Muslim meat workers to discuss prayer conflict

Muslim workers involved in a dispute at the Grand Island meatpacking plant in Omaha, Nebraska, are preparing for a meeting to decide the next step. According to reports, at least 86 workers were fired after they walked off the job during a dispute over the workers’ right to prayer during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Mohamed Rage who leads the Omaha-Somali-American Community Organization said that up to 150 were fired after the dispute. The workers, most of whom are of Somali background, have been asking for accommodations to be made so that their break times are adjusted to occur around sunset – the time that Muslims generally break their fasts during Ramadan. One of the workers said that the break had been arranged and agreed by managers, but tension amounted when Latino co-workers protested the Muslim workers leaving to break their fasts. However, Dan Hopped of the Local 22 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union descried the events differently, saying that supervisors told the workers to return to work or leave – and the employees were fired after leaving. The meatpacking company, JBS Swift & Co said in a statement that the company is working to resolve the issue.

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Associated Press

Associated Press

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Italian lawyers seek Condoleezza Rice testimony

The lawyers for a former Italian chief of intelligence want to call US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a witness in the trial of 26 Americans charged in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Defense lawyer Nicola Madia, who said that Rice’s testimony is significant, considering that she was in charge of the CIA’s rendition program, filed the request. Italian judge Oscar Magi is expected to make a decision on the request in October.

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US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar´s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.

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The National Post

The National Post

US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar’s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.

Moroccan Burqa-Wearing Woman Denied French Citizenship

France has denied citizenship to a veiled Moroccan woman on the grounds that her “radical” practice of Islam is incompatible with French values, particularly with mixité (the equality of the sexes). Le Monde daily newspaper claims it was the first time a Muslim applicant has been rejected because of his/her personal religious practice, particularly her black burqa. The woman, Faiza M., 32, is married to a French national, arrived in France in 2000, speaks French and has three French-born children. She began wearing the burqa upon her arrival in France at the request of her husband, says the court document, which also stated she wore it more by custom than by conviction. The document also noted that she had no sense of the meaning of secularism or of her right to vote. According to secondary reports by social services, Faiza M. lives in “total submission” to her husband and male relatives.

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Le Monde

Le Figaro

Libération

The National Post

Preliminary Charges In Attack on Jewish Teen in Paris

French authorities are filing preliminary charges of “attempted murder with anti-Semitic motives” against three suspects charged with beating a Jewish teenager on June 21st in Paris, who later spent two days in a coma. Libération newspaper claims that such altercations are on the rise among youth gangs in the 19th district of Paris.

The June attack was immediately condemned by President Sarkozy, who was on a three-day visit to Israel at the time and “assure[d] the victim and his family of his support and renews his total determination to fight all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.” Mohamed Moussaoui, the new president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) stated in Le Figaro that he was concerned about the attack like “All other French people. Not especially as Muslims. We live in harmony with the other religions. The isolated incidents of anti-Semitism carried out by Muslims should be not over generalized.” France has the largest populations of Muslims and Jews living in close proximity outside of the Middle East.

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International Herald Tribune

More details on the attack here.

International Herald Tribune

Libération

Moussaoui’s comments in Le Figaro available here .

Probe into Threats Over Cable Pornography Visible in North Africa

Anti-terrorism investigators in Paris are examining threats against a leading French cable TV channel over pornographic films that can be viewed in North Africa. Canal-Plus, the pay-TV channel, received letters from people claiming to be Muslim and threatening to blow up its headquarters if it continues to broadcast a once-a-month pornographic film Saturday evenings. The threats began in September 2006.

Canal-Plus shows a range of programming, much of it family-friendly. As a new broadcaster in 1983, Canal-Plus introduced X-rated films on the first Saturday of the month to distinguish itself from other channels. It can be viewed via satellite in North Africa, where French is widely spoken but where social standards are vastly more conservative than in France. In the past, French regulators and other critics have also expressed concern about the films, citing the degradation of women and their encouragement of unprotected sex.

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Le Figaro

Libération

Let American Muslims share the stage

An Op-ed by Zainab Al-Suwaji in the International Herald Tribune explores the controversy of religion in the 2008 American presidential race, and more specifically, suspicion that many still have concerning Democratic nominee Barack Obama, and his relationship with Muslims. Al-Suwaji suggests ways in which both Obama and Republican nominee John Mccain can reach out to Muslim voters and address issues that are important to them. She suggests among other proposals, that the candidates clearly and assertively distinguish between majority and mainstream Muslims, and radicalists – noting the former as wholly dedicated to America’s civil liberties, ideals, and agendas.

Roger Cohen, Why Obama should visit a mosque

In an op-ed to the International Herald Tribune, Roger Cohen explores Islamophobia in the United States, and why he believes it is important that Senator Obama reach out to America’s Muslim community, and visit mosques, just as he has visited churches and synagogues to reach out to their faithful. While Cohen is aware that Obama’s middle name of _Hussein’ has and will continue to draw suspicion from opponents and the fearful, he argues that Obama’s multi-cultural background may put him in a unique position to present, from his own knowledge and experiences, that Islam is not a monstrous specter. More on Cohen’s opinions can be read at the link below.

Increasing Number of Women in France Seeking to Surgically Re-Virginize Themselves

Private clinics in France have been busy with a 30-minute procedure that can represent the illusion of virginity for women known as hymenoplasty. According to the International Herald Tribune, gynaecologists throughout Europe have reported that in recent years, more Muslim women are requesting virginity certificates before marriage. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; there are medical tourism packages, for instance, that offer less expensive alternatives in countries like Tunisia. With the recent controversy of an annulled marriage in Lille, talk of the procedure has exploded throughout Europe. A comedy film opening in Italy this week, Women’s Hearts, tells the story of a Moroccan-born woman who journeys to Casablanca for the operation. The French College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians opposes the hymen procedure on moral, cultural and health grounds. The group’s president Jacques Lansac claims, Attaching so much importance to the hymen is regression, submission to the intolerance of the past. In some cases, couples decide together for the woman to have the surgery. One French woman described that It doesn’t matter for my fianc_ that I am not a virgin, but it would pose a huge problem for his family.