Monthly Archives: June 2013

We received a reply from the Home Office to our request for information on the fifteen civil society groups supported by the government in “exploit[ing] the potential of the internet” to “rebut terrorist and extremist propaganda and offer alternative views”, as noted in the annual counter-terrorism strategy report.

The letter offers no information whatsoever on which groups are involved, what funding they have received and for what activities. As we’ve noted before, “If a major concern of the former strategy was the lack of transparency over Government funding of ‘community campaigns’”, the Home Office’s reply to our freedom of information request is unlikely to inspire confidence in the Prevent agenda and the Government’s engagement with Muslim groups.

We will submit another simpler FOI and hope this time the Home Office will agree that it is better to disclose this information than hide details from the public who are taxpayers.

BBC News reports on an incident of racist abuse at an Asda supermarket store in Worcester and the call by police for two women to come forward.

The news report states that an onlooker reported what appeared to be a “vile tirade” of racial abuse directed at two Asian women by “a white woman, in her 50s, 5ft 5in tall and slim.”

Police say the incident occurred “on the morning of 17 June outside the entrance to Asda, St Martins Gate Quarter”.

Local news portal, Rochdale Online, reports on the support by Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, for an exclusion order against US-based Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Geller and Spencer, who have been invited to address a rally organised by the English Defence League, have already attracted calls for a ban from Home Affairs select committee chair, Keith Vaz MP.

Lloyd said:

“The two individuals that the EDL have invited from the US to our country are nothing short of hate preachers – every bit as bad as those who use the name of Islam to propagate hatred.

“I believe passionately in freedom of speech. Despite the fact the EDL stand for everything I am opposed to, I have defended their right to express themselves – and that’s despite the cost of policing their rallies. But this is a step too far.

“I hate the idea of turning these two people into martyrs by having them banned, but this is an extraordinary situation and I am asking the Home Secretary to use her extraordinary powers to deny these extremists entry into our country.

“Every citizen should be proud that this country is known around the world for its values of openness and respect. But we cannot take that for granted and those who spout hatred jeopardise the liberty we love in the UK.”

“Geller and Spencer are dangerous, they only want to come to stir up hatred and incite violence. Let’s make a stand together and say – you are not welcome in our proud land,” Mr Lloyd added.

The Redditch Standard reports on another attack on the Jinnah Road mosque in Redditch this time involving swastikas sprayed on the walls and windows of the mosque.

The local paper reports “paint [was] taken from builders’ cabins on the site [and] used to target the walls and at least half a dozen windows.”

“Offenders forced entry through a gate before breaking in to the main building. It is not yet known whether anything has been stolen.

“Police are currently guarding the site and carrying our reassurance patrols in the surrounding area and mosque representatives have been informed.

“Supt Kevin Purcell said: “For as long as I can remember the relationship between the Muslim community in Redditch, the police and the wider community would best be described as excellent.

“Due to incidents happening nationally targeted patrols have been put in place and these will now be further increased as we will not tolerate mindless attacks of this nature.”

The mosque in Redditch, which is still under construction, has been targeted on at least two other occasions. In January 2012, the mosque was the target of an arson attack and the previous June, it was vandalised with a number of windows smashed.

The Redditch Standard quotes local MP, Karen Lumley, who condemned what she called a ‘deplorable act of mindless vandalism’.

“Relations between the Muslim community and the wider community have been excellent for many years and on my visits to the local mosque, I have seen first hand the contribution Muslims in Redditch make to our society.

“I know the people of this town are disgusted by these criminal acts and it will only serve to harden, not weaken, our resolve to tackle racial hatred.

“It is important that we now catch and bring the perpetrators of this despicable crime to justice,” she said.

The website, EU Observer, reports on the findings of UK-based think tank Counterpoint on the likely outcome of next year’s European elections.

Counterpoint, whose report was published yesterday, suggest that the May 2014 European elections will lead to an increase in the number of far-right MEPs but that they are likely to remain “ostracised” within the European parliament.

The study notes that far-right MEPs are only loosely connected and that this trend is set to continue. Of the 754 MEPs from the 27 member states in the European parliament, less than 60 are from what the report terms “populist radical right” parties. However, this number is set to increase with a “number of populist radical right gains” expected in the elections next year.

The report argues that although the number of far-right MEPs is set to increase considerably this will increase their power or influence in parliament and EU decision making. The report findings suggest that while far-right parties like to take the floor to promote their own nationalist agenda, they are less keen to engage when it comes to “substantive” policy making.

This “fundamental conflict” in the far-right’s approach to the EU means it struggles to make any progress in the European parliament. While MEPs representing far right groups enjoy the recognition that comes with having a seat in parliament they dislike the EU and its “machinery” thereby weakening their contribution to debate and policymaking.

The report notes, “When compared to the other political groups, its [Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EDF)] MEPs participate less often, write fewer reports and opinions, and are less successful at pushing through amendments and winning votes”.

Although many far-right groups such as the British National Party, the Dutch PVV, the Belgian Vlaams Belang and the Austrian FPO, take an anti-consensus approach to a number of policy areas including, immigration, gender-equality and minority rights, they do not like to associate with each other, further weakening their influence.    

The report highlights one peculiarity, which “may become more important” in the next parliament and that is the similarity in voting patterns of far-left and far-right groups. The report notes that the far left and far right vote the same way on economic policy issues, albeit for different reasons. Overall, Counterpoint believe that the far-right “still may well have little influence over the policy-making process” in the next parliament.

Counterpoint’s report, Conflicted Politicians, can be read here.

The Leicester Mercury reports that a 17-year-old boy has been charged with two counts of racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage after graffiti appeared at the Oadby Islamic Centre in Leicestershire.

Leicestershire Police issued a statement saying the graffiti “contained the words EDL.”

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, allegedly vandalised the Oadby Islamic Centre with graffiti, sprayed or written on a bin, discovered on or around Monday, June 10.

He is due to appear at Leicester Youth Court Wednesday, July 3.

The Sunday Mirror reported at the weekend that the number of prisoners in UK jails declaring themselves Muslim is now at an all time high.

According to figures released under a Freedom of Information request by the Sunday People newspaper, Muslims now number 11,278 of the prison population, a threefold increase from 3,681 in 1997. The Sunday Mirror also notes that the “number of Muslim prisoners is quickly catching up with Anglicans” noting that Muslims as a proportion of the prison population went from “one in 16 in 1997 to one in seven” in 2012.

The figures released under the FOI show the total number of Christians to be 43,235.

The Sunday Mirror quotes a Prison Service source as putting the increase in Muslim prisoners down to “…the number of foreign ­nationals in UK jails but is also affected by religious conversion.”

On the issue of religious conversion, Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), tells the paper “The POA are aware that some individuals are bullied into conversion”

“They use the name of religion as an excuse to behave badly and in a threatening manner…It is clear from incidents in the Prison Service that it is problematic. It is a drain on resources and indeed safety.”

However, Gillan made no reference to the 2010 report, Muslim Prisoners Experiences, by the chief inspector of prisons Dame Anne Owers, which found that Muslim prisoners “report more negatively on their prison experience, and particularly their safety and their relationship with staff, than other prisoners.”

The Guardian noted at the time of publication of Dame Owers’ report, “The chief inspector also voices scepticism over claims by high security prison staff that gangs are forcing non-Muslim prisoners to convert to Islam through intimidation. Her report states that while conversions are common they are more likely to be the result of better food at Ramadan, the benefits of protection within a group and the discipline and structure provided by observing Islam through prayer.’”

The POA are now calling on the government to engage with them about the long term consequences of this increase in Muslim prisoners the implications it has for society. Gillan told the paper, “We respect each religion and do not jump to conclusions or scapegoat any particular religion. Over the years the number of Muslim prisoners has increased dramatically. We do not believe it is simply down to increased foreign national prisoners.”

But Juliet Lyon, of the Prison Reform Trust said: “It could simply be there are more young Muslim men in the population.

“It could be that more are converting in prison or reverting to the Muslim faith while they’re in prison.

The Lancashire Telegraph today reports that Burnley Council are to send the bill for policing an anti-Islam march in the town to the organisers, the North West Frontline Firm (NWFF).

The NWFF, which comprises “affiliates of various Patriotic groups throughout the North West,” organized the protest with 150 delegates coming from as far afield as Scotland and Yorkshire. The protest was organised to demonstrate against the ‘Islamification’ of Britain and East European immigrants.

The demonstration was heavily policed with over 50 officers in attendance, security barriers erected and horses, riot vans and a police helicopter being used to enforce crowd control.

As the event was not organised locally the council are seeking to recoup taxpayers’ money for policing the operation. Deputy council leader, Mark Townsend said: “This was not about local issues and hasn’t been organised locally.

“Taxpayers’ money and police officers’ hours could have been put to much better use.

“We will now be sending the organisers a bill for some of the costs we incurred, such as putting up crowd control barriers.”

Unite Against Fascism north-west head, Paul Jenkins, said: “It is very important we had a presence. Burnley has rejected the far right in the ballot box and we don’t want them making a comeback here.”

The Independent yesterday featured a double page spread on Baroness Warsi’s call for the contribution of “forgotten heroes” of the British Empire to be remembered in next year’s First World War commemoration.

In a letter to Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, Warsi points to the 1.2 million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent and other commonwealth countries that fought alongside Allied forces during World War One and noted that their sacrifices should be recognized.

Lady Warsi, the Communities and Foreign Office minister, believes that many children of commonwealth descent are unaware of their ancestors’ contribution to the Great War and that recognition in the governments commemoration programme would ensure that our ‘shared heritage’ is known to today’s generation of young Britons.

On the Western Front, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs from the Indian Army were the first to fight alongside Britain. They also saw action in Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, and East Africa. There were also 15,000 troops from the British West Indian Regiment. In total 74,000 soldiers from the Indian Army died during the First World War and their bravery should be celebrated, she says.

Lady Warsi said: “The fact that, less than 100 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Muslims fought for the freedoms we enjoy today puts paid to any myth that Muslims do not support our Armed Forces or the values they stand for.”

Baroness Warsi said that in the aftermath of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, the government should be extra determined to show that “Our boys weren’t just Tommies – they were Tariqs and Tajinders too, and we have a duty to remember their bravery and commemorate their sacrifices.”

This is an all too rare but timely reminder of the many sacrifices Muslims have made for Britain in the two World Wars. It has been four years since BBC One broadcast a programme on the ‘Muslim Tommies’ which used reconstructions to give a voice to the thousands of Muslims who fought and died in France during the Great War.

These sacrifices continued during World War Two as exemplified in the person of Noor Inayat Khan whose statue was unveiled by Princess Anne in November 2012.

The statue, which stands in London’s Gordon Square, stands as a permanent memorial to her bravery and courage under capture. Noor, who was betrayed and then tortured, never gave up her secrets to the Gestapo and she died at the hands of the firing squad in Dechau concentration camp.

Noor Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross for gallantry, Britain’s highest civilian decoration.  

BBC News, The Sun, Guardian and Independent newspapers cover the discovery of a ‘suspicious package’ outside a Walsall mosque on Saturday evening, later confirmed to be a home-made bomb.

Police were called in by committee members of the Aisha mosque in Caldmore, Walsall, after the ‘exploding’ device found on the grounds gave cause for alarm. Counter-terrorism police were called to the scene and 150 people from neighbouring properties evacuated to temporary shelter.

Zia Ul-Haq, a committee member and spokesman for the mosque, told BBC News:

“We found a suspicious item which we did not consider to be serious but as a precaution we thought that we would call the police and bring this to their attention.

“They have taken this very seriously and they have supported us whole-heartedly and we are very grateful to the police and the local authority.

“We are not suspecting anybody, we are leaving it in the good hands of the police.”

West Midlands police are treating the incident as a hate crime.

The Independent in its coverage notes other similar incidents in recent weeks stating:

“Last week two men were charged in relation to an alleged arson at a mosque in Gloucester, and an Islamic cultural centre in Grimsby was hit by petrol bombs last month.”