|'I don't hate Muslims. I hate Islam,' says Holland's rising political star|
Geert Wilders, the popular MP whose film on Islam has fuelled the debate on race in Holland, wants an end to mosque building and Muslim immigration. Ian Traynor met him in The Hague
The Observer, Sunday February 17 2008
Geert Wilders, the right-wing Dutch politician. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters
A TV addict with bleached hair who adores Maggie Thatcher and prefers kebabs to hamburgers, Geert Wilders has got nothing against Muslims. He just hates Islam. Or so he says. 'Islam is not a religion, it's an ideology,' says Wilders, a lanky Roman Catholic right-winger, 'the ideology of a retarded culture.'
The Dutch politician, who sees himself as heir to a recent string of assassinated or hounded mavericks who have turned Holland upside down, has been doing a crash course in Koranic study. Likening the Islamic sacred text to Hitler's Mein Kampf, he wants the 'fascist Koran' outlawed in Holland, the constitution rewritten to make that possible, all immigration from Muslim countries halted, Muslim immigrants paid to leave and all Muslim 'criminals' stripped of Dutch citizenship and deported 'back where they came from'. But he has nothing against Muslims. 'I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture, ideology. Not with Muslim people.'
Wilders has been immersing himself in the suras and verse of seventh-century Arabia. The outcome of his scholarship, a short film, has Holland in a panic. He is just putting the finishing touches to the 10-minute film, he says, and talking to four TV channels about screening it.
'It's like a walk through the Koran,' he explains in a sterile conference room in the Dutch parliament in The Hague, security chaps hovering outside. 'My intention is to show the real face of Islam. I see it as a threat. I'm trying to use images to show that what's written in the Koran is giving incentives to people all over the world. On a daily basis Moroccan youths are beating up homosexuals on the streets of Amsterdam.'
Wilders is lucid and shrewd and the provactive soundbites trip easily off his tongue. He was recently voted Holland's most effective politician. If 18 months ago he sat alone in the second chamber or lower house in The Hague, his People's Party now has nine of 150 seats and is running at about 15 per cent in the polls. His Islam-bashing seems to be paying off. And not only in Holland. All across Europe, the new breed of right-wing populists are trying to revive their political fortunes by appealing to anti-Muslim prejudice.
A few months ago the Swiss People's Party of the pugnacious billionaire Christoph Blocher won a general election while simultaneously running a campaign to change the Swiss constitution to ban the building of minarets on mosques. Last month in Antwerp, far-right leaders from 15 European cities and from political parties in Belgium, Germany and Austria got together to launch a charter 'against the Islamisation of western European cities', reiterating the call for a mosque-building moratorium.
'We already have more than 6,000 mosques in Europe, which are not only a place to worship but also a symbol of radicalisation, some financed by extreme groups in Saudi Arabia or Iran,' argued Filip Dewinter, leader of Belgium's Flemish separatist party, the Vlaams Belang, who organised the Antwerp get-together. 'Its minarets are six floors high, higher than the floodlights of the Feyenoord soccer stadium,' he said of a new mosque being built in Rotterdam. 'These kinds of symbols have to stop.'
Where a few years ago the far right in Europe concentrated its fire on immigration, these days Islam is fast becoming the most popular target. It is a campaign that is having mixed results. In Switzerland, the Blocher party has been highly successful. In Holland, Wilders is thriving by constantly poking sticks in the eyes of the politically correct Dutch establishment. But when Susanne Winter ran for a seat on the local council in the Austrian city of Graz last month by branding the Prophet Muhammad a child molester, she lost her far-right Freedom Party votes.
For the mainstream centre-right in Europe, foreigner-bashing is also backfiring. Roland Koch, the German Christian Democrat once tipped as a future Chancellor, wrecked his chances a fortnight ago by forfeiting a 12-point lead in a state election after a campaign that denounced Muslim ritual slaughter practices and called for the deportation of young immigrant criminals.
Wilders echoes some of the arguments against multiculturalism that have convulsed Germany in recent years. Like many on the traditional German right, he wants the European Judaeo-Christian tradition to be formally recognised as the dominating culture, or Leitkultur. 'There is no equality between our culture and the retarded Islamic culture. Look at their views on homosexuality or women,' he says.
But if Wilders shares positions and aims with others on the far right in Europe, he is also a very specific Dutch phenomenon, viewing himself as a libertarian provocateur like the late Pim Fortuyn or Theo van Gogh, railing against 'Islamisation' as a threat to what used to be the easy-going Dutch model of tolerance.
'My allies are not Le Pen or Haider,' he emphasises. 'We'll never join up with the fascists and Mussolinis of Italy. I'm very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups.' Dutch iconoclasm, Scandinavian insistence on free expression, the right to provoke are what drive him, he says.
He shrugs off anxieties that his film will trigger a fresh bout of violence of the kind that left Van Gogh stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street and his estranged colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali in hiding, or the murderous furore over the Danish cartoons in 2005.
The Dutch government is planning emergency evacuation of its nationals and diplomats from the Middle East should the Wilders film be shown. It is alarmed about the impact on Dutch business. 'Our Prime Minister is a big coward. The government is weak,' says Wilders. 'They hate my guts and I don't like them either.'
And if people are murdered as a result of his film? 'They say that if there's bloodshed it would be the responsibility of this strange politician. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're creating an atmosphere. I'm not responsible for using democratic means and acting within the law. I don't want Dutch people or Dutch interests to be hurt.'
But he does want to create a stir. 'Islam is something we can't afford any more in the Netherlands. I want the fascist Koran banned. We need to stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands. That means no more mosques, no more Islamic schools, no more imams... Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims.'
Free speech or hate speech? 'I don't create hate. I want to be honest. I don't hate people. I don't hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology.'
For more than three years, Wilders has been paying for his 'honesty' by living under permanent police guard as the internet bristles with threats on his life. He has lived in army barracks, in prisons, under guard at home. 'There's no freedom, no privacy. If I said I was not afraid, I would be lying.'
There is little doubt that if Wilders's film exists - and it's shrouded in secrecy - and is broadcast, it will be construed as blasphemy in large parts of the world and may spark a new bloody crisis in relations between the West and the Muslim world.
He does not seem to care. 'People ask why don't you moderate your voice and not make this movie. If I do that and not say what I think, then the extremists who threaten me would win.'
|Pakistan shuts down YouTube worldwide, TV station at home|
Written by Justin Hemlepp
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
CNN reports that, “[a]n apparent move by the Pakistani government to block YouTube, the popular video-sharing Web site, knocked out access to the site worldwide for more than two hours.”
The government “cited a ‘highly blasphemous’ video featuring right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders” as the reason for the blockage. Citing AP, CNN report continues: “The block was intended to cover only Pakistan but extended to about two-thirds of the global Internet population.”
In other Pakistan-shutting-things-down news: “[O]ne of Pakistan's independent broadcasters, Aaj Television, was taken off air for about two and one half hours, according to Talat Hussein, an Aaj newscaster and talk show host. The move came during Hussein's evening political talk show which featured discussions with Aaj management personnel who, according to Hussein, had been banned from appearing on air by the Musharraf government soon after emergency rule was declared on November 3,” reports the Committee to Protect Journalists.
|Pakistan stands by its YouTube ban|
Newsbeat technology reporter
Pakistan is being blamed for crashing YouTube.
Pakistan blocked YouTube to prevent riots
The site was closed for several hours at the weekend.
Earlier, authorities in Pakistan decided to block access to users in that country.
It's believed that caused problems with the routing of worldwide internet traffic.
Pakistan claims YouTube is hosting clips which are offensive to Islam. It is particularly angry about a video by Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
The trailer for his film, Fitna, features criticism of the prophet Muhammad.
Newsbeat spoke to the man responsible for enforcing the ban.
Major General (Retired) Shahzada Alam Malik runs the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
NEWSBEAT: Why are people in Pakistan not allowed to look at YouTube?
MAJ GEN MALIK: There are so many sites talking anti-government or anti-state, but we don't block them. This particular situation is extremely offensive and derogatory.
It may flare up the sentiments of Pakistanis and Muslims. Therefore I think there was no choice but to block it.
NEWSBEAT: What would happen in Pakistan if people there could see these videos?
MAJ GEN MALIK: They would come out on the roads, on the streets. They could damage government property and public property. It could be very, very difficult and uncontrollable.
NEWSBEAT: Google, which owns YouTube, believes this move caused the site to be blocked around the world.
MAJ GEN MALIK: We are responsible only for Pakistan and we have taken that step only for our country.
I don't know about the other people, but this was very well considered, discussed, debated and a deliberate decision was taken.
NEWSBEAT: And you will block access to YouTube for people in Pakistan until when?
MAJ GEN MALIK: The moment it is removed, we will unblock it.
|A film to fuel the fire|
Article compiled with the help of our Observer in Holland, Carl Konigel.
This Friday the Pakistani authorities ordered a countrywide block on YouTube. According to an official quoted by AP, this radical measure was put in place to stop anyone from seeing the trailer of Geert Wilder's new film. However, not one shot of the film is available on YouTube. Only Dutch daily De Telegraaf has received the images, and they have so far only published a few screenshots on their site. So, despite no one having yet seen the film, every one from Holland to Pakistan is dreading it and the fuel it will add to an already-raging fire.
"If they want to do it let them "
Comment from Umar Mirza, founder of the Dutch Muslim blog "Wij blijven hier" (We stay here):
I don't feel threatened as a Muslim in Holland. [Geert] Wilders is a minority. It might be a growing minority but it's still a minority and the majority of Dutch people simply aren't like that. I was born here; this is my country. I couldn't feel threatened in my own country. And I'll never leave. That's one of the reasons we set up the blog "We stay here".
I don't think he [Geert Wilders] really wants a debate between Muslims and non-Muslims; he just wants loads of attention. We're used to it here. After what's happened in the last few years we've learnt it's better just to say "if they want to do it let them do it". I guess we won't have any problems here in Holland. Well, I hope not. It's more likely that things will flare up in the UK or very Muslim states. I just hope they stay focused and don't do anything stupid."
I can see why the Pakistani government did what they did. You have to remember it's not a democratic state yet. There are already problems; they don't want them to escalate further. It's a completely different situation over there. It's easy to criticise them from the outside, but on the inside I suppose the government values peoples' lives more than freedom of speech."
"He wants to create the Mohammed cartoon affair all over again"
Comment from Laurent Chambon, a French sociologist who moved to the Netherlands 14 years ago and wrote a book about minorities in politics and the media:
Geert Wilders is a former member of the VVD; a liberal party that veered towards the far-right. He was thrown out of the party for "Islamophobia" and founded his own movement called the PVD (the Liberal Party), which has around ten seats in parliament.
Wilders is part of a gradual shift in Holland, where a far-right, nationalist and xenophobic stance has established itself. The former MP Hirsi Ali, originally form the Sudan, is from the same gang. She comes out with all sorts of polemic stuff, and then acts surprised when she receives threats.
Wilders likes to provoke people. No-one knows what his documentary will be like. It's only seven minutes long, but that doesn't matter. It's the event around it, and he's very good at creating that. I'm not sure if his film will have a strong impact here because Dutch Muslims are used to his provocations - they won't fall for them. His real target is foreigners. Perhaps he's hoping for someone to attack him, just so he can play the martyr.
He wants to create the Mohammed cartoon affair all over again. But I don't think Dutch society is like the Danish one. Holland is still a multicultural and tolerant country, unlike Denmark, which is much more closed."
|Expect also a crackdown on illegal immigrants and criminals, which the 71-year-old likes to call the "army of evil."|
"One of the first things to do is to close the frontiers and set up more camps to identify foreign citizens who don't have jobs and are forced into a life of crime," Berlusconi said on Italian television. "Secondly we need more local police constituting an 'army of good' in the piazzas and streets to come between Italian people and the army of evil."
|In France, Prisons Filled With Muslims|
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 29, 2008; Page A01
SEQUEDIN, France -- Samia El Alaoui Talibi walks her beat in a cream-colored head scarf and an ink-black robe with sunset-orange piping, an outfit she picked up at a yard sale.
After passing a bulletproof window, El Alaoui Talibi trudges through half a dozen heavy, locked doors to reach the Muslim faithful to whom she ministers in the women's cellblock of the Lille-Sequedin Detention Center in far northern France.
It took her years to earn this access, said El Alaoui Talibi, one of only four Muslim holy women allowed to work in French prisons. "Everyone has the same prejudices and negative image of Muslims and Islam," said Moroccan-born El Alaoui Talibi, 47, the mother of seven children. "When some guards see you, they see an Arab; they see you the same as if you were a prisoner."
This prison is majority Muslim -- as is virtually every house of incarceration in France. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country's prison system are Muslim, according to Muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though Muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country's population.
On a continent where immigrants and the children of immigrants are disproportionately represented in almost every prison system, the French figures are the most marked, according to researchers, criminologists and Muslim leaders.
"The high percentage of Muslims in prisons is a direct consequence of the failure of the integration of minorities in France," said Moussa Khedimellah, a sociologist who has spent several years conducting research on Muslims in the French penal system.
In Britain, 11 percent of prisoners are Muslim in contrast to about 3 percent of all inhabitants, according to the Justice Ministry. Research by the Open Society Institute, an advocacy organization, shows that in the Netherlands 20 percent of adult prisoners and 26 percent of all juvenile offenders are Muslim; the country is about 5.5 percent Muslim. In Belgium, Muslims from Morocco and Turkey make up at least 16 percent of the prison population, compared with 2 percent of the general populace, the research found.
Sociologists and Muslim leaders say the French prison system reflects the deep social and ethnic divides roiling France and its European neighbors as immigrants and a new generation of their children alter the demographic and cultural landscape of the continent.
French prison officials blame the high numbers on the poverty of people who have moved here from North African and other Islamic countries in recent decades. "Many immigrants arrive in France in difficult financial situations, which make delinquency more frequent," said Jeanne Sautière, director of integration and religious groups for the French prison system. "The most important thing is to say there is no correlation between Islam and delinquency."
But Muslim leaders, sociologists and human rights activists argue that more than in most other European countries, government social policies in France have served to isolate Muslims in impoverished suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing. This has helped create a generation of French-born children with little hope of social advancement and even less respect for French authority.
"The question of discrimination and justice is one of the key political questions of our society, and still, it is not given much importance," said Sebastian Roche, who has studied judicial discrimination as research director for the French National Center for Scientific Research. "We can't blame a state if its companies discriminate; however, we can blame the state if its justice system and its police discriminate."
As a matter of policy, the French government does not collect data on race, religion or ethnicity on its citizens in any capacity, making it difficult to obtain precise figures on the makeup of prison populations. But demographers, sociologists and Muslim leaders have compiled generally accepted estimates showing Muslim inmate populations nationwide averaging between 60 and 70 percent.
The figures fluctuate from region to region: They are higher in areas with large concentrations of Muslims, including suburban Paris, Marseille in the south and Lille in the north.
Inside the prisons, El Alaoui Talibi and her husband, Hassan -- a rare husband-wife Islamic clerical team -- are struggling to win for Muslim prisoners the same religious rights accorded to their minority-Christian counterparts. Hassan is an imam. Samia has received religious training and can counsel the faithful, but under Islamic practices she cannot become an imam. The prison system has only 100 Muslim clerics for the country's 200 prisons, compared with about 480 Catholic, 250 Protestant and 50 Jewish chaplains, even though Muslim inmates vastly outnumber prisoners of all other religions. "It is true that we haven't attained full equality among religions in prisons yet," said Sautière, the national prison official. "It is a matter of time."
In recent years, the French government's primary concern with its Muslim inmate population has been political. French national security officials warned prison authorities in 2005 that they should work to prevent radical Muslims from inciting fellow prisoners. A year later, the French Senate approved a bill giving the country's national intelligence agency broad authority to monitor Muslim inmates as part of counterterrorism efforts.
Prison authorities began allowing carefully vetted moderate imams into prisons in hopes of "balancing the radical elements," said Aurélie Leclerq, 33, director of the Lille-Sequedin Detention Center.
Hassan El Alaoui Talibi, 52, who moved to France from Morocco as a student, is the national head of France's prison imams and typical of the kind of moderate Muslim figure the French government seeks for its prison system.
El Alaoui Talibi delivers his Friday sermons with carefully chosen words, he says. He avoids politics and other subjects that might seem remotely inflammatory. He sticks to counseling convicted drug dealers, murderers and illegal immigrants in matters of faith and respect.
But not all the Muslims at Lille-Sequedin share those moderate views. Last year a disgruntled inmate blared a taped religious sermon into the prison courtyard. Prison officials deemed its message inflammatory and sent the prisoner to solitary confinement.
El Alaoui Talibi described years of struggle to win even modest concessions from prison directors. He recalled the first prison visit he made, a decade ago: He was forced to wait an hour and a half to meet with inmates. "If I hadn't been patient, I would have left," said the soft-spoken former high school teacher who became a prison imam after seeing so many of his students get in trouble with the law for petty offenses and end up hard-core criminals after prison stints.
Today, working in France's newest prison -- the sprawling, three-year-old Lille-Sequedin center -- the El Alaoui Talibis say they are more accepted than some Muslim colleagues at other prisons. Prison officials rejected requests by The Washington Post to visit some of the system's older, more troubled prisons.
On a recent Friday, Hassan El Alaoui Talibi, a man with soulful eyes and a beard with the first hints of gray, made his way with a reporter through the men's wings, collecting prisoners' notes from mailboxes shared with Catholic and Protestant chaplains. At one point, several new inmates returning from sports practice surrounded him, requesting personal visits. He scribbled their names and cell numbers on a scrap of paper.
Many of the Muslim inmates in this prison just west of Lille are the children and grandchildren of immigrants who were brought to the northern region decades ago to work in its coal mines.
El Alaoui Talibi moved on to a small room overlooking a tiny garden courtyard and tugged at prayer mats stacked in a closet beside a rough-hewn wooden cross. Every other Friday, he transforms the room into a mosque for some of the male Muslim faithful of the prison. One of his most frequent sermon topics is food.
"He tells us not to throw away prison food just because it isn't halal," or compliant with Islamic dietary law, said a 33-year-old former civil servant, a man of Algerian descent who attends the twice-monthly prayer meetings. French prison rules prohibit journalists from identifying inmates by name or disclosing their crimes.
The refusal of prison officials to provide halal food, particularly meat products, is one of the biggest complaints of Muslim inmates across France and has occasionally led to cellblock protests.
For many years, prisons have allowed Muslim prisoners to forgo pork products -- and statistics tracking prisoners who refuse pork is an accurate barometer of the Muslim population in a prison, according to researchers. But cutting out pork is a long way from the full halal regimen. Only recently, did the prisons stop using pork grease to cook vegetables and other dishes.
"If you want to comply with your religion, you don't have a choice -- you have to become vegetarian," said the convicted civil servant, a compact man who works in the prison library. "We have access to a prison store with two halal products: halal sausage and a can of ravioli."
Prison officials say it is too expensive to provide halal meals. "We'd like to buy fresh meat, but we can't," said Leclerq, whose prison office is decorated with plush bears.
Muslim inmates said they sense other religious snubs. Christians are allowed packages containing gifts and special treats from their families at Christmas, but Muslims do not receive the same privilege for the Ramadan holy days. "We're careful not to call them Christmas packages because Muslims would ask for Ramadan packages," Leclerq said. "We call them end-of-the-year packages. We can't use a religious term or some people get tense."
Hassan El Alaoui Talibi said the French prison system has made progress since he began his ministry a decade ago. Last year the government set guidelines for all prisons to follow on religious practices, rather than allowing directors to arbitrarily set their own rules.
Prison imams met with Justice Minister Rachida Dati last month with a list of continuing requests, including more imams and training for prison guards to help them better understand religious differences.
A 31-year-old woman of Algerian descent with a youthful face and black, wavy hair tied carelessly in a ponytail welcomed Samia El Alaoui Talibi on a recent morning with double kisses on the cheeks.
"Arriving here was a nightmare," said the woman, one of about 150 female inmates. "I was crying, I couldn't believe I was here.
"Then I saw this woman wearing a head scarf," she said, smiling toward Samia. "I could tell she was here to help me. I call her my angel."
Researcher Corinne Gavard contributed to this report.
|Italians more wary of Muslim immigrants-new study|
Tue 29 Apr 2008, 12:28 GMT
By Philip Pullella
ROME, April 29 (Reuters) - As a new centre-right government that has vowed to be tougher on immigration prepares to take office, a new study on Tuesday showed that most Italians have negative views about having immigrants from Muslim countries.
According to the study carried out by the Makno research organisation, and commissioned by the interior ministry, 55.3 percent of those asked said immigration from Islamic countries was more problematic than that from other, Christian, countries.
Only 39.7 percent said Muslims should be allowed to practice their religion and build mosques unconditionally.
Nearly 10 percent were firmly against allowing Muslim religious practices or mosques and the rest posed various conditions, such as reciprocity for Christians in Islamic countries to practice their religion.
On the Islamic side, nearly 40 percent of Muslim immigrants said they found it difficult to respect their religious traditions in Italy while 30.2 percent feared they would lose their culture.
Italy, a predominantly Catholic country which once sent millions of immigrants to the world, is still grappling with how it should integrate immigrants of different cultures, languages and religions.
More than 17 percent in survey feared terrorist attacks, nearly 25 percent said they believed Muslims were critical of Italians and their culture and 28.2 percent said Muslims were intolerant of Catholicism.
Various parties in the coalition of prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi, who is expected to form his government by next week, have vowed to crack down on immigrants.
Umberto Bossi, the firebrand leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, took a surprising 8 percent in this month's national elections and is expected to get several cabinet posts, perhaps including the interior ministry.
One League member, Roberto Calderoli, outraged Muslims with past antics such as wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammad.
Renato Schifani, a member of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, said minutes after he was elected Senate speaker on Tuesday that among Italy's pressing priorities was to promote only "healthy and regular immigration" and to defend Italy's "Christian roots".
According to official figures, there are more than a million Muslim immigrants in Italy but aid groups say the figure is higher.
The attitude of non-Islamic immigrants in Italy, most of them Christians, was just as critical towards Muslims or in some cases even more so than that of Italians.
© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved. | Learn more about Reuters
|Mugabe, Ahmadinejad criticized for attending UN summit in Rome|
The Associated Press
Published: June 2, 2008
ROME: The participation of the presidents of Zimbabwe and Iran in a U.N. summit in Rome to combat hunger triggered outrage Monday, a day before world leaders meet to map strategy in the face of skyrocketing food prices that are causing civil unrest and widening malnutrition.
Australia's foreign minister decried as "obscene" Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's participation. The longtime African leader has presided over the virtual transformation of his country from former breadbasket to agricultural basket case.
|Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 11:14 UK|
Italy condemned for 'racism wave'
Firemen hose down a camp of Roma people that was set on fire on the outskirts of Naples (file images from 14 May 2008)
Police have had to intervene to protect Italy's Roma community
Human rights group Amnesty International has said it is extremely alarmed by what it calls a "climate of discrimination" in Italy.
The Italian section of the rights body said recent tough new immigration measures were a worrying trend.
It added that politicians from both sides of the spectrum were legitimising the use of racist language.
Last week, Italy's new centre-right government introduced a series of measures aimed at improving security.
Illegal immigration will become punishable by up to four years in prison, it will be easier to expel illegal immigrants and there will be a three-year prison sentence for using minors to beg for money.
Attacks on Roma
But the head of Amnesty International in Italy, Daniela Carboni, said the moves represented "heavy restrictions and new crimes that will target, above all, immigrants".
She said the organisation was particularly worried by the measure that would mean attempted illegal immigrants could be held for up to 18 months in a detention centre.
"Amnesty International is extremely alarmed both by the contents and haste of these measures... and by the climate of discrimination which preceded them," Ms Carboni said in the report.
There is deep suspicion throughout the country of the Roma community, whom many Italians blame for a disproportionate amount of crime.
In mid-May Italian police were forced to intervene to protect Roma Gypsies who came under attack from local residents in Naples, who set their camps alight.
Ms Carboni urged the Italian government to investigate fully the torching of the two Roma slum communities.
In April's national elections the centre-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi - which includes the anti-immigration Northern League and the post-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale - swept to victory, pledging to tackle illegal immigration.
In Rome, Gianni Alemanno, also of the Alleanza Nazionale, was elected mayor on a pledge to expel 20,000 people.
|Italian children back burning of gypsy camps|
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 1:58AM BST 29/05/2008
A class of primary school children in Naples has shocked Italy after submitting homework which supported the burning of gypsy camps.
Picture shows children shouting:
In one drawing children are shown shouting: "Fight, fight."
The children, aged between 9 and 11 years old, are pupils at San Giuseppe Bosco, near a camp at Ponticelli that has been repeatedly attacked by a xenophobic mob.
Locals first set fire to the camp two weeks ago in retaliation to stories that a gypsy girl had tried to steal a baby elsewhere in the city. Since then it has been repeatedly attacked, with more petrol bombs launched at its makeshift buildings.
Teachers at the school had set the children the task of explaining how they felt about the persecution of the gypsies. The response was an alarming series of drawings and essays, many of which supported the vigilante action.
“The gypsies steal children to transplant their organs,” wrote one child.
“We are not racist, but if they want to stay they have to stop stealing,” wrote another.
One crayon drawing showed burning buildings with a mob outside shouting “Fight, fight!” and “Get out of here, Roma!”
The attacks and essays come against a backdrop of growing intolerance to immigrants, fuelled by hard-line partners in the new government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
A report by Amnesty International yesterday warned that Italy was now “dangerous” for illegal immigrants.
Mariano Coppola, the headmaster, blamed the parents of the children for their attitudes, and claimed that many of the children had actually participated in the attacks on the Ponticelli camp.
“Their teachers were working with them to help them understand what really happened, and to clearly show them that these violent acts should not be repeated,” he said.
“But in their families, or on the streets, these kids are learning a very different lesson,” he added. “Some of these children were fully involved and have told stories about taking part in the raids, and have firmly defended their position afterwards,” he said.
|Fears of racist violence rise as gang goes on rampage in Rome|
* Tom Kington in Rome
* The Guardian,
* Monday May 26 2008
Fears of rising intolerance towards migrants in Italy grew after a masked group armed with sticks went on the rampage in a multi-ethnic Rome neighbourhood, smashing shop windows while hurling abuse.
In the 10-minute blitz on Saturday, the group of between 10 and 20 men attacked a food shop owned by an Indian migrant and two stores operated by Bangladeshis, disappearing before police arrived.
The assault comes as Silvio Berlusconi's administration launches a crackdown on illegal immigration, and days after a mob firebombed Gypsy camps in Naples. Last month crowds at Rome's town hall welcomed newly-elected mayor Gianni Alemanno with fascist salutes.
Alemanno, a former neo-fascist, was voted in after promising to expel 20,000 migrants from Rome he said had broken the law. Yesterday he said he was "outraged" by the attack and promised "exemplary punishment for the guilty". Opposition politician Piero Fassino spoke of "an unbelievable wave of racist violence that can only provoke horror".
The Pigneto neighbourhood, where the attack took place, is a traditionally working-class area, recently settled in by migrants as well as students and artists. It has a reputation for peaceful co-existence, although locals said the masked assailants were probably from the area.
Police yesterday suggested the trouble had started earlier in the day with a row between an Italian man and a migrant over stolen money.
"Italy is not a racist country," said interior minister Roberto Maroni of the anti-immigrant Northern League party. "Episodes of this kind are sometimes inflamed by crimes committed by illegal immigrants."
Also on Saturday, Cristian Floris, who works for a gay website in Rome, was assaulted outside his house by two men.
|Neo-Nazis in explosion of xenophobia against Bengali shopkeepers in Rome|
May 26th, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by admin - Email This Post Email This Post
London, May 26 (ANI): Balaclava-clad gangs, some wearing bandanas emblazoned with swastikas, smashed shop windows with iron bars and baseball bats and beat up Bengali shopkeepers in the eastern Roman suburb of Pigneto on Saturday.
Members of the gangs shouted Get out, bastard foreigners as they attacked Bengali shopkeepers in the explosion of xenophobic violence, reports The Times.
Gianni Alemanno, the capitals new right-wing Mayor, and local residents condemned the attacks.
Opponents blamed the new centre-right Government for allowing what they described as a climate of xeno-phobia to flourish across the country.
The new Government of Silvio Berlusconi last week announced a crackdown on illegal immigration and street crime at a Cabinet meeting held in Naples.
At last weeks Cabinet meeting, Berlusconi said he would use the [b]army to resolve the Naples rubbish crisis and threatened that anyone obstructing the construction of rubbish dumps would be arrested and imprisoned.[/b] (ANI)
|Name: RACIST ATTACKS ON FOREIGN SHOPS|
Caption: NATIONAL PICTURES ANOTHER RACIST ATTACK AGAINST SHOPS OWNED BY FOREIGN PEOPLE IN ROME
Date Created: 24-MAY-2008
|Name: MASSIVE UNREST THROUGH ITALY|
Caption: NATIONAL PICTURES NAPLES, May 24 - Police clashed with demonstrators in a poor quarter of Naples on Saturday after a night of riots over the Italian government's attempt to end the chronic rubbish problem by opening new dumps against locals' wishes
Date Created: 24-MAY-2008
|Name: GARBAGE DEMONSTRATION NAPOLI|
Caption: NATIONAL PICTURES CHIAIANO - NAPLES (ITALY) - GARBAGE CRISIS - DEMONSTRATION AGAINNT THE CONSTRUCTION OF GARBAGE DUMP IN CHIAIANO
Date Created: 5-MAY-2008
|Extreme right emerges as strong force in Austria|
• Haider triples share of votes for breakaway group
• Early election brings worst results for main parties
* Ian Traynor, Europe editor
* The Guardian,
* Monday September 29 2008
Heinz Christian Strache, the leader of the Freedom party, has been associated with neo-Nazi militants who deny the holocaust. Photograph: Helmut Fohringer/EPA
Austria was shaken by a political earthquake yesterday when the neo-fascist right emerged from a general election as a contender to be the strongest political force in the country for the first time.
The combined forces of the extreme right took 29% of the vote, with Jörg Haider almost tripling the share of his breakaway Movement for Austria's Future to 11%, while his successor as Freedom party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, saw his party soar to 18%.
The far right's vote doubled compared with the last election in 2006, putting it within less than a point of overtaking the poll victor, the social democrats.
The two big parties, which have run Austria since the second world war, slumped to their worst ever election toll. The Christian democrats (ÖVP), fared particularly poorly at around 26%, down 8%. The social democrats (SPÖ), under a new leader, Werner Faymann, took around 30% and laid claim to the chancellorship.
The early election was triggered by the collapse in June of the coalition of social and Christian democrats after only 18 months. The extreme-right profited from popular disillusion with the two big parties, which took months to form a "grand coalition" in 2006 and then spent the next 18 months paralysed by internal bickering. The same situation may repeat itself now, with both parties under different leaders and struggling to justify legitimacy.
Faymann, the likely new chancellor, is a 48-year-old from Vienna, who was supported by the main rightwing and fiercely anti-EU tabloid, Kronenzeitung, after he promised to put new EU treaties to a referendum in a country that matches Britain in Euro-scepticism.
The far-right triumph was greater than its breakthrough in 1999 when Haider's Freedom party came second in a general election with 27% of the vote and entered government, sparking a crisis that saw Austria isolated internationally.
Strache, who has been associated with neo-Nazi militants who deny the Holocaust, according to a court ruling, and who wants a new government ministry created to manage the deportation of immigrants, wound up his campaign at the weekend by calling Muslim women who wear the burqa "female ninjas".
He talked of east European immigrants to Vienna as "European brothers who don't want to be Islamised", while another of his party leaders reminisced about the days when the kiosks on Vienna's squares sold sausage and wiener schnitzel, rather than "the kebab joints selling falafel and couscous, or whatever you call that stuff".
Last night Strache said he should be the new chancellor. "Today, we are the winners of election night," he said.
The only realistic options for forming a viable grouping are for another grand coalition or for Faymann to contemplate a coalition with Strache, a Viennese former dental technician who has supplanted Haider as the national extreme-right leader. Senior social democrats said last night that they would not collaborate with the Freedom party. Any such move would trigger a deeper crisis within the SPÖ.
Despite mustering around 30% of the vote between them, Strache and Haider are sworn enemies and are unlikely to be able to work together. Both men are fierce critics of the EU
| Jörg Haider, Austrian far-rightist, killed in car crash|
By Nicholas Kulish and Eugen Freund
Sunday, October 12, 2008
BERLIN: Jörg Haider, the controversial and charismatic far-right politician who transformed Austrian politics in recent decades, died of injuries sustained in a car accident early Saturday. He was 58.
Haider's sudden death touched off an outpouring of shock and mourning in Austria, and it occurred at a crucial political moment for the country: between the parliamentary election there two weeks ago, in which right-wing parties made tremendous gains, and the formation of the new government.
Haider, the governor of the province of Carinthia and the leader of the right-wing Alliance for Austria's Future, was a populist politician known for his strong anti-immigrant and anti-European Union stances. He was most notorious for a series of outrageous statements, including praising the Waffen-SS and the employment policies of the Nazi government.
Yet in Austria, his legacy may be the way that he helped put an end to the dominance of the two biggest political parties, the left-leaning Social Democratic Party and the conservative People's Party.
"The spectrum in Austria is totally different today from what it was yesterday," said Thomas Hofer, an independent political consultant in Vienna. "This is the end of an era. He was more controversial than any other, but also one of the most politically talented individuals in the country's history."
The two mainstream Austrian parties suffered significant losses in September's election. The Social Democratic Party and the People's Party had been governing together in an uneasy coalition.
Nearly a third of voters voiced their discontent by turning to Haider's former party, the Freedom Party, and his new one, the Alliance for Austria's Future, which placed fourth, nearly tripling its share of the vote to 11 percent from the last vote two years ago.
The result was a political comeback to the national stage for Haider, after leaving the Freedom Party, which he led and raised to prominence in the decades before. But his death also left his party leaderless at a crucial moment. "For us, this is the end of the world," said Stefan Petzner, the party's secretary general.
Austrian news media were filled with photographs of Haider's black sedan, crushed after flipping over several times. Haider was wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident, the police said, but his injuries were so grave that he had died by the time he reached the hospital.
Haider's death has led to an outpouring of emotion hardly ever seen in Austria, compared by some observers to the swell of mourning in Britain after the death of Diana, princess of Wales, in 1997. Petzner openly wept on Austrian television recalling how he had said goodbye on Friday night to his boss. Gerhard Dörfler, Haider's deputy and now the acting governor of Carinthia, said, "The sun has fallen from the sky."
Condolences rushed in from across the political spectrum. President Heinz Fischer, a Social Democrat, called Haider a "politician of great talent," and said he was "deeply affected" by the news.
Even those opposed to Haider mourned his death Saturday. "I did not particularly like him," said Almut Rieken, 67, in the village of Lanzendorf in Carinthia, "but I still feel touched by it."
The political fallout of Haider's death was far from clear. Some analysts said they believed that it would hasten the reconciliation between the major parties; others saw an opening for a right-wing coalition government.
"This will unify the right-wing camp," said Emmerich Tálos, professor of political science at the University of Vienna. Tálos said that Haider's legacy would be the way that he brought the right wing back into the mainstream of Austrian politics, from a position of weakness and marginalization in the 1970s and early '80s.
"He made the right in Austria a truly relevant political factor in the party system," he said.
Jörg Haider was born in Upper Austria, the son of a shoemaker, to parents who were both active Nazis. He went on to study law before becoming active in the Freedom Party.
As leader of the Freedom Party, his greatest success came in 1999 when the party captured 27 percent of the vote. After the conservatives formed a coalition with the Freedom Party in 2000, it provoked international outrage and brought sanctions from other European countries.
He is survived by his wife, Claudia, and two daughters. According to news reports he was planning to celebrate his mother's 90th birthday over the weekend.
Haider speeding before crash
Austrian investigators said Haider was speeding at more than twice the posted limit before the car crash in which he died, The Associated Press reported from Austria.
The police reconstructing the accident in southern Austria said the speedometer in the wreckage of Haider's Volkswagen sedan was stuck at 142 kilometers an hour, or 88 miles an hour.
The speed limit on the stretch of road where he died was 70 kilometers an hour.
Investigators released their preliminary findings Sunday. A prosecutor, Gottfried Kranz, said the speed appeared to be the main factor in the deadly crash.
|From The Times|
October 23, 2008
Far-right Austrian leader sacked for revealing gay affair with Jörg Haider
Joerg Haider and his spokesman Stefan Petzner
The successor of the Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider was dismissed yesterday after he revealed a “special” relationship “far beyond” friendship with his former mentor.
In emotional interviews with the national broadcaster and a tabloid newspaper Stefan Petzner spoke openly about his affair with Haider, who died at the age of 58 in a high-speed car crash after heavy drinking session at a gay club this month. Haider’s party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, captured 11 per cent of the vote in national elections last month .
“He was the man of my life. Our relationship went far beyond friendship,” Mr Petzner, 27, said after only a week in the job, adding that Haider’s wife, Claudia, 52, “did not object” to their relationship.
“I only had him. Now I am all alone. I would spend nights with him and his family and that was important for me because I often was afraid to be alone in the dark,” he added.
Mr Petzner’s appointment as party leader was widely seen as a fulfilment of Haider’s last wish, as he had frequently said in public that he would like his young protégé to take his place one day. Mr Petzner dropped out of university when he met Haider at a party. At that time he was working as a journalist, writing about cosmetic treatments.
Outraged by the interviews, the party felt compelled yesterday to dismiss its leader amid reports of his alleged role in Haider’s tragic death. Local papers said that, on the night of his accident, Haider and Mr Petzner had a row at a magazine launch party. Haider left in a hurry and drove to a gay club in Klagenfurt, his home town, where he drank vodka with male escorts. The reports said that he was hardly able to walk to his car.
The new leader of the Alliance, Josef Buchner, 43, a hotel owner and a divorced father of two, is seen as a more conservative choice. Mr Petzner will serve as his deputy.
|We all hate Borat: The poor Romanian villagers humiliated by Sacha Baron Cohen's spoof documentary|
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:58 AM on 18th October 2008
Seventeen-year-old Carmen Ciorebea may be a listless teenager, but she is resolute about one thing. 'Glod is a terrible, terrible village. Nothing ever happens and there is nothing beautiful to see here,' she sighs. 'I will never be happy here.'
She is not alone in these sentiments, which are shared by many in the poverty-stricken Romanian village, nestled in the shadow of the Carpathian mountains north-west of Bucharest. Life is hard here: toilets are little more than sheltered holes in the ground, and horses and donkeys are the only source of transport. Most people eke out a living peddling scrap iron or working scrubby patches of land.
So when a Hollywood film crew descended on Glod three years ago to make a 'documentary' about their lives, many of the 1,000 residents were only too happy to take the £3 that was offered to anyone who participated.
If the tall, lanky and moustached presenter seemed a little odd, who were they to question the ways of the world of television? They said nothing when this rather manic Borat character installed a cow in one of their homes, or was filmed being transported in a car, which, although perfectly serviceable, should, he insisted, be pulled along by a horse.
But then the villagers of Glod were not to know that Borat, aka the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, was not making a documentary but a comedy film, with some of the laughs very much at their expense.
In it, Glod and its residents would play the part of Borat's home town in Kazakhstan. Only when watching the film on the small, crackly TV in their local bar, did the truth start to dawn: here they were, portrayed as a backward group of rapists, abortionists and prostitutes, who happily also engage in casual incest.
One local girl, 'cast' as Borat's sister, is described as the 'number-four prostitute in the whole of Kazakhstan'. An elderly lady unwittingly plays the part of Borat's '47-year-old' mother. The village mechanic is cast as the local abortionist. All of them were dumbfounded - their horror captured by a TV crew who returned to Glod to witness the aftermath of the Borat bandwagon for a forthcoming documentary. In Storyville: When Borat Came To Town, they show the fallout among villagers as they confront their humiliation and try to seek legal recompense.
Little, on the surface, has changed two years after Baron Cohen's crew departed. The village still has no sewerage or running water, and few of the residents have regular work. Most young girls are encouraged to marry at 15 or 16. At 17, Carmen, granddaughter of the mechanic-cum-abortionist' Spiridom Ciorebea, is already, her father Ion relates, considered a 'granny' because she has refused to wed.
This time round, the villagers are far more hostile to the presence of a camera crew. Many refuse to be filmed, others ask for money. Those that do agree to talk relate their anger and shame about the way they were portrayed.
For Spiridom, the revelation of his role was a profound shock. 'They portrayed me as a gynaecologist and that I do abortions. I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a criminal. I don't do abortions, and that's the thing that bothers me most. If it was a documentary that was really about us, I wouldn't mind.'
Another resident, Nicolae Tudorache - who was told at the time that the rubber sex toy filmmakers attached to his amputated arm was, in fact, a prosthetic - was equally devastated. 'It is disgusting. They conned us into doing all these things and never told us anything about what was going on. They made us look like primitives; like uncivilised savages.
They made millions, but only paid us about £3.'
Nor was their humiliation the only issue the villagers had to contend with: in the aftermath of the film, lawyers arrived at the village promising to secure compensation for the community. Among them were the German lawyer Michael Witti, and Ed Fagan, a US attorney who helped win victims of the Holocaust a settlement of £653 million after filing lawsuits against Swiss banks that had allegedly failed to repay money stolen by the Nazis.
As BBC cameras watch, Fagan is shown at a Spiridom family meeting as Ion and Carmen vow revenge. 'My job,' says Fagan, 'is to make Baron Cohen pay. I want you to mess up his life, like he messed up your life. You can kill his career.' The lawsuit, Fagan explains, could be worth as much as £15 million.
For Ion, the lawyer's promises represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - with that kind of money, he could transform Glod, bring running water to the village, and set up a manufacturing industry that would provide everyone with safe and secure work.
As the film reveals, not everyone was convinced. One local resident, who declines to be named, rejects the lawyer's approaches with a declaration of his own. 'You make fun of me and I don't trust you. You come with your pockets full of money, I don't want that.' Ion remained unbowed, however: he was persuaded by the lawyers, alongside his grandfather and Nico Tudorache, to become one of three plaintiffs representing the village in a lawsuit against Cohen and the film-makers Twentieth Century Fox.
The three men left the village to fly to the US, where they hoped to attend the Oscars and confront Baron Cohen.
It was an ambitious notion - and a notion it remained. Unable to obtain visas to enter the US, the three villagers just presented a petition to the London offices of Twentieth Century Fox before being escorted off the premises by security. As Ion later reflects, 'It is chaos. I don't know what the lawyers want to do with us.'
A year later, he is still unable to answer the question. So far, the compensation claim has stalled. The lawyers no longer visit the village or even return Ion's calls. The stress of fighting for compensation has taken its toll on Ion's health and he has had a heart attack. 'I don't care about anything any more - I can't handle it,' he says. 'The villagers don't believe me. They think I've got the money. I've got a lot of enemies now.
We are ridiculed once again. First with the movie and then with the lawsuit.'
His daughter feels her father's anguish. ' Daddy feels bad because he promised the villagers improvements he hasn't been able to carry out,' Carmen says. She, at least, has some form of happy ending: she has married a local boy and is now expecting their first child.'
She now believes that she may be happy in Glod after all. Sacha Baron Cohen and his film crew have left the villagers nursing a bitterness that will take many years to evaporate. Little wonder his name is mud in this muddy village - and his fate assured should he ever try and return. 'We will kill him,' one villager vows.
Exploited: Spiridom (left) and Ion Ciorebea
|Dutch anti-Islam MP says Britain refuses him entry|
Tue Feb 10, 2009 5:10pm EST
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch member of parliament facing prosecution because of his anti-Islam remarks said on Tuesday that Britain had refused him entry to the country as a threat to public security.
Geert Wilders had wanted to show a short film, "Fitna," which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, in the British parliament, but said the British authorities had told him he was excluded from the country.
"The secretary of state (minister) is satisfied that your statements about Muslims and their beliefs, as expressed in your film "Fitna" and elsewhere, would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the United Kingdom," Wilders told Dutch television a letter he had received from the British government said.
Wilders faces prosecution by an Amsterdam court for inciting hatred and discrimination.
Britain's Home Office (interior ministry) declined to comment on Wilders' exclusion, but a spokeswoman said the government opposed all forms of extremism.
"It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country," she said.
Wilders, whose film urged Muslims to tear out "hate-filled" verses from the Koran and who has compared Islam to Nazism, said on his party's website Britain had sacrificed freedom of speech.
"This is something you expect in Saudi Arabia but not in Britain. I think this cowardly position of Britain is very bad," he wrote.
The Netherlands has complained to Britain about Wilders' exclusion on the ground that Dutch members of parliament should be able to travel freely in the European Union, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said in a statement.
The Netherlands has condemned the film, which was aired over the Internet last March, and distanced itself from its content, saying the film served no other purpose than causing offence.
(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger, additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London, editing by Tim Pearce)
|Dutch protest Britain's ban of right-wing lawmaker|
By MIKE CORDER – 4 hours ago
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The British government has banned Dutch right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders from visiting the country to show his anti-Islam film "Fitna" at the Houses of Parliament.
Wilders was invited by a member of British Parliament's upper house, the House of Lords, to show his 15-minute film, which criticizes the Quran as a "fascist book." But he was informed Tuesday in a letter from the British Embassy he would not be allowed into Britain.
The film sparked violent protests around the Muslim world last year for linking Quranic verses with footage of terrorist attacks.
Wilders has lived for years with round-the-clock security because of his fierce criticism of Islam. He has urged his government to ban the Quran in the same way it did Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" and warned of a "tsunami" of Islam swamping the Netherlands.
Last month, a court in Amsterdam ordered him prosecuted for hate speech, a rarely punished crime in the liberal Netherlands that carries a maximum one-year sentence. Wilders has appealed the order to the Supreme Court.
In a telephone interview Wilders called the British government's decision "cowardly" and vowed to defy it.
"Let them try to detain me," he told The Associated Press, adding that he had lunch in the British House of Lords in December.
Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said the Dutch government would press Britain to reverse the ban and said he "deeply regretted" that a Dutch lawmaker had been barred access.
Britain's Home Office, which is responsible for immigration issues, said it had no specific comment to make about Wilders' case.
But in a statement the Home Office said it "opposes extremism in all its forms" and would work to "stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country."
Lord Pearson, who invited Wilders to show "Fitna" at the House of Lords on Thursday, said he was "very surprised that the British government should ban a European citizen — and an elected Dutch MP at that — from coming to this country."
He called his government's decision "weak and unacceptable in the extreme."
Pearson said he took exception to some of Wilders' statements but wanted to show his film "precisely to uphold his right to freedom of speech, even if we disagree with what he's saying."
He added that he would do his best to help Wilders to show his film in the U.K., despite the ban.
Wilders said the embassy letter informed him he was being refused entry because his views "threaten community harmony and therefore public security" in Britain.
He said the letter cited article 19 of the 2006 British Immigration Regulations.
According to a copy of the regulations on the Home Office Web site, the article allows a person to be banned from the United Kingdom "if his exclusion is justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health."
Wilders, whose Freedom Party holds nine of Dutch parliament's 120 seats, said he was shocked by the travel ban.
"We are talking here about a European Union country, one of the oldest democracies in the Western world," he said.
|Yesterday, internet chatter claimed that Lord Ahmed had threatened to mobilise 10,000 Muslims to prevent Mr Wilders getting into the Palace of Westminster.|
Lord Ahmed denied the reports and said his lawyers are investigating those he blames for spreading it.
|QUOTE (justthefacts @ Feb 13 2009, 12:56 AM)|
|A far-right Dutch MP has branded the UK Government "cowards" after he was refused entry to Britain because of his anti-Islam views.|
Paul has the definitive angle at the Conspiraloon Alliance
|Pig head found on Prague mosque fence|
05:00 | 20.3.2009 CzechNewstisknidiskutujpošlisdílej
The photographs of the pig head were published by the far-right National Party (Národní strana)
Prague - A man who went to a mosque Thursday morning in Prague-Kyje district for a morning prayer soon found himself in a state of shock.
He discovered a pig head fixed to a fence of the mosque with an inscription "NO TO ISLAM". The man called the police which have launched investigation of the incident.
"It is not clear yet whether it is an offence or a crime," Prague police spokesperson Jan Mikulovský told press agency ČTK.
The police are reviewing the CCTV footage, while investigating witnesses.
Photographs of the pig head appeared on the web site of the far right National Party. The party is known for its anti-Islamic stands, calling for banning Islam in Europe. The web site says:
"How will those who decapitate Christians or kill and rape non-believers... feel when they see an unclean pig among their rank?"
Muslims regard pigs as unclean animals. Presenting a pig to them constitutes an offence.
|From Times Online|
January 8, 2009
Muslim leaders in Milan today said that they had apologised to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan, for an incident last weekend in which Muslim demonstrators burnt Israeli flags during a mass protest against Israeli actions in Gaza, which ended in unauthorised Islamic prayers in front of Milan Cathedral.
The protesters broke through a police cordon to reach the square. Asfa Mahmoud, head of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Milan, said that he and other Muslim spokesmen had asked for a meeting with the cardinal to "clarify" what had happened and express regret.
The Milan archdiocese said in a note that prayer was a "fundamental human right" but must not be used for political purposes. The Muslim prayers on the cathedral square had been "intrepreted by many" as an "affront to the Catholic faith at one of Milan's most symbolic Christian sites", the note said.
Ignazio La Russa, the Defence Minister, who is a leader of the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale, said that to counteract the use of the cathedral square as an "open air mosque", an open air Catholic mass should be held to "reclaim" it for Christianity.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
22:20 Mecca time, 19:20 GMT
Clashes hit German anti-Islam rally
Scuffles broke out between police and protesters but there were no immediate reports of arrests [AFP]
Scuffles have broken out after about 1,600 people demonstrated against a rally held by a group opposing the building of a mosque in the German city of Cologne.
The rally, held by Pro Koeln, a right-wing group, led to violence after left-wing demonstrators demanded entry to it on Saturday, saying it had been described as a public event.
Wolfgang Baldes, a police spokesman, said: "There were minor scuffles.
"We've not allowed some of the protesters to get into the square ... police intervened and secured a distance.
"We have more than 5,000 policemen here for the weekend, we are well prepared."
'Racism and agitation'
The counter-demonstration by hundreds of left-wing protesters, members of church groups, trade unions and the Green party came after about 200 people turned out for the Pro Klein rally.
"Today we're sending a signal that democrats stand united against right-wing radicalism, racism and agitation," Reinhard Bütikofer, the former head of the Green party, said.
Police had earlier banned Pro Koeln and Pro NRW, an allied group, from holding its demonstration in front of the Cologne cathedral in the city centre, and allowed them to assemble at a square in the Deutz district.
A march planned by right-wing groups to the site of the planned mosque on Sunday has also been banned.
The march had been expected to mark the culmination of a three-day "convention" to oppose the construction of mosques and immigration of Muslims to Germany.
Germany is home to three million Muslims, who make up four per cent of the country's population.
|Sarkozy says burqas are 'not welcome' in France|
By JAMEY KEATEN – 13 hours ago
PARIS (AP) — President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, branding the face-covering, body-length gown as a symbol of subservience that suppresses women's identities and turns them into "prisoners behind a screen."
But there was a mixed message in the tough words: an admission that the country's long-held principle of ethnic assimilation — which insists that newcomers shed their traditions and adapt to French culture — is failing because it doesn't give immigrants and their French-born children a fair chance.
In a high-profile speech to lawmakers in the historic chateau at Versailles, Sarkozy said the head-to-toe Muslim body coverings were in disaccord with French values — some of the strongest language against burqas from a European leader at a time when some Western officials have been seeking to ease tensions with the Muslim world.
"In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity," Sarkozy said to extended applause of the lawmakers gathered where French kings once held court.
"The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly," he said. "It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic."
Some Muslim leaders interpret the Quran to require that women wear a headscarf, niqab or burqa in the presence of a man who is not their husband or close relative.
France is home to Western Europe's largest population of Muslims, estimated at about 5 million. A small but growing group of French women wear burqas and niqabs, which either cloak the entire body or cover everything but the eyes.
Critics fear the issue of full-body coverings, which only involves a tiny minority of French Muslims, could increase discrimination against all Muslims who display their faith in any way.
Dalil Boubakeur, director of the largest Paris mosque, said Sarkozy's push to keep out the burqa is typical of French culture, but worried that he might inflame tensions with Muslims.
The president wanted to show that "the rules of life in France — and that you can just bring in unjustified traditions," Boubakeur said.
"But you have to hope — inshallah (God willing) — that there won't be any ill-feeling, controversies or incidents in this confrontation between an Eastern idea and Western life," Boubakeur told the AP in a telephone interview. "Or then eastern Muslims will have to return to the Orient ... completely unable to assimilate and uncomfortable in a Western system."
But Sarkozy also said immigrants face economic challenges in France, and the government needs to do more to help them.
"Who doesn't see that our integration model isn't working any more?" Sarkozy said. "Instead of producing equality, it produces inequality. Instead of producing cohesion, it creates resentment."
The unemployment rate for immigrants and their French-born children is higher than the national average. Many children of immigrants complain of discrimination, saying they get passed over for jobs because they have "foreign-sounding" names. Frustration of many children of north African and black immigrants boiled over in France's three-week wave of riots in 2005.
The burqa comments made up only a few lines of Sarkozy's speech, which focused on the global economic crisis and a Cabinet shake-up expected to be announced Wednesday. The address was the first by a French president to parliament in 136 years; the last was in 1873 — before lawmakers banned the practice to protect the separation of powers and keep the president in check. That ban was scrapped last year.
In France, the terms "burqa" and "niqab" often are used interchangeably. A burqa is a full-body covering worn largely in Afghanistan — with only a mesh screen over the eyes. A niqab is a full-body veil, often black, with slits for the eyes.
Muslim groups and government officials say it's hard to know how many women wear burqas and niqabs in France — though estimated to be at least in the hundreds. They are far less prevalent than simpler Muslim head scarves.
A 2004 law banned wearing the Muslim head scarf at public schools, along with Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses. That law sparked fierce debate both at home and abroad.
In a visit to Normandy earlier this month, President Barack Obama addressed France's headscarf ban, saying countries handle such issues with their national sensitivities and histories in mind, before adding: "I will tell you that in the United States our basic attitude is, is that we're not going to tell people what to wear."
The French government has been divided on a burqa ban. Immigration Minister Eric Besson said a ban would only "create tensions," while junior minister for human rights Rama Yade said she was open to a ban if it was aimed at protecting women forced to wear the burqa.
The burqa has come under criticism in some parts of Europe. In 2003, Sweden's National Agency for Education gave schools the right to ban pupils from wearing burqas if it interferes with the teaching or safety regulations.
The Dutch government last year described the burqa and other clothing that covers the face, as "undesirable," but the ruling coalition stopped short of attempting a ban amid concerns of possible religious discrimination. But the government did say it would work toward banning burqas in schools and among public servants, saying that they stand in the way of good communication.
Later Monday, Sarkozy hosted a state dinner with Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani of Qatar — a Persian Gulf state where women often wear niqabs. The emir was joined by one of his wives, Sheika Mozah, whose head was covered in an elegant turban.
|Veiled threats: row over Islamic dress opens bitter divisions in France|
• Moves to ban Muslim face coverings gather force
• Human rights groups warn of growing discrimination
* Angelique Chrisafis in Saint-Denis
* guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 June 2009 19.09 BST
In the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, with its busy market, fast-food joints and bargain clothes shops, Angelica Winterstein only goes out once a week – and only if she really has to.
"I feel like I'm being judged walking down the street. People tut or spit. In a smart area west of Paris, one man stopped his car and shouted: 'Why don't you go back to where you came from?' But I'm French, I couldn't be more French," said the 23-year-old, who was born and raised in bourgeois Versailles.
Once a fervent Catholic, Winterstein converted to Islam at 18. Six months ago she began wearing a loose, floor-length black jilbab, showing only her expertly made-up face from eyebrows to chin. She now wants to add the final piece, and wear full niqab, covering her face and leaving just her eyes visible.
"But this week, after Sarkozy announced that full veils weren't welcome in France, things have got really difficult," she said. "As it is, people sometimes shout 'Ninja' at me. It's impossible to find a job – I'm a qualified childminder and get plenty of interviews because of my CV, but when people see me in person, they don't call back. It's difficult in this country, there's a certain mood in the air. I don't feel comfortable walking around."
This week, France plunged into another bitterly divisive national debate on Muslim women's clothing, reopening questions on how the country with western Europe's biggest Muslim community integrates Islam into its secular republic. A parliamentary inquiry is to examine how many women in France wear full Islamic veils or niqab before a decision is made over possibly banning such garments in the street. More than 50 MPs from across the political spectrum have called for restrictions on full veils, called "degrading", "submissive" and "coffins" by politicians. Yet the actual numbers of niqab wearers in France appears to be so small that TV news crews have struggled to find individuals to film. Muslim groups estimate that there are perhaps only a few hundred women fully covering themselves out of a Muslim population of over 5 million – often young French women, many of them converts.
That such a marginal issue can suddenly take centre stage in a country otherwise struggling with major issues of mass unemployment and protest over public sector reform shows how powerful the symbol of the headscarf and veil remains in France.
Human rights groups warned this week that the row over niqabs risks exacerbating the growing problem of discrimination against women wearing standard Muslim headscarves. Five years on from the heated national debate over France's 2004 law banning headscarves and all conspicuous religious symbols from state schools, there has been an increase in general discrimination against adult women who cover their heads.
"Women in standard headscarves have been refused access to voting booths, driving lessons, barred from their own wedding ceremonies at town halls, ejected from university classes and in one case, a woman in a bank was not allowed to withdraw cash from her own account at the counter. This is clear discrimination by people who wrongly use the school law to claim that France is a secular state that doesn't allow headscarves in public places. It's utterly illegal and the courts rule in our favour," said Renee Le Mignot, co-president of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples. "Our fear is that the current niqab debate is going to make this general discrimination worse."
Samy Debah, a history teacher who heads France's Collective against Islamophobia, said 80% of discrimination cases reported to his group involved women wearing standard headscarves.
He had rarely seen any instances of women wearing niqabs, even in the ethnically mixed north Paris suburb where he lives. "From our figures, the biggest discriminator against Muslim women is the state and state officials," he said. "What people have to understand is that the concept of French secularism is not anti-religion per se, it is supposed to be about respecting all religions."
The current initiative against full Islamic veils began in Venissieux, a leftwing area on the industrial outskirts of Lyon. Its communist mayor, André Gerin, led proposals for a clampdown, saying he saw increasing numbers of full veils in his constituency.
"I call them walking prisons, phantoms that go past us, it's that visual aspect that's an issue," Gerin said. "There's a malaise in the general population faced with the proliferation of these garments. I sense that on the part of Muslims, too."
Gerin said women in niqab posed "concrete problems" in daily life. "We had an issue in a school where a headteacher at the end of the school day didn't want to hand back two children to a phantom," he said. Gerin has refused to conduct the town-hall wedding of a woman wearing niqab. Another woman wearing a full veil was refused social housing by a landlord in the area. The mayor said that when women haven't removed their face covering, it has resulted in conflict with public officials who often felt insulted or under attack. But he denied stigmatising the wider Muslim population.
"The current situation [where women wear niqabs] is stigmatising Muslims," he said. His aim was to "establish a debate with the Muslim community, integrate Islam properly into French life" and expose fundamentalist practices.
Two previous calls for a law restricting full veils have been left to gather dust. This time, the debate is gathering force. There are divisions in the government itself – the feminist Muslim junior minister, Fadela Amara, supports a niqab ban while the immigration minister, Eric Besson, warns it would create unnecessary tension.
Horia Demiati, 30, a French financier who wears a standard headscarf with her business suits, said: "I really fear an increase in hatred." She recently won a discrimination case after she and her family, including a six-month baby, were refused access to a rural holiday apartment they had booked in the Vosges. The woman who refused them argued that she was a secular feminist and didn't want to see the headscarf, "an instrument of women's submission and oppression", in her establishment.
Demiati said: "This niqab debate is such a marginal issue, yet it risks detracting from the real issues in France."
|Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 14:51 UK|
Egyptian anger over slain mother
By Magdi Abdelhadi
Arab affairs analyst, BBC News
The stabbing to death of a young Egyptian mother inside a courtroom in Germany last week has provoked a groundswell of anger in Egypt.
Her funeral, in her hometown of Alexandria, turned into a huge demonstration with banners demanding retribution and denouncing what is widely believed to an increasingly Islamaphobic Europe.
The bare facts of the story horrified the public. A devout and professional Muslim woman was killed while seeking justice inside a European courtroom apparently for no other reason than her being a veil-wearing Muslim woman.
She was murdered in broad daylight under the gaze of the authorities in the German city of Dresden by the very same man from whom she had sought redress for a racist slur.
The circumstances surrounding the killing of Marwa Sherbini were shocking by any standards.
She was stabbed 18 times inside the courtroom by the man, a German of Russian descent.
She had accused him of racism for calling her a terrorist, apparently because she wore the Hijab, or Muslim headscarf.
The security guards who rushed to the scene opened fire on her husband, who was trying to defend her, mistaking him for the attacker. He is in a critical condition.
Marwa Sherbini was pregnant and the whole drama unfolded in front of her four-year-old boy.
For the Egyptians, the majority of whom are Muslims, it was obvious that this was no ordinary crime: Ms Sherbini was killed because she was a Muslim.
Her mother told reporters that her daughter had paid a price for being a proud Muslim wearing the Islamic headscarf.
On Tuesday, the day after her funeral, angry demonstrators gathered outside the German embassy in Cairo denouncing Western civilisation as brutal and anti-Islamic.
A young woman at the demonstration told the BBC: "This is anti-Islam and our blood is not cheaper than any others.
"This is about identity. God created us all the same. We are all humans, created by the same God. "
Assurances from German officials that this was an isolated incident and that justice will be done have done little to assuage the anger.
The father of Marwa Sherbini prays next to her casket
Questions are being asked about why the attacker was allowed to take a knife inside the courtroom, and why there was such a serious security failure in a modern and efficient society like Germany.
Behind the questions lurk a suspicion of foul play - some sinister anti-Islamic hand at work.
Others were particularly angered because the murder of Marwa Sherbini did not elicit an adequate response from German or other European capitals.
Commenting on European reactions to the murder - or rather lack of them - the editor of the independent daily Al-Shorook, Abdulazeem Hammad, warned the public against making general judgements about all Germans or all Europeans.
But he went on to accuse the German media of double standards: "I could not prevent myself from comparing how the German media ignored the Dresden incident - as if it had happened on another planet... with the excesses of the same media when a Muslim commits such a crime, or even a lesser one.
"All German television channels, newspapers and other media broadcast for months on end reports, pictures and investigations about the killing of the Dutch film director, [Theo] Van Gogh, at the hands of an extremist Muslim, even though this director had produced what was by all accounts an anti-Islamic film, while Marwa had not committed any offence."
But some of the Egyptians' fury was also directed at their own government, which they accuse of failing to respond forcefully enough to the killing of one of its citizens in what was allegedly a racially motivated crime in a foreign country.
One commentator wrote the life of an Egyptian was worthless, because he is treated as such by his own government.
The incident is evidence that the West does have a serious image problem in predominantly Muslim societies such as Egypt.
That is despite the fact that millions dream of travelling - and many do - to Western countries in search of a better life.
It is also proof that the theme of "Islam under attack" is a popular one.
It is exploited by Islamist activists, in the media and society at large, as well as by the governments they oppose across the region for different ends.
For the Islamists, it is an effective rallying cry to mobilise the masses against a pro-Western regime.
For the governments, it is a useful ploy to deflect public anger or local frustrations onto an external enemy.
|Germany fears terror attacks ahead of elections|
July 11th, 2009
ASPERG - Terrorists are planning an attack in Germany ahead of general elections Sep 27, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Saturday.
He said “friendly” intelligence services had informed their German counterparts of internet discussions about a possible attack designed to disrupt the parliamentary vote.
Schaeuble told a meeting of the youth wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats that a terrorist attack in Spain caused huge loss of life days before a general election there in 2004.
“We shouldn’t let ourselves be driven crazy, but it would be irresponsible not to take this information seriously,” said the minister, who is responsible for security in Germany.
Some 191 persons were killed and 1,800 injured when Islamist terrorists blew up commuter trains in Madrid March 11, 2004, three days before Spain went to the polls.
|Anti-Islam fascism on rise in France|
Old ideology (Nazi), new target (Muslims)
Pig’s head, swastikas deface French Muslim prayer room in North African community centre.
TOUL, France – Vandals hung a pig’s head from the door of a Muslim prayer room in eastern France, daubing the building top to bottom with swastikas and anti-Islamic graffiti, police said Wednesday.
A passer-by alerted police Wednesday morning after discovering the pig’s head hung from the door and trotters from the shutters of the prayer centre, part of a North African community centre on the outskirts of the town of Toul.
Home to Europe’s largest Muslim community, estimated at five million, France has seen a rise in Islamophobic attacks in the past two years, with neo-Nazi desecration of Muslim war graves and arson strikes on several mosques.
Local MP Nadine Morano, who is also junior minister for families in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, condemned the “unacceptable violence”, calling for full light to be shed on the attack.
Critics argue that policies of Sarkozy’s right-wing government that deny Muslim women the freedom to dress as they wish and mock their choice of wear have incited hatred among some members of the public against the Muslim minority.
“It wasn’t that long ago when a German extremist killed a Muslim woman basically for wearing a headscarf,” noted one commentator, in reference to Marwa Al-Sherbini.
Sherbini, a three-month pregnant 32-year old woman was stabbed to death 18 times by a 28-year old man in front of her three-year-old son and her husband inside a German courtroom.
Women honouring the ‘veil martyr’
She became known as the “veil martyr” as she was wearing a headscarf when she was attacked for apparently Islamophobic motives.
France has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil, known as a burqa or niqab.
Critics see French policies as undermining human rights and freedom of worship and expression which should be guaranteed in an authentic secular state.
“France is fighting its own secular values when restricting the rights and freedoms of Muslims,” said one observer.
“It can’t fight liberty in the name of liberty,” he added.
“Will the French government become a ‘Taliban equivalent’ in Europe, telling women what they should or should not wear?”
Last Wednesday, a Paris swimming pool had refused entry to a young Muslim woman wearing a “burqini,” a swimsuit that covers most of the body.
Officials in the Paris suburb of Emerainville said they let the woman swim in the pool in July wearing the “burqini,” designed for Muslim women who want to swim without revealing their bodies.
But when she returned in August they decided to apply “hygiene” rules and told her she could not swim if she insisted on wearing the garment, which resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood.
No ‘burqini’ please, we’re French
Le Parisien newspaper said the woman identified only by her first name Carole was a French convert to Islam and that she was determined to go to the courts to challenge the decision.
“Quite simply, this is segregation,” the paper quoted her as saying. “I will fight to try to change things. And if I see that the battle is lost, I cannot rule out leaving France.”
Sarkozy’s stance has also been criticised by some Muslim and non-Muslim feminists.
“The first (fundamental lesson for Sarkozy) is that men should stay well clear of becoming embroiled in expressing opinions on women’s clothes,” wrote Yvonne Ridley, a widely-respected British broadcast journalist.
“If he really cared about the subjugation of women he would seriously tackle the appalling levels of domestic violence French women suffer at the hands of French men – two million are victims of bullying, violent partners … a staggering 400 are murdered by their spouse,” she added.
Ridley pointed out that a very tiny minority of Muslim women actually wear the burka in France.
“The real reason had nothing to do with the burka and everything to do with Sarkozy putting pressure on the Liberal Left, throwing a few cheap shots at the expense of Muslim women while trying to pick up a few votes at their expense as well,” Yvonne wrote in article recently.
|Swiss tensions rise over 'racist' minaret poster|
Zurich claims banning anti-Islamic placards would infringe laws of free speech
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Zurich has approved the display of a controversial anti-Islamic poster showing a menacing looking woman in a burqa, next to minarets that closely resemble missiles standing on the Swiss flag.
The posters are part of a far right party's campaign ahead of a national referendum in late November on whether to ban mosques from having minarets. They have been given the go-ahead by Zurich city council, which argues that they are a necessary component of free speech.
But the posters have been bitterly criticised by Swiss Muslims and anti-racism groups, and the cities of Basel and Lausanne have banned them, claiming they create a "racist, disrespectful and dangerous image of Islam".
A spokesman for Switzerland's Federal Commission against Racism said yesterday that the posters amounted to an attack on all of Switzerland's 310,000 Muslims, most of whom come from Bosnia, Turkey and Albania. "They are tantamount to the denigration and defamation of the peaceful Swiss Muslim population," he said.
The posters are a part of a two-year campaign by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) to have minarets banned throughout Switzerland. The party was re-elected to a share of power in 2007 with its largest-ever portion of the vote after mounting a similar anti-immigrant campaign.
Henri-Maxime Khedoud, a Geneva resident and spokesman for the Swiss Association of Secular Muslims, said the posters were an attempt to play on voters' fears about Islam. "They give the impression that we are trying to impose sharia law like Saudi Arabia, but this is not true. Most Swiss Muslims come from Europe," he said. "What concerns us is everyday racism, not a lack of minarets," he added.
Switzerland has hundreds of mosques but only four minarets. Opposition to them has focused on the small town of Langenthal, near Berne, where there are plans to built a new mosque and a 30ft-high minaret.
More than 100,000 have signed an anti-minaret petition, which under Swiss law means that the issue must be decided through a national referendum. However, recent polls suggest there is unlikely to be enough support for the proposal to pass. A survey conducted this week showed 51 per cent of Swiss voters would reject the ban while 34.9 per cent were in favour of it.
|Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Sunday, 29 November 2009|
Swiss voters back ban on minarets
There are only four minarets in Switzerland
Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.
More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban.
The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People's Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation.
The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world.
The BBC's Imogen Foulkes, in Bern, says the surprise result is very bad news for the Swiss government which also fears unrest among the Muslim community.
Our correspondent says voters worried about rising immigration - and with it the rise of Islam - have ignored the government's advice.
"The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted," said the government in a statement, quoted by the AFP news agency.
This will cause major problems because during this campaign in the last two weeks different mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland
Zurich's Association of Muslim Organisations
Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the result reflected fear of Islamic fundamentalism.
"These concerns have to be taken seriously. However, the Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies," she said.
She sought to reassure Swiss Muslims, saying the decision was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture".
Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and has just four minarets.
After Christianity, Islam is the most widespread religion in Switzerland, but it remains relatively hidden.
There are unofficial Muslim prayer rooms, and planning applications for new minarets are almost always refused.
Supporters of a ban claimed that allowing minarets would represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system - Sharia law - which are incompatible with Swiss democracy.
But others say the referendum campaign incited hatred. On Thursday the Geneva mosque was vandalised for the third time during the campaign, according to local media.
Before the vote, Amnesty International warned that the ban would violate Switzerland's obligations to freedom of religious expression.
The president of Zurich's Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC that if the ban was implemented, Switzerland's Muslim community would live in fear.
"This will cause major problems because during this campaign in the last two weeks different mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland.
"So with the campaign... the Islamaphobia has increased very intensively."
Sunday's referendum was held after the People's party collected 100,000 signatures from eligible voters within 18 months calling for a vote.
SVP member of parliament Ulrich Schluer said the campaign had helped integration by encouraging debate. He rejected the charge of discrimination.
In recent years many countries in Europe have been debating their relationship with Islam, and how best to integrate their Muslim populations.
France focused on the headscarf, while in Germany there was controversy over plans to build one of Europe's largest mosques in Cologne.
|France reveals draft bill to ban burqa|
Posted January 8, 2010 07:49:00
Updated January 8, 2010 08:04:00
Mr Sarkozy has said the burqa is not welcome but has not stated whether legislation should be enacted.
Muslim women who wear the full Islamic veil in France will face a possible 750 euro ($1,170) fine, according to a draft bill unveiled by the leader of the parliamentary majority.
Jean-Francois Cope, who heads the governing UMP party in the National Assembly, told Le Figaro newspaper's weekly magazine that men who force their wives to wear the burqa or niqab could face an even heavier fine.
"The law will address an issue of security," Mr Cope said in an interview with the magazine.
"The proposed measure would prohibit the covering of the face in public places and on the streets, with the exception of special cultural events or carnivals."
The draft legislation will be presented in the next two weeks and should come up for debate in parliament after the March regional elections, he said.
The majority leader, who is also openly campaigning to succeed President Nicolas Sarkozy as the right-wing candidate for the presidency in 2017, said the burqa must be banned to defend women's rights.
"We can measure the modernity of a society by the way it treats and respects women," he said.
France's political establishment is divided on whether to ban the burqa, with the opposition Socialists this week saying that it opposed a law even though Muslim women must be discouraged from wearing the full veil.
The burqa debate has heated up ahead of the release at the end of the month of a much-awaited report by a parliamentary panel that has conducted six months of hearings on the issue.
Many politicians from the left and right have cautioned that a draconian law banning the head-to-toe veil would be difficult to enforce and probably face a challenge in the European rights court.
Mr Sarkozy himself has said that the burqa is not welcome in France but has not stated publicly whether legislation should be enacted.
Critics argue that a specific law enacted to ban the full veil would be tantamount to using a sledgehammer to swat a fly. Only 1,900 women wear the full veil in France, according to the interior ministry.
In the interview, Mr Cope argued that a law would act as a deterrent by sending a "clear message" that France will not allow women to fully cover themselves.
|The Assault on Illhem|
with 8 comments
by Tariq Ali
Forgive an outsider and staunch atheist like myself who, on reading the recent French press comments relating to Ilhem Moussaid the hijab-wearing NPA candidate in Avignon, gets the impression that something is rotten in French political culture. Let’s take the debate at face-value. A young Muslim woman joins the NPA [New Anti-Capitalist Party]. She obviously agrees with its program that defends abortion, contraception, etc, i.e. a woman’s right to choose. She is then told that despite this she does not have the right to choose what she wears on her head. It’s astonishing. There is no Koranic injunction involved. The book says: “Draw their (women’s) veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty”, which can be interpreted in several ways but is disregarded most blatantly by hijab-wearing Egyptian women I see in Cairo and Karachi wearing tight jeans and T-shirts that contradicted the spirit of the Koranic message.
Patriarchal traditions, cultural habits and identity are what is at stake here and they vary from generation to generation. Pushing people back into a ghetto never helps.
I grew up in a Communist family in Lahore. My mother never wore a veil. She set up a feminist group in the Fifties that worked with working class women in the poorest quarter of the city. Half of them covered their heads in public. It did not affect their activism in the slightest. Similar stories can be told of women in different parts of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim. The Algerian women who fought in the resistance against French republican colonialism did so as anti-imperialists. Some were partially veiled, others not. It did not affect the way they fought or the methods used by the French to torture them. Perhaps the torturers should have been more brutal to the hijabed freedom-fighters to help integrate their progeny better in the Republican tradition.
In 1968-9, the Pakistani students, workers, clerks and women (including prostitutes) fought for three months against a military dictatorship and won: the only victory of those years. The religious groups backed the military. They were isolated and defeated, but many of the women students who fought with us wore the hijab and chanted militant slogans against the Jamaat-i-Islami. Should we have told them they couldn’t participate unless they took off their head-cover? Personally, I would have preferred that for purely aesthetic reasons, but it made nil difference to our struggle.
The anger against Ilhem and the NPA is completely misplaced. The real state of the world leaves the defenders of the Republic completely unaffected: the million dead of Iraq, the continuing siege of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, the killing of innocents in Afghanistan, the US drone attacks in Pakistan, the brutal exploitation of Haiti, etc. Why is this the case?
Several years ago I noticed that French protests against the Iraq war were muted compared to the rest of Western Europe. I don’t accept that this was due to Chirac’s opposition to the war [after all de Gaulle had opposed the Vietnam war even more strongly], but to Islamophobia: an increasing intolerance of the Other in French society, reminiscent of the attitude towards Jews in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The conformism of that period explains the popularity of Vichy during the early years of the war.
Islamophobes and anti-Semites share a great deal in common. Cultural or ‘civilizational’ differences are highlighted to sanction immigrant communities in Europe. The narratives are multiple. No universalist response is possible. Immigrants and the countries to which they migrate are different to each other. Take the United States for a start. This is a territory peopled by migrants, many of whom were Protestant fundamentalists, from the seventeenth century onwards and which has depended on migrations ever since.
In most of Western Europe the first large wave of migrants were from the former colonies of the European powers. In Britain, the migrants were from the Caribbean Islands and South Asia, in France from the Maghreb. Without abandoning their identities, they integrated in different ways and on different levels. The South Asians, principally peasants and a sprinkling of workers, were not treated well by the trades-unions. Despite this, South Asian migrant workers led some of the most memorable struggles for unionization.
The Indians in particular came from a highly politicized culture where Communism was strong and they brought this experience with them to Britain (like the New York taxi drivers today). The Pakistanis were less political and tended towards networking groups reflecting clan loyalties in their villages or cities of origin. The British governments encouraged religion by pleading for mullahs to arrive so that the migrants could be kept away from the racial currents in the working class during the 1960s and 1970s.
In France, there was forced integration. Each citizen was taught that s/he had the same rights, something that was patently not the case. It is material needs and a desire to live better that fuel the rage, not spiritual beliefs. During the eruption of the banlieus in 2005, Sarkozy, then Minister of Interior, like the ultras in Stendhal’s novels, talked of ‘savages.’ I have often pointed out to the discomfiture of even some leftists that the kids who rioted had integrated well by internalizing the best French traditions: 1789, 1793,1848, 1871, 1968. When oppression became unbearable the young built barricades and attacked property. Deprivation, not disbelief, was the root of their anger.
How many Western citizens have any real idea of what the Enlightenment really was? French philosophers undoubtedly took humanity forward by recognizing no external authority of any kind, but there was a darker side. Voltaire: “Blacks are inferior to Europeans, but superior to apes.” Hume: “The black might develop certain attributes of human beings, the way the parrot manages to speak a few words.” There is much more in a similar vein from their colleagues. It is this aspect of the Enlightenment that appears to be more in tune with some of the Islamophobic ravings in sections of the global media.
Marx famously wrote of religion as the ‘opium of the people’, but the sentence that followed is forgotten. Religion was also ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature’ and this partially explains the rise of religiosity in every community since the collapse of Communism. Compare the young Normaliens trooping in to say Mass today to the horror of their parents. My women friends in the Muslim world complain bitterly when their daughters wear the hijab as a protest against familial norms. It was always thus.
Published in Le Monde on February 20, 2010.
|Belgium moves towards public ban on burka and niqab|
Home affairs committee of Brussels federal parliament votes unanimously to ban partial or total covering of faces in public places
* Ian Traynor Brussels
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 31 March 2010 17.33 BST
Belgium today moved to the forefront of a campaign to restrict the wearing of the Muslim veil by women when a key vote left it on track to become the first European country to ban the burka and niqab in public.
The home affairs committee of the Brussels federal parliament voted unanimously to ban the partial or total covering of faces in public places.
"I am proud that Belgium would be the first country in Europe which dares to legislate on this sensitive matter," the centre-right MP Denis Ducarme said.
Daniel Bacquelaine, the liberal MP who proposed the bill, said: "We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen.
"It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society."
The Belgian move came as neighbouring France and the Netherlands continued to grapple with the idea of imposing similar restrictions.
The Canadian province of Quebec last week introduced parliamentary measures to proscribe facial covering in public service employment – a move that enjoyed overwhelming public support in Canada.
Support for the ban in Belgium transcended party lines, ranging from the Greens to the far right, and also resulted in a rare show of unity between the linguistically divided halves of the country.
The full support of the home affairs committee means parliament is likely to vote for the curbs in mid-April, with a ban in force by the summer.
Under the proposals a fine or punishment of up to seven days in prison would be imposed for wearing the full-body burqa or face-masking niqab. The bill, to be debated next month, states that anyone in a public place "with face covered or disguised in whole or in part to the extent that she cannot be identified" is liable to incur the penalties.
While today's vote paved the way for the first nationwide ban on the veil in Europe, local authorities in Belgium already have the power to ban the burqa and niqab in public places.
Of the 500,000 Muslims living in Belgium – with big populations in Brussels and Antwerp – very few women wear the full veil, and there has been little public debate about the need to ban it.
While Bacquelaine admitted there was little problem with full facial covering among Muslims in Belgium, he argued for a preemptive move, saying: "We have to act as of today to avoid [its] development."
Rather than being about the burqa and the niqab, the bigger debate in Belgium – as elsewhere in Europe – is about the less severe headscarf, with Muslim parents pressing for schools to allow their daughters to cover their heads and often opting to send them to private schools tolerant of the practice.
The Belgian move is similar to other campaigns in Europe.
Following a heavy regional elections trouncing last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France called for a burqa ban. "The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women," he said. "The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws."
The headscarf is banned in schools in France.
In the Netherlands rightwinger Geert Wilders – riding high in the opinion polls prior to elections in June – is also campaigning for Muslim veil bans and has issued warnings about the "Islamification" of Dutch society.
Isabelle Praile, the vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, warned that a Belgian ban could be the thin end of the wedge.
"Today it's the full-face veil. Tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans, and then perhaps it will be miniskirts," she told AFP.
|QUOTE (Bridget @ Apr 1 2010, 12:21 AM)|
|Belgian parliament votes to ban wearing of veil |
Reuters Philip Blenkinsop
The Belgian lower house of parliament on Thursday approved a bill to ban wearing the full Islamic face veil in public, a move that could make Belgium the first European country to make the practice a criminal offence.
The draft law, cast as a security measure by proponents, was overwhelmingly backed by 136 lawmakers. Just two abstained.
The bill, which would ban all clothing that covers or partially covers the face, could become law in the coming months as the upper house, or Senate, is not expected to block it.
However, the collapse of Belgium's coalition government last week and the prospect of an imminent election could cause a delay because parliament would have to be dissolved.
France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, is also looking towards a ban on wearing veils in public, with the government set to examine a draft bill in May. It could also become law within a few months.
Belgium's French-speaking liberals, who proposed the veil law, argued that an inability to identify people who have hidden their faces presents a security risk and that the veil was a "walking prison" for women.
Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the vote, saying in a statement that it violated rights to freedom of expression and religion and set a dangerous precedent.
Wearing the facial veil, known as the niqab, and the body-length outer garment, or burqa, widely worn in Afghanistan, could lead to fines of 15-25 euros (about $20 to $33) and imprisonment for up to seven days.
CONCERN ABOUT ISLAMIC MILITANCY
Politicians across Europe have sought to ban veils or headscarves to assuage public concern about a perceived growth of Islamic militancy.
The bill's chief promoter, Daniel Bacquelaine, said local mayors could suspend the ban during festivities such as Carnival when people traditionally wear costumes, including masks.
The law could also be used against potentially violent demonstrators who covered their faces.
Amnesty International urged Belgium's Senate to seek the view of its Council of State on the legality of the measure.
Isabelle Praille, vice president of the Executive of Belgian Muslims, said the ban risked further stigmatising the Muslim community.
Caroline Sagesser, religious expert at the Universite Libre of Brussels, said existing police regulations forbidding people from wearing masks on the street were quite sufficient to have the same effect.
"It's a bit like taking a hammer to kill a fly. Especially since in Belgium there are very, very few women wearing a full veil on public roads. It is a non-problem," she told Reuters Television.
Bacquelaine estimated that a few hundred women in Belgium wore facial veils and said it was a rising trend.
"We of course support freedom of religion and freedom to practice," he said during parliamentary debate on Thursday afternoon.
"But I think that the burqa is not a religious sign, it's a political sign first and foremost. It is the affirmation of a number of values that are contrary to fundamental values and universal values," he said.
(Additional reporting by Yvonne Bell; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
|Page last updated at 19:53 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 20:53 UK|
Belgian lawmakers pass burka ban
The Muslim Executive of Belgium has criticised the move
Belgium's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.
The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. No-one voted against it.
The law now goes to the Senate, which is also expected to approve it. It would then become law by June or July.
The ban would be the first move of its kind in Europe.
Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million.
The BBC's Dominic Hughes in Brussels says MPs backed the legislation on the grounds of security, to allow police to identify people.
Other MPs said that the full face veil was a symbol of the oppression of women, our correspondent says.
The ban would be imposed in all buildings or grounds that are "meant for public use or to provide services", including streets, parks and sports grounds.
Exceptions could be made for certain festivals.
Those who break the law could face a fine of 15-25 euros (£13-£27) or a seven-day jail sentence.
The Muslim Executive of Belgium has criticised the move, saying it would lead to women who do wear the full veil to be trapped in their homes.
|Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010|
UKIP chief Nigel Farage calls for burka ban
UKIP came second in last year's European elections, ahead of the Labour Party, but Mr Farage quit as leader to concentrate on trying to become the party's first MP at Westminster.
His successor, Lord Pearson, has said he wants to step up the party's campaign against radical Islam.
He told the Times the party was taking legal advice on how the burka, or any veil covering a woman's face, could be banned in public places and in private buildings such as airports.
|Woman becomes first in Italy to be fined £430 for wearing burka|
By Nick Pisa In Rome
Last updated at 2:23 PM on 4th May 2010
A woman queuing in an Italian post office has been fined 500 euros (£430) for wearing a burka - the first case of its kind in the country.
The 26-year-old Tunisian, identified only as Amel, was handed the penalty after being spotted by local municipal police.
Under Italian anti-terrorist laws brought in during the Seventies to fight political activists, it is illegal to be seen in a public place with your face covered.
It had never been fully enforced but, earlier this year, the mayor of Novara - where Amel lives - introduced new local laws banning any clothing that 'prevents the immediate identification of the wearer inside public buildings, schools and hospitals'.
The case comes just days after Belgium's lower house of Parliament voted unanimously to prohibit women from wearing full-face veils in public.
If the bill is passed by the Senate, it would become Europe's first national 'burka ban'.
Novara's mayor Massimo Giordano is a member of the anti-immigration Northern League Party, which has campaigned for a clampdown on immigration and the building of mosques.
Mr Giordano said: 'I signed the new regulations for reasons of security but also so that people who came to live in our city are aware and respect our traditions.
'The regulations in Novara specifically cover people wearing clothing that prevents them from being identified in a public place, and a post office is a public place.
'This would also apply to a motorcyclist who walked into a post office wearing a crash helmet. The people of Novara do not want to see people walking around in the city wearing a burka.
'This is the only way to stop behaviour that makes the already difficult process of integration even harder.'
Police chief Paolo Cortese said: 'The fine was given because the woman was inside the post office at the time, which is a public building.'
The Northern League, which once called for the Italian Navy to shell boats carrying illegal immigrants towards the country, has called for the original 1975 terror law to be amended and make specific reference to Islamic face coverings.
The proposed wording would prohibit 'the use of female garments common among women of Islamic faith known as burkas.'
Today Muslim groups in Italy insisted that Italian laws must be respected.
Imam Izzedin Elzir, president of the Islamic Community and Organisations Union in Italy, said: 'We are for the freedom of women and against veils of any kind and Italian laws must be respected.
'We as an organisation have always said that we are against face veils or coverings in Italy because the law of recognition has to be observed.'
|The Carnival at Novara and Unmasking of the Racist Regime|
by Huma Dar
The police, in the northern Italian town of Novara, fined a 26-year-old Tunisian woman for wearing a black niqab; she was going to a mosque for the Friday prayers. According to the New York Times she was fined about $650 under a regulation introduced in January 2010. Apparently, Novara — a bastion of the xenophobic Northern League — “bans clothing in public that prevents identification by the police.”
Police Inspector Leonardo Borghesani says, “We just enforced a local law that stops people from covering their face near sensitive places like schools, hospitals or post offices.” He acknowledges that “the fine is hefty, but she can appeal.”
Here’s a question for the police enforcing the surveillance society in Novara:
Did you also fine all the people at the [Carnival] Carnevale Novara who “covered their faces” in public and “prevented identification”? If not, I am sure there are plenty of Youtube videos, like the one above from 2009, that you might want to scrutinize for harvesting more fines. If not, you are the ones unmasked as disgustingly racist.
Masks in a Venice Shop Window
P.S: The last time the Carnevale was proscribed was during Mussolini’s Fascist regime!
|Dutch poised to elect rightwing liberals as economic fears dominate|
Polls suggest VVD win but raise questions over inclusion of anti-Islamic Geert Wilders in possible coalition government
* Ian Traynor, Europe editor
* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 June 2010 16.32 BST
Mark Rutte, Jan Peter Balkenende, Geert Wilders The VDD's Mark Rutte, left, the CDA leader, Jan-Peter Balkenende, centre, and the Freedom party's Geert Wilders, before a tTV debate. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP
Dutch voters are expected to elect their first liberal prime minister in almost a century tomorrow in an election dominated by the age of austerity looming over Europe.
As in Britain and Germany, the liberals are tipped to prosper at the expense of the two big parties that traditionally command the centre-right and the centre-left in the Netherlands: the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA).
Opinion polls indicate a triumph for the VVD, rightwing free-market liberals campaigning for swingeing public spending cuts, tighter rules on immigration and pragmatic scepticism towards the EU.
The election was called a year early after the collapse of the Christian Democrat-led coalition in February over the presence of Dutch troops in Afghanistan.
But neither the Afghan war nor the explosive issue of Muslim immigration has played a prominent role in the campaign, meaning the anti-Islamic populist Geert Wilders has failed to capitalise.
Wilders and his Freedom party are nonetheless predicted to double their share of seats to 18 in the 150-seat second chamber in The Hague, while coming in fourth. Only a few months ago, he was being tipped to win the election.
There was little doubt in The Hague today that Mark Rutte, the VVD leader, would be the new prime minister. In a highly fragmented proportional representation system, however, he will struggle to cobble together a coalition of the right.
Tomorrow's vote will be followed by weeks, perhaps months, of horse-trading over possible coalitions.
One big question is whether the maverick Wilders will be offered a cabinet seat for the first time. Rutte's party is predicted to get 36 seats. His logical coalition partner, the CDA, are polling at 24. They need 76 for a majority. Wilders' seats would enable a majority for a rightwing coalition.
Unlike in neighbouring Flanders, in Belgium, there is no cordon sanitaire erected by the mainstream around the extreme right, but the Dutch centre-right remains reluctant to go into government with Wilders.
The Islam-bashing leader wants a total stop to Muslim immigration and mosque-building, and a tax on Islamic headscarves. He has offered tacit support in parliament for a VVD-CDA minority government in return for tough immigration policies. A similar arrangement exists in Denmark, where the far right props up a rightwing government.
While Rutte looks certain to be the big winner, the main loser is expected to be the prime minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende. The CDA leader has headed three governments since 2002, all of which fell. The polls suggest a heavy defeat for his party, from 41 seats to around 23. The PvdA, under the new leadership of Job Cohen, the former mayor of Amsterdam, is also expected to lose a couple of seats.
The election is the first national ballot among the 16 eurozone countries since the eruption of the Greek debt crisis, which then escalated into a full-blown single currency emergency.
The campaign has highlighted the degree to which voters' economic worries have hijacked the agenda. Rutte is promising spending cuts of €20bn (£16.5bno) euros to balance the budget over four years from a deficit currently of almost 7%.
In what has become almost routine in Dutch politics, he is also bashing Brussels, demanding, British-style, a slimming down of EU powers and their repatriation to member states, the possibility of British-style "opt-outs" from areas of EU legislation and a British-style big fight over the EU budget when it comes up for review from next year.
|QUOTE (Bridget @ Jun 9 2010, 01:35 AM)|
|Freedom Party drops headscarf tax|
Published on 2 November 2009 - 5:19pm
The Freedom Party has dropped its plans for a tax on headscarves. During a debate over the tax plan for 2010, the party's financial spokesperson Teun van Dijck failed to mention the tax. When prompted by a member of the Socialist party he said the tax had not been included in the party's budget.
When pushed on the subject he did ask the deputy financial affairs minister John Cheese of the Hunter whether he could work out how much it would yield.
During the budget debate in September, Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders said he wanted to introduce a tax on headscarves of 1000 euros. He was severely criticised by the other parliamentary parties for the suggestion. However, such a tax was never part of the party's official budget plan.
|Tycoon plans €1m fund to fight French niqab ban|
Businessman Rachid Nekkaz hopes to render new law useless by paying fines for women caught wearing veil in street
* Lizzy Davies in Paris
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 July 2010 14.02 BST
The new law makes it illegal for women to wear the full veil in public. Photograph: Sipa
A French property tycoon enraged at his government's plans to ban women from wearing the full veil in public has promised a fund of €1m (£830,000) to help any Muslim who is fined for wearing the niqab in the street.
Rachid Nekkaz, a businessman of Algerian origin who launched a short-lived campaign in the 2007 presidential elections, has already put €200,000 into a bank account aimed at bailing out women who find themselves on the wrong side of the new law.
He insists that the ban, which was approved by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday and is set to be ratified by the senate in September, is "anti-constitutional" and a move that could put France on a slippery slope towards greater intolerance.
While he has no problem – like most of the French population – with an idea initially mooted by MPs of banning the full veil in state areas such as town halls and post offices, he is vehemently against a law that applies to women simply walking down the street.
"I am very, very sensitive to when people start playing around with institutions and the constitution. I was not shocked by the idea of a ban in public services; I am a [French] republican. But when I saw the president – the guarantor of the constitution – announcing a ban in the street I said to myself, 'this is serious'".
Nekkaz, who says his fund received €36,000 in donations in the 24 hours following its announcement and hopes it will reach €1m by September, is selling properties in the Parisian suburbs to keep the money coming in.
Under the planned law, any woman found wearing a face-covering veil anywhere in public faces a possible fine of €150 as well, potentially, as a course in "citizenship". However, if she has been fined for wearing the garment in the street, she will be able to pay the charge from Nekkaz's fund. The law, he hopes, will be made "inapplicable".
"I think this would never happen in the United States or the United Kingdom … France is a country which is not scared to compromise its principles," he said.
Nekkaz, a Muslim, is not the only one to have raised concerns about the viability of the law, due to come into full effect by spring next year. France's constitutional watchdog has twice warned that it could be found to infringe personal freedoms.
|Racism veiled as liberation|
Whose 'way of life' is France's lower house protecting? Not the women who wear niqabs
o Madeleine Bunting
o guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 July 2010 18.30 BST
It sends a shiver down the spine. France's lower house has passed a law banning the wearing of the full Islamic veil – covering the face – in public places. The hope has to be that this extraordinary decision never actually reaches the statute book given that France's highest constitutional body, the council of state, warned some months ago that a ban would infringe constitutional rights and the measure could be challenged in the European court of human rights. Belgium and Spain are also considering bans on the veil. What makes the decision in France so disturbing is that it fits into a pattern emerging across Europe of a particular paranoia, as an open letter published today on Comment is Free and signed by more than 30 academics and commentators warns.
The veil debate is making it entirely legitimate to pillory, mock and ridicule a tiny number of women on the basis of what they wear. French politicians described the full veil as a "walking coffin"; on comment threads online there is contempt and sneers for the full veil and those who wear it – "hiding under a blanket", "going round with a paper bag over your head". In France it is estimated there are only 2,000 women who cover their faces with the burqa or the niqab out of a Muslim population of five million. The response is out of all proportion.
Let's be clear: the niqab and burqa are extreme interpretations of the Islamic requirement for modest dress; few Islamic scholars advocate their use, and many – including Tariq Ramadan – have urged women not to use them. They are as alien to many Muslim cultures as they are to the west. And yes, there are instances of patriarchy where some women might be encouraged or even forced to wear a full veil by their husbands or fathers. But generalisations don't fit. Increasingly, young women are choosing to wear the full veil, seeing it as a powerful statement of identity.
Invoking the full weight of the state to police dress codes in public is an extraordinary extension of state powers over an aspect of citizen behaviour which is largely regarded as your own business. Provided you are wearing some clothing, western public space is a free-for-all, and across every capital in Europe that is strikingly self-evident.
Women wearing the skimpiest of mini-skirts sit down on buses next to other women in saris, business suits, salwar kameez. None of these cultural codes expressed in dress are regarded as the business of the state. Nor should they be. Public space in the west has been crucial to the generation of a civic culture of tolerance; this is where strangers rub shoulders, sometimes sharing nothing but geographical space for a period of time – five minutes in a bus queue. We have negotiated and tolerated differences – of class, culture, nationality and race – in our streets and squares, and the lapses from that crucial ambition have been shaming.
It is not difficult to see the racism which permeates this debate. It is about assertion of identity – under the soubriquet of protecting "our way of life" – and crucial to that is forcing a choice: do you subscribe or don't you? Sign up or get out. But such choices are notoriously slippery. Who gets to decide what our way of life is exactly?
The Tory backbench MP Philip Hollobone, who is proposing a private members' bill to ban the veil in the UK, said that part of the British way of life is "walking down the street, smiling at people and saying hello". How many UK streets ever matched up to his rosy nostalgia? It exposes the absurdity of politicians trying to legislate some idealised past back into existence.
The irony is that these bans reveal a fixation on identity and the face at a time when more people spend more time than ever interacting online with complete anonymity. We can remodel our faces through cosmetic surgery or adopt an entirely new image for our virtual life. Most people navigating urban public spaces studiously avoid each other's eye. Yet many of those advocating bans have insisted that exposure of the face is crucial to interaction.
It is not too hard to understand that some women – a small minority – might find the pervasive sexualisation of western culture deeply offensive, and might want to signal by their clothing their disengagement and alienation. They don't want their face surveyed by that western glance which sizes up and categorises – to be dismissed or desired. Yet this is a choice which largely male politicians in France have chosen to remove (less than 20% of the French lower house are women).
French politicians insisted on Tuesday that women need to be liberated from the full veil. Forcing people to be free has a long and undistinguished history – well described by many, including George Orwell – yet too many times an age is blinded by its own prejudices and forgets that liberation can never be imposed.
|French Senate votes burqa ban into law|
By Kumaran Ira
20 September 2010
On September 14, the French Senate voted into law a bill banning the wearing in all public places of full-face veils, such as the burqa or niqab, which are worn by some Islamic women. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 246 to 1.
The decision to ban the burqa by the conservative government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, supported by the entire political establishment, is part of a growing attack on democratic rights and a violation of the principle of the rule of law.
The Senate vote to ban the burqa was overshadowed in the press by the dispute that emerged last week between Sarkozy and European Union officials over France’s targeted deportation of Roma. European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding criticized Sarkozy’s policy against the Roma as “discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race.”
Implicitly drawing a parallel with France’s deportation of Roma during the Nazi Occupation, she added: “This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.”
As is now clear, the burqa ban was the political mechanism for a sharp shift in official French politics towards fascistic law-and-order measures and ethnic cleansing.
According to the bill, women wearing a burqa or niqab in France will face a €150 fine and will be forced to take citizenship classes. Anyone deemed guilty of forcing a woman to wear a full-face veil will face a €30,000 fine and one year in jail.
The lone vote against the ban was by a rightwing senator, Louis Giscard d’Estaing. This underscores the complicity of the bourgeois “left”—notably the Socialist Party (PS) and the Communist Party (PCF)--with Sarkozy’s burqa ban. Of 116 PS senators, 46 voted for the ban and the others did not participate. The party officially applauded the principle of an all-out ban, but raised certain objections about the unconstitutionality of Sarkozy’s bill.
French officials cynically claimed that the burqa ban represented a defense of women’s rights and of secularism in opposition to Islamic fundamentalism. In presenting the bill, French Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie pompously declared, “Living in the Republic with an uncovered face, it’s a question of dignity and equality. It’s a question of respecting our Republican principles.”
She added, “Full-face veils dissolve personal identity into that of a community. This puts in question our French model of social integration, based on the acceptance of the values of our society.”
Alliot-Marie’s comments, in fact, represent a repudiation of the principle of secularism. Far from upholding state neutrality on religious issues, the Sarkozy government is forcing women to abandon their religious practices and adopt certain social customs in order to have the right to walk out of doors. This targeting of the tiny minority of burqa-wearing women, some 2,000 out of the millions of female Muslims in France, is a calculated effort to stir up racist, anti-Muslim sentiment in order to divert rising discontent in the working class.
The Council of Europe and Amnesty International have criticized the bill, saying that the ban “violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion of women.”
In an implicit admission of the extralegal character of the ban, the presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly (the lower legislative house) submitted the bill to the Constitutional Council after the Senate vote. They explained that this was “so that its conformity with the Constitution could not be affected by any uncertainty.”
It is well known that the burqa ban is unconstitutional. In March, the State Council issued an advisory ruling acknowledging that a ban on full-face veils “could not benefit from any irrefutable legal basis.”
With the Senate’s approval of the bill, France becomes the first country in Europe to pass a burqa ban. It was overwhelmingly approved by the National Assembly in July and will go into effect next spring.
Similar anti-burqa laws are being prepared across Europe. In Italy, the Northern League—a coalition partner of Silvio Berlusconi’s government—announced on September 17 that it would present a copy of the French ban to the Italian parliament. Marco Reguzzoni, the leader of the Northern League’s parliamentary group, declared, “We want to strengthen the French initiative.”
In April, Belgium’s lower house approved a nationwide ban on the burqa, under pain of a €25 fine and seven days’ imprisonment. However, as the parliament was dissolved shortly after the vote and no government has been formed since, the bill has not gone into effect.
The PS, PCF and middle-class supporters of the PS like the pseudo-left New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) played a critical role in promoting Sarkozy’s antidemocratic campaign.
The proposal to ban the burqa was initially made by André Gerin, a PCF deputy. After Sarkozy declared the same month that the burqa was “not welcome on the territory of France” at a meeting of parliament, he set up a parliamentary commission to investigate the possibility of imposing a ban. Gerin led the commission and the PS participated in it.
The anti-burqa campaign set a precedent for Sarkozy to carry out further reactionary attacks against immigrants, and ultimately against the entire working class. Soon after he launched the anti-burqa drive, Sarkozy opened up a “national identity” campaign in order to appeal to neo-fascist and nationalist sentiment.
When a French woman protested her arrest for driving while wearing a niqab this spring, the Sarkozy government retaliated by threatening to strip her husband of his French nationality and charged him with polygamy and benefit fraud. (See: “French government witch-hunts partner of niqab-wearing woman”).
This was the prelude to a broader attack on democratic rights, including the threat to strip French nationality from naturalized citizens convicted of violence against police or public officials. These policies were directed toward suppressing popular resistance to police violence in France’s impoverished immigrant suburbs.
Further attacks on working people proposed by the government included eliminating social benefits for families whose children are absent from school, and holding parents criminally liable for alleged attacks on police by their underage children.
Outside of the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site, no party or publication warned working people of the dangers posed by the anti-burqa campaign.
The PS and PCF were actively complicit in it. The NPA, while making ambiguous criticisms of the measure, supported the principle of the ban on the basis of defending women’s rights, concealing the antidemocratic content of the measure.
Last spring, Le Parisien asked NPA spokesman Olivier Besancenot if “a fine of €150 to punish the wearing of the veil in public places” was “fair.”
Besancenot replied: “The problem is not the fine, but the use the politicians make of it. The burqa oppresses women, but any law would be inefficient and unfair. Who would be the big winners? The extremists of the far right and religious fundamentalists.”
Besancenot was indicating that he has no principled objection to the ban, but only a tactical objection.
In January, the WSWS wrote: “Presented in defiance of public opinion and disregarding constitutional objections, preparations to institutionalize state discrimination against forms of Muslim religious expression mark a turn towards overtly anti-democratic forms of rule.”
This analysis has been fully confirmed by subsequent events, most notably the racist witch-hunt against the Roma population in France.
|Roma ultimatum given to France by EU: allow free movement or face court|
Brussels ups ante in row over Gypsy expulsions as European commissioners vote unanimously for action
* Ian Traynor in Brussels and Kim Willsher in Paris
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 29 September 2010 21.32 BST
European justice commissioner Viviane Reding talks to reporters in Brussels. European justice commissioner Viviane Reding talks to reporters in Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters
France was warned by the European authorities today that it would face disciplinary proceedings and possible court action if EU freedom of movement is not enshrined in French law by next month.
The ultimatum from Brussels, in a letter to the French government from the European commission, upped the ante in the ferocious row over France's treatment of immigrant Gypsies, a dispute that hijacked a recent EU summit and saw insults traded over the second world war.
All 27 European commissioners decided today to set France a deadline of 15 October to remedy the member state's failure to observe European law, namely a directive from 2004 giving all EU citizens freedom of movement across the union.
"France is not applying European law as it should," said Viviane Reding, the commissioner for justice and fundamental rights who sparked one of the worst rows in the EU for years this month by calling French treatment of Roma immigrants from Romania "a disgrace" and "appalling", reminiscent of the persecution they suffered in Vichy France during the war.
President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to boycott an EU summit unless she retracted. An EU summit a fortnight ago descended into a slanging match. Sarkozy said Reding apologised. She denied it. She was criticised by fellow commissioners and European leaders for inappropriate language. But the commission, despite the huge pressure from Paris, insisted it would referee in the Roma row as the guardian of the European treaties and the arbiter of EU law.
Yesterday's decision singled out France for censure, although several other EU member states have not converted the 2004 directive into their national laws.
Some saw the commission's move as a minor rebuke to the Élysée Palace as it failed to rule on the more serious charge – whether the Sarkozy administration was in breach of fundamental EU rights by targeting the Roma for ethnic discrimination.
French immigration minister Eric Besson told MPs: "We should all be happy. France is emerging with its head high from its exchange with the commission. It's good news for everyone."
José Manuel Barroso, the commission president, said he did not want to go into the "very sensitive legal issues", suggesting he was keen to avoid re-igniting the row with Sarkozy. But his officials insisted there was no climbdown.
A senior EU official said: "The French have until 15 October. They will never do it by then. There will be an infringement procedure." This could end up in France being hauled before the European Court of Justice.
Since the end of July when Sarkozy ordered a clampdown against Roma or Gypsy immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, more than 1,000 have been expelled and more than 100 camps have been demolished, a policy that has been condemned by the Vatican, the UN, the European Commission, human rights groups and the French opposition.
The argument for targeted discrimination rested on a French interior ministry paper ordering priority action specifically against the Roma. It was in circulation for five weeks until being withdrawn after being leaked to the French press.
Commission officials said that the onus was on Paris to prove that it was not targeting Gypsies as an ethnic group. Reding said: "If France has affirmed that its laws do not discriminate against certain ethnic groups compared to others, we need the proof to assure of us of that. We are asking that France supply the documents, the details of the expulsions which have taken place."
|Britain is losing its battle against Islamic extremists... says French MP who banned the burqa|
By Peter Allen
Last updated at 10:41 AM on 15th October 2010
Britain is 'losing the battle against Islamic extremism' by failing to outlaw burqas, the architect of the French ban said today.
Jacques Myard, a senior member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, said relaxed UK policies had ‘opened the door to terrorism’.
He added: ‘Allowing women to exclude themselves from society by wearing the full Islamic veil makes radicals extremely comfortable, and Britain should realise this.’
Man behind the burqa ban: Jacques Myard, a member of Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, said relaxed UK policies have 'opened the door to terrorism'
Mr Myard made his outspoken comments to British journalists in Qatar, where he was defending his country’s recent banning of the veil at the prestigious Qatar Foundation Doha Debates, which will be broadcast by the BBC this weekend.
His comments will inflame tensions between London and Paris five years after the 7/7 London bombings, which the French have regularly blamed on lax policing.
Referring to the 2005 atrocity, which left 52 dead and hundreds injured, Mr Myard added: ‘Britain has suffered a number of high-profile failures in its fight against extremism in recent years.
‘These could have been prevented if all signs of extremism were curbed, as they are in France.’
Asked if Britain should introduce its own burqa ban, Mr Myard replied: ‘Of course - it is fundamental to ensuring that extremism is kept in check.
'There’s a good reason why London was nicknamed Londonistan - it was full of Islamic extremists. People should be learning from these mistakes.’
As chairman of the cross-party commission which spent two years investigating burqas and niqabs in France, Mr Myard’s recommendations led to a full ban being passed by Parliament earlier this month.
It has already led to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda issuing threats against France, but the country has largely escaped the kind of atrocities which have blighted countries including Britain and the U.S. over the past decade.
In a more light-hearted snipe at his neighbours across the Channel, Mr Myard said: ‘The French have been standing up for gender equality since Joan Of Arc fought the English barbarians six hundred years ago.
‘Women should not have to wear the burqa, which by its very nature excludes them from France’s secular Republic.’
Despite his strong defence of the burqa ban in Qatar, Mr Myard lost the Doha Debate entitled ‘This House believes France is right to ban the face veil’.
He was defeated by a team of London journalists, made up of Mehdi Hassan and Nabila Ramdani, as 78 per cent of voters rejected the motion.
Some 350million people across 200 countries are expected to watch the debate when it is broadcast by channels including BBC World on Saturday and Sunday.
Jacques Myard: Burqa ban French MP says Britain is losing its battle against Islamic extremists | Mail Online
|Headscarf Wearing Candidate Walks Out on France's Anti-Capitalist Party|
Headscarf Wearing Candidate Walks Out on France's Anti-Capitalist Party IslamToday / Agencies
28 November 2010
Twelve activists from Olivier Besancenot's New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) have walked out on the party in protest.
"The numerous acts of defiance and hostility against us have become intolerable and it was time to put an end to the stigma and the witch hunt." This is what twelve activists from Avignon have written in an internal statement to explain their departure from Olivier Besancenot's Anti-Capitalist Party.
Among them is Ilham Moussaïd, the recent regional candidate who wears a headscarf.
Her candidacy caused a split within the party due to her wearing of a headscarf and the ongoing debate regarding the veil. She is a practicing Muslim and identifies herself as a pro-choice feminist.
Since that election, the headscarf issue has remained unresolved. Outvoted in a recent internal vote, the activists chose to leave. "We did not want the next Congress to be confrontational. We want to allow for a calm debate. Some were afraid of us, but we did not want to Islamicize the party," said Abdul Zahir, who had not previously made a public statement.
His statement alludes to the fact that some other members of the party accuse Ilham Moussaïd and others of seeking to Islamicize the NPA.
"Some people are torn between anti-capitalism and the political representation of Muslims, which is not the NPA project. We are a feminist party, emancipatory and secular. The representation of the party should be too," argued Pierre-François Grond, member of the national executive.
Ingrid Hayes - a national political board member and open opponent of the headscarf who calls it a "sign of oppression of women" - warned: "We're not an atheist party. But religion divides rather than unite."
She said the debate is progressing. "Their departure is linked to the debate and turmoil that rocked our organization following the candidacy of Ilham Moussaid - a debate on the question of of religion, feminism, secularism. That debate will be decided at the national convention."she added.
Abdul Zahir regretted "the expectation of a conference (which seems never to happen) to decide if we have our place in this party. This is neither right nor worthy of a mass revolutionary party."
The question embarrasses the NPA. Its national congress originally to be held in November, was postponed until December, and recently the month of February has been announced.
For her part, Moussaïd asserts that she is a feminist who wears the headscarf out of choice: "We need to concentrate on what unites us, on the fight for equality between men and women, and not to say we should all dress the same way, that you can't wear a headscarf because otherwise you're not a feminist. I think that shows a lack of respect. I don't feel represented by feminists who say that the headscarf is always a question of obligation. There are a lot of feminists who agree with me, who see that I'm fighting the same battles as them, and they support me."
The party's leader and founder agrees. Besancenot said when Moussaïd was nominated as a regional party candidate: "A woman can be a feminist, can uphold secular values and wear a [Islamic] headscarf at the same time."
"Le voile islamique piège Besancenot" Le JDD 27 November 2010
"Vaucluse: la candidate voilée du NPA aux régionales quitte le parti" AFP 26 November 2010
"Le voile est levé" EL Watan November 28, 2010
Headscarf Wearing Candidate Walks Out on France's Anti-Capitalist Party | IslamToday - English