Journey through an Islamic Germany: A book seeks to give diverse Muslims a voice

Providing a counterpoint to the black-and-white narrative

Karen Krüger, journalist at culture desk of the conservative weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, has released a new book in which she embarks on a journey through what she terms an ‘Islamic Germany’, portraying diverse Muslim Germans in their daily lives.

Krüger’s self-professed goal is to show the diversity of the country’s Muslim population and the multifaceted nature of their religion, against the backdrop of a public perception of Islam as a monolithic unit: “My aim was to enable those Muslims to speak up whom you otherwise don’t hear because their religion simply is not bellicose.”((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

Pre-empting potential criticism claiming that she hand-picked ‘liberal’ Muslims to portray in her book, Krüger states that “I only show liberal Muslims because the large majority of Muslims living in Germany is liberal. One just doesn’t notice them that often because they don’t appear as talk show guests, because they don’t attract attention through spectacular demonstrations.”((http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/kultur/diwan/karen-krueger-reise-durch-das-islamische-deutschland-100.html))

Krüger thus seeks to work against a news cycle focused on terrorism and security concerns: “I wanted to confront this [focus] by showing that Muslims are not this homogeneous mass they’re often presented as in the media. It is really worth to look in people’s faces, to find contacts and to start a conversation with people – and then you will see that many [allegations] are not justified.”((http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/kultur/diwan/karen-krueger-reise-durch-das-islamische-deutschland-100.html))

Deficits in incorporating Islam into society

The author also notes the toll that the ongoing barrage of media scrutiny and public suspicion is taking on German Muslims: “With most Muslims you can feel a great deal of hurt because due to the worldwide political situation many Muslims often experience rejection, even though they feel as a part of German society.” Krüger notes that among many Muslims this rejection leads to a latent yet perceptible state of grief.((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

For Krüger, this state of affairs is a powerful driver of radicalisation: for young German Muslims, the starting point on the slippery slope towards jihadism is a situation in which “religion is transformed into an identitarian place of refuge” – a place particularly appealing to the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants who are neither deemed to be ‘properly German’ nor can simply claim to belong to their parents’ country of origin. Islam in general, and jihadist Islam with its transnational ideological and organisational structures in particular, appears to offer a way out of this dilemma.((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

What is required, Krüger argues, are better educational efforts, in order to offer relevant and theologically sound instruction to young Muslims. This would pre-empt the need for an auto-didactic and haphazard engagement with Islam on shady online fora. More importantly, however, Krüger calls upon mainstream society to allow and enable a Muslim German identity to grow: “Surely not for everyone but at least for wide sections [of the population] it is not yet imaginable that ‘being German’ and ‘being Muslim’ do not have to exclude each other but can come together.”((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/islam-in-deutschland-syrische-muslime-koennten-eine-chance.886.de.html?dram:article_id=361756))

Krüger’s call comes at a particularly sensitive moment, as a number of conservative interior ministers of Germany’s federal states are putting forward drastic national security proposals. Among other measures on their list, they demand the prohibition of dual citizenship, a burqa ban, and tighter supervision of mosque finances.((http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Union-will-Anti-Terror-Gesetze-verschaerfen-article18381011.html))

Criticism of the Turkish-dominated Islamic federations

Yet in Krüger’s view, the emergence of a Muslim German identity has not just been hampered by fears and prejudices on the part of mainstream society. She is acutely critical of the existing Islamic associations and federations in the country whom she deems unable to develop a way of thinking about Islam that resonates with the experience of ordinary German Muslims. Whatever progress has been accomplished in this regard has not been attained because of the work of the federations but rather in spite of them.

Krüger reserves her particular ire for DITIB, still the most powerful Islamic association in Germany. A subsidiary of the a Turkish government agency – the Presidency for Religious Affairs – she accuses DITIB of importing a kind of Turkish state Islam that is backward and ill-equipped to develop a constructive vision for Muslim life in Germany. Against this backdrop, the author conceives of the arrival of Syrian and other refugees as an opportunity to break the dominance of Turkish governmental Islam.((http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/kultur/diwan/karen-krueger-reise-durch-das-islamische-deutschland-100.html))

This last point is of great salience in current German political debates. Diplomatic rows with the Erdogan administration have undermined the trust in the previously convenient arrangement that had outsourced Islamic religious services to Turkish government agencies. Unfortunately, however, virtually none of the voices present in these discussions offer constructive proposals as to how the gridlocked Islamic institutional landscape ought to be reformed. Krüger’s book appears valuable not as such an institutional blueprint but as a document of the diversity of Muslim life in Germany.

Karen Krüger, “Eine Reise durch das islamische Deutschland”, 352 pages, Rowohlt Berlin, 19,95 Euro

France’s choice of non-Muslim to lead French Islam foundation causes controversy

The appointment of French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement to head the newly formed Foundation for Islam in France, which aims to improve relations between the state and the Muslim community, has sparked controversy in many French circles.

Chevènement, a former French interior minister, was chosen to head the Foundation for Islam in France Monday following a meeting between current Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Muslim community leaders in Paris.

Announcing the decision Monday, Cazeneuve said the aim of the discussions was to forge “an Islam anchored in the values of the French Republic”.

But the choice of Chevènement, a 77-year-old career politician whose past posts include defence as well as interior minister, was greeted with skepticism by many activists and community leaders.

“It’s a joke,” civil rights activist Yasser Louati, whose work focuses on issues of Islamophobia and national security said. “We keep treating Muslims as if they are foreign people who need to be disciplined.”

The problem with this foundation and similar ones that came before it, Louati argued, is that it was established by the government. For such an organisation to succeed, it needs a bottom-up, and not a top-down approach, he said. The community should have been asked about how they wanted the initiative to be structured and who they wanted to head it. As it stands, “it is bound to fail,” he said.

Louati was also critical about Chevènement’s appointment. “It is like me appointing Ronald Reagan to head up African-American affairs,” he said.

Ghaleb Bencheikh, an author and expert on Islam, who will sit on the organisation’s board, said that while a Muslim president for the foundation would have been “ideal”, Chevènement is an acceptable choice in the short-term, when the main aim is to get the project up and running.

Bencheikh said there is no obvious consensus option from within the community at the time being, and that Chevènement will serve a transitional role.

Chevènenement is not without credibility within the community, Bencheikh added. He was a disciple of noted French Arabist Jacques Berque, he has travelled extensively in the Arab world, he was president of the France-Algeria Association and he resigned from his position as minister of defence in protest at his nation’s involvement in the first Gulf War.

But Chevènement has already ruffled feathers by saying that Muslims should be “discreet” and try to blend in. He also said that there were 135 nationalities in a racially diverse suburb of Paris, but one has almost disappeared, referring to French nationals.

The implication that the French nationals living in Saint-Denis, many of them of North African origin, are somehow not French prompted officials in the northern Parisian suburb to write to President Hollande, asking him to renounce Chevènement’s appointment.

Bencheikh said that in the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in the country, something needed to be done. France was faced with a choice over what kind of Islam it wanted: a tolerant, open Islam or the Islam of violence and jihad. Bencheikh believes the foundation will help promote the former.

 

French Muslim intellectuals critique current organization of Islam in France

“Following the killings of cartoonists, after the murders of young people listening to music, after the assassination of a police couple, after the murders of children, women, and men assisting at the celebration of the fete nationale, and today the murder of a priest conducting mass…There is horror, still more horror and a clear commitment to pit Frenchmen against one another. To destroy the national harmony which still stands. We Muslims were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair. We must now speak out because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation can no longer be tolerated.

As Muslims, of faith or culture, we are concerned by the powerlessness of the current Muslim organization of France, which has no control over events. Despite the efforts of those engaged, French Islam is badly managed by the representatives of countries where many French Muslims originate. This organization likely made sense when Muslims were immigrants. Today, the Muslims of France are 75% French. The majority is young, very young. Many among them are the prey not only of ideologues of radical Islam but also of political Islam. The traditional representatives no longer understand simply because they no longer know them.

So, it is necessary to change generations, with a clearly organized project: provide sustainable sources of financing and ensure transparent and open mosques, train and employ imams, engage in historical, anthropological, and theological endeavors which allow and will allow more people to be French and Muslim in the secular Republic. And finally, to lead the cultural battle against radical Islamism which concerns younger and younger youths, with the most modern means and techniques drawing on the most effective ideas and information. We must act as Muslims.

But also as Frenchmen. We must respond to French society’s questions, which ask us: ‘But who are you? What are you doing?’

Certainly this question is paradoxical: we have learned to make religion a private affair. Then why speak as Muslims? Because the risk of fracture becomes more pressing every day. So, before it is too late, before violence pits one against the other—this is Daech’s objective—we must act and assume responsibility. And we must move beyond the paradox: ‘Rid yourselves of difference; condemn because you are different.’ Through hard work and self-denial but also because the Republic has done its work, we have, as other citizens have as well, taken our place in French society. And today, this generation is ready to assume its responsibilities, notably the organization of French Islam.

A Foundation for French Islam was created more than ten years ago. It never functioned. It is time to reactivate it, to give it the ability to collect resources. The French of Muslim faith are ready to re-launch it, to give it life, to contribute to its financing. This foundation, at the national level as well as the regional level, could be the institution that will allow for the organization of French Islam. Beyond that, it is a pursuit of perspective, of social and cultural action, which we are ready to harness.

As Frenchmen, as well as Muslims. Because France needs it.”

The signatories: Kaci Ait Yala, chef d’entreprise ; Najoua El Atfani, cadre entreprise BTP, administratice club XXIe siècle ; Rahmene Azzouzi, chef du service urologie, CHU d’Angers ; Linda Belaidi, dirigeante EASI (European Agency for Strategic Intelligence) ; Tayeb Belmihoub, auteur, comédien ; Sadek Beloucif, chef du service anesthésie réanimation, hôpital Avicenne, ex-membre du Comité national d’éthique ; Amine Benyamina, professeur de psychiatrie et d’addictologie ; Nadia Bey, journaliste ; Abdennour Bidar, philosophe, inspecteur général de l’éducation nationale ; Antar Boudiaf ; Hamou Bouakkaz, conseiller d’arrondissement, ancien adjoint au maire de Paris ; Marc Chebsun, auteur, éditorialiste ; Abdelnor Chehlaoui, banquier d’affaires ; Fatiha Gas, directrice d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur ; Mohamed Ghannem, chef du service cardiologie, Fondation Léopold-Bellan ; M’jid El Guerrab, ancien conseiller du président du Sénat ; Kamel Haddar, entrepreneur (éducation et média) ; Abderrahim Hafidi, universitaire, islamologue ; Sofiène Haj Taieb, DG Finances, fonds d’investissement ; Khalid Hamdani, chef d’entreprise, membre du Cese ; Majid Si Hocine, médecin ; Mehdi Houas, président Talan (conseil informatique), ancien ministre ; Elyès Jouini, professeur d’université, vice-président d’université, ancien ministre ; Hakim El Karoui, ancien conseiller du Premier ministre, chef d’entreprise ; Bariza Khiari, sénatrice de Paris ; Saadallah Khiari, cinéaste, auteur ; Shiraz Latiri, cadre, société d’assurance ; Kamel Maouche, avocat au barreau de Paris ; Kaouthar Mehrez, ingénieur ; Malika Menner, directeur des Relations externes d’un grand groupe télécom ; Louisa Mezreb, PDG Facem management ; Naima M’Faddel, adjointe au maire de Dreux, chargée de l’action sociale ; Pap’Amadou Ngom, PDG Des systèmes et des hommes ; Bouchra Rejani, directrice générale d’une société de production audiovisuelle ; Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, sociologue, chercheur à Paris-VII ; Nadir Saïfi, juriste ; Yasmine Seghirate, responsable de la communication pour une organisation internationale ; Mohsen Souissi, ingénieur ; François-Aïssa Touazi, fondateur CAPmena, ancien conseiller du ministère des Affaires étrangères ; Farid Yaker, président forum France Algérie ; Faiez Zannad, professeur de thérapeutique-­cardiologie, CHU Nancy, université de Lorraine.

Ramadan in Finnish refugee reception centers – compromises and opposition

Ramadan in summer times poses a dilemma for Muslims in the Northern countries. Daylight times are long and in some cities the sun does not even set at all. Different courses of action were taken in the the refugee reception centers in Finland to facilitate the fasting for the Muslim refugees currently waiting for their asylum decisions. For instance, In the reception center of Evitskog, run by the Finnish Red Cross, Muslims observing the fast were of 26 different nationalities, which caused discrepancies for their individual wishes in the times to start and to end their daily fast. Many of the men would namely fast according to the respective times of their home countries, and some according to the times in Finland – although in the high summer it would mean a more or less 20 hour fast. The director of the center commented in an interview that the staff was prepared to work extra hours to offer meals even in the night times, despite the lack of extra payment for those taking on extra night shifts.

In the reception center of Hennala however, the approach was slightly different. Special arrangements to serve food were not made, although there, unlike in many other centers where refugees have kitchen facilities to prepare their own foods, the daily meals are included in the service. Instead, those who wanted to fast were given “lunch packs” which they could warm up in microwaves and ovens for their evening meals and breakfasts.

Although the arrangements in some reception centers have not always been as flexible as they were in the case of the Evitskog center, the representative of the Finns Party Youth Wing Juha Karjalainen expressed his discontent with the fact, that even arrangements of any kind to facilitate and respect the refugees religious traditions and practices were made. In his post in the blog platform “Uusisuomi” he argued that the task of reception centers is to offer accommodation for the time of the asylum application is processed and not to facilitate special religious or cultural demands. Hence, Karjalainen maintained that as no one had forced the refugees to choose Finland as their destination country, the refugees are the ones who should make compromises and be flexible, not those working in the centers. Facilitation of religious practices such as fasting in Ramadan would in his view have a negative impact on integration as it sends the wrong message about the necessity of being flexible in one’s religious practices in a Christian but secular country such as Finland.

The luxurious lifestyle of some Muslim leaders in France

Mohamed Louizi, a longtime leader of a local branch of the Union of Muslim Organizations of France and author of Why I Left the Muslim Brotherhood, has once again raised eyebrows with a recent blog post in which he alleged that Hassan Iquioussen, known as the “preacher of the cités,” also has an impressive property portfolio in Hauts-de-France.

When Muslims give zakat at the end of Ramadan Louizi writes that he finds it odd that “they cannot have access to those donations relative to the assets or the lifestyles of Islamist leaders and other Muslim religious leaders, notably those responsible for collecting money in mosques.” He suggested that the CFCM, in partnership with the State, “should maybe think about requiring religious leaders, and imams too, to declare their assets before and after assuming their roles.”

Mohamed Louizi writes that the “preacher of the cités” is an “uninhibited anti semite” who has stated that “the Zionists worked with Hitler.” He adds that Hassan Iquioussen, along with Alain Soral, believe that “Hamas and its armed forces do good work.”

The preacher runs three organizations: the SCI Smolin, with his sons Soufiane et Locqmane, the SCI Sainte Reine, and the SCI IMMO59, with his wife. He was recently poised to acquire real estate in Escaudain and Liévin. “It’s not normal that we ignore the ways of life of religious leaders, lesson givers, and the sanctimonious, while certain among them amass, through the Muslim religion, protected and hidden assets and property.” He argues that the case of Hassan Iquioussen is hardly unique in France, citing several national UOIF leaders, who also mix “preaching and business.”

July 6, 2016

Source: http://www.lepoint.fr/societe/le-luxueux-train-de-vie-de-certains-representants-de-l-islam-en-france-06-07-2016-2052292_23.php

Aziz Ansari: Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.
Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr. Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on Sept. 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but hestands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at N.Y.U., and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

Muslim Officer Sues New York Police Dept. Over No-Beard Policy

The department’s no-beard policy, as it is known, is at the center of a federal class-action lawsuit filed on Wednesday on behalf of a Muslim police officer who says he was suspended during the fasting month of Ramadan for refusing to shave his one-inch beard. The lawsuit, brought by Masood Syed, 32, aims to force the Police Department to change a policy that his lawyers say infringes on the rights of more than 100 officers seeking to exercise their religious freedoms without fear of discrimination or retaliation.
Officer Syed, a 10-year veteran assigned to the office that handles disciplinary proceedings against officers, was suspended without pay on Tuesday. At an emergency hearing on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge P. Kevin Castel ordered the department to continue paying Officer Syed until his next court date on July 8, when the court will decide whether he can return to work.
Officer Syed’s complaint cites a 2013 ruling in Federal District Court in favor of a Hasidic Jewish police officer who was fired during his probationary period for refusing to shave his beard. The officer, Fishel Litzman, was reinstated in 2014 and remains on the job.
The complaint also describes another 2013 case of Mohsin Aftab, a Muslim police officer who was suspended and ultimately agreed to leave the department after 10 years of service rather than shave his beard. Mr. Aftab, according to the complaint, has not been able to work in law enforcement since his departure, and his family has had to accept food stamps.

Omar Mateen, Twice Scrutinized by F.B.I., Shows Threat of Lone Terrorists

The son of Afghan immigrants, Mr. Mateen was born in New York in 1986, moved to Florida with his family in 1991 and spent his early years there in the Port St. Lucie area near the state’s east coast. He made friends as a child at a local mosque, and built friendships during slumber parties and basketball games, and playing video games. He bounced between jobs in high school and college. In court documents connected to a 2006 name change — from Omar Mir Seddique to Omar Mir Seddique Mateen — he said he had held eight jobs in about four years, including work as a grocer and as a salesman at a computer store.
He came to the F.B.I.’s attention in 2013, when some of his co-workers reported that he had made inflammatory comments claiming connections to overseas terrorists, and saying he hoped that the F.B.I. would raid his family’s home so that he could become a martyr.
The F.B.I. opened an investigation and put Mr. Mateen on a terrorist watch list for nearly a year.
James Comey, the F.B.I. director, said during a news conference on Monday that agents used various methods to investigate Mr. Mateen, including sending an undercover informant who made contact with the suspect, wiretapping his conversations and scrutinizing his personal and financial records.
They also sought help from Saudi intelligence officials to learn more about his trips to the kingdom in 2011 and 2012 for the Umrah, a sacred pilgrimage to Mecca made by Muslims. More than 11,000 Americans make pilgrimages to Mecca each year, and Mr. Comey said the F.B.I. found no “derogatory” information about his trips.
“Why did he do this?” his father asked. “He was born in America. He went to school in America. He went to college — why did he do that?”
“I am as puzzled as you are.”
NY Times: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/politics/orlando-shooting-omar-mateen.html

Nice: Muslim waitress assaulted for serving alcohol on first day of Ramadan

Source: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/faits-divers/20160607.OBS2086/agression-a-nice-il-m-a-dit-tu-devrais-avoir-honte-de-servir-de-l-alcool-pendant-le-ramadan.html

June 7, 2016

 

A Muslim waitress says she was verbally abused and physically attacked by two men who accused her of shaming Islam by serving alcohol during Ramadan.

 

The woman, who is in her 30s, said she was working in a bar in Nice on the first day of the holy month of fasting when the attack happened.

 

“I was all alone in the bar when two bystanders stormed in,” said the waitress, who did not want to be named.

 

“They pointed to the bottles of alcohol behind the counter, and then one of them said in Arabic. ‘You shame on serving alcohol during Ramadan. If I were God, I would have you hanged’.” She said she stood up to the men, telling them: “You are not God to judge me.”

She said they responded by calling her a “prostitute” and a “bitch”, before leaving the bar.

 

Shortly after, she said one of the men returned and hit her, causing her to fall to the ground.

 

“I was so scared,” she said. “I couldn’t understand. Why have they insulted me? Why that slap? I felt belittled, humiliated, dirty. I do not want other women to be victims of such aggression.

 

“It’s not because I serve alcohol that I do not fulfill my duty. I do it because I’m a waitress. In Tunisia I was practicing the same profession and I never had any problems.

 

“I did not think in France, a country of freedoms, I could be attacked for this. I fear they will come back, but I do not want this to impact my work,” she told the paper.

 

Fortunately the incident was caught on camera. The manager, who is also not named in the report, said: “Around 12:30, she called me in tears. I immediately went to the site. I alerted the police who arrived on the scene very quickly.

 

“The whole scene was recorded by CCTV cameras, and I have passed it on to the authorities.”

Karim Benzema says he is victim of racism

Source: http://fr.reuters.com/article/idFRKCN0YN3J7

 

June 2, 2016

 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said he was denied the chance to play for France in the Euro 2016 this month because of his Algerian origins.

 

The French Football Federation denied the accusation, but Benzema’s comments, published just nine days before France hosts the tournament, have deepened a row about alleged racism in a national team once seen as a model for ethnic integration.

 

Last week, Eric Cantona accused coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.

 

Deschamps’ lawyer said he planned to sue Cantona for slander. The two have a longstanding rivalry since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France’s captain and led the team to World Cup and Euro successes in 1998 and 2000. Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, something Prime Minister Manuel Valls said made him unfit to play for the national team. Benzema said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.

 

“They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,” he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.

“Deschamps succumbed to pressure from a racist part of France,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s only Didier’s decision, because I get on well with him, the president (of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet) and everybody.”

 

Deschamps was not immediately available for comment. Le Graet said Deschamps was neither for nor against Benzema and had previously picked the forward even when he was not in good form.

 

“I think he has got carried away a little bit,” Le Graet told reporters at the French team’s training camp in Austria.

 

“I would have liked him to have been a bit more kind. These are words that don’t correspond with the realities.”

 

The racism row has added to tensions in a country hit by widespread strikes over proposed changes to work contracts and fears about terrorist attacks.

Ahead of the European Championship’s June 10 kick-off, the French team has also been hit by a spate of injuries.

 

The squad has players from various ethnicities. Deschamps last week called up Adil Rami, who is of Moroccan origin. But memories of 1998, when France’s “black-blanc-beur” (black-white-Arab) team won the World Cup, have faded, especially since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the players fell out with the team’s managers.

 

At the time, the far-right National Front party complained that the team did not fully reflect France, where the vast majority are still white.

 

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard dismissed Benzema’s comments as “unjustified” and “unacceptable.”

 

“The French team is selected only on technical criteria and ability. There is not an inch of racism in this federation. The time has come to stand by our team,” Braillard told BFM TV.

 

A successful striker for Real Madrid, Benzema has often failed to excel for the national team, scoring 27 goals in 81 games at international level