Report urges recognition of British Muslim diversity

The diversity of Britain’s Muslim population must be recognised and more done to engage overlooked groups in order to tackle extremism, gang culture and community tensions, a report said today. Researchers spoke to more than 4,000 members of Muslim communities and those engaged with local groups, for the report by the Institute of Community Cohesion (ICC). Britain has “probably the most diverse Muslim community in the world” with at least 15 large ethno-national Muslim communities, the report found. However councils and government too often relied on the “usual suspects” – often Muslims from the Pakistani community – when wanting Muslim opinion. That meant other groups were misrepresented and stoked resentment. Pressure on Muslim communities to distance themselves from extremism had also increased tensions between Muslim groups. “We came across many Muslims of various affiliations in positions of influence identifying other Muslims as extremist or militant. Whilst these accusations were not always unfounded, in most cases the sentiments were due to ignorance, prejudice and antagonism,” ICC local studies found. Outside pressures also increased tensions. Researchers found the US invasion of Somalia encouraged young men from one Somali community to travel to the country to fight. With a clear nod to Iraq the ICC report said predicting the impact of international events on communities in Britain was crucial and needed national co-ordination.

From Baghdad to Britain

They come to Britain fearing for their lives back home, hoping for a new beginning. But for thousands of Iraqi asylum seekers there is no welcome and instead they face misery and destitution before they are deported. Hannah Godfrey hears their stories Hraz is 22, but looks much older. He worked for the Americans in Kirkuk guarding a petrol station, and has a bullet wound in his bottom from where he was shot by Ba’ath party supporters because of his involvement with the occupying army. But that was only the beginning of his troubles. His father joined the militant Kurdish Sunni group Ansar al-Islam and wanted Hraz to fight with him. He refused, because, he says, “I like life, I don’t want to kill people.” His father now wants to kill him, in punishment. His mother told him he had to leave the country to protect himself. The percentage of Iraqis who have had their asylum claims accepted by the British government has plummeted since the fall of Saddam Hussein five years ago. Before the 2003 invasion, almost half of Iraqi asylum claims were successful. Since then, the recognition rate has fallen to an average of less than 3%. This is despite the fact that, throughout the war, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has advised that Iraqi asylum seekers – particularly those from the central and southern areas – should be either recognised as refugees or provided with another form of protection. In the period preceding the invasion an average of 800 Iraqis were granted asylum each year in this country; since 2003 numbers have fallen to between five and 150, while applications have averaged about 1,500 per year during this period.

Archbishop of Canterbury Pleads for Islamic Law

With his plea for recognition of the Muslim legal system in Britain, the archbishop of Canterbury has outraged his people. In doing so, he has driven a wedge into the center of a passionate national debate. He should have known what he was getting into. Rowan Williams, 57, the archbishop of Canterbury, is an educated man, a noted poet and a brilliant theologian. But he’s never been a very skilled politician. And so it happened. Last Thursday, Williams stood before 1,000 spectators in London’s Royal Courts of Justice. He’s a man with a white beard and white hair sprouting in all directions. In his warm baritone voice, he spoke about the relationship between civil and religious law. It was a complicated speech, one that wasn’t easy to understand. But it ignited a raging debate. A day later, The Sun tabloid labeled him a “a dangerous threat to our nation,” and the Daily Express wrote that he had capitulated to Muslim extremists. The tabloids used words such as “outcry” and “rage” to_describe the public reaction and called for him to resign. Mathieu von Rohr reports.

State Security Service prevents recognition of two mosques

The Muslim Executive, the representative body of Muslims in Belgium, nominated eight Islamic communities for recognition. Two of the eight mosques nominated were denied recognition after negative advice was received from the State Security Service. A specific reason was not given. However, Minister Keulen said that the Muslim Executive notified him that the system of rotating imams would no longer be practiced in the mosques – a system that had previously been denounced.

Mosques a Key Factor in French Elections

As municipal elections impending in March, mayors and councilors of nearly every political stripe are courting Muslim voters with promises of new mosques – or rightists, vowing to allow no new mosque constructions. Some candidates are putting out advertisements citing recognition of the marginalization of Muslims and lack of adequate place to worship. Others, however, are promising that no new mosques will be built on campaigns of Islamophobic grounds, courting rightist voters.

City of Valencia breaches agreement to bury Muslims

The city of Valencia breached an agreement of cooperation between the state and the Islamic Commission of Spain, which regulates the burial of Muslims in cemeteries. The city refused to give burial space in the General Cemetery and other locations that accommodates Islamic burial practices. The agreement between the state and the Islamic Community of Spain stems from a 1992 law giving the same recognition to Islamic communities right to grand land for burials in the necropolis and municipal property, and the right to their own precincts.

In a Europe Torn Over Mosques, A City Offers Accommodation

Next June, the French town of Creteil’s Muslims are scheduled to move into a new $7.4 mosque able to accommodate more than 2,500 worshippers. For many European Muslims, many of whom were born here as second-generation immigrants, new mosques denote a sense of recognition and acceptance of their growing numbers and rising status after decades of praying in informal buildings. Creteil’s mosque, however, is not without much controversy. French authorities are attempting to deport the mosque’s planned imam over inflammatory and radical comments, and anti-immigrant city council members are protesting the use of public funds for its adjacent cultural center. Despite challenges, the mosque remains on track, with an 84-foot minaret, soaring dome, and hybridized architecture of French and classical.

VB given access to mosque applications

BRUSSELS – Opposition party right-wing Vlaams Belang will be given access to the applications submitted by mosques for recognition by the Flemish government. The Internal Administration Agency had refused to release the documents, but this refusal is unjustified, says the appeal agency for freedom of information. Islam has been one of the six recognised religions in Belgium since 1974, but in contrast to other local religious communities, like churches and synagogues, mosques were not given subsidies until now. Flemish minister for integration Marino Keulen (Open Vld) wants to officially recognise the first mosques before the end of this year. Vlaams Belang requested access to the application files from eight mosques, but the Internal Administration Agency would not release the files, arguing that they were not yet complete and that the Flemish government had not yet taken a decision on the applications.

Belgium grants official recognition to 43 mosques

After several years of largely neglecting its Muslim community’s financial needs, Belgium has taken a tangible step toward Muslims by officially recognizing 43 mosques in the country. The decision paves the way for the mosque officials to be provided a monthly wage and housing by the state from now on. Belgium’s Muslim community remained deprived of several financial privileges, although Islam was officially recognized as one of the religions in the country in 1974, along with six other religions. Interior Minister of the Valon region Philippe Courard received a delegation from the Belgian Muslim Executive (EMB), the institution that officially represents the country’s more than 500,000 Muslims. Courard signed a governmental decree that will officially recognize 43 mosques, 26 of them belonging to the Turkish community.