The newly established political party with an Islam inspired agenda “Denk” established by former Dutch Labour Party members Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk have stated that a new index should be established to register racist statements on the internet. People who’s names would be present on the register should not be in the possibility to occupy a job at the government.
With the so called “R-register” Kuzu and Öztürk want to “clear the government of racists.” Öztürk stated that one could “develop a unit within the police that makes screenshots of racist remarks on social media in a similar manner as the police does when tracing child seducers on the internet. If someone then applies for a job at the government all could see what this person has said on Twitter and Facebook.” The parliamentary members have stressed that they are not aiming for the Netherlands to be a police state and that further thought is yet to be put into the idea.
“Against the backdrop of the Pegida protests, politicians in Germany must finally recognise that Islamophobia is a form of racism. Unfortunately, most decision-makers in this country are still a long way off doing that, says Armin Langer, co-ordinator of the Salaam-Shalom initiative in the Berlin district of Neukölln.” [Read more at Qantara.]
The right-wing protest movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the occident (PEGIDA) has provoked a broad discussion within German public on issues such as racism, refugees, Muslim immigrants and fatigue. Approximately 15.000 people have been joining the Monday marches, which take place every Monday in the city of Dresden, in East Germany. Other PEGIDA branches have initiated marches in cities in North-Rhine Westphalia, such as Bonn and Düsseldorf, in order to broaden the range of the movement.
The movement claims to march across Germany against the “Islamization” and “illegal” immigrants, who are said to exploit the German economy and to free ride the social welfare system of the Federal Republic.
A significant number of PEGIDA´s protestors are mainstream Germans coming from each socio-economic and political scale of society. However, some of the leading members and organizers of PEGIDA belong to the extreme right-wing movement, are active Neo-Nazis and possess criminal records.
According to a YouGov public opinion poll conducted between December 16 and December 18 2014, 49% of all Germans show understanding for the demonstrations of PEGIDA. While 30% of Germans show full understanding for the protests, 19% do partly agree with the claims of PEGIDA and 23% reject the protests. PEGIDA´s protest issues are accepted by 73% of Germans, which raise their concerns about the spread of Islam in Germany. The feeling of phobia (Angst, in German) towards refugee flows is highly recognizable when asking about the number of asylum seekers. Approximately 59% of Germans agree with the statement that Germany accepts “too many” refugees, while 30% disagree with the refugee policy of the German State accepting “clearly too many” refugees.
Representatives of the government, while condemning the protests, showed some propensity for dialogue and understanding. The former president of the German Federal parliament Wolfgang Thierse spoke in favor of dialogue with PEGIDA. “Politics needs better explanation”, he added. He continued by stating the need for politicians to explain the necessity of immigration. While one should confront Neo-Nazis, he said, he should also avoid to criminalize tens of thousands of citizens. According to Mt. Thierse, this answer is too simple as displacement, denationalization and fears (Angst) of people caused by Islamist terror require attention by politicians.
In the same line, the Christian Democratic Federal Minister of Interior, Thomas de Maizière (CDU), showed concern but also understanding for the issues of the demonstrators of PEGIDA. The speaker of the Federal government Steffen Seibert also condemned any kind of racism and hatred against religious or ethnic minorities. However, he said, one needs to consider all aspects of immigration, informing “concerned citizens”, whether Germany is able to handle everything.
A very different position is that of the chief of the left socialist party (Die Linke), Bernd Riexinger. He declared that such comments by the government lead to the 1990s, a period which marked the climax of xenophobic attacks and fire assaults against immigrants and refugees. According to Riexinger, established parties allow racism to become socially acceptable and thus help creating a political climate that encourages violent right-wing gangs.
Critical comments came also from the chief of the Green party (Grüne), Cem Özdemir, who asked all democratic parties to draw clear lines between themselves and PEGIDA. The secretary of the refugee organization Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, warned not to underestimate the right-wing movement, as PEGIDA questions basic rights such as religious freedom and asylum. According to Burkhardt, the goal of the movement is to establish racism within the political discourse and diffusing resentment, by presenting them as “democratic expression of freedom”. If politicians and the public showed understanding and trivialize these protests as expressions of diffuse “Angst”, the strategy of PEGIDA would succeed. Even more strongly, the Social Democratic Federal Minister of Judiciary, Heiko Maas (SPD) described the Monday marches as a “shame for Germany”. The chair of the central council of Jews, Josef Schuster defined PEGIDA as dangerous.
In an interview, Cem Özdemir complained about the reactions of mainstream parties to the success of the right-wing in Germany. The main parties, he says, adapt to the issues that caused the relative success of the new right-wing party “Alternative for Germany” (AFD) and PEGIDA and therefore drift to the political right. Proposals initiated by the “Christian Social Party” (CSU) demanding immigrants to speak German at home would strengthen, in his opinion, the perception of PEGIDA and AFD adherents to be representatives of a “silent majority”. Parties were blamed also by the chair of the council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek. He declared that parties as partly responsible for the Anti-Islam demonstrations. In this opinion, there is a lack of communication and dialogue between politicians and people. PEGIDA, according to Mazyek, symptomizes the fear of people towards the future: people fearing of losing their jobs are searching for scapegoats. PEGIDA leaders, he concludes, are doing nothing but exploiting the fear of people.
This year 29 cases of radicalization have been reported, compared with 20 in 2013 and 16 in 2012, so there has been increase. According to the major, Ahmed Aboutaleb, this doesn’t mean that more youth become radicalized, but persons are more alert.
The newspaper had an interview with Aboutaleb, in which he says that the term ‘jihadism’ can be explained in different ways, but it is problematic when it is characterized by ideas of racism, discrimination or not being able to find a job (in the Netherlands), although religion seems to be the most important factor. The mayor also says that if people reject [the foundations of] the Dutch society, they can leave, but also should hand in their passport.
Charles Martel has returned to the Board of Education in Poitiers. A document meant to help teachers detect signs of radicalization in students is said to have taken a “dislike” to Islam, according to information from Mediapart.
The document classifies signs of radicalization in the following manner: having a long beard, wearing religious clothing, shaving one’s head, refusing to get tattoos or practicing intensive fasts. The information was presented in a PowerPoint and also discusses Palestine, Chechnya and Iraq. According to Mediapart, the presentation was made by a section of the “mobile security team” (EMS) whose members are ex-police officers or gendarmes. EMS was created in 2009 to ensure the security of educational establishments.
After being interviewed on France Bleu, Magali Espinasse, member of the union Snes-FSU, expressed her disapproval of the document. She referred to it as a “gross caricature” that contained “outrageous simplifications,” calling it “racism, pure and simple.”
Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said “maybe the words aren’t perfect, and we will indeed improve things.”
A far-right weekly newspaper has caused considerable controversy after calling France’s new education minister a “Moroccan Muslim” and stating that the decision to appoint her is a “provocation.”
“The front page of the Minute is an incitement to hatred. It should be sued in court,” said Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of the Socialist Party, in a statement calling for the magazine to be sued.
The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism called the cover “shameful” and contended that those “spreading hate” need to be stopped.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Moroccan-born education minister, is the first woman to hold the position. Soon after her appointment the magazine Minute featured her on its cover with the headline: “A Moroccan Muslim at the national education (ministry). The Najat Vallaud-Belkacem provocation.” The magazine has already come under fire in early 2014 for its comments about France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, for its headlines, “Crafty as a monkey,” and “Taubira gets her banana back.”
Vellaud-Belkacem has remained calm despite the controversy. “I keep away from this type of debate which is irrelevant,” she said, “However, I do think of those who are watching this spectacle” and could feel “contaminated.”
“In their name more than my name, I would urge those on the right to take into account their responsibilities and to respect insinuations and people,” she said. Vallaud-Belkacem holds dual French and Moroccan citizenship and calls herself “a pure product of the Republic,” and an example of “happy integration.”
Following the attacks, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said that the minister enjoyed “the support of all the government in the face of these attacks that do those who make them no honor.”
Consolidated Edison, which once owned the nuclear reactors at Indian Point, has finally unloaded a property that may have been the source of even more controversy.
The utility company notified state regulators this week that it had sold the site of a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan that came to be known as the “ground zero mosque.” Con Edison has not used the building since 1969, but the company got caught in the uproar over the proposal when it surfaced nearly five years ago.
By then, Con Edison had been nothing more than the landlord for the building at 49-51 Park Place, about two blocks north of the World Trade Center. It was close enough to the twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, that a wing flap from one of the crashed jets was found there last year.
That proximity to a place where more than 2,700 people were killed by terrorists set off a national debate about the plan for a mosque and Islamic cultural center on the property. The developer, Soho Properties, eventually abandoned that idea and now plans to build a three-story museum dedicated to Islam on the Con Ed site and a condominium tower on an adjacent lot, 45 Park Place, Roxanne Donovan, a spokeswoman for the developer, said on Wednesday. (The museum would contain a sanctuary for prayer services.)
That plan has been years in the making and it is still not clear if Sharif El-Gamal, the chief executive of Soho Properties, has the financing necessary to move forward. But he cleared one of the hurdles at the end of July, when he bought the Con Edison property for $10.7 million, Ms. Donovan said.
Even that transaction was fraught, though. Soho Properties had been leasing the property until it decided in 2010 to buy it from Con Ed. The utility set the price at $10.7 million, but the developer challenged that valuation in court. After a judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan confirmed the valuation, the developer appealed.
In a statement issued by Ms. Donovan, Mr. El-Gamal said: “We are pleased to have concluded a complex acquisition from Con Edison allowing us to complete the assemblage for our upcoming developments at Park Place. This further exemplifies our strength as a buyer of real estate from institutional sellers.”
The latest proposal for the Con Ed site, disclosed in late April, called for a “museum and sanctuary space” designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and “dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture.”
At the time, Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Mr. El-Gamal, said the developer was not anticipating an outcry similar to the one that erupted over his plan for a much larger Islamic community center and prayer space.
A new episode of assaults against mosques has shocked Muslim communities last week in Germany. Furthermore, a Jewish synagogue was attacked in Wuppertal. A prayer room and samples of Koran books were burning in a mosque in Bielefeld. The next day, firefighters turned off fire in a new constructed mosque in Berlin. Perpetrators attacked again the mosque in Bielefeld burning Koran books. The police expects a political motivation for the recent assaults. Eight days ago, after the first assault, police authorities excluded every hint or suspicion regarding a xenophobic, political or religious motivation.
The chairman of the association ´League of Islamic communities in Bielefeld´ (BIG) Cemil Şahinöz, showed had understanding for the hasty conclusions of the police. The goal of the perpetrators would be “maximal destruction”. The signs of the assaults would be evident. The mosque communities would be “deeply disappointed” by the lack of solidarity within German society. According to Şahinöz, racism would flourish when the majority of society would keep silent. The chairman of BIG called politicians and the public to break their silence.
The speaker of the coordination council of Muslims (KRM) Ali Kizilkaya called the society to stand united. Kizilkaya condemned the assaults against mosques asking security authorities to do everything possible to arrest the perpetrators and to protect the mosques. He regretted the low amount of solidarity with Muslims. Statement defining “Islam as part of Germany” would be meaningless without solidarity in such critical moments. Nevertheless Kizilkaya welcomed the visits Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) to the attacked and burned Mevlana mosque in Berlin.
During his visit at the Mevlana mosque, SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel condemned the assaults underlining that criticism against the terror organization ´Islamic State´ would not target Muslims and Islam. “Islam is a part of Germany” Gabriel repeated. The chairman of the the central council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek asked for more protection of mosques and called for a united society across Muslims and non-Muslims. Fazli Atin, president of the Islamic federation in Berlin, welcomed the visit of Gabriel as a clear sign for Muslims, showing that they would not be left alone with these assaults.
A mosque located in Tarragona has been attacked with a Molotov cocktail which caused “limited damage”. The leaders of the mosque have had knowledge of the attack by a call made by the Fire Department. At the time of the attack there was no one inside.
The Autonomous Police, will now try to clarify who were the perpetrators of the attack and whether the motivations had a religious background.
Riay Tatary, President of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, when asked about whether it said: “this is done to create an atmosphere of confusion and rejection about the Muslims in Spain.”
CAIR today called on imams (prayer leaders) nationwide to devote at least a portion of their khutbas (sermons) for tomorrow’s weekly congregational prayers (jummah) to the issues of racial equality and social justice.
That request comes in the wake of racial turmoil resulting from the fatal police shooting on Saturday of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri. Police claim the unarmed Brown had struggled for an officer’s gun in a patrol car before he was killed, but witnesses said Brown, who is African-American, had his hands up when he was shot. Brown’s death triggered angry demonstrations, as well as vandalism and looting.
CAIR’s St. Louis chapter joined calls for a federal investigation into the shooting.
“Despite progress in race relations over the past decades, our nation still has a long way to go to live up to the true American values of equality and justice for all,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We need a serious and deep national conversation about how to heal these wounds, starting with all of us as individuals, family members and community leaders.”