Jews and Muslims gather in Amsterdam to reflect on Paris attacks

“We fight too, but with words. And even though we may be divided, in the first place we’re all inhabitants of Amsterdam."
“We fight too, but with words. And even though we may be divided, in the first place we’re all inhabitants of Amsterdam.” (Photo: ANP)

Last Tuesday about a hundred people joined to reflect on the attacks in Paris. Lody van de Kamp, member of the initiative Salaam-Shalom arranged the meeting. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan held a speech, during which people all held up the peace-sign with their fingers. The Mayor said: “We fight too, but with words. And even though we may be divided, in the first place we’re all inhabitants of Amsterdam.”

Via a Skype connection a rabbi and a member from a mosque in Paris joined the meeting and could see how Muslims and Jews in Amsterdam are in solidarity with the French people. The Rabbi hopes to see more of these initiatives in European cities.

According to deputy prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher the meeting is a sign from people who refuse to see each other as enemies. He further stated that the Netherlands remains a country where people are allowed to believe what they want, were they can wear signs of their religion such as a headscarf. And democracy is not to be defended with weapons, but with words and courage. Youth should be protected against those who try to seduce them to participate in a jihad.

In Rotterdam there was a similar meeting between Muslims, Jews and Humanists.

Guantánamo Bay: why can’t Shaker Aamer return home to London?

Shaker Aamer was sent to Guantánamo Bay in 2002, and cleared to leave in 2007. Now, weakened by hunger strike, he asks what his fate has to do with justice.

The allegations which Aamer denies and which no one has ever been able to prove, has led to Aamer spending years in detention, a stretch of incarceration that has led him, in despair, to embark on a life-threatening hunger strike. So far detainee US9SA-000239DP has endured 68 days without food, far beyond what is accepted as safe. Clive Stafford Smith, his British lawyer, concedes that for the first time Aamer, widely regarded as a robust and resourceful character, has started to raise the possibility that he might die inside Guantánamo Bay. He recently told Stafford Smith, who is director of the legal charity Reprieve, to brief his wife that he might not make it out alive after all. The hunger strike began because the guards disrespected the Koran again, but it’s about much more than that now. It’s about the fact that they told Aamer six years ago that I was cleared to leave, and return to my wife and four children, but here I am, still in Guantánamo. It’s about the man in the cellblock with him who is in a wheelchair, or would be if they had not taken it from him as a punishment for striking. It’s about the man who got so desperate that he tried to kill himself. Aamer’s continuing incarceration is bizarre given that the Americans ruled almost six years ago that he could be freed from Guantánamo. In June 2007, he was officially cleared for release. A security assessment by the US government acknowledged it had no concrete evidence against him. Two years later, the Obama administration reiterated the lack of a case against him, underlining the fact that he could be released. So why is Aamer the only one among the 16 detainees who possessed British citizenship and residency who is still being held in Guantánamo? Officially, the British government insists it is dedicated to extracting the father of four, a position it has publicly adopted for the past six years. Last Tuesday, the Foreign Office’s human rights report of 2012 reiterated that it was committed to secure Aamer’s release and return. His case, it said, had been raised on multiple occasions, including direct pleas from the foreign secretary, William Hague. The situation is such that Aamer is starting to suspect the regime at Guantánamo Bay is trying to kill him through medical neglect. Simultaneously, the strain on his family is starting to mount.

Germany’s 5th Integration Summit

31.01. & 01./02.02.2012

Last Tuesday, Chancellor Merkel hosted the fifth German integration summit, bringing together politicians and representatives of different immigrant groups and organizations.

When Merkel initiated the first integration summit in 2006, she made the integration of Germany’s migrant population a top political priority. At this first summit, the participants agreed on developing a national integration plan, which was presented at the second summit in 2007 and meant to be the basis for integration work in subsequent years. The third and fourth summits were, then, opportunities to assess what had been achieved – with many critical voices as to the progress with respect to integration made so far.

Amongst other things, this year’s summit focused specifically on the issue of language skills, which had already been a priority of recent summits as well as in the national integration plan. In addition, the summit focused on structures of the German state that essentially prevent immigrants from working in the civil service or civil service organizations. In this context, a particular goal formulated at the summit was to raise the number of migrants in these official positions. Furthermore, the summit’s participants talked about the recently uncovered right-wing terrorism cell in Germany. They called for more tolerance and a new “culture of welcome” in Germany as a clear sign against racism and right-wing ideologies. The participants then agreed on an “national action plan” to bring forward the practical implementation of the National Integration Plan.

As in previous years, the summit was – once again – criticized by opposition parties and migrant organizations for its mere symbolic character. Kenan Kolat, for instance, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, argued that the euphoria surrounding the first integration summits is over and it has now turned into a mere show-event.

New Mosque in Meßkirch

07./ 08.12.2011

Last Tuesday, the local council in Meßkirch (Baden Württemberg) agreed to the plans of a local Turkish-Muslim association to build a mosque in their town. Many Muslims attended the council meeting, during which some local politicians expressed their sympathy for the associations’ desire to build an appropriate place for worship.