by John L. Esposito and Sheila B. Lalwani, for the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Pew Center on Religion & Public Life recently released a comprehensive study of Muslim populations around the world that should allay fears among many of an impending global Muslim takeover and debunk widely held beliefs about Muslims. The findings of “The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030” should also challenge the public to reconsider its perception of Islam and Muslims.

Skeptics, particularly those in Europe and North America, have long sounded alarm bells regarding the growth of the Muslim population.

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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.

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Zuhdi Jasser

During the past few months, a brouhaha grew over the construction of a Muslim Cultural Center, known as the “Cordoba House,” near ground zero. The center was dubbed a “mosque” by its detractors; the supporters, however, proclaimed that it was a Cultural Center, which would serve as a response to the perpetrators who conducted the atrocious attacks against America on 9/11 as well as serve as a memorial. Indeed, within the Cordoba House, there is also a project underway to construct a prayer space for Muslims. Of course, it is this particular project that is galvanizing some individuals to take to the streets and protest against it. One individual, who spoke out against the mosque and is celebrated by the media and the right-wing as the true, unapologetic moderate Muslim, was Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

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Image from Swissinfo.ch

By Nicholas Kulish, from the New York Times:

BERLIN — Vandals damaged several pieces of a memorial to the pregnant Egyptian woman who was stabbed to death in a Dresden courtroom last year, police said Friday.

The killing of the woman, Marwa al-Sherbini, 31, led to an outcry in the Arab and Muslim worlds and demonstrations in her native Egypt. Organizers are in the process of erecting 18 knife-shaped concrete columns around the city to memorialize her murder, one for each time she was stabbed.

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By Gana Pianigiani, for the New York Times:

SIENA, Italy — No horse race is more sacred in Italy than the Palio, which traces its lineage back 700 years. This year, however, the hotly contested chase has taken an unexpectedly ecumenical — and disputed — twist.

For the first time, a Muslim painter was asked to design the Palio, or banner, that the winner takes home at the end of the race, which is conducted two days every year around Siena’s distinctive shell-shaped square.

Not everyone was pleased with the choice, though that was not evident Friday evening, when residents of the winning district, or contrada, as Siena’s 17 neighborhoods within the city walls are known, jumped over fencing that lined the square to grab the Palio, crying and shouting with joy.

The horse representing their contrada had won the race, and they did not seem particularly bothered that the banner has generated controversy in the local and national media during the past weeks over what some have called “a profanation” of the Sienese tradition.

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By Federico Ferrone, Michele Manzolini and Akram Adouani, from AlJazeera English:

Italy is a popular destination, but not just for tourists. Each year thousands of illegal immigrants arrive on Italy’s shores, mostly via boats from Libya and Tunisia.

Italy’s conservative government has responded by passing tougher anti-immigration laws, but the situation is turning explosive.

Roberto Calderoli, a minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s government, says: “When they reach our shores, we should send them back to where they came from. Not accept them from Libya’s coast.”

Some accuse the government of racism and Islamophobia, others believe the immigrants are an “enemy within”.

“When we first arrived, Perugia was the city that attracted the most students. All those coming to Italy were students. No-one came for work because back then Italy did not offer job opportunities to foreigners,” says Altonji Ridwan, the director of the Islamic Centre in Bologna.

“We were all university students, mostly of medicine, engineering or pharmacology. These attracted the most university students.”

Ridwan says that at the end of the 1980s, and in the early and mid 1990s, the purpose of immigration changed from studying to job-hunting due to the poor economic situation in Arab and third world countries.

“This has caused a problem. Along with the good Muslims came some elements whose behaviour damaged the image of the good Muslims here. We are not responsible for the behaviour of these people who act in a non-Islamic way. But their incorrect behaviour was exploited and focused upon in order to brand all Muslims as violent, terrorists and drug dealers,” Ridwan says.

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From France 24:

French police have banned a Facebook street gathering that encouraged invitees to eat pork and drink wine in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Paris, saying the event presented a “serious risk to public order”.

AFP – Paris police on Tuesday banned a controversial “pork sausage and wine” street party planned by extremist groups to combat what they saw as the “Islamisation” of a city neighbourhood.

The event was planned for Friday evening at a time when the district’s streets are usually jammed with Muslims coming out of mosques and just before Algeria were due to play England in the football World Cup.

But police banned the event and any rival gatherings in the Goutte d’Or area of northern Paris’ 18th arrondissement, or district, saying in a statement that it was likely to cause “serious risks to public order.”

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