Closure of the controversial King-Fahd-Academy in Bonn: Shifting Saudi religious politics in Germany

Past controversies

Saudi diplomats in Germany have confirmed that the King-Fahd-Academy, a Saudi-financed educational institution in Bonn, will be closed by the end of the school year 2016/2017. The construction of a second academy in Berlin will reportedly also be abandoned.(( http://www.dw.com/en/controversial-saudi-school-in-bonn-to-close/a-19511109 ))

The King-Fahd Academy, opened in 1994, had long been criticised as a hotbed of Islamist radicalism. In the early 2000s, the school came under suspicion for alleged ties to Al-Qaeda. In a Friday sermon at the school mosque, a former teacher encouraged pupils to wage holy war and die in the name of God. At the same time, the Wahhabi-inspired curriculum sought to impart to students a strongly anti-Jewish and anti-Western outlook.(( http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/media/islamistenschule100.html ))

After attempts to have the school closed did not come to fruition, local authorities used their administrative prerogatives and no longer granted children with German citizenship the permission to attend the school. As a consequence, the King-Fahd-Academy, an vast building complex, today only provides schooling to about 150 pupils.(( http://www.general-anzeiger-bonn.de/bonn/bad-godesberg/Godesberger-Schule-schlie%C3%9Ft-zum-Schuljahresende-article3344239.html ))

A shift in the Saudi approach?

Over the past decade, the King-Fahd Academy had striven to dissociate itself from the extremist image of the early 2000s. German language classes became obligatory, curricula were altered, and the school sought to open itself to the outside academically (by adopting the standards of the International Baccalaureate programme) as well as socially (by hosting open houses and a range of cultural activities).(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/umstrittene-saudische-fahd-akademie-in-bonn-schliesst-14411622-p3.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_3 ))

Yet the school never quite managed to leave its past behind. Henner Fürtig of the German Institute for Global Area Studies (GIGA) thus sees the closure of the school as indicative of a Saudi attempt to ameliorate the Kingdom’s image in Europe: closing the King-Fahd-Academy could enable the Saudi rulers to leave behind one of the most painful controversies of the past few years.(( http://www.dw.com/de/saudi-arabien-strebt-imagewechsel-an/a-19511727 ))

Saudi sources describe the abandonment of the old educational agenda as a consequence of a shifting political approach in Riyadh. Allegedly, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman himself decreed the closure of the King-Fahd-Academy.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/islam-in-deutschland-saudi-arabien-gibt-koenig-fahd-akademien-auf/14464982.html )) The ambitious crown prince recently promulgated his ‘Vision 2030’, seeking to modernise Saudi society, infrastructure, industry, and education. According to Saudi diplomats, instead of remaining in a Saudi bubble, Saudi students ought to be taught in German schools in order to benefit from “one of the world’s best educational systems”.(( https://beta.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article157887884/Der-saudische-Rueckzug-sollte-Schule-machen.html?wtrid=crossdevice.welt.desktop.vwo.google-referrer.home-spliturl&betaredirect=true ))

Reactions of relief

German politicians have generally reacted with relief to these announcements. While complimenting the school’s opening since the early 2000s, Bonn’s mayor Ashok Sridharan nevertheless welcomed the Academy’s closure. (( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/umstrittene-saudische-fahd-akademie-in-bonn-schliesst-14411622-p3.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_3 ))

The Saudi decision to shut down this one-time signature educational institution, does indeed come at a particular political moment. Over the past few months there had been renewed criticism of Saudi practices of religious financing abroad, with for instance Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) accusing Saudi Arabia openly of financing Islamic extremism in the West.(( http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/01/14/german-vice-chancellor-accuses-saudi-arabia-of-funding-islamic-extremism-in-the-west/ ))

More generally, as Euro-Islam reported, winning over the ‘hearts and minds’ of Germany’s growing Muslim minority has been a persistent theme in recent political debates.(( http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/08/26/amidst-political-controversy-german-ditib-association-vows-greater-emancipation-turkish-state/ )) The role of Turkey and of Saudi Arabia has come under particular scrutiny in this regard. Politicians of all parties have voiced fears of foreign financing and control that could turn German Muslims into a Trojan horse destabilising the country from within. The closure of the King-Fahd-Academy will be welcome news to them.

France Must Bring Secularism and Islam Together

The killing of a priest during morning mass at a Catholic church near Rouen on July 26 has sent new shockwaves through France—a country that prides itself on its secularism, but in which religion still plays a large part in many communities.

The rapid succession of attacks on French soil claimed by Islamic State (IS), from the truck rampage in Nice on Bastille Day to the killing of 84-year-old Jacques Hamel 15 days later, is a worrying sign that IS has intensified its strategy known as the “management of savagery” and that France is a primary target in its fight against the “evil forces”.

Named after the 2004 pamphlet that influenced actions of the Iraq branch of Al Qaeda in 2005-7, “management of savagery” advocates restless violence and continuous massacres in order to scare and exhaust the enemy. It means that IS wages a psychological war as much as a military one. It entails attacking everywhere and at any time in order to destabilize populations across countries. It entails “waves operations”—that never end and maintain high levels of fear among the masses.

This view is based on a binary vision of the world where the merciless and relentless “fighters of god” aim to destroy the “forces of evil”. In this binary vision, the West is not simply a military enemy. It is the incarnation of evil because of its moral, political corruption and its promiscuous and decadent lifestyle that threatens the souls of Muslims everywhere: both those in Western democracies and in Muslim-majority countries ruled by westernized and corrupted leaders.

In this sense, the West is no longer a geopolitical concept but a word used to describe cultures, promiscuous lifestyles and atheism but also Christianity and Judaism that threaten to destroy “pure” Islam everywhere.

Defending secularism

France holds a specific status in this worldview because of its stringent version of secularism or laïcité characterized by a very limited tolerance for religious signs in public spaces. As a result, the trend is to push most Islamic practices, and especially dress code, into the private sphere. At the same time, leniency is maintained for the visibility of some catholic signs and nun’s dresses, often associated with French national culture. This is ironic, given that laïcitéwas first and foremost designed at the time of the separation of church and state in 1905 to crush the infamous power of the Catholic Church.

Discrimination against Islamic religious practices occurs everywhere in Europe, but it is somewhat different in France where there is a more systematic use of the law against Islamic practices. Since the 2004 law banning all religious signs in public schools that was intended to exclude the hijab from the classroom, this has extended to the total prohibition of the niqab(face veil) in public spaces in 2010.

In this context, laïcité is presented by politicians from right to left as the major pillar of French national identity, in need of defence against Islam. Their rhetoric suggests that the problem is not just a particular conservative or political Islamic trend, but Islam itself.

This existential war has been present since the late 1980s with the ongoing controversies on the headscarf and the rise of respected intellectuals and celebrities who have urged their followers to defend France’s universal secularist values against Islam. Most of these figures are on the left side of the political spectrum, such as the acclaimed novelist Michel Houellebecq, or feminists, like journalist and writer Caroline Fourest. Interestingly, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in France has not been part of this anti-Islamic battle, siding instead for respect of Islamic practices.

Reconciliation needed

This existential war between the core values of the West and Islam does, of course, happen elsewhere in Europe, but it is at its peak in France. French Muslims have become internal enemies of the state because they seem to endanger the core value of laïcité. French Muslims are also perceived as external enemies because of the war on terror and the rise of radical Islam. Under these conditions, any expression of Islamic identity or practice, from head covering to dietary rules, is seen as “uncivic” and therefore deemed illegitimate. No doubt that the succession of recent attacks from Nice to Rouen will exacerbate this sentiment.

All Muslims are affected, even when they are not particularly religious. As my research has shown, this has exacerbated a sense of estrangement caused by other ongoing factors including a lack of socio-economic integration or of political representation.

So it is not surprising that for some, including converts, IS provides a powerful narrative that reverts the stigma by making Islam good and the West evil. IS’s fight for the so-called caliphate is also about capturing the hearts and minds of youth in the “lands of savagery” by turning their energy and enthusiasm into lethal weapons against the “armies of evil”.

It is particularly attractive to the most fragile segments of the Muslim youth, especially young men from North African backgrounds who struggle with employment, education and gender relations. In this sense, France has become the major battlefield of inverted perceptions of Islam and the West that reinforce each other: the jihadi perception of the West as the quintessential enemy of Islam and the extreme French secular vision of Islam as the enemy of the West.

The reconciliation of Islam with French laïcité will certainly not defeat IS on the ground, but it may diminish the group’s attraction as a global ideology of resistance for young Muslims. French leaders, both political and religious, need to make sure they focus on this need for reconciliation.

Jocelyne Cesari is professor of religion and politics and director of research at the Edward Cadbury Centre at University of Birmingham.

Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. But so do western conservatives

Omar Mateen – who shot dead 50 people in an Orlando gay club – was both an

Islamist terrorist and a violent homophobe.

These things are not mutually exclusive. They are concomitant. Mateen attacked

the West in general but targeted gay people in particular. Inevitably some people

say Islam is incompatible with Western life because it is incompatible with our

attitudes towards sexuality.

Are they right? Well, it’s complicated. And on a matter as sensitive as this, there

is nothing wrong with admitting that it’s complicated.

Liberals, say the Right, must find themselves in a terrible quandary. As

supporters of both gay liberation and multiculturalism, how do they process the

fact that many Muslims believe homosexuality is a crime?

Conservatives insist that their confident defence of Western history and

philosophy is more gay-friendly than liberal multiculturalism.

Liberals listening to Trump and Spahn might choke on their tofu. When, they

would counter, did Western conservatives suddenly become fans of sexual

freedom? Haven’t they spent decades fighting gay rights?

Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, was one of the first Republicans to say that

Orlando was an attack on gay people – and good for him. But Left-wing critics

argued that his outspoken opposition to gay marriage was part of the cultural

environment in which Mateen’s bigotry grew.

Islam wasn’t the only religious authority that Mateen would have encountered in

Florida telling him that gay people are going to Hell. He could have tuned in to

any evangelical radio show to hear that.

When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their

community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly.

It is not.

Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality

should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since

the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still

bitterly resented by social conservatives.

The conservatives are right: Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. Yet

so do many conservatives. And it would be an inversion of Western values to

insist that any individual suddenly rethink their religious beliefs if they want to

be accepted into society.

But Muslims, I’m sure, would welcome a social contract requiring everyone to

obey the law and respect the distinction between church and state. And, most of

all, live and let live.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/islam-does- have-a- problem-

with-homosexuality- but-so- do-western- c/

Al-Qaeda: France is “Number one enemy” according to Islamist group leader

Following the wave of attacks in France at the beginning of 2015, it seems the worst should be expected. Recently, an online message clip was published by the media branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on YouTube. Ibrahim al-Rubaish, one of the group’s leaders, indicated that France is his “number one enemy.”

With the “weakening” of the United States in the last several years, “France has replaced America in its war against Islam,” declared the group’s leader. Washington considers the branch directed by Ibrahim al-Rubaish to be the most active and dangerous branch of Al-Qaeda. It claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which resulted in the loss of 12 lives. Several days ago the leader called to “avenge” the Prophet Muhammad. Ibrahim al-Rubaish called for attacks against the “infidels” in the West, France in particular, and to attack “without consultation” those who mock the Prophet Muhammad.

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?

Al Andalus 2.0. La ciber-yihad contra España

This work analyzes the explosive combination of terrorism, new information technologies and historical grievances. The recovery of alandalusIslamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula remains an essential objective for Al Qaeda and their allies. The radicals found in the Internet an opportunity to enhance and reinterpret in harsh terms the myth of a paradise taken away by force. From abundant new information, the book explains the role that  Al Andalus plays in the jihadist universe is explained, details all corners of cyberspace where it is possible to find Spanish references as a vehicle to incite violence, traces back the role played by internet in the 11-M in Madrid, and delves into some of the major police operations against groups and individuals who have used cyberspace to wage jihad against Spain.

Divided into two parts, the first devoted to “Medium and Message” with the eternal justification for Al Qaeda and its franchises to hate the West as responsible for the assaults on Muslims.

The second part deals with cyber-jihadists arrested in Spain, which provides a comprehensive overview of police operations carried out against the people who have used the Internet as a means of radicalization.

This work analyzes the explosive combination of terrorism, new information technologies and historical grievances.

 

Manuel Ricardo Torres Soriano, Al Andalus 2.0. La ciber-yihad contra España (Granada: Biblioteca GESI). 210 pages. 2014. (ISBN: 978–84-616-7991-1)

Tucker Carlson Confronts Islamic Preacher Who Wants to Implement Sharia Law

December 20, 2013

By Josh Feldman

 

Tucker Carlson filled in for Sean Hannity on his show Friday night, and he brought on Anjem Choudary, a Muslim preacher responsible for an effort to threaten Muslim-owned business to stop selling alcohol lest they receive 40 lashes. Carlson confronted Choudary about this stunt and his desire to implement Sharia law in England.

Choudary pushed back against Western “propaganda,” saying he is simply trying to encourage the following of Islamic law in a “den of iniquity.” Carlson shot back, “This isn’t Pakistan, this is Great Britain!”

He continued on to say that “troublemakers like you are thrown in prison in Pakistan,” and called him out for being a beneficiary of social services in the country he’s condemning as decadent. Choudary said the legal notice is actually “intended to provoke discussion” and warn of ultimate punishment in the afterlife.

Carlson concluded by asking, “Will you concede that your unwillingness to denounce violence makes your program repulsive to people in the West and decent people everywhere?” Choudary insisted that “we’re not threatening anyone with violence.”

 

Mediaite.com: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/tucker-carlson-confronts-islamic-preacher-who-wants-to-implement-sharia-law/