US media helped anti-Muslim bodies gain influence, distort Islam

A study published by a sociologist has revealed that fear-mongering non-governmental anti-Muslim organisations have been heavily influencing US media since 9/11, their messages seeping into news articles and television reporting and drawing their ethos from the fringes, straight into the mainstream.

 

What’s perhaps most troubling about the results is how these minor groups, which would ordinarily receive little or no air time, have gained an element of respect that has led to them receiving more funding and coupling with influential bodies. Their influence is such that they have even been able to paint mainstream Muslim organisations as radical, says the study.

“The vast majority of organisations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages, yet my study shows that journalists were so captivated by a small group of fringe organisations that they came to be perceived as mainstream,” the paper’s author, University of North Carolina assistant professor of sociology Christopher Bail, told Wired.co.uk

 

“Anti-Muslim fringe organisations dominated the mass media via displays of fear and anger. Institutional amplification of this emotional energy, I argue, created a gravitational pull or ‘fringe effect’ that realigned inter-organisational networks and altered the contours of mainstream discourse itself.”

“The only major US Muslim organisation that has achieved a high level of media influence is the Council on American Islamic Relations, which is now working to rebuff the recent rise in anti-Muslim messages within the American public sphere,” said Bail.

 

Today, more than a decade since 9/11, evidence of that anti-Muslim influence still seeping into government habits is highly concerning.

 

“Muslim-American organisations have not been adequately represented within our policy process. For example, only one large Muslim-American organisation was invited to participate in recent Senate and Congressional hearings about the threat of radicalisation within the Muslim-American community.”

Channel 4 documentary Islam: The Untold Story receives harsh reaction from British Muslims

28 August 2012

In a historical documentary, aired on Channel 4, British writer Tom Holland investigated the origins of Islam and raised doubts about the Muslim version of the history.

The program, shown on the 28th of August, infuriated many Muslim viewers as the documentary entitled Islam: The Untold Story concluded that Islam was not a distinctive religion in the early periods (as Muslims claim) but rather was formed 200 hundred years after the Prophet Muhammad, under the influence of Judaic and Christian heritage.

Many Muslims found the documentary biased and misleading, as Tom Holland did not discuss the topic with Muslim historians as well as non-Muslim scholars who are critical about his theory.

Tom Holland’s documentary sums up the marginal Western scholarship’s view on the origin of Islam and the Qur’an. However, those views have been harshly criticized from within Western academia for their methodological flaws and arbitrary usage of evidence, and sometimes only relying on evidence that was hostile to Islam.

As a result, Ofcom received hundreds of complaints about the documentary and Channel 4 has been called on to apologize to Muslims.

Xenophobic paintings in the mosque of La Aljorra

27 June 12
The Muslim community of La Aljorra woke up yesterday with xenophobic paintings in the walls around their old and new mosque, and in other streets with greater visibility around the municipality.
The Islamic community has showed a deep dissatisfaction with what has happened. Their concern is that these racist actions will affect the whole society or will influence the good living enjoyed by the citizens of La Aljorra.

Study Claims Non-Western Immigrants Reduce Trust in Amsterdam Neighborhoods

March 18 2011
An article in the most recent edition of social science magazine Mens & Maatschappij (Man and Society) claims that the greater the ethnic diversity in Amsterdam neighborhoods, the lower the sense of well being of its residents. The article claims that “a higher number of non-Western immigrants leads to a reduced sense of security and well-being among residents. A larger number of Western immigrants leads to an increased trust in the quality of life and future of the neighborhood”. The article is written by three researchers basing their conclusions on existing data bases.

The provided summary of the abstract reads, “This research investigates whether Robert Putnam’s (2007) well-known findings on the negative influence of ethnic diversity on social cohesion hold in Amsterdam. In the present study neighbourhood trust is the measure of social cohesion. Using data from the ‘Living in Amsterdam’ monitor ( Wonen in Amsterdam, 2007 ), multilevel analysis shows that neighbourhood trust is lower in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods. Furthermore, the percentage of first generation non-Western immigrants and second generation non-Western immigrants is also negatively related to neighbourhood trust. The percentage of second generation non-Western immigrants affects neighbourhood trust more strongly than the presence of first generation non-Western immigrants. In addition, the effect on neighbourhood trust differs for various non-Western ethnic groups. Neighbourhood trust is higher in neighbourhoods with a large percentage of immigrants from the Dutch Antilles and trust is lower in neighbourhoods with a higher presence of Moroccans.”

The Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities celebrates its first meeting in twenty years

The Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI), the second largest Islamic organization in Spain, held its first meeting in twenty years. FEERI and UCIDE (the other major Islamic organization in Spain), form the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), and both have contributed in equal measure to its virtual paralysis and ineffectiveness. However, after a series of internal conflicts, the current direction of FEERI (in which Morocco has great influence), has started a series of moves to gain influence over the other Islamic organizations in Spain. This meeting should be understood in this context.

During the meeting, the direction of the FEERI has defended the need for change in the CIE and the independence of Islamic organizations vis-à-vis the Spanish government, to whom the FEERI accuses of interfering in the internal affairs of Islamic organizations.

German Interior Minister De Maizière pushes for Islamic degree programmes at university

Interior Minister De Maizière has called for establishing Islamic degree programmes at German universities. Politics, academia and Muslim associations should aim for progress and compromises. In the long run, the minister would like to see an institutionalised cooperation with Muslims on the basis of the constitutional law on religion. The science council had proposed to incorporate Islamic associations into the advisory board for new Islamic degree programmes, which has been controversially discussed. Critics put forward that the associations do not represent all Muslims, while others feared too big an influence by the associations on the freedom of academia.

British Muslim organization rules suicide bombings un-Islamic through Fatwa

The British Muslim organisation Minhaj ul-Qur’an has released the globally first fatwa ruling
suicide bombings and terrorism prohibited and entirely un-Islamic. The author of the fatwa, Muslim scholar Dr Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri, is the founder of the increasingly influential Minhaj ul-Quran movement. It is based on Sufi principles and in Britain, it advises the government on combating the radicalization of Muslim youth, while the organisation is not government funded.

The fatwa condemns terrorist acts in the name of Islam and uses evidence from the Qur’an and other Islamic writings to prove that suicide bombers are destined for hell, countering the Islamist view that they would enter heaven, as suggested in many Saudi-Arabian fatwas. It leaves no room for interpretation and does away with the myth of martyrdom of suicide bombers.

In December, the 600-page Urdu-language fatwa has already been publicised in Pakistan, but this week it was launched in London, along with an English summary. A translation of the full version into English will also be available soon. While the fatwa may not have much direct influence on Sunni or Wahhabi Islamist thought, it is believed to strengthen the general influence of Minhaj ul-Quran and their engagement against violent Islam, and in the long run contribute to dismantling al-Qaida ideology.

For the institutionalization of Islam

(*the above sentence literally translates as “For the churchization of Islam”)

A conference held by the Faculty of Theology, the Lehrhaus Foundation and the Dialogue Institute in Zürich recently addressed the question of the public relevance of religion, especially in light of the recent ban on minarets which suggested that the public manifestation of religion is to be avoided. The conference focused on the cultural context of religion, the necessity of communicating with different religious currents as well as the desire of religion to have an influence on society as well as within the state. The latter is left with the responsibility to oversee the former and ensure its compatibility with the rule of law, and to attribute a place to religious institutions.

One participant, the theologian and jurist Cla Reto Famos, stated that the regulation of relations between the state and religious communities has currently reached an impasse. The conference went on to make numerous comparisons between Switzerland, Germany and Austria, while also examining the case of the Swiss Jewish community compared to the Swiss Muslim community with regard to demands for official recognition at the local canton level. Andreas Kley, law professor at the University of Zurich, brought up the special circumstances in which the Catholic Church had been able to grow thanks to compromises made with the state. He equally emphasized how it had been able to exert political influence through its “natural law” teachings and thanks to its influence in business and social circles.

Institutionalization for this conference referred to the withdrawal of an organization from the narrow domain of the state and the consolidation of the said organization. Participants like Kley did not see any particular difficulties for such an institutionalization in the case of Muslim organizations, as the respect of the secular rule of law in and of itself should not pose any problems. Nonetheless, he followed by saying that Muslim groups must be sure to respect equal rights for men and women, human rights and religious self-determination (including the renunciation of religious beliefs).

The main difficulty towards this process of institutionalization was raised by the president of the Protestant community, Thomas Wipf. He mentioned the fragmentation of Islamic organization into nationally-defined associations as being often directly related to the sensitive nature of questions regarding political recognition. He equally called for greater competency of the part of the state, which at the very least should be a partner for continual dialogue.

German education of Islamic schoolteachers and imams remains source of conflict

Educating Islamic theologians – schoolteachers and imams – at German universities has caused a lot of discussion in the past. Now the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities) has proposed a concept to grant both universities and Muslim associations a say in the education, but it is still likely to stir controversy.

So far, Muslim associations had little influence on the curriculum of Islamic education at universities, but some faculties do seek advice with local mosques or national Muslim associations. In 2008, a case at the University of Münster has caused a large debate: Muhammad Kalisch, Professor of Islamic Religion, publicly doubted the real existence of Prophet Mohammed, which in turn caused an outcry among Muslim associations. They called for Prof. Kalisch to step down and discouraged students to take up Islamic teacher training in Münster. Because they had no say, Kalisch still continues to teach.

The new proposal seeks to guarantee acceptance of Islamic teachers and Imams among the believers, and therefore allows associations to have more influence. Together with the universities, they may take part in decision-making on what will be taught and by whom. While it is certainly necessary to consult Islamic expertise in this matter, the question is whether the largely conservative associations would be the best partners. In the case of Kalisch, this would certainly have lead to his replacement by a very conservative scholar, which undermines independent academic research and teaching. On the other hand, it is a positive sign of the Wissenschaftsrat to incorporate Islamic theology into German state universities instead of leaving it to the Muslim associations or even to Islamic countries.

Minaret ban reflects Europeans’ confusion about their secular identity

In this article, the author argues that Europe was not sure about its religious or secular identity and was therefore unable to deal with the challenges of the new Islamic presence. Referring to Christopher Caldwell’s recent study “Islam in Europe: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”, the author claims that a minority with strong cultural and religious beliefs has a significant influence on a majority society, if that majority has “weaker beliefs and sense of identity”. This is allegedly the case for Switzerland and Europe in general.