Muslim organizations in Valencia unite to negotiate with Regional administration

Some Muslim organizations in Valencia reached an agreement to join forces and create a temporary commission in order to found the Islamic Commission of the Autonomous Region of Valencia. The Commission would unite 100 Islamic associations. It is conceived as a union of moderate and progressive Islamic entities and means to marginalize those associations that do not conform to the democratic values.

US Muslims and the challenge of extremism

According to the LA times, Muslim organizations are “walking a fine line” in openly fighting extremism while avoiding backlash from the Muslim community. The organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Muslim American Society are responding to the criticism that they have not done enough to fight extremism by embarking on public confrontation of radicalization of the youth. The campaign also includes certain programs to steer young Muslims away from extremist ideologies. Meanwhile, some critics from the Muslim community argue that such Muslim organizations have overstated the threat of radicalization and have inadvertently followed those voices who identify Muslims with extremism.

Italian expert on Islam explores solutions to imam training issues

Renzo Guolo, Italian expert on Islam, deals with the problematic issue of “self-proclaimed” imams, and the lack of opportunities for training. He tries to analyze the causes of this phenomenon, linking it to the fact that Islam doesn’t have a central authority with which to interact with the State. For the majority of the European countries, the imam issue is difficult to solve for them, as they are used to dealing with centralized and hierarchical religious institutions. Guolo suggests, as a viable wayout, that the different Muslim organizations in Italy unite in a common body.

However, this goal is currently out of reach, because of the disagreements within Islam and the absence of a national law concerning religious freedom able to facilitate the process. Moreover, he adds, there isn’t a political will to set up effective politics and policies. According to Guolo, the only solution is to nationalize Islam and recognize it as a legitimate dimension of national pluralism. These steps, indeed, would to go beyond the smaller requests previously proposed, such as preaching in Italian or for imams to possess official certifications.

Conference of French imams support possible burqa ban

A prominent French group of imams is backing a possible ban on the burqa. “We support any law that bans the wearing of a face veil in France,” said Hassan Chalghoumi, Chairman of the Conference of French Imams. The imam group, launched last year, says it fully supports a legal ban, basing their stance on the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars who agree that a woman is not obliged to cover her entire face. Chalghoumi says face-veils are now being exploited as weapons “to tarnish” Muslim minorities in France and the West in general.

“Amid the silence of most of the Muslim organizations in France, we took such decision to end defaming campaigns against Islam and Muslims,” said the Tunisian-born Drancy imam.

The group’s position, however, drew immediate rebuke from prominent Muslim leaders in the European country. Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the official French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), rejects any legal ban as a violation for Muslims’ religious freedom rights. “Such a call would only help Islamophobia rather than suppress it,” agrees Fouad Alaoui, President of the French Union of Islamic Organizations (l’UOIF). The l’UOIF has voiced strong opposition to a face-veil ban bill and attended three sessions of the parliamentary commission discussing the ban.

A new Islamic Central Council founded in Switzerland

A newly-founded Islamic Central Council of Switzerland says it aims to be the main grassroots Muslim organization in the country. The group currently has about 500 members and hopes to win a total of 10,000 participants by the end of 2011, according to spokesman Qaasim Illi. The group represents the orthodox Sunni Muslims and has launched a public information campaign to help re-shape the image of Muslims in Switzerland. It seeks to win broad recognition among the Muslim community and help institutionalize the Islamic religion in Switzerland, officials said.

In the wake of the anti-minaret vote the group organized a rally in Bern which was attended by an estimated 700 people but did not have the support of any of Switzerland’s main Muslim groups. The event was supposed to host German radical preacher Pierre Vogel, but he was denied entry to Switzerland. The justice ministry did not invite the Islamic Central Council to roundtable talks with Muslim organizations in December. The Swiss Council of Religions, a platform for the main Christian churches as well as the Muslim and the Jewish communities said that it would continue to cooperate with the two established Muslim organizations.

Saudi Arabia and Morocco fund mosques in Spain

In Spain, some mosques have been funded with capital from Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco. The great mosques of Madrid, Marbella and Malaga were all funded with Saudi capital.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan government has been linked with various Muslim organizations in Ceuta, including the FEERI, or Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities.

The latter is one of the two Islamic federations that signed an agreement of cooperation with the Spanish government in 1992. The article compares the situation of Spain with the funding of mosques in other European countries. The article also makes connections between the economic support and the political and doctrinal submission of these communities to the funding nations. The FEERI, for example, sided with the Moroccan government in the “Haidar case”.

Muslims angered over FBI surveillance and spying tactics

Cooperation between the FBI and Muslim organizations in the US has built trust, but good relations have diminished in recent months. Muslims believe authorities are increasingly treating their communities as groups of suspicion, rather than partners.

After several cases where under cover informers embedded themselves in mosques and helped promote plots, Muslims are beginning to believe spies for the FBI are everywhere, listening.

Some Muslims have cancelled trips abroad to avoid suspicion.

The FBI stated they must pursue all suspected criminals and terrorists, and try to provide explanations for their approaches whenever possible.

A former FBI agent believes the worry is overblown. “The FBI has 12,500 agents. Believe me, there are not enough of them to waste time looking at you unless they have a good reason.”

The three major Muslim organizations discussed the possibility of consolidation

Representatives of Central Religious Board of Muslims, Council of Muftis of Russia and Coordination Center of Muslims in the Northern Caucasus, the three major Musilm organizations in Russia, met on December 5th to discuss the possibility of consolidation. The meeting was initiated by Talgat Tadjutdin, the head of Central Religious Board of Muslims. The result of the meeting was a decision to make a working group for developing the details of the consolidation project.

For the position of grand mufti of Russia Talgat Tadjutdin suggested shaykh Ravil Gainuddin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia. Talgat Tadjutdin himself is supposed to take the central position of Shaykh al-Islam.

The necessity of such consolidation has been much talked about among Russian Muslim leaders in the recent decade. As a matter of fact, it was the principal issue discussed at All-Russian Muslim Conference held in 2005 in Nizhniy Novgorod by Religious Directorate of Muslims for the Nizhniy Novgorod region. However it wasn’t until now that the idea to create an organization to unite Muslims administratively is actually being worked out.

The initiative is widely supported by Russian Muslim leaders, however, some of them say the offered structure is disputable.

Muftis of Northern Caucasus welcome the consolidation process, but highlight the importance of Coordination Center of Muslims of Northern Caucasus. “Caucasus is a specific region and it requires specific approach‚” says Ismail Berdiyev, the chairman of Coordination Center of Muslims of Northern Caucasus and mufti of Stavropol Krai and Karachay-Cherkess Republic.

Mufti of Tatarstan, Gusman Ishakov, says it would be reasonable to form a High Council of Muftis of Russia out of the three organizations privileged with prior decision making.

Damir Mukhetdinov, the head of Council of Ulems of the Nizhniy Novgorod region, believes that all Russian citizens, not only Muslims, would benefit from consolidation of Russian Muslim community: “Today we see very well organized extremist groups creeping into our towns and to oppose them we need a well-structured administration with highly qualified and consolidated team.”

The meeting of the Conciliation committee is scheduled on the end of December.

US Muslim organizations speak out against Fort Hood incident

Officials from the Islamic Society of North America, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council and Imam Mohamed Magid of the large Northern Virginia mosque ADAMS (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) among others held a news conference Friday, urging Americans to view the Fort Hood shooter as a criminal individual, not a representative of Islam.

“As with Timothy McVeigh, the sniper, we focused on the person, not their religion. You wouldn’t take a Christian or a Jewish soldier who did something like this and look at other Christians and Jews and say, ‘Can we trust them?’ ” said Qaseem Uqdah, a Marine and executive director of the Muslim veterans council. “It’s ludicrous.”

Muslim organizations have received hate mail regarding the incident.

FBI kills Michigan imam, Muslims urge “fair and just investigation”

A local imam in Dearborn, Michigan was killed by FBI agents. Luqman Ameen Abdullah 53, died in a shootout in the raid of a warehouse just outside the city, in Dearborn, where he stored goods. The raid was one of three in which federal agents said were intended to arrest Mr. Abdullah and 10 other men on charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods, mail fraud and illegal possession of firearms. But the authorities said Mr. Abdullah, who had a lengthy criminal record and was forbidden to have a firearm, opened fire on the agents.

“I’m comfortable with what our agents did,” said Andrew G. Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit division of the F.B.I. “They did what they had to do to protect themselves.”

Abdullah’s mosque has defended itself against allegations that he was part of a radical group with an anti-government ideology.

American Muslim organizations hold mixed opinions on the imam and the incident.

While the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Los Angeles and The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) are both calling for an investigation of the killing, describing it as “deeply disturbing,” the Islamic Center of America (an interfaith outreach project in the Midwest) is critical of the imam and his supporters.