‘Why do I need a note for my religion?’ Students are told to get permission slips to wear hijabs.

Two observant Muslims, Fatmata Mansaray and Hajah Bah, described an embarrassing level of scrutiny, when their hijabs drew sharp questions from administrators of Freedom High School of Northern Virginia.

School officials threatened them with discipline, the students said, demanding that they remove the scarves and pressing them to get permission slips from their parents to prove they were Muslim.

Mansaray said an assistant principal threatened to write her up for being disrespectful when she explained they were wearing hijab for a religious observance.

Ailing Midwestern Cities Extend a Welcoming Hand to Immigrants

DAYTON, Ohio — Fighting back from the ravages of industrial decline, this city adopted a novel plan two years ago to revive its economy and its spirits: become a magnet for immigrants.

The Dayton City Commission voted to make the city “immigrant friendly,” with programs to attract newcomers and encourage those already here, as a way to help stem job losses and a drop in population.

In north Dayton — until recently a post-apocalyptic landscape of vacant, gutted houses — 400 Turkish families have moved in, many coming from other American cities. Now white picket fences, new roofs and freshly painted porches are signs of a brisk urban renewal led by the immigrants, one clapboard house at a time.

The momentum for change in Dayton came from the immigrants. In 2010, Mr. Shakhbandarov told the newly elected mayor, Gary Leitzell, that he was thinking of asking Turkish immigrants across the United States to settle here. Most of the Turks in Dayton are refugees who fled persecution in Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries.

Officials quickly realized that this city of 141,000 already had a small but fast-growing foreign-born population: more than 10,000 Muslims from different countries; refugees from Burundi and Somalia; college students from China, India and Saudi Arabia; Filipinos in health care jobs; and laborers from Latin America, many here illegally.

Turks chose Dayton, Mr. Shakhbandarov said, because the cost of living was low and there were universities nearby for their children. The newcomers have started restaurants and shops, as well as trucking companies to ferry equipment for a nearby Air Force base. And they have used their savings to refurbish houses in north Dayton, where Turkish leaders estimated that they had invested $30 million so far, including real estate, materials purchases and the value of their labor.

Mr. Shakhbandarov stood proudly at the entrance of the Turkish community center that recently opened downtown, gesturing to the lobby’s beige floor tiles, imported from Turkey to make visitors “feel warm” when they arrive. Turks bought the center, empty and dilapidated, from the city with a favorable loan. Now it houses a neighborhood preschool and martial arts classes, joined enthusiastically by girls in head scarves.

 

A Muslim organization, the Islamic Center of Peace, bought a blocklong shopping center, not far from downtown, that was so decayed the city had started to demolish it. The center’s president, Ismail Gula, envisions a bustling international shopping, recreational and religious center that will serve anyone in the city.

“I want my community to prove we are part of the community at large,” said Mr. Gula, a longtime Dayton resident who was born in Libya.

Recent research suggests that Dayton’s experience is not accidental. In a national study published last month, Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University, found that over the last four decades, immigrants helped preserve and in some cases add manufacturing jobs in cities where they settled, sustaining employment for Americans. They also added to local housing values. For every thousand immigrants who moved into a county, 270 Americans moved in after them, Mr. Vigdor found.

Dayton’s immigrant experiment is particularly close to home for one lawmaker who will most likely have a major impact on the debate in Washington: the Republican speaker of the House, John A. Boehner. His district wraps around the city on three sides.

Robbers, disguised as Muslim women, hit banks in Philadelphia

A string of bank robberies, carried out by people disguised in traditional Islamic woman’s garb, has prompted concerns among religious, government and law enforcement officials in the Philadelphia area.

The robberies, at least five since December, were carried out by people wearing full-length robes and veils to hide the hair and part of the face, according to some surveillance tapes broadcast by local stations in Philadelphia. Muslim leaders fear use of the disguises could put Muslim women in danger or make them objects of scrutiny.

“We regard this act as discriminatory,” Imam Isa Abdul Matin told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “It is in actuality a type of hate crime against Muslims.”

The Muslim leaders offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the robbers.

The use of Muslim disguises seems to be contained to the Philadelphia area, according to Muslim groups and law enforcement officials.

In the past, bank security officials in other parts of the country raised concerns about the potential for Muslim head scarves to hide identity, Amina Rubin, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said by telephone from Washington, D.C. They were worried that the scarves might hide faces from security cameras; when shown that the scarves don’t in fact hide faces, they were satisfied, she said.

French Interior Minister tells police not to arrest Muslim women covering up near mosques

Daily Mail: April 4, 2011

Women wearing burkas in France will face fines – but the areas around mosques will be exempt
Police in France have been warned not to arrest any women wearing Muslim veils ‘in or around’ mosques. The strict instructions, from Interior Minister Claude Guent, are contained in a nine page circular issued to officers prior to a full-blown burka ban coming into force next week.
With tensions running high within the country’s six million strong Muslim community, people have already been warned not to perform ‘citizen’s de-veilings’.
This means that members of the public will not be allowed to take the law into their own hands when they see a woman hiding her features in a public place.
Instead they will have to call the police, who will in turn consider whether the offender should be fined 150 euros. This will apply to all garments which cover the eyes, although scarves, hats, and sunglasses are excluded.
As well as a mosque, Muslims will also be able to put on a veil in the privacy of their own homes, a hotel room, or even a car, as long as they are not driving.
The new ban, which came into effect on April 11, will mean France is officially the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to introduce a full ban on a garment which immigration minister Eric Besson has called a ‘walking coffin.’

CAIR: Judge Blocks Oklahoma Anti-Islam Amendment

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today announced that a federal judge in Oklahoma has temporarily blocked an anti-Islam state ballot measure (SQ 755) that would have amended that state’s constitution to forbid judges from considering Islamic principles (Shariah) or international law when making a ruling. U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the United States District Court — Western District of Oklahoma today granted a temporary restraining order blocking certification of the recently-passed ballot measure by the Oklahoma State Board of Elections.

CAIR says the ballot measure would infringe on the constitutional rights of ordinary Oklahomans — including the right to wear religious head scarves in driver’s license photographs, choose Islamic marriage contracts, implement Islamic wills, or to be buried according to one’s religious beliefs.

Judge Miles-LaGrange also scheduled a hearing on November 22 for arguments as to whether she should grant a preliminary injunction that would extend the restraining order until a final determination is made in the case.

Dutch School Regulates Headscarves “Too Close to Eyebrows”

October 28 2010

A secondary school in Utrecht has announced that women wearing headscarves have at least 90% of their face visible. ANP reports that the secondary school in the city of Utrecht introduced the rules in June. Teachers will not speak to those wearing scarves that are not at least two centimeters above their eyebrows.

Discrimination Toward Muslims on the Rise at Work

Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the United States population, however, they accounted for about one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the E.E.O.C. last year. At a time of growing tensions involving Muslims in the United States, a record number of Muslim workers are complaining of employment discrimination and prejudice, from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks. The rising number of complaints by Muslims, which exceeds even the amount filed in the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, comes as tensions rise between Muslim Americans and those of other faiths.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found enough merit in some of the complaints that it has filed several prominent lawsuits on behalf of Muslim workers.

Polls have shown that many Americans feel a growing wariness toward Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and after years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mosques and Islamic community centers in the United States — most prominently one proposed near ground zero in Manhattan — have faced substantial opposition. And a Florida pastor received national attention this month for threatening to burn the Koran on Sept. 11.

Islamophobic attacks largely ignored in UK

According to editor of The Muslim News Ahmed Versi, Islamophobia in Britain is not given the necessary amount of attention. He claims that Islamophobic attacks in Britain will continue to rise until there is a wholesale change in attitudes, including new legislation against religious hatred.

“It will get worse unless something serious is done to curb this,” warned Versi, who has been reporting incidents of attacks and abuse against Muslims for more than 20 years and presented many papers at conferences on the issue. “Lack of legislation is the problem – we have only small number of cases of racism and anti-Semitism because they are protected by laws and are outlawed,” he said.

Recent incidents included arson attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions such as charities. Individuals have also been harassed or violated, students on campus for example, particularly veiled women, who had their head scarves or face veils removed by attackers. Verbal abuse labeled Muslims as “Osama bin Ladin” or “Terrorists” and extended to insults such as “You Paki go home”.

Despite the scale of attacks and abuse, there are very few reports on the issue by national media.

Parliamentary Hearings Begin Examining Niqabs and Burqas in France

The French National Assembly, with the support of President Nicolas Sarkozy, recently formed a special commission on the niqab . Its first hearings will be held next week and continue throughout the month, with recommendations expected before the end of the year. Parliamentary hearings are not generally open to the public, but no decision has been made on whether the inquiry will be closed. Like the debate over the 2004 law that outlawed Muslim head scarves in French public schools, the question of the niqab broadly pits the ideal of a secular state against the equally treasured guarantees of freedom of religion and expression.

Burqa-wearing women have responded in a great deal of media. Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has said that he prefers a “middle-road” Islam, and that “We are not asking French society to accept the burqa.”

Judges: German ban on head-scarves includes nuns’ veils

A law which prohibits Muslim women teachers from wearing head-scarves in a German state’s public schools also forbids Catholic nuns from wearing their veils in regular classrooms, judges said Wednesday. The administrative tribunal of Baden-Wuerttemberg state set out the position in a detailed written judgement, two months after ruling verbally that a woman convert to Islam, aged 58 at the time, could not teach in her scarf. The south-western state has a law that bans “exterior expressions of religious confession.” Germany has been split on the scarf issue, with some states tolerating teachers in scarves and others sacking them if they refuse to teach bare-headed. The judges in the city of Mannheim interpreted the ban on religious dress as applying to all religions, whether to nuns and monks in habits or to male Jewish teachers wearing the kippa.