Grand Mosque of Lyon’s rector calls on Muslims to vote

Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, published a communiqué before the first round of the elections in which he called on the Muslim community to assume its “duty” to vote.

“Our responsibility, as citizens of this country, commands us to take part in France’s future at a time when certain irresponsible persons attempt to convince us to desert the voting booths and separate us from our fellow citizens,” he wrote. “Those who advocate retrograde beliefs, contribute to the image of a community who is uninterested in the Future of its country. The Muslims of France are in fact concerned, about the future of their country, just as they are concerned about the future of their children.”

Contacted by Lyon Capitale, Kabtane stated that salafist places of worship have attempted to dissuade Muslims from voting. “All the mosques are on alert and the sermons will call on Muslims to fulfill their duty as citizens. That is our objective,” he concluded.

 

 

Emmanuel Macron struggles to impress French Muslims

When asked if she would vote for the centrist Emmanuel Macron over the far-right Marine Le Pen in a possible runoff for the French presidency, Nadia Henni-Moulai could only muster an unenthusiastic “I’ll see”.

“Macron might convince me by then … but I won’t vote for him by default,” she said before vexing at the “anti-Islam continuum from the far-right to the far-left”.

Henni-Moulai, a French Muslim of Algerian origin, was one of several Muslims Al Jazeera spoke to who expressed reservations about backing Macron.

Their positions varied from cautious support to promises to avoid voting in the election altogether.

The upcoming contest could have serious consequences for the country’s Muslims, with polls putting the Front National’s Le Pen in front in the first round of voting.

Restrictions on halal meat, religious clothing, and “burkinis” have formed part of the far-right leader’s strategy to fight for the “soul of France”.

Macron, her centrist rival, trails behind her in the first round, but polls show he has a healthy lead should the pair face off in the deciding second round.

At 39, the former minister for economy has pulled in energetic crowds for his campaign rallies, drawn by his promise of “democratic revolution” in the face of a global turn to far-right populism of the kind represented by Le Pen.

On Islam, Macron has been cordial, insisting “no religion is a problem in France today”and even drawing ire from the right by condemning French “crimes and acts of barbarism” during its colonial rule in Algeria.

Henni-Moulai, the founder of the website Melting Book, which aims to amplify minority voices in the media, cast doubt on whether Macron could deliver on his energetic campaign, given his “establishment” background.

“He presents himself as against the system, but like the others he graduated from the ENA,” she said, using the acronym for the National School of Administration, where France’s top civil servants are trained.

“He worked as an investment banker afterwards …. Despite his claims, he is a part of the system,” she added.

The temptations of indulging in anti-Muslim rhetoric were too strong and Macron would eventually succumb, Henni-Moulai claimed.

“Muslim bashing is inescapable, especially if you want to reach the Elysée palace.

“I’m quite skeptical about his ability to get elected with his current arguments … as the French adage goes: Campaign from the right, govern from the centre.”

Not everyone Al Jazeera spoke to carried their skepticism of Macron as strongly as Henni-Moulai, but a thread of doubt surrounding whether he would follow through on his promises featured in most of the conversations.

Yousef Barbouch, a sales professional from the southern city of Toulouse, praised Macron’s stance on Islam but pointed out that past successful candidates had reneged on their earlier goodwill.

“There is a certain optimism you feel when you see his position on Islam within society and on hijabis, for example,” Barbouch said.

“[Macron] has this British and American mindset where he doesn’t care what you believe as long as you bring a value to the country, and that’s really refreshing to hear in today’s context of fear [surrounding Islam].”

However, Barbouch recalled the example of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who he said had started his tenure with similar statements before turning his back on them later.

“I won’t forget that in 2009, Sarkozy had similar opinions; he defended hijabis, for example, but seven years later he’s fiercely opposed to the headscarf.”

Karim Brequin, a Parisian business consultant, also noted receptiveness among Muslims for Macron’s amiable comments on Islam but said his association with controversial establishment figures could count against him.

“Many are looking towards Macron as he seems to be more culturally aware than the other candidates,” Brequin told Al Jazeera.

“The fact that he is young and represents some kind of new momentum is relevant to many … however, his relationship with Dominique Strauss-Kahn raises questions,” he said, referring to the former finance minister once touted as a future president until he became embroiled in a rape scandal.

Rim-Sarah Alouane, a researcher in Public Law at the University Toulouse Capitole, said Macron deserved praise for not using fear of Islam as an electoral device.

“Credit has to be given to Macron for being one of the very few candidates who do not abuse laïcité [French secularism] and Muslims to power their campaign,” she said, adding: “His American-style empowerment discourse makes it possible to restore sorely needed hope to French Muslims who have been targeted both by the right and the left during the presidential campaign debates.”

That praise, however, was tempered by the fear that Macron’s promises seemed “to good to be true …

“This new hope of the French political landscape [Macron] has a very elusive programme that does not address the roots of the economic and social issues faced by the most disenfranchised populations in this country.

“Going to visit the banlieues [suburbs] or declaring loudly that multiculturalism is great is laudable, and of course very much needed, but unless he moves beyond words, people will not be fooled.”

Such economic concerns were also a factor for Yasser Louati, a leading French activist against Islamophobia.

Although statistics based on religion are hard to come by in France owing to state prohibition on their collection, immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, have almost double the unemployment rate of French-born residents.

“Macron will bring no positive changes to the working class and minorities whatsoever,” Louati said.

“His positions are known to be highly in favour of neoliberalism, with a complete disregard for its catastrophic social consequences, such as unequal concentration of power and wealth, repression, or environmental crisis.”

Louati conceded that Macron had made “brave declarations” on the role of the state in discriminating against minority youths and had avoided exploiting anti-Islamic rhetoric, but said his key platform policies remain unknown.

“Nobody knows what his programme is about … Macron has never expressed how to effectively tackle the root causes of racism or whether he intends to repeal Islamophobic laws.”

Taking a harder line than any of the other French Muslims Al Jazeera spoke to, Louati said he would avoid voting in the upcoming elections.

“I would not vote for Emmanuel Macron nor any other candidate because that would be giving more credit to a morally bankrupt and institutionally failed political system.”

Defining the meaning of conservatism: German Muslims seek to organise in the CDU

Recently, German authorities commissioned an estimate of the country’s Muslim population. Unsurprisingly, the number of both Muslim residents and citizens has been growing over the past few years. The question of ‘integration’ has thus unsurprisingly remained a staple in public discussions.

Yet these debates have been led above all in culturalistic terms, focusing for instance on whether immigrants from Muslim backgrounds have to to accept a German ‘leading culture’ (Leitkultur). Little thought was given to immigrants’ integration into the country’s political life and its party system.

The voting behaviour of immigrants and their descendants

A recent study noted that “visible minorities” tend to vote left in Germany. Indeed, among the Turkish-German population, nearly 70 per cent of respondents expressed support for the Social Democratic Party (SPD).(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/migranten-und-politik-diese-parteien-waehlen-einwanderer/14851994.html ))

At the same time, these tendencies no longer appear to be set in stone. The scandal surrounding the racial theses of Thilo Sarrazin, an SPD member, apparently caused some German Turks to turn away from the Social Democrats while the CDU gradually seemed to open itself to immigrant voters.(( http://www.taz.de/!5061177/ ))

Moreover, the socioeconomic position of immigrants and their descendants has evolved: they have been credited with creating millions of jobs in diverse sectors of the economy.(( http://www.dw.com/en/study-migrant-entrepreneurs-provide-millions-of-jobs-in-germany/a-19465413 )) The Economist noted that recent – predominantly Muslim – immigrants were “bringing entrepreneurial flair to Germany”.(( http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21716053-while-native-germans-are-growing-less-eager-start-businesses-new-arrivals-are-ever-more )) The traditional pro-SPD vote of the Muslim guest worker toiling in one of the country’s factories can no longer be taken for granted.

Representing the ‘conservative majority’

Seeking to capitalise on this trend of an increasingly unmoored Muslim electorate, around 30 young Muslim members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, have joined forces to build a platform for the CDU’s Muslim partisans. Their project is dubbed “Members in the [Christian Democratcic] Union”, shortened to MidU.

According to its founding statement, MidU conceives of itself as the representative of the “conservative” majority of German Muslims, whose views are not taken into account by any other existing political platform. It vows to enrich the political debate by bringing to bear the distinctive viewpoint of these men and women on current issues.(( http://www.muslimeinderunion.de/ ))

‘A positive counter-public’

MidU founder and spokesman Cihan Sügür described this initiative as an attempt to create “a positive counter-public” that is no longer completely dominated by emotional debates surrounding ‘hot’ topics of cultural integration or jihadist radicalisation.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461 ))

Admittedly, though, it has most often been the CDU itself (with the exception of the far-right AfD party) that has engaged most stubbornly in these debates. Only in December 2016, the CDU party conference shifted to the right on a whole range of issues touching Muslims and immigrants. They include a project particularly dear to Sügür and MidU, namely dual citizenship.

Another policy area where MidU appears far removed from the conservative mainstream is the admissibility of the hijab in public functions. While Sügür defended the right of a Muslim woman to war the headscarf when working e.g. in court of justice as a self-evident right,(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461 )) to the delight of many conservatives, the reality in Germany is still considerably more complex than that.

A potential gain for the CDU

Nevertheless, the Muslim vote does hold out considerable promise for the CDU: with now more than four million men, women, and children of Islamic faith living in the country, Sügür points out that they can be a decisive factor at the ballot box.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461. It is worth noting, however, that of course by 2008 only 1.8 million Muslims held Germany citizenship, thus reducing the pool of those eligible to vote.))

Conversely, many of Germany’s Muslims could indeed be attracted to a more ‘conservative’ stance on a range of questions related to social morality. Some even joined the rising Alternative for Germany from 2012 onwards, thinking that the party would stand up for traditional family values.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/migranten-in-der-afd-abgestempelt-als-tuerkischer-nazi-aid-1.4607002 ))

Against this backdrop, the CDU’s Secretary General, Peter Tauber – widely seen as a core figure behind his party’s attempts to attract a younger and more female membership – welcomed the formation of MidU by sending a note of greeting to the club’s first gathering.

MidU and the large Muslim associations

Yet as soon as MidU stepped into the open with this first meeting, political headwinds started to build up. Notably, MidU received critical scrutiny for its supposed closeness to the four large German Muslim associations (the predominantly Turkish DİTİB, IGMG, and VIKZ associations, as well as the more mixed ZMD).

To some observers, the self-consciously conservative MidU appeared as an initiative to consolidate the – somewhat tenuous – grip of these four conservative Islamic associations on the political representation of Muslims. And for many of Sügür’s fellow CDU members, the conservatism of these four associations is deeply unappealing. (( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/muslime-in-der-union-polarisieren-14873404.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

The implicit supposition that the four associations would work together and use MidU as a shared platform to influence the CDU and government policy is somewhat far-fetched: the different Islamic associations are notoriously disunited and have never managed to overcome these differences even when there were considerable political incentives in favour of doing so.

The role of DİTİB

Yet even the suspicion of being too close to these associations risks hampering MidU’s acceptability among the conservative mainstream. Especially DİTİB, for a long time the state’s preferred cooperation partner, has fallen out of favour with the authorities over recent months and years.

It has become a pastime among CDU politicians to criticise DİTİB clerics, sent by Ankara. Slightly derogatorily referred to as “imported Imams” (Importimame), they are blamed for inhibiting the integration of German Muslims. By contrast, MidU spokesman Sügür offered a defence of the workings of this system.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461 )) The fact that a (small) number of DİTİB’s Imams is now accused of spying on suspected Gülenists in Germany will not help Sügür’s position.

MidU, Erdoğan, and the political fault-lines among ‘conservative’ Muslims

The larger issue looming behind the present debate on DİTİB and its trustworthiness is its relationship with the Turkish state led by President Erdoğan, bête noire of many CDU politicians. Some of them promptly accused the MidU founder of seeking to organise the infiltration of the CDU by Erdoğan supporters.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/muslime-in-der-cdu-uns-verbindet-nicht-erdogan-sondern-der-islam/14012648.html ))

Sügür was quick to deny this. Yet MidU’s critics saw their suspicions as confirmed by the exclusion of all those from the MidU platform who had supported the government’s resolution classifying the massacres of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide. This included the perhaps most high-profile Muslim member of the CDU, Cemile Giousouf.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/muslime-in-der-union-polarisieren-14873404.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2))

MidU subsequently pledged greater openness. Yet this episode demonstrates that the political issues haunting and also dividing the Muslim and Turkish communities in Germany resurface even among the small group of self-defined ‘conservatives’ who have decided to join the CDU.

American Muslims in the 2016 Election and Beyond: Principles and Strategies for Greater Political Engagement

Muslims have yet to realize their full political potential through voting, organizing, and coalition building. More and more, however, a new generation of activists and community leaders is engaging the political process as full participants, motivated both by the desire to make a difference and a sense of civic duty. Ironically, Islamophobic rhetoric so common in the 2016 election cycle aimed at marginalizing Muslims may have given a fragmented community a rare common concern around which to mobilize, and a united party platform for which to cast their ballot. The mosque, a focal point of attacks, emerges as a gathering place for grassroots civic engagement, education, and community service. To realize their full potential, Muslims must build for the short term through education, local participation, and effective getout-the-vote campaigns. Muslims must plan for the long term by building a sustainable infrastructure for political mobilization, investing in more research on American Muslim voters, and cultivating an American Muslim civic culture.

Institute for Social Policy and Network: http://www.ispu.org/ame2016

Link to report PDF: http://www.ispu.org/pdfs/repository/ame2016.pdf

Anjem Choudary claims all Muslim MPs and voters are ‘apostates’ sinning against Islam

Radical preacher Anjem Choudary has claimed that all Muslim MPs and voters are “apostates” as the general election approaches. Writing on Twitter that voting is a “sin” against Islam, he argued that Parliament violated religious law because Allah is “the only legislator”. Mr Choudary wrote: “The only excuse is for a new Muslim or someone totally ignorant about voting and also what’s known from Islam by necessity.”

 

In a stream of messages using the #StayMuslimDontVote hashtag, the cleric called Muslims who vote or run as an MP are “apostates”, meaning they have abandoned their beliefs. The Muslim Council of Great Britain declined to comment but member Talha Ahmad told Al Jazeera last month: “Almost all major Muslim organisations say it is a civic obligation for us to participate in the electoral process because we have an opportunity to make our societies better, not just for Muslims but for everyone.”

 

Akmal Hanuk, from the Muslim Council of Wales, told the BBC: “It is not representing the view of the majority of Muslims. I think the majority of Muslims want to vote and will.”

Allen West: ‘Radical’ Muslims waging ‘jihad’ in U.S. — by voting and obeying election laws

April 17, 2014

 

Former Republican Congressman Allen West (R-FL), who is currently employed as a Fox News contributor, on Thursday warned that Muslims were organizing to “destroy” the United States by exercising their legal right to vote.

Fox News host Steve Doocy began a Fox & Friends segment with West by announcing that “radical Islamists are busy building a voting bloc to sneak the political agenda into the American system… Their goal: to wage jihad from within.”

West explained that a group of Muslim Americas had written a document in 1991, “and we come to find out it’s the blueprint, the campaign strategy for the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States of America.”

The former congressman pointed to groups like Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society, and the Islamic Society of Northern America as his prime suspects.

“They’re forming some type of political party, a voting bloc as they call it,” West said.

West, however, did not explain how he intended to stop Muslims from using their constitutional voting rights to wage “jihad” on the country.

The Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/17/allen-west-radical-muslims-waging-jihad-in-u-s-by-voting-and-obeying-election-laws/

Video: http://videos.rawstory.com/video/Allen-West-Islamic-radicals-wag/player?

The Muslim vote

February 26, 2014

 

The polling firm OpinionWay conducted a poll for the French newspaper Le Figaro and surveyed 10,000 French voters.

According to its findings 93% of French Muslims voted for François Hollande while only 7% voted for the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. An estimated 2 million Muslims participated in the 2012 election and approximately 1.7 million Muslims voted for Hollande rather than Sarkozy. Hollande defeated Sarkozy by 1.1 million votes, which suggests that Muslims provided critical votes that led to Hollande’s victory. However, it should be noted that voting abstention among the Muslim population is greater than within the average population.

The Muslim vote is believed to be a social vote rather than a religious vote and is very traditional concerning social matters such as family. During Hollande’s 2012 presidential campaign he offered amnesty to 400,000 undocumented immigrants from North African countries, many of who are Muslim. Hollande additionally vowed to extend municipal voting rights to residents without French citizenship by the year 2014. These promises prompted Muslims to support the Socialist party because it favors their integration.

Source: http://opinionlab.opinion-way.com/dokumenty/Sondage_jour_de_vote_T2_SOCIOLOGIE_DU_VOTE_2_1.pdf

 

IFOP (Département Opinion et Stratégies d’Enterprise) tracked the evolution of the Muslim vote using data from surveys collected during the 2002, 2007 and 2012 elections to accumulate a sample of 14, 200 voters.

In the first round of the 2012 elections 57% of Muslims voted for Hollande while 7% voted for Sarkozy. According to IFOP in the second round of voting 86% of the Muslim vote went to Hollande while 14% went to Sarkozy.

There is a similar pattern in the 2007 election, which shows that Muslims overwhelmingly supported Royal with 58%, Bayrou with 15% and the Far-left with 10% of the total possible votes.

The 2002 elections display the same trend with 49% voting for the Socialist Party and 19% for the Far-left.

Source: http://www.ifop.fr/media/pressdocument/482-1-document_file.pdf

 

A comprehensive survey entitled “Français comme les autres” published in 2008 polled French of North African and African descent.

Among those who identified as Muslim, 64% declared they voted for the Left in the 2005 election. However after posing the same question to those who identified as nonreligious the results were roughly identical, with 67% voting for the Left. The publication suggests that ethnic origin, the migration process and discrimination within France have created a cultural identity among the population which was the primary factor that influenced the vote.

Source: http://www.fasopo.org/reasopo/n7/societespolitiquescomparees7_livre.pdf

50th anniversary of the March on Washington is a reminder of black-Jewish relations at their best

For many Americans, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was a time of broad themes, of big-picture talks about race and economic justice. But for some, the events of the past week stirred specific memories — some good and others not — concerning relations between African Americans and Jews.

Jews were extremely active in the civil rights movement, and they played a role that was especially remarkable in light of their making up such a small part of the nation’s population. Prominent rabbis marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and several were involved in the founding of the NAACP.

Historians have noted that, starting in the early part of the 20th century, the two communities found common cause in fighting their exclusion from largely white, largely Christian mainstream society and in overcoming prejudice that would deny them entry to residential neighborhoods, universities and athletic clubs.

By the 1980s and 1990s, however, the relationship had frayed, strained by such points of contention as the opposition of some Jewish leaders to affirmative action and anti-Jewish comments made by black leaders Jesse L. Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.

Although many African Americans and Jews continue to work together on shared, largely liberal, interests — including civil liberties, public education and voting rights — younger generations have drifted apart over such issues as national economic policy and Israel.

Thomas Hart, 57, an African American lawyer, lobbyist and documentary filmmaker in the District. Hart has long partnered with Jewish leaders on such causes at securing voting rights and expanding black-owned media, and he is making a film about black-Jewish relations.

He said the “dire” economic conditions that many black Americans face have contributed to a gap with the Jewish community, as has the growth of the nation’s Muslim community (a quarter of which is African American) and resulting tensions over Middle East policy.

 

Muslim MPs come under pressure over the gay marriage voting

16 February 2013

 

Recently passed gay marriage law which enabled gay couples to marry in religious institutions have angered Muslim community since homosexuality is banned under the Islamic law. However, their feelings have become stronger after the voting in the Parliament since five Muslim MP voted in favor of the gay marriage. Muslim MPs came under harsh criticism from Muslim groups, some of those accused the MPs with “apostasy”.

 

It has been also reported that some of the MPs have received death threats over the vote. According to Daily Mail, Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary has received death threats after voting in favour of gay marriage. Police have told Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, that the threats are credible enough that he should review the security around him and his family following the Commons vote.

 

Mufti Muhammed Aslam Naqshbandi Bandhalevi, who is the head imam of the Jamia Islamia Rizvia mosque in Bradford, has issued a fatwa, or ruling, declaring Mr Khan an ‘apostate’ from Islam and said he should ‘repent before Allah’.

 

Hizbut Tahrir Britain said “some people hold up these MPs as examples for young Muslims to follow yet nothing could be further from the truth”.

 

CAIR to Release Poll of Muslim Voters on Presidential Pick

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2012 — Results show Muslims may be key voting bloc in swing states nationwide.

 

On Wednesday, October 24, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), along with the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT*), will hold a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to announce the results of a poll of American Muslim registered voters.

“The results of our survey show that, because of the razor-thin margins in several swing states, American Muslim voters could be a key voting bloc,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

 

CAIR’s survey, conducted by an independent research firm in the first two weeks of October, indicates how many American Muslim registered voters are still undecided about who to vote for in the November presidential election and how many will turn out at the polls.

 

The survey also outlines which issues are important to Muslim voters, which political party Muslims favor, how many Muslim voters have experienced discrimination or kindness post-9/11, and what Muslims think of major foreign policy issues.

 

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization has taken similar polls in past election cycles.