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Man filmed blaming woman for Manchester attack pleads guilty

David Blagburn filmed by his victim Shahina Patel (Photo: Twitter)

Harun Nasrullah

A drunken man who blamed a Muslim woman for the Manchester terror attack in a vile Islamophobic tirade on a train has pleaded guilty to racist abuse after appearing in Salford Magistrates’ Court on November 9.

David Blagburn, 47, from Barrow-in-Furness, told Shahina Patel on June 14, “It was your family who made it happen” during the rant on a train between Lancaster and Manchester.

The 32-year-old, from Manchester, began filming the incident on her mobile phone at 2.30pm and posted it online times. Blagburn was identified from the video and charged with one count of racially aggravated harassment and a public order offence.

Patel hit back after the Blagburn blamed her for the suicide bomb strike on Manchester Arena the month before, in which 22 people died.

After he blamed her family for the atrocity, Patel replied: “Do you know who my family are? You don’t know anything about me.” He says in the video: “I’m not against Muslims, I’m against extremist people.

In a second video, another passenger on the train confronts Blagburn to complain about what he was saying. That passenger tells him: “I don’t want that lady to feel uncomfortable on this train because she has done nothing wrong at all.”

Shortly after the incident Patel uploaded the video to Twitter and wrote: “This happened today 1427 LAN to MAN @TPExpressTrains. If you see stuff like this speak up even if you’re not directly addressed.”

Children locked in mosque after delivery of malicious letter and white powder

Harun Nasrullah

Didsbury Mosque and Islamic Centre was put on lockdown with children inside after staff received a threatening letter containing white powder on November 4.

Officers put a cordon around the building and firefighters in protective suits were pictured at the scene as they worked to assess the powder.

Dozens of young children were attending morning classes at the Centre’s school when staff discovered the hand-delivered note, which reportedly included an image of a skull and crossbones.

The substance was later identified as baking powder. It was the latest in a string of attacks aimed at the mosque, after a box of pork meat was delivered two weeks ago.

A spokesman for Didsbury Mosque, Dr Faizan Awan, said: “There was a Qur’an class for boys and girls between eight and 15 years old. At 11.30am a letter was hand-delivered to the postbox and was being opened upstairs with the other post when we found it contained a skull and crossbones and a loose white powder.”

He added, “Because the mosque has had similar attacks before we called the police. The children were kept inside the classrooms and were not allowed to leave to go into the public areas. Members of the community were offering food and drink but the police said nothing was allowed in.”

“Parents were waiting outside to pick their children up and saw the police presence and the fire brigade and were quite frightened. The imam went out to reassure people and at 2 pm the substance was found to be baking powder. At 2.30pm the children were allowed out.”

A Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Spokesperson confirmed they were treating the incident as a hate crime.

“Specialist officers attended the address and the contents of the package were examined. The substance was found not to be noxious or harmful”, said a GMP Spokesperson.

He told The Muslim News the incident along with malicious communications and suspicious packages sent to other locations this summer is being led by Counter Terrorism Policing North East Unit. “We are treating this incident as potentially linked to this series and Counter-Terrorism Policing North East are coordinating the police response working alongside detectives from Counter Terrorism Policing North West.”

Call for increased security funding as attacks on mosques more than double

Anti-Muslim hate crime on the rise says Newcastle councillor

Elham Asaad

A Newcastle councillor has warned that religious hatred is on the rise as Nazi symbols are found daubed in a Newcastle street last month. The graffiti, which read ‘f*** Muslims’, next to a Swastika symbol, was discovered on a street in Sandyford, east of the city centre on October 6.

Councillor Dipu Ahad says the disgusting image was flagged up to him by concerned residents. A spokesperson for Northumbria Police confirmed: “enquiries are ongoing.”

Ahad claimed it was an extreme symptom of the Islamophobia and anti-Semitism which he believes has increased over recent years.

He said: “This isn’t just kids messing about, this is somebody who knows they’re using the Nazi sign, they know what they are talking about and it’s serious. The biggest problem we see is hate against religions, you can’t deny the fact that these are people who are targeting religions. “People talk about race, but we have to look at anti-Semitism and hate for Muslims, it’s not exactly the same as racism, and it has to be looked at in a different way.”

He added: “[The graffiti is] disgusting, but it’s also a learning experience – we should be disgusted but we also need to talk about what’s going on behind this, as a city we need to talk about why this happened. We need to be looking at how to educate people about this sort of hatred.”

Ahad told The Muslim News he has come in contact with many people who have been targeted as a result of their religion, but many do not report it. “Unfortunately many victims feel that Islamophobic incidents are meant to happen they accept it as a reality of life” while others voiced experience of “the police will not tackle Islamophobic crimes as seriously or with compassion”.

Ahad also voiced his alarm at the news the North East has the highest far-right activity in the country, accounting for 21 percent of all right-wing referrals to Prevent and called for a regional hub to tackle the rise in hate-crimes and where people can report incidents.

A new report released earlier this month revealed race hate crime in the North East has reached record levels post-Brexit. In the Northumbria area, there were 398 incidents in the July to September period, up 48 percent on the three month period in the run-up to the EU referendum vote on June 23.

The 48 percent figure represents the highest hate crime increase in the region in a quarterly period since comparable records began in April 2012. And Northumbria saw the 11th largest rise in the 44 police forces areas in England and Wales covered in the research.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the findings suggested a small number of people used the EU Referendum vote, on June 23, “to legitimise inexcusable racism and prejudice”.

The charity Victim Support said that more needed to be done to encourage victims to come forward, as the UK prepares to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU in the wake of the Brexit vote. The new analysis shows a rise in incidents was seen in almost every force in England and Wales, both year-on-year and when comparing the three months either side of the referendum.

Teesside heavily backed a Leave vote in the referendum – more than 60% across all constituencies – with the Brambles Farm and Thorntree ward in Middlesbrough the most ‘Pro-Leave’ in the country. And data shows that in the 36 force areas where the majority of voters backed Brexit, hate crime figures rose in all but two.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise in the US

Elham Asaad Buaras

The latest Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report has revealed a 4.6 percent hike in hate crimes in the US in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Muslims and Jews were the most common targets in the US, with anti-Muslim hate crimes making up the second highest religious bias at 25 percent behind anti-Jewish bias, which accounted for about 55 percent, making Jews the most targeted group in the US.

The annual report released on November 13, which compiled statistics submitted by law enforcement agencies across the country, identified 6,121 incidents, up 4.6 percent from 5,850 in 2015. More than half of the incidents were motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity or ancestry.

Analysis of the 6,063 single-bias incidents involving 7,509 victims revealed that 21 percent were prompted by religious bias, the second-highest motivation for offenders behind race or ethnicity.

The findings mesh with complaints from the Muslim-American community that its members have experienced a dramatic uptick in the number of Islamophobic attacks.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the new FBI hate crime report shows the need for all Americans to stand up to increasing bigotry nationwide.

“We have all witnessed the anger and prejudice that characterised last year’s election season, and that is growing nationwide in the current political environment,” said Corey Saylor, Director of CAIR’s National Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.

“To reverse this disturbing trend toward increased hatred and societal division, we must stand up to bigotry and the targeting of minority groups,” he added.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said earlier this year that it found “a dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country” in the wake of President Donald Trump’s November 8, 2016, electoral win.

Teacher suspended after video posted of hijab being taken off

Elham Asaad Buaras

A teacher in a Tennessee school has been suspended after posting a video showing a student wearing a hijab while someone removed the religious headscarf, exposing her hair to the class.

Other students can be seen playing with the girl’s hair as she hides her face and tries to readjust it. That video was posted on the social media App Snapchat with the caption, ‘pretty hair.’ It was recorded in a classroom at the New Vision Academy Charter School in Nashville, US.

A second clip was then recorded under the caption, ‘lol all that hair cover-up’. The recording reportedly posted from the teacher’s social media account.

According to local News 4, who spoke with the girls family, the family was “angry and said this should have never happened”.

The Academy’s Executive Director, Dr Tim Malone, confirmed on November 9 that the teacher who posted the video online has been suspended without pay.

“The actions depicted in the Snapchat video do not reflect the values, culture or climate of New Vision Academy. New Vision Academy will continue to emphasize that all staff members act in a way meant to empower and inspire our students. New Vision will use this video as an opportunity to press forward with increasing cultural sensitivity and awareness among all members of the New Vision community”, said Malone.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) branded the incident a criminal act. CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas said, “The video depicts a criminal assault, evidently motivated by the religious identity of the student, which makes this a possible hate crime. We call on local law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident, determine who removed the student’s hijab, and take appropriate action to hold that person accountable.”

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation is also calling for diversity training for all school staff.

The incident is not the first of its kind in the US. Earlier this year, City Education Department officials in New York fired a substitute teacher after he ripped a hijab off the head of a second-grade student.

According to police reports, the teacher threatened to remove the student’s hijab after she misbehaved in class. When she refused to follow his instructions, he pulled the hijab off her head, injuring her right eye.

Muslim teacher wins unfair dismissal case over 9/11 video

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim woman who was fired from a teaching job for protesting about 11-year-olds being shown graphic footage of September 9, 2001, terror attacks, has won an unfair dismissal case against her former school on October 31.

Suriyah Bi, 25, who is studying for a PhD in human geography at UCL, represented herself at the tribunal after failing to qualify for legal aid.

Suriyah Bi was dismissed as a teaching assistant from the Heartlands Academy in Birmingham two years ago after raising concerns about a Year 7 class with special needs being played a video that showed people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York on September 9, 2001.

Suriyah Bi, who has degrees from Oxford University and SOAS, claims that the teacher taking the lesson had to log into her personal YouTube account to override a warning that the video was unsuitable for children and under-18s.

She said that when a warning message appeared on the screen, children asked if they should be watching it, but were told to be quiet by the teacher. Suriyah Bi raised the issue the following day, on September 23, 2015, and was dismissed just over an hour later, less than a fortnight after she started the job.

A safeguarding checklist written three days after her dismissal, mentions that Suriyah Bi was the head girl at Saltley School, which was implicated in the Trojan Horse affair [which has been shown to be a hoax] five years after she left, and that she had completed a dissertation looking at the effect of the scandal on pupils. It said she raised concerns about the footage of 9/11 video because it offended her as a Muslim.

The note obtained by The Guardian read: “We suspect that this girl has done it before, she was the head girl of one of the Trojan Horse schools.” The Trojan Horse scandal occurred in 2013 when an anonymous letter sent to Birmingham city council claimed that “Islamic extremists” had planned to take over state-run schools. The letter was later discredited as a fake.

Suiyah Bi said, “Damage caused by the Trojan Horse affair to students who went to those schools, other students in the area, and the Muslim community of Birmingham, will be felt for generations to come.”

She adds, “Considering that it was chucked out of the courts and proven to be a hoax, it has affected thousands and thousands of lives. Just because I went to a Trojan Horse affair school, which [was involved in the scandal] five years after I left … I was implicated as being an extremist.”

The school offered Suriyah Bi £11,000 in compensation for loss of earnings a year after she was first dismissed. But she rejected the offer and instead took the case to an employment tribunal.

In March, Suriyah Bi was successful in a claim of unfair dismissal due to whistleblowing, though the judge rejected a claim that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her religion.

In the latest hearing last month, a judge ruled that Suriyah Bi had also been victimised under the 2010 Equality Act.

Suriyah Bi has applied to have her discrimination claim reconsidered, insisting that she would not have been fired if she hadn’t been a Muslim, but said she is open to reaching a settlement with the school. A remedy hearing is expected to take place next year.

In a statement, a spokesman for E-ACT, the multi-academy trust which runs Heartlands Academy, said: “Although we are disappointed by the judgment, we respect the tribunal’s decision and we continue to further strengthen our processes to ensure that there can be no repeat of the errors highlighted to us during this case.”

Man who threatened to blow up mosques jailed for only 20 months

Elham Asaad Buaras

A man who posted a video online in which he spoke about blowing up mosques has been jailed for 20 months. Paul Hepplestall, 39, from Liverpool was jailed for 20 months on October 26 with the court hearing that Muslim families in Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle and Scotland reported being feared for their safety

Hepplestall, from Liverpool, was arrested after the film in which he is seen to wear a plastic grenade was shared widely on social media. Hepplestall filmed himself launching into a foul-mouthed tirade against Muslims on June 4 the day after the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead.

The video recorded on his mobile phone also shows him holding a bladed weapon and making comments in the wake of terror attacks in Manchester and London about “cutting the ears off ” Muslims.

In the video clip, Hepplestall said: “This is a quick message to Muslims, p***s and terrorists, you can’t call yourself terrorists, cowards is what I want to call yous (sic). Yeah, you run in with bombs strapped to use and blow yourself up, where there’s a bunch of innocent kids. There is nothing terrorising about that.”

He goes on, “Let me tell you, I will get people to run in your mosques with pineapples [a reference to grenades, prosecutors said], blow your mosques off this f***ing planet. Yeah, I will cut each one of your ears off with a sword, I will cut your fingers, your toes, I will cut you a thousand times until you bleed out.”

Hepplestall pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to sending racially aggravated malicious communications and was also given a five-year restraining order in relation to deleting his internet history.

Detective Constable Tom Patterson of Merseyside Police said the “verdict shows that Merseyside Police and the Crown Prosecution Service are relentless in their pursuit of people who commit hate crimes and will actively pursue anyone who misuses social media to broadcast messages of hate. The more action we can take against perpetrators of hate crimes the more confidence we can instil in victims that if they report things to the police we will protect, support them and make it stop.”

Quebec passes new law banning the niqab

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says Bill 62, which bans Muslim women from wearing the niqab is based on a principle shared by the ‘vast majority of Canadians’

(Photo: Asclepias/WikiCommons)

 

Ala Abbas

Muslim women will be required to remove the niqab to access public services, like riding a bus, under a new law passed on October 18 by the Quebec National Assembly.

 

“We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

 

“We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face,” Couillard told reporters.

 

The new law, also known as Bill 62 or the religious neutrality legislation, forbids public workers and those who wish to access a public service from wearing a face covering, including the niqab and burqa. Public workers include teachers, day care workers and doctors.

 

The Bill was introduced in 2015 but was shelved after the shooting at a Quebec City mosque last January, where six Muslims died while praying.

 

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said the Federal Government does not interfere with provincial laws, but will work to ensure the rights of all Canadians are respected.

 

“I will continue to work to ensure that all Canadians are protected by the charter, while respecting the choices that different parliamentarians can make at different levels,” he said.

 

“Yet here at the Federal level, we stand up for the rights of all Canadians.”

 

Leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, said he’s “completely opposed” to the law, and he’s confident the legislation will be challenged.

 

Couillard acknowledged the law could face a legal challenge, but said it was crafted to be compatible with the Canadian Charter of

 

Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

 

The new law also states that religious ‘requests’, including taking time off for religious holidays, should respect the right to equality between men and women and “the right of every person to be treated without discrimination.” It also bars public childcare providers from teaching children specific religious beliefs.

 

Quebec Justice Minister, Stephanie Vallee, said the law is necessary for “communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.”

 

“This is a Bill about le vivre ensemble [living together in harmony], it’s a Bill about guidelines and clearly establishes the neutrality of the state,” she said. Guidelines on how to apply the law will be phased in by the end of next June, after consultations with groups, Vallee said.

 

But Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, has criticised the Bill and said the province has no right to tell city workers what to wear. He expressed concerns about the potential ramifications of the law, especially when it came to using public transport: “We have niqab police as bus drivers?” he said.

 

“Will we refuse to provide [women wearing niqab] services if they are freezing with their children?”

 

Quebec MP Alexandra Mendès, who is also strongly opposed to the law, said that Ottawa will have to intervene because she “strongly doubts” the law is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Listen to me as a Quebecer and a feminist: I will never tell a woman how to dress,” she said.

 

Samaa Elibyari from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women said the law is disturbing because it focuses on Muslims. “It gives the impression that we are a problem.” The National Council of Canadian Muslims has said it is prepared to challenge the law in court

Islamophobic attacks against Muslim women on the increase

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn addressing the rise of anti Muslim hate crimes targeting women at Finsbury Park Mosque. Photographer: Ahmed J Versi/The Muslim News

Ahmed J Versi

 

Muslim women were invited to Finsbury Park Mosque in London on October 16 to discuss their experience of hate crime.

The event, which was attended by the local community, councillors, politicians, police officers, heard attacks on Muslims, especially Muslim women and mosques, which are visible form of Islam, increase after terrorist attacks in the country. One of the main reasons for the increase in the attacks according to the victims is the way the media portrays Muslims. They asked “What can we do to make our media accountable?” as “they are creating hate against Muslims.”

Muslim girls spoke about being insulted daily for the way they dress. One claimed a white van man had sped at her while she was crossing the road.

Another pointed to passive aggression: people moving to another seat when she sat next to them on a train.

And in questions from the floor, a recurring theme emerged, calling for media accountability overspreading “hateful messages”.

Leader of the Labour Party and the local MP Jeremy Corbyn, responding to the victims stories, said there should be “serious discussion with the major media organisations on the way they are reporting” about Muslims of “singly out only one community”.

Muslim girls wearing the hijab faced abuse and negative remarks in schools and very little is being done by the teachers and head teachers to help such students. Corbyn said, “it was important for the schools to intervene on their side…and we cannot allow casual racist remarks to be made.”

To complaints about the way Muslim women treated insensitively by the police, Corbyn said there should be “awareness training of how to respond to hate crimes and how to treat those who report the crimes.”

However, most hate crimes go unreported. The reason most people said was that they don’t have confidence in the police and do not believe they would anything to help the victims and catch the culprits.

Fatima, who was studying at SOAS, said, for women “hate crime becomes normalised and we feel we will not be listened to and will be belittled.”

Maryam agreed with Fatima and said hundreds of women face verbal abuse and when they got to services “do not get any help.”

When someone is arrested for attacking a Muslim woman is often let free as they claim “they are suffering from mental illnesses.”

Some said it was not only Islamophobia that was targeted at Muslims but face surveillance by the counter-terrorism police. “So I am afraid to comment anything on the social media as even if it is a silly tweet we may be arrested,” said one teenager.

Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blamed the media and politicians who “created a climate where hate crimes happen” giving examples of the tweets by Farage and Hopkins when the accident took place near the National Museum in London, and The Times reporting of adoption case which was “pretty disgraceful”. “We need to ask serious questions why such articles were published.”

*A new group that will help grassroots organisations work together to combat hate crime was announced by Minister for Faith, Lord Bourne, on October 17.

“Let me be clear – hate crime has no place whatsoever in British society. All communities must be able to live their lives free from fear of verbal or physical attack,” he said at the launch.

My stabbing was ‘a wakeup call to stand against hate’ says Muslim surgeon

An image from a video posted on Facebook showing Consultant Nasser Kurdy moments after he was stabbed in the neck (Photo: Facebook)

 

Elham Asaad Buaras

 

A surgeon stabbed in the neck in an Anti-Muslim attack has spoken to The Muslim News about his ordeal and how the incident has prompted him to become an anti-hate advocate.

Consultant Nasser Kurdy, who operated on victims of the Manchester Arena bombing in May, was stabbed from behind with a knife as he walked into Altrincham Islamic Centre in Hale, Cheshire, just before 6 pm on September 24. Greater Manchester Police are treating the attack as a hate crime but not terrorism related.

Speaking about the horrific incident the 58 year-old father of three said: “The most immediate feeling was of severe pain in my neck. As I turned around and saw my assailant, initially I was taken back as I have never experienced something like this before. I then felt that he made a move towards me and I literally ran for my life. As I opened the door to enter the main hall at our Islamic Cultural Centre, it was at that moment that I felt the most fearful. As I entered the main hall I saw two sisters and for whatever reason, my sense of fear vanished instantly.”

 

Kurdy, from Hale Barns, rushed inside and, fearing the attacker may follow, grabbed a chair and dashed outside, but his attacker had fled. He continued, “After that, the main feeling was a pain in my neck which I tried to ease by holding strongly onto it.”

 

“I was told that I have a cut on my neck and it was then that I realised that I was stabbed. As a doctor, I immediately realised that no serious damage took place as a result of the stabbing. I later found out from my scans that I have escaped paralysis and possible fatality by a very narrow margin.”

 

Kurdy, from a Syrian-Jordanian descent, said although he had not experienced Islamophobia before his attack, his wife had “remarks made at her and I have witnessed a number of incidents at our Islamic Centre. Prior to our formal planning application for a new centre, there was an organised demonstration against our proposal as it was on a piece of greenbelt land. The narrative of the objection was disturbing and provocative.”

Kurdy has worked as a doctor for four decades, after coming to Britain to study medicine in 1977 and working in Perth, Dundee and Northampton before settling in Manchester in 1991.

He was going to the Islamic Centre for mid-afternoon prayers and a committee meeting, as he is a lay imam, sometimes giving sermons, and Vice Chair of Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association.

Kurdy, who is now back to work in Wythenshawe Hospital – where he was treated for his injury, says he and his family have had tremendous support from “my local Muslim community, my wider community, leaders of all faiths, neighbours, school children, work colleagues, patients and many more even from overseas as far as Australia. The goodwill that has been expressed has left me overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of so many. This amazing support has been a very uplifting experience and contributed greatly to my recovery,” said Kurdy.

 

Kurdy said the incident has made him “more determined to be more actively involved in supporting anti-hate organisations and try to be as useful as I can. I have already expressed support to WeStandTogether. I attended the No2h8crime award ceremony as well as other organisations that stand against hate.”

 

Kurdy touched the hearts of many people when he spoke after the incident at the mosque about his forgiveness, and made a plea for everyone to unite.

 

“He is not representative of what this country stands for,” Kurdy said. “I have absolutely no anger or hate or anything negative towards him. I have declared it, I have totally forgiven him. He could be a marginalised person within his own community.”

 

Kurdy was also invited to his local football club, Altrincham FC, as part of the non-league weekend with an emphasis on promoting Equality and Diversity and kicking out racism and all forms of hate from football. “This incident is a wakeup call for me and for all of us not to just stand against Islamophobia, but against all forms of hate. By doing so, the Muslims become a relevant partner in stamping out this insidious illness in our society and not just a victim,” said Kurdy.

 

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: “This is a very nasty and unprovoked attack against a much-loved local man.”

 

Muslim leaders condemned the assault. Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Khan, said he was “shocked” at the stabbing of Kurdy.

 

A spokesman for the Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association, said: “It could have been very, very serious. The fact they attacked an orthopaedic consultant who devoted his life to helping others is really quite poignant.”

 

A 28-year-old man has been remanded in custody after appearing at court charged with Kurdy’s stabbing. Ian Anthony Rook, of no fixed abode, appeared at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on September 26 charged with a section 18 assault – wounding or causing grievous bodily harm – and possession of an offensive weapon, a large knife.

 

Rook will next appear in Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester on October 23.

 

King of Sweden visits mosque gutted in arson attack

Sweden map By P S Burton/Creative Commons

 

Nadine Osman

 

The King of Sweden visited a mosque in Örebro gutted in an arson attack on September 26. Carl XVI Gustaf was in Örebro for a previously scheduled visit to the university, and paid a visit to the mosque afterwards on his own request.

Örebro Mosque Deputy CEO, Hassan Mountagui, said, “It is an honour to us that the King was able to give us some of his time, because he was in Örebro. And that he was able to share this grief with us and see what has happened.”

A 20 year-old man was arrested in connection with the arson attack on a mosque, the latest in a string of such incidents in recent years.

Fire-fighters arrived at the site at 2 am but Örebro Mosque was completely gutted, according to Örebro fire Chief Ulf Jacobsen.

The mosque, which has a capacity for 250 people, was built in 2007 in the Vivalla neighbourhood. The mosque was first targeted in 2014 when someone threw a bottle with flammable contents through a window. However, a fire did not break out as a result.

The latest incident came after another suspected arson attack last May partially destroyed a Shia Muslim mosque in the Stockholm suburb of Jakobsberg.

An investigation by the Islamic Cooperation Council in Sweden revealed in 2015 that seven out of 10 mosques in the country had been attacked.

One part of the building is described as completely destroyed, and the roof has caved in. In another part, there are smoke and water damages. There are around 460,000 Muslims in Sweden constituting 4.6 percent of the population.

Anti-racism campaigners call for vigilance against new UKIP leader

 

 

Elham Asaad Buaras

 

Anti-bigotry campaigners have warned Henry Bolton’s election as UKIP’s new leader on September 29 is unlikely to change “the party’s focus on demonizing Muslims and scapegoating migrants.”

 

Bolton beat far-right candidate Anne Marie Waters into second place, but stated during his election campaign that he agrees with her on opposing Islam.

 

In a Q&A session posted on his campaign Youtube channel, he states, “I have fought Islam. I have been blown off my feet by an Islamic Suicide bomber.”

 

In the same speech he later said: “In some of our communities we have lost our British identity…We’ve got Islamic schools. I am with Anne Marie on this issue.”

 

Bolton defended his campaign claims of being proud of “fighting Islam”.

 

“There is a concern amongst the population writ large that there is an undermining through general immigration and the weight of numbers that we’ve got and Islam as well – that our culture is being buried by this, sort of pushed aside,” said Bolton.

 

He added: “We will ensure that our schools teach history, and that if people don’t have pride in what their forefathers achieved, they themselves will achieve nothing worthy on the part of their successors.”

 

In a statement to The Muslim News Sabby Dhalu, Stand Up To Racism Co-Convenor, said, “Despite UKIP’s abysmal performance at the last election, we must remain vigilant. That the far-right Anne Marie Waters came as close as second and the new leader expressed agreement with her on the issue of Islam means this party’s toxic agenda must continue to be opposed.”

 

Weyman Bennett, Stand Up To Racism Co-Convenor, added, “UKIP is a racist populist party and this will not change. Henry Bolton claims to have ‘fought Islam’ – It’s our job to show that we are proud of our multicultural society and UKIP will not succeed in reviving themselves by continuing to scapegoat Muslims and migrants.”

 

Austria face veil ban comes to effect

© Michel Royon / Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

Elham Asaad Buaras

 

The full-face veils ban came into force in Austria on October 1. The law, commonly known as the ‘Burqa ban’ came into effect in advance of a general election on October 15, which could see the traditionally xenophobic far-right Freedom Party  (FPOe) make gains.

 

The laws are aimed at ‘ensuring the cohesion of society in an open society’ and anyone violating the rules could be hit with a €150 fine. A woman wearing the niqab was spotted and photographed being told to remove her veil in the town of Zell am See.

 

In a ruling announcing the ban, officials in Vienna said: “Acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria.”

 

However, human rights activists have denounced the law as “counterproductive”. Rights activist and spokeswoman for the Austrian Islamic Religious Authority, Carla Amina Baghajati, told The Muslim News the law will foster seclusion instead of the intended integration.

 

“I spoke to those very few women in Austria who cover their faces and they don’t at all feel ‘freed’. Quite in the opposite, they say that they were being patronised by a presumption that detests their way of dressing so much that it is assumed they could only be victims of somebody enforcing the veil on them – usually a husband.”

 

She continues, “Even if we took into account that there might exist such cases of men – who guarantees that these husbands let their wives get out of the house? Nobody could control that women do not get imprisoned in their homes? ”

 

Baghajati also suggested the ban is pandering to “patriarchal” far-right politics and is exclusively pushed by male politicians with no backing by women rights activists. “Quite the contrary, Muslim women have experienced solidarity, there is a general concern among the women’s lib movement that authoritarian policies are always hitting women’s rights – a global trend at the moment. And it’s very telling that far-right parties who as such are very patriarchal in their structure and mindset claim to ‘free Muslim women’,” she said.

 

The measures, similar to those in other EU countries, also apply to visitors even though large numbers of Arab tourists holiday in the Alpine country. The legislation was brought in by the outgoing centrist Government of Chancellor Christian Kern.

 

FPOe is expected come second or third and potentially enter a coalition with Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right in the elections. Kurz, 31, has managed to steal considerable numbers of voters from the FPOe, according to the latest polls. Experts believe this is in part due to him moving to the right on issues such as immigration.

3000 people sign petition calling for resignation of Solihull councillor following anti-Muslim retweets

Nadine Osman

Over 2,750 people have signed a petition calling for the resignation of a Solihull councillor following his retweets of a series of anti-Muslim comments last month.

Jeff Potts, who sits on a religious education committee, has been suspended by the local Conservative group, however he still remains a councillor.

Potts re-tweeted highly inflammatory comments including: ‘Deport and repatriate all Muslims from the UK or watch terrorists kill innocent people for generations to come.’

He also retweeted: ‘You’ve clearly not experienced the Pakistani hospitality, having a daughter raped by men who think she’s ‘white trash’.’ Another incendiary comment ‘UK police covered-up thousands of girls raped/sold by the religion of peace’ drew the response: ‘Is anybody surprised?’

There have been calls for the long-standing councillor, who sits as the council’s representative on the standing advisory committee on religious education, to resign.

Potts now attends meetings as an independent. Potts stressed he did not share or support the comments, adding that they were a “freedom of speech issue”.

However, Green Party opposition leader, James Burn, has demanded Potts resign from the council.

“His position is untenable. When you start retweeting things about deporting all Muslims you are publicising views that are very close to crossing a legal line and encouraging hatred,” said Burn.

Trustee of the Solihull Muslim Community Association, Sabir Hussain, said: “I feel sorry for him because he is misguided and has shown narrow vision.”

The leader of Solihull Council, Bob Sleigh, said Potts retweets “inflame community relations that we have worked very hard to fuse together. Solihull is a very nice place to live. I have lived there for 35 years and have very good friends among various religions. We find it very comforting to relate to each other’s religions. We are all one together, regardless of colour and shape, and we are one very cohesive society.”

Jeff Potts has since deleted the offensive tweets from his account.

A second Solihull Conservative Councillor, Margaret Bassett, has been found to have shared several offensive tweets of both an anti-refugee and anti-Muslim nature. Amongst these was a retweet stating that “Islam has no place in this country”, speaking of the US.

Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), an NGO which works with local councils across the UK to ensure Islamophobia is part of their hate crime strategy, has called for within Solihull’s Conservative group to investigate both incidents.

MEND Midlands Regional Manager, Azhar Qayum told The Muslim News that, “While some of the offensive tweets were the words of the councillors themselves, many were in fact retweets. However, retweeting offensive and prejudiced views clearly demonstrates both support for these sentiments, and attempts to achieve wider support.”

“MEND urges the Conservative Party to investigate Islamophobia within Solihull’s Conservative group, as the failure of fellow Conservative councillors to report xenophobic, racist and Islamophobic comments is indicative that many within the Conservative group may find these views acceptable,” said Qayum.

EU Muslims trust democratic institutions despite persistent discrimination

Harun Nasrullah

The vast majority of Muslims in the European Union (EU) have a high sense of trust in democratic institutions despite experiencing widespread anti-Muslim discrimination and harassment, a major survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) shows.

The survey of 10,527 Muslim immigrants and their EU-born children in 15 EU member states, revealed that public attitudes have changed all too little over the last decade.

The Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey found that 76  percent of Muslim respondents feel strongly attached to the country they live in; 31 percent of those seeking work felt discriminated against over the last five years; 42 percent of respondents who had been stopped by the police over the last year said this happened because of the migrant or ethnic minority background.

The survey echoes the findings of another smaller German report released in September.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung study of  1,000 Muslims in Germany and about 500 in Austria, France, Switzerland and the UK also showed that Muslim integration in Europe is, in fact, proceeding at a reasonable pace.

FRA Director, Michael O’Flaherty, said the survey findings “makes a mockery of the claim that Muslims aren’t integrated into our societies. On the contrary, we see a trust in democratic institutions that is higher than much of the general population.”

“However, every incident of discrimination and hate crime hampers their inclusion and reduces their chances of finding employment. We risk alienating individuals and their communities, with potentially perilous consequences.”

“I am encouraged by the confidence of Europe’s Muslim communities in our public institutions and rule of law, despite the individual challenges of discrimination which they attest to,” says European Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans.

“But I am disheartened by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s report which shows that over the past five years almost one in three Muslims feel that they have been discriminated against when looking for work, but that only 12% of Muslims have reported the latest cases of discrimination. I want to assure our Muslim citizens that the European Commission will not tolerate intolerance. It goes against our values and our laws.”

European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, says: “The Fundamental Rights Agency report shows that discrimination against Muslims is too widespread. I’m especially concerned about the challenges faced by Muslim women in Europe. It is now our duty both at European, national and local level to make sure that anti-discrimination measures are respected and that the Muslim community can trust the police”.

Failed UKIP leadership candidate launches new anti-Muslim party

Failed UKIP leadership candidate Anne Marie Waters launches new anti-Muslim party. Photographer: Kuolem/WikiCommons.  

 

Nadine Osman

Defeated UKIP leadership candidate Anne Marie Waters announced she will split from the party and found a new one called For Britain (FB).

Anti racism group Stand Up To Racism say they are troubled by the launch of new far-right FB noting the support of former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson for concern.

Waters spoke alongside Robinson at a “violent racist march in Manchester in June”. Both had previously tried to launch a UK version of the anti-Muslim anti-immigrant German body, Pegida.

Sabby Dhalu, Co-Convenor of Stand Up To Racism, told The Muslim News, “Much of what FB stands for is reminiscent of the fascist BNP. For Britain claims the rights of British citizens should be placed above those of non British people. Waters and Buckby are hard-right racists who need monitoring and their poison defeated.”

“Waters is due to speak at this month’s conference of the Traditional Britain Group (TBG), a far-right discussion group. This reveals much about her and For Britain’s racist rhetoric. For Britain should be rejected by all who treasure a multi cultural society”.

Waters lost to Henry Bolton in the recent UKIP leadership election. Known for her hard-line anti-immigration and anti-Muslim positions, Waters said she decided to found the new far-right party after Bolton and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage branded her and her supporters “Nazis and racists.”

During her failed UKIP leadership campaign, Waters told her base that “Islam is a killing machine” and urged them to “join UKIP and vote for me,” adding that the party will “try to stop me”.

Waters said FB “will be different. We will speak to the forgotten people”.

According to a UKIP spokesperson, the party is “pretty sanguine” about the split, “We don’t think there is a market for the views Ms Waters claims, and of course some people support her in the party and some will leave, but, as Henry [Bolton] said, if people have the perspective that Anne Marie [Waters] does, that Islam is evil, then it is not one endorsed by our own constitution.”

“Why would we worry about people leaving that disagree with our constitution?” added the spokesperson.

Ethnic monitories more likely to be low paid, on benefits and victims of crime, UK audit shows

Elham Asaad Buaras

The Government’s long-awaited audit on British society has shown that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Britons are more likely to be low paid, on benefits and victims of crime.

According to the database released on October 10, BAME Britons earn £2 per hour less than their white counterparts.

Among the findings is data highlighting that the unemployment rate among BAME people – currently at 8 percent – is nearly double that of white Britons, which stands at 4.6 percent.

The gap is even larger when looked at geographically, with unemployment of BAME people in the North at 13.6 percent, compared with 9 percent in the South.

The database also shows that unemployment rate for BAME’s nearly double that of white Brits, 8 percent compared to 4.6 percent.

While two in three white adults own their home, only two in five of householders from any other ethnic group do.

The figures on hourly earnings show that last year, the average white worker made £13.75 with black Britons earning £11.88 and workers of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin on £11.42.
That suggests that over the course of a year, white employees are raking in around £4,000 more each than non-whites.

The audit also shows Asian households will be £11,678 worse off overall by 2020, compared with a fall of £6,199 across the decade for white families.

The audit also showed a glaring disparity in the application of law and order. The average length of a prison sentence for Black and Asians is 23 to 24 months while whites get 18 months for the same offence.

Black men are also three times more likely than white men to be arrested, with approximately 44 in 10,000 black men arrested as compared to the corresponding figure of 15 for white people. They are also six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.

The audit also found White working class children are victims of long-standing racial “injustices” which see them struggle to get on in life. The research found that white pupils from state schools had the lowest University entry rate of any ethnic group.

The project was launched by Prime Minister, Theresa May, in a bid to end the injustice of different ethnic groups being treated differently by society.

“People who have lived with discrimination don’t need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge. But this audit means that for society as a whole – for the Government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide,” said May.

She added, “These issues are now out in the open. And the message is very simple: if these disparities cannot be explained then they must be changed. Britain has come a long way in my lifetime in spreading equality and opportunity. But the data we are publishing today will provide the definitive evidence of how far we must still go in order to truly build a country that works for everyone.”

Previously published data included in the new survey shows that black people are six times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched by police.

But when cases come to court, white suspects are more likely to be convicted than those from other racial groups – suggesting that more non-whites are being charged with crimes which they didn’t do.

Asian people are more likely to be happy with the way people in their local area get on, with 85 percent saying they have good community relations compared to 81 percent in the population as a whole.

Speaking in the Commons shortly after the audits launch, First Secretary, Damian Green, described the project as a “resource which tells us how well we’re doing as a society”, adding: “We hope this website will contribute to a better and well-informed debate on ethnicity in our society.”

He said the Government has already agreed to take action “with partners to address the ethnic disparity highlighted by the audit”.

However, the audit was criticised by some activists and politicians, Home Office Shadow Minister, Afzal Khan, said the probing questions that the data throw up remain unanswered. “Why are ethnic minorities still disadvantaged in access to public services, what are the Government going to do about it now that the audit has revealed the extent of the problem,” he asked.

He also asked why the religious discrimination was omitted from the audit.

“Why have they left out religious discrimination, such as that against Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and others?” asked Khan.

While former London Deputy Mayor, Munira Mirza, called the Government’s approach “crude and tendentious” that could “harm the very communities they are aspiring to help”. In an open letter to The Times, Mirza and other signatories say: “All too often statistics are misused in a way that casts minorities as victims of racism and ‘white privilege’.”

However, Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, refuted these arguments against the audit. He said: “I think there will be people out there today taking note of this, whether they are from black, minority ethnic backgrounds or not, and thinking this is exactly the kind of thing they want their government to do.”

Pig’s head thrown at Oldham home a hate crime

Harun Nasrullah

Greater Manchester Police confirmed they are treating an incident in which a pig’s head was thrown through the window of a Muslim family’s home as a hate crime. The culprit first smashed the window of the house in Oldham with a brick.

Ghazala Kauser and her children were in the property in Chapel Road, Hollinwood, at the time. Hammas, aged 14, and Zeina, 6, were in the front room when the animal’s head was thrown into the lounge at about 10 pm on September 30.

The brick thrown through the windows missed Hammas by inches. Ayaz Mahmood, who was not home at the time, said his family had never experienced such incidents. “The only incident like this I have heard of was when bacon was left outside a mosque down south.”

He continues, “I was at work when I took a phone call from home and could hear hysterical screaming. It was not a nice experience, especially when your family are in the house. It’s strange and very disturbing. The kids are absolutely petrified. The glass was smashed first and then the head was thrown in straight afterwards.”

Police have established that a Vauxhall Corsa pulled up on the road with three men inside.
One of the men got out of the back seat and then hurled the brick and the pig’s head at the window. He was around 18-years-old and was wearing a black hoody that was pulled up over his head.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Downey branded the incident “disgusting” and confirmed Oldham police Criminal Investigation Department is “treating this appalling incident as a hate crime.”

“The family were extremely shaken up by this and we have been out to see them to offer assurance that we will do everything in our power to track the offenders down,” he told The Muslim News in a statement.

“We have spoken to residents, carried out forensic work and have been reviewing CCTV, while officers will continue patrols in the area. I would ask anyone who knows anything about this attack to please call us. Maybe you saw the car in the area around that time? Any information you have, even if you think it is just a tiny detail, could really help us.”

Muslim woman assaulted by mob in Madrid

Entrance to Usera metro station in Madrid where a Muslim woman was assaulted (Image: Google Maps)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim woman has been brutally beaten by a mob in Spain on August 23. Police say the 38-year-old – who was wearing a hijab – was set upon by the gang of three men and needed hospital treatment for cuts, bruises and an anxiety attack she suffered.

The unnamed woman was hospitalized with a mild concussion sustained outside the Usera metro station in the Usera neighbourhood of the Spanish capital. A spokesman for the 38-year-old victim said: “She is suffering from severe anxiety and stress since the assault.”

Police are treating the beating as a hate crime motivated by the terror attacks in Barcelona on August 17.

Police say the Madrid attack victim saw little of her attackers’ faces. Senior officers say they have stepped up police patrols near the city’s mosques.

A Seville mosque was daubed with anti-Muslim graffiti that included threats to behead Muslims with machetes, while a mosque in Granada was attacked with flares on by a group of people chanting xenophobic statements.

Just under 2 million Muslims live in Spain, making up around 4 percent of the total population.

Other suspects linked to the atrocity have been arrested or continue to be under investigation.

Turkish minister concerned rise of Islamophobia in UK & Europe

Turkey’s EU Minister & Chief Negotiator Omer Celic forth from left meeting on Islamophobia UK
Photo: Turkish Ministry for EU Affairs Mustafa Aygun/AA)

Ahmed J Versi

Muslims are the new target group in the UK and Europe, Turkish EU Minister, Ömer Çelik, said in London on September 13. “Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism are on the increase and widespread in Europe,” Chief Negotiator for Turkish Accession to the EU told a small group of prominent British academics, politicians, civil society and media representatives.

Çelik  congratulated President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, of making “huge contributions trying to build bridges with the UK Muslims.” However, Arkush criticised Turkey for “giving support and logistical support to Hamas which is anti-Semitic” and terrorist organisation.

Çelik , defending Turkish policy on its relations with Hamas, said “we talk with Hamas and other organisations to bring peace between Israel and Palestine. We support a two-state solution. Hamas is a political party who won general elections in 2005.” Çelik  criticised Israel and other countries for not accepting the result of the elections and added that “we never support attacks on Israel.”

The reason for the increase in xenophobia in Europe is because of “the rise of far-right politics and populist nationalism”, the Minister said. “Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and anti-EU [ideologies] are, in fact, different realisations of the same distorted mentality,” Çelik  said.

Çelik  said European values such as democracy, human rights, equality, freedom and pluralism had been targeted by the far-right in their Islamophobic and anti-Semitic approaches. “Islamophobia is a crime against humanity,” he said. It is a global phenomenon and “genocide against Rohingya Muslims is due to Islamophobia.”

“Islamophobia fuels the politics of hate which can be seen in racism and sometimes violence targeting migrants, refugees and Muslims,” Çelik  said.

He argued that discrimination, marginalisation, attacks due to Islamophobia is responsible for radicalisation and “Daesh hands become stronger.”

Europe should work more with Turkey to fight terrorism, “which threatens our common democratic values,” Çelik  said. Europe works in a discriminatory way in towards terrorist groups, he said. “They applaud Turkey’s fight against Daesh but they do not show the same support in its fight against the PKK, which is a terrorist group too.”

Çelik  said “radicalism has nothing to do with Islam. No one can say Islam supports terrorism.”

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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