French Prime Minister Manuel Valls refused to associate extremism with a specific religion. He said Monday that Islam had nothing to do with terrorism.
Valls was speaking at a conference that was intended to foster stronger ties with the Muslim community in the country. France has 5 million Muslims, the most of any European country. The French government recently decided to hold a number of meetings with Muslim community leaders.
“We must say all of this is not Islam,” Al Arabiya quoted Valls as saying. “The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel … the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism.” Five months after an extremist attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Valls said that Islam, the second largest religion in the country, would stay in France. Valls acknowledged, however, that some in France reject Islam, adding that Islam provokes prejudices and misunderstandings.
Around 120 to 150 Muslim community leaders will attend the first forum organized by the French government. The forum aims to spark debate on various topics, such as building mosques, Islam’s image in the media and security at religious sites.
Yahoo News reports that 300 mosques are going to be built, adding to the 2,500 already in the country. However, some residents have expressed strong opposition to the buildings for Islamic worship. Cyril Nauth, the far-right mayor of Mantes-la-Ville, has tried halting a project to turn a city-owned site into a mosque.
Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Muslim Council, said the forum would give French Muslims an opportunity to express themselves. He said the present situation called for “renewed attention from public powers.” According to him, Muslims who get involved in extremist activities “belong to a different world.”
ABC Family recently ordered a pilot of a potential new series called Alice in Arabia, about an American teenager who’s kidnapped and kept as a prisoner at a distant relative’s home in Saudi Arabia. The pilot script was written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously worked as a cryptologic linguist in Arabic while serving in the U.S. army, but it came under intense fire from Muslim advocacy groups for concerns it would paint unfair, broad stereotypes of the Muslim faith.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations panned a leaked copy of the script, with its “familiar narrative of a beautiful girl kidnapped from the United States by sinister Arabs, held against her will in the desert, and threatened with early marriage.”
And now ABC Family has officially shelved the pilot for good. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee touted the victory against a show that “perpetuates demeaning stereotypes” about Muslim individuals, and used the opportunity to highlight other issues they believe ABC should be addressing as well.
An American Islamic group has been advising British mosques on security measures, including the installation of safe rooms and panic alarms, warning that they are at greater risk than in any other western country. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has discussed its revamped security regulations with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in light of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, in Woolwich, south-east London, which it said had even provoked attacks in the United States.
The security improvements encouraged by CAIR, America’s largest Muslim advocacy group, encourage the building of transparent fences around mosques, wire screens on windows, designated security officials, three-inch-thick doors, panic alarms and safe rooms.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of the conflict resolution charity Faith Matters, said too many mosques remained vulnerable to attack in the aftermath of Woolwich. Mughal said that, of the UK’s 1,500 mosques, 1,300 urgently needed to improve security. He added: “There are a significant number of mosques that don’t have CCTV, that don’t do an audit of their lighting around their building. Many of these mosques you can walk into without anybody asking anything. The vast amount of mosques really needs to reconsider their safety measures. I would classify them as vulnerable, given the changing climate since 7/7. But Woolwich is a huge turning point and if the mosques don’t realise that, they really need to wake up to it.”
Hooper said his group had recently contacted the FBI after a mosque in Georgia was vandalised with apparent reference to the murder of Rigby. The sign for the Islamic Centre of North Fulton was spray-painted with the phrase “London Justice”.
CHICAGO — There is an advertising war being fought here — not over soda or car brands but over the true meaning of the word “jihad.”
Backing a continuing effort that has featured billboards on the sides of Chicago buses, the local chapter of a national Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has been promoting a nonviolent meaning of the word — “to struggle” — that applies to everyday life.
Supporters say jihad is a spiritual concept that has been misused by extremists and inaccurately linked to terrorism, and they are determined to reclaim that definition with the ad campaign, called My Jihad.
But last month another set of ads, with a far different message, started appearing on buses here.
Mimicking the My Jihad ads, they feature photos and quotations from figures like Osama bin Laden and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010. “Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah,” says one ad, attributing the quotation to a Hamas television station. They end with the statement: “That’s his jihad. What’s yours?”
The leader of the second ad campaign, Pamela Geller, executive director of the pro-Israel group American Freedom Defense Initiative, has criticized the original My Jihad ads as a “whitewashed version” of an idea that has been used to justify violent attacks around the world.
The number of Muslim delegates attending the Democratic National Convention has quadrupled since 2004, according to a Muslim advocacy group.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations counts more than 100 Muslim delegates representing some 20 states at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week. That’s up from 25 delegates in 2004, according to CAIR.
CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said the numbers were “a sign of the American Muslim community’s growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party.” He also said that Democrats had targeted outreach to American Muslims.
A “handful” of Muslims were delegates at the Republic National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., McGraw said. Campaign officials for Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama’s GOP challenger, did not respond to a request for comment.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats invited a Muslim cleric to deliver a blessing during their conventions, even as Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders received invitations.
Most Muslim Americans voted Republican through the 2000 presidential election, but switched allegiances after the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 security policies, which some Muslims believe unfairly target their community. And while former President George W. Bush called Islam a “religion of peace,” some conservative Republicans now push for state laws to ban Shariah, Islamic law. The national GOP platform approved last week declares that U.S. courts should not consider foreign laws in their decisions.
The US military has agreed to remove targets depicting a Muslim woman and verses from the Qur’an from shooting ranges, it was announced at the weekend, where they were being used for target practice.
“We have removed this particular target and Arabic writing in question from the range in the near term, and will explore other options for future training,” Lt David Lloyd, a Navy spokesperson, said in a statement.
The move comes after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Muslim advocacy group, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta on Friday asking for the targets and religious text to be removed from a military facility based at Joint Base Fort Story on the east coast of the US.
“We welcome the Navy’s prompt action to address community concerns and hope this incident serves as a reminder that credible scholars and experts need to be consulted when designing training materials relating to Islam and Muslims for our nation’s military personnel,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.
WASHINGTON — The number of religious advocacy groups in the nation’s capital has more than tripled since the 1970s, with conservative groups seeing the biggest growth, according to a new report.
Together, faith-based lobbying and advocacy groups spend $390 million a year to influence lawmakers, mobilize supporters and shape public opinion, according to the report, released Monday (Nov. 21) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
There are now as many Muslim advocacy groups as mainline Protestant groups, and evangelicals and Roman Catholics constitute a strong 40 percent of religious lobbyists in and around Washington.
“Religious advocacy is now a permanent and sizable feature of the Washington scene,” said Allen Hertzke, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma and the primary author of the report.
Hertzke’s report surveyed 212 religious advocacy groups, ranging from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the American Jewish Committee to the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers).
Using financial reports from public tax forms, Hertzke said the biggest spender is the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which spent $87 million on advocacy in 2008. U.S. Catholic bishops were second, with $26.6 million spent in 2009, followed by the Family Research Council, with $14 million in 2008.
The Muslim American Society boosted its budget by 29 percent, and the American Islamic Congress by 41 percent, between 2008 and 2009 as Islamophobia intensified in the form of opposition to mosque building and the so-called Ground Zero mosque.
Muslim employees of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington said they felt discriminated against after being barred over the weekend from floors where an Israeli delegation was staying, a Muslim advocacy group said.
The hotel’s general manager, Amanda Hyndman, said the hotel rearranged some shifts and told some workers not to come in after a routine State Department background check found “irregularities” in the checks of 12 employees.
An official at the Israeli Embassy said that “as a policy, the embassy does not discuss the logistical arrangements for visiting Israeli officials.”
Leaders of local and national groups gathered at the site of the planned center, two blocks from ground zero, and declared not only that the planners had a constitutional right to build it, but also that they would help the project move forward in the face of heated opposition. They insisted that, as a matter of principle, the center should not budge from its planned site.
The Muslim leaders called on elected officials “to join their colleagues in denouncing and rejecting inflammatory rhetoric that endangers the lives of Muslim Americans.”
The proposed Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan got its strongest vote of confidence yet from major Muslim leaders on Monday, after months of behind-the-scenes grumbling that they were not properly consulted on the project, and a day’s worth of intense and painful conversations at a hotel near Kennedy International Airport.
The Obama Administration has quietly engaged in a dialogue with American Muslims and Arab-Americans according to the NYT. Following Mr. Obama’s Cairo speech in last June, his administration have engaged American Muslim advocates in policy discussions and, among others, top White House aides have provided them with briefing in regards to the health care reform, foreign policy issues, economic reform, immigration issues and national security. The White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, and Attorney General, Eric Holder are among the people who have privately met with Muslim advocates according to the NYT.