Netherlands Considers Burqa Ban

The Dutch immigration minister says she will look into the legality of banning the burqa, the robes worn by some Muslim women to cover their bodies. Rita Verdonk made the pledge after a majority in parliament said it would support such a ban. The proposal was put forward by independent politician Geert Wilders. “That women should walk the streets in a totally unrecognisable manner is an insult to everyone who believes in equal rights,” he said. “This law is a comfort to moderate Muslims and will contribute to integration in the Netherlands,” he added in a statement. His proposal is supported by two of the parties in the governing centre-right coalition, as well as the opposition right-wing party founded by the late Pim Fortuyn. Mrs Verdonk did not say when she might complete her investigation. If the Netherlands does decide to ban the burqa, it will be the first European country to do so.

Salafist Imam to be Deported

A Salafist imam was arrested in Brest Monday morning and should be expelled to Morocco by Monday evening. Hassan Belabid, 26 years, born in Agadir, was accused “for having encouraged discrimination and violence towards non-Muslims and women” during sermons at the mosque of Pontan_zen, a district of Brest. {(article continues below in French)} Un imam salafiste a _t_ arr_t_ _ Brest lundi matin pour “propos attentatoires aux principes de la R_publique” et devrait _tre expuls_ d_s lundi soir vers le Maroc, a-t-on appris lundi au minist_re de l’Int_rieur. Hassan Belabid, 26 ans, n_ _ Agadir, a _t_ arr_t_ lundi _ la sortie de son domicile, selon des sources proches du dossier _ Brest. Frapp_ d’un arr_t_ d’expulsion en urgence, cet imam doit quitter la France dans la soir_e pour le Maroc, a pr_cis_ le minist_re. Selon une source polici_re, il lui est reproch_ “d’avoir incit_ _ la discrimination et _ la violence envers la population non-musulmane ainsi qu’envers les femmes” lors de pr_ches _ la mosqu_e de Pontan_zen, un quartier populaire de Brest. Une proc_dure d’expulsion avait d_j_ affect_ le milieu salafiste de la ville le 15 avril 2004 avec la reconduite vers Alger de l’imam Abdelkader Yahia Cherif, de nationalit_ alg_rienne, pour “menace _ la s_ret_ de l’Etat”. L’arr_t_ minist_riel d’expulsion faisait _tat d’un “pros_lytisme en faveur d’un islam radical” et de “relations actives avec la mouvance islamiste nationale ou internationale en relation avec des organisations pr_nant des actes terroristes”. Par ailleurs, un ressortissant marocain naturalis_ en janvier 2004, proche de M. Abdelkader Yahia Cherif, a _t_ d_chu fin 2004 de sa nationalit_ fran_aise en raison de “relations _troites avec des islamistes activistes”.

An American Imam: Moderate Muslim Clerics In The U.S. Tend To Their Faithful–And Help The Fbi Fight Terrorists

By DOUGLAS WALLER STERLING IT WAS ON SEPT. 10, A DAY SHY OF THE fourth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, that Imam Mohamed Magid met terrorism’s victims face to face. He was presiding at the funeral on Long Island for the daughter and son-in-law of Bangladeshi Americans from his Sterling, Va., mosque. The children, who were at work in the North Tower, perished in the Sept. 11 attack, but not until this past August had medical examiners identified enough of their charred tissue and bone fragments for the parents to hold a funeral. Staring at the two wooden boxes covered with green embroidered cloth and surrounded by grieving family members, the Muslim cleric was gripped by both sadness and rage. “The terrorists who kill in the name of Islam claim they are the martyrs,” Magid told TIME later, the anger still roiling him. “But the victims are the martyrs. The terrorists are the murderers, and God will deal with them on Judgment Day.” From his mosque in Virginia, Magid, like many of the some 600 full-time imams across the country, is fighting his own war against radicals trying to hijack his religion. For Magid that has meant not only condemning terrorism but also working closely with the FBI in battling it. He regularly opens doors for agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community, and he alerts the bureau when suspicious persons approach his congregation. That puts him in a precarious position: How does he maintain credibility as a spiritual adviser while, in effect, he is informing on fellow Muslims? To understand that balancing act, TIME spent two weeks following Magid as he raced from prayer to prayer, meeting to meeting, in the strange new world of American Muslim ministry. Breaking with tradition hasn’t bothered Magid. Born 40 years ago in the northern Sudanese village of Alrakabih along the Nile River, he studied Islam under African Sunni scholars, who included his father. Magid immigrated to the U.S. in 1987, when his ailing father came seeking medical treatment. Unlike many foreign imams, who find America’s open society too jolting and withdraw to their mosques, he reveled in the cultural diversity. “I never had a Jewish friend until I came to the U.S.,” says the gregarious imam. “And the questioning of all religions here helped me strengthen my own beliefs.” Magid reached out, taking college courses in psychology and family counseling, teaching classes on the Koran at the Islamic Center and Howard University in Washington. One of his African-American students at Howard–Amaarah Decuir, who had recently converted to Islam from Catholicism and was getting a master’s degree in education–eventually became his wife and educated him on women’s issues. In 1997, Magid became imam of a mosque just west of Washington called ADAMS, an acronym for All Dulles Area Muslim Society. An imam can be a layman sufficiently versed in the Koran to lead daily prayers, but larger, more established mosques hire professional imams, comparable to Christian ministers or Jewish rabbis, who are trained in Islamic seminaries or mentored by scholars. Of the some 1,500 mosques in the U.S., ADAMS is one of the more progressive. Its $5 million center in Sterling serves 5,000 mostly middle- and upper-middle-income Sunni and Shi’ite families from more than a dozen ethnic backgrounds. In many mosques abroad and in the U.S., women are required to pray in rooms separate from the men. At ADAMS, women not only pray in the same room with the men (although in a partitioned-off section in the back), they hold four of the 13 seats on the mosque’s board of trustees and chair a majority of its committees. An American imam becomes de facto mayor of his Muslim community. A line of congregants often stretches outside Magid’s office filled with followers asking for all kinds of help. Finding love, for example, can be difficult for observant Muslims scattered in U.S. cities; Islam forbids physical contact in dating or cruising for mates in nightclubs that serve alcohol. A breathless young man once phoned Magid in the middle of the night to ask if he could perform a marriage in a parking lot “right now” so the suitor and the woman in his car wouldn’t feel guilty about what they wanted to do next. “I’m not a 7-Eleven,” the imam barked into the phone. To help with romances, Magid and his wife run a matchmaking service, holding daylong retreats at which young Muslim men and women can mix under the watchful eye of chaperones. Magid has no qualms about grappling with problems that Muslim families often don’t deal with openly. He has organized mosque programs to treat depression among Muslim teens and stocks the women’s restroom at ADAMS with brochures on where to get help if they have an abusive husband. Teenagers and young adults come to him with questions about everything from underage drinking to premarital sex to whether the Koran allows a woman to have a bikini wax. He advises abstaining from alcohol and sex before marriage but knows his advice won’t always be followed, so he also counsels on safe sex and the health dangers of binge drinking. As for the bikini wax, Islam’s rules on female modesty allow it, he decided–if a wife’s husband will be the only one to see the result. “He’s not some big, scary imam sitting in his office passing judgment,” says Zohra Atmar, a 25-year-old legal assistant who is a mosque member. But Sept. 11, 2001, “changed the role of the American imam for good,” Magid believes. Muslims in this country found their religion under attack. His female congregants who wore the hijab, or traditional scarf, on their head were harassed at shopping centers. Last year a man shouted “Terrorists!” at the mosque’s Girl Scouts as they sold cookies at a nearby grocery store. And since 9/11, the ADAMS center has been vandalized four times and the graffiti GO HOME painted on its walls. But this is home, and Magid began mobilizing his mosque to protect it. “There’s no way you can be a quarter-citizen in this country,” he told his congregants during Friday prayers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. “You have to be a full citizen and defend it.” For Magid, that meant working with the FBI. In early 2002, leaders of two Arab-American organizations who had been conferring with the agency on counterterrorism programs asked Magid and other local imams if they too would work with the bureau. The lawmen badly needed contacts among Washington’s Muslims to help them check out leads and alert them to anything out of the ordinary, but they were getting nowhere in setting up those ties because “there was so much fear and animosity toward the FBI in that community,” says an agent. Magid was willing to cooperate, but he knew he would have to convince his congregation that getting cozy with the FBI was in their interest. Some members–particularly those who had come from countries with repressive regimes where the security service was an organization to be avoided–were uneasy. The imam invited agents to the mosque to explain how Muslims could help, but the initial meetings were heated, and the lawmen had to sit through “some very harsh questioning,” says Uzma Unus, vice president of the ADAMS board of trustees. The congregants vented about law-enforcement profiling, which they felt targeted all Muslims as suspects. Agents were showing up at their workplaces to make routine inquiries about anyone they might want to report, and some Muslims were fired because of the public stigma of being questioned by the FBI. The agents promised to be less heavy-handed in investigations, and over the next three years relations improved. Now Magid often serves as an intermediary, coaxing reluctant congregants who might have useful information about unusual activities in their neighborhoods into meeting with the FBI and advising the bureau on how to be more culturally sensitive–for example, by having male agents schedule interviews with women only when their husbands could be present. Magid regularly tips off the bureau when a stranger with a questionable background wanders into his center. In one case, mosque members alerted him to a newcomer who deal
t only in cash and wanted to list the ADAMS-center address as his home on his driver’s license application. The next time the imam saw the man in his mosque, he kept the newcomer in his office until agents showed up to question him. In the end, the FBI cleared the man. It turned out he had gone through a messy divorce in another state and was simply trying to start a new life in Virginia. So far as Magid knows, no terrorist has tried to infiltrate the mosque, but he always worries that one might. ADAMS prides itself on being an extremist-free zone. Newcomers who mutter thoughts of jihad quickly discover they are not welcome. During Ramadan, guest speakers for evening prayers were carefully screened to make sure they preached religious tolerance. Magid keeps close watch on younger members of the mosque who might be drawn to the diatribes of radical clerics. Before 9/11, he recalls, a teenager who had read a fatwa on an extremist website walked into his office and asked whether the Koran sanctioned suicide bombings. “Absolutely not!” he sternly told the boy. Since the attacks, no young person has approached him with that kind of question, but Magid constantly lectures in Koran classes: “Don’t blindly follow how any religious leader interprets Islam–even me.” After last July’s bombings in London, which were carried out by young British-born Muslims who had turned to extremism, ADAMS parents came to him fearful that their children could be similarly swayed. Magid says he convened more classes with his younger congregants to talk “about using democratic means–not violence–to convey their frustrations and disagreements with U.S. foreign policy.” As riots by mostly disaffected young Muslims swept France this month, he preached the same message of nonviolence in his youth classes. Distrust remains. The collaboration between the FBI and the imam “has not been popular in certain wings,” concedes Michael Rolince, the Washington field office’s special agent in charge of counterterrorism. The bureau has come under fire from hard-line pundits, who charge that it is reaching out to American Muslim leaders sympathetic to extremists. “They are providing an endorsement of these individuals, which enhances their credibility,” says Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank in Philadelphia. (The FBI insists it works only with moderates like Magid.) But some ADAMS members are still uncomfortable about their imam’s talking to an intelligence service, while other conservative clerics have complained to Magid that he is selling out. Although they keep those reservations private for fear they will be investigated, Magid says, “they ask, ‘How can you open a dialogue with the government when it has been so hostile to Muslims?'” But progressive imams like Magid realize they are on the front line between the Muslim community and a country awakening–often fearfully–to the knowledge that it has a Muslim community. “It’s time for Islam in America to be American,” he says. For the FBI, that kind of thinking may be one of its best weapons in the war on terrorism.M2509

Muslims March Over Cartoons Of The Prophet

By Kate Connolly in Berlin A Danish experiment in testing “the limits of freedom of speech” has backfired – or succeeded spectacularly – after newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed provoked an outcry. Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets in protest at the caricatures, the newspaper that published them has received death threats and two of its cartoonists have been forced into hiding. Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s leading daily, defied Islam’s ban on images of the Prophet by printing cartoons by 12 different artists. In one he is depicted as a sabre-wielding terrorist accompanied by women in burqas, in another his turban appears to be a bomb and in a third he is portrayed as a schoolboy by a blackboard. The ambassadors of 11 Muslim countries called on Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister, to take “necessary steps” against the “defamation of Islam”. But Mr Rasmussen, the head of a centre-Right minority coalition dependent for its survival on support from an anti-foreigner party, called the cartoons a “necessary provocation” and refused to act. “I will never accept that respect for a religious stance leads to the curtailment of criticism, humour and satire in the press,” he said. The Danish debate over how to integrate Muslims has raged for years, with nursery school menus and women-only opening hours for swimming pools particular battlegrounds. But the cartoons satirising the Prophet have injected a dangerous new element into the controversy. “This is a pubescent demonstration of freedom of expression that consciously and totally without reason has trampled over the feelings of many people,” said Uffe Ellemann Jensen, a former foreign minister and member of Mr Rasmussen’s party. Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands-Posten, spurned demands that he apologise, saying he “would not dream” of saying sorry. “To demand that we take religious feelings into consideration is irreconcilable with western democracy and freedom of expression,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that we want to insult any Muslims.” Juste commissioned the cartoons after learning of the difficulties a children’s writer, Kare Bluitgen, had in finding an illustrator for his book on the Koran and the Prophet’s life. Bluitgen said all the artists he approached feared the wrath of Muslims if they drew images of Mohammed. Many cited the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamist as a reason for refusal. Juste said he wanted to counter growing “self censorship” and see how many cartoonists would be “bold enough” to draw the Prophet. One artist, Franz F_chsel, said he intended no offence. “But I live in 2005, not 905 and I use my quill in the way that Danish law allows me.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch MP famous for her criticism of Islam and author of the screenplay for Mr Van Gogh’s film Submission, supported the paper. “It’s necessary to taunt Muslims on their relationship with Mohammed,” she said. “Otherwise we will never have the dialogue we need to establish with Muslims on the most central question: ‘Do you really feel that every Muslim in 2005 should follow the way of life the Prophet had 1,400 years ago, as the Koran dictates?’ “

Lodi Highlights Battle Over America’s Mosques

LODI, Calif.–Though FBI vehicles and small-engine aircraft no longer circle the town, Muslims in Lodi, Calif., still feel under siege. Four months after the government launched a highly public terrorism investigation that ensnared five Pakistani men here in June, the community is still reeling, not just from the pressures stemming from the federal probe, but also from a pre-existing split in the community that some say the FBI exploited. “Everyone is just kind of hiding their head under the sand, hoping the storm will pass,” says Taj Khan, an outspoken Pakistani Muslim leader in Lodi. Father and son Umer and Hamid Hayat, alleged to have ties to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, now await trial in Sacramento County Jail. Local Muslim clerics Muhammed Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed and Adil Khan’s 19-year-old son selected to depart for Pakistan in August instead of fighting immigration violation charges. Equally contentious, though, is that the Farooqia Islamic Center, a Muslim school and community center Adil Khan and his prot_g_ Ahmed were planning, is now all but defunct. And those heading the existing mosque are not shedding any tears over its demise. Such conflicts within American mosques are becoming increasingly common as Muslim communities grapple with conflicting ideologies regarding “women, interfaith events, the West, education, civic service and marriage,” says Asra Nomani, activist and author of “Standing Alone in Mecca.” “Pakistan is undergoing a fierce battle for the hearts and minds of its people. It’s natural that this flows into immigrant communities,” Nomani says. Pakistanis have made Lodi their home for almost a century, and since 1978, the Lodi Muslim Mosque, an inconspicuous yellow building that was once a Jehovah’s Witness Hall, has served an estimated 500 members from a community of 2,500. Men relax on the mosque veranda between scheduled prayers, and boys in Pakistani tunics play basketball across the street. Females are not barred from entering the mosque, mosque members say, but the facility is not large enough to accommodate women, who traditionally pray in separate lines behind the men. Few Pakistani women are to be seen there or in other public places in Southeast Lodi, where many in the community live. Planners of the Farooqia Islamic Center envisioned an 18-acre establishment where women’s education programs, K-4 schooling and interfaith gatherings could be held. Adil Khan, who immigrated to Lodi from Pakistan in the spring of 2001 and was named mosque imam shortly thereafter, kick-started the project, organizing conferences with local Christian and Jewish leaders in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and publicly signing a “declaration of peace” with a rabbi and reverend. “I think the most important thing it would have brought is more open communication between Muslims and non-Muslims,” says Pamela Parvez, 48, a white Muslim from nearby Stockton who converted 20 years ago. “But it would also be nice to have a place where women can go … to read the Quran, to study Islam together.” County supervisors halted the Farooqia project on Sept. 27, citing land-use concerns. Parvez and other supporters — Taj Khan, in particular — blame the project’s defeat primarily on the terror allegations, but also on leaders of the existing mosque. Three months before Adil Khan’s arrest, in March, Lodi Muslim Mosque president Mohammed Shoaib and others sued Adil Khan and four other Farooqia organizers for $200,000, alleging fraud and deceit in the group’s fund raising, notably its sale of the mosque-owned land, which Adil Khan used to finance the purchase of a separate 18-acre plot for the center. In their suit, Shoaib and his faction indicated that Adil Khan had overstayed his religious worker visa. Taj Khan has steered the Farooqia project in Adil Khan’s absence, and his supporters claim Shoaib deliberately provoked the imams’ arrests. Shoaib denies that accusation, blaming the imams themselves for attracting the FBI. “If you believe in the justice system here, the court has convicted them,” he says. Taj Khan, who now attends a mosque in Stockton that advertises “Friday prayers for women also,” is now one of several plaintiffs suing Shoaib and others on the mosque board claiming the president resigned in 2004 and has no authority over the governing body. “These people are being used by FBI,” Taj Khan says. “They plan and conspire and do stuff against the rest of members of the community.” Author Asra Nomani says adding federal investigators into this kind of religious dispute makes conditions ripe for the kind of back-stabbing that occurred in Lodi. “People point fingers at each other trying to stoke this fear of Muslims,” she says. “It’s like walking on egg shells.” Both cases are still pending in San Joaquin Superior Court. Regardless of their outcome, they have revealed in the community a deep divide. Taj Khan says that most of Lodi’s Muslims backed the plans for a more open mosque, but that Shoaib and his supporters, many of whom are related, disliked the project’s progressive aims. “They’re following the Wahabi sect in Saudi Arabia, and other people don’t like that,” Khan says. Shoaib says that his opponents have mislabeled him, and that Adil Khan, an educated native of metropolitan Karachi, was an interloper who did not respect community members from the poorer districts of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province, where most Lodi Muslims have their roots. “We’re not against women, not against another mosque,” he protests. “We’re against the way it is being run.” Whatever their differences, Khan and Shoaib agree on one thing: that the lasting feud has kept the community from regrouping. In mid-August, organizers called off an annual Pakistani Independence Day celebration in recognition of Adil Khan’s and Ahmed’s detention. Shoaib says that was a missed opportunity to show non-Muslims that the community had nothing to hide. Outside attempts to bring Lodi’s Muslim community together have faltered, as well. A proposed “Million Muslim March” — promoted by Lodi Mayor John Beckman and local conservative radio show host Mark Williams as a way to affirm the community’s stance against terrorism — was scrapped in July due to community division, Beckman said. The Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations organized talks to patch the rift, but they too fell through, says Shoaib. Reconciliation does not appear likely amid unresolved lawsuits and the imminent terrorism trial, according to six-year mosque member Sultan Afsar. “The wounds are too deep to be healed,” he says.

British Tolerance Of Forced Unions Wanes

The government may criminalize forced marriages, hundreds of which take place annually among Muslims. By James Brandon In a drafty railway station cafe in England’s Midlands, Ayesha, a young Muslim girl whose family is from Pakistan, is trying not to cry as she talks about her wedding day. “When I was young I always expected to have an arranged marriage,” she says. “But I also thought that I’d get a chance to know the man first.” Instead, at 17, her family forced her to marry a man she had never met. When Ayesha, not her real name, tried to have the marriage annulled, she was disowned by her family, and forced to flee her hometown of Birmingham. Although every year hundreds of Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu women in Britain, according to figures from the government and aid agencies, are forced into marriage to fulfill traditional ideas of family honor or parental prestige, Britain’s government has so far been reluctant to interfere in the private lives of immigrants. But now, following the London subway and bus bombings on July 7, the government is proposing new laws that would specifically criminalize forcing others into marriage. And calls for the ban have grown as Britain attempts to integrate its insular Muslim communities into the mainstream in an effort to temper extremism. “In Britain we are proud of our cultural diversity,” said Baroness Scotland, a Home Office minister who started talks on the proposal earlier this month. “But even a sensitive appreciation of cultural differences cannot allow abuse to go unchallenged.” Shaminder Ubhi, director of the Ashiana Project, one of several London refuges for Asian and Middle Eastern women fleeing domestic violence, says that about 300 women looking for help come to them every year. “And around 60 percent say that forced marriage is one of the issues they are escaping from.” But some say that new legislation specifically targeting minorities will only increase feelings of persecution, and that the worst cases of forced marriages can be dealt with under existing laws against rape and kidnap. “There is already enough legislation. We prefer to say it’s a cultural and not a religious thing and to abolish the practice that way,” says Reefat Drabu, of the controversial Muslim Council of Britain’s Social and Family Affairs Committee. “The media use the issue to demonize the Muslim community. And the problem is diminishing anyway.” But in Derby, a city where Britain’s growing racial divide is most apparent, the problem is far from diminishing. “The cases sound barbaric but they happen every single day,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, who runs Karma Nirvana, a shelter in Derby for Asian women fleeing forced marriages and abusive husbands. “One day last week I dealt with 12 cases. We need a complete change of mind-set,” says Ms. Sanghera. “This is a human rights issue. It needs to be treated with the seriousness it deserves.” One key problem is that while many South Asian immigrants permit their sons to absorb Western influences, they often cannot accept that their young women brought up in Britain have adopted Western ideas of female independence. “We’re born here. We’re bound to be influenced by Western ideals,” says Sanghera, who herself ran away from home after her Sikh family tried to force her into a marriage with a stranger. “I just wanted to have a love marriage that people like you can take for granted,” she says. The challenges of reconciling their increasingly Western ambitions with their private loyalty to their family and their cultural traditions are too much for many young women. “Younger Asian women in the UK in the 16 to 24 age group have a suicide rate two to three times the national average,” says Sanghera. “Girls in schools at this moment are sitting there fearing that they’re about to be sent to India or Pakistan to be married off.” But while the practice of forced marriage initially came from older generations keen to preserve their traditions, many young British-born Asians perpetuate the practice as a way to differentiate themselves from mainstream British society, which many deem corrupt and immoral. “We are seeing an increasing number of 16 year olds fleeing forced marriages,” says Sanghera, “The myth is that when the older generation die this problem will go. But young people are reinventing these attitudes.” The growing isolation of minority communities, particularly in the north of England, means that even with the new law, Sanghera’s ambition to stamp out the problem may take years to fulfill, especially as many community leaders deny that the problem exists. “Some schools say not to bring our leaflets into schools because it will upset the Asian community,” she says. “But our human rights organizations shouldn’t worry about upsetting people. These arguments slow us down. “Asian community leaders say leave us alone, you’re stereotyping us. I wish faith groups did work with us because they hold a lot of power,” says Sanghera. “These communities are not above the law. If they choose to live [here] they must sign up to helping people live free of fear and violence.” But even if the new law does prevent forced marriages, it will do little for those who have already fled their homes to escape. “I’ve not seen my family for eight years,” says Ayesha. “I’m so disappointed – they are supposed to be the closest things to me – they’re not supposed to hurt you.”

Leading Muslim Tells British Faithful: Abandon Hijab

LONDON (AFP) – A leading moderate Muslim in Britain advised women against wearing the Islamic veil for safety reasons in the aftermath of the London bombings. “A woman wearing the hijab in the present circumstances could suffer aggression from irresponsible elements. Therefore, she ought not to wear it,” said Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams and head of the Muslim College in London. The Egyptian-born leader made the call amid fears that Muslims could be targeted in a backlash over the July attacks. London’s Metropolitan Police said faith hate crimes were up 600 percent on the same period last year after the attacks. “In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those who are hostile to Muslims,” said Badawi. The July 7 attacks were perpetrated by four British Muslims. They blew up themselves and 52 others in three blasts on the London Underground and one on a bus. A repeat attempt by another gang of four men failed when the bombs failed to detonate fully. Badawi said the Koran justified removing the hijab, as it instructed women to dress so they could be “identified and not molested”. “The preservation of life and limb has a much higher priority than appearance, whether in dress or in speech,” he added. Badawi was denied entry to the United States with no explanation a week after the deadly attacks but accepted an unreserved apology offered later. He was due to speak in New York on the law and Islam.

Muslims In Philly Shun Men Who Abuse Wives

By Kristin E. Holmes PHILADELPHIA — The veil shrouding spouse abuse in Muslim families is being torn away by some mosque leaders — putting them at the forefront of efforts by American Muslims to stem domestic violence. The Philadelphia clergy council — known as the Majlis Ash’Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley — has adopted a tough policy of public shunning of Muslims who abuse their spouses or abandon their families. Under the initiative, adopted in May, offenders will go on a list circulated among area Muslims. They will be banned from future marriages in communities that adhere to the policy. Fellow Muslims will be discouraged from patronizing any businesses they own. “We need to take a public stand,” said Imam Isa Abdul-Mateen, secretary of the Majlis Ash’Shura, an association of 30 imams. “We want people to know that this will not be tolerated.” In coming months, the council will address issues such as the criteria for putting names on the list and safeguards to protect spouses who step forward. Domestic violence appears no more prevalent in Muslim communities than elsewhere, but Islamic advocacy groups and others have tried to push the problem into the open. With the new policy, Philadelphia leaps over other Muslim communities that are just starting to confront the issue, said Maha Alkhateeb, project manager of the Peaceful Families Project, a Virginia-based nonprofit that addresses domestic violence among Muslims. A striking aspect of the initiative is that it was started not by female advocates but by the male leadership, said Amina Wadud, author of “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text From a Woman’s Perspective.” “This is setting a new precedent, globally.” The Rev. Marie Fortune of the FaithTrust Institute in Seattle, a leading domestic-violence policy center, said she knew of no other religious community in the country that had “so specific and rigorous” a policy. Within Muslim families, domestic violence remains largely a taboo subject, Alkhateeb said. Some Muslims deny its existence in a faith in which men are supposed to be protectors of women and children. Some immigrant families are too focused on building a better life to deal with the issue. Activists also cite a widespread reluctance to air problems and expose fellow Muslims to public scandal. As a consequence, there is little data on the extent of the problem. One study, done in 2000, surveyed 500 Arab women in Dearborn, Mich., and found that 18 percent to 20 percent said they had suffered spouse abuse, a rate similar to that in the general population. Approximately 98 percent of the sample was Muslim, said Anahid Kulwicki, a professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., who did the study. There are signs that Muslims are awakening to the problem. A group of imams signed a pledge to fight domestic violence at a recent Peaceful Families conference in Washington. A turning point in Philadelphia may have come in 2001 when a city police officer killed his wife and then himself. Both were Muslims, and the incident shook the Muslim community, said Taalibah Kariem-White, of Germantown, a domestic-violence expert who lectures nationally on the issue. The policy applies to both men and women. Though there are few female batterers, Mateen envisions the sanctions applying to women who make or threaten false claims to police or vindictively deny a man visitation with his children.

U.S. Muslims Heighten Call For Wider Role For Women Defying Tradition

By Teresa Watanabe On a recent Friday, a veiled woman entered a crowded mosque in Los Angeles and surveyed the scene. In the front, a few hundred men waited for the call to prayer. In the back, women and children sat in a separate area behind tinted glass. With barely a pause, Asra Nomani made her choice. Defying age-old Islamic traditions, she stepped over a low partition, sat with the men – and kicked off a furor. A man brusquely approached her: “You are not allowed to pray here with men. The women are on the other side.” A female elder tried to coax her out, then lost patience and tried to lift her up by the elbow. A man stared at Nomani and muttered, “She must be mentally sick.” Through it all,Nomani – in pink veil and long coat – stood her ground. No, she was not going to move. Yes, she had an Islamic right to sit there. As a security guard towered over her, she began softly chanting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great)” to keep herself focused. But she noticed her fingers trembling. Eventually, leaders at the Islamic Center of Southern California cordoned off her space with a red rope, called other women to join her and started the prayer. “For that Friday prayer, a woman was able to sit in the main hall and create a new reality for our Muslim world,” said Nomani, a 40-year-old India native, author and journalist who lives in Morgantown, W.Va. “We have to take back our mosques with an expression of Islam that fully values women.” Nomani’s tactics outrage many Muslims. Among them are critics at the Islamic Center, who viewed her recent visit there as a self-serving stunt to publicize her new memoir, “Standing Alone in Mecca,” and an unfair ambush of the Los Angeles mosque, which is known for its women-friendly policies. Mosques have traditionally kept men and women apart because the prophet Muhammad ordered them to pray in separate rows, leaders say. This has been interpreted over the years, they add, as a way to keep men from becoming distracted during prayers. Still, friends and foes alike agree that Nomani has helped bring global attention to a long-festering issue: the limits on female access to Muslim prayer space, religious leadership and decision-making power. Today, a growing group of Muslims, most of them North Americans and some galvanized by the intense scrutiny of Islam since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are pushing for wider roles for women. Such battles over women’s religious rights and authority have raged in many faith traditions – ongoing struggles for Roman Catholic women priests and greater female access to Talmudic studies in Orthodox Judaism, for instance. Double Lives, They Say Among Muslims, many women complain that they live double lives, one in the workplace and one in the mosque. “I don’t know how many women I’ve talked to who are professors, doctors, lawyers, professionals in their secular lives, treated with respect, sitting in the front of the room … and then you walk into the mosque, and you are catapulted back into some medieval world,” said Sarah Eltantawi, 28, a Boston-based Egyptian-American who says she was “spiritually damaged” by lifelong experiences of being shunted to the back of the mosque and chastised for not covering herself properly. Many Muslims are tackling gender segregation in the mosque, including Muslims in Hawai’i. A barrage of e-mail and newspaper columns show this issue continues to be hot. Some women are urging that women be allowed to pray as a group behind men in the main prayer hall, rather than be physically isolated by curtains, walls or separate rooms as they are in the majority of U.S. mosques. The most liberal are arguing for a hall with men on one side, women on the other and a mixed-gender row in the middle for families who want to pray together. Some are also calling for greater shared leadership, with more women serving on governing boards and as public speakers at community programs. Training For Clerics Last year, the Islamic Society of North America, the largest umbrella group of mosques in the U.S., began a training program for imams highlighting the need to give women leadership roles and adequate prayer space behind men in the main halls. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, is planning nationwide distribution of a new booklet calling for similar measures, saying that Islam calls for spiritual equality between the sexes. Other Muslims, however, are pushing edgier issues. The Progressive Muslim Union of North America, recently launched by Eltantawi and others, sponsored a groundbreaking town hall meeting in Los Angeles in June to debate the contentious question of whether Islam allows women to lead prayer. The meeting, which packed the Religious Center at the University of Southern California with both liberals and traditionalists, featured Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Islamic law professor at the University of California Los Angeles, who believes that Islam requires the most knowledgeable person to lead prayer, regardless of gender. Arguing that most Muslims are ignorant of their own vast and diverse intellectual heritage, Abou El Fadl cites examples of female prayer leaders in the past, along with three schools of thought in medieval Islamic history that embraced the practice. Relatively few Muslims, however, seem to buy that view. Opponents argue that evidence for women prayer leaders in the past is weak and that no innovations in worship practices are allowed. If women lead prayer in front of congregations, men will be distracted by the sight of them bending over in prostrations, opponents also say. “Men are men,” said Imam Abdul Karim Hasan of the Bilal Islamic Center in South Los Angeles. “I don’t care how you cut it or shape it, they won’t be thinking about prayer.” Worldwide Attention While a few women have quietly led mixed groups in prayers for years in the U.S., Canada and South Africa, the issue exploded across the Muslim world earlier this year. A female Islamic scholar, Amina Wadud, led a mixed congregation in prayer at a New York event covered by the international media. The March service by Wadud, an Islamic studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, drew a global chorus of condemnations and provoked threats of violence. An anonymous appeal for Osama bin Laden to issue a decree to kill Wadud was circulated on the Internet, prompting Virginia Commonwealth to move her lectures off campus – with remote hookup – for the rest of the semester, a university spokeswoman said. “This issue is a major challenge to the hegemony of patriarchal authority,” said Wadud, who argues that qualified women have the right to all positions of public ritual leadership, including leading Friday prayers, delivering sermons, and performing funerals and other ceremonies. The scholar asserts that Islam’s concept of “tawhid,” the oneness of God, along with Quranic stories that creation came in pairs, require gender equality. But that equality, she says, became lost over the centuries as male scholars and thinkers developed an Islamic tradition that relegated women to “subservience, silence and seclusion.” North American Muslim organizations have documented widespread concerns about practices in mosques. And without more openness, some say, the Islamic community could lose the next generation of American-born Muslims. Shahina Siddiqui, the Winnipeg-based president of the Islamic Social Service Association-Canada, said she was already seeing growing numbers of women and young people driven from mosques by the perceived gap between Islam’s egalitarian ideals and actual practices. “We don’t have the luxury anymore to sweep things under the carpet,” said Siddiqui, the main author of the booklet on women-friendly mosques. “We have to deal with it today.”

Muslim Converts Face Discrimination

By ANDREA ELLIOTT In the wake of 9/11, Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Egypt and other countries have found themselves living in a newly suspicious America. Many of their businesses and mosques have been closely monitored by federal agents, thousands of men have been deported and some have simply been swept away – “rendered” in the language of the C.I.A. – to be interrogated or jailed overseas. But Muslim immigrants are not alone in experiencing the change. It is now touching the lives of some American converts: men and women raised in this country, whose only tie to the Middle East or Southeast Asia is one of faith. Khalid Hakim, born Charles Karolik in Milwaukee, could not renew the document required to work as a merchant mariner because he refused to remove his kufi, a round knitted cap, for an identity photograph last year. Yet for nearly three decades Mr. Hakim’s cap had posed no problem with the same New York City office of the Coast Guard. In Brooklyn, Dierdre Small and Stephanie Lewis drove New York City Transit buses for years wearing their hijabs, or head scarves, with no protest from supervisors. After 9/11 the women were ordered to remove the religious garments. They refused, and were transferred, along with two other Muslim converts, out of the public eye – to jobs vacuuming, cleaning and parking buses, said the women, who are suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit. “I’m a U.S. citizen and I’m supposed to be protected,” Ms. Lewis, 55, said with tears in her eyes. “On 9/11 I was scheduled to take policemen to that site. I felt compassion like everyone else. And now you’re singling me out because I’m a Muslim?” New York City Transit officials said they would not comment because the case is in litigation. Regardless of how their cases play out legally, Mr. Hakim, Ms. Lewis and other converts have come to view America after 9/11 through a singular lens. An estimated 25 percent of American Muslims are converts. Some came of age as Americans first and discovered Islam as adults.