Monthly Archives: September 2014

BBC News, the London Evening Standard and local paper, Camden New Journal all report on the decision by Camden School for Girls to deny a Muslim girl the right to attend school on account of her wearing niqab.

The girl, who studied for five years at the school returned to study for her ‘A’ levels but was told that the niqab went against the school’s policy of acceptable garb as allowing “teacher-student inter-actions”.

The girl, who has not been named, said in an interview with the London Evening Standard:

“The school has no uniform and I thought they were accepting and open-minded. To be honest a lot of people at the school wear inappropriate clothing  — inappropriate as in very provocative and revealing clothing like extremely short shorts — so it didn’t make sense that they were refusing me to wear the niqab.”

The issue has attracted a degree of attention elsewhere with the National Secular Society quoting a tweet by Mohammed Amin, chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, stating:

“I think Camden School for Girls acted reasonably in refusing to allow a pupil to wear a niqab on educational grounds.”

Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian today however, argues that the niqab is no reason to deny a schoolgirl the right to an education. Navigating the arguments that confound liberals on do we/don’t we support a ban on niqab, Hinsliff correctly asserts the harm principle and the liberal’s defence of free expression even (or especially) where this extends to dress. Of the significance of Muslim female education, Hinsliff says, “We should do nothing to exclude from it those who may one day need it most.”

Indeed, the argument that Muslim women who adopt niqab are reinforcing inequalities by adopting sartorial choices that will inhibit their career development has been aired before and equally dismissed by the very women whose wearing of niqab has not had an adverse impact on their career.

In a twist of irony, the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, Maajid Nawaz, takes on a rather illiberal position in The Times arguing that the school was right to ban the girl from wearing niqab in class because ‘…just as pupils are not allowed to wear crash helmets or hoodies in schools, they are not allowed to wear the veil. Any policy but that would be discrimination.’

Of course, if crash helmets and hoodies could be construed as forms of religious garb, obligatory or otherwise, the argument may hold but since there is a world of difference between items that merely cover the face and those which connote religious meaning and significance to the wearer, the analogy is pretty poor.

Nawaz goes on to argue that ‘The view that the face veil is obligatory is a minority position, heavily disputed by most Muslims.’

How strange that while he advocates education as trumping the face-veil, he neglects the product of female education – the exercise of autonomy and the right to choose how to dress.

BBC News reports on the charges brought against a man who assaulted a Muslim woman in Bristol city centre.

Jack Hughes, 26, was arrested in August over the incident, which occurred in July, and will face charges of racially or religiously aggravated common assault when he appears before Bristol Magistrates’ Court on 13 November.

Hasina Khan, was walking to work when the man approached her ranting about events in the Middle East before spitting on her. His saliva hit her face and her headscarf. In an interview with the Bristol Post after the incident, Hasina said, I’ve read so many reports that hate crime towards Muslim women is increasing in the UK, but nothing really prepares you for what to do if it happens and how humiliating, terrifying and dirty it makes you feel.”

The Blackpool Gazette reports on the release of CCTV footage by Blackpool Police of a man wanted in connection with a religiously aggravated criminal damage incident at a local mosque.

CCTV footage issued by the police shows a group of men entering the mosque grounds through a gate. One of the men is seen forcing entry into the mosque via a side door. He is shown walking around rooms in the mosque and urinating in the reception area before exiting.

The incident happened after 11pm on Friday 12 September.

PC Paul Michael, of Blackpool Police, said: “We are keen to speak to the man pictured in connection with our inquiries and I would urge anyone with information that could help us with our investigations to contact police on 101 quoting AM1410823.”

This is not the first time the Revoe Street mosque and Islamic centre has been targeted in a hate crime. In November 2013, a pig’s head was thrown onto the mosque’s grounds.

The Daily Mail and Metro report on a Muslim mother who has decided to protest her dismay at a primary school that has fed her children non-halal meals ‘a good few times’ by sticking ‘halal only’ badges to her childrens’ school uniforms.

Henna Khan told the paper, “I really didn’t know what to do anymore.

“We have counted this happening on eight or nine occasions. They have only been attending Woodside Academy for over a year and a half now and yet this has happened a good few times.”

Ms Khan pointed out that her children have been offered ham and crackers in the classroom and jelly sweets containing gelatine despite her notifying the school of their dietary requirements.

“My children are not the only pupils who eat halal food, which makes me wonder how many others have been given meals by mistake? What if they had allergies?

“The signs are the only way, other than a packed lunch, that I know my children will not be given non-Halal meals.

“The “Halal only” signs on the uniforms are a protest by me and my children, which is what I told the head teacher and that it will continue for as long as it takes,” she added.

The school, Woodside Academy, has said it will look into the matter though Ms Khan maintains that a similar response has been offered on each occasion her children have been fed non-halal food.

Mistakes of this nature have been occurred in schools elsewhere including cases of Muslim schoolchildren being fed bacon after a jar of halal chicken spread was incorrectly labelled; pork DNA found in halal meals supplied to certain schools in Leicester; non halal food supplied to pupils at a school in Birmingham and pork DNA found in halal chicken sausages served at a primary school in West London.

BBC News and Manchester Evening News both report on the arrest of a man in connection with the arson attack on the Newton Heath Islamic Centre a couple of weeks ago.

The centre’s CCTV cameras were ripped out of the wall and broken in the attack and its minibus later torched. The minibus had only been purchased two months previously in order to transport the elderly and infirm to and from the centre.

A 34 year old man has been arrested on suspicion of theft and arson in what Manchester police are treating as a hate crime.

BBC News reports comments by Insp Shan Nasim, of Greater Manchester Police, who said the investigation into the attack “was far from over”.

He said officers were “investigating the possibility that this is a targeted hate crime”.

“We know for a fact there was at least one other person involved, so it is vital that we get potential witnesses to come forward with any information they may have,” he added.

The Yorkshire Post reports on comments found posted on South Yorkshire Police force’s Facebook page which readers have criticised as racist, offensive, and appearing to place the blame for the child sex abuse in Rotherham on Muslims.

South Yorkshire Police posted a thank you message on its Facebook page, expressing gratitude for the ‘peaceful’ Muslim Youth demonstration in Rotherham last weekend. The demo by local Muslim groups was held a week after an English Defence League protest in the city. The message posted by South Yorkshire police however attracted a number of other posts of an offensive nature with readers complaining to the force that the messages ought to be moderated and removed.

One of those who complained about the postings told the local paper, “The messages which appeared are hateful and racist. It’s disgusting, there are all sorts of things on there, including threats and it is a public page the police use to get information out there.

“I complained about it on Saturday and the officer told me they’d pass it on to a supervisor, but still nothing has been done.”

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said the force would not take the posts down but said those regarded to be in breach of the law would be investigated. She said:

“All social media activity is monitored and moderated. Any comment or post found to be offensive or racist, or any material deemed to breach legislation, will be investigated and the appropriate action taken. If someone sees a comment that they believe requires investigation, they should report this to police and not use social media as a crime reporting tool.”

The Centre for Research in Race and Education at the University of Birmingham will be holding a seminar examining the report by Peter Clarke, the former head of the counter-terrorism division at the Metropolitan Police Service, into the so called ‘Trojan horse’ affair. A report by Birmingham City Council and Ofsted reports are also to be examined at a seminar looking at the dominant narratives surrounding the events.

The seminar, entitled “From the Horse’s Mouth? Critiquing and Countering the Dominant Discourse and Narratives”, was spurred on by issues raised in letters published in The Guardian between 4 June 2014 and 28 July 2014(see here, here, here, here and here).

The letters include an open letter in which Birmingham community leaders announced the launch of a campaign, Putting Birmingham School Kids First, which aimed to challenge the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove’s intervention in the affair and the schools implicated therein.

The centre invites academics, researchers and practitioners to explore nine broad areas and has issued a call for papers and presentations. The areas include:

  •  assumptions and ideologies in the reports and the media coverage
  • addressing discrimination and inequalities in the education system
  • the role of gender in ‘Trojan horse’
  • governance, inspection and accountability
  • religion, secularism and education in the UK
  • the role of PREVENT in ‘Trojan horse’ and schools generally
  • spiritual, moral, social and cultural education
  • the relationships between identity, pedagogy, attainment and achievement
  • the impact of the ‘Trojan horse’ affair on schools and communities

The seminar is expected to take place at the University of Birmingham’s School of Education on 23 October 2014.

BBC Newsbeat’s front page last week featured an interview with a youth worker from Rotherham who claimed there had been an increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in the town following recent events.

Muhbeen Hussain, founder of the Rotherham Muslim Youth group, said “I have seen Muslim hate crime rise.”

He observed that a window was broken at a mosque in Rotherham last Wednesday night after a far right protest. A mosque was also vandalised on Wednesday last week.

In addition, the Rotherham Advertiser reported last week that a local mosque on Chapel Walk was burgled in the early hours of the morning last Tuesday. The mosque’s offices were ransacked, money was stolen from a collection box, and microphone equipment was further damaged. Copies of the Qur’an were also thrown on the floor.

However, a police spokesman confirmed that “there is no indication at this stage that this is a racially motivated incident, but rather connected to a series of burglaries within the town centre.”

Hussain further added “We’ve seen assaults on children. We’ve seen women frightened to go into the town centre. And yeah, hate crime has risen.”

Although he stated 100 individuals from the Muslim community signed a letter condemning the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), he questioned, “How are people able to come out if they are too fearful to come out?

“If you don’t want to come to a demonstration because you are too scared you might have reprisals, as we are seeing, then how are people meant to speak out?”

A far right backlash against British Muslim communities has also gained momentum following the publication of the Jay report into the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham.

Hussain further claimed that he himself had been targeted by far right extremists when during an interview with a news reporter, someone drove past and called him a ‘Muslim groomer’.

He added, “That has not happened to me once, it has happened on a number of occasions.”

The rise in hate crimes in recent years has been consistently documented in official records including in a Home Office publication last year on hate crimes in England and Wales and in figures disclosed by police forces. Moreover, a study by researchers at the University of Leicester has found that the ‘epidemic of hate crime’ goes largely unreported in the UK.

The Daily Record, the Daily Mirror and the Morning Star report on the fine imposed upon a man who subjected two Asian men to a racist tirade on public transport in Glasgow in March 2013.

Footage of the incident showed Stuart McIlreavy, 49, staring threateningly at two men before approaching them and shouting and swearing.

After listening to a conversation between the two Asian men, he said “What, f*** you.”

McIlreavy added: “My brother just got blown up by an IED, ya p**** – anything to do with you?” He’s then seen shouting, “Shut your f****** face” and, “F****** stab you in the neck like a f****** chicken.”

Out of view of the camera, McIlreavy walks towards the back of the bus and says: “Thank God somebody gave you freedom of speech.

“My older brother died because of you, f****** lucky b******.”

McIlreavy then sat down and as the men got up to leave, he shouted: “F****** rats. Look at them.”

McIlreavy was arrested after the Sunday Mail published the footage, recorded on a phone, in February.

Glasgow Sheriff Court was told the offence was considered as racially aggravated. The defence lawyer Gerry Devaney also confirmed McIlreavy’s claim that his brother died in Afghanistan was a lie.

McIlreavy pled guilty to behaving in a threatening or abusive manner by shouting, swearing and threatening two men.

Although the Daily Record and Daily Mirror note that he could have been jailed for up to 12 months, given the seriousness of racially aggravated hate crime, he was fined £300 with the option to pay off at a rate of £40 a month.

Robina Qureshi, executive director of Positive Action In Housing stated “A £300 fine is derisory and you have to ask if it’s enough to deter racists from carrying out future attacks.

“The courts need to look at all sentencing powers available to them, including prison.”

Whether the courts will take heed remains to be seen. It was only last week that another man was given a meagre fine of £150 after hurling racist abuse outside a mosque.

The papers further observe that there were more than 4, 000 racially aggravated hate crimes in Scotland in 2013. And a Law Commission report into incitement legislation observed that sentencing options available to courts for crimes deemed racially or religiously aggravated were not being sufficiently used to deter others.

Our aim is to encourage British Muslims to participate fully in the political process to help shape a more inclusive society for the common good of all. Find out more visit: Get Out And Vote online.

Get Out & Vote! is a not-for-profit initiative privately funded by British Muslims which does not endorse any party or candidate, nor does it receive funding from any governmental source.

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MEND is a not for profit company working towards enhancing the active engagement of British Muslim communities in our national life, particularly in the fields of politics and the media.

MEND aims to achieve this by:

  • Running seminars for Muslims on how to engage productively with the media and politics
  • Training Muslims to effectively respond to derogatory and inflammatory news stories through providing media resources and training
  • Organising forums for journalists to interact with local Muslim communities ensuring greater access to the Muslim grass roots
  • Working with other Muslim and non Muslim organisations to ensure Islamophobia is regarded as socially unacceptable as anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and xenophobia
  • Highlighting the work of journalists and other public figures that undermine social cohesion in Britain and foment anti-Muslim prejudice
  • Encouraging voter registration and civic participation in British Muslim communities