Islamist Groups Raided in Three German Cities

14 December 2010

German authorities mounted raids against two Islamist groups suspected of seeking to overthrow the government and establish a religious state, the Interior Ministry said.

The searches targeted homes and religious schools linked to Salafist jihadist group Invitation to Paradise (EZP) in the northwestern cities of Braunschweig and Mönchengladbach, and the Islamic Cultural Center Bremen (IKZB).

“The EZP and the IKZB are accused of opposing the constitutional order with the aim of replacing it in Germany with an Islamic religious state,” the ministry said in a statement.

The raids were part of a long-running investigation against the groups and had no link to warnings of potential impending terrorist attacks issued last month by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, it added.

The groups reject parliamentary democracy and believe that Islamic law should replace the constitution, the ministry said.

German Family Minister Schröder slams “macho” Muslim culture

26 November 2010

Family Minister Kristina Schröder slammed on Friday what she sees as a growing tendency to violence stemming from a “macho culture” among young Muslim men.

The minister told daily Wiesbadener Kurier that while discrimination and disadvantage were partly to blame, there were also religious and cultural roots to this propensity to violence, which was revealed in two studies commissioned by her ministry due to be released on Friday.

“We must not construct any false taboos here: there is a macho culture among young Muslim men that glorifies violence and which also has cultural roots,” she said. “The tendency towards violence among young, male Muslims is clearly higher than among non-Muslim, native youths,” she said.

It stemmed from perceived slights upon their honour, which they defended with violence, Schröder said. “Social disadvantage and discrimination are important factors, but they are not sufficient as an explanation,” she said. “There is a co-dependence between religiousness, macho norms and tendency towards violence.”

Her comments came amid an ongoing debate about immigration, integration and Islam in Germany.

French Students Protest Burqa Ban With High Heels, Mini-Shorts

News Agencies – October 1, 2010
Two French female students have made a film of the pair of them strolling through the streets of Paris in a niqab, bare legs and mini-shorts as a critique of France’s recently passed law. Calling themselves the “Niqabitches,” the veiled ladies can be seen strutting past prime ministerial offices and various government ministries with a black veil leaving only their eyes visible, but with their long legs naked bar black high heels.
Bemused passers-by can be seen gawping at the pair or asking to take photographs in the clip. At one stage in the video, the two women approach the entrance to the ministry of immigration and national identity, only to be told by a policeman to go elsewhere. However, a policewoman also present is delighted by their clothes. “I love your outfit, is it to do with the new law?” she asks. “Yes, we want to de-dramatise the situation,” one girl replies. In an opinion piece published on the news website, rue89, the anonymous duo – political science and communication students in their twenties – said the film was a tongue-in-cheek way of criticising France’s niqab ban, which the Senate passed last month and is due to go into force early next year.

France Moves to Ban Burqas

The French cabinet approved legislation to ban the wearing of full-face veils on 19 May 2010. The parliament of France still has to decide upon the proposal in July, and after that the law will go to the Senate in September. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said that “the burqa violates the dignity and equality of the Republic”. Under the proposed law, violators will be fined €150 ($190) and they will have to take citizenship classes. Men who force Muslim women to wear the veil will be punished more strongly under the draft bill with up to one year of prison and a fine of €15,000 ($19,000).
The proposal is expected to affect only some 2,000 of the over 5 million Muslim women in France, as only very few wear the traditional veil. This is according to numbers of the interior ministry of France. The bill was approved even though France’s council of state warned that it could be unconstitutional.

France Moves to Ban Burqas

The French cabinet approved legislation to ban the wearing of full-face veils on 19 May 2010. The parliament of France still has to decide upon the proposal in July, and after that the law will go to the Senate in September. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said that “the burqa violates the dignity and equality of the Republic”. Under the proposed law, violators will be fined €150 ($190) and they will have to take citizenship classes. Men who force Muslim women to wear the veil will be punished more strongly under the draft bill with up to one year of prison and a fine of €15,000 ($19,000).
The proposal is expected to affect only some 2,000 of the over 5 million Muslim women in France, as only very few wear the traditional veil. This is according to numbers of the interior ministry of France. The bill was approved even though France’s council of state warned that it could be unconstitutional.

Stricter punishment for “religious violence”

The ministry of justice confirmed on Wednesday that serious consideration was being given to the establishment of a new category of aggravating circumstances targeting “religiously motivated violence.” Aggravating circumstances can be crucial during sentencing procedures, where they can play a role in leading to the stricter punishments. Though the ministry denies a direct connection, this question has come about following the controversial sentencing of a man of Turkish origin in mid-January. On account of his personal background and traditions, the man was sentenced to attempted manslaughter and not attempted murder in the case of his near fatal knife attack on his wife, who had told him that she wanted a divorce.

The general secretary of the ÖVP (conservative), Fritz Kaltenegger, declared that violence in the family must be dealt with severely, and that “it is the task of politics to adapt the legal framework to social developments.” The minister of justice, Claudia Bandion-Ortner, was careful to stress that this development was not to be understood as a continuation of the debate on “cultural crimes,” begun two years ago by the interior minister, Maria Fekter. Thus, Bandion-Ortner continued, there is no plan to adopt new sentencing guidelines for forced mariages or honor killings: “murder is still murder, and more than a life sentence cannot be imposed.” Nevertheless, she did mention that an additional category of aggravating circumstances may be forthcoming, aimed at “general behavior which attempts to impose upon someone a lifestyle that is not consistent with our society.” This would apply, for example, to parents who refuse to send their children to public school, or who do not allow girls contact with men, out of religious considerations.

Criticism of the proposal has come from legal experts, the SPÖ (social democrat) and the Greens, the Catholic church and Muslim groups. Helmut Fuchs, head of the Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Vienna, called the idea absolutely unnecessary, while saying that “non-religiously motivated violence is no less reprehensible than religiously motivated violence.” The minister for women and public service, Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, gave voice to her displeasure at the mixing of religion and criminal law, stating that crimes such as genital mutilation or honor killings had less to do with religion than with tradition and power structures. Erich Leitenberger of the archdiocese of Vienna echoed this position with his view that such “dubious cultural practices” had nothing to do with religion. Meanwhile, Carla Amina Baghajati, spokesperson for the Austrian Islamic Community, stated that violence against women can be fought with Islamic sources as well, and can be part of the solution – as was the case in the fight against female genital mutilation. She continued by saying that legitimizing these practices as “religious” could contribute to the problem, and proposed instead the adoption of the internationally established notion of “harmful traditional practices.”

Dutch politician “unwelcome” in Turkey

A planned visit to Turkey by Dutch members of parliament remains unconfirmed, after the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced the delegation would not be welcome if it included Geert Wilders. Foreign ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told AFP that the far-right politician, leader of the Freedom Party and a vocal critic of Islam, is “unwelcome” in Turkey due to his racist views. In response, the parliamentary European Affairs Commission said it would cancel the visit if not all members of the delegation are received by the Turkish authorities.

Wilders has asked Foreign Minister Verhagen to lodge a complaint over the refusal. Verhagen is only willing to point out to Ankara the need for conversations with Dutch MPs and the attending advantages and says his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, is free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician.

De Volkskrant reports that the Turkish government is now embarrassed by the situation as refusing to meet Wilders would allow the controversial politician to accuse Turkey of being undemocratic and unable to take criticism.

NRC Handelsblad reports that while Turkish daily Aksam broke the news of the ministry’s worries about Wilders’ forthcoming visit, the controversy got little attention in other Turkish media. The paper also notes that some secular and religious opinion makers in Turkey who are familiar with Wilders say they would welcome a conversation with the polemic politician, for reasons of their own.

Update: Government Against Calculating Cost of Immigrants

The Dutch government has decided to deny the Freedom Party (PVV) request to calculate the precise cost and benefit of immigration. The party requested accounts from each ministry regarding the cost and benefit of immigrants, but Minister of Integration Eberhard van der Laan says ministers will only give figures that are already available in the budget. The Freedom Party says it is astonished that Dutch voters are not allowed to know how much mass immigration costs.

Four Dutch Citizens Arrested in Belgium on Suspicion of Terrorism

Four men have been arrested in Belgium on a Dutch warrant following their expulsion from Kenya. The men were detained last Friday at the border of Kenya and Somalia. “They are alleged to have been on their way to a jihadist training camp”, the prosecution service in the Netherlands said in a statement. An investigation has been launched in the Netherlands regarding their “possible involvement with terrorism” and connections to the group al-Shabab. Police have searched the homes of two men in the Hague, and authorities have requested their extradition to the Netherlands.

The suspects’ backgrounds remain unclear: while the Dutch foreign affairs ministry identified the suspects as three Dutch citizens and a Moroccan with residency status, the prosecutors cited by AFP identified all four as Dutch nationals. News agencies also vary in their profiles, as Dutchnews.nl “reports them to be three Dutch Moroccans and one with a Somali background; NRC Handelsblad reports ‘three Dutchmen and a
Somali with residence in the Netherlands’”. There appears to be consensus that all four are aged 21.

According to Dutch professor, Islam is contributing to “delinquent behavior”

According to Corine de Riuter, professor of forensic psychology in Maastricht, Islam is possibly one of the causes of delinquent behavior of Moroccan youth. De Riuter, together with others, has mapped out ways to deal with Moroccan youth and presented their findings to the justice ministry. According to De Riuter, Moroccan and Turkish youth are “backwards” in their moral development. This backwardness is one of the factors that can cause criminal behavior, and cause these youth to have decreased moral functions. “In Islam the emphasis is on obedience and respect for the parents. Individualism and independence are less important – and these are exactly the qualities which can bring moral development to a higher level,”according to the co-authors of the knowledge base for dealing with criminal Moroccan youth. They contrasted this to how children grow up in Dutch families, who have a “democratic negotiation style.”