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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘City Council’

Iceland to Get its First Mosque

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The Reykjavík City Council has approved a building permit for the construction of the first mosque in Iceland.

The mosque will be built in Sogamýri, an upscale district near downtown Reykjavík on a highly desirable plot of land that was granted to Muslims free of charge, courtesy of Icelandic taxpayers.

Members of the city council — which is led by Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr, who identifies himself as an anarchist — say they hope the prime location will make the mosque a prominent landmark in the city.

Critics of the mosque, however, say the project is being financed by donors in the Middle East who are seeking to exert control over — and radicalize — the growing Muslim community in Iceland.

Although reliable statistics do not exist, the Muslim population of Iceland is estimated to be approximately 1,200, or 0.4% of the total Icelandic population of 320,000. Most Muslims in Iceland live in the capital Reykjavík, where they make up about 1% of the total population of 120,000.

The Muslim community in Iceland may be small in comparison to other European countries, but its rate of growth has been exponential: Since 1990, when there were fewer than a dozen Muslims in the country, their number has increased by nearly 10,000%. Much of this growth has been due to immigration, but in recent years native Icelanders have also been converting to Islam in increasing numbers.

Currently there are two main Muslim groups in Iceland: the Muslim Association of Iceland, which has around 500 members, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, which has some 300 followers. The former group is run by Salmann Tamimi, a Palestinian immigrant who considers himself to be the voice of moderate Islam in Iceland; the latter group is run by Ahmad Seddeq, a firebrand preacher from Pakistan whose activities are allegedly being financed by Saudi Arabia.

Although both groups pertain to Sunni Islam, they have been openly fighting with each other for many years over who should be the rightful representative of Islam in Iceland.

In 2000, Tamimi — whose group meets at a make-shift mosque on the third floor of an office building in downtown Reykjavík — submitted an application to obtain a free plot of land from city authorities to build the first purpose-built mosque in Iceland.

Not to be outdone, Seddeq — whose group meets at a make-shift mosque in an old concert hall near the Reykjavík airport — submitted his own application for free land to build a competing mosque.

City officials responded by saying there should be only one mosque and that it should be shared by both groups. “Obviously we won’t be allocating two lots for mosques at this point and we find it natural for them to cooperate on the construction of one mosque,” Páll Hjaltason, the chairman of Reykjavík City’s Urban Planning Council, told the newspaper Fréttabladid.

Seddeq said he was open to the idea of sharing one plot of land, but Tamimi, who submitted his application first, would have none of it. Instead, Tamimi lashed out at Seddeq, accusing him of extremism, fanaticism and oppression in the name of Islam.

“Our application is completely different from theirs,” Salmann said in an interview with the newspaper Fréttabladid. “This is like asking the national church to be with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Tamimi sought to undermine Seddeq’s group by accusing it of being financed by Saudi Arabia. At one point, Tamimi called the police to report members of Seddeq’s group, accusing them of misunderstanding the peaceful nature of Islam, and saying that he feared that Muslim extremists were attempting to gain a foothold in Iceland.

Tamimi also sought to assure the Reykjavík City Council that — unlike Seddeq — his mosque project would not be financed by foreigners and thus would not be promoting extremism.

“If we are going to have a mosque, it must be done according to local considerations,” Tamimi said in October 2010. “As soon as you lose sight of the source of funding you lose control of what happens subsequently. The experience of other countries teaches that it is wise to reject large foreign investments in religion. Such investors are much more likely to import their own countries’ traditions and not adapt to the traditions in their host country.”

In the end, city officials sided with Tamimi, whose mosque project was formally approved on September 19. After more than a decade of bickering, construction of Reykjavík’s first mosque is expected to begin in early 2014.

The cost of building the 800 square meter (8,600 square foot) mosque — which will include a prayer hall, community center and library, as well as a nine-meter (30 foot) minaret — is expected to exceed 400 million Icelandic Krona (€2.5 million; $3.3 million).

But now that the Reykjavík mosque project has been given the go-ahead, Tamimi’s group has changed its tune and now admits that foreign donors will be paying for the mosque’s construction costs after all.

During a newspaper interview on September 19 — conducted just a few hours after the mosque project was approved — Sverrir Agnarsson, a convert to Islam who is chairman of Tamimi’s group, the Muslim Association of Iceland, was asked how the mosque would be financed.

“We have received numerous promises,” Agnarsson said. “We are mostly seeking funding from individual foreigners. We have a right to get support from the collective funds of Muslims [the Ummah, or the worldwide community of Muslims]. We are doing all of this in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice to guarantee that all the money coming to us is received legally, and is not associated with any terrorist organizations,” he added.

The idea that foreigners are financing the spread of Islam in Reykjavík does not sit well with many Icelanders.

One of the most vocal opponents of the mosque project has been the former mayor of Reykjavík, Ólafur F. Magnússon. In an article he wrote for the newspaper Morgunbladid, Magnússon laid out his position:

It is a matter of grave concern that it seems to be no problem for Muslims in Iceland to finance such a mosque here in Iceland with money from ‘Muslim/Islamic promotion organizations’ abroad. They could receive financial help from organizations that want to increase Islamic influence in Iceland as well as in other countries. This can be dangerous for our national culture and safety.

Magnússon also said why he thought it was wrong for foreign organizations to be financing the construction of mosques in Iceland:

Islam is a religion with the goal to eliminate all other religions and to expand all over the world, the West, the Nordic countries…and now even Iceland. The experience in the Nordic countries shows that Muslims are not adapting to society. This has become a huge problem, in Malmö [Sweden] for example. The other day, a mosque was to be built on Trondheim [Norway], but the Norwegian authorities canceled the project because some Saudi Arabian organization was to finance the whole thing.

Although he is not opposed to the mosque per se, Magnússon believes it is outrageous for the city to give Muslims a building site at no cost at a great location in the center of Reykjavík. He also asks why political movements and feminist groups in Iceland are so tolerant towards a religion that he says degrades women.

Part of the answer may be found in the political make-up of the Reykjavík City Council, which is led by the upstart Best Party, a so-called joke party that was propelled into office in 2010 as a backlash against establishment parties in the wake of Iceland’s banking collapse in 2008.

The Best Party — a semi-serious far left party that is home to anarchists, atheists, surrealists, punks and poets — is being led by Jón Gnarr, a stand-up comedian whose stated political aim is thoroughly to upset the established order in Reykjavík. Critics say the new mosque represents a big step toward achieving Gnarr’s objective.

A Closer Look at Bill de Blasio’s Record

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Bill de Blasio, the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary for mayor, has been running his second television commercial of the campaign, titled “Dignity,” since Monday. Fact checking the ad, Michael Barbaro of the NY Times found it quite misleading. Mr. de Blasio argues he’s the only candidate pledging to end the way the Police Department carries out the stop-and-frisk tactic. The problem with that claim is that his opponents have all, in one way or another, pledged to reform it, too.



Nor is Mr. de Blasio, per his claim, the only candidate proposing an income tax on the rich to pay for education. John C. Liu, the city comptroller, has proposed raising the city’s marginal income tax to pay for after-school programs, among other things.

“Dropping the misleading word ‘only’ from several of his claims, or using it more carefully, would do wonders for the accuracy and credibility of his commercials,” Barbaro concludes.

Bill de Blasio’s exaggerating his role as an advocate for the issues he believes are at the top of voters’ concerns is nothing new. In fact, his record of representing the outer-boroughs, as he now promises not to let down any New Yorker, is far from exhilarating.

Back in 2001, when he first ran for City Council in the 39th district, Mr. de Blasio was examined for mismanagement and controversial ties that had put in question his credentials at the time. “[Bill de Blasio] carries a lot of baggage as well,” The Village Voice wrote in a profile on the race for council.

“De Blasio was elected to School Board 15 in 1999, and his tenure has been rocky. Many public school parents charge that de Blasio was stubbornly supportive of Frank DeStefano, the former superintendent of District 15 who resigned in the winter amid allegations of overspending and mismanagement. Reports first surfaced in the fall of 1999 that DeStefano had begun to run up big deficits, taking himself and other school officials on several expensive junkets costing a total of more than $100,000. One year later the school deficit topped $1 million, leading to the cancellation of a popular after-school reading program while DeStefano maintained an expensive car service.

“De Blasio still defends his decision to stick with DeStefano for as long as he did. “He was a visionary and a great educator, but he was a horrible communicator,” de Blasio says of DeStefano. “I was deeply concerned, but I was not going to make a final decision until I saw the evidence.” In the end, de Blasio says, “he could have made better decisions, but I don’t think the spending was wildly excessive. Both of my parents were victims of the McCarthy era. I do not take lightly the idea of ousting someone. You have to have the evidence.”

“De Blasio has also been linked to the flap over New Square, the Hasidic village in upstate New York that has been mired in pardon scandals. Candidate Clinton assiduously courted the small Rockland community last year, winning the town by the whopping margin of 1400 to 12. Six weeks after the election, Israel Spitzer, New Square’s deputy mayor, met with the Clintons at the White House, where pardons for four New Square civic leaders convicted of fraud were discussed. In January, Bill Clinton commuted their sentences, leading to a probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in which several Hillary Clinton campaign aides were called in for questioning. At a Manhattan fundraiser for de Blasio in December, Spitzer made a $2500 donation, the largest permitted under the city’s Campaign Finance Board. De Blasio refused to comment on that matter, including the issue of whether he was questioned by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. De Blasio would only offer this comment: “I’m waiting to hear what’s going to happen with that.”

in 2007 as councilman, Mr. de Blasio was lambasted for not living up to his promises and for a lackluster performance as representative of his district.  In a hard hitting piece by a local blogger named “Parden Me For Asking,” Mr. de Blasio was criticized for running a dysfunctional office and keeping himself distracted from the issues that mattered to the neighborhoods he represented, going back to his time he served on the Board of Education before his run for council.

Anti-Israel, ‘Amsterdam News’ Favorite, Charles Barron Loses Vote

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

It looks like someone went up to Charles Barron and slapped him.

The former member of the City Council and the Black Panther party was handily defeated by Hakeem Jeffries for the newly redrawn 8th Congressional District. The new district is mainly African-American, with a significant percentage of Russian Jews and Hispanics. Jeffries won in a landslide with more than half the precincts reporting, taking 75 percent of the vote.

According to The Daily News, Barron is demanding a recount.

“When we launched this campaign we knew we were going up against … the entire New York Democratic political leadership,” Barron said. “You know you good when you made the governor do a robo call for a primary.”

While not the most intense election, the contest between the two candidates may have been the most interesting. Barron is better known for his derogatory comments about Jews and Israel. Among what he considers his best achievement in his three-term tenure in City Council was hosting Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe. He called Gaza a “concentration camp” and eulogized Muammar el-Qaddafi as a “freedom fighter.”

(As a parenthetical note, Barron called a proposal by a board member of the CUNY school system to have students take remedial classes in the high school “ethnic cleansing.” When I asked him about it a year later, he seemed puzzled. “I said so much stuff, I’m not sure,” he told me.

While some predicted that it wouldn’t be much of a contest, the election achieved notoriety by the sheer number of endorsements that Jeffries received. He was endorsed by The New York Times, The New York Post, The Daily News. The New York Observer didn’t actually endorse Jeffries, but instead shrilly begged for President Obama to step in and stop Barron.

Virtually the only paper of note to endorse Barron was the Amsterdam News. (Note: The link to the AN endorsement will take you to the Barron website, because the original endorsement on the newspaper’s site has been scrubbed. JP)

“The man is a hater and a bigot whose only redeeming quality is his candor,” the Observer wrote about Barron. “The man makes no attempt to hide his loathing of white people, Israel, his colleagues and anybody else who doesn’t share his demented views.”

In terms of fundraising, Jeffries managed to rack up over $350,000 compared to Barron’s measly $50,000.

Barron did manage to get the endorsement of the city’s largest public union and Congressman Ed Towns, the previous holder of the seat. Barron also unwittingly received a toxic endorsement from David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. In the video, posted on Youtube, in between bouts of anti-Semitic paranoia Duke stuck out an olive branch in the style of the late Rodney King.

“Black leaders like Barron should work to lessen the enmity between blacks and whites and realize that the Jewish extremists in America keep the whites and blacks from mutually solving our interests and differences,” Duke says in the clip.

During the election itself, Barron supporters clad in yellow faced off against a virtual army of Jeffries supporters.

“The election results prove that the Jewish and African American communities are more united than most people would assume,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander group, a public and government relations group based in DC and New York. “The voters rejected a divisive demagogue and elected a bright, talented and forward thinking individual who has the potential to develop into a star.”

The question has also become what to make of former Congressman Ed Towns, long thought to be a strong supporter of Israel, who nonetheless endorsed Barron.

“I voted for Charles Barron,” Harold Mansfield, 77, told the Bayside Patch. “I vote every year, every chance I can get. I always voted for Ed Towns because he takes care of us seniors, and he said Barron was his man, so that’s my man.”

Jonathan Noble, a former District Legislative Director for Rep. Towns and an Orthodox Jew, said he was surprised by the Towns endorsement. But he added, “I hope this does not diminish Towns’ legacy as a bridge-builder. I’ve always admired him for that.”

Bill Thompson Courting Orthodox Jews in Quest of Mayoral Post

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The NY Post reported that Mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson has been “surprisingly successful” in seeking the Orthodox Jewish vote in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat, who supported Thompson for Mayor in 2009, said “Thompson’s definitely a favorite in the Jewish community, no question about it.”

Thompson’s rival in the Mayoral race, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is Jewish, is not cutting it, apparently, with his co-religionists across the river.

Thompson told The Post, “I’ve established relationships in the Orthodox community across the city. I’m getting a pretty positive reception. It isn’t a question of whether you’re Jewish or not.”

He added: “It is a question of leading the city; it’s a question of services to communities.”

Bill de Blasio, who represented Borough Park in the City Council for eight years, is also in the running for the city’s top job.

Are You Allowed to Cry ‘Heil Hitler’ in a Crowded City Hall?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Aida Ahmad and Kate Linthicum of the Los Angeles Times report that “tempers flared” at the Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday when a councilman said he was tempted to “clock” a speaker who called out “Heil Hitler” during a public comment period.

It started when Michael Carreon, a resident of Los Angeles’ 14th council district, objected to the rules of decorum at a City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Carreon directed his comments to a few council members who, apparently, weren’t paying attention to him, and so Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was chairing the meeting, stopped him. LaBonge instructed Carreon not to address his comments to specific members, as per city rules.

Carreon, a regular at these meetings, was livid.

“The city’s going to hell in a handbasket, and you’re going to sit up there and dictate?” he said. “I’m upset, so I guess I’ll just salute you.” He raised one hand in the air in a Nazi salute, and shouted: “Heil Hitler.”

That’s when Councilman Paul Koretz, who is Jewish, stood up from his seat and said: “That’s a highly offensive thing, I’m very tempted to go over there and clock ‘im.”

You’d expect the offending Heil shouter would be carried out by security guards at that point, but a City attorney who was present at the meeting said his comments weren’t grounds for eviction.

At another point Tuesday, Matt Dowd, another frequent City Hall critic, used the F word when addressing the assembly. Soon after, the meeting was adjourned.

Conclusion: You can cry ‘Heil Hitler’ in a crowded LA City Hall, but say one F word and everybody runs home.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/are-you-allowed-to-cry-heil-hitler-in-a-crowded-city-hall/2012/04/11/

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