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Euro Imams, Rabbis Pledge Zero Tolerance for Hate Preachers

British Imam Abdul-Jalil Sajid (in white) seated next to Yitzhak Halba, the Chief Rabbi of Turkey and Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Photo by Alan Azaria from Ha’aretz.

by Tom Heneghan and Nicholas Vinocur
from Reuters

PARIS (Reuters)- Seventy European Muslim and Jewish leaders pledged on Wednesday to show “zero tolerance” to hate preachers of any faith including their own ranks, citing what they called rising religious intolerance on the continent.

Imams, rabbis and community leaders from 18 countries agreed to jointly counter bigotry against Jews and Muslims and combat legal threats to common religious practices such as circumcision of boys and the kosher and halal ritual slaughter of animals.

The two-day meeting brought together Muslim-Jewish teams from around Europe to compare experiences in fighting religious prejudice and report on recent trends against minority faiths.

There have been several attacks on Jews in Europe this year, some from radical Muslims. In the worst case, a French Islamist killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse last March.

Extreme right-wing political parties are also increasingly agitating against Jews and Muslims, participants in the meeting said.

“We must institute a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against religious leaders of any faith who misuse their pulpits to incite religious bigotry,” they said in a declaration.
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September 15th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Bussy-Saint-Georges, the Town with Built-in Religious Harmony

Photography Credit to Philippe Wojazer/Reuters from the Guardian.

Workmen prepare the European Regional Temple in Bussy-Saint Georges.

by Stephanie Le Bars
from The Guardian Weekly

Hugues Rondeau is the Radical party mayor of Bussy-Saint-Georges, a new town in the Paris suburbs. His taste for “ordered urban space” has led to an innovation: the multi-faith district. On a plot of land just beyond the built-up area, he has authorised the construction of several places of worship.

“Here there will be two Buddhist temples, a mosque, a synagogue, a Chinese evangelical church and an Armenian cultural centre,” said the mayor, a practising Catholic who is convinced that in a secular state the government should not turn a blind eye to religious fact. “Our 30,000 inhabitants are mostly of foreign origin with 45% from Asia,” he said. “We couldn’t deprive them of their religious practice.”

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Europe’s Biggest Buddhist Temple to Open Outside Paris

The new temple in Bussy Saint Georges, near Disneyland Paris DR/blog-habitat-durable.com

by Angela Diffley
from Radio France Internationale

With a month to go until its official opening on 22 June, workers are adding the finishing touches to the biggest Buddhist Temple in Europe, situated in a special eco-friendly zone, just outside Paris.

A church, a synagogue, and a mosque in the same environmentally-friendly complex, will eventually complete this special ecumenical venture.

The huge 8000m2 construction in Bussy-Saint-Georges is built mostly in glass, wood, and unrefined concrete dotted with roof gardens. It is set amid extensive grounds filled with fruit trees.

The structure houses both a place of worship and a Buddhist cultural centre, and was designed by the Frédéric Rolland firm of architects.

An area open to the general public will include a vegetarian restaurant, and space for regular calligraphy workshops, meditation sessions and activities such as oriental tea-tasting.

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French Catholic School a Refuge for Muslims

Photo credit: Benoit Jurzynski

by Ruadhan MacCormaic
from the Irish Times

Marseille: It’s the Friday before mid-term break at Tour Sainte, and there’s a giddy mood in the yard as the children file out past Stéphane Thiébaut, the school principal. “Bonnes vacances,” he calls out to the parents and teachers milling about in the spring sunshine.

Tour Sainte has some of the best views in Marseille, its hilltop perch giving a wide panorama of the city and the Mediterranean. Birds are singing from the trees in the yard, while the glare of the warm sun against the peach buildings accentuates the calm. ‘We have built ourselves a little oasis of peace,” Thiébaut remarks.

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Strengthening Muslim-Jewish Ties in the Face of Evil

Jewish and Muslim leaders attend a silent march on March 25 to honor the victims of the Ozar Hatorah school shooting in Toulouse, France. Photo by REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Jewish and Muslim leaders attend a silent march on March 25 to honor the victims of the Ozar Hatorah school shooting in Toulouse, France. Photo by REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

by Marc Schneier and Shamsi Ali, JTA
from Jewish Journal

As a rabbi and an imam, we deeply mourn the tragic loss of innocent lives in the murderous terrorist attacks in France. We express our heartfelt sympathy and compassion for the bereaved.

Amid the wall-to-wall media coverage of the attacks and their aftermath, one piece of the story has received less attention: the inspiring manner in which Muslims and Jews in France have stood side by side in denouncing these heinous acts.

Thousands of Muslims and Jews reacted to the savage killings of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse and the earlier murders of three French soldiers, including two Muslims, by joining together in solidarity marches in communities throughout Paris.

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April 3rd, 2012 at 7:55 am

French burqa and niqab ban: ‘Muslim women are being scapegoated’

Niqab wearer explains why she will continue to wear a veil despite the new ban in France

from the Guardian

Anne [not her real name], 32, is French and lives in a village south of the Burgundy town of Mâcon. A mother of four, she converted to Islam at 18 and has worn the niqab for five years

I’ve got a pregnancy scan on Friday. My doctor supports me wearing the niqab, but I’m not sure I’ll be allowed into the hospital. I could wear a medical facemask, bird-flu style. Other women have told me they’ll wear them to get round the ban and to keep their faces covered in state offices.

My husband, whose parents are Algerian, is afraid for me, but I won’t take the niqab off. I won’t change. That would be to renounce my values. I’m French, I was educated to believe in liberté, égalité, fraternité. My grandfather was an army officer on the beaches of Dunkirk and was imprisoned in Germany during the war. He always taught me: “If there’s an injustice in life, you can’t stay silent.”

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April 19th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

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Facing the veil in France

From The Washington Post

The newly enacted French ban on all face veils is a really poor response to a quite legitimate concern. The concern to which I refer is not what some see as the inevitable takeover of Europe by fundamentalist Muslims. That is an Islamophobic fantasy designed to instill fear and provoke hostility.

Nor is the concern that people who remain attached to the cultural practices which they bring from their nations of origin to their new homes will never acclimate to, or constructively participate in, the larger culture in which they live. That concern, while more legitimate than the first, ignores the fact that effective acculturation is always a two-way street.

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What not to wear: outlawing the face veil

From The Washington Post

Two weeks ago the French Senate passed a piece of legislation 246 votes to one to outlaw the face veil worn by a small number of the country’s Muslim women, with President Nicolas Sarkozy stating, in no uncertain terms, that the face veil is “not welcome” in France.

The law follows at the heels of the Belgian parliament’s ban on the full face veil–known as the burqa or niqab–in public places. “It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual,” said Daniel Bacquelaine, who proposed the bill, adding that he was not targeting the classic headscarf worn by many Muslim women. “Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society,” he declared to the press.

Although the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights can challenge such a ban as a violation of international human rights laws, Italy and the Netherlands have not been dissuaded from considering joining the fray. The hostility towards Muslims, in particular Muslim women and their garb, appears ubiquitous in Europe these days and can only be described as a step backwards for Western society.

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October 9th, 2010 at 6:00 am

What Not to Wear: Dictating Islamic Fashion in France

From The Huffington Post

Over the summer, I took a brief vacation to Paris. The biggest problem I have when I vacation is leaving my day job behind, and as a religion scholar with particular interest in the place of Islam in modern Europe, my hijab and burqa radars were on high while in France. After all, the debate over the wearing of veils in France is followed throughout the world.

After spending three full days walking the streets of Paris, including a significant part of one day in the neighborhood around the Grand Mosque of Paris, I tallied up the number of burqas I saw. The total was zero. Well, make that one if you include niqabs (similar to burqas, but they leave a slit around the eyes). The evidence is certainly anecdotal, and my visit all too short to get a better picture, but on the surface, it really didn’t seem as if France had a major burqa problem.

Most estimates of the number of burqa-wearers in France, approximately 2,000 (if that many) out of five to six million Muslims, reinforce my observations. This is not a common garment worn by Muslim women, and yet the government’s campaign against burqas and niqabs in public places, culminating in Tuesday’s ban, has been aggressive. This is reminiscent of Switzerland’s ban on minarets last November, even though the country has only four minarets, none of which is used for the call to prayer. A trend is emerging in parts of Europe when it comes to banning Islamic symbols that, depending on the region, scarcely exist to begin with.

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September 16th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

France House of Parliament Votes to Ban Burqa

From The New York Times,

PARIS — France’s lower house of Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to approve a ban on the wearing of veils that cover the face in public places.

The draft bill, only seven articles, passed by 335 votes to 1 in the National Assembly, with mostly abstentions from the main opposition Socialist Party, which was divided over how to respond to the popular bill.

The Senate will vote on the bill in September, when it is expected to become law. Judicial challenges are expected both in France, where the Council of State will examine its constitutionality, and at the European Court of Human Rights.

The draft bill says that “no one can, in the public space, wear clothing intended to hide the face.” The bill also defines “public space” broadly, including streets, markets and private businesses, as well as government buildings and public transportation.

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July 16th, 2010 at 4:00 pm