Plans For £330,000 Mosque For Whitehaven

By Andrea Thompson THE West Cumbrian Muslim Society wants to build a community centre and mosque in Whitehaven. The 65-strong group hopes to spend $330,000 on the centre. At present, the society uses a converted upstairs room in Whitehaven for prayers and social activities – but numbers have increased. Whitehaven Civic Hall is going to be used for a forthcoming Muslim wedding. The society is seeking funding towards a $9,000 feasibility study to identify specifications and funding for its own community centre, which it says would work with and help more than 200 people of all ages. It would not only be open to Muslims, but to other members of the community. Restaurant boss Nurul Hoque, who owns the Akash restaurant in Tangier Street, is leading the bid. Deb Muscat, community empowerment network officer for West Cumbria Voluntary Services, said: There is a growing population of Muslims in west Cumbria. I support the application. There is a demonstrable need in west Cumbria, especially in the Whitehaven area. The society has been awarded grants totalling $1,100 from the Hillcrest & Hensingham and South Whitehaven neighbourhood forums for the feasibly study. Alistair Norwood, Copeland councillor for Hillcrest, said: This is something that we really need to support. There is no other facility like this in Cumbria. This will bring people into Whitehaven from all over Cumbria and the north east and that can only be really good for the town. I do hope that people are open-minded and embrace this.

German Catholics Must Help Muslim Migrants Integrate into Society More

The Catholic Church in Germany must help Muslim migrants integrate into society, but the Church also can learn from these recent newcomers, said the general secretary of the German bishops’ working group on relations with Muslims. “We can learn a lot from the Muslims: about piety, about hospitality or about the education of children within the family,” said the bishops’ official, Peter Hunseler, during the German Catholic Church assembly last week. The assembly’s Christian-Muslim dialogue program sponsored more than 30 events about understanding Islam and relations between Catholics and Muslims. The Christian-Muslim events often took up the main theme of the Katholikentag, “Justice in the Sight of God,” and included a series on common approaches to justice for women and homosexuals. The center also offered early morning mysticism, joint Christian-Muslim Bible study, midday services, study sessions in the afternoon and cultural events in the early evening.

Islamic Community Life in Berlin: An Introduction

Author: Riem Spielhaus

The media usually portrays Berliners of Muslim origin only in the context of their faith. However, Muslim Berliners are involved in the city’s cultural life, in the arts, in politics, and in education. They contribute to the city’s economy as entrepreneurs, professionals, and through civic activities. The Commissioner for Integration commissioned a study of the city’s religious civic associations, looking at Islamic communities in the context of their social, cultural, urban, and individual aspects.

Between pluralization and change of generations: Results of the research

The different forms of Muslim life in Berlin are both mirror and product of local requirements and frameworks for people with a Muslim background, including juridical aspects for residence, tenancy, and construction, but also communication between municipal institutions and Islamic associations. Nevertheless, Muslim life does not exist detached from the effects of the representation of Islam in the media on a local, national, and global level.

The publication of the study in German collects articles from several authors who engaged with specific topics, based on the survey of Berlin’s mosques and their own intensive, often qualitative, research. They tackled three areas of tension, where communities are searching, addressing, and defending their positions: 

  • Migration, Religion, and Representation
  • Diversity of religious practice
  • Presence in the city.

Click to download the summary of this report in German as well as graphical representations of its conclusions.

French Fighters In Iraq Puzzle Paris

Confirmed reports of French-born Muslims leaving the country to fight the US-led occupation forces in Iraq are puzzling the European country, which fears a future backlash. “There is confusion as to what is motivating young French to travel to Iraq to join the fighting,” a French judicial source told Tuesday, November 29, on condition of anonymity. “A possible scenario is that they are being recruited by non-French individuals on ideological grounds.” He stressed that the issue is causing a major headache for French security authorities. “Paris fears that such young people might carry out operations inside France or other European countries once the Iraqi war is over,” he added. A recent study put at 22 the number of French fighting with the Iraqi resistance, seven of them were confirmed killed in attacks and three in US custody. Vanishing Hajj Aziza, a French Muslim mother, recalled how her 20-year-old son, Mohammad, disappeared last summer. “He called me from Istanbul saying he was embarking on a short trip to learn Arabic in Syria,” the mother, who lives in Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, told IOL. “Later, he phoned me saying he was in a Baghdad district, and was ok,” she said, adding he promised to return home soon. Heart-broken Aziza has not heard from her son ever since and is dying to know if he is still alive. Her story is similar to that of many Muslim mothers in France whose sons have disappeared into thin air over the past two years, only to discover later they were fighting against the US forces in Iraq. Most of the young French believed to be fighting in Iraq hail from districts mostly inhabited by immigrants of north African background. Why? French experts well versed in Islamic movement affairs have given different accounts as to the possible motives for joining the Iraqi resistance. Analyst Olivier Roy believes this has to do with “globalization of the Islamist phenomenon” which trespasses borders and cultures. “There is also the feeling of marginalization and identity crisis experienced by the second and third generations of French Muslims,” he told IOL. This argument was contradicted by Gilles Kepel in the introduction of his book Al-Qaeda dans le texte. He refuted any link between joining the Iraqi resistance and the identity crisis, saying Al-Qaeda was playing the religion tune. A study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the US occupation of Iraq has radicalized Arabs and Muslims to join Al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden. Saying that foreign fighters represent less than five percent of the Iraqi resistance, the study said most of them were motivated by “revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country.” The London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs has also said that the Iraq war gave a momentum to Al-Qaeda’s recruitment and fundraising and made Britain more vulnerable to terror attacks. Patrick Cockburn, an award-winning British reporter, has also charged that the Anglo-American “ill-considered venture” of invading Iraq has turned into a “mess” fueling attacks around the world and providing Al-Qaeda with sympathizers it did not possess before the invasion of 2003.

Muslims Worst Sufferers Of London Bombings

LONDON: Almost a third of Londoners overall but nearly two-thirds of Muslims suffered substantial stress following the 7 July bombings in the city, researchers say, reports BBC. Muslims may have suffered more because of fears of reprisals, they said. The British Medical Journal study also found that 32% of the 1,010 questioned were to reduce use of public transport. But researchers said the study – carried out before the 21 July attacks – showed the bombers had not created a city too stressed to get on with life. The research was carried out by London”s Kings and University Colleges and the Health Protection Agency. Fifty-two passengers were killed when four suicide bombers attacked three Tube trains and a bus on July 7. The interviews for the study took place from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 July – before the failed bombings on London”s transport network on 21 July. Nearly one in three (31%) of participants reported having suffered substantial stress, and 32% reported they would reduce the amount they used the Tube, trains, buses, or go into central London. Some 46% of those surveyed said they did not feel safe travelling by Tube, and 33% did not feel safe in central London. People who had difficulty contacting others by mobile phone on the day of the attacks were more likely to have suffered from stress, as were those who feared a loved one may have been injured or killed. Overall, people with a strong religious conviction were more likely to report feelings of stress. Being white and having previous experience of atrocities – such as IRA bomb attacks in London – was associated with reduced stress. Only 12 participants (1%) felt that they needed professional help to deal with their emotions, whereas 71% had spoken to friends or relatives. The researchers said this suggested that most people were able to rely on lay support networks. Researcher Dr Neil Greenberg said: “It is quite a good thing that people should try to make sense of what happened by talking it through with those who understand them the best. “Our findings show that we are resilient, and suggest that if the aim of the bombers was to create a city full of people so stressed that they could not get on their lives then they certainly failed.” Dr Greenberg said Muslims might have been more vulnerable to stress because of concern about the consequences of the bombings, such as possible reprisals from those who blamed the Islamic community in general. Dr Monica Thompson, from the Trauma Stress Clinic, in London, agreed that most people seemed to have coped well with the bombings. But she said people who were either directly caught up in the attacks, or witnessed the results first hand were much more likely to suffer from stress. Dr Thompson”s clinic has so far received 26 referrals of patients exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Switzerland: Charter Commits Muslims to Swiss Values

Zurich’s Muslim organisations have decided to fight prejudice by adopting a groundbreaking charter that underlines their commitment to Swiss values. The document, the first of its kind in Switzerland, aims to improve the integration and the image of Muslims. Ismail Amin, president of the umbrella association of Zurich’s Islamic organisations, said that a study carried out by the local university showed Muslims are portrayed negatively in three quarters of Swiss media reports about their community.

We’re Not Seen As Scots As We Don’t Drink’; Revealed: Fragile National Identity Of Young Muslims

By Mona McAlinden YOUNG Muslim men born in Scotland do not feel completely Scottish because they believe the prevailing drinking culture excludes them. A three-year study by a Glasgow University researcher also found that young Asians faced racist abuse on a daily basis. The research – based on interviews and focus groups involving mostly teenage males from the Muslim community in Glasgow and Edinburgh – reveals a “fragile Scottish national identity”, despite the vast majority of those involved being born and educated in this country. The belief among male Muslims aged 16-25 that drinking alcohol and going to nightclubs is a major part of Scottish culture acts as a barrier to feeling completely Scottish, according to the study. Some of the interviewees spoke of how the drinking culture, described by one as a “Scottish trademark”, further excludes young Muslim men by increasing the likelihood of racist abuse or attacks. Dr Peter Hopkins, a research fellow in the university’s Centre for the Child and Society, said: “The participants see drinking as an integral part of life in Scotland, not just among young people but among Scots generally. Some mentioned that the drinking culture actually encouraged racism as they felt that people were more likely to be racist if they had a drink in them. “Many of their comments appear to suggest that the young men think that they would feel more Scottish, and be less likely to experience racism, if they actively participated in drinking and clubbing. They felt that would make them part of the mainstream culture and that white Scots wouldn’t see them as different. But they were drawing on a stereotype that drinking is important to all Scots.” The study reveals that a small minority of Muslim men are actively embracing aspects of what they regard as Scottish culture by visiting nightclubs and drinking alcohol, against the wishes of their family and some of their peers. The report highlights a no-win situation for those living in Scotland’s largest cities as they feel “excluded” from Scottish society by trying to adhere to their religious principles but are also isolated from the Muslim community if they stretch the boundaries of their religious beliefs. One interviewee from Edinburgh said: “I don’t indulge in the pub culture and things like that, so I can’t say I’m completely Scottish. Alcohol plays a big part in people’s lives. Something like the Hogmanay set-up, yeah, it’s New Year but I don’t consider it my New Year.” Another major barrier to young Muslim males feeling a sense of Scottish national identity, according to the report, is the level of racist abuse they face on a daily basis. Although many said they felt part of Scotland because they were educated here, have a Scottish accent and follow football, the interviewees said the insidious nature of the racism distances them from Scottish society. Many reported that racist name-calling was perpetrated mostly by young white people but is not only confined to that generation. Hopkins explained: “Many suggest that markers of their religious identity, such as keeping a beard, lead to a lack of job opportunities as employers choose to appoint people who are not visibly Muslim.” ?One Glaswegian Asian said: “My sister used to always wear the headscarf and she got knocked back when she went for quite a few interviews … she actually got a job the second time after not wearing it.” While Hopkins admits it may be easy for the young men to argue that they are unemployed because of their religion, as opposed to possible unsuitability for the job, he says the frequency of such comments suggests that some employers are racist and Islamophobic. He continued: “They face racism on a daily basis everywhere – in school and on the streets, especially after the September 11 attacks. In response to that, some were apprehensive about going to mosques, scared of going out on their own and withdrew from their social networks. There was some talk about no-go areas, normally in the most deprived parts of the city.” Osama Saeed, for the Muslim Association of Britain, agreed that some face a no-win situation. He said: “Some young Muslims have been distanced from feeling Scottish and part of Scottish culture because they feel alienated by racist abuse. “Life in Scotland is sometimes a very difficult balancing act for young Muslim men because so much revolves around drinking here, whether it’s after work or socialising at the weekends. “So there is pressure to conform with the habits of mainstream society but young Muslims also risk upsetting their family if they try to do so.” Scottish actor Atta Yakub, who starred in Ken Loach’s mixed-race romance Ae Fond Kiss in 2003, has also experienced racism but refuses to allow that to affect his sense of Scottishness. “It’s disappointing to hear that because it shouldn’t make them feel or act any differently, regardless of what other people might say.” Despite a high-profile career which inevitably involves endless events and ceremonies, Yakub says he feels no pressure to drink alcohol to socialise. “Unfortunately there is quite a lot of focus on drinking in Scotland. But if I go to a bar it doesn’t mean I have to drink. You can still get involved in the culture and make a go of it without compromising your principles, rather than sitting back saying I can’t do that. I would rather invite Scottish people into our community and culture and go out for dinner on Saturday night instead. “It’s hard trying to get the best of both worlds, there’s only certain parents who are liberal enough to have that understanding. But it comes back to a generational thing — there’s an element of having to balance things that some parents don’t allow just now.”

Immigrant Emancipation ‘A Growing Trend’

AMSTERDAM – Young Turkish and Moroccan mothers have the same opinions about combining work and family duties than women from other ethnic groups, research indicates. But the Dutch Family Council also said that the husbands of Turkish and Moroccan man have different opinions regarding emancipation, newspaper Trouw reported on Tuesday. The results of the study were being presented during a ‘Family Parliament’ at the Rotterdam city hall also on Tuesday. Dozens of immigrant families were to discuss with politicians the issue of parenthood in a multicultural city.

American Muslims Want “Role In Politics”

Even the most religiously traditional Muslims believe they should participate in American politics, according to a newly released study of one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. The survey of Detroit-area Muslims is the latest to show that the isolationism that once pervaded the immigrant Muslim community is dissipating. Muslims ranked protecting their civil rights as a top public policy issue, according to the study.

Islamic Britain Lures Top People

By Nicholas Hellen and Christopher Morgan MORE than 14,000 white Britons have converted to Islam after becoming disillusioned with western values, according to the first authoritative study of the phenomenon. Some of Britain’s top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior Establishment figures have embraced the strict tenets of the Muslim faith. The trend is being encouraged by Muslim leaders who are convinced that the conversion of prominent society figures will help protect a community stigmatised by terrorism and fundamentalism.