Macron and Le Pen debate burkini

The burkini controversy that began in summer 2016 reappeared in the televised presidential debate. As the candidates were discussing laïcité (secularism), Marine Le Pen attacked Macron, saying: “Several years ago there were no burkinis on beaches, I know you support them Mr. Macron.” He responded: “Please…Ms. Le Pen…but I don’t speak for you, I don’t need a ventriloquist. I assure you, all is well. When I have something to say, I say it.”

“So what do you have to say about the burkini?” Le Pen asked. “That has nothing to do with secularism because it’s not religious,” Macron responded, “It’s an issue of public order. So, regarding the burkini, I intend to avoid the trap set by those who want to divide society–to create a big debate…The trap in which you are in the midst of falling, by your provocations, is to divide society.”

“The burkini is a problem,” he added. “There are certain mayors, however, who issued orders that were occasionally justified because it was an issue of public order…It’s not a big theoretical problem. Don’t divide society because of it! Be pragmatic and responsible,” he concluded.

Le Pen responded, “I hear a lot of talk about freedom, I would like us to think of these young women, who, today, cannot wear what they want. The veil is imposed on them precisely because we [didn’t pay attention to] Islamist fundamentalists.”

 

Gender Issues Are a National Problem, Not Just a Muslim Problem: A Response to Baroness Cox’s Statement

Hadeer Soliman counters Baroness Cox’s statement proposing Amernment 219(C) to the Policing and Crime Bill. This bill “would require celebrants of religious marriages to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the marriage complies with the marriage laws of England and Wales.

The full article can be read on SHARIAsource, a research venture of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.

Hadeer Soliman is a California-based attorney. She holds an LLM in Islamic Law, and her research interests include Islamic legal history, gender and Islamic law, and constitutional law.

Sources

Gender Issues Are a National Problem, Not Just a Muslim Problem: A Response to Baroness Cox’s Statement

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.

After mosque attack in Canada, critics point to anti-immigrant ‘trash radio’

The mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume along with Primier Philippe Couillard acknowledged that xenophobia and hate was being spread by what they call  “radio poubelle,” or “trash radio.” Quebec City has developed the dubious reputation of being Canada’s ­capital of shock jocks, online ­radio hosts who love to provoke with outrageous talk about women, homosexuals and Muslims.

Labeaume, appeared to criticize the radio stations. Speaking at an outdoor vigil in memory of the victims Monday evening, he denounced those who “get rich from peddling hatred.”  While Couillard acknowledged Tuesday that the province has “its demons” and that “xenophobia, racism and exclusion are present here.” But he told reporters that Quebec society is generally open and tolerant.

There is no indication that the man charged in the attack, Alexandre Bissonnette, was particularly influenced by trash radio, but members of the Muslim community were quick to complain about the corrosive impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric heard on the city’s airwaves.

A political figure: The number of Muslims in Germany

The Federal Ministry for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has published a new study on the number of Muslims living in Germany for the first time since 2009.

After the admission of hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers by the Merkel government in summer and autumn of 2015, these numbers are eminently political: populist movements’ campaign platforms focus on the (perceived) ‘Islamisation of the West’, and 40 per cent of Germans believe that the country is being ‘infiltrated’ by Islam.

Providing a corrective to populists

These fears are also reflected in the tendency—observable in all Western countries—to overestimate the Muslim population. An Ipsos Mori poll, conducted in late 2016, revealed that German respondents estimated more than 20 per cent of the German population to be Muslim.(( https://www.theguardian.com/society/datablog/2016/dec/13/europeans-massively-overestimate-muslim-population-poll-shows ))

Against this backdrop, the numbers of the BAMF study are a welcome reality check. According to the study, by December 31, 2015, Germany was home to between 4.4 and 4.7 million men and women of Muslim faith. This translates into a Muslim share in the overall population of about 5.4 to 5.7 per cent.

Growing diversity of the Muslim population

Moreover, the study contains interesting insights about the composition of the Muslim population in the country. While in 2011 67.5 per cent of Muslims were of Turkish background, their share has dropped to about 50.6 per cent. Muslims of Middle Eastern origin now constitute the second largest group among German Muslims.

This is linked to the fact that around 27 per cent of Muslims in Germany—or 1.2 million men and women—have only recently, i.e. over the past 5 years, immigrated to the country. Consequently, the diversity of Muslim life has grown significantly in Germany over the past few years.

An inadequate religious structure

The participation of these new arrivals in the existing religious institutions and frameworks is not straightforward, however. In a large number of the country’s mosques, Turkish language, culture, and Islamicality predominate, meaning that they struggle to attract Arab Muslims.

At the same time, many Syrians have felt uneasy to visit Arabic-speaking mosques, due to their conservative nature. Syrians reported that they were often criticised for their clothing style and their (lack of) religious devotion. Most of these mosques are financed by the Gulf monarchies.(( https://de.qantara.de/inhalt/syrische-fluechtlinge-und-arabische-moscheen-in-deutschland-allah-hoert-zu ))

Some hope that the arrival of Syrians can help to break the hold of Wahhabi-Salafi orthodoxy in Arabic-speaking mosques. Yet this is not a foregone conclusion: Syrian refugee Jaber al-Bakr, who planned a bomb attack on one of Berlin’s airports, was reportedly radicalised by conservative Imams after his arrival in Germany.

Shortcomings on ample display

Yet in spite of its contribution to factualising the debate, the BAMF’s study also contains a number of distinctive shortcomings.

At the most general level, the fact that the study was conducted by the federal office responsible for migration and refugees is telling. It highlights that Islam and the presence of Muslims is still seen predominantly as a migrant phenomenon—rather than as a phenomenon that is part and parcel of ordinary German life and citizenship.

More particularly, the reliance on the databases of the BAMF means that German converts to Islam are not included in the study’s figures. The number of these converts is difficult to gauge due to lack of data. According to leading researcher Esra Özyürek, whose anthropological fieldwork has focused on German converts to Islam, estimates range from 20,000 to 100,000.(( http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/muslime-in-deutschland-konvertiten-erfahren-besonders-viel-abneigung-a-1111636.html ))

Foreigner = Muslim

At the same time, the BAMF often counts every immigrant from a Muslim-majority country as Muslim—irrespective of whether the person in question identifies with the Islamic faith. Nor, of course, is the BAMF interested in the level and the particularities of individual religious observance.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/zahl-der-muslime-in-deutschland-wie-viel-millionen-sind-es.886.de.html?dram:article_id=375505 ))

The study is thus an important contribution to a debate that all too often appears completely disconnected from factual analysis. Yet on its own, the obsession with numbers does very little to address any of the questions and problems that Germany and its Muslim community face.

Video: women ‘shunned’ in certain Paris suburbs

The investigation was launched by France 2 TV with the aid of Brigade Des Mères (BDM) group which aims to restore gender equality across France.

Two BDM representatives – both women – carried out a social experiment. They chose Sevran commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris and analyzed the reaction of local men towards women. The response was probably well-suited to some neighborhood in Saudi Arabia, the women later said.

In one café, which solely consisted of male customers, they received a cold welcome. The women were asked if they were looking for a man.”

“There are men in the café,” explains one of the men to them, while the women respond: “It’s OK, in the world there are men and women.”

Answering the question if such behavior is normal, the men in the café answer: “It’s Sevran, not Paris. We have a different mentality.”

“It’s not like in France, it is like back home!” one of the men says.

“But it’s France,” one of the women replies. Sevran is located 16km from the center of the French capital.

Later in the video the camera captures a woman dressed in burqa, a full-body cloak worn by some Muslim women.

All dialogues were filmed with secret cameras. BDM later wrote that in some neighborhoods in France women have become “undesirable in public places.”

Walking in a skirt or having a coffee on the terrace can become a real challenge for them,” the group said.

 

 

Somali Refugee Makes History In U.S. Election

She’s a former refugee, a Muslim, a mom of three, and now the first Somali-American lawmaker in the United States.

“This really was a victory for that 8-year-old in that refugee camp,” Ilhan Omar, 34, said. “This was a victory for the young woman being forced into child marriage. This was a victory for every person that’s been told they have limits on their dreams.”

“I think I bring the voice of young people,” Omar said. “I think I bring the voice of women in the East African community. I bring the voice of Muslims. I bring the voice of young mothers looking for opportunities.”

She won House District 60B in southeast Minneapolis with 80 percent of the vote.

Georgia Lawmaker Withdraws Bill Targeting Islamic Veils After Backlash

State Rep. Jason Spencer cited the “visceral reaction.”

A Georgia lawmaker withdrew a bill Thursday that would have criminalized Muslim women wearing religious face coverings in public after it received widespread condemnation.

House Bill 3 would have amended an anti-mask rule originally intended to keep Ku Klux Klan members from wearing hoods to commit anonymous hate crimes. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), who authored the bill, wanted to change the law to include women wearing veils — like the niqab or burqa.

“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created,” Spencer said in a statement. “While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created.”

Members of Georgia’s Council for American-Islamic Relations said support from interfaith partners helped stop the bill.

“First of all, we want to thank Rep. Spencer for doing the right thing by withdrawing the bill,”Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Georgia CAIR executive director, told The Huffington Post. “We thank our coalition partners, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who stood up for religious freedom. It was reassuring to see the Georgia community uniting so quickly to say that this is not acceptable.”

France has closed twenty mosques since December

French authorities shut down 20 mosques and prayer halls they found to be preaching radical Islamic ideology since December, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday.

“Fight against the #radicalization: since December 2015, twenty Muslim places of worship have been closed,” the Interior Ministry tweeted.

Of the country’s 2,500 mosques and prayer halls, approximately 120 of them have been suspected by French authorities of preaching radical Salafism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam.

“There is no place … in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques, and who don’t respect certain republican principles, notably equality between men and women,” Cazeneuve said, adding, “That is why I took the decision a few months ago to close mosques through the state of emergency, legal measures or administrative measures. About 20 mosques have been closed, and there will be others.”

The announcement came days after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for a temporary ban on foreign funding of French mosques.

Cazeneuve also announced Monday that French authorities would be working with the French Council of the Muslim Faith to launch a foundation to help finance mosques within France.

“By October, a foundation will be created to finance the cultural aspect of cultural institutions and scholarships for secular education #islam,” he tweeted.

 

Hollande: France has a ‘problem with Islam’

The French president, François Hollande, has said his country has “a problem with Islam” and that there are too many illegal migrants arriving in France.

He also suggested that today’s “veiled woman” could become a Marianne, the female symbol of the French republic, and attacked his rival Nicolas Sarkozy as “the little De Gaulle”.

The controversial remarks are published in a 660-page book, A President Should Not Say That: Secrets of Five Years in Office.

Hollande, 62, also spoke of the women in his life and how his actor girlfriend, Julie Gayet, wanted to be de facto first lady of France, which he said was a “hot topic” between them. He admitted he is feeling lonely and betrayed in the Elysée Palace, where he sometimes feels like a “ghost”.

The French leader, whose desperately low popularity ratings make it uncertain as to whether he will stand for a second term in office, made the comments during more than 60 interviews with Le Monde journalists Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme.

The subjects covered range from Hollande’s dismay over the national football team and the new generation of players (“they’ve gone from badly educated kids to ultra-rich stars with no preparation”) to his 2012 presidential rival Sarkozy, whom he described as “a Duracell bunny who is perpetually agitated” and full of “vulgarity and cynicism”.

But Hollande confided that he would not hesitate to vote for Sarkozy if it was a choice between his predecessor and Marine Le Pen, the leadeer of the far-right Front National.

It was his comments on Islam that could prove the most controversial.

The book quotes Hollande saying: “It’s true there is a problem with Islam … and nobody doubts that. There’s a problem with Islam because Islam demands places (of worship), recognition. It’s not that Islam is a problem because it’s a religion that is in itself dangerous but because it wants to assert itself as a religion on the Republic. What might also be a problem is if Muslims don’t criticize acts of radicalization, if imams behave in an anti-republican way.”

 

He added: “The veiled woman of today will be the Marianne of tomorrow … because, in a certain way, if we offer her the right conditions to blossom she will liberate herself from her veil and become a French woman, while remaining a believer if she wishes, capable of carrying with her an ideal … Ultimately, what are we betting on? That she will prefer freedom to subservience. Perhaps the veil is a kind of protection for her, but that tomorrow she will not need it in order to be reassured of her presence in society.”

On immigration, Hollande told the authors: “I think there are too many arrivals, immigrants who shouldn’t be there … we teach them to speak French and then another group arrives and we have to start all over again. It never stops … so, at some point it has to stop.”

Laurent Wauquiez, president of the opposition centre-right Les Républicains, accused Hollande of being “willing to barter the symbol of the French republic for political Islam”. He said Hollande was “selling off the most powerful symbols of the French republic on the cheap”.