Torino, Spiritual Festival. Three public reading from the Koran including passages from Fatima, Khalid, Asnan, Sara

We are standing and, after a few moments we hear a clear voice, who begins the serenade, in Arabic, of selected verses of the Koran: Khalid, Fatima, Sara, Asnan, but you are not among faithful in a mosque but at a public event in a 16th century palazzo in Torino.


These are the young Italian Muslims, during the spiritual festival, comprised of three public readings of the Koran, one every day during the festival. After the reading, which is also translated in Italian, there will be time for questions from the public.


Florence: Jews, Christians and Muslims Rooted in Solidarity

On Wednesday, October 2 at 6PM in the Hall of Luca Giordano di Palazzo Medici Riccardi there will be a symposium with Sara Cividalli , Mohamed Bamoshmoosh, Piero Giunti, Tonio Dell’Olio and Mercedes Frias.


On Wednesday, October 2 in Florence , at 6PM, in the Hall of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi (Via Cavour 1 ) there will be held a dialogue between Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives; representatives will discuss the theme “Roots of solidarity between local participation and global citizenship.” Also participating is the President of the Provincial Council Piero Giunti, and at 6:30 pm the program will begin with discussion between Mohamed Bamoshmoosh (Islamic Community), Sara Cividalli  (President of the Jewish Community); and Tonio Dell’Olio.

“This meeting” said the coordinator Marco Bontempi “is the third in a series that discusses Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives, seminars all focus on religious and secular roots of solidarity.”


The first meeting was held on 29 May, hosted by the Jewish Community, and the speakers were Professor Ugo De Siervo (former President of the Constitutional Court), who spoke on the theme “The constitutional roots of solidarity,” and Rav Joseph Levi (chief Rabbi of Florence) on “the Jewish roots of solidarity.”


The second meeting was held on the 17 June where Prof. Sergio Givone (University of Florence) spoke on “The cultural roots of solidarity” and Dr. Mohamed Bamoshmoosh (Islamic Community of Florence) also spoke on the same topic.

The Fall of Morsi divides Italian Muslim Youth

July 4, 2013

At 11:20 last night the news: Morsi is deposed. A heavy silence descended on Facebook and on phones that until shortly before were ringing. There are no more texts where friends were discussing Morsi, those in favor and those against. Then, little by little, everything seemed to perk up: a friend, Sara Sayed calls me: “Have you seen? The military did it,” while others say “Morsi paid for his errors, and the Egyptian people have done it.” The fall of the Egyptian president, one year after his election, divided the Muslim youth: There are those who weep and rejoice, those who do not know what to say and believe that Morsi was wrong but that a military government is absolutely unacceptable: a babel of opinions, thoughts and considerations which is part of the discussions of young Muslims in Italy.

“Morsi has done nothing for Egypt” says Sami Samarli “he made senseless speeches, instead Morsi had to propose solutions for the country.”

Sara Andil replied “The Egyptian economy was recovering and then after thirty years of dictatorship, Egypt was destroyed economically, as if they could think to fix everything in one year? Morsi needed more time.”

The clash between the different positions, however, is not limited to only the economy but it is also general: between those who support the Muslim Brotherhood and those who do not. Omar Afifi on this is clear “Morsi divided the country.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood has not been able to govern”

Khaled Al Sadat echoed this when he said “one must intervene if a task is not completed” and hopes that “God gives the best to Egypt.”


Karim El Sayed does not agree: “Morsi is still the president of all Egyptians, democratically elected therefore a military coup is unacceptable.”

“It’s true” he says “Mosaab Hamada Morsi has made big mistakes.” Omar Kudsi plays down everything with a bitter joke: “Just to remind you: Egypt – 2 Syria – 0”

Jihad Against Violence: An Initiative by British Muslim Women


Topics that dominate the representation of Muslims in the British media today are “women” and “extremism”. As Qantara reports, though, Sara Khan, Director of Inspire, and award-winning British Muslim consultancy, claims that “Muslim women feel that these topics are inadequately addressed by Muslims themselves”. Therefore, two British organizations have decided to take action against the ways in which extremists are causing conflict by claiming to speak and act in the name of God.


Sara Khan argues that the word “Jihad” urgently needs to be reclaimed from extremists, as it is “a core principle in Islamic teaching that encourages Muslims to strive and struggle for a just cause”. In partnership with the Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council, Inspire launched the Jihad Against Violence campaign this summer to empower Muslim women “to reclaim the mantle of cultural, intellectual and moral legitimacy as equal citizens and contributors of society”; this can support them in creating cohesive societies and fighting extremism.


According to Qantara, Jihad Against Violence also encourages “women and men to stand up to all forms of violence, to educate and raise awareness, and to challenge those who perversely use Islam to incite or carry out aggression”. As demonstrated at a conference in London in June 2011, Inspire is generally interested in challenging dominant conservative views on gender and strives to provide a more contextualized understanding of women. They will soon be launching other projects as part of Jihad Against Violence, including the provision of detailed resources online, trainings in mosques and awareness-raising campaigns. 

The Problems begin outside of the University

This article introduces us to Sara and Fzilat: two sisters born and raised in Zurich, who live according to the Qur’an, wear a headscarf and attend the University of Zurich. Pakistan, the land of their parents, they barely know – their homeland is Switzerland.

Neither one of the girls is afraid to speak about their religion, or the wearing of a headscarf, while surrounded by other students. Fzilat explains that she began wearing hers at the age of 14, and that her mother had no influence on the decision: “Back then in secondary school I just thought, it’s about time for it.” Though she has covered her entire face on certain occasions, in Zurich, at the university or on the ski slopes she would not, as it simply does not fit. According to her, that is also in accordance with the Qur’an.

Sara, seven years the elder, runs off quickly to the bathroom to switch from an azure headscarf to a turquoise one for the photo shoot. “She has scarves in every color,” says Fzilat jokingly. Sara is what is generally called a “working student”: while majoring in English and minoring in pedagogy and Russian, she worked as an English teacher for large companies and accompanied clients during language trips. Though she stills lives at home, she covers all her other costs.

How is it, studying with a headscarf? “No problem,” they answer in choir. A few looks every now and then, but nothing compared to “outside,” says Fzilat. Sara tells a story of how once while visiting an elementary school as an English teacher, a teacher told Sara to sit next to her and said: “This is what a Muslim looks like.” In the teachers’ room people would switch their accent and ask her “what are you looking for?” She laughs while telling these stories – moments to encourage some indirect awareness training, she says, while assuring that she breaks the ice quickly each time.

Her sister Fzilat would have liked to become an elementary school teacher. Following high school she was accepted into a faculty of pedagogy and began along with two other headscarf-wearing women. “That’s when the knife was put to my throat, so to speak.” While she was finishing a compulsory internship, the father of one of her students threatened to get the press and politics involved, because he did not want a Muslim teaching his son. The school administration forced Fzilat to remove her headscarf while teaching, but it made her feel uncomfortable. After hours of discussion with those involved, she ultimately decided to leave pedagogy altogether after three months. Since that time only one of the three Muslims women has continued in pedagogy. At the faculty the rules are clear: studying with a headscarf is allowed. The transfer to the classroom, however, is full of hurdles.

Oppression of women, forced marriage, holy war – for Sara, none of this fits with her understanding of Islam. “Islam also means freedom,” says Fzilat. The prophet Mohammed said that women should cover their beauty; however, he did want for women to be able to work. “That’s why the eyes, hands, and feet need to stay uncovered,” she says. The sisters pray numerous times daily, go to the mosque on Fridays and attend the monthly meetings of the community. They also find it self-evident that their parents will be involved in the choice of their future husband (most likely a Muslim from the community). “My parents know me the best,” says Fzilat.

And what do the sisters do to try and remedy all these misunderstandings about Islam? Sara’s method is through personal encounters. She is involved in interreligious dialogue across Switzerland. “My dream is to give public talks on Islam throughout all of Switzerland,” she says.

Muslim moral police roam Oslo streets (Norwegian)

In a series of articles, Aftenposten (an independent conservative publication) has debated moral and social control exercised by Muslim men in the neighborhood of Grønland in Norway’s capitol, Oslo.

Described as Oslo’s multicultural and “hip” neighborhood, but also where you find most “minarets and khatbuls”, Grønland is said to have developed into a “Muslim neighborhood”. Muslim women in western clothes are reported to be harassed by Muslim men on the street and told to cover up. Last autumn two gay men walking through Grønland holding hands were attacked, and non-Muslim women say they hesitate to visit the cafe’s and restaurants in Grønland.

Imam and chairman of Norway’s Islamic Council (Islamisk Råd), Senaid Koblicia, acknowledges the problem and encourages mosque representatives to acknowledge and work on the problem. “Social control is to be left to the police, and God alone knows who’s a good Muslim or not”, he says.

Najaham Farhan, spokesperson for Islamic Cultural Center in Grønland, responds to Imam Koblicia’s request and says that it’s a question of common manners and that people may become more attentive to the problem if it is to be addressed in the mosques.

Columnist Sara Azmeh Rasmussen, finally, calls for a more nuanced debate and accuses Norwegian media of focusing on Muslim stereotypes and conservative Muslims. Grønland’s Muslim population is just as diverse as any, she says, but the media focuses on women in burqas more than they do on secular Muslim women in western clothes.

Mohammad and Sara Most Popular Baby Names in Three Dutch Cities

Mohammed remains the most popular name for boys in three Dutch cities, according to the government authority responsible for tracking the names of newborns. Mohammad is the most popular boy’s name in Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, and in Rotterdam ranks as the second most popular, after Jayden. Sara – also popular among Muslims – tops the list for girls, followed by Emma and Sophie. However, at a national level, Daan remains the most popular baby boy name, whilst Mohammed does not even reach the top 20. Among girls, Emma ranks first in the national top-20, with Sara ranking at the 14th place.

Post-Immigration Minorities, Religion and National Identities

Registration is now available for the Bristol-UCL Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship conference on Post-Immigration Minorities, Religion and National Identities, 14-15 November, 2008 in Bristol. A limited number of places are available for non-paper givers and those not connected to the Programme.

The Leverhulme Programme team will address topics based on the following themes: Ethnic Enclaves and Economic Integration, Social Capital, Gender and Differential Educational and Economic Outcomes, National Identity, Citizenship and Religious ’Difference’ and Majoritarian Identities and Resentment of Multiculturalism.

Keynote speakers will address issues in relation to contemporary issues on minority ethnicity, religion, integration and national identity, and include:

  • Professor Zygmunt Bauman (Leeds)
  • Professor Craig Calhoun (New York University and President of the Social Science Research Council)
  • Professor Reina Lewis (London College of Fashion)
  • Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh (Westminster)
  • Professor Roland Robertson (University of Pittsburgh and University of Aberdeen)

Over 50 additional papers will be presented. The conference will begin with registration at 9.30 – 10.30am on Friday, 14th November and the final paper session will conclude at about 6pm on Saturday, 15th November, followed by a dinner at 7.30pm.

Please find a registration form for the conference on our website here.

Contact: Sara Tonge (Leverhulme Conference Administrator)

Further details of the programme and centre.

Behind the veil: the online diary of a British Muslim woman

Na’ima B. Robert is a Muslim author, a wife and mother living in Britain. In the first of her regular articles for Faith Online she discusses the challenge of living the Islamic faith in a secular democracy. As a Muslim woman living in the embrace of a vibrantly secular, liberal democratic society, you are constantly caught between two very different worlds. On the one hand, there is your faith, Islam, a religion and way of life revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over 1400 years ago, a religion that affects the way you think, the way you act, the way you speak, dress and eat. It is the world of worship and sacrifice, of duties and voluntary charity. It is the world of faith. Then, on the other hand, there is the dunya, the “worldly life”, where you live, work, study, shop, entertain and unwind. It is a world of trends and societal pressures, deadlines and promotions, summer sales and summer holidays. It is, in a nutshell, the world that almost everyone else lives in full-time. And, interestingly enough, it is one that many non-Muslims are surprised that religious Muslim women inhabit at all. Despite the number of observant Muslim women active in public life in Britain (Respect party vice-chair Salma Yaqoob, editor and OBE Sara Joseph, activist and journalist Yvonne Ridley, novelist and dramatist Leila Aboulela to name but a few), media representations often fail to be anything more than stereotypes with subtle and not-so-subtle messages that Muslim women are oppressed, powerless, ghettoised, uneducated, devoid of ambition, with an unhealthy addiction to black clothes.