Monthly Archives: July 2009


   

The News of the World has today apologised in open court and agreed to pay £100,000 in libel damages to Shakil Akhtar, a mechanic form High Wycombe, for publishing a story and editorial in February 2008, ‘Evil on Benefits’ and ‘Sick Parasites Spawn Terror’, accusing Mr Akhtar of channeling funds raised in the UK to terror cells abroad.

The News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, claimed that Akhtar was responsible for the channeling of funds to groups in Afghanistan among other places, who then used the money to purchase weapons for use against British forces.

The allegations made by the paper led to a police investigation and extensive search of Mr Akhtar’s house though no charges were brought against him.

In a statement read in open court today, the paper accepted:

Mr. Akhtar is not and never has been involved in the funding of terrorism in any way whatsoever, and nor is he or has ever been a member of a militant cell. The News of the World now accepts that he has no connection with terrorism whatsoever and in fact earns his living honestly as a car mechanic in High Wycombe. Further, notwithstanding the prolonged Police investigation, Mr. Akhtar has never been arrested or charged over any offence related to this or any other matter. Mr Akhtar would like to make it clear that he does not support or condone violence against British forces in Afghanistan, or indeed anywhere.’

Predictably the allegations contained within the article were also seized upon by elements of the far-right and have been presented as being indicative of the problems facing multicultural Britain,’ Mr Akhtar’s solicitor said.

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  The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre have been nominated for two awards in the categories of ‘Charity Principal of the Year’ and ‘Trustee Board of the Year’ by the Charity Times Awards 2009.

The awards ceremony is a celebration of best practice in the UK charity and not-for-profit sector. Recognition of the ELM/LMC’s services by the Charity Times Awards selection team is admirable and an example to other Muslim institutions working in the voluntary sector.

The award winners will be announced at the Charity Times Awards event on 9 September. We wish the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre all the best.


  Edmund Standing (pictured), author of the Centre for Social Cohesion report on ‘The BNP and the Online Fascist Network’, reviewed by ENGAGE here, responds to criticisms leveled about the report’s downplaying of the BNP’s anti-Muslim racism in an article on eGovMonitor.

Standing writes:

In 2000, BNP leader (and now MEP) Nick Griffin stood before an audience of American ‘white nationalists’ and proposed that while he had no intention of ‘selling out’ the BNP’s principles, he now wanted to ‘sell’ the party. So, he stated, the BNP would now use ‘salable’ words such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, and replace discourse about ‘racial purity’ with talk of ‘identity’. In recent years, particularly following the 7/7 terrorist atrocities, the BNP has sought to align itself with what is loosely termed the ‘anti-jihad movement’ and to shift its focus from attacking Jews and black people to opposing ‘Islamification’.

‘Recently, I have been accused by the usual suspects of not bothering to properly examine the BNP’s anti-Islamic rhetoric because I don’t take anti-Muslim bigotry seriously enough or don’t really care about it. At worst, it has been implied that I am an anti-Muslim bigot myself or, to use the catchphrase, an ‘Islamophobe’.

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    Mehdi Hasan – a senior editor at the New Statesman – has this evening firmly responded to the smear campaign launched against him by the vile zionist blog Harry’s Place.

Here at ENGAGE we have written several times about Harry’s Place and dedicated a special ENGAGE Insight item which took a detailed look at the shadowy personalities behind HP and the McCarthyite tactics they have consistently deployed to try and marginalise vocal and politically engaged British Muslims.

It was also no surprise to see Martin ‘The Great Koran Con Trick’ Bright joining in the HP assault on Mehdi Hasan. You will recall that Bright left the New Statesman earlier this year and was effectively replaced by Mehdi Hasan.

This latest HP campaign has clearly backfired spectacularly and has laid bare for all to see the agenda behind Harry’s Place and its supporters.


  The House of Commons Foreign Affairs select committee, chaired by Mike Gapes MP (pictured), released its report on ‘Global Security: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories’, on July 26th. The report deals with many of the questions put to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, by ENGAGE both during and after the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Excerpts from the report’s conclusions and recommendations which deal with issues we have raised in our letters to the Foreign Secretary are copied below:

Humanitarian aftermath and Gaza access

We conclude that rocket fire from Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian groups on civilian targets in Israel is unacceptable. It generates the risk of a renewed escalation in violence, and constitutes a central obstacle in the way of Israeli willingness to move forward towards a two-state settlement. We therefore conclude that the British Government is correct to support Israel’s goal of bringing rocket fire from Gaza to an end. However, we are not persuaded that the maintenance of the current regime of restrictions at the official crossings between Israel and Gaza is likely to achieve this.

‘Rather, we conclude that the restrictions at the official crossings help to sustain the system of smuggling under the Egyptian border which itself contributes to the presence of illicit weaponry in Gaza. We recommend that, in its response to this report, the Government should update us on the steps being taken and the results being achieved as part of the international effort against smuggling into Gaza, and in particular on the British contribution. We further recommend that the Government should update us on any discussions which are underway on a possible international monitoring presence at the crossings between Israel and Gaza.

‘After two years in which we and others have consistently been highlighting the poor humanitarian situation in Gaza, and six months after the end of a damaging conflict, we conclude that Gaza’s continued lack of free access to humanitarian and reconstruction supplies is a matter of distress and frustration. We conclude that it is unacceptable that Israel continues to deny unrestricted access for humanitarian assistance to Gaza. We further conclude that there are indications that Israel is seeking to use its control over the transfer of humanitarian and other supplies into Gaza partly for political objectives.’

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  The Department for Communities and Local Government is looking to recruit Faith and Community Advisers; a Policy Adviser to the Secretary of State, Departmental Advisers and a Panel of Experts (unpaid position) for the CLG to strengthen its expertise in working with faith communities.

Full details of the posts and information packs can be downloaded from the CLG website. The closing date for applications is Wednesday 5 August 2009.
 

Taj Hargey continues his quest for a Qur’an only based theology with a letter to The Times calling for the end to “shariafication”, a process which, he says, ‘flagrantly violates the transcendent Koran, particularly when it relates to women’s rights, criminal punishments, interfaith relations, violence, ideological tolerance and religious freedom’.

He concludes his letter thus:

Under this antiquated legal system [Shari’ah], men have untrammelled rights to instant divorce and are entitled to the virtual automatic custody of their offspring, but there are no similar prerogatives for women. This is just one of innumerable cases where the exclusively male-written Sharia not only blatantly contradicts Islam’s sacred text but also is opposed to the concepts of natural justice that are so intrinsic to British law.

‘On these grounds alone, every effort must be made, by Muslims as well as other right-minded people, to combat this current crusade to legitimise this outmoded and anti-Koranic cultural-legal system within the UK. Since British Muslims are fully protected under UK law and free to practise the fundamentals of their faith, there is no valid reason why they should support this noxious “shariafication” of the UK.’

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Harry’s Place continues its vicious witch-hunt against Mehdi Hasan – a senior editor at the New Statesman and a former commissioning editor at Channel 4 – in what appears to be a determined campaign to get him sacked.

James Macintyre – a colleague of Mehdi’s at the NS – has staunchly defended him in a comment he posted on the Harry’s Place website which we reproduce in full below:

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  The Jewish Chronicle today reports on the sacking of four council workers in Lancashire who were suspended earlier in the year pending a council investigation into their sharing of emails that drew similitudes between Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians during the bombardment of Gaza earlier this year and Nazi treatment of Jews in Europe.

The council workers were sacked on grounds of sending and receiving ‘highly inappropriate emails’.

The heavy-handed judgment coincides with a new report, ‘Understanding and Addressing the “Nazi Card”: Intervening Against Antisemitic Discourse’ which argues in favour of the criminalization of Nazi analogies on grounds that it is ‘offensive, hurtful or harmful’ to Jews.

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  The Communities and Local Government Committee of parliament is to undertake an inquiry into ‘Prevent’, the Government’s strategy on Preventing Violent Extremism.

The inquiry is currently inviting written submissions on the effectiveness to date of Prevent, and its likely effectiveness in the future, with a focus on these questions:

  1. Is the Prevent programme the right way of addressing the problem of violent extremism, or are there better ways of doing it?
  2. How robust is the Government’s analysis of the factors which lead people to become involved in violent extremism? Is the ‘Prevent’ programme appropriately targeted to address the most important of those factors?
  3. How appropriate, and how effective, is the Government’s strategy for engaging with communities? Has the Government been speaking to the right people? Has its programme reached those at whom it is—or should be—aimed?
  4. Is the necessary advice and expertise available to local authorities on how to implement and evaluate the programme?
  5. Are the objectives of the ‘Prevent’ agenda being communicated effectively to those at whom it is aimed?
  6. Is the Government seeking, and obtaining, appropriate advice on how to achieve the goals of the ‘Prevent’ programme?
  7. How effectively has the Government evaluated the effectiveness of the programme and the value for money which is being obtained from it? Have reactions to the programme been adequately gauged?
  8. Is there adequate differentiation between what should be achieved through the Prevent programme and the priorities that concern related, but distinct, policy frameworks such as cohesion and integration?

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