Muslim women don’t have to wear veils: Queen Rania

Islam does not require women to wear veils, Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan has said in an interview, calling on Muslim moderates to “make their voices be heard.” “Islam neither requires one to be practising, nor to dress in one way or another,” the stylish 36-year-old queen told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera during a visit to Rome on Friday. “So imposing the veil on a woman is contrary to the principles of Islam,” said Queen Rania, who is in Rome for the launch of a Group of Seven (G7) programme to develop vaccines against diseases that are endemic in poor countries. “Unfortunately, after all the suspicion weighing on Islam, many people have begun to consider the veil as a political problem, but this is not the case,” she told Corriere. “Wearing the veil is a free personal choice.” Queen Rania urged “all moderates to stand up and let their voices be heard.” She added: “Many people are frustrated in the Arab world. Many give in to the anger because they are accused of violence. But instead we should get up, explain who we are and what we believe in. “Over the last three years, most victims of terrorism have been Muslim. So there’s not a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between extremists and moderates of all the religions,” the queen said. “What is important is not to live in fear. The most dangerous (thing to do) is to give up and lose hope. The main enemy is not terrorism or extremism, but ignorance,” she said.

Philippe de Villiers : “Prohibit the Veil in all Public Spaces”

The president of the Movement for France, Phillippe de Villiers, presents himself as “the last defender of the Rebublic against communitarianism”. Le Figaro interviewed de Villiers on November 2, 2006, and in that interview de Villiers called for the prohibition of the veil in all public spaces in France. De Villiers called Islamism “an empirical problem” that “it is impossible to ignore.” In response to this “Islamic problem”, he proposed that France “impose her values”, in particular by prohibiting the Islamic veil in the streets or in public buildings. He called for this on the grounds that “the islamic veil is the symbol of female submission and wearing it detracts from her dignity.” In addition, de Villiers asserted that the veil was an obstacle to “the appearance of national community” and an tool used by the activits who “attack the foundations of the Rebublic.” De Villiers cited an August 2006 study from the Pew Research Center that reported that 46% of French Muslims saw their loyalty to Islam as greater than their loyalty to France. This, he claimed, was an obvious political problem. “I am only saying what the French citizens are already thinking,” de Villiers averred. “This will be an essential question for the 2007 presidential election: I am the only one to break the taboo, and the last defender of the Republic against [Islamist] communitarianism.”

EU Has Limits Respecting Muslim Traditions, Says Frattini

The vice-president of the European Commission Franco Frattini has said Europe can only respect Muslim traditions if they do not contradict the bloc’s own basic values, such as freedom of speech or equality between men and women. “We are not governed by sharia, after all,” he said in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica published on Monday

Pope stresses respect for Muslims

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed “total and profound respect” for Muslims, as he attempts to defuse a row between Islam and the Catholic Church. He made the remarks in a meeting with envoys from the Muslim world, weeks after a speech in Germany prompted an angry reaction by some Muslims. Iraq’s ambassador said it was time to move on from the row and build bridges. But the Indonesian envoy said he was surprised that there was no direct dialogue at the meeting. In the space of just half an hour, the pontiff made a brief speech to envoys before greeting them individually, but there was no general discussion. Muslim leaders had been demanding an unequivocal apology from the Pope for his words. Dialogue welcomed The meeting was held at the Pope’s residence near Rome. Ambassadors from 21 countries and a representative from the Arab League attended, as well as Islamic representatives in Italy. Of mainly Muslim countries with diplomatic relations with the Vatican, only Sudan failed to attend. “I would like today to stress my total and profound respect for all Muslims,” the Pope said in the speech. He called for “sincere and respectful dialogue”, adding that Christians and Muslims alike must reject all forms of violence and respect religious liberty. Correspondents say the latter was a reference to restrictions on the church’s activity in some Muslim countries. “Since the beginning of my pontificate I have had occasion to express my wish to continue to establish bridges of friendship with believers of all religions, showing particularly my appreciation in the belief in dialogue between Muslims and Christians,” he said. “…The inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims is, in effect, a vital necessity, on which a large part of our future depends.” He also quoted his predecessor, John Paul II, stating the need for “reciprocity in all fields”. Iraqi ambassador Albert Yelda said he was satisfied by the Pope’s remarks. “I think it is time to put what happened behind us and build bridges among all the civilisations,” he said. But in a BBC interview, the ambassador of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, pointed out that the Pope had not referred directly to the speech which sparked the controversy. “We had hoped that there would have been a dialogue, but that was not the case,” Bambang Prayitno said. “There was no dialogue between the Pope and the guests… In general, we were actually a bit surprised that the meeting was a short one and just like that.” ‘Misunderstood’ The pontiff has expressed regret following the reactions in some countries to words of a speech he made in southern Germany earlier in the month. On Wednesday, he told pilgrims at the Vatican that his remarks in Bavaria last week had been “misunderstood”. He said his use of a quote from a 14th-Century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologos, did not reflect his personal opinion. The quote says: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The Pope said his real intention had been to “explain that religion and violence do not go together, but religion and reason do”.

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.

Muslims Feel Rejected By The CDA

CDA MP Nihat Eski fears that his party hasn’t done enough to distance itself from Rita Verdonk, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders. Other CDA members and activists agree that Muslims at both the national and local levels are increasingly alienated from the governing Christian Democratic Appeal. {(continues below in Dutch)} ,De emotie, de commotie is groot, zegt hij in een interview met Trouw. ,,Moslims zouden geen incasseringsvermogen hebben, islam en democratie zouden onverenigbaar zijn en het islamitisch geloof zou een achterlijke cultuur zijn. Deze uitspraken hebben moslims diep gekwetst. Het zijn onzinnige en vooral polariserende uitspraken. Uit de moslimgemeenschappen kreeg ik sterke signalen dat ze vonden dat het CDA stelling moest nemen tegen deze uitspraken. Dat is onvoldoende gebeurd en de rekening daarvan kregen we bij de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.” Eski staat met zijn kritiek niet alleen, wel is het bijzonder dat hij als CDA-kamerlid en moslim nu, vier maanden voor de kamerverkiezingen, zijn kritiek uit. CDA-voorzitter Marja van Bijsterveldt verwoordde in mei tijdens het partijcongres haar zorgen over de kloof tussen het CDA en de moslimkiezer. ,,Er is sprake van pijn en gevoel van miskenning.” Ze riep op tot een andere toon en houding van haar partij. De oud-voorzitter van het CDJA (de jongerenorganisatie), Ronald van Bruchem, zei eerder in een interview dat zijn partij een ‘mega-probleem’ heeft in de grote steden, omdat het contact met allochtonen verloren lijkt.

Muslims sue for citizenship, allege gender, religious bias

Ten Muslim men allege that they have been denied U.S. citizenship for up to two years, in violation of their civil rights, despite passing every test and interview, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday. The men are permanent legal residents who say they should have been sworn in as citizens within 120 days of meeting all the requirements. Instead, they said they have been kept waiting for a year or more. Meanwhile, “hundreds of thousands of other people seeking to be naturalized” have had their swearing-in ceremonies, the lawsuit said.

Moderate Muslims Seek Help From The Dalai Lama

SAN FRANCISCO – Prominent Muslim dignitaries on Saturday met for the first time with the world’s most influential Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, enlisting his help in quelling fanatical ideologies within Islamic communities and improving the faith’s declining image in the West. The summit was a measure of the desperate concern among moderate Muslim leaders and scholars about religious extremism and increasingly negative views of their faith arising from Western concerns about terrorism. Indeed, Islam traditionally has not recognized Buddhism. “The main issue of this conference is to provide a platform to teach that there is no room today to say or invest in anything but love,” said Imam Mehdi Khorasani of Marin County, who had extended the invitation to the Dalai Lama. “We are happy and grateful for His Holiness’ decision to lend his energy to this cause.” Appearing comfortable and jovial in his maroon and saffron robe before a crowd of about 600, the Dalai Lama, 71, was true to his image as one of the world’s most avid advocates for peace. “Some people have an impression that Islam is militant,” he said, seated in lotus position on a center-stage baronial chair at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel. “I think that is totally wrong. Islam is one of the world’s great religions and it carries, basically, a message of love and compassion.” He pointed to his homeland of Tibet as an example of a place where Buddhists and Muslims have existed together in peace for centuries. In an interview earlier, the Nobel laureate and religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism said, “Promoting the genuine message of Islam and the proper impression of the Muslim world – that is my hope. “Some of my Muslim friends have told me that those people who claim to be Muslims, if they create bloodshed, that is not genuine Islam,” he said. “Those few mischievous ones do not represent the whole Muslim community.” Some of those in attendance suggested that the open display of mutual support might not play well with more extreme members of either Islam or Buddhism. “It’s a brave thing for imams to reach out to the Dalai Lama – it’s likely to be seen in some circles as an act of weakness and undignified of their own traditions,” said Caner Dagli, assistant professor of religion at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. “The Dalai Lama is also putting himself out on a limb by standing with his Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said. “But I’m happy about all that. It’s right that they should be allies.” One difference is that although the Dalai Lama holds an unquestioned position as spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, Islam has no similar central authority uniting its members. Hence, Muslims around the globe interpret the faith quite differently and are more divided among themselves. That the meeting came together at all was remarkable, coming near the date of the prophet Muhammad’s birthday, as well as during Passover and Easter weekend. It also followed the release last week of the recorded sounds of struggle and panic when Sept. 11 hijackers took control of United Airlines Flight 93 and screamed, “Allah is the greatest,” as the plane went down. But the Dalai Lama, who normally books his appearances seven years in advance, and the Muslim leaders and scholars from around the world broke their holiday commitments to attend the hastily organized event. “This meeting had to happen,” said Dan Kranzler, a philanthropist and one of the gathering’s sponsors. “The 90% of the Muslim world that is moderate and peace-loving wants to overcome the radical ideologies of the rest,” said Kranzler, who is Jewish but refers to himself as a “universalist.” “If there is anyone in the world who can cheat the odds and make that happen it’s the Dalai Lama.” Organizers called it an extraordinary convergence. Essentially, Muslim leaders were seeking the Dalai Lama’s rock-star status, broad appeal and skills as a neutral conciliator in dealing with divisiveness within their faith, deepened by worldwide media attention. Even moderate Muslims, who make up most believers, are not united enough to impose their visions of peace and tolerance on those who are intolerant or promote violence. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, founder of the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, which is dedicated to reviving the sciences of classical Islam, pointed out another reason for wanting the Dalai Lama on their side. “Buddhism gets the best press of any religion in the world,” he said. “Islam gets the worst press because it’s associated with war and belligerence. “When a recent Gallup Poll asked Americans what they respected about Islam, 38% answered not a thing, and 12 % said they weren’t sure,” he said. “Yet one-fifth of humanity is Muslim. “So we are delighted that the Dalai Lama wants to understand how we view this situation and assess what his own community can do to alleviate the problems,” he said. Under tight security, the Dalai Lama initially met privately with 40 leaders, including Mahmud Kilic, a professor of Sufism and president of the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum in Istanbul; Sayyid M. Syeed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest umbrella organization of Islamic centers in the United States; and Ahmad Al-Hashimi, president of the Ihsan Muslim Heritage Society of Ontario, Canada. One proposal that emerged from the discussions was a possible visit by the Dalai Lama to Saudi Arabia. Later, on stage, he was flanked by religious leaders and scholars including Huston Smith, emeritus professor of religion at UC Berkeley; Thomas Cleary, a Harvard professor whose interpretation of the ancient Chinese “Art of War” became a bestseller; and Robert Thurman, a Columbia University professor known as the Billy Graham of Buddhism. In an interview, Smith said the meeting was in direct response to the violent exploitation of one of the great traditions. “The world is in flames. We are at war with Islam,” he said. “The Muslim leaders here wanted to talk to the Dalai Lama about what they could do to persuade terrorists that their terrorism only increases terrorism.” Though Muslim leaders called for the gathering, it was organized and funded by a coalition that included film producer Steven Reuther and Kranzler, who made his fortune in the computer software industry. In an effort to make Muslim guests feel as comfortable as possible in their daily prayers, the organizing team determined the exact direction of Mecca from the Nob Hill hotel – 15 degrees east of north. Receptions were alcohol-free and vegetarian, in keeping with practices of Islam and Buddhism. Dozens of participants wore white scarfs that had been draped around their necks by the Dalai Lama in private sessions.

Italian PM Condemns Danish Cartoons

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sought on Wednesday to distance Italy from Muslim outrage over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) by condemning the images, after anti-Italian rallies in Libya left 11 dead. Satire must not be disrespectful, he told the Arabic satellite television channel Al-Jazeera in an interview to be broadcast later Wednesday.