Austria’s parliament has passed a bill amending historical laws on Muslim organisations which will ban foreign sources of financing and require imams to be able to speak German.
The text aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz called an “Islam of European character” by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations and organisations, and offering Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practising their faith in the central European country.
However, the law has generated opposition from several quarters, including Austrian Muslim groups that call it “discrimination” that imposes restrictions on Islam that other religions are not saddled with.
Mehmet Gormez, a leading Muslim cleric in Turkey, has decried the bill as “a 100-year regression,” arguing that no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Turkey funds many imams in Austria.
Austria’s current “law on Islam” dates to 1912, after the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The two-year-old bill predates the recent shootings in France and Denmark but is designed to “clearly combat” the growing influence of radical Islam, Kurz said.
Earlier this month, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls similarly raised the notion of banning foreign funding of Islamic organisations.
Kurz says officials in Germany and Switzerland have also expressed interest in the bill.
The passing of the law comes amid estimates indicating about 200 people from Austria – including women and minors – have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
A poll published by the OGM institute on Tuesday found 58 percent of Austrians feeling “radicalisation” of the nation’s Muslims was underway.
The legislation bans Islamic cultural organisations and imams in Austria from receiving funding from abroad.
It also requires the nearly 450 Muslim organisations in the country to demonstrate a “positive approach towards society and the state” in order to continue receiving official licensing.
Imams will be obliged to be able to speak German under the law.
“We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims,” Kurz explained.
The legislation also accords Muslims the right to consult Islamic clerics on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in the armed forces.
Muslims in Austria will also have the right to halal meals in those institutions as well as in public schools, and will be allowed to not come to work on Islamic holidays.
Muslims make up roughly 560,000 of Austria’s total population of 8.5 million. Most Austrian Muslims are of Turkish and Bosnian origin, as well as ethnic Chechens and Iranians.
Egypt closes 27,000 places of worship
An Egyptian administrative court on Feb. 18 upheld the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ decision issued in September 2013 to close down neighborhood places of worship of less than 80 square meters (861 square feet), a move intended to protect young people from the militancy and extremism that can prevail in such places, which lack the legal standing to hold Friday prayers.
The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowment has shuttered 27,000 local places of worship under the pretext of fighting terrorism, while awarding 400 preaching permits to Salafists.
Author Rami GalalPosted March 3, 2015
This move sets a precedent that raises many questions about the fate of mosques in many Egyptian villages, the grounds of which are usually less than 80 square meters. In reply, opponents of the decision such as the Salafist Nour Party claimed that closing down places of worship without providing a larger alternative serves to further bolster extremist ideology, considering that the larger existing mosques cannot accommodate Friday worshippers who line surrounding streets to pray. On the opposite end of the spectrum, supporters of the decision such as intellectuals and scholars say that those mosques are time bombs that threaten national security, as they fall outside the purview of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and are used to spread subversive ideologies.
At the same time, the ministry has awarded 400 preaching permits to Salafist leaders without requiring oration tests, despite the ministry’s previous and constant accusations that they spread extremism.
Ahmed Karimeh, a professor of Sharia at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor that legal teachings and conventions specify that Friday, Eid and main prayers must be conducted in a mosque, and not in a neighborhood place of worship. The five daily prayers can be held at these informal sites, but not the special celebration prayers. In that sense, the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments upheld a recognized religious law.
Karimeh explained that closing those neighborhood places of worship, located in apartment buildings, commercial buildings or factories, would help mitigate the influence of extremist religious orators such as those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist groups or Shiites, who use those places of worship to take advantage of religious gatherings. As such, the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ decision, while late, was the correct one.
But Karimeh warned that the move would be to no avail if the ministry allowed people without credentials to take to pulpits. Initially, in August 2013, the ministry allowed only Al-Azhar imams access to pulpits, a decision later reversed in February when, for political considerations, the ministry allowed Salafists to preach, a disastrous decision that turned mosques into time bombs under the control of violent, Salafist-born militant factions, according to Karimeh. Allowing Salafists to preach for political considerations as an Islamic alternative to face the Islamic State ideology, at a time when hundreds of Al-Azhar scholars applied for but were denied preaching permits, runs contrary to the ministry’s repeated statements that it would bar non-Al-Azhar imams from taking the pulpit.
Karimeh criticized the ministry’s examination policy and said that it solely tested the applicant’s memorization of the Quran, without evaluating his general culture. He added that closing down neighborhood places of worship would not be enough to confront extremism. Toward that end, attention must be paid to the preachers, who should be properly schooled andfinancially compensated, so as to allow them to better educate themselves, instead of having to work as taxi drivers or vegetable vendors to provide for their families.
Karimeh also denied claims that some villages lacked proper mosques. It should be noted that neighborhood places of worship and mosques with surface areas of less than 80 square meters numbered 27,000 in all of Egypt’s provinces and villages.
Before the Ministry of Religious Endowments made its decision, the Egyptian Dar al-Fatwa issued a September 2013 edict, endorsed by a majority of religious scholars, barring the multiplicity of mosques in villages and cities, unless when absolutely necessary, as a plethora of places of worship only serve to divide believers. It explained that group worship was required for all scripted prayers, as those were celebrated for the love of God, but Friday prayers were inherently different, in that they are a form of offering to God.
An estimated 400 permits were issued to Salafists, who pledged not to use Friday prayers for political purposes. A follow-up committee was formed by the ministry in February to oversee new imams during Friday prayers, cancel their permits and initiate legal proceedings against them if they failed to abide by their agreement with the ministry, as well as permanently bar them from taking the pulpit of any mosque in the country.
The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments previously adopted numerous measures to combat extremism and control religious rhetoric, and continuously affirmed that imams not affiliated with Al-Azhar would never be allowed to preach, going as far as to close down 27,000 neighborhood places of worship. The sudden shift in position by the ministry was followed by it issuing preaching permits to 400 Salafist leadership figures that it considered extremist, a clear reflection of the state of confusion that prevails in Egypt today.
CHINA FORCES MUSLIM OFFICIALS TO FOREGO RAMADAN FAST IN ISLAMIC XINJIANG PROVINCE
by FRANCES MARTEL17 Jun 20156
As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan arrives this week, Chinese officials are reportedly forcing everyone from Communist Party members to schoolteachers to vow they will not participate in the traditional fast during this month, or exhibit their religion in any way. The ban follows similar restrictions in western Xinjiang province last year.
Reuters reports that Chinese party officials are targeting anyone in Xinjiang of ethnic Uyghur background with a prominent position in their communities, including “party members, civil servants, students, and teachers in particular.” In addition to personal targeting, the report claims that government websites and state media in the region have issued official notices against Ramadan. In one Xinjiang county, those approached to vow not to fast were forced into “guaranteeing they have no faith, will not attend religious activities and will lead the way in not fasting over Ramadan.”
Restaurants in the large western province have also been encouraged to remain open during the day. Muslim restaurants often close during Ramadan hours, when fasting is scheduled to occur from sunrise to sunset.
China’s minority Uyghur population is mostly Muslim and lives in western Xinjiang, hundreds of miles from Beijing. The communist Chinese government, secular by definition, has issued especial restrictions on Islam, following a number of attacks deemed terrorist by the national government, which officials have claimed were motivated by Islamist extremism. The most recent attack occurred this week; Chinese police shot a man to death at a Xi’an rail station; he allegedly attempted to attack train travelers with a cement block.
Chinese officials banned Ramadan entirely last year in Xinjiang and issued an orderbanning Islam entirely in Xinjiang’s public places in December. Not only are residents banned from practicing their religion in public places, but the government established a new penalty carrying a fine as high as $5,000 for religious-themed social media and Internet posts that “undermine national unity.” Authorities have also forbidden minors from following any religion at all in the region, forcing parents to sign pledges vowing they would not expose their children to religion.
While China has also made moves to suppress the growing popularity of Christianity–which is affecting the majority ethnic Han population, not just minorities–it has more heavily targeted Islam in the wake of propaganda aimed at Chinese Muslims from groups such as the Islamic State. Most recently, China has forced shops in Xinjiang to sell alcohol and cigarettes, both forbidden by Islam, in an attempt to culturally integrate western Muslims with the rest of the country and, bluntly, to “weaken religion.” Burqas, beards, and Islamic garb generally have all been banned in public in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital. Somewhat contradictorily, however, China has also invested in helping native Muslims make their hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sending up to 14,000 Chinese Muslims to Meccain 2014
Angola bans Islam and shuts down all mosques across the country because it ‘clashes with state religion of Christianity’
- Minister of culture described Islam as a ‘sect’ which is banned as counter to Angolan customs and culture
- Nation’s president said: ‘This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country’
By WILLIAM TURVILL
PUBLISHED: 13:32 EST, 25 November 2013
Angola has reportedly declared Islam illegal and ordered for all of the country’s mosques to be closed down.
Minister of culture Rosa Cruz e Silva said that mosques in the largely Christian country would be closed until further notice.
She described Islam as a ‘sect’ that would be banned as counter to Angolan customs and culture.
Angola (capital, Luanda, pictured) has reportedly declared Islam illegal and ordered for all mosques to be closed
There are unconfirmed reports that mosques across the African country are being destroyed, according to the International Business Times.
President Jose Edurado dos Santos reportedly told the Osun Defence daily: ‘This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country.’
Along with Islam, which is a religion associated with less than 1 per cent of the population of 19 million, 194 other ‘sects’ have been banned in the nation, where more than half the population is Christian.
Ms Cruz e Silva said: ‘The legalisation of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights [and] their mosques will be closed until further notice.’
Clashes between Christians and Muslim people are frequently reported in the local media.
Manuel Fernando, director of the Angolan Ministry of Culture’s National Institute for Religious Affairs, denied the reported measures.
‘There is no war in Angola against Islam or any other religion,’ Fernando told Agence France-Presse. ‘There is no official position that targets the destruction or closure of places of worship, whichever they are.’
Dutch MP calls for removal of all mosques in Netherlands
A Dutch right-wing political party has demanded Netherlands be cleared of mosques, amid an ongoing row over the integration of Muslim and Turkish minorities in the country.
Machiel de Graaf, a member of Dutch anti-immigration and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV), asked all mosques in the country to be shut down while speaking during a debate on integration in the House of Representatives.
Emphasizing that a Netherlands without mosques would be better, the parliamentarian said “We want to clean Netherlands of Islam.”
In addition to not being integrated into Dutch society and refuse to be assimilated, Muslims living in the country threaten Dutch identity and culture by giving more birth, according to de Graaf.
De Graaf’s remarks drew harsh criticism from members of social democratic parties attending the debate.
While Labor Party (PvdA) deputy Roos Vermeij urged the right-winger to retract his words, Democrats 66 (D66) deputy Sten van Weijenberg stressed his statements were dangerous.
De Graaf’s party, which is led by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, has been a vocal critic of Muslims and immigrants living in the country, but his words mark the first time that the request for the complete closure of mosques has been expressed.
The debate also came as Turkey warned Dutch authorities about aggressive and racist policies toward the Turkish community living there.
Two weeks ago, two lawmakers of Turkish descent from the PvdA were expelled after refusing to support their party’s critical remarks about a number of Turkish organizations that were accused of being “too focused on promoting Turkish and Islamic identity.”
Cuba rejects plans for first mosque
Pedro Lazo Torres, the leader of Havana’s Muslim community, revealed that his joint efforts with Turkey’s Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV) to open a mosque in Havana was rejected.
World Bulletin / News Desk
Cuba’s communist government has turned down a plan to open a mosque in the capital Cuba.
Pedro Lazo Torres, the leader of Havana’s Muslim community, revealed that his joint efforts with Turkey’s Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV) to open a mosque in Havana was rejected.
Torres expressed his dismay at the decision, noting that Russia was granted permission to build an Orthodox church in the country but 4,000 Muslims in Cuba still have no official place of worship.
Cuban Muslims have until now had to make do with performing congregational prayers in Torres’s living room.
In April, TDV assistant manager Mustafa Tutkun sought permission to begin work on a mosque, which was to be designed after the famous Ortakoy mosque in Istanbul.
The plan was part of a wider project by the TDV in building mosques for Muslims who live in the Caribbean.
A similar project in Haiti is due to be complete by the end of this year.
Advocates of sharia law should leave, or lose voting and welfare rights: Jacqui Lambie (Australia)
Jacqui Lambie has lashed out at supporters of sharia law. Source: News Corp Australia
AUSTRALIANS who support sharia law should “pack up their bags and get out of here” or else be stripped of their vote and welfare entitlements, Jacqui Lambie says.
The Tasmanian Palmer United Party senator today said Australians who support Islamic law held “allegiance to a foreign power”, but refused repeated opportunities to define what she meant by sharia law.
“I just say anyone who supports sharia law in Australia should not have the right to vote, should not be given government handouts and should probably pack up their bags and get out of here — that’s what I’m saying,” Senator Lambie said in Hobart.
“Anybody that’s supporting or calling for sharia law in Australia should get out. It’s as simple as that.”
Senator Lambie denied cutting benefits and disenfranchising some Muslims could exacerbate their sense of isolation.
The PUP senator last month warned of a possible Chinese invasion, calling for doubled military spending to “stop our grandchildren from becoming slaves to an aggressive, anti-democratic totalitarian foreign power”.
She has refused to apologise for the remarks.
Sharia law is the Islamic legal system, derived from both scripture and the rulings of Islamic scholars.
Some religious leaders have called for Australia to embrace “legal pluralism’’ in order to allow Muslims to marry, divorce and conduct financial transactions under the principles of sharia.
In opposition, Attorney-General George Brandis defended the rights of Muslims abide by sharia law insofar as it was consistent with mainstream law.
Senator Brandis said sharia law was often compatible with mainstream law in many instances in Australia, such as in will-making, dietary and clothing practices as well as religious worship.
“There is only one test and that is: is it compliant with Australian law? So long as Australian citizens, of whatever faith, comply with Australian law, that is the only thing that matters,” Senator Brandis said in March 2012.
“The Coalition does not believe that sharia law should be accepted or recognised in Australia. It is logically possible for somebody to do something that is both consistent with Australian law and consistent with sharia principles. The question is: are they obedient to Australian law.”