“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain”

“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain “. This is how Tania Saeed’s book is presented on her publisher’s page.

Islamophobia and Securitization. Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice – published in the “Politics of identity and citizenship” series – addresses the connection between gender, islamophobia and security in the UK.

The book explores “the narratives of securitization and islamophobia as described by young Muslim women” and how these women try to challenge them. The author who has previously worked on radicalization and counter-radicalization in British universities, analyses here how the securitization of the “Muslim question” and the growing suspicion towards Muslims that it entails impact the daily life of young British Muslim women.

Contrary to the Muslim men who are perceived as “dangerous” and posing a “more direct physical threat”, young British Muslim women are considered as “vulnerable fanatics”, “susceptible to radicalize and therefore in need of being rescued”.

The author specifically looks at the British Muslim female student, perceived as problematic inside and outside educational institutions, since educated British Muslim women were indicted for charges of terrorism.

Though this interdisciplinary work focuses on “British-Muslim-Pakistani-female identity”, the connection between gender, islamophobia and securitization will be relevant for many other national contexts.

Source :

Saeed, Tania, Islamophobia and Securitization Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice, Palgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

https://www.palgrave.com/de/book/9783319326795#reviews

EU’s highest Court rules on headscarf at work

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been asked to make a decision on two cases related to the wearing of religious signs at work. In both cases, a French and a Belgian one, the headscarf was the bone of contention. The CJEU finally issued a joint judgment this tuesday.

Two stories, one common issue

The Belgian Samira Achbita did not wear a headscarf in 2003 when she started to work as a receptionist for the security company G4S. In 2006, she declared to her employer that she intended to start wearing it… She was then dismissed.

As for the French Asma Bougnaoui, she started working as a design engineer for the IT consultancy firm Micropole in 2008. At this time, she already had a headscarf on. One day, a customer of the company complained about that. This complaint was transmitted by the company to Mrs Bougnaoui, who chose to reject it and refused to remove her headscarf… She was also dismissed.

National Courts from Belgium and France have asked the ECJ to give a ruling on these cases. Though the stories slightly differ, the main issue was to know if a company was justified to dismiss an employee for wearing a headscarf or if this constituted a case of discrimination.

The Court’s decision

For EU’s highest Court, forbidding headscarf on the workplace does not constitute a direct discriminatory act as long as the internal rule of the company proscribes any visible political, philosophical or religious sign and if this policy is justified by an essential occupational requirement:

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination. However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination”.

Hence, the Court stated in favor of the company in the Belgian case, arguing that the company was following its genuine policy of “image neutrality”. As for the French case however, the Court stated that the complainant had indeed been discriminated against, since the demand to remove the headscarf only followed the complaint from a customer and not a consistent policy of neutrality at work.

What are the implications of this ruling?

Right wing and far right personalities welcome this ruling as a victory, since this now allows companies to ban the headscarf in the workplace, as we can see for instance from Gilbert Collard’s tweet , a French MP working for Marine le Pen : “Even the CJEU votes for Marine”. However, one must remember that this long awaited judgment also demands the prohibiting of religious signs to be stated and justified by a consistent internal rule of the company. The prohibition of religious signs is thus limited and must happen only under certain specific conditions :

“Such indirect discrimination may be objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality, provided that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary”.

The diverging views on the ruling of the CJEU 

For the supporters of the ruling, the issue of religious signs at work needed to be clarified and employers and human resources now have a clearer frame to deal with religious signs at work. In its ruling, the Court judged in favor of the company when a neutral image was part of its objective “identity”, but in favor of the complainant when the demand to remove the headscarf was the result of a subjective process, not connected to an essential occupational requirement.

However, for the critics of this ruling, the CJEU now opens the way to the implementation of more restrictive internal rules in private companies. It gives the latter more power to decide on their employees’ outfit, on the subjective basis of the “image” of the company. Also, and even though the ruling does not specifically concern Muslims, it seems to endorse a general European tendency to target Muslim believers’ visibility in the public space and may de facto contribute to exclude them from the job market.

By Farida Belkacem

Sources :

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-03/cp170030en.pdf

Justin Welby: It’s time to stop saying Isil has ‘nothing to do with Islam’

Claims that the atrocities of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have “nothing to do with Islam” are harming efforts to confront and combat extremism, the Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted.

Religious leaders of all varieties must “stand up and take responsibility” for the actions of extremists who profess to follow their faith, the Most Rev Justin Welby said.

He argued that unless people recognise and attempt to understand the motivation of terrorists they will never be able to combat their ideology effectively.

The Archbishop said that it was essential to recognise extremists’ religious motivation in order to get to grips with the problem.

He also said it was time for countries across Europe to recognise and rediscover the “Judaeo Christian” roots of their culture to find solutions to the mass disenchantment which led to the Brexit vote in the UK and the rise of anti-establishment leaders in the continent and beyond.

His comments came during a lecture at the Catholic Institute of Paris, as he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Although the Archbishop voted for the UK to remain in the European Union, his lecture contained a scathing critique of “centralisation, corruption and bureaucracy” in Brussels which he said had handed its opponents “easy ammunition”.

He said millions of people in Greece in particular were suffering because of the actions of European decision-makers who had urged it to join the Euro on a “false prospectus” and ultimately turned the entire country into the “biggest debtor’s prison in European history”.

Europe, he added, appeared to have lost its original vision of how economics could improve people’s lives rather than “economic structures enslaving human beings”.

“In order to understand, religious people in Europe must regain the ability to share our religious vocabulary with the rest of the continent,” he continued.

“If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult – probably impossible – to overcome it.

“A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that.

“This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Isis is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism.

“Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.”

 

Muslim and Christian make new Quran translation to show the two religions’ similarities

A Muslim and a Christian have made a new translation of the Quran to underline the similarities between their two religions.

The authors, who are also friends, said they hoped the text would provide “a tool of reconciliation” between Christians and Muslims.

Some 3,000 parallels between the Bible and Quran are demonstrated in the book, which has a split-page format.

Safi Kaskas, the Muslim co-author of the new book, said in a statement: “Most of the tension that exists in the West in the post-9/11 era is because Christians fear Muslims and their book, the Quran.

“This new translation was designed to be a tool of reconciliation between Muslims and the followers of other Abrahamic religions [Christianity and Judaism].

“In an environment of tension, working for reconciliation and peace is long overdue. If we are to prevent a much larger disaster from happening, we must work for a better understanding.”

He said some translations had wrongly given the impression Islam was intolerant of other faiths, saying this was not an accurate interpretation of the holy text.

Mr Kaskas started the project with Dr David Hungerford, a Christian, 10 years ago. The book is part of a project by Bridges to Common Ground, an organisation that aims to reduce Islamophobic attitudes among Christians.

Dr Hungerford said: “We hope this translation will lead people to understand that while there are differences between Islam and Christianity, there is also a tremendous bridge between Muslims and Christians.”

There are more than 100 mentions of Jesus in the text – who is known as Esa in the Quran.

“In today’s society, no one talks about this common ground among the Abrahamic faiths, much of which is centered around the person of Jesus of Nazareth,” Dr Hungerford added.

Boris Johnson calls for new word to be used when describing Islamic extremists

Boris Johnson has insisted that an alternative word needs to be found to describe extremists who claim to act in the name of Islam. The Mayor of London told worshippers at the Al Falah Islamic Education Centre in West Acton that he was concerned about the level of Islamophobia in the capital. And Mr Johnson, whose great-grandfather was a Muslim, added that a “problem in the language” needed to be resolved, with the issue discussed with the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Mayor insisted the police could deal with Islamophobia and intimidation, adding: “It’s very difficult to distinguish Islam and Isis, Daesh, whatever – we have a problem in the language. “When anybody says Islamism, Muslim fundamentalist or terrorist or something like that, the wider public hear the word Muslim – you see what I’m saying? So you need to find an alternative word. I had a really good session with the Muslim Council of Britain to find an alternative word. It’s not easy.”

Turkish fast food: Kebab

Der Standard reports that the first Turkish Kebab restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary in Vienna. The story is embedded into the Turkish migration history to Austria. The report also explains, that the first Kebab restaurants were a welcome alternative to Austrian fast food. However, it also focuses on 9/11, the current discussions on Islam as well as on the difficulties that Turkish migrants face today.

Europe Needs to Embrace Islam by Jocelyne Cesari

August 29, 2014

Counter to the common interpretation, the appeal of radical anti-Western groups like ISIS among European Muslims is not driven primarily by socioeconomic deprivation. In fact, three interrelated factors play a more significant role.

The first is the powerful presence of the Salafi version of Islam in the religious market of ideas. This is problematic because even as most Muslims in the West are not Salafis and the majority of Salafis are not jihadists, it happens that groups like Al Qaiada and ISIS have a Salafi background. It means that their theological view comes from a particular interpretation of Islam rooted in Wahhabism, an eighteenth century doctrine adopted by the Saudi kingdom. In the West, Salafis incite people to withdraw from mainstream society, depicted as impure, in order to live by strict rules. These reactionary interpretations do contain similarities with jihadist discourse.

The second factor in the radicalization of Muslim youth is the increase of discriminatory policies vis-à-vis Islamic practices in Europe, including the use of the hijab and regulation of mosque minarets, circumcision and halal food. All contribute to a growing sense among Muslims that they are not accepted as full members of European society. Anti-immigration and anti-Islamic discourse translates into discriminatory practices in employment, housing and political activities. It can be a factor in strengthening a defensive identification within Islam and therefore gives more leverage to any ideology that pits the West against Muslims.

Third, the collapse of all major ideologies in Europe — nationalism, Communism, and liberalism — has left room for new radical options. For some young Europeans, adherence to radical Islam provides a viable alternative ideology, comparable to that of radical leftist groups in the 1970s.

These factors reveal a lack of true integration of Muslims as European policies have prioritized socioeconomic measures. In other words, political efforts are needed to put an end to the ‘ghettoization’ of Islam, which is often depicted as alien and incompatible with Western core liberal values. It means that geopolitical issues like the “war on terror” should be disconnected as much as possible from Islam and its adherents and their practices. Europe, and to a certain extent the U.S., face a major political challenge, which is the inclusion of Islam within their respective national narratives. It is a huge symbolic task, equivalent to the undertaking that led to the integration of the African-American past and legacy into the dominant American narrative.

**Jocelyne Cesari is senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, and director of the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University. She is the author of “Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies” and “The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity, and the State.”

Former German Federal President promotes dialogue

July 11, 2014

Christian Wulff, former Federal President, encouraged people to enter into a dialogue with each other and particularly with Islam. He emphasized on the central role of world religions in promoting world peace. Rather than stressing differences he suggested to focus on the commonalities and, as a positive example, quoted the national soccer team of Germany. While talking about the ongoing essentialization of Islam and Muslim in Germany, he addressed the issues of tolerance and the readiness to engage in dialogue.

Breaking the Ramadan fast in the company of Jews

July 10, 2014

(RNS) Muslim tradition calls for breaking the Ramadan fast in the evening with a date and a sip of water, and increasingly these days, the company of Jews.

Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and a chance to forge interfaith friendships.

This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.

In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.

“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”

At Muslim-Jewish iftars, particular attention is paid to food. In Los Angeles, the meal will be both halal and kosher, in keeping with both Muslim and Jewish dietary laws, which often overlap. Neither faith community eats pork, for example. Out of respect for Muslim tradition, no alcohol will be served.

Some of these interfaith Iftars will be hosted in mosques or other Muslims institutions — on Sunday (July 13), for example, at the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies in Cary, N.C. Others will take place in synagogues.