Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

9529News in Brief: Jewish scholar lectures on 'How Islam Saved the Jews'

Expand Messages
  • Zafar Khan
    May 4, 2014
    • 0 Attachment
      Jewish scholar lectures on 'How Islam Saved the Jews,' at UAB on April 24
      By Greg Garrison | ggarrison@...
      on April 22, 2014 at 1:50 PM


      David J. Wasserstein, a professor of Jewish History at Vanderbilt University, will lecture on “How Islam Saved the Jews” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

      The free, public lecture will take place at UAB’s Volker Hall, Lecture Room A, 1670 University Blvd. The event is co-sponsored by the UAB Department of History and the Birmingham Islamic Society.

      "It's a chance for Jews and Muslims who are now often at odds politically to reflect on our glorious historical past and for a moment forget about our political differences, and work on future peace," said Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.

      Wasserstein will discuss how the spread of Islam after Muslims conquered Mecca in 630 A.D. led to a thriving Muslim culture that also allowed a thriving Jewish subculture, until about 1300 A.D.

      "Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond," Wasserstein wrote in The Jewish Chronicle. "Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms - all for the better."

      If not for the Muslim conquests, Jewish culture might have died out, Wasserstein believes.

      "The political unity brought by the new Islamic world-empire did not last, but it created a vast Islamic world civilization, similar to the older Christian civilization that it replaced," Wasserstein wrote in The Jewish Chronicle. "Within this huge area, Jews lived and enjoyed broadly similar status and rights everywhere. They could move around, maintain contacts, and develop their identity as Jews. A great new expansion of trade from the ninth century onwards brought the Spanish Jews - like the Muslims - into touch with the Jews and the Muslims even of India."

      Wasserstein has written several books, including “The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings, Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 1002-1086” and “The Caliphate in the West; An Islamic Political Institution in the Iberian Peninsula” and he co-authored “The Legend of the Septuagint, From Classical Antiquity to Today.”

      Wasserstein received his Ph.D from Oxford University in 1982. His research interests include medieval Islamic history, medieval Jewish studies, Islam in Spain, Islamic numismatics and minorities in the Islamic world. With a background in classical studies, he is also interested in the classical tradition in Islam, and in particular in the ways in which Judaism, Islam and the classical world intersect culturally, linguistically, and politically.

      Sri Lankan leaders seek action to stop harassment against Muslims
      Published — Sunday 4 May 2014


      Muslim parliamentarians in Sri Lanka have called for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to intervene in order to stop the continued hate campaign, intimidation and threats perpetrated against Muslims by some Buddist extremists of the Bodu Bala Sena and other allied organizations.
      With the exception of A.H.M. Azwer and A.R.M.A. Cader, 16 out of the 18 legislators signed the petition sponsored by the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCL).
      Speaking to Arab News from Colombo, MCL President N.M. Ameen said that the campaign carried out against Muslims by the Bodu Bala Sena, Sihala Ravaya and Ravana Balakaya is alarming and dangerous.
      “We have full confidence in our president and we believe he will take appropriate action to resolve this issue,” he added.
      The petition urges the president to immediately intervene to stop the harassment against Muslim IDP’s who have lived in different parts of the country as refugees and as a “forgotten” people over the last 23 years.
      “We, the Muslim parliamentarians, wish to bring to your Excellency’s kind attention that these groups have been targeting Muslim places of worship, Halal food, the Muslim attire and now the resettlement of the Muslim lDPs who were expelled by the LTTE in 1990 in the worst act of ethnic cleansing in the history of our nation,” the petition read.
      These Muslim lDPs were labeled as “old lDPs” and did not even benefit from the resettlement scheme implemented by the government and international agencies including the cash grants provided by the UNHCR, it said.
      In the absence of any substantial support for their resettlement, the Muslim religious, political and civil society leadership has been soliciting support for their resettlement from benevolent donors of Muslim countries and individuals. There has been some positive response from some of these donors and a number of houses have been constructed with their support,” the petition noted.
      These houses have been constructed following due procedures of land distribution through the Divisional Secretariat and the Presidential Task Force for resettlement.

      The kidnapped Nigerian girls show that religious conservatives hate education
      People are finally paying attention to the 300 girls abducted by Boko Haram for going to school. Now what can we do?
      Jill Filipovic
      theguardian.com, Friday 2 May 2014 16.15 BST


      No girl should be a hero for getting an education. But for many girls around the world, walking through the schoolhouse doors isn't a right or an assumption: it's a victory over conservative fanatics – some of whom carry guns.

      The latest story of girls violently denied an education comes out of Nigeria, and is particularly horrific: more than 300 schoolgirls, abducted at gunpoint by a militant religious fundamentalist group opposed to Western education and intent on bringing terror to their country. There are reports that the girls were forced (or sold) into marriages, raped and taken to other countries.

      International outrage has been slow to build, but it's coming now – the story has been covered extensively in the media, and girls' education proponent and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai spoke out against the abductions. Nigerians are marching in the streets demanding the girls be brought home alive. #BringBackOurGirls is trending on Twitter.

      On the surface, these kidnappings follow a theme we've seen across the globe: religious extremists don't want to see girls getting the kind of education that will allow them to enter the workforce, because they correctly understand that education sets girls on a path to economic independence and self-reliance. Education also makes girls (and women) less dependent on men, less subservient to authority and less acquiescent to the social and religious strictures that don't serve girls' overall interests – educated women are more likely to refuse practices like female genital cutting, for instance, better able to resist domestic violence, and less tolerant of discrimination at home and in society.

      Boko Haram, the Nigerian Muslim militant group linked to al-Qaida that allegedly carried out this latest kidnapping, adopted a name meaning, "Western education is sinful." There's no question that the schoolgirls were targeted precisely because they were in school.

      But it's also a mistake to assume that these abductions are just about keeping girls from school. The Nigerian kidnappings are also about power and the simple incoherency of cyclical violence. And the response is indeed about gender, but not through the usual lens: the slow build to media attention illustrates the ease with which so many of us view white girls as inherently vulnerable but have a harder time imagining black girls the same way – and black boys an ocean away don't even register.

      In February, Boko Haram militants murdered 59 schoolboys. They separated the boys from the girls, telling the girls to abandon school and get married before sending them home, and then slaughtered the boys. That killing spree was just one in dozens of attacks on schools, houses of worship and random civilians.

      It's laudable that both the international media and social media users on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are finally paying attention to a group that has murdered thousands of Nigerians. And it's understandable that the kidnapping of schoolgirls was the catalyst – the sheer number of girls kidnapped coupled with the fact that they're children should have us collectively frothing with outrage. But we should have gotten there sooner.

      "When these things happen again and again, you get inured to them quickly; it becomes one giant cycle of madness," Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi told me. "But I've never seen this kind of outrage before. It does seem like for the first time in a long time, people are deeply disturbed by what’s happened."

      Foreign governments, journalists and activists have an opportunity here to push back on a bloody, oppressive force wreaking havoc across Nigeria. Nigerian writers and activists have sounded the alarm about the totality of the horrors committed by Boko Haram – and they're pressuring their government to act. Those of us who live in the United States and Europe can do the same and demand that our leaders offer assistance, support and, crucially, technology to help track the girls down.

      But any opportunity to assist with the larger problems facing Nigeria will be lost if the push begins and ends with the kidnapped girls.

      "My fear is that this will become another Kony 2012 where the context and the nuance gets lost," Tolu Ogunlesitold me, referring to the viral social media campaign centered on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. "Hopefully the girls are all going to be safe and fine. But even if they get back home, it's still far from the end."

      Czech Muslims Protest Police Raid
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Saturday, 03 May 2014 00:00


      CAIRO – Hundreds of Czech Muslims staged a protest outside the Czech Interior Ministry in Prague on Friday, May 2, against the police raid on their mosques last week.

      “We would like to express our indignation with the way the intervention [was carried out], for the time, the place,” Muneeb Al Rawi, chairman of the Union of Muslim Communities in the Czech Republic (ÚMO), told The Prague Post.

      Al Rawi added that the action of the police's Unit for Combating Organized Crime (ÚOOZ) was carried out as “entirely inappropriate” and “utterly uneducated.”

      “I would say we’re being victimized because it wasn’t necessary, because always we’re not preventing … authorities in carrying out their acts and duties,” he said.

      On Friday, about 300 Muslims gathered to protest last Friday’s police mosque raid.

      Listening to speeches, Muslim protesters made religious chants in a show of defiance against what was described as an “entirely inappropriate” raid by officials.

      The attack occurred last week when police forces raided the Islamic center on the city’s outskirts during Friday prayers, detaining 20 people and arresting a 55-year-old publisher of a book following accusations of inciting Xenophobia and violence.

      The police said the publisher was a 55-year-old Czech citizen who had “The Fundamentals of Tawheed” book translated into Czech.

      The publisher faces charges of promoting hate speech, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

      The book is written by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Jamaican-born imam.

      Muslims at the prayer gathering held banners with slogans such as “No to racism” and “Just for a book!” with the latter accompanied by a picture of armed riot police.

      A number of police members attended the gathering, with additional officers standing outside the front of the Ministry of the Interior building.

      Explanation Wanted

      In a statement, Al Rawi, who estimated the Czech Republic’s Muslim population to be about 20,000, also said he “fear[ed] that members of the Muslim minority in the Czech Republic might be endangered.”

      Authorities should explain why the raid took place and “why it happened in this form,” Al Rawi said, adding that “all legal means” would be used to ensure the “very unpleasant case” was examined.

      “We warn against the rise of extremism and anti-Muslim sentiment that such behavior may cause and we are concerned about the wave of Islamophobic comments which appeared after the police intervention,” he said.

      Tarek, a 26-year-old Egyptian who has lived in the Czech Republic for two-and-a-half years, added that “Muslims respect every people.”

      “I don’t care if you’re Jewish or Christian, our prophet tells us to respect the other religions. That’s it. Everybody here is in peace,” he told The Prague Post.

      He also described the police actions during the recent raid as “unbelievable.”

      “The Muslims here are afraid to do anything. You can imagine, we have a mosque here that’s smaller than a flat,” he said.

      The Czech Republic, which has a population of more than 10 million people, is home to around 15,000 Muslims.

      In 2004, Prague acknowledged Islam as an official religion, giving Muslims rights on equal footing to Christians and Jews.

      China's Xi warns of 'strike-first' strategy after militants bomb capital of Xinjiang
      Urumqi blast marks escalation of Muslim Uighur separatists say analysts, amid speculation that it may have been a suicide attack
      Tania Branigan in Beijing
      theguardian.com, Thursday 1 May 2014 21.58 BST


      China's President Xi Jinping has ordered troops in Xinjiang to deliver a "crushing blow" to terrorism, state media reported on Thursday after a bomb attack in the regional capital killed three people and injured 79.

      The blast at the Urumqi South railway station came as Xi wrapped up a high-profile, four-day visit to the region that had focused on targeting extremism. It was the third major incident in seven months targeting civilians, following earlier fatal attacks in the heart of Beijing and Kunming in south-western China.

      The north-western region has seen repeated outbreaks of violence, which authorities blame on separatist terrorists but human rights groups and analysts say have been fuelled by grievances of the Muslim Uighur population at Beijing's policies. Many chafe at religious and cultural restrictions, economic disparities and Han Chinese migration into the region, which they say have eroded their way of life.

      State media said Wednesday's blast took place just after 7pm, shortly after a train pulled in, hitting travellers as they streamed from a station exit. Initial reports suggested that attackers had also slashed at people with knives.

      The state news agency Xinhua quoted police as saying two of the dead were suspected of the attack and had "long been involved in religious extremism". It named one as Sedirdin Sawut, a 39-year-old man from Xayar county, Aksu, in southern Xinjiang.

      The third fatality was described as an innocent civilian. Four of the wounded have serious injuries but are stable, Xinhua added.

      The official People's Daily newspaper's microblog said that the attackers had strapped bombs to their bodies. Experts warned that with details of the attack still unclear it was too early to say whether it was a suicide bombing.

      A vendor told Xinhua he thought there had been an earthquake because the explosion was so powerful, while a 57-year-old survivor told the Associated Press that the blast had knocked her to the ground.

      "I saw I had shreds of flesh and blood in my hair and on my clothes. It was terrifying," said the woman, who would only give her surname, Peng.

      Following the blast, the president declared: "The battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness, and decisive actions must be taken to resolutely suppress the terrorists' rampant momentum."

      In earlier comments from his trip, not reported until after the attack, Xi said China would deal a crushing blow to terrorists and deploy a "strike-first" strategy.

      He told officials that the long-term stability of Xinjiang was vital to the whole country's development and its "unity, ethnic harmony and national security".

      Earlier last month several Chinese cities announced they were putting armed officers on patrol. Those measures came after knife-wielding assailants killed 29 civilians and injured 143 more at a railway station in south-western Kunming in March. In October, a car ploughed into crowds in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing the three occupants and two bystanders. Authorities blamed that attack too on separatists.

      A Xinhua article warned on Thursday: "Separatists appear to be shifting their focus from symbols of the government – such as public security stations and police vehicles – to random, ordinary civilians, and operating in areas outside Xinjiang."

      Philip Potter, an expert on terrorism in China at the University of Michigan, said that a suicide bombing, if proved, would be a notable escalation.

      He added: "We are seeing a number of things that suggest there is a lot of capability on the side of the militants. I don't necessarily mean a large, dark, secret organisation; I don't necessarily mean it's co-ordinated.

      "It means that there is pent-up capability within the broader population. The fact you can execute an attack at a symbolically valuable moment means in some way you are holding capability in reserve."

      All of the three recent attacks were "much harder than jumping in the back of a pick-up truck in Khotan and stabbing police [as in previous incidents]," he noted.

      Potter added that he did not see evidence of operational ties with foreign groups, but warned of the potential dangers if Uighur fighters who were involved with jihadist groups abroad came home. "The grievances are entirely about domestic Uighur disgruntlement in China. The question is whether there are circumstances in which the international situation throws fuel on the fire," he said.

      James Leibold, an expert on ethnicity in China at Melbourne's La Trobe University, said the Urumqi attack was a clear sign that some Uighurs felt marginalised and sought to "explicitly revoke participation within Xi Jinping's 'China dream'."

      He said that Xi and the party-state had "doubled-down on Xinjiang over the last year ... seeking to penetrate the party-state deeper into the lives of ordinary Uighurs" through multiple measures including a "mass-line campaign" which has seen 70,000 officials sent to work in villages, intensified bilingual education and a deepening of economic reforms, as well as more pervasive public security.

      Leibold added: "Any potential spike in inter-ethnic violence does not pose a direct threat to Xi Jinping and party-state rule in China, but there is an increasing concern that the party-state's ethnic policies have failed ... Xi Jinping can ill afford to look soft, weak or unresponsive to the perception that Xinjiang and the Uighurs might soil or reject the China dream."

      Azerbaijan: Treason and other charades
      The arrest of a leading political activist is another sign the oil-rich country is nowhere near democracy.
      Last updated: 30 Apr 2014 10:13
      Arzu Geybullayeva


      Azerbaijan's leadership takes great pride in its achievements since the fall of the Soviet Union. The country's wealth stems from the millions of barrels of oil pumped daily through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. However, there is a hidden side to this fast modernising Muslim nation on the shores of the Caspian Sea, which touts itself as the "European charm of the orient".

      The arrest of Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus at Baku Haydar Aliyev Airport on April 28, has highlighted Azerbaijan's questionable record on press freedom and human rights. The 58-year-old Yunus, recognised regionally for her pro-democracy activism, was released after spending one night in jail but her passport was confiscated, although she has not been charged with any crime.

      In stark contrast to Baku's efforts to be viewed internationally as a leading democracy in the region, the country has been criticised by Human Rights Watch for its dubious election practises, ongoing violent crackdown on freedom of expression and its deteriorating human rights record.

      Who is Leyla Yunus?

      In the late 1980s, Yunus was an active member of the nascent democratic movement in the country. She is one of the founders of Azerbaijan's Social Democrats Party and the Azerbaijan Popular Front - two important political formations which played a pivotal role in the country's early years of independence. During the early 1990s, Yunus headed the information and analytical centre at the Ministry of Defence.

      As a human rights advocate, Yunus' focus has always been on political prisoners. The founder and director of the Peace and Democracy Institute, a Baku-based non-governmental organisation, she has been an outspoken opponent of the growing intimidation and pressure over individual and fundamental freedoms in the country. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards for her invaluable work in the field of human rights advocacy and courage - including France's Legion of Honour and Germany's Theodor Haecher Prize.

      Apart from her advocacy work, Yunus has also been involved in a number of cross-border initiatives with neighbouring Armenia ever since the ceasefire was signed between the two countries in 1994. The conflict, which erupted at the end of the 1980s, may have ended but tensions remain. As a result, a number of public figures and journalists have been engaged in what is now known as "track two" diplomacy or people-to-people diplomacy. Yunus and the Peace and Democracy Institute have spearheaded such efforts.

      Whether it was her advocacy work or her involvement in track two initiatives which resulted in Yunus' detention, it is not yet clear. However, in light of the recent arrest of another well-known public diplomacy advocate and respected journalist, Rauf Mirkadirov, it might well be the latter.

      Mirkadirov, who was based in Turkey for the past four years and was the Azerbaijani correspondent for the local Azerbaijani Zerkalo/Ayna newspaper, was deported to Azerbaijan on April 19. In Baku, he was arrested and placed in a three-month pretrial detention pending further investigation. He is charged with treason, the gravest of crimes in Azerbaijan. He is accused of supplying valuable information between 2008 and 2009 to the Armenian Ministry of Defence and is facing a possible life sentence if convicted.

      Mirkadirov is known as an outspoken critic of the Baku government and his move to Turkey four years ago was the result of mounting pressure on the journalist and his family in Azerbaijan.

      Following Mirkadirov's arrest, Yunus feared the approaching storm and made a public statement where she said her arrest was imminent.

      'They will do it for treason'

      "It would be funny to arrest me with drug charges. So, they will do it for treason, since these cases are considered behind closed doors," she was quoted as saying to the local broadcast of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.She was briefly detained a week after her statement when she and her husband were on their way abroad.

      Upon arrival at the airport, Yunus and her husband were first stopped at the border control. She was informed she was barred from leaving the country although no such notice was given to her at any time prior to her departure. It was only following the intervention from representatives of the French and US embassies who accompanied the Yunus family to the airport that their passports were stamped and they were let through.

      However, as the couple was about to board the plane, they were stopped yet again, this time with no explanation and were held at the airport from 11pm until 3am on April 28. According to a statement by Yunus given on the phone from the airport, their luggage was searched, their passports were taken away from them (as of April 30, their passports remain with the authorities), and her personal laptop was confiscated as well as her personal documents and letters.

      "They even went through my underwear," she said, "as they searched through my personal belongings still with no official document". At the airport, Yunus was informed that her house and office would be searched as well.

      In the early hours of the morning, Yunus was taken into questioning, without a warrant, at the prosecutor's office. She was questioned about her work but mostly about her relations with Mirkadirov and their joint activities, Yunus said in a press statement following her release. Shortly after her questioning, Yunus' office and home were searched. Several documents were confiscated from the couple's apartment during the search.

      Yunus' lawyer Farid Bagirov, who also represents Mirkadirov, explained the reasons behind the searches. As it turns out, Yunus is listed as the key witness in Mirkadirov's case. But according to Bagirov, this still does not explain why Yunus' family was stopped at the border.

      Exhausted from a sleepless night, Yunus said the motive behind this inquiry is the same as it has been in many other previous cases: "To eliminate remaining advocates by accusing us with an insane crime."

      Yunus might just be right. It is clear that the arrest of Mirkadirov and this recent incident with Yunus show very strong evidence of the Azerbaijani government's issues with freedom of expression and its widely criticised poor human rights record in general. It is not surprising that a country run by the same family since 1993, with a record of disputed elections and with a strong grip on power, is trying to silence any form of dissent in order to maintain its status quo. What is disturbing, however, is the silence of the international community so long as the country continues to provide energy to keep everyone safe and warm.

      Arzu Geybullayeva is a political analyst for the Caucasus region and a specialist in human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan, and blogs at flyingcarpetsandbrokenpipelines.blogspot.com.

      Brunei adopts 'phase one' of Islamic law
      Sultan launches new penal code that will eventually include stoning, amputation and flogging as punishments.
      Last updated: 30 Apr 2014 05:43


      The sultan of Brunei has announced a controversial new penal code based on Islamic criminal punishments criticised by UN human rights officials.

      "Today... I place my faith in and am grateful to God the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday May 1, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases," Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said.

      Islamic law penalties would be introduced over time and would eventually include flogging, amputation and death by stoning for various crimes.

      Many members of the Muslim ethnic Malay majority have voiced cautious support for the changes. However, non-Muslim citizens led a rare burst of criticism on social media earlier this year, but largely went silent after the sultan called for a halt.

      "Theory states that God's law is harsh and unfair, but God himself has said that his law is indeed fair," the sultan said.

      The UN's human rights office recently said it was "deeply concerned", adding that penalties such as stoning were classified under international law as "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

      Brunei officials have said such cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion to avoid such punishments.

      The sultan has warned of pernicious foreign influences such as the internet, and indicated he intends to place more emphasis on Islam.

      Nearly 70 percent of Brunei's 400,000 people are Muslim Malays while about 15 percent are non-Muslim ethnic Chinese.

      Barefoot man given fellow rider's shoes 1
      FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2014 07:39 PM MDT


      VANCOUVER -- A bus driver has had his faith in people restored after witnessing a rider wearing plastic bags instead of shoes given a surprising gift this holiday weekend — a stranger's own shoes and socks.

      The “soul-touching” interaction Saturday on the No. 341 route, according to Surjit Singh Virk, a Coast Mountain Bus Co. driver of 16 years who was off-duty at the time while returning from Surrey B.C.’s Vaisakhi parade.

      “It made my heart melt,” he told QMI Agency. “He just took his shoes and socks off and said, 'You can take these, don't worry about me — I live close by and can walk.'

      "People usually don't care or even look at other people on the bus, they didn't even want to sit beside this guy because of how he was dressed.”

      Reached by phone, the giver of the shoes asked QMI Agency not to identify him because in his Islamic faith, charitable acts should be anonymous. He was also reluctant to have his photograph published.

      “I felt bad for the guy,” the 27-year-old Surrey resident said. “He was wearing plastic hairnets on his feet. I was only about a two-minute walk from home, so I thought I could give him my shoes.”

      The Good Samaritan was coming from a nearby B.C. Muslim Association mosque and association spokesman Mufti Aasim Rashid said the act would qualify as sadaqa, a general act of charity.

      “Whenever we do a good deed, even if it's to help someone out, the Islamic teachings maintain this should remain only for the pleasure of God,” he said. “It's nice to see people practicing the teachings ... it looks like he's really benefited.”

      Singh Virk said the recipient was “shocked” by the gift and afterwards remarked, “What a nice guy... Did that really happen?”

      Guinea-Bissau: Small Country, Big Hopes
      By Abdel Rahman Fadl
      Independent Researcher — Chad


      Guinea-Bissau, a small West African country on the Atlantic coast, shares borders with Senegal to its north, and Guinea to its south. The 1.5 million-population has been struggling in their path towards democracy for a long period of time.

      The ethnically diverse country and one of the poorest in the world might be finally there as new general and presidential elections are underway. The country is looking forward towards a process of rebuilding its organizations after the 2012 coup, to move beyond continuous failures it has been through since independence.

      In the late 1950s, Amilcar Cabral, in collaboration with other fighters, founded the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which had independence from the Portuguese colonialism as its goal.

      Despite achieving that goal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau — formerly called Portuguese Guinea during the colonization — was dragged into the vicious circle of disappointed post-colonial dreams.

      The Vicious Cycle

      Guinea-Bissau’s independence came in 1974 after a long war of liberation waged by Amilcar Cabral’s PAIGC in the face of Salazar’s Portuguese Estado Novo regime. The Portuguese dictatorship was overthrown in Lisbon in a Socialist coup which ended with a one-sided declaration of independence in 1973 and Cabral’s own assassination.

      Amilcar’s brother, Luis Cabral, then became the president of the new republic, ruling for six years before the first coup took place in 1980, led by General João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira.

      Vieira’s military regime consolidated its rule throughout 14 years by organizing flawed parliamentary elections, until a more multi-party system, enshrined in constitutional changes in 1991, resulted in the 1994 direct presidential elections. Vieira also emerged victorious, yet with a slight margin after a second round. After the multi-party system, political tension increased in the 1990s, which lead to a brief civil war between 1998 and 1999 that ended with ousting Vieira. In 1999, opposition leader Kumba Yala from the Party of Social Renewal (PRS) became the president.

      After four years of stability, another coup took place lead by General Veríssimo Correia Seabra, supported by politician and businessman Henrique Rosa, leading to the 2005 elections, which brought Vieira back to power. In 2009, Vieira was assassinated by a group of soldiers, leading to another election, which was won by Malam Bacai Sanhá.

      Unjustifiable Coup

      After Sanhá’s death from health problems in 2012, an election was held in March of the same year leading to a second round between Carlos Gomes Júnior (PAIGC) and Kumba Yala. However, few weeks before the second round was held, a coup took place in April 2012 putting Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo in power as an interim president, and postponing elections for no less than two years.

      Guinea-Bissau is not an exception in Africa. Many African countries have been through this cycle of coups spearheaded by military elites, and political groups dominating the political scene based on none other than their record of resistance against colonialism.

      Compared to other African countries, Guinea-Bissau never witnessed a civil war for its economic resources, as Sierra Leone did in 1997, neither has it been through any Rwanda-like religious or ethnic strife destroying its society.

      The country suffers mainly from a failed state, albeit much less worse than the Somali case, due to several coups, the long unquestionable legitimacy of PAIGC after its role in liberation, and failure in consolidating a real multi-party system in the 1990s.

      Given the unjustifiable 2012 coup that aborted an election already underway, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union suspended Guinea-Bissau’s membership until democracy is restored. Interim authorities announced elections shall take place in November 2013, yet postponed it again, leading to an increased African and international pressure that lead to fixing its final date at April 2014.

      2014 Hope?

      At last, general and presidential elections took place on April 13th, with the PAIGC getting 47.3 percent of the vote in the People’s Assembly, followed by PRS with 31.1 percent. A second round for the presidential elections will be held on May 18th, after Jose Mario Vaz and Nuno Gomes Nabiam won 40.9 percent and 25.1 percent respectively. The elections have been deemed free and fair by observers from the ECOWAS.

      The future of Guinea-Bissau is hotly debated now, given lack of security, especially on its Atlantic shores that are crucial for drug trafficking between Latin America and Europe.

      Economically, the country needs comprehensive development to improve its citizens’ welfare; politically, it needs to consolidate its revived democracy and seal itself against the comeback of coups. Coming out of this failed-state quagmire and realizing the hopes that have been suspended for 40 years, is the hope everyone is looking up to, just as Cabral had been.

      Malawi Muslims Pray for Peaceful Elections
      By Khalid Abubaker,
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Friday, 25 April 2014 00:00


      LILONGWE – As Malawi prepares to hold the first ever tripartite elections on May 20, the minority Muslim community in the southern African nation is praying for peace and tolerance in the run up to what’s billed as “decisive elections”.

      “These elections are very crucial to the future of Malawi. There are set to decide our destiny,” Secretary General of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Dr. Salmin Omar told OnIslam.net.

      “Any slight mistake would plunge this nation into anarchy, which would likely overturn all the gains we have made throughout the 50 years of our independence. It is for this reason, that we have decided to pray for peace and tolerance during and after the elections,” he added.

      Malawians will be going to the polls for a record four times since the nation reverted to pluralistic politics in 1993.

      But this will be the first time for the country to hold tripartite elections. The electorate will be electing president, parliamentarians and councilors as well.

      “Due to the nature of these elections, we have decided to rally all Muslims in the country to set some time during their daily prayers to pray for peace and tolerance,” Omar said.

      “We would like our politicians to remember that we are one nation, we should therefore be tolerant to divergent views so that at the end of the day, we should emerge a united nation,” he added.

      Omar’s concerns were increased after reports appeared about violence eruption in some parts of the country.

      “Already there is tension as we move closer to May 20. Some pockets of violence have already been reported in some parts of the country leading to loss of lives,” Omar said.

      “It is therefore incumbent upon the faithful both Muslims and Christians to pray for this process. Because the outcome, if negative could have serious devastating effects on all of us and the way we worship. Let us therefore be cautious about this.”

      Meanwhile, the move has won itself plaudits from organizations and political commentators across the country, describing it as a “breakthrough” in fostering “bridges of peace and tolerance” in the seemingly highly charged political environment.

      Cuba’s First Mosque Approved
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Saturday, 26 April 2014 00:00


      HAVANA – Fulfilling an old dream for Cuban Muslims, the government has approved plans for the country’s first mosque with a courtesy of the Turkish government, following a visit by a delegation from Turkey's Religious Affairs Foundation to the Caribbean island.

      “We thought the mosque would fit perfectly in Havana’s historic district with the neighborhood’s European architecture,” Yuksel Sezgin, press adviser for Turkey’s Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV), a branch of the country’s top government-run religious organization, told Vocative on Friday, April 25.

      The dream mosque was approved following a visit by TDV delegation to the Cuban department of religious affairs last week.

      Designed after the famous Ortakoy mosque in Istanbul, the mosque is being built to serve the city's 3,500 Muslims and will be complete within a year.

      According to the plans, the Havana mosque will be 32,300 square feet and have the capacity to serve 500 people.

      Land for the mosque has already been allocated in the city's Old Havana district.

      According to TDV officials, the 19th century design of Ortakoy mosque was suggested to fit in nicely with the architecture of the surrounding area.

      With no mosque available currently, most Cuban Muslims pray in their homes or, on Fridays, in the living room of Pedro Lazo Torre, the leader of Havana’s Muslim community.

      Luis Mesa Delmonte, a Cuban professor working on Middle Eastern studies at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, says President Raul Castro’s government approved the mosque project as part of Cuba’s wider effort to inch open the Communist system.

      “The Cuban government approved the project some years ago, but the idea was to build one with national resources,” Delmonte said over email.

      “It seems to me that the very difficult economic conditions the island is facing won’t help in that direction.”

      The plan is 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.

      China Rewards Xinjiang Beard Informants
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Saturday, 26 April 2014 00:00


      URUMQI – Authorities in China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang are offering cash rewards to informants who report on their neighbors for wearing beards, Chinese state media has reported.

      "That's a lot of money for Uighurs in the south [of the region]," Alim Seytoff, spokesman for the Uighur rights advocacy group World Uyghur Congress (WUC), told Al Jazeera on Friday, April 25.

      “There they are very poor. This is an incentive to betray their fellow Uighurs to get some financial gain.”

      The Muslim leader was commenting on the Chinese government recent move by officials in Shaya county to issue a notice offering amounts ranging from 50 to more than 50,000 yuan ($8 to $8,000) for informants who report on their neighbors who grow beards, the Global Times said on Thursday.

      The move by the Chinese local authorities is not the first attempt to suppress signs on Muslim religiosity in the past.

      Last August, Arzugul Memet was forced by Chinese authorities to evict her rented property in the northwestern region of Xinjiang for wearing a face veil.

      Xinjiang authorities have also launched a campaign labeled Project Beauty, which attempts to discourage locals from wearing veils - a common practice among Uighur women.

      But, for Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, it is first time officials are comfortable enough to announce such measures in an English-language publication geared toward foreigners.

      "What is new and extremely worrying [is that] the Chinese government is so bent on suppressing Uighur Islam that it thinks it's appropriate to make public these restrictions and to sketch out what behavior is considered suspect by the state," Bequelin told Al Jazeera.

      WUC's Seytoff said he contacted Human Rights Watch days ago with reports of the restrictions.

      He added that WUC's communications have been compromised by Chinese intelligence, and that the Chinese media report was likely an attempt to establish Beijing's stance ahead of any claims that would be made by the international human rights watchdog.

      Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.

      Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million, in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.

      Muslims accuses the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.

      And analysts say the policy of transferring Han Chinese to Xinjiang to consolidate Beijing's authority has increased the proportion of Han in the region from five percent in the 1940s to more than 40 percent now.

      Beijing views the vast region of Xinjiang as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.

      Turkish prime minister talks of ‘shared pain’ in statement on Armenian killings
      23/04 23:31 CET


      Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered what has been described as “unprecedented condolences” to the grandchildren of Armenians killed in World War One by Ottoman soldiers.

      The statement unusually released in nine different languages was issued on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the deeply contested deaths. Turkish officials described it as an “historic step”.

      The exact nature and scale of what happened when fighting started has soured relations between Turkey and Armenia, a former Soviet state.

      Erdogan highlighted what he called the “shared pain” of the events.

      For many the statement was a complete surprise with one commentator saying it was significant he talked about shared pain. On the streets of Istanbul it was well received.

      “I think this is positive. There may have been lots of mistakes made by Turkey during its history. It is good to find those mistakes and accept them. As Turkish people, with all the minorities it is perfect to live in unity,” said Istanbul resident Yunus Ozebek.

      In Yerevan Armenians gathered for the annual candle procession to mark the anniversary of the killings.

      Many felt the statement did not go far enough and demanded recognition of genocide and compensation.

      Czech schools open children’s eyes to Islam
      by Annalisa Lista - 04.15.2014


      ‘Islam through the eyes of children’ – this is the name of the first school project run by the Czech government to encourage the inclusion of Muslims. Co-financed by various international organisations, Muslimové aims to eradicate stereotypes and prejudices surrounding Islam, which can take root at an early age. The initiative begins with detailed analysis of textbooks. Teachers use pictures, maps, pages of history and literature to explain to children how the world of Islam is depicted. The initiative uses three ways of getting pupils involved. Firstly, it discusses the key concepts behind Islamic culture: the religious symbology, Sharia, women’s clothing and the question of Islamophobia. After that, the classes are divided into three groups, each led by a tutor, to focus more deeply on various themes and enable debate: the history and meaning of the veil, media representation of Muslims and the perception of Islam in the Czech Republic. The
      initiative finally asks students to work on creating a short film or a photographic project about a typical day in the life of a Muslim.

      Muslims’ Green Khutba Marks Earth Day
      By Muneeb Nasir
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00


      TORONTO – Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 18th, 2014, with the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ as religious leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

      “We are encouraging mosques, schools, universities and Islamic Institutions to devote their Friday Khutbah to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of God’s creation and to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity,” Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign told OnIslam.net.

      “This year’s ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ challenge is to request all Muslims to commit to a sustainable lifestyle with a 3 E action plan – be empowered to act as stewards of the environment, become educated about eco-friendly principles, be engaged by working together to improve the environment,” Nasir added.

      The ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ was launched in 2012 in Canada.
      Every year, Imams across the world are encouraged to deliver a khutba that reminds their congregations of the Qur’anic message to be stewards of the earth and its environment.

      The ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ commemorates Earth Day that will take place on Tuesday, April 22.

      The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

      More than 1 billion people across the world now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

      Environmental concern around the world is on the wane, according to the GlobeScan global poll that tracked public concern on six environmental issues.

      The poll found that across eighteen countries, public concern about water pollution, fresh water shortages, natural resource depletion, air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss is way down from its peak in 2009.

      However, Muaz Nasir says that Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage.

      “Tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to God’s creation,” he said.

      “Those who violate or abuse the Trust are described in the Qur’an as those who corrupt, degrade and bring ruin on earth,” Muaz Nasir added. “The corrupters abuse the Trust and are in clear contrast to what Muslims must be – the stewards of the earth.”

      Muslims Worldwide

      While many mosques in North America will be delivering a Green Khutba on Friday, Muslim communities from other parts of the world are also planning to join the awareness campaign.

      The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council has signed on to deliver a Green Khutba.

      “We have prepared khutbas on climate change which is in the local language, and InshAllah, we will translate into Arabic,” said Abdulhafiz Kemal Issa of the Supreme Council.

      “We are planning to plant trees in Addis Ababa on Earth Day and this project is supported by Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in England.”

      Meanwhile, the environmental group, ‘Green Deen South Africa’, has issued an annual call out for South African Muslim leaders to raise the Islamic-environmental banner from their mimbars on Friday.

      Interfaith groups in the United States are also promoting the Green Khutba Campaign through their networks.

      New York Interfaith Power & Light Group has endorsed the initiative as well as the Georgia Interfaith Power and Light Group.

      The interfaith organizations were founded with the mission ‘to support and encourage congregations of all faiths in their actions to reduce global warming and protect the sacredness of the earth for all generations.’

      An extensive online resource has been created by Khaleafa.com (www.Khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah) to support the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ and Islamic organizations and well-known leaders are continuing to throw their support behind the initiative.

      Spring Breath Smells Death in Bosnia
      By Elvedin Subasic
      Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00


      TOMASICA — Six months after Bosnia’s biggest mass grave was uncovered in Tomasica, local residents in the Northwestern Bosnia district cannot bear much longer the smell of excavated corpses, where inadequate facilities have left dozens of decaying human remains in the air.

      "We need a permanent solution,” said district attorney Jasmin Mesic for Bosnian Federal Television.

      The mass grave was uncovered last October in north-western Bosnia Tomasica where Muslims and Croats were persecuted in the area by Serbian troops during a home-to-home search.

      The city of Prijedor, 162 miles north-west of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, was the site of gruesome crimes against humanity committed by Christian Orthodox Serbs against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

      The area around Prijedor housed three Nazi-style concentration camps set up by Serb authorities, where many of the victims were killed.

      Authorities hope some of the 1,200 people who remain missing from the area are now found in the Tomasica grave, which covers over 5,000 square meters and is 10 meters deep.

      So far, 430 victims have been found in the Tomasica grave since work began in August 2013, a vast pit about 30 feet deep and covering 54,000 square feet.

      The uncovered bodies were preserved in the mortuary facility Identification Center Sejkovaca, a facility not prepared to hold all those bodies for such long time.

      Citing inadequate financial support and lack of appropriate facilities, the remains of the dead victims decaying bodies were left in regular rooms, with 30-year old fans for ventilating, but with no cooling.

      As excavation work continues, the smell of decaying bodies is spreading to nearby places.

      Rising temperatures in Bosnia spring and summer have also consolidated locals’ fears that the situation might get worse.

      "When they brought bodies last year, it was impossible to sit here because of smell", says Vahida Lagić, who works in one local restaurant.

      More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves.

      So far, 6,186 victims have been found in the woods surrounding Srebrenica and identified from 70 mass graves through DNA analysis at the laboratory of International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia.

      Before the mass grave at Tomasica was excavated Srebrenica had the largest Bosnian mass grave which held 629 corpses.

      Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Serb forces led by Ratko Mladic who was then the commander of the Serb forces during the 1992-95 Bosnia civil war.

      Kenya Muslims Deplore Imams' Killings
      By Ally A. Jamah,
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Saturday, 05 April 2014 00:00


      NAIROBI – The brutal killing of imam Abubakar Ibrahim Shariff, known as Makaburi, in a drive-by shooting in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa earlier this month has sparked the anger of the Muslim minority, recalling a string of killings targeting Muslim scholars in the African country.

      “The death of Makaburi is among many unfortunate deaths of a number of Muslim scholars in Mombasa,” Adan Duale, a Kenyan Muslim Member of Parliament who is close to the President, told OnIslam.net.

      “The lives of all these Kenyans are sacred and it's unacceptable for them to die in these circumstances.

      “The state with all its security agents must bring the killers of these sheikhs and innocent Kenyans to book. They owe the nation an explanation. We need answers without delays,” he added.

      Makaburi, a prominent Kenyan Muslim scholar, was killed as he left a court compound about 15 km north of the port city of Mombasa on April 1.

      His killing became a new point of friction between the police and the Muslim community, after the recent police violent storming of Masjid Musa in Mombasa, which left Muslims in Kenya incensed with anger.

      Secretary General for Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Sheikh Muhammad Dor described Makaburi’s killing as an act of “terrorism.”

      He expressed frustrations that previous killings of Muslim religious personalities have not been resolved, blaming them on the lack of commitment and sincerity from the government.

      “Many Muslim scholars did not agree with Makaburi's opinions on issues such as Jihad. But killing him is not the solution. It will only increase conflict and misunderstanding among Kenyans,” he said.

      Human Rights activist Hussein Khalid has also expressed fears that the killing may push some Muslim youth to commit acts out of anger in “retaliation”.

      For many Kenyan Muslims, imam Makaburi’s death revived angry emotions among members of the religious community in the coastal area, where most of Kenya's Muslims live, over past killings of Muslim imams.

      Last October, Muslim scholar Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar was gunned down in Mombasa.

      His killing was similar to that of imam, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who was killed in August 2012.

      Another unresolved murder of a Muslim preacher is that of Samir Hashim Khan who was allegedly pulled from a public bus in Mombasa in April 2012 by men who identified themselves as police officers.

      A few days later, Khan’s badly mutilated body was found dumped, several hundred kilometers away in a wildlife park. Police investigations have yielded no fruits.


      Working over the past months to calm Muslim youth anger after Masjid Musa attack, Muslim leaders warned that these killings have seriously undermined efforts to de-escalate the conflict between the religious minority and government security agencies.

      “We were making good progress to rebuild a good working relationship between the Muslim community and police,” Sheikh Muhdhar Khitamy, the head of Coast Branch for the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, told OnIslam.net.

      “Now we are back to square one. Everyone sees the government as an enemy of Muslims.”

      Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo have repeatedly distanced the police from Makaburi's killings and promised a “robust investigation.”

      They also called his killers “terrorists.”

      But most Muslim leaders are unconvinced at the government gestures, terming them a mere Public Relations exercise, without much substance since previous such killings remain unresolved.

      Currently, Muslim leaders are striving to calm the anger among sections of the Muslim community following Makaburi's demise.

      Last October, protests and riots erupted in Mombasa after news of imam Rojo’s death spread, with rioters killing at least six people, including five police officers.

      Three churches were also torched. Muslim leaders condemned the actions of the rioters. Subsequent investigations launched by the government concluded that the killers could not be identified.

      Influential Muslim politician Billow Kerrow has warned Muslim youths against attacking people and buildings of other faiths in retaliation to Makaburi's killing.

      “Blame the government if you will but let's be careful not to blame the church or Christians for the killings and disappearances to avoid creating inter-religious conflict that will very adversely affect our relations,” he advised.

      “It is vital that we, the Muslims, distinguish the government from our Christian brothers, majority of who have the greatest respect for our faith.”

      Finnish Muslims Want Police Hijab
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Thursday, 03 April 2014 00:00


      STOCKHOLM – Seeing her dream of joining police shattered over her hijab, a Finnish Muslim has urged the government to allow Islamic headscarf in police uniform to encourage integration of the minority in the society.

      “I want to be part of society, but society does not want me,” a 38-year-old Muslim woman, who was barred from joining Finnish police, told Yle on Thursday, April 3.

      “Building society seems to involve only certain norms and certain workplaces where us ‘scarfheads’ are hidden from other citizens,” she added.

      The Muslim woman's dream to join the Finnish police has been shattered after failing to convince security officials to accept her Islamic attire.

      Asked how she would react if she was not allowed to wear a headscarf during working hours? The Muslim woman suggested a compromise that would be “compatible with the police uniform”.

      However, her suggestion was rejected.

      “In the interviewer’s opinion it was not possible to negotiate, and I didn’t get in to the school,” the Muslim woman said.

      “I have always wanted to join the police and now I’ve been forced to give up on my dream.

      “The scarf is my identity and religion; I cannot give it up during working hours.”

      Unlike Finland's hijab restrictions, Sweden allows veiled Muslim woman to join police.

      “Scarves, turbans and Jewish kippahs are allowed because the Swedish police want people from different backgrounds to become police,” said Carolina Ekéus of the Swedish police.

      “In addition, allowing headscarves was seen as an equality measure.”

      Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.

      The case is not the first to raise debates in Finland surrounding religious outfits.

      Last week, a Helsinki court fined managers of a clothing retailer for discriminating against a veiled Muslim employee.

      Hijab has been in the eye of storm since France banned the headscarf in public places in 2004.

      Since then, several European countries have followed suit.


      Finnish Muslim woman are demanding changes to the police rules that would help in solving several immigrants problems in the society.

      “Us, scarf-wearing Muslim women, are needed in the Finnish police,” said the rejected Muslim applicant interviewed by Silminnäkijä.

      “For example I would know different ways to solve immigrants’ problems than other police officers.

      “I could also train other police in religion and culture issues.”

      According to the Finnish Police University College, security officers from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds are needed.

      “The target is part of our recruiting strategy,” said Lotta Parjanen of the police college.

      “We want police to be more diverse.”

      Despite such calls, an earlier opinion by the National Police Board on the religious symbols during work showed “negative attitude”.

      The police Board said that: “Scarves would risk police impartiality and reliability”.

      “Allowing headgear could lead to other requests for religion-related rights, for example the right to break for prayer,” the Board justified its rejection.

      “Use of headgear could risk the police reputation for impartiality and trustworthiness.”

      Government officials and political leaders shared a similar opinion, calling to maintain the Police rules that ban hijab.

      “It’s important that police are seen as representing official power, not certain religious convictions,” said the Christian Democrat leader.

      “If police can be called to deal with an emergency call out in which people with certain ideological backgrounds are in conflict with each other, then the official uniform also demonstrates police impartiality.

      “I’m sure some can give up the scarf when on official business,” said Räsänen, who advised people who feel discriminated by the law to make an official complaint.

      There are between 40,000 to 45,000 Muslims among Finland's 5.2 million population.

      For Finnish Muslim women, upholding hijab ban would reflect prejudice against the minority.

      “It’s a shame that the Police Board hides behind the official uniform code, rather than simply saying that we do not accept you,” said the rejected applicant.

      “It is pointless to talk of Finnish equality and democracy, when the rules do not apply to all groups.”

      Tatar minority seeks autonomy in Crimea
      Crimea's Tatars on Saturday voted to push for self-rule in their historic homeland following its annexation by Russia, but remained torn on how to engage with the new authorities.
      POSTED: 30 Mar 2014 03:12


      BAKHCHYSARAY: Crimea's Tatars on Saturday voted to push for self-rule in their historic homeland following its annexation by Russia, but remained torn on how to engage with the new authorities.

      Ethnic Tatars from all over Crimea convened in the town of Bakhchysaray for an emergency Qurultai, or congress, to decide on the fate of the Muslim community of about 300,000 people on the Black Sea peninsula.

      "There comes a moment in the life of every people when a choice must be made that will determine its future," said Tatar leader Refat Chubarov.

      The Tatars, which make up about 12 per cent of Crimea's population, strongly opposed and largely boycotted the hastily-organised March 16 referendum that saw the peninsula split from Ukraine.

      Chubarov said that if Russians in Crimea were given the chance to determine their future, all those involved "have to proceed from the premise that the Crimean Tatars also have this right".

      Suspicion of Moscow is high among the community, who were deported en masse by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to central Asia during World War II and only started returning home in the late 1980s.

      After hours of debate, the delegates voted to "launch political and legal procedures (for the) ethnic and territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatar people on their historical territory, Crimea".

      However it was unclear how they planned to go about this or whether they sought to become an autonomous entity in Ukraine, or Russia.

      "This land is the Crimea, the motherland of the Crimean Tatars," said Grand Mufti Ravil Gainutdin to huge applause from more than 200 people att<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)