Anti-Islam: Mosques Tucked Away

ROTTERDAM – Almost 70 new mosques will be built or extended in the next four years. AD’s own research of 485 municipalities found that most of them will be built on the outskirts of residential districts, in industrial areas, or other out-of-the-way places. According to Marcel Maussen, a researcher in Amsterdam, this is partly because prayerhouses, with their additional facilities, are simply too large for some residential districts, and “few people would want 2,000 people outside their door on a Friday afternoon”; on the other hand, the “banishment” of mosques to industrial areas and roadside pastures is also a sign of growing anti-Islamic sentiment. {(continued below in Dutch} Maar er is volgens hem ook een andere verklaring voor de _verbanning’ naar industrieterreinen en weilanden naast snelwegen. ,,Dat heeft te maken met een groeiende anti-islamstemming.” Nederland telt binnenkort zeker 450 offici_le moskee_n, waarvan er 115 zijn gevestigd in de vier grote steden. Ze bieden onderdak aan ?_n miljoen gelovigen. Het aantal kerken neemt intussen gestaag af. Het zijn er volgens schattingen van kerkverzekeraar Donatus nu nog ongeveer 4500. Maar vooral katholieke kerken krijgen de komende jaren andere functies. Op verzoek van het AD leverde bijna driekwart van de gemeenten een overzicht van de talrijke nieuwbouw- en uitbreidingsplannen voor moskee_n. De bouwgolf wordt vooral veroorzaakt door een nijpend ruimtegebrek in bestaande moskee_n. Met de vastenmaand ramadan worden in veel gemeenten provisorisch tenten en bouwketens geplaatst om de toeloop aan te kunnen. De te krappe moskee_n leverden in veel gevallen een jarenlange strijd voor een nieuw, groter gebedshuis. De nieuwbouw levert meestal een verdubbeling van de vloeroppervlakte op. In Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag en Rotterdam wordt een deel van de moskee_n aan het oog van gemeentebesturen onttrokken. Het gaat om nieuwe gebedshuizen van vaak jonge, ontevreden moskeebezoekers. Tegen de trend in beginnen zij juist weer in kleine ruimten de islam te prediken.

Watchdog For Uk Mosques Launches

A potentially influential body aimed at tackling extremism is being launched a year after the London bombings. LONDON – The mosques standards body was a key proposal from a government-backed extremism taskforce. In a unique move, leaders of four major British Muslim groups have agreed the body is essential to modernise and open up religious institutions. The body’s launch document speaks about the failings of some mosques, including the exclusion of women and youth. The proposal for a Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body (Minab) was one of more than 100 recommendations to emerge from a Home Office-organised taskforce on extremism in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings. But the plan has been mired in controversy with many mosques resistant to the idea of a watchdog, believing that they would be ultimately controlled by the government. But the four groups backing its creation said that it was a major step forward in modernising a key institution. Community leadership Many younger Muslims, particularly women, have long complained mosques are run by small cliques of men from distinct clans or families, rather than by the wider community. In an unprecedented move for a major policy publication from Muslim organisations, that complaint is accepted in the document setting out Minab’s aims. Crucially, it accepts many imams are not up to the job of giving guidance to alienated young people. It sets a priority of developing the careers of British-born or educated preachers who can relate to young Muslims in English and understand western culture. The founders of Minab say it will also champion more access for women and ask mosque elders to bring on board highly-educated Muslims in professional positions, such as lawyers and teachers, to help run the institutions. Khurshid Ahmed, of the British Muslim Forum, one of the key national bodies behind the reforms, said they would now start work on ensuring that Minab would be a properly constituted, professional organisation. While Muslims did not believe mosques were the source of extremism, said Mr Ahmed, communities had an unprecedented opportunity to achieve much-needed change. “There are problems of governance within mosques and we need to build their capacity and make sure they are properly resourced. “We need to be very realistic and honest with ourselves. The vast majority of our imams lack the capacity to intellectually engage with our young people. We need to help them build that capacity.” Yusuf Al-Khoei of the Al-Khoei Foundation, which represents Shia Muslims in the UK, said the launch of Minab was a major step forward for British Muslims, not least because the different strands of the faith had united. “Four organisations have come together for the first time and reached a consensus. It’s a very positive move because the voice of moderation is coming up loud and clear. We are trying to decouple Islam from images and allegations of violence. “We need more involvement of the youth, of our women – and more involvement in our neighbourhoods. “We need our mosques to be more than places of worship, they need to be proper community centres. “For too long there has really been no structure. I have seen people claim to be imams in mosques who could not even read or write.”

US Muslim Women Americanizing Mosques, Book Finds

The face Muslim women present to America is as diverse as the faith itself — and one that is changing as waves of often impoverished immigrants come to the United States. That is part of the picture that emerges from a new book shedding light on the lives of Muslim women by way of well-crafted profiles of more than four dozen of them, cutting across cultures and lifestyles. “Part of what we found is that the United States is one of the best places in the world for women to practice Islam because they do have freedom, because of our ideas about women having careers and a voice in houses of worship,” said Donna Gehrke-White, author of “The Face Behind the Veil” (Citadel Press).

More than 120 New Mosques

KOLN: With about 3.4 million believers, Islam is, after Christianity, the second-largest religion in Germany. This becomes ever more visible: the construction of mosques is booming. Of course, as with all representations of religion in the state and public sphere, this boom comes with conflict. According to the Islam-Archiv, there are 143 “classical mosques” in Germany. There are 128 mosques in the planning stages . Most of them are very sparse. According to the Muslim Central Committee, there are in addition more than 2000 “hidden mosques”, that were not originally built as houses of worship but are today used as prayer rooms or mosques.

U.S. Says It Didn’t Target Muslims Mosques Among Sites Monitored For Radiation

By Mary Beth Sheridan Faced with angry complaints, U.S. officials defended an anti-terrorism program yesterday that secretly tested radiation levels around the country — including at more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington area — and insisted that no one was targeted because of his or her faith. One official knowledgeable about the program explained that Muslim sites were included because al Qaeda terrorists were considered likely to gravitate to Muslim neighborhoods or mosques while in the United States. “If you were looking [for] the needle in a haystack, that’s the haystack you would look at,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. “You’d look at the [likely] targets and the places the operators were.” No indications of radiation were found at the businesses, homes, warehouses or mosques that were included in the program. The official said that radiation monitoring of the Muslim sites started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and lasted through 2003. The focus on the Muslim sites, which was first reported last week by U.S. News & World Report, has stunned and angered officials at mosques and Muslim and Arab-American organizations. Two such groups have filed Freedom of Information requests, known as FOIAs, in recent days to try to learn which sites were monitored. They also have requested meetings with the FBI, which ran the program along with the Energy Department. “The problem [is] . . . it further gives the Muslim community a sense they are suspect, they are under the gun,” said Ahmed Younis, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Michael A. Mason, who oversees the Washington Field Office of the FBI, said in an interview that he hoped to meet next week with the groups. “We have not violated the law; we have not violated the Constitution; we have not gone on private property,” Mason said. He said that he could provide few details because the program remains classified but added that the monitoring devices involved were “passive,” roughly akin to holding a thermometer out the window of a moving car to measure the temperature. “It’s not like thermal-imaging a house, where you’re trying to figure out if they’re trying to grow marijuana,” he said. Officials emphasized that Washington wasn’t the only place where the program operated. Nor were Muslim sites the only focus: The program included airports, buildings and monuments that were considered possible targets for a terrorist attack, said the official familiar with the program who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There was no more intensive focus on D.C. than there was on several other cities,” he said. The testing began several months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when a series of events had convinced U.S. officials that another terrorist attack was imminent, the official said. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in May 2002 on suspicion of planning an attack with a radiological dirty bomb; Osama bin Laden was threatening to strike again. In addition, documents discovered in Afghanistan indicated that terrorists could possibly use a U.S. mosque to hide radioactive material, said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI counterterrorism agent. Cloonan, who earlier was interviewed by ABC News about the program, said it was not clear which mosques might have been considered. The official familiar with the program acknowledged that “now it sounds like a crazy thing. But at the time it didn’t sound like a very crazy thing. . . . All the intel was saying, ‘An attack is coming, it’s likely to be al Qaeda, likely to be launched in a U.S. city, likely to involve a dirty device’. . . . Where would you go looking for that?” Authorities determined that in the past, al Qaeda terrorists or people close to them tended to live in Muslim neighborhoods or attend local mosques, the official said. That’s how some sites became included in a program, he said. Other sites were chosen because of specific intelligence information. Most of the testing was apparently done from nearby streets. But, according to U.S. News & World Report, in as much as 15 percent of the cases, officials had to go onto private property, such as mosque parking lots and private driveways, to get accurate readings. Officials involved with the program said no warrants were needed because they were in public access areas. But some Muslim activists said they were concerned. “We’d like our federal law enforcement agencies to know the American Muslim community stands firmly behind protecting our nation’s borders,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the groups that are seeking the addresses of the sites involved. “But, at the same time, we are not willing to give up our guaranteed constitutional and legal rights in order to do that.” He said his group constantly received phone calls from Muslims who believed they were under surveillance. But none had specifically mentioned possible radiation testing. U.S. News & World Report said that some officials believed the program, which involved property occupied or owned by U.S. citizens, was legally questionable. It quoted one unidentified source as saying that participants who complained “nearly lost their jobs.” Mason said that did not occur in the local FBI office. “No one in the Washington Field Office would ever be so threatened,” he said. “Never.”

Mosques Conflicts in Western Europe

The Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS) publishes the results of first-class research on all forms of migration and its consequences, together with articles on ethnic conflict, discrimination, racism, nationalism, citizenship and policies of integration. Contributions to the journal, which are all fully refereed, are especially welcome when they are the result of comparative research, for example within Europe or between one or more European country and the countries of North America and the Asia-Pacific. The journal tends to focus on advanced industrial countries and has distinguished associate editors from North America and the Asia-Pacific.

Lodi Highlights Battle Over America’s Mosques

LODI, Calif.–Though FBI vehicles and small-engine aircraft no longer circle the town, Muslims in Lodi, Calif., still feel under siege. Four months after the government launched a highly public terrorism investigation that ensnared five Pakistani men here in June, the community is still reeling, not just from the pressures stemming from the federal probe, but also from a pre-existing split in the community that some say the FBI exploited. “Everyone is just kind of hiding their head under the sand, hoping the storm will pass,” says Taj Khan, an outspoken Pakistani Muslim leader in Lodi. Father and son Umer and Hamid Hayat, alleged to have ties to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, now await trial in Sacramento County Jail. Local Muslim clerics Muhammed Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed and Adil Khan’s 19-year-old son selected to depart for Pakistan in August instead of fighting immigration violation charges. Equally contentious, though, is that the Farooqia Islamic Center, a Muslim school and community center Adil Khan and his prot_g_ Ahmed were planning, is now all but defunct. And those heading the existing mosque are not shedding any tears over its demise. Such conflicts within American mosques are becoming increasingly common as Muslim communities grapple with conflicting ideologies regarding “women, interfaith events, the West, education, civic service and marriage,” says Asra Nomani, activist and author of “Standing Alone in Mecca.” “Pakistan is undergoing a fierce battle for the hearts and minds of its people. It’s natural that this flows into immigrant communities,” Nomani says. Pakistanis have made Lodi their home for almost a century, and since 1978, the Lodi Muslim Mosque, an inconspicuous yellow building that was once a Jehovah’s Witness Hall, has served an estimated 500 members from a community of 2,500. Men relax on the mosque veranda between scheduled prayers, and boys in Pakistani tunics play basketball across the street. Females are not barred from entering the mosque, mosque members say, but the facility is not large enough to accommodate women, who traditionally pray in separate lines behind the men. Few Pakistani women are to be seen there or in other public places in Southeast Lodi, where many in the community live. Planners of the Farooqia Islamic Center envisioned an 18-acre establishment where women’s education programs, K-4 schooling and interfaith gatherings could be held. Adil Khan, who immigrated to Lodi from Pakistan in the spring of 2001 and was named mosque imam shortly thereafter, kick-started the project, organizing conferences with local Christian and Jewish leaders in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and publicly signing a “declaration of peace” with a rabbi and reverend. “I think the most important thing it would have brought is more open communication between Muslims and non-Muslims,” says Pamela Parvez, 48, a white Muslim from nearby Stockton who converted 20 years ago. “But it would also be nice to have a place where women can go … to read the Quran, to study Islam together.” County supervisors halted the Farooqia project on Sept. 27, citing land-use concerns. Parvez and other supporters — Taj Khan, in particular — blame the project’s defeat primarily on the terror allegations, but also on leaders of the existing mosque. Three months before Adil Khan’s arrest, in March, Lodi Muslim Mosque president Mohammed Shoaib and others sued Adil Khan and four other Farooqia organizers for $200,000, alleging fraud and deceit in the group’s fund raising, notably its sale of the mosque-owned land, which Adil Khan used to finance the purchase of a separate 18-acre plot for the center. In their suit, Shoaib and his faction indicated that Adil Khan had overstayed his religious worker visa. Taj Khan has steered the Farooqia project in Adil Khan’s absence, and his supporters claim Shoaib deliberately provoked the imams’ arrests. Shoaib denies that accusation, blaming the imams themselves for attracting the FBI. “If you believe in the justice system here, the court has convicted them,” he says. Taj Khan, who now attends a mosque in Stockton that advertises “Friday prayers for women also,” is now one of several plaintiffs suing Shoaib and others on the mosque board claiming the president resigned in 2004 and has no authority over the governing body. “These people are being used by FBI,” Taj Khan says. “They plan and conspire and do stuff against the rest of members of the community.” Author Asra Nomani says adding federal investigators into this kind of religious dispute makes conditions ripe for the kind of back-stabbing that occurred in Lodi. “People point fingers at each other trying to stoke this fear of Muslims,” she says. “It’s like walking on egg shells.” Both cases are still pending in San Joaquin Superior Court. Regardless of their outcome, they have revealed in the community a deep divide. Taj Khan says that most of Lodi’s Muslims backed the plans for a more open mosque, but that Shoaib and his supporters, many of whom are related, disliked the project’s progressive aims. “They’re following the Wahabi sect in Saudi Arabia, and other people don’t like that,” Khan says. Shoaib says that his opponents have mislabeled him, and that Adil Khan, an educated native of metropolitan Karachi, was an interloper who did not respect community members from the poorer districts of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province, where most Lodi Muslims have their roots. “We’re not against women, not against another mosque,” he protests. “We’re against the way it is being run.” Whatever their differences, Khan and Shoaib agree on one thing: that the lasting feud has kept the community from regrouping. In mid-August, organizers called off an annual Pakistani Independence Day celebration in recognition of Adil Khan’s and Ahmed’s detention. Shoaib says that was a missed opportunity to show non-Muslims that the community had nothing to hide. Outside attempts to bring Lodi’s Muslim community together have faltered, as well. A proposed “Million Muslim March” — promoted by Lodi Mayor John Beckman and local conservative radio show host Mark Williams as a way to affirm the community’s stance against terrorism — was scrapped in July due to community division, Beckman said. The Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations organized talks to patch the rift, but they too fell through, says Shoaib. Reconciliation does not appear likely amid unresolved lawsuits and the imminent terrorism trial, according to six-year mosque member Sultan Afsar. “The wounds are too deep to be healed,” he says.

Dutch Mosques Develop Strategy Against Extremism

Three mosques in Amsterdam have presented the Jan Peter Balkenende, the prime minister of the Netherlands, with a plan to combat religious extremism. The plans explain how they will detect extremists and lay out how they will cooperate with authorities in confronting the problem. The plans are a result of agreements between teh city of Amsterdam and the mosques following the murder of Theo Van Gogh. {(continued below in French)} Trois mosqu_es d’Amsterdam devaient pr_senter lundi au Premier ministre n_erlandais Jan Peter Balkenende un code de conduite contre l’extr_misme, selon le Service d’information du Royaume (RVD). Dans ce code, ces mosqu_es du quartier du Baarsjes, _ forte population immigr_s, expliquent comment elles comptent d_tecter des comportements extr_mistes parmi les fid_les, ce qu’elles font pour contrer l’extr_misme et comment elles impliquent les autorit_s dans la lutte contre ce ph_nom_ne. C’est le r_sultat d’un accord entre mosqu_es et la ville d’Amsterdam, conclu apr_s le meurtre au nom de l’islam radical du cin_aste Theo van Gogh, destin_ _ d_tecter l’extr_misme islamique et _ d_fendre la libert_ d’expression. Plusieurs imams aux Pays-Bas ont appel_ les fid_les _ ne pas prot_ger d’_ventuels membres du r_seau islamiste Hofstadgroep accus_ de pr_parer des attentats aux Pays-Bas, et dont l’assassin de van Gogh aurait fait partie. Selon le quotidien amstellodamois Het Parool, un imam de Tilburg (sud) les a m_me qualifi_s “d’apostats”, consid_rant qu’ils sont infid_les au “vrai Islam”. Un imam de La Haye a r_dig_ une fatwa (avis religieux) autorisant tous les t_moignages contre les membres de ce groupe.

Greater Surveillance Of German Muslims? Some Want More Spot Checks Of German Mosques

Conservative German politicians Thursday called for increased surveillance of Germany’s Muslim community following the revelations that the London terrorist attacks last week were likely carried out by British Muslims. “We have to know what’s going on in every mosque,” Bavaria’s interior minister, G_nter Beckstein, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. “We have to have an intelligence presence there where extremist ideas are being preached.” Beckstein, who is tipped as a potential federal interior minister if the conservative opposition wins this fall’s possible early election, said greater efforts were needed to watch Germany’s Muslims amid the unsettling realization that the bombing attacks in London were the work of British citizens of Pakistani origin. “Accordingly we have increase surveillance of religious fanatics,” he said, calling on the German Muslim community to increase their cooperation with the authorities. “We need the help of tolerant Muslims.” Beckstein’s sentiment was echoed by other conservative politicians. Wolfgang Bosbach, the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary spokesman for interior issues, said suicide attackers could not be scared off by heightened security, making it more important to recruit informants from the local Muslim community for the intelligence services. Uwe Sch_nemann, the conservative interior minister of Lower Saxony, even called for increasing the frequency of random control checks at German mosques. “We need this instrument and we must make greater use of it,” he said. Sch_nemann also called for a special sitting of parliament during the summer recess to pass measure creating a proposed national terror suspect index. “This has to be done quickly since we’ll need it before the World Cup,” he told the paper. Boosting Video Surveillance Beckstein also said more closed-circuit cameras to help secure soccer’s largest sporting spectacle, which Germany will host next summer. Officials in Berlin have already decided to boost security on public transport in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg with the installation of more video surveillance. “Following the attacks on the British capital, we don’t want to be accused of not doing everything we can,” the head of the company responsible for the public transport in Berlin (BVG), Thomas Necker, told the Berliner Zeitung. The BVG will also keep all video footage recorded for three days instead of the current 24 hours. Brandenburg’s interior minister, J_rg Sch_nbohm, has also outlined plans to install closed-circuit cameras in various public areas including train stations and airports. “The swift success of Britain’s police investigations just goes to show how important closed-circuit cameras are,” Sch_nbohm told the tabloid Bild. In London, video footage of the four suspected bombers was able to be retrieved just five days after the attacks took place.

Cabinet To Act Against ‘Extremist Mosques’

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch government has committed itself to a plan of action against the 10 to 25 mosques in the Netherlands where “extremist sermons” are delivered, Interior Minister Johan Remkes has said. Remkes told Parliament that if the criminal law can’t be used against these mosques, the government will consider withdrawing subsidies and residence permits for the Muslim clerics preaching at the mosques. He made his remarks during a parliamentary debate about terrorism on Wednesday.