News Agencies – September 27, 2012
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls opened the country’s largest Mosque in eastern France, in his first speech to Muslims after the insulting caricatures were released of the Prophet Mohammed. During the opening ceremony of the Great Mosque, Valls praised the wisdom of Muslim leaders, who have called their followers to keep calm following the publication of the caricatures by the Charlie Hebdo Weekly.
“Racism, fundamentalism are not part of Islam,” said the Minister, who also praised the wise and mature stance adopted by French Muslims. The Minister also warned that the government will expel those, who using the name of the Islam, try to attack institutions or cause any type of riots. The inauguration ceremony was attended by local authorities, as well as by representatives of other religions.
The building of the Great Mosque started in 1993 and was partially opened during the holy month of Ramadan in 2011, though it was closed afterwards to conclude the construction work.
News Agencies – September 28, 2012
The University of Toronto hired its first full-time Muslim chaplain and the man taking up the post hopes to combat stereotypes surrounding the faith. Amjad Tarsin is a 28-year-old of Libyan descent who hails from Ann Arbour, Mich. He began to devote himself to the religion when he was in university, dropping out of law school to get a degree in Muslim chaplaincy.
Tarsin sees himself as a different kind of Muslim chaplain, one who has travelled the world and identifies himself as a movie buff — especially when it comes to Japanese samurai films and the Lord of the Rings series. Tarsin’s goal is to have an open dialogue with students and create a strong Canadian Muslim identity on a campus with close to 5,000 Muslim students. To fill the position, the Muslim Students Association raised $70,000 with an online campaign that began in June. Funding came from around the world, with contributions pouring in from as far away as Denmark.
News Agencies – September 23, 2012
The tiny pink casket at the front of an Edmonton mosque was the focus at the funeral of Baby M, the two-year-old girl who died this week after four months in a coma. About 150 Muslim mourners, including many small children, gathered at the Al-Rashid Mosque at 13070 113 St. for the toddler’s funeral prayer, which took place directly after the daily lunchtime prayer.
Among the mourners were the girl’s parents, each charged with two counts of aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life to Baby M and her twin sister, who is now in foster care with an older brother. The parents, in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre awaiting trial, were granted permission to attend the funeral on the condition they do not speak with one another.
The parents, both 34-year-old Algerian immigrants, were escorted out immediately after the service.
News Agencies – September 22, 2012
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has caused a storm with a proposal to ban Islamic headscarves and the Jewish kippa on the streets of French towns. President François Hollande has accused her of tearing the nation apart and opposition politician Jean-François Copé says she if confusing secularism and the eradication of religion.
In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Le Pen accuses previous governments of both the mainstream right and the left of preparing the ground for “the events that are shaking the world today” – an apparent reference to Muslim protests against the film Innocence of Muslims and French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons of Mohammed.
News Agencies – September 20, 2012
France’s Louvre Museum is unveiling a new wing devoted to Islamic art, with the long-gestating project debuting during a period of increased tension with the Muslim community over a French publication’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Louvre’s new addition, which cost nearly 100 million euros (about $127 million Cdn) is its biggest project since the famed Parisian art museum unveiled its I.M. Pei-designed, now-iconic glass pyramid in 1988. The dragonfly-shaped new galleries will showcase a rotating display of artifacts from the Louvre’s collection of Islamic art, which includes pieces dating from as far back as the 7th century.
The museum first opened its Islamic art department in 2003, during the tenure of former French president Jacques Chirac, who urged a “dialogue of cultures” to break down walls between religions. France is home to more than four million Muslims, western Europe’s largest Muslim population.
However, an expansion was necessary because the Louvre did not have enough space to display what has grown to become a vast collection of Islamic art, including treasures donated by King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the foundation of Saudi Prince Waleed Bin Talal.
News Agencies – September 19, 2012
The French government stepped up security at its embassies across the Muslim world after a French satirical weekly published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, inflaming global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam.
The move by the provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo followed days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the U.S.-produced film Innocence of Muslims and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage. Up to now, American government sites have drawn the most ire.
The French government ordered embassies and schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure in about 20 countries, according to the foreign affairs ministry. It ordered the immediate closure of the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy last Friday.
The principle of freedom of expression “must not be infringed,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, speaking on France Inter radio. But he added: “Is it pertinent, intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire? The answer is no.”
“This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation,” said Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque. “We are not Pavlov’s animals to react at each insult.”
News Agencies – September 28, 2012
Confirming Islam as part of France, the country’s socialist government has vowed to do more to integrate the religious minority, warning it will not tolerate radical members in the French society. “Islam has its place in France because the Islam of France, it is a part of France,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told representatives of the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant communities attending the official opening the mosque capable of hosting 1,500 people.
Two weeks ago, the French weekly Charlie Hebdo published cartoons displaying a man said to be the prophet as naked. Entitled “Muhammad: a star is born”, one caricature depicts a bearded figure crouching over displaying nudity. A second cartoon, in reference to the scandal over a French magazine’s decision to publish topless photos of the wife of Britain’s Prince William, showed a topless, bearded character with the caption: “Riots in Arab countries after photos of Mrs. Muhammad are published.”
The French Council of Muslim Faith accused the French magazine of fuelling anti-Muslim sentiments at a sensitive time. The minister’s comments were given in a speech marking the inauguration of the Strasbourg Grand Mosque, the biggest Islamic place of worship ever built on French soil. The new mosque is built within 2km from Strasbourg’s celebrated cathedral.
News Agencies – September 14, 2012
A group in Toronto says it wants to screen a controversial film that depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a madman. Canadian Hindu Advocacy spokesman Ron Banerjee says he doesn’t yet have a location for a screening. Excerpts from the movie enraged Islamic protesters in Egypt, Libya and Yemen over its portrayal of Muhammad. Banerjee says they’ll also show snippets from other movies that are offensive to Christians and Hindus. He calls it a way of fighting intolerance.
News Agencies – September 10, 2012
French judges grilled the brother of Mohammed Merah, the al Qaeda-inspired terrorist who carried out a series of deadly shootings in Toulouse last March. Abdelkader Merah has denied being complicit in his brother’s deadly acts and has told judges he had no part in the series of deadly shootings that claimed lives of seven people in Toulouse earlier this year.
Abdelkader Merah, 29, faced lengthy questioning by specialist anti-terrorist judges for the first time on Monday. His 23-year-old sibling was behind the cold-blooded killing of three Jewish children, a Rabbi and three soldiers in and around the southwestern city of Toulouse in March this year.
Abdelkader has been held in custody since the killings on suspicion of complicity in terrorism, murder and theft. He is currently the only suspect in custody for an alleged role in the murders. His lawyer, Eric Dupond-Moretti, rejected the accusations, saying his client “absolutely contests the charge of complicity to murder, which is not based on any objective element.”
According to a police source in March, Abdelkader admitted to being present on March 6 when his younger brother stole the scooter used in all of the attacks, but claimed he did not realise it was to be used to carry out a shooting spree. He was also grilled over his extreme religious beliefs.
News Agencies – September 7, 2012
The Canadian Harper government has closed the Canadian Embassy in Iran and ordered all Iranian diplomats in Canada to leave the country. The move effectively severs ties with the Islamic Republic after years of increasingly tense relations marked by accusations, warnings and sanctions.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Russia for an APEC summit, has repeatedly described Iran as the greatest threat to global security, a statement echoed by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird as he announced the embassy closure.
Baird revealed all Canadian diplomats had left Iran, while Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days. While the Harper government often co-ordinates its actions on Iran, such as the levelling of sanctions with the U.S. and other allies against Iran, Baird said Canada is the only country suspending diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic at this time, calling it a “made-in-Canada decision.”