Debating Islam: Negotiating Religion, Europe, and the Self

Conspicuously, Islam has become a key issue in most European societies with respect to issues of immigration, integration, identity, values and inland security. As the mere presence of Muslim minorities fails to explain these debates convincingly, new questions need to be asked: how did Islam become a topic? Who takes part in the debates? How do these debates influence both individual as well as collective self-images and image of others? Introducing Switzerland as an under-researched object of study to the academic discourse on Islam in Europe, this volume offers a fresh perspective on the objective by putting recent case studies from diverse national contexts into comparative perspective.

Link to the book’s website and publisher: http://www.transcript-verlag.de/ts2249/ts2249.php

Behind Rolling Stone’s Cover, a Story Worth Reading

Of all the outraged responses to the Rolling Stone cover of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston marathon bombings, those from Boston were particularly acute. Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter of protest to Rolling Stone and several retailers with Boston ties said they would not sell the controversial issue.

And then on Thursday, Boston Magazine responded to Rolling Stone’s editorial decision with one of its own, publishing photos of the manhunt and arrest of Mr. Tsarnaev. The images were taken by Sgt. Sean Murphy, a photographer with the Massachusetts State Police who was described as “furious” about the Rolling Stone cover and accused the magazine of “glamorizing the face of terror.”

His protest, which included graphic photos of Mr. Tsarnaev during his capture, ended up creating a controversy of its own. According to Boston Magazine, Sergeant Murphy was relieved of duty just hours after he turned over hundreds of photos to the magazine.

Mr. Murphy’s actions may have put him in hot water at work, but it is not hard to understand the emotions that drove his decision. News developments, and the way they are presented in the news media, always fall harder on some than others, especially victims, families of victims and first responders.

Part of the mass umbrage would seem to stem from a misunderstanding of the magazine and its cover. From the very beginning, Rolling Stone has seen long-form journalism as part of its mission, and more recently has proven its journalistic chops with important stories about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and the so-called vampire squids of Goldman Sachs. Those were good, important stories and while the profile about Mr. Tsarnaev did not break a lot of new ground, it did an excellent job of explaining how someone who looked like the kid next door radicalized in place and, according to the federal charges, decided to attack innocents to make a political point. There is civic and journalistic value in finding out more about who this person is, and if the cover created in-bound interest, that would seem to be to the good.

Still, many piled on, accusing Rolling Stone of a cynical play for attention while they sought some of the same in their reaction. The actor James Woods, among others, found himself on the moral high ground, issuing a profane and personal rebuke to Jann Wenner, the owner and publisher of Rolling Stone.

French magazine sparks another controversy over Mohammed cartoons

News agencies – January 2, 2013

 

French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a special issue containing cartoons on the life of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. Similar images, which are deemed blasphemous by Muslims, have sparked international protest in the past. But the publisher of magazine said the 64-page issue, titled ‘The Life of Mohammed,’ is “halal” because it was researched and edited by Muslim scholars and historians.

 

The French government has spoken out against the cartoons: “There is no necessity to pour oil on fire,” spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told France 2. Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy related to Islam. In September, the magazine published nude cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, sparking worldwide protests and forcing French embassies and schools to temporarily close in 20 countries. The French government condemned the publication as being needlessly provocative.

In 2011, the magazine’s Paris office was firebombed after it named the Prophet Mohammed as ‘editor-in-chief’ of a weekly issue titled ‘Charia Hebdo.’

 

Muslim creationists tour France denouncing Darwin

Reuters – May 16, 2011

 

Muslim creationists are currently touring France preaching against evolution and claiming the Qur’an predicts many modern scientific discoveries.

Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.

 

Harun Yahya, one of the most prolific publishers in the Muslim world, gave proudly secularist France a scare in January 2007 by mass-mailing thousands of free copies of his “Atlas of Creation” to schools and libraries across the country.

 

The Education Ministry quickly ordered headmasters to seize and hide copies of the large format book. It followed up with a special seminar to train teachers how to counter a small but growing group of pupils who challenge evolution with creationist theories. In October 2007, with strong French support, the Council of Europe denounced the creationist views laid out in the “Atlas of Creation” as a religious assault on science and human rights.

“People who defend evolution can’t accept the existence of a Creator,” Sadun said at La Reussite (“Success”), one of the few Muslim-run private schools in France.

“Life is not the result of chance, it’s the creation of a higher power, which of course is Allah,” he said in fluent French, adding that the confiscation of the “Atlas of Creation” was similar to book-burnings staged by the Nazis in the 1930s.

A teacher at the La Reussite meeting said French educators called him an Islamic fundamentalist for his creationist views, but he thought they were actually secularist fundamentalists.

 

Dossier “Islam, Kultur, Politik”

Underlining the fact that Islam has become a part of Germany, the Council of Culture has published a dossier called “Islam, Culture, Politics” on how Islam is practiced and set into context in Germany. After the debates of the past months, which had been dominated by the condescending remarks of Thilo Sarrazin, publisher Olaf Zimmermann wanted to step back an provide a more nuanced view of Islam, its culture and politics. The document will be distributed at parliament, Church academies, public libraries, and also at mosques. The dossier does not only want to write about Muslims, but also incorporates public figures of the Muslim population, such as the Central Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek, who participated in the publication (Frankfurter Rundschau).

German Council of Culture Publishes Islam Dossier

Underlining the fact that Islam has become a part of Germany, the Council of Culture has published a dossier called Islam, Culture, Politics on how Islam is practiced and set into context in Germany. After the debates of the past months, which had been dominated by the condescending remarks of Thilo Sarrazin, publisher Olaf Zimmermann wanted to step back an provide a more nuanced view of Islam, its culture and politics. The document will be distributed at parliament, Church academies, public libraries, and also at mosques. The dossier does not only want to write about Muslims, but also incorporates public figures of the Muslim population, such as the Central Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek, who participated in the publication

Yearbook published on Islamophobia in German-speaking countries

The Austrian publisher Studienverlag has published a yearbook of research on Islamophobia in the German-speaking countries (Jahrbuch für Islamophobieforschung 2010: Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz). It is an introduction to the academic use of the term “Islamophobia” and includes recent empirical examples such as the courtroom murder of Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini or the Swiss minaret ban. Further case studies derive from the fields of media, politics, law, discrimination in everyday life and theoretic reflections.

German publisher cancels book that some consider as insulting Islam

A German publisher said Tuesday it had cancelled the printing of a murder mystery about an honor killing because it contained passages insulting Islam and may have prompted Islamist retaliation.

Droste publishers dropped the book by author Gabriele Brinkmann entitled “To Whom Honor is Due” after she refused to change several passages, including one where a fictional character is portrayed making abusive remarks about the Koran.

“After the Mohammad cartoons, one knows that one can’t publish sentences or drawings that defame Islam without expecting a security risk,” said Felix Droste, head of Droste publishers.

The publisher’s decision has prompted criticism that it is bowing to Islamist intimidation and curtailing freedom of speech. The firm has also received threats from far-right groups against its employees for being “friends of Islamists.” German newspapers ran headlines: “Publisher self censors” and “Fear of Islamist attacks.”

Extremist found guilty of firebomb plot against publisher of ‘The Jewel of Medina’

Abbas Taj, 30, a mini-cab driver, was found guilty of conspiracy to firebomb the home of Martin Rynja, the publisher of The Jewel Of Medina. He was to be the getaway driver, but was stopped in his car and arrested by armed police near Angel Tube station in the early hours in September last year, just after he and two other men had set fire to the premises. The other two have been convicted last month.

The novel is about the Prophet Mohammed and the life of his child bride, Aisha, and has stirred quite some controversy. Its publication was cancelled by one major publisher in the United States over fears that it could offend Muslims. In Serbia the book was withdrawn after protests from local Islamic leaders but was subsequently returned to bookshelves. Speaking last October, Mr Rynja said that the novel was not offensive and added that he felt its publication was part of a liberal democracy.

The case is one of many examples where liberalism and pluralism clash with the extremist opinion of a few who employ vigilante justice to enforce objectives.

Canadian Muslim Journalist Kidnapped in Pakistan

Khadija Abdul Qahaar, a Web magazine publisher in British Colombia, along with her translator and guide, were seized at gunpoint while traveling in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. Ms. Qahaar was known as Beverly Giesbrecht prior to her conversion to Islam, and publishes the website jihadunspun.com. Mark Federman, an expert in media studies at the University of Toronto, said he had not previously heard of jihadunspun.com. But looking at the circumstances of the reported abduction, “my skepticism detectors start flashing on this one,” he said. While Mr. Federman acknowledged the threat of abduction was very real in the region Ms. Qahaar was travelling, he questioned the timing of a website posting calling for money to deter abduction the week prior.

Lisa Monette, spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not confirm the report, but did say a Canadian was missing in Pakistan. Monette added, “The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the High Commission in Islamabad are working with Pakistani officials right now and they are pursuing all appropriate measures.”

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