Le Monde – June 1, 2012
This Le Monde article charts how a number of alliances and fractures are unfolding as French Muslim organizations critique the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) for its lack of representativity. In fact, it is the two initial founders of the CFCM who, having boycotted the 2011 elections, are calling for reform. A number of groups are also critical of CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui, claiming he has not suitably reformed the organization to better include women and young people.
The Toronto Star – January 20, 2012
The Canadian Conservative government has launched a new office meant to promote religious freedom worldwide through a foreign policy focus to aid oppressed religious minorities in places such as Egypt, Pakistan, China and Iran. But in the months since the federal election, when the Office of Religious Freedom first appeared on the Tories’ platform, the foreign affairs department has released few details about how the new body will operate or when, exactly, it will come into being.
The new entity — which will cost $5 million, employ five and, Lavoie said, launch in early 2012 — has rankled a number of Canadian religious organizations, human rights groups and academics, who remain unsure of what it hopes to achieve and whose interests it will serve. Muslim groups especially have lamented the lack of information. Wahida Valiante, past president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said it was self-defeating for the ministry to stand behind a “wall of secrecy,” since religious issues are often racked with controversy. “We know very little,” echoed Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There is concern over how this is going to operate and what its methodology is going to be.”
A closed-door consultation between the minister and roughly 100 religious leaders and politicians, held in Ottawa on Oct. 3, drew criticism over the ministry’s invited speakers list: representatives from major Christian and Jewish organizations participated, while members of Eastern religions, like Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, were left out.
Also present at the October consultation was Thomas Farr, first director of the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom, a component of the U.S. State Department since 1998. Farr’s involvement signaled to some that the Canadian office would be heavily modeled on its American counterpart. That body was originally pushed by the evangelical Christian lobby, said University of Toronto law professor Karen Knop.
The Obama administration should rethink its outrageous proposal that would allow the government to lie to citizens about whether documents exist.
One of the most disappointing attributes of the Obama administration has been its proclivity for secrecy. The president who committed himself to “an unprecedented level of openness in government” has followed the example of his predecessor by invoking the “state secrets” privilege to derail litigation about government misdeeds in the war on terror. He has refused to release the administration’s secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, which two senators have described as alarming. He has blocked the dissemination of photographs documenting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. service members. And now his Justice Department has proposed to allow government agencies to lie about the existence of documents being sought under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
Even without the new rule, federal law enforcement agents have denied the existence of important documents. In a lawsuit involving surveillance of Muslim organizations in Southern California, the FBI was reprimanded by a federal judge. “The Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the court,” wrote Judge Cormac J. Carney. The FBI justified its misrepresentation by citing national security.
As reported earlier, Baden Württemberg’s Integration Minister Biklay Öney (SPD) is planning on establishing a dialogue forum for Muslims in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. The plans for this “round table Islam” are now more concrete: The first meeting, dedicated to the public perception of Islam, is to take place in Stuttgart on November 24th. Following the criteria for selecting participants for the German Islam Conference, Öney invited roughly 30 people to the meeting, both representatives of Muslim organizations as well as Muslim individuals not affiliated to any specific association or organization. Interestingly, non-Muslims have not been invited at this stage.
Unus has spent 40 years building some of the country’s best-known Muslim organizations, but the past decade has driven home how unsettled the relationship remains between his faith and his country. And few places are more emblematic of that tension than the library of the Herndon think tank where he works.
More than nine years ago, federal agents looking for evidence of terrorism financing hustled Unus, the institute’s director of administration, and his colleagues into this very library. They were kept there for hours while computers and boxes of documents were carted out.
At almost the same time, 14 agents and police officers broke through the front door of Unus’s house with a battering ram and handcuffed his wife and daughter — a raid that sparked an unsuccessful civil rights lawsuit that the Unuses pursued all the way to the Supreme Court.
Neither Unus nor any other institute leaders has ever been charged in the government’s probe of a network of Herndon-based Muslim charities, businesses and organizations. But neither have they been formally cleared.
The Koordinationsrat der Muslime (KRM), the Muslim umbrella organization in Germany, which unites Germany’s four largest Muslim organizations, announced last week that Ramadan, the month of fasting, begins on August 1st and ends on August 29th. Then, on August 30th, Muslims will celebrate the Idul Fitr , the end of Ramadan. Aiman Mazyek, the KRM’s spokesman, reminded of the meaning of fasting and wished all Muslims well for the time ahead. Since 2008, the main Islamic communities in Germany fast at the same time, which allows an easier integration of Ramadan in e.g. schools or the public sector.
Germany’s Interior Minister Friedrich warned of an increasing danger posed by Salafi groups in Germany. Salafi Muslims follow a violent and ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam and generally aim at fundamentally re-structuring the liberal democratic order of Western states. According to estimates, there are currently approximately 2500 Salafi Muslims in Germany, who allegedly receive (financial) support from Saudi Arabia. Friedrich warned of a potential growth of this radical group and expressed the need to strengthen the “security partnership” between Muslim organizations and German authorities. This agenda had top priority during the prevention summit held at the end of June.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is planning on introducing Islamic religious education in approximately 130 schools next year. To date, it is uncertain, however, how many of the 320,000 Muslim students want to participate in Islamic education. Therefore, the need for additional teachers cannot be determined yet; roughly 60 teachers will complete an additional course in Islamic education this summer.
The state government considers the introduction of the new subject to be a milestone towards better integration and praises the cooperation with the Muslim umbrella organization Koordinationsrat der Muslime (KRM), which unites the four largest Muslim organizations in Germany. However, other Muslim organizations, such as the Alevi Community, have criticized the initiative, as the KRM does not represent all Muslims in Germany.
Following the killing of Bin Laden, the radical Islamic prayer Pierre Vogel is planning a public funeral prayer for the leader of Al Qaeda in Frankfurt/ Main on Saturday. The city’s authorities, however, have prohibited the public prayer for Bin Laden, as it can be understood as a public ridicule of the victims of 9/11 and other terror attacks by Islamic radicals. Yet, Vogel argued that the prayer was not meant to be a defense of the 9/11 attacks. According to him, Bin Laden, as a Muslim, had the right to receive a prayer.
Vogel’s plans have not only been welcomed, but also criticized for its potential of public provocation within his own ranks and by other Muslim organizations, such as Milli Görus.
Following the ban of the funeral prayer by the city’s authorities, Vogel slightly changed the agenda for his public appearance to a general prayer, without reference to Bin Laden. This is in line with a number of orders issued by the administrative court to prevent the funeral prayer for Bin Laden.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has defended the use of sting operations orchestrated by government informers, telling advocates for the civil rights of American Muslims on Friday night that the tactic is an “essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing terror attacks.”
Tensions escalated last year after revelations that an FBI informant had infiltrated a mosque in California, seeking to build a terrorism case that later collapsed. Citing that case and what it called a pattern of FBI surveillance, a coalition of leading national Muslim organizations has largely suspended contact with the bureau.