Unity in a Strange Land: Photographing New York City’s Islamic Communities

July 13, 2014

Philip Montgomery calls his photographs of New York City’s various Islamic communities an unfinished project, one driven by changing perspectives and questions. He began in 2009 as a new arrival from California and fresh from photographing Sufi Muslims in Kashmir. In an unfamiliar city, Mr. Montgomery, now 26, said he felt a yearning to “work my way back to the kind of connected communities I saw in Kashmir.”

What he found in New York was an incredible diversity of cultures and practices: West Africans in Harlem; Indonesians in Jamaica, Queens; Palestinians in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; large and small congregations from all over the Islamic world.

“They were all keeping the traditions of where the individuals came from,” Mr. Montgomery said. “These are Americans, but this is their connection to home. I was looking at people bound together by faith but also by the city they lived in.”

After a break, Mr. Montgomery returned to the mosques during the holy month of Ramadan, which this year is June 28 to July 28. In 2009, many of the Muslims he encountered were still navigating the anti-Islamic sentiments that arose after the Sept. 11 attack. This year, the world event moving many of the congregants has been the increasingly bloody conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank.

But he was struck by the scenes of unity, as at a mosque on West 29th Street, across from the hipsterish Ace Hotel. “You had creative directors grabbing coffee at Stumptown or pork-heavy food at the Breslin, and then you had cabdrivers praying in the street, breaking the fast,” he said. “I talked to Ghanaians, Yemenis, people from Mali, Palestinians and Americans, people from all over the world in a random spot in Manhattan. It was really a New York cross-pollination.”

Official UCIDE (Union of the Islamic Communities of Spain) news

April 15, 2014

 

Even though several news about the Jihadist activities in Spain have been released in the past months no official comment on the subject has been issued by the Islamic Communities delegations. Furthermore the Spanish police and Security forces have been updating the growing number of Jihadists individuals departing from Spain to fight in Syria, still there was no reaction or declaration from the Spanish Muslim leaders.

In fact in the official Facebook account of Riay Tatary (President of the UCIDE) the most recent posts have been on common questions such as integration of the Muslim citizens in the Spanish society, the envoy of goods to humanitarian associations in Syria and a conference on methods of financing Islamic institutions.

 

Islamhispania: http://islamhispania.blogspot.com.es/2014/03/madrid22032014islamedia-conferencia.html

http://islamhispania.blogspot.com.es/2014/04/el-presidente-de-ucide-recibe-al.html

UCIDE: http://ucide.org/es/content/el-contendor-del-levante-de-ayuda-humanitaria-siria-llega-su-destino

British Muslims Condemn Anti-Muslim Bigotry Printed in the Daily Mail

February 22, 2014

 

Leading British Muslim and interfaith organisations today wrote to Paul Dacre, the Editor of the Daily Mail condemning an article by columnist Richard Littlejohn that deployed hateful Muslim stereotypes. The column purports to criticise an individual but instead uses slurs commonly found in racist and far-right websites to make its point.

Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, the article satirises a community event that is to be held at the theme park, organised through a private group booking. Mr Littlejohn uses hateful tropes to fill his article. Mr Littlejohn jokes that the group, which will in real life have parents and children in attendance, will travel to Legoland in a coach “…packed with explosives stops in Parliament Square. As Big Ben strikes ten, driver will blow himself up”.

As a result of Mr Littlejohn’s article, far-right groups are threatening to turn up at Legoland, thus causing distress to the children present.

The letter is signed by a cross-section of British Muslims. It is in no way a defence of the views attributed to the person Mr Littlejohn criticises, but rather a challenge to our media not to accept such hateful language in our discourse.

 

The letter reads:

Dear Mr Dacre,

We write to express our condemnation of a recent article published by Richard Littlejohn in your newspaper. Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, Mr Littlejohn deploys the most hateful stereotypes of Muslims to attack an individual.

Our condemnation is not about the attacks on Mr Haitham al-Haddad: he is perfectly capable of responding to the accusations put to him if minded to do so. Many of us may well disagree with the views attributed to him. Rather, we are speaking out at the insidious and hateful tropes Mr Littlejohn uses for his argument.

Mr Littlejohn may think he is humorous, satirical in fact. But there is nothing funny about inciting hatred. The language he deploys is exactly the same as those used by racists and the far-right. One needs only to peruse the comments below his article online to see the hatred against Muslims Mr Littlejohn has generated.

Would you allow similar hateful stereotypes to be used when writing about other faith or race communities?

Mr Littlejohn may suggest his words of hatred are directed at one figure rather than mainstream Muslims. This is a poor excuse. He accuses one figure of using hate speech by deploying hate speech himself.

As a cross section of Britain’s Muslim community, along with many of our fellow Britons, we state clearly and loudly that Mr Littlejohn’s article is the worst form of bigotry. This goes beyond causing offence. Your newspaper has published an incitement to hate Muslims.

So, we urge you, in the interests of decency and fairplay, to retract Mr Littlejohn’s article and to issue an apology not just to British Muslims, but to your readers and the great British public at large.

Yours,

 

 

Farooq Murad,

Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain

 

Fiyaz Mughal,

Founder and Director, Faith Matters and Tell Mama

 

Julian Bond

Director, Christian Muslim Forum

 

Steven Derby,

Director, Interfaith Matters

 

Ali Qureshi

Secretary General, Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO)

 

Maulana Sarfraz Madni,

Chairman, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board

 

Ameena Blake,

Vice-President, Muslim Association of Britain

 

Ali Master,

Council of European Jamaats (COEJ)

 

Saleha Islam

Chief Executive, Muslim Youth Helpline

 

Sufyan G Ismail,

Trustee, Engage

 

Mazhar Khan

Executive Board Member, Muslim Council of Scotland

 

Saleem Kidwai OBE,

Secretary General, Muslim Council of Wales

 

Mohammed Aslam-Ijaz,

General Secretary, Council of Mosques, South London and Southern Counties

 

Abdul Hamid Qureshi

Chair, Lancashire Council of Mosques

 

Ufuk Secgin

Chairman, London Islamic Culture and Recreation Society (LICARS)

 

Ahmed Khelloufi

Executive Director, Muslim Welfare House (London)

 

Mohammed Kozbar

British Muslim Initiative and Finsbury Park Mosque

 

Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy

Chair, Iqra Institute, Oxford

 

Shifa Shahab

Federation of Muslim Organisations Leicestershire

 

Muhammad Jinani

Young Muslim Organisation UK

 

Dr Mohammed Idrees

General Secretary, UK Islamic Mission

 

Ajmal Masroor

London Imam and Director of Barefoot Institute

 

Yusuf Al Khoei

Al-Khoei Foundation

 

Moulana Shahid Raza,

Founding Trustee, British Muslim Forum

 

Sir Iqbal Sacranie

Balham Mosque & Tooting Islamic Centre

 

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari

Author and Commentator

 

Talha Ahmad

Head of Media, Dawatul Islam UK & Eire

 

Yousuf Bhailok

Trustee /Chair. ‘Al Jamiah Al Islamiyah Darul Uloom Lancashire

 

Rashid Brora

General Secretary, Southampton Medina Mosque Trust Ltd

 

Unaiza Malik

Muslim Women’s Association

 

Muhammad Habibur-Rahman

Chairman, East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre

 

Dilowar Khan

President, Islamic Forum of Europe

 

 

The Muslim Council of Britain: http://www.mcb.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2463:pr-template&catid=40:press-release

“Mosques in Italy:” The Northern League and Muslims in confrontation

January 14, 2014

 

On Friday January 17th laws, rights and the overall distrust. The conference is titled “the Northern League and Young Muslims in confrontation” and will take place in Bologna. The Northern League will be represented by Umberto Bosco, board member of the Emilia party. Representing the Young Muslims will be Yassine Lafram, from Turin and of Moroccan origin.

Bosco promises that the event “will bring about a heated but civil debate between supposedly antipodal positions. The topic of the mosques is very controversial but little known, and the debate will not be a simple opportunity to reiterate the familiar opposition of the Northern League to their construction, but the opportunity to clarify and argue its position.”

 

Modena 2000: http://www.modena2000.it/2014/01/14/moschee-in-italia-lega-nord-e-musulmani-a-confronto-venerdi-a-bologna/

Turin: Open Mosques for a Day

December 4, 2013

 

The places of worship are a source of wisdom , serenity and peace in which man realizes his infinite smallness. The places of worship are also spaces of encounter and confrontation between different cultures and faiths, as shown by the girls and boys in the Italian Association of Young Muslims, who organized moments of depth and knowledge on cultural and religious elements of Islam , also opening the doors of mosques in Turin to citizens through the initiative “Open Mosque.”  “After the visit, the dozens of people who have followed us have looked at the world with a different position” says Ayoub Cherkawoui, coordinator of the Association of Piedmont. Periodically, we perform the same guided tour and reception with the primary schools in the territory, to explain the similarities and differences between religions and debunk many clichés. At first the children are quiet and a bit ‘intimidated,’ but then curiosity takes over and they ask many questions.”

Seminars and workshops
The fourth edition of the annual gathering of the Young Muslims of the Northwest of Italy has dealt with important issues from a new perspective. The one who is torn between two cultures but feels as if they belong inseparably to their country of origin: Italy. An important meeting focused on the status of second generation immigrants (those born in Italy or those who were brought as children), orientation to the university and educational choices, the new world of work and university courses offered by the territory of Turin and Piedmont. “The family is the country of the heart” Giuseppe Mazzini wrote in his book The Duties of Man. The festival has dedicated an evening to review the knowledge and dialogue about the meaning of family and hospitality in other countries.

Open Mosque
Turin has assumed the role of a city of exchange, a multi-ethnic place where cultures and religions come together and blend to a sometimes difficult but often constructive coexistence. Through dialogue and discussion, the true spirit of certain neighborhoods such as San Salvario is interfaith. The neighborhood is the reference point for historical and religious minorities and now includes new faiths brought to Turin by migrants. With curiosity and desire to discuss, young Muslims have accompanied the people of Turin to discover other places of worship.

Young, Muslim and Italian
“Our thoughts tend to seek a balance between realism and faith to give young Muslims every reason to believe in a better future, to avoid extremism and to demonstrate to our society the true face of the majority of Muslims, a friendly face that is not the enemy” says Ayoub Cherkawoui “And ‘essential,’ therefore, for us young Muslims in Italy feel that they have a dual identity, that of their family and their origins, and that they have gained by living and growing up in Italy . This can be seen as wealth, but it can also be the cause of deep divides.”

 
Tiscali: http://notizie.tiscali.it/regioni/piemonte/feeds/13/12/04/t_76_20131204_1640_video_10.html

Jewish Leader never discussed the closure of Mosques with Mayor

November 6, 2013

 

The president of the Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, said that he never spoke with the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, to discuss possibility of closing mosques in the capital. Pacifici denied rumors about the supposed encounter stating the conversation “never happened.”

 

AGI: http://www.agi.it/roma/notizie/201311062052-cro-rrm1056-islam_marino_pacifici_mai_parlato_di_chiudere_moschee

Dutch Public Servant Fired for Informing on Mosque Schools

October 31, 2013

 

The Rotterdam public servant who told journalists that Mosques run illegal boarding schools has been fired by the city council with immediate effect.

Based on confidential documents and interviews, NRC Handelsblad reported last year that mosque boarding schools exist in Rotterdam among other locations which had no licence to have children stay overnight. Fifty girls were living the attic of one of these mosques. The government carried out no supervision of these schools.

The public servant who tipped off the newspaper received a letter of dismissal on Monday in which he was accused by the city council of “serious dereliction of duty.” The letter also says he created a “feeling of unsafeness” at the municipal organisation, by “recording and distributing an internal meeting.”

 

NIS News- http://www.nisnews.nl/whistle-blower-on-illegal-mosque-schools-sacked.html

Euro-Islam summary for original story: http://www.euro-islam.info/2013/05/22/alleged-mosque-boarding-school-revealed-in-rotterdam/

‘Fiction’: Ray Kelly Rebuts Allegations That NYPD Monitored Mosques

On Morning Joe Wednesday morning, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly fought back against allegations that the NYPD had monitored entire mosques in the course of counterterrorist operations, telling host Joe Scarborough that the charges were the result of two reporters with an axe to grind, and the police department’s tactics were conducted lawfully and in the interests of the city’s security.

“They’re hyping a book that’s coming out next week,” Kelly said of the authors of the article with the allegations. “The book is based on a compilation of about fifty articles two AP reporters did on the department. If it’s a reflection of the article, then the book will be a fair amount of fiction. It will be half-truths, it will be lots of quotes from unnamed course sources.”

Scarborough asked if Kelly agreed that it would be improper to place entire mosques under police suspicion.

“Of course,” Kelly said. “We do according to the law. What we’re investigating, and how we investigate it, is done pursuant to a federal judge’s direction.”

 

Documents: NYPD Secretly Designated Entire Mosques As Terrorism Organizations to Record Sermons and Spy on Imams

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

The disclosures come as the NYPD is fighting off lawsuits accusing it of engaging in racial profiling while combating crime. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that the department’s use of the stop-and-frisk tactic was unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups have sued, saying the Muslim spying programs are unconstitutional and make Muslims afraid to practice their faith without police scrutiny.

One confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to put informants in leadership positions at mosques and other organizations, including the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn, a secular social-service organization.

 

Mosques tighten their security as attacks follow the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby

Kashif Ahmed pointed to a hole in the middle of the mosque’s carpet where the smoke grenade landed. On 22 May this year Geoffrey Ryan kicked open the front door of the Al Falah mosque in Braintree, Essex, tossed the incendiary device inside, and brandishing two kitchen knives threatened to kill worshippers. Five hours earlier, Drummer Lee Rigby had been murdered on the streets of Woolwich, south-east London. Muslim convert Michael Adebolajo has been charged with the killing.

 

The mood among many Muslim communities in the aftermath of Woolwich remains fearful. In the months since then, Braintree’s only mosque has been strikingly modified. The front door is now protected by a security code, CCTV cameras monitor the entrance and police patrols frequently pass by.

 

Ahmed, who lives in nearby Chelmsford, believes community relations in Braintree have broadly improved since the attacks, citing gestures of support from local church groups, businesses and schools. During the recent month of Ramadan, police guarded the mosque every night for two or three hours to ensure that late-night drinkers could not cause trouble. “When people are drunk, everybody has a problem. Anybody who looks different – for example, if they have a funny haircut – can get targeted,” said Ahmed.

 

But the voice of dissent is again soon evident. Sheila, who has lived in south Harlow for 40 years, said some residents were worried about a perceived increase in the number of Muslims. “It’s getting bad, people have had enough,” she said. “I remember we managed to stop it [the Islamic centre] turning into a mosque. They were going to bring the dead bodies in, despite it being next door to the school. People don’t want that.”

 

Yet the truth is that the town’s Muslim population of 2,000 out of a total of 82,000 keeps a low profile. The Islamic centre is discreetly located on the town’s southern periphery, barely visible from the road. “I’ve been driving past it for three years and never even noticed it.

 

Yet the aftermath of the Woolwich attacks has drawn attention to the fact that the far right, particularly the EDL, is behind many of the attacks, with the group recently linked to a third of cases of Islamophobic abuse online.