Mosque of Paris’ Boubakeur changes his position on debate on Islam

News Agencies – March 23, 2011

Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Mosque of Paris, appears to have changed his position three times as to the merit of the proposed April debate on Islam and secularism in France. On March 23rd he noted that, “The Mosque of Paris declines the invitation to participate in this political debate which fosters stigmatization of Muslims.” The CFCM (the French Council of the Muslim Faith) has also declined to participate.

Quebec Mayor Reaches Out to French-Speaking Immigrants

News Agencies – March 17, 2011
Like small-town mayors everywhere, Stéphane Gendron is trying to entice newcomers to settle in his community. But he may be the only one whose enticement offers include a promise to build a mosque and halal slaughterhouse. Although open to all immigration, Mr. Gendron says, he’s especially keen on courting people from the French-speaking Maghreb region of North Africa.
Mr. Gendron’s campaign, though mostly based on intentions for now, is being called La Grande Séduction, after the hit movie about a Quebec village’s all-out attempts to lure a family doctor to set up in town. And the seduction campaign in Huntingdon, a former mill town an hour’s drive southwest of Montreal, is badly needed. The town of 2,587 has lost about half its population since the 1970s, mainly through the departure of Anglophones, and it then fell on hard times after the closing of its textile plants. Like small towns and villages across the province, its population is aging.

Canadian Police Lay Terror Charges Against Two Missing Canadians

News Agencies – March 15, 2011
The RCMP have charged two Canadians with terrorism-related offences in connection to a 2009 plot to blow up packed subway cars in New York. The RCMP allege that the al-Qaeda terrorists behind the plot were trained by a University of Manitoba student who has disappeared from Canada.
Ferid Imam vanished from Winnipeg in 2007 and is now suspected of being in the mountains of northwestern Pakistan. He is now being sought on terrorist-training charges as part of a new criminal case. The case, which alleges lesser offences by a second suspect, amounts to a crucial test of the reach of Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it allows police to charge suspects who are suspected of committing terrorist offences outside Canada’s borders. The new case is the first time that the Mounties have charged someone with acts taking place entirely overseas.
Police hope the case against Mr. Imam – who faces a life sentence if he is caught and convicted of being a terrorist trainer – will alert the public about what they say is the growing threat posed by radicals from the West who want to join al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Port Coquitlam, British Columbia Mosque Vandalized

News Agencies – March 10, 2011
The Coquitlam RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and the B.C. hate-crime team are investing a report of a racial slur spray-painted on the side of a mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Port Coquitlam.
“Any graffiti can have a negative impact on how safe people feel in their neighborhood, and it’s much more disturbing when the graffiti is a racial slur,” said Const. Kristina Biro in a press release. “We encourage anyone that sees criminal or suspicious activity to report it to police.”

News Agencies – March 16, 2011

Religious leaders, politicians and heads of suburban organizations met at the initiative of the national federation of the Paris Mosque, the Council of Democratic Muslims in France and the Banlieues Respect Collective in order to decide on action against the planned debate on secularism.

Banlieues Respect says that such a debate will lead to laws stigmatizing Muslims, and in the spirit of inter-religious solidarity, requested the Church of France to make its empty churches available for Friday prayer, so that Muslims won’t pray in the streets and be held hostage by politicians.

INED and INSEE Study Estimates there are 2.1 Million Muslims in France between 18-50

News Agencies – March 16, 2011

There are 2.1 million ‘declared Muslims’ aged 18-50 in France, far less than certain estimates advanced in the public debate, according to a study by the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED) and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). The joint study on the diversity of populations in France, was published under the title “Trajectories and Origins”. In France, a country which bans religious or ethnic statistics, it’s usually estimated that there are 5-6 million Muslims.

Patrick Simon, sociologist, researcher at INED, and one of the authors of the study says that even adding those under 18 or over 50, you won’t reach 5 million. Simon explained that ‘declared Muslims’ are people who declare themselves Muslims, whatever their religion or practices. It is not an estimate based on country of origin or their parents. People who come from majority-Islam countries or born to parents from such countries are usually automatically considered Muslims, and this might partially explain the discrepancy. On the other hand, says Simon, their figures include converts.

French Council of the Muslim Faith Leader Speaks about Islam in France

News Agencies – March 9, 2011

These articles feature Mohammed Moussaoui, leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), and his position on the proposed debate on Islam and French Muslims. Moussaoui claims that given the current political context both nationally and internally, a healthy debate is not possible. While it may seem like the debate is about secularism, it will stigmatize Muslims, he adds. French Muslims are typically profoundly attached to secularism because it guarantees freedom of conscience and equality among all citizens. The CFCM president also points back to the 2003 Stasi and 2006 Machelon commissions wherein few recommendations have been put into action.

French Muslims urged to leave French President Sarkozy’s UMP party

News Agencies – March 11, 2011

Is French President Nicolas Sarkozy at risk of alienating Muslims in his own party? Muslim activists have called on Muslim members of the governing UMP party to leave the party in protest at a new round of official debates on secularism to begin next month. They say the debate is less about secular society and more about attacking their religion.

Toronto 18 Member sentenced to life in prison

News Agencies – March 4, 2011

Shareef Abdelhaleem has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years for his role in a Canadian homegrown terror plot. Justice Fletcher Dawson delivered the final sentence in the so-called “Toronto 18” case in Brampton, Ontario. Because Abdelhaleem was arrested in 2006, he will technically be eligible for parole in just over five years.

Abdelhaleem became involved with the group because he hoped to make money from a terrorist attack and was among 18 people charged in the summer of 2006. He was the right-hand man of Zakaria Amara, an Islamist extremist who masterminded the plot and is now serving a life sentence.

Charges were eventually dropped against seven of the accused. The remaining members of the group either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial and have all been sentenced. Abdelhallem was convicted in January 2010, then argued unsuccessfully he had been entrapped. Before sentencing, Abdelhaleem told Dawson he felt he was being discriminated against treated more harshly as a “brown Muslim” terrorist than if he was a white “extremist.” “I am not denying that what I did was wrong,” Abdelhaleem said, reading from a sheaf of papers. “I am unconditionally sorry.”