More mosques to be built in France

In the next several years, the construction of large mosques will accelerate in France, in Marseille, Strasbourg, Nantes, Paris, Tours, Saint-Denis, Cergy-Pontoise, and other French locations. Le Monde suggests that approximately 200 large mosques will open, leading to the closure of 2000 small prayer rooms around the territory.

At the same time, the Catholic Institute of Paris will graduate their second class of Muslim students destined to be imams familiar with “French secularism.”

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Muslims criticize ‘Lego’ Islamic terrorist toys

A range of Lego-style fighting figurines – including an Islamic terrorist militant – has sparked outrage among Muslims. The toy mini-figures, made by American Will Chapman, includes a masked terrorist bandit with an assault rifle, grenade launcher and belt of explosives. Shocked by the playthings, British Muslim organisation the Ramadhan Foundation has branded the figurines “absolutely disgusting”. Chief executive Mohammed Shafiq said the figures were “glorifying terrorism”. He said: “I don’t think there’s any difference between someone that shouts hatred through a megaphone and someone that creates a doll that glorifies terrorists.”

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Muslims reject move to stop new mosques

Muslim intellectuals have rejected a government plan to halt the construction of new mosques in Italy, arguing that it is a shortage of mosques – not the fact that there are too many – that has made it more difficult to monitor radical Islam. The anti-immigrant Northern League has renewed its calls to stop the building of additional mosques in the country. The calls follow the arrest of two suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in Milan. “It is far more important to regulate the various ‘cultural centers’ where Muslims in Italy have to gather for prayers because there are no more suitable venues,” said Gianpiero Vincenzo, the president of the Association of Muslim Intellectuals in Italy.

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Terrorism suspect insists bomb in Germany was hoax

A Lebanese student accused of planting a bomb on a German train pleaded his innocence before a German court Tuesday, saying that the gas-filled device in his possession was only meant to scare. “I swear by God almighty that I had no intention of killing anybody,” said Youssef al-Hajj Dib, 24. “I knew when I took the bag in my hand that it was not going to explode.”

The court in Dusseldorf is to give its verdict next Tuesday on the charge of attempted murder. Prosecutors say Germany narrowly escaped its first terrorist massacre in the attacks by al-Hajj Dib and another Islamist radical in July 2006.

The two men allegedly wanted to punish German newspapers over cartoons they believed denigrated Islam.

Al-Hajj Dib, who was allowed the last word before the judges retire to consider their verdict, had earlier admitted he and accomplice Jihad Hamad had boarded trains, each with bombs concealed in suitcases, and left them on board.

Police say the timers worked and the detonators fired, but the gas charge in both bombs failed to ignite. Defence lawyers claimed that was exactly what both men intended.

“If I had really intended to commit a terrorist attack, I would have been far more careful,” asserted al-Hajj Dib.

“To us, it was just a warning. If I had wanted to kill people, I would have covered up all the clues and worn gloves. I was definitely capable of making a proper bomb if I wanted to.”

He said he had dropped his original plan to make a real bomb after his brother Ahmed was killed in Lebanon.

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Rome’s Deserted Mosque

The Islamic Cultural Center in Rome, also called the Rome Grand Mosque, faces desertion and abandonment although it is the biggest mosque in Italy. Despite the fact that the mosque’s large prayer hall can accommodate some 5,000 people, it remains empty except for Friday prayers and Eid celebrations. The keeper of the mosque, Ya ‘quob says that the reason for this lies in the mosque’s own administration. The Islamic Cultural Center in Rome is backed by Muslim and Arab countries which established it. “The grand mosque’s administration has forced worshippers to seek other places even if they are more distant or smaller in size,” says Samir El-Khaledi, imam of the Al-Huda mosque in Rome.

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Leader wanted over 2006 train bombings

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is said to have been one of the founders of Lashkar-e-Taiba when it was formed in 1989. When the Guardian met him in Pakistan in 1998, it found a “short, round man in spectacles” delivering a sermon to his disciples in which he told them: “Terrorists are killers, they kidnap and murder the innocent, but a jihad is to help the poor, the weak and the starving and to establish the supremacy of Allah.” His stated opponents then were those he regarded as heretics – liberal Pakistanis and the Shia Muslim, Christian and Hindu minorities. He lived on a heavily guarded estate in Punjab, a gift from his Middle Eastern patrons, and argued that democracy was in opposition to local tradition. “We have suffered because we have abandoned our traditions and strayed into democracy,” he said. “The democratic system is not Islamic but a Jewish and Christian import from Europe … In Islam, God is the ruler but democracy gives rights to all people.” His attention was focused on Kashmir but he indicated that it might not end there. “At this time our contest is Kashmir. Let’s see when the time comes. Our struggle with the Jews is always there.” After the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan banned the group. A former professor of Islamic studies, Saeed was placed under house arrest in 2006 at the time of the alleged airline bomb plot in the UK but was released after the Lahore high court declared his detention illegal. Duncan Campbell reports.

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Vatican Thanks Muslims for Faith Return

Senior Vatican cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran has thanked Muslims for brining religion back into the public life in Europe. “Muslims, having become a significant minority in Europe, were the ones who demanded space for God in society,” said Tauran. Vatican officials have long bemoaned the increasing absence of religion in secular Europe. Tauran echoed calls for inter-faith dialogue citing the rise of Islam being discussed, and Muslims becoming active in public life. “Inter-religious dialogue rallies all who are on the path to God or to the Absolute,” said Tauran.

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Uneasy Peace for Berlin’s New Ahmadi Mosque

Berlin’s first Ahmadi mosque opened its doors in the former eastern side of the German capital last month. The building and the religious group are putting religious tolerance to the test. A 13-meter-high (43-foot) minaret competes for attention alongside pillars advertising the fast food outlets at a busy intersection in Pankow, a north-eastern suburb of Berlin. Inside the mosque, the call to Friday prayer echoes as men fall to their knees. Upstairs, women turn to the loudspeakers relaying the imam’s chant. It is not audible from the streets, where the mosque draws suspicious disapproval. The Khadija Mosque, which opened on Oct. 16, has met with strong opposition ever since its inception in 2006. The first purpose-built mosque to open in former East Germany, it provides a new center for Berlin’s Ahmadi community. Ahmadiyya Islam is a reform movement founded in India in the 19th century. The Ahmadi are not recognized by mainstream Muslims, and many have left Pakistan where they face religious persecution.

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