Muslim school sign vandalised with neo-Nazi emblem

Nadine Osman

A sign for a Muslim school in Illinois was defaced with far-right symbols sometime between January 15 night or morning January 16.

Police were called by officials at the Islamic Center of Peoria (ICP) at Charter Oak Road, at about 10:25 am.

The numbers 1488 were painted on a sign for Daarul Uloom Islamic School in pink paint. 1488, is a numerical Nazi emblem.

The number 14 is a reference to 14 words white supremacist slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”, while the number 88 either refers to those 88 words from Mein Kampf, or for ‘Heil, Hitler’, as H is the 8th letter of the English alphabet.

In a statement to The Muslim News, a spokesman for ICP confirmed the “incident has been reported to the police of Peoria and the sign ‘Alhamdolellah’ [thank God] has been cleaned.”

“At this moment, the ICP has requested from the police more patrols especially during the second and third shifts. The ICP is also looking into adding security cameras at the entrance of the facility with adding more warning signs that the ICP facility is monitored by video surveillance,” said the spokesman.

He added, “The Islamic Center will continue to build stronger relationships with the community at-large, specifically with our Christian and Jewish neighbours, as we continue to strive for peace and unity.”

The Islamic Center received support from the wider community. “Support and help from the Peoria community have been tremendous and touching. Outpouring calls, messages and gifts have been received over the past 24 hours. Alhamdolellah, receiving such a support is a blessing and a mercy from Allah SWT first and foremost,” said President of the Center, Mohammed Daoud.

Ex-con sentenced to 30 years for setting fire to Florida mosque

Nadine Osman

An ex-convict Messianic Jew who set fire to an Orlando mosque was sentenced to 30 years in prison on February 6. Joseph Schreiber pleaded no contest to setting fire to the Islamic Centre of Fort Pierce on September 11, 2016.

The 32-year-old was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution, although damages exceeded $100,000. The damage to the mosque was so extensive that its leaders recently announced that it will have to move.

CCTV footage from the mosque showed Schreiber driving up to the mosque on a motorcycle and approaching the building while talking on a mobile phone. He carried a bottle of liquid and some papers and left when there was a flash.

The first 911 calls were made about 45 minutes later after the fire had spread to the attic. It took about four-and-a-half hours for firefighters to extinguish the blaze. No one was injured in the fire.

At his sentencing, he said that he was not motivated by hate, but by anxiety that there might be another attack like Omar Mateen’s assault on a gay nightclub, Pulse, which saw 49 people murdered and 53 injured in July last year. Schreiber made the remarks in a letter that he read to the court.

In the letter, Schreiber also called on Muslim communities “to make peace with America, make peace with Israel and stop the attacks.”

Despite his claims that he was motivated by anxiety, prosecutor Steve Gosnell said Schreiber told police he believed Muslims “are trying to infiltrate our government” and that “the teaching of Islam should be complete, completely illegal.”

He also posted on Facebook last July that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.

Last September, a former inmate who served time with Schreiber at the faith-based Lawtey Correctional Institution, described Schreiber as being a ‘couple cans short of a six-pack.’

Ralph Alfonso said Schreiber joined a Messianic Jewish group he led because he was looking for a place to fit in.

He said Schreiber sometimes would say something negative about Muslims, but “we would tell him that’s not what we believe, that it is not godly.”

Australian Muslim MP subject to “vile” racist and sexist abuse

Amira Al-Hooti

Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) Upper House Greens Party MP, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, an environmentalist who holds strong values of social justice has been subject to “vile” abuse on the basis of being a Muslim woman, saying that this came from “certain people who don’t believe I belong to this country, maybe because of my colour or the religion that I belong to,”

Faruqi escaped from Pakistan in 1992 with her husband and their young son, finding their way to Australia, a safe haven away from an “oppressive regime” in her birth country.

According to The Insider, the official New Matilda blog, Faruqi highlighted the effects of such hateful messages and what it could result in, saying that “on the one hand, it’s quite distressing for myself and my staff to see all these really violent messages. On the other hand, I think there’s also a real danger of us becoming normalised to it.”

“I think it’s good to take back some control as well as expose it for what it is. I know so many other people – especially a lot of Muslim women – who are in the public eye who receive similar messages, so we can’t really ignore it.”

This led her to initiate Love Letters to Mehreen, with the very bullies leaving racist and sexist messages on social media as her muse. “So every few weeks we pick a particularly hate-filled message and I respond to it in a humorous way, and that has really taken off. I think people do appreciate that we are exposing these issues and, of course, it is quite cathartic for myself and my staff as well,” Faruqi revealed according to the BBC in Sydney.

She captioned the assortment of photos in her Facebook album as ‘A curated collection of the racist and sexist filth I receive here in the office, with just a touch of sass.’

One of the love letters read, “You should be racially profiled. People who look like you are responsible for terror worldwide. Why are you not in a kitchen making sandwiches anyway?” to which she entertainingly responded “Sandwiches!? Have you even seen my cooking videos?”

With this post, she attached a link of her cooking video, the third in her Cooking with Mehreen series, whereby she cooked a traditional South Asian dessert served on Eid. The responses on her video were positive with only one person commenting on the level of sugar used saying ‘That is a lot of sugar. Definitely not-sugar-to-taste. Should come with a warning. Happy Eid.’

Faruqi came out with a collection of mugs with some of her Love Letters printed on them. All of the proceeds went towards an NSW organisation called Seekers Centre, who according to their Facebook page, ‘provides practical and personal support for people seeking asylum living in the community’.

On a recent arrival to Los Angeles International Airport, Faruqi believes to have been racially profiled. The Pakistani-born who was granted citizenship in Australia 22 years ago tweeted ‘After fingerprinting etc, we were asked how we ‘got’ Aussie passports & marched off to the interview room for grilling. Welcome to America.’

Thousands protest Austria’s face-veil ban

Elham Asaad Buaras

Thousands of Muslim women marched in the capital of Austria against the coalition Government plans to ban full-face veils (niqab) in public.

The ban is part of a package of changes hammered out by the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) to avert the collapse of their coalition Government and the rise of the far-right Freedom Party ahead of parliamentary elections next year.

Sebastian Kurz, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration and ÖVP MP went a step further and appealed for a ban on headscarves (hijab) for civil servants.

The protestors took part in the rally on February 4 calling for the ban to be abandoned.

The women marched under the slogan ‘My body – My right of self-determination!’ with many carrying placards declared that wearing a veil is a personal choice.

The plan is to introduce the ban on the niqab in public places within 18 months.

France passed a similar ban more than six years ago, and last month German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on the full face veil.

President of Muslim rights advocacy group IGGiÖ, Ibrahim Olgun, criticised the proposed ban, saying that it would “pull the rug” from under efforts to create a functioning relationship between the Government and the Muslim community.

Other new policy goals they have agreed include expanding Austria’s CCTV network and a compulsory “integration year” for asylum seekers, during which they would have to commit themselves to learning German and working for a charitable organisation.

Police officers and court officials are also banned from wearing headscarves in order to appear “ideologically and religiously neutral’, the coalition agreement states.

The document stated: “Those who are not prepared to accept Enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society.”

Teacher wins anti-hijab case in Germany

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Nadine Osman

A German court ruled in favour of a teacher who was denied a teaching job at a public school due to her wearing the headscarf (hijab).

The Regional Labor Court in Berlin-Branderburg ordered Berlin’s city-state government to pay €8,680 (£7,395) in compensation to the woman who had filed a lawsuit against the Education Ministry. Judge Renate Schaude ruled on February 9 the ministry’s refusal to give her the teaching post discriminatory.

In 2015, Germany’s Constitutional Court had annulled a general ban on teachers wearing headscarves and ruled that a ban could only be imposed if the hijab threatens the peaceful environment at a school. The judge ruled the woman’s hijab did not pose a threat to peace at the school she wanted to work in Berlin.

Despite the Constitutional Court’s decision in 2015, a number of German states, like Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin, are reluctant to allow teachers to wear the hijab, often citing the provisions of their “neutrality laws”.

The city-state Berlin’s neutrality law prohibits public employees, including teachers, police and justice workers from wearing religious clothing and symbols. However, the hijab ban has been lifted in many states like Bremen, Lower Saxony, Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Europe, and among the four million Muslims, most of whom are of Turkish origin. Although several German states ban headscarf for teachers, the country has no law banning students from wearing headscarves.

Sunderland man admits assault on Muslim woman

Elham Asaad Buaras

A 55-year-old man has admitted pulling a face veil (niqab) off a woman in a Sunderland shopping centre before yelling “you are in our country now, you stupid f***ing Muslim”.

Peter Scotter, who has 66 previous convictions for 157 offences, including actual bodily harm, and racially aggravated criminal damage, appeared at Newcastle Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to racially aggravated assault and of racially aggravated harassment.

Ruling on February 6 Judge Stephen Earl said he would sentence him later, once he has heard more details about the diagnosis of a cancerous tumour under Scotter’s tongue.

At a previous hearing, the court heard how Scotter of Beach Street, Sunderland, left his victim terrified when he attacked her in July.

Laura Lax, prosecuting, said the victim was waiting with her nine-year-old son for her husband outside a store in Sunderland’s Bridges shopping centre when a man “purposefully” walked towards her and grabbed her niqab.

The force he used almost threw her to the ground, and the niqab came away from her face, exposing her and causing her pain to the neck.

She remembered being scared but was so shocked she could not remember what was said, magistrates were told.

The niqab was damaged, but she has since repaired it herself.

Lax told the court the victim said afterwards: “This incident has left me scared to go out and I don’t want to go into town again. I am disgusted my nine-year-old son had to witness this.”
Another witness heard Scotter shout: “Here, take that ****** off, you are in our country now, you stupid ******* Muslim.”

When a police officer arrived, Scotter was heard to say: “Our Britain, you live by our ******* rules” before hurling more racist abuse.

He continued to make derogatory comments when he was being interviewed after his arrest.
Scotter had been due to stand trial for the niqab offences next month.

Man who kicked pregnant Muslim woman causing her to lose twins, charged

David Gallacher, 37 (inset) been charged with racially aggravated assault on a pregnant Muslim woman (Photo: Facebook)

Nadine Osman

A man has been charged with racially aggravated assault after a Muslim woman was kicked in the stomach while pregnant with twins causing her to lose the babies.

David Gallacher, 37, will appear before a magistrates after a 34-year-old Somali woman, who was wearing a headscarf, was attacked as she walked close to a mosque in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire on August 6 last year. The woman was in the Co-op store when she was approached by a man who made racial remarks, Thames Valley Police said.

She was followed to her car, where the man then hit her 40-year-old husband over the head with a bag of ice and a bottle, before kicking the woman in the torso, causing her to fall to the floor, police said. Both were taken to Milton Keynes General Hospital. She later revealed she did not know she was expecting twins until medics told her she had lost them. The unnamed mother-of-four was forced to flee her home in fear as a result of the assault.

Gallacher was charged on February 6 with one count of assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, two counts of racially/religiously aggravated assault, three of assaulting a police constable in the execution of their duty and one of common assault.

Gallacher was arrested a day after police released CCTV images of the alleged assault.

In a statement to The Muslim News, a spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: “The second incident relates to an incident on September 14 in Larch Grove, Bletchley, when three police officers were assaulted as they arrested a man.”

Gallacher has been bailed to appear at Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court on March 14.

Solicitor fined for racially abusing mother and child

Alexander MacKinnon, 47, of Mansionhouse Road, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to the racially abusing an Asian woman and her four-year-old child

Nadine Osman

A solicitor has been fined over £1,000 on February 3 after hurling racist abuse at an Asian mum in front of her four-year-old son on a train.

Alexander MacKinnon, 47, of Mansionhouse Road, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to the racially aggravated public order offence. The incident, which happened on December 29 last year on a train from London Euston to Glasgow, was captured on video by the Glasgow-born victim.

The court heard how MacKinnon, who had been drinking and was seated in the first class carriage of the 2.30pm Virgin West Coast Train, shouted at a four-year-old child, telling him to be quiet.

When the child’s mother Sanaa Shahid asked him not to shout at her son, he replied with a barrage of racist abuse. MacKinnon told the pair: “You don’t deserve to be here. Bloody foreigners. Where were you even born?”

He asked why “didn’t she go back there” and insisted that she should not be in first class. Shahid, who works as a corporate lawyer, reported MacKinnon to a member of rail staff. The train manager was informed who told MacKinnon he would be taken off the train at Carlisle and met by police.

He responded by continuing his racist rant, accusing his victim of wasting police time by reporting the matter and adding that she shouldn’t be in this country. In the video, MacKinnon appears to be very drunk and can be seen drinking red wine straight from a bottle.

Solicitor fined after racially abusing Asian mother and child

MacKinnon told Sanaa Shahid and her 4-year-old son Zayn ” You don’t deserve to be here. Bloody foreigners. Where were you even born..”

Speaking on the phone to a friend, he says: “It’s my word against hers. I’m going to get off the train if it stops at Carlisle and wait for another…she doesn’t belong in this country. “Now she’ll accuse me of insulting her and discrimination.”

The train manager gets up and tells him: “It’s not just your word against hers, it’s mine as well because I heard it all.” MacKinnon responds: “Yeah, I wanted you to.” In the police interview, MacKinnon continued to be abusive and racist about his victim.

In a statement to The Muslim News, PC Mark Mellenthin said Shahid “was visibly distressed and shaken by MacKinnon’s frightening racist outburst. Thankfully the train manager stepped in before the abuse escalated.”

“People like MacKinnon must understand that abusive, racist behaviour like this has no place on the railway and will not be tolerated. Everyone has the right to travel in safety without fear of abuse like this, violence or intimidation.”

Shahid said the incident had also left her young son fearful. She said she was determined to speak up against racism. She told the programme: “I’m born and bred in Glasgow. I consider myself to be Scottish Pakistani. Everything has finished now, but if I was to travel down to London, if I go on public transport, it would still be in the back of my mind.”

She added, “I’m not scared to speak up, which is why I did speak up about all of this because no-one should accept this and no-one should make you feel like you don’t belong in your own country. But the thing that scares me is that there’s people out there that won’t know what to say. ”

“If this was to happen to my mum, my mum would maybe turn round and say to me ’just ignore it”.

 

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.

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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