Muslims outnumber Catholics, says Vatican

The number of Muslims has surpassed that of Roman Catholics for the first time, the Vatican said. While Catholics make up 17.4 percent of the world’s population, Muslims account for 19.2% – this according to the Vatican’s new statistics yearbook, based on figures from 2006. Monsignor Vittoro Formenti, who edited the yearbook, cites this due to declining birth rates among Catholics and the rise in the number of children had by Muslim families. Formenti said that the information on Muslim numbers had been released by the United Nations, while the Vatican’s data on Catholics was based on questionnaires sent out to dioceses around the world.

Muslim Women Behind Wall of Silence in Germany

Europeans are starting to question the notion of multiculturalism, which can lead to separate, parallel societies and a large Muslim underclass. Officials are now focusing on Muslim women, believing their empowerment can facilitate their communities’ integration into mainstream society. In Germany, many Muslim families are guided by the strict patriarchal traditions of rural Turkey. The men say those customs are necessary to protect their women from what they see as the evils of Western secular societies. But many of those Muslim women live behind invisible walls of silence. Tensions in a Multi-Ethnic Society “Turkish for Beginners” is a popular TV sitcom in Germany. A German psychotherapist who is a single mother of two teenagers falls in love with a policeman of Turkish descent. He also has a teenage son and daughter. They all move in together and form a patchwork family. In one scene, the veiled Turkish daughter tells her new blonde stepbrother that she wants her own plates, ones that haven’t been tainted by his German pork. The sitcom – written by a Turkish German – pokes fun at the cross-cultural family, but also raises more serious issues in a multi-ethnic society. It deals with religion and relations between men and women. Sylvia Poggioli reports.

Mohammed top of baby name table

Jack could soon be overtaken by Mohammed in a poll of the top boys’ names in the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the trend has been fuelled by high birth rate among Muslim families. Currently, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities have a higher birth rate than any other ethnic group. ONS research also shows that the birth rate of women born in Pakistan but living in the UK is now three times higher than that of British-born women. [Full-text here.->

French Court Backs Muslim School

LYON – A French court in the east-central city of Lyon has overturned a decision by the city’s top educational authority to close a Muslim secondary school. “Justice is served,” the school’s principal Nazir Hakim told on Tuesday, February 20. “We were confident that the French judiciary would give us back our right to open the school under relevant laws that guarantee freedom of establishing private schools in accordance with the state by-laws,” added Hakim, in an upbeat mood. The renovated building in the Lyon suburb of D’cines will be fully operating next year and will mainly teach state curricula in addition to Qur`an, jurisprudence, Islamic civilization and history. Private Muslim schools were an urgent demand by many Muslim families in France, especially after the state banned hijab and religious symbols at public schools.

Muslims Sue, Alleging Discrimination

Families in Anaheim apartments say they are victims of religious and housing bias. Manager calls it just a landlord-tenant dispute. By David Reyes, Times Staff Writer Seven Muslim families filed a lawsuit Friday alleging religious and housing discrimination at an Anaheim apartment complex. The suit alleges that the owner and the manager of Chaumont Villas refused to make repairs to apartments, don’t allow Muslim children to play in public areas and have harassed Muslim families because of their faith. The suit was announced at a news conference in front of the complex at 1600 W. Broadway, attended by several tenants and representatives of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The suit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Tawfiq M. Mousa, Mustafa A. Suleiman, Waleed M. Abdullah, Jamal Almasri, Mohammed Wali Hakami, Abdullah T. Assaf and Issam H. Wahby. Listed as defendants were property management firm Swami International, businessman Ram K. Mittal, and corporations DKM Investments and RKM Investments. “This is nothing more than a landlord-tenant dispute,” said Pat Mitchell, a vice president for Swami, located in Rolling Hills Estates. Mousa said he, his wife and three children had lived three years in their $1,450-a-month, 3-bedroom unit with no problems until a new manager arrived at the complex a year ago. “Since then, there’s been a pattern of harassment against Muslims renting here,” said Mousa, 43, an engineer. Manager Bridgett Phillips yelled at Muslim children and chased them from common areas, and frequently referred to Muslim tenants with profanity, the suit alleges. Phillips, named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment. In June, the dispute escalated when Mousa circulated a petition seeking a new manager and asking for repairs to units, including fixing rusted plumbing and peeling paint. It was signed by two dozen Muslim and non-Muslim tenants at the 61-unit complex. “That’s when I was handed a 60-day eviction notice,” he said. But Mitchell said Mousa was evicted for causing friction between Muslim tenants and the apartment manager and said Mousa followed Phillips around the complex snapping her picture. “He has been harassing the manager and not allowing her to do her job,” Mitchell said. “We can’t have somebody creating a hostile environment.” Although Southern California is home to an estimated 500,000 Muslims, it’s a population that doesn’t file many housing complaints, said Connie Der Torossian, a spokeswoman for the Fair Housing Council of Orange County. “It’s a hard population to reach and similar to some of the ethnic minorities like Vietnamese,” Der Torossian said. “They’re afraid to make complaints out of fear of retaliation.” According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 27 cases of religious discrimination were filed statewide in the year ending Sept. 1. Of those, five were brought by Muslims. Of the seven families that are plaintiffs in the suit, two have moved out of Chaumont Villas after they sought larger apartments there but were told none were available, said their attorney, Federico C. Sayre. The apartments were then rented to non-Muslims, the suit alleges.