Mosque expansion planned in Calgary, Alberta

News Agencies – January 21, 2012

Calgary Muslims have found a place to worship in the downtown. The Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, in the northeast neighbourhood of Falconridge, will be moving to a new location, at 421 Riverfront Ave. S.E. Iman Syed Soharwardy says the grand opening will take place Jan. 27 on Eid Milad un Nabi. The new location will be the site for five daily prayers, Friday and Eid prayers, youth and children’s Qur’an and Islamic studies classes, adult Qur’an and Islamic studies classes, women-only programs, interfaith dialogue and community events.

Canadian Minister Claims Wide Support for country’s ‘burqa ban’

News Agencies  – January 23, 2012

A month after Canada banned Muslim women from covering their faces during citizenship ceremonies, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the policy has won widespread support. Speaking at a Muslim Canadian Congress event honouring his “courageous decision,” Mr. Kenney said polling shows that eight out of 10 Canadians agreed with the decision while only 14% were opposed. He said he would not act on suggestions to hold separate citizenship ceremonies for Muslim women who cover their faces in public.

The minister characterized the new rule as part of a broader strategy to strengthen the value of citizenship in Canada, which he said has the highest rate of naturalization of any country in the developed world. While the audience gathered at a Toronto hotel spoke mostly in support of the niqab ban, one woman said she was “extremely offended” by the comments she had heard. “If somebody believes in it [the niqab] then it’s their right to practise it,” said Fatema Dada of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association.

Prison sentences set in Paris bomb plot

News Agencies – January 26, 2012

A French court has sentenced three men to between two and six years in prison for plotting to carry out a car bomb attack on a public building near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Rany Arnaud, Nadir Badache and Adrien Guihal were arrested in December 2008 after they allegedly planned to set off a car bomb outside the offices of a national police investigation body in the centre of Paris.

Arnaud, a convert to Islam and the ringleader of the group, was targeted by police after posting calls on an Islamic fundamentalist website for France to be attacked because of its participation in the war in Afghanistan. Arnaud was sentenced to six years in prison on a charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation. On the same charge, Badache was sentenced to two years in prison, with six months suspended, and Guihal was sentenced to four years, with one year suspended.

New Report Accuses French Police of Discrimination

News Agencies – January 26, 2012

Human Rights Watch says police in France are singling out ethnic Arab and African youths for unwarranted and sometimes humiliating identity checks. The rights group says this apparent ethnic profiling is further exacerbating an already tense relationship between authorities and minority youths.

In a new report, the rights group says ethnic Africans and Arabs – some as young as 13 years old – are often targeted in police checks, even though they do not appear to be doing anything wrong. Another study, in 2009, found that French police were far more likely to stop blacks and Arabs than white people.

Iran reissues death sentence for Canada resident

News Agencies – January 19, 2011

Iran’s Supreme Court has reinstated a death sentence against an Iranian resident of Canada who had been accused of running a pornographic website, a lawyer working on the case. The death sentence meted out to Saeed Malekpour was reinstated by the court, after it had reportedly been annulled in June. Malekpour, a 36-year-old computer programmer, was sentenced to death in December 2010 after being found guilty of “designing and moderating adult content websites,” “agitation against the regime,” and “insulting the sanctity of Islam,” according to his supporters.

The Canadian government protested the verdict, which the Supreme Court then reportedly annulled in June 2011. Malekpour’s supporters say he developed a program that allows photographs to be posted to the Internet, which was used without his knowledge for the creation of porn sites. A resident of Canada since 2004, Malekpour was arrested in Iran in 2008 while visiting his dying father.

France: No headscarves for nannies, Senate adopts law

News Agencies – January 18, 2012

Nannies and childcare assistants could soon be banned from wearing the Islamic veil in France, even when working at home, after a controversial law bill was adopted by the French Senate. If the text is subsequently approved by the country’s national assembly, there will be a ban on wearing the veil for childcare assistants working in nursery schools (where the veil is already banned), in educational centres and in all facilities catering for children, as well as for nannies who look after children at home.

“Parents have the right to want a nanny who is neutral from a religious perspective,” said the left-wing senator Françoise Laborde, defending the text, while debate raged in the Senate. The Green party voted against the bill, while the right-wing UMP party was divided between abstentions and votes against the text.

Le Pen slams Qatar for investing in French ‘Muslim’ suburbs

News Agencies – January 15, 2012

French Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen lashed out at Qatar for investing in “Muslim” areas of French cities and for taking over Paris Saint-Germain football club. “I think this situation could be very dangerous,” she said. “We are letting a foreign country choose its investments with regard to the religion of this or that part of the French population or of French territory.”

The tiny but very wealthy Gulf state of Qatar late last year set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France’s often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses. Le Pen said that in general Qatar was “playing a double game” by presenting itself as an “enlightened” country while at the same time supporting Islamist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

UN Human Rights Decision Backs French Sikhs

News Agencies – January 13, 2012

A Sikh man in France has won the backing of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in his fight over religious headgear. It said France was violating Sikhs’ religious freedom by forcing them to remove their turbans when having photos taken for passports and ID cards. Ranjit Singh, 76, said he had turned to the UN because he found the French policy disrespectful and unnecessary.

Sikhs in France have been fighting a long battle over the turban. In 2004 France passed a law banning religious signs in schools. This included turbans and Muslim headscarves.

In 2008 the European Court of Human Rights dismissed an appeal on grounds of security.

It said that whilst Shingara Singh’s religious rights had been infringed, France was justified to ban the turban on the driver’s licence photo because the turban posed a security risk of fraud and falsification. That is when Ranjit Singh decided to file a case to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). It has now judged that a turban does not pose a risk to security.