France’s choice of non-Muslim to lead French Islam foundation causes controversy

The appointment of French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement to head the newly formed Foundation for Islam in France, which aims to improve relations between the state and the Muslim community, has sparked controversy in many French circles.

Chevènement, a former French interior minister, was chosen to head the Foundation for Islam in France Monday following a meeting between current Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Muslim community leaders in Paris.

Announcing the decision Monday, Cazeneuve said the aim of the discussions was to forge “an Islam anchored in the values of the French Republic”.

But the choice of Chevènement, a 77-year-old career politician whose past posts include defence as well as interior minister, was greeted with skepticism by many activists and community leaders.

“It’s a joke,” civil rights activist Yasser Louati, whose work focuses on issues of Islamophobia and national security said. “We keep treating Muslims as if they are foreign people who need to be disciplined.”

The problem with this foundation and similar ones that came before it, Louati argued, is that it was established by the government. For such an organisation to succeed, it needs a bottom-up, and not a top-down approach, he said. The community should have been asked about how they wanted the initiative to be structured and who they wanted to head it. As it stands, “it is bound to fail,” he said.

Louati was also critical about Chevènement’s appointment. “It is like me appointing Ronald Reagan to head up African-American affairs,” he said.

Ghaleb Bencheikh, an author and expert on Islam, who will sit on the organisation’s board, said that while a Muslim president for the foundation would have been “ideal”, Chevènement is an acceptable choice in the short-term, when the main aim is to get the project up and running.

Bencheikh said there is no obvious consensus option from within the community at the time being, and that Chevènement will serve a transitional role.

Chevènenement is not without credibility within the community, Bencheikh added. He was a disciple of noted French Arabist Jacques Berque, he has travelled extensively in the Arab world, he was president of the France-Algeria Association and he resigned from his position as minister of defence in protest at his nation’s involvement in the first Gulf War.

But Chevènement has already ruffled feathers by saying that Muslims should be “discreet” and try to blend in. He also said that there were 135 nationalities in a racially diverse suburb of Paris, but one has almost disappeared, referring to French nationals.

The implication that the French nationals living in Saint-Denis, many of them of North African origin, are somehow not French prompted officials in the northern Parisian suburb to write to President Hollande, asking him to renounce Chevènement’s appointment.

Bencheikh said that in the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in the country, something needed to be done. France was faced with a choice over what kind of Islam it wanted: a tolerant, open Islam or the Islam of violence and jihad. Bencheikh believes the foundation will help promote the former.

 

Evidence of early Muslim burials unearthed in Nimes

February 28, 2016

Three sets of medieval-era remains found France may turn out to be some of the earliest evidence of Muslim presence outside of the Iberian Peninsula, scientists say.

The Early Middle Ages was a period of expansion and conquest for the Arab-Islamic world, culminating in the expansion of Islamic caliphates into what was once known as Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. The impact of several hundred years of Islamic rule in the Iberian region has had an indelible and unmistakable influence on Spanish, Portuguese, and Mediterranean history and culture, but the period has shown little in the way of evidence of an Islamic expansion outside of the region – that is until the discovery of these new graves.

As detailed in a newly published research study, the medieval graves dating to the 8th century CE were found in Nimes, near the Mediterranean coast of France northeast of the city of Montpelier, not far from the Côte d’Azur. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux and the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research examined the graves closely, claiming that evidence of the way the remains were interred seem to be in line with Islamic funerary practices. Additionally, preliminary DNA analysis and forensic examinations of the remains made in order to determine the age and sex of the individuals in life indicate the possibility of Arab-Islamic ancestry.

The evidence is slowly but surely mounting that these graves may be Islamic in origin. The remains were found to be buried with their bodies pointing towards Mecca, a widely-established Muslim funerary practice. Genetic markers also indicate North African ancestry for the exhumed individuals along their paternal genetic line. Finally, the remains themselves have been radiocarbon dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries. Researchers have drawn some initial conclusions from this data, theorizing that the individuals interred within the graves at one time could have been Berber soldiers that had been part of the Umayyad army after the caliphate expanded into North Africa.

The authors of the new research study into the identity of these graves say that the graves may be some of the only evidence discovered to date that indicates Muslim settlement north of the Pyrenees. While there does seem to be a high likelihood that these three individuals may have been North African Muslims that had traveled to the south of France via the caliphate’s occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, how or why they came to be, by themselves, so far into what would have been Frankish territory at the time remains a mystery.

Spanish authorities dismantle terror cell in Ceuta

Spanish authorities arrested four suspected members of a terror cell Saturday morning in that country’s North African territory of Ceuta, a quartet that Spain’s Interior Minister claimed were well-trained and well-prepared to attack.

What is especially noteworthy with the breakup of this cell are the many parallels with the attacks in Paris recently carried out against the Charlie Hebdo magazine,” Fernandez said, referring to the January 7 massacre that ended with 12 dead.

The suspects, who are Spanish citizens and are of Moroccan origin, are “strongly radicalized” and had psychological and physical training, as well as training in the use of weapons, said the minister while addressing reporters at an event of his ruling conservative party.

“(They were) willing to carry out an attack,” Fernandez said. “And, according to the police, to blow themselves up.”

Sarkozy speaks about Islam, integration and Rachida Dati’s roots

2370775838_d0ec7e746eSeveral days before the vote for the UMP presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy mentioned “one of his favorite themes,” that is, “integration the French way.” According to Sarkozy, it is the “biggest failure in thirty years.” He quickly elaborated on this statement, saying, “It is not a question of our fellow Muslims, most of whom bring honor to France.” He added, “The question, is not only to ask what the Republic can do for Islam, but what Islam can do for France.”

The next day, after being questioned by activists about his views on diversity, he discussed Rachida Dati’s appointment as Minister of Justice. “I said to myself that Rachida Dati, with an Algerian father and Moroccan mother, to talk about penal policy, that made sense,” he added.

While several were quick to question his decision, many believe it he chose Dati because of the large North African population in prison. Sarkozy’s entourage defended his decision and said that Dati’s appointment sent an important signal to immigrants.

“When you always speak of origins and skin color in a certain way, you divide citizens into different categories, and it’s not my vision of things,” says Francois Bayrou concerning Sarkozy’s statement.

Muslims fare better in America than in Europe

A recent Pew Study revealed that Muslims in America fare better than Muslims in Europe. The results of the study illustrate American Islam as diverse, integrated, well-educated and economically successful. Additionally, American Muslims are more tolerant of other sects within Islam. Their experience and situation in America is in stark contrast to the experiences of Muslims in Europe like the Turks in Germany and North African immigrants in France. As a community, they overwhelmingly reject terrorism and identify as first as Americans and then as Muslims. 20140906_USC635

Alleged member of AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb area) expelled from Spain

March 18, 2014

 

Nouh Mediouni, a young North African, 23 years old, has been expelled from Spain on Tuesday after being arrested on the 23 April 2013 in Zaragoza as alleged member of Al Qaeda.
He is accused of being a member of AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb area) and was recruited through their digital forum. He received specific instructions for a trip to a jihadist training camp located in northern Mali.
At the time of the arrest , Nouh Mediouni had with him electronic devices to prepare a car bomb.

 

Aragon digital: http://www.aragondigital.es/noticia.asp?notid=118270#.UyqRyI722bg.twitter

A book review of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs by Andrew Hussey

February 28, 2014

French Intifada

 

A book review of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs by Andrew Hussey (publication date March 6, 2014)

 

‘’ Going well beyond news reports, the book shows just how hot and fierce a vein of hatred for France runs through the Muslim populations that have experienced French rule. More than half a century after the North African states achieved independence, France remains an object of deep loathing for many of their citizens, who often associate the former imperial overlord with oppressive French-speaking elites. Even the Moroccans who carried out the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Hussey argues, ultimately linked Spain with these elites, and thus with “the hated nation of France”. Meanwhile, in the book’s striking opening scene, Hussey describes how young Muslims he encountered at a riot at Paris’s Gare du Nord in 2007, most presumably born on French soil, broke into a chant in colloquial Arabic: “Na’al abouk la France” – “Fuck France!”

The Muslim vote

February 26, 2014

 

The polling firm OpinionWay conducted a poll for the French newspaper Le Figaro and surveyed 10,000 French voters.

According to its findings 93% of French Muslims voted for François Hollande while only 7% voted for the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. An estimated 2 million Muslims participated in the 2012 election and approximately 1.7 million Muslims voted for Hollande rather than Sarkozy. Hollande defeated Sarkozy by 1.1 million votes, which suggests that Muslims provided critical votes that led to Hollande’s victory. However, it should be noted that voting abstention among the Muslim population is greater than within the average population.

The Muslim vote is believed to be a social vote rather than a religious vote and is very traditional concerning social matters such as family. During Hollande’s 2012 presidential campaign he offered amnesty to 400,000 undocumented immigrants from North African countries, many of who are Muslim. Hollande additionally vowed to extend municipal voting rights to residents without French citizenship by the year 2014. These promises prompted Muslims to support the Socialist party because it favors their integration.

Source: http://opinionlab.opinion-way.com/dokumenty/Sondage_jour_de_vote_T2_SOCIOLOGIE_DU_VOTE_2_1.pdf

 

IFOP (Département Opinion et Stratégies d’Enterprise) tracked the evolution of the Muslim vote using data from surveys collected during the 2002, 2007 and 2012 elections to accumulate a sample of 14, 200 voters.

In the first round of the 2012 elections 57% of Muslims voted for Hollande while 7% voted for Sarkozy. According to IFOP in the second round of voting 86% of the Muslim vote went to Hollande while 14% went to Sarkozy.

There is a similar pattern in the 2007 election, which shows that Muslims overwhelmingly supported Royal with 58%, Bayrou with 15% and the Far-left with 10% of the total possible votes.

The 2002 elections display the same trend with 49% voting for the Socialist Party and 19% for the Far-left.

Source: http://www.ifop.fr/media/pressdocument/482-1-document_file.pdf

 

A comprehensive survey entitled “Français comme les autres” published in 2008 polled French of North African and African descent.

Among those who identified as Muslim, 64% declared they voted for the Left in the 2005 election. However after posing the same question to those who identified as nonreligious the results were roughly identical, with 67% voting for the Left. The publication suggests that ethnic origin, the migration process and discrimination within France have created a cultural identity among the population which was the primary factor that influenced the vote.

Source: http://www.fasopo.org/reasopo/n7/societespolitiquescomparees7_livre.pdf

Islam, a Florentine woman forced to use the veil and beaten by her husband

In 2010, after having embraced the Islamic faith, she flew to Egypt where she married a man she met only a few months earlier. A husband, 33 year-old Egyptian man, who turned out to have an abusive side, this side which slowly became a river of aggression. Until last Sunday, August 25 when the woman, 30 year-old Florentine, exhausted and frightened, denounced her husband due to his abuse.

Due to the beating, the women, upon arrival at the hospital had bruises on her face and legs, her ordeal had also weakened in her psyche. She was also forced to wear the veil and dress conservatively in dark colors. She lived locked in the house with the windows sealed to avoid being seen also isolating her from potential help allowing her no space or autonomy. The 33-year old husband, in recent times, was becoming more extreme. So much so that he had taken over the phone, her only contact with the outside world.

Compounding the situation was that he beat her even in front of their own children during the 6 months and two years of their relationship.

He also threatened to kill her, even threatening her own family. Her mother was also beaten and threatened with death by the North African. Despite this his in-laws gave the couple money to buy a house in the southern suburbs of the city, where the young couple lived with their children.

The woman went to the Florentine hospital saying she had back pain but then burst into tears in front of the doctors.

police officers, directed by Dr. Alexander Ausenda, approached the victim inside the hospital while her husband waited in the waiting room. Then they accompanied him to the police station. Here an agent, a woman, handcuffed and took the man to prison. The 33 year old did not speak as his his wife and children were taken to a safe house.

Mosque emerges from Palermo home improvement: ‘We won’t serve alcohol here, out of respect’ say owners

MoscheaAugust 28, 2013

By Gaetana D’Amico and Christopher Livesay

Palermo, August 28 – Owners of a Palermo apartment were shocked to discover during recent renovations that part of their home was once an ornate 18th-century mosque. The flat in Via Porta di Castro is in an area of buildings over what used to be the Kemonia river, before it was filled in around the year 1600, near the Royal Palace of Palermo. The couple, Giuseppe Cadili and Valeria Giarrusso, both journalists, bought the apartment eight years ago. They had planned to knock down the wall of a room to create an open area, but Cadili soon realized that the plaster was damp.

“There was a leak inside of a wall. Cleaning it up a bit I realized that there was Arabic writing on it,” he said, noting the script was in gold and silver painted on blue background. “I would never have imagined that the writing covered all four walls”. Experts say the mosque was built inside a private dwelling, the first discovery of its kind in Sicily. It was at that point that the amazed owners decided to have it examined. Gaetano Basile, an expert in Palermo history, told them the inscriptions were artisan versions of a decorative calligraphy widespread in the 1700s. Most of it is purely decorative, Basile told Salvatore Ferro of the daily Il Giornale di Sicilia. “This is a well-known part of our culture, marked by the invention of ‘rabbisco’, an entirely Sicilian legacy of arabesque design,” he said. “The Sicilian artisan, who did not know Arabic, mistook calligraphic verses for decoration, and emulated them.” It is likely that the house belonged to a North African nobleman or merchant who had made his home in Palermo around the later 1700s,” he added, noting that a large Muslim community lived in the Sicilian capital at the time. “The owner basically had a mosque built in his house. There are clear indications of this.”

“First of all, it faces east, the walls are of an identical size – 3.5 by 3.5 meters, it has doors located in such a way as to prevent the placement of furniture, and the ceiling has a repeating lamp pattern”. The owners intend to preserve the space as is. “We wanted to give the proper weight to this discovery and convey our love for the historic center,” Cadili said. “Too often things from our past are destroyed instead of bringing them back to life.” This room also transmits an extraordinary feeling of serenity. “This is why we decided to keep it as we found it: we put in a sofa and a desk and, out of respect for the Muslim culture, we do not serve alcoholic beverages in this room.”