Leading imam quits as debate over women’s ‘hypersexuality’ boils over at major U.S. mosque

Shaker Elsayed, the lead imam of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., one of the nation’s largest and oft-embattled mosques, drew a wave of condemnation from young Muslim activists after he he appeared to endorse a certain form of female genital mutilation as sometimes necessary to prevent “hypersexuality.”

In response, Johari Abdul-Malik, a fellow imam and the public face of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center resigned after he said the mosque’s board failed to adequately address a brewing controversy over the banned practice of female genital mutilation.

Elsayed said last month during a videotaped lecture that limited “circumcision” of girls is sometimes necessary to curb women’s sex drive, advising congregants to consult with a Muslim gynecologist before proceeding.

FGM is a common practice among some Muslim and Christian populations in parts of Africa and Asia. Experts say it has no health benefits and can lead to infections, hemorrhaging, childbirth complications and death.  Communities that engage in the practice do so for a variety of reasons, including societal pressure and myths that it serves health or religious purposes.

Abdul-Malik was hired 15 years ago, after the mosque came under intense scrutiny for being the onetime house of worship for two of the 9/11 hijackers. Later, the mosque’s former imam, Anwar al-Aulaqi, invited further investigation of the mosque after he began espousing terrorist ideology from a hideout in Yemen. Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, had also visited the mosque at some point in the years prior to his rampage.

Nathalie Goulet discusses foreign financing and recent Senate report (pdf)

Following the recent attacks on French soil several politicians have proposed measures to reform Islam’s structure and the financing of Islam in France. For Nathalie Goulet, UDI senator from Orne who recently published a report on foreign financing, the priority should be to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams and to establish a foundation to centralize Islam’s financing in France.

Le Monde: Foreign countries are often criticized for their influence on Islam in France. Is it true?

Nathalie Goulet: The influence of certain countries came as a great surprise to many when our report was published. But it’s not always those that we think that have the greatest presence. The Gulf countries are much less influential than the ‘countries of origin,’ Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey. These three states exercise a real influence by financing the construction of buildings and schools, imam training, and supplying imams for France’s mosques—who are paid by their countries of origin—and through the governance of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

Le Monde: Manuel Valls said he was in favor of a temporary suspension of financing from foreign countries. Do you agree?

Goulet: The Prime Minister speaks of suspending foreign financing, but who will be their replacements? While one could hope that there would be no more foreign financing, it would be a mistake to think that the problem could be solved just like that. The question of foreign financing is ancillary. The Louvre or the Arab World Institute also receive foreign funding, in a transparent manner. Before anything, we must work to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams who are trained in Morocco.

Le Monde: According to the report there are 301 imams sent from other countries for around 2,500 places of worship. Where is the problem?

There are 301 opportunities, for French citizens of Muslim faith, to assist with sermons led by imams who are not French and from foreign countries. It’s more problematic than foreign funding of mosques. Imams sent from Turkey, for example, arrive under the title of “social workers” and not as imams. They barely speak French, have never seen an Armenian in their life, and don’t know that in France we recognize the Armenian Genocide. The majority of supplied imams have never received an education on the Holocaust, the death penalty, homophobia…they don’t know these important contextual references, but they play a role in communities.

Le Monde: Why is the question of financing critical?

Goulet: We consider Islam to be a religion like any other, but we don’t provide it with the means to be. Islam is a recent religion in our territory. There is a need for catch-up compared to other religions. The Muslim communities need structure, schools, mosques, and associations. Muslims need to be able to practice their religion decently.

Today, if a 14 year-old girl wants to wear the veil, she is going to find an Islamic school, but there are few. A Jewish child who wants to keep Kosher and wear a kippa will find a Jewish school. The tensions are more pronounced in Muslim communities because they don’t have all the tools to practice their religion.

Le Monde: What are the paths for financing Islam in France? What do you think about the idea of re-launching a ‘foundation of French Islam’ discussed by Manuel Valls?

Goulet: We must revive the Foundation for Islamic Works to monitor foreign funds. This foundation must have a joint government with a representative from the State Council and an accountant from the Treasury. We must also implement cost accounting so that Algerian money is used for Algerian places of worship, money from Morocco is used for Moroccan places of worship…it’s necessary if we want the communities to agree to this foundation. Algerians don’t want to pay for Turks, and vice versa, even if the idea of an Algerian place of worship makes no sense in France.

Le Monde: Julien Dray, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Francois Bayrou support instituting a “halal tax” to finance Islam in France.

Goulet: Legally, it’s impossible to institute a tax on a religious item…and technically, a ‘halal tax’ would also be impossible to institute in practice, because there is no consensus on the notion of halal.

What could be possible is that religious representatives themselves institute a private fee for services relating to slaughter, which would be set by the community, collected, and sent to the Foundation.

Le Monde: Aside from financing, is there a representation problem?

Goulet: Establishing the CFCM was necessary, there needs to be an interlocutor with the State. But throughout the years, this body has never succeeded in being representative. If I was president of the CFCM, I would open up a debate, I would establish constituent assembly to review the statutes, I would call on youths and members of associations, who may feel excluded, I would institute the principle of one man, one woman, one vote…But that must come from Muslims themselves. Maybe one day, young Muslims will launch an online petition and create a concurrent association.

 

 

 

 

German conservatives call for Islam Law

Leading members of the CSU party, Bavarian sister organisation to Angela Merkel’s CDU, have called for an ‘Islam Law’ that would curb foreign influence on German mosques. CSU Secretary General Andreas Scheuer asserted that “German has to become the language of the mosques”, with Imams being trained in Germany and being steeped in German “basic values”. In order to curb what Scheuer described as imported extremism, mosques, Islamic cultural centres and Muslim institutions should also no longer be allowed to receive money from abroad. These proposals follow the lead set by Austria, who adopted similar measures in 2015.

While Scheuer explicitly mentioned Saudi Arabia’s practice of funding Wahhabi and Salafist organisations as dangers to domestic German stability, in the context of recent diplomatic rows between Germany and Turkey, the Turkish connection of many of Germany’s Islamic institutions has now also come into the focus of the political debate. Up to 1000 Imams in Germany are trained in Turkey, and are sent to Germany by the Turkish presidency of religious affairs, Diyanet. They work in mosques administered by DITIB, Diyanet’s German affiliate, and continue to be paid by the Turkish state.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, DITIB has been extremely critical of the CSU proposals, arguing that they violate the German constitution and the right for religious self-determination anchored therein. The DITIB Secretary General dismissed the proposal for an Islam Law as “discriminatory”, “populist”, and as playing into the hands of the far-right AfD party. Other, more Islamist-tinged functionaries of the German Islam Council (IRD) and the Millî Gorüs community (IGMG) equally castigated the proposals as an attempt by the CSU to gain undue state influence over Muslim religious life.

Other commentators have noted the with approval that the CSU – in contrast to its past positions – now appears willing to recognise the existence of Muslim communities in Germany and the need to provide some sort of institutional infrastructure for the exercise of their religiosity. However, in an opinion piece for the newspaper Die Zeit, Parvin Sadigh notes that many mosque communities in the country are already using German as their primarily language, due to the diversity of origins of the attendees, as well as due to the fact that the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants often no longer speak the language of their parents and grandparents well enough to be able to follow religious instruction in Turkish or Arabic. Conversely, most Salafi and jihadi preachers are fluent in the German language and extremely well-versed in the sociocultural features of young Muslims’ lives. Ostentatious ‘integration’ in the mainstream of German society is thus not synonymous with theological liberalism.

Sadigh notes that degree programmes for Islamic Theology at German universities have only been in existence for 6 years, meaning that for the foreseeable future there will remain an acute shortage of German-educated Imams for mosques and of religious education teachers for public schools. Moreover, Sadigh notes that German mosques often do not have the necessary financial resources to offer adequate salaries to their Imams: without the constitutionally recognised status as a ‘religious corporation’, they have been unable to construct a durable financial infrastructure and thus continue to depend on charitable offerings from their members and on large-scale funding from abroad in order to be able to offer religious and social services.

Another CSU politician, Alexander Radwan, reacted to these criticism and proposed to enable Muslim associations in Germany to levy a church tax, analogous to the practice of the Catholic and Protestant churches. This, according to Radwan, would remedy the need of mosque communities to rely on foreign funding. What Radwan did not mention, however, is that the attainment of the requisite status of a ‘religious corporation’ that would enable Muslim associations to levy such a tax has remained elusive for most of the deeply divided Islamic organisations operating in the country.

UKIP Candidate says he wants to license mosques

A Ukip candidate who previously said the Prophet Mohamed was a "gang leader" and likened Islam to organised crime has announced that he would want to "licence mosques" if elected. (Photo: Channel 4)
A UKIP candidate who previously said the Prophet Mohamed was a “gang leader” and likened Islam to organised crime has announced that he would want to “licence mosques” if elected. (Photo: Channel 4)

A UKIP candidate who previously said the Prophet Mohamed was a “gang leader” and likened Islam to organised crime has announced that he would want to “licence mosques” if elected. Magnus Nielsen, who is UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, told the Ham & High that his “great aim” was to “licence the mosques and licence the clergy”.

“So that if the clergy are preaching doctrine that is in contravention of UK law and human rights then they lose their licences,” he added. “If the mosque can’t find a licensed imam, they have to close down until they can.” The 65-year-old, who joined UKIP in 1993, has often stressed that his views on Islam are not official UKIP policy.

In a blog post published a day after the attacks in which 17 people were killed by Islamic extremists, UKIP MP Gerard Batten argued that individuals who practice the faith should sign the charter to mark themselves out from the “tiny minority of Muslims who want to return to the Dark Ages of Arabia and live under Sharia Law”. When reports of the charter emerged in 2014, party leader Nigel Farage distanced himself from it and said its contents “are not and never have been UKIP policy”.

How do we bring FGM to an end in Britain?

international-day-of-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation-547x410FGM originates in cultural rather than religious values and traditions, although justifications given for it vary across regions and cultures. Despite commonly being associated with Islam, there are a large number of Islamic countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, where it is not practiced. This does not mean that religion has no influence. There is no requirement for FGM in the Quran; however, many perpetrators invoke Islam to justify their acts. Therefore experts generally refer to religion as a “justification” or “rationalisation” rather than a “cause”.

Communities living abroad can more readily challenge the cultural norms of their country of origin, for example, questioning the beliefs, values and codes of conduct that underpin FGM. Studies examining the views of women and men in diasporic communities from countries where FGM is regularly practiced have identified three key factors behind the continuation of the practice: the preference for a circumcised wife, the wish to circumcise daughters, and the belief that FGM should continue albeit in a modified way.

In diasporic Somali communities, the decision to abandon the practice often results from internal debate about whether Islam demands FGM, with many ultimately concluding that it does not. In fact, close examination of the Quran often leads people to decide that FGM should be seen as forbidden and as a form of harm inflicted on God’s creation.

Rather than forming stereotypes of communities where FGM remains a problem, the problem is best tackled by exploiting this dynamism. Working with communities to change attitudes, rather than imposing judgements from outside, is essential to combat the practice in the UK.

This is What the NYPD’s Failed Muslim Surveillance Program Actually Looked Like

April 17, 2014

 

On Tuesday, the NYPD announced it would dismantle its Demographics Unit, the controversial squad of plainclothes officers tasked with monitoring and gathering intelligence in New York’s Muslim neighborhoods. The announcement was greeted with a mix of praise (for the move, considered long overdue) and skepticism (that the department would actually end the practice of mass, suspicion-less surveillance of Muslims).

The NYPD’s announcement came a week after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and his intelligence chief, John Miller, met with Muslim advocates, according to the New York Times.

The Demographics Unit, first revealed by the Associated Press in 2011, sought to root out terrorists among us. Instead it severely damaged relations between the NYPD and New York Muslims without, by the department’s own admission, ever generating a single lead.

What did the failed surveillance program look like in practice? Data artist Josh Begley created a visual aid using images from NYPD documents obtained by the AP, most dated between 2004 to 2009. Begley terms the arresting web mosaic “the visual vernacular of NYPD surveillance.”

“The photographs come from a range of places — restaurants, bookstores, cricket fields, mosques, internet cafes — and most of the images are quite banal. What I find striking are the ones that contain glimpses of the photographer; a rear-view mirror capturing the bottom of an officer’s face. What do these photographs say about the people taking them?”

Profiling.is bears a certain resemblance to another of Begley’s projects, PrisonMap; it offers a bird’s-eye view of prisons around the country. (He also runs the Twitter account @dronestream, which issues a tweet for every reported drone strike.)*

Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York, one of the advocates who met with Bratton and Miller last week, echoed that sentiment. Speaking to the Times on Tuesday, she called the NYPD’s surveillance “psychological warfare in our community.”

“Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

Asked about his reaction to Tuesday’s news, Begley pointed to a statement given by Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.

“The Demographics Unit was only one component of a huge, discriminatory surveillance program that has sent informants and NYPD officers to spy on mosques, charities, student groups, and other mainstays of New York Muslim life,” Shamsi said on Tuesday. “We look forward to an end to all aspects of the bias-based policing that has stigmatized New York’s Muslim communities and done them such great harm.”

The Village Voice.com: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2014/04/josh_begley_profiling_is_nypd_demographics_unit.php

Halal, shechita and the politics of animal slaughter

March 6, 2014

 

The practice of slaughtering animals by slitting their throats (The traditional practice in Judaism and Islam) and draining the blood in line with religious custom should be adapted to prevent suffering, the leader of Britain’s vets has said. John Blackwell, head of the British Veterinary Association, said animals should be “stunned” before slaughter.

Mr Blackwell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that animals should be “stunned at the time of death”, which would render them “insensible to pain until death supervenes”.

“It’s important at the time of death for the animals’ welfare not to be compromised,” he said, while adding that he “respected the beliefs of religious sects”.

He said that sheep could remain conscious for up to seven seconds after having their throat cut, while for cattle it was two minutes and said there was “good evidence” that showed that animals could perceive pain at the point of having their throats slit, but he conceded that this research was not conclusive.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also disagreed with the views of Mr Blackwell .stating that stopping this type of slaughter would “remove the right of Jewish communities in this country, Muslim communities in this country, to stick to their religious beliefs about how they prepare food and how animals are slaughtered”.

UK legislation allows halal (Muslim) or shechita (Jewish) “non-stun” slaughter as long as it does not cause “unnecessary suffering”. Ritual slaughter is lawful in the UK and the EU to satisfy the dietary requirements of Jews and Muslims.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is a voice for the UK veterinary profession and has over 14,000 members.

Mr Arkush, who is the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Jewish slaughtering practice was a “humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly” and that Mr Blackwell’s comments were “misleading”.

 

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26463064

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/06/halal-shechita-politics-animal-slaughter

Runnymede Perspectives: The New Muslims

Runymed Reportn their pathbreaking report published in 1997, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, Runnymede examined the growth, features and consequences of anti-Muslim racism in Britain. The report warned then about the dangers of ‘closed’ views of Islam and Muslims, and pressured for a more ‘open’ perspective and dialogue, not only as a way of countering anti-Muslim racism but as a necessity ‘for the well-being of society as a whole’. Sixteen years on, it seems that the challenge remains as vital today as it did then – perhaps even more so.

The past two decades have seen an explosion of interest in Muslim communities in Britain and Europe. Migration and demographic change have contributed to a growing Muslim presence Terror and the resurgence of mainstream rightwing and Far Right political parties across Europe has fed heated discussions around the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, the borders and identity of ‘Fortress Europe’ and the possibilities and limits of citizenship.

In the wake of the 2001 ‘riots’ and the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and 7 Britain has experienced an intense political, media and policy scrutiny of British Muslims. These three events have triggered a two-fold approach to  ‘managing’ Muslims – with a focus on securitization and migration control at the borders, and, internally, on issues of integration, cohesion and citizenship. Such policies have impacted on all dimensions of Muslim life, from travel ‘back home’ to the intimacies of marriage and family formation, from schools to prisons, from political protest to religious practice, from internet usage to stop and search, from friendships to mode of dress.

Runnymede_The_New_Muslims_Perspective

One out of two Italians thinks Islam is dangerous

More than one in two respondents think that the Muslim religion should be neither seen nor practiced in schools, despite this separation many believe that the teachings of the church are still valid.

According to a recent survey by the marketing research company SWG conducted for The Festival for Politics (il Festival della politica) one out of two Italians thinks that “the Islamic religion is a danger to everyone”. The survey was carried out at the Festival which was presented on Saturday, September 7 in a session called “Francis I: the renewal of the church, a challenge to the policy” with Alberto Melloni, church historian and Antonio Ramenghi, director of Mattino di Padova (http://www.festivalpolitica.it/francesco-i-rinnovamento-della-chiesa.aspx).

The difficult relationship with the Muslim religion is illustrated in the SWG survey. Half of the sample is in agreement (33%) or strongly agrees (~17%) with the statement “Islam is a danger to everyone.” Ten years earlier, the survey reveals, this distrust was much less marked, so that the danger posed by the Islamic religion was perceived by 36% of the sample, 14% less than now. From here emerges the xenophobia of Italians, 55% of whom believe that Muslims should not be allowed to observe and practice their own religion in schools.

Since 2004 this figure has grown by more than 10%. Italy remains a country so strongly attached to their Catholic religion. More than six out of ten Italians think that the teachings of the church are still valid, 7% more than in 2012. In any case, the vast majority of Italians, more than 80%, declares its secularism by saying that the church should not in any way affect the laws of the State.

 

CAIR Welcomes Ruling Against NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program

(New York, N.Y., 8/12/13) — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today welcomed a federal court ruling that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of the city’s residents.

The judge’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought against the city by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the constitutionality of the police practice. NYPD documents reveal that between 2004 and 2012 police had detained, questioned, and searched some 4.43 million people, and that 80 percent of those stopped were minorities.

Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk program violates the Constitution’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which protect against unreasonable searches and promise equal protection under the law. She also ordered that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee immediate changes in some police procedures.

The long-awaited decision declaring the New York Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional was mostly expected; even the staunchest defenders of the practice anticipated that Judge Shira A. Scheindlin would find the stops violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

But it was her other finding — that the police had violated the 14th Amendment by engaging in racial profiling in carrying out those stops — that drew blood.

 

In a statement responding to today’s ruling, CAIR-New York said:

 

“We welcome the court’s decision against the NYPD’s racially biased and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program. Judge Scheindlin and the Center for Constitutional Rights helped us mark a milestone today in balancing the power between the people and the state and moving the civil rights movement one important step forward.

 

“We hope that today’s rebuke of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program will end any discussion of the potential nomination of New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly has called this unconstitutional program ‘essential’ and said ‘you can’t police without doing it.’

 

“We repeat our call for increased oversight and investigations of the NYPD’s continued surveillance of American Muslim communities, houses of worship, and student clubs across the mid-Atlantic region. This unconstitutional spying program has interfered with lawful religious practice, cost taxpayers too much, and strained relations between the NYPD and one of the many diverse communities it is meant to serve.

 

“We still have a long way to go, and the Community Safety Act and other similar legislation is also key to ensuring the rights of New Yorkers of all colors.

 

“Additionally, we urge other courts to follow Judge Scheindlin’s lead in striking down law enforcement practices that rely on the profiling of minority communities.”