Muslim chaplains in prison, “formidable” work lacking direction

“Formidable work, but not encouraged.” Thirty year-old Ammar Maireche is training in Nièvre to become an imam and chaplain and would like to work in France’s prisons to combat the problem of radicalization. However, the lack of available resources has severely limited his ability to achieve his goal. The European Institute of Human Sciences (IESH) hosts some 220 students, men and women, who come from all over Europe to learn Arabic and Islamic theology. Throughout the course of seven years, each year around a dozen of graduates become imams and among them several become chaplains.

“The chaplaincy has not been supported and people are discouraged because there are not enough people. There is the financial aspect (only the costs are reimbursed,) and the prison does not provide enough resources so that the imam can help where it is needed,” explained Maireche.

“Everyone knows it’s impossible to support yourself from only this work,” he said. Radicalization of certain prisoners is for him “a real problem,” of which responsibility is “shared” between the Muslim community, who must portray a peaceful Islam, the politicians who must create more jobs, and the media.”

Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, who launched terror attacks January 7 and 9 in Paris, were radicalized in prison. To combat this phenomenon, the government announced they would hire an additional 60 Muslim chaplains, and promised the creation of five “ living quarters” to isolate radicalized detainees.

There are several problems involved in ameliorating the problem. The Institute’s director Zuhair Mahmood stated: “we can only produce five to ten imams each year, we can’t do more.” As well as the fact that “a chaplain must be better formed than an imam because prison, it’s the hardest area, it’s where there is the most need for pacification.”

The days at the school consist of both classes and daily prayer. Some women wear the veil, and several men are dressed in traditional garb. Jean-Jacques Pierre-Joseph, a 42-year-old convert who is an administrator at IESH and a prison chaplain, deplores the job’s “crisis of direction,” due in particular to its volunteer nature and the lack of personnel. In France, 182 Muslim chaplains are available for more than 200 prisons.

In prison, the chaplain plays “a theological role, but also has a social dominance as well, an ear for listening like a psychologist,” said Pierre-Joseph. Because “among the roots of radicalization, there are underlying elements such as instruction, the economy, frustrations and stigmatizations. Radicalization, it’s more about taking a position against the system, more than conveying religious ideas.”

Faced with this, “there shouldn’t be fear of confrontation, we must promote dialogue. We must work hard and sometimes ask anger-provoking questions in order to regulate them,” he said.

However Pierre-Joseph remains “completely opposed” to the prison living quarters dedicated, which would be even more of a “stigmatization,” for Muslims. “We can’t say that we want to reinsert these people into society while putting them at the margins,” he argued.

Following a visit to the United Nations on February 10, Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, believed that prison was “one of the breeding-grounds” of extremism but “not the principal site of radicalization,” stating that only sixteen percent of people charged with terrorism had a criminal background.

Storm Erupts in Reaction to the Care-Giver Veil Case: Sparks fly between the League and Pd (Democratic Party)

Arese – Tatiana Rotar was fired because she wore a headscarf. Starting October 1 the legal dispute will likely bring together Tatiana Rotar, the 26 year old Ukrainian domestic helper who converted to Islam two months ago and her former employers. The case has divided the town of Varese.

 

Among the two sides are those who understand the family’s choice to fired Rotar (the young woman claims she was fired for her choice to wear the veil) and those who condemn the choice.

 

“There is a law that prohibits dismissal for religious reasons” says Sandy Cane, mayor of Viggiù, a black American and a party member of the Northern League “But you have to see how her religious choice would affect her work. And we need to see where this choice comes from. It was converted after meeting her Muslim boyfriend. I already take that as a sign of weakness. Many could presume that this woman was greatly influenced. She did after all, convert after meeting her Muslim boyfriend.“

 

Cane does not think this is racist: “I do not think that the dismissal after she wore the veil comes from racism. I believe comes from an understandable concern. As Islam today is not associated with peaceful images or scenarios.”

 

This is a Civil Rights issue says Stefano El- fennèe a Moroccan Muslim and spokesman for the Pd Luvinate. “It is unfair and I think that this girl will be shown this by our judicial system” he says “the system must evaluate the work of a person, not his/her religious faith. In this case there is not an objective reason for her dismissal rather it is subjective. Does a nun fulfill her mission any less because she wears a veil? And again, is it better to have a caregiver who is beautiful and wears a short skirt but treats her patients terribly or a caregiver with the veil that instead takes good care of persons in her charge?”

‘Why it is so important for us to wear the veil’

Amongst the 1.4 million Muslim women in Britain, Shalina Litt is one of a tiny minority who choose to cover their face entirely. This choice has come under intense scrutiny over the last few days, after a judge ruled that a 22-year-old woman from Hackney, East London, could not wear the full veil while being cross-examined in court. So when Birmingham community worker Shalina steps out in her niqab, she has come to expect the worst. “It gets a really bad reaction,” the 34 year-old mother of two says. “I’ve had glass kicked at me and when you drive people are extra aggressive. They will roll down their window to shout at you and at times like this when hatred of covered-up women becomes most heated you find that people are very aggressive,”

 

Unlike some who wear the niqab, Shalina does not feel obliged to keep it on at all non-family occasions. She explains: “Nobody is forcing me to do it and I can lift it up at any time. When I see my elderly white neighbour, I make sure I lift it up and show her my face. I actually find it cooler to wear on a hot day, but if it’s uncomfortable or I’ve got a cold and I’m bunged up, I’m not going to wear it. It’s a religious choice. Shalina, who has two young children, says she would be happy for her daughter to wear a veil, but that it would be her choice. “It’s a very liberating and empowering experience. I’m not oppressed by ageism, sexism or racism because nobody can see.”

 

Julie Siddiqi, executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, who converted to Islam in 1995, believes the niqab is unnecessary but worries that there has been an overreaction to it. “It’s pathetic that some people are presenting this as a national issue”, she said. “This is a few thousand women and we need to keep that in perspective.

 

Rabiha Hannan, co-editor of Islam and the Veil, a book which examines Muslim women’s use of face and hair covering, believes that people’s fears about those wearing niqabs and burqas need to be addressed.

A Muslim Caregiver Fired Because of Her Veil

September 18, 2013

 

“Lose the veil or you are fired.” This was part of an incident reported by Tatiana Rotar, a 26 year old Ukrainian domestic worker, who was accompanied by her partner, Ashraf Gouda, an Egyptian, and owner of a food Import & Export, and resident of Malnate where he served as an Sos volunteer.

“It happened about ten days ago” says Tatiana “For two years I was working as a maid and nanny for a wealthy family of Varese. At one point my employer called me and told me that I was fired. The reason? I put the veil on to cover my head after I converted to Islam.”

From the Orthodox Christian religion to Islam: Tatiana says: “Until a month ago there were never any problems. They had never complained. Today they accuse my partner, and indicate that he has forced me to wear the veil. It this not this racism?”

The couple turned to a union to report the incident. The union has agreed to take the case. Marco Molinari the representative from the trade union CISL (the largest confederation of trade unions) said “We have picked up the case and we have already informed our legal department. Before proceeding with the dispute, that is submit for an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, we will have to wait until she is handed a letter of dismissal. Only then can we start the legal process.”

Islam, a Florentine woman forced to use the veil and beaten by her husband

In 2010, after having embraced the Islamic faith, she flew to Egypt where she married a man she met only a few months earlier. A husband, 33 year-old Egyptian man, who turned out to have an abusive side, this side which slowly became a river of aggression. Until last Sunday, August 25 when the woman, 30 year-old Florentine, exhausted and frightened, denounced her husband due to his abuse.

Due to the beating, the women, upon arrival at the hospital had bruises on her face and legs, her ordeal had also weakened in her psyche. She was also forced to wear the veil and dress conservatively in dark colors. She lived locked in the house with the windows sealed to avoid being seen also isolating her from potential help allowing her no space or autonomy. The 33-year old husband, in recent times, was becoming more extreme. So much so that he had taken over the phone, her only contact with the outside world.

Compounding the situation was that he beat her even in front of their own children during the 6 months and two years of their relationship.

He also threatened to kill her, even threatening her own family. Her mother was also beaten and threatened with death by the North African. Despite this his in-laws gave the couple money to buy a house in the southern suburbs of the city, where the young couple lived with their children.

The woman went to the Florentine hospital saying she had back pain but then burst into tears in front of the doctors.

police officers, directed by Dr. Alexander Ausenda, approached the victim inside the hospital while her husband waited in the waiting room. Then they accompanied him to the police station. Here an agent, a woman, handcuffed and took the man to prison. The 33 year old did not speak as his his wife and children were taken to a safe house.

Women and Islam: Other prejudices that come with knowledge

Rosanna Sirignano

June 3, 2013

 

Chained, reclusive, condemned lives, sufferers, slaves: these are some of the adjectives easily used in association with Muslim women. However, this is a broad stereotype and is predicated on the notion that there is one Islamic state or a holistic Islamic culture, the attempt to create some order to the question of Islamic women and offer cues for reflection from a point of view of little understanding.

 

Unfortunately for external observers it is difficult regardless of there want to examine the question objectively. The veil, an often cited example, is seen as a sign of oppression and the limits of female liberty. Many don’t know that many women probably the major part, choose to wear the veil they illustrate their devotion to God and is their own decision. Those “advocates” would now give voice to those immigrant women even though they have chosen to wear the veil these women do not think of themselves as “poor, oppressed, ignorant, terrorists” rather they might focus on a fear of not being heard or of not finding work.

 

It is sad to note, those who defend the rights of Islamic women there are people who have never read a verse of the Koran and have no knowledge of the historical development of the rights of women, and perhaps more gravely, look at Islam as a homogenous system. It is natural to distinguish between Italian Catholicism, and that of Swedish Catholicism for Islam we understand the same religion not a Tunisian, or a Yemen or an Indonesian Islam? When one speaks about Muslim women many understand them as the same, regardless of state, which have the same problems and the same conditions.

No Make-up in Muslim Skies

5/5/2013

Giacomo Galeazzi

Since Ergodan’s rise to power, reports AsiaNews, Turkey has slowly returned Islam and religion, after 10 years of Kamalist secularism. There has been an increase in Turkish society of women who choose to wear the veil, women are also still banned from public office, and there has been an increase in the places where alcohol is banned. The decision to proscribe forms of make-up is part of a new aesthetic code of the national airline of Turkey. For months, as reported by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), flight attendants must wear the veil or a traditional fez. Parties believe Prime Minister Ergodan is trying to “islamize” secular society.

This has all influenced Turkish Airlines decision to prohibit its female flight attendants from wearing flashy make-up. The decision has sparked controversy within the country.

21 year old Egyptian man beats his girlfriend to convince her to convert to Islam

3/8/2013

La Repubblica

A man in Milan is accused of beating his 27 year old Mexican girlfriend over the period of 5-months. According to the national news outlet, he beat her to get her to convert to Islam including to wear the veil. Neighbors frequently called the police to report the domestic violence issue, on March 8, International Women’s Day, she finally allowed charges to be pressed.

 

29-year-old Muslim woman named culture minister of Norway

The first ever Muslim minister in the Norwegian Cabinet is Hadia Tajik of Pakistani origin, who was handed the culture portfolio

On Sunday, with no precedent in Norwegian history, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed Hadia Tajik, a 29-year-old Muslim woman, as minister of culture, making Tajik the youngest minister in the Norwegian Cabinet and the first ever Muslim in the Norwegian government.

Tajik, of Pakistani origin, anounced that her programme will focus on cultural diversity as part of the Norwegian people’s daily lives and how this reflects on Norweigan society as a whole. The programme will delve into the protection of minority rights, whether cultural or racial, including the right of Muslims to wear the veil in public places, among other issues.

The new focus, however, will not be unopposed. Most right wing groups are against these policy changes, considering the increase in diversity in society a challenge to European culture.

Last year Anders Breivik randomly shot 69 people at a summer camp organised by the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party after blowing up a Norweigan state building. During his trial, Breivik reasoned that multi-cultural policies are harming Norway, adding that he considers Islam his enemy.

Born in Strand, Norway, on 18 July 1983, Tajik studied human rights at the University of Kingston in the UK and holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and Master’s in law, the latter awarded by the University of Oslo this year.

An activist from a young age, Tajik led the Young Workers Movement between 1999 and 2002. She also worked as a political advisor to Norway’s minister of justice, 2008-2009. During this time Norweigan women members of the police were afforded the right to wear the veil at work. The decision was, however, rescinded due to harsh criticism from conservative parties.

In 2009, Tajik was elected to parliament as a member of the Labour Party in the Oslo constitutency. She was placed on a list of six seats generally considered safe for the party.

The spokesman of the Muslims of Ceuta criticizes “scoundrels” politicians who wear the veil “as electoral strategy”

21 August 2012

The president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Ceuta (Ucidce) Laarbi Maateis, has censored the  “scoundrels political parties and associations ” who “used the hijab – the headscarf – as decoy during electoral campaigns and cause alarm for the rest of the year “after an association that works in defense of gender equality in the two autonomous cities, ‘Búscome’, has termed as “macho” the expressions allegedly discharged by imams who led the prayers at the end of the month of Ramadan.
Maateis has denied, however, that during the prayer such assertions had been made. “During the prayers [attended by about 3,000 people], the imam asked Allah to give our children the faith to wear the hijab according to the conviction and education of each family, no more, because nor a father, or an imam or a head of state may force it to anyone, “warned the President of the UCIDCE.