Helsinki Grand Mosque’s rocky road

When it comes to building mosques, Finland is not any different from other European countries in terms of opposition that such projects receive either from the side of the officials or the public. The Helsinki Grand Mosque project has been on-going since 2015 and now once again, debates over funding have put a spanner in the works.

The mosque project has been previously endorsed by the deputy mayor of Helsinki and it is led jointly by the Forum for Culture and Religion “FOCUS”, local Muslim associations and the recently established “Oasis” foundation. Trying to fill a desideratum in facilities and services that would bring the Muslims together and away from the undersized prayer rooms, the objective of the central mosque project is to construct a building complex of 20.000 m2 in size, including prayer halls and a community center that would organize activities and events for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and thus contribute and promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.

The concerns over funding have been directed especially at the involvement of Kingdom of Bahrain as the financial coordinator. In December, an event with international guests were organized in Helsinki to celebrate the Independence Day of Bahrain. In connection to the festivities, one of the nation-wide daily newspapers Helsingin Sanomat reported in January about the current concerns of the city representatives over possible extremist background of Bahrain and those instances that have shown interest to provide support in collecting the needed funds. Security officials insist now on an investigation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on fears of extremist readings of Islam spreading to the country through the cooperation with Bahrain. This despite continuous assurances from one of the project coordinators Pia Jardi that the help from Bahrain has no strings attached in any every-day matters of the mosque/community center and the fact that the board members in the Oasis-foundation which was established for the administrative purposes of the project are all based in Finland.

Concerns about the mosque’s ability to welcome Muslim worshipers from different backgrounds were also expressed in a radio show Horisontti broadcasted by YLE. The youth civil activist Anter Yasa, argued that the imams for the mosque should be educated in Finland, receiving an academic degree and thus following the example of the country’s practice in educating priests. With his statement, he was opposing the possibility of the future imams receiving their qualifications from Bahrain which would in his understanding cause segregation instead of integration. Moreover, he maintained that the Muslim communities should rather turn to bank loans in financial matters than help from abroad. However, any ability of the small Finnish Muslim community comprising of somewhat 60 000 individuals to meet such financial obligations for a project of over 100 million euros was not addressed.

The chairwoman of the Young Muslims’ Union Helsinki chapter (Nuoret Muslimit ry), Nahla Hewidy was in turn pinpointing in the discussion the aspect of such mosque and especially its services as a community center being a necessity that would put Muslims and the youth in particular to equal footing with other major religious communities who already have such facilities. She maintained, that the project would enhance the welfare and spiritual development of those generations that struggle with identities between cultures and offer a them safe space where they would find recognition and acceptance.

Drunk Men Throw Bacon at UK Muslims before evening prayer

Two Polish men wearing dark uniforms threw bacon at Muslims as they prepared for evening prayers at the Al-Rahman Mosque in Camden, UK, on Sunday.

After tossing the meat at mosque attendees, Mateusz Pawlikowski and Piotr Czak-Zukowski also threw bacon, a forbidden food in Islam, at the shoe rack, with some landing in a shoe. Authorities, concerned over their safety, have taken both men into custody.

The two men originally fled the scene after confronted by mosque attendees, with police arriving soon after to clean the mess and keep an overnight watch. Pawlikowski and Zukowski were later arrested for inciting racial hatred.

The Mirror quoted prosecutor Zahid Hussain saying that the two men crossed those boundaries when they drunkenly assailed the mosque. “Sadly, these two men in this case have breached these boundaries. This is hate crime at the very top level. It is Islamophobia…The two defendants have committed acts which were grossly offensive and deeply hateful to a large section of the community.”

In 2015 Camden news outlets reported an uptick in religious and race-based crime, rising from 422 in 2014, to 531 incidents. Community Safety Cabinet Member Councillor Jonathan Simpson said at the time, “This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a rise of incidents but that people are more confident in coming forward which is the first step to making Camden a borough which is ‘No Place for Hate.'”

 

Britain First Descends On Burton-Upon-Trent To Fight Plans For So-Called ‘Mega Mosque’

The far-right anti-Islam group Britain First has apparently compared itself to Winston Churchill as it marches in Burton-Upon-Trent in Staffordshire to protest against the building of a new mosque.

Police estimate up to 300 people will attend the march today by the extreme group which wants to “ban all trace of Islam from the UK” according to a BBC documentary.

The pseudo-political party quoted Churchill in its plans to protest against the extension of an existing mosque in the town to create the ‘biggest and best mosque in Europe’.

A counter demonstration is being staged at the same time and local church leaders have criticised the protest by the so-called ‘Christian’ group and said they are “disturbed” by its intentions.

The new mosque would be an enlarged version of The Central Jamia Mosque, which already serves 700 worshippers at a time. Under the plans, it would increase its capacity to 1,500.

First Female Only Managed Mosque in Bradford

A mosque that will be open to all – men, women, children and worshippers of all sects, including Sunni and Shia. Prayers will be led by a male imam, yet the governance of the mosque will be run by women, in the first of its kind in Britain.

Bana Gora: ‘The alienation that women feel has profound consequences for younger generations.’ Photograph: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian
Bana Gora: ‘The alienation that women feel has profound consequences for younger generations.’ Photograph: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian

Gora co-founder and chief executive of the MWC, said: “When I was growing up across the Bradford district, there was never a practice of sisters going to the mosque. We prayed at the house. But why couldn’t we go to the mosque on a Friday with our brother and father?” Gora said. “We were told because it’s not the done thing. Women don’t go to the mosque. Well, actually, at the time of the prophet, women did, and they had the same access as men.”

Consultations for the new mosque began in June and are now at their second stage. The women’s group are seeking planning permission and looking at possible plots of land. Gora said she has been in talks with international architects, and that the building itself will not have minarets or domes. The community group, who also run weekly curry circles to distribute food to the homeless, said they will have a blueprint and funding strategy by September. They hope for the mosque to be ready within three years.

There are around 100 mosques in Bradford, where a quarter of the population identify as Muslim. However, according to a local audit of mosques carried out by Gora’s team, female worshippers often felt isolated from the space and cut off from the services offered by mosques.

Iowa Man Charged With Making Online Threats Against Boston Mosque

BOSTON — U.S. officials on Wednesday arrested an Iowa man and charged him with making online threats against a Boston mosque, including threats to shoot and kill Muslims.
Federal court papers unsealed on Wednesday charged that Gerald Wayne Ledford, 57, of Clinton, Iowa, made threatening posts on the Facebook page of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, including the post “we will destroy you” and photos of a person carrying a long gun.

CAIR-NY Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Attack on Muslims Outside Mosque

July 21, 2014

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today called on law enforcement authorities and public officials to investigate an alleged attack on Muslim worshippers on their way to prayers at a Brooklyn mosque as a possible hate crime.

On Friday evening, witnesses say passengers in a Lexus drove by the Tayba Islamic Center shouting anti-Muslim slurs, including “This is for your Allah,” and threw eggs at several members dressed in traditional Muslim attire. A 70-year-old Muslim in traditional Pakistani attire and wearing an Islamic Kufi (scullcap) was reportedly hit in the chest by an egg.

“We urge law enforcement authorities and elected officials to investigate this apparent hate crime and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice,” said CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadyia Khalique. “Public officials need to send the message that our community will not tolerate acts of hate or attacks on houses of worship.”

Terry Jones, Quran-Burning Pastor, Plans ‘Dearborn Freedom Rally’ In Front Of Mosque

June 3, 2014

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor known for burning Qurans, is planning a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, outside one of America’s largest mosques. The event is schedule to take place on Flag Day, June 14, outside of the Islamic Center of America (ICA).

Jones, author of Islam Is of the Devil, explained on his website, Stand Up America Now, that “the purpose of the event is to rally against Islamic Sharia Law which threatens freedom of speech in the United States.” It’s being billed as the Dearborn Freedom Rally and it will be hosted by the American Patriotic Bikers.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. called his cause “un-American,” but noted that Jones has the right to free speech, according to the Detroit Free Press. Dearborn has a large Muslim population, and about 40% of the town is of Arab descent.

This isn’t the first time that Jone has planned Islamophobic events in Dearborn. In 2012, the city asked Jones and his Stand Up America Now co-founder, Wayne Sapp, to sign an indemnity agreement before speaking. A federal court later ruled that Jones’ freedom of speech had been violated, which led the city to change its special events ordinance.

Opponents Of Islamic Center Of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Have Case Declined By U.S. Supreme Court

June 4, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For years, opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro vowed to take their legal fight to shut down the mosque all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That fight ended Monday (June 2), when the nation’s highest court declined to hear their case.

The four-year conflict over construction of the mosque, which opened in 2012, brought national attention to this Bible Belt city of 112,000 about 30 miles south of Nashville.

Hundreds marched in protest after Rutherford County officials approved plans for the mosque in 2010. Televangelist Pat Robertson labeled the Islamic center a “mega mosque” and claimed Muslims were taking over Murfreesboro. An arsonist set fire to construction equipment on the building site.

Mosque opponents eventually filed a suit against Rutherford County, seeking to block construction of the worship space.

On the surface, the fight was over the minutiae of Tennessee’s sunshine, or public notice, laws. Mosque foes claimed local officials failed to give adequate notice of a meeting where plans for the mosque’s construction were approved.

But a thriving anti-Muslim movement in Tennessee fueled the fight. Mosque foes asserted that the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom did not apply to the mosque. In court, Joe Brandon Jr., a lawyer for mosque foes, said Islam is not a religion, and he argued that the mosque was a threat to the community.

Initially, a local judge ruled for the mosque foes and ordered a halt to mosque construction. But a federal court quickly overruled that decision, paving the way for the mosque to open in 2012. A state appeals court also later overturned the lower court decision.

Local Muslims, many of whom had worshipped in the community for years, found themselves having to defend their faith and their status as American citizens at the trial.

Members of the Islamic Center found help in local interfaith groups and other local leaders who rallied to their assistance. More than 100 local religious leaders signed a letter supporting the mosque.

Foes of the mosque haven’t given up yet. A group of plaintiffs recently filed suit to block local Muslims from building a cemetery on the mosque grounds.

According to the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, a ruling on the cemetery lawsuit is expected in mid-June.