The Associated Press releases a profile this week of Yassmine el Ksaihi, leader of Amsterdam’s Polder Mosque. At age 24 she is the administrator of the large mosque. AP reports that in appointing a woman to this position, conducting sermons in Dutch, welcoming non-Muslims, and bringing men and women together for prayer (thought they remain segregated), the Polder Mosque is an example of a search for “if not a European style of Islam, at least grounds for coexistence with European norms”.
Islam Channel, a London-based satellite broadcaster, has been accused with providing a platform for Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist cleric with ties to al-Qaida, Major Hasan of the Fort Hood shooting, and Abdulmutallab, who recently tried to blow up a plane on a flight to Detroit. Islam Channel is said to have advertised a box set of DVDs of Awlaki’s sermons and events at which he was supposed to speak. Furthermore, the channel’s website facilitates download of other Awlaki sermons, such as “Stop Police Terror”, “Brutality Towards Muslims” and “It’s a War against Islam”.
Islam Channel is the largest Islamic program airing in the UK, claiming to be “the voice of authority for Muslims in the UK”. The channel denies having given a platform to Awlaki and removed the links on the website. Many Muslim scholars have expressed concern, such as Dr. Irfan al-Alawi of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism, who fears that young people might get radicalized or Maajid Nawaz, a former presenter on the Islam Channel who is now director of the counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam and who attributes the channel to have a large influence, and with that, responsibility.
Mohammed el Idrissi, an Imam of Moroccan-origin accused of preaching Islamic radicalism, has been expulsed to Morocco. The French Minister of the Interior learned that el Idrissi, 72, had given violent and radical sermons in Arabic from November 2007 to January 2009. He had been Imam in the Pont-du-Las neighborhood in Toulon for seven years.
Abu Qatada, an extremist cleric held in a high-security jail in Worcestershire, has smuggled messages out of prison to his followers. Besides praising the Mujahidin and the “martyrs of Hamas”, he also claims his treatment is helping to radicalise a new generation of young British Muslims:
“A new generation of the Muslim youth has been raised, and especially amongst our brothers who originate from the Indian subcontinent, who were no longer mesmerized by the English authority, nor regarding the English values — rather they hate it and they know its enmity towards them, so they have become enemies towards it as well.”
He furthermore writes about meeting Bilal Abdullah, a doctor jailed for the car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow in 2007, who says he was heavily influenced by Abu Qatada’s taped sermons. Abu Qatada was detained under emergency anti-terror laws in October 2002 and is currently being held pending deportation to Jordan, where he has been convicted in his absence for involvement in terrorist attacks.
Islamic extremists in Britain are openly trying to recruit children via the internet, a report warns. They are using websites which carry messages of hate from terror suspects, according to the respected Civitas think-tank. The study, by its Centre for Social Cohesion, reveals how fanatics are using the Web to bypass the anti-terror laws passed in the wake of the 2005 London bombings. Extremists are no longer delivering hate-filled sermons and distributing propaganda on street corners, but instead use pro-jihadist websites. Some of these carry calls for the flag of Islam to ‘fly over Downing Street’, and urge militants to attack Jews and Christians. Most worrying are sections of the sites dedicated to the radicalisation of children. One message from controversial preacher Omar Bakri – now exiled to Lebanon – says children should be brought up to spread Islam through jihad. Mothers are also using the websites to rail against British education. One writes: ‘As part of GCSE, they must study Shakespeare, whose books are full of homosexuality, fornication and adultery, each of which are great sins in Islam.’ The websites also routinely carry rants by fanatics such as Abu Hamza, Abdullah el-Faisal, Abu Izzadeen and Abu Qatada. James Slack reports.
While Muslims in the Netherlands are often regarded as ‘strange’ and ‘different,’ a recent study shows that imams often use their sermons to discuss values and issues which the mainstream Dutch population also believes is important. Fred Leemhuis, professor of Arabic at Groningen University, is using the research on Dutch imams for his PhD dissertation, which includes analyzation of six randomly chosen imams from different ethnic backgrounds, in addition to extensive interviewing of the imams. In a parallel study Pieter van Oudenhoven, a social psychologist, looked at important and overlapping virtues among Protestants, Catholics, and non-religious Dutch persons. In his study of imams, their virtues hardly differed from other Dutch people. Additional information and details about the research conducted by Mr. Leemhuis and van Oudenhoven can be found at the article below.
The conservative government in Greece announced Thursday its decision to give a salary to 240 imams who serve the Muslim minority in Thrace, in the north-east of Greece, in a gesture of goodwill towards this population, which will also serve to better regulate the sermons. At present, only Orthodox priests are salaried by the Greek state. A commission made up of three government representatives, two university scholars of Islam, and two muftis from Thrace, also nominated by the state, will choose the imams to be salaried. “In principle, the reform is positive, but it’s important that there is not too much interventionism”, said the Muslim deputy Ilhan Ahmet, member of the conservative majority party.
In the northern city of Vitoria, Spanish police arrested three people suspected of trying to promote radical Islam on Thursday. According to police, the three distributed CD’s and MP3 files calling for a jihad or holy war among the city’s Muslim population. The group had allegedly been distributing the recordings before their computers, hard drives, MP3 players and CD’s were seized. Police began investigating the Vitoria group in December, and moved to arrest the three following an order from Spain’s High Court.
An imam in Turin was expelled from Italy to his native Morocco, after his sermons were secretly filmed and deemed a threat to public security. Mohamed Kohaila has been living in Italy for several years according to the Interior Ministry, and that checks from local and national anti-terrorism authorities showed that Kohaila was inciting violently anti-Western behavior and maintained a close relationship to militant jihadists. Kohaila denies the allegations.
Foreign imams who do not learn English should be banned from giving sermons in UK mosques, a Labour peer has said. Lord Ahmed’s comments come as a survey suggests imams lack professional and language skills to tackle the threat of radicalism among young British Muslims. Only 8% of imams preaching in British mosques were born in the UK, it found. Research at 300 mosques by Chester University for BBC News and the BBC Asian Network also indicated only 6% speak English as a first language. The report acknowledges the use of English is becoming more prevalent at Friday sermons but says more investigation is required to assess the frequency and quality.