Islam in the European Union: Transnationalism, Youth, and the War on Terror

This book is about Muslims in Europe and the ‘War on Terror’: its causes and consequences for European citizenship and exclusion particularly for young people. The rising tide of hostility towards people of Muslim origin is challenged in this collection from a varied and multinational perspective. The chapters illustrate the diversity of societies with Muslim majority populations and challenge the dominant paradigm of what has become to be known since the War on Terror as ‘Islamophobia’.

Britain Aims to Isolate Muslim Extremists, Official Says

Britain is struggling with how to counter radical jihadist ideologies that have taken hold among some Muslim young people here, particularly those of Pakistani descent. The 2004 train bombing, organized by four Pakistani immigrants, has made this community a target of the government’s efforts. The government intends to take some steps to regulate and try to influence the affairs of Muslim religious institutions and mosques. Imams working in government hospitals and prisons would be required to meet certain criteria, including having a good grasp of English. Language barriers have prevented the government from collaborating with Muslim leaders who are seen as critical partners in the fight against extremism. Government-appointed committees with Muslim members, including a task force called Preventing Extremism Together, were supposed to come up with programs but have had limited success. At the heart of this [program] is a message about being proud to be British, proud to be Muslim, about how to live out the values of justice, peace and respect both as a person of faith and as a citizen, said Ruth Kelly, Minister of Communities and Local Government. A number of moderate mosques and imams signed a letter organized by the government to support Ms. Kelly’s program. But the Muslim Council of Britain, the best known Muslim group, did not sign it.

Cash to Help Root Out Extremism

Muslim groups which prove they are trying to outlaw extremism within their ranks are to receive financial support, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says. Cash will be available for projects that involve women, that build bridges between communities and are in touch with young people, she said. She said it was “not good enough” to pay lip service to tackling extremism. But some Muslim groups condemned her, saying the government was trying to create its own “state-sponsored Islam”.

Politics of Visibility: Young Muslims in European Public Spaces

This book takes into view a large variety of Muslim actors who, in recent years, made their entry into the European public sphere. Without excluding the phenomenon of terrorists, it maps the whole field of Muslim visibility. The nine contributions present unpublished ethnographic materials that have been collected between 2003 and 2005. They track down the available space that is open to Muslims in EU member states claiming a visibility of their own. The volume collects male and female, secular and religious, radical and pietistic voices of sometimes very young people. They all speak about “being a Muslim in Europe” and the meaning of “real Islam”.

Govt Launches A New Campaign Against Forced Marriages

LONDON – The British government has launched a new campaign against forced marriages, a common practice among the Asian community in Britain. The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness against the practice as an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence. The campaign, launched by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office forced marriage unit (FMU), contain a series of radio and Press advertisements, TV fillers and posters. Leading British actors like Meera Syal and Ameet Chana are spearheading the campaign. “Forced marriage affects children, teenagers and adults from all races and religions, including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs,” says Baroness Scotland QC, Home Office Minister. “And it is not solely an issue facing Asian communities. We deal with cases in the Middle East, western Balkans and Africa. Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and a human rights abuse. The victims often face emotional and physical abuse. We are determined to help young people at risk and protect their right to choose whom they marry.” The new campaign aims to increase awareness of the issues surrounding forced marriage. It will highlight the difference between forced and arranged marriage, and make clear that forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence. The campaign will also publicise the support available to young people affected by forced marriage and encourage them to seek help. It will highlight the damaging emotional consequences to families and the crimes involved in forcing someone into marriage. “We increasingly have to tackle complex issues such as forced marriage in the UK and overseas and we want to highlight that there is help available for people who are facing this abuse of human rights,” says Lord Triesman, Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister for Consular Policy. “The joint forced marriage unit, which has recently celebrated its first anniversary, engages more widely than ever before to deliver effective support to people forced into marriages. We remain committed to providing confidential support and practical assistance for those at risk of being forced into marriage here and abroad.” Celebrated author and actress Meera Syal said the marriage is a bond between two individuals and it needs consent from both the parities. “This is an extremely important campaign for all members of the community – young and old,” says Meera. “For young people, they need to know that there is help out there and that it is okay to ask for help. And we want the older generations to know that we respect their culture, tradition and we understand that arranged marriages have a place in society. But there is a vast difference between an arranged and a forced marriage – consent.” “I, probably like most people, believed that only women were affected and forced into marriage, but I was amazed to find that 15 per cent of the cases that are currently reported to the unit are men,” says dormer Eastenders star Ameet Chana. “I bet that the numbers are far greater, but it’s hard for men to come forward and admit they need help and are being forced into a situation like this. This campaign is a key to reassuring them that they are not alone and help is available.” Around 250 forced marriages are made known to the government every year, but there is believed to be a massive number of unreported cases. In around 85 per cent of cases the victims are women, with some girls as young as 13. The issue is not only linked to so-called honour killings, where families take revenge on individuals who resist their wishes, but a high suicide rate among young Asian women.

Muslim Youth Find A Bridge In A U.S. Tradition: Scouting

By Tara Bahrampour Washington Post Staff Writer Standing before 100 or so girls in green, brown and blue Girl Scouts vests, Sarah Hasan, the leader of Brownie Troop No. 503, explained the Islamic Ramadan fast. “We’re not allowed to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk for a whole month,” she said, noticing that some girls looked shocked. “It’s a month to be grateful for all the things that you have.” Ramadan, which fell this year in October and November, ends with a big feast called Eid al-Fitr. Last week, five Girl Scout troops from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling hosted an Eid party for five Herndon area troops, their mothers and troop leaders, to share a meal and help demystify Muslim cultural and religious traditions. The annual event, in its fifth year, was one of the activities many Muslim families — especially those with one or more immigrant parents — say are important to help integrate their sons and daughters into the rituals of American childhood. For many Muslim children, living in the United States means constantly balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid — identities that aren’t always in sync. “Unlike where we grew up [in Muslim countries], when they walk out the door, they’re seeing something different from what we teach them,” Hasan said. “So you can’t say, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ It’s always like, ‘But why? But how?’ ” Many Muslim immigrants have sought to bridge their old and new worlds since they began coming to the United States in large numbers during the 1960s. But since Sept. 11, 2001, as they have faced increasing hostility and scrutiny, parents and community leaders say, cultural integration is more vital than ever. “How do we deal with harassment, post-9/11? That’s part of our education program: letting people know who Muslims are,” said Rizwan Jaka, president of the Muslim society and a Cub Scout den leader. Like anyone else, he said, Muslims “want to be sure [our children] grow up with good character and good citizenship,” and they seek out activities accordingly. In the Washington area, home to about 250,000 Muslims from several countries, those activities include scouting, basketball, football, cricket and table tennis. The Muslim society’s center, which attracts Muslims from across Virginia, the District and Maryland, has hosted Muslim comedians and Muslim concerts and held interfaith exchanges with churches and an Eid festival with a moonbounce. “This is part of the normal progression of our community,” Jaka said. “They’re wholesome community activities that are compatible with who we are, which is wholesome Americans.” Many on the Muslim society’s board are, like Jaka, younger than 35 and born in the United States to immigrant parents. “We’ve gone through the system here, so we have a better idea of what our young people are facing,” he said. “As other mosques progress and more young people take over, you’ll see more transformation toward that.” U.S. Muslim scout troops have been increasing in the past two decades, said Donald York, director of the relationship division of the Boy Scouts of America: 112 troops with 1,948 members are chartered through an Islamic school or mosque. “What’s happening now in the Islamic community is very similar to what was happening in the 1920s and ’30s in Boy Scouts . . . with the Jewish community,” York said. “They used scouting to assimilate their young people into America.” York said scouting values — which include an adherence to faith — mesh well with Muslim ones. “Islamic families and clergies want the same thing for young people,” he said. “They want them to grow up in their faith and learn their histories and cultures,” he said. “Things like trustworthy, obedient, clean and helpful” — elements of Scout Law — “these are predominant Muslim ideas. They’re very attractive to an Islamic family.” A spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the United States of America said the organization does not ask scouts’ religious affiliation but does encourage spirituality. Troops often meet in churches, synagogues, and, increasingly, mosques. “It’s a pretty common thing,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “In fact, we did an ad campaign trying to show Muslims as regular people, and that was one of the things we showed: a Muslim Girl Scout troop in California.” Most Muslim children attend public schools and absorb American culture there, Hooper said. But people whose children attend Islamic school or are home-schooled also say connections with non-Muslims are important. “In this society, everybody has to learn to live together,” said Zohra Sharief, a Pakistani living in Woodbridge who home-schools her five children and co-leads Troop No. 503. “If I isolate myself from the society, it’s my loss.” It helps to have non-Muslim peers who understand the traditions, Hasan said. Still, she said, as immigrants arrive from Muslim countries and start families here, they must differentiate between what is religious and what is cultural and decide which American cultural practices to embrace and incorporate. Many note, for example, that dress is a cultural choice. Some immigrants arrive accustomed to wearing Western attire; some hew to the sartorial traditions of their home countries; some make compromises, such as forgoing headscarves but forbidding miniskirts. Hasan, 34, who is of Indian descent and was raised in Kuwait, said she and her three daughters do not wear head coverings except during prayers. “I tell them, ‘We’re in America; you can wear pants.’ ” But she has a blanket rule against another American ritual: sleepovers. “It’s not religious,” she said of her reasoning, “but I remember my mom said it’s not decent for young ladies to be sleeping in a house other than their own.” At the center last week, in a large room that serves as a prayer hall, party room and indoor gym, girls in headbands and jeans sat beside girls in headscarves and shalwar kameez — tunics and trousers — to make crepe-paper Eid necklaces. Hasan told the girls about Eid rituals, such as putting henna on their hands; taught them to say ” Salaam -u- aleikum ,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you”; and read a story about a family celebrating Eid. Afterward, Mona Magid, 6, a Brownie in a magenta headscarf who is the daughter of the society’s imam, explained more about fasting. “Like if you weren’t eating for the entire day, the way your throat would get dry is how the poor feel,” she said. “So Muslims want to try to help the poor.” Ashley d’Hedouville, 7, a second-grader at Clearview Elementary School in Herndon, said she learned that “Ramadan is when you eat at night.” Her sister Ann Marie, 8, said she knew about fasting from a classmate. “My friend does that. She goes to the library” during lunch. Once she and her classmates learned the reason, “we wouldn’t talk about food in front of her, or drinks.” While the Girl Scouts munched on halal, or religiously sanctioned, hot dogs, the center’s Muslim Boy Scout troops met downstairs for pizza, and the adults had their own cultural exchange. The Muslim mothers brought dishes from their home countries (chicken curry, rice, lamb and samosas) and from the United States (pasta casserole) and a large cake wishing a happy Eid. Gina Gallagher, a Herndon resident attending the dinner for the second consecutive year, said getting to know the Muslim mothers had been a revelation. “A lot of people look at the women with the head scarves, and they can’t relate,” she said. “You look at a woman like that and you’re like, ‘I don’t have anything in common with her.’ And then you sit down, you eat, you realize you all have the same problems.”

British Asians In Identity Crisis, Post 9/11

By AMIT ROY London: A growing number of young people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin have been so traumatised by the aftermath of 9/11 that they now prefer to identify themselves as “British Muslims” rather than as “British Asian”, a provocative BBC radio documentary claimed on Tuesday night. The programme on BBC Radio 4, Don’t Call Me Asian, was presented by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who began by admitting: “A few years ago I, too, would have described myself as a British Asian. But these days I am just as likely to say that I am a British Muslim.” He explained: “I remember that the reason I used Asian was because it offered less ammunition to racists than saying or admitting I was Pakistani.” In his quest to prove that others have also rejected the term “British Asian” and now want to be defined exclusively by their religion, Manzoor interviewed a number of young people. One man of Pakistani origin insisted: “I think the word Asian is dead. Recent events globally and for me personally have made me re-examine what my identity is and hence I call myself British Muslim. Previously I would call myself Asian or Pakistani.” When Manzoor interviewed young Hindus who apparently no longer want to be called British Asian, an Indian girl commented: “Initially, if I had to fill out a form I would say British Asian. Events like September 11 have shaken us all up and we don’t wish to be under that banner of Asian any more.” A young Bangladeshi woman at university revealed that she self-consciously tried out a hijab at home and then started wearing it outside. “I became more conscious of who I was and what I did and how that affected every area of my life,” she said. Aftab Hussain, who works for a theatre company, found himself quizzed by his non-Muslim friends, “Why does Islam say this or that?” He eventually found himself “having to go away and learn about my religion. It has made young people more proactive about being Muslim”. Mohammed Mamdani, the founder of Muslim Youth Helpline, told Manzoor: “Many young Muslims are in a very fearful state where they don’t know how they fit into a society which constantly refers to their religion in terms of terrorism or radicalisation. This is also propagating the marginalisation and alienation of young Muslims”. According to Tariq Madood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, media portrayal of young Muslims hasn’t helped. “If there are disturbances at Bradford and the BBC is describing them as ‘Asian youths’, Hindus and Sikhs will get up and say, ‘Well, actually, what is the point of calling them Asian youths when they are Pakistani Muslims?’ ” Madood went on: “People want to be more assertive of the identities that they themselves choose to prioritise and this is partly because they want to promote their own good image and partly to disassociate themselves from what they see as the bad images with which they are being confused.” Manzoor interviewed young people attending the annual conference of the National Hindu Federation in London, where a young woman told him that she was travelling on the underground when “I was asked by a young white male whether I was Muslim and whether my people were responsible for September 11. And I said, I am not Muslim and my people weren’t responsible for September 11. So going on from there I do want my own identity now”. But a more representative sample of young Asians, taken, say, at a music concert, would probably find only one out of 100 keen to be defined purely in religious terms. At Oldham College in a city rocked by riots over three years ago, a youth of Pakistani origin argued: “We are Asian and that’s what we are. I call myself British Asian.” Manzoor interviewed the academic Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who disapproved of the tendency for people to define themselves only as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. “The tendency of a community to define itself entirely in religious terms and to collapse its complete complex identity – political, cultural and others – into a single, one-dimensional religious identity is a very worrying phenomenon,” he said. “No individual is simply a Muslim. He is also a Pakistani or an Indian, he is also a male, he is also a professor, and then for him to say, ‘All those things don’t matter at all, the only thing that matters about me is that I am a Muslim,’ is in itself worrying. That leads to a great impoverishment of an individual’s capacity to understand himself or herself.” “If somebody were to say to me he defines himself as a Muslim and therefore he sees me as a Hindu, I would feel he was not only impoverishing himself but he was doing a lot of harm by abridging my identity. It then becomes difficult to operate in a relatively secular society,” Parekh added.