The Oxford sex ring shows how the sexual manners of a new place can be tragically misinterpreted

The case of child abuse in Oxford has been much covered, and from a number of angles. A gang of individuals abducted young girls and raped them repeatedly. Some of the girls were introduced to crack cocaine and heroin to make their dependency on the men stronger. Others were branded to show that they belonged to one of their abusers, or given home-devised abortions. The police were slow to take action, despite being very regularly approached by victims and those who knew what was going on. A guest in a hotel was so disturbed by the noise he heard from the room next door that he phoned the police. That is one way of putting it. Another is to draw attention to the fact that here, and in a case in Rochdale last year, the abusers were mostly of Pakistani origin and all Muslims. The victims were all young white girls. There are cases pending for more gang-related grooming and rape offences where the same is true. The police and some media outlets, including the BBC, declined to draw any attention to this fact. You might point out, too, that there are plenty of white abusers and rapists, and conclude that the race of these abusers is of no significance. Or you might go down the BNP route and imply that there is something rotten at the heart of Islam itself. Between the well-meaning liberal account and the ugly BNP version, the truth lies. Race was clearly an important factor for the rapists themselves, who targeted white girls. But it is ridiculous to suggest that there is anything fundamental in the culture prizing the rape of children. Manners of sexual exchange are notoriously changeable from one society to another, and notoriously difficult to interpret. When a gay cardinal forces himself on a junior, we may guess that a shadowy and unsocialised life may not have trained him in the manners of request and acceptance. All he has to go on is what he wants. We have to talk about race in the Oxford and Rochdale cases – we mustn’t pretend it wasn’t an important feature. But race was not the defining feature. What drove these men was deracination: a detachment from one culture, and a failure to attach or understand another. At some level, they believed that they could get away with this because nobody cared about these girls, abandoned in care homes. At another, they no doubt believed, or said to each other that they believed, that white girls were all whores, that anyone who dressed and behaved like that would be happy to be given heroin and have sex with half a dozen men before she was 13 years old.

French ministers refuse to attend conference with Islamic scholar who teaches at Oxford University

Tariq Ramadan is an Islamic scholar who teaches at Oxford University and a former member of a working group on extremism set up by Tony Blair. Time magazine once described him as the “leading thinker” among Europe’s second and third-generation Muslim immigrants. Yet two French ministers have suddenly announced that they will not attend a conference in Florence tomorrow on the future of the European Union because of the presence of the scholar, Tariq Ramadan. He is due to be a panellist at the conference, entitled The State of the Union, speaking about “migration, identity and integration”. The French Interior Minister Manuel Valls and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Women’s Rights Minister who is also a government spokeswoman, informed organisers that they were pulling out, saying they had “not been informed” of Professor Ramadan’s attendance. The philosopher is a controversial figure who has been accused of advocating violence and for some years was banned from entering France.

Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference takes place in Toronto

Muslims from around the world gathered from December 23-26th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to attend an annual conference. More than 17,000 Canadian Muslims will gather at the ninth annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention, a meeting that offers Muslims a renewal of their faith just before the new year through sharing meals, group prayers and listening to lectures from prominent speakers.

The conference, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also offers young Muslims a discussion about Islam and applying its practice in a North American context, event spokesperson Ayman Faris said. The event works on “keeping the threat of extremism and radicalism at bay” as young generations of Muslims grow up in North America and, at times, turn to Internet, which can be a “dangerous” place to retrieve information about their faith, Heer said. She has seen the event grow from 6,000 to last year’s 17,000 attendees. Tariq Ramadan, an Oxford University professor, and Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian convert from Kitchener, Ont., who was also the past president of the Islamic Society of North America, are among the speakers at the 2010 conference.

Muslims Today A Radical Reform: Tariq Ramadan with John Esposito

Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan joined John L. Esposito in a conversation exploring the challenges of confronting the status quo and promoting radical reform in Islam and the Muslim world. Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University and President of the European think tank European Muslim Network in Brussels. His most recent publications include What I Believe, Islam, The West and the Challenges of Modernity, and Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation. John Esposito is University Professor, Professor of Religion & International Affairs and Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, The Oxford History of Islam and Oxford Islamic Studies Online, his most recent books are: The Future of Islam; Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed); and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam.

Muslims treated better in Switzerland than in Europe

In an interview with two German-language newspapers (“Tages-Anzeiger” and “Bund”), Muslim intellectual and Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan stated that “most Muslims in Switzerland come from the Balkans, have been here for quite some time, and have integrated well into society.” According to him, despite the minaret ban the situation of Muslims in Switzerland is significantly better than in most European countries, especially at the local level; however, the national level will take more time.

Ramadan does not believe there to be any opposition between being a practicing Muslim and a European citizen, and he considers that through the integration of Muslims in Switzerland, Islam has now become a Swiss religion as well. He also noted the prudent responses of Swiss Muslims in reaction to the minaret ban, and said that the relatively modest religious significance of the minaret may explain why there was not a more general outcry from the Muslim world, as had been expected.

Finally with regard to the Libyan affair, he believes that the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi was justified, as this demonstrated that in Switzerland the law applies to everyone. On the other hand, according to him the apologies of Federal Councilor Metz were a sign of weakness.

Study reveals impact of immigration on UK faiths

According to a forthcoming report, the past decade has seen a net increase of 275,000 in the number of Muslims who were born in Pakistan or Bangladesh but are now living in Britain. – the equivalent to twice the population of Oxford. The number of Somali-born UK residents has also risen sharply, from fewer than 40,000 in 1999 to 106,700 this year.

Many of the newcomers are part of a trend of onward migration from European Union countries, coming to the UK after being subject to “latent Islamaphobia” abroad, according to the report. “Migration has caused an increase in the proportions of the population affiliated to non-Christian faiths,” says the report.

The report “Faith, Migration and Integration in the UK” will be published in January 2010 by the left-of-centre think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), http://www.ippr.org.uk.

Tariq Ramadan to Take Position at Oxford

In the wake of his dismissal from positions at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University and with the city council, Tariq Ramadan has accepted a teaching post at Oxford. The Islamic scholar will take up the position of professor of contemporary Islam studies from September 1 2009.

Ramadan was dismissed from his position advising the city on integration due to controversy surrounding his presentation of a television programme on Iranian station Press TV. He has refused to stop work for the station and announced that he will take legal action against the city for his dismissal.

Ramadan, who has been attached to Oxford as a researcher and lecturer for the past four years, takes up a professorship funded by the Qatar foundation for education. ‘Freedom of expression is a fundamental right which will be respected,’ a spokesman for the British university told Telegraaf.

Rotterdam Dismisses Tariq Ramadan Amidst Controversy

Following controversy regarding his participation in a television program on Iranian station Press TV, Rotterdam has fired Tariq Ramadan from his position as Integration Advisor for the city council. NRC reports that officials feel Ramadan can no longer lead dialogue in the city as he has become the central focus of debate. Ramadan has also lost his position as professor of identity and citizenship at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University.

Ramadan refuses to accept the dismissal and is taking legal action against Rotterdam council as he feels he has been treated disrespectfully. According to NRC Ramadan maintains that he “does not support the current Iranian government, and says he has full editorial freedom. He believes change in Iran should come from within, for example through television. He also says he has been completely open about his television sideline. It is even mentioned on the homepage of his personal website.” Rather, he suggests that the controversy is due to the current political climate in the Netherlands and the increasing popularity of Geert Wilders.

Ramadan, 46, has been attached to the city council for two years and is a visiting professor at Erasmus University, a post paid for by Rotterdam. The dismissal comes after it emerged that Ramadan presents a weekly programme on Iran’s Press TV which is paid for by the Iranian authorities. Ramadan was asked to present the Iranian show Islam & Life two years ago because of his position on a list of worldwide intellectuals, according to Press TV’s Matthew Richardson, reports the AD.

Why the burka is part of Britain: France and Britain compared

Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech before the Senate, in which he announced the ban of the burka in France, has stirred some emotion and discussion in Britain, where such law is far from being thought of. In her article Cassandra Jardine compares the two countries, pointing to the right to individual and religious expression in Britain.

Ahmed Versi, editor of the Muslim News, believes the way forward is through tolerance and understanding, not legislation — and is glad he lives in Britain for that reason. “Britain is the best country in Europe for Muslims. We complain, but we are freer here, and we have more dialogue with government. In France, Muslim organisations are not representative; here they are independent. In France, Muslims live in ghettos and have double the unemployment rate of the rest of the population. Many French women come to university in the UK because they want to study and wear the headscarf which in France they cannot.”

The article also quotes those who would welcome the burka-ban, not least some members of the Muslim community. “The French president should be applauded for initiating this debate,” Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford said. Dr Hargey describes the growing belief that Muslim women should cover their head, face and hands as “doctrinaire brain-washing”. Dr Usama Hasan, a reformist London Imam, also has “some sympathy” with Sarkozy: he too does not think it is necessary for women to wear the burka.