Fewer, but bigger mosques suggested for Antwerp

Antwerp has 36 mosques, and according to Monica De Coninck, the alderman in charge of diversity, this is 75% too much. De Coninck would like to see up to nine medium sized, well equipped and safe mosques. Currently, many of the mosques in Antwerp are small, located in old buildings, and unsafe in emergency situations (for example, they lack an emergency exit). De Coninck says that the new mosques should be built by existing neighborhoods, but planning may be assisted by professional urban planners to design architecturally integrated mosques for a Western look.

Opinion: Islam Classes a Commendable but Long-Term Project

The teaching of Islam is to be added to Germany’s school curricula, but Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble admits the country’s 16 states as well as the Muslim community have yet to agree on the plan’s finer points. It’s hard to imagine Saudi Arabia’s interior minister inviting representatives from the country’s immigrant Christian community to a “Christianity Conference” to discuss social values and the Constitution. And then, moreover, taking the opportunity to promote better integration of Saudi Arabia’s Christian minority, ignoring public prejudices and protests against the building of new, strange-looking churches in their neighborhoods to emphasize the principle of religious freedom and call for Christianity classes in Saudi schools. Rainer Sollich reports.

Immigrant supermarket chain

Rotterdam entrepreneur Kees van Vuuren is starting a chain of immigrant supermarkets, and hopes to eventually open 150-200 shops, especially in those areas that have witnessed the disappearance of small grocery shops in the past decade. Van Vuuren hopes that the shops, under the name Waikiki, will improve the atmosphere in unsafe neighborhoods and encourage integration, by being employed by many young immigrants seeking franchises, and encouraging entrepreneurship in localized neighborhoods. Waikiki shops will offer products of Lebanese, Polish, Russian, Surinamese, Czech, Turkish, and Dutch origins, and also offer halal or Islamically permissible goods.

Sarkozy Pledges Aid, Security for Slums

French president Nicolas Sarkozy says that the very idea of the nation is at stake unless the poor, and mainly ethnic minority suburbs are revived. Sarkozy spoke as he announced a three-year proposal to deploy 4,000 more police and roll out a half-billion euro plan aimed at key neighborhoods. Also in his plan, were goals of helping 100,000 people find work, possible bussing of students in different neighborhoods to mingle social groups, and a declared war without mercy on gangs and drug dealers. Sarkozy unveiled his plan just ahead of municipal elections to be held on March 9th and 16th. “Together we will build a France proud of its diversity,” he said, adding that young people should not be subject to discrimination because of the color of their skin.

Sarkozy reshuffles French government

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday sent a strong signal to France’s disaffected minorities by appointing an outspoken advocate of Muslim women and a woman of Senegalese origin Tuesday to his government – among France’s most diverse ever. As junior minister for city policy, feminist activist Fadela Amara will oversee the renovation of dilapidated housing estates where many immigrants live – neighborhoods similar to the one she grew up in with her Algerian immigrant parents. Senegalese-born Rama Yade was appointed to a new post of junior minister for human rights, an area Sarkozy has identified as a priority for his month-old government, which he reshuffled and expanded Tuesday after his governing conservative party did not fare as well as expected in weekend parliamentary elections.