Regional elections in Germany deliver further gains to the AfD, weakening Merkel

A year of electoral defeats

Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU party has suffered a set of electoral setbacks in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin; losses widely blamed by her detractors on her stance in the ongoing migration crisis in Europe. These renewed drubbings at the ballot box come after crushing defeats in elections in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg – the CDU’s former stronghold – earlier this year.

In Merkel’s home region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the CDU was pushed into third place, behind the Social Democrats and the surging right-wing populist AfD. Since re-unification, the north-eastern state has gone through more than two decades of de-industrialisation and population decline, although economic and demographic indicators have stabilised during recent years. In spite of the state’s extremely low proportion of immigrants and Muslims, the twin fears of migration and Islamisation dominated large parts of the electoral campaign. ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/wahl-mecklenburg-vorpommern-afd-zweitstaerkste-kraft-spd-gewinnt-a-1110844.html ))

The subsequent Berlin state elections did not deliver a better result for Merkel’s party, with the CDU obtaining its lowest-ever vote share in a Berlin ballot. Neither did the AfD’s showing as strong as in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Nevertheless, Merkel’s inner-party rivals have been quick to lay the blame for the renewed debacle at her feet. ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/berlin-wahl-spd-bleibt-staerkste-kraft-afd-zweistellig-a-1112823.html ))

Merkel changing course ahead of federal elections

While Merkel had for a long time stood by her initial mantra ‘Wir schaffen das’ (‘We can do it’) when talking about the evolving migration challenge, recent months had already brought a gradual shift in her position; perhaps most notably in the form of the EU-Turkey migration deal which she helped broker, as well as through harsher immigration legislation at home. In the aftermath of this string of electoral losses, Merkel has now explicitly abandoned her trademark phrase, commenting that ‘Wir schaffen das’ had become an “empty formula” that has only served to unnecessarily “provoke” many listeners; a provocation that had never been her intention – or so Merkel asserted in a press conference. (( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/merkel-1377.html ))

One year ahead of Germany’s federal elections, Merkel’s national approval ratings have dropped to the lowest level in five years, and the majority of voters do not want her to run again for office. Yet at the same time, Merkel’s rivals within her own party as well as the presumptive Social Democratic contender for the Chancellery, Sigmar Gabriel, remain equally unpopular, so that so far no clear challenger has emerged.  ((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/deutschlandtrend-617.html ))

 

A report launched on ethnic and religious discrimination against Somalis in Finland

The mission of Finnish Somali League held a press conference on May 27th to launch their newly published report on discrimination. The report is based on a survey directed at residents and citizens of Finland of Somali origin and tackled issues of verbal harassment, violent attacks and discrimination in the public sector. The aim of the survey was not to offer generalizing figures but to identify and investigate diverse discrimination experiences.

Out of 105 participants 80% had experienced discrimination and 80% reported having witnessed discriminative behavior towards other individuals of Somali origin. Moreover, 61% reported that the discrimination had been due to their Islamic religion and 31% reported their clothing to be the cause of discrimination. The survey’s narratives in open-end questions provide accounts of everyday struggles that residents and citizens of Finland with Somali origin experience. Especially racist accusations and verbal harassment were frequently reported. Yet, accounts on discrimination in public spaces such as denying access to services, being barred from entry to supermarkets and explicitly rejecting a job application due to the applicants head cover depict a detrimental picture of the current situation.

The full report in Finnish language can be downloaded from the official website of the League:

http://somaliliitto.fi/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Selvitysraportti.pdf

Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) to Open Sanremo 2014

February 15, 2014

 

Yusuf Islam was announced as the international guest for Sanremo (the large music competition held in Italy every year). In a press conference, held last Monday Fabio Fazio announced that Yusuf Islam, who for all connoisseurs of his music will always be Cat Stevens, will be the international guest on the first evening of the festival, scheduled for February 18.

The British singer-songwriter became popular in the London of the sixties beginning his career in the pop genre. Since completely changing his lifestyle, Yusuf Islam still looks himself by continuing to have an unshaven look while shouldering an acoustic guitar. In his latest album, Islam echoes the Mediterranean in his tracks with especially intimate lyrics focusing on the cultural and social scene in Britain, increasingly divided by economic differences.

 

Soundsblog: http://www.soundsblog.it/post/249915/sanremo-2014-yusuf-islam-cat-stevens-ospite-internazionale

Musical News: http://www.musicalnews.com/articolo.php?codice=27016&sz=6

Today: http://www.today.it/media/sanremo-2014/cat-stevens-ospite.html

Veils in court: judges to be given guidance, says lord chief justice

November 5, 2013

 

The most senior judge in England and Wales has disclosed plans to launch a consultation on whether veils can be worn in court as he warned the issue had become highly divisive.

At his first press conference since taking up his judicial post last month, the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, also suggested that in future criminal defendants might be able to take part in preliminary hearings from home via Skype or FaceTime video systems on their computers.

The former justice secretary, Ken Clarke, at the weekend stirred the controversy over the niqab by declaring that a fair trial could not take place if a defendant is “in a kind of bag”. In September, a judge ruled a Muslim woman would be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but said she must remove it while giving evidence.

Thomas said: “The best way for dealing with this matter is to make a practice direction … The basic principle will be that it must be for the judge in any case to make his own or her own decision but we will give clear guidance.

Asked if he envisaged defendants appearing from home, he said: “I can see it happening for pre-trial hearings – whether one could go any further would depend – but certainly pre-trial hearing stage is one place we have to make changes.” We have to look at solutions that are innovative and will bring down the cost of litigation because we can’t afford to go on as we once did.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/05/veils-court-judges-skype-lord-chief-justice

CAIR-CT, NAACP Seek Investigation of Hate Graffiti

October 25, 2013

 

The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CT) and the New London Chapter of the NAACP today called on local and national law enforcement authorities to investigate hate graffiti scrawled on a New London sidewalk.

CAIR said a local resident discovered the graffiti as she was walking to work early Friday morning. The phrase “Get a job blacks” and a Nazi swastika were spray-painted on the side walk facing a house where an African-American family lives.

Later today, CAIR-CT, NAACP New London, City and faith leaders will hold a press conference to address this disturbing incident.

 

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12226-cair-ct-naacp-seek-investigation-of-hate-graffiti.html

Mosque project replaced with nursery project

07.10.2013

Liberation

The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, rejected on Monday a mosque project funded by Saudi money. Estrosi intends to replace the project with a new nursery project. During a press conference, the mayor expressed that the religious site would not be compatible with his ‘Eco-Vallé project, which should attract businesses to the area. According to Estrosi, Dalil Boubakeur, the director of the Grand Mosque of Paris, expressed his support over his decision.

Lady Gaga’s burqa is good for Muslim women

gaga_burkaThis article approaches the question as to whether Lady Gaga’s recent choice to wear various “Islamic” items of clothing, is a shameless exploitation of orientalist fetishes to promote herself as a pseudo-edgy ‘artiste’? Which she argues it is yet at the same time feeling strangely satisfied at the uproar caused by her neon pink burqa, because it challenges the discursive monopoly on the meaning of Muslim women’s clothing.

 

In 2009, Lady Gaga held a press conference to which she turned up wearing a bizarre full face covering. Unfazed by her typically outrageous fashion choices, the journalists proceeded to quiz her on her music, none storming out in protest that it was “impossible to read her facial features” or concerned about the “true identity” of who sat before them – no, not one even complained that it was “hampering communication”. Because so much of the public narrative – from justifications for war to bans on Muslim women’s attire, depends on the perception of veils as inherently misogynistic, any suggestion they could be empowering is met not merely with consternation, but faux indignation at the poor brown women presumably insulted by this.

 

The accusations of white privilege levelled at Gaga do hold some sway – after all, it is absolutely and unequivocally because she is white/wealthy/famous that she goes unchallenged in her choice to cover her head, hair or body. But the inherent double standard in the treatment of white/powerful women who cover their faces versus the treatment of poor/disenfranchised/ brown women who do.

 

Now it’s unfortunate for Muslim women who choose to wear some sort of veil that there are sadly a number of oppressive countries who like to dictate to women what they consider to be Islamic clothing and that the easy assumption often follows that wearing one implies support/sympathy/approbation of the latter. It does not.

 

The contention levelled at Gaga on this occasion is that by wearing an overtly glamorous face veil, or a neon pink transparent burka or using lyrics which appear to ‘glamorise’ (God forbid!) aspects of some Muslim women’s clothing, she is unwittingly supporting the patriarchy and insulting those women who are forced to wear the garb in question. The fact her act subverts the monopoly on meaning typically associated with the face veil as the evil imposition of male domination. Perhaps now there’ll be a little more room for different Muslim women to contribute their understanding of these symbols and in so doing, move from object, to subject in that discussion.

 

Although Lady Gaga isn’t changing the game for Muslim women – she’s far more concerned with selling records than with taking a political stance – but rather than be offended by her latest outlandishness as the author point out, she might be stopped by French officials while shopping in Galeries Lafayette or harangued at JFK airport as she returns to the US. Of course she probably won’t be. But the exceptionalism she’s afforded reveals a double standard far more concerning than the absurdity of a transparent burka.

ICNA statement at joint US Muslim org press conference

WASHINGTON D.C. (April 19, 2013) – The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) issued a statement during a joint press conference today with other national Muslim organizations at The National Press Club in the capital.

“The death of innocent lives is heartbreaking and we offer our condolences to the families of the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings. And, we pray for the speedy and full recovery of the injured. Our thanks go to the law enforcement officers for working around the clock in identifying and going after the terrorists. ICNA stands with the rest of the American Muslim community in condemning such heinous crimes.

We want to make it very clear to our fellow Americans that such acts of terrorism have no place in Islam. These acts are not just against Americans but against all mankind. Islam, our faith, condemns those who murder innocent people and God Almighty declares the killing of even a single innocent person as murdering the entire humanity.

ICNA calls upon the American Muslim community to engage in social justice and service work being offered by ICNA Relief and other Muslim relief organizations.

We also thank the media for not jumping to any conclusions and showing responsibility in reporting of the situation in Boston.

We pray for peace and harmony, and may such moments of trials bring our hearts closer to one another.

The Islamic Circle of North America is a leading American Muslim organization dedicated to the betterment of society through the application of Islamic values. Since 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts.

Dutch Politician Cancels Speech in Australia

19 February 2013

 

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for his anti-Islam platform, has cancelled a speech planned during his visit to Australia. Wilders’ speech was cancelled when no venue in Perth was willing to host the event. During a press conference Wilders reiterated his view that Islam cannot be integrated into western societies. Although some 40 people appeared to protest Wilders’ speech in Melbourne last week, none were present at the press conference. Muslim and other organizations had encouraged individuals not to protest the event but rather to ignore Wilders’ presence.

Update: Sharia4Holland Member Arrested in Amsterdam

May 29, 2012

 

Following statements last week from a member of the Sharia4Holland threatening politician Geert Wilders, the Freedom Party called for a ban on the organization. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten stated that the organization posed a violent risk in the country.

Though a ban is impossible as the organization is not a legal entity, the public prosecution as well as police began an investigation into Sharia4Holland, subsequently arresting the spokesman responsible for last week’s comments, a 29 year old man.

Reports also note that the leader of Sharia4UK was also present at the press conference, and spoke briefly at the gathering, but did not make controversial comments.

Sharia4Holland is an offshoot of Sharia4Belgium. Both call for the establishment of a caliphate in their respective countries as well as the introduction of sharia law. Sharia4Belgium publicly condemns homosexuality, and established a sharia mediation court in Antwerp earlier this year.

The Dutch branch is considerably less established than the Belgian, with estimations of some one dozen members. Sharia4Belgium is headed by Fouad Abu Imran, whose slated appearance in Amsterdam generated the events leading to this week’s arrest.