Masked Men Occupy Roof of Islamic High School in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam Nieuw-West, where an Islamic high school was opened recently, two men with balaclava masks have climbed its roof and hung an anti-Islam banner. The men were eventually talked off the roof by the police and arrested for alleged disrupting public order.

The two men of 29 and 32 years old, were identified as members of the campaign group ‘Identitarian Resistance’ (Identitair Verzet). The group tries to ban immigration and ‘islamization’ and promotes the preservation of the ‘Dutch identity’. The extremist right group was founded in 2012 and have since then threatened to physically demonstrate at the ‘Refugee Church’ (Vluchtkerk) in Amsterdam for refugees whose asylum applications have been refused. The municipality of Amsterdam decided that the group was not allowed to do that because of the potential disturbance risk, but the group managed to catch the media’s eye. While on the roof, the men first hung a banner at the front of the school with the text “Salafism not welcome” (Salafisme niet welkom). After this banner was removed by one of the school’s employees, the men hung another banner which said: “Who sows Islam, will harvest Sharia” (wie Islam zaait, zal Sharia oogsten). They were also heard shouting: “Salafism, terrorism.”

While lessons at the school would start the next week, there were students present in the building for an introductory day. While Identitarian Resistance also ‘protested’ the installment of a new mosque in the city of Venlo recently, Pegida members in Leiden prevented children from an Islamic primary school from entering their school at the beginning of the new schoolyear. They hung a padlock around the fence, accompanied by a note and a picture of a skull that said: “The Islam is causing terrible attacks in Europe. You have to tackle the roots of the problem. That would also be closing Islamic schools.”

Sources:
http://www.hartvannederland.nl/nieuws/2017/politie-beeindigt-demonstratie-op-dak-islamitische-school/ https://www.metronieuws.nl/nieuws/buitenland/2017/09/mannen-protesteren-op-dak-islamitische-school https://www.metronieuws.nl/nieuws/binnenland/2017/08/islamitische-basisschool-leiden-doelwit-van-pediga https://kafka.nl/identitair-verzet-ontmaskerd/

Fillon wants ‘strict control over Muslim faith’ (video)

“I want strict control over the administration of the Muslim faith, seeing as its integration in the Republic has not been fully achieved,” he said during his first meeting as presidential candidate.

“Around us, there is an expansionist radical Islam that threatens our civilization,” he stated. He called for the “immediate dissolution of all movements associated with Salafism or the Muslim Brotherhood.”

For more, see the video.

 

 

As European authorities target Salafism, the word needs parsing

What exactly is Salafism? In continental Europe, the word is now used as a catchall for extreme and violent interpretations of Islam. This week for example, authorities in the German state of Hesse raided five premises including a mosque; it was the latest move in a crackdown on ultra-militant forms of Islam all over Germany which began last week. “Extremist propaganda is the foundation for Islamic radicalisation and ultimately for violence,” said the interior minister of Hesse, Peter Beuth, by way of explaining the latest raids. “The Salafist ideology is a force not to be underestimated,” he added.

On November 15th, German federal authorities banned what they described as a Salafi organisation known as “True Religion” or “Read!” whose notional purpose was to distribute copies of the Koran. On the same day, police swept through 200 offices and other buildings across the country. Ralf Jäger, interior minister of the populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), reportedly gave this reason for the ban: “Every fifth Salafist who has travelled out from NRW under the aegis of so-called Islamic State in order to join a terror cell had previous contact with ‘Read!’”

In France, too, the word Salafi or Salafist is often used as a generic term for forms of Islam which are too extreme for any government policy to parley with or accommodate. Manuel Valls, the Socialist prime minister, has reported with alarm that the Salafis, although a tiny minority among French Muslims, may be winning an ideological war in France because their voice is louder and more efficiently disseminated than any other. François Fillon, a centre-right politician who is likely to make the run-off in next year’s presidential election, is a strong advocate of cracking down both on Salafism and on the groups linked to the global Muslim Brotherhood.

In the very loosest of senses, all Muslims are Salafi. The word literally describes those who emulate and revere both the prophet Muhammad and the earliest generations of Muslims, the first three generations in particular. There is no Muslim who does not do that. But in practice the word Salafist is most often used to describe a purist, back-to-basics form of Islam that emerged on the Arabian peninsula in the 19th century.

But even Saudi Salafism, despite appearances, is no monolith, according to H.A. Hellyer, a British scholar who studies Muslim communities across the world. Several different tendencies can be detected among the kingdom’s religious scholars, who underpin the monarchy.

In Egypt, too, the word Salafi is used as though it had a simple meaning, but again that is misleading, according to Mr Hellyer. On the face of things, the Egyptian Salafis are represented by a political party, Al Nour, which emerged as a powerful player after the 2011 uprising, and favours extreme conservatism in matters of dress, gender roles and personal behaviour. This is contrasted with the more tactical and pragmatic form of Islamism represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged in Egypt in the early 20th century and now wields influence through ideological allies all over the world, including Europe.

Here is another source of confusion: in the broad sense, the Brotherhood too is partially Salafi in inspiration. It shares the ideal of going back to the very first generations of Muslims; that was part of the thinking of Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s founder.

Do the politicians of France and Germany, who use the word Salafi/Salafist as though it were virtually a synonym for terrorist, need to know all this? Yes they do, because the safety of Europe’s streets is at stake. In Britain, for example, there are Salafi mosques whose preachers are theologically conservative but are far from terrorists; and there have been terrorists who have had nothing to do with the mainstream of Salafism. It’s important to understand that of the various forms of Salafism described, there is one, the unreconstructed kind, which can (though does not always) morph into terrorism. Labels can be a helpful pointer through a maze of complexity, but in the end the labyrinth has to be negotiated carefully.

What makes a young British woman turn to Salafism?

Salafism is now thought to be the fastest growing Islamic faction in the UK. Salafism, often referred to as Wahhabism, is an ideology commonly associated with Isis and often features in the news, usually as a label applied to jihadis who’ve committed atrocities abroad. This has led many to assume that home-grown followers – who first began to emerge in the 1980s – pose an active threat to society. In Britain, however, the vast majority of self-described Salafis are explicitly anti-violence – indeed, their leaders have been among the most vocal in their condemnation of terrorism.

They also expressly prescribe obedience to the law of the land, so you won’t hear them calling for sharia law to take its place. In other respects, Salafism is arguably one of the most puritanical and conservative brands of Islam: it advocates strict gender segregation, for instance, face veils and rules that govern practically every aspect of day-to-day life. There’s even a Salafi etiquette for going to the lavatory (while saying a special prayer, enter the bathroom with your left foot forward, then exit with your right; do not greet anyone while on the loo).

And any modern dilemmas that haven’t already been covered will be ruled on by male scholars thousands of miles away – usually in Saudi Arabia. Nor may a woman disobey her husband – who is entitled to take up to four wives – unless he’s trying to interfere with her religious duties. Theoretically, he’s within his rights to demand sexual intercourse whenever he wants (unless she’s menstruating), as well as to forbid her from going out to work.

So why would any young British woman choose to become Salafi? What makes her want to stop going out raving with her mates – as many did before donning the niqab – and to live by rules that make 1950s housewives seem liberated? To find out, I spent nearly two-and-a-half years participating as much as possible in the highly segregated activities of Salafi women’s communities in London. Had they been brainwashed? Or forced into niqabs and seclusion? And how did they reconcile the strict rules they had to follow with life in modern Britain?

Most of the women, I discovered, had come from less observant Muslim backgrounds, though a substantial number were converts from other religions. All seemed well-equipped to make a rational decision: the vast majority were either current or former students, or else actively planning to go to college or university. I’d begun my research by respectfully donning a headscarf – though I never pretended to be Muslim – and attending the women’s religious study circles, Friday prayers and other community events, with the permission of the leaders. But gaining the trust of people who already felt constantly under scrutiny as potential “extremists” was no easy task.

I’ve witnessed for myself how Salafi preachers convey a sense of simplicity and authenticity. At every lesson I attended, the teachers rarely strayed from quoting or paraphrasing the words of the scriptures or of famous Islamic scholars. In fact, the phrase “I think” is banned from the Salafi teacher’s lexicon: all points must be framed by the Qur’an, hadith or words of a respected scholar. Even the rules that shape their lives are presented as rooted in “authentic” Islamic texts. They may be harsh in a 21st-century context, but they leave no room for doubt. And that’s the attraction: complete and utter certainty. Having such a clear sense of purpose in life was undoubtedly fulfilling for the women I interviewed. “Subhanallah [glory to God]!” said Maryam, a university student in her mid-twenties. “I feel more at peace and tranquil, in that I am trying my utmost to implement the religion because I have evidence to support me.”

For a Salafi, there’s no need to familiarise yourself with centuries of Islamic scholarship and debate, or to investigate the practices of the many other Muslim groups. By simply following Salafi teachings, it is claimed, you can be assured of God’s blessing – and hopefully a place in Paradise. As one woman, Wafa put it: “It’s as simple as ABC.”

The other women I interviewed made similar remarks, though all had unique stories to tell. Among them were Afro-Caribbean converts, the daughters of Somali refugees, former gang members, second-generation Pakistanis and people with various other mixed backgrounds. Some had previously been supporters of Islamist and jihadi groups, but had eventually become disillusioned and started seeking alternatives. I even met a former Catholic nun, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, two Poles and a Sikh convert. All had decided to embrace Salafism and live by its rules. Far from converting because of family pressure, as is often assumed, most women had parents who were, at best, puzzled by their daughters’ new lifestyle.

6 common misconceptions about Salafi Muslims in the West

Salafism, often referred to as ‘Wahhabism’, is widely regarded as a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that fuels Jihadism and subjugates women. Some even lump ISIS and Salafism together—casting suspicion upon the thousands of Muslims who identify as Salafi in the West. After gaining unprecedented access to Salafi women’s groups in London, I discovered the realities behind the myths. Discover the six most common misconceptions about Salafi Muslims in the West below:

Misconception #1: They’re all foreigners

Salafism is often—rightly—associated with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it was this country’s immense oil wealth that enabled it to spread its ‘Wahhabi’ brand of Salafism abroad from the 1970s onward. But we should not deduce from this that Salafism in the West is essentially an ‘Eastern’ or ‘Gulf’ phenomenon.

Groups that identify as Salafi in Britain are dominated not by Saudi migrants—whose numbers are actually very small—but by young people who were born here or who arrived at an early age. These include second- and third-generation Muslims—particularly South Asians—but above all, young Somalis and Afro-Caribbean converts.

 

Misconception #2: They support Jihadism and shari’a for the West

While aspects of their purist creed are shared by Jihadi groups, most—probably the vast majority of—Salafis in Europe are explicitly against terrorism. Not only that, but they tend to oppose all formal political forms of organisation, such as political parties and campaign groups. Although they believe that the shari’a is the best system, they do not seek to impose it on non-Muslim countries.

 

Misconception #3: They secretly support Jihadism and shari’a while publicly claiming to respect the law of the land

During nearly two-and-a-half years of fieldwork with Salafi groups, I never witnessed any explicit or implicit support for Jihadism, or calls for shari’a for the United Kingdom. I only ever witnessed condemnation of the former, and express prescriptions to obey the law of the land. While it is, of course, possible that Salafis moderate their speech in front of researchers, it would become almost impossible to keep this up after a few months of regular interaction. That’s why long-term participant research is so valuable.

Misconception #4: They are brainwashed

‘Brainwashing’ is typically understood as a coercive process that renders an individual powerless to choose an alternative course of action.  Although five decades of research on New Religious Movements have yielded no empirical evidence for the so-called ‘brainwashing thesis’, it is nonetheless often regarded as the primary reason why people become ‘Islamic extremists’.

I found no evidence of so-called brainwashing. On the contrary, I found that the Salafi conversion process was largely intellectual, rather than based on social or other pressures.

Misconception #5: They are the uneducated ‘drop-outs’ of society

Some argue that, while Salafis are not brainwashed, they are the downtrodden, alienated ‘drop-outs’ of society, whose lack of education makes them ill-equipped to make sensible, rational decisions about their lives.

My impression as a researcher was that these women are at least as likely as the general UK population to pursue higher education. Most of my interviewees had already started or finished university, and just one had no plans for further education. Most were also keen to launch or pursue existing careers.

Misconception #6: Salafi women are forced to wear niqabs (face veils)

Coerced veiling undoubtedly occurs in many societies, but I could not find a single case among the Salafi women I interviewed in Britain. I did, however, encounter many cases where women’s families tried to force them—sometimes threatening violence—to discard their veils and gowns, which they saw as ‘extremist’ or ‘the culture of the Arabs’. A few young women confessed to having actually concealed their niqab-wearing from relatives, wearing the veil only when at a safe distance from the family home.

Rochdale Muslims fear fervour of youth spilling into hate and violence

Community leaders paint a bleak picture for young Muslims living in the borough of Rochdale on the outskirts of Greater Manchester. They have grave concerns that Muslim youth are increasingly turning to anti-western sentiment and extreme interpretations of Islam.

In recent months the peace in the narrow streets sitting in the shadow of the impressive Jalalia Jaame mosque has been shattered.

A respected holy man, Jalal Uddin, 71, was stalked and murdered because he was a practitioner of a form of Islamic faith healing called taweez which involved the use of charms to bring good luck, good health and deter evil spirits.

Friends Mohammed Hussain Syeedy, 21, who has been convicted of Uddin’s murder and Mohammed Abdul Kadir, 24, who is the subject of an international manhunt, had been Isis supporters and believed that those who practised taweez should be killed because they considered it a form of black magic, the trial at Manchester crown court heard. The murder of “quiet, dignified and well-respected” Uddin was fuelled by “hatred and intolerance,” the court was told.

It was not the only murder in Britain this year motivated by differing interpretations of Islam. In March, a sectarian dispute in Pakistan was played out on the streets of Glasgow when a taxi driver, Tanveer Ahmed, from Bradford, drove hundreds of miles to stab a fellow Muslim to death.

The simmering hatred towards Britain’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community spilled over into violence the day before Good Friday when Ahmed Shah was brutally murdered in his shop.

Ahmed, a Sunni Muslim, was offended by Shah’s religious proclamations on social media that he was the next prophet of Islam – something some consider highly blasphemous.

New figures given to the Guardian show that sectarian attacks have nearly doubled since last year, with a surge in incidents targeting Ahmadiyya Muslims since Shah’s murder.

The number of anti-Ahmadiyya attacks more than tripled over the last year, from nine to 29, according to the monitoring group Tell Mama. In total, there have been 40 recorded incidents of sectarian violence this year, the figures show, up from 24 last year.

Fiyaz Mughal, the founder and director of Tell Mama, said vulnerable young men were being radicalised online and “absolutely destroying and cannibalising” spiritual elements of Islam, such as taweez and sufism. “Spiritual dimensions of Islam are being eradicated by Salafist, Wahhabist stuff and young mindsets are seeing that as the devil within Islam,” Mughal said.

The spread of Wahhabism, and the West’s responsibility to the world

François Hollande’s declaration of war against Isis (also known as Islamic State) was, perhaps, a natural reaction to the carnage in Paris but the situation is now so grave that we cannot merely react; we also need sustained, informed and objective reflection. The French president has unwittingly played into the hands of Isis leaders, who have long claimed to be at war with the West and can now present themselves as noble ­resistance fighters. Instead of bombing Isis targets and, in the process, killing hapless civilians, western forces could more profitably strengthen the Turkish borders with Syria, since Turkey has become by far the most important strategic base of Isis jihadis.

We cannot afford to allow our grief and outrage to segue into self-righteousness. This is not just the “Middle East problem”; it is our problem, too. Our colonial arrangements, the inherent instability of the states we created and our support of authoritarian leaders have all contributed to the terrifying disintegration of social order in the region today. Many of the western leaders (including our own Prime Minister) who marched for liberté in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre were heads of countries that, for decades, have backed regimes in Muslim-majority countries that denied their subjects any freedom of expression – often with disastrous results.

One of these regimes is Saudi Arabia. Despite its dismal human rights record, the kingdom has been central to western foreign policy in the Middle East since the 1970s and western governments have therefore tacitly condoned its “Wahhabisation” of the Muslim world. Wahhabism originated in the Arabian peninsula during the 18th century as an attempt to return to the pristine Islam of the Prophet Muhammad. Hence, Wahhabis came to denounce all later developments – such as Sufism and Shia Islam – as heretical innovations.

In 2013, the European Union declared that Wahhabism was the main source of global terrorism. It is probably more accurate, however, to say that the narrowness of the Wahhabi vision is a fertile soil in which extremism can flourish. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Wahhabi chieftains did indeed conduct violent military expeditions against the Shia but, during the 1930s, the Saudi kingdom abandoned military jihad and Wahhabism became a religiously conservative movement. Today, some members of the Saudi ruling class support Isis but the Grand Mufti has condemned it in the strongest terms. Like Osama Bin Laden, Isis leaders aim to overthrow the Saudi regime and see their movement as a rebellion against modern Wahhabism.

New Research Funded at Tilburg University Will Study Spread of Salafism and Jihadism

logoSix fresh PhD’s will study the use of social media by Salafis. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the worldwide Muslim population is an adherent to Salafism, a fundamentalist current in Islam. And since the rise of jihadism both are viewed with suspicion. Under the lead of the Dutch scholar and Professor Herman Beck six PhD students will do research at the Tilburg School of Humanities on the spread of Salafism in Germany, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, and Spain.

Hooligans against Salafism

Throughout October, hooligans from different football clubs marched in German cities against radical Islam and Salafism. Building a coalition and network under the heading “HoGeSa”, Hooligans Against Salafists (Hooligans gegen Salafisten), they demonstrated by the end of October in Cologne. Police and intelligence services were not only surprised by the number of attendees, which was tripled by the estimated 1500, but unable to cope with the violence involved. The demonstrations planned in Hamburg and Berlin for mid-November both were canceled. In case of Hamburg the organizers themselves withdraw the demonstration while in the case of Berlin the network never registered the demonstration properly. Now “HoGeSa” is planning another demonstration for the 15th November which is going to take place in Hannover.

 

Book Review: SALAFISME (SALAFISM)

Cover book SalafismSALAFISM
Utopian Ideals in an Unruly Reality

By Martijn de Koning, Joas Wagemakers en Carmen Becker

Three Dutch expert academics on Islam published a book on Salafism in the Netherlands, named “Salafism: Utopische Idealen in een Weerbarstige Praktijk” (English: Salafism: Utopian Ideals in an Unruly Reality). Salafism has been a highly debated current in Dutch Islam since 2002 when two Dutch youngsters from Eindhoven died in Kashmir. As fervent participants on Salafi internet fora and visitors to a main Salafi mosque the incident spurred discussion in the wider public on the assumed radicalization of Dutch Salafi Muslims. In the decennium that followed Salafi Islam remained a much discussed phenomenon in Dutch media reaching a height with the death of Islam critic Theo van Gogh by a presumed participant of the Dutch Salafi circuit.

The book (the first of its kind in Dutch) is written by three specialists on the theme working from the perspectives of anthropology, Islamic Studies, and political science respectively. Making use of this interdisciplinary approach the book tries to give insight into a much obscured subject, delving into the issue of definitions and trying to enhance a more clearer perspective on what exactly Salafism is based on robust empirical research. The book gives an in-depth description and analysis of the historical and theological roots of Salafism in the Middle East and its various branches and interpretations (such as Quietist, Political Islamists and Jihadi trends). It discusses the intersection of Salafi ideologies into current international debates on for example gender and secularism.

The book then goes on to describe the rise and spread of Salafi Islam in the Netherlands and its main beliefs and doctrines. It extrapolates on the practices of Salafi Muslims and how these manifest on for example the internet. In addition the book pays attention to the experiences and perspectives of Salafi Muslims themselves and how Salafi Muslims involve themselves in the issues of the practice of interpretation and religious authority. It tries to answer the question if the use of the internet enhances or reduces the possibility of radicalization. Similar questions were ventured into in an earlier anthropological research by scholar Martijn de Koning in his Dutch book “Zoeken Naar een Zuivere Islam: Geloofsbeleving, Identiteitsvorming en Radicalisering van Marokkaanse Moslims” (2008). (English: In Search of a ‘Pure’ Islam: Religious Experience, Identity Formation and Radicalization of Moroccan Muslims).

Additional information, interviews (in written and audiovisual formats) and reactions by other specialists can be found in the internet links below as well as an extract of the first chapter of the book.