The Dutch Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher has recently defended Muslims in the Netherlands on the party congress of his Labour Party (Partij van de arbeid). In the same meeting he lashed out against the Dutch Islamic critic and anti-Islamic Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid) leader Geert Wilders.
Asscher stated that the justified anger about the attacks [in France, ed.] should be directed at the perpetrators, the accomplices, the recruiters, and those who have inspired terrorism. But the same anger should not be quenched by directing it at the cashier at the Albert Heijn [a widespread Dutch super market, ed.], the neighbor, or the mosque around the corner, Asscher said. “They [the Muslims, ed.] deserve our support.”
Additionally Asscher said that he admires Wilders because he continues to voice his opinions despite ongoing threats to his person. But Asscher also “rejects and despises” Wilders’ views and will do anything to combat them in the public debate.
“Wilders doesn’t see people, he only sees suspects,” Asscher said. “He poures out Quranic texts but repudiates the Dutch constitution. The PVV [Freedom Party, ed.] does not deserve its self chosen name. Let us be the party of freedom. Of elevation and emancipation. Of enlightenment and bonding.” Asscher stated on the Labour Party congres.
4 December 2010
Filiz Sütcü, a lawyer of Turkish origin, has carried out academic research into the subject of forced and arranged marriages. In an interview with Qantara, she criticises the media’s sensational treatment of the issue and explains that public debate is usually more about cultural and religious defamation.
More and more Danes choose to convert to Islam. Researchers have previously estimated the number of Danish converts to Islam as 2,800. This number is now increasing.
The Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen who leads ‘The Danish Centre for Islam’ confirms the tendency. He says he talked to about 70 Danes last year who wanted to convert to Islam. Representatives from the organization ‘The Islamic Society in Denmark’ say they talk to many Danes each week who want to learn more about Islam because they are considering converting.
Abdul Wahid Pedersen estimates that one third are converting because they are marrying a Muslim, some are converting because of spiritual quests or because they grew up with Muslim friends. “A few are converting as a reaction to the very harsh public debate on Muslims in Denmark” Wahid Pedersen says. This is being confirmed by PhD Kate Østergaard who has done a survey of Danish converts. The survey shows that many converts have Muslim friends and grew up with Muslims. Another explanation could be that Islam is being seen as having a set of values which is also to be found among left wing sympathizers. “In some left wing settings Islam is seen as a religion of justice, which emphasizes equality and accept all races” Østergaard says. Like Wahid Pedersen Østergaard thinks that the polarized Danish debate on Muslims and Islam are attracting some people who want to learn more about Islam to find out whether the religion is as bad as it often seems in the public debate. “The bigger the focus is on Islam in the media the bigger the tendency is of Danes converting to Islam” Kate Østergaard says.
Switzerland’s recent vote to ban the construction of new minarets has shocked and angered Muslims around the world. But the controversial move also reflects a growing sense of unease among other Europeans who have trouble coming to terms with Islam’s increased visibility.
This article examines the state of Islam in the public sphere of many Western European countries, regarding symbols, values, the relationship with non-Muslims and politics of recognition. It discusses Switzerland’s disturbing vote on minarets and the huge divide within its society, Germany’s fear – and lack of knowledge – of Islam, the British paradox of both integration and exclusion, the French burqa-debate and culture clashes in Belgium.
Geert Wilders will not be prosecuted on charges of inciting hatred of Muslims for his anti-Quran film _Fitna’ and for comments written for a Dutch newspaper. Dutch prosecutors said that they would not take action, because Wilders is protected by the right to free speech. The prosecutors received dozens of complaints for an investigation following his film and comments. Prosecutors released a statement saying: That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable […] Freedom of expression fulfills an essential role in public debate in a democratic society […] “Than means that offensive comments can be made in a political debate.
The former spokesman of the Mosque in Geneva, Hafid Ouardiri, is considering launching an initiative to help Muslims integrate themselves into Swiss society. He shared this idea in an interview on Wednesday in the weekly publication “GHI.” “We hope to utitilize the tools of citizenship to participate in public debate,” he emphasized in a column by Geneva journalist Mr. Ouardiri. Negotiations to concretize the federal initiative are are now underway in Cantonal. If they agree, the move will enable help them begin to enlist Muslims “as integrated parts of society as a whole.” For the former spokesman of the mosque, Muslims are still today the focus of undue suspicion.
Islamic preachers and other spiritual leaders from abroad could soon have to take courses to help them integrate better into Swiss society. The government proposal comes at a time of growing public debate about the role of Muslims in a multicultural society such as Switzerland’s. The justice ministry is planning to submit the plan to the cabinet within the next few weeks, according to the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration (IMES).