Yemen's Houthi militia continues to violate Hodeidah ceasefire: Arab coalition

The Arab coalition fighting to support of the legitimate Yemeni government said that the Houthi militia had violated the cease-fire agreement 16 times over the last 24 hours. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 28 December 2018

Yemen's Houthi militia continues to violate Hodeidah ceasefire: Arab coalition

JEDDAH: The Arab coalition fighting in support of the legitimate Yemeni government on Friday said that the Houthi militia had violated the cease-fire agreement 16 times over the last 24 hours.
The colaition said that this brings the total number of breaches to 190 since the start of the cease-fire.
A truce in the rebel-held city of Hodeidah and its surroundings went into effect on Dec. 18 and is part of a peace push seen as the best chance yet of ending four years of devastating conflict.
Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert is heading the joint committee, which includes both government officials and Houthi rebels, and chaired its first face-to-face meetings on Wednesday.
“We support the Yemeni army’s commitment to the cease-fire and the Sweden deal,” the coalition said in a statement.
However, earlier on Friday, the Houthi militia prevented the Yemeni government’s delegation from leaving the port city of Hodeidah, after concluding consultations with a UN team tasked with monitoring the cease-fire between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Iranian-backed Houthi militia.
Meanwhile, a number of civilians, including children, were wounded in a public square in the center of the city of Taiz in a bombardment launched by the Houthi militia, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
It cited local sources as saying the militia bombed the so-called Freedom Square while crowds of worshipers were preparing to perform Friday prayers.
Cammaert arrived in Hodeidah on Sunday from the rebel-held capital Sanaa, after meeting with government officials in Aden.
Yemen’s warring sides agreed at peace talks in Sweden this month on the cease-fire to halt an offensive by government forces and the coalition against Hodeidah.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the deployment of observers to oversee the truce.
The UN monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of Hodeidah’s port and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.
The text approved by the Security Council “insists on the full respect by all parties of the cease-fire agreed” for Hodeidah.
It authorizes the United Nations to “establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days from the adoption of this resolution, an advance team to begin monitoring” the cease-fire, under Cammaert’s leadership.
(With AFP)​

‘Homegrown Islam project’ could lead to new Ankara-Berlin tensions

Updated 26 March 2019

‘Homegrown Islam project’ could lead to new Ankara-Berlin tensions

  • Markus Kerber: “What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany”
  • Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community

ANKARA: Germany has reportedly initiated a campaign to push German Muslims to develop a new interpretation of Islam, the Financial Times reported on Monday. 

“What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany,” Markus Kerber, the government representative responsible for relations with the Muslim community under the German Interior Ministry, reportedly told the Financial Times.

The move of Europe’s economic powerhouse is expected to influence Turkey’s state-led diaspora engagement with German-Turks as well as its state-level relations with Germany. But experts do not anticipate relations to further deteriorate as they say they are already as bad as they can get. 

Turks, mostly from the conservative section of society, have been emigrating to Germany since the early 1960s; originally as guest workers during the economic boom. They have since become the largest Muslim community in the country. 

Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community and provide homegrown training to all imams preaching in Germany. 

The largest Islamic organization in Germany is the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, which is affiliated to Turkey’s state directorate for religious affairs. Turkey is sending imams to Germany who are paid by the Turkish government and who are preaching in Turkish in 900 mosques funded by Ankara.

According to Yoruk Halil, a halal butcher living in Frankfurt, Germany’s new move will be beneficial for the Turkish Muslim community. 

“Those imams coming from Turkey do not benefit Turkish youth in Germany because these young people have been raised with a totally different culture and they mostly speak German, so they cannot establish a healthy dialogue with those imams,” Halil told Arab News. “In order to reach out to the Muslim community, including Turks, there is a need to use homegrown imams. 

My 15-year-old son has been going to the mosque for five years and he even told me that he has better communication with imams being trained and educated in Germany,” he said. 

There is also a continuing debate over requiring Muslims in Germany to pay a worship tax.

Turkey is against any “Germanification” of Islam and considers any redefinition of Islam for Germany against the universality of the religion. 

Germany’s move intends to further integrate Muslims’ daily routines into German society, to boost the loyalty of the 3 million members of the German-Turkish community.  It is therefore considered a move for breaking the Turkish community’s ties with their national and religious identity as well as their traditions.

Last year, German police recorded some 578 hate crimes against Muslims between January and September, while about half of Germans think that Islam is incompatible with the values of their nation, according to recent research by pollster YouGov.

“Turkey has been developing diaspora politics since the mid-2000s, and Turks in Germany have been put at the center of it,” Murat Onsoy, an expert in Turkey-Germany relations at Hacettepe University in Ankara, told Arab News. 

However, for Onsoy, the presence of imams in Germany who have been appointed by Turkey is a socialization factor for the Turkish diaspora — who show relatively low rates of crime — and to maintain their links with their home country. 

“If Germany rejects Turkish funding to these mosques, they will face serious difficulties in covering their expenses,” he said. 

Germany has a community of about 4.5 million Muslims worshipping at about 2,400 mosques, and the number is expected to rise with the refugee influx from Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Sy The German federal constitution, called Basic Law, gives autonomy to Muslim communities to receive funding and religious officials from abroad to operate mosques in Germany. 

“It is unlikely that this article of the constitution would be easily amended. Various provinces would react to such a move, resulting in widespread protests. The Turkish government would raise the issue at the intergovernmental Islamic organizations, and the German government would be obliged take a step back,” Onsoy said. 

He, however, draws attention to the timing of the debate. 

“It coincides with the upcoming local elections in Turkey this Sunday, and in the past we witnessed that such potential crises with Western countries have been used by the ruling government to consolidate its voters through engaging in international polemics and assuming the role of the defender of external Turks and ‘Islam’ worldwide,” he said. 

Ayhan Kaya, professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, said that the move in Germany to bring a homegrown reading to Islam had already been on the table since Angela Merkel’s initiative in 2006. 

“Although it contradicts with the Sunni Islam rhetoric, what Germany did is a counter-move against the lobbying strategies of Muslim countries such as Turkey, Morocco or Algeria within German territories,” he told Arab News. 

Kaya also noted that in the past Germany and Turkey developed joint projects to train imams who would be appointed in Germany by providing them with linguistic and cultural-integration skills. 

“This latest move is a dialectic result of the political maneuvers on the diasporas by countries who are sending and receiving migration,” he said.