President Macron and Interior Minister Gérard Collomb joined the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) for Iftar on June 20.
Macron first thanked the CFCM’s outgoing president Anouar Kbibech for his tenure, which was marked by numerous terror attacks. “Thanks to you, the nation’s unity was upheld along with the voice of reason.”
Macron added: “We live in a time where there is much to divide us, where everything could collapse…Our challenge is, of course, security, as we are faced with raging terrorism, but it is also moral and civilizational. And with this challenge, as part of your [CFCM] responsibilities, you play an important role. The State and public authorities will be with you to face these challenges. My presence here, tonight, by your side, is meant to thank you. Faced with the immense responsibilities that await us, you will have me by your side.”
He concluded: “No one in France should believe that your faith is not compatible with the Republic, no one should think that France and the French reject the Muslim faith. No one can ask French men and women, in the name of the faith, to reject the laws of the Republic.”
The national delegate for En Marche, Bariza Khiari, hopes to play a role in the transformation of French Islam. She also speaks out against the Foundation for Islam in France.
Her “last political struggle,” was Emmanuel Macron’s election, and she has big plans for her country’s future: she wants “to structure French Islam.”
“There are too many people at the head of Islam in France who are aligned with their countries of origin. That may have been useful when it was mostly immigrants, when there was the myth of return. Today, Muslims are settled in this country, and we need, like the Jewish community, completely independent affairs,” she said.
Khiari wants “young people of immigrant backgrounds, born in France,” to take the lead.
She also lashed out agains the Foundation for Islam in France.and its director Jean-Pierre Chevènement. His nomination sends the wrong signal that there were no Muslims “capable of assuming the role.”
Murfreesboro is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and an increasingly diverse one. Muslim and Christian students go to school and play sports together; their families patronize the same restaurants and stores.
Residents variously describe the town as a proud example of Southern hospitality, a growing “melting pot,” a suburb of “little blue dot” Nashville and the “buckle on the Bible Belt.” Its downtown with the old courthouse and Confederate-soldiers memorial yields to strip malls and chain stores, new housing developments and old cotton fields, and the university, with its 20,000 undergraduates.
Among the town’s couple hundred places of worship are 59 Baptist churches, including an Arabic Baptist church as well as Grace Baptist, whose deacon in 2010 greeted the construction of the new mosque next door by erecting 23 huge white crosses on the road.
Murfreesboro doesn’t need “to have a lot of Muslims,” Sally Wall said. “I think they can stay where they are and we stay where we are.”
But there’s more tolerance because of the public acrimony over the mosque, said City Council member Bill Shacklett.
“I wish some of the things hadn’t happened. But the one thing it has done is compel people to open their hearts and minds to be drawn toward each other . . . get out and flesh out your faith with different people,” Shacklett said, adding that Muslims and Christians have started to do that.
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said he was denied the chance to play for France in the Euro 2016 this month because of his Algerian origins.
The French Football Federation denied the accusation, but Benzema’s comments, published just nine days before France hosts the tournament, have deepened a row about alleged racism in a national team once seen as a model for ethnic integration.
Last week, Eric Cantona accused coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.
Deschamps’ lawyer said he planned to sue Cantona for slander. The two have a longstanding rivalry since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France’s captain and led the team to World Cup and Euro successes in 1998 and 2000. Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, something Prime Minister Manuel Valls said made him unfit to play for the national team. Benzema said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.
“They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,” he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.
“Deschamps succumbed to pressure from a racist part of France,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s only Didier’s decision, because I get on well with him, the president (of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet) and everybody.”
Deschamps was not immediately available for comment. Le Graet said Deschamps was neither for nor against Benzema and had previously picked the forward even when he was not in good form.
“I think he has got carried away a little bit,” Le Graet told reporters at the French team’s training camp in Austria.
“I would have liked him to have been a bit more kind. These are words that don’t correspond with the realities.”
The racism row has added to tensions in a country hit by widespread strikes over proposed changes to work contracts and fears about terrorist attacks.
Ahead of the European Championship’s June 10 kick-off, the French team has also been hit by a spate of injuries.
The squad has players from various ethnicities. Deschamps last week called up Adil Rami, who is of Moroccan origin. But memories of 1998, when France’s “black-blanc-beur” (black-white-Arab) team won the World Cup, have faded, especially since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the players fell out with the team’s managers.
At the time, the far-right National Front party complained that the team did not fully reflect France, where the vast majority are still white.
Sports Minister Thierry Braillard dismissed Benzema’s comments as “unjustified” and “unacceptable.”
“The French team is selected only on technical criteria and ability. There is not an inch of racism in this federation. The time has come to stand by our team,” Braillard told BFM TV.
A successful striker for Real Madrid, Benzema has often failed to excel for the national team, scoring 27 goals in 81 games at international level
Since setting up their band, The Kominas have come under fire from all sides: some punks say they aren’t real punks, while conservatives are critical of their politics. But who decides what punk is anyway? Isn’t the very essence of punk to push boundaries and upset the status quo? According to Richard Marcus, despite feeling ostracised by the white indie/punk scene and being the focus of media articles for reasons completely outside their control, the Kominas just keep on speaking their minds and making great music
Like any other creed, punk rock is widely open to personal interpretation. British punk of the 1970s was wildly different from American punk of the same period; New York punk was different from California punk, while Toronto’s punk scene was a sort of mash-up of all three. After nearly 40 years of listening to punk, the only generalisation I’m willing to make on the subject is that it’s more of an attitude than a style of music. Punk is a willingness to speak your mind and live with the consequences; it’s about taking chances and not accepting the status quo.
So using a catch-all phrase like “punk Islam” or Taqwacore (a name derived from the book of the same name by American author Michael Muhammad Knight) won’t give you an idea of a band’s nature, save that the members might share the same religious background. While using this term also seems to be fairly insulting (after all, how many “Christian punk” or “white punk” bands do you know of?), that hasn’t stopped the labelling from happening.
This is part of an overall syndrome that the band The Kominas was railing against in a recent post on their Facebook page: “There’s a lot of publicity that comes with Muslims performing normalcy for the West. ‘Oh wow, look at these Muslims who skateboard and are totally average,’ ‘hey, look at these Muslims who listen to & make music,’ ‘wow, this Muslim is just a normal shithead (just like me!)’. You can call it whatever you want (we would say tatti, but it’s your choice), we just wanted to say fuck that. We are more than a label. Fuck your binaries. Fuck all of them, fuck American:Muslim, Male:Female, white:other…” (Kominas Facebook page, 13 June 2015)
The Kominas have been associated with Taqwacore through both their association with Knight and with a documentary movie they were featured in, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. The movie was split between documenting “Islamic” punk bands touring together with Knight on an old school bus around America and a trip by Knight to Pakistan where he visited various Sufi shrines, the madrassa he had attended and the Kominas, who were in the midst of a two year sojourn in the country.
Breaking the mould
This was when I first ran into the band and over the years, I’ve stumbled across them on the Internet and been impressed by their music and what they have to say about it: why they perform and what punk means to them. Founding members Basim Usmani (bass) and Shahjehan Khan (guitar) started the band in 2005 when they met up at university in Boston. Karna Ray soon joined as drummer, and over the years, the rest of the band’s membership has shifted and evolved to where the original trio is now, augmented by Hassin Ali Malik.
While they have only released a couple of full-length CDs (Kominas and Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay), a couple of singles (“BariyaN Ashiq Mizaj AkhaN TeriaN” and “Sharia Law in the U.S.A.”) and a six-song CD (Escape To Blackout Beach), they have garnered a great deal of attention. Some of it has obviously been from American media trying to get their heads around the fact young Muslims are in a popular music band, but mostly it is because of their appeal to people both in America and in South-East Asia. With songs written in English, Urdu and Punjabi, they can cross cultural boundaries few American-based groups even know exist.
However, that doesn’t mean they are universally popular. In fact, they come under fire from all ends of the political, musical and religious spectrum. In an interview given to Vanyaland, a Boston-based music magazine, Usmani touches on this when he mentions how they get flak from anti-religion Pakistani punks for being identified as Muslim and from Indonesian punks who say they aren’t real Muslim punks.
Of course, their politics – and maybe their existence – also upset conservatives of all types (political, religious and musical) at home. As evident from the quote above, they have strong opinions, which they don’t hesitate to express. However, that’s what a punk band is supposed to do – upset the status quo. Sure, there are punks out there who claim The Kominas aren’t punk enough because they play more than three chords and experiment with different styles and genres of music, but their approach to music and their lyrical content is pure punk. As definitive a figure as John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) has said the whole idea of a punk orthodoxy – that you can only listen to or play certain types of music to be punk – is ridiculous.
Can a Muslim be a punk?
Unfortunately there’s also the issue of colour: brown-skinned people from South-East Asia aren’t supposed to thrash about on stage with guitars and drums and their hair spiked up in Mohawks. They’re supposed to play sitars and other ethnic instruments. In an interview on the MTV website given earlier this year, Malik responded to a question about how being Muslim has impacted on the way the music community has treated them by saying he felt they were ostracised by the white indie/punk scene – as much as that scene even exists anymore.
The hardest thing for The Kominas is being treated like any other band. In reply to the same question above, Usmani said the press only seems to be interested in them when Islamophobia is in the news or as a token for an article about assimilation. Yes, they began life as a supposed Muslim punk band, (drummer Ray is a secular Hindu born in the States to academic parents) but they’re more than that. Not only are they breaking down stereotypes by playing music people of colour aren’t “supposed” to play, they are playing really good music.
The irony of an article like this one, of course, is that it only perpetuates the problem of them being treated like any other band. However, hopefully the release of their new album, Stereotype, later this year will garner them the attention they deserve as a band, not just as the Islamic punks from Boston. True to their punk natures, it will be released on their own label – most likely as a digital download from their website. Wherever you are, and whoever you are, make sure to grab a copy.
Wednesday February 25th there was a public hearing on radicalization and jihadism in the Dutch parliament. There, Paul Scheffer, specialized in integration issues, stated that according to a big minority and perhaps a majority of Dutch Muslims democracy and Islam do not fit together. Scheffer is basing himself on a research conducted by Ruud Koopmans. On the other side, ‘native’ Dutch people see no place for Islam in their democracy.
Thus a question arises: “How does one from an islamic standpoint relates to democracy and how relates democracy itself towards new religions?”
According to Scheffer authorities and educational institutions lack the promotion of freedom for everyone. “If the Muslim community states: you should be accepting towards us, I say: Yes, but are you also accepting towards the Dutch society? This is a fair question. Are you then also accepting the equality between man and woman and do you accept homosexuals in our community?”
He also thinks that part of radicalization can be explained because of inconsistence when it comes to the norms of freedom. The Netherlands is preaching freedom, but has at the same time Saudi Arabia as its ally.
Representatives from the Muslim community disagreed during the hearing on their responsibility against radicalization and jihadism in the Netherlands. According to Ibrahim Wijbenga (youth worker) the Muslim community should speak out more clearly against jihadism and radicalization. Politician Selcuk Őztürk disagrees with him. Said Idbid, board member of the Ibn Khattab mosque in the city of Almere says he is already trying for years to keep youth from radicalizing. He thinks that youth becomes radicalized because of ideological and theological convictions, but according to Latifa Bakrimi from the Hague municipality a lack of perspectives also play a role. Habib El Kaddouri from the Collaboration Dutch Moroccans says what is needed is to invest in prevention.
The Rotterdam department of political parties Christenunie (Christian Union) and SGP (Reformed Political Party) organized a debate on integration in the Essalam mosque in the city, the biggest mosque in the Netherlands. One of the invitees was conservative and former PVV (Party for Freedom – known for its harsh criticism on Islam) Bart Jan Spruyt.
Adjunct-director Jacob van der Blom received a lot of angry messages. How could he allow this in a mosque?
But he believes that connection can only occur from within people themselves. When you work with organizations and politicians subsidies play a big role and they make achieving the purpose (almost) impossible. Van der Blom wants to facilitate conversations, without telling people how they should do this exactly.
He thinks he is the right person to facilitate this conversations. As a convert to Islam he knows both the Islamic as the Rotterdam community very well. After the attacks in Paris he opened the mosques doors for these conversations. But besides that, he wants to contribute with the mosque to the neighbourhoods well-being. However according to him religion is not the way to connect people: “Muslims pray with Muslims and Christians pray with Christians”. This is why, for example, he wants Muslims to help in retirements houses and that people will eat together in the mosque.
He doesn’t want to ‘create’ perfect Muslims, but decent human beings.
About 5,000 people in the UK convert to Islam every year, the majority of whom are women. It is a religious and cultural choice still largely treated with suspicion, but a new play opening at London’s Tricycle Theatre is aimed at shedding light on the journey of conversion and British perceptions of Islam as a whole.
Multitudes is the debut work of John Hollingworth, an actor who has appeared in productions at the National Theatre, the Old Vic and the Tricycle, and is set in his hometown of Bradford, West Yorkshire, just after the forthcoming general election.
With characters ranging from a British tutor who converts to Islam and a moderate British Muslim councillor, to a teenage girl who has become radicalised and wants to join the Islamic caliphate, it is a play that grapples with varied and often ignored facets of the Muslim experience in modern Britain.
To appreciate the relevance of playwright Ayad Akhtar’s work, you need look no further than two eerie coincidences that shadowed his debut drama, “Disgraced.” The play, which portrays the downfall of a Muslim American lawyer, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2013. The day the award was announced, two Muslims deposited pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston marathon. A second grisly coincidence came a few weeks later. On the day “Disgraced” opened in London two Muslims murdered and tried to behead a British soldier on a busy street in what one said was revenge for the British army’s killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nobody linked these attacks to Akhtar’s play, but they were nonetheless chilling reminders of the violence that hovers at the edges of the territory he explores. “The work I’m doing is in direct dialogue with what’s happening in the Muslim world,” he said recently over dinner in New York.
‘A process of coming out’
By some measures, Akhtar is thoroughly American: born on Staten Island and raised in the Midwest. Both his parents are doctors who emigrated from Pakistan in the late 1960s. A Muslim identity pervaded his family to varying degrees — his father abstained from practice while his grandmother was so devout she lowered her eyes every time the prophet was mentioned. Young Ayad was drawn to his faith and went through a period of intense religious commitment. As he got older, he wanted to fit into American life but often felt invisible among the white kids in his suburban Brookfield, Wis., neighborhood. “I didn’t have a place in the culture in the same way that my white friends did,” he recalls.
Akhtar turns an introspective eye on Islam’s tough questions. Like the daughter Zarina in “The Who & the What,” he has long wondered about the true nature of the prophet Muhammad. In the play, Zarina has written a novel portraying the seventh-century founder of Islam as a real man; her aim, as she puts it, is to consider “who he really was” — to view him not just as a figure of worship but as a human. In considering the prophet, Zarina raises questions about the treatment of women under Islam. “I hate what the faith does to women,” she says. “For every story about [the prophet’s] generosity or his goodness, there’s another that’s used as an excuse to hide us, erase us.” Her father, Afzal, is outraged not only because of her blasphemy but because of the dangerous implications for a daughter he loves beyond measure. “In Pakistan, she would be killed for this,” he cries. Then, trembling at such a prospect, he adds: “If anything happened to her . . . .” But in the end, his ire gets the best of him and he wants to erase Zarina from his mind, telling her: “You make me regret the day you were born.” Akhtar has been obsessed with the prophet since he dreamed about him at age 8. He fully understands Afzal’s frenzy, but he also is in sympathy with Zarina. “I’m still trying to understand what the Prophet means not only to me but to our community,” he says.