Moorish historians want Spain to apologize upon the 400th anniversary of expulsion from Spain

400 years after King Philip III signed an order to expel 300,000 Moriscos – or part-Muslims who had converted from Islam to Christianity, some Muslim writers, Spanish and Moroccan campaigners are asking Madrid to apologize for the wrongs committed during the 17th century.

The anniversary highlights the uneasy relationship that still exists between modern-day Spanish and its Moorish, or Muslim past. Historians record the brutal conditions in which many were killed during forced resettlement in North Africa, and have urged the Spanish government to use the anniversary of the event to make overtures to the Islamic world. José Manuel Fajardo, a Spanish writer, said: “Mr. Zapatero has an opportunity to transform one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Spain into an opportunity for a re-encounter between the West and Islam.”

A spokesperson for the government said that there are no plans to mark the anniversary. The defeat of the Moors in 1492 and the expulsion of Moriscos from 17th century Spain is still a politically sensitive subject, with Osama bin Laden referring it in repeated calls for the restoration of al-Andalus – the former Muslim kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.

Probe into Threats Over Cable Pornography Visible in North Africa

Anti-terrorism investigators in Paris are examining threats against a leading French cable TV channel over pornographic films that can be viewed in North Africa. Canal-Plus, the pay-TV channel, received letters from people claiming to be Muslim and threatening to blow up its headquarters if it continues to broadcast a once-a-month pornographic film Saturday evenings. The threats began in September 2006.

Canal-Plus shows a range of programming, much of it family-friendly. As a new broadcaster in 1983, Canal-Plus introduced X-rated films on the first Saturday of the month to distinguish itself from other channels. It can be viewed via satellite in North Africa, where French is widely spoken but where social standards are vastly more conservative than in France. In the past, French regulators and other critics have also expressed concern about the films, citing the degradation of women and their encouragement of unprotected sex.

See full-text articles:

International Herald Tribune

Le Figaro

Libération

Immigrants launch social security patrol

Immigrants in the northern Italian city of Padua have decided to contribute to local security, by organizing a local nighttime neighborhood watch. Mohammed Ahmed, an Egyptian-born news anchor, launched the initiative. The group of immigrants who are integrated in the local community will begin their patrol on Friday night, in several districts of the city. I want to send a message to all well-integrated foreigners like me in Italian society that they should not be afraid to go out on the street,” Ahmed said. Immigrants from North Africa and eastern Europe are expected to take part in the patrol.

Tricky dealings in hostage case

More than a month after their disappearance, the fate of two Austrian hostages who were captured while touring the Tunisian desert remains shrouded in uncertainty. But the case has been seen to expose the difficulty of controlling the vast expanses of the Sahara as al-Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate seeks to make its presence felt across the Maghreb. The group, which was blamed for a number of spectacular suicide bombings in Algeria last year, has raised its profile once more after claiming the kidnapping. It is now thought to be holding Wolfgang Ebner, 51, and Andrea Kloiber, 43, at an undisclosed location in northern Mali. According to statements posted on the internet, the kidnappers have demanded that militants held in Algeria and Tunisia be freed in return for the release of the Austrians. They have twice deferred a deadline, stating most recently that their request must be met by 6 April. There have been unconfirmed reports that the group is also asking for a ransom. By Aidan Lewis

Al-Qaeda linked cell arrested in France

French authories held five men suspected of providing logistical support to al-Qaeda to the group Islamic North Africa, were rounded up near the Normandy city of Rouen. Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for twin truck bombings of the U.N offices on December 11t that killed at least 37 people. Police seized computers and searched the men’s homes, and police report that the men had been under surveillance. There was nothing to suggest that the five men had any connection to the recent suicide bombings in Algeria. Three other men who were detained were later released, and police added that the remaining detained men were not suspected of planning attacks in France. The men however, are accused of providing computer and telecommunication material to Al-Qaeda branch members in North Africa.

L’islam, un recours pour les jeunes

Based on a long ethnographic study, L’Islam, un recours pour les jeunes focuses on the Islamic identities of French youth with North African or Turkish origins and working-class backgrounds. It asserts that young men and women’s religious paths are linked to experiences at school, within immigrant families and in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Young men complain of being labelled negatively at school and being pushed toward low-skilled jobs instead of the professional vocations and lifestyles for which they yearn. They are often in conflict with teachers or with career advisers and engage Muslim symbols to protest against school judgments. The book also insists on the deep differences between Turkish and North-African populations with working-class backgrounds. The Turkish populations settled in France later than North-Africans and subsequently their settlement has been more fragile. They want to preserve traditions and customs from their country of origin, a phenomenon reinforced by the high concentrations of Turkish populations in urban areas. Turkish parents’ aspirations influence their goals for their children, especially in relation to school, professional life and marriage. The second part of Kapko’s book discussed the response of local authorities to Muslim religious claims. For over a decade, changes in Muslim demands of local policitians in relation to religious practice have been noticed. In comparison to demands made in the 1980s by immigrant fathers which focused on the need for prayer space, the 1990s have seen new demands such as the right to wear the headscarf in public spaces, the participation of local politicians to seminars held by religious leaders, and accommodation of religious arguments during negotiations with local political leaders. This investigation shows that council representatives often only select the aspects of the demands that seem to suit their objectives -keeping public order, social integration-and ignore the religious content of the demands. In other cases discussed, religious intonations are not ignored but rather exploited by the local government. Government officials, who fear confrontations between ethnic groups in disadvantaged areas, are tempted to turn religious militants into unofficial mediators between immigrant populations and public authorities.