Evidence of early Muslim burials unearthed in Nimes

February 28, 2016

Three sets of medieval-era remains found France may turn out to be some of the earliest evidence of Muslim presence outside of the Iberian Peninsula, scientists say.

The Early Middle Ages was a period of expansion and conquest for the Arab-Islamic world, culminating in the expansion of Islamic caliphates into what was once known as Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. The impact of several hundred years of Islamic rule in the Iberian region has had an indelible and unmistakable influence on Spanish, Portuguese, and Mediterranean history and culture, but the period has shown little in the way of evidence of an Islamic expansion outside of the region – that is until the discovery of these new graves.

As detailed in a newly published research study, the medieval graves dating to the 8th century CE were found in Nimes, near the Mediterranean coast of France northeast of the city of Montpelier, not far from the Côte d’Azur. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux and the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research examined the graves closely, claiming that evidence of the way the remains were interred seem to be in line with Islamic funerary practices. Additionally, preliminary DNA analysis and forensic examinations of the remains made in order to determine the age and sex of the individuals in life indicate the possibility of Arab-Islamic ancestry.

The evidence is slowly but surely mounting that these graves may be Islamic in origin. The remains were found to be buried with their bodies pointing towards Mecca, a widely-established Muslim funerary practice. Genetic markers also indicate North African ancestry for the exhumed individuals along their paternal genetic line. Finally, the remains themselves have been radiocarbon dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries. Researchers have drawn some initial conclusions from this data, theorizing that the individuals interred within the graves at one time could have been Berber soldiers that had been part of the Umayyad army after the caliphate expanded into North Africa.

The authors of the new research study into the identity of these graves say that the graves may be some of the only evidence discovered to date that indicates Muslim settlement north of the Pyrenees. While there does seem to be a high likelihood that these three individuals may have been North African Muslims that had traveled to the south of France via the caliphate’s occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, how or why they came to be, by themselves, so far into what would have been Frankish territory at the time remains a mystery.

Dutch minister want to revive imam-education in the Netherlands

The Dutch Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker wants to revive the professional education for imams and mental caregivers in the Netherlands. The few educational programs that were present in the Netherlands closed down three years ago. At the behest of Bussemaker the vocational schools Inholland and Windesheim and VU University Amsterdam (VU) have initiated serious conversations about a possible restart of the educational programs.

The goal is once again to create an educational program that forms Islamic clerics in line with Dutch culture, just as the program at Inholland did three years ago. This program was terminated because it was too expensive and was hardly effective. Of the 105 candidate-clerics that started the program only a few graduated. Just one of them found work as an imam.

From the community the demand for a good educational program still exists, Bussemaker says. A ‘Dutch imam new style’ does not always have to be a theologian according to her. “Outside of the mosque people with knowledge of Islamic theology are also necessary. One could think of I minor or a major, of several trajectories. Then one could study pedagogy and follow an imam-trajectory within that program. Or the other way around: Islamic theology and within that program a minor in another field.”

White Supremacists More Dangerous To America Than Foreign Terrorists, Study Says

Nine people were added to a long list of lives taken by domestic terrorism when Dylann Roof allegedly began shooting inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17.
 
At least 48 people have been killed stateside by right-wing extremists in the 14 years since since the September 11 attacks — almost twice as many as were killed by self-identified jihadists in that time, according to a study released Wednesday by the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., research center. The study found that radical anti-government groups or white supremacists were responsible for most of the terror attacks.
 
The data counters many conventional thoughts on what terrorism is and isn’t. Since Sept. 11many Americans attribute terror attacks to Islamic extremists instead of those in the right wing. But the numbers don’t back up this popular conception, said Charles Kurzman, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kurzman is co-authoring a study with David Schanzer of Duke University, set to be published Thursday, that asks police departments to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction.

Are Americans ready for a Muslim president? New poll suggests maybe

A recently released Gallup poll found “tidal shifts” over the past 60 years in Americans’ willingness to support a well-qualified black, female, Catholic or Jewish candidate for president.

But the study also found that 60 percent of Americans would be willing to vote for a president who was a “generally well-qualified person who happened to be Muslim.”

“If the 60 percent is to be used as a proxy of acceptance of Muslims, I am encouraged by an upward trajectory,” wrote Saud Anwar, the mayor of South Windsor, Conn., and that state’s first Muslim mayor.

 

Young Muslims do not try to isolate themselves from society

In contrast to what we often read in the media, young Muslims feel part of society. They listen secular pop music, watch the same television programs as non-Muslims and find study and career of utmost importance. This is concluded by anthropologist Daan Beekers – who says that his research shows that it is possible to be Muslim ánd Dutch.

His research thus differs from the one conducted by Elsbeth Visser, who stated that (strict) religious Muslims try to isolate them from the wider society. According to Beekers the researches do not contradict each other. There is possibly a group that indeed wants to isolate themselves, but this excludes the majority of Muslims.

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Headscarves not an issue for young people

From the perspective of the Young Islam Conference, the timing couldn’t be better. On the very day when 100 members of the organization met for their annual national congress in Berlin, Germany’s constitutional court struck down the existing absolute ban on head coverings in state schools as incompatible with religious freedom. Teachers at state schools are now allowed to wear headscarves during lessons, unless those schools can demonstrate that this poses a specific risk or danger to the harmonious environment.

For Esra Kücük, head of the Young Islam Conference, this is good news. She’s very pleased with the judges’ verdict. “We have a number of trainee teachers among us who wear headscarves and had been concerned about whether they’d even be allowed to work,” she says. These young women can now complete their training in the certainty that they won’t be prevented from working when they have finished. “What we’re seeing is a modern immigration country that is catching up and correcting past mistakes. It’s a retroactive integration process,” says Kücük.

The judges’ decision merely reproduces something no longer questioned in broader society, she explains: greater openness and tolerance towards the Muslim minority.

Young people in Germany are open to Muslims

Her assessment corresponds with a recent study carried out by the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM), which surveyed more than 8,000 people, including more than 1,100 youths and young adults. The study found that young people in Germany are much more open towards the Muslim minority than adults.

“Understanding normality as diverse”: head of the Young Islam Conference (JIK) Esra Kücük spoke out in favour of a more open and varied society in Germany

For instance, 71 per cent of 18-to-25-year-olds think Muslim teachers should be allowed to wear headscarves during lessons. (Among adults 55 per cent are in favour of banning headscarves.) This shows that in actual fact, in recent years the headscarf debate has been going on over the heads of those actually affected by it, says Kücük.

Most school pupils have no problem with their teacher being a religious Muslim, she adds; for them, a Muslim teacher with a headscarf is just as much part of Germany as a non-Muslim teacher with her head uncovered.

Integration in Germany is better than its reputation

This is no surprise, explains Naika Foroutan, a social scientist at Berlin’s Humboldt University and head of the BIM. Today’s 16-to-25-year-olds have grown up with the discourse about Muslims and Islam. They were children when the immigration commission under the former CDU politician Rita Süssmuth presented its study on migrants’ integration in 2001.

The subject has been on the public agenda ever since and much of what still seems unthinkable to adults has long become par for the course for teenagers and young adults, says Foroutan. “You could say that integration in Germany is better than its reputation,” she sums up.

The majority of Germans see Germany as a diverse and mixed immigration country, she explains; however, 30 per cent of the population still expressly reject this idea. In this case more should be done to educate and inform, says Foroutan. She considers this difficult, however, because those opposed to immigration, such as the followers of the xenophobic Pegida movement, distrust the media. The best way to reach them, she says, is to make greater use of other intermediaries, people often referred to as “pillars” of society such as teachers, police officers and those working in public administration.

Migration researcher Naika Foroutan criticised the fact that performance and qualifications are no guarantee of good career opportunities for migrants. Although every fifth person in Germany has a history of migration either themselves or in their family, she explained, this group makes up only 10 per cent of the public sector workforce

Despite these positive findings, knowledge of Muslims and Islam is still not widespread. Some 60 per cent of young people gauge their knowledge as low. Most of them draw what they do know from encounters with migrants. Schools and universities are also important providers of knowledge. Only 28 per cent of young people state that they learn about Muslims and Islam via television. Among adults, this figure is significantly higher, at 46 per cent.

“Whose is the West?”

The Young Islam Conference (JIK) was founded in 2010 by the Mercator Foundation and the Humboldt University. It views itself as a forum for dialogue and a network of young multipliers aged 17 to 25. Members from 13 of Germany’s 16 federal states meet up once a year for a national congress.

In 2013 the JIK called on the German parliament to set up a study commission on diversity and cultural participation. The aim would be to bring together experts to provide models for a diverse immigration society and concepts for equal opportunities in participation. The conference head Esra Kücük says they want to develop this suggestion further this year.

This year’s congress, held at the Foreign Office in Berlin, asks the question “Whose is the West?” – in response to the debate on the xenophobic movements demonstrating in numerous German cities in recent months, under the motto “against the Islamization of the West”. The participants spent three days exchanging ideas and opinions in workshops and panel discussions. The conference invitation outlined the focus of the event as “confronting the theses and positions of those who are trying to divide us.”

Anti-Islam protests in Germany after Charlie Hebdo

The German anti-Islam protest movement European Patriots against the Islamization of Europe (PEGIDA) has mobilized less demonstrators within the last week. The thirteenth event of PEGIDA in Dresden mobilized approximately 17.000 adherents, while earlier events were supported by far more than 25.000 demonstrators. Anti-PEGIDA initiatives such as “Dresden nazifrei” gathered 5.000 supporters.

Some organizers of PEGIDA such as Kathrin Oertel have been invited to German talk shows at Prime time. Oertel blamed left-wing parties to ignore the “reasons for violence”, while avoiding any clear distance towards hooligans and Neonazi groups.

While German media and politicians discuss the causes and effects of PEGIDA on Germany, debating how to deal with the protesters, the Technical University of Dresden presented numbers of a study conducted three weeks ago. 400 demonstrators have been asked to participate and respond to questionnaires. Only 35% agreed to participate in the study. The aim was to identify the “typical” PEGIDA demonstrator. According the study, typical demonstrators are well educated, in the mid 40s and mainly male. These demonstrators are not religious and are not affiliated to any party. They are motivated by dissatisfaction with politics, media and public. Also, protesters share fundamental resentments against immigrants and asylum seekers, emphasizing their concerns about Muslims and Islam. However, the protests are interpreted as public articulation against the political elites.

In an interview, Ender Cetin the representative of the Sehitlik mosque, which is part of the Turkish Islamic Union and Institute for Religion (Ditib) in the district of Neukölln Berlin and the preacher Abdul Adhim Kamouss raised their concerns about public opinion towards Islam. Kamouss has been observed by the security authorities and said to be close to Salafist circles in Berlin. According to both, public need to understand that Islam and terror would share nothing in common. Kamouss and Cetin condemned the attacks against Charlie Hebdo as a brutal act and called their community members to participate at the manifestation for freedom of speech and against violence. Kamouss emphasized the importance of freedom of speech but expressed his regret about the offending character of the cartoons. These images would incite people and an illegal act against minorities. Dialogue would be the key to avoid hatred and terror as mosques and Islamic centers have been targets of assaults throughout the last months.

New Study of Post-Migrant Germany asks: “Do you love Germany?” [PDF DOWNLOAD]

"Naika Foroutan (pictured above) headed the interdisciplinary research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin that conducted the "Post-migrant Germany" study, which exposed ambivalent attitudes towards migration." (Photo: Qantara.de)
“Naika Foroutan (pictured above) headed the interdisciplinary research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin that conducted the “Post-migrant Germany” study, which exposed ambivalent attitudes towards migration.” (Photo: Qantara.de)

“A new study entitled “Post-migrant Germany” set out to investigate attitudes on national identity in Germany. According to the results, these attitudes are ambivalent: people in Germany are open-minded, yet many in mainstream society have major reservations with respect to Muslim immigrants.” Claudia Mende reports for Qantara.de.

[Click for Qantara’s Summary of the Report in English]

[Copy of Report – Only Available German]

Dutch universities host study to ask: Why would you become a jihad activist? [PDF DOWNLOAD]

coverdawaactivism-207x300Why would you become a jihad activist? Three reasons.

A group researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Amsterdam presented their study among radical Muslims and why they’re interested in extremist ideologies. Three conclusions can be drawn.

1. Democracy is hypocrisy: events and the way the USA and other western governments have responded after 9/11 have caused a lot of anger among (radical) Muslims. According to them, Muslim are not allowed to express their opinion, while they themselves and their religion are being insulted regularly in the name of ‘freedom of speech’, by for example Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, Geert Wilders and the Mohammed cartoon in Denmark. They also feel that Muslims have been treated very badly in the name of democracy, referring for instance to the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and drone attacks in Muslim countries.

2. Discrimination of Muslims: Muslims feel discriminated and get annoyed because of the ‘Islam debate’, (judgmental) questions about Islam and the ban on the burqa and the negative coverage of the topic in the media.

3. Together against the rest: they feel safe within their own network, where they won’t feel judged by their opinions and where the kafir outer world won’t distract them from their ‘pure’ interpretation of the Islam. They enunciate however also their message outside this network, for example online.

A copy of the report (in Dutch) is available for download here.

The Story of Semra: arrested and imprisoned as a victim of a jihad recruiter

In March 2013 Semra, 16 at the time, was arrested on the airport, while she was in the company of Imad el O. The two are suspected to be going to Syria, although Semra claims they wanted to go to Egypt to get married there and to study. It was Semra’s niece who told the police this. Imad el O. and her friend Shukri F. appeared allready in court. Imad el O. because he took her from her parental house and Shukri F. because she is said to try to convince Semra to become a jihad-bride.

For 1.5 years Semra stayed in a youth institution, which she herself describes as detention. She lived there mainly with loverboy victims. She was told not to speak about Islam.

Semra still wants to leave the Netherlands, together with Imad el O., maybe to Morocco. She is angry, saying that the police and childcare services knew about her situation at home, knowing that she had a lot of fights with her parents. But the treated her ‘like a dog.’ She says she was not recruited for the jihad, she ran away from home because of the problems with her parents.