EU gives new funds for integration of immigrants

The European Commission on Monday said it was giving new funds to support cross-border projects aimed at improving the integration of immigrants in the 27-member European Union. Some four million euros (5.4 million dollars) would be made available for 12 initiatives that “encourage dialogue with civil society, develop integration models, seek out and evaluate good practice in the integration field and set up networks at European levels,” the commission said. The EU executive also said it was about to publish the new version of a handbook on integration, designed to help member states draw up integration policies. The guidelines would include best practices in improving immigrants’ access to housing and employment in the EU. EU integration ministers meeting in Potsdam, Germany, later this week are expected to discuss ways to improve member states’ cooperation in integration policies and to strengthen the dialogue with other cultures. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose country currently runs the rotating EU presidency, said last week that “achieving full integration and ensuring equal opportunities (of immigrants living in Europe) is one of the most important challenges of EU home affairs policy.” He also said that “intercultural dialogue is particularly important for ensuring stability and internal security, given the growing Muslim population in many (EU) member states.” Schaeuble suggested earlier this year that EU states should train Islamic preachers so they could help integrate Muslims into European society rather than promote separation.

Umbrella Organization Planned: German Muslim Groups to Speak as One

Germany’s Islamic organizations aren’t lacking in number. But coherence has long been a problem. Now four groups are banding together to form an umbrella organization. German politicians applaud the initiative, but warn that it’s only one of several on the way to better inter-cultural dialogue. When Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch_uble held an Islam conference in Berlin last year, his goal was to establish a new basis for dialogue with Germany’s Muslim community, one rooted in democratic and constitutional values. But as the representatives of the various Muslim organizations, federations and groups pulled up their chairs around the table, it became clear that dialogue — in the sense of conversation between two parties — was a misnomer: To date, no single body has represented the interests of the 3.3 million Muslims living in Germany. Now, four organisations want to change that (…)

Spiegel interview with Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäube: “We have no relationship to our diverse Muslim Society”

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch_uble discusses the pope’s criticism of Islam, the prospect of imams preaching in German, and the risk of terrorism in Germany now that the military is so busy overseas. Germany’s first-ever “Islamic conference” between Muslims and the government takes place next Wednesday in Berlin.

French Muslims Regroup With New Organization

PARIS – French Muslims on Sunday created a new representative group aimed at “complementing” an existing state-sponsored umbrella organisation that has been stalled by infighting. The Rally of Muslims in France (RMF) held a gathering in Paris of 200 heads of mosques and associations to establish itself as an alternative to the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) set up by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in 2003. In a statement, the RMF said it wanted to “contribute to the emergence of moderate Islam” that would respect French laws while lobbying on behalf of the country’s estimated five million Muslims. The group is led by Taoufiq Sebti, the president of a regional Muslim group covering the Paris area. The head of another Paris Muslim group also participating, Anouar Kbibech, stressed that the RMF intended to be “complementary, and not a rival, to the CFCM”. The CFCM has been riven by power struggles since its inception. Its president, Dalil Boubakeur, who is rector of the mosque in Paris, said an overdue board meeting of the organisation has again been pushed back, this time to early July. Boubakeur explained that CFCM members agreed to the additional delay at the request of the office of President Jacques Chirac, who next Sunday is to inaugurate a memorial to Muslim soliders who fought for France in World War I.

German Authorities Close Islamic Center

By STEPHEN GRAHAM BERLIN – Authorities on Wednesday shut down an Islamic center once attended by a man who accuses the CIA of kidnapping him and sending him to a secret Afghan prison to be abused and interrogated. The man’s lawyer has linked the alleged kidnapping to the investigation of extremist activity at the center. The state government of Bavaria said Wednesday it was shutting down the Multi-Kultur-Haus association in the southern town of Neu-Ulm after it seized material urging Muslims to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. Khaled al-Masri, a Kuwait-born German citizen who is suing the CIA for allegedly spiriting him to Afghanistan for interrogation, has said he visited the center several times before he was snatched. Al-Masri said he was taken while trying to enter Macedonia on New Year’s Eve 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he was subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” during five months in captivity, according to a lawsuit filed in a Virginia federal court. He was flown to Albania in late May 2004 and put on a plane back to Germany, he has said. Al-Masri has said his captors told him he was seized in a case of mistaken identity. His lawyer, however, has suggested that al-Masri was abducted because of his links to the Islamic association, which provided meetings, prayer rooms and other services for local Muslims. “In all interrogations, in Macedonia and Afghanistan, Khaled al-Masri was asked only about the Multi-Kultur-Haus in Ulm, about the people he knew there,” Manfred Gnjidic told Munich’s Abendzeitung newspaper last month. Al-Masri’s case has stoked debate in Germany about how to prevent terrorist attacks while safeguarding civil liberties. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, for instance, is calling for tougher laws so that anyone who has trained in camps in Afghanistan can be prosecuted. In remarks published Wednesday, Uwe Schuenemann, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, floated a new idea: placing electronic tags on foreign extremists who cannot be deported to their countries of origin because they might be tortured. “That would allow the observation of many of the roughly 3,000 potentially violent Islamists, hate preachers and fighters trained in foreign camps,” Schuenemann was quoted as saying in the daily Die Welt. It was unclear whether federal officials would take up the suggestion. Electronic tags were used in 2000 on a trial basis in one German state with prisoners on parole, but have not been adopted more widely. Al-Masri claims U.S. agents questioned him about associates including his friend Reda Seyam, an Egypt-born German citizen under investigation by German federal prosecutors on suspicion of supporting al-Qaida. Al-Masri has denied any connection to terrorism. Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein told The Associated Press on Wednesday that investigators had noticed al-Masri visiting the Multi-Kultur-Haus but called him “rather a marginal figure.” Beckstein’s ministry said the association was promoting extremist ideas and armed “holy war.” Security officials confiscated and searched the association’s premises in Neu-Ulm Wednesday and froze its bank account. There was no mention of arrests or the results of the search.

Italy’s Interior Minister Presents Members Of Islamic Council

Two imams and the leaders of two main Muslim associations in Italy were among the appointed members of a newly created advisory council aimed at developing dialogue between the Italian government and the Muslim community, the interior minister confirmed Wednesday. Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, presenting the 16 members of the council in Rome, said moderate Islamic representatives are “our natural allies in the fight against extremism.” “The council is the hand that we stretch out to moderate Muslims in order to move on together on the path of integration,” Pisanu told. “Many of the members have already taken an official position against terrorism,” he added. Half of the council members have Italian nationality, while the others are a Tunisian, two Moroccans, a Libyan, an Algerian, a Somali, an Albanian and a Senegalese. There are about 1.1 million Muslims in Italy, an overwhelmingly Catholic country of about 58 million people. Among the members of the council are Italian imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, based in Milan, and Algerian Rachid Amadia, imam of Salerno, southern Italy. Mario Scialoja, the president of the Muslim World League in Italy, and Mohamed Nour Dachan, head of the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy, were also appointed. The Islamic council, which was created in September, responds directly to the Interior Ministry, and is responsible for counseling the government on various issues concerning the integration of Muslims, the AP reports.

Establish Body To Train Imams: UK Muslim Leaders

British Muslim leaders called on the government to establish a national body to oversee mosques and imams as part of efforts to combat extremism following the July bombings in London. Working groups advising the government said that the proposed National Advisory Council of Imams and Mosques could recommend ways for mosques to prevent extremism, train Imams and encourage British-born Muslims to become clerics. Lord Ahmed, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords who headed one of the groups on Thursday, said that 1,700 of the estimated 2,000 Imams in Britain were educated and trained abroad. “As British Muslims we need to be prepared to modernise the way we operate, encouraging integration and helping our children to feel proud to be British,” he said. “I and my colleagues believe that the establishment of this Advisory Council is an important step towards this goal.” European governments seeking to counter the spread of extremism within some mosques are concerned that sermons are often not conducted in the country’s predominant language and that many clerics come from abroad rather than from local Muslim communities. The Dutch government earlier this year revoked the residency permits of three Imams whom it accused of preaching hate. In France, where a third of the 1,200 Imams do not speak French, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently called for better oversight of mosques in order to root out radicals.

Cabinet To Act Against ‘Extremist Mosques’

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch government has committed itself to a plan of action against the 10 to 25 mosques in the Netherlands where “extremist sermons” are delivered, Interior Minister Johan Remkes has said. Remkes told Parliament that if the criminal law can’t be used against these mosques, the government will consider withdrawing subsidies and residence permits for the Muslim clerics preaching at the mosques. He made his remarks during a parliamentary debate about terrorism on Wednesday.

French Court Quashes Imam Deportation

By Hadi Yahmid PARIS, April 27 (IslamOnline.net) – A French court quashed Monday, April 26, a government decision to deport an Imam to his native Algeria for statements seen by the secular country as violence-inciting. “The ruling has done justice to Imam Abdelkader Bouziane, given the expulsion was neither convincing nor justifiable,” his lawyer Mahmmoud Hibia told IslamOnline.net. “Now Bouziane can return back to France at any time to reunite with his family and sons.” Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin ordered the deportation of Bouziane, imam of a mosque in the eastern city of Lyon, after press statements that Muslim husbands can beat their unfaithful wives.