Council for religious leaders in Belgium

The World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) in Belgium announced the establishment of a council for religious leaders of Belgium. The establishment of this council will take place on November 20th. Spiritual leaders have previously represented Buddhists, Christians of various churches, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, and Muslims. The leaders will meet regularly, in solidarity and equal footing, fulfilling the need for inter-religious discussion and dialogue.

They want the Iberian Peninsula back

A presenter of the Palestinian television channel Al-aqsa affirmed during a children’s programme that the Andalusia, current region of the Iberian Peninsula will be soon under Islamic rule. In the video of the programme The Pioneers of Tomorrow (now available at the YouTube site) he refers that the Islamic dominium through the will of Allah promotes love, justice and the good. More, he added that Christians and Jews had never had a better life than the one they had under Islamic power. At the end of the programme he left a message to his young viewers: they should contribute to the recovery of the Islamic glory.

Muslims need to take part: Palestinian dispossession is a reason to participate in Holocaust Memorial Day, not boycott it

The freedom for Muslims to express their identity in Europe is today under attack. Implicit in this attack is the view that Islam is intrinsically repressive, and embodies values alien to western values of liberty, tolerance and democracy. The memory of the Holocaust stands against such a grossly sanitised view of European history. It reminds us that in the heart of modern Europe the demonisation of a religious and cultural minority culminated in genocide – the mass, industrialised slaughter of European Jews. Why then, with European Muslims subject to attacks reminiscent of the gathering storms of anti-semitism in the first decades of the last century, has Holocaust Memorial Day become such a difficult issue for some British Muslims? One objection has been outlined by Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain. “There have been many further instances of genocide and mass killings since we vowed ‘never again’ in response to the Nazi crimes,” he has pointed out. “Do the innocent killed in those horrific episodes not equally deserve to be commemorated in a more inclusive and aptly titled Genocide Memorial Day?” However, for many Muslims, arguments about the specificity of the Holocaust are not the main reason they are uneasy about participation in memorial events. The main reason is Palestine. The way in which Zionists have abused the memory of the Holocaust to bolster support for today’s Israeli state and its racist and murderous policies towards the Palestinians repels many Muslims, as well as some anti-Zionist Jews, from participating. In fact, Palestine should not be a reason for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day, but a reason for participating. As the peace campaigner Uri Avnery, who organised a demonstration against the killing of Palestinian children on last year’s Holocaust Memorial Day in Tel Aviv, put it: one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that you must not accept an ideology telling you “that other people are inferior and subhuman” or that loyalty to your country justifies “the occupation of another country and oppression of another people”.

What British Muslims Think

The London transport bombings of July 2005 prompted no less than eight surveys of Muslim opinion in Britain within the year. When added to two surveys from 2004, they provide in the aggregate a unique insight into the thinking of the nearly 2 million Muslims in “Londonistan.” The hostile mentality they portray is especially alarming when one recalls that London’s police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, recently told the Times of London that the threat of terrorism “is very grim” because there are, “as we speak, people in the United Kingdom planning further atrocities.” The July 7 attacks: About one in 20 British Muslims has voiced overt sympathy for the bombings a year ago. Separate polls find that between 2% and 6% endorse the attacks, 4% refuse to condemn them, 5% believe the Koran justifies them, and 6% say the suicide bombers were acting in accord with the principles of Islam. Without endorsing the attacks, far larger numbers show an understanding for them: Thirteen percent say the July 7 suicide bombers should be regarded as “martyrs,” 16% say the attacks were wrong but the cause was right, while 20% feel sympathy for the “feelings and motives” of the attackers. A whopping 56% can see “why some people behave in that way.” Help the police? A worrisome number of Muslims would not help the police if they suspected a fellow Muslim was planning a terrorist attack, ranging in different surveys from 5% to 14% to 18%. Violence acceptable? Before July 7, 2005, 11% found it acceptable “for religious or political groups to use violence for political ends,” but only 4% thought so after the attacks, showing a rare improvement. Two polls turned up the identical figure of 7% of Muslims endorsing suicide attacks on civilians in Britain. (Among 18- to 24-year-olds, those most likely to carry out such an attack, the number jumps to 12%.) How about suicide attacks on the military in Britain? Positive answers came in at 16% and 21% (with 28% of 18- to 24-year-olds). Are the respondents themselves willing to embrace violence to bring an end to “decadent and immoral” Western society? One percent, or some 16,000 persons, answered in the affirmative. Muslim or British: Polling indicates that a majority of Muslims perceive a conflict between their British and Muslim identities. Two polls show that only a small proportion identifies itself first as a British (7% and 12%), but they differ widely on the number who identify first with their religion (81% and 46%).??Implementing Islamic law: Muslims widely state that Shariah should reign in Britain. Forty percent approve of Shariah being applied in predominantly Muslim areas, and 61% want Shariah courts to settle civil cases among Muslims. All of 58% want those who criticize or insult Islam to face criminal prosecution. Schools should be prohibited from banning female pupils from wearing the hijab, say 55%, while 88% insist that schools and work places should accommodate Muslim prayer times. Integration into Britain: In a nearly mirror image of each other, 65% say Muslims need to do more to integrate into mainstream British culture, and 36% say modern British values threaten the Islamic way of life. Twenty-seven percent feel conflicted between loyalty to fellow Muslims and to Britain. Of those who despise Western civilization and think Muslims “should seek to bring it to an end,” 32% endorse nonviolent means and 7% violent means. Attitudes toward Jews: Polls confirm that the anti-Semitism widespread in the Muslim world also rears its head in Britain. About half the Muslims polled believe that Jews in Britain have too much influence over Britain’s foreign policy and are in league with the Freemasons to control its press and politics. Some 37% consider Jews in Britain “legitimate targets as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East,” and 16% state that suicide bombings can be justified in Israel. (Among 18- to 24-year-olds, that number rises to 21%.) In sum, more than half of British Muslims want Islamic law and 5% endorse violence to achieve that end. These results demonstrate that Britain’s potential terrorists live in a highly nurturing community.?

Imams In Spain Say Muslims And Jews Must Confront Extremism

SEVILLE, Spain, March 23 — Scores of rabbis and imams gathered here this week to discuss what they called a deepening crisis in relations between Muslims and Jews, saying religious leaders must confront religious extremism and the failure to make meaningful progress on the conflict in the Middle East. The meeting did not produce any sweeping agreements, but it was nonetheless heralded by many participants as a breakthrough, bringing together religious leaders who have the potential to bridge the divisions between Muslims and Jews, but who rarely interact. Leaders who seldom cross paths despite living only minutes apart, like ultra-Orthodox rabbis from Israel and former members of the radical Palestinian group Hamas, spent four days in a hotel here sitting in the same rooms, eating the same meals and occasionally talking, guardedly at first, but increasingly freely as the conference progressed. You have some of the most fundamentalist people from both religions here, said Eliezer Simcha Weisz, a rabbi in Emek Hefer, Israel. These people would never sit together in Israel. The meeting, organized by the French foundation Hommes de Parole, which promotes dialogue between conflicting groups, included hostile exchanges and pointed arguments about terrorism, Israeli settlements and claims to Jerusalem. But it also led to some uninhibited displays of camaraderie, like rabbis and imams singing and dancing together during an impromptu musical performance in the hotel lobby near midnight. But sporadic displays of conviviality did not temper the underlying tension. At the opening ceremony on Sunday, the chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, noting that most Muslims are moderates, asked the imams in the audience: Why don’t you speak when Bin Laden invokes your religion to justify terrorism? Why don’t you express yourselves in a loud voice? Even discussions as seemingly innocuous as the virtues of peace often turned into arguments. No one can speak about peace while there is occupation, said Imad al-Falouji, a former Hamas member and one of the most prominent imams in Gaza, referring to the Israeli presence in the West Bank. But the participants appeared to agree broadly that tensions between Muslims and Jews had grown worse in recent years in part because religious leaders had lost their voice, allowing politicians, diplomats and, most worrisome, extremists to dictate relations between the two religions. Religion has been misused by the fundamentalists, who have taken over religion and made us hostages, said Andr_ Azoulay, a Jew from Morocco who is a senior adviser to King Mohammed VI. They could do so because we were silent. Rabbi Daniel Sperber, president of the Institute for Advanced Torah Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, said that religious leaders had many shared beliefs and might be able to reach agreements where diplomats had failed. We haven’t even begun to tap the resources of the religious world, he said. This is the first stage, trying to bring people together to establish some sort of common agenda. At the conclusion of the conference on Wednesday, the leaders issued a joint communiqu_ denouncing the use of religion to justify violence and urging respect for religious symbols, an apparent response to the recent protests of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The declaration also included an implicit condemnation of statements from Hamas and the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling for the destruction of Israel. We condemn any incitement against a faith or people, let alone any call for their elimination, and we urge authorities to do likewise, the statement said. But the real value of the conference, most participants said, was in the informal meetings that took place in the hallways and at the dinner tables, allowing participants to put faces on people often portrayed as the enemy back home. Ashour Kullab, a Muslim leader from Gaza who had never spoken with a rabbi before coming here, said he spoke with two rabbis on the first morning of the conference. There were no problems with them, he said. They listened and I listened. They are my friends now. The encounter, he said, could never have happened in the Gaza Strip, where extremists do not tolerate friendships with Jews. If I go with them in the streets in Gaza, I might get shot, he said. The group first met last year in Brussels. In bringing the conference to Seville this year, organizers hoped to recapture some of the relative harmony that is said to have governed Muslim-Jewish relations here during the Middle Ages, when Spain was a Muslim-controlled territory called Al Andalus. That sense of cooperation seemed to find its way into many discussions. During a coffee break early in the conference, Stuart Altshuler, a rabbi from Mission Viejo, Calif., got into an angry dispute with Mr. Falouji, the imam from Gaza, over the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But the two made up shortly after, saying they had benefited from the exchange. I was able to meet with Falouji from Gaza, Rabbi Altshuler said the next day. I’ve dreamed of a chance to do that.

Conservative Christians Express Little Sympathy For Muslims’ Outrage

WASHINGTON – Many conservative Christians have long regarded the media as enemy territory, where traditional values are at best misunderstood and often mocked. So you might think they would relate sympathetically to Muslim outrage over the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. That outrage has sparked violent protests throughout the Islamic world. But concerns about the goals of radical Islamic leaders, a sense that a double standard pervades the Muslim media and a general distaste for organized violence have overridden any empathy most Christian conservatives might feel for angry Muslims. “Unfortunately, the protesters are hinting that the cartoonist might have been right,” said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “They’re killing fellow Muslims and destroying property. Maybe the radical protests are validating the cartoon instead of proving that cartoon wrong.” No Christian leader ever espoused violence to retaliate against Piss Christ, the controversial 1989 artwork — a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine — by Andres Serrano, even though that riled many Christians, noted Gary Bauer, president of American Values and a longtime leader among religious conservatives. “I understand why any religious person would get upset if they think their faith is disparaged in a drawing or a cartoon,” Bauer said. “But… how can (the cartoons) engender a greater emotional reaction than the daily bombings and attacks by groups claiming to do them in the name of Allah? “It doesn’t look like a call for respect,” Bauer concluded of the Muslims’ protests. “It looks like a call for submission.” Indeed, many evangelical Christians see militant Islam replacing communism as the greatest global threat, said Allen Hertzke, professor of political science and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma. “They see this phenomenon as part of an orchestrated effort by what they call Islamo-fascists to take over the Islamic world,” Hertzke said. Then there’s the apparent double standard for acceptable religious satire in Muslim media, especially regarding Jews. Jews are routinely lambasted and stereotyped in the Muslim media. Hertzke recalled a Syrian TV program shown in Jordan that depicted Jews using the blood of children to make matzo. A recent cartoon on a Muslim group’s Web site showed Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, a teenage Jewish martyr during World War II, saying, “Write this one in your diary, Anne.” “Many evangelicals have very positive views toward Jews, and evangelicals support Israel,” said John Green, a professor at the University of Akron who specializes in religion and politics. “And it’s interesting that in the protests of these cartoons, the language quickly turned anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. That sends up a red flag for evangelical Christians.” Christian conservatives also generally echo the views of the Bush administration, which condemned the Muslim violence but backed off early criticisms of the cartoons themselves. President Bush pointed out that such are the vagaries of life with a free press. “The appreciation of pluralism is something that every religious group has to grow in,” Haggard of the evangelicals’ group said. “We evangelicals struggle with this issue every time we send one of our kids off to college. But we think pluralism is a high value…. Radical Muslim extremists have to grasp that pluralism is a fact of life for all cultures. We’re into a new world.”

Religious Hate Law Aimed At Protecting Muslims Passes Uk Vote

Patrick Goodenough, International Editor (CNSNews.com) – In a victory for British Muslim campaigners, the House of Commons Monday passed a bill aimed at curbing religious hatred, despite critics’ warnings that it could worsen relations between religious communities. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill passed its third reading by a 301-229 vote, just hours after Prime Minister Tony Blair’s press secretary declined to rule out using the measure, if it becomes law, against Muslim figures who may incite violence against Christians and Jews. Spokesman Tom Kelly told a Downing Street press conference he would not get into hypothetical speculation about individuals, but the law would be there and it would be applied correctly. Last Thursday’s terrorist bombings in London have focused renewed attention on controversial Muslim figures based in the capital who have long advocated jihad against the West. Islamic organizations have lobbied hardest for the legislation, saying their community needed protection, given an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11. They argued that while Jews and Sikhs were already protected by race-hate laws – because they are seen as ethnic groups as well as religious ones – Muslims were not covered in this way, hence the need for a specific religious hatred law. Two previous attempts by the Labor government to get the law passed since 2002 failed, the first running into strong opposition in the upper House of Lords, and the second running out of time earlier this year when parliament was dissolved ahead of elections. After Monday’s Commons vote, the bill now goes to the House of Lords where it is again expected to face tough objections. If passed, the legislation will create a new offence, applying to written material and public verbal comments “that are threatening, abusive or insulting [and] likely to stir up racial or religious hatred.” Anyone convicted under the law could be jailed for up to seven years. Opposition parties – and some Labor MPs – oppose the bill for various reasons, including concerns that it could stifle free speech or infringe the right of the adherents of one faith to question the claims of another. Opposition lawmakers proposed an amendment that would outlaw religious hatred in specific cases where it is used as a pretext for stirring up hatred against an ethnic group. But the proposal was defeated Monday by 291 votes to 233. Senior Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve said in the Commons that the bill was “catastrophically flawed” and would not improve race relations. “If the government really wants to tackle this issue, it is going to have to get away from the promises made to various people of some equal playing field, accept that religion and race are different, start to look at the real nature of the problem and try to come up with some constructive solutions,” he said.b What About The Koran? In an earlier Commons debate, a Conservative MP raised the possibility that the law, if passed, could outlaw the reading of passages of the Koran that called for harsh treatment against Christians and Jews. Following those assertions, a delegation of prominent Muslims held talks last week with the government minister responsible for the bill, Paul Goggins, to check whether the legislation could affect reading and quoting from the Koran and other Islamic texts such as the Hadith — the traditional sayings of Mohammed and other early Muslim figures. There were concerns in the Muslim community “that dawah [proselytizing] and propagatory practices may be curtailed under the new legislation,” the Muslim Weekly reported. The delegation suggested that it may be preferable to “totally exempt” Islamic texts from the bill. “The minister assured the Muslim community that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent scholars from delivering their sermons or from reciting from the Koran,” the Muslim publication said. Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie, who headed the delegation, said afterwards he was glad the confusion had been cleared. “Muslim scholars may proceed uninhibited in the performance of their duties,” he said. The MCB has led the lobbying to get the law passed. The Barnabas Fund, a British charity working among Christian minorities in Islamic countries, has played a key role in Christian opposition to the bill. Commenting on the Muslim Council’s attempt to get the Koran exempted from the law, the Barnabas Fund said Muslim leaders in Britain had done their best to have themselves protected by the proposed law. “Now faced with the anti-Christian and anti-Semitic parts of their holy books it appears some are realizing that unless they claim exemption they also will be vulnerable to prosecution,” it said. “This shows the desperate need for Islam to reform itself. Muslim leaders must have the courage to reform their faith and reinterpret the war passages of the Koran and Hadith in a spiritual and peaceable way.” The Barnabas Fund said the bill could cause disharmony among different faiths in Britain. “It also has the potential to silence those who speak out on behalf of millions of people who suffer as a result of particular religious teachings, such as Muslims who convert to another faith (who should be executed according to Islamic law) or Dalits (treated as ‘untouchables’ in the traditional Hindu caste system).” Other opponents of the bill include lawyers, civil libertarians, and actors such as comedian Rowan Atkinson who worry it would outlaw religious jokes. On Monday leaders of evangelical African and Caribbean churches in Britain rallied against the bill, saying it could affect their ability to share the Christian gospel with non-Christians. A petition signed by hundreds of British churches and handed to the government Monday warned about the effects on freedom of speech, saying that “the mere quoting of texts from both the Koran and the Bible could be captured and criminalized by this law.” Also lobbying in parliament was Australian evangelical pastor Danny Nalliah, who together with a colleague has been found guilty of vilifying Islam under a similar law in the Australian state of Victoria. The two pastors face the possibility of going to prison if they defy — as they intend to do — a judge’s order to apologize publicly. Some critics have accused the British government of pushing the bill as a sop to Muslims who traditionally support Labor but were angered by the government’s policies on Iraq. “In essence Labor aims to reward the MCB with a piece of legislation in return for the Muslim vote during the election,” says Sunny Hundal, editor of Asians in Media, a media industry magazine. In an article published last week, Hundal criticized the bill, saying that while “Islamophobia is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with” the legislation would likely affect voices within the Asian community that go against “politically correct stances.”

Belgium’s Jews Demand ‘Zero Tolerance’ After Stabbing

Up to a thousand people demanding zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium gathered in Antwerp on Monday to protest about last week’s stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths in the city. Members of Belgium’s Jewish community want the government to do more to deal with what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks by a minority of Muslims living in the country. “We want the authorities to adopt a zero tolerance policy,” a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp, who asked not to be named, told Expatica. “We should not bring the war between Israel and the Palestinians here to Belgium. If they want to fight, they should go over there,” he added. According to the spokesman at least 1000 people turned up to Monday’s demonstration, which was held in front of Antwerp’s Portuguese synagogue. Police put the number of protestors at between 800 and 900. The young boy at the centre of the furore was stabbed shortly after he and three friends left a Jewish school in the Antwerp suburb of Wilrijk on Thursday night. The four boys were chased by a gang of 10 to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments. Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition but is now out of danger. According to the Jewish community spokesman, the boy, who has not been named, is lucky to be alive. “They were clearly trying to kill him. His lung was damaged by the knife. We are lucky today’s demonstration was not a funeral,” he said. The Antwerp protest followed a similar show of anger in Brussels on Sunday, which was attended by some of Belgium’s leading politicians. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx told demonstrators on Sunday that the government would do everything it could to catch the youths responsible for the Antwerp stabbing. Jewish community leaders recognised on Monday that the Muslim community as a whole in Belgium was not anti-Semitic. “The Muslim community is not attacking the Jewish community. Relations between us are actually very good. But it is a minority of young Muslims who are attacking Jews,” the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp told Expatica.

Muslim ‘Hate’ Preacher Loses Appeal

By Adam Blenford A Muslim preacher jailed for nine years after he urged his followers to rise up and kill the “enemies of Islam” lost an appeal against his conviction today, but had his sentence cut by two years. Jamaican-born Abdullah el-Faisal, 39, a former preacher at Brixton mosque in south London, encouraged his followers to kill Jews, Americans and non-believers in a series of inflammatory speeches and recordings. He told schoolboys that they would spend eternity in paradise with 72 virgins if they fought and died in a jihad, or holy war. El-Faisal was sentenced to seven years for soliciting murder and a further two years for inciting racial hatred at the Old Bailey last March. His sentences were to run concurrently. The judge recommended that el-Faisal, of Stratford, east London, be deported at the end of his sentence. The ground-breaking trial was the first prosecution of a Muslim cleric in this country.