Young Muslims practice less religion than their parents

According to a large-scale sociological research conducted by the University of Utrecht Muslim youth in the Netherlands are secularizing. Belief is less important to them then to their parents. They also practice the Islamic rules and practices less. Of girls of whom their mothers wear headscarves one third does not. Almost a third of the boys goes less to the mosque than their fathers.

The research does show however that the process of secularization is slower in comparison to Christian youth. Even though secularization is proceeding religion remains important to a large part of the Muslim youth. For tree quarters of them belief is at least as important to them as to their parents. “This identification as Muslim remains strong amongst youth but the practicing of religious requirements is decreasing”, according to professor of sociology Frank van Tubergen who conducted the research.

A link to the digital version of the research mentioned in this article can be found here:

Ta-Nehisi Coates Helps a New Panther Leave Its Print

Most comics don’t generate that much buzz, but then again, most comics aren’t written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the best-selling author of “Between the World and Me,” which won the National Book Award last year. One of the most celebrated authors about race in America writing about a black superhero who has pummeled Captain America and members of the Ku Klux Klan? The collective response from fans of comics and Mr. Coates alike: I’d read that.

The book arrives during the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther, who first appeared in issue No. 52 of the Fantastic Four (and yes, he beat them up, too).

The Coates/Marvel collaboration stems from a 2015 conference hosted by The Atlantic, where the author interviewed the Marvel editor Sana Amanat in a seminar titled “What if Captain America Were Muslim and Female?” Soon after, another Marvel editor, Tom Brevoort, asked Mr. Coates if there were any characters that he might like to write for them. A lifelong fan of Spider-Man and the X-Men, Mr. Coates sent them some favorites. “Black Panther was not on my list,” he said with a laugh.

Medicine against radicalism

18 February 2016

With a little bit of luck a Dutch-educated imam would also be a good remedy against radicalism, the minister believes. Some of the current Dutch imams are on another frequency than the youth in their mosques. They do not always speak Dutch well, while they mostly know a lot about theology. Bussemaker: “This is while the youth are also looking for someone to give moral guidance. Someone who can indicate limits.”

That mosques are in need of imams that speaks the Dutch language well and that can also be moral leaders, became apparent at a recent meeting at the VU in Amsterdam. There Bussemaker spoke to a multifarious company of 75 imams. During the debate the imams made clear they do not always succeed in being theologian, pedagogue, and moral leader. “That message was clearly received”, Bussemaker said afterwards. As minister of education she cannot solve all problems, but “I do can show that the imams are not alone in this.”

French documentary on salafists gets ’18 and over’ rating

January 27, 2016

A documentary on radical Islam has struck a nerve in France two-and-a-half months after a devastating jihadist attack in Paris and sparked a debate about freedom of expression.

The documentary “Salafists” opened on Wednesday in only five cinemas in France, and its portrayal of bloody images of Islamist propaganda has seen its directors accused of “flirting with advocating terrorism.”

Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin took the advice of the national commission to bar under-18s from seeing the film, a rare move for a documentary. She said her decision was the result of the documentary makers “broadcasting scenes and talk of extreme violence without commentary.”

The run-up to the classification decision was accompanied by days of debate in France over the threat of the film being seen as condoning terrorism, or whether limiting audiences amounted to an attack on freedom of expression.

French director and writer Claude Lanzmann wrote on Le Monde’s website that the decision was “deaf, blind and stubborn” and amounted to “shameful censorship.” The controversy headlined the front page of the right-leaning Le Figaro newspaper which said the film was “violent and ambiguous and flirts with advocating terrorism.”

The documentary mostly focuses on extremism in the Sahel region of north Africa and was filmed in Mali, Tunisia, Mauritania and Algeria between 2012 and 2015.

It gives voice to leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and religious leaders belonging to the Salafist movement — fundamentalists who believe in the return to what is considered a purer form of Islam.

The film shows daily life under Sharia law (Islamic law) in the northern Mali cities of Gao and Timbuktu which fell under the control of jihadists in 2012, and is interspersed with images of Islamic State group propaganda and videos, some of which are extremely violent. The directors, Francois Margolin and Mauritanian journalist Lemine Ould Salem, have said they wanted to show the jihadists’ discourse in parallel with the reality of their acts.

“Our aim was to show the Salafists from the inside,” Margolin told AFP in December, saying the minority school of thought was increasingly influential and a gateway to becoming a jihadist.

However, an editorialist in Le Figaro said the film missed its mark “and ends up bringing together what it intends to fight — Salafist propaganda.”

The documentary also controversially included explicit footage of the murder of policeman Ahmed Merabet by the Kouachi brothers Said and Cherif as they fled from their attack on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

The filmmakers removed the images of the jihadists shooting Merabet as he lay in the street, on his family’s request.

France has grappled with the issue of freedom of expression ever since the attack on Charlie Hebdo — long a target of Islamists for its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.

The director Lanzmann, who made the 1985 Holocaust film Shoah, described “Salafists” as “ genuine masterpiece, illuminating daily life under Sharia law in a way that no book or ‘expert’ of Islam, ever has.”

Film critic Jean-Michel Frodon wrote on the French version of the Slate website that the film “gives a voice to the ‘enemy’. But giving him a voice, is to know him better.”

Review: To Be Young, Gay and Muslim in Bed-Stuy

The endearing title characters of Jay Dockendorf’s film “Naz & Maalik” are 18-year-old best friends who recently became lovers, living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn neighborhood in the throes of gentrification. Naz (Kerwin Johnson Jr.) and Maalik (Curtiss Cook Jr.) are closeted and Muslim, and especially for Naz, the Islamic taboo against homosexuality weighs heavily.

Both live with observant Muslim families for whom any sex outside of marriage is forbidden. Naz’s disapproving sister, Cala (Ashleigh Awusie), discovers their secret and teasingly threatens to expose them.

Turkish teen stabs Jewish teacher in Marseille, ‘regrets nothing’

A Turkish teenager who allegedly attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete Monday in Marseille has told prosecutors that he acted in the name of the Islamic State armed group.

The 15-year-old ethnic Kurd assailant stabbed the victim from behind in the shoulder, prosecutor Brice Robin told a press conference.

The suspect “has the profile of someone who was radicalized on the Internet,” Robin said. “You get the sense that he does not have a full grasp of the fundamentals of Islam,” he added. The teenager was never tracked by intelligence services and was a “good student” whose family was unaware of his radicalization, he said.

Authorities said the stabbing was clearly anti-Semitic based on statements from the suspect.

He faces charges of attempted murder on grounds of religion and defense of terrorism.

The 35-year-old teacher, who was on his way to work at the Franco-Hebraic Institute when he was attacked, was left with an injured shoulder and hand.

France this weekend marked a year since terror attacks, which left 17 people dead, including four people gunned down in a Jewish supermarket.

After his arrest the teen confirmed he was the perpetrator and claimed to act “in Allah’s name,” and for Daech. Since then, he has continued to claim responsibility. According to prosecutors he stated he had no regrets, even saying he was “ashamed to not have killed him.”

“I regret nothing, I’m proud of myself,” he declared.

French film shows chilling climate for Muslims in post-Hebdo France

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article that was deeply alarming from the headline to the last line: “After Paris Attacks, a Darker Mood Toward Islam Emerges in France.” It describes how the relationship between France and “its Muslim community” is now “tipping toward outright distrust, even hostility” in the aftermath of last Friday’s violence. It highlights the fear experienced by French Muslims as they endure government vows of radical domestic crackdowns, a growing far-right anti-Muslim party, and waves of violently bigoted sentiments spreading on social media.

The NYT suggests this is a new phenomenon by contrasting it with the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders, which prominently included “grand public appeals for solidarity with Muslims.” But now, says the NYT, there is “a palpable fear, even anger” toward Muslims.

But over the summer, Max Blumenthal and James Kleinfeld traveled to Paris to examine the post-Hebdo climate for French Muslims. They interviewed numerous Paris residents whose voices are rarely heard in these debates — French Muslims, immigrants, French Jewish leftists — as well as other French citizens expressing the more conventional anti-Muslim views (including Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice (one of France’s largest cities) who warns of national television of a “Fifth Column” composed of French Muslims and calls the battle against it “the Third World War”).

Those interviews form the backbone of a new documentary Blumenthal and Kleinfeld produced, titled Je ne suis pas Charlie, which has been updated to include a discussion of last Friday’s attack. With the permission of its producers, you can watch the full 55-minute film on the video player below. I highly encourage it: Especially now, doing so is a very worthwhile use of your time.

Aside from offering typically excluded viewpoints, the primary value of the film is to highlight the serious dangers of overreaction, fear-driven persecution, and ugly backlash after terrorist attacks: pathologies with which any Americans who lived through 9/11 should be familiar.

Among those featured is Amal Paluskiewicz, spokesperson for the French League of Muslim Women, who said of French Muslims wearing religious clothing: “There was a pre-Charlie situation and a post-Charlie one. It’s undeniable. Before Charlie, there was discrimination, there was Islamophobia. But after Charlie … we are easily identified with Islam and we are then conflated with the extremists.” Hanane Karimi, a French student, describes “a moral panic in French society which makes [Muslims] even more stigmatized than beforehand.” Several of the interviewees cite multiple French laws passed over the last few years to regulate and restrict the wearing of headscarves and veils by Muslim women as a key trigger of this pervasive animosity.

The film also examines France’s history as a brutally violent colonial power in predominantly Muslim countries, particularly Algeria, and the role that history still plays in how France treats its Muslim population. Houria Bouteeldja, the leader of a party of indigenous French people, noted ongoing French military actions in Asia and the Middle East and argues that “we are not in a post-imperial situation. We are still in imperialism. … We, who live in France, are part of the French empire.” This mentality continues to drive national controversies: Last summer, France actually outlawed protests against the Israeli attack on Gaza, and arrested scores of its Arab citizens who protested anyway. Citing those restrictions and the resulting alienation of French Muslims, Blumenthal told The Intercept: “Roaming around the suburbs of Paris, I was distinctly reminded of occupied Palestinian territory.”

None of this, of course, is a comment on the motives of the perpetrators of the most recent attacks. But it does powerfully illuminate the questions of how France and the West generally respond to such attacks.

As my colleague Murtaza Hussain has demonstrated, the prime strategic objective of ISIS is to convince Western Muslims that they cannot assimilate or even coexist in the West because those societies are so uncontrollably hostile to Islam that persecution is the inevitable outcome. Convincing Western Muslims that the West is at war with them — destroying what ISIS calls the “grayzone” of coexistence — will, ISIS believes, lead Muslims to abandon allegiance to the West and instead want to wage war back on their own societies. For that reason, reacting to an ISIS attack with increased hostility and persecution toward Western Muslims plays perfectly into ISIS’ hands, and this film illustrates how close France is to doing exactly that (to see this danger in its most vivid form, watch this repugnant CNN International interview with a French Muslim civil rights activist, Yasser Louati, as the hosts all but blame him and his “ranks” (i.e, all Muslims) for the attack).

The emotions inspired by the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the subsequent march suppressed many of these dynamics. Earlier this year, a French philosopher, Emmanuel Todd, published a controversial book about the Charlie Hebdo parade; the book’s title highlights what he believes was really behind it: Who is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class. He argues that it is anxiety over the decline of Catholicism and rising uber-nationalism and xenophobia among France’s middle and working classes that drives the country’s increasing anti-Muslim animosity, which, in turn, fueled the Hebdo march. “Even more than an America so often mocked for its emotional excesses,” he argues, “France overreacted” and “succumbed to an attack of hysteria.” As often happens to a majority that feels besieged and threatened, they have turned against a “group that is weak and discriminated against” in that country.

Blumenthal and Kleinfeld’s film provides the critical context for understanding key pieces that are deliberately omitted from most American media coverage of these issues in Europe. Rather than subjecting yourself to more of the endless CNN and MSNBC cascade of fearmongering and U.S. military officials spouting bromides about Paris, take the time to watch this film instead. It is a vital counter-balance to most of what we hear.

Video Link:

Girl becomes first Briton convicted of trying to join fight against Islamic State in Syria

A British teenager who made a graveside pledge to devote herself to the PKK cause has been convicted of intending to join the proscribed Kurdish terrorist organisation to fight Islamic State.

Silhan Özçelik, 18, from north London, ran away from home, took a train to Brussels, and left behind letters and a video for her distraught family telling them she wanted to be a guerrilla fighter and was joining the Kurdistan Workers’ party’s women’s militia. She is the first British citizen to be convicted for trying to join the campaign against Isis jihadis in Syria.

Özçelik, who was 17 when she went to Belgium in October 2014, had been “smitten” by the PKK since she was 13 after watching a film, Comrade Beritan, about a PKK female guerrilla who threw herself off a cliff rather than face capture and died in 1992. She had also visited the Turkish grave of Leyla Saylemez, whose nom de guerre was Comrade Ronahi and one of three female PKK activists shot dead at a community centre in Paris in January 2013. In the 25-minute video Özçelik left behind explaining her decision to her family, she said she had taken soil from Ronahi’s grave and made a promise, which she was now going to fulfil.

The jury at the Old Bailey dismissed Özçelik’s claim that she had invented the PKK story because she was running away to meet a 28-year-old man in Belgium with whom she hoped to kindle a romantic relationship, and wanted to spare her family shame in the strict, traditional Kurdish community. Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, said the video and letters, in which she passionately described her love for the PKK, her wish to become a militant and “bride to the mountains”, and her desire for her family to be proud of her, “couldn’t be clearer or more consistent” with her long-held ambition to be a fighter and guerrilla.

There was no evidence Özçelik had joined the PKK, made contact with PKK members or travelled to Turkey or Syria before she returned to Britain from Cologne in Germany in January 2015 and was arrested at Stansted airport.

The jury of nine women and three men took five hours to reach a unanimous verdict. Sentencing her to 21 months in a young offender institution, the judge, John Bevan, described her as “a stupid, feckless and deeply dishonest young woman”. He said her sentence was much reduced “because of the highly unusual factors of this case”. She would have to live with the “long lasting consequences of a conviction for terrorism”, he added. As he passed sentence, sobs could be heard from the public gallery where members of her family had sat throughout the trial.

After the trial Commander Richard Walton, head of the Met’s counter-terrorism command (SO15), said: “We continue to remain concerned about the number of young women and girls being drawn into all forms of terrorism.