Politics in the Pulpit

Among voters who attend religious services at least once or twice a month, 15% say information on the political parties or candidates has been made available at their place of worship. This is similar to the number of voters who, following the 2008 campaign, said that political information had been provided at their place of worship (15%), but lower than the percentage who said this after the 2004 election (27%). Among religious groups, encountering political information at church is most common among black Protestants (36%).

Islamic theology in Germany poses great challenges to universities

13 August 2010

Calls for an Islamic theology in Germany are growing ever louder. But
the challenge that this represents is underestimated not only by
politics, but also by Christian theologians and cultural scholars,
writes theologian Klaus von Stosch. Ever since the German Science
Council published its recommendations for “Islamic Studies” at German
universities, the desire to see a German Islamic theology appears to
have become a common cause for all the major political parties in our
country. Islamic theology and its attendant infrastructure for the
education of Islamic religious teachers and imams is apparently viewed
by many as the magic formula for the integration of Muslims living in
Germany.

But the institutions are not necessarily prepared for this major
project. The author claims that it will not be easy for German
universities to overcome the challenges. They will only succeed if a
competition of various academic institutions can be organised in the
medium-term, thereby allowing for the possibility of trying out a number
of different models. In this context attention must be paid in the first
instance to the promotion of young blood in the field of Islamic
theology, because at present there are virtually no eligible
German-speaking Islamic theologians for the study field to be established.

Muslims should get politically active says MP

Young Muslims need to get involved in the UK political system if they want to see change, advised a top politician during a visit to Manchester. Mohammed Sarwar, the UK’s first Muslim Member of Parliament and the first MP to swear his oath of allegiance on the Qur’an said young Muslims who were angry about what was happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine needed to channel their frustration in a positive way.

He said: “Understandably they are angry when they see the unjust that happens in Muslim countries with the international community turning a blind eye. They are frustrated but they need to take that energy and do something positive. To see change and to make change they need to get actively involved in their local political parties.”

French political parties position themselves on possible niqab ban

A political battle is shaping up in France over whether fully-veiled Muslim women should be banned from appearing on the street or in any other public settings, a proposal already endorsed by many of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rightwing allies.

Sarkozy has said the head-to-toe garment is unwelcome on French soil. The leader of his party bloc in the National Assembly called it a “negation of life in society.” The spokesperson for the Socialist opposition condemned it as “a prison for women,” a description only slightly less damning than that of his Communist colleague who termed it “ambulatory prison.”

Five months after setting out to ban the burka, French politicians are with few exceptions divided only over how to go about it without violating constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression.

Several members of Sarkozy’s party have said they plan to introduce a bill to outlaw the wearing of the niqab in the next few days. Under the proposed bill, fines of up to €750 will be slapped on people covering their faces in public places.

Jean-François Copé, the party’s parliamentary leader, called the garment a threat by radical Islamists to the nation’s security. “Extremists are testing the republic by encouraging a practice they know to be contrary to the essential principles of our country,” he said.

Sarkozy has yet to say how he intends to handle the issue, although his aides have been quoted as saying he wants a “realistic” approach.

“Vote to ban minarets is fueled by fear” by Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan: Voters were drawn to the cause by a manipulative appeal to popular fears and emotions. Posters featured a woman wearing a burka with the minarets drawn as weapons on a colonised Swiss flag. The claim was made that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Swiss values. (The UDC has in the past demanded my citizenship be revoked because I was defending Islamic values too openly.) Its media strategy was simple but effective. Provoke controversy wherever it can be inflamed. Spread a sense of victimhood among the Swiss people: we are under siege, the Muslims are silently colonising us and we are losing our very roots and culture. This strategy worked. The Swiss majority are sending a clear message to their Muslim fellow citizens: we do not trust you and the best Muslim for us is the Muslim we cannot see.

I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organizations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative. Swiss Muslims have their share of responsibility but one must add that the political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland have become cowed, and shy from any courageous policies towards religious and cultural pluralism. It is as if the populists set the tone and the rest follow.They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely “integrated”.

That we face common challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and violence – challenges we must face together. We cannot blame the populists alone – it is a wider failure, a lack of courage, a terrible and narrow-minded lack of trust in their new Muslim citizens.

Belgian Mouvement Réformateur Party against religious symbols in schools until 16

Mouvement Réformateur president, Didier Reynders, announced a desire to ban all religious signs in Belgian public schools. Other political parties have not agreed to the recommendation.

Drop in Support for Wilders’ Party

The latest poll by Politieke Barometer indicates that support for Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration PVV party has dropped in the last month. Polls suggested last month that the party would take 32 seats in a parliamentary election, a figure which has dropped to 24.

Meanwhile, research by Synovate for television show Nova shows that almost 40% of Wilders’ supporters back the PVV because they have lost faith in the government and other political parties. Just under 20% support Wilders because of his stand on Islam; the party leader has called for a ban on the Koran and an end to Muslim immigration.

Why Fears Of A Muslim Takeover Are All Wrong

To listen to Europe’s far right, it would be easy to conclude that the continent is poised for another round of bitter conflict with a centuries-old adversary. “The first Islamic invasion of Europe was stopped at [the battle of] Poitiers in 732. The second was halted at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Now we have to stop the current stealth invasion,” argues Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, which claims that Islamic doctrine encourages terrorism. It’s rabble-rousing stuff. But underlying Wilders’s polemic is an argument shared by many more mainstream right-leaning thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic. Europe, its will sapped by secularism and anything-goes tolerance, has allowed decades of mass immigration without serious challenge. Too feeble to defend their own values, governments have been ready to appease Muslim opinion and must expect the worst. The argument has been gaining ground for some time—fed by alarmist and highly speculative projections from writers like the Canadian Mark Steyn, author of the bestselling America Alone—that immigration and high birthrates could mean that Muslims will make up 40 percent of Europe’s population by 2025. Similar and very public warnings have come from American diplomat Timothy Savage, who claimed that forecasts of a Muslim majority in Western Europe by midcentury “may not be far off the mark” if present trends continue, which would heighten the risk of conflict. The British historian Niall Ferguson has written that “a youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonize—the term is not too strong—a sene-scent Europe.” And the American journalist Christopher Caldwell forecasts that an “anchored” and “confident” Islam looks likely to impose its will on an “insecure” and “relativistic” European culture. The gloomiest commentators, including Steyn and the conservative Ameri-can writer Tony Blankley, talk of an emerging “Eurabia” hostile to American interests and in thrall to Islam. These warnings chime with public fears that Europe has already become an incubator for worldwide terrorism. After all, the September 11 hijackers plotted in Germany, and homegrown terrorists were involved in the Madrid and London attacks. Concern is growing that a swelling immigrant population resistant to assimilation or integration will steal jobs and strain public services. Last year a Pew poll found that about half of respondents in Spain and Germany held negative views of Muslims. In Spain the figure had climbed 15 points, to 52 percent, since 2004. In the June elections to the European Parliament, Wilders’s party won 17 percent of the national vote in the Netherlands. The anti-immigrant British National Party, which warned of the “creeping Islamification” of British society, won its first two seats. In Austria the right-wing Freedom Party almost doubled its share of the vote, at 13 percent. William Underhill reports.

Islam and Obama: American Muslims overwhelmingly voted Democratic

An article by Newsweek describes and follows the connection between ‘Muslim’ and the 2008 US presidential election, from fabrications concerning president-elect Obama’s religious background to the rise in Muslims working on the campaign and surge in Muslim support for Barack Obama.

In this election, many Muslim Americans changed their party affiliation from Republican to Democratic – a stark change from the strong Muslim support for George Bush in 2000. Today, more than 2/3 of Muslim Americans consider themselves to be Democrats, while just four percent see themselves as Republican.

A major rift and shift occurred as many Muslim Americans became subject to wiretapping, mishandling of civil liberties, religious, ethnic, and racial profiling, in addition to mounting concerns over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With an estimated 89 percent of Muslim Americans voting for Obama, many cite him as the American every-person, the quintessential American mutt with veins to a pluralistic and diverse background that many in the diverse Muslim American community can relate to.

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Presentation of ‘Muslims and Muslim Catalonia for equality’ Platform

A dozen Muslim entities congregated in Barcelona on a platform called Muslims and Muslim communities of Catalonia for equality. The initiate comes with the aim to combat fundamentalist readings of Islam and promote gender equality in Spanish Muslim communities. It stems from an initiative of the Catalan Islamic Board and eight other Muslim, immigrant, and women’s rights organizations, who came together to address the topic. Against this backdrop, the proposed collaboration between Muslims and the rest of society to promote a Catalonian Islam and democracy fully compatible with the values of cohesion. Members of the platform claimed support of institutions, political parties, and civil society as a whole, as well as the urgent implementation of the measures agreed upon integration of the Parliamentary Committee on March 11th.