Monthly Archives: August 2013

Restoration work has begun on a cemetery in Woking built for Muslim soldiers killed in combat during the two world wars and is expected to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI (4 August 2014), BBC News reports.

The Muslim Burial Ground in Horsell, near Woking, once restored, is expected to serve as a garden of peace and remembrance.

John Kingsbury, leader of Woking Borough Council, who attended the event marking the start of restoration work yesterday, said the heritage site held significance “not only locally but also for the descendants of those who gave their lives in the First World War”.

More than one million troops from pre-independence India fought for Great Britain during World War I with as many as 74,000 losing their lives. In June, Baroness Warsi called for the recognition of the contributions of “Tariqs and Tajinders” in the official commemoration service for the war dead.

When Hindu and Sikh soldiers died they were taken to crematoriums but Muslim soldiers had to be buried. The first burial at the Muslim Burial Ground in Horsell did not take place until 1915 and the Woking site was fully completed in 1917.

During World War II, a further eight Muslim soldiers were interred at the site, including three from the Free French forces.

The restoration work comes as the Government considers proposals to send British Muslim soldiers into schools to combat Islamophobia. The Independent on Sunday last week reported that the Government taskforce on combating radicalization, set up after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, is to consider the initiative to “dispel myths from far-right organisations such as the EDL and from radical Islamic preachers that being Muslim was somehow incompatible with being a patriotic British citizen.”

The Runnymede Trust has published a new report entitled The New Muslims.

The report notes the Census 2011 results on the number of British Muslims and finds the there has been a decrease in Muslim segregation.

An example includes the through the spreading out from the biggest Muslim concentrationsm (Tower Hamlets), towards neighbouring areas like Barking and Dagenham.

Statistics published by the Ministry of Defence in 2012 which show that there are 650 Muslims serving in the UK armed services. Of these 550 are in the British army, constituting 0.5% of the total.

Muslim citizenship in the UK is under threat. Since 2003, 21 British nationals have had their citizenship revoked and all but one or two of these were Muslim. Sixteen of these revocations took place under the current government and at least five individuals affected were British-born, with one man having lived in the UK for almost 50 years.

There is a need for an urgent review of funding for voluntary, ethnic minority and faith groups. There is a lack of needs-based funding for Muslim women’s organisations at a time where issues like marital breakdown are on the rise.

Debates on integration of schooling must factor in experiences of anti-Muslim racism. A regard for the way in which international and national events shape local Muslim experiences within schools is also noted.

Youth services serve a clear purpose however, for these spaces to effectively provide a safe and secure environment for marginalized young people, a move away from negatively loaded ‘risk prevention’ agendas by the government will be necessary.

Dominant views of Muslim identity can be challenged and expanded by including Muslim voices in the media. Unity FM, a community radio station for the Muslim community in Birmingham, provides a space for diverse Muslim voices to come together and change limited notions of community.

Regarding ‘The Muslim Question’ and specifically ‘who is a Muslim?’ the researchers found that the term ‘Muslim’ is often a “codeword for a series of pathologies.” When researchers looked at the dominant representations of Muslims they found that the three main categories were: “gender (hijab/forced marriage/ honour killings), triad gangs and grooming, and terrorists/extremists”.

It is these negative themes that, as the reports puts it; “provide grist to the mill of the born-again racism-without-race popular with both the EDL and the so-called liberal left because, apparently, it’s not racist to be anti-Muslim.”

The report argues that this “singular focus on religion” overlooks other often more pressing issues that affect Muslims such as “high levels of unemployment, educational underachievement, stop and search, poor housing, low levels of household wealth and the ‘ethnic penalty’ experienced by Muslim professionals.”

A chapter in the report tackles “The ‘Muslim Question’ in Europe” and finds that the high levels of discrimination which European Muslims suffer show no signs of abating. Muslims, like the Jews before them, have to fight to be heard. The researchers found a commonality between the ways in which Muslims are treated now compared to how Jews were treated in the last century.

The report states:

“Unfortunately, disadvantage is not normally what occupies those posing the ‘Muslim Question’ – a reference to the ‘Jewish Question’, which has previously haunted Europe and centred on what today we would describe as issues of integration for (and rejection of) Jewish minorities. While there are analogies between the racism encountered by Jewish and Muslim communities (Meer, 2013), it is important to stress that just as their Jewish counterparts before them, who have moved inwards from the margins of social and political life, Muslims have become active participants in democratic life, and so are not merely objects of discrimination.”

The report contains a chapter on Muslims in the British Army with most recent statistics published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD, 2012a) indicating that there are 650 Muslims serving in the UK armed services. Of these, 550 are in the British Army, constituting 0.5% of the total.

The report found that Muslim soldiers are not just an asset when it comes to combat, but that they can also contribute to other aspects of the war effort. The report notes the remarks in 2009 of the then Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, the first patron of the Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA) who, said Britain ‘had a commitment to … all those Muslims with whom we have a natural identity, given our own core values reflect very strongly with those of the Muslim faith’.

In the final chapter the report focuses on ‘British Justice for (Which) British Citizens?”. The chapter highlights the significant disparity between the way in which British Muslims and non-Muslims have been dealt with by the judiciary.

The author states:

“When the campaigns against the extradition of Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan, Richard O’Dwyer and Gary McKinnon united to demand justice and make claims to British sovereignty, they collectively called for ‘British Justice for British Citizens’.”

“Significantly, the campaign for reform of the 2003 US–UK Extradition Treaty drew different responses for each of the four men. Following an 8 and 6 year battle respectively, whilst they were detained without trial, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan lost their appeals against extradition in October 2012, along with three other Muslim men, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the prospective sentences faced by them in the US (80–100 years in solitary confinement) were not tantamount to torture.

“Ten days after their extradition, the Home Secretary ruled against the removal of Gary McKinnon, due to the vulnerability inferred from his Asperger’s syndrome, which put him at high risk of suicide. Declaring his case to be an ‘exception’, Theresa May’s decision displayed the humanitarianism offered to McKinnon that was at one and the same time denied to the Muslim men, whose health conditions also included Asperger’s, as well as severe clinical depression, diabetes and physical disabilities.”

This disparity in treatment of those British citizens who happened to be Muslim the report terms the “white elephant in the room”.

The researchers argue that “the suspension and increasing retraction of human rights and civil liberties under the War on Terror pushed for public comment on who could be treated with complete impunity, or even on who might be considered human.”

The report, The New Muslims, can be found here.

The Harlow Star reports on the release of CCTV images of three men suspected of involvement in the arson attack on Harlow Islamic Centre on Bank Holiday Monday.

Essex Police have released the images of hooded men seen walking in front of the Centre, one of them “holding a drill while another can be seen with what police believe to be a canister of insulation foam”.

Superintendent Trevor Roe said: “It is clear from the CCTV footage this was a premeditated, deliberate attempt to cause serious damage to the Islamic centre.

“The three men come equipped to carry out the damage and also take everything they brought with them away again.

“We urge anyone who is able to identify the men to contact us as soon as possible. We are determined to find those people responsible.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at Harlow CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

BBC News reports on a ruling expected from the European Court of Human Rights after a Muslim woman stopped and questioned under Schedule 7 took her case to the court citing detention “without reasonable suspicion” a breach of her human rights.

Sylvie Beghal, a French national living in the UK, was held at East Midlands Airport under Schedule 7 of anti-terrorism laws in January 2011 after arriving on a flight from Paris.

Border Police did not suspect her of terrorism but wanted to speak to her about “possible involvement” judges heard.

Mrs Beghal was questioned by police using powers conferred by Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT 2000) which allows officers to question and detain individuals for up to nine hours without cause for reasonable suspicion.

The Act states that when questioned a person “must give the examining officer any information in his [or her] possession which the officer requests”. Refusal to comply can result in arrest and detention. Individuals held under Schedule 7 were previously denied access to legal counsel, a measure now introduced following the Home Office consultation conducted late last year.

As Mrs Beghal refused to answer some questions until her lawyer arrived she was charged with failing to comply. She pleaded guilty at Leicester Magistrates’ Court and was given a 12-month conditional discharge.

Beghal is now challenging her detention arguing the right to detain without reasonable suspicion breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. Her move is matched by the legal challenge mounted by Liberty against Section 44 powers of TACT 2000, which permitted stop and search without reasonable suspicion. Liberty’s challenge saw the clause abrogated and replaced with Section 47a in 2012.

The Crown Prosecution Service have disputed Mrs Beghal’s claim and have argued that her rights had not been breached. The ECHR is expected to rule in the case which could see a significant shift in the implementation of the powers conferred upon Border Police.

Schedule 7 is the same power used to stop David Miranda, partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow Airport earlier this month. The detention and confiscation of computer equipment brought the extensive and arbitrary nature of the power back into the spotlight.

The power only applies to ports and airports but it gives officers up to nine hours to detain and question a suspect. Muslims subjected to detention under the powers have complained of harassment and intimidation by officers seeking informants within the Muslim community.

In the past, Schedule 7 has been criticised by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, in his yearly report on Terrorism Acts in the UK.

In his annual review published last month, Anderson said: “It is regrettable however that the public consultation did not extend, as I had recommended, to: the possibility that further elements of the Schedule 7 power might be made dependent upon reasonable suspicion (though there are general and specific justifications for a no-suspicion power to stop and examine; and the safeguards governing the practice of copying and retaining data from laptops and mobile phones.”

Several news outlets including BBC News, ITV News, the Independent, London Evening Standard and local paper, Harlow Star, all report an arson attack on the Harlow Islamic Centre in the early hours of Bank Holiday Monday (Aug 26).

Police suspect insulation foam was used to seal all the windows and doors before the foam was set alight with the intention of the fire taking hold and gutting the building. The Islamic Centre suffered limited damage in the attack after the fire ignited at one of centre’s doors did damage to one of the walls but not to the rest of the building.

Chief Inspector Ed Wells of Essex Police, said:

“We are appalled at the criminal behaviour of the individuals who last night tried to set fire to this building.

“They appear to have set fire to foam at one of the centre’s doors which has damaged the wall, but thankfully not taken hold of the building.”

Police are now seeking three men after studying CCTV footage which shows three individuals at the centre at the time of the incident. Police say they will be releasing pictures later this week to identify the men.

Zia Rehman, vice-chairman for the Islamic Centre, said there had been a “concerted effort” to start a blaze.

“Every entrance has been sealed with some kind of foam to allow the fire to take hold and set the building alight,” he said.

“We have been working very hard within the local community, building bridges, and we were hoping we wouldn’t have this kind of problem.

“But in the current climate there are elements within society that are not happy and there are issues. It’s unfortunate and we are very saddened,” he added.

Since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May, mosques and Islamic centres have been targeted in a spate of arson attacks and vandalism. Incidents include arson attacks on mosques in Dorset, Grimsby, Rhyl, Gloucester and Muswell Hill, London, and an Islamic school in Chislehurst, Kent.

Other notable incidents involve the bombing campaign on mosques in the West Midlands with mosques in Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton being targeted.

Statistics collated by the Metropolitan Police in London on Islamophobic crimes and incidents in the capital show a 67% increase compared to July 2012. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said last month that anti-Muslim attacks in London had increased eightfold in the two weeks following Lee Rigby’s death.

The Grimsby Telegraph reports on the court appearance of two individuals charged with racially aggravated assault  and using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour after the pair attacked a Brazilian man outside a takeaway for intervening as they racially abused the staff inside.

Rebecca Swan and Christopher Drury attacked Carlos Defreiates after he tried to stop them racially abusing staff at the Topkapi takeaway in Cleethorpes, in the early hours of July 4.

The pair were among a group who stood outside the Topkapi takeaway chanting ‘EDL’ and hurling racist abuse at staff inside.

Rebecca Swan, 38, and Christopher Drury, 23, pleaded guilty to racially aggravated assault and Swan also admitted using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour for their attack on Carlos Defreiates.

Swan shouted at the takeaway staff: “If you live here, you should abide by our laws”. The group then turned on Defreiates, when he asked them why they were subjecting the staff to such abuse, with Swan asking him: Where are you from? You shouldn’t be here.”

Swan rammed her finger into Defreiates chest and barked: “You are in England. You should live by my laws.” Swan then slapped him across the neck and Drury hit him in the chest causing Defreiates to fall to the ground.

Swan was given a four-week, 9pm to 7am, curfew and was ordered to pay £85 costs and a Government-imposed £60 victims’ surcharge.

Drury was given a one-year conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 surcharge.

This latest incident comes after the MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson, called for the EDL to be banned from Hull after a recent rally in the city turned ugly.

Rupert Murdoch took to twitter to comment on the outgoing chief rabbis’ interview in The Times newspaper (£) on Monday tweeting “societies have to integrate. Muslims find it hardest.”

In his last interview before leaving his post as chief rabbi after 22 years, Sacks told The Times newspaper that multiculturalism had “had its day” and “the real danger in a multicultural society is that every ethnic group and religious group becomes a pressure group, putting our people’s interest instead of the national interest”.

Lord Sacks also offered advice to Muslims on how best to integrate by learning from the Jewish example, saying,

“The lessons are – number one, you don’t try to impose your views on the majority population. Number two, you have to be what I call bilingual, you know you are Jewish and you’re English… because it forces you to realize that actually society and life is complicated. It mustn’t and can’t be simplified. Number three, there are times when it’s uncomfortable, when you realize there is such a thing as anti-Semitism. [Being] a minority isn’t always fun.”

Commenting on Lords Sacks’ reflections, Murdoch tweeted, “Good for UK Chief Rabbi Sacks! ‘Let’s put multiculturalism behind us’. Societies have to integrate. Muslims find it hardest.”

Murdoch’s views are not surprising given stories that have been published in titles owned by News International which perpetuate the myth that Muslims are poorly integrated in Britain.

In the Gallup Coexist Index 2009, which analysed Muslim integration in Britain, France and Germany, British Muslims’ loyalty to national identity and trust in national public institutions were found to score higher than the rest of the population and contrasted sharply with images often presented of Muslims as separatist and disloyal.

The Executive Director and Senior Analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Dalia Mogahed, in an article for the Guardian Comment is Free wrote at the time:

“While Muslims in three European countries are indeed highly religious and socially conservative, this neither leads to a sympathy for terrorist acts, a desire to isolate nor a lack of national loyalty.”

She added: “…while the discourse continues to obsess over the moral conservatism of Muslim communities, British Muslims strongly identify with their nation and are eager to contribute to the national good.”

These findings are reinforced up by a 2011 study by Manchester University which analysed the data from almost 25,000 respondents from the 2005 and 2007 Citizenship Surveys run by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The results showed that “multiculturalism is associated with strengthening the ties between different ethnic groups.”

Dr Laia Bécares, who led the research team, said the results revealed that “neighbourhoods with higher ethnic diversity are associated with higher rates of social cohesion, respect for ethnic differences, and neighbours of different backgrounds getting on well together.”

More recent analysis includes the YouGov poll for Demos which revealed that 83% of Muslims agreed with the statement, ‘I am proud to be a British citizen’ compared to 79% among the general populace. And in analysis of the Census 2011 data by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at Manchester University, researchers concluded that “Muslims are more likely to identify with a British only national identity than Christians and Jews, the latter two more likely to identify with an English only identity.”

The myth that British Muslims are not trying or are unsuccessful at integrating was dispelled by the former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, who said in 2011 that British Muslims were “doing their damnedest to integrate“.

He said, “Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.”


BBC News reports on DVDs containing offensive and Islamophobic content that have been sent to mosques and Islamic centres in London.

The Qalb Centre in Walthamstow and An-Noor Mosque in Acton, west London, are two that have admitted receiving the DVDs which were posted around the time of Eid.

BBC News reports:

“They were received around the time of the Muslim holiday Eid and contain a mixture of insults to the Prophet Muhammad, a pornographic film and news footage about extremism.”

Abdul Maalik Tailor, community liaison officer for An-Noor Mosque, said the DVD content was ‘disgusting’ and called for the people responsible for producing  it to be prosecuted for hate crime.

He said, “Other people have received this too and we would like them to come forward.”

The Metropolitan Police said it was in possession of two of the DVDs which are currently with forensic teams.

Local paper, Western Morning News, reports on the court appearance of two men who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit criminal damage and conspiracy to send malicious communications after waging a campaign of hate against mosques and Islamic centres last year.

Tobias Ruth, 18, and John Roddy, 20, were arrested in January following a police investigation into hate crime incidents involving racist slogans daubed in red paint on Torquay’s Islamic Centre and threatening notes sent to mosques in Brighton and Plymouth, as well as elsewhere in the UK.

“Slogans daubed in the area included “Die Ragheads”, “Pakis go home” and “BNP for life – KT”. Police also found references to body armour and how to manage a terror organisation including dealing with surveillance and counter surveillance”, according to the local paper.

Roddy pleaded guilty to an additional charge of ‘possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist’ after officers found an “al-Qaeda training manual” and Breivik’s ‘2083 A European Declaration of Independence’ on his laptop.

The men were said to be inspired by Anders Breivik painting the slogan ‘KT 2083’ on the walls of the Islamic Centre, a reference to both Knights Templar and Breivik’s manifesto.

According to the paper, “The pair were targeting Muslim places of worship. After Breivik’s killing of 77 people in Norway, both men performed an initiation ceremony during which they branded each other on the arm with a cross.

“Officers also found magazines and papers with letters missing which had been used to write five notes in envelopes sent to mosques threatening them to “leave town or there will be hell to pay””.

The two men have been bailed and are due to appear in court next month for sentencing.

Devon and Cornwall police Detective Inspector Costa Nassaris said:

“The two men referred to themselves as Knights Templar and demonstrated an extreme right ideology with a particular hatred of Islam but in reality there were not part of a wider more organised group.

“The letters sent to the mosques caused particular distress and I am glad we are now able to reassure those victims that the offenders have been dealt with.

“The police will deal robustly with any attempts to spread religious discord within our community.”

This is not the first case of criminal prosecution deriving from anti-Muslim hate crimes inspired by Anders Breivik. In September 2012, Philip Horn was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after posting comments online praising Anders Breivik and saying, “‘You proved you were not insane and that you are just one of many like myself who wish their country to return to the way it was before it was invaded by the Muslim population. Respect to you.”

In October 2012, Kenneth Holden was given a 12 month community order for threatening Muslims in a Facebook post stating, “GIVE ME A GUN AN AL DO YOU ALL OSLO STYLE”.

The Guardian newspaper publishes an open letter from politicians, community leaders and faith leaders petitioning the home secretary, Theresa May, to ban the EDL from marching through Tower Hamlets on 7 September.

The signatories, which include leaders of the Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Islamic  faiths, as well as prominent politicians such as Ken Livingstone, Keith Vaz MP, Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP, call upon on the home secretary to stop the EDL from bring their “message of hate to our borough”.

The letter states:

“On previous protests, the EDL has abused worshippers and threatened to destroy mosques. Its protests invariably result in violence against local communities, property and the police. In light of the recent street disturbances in Birmingham as a result of an EDL visit, we have real fears that the EDL presence will act as a catalyst for further violence, disorder and destruction of property.”

The petitioners, who also include a veteran from the battle of Cable Street, Max Levitas, the General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, and the General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Billy Hayes, say they oppose anyone who wishes to “incite hatred against others because of their religious belief, ethnic origin or sexual orientation”.

The petition ends:

“We will continue to work together to peacefully demonstrate that Tower Hamlets is “no place for hate”. The home secretary must act, and act now, to ensure that the EDL is not able to continue with its tour of hate through the streets of east London.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has campaigned before to stop the EDL from marching in Tower Hamlets.

The letter and full list of signatories can be found here.