Update: Controversy Continues Over Measuring Costs of Immigration

Debate continues in Dutch parliament regarding the request by the Freedom Party (PVV) to undertake a study of the impact of non-Western immigrants on the nation’s budget. Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan refused, saying the government does not compile figures on specific groups in society. Van der Laan is accused of making his refusal to name a figure partly a political decision, thus dodging his constitutional obligation to provide information.

But while the government has an obligation to supply information, what preoccupied many MPs in the parliamentary debate was the intention behind the Freedom Party’s request in the light of its anti-Islam and anti-immigrant political agenda. Freedom Party MP Sietse Fritsma would say no more than that “the tax payer has a right to information”.

Over 30 Radio Ramadan stations have popped up this month

For Britain’s 1.7 million Muslims, tuning into Radio Ramadan has become an important part of the holy month of fasting and prayer. This year, some 30 stations across Britain have been granted a temporary licence to broadcast around the clock for 32 days on issues of belief, daily life, entertainment and politics.

Broadcasts, phone-ins and panel discussions range from spiritual matters to advice on education, anti-smoking campaigns, tax matters and current world conflicts. This year, the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan and its effect on Pakistan are expected to be uppermost on the minds of listeners, contributors and panelists. But phone-in sessions also deal with everyday concerns. Health experts are on hand to advise listeners on the effects of a “guilty cup of coffee” during Ramadan, on how to handle fasting and breastfeeding, or how to enjoy the benefits of yoghurt during Ramadan. Weight loss is traditionally a big theme.

Fadéla Amera Announces New Goals in President Sarkozy’s “Hope Suburbs” Plan

Fadéla Amera, secretary of state for urban policies in the conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party, has announced new incentives for the government’s “Hope Suburbs” project. Among them are a 10% tax initiative for schools which accept students from “difficult” neighborhoods and more banlieusard (suburban-living) youths being hired at the Roissy airport. Those working on the project claim to have a pragmatic approach.

US Muslim charity leaders get 65 years in jail for Hamas support

Two former leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land foundation were sentenced to 65 years in jail for supporting Palestinian militants. Jurors returned guilty verdicts on 108 charges of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax fraud. “These sentences should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief,” said David Kris, assistant US attorney general for national security. Holy Land CEO Shukri Abu Baker and chairman and co-founder Ghassan Elashi, were both sentenced to 65 years in jail. Holy Land cofounder Mohammad El-Mezain, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the charity’s New Jersey representative, both received lesser sentences of 15 years. The Justice Department vowed in October 2007 to retry the five Holy Land leaders after jurors could not agree on verdicts on nearly 200 charges, and a new jury was seated in mid-September. Holy Land was one of several Muslim organizations the Bush administration shut down in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for allegedly raising money for Islamic extremists overseas. Muslim charities that remained open suffered significant drops I contributions because of fears of prosecution.

Marriage of Son of Christian Fundamentalist and Daughter of Al-Qaeda Member in Public Eye

They are among the most unusual of couples. Joshua Boyle, 25, is the son of a tax judge who garnered media attention when his robbed home was shot at. Zaynab Khadr, 29, is the sister of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr — and Osama bin Laden attended her wedding in Afghanistan a decade ago.

The divorced, single mom and the researcher met over the Internet – their mutual interests in Wikipedia and the War on Terror helping them stake out common ground. They married – quietly – but their romance was soon propelled into the public’s eye, after thieves fired several .22-calibre bullets into the groom’s family home. For the first time, they speak to the Globe and Mail newspaper talk about their marriage, the break-in, and overcoming prejudice – including a suspicion that Mr. Boyle was a spy.

Tax authorities reject halal mortgage deduction

The Dutch tax service rejected a halal-mortgage – an interest free mortgage meant for Muslims who would not have to pay interest, due to their convictions; a fee on profits would have replaced the paid interest. The proposal for a halal mortgage was backed by the Islamic financial institute Bilaa-Riba. Bilaa-Riba introduced the idea three years ago and received thousands of requests for more information and support. The Dutch tax service received submissions from financial institutions, but according to this article, will not comment on individual cases.

Terror law to allow 42-day detention opposed by MPs

The government is unveiling a major new package of a counter-terrorism laws, a plan that gives the right to detain terrorist suspects for upto 42 days without charge. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is understood to have outlined concessions and appealed to MPs not to inflict further damage on the Government after a series of election disasters and policy U-turns. Under long-awaited changes to the Counter-Terrorism Bill, Home Secretary Miss Smith revealed the power to detain suspects without charge would only be used in the face of a “grave, exceptional terrorist threat” to Britain. This includes the most serious offences, such as murder and conspiracy to cause explosions, but excludes lesser offences such as weapons training or terrorist financing. The threat includes situations which “cause or threaten” serious loss of life, serious damage to human welfare in the UK or serious damage to national security. The threat can exist inside or outside the UK. The 42-day detention proposal has been criticised by not only backbench Labour MPs, but also the director of public prosecutions and the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith who warned the move would be an attack on the country’s “fundamental freedoms”. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, a Labour loyalist described the 42-day detention without charge will further alienate young British Muslims. Lord Ahmed criticised the Government over a U-turn on the 10p tax, on super-casino and fuel duty. Introducing this horrific measure only shows Governments intention to punish the Muslim community, he added. Sayeed Azad reports.

Debate on Muslim integration

The debate about the integration of immigrants continues in Spain as the conservative opposition is pledging to toughen integration requirements if they win the March 9th elections. The main opposition, the conservative People’s Party (PP) plans to push schools to ban the Islamic headscarf with the exception of the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which have large Muslim populations. The party would also oblige Muslim girls to attend physical education classes, allow male doctors to examine female Muslim patients, and make immigrants seeking residence permits sign contracts in which they would agree to respect Spanish laws and customs, language, and tax duties. The idea was inspired by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Tax guide published in Arabic

Italy’s tax collection agency has produced a tax guide in Arabic, as well as several other foreign languages, to help immigrant workers pay their taxes. The 28-page guide can be downloaded from the tax agency’s website, and is available in Arabic, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Italian. “The guide for foreigners contains key information on taxation, personal tax codes and VAT numbers, as well as the purchase and rental of properties, tax returns and rebates, inheritance, and communication of tax irregularities,” the agency said on its website. The initiative is part of a plan by the government to clamp down on rampant tax evasion in Italy.

3 Convicted Who Led Charity Tied to Militants

By Neil MacFarquhar Three leaders of a defunct Islamic charity were convicted Friday of defrauding the federal government by winning tax-exempt status for their organization while concealing the fact that it supported militant fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Part of the government’s case centered on the accusation that the charity was the offshoot of a Brooklyn organization, Alkifah Refugee Center, now defunct, which sent aid to a group helping fighters in Afghanistan that later helped give rise to Al Qaeda.