Denmark: Feminist, socialist, devout Muslim: woman who has thrown Denmark into turmoil

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid is preparing herself for a new battle. If the campaign she recently announced is successful, she will be the first Muslim woman ever to enter the Folketing, the Danish parliament in Copenhagen. She is a 25-year-old social worker, student and town councilor and describes herself as a feminist, a democrat, and a socialist. She has gay friends, opposes the death penalty, supports abortion rights, and could not care less what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. In other words, she is a tolerant Scandinavian and European. She also identifies as a Palestinian and a devout Muslim and insists on wearing a headscarf. She refuses, on religious grounds, to shake hands with males. Members of the extreme right resent her as a rabble rouser; the left is skeptical of her place in their “red-green” alliance of socialists and environmentalists. Her announcement has through her into the middle of a debate tormenting Denmark and the rest of western Europe – the place of Islam in Europe and the treatment of large Muslim minorities. Asmaa claims she is in politics because it is a personal interest of hers, not because she is a Muslim. Critics greatest concern is the issue of the headscarf and how it will be accommodated in parliament. Her candidacy is for a safe Copenhagen seat for the leftwing Unity List. Among the responses elicited by her candidacy is that by The Danish People’s Party or DFP, the far-right movement that unofficially props up the weak centre-right government of the prime minister. DFP politicians have compared the headscarf to the Nazi swastika and accuse Asmaa of being brainwashed. “We don’t like the idea of her performing as an Islamist in the parliament,” says DFP spokesman Kim Eskildsen. “We find it wrong that she’ll use the parliament as a tool for Islamism … We don’t consider this woman a Nazi. But the way the headscarf is used is comparable to other totalitarian symbols.” Denmark’s current centre-right government, has enacted the tightest anti-immigration legislation in Europe in recent years. Ms. Abdol-Hamid, who shares a one-room council flat with one of her six sisters in the “ghetto” of Vollsmose, in the town of Odense, says her political mission is to fight for the underclass that has been affected by recent policies. Ms. Abdol-Hamid also faced criticism from conservative Muslims who approach her father and instruct him to get her married. They go to my father and tell him, get her married, get her married,” she laughs. “Others think you can’t be Muslim and Danish at the same time. Some of the Muslims and the extreme right are just the same. “And there are women in my party who say that anyone who wears the headscarf is oppressed. It’s like they think I’m dumb. They’re taking away my individuality. We need the right to choose. It’s up to us whether or not we wear headscarves. “They think I’m a woman from the Middle East. No. I’m a Danish Muslim.”

Denmark: Muslim Woman with Hijab To Run For Parliament

Twenty-five year-old Asmaa Abdol-Hamid announced her candidacy for the Danish parliament in Copenhagen, Folketing. Abdol-Hamid first became a national celebrity last year as a activist who fought in vain before the courts against the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. Turbulence surrounds her candidacy. The Right is outraged and the Left is skeptical about her place in their coalition.

Dutch May Revoke Lawmaker’s Citizenship

The Dutch immigration minister said Monday that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who became one of the most prominent members of Dutch parliament, was improperly granted citizenship in 1997 and it may be revoked. Hirsi Ali, an opponent of fundamentalist Islam and an advocate for immigrant women’s rights, returned abruptly from a book tour in the United States last week after a political firestorm over her past erupted in the Netherlands. Critics called for her to resign after a television program aired Thursday detailing how she lied on her asylum application when she fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage. Hirsi Ali had admitted the fabrications publicly when she was vetted as a candidate for parliament in 2002, and the country’s immigration minister said Friday she did not face any sanctions over the matter. But on Monday, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk sent a letter to parliament saying that, after reviewing the facts “it must be assumed she (Hirsi Ali) will be considered to never have received Dutch citizenship.” She said Hirsi Ali will have six weeks to formally respond. Hirsi Ali’s spokeswoman Ingrid Pouw said the lawmaker would hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss her position. Earlier Monday, Dutch media reported that Hirsi Ali would announce her retirement from politics this week and would join the American Enterprise Institute starting in September to work on a new book. Pouw could not confirm that. Hirsi Ali’s political downfall would be remarkable, given the prominent role she has played in the Netherlands’ national debate on Islam in the past several years. She became internationally known when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in November 2004. Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay for his movie “Submission,” which criticized the treatment of women under Islam and offended many Muslims. She received numerous death threats and has been under continuous police protection since the Van Gogh murder. The Dutch state is currently scrambling to arrange new housing for her after her neighbors in The Hague complained successfully that security arrangements for her had become an unfair nuisance for them. On the TV documentary program Zembla, she repeated that when she arrived in 1992 she changed her name and birth date on her asylum application and did not reveal that she had lived in three different countries after leaving Somalia. Several of her critics called for her to be deported. On Saturday, she told the AP she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

A Look At France’s Draft Immigration Bill

Key points of a bill making its way through parliament: _ Create a renewable, three-year work permit for highly skilled foreigners. _ Do away with a provision that allows foreigners who have been in the country for more than 10 years – even those here illegally – to apply for French citizenship. _ Require the government to submit to parliament an annual report specifying the number and kind of residency permits to be authorized over a three year period. Although the draft bill avoids using the word ‘quotas,’ critics say the provision amounts to a quota-system. _ Stiffen requirements on foreigners requesting to bring family members to France, requiring them to show their salary alone – and not government assistance – would suffice to support their families. _ Double the current two-year period foreigners married to French nationals must wait before applying for French citizenship. _ Require foreigners applying for long-term residency permits to attend French language and civics classes. _ Make obtaining 10-year-residency permits contingent on speaking French and respecting of the “values of the French republic.”

Merkel to Meet German Islamic Leaders

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to have talks later this year with leaders of the country’s 3.3 million Muslims, a report said Wednesday. Merkel is due to invite the heads of 16 Islamic groups to the chancellery before parliament’s summer recess to boost dialogue after worldwide protests over cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, said the newspaper Die Welt. The move comes amid unprecedented calls by German teachers for the closure of a Berlin high school following massive disruptions by Arab and Turkish students.

Denmark: Jordanian parliament calls for Danish cartoonists to be punished

Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about the Jordanian parliament’s call on this week for the punishment of the cartoonist who drew 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in the Danish daily “Jyllands-Posten” on 30 September 2005 and were reprinted in the Norwegian publication “Magazinet” on 10 January.

Deputy Sworn in Wearing Hijab

Deputy Salima Abdeslam Aisa, from Coalition by Melilla (CpM), today took possession of her position in the plenary session of the Assembly of Melilla adorned with the hijab. She is the first Muslim to sit in a Spanish parliament with the traditional Islamic clothes. The new deputy swore to the Constitution before the president of the Assembly and the Independent City, Juan Jose Imbroda, and the members of the Assembly applauded her arrival.

Dutch Parties Reject Hijab Ban Proposal

By Khaled Shawkat THE HAGUE – The Dutch far-right was dealt a fresh heavy blow in Parliament after most parties turned down a proposal to ban hijab in public administrations. Pim Fortuyn, an anti-immigration party named after its founder killed in 2002, found no support in its bid forcing Muslim civil servants to take off the dress code, the Dutch ANP news agency reported on Thursday, March 18. Joost Eerdmans, a parliament member of the party said after the emergency session on Wednesday, March 17, that the government should stand neutral in dealing with citizens – something he said should be reflected in their clothes. All other parties refused the plea, stressing citizens’ right to freedom of clothing choice and equal treatment by judicial employees as well, parliamentary sources told IslamOnline.net. Eerdmans accused the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD) of putting up hypocrisy in the debate in the legislature. The party leaders switched their stanch attacks on hijab in media outlets to another position, especially Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who had arrived in the country ten years ago and known for her anti-Islam remarks, the far-extremist party member charged. A number of Muslim women, promoted to posts in the Dutch judicial system or being lawyers remarkably in recent years, have insisted to wearing hijab in their work. Conditions Nevertheless, the government is preoccupied with setting a number of conditions on clothes judicial employees should wear during work hours, the parliamentary sources said. The Christian Democratic Party (CDP), now leading the ruling coalition, also called for workers of other governmental sectors – including the police, army and National Guard sectors – to stick to a “special code of dress” set by officials there. Political parties have expressed hopes to discuss the issue of hijab in a much broader way, as official sources said in press statements that the government still works out a final say on it. Muslim civil servants wearing hijab are growing in number as the one-million Muslim community – making up 6% of the overall population – keep upsurge if compared with other ethnicities. Most Muslims here are from Morocco and Turkey who arrived as guest workers in the sixties and seventies. In December 2003, the two parties of the ruling Dutch coalition of CDP and VVD locked horns over banning Islamic education in the European country. Exaggerated Muslims reacted to the fuss over hijab with a mixed skepticism and anger. Naema Azough, an Arab-Dutch member of the Dutch Green Left Party, on the opposition track, said the debate is exaggerated and unjustifiable. Interior Minister Yohan Remkes said on Wednesday that the hijab of Muslim women workers should be designed in a way consistent with the nature of the job and work conditions. Azough said there is a few number of hijab-clad women working in public administrations, citing that only three women wearing the gear in the Prison Guard sector as an example. Muslim officials highlight that their hijab poses no restriction to their work, denying the dress code has proven threat to secularism or Muslim women’s integration in the European country. Success & Fears Many of hijab-clad women were catapulted into success in many political, scientific and social fields, the most prominent of whom is Fatma Al-Ateq, former interior minister’s advisor and a current member of the Dutch parliament. In 2002, the Muslim minority celebrated their first hijab-wearing lawyer Jamila Arselan. In September 2002, two hijab-clad students were honored by a Dutch faculty for their excellence and dedication. Hijab is no obstacle to the integration of women in Holland, as hijab-clad Muslims have achieved a remarkable success in various fields of study and work, Rabiaa Bouhalhoul, the head of social integration department in the local government of Rotterdam told IOL on January 27. Bouhalhoul said that claims that the Islamic wear runs counter to the principles of secularism are the work of European far-right extremist parties seeking to satisfy voters. Bouhalhoul warned that France’s imminent ban on hijab in state schools would have grave repercussions on Muslims in the West. But she ruled out that The Netherlands would follow in the footsteps of France, as the education system is different in both countries. The one million Muslims of Holland 16 million citizen have established over the past 30 years hundreds of religious, social and cultural organizations, many of which receive grants from the Dutch authorities. The Muslim official, however, conceded that many other officials are greatly affected – even consciously – by media outlets. Deputy Prime Minister, and VVD Leader, Gerrit Zalm argued in a general party congress in the southeastern town of Eindhoven last year that the government should also ban Islamic schools. Muslim women took to the streets of Helmond city, southeast of the Netherlands, in September 2003 to protest a decision by the city’s municipality to withhold an annual grant for a government-aided social organization, allocated for women-only swimming classes.