Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today published a progress report on equalities in the UK entitled, ‘Is Britain Fairer?’

‘Is Britain Fairer? The state of equality and human rights 2015’ is the Equality and Human  Rights Commission’s statutory five-yearly report on equality and human rights progress in England, Scotland and Wales. It follows the publication in 2010 of the seminal report, ‘How Fair is Britain?’ and the Commission’s 2012 progress report on human rights, ‘Human Rights Review’.

The report forms part of the Commission’s statutory duty to produce periodic reports on equality and human rights progress in England, Scotland and Wales.

The report covers 10 domains and lists indicators which are used to evaluate progress on equality in each domain. The ten domains are: education; standard of living; productive and valued activities; health; life; physical security; legal security; individual, family and social life; identity, expression and  self-respect; and participation, influence and voice.

The report draws on a range of government sources, official publications and quantitative analyses. The report notes a sizable time lag in the data sources used with much of the core quantitative data covering the period from 2008 to 2013.

The report highlights a number of issues concerning equality and religious and ethnic minorities in the UK.

The report reinforces much of what is known about high unemployment rates among British Muslim men and women noting:

  • Muslims have experienced the highest unemployment rates (particularly Muslim men in England), and also the lowest employment rates (especially in Scotland and Wales).
  • The employment rate for Pakistani/Bangladeshi people remained the lowest (48.2% in 2013), despite a significant improvement between 2008 and 2013.
  • The highest  unemployment rate was among Pakistanis/Bangladeshis (17.3%) in 2013.
  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi women were less than half as likely to be employed compared with average employment rates for other women.

On wage levels and comparative rates of pay, the report notes the wage disadvantage experienced by British Muslims:

  • Muslims have experienced the lowest (and decreasing) hourly pay rates between 2008 and 2013 and, along with Sikhs, have the highest pay gaps compared with those with no religion, earning 22.5% and 19.1% less, respectively, in 2013.
  • Some ethnic minority people, Muslims and disabled people experienced greater declines in average pay.

On relative poverty and deprivation, the report notes the poor living conditions among British Muslims:

  • In 2011/13 a higher proportion of households headed by someone who was Black (27.9%) or Pakistani/ Bangladeshi (26.3%) lived in substandard housing.
  • Children and young people from Pakistani/ Bangladeshi, Black or ‘Other’ ethnicity households had a particularly high poverty rate of between 43.2% and 49.3% who was White (20.5%).
  • Some ethnic minority working age people had a higher mean deprivation score in 2012/13 compared with White people, ranging from 2.0 for Pakistani/Bangladeshi people, 1.9 for Black people and 1.2 for people of ‘Other’ ethnicities compared with 0.9 for White people.

On education, the report notes improvements made in educational attainment and the narrowing of the attainment gap between White pupils and pupils from BME backgrounds:

  • General improvements in educational attainment in schools; in England, a narrowing of the attainment gap between White pupils and Pakistani/Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black pupils.
  • In Great Britain, White people were less likely to have no qualifications (9.4%) than Pakistani/Bangladeshi people (23%) and ‘Other’ ethnic groups. (13.2%) in 2013. The gap between White and Pakistani/Bangladeshi people narrowed over the period, with the latter seeing a larger decrease in the percentage of people with no qualifications.

The report includes details of prisoner experiences noting that “Prisoners from ethnic minority groups and Muslim prisoners continued to report a poorer experience in prisons.”

The report also highlights the lack of progress in career progression among minorities stating, “Some ethnicities were under-represented at senior levels of both the private and public sectors and some ethnic minority people were significantly under-represented in manager, director and senior official occupations.”

On discrimination, harassment and hate crime, the report mentions the spike in Islamophobia following the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in May 2013. On hate crime experienced by Muslims in England, Scotland and Wales, the report notes:

  • In Wales, 19.5% of people from ethnic minority groups reported harassment, discrimination and abuse, compared with 6.8% of people from the White ethnic group.
  • 8% of people from religious minority groups in Wales reported harassment, discrimination and abuse, compared with 8.2% of those with no religion.
  • In England, younger people from ethnic minorities were more likely to report experiencing harassment on the basis of skin colour, race or religion.
  • In Scotland,  ethnic minorities were more likely to report harassment. People with ‘another religion’ were more likely to report this (14%) than those identifying as having no religion (6%), Church of Scotland (4%), Roman Catholic (7%) and ‘Other Christian’ (6%).

The report covers forced marriages noting that “There are no reliable estimates currently of the prevalence of forced marriage.” It records the support provided by the Forced Marriage Unit “to 1,267 cases of a possible forced marriage in the UK in 2014.”

The report also includes this disturbing finding: “Among ethnic minority respondents in  England, the highest proportions of people at risk of poor mental health in 2012 were among Pakistani/Bangladeshi and African/ Caribbean/Black respondents (22.9% and 19.9% respectively). The higher rate among Pakistani/Bangladeshi people was primarily among women.”

With the Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of a review to be overseen by Louise Casey into disadvantage among minority communities and improving their access to education and employment, the EHRC’s progress report is timely.

The Liverpool Echo reports on the trial of a 16 year old on charges of suspected affray and racially aggravated criminal damage following an incident involving a Muslim shopkeeper.

Mohammed Ashfaq owns and runs a shop in the Garston area of Liverpool and had previously experienced anti-social behaviour from a group of youths near the shop. However, on 20 January he was subjected to racial abuse and his car damaged by a golf club by one of the young men.

Ashfaq had returned to the shop after dropping off a friend at the local railway station. Prosecutor Dave Evans told Liverpool Youth Court that “when he [Ashfaq] returned the group began to shout racist language at him. At some point during the course of this incident the defendant ended up in possession of a golf club and caused damage to the body work of Mr Ashfaq’s car.”

Evans said the incident would have caused anyone to “fear for their safety.”

The 16 year old was later picked out from an identity parade and charged with two offences by Merseyside Police. The teenager entered a late guilty plea at Liverpool Youth Court.

Magistrates have ordered the Youth Offending Team to prepare a pre-sentence report. The teenager is due to be sentenced on November 26.

The Ilford Recorder reports on the sentencing of a man who racially abused and threatened a Muslim customer at a chicken shop in Ilford.

Ian Bradley, 32, appeared at Barkingside Magistrates Court on charges of racially aggravated abuse and threatening behaviour over an incident at the SSS Chicken shop in Ilford on 20 October.

Bradley was accused of racially abusing and threatening violence against Khawaja Afzal. The SSS chicken shop where the incident took place is just 20 metres from Ilford Police Station.

Bradley pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to eight weeks’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £80 and a criminal courts charge of £180.

The Western Morning News reports on the sentencing of two women from Plymouth one of whom urinated in front of a Muslim couple as they prayed in a Devon park.

Claire Farrell, 36, pleaded guilty to religiously-aggravated threatening and abusive behaviour causing harassment at Plymouth Crown Court on Monday.

The court heard how on 16 August, Farrell pulled down her trousers and urinated as the Muslim couple prayed in Central Park in Devon. The couple were with their two young children, aged 8 and 10, at the time.

A second woman who was with Farrell, Natalie Richardson, 32, was charged with a racially aggravated offence and common assault, after she pushed a passer-by in the chest. Richardson pleaded guilty to both charges.

The case has been put off while pre-sentence reports are prepared. Farrell is due back in court on 27 November.

Cumbria Police and the News and Star report on a police investigation into an alleged incident of racially-aggravated harassment towards a staff member at an Indian restaurant in Carlisle.

The incident was caught on CCTV and involved a group of young males who were shown banging on the window of the Indigo restaurant at approximately 9.30pm on Saturday 5 September 2015 before going inside. When the group of young men were asked to leave, they subjected a male staff member to racist abuse.

The staff member was allegedly called a “p*** b******” and a “black b******”. The gang also allegedly shouted “EDL” (English Defence League” while banging on the restaurant window.

Police investigating the incident released CCTV images of the males involved. Anyone with information, or who may be able to identify the young men have been asked to call Cumbria Police on 101 and ask for PC 2337 Anthony Labram.

The Daily Echo reports on the arrest of a Polish man by immigration officials as he walked away from court minutes before having been handed a suspended sentence for abusing a Muslim customer at a McDonalds restaurant in Shirley High Street, Southampton.

Cezary Posylek, 45, was arrested at Southampton Magistrates’ court just as the court ruled on his guilty plea to three charges, assaulting a police officer, racially or religiously aggravating fear or provocation, and common assault.

Prosecutor Samantha Wright, told the court that Posylek walked to into the McDonalds store and slammed down an Easter egg at a table where three customers were sat. He then asked one of the customers, Abdul Mir, if he was a Muslim.

Wright explained to the court that Posylek told Mir, “If you are Muslim…’, he then takes his finger and brushes it across his neck.”

In a victim statement from Mir read by Wright to the court, Mir stated he was “fearful that he was going to be assaulted”.

Wright added, “He [Posylek] looked full of hate, and the victim was alarmed by his behaviour.”

Posylek is said to have then walked to the back of the restaurant and thrown the Easter egg, which he claimed was a Christian symbol, at the customers missing them and hitting the corner wall of the restaurant.

Posylek kicked one of the customers who tried to restrain him. “Posylek had to be dragged from the restaurant while he lashed out and shouted obscenities,” according to the local paper.

Posylek entered a not guilty plea to the three charges, assaulting a police officer, racially or religiously aggravating fear or provocation, and assaulting another victim, but changed this to guilty when he appeared at Southampton Magistrates’ court on 14 October.

Posylek was handed a 16 week custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay a total £850 in costs.

But as he left court, he was detained by Immigration Enforcement Officers for “not exercising his EU treaty rights”.

A Home Office spokesperson said, “We are determined to take decisive action against EEA nationals who abuse their stay in the UK, including enforcing their removal.”

Blackpool Gazette and The Star report on a race hate incident involving a woman who stormed into a Turkish-Italian take-away in Blackpool and repeatedly made race-hate remarks to the proprietor.

Donna Saunders, 35, went into Ricardo’s Pizza Restaurant and yelled: “This is England – this is not your country.” She also shouted that she would burn the shop down and told the owner to “Get out of my country.”

Pam Smith, prosecuting, said Saunders went into Riccardo’s pizzeria, after her daughter claimed she had been involved in an incident there on 27 April 2015. Saunders repeatedly made race-hate remarks to the owner, “waved her arms about” and tried to grab him. The owner pointed out there was CCTV on the premises and Saunders was told the police were on their way.

Ms Saunders denied racially aggravated behaviour causing fear of violence and behaving in a threatening manner but was found guilty of both offences at Blackpool Magistrates court.

She was sentenced to a 12 months’ community order, with up to 20 days’ rehabilitation supervised by the probation service. She was also placed on an 8 week curfew from 9pm to 6am from Mondays to Thursdays, ordered to pay £50 compensation with £350 costs and told to pay a £1,000 court charge, plus £60 victims’ surcharge by Blackpool magistrates.

The Guardian reports on a speech to be delivered today by former Business Secretary, Vince Cable, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies’ conference on PREVENT in Practice, in which he is expected to criticise the government’s new counter-extremism strategy and the legal requirement on universities to comply with the Prevent duty on university campuses.

According to The Guardian, Mr Cable will tell the conference that the responsibility placed on universities under the CounterTerrorism and Security Act and reinforced in the Counter Extremism strategy published last week, will lead to “inoffensive” and “bland campus debates.”

Mr Cable will say, “Instead of an intellectual challenge there will be a bland exchange of views which are inoffensive and politically correct. This will not stop terrorism or terrorist recruitment, and may make the problem worse by driving underground those who are regarded as extreme but are currently non-violent. It seems highly likely that university authorities in particular will be risk averse and will seek to avoid the danger of legal action from the authorities in respect of extremist speakers.”

Mr Cable will also question whether criticism of British Values, such as the rejection of the democratic system and core human rights are in any way predictors or precursors to terrorism.

He will say: “A key target is Salafism, which is a particularly austere form of Islam with doctrine that fits comfortably within the definition of extremism because of an uncompromising approach to other faiths. However, leading UK Salafists have strongly opposed terrorism and, indeed offered to help the authorities in countering the attraction of terrorism amongst young people.”

In a fitting reminder of the ridicule visited upon Gordon Brown when he attempted to define “British values”, Mr Cable will argue that the real danger in imposing arbitrary values is “when these very subjective judgments are used as the basis for legal sanctions and for suggesting that there is a link to terrorism”.

On the Government’s favourable disposition towards the ‘conveyor belt theory’ on radicalisation which presumes a linear causal link between ‘non-violent extremism’ and violent extremism, Cable will assert the centrality of evidence-based analysis to good policy making. He will say, “A good test of whether legislation is necessary is the demonstration of evidence. There is little credible evidence to suggest an inevitable causal link between holding ‘extreme’ views and terrorism”.

Mr Cable is the latest senior public figure to criticise the government’s new counter-extremist strategy as wrong-headed and counterproductive. Recently, Conservative cabinet membersacademicspolice chiefs and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, have all voiced concerns over the Counter Extremism Strategy and proposals to be contained in the forthcoming Extremism Bill.

Mr Anderson has stated in his latest annual review of terrorism legislation that the proposals to be advanced in the Government’s Extremism Bill could result in a backlash from “alienated” Muslims.

Anderson has set out “15 issues” concerning the Extremism Bill, ranging from the way ‘extremism’ is defined and the burden of proof used to legitimate the labelling of an individual or activity as ‘extremist’ to the proportionate nature of the legislative instrument considered and the “chilling effect” of the Bill’s impact.

Anderson has warned, “If the wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile and playing into the hands of those who, by peddling a grievance agenda, seek to drive people further towards extremism and terrorism.”

Anderson has also raised concerns about the new counter-extremism strategy extending the “surveillance state” too far which could have far wider repercussions than initially thought, resulting in all sorts of people being placed under suspicion of ‘extremist’ behaviours.

Last week, Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said the government’s latest strategy to combat extremism could prove counterproductive, especially at a time when Muslims in the UK feel increasingly alienated. He said: “There is a concern that efforts to control extremist narratives will limit free speech and backfire if we don’t get the balance right. The efforts to control extremism and limit protest by those caught by too wide a definition may undermine the very rights and British values you seek to protect.”

Last March, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, unveiled a string of draconian anti-extremist measures, including measures to stop what the government calls “Islamists from infiltrating key parts of public sector, charities and businesses” as well as “banning orders” on non-violent extremists, “mosque closure orders” and a ban on alleged extremists working with children and vulnerable people, a consequence of the so called Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham schools despite an independent review having found no evidence of any extremist activity taking place within the schools.

In another swipe at the government’s new counter-extremism strategy, Mr Cable will say: “The idea that nurseries should be sniffing out subversive toddlers for the caliphate belongs to Monty Python rather than the real world, but the combination of existing powers with those envisaged in the new counter-extremism legislation is anything but funny.”

Mr Cable’s criticism of the new Counter Extremism Strategy and the Prevent duty introduced in the Counter Terrorism and Security Act continues the long standing resistance from former Liberal Democrat Ministers to the Conservatives’ approach to counter-terrorism and its steady erosion of human rights.  The Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron in an interview with BBC News recently explained that laws to safeguard society from violent extremism already existed and that there was no need for further statute in this area. He described Theresa May’s plans as “Orwellian” and “counter-productive”.

Further criticism of the government’s latest counter extremism strategy was expressed by the UN human rights committee who concluded that Britain’s counter terrorism legislation should be reviewed raising concerns over several aspects of the Extremism Bill to be introduced to combat the threat of ‘non-violent extremism’.

On winning his constituency seat on May 7 and the harrowing defeat suffered by the Liberal Democrats in the general election, Nick Clegg in his resignation speech spoke of the desperate need for liberalism to survive and flourish amidst a politics of “fear and grievance”. He said, “It’s not exaggeration to say that in the absence of strong and statesmanlike leadership Britain’s place in Europe and the world and the continued existence of our United Kingdom itself is now in grave jeopardy. The cruellest irony of all is that it is exactly at this time that British liberalism, that fine, noble tradition that believes we are stronger together and weaker apart is needed more than ever before.

“Fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it… This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.”

The Northern Echo and the Gazette Live report on a march that took place over the weekend by a number of far-right groups in East Cleveland in their bid to close down a halal abattoir in the town and “reclaim the village”.

Approximately 100 members from various far-right groups including the North East Infidels, English Defence League and the National Front gathered in Redcar and Cleveland before marching to Banaras Halal Meats (BHM) abattoir in Boosbeck.

A statement on the North East Infidels Facebook page ahead of the march stated that the event had been organised in a bid to “help Boosbeck reclaim their village”, with some claiming that the smell, noise and traffic from the site was “ruining their lives”.

Lee Dyson, rallied the crowd, speaking into a loudspeaker announcing to the owner of Banaras Halal Meat, “The people of Boosbeck don’t want you here” and “Halal meat has no place in this community and it is time for you to leave.”

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, claimed the protest had “failed”. He said: “The EDL need to realise that they have no place in our community. The EDL’s reputation for racism, intolerance and public disorder runs contrary to what the vast majority of decent Boosbeck residents believe. The support the EDL generates never appears to be local, and is more often than not bussed in from miles away. It has wasted taxpayers’ money and piled pressure on Cleveland Police who are already struggling due to major budget cuts. Hopefully, after their latest failed attempt to garner support in the area, they will listen to the message of East Cleveland residents and never come back to the area.”

In recent years, far-right groups have taken part in a number of demonstrations against halal abattoirs around the UK. In 2013, the EDL protested against a halal abattoir in Skegness, which was previously targeted by the British National Party in 2012 and by the National Front in 2013.

The halal method of slaughter has also received wide coverage recently with far-right groups including Britain First, having been accused of targeting establishments that sell halal meat in their “anti-halal operation”. One such “operation” took place in Dartford in June.

The far right appear to have fully exploited the prejudicial media coverage about halal meat singling out Muslims in their diatribes about religious slaughter to the exclusion of other religious slaughter practices, such as kosher meat.

The Guardian, UTV and Belfast Telegraph report that two severed pigs’ heads bearing anti-Islam slogans were left on the doorsteps of a church in north Belfast amid unsubstantiated rumours circulating on social media that the disused church was to be turned into a mosque.

Rumours on Facebook and Twitter claimed that St Luke’s Church, currently owned by the Church of Ireland, had been bought by members of the Belfast Islamic community in order to build a new mosque in its place. There is no evidence to substantiate the claims and local Unionist representatives have denied any such plans are underway.

In response to the incident, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it was treating the incident as a “race hate crime.” Assistant chief constable, Stephen Martin, tweeted: “This is disgusting & must be condemned in the strongest terms. There is no place for race hate. Info to us on 101,” in response to the incident.

Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said that police received a report at around 10.30am on Saturday morning that two pig’s heads “with racially offensive language” written on them had been left outside a property on Northumberland Street. Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick  said “Officers are currently carrying out enquiries into this incident which must be condemned by all.”

The leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, Councillor Billy Hutchinson, said the actions of those involved in the incident were “absolutely reprehensible” and did not reflect the opinions of the local community. He said: “The incident highlights the dangers of rumour and speculation and also reinforces the need for further education to challenge negative attitudes towards people from other backgrounds. We cannot be complacent about intolerance. This is not only an attack on people of other cultures, but it is also an attack on this church building itself, which still remains in the ownership of the Church of Ireland. Sadly, they have also attacked and undermined the reputation of their own community.”

Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, a member of Northern Ireland’s Muslim community has said he wants to meet those responsible for placing the pigs’ heads outside the St Luke’s Church, according to the Belfast Telegraph.  Dr Al-Wazzan said he did not believe the incident was backed by the wider community and expressed a willingness to meet with those responsible for the hate crime.

Anti-Muslim hate crime and prejudice aimed at Muslims in Northern Ireland has been frequently reported over the last year. In June 2014, two Pakistani men were assaulted inside their home after suffering a torrent of racial abuse and being pursued by their assailants in their home. More recently, in July 2015, a veiled Muslim woman was verbally abused and attacked by a passenger in a passing vehicle as she walked along a road in Portadown, Northern Ireland.

Two months ago, Northern Irish Pastor James McConnell, appeared in court on suspicion of sending a “grossly offensive” communication via a public electronic communications network after his sermon in May 2014 describing Islam as a “heathen” and “satanic” religion and a “doctrine spawned in hell” was streamed online. Furthermore, last month, the PSNI launched an investigation into an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime after far-right activists from Britain First mistook a town hall in Newtownards for a mosque with one of their supporters commenting on social media that it was “astounding how this building hasn’t been torched yet.”