By Geoff Mortimore, from The Local:

As religious tensions continue to cause friction in Sweden and elsewhere, Lutherans, Catholics, and Muslims in a small Stockholm suburb have come together to present a new model for religious tolerance, The Local’s Geoff Mortimore discovers.On the other side of the Atlantic, an emotional debate rages about the suitability of building a mosque near the Ground Zero site in New York City.

At the same time, the recent political upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East has raised concerns in some quarters that religious fundamentalism may fill the void.



From France 24:

France will start enforcing a ban next month on full Islamic face veils, officials said on Thursday, meaning any veiled woman can be summoned to a police station and asked to remove her face-covering or pay a fine.

Officials say the law is mainly symbolic and police will not call in every veiled woman they see to avoid stigmatising Muslims.
But a Paris imam said forcing veiled women to present themselves at a police station would be just as uncomfortable.
When France passed the ban on full face veils last year, Muslim leaders voiced concern it could lead to veiled women being unfairly treated by police or singled out for harassment.
“My gut reaction is to say this is all a bit clumsy,” said Moussa Niambele, the imam of a mosque in the north of Paris.


From the Economist:

IT WAS an unusual book launch. Journalists jammed themselves into a suite of overcrowded rooms at the headquarters of Berlin’s press corps. Security was tighter than for appearances by the chancellor. When the author at last showed up he was greeted with the flashbulb fireworks you expect on the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre. The centre of the fuss was Thilo Sarrazin, a rather dour economist who sits on the board of the Bundesbank. His book, “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (“Germany does away with itself”) is explosive.

In a nutshell, Mr Sarrazin’s argument is that the right sort of German women are having too few babies and that the wrong sort—Muslims and those with little education—are having too many. The result is not only that Germany’s population is shrinking, it is also getting dumber. “With higher relative fertility among the less intelligent, the average intelligence of the population declines,” he writes. His defence of eugenics—through policies to encourage fertility among smart women—seems like a throwback to a grimmer time.


From Spiegel Online:

Are Muslim immigrants a drag on German prosperity? A new book by provocateur Thilo Sarrazin, a board member of the German central bank, argues that they are. His over-the-top comments have triggered yet another debate on immigration in the country.

Thilo Sarrazin has never been one to mince words. The German central bank board member and former senior city official in Berlin has long been a strident critic of German immigration policies, even going so far as to say in an interview last autumn that immigrants sponge off the state, are incapable of integrating themselves into German society and “constantly produce little girls in headscarves.”

In the interview, which appeared in the cultural magazine Lettre International, he also said that “a large number of Arabs and Turks in (Berlin) … have no productive function other than in the fruit and vegetable trade.” In the same interview, he claimed that the Turks were “conquering Germany … through a higher birthrate.”This week, though, the Social Democrat (SPD) seems to have outdone himself. German media outlets, including SPIEGEL, have published excerpts of his soon-to-be-published book on Germany’s supposed demise. As Sarrazin makes abundantly clear, that demise comes as a result of immigration. The bluntness with which he presents his ideas has kicked off a debate in Germany, and within the center-left SPD, as to whether Sarrazin has crossed the line into racism and whether he should be censured.


By John Esposito, for the Washington Post:

One of the frequent battle cries raised by those who warn that Muslims want to overwhelm the West is that that Muslims want to impose Shariah in America and Europe. Just as critics of Islam in the West question whether Islam is compatible with democracy and Muslims can be loyal citizens, many Muslims, in light of the rise and increase of Islamophobia and threats to their civil liberties, ask if democracy can accommodate Islam. Others, Some Muslims in the West in light of have also questioned, for different reasons, whether they could be both good Muslims and loyal citizens in of “foreign” non-Muslim states based on a Western secular laws? More isolationist and militant Muslims tend to associate Western countries and societies with kufr, unbelief, and look upon its citizens as unbelievers to be avoided, converted or attacked.

While devout Jews can follow Jewish law and Christians follow their doctrines and laws and be at the same time fully American citizens, can Muslims? What is the relationship of the need to follow Shariah to Muslims living in non-Muslim societies? Is there something peculiar about Islam that presents Muslim from living in a secular pluralistic America or Europe?


By Pankaj Mishra, for the New Yorker:

Was the prophet Muhammad a pervert and a tyrant? Does Islam promote terrorism and enslave women? Does Islam oblige its followers to wage jihad on Westerners whose roots lie in the secular Enlightenment? Should Muslims consider converting to Christianity? For the Somali-born writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “Yes!” Hirsi Ali, who renounced Islam in her thirties, speaks from experience of bigotry and intolerance among her former co-religionists: she was genitally mutilated as a child in Somalia, briefly radicalized by a preacher of jihad in Kenya, nearly forced into a marriage, threatened with death in the Netherlands by the Muslim assassin of her collaborator, the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and is still hounded by murderous fanatics in her new home, America. In her latest book, “Nomad: From Islam to America” (Free Press; $27), she reminds her readers of the West’s tradition of intellectual revolt against clerical tyranny and warns of the insidious, intransigent enemies in their midst. “The Muslim mind today seems to be in the grip of jihad,” she writes.She is not hopeful that Americans will heed her warning. Her initial job interviews in the United States were discouraging: the Brookings Institution, she writes, worried that she might offend Arab Muslims. (The conservative American Enterprise Institute, however, immediately appointed her as a fellow.) On college campuses, Muslim students accuse her of wanting to “trash” Islam, while Western feminists, convinced that white men are “the ultimate and only oppressors,” lack the “courage or clarity of vision” to help her knock down the mental “hovels” of the East. Pointing to Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s murderous rampage in Texas, last November, she deplores the “conspiracy to ignore the religious motivation for these killings” in America.

Muslims today, Hirsi Ali believes, must be forced to choose between the darkness of Islam and the light of the modern secular West. In her new book, which bears the additional subtitle “A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations,” she takes an uncompromising line with her own relatives, who remain faithful to their benighted religion. The book opens with an account of her visit to her father’s deathbed, in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, in 2008. Her father, a highly respected political opponent of Somalia’s Soviet-backed military dictator, became more religious during exile and old age. Father and daughter hadn’t spoken since 2004, when Hirsi Ali and van Gogh made the film “Submission,” about the oppression of Muslim women, and she learned that he was fatally ill only a few weeks before his death. She didn’t want to visit him at his home, since it was in “a mostly immigrant area and overwhelmingly Muslim,” and had to be escorted by policemen to his hospital. In a brief but moving scene, she describes her father longing, but physically unable, to communicate with her.


Book review by David Rieff, from the World Affairs Journal:

For Christopher Caldwell, an American columnist for the Financial Times and contributor to the New York Times Magazine and the Weekly Standard, the end of Europe as we have known it and as it has known itself is not just possible but inevitable. His new book is a grim explication of this thesis and an investigation—part reportage, part history, part analysis, part social theory—both of the deep roots within European culture and politics for this looming catastrophe, and of its proximate cause, which, for Caldwell, is obvious and undeniable: the mass migration of Muslim immigrants to Europe and the sinister prospect of their dominance. His book, he writes, asks “whether you can have the same Europe with different people. The answer is no.”

Caldwell is so utterly persuaded that post-1945 Europe is “a civilization in decline” that he barely sees the need to confront the argument of those who take a more optimistic view. In his telling, Europe’s prosperity, technological sophistication, and success in assuring the material well-being of more of its population than any society (including that of the United States) has ever been able to assure in human history, is largely irrelevant, at least when compared with Europe’s spiritual loss of faith in itself. For Caldwell, as for Schopenhauer, Dostoyevsky, Shestov, Spengler, and Cioran, whose worldview his book largely shares, Napoleon’s maxim, that in war “the moral is to the material as three to one,” would seem to apply to society as a whole.

What does puzzle Caldwell is why this decline has been so precipitous. And while he discusses a number of the elements at some length, including the decline of Christianity, above all in the sense that religion provided an anchor to European identity—a perspective that in his view has made Europeans particularly susceptible to a debilitating form of universalism—he seems to realize that, taken together, all of this explains very little. He is reduced to saying the continent is “missing some hard-to-define factor” that would allow its elites to stop conniving in their own disappearance. If he can’t say what exactly that factor is, Caldwell is persuaded that Europe can’t either. And that is his essential point: this incapacity to know and define European values explains why Muslim immigrants will transform Europe culturally and politically instead of the other way around, which would seem more likely, given the economic, educational, and political imbalance in Europe’s favor.