Denmark: Danish Newspaper Won’t Face Charges Over Cartoons

A Danish newspaper will not face criminal charges over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that prompted international protests by Muslims, the country’s public prosecutor said. The drawings of Muhammad, an article and other cartoons published last September by Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s biggest broadsheet, were neither “scornful” nor “degrading” of Muslims as a group and the newspaper can’t be prosecuted under the criminal code, Director of Public Prosecutions Henning Fode said in a statement issued yesterday. “The drawings that must be assumed to be pictures of Muhammad depict a religious figure and none of them can be considered to be meant to refer to Muslims in general,” the prosecutor said. There was no basis for assuming that the intention of one of the drawings, which depicted Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, was “to depict Muslims in general as perpetrators of violence or even as terrorists.” The drawings sparked protests in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia, and a boycott of Danish goods. Fode’s decision reaffirms a Jan. 6 ruling by a prosecutor in the city of Viborg who received a complaint against the newspaper. A number of organizations and individuals appealed the local prosecutor’s ruling, Fode said in the statement. Jyllands-Posten said the cartoons were published as a reaction to comments made by a Danish illustrator, who said he was afraid to draw the prophet for a children’s book as he feared he would become the target of threats by militants. The newspaper apologized for offending Muslims. `Scorn, Mockery, Ridicule’ The cartoons were reprinted by news media in Europe, and in other parts of the world including Egypt. While there’s no basis for prosecution in the case, Fode said, it’s “not a correct description of existing law when the article in Jyllands-Posten states that it is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression to demand a special consideration for religious feelings and that one has to be ready to put up with `scorn, mockery and ridicule’.” The decision can not be appealed further in Denmark, Fode said. Some 27 organizations and individuals appealed the original decision, including the Islamiske Trossamfund, an umbrella group for Muslim associations in Denmark, Copenhagen-based daily Politiken said today. “The lawyers that evaluated the case had no knowledge of Islam and its religious symbols,” Kasem Said Ahmad, a spokesman for the group, told the newspaper. “It’s slipshod,” he said, referring to the DPP’s decision. The groups may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the newspaper reported.

Denmark: Iran’s Caricature Retaliation Attracts Reaction

The Iranian newspaper Hamshahri’s launching of an international caricature contest on the holocaust as “retaliation” against insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed caused a big reaction. The newspaper’s act has been perceived as provocation and Jewish establishments interpreted the contest as ” vidence that the spirit of Hitler is still alive in the Muslim world.” The newspaper published by the Tehran Municipality announced it will award prizes to “12 people” at the end of the contest. The responsible for the crisis Denmark-based Jyllands-Posten newspaper had published 12 caricatures. Meanwhile, both the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Tehran were attacked by demonstrators yesterday.

Norway: Hebron Observers Evacuated

Protest related to the caricatures of Mohammed flared again in the Middle East, with the Norwegian-led observer force in Hebron forced to evacuate after a violent demonstration. About 300 protestors stormed the TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) office in Hebron. TIPH chief Arnstein _verkil confirmed that the force, which is comprised of largely Scandinavian members and includes 21 Norwegians, had to evacuate. About 60 unarmed international observers reside at the center. Palestinian police fired in the air to try to disperse the crowd, which smashed the windows of two buildings in a complex used by the observers in the city of Hebron. “We are in a state of emergency. Please call back in the afternoon,” a TIPH representative who answered the Hebron office’s telephone told Reuters. The demonstrators, mostly youths, at first managed to disperse Palestinian police guarding the building. The protestors, chanting “Denmark out of Hebron” tried to set fire to one of the buildings. The 12 Danish TIPH members have been temporarily evacuated to Tel Aviv. Palestinian police and eventual reinforcements of Israeli soldiers managed to keep the youth at bay, though by then nearly all of the windows in the three-story building and three TIPH vehicles had been destroyed. “This alone was unique – I have never before experienced armed Palestinians and Israelis cooperating like this,” said Norwegian TIPH press officer Gunhild Luise Forselv. The TIPH, staffed by personnel from Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, was established following the killing of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron by a Jewish settler in 1994. Its mandate is to monitor and report “efforts to maintain normal life” in the city. The TIPH had suspended its regular patrols in the wake of the caricature turmoil, but resumed routines on Wednesday, believing the unrest to be on the wane.

Muslims in London

London’s ethnic and religious diversity makes it one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and vibrant cities; the multicultural and international character of London contributes to the city’s economic growth and dynamism.

There has been a long and fruitful connection between Muslims and London over many centuries, involving interactions in the realms of diplomacy, commerce and scholarship. There is evidence of Muslim influence in place names, historical records, emblems and architecture.

The last hundred years have seen the rapid development of this association, contributing to the emergence of London as a unique world cosmopolitan centre. The Mayor commissioned this report with the objective of bringing together in one volume the information available on the Muslim

communities of London. This report brings together data and information about Muslims in

London, drawn from the 2001 Census and other sources. The 2001 Census included, for the first time, a voluntary question on religion, providing official statistics on faith communities. Nonetheless, a

significant issue that arose in preparing this report was a general lack of faith-based data and information. Information is also limited by the categories used in collecting and analysing data and to some extent the relative sizes of the populations in London and the UK as a whole. This

lack of information highlights the need for future research and the need for more or different questions in the next Census. The Scottish Census, for example, asked two questions about religion.

The structureof the reportfocuses on five major themes to give a snapshot of London’s Muslim communities in the key areas of: demography; socio-economic profiles; inclusion (political, community and voluntary sector, and cultural); the criminal justice system; and Islamophobia (Commissioned by the Mayor of London).

Muslims, Sororities Explore Common Ground

SYRACUSE, New York (AP) — Gozde Demir says sororities are the most American you can get. But at first, she knew nothing about them. She was a freshman and a conservative Muslim from Turkey. As she walked to Syracuse University’s international center, she noticed the Greek-lettered houses and asked in her then-heavy accent just what they were for. Two years later, after some rejection and tears, she lives in one of them. When Althia Collins hears Demir’s story, she sighs. “I just wish we had found her first,” she says. Collins is the president of America’s first Muslim sorority, Gamma Gamma Chi, which inducted new members last month. For years, the Greek system has been edging away from simply white and Christian. Today, there are Hispanic sororities, Jewish, Asian, black and even lesbian sororities, each with its own answer to, “Where do I belong?” Now the latest twist is Muslim. Combining cultures Imani Abdul-Haqq keeps her bright headscarf closely around her. “I’m obviously Muslim, you know. I cover,” she says. But while out shopping not long ago, a clerk focused on her keychain instead, its three Greek letters stamped in classic green. “Oh, you’re in a sorority!” the clerk said. But not just that. The Muslim sorority is Abdul-Haqq’s own. The U.S.-born senior at North Carolina’s Guilford College founded Gamma Gamma Chi this summer. She’d been looking for a full, fun college experience, but she found it hard to be a good Muslim in the standard Greek world. “To not be part of something because you’re Muslim just shouldn’t be,” she says. The sorority, based in Alexandria, Virginia, mixes Greek accessories with its Islamic values. It has a secret ceremony and a special handshake, even tank tops, tote bags and printed coffee mugs. It also has interest from schools in 16 states. Gamma Gamma Chi arrived at the University of Kentucky with a formal presentation for about a dozen girls. “Maybe this will kill the stereotype of sororities — partying, drinking, you know,” says Kentucky freshman Naema Shalash. “It sounds pretty interesting.” But Gamma Gamma Chi does plan to party, in its own way. No men and no alcohol allowed. Group faces criticism The approach does get some criticism. Muslim men have written to Abdul-Haqq, “Why do you have to be like non-Muslims?” And some students say existing Muslim groups do just fine. “My only question is, why?” says Jameelah Shukri, a manager at the Al-Thalib student magazine at the University of California at Los Angeles. “We have our girl parties, we hang out, we live together. I personally don’t see the need to put Greek letters to it. But I guess if it’s increasing unity, more power to them.” Collins, the president and Abdul-Haqq’s mother, says Gamma Gamma Chi eventually will take part in campus Rush Weeks and perhaps even join the National Panhellenic Conference, an umbrella group of 26 women’s fraternities and sororities. The Indiana-based NPC says it doesn’t keep membership statistics based on religion. The headscarf will be the only way to tell Gamma Gamma Chi is a Muslim sorority, Abdul-Haqq says. But it will be an important symbol, too. “I would think seeing us getting to have fun and dressing cool, it would make people think, ‘Maybe I don’t have to set Islam aside,”‘ she says. “I can have fun and be Muslim.” Demir just wanted to feel American. “Some international students have their own little bubble,” she said as she curled up at a table in an off-campus teahouse not long after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “They hang out with friends and say, ‘Why go out and feel uncomfortable?’ “I’m like, ‘No. I’m going to get this. I’m going to do this.”‘ Greek life is foreign concept More than 565,000 international students study on American campuses, according to a report released last month by the Institute of International Education. But advisers say Demir’s leap to Greek life is one few students try. The national Multicultural Greek Council represents groups that emphasize diversity, but its president, Denise Pipersburgh, knows of few international students who get involved. “The idea’s too foreign,” she says. Demir arrived at Syracuse and decided to sample all she could. If you don’t get out there, she thought, why live in the U.S.? But international advisers hesitated at sororities. “I was concerned about the kind of life and freedom they have,” says Fariba Rahmanzadeh, an adviser. Twenty-five years after arriving at Syracuse from Iran, she says she’s never been past the lobby of a sorority house. So as a freshman, Demir let Rush Week pass. On bid day, doors in her dorm were covered with the teddy bears and bright balloons of acceptance. But not hers. “I missed that,” she told herself. “I should have done that.” A year later, her English improved, her circle of friends grew and she joined Rush Week. She found a sorority she liked, a partying crowd. “They were like, ‘Oh my God, we love you,”‘ she says. Then they rejected her, and she cried. “Why do you care?” other international students asked. At the teahouse, the 21-year-old junior picks at a piece of cake, and at an answer. “Our understanding of Americans is Americans as white Americans,” she says. “As much as they liked me, it was still not good enough for me to be part of them.” Of course America is more than white, she says. “But think about it. If you’re just 18, you don’t have the maturity to say, ‘It’s the culture.’ You say, ‘It’s me. They don’t like me.”‘ In time, she visited another sorority, one that promotes itself as non-sectarian and multicultural. “I’m Turkish,” she told them up front. They liked her attitude, and she was in. Demir was quickly named the sorority’s multicultural and diversity chairwoman. (She asked that her sorority not be identified.) She plans to mentor other Turkish girls who might want to join sororities. During Ramadan, she tried to set up a special dinner at the sorority house with the school’s Muslim association. It fell through. “The Muslim group was not comfortable with it,” she says. Next year, Demir might try again.

German State Plans Hijab

Female Muslim teachers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will be banned from wearing hijab at schools from next summer, according to a German press report. Officials in the State told Wednesday’s edition of the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung that the hijab ban would take effect from August 2006, Reuters reported. “Female and male teachers are not allowed to express any world views or any religious beliefs, which could disturb or endanger the peace at school,” North Rhine-Westphalia schools minister Barbara Sommer said. “That’s why we want to forbid (female) Muslim teachers at state schools from wearing headscarves.” State officials maintained that the decision would be probed with the Muslim groups in the state. They denied that the hijab ban was targeting religious beliefs of the Muslim minority. Germany’s constitution obliges the states to maintain strict religious neutrality but it does not enshrine a formal separation of church and state. Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. There are some 3.4 million Muslims in the country, including 220,000 in Berlin, and Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority. Controversy The hijab ban in schools has been a controversial issue in Germany for several years. The superior administrative court of Bremen ruled Monday, August 29, to ban a Muslim teacher from teaching in schools for her refusal to take off her hijab. Germany’s highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in 2003 that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing hijab in the classroom. But it said Germany’s 16 regional states could issue new legislations to ban it if they believe hijab would influence children. The states of Hamburg, Mechlenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thuringen still allow teachers to wear hijab. The state of Hessen also made amendments to its school laws, banning teachers from wearing any symbols of religious or political nature while allowing them a limited right to put on Christian or western symbols. In Bavaria, laws were enforced in 2004 banning teachers from wearing religious symbols that are not harmonious with Christian cultural values. The state of Brandenburg made the same amendments in 2003. Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations – unlike the symbolic Christian crucifixes or Jewish Kappas. France spearheaded anti-hijab European countries with its lower house of parliament adopting the controversial bill on February 10 last year with an overwhelming majority. The text, put forward by President Jacques Chirac’s ruling center-right Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) party and supported by the left-wing opposition Socialists, was adopted by a vote of 494 to 36. Shortly afterwards, other European countries followed the French lead. The French ban, described by international rights watchdogs as amounting to religious discrimination, prompted demonstrations across Europe. International figures also stood behind the Muslim right, including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Paris’s move is an anti-Muslim measure and accused Chirac plays a terribly, terribly dangerous game.

Struggle for the Soul of Islam: A rare look at secretive Brotherhood in America

Muslims divided on Brotherhood: A group aiming to create Islamic states worldwide has established roots here, in large part under the guidance of Egypt-born Ahmed Elkadi By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Sam Roe and Laurie Cohen Tribune staff reporters Over the last 40 years, small groups of devout Muslim men have gathered in homes in U.S. cities to pray, memorize the Koran and discuss events of the day. But they also addressed their ultimate goal, one so controversial that it is a key reason they have operated in secrecy: to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday in America as well. These men are part of an underground U.S. chapter of the international Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Islamic fundamentalist group and an organization with a violent past in the Middle East. But fearing persecution, they rarely identify themselves as Brotherhood members and have operated largely behind the scenes, unbeknown even to many Muslims. Still, the U.S. Brotherhood has had a significant and ongoing impact on Islam in America, helping establish mosques, Islamic schools, summer youth camps and prominent Muslim organizations. It is a major factor, Islamic scholars say, in why many Muslim institutions in the nation have become more conservative in recent decades (…)

Towards A British Islam

Several details about the eight young men arrested in raids across the home counties this week stir much thought. They are all British born. They do not live in areas of high deprivation, but in places like Crawley, Ilford and Slough. Some have young families. None of them fits the conventional profile of Islamist terrorists as alienated, isolated immigrants. If this is suburban Islamism, it poses difficult questions about Britain’s record in integrating the Muslim community and in fostering a secure, strong sense of a British Islamic identity. There are many in the Muslim community whose warnings, through the early 1990s, of a radicalised generation fell on deaf ears. They would argue that Britain has not so much failed to integrate Muslims, as failed even to try. As they saw the traditional authority structures of their community undermined in the urban west, they saw the dangers of a disorientated youth, vulnerable both to drugs and Islamism. Organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain at the interface of state and Islam struggled to establish and maintain their credibility with both. The state’s apparatus of multi-culturalism, with its emphasis on ethnicity rather than religious identity, served Muslim needs ill, they claimed. They would point to a catalogue of neglect towards the Muslim community, evident in high unemployment and high educational underachievement, particularly among Pakistani and Bangladeshi males. They argue that the response to setting up Muslim schools was too slow, and that boys’ vital religious instruction in mosques on Saturdays has remained in the cultural clutches of religious authorities back in Pakistan or Bangladesh. The resources were inadequate to promote a vibrant Islam of which these British youngsters could be proud. The crucial ingredient which radicalises this kind of community disaffection into some individuals undertaking acts of extreme violence is the international context. It began with the slow international response in Bosnia, but now spans the globe from Chechnya and Palestine to France where the sisters cannot wear the hijab. The perception everywhere is that the proud, expansionary faith of Islam is under attack. That makes a faith in which the ummah (international community of believers) is central and, when combined with modern mass communications, quite literally explosive. Worryingly, this international context – in particular the war on Iraq – is now sapping the will of the British Muslim community to integrate, as a recent Guardian-ICM poll found. Britain faces a pressing task of mapping an effective strategy of engagement with Islam, one that spans both the global and local contexts. It is about when and why we embark on wars with Muslim nations; but it is also about the kinds of schools and estates which are built and the methods used by police against Muslims. This may take the British state into new territory – funding the training of imams, supporting mosques which run Arabic and scripture classes – and it is vital to listen to those who have been closest to the development of the Islamist threat over the last two decades. This includes a fundamental re-examination of our understanding of integration that does not simply entail minorities conforming to a British prescription; it challenges secular liberalism to offer more than polite distaste. It is helpful, given the current sense of fear, to bear in mind a useful precedent. In 1795, in the midst of war with France, Britain began to fund the Catholic Maynooth seminary in Ireland to stop students going to France to be trained. The example may seem arcane, but at the time it was contrary to all the principles of a protestant state. National emergency dictated that piece of British pragmatism – and it may do so again.

Madrid Bomb Leader ‘Identified’

A Tunisian being sought under an international arrest warrant is the leader of the Madrid train bomb suspects, says Spain’s High Court. Court papers say Sarhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet is “the leader and co-ordinator” of people implicated in the attacks. He is one of six people named as bombing suspects on the international arrest warrant issued by the court. Meanwhile, security officials say they believe drug-trafficking was key to helping finance the 11 March attacks. Drugs link The arrest warrant says Mr Fakhet, alias El Tunecino (The Tunisian), began agitating for a jihad, or holy war, in Madrid from mid-2003, if not before. A Moroccan, Jamal Ahmidan, is also wanted as a suspected leader of the group. The four others, Moroccans Said Berraj, Agdennabi Kounjaa and brothers Mohammed and Rachid Oulad Akcha, are wanted after supposedly being identified by police as part of the group who placed the rucksack bombs in the trains. Judge Juan del Olmo, in charge of investigating the attacks, says all are wanted for murder and belonging to a terrorist group. He also says the bombs were prepared in a house in a semi-rural area outside Madrid, which was rented by one of the suspects. Thirteen rucksack bombs were left on four packed commuter trains the morning of the 11 March resulting in the death of 191 people and leaving at least 1,800 injured. Interior Minister Angel Acebes has named the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group as the main focus of investigation, but he insisted that other “terrorist” organisations had not been ruled out. The BBC’s Katya Adler in Madrid says Spanish security officials now say they believe drug-trafficking played a significant role not only in financing the bombings but also in establishing relationships between key protagonists. Family Media reports say Jamal Ahmidan, who has alleged links to al-Qaeda, was orginally recruited by Muslim radicals while serving a prison sentence in Morocco for drug-trafficking. He is accused of driving a stash of hashish to northern Spain at the end of February to exchange it for 240 pounds of explosives stolen from a mine there. Spaniard Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, now in custody, is accused of supplying the explosives. He also faces multiple counts of murder, as well as attempted murder, robbery and terrorism charges. Spanish police have 19 people in custody, including 11 Moroccans or Moroccan-born Spaniards, two Indians, two Spaniards and three Syrians. Fourteen of the suspects have been provisionally charged with mass murder or collaborating with or belonging to a terrorist group. The Oulad Akcha brothers on the arrest warrant are reported to be related to the only woman charged in the case, Naima Oulad Akcha. Some of the other men have the same surnames as other suspects in custody or who have been questioned by investigators.

British Universities Spy On Students: Report

LONDON, March 21 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – British universities are helping intelligence agencies listen to Muslim and foreign students’ phone calls and intercept e-mails, another proof that the world has become a different place for Muslims after September 11 attacks, a British newspaper report uncovered on Sunday, March 21. The report revealed by the Sunday Telegraph said that most of the country’s universities co-operate with the Special Branch, Britain’s police unit concerned with national security, and the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 in the surveillance, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, March 21. Unnamed security sources and university officials admitted that the scheme was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. “Since September 11, we are co-operating with the security services in a much deeper way than before. We take it very seriously,” one senior university official said. Red Flag An official connected to British and American security declared that details of students’ telephone numbers, email and home addresses are being passed by universities to the police, MI5 and the Foreign Office, the AFP said. A particularly close eye is kept on students from so-called “red flag” countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria. “They are helping the security services look at students from the red flag countries. It’s pretty well known that it’s happening,” said the official who also has links to a leading university. “With all the forms students fill in it is not difficult to get their mobile phone numbers or emails, or find out what kind of activities they are doing or where they hang out.” The paper added that MI5 and MI6 have also used academics to recruit British students. Criticism The declaration interrogated criticism for the British policies as considered a violation of the students’ human rights. Ian Gibson, the Labour chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, said that his committee had heard evidence that foreign students were being spied on, something he considered against the principle of freedom in academia, the Telegraph said. “I think there will be a number of universities that are doing this,” Gibson said. “It goes absolutely against the principle of freedom in academia and allowing people to associate with whom they like or think what they like,” he added. Chris Weavers, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, criticized the security assumption that individuals from certain countries might form risk. “I think there needs to be very strong justification for any such surveillance. Just assuming that any individual from a certain country might be a risk is utterly unrealistic,” Weavers said. However, he admitted: “We’ve seen many people from the United Kingdom who have been involved in terrorists attacks.” Meanwhile, the paper clarified that it is illegal for the police or security service to intercept directly e-mails or telephone calls without a warrant or permission from the Home Secretary. Both, however, are exempt from the Data Protection Act. On the other hand, Robert Key, the MP for Salisbury and a Conservative member of the select committee, welcomed the surveillance. “Given the current security situation I wouldn’t be against it as long as the Government was in complete control of the situation,” Key said. Now, Scotland Yard Special Branch officers monitor e-mails and mobile telephones and universities are expected to pass on suspicious meetings, activities or absences. Several students are believed to have been ordered to leave Britain as a result of such monitoring under the pretext they had links to extremist groups. Since September 11, the international student community in both the U.S. and Britain has greatly changed. On a press release on 22 February, 2002 obtained by IslamOnline.net, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the HR 3077 bill which is currently awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate which would endanger freedom in academia. The bill proposes amendments to parts of the Higher Education Act of 1965 dealing with international studies programs at universities nationwide. One of the prime changes to the legislation includes establishing a federal advisory board, which would oversee all of these international studies programs.