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9539News in Brief: Chinese Uyghurs defy Ramadan ban

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jul 5, 2014
      Chinese Uyghurs defy Ramadan ban
      The government's attempt to clamp down on religious expression has backfired among Uyghurs.
      Umar Farooq Last updated: 05 Jul 2014 13:05


      Kashgar, China - Chinese authorities have imposed restrictions on Uyghur Muslims during the month of Ramadan, banning government employees and school children from fasting, in what rights groups say has become an annual attempt at systematically erasing the region's Islamic identity.

      Chinese authorities have justified the ban on fasting by saying it is meant to protect the health of students, and restrictions on religious practices by government officials are meant to ensure the state does not support any particular faith.

      Yet in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, China's westernmost city, close to the border with Tajikstan and Kyrgyztan, Uyghur Muslims say the restrictions have backfired. Not only have locals become more observant of Islamic practices, but many have found ways to flaunt Chinese laws restricting everything from who may attend the mosque, to which copies of the Quran are read.

      "That is Mao ZeDong," said Omar, a taxi driver, pointing to a 24m-tall statue of the founder of the People's Republic of China, as he navigates his taxi through traffic across People's Square. "He brought all the Chinese here," he added, out of earshot of the soldiers lining up across the street.

      A few minutes later, the soldiers pile into trucks and move to the city's commercial centre down the road, where police frisk shoppers at the entrance to a shopping mall. Across Kashgar, security forces have been deployed to thwart potential attacks by Uyghur militants seeking to wrestle control of Xinjiang province from Beijing.

      Home to some of China's largest deposits of oil, natural gas, and coal, Xinjiang has a majority Muslim Uyghur population - a Turkic ethnic group with a language and culture closer to Central Asia. Before the region was absorbed into the People's Republic of China in 1949, almost everyone here was Uyghur, but the numbers have have since declined, dropping to below half by the year 2000, as tens of millions of Han Chinese - the majority population of mainland China - were encouraged to settle here by the government.

      That demographic shift, which accelerated in the 1990s as Beijing began to develop Xinjiang, combined with Chinese laws restricting Islamic practices by Uyghurs and the 1997 execution of 30 Uyghur separatists by Chinese authorities, triggered a wave of violence by militants that has left hundreds of people dead, mostly civilians.

      Last month, a suicide bomber killed 39 people in the provincial capitol of Urumqi, and police claimed to have killed 13 men who attempted to ram an explosives-laden vehicle into their office near Kashgar.

      The deadly violence - including an attack by knife-wielding men at a train station in Kuming that killed 29 in March - has sparked a massive crackdown by Beijing, with authorities announcing the convictions of more than 400 people across Xinjiang. Last Wednesday, Kashgar authorities announced 113 people had been sentenced for crimes, including supporting terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination.

      "The government says every Uyghur, if they have a beard or wear a hijab, they are a terrorist," said Abdul Majid, who owns a mobile phone shop near People's Square. He says the last time tensions were this high was in 2009, after 184 people died in clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi.

      'All these problems started after September 11'

      A world away from Kashgar's commercial centre lies the city's heart: a nearly 2,000-year-old Uyghur quarter that is currently being rebuilt, literally brick by brick, by mostly Han Chinese migrant workers. Kashgar's ancient mosques are being restored and the homes in the old city re-imagined with hints of Central Asian architecture and with help from the Chinese government. It's part of a programme that authorities say is aimed at making the area earthquake-resistant.

      But not everyone is happy about the renovations.

      "If Allah wants to kill us, he will send an earthquake, and he will kill us," said Hajji Abdul Razzak, a silk merchant who has chosen not to have his home in the old city rebuilt. "A lot of people have left, and just put their houses out to rent."

      Around the corner from Kashgar's 572-year-old Id Kah Mosque, a large notice board implores Uyghurs to adopt modern attire. One half of the board is covered in pictures depicting traditional Uyghurs, women in colourful dresses and flowing hair and clean-shaven men. The other half shows rows of men with beards and women in headscarves or face-covering veils, all with a red X over them.

      "All these problems started after September 11th," said Abdul Razzak. "The Pakistan border [with China] was completely sealed, and when it opened a few years later, these Uyghurs from Pakistan and Afghanistan came. They are doing all these [bombings], but we are being oppressed."

      Restrictions ignored

      Yet, Abdul Razzak and other Uyghurs said the attempt to clamp down on religious expression has backfired in Kashgar, with more and more locals flaunting the restrictions.

      Nearly every business in Kashgar's old city is closed during the hottest part of the afternoon when Al Jazeera visited this week during Ramadan.

      In the evening, throngs of young women in headscarves or full face veils pass signs posted at Kashgar's main hospital reminding them veiled women cannot enter.

      Along with government employees, children under the age of 18 are barred from attending mosques, yet dozens of men attending night prayers at one of Kashgar's medieval mosques have brought along their children. Toddlers line up next to the adults, imitating their movements during prayers.

      "Sure, it's against the law to bring kids to the masjid [mosque], but we do it anyway," said Ghulam Abbas, a middle-aged Uyghur man who makes a living selling fried fish on the main boulevard in the old city.

      He added that, for centuries, parents sent their children to maktaps, part-time schools at the mosque, where they memorised the Quran - but this practise, along with most organised religious instruction, is now prohibited in Xinjiang.

      Asked if Uyghurs are forgetting how to recite the Quran as a result, Abbas called his eight-year-old son over and, after some coaxing, convinced him to recite a chapter from memory. "They want to cut our children off from Islam," Abbas said. "We are not allowed to teach them the Quran, but we do, at home - secretly."

      It is not the only restriction that is being ignored by the Uyghurs in Kashgar.

      "The Chinese don't want us to have kids, but we just pay fines or bribe people," says Abdul Razzak, who has five children - three more than allowed by law. His three extra children, two sons and a daughter, have cost him around 60,000 yuan ($9,670) in fines. He said he is worried they will forget how to speak Uyghur.

      Other restrictions - like the ban on fasting for schoolchildren - are more difficult to get around. Chinese authorities require that school teachers, who are barred from fasting themselves, also discourage students.

      "It depends on the teachers," said Mehmet, a high-school student in Kashgar. "[Some] bring water, bread, candy, put it in front of you, and you have to eat."

      Meanwhile, certain styles of headscarf are still not acceptable to authorities. "The abaya was very popular here, starting four or five years ago," said Abdul Majid, a 20-something Uyghur who imports women's clothes from Turkey. "But last year, police started bothering women, so now, I can't find anyone who wants to buy them."

      Under Chinese law, only state-approved copies of Islamic literature like the Quran are allowed. "If they catch you with a different version, a different translation, or a book from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, you go to jail," explained the owner of a small bookstore across the street form the Id Kah mosque, who asked not to be named.

      World Cup 2014: Algeria 'to donate $9m World Cup prize money to people of Gaza’
      ADAM WITHNALL Author Biography Thursday 03 July 2014


      First the Palestinian flag was draped from the team bus during the team's triumphant open-top bus tour of the capital, now it has been claimed that the Algerian national football team are to donate their entire World Cup prize fund to the embattled people of Gaza.

      According to quotes attributed to Algeria’s star striker Islam Slimani, the team will give up all of the estimated $9 million (£5.25 million) they received as valiant losers in the round of 16.

      Yet speaking at a reception in Algiers where the team returned to a hero's welcome yesterday, Slimani apparently said: “They need it more than us.” The announcement was reported by the Jordanian football writer Waleed Abu Nada as well as the Dutch daily newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

      If true, the team could face accusations of bringing politics to bear in the world of sport. Yesterday, YouTube footage of the team’s open-top homecoming tour through Algiers showed at least one Palestinian flag flying from the bus by the team.

      Last month, Fifa announced it was to open disciplinary proceedings against Argentina after the team unfurled a political banner prior to a friendly match against Slovenia with the phrase "Las Malvinas son Argentinas", which translates as "The Falkland Islands belong to Argentina".

      However, if reports of the donation are true, it will see Algeria gain a whole new set of fans beyond football. They were also one of only two African sides to make it past the group stages – and their reported willingness to give away the prize money is in stark contrast to the reported behaviour of the Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria teams.

      Algeria has traditionally been a strong ally of the Palestinian cause in the long-running Middle East dispute with Israel.

      The crisis has intensified in recent days as Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggles to control a frenzied reaction to the murder of three Israeli hitch-hikers, which the country blames on Hamas.

      Israel has begun sending troop reinforcements to its border with Gaza and begun intensifying air strikes, while more than a dozen Palestinian rockets struck southern Israel early this morning.

      Denmark's first mosque opens amid controversy
      Denmark's first mosque opened on Thursday, but leading politicians stayed away from the event.
      Simon Hooper Last updated: 22 Jun 2014 06:34


      Copenhagen, Denmark - Perched on top of a tall column at a road junction in the Norrebro neighbourhood of Copenhagen, an enormous American-style ringed doughnut demands to be noticed.

      "De Angelis. Delightfully different DONUTS," reads the sign. Further down the street, a mock lighthouse advertises a self-storage warehouse, vying for attention on the busy skyline with the branded flags of car showrooms and industrial chimneys.

      Next to the lighthouse is the latest vertical addition to this mundane urban landscape that is currently stoking controversy in the Danish capital. A slender minaret topped with a small crescent marks the site of Denmark's first purpose-built mosque.

      Denmark is home to approximately 226,000 Muslims, many of them the children of migrants who have been arriving since the 1960s. Many of them hope the mosque and the adjoined Islamic cultural centre finally means acceptance after decades of marginalisation.

      But senior politicians and members of the Danish royal family invited to Thursday's opening ceremony stayed away amid concerns that the organisation behind the mosque, the Danish Islamic Council (DIR), promotes a conservative interpretation of Islam.

      Foreign funding

      Funded by a donation of $27.4m from Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, the former emir of Qatar, critics cite alleged ideological links between the DIR and the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Meanwhile, media coverage on the eve of the opening focused on comments reported by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which provoked Muslim anger worldwide in 2005 by publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, in which Mohamed al-Maimouni, the DIR's main spokesman, described homosexuality as a sickness. Al-Maimouni told Al Jazeera it was disappointing that politicians had chosen to stay away.

      "This is a historic day for Muslims in Denmark and it sends a very negative signal," he said. "We are a part of society and we are proud to be Danish. We have our religious background, but that has nothing to do with being a good citizen and participating positively in this society."

      Al-Maimouni said the mosque complex, officially known as the Hamad Bin Khalifa Civilisation Centre, stood as a symbol of an emerging Danish-Muslim identity.

      The buildings marry common elements of traditional Scandinavian and Islamic architecture such as clean lines and simplicity of form, while the mosque's Moorish-inspired interior stonework references Islam's European heritage.

      "We always said that we had to have a Danish mosque, and not an Egyptian mosque, or a Qatari mosque, or a Moroccan mosque," said al-Maimouni. "All of the furniture is Danish design."

      Conservative anger

      Yet for many on the Danish right, the idea of a Danish-Muslim identity remains both a contradiction and a provocation. A protest planned on Thursday outside the mosque by members of Stop Islamisation of Denmark (SIAD), a far-right fringe group, was banned by police on the grounds that it risked inciting unrest.

      Reacting to the ban, Anders Gravers Pedersen, the leader of SIAD, compared the group to the Danish resistance fighting against Denmark's Nazi German occupiers during World War II.

      But inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric also fuels more mainstream debate. Writing in a party newsletter, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the leader of the far-right Danish People's Party which won more than a quarter of votes to finish first in last month's European elections, described the mosque as a "bridgehead for an extreme version of Islam".

      "I do not like the risk of rabid imams preaching on Danish soil," he wrote.

      Yildaz Akdogan, a local representative of the Social Democratic Party, said politicians should stand in solidarity with Danish Muslims as well as engaging in dialogue with Muslim groups on issues where they disagreed.

      "It is important for politicians to send a signal to all Muslims in Denmark that we do accept Islam and we have freedom of religion in our country," Akdogan told Al Jazeera.

      "I would rather have an open mosque on the street where I can see it and visit it, instead of having all sorts of different mosques in basements or back yards where we don't know what is being preached."

      But others supportive of Danish Muslims' right to build mosques said there were serious concerns about the project's links to Qatar and the ideology it would promote.

      "I voted for the mosque, but I am concerned about the money and the point of view they have on homosexuality and other things," Lars Aslan Rasmussen, another local Social Democrat, told Al Jazeera. "My concern is that they have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar is known for supporting the most conservative groups in Europe and the Middle East."

      Rasmussen also questioned the DIR's claim to speak for a Danish-Muslim identity and said future mosque projects should not be funded by donations from overseas.

      "But what is more important is that there should be new ideas in Islam [and] you will have imams who accept homosexuals. It will come, but this mosque is not representing something new and that is a shame."

      'Building a bridge'

      Speaking at Thursday's ceremony, Ghaith bin Mubarak al Kuwari, Qatar's Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, said the Gulf state was proud of its support for a project it hoped would act as "a bridge to build trust and a beacon to achieve mutual understanding between Denmark and the Muslim world".

      DIR spokesman al-Maimouni said al Thani's donation was a one-off payment and that the centre would be used to promote dialogue between different interpretations of Islam and across society in general.

      "There were no conditions from the Qatari side and there is no political agenda. There is huge diversity in the Muslim communities here. In the history of Islam the mosque was always an attractive place to solve any kinds of problems in society. It is a platform for everything."

      Clarifying his comments on homosexuality, al-Maimouni said the DIR's views were in line with the Quran. "But that does not mean that if people want to come to us we would reject them, absolutely not. We are not judging people because of their sexual background. We have respect for all people whoever they are."

      Across the road from the mosque, groups of youths gathered to watch as arriving dignitaries stepped from their cars onto a red carpet flanked by the Danish and Qatari flags.

      Marwan Buahya, a local youth worker, said that as a tough inner city neighbourhood, Norrebro faces typical problems associated with immigration and integration.

      "It's more difficult being a Muslim in Denmark than it used to be because of all the things happening around the world," Buahya told Al Jazeera. "I hope the people living here will be happy [with the mosque] and I hope that young Muslims will participate and stay away from trouble."

      Changing views

      Support came from other local community members. "It would be strange to live in a country and be born in a country and not have your own house for your religion, so it's very nice," Hanne Ravn Hermansen, a local artist, told Al Jazeera.

      "This was just the most boring street in Copenhagen with all the car showrooms - and that stupid doughnut - and now you'll get people coming here so I think it will do good things for this neighbourhood."

      Brian Arly Jacobsen, a researcher specialising in Islam in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen, said polls showed public mood was gradually shifting in favour of greater acceptance of the country's Muslim minority.

      While surveys in the 1990s had shown strong opposition to the construction of mosques, he said a clear majority of Copenhageners now supported the mosque, and compared the current controversy to the debate over the creation of the country's first Muslim burial ground in 2006.

      "Since they actually established the burial ground there has been no debate at all," Jacobsen told Al Jazeera. "If people see that the mosque is not a security threat, or threatening society in general, then it will not be so controversial anymore."

      Back across the road from the mosque, Buahya shrugs and laughs when asked what it means to be a Danish Muslim. "Islam is my religion and I am born and raised here, so of course I am Danish. There is no question. I am 35 years old and I don't think it is an issue."

      Follow Simon Hooper on Twitter: @simonbhooper

      Bosnia returnees still burying their dead
      Bosniaks returning home find their hometowns have become quiet, bleak and economically troubled places.
      Peter Geoghegan Last updated: 18 Jun 2014 10:42


      Carakovo, Bosnia - Sudbin Music has a problem: He needs to bury 50 bodies.

      "Where can we put them?" Music, 40, wondered aloud as he stood on the edge of a graveyard in the northwestern Bosnian village of Carakovo. In front of him, 400 slender white headstones cluttered the plot of land. "We don't have room for any more."

      The bodies that Music referred to come from Tomasica, a nearby mass war grave discovered last year. Tomasica contained the remains of around 1,000 Bosniaks, also known as Bosnian Muslims, killed by Serb forces in 1992. Fifty of the bodies come from Carakavo, and will be interred at a special ceremony on July 20.

      Before the Bosnian war, Carakovo - a largely Bosniak village perched on the hills above the belching smokestacks of the nearby industrial city of Prijedor - appeared calm and peaceful. Two decades later, it seems little has changed. Dogs bark and lambs bleat on a quiet afternoon. A muezzin calls out for prayer from a white-washed minaret. Across verdant fields stand large, sturdy-looking houses with high gates and satellite dishes.

      Carakovo looks prosperous. But looks can be deceiving.

      Remnants of war

      Only 300 people remain, down from 2,500 before the war, said Music, who is the secretary of Prijedor, a group representing Bosniak and Croat concentration camp victims.

      The town feels abandoned. Music pointed to recently built houses: "They are in Slovenia, they are in Austria. They are in the Netherlands, their neighbours are in Sweden." We passed a ramshackle construction, its concrete peeling: "That house is occupied - the only one on the street." In Bosnia, monthly incomes average $575. For most people, the opportunities abroad are too good to turn down.

      Under the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian war, the area became part of Republika Srpska, the "Serb Republic", but all refugees had a right to return. Music came from the US in 2000, one of the first Bosniaks to move back to Carakovo. "Everything was destroyed like Hiroshima. [There was] nothing," he recalled. Over the next couple of years others came back, too. But the flow of returnees became a trickle, then it stopped completely.

      "I spent all my beautiful years here, 14 years. I feel like the last Mohican here," said Music. "I ask myself, 'What are you doing? Are you waiting for the next disaster?'"

      Bosniaks have returned to a land where Serbia's red, blue and white flag flies from every government building. The state, dominated by ethnic Serb politicians, has done little to help them. In Prijedor, the office for returnees is housed in the same building as the headquarters of the local Serb Democratic Party, the political vehicle created by Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader on trial at the Hague for war crimes.

      Few survivors return

      A few kilometres down the road stands the predominantly Bosniak town of Kozarac. Two decades ago, Kozarac was largely reduced to rubble. Since then, most of the houses have been rebuilt, but few former residents have returned. Among those that have is Fikret Alic, the man whose emaciated frame behind barbed wire at a Serb-run camp became the iconic image of the Bosnian war.

      Alic, like many others, was taken to a concentration camp at Trnopolje, where visiting journalists happened to take his photograph. The image went global, probably saving his life.

      "That picture was taken accidentally. Now I have made it my own mission to talk about it. I'm doing it for the innocent people who were killed," said Alic when we met at a community centre in Kozarac. He has filled out in the intervening 22 years, but he still bears the physical and mental scars of the abuse he suffered.

      He also had to spend years defending himself against allegations that the photograph was concocted. "The fact is that the camps happened, the massacres happened. It's time we admitted it and moved on," he said, sitting in a room lined with hundreds of pictures of Kozarac citizens killed in the war.

      Another returnee is Asima Memic. "I was the fourth one back," she said proudly. During the war, three of her sons were taken away to the camp. Only two came back. The remains of the third son were discovered two years ago. "I was constantly hoping. Until they found the bones I still had hope," she said, visibly holding back tears.

      Memic's return has been a bittersweet experience. Returning Bosniaks swell the population - and the coffers of local businesses - in the summer months, but the rest of the year is often lonely. "As soon as the summer is gone it becomes really depressing," she said. "A lot of the young people leave the country. People can't see a brighter future."

      Discrimination looms

      Tens of thousands of Bosniaks left the region during and after the war. Most of them are unlikely to come back, said Srecko Latal, a Balkans analyst based in Sarajevo. "The return of refugees has pretty much finished."

      The government of Republika Srpska "did little to help people returning", Latal claimed.

      Today, many Bosniaks feel like second-class citizens in the Serb Republic, expressing concerns that a decree passed by the government in Banja Luka - Bosnia's second-largest city - on checking people's residence could target Bosniaks.

      In the eastern village of Konjevic Polje, Bosniak children have not attended school since last year as part of a protest against the Serb school curriculum.

      "I came back home but the problem is permanent discrimination. Citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina need to be liberated," Music said. "I don't belong anywhere. We are a no man's people." The answer, Music believes, is "not destroying Republika Srpska or changing the constitution", it is "re-integration to a normal society, whatever that means. People are going crazy."

      "Bosnia is ethnically divided and paralysed by bad government, but its biggest problems are economic, not political," said Adis Mujagic, a father of two who returned to Kozarac from the US. "You can put any flag you want out there so long as you give me a job that pays properly."

      "With so many leaving, and so few opportunities at home, the future for Bosnia looks bleak," said Music. "You will have in five years an ethnically clean Republika Srpska and an ethnically clean Federation [of Bosnia and Herzegovina] under the control of the Muslims and the Croats. And all the youth will have gone abroad."

      Coast Town Is Attacked in Kenya; Dozens Die


      NAIROBI, Kenya — At least 48 people were killed when dozens of militants attacked a Kenyan coastal town overnight, targeting a police station and two hotels, officials said Monday.

      The government blamed a Somali extremist group, the Shabab, for the latest in a series of deadly assaults on civilians and foreigners in Kenya. On their Twitter account, the Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack “as a retaliation for Muslim clerics killed in Mombasa,” a port city on the Indian Ocean.

      “Kenya is now officially a war zone,” the Shabab said in a statement, “and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.”

      The violence began Sunday evening as residents of Mpeketoni, a town near the tourist resort of Lamu Island, were watching World Cup soccer matches on television, officials said. Residents had been watching a match at the Breeze View Hotel when the attackers took aside some of the men and gunned them down in front of the women.

      Explosions Kill 10 in Kenya as Western Embassies Warn of ThreatsMAY 16, 2014
      Kenya Defense Forces on the roof of the Westgate shopping mall, on Tuesday.Before Kenya Attack, Rehearsals and Planting of Machine GunsSEPT. 24, 2013
      The authorities said that gunmen emerged from two minibuses before starting the assault, in which at least one police officer was killed. Some panicked residents ran for cover in nearby bushes as the shooting began, the police said.

      Sri Lanka shaken by religious violence
      Police use tear gas and enforce curfew in two coastal towns to end fighting between Muslims and Buddhists.
      Last updated: 16 Jun 2014 07:49


      Sri Lankan police have fired tear-gas and enforced a curfew in two coastal towns popular with tourists in an attempt to end clashes between Muslims and Buddhists that threatens to set off wider religious violence.

      The police said on Sunday they were widening a curfew in Aluthgama to the neighbouring town Beruwala, a predominantly Muslim area, after violence threatened to take hold in the region.

      According to the AFP news agency, the two groups attacked each other with stones in fighting over the weekend - the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit the island nation.

      A police spokesman said trouble began when a group led by Buddhist monks tried to march in an area with a sizeable population of Muslims, who are a minority in the mainly Buddhist country.

      "The curfew was declared to bring the situation under control," the spokesman said.

      "The curfew was extended to a neighbouring area to prevent an escalation of clashes."

      "Several Muslim-owned shops have been burned and homes attacked," a resident in Beruwala told AFP.

      "Some Buddhists are deliberately targeting Muslims. But unfortunately police have not been able to protect the minorities," Hilmy Ahmed, spokesperson of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera.

      "A petty feud between two individuals has been allowed to take a religious tone. The extremist Buddhists led by Bodu Bala Sena attacked Muslims and are still in the area despite curfew."

      There were no reports of arrests but dozens of people were said to have been injured.

      Appeal for restraint

      President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is in Bolivia attending the G77 summit, has called for restraint with the promise that the government will not allow anyone "to take the law into their own hands".

      "An investigation will be held for law to take its course of action to bring to book those responsible for incidents in Aluthgama," he said in a Twitter message.

      The latest unrest came weeks after Muslim legislators asked Rajapaksa to protect their minority community from "Buddhist extremist elements" blamed for a recent spate of hate attacks.

      Muslims make up about 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 20-million population.

      Nationalist Buddhist groups, including the Bodu Bala Sena, accuse religious minorities of having undue political and economic influence on the island.

      Videos posted on YouTube have shown mobs led by Buddhist monks throwing stones and smashing a Christian church in southern Sri Lanka in January, and attacking mosques while police looked on.

      Senior Buddhist monks have also been caught on video threatening violence against their moderate colleagues who advocate tolerance.

      Rajapaksa, who is a Buddhist, warned monks in January last year not to incite religious violence.

      Vandals Set Crimean Mosque on Fire
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Friday, 13 June 2014 00:00


      SIMFEROPOL – Unknown vandals have attacked Chukurcha-Jami mosque in Crimea, drawing Nazi swastikas before setting the mosque on fire in a new provocation to Crimea’s Tatar Muslim, Crimean News Agency reported on Friday, June 13.

      The attack which occurred on Thursday, June 12, was caught on surveillance cameras video which showed men throwing Molotov cocktails.

      Imam of Simferopol Muhammed Islamov said the incident was a provocation and the guilty would be found soon.

      The attack is not the first on the mosque which faced another hate attack in 2004.

      Another attack by a group of militants, identifying themselves as "Russian Orthodox Cossacks", has targeted local church of the Kyiv Patriarchate in Crimea in Perevalnoe village, during Sunday Divine Liturgy and beat members of the faithful on June 1.

      The police officers, who came after three hours and stood on a side of the attackers, claimed that “Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate is anti-Russian”.

      The Tatars, who have inhabited Crimea for centuries, were deported in May 1944 by Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with the Nazis.

      The entire Tatar population, more than 200,000 people, was transported in brutal conditions thousands of miles away to Uzbekistan and other locations. Many died along the way or soon after arriving.

      The Soviets confiscated their homes, destroying their mosques and turning them into warehouses. One was converted into a Museum of Atheism.

      It was not until perestroika in the late 1980s that most of the Tatars were allowed back, a migration that continued after Ukraine became independent with the Soviet collapse in 1991.

      The 300,000-strong Muslim minority makes up less than 15 percent of Crimea's population of 2 million and has so far been overwhelmingly opposed to Russia's annexation of the peninsula.

      The Russian move to annex Crimea followed an earlier vote in March on the peninsula’s future.

      The referendum, approved by 96 percent, was followed by several steps from pro-Moscow Crimean parliament, issuing a law that allows Russia’s annexation of the disputed peninsula.

      The hastily organized March 16 referendum was boycotted by Tatars who rejected as held at gunpoint under the gaze of Russian soldiers.

      Welcome to Berlin's House of One – a church, synagogue and mosque
      TONY PATERSON Author Biography BERLIN Sunday 08 June 2014


      It has been dubbed the "Wonder of Berlin". And if a Protestant pastor, a rabbi and an imam can realise their shared dream, the world's first house of prayer for three religions will open its doors in the German capital in four years' time, with the building costs being paid for by donations.

      The unique project is called the "House of One", and its aim is to provide a place of worship and contemplation for adherents of the world's three main monotheistic faiths, although the building will also be open to all. It will house a church, a synagogue and a mosque under one roof.

      "Berlin is the city of wounds and miracles," said Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin, one of the three behind the project. "It is the city in which the extermination of the Jews was planned. Now, the first house in the world for three religions is to be built here," he added.

      The fundraising drive was launched this week, with a symbolic handing over of the first brick. The House of One's backers hope to raise the €43.5m (£35m) needed to construct the hexagonal-shaped brick building, on a site next to Berlin's central Museum Island, entirely through sponsorship. Anyone can donate money online. A single brick costs ¤10.

      The idea was born in 2009, when archaeologists excavating a section of ground on Museum Island unearthed the remnants of Berlin's earliest church, the Petrikirche, and the city's Latin school, which dates back to 1350.

      Iceland's First Mosque Faces Uproar
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Friday, 06 June 2014 00:00


      REYKJAVIK – Plans to launch the construction works of the first mosque in Iceland have been causing lots of uproar in the Nordic island, amid increasing hate speech on the social networking websites against the religious minority.

      “The consequences could be very, very serious for our community,” Salman Tamimi, founder of the Muslim Association of Iceland, told visir.is.

      The uproar surrounding plans to construct Iceland’s first mosque started two weeks ago when Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir asked city authorities to go back on their promise to the Muslim Association of Iceland on a free lot to build a mosque in Reykjavík.

      “While we have a national church we shouldn’t allocate lots for buildings like mosques or churches for the Greek Orthodox Church [she meant the Russian Orthodox Church],” Sveinbjörg told visir.is.

      Giving her comments during municipal election campaign, Sveinbjörnsdóttir, the Progressive party’s leader in Reykjavík, sparked anti-Muslim uproar in social media websites.

      The hate comments were also dominant in comments on a news article published on visir.is on Sunday with the heading ‘Could start to build mosque after the weekend’.

      Some of the comments on the website were particularly harsh and were directed towards Salman and Ibrahim Sverrir Agnarsson, chair of the association, Iceland On Review website reported.

      The comments angered Tamimi, founder of the Muslim Association of Iceland, and his lawyer, Helga Vala Helgadóttir, who declared plans to bring charges against those who made the comments on Vísir.

      “They just wanted to get votes and it didn’t matter how they got them,” he said, referring to the Progressive Party’s anti-mosque comments.

      The Nordic country of Iceland has one of the smallest Muslim communities in the world with only 770 people registered with the official Muslim organizations in the country (as of 2013).

      This corresponds to 0.2% of the population of Iceland.

      Chinese Hospital Bans Ramadan Fasting
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Friday, 06 June 2014 00:00


      Muslim Prayer, Adhan Enter Vatican
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Saturday, 07 June 2014 00:00


      ROME – For the first time in history, Muslim prayer and adhan would be heard in the Vatican city after Pope Frances invited Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s Shimon Perez for a peace prayer.

      "This is a moment to invoke God for the gift of peace. This is a pause in politics," Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a Church official in charge of Catholic sites in the Holy Land and a key organizer of Sunday's encounter, told Reuters on Friday, June 6.

      "This is also an invitation to politicians to pause and look heavenward," Pizzaballa told a Vatican briefing.

      "Everyone wants something to happen, something to change. Everyone is tired of these eternal negotiations that never end…"

      Francis issued the invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit last week to Jordan and Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem).

      Abbas, Peres, and Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders, a statement released by Peres’s spokesperson said, according to the Times of Israel.

      The Vatican’s special event would be broadcasted to viewers across the world.

      Francis is expected to greet Peres and Abbas separately at the Vatican hotel where he lives and have a brief one-on-one with each of the men.

      The Pope will be joined by the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, demonstrating a united Christian front for the event.

      The four will then travel to a field in the Vatican gardens for the prayer ceremony divided into three parts as Jewish, Christian and Muslim.

      Each faith group would be reading texts from their respect holy books, a prayer for forgiveness, and a prayer for peace.

      The need for circumcision among men


      China's Uighurs claim cultural 'genocide'
      Why the Uighur people will continue to reject China's colonial and apartheid rule.
      Last updated: 02 Jun 2014 08:43
      Alim A Seytoff
      Alim A Seytoff is the spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress and the president of Uyghur American Association based in Washington, DC.


      When people in the Muslim East and democratic West thought of China, they tended to think of it as a unified, strong, homogeneous and peaceful nation of Chinese people with a long, shared history happily living and advancing under Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) glorious rule.

      In the relaxed post-Cold War political atmosphere, and especially after the West had engaged China, they tended to think of China as if it were a democracy, completely ignoring or subconsciously forgetting that China was still being ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Impressed by the breathtaking state-led development in China over the past 30 years and wanting strongly to enter the huge Chinese market to make millions, many nations and big corporations simply turned a blind eye to China's policies of heavy-handed repression of the Turkic and Muslim Uighur people of East Turkestan, which China renamed "Xinjiang".

      However, the myth of a unified, strong, homogeneous and peaceful China has been increasingly challenged and shattered by the recent series of tragic events in East Turkestan and inner China, shocking both the Chinese people and the international community who were used to believing Beijing's interpretation of the political history of annexed territories and its so-called preferential treatment of the minorities.

      On May 22, Chinese state media reported a bombing at an open market in Urumqi which caused the deaths of 31 people and injured 94. Although no Uighur group claimed responsibility, Beijing blamed the Uighurs. The attack was a latest in a series of attacks, including the Urumqi train station, Kunming train station and Tiananmen Square, allegedly carried out by the Uighurs. The attack on civilians was deplorable.

      While the Chinese government continues to blame the violence on the "three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism", many Chinese were brutally awakened to the facade of Beijing's narrative of a "peaceful liberation of Xinjiang" and the "happy dancing and singing" Uighurs in colourful costumes who offer nothing but praise to China's colonial rule in East Turkestan.

      The bad blood between the Chinese state and Uighur people didn't begin yesterday. It began when Chinese communist forces led by General Wang Zhen occupied the East Turkestan Republic in October 1949 with the support of the Soviet Union and pacified the resistant Uighur people through public executions and massacres. Tens of thousands of Uighurs were killed by Wang's troops in communist China's conquest of East Turkestan.

      Promises of self-rule

      Although Chinese communists initially promised self-rule and even independence for non-Chinese people, it soon reneged on its promise after annexation and established the "Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region" in 1955. Contrary to Beijing's claims that "Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of China since ancient times", Xinjiang in Chinese literally means "New Territory".

      The name "Xinjiang" is a direct insult heaped upon the indigenous Uighur people who have lived there for thousands of years while the use of "East Turkestan" by Uighurs is criminalised. The Uighur people, like the Tibetans and Mongols, have never enjoyed autonomy in their so-called Autonomous Region because all the political, military, police and economic decision-making powers are in the hands of Chinese officials. Uighurs at all government levels serve as figureheads, including the regional chairman.

      Since China annexed East Turkestan, the relationship between the Chinese state and the indigenous Uighurs has been one of coloniser and colonised. In order to control the "New Territory", China ruthlessly suppressed any sign of Uighur unrest and transferred millions of loyal Chinese settlers into East Turkestan, providing them with jobs, housing, bank loans and economic opportunities denied to Uighurs.

      At the same time, Chinese state corporations exploited the abundant natural resources of East Turkestan and transferred them to the Chinese motherland, leaving nothing to the Uighurs. While East Turkestan which is roughly the size of Iran possesses huge reserves of natural gas, oil, gold, uranium, coal and other minerals, the living standard of Uighurs is one of the lowest in China. The Uighur population in East Turkestan, which was nearly 90 percent in 1949, is now only 45 percent, while the Chinese population grew disproportionately due to state-sponsored mass settlement from around six percent in 1953 to the current 40 percent (excluding the Chinese military, seasonal workers and floating population). Many Uighurs believe Chinese are already a majority since Beijing continues to encourage their settlement.

      The Uighur resentment toward Chinese rule comes from their loss of independence, failure to master and change their political destiny, and the sense of being overwhelmed by millions of Chinese settlers, who threaten their very existence as an historic, sovereign, and indigenous majority in their homeland of East Turkestan. They also resent the current Chinese colonial and apartheid rule, the systematic repression of Uighur people since 1949 and the reframing of its wholesale attack on the Uighurs as a fight against "Islamic terrorism" since 9/11.

      Cultural 'genocide'

      What is more, China tested 45 nuclear devices, both under and above ground, between 1964 and 1996 in East Turkestan, polluting air, water, land, and slowly killing both people and livestock due to the effects of radiation. Uighur resentment toward Chinese rule was further reinforced by China's current policies of cultural "genocide" on Uighur identity, culture, religious beliefs and practices, in addition to Chinese soldiers' extrajudicial and indiscriminate killings of Uighur men, women and children.

      The Uighurs feel powerless to defend their historic homeland, their way of life, identity, culture, language and religion from Beijing's ever-intensifying onslaught and Chinese settlers appropriating everything that once belonged rightfully to them. When moderate Uighurs such as Professor Ilham Tohti and linguist Abduweli Ayup who had tried to work within the Chinese system were denounced and arrested, some then took matters into their hands out of desperation and committed horrific acts of political violence against not only Chinese security forces, but also against settlers.

      Such attacks were immediately taken advantage of by Beijing to skillfully spin the narrative that it faced a "terrorist threat from Muslim Uighurs" and "China was also a victim of terrorism" in order to win public opinion both in China and the world and silence international criticism of its subsequent heavy-handed repression. Regardless of how China spins the story, the vast majority of Uighurs are peaceful and hoping for a peaceful change. Our repeated calls for a peaceful dialogue to resolve the political situation have fallen on deaf ears in Beijing. We believe a peaceful resolution of the East Turkestan issue is in the interest of both sides and the vicious cycle of violence has proven to be not a solution at all.

      The Chinese government must understand that East Turkestan cannot be a land of opportunity and prosperity for the colonising Chinese settlers and a land of death and destruction for the indigenous Uighur people. Simply put, Beijing cannot maintain political stability or create ethnic harmony in East Turkestan by pointing a gun at every Uighur's head and fight the so-called three evil forces by treating all Uighurs as terror suspects or enemies of the Chinese state.

      China has a clear choice - either treat the Uighur people as genuine Chinese citizens by honouring China's constitution and Regional Ethnic Autonomy Laws, or treat them as non-Chinese citizens and allow them self-determination to pursue their own political future. The Uighur people, just like the Tibetans, will simply continue to reject China's colonial and apartheid rule in their homeland in the 21st century.

      The ball is in Beijing's court. If China continues to resist choosing either, but rather applies the same old failing method of heavy-handed repression on the one hand and forcible assimilation on the other, then it only means China has chosen war with all Uighurs and China will eventually turn its "New Territory" into its own Palestine.

      Alim A Seytoff is the spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress and the president of Uyghur American Association based in Washington, DC.

      Brazil Muslims Welcome World Cup Fans
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Friday, 30 May 2014 00:00


      CAIRO – As Brazil government were adding the final touches on World Cup preparations, a Brazilian active Muslim community was working around the clock to prepare their own welcome for hundreds of thousands of fans expected to arrive soon in the South American country.

      “We expect around 50,000 Muslim fans to visit for the World Cup, mainly from Iran, Nigeria and Algeria, but also from countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia and the Gulf region,” Ali Hussein El Zoghbi, the Brazil-born vice-president of the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil (Fambras), told Emirati newspaper The National.

      “We see this as a great chance not only to welcome Muslims, but also to spread the positive word of Islam to non-Muslims.”

      Hosted by Brazil for the second time, the FIFA World Cup football tournament would run from June 12 to July 13, 2014.

      Twelve cities are scheduled to host matches: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manuas, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

      A total of 32 teams split into eight groups will be vying for the coveted World Cup trophy in Brazil, including six countries with a Muslim majority or large Muslim population including Algeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

      Finalizing their preparations for the huge event, staff at Fambras was preparing their own welcome to about 600,000 fans expected to visit the country during the month-long competition.

      Fambras has several initiatives to “help dispel prejudice and ignorance of Islam,” El Zoghbi said.

      Earlier this month, the group announced that a special guide book has been published in Brazil for Muslim fans in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

      Titled “Salam (hello) Barazil”, 65,000 copies of the 32-page booklet have been published by the Union of Islamic Associations of Brazil in cooperation with the Omani embassy in the South American country.

      Al-Zuqbi said the book provides Muslim fans with addresses of Islamic centers, places of worship, Halal restaurants and entertainment centers whose activities are in accordance with Islamic Shari`ah laws.

      Smart Da`wah

      Along with the written guide, the federation prepared a cuddly bearded mascot called Salaminho (Little Salam), a smart phone application and a a hotline to advise visitors on how to observe Islam while in Brazil.

      Moreover, Fambras has planned special visits to hotels where teams from the six Muslim countries would stay.

      The visit would aim at educating hotel staff on the workings of Ramadan, expected to start in the middle of the competition on June 28, and any special requirements that may be expected of them.

      “In some of these countries — Iran is a good example — football is a national passion like it is in Brazil,” El Zoghbi, whose father moved to Sao Paulo from Lebanon in 1949, said.

      “We have contacted all 32 teams and told them we are available to help in whatever they need.”

      Along with the printed guide Fambras will launch its smartphone app next Sunday.

      The app will include a compass to locate the direction of Makkah for daily prayers and a list of halal restaurants in each of the host cities.

      A 12-hour daily phone service — in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and Portuguese — will also launch before the tournament starts.

      Ahmed Khalaf, an Egyptian who works at Fambras added that another service would include a branded “Salam Bus” which will travel around the country distributing a wide range of books in several languages.

      The bus will carry the slogans “Conheco o Islam” (Know Islam) and “Islam é Paz” (Islam is peace).

      “I have lived in Brazil for four years,” Khalaf said.

      “The situation is different as the Muslim here is in the minority, but the most important thing is still to make sure your religion is the most important part of your life. For instance, I make all my prayers, even if I am on the metro.

      “People take an interest and ask me questions, but it is never a problem. People are open-minded.”

      Young and in love in Indonesia? Beware, in Banda Aceh the sharia police are watching
      MARIE DHUMIERES Author Biography BANDA ACEH Tuesday 20 May 2014


      It's almost sunset in Banda Aceh and the locals rush towards Ulee Lheue beach before the barrier goes down. The authorities close access to this popular spot after 6pm, to prevent promiscuity between unmarried couples.

      Many families, couples, and groups of friends have arrived early, and enjoy a drink or corn on the cob at one of the food stalls lining the seaside. On the pier by the port, several couples brave the law by sitting closely together, sometimes holding hands. Luckily for them, the sharia police don't seem to be coming this evening. Islamic sharia law was adopted in 2001, a “gift” from Jakarta to quell separatist ambitions in this very religious part of Indonesia. A series of bylaws passed since impose Islamic dress code and forbid gambling, alcohol consumption and “seclusion” between unmarried couples.

      Twenty-year old Leonie, chatting with two male friends while watching the sun go down on the sea, is one of the few women around not wearing a headscarf. She has been stopped by the sharia police before, at one of the checkpoints they regularly set up to “advise” people who do not abide by the dress code. Headscarves are mandatory, and wearing tight trousers or shirts, or for men, shorts, are a no-go. Leonie remembers the embarrassment of being reprimanded in public while having to wait with sharia police officers for her parents to come and pick her up. She hasn't learned her lesson though, and still refuses to cover her head. “I sometimes get comments on the street but I don't care, it's my problem.” What will she do if the sharia police come now? “Run,” she laughs.

      At the North-Western tip of the Indonesian archipelago, Aceh - Banda Aceh is the capital - is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to partly enforce sharia law, as part of a special autonomy status agreement that put an end to a 30 year conflict between Aceh separatists and the central government in Jakarta.

      The sharia police have registered 13,000 offences between 2009 and 2013, the head of the unit, Zulkarnain, tells The Independent. He says “minor violations” of sharia law don't usually end up in the sharia court, even though the law states that three violations to the Islamic dress code requirements are punishable by caning. “This has never been enforced,” he says.

      Serious violations, such as adultery and non-marital sex, are handled more severely. At the sharia police headquarters in Banda Aceh, a man and woman in their thirties are being questioned. The unmarried couple were caught having sex at a barber's shop. A suspicious neighbour had alerted the sharia police, a sign, says chief investigator Mazuki Ali, that the people support the sharia law enforcement. The investigation is ongoing, but Mazuki Ali says they face between six and nine strokes of the cane.

      Although rarely enforced in Banda Aceh - the last public caning took place in 2007 - the punishment is common in other parts of the province. In the Eastern Aceh town of Langsa, the case of a 25-year-old widow caught last week with a married man by eight men, who raped her as a punishment, has outraged human right activists, especially after local authorities said she will still be caned for adultery. “She can't get caned, she's a victim, what she needs is support,” says Suraiya Kamaruzzaman, director of the women's group Flower Aceh. In the same town in 2010, three sharia police officers raped a 20 year old girl who they had arrested for riding a motorcycle with her boyfriend.

      Activists monitoring the implementation of sharia law say abuses are on the rise, especially those committed by self-declared guardians of the law. Destika Gilang Lestari, director of the local human rights NGO, Kontras, says her organisation has recorded many cases of vigilante raids, in which young men often take it on themselves to punish offenders as it pleases them. “A couple was pushed into the river in Banda Aceh just a couple of weeks ago. People get beaten up, doused with sewage water, and they're often too scared to report it,” says Destika Gilang Lestari, who called the Langsa case a “barbaric act” and asked for the heaviest possible punishment. She says perpetrators too often remain unpunished, leading to a “misinterpretation” by vigilantes of what they're allowed to do.

      While cases such as the Langsa one undoubtedly tarnish the image of the province, officials insist Islam is practiced in a “tolerant” and “moderate” manner in Aceh. “This is not Afghanistan,” says the head of the sharia police. In 2009, the local parliament added stoning to death as a punishment for adultery in a draft Islamic criminal code, but the then governor of the province rejected it.

      Noting 2009 was an electoral year, the head of Aceh's Islamic sharia agency Syarizal Abbas suggests sharia is used as a political tool in parliament. “There seems to be a misinterpretation of what Islamic law is among Parliament members,” he says. “Islam in Acehnese society is very moderate. Implementation of sharia law in Aceh has to be done the soft way, it's more about education than punishment,” he adds.

      Several media have reported that the recent adoption of a new Islamic criminal code was taking sharia law to a stricter level by imposing it on everyone, including non-Muslims, but officials strongly deny the claims. “This is absolutely not true,” says Syarizal Abbass. He insists the criminal code is only procedural, meaning it only defines proceedings and not the substance of the law. In any case he says, Aceh's Special autonomy law clearly specifies that the sharia only applies to Muslims.

      For Muslims, who make up for 98 per cent of Acehnese, Islamic law enforcement is getting tougher. The Islamic criminal code adopted last February allows the sharia police to set up detention centres for suspected sharia offenders, and hold them for up to 20 days while their case is being investigated. Activists also say that sharia police raids on hotels and cafes, led by Banda Aceh's acting mayor - a woman - have intensified. Mazuki Ali says patrols do routine checks. “Patrols come at night, they check the hotel registry and if they suspect unmarried couples might be staying there, they check their rooms and IDs,” he says. If couples prove to be unmarried, they're taken to the police station.

      Sitting at a cafe in central Banda Aceh, Davi, and two of his female friends, Rita and Ayu, share stories about friends arrested for wearing tight clothes or walking around with someone of the opposite sex. A sharia police truck carrying a dozen officers drives by. “They raided this cafe two weeks ago,” comments 23-year-old Davi. “It's a bit too much. We just hang out, we do nothing wrong.”

      Czechs Afraid of Islam “Threat”
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:00


      CAIRO – An analysis into European voters’ preferences has found that about two-thirds of Czechs consider Islam as a “threat”, showing them as the most intolerant European country towards the religion practiced by more than one billion people worldwide.

      “The all-European comparison shows that Czech users of EUvox take stands that can be marked as the least tolerant of Islam,” Michaela Vojtková, from the Academy of Sciences Sociological Institute, told Prague Post.

      “Islam is seen as a threat in the Czech Republic more than in France or the Netherlands, whose inhabitants have a direct experience with coexistence with the religious minority.”

      The analysis has been carried out by the Sociological Institute for the results of Czechs who used the European election calculator EUvox.

      EUvox offers users 30 questions to help voters in their decision-making.

      Analyzing the opinions of 18,000 Czechs, the institute has found that one third of Czechs definitely consider Islam a threat. Overall, two thirds of Czechs are afraid of it.

      On the contrary, less than one tenth of EUvox users are definitely opposed to this opinion. About 20 percent of people do not know, or are indifferent to it.

      The assessment found that there was a big variation in Czechs’ opinion according to the party they support.

      For example, more than 90 percent of those who agree with the Dawn of Direct Democracy movement see Islam as a threat.

      A lesser percentage, 70 percent, was expressed by “voters” of the Party of Free Citizens, the ODS and those whose opinions are closest to ANO’s.

      About 60 percent of persons whose opinions are closest to the Communists' (KSČM) and the junior government Christian Democrats' (KDU-ČSL) are afraid of Islam.

      This also applies to about a half of “voters” of the Pirates, the senior government Social Democrats (ČSSD) and the opposition TOP 09.

      Twenty percent of Greens' “voters” are afraid of Islam, which is the least proportion.

      The fear of Islam among Czechs also varied according to age.

      Islam is feared more by older people, as some 70 percent of people over 60, compared with 44 percent of those aged 18 to 29, are afraid of it.

      “The results have shown that Europe is afraid of Islam,” Vojtková said.

      “Practically all over Europe, there are no negligible groups of voters who believe that Islam threatens their cultural traditions.”

      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.

      Terrified Muslim Tatars Flee Crimea
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Thursday, 15 May 2014 00:00


      LVIV — Joining hundreds of terrified Muslim Tatars, Ismail Ayubov has decided to flee his home in Crimea with his wife and two children, fleeing an ambiguous future under the Russian regime after annexation.

      “It can be dangerous for Muslims in Russia,” Ayubov told World Crunch website on Tuesday, May 13.

      “I was afraid of the armed militias,” added another man, Enver Mohammed.

      The 300,000-strong Muslim minority makes up less than 15 percent of Crimea's population of 2 million and has so far been overwhelmingly opposed to Russia's annexation of the peninsula.

      The Russian move to annex Crimea followed an earlier vote in March on the peninsula’s future.

      The referendum, approved by 96 percent, was followed by several steps from pro-Moscow Crimean parliament, issuing a law that allows Russia’s annexation of the disputed peninsula.

      The hastily organized March 16 referendum was boycotted by Tatars who rejected as held at gunpoint under the gaze of Russian soldiers.

      After Russian annexation of Crimea, fears of Muslim Tatars were doubled, voicing concerns over losing freedom and reviving the memories of exile and prosecution they faced in 1944.

      Moreover, a decision by Crimea’s self-appointed Crimean government to refuse Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, the chairman of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar assembly, for five years over his criticism to Moscow, added the Muslim concerns.

      The peninsula’s Chief Prosecutor General Natalia Poklonska threatened Monday to dissolve the Mejlis and initiate criminal proceedings against the demonstrators.

      Escaping an expected gloomy future, hundreds of Crimean Tatars have abandoned their homes, heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

      “Many don’t want to leave their life behind,” the 28-year-old Mohammed said.

      Anyway, “the referendum was a farce,” he added.

      New Life

      Fleeing their homes, Tatars formed groups to support new comers in Lviv.

      “Russia supposedly wants to protect minorities, but they’re only pretending,” said 25-year-old Alim Aliev, who has been living in Lviv for six years and currently supports the Tatars.

      Along with about 60 other activists, he helps find them places to live, collects <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)