a misogynistic action. However at the same time, there is a similar case made by Islamists that the hiding-away of lads’ mags should be done to preserve modesty. The hiding-away is being done for two very different reasons, and people need to realise this.

 

Authoritarian Islamists use gaffer tape on lads’ mags for the same reason they want to cover up real women’s bodies- but Lose the Lads’ Mags wants to do it to protect not only children but the female salespeople who must handle this material. The critique that the campaign is promoting a ‘weak, meek’ image of women suggests that he has failed to grasp the difference between a woman seeing another woman’s naked breasts, and a woman being forced to handle and sell sexist material. As Sophie Bennett, a spokesperson for the campaign, explains, ‘The issue for the thousands of people who have called on shops to lose the lads’ mags is absolutely not about nudity. It’s about sexism.’

 

The concealing of lads’ mags in shops in the UK is far removed from the ‘sticky handmade burqa’ that is used by Islamists to cover up such magazines as the author points out it’s not about the nudity.

Rolling Stone Tsarnaev cover draws outrage

The cover of Rolling Stone’s Aug. 1 edition features a photograph of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Many have responded angrily to the magazine’s treatment of Tsarnaev’s image:

Rolling Stone editors said in a statement that the story falls within the traditions of journalism and the magazine’s commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage.

“The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens,” the statement said.

Doug Saunders, “The Myth of the Muslim Tide”

Myth of the muslim tideIn his book “The Myth of the Muslim Tide”, Doug Saunders puts theories from critics of immigration under the microscope. He talked to Aygül Cizmecioglu about extremism, xenophobia and successful integration

Mr. Saunders, prominent public figures such as Thilo Sarrazin in Germany and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands believe that the West is being overrun with Muslims – at least demographically. Is that true?

Doug Saunders: No, I think the facts clearly contradict that. I’ve spent a lot of time in the largest Muslim countries, in Iran, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, doing various forms of journalism and research into migration and urbanization. And I hired a research team, people who are not partisans and weren’t activists, but who are good scholars, who know demographics, who know radicalism, who know the history of integration. And first of all, what we found out was that these countries have the fastest falling reproduction rates in the world. Bangladesh now has a population growth rate falling very quickly toward a European level. The situation in Turkey is very similar.

Moreover, in Europe and North America, Muslims are not the largest group of immigrants at all. And what we’re seeing is the pattern that poor religious minorities always – after some time – follow the trend of the majority society. The second generation of immigrants has considerably fewer children than the first generation, and by the third generation they have almost completely adapted to their environment, in terms of the birth rate.

Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the image of violent Muslims with extremist tendencies is ingrained in many people’s psyches…

Saunders: I didn’t use any data that was supported by only one organization. I’m talking about universities, government bodies, United Nations bodies, intelligence agencies. And the big surveys of extremism done by the CIA and MI5 were extremely useful for this book. Those surveys found that almost all Islamic extremists and terrorists do not come from tightly clustered immigrant neighbourhoods. Extremists don’t usually come from communities of strong belief.

First of all, the most religious groups of people do not produce extremism and terrorism. And second of all, if you survey all people who have become extremists and terrorists, religious faith is almost never a big cause. They use the language of religion as part of their extremism.

The New York police department just wasted something like six years investigating tens of thousands of ordinary Muslims in New York who had strong Islamic believes in the hope of finding some evidence of terrorism. And they had to admit that they had not found after this enormous spying program one piece of useful evidence for extremism.

But where do these fears come from?

Saunders: I passed through that set of views myself. I had deep fears, certainly when extremism and terrorism hit my own neighbourhood – when my local mosque was taken over by one of the most extreme al Qaida supporters around, when one of my neighbours had both of her legs blown off in the July 7, 2005 London transport bombings. Of course I wondered, of course I thought, is the western liberal world threatened by Islam?

What factors make it difficult for us to overcome these prejudices?

Saunders: I would not say that Muslims are an average. Now, you’re talking about very different people. There’s no generalizing about Muslims. You’re talking about extremely moderate practices like Alevi next to very ascetic, and rigid practices like Wahhabis and Salafists. And we can also show that immigrants from the same place of different religions have the same problems and difficulties. So religion is not a major causal factor.

Are areas populated mainly by Arabs or Turks, such as those in Berlin, parallel societies?

Saunders: Most of the successful immigrant groups in western history who have become very well integrated into the society around them have been clustered into ethically concentrated neighbourhoods. For instance, the Lower East Side of New York has seen about five different ethnic groups pass through it: eastern-European Jews, Irish, southern-European Catholics, Latin Americans, Greeks. All of whom have passed through and formed these densely clustered neighbourhoods, and their neighbourhoods were widely seen as being criminal.

 

More provocative ads go up in NYC subways from group that equated Muslims with ‘savages’

NEW YORK — The group that equated Muslim radicals with savages in advertisements last year has put up another set of provocative ads in dozens of New York City subway stations.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative purchased space next to 228 clocks in 39 stations for ads with an image of the burning World Trade Center and a quote attributed to the Quran saying: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ads went up Monday and will run for a month.

The same group paid for ads to be displayed in 10 stations in September. Those ads implied enemies of Israel are “savages.”

The MTA also sold space last year to competing advertisements that urged tolerance.

U.S. mosques struggle with shortage of imams

SPOKANE, Wash. (RNS) The Spokane Islamic Center wants something mosques all across the country are seeking and can’t seem to find: an educated, bilingual, experienced imam who understands American culture.

The Spokane Islamic Center wants something mosques all across the country are seeking and can’t seem to find: an educated, bilingual, experienced imam who understands American culture. RNS photo by Tracy Simmons/Spokane Faith & Values. *Note: This image is not available to download.

According to the report “The American Mosque 2011” by University of Kentucky professor Ihsan Bagby, half of all mosques in the U.S. have no full-time staff, and only 44 percent of imams work as paid, full-time leaders.

In Spokane, the Muslim community has been seeking a leader for 18 months and counting.

“It’s hard for a small mosque like ours to compete,” said Mamdouh El-Aarag, who serves on the mosque’s board.

According to Bagby’s study, only 36 percent of mosques with attendance between 101 and 200 have a full-time, paid imam. The Spokane mosque draws about 250 people for Friday prayers.

For now, volunteers take turns delivering sermons and leading prayers; that’s been the routine since the Islamic center was built in 2009. El-Aarag said it’s made the community strong, but has its downsides as well. He said the volunteers aren’t experts in Islamic scriptures and worship attendance isn’t as steady as it would be with a full-time imam.

Trial set to begin for 21-year-old suspect in Portland Christmas tree-lighting bomb plot

PORTLAND, Ore. — For more than two years, the only image the public has had of the man accused of plotting to detonate an 1,800-pound bomb at a Portland Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is this: A sullen-faced, sunken-eyed terrorism suspect in a mug shot taken just hours after his arrest.

At the trial that begins Thursday, Mohamed Mohamud’s attorneys will attempt to present a different image, one of an impressionable teenager lured by undercover agents with the FBI, which snared one of its youngest terrorism suspects with his arrest in November 2010.

At issue is whether Mohamud was entrapped, as his defense claims, when he gave the go-ahead for the detonation of what he thought was a bomb at the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. The bomb was a fake, provided by FBI agents whom the 19-year-old thought were his jihadist co-conspirators.

As a senior in high school, Mohamud had begun writing articles for an online English-language jihadist magazine called “Jihad Recollections” under the pen name Ibn al-Mubarak, advocating physical fitness for the mujahedeen in places where they couldn’t find exercise equipment.

Journalist Trevor Aaronson found a common thread in such sting cases, documented in a forthcoming book, “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism,” which spends a chapter on elements of the Mohamud case.

“(The stings) all have minor variations, but they’re all pretty much the same in that they involve people who don’t have the capacity to commit the crimes” for which they’re prosecuted, Aaronson said.

Aaronson said Mohamud didn’t have access to bomb-making materials and, while he espoused anti-Western views, showed no capacity for carrying out acts of terror.

“If you’re going to prosecute every loudmouth,” Aaronson said, “our courts would be clogged.”

 

New IFOP survey suggests image of Islam in France is deteriorating

News Agencies – October 29, 2012

 

According to a study conducted by IFOP (Public Opinion Institute) for Le Figaro the image of Islam is rapidly deteriorating in France. It shows that the rise of ethnic separatist communities among some Muslims in France is strengthening the public rejection.

 

“Our study shows an evolution that is moving in the direction of a greater hardening of the French toward this religion and a reenforced negative perception of Islam,” explains Jérôme Fourquet, a director of IFOP. “Even if a significant proportion of the French, 40%, still say they are indifferent to the presence of Islam in France.”

 

If 43% of those questioned consider Islam to be a “threat”, this hardening is tied to a greatly increased “visibility” of Islam in public places and in the media. “For several years, there has not been a week without Islam being at the heart of current events, be they societal issues, the veil, halal food, or dramatic geopolitical events or attacks.” Hence another impression: 60% believe that this religion now has “too much importance”. Just two years ago it was 55%. And those who claim to be indifferent to this question go from 41% to 35%.

No longer a temporary problem

Increasing restrictiveness becomes clearer when questions on the Islamic veil or the building of mosques are asked. In 1989, 33% of those questioned were favorable to the construction of mosques. Today it is only 18%. As for the veil in the street, those opposed went from 31% to 63%. And those indifferent have virtually dissolved from half to only 28%. And as for the veil in schools, the red light goes on since, for the same period, those opposed increase from 75% to 89%.

Ahmadiyya community promotes positive image of its Muslim women

May 4

 

Known for its reform-oriented approach, the Ahmadyyia community of Berlin has initiated a campaign to counter negative prejudices against the image of Muslim women. The community declares its distance from parallel societies; it prefers education of its Imams in Germany and promotes education for women. The Ahmadiyya community, which is said to have 220 adherents in Berlin, has financed posters in the city public transport; advertising for respect towards women and against religious force. Also, there will be a public event titled “Woman in Islam” on May 9th.

 

In recent years, citizen initiatives had rallied against the construction of the Ahmadiyya mosque in the East Berlin district of Pankow. The clergyman of the Khadjia-mosque Imam Abdul Basit Tariq, denied this image campaign to be a reaction to the Koran distributions of the Salafists. Ahmadiyya adherents try to improve the image of Islam and promote a reform-oriented and pro-integrative approach. In countries such as Pakistan, they have been victims of violent Islamic fundamentalists.

 

About 210.000 Muslims live in Berlin with 90% being Sunni Muslims. Most of the Muslims come from Turkey. There are 80 mosques in Berlin, five of them with a cupola and minaret. Most of the mosques are situated in the districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg.