Bradford Muslims Rally To Save Synagogue From Closure

With only just over thirty members and an extravagant Grade II listed
Moorish building, the tiny Jewish community of Bradford have for many years
been in despair about their finances – until the local Muslim community
stepped in to help.

The grand-looking Reform synagogue, is on an unassuming street, between the
Yorkshire Tandoori, Al-Hijaab Islamic Clothing and the Jamia Shan-E-Islam
Educational Centre.

Built in 1880, it has long been under threat of closure, but several Muslim
organisations in the city have pledged to stop it falling into ruin, with
donors giving £2,000 to save the synagogue’s roof.

Religion in Prisons: A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains

From the perspective of the nation’s professional prison chaplains, America’s state penitentiaries are a bustle of religious activity. More than seven-in-ten (73%) state prison chaplains say that efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates are either very common (31%) or somewhat common (43%). About three-quarters of the chaplains say that a lot (26%) or some (51%) religious switching occurs among inmates in the prisons where they work. Many chaplains report growth from religious switching in the numbers of Muslims and Protestant Christians, in particular.

Overwhelmingly, state prison chaplains consider religious counseling and other religion-based programming an important aspect of rehabilitating prisoners. Nearly three-quarters of the chaplains (73%), for example, say they consider access to religion-related programs in prison to be “absolutely critical” to successful rehabilitation of inmates. And 78% say they consider support from religious groups after inmates are released from prison to be absolutely critical to inmates’ successful rehabilitation and re-entry into society. Among chaplains working in prisons that have religion-related rehabilitation or re-entry programs, more than half (57%) say the quality of such programs has improved over the last three years and six-in-ten (61%) say participation in such programs has gone up.

At the same time, a sizable minority of chaplains say that religious extremism is either very common (12%) or somewhat common (29%) among inmates. Religious extremism is reported by the chaplains as especially common among Muslim inmates (including followers of the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America) and, to a substantial but lesser degree, among followers of pagan or earth-based religions such as Odinism and various forms of Wicca. (See Glossary.) An overwhelming majority of chaplains, however, report that religious extremism seldom poses a threat to the security of the facility in which they work, with only 4% of chaplains saying religious extremism among inmates “almost always” poses a threat to prison security and an additional 19% saying it “sometimes” poses a threat.

Moorish historians want Spain to apologize upon the 400th anniversary of expulsion from Spain

400 years after King Philip III signed an order to expel 300,000 Moriscos – or part-Muslims who had converted from Islam to Christianity, some Muslim writers, Spanish and Moroccan campaigners are asking Madrid to apologize for the wrongs committed during the 17th century.

The anniversary highlights the uneasy relationship that still exists between modern-day Spanish and its Moorish, or Muslim past. Historians record the brutal conditions in which many were killed during forced resettlement in North Africa, and have urged the Spanish government to use the anniversary of the event to make overtures to the Islamic world. José Manuel Fajardo, a Spanish writer, said: “Mr. Zapatero has an opportunity to transform one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Spain into an opportunity for a re-encounter between the West and Islam.”

A spokesperson for the government said that there are no plans to mark the anniversary. The defeat of the Moors in 1492 and the expulsion of Moriscos from 17th century Spain is still a politically sensitive subject, with Osama bin Laden referring it in repeated calls for the restoration of al-Andalus – the former Muslim kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.

DNA study shows Spain’s Jewish and Muslim ancestry

The genetic signatures of Spaniards and Portuguese are providing evidence of the mass conversion of Muslims and Sephardic Jews to Catholicism during the 15th and 16th centuries. Eleven percent were found to have DNA reflecting Moorish ancestors, according to geneticists. The finding bears weight on two different views of Spanish history – that Spanish civilization is Catholic and other influences are foreign, or that Spain has been thoroughly enriched by drawing from all three of its historical cultures, including Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim. The genetic studies were based on examining the Y-chromosome in people, as the Y-chromosome remains unchanged from father to son, detecting similarities in those in the present population with those just after the expulsions of the 15th and 16th centuries.

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Spain’s Dream of the Alhambra: A Multicultural Model for Europe

After centuries of denying a common history with Islam, Spaniards are once again trying to live together with Muslims. In Granada, home of the Alhambra and former center of Moorish Spain, a multicultural revival is taking shape that sees Christians and Muslims coexisting in mutual respect. The panoramic terrace of the Plaza San Nicolas becomes a magical setting at sunset. Gypsy boys play deeply melancholic melodies on the guitar while their girls dance to the music and whirl brightly colored ribbons. Bohemians pass around liter bottles of beer and cheap red wine, Japanese tourists set up their cameras, and Latin Americans sing cheerfully. From the head of this square on the Albaicin hill sounds the lingering call of “Allahu akbar.” The muezzin has climbed the 59 steps of the tower. He stands between the open Moorish arches and cups a hand to his mouth so everyone who is listening for his call can hear “God is great.” In the day’s last rays of light, the gilded outlines of Arabic ornate lettering glitter mysteriously under the pointed roof. Helene Zuber reports.

Chirac Pays Homage To Muslim War Veterans

President Jacques Chirac paid homage Sunday to the hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from former colonies who fought for France in World War I, unveiling a memorial on the site of the battle of Verdun. “The Verdun army was the army of the people, and all the people took part,” Chirac said, inaugurating a white-walled Moorish-style monument. “It was France in all its diversity.” The commemoration has come at a time of turbulence in France’s relations with its ethnic minorities. A senior Muslim leader said he hoped the belated recognition of his community’s war dead would help ease the tensions. Chirac himself looked back almost with nostalgia at the way France rallied in 1916 to fight the Germans. “This ceremony reminds us how in that moment of history, at Verdun and for Verdun, the French nation knew how to unite,” he said after laying a wreath at the monument. Separate memorials already stand for the Christians and Jews who died in the mud and misery of the trenches, but up until Sunday the Muslims only had a small plaque dedicated to them. France mobilized close to 600,000 colonial subjects in World War I, including many from Muslim territories like Algeria and Tunisia, and 78,000 were killed. Total French dead numbered 1.2 million. Some of France’s former colonies have complained that France has been ungrateful to its colonial troops, arguing that without their efforts, Paris would have fallen to the Germans. Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Muslim Council, told reporters he hoped the new memorial would help close old wounds. He said he hoped it would provide “an impulse for the future for a closer integration of all of France’s Muslim communities,” adding that they are “completely French communities, thanks in no small part to the blood they have shed.” A wave of rioting in mainly poor, immigrant suburbs rocked France last autumn, laying bare the difficulties the country faces in integrating its multi- ethnic society. The government has responded with a mix of tough immigration laws and increased efforts to recognize minority groups. In May, France marked its first annual commemoration day for victims of the slave trade and last week Chirac opened a major new museum celebrating ethnic art from around the world. Verdun, where more than 300,000 troops died, lends itself to the task of reconciliation and was the setting for a memorable gesture of friendship between France and Germany, which fought three disastrous wars in less than a century. President Fran_ois Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany stood together in Verdun in 1984 to display the new ties between their two countries.

Prayers And Fears Of Madrid’s Muslims

By Dominic Bailey Muslims in Spain are worried. Exactly who was behind the Madrid train bombings is still not certain but three of the five being questioned are Moroccan, one of whom is reported to be linked to attacks in Casablanca last year. There is a large Moroccan immigrant community in Spain and many fear reprisals against their families, businesses and places of worship. Islamic leaders in Spain were quick to denounce the 11 March Madrid attacks, even though the finger of blame was initially pointed at Basque separatists Eta. At least eight Muslims were among the 200 people killed and more than 40 among the hundreds of injured. But talk of al-Qaeda links has again muddied the perception of Islam and made ordinary Muslims feel insecure in the land they have happily made their home. Rumours of repercussions The white stone and marble Cultural Islamic Centre and mosque stands out against the backdrop of high-rise flats along the M-30 motorway out of Madrid. For a Muslim to kill a person unjustly is to kill everyone. There is no justification to kill Inside it is a cool oasis of serenity that echoes with the imam’s call to prayer. But the number of prayer times has been reduced and entrance to regular visitors is restricted. The centre’s secretary, Mohamad Saleh, says the safety precautions are necessary. “We are worried about the repercussions that there may be against Muslims,” he said. After 11 September eggs were thrown at the mosque and some Muslims were sacked from their jobs simply because of their religion. There are already reports of abuse on the street, Arab businesses having windows broken and rumours of demonstrations outside the mosque being planned. Moorish memories “We felt for the victims, the same as everyone, this sort of desperate terrorism affects all areas,” said Mr Saleh. “But people shouldn’t punish a religion or country because of who commits a crime. If a Christian kills, are all Christians blamed? Are the Basques blamed if ETA attack? Moroccans in Spain Moroccans are the largest immigrant group in Spain In 2003 there were 333,000, 20% of all legal immigrants The number of illegal immigrants is unknown Thousands cross the eight-mile Straits of Gibraltar every year on rafts or small boats In 2003 24,146 people were repatriated to Morocco Many work as cleaners, farm labourers or building workers Polls show that Moroccans are Spain’s least-liked immigrants “These people are terrorists and terrorists are criminals wherever they are from. “They cannot have real faith or know God. For a Muslim to kill a person unjustly is to kill everyone. There is no justification to kill.” A banner reading “No to terrorism. Solidarity and condolences to the victims and their families” hangs under the arch of the centre’s entrance. There are about 500,000 Muslims in Madrid and on Fridays between 1,500 and 2,000 faithful pray at the mosque. Most are from Morocco, Algeria and other Arab states. Spain has a long, if bloody, history with its Arab neighbours to the south. Many Arabic dishes, words and architecture survive in modern Spain, remnants from the Moorish conquest of the peninsula which ended in 1492. ‘Good people’ But now, many immigrants who have made the country their second home don’t feel safe. A 46-year-old Algerian, who would not give his name, said there had been threats and people were afraid. “Here in Madrid there is a mix of everyone, Jews, Muslims, Christians – it is like a big family and we all have our way of life.” “I feel one of the people here and feel for them but I don’t like the way they now look at us in the street,” he said. “A friend of my wife’s came home pale and frightened the other day after a group of kids threatened her, shouting ‘Dirty disgusting Moors’.” But he said the Spanish were genuinely good people and hopefully would move on with their lives. Moroccan immigrant Rabii, 26, playing draughts with bits of cardboard outside the mosque, said it still had to be proved that al-Qaeda was to blame. “The people coming over here are not here for jihad, they are coming here to find a better future. But now we can’t go to the mosque and they are stopping us praying.” A greater concern for him was that the difficult task of finding a job would be made harder after the attacks. After the pain, peace Businessman Ahmed Jbari, 53, from Tangiers, says the adverse reactions are down to ignorance. “Here in Madrid there is a mix of everyone, Jews, Muslims, Christians – it is like a big family and we all have our way of life. “But people who break the windows should be blamed, not others. Here 29 pay for what one has done.” Moroccan street-seller Abdellate Fechaaui, 30, was among the hundreds of Muslims who joined the march of millions against terrorism after the Madrid attacks. Abdellate and his colleagues had one message for the Spanish people and the bombers: “We are with the Spanish people and are feeling the same pain as everyone. We want peace.”