Tariq Ramadan, professor at Oxford and the University of Rotterdam, participated in a conversation on state regulation of mosques in Switzerland. He acknowledged the growing fears of Swiss society of Muslims in their midst, yet urged thoughtful policy. In an effort to clarify the situation and appease tensions, Ramadan cites the work of sociologist Jocelyn Cesari. The building of mosques in Europe and in the United States, she asserts, have nothing to do with an interest in cultural dominance or the refusal to integrate Muslims into the broader society. Rather, it is the wish of Muslims, once installed in a city to construct places of worship that help them navigate their integration into broader society-all the while remaining devout. Ramadan clarifies that minarets are optional parts of mosque architecture, and that Muslim architecture is generally responsive to the new design concepts of changing locations. The only action that could jeopardize this acculturation is state control of Muslim architecture, mosque management and sermons. Islam, however, is increasingly subject in the West to suspicion, supervision, and security. Instead, Muslims must be engaged for creative solutions and be granted independence from populist politicians who garner political support through playing the fears of non-Muslims and xenophobes.
Michael Settle A PACKAGE of measures to steer young Muslims away from extremism and to get them to integrate better into mainstream British society was put forward by community leaders yesterday in response to the July 7 London bombings. Seven working groups set up by Charles Clarke, the home secretary, in the wake of the terrorist attacks recommended: A national advisory council of imams and mosques to teach English to imams, encourage more UK-born Muslims to become Islamic clerics so as to reduce the reliance on foreign-based ones and to advise mosques on how to prevent them being used by extremists; A national forum against extremism and Islamaphobia to provide a regular discussion point for Muslims to talk about issues as they affect their local communities, with access to government to “share outcomes and understandings”; and A nationwide road show of influential, populist religious scholars to explain the true meaning of Islam and condemn extremism. The home secretary praised the “constructive” work of the groups and said he broadly supported their proposals, announcing the government would spent _5m over the next 18 months to pursue them. “The initial take we have on the recommendations is overwhelmingly positive,” stressed Mr Clarke. Lord Ahmed, convener of the mosques and imams group, said of the proposed national advisory council: “For the first time we’ve had a debate in the Muslim community and in the mosques with the imams. They know we can’t continue to deliver sermons in Arabic and you can’t exclude youths and women from mosque committees.” The Labour peer added: “We can’t have illiterate people on mosque committees or people with criminal records on mosque committees, or anywhere near the mosques.” Lord Ahmed said that of the estimated 2000 imams in Britain, about 1700 were educated and trained abroad. Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, described the ideas as “sensible . . . and well-intended”. But he added: “While helping create better community relations and understanding between Muslims and the wider community, one feature of these proposals is that public money should be spent on schemes promoting Islam. “We are concerned that this could cause resentment in other faith groups and be wholly counter-productive if it is distinct from other multi-faith initiatives.”
AMSTERDAM – The Dutch government has committed itself to a plan of action against the 10 to 25 mosques in the Netherlands where “extremist sermons” are delivered, Interior Minister Johan Remkes has said. Remkes told Parliament that if the criminal law can’t be used against these mosques, the government will consider withdrawing subsidies and residence permits for the Muslim clerics preaching at the mosques. He made his remarks during a parliamentary debate about terrorism on Wednesday.
The Spanish government is considering censoring the sermons of Muslim imams in an attempt to control the spread of radical Islamic ideas – a move that has been criticised as a lurch towards authoritarianism. The interior minister, Jos_ Antonio Alonso, suggested the plan, which could also see a requirement that all preachers in mosques be registered. Mr Alonso told El Pa_s newspaper at the weekend: “We really need to improve the laws to control Islamic radicals. We need to get to a legal situation in which we can control the imams in small mosques. That is where the Islamic fundamentalism which lead to certain actions is disseminated.”