German NGOs seek to coordinate and enhance their work on religious extremism

25 German non-governmental organisations active in the prevention of religiously-driven radicalisation and violence have come together to create a new coordination body. The Federal Working Committee on Religiously Motivated Extremism, founded on November 30 in Berlin, seeks to pool expertise and best practices from a range of actors engaged on the ground.(( http://www.ufuq.de/gruendung-der-bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft-religioes-begruendeter-extremismus/ ))

Capacity building among diverse organisations

Participating organisations are diverse, ranging from local social work initiatives active in underprivileged neighbourhoods to associations operating at the national level. Major Islamic associations, such as the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) also take part.(( http://islam.de/28232 ))

The Committee’s creators hope to forge a network that crosses Germany’s often cumbersome federal administrative divisions that have vitiated a common approach in the past. Its foundation comes as the parliamentary opposition has once more criticised the lack of a national-level prevention strategy against violent Islamist movements.(( https://www.welt.de/newsticker/news1/article159834940/Gruene-fordern-bundesweites-Praeventionszentrum-gegen-islamistischen-Terrorismus.html ))

Beyond Islamism

However, the Committee and its participating NGOs have stated that they will seek to assert their independence from politicking and a public debate that is uniquely focused on the Islamist threat. Instead, the Committee seeks to retain a broader, cross-religious focus: whilst radicalisation of Muslim youth will be a prominent aspect of its work, it will also encourage projects dealing with Christian fundamentalism or extremist sects.

Moreover, the group seeks to build bridges to organisations active in preventative efforts in the far-right and neo-Nazi scenes. This is an approach with considerable potential, given the fact that over the past years and decades, a whole landscape of NGOs and institutions working with individuals and communities vulnerable to right-wing extremism has developed.(( http://www.ufuq.de/gruendung-der-bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft-religioes-begruendeter-extremismus/ ))

Need for a strong voice

The actual impact of the newly created Committee remains to be seen. Its members will gather in early 2017 for a first conference and exchange of ideas. Yet the Committee’s biggest task is perhaps to develop stronger capacities for public advocacy and lobbying. Whilst demands for their services are on the rise, many projects and organisations working with groups vulnerable to the appeal of jihadist messaging are struggling with financial constraints and cutbacks. (( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/praevention-in-berlin-es-fehlt-geld-fuer-kurse-gegen-radikalisierung/14929730.html ))

Indeed, as politicians shift to the right and advocate a ‘law and order’ approach to Islamist terrorism in order to tap into the growing voter base of the populist Alternative for Germany party, ‘soft’ strategies of prevention and social work are in danger of being side-lined. The creation of the Committee is thus exceedingly timely.

British Muslims angry with Britain’s decision to “engage” with Narendra Modi’s government

Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state has been boycotted by Western governments for 10 years over his involvement in the Gujarat massacre in 2002. According to the reports published by Human Rights Watch, Citizens for Justice and Peace and many other NGOs during the massacre more than 2,000 Muslims were killed, 150,000 displaced and over 800 women and girls were raped. Further, according to these reports Narendra Modi provoked the massacre and was complaisant with the killing of the Muslims.

 

The UK’s high commissioner in India has met Narendra Modi recently and ended the boycott. This angered the British Muslims who were ‘shocked’ and ‘dismayed’ with the decision of the Foreign Office. One of these groups was the Council of Indian Muslims (U.K.) who wrote an open letter to urge Foreign Secretary William Hague to review Britain’s decision to “engage” with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The letter said:

 

“We are particularly disappointed because no consultation was done with British Indian Muslims in general and in particular the families whose members were butchered by Modi’s foot soldiers… We really find ourselves at a loss and have no words to express our utter disappointment, frustration and therefore very humbly request you to review your decision.”

New Publication: Muslims in Paris

“This neighbourhood has always been a neighbourhood of arrivals; people who come and are in need, trying to move into a more welcoming neighbourhood.” —Focus group respondent

Muslims in Paris highlights the everyday experiences and rarely heard voices of Muslims living in the neighbourhood of La Goutte d’Or, situated in Paris’ multicultural 18th arrondissement. The qualitative research reveals that both Muslim and non-Muslim residents share a keen sense of belonging to their neighbourhood, city and country. Challenging common misperceptions as to sources of division and exclusion, the report finds that Muslims and non-Muslims are united by common values—such as family and good neighbourliness—and that it is social and economic factors, not religion, which divides them.

The research offers a unique insight into how some of Paris’ diverse Muslim residents feel about where they live and the opportunities available to them to live as full citizens of France. The report examines the real sources of division, exclusion and discrimination they encounter in daily life, and efforts made to overcome these barriers.

By engaging with communities and policymakers, local experts heading the research explored the primary concerns of Muslim residents in the 18th arrondissement. Issues addressed include education, employment, health, housing and social protection, citizenship and political participation, policing and security, media, belonging and identity.

The report acts on its findings by offering a series of recommendations for local and national authorities, Muslim communities and other minority groups, NGOs and community organizations, the media, and broader civil society.

Muslims in Paris is the eleventh report in the Muslims in EU Cities series produced by the Open Society Foundations At Home in Europe Project. It is the result of research that examines the level and nature of integration of Muslims in 11 cities across Europe (Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Leicester, London, Marseille, Paris, Rotterdam, and Stockholm).

Race Against Time for Slovenia Mosque

The Muslim community in Slovenia is hoping to raise enough money to establish a long-awaited mosque – which would be the first ever built in the country. The city municipality has granted Ljubljana permission for the building and allocated land for the prospective mosque. However, money is needed to secure the building and construction, with a looming deadline that closes at the end of the year.

The Muslim community is seeking help from international Muslim NGOs to help raise the money, and the Islamic sheikhdom of Slovenia has sent letters to governments of several Muslim countries concerning their fundraising initiatives. About 700,000 Euros have been collected far – 3.6 million Euros are still needed.

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