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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 9    Issue 15   16-31 December 2014

Minaret Research Network

  • First Mosque to be built in Cuba
  • Poland Revokes Ban on Halal Slaughter
  • Belgium Set to Recognise Palestinian State
  • Chinese City Bans Face-Covering Veils in Public
  • Egypt: Fruits of Arab Spring Gone Sour

  • First Mosque to be built in Cuba

    Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean with a population of about 11 million. According to a 2009 estimate of the Pew Research Centre, the population of Muslims in Cuba is around 9,000. Most of them live the capital Havana. Although Cuba’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the government of Cuba, which is wedded to communism, has not allowed the construction of any mosques in the country. Muslims generally pray at home or in small rented spaces. Friday prayers are held at a private building known as Casa de los Arabes (The Arab House) in Havana, which was built by a wealthy Arab merchant Ali Barnawi. The Arab House has a small museum where exhibitions of Islamic objects and artifacts are occasionally held. Qatar donated $40,000 for the repair and renovation of the Arab House.

    The Muslim community in Cuba has made repeated requests to the government to give them permission to construct a mosque. In November 2014 the government provided land for the construction of Cuba’s first mosque. Interestingly, the plot of land offered by the government for building a mosque is believed to be the same place about which Christopher Columbus wrote in his diary that he had seen a mosque there. The Turkish government has offered to defray the construction costs.

    Poland Revokes Ban on Halal Slaughter

    The presence of Muslims in Poland dates from the 14th century, when Tatar Muslims migrating from the Golden horn began arriving and settling in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Tatars were skilled warriors and mercenaries and many of them were recruited in the Polish-Lithuanian military. Tatar Muslims are thus among Europe’s indigenous communities. They had the freedom to practice their religion and to build mosques. From the 1970s other Muslim groups, including those from the Middle East, Africa, Turkey, Pakistan and Chechnya, settled in Poland. The current population of Muslims in Poland is estimated to be over 31,000.

    For centuries the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities. There were over 3 million Jews before World War I. An overwhelming majority of Polish Jews were massacred in the Holocaust. The current population of Jews in Poland is estimated to be around 25,000.

    For centuries Muslims and Jews in Poland were permitted to slaughter animals according to their respective halal and kosher rituals, which do not permit stunning of animals before slaughter. In January 2013, following a campaign by animal rights activists, the Polish government banned ritual slaughter. Poland’s Jewish community lodged a complaint with the constitutional court, arguing that the ban violated the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Polish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The petition was supported by the Muslim community.

    On December 10, 2014, Poland’s constitutional court overturned the ban on ritual slaughter and ruled that the protection of animals could not take precedence over religious freedom guaranteed by the Polish constitution. Muslim and Jewish leaders have welcomed the constitutional court’s ruling. Before the ban was enforced, Poland earned a revenue of $500 million from the export of halal and kosher meat.

    Ritual slaughter is banned in Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

    Belgium Set to Recognise Palestinian State

    On November 15, 1988 the Palestine National Council proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. By the end of the year, over 80 countries had recognized the Palestinian state. So far 135 of the 193 member states of the United Nations (which account for almost 80% of the world’s population) have recognized the Palestinian state. These include eight EU member-states, including Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania and Sweden. On November 29, 2012 the United Nations General Assembly passed a motion according the status of “non-member observer state” to Palestine. Now Belgium is set to recognize the Palestinian state, despite diplomatic pressure from Israel and its allies. Belgium’s four main parties that make up the country’s federal government – the Reformist Movement, the Flemish Liberals and Democrats, the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party and the New Flemish Alliance – have reached an agreement to recognize the Palestinian state unilaterally. They propose to move a motion in the Belgian parliament for the recognition of the Palestinian state. On December 5, 2014, a spokesman of the Belgian government said the country would recognize the Palestinian state “at a moment deemed appropriate.”

    The move to recognize the Palestinian state is gathering momentum in the European Union. Parliamentarians in Britain, Spain, Ireland and France have approved non-binding motions urging their governments to recognise the State of Palestine.

    Chinese City Bans Face-Covering Veils in Public

    Chinese authorities are continuing with their heavy-handed policies in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region. In 2013, Muslim officials, students and teachers in Xinjiang were not allowed to keep the fast during Ramadan. The ban was enforced this year as well. Fasting was banned in all universities across the region. Several Muslim students told the Western Media that they were prevented from fasting by the authorities. Those who refuse to eat risked being punished by officials. In August this year, the northern city of Karamay banned men with long beards and women with veils and headscarves from boarding buses.

    A majority of Muslim women in Xinjiang wear headscarves. On December 10, 2014 authorities in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, approved a law banning the wearing of full-face veils in public in the city. The ban will come into force after review by Xinjiang parliament’s Standing Committee. The ban will reinforce disaffection and alienation among the Muslims of Urumqi in particular and those of Xinjiang in general and will prove to be counter-productive.

    Egypt: Fruits of Arab Spring Gone Sour

    The brutal crackdown on political dissidents, peaceful protesters and journalists in Egypt by the government of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi in a military coup, aided and abetted by subservient judges and service security forces, continues unabated. Following a mass trial in March 2014, 528 activists and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death. Since al-Sisi assumed the reins of power, at least 1,400 political dissidents and protesters have been killed by the security forces and more than 15,000 have been imprisoned. On November 26, 2014 a court handed out prison sentences of up to five years to 78 young boys aged between 13 and 17 years for participating in peaceful protests for the return of Mohammad Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government. An Egyptian court has cleared former president Hosni Mubarak of charges over the murder of several people during the 2011 uprisings.

    With a view to fortify his grip on power and to stifle all dissent, President al-Sisi has managed to co-opt some Egyptian journalists. In December, editors of 17 state-owned and private newspapers pledged their support to the ruling dispensation and declared a ban on criticism of the police, army and judiciary. However, hundreds of Egyptian journalists have rejected this policy declaration and vowed to fight what some of them described as state fascism.

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