Muslim organizations have condemned a planned demonstration by extremists who are calling for shari’a law in Britain. Parts of the media have also come under fire for implying that the extremists are representative of British Muslims generally.
The demonstration, involving a march from Parliament to Trafalgar Square on October 31, is organized by the fringe group Islam4UK, who support “the full implementation of shari’a law in the UK” and say that they “have had enough of freedom”. The group and events are mainly organized by extremist Anjem Choudary.
However, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body for Muslim organizations, said that they deplored the march and expressed their firm support for “the value of free speech in Britain”. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Britain told the Daily Telegraph that “99.999 per cent of Muslims despise these people. This only serves to fuel racial tensions.”
Two former leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land foundation were sentenced to 65 years in jail for supporting Palestinian militants. Jurors returned guilty verdicts on 108 charges of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax fraud. “These sentences should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief,” said David Kris, assistant US attorney general for national security. Holy Land CEO Shukri Abu Baker and chairman and co-founder Ghassan Elashi, were both sentenced to 65 years in jail. Holy Land cofounder Mohammad El-Mezain, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the charity’s New Jersey representative, both received lesser sentences of 15 years. The Justice Department vowed in October 2007 to retry the five Holy Land leaders after jurors could not agree on verdicts on nearly 200 charges, and a new jury was seated in mid-September. Holy Land was one of several Muslim organizations the Bush administration shut down in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for allegedly raising money for Islamic extremists overseas. Muslim charities that remained open suffered significant drops I contributions because of fears of prosecution.
The director of Rome’s Grand Mosque is urging mosques across Italy to hold their Friday prayers for the victims of the devastating earthquake in central Italy, which killed at least 278 people, injured several thousand, and left around 28,000 homeless. “I am asking the imams of all of Italy’s mosques to follow our example and to organize prayers for the victims of the earthquake that has struck Abruzzo,” said Abdellah Redouane. “It is important for Muslims to show solidarity with the earthquake victims and demonstrate their wish to contribute to the greater good of society,” Redouane added.
Mosques in the southern Puglia region, Tuscany, northern Veneto, and Lombardy regions have taken up Redouane’s appeal. Italy’s Union of Islamic Communities stated that it is ready to help survivors of the earthquake, by donating blood and coordinating with aid efforts.
The president of the organization, Mohammed Nour Dachan, added that the UCOII is collecting funds for victims, and accepting donations in mosques across Italy. “Everything that will be collected at mosques in Italy will be given as charity for the victims of the quake in Abruzzo,” said Dachan. “We feel very close to the joys and pains that affect our country,” said Dachan, who is also the imam of the central Italian city of Ancona’s mosque. Dachan added that despite religious difference, all a part of a “big family” that experiences tragedy together.
The US-based Muslim organizations Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have both condemned the recent terror attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. “Those responsible for these brutal and immoral attacks should be swiftly brought to justice. Islam considers the use of terrorism to be unacceptable for any purpose,” said a statement released by MPAC.
CAIR called the attacks “cowardly” and were “senseless and inexcusable acts of violence against innocent civilians.” American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens of all faith in repudiating acts of terror wherever they take place and whomever they target,” said CAIR executive director Nihad Awad.
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Germany’s main Muslim bodies cut their links Friday to Germany’s only professor of Islamic religion, charging that Muhammad Kalisch had questioned the existence of the Prophet Mohammed and Muslim beliefs about the origin of the Koran. Kalisch teaches at the University of Muenster in northern Germany. The four main Muslim groups had been represented on a board of advisors to his Centre for Islamic Religious Studies (CRS) since the chair was established, but there has been friction over his academic publications. In a joint statement in Cologne on Friday, the council of Muslim organizations said it was concerned at the “discrepancy between fundamentals of Islamic teaching and the published positions of the head of the CRS.” Ayyub Axel Koehler, a German Muslim who is president of one group, the Central Council of Muslims, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: “Kalisch calls fundamental teachings into question in such a stark way that it’s not possible to go along with him.” He said Kalisch had questioned whether the Prophet really existed and what Muslims believed about the Koran’s origin. “We support the freedom of scholarship and teaching and we have no wish to gag him,” said Koehler. “But we cannot advise people to learn from him.” In a response published by the university, Kalisch said, “I regret the decision of the Muslim organizations. “A university is not there to teach the content of faith, nor to approve the opinions of a professor as correct. “Rather, the task of a university is to conduct independent, open- ended research.” He said a university should equip students “to reflect critically and achieve intellectual independence.”
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The ACLU and its Texas chapter filed a legal challenge to clear the names of two Muslim organizations that have been labeled by the government as unindicated co-conspirators. The two organizations — The Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust have been identified by the government for their association with the Holy Land Foundation – though neither organization has been the subject of a criminal investigation of charged with any crimes. “By publicly branding these groups as criminals without providing a forum for them to defend themselves or clear their names, the government has acted with blatant disregard for their constitutional rights,” said Hina Shamsi, an ACLU staff member.
A growing number of ethnic Dutch youth in Limburg are converting to Islam. According to different Muslim organizations, over the past three years, on hundred men and women had converted in the province of Limburg alone. According to the Limburg Islamic Council, mostly seek very orthodox Islamic movements. These range from youth studying, and alter converting to Islam, girls marrying Muslim men and then convert, and highly educated professionals. The president of the Limburg Islamic Council said that he is aware of the _trend’ of conversion among ethnic Dutch youth, but does not want to speak of a _large movement’ – yet confirms that the number of converts has risen in the last few years.
The council of former Muslims is convinced that Muslim organizations in Germany are secret enemies of the liberal social order. Intimidations, radicalizations, and honor killings are clear signals, the council warns.
In many European countries plans to build new mosques have become a political issue. Intellectuals are taking sides and politicians are using the issue to boost their own image while citizens look skeptically at the plans of Muslim organizations to construct imposing religious buildings to demonstrate their newly found self-confidence. Michael Kaczmarek reports.
Germany’s Islamic organizations aren’t lacking in number. But coherence has long been a problem. Now four groups are banding together to form an umbrella organization. German politicians applaud the initiative, but warn that it’s only one of several on the way to better inter-cultural dialogue. When Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch_uble held an Islam conference in Berlin last year, his goal was to establish a new basis for dialogue with Germany’s Muslim community, one rooted in democratic and constitutional values. But as the representatives of the various Muslim organizations, federations and groups pulled up their chairs around the table, it became clear that dialogue — in the sense of conversation between two parties — was a misnomer: To date, no single body has represented the interests of the 3.3 million Muslims living in Germany. Now, four organisations want to change that (…)