Female Muslim teachers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will be banned from wearing hijab at schools from next summer, according to a German press report. Officials in the State told Wednesday’s edition of the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung that the hijab ban would take effect from August 2006, Reuters reported. “Female and male teachers are not allowed to express any world views or any religious beliefs, which could disturb or endanger the peace at school,” North Rhine-Westphalia schools minister Barbara Sommer said. “That’s why we want to forbid (female) Muslim teachers at state schools from wearing headscarves.” State officials maintained that the decision would be probed with the Muslim groups in the state. They denied that the hijab ban was targeting religious beliefs of the Muslim minority. Germany’s constitution obliges the states to maintain strict religious neutrality but it does not enshrine a formal separation of church and state. Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. There are some 3.4 million Muslims in the country, including 220,000 in Berlin, and Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority. Controversy The hijab ban in schools has been a controversial issue in Germany for several years. The superior administrative court of Bremen ruled Monday, August 29, to ban a Muslim teacher from teaching in schools for her refusal to take off her hijab. Germany’s highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in 2003 that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing hijab in the classroom. But it said Germany’s 16 regional states could issue new legislations to ban it if they believe hijab would influence children. The states of Hamburg, Mechlenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thuringen still allow teachers to wear hijab. The state of Hessen also made amendments to its school laws, banning teachers from wearing any symbols of religious or political nature while allowing them a limited right to put on Christian or western symbols. In Bavaria, laws were enforced in 2004 banning teachers from wearing religious symbols that are not harmonious with Christian cultural values. The state of Brandenburg made the same amendments in 2003. Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations – unlike the symbolic Christian crucifixes or Jewish Kappas. France spearheaded anti-hijab European countries with its lower house of parliament adopting the controversial bill on February 10 last year with an overwhelming majority. The text, put forward by President Jacques Chirac’s ruling center-right Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) party and supported by the left-wing opposition Socialists, was adopted by a vote of 494 to 36. Shortly afterwards, other European countries followed the French lead. The French ban, described by international rights watchdogs as amounting to religious discrimination, prompted demonstrations across Europe. International figures also stood behind the Muslim right, including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Paris’s move is an anti-Muslim measure and accused Chirac plays a terribly, terribly dangerous game.
By Michael Kress When Shaheda Sayed was growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, her father would occasionally drive 100 miles to slaughter animals so his family could have meat. That’s because the family, devout Muslims, only ate food that was halal – permitted for Muslims. And, in those days, it could not be found in U.S. stores. Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permitted.” It’s used to describe acceptable behavior under Muslim law. When applied to food, the term refers to dietary laws that, among other things, require meat to be slaughtered in a prescribed manner. (Muslim law also sets out actions that are haram, or “prohibited.” These include drinking alcohol and eating pork.) “We never ate in McDonald’s,” Sayed said. So when she grew up, Sayed decided to address the problem. In 1998, she and her brother co-founded Crave Foods, a company that produces halal hamburger patties and frozen prepared dishes, including chicken rolls and spicy wings. The Los Angeles-based company soon will expand its product offerings to include hot dogs and Philly cheesesteaks. Halal slaughtering must be done by a pious Muslim who says a prayer immediately prior to the act, uses only healthy animals, slaughters each one away from other animals, employs a sharp knife to the neck to ensure a quick death, and lets the blood drain. According to most authorities, slaughtering must be done by hand, not machine. Some companies marketing themselves as halal sell machine-slaughtered poultry – a source of controversy among Muslims. Crave Foods, which now employs about 100 people, exemplifies the growth of the American halal food industry in recent years. Estimates on the size of the industry are hard to come by, but Muslim-friendly restaurants are easier to find than ever before, and packaged halal foods, once found only in ethnic shops, are increasingly stocked by mainstream supermarkets. Sayed might even be able to enjoy a Happy Meal today. Two McDonald’s restaurants in Dearborn, Mich., serve halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches. “The Muslim consumer population is becoming much more savvy, and the market has grown up around them,” said Shahed Amanullah, who runs the Web site zabihah.com, which lists halal restaurants in cities around the world. (“Zabihah” is the word for the type of slaughter that makes meat halal.) “Muslims are starting to demand higher quality.” Amanullah’s site started in 1998 with 300 restaurants. Now, it lists more than 3,000 establishments, “everything from Mexican to Brazilian to Philly subs to pizza,” he said. “That diversity only happened in the last year or two.” Still, many Muslims say the industry has a long way to go to fully serve the needs of America’s Muslim community, estimated at anywhere from 2 million to more than 6 million people, and growing quickly. “The halal industry has not reached maturity,” Amanullah said. “There’s a market opportunity there for somebody.” When Muslims can’t find foods that have been certified as halal, they rely on ingredient lists on labels. Or, they look for symbols marking a product as kosher, since the Jewish dietary laws are similar to Muslim ones. But labels sometimes omit ingredients found in minute quantities. Or they’re vague – what, exactly, are “natural flavors”? And the kosher laws, while similar to halal, are not identical: Jews, for example, are not prohibited from consuming alcohol. And halal does not share the kosher ban on mixing meat and dairy ingredients, so relying on kosher symbols can be overly restrictive for Muslims. There are other pitfalls, said Rasheed Ahmed, founder of the Muslim Consumer Group, which educates Muslims about halal products and certifies products as halal. Many Muslims, for example, might eat a fast-food fish sandwich, figuring it’s acceptable since fish need not be slaughtered in any particular way. But if the fish is cooked in the same oil as non-halal meat products, it is haram, Ahmed said. And marshmallows – found in sweetened cereals and other packaged foods – may be made with pork products. As a result of problems like these, many devout Muslims feel they have few choices. “Muslims who are serious about halal have been avoiding mainstream food,” said Muhammad Munir Chaudry, president of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, the largest U.S. organization that certifies products as acceptable for Muslims. Chaudry hopes to turn American Muslims from a people of label readers into one of symbol spotters. The council’s symbol, a crescent with the letter “M,” graces the products of nearly 2,000 companies, attesting that they are halal. That’s up from around 50 in 1990, he said. Other groups have their own symbols, such as the Muslim Consumer Group’s “H” in a triangle. “The trend is there,” Chaudry said of halal certification by mainstream food producers. “Companies have realized there’s a good-sized Muslim market here.” For a processed food to be certified as halal, it must pass muster with a certification group such as Chaudry’s. Representatives visit the production plant to inspect the ingredients used as well as the manufacturing and packaging methods. Representatives then revisit at least once a year. For companies that produce meat, the council has a halal supervisor on premises at all times, since the rules for slaughtering meat are complex, Chaudry said. His group’s fees range from about $2,000 a year to as much as $40,000 for large companies for which many products are certified. With the growth of the halal food industry, debates have broken out in the Muslim community over the rules and standards for deeming food acceptable. Must meat be hand-slaughtered or are machines acceptable? Must food businesses be Muslim-owned? Can a restaurant be considered halal if its food is okay but it serves alcohol? For many, such debates signal that the market has grown large enough to give Muslim consumers choices: It’s good if they have the luxury of discussing standards. If all that’s available is, say, machine-slaughtered meat, people wil* make do with what they have,” Sayed said. Increasingly, Muslims do not want to – nor are they forced to – simply make do. Muslims born and raised in America are more likely than their immigrant parents to call companies and request halal certification, Chaudry said. Advocates say certification brings benefits beyond helping America’s Muslims. For one thing, it helps U.S. companies export their products, since some Muslim countries mandate that all imports be halal. And certification can be used to market a product as wholesome. Being halal means a food has no hidden ingredients, and in the case of meat, that it does not come from a giant, automated slaughterhouse. “It’s going back to a simpler way of life,” Sayed said. “What we eat affects who we are and what we are, and our spirituality.” Such arguments were compelling to Cabot Cheese, a Vermont-based company that received certification in December 2003. The idea came up when company officials were discussing their kosher status, and the decision was based largely on demographics: Cabot services Northeast cities such as New York and Boston, which have large and quickly growing numbers of Muslims, as well as their Jewish populations. But the company was looking beyond these religious communities, hoping that kosher and halal certification sent a message to all consumers looking for healthy, natural foods. “If these foods are made in such a way that they can be both kosher and halal, it just speaks to a certain attention to detail and attention to food quality,” said Jed Davis, Cabot’s marketing director. “A lot of times, customers are looking for that type of third-party endorsement.” Becoming halal did not involve changing any Cabot products, so it’s “an inexpensive way of potentially dramatically increasing the market for our products,” Davis said. For now, Cabot’s decision is a minority one. Though finding halal food has become easier in recent years, many American food manufacturers still aren’t rushing to certify their products – at least, not yet. “But we are educating them,” said Ahmed of the Muslim Consumer Group
By Mary Beth Sheridan WASHINGTON — The federal government is waging part of the war against terrorism with a seemingly innocuous weapon: immigration law. In the past two years, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 suspects who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations, according to previously undisclosed government figures. Whereas terrorism charges can be difficult to prosecute, Department of Homeland Security officials say immigration laws can provide a quick, easy way to detain people who could be planning attacks. Authorities have used routine charges such as overstaying a visa to deport suspected supporters of terrorist groups. ”It’s an incredibly important piece of the terrorism response,” said Michael J. Garcia, who heads Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. And although immigration violations might seem humdrum, he said, ”They’re legitimate charges.” Muslim and civil liberties activists disagree. They argue that authorities are enforcing minor violations by Muslims and Arabs, while ignoring millions of other immigrants who flout the same laws. They note that many of those charged are not shown to be involved in terrorism. ”The approach is basically to target the Muslim and Arab community with a kind of zerotolerance immigration policy. No other community in the United States is treated to zero-tolerance enforcement,” said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and critic of the government’s antiterrorism policies. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, immigration agents were minor players in the world of counterterrorism. That changed during the investigation of the hijackings, when 768 suspects were secretly processed on immigration charges. Most were deported after being cleared of connections to terrorism. Unlike that controversial roundup, most of the recent arrests have not involved secret proceedings. Still, they can be hard to track. A few cases have turned into high-profile criminal trials, but others have centered on little-known individuals processed in obscure immigration courts, with no mention of a terrorism investigation. In some cases, the government ultimately concludes a suspect, while guilty of an immigration violation, has no terrorism ties. Authorities are often reluctant to disclose why an immigrant’s name emerged in a national security investigation, because the information is classified or part of a continuing inquiry. Homeland Security officials turned down a request for the names of all those charged in the past two years, making it difficult to assess how effective their strategy has been at thwarting terrorism.
Authors: Jocelyne Cesari and Peter DeWan
This first report presents the state of the art of the situation of Muslims in Europe. The socio-economic marginality, the legal status of religions, the recognition of multiculturalism, the immigration laws, all dimensions that shape the condition of Muslims in Europe have been modified by the security policies of post 9/11. We will also draw the outlines for the next steps in the research.
PARIS (Reuters) – A top European human rights watchdog said on Wednesday Britain’s anti-terrorism laws breached European standards and could force London to opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite improvements, Britain still tended to see human rights as an obstacle to the criminal justice system, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles said in a report. He welcomed a decision by Britain’s top court which forced Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government to drop a measure allowing detention of foreign terrorist suspects without charge. But problems remained with the law that replaced it. The 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act allows Britain’s Home Secretary (interior minister) to issue “control orders” against terrorism suspects, which restrict their freedom of movement, where they live and with whom they may communicate. “The Act acknowledges some … of these restrictions may be incompatible with Article 5 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) on the right to liberty, in which case the possibility of derogating from the UK’s obligations under this article is foreseen,” the report said. Control orders replaced the criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive. Special laws might be necessary to counter the risk of terrorist attack but judicial guarantees should always be applied, it added. Andrew Bell, a spokesman for the British government, said London welcomed the report and would “give careful consideration to the issues and recommendations.” In London, the minister responsible for the modernisation of the criminal justice system, Baroness Scotland, defended Britain’s far-reaching anti-terrorism laws. “Those control orders are proportionate,” she told Channel 4 television news. “What we are doing is limiting the ability of those individuals who’ve been identified as potentially causing a risk to our country… “I absolutely do not accept that we are in any way exaggerating the threat,” she said. “What are the alternatives? What is being suggested that we should put in place to keep our country safe?” Some British Muslims, who say they have borne the brunt of laws which give police extra powers to stop and search suspects, welcomed Gil-Robles’ report. The British Islamic Human Rights Commission commended it “for clearly shaming the UK as a nation which, rather than improving, is rapidly digressing from the most basic of human rights obligations”. “The British government … continues to oppress the minorities in Britain through a general policy of fear,” IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said. “Fear of terrorism, fear of asylum seekers, fear of Muslims and general fear of ‘the Other’.”
LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that Britain would hold only “a handful” of suspects under new anti-terrorism house arrest laws that are unique in Europe and have outraged rights campaigners.But his home secretary said a first target could be four British Muslims freed overnight after returning home from the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Britain announced the new house arrest powers on Wednesday to replace the power to jail foreigners without trial, which the highest court, the Law Lords, ruled violated basic rights. But rights campaigners say the new measures – which would target Britons as well as foreigners – were even more draconian than the laws they would replace. Blair, in a television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, sought to play down the likely impact. “It will not apply to anything other than a handful of people,” he said “I pay great attention to the civil liberties of the country,” he added. “But on the other hand, there is a new form of global terrorism in our country, in every other European country and most countries around the world. They will cause death and destruction on an unlimited scale.” The new measures would still require Britain to declare an emergency and suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, said Ian MacDonald, a lawyer who quit in protest from a panel appointed by the government to protect detainees. “That raises the question of how long is an emergency,” he added. “Why is it that no other country which faces the same threat has done the same thing?” Natalie Garcia, lawyer for two of the 11 foreigners jailed under the old measures, said the new laws were no improvement. “It’s still total loss of liberty, and total loss of liberty without due process is exactly what the Law Lords ruled is wrong,” she said. “It used to be foreigners. It can be absolutely anyone now.” Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who announced the new powers, said the targets could include the four freed Guantanamo men. “The individuals from Guantanamo are British nationals, so there isn’t any power to do anything but what we’ve done (release them),” he told BBC radio. “That’s precisely the reason why I made the announcement yesterday that we need to have a regime to deal with UK nationals as well.” The four were the last of nine Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay after years in US custody without charge. The Guantanamo detainees are widely regarded in Britain as victims of American injustice, causing political harm to Blair for his firm support of US President George W Bush. The decision by police to treat them as suspects on their return also angered Britain’s large Muslim community.
The Spanish government is considering censoring the sermons of Muslim imams in an attempt to control the spread of radical Islamic ideas – a move that has been criticised as a lurch towards authoritarianism. The interior minister, Jos_ Antonio Alonso, suggested the plan, which could also see a requirement that all preachers in mosques be registered. Mr Alonso told El Pa_s newspaper at the weekend: “We really need to improve the laws to control Islamic radicals. We need to get to a legal situation in which we can control the imams in small mosques. That is where the Islamic fundamentalism which lead to certain actions is disseminated.”
By Julian Isherwood, Scandinavia Correspondent Denmark will crack down on the immigration of Islamic preachers to try to stifle radicalism among its Muslims. A parliamentary bill does not mention the Islamic faith, but Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, has made the target of the legislation clear in announcing restrictions on “foreign missionaries”. The bill is expected to be passed by parliament within weeks. To cater for the Danish constitution, which bans any form of religious discrimination, the legislation will affect all religious persuasions. About 30 organisations under the banner of the Danish Missionary Society reacted strongly to the proposals yesterday, saying the government was “stifling the freedom of religion and thought”. The new laws are expected to curtail seriously the activities of some imams, who have been at the centre of controversy for making statements alleged to be anti-Semitic, or against current legislation.
By Julian Isherwood, Scandinavia Correspondent Denmark will crack down on the immigration of Islamic preachers to try to stifle radicalism among its Muslims. A parliamentary bill does not mention the Islamic faith, but Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, has made the target of the legislation clear in announcing restrictions on “foreign missionaries”. The bill is expected to be passed by parliament within weeks. To cater for the Danish constitution, which bans any form of religious discrimination, the legislation will affect all religious persuasions. About 30 organisations under the banner of the Danish Missionary Society reacted strongly to the proposals yesterday, saying the government was “stifling the freedom of religion and thought”. The new laws are expected to curtail seriously the activities of some imams, who have been at the centre of controversy for making statements alleged to be anti-Semitic, or against current legislation.”