17 May 2012
The director of the Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence (FPC), Jose Manuel Lopez, went to Ceuta to participate with the Counselor of Education, Culture and Women, Mabel Deu, in the awarding diplomas ceremony to students of Spanish Language courses for religious leaders, an initiative that also includes the Instituto Cervantes, and that according to Lopez settles Ceuta as an example of normalization of Muslim issues.
The FPC intends to standardize the religious issues, from which the Muslim issues are also a part, and Ceuta in this field is “fundamental” to the State, considered Lopez because “diversity is normal here for years” while in the peninsula, “the people think of Muslims as foreigners” even when 35% of the Muslims living in the country are Spanish.
Misunderstandings frequently arise between migrants and specialist staff in government agencies and in schools. The new job of language and integration mediator is intended to provide a long-term solution to this problem.
The youth welfare office contacts the family of a pupil with a behavioural disorder, a woman is diagnosed as having breast cancer, a refugee tries to work through his traumatic experiences in therapy… In difficult situations, people need to talk to specialists in government agencies or medical or social institutions about their needs and possible solutions. Such dialogue is more difficult when the people who come together have different cultural backgrounds and different native languages, for example, migrants and specialist staff.
In response to this problem, a large number of local and regional projects have been developed in recent years in which bilingual and bicultural people who have experience of migration themselves are trained to become so-called language and integration mediators and who go on to work as neutral mediators at relevant institutions. During their training, they not only learn interpretation techniques, but also reflect on cultural differences in dealing with illness, gender roles, taboos and shame, learn to intervene appropriately when misunderstandings arise and to defuse conflicts.
The mediators-in-training acquire medical, psychosocial and legal knowledge and specialist knowledge about the education, health and social systems in Germany. In addition, they are familiarised with principals of professional ethics, with care structures in Germany and with the role of specialist staff in the relevant institutions. This puts them in a position not only to facilitate communication, but also to create a confidential and secure atmosphere, thereby raising the quality of dialogues.
This article in Libération charts Nicolas Sarkozy’s discourse on Arabic language instruction in France. The author suggests that while he has been extremely involved in the structuring of Islam in France and has presented himself as open to relationships with Mediterranean nations, there has been little advancement on his earlier promises related to Arabic instruction in public schools.
At Masjid Toronto, a mosque in Toronto’s downtown core, 20-or-so students attend the city’s only Islamic class for deaf Muslims. “Deaf Muslims don’t have many opportunities to meet others from that community, so the chance to have those social connections is very fulfilling,” said Amina Daimee, among the first Muslim ASL/English interpreters who graduated from the George Brown College program this year.
The teacher, Sheikh Abdool Hamid, keeps his lessons strictly in English so that Daimee can use American Sign Language to communicate. But in a class as diverse as this, even English has its limitations. Many began speaking Pakistani Sign Language, Arabic Sign Language and Turkish Sign Language long before they knew ASL existed — and are only now learning the nuances of the second language. Moreover, ASL doesn’t really take diversity into consideration, said Daimee. Words like ‘Mecca’ and ‘Mohammed’ simply don’t exist. So the class has agreed for now to simply spell such words out.
The University of Casablanca has instituted Dutch language courses to serve individuals seeking work in the Netherlands. This is the first time an academic institution in an Arab country has offered free Dutch courses, and over 100 students are enrolled in the course, Expatica.com reports. Although Dutch lessons are also available in the Egyptian and Syrian capitals of Cairo and Damascus, they are not offered by an institution.
A guidebook for politicians, police and public servants on how to talk about Muslims and terrorism without implicating the religion of Islam should be released by the end of the year. The book, A Lexicon on Terror, was conceived by Victoria Police and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, but was so popular it became a national project, an international conference on Islamophobia at Monash University heard yesterday.
Stephen Fontana, the assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism co-ordination, told the conference the aim was to reduce alienation and radicalism among young Muslims. “A comment we think is harmless, some communities read as an attack,” he said.
Multicultural Foundation head Hass Dellal said many Muslims interpreted “war on terror” as a war on Islam. Other terms to be avoided included “Islamic terrorism”, “Islamo-fascists”, “Middle Eastern appearance”, and “moderate Muslim”, which suggested to Muslims they were inadequate in their faith.
A Copenhagen municipality is planning to introduce Arabic classes in all the capital’s schools, in order to boost integration of Arab immigrants and to help promote trade with Arab countries. “It is very important that we give students a choice of languages that includes Arabic… There is a need to give a helping hand to young people from the Arab-speaking countries to reinforce their education and integration into Danish society,” said Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, the city’s vice-mayor in charge of youth policy. Kjeldgaard said that Arabic is planned to be introduced as a second language, alongside English, French, and German in all schools in Copenhagen. Kjeldgaard also believes that Arabic classes would give pupils from immigrant families more changes to success in the high school admission exams. According to official estimates, ten percent of Copenhagen’s 31,000 secondary school students speak Arabic as their mother tongue.
A Turkish minister underlined on Monday the importance of language in social integration. Turkey’s State Minister Mustafa Said Yazicioglu said that learning a language was important. “We are all aware of importance of learning a language, however it will be more beneficial if people learn a language in the country it is spoken,” Yazicioglu told a press conference in the German capital of Berlin. Yazicioglu earlier met German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Maria Bohmer, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration. The Turkish minister said that Turkey wanted its citizens living in Germany to be active in the society, and therefore was encouraging them to learn German. Yazicioglu said that particularly Turkish young people living in Germany were unemployed, and it was possible to reduce unemployment among those people by learning German and having an occupation. Yazicioglu said that the Religious Affairs Turkish Islam Association was exerting efforts to be taken as an interlocutor in teaching of religion in Germany.
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The Danish Security Service (PET) has proposed that the government refrain from using words and phrases such as jihad, holy war, Islamism, fundamentalism, mujahedines, and war on terror. In report entitled Language Use and Fighting Terrorism, PET recommends that authorities refrain from speaking of Muslims as a comprehensive population group related to terror and extremism. Instead of Islamic terrorism, PET suggests referring to terrorism – to reduce linking these contemporary issues to intrinsic religious affiliation or belief. AnjaDalgaard-Nielsen said that the issue is not one of political correctness, but of ensuring that the use of language is as precise and objective as possible. Justice minister Lene Esperson, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Integration minister Birthe Ronn Hornbech have not stated whether or not they will follow the PET recommendations.
All members of the Harvard community are cordially invited to attend the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program’s first annual conference entitled, “Interpreting the Islamic Tradition in the Contemporary World.” Events will be held on Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4. The agenda for the conference events is below. The conference is free, including the lunch reception on November 3 and the Gamelan performance on November 4. The events will take place on the first floor of the Barker Center both days.
Saturday, November 3
9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Thompson Room, Barker Center
John Bowen, Washington University in Saint Louis: “Ibn Ashur in Aceh and Paris: Adapting Shar?`a by way of its Objectives”
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton University: “Religious Authority and the Language of Ijtihad in Contemporary Sunni Islam”
Asef Bayat, Leiden University: “Fun and Fundamentalism”
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm Barker Center Middle Eastern lunch reception for members of the Harvard community
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center
Said Arjomand, State University of New York-Stony Brook: “Islamic Constitutionalism: Paradoxes and Pitfalls in the Appropriation of the Islamicate Political Tradition”
Farid Esack, Harvard University: “Redeeming Islam: Constructing the Good Muslim Subject in Contemporary Religious Studies”
Omid Safi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “Reforming Islam in the ’Axis of Evil’: Contesting Islam in Post-Revolutionary Iran”
Sunday, November 4
9:30 am – 12:30 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center
Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University: “Distinguishing Bigotry from Blasphemy in Contemporary Freedom of Speech Debates”
David Cook, Rice University: “Faith and Fornication: Behind the Murji’a Debate in Contemporary Islam”
Sherman Jackson, University of Michigan: “Ibn Taymya and Black Theodicy”
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Barker Center Concluding remarks, closing reception
Performance by Boston Village Gamelan Group