NEWS - Archive April 2007

Headlines 27 April, 2007


26/4/2007- German police confiscated guns and WWII German army helmets during a raid in the houses of dozens of sympathisers of extreme-right group named Sturm 34 on Thursday morning. Following the operation in the city of Dresden, authorities outlawed Sturm 34, a group named after the German word for storm which is Nazi jargon for rapid attack. The ban, signed by Interior Minister Albrecht Buttolo, applies immediately. Police said the group numbered 40 to 50 with a further 100 sympathizers. Police said the guns which were which in the dawn raids fire blanks and do not require licences. Sturm 34 had attempted to to establish a "liberated nationalist zone" in the Mittweida area of the Saxony state by assaulting foreigners and anyone who disagreed with it, the state Interior Ministry said in Dresden. Elsewhere, police from two states raided homes of neo-Nazis who had apparently conducted a paramilitary summer camp training in the use of guns. Police acted after receiving photos of mock executions taking place at the event. The searches for guns and propaganda in the Osnabrueck area covered parts of both Lower Saxony and North-Rhine Westphalia states. Prosecutors said some of the group were members of the extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD). German police have cracked down several times over the years to stop racists proclaiming "liberated nationalist zones" where blacks and Asians are too scared to use the streets. At the last Saxony state election, nine per cent of voters supported the NPD. The neo-nazi party has focused its campaign efforts on backward, poor sections of the former communist region.



25/4/2007- On Friday 4th April a group of supporters of SK Slovan Bratislava displayed a banner with title "Alles Gute Adi“ and a smiley face in a form of Adolf Hitler. The letter S in this sign was replaced by a sigurnia - a symbol used as a sign for SS units. This incident took place at the match against FC Senec. Slovan supporters also were chanting "racist, fascist, hooligans“, repeated several times. This was not, however, an isolated incident connected with Slovan Ultras supporters. They are infamous for their similar racist and fascist behaviour - at a match with Artmedia Petrzalka on April 7th, in Bratislava, the same group of ultras chanted monkey noises directed at the African player. Karim Guede, from Togo, playing as a defensive midfield for Artmedia. The approach of club officials and players is also quite disturbing. Players of SK Slovan greeted and clapped their supporters after the match. Slovan Ultras also published an article describing their meeting with club officials, which took place couple of days after the match with Artmedia. The article says that the meeting was held in a very friendly atmosphere and they have been praised for their support for the SK Slovan team and they have received support for their activities from the club officials. Not a word about racist chanting, which happend at the same match, and not a word about the nazi symbols. When the club officials were asked about this incident by journalists, they stated that they denounce any racist or fascist expressions, but given their previous support to the same groups of ultras, which organised and carried out the public display, it does not seem to be meant seriously. The Slovak Football Association has issued today a statement condemning the incident and calling for police action against those involved; however it has failed to implement article 55 of FIFA disciplinary code into its own statutes. This is a further example of a clear lack of a pro-active approach towards similar cases of racism and nazism in slovak football grounds.
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24/4/2007- This year April, 20 was marked traditionally with neo-nazi assaults on minorities, with various manifestations and with a raise of the police presence in the cities. However, foreign students were asked not to leave their dormitories for several days lest they should be attacked, a fact which proves the police to be inefficient. There have not been registered any hate crimes committed on April, 20 itself, perhaps, because this kind of information is usually delayed or, perhaps, because neo-nazis do not risk attacking on the exact date in fear of the mobilized police. Usually a raise of neo-nazi violence is registered during the fortnight around April, 20. This year seven people were murdered and more than twenty people injured in April in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian towns. Six of the seven murders took place in Moscow.

On April, 16 a 46 year old Karen Abramyan, a Moscow businessman, an ethnic Armenian, was stabbed to death by two youngsters in front of his block of flats. His son could observe the attack through the window. Abramyan was taken to the hospital, but died there. The same day the body of a 26 year old ethnic Tajik was found in another Moscow district. He had 35 stabbed wounds. Two students were arrested in connection with these two crimes. Reportedly they may be responsible for some other recent hate attacks in Moscow. On the weekend following April, 20 several manifestations of different nature were held in Moscow. A remarkable detail is that two ultra right wing manifestations had been sanctioned by the city authorities, while a peaceful human rights "excursion" was dispersed. On April, 22 about 20 people came to the city center just to take a walk and to see the places of the most violent police actions during the April, 14 opposition manifestation, they had no slogans or leaflets on them but faced several hundred policemen. Five of the human rights activists were detained. Meanwhile, the Nazi slogans and salutes at the two sanctioned rightwing manifestations on April, 21 did not provoke the police to stop them.

One rightwing manifestation took place on Slavyanskaja Square, close to the building of the administration of the Russian president and gathered up to 250 people. The organizers, Party for the Defense of the Russian Constitution "Rus", appealed to members of the neo-Nazi movement National-Socialist Society (NSO) and of the group “Format 18” to take part in the meeting. The official subject of the manifestation was freedom of choice. Maxim Martsinkevich, the leader of Format 18, made a cynic announcement on his website, inviting his comrades to come and celebrate the birthday of… one of the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet, whose monument stands on the square. There were other national socialist organizations present, such as RONS (Russian Nation-wide Unity), the Russian Will and others. The speech made by Dmitry Rumyantsev, the leader of NSO, became the culmination of the meeting. It was a pure national socialist call to violence and a declaration of superiority. The speech was widely spread through the Internet. Special police troops, which were there to safeguard the event, did not interfere.

Another nationalist manifestation took place on the same day on Pushkinskaya square, in the city center. The official demand expressed at this meeting was to change the name of one of the Moscow streets from "Ahmet Kadyrov street" to "Street of the Pskov commandos" (in memory of the soldiers from Pskov killed in Chechnya). There were up to 300 people from the Slavic Union (SS), the National State Party of Russia (NDPR), the Russian Nation-wide Unity (RONS), the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), the Russian Order, as well as members of the so-called "Kurjanovich crew" (supporters of Nikolai Kurjanovich, an MP) and of the Union of Orthodox Gonfaloniers. However, the speakers went beyond the declared subject and passed to anti-Caucasian slogans and propaganda of fighting. Alexander Belov (Potkin), the leader of DPNI, was detained by the police for his anti-police speech full of obscenities. None of the people making nazi salutes was arrested.
SOVA Center for Information and Analysis



25/4/2007- A week after Moscow police violently dispersed a peaceful opposition rally on the dubious claim that it was illegal, Moscow city authorities granted permission for neo-Nazis to publicly mark the birthday of Adolf Hitler, a man who once planned to wipe the Russian capital off the face of the earth, according to an April 22, 2007 report posted on the Russian language web site of Radio Liberty. Around 350 extremists rallied in front of the presidential administration's building in Moscow on April 21, screaming neo-Nazi slogans and making the fascist salute as police looked casually on, despite the fact that under Russian law, the public incitement of ethnic hatred is illegal. Pictures of the rally were posted on Radio Liberty's web site. This is the second time Moscow officials have granted official permission for extremist nationalist rallies; the first came on April 14, the day of the opposition "Other Russia" march. In a possible sign of collaboration between government officials and nationalist hate groups, members of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration and three State Duma members were granted permission to hold their rally in an apparent attempt to deny public space to the "Other Russia" march, whose participants were savagely beaten by police.
FSU Monitor



Westbound labor migrants are leaving thousands of Romanian youngsters behind every year.

26/4/2007- To reach Sperieteni, a village some 50 kilometers from Bucharest, leave the highway and drive half an hour along a dusty, unpaved road. Despite its remoteness, the village is infamous in Dambovita County. “If you’re looking for a place where only children and old people live, you have to go to Sperieteni,” says a woman in a village on the main road. Indeed, the children here – as in many other settlements in the county – grow up virtually alone, many waiting for their house-cleaning mothers to call from Italy or Spain on Christmas, hoping to see them for perhaps two weeks during the summer holiday. Some wait to finish carpentry or another trade school, then join their fathers on construction sites across Europe. Others end up in foster homes or even orphanages, though they have parents. And on occasion, a 10-year-old drops out of school, runs away from home, or even hangs himself in the closet with father’s tie. The Romanian government estimates that 40,000 children – though the actual figure may be much higher – have been left behind by migrants who go west in search of a job and money they cannot find at home. These are the children raised by mail, telephone, even webcams. But the parents’ financial calculations wreak long-term costs on their children: teachers describe assorted behavioral issues in the classroom, while of greater concern, hospitals in eastern Romania recently began reporting a rash of suicides and suicide attempts among troubled adolescents unable to cope with their feelings. While westward migration has been widespread over the past 17 years, government officials and activists say they were unaware of any such crisis until Romanian media first began highlighting the problem last year. “We are devastated that 10- or 12-year-olds commit suicide because they cannot talk on the phone with their parents,” says local UNICEF representative Pierre Poupard.

Young and old
Some child protection activists blame parents for limited understanding of their children’s emotional needs and the stigma attached to any form of psychological therapy as a sign the person is “crazy.” And the problem of children left behind may soon grow – if, as some observers predict, Romania’s accession to the European Union this past January encourages countless more Romanians to emigrate. For a Frenchman like Poupard who came to Romania to monitor children’s rights, the tens of thousands left in the care of relatives – and deprived of that special parental bond – is quite unique. “It’s an alarming phenomenon,” he says. “But we cannot judge anybody. We need to understand first. In Romanian society, there is the idea that a child’s upbringing needs only material things: a roof, food, and going to school. But the parents have to understand that a child needs his or her mother.” In Sperieteni itself, the place hums on a springlike Saturday afternoon. The road is full of boys playing football and girls skipping rope. Old women sit on small chairs in front of their gates, sighing from time to time, keeping an eye on their grandchildren. They don’t talk to strangers easily. The words come heavily. “Eh, most of the young ones have left; more than half the village,” whispers an old woman in her seventies, sitting alone under a blossoming cherry tree. “A few have taken the children with them. But the rest live with their grannies. It’s so difficult to live here now. I am old and at my age, it’s not easy to take care of the house and these girls.” Indeed, her daughter, Liliana, left her two daughters, 12 and 9, with her two years ago when she went to Spain to work as a housekeeper. “She had to,” her mother laments, her voice rising as she paints a picture of parental sacrifice. “Her husband left her. We had no sign of him for years. She had nothing to do here, in this village. She had to go to get money and raise these girls properly.”

Soon the old woman returns to her own troubles. The girls “ are so difficult to raise,” she says. “Liliana sends money every month, but it’s still difficult. I am ill … I don’t know what to do with them. I would give them to an orphanage, but they won’t accept them.” A state institution would only accept the girls if they were orphans. By now all the children in the neighborhood have surrounded the old woman. Her granddaughters have taken their place by her side. As their grandmother calmly admits to having considered giving them away, the girls look down. “I miss Mom,” says Nicoleta, the older sister. “Most of the children in my class are home alone – 15 out of 20. I hope my mom will come home to take us with her. I have seen her once this year on the webcam. It didn’t work very well, but we saw each other. I want to go live with her. She promised to come home at Easter, because she couldn’t be here on Christmas.” She seems calm, perhaps trying not to cry in front of strangers. “I want to go and work there with Mom,” she says. “But I have to wait and finish high school first.”

It all looks good on paper
Sperieteni Mayor Marin Voinescu’s papers document just 100 people who have left the village of some 2,000 for Spain. “I'm glad they left,” Voinescu says. “They have spared me some money from the budget. They all relied on the social programs.” Local women typically work as maids in Spain, the men on construction sites. However, the mayor asserts, “We don’t have abandoned children here.” With scientific precision, he states, “Out of 100 people who left, four have taken the children with them. We have three children at the orphanage in good conditions, and the rest are with their grandparents – who are young and healthy, physically and psychologically as well.” Voinescu notes that children whose parents work abroad are better dressed at school and often envied by their classmates. Anamaria Neagu, the village English teacher, agrees. Yet their classmates’ envy only adds to the children’s sorrow, Neagu says: “Most of the children at school have both of their parents away. Grandparents and aunts take care of them, but this is not enough for a child. The teenagers often have behavior problems – they are violent, they skip school.”  She talked to some parents about their children’s problems, but they weren’t receptive. “They don't seem to believe the kids are acting this way because they don’t have the parents at home,” she says. "They are not all very educated people. They worked all their lives. They grew up alone, too: ‘Remember when our parents used to work double shifts in the factories during Ceausescu’s time, and we would play outside with the apartment key hanging around our necks? If we survived, why couldn’t these kids face it?’ That's what the parents say. Most of them chose to work abroad, to live in outskirts of Paris or Rome, to save money and support their children. And they expect the children to understand this.”

Getting rid of the jobless
Sperieteni and Dambovita County are hardly unique. In other parts of Romania, like the impoverished Moldavia region, Italy is more popular, especially for nurses and women who care for the elderly. Numbers are difficult to assess. According to an Open Society Foundation study, more than 2.5 million Romanians – one in nine – currently work abroad. Many took their children with them and moved away for good. But most only go for a couple of years and leave the children behind, believing they are safer at home, in school, in the care of relatives. The national Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights estimates there are 13,000 families with either one or both parents away, leaving some 40,000 children in a relative’s care. But Authority spokeswoman Cristina Niculescu asserts the numbers are far from the reality. The statistics, she says, rely on the good will of local officials to count these children. And many did not answer the government’s demand to send accurate numbers. On 26 April, the children's authority raised its estimate to 60,000 children whose parents currently work abroad. Her boss at the Authority, Bogdan Panait, expresses his frustration. “Most mayors believe … they are getting rid of the unemployed and won’t have to spend the budget on stipends for the poor,” Panait says. “And there is the mentality that there is nothing wrong with the grandparents raising the children.” But he says the generational gap should not be underestimated.

Observers suggest the government is at a loss over the situation. But Panait says the children's rights authority is trying to cope, issuing in June 2006 an order for child-protection agencies nationwide to count the children left alone and monitor them. Yet, there is no deadline and no sanction against agencies not doing their job properly. The children who cannot be cared for by relatives should by law be placed in institutions or foster care. But, according to the Authority, only 600 children of 40,000 are now in this situation. These are the truly abandoned children. Their parents left for good, typically disappearing without a trace, so the state stepped in. The others are only to be monitored by the too few and poorly paid social assistants. “Moreover, the government recently prepared a new draft law on preventing child neglect,” Panait says. The bill would set up some 10 specialized offices and information centers to help the children whose parents left to work abroad. But it's a long way from becoming law. Another tool to keep track of children left behind is the requirement that migrant workers who find a job through government agencies must give the name of the person caring for their children. Some 40 percent find a job through such agencies. The children of the rest, those who inform no official bodies they are leaving, are most in danger, Panait says. “We are trying to find a solution for the problem, but it is rather new to us,” he says. “This phenomenon has been going on for years now. But we became aware of it just a few months ago.”

The search for alternatives
Child care professionals and the general public both became aware of the phenomenon early in 2006, when the media revealed several suicides among such children. One 11-year-old boy who had lived for two years with a foster family in a village in Iasi County was found hanging from a beam in the basement. It shocked the public. He was well taken care of, the media reported, but missed his mother. This March, a 16-year-old girl in Campulung Moldovenesc, in northern Romania, hanged herself in the bathroom, reportedly because she had low grades and didn’t want to disappoint her father, who was working in Italy. It took exposure of these deaths for child-protection workers to link migration with adolescent suicide. The problem appears to be larger than anybody thought. According to a study released by the Social Alternatives Foundation in Iasi, a quarter of the children left by parents skip classes or drop out of school. Moreover, some 30 percent of juvenile delinquents have parents working abroad. Over the past year, the situation in eastern Romania has been even more dramatic. Dozens of villages are populated only by children and old people. In Iasi County, a local hospital has estimated that every four days, a schoolboy or girl tries to commit suicide. The psychologists at St. Mary Children’s Hospital in Iasi have so far treated 89 children for life-threatening overdoses of pills. Many tell doctors they miss their absent mothers and fathers. A hospital spokeswoman says the staff is struggling with the epidemic. “We have the psychologists, and these children get therapy here, but it’s not enough,” Dr. Catalina Ionescu says. “They should be in therapy after they leave the hospital, too. And they can’t, because they come from rural areas and most people [there] think that if you talk to a psychologist, you must be crazy.” Meanwhile, just a handful of nongovernmental organizations and concerned individuals search for a solution of their own. To date, the Social Alternatives Foundation is the only NGO to request UNICEF’s help.

UNICEF’s Poupard says he hasn’t seen anything comparable among other emigrants: “I’m sure that if you ask a mother from any other European country, 'Do you want to leave for the United States, for Japan or China, and leave your child behind?' I’m sure she’ll answer, ‘Are you crazy? I would never leave my child for all the gold in the world' ... People from North Africa migrate in great numbers to Western Europe. But the pattern is different. First the man goes, works for a couple of years and then he brings the family. But the mother always stays with the child.” In Romania, though, women leave first, because it’s easier for them to land a job as maids or caretakers of the elderly. Poupard insists that Romanians need to change their mentality. “A child needs the mother, needs love; it’s only natural,” he says. “Putting a child in an institution is not the answer. We need to assess the cause, understand, and then do something. Explain to parents what their kids need. Talk to the children. Contact the parents and tell them the kid is in trouble. There are ways.” Neagu, the English teacher in Sperieteni, says she would never leave her little boy, Mihaita. Her husband left for Spain in May 2006. Their 13-month-old, she says, has only seen his father once since, on the computer, and cries “Daddy, Daddy!” every time the phone rings. Yet Neagu says she knows dozens of children less fortunate than her child. At least Mihaita has her to hold him when he cries. Meanwhile, she’s saddened to see some schoolchildren around her falling apart. “They have money,” she says, “but what’s the use without a parent’s love?”
Transitions Online


24/4/2007- Koné Jaoussou stood in a doorway on the infamous Grande Borne council estate, shaking his head at the prospect of a victory for Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential election. “If Sarkozy wins this place is going to explode again,” said the 28-year-old immigrant from Mali as he recalled the violence that rocked La Grande Borne in 2005 and again last year. “There’ll be riots here and in the suburbs all over France.” Mr Jaoussou’s views are shared widely among the 11,000 people who live on the bleak 1970s estate in Grigny, outside Paris, the home to 52 different nationalities. Many say that the youths, who have come to see Mr Sarkozy as a figure of hate, would greet his election with a fresh round of firebomb attacks on cars, buses and the police. Similar rumours have been circulating on other troubled suburban estates and senior police officers appear to be taking them seriously. Privately they say they are preparing for clashes if Mr Sarkozy is elected on May 6. “We have to be ready for these gangs to demonstrate like they do on New Year’s Eve,” one high ranking officer told Le Figaro, referring to the street battles that have become an annual ritual in the suburbs. Zair Issa, 18, who is also from Mali, agreed on the likelihood of a violent response to the election of the centre-right candidate as he joined in the conversation with Mr Jaoussou. Wearing dark glasses, a large metal chain and a T-shirt with the words “Ghetto Class” across the chest, he said that the hardline former Interior Minister was viewed as the enemy by youths in France’s immigrant communities. “It’s because of him that we get police identity checks all the time,” he said. “It’s oppressive.”

Jean-François Charmand, 38, a painter and decorator with flip-flops on his feet and a cannabis joint in his hand, said that Mr Sarkozy’s crackdown on crime had served to unleash police brutality on ethnic minorities. “If Sarkozy’s elected it’s going to be chaos,” he said, fingering a multi-coloured necklace. “We’re going to have even more police coming after les blacks and even less freedom than we do now.” Mr Sarkozy’s image in la banlieue is used by his opponents as proof that he would be unable to heal the rifts within French society. Their attempt to portray him as a dangerously divisive figure will be one of the keys to the election. However, on La Grande Borne estate — where only 44 per cent of adults are in work — there was evidence to support his claim that France needs radical change. Cats scavenged on rubbish uncollected on the pavements. A burnt-out car was visible in the car park. And a young woman sat on a table outside one of the council blocks. “Don’t talk to her,” said a youth standing in a doorway. The teenager — probably a spotter for a gang that pays him to alert drug dealers to the arrival of police — approached menacingly. “Get away,” he said. Mr Jaoussou said that the youth was typical of a generation that had adopted a ghetto mentality. “The young people around here feel rejected and you can understand why,” he said. “As far as the French are concerned blacks are fit only to be cleaners and manual workers.”
The Times Online



24/4/2007- "Let's unearth the truth about what happened in 1915 together". That was the headline of a page-wide advertisement from the Turkish government in some international newspapers. Ankara hopes to win public support over the issue of the Armenian genocide in 1915. The proposal to let Armenian and Turkish historians investigate the matter together, however, is not new and neither is the support from Washington for this idea. But the timing of the adverstisment, just before the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, was very clever. In the advertisement, Ankara invites Armenia to establish a joint commission of historians to investigate the 1915 killings of thousands of Armenians in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Estimates range from 800,000 to 1.2 million Armenians who have died between 1915 and 1917 in the mass killings and deportation of Armenians. However, for mainly nationalistic reasons, Ankara still refuses to acknowledge that what happened was genocide, the planned extermination of an ethnic group.

Thorny issue
The genocide denial remains a thorny issue in Turkish relations not only with Armenia, but with the US, the EU and several European countries as well. That explains the advertisement, which also quotes US President George W Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice who are backing the proposal. But according to Professor Eric Jan Zurcher, Turkey expert at Leiden University, neither the proposal, nor the American support is new. The proposal is a few years old and has been categorically rejected by the Armenian government. The Armenians claim no extra research is needed to establish the historical facts. The Americans support the Turkish proposal since they are bound by the need to maintain good relations with Turkey and the demands from Armenian pressure groups. So in the end, the advertisement very much looks like a publicity stunt to win time for Turkey.

Fruitless debates
And the chances of any joint commission of historians reaching the same conclusions are still very small, fears Mr Zurcher. Historians appointed by the Armenian and Turkish governments will first of all be selected for their loyalty to the national points of view on this issue. So the attempt to find a common conclusion will most likely end up in some fruitless debates. Then there remains another possible pitfall, warns Professor Zurcher. In the initial stages, Ankara hinted that such a joint commission of historians would get exclusive rights on the issue. That could bar independent historians from using Turkish archives, for instance and it would possibly silence the debate on the Armenian Genocide for the time being which might be exactly what the Turks are after. This leaves the Armenians, demonstrating at the Turkish embassy in The Hague, with their clear demands: a penalty on denial of the Armenian Genocide and no Turkish EU-membership without acknowledging the genocide by Ankara. Whether the Armenians will have it their way remains very doubtful however. Although more than 90 years have passed since the atrocities took place, the discussion is a long way from reaching a conclusion.
Radio Netherlands



Every other Norwegian man believes that flirtatious women have themselves to blame if they are raped.

25/4/2007- The shock results appear in a report compiled by Amnesty in cooperation with Reform - resource center for men. One in five men surveyed said that a woman known to have several partners is fully or partly responsible if sexually assaulted, and 28 percent believed that a woman who dresses sexily is wholly or partly responsible for a sexual assault. "I think the results of this study are frightening. I am the father of a teenage girl. It is disturbing to see that Norwegian men believe she is responsible if she should be assaulted after flirting with a man," John Peder Egenæs, secretary general of Amnesty International Norway told newspaper VG. Fully 48 percent of those surveyed believe that women are fully or partly responsible for a sexual assault if they openly flirt before the attack. "It is unacceptable to blame women who have been exposed to sexual assault and violence. This confirms that female-hostile attitudes are alive and well," said victim's legal counsel Trine Rjukan. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he was disappointed over Norwegian men's attitude towards women and found the study's results frightening. "I had hoped and believed that we had come further than that in terms of men's view of violence against women," Stoltenberg said.



25/4/2007- A bus driver in Malmö has been suspended after he allegedly tried to stop a woman from boarding because she was wearing a burqa. The incident happened on Tuesday morning when Leonora O. boarded the number 35 bus on her usual route between the Rosengård housing estate and the city's central station. According to Leonora, the driver stopped her from boarding, saying that her burqa made her hard to identify. A burqa covers a woman from head to toe, with a small mesh screen to see through. "I have never before needed to identify myself on a public bus. Wearing a burqa is my own choice and doesn't make me any more threatening than anyone else," she told Metro. Leonora stayed on the bus anyway, but claims that the driver mocked her and looked at her angrily. Bus operator Arriva says that the driver has a different version of events, but he has been suspended while an investigation is carried out. The driver has also been reported to police. There are no rules on Malmö public buses requiring passengers to identify themselves.
The Local



24/4/2007- The Swedish government is ready to invest in the education of imams. But Muslim organizations must first reach agreement regarding their needs, said Education Minister Lars Leijonborg when the issue was discussed in parliament on Tuesday. Leijonborg's approach was criticized however by Social Democrat member of parliament Luciano Astudillo, who argued that the time for waiting was over. He felt that a third level institution should immediately be given the task of setting a curriculum based on consultation with Muslim interest groups. There are around 400,000 Muslims living in Sweden, ranging from the wholly secular to the most devout. According to Astudillo, it is futile to expect that organizations that are as different as night and day will be able to come to some sort of agreement. "We need to answer the question: what do we want Islam to be? How do we want that religion to develop?" said Astudillo. He also pointed out that many imams who are flown in to Sweden from other countries do not speak the language and do not understand Swedish society. "It is a dangerous development. If we just let this happen, there is a risk that young, rootless people will be drawn to militant branches," said Astudillo. But Leijonborg replied by warning of the dangers of "religious imperialism". "We, with our Christian roots, should be careful about formulating what we want Islam to be," he said. The outgoing Liberal Party leader also added that it was natural for the state to use tax revenues to finance the training of imams, in the same way that Sweden already finances the education of priests and ministers. "It is completely reasonable that the state should contribute with economic resources," said Leijonborg.
The Local


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