Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Kent Messenger and City AM pick up on a story from Political Scrapbook disclosing that Royal Mail have refused to distribute a leaflet by Britain First candidate for the by election seat of Rochester and Strood, Jayda Fransen, because it does not comply with the law.

The leaflet, which shows a woman in niqab on one side with the word ‘warning’ emblazoned across the page and a ‘no to mega-mosque’ symbol in the bottom right corner, carries a message from Ms Fransen on the back which states:

“My name is Jayda Fransen and unlike the rest, I am proud to be English.

“I have campaigned hard against the huge new mega mosque that is going to be built on Rochester’s doorstep and that is why I am standing in the Rochester and Strood by-election.

“If this mega mosque is built, Medway will be flooded with more Muslim immigrants. I want Medway, especially Rochester, to remain English – unfortunately none of the other parties do…

“The people of Medway have expressed their objections against this new mega-mosque, but have been ignored.

“Only your vote in this election can force them to listen to you.

“Vote for me and I promise you I will stop this mega mosque!”

According to Political Scrapbook, Royal Mail have refused to distribute the leaflet explaining the decision in a statement:

“Royal Mail has a legal obligation under the Representation of the People Act 1983 to deliver parliamentary election mail. Royal Mail may refuse to carry election mail if we consider its contents to be illegal, for example if it is threatening, abusive or insulting, or is intended to cause distress or anxiety.

“We have procedures in place to evaluate whether election mail complies with the law. In this instance, we consider that the election mail in question does not comply with the law and have therefore refused to carry it.”

Political Scrapbook also features a video of Ms Fransen haranguing Muslim worshippers exiting a mosque in Gillingham, Kent. In the video, Fransen can be seen telling Muslims “We don’t want your mega mosque in our English town.”

“The English people in this town are going to suffer because you guys need yet another mosque… I speak for the British people.”

It is not the first time Britain First has tried to make divisive capital out of the mosque planning application submitted by the Kent Muslim Welfare Association. Earlier this summer, the far right group ‘visited’ two mosques in Kent.  Video footage posted on the far right group’s website shows BF members telling a Muslim man “Withdraw your application for a new mosque, ok?”

“Otherwise we, Britain First, will run a big campaign against you guys personally and also the council and the Imam, yeah?

“You’ve got a mosque, yeah. We don’t want these huge mosques with domes and minarets in our towns with separate entrances for men and women in our country.”

BBC News and STV News report on the sentencing of a man who ripped a niqab off the face of a Muslim woman in Dennistoun, Glasgow last year.

Shirin Akhter was shopping at the Lidl store in Dennistoun when Emiliano Sanchez stood in front of her as she exited the store and shouted at her “Why are you wearing this? This is not the Qur’an and is not allowed in this country.”

Sanchez then forcibly removed Akhter’s niqab and strode into the store where he told one of the workers, “Did you see that p**i? I told her to take that thing off her head.”

Sanchez, 59, was charged with racially aggravated harassment and acting in a racially aggravated manner. Sheriff Alayne Swanson at Glasgow Sheriff Court said that the offence was “serious enough” to merit jail and ordered Sanchez to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work. Sanchez was also made subject of a non harassment order barring him from approaching or contacting Ms Akhter within the next 12 months.

Procurator fiscal Katie Stewart, said: “Emiliano Sanchez subjected his innocent victim to an unprovoked assault and tirade of abuse solely based on her appearance.

“Such behaviour is totally unacceptable and every man, woman and child has the right to live free from violence, and without fear of humiliation, harassment or abuse, based on prejudice.

“We would encourage the public to report all such crimes to the police where, as with this case, they will be investigated carefully and prosecuted.”

After the scandal of UKIP canvassers posing for a photo with supporters of the far right group Britain First, the Daily Mirror investigates whether there is all that much that separates the two parties.

Ahead of the by-election for the parliamentary seat of Rochester and Strood, following the incumbent’s defection from the Conservatives to UKIP, Britain First has publicly endorsed UKIP on its Facebook page despite UKIP’s attempts to deny any connections with the far right party.

Posts on BF’s Facebook page state:

“BRITAIN FIRST HAS NOTHING BUT THE UTMOST RESPECT FOR UKIP, BUT WE ARE OUR OWN MOVEMENT.

“THE MEDIA IS DESPERATELY TRYING TO CAUSE FRICTION BETWEEN US, BUT THEY WON’T SUCCEED.

“WE UNDERSTAND UKIP HAS TO PLAY THE “POLITICAL GAME” SO THEY HAVE TO DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM US.

“WE ADVISE OUR SUPPORTERS TO IGNORE UKIP’S NECESSARY POLITICAL MANOEUVRES WHEN THEY CONDEMN BRITAIN FIRST – IT’S ALL BLUSTER FOR THE MEDIA’S SAKE.

“UKIP AT THE BALLOT BOX, BRITAIN FIRST ON THE STREETS – A WINNING COMBINATION!”

The paper observes that the tactics used by both parties, Britain First contested seats in the European Parliament elections earlier this year, appear to be identical as demonstrated by UKIP’s campaign poster and one of Britain First’s images on Facebook.

While UKIP’s poster of a young girl states “There are 1,400 reasons why you should not trust Labour again”, in reference to the Jay report’s estimate on the number of young white girls who were victims of the sex abuse scandal, Britain First posted a similar image of a young girl with two men dressed in traditional Muslim clothing with the caption, “THERE ARE MANY TOWNS IN ENGLAND WITH LARGE MUSLIM POPULATIONS. IT TOOK 20 YEARS OF SUFFERING FOR LABOUR TO ADMIT TO THE HORRORS IN JUST ONE OF THEM. THOUSANDS OF LITTLE GIRLS ARE STILL SUFFERING.”

The Daily Mirror examined Britain First’s website, its Facebook page and its statement of policies and interviewed UKIP’s spokesman, Gawain Towler, to discern whether the party is all that different from Britain First.

While Britain First is anti-immigration, UKIP has expressed that it “merely want[s] to control it.”

The paper further observes that Britain First proposes a ban the burqa, similar to the ban introduced in France and Belgium and which was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in a ruling earlier this year. Likewise, UKIP has also advocated a burqa ban and only ditched it from party policy last year.

Fransen, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Britain first contesting the Rochester and Strood seat, claimed in a video posted on Facebook that there was “absolutely” no difference between the two parties. She said, “the Ukip supporters… seem to be singing from the exact same hymn sheet as Britain First.”

Moreover, Britain First have endorsed the UKIP candidate for the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner by-election.

UKIP have denounced the photo showing party canvassers posing with Britain First supporters and its constitution explicitly denies membership rights to any individuals who has a prior association the “British National Party, National Front, British Freedom Party, British People’s Party, English Defence League, Britain First or the UK First Party”.

But given the number of UKIP candidates discovered to have spouted anti-Muslim and Islamophobic views on social media and in public meetings (see here, here, here, here and here), is it any wonder that questions are being asked about whether UKIP and Britain First are two peas in a pod?

The Guardian today reports on the latest development in the rendition case of Abdel Hakim Belhadj against the British Government and former public servants, Jack Straw MP and Sir Mark Allen, former foreign secretary and former head of counter-intelligence at MI6 respectively.

Belhadj, who has been embroiled in a legal battle to sue the Government for its alleged complicity in his rendition to the Gaddafi regime and his subsequent torture, has won the right to sue the Government and intelligence services despite attempts by Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen to resist on grounds of “state immunity” and the “act of state doctrine”, which implies that British courts cannot probe the matter because it involves a foreign state.

The court of appeal in its ruling yesterday granting Belhadj the right to proceed with this legal claims against the Government argued that the case presented consideration of “grave violations of international law and human rights in the form of torture and unlawful rendition” and that there was “compelling public interest in the investigation by the English courts of these allegations”.

The appeal court in its judgment stated: “Unless the English courts were able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, these very grave allegations would go uninvestigated and the appellants would be left without any legal recourse or remedy.”

Belhadj, speaking to the Guardian about the cases brought by him and his wife, Fatima Bouchar, who was pregnant at the time of her capture, said, “I always had faith in the British justice system. The right decision has been made. I feel I am getting closer to realising justice in my case.”

The Detainee Inquiry led by Sir Peter Gibson into alleged British involvement in rendition and torture ceased consideration of the cases of Abdel Hakim Belhadj and fellow Libyan national, Sami al-Saadi, after criminal charges were brought forward.

Al-Saadi settled his claim against the Government in 2012 after agreeing a £2.2 million settlement.

It would seem efforts to shroud the truth behind the allegations via an ‘Establishment cover-up’ are steadily being undermined in favour of justice and transparency. Belhadj’s case, like that of Binyam Mohamed before him, demonstrates the crucial role of the courts in holding the security services and the Government to account.

The Daily Mirror, Manchester Evening News, and Rochdale Online report on the charges brought against a man who attacked an Asian taxi driver leaving him permanently scarred.

Javad Iqbal, 48, was assaulted after dropping off a fare in Rochdale in the early hours of Sunday last week. He was stabbed in the face and his car was subsequently damaged during the incident. Iqbal needed medical attention and was administered six stitches on the face as a result of the deep cut.

Ryan Lovell, 23, has been charged with wounding with intent, possessing a bladed article in a public space, criminal damage and causing racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage.

In a video published in the Daily Mirror and Manchester Evening News, Lovell’s victim recounts the incident in which he notes that the offender’s girlfriend was present at the time of the attack.

Iqbal stated that the man and woman got out of the car and went home but subsequently “came back with [a] knife and they straight away attack[ed] my face… banged my head, banged my car, smashed the window, kicking the car.”

Lovell appeared at Bury and Rochdale Magistrates Court on Monday to face charges and has been remanded into custody. He is due to reappear at Minshull Street Crown Court next month.

In an interview with Manchester Evening News, Iqbal’s boss Abrar Hussain, director of No 1 Diamond cars, noted that “This is the second stabbing of taxi drivers in Rochdale in two weeks.

“Sadly, the drivers don’t get enough protection.

“Two weeks ago another driver (at another firm) took a customer from Cheetham Hill to Middleton. He started kicking his car, ran into a house and brought out a knife and stabbed the driver in the face as well.

“I’ve worked in Middleton for the last 16 years. I’ve know[n] taxi drivers [to] be assaulted and I’ve known customers do runners. It happens all the time. It’s one of those things. We don’t even tell the police. We just get on with it.”

Hussain’s remarks shed some light on the low number of Muslim and other victims who report hate crime. The endemic under-reporting of hate incidents has been acknowledged in a Home Office report published last year and in an empirical study conducted by researchers at Leicester University.

Hussain further speculated that the attack on taxi drivers could be linked to vengeful attacks in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal. Indeed, a cab firm introduced a policy to offer white drivers upon request to avoid such hostility but it was reversed earlier this week following a protest by a group of Asian drivers.

The Daily Mirror and BBC News report on the ‘hope’ expressed by the Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague, that the Chilcot Inquiry report into the Iraq war will be published before the 2015 general election.

Hague’s comments follow a demand by Conservative MP Keith Simpson to know whether the long awaited report would be published “this side of the general election…or is it going to be… something that we will expect in 50 years’ time?”

The publication of the Chilcot report has been persistently postponed despite the war having been launched over a decade ago and the Inquiry having begun its work in July 2009; more than five years ago. The Inquiry was expected to publish its findings at the end of last year. The Daily Mirror notes the Prime Minister’s subsequent suggestion that the report would be released by the end of this year.

Delays have been heavily criticised particularly by the Home Office Minister Norman Baker who expressed his concerns earlier this year that the Inquiry’s conclusions into Britain’s role in the US led invasion of Iraq “have yet to see the light of day”.

The Iraq Inquiry held public hearings over 18 months between the end of 2009 and early 2011. In addition, the Inquiry examined the context of the war, the conduct of military operations, the UK’s role in post-war security and governance and heard evidence from senior politicians, officials, military commanders including former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

It is expected that the closer the report’s publication comes to the general election, the more anxious Labour will be at the prospect of its being used as a ‘political football’ to put off voters.

BBC News notes Lord Owen’s warning that if the report is not published early in 2015, it might have to be delayed until after the general election in order to avoid the Inquiry becoming politicised.

Keith Simpson MP voiced his concerns over the costs of the Inquiry, both financial and in terms of public confidence in the political process, in a debate in the House yesterday. Simpson pointed to the negative impact of the delays stating:

“On the costs in terms of public confidence in Government transparency and the decision to go to war, I understand the practical problems behind the delay, which I have outlined, but the longer the Chilcot inquiry continues without publication, the greater will be the public’s suspicion that the process is not transparent. In addition, the central part of the report, which is about learning lessons, will become mainly historical, although we know that such lessons could have been relevant to more recent events.”

He further called a debate on the costs of the Inquiry with figures disclosed over the summer claiming that £1,537,100 was expended upon the Iraq Inquiry in the financial year 2013/14, contributing to a total cost of £9,016,500 since the launch of the Inquiry in 2009.

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The Independent and The Times report on a story about UKIP campaigners posing for a photo with an activist from the anti-Muslim far right group, Britain First, in Rochester. Both groups were out campaigning for the upcoming by-election for the parliamentary seat of Rochester and Strood prompted by the defection of incumbent, Mark Reckless MP, from the Conservatives to UKIP.

The photo showed three UKIP campaigners including former UKIP council candidate for Enfield, David Schofield, wearing party T-shirts and smiling with their arms around Britain First’s parliamentary candidate Jayda Fransen.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Fransen claimed the UKIP activists were “expressing their support of us and saying that they support our work and think we’re great and follow us online – so then someone said,  ‘Let’s get a picture together.’

“We were campaigning and they were doing a bit of campaigning that day as well so we were just having a chat about how our policies are very similar to UKIP’s, in fact they almost mirror them.”

A UKIP spokesman has rejected any suggestion that the photo discloses a common view, stating “We have no connection with Britain First and reject any association with them.

“A handful of our 200 campaigners on Saturday were photographed by Britain First without understanding the nature of the group and regret that very much.

“They were identified, contacted, advised, and accepted all the sensible undertakings we asked for.”

UKIP has further been accused of exploiting the Rotherham sex abuse scandal to win the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner election in the area after incumbent, Shaun Wright, stepped down following the publication of the Jay report.

UKIP have launched a “1,400 reasons to vote” campaign, referring to the Jay report’s estimate on the number of young white girls who were victims of abuse over a 16-year period.

It is noteworthy that UKIP’s new campaign is quite similar to Britain First’s ‘’Muslim Grooming: Britain’s Secret Shame’ campaign which has seen the far right group doorstep mosque officials and distribute literature against ‘Muslim grooming’.

The General Secretary of the Communication Worker Union, Billy Hayes, has urged for UKIP to be exposed as a racist party at a conference in Leeds in the wake of the incident and ahead of the by-elections in Rochester and Rotherham. 

He stated “we have to brace ourselves for a very serious fight. We need to get the largest number of people to stand up to racism and UKIP.

“Certainly we need something because far too many politicians want to compete for racist votes rather than fight racism.”

The Daily Telegraph today reveals that Britain First is far more popular online than any of the mainstream parties with its Facebook page boasting 500,000 ‘likes; more than the Conservatives on 293,000, Labour with 190,000 and the Liberal Democrats’ 104,000’.

And an article in The Guardian earlier this week explored details behind UKIP’s social media appeal. According to the article, “Ukip currently has 276,435 likes on Facebook, which is just 18,153 likes short of the Conservative party’s 294,588 and over 82,000 ahead of the Labour Party, which only has 193,788. The Liberal Democrats have 104,132, the Green party of England and Wales has 96,723 and the Scottish National party has 166,795.

“Unlike the other parties, Ukip is not just attracting young Facebook users, but is getting older users to engage. The Conservative and Labour parties see their main Facebook interactions among the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, but Ukip are seeing most engagement from 25-34s and 45-54s.”

The photo of UKIP canvassers posing with Britain First is worrying for many reasons not least of which is the seeming popularity of the two far right groups as we approach the next general election.

The Chester Chronicle reports on the arrest of two men following an Islamophobic incident in which a pig’s head was placed on a spike outside the Islamic Cultural Centre in Ellesmere Port.

A member of the public reported two men acting suspiciously outside the premises before midnight on 22 October. The police later confirmed finding a pig’s head outside the Islamic centre, which is currently under construction.

Two men, aged 41 and 33, have been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence. Both have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

As part of their investigation, the police visited local businesses and appealed to the local community for information in a bid to find out where the pig’s head came from.

The incident comes as a local Muslim group received planning permission from Cheshire West and Chester Council earlier this month to proceed with plans to convert the site into an Islamic community centre.

The application for the proposed mosque has faced significant opposition. A restraining order was imposed on a man who hung bunting at the site displaying swastikas, KKK slogans and a threat to burn down the proposed mosque while Muslims were inside it.

In addition, a Facebook page ‘Ban Ellesmere Port Mosque’ was set up aiming to “stop Muslims taking over Ellesmore Port”. While it received almost 600 likes, the paper observes the page vanished last week. 

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