Man fined for Islamophobic rant

Nadine Osman

A Bedfordshire man who threatened a 21-year-old security guard in an Islamophobic incident has been ordered by the courts to pay a £1,665 fine and £85 in compensation to the victim.

Anthony O’Farrell, 45, of Clophill Road, Silsoe, pleaded guilty to using religiously aggravated words intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress and possession of a Class B drug, at Luton Magistrates’ Court on January 5.

Uwais Akhtar was working as a doorman at MacDonald’s in Luton town centre at around 5 am on December 18 when he was approached by O’Farrell.

O’Farrell had been attending an event in Dunstable earlier in the evening and was noticeably drunk. O’Farrell walked towards Akhtar and called him a “Muslim c**t”.

Akhtar said: “Out of nowhere, he called me a Muslim c**t. I was so shocked at this and didn’t know how to respond. I started to feel sick and disgusted.”

O’Farrell followed this insult a few seconds later by calling the young man a “terrorist”.

Akhtar said: “At this point, I told him to walk away. He refused, so I put my radio on and called it into the police. He then walked off, the council CCTV followed him up the street and he was arrested. What was done that day was not right. I mean, is it a crime to be a Muslim?”

When O’Farrell was arrested later that morning he was found to be in possession of a small amount of cannabis.

In a statement to The Muslim News, a spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: “This was an extremely distressing incident for the 21-year-old victim, which has made him fearful of further attacks. We are really pleased with the sentencing which sends out a strong message to others that Beds Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts adopt a zero-tolerance approach to this type of behaviour.”

“Hate crimes are based on ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and have no place in our society, as everyone has the right to live free from fear or harassment. We hope this case will encourage others who have experienced Islamophobia or other hate crimes to come forward and report them.”

Passenger asked to leave the bus for listening to Qur’an aloud

Amira Al-Hooti

A man was told to leave a 105 bus service to Heathrow, in Southall, because he was playing the Qur’an on his phone out loud.

According to the Daily Mail, a witness on the bus claimed that the Qur’an recitation was “not loud at all”.  The same passenger also reported that “the bus driver asked the passenger to turn it off and he turned it off without questioning him”. Evidence from a video taken by a passenger of the aftermath of the incident, shows the driver saying “I can’t do it (drive the bus) safely with music playing” and a woman shouting “he’s turned it off”.

However, despite this, a quarrel had broken out between the passenger and the driver. The driver was insistent on having the passenger remove himself from the bus and was refusing to continue on his journey if the passenger was not going to comply with his order. The “music” as referred to by the driver was too loud making him feel uncomfortable whilst driving the bus.

The individual had allegedly responded by saying “why do I need to get off the bus when I’ve paid for my fare, you asked me to turn off the Qur’an and I did as you said.”

This, unfortunately, did nothing to alleviate the frustration of the driver as he had responded with threats to call the police if the individual remained on the bus. The man did not appear to be bothered by this claiming that he had rights. He called the driver “racist” as he had done nothing but play the Qur’an.

“It’s not even about the music it’s about your attitude,” said the driver defensively, contradicting his initial argument, according to the witness’ statement to the Daily Mail.

The police had been called regarding the incident. According to the passenger’s account, however, “they weren’t helpful at all” leaving it up to the driver to decide whether he “wants to drive the bus or not”.

However, TfL gave a different account of the incident to The Muslim News. They claimed that the driver had “politely asked the individual to turn the music off to which the passenger had responded by swearing at him and refusing to switch off the Qur’an.”

TfL added that the Qur’an was being played loudly contrary to the witness’ statement to the Daily Mail. “Had the driver been in the wrong”, TfL “would have taken action.”

According to TfL, the bus driver was permitted to ask the passenger to leave. This is because the driver might not be able to listen to commands from the bus depot and may also get “distracted which can be dangerous and disruptive”. As well as this, passengers may be unable to hear the bus stop announcements.

 

Shelvey banned for calling Wolves rival Romain Saiss a ‘smelly Arab c**t’

Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey has been urged to issue a public apology after racially abusing Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder (inset) Romain Saiss (Photo: Flickr)

Nadine Osman

Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey has been urged to issue a public apology after the full extent of the racially abusive language used against Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Romain Saiss was revealed.

On December 20 Sportsmail reported that the 24-year-old England player called the Moroccan a “smelly Arab” during a 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park on September 17.
An Independent Regulatory Commission found Shelvey guilty of racially abusing Saiss last month and he was banned for five matches, fined £100,000 and told to attend an FA education course. The FA have now released details of the private hearing.


Wolves players Dominic Iorfa, Matt Doherty and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson all gave evidence against Shelvey. In it, they insist they heard Shelvey call Saiss “a smelly Arab c**t” and “a Moroccan pr**k”.

Shelvey insisted he had only ever said: “smelly breathed pr**k” and that he was reacting to being called a “bald c**t” having suffered from alopecia since childhood. Shelvey has decided not to appeal against the verdict but said he is “disappointed and frustrated with the outcome of the hearing”.

However, the Anti-racism charity Kick It Out has called on Shelvey to apologise. In a statement to The Muslim News Kick It Out said: “To bring closure to this incident so all parties can move on and to send out the right message, we hope both Newcastle United and Shelvey issue a public apology to the player concerned and his club, so that everyone can look forward to the remainder of the season.

“One such instance of discrimination involving players in the professional game is too many and shows there’s still work to do in tackling discrimination in football.

“We hope the FA’s education course benefits the player and teaches him about what is and isn’t acceptable language to use.”

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that Shelvey had goaded Iorfa over the amount of money he earns, a practice in football known as “cashing someone off”. Shelvey accepted he had called Iorfa a “peasant” a number of times but says it was in response to being called a “f***ing pr**k”.

Newcastle Manager Rafa Benitez says the club stands by their player. “We support him because for me it was a very confused [sic] situation,” he said.

“The main thing is he knows that he has to be careful in the future and just concentrate on his football. Strange things happen on the pitch and everyone is referring to this issue but we continue to support him – we don’t support him in the way [of the alleged language] but that he was making a mistake. But what people say he said, maybe he didn’t say, so it is very confused [sic]. What we have to do is move on and start thinking about the future.”

Rightist Austrian politician calls for ban on ‘Islamisation’

Amira Al-Hooti

Heinz-Christian Strache, a right-wing Austrian politician and leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) called for a ban on “Islamisation”.

The FPO is a party popular amongst some of the electorate, holding rightist views with extreme measures on controlling immigration particularly where Muslims are concerned. “Let us put an end to this policy of Islamisation… otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end,” said the politician at a yearly FPO New Year’s convention.

Strache believes that Austria is in need of a strict “law which prohibits fascistic Islam” which he proclaimed to thousands of FPO supporters at the New Year’s meeting in the Austrian city, Salzburg.

The right wing Austrian People’s Party (OVP), which is in coalition with the left-wing Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPO), suggested that there should be a maximum limit on the refugees by halving migrant applications from 35,000 in 2016 to 17,000 in 2017.  Strache criticised the OVP proposals. “We don’t need an upper limit or the upper limit to be reduced by half – we need zero immigration, actually minus immigration, because all illegal individuals and (migrant) criminals belong outside of the country,” Strache said.

When referring to illegal immigrants, Strache suggested that they “should be sent to a detention centre”.

Despite calling for outlawing “Islamisation”, Strache said that those who deem Muslim migrants as “anti-liberal” and reflecting “a fascist worldview” should not view them as being “hatred”. He added that those unable to comply with the rules of European democracy “are free to return to their Muslim country”.

Strache has expressed his view on the EU regarding immigration saying “We do not want to leave the European Union, but we want a reform that would correct all its development failures.”

A spokesperson for FPO said that “any law against extreme elements of Islam should be similar to the law Austria introduced after WWII banning the Nazi Party and Nazi symbols.”

Austria is a predominantly Christian country with Roman Catholics representing the majority of the population. According to research conducted in 2001, approximately 73.6% of Austria’s religious demographic is Roman Catholic. There are around 600,000 Muslims living amongst Austria’s population of around eight and a half million.

Girls and boys must swim together, court rules

Amira Al-Hooti

A Muslim couple of Turkish descent refused to allow their daughters to take part in swimming lessons with boys. The couple, living in Basel, Switzerland, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, after they lost the case in Swiss courts.

They argued that obligation of their daughters to participate in mixed swimming classes is a violation of their freedom to act in accordance with their faith.

The couple believed that their rights were being breached under Article 9 of the ECHR which protects their religious freedom. However, ECHR concluded that this wasn’t the case as the Swiss authorities had tried to negotiate with the couple.

The Swiss courts had ruled that the girls and boys in Switzerland must partake in mixed-gender swimming lessons, and has also tried to compromise with the couple, by allowing their daughters to wear the burkini (fully covered swimsuit). As well as this, they have allowed for separate changing areas which would be a no-boys zone. However, the couple rejected these proposals.

Although the couple’s appeal had been rejected by the ECHR, the court was aware that the ruling “had interfered” with the couple’s beliefs. Yet despite this, the court concluded that pupils who do not get involved in class activities such as this may be subject to social exclusion.

The court believes that the swimming lessons extend further than just learning to swim as it considers that schools play “a special role in the process of social integration and one that was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned.”

The couple has 3 months to appeal the verdict of the ECHR court.

Janini Rashidi from the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland told The Atlantic that in parts of Switzerland, as well as in Basel, “it is possible to homeschool children. Nobody would claim that these children face a lack of integration even though they are not schooled with classmates at all.”

The couple, Aziz Osmanoglu and Sehabat Kocabas, were fined a total of 1,400 Swiss Francs (£1148) in 2010 for repeatedly refusing to comply with the rules by not allowing their daughters to attend obligatory swimming lessons.

Although the court has dismissed the couple’s plea, the girls may excuse themselves from mixed-sex swimming lessons for religious reasons once they reach the age of puberty. The girls were of 9 and 11 at the time the case was first introduced.

A similar case had also transpired in Germany where a Muslim girl aged 11 had refused to take part in swimming lessons. She argued that the burkini still revealed the shape of her figure which she told the court was impermissible in Islam. Her parents, like Osmanoglu and Kocabas, unsuccessfully appealed her case.

 

 

Romanian president rejects a Muslim woman as PM

President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, rejected the Social Democrats proposal of Sevil Shhaideh as the country’s new PM (Photo: Creative Commons)

Amira Al-Hooti

On December 27, President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, rejected the Social Democrats (PSD) proposed candidate, Sevil Shhaideh, as country’s new Prime Minister.  She was nominated only a week before on December 21, by Romania’s leading political party.

Had she not been denied by Iohannis, she could have potentially created history as Romania’s first ever Muslim and female Prime Minister, though she would have still needed to gain the approval of Parliament. She would have also become the first Muslim PM in the Western world.

The President did not give any reason for rejecting Shhaideh as PM. He did, however, state that he “carefully weighed the pros and cons” of the nomination and turned down Shhaideh making him the first Romanian president to refuse permission of a prime ministerial proposition. Iohannis has called on the PSD and ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), a coalition united after the elections that took place on December 11 (when PSD won 45% of the votes), to recommend another candidate, which he is lawfully authorised to do because of the dismissal of the nominee.

Although the President has not elaborated on his decision, there have been many speculations as to his reasoning behind it. Shhaideh was a Minister of Regional Development for approximately six months. It is believed that Iohannis decision may have had something to do with her lack of political experience combined with Akram Shhaideh, her Syrian husband’s support of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad.

Shhaideh has been a PSD member since July 2015. She graduated from the Academy of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economic Planning and Cybernetics, in 1987. During the period May-November 2015, she served as minister of regional development in Victor Ponta cabinet. She is currently a state secretary at the same ministry, a post she occupied from 2012 to May 2015 and to which she returned in November 2015. Also, she has been president of the National Association of Public Administration (ANIAP) since 2000, according to data from her CV posted online.

Shhaideh’s nomination was popular amongst some of the public. Some individuals took to twitter to show their support of the 52-year-old following the nomination, approving the diversity that she could be representing in the future in a prestigious political position as a Muslim woman of the Tatar minority.

@AlexStanusGhib tweeted: “#SevilShhaideh , first Romanian woman AND Muslim prime minister… our parliament is more open-minded and progressive than previously thought”.

Although she wasn’t elected to be Romania’s next PM, she shed some light on the potentiality for a Muslim PM in the future as it might have seemed close to impossible for a Muslim woman to be considered for the role up until now.

There are less than 1% Muslims and over 80% Orthodox Christians in Romania. Unlike other European countries with higher populations of Muslims, not a single one has ever had a Muslim PM and so to many, the possibility of a Romanian Muslim PM came as a huge surprise.

The leader of PSD Party, Liviu Dragnea, would have been selected to be the PM had he not been involved in electoral manipulation in the 2012 national referendum, receiving a two-year suspended sentence.

“An unjust conviction and a deeply unconstitutional law have prevented me, for the time being, from claiming this office myself,” said Dragnea. For this reason, Dragnea had selected Shhaideh to be the candidate for the Social Democrats.

According to PSD’s official website, Dragnea stated at Cotroceni Palace, “PSD won the election and according to custom (…) I had a legitimate right to ask for me as Prime Minister in the Government of Romania” after a meeting with the President. However, he said that he had worked with Shhaideh “for years” and so suggested her to be the right candidate for the PM’s post.

According to The New York Times, Sergiu Miscoiu, Professor of Political Science, believed that the Shhaideh was nominated for strategic reasons and as a response to allegations made against the party. “PSD (Social Democrats) are saying implicitly with this nomination: ‘you accused us of being nationalist and orthodoxist – look what we do, don’t you like it?’ ”.

Dragnea is showing no signs of retreating and persistently refuses to propose another person to be considered for the role. He said that he, the centre-left party and ALDE coalition will try to impeach the Romanian President. According to hotnews.ro, Augustin Zegrean, an ex-chairman of the Constitutional Court said, “That would be a reason for suspending the president? He does his job. The Constitution allows him to designate or not the person proposed”.

Pig’s head dumped in toilet near Muslim prayer room

Image via Facebook

Nadine Osman

A pig’s head was dumped near a Muslim prayer room at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Doctoral student Majdi Fal found the head in a toilet near the prayer room on December 4.

A police spokeswoman said the matter was being investigated and it was important not to jump to conclusions about motive as the toilet was in a public space.

However, a spokesman for UWA described the incident as an “unprecedented display of Islamophobia”.

He told The Muslim News, “The university is very saddened by this deplorable act. Acts like this are designed only to incite religious and racial hatred. We would like to reinforce that UWA strives to support a culturally inclusive and tolerant campus community and the university will offer help and support to our Muslim students at this time.”

In November last year, the head, limbs and guts of a pig were dumped at the Masjid Ibrahim Islamic mosque in the Perth suburb of Southern River. The Ar-Rukun mosque in Rockingham had been targeted last month when vandals had splashed white paint on the entrance.

Pensioner who abused Muslim woman avoids jail

Nadine Osman

A 75-year-old Irishman who racially abused a Polish Muslim woman in Swansea, Wales, was fined £258 and was told by the judge he only avoided jail due to his old age.

The unnamed niqab-wearing woman was on Hanover Street and checking her phone on November 22, 2016, when she was told take her face veil off and go back to her own country.

Bert Fahy claimed he was “fearful” because he couldn’t see her eyes. Fahy swore and shouted at the woman who was wearing a niqab covering her face – after they met on a street in the Uplands area of the city, calling her a “black b*****d”.

Swansea Magistrates Court heard Fahy then told the woman to “take that f*****g thing off your face” and “go back to your own country.”Fahy pleaded guilty to racially or religiously aggravated public order when he appeared before a district judge.

Lisa Jones, prosecuting, said the victim in the case was a Polish national who wore a niqab for religious reasons, and who had lived in Britain for the last nine years.

The court heard the woman told Fahy she would call the police if he continued shouting at her which he did.

After the encounter, the woman followed the man to a block of flats on the road, noted the address and then called the police. In a victim impact statement read to the court, the woman said the encounter had left her feeling “anxious and afraid”. She said: “Just because I follow my religion, I should not be treated like this.”

Anthony O’Connell, representing Fahy, said his client claimed he had felt “fearful” because he couldn’t see the woman’s eyes.

District judge David Parsons told Fahy that only his clean character and age was saving him from being sent to prison. Fahy was fined £258 and ordered to pay his victim £200 compensation. He must also pay £85 towards prosecution costs.

Muslims doing well in education but not the workplace

(Photo: Zgrpro/CC)

Ala Abbas

A report by the Government’s Social Mobility Commission found that despite high educational achievement, ethnic minorities, in particular, Muslim women, were not reaping the rewards of their hard work at school.

The report, published on December 28, was underpinned by a wide-ranging academic study and found discrimination against gender and ethnic minority groups in the labour market to be one of the factors behind their lower than expected success at work.

“Returns on education in the form of earnings are relatively low for all ethnic minority groups, and especially so for British-Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Muslim Black African women” according to the report.

The report pointed out that there was “an increase in educational attainment for Pakistani/Bangladeshi pupils” and an improvement in performance “at a more rapid rate than other ethnic groups in recent years at almost every key stage of education. Almost half of Bangladeshi and over a third of Pakistani young people from the poorest quintile go to university”. But according to the report, “This is not yet reflected in labour market outcomes, particularly for women, where British Bangladeshi and Pakistani women earn less than their counterparts from other ethnic minority groups.”

While the affluence gap in the white population can be explained by a difference in educational attainment, the lack of social mobility among the BME population is less understandable. The commission’s Chair, Alan Milburn, said that it was concerning that people who were doing well at school were still missing out in the workplace. He called for urgent action to break down barriers: “The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. This research suggests that promise is being broken for too many people in our society.”

The report noted that: “Young people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely than ever to succeed in education and go on to university, girls even more so than boys. Yet these outcomes are not yet being translated into labour market returns – with unemployment particularly prevalent amongst Bangladeshi women, and both Pakistani men and women are relatively unlikely to secure managerial or professional occupations.”

The report looked into how discrimination can hamper social mobility and found “discrimination in the workplace puts some groups, in particular, Muslim women, at a disadvantage”. Evidence of direct discrimination was cited through studies that highlighted “the greater degree of discrimination experienced by Muslim women, particularly those who display outward symbols of their religion, such as the hijab”.

Indirect discrimination in the form of lower teacher expectation was also cited as a reason for why black boys were falling behind at secondary school.

As a report that is chiefly concerned with social mobility rather than discrimination, it concentrated on the low attainment of white working class groups at school. The researchers suggested that family behaviour was one factor in explaining the trend, citing evidence that white working class parents “tend to be less engaged in their children’s education than other ethnic groups”.

The home environment and cultural norms were also used to explain why Muslim women are behind their male counterparts in the workplace, putting this down to different expectations of gender roles.

When it came to rectifying the striking inequalities faced by Muslim women, the report recommended that “schools, universities and employers should provide carefully targeted support to ensure Muslim women are able to achieve their career ambitions and progress in the workplace.”

“Britain is a long way from having a level playing field of opportunity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background,” said Milburn.

Social Mobility Commission – Ethnicity, gender and social mobility FULL REPORT CLICK HERE

Man ‘throws coffee in woman’s face’ and calls her terrorist

Nadine Osman

A man attacked a Muslim woman at a New York branch of Dunkin’ Donuts, throwing hot coffee at her and accusing her of a being a “terrorist” last month.

Nathan Gray, 34, reportedly told his 21-year-victim he “hated Muslims” and threatened to kill her.

He then hit her with his bag and put her in a headlock, according to police. Officers were called and arrested Gray at the scene. He was charged with assault as a hate crime.

The attacker walked into the doughnut shop near Seventh Avenue in Manhattan in the afternoon and asked for a cup of coffee, said a Dunkin’ Donuts.

She said: “I gave him coffee and he said something to me about terrorists, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He walked away from me and sat next to a group of Muslim women. He started talking to them and I could hear him saying, ‘Terrorists!’”

The employee said: “One woman called him ‘stupid.’ So he threw his hot coffee in her face. It was hot, hot coffee. She could have been burned. Then he swung his bag at her and it hit her in the face.”

The number of Islamophobic attacks has risen across the US in the weeks following Donald Trump’s election as US President.

Family victim of six Islamophobic attacks

Amira Al-Hooti

A Muslim family living in Willesden, Brent, North West London, have been subject to six Islamophobic incidents. The most recent attack took place on November 12.

In the last attack, animal faeces was left on their doorstep. Bilall Ahmed’s car was left with shattered windows, a damaged roof and derogatory messages, “Pakistani w**ker”, “c**t”, scratched into it. The car was vandalised before too.

They were very distressing for the family and have left them feeling fearful of what could potentially happen if the police don’t take appropriate action.

Ahmed told The Kilburn Times that he was being “ignored by the police” as they have not been taking any action following the numerous incidents. However, the Metropolitan Police told The Muslim News that “the investigation is in its early stages at this time and the victim is being informed of any progress”.

Ahmed, his family and many other members of the Black and Muslim community in Willesden have been targets of racially motivated attacks. The Metropolitan Police said that they were also “investigating criminal damage to a second nearby vehicle”.

Brent is said to be one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in London, with large communities of Asians, Muslims and many other ethnic and religious groups.

Despite this, the Metropolitan Police recorded an increase in racially motivated crimes against Muslims in Brent, with two crimes recorded in October 2015 compared to October 2016 where the figures tripled to six.

A police spokesperson told The Muslim News that the local police in Brent “take all allegations of racially motivated crime seriously and will investigate robustly. In addition, the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team will be conducting reassurance patrols in the area.”

Austrian Minister proposes hijab ban

Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration has appealed for a ban on the hijab for civil servants (Photo: Ailura/Creative Commons)

Amira Al Hooti

Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration and a member of the Christian Conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), has strongly appealed for a ban on the hijab for civil servants. Kurz, 30, and Muna Duzdar, 38, a Muslim born to Palestinian parents and a member of Austria’s Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), are drafting a law on the prohibition of headscarves amongst public workers including teachers. They plan to send the draft to Parliament once a pronouncement has been made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

According to a spokesperson Kurz has claimed that Austria is “religion-friendly, but also a secular state” despite his current efforts to ban the hijab as well as plans to introduce a ban on the full-body veil.

Although referring to Austria as “secular”, Kurz is allowing and even encouraging Christian crosses to be placed in classrooms as he refers to Austria’s “historically grown culture” suggesting that he wants to maintain this, and perhaps showing that his claim that the state is “religion-friendly” is one-sided.

According to ECJ, companies should be allowed to prohibit the hijab, but only if they are placing a general ban on all religious and political symbols. Kurz’s proposals only target Muslims.

“I’m open to discussions about this but in reality, one cannot pick individual religions. If you discuss religious dress and symbols, you have to speak about all religions. We work on a dialogue with all religious communities,” Duzdar told Reuters.

Muslim organisations have condemned Kurz’s proposal. Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (IGGÖ) posted a statement on Facebook. “We urgently urge this backlash, which threatens to undermine further cooperation between the IGGÖ and the Ministry of Integration,” said Ibrahim Olgun, President of IGGÖ.

In the same statement directed at Kurz’s proposal, IGGÖ stated that “it has long been known that participation in professional life is a key to successful integration.”

Muslimische Jugend Österreich (MJÖ) or Muslim Youth Austria have also joined IGGÖ in denouncing the law which Kurz hopes to pass once the draft has been finalised.

“The exclusion of a large proportion of women from the state service and the labour market is an unacceptable discrimination whose social impact leads to alienation. To wear the headscarf and to work for the state is not a violation of the neutrality of the state towards religion and belief, on the contrary, it is an expression of religious freedom and the high, developed human rights standards that we enjoy in Austria,” said Nermina Mumic, one of three federal presidents of MJÖ.

An anti-racism organisation, ZARA, ‘documented a total of 927 racist incidents in 2015’ and ‘a total of 69 racist smearings were reported to ZARA in 2015. 62 smearings were documented in Vienna. Five of them were found in public transport.’  Of the 62 incidents, 20% were recorded as “Anti-Muslim”, being the second highest following “swastikas and anti-Semitic” incidents at 49%.

If the proposal is to be accepted and the law passed, it would show the Minister’s lack of willingness to cooperate at all with the Muslim community in Austria, despite Islam being not only the fastest growing religion in Austria but also across the globe. In 2010 Muslims made up nearly 6% of the total Austrian population.

This proposal could be harsher than other laws that have been proposed or passed in other European countries such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bid to ban the niqab “wherever it is legally possible” in Germany.

Omar Al-Rawi, Chairman of Female Austrian Muslims said that Kurz intends to “profile himself politically on the backs of Muslims” suggesting that he is also trying to be strategic in introducing such a ban.

London diner rips off woman’s hijab

Nahella Ashraf, 46, was told she “shouldn’t be here” and had her hijab grabbed at a London restaurant (Photo: Migrant Echoes)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A British diner has spoken to The Muslim News about her ordeal after she was told she “shouldn’t be here” and had her hijab grabbed at a London restaurant.

Nahella Ashraf, 46, was having dinner with friends in a fish and chips takeaway in King Street when a man who had been sitting behind the group tried to grab her by the arm whilst shouting abuse about not tolerating people like her here.

Police have confirmed that the attack is being viewed as a hate crime. Ashraf said she was eating with friends at around 8.30pm when the incident occurred.

She said: “As he went to leave the takeaway he grabbed me and started shouting about the fact that I had no right to be here and that he wouldn’t tolerate people like myself. It was all very fast.”

Shocked staff and other customers pushed her attacker away, but Ashraf said: “He just carried on shouting about how people like me were killing people. Then he spat in my face before being pushed out of the takeaway.”

She said nothing like this had happened to her before and added: “I think what’s really shocking is that it would happen in a place like Hammersmith when I’m surrounded by other people. It was very public in a busy fish and chip shop. Obviously, I was very shocked and angry as well. If it can happen in a place like this it’s probably happening in a lot more places where we’re just not hearing about it.”

Ashraf, who lives in Manchester but spends much of her time in London working, was speaking at a protest and vigil held on January 11 evening in Lyric Square Hammersmith, which was organised by Stand Up To Racism in the aftermath of her attack.

She told The Muslim News, “People need to start speaking up about these attacks. We all know someone who’s had to deal with some kind of racism, especially Muslim women.”

She blamed the media, politicians and the current Conservative Government for turning Muslims into “scapegoats to detract attention away from the real issues that are affecting working class people in this country. It’s their austerity agenda and the attacks on the welfare state that are the real problems.”

“I have as much right as the next people to dress as I please and I make no apologies for that. This won’t stop me from continuing to live my life. If anything I think it makes me angrier and determined to beat the racists.”

In the aftermath of her attack John Baker, from Stand Up To Racism, helped arrange the vigil on January 11 in Lyric Square Hammersmith.

He said: “We regard this as outrageous and intolerable hence the protest. We need to nip this kind of incident locally. If it goes unchallenged this will embolden them and there will be more and more of it.”

Ashraf said: “It’s great that the local Stand Up To Racism organised the vigil. It’s important that we show that the racists are not the majority. We need more people to get involved and push back the racism from the thugs on the street but also the racist narrative that is coming from the Government and mainstream press.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told The Muslim News they are treating the incident as a hate crime, “The suspect approached the victim, who was aged in her 40s and wearing a hijab. He then assaulted her by spitting in her face. Officers attended but the suspect had already fled the scene, in the direction of Hammersmith Underground Station.”

He added, “The victim did not require medical treatment. The assault is being treated by police as a racially motivated hate crime. The suspect is described as a male of Arab appearance, aged in his 30s, about 5ft 9ins tall, with facial hair, balding head and a non-British accent. He was wearing a green hooded jacket.”

Church ‘deeply distressed’ by ‘Qur’an offence’, says Bishop

Rev Kelvin Holdsworth invited local Muslims to a service on the feast of the Epiphany. Student Madinah Javed read the chapter of Maryam, which describes the story of Jesus’s birth to Mary (Photo: Greenbelt.org.uk)

Nadine Osman

The Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane has said he is “deeply distressed” at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Qur’an in a Glasgow cathedral

Rev David Chillingworth, who is Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, spoke out following an Islamophobic ridden backlash over the reading of verses from the Qur’an at St Mary’s Cathedral on January 6.

Rev Kelvin Holdsworth invited local Muslims to a service on the feast of the Epiphany. Student Madinah Javed read the chapter of Maryam, which describes the story of Jesus (Christ)’s birth to Maryam (Mary).

Holdsworth described the reaction to the recital as “the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered”. It also features the Islamic version of the Nativity, which says Jesus is not the son of God and should not be worshipped. Holdsworth said the Qur’an reading was part of efforts to build relationships between different faiths and were nothing new.

He wrote on his blog: “It has indeed come as something of a surprise to find accounts of last week’s service appearing online and stirring up the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered.”

“We’ve received Islamophobic and other hate-filled messages so graphic and some of them so obscene that we eventually called the police, whom I have to say, have been excellent at supporting us.”

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, called on the Church to “repudiate this ill-advised invitation and exercise appropriate discipline for those involved.”  Police Scotland confirmed it was investigating the offensive comments directed at the cathedral and said it “did not tolerate any form of hate”.

A spokesman confirmed to The Muslim News they are “investigating reports of offensive comments made towards St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow and inquiries are ongoing. Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate and encourages all communities to work together to ensure no-one feels threatened or marginalised.”

Writing in his blog on January 9 Nazir-Ali called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to “distance the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion from this event” but failed to condemn the Islamophobic attacks.

The cathedral also received offensive messages from online platforms, which are being investigated by police.

Rev Chillingworth said the church is committed to its interfaith work. He also said he regretted abuse targeted at the cathedral, “Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise. ..those judgments must give careful consideration to good relationships which have been carefully nurtured over many years in a local context. They must also weigh carefully the way in which national and international issues shape perceptions of what is appropriate or inappropriate.”

“The Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused. We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community. In response to what has happened at the cathedral, the Scottish Episcopal Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith relations. Our intention will be as a church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect,” said Rev Chillingworth.

Knifeman shouted death to Muslims as he repeatedly stabbed Muslim passenger

Police was called to Forest Hill Station just after 1.15pm after a passenger was stabbed

Nadine Osman

The wife of a man who was critically injured in an anti-Muslim attack on a Forest Hill overground station on December 12 last year has described the horrifying ordeal.

Kulsuma Ali, 39, who wore a hijab, was sitting beside husband Muhammed Askar Ali when a man stabbed him in the head first, then twice in the chest and finally three times in the back.

Kulsuma said the man was screaming, “I am going to kill a Muslim” and “go back to Syria”.

“The blade was a big kitchen knife. The man was wandering around with it and showing it but no one had stopped him. No one came to help us at first. My husband had been stabbed loads of times before anyone moved,” said Kulsuma.

She then revealed how a nurse helped her wounded husband as there was “blood everywhere”. “I have not slept since. The scene keeps playing in my head”, she added. Passengers said they ran for their lives after a man was seen waving a knife at the station and shouting “kill all Muslims”. It was claimed travellers were asked if they were Muslim before knifing Ali.

Miguel Oliveira, 36, said saw a wave of people when he arrived at the station shortly after 1 pm following the incident. He said: “The first few were shouting ‘he’s got a knife, he’s got a knife’ and then all of a sudden the next ones said ‘Oh he’s been stabbed, call the police’”

He added that some members of the crowd were shouting: “He wants to kill Muslims”.

“I doubled back and I went back to the station and actually came face-to-face with him. He had just come out – not the way they were saying. He was walking towards me and he was shouting stuff like ‘Death to Muslims’ and ‘Go back to Syria’,” said Oliveira.

Richard Etienne from Forest Hill said a “man with the knife was marching down the train kind of muttering loudly to himself, so everyone could hear: ‘I’m going to kill me a Muslim’, that’s what I kept hearing him say. His facial expression was like a man on a mission, full of anger and rage.”

It was then said, Etienne, that he “turned away from me to look at a woman with a hijab sitting opposite me. She looked in her twenties. I could see the back of him and that’s when I saw the knife in his right hand. The blade looked about five to six inches and it looked like a kitchen knife with a black handle. He was holding it at hip level but his hands were stiff and the blade was pointing towards her, so he was holding it to her. A woman next to her said: ‘Oh God, he’s got a knife.’ After a tense few seconds, the attacker said: ‘I don’t want me a Muslim woman, I want me a Muslim man.’ He then stormed off towards the first carriage.”

Several passengers began setting off alarms on the train and hurrying towards the back carriage. Etienne said: “I set off an alarm. It was like everything was in slow motion.”

Then as the train pulled into Forest Hill station, the attacker launched his assault, it was said. Shellby Curry, 24, was with her one-year-old child when she saw a man “waving what looked to be a knife in his hand” near the station and screaming words like “Muslims f****** hate them, kill them all”.

Adrian Brown, 38, appeared at the Old Bailey on January 11, charged with the attempted murder of Muhammed Askar Ali at Forest Hill station in London; he will go on trial in June.

‘Occult-obsessed killer’ opened fire at Muslims during prayer

Zurich Police secure the area in front of the Islamic centre where a gun man has in jured several people on December 19

Amira Al-Hooti

A 24-year-old Swiss man fired at Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Zurich on December 19.

Three Muslims were injured in the Islamisches Zentrum [Islamic Centre]. The condition of the wounded worshippers aged 30, 35 and 56 were said to be improving post-surgery according to Zurich State Criminal Police chief, Christiane Lentjes Meili.

The Swiss man of Ghanaian origin committed suicide around 300 metres away from the mosque just after he allegedly shot at Muslim worshippers.

The motives of the alleged attacker are not known, however, the police have said it was not a terrorist attack. “There’s no indication of any kind of terrorist connection (to Islamic State) or an Islamic radicalisation of the suspect,” said Meili.

The Swiss police have denied any links of the perpetrator with the right-wing stating that he had a deep obsession with the occult. Meili revealed that “corresponding symbols have been found at his home”.

However, the Islamic Council of Switzerland insisted that politicians and the media must now “finally take Islamophobia seriously”. The Islamic Council added that “Islamophobia is pushed back to the margins of society, where racism and anti-Semitism once were relegated.”

Many people took to twitter condemning the attack that took place in Switzerland’s largest city. On the day of the attack @TurtleAndOposum tweeted ‘people forget to mention the “terrorist” attack in Zurich, Switzerland, was ON a mosque! Fire was opened ON praying Muslims. #Zurichshooting’. The tweet received a whopping 64 re-tweets and 52 likes.

In a referendum on February 28, that campaigned for the expulsion of “foreign criminals” the popular far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) conspicuously displayed images of a white sheep kicking a black sheep off of what appears to be the Swiss flag. The image declared ‘Finally create security’ in German. The images were dispersed in numerous forms such as posters, newsletters, leaflets and animated billboards.

However, the initiative was rejected with 58.9% voting against dismissing “foreign criminals”. The SVP responded by saying that “according to statements made by the federal administration and those opposed to the initiative, the legislation approved by Parliament, which should be immediately put into action, will allow for the expulsion of over 3,800 foreign criminals.”

Swiss media say the mosque is attended by people from North Africa, Somalia and Eritrea. In 2009, a nationwide vote backed a constitutional ban on new minarets.

Chinese Muslims face further infringements of basic rights as authorities demand passports

Stand Up For Uyghur Rights Washington demonstration against Chinese President Xi Jinping visit to the US, September 25, 2015 (Photo: Elvert Barnes/elvertbarnes.com)

Meng Yihua

A few weeks ago, the Uyghur Muslims experienced further discrimination, as the regional police ordered an arbitrary recall of their passports indefinitely, curtailing the citizens’ freedom to travel.

Over 10 million Uyghurs in China will be affected by this policy, which had already been implemented in various counties across Xinjiang since last April.

The Uyghurs are a group of ethnically-Central Asian Muslims who live primarily in Xinjiang, northwest China, a resource-rich region whose demography – and the beliefs and culture associated with it – have been giving the national Government cause for concern in recent years. In attempts to suppress the region’s ethnic minorities, and maintain control of the region’s valuable resources, the Government has been implementing discriminatory policies that repress religious and cultural freedoms, further angering the citizens and leading to violent uprisings in response.

The policy calls for all Uyghur citizens to hand their passports into local police stations for “examination and management”, with the official deadline given as February 2017. However, in one district, Kumul, the police notice was issued on October 15, setting the deadline for passports to be returned by October 18. To add to the frustration, Xinjiang residents living in the rest of the country have received notices that they must relinquish their passports in person, and are thus forced to travel back to their local police in Xinjiang to do so. Anyone failing to return their passports within the deadline faces the risk of being barred from leaving the country at all.

One policeman in Aksu said that anyone who requires their passport has to obtain special permission to have it temporarily returned by applying to the police station. As it stands, the application process for passports and travel documents is already difficult and many are denied.

Since June this year, new regulations in Yili prefecture in Xinjiang requires residents to provide DNA samples, fingerprints, voiceprint samples and a 3D body scan image in order to receive their passports, police-issued exit permits, and other travel documents, including travel passes to Hong Kong and Taiwan. The policy came into effect on June 1, just before the start of Ramadan, during which month civil servants and children are already banned from fasting.

In April 2015, Yili had already ordered its residents to hand their passports in, and it was officially declared that no new ones would be issued. Liu Qing, a New York based rights activist argues that collecting DNA is an example of one of the Government’s many attempts at heightening the sense of fear; this was in response to the widely-offered claim that the new rule is part of Beijing’s effort to maintain social order and prevent future terrorist attacks. The President of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association (UAA), Ilshat Hassan, said that the policy has two main purposes: the first is to delay the Uyghurs from obtaining passports, and the second is to give them the sense that they are under threat. This is because their voice would still be recognisable if they were abroad and speaking to media. Moreover, these restrictions have made it more difficult for Uyghurs to go for Hajj, or indeed to book any overseas trips.

Sophie Richardson, Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared that “seizing the passports of an entire region violates both Chinese and international law”. HRW point out that China is a signatory to the covenant on civil and political rights, within which it is stated that “everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own”.

Beijing claims that all the policies are in the interests of security; evidence of the necessity for such measures is offered by pointing to the violence from extremist groups. However, independent experts doubt the threat and point instead to China’s economic interest in Xinjiang as a resource-rich region, leading to their tough security measures.

Americans view Muslims as the most discriminated

Elham Asaad Buaras

Eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) believe Muslims in the US face discrimination – with 57 percent saying they face “a lot” of discrimination, according to the latest Pew Research.

The 2016 Election survey carried out from November 30 to December 5 showed that the majority of Americans also say that homosexuals and blacks (76 percent), Hispanics (70 percent) and women (60 percent) face at least some discrimination.

Fewer Americans say Jews (44 percent), evangelical Christians (42 percent) or whites (38 percent) face “a lot” or “some” discrimination.

The shares saying there is “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims and blacks have increased since 2013. At that time, when asked a somewhat different version of the question, 45% said there was a lot of discrimination against Muslim Americans; today, 57% see a lot of discrimination against Muslims in society.

The research also shows discrepancies in perceptions based on political affiliation with Democrats being much more likely than Republicans to say Muslims (89 percent), blacks (88 percent), gays and lesbians (86 percent) and Hispanics (82 percent) face a lot or some discrimination in society today. By contrast, Republicans are somewhat more likely than Democrats to see discrimination against evangelical Christians and whites.

Over the last three years, the public has become more likely to say blacks and Muslims face a lot of discrimination in society.

The increased perception of Muslims being discriminated against is backed by recent events.
An advocacy group reported that nearly 900 incidents of hate and intolerance were recorded across the US in the days following November’s presidential election, mainly targeting minority groups in the country. “I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a tremendous, tremendous undercount,” said Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

The group recorded almost 900 cases of harassment and intimidation in the 10 days following Donald Trump’s election, which was cheered by white supremacists and others fired up by his rhetoric disparaging immigrants, Muslims, and women. Most incidents involved graffiti or verbal harassment, although a small number were violent physical altercations. Slightly more than half of the cases were anti-immigrant or anti-black. The incidents were reported in nearly every state in the country, led by California with 99 cases.

The FBI also reported that hate crimes against Muslims in the US surged 67 percent in 2015 – the highest level since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The bureau’s Uniform Crime Report documented 257 anti-Muslim hate crimes, up from 154 in 2014.

Wilders guilty of incitement against Moroccans

Anti-Islam political leader Geert Wilders (Photo: Creative Commons)

Nadine Osman

Controversial anti-Islam political leader Geert Wilders was convicted on December 9 of inciting discrimination and of insulting a group for saying that the Netherlands would be safer with fewer Moroccans.

But no penalty was imposed on Wilders, whose Party for Freedom is leading in polls ahead of the general elections in March.

The three-member judiciary panel found that Wilders violated Dutch law with his remarks on March 19, 2014, but it elected not to convict him of inciting hatred and rejected the prosecutors’ request to fine him €5,000 (£4,180).

Wilders was found to have violated laws on inciting discrimination and group offense when he led a crowd at a political rally around the time of municipal elections in The Hague by chanting, “Fewer, fewer” to the question “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?”

If the Party for Freedom wins the most seats in the elections, Wilders could become prime minister, and he would then have to form a coalition government with other willing parties.

Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, leader of the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, said a year ago that he would refuse to join such a coalition unless Wilders retracted his comments about Moroccans.

Wilders, whose defense team said he would appeal the decision, was not present when the verdict was read by the chief judge, Hendrik Steenhuis.

Spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service, Frans Zonneveld, said, “The most important thing is that he is found guilty of group insult and inciting discrimination. For now, we’re very satisfied that he has been found guilty of these two charges.”

The judges said that Wilders’s comments at the rally had further polarized Dutch society by using “nationality as an ethnic designation” and that mutual respect was imperative in the “pluralistic” Netherlands.

“He said that he was supported by millions of people and therefore was not to blame of offending a group,” Judge Steenhuis said. “It’s important to answer the question of whether he was guilty of this. That question is answered in our court system. We state that you cannot offend groups of people and discriminate against them.”

Wilders has repeatedly made vitriolic and inflammatory remarks about Islam, the Qur’an, immigrants and Dutch minority groups.

“I still cannot believe it, but I have just been convicted because I asked a question about Moroccans,” said Wilders.

Neo-Nazi swastikas spray painted on Stockholm mosque

A mosque located not far from Stockholm was vandalised with Neo-Nazi emblems and a sacrilegious message ‘kill Muslims’ (Photo: TT)

Amira Al-Hooti

A mosque located not far from the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, was vandalised with Neo-Nazi emblems and a sacrilegious message ‘kill Muslims’ scrawled near the entrance of the mosque “on all three walls” according to police spokesman Sven-Erik Olsson’s statement.

“This is not something one would expect… It’s hard to understand what is going on in society, both internationally and in our own country. I don’t recognise Sweden anymore,” Mustafa Tumturk, a representative of Stockholm’s Muslim community and one of the founders of the mosque in 1985, told Swedish news agency, TT.

Rouzbeh Djalaie producer of Sveriges Radio took to twitter to say, “This morning the mosque in Bredäng was attacked. Someone threw firecrackers and painted swastikas and racist expressions”. The fireworks had reportedly been set off after morning prayers. All of the worshippers, aside from one, had left the mosque by this time. Although he was not physically injured by the incident, he was left feeling uneasy.

The Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke, said, “Everyone in Sweden has the right to practise their religion. Those who try to hinder and launch attacks have no place in Sweden.”

The Neo-Nazi supporting perpetrators still remain unidentified to the Swedish police since the start of the investigation. “As the Government, we will try our best to find the perpetrators of this attack” stated the Swedish minister in response to the recent attack.

Sweden’s democratic party, which is said to have Neo-Nazi roots, has now become one of the most popular parties across the country holding anti-immigrant views. However, with the Swedish Government welcoming refugees into the country, 245,000 in 2014 and 2015, there has been a surge of attacks against mosques and refugee centres.

In October police suspected arson was behind a fire which damaged a Muslim prayer room in Malmo, southern Sweden. An investigation by the Islamic Cooperation Council in Sweden last year revealed seven out of 10 mosques in the country had been attacked.

Hate crimes with xenophobic/racist motives made up the largest proportion of hate crimes in Sweden with 558 hate crime reports with an Islamophobic motive in 2015 (8%).

The Government released a National Plan against racism and hate crimes in November 2016. The Government said that Sweden “will be a country free of racism and hate crimes”. They will aim to use the plan as a “tool to prevent and combat racism and polarization in society and create conditions for an equitable and cohesive Sweden”.

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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