The number of Muslim MPs elected to the British parliament is expected to more than double at next week’s general election, and could reach up to a dozen or more.

The election is set to see the first Muslim women members of the House of Commons and the first Muslim MPs representing the Conservative Party.

In addition, Britain’s parliament is also likely to include its first Iraqi Kurd and first Bengali, while there is the possibility also of Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob becoming the first hijab-wearing MP, as already reported by IRNA.

Muslim candidates of various political persuasions are involved in a spectrum of intriguing contests for parliamentary seats around the country in part due to a record 146 MPs stepping down.

Labour has no less than seven Muslims, including three women, defending seats, the Conservatives one and another selected to capture the party’s number one target seat in Gillingham and Rainham, in eastern England.

A Muslim MP is also certain to be elected in Bethnal Green and Bow in East London, the most populous Muslim constituency, where uniquely no less than five Muslim candidates from different parties are vying for the seat vacated by anti-war Respect MP George Galloway.

Altogether a record of around 80 Muslim candidates are standing in the elections and according to the Muslim News, up to 15, or at least double the four, who were all Labour and all male, elected at the last election in 2005.

The elections are the closest for decades with so many uncertain factors and analysis also suggest that Britain’s two million Muslim population will play a decisive influence in the outcome.

French officials are considering yanking the citizenship of a Muslim polygamist, even though he now claims his wives are merely mistresses, which is something he believes is a cornerstone of French culture.

Problems for Algerian-born butcher Lies Hebbadj began last week when police ticketed a wife for wearing a full face veil while driving a car. Officials discovered records indicating that Hebbadj has 4 wives and 12 children.

But he’s claiming at least 3 of the women are merely lovers, though they appear to be collecting spousal social welfare benefits under his name. “As far as I know, it is not forbidden to have mistresses in France, nor is it forbidden under Islam,” said Hebbadj, who lives in Nantes. “If you lose your French nationality for having mistresses, then a lot of French men would have been stripped of their citizenship.”

Faisal Shahzad, 30, a Muslim from Pakistan who was recently naturalized as a U.S. citizen, was arrested late Monday night by Customs and Border Protection agents at JFK airport as he attempted to flee the U.S. to his native Pakistan via Dubai.

Shahzad was placed on the “do-not-fly” list earlier Monday based on information developed during the course of the investigation into the attempted vehicle bombing in Time Square. He was identified as the individual who drove the vehicle into Times Square.

Authorities are currently investigating Shahzad’s U.S. support network in the New York area, including other possible suspects who have not yet been publicly identified.

According to information provided to this author by New York authorities, Shahzad lives in Shelton, Connecticut. He became naturalized in April 2009 shortly before traveling back to Pakistan for a five-month period. Shahzad is married and reportedly maintains a wife in Pakistan. His activities while in Pakistan allegedly include meetings with at least one Pakistani based Muslim terrorist organization and time spent at terror training camps, based on information provided to this author.

Also according to information provided by a New York official, investigators are looking into Shahzad’s U.S. contacts as the probe into Saturday’s bombing attempt widens. “There is no doubt that this was an Islamic inspired, sanctioned and funded attempted terror attack against the citizens of the U.S.,” stated the New York official on the strict condition of anonymity. “There is a concern that more attacks are being planned by individuals in the U.S.as well as in other countries, especially Pakistan,” added this source.

Investigators initially identified Shahzad through the purchase of the Nissan Pathfinder used in the bombing attempt. Investigators also gathered information about Shahzad and other likely suspects from a video message uploaded 24 hours before the attempted attack by a group known as Tehreek-e-Taliban, different from the Pakistani group who originally claimed responsibility for the act.  The video featured Qari Hussein Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban leader and bomb trainer referencing the Times Square attack and promises for additional terrorist attacks inside the U.S.

That video was then followed by the release of two additional video messages from Hakeemullah Mehsud, the head of the Taliban in Pakistan believed to have been killed in a U.S. missile strike in North Waziristan last January. Although it is important to note the distinction between the messages and the groups, it is interesting to note that all of the videos were posted on the Internet by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the “Pakistan News Channel.” Additionally, investigation revealed that the messages were recorded sometime in early April.

Shahzad will be brought to the Manhattan Federal Courthouse today to be formally charged.

Jewish and Muslim students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee clashed during an Israel Independence Day event on campus.

A Jewish student was injured and a Muslim student was arrested by campus police during the April 29 incident on a plaza located outside of the student union, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Members of the Muslim Student Association confronted Jewish students during the Yom Ha’azmaut event marking the 62nd anniversary of Israel’s founding. A Jewish student tried to throw a Palestinian flag in a garbage can.  Anti-Israel slogans and a swastika had been painted on the plaza the night before the event, the newspaper reported.

A group of Muslim and Jewish students met on the plaza Friday to discuss their future relations, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Jewish students have requested a meeting with university officials to discuss their safety at future events.

A 26-year-old Tunisian woman has been fined for wearing a face veil while walking to a mosque in northern Italy, adding to the growing debate on the integration of Muslim minorities in Europe.

The police in the city of Novara, a stronghold of Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League, stopped the woman on Friday while she was walking with her husband to prayers. The woman, who is Muslim, was wearing a black niqab that covered her face but left her eyes exposed.

In Germany, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that talk of a ban on such face veils was “inappropriate and therefore unnecessary” after one house of Belgium’s Parliament voted last week to outlaw veils and France said it would start debating a possible ban soon.

The Italian police fined the Tunisian woman about $650 under a bylaw introduced in January by the mayor of Novara that bans clothing in public that prevents identification by the police.

“We just enforced a local law that stops people from covering their face near sensitive places like schools, hospitals or post offices,” Police Inspector Leonardo Borghesani said.

“We understand the fine is hefty, but she can appeal,” he said.

The Northern League, a coalition ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is pushing for national legislation to outlaw face-covering Islamic garments in public.

Supporters of such bans say the veils negate the dignity of women. But Muslim leaders in Europe have protested against the bans as discriminatory.

A British Muslim who descecrated a town’s war memorial with graffiti glorifying al-Qaeda walked free from court yesterday – after lawyers ruled he was not a religious extremist.

Tohseef Shah, 21, showed “no remorse” after admitting he had sprayed the words “Islam will dominate the world Osama is on his way” and “Kill Gordon Brown” on a plinth, magistrates heard.

He was seen with an accomplice on CCTV and was later trapped by DNA evidence after throwing away a spray paint can at the scene.

Senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyers watched the footage after a street cleaner found the damaged council memorial in Burton upon Trent, Staffs, last December.

Burton JPs heard the CPS ruled Shah was politically and not racially or religiously motivated. He got a two-year conditional discharge for criminal damage. He also has to pay £500 compensation and £85 costs.

Belgian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to ban wearing the Islamic burqa or niqab in public. Other European countries might follow suit.

In the lower house of the Belgian federal parliament, 136 deputies voted for a nationwide ban. There were no abstentions, and no one voted against the bill. The ban will be imposed in all public spaces.

Violators of the new law risk a fine of 15 to 25 euros and/or a prison sentence of one to seven days. All governing and opposition parties agreed on the law, based on the argument that women wearing burqas cannot be identified. The upper house of parliament has two weeks to object to the decision.

The move was condemned by Muslim and Catholic leaders, and by human rights group Amnesty International.

A similar ban is being considered in other countries, including Denmark and France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already ordered legislation paving the way for a ban on the full Islamic veil.

In the Netherlands, a burqa ban is one of the main planks of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party manifesto for next month’s general election. Wilders claims that Islamic veils are a sign of a “backward culture” in which women are considered inferior to men, in violation of Dutch law.

Imam Fawaz Jneid of the al-Sunna mosque in The Hague says, “This isn’t about the niqab or the headscarf. The cause is the fear of the arrival of Islam in Europe. They’re trying to stop this in a roundabout way.”

Chaista Khan was born in the Netherlands and wears a burqa. She said she will leave the country if a burqa ban is introduced. “It’s not easy. This is the country in which we were born, in which we were raised, so this is a last option. I love Holland as well.”