Muslims in Europe facing ‘hostility in everyday life’, Islamophobia study finds

BRUSSELS – European academics and policy makers came together at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday to launch what they describe as a “toolkit” to tackle Islamophobia across the continent.

The report, based on research in eight countries including the UK, France and Germany, said it had identified a “worsening environment of Islamophobia” in which Muslims faced a “new and acceptable hostility… in many spheres of everyday life”.

“This is an issue that is poisoning our societies in the European Union and putting barriers between our communities,” said Jean Lambert, a Green Party member of the European Parliament (MEP) representing London, during the opening of the conference in Belgium.

Long present across the continent, the report highlights how Islamophobia has been further bolstered in the past decade, tied to the rise of far-right and anti-immigration movements in many European countries, the “War on Terror” both within and outside Europe, and the refugee crisis.

Recent examples included former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s newspaper column last month in which he compared niqab-wearing women to ‘letter boxes’.

In France, a veiled student union leader was publicly chastised for a televised appearance and caricatured as a monkey by a prominent satirical outlet; in Germany, stories in the media about alleged roving bands of rapist refugees stoked panic; while several countries across Europe have passed so called “burqa bans“, restricting the wearing of niqabs and Muslim veils in public spaces.

While countering such a wave of xenophobia and racism towards Muslim citizens and residents of Europe might seem like a herculean task, the authors of the “Counter Islamophobia Kit” briefing paper say it is a necessity.

“A worsening environment of Islamophobia was identified with respect to media content, political discourse and experiences of discrimination indicating the new and increasingly acceptable hostility against Muslims in many spheres of everyday life,” the report warned.

European academics led by the University of Leeds, in conjunction with NGOs and activists, explored the various drivers of Islamophobia in eight European countries – the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Portugal – as well as the efforts to foster counter-narratives to Islamophobia in each country.

“The project has revealed the vast expansiveness of Islamophobia, the fact that it permeates so many elements of our lives and of society,” Amina Easat-Daas, project officer for the Counter Islamophobia Kit, told Middle East Eye.

“We want to challenge the narratives that exist, to contextualise them and emphasise their normalcy, their everyday nature, and also highlight the brilliant contributions many Muslims are making in society. “

Local variations of Islamophobia

While Islamophobia in most countries was strongly associated with the perception of Muslims constituting a “threat to security” and “a threat to local, national and European identity”, local culture and history has informed the way Islamophobia has been formulated.

While there is ample documentation of France’s instrumentalisation of its national conception of laïcité – secularism – to target its Muslim citizens for being visibly unsecular, in Portugal, the history of the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors in the Middle Ages has fed local narratives of civilisational struggle and fears of a Muslim “invasion”.

In Greece, the report said, some Islamophobic discourses raised the spectre of Turkey using refugees to expand its control across the Aegean – as refugees and Muslims become conflated identities in the public psyche.

Meanwhile, in countries such as Hungary that have served as a transit point for many asylum seekers attempting to reach western Europe, the narrative of Muslim as potential terrorists remain strong, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban telling Germany’s Bild newspaper: “We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders.”

Yet the most publicised recent “terrorism” conviction in the country involved an asylum seeker prosecuted earlier this month for throwing stones at police officers.

Even in countries like the United Kingdom, which have a long history of diversity, long-standing Muslim populations find themselves the target of hatred in the wake of attacks claimed by Islamic State group.

“The UK used to pride itself in its diversity, but that discourse is no longer there,” said Arzu Merali, the head researcher for the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) in the UK, during Wednesday’s conference, describing how a generalised discourse targeting Muslims in schools or streets also culminates in “targeted legislation” which solidifies “the idea of Muslims as non-citizens”.

“It sounds pretty dramatic, but this is the kind of scenario we are facing in the UK today,” Merali said.

“There is an urgent need to recognise Islamophobia as a form of racism,” Luis Manuel Hernandez Aguilar, IHRC researcher in Germany said during Wednesday’s conference, pointing to “how easily Islamophobia moves between everyday life and politics” when Islamophobia “is not officially recognised as a form of discrimination”.

In Germany, Aguilar said, racist tropes have enforced the idea that “being a Muslim means being a problem”.

While Easat-Daas highlighted the differences between each country in the study, she expressed concern about France’s status as a “barometer” – and trailblazer – of Islamophobia in Europe.

“I worry that (France) is a potential leader, that it signposts that this is acceptable. Its laws set precedence, I worry that French policies set precedence,” she told MEE. “When you see the French ‘loi anti-niqab’ and how that then plays out in different framings, in Belgium first, and then further and further, I’m worried that it’s gaining credence and an image of legitimacy.”

Countering toxic narratives

In the face of mounting hateful discourse and actions promoted by public figures, media, and ordinary citizens, sometimes with deadly consequences, the Counter Islamophobia Toolkit highlights initiatives that seek to counter prevalent toxic narratives about Islam.

The report cast some doubts on the effectiveness of reactive condemnations of attacks committed by Muslim individuals and efforts to distance them from the broader Muslim community as still falling within a narrative of “securitisation” of Muslims in all aspects of their lives, and fostering the expectation that all Muslims must condemn any negative acts committed by one of their co-religionists.

Many efforts across the continent have sought to demystify Islam to non-Muslim European citizens, such as the Parle-moi d’Islam videos explaining aspects of the religion.

Key to combating Islamophobia, the report says, is the “normalisation” of Muslims – showing them as individuals with the same lives and aspirations as others, as in the Human Library in the Czech Republic, and highlighting food, fashion and culture as points of human connection between Muslims and non-Muslims.

In some cases, approaches to fight Islamophobia might appear counter-intuitive – as in Greece, where some efforts actually leaned on prevailing Christianity in the Mediterranean country to promote “Conservative anti-nationalist narratives and Christian ecumenical ideals such as peace, hospitality and care towards the vulnerable, especially towards refugees”.

Part of the efforts to counter Islamophobia, Easat-Daas said, include recognising the phenomenon as not simply exclusive to right-wing movements.

“I would argue that (Islamophobia) is not exclusive to the right wing, but rather something that you can see across the political spectrum,” she said. “It shouldn’t be acceptable political discourse to stigmatise or to speak on behalf of other people – which is often something we see in liberal Islamophobia.”

Legal shortfalls

While the burden of fighting against Islamophobia seems to mainly fall on the shoulders of civil society in Europe as hateful discourse has become further normalised in the political and governmental sphere, the report highlights the role played by the European legal system – and its shortfalls.

“There is limited engagement of European human rights law with the best legal practices to counter Islamophobia in individual EU member states,” the report reads. “As a result, the forms that both judicial intervention and legal measures, including positive measures, could take in order to effectively counter Islamophobia remain unclear.”

The report goes on to criticise the European Court of Human Rights for its “rigidity” in ruling on cases of alleged state Islamophobia which it said had shifted “the burden of proof away from the state and onto the applicants who should then prove that the restrictions against their right to freedom of religion are disproportionate”.

The brief nonetheless welcomed efforts by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in passing a number of non-binding resolutions analysing and defining Islamophobia, highlighting it as a necessary step towards tackling the problem.

The Parliamentary Assembly had been largely successful, it said in spelling out “different cultural, historical and socioeconomic elements that constitute Islamophobia”.

But it said there was a “striking contrast between the nuance and complexity of those soft-law instruments and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, where there is almost complete lack of references to Islamophobia and no distinctive legal response to the phenomenon”.

Sajjad Karim, a Conservative Party MEP representing northwest England, raised the alarm on Wednesday about Islamophobia across European nations, highlighting concerns that it had begun “seeping through to the European (Union) level” and could further worsen with the eventual election of more populists to the European Parliament in 2019 – which could lead to a EU Parliament “held ransom by those extremes”.

“Now we are in a fight, and in a matter of months from now… there is an issue of self-interest for every European,” Karim said.

Salman Sayyid, professor of social theory and decolonial thought at the University of Leeds, said during Wednesday’s conference that the fight against Islamophobia has a larger mandate than the protection of one specific religious community.

“Islamophobia is a challenge to the continuation of a particular type of European democratic project, and that’s why I think it should be taken seriously, and not just in relation to the defense of Muslim communities, but in defence of the kind of world we want to live in.”

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

The road to Mecca .. The journey of life in a world season

The journey of pilgrimage in the Muslim conscience around the world has become an important and important site, as the experience with which the personality of the Muslim takes place, becomes more disciplined by Islam and more sensitive to the responsibility placed on himself and those he cares for, and towards society, nation and humanity.

Hajj remains the most important and supreme journey in the life of a Muslim. It represents a great rite of the rites of Islam, one of the pillars of this true religion. Millions of pilgrims who flock every year to the holy sites, in days of information, have come to obey the order, to respond to the appeal, and to seek reward and repent from it, blessed and exalted.

 

Pilgrimage

What the pilgrims are looking forward to is the acceptance of God Almighty, and that their pilgrimage is justified by verifying the perfection of it, in anticipation of the reward and the reward mentioned by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in saying: Narrated by al-Bukhaari.

And justified pilgrimage, is the one that fulfilled its provisions, and signed a site to the request of the taxpayer to the fullest. And the intention is the premise in that, it is necessary to invoke in the Hajj devotion to God Almighty, “but the acts of intentions, but each person what he intended” (Narrated by the two), and follow that the pilgrimage to the legitimate face and the approval of the Prophet peace be upon him.

The pilgrim must prepare in advance for his journey, by preparing for it as he deserves it, renewing his repentant repentance, and spending only halal, and improving the choice of companionship of Hajj, from the people of good and knowledge and to disintegrate from the rights of others.

The justified Hajj is manifested in the creation of the pilgrim and his behavior in word and deed, as achieved by the multiplicity of acts of worship and avoid sin and prevent him from suspicions. It is helpful to this; invoking the pilgrim to the greatness of this ritual and its virtues, sensing its significance and lessons at each of its stations. It is a good pilgrimage to Hajj. In al-Hajj, al-Hasan al-Basri said: “Pilgrimage must be repeated in this world, willing in the Hereafter.”

 

The Sacred House and Makkah are infested with hearts

Muslims, wherever they are, to the Holy House, Mecca and the holy places, in the pilgrimage season, while millions of them travel from the earth to this spot with their bodies. They say, “Let men come to you in every pilgrimage, Al – Hajj.

The Muslim still lives in the hope of seeing the old house, the view of the eye, this house, which God honored, which gathered holiness and majesty, and remained a habitat for the unites and a destination for the worshipers and the two.

The Sacred House remains in the consciousness of the Muslims as proof of the unity of the Ummah, that is, it transcends the limits of the symbolic role to the embodiment of that unity by the Muslims of the world around it in security and tranquility. It is the unity that Allah says in it. ) Al-Baqarah 143, and he also said (and this is your nation, and I am your Lord, and you see).

 

Journey of Hajj and its impact on Muslims

The journey of pilgrimage has affected innumerable people, both in the old and the modern. In the last century, we found, for example, how this journey had established a new consciousness among a Muslim who came from the American Holy Land, Haj Malik Shabaz, who was by Malcolm X. The African-American Muslim lived on his pilgrimage; the highest sense of equality among men of all colors. He returned as an ambassador to the value of equality in his society, which seemed to be divided into two whites, one for whites and one for black people.

The pilgrimage was a journey to Islam. For Muhammad Asad, who was born to a Jewish family named Leopold Weiss, he wrote his famous book, “The Way to Mecca,” in order to explain his journey with the true Islam and his world.

Not far from it; we find many of our contemporaries, who set up the journey of pilgrimage as a profound experience of worship, spiritual, values ​​and humanity, who chose to place it in books and books or to narrate it in anecdotes and narratives, perhaps the most recent contribution of Professor Munir Shafiq. Among them was a Japanese Muslim who, in the late 1990s, chose to portray the pilgrimage with his lens rather than his pen, realizing the effect of the scene on his readers. His work had an impact on several non-Muslims, after being published in prestigious international journals.

If this is a special matter, the general Muslims express their close emotional attachment to the no-man’s country, each according to its environment, culture and traditions. We saw the houses as they read scenes of the Kaaba and the Prophet’s Mosque, as witnessed by the pilgrims.

What deeply affected us, the Muslims of the European continent, was the intimate connection that brought the Muslims behind the former Iron Curtain, in the Holy Land, which was magnified by God. In those communist countries, which confiscated religious rights and deprived Muslims of freedom to perform the Hajj ritual, and narrowed the ports without them; we found them imagine the land is derived from ancestral stories inherited, for example they deliberately to portray Mecca in the drawings traded or attached, come scenes covered with green herbs On the mountains of Mecca closer to the European nature than to the characteristics of Hijaz, which reveals to us about the forced deprivation that was practiced against Muslims there, on the visit of their sanctities and the performance of the duty, which is one of the pillars of their religion.

 

Hajj .. A practical embodiment of the integration of the Islamic message

If the message of Islam is characterized by inclusiveness, integration and balance, the Hajj ritual represents a realistic embodiment of this general characteristic.

If it is

The Arab Spring wins Sakharov Prize 2011

The European Parliament Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 2011 goes to five representatives of the Arab people, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights. It will be presented to the winners by President Jerzy Buzek at Parliament’s formal session in Strasbourg, on 14 December.

Parliament’s 2011 Sakharov Prize goes to Asmaa Mahfouz (Egypt), Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi (Libya), Razan Zaitouneh (Syria), Ali Farzat (Syria) and posthumously to Mohamed Bouazizi (Tunisia).  This nomination was submitted jointly by the EPP, S&D, ALDE and Green groups.

Following the decision by the Conference of Presidents (Parliament President and political group leaders) Thursday morning, President Buzek underlined “these individuals contributed to historic changes in the Arab world and this award reaffirms Parliament’s solidarity and firm support for their struggle for freedom, democracy and the end of authoritarian regimes”. He added, their award was “a symbol for all those working for dignity, democracy and fundamental rights in the Arab world and beyond.”

Asmaa Mahfouz

Ms Mahfouz joined the Egyptian April 6th Youth Movement in 2008, helping to organise strikes for fundamental rights. Sustained harassment of journalists and activists by the Mubarak regime as well as the Tunisian example prompted Ms Mahfouz to organise her own protests. Her Youtube videos, Facebook and Twitter posts helped motivate Egyptians to demand their rights in the Tahrir Square. After being detained by the Supreme Council of Armed forces, she was released on bail due to pressure from prominent activists.

Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi

Mr Ahmed al-Sanusi, also known as the longest-serving “prisoner of conscience”, spent 31 years in Libyan prisons as a result of an attempted coup against Colonel Gaddafi. A member of the National Transitional Council, he is now working to “achieve freedom and race to catch up with humanity” and establish democratic values in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Razan Zaitouneh

Ms Zaitouneh, a human rights lawyer, created the Syrian Human Rights Information Link blog (SHRIL) which reports on current atrocities in Syria. She publicly revealed murders and human rights abuses committed by the Syrian army and police. Her posts have become an important source of information for international media. She is now hiding from the authorities who accuse her of being a foreign agent and have arrested her husband and younger brother.

Ali Farzat

Mr Farzat, a political satirist, is a well-known critic of the Syrian regime and its leader President Bashar al-Assad. Mr Farzat became more straightforward in his cartoons when the March 2011 uprisings began. His caricatures ridiculing Bashar al-Assad’s rule helped to inspire revolt in Syria. In August 2011, the Syrian security forces beat him badly, breaking both his hands as “a warning”, and confiscated his drawings.

Mohamed Bouazizi

Mr Bouazizi, a Tunisian market trader set himself on fire in protest at incessant humiliation and badgering by the Tunisian authorities. Public sympathy and anger inspired by this gesture led to the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Mr Bouazizi’s self-immolation also sparked uprisings and vital changes in other Arab countries such as Egypt and Libya, collectively known as the “Arab Spring”.

Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought

The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. The prize is accompanied by an award of €50,000.

This year, the other two shortlisted finalists were Belarusian civil activist and journalist Dzmitry Bandarenka and the Columbian San José de Apartadó Peace Community.

Current issues and concerns of Europe and its Muslims in the Union’s Shura Council

The Council of the “Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe” at the end of its work on a number of positions and directives, which addressed the concerns of European Muslims and the concerns of European societies and issues of the hour.

This came in the final statement of the Shura Council Union, the third of the ninth session, which was held during the days from 20 to 23 October 2011, in Istanbul. At its ordinary meeting, the Council participated with the participation of the Federation leadership and representatives of member institutions in most European countries and in the presence of a number of guests.

In its final communiqué, the Council congratulated the Muslims of Europe by the Hajj and Id al-Adha season and urged “to highlight the lofty features of this blessed season, such as brotherhood, equality, compassion, righteousness and good deeds, while praying to Allah for the safe return of tens of thousands of pilgrims from the House of Allah Their European countries, and God has accepted from them this ritual pilgrimage justified and seeking a grateful and a forgiving sin. ”

 

Solutions to the dilemmas faced by European societies

The Council recommended that European Islamic institutions redouble their efforts to “cooperate in finding solutions to the dilemmas and difficulties faced by European societies and contribute to responding to various common societal challenges”. “The Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe will continue to fulfill its responsibilities in this area, And their well-being.

The Council called on Muslims and Islamic institutions in Europe to “develop cooperation and coordination efforts in various fields, while promoting serious communication and constructive partnership with the components of European societies.” He also called on the Council to “seek to gather the word in the times of fasting, fungus and Islamic holidays, and to cooperate optimally to care for the religious needs of all Muslims in Europe, including halal food and financial and economic works in accordance with the timeless Islamic teachings.”

The Council urged European Islamic institutions to “further encourage the participation of women and girls in all fields of work and leadership.” The Council also stressed the importance of intergenerational communication in institutions, the launching of opportunities for youth and the provision of a great deal of attention to the needs of the emerging generations and the required projects, programs and efforts.

Concern about the economic crisis

On the other hand, the Council of the “Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe” expressed concern about the current economic crisis in a number of European countries, coupled with the increasing rates of poverty and unemployment. The Council stressed the importance of strengthening solidarity and solidarity among the components of society in the face of this challenge and the economic, social and psychological burdens of families, adding that “the opportunities of new generations in the fields of education, rehabilitation, health and well-being must be supported.”

Referring to the horrific terrorist attacks that took place last summer in and near the Norwegian capital of Oslo, the Council expressed its “appreciation for the spirit of solidarity and solidarity in Norway” and said that “in promoting solidarity and openness, the preservation of human values ​​and constitutional principles; the optimal response to the discourse of hatred, racism and Islamophobia And the voices of extremism and practices of violence and incitement, which seeks to provoke hatred and hatred and divide the ranks of communities, “he stressed.

The Shura Council urged all Islamic institutions and centers in Europe to take more interest in the elderly and to take care of the positive roles of this segment on the occasion of the proclamation of 2012 as the European Year of Older Persons. Charity and intergenerational communication, “the statement said

Transformations of the Arab World

On the current developments in the Arab world, the Council congratulated the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, “which have been able to remove the symbols of tyranny and corruption and impose their will on democratic change and to establish a state of law, freedom, justice and transparent popular participation.” “The Council hopes that the entire Arab, Islamic and humanitarian people will achieve security and safety, inject the blood of their sons and daughters, forever annex the pages of tyranny, ensure unity and respect for pluralism and the participation of all groups in shaping the present and future of the nation in a climate of freedom and justice. Equality “.

In a related context, the Council condemned “the killings, torture and repression escalating against the Yemeni and Syrian peoples, and the face of the defenseless protesters demanding freedom and democratic change from shelling, attacks and shooting.” The Council stressed its solidarity with the Syrian and Yemeni peoples and their just demands, “and praised the spirit expressed by the peaceful popular movement” from the design of its counterpart, to freedom, democracy, transparent popular participation and building a better future, “the statement said.

The Council welcomed the announcement of “the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prizes to courageous women leaders who have made great efforts and sacrifices in the triumph of rights, freedoms, justice and human values” and considered it “an opportunity to address distorted stereotypes, including those affecting Muslim women and girls in European reality.”

 

Jerusalem and the prisoners of Palestine and drought

The final statement of the Shura Council of the Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe went on to congratulate the “Palestinian people for the freedom achieved by hundreds of prisoners and prisoners in the recent exchange process.” The Council called for European and international intervention to put pressure on the Israeli occupation in order to obtain thousands of prisoners trapped in the prisons of the occupation under harsh conditions of their freedom. The Council also drew attention to the fact that the release of the captured Israeli soldier in Gaza “falls under the false pretext under which the inhumane siege imposed on the population of the Gaza Strip.” The Council called for an end to the occupation and the empowerment of the Palestinian people from their inalienable legitimate rights.

The Council also expressed its deep concern about the situation in Jerusalem and the “violation of the Israeli occupation and its fanatical groups for the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and its relentless efforts to impose the status quo in Jerusalem and change its civilizational identity.” The Council also strongly condemned the successive attacks perpetrated by settlers on mosques.

The Council expressed its deep concern about this worsening tragedy, as well as the response of European Muslims to appeals for charitable spending for the benefit of those affected, and urged continued efforts to secure water and food. And health care in the affected area.

Current Issues and Interests of Europe and Muslims discussed in FIOE Shoura Council

The FIOE Shoura Council, at the close of proceedings, articulated the following positions and directives concerning current issues and interests of European Muslims and societies.

This was included in the final statement of the FIOE Third Shoura Council Meeting in the Federation’s ninth executive term in the city of Istanbul from 20-23 October 2011 (23-26 Dhul Qa’idah 1432H). This ordinary meeting was attended by the Federation leadership, representatives of member organisations from the majority of European countries, and a number of esteemed guests.

The council in its final statement congratulated Muslims in Europe on the arrival of the Hajj season and Eid-ul-Adha, and urged that the noble qualities of this blessed season, such as brotherhood, equality, mutual compassion, noble acts, and good deeds, be prominently expressed; the Council also prayed to Allah, the Almighty, for the safe return, to their European lands, of tens of thousands of pilgrims to the Sacred House of Allah, having gained Allah’s acceptance of this rite, with unblemished Hajj, rewarded effort, and pardoned sins.

Solutions to challenges facing European Societies

The Council directed European Islamic bodies to intensify efforts in cooperating to find solutions to the challenges and difficulties faced by European societies, and to contribute in responding to the shared but diverse societal challenges. The FIOE said that “It will maintain its dedication in shouldering its responsibilities in this regard, as a contribution to the stability and prosperity of societies.”

The Council invited Muslims and Islamic bodies in Europe to further develop efforts of cooperation and coordination in the diverse fields, while reinforcing serious communication and constructive partnership with the constituents of European societies. It called for effort to achieve unity in the timing of the start and end of fasting and Islamic festivals, and arriving at the ideal state of cooperation to cater for the religious needs of the general Muslim public in Europe, to include Halal food, and financial and economic activities that are in compliance with the eternal Islamic teachings.

The Council urged the European Islamic bodies towards greater encouragement of girls’ and women’s participation in all areas of work and levels of leadership.  It also emphasised the importance of communication and continuity between generations in these bodies, and the provision of opportunities for the youth, giving sufficient attention to meeting the needs of future generations, in terms of the required projects, programmes, and tireless efforts.

Concern over Economic Crisis

Moreover, The council expressed its concern over the current economic crisis in a number of European countries, and the accompanying increases in levels of poverty and unemployment. It emphasised the importance of reinforcing solidarity and mutual support between the constituents of society in confronting this challenge, and to avoid inflicting added economic, social, and psychological burdens on families. It also emphasised on safeguarding opportunities for the new generations, in the areas of education, development, health, and prosperity, and leaving these untouched.

The Council also expressed its recognition for the spirit of solidarity and cohesion witnessed in Norway following the horrific terrorist attacks this past summer. The council said: “Reinforcing solidarity and openness, and protecting human values and constitutional principles is the ideal response to the message of hate, racism, and Islamophobia, and the voices of extremism, and acts of violence and incitement that seek to foment resentment, hatred, and division in the ranks of societies.”

The Council encouraged all Islamic bodies and centres in Europe to take the initiative in giving greater attention to the elderly from various aspects, and to sponsor the positive roles of this social segment, on the occasion of announcing 2012 as European Year for Active Aging, while upholding the Islamic and human values that encourage noble acts, positive postures, and communication between the generations.

Arab World Latest Developments

Regarding the latest developments in the Arab world, the Council congratulated the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, who were able through their resolve to remove the symbols of authoritarianism, and corruption, and to impose their will for democratic change, and to work at setting the foundations for states based on rights, law, freedom, justice, and transparent popular participation. The statement added that “The Council expresses hope that the Arab and Muslim peoples, as well as all humanity, achieve security and safety, with protection for the lives of the people, and that the chapters of tyranny are closed forever, with everyone guaranteeing unity, respect for pluralism, and the participation of all sections of society in shaping the nation’s present and its future renaissance, in a climate of freedom, justice, and equality.”

The Council also condemned the escalating acts of killing, abuse, and repression, inflicted upon the Yemeni and Syrian peoples, and the bombardment, attacks, and shooting faced by unarmed protesters demanding freedom and democratic change.Moreover, The Council emphasised its solidarity with both the Syrian and Yemeni peoples, and their just demands, and praises the spirit expressed by the peaceful popular mobilisation in unparalleled resolve, to achieve freedom, democracy, transparent popular participation, and building a better future.

The Council also welcomed the announcement of the award of Nobel Peace Prizes to courageous women leaders, who have made noble sacrifices and exerted efforts towards success for rights, freedoms, justice, and human values; the Council considered this an opportunity to address distorted stereotypes, including those that affect Muslim women and girls in European reality.

Jerusalem and Palestinian Detainees

The Council in its final statement congratulated the Palestinian people for the freedom that was achieved for hundreds of men and women detainees in the latest prisoner exchange. The Council called for international and European intervention to put pressure on the Israeli occupation, such that many thousands of prisoners, suffering harsh conditions in the occupation prisons, are given their freedom. It also drew attention to the fact that the release of the occupation soldier held in Gaza removes the feeble excuse under which an inhuman blockade was imposed on the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. It also demanded an end to the occupation, and to enabling the Palestinian people to achieve their inalienable and legitimate rights.

In addition, the Council expressed it great concern for the state of affairs in the city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), and the violations of the sanctity of the noble Al-Aqsa Mosque by the Israeli occupation and its extremist groups, and their unceasing efforts to impose facts on the ground, and change its cultural identity; the Council strongly condemned the successive attacks by settlers on mosques, through vandalism and arson.

At the end the Council reminded of the responsibilities falling on the shoulder of the entire world in containing the disaster of drought, famine and displacement occurring across the African Horn, and expressed its deep concern regarding this escalating tragedy; it also valued the response of Europe’s Muslims to calls for charitable giving in favour of those affected, and encourages the continuation of efforts to guarantee water, food, and healthcare in the disaster-stricken area.

The internal and external mission of the mosque

Given its primary function as a place of worship and performing rituals, the mosque’s role encompasses positive vibration onto all aspects of life away from disrupting the positive functions of other components and pillars of society.

It is known that during the Mohammad period, a mosque was not merely dedicated to performing the prayers nor restricted to men or a certain age group. On the contrary, a mosque was a point of vibration onto the whole society, a centre of leadership and management of public affairs, an edifice of learning and knowledge dissemination, a house of judicature, a venue for meetings, incubator for character refinement and a base for constructive media activity as well as a centre for social solidarity. Above all, the mosque undertook the responsibility of investigating the populace problems and initiating solutions. This pivotal multi-function role account for the central position assigned to mosques in the Islamic city planning where the city districts and markets were closely linked to the all-inclusive mosque in the same way heart is linked to lively arteries.

The anticipated role of a mosque makes it a resort to mass groups, of all types and diverse needs, to perform the Islamic rituals and to benefit from positive oration which sharpens the intellect, cultivates good will, fosters positive emotion and guides to the path of virtue, true religion and beneficence throughout the course of life. It is proper for the mosque congregation to avail themselves of the Quran and Sunna learning rings, the courses on Islamic legal and cosmic sciences, awareness and guidance programmes and workshops, volunteer work and activities related to youth and children as well as the educational aid tools and technology apparatus that cope with and invest recent developments for the public interests.

Without doubt a mosque has a peculiar esteem in the lives of Muslims everywhere and its influence on the existence of Muslims in Europe and their social participation is quite conspicuous. It plays an effective role in embodying such human values as equality, anti-racism, mercy and solidarity. The presence of mosques in the European countries raises their role to the level of societal activity, charitable and humanitarian work at the local level, in addition to its role in spurring social interconnection, enhancing common understanding and reducing conflicts.

Imam and mosque management along with Islamic institutions as a whole should reflect the religious needs and social interests of Muslims including civil status affairs. To ensure good performance at this level, it is helpful to set up competent frames such as mosques leagues or Imams council or Muslim religious commissions, and the like.

To meet the mosque’s anticipated roles, mosque management should mobilize human and financial resources for this purpose and define pertinent tasks and responsibilities such as public relations officer of media committee officer, etc.

The following part outlines the means and activities to be undertaken by mosques at the external level:

  • Arrange gatherings, public meetings, dialogue and cultural forums, conferences and exhibitions that conform to the position and financial resources of the mosque and its envisaged function.
  • Organize open days to allow the district residents the opportunity to know about the mosque activities with a view to establish mutual harmonious bonds. Coordination between mosques at the level of the city, territory or country for organizing these events is useful.
  • Carry out special activities geared to establishing communication with the populace such as Eid ceremonies, cleaning campaigns in the district and blood donation, group Iftar during Ramadan, in addition to other events that introduce Islam, Islamic culture and mosques to mass groups such as students, seniors, emergency teams, firefighting workers, police and services providers, and the like.
  • Organize charitable and humanitarian programmes and projects including relief service for victims of disasters as well as solidarity programmes to support the poor and the homeless, etc.
  • Implement media activities for positive communication with mass groups while applying traditional or modern techniques and initiating intercourse that conveys messages compatible with the mosque mission and presence. These include the publication of magazines or bulletins, editing a wall bulletin, launching a website on the internet, or designating a media spokesperson or releasing press statements that are in line with the mosque mission and function.  This could be implemented in partnership and collaboration with other Muslim or non-Muslim parties or by way of participating in the edition of local media means (for example district communiqué, local broadcasting station or public website).
  • Conduct concerted events at the level of the district, the city and the institutions that share common interests in various fields.

Participate in and coordinate with societies and institutions that are linked to the mosque’s scope of interests including participation in coordination frameworks, collaboration groups and work groups engaging in the targeted fields in a manner that strengthens mosque role in encouraging Muslims’ social participation.