Islamic leaders welcome forum proposal

Islamic leaders are welcoming a proposal to include an international forum on promoting debate in the Muslim world at the Venice Biennale arts festival. Former president of the Venice Biennale, dedicated the theme of the 1977 Venice Biennale to dissent – in relation to Communist countries of the eastern bloc. He called for this contemporary similar proposal, concerning Islamic dissent. Ahmad Vincenzo, president of the Association of Muslim Intellectuals and lecturer at the Federico II University in Naples, stated I imagine that it would speak about dissent with regard to the regimes of many countries that have an Islamic majority. Not dissent towards Islam as a religion. Karima Moual, president of the Association of Young Moroccans also supported the proposal, as an initiative [that] would benefit if it made people from the Arab Islamic world participate […] I believe that the real problem in our countries is the absence of debate.

Iran granted prestige to world Muslims, says head of Austrian Islamic center

Head of Austria’s Shi’as Islamic Center said here Wednesday Islamic Republic of Iran granted prestige and grandeur to Muslims throughout the world. Muhammad-Ali Lances who was speaking for a group of pious Iranian youth attending the religious ‘Ea’tekaf’ ritual at Martyrs Mosque of Shiraz, added, “That is why we believe you are not merely responsible for the fate of your own country, but for the fate of the youth of the entire Islamic World.” Head of Austrian Shia’s Islamic Center added, “Furthermore, the Muslim youth can by abiding by the Islamic teachings become an excellent model for the youth of the entire world nations.” Presenting an image of the social, cultural and political status quo of Europe, Lances said, “The Europeans look at Islam as a proud and prestigious faith today, while in near past if someone would convert to Islam in Europe, or any other Western country, they would have accused him of being insane.” Pointing out that the Islamic Revolution of Iran is of great significance both among the European Muslims, and among the followers of other faiths there, he said, “One of the former Austrian presidents used to say that thanks to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the pious need not feel ashamed of being religious, and they can proudly claim their belief in God.”

Muslims should be free to convert, says cardinal, after death threats

Leading cardinal Angelo Scola called on the Islamic world to allow individual Muslims the freedom to convert to Christianity. The call comes following the death threats posed against Italian journalist Magdi Allam, concerning his conversion from Islam to Catholicism. Scola said that no one, including Muslims could impose the identity of the community to a point where it violates the human freedom of the individual, including the freedom to convert. Cardinal Scola stated that he does not want to see the end of Muslim societies or cultures, but stressed that the prerogative should be the individual, and to ensure that freedom of religion was an inalienable right.

Symposium on “Islam in the media” in Valencia

Several organizers are planning a symposium on May 9th in Valencia, to discuss the importance of the media, and how Islam is represented by various communication services. The primary goal o the meeting is to establish a roadmap or manual for journalists and journalism students that contains agreed upon consensus about issues related to the Islamic world. In addition, the aim is to promote a pluralistic and open debate about how to cover media information concerning the Islamic world, and to promote a two-way discussion to try to define some concepts that are presented in the media on a frequent basis, to avoid misinterpretation or biased views. The organizers of the symposium include the Islamic Cultural Center of Valencia and the Higher Council of the Valencia Region, and it is sponsored by the University of Valencia.

Fitna continues to draw protests across the Islamic world

Governments and citizens of Muslim countries throughout the world have voiced condemnation of the anti-Quran film made by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders. In Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang said Wilders would be barred from entering the archipelago of islands that make up the country. In Pakistan, several thousand took to the streets of Karachi to protest against both the release of the film and the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad reprinted in Denmark. Iran’s parliament speaker called on Muslim nations to boycott Dutch products in response to the film, asking Muslims to avoid buying products made in those countries which allow themselves to insult Islam. In Jordan, a group of lawmakers demanded that the government sever its ties with the Netherlands. In Malaysia, as in many countries, Muslims protested outside the Dutch Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, shouting Long live Islam and Crush the Netherlands. The ambassadors of 26 Islamic countries want the Netherlands to investigate whether the film can be banned. The meeting at the ministry in the Hague was attended by ambassadors of countries including Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Denmark: Denmark: Royal Library will not display Mohammed cartoons

Denmark’s national library will house the cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad that provoked violent riots throughout the Islamic world two years ago. The Royal Library has declared the drawings to be of historic value, and is trying to acquire them for preservation purposes. It has agreed to take possession of the caricatures on behalf of the museum of Danish cartoon art, and negotiations with the artists of the 12 cartoons are said to be at an advanced stage. We are not interested in an exhibition, we are interested in them being kept safe for future generations because they have created history in Denmark said Jytte Kjaergaard, a spokeswoman for the library.

Western Muslims and Terrorism Prevention

THE HAGUE — Imagine for a moment a Muslim teenager somewhere in Europe, with the internet in his living room, the world in his mind and his heart torn apart by a million identities, as Swiss-born Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan describes him. How do you prevent that young Muslim from being lured by radical ideas? That was the question at the heart of a conference organized here recently by the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter-terrorism (NCTb). The answer often depended on the religious background of the speaker. Muslims said historical grievances — real or imagined — that had left the Islamic world feeling wronged by the West must be tackled…

Bernard Lewis Applauds the Crusades

Famed Princeton Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis drew a standing ovation from a packed house of conservative luminaries Wednesday night in a lecture that described Muslim migration to Europe as an Islamic attack on the West and defended the Crusades as a late, limited and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad that spread Islam across much of the globe. Lewis gave the nearly hour-long speech at the annual black-tie dinner of the American Enterprise Institute after receiving the group’s Irving Kristol Award. Among the attendees were Vice President Dick Cheney, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and ex-Pentagon official Richard Perle. Notably absent was I. Lewis Scooter Libby, convicted this week of perjury and obstruction of justice. At last year’s event, Libby, then under indictment, received considerable support from attendees. The 90-year-old Lewis, seen by some as the intellectual godfather behind the administration’s decision to invade Iraq, warned in his lecture that the West – particularly Europe – was losing its fervor and conviction in the face of an epochal challenge from the Islamic world. The Islamic world, he said, was now attacking the West using two tactics: terrorism and migration. He listed ideological fervor and demography as two of the chief strengths that the Muslim world had in its favor in its face off against the West, but fell short of offering any prescriptions for what Europe should do to stem the flow of immigrants from North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Lewis, author of The Arabs in History and Islam and the West, among many other books, also gave a ringing endorsement for the ill-fated Crusades, which spanned two centuries starting in 1095, when various European armies tried to regain the Holy Land for Christendom. -Neil King Jr. CORRECTION: Bernard Lewis called the Crusades a late, limited and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad, not a successful imitation as incorrectly described in the original post. In the AEI speech, he made the point that the Crusades, as atrocious as they were, were nonetheless an understandable response to the Islamic onslaught of the preceding centuries, and that it was ridiculous to apologize for them. The more central point to his speech was that Europe in particular is now losing its conviction in facing off against Islamic extremism and migration.

Pope remarks reveal harder stance

The furore over the Pope’s remarks about Islam has left many Catholics inside and outside the Vatican shaking their heads in disbelief. Aides of Benedict XVI are dismayed that a quotation used to illustrate a philosophical argument should have provoked such anger from Muslims. But for others, the row has highlighted their concerns about the Pope’s attitude towards the Church’s relations with the Islamic world.

Turkey: The West Needs Turkey

By Simon Tisdall Nicolas Sarkozy’s flat rejection of Turkey’s EU membership bid does not mean the game is up for Ankara. France’s ambitious interior minister believes he is a natural successor to Jacques Chirac. But he has not been elected president yet – and will not be if the centre-left’s likely candidate, S_gol_ne Royal, has her way next spring. Nor does he run the EU. All the same, Mr Sarkozy’s views, when coupled with the hostile attitude of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other European leaders, make discouraging reading for the Turks. “We should, for many reasons, deepen relations with Turkey but without going as far as full membership,” he said in Brussels. “We have to say who is European and who isn’t. It’s no longer possible to leave this question open.” Mr Sarkozy’s negative positioning reduces the incentives for Turkey to comply with EU demands ahead of next month’s “progress report” by Olli Rehn, the enlargement chief. They include the abolition of laws limiting freedom of expression that often give rise to nationalist show trials, such as that due later this month of Elif Shafak, a best-selling author accused of “insulting Turkishness”. EU demands also focus on the treatment of Turkey’s disadvantaged Kurdish minority, dependable economic management in the wake of June’s currency crisis, and Cyprus. The EU contributed to this latter problem by admitting the island in 2004 without insisting the majority Greek Cypriots accept the UN’s peace plan. Now, predictably, they and Greece are threatening dire consequences if Turkey does not open its ports to Greek Cypriot trade. Turkish Cypriots say any such move should be reciprocal – but their isolated government is in disarray and their voice is barely heard. Opinion polls suggest the European cold-shouldering of Turkey is having a wider public impact. Last week’s Transatlantic Trends survey by the German Marshall Fund found that 32% of Europeans regarded Turkey’s EU membership as a “bad thing”, up 12 points in two years. Turkish opinion “has cooled towards the US and Europe but has warmed to Iran”. American and British governments have long viewed majority Muslim Turkey as a bridge to the Islamic world. But such growing goodwill towards George Bush’s “Tehran tyrants” may be seen as a bridge too far. Europe’s leaders have only themselves to blame for such trends. They are pushing Turkey away when the west needs it more than ever – a fact more readily conceded in Washington than in some European capitals. Despite strong domestic opposition, Ankara agreed last week to contribute up to 1,000 troops to UN peacekeeping in Lebanon, giving a Muslim complexion to a predominantly European, French-led effort. Mr Sarkozy conveniently ignored that. Nato also wants more Turkish sharp-end help in Afghanistan. “We have many important capabilities to offer the EU,” said a Turkish diplomat. “We talk to the Iranians from time to time. We are not mediators but we try to ensure both sides understand each other. We have good relations with both Israel and the Palestinians. Turkey has been an important force for stability in Iraq.” The EU might also reflect on Turkey’s growing role as an alternative, non-Russian route for Caspian and central Asian oil and gas, as a rare democratic partner in the Islamic world and in fighting terrorism, the diplomat said. “Joining the EU remains a major foreign policy objective. Most Turks still support this. We will keep working on this. But Europe should understand it needs Turkey, too.”