Dutch government recruitment campaign shows veiled woman

A recruiting campaign by the Dutch government aimed at attracting young workers will picture a veiled Muslim woman with the slogan “working for the government, if you think ahead”. The image is juxtaposed with a photo of a woman with a lip piercing, alongside a series of other supposedly contrasting images including a construction site and greenery.

Questioned by the VVD regarding the meaning of the advertisement, the Ministry of Internal Affairs says that the campaign illustrates issues facing the government. “This shows that there are differences in culture of young Dutch, with which as government you have to deal with,” reports Telegraaf.

French-Algerian writer opposes separate classes for immigrants in Italian schools

Renowned French-Algerian writer Malika Mokeddem has stated that she opposes the Italian government’s move to introduce separate classes for immigrant children, saying that it would ghettoize them, and “gives the children a bad self-image” in addition to sending a negative image of Italy. Mokkedem said that the children need to integrate, and do so not by separating – but by urging children to “jump in the deep end and (start) socializing.” Mokeddem was in the southern Italian town of Otranto to receive the 2008 Grinzane Terra D’Otranto prize for literature.

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Brussels Finds a Way to Welcome Muslims

The Molenbeek, the heavily Muslim and immigrant neighborhood of Brussels, is facing a changing image.  While many have previously considered Molenbeek a place to be avoided because of an image of crime and foreigners, many are praising the neighborhood as a success story.  Local mayor Philippe Moureaux said that the area is a positive model for inter-communal relations.  Moureaux said that his approach for one of openness towards religious practice is having positive effects throughout the neighborhood.  Support of religious needs – such as accommodation during the month of Ramadan, is improving Molenbeek’s vibe.  Treating people in Molenbeek as non-threatening goes a long way, as does not fearing one’s neighbors, and allowing for mutual respect between Muslims and non-Muslims.

IPS News

Proposal not to fund ‘virginity operations’

Anne-Marie Lizin of the Walloon Socialist party is acting against state subsidies for “virginity operations.” The senator proposed a law requesting that hymen reconstruction operations no longer be reimbursed by the national RIVIZ health insurance. The so-called “virginity operations” have been popular among the Muslim and immigrant community in Belgium, for women seeking to torn hymens to give the image of intact virginity. However, the procedure, falling under the category of “vagina and vulva surgery,” has been intended for repairing damage from birth defects, burns, abscesses, and similar cases.

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Telegraaf (Dutch)

Europe News

Saudi Arabia to present new image at Madrid forum

In a first for Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, the king will convene a conference in Madrid as part of a Saudi outreach to address interfaith tensions, a restoration of respect for religious values, and improving the image of Islam. The conference will span a 3-day meeting beginning on July 16th, which will include Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clerics, as well as representatives from Eastern religions. 200 invitees to the event include vocal critics of Islam, including the controversial US reverent Franklin Graham. Former vice president Al Gore and the Archbishop of Canterbury were also invited, but declined due to prior engagements. Spain was chosen for the site of the conference, due to the country’s rich history of religious diversity, and Islamic history.

Muslim summit in Rome looks at ways to fight radicalism

Members of Italy’s Muslim community met on Friday to find new ways to combat extremism. The meeting, held in Rome’s main mosque, was the first of its kind to be organized by the Association of Muslim Intellectuals. “We placed attention on the need to implement strategies to prevent Islamic radicalism and foster initiatives that aim to create a more accurate image of Islam,” said in a statement by the group. The group also asserted that it would support an initiative by Pope Benedict XVI who intends to read from parts of Genesis in a televised speech to be given in October. The president of the organization, Ahmad Gianpiero Vincenzo said that the group is “happy to participate in a moment of great religious and civil significance.

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Immigrant chefs taking strong presence in Italian restaurants

The International Herald Tribune features an expose on the rising number of immigrant chefs taking a strong presence in Italy – a phenomenon causing debate concerning the strong national image of famed Italian cuisine. The article features several chefs of Indian, Tunisian, Jordanian, and other non-natives gaining respect for their work in the kitchen, and earning praise from prestigious restaurant reviewers. The author of the article writes: Italians take their food very seriously, not just as nourishment and pleasure but as a chief component of national and regional identity. Quotes in the article display both favorable and unfavorable opinions concerning the presence of non-Italian chefs, the introduction of new ingredients and spices to dishes, and immigration in the country as a whole.

Piglet’s Tale not Anti-Semitic: Germany OK’s Controversial Children’s Book

The German government has cleared a controversial children’s book of charges that it is anti-Semitic. The decision clears the way for the printing of a fourth edition of the book, “‘Which Way to God?’ Asked the Piglet.'” The German government announced Thursday that a controversial children’s book critical of major world religions will not be banned. The book is called “‘Which Way to God?’ Asked the Piglet'” and was seen by some to be overly critical of Judaism. Author Michael Schmidt-Salomon and illustrator Helge Nyncke had been accused of anti-Semitic depictions in the book. Specifically, the image of an angry rabbi led some to raise concerns that Judaism was lampooned more harshly than the other two religions treated in the book. But the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons ruled that the book is equally critical of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and should not be classified as anti-Semitic.

Risky Satire: Berlin Exhibition Closes after Muslim Threats

A Berlin gallery has closed an exhibition of satirical art by the controversial Danish group Surrend after receiving threats from a group of Muslims. The men were objecting to a picture of the Kaaba at Mecca under the title “Dumb Stone.” Eighteen months ago, the severed head of Muhammad was enough to get an opera temporarily cancelled (more…) in Berlin. This time around, it’s an irreverent image of the Kaaba in Mecca that has caused an exhibition in the German capital to shut its doors. But there is one major difference between the two incidents: Whereas the mere spectre of possible attacks was enough to get the Deutsche Oper to put the kibosh on a Mozart opera in 2006, Berlin’s Galerie Nord closed its doors this week after a group of Muslims walked into the gallery and threatened staff with violence. “It was a very explosive situation,” Jan Egesborg, whose satirical art group Surrend created the Galerie Nord exhibition, told Spiegel Online. “We don’t want to be part of the current Islamophobic tendency in Europe. We weren’t trying to provoke Muslims.” The exhibition, called “ZOG — Surrend,” opened last Friday and was scheduled to run until the end of March. Conceived by the controversial Danish satirical art group, it included a picture of the black, cube-shaped Kaaba in the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Above the image, a headline read “Dumb Stone.” Gallery manager Ralf Hartmann decided on Tuesday to shut down the show after six men believed to have been Muslims turned up demanding that the image be removed. The men reportedly threatened the staff with violence should they not comply. David Gordon Smith reports.

Obama wants summit with Muslim countries

PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a French magazine in an interview that if he wins office, he will hold a summit with Muslim countries to better the United States’ image in the world. “Once I’m elected, I want to organise a summit in the Muslim world, with all the heads of state, to have an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows every day between Muslims and the West,” Thursday’s edition of Paris Match quoted Obama as saying, “I want to ask them to join our fight against terrorism. We must also listen to their concerns,” Obama said in the French-language transcript.