ONE of the complaints quite reasonably made about the Muslim presence in Europe is that no single religious authority exists to represent the Muslim view on current issues of concern. A relatively minor mullah at small mosque can command media attention just by the strength of his opinions even though he may not represent any significant strand of Muslim opinion. An attempt to overcome this problem has been underway since 2000 and last week in Brussels the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe presented the outcome of its consultations in the form of a charter. The Federation is made up of some 400 Muslim groups and the charter is intended to describe the rights and responsibilities of Muslims within European society. It consists of 26 separate points, some of which clarify issues that often worry non-Muslims - for instance the term “jihad” which is described as meaning “to exert all efforts towards good, starting from reforming oneself to spreading truth and justice between people”. In the term's more frequently heard usage by militant groups the charter says that “its understanding as warfare is regarded as one of the means available to any sovereign state when it needs to defend itself against aggression” and adds that “The teachings of Islam, in this respect, are in line with international law.” This initiative by the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe is very welcome and should help to reduce friction through misunderstanding.


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