French Appeals Court Restores Marriage in Virginity Case

A French appeals court in Douai has overturned a lower tribunal of Lille from April 1st 2008 that had annulled the marriage of two Muslims because the bride misrepresented her virginity. The marriage was annulled when the court held that the woman had lied over what was considered “an essential quality,” and therein the marriage contract was invalid.

In the wake of outrage expressed by feminists and human rights activists, the court ruled that virginity “is not an essential quality in that its absence has no repercussion on matrimonial life.” Others expressed concern that the original ruling was an affront to France’s fiercely protected secularism. In a petition sent to French Justice Minister Rachida Dati in June, 150 members of the European Parliament said an annulment in the case would “only comfort fundamentalists in their archaic fight whilst the main barrier against this fanaticism should precisely be the law.”

The new ruling means that the marriage, which neither husband nor wife wishes to continue, stands. A court official aptly noted, “We’re back to the situation before the first ruling.”

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French Magazine Express International Banned in North Africa – Some Claim it Offends Islam

This week’s issue of L’Express International, a French newsmagazine, has been banned in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, on the grounds that its cover story “The Jesus-Muhammad Shock” is offensive to Islam. The story title is the same as a book covered in the story. The newsweekly’s staff claim that they attempted to portray Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, with adherence to Islamic norms by covering his face with a white veil.

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International Herald Tribune

L’Express

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Associated Press

French Magazine Express International Banned in North Africa – Some Claim it Offends Islam

This week’s issue of L’Express International, a French newsmagazine, has been banned in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, on the grounds that its cover story “The Jesus-Muhammad Shock” is offensive to Islam. The story title is the same as a book covered in the story. The newsweekly’s staff claim that they attempted to portray Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, with adherence to Islamic norms by covering his face with a white veil.

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International Herald Tribune

L’Express

Macleans Magazine

Associated Press

Nine Convicted in French Terror Trial in Paris

A criminal court in Paris convicted nine suspects on charges linked to the financing of and association with a terrorism group. One of these was Safé Bourada, a French-Algerian former prison inmate who established an Islamic group that called for armed jihad in France. The group, known as “Ansar al-Fath” or Partisans of Victory, was founded in 2003 and dismantled in 2005 when French authorities received a tip from Algerian counterparts. With this latest verdict, Bourada will not be eligible for parole for at least ten years. The other eight members received sentences between 1 and 9 years of imprisonment.

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Le Monde

Some Deficiencies in Canadian Counterterrorism Concludes Inacobucci Inquiry

A 544-page report by Justice Frank Iacubucci released last week pointed to several deficiencies in current Canadian counterterrorism techniques, suggesting in particular not to follow the example of the American Central Intelligence Agency if it should not follow proper procedures. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government appointed Iacobucci in December 2006 to lead the investigation into Canada’s role in the detention of Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria. Iacubucci applauded counterterrorist agents for their “conscientiousness” while highlighting how the consequences of mislabelling a suspect are enormous. The Commission also urged federal agents to be extremely careful in circulating intelligence.
Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin were detained in Syria independently when they were arrested and jailed upon their arrival. All three men have denied any links to terrorism. One who avoided this fate despite being on a similar no-fly list and under surveillance, Abdelrahman Alzahabi, told The Globe and Mail that he was able to avoid the fate of these detainees because of a warning he received form a Canadian agent not long after September 11, 2008: to stay in Canada, as the government could not be responsible for what could happen if he should leave.

James Kafieh, a lawyer representing the Canadian Arab Federation in the inquiry noted that Iacubucci’s report made conclusive that “these three men were sacrificed to show the United States that Canada was doing something.” Iacobucci found fault in the actions of Canadian police and intelligence, but added that no one had behaved improperly.

In a separate inquiry, Maher Arar received $10.5 million CAD in compensation from the government and was exonerated of any terrorist ties in 2006. The three men addressed in the Iacubucci report have filed their own lawsuits for compensation from the Canadian government.

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Burqas Banned in French Classes for Immigrants

In two recent legal decisions, head-to-toe burqas have been banned from state-sponsored French language classes. Louis Schweitzer, the head of France’s anti-discrimination agency told La Croix daily that “Religious freedom is not absolute” and they authorities have sought “the most reasonable compromise.” His agency known as Halde ruled last month to ban burqa and niqab from state-sponsored French language classes for immigrants. Halde called the burqa a symbol of “female submission that goes beyond its religious meaning.” Under French law, these classes may be required for application for residency or citizenship in the country.

Earlier in the year, a national agency responsible for such classes complained that the presence of burqa-wearing women “hinders the proper functioning” of such classes.

Limits on the headscarf are not uniform. On October 8 An appeals court fined the owner of a bed and breakfast in the northeastern city of Nancy $6,000 for refusing to welcome two veiled women.

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Le Figaro

A Pro-Church Law Helps Mosque in France

While France is a model of centralized law, its Alsace- Moselle region differs, especially on the question of religion and politics. The region has German in 1905 when the French passed legislation separating church and state; today the local government continues to provide a wide variety of subsidies and even religious education in public schools. Fouad Douai, in charge of a bid to build a mosque in the city of Strasbourg, noted that the region “is a model for inter-religious dialogue, which is much stronger here than in the rest of France.”

In 1998, the heads of the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist Churches, as well as members of the Jewish minority signed a letter to the local goverment supporting the construction of the mosque. The mosque’s construction has faced obstacles, however. Construction of the mosque began in 2007 but has now stalled with only the foundation completed. Similarly, in public elementary schools a weekly hour of religion class is required for all students, although their parents can request their children not attend. While there are classes for Catholics, Protestants and Jews, Muslims can take a secular ethics class instead.

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Islam Online

La Reussite Islamic School Outside of Paris Threatened To Close

This video piece by Katrin Bennhold of the International Herald Tribune reports on the possible closing of La Reussite Islamic School in Aubervilliers because of its difficulty in self-financing. Yvonne Fazilleau, the school’s principal, claims that without any state subsidies the school may close in February 2009. The school’s yearly tuition is approximately €5000; the school is no longer able to pay its teachers due to declining enrollment. Fazilleau explains that La Reussite teaches the required national curriculum and that all religious-related events and classes are optional (both requirements for state subsidies to private religious schools), but that the school’s physical education classes are sex-segregated. All other classes are mixed.

Video available here.(5:10)

Senators seek rights protections in FBI probes

Three Democratic senators are seeking “bare-minimum” civil rights protection for those Americans who might be targeted in FBI security investigations, even without evidence of wrongdoing. Senators Dick Durban, Russ Feingold, and Edward Kennedy made demands on the measures in a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, saying that the new policies could allow surveillance of innocent Muslim or Arab-Americans based in part on just their religion or nationality. “The Justice Department’s actions over the last eight years have alienated many Americans, especially Arab and Muslim Americans. We are concerned that issuing new attorney general guidelines without a more transparent process will actually make the FBI’s job more, not less, difficult by exacerbating mistrust in communities whose cooperation the FBI needs,” the letter is quoted as saying.

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Associated Press

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French Court Announces that Lie About Virginity Should Not Annul Marriage

French state prosecutors argued on Monday that a court decision to annul a Muslim couple’s marriage because the woman lied about her virginity is discriminatory against women and should be overturned. A court in Douai annulled the 2006 marriage in April 2008 because the husband discovered on their wedding night that the wife had lied about her virginity. The lower court based its decision on an article of the French Civil Code that states that a spouse can seek an annulment if the partner has misrepresented his or her “essential qualities.” The decision made no reference to Islam.
Eric Vaillant, a spokesperson for the Douai appeals court has responded that making a woman’s virginity a condition of marriage “would be discriminatory because it would harm the principles of equality between men and women.” State prosecutors said they were not against allowing the split if it were possible to replace the “discriminatory motive” of loss of virginity with a more general one, such as mistaken identity. A verdict in the appeals case is expected on 17 November 2008.

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