Jewish group says Canada’s Islamophobia measure inhibits free speech

(JTA) — Jewish leaders in Canada are debating a measure meant to prevent intolerance aimed at Muslims and other minorities.

Earlier this month, the head of B’nai Brith Canada outlined his objections to M-103, a parliamentary motion passed earlier this year that “condemns Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage held hearings on the measure this week.

Critics of the measure say it singles out Muslims for special treatment because it condemns only Islamophobia by name and does not explicitly mention other religious groups. Others have accused the motion of hampering free speech.

“Every Canadian Jew, along with every decent Canadian, recoils from the gruesome anti-Muslim crimes that we have seen in recent years, including the deadly January 2017 attack on a mosque in Quebec City,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn wrote in an op-ed in the Canadian daily the National Post. “Still, many members of our community remain wary of M-103 and its possible implications — and justifiably so.”

Mostyn said in a statement that he would tell the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that by discouraging criticism of Islam, M-103 could make it harder to combat anti-Semitism.

Hate crimes on Muslims have more than doubled in the period between 2013 and 2016, according to Statistics Canada, a national agency. In 2015, the same agency found that in a trend that goes back at least nine years, Jews were the most targeted religious group for hate crimes.

Mostyn wrote that “many anti-Jewish incidents have been the handiwork of Canadian Muslims, sometimes even claiming to act or speak in the name of Islam. In the past 12 months, no fewer than four Canadian mosques — two in Montreal, and one each in Toronto and Vancouver — have been exposed as sites of vile anti-Jewish hatred.”

He referred to a mosque in British Columbia whose website included a link to anti-Semitic content and a 2016 sermon at a Toronto mosque in which the speaker spoke of the “filth of the Jews.”

Mostyn said that last month, Quebec prosecutors decided not to charge a Montreal imam, Sayed al-Ghitawi, who called on God to “destroy the accursed Jews,” to “kill them one by one” and “not to leave any one of them alive.”

“Imagine the outrage if a priest or pastor were caught on video making similar comments about Muslims at a Canadian church,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, M-103 risks exacerbating the already lackadaisical public attitude toward these anti-Semitic outrages.”

Bernie Farber, former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, expressed his support for the motion.

“As Canadian Jews we understand the need for memory,” he wrote in an op-ed in the daily Star. “With the legacy of Jewish suffering, it has become an article of faith to commemorate persecution. What we’re seeing here, sadly, is that when it comes to oppression of Canadian Muslims, there are too many attempts by too many Canadians to forget. M-103 is an attempt to resist this collective amnesia.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA, in testimony Wednesday before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage urged lawmakers to adopt precise language.

“We also believe it is crucial to achieve a reasonable consensus on key terms, including Islamophobia,” Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of CIJA, said in a statement. “One cannot effectively fight bigotry and hatred without precise definitions. We urge the committee to ensure that any definition provides maximal protection for Muslims from hate, without restricting legitimate discourse on political ideologies and activities.”

On Wednesday, Quebec legislators passed a religious neutrality bill that requires citizens to uncover their faces while giving and receiving state services, including riding public buses. The bill does not specifically identify articles of clothing, but appears to be targeting the Muslim burka and niqab.

Mira Sucharov, associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, described the measure as “a legislated expression of Islamophobia.”

Canadian lawmakers are “threatening the delicate balance between religion and state in Canada while furthering Islamophobia through what is, effectively, a wide-ranging ban on the niqab and burqa,” she wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.




Several years ago, CEO of the Christian network CBN Gordon Robertson came to the same realization as many others before him: Israel has a PR problem.

“When Americans would think of Israel it was always in terms of terror attacks or anti-Israel resolutions at the UN,” Robertson told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, talking over the phone from Jerusalem where he was participating in the four-day annual Christian Media Summit.

In 2013, Robertson decided to do something about it, launching the first in a series of films to educate the public about Israel. The first one, ‘Made in Israel’, showcases Israeli technology and innovation.

“The great technology made in Israel and the amazing innovation, in agriculture for instance, was an untold story,” he said.

A meeting with the Israeli consul general in the US at the time reinforced his belief that such action was needed to try to salvage Israel’s image.

Next came ‘The Hope: The Rebirth of Israel,’ which journeys through the 50 years preceding the founding of the state of Israel, featuring Zionist visionaries and founders of the Jewish state including Theodor Herzl, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, and Golda Meir.

‘The Hope’ was followed by ”In Our Hands,” a docudrama which tells the story of Israel’s 55th Paratrooper Brigade in the Battle of Ammunition Hill in the war of 1967. “Most accounts of the Six-Day War are straight documentaries, and The Battle of Ammunition Hill is a sentence or two,” Robertson said with the release of the film earlier this year. “No film we know of actually recreates these pivotal scenes and events with such intense accuracy. For new generations of Jews and Christians, ”In Our Hands” is a must-see.”

“I think it was a surprise [to Israeli participants of the Christian Media Summit] that a Christian broadcasting network put the resources together to put out an accurate history of the Six Day War from the point of the paratroopers,” Robertson told the Post on Tuesday.

The next film the network will release will coincide with Israel’s 70th Independence Day. The network followed Israeli volunteers and organizations providing humanitarian aid around the world. “I don’t think the majority of people know about this work that Israel does. Most people wouldn’t have a clue that Israel was the second largest provider of aid to victims of the Nepal earthquake, after India,” he said. “I think that’s phenomenal and it’s a story that needs to be told.”

I always think that getting the facts out is the best way to defend Israel, he said, noting that ‘In ours hands’ had the most impact so far, “because it actually portrayed a period of time between 48-67 when Jordan had control of east Jerusalem.

“The facts are quite clear that the Jews were completely barred from east Jerusalem and the West bank,” he continued. “I think that history needs to be told again, particularly in light of the UN resolution last December,” he said, referring to UNSC Resolution 2334 which demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

For Robertson, it’s important that the Israeli government is aware of the friendships it has in the Christian community and “how willing they are to be of help to Israel.”

“I think going forward there is a new awareness within the government and the Foreign Ministry that the Christian media truly wants to be a friend of Israel,” he said.

British Paper Says Islam Could Have Prevented Hollywood Sexual Harassment (LOL….)

Sometimes, a news piece gets published that is so appalling you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry.

That was the reaction many readers had to a recent opinion article in the UK’s “Independent” news magazine. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, that online newspaper declared that there was only one solution to stopping the abuse of women: Islam.

Yes, the same religion that forces wives to hide under burkas and stones women for being rape victims is surely the answer to all of America’s ills… or at least the author Qasim Rashid wants you to think so.

“Harvey Weinstein is just another case of a powerful man abusing women because we live in a society that lets him get away with it, but we can change that,” the opinion writer and U.S.-based civil rights lawyer declared. That sounded reasonable enough, but then things took a turn for the bizarre.

Rashid insisted that Islam was the answer, and the Quran “establishes men and women as equal beings.” Try not spit out your coffee.

“It is men who are first commanded to never gawk at women, and instead guard their private parts and chastity, regardless of how women choose to dress – pre-empting sexual abuse,” the article declares. In other words, force all women to hide their faces, because equality.

Let’s look at the Quran itself and see what it says about that “equality.”

“Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other,” states chapter 4, verse 34 of the Quran. “As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.”

Hey, nothing quite says “treat women well” like a swift and brutal beating. The Quran says so!

The sanctimonious Muslim lawyer then lectured readers that the true model of respecting women was none other than Muhammad.

“My advocacy is informed not just by the law, but by strategies detailed in Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example to pre-empt sexual abuse,” Rashid continued.

What do Islam’s own teachings and records say about Muhammad? Well, he was a pedophile, adulterer, and sexual abuser.

“A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old,” states Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Hadith 3311.

Yes, you read that right. Muhammad was such a “defender of women” that he married and raped an underage girl so young she was still playing with dolls.

It should be pointed out that the Independent was recently part of a purchase by a Saudi Arabian investor with an Islamic name, who now controls up to half of the newspaper’s stock.

“Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel has taken a stake of between 25% and 50% in Independent Digital News and Media, the holding company of the Independent, according to filings at Companies House,” reported The Guardian.

If we were cynical, we might say there was an agenda. Not very “Independent” after all.

The fact is that the records of sexual abuse within Islamic populations are so dismal that there isn’t enough space in this article to chronicle them all. From rape gangs to female genital mutilation to stoning and honor killings, the Muslim world has absolutely no standing — none — to speak about protecting women.

It may be true that the United States needs to talk about sexual abuse. As more details come out about the Weinstein case, it looks like the problem is elitists who stay silent because they are part of the same club that is doing the abusing. Perhaps we should talk about that.

The way to actually stop sexual assault is to tell the truth, even when it might hurt some star’s career.

On the other side of the coin, being dishonest about Islam and its real record on women helps nobody, yet lying and ignoring blatant problems is exactly what this Independent op-ed piece seeks to do.

More than 4,000 people sign petition against Golders Green Islamic Centre

More than 4,200 people have signed an online petition protesting against plans to turn the Golders Green Hippodrome into a mosque.

The petitioners – who are asked to say whether they either live, work or study in the area but are not asked to provide proof – claim the new Islamic religious centre will cause “disruption,” citing traffic and pollution problems.

The complainants, writing under the banner of ‘Golders Green Together,’ say they wish to “restore the charm, harmony and safety of our family neighbourhood”.

They have called on Barnet Council to “approach the management of the Centre and oblige them to make the necessary arrangements and changes in order to stop the deleterious impact on the lives of the local residents and their visitors”.

The Grade ll-listed building on North End Road was bought earlier this year for more than £5 million by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening. It will house the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Mosque and Islamic Centre, and serve the Shia community.

However the petitioners say the extra traffic would make it an “utterly unbearable” situation leading to an “increased risk to the lives and health of local residents”.

On Wednesday, the Board of Deputies’ chief executive Gillian Merron wrote to the petition’s organisers about the use of the name ‘Golders Green Together.’

She said: “As you may or may not be aware, ‘Golders Green Together’ already exists – it was formed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and others in 2015 to campaign against a neo-Nazi demonstration in Golders Green.

“It is associated with this successful anti-racist campaign and we are not willing to allow it to be used by others without permission. Please cease to use the name with immediate effect.”

Jewish News readers have previously expressed disquiet about the idea of a Shia religious centre in an area with a large Jewish population, with one Golders Green resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, saying: “We residents object as we want a cultural centre for all, not just them.”

However spokesman Ahmed Al-Kazemi extended a hand of friendship after the sale of the former concert venue, saying: “We are very pleased and excited to be in Golders Green in such a diverse area. We can’t wait to get to know our neighbours and plan to welcome them at an open day sometime in December.”

Is it Islamophobic to oppose the mosque next door? London Jews debate

JTA — A plan to open a mosque in a heavily Jewish area of London is dividing British Jews, with some calling the development worrisome and others accusing its opponents of racism.

The Islamic center is slated to open next month at the Hippodrome, a former concert hall in the heart of the north London neighborhood of Golders Green. The area is home to thousands of Jewish families of all major denominations and many synagogues, Jewish schools, kosher shops and restaurants, even hotels for devout Jews.

By Sunday, more than 5,600 people had signed an online petition urging municipal officials to investigate possible bylaw infractions by the center, which has received all the required permissions following the building’s purchase earlier this year by an Islamic charity. The petition does not mention the religious dimension, citing instead potential “disruptions” to traffic, as well as parking and air pollution.

But below the surface, the planned mosque has touched off an acrimonious exchange among those who welcome the new center, with its capacity of 3,000 visitors, and those who fear it. Some opponents worry that the mosque could lead to friction between British Jews and members of the Muslim minority, which surveys suggest is among the most anti-Semitic segments of British society.

“There is a concern around this very divisive issue,” said Jonathan Hoffman, a North London-based blogger and former vice chair of the Zionist Federation of Britain. “There is concern about Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Hoffman said his comments don’t mean he personally opposes the new center, but merely that he understands both sides of the debate.

Multiple surveys performed in recent years show far greater prevalence of anti-Semitic sentiments among Muslims compared to the general population. (A September survey suggested that Muslims were twice as likely as non-Muslims to espouse anti-Semitic views).

A 2008 study by the Community Security Trust, British Jewry’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, attributed a third to half of all violent anti-Semitic incidents to perpetrators described as having an Arab or South Asian appearance.

On the other hand, the Jewish community of Britain reported that of the record 1,309 incidents in 2016, “language or images relating to Islam or Muslims” were noted in 27 anti-Semitic incidents, compared to 39 in 2015. And of 236 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 that showed political motivations alongside anti-Semitism, 12 were connected to Islamist motivation or beliefs.

Jewish-Muslim outreach has been more successful in the United Kingdom than elsewhere in Europe, with communities running successful joint programs, helping out one another and lobbying jointly.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, attributes some of this relative success to the fact that South Asian Muslims make up a larger proportion of the Muslim community in Britain than elsewhere in Europe. Arab Muslims are likelier to espouse anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views, he said in a February speech.

Nonetheless, opposing an Islamic center in Golders Green – a place many local Jews consider a safe haven from the effects of rising anti-Semitism elsewhere in Britain — is about “ensuring the continuation of a safe Jewish community” there, according to a British Jewish man in his 30s who grew up near Golders Green. Zvi spoke to JTA about the issue on condition of anonymity so as “not to be painted in the media as a racist.”

Indeed, to some British Jews, such concerns are merely a thin veil to mask anti-Muslim racism.

The fears around the new center “are baseless,” Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle of London, wrote in an op-ed published Monday titled “Shame on the Hippodrome protestors: The real story here is bigotry.” Concerns about the center are “pure bigotry: The idea that any Muslim is, by definition, our enemy,” he wrote.

Hoffman rejects Pollard’s assertion.

“There is no data on the reason why people are unhappy about the mosque, so for Pollard to say this is to make a disgraceful assumption,” Hoffman said.

Members of the Jewish community who researched the Muslim charity — a largely Iraqi and Iranian Shiite congregation called Hussainiat Al-Rasool Al-Adham – found no ties to the Iranian regime or extremist incitement, an expert on Islamism who ran some of the checks told JTA on Tuesday.

“If anything, this is a pro-Jewish group,” said the source, who spoke anonymously.

But some Islamic centers, the source said, do raise security concerns for neighboring Jewish residents and beyond.

“It really depends on the mosque,” the expert said.

Nonetheless, Jews in Golders Green will have to get used to the unfamiliar and potentially disturbing, the expert said. That includes the annual Ashura march, when some men whip their own shirtless backs and chests until they bleed to mourn the death of the founder of the Shiite stream of Islam in the seventh century.

“That and women in hijabs and burkas may be alarming to people in Golders Green, even though these sights pose no risk,” he said.

Geoffrey Alderman, a historian and former member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, conducted his own inquiries into the center’s owner. They also led him to believe the group “should not be a concern from the Jewish point of view,” he told JTA.

Alderman, who lives in the neighboring suburb of Hendon, said on a personal level that he “might be concerned if not anxious as to what is going on” inside the mosque if it were to open in his neighborhood. But “just as the Jewish community of London has the right to buy property and turn them into places of worship, so do other religious groups,” added Alderman, who does not oppose the new center.

Hoffman, the blogger, said concerns about the Golders Green mosque reflect apprehension about broader changes in British society. Assimilation, internal immigration and emigration mean that Jewish minority has grown at the rate of 1.3 percent per decade, far smaller than that of British Muslims. (The Muslim population grew from 1.55 million in 2001 to 2.77 million a decade later, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.)

“Society is changing, plenty of synagogues are no longer in use, [or] are changed over to a different use. There is emigration, especially by Jews,” he said. “The Muslim population is growing and they will need more mosques. But building such a large mosque in that particular area is very controversial.”

Marie van der Zyl, a vice president of the Board of Deputies, said in a statement Tuesday that her organization was “heartened” to hear in talks with leaders of the new Islamic center “about their commitment to opposing anti-Semitism and extremism.”

While there are “legitimate concerns around planning,” the board “deplores the uninformed and prejudiced comments about this application, including from a small number of members of our own community,” read the statement.

To Hoffman, the dismissal of concerns by communal leaders over the religious dimension of the new center shows the issue “divides the community’s leaders from the rest.”

Ambrosine Yolanda Shitrit, a leader of the opposition to the Muslim center and a Golders Green activist for several right-wing Jewish causes, wrote Monday on Facebook that she is “concerned” for the safety of her daughter in Golders Green.

“I don’t feel my so-called community can keep my family safe anymore. They’re not on our side,” she wrote.

Ahmad Alkazemi, a spokesman for the Islamic center, said in a statement that his community “looks forward to playing our part in Golders Green’s diverse community, and we will always act as considerate neighbors and sincere friends towards the Jewish and other residents of this area.”

The Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham center “will never tolerate any form of hate speech on our premises, and we stand completely opposed to and will firmly address extremism, antisemitism and all forms of hatred through education and bridge building,” Alkazemi wrote. “We regard Jews and Christians alike as our friends.”

7 dead as terrorists rob bank, attack church in Egypt’s Sinai

EL-ARISH, Egypt — In a brazen attack, about a dozen Islamists robbed a local bank and traded fire with security forces guarding an unused church in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Monday, killing seven people, including three civilians, officials said.

The attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades and traded gunfire with the guards outside the Church of Saint George in the center of el-Arish, security and military officials said. Services at the church were suspended months ago, following a wave of attacks on Christians in Sinai.

The extremists then robbed a bank before fleeing in a pickup and a motorcycle to the southern outskirts of the city. “They looted the entire bank and left explosive devices inside,” a senior security official said.

The clashes killed three civilians, including a child, three guards and one soldier and wounded another 15 people, including women and children, the officials said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Panic spread in the city, which has been under a state of emergency and curfew since a series of deadly IS attacks in 2014. A bank employee appeared to have been kidnapped in Monday’s attack, the officials said.

Security forces cordoned off the city center and evacuated residents living in the bank building. Pictures posted on social media by locals from el-Arish showed school girls fleeing a school located in the vicinity of the bank and the church.

The fighting came less than 24 hours after the Islamic State affiliate in Sinai killed nine soldiers in series of attacks targeting checkpoints across the nearby town of Sheikh Zweid. IS claimed responsibility in a statement carried by the extremists’ Aamaq media outlet. The army said 24 attackers were killed. On Thursday, six other policemen were also killed in an attack by the militants in el-Arish.

Egypt has been struggling to combat an Islamic insurgency in the northern Sinai that gathered strength after the military overthrew of an elected Islamist president in 2013.

St. George’s in el-Arish was attacked twice previously, during the uprising against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and again after the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

Sunday’s attacks on military checkpoints prompted Egyptian authorities to postpone the opening of the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip, which had been due to open for four days. No new date has been set.

Idea of Muslim holiday sparks uproar in Germany

BERLIN, Germany — Conservatives in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition were in an uproar Saturday after one of her key allies floated the idea of a Muslim holiday in Germany.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said this week he was willing to discuss the possibility of introducing a Muslim holiday in parts of the country.

Germany is home to some 4.4 million Muslims, with many coming from the nation’s large ethnic Turkish community. The over one million migrants that arrived in recent years also include many Muslims.

“Where there are many Muslims why shouldn’t we consider a Muslim holiday,” the interior minister said at a rally in Lower Saxony ahead of Sunday’s regional election in the state.

The CSU, the Bavaria-based sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, strongly rejected the idea.

“Germany’s Christian heritage is not negotiable,” Alexander Dobrindt, a senior CSU politician, told the Bild newspaper.

“For us, the introduction of Muslim holidays is out of the question,” he said.

Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz meanwhile said Saturday that the idea was worth “thinking about”, according to the DPA news agency.

Schulz said he was surprised that the idea had come from the interior minister who, he said, was usually known for having “very little imagination” in this area.

De Maiziere had previously called on immigrants to respect the German “Leitkultur”, culture of reference, a term regularly used by the far-right.

Sunday’s regional vote is a major test for Merkel after she won a fourth term in a national election in September but without a majority in parliament, which has forced her to embark on high-stakes coalition talks.

Latest surveys show the CDU lagging behind the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Lower Saxony, the fourth most populous state in Germany.

‘Merry Christmas’ to replace ‘happy holidays,’ says Trump, wooing evangelicals (White Idiots, Christian Zionists, White Freemasons)

WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Donald Trump’s evolution from twice-divorced casino owner viewed warily by Christian conservatives to evangelical favorite defending religious liberty was on full display Friday as he promised conservatives a return to traditional American values, including restoring “Merry Christmas” to the national discourse.

Trump, the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit, ticked off the promises he has fulfilled to evangelical Christians and other conservatives, pledging to turn back the clock in what he described as a nation that has drifted away from its religious roots.

“How times have changed, but you know what, now they are changing back again, just remember that,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

It was a far cry from the skeptical welcome Trump received when he first addressed the group as a neophyte politician in 2015. With questions swirling then about whether he could appeal to evangelicals over conservative candidates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Trump held a Bible aloft and declared, “I believe in God. I believe in the Bible. I’m a Christian.’”

Trump appeared before the group again last September, in the electoral stretch run usually devoted to wooing undecided voters, and aimed his pitch toward his religious base. Though he avoided some hot-button social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, he vowed his support for Israel, an important issue for evangelicals, and said it was the “dream” of the Islamic State for his opponent Hillary Clinton to be elected president.

This time, he had the crowd won over before he stepped onstage.

He bemoaned the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” as a secular seasonal greeting and vowed a return to “Merry Christmas.”

He noted, as Christian conservatives often do, that there are four references to the “creator” in the Declaration of Independence, saying “religious liberty is enshrined” in the nation’s founding documents.

“I pledged that in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before,” Trump said. “Above all else in America, we don’t worship government. We worship God.”

Trump stressed his move to weaken the Johnson Amendment, which limited political activity or endorsements by religious groups that received tax exemptions, as well as his administration’s effort to expand the rights of employers to deny women insurance coverage for birth control. The White House has also issued sweeping guidance on religious freedom that critics have said could erode civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Trump waded again into the cultural war that has captured his attention in recent weeks, declaring to loud applause that “we respect our great American flag,” a not-too-subtle reference to his repeated denunciations of NFL players who have taken to kneeling during the national anthem.

But Trump also struck several empathetic notes, offering condolences to the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting with a quote from scripture and pledging support to the people of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, which have been ravaged by recent hurricanes. His kind words for Puerto Rico — which included a morning tweet in which he vowed to “always” be with its residents — stood in stark contrast to his tweets the day before, when he declared that federal personnel would not be able to stay “forever” to help the island. Puerto Rico remains largely without power weeks after the storm.

Austrian voters concerned about immigration, Islam

VIENNA (AP) — Wrapping up a bruising political campaign season, Austrian political parties were counting down Saturday toward an election that could turn the country rightward after decades of centrist governance amid voter concerns over immigration and Islam.

Sunday’s vote is coming a year ahead of schedule after squabbles led to the breakup last spring of the coalition government of the Social Democrats and the People’s Party. A total of 16 parties are vying for 183 seats in the national parliament and will be chosen by Austria’s 6.4 million eligible voters. But less than a dozen parties have a chance of getting seats.

The People’s Party, which has shifted from centrist to right-wing positions, is leading in the pre-vote polls. Austria’s traditionally right-wing, anti-migrant Freedom Party is expected to come in second and the center-left Social Democrats are thought to be trailing in third place. Others that may clear the 4 percent hurdle needed to get into parliament seats are the Greens, the liberal NEOS, and Liste Pilz, led by former Greens politician Peter Pilz.

Favoring the People’s and Freedom parties is distrust of migrants and Muslims among many Austrian voters.

The 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and poverty elsewhere into the EU’s prosperous heartland left Austria with nearly 100,000 new and mostly Muslim migrants. That has fueled fears Austria’s traditional Western and Christian culture is in danger. As a result, voters are receptive to the anti-migrant platforms of both the People’s Party and the Freedom Party.

Although the Social Democrats have come either first or second in elections since World War II, voters are now more receptive to calls for tough migration rules than that party’s focus on social justice.

Social Democratic Chancellor Christian Kern says his party will go into the opposition if it does not Sunday. With a handful of other parties struggling to just get into parliament, the most likely post-vote scenario is a People’s Party-Freedom Party coalition that would shift the government significantly to the right.

But other coalitions are possible, depending on the results of Sunday’s vote.

Were Vikings influenced by ISLAM? Arabic embroidery bearing the name ‘Allah’ is uncovered on 10th Century Norse burial clothes (LOL….)

  • Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden made the discovery
  • They were working to recreate patterns found in Viking woven bands
  • Instead of traditional Viking patterns they found ancient Arabic Kufic script 
  • This may suggest similarities between the two cultures’ views of the afterlife


Burial costumes from Viking boat graves have provided more evidence of contact between Nordic tribes and ancient Islam.

A study of the garments, found in 9th and 10th century graves, has revealed the presence of Arabic script invoking Allah.

The presence of Islamic artefacts at Viking sites was once explained as evidence of looting and trade, but new finds continue to reveal closer links between the cultures.

Researchers believe the latest discovery points to similarities between the Viking and Muslim view of the afterlife.

Burial costumes from Viking boat graves have provided more evidence of contact between Nordic tribes and ancient Islam. Analysis of the garments, found in ninth and tenth century graves, revealed the presence of Arabic script invoking Allah

Burial costumes from Viking boat graves have provided more evidence of contact between Nordic tribes and ancient Islam. Analysis of the garments, found in ninth and tenth century graves, revealed the presence of Arabic script invoking Allah


In her earlier research, Annika Larsson looked at the widespread occurrence of Eastern silk in Scandinavia’s Viking Age graves.

In the Valsgärde boat graves, just north of the key early Iron Age site Gamla Uppsala, silk is found in the clothing of those buried far more often than wool and linen.

Analyses of materials, weaving techniques and design suggest ancient Persian and Central Asian origins.

‘Grave goods such as beautiful clothing, finely sewn in exotic fabrics, hardly reflect the deceased’s everyday life, just as little as the formal attire of our era reflects our own daily lives,’ said Ms Larsson.

‘The rich material of grave goods should rather be seen as tangible expressions of underlying values.

Experts from Uppsala University in Sweden made the discovery after working to recreate textile patterns found in Viking woven bands.

They found that the objects, used as inspiration for a Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, contained Kufic characters, rather than traditional Viking patterns as had been assumed.

As well as Allah, Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is also mentioned in the text.

Kufic characters were commonly found during the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums, primarily in Central Asia.

Similar text was found on the woven bands, which were part of grave costumes uncovered inside both chamber graves, in sites such as Birka in Mälardalen, and in boatgraves in the Gamla Uppsala area.

Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University, said: ‘It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland.

‘That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model

‘The inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.

‘Presumably, Viking Age burial customs were influenced by Islam and the idea of an eternal life in Paradise after death.’

In her earlier research, Ms Larsson looked at the widespread occurrence of Eastern silk in Scandinavia’s Viking Age graves.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden working to recreate textile patterns found in Viking woven bands made the discovery. They found that the objects, being used as the inspiration for a Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, contained Kufic characters

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden working to recreate textile patterns found in Viking woven bands made the discovery. They found that the objects, being used as the inspiration for a Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, contained Kufic characters

Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts, developed around the end of the 7th Century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name
This geometric example reads baraka Muhammad, or blessed be Muhammad

Kufic (left) is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts, developed around the end of the 7th Century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. The geometric example (right) reads baraka Muhammad, or blessed be Muhammad


The Scandinavians are known to have traded glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia up to 3,400 years ago.

It is also possible that the Vikings fetched glass goods directly from the region, rather than waiting for them to make their way north via trade networks.

Ancient texts mention trades taking place between the Vikings and members of the Islamic civilisation, which stretched from the Mediterranean to West Asia.

Viking expeditions are said to have extended from Western Europe to Central Asia.

It is from here that sources indicate the extent to which the Vikings had contact with the Muslim World during ancient times.

Though the Vikings had sacked several cities in Western and Eastern Europe, historians outline that it was in Muslim ruled lands, that the Vikings found ’emporiums beyond their wildest dreams’, according to Muslim Heritage.

Historians in Baghdad and other regions of the Muslim world gave the Vikings a reputation of being ‘merchant warriors whose primary focus was on trades.’

However, writers in Al-Andalus in Muslim Spain were of a different opinion, due to frequent attacks reportedly perpetrated by the Vikings in the region.

In the Valsgärde boat graves, just north of the key early Iron Age site Gamla Uppsala, silk is found in the clothing of those buried far more often than wool and linen.

Analyses of materials, weaving techniques and design suggest ancient Persian and Central Asian origins.

‘Grave goods such as beautiful clothing, finely sewn in exotic fabrics, hardly reflect the deceased’s everyday life, just as little as the formal attire of our era reflects our own daily lives,’ she added.

‘The rich material of grave goods should rather be seen as tangible expressions of underlying values.

Kufic characters were found during the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums in Central Asia. Similar text has now been found on grave costumes uncovered inside chamber graves at sites such as Birka as well as in boatgraves in the Gamla Uppsala area

Kufic characters were found during the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums in Central Asia. Similar text has now been found on grave costumes uncovered inside chamber graves at sites such as Birka as well as in boatgraves in the Gamla Uppsala area

‘In the Quran, it is written that the inhabitants of Paradise will wear garments of silk, which along with the text band’s inscriptions may explain the widespread occurrence of silk in Viking Age graves.

‘The findings are equally prevalent in both men’s and women’s graves.’

This is not the first time that a Viking artefact with links to Islam has been unearthed.

A ring, made over 1,000 years ago, confirmed contact between the Vikings and the ancient Muslim world.

Unearthed in Sweden in 2015, it bears an ancient Arabic inscription that reads ‘for Allah’ or ‘to Allah’.

Annika Larsson and her colleagues have received a positive response among the academic community.

This ring,  made over 1,000 years ago, confirmed contact between the Vikings and the Islamic world. Unearthed in Sweden in 2015, it bears an ancient Arabic inscription that reads 'for Allah' or 'to Allah'

This ring, made over 1,000 years ago, confirmed contact between the Vikings and the Islamic world. Unearthed in Sweden in 2015, it bears an ancient Arabic inscription that reads ‘for Allah’ or ‘to Allah’

But Finnish national broadcaster Yle reports that the link has upset some in Scandinavia who taken pride in their Viking ancestry.

Speaking to Yle, Ms Larrson said: ‘The negative reactions have come from xenophobes, without any exceptions.

‘It’s the Muslim connection that they find particularly disturbing.’

Viking runes and imagery are widely used by anti-immigration activists and parties, including the controversial pan-Nordic far-right group Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM).

The NRM recently staged a demonstration in the city of Gothenburg, which resulted in a mass brawl.

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