Lessons in Islam – A young teacher breaks taboos in Germany

Lamy Kaddor, born in Germany to a Syrian father, wants to make her religion more accessible to children and young people. She’s written two books about Islam, a children’s Koran and a text book – both in German. The books contain illustrations depicting the prophet Mohammed – a practice forbidden by Islam. Conservative muslim scholars are not impressed by Kaddor’s work. But the kids love the open atmosphere in her classes, where no question is taboo. Now, her teaching methods could be used as a model for lessons in the subject in schools around the country.

Ehsan Jami directs committee on for ex-Muslims: Fighting for the freedom not to believe

Ehsan Jami, a municipal council member for Labour in Leidschendam, has joined forces with Loubna Berrada, a member of the Conservative (VVD) Party, to form the Central Committee for ex-Muslims. Jami has given up the life of Islam for one of freedom. He became increasingly disillusioned with his faith after 9/11. Though he has nothing against Muslims generally, he no longer respects Islam because of its role in terrorism, the oppression of women, and the oppression of citizens under tyrannical regimes. The Central Committee for ex-Muslims will primarily work to address the greatest taboo in Islam: saying goodbye to one’s faith. The intolerance of Muslims, he claims, has limited their willingness to accept women and gay rights. The Committee will be active in debating these issues with Muslims, providing information to schools, and advising the government-whether solicited or unsolicited.

Carnival in Germany: Islam no longer taboo

In light of the Muhammad cartoon scandal in 2006, carnival jokesters in Germany went easy on Islam. This year, Muslim satire will return to at least one parade–the D_sseldorf carnival parade. Last year, 43-year-old Jacques Tilly’s float was called off because of fears it would provoke violence. The float he designed was of four Muslim women in a row, each more covered than the last. At the end, a woman tied inside a large trash bag. This year, though, Jacques Tilly has some catching up to do. “The clash of civilizations is still high up on the agenda of world politics,” the artist says. And this time, it’s fair game. On Feb. 19, Muslims will be fair game again. Only one motif has become public to date: A Hamas militant and an orthodox Jew hug each other while a Shiite cleric and an Indian cuddle each other and an Indian and a Pakistani dance together. It’s all too cuddly to be true Tilly, and the apparently conciliatory gestures are immediately unmasked: The display’s motto is “Peace Between Religions — The Greatest of Illusions.” Controversy is not new to the parade. In 2005, parade organizers were threatened by Catholics offended by a portrayal of conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner. He was shown preparing to burn a woman at the stake. The puppet of the woman featured the words: “I had an abortion.” Last year, a George W. Bush float was banned. In Cologne, Muslim satire will again be kept at a minimum. The director of the Rose Monday parade in Cologne, Christoph Kuckelkorn, does admit that one display features a Torah, a Bible and a Koran whose peaceful co-existence is disturbed only by fundamentalists and terrorists. “But we’re not injuring anyone’s religious sentiments,” he says — before defending the decision in light of Cologne’s traditionally live-and-let-live attitude. Kuckelhorn’s has tried to win Jacques Tilly for his own parade but Tilly has been uninterested. For it to be worth his effort, “There has to be a real ruckus,” Tilly says.

Philippe de Villiers : “Prohibit the Veil in all Public Spaces”

The president of the Movement for France, Phillippe de Villiers, presents himself as “the last defender of the Rebublic against communitarianism”. Le Figaro interviewed de Villiers on November 2, 2006, and in that interview de Villiers called for the prohibition of the veil in all public spaces in France. De Villiers called Islamism “an empirical problem” that “it is impossible to ignore.” In response to this “Islamic problem”, he proposed that France “impose her values”, in particular by prohibiting the Islamic veil in the streets or in public buildings. He called for this on the grounds that “the islamic veil is the symbol of female submission and wearing it detracts from her dignity.” In addition, de Villiers asserted that the veil was an obstacle to “the appearance of national community” and an tool used by the activits who “attack the foundations of the Rebublic.” De Villiers cited an August 2006 study from the Pew Research Center that reported that 46% of French Muslims saw their loyalty to Islam as greater than their loyalty to France. This, he claimed, was an obvious political problem. “I am only saying what the French citizens are already thinking,” de Villiers averred. “This will be an essential question for the 2007 presidential election: I am the only one to break the taboo, and the last defender of the Republic against [Islamist] communitarianism.”

Dutch Virtue Of Tolerance Under Strain

By Roger Cohen AMSTERDAM In the Dutch interiors painted by the great artists of the Golden Age, all appears in order: the ruffs of white linen and polished surfaces speak of a luminous calm. But often a furtive glance caught in a mirror, or a keyhole view of another world, suggests a charged tension behind the elegance. The Netherlands today can still offer a picturesque tranquillity, with its swarms of straight-backed bike riders and its canals reflected in the handsome windows of gabled homes. But cut a keyhole through Dutch decorum and violence appears: a filmmaker shot and stabbed by an Islamic fanatic, politicians in hiding from jihadist threats, a newspaper columnist menaced into silence, people living in fear. Immigration, particularly of Muslims, has long been an issue in Europe, a challenge to overburdened welfare systems and to the self-image of countries where every village hoists a church spire to the sky. But what was once a subject of worthy debate is now more a matter of survival. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Netherlands, where a familiar European combination of troubled history and quiet hypocrisy, wrapped in a veneer of tolerance, has yielded unexpected bloodshed. “We see that our much-vaunted tolerance toward immigrants was often just indifference and we are left wondering: What have we become?” said Job Cohen, the mayor of Amsterdam. The murders, in 2002 and 2004 respectively, of the taboo-trampling politician Pym Fortuyn and the Islam-bashing movie director Theo van Gogh have left the Dutch bereft of certainties. They are not alone in their questioning. Islam is now of Europe, a European religion. But Europe, after terrorist killings in Madrid and Amsterdam and London, sees more threat than promise in the immigrant tide from its Muslim fringes. Geert Wilders is a rightist member of the Dutch Parliament living in a secret location under police protection because Islamic radicals say they will kill him. That, in what was until recently the placid Western democracy par excellence, is extraordinary. “All non-Western immigration must be stopped,” Wilders said. “Pure Islam is violent.” Other politicians, like Cohen, see the solution more in building bridges than barriers. They argue, like Tony Blair and George W. Bush, that a perversion of Islam, not Islam itself, threatens the West. But nobody, even in laid-back Amsterdam, is indifferent to immigration any longer. That Europe needs immigrants, and that they will seek to come from adjacent North Africa and other poor Muslim areas, is evident. It needs them to do jobs, from asparagus picking to care of the elderly, that others do not want to do. […]