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Mosque attacks continue in Netherlands

Islamic Center Drachten was set alight on February 11 (Photo: Facebook)

Nadine Osman

A mosque in northern Drachten town, Netherlands, has come under an arson attack on February 11, according to the manager of Islamic Center Drachten Foundation.

The mosque, used mostly by Moroccan-origin worshippers, is operated by the foundation.
The foundation manager Khalid Bennaceur said: “Community members who came to pray in the morning said they smelled turpentine inside the mosque. Later, when we came for noon prayer, we realised that there were burn marks on the wall and windows had been broken at the back side of the mosque.”

The attack took place at around 4 am local time. He added that a person was seen breaking the back window of the mosque and running away after the fire. Police have begun an investigation into the incident, he added.

The attack is the second of its kind in just one week. A mosque in the Dutch port city of The Hague was vandalized on February 2. A Turkish flag was crossed with red paint with slogans against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and “Islam out” also written on it was placed on Ahi Evran Mosque.

In January, the far-right ‘Rechts in Verzet’ movement hanged anti-Islam banners and a headless model in front of the Emir Sultan Mosque in Amsterdam. The banners hanged outside the mosque read: “Islam must be stopped. We do not want a mosque tied to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in northern Amsterdam.”

In September 2017 an under-construction mosque in the south-eastern Netherlands was targeted by the same far-right group.

The group hanged anti-Islam banners at the roof of Tevhid mosque in Venlo city. The group, draped banners reading “Stay away. The Netherlands belongs to us. We don’t want mosque and Muslims in our neighbourhood” both in Turkish and Dutch. They also shared the photos of banners on social media and claimed they “occupied” the mosque.

Insurers accused of charging more to motorists called Mohammed

Elham Asaad Buaras

Some of the UK’s largest car insurers have denied accusations motorists named Mohammed are being charged almost £1,000 more.

According to an investigation by The Sun, Admiral demonstrated some of “the most shocking example” of insurance quote discrimination.

When investigators used John Smith seeking insurance for a 2007 Ford Focus in Leicester the quote was £1,333, when the identical details were submitted using the name Mohammed Ali, the quote rose by a whopping £919 to £2,252.

One victim of the scandal Mohammed Butt raged: “It’s racism, pure and simple. They cannot say Mohammeds are worse drivers than Johns.”

Equalities advocate Shazia Awan-Scully tweeted about her own investigation. “My husband @roger_scully and I searched for car insurance on @MoneySupermkt – got quotes from £252.68. Re-did search with identical information – but changed Roger’s name to ‘Mohammed Abdul’. Price leapt to £410.70. This is the reality of discrimination for Muslims in the #UK”.

Admiral is accused of being the biggest offenders regularly charging customers more for having an Asian/Muslim name. The Sun received 60 quotes using GoCompare and others comparison sites showing results directly from insurers.

According to The Sun, “Admiral and its sister companies Diamond, Bell and Elephant always quoted more if the driver was called Mohammed. The difference was often hundreds of pounds. The story was similar when we went to the firm direct. Quotes we sought ranged across ten cities.”

Admiral said the insurance quotes used in The Sun’s investigation “were not like for like. We take these allegations very seriously and we are consulting our lawyers”.

A spokesman for Admiral told The Muslim News, “The Sun’s article is wrong. We do not and never have used a customer’s name or any other piece of information to rate on race.”

Marks & Spencer wanted £3,182 to insure a Mohammed Smith in Cardiff; they quoted John Smith £2,949.

M&S Bank denied discrimination “under any circumstances and a customer’s name or ethnicity has absolutely no impact on their insurance premium.”

A spokesman for M&S told The Muslim News, “We provided identical quotes in all cases where the scenarios for the two customers were exactly the same. Where there were differences in the scenario, there was a variance in price, this wasn’t a result of the customer’s name.”

Trainee lawyer ejected from court for refusing to remove hijab

Asmae Belfakir was given an ultimatum by Judge Giancarlo Mozzarelli to either remove her hijab or leave the courtroom (Photo: Facebook)

Nadine Osman

A trainee lawyer spoke of her humiliation after a judge kicked her out of a court in Italy for refusing to remove her hijab. At a hearing in Regional Administrative Court in Bologna, earlier this month, Moroccan-born Asmae Belfakir was given an ultimatum by Judge Giancarlo Mozzarelli to either remove her hijab or leave the courtroom.

Speaking on January 22 Belfakir said the judge told her: “‘If you want to stay in this courtroom, you must remove it.’ I replied, ‘I’m not going to remove it. I’m going out.’”

She said that as she left he told the court: “Yes, that’s because of the respect of our culture and traditions.”

“Hearing a judge speaking of culture and tradition in that context made me feel really bad. I was just there to learn a job, to understand how the law should be applied. I wasn’t there to be humiliated because of my religion,” she said.

“I heard a lot of things about that judge; his modus operandi and his personal thoughts,” Belfakir said.

“I’m pretty sure that he would never have asked a nun to remove her veil, and I’m quite sure because a nun is not insulting his culture as I did by wearing the scarf. The law should protect people and their freedom of religion – as it is not affecting in a negative way the others – no matter how difficult it gets.”

Coordinator of the Association of Muslims of Bologna, Yassine Lafram, said that there is no law prohibiting the hijab in a court. The Association of Young Italian Lawyers also denounced the judge’s decision as “inconceivable” and a violation of the constitution.

The most incredible thing, in this case, is that Asmae Belfakir’s thesis concerned “women’s bodies and Islamic law”.

Luigi Foffani , Dean of Law at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where Belfakir graduated with a master’s degree in Law, branded the judge’s decision “severely discriminatory and contrasts with constitutional principles, to which we must constantly inspire ourselves in the exercise of our functions.”

Foffani said the ban was made “in the application of an alleged prohibition to attend a hearing with the head covered probably non-existent within the administrative jurisdiction”.

Belfakir was allowed to work in another “court in Bologna wearing the hijab.

US State Dept nominates anti-Muslim for UN refugee post

Nadine Osman

The US State Department faced backlash after its nominee for head of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) was exposed as having a history of making disparaging remarks against Islam and Muslims.

Ken Isaacs, an Evangelical Christian, is in the running for a post that requires the international distribution of billions of dollars in aid to migrants.

Isaacs is currently Vice President of Christian relief agency the Samaritan’s Purse, has argued that Islam is an inherently violent religion and called for Christians refugees to receive preferential treatment.

Commenting on a CNN story on the London terror attacks, Isaacs tweeted on June 4, “if you read the Qur’an you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”

Isaacs was named as Trump Administration’s pick to become Director General of the IOM on February 1. The 169-member has deferred to the US to lead the organisation.

The election to lead the IOM is scheduled for June. A nominee must receive the support of two-thirds of its voting members, however, insiders told The Washington Post Isaacs could be the first US nominee since the late 1960s to lose an election by the group’s voting members.

President of Refugees International, Eric Schwartz, said Isaacs’ social media posts “reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world’s most important international migration agency.”

He continued, “The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community’s support for humanity. And that means that dark-skin people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people.”

Isaacs apologised for his posts writing, “It was careless and it has caused concern among those who have expressed faith in my ability to effectively lead IOM. I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM.”

For its part, the State Department said it would continue to support the nomination.

“M. Isaacs has apologised for the comments he posted on his private social media account. We believe that was proper for him to do so. Mr Isaacs is committed to helping refugees and has a long history of assisting those who are suffering. We believe that if chosen to lead IOM, he would treat people fairly and with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said a spokesman.

Isaacs also penned what he called an “evening rant.” Isaacs ridiculed Obama for wanting to accept large numbers of Syrian refugees as a “foolish and delusional” attempt to “show cultural enlightenment.”

Isaacs wrote that he had spent two hours in the refugee camp and that his visit had been long enough to conclude that there were dangers lurking in the groups of refugees.

“I know what a fighter looks like, how they carry themselves, how they group, and how there is tension in the air around them. Clearly, the non-Syrian camp was 75% single males and while many rural refugees were there; there were also many men who have known violence,” Isaacs wrote. “I feel most of the refugees are fine people but there are real security risks and this can’t be swept under the rug.”

Tweeting about Syrian refugee in 2015, Isaacs wrote: “Refugees are 2 grps [sic]. Some may go back and some can’t return. Christians can never return. They must be 1st priority.”

Followed by: “If Islam is a religion of peace, let’s see 2 million Muslims in National Mall marching against jihad & stand for America! I haven’t seen it!”

National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said that “this type of nomination coming from the Trump administration is a symptom of its deep hostility toward immigrants, migrants and Muslims.”

Hooper said Isaacs’s professed views should be disqualifying: “It is imperative these positions maintain neutrality with regard to religion, national origin and . . . frankly, have some sympathy for those who are migrating for no choice of their own but the economic and social pressures they are under.”

Britain First supporter who tried to run over Muslim released after serving just 33 weeks

Marek Zakrocki (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

Elham Buaras

A Muslim restauranteur who narrowly escaped being run over by a van of a Britain First supporter has told The Muslim News of his dismay at the news his attacker walked free after serving just 33 weeks in prison for unrelated offences.

Marek Zakrocki, who drove at Kamal Ahmed after saying “I’m going to kill a Muslim” walked free on January 12 after serving his prison sentence while on remand for drink-driving and another unrelated charge.

“I don’t think enough justice has been done. He should have been jailed for two to three years,” said Ahmed.

The Old Bailey heard that Zakrocki also gave a Nazi salute and shouted “white power” before driving his van at Ahmed outside Spicy Night restaurant in Harrow, north-west London, on June 23.

The Polish-born window-fitter told a police officer while in his van: “I’m going to kill a Muslim. I’m doing it for Britain. This is how I’m going to help the country. You people cannot do anything.”Ahmed said it was a “racist and Islamophobic attack” as he said he was going to kill a Muslim.

Ahmed was going to give evidence in court about the attack on him. However, “the day before I had to give evidence, the police called me to say that Zakrocki has admitted guilt. No one got in touch with me to tell me that Zakrocki was going to be sentenced on January 12,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said the attacker had approached him outside his restaurant and started arguing with him. He then left and returned driving a van. “He tried to run me down. I moved away and he smashed my shop’s window. It was a narrow escape.”

Zakrocki was sentenced to 33 weeks in jail after pleading guilty in December to dangerous driving, one week for battery against his wife and six weeks for drink-driving, with the latter term to run concurrently.

The 48-year-old was initially also accused of attempted murder and three racially aggravated offences but those charges were not pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Further charges of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm and having a knife in a public place were ordered to lie on file.

When armed officers arrested Zakrocki, they found a Nazi coin in his pocket and a number of flyers for the far-right group Britain First and newspapers at his home in Harrow.

The court heard he had been drinking heavily that day and had grabbed his wife’s arm and threatened to kill people and then himself. Before driving at Ahmed he had pushed an unknown Asian man and shouted “white power, white power”.

A spokesperson for anti-hate campaigners HOPE not Hate told The Muslim News, “On the face of it, it does seem surprising that Marek Zakrocki’s sentence appeared so ‘light’, so it’s understandable why the Muslim community might be concerned by this sentence. It seems that police expected a longer sentence.

“However, he’d already served time on remand and the judge seems to have believed that alcohol consumption and addiction played a significant role in his actions.”

“Regardless, it sets a deeply worrying precedent that there are people out there willing to assault or attack Muslims, regardless of whether they have consumed intoxicating substances or not, in incidents which could have much greater tragic consequences.”

The Muslim Council of Britain raised concerns that anti-Muslim violence may not be treated seriously and potentially demonstrates a worrying double standard.

Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Khan, told The Muslim News, “It is inconceivable that a Muslim who committed such an act would have got away with such a sentence and without terrorism even being discussed.”

He added, “Furthermore, there was no uplift to the sentence to reflect the unambiguous aggravated religious nature of this crime (Section 145 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003). We cannot continue to take anti-Muslim violence lightly. We call on the CPS to seek to appeal this sentence and ask the Ministry of Justice to review this matter and take appropriate steps”.

Muslim Council of Britain ’s stance is supported by prosecutor Denis Barry, who told the court that: “It’s plain that his conduct is very likely to have been motivated by his views about our diverse society.”

Barry said Zakrocki had been fixated by Muslims and had made donations to Britain First. The far-right group gained international notoriety when it was re-tweeted by Donald Trump. Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, its leaders, have been charged by police in Northern Ireland in connection with alleged hate speeches they made in Belfast. Both deny the charges.

A CPS spokesperson told The Muslim News: “Prosecutors must keep cases under continual review in order to take account of any change in circumstances as they develop, including what becomes known of the defence case. If appropriate, the CPS may amend the charges as a result.

“Following one of these reviews and with the consent of the judge, some of the initial charges against Marek Zakrocki were not taken forward as there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
“At his sentencing, the CPS reminded the court that his actions were religiously motivated and the judge addressed that motivation in his sentencing remarks.”

Judge Anthony Leonard QC told Zakrocki that he had concluded that he was trying to cause physical harm when he mounted the pavement in his van but that his behaviour was driven largely by his excessive alcohol consumption.

The judge said: “These events are the result of you having drunk up to two bottles of wine, which you knew would affect you seriously because of your chronic alcoholism.”

Zakrocki had a previous conviction for assaulting a police officer, also while drunk, in 2011.
Leonard said the offences were committed at a time of “heightened tensions” due to the van attack on Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque in London.

The judge said he had taken into account Britain First literature found at Zakrocki’s home but that he was not a member of any far-right organisation.

The incident was investigated by officers from Harrow Community Safety Unit, with the support of officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command. He was charged on 25 June.
DC Georgina Acuna, the investigating officer from Harrow Community Safety Unit, said: “I was expecting a slightly longer custodial sentence.”

In an earlier statement, she said, “Zakrocki deliberately armed himself with a knife on Friday, 23 June and told both his family and officer that he intended to harm someone for their religious beliefs.

“This was a terrifying ordeal for the witnesses and victims. Zakrocki was almost three times over the drink-driving limit and it was through pure good-fortune that no one was injured during his rampage. Hate crime, in all its forms, will not be tolerated and offenders such as Zakrocki will be brought to justice.”

Scandinavian Airlines hijab ban is not discriminatory, rules Ombudsman

Aye AlHassani was forced to choose between a job with Scandinavian Airlines and her faith (Photo: Creative Commons)

Harun Nasrullah

Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) ruled on January 5 that Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) uniform policy prohibiting staff from wearing religious symbols in customer-facing positions is not discriminatory.

The airline’s policy first came under scrutiny in April last year when a 23-year-old Swedish woman was told during a job interview the post required her to remove her hijab.

Aye Alhassani said she wished SAS told her about the policy at the start of the interview process.

“I could’ve then looked for other jobs and not prioritised the SAS job over others,” she noted. Adding that she hoped other Swedish companies would not adopt similar policies.

But the policy is not in breach of Sweden’s anti-discrimination laws, the Ombudsman has now concluded. DO explain, “SAS uniform policy does not breach anti-discrimination laws, based on it only applying for employees who are in direct customer contact.”

The Ombudsman referred to a European Court of Justice ruling from March 2017 in its judgment. That ruling said that companies can ask employees who have contact with customers not to express their religious beliefs and that doing so would not breach anti-discrimination law if it is done with the goal of showing neutrality to customers.

However the policy must be carried out must be neutral and consistent way and measures taken against employees are proportional.

SAS argued “the chances of being employed in a general sense are not affected by the candidate wearing a headscarf. In the DO’s investigation nothing has emerged to suggest that information should be questioned,” the DO judgment states.

SAS only first informs potential employees about the policy when they are offered a job in order to ensure that the application process is based solely on qualifications and competence as criteria, the judgment continued.

The judgment also addresses questions raised about why employees who worked with the company before the uniform policy was put in place were allowed to continue wearing their hijabs and referred to part of the EU ruling which stated that employers should take the least invasive measures possible when implementing a policy in the area.

“The SAS decision not to take measures against people with headscarves who were already employed. The exception should be seen as reasonable, based on the strong interest in keeping these people employed.”

Nigerian lawmakers to probe law school’s hijab ban

Amasa Abdulsalam Firdaus (Photo: Twitter)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Nigeria’s House of Representatives has called for a probe into a law school’s hijab ban. The motion announcement was made hours after Muslim groups threatened a mass protest and legal action over the incident.

A law graduate was refused entry into the hall of the bar ceremony in the Nigerian capital after she insisted on her head covering under the official wig.

Amasa Abdulsalam Firdaus, who graduated from the University of Ilorin, was denied entry to the hall, on December 12. She refused to remove her hijab, insisting instead on wearing the wig on top of her headscarf.

Officials at the Abuja-based law school say the hijab is against the university’s dress code.

Amasa described the ban as “a violation of her right to freedom of religion”, which is protected by Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigerian.

The Nigeria Association of Muslim Law Students (NAMLAS) was the first to condemn the ban describing it as unconstitutional and a violation of her fundamental human rights.

Among the many Muslim groups who came out in support of Firdaus are Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria, MMPN; Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria, Abuja Muslim Forum and Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association.

Jameel Muhammad, President of Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, said the restriction on the use of hijab as “Islamophobia” and vowed to advocate for Firdaus.

“We are Nigerian citizens and we are entitled to our fundamental human rights which include freedom of religion and worship”, said Muhammad. Adding, “If my religion demands something from me and I am not contravening any law of a country, I see no reason why they should trample upon fundamental, God-given and constitutional right given to me by my country,”

President of MMPN, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, said, “Her refusal to be called to the Bar is an infringement on her fundamental human right.”

“One is not sure of what is the Nigerian Law School and the Council of Legal Education are afraid of. The world is moving away from that rigid thinking and leaving Nigeria behind as wig on hijab is allowed in countries like the US, UK and Kenya to mention just a few.

“It is our belief that female lawyers in Nigeria, like their counterparts in other advanced countries, should be allowed to dress properly in accordance with their belief,” Balogun said.

Decapitated doll left in front of Amsterdam mosque to frighten Muslims

(Photo: Rechts in Verzet/Facebook)

Abdullah Asiran and Ahmed J Versi

A mosque in the Dutch capital Amsterdam was targeted by a group of far-right extremists, the head of the mosque said on January 18.

The far-right “Rechts in Verzet” movement claimed responsibility for the attack and hanged anti-Islam banners and a dummy’s severed head was tied to a fence outside the Emir Sultan Mosque in Amsterdam. A bloody headless dummy body was left below the head.

Photos of the bloody headless dummy and its severed head were placed online on the far-right Facebook page.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Kamber Sener, the head of the mosque, condemned the incident and said there were many far-right extremists who were trying to frighten Muslims.

Sener said they had encountered such an incident for the first time and added an investigation into the incident had been launched.

The banners hanged outside the mosque read: “Islam must be stopped. We do not want a mosque tied to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in northern Amsterdam.”

A deputy from Denk Party, established by two Dutch politicians of Turkish origin, told Anadolu Agency that the party’s proposal to discuss the attack on the mosque in the parliament was rejected.

“Every time, the same parties do not accept the proposal for a debate,” Farid Azarkan said.

Azarkan said it was “saddening” not to discuss such issues in the parliament despite many Islamophobic attacks in the country.

Germany’s AfD steps up anti-Muslim rhetoric

Hamed Chapman

Two prominent members of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), the third largest party in the country, are being investigated by police over anti-Muslim New Year messages posted on the social media.

Beatrix von Storch, Deputy Leader of the far-right group, had her Twitter account temporarily suspended after posting an inflammatory message in which she accused Cologne police of appeasing “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men”.

But Twitter only suspended von Storch’s account for 12 hours in response to her post, saying it had breached the site’s rules. AfD leaders called the actions censorship and accused the German authorities were acting like the Stasi in communist East Germany.

The Deputy Leader went on to re-post the same message on Facebook, where it was also blocked for reasons of incitement. She was supported by AfD party Leader Alice Weidel, who also wrote on Facebook that authorities were submitting to “imported, marauding, groping, abusive, knife-stabbing migrant mobs”.

The controversy intensified after Twitter suspended the account of German satirical magazine Titanic for publishing a series of posts by an imagined von Storch, including some that attempted to poke fun at her posts concerning Muslim men. Twitter restored the account 48 hours later following strong criticism from users.

The magazine’s Editor, Tim Wolff, said Titanic would defend itself from further suspensions and that Germany’s NetzDG risked undermining satire.

The architect of the NetzDG law, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) said in an interview with German daily Bild that the law was necessary because “social networks must adhere to our laws like everyone else,” adding: “Freedom of expression is not a free pass for committing criminal offenses.”

The head of the SPD parliamentary party, Andrea Nahles, also defended the law in an interview with weekly Bild am Sonntag, saying it needed to be implemented.

“We need to ensure more responsibility on the internet – it is not outside of the law,” she said. “This [law] has nothing to do with censorship.”

January 1 marked the start of a new “network enforcement law” (NetzDG) that forces internet platforms with more than 2 million users to delete illegal content in Germany within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. Failure to respond promptly risks fines up to €50 million ($60 million).

The AfD, which was only founded in 2013, made a major breakthrough in last year’s federal election in Germany, claiming 94 seats in the Bundestag, the third largest in the country.

French mayor’s ban on pork substitutes ‘anti-Muslim’

Mayor of Beaucaire and National Front member, Julien Sanchez has banned pork substitutes in school meals (Photo: Creative Commons)

Hajer M’tiri

A far-right mayor’s decision to ban pork substitutes in school meals has been slammed by the head of a watchdog group.

Julien Sanchez, mayor of Beaucaire town in the south of France and a member of the far-right National Front, outlawed as of January 15 alternatives to pork in school canteens, arguing substitute meals are “anti-republican” and violate France’s secular principles.

Abdallah Zekri, head of France’s Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (National Observatory Against Islamophobia), condemned what he called “an arbitrary and discriminatory decision”.

“It’s an unacceptable measure. We cannot accept that while some children are eating, others will just watch”, Zekri told Anadolu Agency by phone.

He pointed out that Sanchez’s decision is contrary to the principle of secularism, noting that secularism guarantees freedom of conscience and religion as a fundamental right for every citizen.

“He is using the respect of secularism as a pretext, but his action contradicts it. It is simply racism against Muslims. It is an anti-Muslim process,” he added, calling for the decision to be cancelled.

Sanchez’s move has been depriving around 150 mainly Muslim pupils, out of 600 students, of their “substitute meals” since January 15.

Anne Moiroud, head of the Beaucaire school district’s parents’ association, organised a picnic in the square in front of Beaucaire’s town hall to protest the decision on January 15.

“My issue is in fact that [Sanchez] seeks publicity for the National Front all throughout France but does not think of the children here in Beaucaire,” the angry parent told local news website ObjectifGard.

“It [substitute menus] has existed for 40 years. Children have the same rights as us concerning their freedom of religion, thought and expression. They have the right to eat pork or not to.”

Laure Cordelet, head of a local opposition group, said the mayor’s move “breached children’s rights” and “stigmatized the local Maghreb [North African] community.”

The decision, she added, “can in no way be justified in the name of secularism”.

Marlene Schiappa, France’s gender equality minister, also expressed her outrage, calling Sanchez “a typical example of someone brandishing secularism as an anti-Muslim political weapon, or anti-Jewish for that matter”.

A renewed controversy

This is not the first time that substitute meals have made headlines.

Gilles Platret, the mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône town in Burgundy from the centre-right Les Republican party, took a similar decision back in 2015 before a local court annulled it in 2017 on the grounds that limiting options was not in the best interests of children. He vowed to appeal.

In 2015, children at Piedalloues primary school in Auxerre, Burgundy who did not eat pork were ordered to wear at lunchtime red discs and those who did not eat meat to wear yellow disks.

Eighteen of the school’s 1,500 pupils were affected by the decision.

They were withdrawn after protests by angry parents and community leaders who said they were reminiscent of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear under the Nazi occupation.

Former president Nicolas Sarközy made a controversial statement when seeking re-election in 2016.

He said “if a little guy’s family does not eat pork and the menu at the cafeteria is a slice of ham and fries, well, he skips the ham and eats a double helping of fries. In a republic, it’s the same rule and the same menu for everyone”.

In 2017, Michel Rotger, mayor of Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur and also a member of the conservative Republican party, announced the cancellation of alternative school menus that do not include pork to promote secular values in schools.

In April 2014 school cafeterias will stop serving non-pork options to children in towns won by the far-right National Front party in local elections previous week, its leader Marine Le Pen said.

“We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.”

Le Pen’s anti-immigrant party made historic gains in municipal elections when it landed 11 mayorships, a significant electoral breakthrough for the party.

In March 2013 the school in the village of Arveyres in the Gironde region of south-west France stopped offering an alternative meal for children who did not eat pork, which is forbidden under Jewish and Muslim dietary laws.

Around 30 of the 180 children had up until then been offered a substitute meat when pork was on the menu.

Parents of some of those pupils affected took umbrage to the decision.

“We are not asking for halal or kosher meat,” one mother told France blue radio. “We just want a meal with substitute protein.”

Additional reporting by Ahmed J Versi

Hate Crime affects whole communities, major study finds

Hamed Chapman

Hate Crimes not only threaten the personal safety and security for those directly victimised but have serious consequences for communities as a whole, according to a new major report.

The impact of such crimes, whether experienced directly, indirectly, through the media, in person or online, affected other individuals in the victim’s identity group by increasing feelings of fear, anger, and isolation, a five-year study by the University of Sussex found.

“Hate crimes spread fear and anger throughout communities. Individuals do not have to be targeted themselves to be affected. Simply knowing someone who has been victimised is sufficient to cause harm,” said Professor Rupert Brown from the Sussex Hate Crime Project.

“Such reactions are also likely to cause them to change their behaviour – for example, to avoid certain situations or places where they may be more at risk of abuse,” the Professor of Social Psychology warned.

“That is important because some public commentators dismiss hate crime as having no greater impact on communities than other types of crime. We’ve now shown that is not the case.”

The major study was into hate incidents against Muslims as well as members of the LGBT people, commonly seen as the two most targeted groups. Altogether over 3,000 were questioned.

Their report found that over 70 percent of both categories of respondents had been victims of hate crimes in the past three years and more than 80 percent knew someone who had been also.

Experiences of hate crime via the media and online were also extremely common with 86% of Muslim respondents and 83% of LGBT respondents who had been directly targeted online.

Hate crimes, whether experienced directly, indirectly, through the media, in person or online, were consistently linked to increased feelings of vulnerability, anxiety, anger, and sometimes shame and being more security conscious, avoidant, and more active within the community.

The research is the first of its kind to show that hate crimes and hate incidents do not just affect the immediate victims but have serious consequences for their communities as a whole.  Hate crime victims were found to receive more empathy than non-hate crime victims and sometimes were blamed more than non-hate crime victims

Also shown was that both Muslims and LGBT people are unlikely to report hate crimes to the police. Even worse was that when Muslims do report offences to the police, they are more likely to perceive that the police are “ineffective at dealing with these crimes than if they did not report them at all.”

Sweden mosque vandalised with Swastika

Nadine Osman

A mosque in South East Sweden was vandalised on November 20. A swastika was sprayed on one of its doors.

The Al Huda Islamic Cultural Centre and mosque in Flen, Södermanland came under attack for the fifth time in five years. Sweden Islamic Federation President, Tahir Akan, said the Muslim community was sad after the attack on their mosque.

Police informed us about the attack, Akan said. “Police have launched a large-scale search.
Developments are being reported to us. They are checking the cameras. I hope those who did this would be caught soon.”

The mosque, which was converted from a church in 2012, had been the largest of five anti-Muslim attacks since it opened.

Dutch police officers permitted hijab

Elham Asaad Buaras

A new court ruling in the Netherlands will allow Muslim policewomen serving in certain posts to wear the hijab (headscarves). Dutch police had claimed that religious symbols are incompatible with police uniforms.

On November 27 the Human Rights Council HRC ruled in favour of Sarah Izat, 26, who was dismissed for violating the dress code.

Police are expected to abide by the non-binding HRC decision. Religious symbols were banned under 2011 Code of Conduct. The code stipulated officers should present a “neutral and uniform appearance”.

HRC ruled the need for a neutral appearance is limited in this case, as Izat’s job as call handler had no physical public interaction.

Therefore, the hijab ban cannot be justified.

Rotterdam-based Izat said she considered the ruling an important first step. “It will not be solved in a day, but hopefully the police can now look to the next step when it comes to headscarves.”

In May, Amsterdam police considered making the hijab an option with police uniform to attract more ethnic minorities but the move was opposed by police chief Erik Akerboom. In addition, an Amsterdam policewoman who went on patrol wearing a hijab under her cap later that month was heavily criticised for her action

Man who sought Muslims to stab jailed

Mickey Sage (Photo: Met Police)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A man who sought Muslims to stab in South London has been jailed for over two years on November 22.

On June 7, Mickey Sage armed himself with a 10-inch knife and roamed Camberwell Green where he threatened people. 24-year-old Sage was jailed for two years and three months at Inner London Crown Court.

Police was called to Camberwell Green Court after a man threatened people at 1.43am. Less than 10 minutes later they were called again to Camberwell Green junction with Camberwell Church Street. Witnesses reported a man pulling a knife and asking pedestrians if they were Muslim.

The Metropolitan Police said several “alarmed and distressed members of the public” were at the scene and directed them to Sage, telling them where he had hidden the knife nearby.

While in custody Sage told an officer “it was my knife and I was out to kill a Muslim.”

He then made a number of anti-Muslim comments and once at the police station, he admitted that he was out to find a Muslim to stab them. He said that he “would be a martyr for England and stab an imam in the neck.”

Sage pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening a person with a knife in a public place, accepting the incident was religiously aggravated.

DC Samuel Cafferty from Southwark CID said: “Sage set out with a large knife with the clear intention to find Muslims to stab. Hate crime like this has no place in any society. Sage poses a very clear and present danger to members of the public, particularly the Muslim community.”

He added, had members of the public not escaped Sage it “could have been a very different ending.”

Teen told to remove hijab in McDonald’s as it posed ‘a security threat’

MacDonald’s security guard blocked a hijab-wearing woman from stepping towards the tills to order and asked she remove her hijab first (Photo: Twitter)

Harun Nasrullah

A Muslim woman has criticised McDonald’s apology after she was told to remove her hijab (headscarf) because it posed “a security threat”.

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, was approached by a black security guard at a branch in Holloway Road in north London on November 30. The clip showed him blocking her from stepping towards the tills to order her food.Eventually, another customer stepped in and told the employee he could not stop her from entering the restaurant.

McDonald’s says it has suspended the security guard and is investigating the matter. It added that the branch was managed and owned by a franchise.

In a statement to The Muslim News, a McDonald’s spokesman added: “We are deeply sorry that this happened, and are taking the matter very seriously, addressing the situation with both the restaurant and security firm involved.

“As a business operating in diverse communities across the country, we want to make it absolutely clear that we welcome people of all faiths and do not have any policy which restricts or prevents anyone wearing a hijab, or any other religious attire, in our restaurants.”

But student dismissed the explanation saying it was “not enough” and accused the fast food giants of shifting accountability on the security firm.

Speaking to BBC Asian Network the 19-year-old said, “They basically said that the security guard was employed by a third-party company and so what they’re trying to say is, ‘We don’t condone his conduct but we can’t be held responsible because we’re not the people who hire them’.

But if you’re going to use a separate company you need to be aware of what kind of policies they have, especially in a city like London.” In mobile footage, the security guard can be heard saying: “If you just don’t mind taking it off,” to which the student responds: “It’s not just a matter of taking it off, I wear it for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it, this is a hate crime.”

She adds: “You would expect someone of colour to be more sympathetic to a minority that is persecuted. That just reflects how current this issue is – almost anyone could actually believe that I am a security threat. ”

McDonald’s issued another apology. Its UK Chief Executive Paul Pomroy said in a statement: “I am deeply sorry that this happened, and am taking the matter very seriously.

We welcome people of all faiths and do not have any policy which restricts or prevents anyone wearing a hijab, or any other religious attire, in our restaurants.” Adding, “The restaurant involved is managed and owned by Amir Atefi, a franchisee. Mr Atefi is proud of his diverse workforce, and was upset and concerned to hear how one of his valued customers has been treated.”

Riot breaks out after Greek football hooligans attack Muslims

Thessaloniki PAOK fans clashed with expat Pakistani community members (photo: Creative Commons)

Nadine Osman

Riot police in Athens had to intervene after a clash broke out between football hooligans and a local Pakistani community celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, with a procession in one of the squares in downtown Athens.

Twitter: @OnlineMagazin

Police deployed tear gas, stun grenades, and anti-riot methods to stop the violence which erupted on November 26. A video from the scene shows utter mayhem in the street as hooligans trampled on flags, while Pakistanis try to defend themselves.

Supporters of the Thessaloniki PAOK were in the area, heading for a league game.

Although escorted by police to a sporting venue, the hooligans began insulting the Muslims before attacking them.

According to media reports, there were no serious injuries or arrests.

Polish Independence March and the culture of hate

Warsaw, March of Independence 2011 (Photo: Adam Kliczek)

Kasia Narkowicz

The Polish Independence March has always been a far-right event that very few joined, but this year it attracted masses. Contrary to international media reports, most of the 60,000 participants were not members of the far-right. This begs the question: why did so many regular citizens join a march organised by the far-right?

Polish Independence March

On November 11 each year, Poles commemorate their country regaining independence in 1918 and re-appearing on the map of Europe after 123 years of non-existence. Poles have celebrated Independence Day in various ways throughout the years, but not primarily through participating in the Independence March.

The march has always been a fringe event organised by far-right nationalists. This started changing around 2010, at a time when Islamophobia in Poland first became an issue. That year the Independence March attracted around 20,000 people, mainly nationalists and football fans – both groups known for their xenophobic and at times violent behaviour. Since then, the march has grown in numbers and significance, culminating in a spectacular event that this year reportedly attracted 60,000 people. Marching through the streets of Warsaw, many held red and white flags and united behind the slogan ‘We want God’. Some of the participants held banners with racist and specifically anti-Muslim slogans calling for a ‘White Europe’.

The Guardian and other international media outlets reported that 60,000 nationalists marched on Poland’s Independence Day and with that, they upset many conservatives in the country that wish to disassociate themselves from the racist far-right. Yet while it is true that the march goers were not necessarily far-right extremists, the willingness of regular citizens to join a march organised by members of the far-right says something important about the normalisation of hate. For a growing number of people, being anti-Muslim, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant has become synonymous with Polishness and Catholicism.

Promoting a culture of hate

Nationalism expressed through racism has become mainstream in Poland. It is not only a Polish or Central European issue as it bears striking resemblance to Britain’s Brexit and reflects a growing populism in Europe that is expressed through hostility to immigrants and minorities. In Poland, it is no longer unacceptable to have anti-Muslim views because racism has become so mainstream. This shift to the right is partially attributed to the current ruling party and partially to the failure to confront Poland’s past, where hostility towards minorities was strong within the majority population.

In the 2015 elections, the right-wing party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość PiS won the Polish elections and with that, they replaced the more liberal Platforma Obywatelska. The rise of PiS to power coincided with the escalation of the refugee crisis. The party used the growing numbers of people at the shores of Europe to mobilise against immigration and strengthen their political agenda of increasingly closed borders. This, in turn, contributed to a normalisation of xenophobic views.

The numbers of hate crimes increased dramatically in 2015 with anti-racist organisation Never Again reporting daily incidents of violence. Several anti-refugee demonstrations were organised across Poland at that time, exhibiting anti-Muslim as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments. During one such demonstration organised by the far-right National Radical Camp, who is also one of the organisers of the Independence March, one participant set fire to an effigy of an Orthodox Jew who was holding an EU flag. The organisers Argentinaued that the effigy was of George Soros who is responsible for the Islamisation of Poland.

At another anti-refugee demonstration in Poland, a member of the same far-right group warned about white Europe becoming extinct, equating Muslims with rapists and Jews with imperialists. During an anti-refugee demonstration in Warsaw, participants shouted ‘Poland for Poles’ and ‘Islam – death of white Europe’. In online discussions about refugees, people referred to Auschwitz – the concentration camp located in Poland – as an ‘ideal hotel’ for refugees.

The Government has done little to tackle, and more to encourage, this culture of hate. People are rarely persecuted for acts of hate speech that influence the public. The ruling party have resolved the only government body dealing with xenophobia and racism and also refused to accept any refugees into Poland unless they were Christians. These acts have empowered the far-right and allowed them to enter the mainstream political arena of which the Independence March is a striking example.

This year the resistance to growing racism in Poland has also taken drastic measures, suggesting that the situation in the country has reached desperate levels that call for desperate action.

The main resistance to growing racism in Poland is fought from the grassroots. This year, too, involved some remarkable, and immensely tragic, individual acts of resistance. On November 11 in the very middle of the thousand-strong Independence March, 14 women sat down and rolled out a banner with the slogan ‘Stop Fascism’. They were cursed, spat on and kicked by drunken men.

A month earlier, a man set himself on fire in protest against the current right-wing Government and its hostile attitudes towards minorities. Before his self-immolation he shared these words | ‘I, an ordinary human being, like you, call on you all – don’t wait any longer!’

Dr Kasia Narkowicz, Sociology Department, University of York


Council dismisses incendiary media claims over Muslim foster furore

Hamed Chapman

An official investigation has roundly rejected the sensational media allegations into incendiary claims about a ‘white Christian’ five-year-old girl placed with Muslim foster carers.

Tower Hamlets Council said it could find no evidence and do not accept the allegations made in the national press. “The local authority is satisfied that at all times the foster carers provided warm and appropriate care to the child,” it said.

In August, The Times made a series of highly emotive claims under the Islamophobic headline ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster care’. Inflammatory allegations included that the five-year-old was banned from eating pork, had her crucifix removed and began to express a hatred of Christmas and Easter.

The story was picked up and splashed across the UK’s tabloid media, including The Sun, The Daily Mail and Breitbart, which reprinted the claims and led to an orchestrated nationwide furore about the issue of Muslim foster carers.

But since then the council has conducted its own inquiries by a senior social worker, which poked holes in the reporting of the case.
On the allegation that the girl had her crucifix removed, the Tower Hamlets investigation found she had actually two necklaces, one of which was in the girl’s bedroom of her maternal grandmother for safekeeping due to the potential vale and size of the jewellery.
Another allegation printed by The Times and picked up in subsequent media reports was that the Muslim foster carers would not allow the girl to eat her “favourite Italian meal” of pasta carbonara because it contained pork.

But again this was rejected by the council, which found “there had been no rejection of food brought for the child by the mother for religious reasons”.Media reports also seized on the allegation that the five-year-old girl had told her mother “Christmas and Easter are stupid”, with the Daily Mail splashing the detail in a Facebook post and the Daily Express running it in a headline.

But the social worker running the investigation spoke to the girl who actually “expressed no negative views about Christmas” but “expressed excitement and described having an Easter Egg hunt” at the Muslim foster carers home.

The investigation also found the allegation that the child was distressed as the foster carer spoke only in Arabic by Tower Hamlets “not to be correct.”

Altogether at least 178 complaints have been made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation and a report by the media watchdog is eagerly awaited

Twitterbots and fake news: how anti-Muslims are spreading their propaganda

Nadine Osman

Anti-Muslim activists are successfully spreading misinformation online at an alarming rate using ‘Twitterbots’, fabricated news and image manipulation, according to a new report.

Bots, fake news and the anti-Muslim message on social media’ illustrate how recent terror attacks in the UK have been exploited by anti-Muslim activists on social media to broaden their propaganda.

The research by HOPE not hate was released on November 29, the same day the US President Donald Trump caused an international outcry after retweeting a series of anti-Muslim tweets by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain’s far-right group Britain First tweet.

Among his retweets was on which contained a video of a man violently assaulting another man on crutches, the tweet is captioned ‘VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!’. Hours later both Dutch police and the Netherlands embassy in Washington confirmed the assailant was neither Muslim nor an immigrant.

Toronto Star’s Washington Correspondent, Daniel Dale, illustrated six other times Trump tweeted fake Muslim news including a story about Muslims not reporting San Bernardino killers; Pershing massacre with bullets dipped in pig blood; refugees being ISIS members, a non-existent terror attack in Sweden, a botched Manila robbery being a terror attack and the story of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the 9/11 terror attacks.

HOPE not hate research found that tweets by America’s most prominent anti-Muslim figure, Pamela Geller, are spread by 102 ‘bots’. Geller, who is banned from entering the UK, doubled viewers to her blog to 2 million views per month between July and October.

Key anti-Muslim social media accounts monitored in the report grew by whopping 117 percent between March and November.

The report shows how even small events are amplified through a global network of anti-Muslim activists, to advance the message that Islam is a threat.

HOPE not hate researcher Patrik Hermansson said online anti-Muslim activism is spreading at an alarming rate. “In such a key area of public interest, it is an indication of increased interest in these views and, as each account or site grows, more people are exposed to deeply prejudiced anti-Muslim views.”

“The global reach, low price and lack of regulation on these platforms clearly present new possibilities for independent, single issue and extremist viewpoints to gain significant audiences. It is about time that social media companies woke up to this fact and did more about the spread of fake news.”

The research charts how terror attacks in the UK have been exploited by anti-Muslim activists over social media.

In its report HOPE not hate said, “After the Manchester arena attack, Tommy Robinson, former leader of EDL, gained 40,042 followers, an increase of 17 percent, with the majority – 29,396 – coming within 48 hours of the attack. He gained a further 22,365 followers after the Westminster attack, with a weekly average increase of 6,422 followers from March to November 2017.”

Thirty-two of the top 100 most shared tweets about the London Bridge attack in June expressed negative sentiments about Muslims.

The report also identifies far-right alternative media site, Breitbart, run by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, as spreading fake news, stating that “it’s reporting on Islam and Muslims is largely indistinguishable from the anti-Muslim movement’s rhetoric or even that of the far right”.

The study highlights that a network of online forums and image boards serves as an echo chamber to amplify and spread fabricated anti-Muslim social media campaigns. The most notorious recent example was the exploitation of a photograph of a Muslim woman walking past a group of people helping a victim of the Westminster attack in March 2017.

The image gained traction after a Twitter user called @Southlonestar claimed the image revealed the woman’s indifference to the victim (which was untrue). The image was manipulated by users on the image board, 4chan, and later superimposed on pictures after the Manchester attack.

@Southlonestar was revealed to be one of 2,700 accounts handed over to the US House Intelligence Committee by Twitter as a fake account created in Russia to influence UK and US politics.

Primary school girls quizzed about hijab

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Hamed Chapman

Ofsted has provoked a new controversy with the country’s Muslim communities by announcing that school inspectors in England are being told to question primary age girls if they are wearing a hijab or similar headscarf.

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools, said the move was to tackle situations in which wearing a hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation” of girls as young as four or five when most Islamic teaching requires headdress for girls only at the onset of puberty.

The announcement is being presented as a recommendation to Ofsted inspectors rather than an update to the inspectorate’s official handbook and was said to follow a meeting between Spielman and campaigners against the hijab in schools, including Amina Lone, Co-Director of the Social Action and Research Foundation.

“While respecting parents’ choice to bring up their children according to their cultural norms, creating an environment where primary school children are expected to wear the hijab could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls,” the head of Ofsted claimed.
“In seeking to address these concerns, and in line with our current practice in terms of assessing whether the school promotes equality for their children, inspectors will talk to girls who wear such garments to ascertain why they do so in the school.

“We would urge any parent or member of the public who has a concern about fundamentalist groups influencing school policy, or breaching equality law to make a complaint to the school. If schools do not act on these complaints they can be made to Ofsted directly.”
The announcement is the latest of a string of requirements issued in the wake of the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ affair that erupted in Birmingham in 2014 and orchestrated fears about extremism influence in state schools.

Responding to the latest invasion, Muslim Council of Britain Secretary-General, Harun Khan, said it was “deeply worrying” that Ofsted has announced it will be specifically tArgentinaeting and quizzing young Muslim girls who choose to wear the headscarf.

“It sends a clear message to all British women who adopt this that they are second-class citizens that while they are free to wear the headscarf, the establishment would prefer that they do not,” he said. “The many British Muslims who choose to wear the headscarf have done extremely well in education and are breaking glass ceilings. It is disappointing that this is becoming policy without even engaging with a diverse set of mainstream Muslim voices on the topic,” he added.

The MCB also received over a hundred letters from Muslim women protesting and expressing their outrage against the interference by Oftsed in matters that were not seen as part of the inspectorate’s mandate to improve the performance of schools.

It was seen as a knee-jerk reaction with Spielman being pressured into her pronouncement soon after a survey for The Sunday Times found 18 percent of 800 primary schools in England list the hijab as part of their uniform policy, mostly as an optional item and the National Secular Society NSS warning that 42 percent of Islamic schools, including 27 primary schools, have a uniform policy requiring girls to wear a hijab.

The NSS was reported by the Guardian to have written to Education Secretary, Justine Greening, claiming that Muslim girls must be given “free choices” and claiming that forcing children to wear the hijab is “entirely at odds with this fundamental British value and with wider human rights norms on children’s rights.”

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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