Imams and other non-Christian chaplains terminated in Canadian jails

News Agencies – October 5, 2012

 

The Canadian federal government has decided to end its contracts nationwide with minority-faith chaplains who had been working part-time in the country’s federal prisons.

Full-time chaplains who remain will be expected to provide spiritual guidance to inmates of all faiths. Finance minister Vic Toews ordered a stop to the tendering of new contracts last month after he announced that he was “not convinced” all chaplaincy services were an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

 

The email cited a memo from Don Head, commissioner of the correctional service, who said the government had decided to move exclusively to a “full-time chaplaincy model with continued reliance on the voluntary support of our community partners.” Renewal options for all part-time contracts “will not be exercised.”

 

According to corrections data, in the last fiscal year, 36 per cent of inmates identified themselves as Catholic, 18 per cent as Protestant, five per cent as Muslim, four per cent as native spiritual, two per cent as Buddhist, one per cent as Jewish and one per cent as Sikh. Twenty percent said they were non-religious, seven per cent said they belonged to “other” religious groups, and six per cent answered “unknown.”

Rapper claims to find serenity in Islam

News Agencies: October 2, 2012

 

Overcoming a history of drug addiction and hallucinations, a French rapper surprised her fans after appearing in a TV interview donning hijab and telling how she found peace and calm in Islam. “(My) conversion to Islam was the result of a personal conviction, after understanding the religion and reading the Holy Qur’an,”

 

Melanie Georgiades, known as Diam’s, said in an interview. The famous rapper has been absent from the mainstream rap scene since 2009, sparking rumors about her whereabouts. Diam’s is known for her political activism in both her lyrics and her public persona. The rapper also criticized the media which photographed her coming out of one of the mosques in France wearing her Hijab and looking at her mobile, preceded by a man in a training suit, which many believed to be her husband.

University of Toronto gets Muslim chaplain who hopes to fight stereotypes

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.

Edmonton, Alberta Muslim community holds funeral for ‘baby M’

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.

French far-right leader Le Pen calls for ban on Islamic headscarf and Jewish skullcap

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.

Islam is part of France: Interior Minister

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.

Toronto group hopes to screen anti-Islam film in name of tolerance

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.

Trial of Mohammed Merah’s brother in France

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.

Police detain 100 protesters of anti-Islam film at American embassy in Paris

News Agencies – September 16, 2012-09-16

French police detained around 100 alleged Salafist Muslims on Saturday, September 15th for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration outside the US embassy in Paris. The crowd was protesting a US-made film that has sparked global unrest. Dozens of men, women and children who police said were possibly linked to Salafists, “demonstrated violently around the US embassy and clashed with police”.

Two or three officers were slightly hurt in the protest. Most of those detained were men, said police. The president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) denounced the Paris protest. “We regret that this demonstration occurred, especially if violent force was used against the police,” Mohamed Moussaoui told AFP.

The last several days have seen a wave of anti-American protests across the globe, sparked by the US-produced “Innocence of Muslims” film. The film, excerpts of which were posted on the Internet, have offended many Muslims because of its insulting depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.

Canada closes embassy in Iran

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.”