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Alpenhorns vs. Adhan: Swiss ' think tank' recommends teaching Islam in schools to help "Muslims integrate into society"

Islam uber Alles: Austrian Muslims "duty bound to defend their religion" plan on "cementing Muslim women's integration into society"
February 19, 2005

MIM: This dictionary definition of an Alpenhorn aptly sums up herd mentality of the Swiss 'think tank' who came up with the idea to bring Mohammed even closer to the Swiss mountains.

The Adhan is the Muslim call to prayer which is broadcast 5 times daily from the minarets and sung by a muezzin.


A curved wooden horn, sometimes as long as 6 meters (approximately 20 feet), used by herders in the Alps to call cows to pasture.

Swiss Think-tank Recommends Teaching Islam in Schools

The right-wing Swiss Peoples Party warned of "Islamizing" Luzern, portraying its famous tower as a minaret.

By Tamer Abul Einein, IOL Correspondent

GENEVA, February 19, 2005 ( A Swiss think-tank has recommended teaching Islam in schools as it helps the second and third generation of the Muslim community integrate into society.

The Swiss Academy for Development (SAD) cited in a recent study the success story of teaching Islam in schools in the two cities of Kriens and Ebikon, central Switzerland, in the 2002/03 school year.

"The results of the experience exceeded all expectations and showed a positive feedback," said the study, released on February 15.

"It can serve as a model for all cities across the country. Such schools encourage Muslim students adhere to their identity as they learn their religion in the languages used in the country," it added, referring to the four official languages German, French, Italian and Romansch.

The study further said that the move is aimed at removing ethnic tensions as Muslims feel that they are being discriminated against for no reason other than their religion or background though a large portion of them do hold the Swiss citizenship or are permanent residents.

The academy called for providing basic finances for the project and enhancing cross-fertilization in the country.

Founded in 1991 and based in Biel-Bienne, SAD is a politically independent, non-profit foundation.

It is dedicated to the question of how societies handle social change and cultural diversity.

Federal authorities have put the study into consideration and signaled readiness to hold talks with academicians and experts in this regard.

In 2001, the Union of Muslim Organizations in the district of Luzern managed to get the government go-ahead for teaching Islam in Kriens and Ebikon, where a large number of Muslim students are enrolled in schools.

The body had offered to pay for schoolbooks, teachers' salaries and other expenses.


The study further concluded that it was better for Muslim students to have their religion classes in schools other than in mosques.

"When they go to mosques, they feel as if they are doing it out of duty since most of these classes fall on weekends."

The program has indeed appealed to Swiss Muslims, who hailed its modern and endearing methods.

"My daughter has grown up here and speaks fluent German. She finds religion classes in her school very appealing," Bosnian-born Murad Mildic told

Munira Bin Hassan, of Tunisian origin, said that ever since their three sons joined the religion classes in school, they demonstrated great enthusiasm for learning more about Islam.

"There is no problem with the teaching method in mosques, but it is too classic for my sons," she told IOL.

Pakistani-born Momtaz Khan is proud that his son and daughter can conceivably and brilliantly defend their religion.

"They impress me when they talk about Islamic tenets like fasting or hijab," he said.

Many parents who spoke to IOL also paid tribute to Mrs. Regina Steiner, a Swiss teacher who embraced Islam 13 years ago, for helping their children love religion classes.

Right-Wing Obstacle

Experts, however, see right-wingers are a major obstacle to expand the teaching of Islam to other areas.

Officials in Luzern has already refused to support programs for qualifying imams and teachers of the Muslim faith in the district.

"The Muslim community in Luzern will definitely be disappointed at this kind of marginalization," Bruno Staehli, an educational expert, told IOL.

The right-wing Swiss Peoples Party (SVP) has launched a ferocious campaign warning of "Islamizing" Luzern, portraying its famous tower as a minaret.

In 2004, Swiss Muslims withstood media onslaught, demonstrating to the public that they were an integral part of society.

Day in and day out, headlines like "The Islamic Terror is Coming, "Country Vs. Radicalism", "Islamists Living With Us," "Hijab in Parliament" and "Swiss Funds for Islamic Terror" were splashed by newspapers.

Islam is the second religion in Switzerland after Christianity. The country is home to 330,000 Muslims representing a sizable 4.5 percent of the country's some eight million people.

Forty-three percent of the Muslim community is of Turkish origin.


Austrian Muslim Women at heart of defending Islam

Austrian president Fischer joined Muslims in celebrating the silver Jubilee of the Islamic Religious Authority in Austria.

By Ahmed Al-Matboli, IOL Correspondent

VIENNA, February 14 ( Austrian Muslim women stood up to be counted, feeling, like men, duty bound to defend their religion and clear misconceptions about Islam in the western media.

Reinforcing the eminent status they enjoy under Islam, they established last month the Muslim Women Forum in Austria (FMFO) as an affiliate to the Islamic Religious Authority (IGG) to get the message across.

"Austrian Muslim women have indeed made impressive political and social strides whether individually or through the IGG," Amina Baghajati, the media spokeswoman for the nascent forum and one of its founding members, told

"We are trying our best to defend the image of Islam throughout Europe, asserting that freedom and equality are inalienable rights enshrined in Islam for women."

She added that the IGG's media department monitors media and newspaper reports about Muslim women in Austria and frequently responds to clear misconceptions.

Of the nearly 400,000 Muslims in Austria, 15,000 are women, according to Baghajati.

Muslims make up some 8 per cent of the country's eight million population.

Credit for a successful and a fruitful 2004 does not only go to Muslim men in Austria; Muslim women have, in effect, weighed heavily in that regard.

Daunting Challenges

FMFO president Andrea Saleh said that the fledging group is aimed at living up to the daunting challenges facing Islam in Europe and in the West alike.

"Clearing stereotypes about Muslim women, that they are downtrodden under Islam, necessitates engaging in a constructive dialogue with the other," she said.

Launched on January 29, the forum is based on the Graz Declaration, which was issued by a conference of imams and Muslim preachers in June 2003.

The declaration basically underlined the fact that Islam rejects all forms of bigotry and extremism while defending democracy and human rights.

The forum is scheduled to start its activities on February 19 with a ceremony marking the New Hijri Year.

Chief among its goals are cementing Muslim women's integration into society, helping women activists work in concert, clearing stereotypes about Islam and providing advice on domestic violence and western traditions.

Matrimonial service, spare-time programs and interfaith dialogue are also high on the agenda.

Islam, which was officially acknowledged in Austria in 1908, is considered the second religion in the country after Catholic Christianity.

A law issued in 1867, which guaranteed respect for all religions, gave Muslims the right to establish mosques and practice their religion in Austria.

There are 76 mosques and prayer rooms across the country, including 53 in Vienna alone, according to recent estimates


MIM: Just a poor dhimmi whose intentions are good ...hoping that he won't be misunderstood

Austrian Muslims Astutely Handle Anti-Islam Situation

Poier said he meant to deride mounting Islamophobia in Europe.

By Khaled Schmitt, IOL Correspondent

VIENNA, January 21 ( Muslims in Europe have usually reacted to derogatory remarks on Islam with emotional retort of inflammatory rhetoric, it was widely believed.

The community in Austria, however, have set a different example, handling the situation astutely.

Consequently, it paid off.

Austrian rock star Alf Poier has removed derogatory phrases about Islam from the lyrics of his new song in response to an appeal from the representatives from the Muslim community.

"The singer's action has indeed won him great respect from the Muslim community that acted swiftly and professionally, without being overcome with emotions," Tarafa Baghajati, the deputy head of the European Network Against Racism, told Tuesday, January 18.

"Direct dialogue between the parties concerned without resorting to go-betweens has, in effect, paid off."

Before being edited out, the lyrics of "Good Old Europe is Dying" warned that Muslims were about to outnumber Christians in Europe .

"In the past, the Christians unsheathed their swords and mobilized their armies/ In the Past, bombs rained Berlin /And now the followers of Muhammad are reproducing heavily and Adhan will ring out throughout Rome," Poier was to sing.

Muslim Reaction

The Austrian Islamic Initiative Society and the European Network Against Racism urged Poier to remove the offensive lines, in respect for Muslims inside and outside Austria.

They further expressed deep concern such lines in case remained and were translated into other languages would lead to more Islamophobia and discrimination.

Poier, on his part, said he decided to cut out the offensive phrases from the lyrics, asserting that he meant to deride the mounting Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims, not the other way around.

Islam, which was officially acknowledged in Austria in 1908, is considered the second religion in the country after Catholic Christianity.

Muslims, estimated at nearly half a million, make up some 6 per cent of the country's eight-million population.

A law issued in 1867, which guaranteed respect for all religions, gave Muslims the right to establish mosques and practice their religion in Austria .

There are 76 mosques and prayer rooms across the country, including 53 in Vienna alone, according to recent estimates.

The Muslim community fared well in 2004, showing great ability to integrate smoothly into Austrian society.

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