A local imam in Dearborn, Michigan was killed by FBI agents. Luqman Ameen Abdullah 53, died in a shootout in the raid of a warehouse just outside the city, in Dearborn, where he stored goods. The raid was one of three in which federal agents said were intended to arrest Mr. Abdullah and 10 other men on charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods, mail fraud and illegal possession of firearms. But the authorities said Mr. Abdullah, who had a lengthy criminal record and was forbidden to have a firearm, opened fire on the agents.
“I’m comfortable with what our agents did,” said Andrew G. Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit division of the F.B.I. “They did what they had to do to protect themselves.”
Abdullah’s mosque has defended itself against allegations that he was part of a radical group with an anti-government ideology.
American Muslim organizations hold mixed opinions on the imam and the incident.
While the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Los Angeles and The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) are both calling for an investigation of the killing, describing it as “deeply disturbing,” the Islamic Center of America (an interfaith outreach project in the Midwest) is critical of the imam and his supporters.
The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders arrived in London after an immigration tribunal ruling overturned a ban on his visiting Britain. The Home Office said it was disappointed after the tribunal rejected its claim that his presence could “inflame community tensions and lead to interfaith violence”.
Geert Wilders expanded on his controversial views on Islam and described the decision to allow him into the country as a “victory for the freedom of speech”. At a press conference moved inside the Houses of Parliament because of fears for Wilders’s safety, the Freedom party leader said that Islamic culture was inferior to western cultures. He said he had “nothing against” Muslims, but had a problem with the “Islamification of our societies”. “I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies the less freedom that we get.”
Wilders will, however, not be screening his film Fitna, which criticises the Quran as a “fascist book”, on this trip. The film had been intended to be shown at the House of Lords in February. He said he still intended to screen the film in the House of Lords in the future.
Delegation of spiritual leaders from Europe visits US to learn about ‘twinning synagogues’ initiative aimed at advancing interfaith dialogue, battle anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A delegation of over two dozen European imams and rabbis in a meeting late last week at the White House pledged participation in American-led efforts to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The declaration, signed by leading clerics from nine European nations came at the conclusion of a four-day interreligious mission to the United States that brought the group to the White House, State Department, Congress, United Nations, Ground Zero, US Memorial Holocaust Museum and even Yankee Stadium. The mission was hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress United States and the Islamic Society of North America.
The European rabbinical umbrella organization “Conference of European Rabbis” (CER) boycotted an interfaith conference in Belgium after it was determined that Muslim delegates included alleged members of the Muslim brotherhood movement. The meeting, co-hosted by the European commission and the European Parliament, took place in Brussels on Monday of this week. The interfaith meeting was intended to bring together four religious leaders from each participating faith community. In a statement explaining the decision not to attend the meeting, the executive director of the CER said: “We do not consider it appropriate for organizations such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, or individuals who made or endorsed anti-Semitic statements and who are clearly linked to radical Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to be present.” These invitees, according to the CER, are “extremists who are not representative of the vast majority of Europe’s Muslim citizens.” The statement noted that the interfaith initiative was a positive one, but that it was undermined by the inclusion of some persons who are more interested in divisiveness than dialogue. The European Commission said that the decision was regrettable, as president Jose Manuel Barroso stated: “This meeting aims to foster dialogue and build on common ground, regarding the importance of this economic and financial crisis and we believe it is important to contribute. …It is time for unity and not for isolation on such an important topic.”
Comments by Pope Benedict XVI about the difficult of interfaith prompted both questions and praise. The pope cast doubt on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for increased discussion concerning the practical consequences of religious differences. He was quoted as saying in a letter to Marcello Pera, a center-right Italian politician: “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas.”
Jewish and Muslim leaders cautiously praised the remarks. A spokesperson for the Italian Muslim group, UCOII, called for further clarification, saying: “dialogue among believers exists: We don’t hold a dialogue on our faiths… but we do on how we can coexist, each in our diversity.”
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Indonesia, the world`s largest Moslem country, considers the pro-Koln group`s plan to hold an anti-Islam congress in Cologne, Germany, on Sept 19-20 to be counterproductive to interfaith dialogs, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “Any plan to organize an anti-Islam congress would be counter-productive to interfaith dialogs which also involve European nations,” Teuku Faizasyah said on Thursday. The Indonesian government, along with other ASEAN members and other countries through bilateral relations had been active in holding interfaith and cultural dialogs to solve differences and avoid misunderstanding, he said. “We hope there will be sensitivity (on the part of the congress` organizing committee) because such an event will only worsen misunderstanding,” he said. He said the German government had yet to confirm the group`s plan to hold such a congress. “So, we have heard the plan only from a news report,” he said. Last week, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) expressed deep concern about the plan to organize the anti-Islam congress.
A proposal to turn the Commenda di Pre, a medieval palace in Genoa into an inter-faith prayer center for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, has run into opposition from local politicians stating that the Muslim worshippers are not welcome. Members of the anti-immigrant Northern League, said the plan was unacceptable, and regional councillor Francesco Bruzzone stated that Muslims had no business and showed a lack of respect for history by coming to the site – a hospital and hostel where pilgrims and crusaders gathered for mass before leaving for the Holy Land. The incident comes not long after a plan to build a mosque in Genoa was shut down, over the controversy of constructing a mosque with a minaret.
Twenty two members of the Muslim community were named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their contribution to society: two CBEs, seven OBEs, 11 MBEs and two overseas & military MBEs. Amongst the four women and 18 men are an artist, barrister, doctor, professor and translator. The number of Muslims awarded for their work is considerably higher than last year when only seven were honoured. Other members minority faith groups have also been included, with 14 members of the Hindu and Sikh faiths (2 OBEs, 11 MBEs, 1 Diplomatic Overseas List MBE) and 22 members of the British Jewish community being awarded two knighthoods, seven CBEs, seven OBEs and six MBEs. Chair of the British Muslim Forum, Dr Khurshid Ahmed, is to be made a CBE for his services to community relations in Birmingham and the Black Country. Dr Ahmed served as Chair of the audit committee, CRE envoy to the Muslim community and as Assistant Chief Executive at Birmingham City Council from 1984 to 1999. He is currently the Chair of the Dudley Community Partnership. He told The Muslim News he felt humbled by the award…it is for the hard work and dedication of all my staff. Mohammed Afzal Khan is to be a CBE for his service to Manchester’s community and interfaith relations. He told The Muslim News, I enjoy serving the public and look forward to carry on serving the public for many years to come. Khan worked as a youth worker before serving as a police constable with Greater Manchester Police. He began his legal career as a solicitor and is now a senior partner at a law firm. Khan has acted as lead member for Race Equality and has been involved in interfaith work for 20 years. Elham Asaad Buaras reports.
Representatives of the world’s major religions met for a three-day interfaith conference called by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. In a final declaration, participants urged for the UN to play a large role, and saying they hoped to follow up recommendations in enhancing dialogue among the followers of religions, civilizations and cultures through conducting a special UN session on dialogue. This need for dialogue was cited to prevent a clash of civilizations. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist representatives all attended the conference. However, critics of the conference cited insufficient representation by Israelis and Palestinians, and that King Abdullah’s decision to organize the event was a publicity stunt to restore the image of the country, badly tarnished after 9/11. Saudi organizations dismissed these complaints.
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.