“Friday prayers should be said in two languages, in Arabic and in the language of the country in which Muslims live. If the message is spread in an incomprehensible language the objective of the Friday sermon is not achieved.” This is the opinion expressed by forty-two year old Mohamed Béchari, President since 1992 of one of Islam’s most important organisations in France, the Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France. Former Vice-President of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and Secretary General of the European Islamic Conference, Bechari has also published a book entitled “L’image de l’islam dans les médias occidentaux” [Islam as seen by the Western Media].
Dialogue of Cultures
The suggestion of Gianfranco Fini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, to ‘Italianise’ the Friday Sermon was only of media importance, and thus will have no effect on the political agenda. The proposal is concealing a wish to control mosques in Italy, so would it not be more useful to look thoroughly into the issues surrounding Muslim immigrants? Gianfranco Fini cannot continue acting like an ordinary citizen or an exponent of the opposition. He must apply his ideas on immigrants in general and on ‘Italy’s Islam’ in particular, within his political alignment.
“I ask this government to reinstate the organisation of the Council for Italian Islam, which is one of the fundamental means for establishing a dialogue between the State and the Muslim community.” Rachid Amaidia, the Imam for Salerno and Battipaglia, has always played an active role in interreligious dialogue. Of Algerian origin and a former member of the Council, in this interview he warns against xenophobia that is spreading in Italy (“If one sees a continuous demonization of immigrants on television one incites people against foreigners”), and on the subject of the proposal of the Italian language being used in mosques, he said “This will not make immigrants feel they are Italian citizens. When Muslims will feel totally integrated, they themselves will speak in Italian.”
In most Italian mosques the sermon is already translated into Italian. For this reason too, the proposal presented by Gianfranco Fini for all sermons to be preached in Italian in mosques is above all based on the false and dangerous assumption that sermons and preaching in mosques contain references and incitement to hatred, if not even pre-recruiting for terrorism of Islamic origin. Should this assumption be true, I would expect from the third most important representative of the state, not an appeal to Muslims, but one first of all to security forces. Do Muslims still have the right to pray freely, as sanctioned by the Constitution? Is Arabic a language authorised in our country or should it be banned?
The European Commission declared “2008: European Year of Intercultural Dialogue”. What to think about is the fact that the project, born to make the distinctive cultures of the 27 EU Member States known each others, showed very soon its bounds and the need to be partially redirected, in consideration of the complex reality to face. In primis the difficulty to clearly specify the meaning of “national culture” in terms of culture typical to the population living from long time on the territory of each Member State, since, as a matter of fact, those national cultures result today “contaminated” by the others, those of immigrants. Likewise, European Commission declared “2009: the Year of Creativity and Innovation”. The transition from the EYID to the EYCI is very interesting to analyse because culture and creativity play a focal role in promoting both European identity and European citizenship.
“The Palestinians support Hamas, but Hamas does not pursue the interests of the Palestinians but rather those of Iran.” Forty-one year old Etgar Keret is one of Israel’s most caustic and anti-conformist writers. An author, a designer and a film director, together with his wife he made the film entitled “Meduzot”, the winner of the Camera d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and more recently the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Award. He is now working on his great passion, a collection of short stories and he says, “with the exception of one in which I will address the Middle East issue, because writing and drawing are my way of protesting against the atrocities that poison my country.”
During October the seven financial markets in the Gulf lost a total of over 160 billion dollars in one week. Panic increased due to the spectacular fall in the price of oil. This new situation decreed the end of the financial improvements resulting from the rise in the price of oil over an uninterrupted seven-year period. Generally speaking, the Arab economies are not very competitive, not very productive, and continue to depend on imports. Attempts to form an economy that is not based on oil, such as Saudi Arabia has tried to achieve, and to a lesser extent also Algeria, are far from achieving their objectives. Most Arab countries distribute income from oil rather than investing it in projects for creating wealth.
“One of the evident relapses of the crisis on the G.C.C Countries ( Gulf Cooperation Council ), namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is that the price of oil will constantly drop as the demand decreases with the slowing down of the ‘industrial wheel’. Furthermore, the coming depression and its impending harsh times will definitely cause a rise in unemployment.” Prof. Ibrahim Oweiss is an Egyptian-born American economist and international economic advisor; he teaches as Associate Emeritus Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and lives between Washington DC and Doha, Qatar. Leading expert in G.C.C economies, he coined the definition of "petrodollar" in 1973, in order to describe the US dollar-denominated incomes of many oil-rich countries, particularly the Opec States of the Persian Gulf region.
The war between Israel and Hamas has divided Jewish and Muslim communities in France. Tension is already running high, considering that the CRIF (Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France – Representative Council for Jewish Institutions in France) does not accept the UOIF’s position (Union des organisations islamiques de France – Union of Islamic Organisations in France), which describes the Israeli offensive as “an unprecedented genocide of the Palestinian people.” Minister for the Interior Michèle Alliot Marie has summoned the leaders of the two communities for an emergency meeting. The main French newspapers are critical of Israel.
How are Arab Israelis going to vote in the elections of the 10th of February? As the New York Times informed in a recent report in the villages of the North, where the presence of Arab Israelis becomes more evident, these citizens are constantly pending between processes of "Palestinization" and "Israelization". Arab Israelis are part of that 4% that opposed the war in Gaza. Their protests, when not repressed by the police, were damped by their own political leaders.
Israeli Arabs represent 20% of Israel’s population, and according to the National Resilience Survey 2008 carried out by Tel Aviv University, 43% describe themselves as “Arab-Palestinians”, while only 15% consider themselves “Arab-Israelis.” Today, after the suffering experienced during the Gaza war, they are tempted to boycott the elections in spite of the presence of the Arab Movement for Change. They have increasingly become citizens experiencing an identity crisis, accused of ambiguity and betrayal at times by Israel and at times by the Arab people.
Though during centuries thousands of people have been killed in the name of religion, it can not be denied that some religious people like Lord Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. have played a positive role in removing sense of hatred and violence in human culture. Gandhi’s mission was not to politicize religion, but to spiritualize politics, meaning to bind up everyday action in the public sphere with morality. While Gandhi’s familiarity with Islam and his admiration for the prophet Muhammad are no secret, one has to mention also the direct influence of Muslim nonviolent activists like Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Azad on him. The complaint of many in the West since 9/11, that “there is no Muslim Gandhi”, comes from their ignorance of important personalities like Maulana Azad and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.