New Dutch think-tank initiated to analyze integration in the Netherlands

In the coming years a new Dutch think-tank called Knowledge Platform Integration & Society (Kennisplatform Integratie & Samenleving) will develop a new program pertaining to integration issues in the Netherlands. It will stimulate and facilitate current debates and present concrete solutions for inquiries by governments, business world, and societal organizations. The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment will finance the program that will be executed by the Verwey-Jonker Institute and Movisie. In the past similar projects were executed by Forum, a knowledge institute for multicultural issues, that ceased to exist last year.

Perspectives on Being Muslim in Dutch Society [Video]

The Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur (News Hour) has dedicated a special program to Muslim perspectives on integration and Islam in the

Unidentified muslims visit Keukenhof, South Netherlands.
Muslim women visit Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, Netherlands.

Netherlands. Middle East reporter Jan Eikelboom and editor Milena Holdert for several months interviewed Dutch Muslims on issues related to Islam currently debated on in Dutch society.

In Dutch media coverage about Islam the Muslim perspective is seldom portrayed. In an attempt to discover how Muslims themselves think about current issues such as integration and Islamophobia in the Netherlands the program interviewed a wide array of Muslims with different ethnic backgrounds and also Dutch converts to Islam.

The program in addition shows a debate on integration between parliamentary member Malik Azmani of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Nourdin el Ouali, the political leader of the young and upcoming local Islamic Party NIDA.

[Click here to view film.]

Sharia and English Law: A Secularist Success (The Economist)

The Law Society (a prestigious professional body for solicitors) reversed a guidance note to its members designed to help them formulate an Islamic will. The note recalled, for example, that in many circumstances a male relative can expect to receive twice as much as a female, and that non-Muslims cannot inherit at all.

Cam Clash, revealing daily Islamophobia

May 27, 2014

Cam clash is a television series that airs Monday nights on France 4. It uses hidden cameras and actors to portray everyday occurrences, such as instances of discrimination, and then evaluates the public’s reaction.

In its most recent episode, Cam clash presents a scene of a young woman entering the Paris metro. She confronts a veiled Muslim woman and remarks, “we are no longer at home.” Three bystanders come to the Muslim woman’s defense, while a fourth supports the woman’s racist remarks.

The video has sparked considerable controversy because it “raises serious moral questions. The lack of distinction between true and false concerning this type of video, which can very quickly spread on the web, may be prejudicial towards real situations by casting doubt on them, and can lead to the viewer’s misconception and reinforce their fears or prejudices.”

Others believe that this type of video is necessary in order to bring these situations to the public’s attention because they raise awareness of the dangers of such widespread societal attitudes.

Running the Boston Marathon in a hijab

April 19, 2014

 

Like many participants in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Leanne Scorzoni will be running to honor the victims of last year’s bombing. But Scorzoni will also be running in a hijab: she converted to Islam after the attack, and wants her participation to emphasize that Boston’s Muslim community was also hurt by the bombings.

Scorzoni has never run the race before, but the thirty-two-year-old Boston native has watched from the sidelines for decades. Scorzoni was raised in nearby Danvers, and every year her family would arrive at a spot near the corner of Clarendon and Boylston Streets at about 8:30 A.M., sometimes bringing pots and pans to help cheer on marathoners.

Last year, Scorzoni staked out the same spot near the finish line and waited to be joined by a friend of hers named Sam. Unfamiliar with Marathon Monday tradition, he arrived late and, at about 2:30 P.M., he asked where the nearest bathroom was. Scorzoni was reluctant to give up her view of the race, but eventually agreed to guide her friend through the crowds. When the bombs exploded at 2:50, the two were browsing at a nearby Banana Republic on Newbury Street, approximately four blocks away from the finish line. The store’s loud music muffled the blasts, but when Scorzoni turned on her cell phone, she found dozens of texts from friends and family, asking where she was and if she was O.K.—she had been standing less than two blocks away from the initial explosion. Scorzoni doesn’t believe a divine power carried her away from the attack that killed three people and injured more than two hundred and sixty: “It was because my friend had to pee,” she said.

The next day, Scorzoni says, local F.B.I. agents visited her at her job at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they asked about a photo she had uploaded to Facebook of Sam, who is Muslim and from the Middle East. Shaken by the bombing and the encounter with the F.B.I., Scorzoni regularly checked in on her Muslim friends in the days after the bombing. As the media began to sort out the background of the Tsarnaev brothers, local reports also began to surface of sporadic verbal and physical attacks on Muslims, and of hate mail being sent to mosques, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, which the Los AngelesTimes originally reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended, confusing it with the Islamic Society of Boston, located in Cambridge. Scorzoni read about the letters on the center’s Facebook page, but she also saw the many comments of support that came from across the country.

Five weeks after the bombing, she called Suhaib Webb, the imam of the I.S.B.C.C., and told him that she was ready to convert. She walked to the mosque in jeans, a shirt, and flip-flops; after the ceremony, she and Sam celebrated just as casually, eating watermelon and chicken fingers on the mosque’s steps.

The I.S.B.C.C. has been a visible force in the local Muslim community’s efforts to support victims of the bombing. Last Friday, the I.S.B.C.C. organized a khutbah, or sermon, in remembrance of victims, and, on Tuesday, Webb spoke at a night of “Remembrance and Hope” at the Old South Church. Scorzoni was also in attendance and, at one point during the evening, runners were asked to stand. “Everyone started clapping, and all the runners just started crying, and soon everyone was crying,” she said. “Everyone in the church prayed for all of us, not even just the runners—prayed for the city.”

The New Yorker.com: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2014/04/running-the-boston-marathon-in-a-hijab.html

Jewish scholar lectures on ‘How Islam Saved the Jews,’ at UAB

April 22, 2014

 

David J. Wasserstein, a professor of Jewish History at Vanderbilt University, will lecture on “How Islam Saved the Jews” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

The free, public lecture will take place at UAB’s Volker Hall, Lecture Room A, 1670 University Blvd. The event is co-sponsored by the UAB Department of History and the Birmingham Islamic Society.

“It’s a chance for Jews and Muslims who are now often at odds politically to reflect on our glorious historical past and for a moment forget about our political differences, and work on future peace,” said Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.

Wasserstein will discuss how the spread of Islam after Muslims conquered Mecca in 630 A.D. led to a thriving Muslim culture that also allowed a thriving Jewish subculture, until about 1300 A.D.

“Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond,” Wasserstein wrote in The Jewish Chronicle. “Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.”

If not for the Muslim conquests, Jewish culture might have died out, Wasserstein believes.

Alabama.com: http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2014/04/jewish_scholar_lectures_on_how.html

Westminster University students ‘furious’ after controversial Islamic preacher booked for charity dinner talk

November 14, 2013

 

National Charity Week began in controversy after Westminster Islamic Society (ISOC) asked an anti-gay and anti-Semitic Muslim scholar to give a speech to over 300 students. ISOC had originally arranged for the moderate Wasim Kempson to come in as a guest speaker, but students were left confused after the controversial figure Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad replaced Kempson less than 24 hours before the dinner.

Al-Haddad’s views on many subjects are outspoken to say the least. In a recent article published online with his name underneath it, entitled “Standing up against homosexuality and LGBTs”, the words “the scourge of homosexuality” are used, which is referred to as a “criminal act”.

During his speech the Sheikh revealed that he had been “invited to Westminster many times” before going on to talk about how “privileged” he had felt by his welcome.

While many students were left up in arms about the last-minute swap, the student union claims that ISOC “passed all requirements” and that “all relevant processes were followed” in Al-Haddad’s invitation.

A statement was later released which read: “UWSU as an organisation does not endorse or support any views expressed by external speakers, neither does it seek to prevent freedom of speech.”

The Islamic Society at the University of Westminster could not be reached for comment.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/westminster-university-students-furious-after-controversial-islamic-preacher-booked-for-charity-dinner-talk-8939980.html

Universities cancel Muslim cleric’s speaking tour over concerns about his anti-gay views

November 7, 2013

 

A Muslim cleric who preaches that gay people are worse than animals is at the centre of a fierce “free speech” row after being invited to speak at universities across the country. Mufti Ismail Menk was due to visit six universities – Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow – next week. But the speaking tour was cancelled after student unions and university officials expressed concern about his views. The Zimbabwean cleric, who studied in Saudi Arabia, has described same-sex acts as “filthy,” “wrong” and synonymous with “acts of immorality”. He has been recorded as saying: “With all due respect to the animals, [gay people] are worse than those animals.”

Mr Menk was believed to have been invited by the universities’ Muslim students’ associations, many of whom were still advertising the event on their Facebook pages this afternoon. Glasgow University Muslim Association described the event as a “wonderful opportunity” on social media.

Cardiff University Islamic Society changed its Facebook photo to a picture of Mr Menk. University of Leicester’s Islamic Society described him as “entertaining, yet very pious” on its social media page. Leeds University Union Islamic Society withdrew its invitation two days ago after realising his views.

The National Union of Students said Mr Menk’s “reported comments are very concerning”. Ruth Hunt of Stonewall said: “Universities should always remain mindful that they have a duty to protect all of their students and to ensure balance in university discourse.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/universities-cancel-muslim-clerics-speaking-tour-over-concerns-about-his-antigay-views-8927902.html

Police, FBI investigate vandalism at Delaware mosque in Newark

October 27, 2013

Police are trying to determine who vandalized a mosque and school in Newark.

Investigators believe it happened early Friday morning at the Islamic Society of Delaware’s community center in Newark. Vandals tore down a fence and used rocks to damage a digital sign. Pieces of the fence were used to make a cross on the property.

Delaware State Police and the FBI are investigating the case.

On Monday, the group CAIR-Philadelphia will hold a news conference to respond to the vandalism.

The Islamic Society of Delaware has about 2,000 members. Officials say this is the first time the facility has been vandalized in 25 years.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/police-fbi-investigate-vandalism-at-delaware-mosque-in-newark/2013/10/27/cfb894a4-3f5b-11e3-b028-de922d7a3f47_story.html

Milwaukee Syrians divided on U.S. intervention over chemical weapons

Members of Milwaukee’s Syrian community will be watching intently as the U.S. Congress debates this week whether to take military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons on his own people last month.

It is a debate of grave consequence, a life and death decision for this community, many of whose members still have family and friends living in that war-torn country.

“The situation is terrible; they hear the bombs falling around them,” said a Brookfield woman whose parents and siblings live near the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs.

“They go to work,” she said, “under fear of death.”

Syrian Muslims generally support a limited strike that would weaken Assad’s power, saying that ignoring the August attack would invite Assad and every other despot to use chemical weapons on their own people.

Syrian Christians appear staunchly opposed, insisting that an attack will only inflame hostilities in the region and drag the United States into a long-term conflict.

That same divide is evident in Milwaukee’s Syrian communities, whose members laid out their concerns after religious services last week — Muslims at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee on Friday and Christians at St. George Melkite Catholic Church on Sunday. Most asked not to be identified, fearing reprisals against loved ones in Syria.