Japan’s Supreme Court upholds blanket surveillance of Muslims

Turkish Mosque at Yoyogi Uehara in Tokyo (Photo: Emrank/Creative Commons)

Nadine Osman

Japan’s Supreme Court has upheld the Government’s blanket surveillance of the country’s 15,000 Muslim community.

The court struck down the second appeal by Japanese Muslim plaintiffs against what they perceive as an unconstitutional invasion of their privacy and freedom of religion.

A 2010 leak of 114 police files revealed nationwide surveillance of Japanese Muslims. The files revealed that mosques, halal restaurants and Islam-related organisations across Tokyo, were being monitored.

Within a few weeks of the leak, the data had been downloaded 10,000 times in 20 different countries from a file-sharing website.

A group of 17 Japanese Muslims, mostly from Middle Eastern and North African countries, decided to sue the Japanese Government for infringing on their constitutional rights. Among the plaintiffs is Muslim convert Mohamed Fujita.

Fujita told Al Jazeera: “They made us terrorist suspects; we never did anything wrong – on the contrary.”

The Supreme Court finally dismissed the case after two appeals on May 31.The plaintiffs were awarded ¥90 million ($880,000) as compensation due to violation of their privacy by the leak.

However, the presiding judges did not make a judgment on police profiling and surveillance tactics which a lower court had upheld as “necessary and inevitable” to guard against international terrorism.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Junko Hayashi said: “We were told we don’t have a constitutional case, We’re still trying to figure out how it is not constitutional.”

Whistleblower Edward Snowden said Muslims in Japan “are more likely to be targeted… despite not having any criminal activities or associations or anything like that in their background, simply because people are afraid.”

On July 13 a Muslim association in the city of Shizuoka confirmed it has received threats of physical harm following a terrorist attack earlier this month in Bangladesh, in which 20 hostages including Japanese and Italians were killed.

An official of the Shizuoka Muslim Association said it had received four handwritten letters in Japanese stating, “I feel sorry for the Japanese and Italians in Bangladesh” and “Be careful from now on because I will beat you with a bat from behind!”

The letters are believed to have been written by the same person, the official said.The Association requested local police to strengthen patrols around the building where it is based.

Muslim doctor shot and stabbed outside mosque

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim man on his way to morning prayers was shot and stabbed outside a mosque in Houston, Texas, on July 4.

Spokesperson for the Madrasah Islamiah Masjid Noor mosque near Bellaire, Mohammed Imaduddin, said the victim was a doctor, who had parked along the street before walking towards the mosque for the morning prayers.

Witnesses said the victim was approached by three masked men on foot before being stabbed without warning.One of the individuals pulled out a gun and shot him, before the three attackers fled from the scene.

“It is very scary right now given the current political climate,” said Imaduddin, adding that there were children outside at the time of the incident.

“From what I hear, this is the third incident this week in the Houston area involving a Muslim getting shot. This is a community place, we have kids that come here, we have people young and old come here.”

Investigators say the doctor was shot twice, and will remain in ICU for 24 hours, but is expected to survive his injuries.  There is no known motive known for the attack.

The incident comes the day after another Muslim man was beaten up outside a mosque in Florida.

Muslim girls’ Swiss citizenship denied for refusing to swim with boys

Elham Asaad Buaras

Swiss authorities rejected the naturalization application of two Muslim girls who refused to take school swimming lessons because boys were present. The 12 and 14 year-olds who live in Basel, had applied for Swiss citizenship several months ago, but their request was denied on June 28.

The girls said their religion prevents them from participating in compulsory swimming lessons with males in the pool at the same time. Their naturalization application was rejected because the sisters did not comply with the school curriculum, Basel authorities said.

President of the naturalization committee, Stefan Wehrle, said, “Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized.”

Under Swiss rules naturalization can be denied citizenship, even if the applicants are employed, have lived in the Switzerland for long durations and are fluent in one of the national languages – German, French or Italian.

Local councils make initial decisions on naturalization applications. If they decide a candidate is not an upstanding member of the community, the application will be denied and not forwarded to canton (state) and federal authorities for further processing.

In April, members of an immigrant family in the Basel area were denied citizenship because they wore sweatpants around town and did not greet passersby – a sure sign that they were not sufficiently assimilated, the naturalization board claimed.

Another recent case sparked widespread outrage in Switzerland when two Muslim brothers refused to shake hands with their female teacher, also citing religious restrictions. Shaking hands with a teacher is a common practice in Swiss schools.

After that incident was widely publicized, authorities suspended the naturalization request from the boys’ father, an imam at the Basel mosque.The swimming case involving the two girls is the first to deny naturalization applications for not complying with a school program, setting precedence for future cases, Wehrle said.

In 2012, a family was fined $1,500 for forbidding their daughters to participate in swimming classes. The matter eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled that no dispensations from swimming lessons should be made on religious grounds.

 

Islamophobic booklet pushed through doors in Aston

Camel’s in the Tent were put through dozens of doors in Aston, Birmingham

Elham Asaad Buaras

West Midlands Police have confirmed they are investigating after an anti-Muslim booklet titled Camel’s in the Tent were put through dozens of doors in Aston, Birmingham, on June 27.

Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood contacted the police following complaints from residents who received the flyers by the American evangelical fundamentalist Christian Jack Thomas Chick. Police were treating the alert as a race hate crime and officers were studying CCTV footage in a bid to find out who was responsible for the literature. The Labour MP described the booklet as “frightening”.

“They are vile and a disgusting piece of literature designed to frighten the people in my constituency and cause fear and create division in our society. I have been liaising with residents and have reported the matter to police,” said Mahmood.

The details emerged as a cross-party statement was issued by Birmingham Council councillor Waseem Zaffar saying the city welcomed new arrivals from all over the world. He said: “Our city is warm, friendly and welcoming and no-one will come here and spread hate. We are united on this.”

Insp Will O’Connor, neighbourhood policing inspector, said: “We have received complaints about leaflets delivered to several addresses in the north Aston area.

“The act has been recorded as a racially aggravated offence, namely distributing material intended to incite racial hatred. These have been seized and we have also secured some CCTV covering the area which will be examined in the hope it will show who is responsible.” Chief constable Dave Thompson promised “zero tolerance” on hate crime after the UK voted to leave the EU.

Man rubs fake poo on four-year-old Muslim girl

Zainab Hassan

A four-year-old girl was attacked by a group of 20 men, one of whom rubbed fake poo on her face. The event took place outside the Royal Exchange in Corn market, Cornmarket, Worcester, at around 4pm on July 19.

The unidentified girl was been said to have been walking through town, with her grandmother and mother, when a group of 20 men attacked her and began rubbing fake poo in her face. Additionally it has been reported that they tried to rub poo on the mothers face as well. The child’s uncle Tayyib Nawaz said that his niece is now “too scared to go back to Worcester city center.”

“My mum, my sister with her 18-month-old son in a pushchair and her daughter, aged four, were walking through town and some ‘man’ thought it would be cool to try and rub fake poop in my niece’s face,” said Nawaz. “Then he tried to do the same to my mum too, which received a load of cheers. Now my niece is too frightened to even go back into town. Nobody intervened. Absolutely disgusting.”

Onlooker Terry Clarke said he evicted the men once he realised what had happened. “I had a couple of women come in and tell me what had happened, they had tried to rub the poo in an Asian woman’s face,” he said.

“That was the last straw. I went over there and told them they needed to leave, and the guy started giving me a mouthful – but I said enough’s enough.” The mother of the girl believes they were attacked because of their hijabs and Asian clothes.

The suspect has not been named but is reported as a white male in his late 20s or early 30s with light brown hair, approximately 6ft tall with an average build and “chubby cheeks”.

 

Ethnicity did not play a part, in passenger eviction says Alaska airline

Mark French says he was kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight en route to Seattle from Dallas, because his beard frightened another passenger (Photo: Facebook/Mark French)

Kowther Elmi

A passenger on a flight to Seattle from Dallas alleges he was informed by Alaska Airlines that he was unfit to board his flight as his beard sparked a complaint from another passenger claiming to find him “Arabic and scary”.

Mark French was approached by security while in a waiting area and was told he would not be able to board his flight.

The passenger’s sister, who he was on his way to visit, Maria French was among one of the many who vocalised their anger on Facebook as she wrote:

“I am so angry. My brother Mark French was supposed to be arriving here in Seattle today, but Alaska Airlines just kicked him off the plane because someone complained that he looks ‘Arabic and scary’. I have no words. Just so angry I feel sick”.

Other comments on the airlines actions have included; “Kicking someone off a flight because they look Arabic is racist” and “Shame on you Alaska Airlines”.

The airline however, in response to the outpour of over 100 comments on the situation on social media, denies these allegations stating that “ethnicity did not play a part” and that “there is more to the story but as per company policy we do not share details about passengers”. French claims that he was told he was “unfit to fly” until he was clean shaven despite his beard appearing to be little more than stubble.

A spokesman from Alaska Airlines clarified to The Muslim News that the reason French was deemed unfit to fly was because he was “loud and disruptive in the boarding area”.

While French was contacted by Alaska Airlines with an offer to re-book his return flight for the same price, he says that it was not enough to erase the humiliation of being treated like a terrorist all because he had a beard. According to French’s sister Maria, French “was going to shave before going back”.

This type of discrimination seems to be picking up speed what with a similar situations occurring on other airlines. Such as a situation in November wherein a United Airlines flight attendant would not give Tahera Ahmad an unopened can of coke as she could “use it as a weapon”. This same flight attendant did however; give another passenger an unopened can of beer despite claiming that company regulation prevented her from providing passengers with unopened cans. Ahmad also faced virulent verbal abuse from another passenger.

Anti-Muslim street preachers arrested in Bristol

The moment Avon and Somerset police arrested four Christian preachers for disturbing the peace (Photo: Screenshot)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Four Street preachers were arrested after delivering a series of anti-Muslim and homophobic sermons at Bristol’s main shopping centre on July 6.

The men affiliated with the US-based Cross Encounters Ministries were filmed clashing with Broadmead shoppers as they shouted that “all Muslims will burn in hell” and “Allah does not exist”. Their comments sparked a crowd to stop and the arrival of the police.

Witnesses say the four had also called gays “disgusting” and divorcees sinful and had refused to stop their preaching on the request of the police.

 

In the video footage a police officer is heard telling the one of the preachers, “You are causing a disturbance now, you are not welcome.”

The crowd begin chanting “go home, go home, go home” to the men. The police officer then warns the man he will receive a dispersal notice under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act – meaning he will have to move away from the area and not return for 24 hours.

The officer then asks the preacher’s name, to which he replies Michael, but refuses to give his surname.

Michael then says he will not leave the area and the officer warns he will be arrested if he fails to do so.

The preacher then begins to shout about “love” and is taken away by the officer with his hands behind his back – to the delight of the cheering crowd.

Shoppers start clapping, whistling and shouting woo as a PCSO says he will be seizing some of the preacher’s demonstration boards.

In initial post on the Cross Encounters Facebook page said four “brothers” were arrested in Bristol after open-air preaching, but the later update said they were not members.

“No, these men are not members of Cross Encounters Ministries,” said the post, which is understood to have been written by the group’s founder Tony Miano.

“They are much more important. They are far too important to be relegated to membership in a little, unimportant, para-church ministry nestled within a church in Southern California.”

It goes on to explain the men are not members, but “brothers in Christ’ and “heralds of King Jesus’.”

The post then adds: “It would be too great an honor for me to claim these men as somehow being under my leadership, as somehow being members of my ministry–especially since I am unworthy to carry their backpacks.

“My regret: that I was not providing the bass part in harmony with their hymn singing, in their jail cell. My regret: that I was not there with and for them during their momentary light affliction.

“My regret: that Cross Encounters Ministries has received so much as a drop of ink or a moment of attention instead of all of it going to these my faithful brothers who counted the cost that day in Bristol, and instead of all of it going to the glory of King Jesus.

“My joy: to count each of these men as brothers. My joy: to be allowed even a moment’s time in their company and in their gospel partnership.”

Avon and Somerset Constabulary confirmed that four men were arrested following the incident on Wednesday, at around 2pm.

A spokesman told The Muslim News: “Somerset Police received a number of calls complaining about four men who were speaking in Broadmead, Bristol at lunch time on Wednesday 5 July.”

“Their comments were allegedly anti-Islamic and homophobic and people told us they were told people were feeling harassed, alarmed and distressed. Callers also told us that a crowd of around 50 people were there and they were concerned for the men’s safety.”

“Officers attended and asked the four men to disperse. They did not do so and shortly afterwards they were arrested for racially/religiously aggravated public order offences.”

“A 51-year-old man from Bristol, a 50-year-old man from New York and two men from Taunton aged 52 and 63 were later released on police bail pending further enquiries.”

EU lawyer backs French engineer sacked for wearing hijab

Nadine Osman

A senior lawyer for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a French engineer who was dismissed for wearing the hijab should have been allowed to cover her head at work. Eleanor Sharpston, one of the senior Advocate Generals at the ECJ, found in favour of Asma Bougnaoui who lost her job with Micropole SA, a French IT consultancy, in June 2009.

The British lawyer advised that Bougnaoui’s dismissal amounted to discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

Bougnaoui, who had worked for Micropole for a year, was fired without warning. After she had travelled to a meeting with clients at a big French insurance firm, the insurance firm complained to her superiors that her headscarf had “embarrassed” some of its staff. The insurance company also demanded “no headscarf next time”.

Micropole asked Bougnaoui to comply with the request for no hijab on her next visit. When she refused she was dismissed, and she challenged her dismissal in the French courts.

A French industrial tribunal and an appeals court compensated Bougnaoui over the fact that she was fired without prior warning but ruled that her dismissal was founded on a “real and serious cause”. Micropole had said it felt her wearing a headscarf hindered the company’s development because it meant the company could not properly interact with its client.

The French supreme court had asked the ECJ to examine the case. The ECJ was asked to advise on whether a requirement not to wear the hijab when providing IT consultancy services could be regarded as a “genuine and determining occupational requirement”, therefore falling outside the scope of the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief provided for by a EU directive.

But Sharpston, said the EU directive should be interpreted strictly and that Bougnaoui’s dismissal amounted to direct discrimination on those grounds.

Strip searched Muslim woman to sue Chicago police

Itemad Almatar, is to sue Chicago police for religious and racial profiling (Photo: Chicago.com)

Nadine Osman

A Muslim woman is to file a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department after she was cleared of reckless conduct and resisting arrest on June 29.

Surveillance footage captured by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) from July 4, 2015, shows Itemad Almatar among a group of passengers walking up stairs at a Chicago train station, when five police officers approached, two of the officers come from behind and shove her to the ground. Three more officers watch as she’s searched on the stairs.

“They threw me to the stairs, and grabbed my bags. They kicked me, hit me, took off my hijab,” Almatar said. The officers then grabbed her backpack, which was filled with food to end her Ramadan fast, she says, but never told her why.

“They asked me why I put my food inside my bag, why I’m Muslim, why I’m fasting, why I’m wearing these clothes, why I cover my body,” she told CBS Chicago.

She was then arrested and charged with reckless conduct and resisting arrest. Imam Malick Mujahid, a Muslim community leader in Chicago, said she was strip searched at the police precinct.

“At the same time men were allowed to see her naked. This is the ultimate horror you can do to a Muslim woman,” Mujahid said.

Attorney Aaron Goldstein said police violated her rights when they arrested her. “There’s a Constitution, and the Constitution says you can’t just grab people for no reason whatsoever,” Goldstein said.

Prosecutors argued in court that police officers first yelled “Stop,” but defense attorneys pointed out that video of the incident shows no one in the crowd appearing to react as if a police officer had just yelled.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department told CBS Chicago that it is not clear what, if any, action was taken internally.

Spike in post-Brexit hate crimes linked to divisive rhetoric

Kashmir Meat Poultry, a halal butchers shop in Walsall, West Midlands, had a Molotov cocktail thrown inside
(Photo: Facebook)

Ala Abbas

There has been a spike in the reporting of racists and xenophobic incidents since the EU Referendum on June 23. By the Friday after the referendum, True Vision, the police-run site to combat hate crime, had recorded a fivefold increase in reports from the public. There were 331 incidents in the week following the Referendum, compared to the weekly average of 63.

Some incidents have taken on a more violent and pre-mediated turn. In the week following the Referendum vote, a halal butchers in Walsall, West Midlands, had a Molotov cocktail thrown inside, which hit a worker and caused significant fire damage, although no one was seriously hurt. Xenophobic graffiti was daubed on the Polish Social and Cultural Association in West London and laminated cards reading: “No more Polish vermin” were posted through letterboxes in Huntingdon.

In Manchester, more than 20 elderly people had to be evacuated from the Hulme-based African Caribbean Care Group after a threatening phone call, and in Aston, dozens of Islamophobic leaflets were distributed through letterboxes.

An Eid event set to take place in Southampton this July, with thousands expected to attend, had to be cancelled by organisers amidst security fears, as the far-right organisation South Coast Resistance group were planning to hold a demonstration on the same day.

A Muslim pupil was asked to ‘go home’ on the Referendum day. Asghar Khan Tia, owner of Thanet Quality Foods in Northdown Road, Kent, said when his niece went into Upton Junior School, Broadstairs, pupils were telling her to leave the country and go home.

He said: “My niece is in Year 6 and she went into school the day the result was announced and other children were saying to her: ‘when are you going home’ and ‘you have to leave now’.

“My father came here in the 1950s, my niece is the third generation of our family living in Britain. I am worried for the children because these things can’t be allowed to happen.

“How are these small children getting this message and why are they saying it? It was a worrying thing.”

Mosques in Finsbury Park, Tottenham and Leyton received packages with powder in the envelopes on July 7. Peer Lord Nazir Ahmed also received a similar package at the House of Lords. It was found that the powder in all the packages was not noxious.

Two of the mosques had racist words, “P*** filth”, written outside the package. The Leyton mosque Noor Ul Islam found the powder in a package at 11.45 with the racist words, and they called the police. The mosque had to hold the midday prayers at the back of the mosque. By 4pm the counter terrorism police told them the powder was harmless. Chairman of the Mosque, Yusuf Hansa, told The Muslim News: “I was very concerned about it at the beginning as we thought it may be anthrax powder. We had to tell the worshippers not to panic. They didn’t understand why the police were there. I believe this was because of Brexit.”

Other mosques that received the packages were Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park and Masjid Ayesha, in Clyde Road, Tottenham.

This spike in the number of hate crimes has led to condemnation from the Prime Minister and a drive by the Mayor of London to be more vigilant. Arun Arora, a senior Church of England official, warned that the rise in hate crimes since the EU referendum could lead to fascism and that the UK faced a choice about what kind of country it wanted to be.

Media influence

In her study of all the UK print media, Professor Ruth Wodak, a specialist in linguistics and national identity, found that between 1996 and 2006, the print media merged migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers into one and demonized them as “others”.

A study by the Reuters Institute found that in the first two months of EU referendum campaigning, three newspapers focused mainly on migration stories, and of all the Referendum stories in the print media, migration was the third most cited argument.

Since the start of the year there have been more than 30 splashes about migrants in the Mail and the Express and 15 in the Sun, according to research by Liz Gerard, a former Times night editor.

On June 21, the Sun ran a story on Turkey claiming that £675million was being spent on getting Turkey into the EU. Writing in favour of leaving the EU, the article goes on to say “Imagine how it might ease the burden on those areas already bearing the brunt of the uncontrolled influx of migrants . . . where pay is stagnant and public services buckling.

The Remain campaign is desperate to discredit the idea of almost 80 million Turkish citizens getting access to the EU because they know immigration could defeat them on Thursday.” The claim was not corrected despite the entire population of Turkey standing at 75 million.

On June 12, the Sunday Times ran a front-page story on leaked plans to open doors to 1m Turkish citizens, claiming that 1m Turkish Citizens could be granted visa free travel to the UK. The article goes on to talk about an alleged threat by the President of Turkey to “open the floodgates” to migrants currently held in camps in Turkey, if Turkey was refused a deal on “Visa liberalization”.

The Daily Telegraph on its front page screamed: “Visa-free Turkey ‘terror threat’” alleging that “Foreign terrorists and organised criminals are expected to seek Turkish passports to reach..Europe as soon as the visa waiver programme comes into force….Turkey’s 75 million citizens will have the right to enter the Schengen zone…” Note that the UK is not part of Schengen zone.

The Leave Campaign

When Sir John Major addressed the Oxford Union last May, he spoke of the risk of the Leave campaign leaders “morphing into UKIP” because of their emphasis on the immigration argument. He called immigration the Leave Campaign’s “trump card” and warned, “This is dangerous territory that, if handled carelessly, can open up long-term divisions in our society.”

Speaking in the Guardian earlier in June, former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said: “The Referendum was always about more than Europe; it was always about what kind of Britain we are and what we aspire to be. But some have attempted to hijack a decision on the future of Britain in Europe and turn it into a vote on immigration, and then on immigrants and those who support immigrants.”

Then Employment Minister and now promoted by Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, warned that 100,000 Turkish people will come to Britain every year if Turkey is allowed to join the European Union which will pose “security threat”.

In contrast to the anti-immigration rhetoric, Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn of the Remain campaign said the right approach was to tackle exploitation by unscrupulous employers, and boost public spending in areas where there is large-scale immigration, rather than throwing up barriers to free movement.

Sun columnist slammed for arguing Hijab wearing anchorwoman should not report terror attacks

Elham Asaad Buaras

Kelvin MacKenzie, former Editor of The Sun, has come under heavy criticism for arguing that a hijab wearing Muslim journalist should not have fronted Channel 4 News’ coverage of the Nice terror attack. Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow called him a “bigoted fellow”.

The article, which had prompted over 1,700 complaints to the press watchdog the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), said that it was not appropriate for a ‘young lady wearing a hijab’ to cover the killing of over 80 people by a Muslim.

Writing in his column on July 18 titled, ‘Why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice?’ MacKenzie argued Fatima Manji anchoring the story was somehow too close for comfort.

He asked if it was “appropriate” for Manji “to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim? ”

Despite acknowledging the fact Manji has been as a broadcaster for four years and was scheduled to anchor that on that day MacKenzie suggested Channel 4 should have appeased anti-Muslims who he said represent the “ordinary viewer”.

“Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male- dominated and clearly violent religion?,” he asks.

He not only suggests that Manji should have been kept off air but so should her employer. “It is coverage like this that raises a question mark over the future of Channel Four,” wrote Mackenzie, adding he hopes “the new Culture Secretary [gets rid of the broadcaster] ”.

Manji penned her rebuttal in the Liverpool Echo, where she argued Mackenzie’s offence at her doing her job is a smearing of “1.6 billion Muslims in suggesting they are inherently violent. He has attempted to smear half of them further by suggesting they are helpless slaves. And he has attempted to smear me by suggesting I would sympathise with a terrorist.”

She also said that it would be “dangerous” to regard MacKenzie and his supporters “as mere pantomime villains”.

“Their soapbox allows them to spread their ill-informed, irresponsible and malevolent invective to millions of readers. Racist and Islamophobic rhetoric has real consequences – lives have been lost and shattered in our own country.”

She also reminded readers that Mackenzie has a history with Channel 4 News, most famously over the lies published about the Hillsborough tragedy while he was Editor of The Sun.

“It took him 23 years to apologise and four more to claim he was ‘caught up’ in a government conspiracy to tarnish Hillsborough victims, only after being confronted by brave campaigners and responsible journalists, including my Channel 4 News colleague Alex Thomson and the tireless team at the Liverpool Echo,” wrote Manji.

Manji spoke of “kind messages from friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even those I have never met, expressing solidarity and anger at his words.”

The National Union of Journalists defended Manji. Its General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “To suggest that a journalist is incapable of reporting on a terrorist outrage because of the colour of her skin, her religion or the clothes that she wears says all you need to know about the contemptible views of Kelvin MacKenzie.”

Adding that, “His feigned moral outrage is the language of racial hatred and bigotry, and sadly just the latest incoherent ramblings of a pundit who should have been put out to pasture a long time ago. Journalism in the UK needs more diversity, not less.”

Among the many journalists to voice their dismay is senior live blogger for The Guardian Claire Phipps who reminded Mackenzie that Manji was merely doing her job “and she’s bloody good at it”.

A baffled former literary editor of The Australian Miriam Cosic asked, “Why did The Sun pose such a silly question about a colleague’s regular job? #journalism #islam”. A question echoed by Labour MP for Ilford North and Treasury Select Committee member, Wes Streeting, who tweeted “Why is this even a thing? Oh, Kelvin MacKenzie.”

Big Questions and BBCRadio5Live presenter Nicky Campbell called the column “extraordinary”, while Labour’s Deputy Chair,  Jonathan Ashworth MP went further calling it “vile”.

Clearly enraged The Independents political correspondent, Jon Stone asked, “what the f#@k is this racist garbage”.

In the House of Commons, Shadow Secretary for Education and Women and Equalities, Angela Rayner, asked Education, and Women and Equalities Secretary, Justine Greening regarding the Islamophobic article: “I was dismayed and upset by The Sun columnist, Kelvin Mckenzie’s disgraceful Islamophobic attack on the Channel 4 news presenter, Fatema Manji. Will the minister join me in making it clear that all parties in this house regard those comments as totally unacceptable and that being the case will the minister also join me in urging Mr Mckenzie to make a full public apology and urge The Sun and other media to be more responsible in who and what they allow on their media outlets.”

Greening replied: “This isn’t the first time Mr Mckenzie has written and said things that are deeply controversial and to many people in our country feel deeply offensive. Frankly I think it is for him how he wants to respond to the wave of criticism he’s received since writing that article. From my perspective, I’m proud that we live in a country where men and women are equal and that includes women having the right to be able to wear what they want and to be able to get on in their jobs, what they want to be able to wear, that includes newscasters and journalists in my view. So we need to make sure that we have some kind of consensus around not rising to the bait of people like Kelvin Mckenzie and I hope that we can frankly give his comments the derision that they deserve.”

However, Greening did not even acknowledge that this was an Islamophobic attack!

Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, said: “The Minister has put the a in his place pretty comprehensively.”

In a statement to The Muslim News, Channel 4 News spokeswoman said MacKenzie’s comments “are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred.

“It is wrong to suggest that a qualified journalist should be barred from reporting on a particular story or present on a specific day because of their faith. Fatima Manji is an award-winning journalist.

“We are proud that she is part of our team and will receive, as ever, our full support in the wake of his comments.”

Fatima Manji made an official complaint to IPSO on July 21.

Manji became the UK’s first hijab-wearing TV newscaster on one of the country’s major channels in March.

Undeterred  MacKenzie continued his attack on Channel 4 News and Manji, using his column on July 25, he threatened to complain to Ofcom that a newsreader wearing the hijab during a report on terror attacks breached impartiality guidelines.

He also said he “may ask Sun readers who share my concerns to email Ofcom as well”.

The move prompted Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, to accuse MacKenzie of “shameless self-promotion”. Farron said his continued pursuit of the issue was “beyond belief” and a complaint would be a “waste of Ofcom’s time”.

“Kelvin MacKenzie’s threat to submit an Ofcom complaint following his own bigoted remarks is beyond belief,” he said. “If he had an ounce of decency, he would have apologised profusely for the offence he caused Fatima Manji and would seek to be more tolerant in future.

“For him to continue to drag this out is nothing more than shameless self-promotion at any cost, as well as complete waste of Ofcom’s time.”

(updated edition)

Muslims in China face contradictory policies

Students at Fudan University in Shanghai break their fast
(Photo: Meng Yihua/The Muslim News)

Meng Yihua

A few weeks before Ramadan, the Chinese Government prohibited the presence of religion in nursery schools in the northwestern province of Gansu, after a video posted online showed a young girl reciting Qur’anic verses in her classroom. The Government claims that such education laws are in place to protect children, and Gansu’s Education Department condemned activities which “harm the mental health of youth”.

Approximately 1.6million Muslims live in Gansu, home to the third largest population of Muslims within China, following Xinjiang and Ningxia. The video, reportedly filmed in Linxia, Gansu, was found to have been uploaded to YouTube as early as 2014, however it went viral on social media only recently. The Education Authorities state that many people have been “infuriated” by the video, and reiterated Government policy of the absence of religion in all public schools. In the video, the young girl is wearing a black hijab and is sitting in a classroom with other students also dressed in Islamic attire. Although the Chinese Government is officially atheist, authorised religions are permitted; however, religious activities are banned in schools. The Education Department of Gansu province made a statement strictly banning religions from campuses.

In some parts of China, such as Xinjiang, where Islam is widespread and dominates the local Uyghur culture, the Government has also enforced religious restrictions on young people even outside of school. Wearing burqas in public was banned in Xinjiang last year, and for the past few years, Xinjiang Muslims working in the public sphere were ordered not to fast during Ramadan.

The Chinese Government claims it faces a threat from “Islamic” militants in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asian countries and Pakistan, and has seen numerous violent upsurges in recent years. However, defendants argue that the unrest in the region stems from discontented local Uyghurs who are frustrated by the Government’s erosion of their culture and religious freedoms. The Governmental restrictions on religious practices are only seen in regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, where the Government has concerns that religion could be used to promote a non-Chinese cultural identity or independence.

Much of the rest of China faces little or no resistance to practicing religion freely.

Kawsu Barrow, 27, a Muslim student from Gambia who spent Ramadan in Shanghai, says “This is my first time witnessing Ramadan outside of my country and I was so surprised that Ramadan was so amazing here because of the impression we normally hear about religion in China”.

At Fudan University in Shanghai, one of the multiple halal canteens on campus opened its doors before sunrise every morning and at sunset to provide free suhoor and iftaar for the Muslim students. Barrow says, “For the 30 days, I have eaten different foods provided for free for both iftaar and suhoor”, and he admits that this has been one of his finest Ramadans. Some local Muslim restaurants would also provide free suhoor  and refuse to accept payment.

An undergraduate student from Xinjiang studying in Shanghai, who wished to remain anonymous, says it is communal gathering for religious purposes that is forbidden, citing the iftaar we are currently eating together as an example. “Children under 18 are forbidden from going to mosque” he continues, which is in line with the prohibitions issued in Gansu in attempts to remove religion from the lives of youth.

Authorities have been increasing controls on religious practices in Xinjiang in recent years, particularly during Ramadan, but before the start of the blessed month this year, the Government announced that there would be no interference in the region. A Government report on religious freedoms in Xinjiang said, “Whether to close or open halaal restaurants is completely determined by the owners themselves without interference,” however this totally contradicted local policies, before Ramadan even started. For example, officials in the city of Khorgos, near Kazakhstan’s border, ordered ethnic restaurant operators to guarantee regular business hours during Ramadan; and as usual, students, civil servants and party members in many cities were banned from fasting and taking part in religious activities.

Muslim judges may be biased against me, says Trump

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump
(Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons)

Ali Mitib

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump says Muslim judges may be biased against him due to his policy of temporarily banning Muslims from entering the US.

This allegation comes after the property tycoon labelled Judge Gonzalo P Curiel, a US District Judge, a “hater of Donald Trump” and of being biased due to a conflict of interests arising from Trump’s infamous border wall policy and the Judge’s Mexican heritage.

Judge Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and graduated from Indiana University Law School in 1979. He has been practicing Law since 1979. Curiel’s parents migrated from Mexico in the 1940s.

Judge Curiel was the presiding judge in a case concerning Trump University. This venture marketed seminars and mentorship packages that would cost participants up to $35,000. The venture promised to teach success by showing participants tricks of the real estate business from professors and professionals handpicked by Trump himself.

According to Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, it was a “classic bait and switch scheme…a scam and not even a university”. The venture was structured in seminars held in hotel rooms taught by business professionals, of whom several have filed for bankruptcy in the past – like Donald Trump

Speaking on the venture, a former member of Trump’s sales staff said it was “a joke…it was a façade…it was just selling false hopes and lies”.

Trump has a past of accusing presiding judges of being biased and unfair. Between 2008 and 2010 Trump’s lawyers tried to remove two New York judges who oversaw lawsuits against him.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) described Trump’s latest anti-Muslims remarks as “un-American”.

CAIR’s Director of Government Affairs, Robert McCaw, told The Muslim News Trump’s, “questioning of whether or not a judge can remain impartial because of their race or religion is contrary to the foundational values our nation and legal system. The same line of logic would also disqualify potential jurors because of their race or religion. It’s absurd and lazy thinking.”

He added, “This latest episode of anti-Muslim and Hispanic rhetoric is just one of the many red flags that should have alerted Republican leadership and supporters of Trump not being a party uniter but a party divider.”

Student removed from flight for speaking Arabic

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from the Southwest Airline flight and later questioned by FBI

(Photo: Facebook)

Ala Abbas

An Iraqi-born student in America was prevented from boarding a flight home on April 6 after a passenger became suspicious of his phone conversation in Arabic. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from the Southwest Airline flight and later questioned by FBI.

The 26-year-old political science researcher was on his way back from a dinner with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, in Los Angeles when the incident happened. He was on the phone to his uncle to tell him about the trip, when his conversation caused another passenger to look at him suspiciously and leave the plane.

Makhzoomi was questioned by airline staff who blamed him for causing the flight to be delayed, to which he responded: “It’s not me, this is what Islamophobia got this country into”. Makhzoomi claims that this comment prompted staff to call in the FBI.

He was also searched by police in the terminal, with half a dozen officers and a crowd of onlookers present. “This is not the way to treat a human being”, he told CNN

According to Makhzoomi, one of the airline staff who questioned him said, “Why are you talking in Arabic? You know the environment is very dangerous.” He believes initial suspicions arose in the passenger because of his use of Arabic phrases like “Inshallah” meaning God-willing, a commonly used phrase by Muslims.

Three agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took him to a private room and questioned him about his family. They asked him questions about his father, an Iraqi diplomat who was killed by Saddam Hussein in 2002.

A spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, Ari Dekofsky, confirmed that agents responded to the airport that day but had found there to be no threat.

Makhzoomi is still waiting for an apology and an explanation for why he was removed from the flight. In a statement, Southwest Airlines said he was removed because of “potentially threatening comments made aboard our aircraft”, and added that it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.

“We wouldn’t remove passengers from flights without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures,” the company said. “We regret any less than positive experience onboard our aircraft. We understand local law enforcement spoke with that passenger as the aircraft departed the gate. To respect the privacy of those involved, we will not publicly share any further specifics of the event.”

Spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ahmed Rehab, said: “We are tired of Muslim-looking passengers being removed from flights for the flimsiest reasons, under a cryptic claim of ‘security’”.

In the same month, a Muslim passenger wearing the hijab was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in Chicago after she asked to sit next to the window. No explanation was offered for her removal and she was re-booked onto a later flight.

Europe has taken “too many” migrants, says exiled Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (Photo: Christopher Michel/Creative Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism Tenzin Gyatso has said that: “Germany cannot become an Arab country,” and warned Europe risks losing its identity by taking in too many migrants.

The Dalai Lama said refugees should only stay temporarily and return home to rebuild their countries when the conflicts have ended.

Gyatso, who has lived in exile for over 50 years, said: “When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering. A human being who is a bit more fortunate has the duty to help them. On the other hand, there are too many now.”

He said: “Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country. Germany is Germany. There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.”

He added that, “From a moral point of view too, I think the refugees should only be admitted temporarily. The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries.”

The 14th Dalai Lama has lived in exile since fleeing to India at the age 23 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Far-right Pegida supporters unknowingly protest against German national team

Elham Asaad Buaras & Ali Mitib

Supporters of the far-right anti-Islam German group Pegida were left red faced after expressing outrage at the use of non-white children’s faces on Kinder bars – only to be sarcastically informed the Italian confectionery group Ferrero had in fact used childhood photos of the football national team.

Kinder bars have since 1983 used an image of a blond-haired, blue eyed boy, but unbeknown to Pegida supporters this was changed in time for the European Championships for photos of the German team. Among them are images of Jerome Boateng, whose father is from Ghana, and Ilkay Gundogan, whose parents are Turkish immigrants.

On May 19, the Bodensee branch of the movement posted one of the packaging images featuring Boateng and Gundogan on their Facebook  page with a caption: “They don’t stop at anything. Can you really buy them like that or is this a joke?”

Other Pegida supporters quickly chimed in with misguided outrage including a comment from Sebastian Gollmer, who wrote: “They’re trying to pass this s*#t off as normal, poor Germany.” Another user, Michael Shepherd said: “This is nothing but a fake, no?!?!?”

One commenter responded: “Do the Turks and other countries use pictures of German children on their sweets or groceries? Surely not.” Others called for a boycott of the chocolate bars, which are produced by the Italian manufacturer Ferrero. One wrote: “If that’s the case, I won’t be buying it anymore.”

The Facebook page was then inundated by Germans ready to mock the group’s evident ignorance of the marketing campaign.

One Facebook user mockingly asked, “Should I tell them or not?”

One noted that the marketing campaign was linked to the upcoming European Football Championship, while another, quoted in the Guardian, wrote, “Dear folks, firstly Ferrero is an Italian manufacturer, and secondly, where do [you] think they get the cocoa from to make the chocolate with?” Twitter users also got in on the act with many white and non-white Germans taking opportunity to show their support for the Kinder campaign by posting pictures of themselves as children under the hashtag #cutesolidarity.

Others trended #backfire mocking the far-right group’s confusion and ignorance. All in good humour, one user tweeted: “I want to see the faces of PEGIDA on toilet paper packaging!”

The German satire magazine Titanic was quick to react, posting a ‘PEGIDA-Edition’ spoof of the chocolate bars sporting childhood photos of Adolf Hitler and Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right Norwegian man who killed 77 people in a 2011 terrorist rampage.

In response to the comments of Pegida, Robert Grindel, the head of the German Soccer Association (DFB) said the Pegida supporters’ comments were distasteful. Grindel said: “The German national soccer team is one of the best examples of successful integration and millions of people in Germany are proud of this team because it is as it is.”

Such was the furore over Pegida’s blunder that Ferrero later issued their own statement on Facebook.

“We at Ferrero would like to distance ourselves from any form of xenophobia or discrimination, we don’t accept or tolerate this in our Facebook communities either,” the company wrote. Following the backlash, the Bodensee Pegida told their supporters on Facebook that it was “best just not to answer.”

“We’ve really dived into a wasps’ nest here,” the group said in a post. By Wednesday May 22 the Bodensee PEGIDA Facebook page had been deactivated.

Islamophobic hate crime doubles in Scotland

Ali Mitib

According to newly released figures by the Scottish Government the number of Islamophobic hate crimes in Scotland has almost doubled in the space of a year.

The Government report Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland in 2014-15 shows that in June last year there was 134 hate crimes, which were determined to be derogatory to Islam. This is an 89 percent increase in comparison to 71 hate crimes in 2014/15.

The human rights campaigner and lawyer Aamer Anwar said: “The rise in attacks is extremely alarming but hardly surprising when sections of the media and politicians have deliberately smeared a whole community, giving the green light for such racist attacks to take place. Sadly they have created an atmosphere where Muslims are seen as fair game.”

The figures show a slight increase of hate crimes as a whole. The Scottish Government report on the figures was unable to attribute the rise to any single event or pattern and “appears to reflect a general rise in the reporting of these types of changes”.

While racially motivated hate crimes have fallen to 3,712 and is at its lowest level since 2003-4, religiously aggravated hate crimes have rise 3 percent to 581 instances.

Roman Catholicism is the most targeted religious group as it accounts for 51 percent of the recorded hate crimes. This is followed by Protestantism with 24 percent and Muslims with 23 percent.

The recently released figures also showed a 14 percent rise in disability motivated hate crimes and a 20 percent rise in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.

Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, said: “There is no place in Scotland for any crime motivated by prejudice, be it racial, religious, homophobic or any other form of intolerance.

“While I am concerned at an increase in the number of charges on last year, including the rise in alleged offences against Islam, it does indicate an improvement in the willingness of the public to report these crimes, and that should be welcomed.”

Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, of Police Scotland, said: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to rooting out crimes motivated by prejudice.”

 

Bulgarian town bans niqab

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Bulgarian town has banned the wearing of the niqab (full face veil) in public including while driving. Councillors in Pazardzhik home to a Roma Muslim minority voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ban in April in all administrative buildings, schools, shops and on the street.

The Council justified the measure on security grounds insisting the niqab impedes identification. Fines of 300 leva (£114) can be levied, rising to 1,000 leva for repeat offenders.

Bulgaria’s centuries-old Muslim community, dating back to conversions during Ottoman times, makes up around 13 per cent of the 7.4-million population of mainly Orthodox Christians.

Muslim women in Bulgaria generally wear just a simple scarf to cover their hair, but recently there has been a rise in the number of women in Pazardzhik wearing the niqab. The junior partner in Bulgaria’s ruling coalition, the nationalist Patriotic Front, recently proposed imposing a nationwide ban on the full-face veil with fines of between 200 and 1,500 leva.

The bill which is yet to be put to vote in the legislature also proposes jail sentences of up to three years and fines of up to 5,000 leva for anyone who incites others to wear a niqab.

Belgium, France and Latvia have already banned the niqab.

Pig’s head left at Quebec Mosque

Kowther Elmi

Just before 3am in late June a worshipper attending morning prayers found a pig’s head gift wrapped with a card stating “bon appétit”, outside the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec in Canada. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard described the act as “despicable” and the Mayor of Quebec City, Regis Lebeaume, said that this was the act of a “cretin”.

In recent times Islamophobic attacks are on the rise in Quebec with multiple cases of mosques being attacked and of Muslims being physically as well as verbally attacked. In 2013, Quebec Muslim Badia Senouci was verbally assaulted in public by a stranger who reportedly told her to remove her hijab and that the Government would soon be forcing her to remove it anyway as the proposed Quebec Charter of Values which included the ban of all religious symbols in public institutions. When Senouci’s son attempted to defend her, the perpetrator spat in his face.

The proposed charter also prompted an attack on Montreal Mosque which was splashed with what was belie Islved to be pig’s blood. A year later in 2014 another Muslim woman was verbally harassed and the perpetrator also attempted to remove her hijab.

In 2014 a halal butcher shop in Sherbrooke was attacked and a person had put holes through store glass, left paper crosses outside and left notes with the statement “No to Islam” written in French. The most recent attack was in December 2015 where a pig’s head was left outside a mosque as well as leaving a voicemail on the mosques answering machine.

Shortly after the discovery of the pig’s head, Quebec City police were notified and the city’s police constable, Etienne Doyon, said to reporters: “It’s very important for people to be able to practise their religion freely; that’s why this incident is being regarded so seriously.”

Mohamed Yangui, the head of the Islamic centre that was targeted called this incident “a waste of time, money and energy, we have high definition cameras. We will certainly find the person who did this.” Despite this, the police have yet to make any arrests regarding this case as investigations continue.

Uproar at Hindu nationalist ‘Muslim-free’ remark

Nadine Osman

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, Sadhvi Prachi’s anti-Muslim remark created uproar in Legislative Council with opposition National Conference and Congress demanding the Upper House condemn her.

Prachi, leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist, had said, “It is time to make India Muslim free”.

Prachi said on June 7 she was working on getting rid of Muslims from the country. “Now that we have achieved the mission of making a Congress-free India, it is time to make India, Muslim-free. We are working on that,” she said.

As the House started its proceedings, National Conference Legislative Council Member, Dr Shehnaz Ganaie, waved newspaper copy pointing towards Prachi’s inflammatory statement.

She demanded that the House officially condemn the “anti Muslim” statement of VHP leader.

“Statements like these are creating sense of insecurity among Muslims in India. Are not we Muslims part of the country? Does it mean we don’t have to live in this country? Such communal statements must be condemned in strong words,” said Ganaie.

She was soon joined by other opposition legislators including her party colleagues Sajad Kichloo, Showkat Ganie, Qaiser Jhamsheed Lone and Congress MLCs including GN Monga who demanded that the House should take strong notice of the VHP leader’s remark and unanimously condemn her statement.

The opposition legislators created ruckus in the House, while BJP legislators accused Ganaie of trying to vitiate peace in the House.

“Don’t try to vitiate peace here,” BJP MLC Vibodh Gupta said while pointing towards opposition legislators.

In the meantime, the BJP MLC Ashok Khajuria stood up from his seat and demanded that the house should condemn the statement of Hizb Commander Burhan Wani.

“If you demand statement of Sadhvi Prachi should be condemned then Militant Burhan’s statement should be also condemned in the House,” he said while pointing toward the opposition legislators.

However, the ruckus continued for 5-7 minutes following which the Minister of Education, Naeem Akhtar, intervened to pacify the opposition legislators.

Akhtar said that whosoever has made “anti-Muslim” statement is wrong.

“Muslims are the important part of India and this country is incomplete without them,” he said.

“There is no need to divide us. There are number of problems we are facing and have to resolve,” he said.
Controversial Hindutva leader Sadhvi Prachi had in the past branded Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan as a “Pakistani agent”, who should be sent to that country, after he protested against “extreme intolerance” in the country.
“Shah Rukh Khan is an agent of neighbouring country Pakistan as he reflects their (Pakistan’s) ideology. Such a man should go to Pakistan,” she said to reporters.

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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