Nathalie Goulet discusses foreign financing and recent Senate report (pdf)

Following the recent attacks on French soil several politicians have proposed measures to reform Islam’s structure and the financing of Islam in France. For Nathalie Goulet, UDI senator from Orne who recently published a report on foreign financing, the priority should be to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams and to establish a foundation to centralize Islam’s financing in France.

Le Monde: Foreign countries are often criticized for their influence on Islam in France. Is it true?

Nathalie Goulet: The influence of certain countries came as a great surprise to many when our report was published. But it’s not always those that we think that have the greatest presence. The Gulf countries are much less influential than the ‘countries of origin,’ Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey. These three states exercise a real influence by financing the construction of buildings and schools, imam training, and supplying imams for France’s mosques—who are paid by their countries of origin—and through the governance of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

Le Monde: Manuel Valls said he was in favor of a temporary suspension of financing from foreign countries. Do you agree?

Goulet: The Prime Minister speaks of suspending foreign financing, but who will be their replacements? While one could hope that there would be no more foreign financing, it would be a mistake to think that the problem could be solved just like that. The question of foreign financing is ancillary. The Louvre or the Arab World Institute also receive foreign funding, in a transparent manner. Before anything, we must work to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams who are trained in Morocco.

Le Monde: According to the report there are 301 imams sent from other countries for around 2,500 places of worship. Where is the problem?

There are 301 opportunities, for French citizens of Muslim faith, to assist with sermons led by imams who are not French and from foreign countries. It’s more problematic than foreign funding of mosques. Imams sent from Turkey, for example, arrive under the title of “social workers” and not as imams. They barely speak French, have never seen an Armenian in their life, and don’t know that in France we recognize the Armenian Genocide. The majority of supplied imams have never received an education on the Holocaust, the death penalty, homophobia…they don’t know these important contextual references, but they play a role in communities.

Le Monde: Why is the question of financing critical?

Goulet: We consider Islam to be a religion like any other, but we don’t provide it with the means to be. Islam is a recent religion in our territory. There is a need for catch-up compared to other religions. The Muslim communities need structure, schools, mosques, and associations. Muslims need to be able to practice their religion decently.

Today, if a 14 year-old girl wants to wear the veil, she is going to find an Islamic school, but there are few. A Jewish child who wants to keep Kosher and wear a kippa will find a Jewish school. The tensions are more pronounced in Muslim communities because they don’t have all the tools to practice their religion.

Le Monde: What are the paths for financing Islam in France? What do you think about the idea of re-launching a ‘foundation of French Islam’ discussed by Manuel Valls?

Goulet: We must revive the Foundation for Islamic Works to monitor foreign funds. This foundation must have a joint government with a representative from the State Council and an accountant from the Treasury. We must also implement cost accounting so that Algerian money is used for Algerian places of worship, money from Morocco is used for Moroccan places of worship…it’s necessary if we want the communities to agree to this foundation. Algerians don’t want to pay for Turks, and vice versa, even if the idea of an Algerian place of worship makes no sense in France.

Le Monde: Julien Dray, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Francois Bayrou support instituting a “halal tax” to finance Islam in France.

Goulet: Legally, it’s impossible to institute a tax on a religious item…and technically, a ‘halal tax’ would also be impossible to institute in practice, because there is no consensus on the notion of halal.

What could be possible is that religious representatives themselves institute a private fee for services relating to slaughter, which would be set by the community, collected, and sent to the Foundation.

Le Monde: Aside from financing, is there a representation problem?

Goulet: Establishing the CFCM was necessary, there needs to be an interlocutor with the State. But throughout the years, this body has never succeeded in being representative. If I was president of the CFCM, I would open up a debate, I would establish constituent assembly to review the statutes, I would call on youths and members of associations, who may feel excluded, I would institute the principle of one man, one woman, one vote…But that must come from Muslims themselves. Maybe one day, young Muslims will launch an online petition and create a concurrent association.

 

 

 

 

Halal food tax proposed in France to fund mosques

Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), outlined plans for a new foundation that would help reduce foreign benefactors amid concerns over extremism.

The idea has been supported by politicians on both the right and left, although there are doubts where such a tax could be implemented.

“The idea has existed since the CFCM was founded,” Kbibech said.

“We have reached the first step with the signing with of a religious framework in the CFCM’s halal charter, which defines the criteria of halal in France.

“In autumn we will discuss the second part, which is the financial contribution of halal organisations to worship.”

The money raised would go towards paying imams’ salaries and funding the construction and operation of mosques, which cannot receive state support under French law.

The proposal came after Manuel Valls called for a ban on foreign funding for Muslim places of worship amid concerns over extremism following a string of terror attacks.

“There needs to be a thorough review to form a new relationship with French Islam,” he said.

“We live in a changed era and we must change our behaviour. This is a revolution in our security culture…the fight against radicalisation will be the task of a generation.”

Nathalie Goulet, a French senator for Orne who conducted a report on the issue, said the creation of a central and transparent foundation was a priority but cast doubt on a halal tax.

“Legally, it is not possible to reduce a tax on a religious item,” she said.

“And technically, a ‘halal tax’ would be impossible to implement because there is no unity around the concept of halal.

“What would be possible is that representatives of the religion themselves introduce a private fee for service at the time of slaughter, to be set by the community, collected and sent to the foundation.”

There has been continued controversy over the sale of halal food in France, with a supermarket in Colombes ordered to sell pork and alcohol or face closure this week.

German conservatives call for Islam Law

Leading members of the CSU party, Bavarian sister organisation to Angela Merkel’s CDU, have called for an ‘Islam Law’ that would curb foreign influence on German mosques. CSU Secretary General Andreas Scheuer asserted that “German has to become the language of the mosques”, with Imams being trained in Germany and being steeped in German “basic values”. In order to curb what Scheuer described as imported extremism, mosques, Islamic cultural centres and Muslim institutions should also no longer be allowed to receive money from abroad. These proposals follow the lead set by Austria, who adopted similar measures in 2015.

While Scheuer explicitly mentioned Saudi Arabia’s practice of funding Wahhabi and Salafist organisations as dangers to domestic German stability, in the context of recent diplomatic rows between Germany and Turkey, the Turkish connection of many of Germany’s Islamic institutions has now also come into the focus of the political debate. Up to 1000 Imams in Germany are trained in Turkey, and are sent to Germany by the Turkish presidency of religious affairs, Diyanet. They work in mosques administered by DITIB, Diyanet’s German affiliate, and continue to be paid by the Turkish state.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, DITIB has been extremely critical of the CSU proposals, arguing that they violate the German constitution and the right for religious self-determination anchored therein. The DITIB Secretary General dismissed the proposal for an Islam Law as “discriminatory”, “populist”, and as playing into the hands of the far-right AfD party. Other, more Islamist-tinged functionaries of the German Islam Council (IRD) and the Millî Gorüs community (IGMG) equally castigated the proposals as an attempt by the CSU to gain undue state influence over Muslim religious life.

Other commentators have noted the with approval that the CSU – in contrast to its past positions – now appears willing to recognise the existence of Muslim communities in Germany and the need to provide some sort of institutional infrastructure for the exercise of their religiosity. However, in an opinion piece for the newspaper Die Zeit, Parvin Sadigh notes that many mosque communities in the country are already using German as their primarily language, due to the diversity of origins of the attendees, as well as due to the fact that the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants often no longer speak the language of their parents and grandparents well enough to be able to follow religious instruction in Turkish or Arabic. Conversely, most Salafi and jihadi preachers are fluent in the German language and extremely well-versed in the sociocultural features of young Muslims’ lives. Ostentatious ‘integration’ in the mainstream of German society is thus not synonymous with theological liberalism.

Sadigh notes that degree programmes for Islamic Theology at German universities have only been in existence for 6 years, meaning that for the foreseeable future there will remain an acute shortage of German-educated Imams for mosques and of religious education teachers for public schools. Moreover, Sadigh notes that German mosques often do not have the necessary financial resources to offer adequate salaries to their Imams: without the constitutionally recognised status as a ‘religious corporation’, they have been unable to construct a durable financial infrastructure and thus continue to depend on charitable offerings from their members and on large-scale funding from abroad in order to be able to offer religious and social services.

Another CSU politician, Alexander Radwan, reacted to these criticism and proposed to enable Muslim associations in Germany to levy a church tax, analogous to the practice of the Catholic and Protestant churches. This, according to Radwan, would remedy the need of mosque communities to rely on foreign funding. What Radwan did not mention, however, is that the attainment of the requisite status of a ‘religious corporation’ that would enable Muslim associations to levy such a tax has remained elusive for most of the deeply divided Islamic organisations operating in the country.

After Woolwich, don’t ban hate speech, counter it. Hate it, too

Facing Islamist violence, the British home secretary, like her counterparts in Europe, wrongly reaches for censorship The home secretary, Theresa May. ‘What May proposes is impractical, illiberal, short-sighted and counter-productive.’

 

In response to the vile murder of a British soldier by two Islamist extremists armed with meat cleavers, the home secretary, Theresa May, has suggested a broadcasting ban on people who hold “disgusting views” and the pre-censorship of online hate speech. We face a real threat of violence here, as do other European countries. Another Islamist extremist was arrested in France and has admitted to stabbing a French soldier. But this is not the way to reduce that threat. What May proposes is impractical, illiberal, short-sighted and counter-productive. It would curb a vital freedom without enhancing our security. Her suggestion should be consigned to the dustbin of hysteria.

 

The home secretary will reply that she wants to place the blocking duty not with her own bureaucratic enforcers but with Ofcom, the public regulator of broadcasting. But now a state regulator is to pre-censor editorial content, at the bidding of an interior minister, in the name of defending public security and fighting terrorism?

 

May’s proposed ban is impractical. If it didn’t work in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher tried to stop Sinn Féin/IRA spokespeople breathing the “oxygen of publicity” on terrestrial television, how much less will it work today – when publicity-hungry Islamist provocateurs like Anjem Choudary can just go off and post their videos on YouTube. So, says our knee-jerk home secretary, we should consider getting Google and YouTube, as well as the broadcasters, to block such footage in advance. Now not everything that Google does is good, whether on tax, competition or privacy, but to impose on it the editorial obligation to pre-screen everything going up on YouTube would destroy something incredibly valuable: an unprecedented ability to speak directly to one another, across oceans and continents.

No, the way to fight these preachers of violent extremism is not to ban them but to take them on, in every medium. Editorial judgments must be made – by editors, not by interior ministers.

 

Elections in Imperia, the League: “Via Cascione’s former Living Room is now in the hands of the Muslims!”

May 15, 2013

“It is not pride or racism. We ask the city government in the hope that voters try not to go against the real needs of the city and remember that excessive tolerance and permissiveness cannot help. Imperia is in decay because it allows those who do not belong”

“It is important to mention that on via Cascione, there is now a symbol of all that we never wanted to occur in our city. In what has always been considered the ‘living room’ of Porto Maurizio, home to historic palaces with frescoed ceilings and prestigious architectural beauty, is now uncontrolled Muslim invasion that carries with it the degradation, the offense and the consequent abandonment of the citizen, even though our citizens are entitled to reside and live in peace and security in the street where he was born. ”

The above was written by the Northern League of Imperia, just days before the elections. The Northern League also explained “via Cascione is just one example of what recent years has hit Italy. The situation in Imperia is striking and known to all: Muslims have taken over an area that is now reduced to what is called the Islamic quarter. This is not campanilismo, not racism and it is not demagoguery. It is of fundamental importance to support cooperation between citizens and institutions and, at the same time, you need a specific regulation which implements checks and inspections to curb any lawlessness connected to immigrants.”

The League asks:

  • Not to grant licenses for the opening of new businesses without carrying out audits
  • Carry out, in stores that are operated by non-Italians, periodic inspections regarding tax, sanitation, and undeclared work and safety
  • Perform a controlled sanitation in housing rented to foreigners
  • Make efficient and productive structured Districts
  • Establish and/or enhance a neighborhood watch

The Circumcision Debate in Germany: A Miscalculation

Is it possible to justify a Cologne court’s ruling on the legality of circumcision on the basis of Germany’s Basic Law? In this essay, Patrick Bahners takes a closer look at both the Basic Law and the ruling and concludes that the judges in Cologne must have made a serious error of judgement

Anyone who toils over his tax returns, painstakingly adding up write-offs and tax-free contributions, and finally comes to the conclusion that he can expect to receive a refund the size of the federal budget will instantly realise that the result cannot possibly be correct. Such obviously absurd conclusions also occur in the field of practical reason.

A ruling by a German regional court, which, if observed, would mean that all Jews would have to leave the country, cannot possibly be correct. Our human faculties of reason, better known as common sense, tell us so. This also explains the prompt and unequivocal reactions of leading politicians to the Cologne circumcision ruling. Their intuition is intact, which is certainly a relief.

St. Anthony City Council rejects Islamic center plan

St. Anthony City Council members on Tuesday rejected plans to locate an Islamic center in the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters off Old Hwy. 8.

The proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center had been on hold for months after some residents objected to the center and city leaders studied whether city zoning would support the facility.

About 150 people attended Tuesday’s council meeting, where Muslim proponents asked the council to approve the nearly 15,000-square-foot center, which would be used for worship and assembly by the congregation of about 200.

“I’m a proud American. This is home. The center will serve the needs of our community,” Sadik Warfa said.

“I know this issue is very emotional for some people. We are a melting pot. We are all Americans.”

Close to a dozen St. Anthony residents asked the council to deny the proposal, which they argued would reduce tax revenues, an argument Mayor Jerry Faust denied. Others contended the center would attract increased traffic in the neighborhood and create problems for those living nearby.

Some who spoke against the center made disparaging comments about the Muslim faith, although Faust tried to discourage such remarks.

“Islam is evil. There’s no other religion in the world that endorses violence,” said John Murlowski, before Faust cut him off.

Supporters of the center expressed disappointment following the 4-1 decision.

Partido Popular and Plataform for Catalonia require Muslims of Mataró to be the only ones to pay property taxes for their places of praying

29 May 2012
Although with different arguments and suggestions, the Partido Popular and the Platform for Catalonia (PXC) have filed two resolutions that put the spotlight on Muslim places of worship claiming that, they have to pay property taxes for their places of praying.
The three councilors of the PXC want the city Authority of Mataro to support the idea that the Islamic places of worship should be the only temples to be asked to pay the tribute. The political motion argues that Muslims must pay the tax property because “many of the mosques we have in our country are the focus of fundamentalism that spread sharia or the Islamic law as a total law to govern their followers and that shocks directly with the objectives of a religious institution in a democracy.”

Newt-loving socialist or floppy-haired bike rider? One will be London’s Olympic mayor

LONDON — One sports an unruly blond mop, spouts Latin aphorisms and loves to ride his bicycle. The other is a neat, newt-loving socialist who prefers to travel by subway.

Their contest is an Olympic-size grudge match. Meet Boris and Ken — hometown celebrities known universally by their first names. When the 2012 London Games open on July 27, one of them will stand before billions of television viewers as mayor of the host city.

The incumbent, Boris Johnson, warns that it had better be him and not Ken Livingstone — his predecessor, intense rival and would-be successor.

Whoever wins, London’s next mayor will be a larger-than-life figure whose gaffes and idiosyncrasies would have sunk a less confident politician. The winner will oversee a world-class city of 8 million people and a 14 billion-pound ($22 billion) budget.

Johnson, a Conservative, hopes to win a second four-year term while Livingstone, London’s mayor from 2000 to 2008, is from Labour — but both transcend the parties they nominally represent.

His views on international issues are more controversial. Livingstone once called President George W. Bush “the greatest threat to life on this planet,” welcomed hard-line Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London, and was suspended from his post for a month after comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Livingstone denies anti-Semitism, but his words have alienated many Jewish voters.

Both men are also known for their busy private lives. Livingstone has five children with three women, while Johnson was once fired from a Conservative post for lying about an extramarital affair.

They seem to have a visceral animosity, getting into a shouting match in an elevator after a recent radio debate, with Johnson repeatedly calling his rival an “(expletive) liar” for claims about Johnson’s tax status.

The dispute ended with the candidates publishing their tax records, which showed that both earn many times more than the average Londoner: 1.7 million pounds ($2.7 million) over four years for Johnson; 342,000 pounds ($540,000) for Livingstone.

PEW: Lobbying for the Faithful

Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C.

The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $390 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy. As a whole, religious advocacy organizations work on about 300 policy issues. For most of the past century, religious advocacy groups in Washington focused mainly on domestic affairs. Today, however, roughly as many groups work only on international issues as work only on domestic issues, and nearly two-thirds of the groups work on both. These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life that examines a total of 212 religion-related advocacy groups operating in the nation’s capital.

The study finds that about one-in-five religious advocacy organizations in Washington have a Roman Catholic perspective (19%) and a similar proportion are evangelical Protestant in outlook (18%), while 12% are Jewish and 8% are mainline Protestant. But many smaller U.S. religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, also have established advocacy organizations in the Washington area. In fact, the number of Muslim groups (17) is about the same as the number of mainline Protestant groups (16). And the largest category today is interreligious: One-quarter of the groups studied (54) either represent multiple faiths or advocate on religious issues without representing a specific religion.

This report is based on a systematic examination of the websites, mission statements, tax documents and other public records of religious advocacy groups spanning the years 2008-2010. Researchers also relied on responses to a written questionnaire that was sent to 148 separate, active groups included in the study and completed by 61 of them. Additionally, lead researcher Allen D. Hertzke conducted in-depth interviews with leaders of 36 groups and observed the advocacy efforts of many other groups at congressional hearings, lobby days, press conferences and other Washington-based events.