Interview with Şeyla Benhabib about the status of Islam in Germany

The philosopher Şeyla Benhabib has identified a deficit in Germany’s democracy. She calls for the right to vote in local elections for non-nationals – and the same legal status for Islam as for other religions. “From the equal rights point of view, Islam has to be acknowledged as a religious community. There’s room for discussion on which form this should take and what consequences it should have, but the first priority is to abolish this plain and public form of unequal treatment. It is blocking the debate.”

Wilders To Stand Trial in January

A court in the Netherlands has ordered far-right politician Geert Wilders to stand trial in January 2010. The leader of the Freedom Party is charged with inciting discrimination and hatred with his statements about Islam and Muslims. The public prosecution court determined in January 2009 that Wilders would stand trial for his inflammatory remarks, including his film Fitna and comments on the “Islamisation” of the Netherlands. The decision was upheld by the high court in May 2009 and the January 2010 court date established this week.

Wilders has denied the charges and said he wants to put Islam on trial. “That is why I am considering calling on radical imams and other idiots as witnesses,” he told the Telegraaf. The trial will take place two months before local elections in which the PVV will participate.

PVV Will Contest Only Two Local Elections

Geert Wilders’ PVV party will stand in only two cities in next year’s local elections. Wilders, who thinks the Koran should be banned and wants a halt to immigration, said the PVV planned to focus on the national and regional elections in 2011. ‘We want to be ready to rule so we need to be in the senate,’ he told ANP.

Although Wilders had been planning to field candidates in more locations, the party will run only in Almere and the Hague. Wilders told ANP that the strategy is an attempt to avoid the fate of the late Pim Fortuyn’s anti-Islam LPF party in 2002, which the party took 26 seats in parliament but collapsed due to inexperience and infighting.

Political parties have criticized Wilders’ decision to largely ignore the local elections. Femke Halsema, leader of the leftwing Groenlinks party, told Telegraaf, “He takes part in the European election although he doesn’t believe in it and now he won’t take part in the cities where he says he wants to solve problems.” But Maurice de Hond describes Wilders’ decision as ‘very clever’ in electoral terms as making mistakes in local councils could cost the party in parliamentary elections, he tells Telegraaf.

First veiled Italian Muslim woman runs for local elections

Maymouna Abdel Qadar has become the first Italian Muslim woman wearing the hijab or headscarf to run for local elections. Abdel Qadar, who is of Palestinian descent, is running in the central city of Perugia – the elections will take place on June 6th and 7th. She is running for Perugia’s communal council for the Sinistra e Liberta coalition, which is made up of mainly socialist, anti-war, and secular parties. “Though being the first veiled Muslim woman that has ever run for elections in Italy, until now I have received a positive response from the people, who have also appreciated my choice, and look at me as a novelty of the local political scene,” said Abdel Qader. Maymouna is a political science graduate of the University of Perugia, and the daughter of Mohammed Abdel Qader, the imam of Perugia. She is also one of the founders of the Young Italian Muslims association. She has stated that her objective is to represent Italy’s second generation of Muslim immigrants in Italy – what she calls “the new Italians.”

Immigrants field list in northern city’s polls

Immigrants in the northern city of Padua are for the first time, fielding a list of candidates for local elections to be held in June, 2009. Among those being fielded include Mohammed Ahmed, a 52-year old Egyptian-born TV presenter, who has lived in Italy for more than 4 decades.

Ahmed said that he would be honored if selected to run for mayor. He currently presents special programs on local TV stations targeted towards immigrants, and is due to present a forthcoming TV news bulletin in Arabic.

Full text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

BNP Accused Of Exploiting Cartoons Row With Muslim Leaflet

The far-right British National party was yesterday accused of deliberately ramping up racial and religious tensions by launching a leafleting campaign with anti-Muslim messages, including controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The depiction of the prophet with a bomb as a turban was one of several images that sparked protests across the world earlier this year. The BNP’s move was criticised as a blatant attempt to reignite the controversy. Azad Ali, of the Muslim Safety Forum, said: “This is a deliberate ploy to create huge tensions … and it is adding to the isolation, fear and frustration felt by many people in the Muslim communities.” The BNP said the leaflet was part of a “coherent campaign to alert people to the Islamification of Great Britain”. It has produced another leaflet on immigration and a second on Islam, which describes the faith as “a threat to us all”. The leaflet was handed out in Sutton in south-west London. Politicians and community leaders said the BNP was trying to exploit a debate about plans to build a mosque in the area. Lal Hussain, a former Sutton councillor and the area’s first Asian mayor, said residents had been shocked. “This is not the sort of thing we expect round here but there is not a chance they will make any headway with these tactics. People here are far too literate and tolerant.” Nick Lowles, of the anti-fascist group Searchlight, said the BNP had run a concerted campaign designed to exploit anti-Muslim feeling since the London bombings last year. “Everywhere the BNP appears racist attacks increase and this leaflet will make it more difficult for Muslims and others to go about their day to day business without being threatened and intimidated.” The row began after a Danish newspaper, the Jutland Post, published cartoons mocking Muhammad. When a group of Danish imams travelled to the Middle East with the cartoons, the affair exploded into a worldwide cultural controversy. The BNP leaflet of Muhammad first appeared earlier this year. The party has also called on Muslims to be banned from flying into or out of the country. Yesterday Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, denied it was trying to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment and defended the “no-fly” policy. “Rather than inconvenience everybody we should ban all Muslims from flying in and out of Britain,” he said. The BNP gained 32 councillors in May’s local elections, including 11 of the 13 seats it contested in Barking and Dagenham, east London.

Uk Party To Print Muslim Cartoon Leaflets

By Kate Holton London – The far-right British National Party (BNP) said on Wednesday it planned to distribute a campaign leaflet featuring the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad which have enraged Muslims around the world. A spokesman for the fringe party, which has no seats in parliament but a handful on local councils, said its use of the images was not intended to cause offence, but illustrated how Islam and Western values do not mix. The party says it is not racist, but its leader Nick Griffin and another activist are due in court on race hate charges in October. Claims that Islam and Western values do not mix The 12 cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper and were later reprinted in other European countries, have sparked violent protests across the Islamic world. Many Muslims believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. At least 50 people have been killed during demonstrations around the world, and a Pakistani Muslim cleric last week offered rewards amounting to more than $1-million (R6,1-million) to anyone who killed any of the Danish cartoonists. The cartoons have not been published in Britain. About 15 000 Muslims staged a peaceful protest against the drawings in London last week. A demonstration earlier in the month provoked outrage because masked men held up placards calling for the beheading of those who insult Islam, and praised the London bombings last July which killed 52 people. The content of the leaflets can already be seen on the group’s website and the leaflets will be circulated ahead of local elections in May. ‘Mild and inoffensive’ The leaflet asks “Which Do You Find Offensive? A cartoon of Mohammad with a bomb for a turban or Muslim demonstrators calling for terrorist attacks on Europe and the ‘extermination’ of non-Muslims?” “By showing you just how mild and inoffensive the cartoon is, we’re giving you the chance to see for yourself the huge gulf that exists between the democratic values that we share, and the mediaeval views that dominate Islam, even supposedly ‘moderate’ versions,” the leaflet said. The party spokesman said the BNP wanted the cartoons to provoke debate. “We published the cartoon not to offend individual Muslims – that’s most important – but to make a stand for freedom,” he said. Ian McCartney, chairman of the ruling Labour Party, condemned the leaflets as “straight out of the Nazi textbook”. The BNP commands a fraction of the support of far-right parties elsewhere in Europe but has several seats on local councils, mainly in poorer areas with large ethnic populations.

Foreigners Given Voting Rights

Foreigners living in Belgium have been given the right to vote in the country’s local elections, whatever their nationality. The Belgian Parliament’s approval of the new voting law, marks the end of a long and often bitter debate that once again saw the country divided along linguistic lines. The country’s French speaking political parties carried the vote. Only one party from Dutch-speaking Flanders – the minority Flemish Socialist Party (SP.A) – voted in favour of the planned new rules. It is estimated that around 120 000 people are to contribute from the new regulations.