Last year, when Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent six months in the Russian region of Dagestan, he had a guide with an unusually deep knowledge of the local Islamist community: a distant cousin named Magomed Kartashov. Six years older than Tsarnaev, Kartashov is a former police officer and freestyle wrestler — and one of the region’s most prominent Islamists.
In 2011, Kartashov founded and became the leader of an organization called the Union of the Just, whose members campaign for Shari‘a and pan-Islamic unity in Dagestan, often speaking out against U.S. policies across the Muslim world. The group publicly renounces violence. But some of its members have close links to militants; others have served time in prison for weapons possession and abetting terrorism — charges they say were based on fabricated evidence. For Tsarnaev, these men formed a community of pious young Muslims with whom he could discuss his ideas of jihad. Tsarnaev’s mother Zubeidat confirmed that her son is Kartashov’s third cousin. The two met for the first time in Dagestan, she said, and “became very close.”
Eventually the man remembers Tsarnaev ceding the point. Some weeks later — the man could not recall exactly how long — many from the same group of friends, including Kartashov, gathered on the same beach again for another barbecue. This time the discussion was different. Tsarnaev also brought up the issue of holy war, “but in a global context,” the man said. They talked about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the civil war in Syria, which some of the men from Kartashov’s circle accuse the U.S. and the U.K. of helping to foment. “Those questions that he brought from America [about the holy war in Dagestan], those didn’t come up anymore,” said the man who attended both barbecues. And what was Tsarnaev asking about then? “Listening,” the man said. “He did more listening.”
26 September 2010
Despite the legal proceedings begun by the state prosecutor concerning an anti-minaret video game used by the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) during the recent Styrian election campaign, the FPÖ has not suffered any negative backlash. To the contrary: the FPÖ received almost 11% of the vote in the recent elections, and have consequently gained a seat in the state legislature. Another indication of the success of the anti-Islam strategy could been seen by a present the Styrian FPÖ leader, Gerhard Kurzmann, recently received from two deeply pious Christians: a magnificently adorned cross, placed in a blue case [the FPÖ’s official colour is blue].
Although she’d cultivated an academic interest in Islam at university, Willow Wilson’s religious awakening really came in the hospital. She was suffering from adrenal distress, and its symptoms – including insomnia and hair loss – would last for a year and a half. “Being ill had shaken something loose in my head,” the 27-year-old writes in her new memoir The Butterfly Mosque (Grove Press, 2010). “That so many people were well – that I had been well for so long – seemed miraculous.”
After she recovered, Ms. Wilson accepted a teaching position in Cairo: Her decision to convert to Islam came mid-flight, over the Mediterranean. Days later, she would meet her future husband Omar, a pious Muslim and heavy-metal aficionado, at their English-language school. He showed her markets and cafés free of Westerners, and later steered her through her first Ramadan.
Germany’s Muslims are pious and yet more tolerant than most assume, a new study has found. Its authors are urging authorities to draw the country’s Muslim children away from Koran schools by offering public religious instruction. Dr. Martin Rieger of the Bertelman Stiftung thinks Muslim children should have their own religion classes. Rieger was the director of the study “Muslim Religiosity in Germany,” which was provided to SPIEGEL ONLINE ahead of its scheduled publication on Friday. The study reveals that 90 percent of Muslims define themselves as religous. In contrast a separate survey by the nonprofit German think tank found that only 70 percent of the entire population admitted to being religous. “We need to get the younger Muslims out of the Koran schools,” Rieger urges, “and offer them professionally taught classes on Islam.” Calls like that are welcome news to Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen, which keeps track of the religiosity of Turkish Muslims. It’s a demand, Ulusoy says, “that we’ve been making for decades because, for Muslims, faith is a very important part of their identity.” In his opinion, if the school system doesn’t pay any attention to this fact, it only hurts the chances of successfully integrating Muslims into German culture. Even Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, the body responsible for the country’s Catholic Churches, backs the plan. On Thursday, Zollitsch voiced his support for the call for Islamic religious instruction and the construction of “fitting Muslim houses of worship that are well-integrated into their respective urban plans.” Peter Wensierski and Christina Hebel report.
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Head of Austria’s Shi’as Islamic Center said here Wednesday Islamic Republic of Iran granted prestige and grandeur to Muslims throughout the world. Muhammad-Ali Lances who was speaking for a group of pious Iranian youth attending the religious ‘Ea’tekaf’ ritual at Martyrs Mosque of Shiraz, added, “That is why we believe you are not merely responsible for the fate of your own country, but for the fate of the youth of the entire Islamic World.” Head of Austrian Shia’s Islamic Center added, “Furthermore, the Muslim youth can by abiding by the Islamic teachings become an excellent model for the youth of the entire world nations.” Presenting an image of the social, cultural and political status quo of Europe, Lances said, “The Europeans look at Islam as a proud and prestigious faith today, while in near past if someone would convert to Islam in Europe, or any other Western country, they would have accused him of being insane.” Pointing out that the Islamic Revolution of Iran is of great significance both among the European Muslims, and among the followers of other faiths there, he said, “One of the former Austrian presidents used to say that thanks to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the pious need not feel ashamed of being religious, and they can proudly claim their belief in God.”
In Pittburgh, a Turkish group, pious but peaceful, decides to rethink its plans for an Islamic centre after an angry public hearing. In Clitheroe, a town in northern England, a plan to turn an ex-church into a mosque wins planning approval after seven failed bids. In Austria a far-rightist, J_rg Haider, grabs headlines by proposing that no mosques or minarets should be built in the province of Carinthia, where he is governor. In Memphis, Tennessee, Muslims manage to build a large cemetery despite local objections to their burial customs. On the face of it, there is something similar about all these vignettes of inter-faith politics in the Western world. They all illustrate the strong emotions, and opportunistic electoral games, that are surfacing in many countries as Muslim minorities, increasingly prosperous and confident, aspire to build more mosques and other communal buildings.