France is not providing its Muslim citizens enough Mosques to pray in. This becomes evident especially during the holy fasting month of Ramadan when worshippers are forced to pray in the streets. “We don’t have enough room for worshipers in ordinary days let alone Ramadan, which see more and more Muslims flocking to mosques for Tarawih prayers,” Al-Hajj Amadou, an official with the Fatah Mosque in Paris’ 18th district, told IOL. Ziyad, 34, said this Ramadan an increasing number of Muslims are preferring to pray at mosques: “To my way of thinking, the recent media campaigns against Islam and Muslims, like the controversial cartoons of our beloved prophet (pbuh), are motivating Muslims to cling to their identity and religion.”
Confirmed reports of French-born Muslims leaving the country to fight the US-led occupation forces in Iraq are puzzling the European country, which fears a future backlash. “There is confusion as to what is motivating young French to travel to Iraq to join the fighting,” a French judicial source told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, November 29, on condition of anonymity. “A possible scenario is that they are being recruited by non-French individuals on ideological grounds.” He stressed that the issue is causing a major headache for French security authorities. “Paris fears that such young people might carry out operations inside France or other European countries once the Iraqi war is over,” he added. A recent study put at 22 the number of French fighting with the Iraqi resistance, seven of them were confirmed killed in attacks and three in US custody. Vanishing Hajj Aziza, a French Muslim mother, recalled how her 20-year-old son, Mohammad, disappeared last summer. “He called me from Istanbul saying he was embarking on a short trip to learn Arabic in Syria,” the mother, who lives in Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, told IOL. “Later, he phoned me saying he was in a Baghdad district, and was ok,” she said, adding he promised to return home soon. Heart-broken Aziza has not heard from her son ever since and is dying to know if he is still alive. Her story is similar to that of many Muslim mothers in France whose sons have disappeared into thin air over the past two years, only to discover later they were fighting against the US forces in Iraq. Most of the young French believed to be fighting in Iraq hail from districts mostly inhabited by immigrants of north African background. Why? French experts well versed in Islamic movement affairs have given different accounts as to the possible motives for joining the Iraqi resistance. Analyst Olivier Roy believes this has to do with “globalization of the Islamist phenomenon” which trespasses borders and cultures. “There is also the feeling of marginalization and identity crisis experienced by the second and third generations of French Muslims,” he told IOL. This argument was contradicted by Gilles Kepel in the introduction of his book Al-Qaeda dans le texte. He refuted any link between joining the Iraqi resistance and the identity crisis, saying Al-Qaeda was playing the religion tune. A study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the US occupation of Iraq has radicalized Arabs and Muslims to join Al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden. Saying that foreign fighters represent less than five percent of the Iraqi resistance, the study said most of them were motivated by “revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country.” The London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs has also said that the Iraq war gave a momentum to Al-Qaeda’s recruitment and fundraising and made Britain more vulnerable to terror attacks. Patrick Cockburn, an award-winning British reporter, has also charged that the Anglo-American “ill-considered venture” of invading Iraq has turned into a “mess” fueling attacks around the world and providing Al-Qaeda with sympathizers it did not possess before the invasion of 2003.
A number of Dutch Muslim women opened Saturday, March 19, a women-only mosque in the metropolitan city of Amsterdam. Inaugurated by controversial Egyptian feminist writer Nawal El-Saadawi, the mosque is a part of a project carried out by the De Balie cultural center and the cultural development institute of the Forum organization, both financially backed by the government. The mosque is run by women from A to Z, with a woman leading the prayer and another raising the Adhan (call to prayer). The traditional curtains separating male and female worshipers in mosques disappeared from the novel mosque. Men were conspicuous by their absence though a few of them attended the inauguration ceremony out of curiosity and sat at the back. The project sponsors argue that it is a milestone as it will meet the “spiritual needs of Muslim women” and serve as a meeting point for “isolated” women away from male dominance. Saadawi took the podium, preaching against what she called the “oppression” of Muslim women and urging women to “resist” for equal rights with men. Saadawi faced an apostasy case in 2001 before an Egyptian court after she had been quoted by Egyptian newspapers as saying that hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, was “a vestige of a pagan practice” and that Islamic inheritance law should be abolished. A spokeswoman for the De Balie center, who requested anonymity, told IslamOnline.net that Saadawi has been selected because “she set herself up as a paradigm for women liberalization and their struggle to lift the oppression.” She, however, said that the mosque has nothing to do with the woman-led mixed-gender Friday prayer in New York City on March18 . IOL correspondents says the project fits within the government’s tendency to boost what it sees as “liberal” Muslims against “extremists”. Diverting Attention Ahmad Al-Rawi, the chairman of the Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe (UIOE), said things like the woman-led prayers and the new women-only mosque are western attempts to distract Muslims’ attention from pressing issues facing them in the West. “Muslims [in the West] should rather be preoccupied with educating the young generations about their religion and protecting them from moral aberration,” he told IOL. Rawi underlined that Muslim women in Europe are in no way inferior to their male partners. “They [women] play a leading role in our organization and face no discrimination whatsoever,” he added. Marzouk Abdullah, professor of Shari`ah in the Islamic European University in the Netherlands, urged Muslim women in Europe to display good intentions, cautioning them against committing wrongdoing unabashedly. “We can never deny them their right to form an assembly to raise the awareness of the rights and responsibilities of women under Islam, if they are really for that,” he told IOL. It is a sort of clich_ to say that women are oppressed under Islam, but it is a fact to say that immigrant women in the country – particularly Muslims – are being discriminated against, Dutch Muslim female lawyer Famille Arslan told IOL on Monday, March14 . She said that Muslim women in the Netherlands take the brunt of religious discrimination and racial profiling in the labor market because of their attire and names. Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population. Turks represent 80 percent of the Muslim minority. There are some 450 mosques in the Netherlands,1,000Islamic cultural centers, two Islamic universities and 42 preparatory schools, according to recent estimates. Press reports have underlined that Dutch Muslims were subjected to religious discrimination and racist attacks on their places of worship in 2004.