“The new minister will notice she is not with the Greens”: Interview with Cem Özdemir

In an interview, Cem Özdemir calls for an international Islam conference in Germany. The leader of the Green Party, who currently participates in a similar conference in Washington, calls for an intensive exchange of Europe with civil representatives from the Islamic world. On the topic of the new Turkish-German minister, Özdemir welcomes that more migrants are becoming involved in shaping German politics, but claims that the conservative CDU is far from taking over the Green Party’s strength of integration politics, as long as the party continues to have politicians like Roland Koch. Koch, the prime minister of the state of Hesse, has stood out with his campaign against dual citizenship and repeated quasi-racist remarks.

Grand Mufti of Bosnia on the meeting of the Council of Muslim Intellectuals in Beirut

On invitation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, based in Virginia, USA, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Cerić, participated on two-days meeting of the Council of Muslim Intellectuals in Beirut. The main topic of the meeting was “High Education – the challenges of the modern time”.

“Our message to Islamic world in Beirut must be clear: Education is our salvation! For us, there is no other way than education! Thus, read and learn in the name of God who creates, in the name of God who gave you mind and wisdom in order you become successful on this world and saved on another world”, concluded Grand Mufti of Bosnia on the meeting of the Council of Muslim Intellectuals in Beirut.

President Medvedev stresses Islam’s importance for Russia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a message to greet the fifth session of the “Russia and the Islamic World” Strategic Vision Group held in Kuwait.

In the message he notes that “the Group has made a great contribution to development of trust and mutual understanding between Russia and Muslim states during three years of its work”. He also said: “Your activities help to resist radical and extremist initiatives. The Group is a platform for sharing experience in building tolerant relations between different cultures and religions.”

“The Russian Federation as Organization of the Islamic Conference observer state is firm in its intention to develop dialogue with the Islamic world,”–the message also reads.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman reflects on the Islamic world’s radical narratives

Thomas Friedman discusses implications of the radical stories circulating the world of Islam, stories that America is waging war against the religion and it is single-handedly responsible for all the problems of the Arab and Muslim world. He urges President Obama, in the wake of Fort Hood to begin asking mainstream Muslims to tell the world what Islam is when they speak out about what it is not.

The Marwa Al-Sherbini Case: Investigators Believe Killer ‘Hated Non-Europeans’ and Muslims

Two months after the brutal murder of an Egyptian woman in a courtroom in Dresden, investigators believe the German-Russian immigrant who killed Marwa al-Sharbini was motivated by xenophobia. The case, which has not yet gone to trial, continues to be the focus of intense pressure from abroad. The tragic events were set in motion at a swing set in a plain wooden sandbox in Dresden, a major city in eastern Germany. A huge ash-leaf maple tree casts its shadow. East German-era prefab tower blocks are located next door, and tenants hang their laundry out to dry next to the small playground in the city’s Johannstadt district. Everything is regulated here — even playtime, which is permitted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer months. It was on this playground that Alexander W.* and Marwa al-Sherbini met for the first time on August 21, 2008. He was a 27-year-old Russian-German from Perm; she a 30-year-old Egyptian from Alexandria. Both had been stranded in eastern Germany by chance. They hadn’t encountered each other before — and there was no reason to think they ever would again. But an ominous confrontation ensued following a dispute over a swing, culminating 10 months later with a crime that rattled the Islamic world, battered Germany’s reputation and gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another excuse to hurl invectives. Steffen Winter reports.

Islamic superhero comic “The 99” among top 20 pop culture trends worldwide

The creator of a bestselling comic designed to show the world the tolerant and peaceful face of Islam has written an open letter to his young sons explaining how the project grew out of 9/11.

In the letter, written for the BBC News website, Kuwaiti psychologist Dr Naif al-Mutawa, says his superheroes – inspired by the Koran and known as THE 99 – were designed to “take back Islam” from militants who had taken it hostage.

The comics, which now sell about one million copies a year in several languages, are soon to be made into an animated film by Dutch media company Endemol. Early last year, Forbes magazine announced THE 99 were one of the 20 top pop culture trends sweeping the world.

Moorish historians want Spain to apologize upon the 400th anniversary of expulsion from Spain

400 years after King Philip III signed an order to expel 300,000 Moriscos – or part-Muslims who had converted from Islam to Christianity, some Muslim writers, Spanish and Moroccan campaigners are asking Madrid to apologize for the wrongs committed during the 17th century.

The anniversary highlights the uneasy relationship that still exists between modern-day Spanish and its Moorish, or Muslim past. Historians record the brutal conditions in which many were killed during forced resettlement in North Africa, and have urged the Spanish government to use the anniversary of the event to make overtures to the Islamic world. José Manuel Fajardo, a Spanish writer, said: “Mr. Zapatero has an opportunity to transform one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Spain into an opportunity for a re-encounter between the West and Islam.”

A spokesperson for the government said that there are no plans to mark the anniversary. The defeat of the Moors in 1492 and the expulsion of Moriscos from 17th century Spain is still a politically sensitive subject, with Osama bin Laden referring it in repeated calls for the restoration of al-Andalus – the former Muslim kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.

Mosques: rebuilding the faith

A feature article in this week’s Time Magazine highlights the changing conception of the mosque for Muslim communities, along generational differences and making room for a thriving Islam for Muslim practitioners in the West.

New generations of Muslim builders and designers are sparking debate on just the creative design of such sacred spaces, but over “larger debates taking place in the Islamic world today about gender, power, and particularly in immigrant communities, Islam’s place in Western societies.” How does the mosque locate gender in its spaces? Are minarets necessary? What about the questions of noise in public spaces? How are community needs constructed by the mosque? As the social and economic mobility of Muslims evolves, these changes tend to become reflected upon the differing needs for mosques – symbolizing the marrying of tradition with modernity, and setting down new roots.

Mosques in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and the United States are all addressed in this interesting article about space, faith, and place.

Secularism confronts Islam

The author has already written elsewhere about the failure of political Islam because of the non-compatibility of the Islamic imaginary with the structure of the modern state. A political agenda based on Revelation will be bound to coercively suit society to law rather than the other way around.

Olivier Roy, France’s leading philosopher-political scientist, disagrees with the way France is handling its ‘Muslim problem’ and warns it against what it calls Islamophobia, a collective sickness that will harm the country. He invites France to revisit its resistance to affording public space to religion and to differentiate between Islamic neo-fundamentalism, which is observance without demanding a separate state, and which is what the French Muslims want, and Islamism which assumes an Islamic state, and is plaguing the Islamic world. The expatriate Muslim in the West has integrated into the host culture less and less over the years. Two approaches to expatriate workers — assimilationism and multiculturalism — have failed. Assimilation insists that the expatriate person accept the local culture in public places to become a full-fledged citizen. Multiculturalism believes that Islam is a deep-seated culture too and will not fade away as new generations come and go. One approach opposes separation; the other allows separation to achieve integration. Both approaches have failed. Assimilationist France doesn’t allow the wearing of veil to Muslim girls in public places, and has caused protest. Multiculturalist UK, Belgium and Germany are poised to also follow France and restrict the wearing of the Muslim veil because allowing Muslim citizens to remain separate has not led to integration. Roy seeks resolution within the matrix of Western values and observance of human rights and thinks that remedies sought officially now are all wrong. He differentiates between the secularism of the UK where religion is kept out of public life through a culture of values and a way of life, and the laïcité of France where religion has been expelled from public places through a legalism agreed to by the Catholic Church. Yet he notes a lot of defence of Christian values in secular Europe through a damning interpretation of Islam. Writers like Oriana Fallaci not only condemn Islam for being against the culture of the West but claim that the Muslims are incapable of integrating because of their faith. Khaled Ahmed reports.

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