Anti-Islam rally canceled

Police in Germany canceled an anti-Islam rally scheduled for Saturday amid safety concerns after leftists clashed with police, officials said. The rally in Cologne was called to protest a decision by local authorities to allow the construction of a mosque with a high dome and minarets, Deustche Welle reported. Rally organizers had invited nationalist groups from across Europe to join the “Stop Islam” rally to fight what it called the “Islamization and immigration invasion” of Germany and Europe, the newspaper reported. The rally was canceled after leftists occupied a city square set aside for the rightists to use for their protest. They clashed with riot police, the newspaper reported. “The rally has been canceled,” a police spokesman said. “The safety of our Cologne people has priority.”

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Analysis: Muslim Youth In Us Oppose Terror

Niko Kyriakou WASHINGTON — Muslim youth groups in the United States are addressing suspicions that the London bombers were both young and “homegrown” by ramping up anti-terrorism initiatives. After the second attack hit London on July 21, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America issued a statement in which young Muslim groups across the United States condemned terrorism and the ideology that fuels it. The Washington-based, Muslim Public Affairs Council says that this is the first campaign specifically launched by Muslim youth, and counts as an important addition to the movement since most Islamic terrorists are between 20 and 30 years old, the group told United Press International. “We Muslim-American students and youth stand united in condemning all acts of terror and the burgeoning war on ideas,” the group said in a statement. “The voice of American Muslim youth is essential at this tenuous time and we will rise to the occasion of making our values heard … We seek to cultivate a culture of pluralism, tolerance and coexistence for the advancement of all people.” British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that future attacks on his country, which has a large immigrant Muslim population, could be prevented in part by legal and security measures, but “in the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the [Muslim] community itself”. Some Muslim youth groups in the United States appear to have the same thought. Signed by some 30 Muslim student groups from universities across the country, including the University of California at Los Angeles and Cornell University, the statement offers an open-invitation for other groups to sign on and affirms that Islam does not tolerate terrorism under any circumstances. A number of the largest US Muslim groups – including The Islamic Circle of North America, the Coalition of Islamic Organizations of Chicago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and groups that are part of the National Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism – have outspokenly condemned acts of terror since the London attacks. Salam Al Marayati, the director of the Muslim Affairs Council, told UPI that his organization plans to “positively and constructively intervene with our youth to make sure they have a good understanding of Islam so that no extremists will play upon them”. He said that the campaign is in its nascent stage but might begin Internet outreach or hold a youth summit in the fall. Marayati said that he does not think that there are any young Muslims in the United States who embrace terrorist ideologies, yet. “I don’t think there are any right now; this is a proactive program. We are not going to wait for extremist groups to recruit any of our youth,” he said. The way to prevent young Muslims from adopting violent views is “to preach the ideology of love and mutual respect and justice, and secondly, to bring youth into more positive, active engagement with society and to listen to them so we reduce the likelihood of alienation,” Marayati said. Other signatories include the national office of the Muslim Students Association located in Virginia. The Association is the first and largest coalition of Muslim students in the United States, with nearly 600 chapters averaging 50 students per chapter. The national office, however, does not speak for the local chapters. Local MSA chapters, like the one in Ohio University in Athens, which had not yet signed onto the Muslim Affairs campaign, have put letters of sympathy for the London victims on their Website and lent their support to a petition of Muslim groups that disassociate themselves from terror. The petition was put out by the Council on American Islamic relations. But at times no action seems like enough to clear Muslims in the minds of others, said Usame Tunagur, of the group’s Ohio chapter. This week the group was planning to run a story in the local newspaper about how the local Muslim community was not only saddened by the attacks in London – and more recently, in Egypt – but also tired of the negative impressions that these attacks give about Islam, Tunagur said. “It really saddens the hearts of community members because when each of these things happens it worsens the image of Islam,” he said. Tunagur said that he felt “hurt” that reports by the British Broadcasting Corporation following the London attacks focused on how “these people could be our next door neighbors”. “They are creating this atmosphere of fear and paranoia in the general public – so bringing down the borders [between people], opening up is not very easy,” he said. In the nine years that Tunagur has spent in the United States and the two he has lived in Athens, where about 50 to 75 community members are Muslim, Tunagur said that he has never heard Muslims say that they support terrorist acts. Before 9/11 he said that there was a much larger Muslim student community at the university, particularly from Saudi Arabia, but that after the attacks the school has not received a lot of new Muslim students. Tunagur called Athens a “progressive” and “open-minded” town, but said that many students on campus seem to think that in general Muslims overseas “want us dead”, calling that a “generalization of people who live in the States”. “Most of the time we see the destruction and not the construction because the destruction is shorter, quicker and attracts more attention,” he said. Over the past four or five years Muslim groups in the United States have become increasingly quick to condemn acts of terror, but Tunagur believes that something more is needed. “I think having proactive events is the next step,” if Muslims are to cut through the “huge curtain between the values of Islam and the West” that terrorism presents, he said. The best way for Muslims to change the way that they are viewed, but also take action on the political issues that they support, is to take the route of political activism and social responsibility, the American Anti-Arab Discrimination Committee told UPI. Young Muslims should “get involved in society and work for the betterment of society and that will help address whatever grievances you have”, said Layla Al Khatami, the communications director at the committee, which is opposed to terrorism and provides legal aid to Arabs facing discrimination. The Council on American Islamic relations also said that they support the youth campaign “wholeheartedly” and that they had launched a recent campaign of 120 imams who condemn extremism and terrorism. “I think the false perception that Muslims in general support terrorism leads to violence and that’s why we launched our ‘Not in the Name of Islam’ petition drive,” Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director at the council told UPI. Specifically he cited the plight of the Palestinians. Another Muslim student group, The Islamic Alliance for Justice at Cornell University, claimed that “certain elements within the American political spectrum” have falsely accused Muslims of silence and even tacit support of terrorism. But “condemnation has in fact been consistently voiced by leading Muslim bodies and organizations both foreign and domestic,” Ahmed Maaty, president of the Alliance at Cornell, told UPI. He said that he and the groups’ chapter at George Washington University in Washington are now planning a number of events, including interfaith dialogues and solidarity vigils, documentaries and panel discussions and articles and op-eds in local and campus media.

German Muslims Feel Sidelined

By Stefan Nicola Muslim organizations in Germany say they feel sidelined after last week’s terrorist attacks on London’s mass transit system amid calls from lawmakers for greater integration by the community and more vocal criticism of Islamic militancy. “There is no strategy for the integration of Muslims in Germany,” Ali Kizilkaya, head of the Islamrat (Islam Council), which with 140,000 members is Germany’s largest Muslim group, said Friday in a telephone interview with United Press International. For integration to succeed, Kizilkaya said, German politicians should foster an increased dialogue with the estimated 3.5 million Muslims living in the country. He criticized German politicians for “ignoring the German Muslims.” Kizilkaya’s remarks come eight days after British-born Muslims detonated bombs in several subway trains and one bus in London. Fifty-four people were killed and several hundred injured in the worst terrorist attacks on European soil since the Madrid train bombings last year. The situation in Germany immediately turned tense. On the day of the attacks, security in Berlin was tightened. After the explosions, several lawmakers, security experts and police organizations demanded tougher anti-terror laws. Calls for countrywide video surveillance, as already implemented in Britain, were put forward by interest groups but show down by major parties. Several lawmakers, among them Bavaria’s Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein, called on the Muslim community to distance itself from the attacks. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, head of the German Catholic church, Thursday told a German radio station Muslims living in Germany should “actively acknowledge” the values embodied in the German constitution. That’s a one-sided and ineffective approach to integration, Muslim leaders say. “You can’t impose integration,” Kizilkaya said. “It’s a process that needs to come from both sides: the German society and the Muslims. There needs to be more dialogue.” Beckstein also said he would like to see intelligence personnel in German mosques. “We have to know what happens in each and every mosque,” the politician of the Christian Socialist Union (the conservative version of the Christian Democrats in Bavaria) is quoted in Thursday’s edition of the Berliner Zeitung. “Wherever extremist ideas are preached, we have to be present with our intelligence,” he said. Kizilkaya called the current political discussion in Germany “hysterical” and criticized Beckstein’s proposals. “Comments like the ones from Mr. Beckstein don’t help,” he told UPI. “They lead to increased mistrust against the Muslim community, which is poison for the integration process.” Kizilkaya, born in the Turkish city of Kayseri, emigrated to Germany with his family more than 34 years ago. At the time, Germany’s economy was thriving and thousands of so-called “Gastarbeiter” (“guest workers”) were asked to enter the country and fill the many available jobs. After the German economic miracle slowed down, the Gastarbeiter stayed. They had married, raised their children in Germany and often had blended into German culture in a way that — in some cases — alienated them from their home country. Kizilkaya, who entered the country without knowing a single word of German, is an example of successful integration. But there is the other extreme. Large secluded Turkish communities have formed in recent years in Berlin and Hamburg, where German remains the second language. The children of the second and third generation — though born in Germany — are hardly integrated into society and are only slowly able to learn German, reports MDR, a public broadcaster based in Berlin, the nation’s capital. Social tensions and unemployment (according to MDR, more than 40 percent of Turks in Berlin are jobless) are because of ethnic ghettos. So far, German politicians have not done enough to tackle the problem, observers say. And attacks like the one in London hurt the already troubled integration process, experts say. Oguz Uecuencue, head of the Muslim organization Milli Goerues, known by its acronym IGMG, told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung “every shameful attack in the name of Islam reduces the trust in our community.” Uecuencue told the newspaper German politicians avoid talking about concrete measures to integrate Muslims because these topics are “unpopular” with most voters. But Muslim imams who preach hate and encourage terrorism remain an obstacle. Dieter Wiefelspuetz, the interior spokesman for the Social Democrats, told UPI in an interview Thursday that the SPD will use “every possibility our constitutional state gives us to expel these people.” Lehman and Beckstein both called on Muslims to work with authorities to eradicate extremist elements in the German Muslim communities. They said Muslims need to do more to distance themselves from hate preachers and acts of terror. Nadeem Elyas, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told the FAZ his organization had repeatedly condemned acts of violence, as they are contrary to the teachings of Islam. The council furthermore organized imam seminars where Muslim preachers were sensitized to peaceful preaching, he said. Kizilkaya said there is no room for hate preachers in German mosques. “Preaching that disturbs the peaceful living of Muslims in Germany is not tolerated,” he said. But by repeatedly asking the Muslim community to distance itself from acts of terror, officials communicate that Muslims have not done so in the past, which is wrong, Kizilkaya said. “How many times will we have to apologize,” Kizilkaya asked. “It’s very hard to overcome that kind of mistrust.” Kizilkaya told UPI that German society has “cooled off” to Muslims since the London attacks. “It’s not explicit, but you can sense it,” he said. The integration process is not in its best state, but it is far from dead, Kizilkaya said. “We shouldn’t forget that Muslims have lived here for nearly half a century now,” he said. “We are open to integration, but we would like to see more help from the other side.” There is no reason why German politicians shouldn’t come forward and push for an increased dialogue with the Muslim community, he said. “Our mosque is not in Istanbul or Saudi-Arabia,” he said. “It’s here, right around the corner.”