Netherlands Imam Gala Under Threat

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Eagle-eyed Telegraaf journalist Alexander Bakker sends us advanced word of an interesting event happening next March 8 in Rijswijk (a suburb of The Hague), check it out:

Rohamaa
As you can probably make out, it’s going to be a sort of imam-extravaganza: the smaller-type bits there just under the date speak of “Readings | Films | Live translation | Anasheed* | Child-care.”

I won’t be there, unfortunately, but I hope that doesn’t mean that I can’t remark how the poster Bakker retweets reminds me too much of some WWE event; much better is this one:

Rohamaa2

I found this one, naturally enough, on the website for the event’s main sponsor, the Rohamaa Foundation (Rohamaa = رحماء = “merciful”). That second poster, just like the first one, takes care to note that there will be separate lecture-halls for males and females. The two posters also share the prominent slogan Zij Hebben Recht Op Ons or “They have a right to us,” meaning “They have a right to our help,” for it’s clear from their website that Rohamaa is mainly a charitable foundation channeling financial contributions and other assistance to hot-spots in the Arab world (and, Allah knows – Syria! – these places do stand in need).

The thing is, I feel quite confident in saying that the staging of such a clearly Islamic public event would not per se excite notice in the media – i.e. this sort of thing is normally “dog-bites-man” by now. But no, there is a problem: three of the headline imams are of the sort of reputation that the Dutch authorities have denied them a visa to come. In turn, this has prompted the local Rijswijk authorities (civil government, police, courts) to confer on the issue; the local government spokesman is unsure “whether there will be a decision.” What sort of “decision” could we be talking about here? The Telegraaf article does not say; but what could it be otherwise than to disallow the event?

Back to the Rohamaa website, and if you scroll down you can read (again, in Dutch) a press-release of two days ago telling of how the Foundation is “indignant” at the decision to deny those visas – apparently after they first had first been routinely granted, with no indication of anything untoward. Even more annoying: the top Ministry official in charge of the decision stated on TV that he knew nothing about the dossier.

Then this:

We fear that such decisions merely contribute to an increasingly polarized climate in the Netherlands. One could conclude from this that things in the Netherlands are measured by two different standards: freedom of expression is a great societal blessing, requiring guarding at all times, except when it has to do with certain minorities. This feeling has prevailed now for some time and is by this merely confirmed and enlarged.

Hear, hear! Vrijheid van meningsuiting, people! Freedom of expression!

* Anasheed is basically Islamic vocal music, mostly a capella.

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No Wilders to LA

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Just a reminder here about a European political figure probably destined to become rather more important in the near future. That’s Geert Wilders, head of the rather recent Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV: “Freedom Party”). The party is mainly known for its anti-Islam and anti-immigrant views; the politician is often known as “Mozart” due to his uncommon hair-do, of an artificial blond coloring. You’re likely get a chance to take a gander at that fairly soon on some newspaper frontpage/homepage, since we now have a national election scheduled for early June here in the Netherlands and, unfortunately, opinion polls show the PVV poised to make major gains, even though no other party is willing to work with them to form a new government.

For now, though, Wilders’ anti-Islam stance has earned him top-billing in a documentary film, with his name even in the title, “Islam Rising: Geert Wilders’ Warning to the West,” produced by PRB films, an American company, in cooperation with the Christian Action Network. And, as both the Volkskrant and Trouw report, he was supposed to travel to Los Angeles to attend the film’s premiere on 1 May. (more…)

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Veils To Be Outlawed in France?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Get ready for more trouble on the European Muslim-relations front: Le Monde reports today that one French legislator, Jean-François Copé, has expressed his intention to introduce legislation forbidding the wearing of a veil in “places open to the public,” to be punished by a hefty €750 fine, also applicable to people “who oblige a women to wear a full veil”. He proposes this in an interview to appear in the issue of the right-wing magazine Le Figaro to be published over the coming weekend; Le Monde has simply managed to blow the whistle early on what is presumably the most news-worthy component of that piece.

This matters because Copé is head of the group of parliamentarians in the French National Assembly that belong to the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) which is also President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party – and because it would seem that the European political scene could use a break from this sort of measure in the wake of the referendum in Switzerland last November that forbade the building of minarets there. Strangely, in his interview Copé also mentions that his proposed law would incorporate “a period for dialogue of six months between the date of application of the law and the date of promulgation to permit a phase for discussion and mediation with the concerned persons.” That seems a strange way to proceed – legislate first, discuss later – and is unlikely to salve the feelings of the Muslim inhabitants of the country against whom this law clearly is aimed.

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Don’t Look Now – Don’t Look Ever – But New Miss Saudi Arabia Crowned!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Miss SAOh joy! Longer-term €S readers will remember all the way back to May, when I first brought you word in this space about the “Miss Saudi Arabia” pageant. Due to the . . . er . . . somewhat different nature of that extravaganza’s judging-process, it takes rather longer than your average beauty pageant. But now this year’s winner has finally been crowned, and that is eighteen-year-old Aya Ali Mulla. I had not really been on the look-out for any sort of follow-up to May’s story – I promise! – but my RSS feeds nonetheless came up for me big-time and alerted me to recent coverage of that pageant’s outcome from the Czech press, namely from Lidové noviny and Mladá fronta dnes. These articles are (almost) the same, as they both are by-lined to the same Czech press agency piece. For example, they have similar headlines: “Saudi Arabia has new Miss, but no one has seen her” and “Miss Saudi Arabia’s face seen only by female jury-members,” respectively.

Naturally, both Czech papers ultimately refer back to the Saudi press for coverage of this marquee event, but have to report that no Saudi paper was actually able to state what it was about Ms. Mulla* that catapulted her to victory. It was easier just to report what she won: an amount in riyals that, from the Czech-crown equivalent that is cited, seems to be just under €1,000; a pearl necklace; some diamonds (mounted on what, is not revealed); a wristwatch; and a paid vacation to Malaysia, which, although of course another Islamic land, is a pretty nice place to visit, I’ve heard. There’s also further detail here on one of the event’s key competitions, the “How much do you respect your mother?” event: apparently contestants each spend an entire day out “in the country” with their own mother, under the observation of one of the jury-members (wielding a clipboard, no doubt). I say, get coverage of that on the X-Games channel, pronto!

The Czech papers are able to contribute some added detail, perhaps somewhat wistfully, about another beauty pageant held in the Arab world that does actually conform a bit more tightly to what most of the rest of the world understands by the concept, namely the one for Miss Lebanon, where the girls do actually appear in swimsuits (one-piece only, though) and in evening gowns, and are interviewed in front of an audience. In contrast, returning again to Saudi Arabia, the LN article states “Beauty competitions there only have to do with goats, sheep, camels, and other animals” – despite the considerable effort required each year to get the camels into their one-piece bathing-suits!

[Cymbal crash] No, that last part I made up myself . . .

*Quite a suitable name, eh? No, I’m not making it up, click through above to the articles and see for yourself if you want. But don’t be fooled when you see the winner’s last name as “Mullaová”: that last “-ová” part is added routinely in Czech, Slovak, and some other Slavic languages to women’s last names.

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Islamic Pageant Masquerade

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Ah yes: Miss World! Miss Universe! Miss What-Have-You! They all raise loads of money and attract widespread media-interest. And did you know that they even have a beauty pageant for young misses in Saudi Arabia? Indeed they do, in the capital Riyadh; the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad is kind enough to report on this today (Miss Pageant in a niqab).

That reference to the niqab – namely the veil over the face worn by Muslim women – and for that matter to Saudi Arabia should warn you, though, that what is going on here is somewhat different from the normal template. Take “beauty”; in Saudi Arabia, it’s all about inner beauty, you see, which is good since naturally no sort of evening gown – much less bikini – competition could ever be allowed.

So how do they judge that? Apparently the whole evaluation-process takes ten weeks, and is conducted by a panel of all-female judges – and that last bit alone tells you quite a lot. What is examined is things like respect for elders and how contestants respond when asked about how they “discover their inner force.” There’s even a “bring-your-Mom-to-the-contest” day, during which contestants are evaluated as to their respectful interaction with their own and everyone else’s mother. At bottom as a fundamental consideration, as you might expect, is any given candidate’s fealty to “Islamic values.”

Not likely to be a top-ten television hit, then, either in the rest of the world or, I dare say, within the Kingdom itself. On the other hand, there’s some serious money involved: the woman with the “most beautiful soul,” as the AD puts it, walks away with a prize of $2,600. And that prospect has attracted this year a field of some 200 contestants.

UPDATE: What do you know: It looks like even the Saudi beauty pageant has fallen victim to scandal! Yes, topless photos have been discovered of the winner – you can even see her entire forehead.

[Cymbal crash] I wish I could take credit for that one. But no, it’s from Jay Leno.

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Dumping Musharraf

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

As Juan Cole of “Informed Comment” notes, an impeachment process has started against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, he has decided he is going to fight it, and “[t]hus the stage is set for a major political crisis in the second most populous Muslim country in the world, the sixth largest country in the world, and the only Muslim nuclear power.” But one crucial aspect of this situation is the dog that isn’t barking: where at this stage is the American support for Musharraf, whom in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was suddenly embraced by the Bush administration and started having billions of dollars in military aid shoveled his way? Could it be that George W. Bush is simply too busy these days at the Olympics, blasting his Chinese hosts for their culinary abuses? (That last bit is but a joke, but I give you the link in the hope you’ll check it out – you’ll be amused!)

Philippe Grangereau, Washington correspondent for the French newspaper Libération, sheds some valuable light on this question in his article The White House Is No Longer Kissy-Kissy with Musharraf, although he relies primarily on analysis coming from Arif Jamal, “an expert on Pakistan at NYU,” who has written a book about Pakistani jihadists. (more…)

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Gay Pride Parade in Polish Eyes

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Coming up this very next weekend: Gay Pride Amsterdam! What’s in it for you if you’re not gay? Well, the parade of boats through the city’s canals – actually, basically the Prinsengracht – is the highlight of the whole weekend and attracts 350,000 spectators, or so the above-linked website claims, so it’s something to consider going and watching, as long as you also realize that the “entertainment” on the passing boats verges into outright nudity not infrequently and into sheer camp always. Plus, there will be gay street parties all over the place from Friday to Sunday. Amsterdam is generally a big enough party-place on a summer weekend for one to be able to find a suitable heterosexual vibe somewhere, if that is more your thing – and meanwhile just think of all the sales- and tax-revenue those hundreds of thousands of visitors are bringing to the city! (more…)

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