Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving with halal turkeys

WASHINGTON – Mohammad Malik, owner of Bismillah Halal Meat in Langley Park, doesn’t have Thanksgiving off. He will spend the day in his store, cooking the food his Muslim customers want for the holiday – lamb and goat roasts and pound after pound of rice. But recently, more people have come in requesting something different: turkey. “I guess more and more people getting into that tradition,” said Mr. Malik, 34, of Gaithersburg. “Just as an American, they are celebrating Thanksgiving. I guess more people, Muslim people, are going, ‘Why not have a turkey?”‘ Although there is still no nationwide distributor of turkeys that are “halal,” or slaughtered according to Islamic law, halal food stores in Maryland and around the country report increasing demand for the birds as more Muslims immigrate to the United States and assimilate into the mainstream. In 2000, Maryland had an estimated 52,867 Muslims, the eighth-highest population of any state, according to the Glenmary Research Center, a leading religion research group. Most of the state’s Muslim population is concentrated in Baltimore and suburban Washington. Like the Pilgrims who first stepped onto Plymouth Rock centuries ago, Mohammad Sizar, owner of Sizar’s Food Market in Columbia, is an immigrant who fled persecution for a new world. Now a citizen, he left Iran during the revolution more than 20 years ago, but was constantly drawn back to his homeland because he had a good job there. “I had to choose, American or Iran,” he said. “When I decide I want to be an American, I read about Thanksgiving and I say, ‘OK, why not?”‘ Some Muslim immigrants refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving at first, thinking it is a Christian holiday that does not apply to them, Mr. Sizar said. But as they become more informed about American culture, they understand the tradition. “Thanksgiving is a nice holiday and it has very good message, you know,” said Mr. Sizar, 46. “It is a time to bring everybody together and it is not something that belongs to the religion.” Last year, Mr. Sizar took 35 orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, but this year he had 50 orders a week before the holiday. He’ll probably order 75 from his distributor, American Halal Meat in Springfield, Va., and still run out, he said. Although it was too early to tell a week before Thanksgiving, Mr. Malik estimated he would take more turkey orders this year as well. Years ago, one of Mr. Sizar’s Muslim friends who did not celebrate the holiday asked him why he did. “I said there was nothing wrong,” Mr. Sizar said. “I am Muslim but I am American, you know?”

Cardinal Risks Offending Turkey

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales risked a new clash with Muslims yesterday by questioning whether Turkey should be admitted to the European Union. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor echoed Pope Benedict XVI in saying that the predominantly Muslim state was not culturally part of Europe.

Prayer Leaders From Abroad

Germany’s mosques are run by imams from Turkey, Bosnia, or Iran. No one controls them – for fundamentalists this is the chance for unmitigated agitation. On Sunday, April 23rd of this year, Islam seemed to arrive in Germany anew. The debate over Muslims and their beliefs had already taken place many times, but an Islamic theologian had until then never been present. On this evening, however, one appeared in the German Parliament: a real imam, a preacher of the Koran, with a doctorate in the bargain.

Turkey: The West Needs Turkey

By Simon Tisdall Nicolas Sarkozy’s flat rejection of Turkey’s EU membership bid does not mean the game is up for Ankara. France’s ambitious interior minister believes he is a natural successor to Jacques Chirac. But he has not been elected president yet – and will not be if the centre-left’s likely candidate, S_gol_ne Royal, has her way next spring. Nor does he run the EU. All the same, Mr Sarkozy’s views, when coupled with the hostile attitude of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other European leaders, make discouraging reading for the Turks. “We should, for many reasons, deepen relations with Turkey but without going as far as full membership,” he said in Brussels. “We have to say who is European and who isn’t. It’s no longer possible to leave this question open.” Mr Sarkozy’s negative positioning reduces the incentives for Turkey to comply with EU demands ahead of next month’s “progress report” by Olli Rehn, the enlargement chief. They include the abolition of laws limiting freedom of expression that often give rise to nationalist show trials, such as that due later this month of Elif Shafak, a best-selling author accused of “insulting Turkishness”. EU demands also focus on the treatment of Turkey’s disadvantaged Kurdish minority, dependable economic management in the wake of June’s currency crisis, and Cyprus. The EU contributed to this latter problem by admitting the island in 2004 without insisting the majority Greek Cypriots accept the UN’s peace plan. Now, predictably, they and Greece are threatening dire consequences if Turkey does not open its ports to Greek Cypriot trade. Turkish Cypriots say any such move should be reciprocal – but their isolated government is in disarray and their voice is barely heard. Opinion polls suggest the European cold-shouldering of Turkey is having a wider public impact. Last week’s Transatlantic Trends survey by the German Marshall Fund found that 32% of Europeans regarded Turkey’s EU membership as a “bad thing”, up 12 points in two years. Turkish opinion “has cooled towards the US and Europe but has warmed to Iran”. American and British governments have long viewed majority Muslim Turkey as a bridge to the Islamic world. But such growing goodwill towards George Bush’s “Tehran tyrants” may be seen as a bridge too far. Europe’s leaders have only themselves to blame for such trends. They are pushing Turkey away when the west needs it more than ever – a fact more readily conceded in Washington than in some European capitals. Despite strong domestic opposition, Ankara agreed last week to contribute up to 1,000 troops to UN peacekeeping in Lebanon, giving a Muslim complexion to a predominantly European, French-led effort. Mr Sarkozy conveniently ignored that. Nato also wants more Turkish sharp-end help in Afghanistan. “We have many important capabilities to offer the EU,” said a Turkish diplomat. “We talk to the Iranians from time to time. We are not mediators but we try to ensure both sides understand each other. We have good relations with both Israel and the Palestinians. Turkey has been an important force for stability in Iraq.” The EU might also reflect on Turkey’s growing role as an alternative, non-Russian route for Caspian and central Asian oil and gas, as a rare democratic partner in the Islamic world and in fighting terrorism, the diplomat said. “Joining the EU remains a major foreign policy objective. Most Turks still support this. We will keep working on this. But Europe should understand it needs Turkey, too.”

Annan Says Protests Over Cartoons Being Fuelled By Extremists

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said protests over cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad that resulted in violent demonstrations by Muslims around the world are being fuelled by extremism. “Those who shout loudest or act in the most provocative ways, are not necessarily typical of the group on whose behalf they claim to speak,” Annan said yesterday, according to the UN’s Web site. “We must appeal to the majority to speak up and denounce those who disrespect values.” Religious and other leaders must promote discussion between Islamic and Western societies, Annan told a meeting in Qatar of the High-Level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations, a panel he set up last year to bridge gaps between Islam and the West. Protests have taken place in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Turkey since newspapers in Europe earlier this month reprinted cartoons first published in September in Denmark. Any visual depiction of Muhammad is considered blasphemy, according to the teachings of Islam. One of the cartoons depicts Muhammad wearing a bomb in place of a turban. More than 20,000 people attended a rally yesterday in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, the latest in a series of protests in the country over the cartoons, Agence France-Presse reported. At least five people have been killed in violence during rallies in Pakistan. Pakistan Arrests Police detained several political leaders in Lahore yesterday to prevent a protest march taking place. They included Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the head of a six-party alliance of Islamic groups in Pakistan, and Imran Khan, a former captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, who formed the Movement for Justice Party, AFP said. The 12 cartoons were first published in Denmark’s largest broadsheet, Jyllands-Posten in September. They were reprinted earlier this month in France, Norway, Austria, Germany and other counties sparking Muslim protests. Editors in European countries said they were defending freedom of expression by reprinting the cartoons. Carsten Juste, editor-in-chief at the Aarhus-based Jyllands-Posten, apologized for offending Muslims in a statement on the newspaper’s Web site Jan. 31. Violent protests earlier this month left at least 11 people dead in Libya, 16 people killed in Nigeria and 11 in Afghanistan. “Some of the violent reactions have encouraged extremist groups within European societies, whose agenda is to demonize Muslim immigrants or even expel them,” Annan said, according to the UN. “The republication of the cartoons, and the support for them voiced by some leaders in Europe, have strengthened those in the Muslim world who see Europe, or the West as a whole, as irredeemably hostile to Islam and encourage Muslims to always see themselves as victims.” Left to Extremists Without the efforts of groups such as the High-Level panel, the exchanges between Islam and the West will be left to extremists, Annan said. Retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and theologians such as Ismali Serageldin of Egypt and Mehmet Aydin of Turkey are among the members of the panel. Annan two weeks ago called on Muslims to refrain from violence over the cartoons. Muslims should accept the apology given by the Danish newspaper, he said Feb. 5.

Turkey: Europe Expects Turkey’s Help To Overcome Cartoon Crisis

The cartoon crisis has once again reminded Europe of Turkey’s importance. The European Union (EU) Term President Austria emphasized Turkey’s vital importance in maintaining dialogue with Muslim countries, and the union expects Ankara to play a pivotal role in the solution to the crisis. The insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed created a troublesome situation for European countries. The Council of Europe, the European Commission and European Parliament (EP) representatives emphasized freedom of expression must be used in a responsible way. Austria, leading the opposition to Turkey’s full membership on October 3, announced that a joint dialogue initiative will be instigated with Muslim countries and declared Turkey will play a key role in solving the crisis. Former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrupp Rasmussen said the publishing of the controversial drawings was a big mistake. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso mellowed in support to Denmark and said freedom of expression must be used responsibly. A bill on the cartoon crisis will be put to the vote at an EP General Council assembly today. Austrian Minister for European Affairs Hans Winkler, in the speech made during yesterday’s meeting, underlined that freedom of expression cannot be used irresponsibly. He said that limits must not be exceeded when dealing with the religious freedoms. The cartoon crisis shook the mutual confidence that existed between the EU and the Muslim world at its foundations. We must ask ourselves where we went wrong. The Austrian minister reminded that an initiative of dialogue must begin to overcome the crisis, and that Turkey will play a crucial role in the process. Winkler said he is in close contact with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Barroso, who earlier gave full support to the Danish government, has recently softened his discourse and said: Freedom of expression is not a disputable right but is based on the individual using it in a responsible way as it is with other rights. We must respect the Muslims’ religious sensitivities and tolerate them to protest the caricatures in a peaceful way. Barroso reminded that freedom of expression is not limitless and there are restricting articles in all European Union countries. I agree with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said he respects Islam and supports no action intended to degrade Muslims. I want to tell the Danish people, the most open and tolerant society of the world, that the EU is with them. Former Danish PM: Cartoons were mistake Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen received a severe rebuke from his predecessor Poul Nyrupp Rasmussen. The former prime minister said the publication of the scandalous cartoons was outright irresponsibility, and that Rasmussen’s refusal to meet ambassadors from Islamic countries was an incomprehensible attitude. In his speech at the European Parliament, the former prime minister said on behalf of the Social Democrats that it is wrong to force the entire Danish population to pay for the mistake made by one Danish newspaper. Other Danish parliamentary members focused on the issue of the commercial boycotts. Karin Riis Jorgensen argued that European Union officials had failed to support Denmark in handling the cartoon crisis: How sensible would it be to talk of European camaraderie when a European company boycotts goods from another European country? asked Jorgensen in condemnation of Carrefour, a French company participating in the boycott of Danish products. Jens Peter Bonde, a Danish Democratic parliamentarian, said: Islam is not above Danish laws. Denmark cannot make concessions to freedom of expression. The Christian Democrats and the Socialists, the two largest groups in the European Parliament, shared the opinion that careless use of the right of freedom of expression cannot be tolerated, because respect must be shown towards religious values. We need to show far more respect for Muslims in Europe if we want them to show equal respect to us too, said Cohn Bendit, spokesman for the Greens, criticizing discrimination against Muslim migrants. Several French rightwing extremists believe that Turkey’s membership to the European Union should be shelved because of what happened during the cartoon crisis. According to Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Defense Policies, the United Nations will have the assurance that respect for different religions will not be violated. The idea is to bridge the gap between Europe and the Islamic world once again, said Solana at a meeting with Jordanian King, Abdullah II. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero meeting with representatives of the Islamic Society in Spain reiterated the joint call for calm, an appeal that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier shared with his Spanish counterpart.

Turkey: Turkish PM: Erdogan: We Have To Define The Limitations Of Freedom

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on the Al Jazeera television channel yesterday evening, delivered a strongly worded message regarding what the caricature crisis coming out of Denmark may have in store for certain freedoms. “Freedoms are not without some limitations, these first must be recognized,” said Erdogan, who also noted that he was thinking about starting a process within Turkey of defining what the limitations are to certain freedoms, and ensuring that people and organizations respected them. “I am of the mind to start this process in my country. There are limits to every area, and these must first be defined, they must be recognized, and people must stay within them,” said Erdogan. On other fronts, Erdogan noted that while anti-semitism was counted as a human rights crime, “Islamaphobia” should also be counted as such, and that he wanted to work with the United Nations on this question. Erdogan also underscored the importance of calm at this time throughout the Middle East, delivering a “Friday warning” to Al Jazeera audiences about how critical it was that Friday mosque prayers not be exploited for the purposes of crowd incitement.

Germany Copes With Integrating Turkish Minority; Immigration Reform On Agenda After Decades Of Separate, Unequal Treatment

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer In the streets of Kreuzberg, a Berlin neighborhood known as Little Istanbul, a cultural tug-of-war is plain to see. Women with Muslim head scarves and long cloaks linger in doorways of kebab and spice shops, young Turkish men play video games in Internet parlors, while German hipsters sip espresso in ultra-modern cafes. Turks remain a separate and unequal population in Germany. “People don’t feel accepted,” said Safter Cimar, a spokesman for the Turkish Union of Berlin. Cimar, a secularist who represents the decades-old anti-religious bent of mainstream Turkish society, laments that conservative religious views are spreading quickly. “People are going back to nationalism, to Islam, to the worst combination of both,” he said. “Young people especially are becoming radical. Many of them are deciding, ‘OK, if they want us to be foreigners, we will act like foreigners. We don’t like German society.’ ” About 2.5 million Turks or people of Turkish descent live in Germany. While the country has not been beset by the riots France has experienced among its frustrated immigrant communities, Germany is grappling with questions that echo the debate in Washington over immigration reform: How can millions of foreigners be brought in as a cheap workforce without becoming a resentful underclass? Should immigrants mold themselves to the dominant culture, or should the country adopt a lenient multiculturalism? Unemployment among Turks is estimated at 25 percent, more than twice the national average of 11 percent, and in Berlin it reaches 42 percent. About 30 percent of Turkish students drop out of high school, and another 40 percent graduate in the hauptschule, or vocational program, which trains them for industrial jobs that are becoming increasingly scarce. Discrimination against Turks and other Muslim immigrants is widely reported to be common in jobs and housing. Anger among Turks is rising, although most observers agree that a France-style explosion is unlikely. Five cars were burned in Berlin on Monday, in apparent arson attacks intended to echo France’s violence. Germany’s Turkish leaders condemned the violence, but warned that alienation is deep-seated. “With Turks, the government has no problem, but with Muslims, the government has a very big problem,” said Burhan Kesici, president of the Islamic Federation, which represents conservative mosques catering to 250,000 Muslims in Berlin, of whom 200,000 are Turks and most of the rest are Arabs. “No institution wants to talk with Islamic groups. There is no cooperation with the government. There are a lot of problems with police officers.” Although some Turks are middle-class shopkeepers and small business owners who are integrated into German society, what grabs public attention are cases highlighting poor Turks and their traditional ways. Kesici’s organization won a long court battle to teach Islam in Berlin public schools alongside the Catholic and Protestant theology classes that have long been part of the traditional curriculum. Kesici, who was born in Germany, also has lobbied for swimming classes to be divided by sex so that boys could not see girls in their swimsuits. Meanwhile, millions of Germans are fixated on TV coverage of the trial for the “honor killing” in February of a 23-year-old Turkish woman by her three brothers, who said she “lived like a whore.” These issues have been heavily covered in the nation’s media and have led to a public backlash. Angela Merkel, the conservative Christian Democrat leader who completed a deal Friday with rival Social Democrats to become Germany’s next chancellor, rode a wave of anti-Turkish public sentiment by promising a tougher stance toward immigrants and by pledging to block Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Public opposition to EU entry for Turkey is high — 74 percent, according to a major poll in July. Similar sentiments were found elsewhere, with 80 percent opposed in Austria, 70 percent in France and 52 percent throughout the EU. Like nearly every European nation, Germany has insisted that immigrants either remain separate from local society or assimilate fully into it. Since Turks were first recruited in the 1960s and early 1970s as temporary workers, Germans have rejected the American-style concept of multiculturalism and demanded that newcomers who want permanent residence absorb the leitkultur, or mainstream German culture. “For 40 years, we have been a country of immigration, but we have denied this,” said Rita Suessmuth, a former Christian Democratic federal legislator who chaired a government commission in 2000-01 that helped shape an immigration reform law that took effect in January this year. The law broadened Germany’s welcome for asylum seekers and made government-funded German-language and civics courses obligatory for newcomers, but kept tight limits on new immigration. “There are so many prejudices,” Suessmuth said. “In Germany, there is a desire to be similar. We are very suspicious of others.” Cimar, the Turkish Union spokesman, said his fellow immigrants bear some of the blame for the failure to integrate. “Until the 1990s, nobody demanded that the Turks speak German, because they were just expected to do the dirty jobs, and everyone thought they would go back to Turkey and not stay here,” he said. “So people didn’t bother learning the language or putting down roots. They didn’t integrate, they didn’t adapt.” Mehmet Okyayuz, a migration expert and professor of political science at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, the Turkish capital, said many Turks in Germany are “caught in a time warp,” clinging to traditions that in many parts of Turkey no longer exist. “The majority of Turks in Germany are more traditional than many Turks here,” said Okyayuz, who lived for 33 years in Germany and returned to his native country in 1994. He cited the case of a friend who has long lived in Germany, “a normal Turk, not an intellectual,” and who has visited his home country several times in recent years. “I invited him to speak to my classes, and he was astonished by what he saw there among the students — young men with long hair and earrings, women in the same kind of dress you probably see in San Francisco.” Compared with many European countries, Germany has taken a more welfare-state-oriented, less law-and-order approach to immigrants and Islam. In France, wearing Muslim head coverings has been banned in state schools. The government routinely arrests and deports foreign imams accused of supporting holy war against the West or espousing anti-Semitism. The domestic intelligence service closely monitors radical mosques, immigrant organizations and even Islamic butcher shops and travel agencies. Anti-terrorism judges have wide-ranging powers enabling them to jail suspects for as long as four years without trial. French police officers — the vast majority of whom are white — have a long-held reputation for tough tactics in immigrant neighborhoods. In Britain, 10 extremist clerics were arrested recently and targeted for deportation under Prime Minister Tony Blair’s new anti-terrorism measures, instituted after bombings in London killed more than 50 people in July. Because of Germans’ sensitivity to their history of ethnic and religious hatred, culminating in the Holocaust, government leaders have tried to avoid accusations of discrimination and thus have not aggressively policed immigrant neighborhoods. The new immigration law allows the government to deport foreigners for security reasons. A Muslim imam in Berlin was ordered expelled in March for calling Germans “useless, stinking atheists,” although the move was later blocked by the country’s constitutional court. In Washington, the Bush administration and Congress are expected to begin debate early next year on immigration reform, including a temporary-worker program that would be similar to the program that brought Turks to Germany and other European nations in the 1960s and 1970s. Lines are being drawn in Congress over whether to offer illegal immigrants, most of them Mexican, temporary U.S. visas that coul
d last, depending on the proposal, as long as six years before the holder is obligated to return home. “The greatest lesson that Americans need to understand up front is that when you design a temporary guest worker program, no matter how much you intend the workers to return (to their home countries), one-third to 50 percent of the guest workers eventually will become permanent,” said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “The objective should not be to keep up the lie that they will all go back, but … to find a smart way to select people who really try hard to stay. What makes for a successful immigrant? Do you want him to learn our language, pay taxes, play by the rules? If so, he should have all of the labor rights and standards of a citizen. If you do those things well, you don’t have problems,” Papademetriou said. “In Europe, they didn’t do one or the other, and they wound up with extreme resentment.”

Headscarves In The Headlines

France is not the only country where headscarves have proved contentious. A number of countries already ban the garment from schools and other public buildings, while elsewhere it is the failure of women to don a veil which prompts outrage.

Singapore
Singapore, keen to avoid racial and religious tensions between its ethnic Chinese majority and the Malay Muslim minority, has banned the scarf from schools. The Singapore government believes the ban is necessary to promote racial harmony, but Muslims say it infringes upon their religious freedoms.

Germany
The issue has come to a head in recent months after Germany’s supreme court ruled that a school was wrong to exclude a Muslim teacher because she wore a headscarf. The judges declared that current legislation did not allow for such a decision, but added that individual states would be within their rights to make legal provisions to this effect.

France The French parliament is widely expected to approve legislation banning overt religious symbols – including headscarves – from schools. President Jacques Chirac believes such a ban is necessary to preserve the secularity of the French state.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority recently warned of “”grave consequences”” if women continued to appear unveiled.

Turkey
For the past 80 years Turks have lived in a secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who rejected headscarves as backward looking in his campaign to secularise Turkish society. Scarves are consequently banned in civic spaces in the country.

Belgium
Two politicians, inspired by developments in neighbouring France, are hoping to push legislation through parliament that would ban the headscarf from state schools.

Russia
Muslim women last year won the right to wear the headscarf for identification photos, which was banned in Russia in 1997.

Denmark
A Muslim woman last year lost a high-profile court case against a large supermarket chain in Denmark after she had been fired for wearing a headscarf at work in 2001. The court ruled that her contract contained a dress code banning headgear.”