Muslims protesting the publication in European media of cartoons depicting Mohammed have once again directed their anger at the United States despite the fact most American mainstream newspapers have not reproduced them. Sentiment about the allegedly blasphemous cartoons appears increasingly to be blurring into a broader anti-U.S. feeling in some parts of the world, with some angry Muslims using President Bush’s scheduled tour to India and Pakistan early next month as a rallying point.
The European Union has backed Denmark in the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but leaders of its legislature differed over the limits of free speech. The cartoons, first published in Denmark, caused outrage in the Muslim world, and Danish and other European diplomatic missions have been attacked in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia. Political leaders from all groups rallied behind Copenhagen in a special debate in the European Parliament, declaring that an attack on Denmark was an attack on all member states and condemning the resort to violence by some protesters. However, libertarians warned against any attempt to make the media adopt self-censorship. “I want here today to send my solidarity to the people of Denmark,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said, calling Danes “a people who rightly enjoy the reputation as being amongst the most open and tolerant not just in Europe but in the world”. Danish goods have been subject to boycotts in some Muslim countries, and Barroso was applauded when he said such action was by definition a boycott of European goods. Companies slammed Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit condemned companies such as French hypermarket chain Carrefour and Swiss food giant Nestle for issuing notices in Muslim countries saying they were not Danish or did not stock Danish goods. He and liberal spokeswoman Karen Riis-Joergensen urged the European Commission to drop the idea of encouraging the media to adopt a voluntary code of conduct that would avoid offending religious sensibilities. “If we start undermining freedom of expression, our right to analyse any religion critically, our fundamental right to speak freely and express ourselves will be violated,” Riis-Joergensen said. However, Austrian President Heinz Fischer, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, appeared in an address to the EU legislature to call for media self-restriction. “If a ban on pictorial representation constitutes an essential element of a religion, one ought not and must not offend against this principle twice – not only by disrespecting this ban, but also by reinforcing this hurtful violation of a taboo in the form of a caricature,” he said. Islamic tradition forbids depicting the prophet. Reverse condemnation The leader of the centre-right European People’s Party, Hans-Gert Poettering, called for a commission of experts chosen by the EU and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to review schoolbooks for ethnic and religious prejudice. Brandishing magazines published in Muslim countries, he said: “We have documents of hundreds of cartoons and caricatures which make a mockery of our values and our religion. So these cartoons exist in the Islamic world too.” The socialist and liberal groups each symbolically chose a Danish EU member as its speaker in the debate. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Socialist former prime minister of Denmark, said he was shocked to see people attacked, flags burned and embassies damaged. He criticised his centre-right successor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister, for refusing to meet ambassadors from Muslim countries when they asked to see him last year after the cartoons were first published. Dialogue Fogh Rasmussen was quoted in Algeria’s al-Watan newspaper on Wednesday as saying he, too, was horrified to see Danish diplomatic missions attacked. “All countries have an obligation to ensure the security of diplomatic missions on their territory,” he said, adding that Iran and Syria had failed in that obligation. Parliament leaders, the European Commission and the Austrian EU presidency vowed to strengthen dialogue with moderate Muslims and not to let extremists disrupt their relations. “Extremists cannot be allowed to triumph,” said Hans Winkler, the Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. EU foreign ministers would take new steps to strengthen dialogue at their next meeting on 27 February, he added.
Influential figures from the world of politics and the arts added their voices to the protests by Muslims worldwide over the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that were published in the European media as the holiest day for Shiites, Ashura, was observed in various countries. Polish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa condemned the publication of a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed by a top-shelf Polish national daily newspaper. The legendary freedom fighter of the 1980s anti-communist Solidarity trade union criticized the “disturbing activities of media in Poland, propagating texts impinging on the good principles of respect and value for religious convictions … which strike Muslims in a painful manner.” Two Nobel Prize-winning authors blasted the media that published the caricatures as irresponsible or arrogant in interviews with the Spanish daily El Pais. “It would not be a question of censoring oneself, but of using common sense,” said Portugal’s Jose Saramago, winner of the 1998 literature Nobel. “This was a conscious and planned provocation by a right-wing Danish newspaper,” said German Guenter Grass, who took the Nobel Prize in 1999. Grass described the Danish publishers of the caricatures as “xenophobic right-wing radicals” and the subsequent violent Muslim protests as “a fundamentalist response to a fundamentalist act.” “Where does the West take that arrogance to impose what must and must not be done?” Grass asked, stressing the relativity of the freedom of opinion in the West where the media are controlled by conglomerates “monopolizing the public opinion.” Others called for a redefinition of the freedom of expression that incorporates “standardized” universally-accepted religious taboos, prominent Muslim scholars said. “There are religious axioms which are enshrined in the well- established international norms and conventions, and the Western world does know they should be respected,” said Ibrahim Ezzedine, chairman of Jordan’s state-run Higher Media Council. The condemnation came as hundreds of thousands of Shiites and followers of the Hezbollah movement marched through the streets of Beirut’s southern suburbs in protest against the caricatures. Several thousand South African Muslims staged a demonstration in the streets of Cape Town. The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), the body that organized the march, handed to Danish Ambassador Torben Brylle a memorandum calling on the Danish government to apologize to Muslims around the world. Protests were also planned for Hong Kong, the city’s 70,000-strong Muslim community has announced. Meanwhile in Denmark, the newspaper at the centre of the ongoing row refuted reports that it planned to publish anti-Semitic or anti- Christian caricatures, the chief editor said Thursday. Jyllands-Posten’s editor Carsten Juste’s statement was published on the newspaper’s website after a Danish television channel reported that publication was pending this Sunday. Websites have in recent days been set up in Denmark and elsewhere offering people a chance to send an apology to Muslims offended by Jyllands-Posten’s publication as one group of Arab and Muslim youths apologized for the violence that followed the caricatures. The government continued efforts to defuse the crisis Thursday. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was “prepared to listen to all proposals,” a Rasmussen aide told Deutsche Presse- Agentur but was unable to meet Thursday with a parliamentary deputy of Turkish origin to discuss an idea of Turkey mediating in the ongoing row over the controversial Mohammed cartoons. In a related development, Aarhus police said they would not pursue a complaint of blasphemy filed against Jyllands-Posten over the publication last September of the controversial caricatures. In Norway, the Muslim al-Jinah Foundation filed a police complaint against Vebjorn Selbekk, chief editor of Christian weekly Magazinet that recently reprinted the Mohammed caricatures. In Iran, Vice President Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee denied US accusations that his country was inflaming Muslim anger against the West over the caricatures. “It’s a lie, 100 per cent baseless,” Mashaee told reporters after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Vice President Yusuf Kalla, in Jakarta. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday accused Iran and Syria of stoking anti-Western sentiment among Muslims for their own purposes. Attempts to publish the controversial caricatures in the Muslim world have met fierce opposition. Malaysian cabinet members demanded the immediate suspension of a major newspaper after it reprinted the caricatures. The editor of the English-language Sarawak Tribune had resigned Sunday after admitting to approving the publication of the caricatures. Station directors, editors and journalists were suspended from their posts at two Algerian television stations because their news programmes showed the Mohammed caricatures. An American university professor in the United Arab Emirates was fired after distributing among her students a copy of the caricatures, saying her action was within the rights of “freedom of opinion and expression.” Protests in the Muslim world took a back seat as Shiites celebrated their holiest festival, Ashura, that commemorates the martyrdom of Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, who they believe to be the prophet’s true successor. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites marched in the holy city of Karbala in tribute to Hussein who was killed in battle there in the year 680. Clashes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the western Afghan city of Herat left at least four people dead, while violence also clouded Ashura commemorations in Pakistan, where at least 12 people were killed and 20 wounded when two bombs ripped through a procession of Shiite Muslims in the Hangu district of North-Western Frontier Province, 245 kilometres west of Islamabad.
Author: Riem Spielhaus
The media usually portrays Berliners of Muslim origin only in the context of their faith. However, Muslim Berliners are involved in the city’s cultural life, in the arts, in politics, and in education. They contribute to the city’s economy as entrepreneurs, professionals, and through civic activities. The Commissioner for Integration commissioned a study of the city’s religious civic associations, looking at Islamic communities in the context of their social, cultural, urban, and individual aspects.
Between pluralization and change of generations: Results of the research
The different forms of Muslim life in Berlin are both mirror and product of local requirements and frameworks for people with a Muslim background, including juridical aspects for residence, tenancy, and construction, but also communication between municipal institutions and Islamic associations. Nevertheless, Muslim life does not exist detached from the effects of the representation of Islam in the media on a local, national, and global level.
The publication of the study in German collects articles from several authors who engaged with specific topics, based on the survey of Berlin’s mosques and their own intensive, often qualitative, research. They tackled three areas of tension, where communities are searching, addressing, and defending their positions:
- Migration, Religion, and Representation
- Diversity of religious practice
- Presence in the city.
American Muslims Are Under Scrutiny Since The 9/11 Attacks By Benjamin Duncan in Washington In a country of nearly 300 million people, injecting one’s voice into the public discourse is sometimes easier said than done. Despite the ubiquitous presence of cable television, satellite radio and the internet – all offering avenues for self-promotion – some US minority groups struggle to have their voices heard by the mainstream public. In particular, the American Muslim community, placed under intense scrutiny following the 11 September 2001 attacks, struggles to pursue a more expansive role in the news media, the entertainment industry and the political arena. Not having sufficient representation in these areas has contributed to a steady increase in anti-Muslim stereotypes and social bigotry, many Muslim activists say. Such problems were the central theme of Who Speaks for Muslims, a recent conference in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine ways to enhance the public voice of America’s five to seven million Muslims. Some Muslims Accuse The Media Of One-Dimensional Coverage The event brought together Muslim television and radio producers, print journalists, screenwriters and political figures to hold workshops and lectures on subjects ranging from film production to media influence. “Muslims speak for Muslims and it is our job to combat what we are seeing from the media,” said Qur’an Shakir, a spokeswoman for Taqwa Productions, a video production company that organised the conference. “We need to speak up instead of allowing the media to define us.” Mainstream Media Segments of the American Muslim community criticise the mainstream media for what they consider one-dimensional coverage that focuses on Muslim connections to terrorism and violence. “Muslims don’t want to be portrayed as terrorists or the feared one, because that’s not an accurate portrayal of who we are,” said Mahdi Bray, president of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, a civil rights organisation in Washington, DC. For those Muslim Americans who agree that the media inaccurately depict their religion, the key problem is the lack of Muslim commentators in television, radio and print journalism. “There is a drastic need for more intelligent Muslim voices on television” “There is a drastic need for more intelligent Muslim voices on television,” said Ahmed Younis, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Los Angeles-based civil rights group. While representatives from major Muslim organisations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) appear frequently on cable news programmes, some argue that it pales in comparison to the media presence of anti-Muslim critics. “In comparison to the anti-Muslim and anti-Islam propaganda in the electronic and print media, Muslims are given very little time to explain their position,” said Abdus Sattar Ghazali, editor and publisher of the American Muslim Perspective, an online magazine based in Modesto, California. Dissenting View Not everyone agrees, however, that American Muslims are fighting a losing battle for media access. Far from being denied a place at the table, some Muslim activists say the community has made significant inroads into the world of newspaper and television coverage. “I think the Muslim voice in the media is perhaps better than in other areas because the media seeks out Muslim voices,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director. Despite the perception by some American Muslims that the mainstream media ignore their community, Hooper questioned the idea that news organisations were to blame for the lack of Muslim speakers. “It’s because we’re not making ourselves available, not because we’re not being sought out,” he said. Handling Media Learning how to engage the media more effectively at the local level was a central topic covered at the Who Speaks for Muslims conference, Shakir said. Those who attended received instruction on how to write a news release and how to contact media outlets. Muslims Urge Their Community To Engage The Media Effectively “[Local Muslim groups] need to arrange some type of team to find out who the major media groups are and who is in charge of what and to let them know that you’re available,” she said. The Muslim American Society holds frequent youth camps during which young people are schooled in media training, the internet and other areas. “We need to develop and nurture that future generation that will be policy experts,” Bray said. Expanding media participation, however, is just one aspect of a bigger picture for any minority group seeking to educate the public. Many Americans form impressions from music channels rather than news channels. Entertainment Entertainment programming, be it television sitcoms, Hollywood films or music videos, has become increasingly influential in the lives of average Americans. What viewers see on late-night television is as likely to inform their thoughts on politics and social issues as what they read in newspapers, many experts say. Whereas the “theological and political voice” of the American Muslim community is often heard, it is necessary to “integrate the cultural voice” as well, Bray said. “There are really not a lot of [Muslim] voices there … but we’re beginning to have some improvement,” Hooper said. Shakir said she could not “off the top of my head” name a single mainstream American Muslim director or producer in film or television. While there have been a few recent documentaries and small films directed by American Muslims, none has been distributed to large audiences. Perhaps the most well-known television show this year involving Muslim characters was 24, a one-hour drama on Fox that focused on a plot by Muslim terrorists to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States. After CAIR and other groups complained that the storyline stereotyped the American Muslim community, Fox aired a public service announcement telling viewers that the vast majority of American Muslims are loyal citizens. Political Front Progress in Hollywood, however, will likely go hand in hand with progress on the political front, another area where American Muslims are looking for a greater voice, Bray said. “I don’t believe you will have success in entertainment if you don’t have success in the political process,” he said. “It’s an integrated process.” In terms of elected office, Muslim candidates have achieved victories in local polls, but not at the federal level. In fact, no Muslim American has ever been elected to Congress. “We do need to have more representation” “We do need to have more representation,” Shakir said. Others are focused on engaging the Muslim community at all levels of politics, something Hooper said was critically important. “I don’t think we’re so concerned about having a Muslim elected to Congress without a grassroots process of support,” he said. Extremist Viewpoint Ultimately, anyone asking who speaks for American Muslims must also take into account the diversity, political and cultural, of that community, several activists said. “I don’t think that anyone speaks for all Muslims in this country,” Hooper said. With such a wide cross-section of belief systems in the American Muslim community, some more conservative than others, Ghazali said it was important to acknowledge differences while not allowing extremist viewpoints to overshadow the mainstream. “Of course, there is always diversity of opinion which should be taken into account,” he said. “But there is an opinion of the majority and an opinion of the minority, or fringe groups. The problem arises when the opinion of a fringe group is promoted.”
COPENHAGEN – A group of Muslims has reported a Danish broadcaster to the police for repeatedly airing a controversial film about Muslim oppression of women, Danish media reported on Sunday. Some 20 Muslims are pressing charges against Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) for airing recently-murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s film Submission in its entirety, as well as for repeatedly showing clips from the film in newscasts.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Arsonists and vandals angered over the alleged Muslim-inspired slaying of a controversial Dutch filmmaker have conducted a series of attacks on Islamic targets, including attempts to burn down two mosques, Dutch media reported Sunday.
By Arthur Neslen in London A controversial letter sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain to more than 1000 mosques has split the country’s Muslim community, with some communal leaders saying it will increase Islamophobia. The letter urges congregations to report any suspicions they might have about other worshippers to the police. “Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem,” it says. “We therefore urge you to observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity.” The MCB’s appeal to the UK’s two million Muslims will be made through imams, chairmen and secretaries of mosques. Hundreds of thousands of booklets will also be sent out. But Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Aljazeera.net that the letter’s assumptions are false. “As Muslims, we need to challenge stereotyping and injustices, rather than becoming party to them,” he said. “I’m not questioning the MCB’s intentions but it seems that they are reacting without thinking. “I know that they have been put under a lot of pressure but this sort of action is pointless, reactionary and actually creates the very Islamophobia that we are trying to fight. I can’t put it more strongly than that.” Number of arrests Iqbal Sacranie, the director of the Muslim Council of Britain, dismissed the charge as “utterly nonsensical”. “The only response some elements have to a positive and constructive initiative is to try to undermine it,” he told Aljazeera.net. “How can this letter be Islamophobic? “It is facing the reality that there are a large number of arrests taking place in the community. Although, by the grace of God, most are released without charge, some are convicted. One Muslim conviction is one too many.” In fact there have been two Muslim convictions for terrorism offences since the September 11 attacks. But there have also been more than 500 arrests and a dramatic shift in police “stop and search” policies. Last year, police made 32,100 searches under the Terrorism Act, an increase of 30,000 on the figure for 2000. Community leaders say that the vast majority of those targeted have been young Muslims. Not unexpected For Abd al-Bari Atwan, the influential editor of the al-Quds newspaper, the MCB’s decision was not unexpected. “The Muslim community in Britain is facing a critical time because the media have launched a hate campaign against them since the Madrid bombings,” he told Aljazeera.net. “Every Muslim is now a suspect and everyone is being watched by the police and intelligence services in one way or another.” The controversy over the MCB letter closely followed the arrest of eight British Muslims on Monday, for their part in an alleged al-Qaida bomb plot. On Wednesday a judge granted police a further three days to question the men. Police said that half a ton of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser?that can be used to make explosives, was recovered during the operation. Dr Sacranie denied that the MCB’s letter was a panic response to subsequent media headlines such as the Daily Telegraph’s “Islamic bomb attack foiled” which proved offensive to so many in the Muslim community. “This initiative is part of our long-term action plan,” he said. “We feel the pressure day in and day out to do something for the community and for the country.” “To talk about ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a contradiction in terms, as Islam is a religion of humanity that utterly and totally condemns acts of violence and terrorism. Yet we are the only community that is being linked with terrorists.” But he singled out extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun, for targeting alienated Muslim youths. “Within our community, there are elements who try to create hatred against people of other faiths,” he said. “We are telling the youth we share their concerns about the atrocities being committed in Palestine but it is unacceptable to use violent means in the UK.” ‘No platform’ Shortly after the letter was released, the UK’s National Union of Students moved to “no platform” or ban al-Muhajiroun, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Hizb al-Tahrir from speaking at any campus in the country. The three groups have been associated with anti-Semitic propaganda. But Atwan said al-Muhajiroun were “a very small group and a tabloid creation,” while Usama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain described them as “an empty drum, they make a lot of noise, but in reality there is nothing much happening there.” Saeed told Aljazeera.net that he did not know whether the MCB letter would have a positive effect on the press hysteria. “There has to be vigilance in the community,” he said, “But we also have to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.” “I have never seen any terrorists recruiting or organising in mosques. If someone told me to weed these people out, I wouldn’t know where to start. What is needed is a debate about the root cause of terrorism, which is our country’s foreign policy.” The row over the letter, he added, was being taken out of context by the press. One story the British media did not report the week before the alleged al-Qaida bomb ring was smashed, was cited by many Muslim leaders as an example of the animus they are now facing. A 17-year-old Muslim girl was kidnapped in Ilford, East London by a Christian fundamentalist who slashed a crucifix into her upper arms and side and tried to force her to recite the holy trinity. When she refused, he repeatedly told her that “Christianity is the right religion” and slashed her every time he did so. However, the tabloids did at least turn their attention to Ilford the following week. It was the home town of one of the alleged al-Qaida bombers.
From Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain To: Imams, Ulema, Chairs & Secretaries of Mosques, Islamic Organisations and Institutions Dear Respected Colleague As salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah The last few weeks and days have been fraught with tragedies and dangers. I am sure you are fully aware of the serious concerns expressed by the Prime Minister and the Police Authorities about the high probability of an imminent terrorist outrage in the UK. I have no doubt that as a leader in the community you are already discharging your Islamic duty in helping to preserve the peace of the nation as well as protecting the community against falling into any trap or provocation. Following the criminal terrorist attack on the Madrid trains, and despite our immediate, public and unequivocal condemnation of those atrocities some, however, continue to associate Islam with terrorism by using such misleading terms as ‘Islamic terrorist’. The words of the Qur’an are clear: “He who killed any person, unless it be a person guilty of manslaughter, or of spreading chaos in the land, should be looked upon as though he had slain all mankind, and he who saved one life should be regarded as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.”(5:32) We therefore urge you to take the following actions: To provide the correct Islamic guidance to the community, especially to our youth as to our obligation to maintain the peace and security of our country To observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity To liaise with the local Police and give them the fullest cooperation in dealing with any criminal activity including terrorist threat “Help one another to virtue and God-consciousness and do not help one other to sin and transgression.” (5:2) To proactively engage with the media in order to refute any misconception about Islam and the Muslim community To develop active contacts with other faith communities and civic organisations in order to help maintain social peace and good community relations. In the event of any tragic incident taking place, give the fullest cooperation to the Police and other concerned authorities. Lastly, but most importantly, seek Allah’s help and support and pray for His guidance and protection all the time. We also urge you to convey the above message in your Friday sermon and bring awareness to our community of our duties and obligations in combating any threat to peace and stability. By doing so, insha’Allah it will help to dispel the misrepresentation. There is no need however to be daunted or intimidated by any Islamophobic propaganda and we should continue with our daily lives – normally and in accordance with the tenets of Islam. All of us as Muslims will have been appalled to see some of the headlines in today’s newspapers (for example ‘Islamic Bomb Plot Foiled’ – Daily Telegraph; ‘The Truck Bombers of Suburbia’, The Times 2004). This kind of sensationalised reporting has done immense damage to British Muslims as well as to community relations and we assure you that the MCB’s Media Committee will be taking this matter up urgently with the editors concerned. You will no doubt recall that in November 2002 the police made high-profile arrests of six Muslims accused of plotting to release cyanide gas into London’s Underground system. Yet nearly 18 months later, none of the men have been charged with any crime, let alone being convicted of terrorist activity. There are other examples of incidents that have received prominent media attention only for the individuals to be subsequently released without any charges brought against them. The impact of such ordeals on the persons concerned and their families is unbearable. Therefore we urge against hasty pronouncements of guilt. The Muslim Council of Britain is planning to organise a number of events and meetings of which we shall keep you duly informed. “O believers, be patient and let your patience never be exhausted. Stand firm in your faith and fear Allah, so that you may triumph.” (3:200) May Allah protect and guide us. Yours sincerely, Iqbal AKM Sacranie Secretary General The Muslim Council of Britain