Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Liverpool Echo and the Daily Express report on comments by the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who has repeated demands that he be given powers to ban far-right groups from marching in Liverpool following the arrest of 34 men at a far right neo-Nazi protest in the city over the weekend.

Police reinforcements from Greater Manchester were required to help assist Merseyside Police in dealing with acts of violence. Televised scenes showed shocking levels of violence erupt during the protest.

Among those arrested were a 60 year old man, who is suspected of assaulting a police constable, a 39 year old man on suspicion of obstructing a police officer and being in breach of the peace, a 33 year old man on suspicion of a section four public order offence and a further 31 men on suspicion of offences ranging from violent disorder to possession of offensive weapons. A number of discarded weapons were also recovered by officers during the protest.

The protest was led by Manchester based splinter group, the North West Infidels. News reports claim missiles were thrown into crowds of people including bottles, fireworks, smoke bombs, bricks and heavy cobblestones. One police officer was taken to hospital after he suffered concussion from a blow to the head, and a 21 year old student, Abbie James, suffered a deep cut to her forehead requiring stitches and possibly plastic surgery after she was allegedly hit by a cobblestone.

In light of the chaotic scenes on Saturday 27 February, Mayor Anderson said he would write to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, asking her to give him the authority to ban far-right marches in the city. He made a similar request last August when another far right group, National Action, tried to hold a “White Man March” in Liverpool.

Mayor Anderson said: “I am asking for a change in the law to give mayors the ability to stop these events taking place. This isn’t about banning free speech, but about banning people who incite racial hatred and Nazi views. These people have no place in this city. The Mayor and elected representatives should be able to stop such groups coming in. They are not here to air their views, but to cause violence and anti-social behaviour. The appalling scenes we witnessed also disrupted business and caused huge emotional upset to people visiting the city centre. The cost will run into many thousands, not only in terms of policing, but also the clean-up operation.”

A clean-up operation by the local council involved removing, swastika logos which had been daubed on the walls of St George’s Hall.

The call to ban far right protests in Liverpool follow on from comments by South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, David Crompton, who announced that he was looking into ending far-right protests because funds and resources that should be used for protecting victims of crime were being unnecessarily diverted to police protests.

Last year, Rotherham Council lent their support to Mr Compton after it was revealed that £4 million had been spent on policing far right protests in the region over the last three years. In a joint submission by the council and police force, they called on the Home Secretary to dispense special powers under the Public Order Act allowing the local force and council to ban protests in the town for up to three months.

The call to ban far-right protests was also made by Waltham Forest council last year after complaints were made to the Metropolitan Police Service about the manner in which it handled an English Defence League protest on the “continuing assault from Islamification in the UK” in Walthamstow.

The costs of far right protests across the country has also been raised by other local councils and in Parliament. The MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, Jonathan Reynolds, raised the issue in Parliament two years ago and asked MPs to consider whether such protests were “appropriate” given their intent to ignite racial tensions and disrupt social activities, as well as prompting significant policing operations.

Last year, Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, Olly Martins, wrote to the Home Secretary stating that the burdens placed on local forces to police far right protests was “untenable” and that central support was needed to deal with the number of such protests in certain parts of the country.

STV news reports on a fine imposed on a constituent who admitted sending his MP a “grossly offensive” email communication last December.

James Learmonth, 68, sent the email to the MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, on 1 December 2015, ahead of a parliamentary vote on air strikes in Syria.

Learmonth wrote, “Dear Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. Feel free to bomb the Muslim bs to oblivion.”

The email was not opened until 18 December when a member of Ms Ahmed-Sheikh’s office came across it. The office staffer thought the contents racist and offensive and brought the email to the attention of the office manager. The matter was referred to the Metropolitan Police by SNP officials and was investigated by Police Scotland.

Learmonth, appearing at Alloa Sheriff Court, said he “accepted with hindsight” that the email’s contents could be considered grossly offensive. His defence lawyer said, in mitigation, that the email had been sent on a day when news of a British lady’s death had broken and Learmonth had been “blinded by his anger and his frustration on the day he sent it.”

Sheriff David Mackie said he would deal with the case by monetary penalty.

He told Learmonth: “The consequences of this lack of judgment on your part will be a £500 fine.”

BBC News reports on the jail sentences passed on two men convicted of the murder of Muslim grandfather, Muhsin Ahmed, in Rotherham.

Dale Jones, 30, was convicted of murder by unanimous verdict at his trial last Wednesday. Today, a jury found Damien Hunt guilty of manslaughter by unanimous verdict.

Jones was jailed for life, with a requirement to serve a minimum of 32 years, and Hunt was jailed for 14 years at Sheffield Crown Court.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr Ahmed had been pursued by the two men as he made his way to the mosque for early morning prayers on 10 August 2015. Mr Ahmed was taunted by the men who called him a “groomer” before launching a vicious attack on  him. Mr Ahmed died in hospital 11 days after the serious assault in which he suffered fractures to his eye sockets, jaw and nose.

Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Short, the Senior Investigating Officer on the case said in a statement released by South Yorkshire Police:

“This brutal and unprovoked assault sent shockwaves through the local community, where Mr Ahmed was well-liked and highly regarded.

“His family and friends have been left absolutely devastated by his death yet they have conducted themselves admirably and with tremendous strength throughout our inquiry, which should be commended.

“Mr Ahmed suffered horrific injuries at the hands of Jones and Hunt. Jones in his anger stamped on Mr Ahmed’s head so hard that we were able to recover a shoe print from his skin – this extreme violence is nothing short of sickening and highlights just how dangerous these individuals are.

“The pair refused to take responsibility for their crime, putting Mr Ahmed’s family through the further distress of a court trial where they had to hear in detail what happened to their loved one. This family have demonstrated exceptional strength and dignity while listening to shocking evidence.

“Hunt and Jones have never given an explanation for their own vicious actions that evening, but the court heard how Mr Ahmed was assaulted because of the colour of his skin, a fact that is as disturbing as it is despicable.

“To cause harm to another human being because of their race, ethnicity, or religious belief is simply beyond reproach, I will never understand how anybody can treat another person in such a callous and inhumane manner.”

BBC NewsThe Mirror and The Star all report on a suspected hate crime incident involving an Asian man who had the top of his finger chopped off with a “meat cleaver” in a “racially aggravated” attack outside a BP petrol station in Rotherham.

South Yorkshire Police said in a statement that the 31 year old victim was withdrawing money from a cash machine outside the BP garage on Herringthorpe Valley Road in Rotherham on 27 February 2015, at approximately 6am when he was approached and attacked by two unknown men.

The Asian victim was allegedly punched in the face numerous times before the top of his finger was sliced off with a meat cleaver. The two attackers then left the scene in a dark coloured vehicle.

The victim was taken to hospital where he remains in a stable condition.

South Yorkshire Police described one of the perpetrators as a tall, slim built, white male. The victim has been unable to describe the second attacker.

Detective Inspector Richard Partridge said the incident was being treated as a “racially aggravated” assault. He also said that the victim did not know his attackers and the attack was unprovoked.

He added: “A full investigation is underway and as well as reviewing CCTV, we have a team of detectives in the area and officers are supporting the victim. The incident is being taken extremely seriously and we can reassure members of the community that we are following a number of lines of enquiry to identify these offenders. If you were in the area at the time or saw or heard anything suspicious, please do contact police on 101 quoting incident 223. We’d also like to speak to the driver of the taxi who dropped the victim off at the garage as they may hold vital information about the assault.”

Since the incident happened, South Yorkshire Police have stepped up police patrols in Rotherham amid fears of reprisal attacks on local Muslim communities in reaction to child sexual abuse scandals that have recently concluded in court.

Only last Thursday, a man was found guilty of the murder of Muhsin Ahmed, an 81 year old Muslim grandfather, who died after sustaining serious head injuries following a vicious assault in the early hours of 10 August 2015. The elderly man was taunted by his attackers who called him a “groomer” before punching him  and stomping on his face.

Asian girls in Rotherham have also spoken of their fears of going out after being threatened with rape by far right extremists to “even things up” and a growing number of violent protests have been held in the town by far right groups protesting against “Muslim grooming gangs”.

The News and Star reports on a man from West Cumbria who has been spared a jail sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of racially aggravated assault on a Turkish male and two other charges of using threatening words or behaviour.

John Paul Williamson, 32, of Whitehaven was sentenced to 60 days in prison, suspended for 2 years, after admitting an assault on Mehmet Tutan on 13 November 2015.

Mr Williamson also admitted using threatening, abusive or insulting words towards Serdar Simsek on 13 November 2015 and was sentenced to 30 days in prison, suspended for 2 years, to serve concurrently. He received a further sentence of 30 days in prison, suspended for 2 years, for using threatening, abusive or insulting words towards Ferhat Tutan on the same day.

Mr Williamson was ordered to pay £165 in costs at the hearing held at West Cumbria Court House.

The Daily Express and Mirror report on the sentencing of a 60 year old man in connection with an air rage incident in which he racially abused airline staff while “ranting” about “Gaza, Al Jazeera, war criminals and US b*******.”

Gordon Gardner, 60, appeared at Manchester Crown Court this week, over the incident which happened on a Monarch Airlines flight to Gran Canaria on August 2, 2014.

The court heard that Mr Gardner had consumed wine and Southern Comfort when he launched a tirade of abuse at airline staff.

Mr Gardner began raving about “Gaza, Al Jazeera, war criminals and US b*******” about an hour into the late afternoon flight from Manchester airport. The court heard that he had been drinking to calm his nerves.

Mr Gardner was said to have walked into the galley blocking a hostess’s path while shouting: “We are all going on holiday while kids are dying and us lot don’t give a f***”.

He then racially abused flight attendant Gianni Prodi, calling him a “P*** a***”, and telling him “You can’t tell me what to do, you are the wrong colour.”

Mr Gardner then headbutted Mr Prodi “causing his glasses to dig into his nose”.

Mr Gardner was restrained by airline staff and an off duty solider who was abroad the plane. The court heard that he had to be “tied to two adjoining seats.”

Mr Gardner pleaded guilty to being drunk in an aircraft and racially aggravated assault and was sentenced to 6 months’ in jail.

Sentencing Gardner, Recorder Peter Wright QC told him: “Your behaviour caused concern to both staff and passengers alike. You became racially abusive and violent, such that you needed to be restrained. You behaved in a way that caused passengers to believe you may indeed be suffering from Tourette’s, and one describes you as foaming at the mouth.

“It must have been a most terrifying event for all persons on that aircraft that day.

“Although there is no suggestion the safety of the aircraft was in danger, of course a drunken person behaving in a disorderly and violent way on a flying aircraft creates the possibility of such a development and creates a fear of that developing in to much more serious consequences so far as passengers are concerned.”

Bradford’s local paper, The Telegraph and Argus, reports on the suspended sentence handed to a man who racially abused and assaulted a Muslim taxi driver over a dispute about taxi fare.

Jason Calligan, 31, appeared at Bradford Crown Court yesterday in connection with a charge of racially aggravated common assault on June 20, 2015.

The court heard that Mr Calligan argued with Yasser Iqbal over the £13 fare from Halifax to Queensbury in the early hours of June 20 last year.

Calligan racially abused the driver and “jabbed him in the back” with a hammer shaft. Mr Iqbal was not seriously injured in the attack.

The court heard that a fellow taxi driver who witnessed the incident reported it to the police and Calligan was arrested two months later. Calligan told the court he had no recollection of the incident due to his drunken state. His defence lawyer, Camille Morland, said he was “a hard working man, extremely well thought of by his employer, and a caring father.”

Calligan pled guilty to racially aggravated common assault and was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with a probation service rehabilitation requirement. He was ordered to pay Mr Iqbal £300 compensation.

The Daily Mail and BBC News report that one of the men on trial for the murder of 81 year old Muhsin Ahmed, who was killed after sustaining serious head injuries following a brutal assault, has been found guilty.

Dale Jones, 30, was convicted of murdering Mr Ahmed during a drink and drug fuelled attack at around 3am on 10 August 2015. Mr Jones initially called Mr Ahmed a “groomer” before viciously attacking him in Rotherham.

Ahmed had been walking to the mosque for the dawn prayers when he was assaulted by two men.

According to the prosecution, Mr Jones and his friend, Damien Hunt, 30, allegedly punched, kicked and stamped on Mr Ahmed, as they walked together “stride for stride almost like soldiers”.

The jury at Sheffield Crown Court found Mr Jones guilty of murder. Hunt’s case is under deliberation by a jury and no verdict had been returned so far.

Minutes after the attack took place, Mr Jones met a friend and said: “Eh up Mickey, its a good job tha’s not a P***.” It was also revealed that four months before the murder, Mr Jones expressed racist views when he was interviewed by a probation officer for a football hooliganism offence. Jones told the officer: “Pakistanis make me very angry.” When the officer asked why, he replied: “All P**** are rapists”.

During the two week trial at Sheffield Crown Court, Mr Jones and Mr Hunt blamed each other for the attack, which left the grandfather of 12 with fractures to his eye sockets, jaw and nose.

Prosecuting, Andrew Robertson QC, told the court: “Jones accused him of being a groomer, no doubt his word for paedophile and no doubt an accusation made for no better reason than Mr Ahmed was Asian. He landed punches and kicks on his victim. Mr Ahmed suffered many blows, many kicks and stamps to the face and our case is that Hunt joined in.”

Jones was said to have threatened to kill his girlfriend’s ex-partner and was “prepared to do 35 years” for the crime. He also shouted racist abuse at an Asian taxi driver minutes before the attack on Mr Ahmed, telling the cabbie: “I will pull your f****** black head off.”

CCTV pictures of the incident show both men following Mr Ahmed just before the attack. He was found lying on a patch of grass by a passer by at 5:25am with severe facial injuries and brain damage. He died in hospital 11 days later.

Forensic tests matched a footprint found on Mr Ahmed’s face to trainers worn by Mr Jones, while Mr Hunt’s DNA was found on Mr Ahmed’s dentures, which were dislodged from his mouth during the attack.

Hunt told the court that Mr Jones kicked Mr Ahmed’s head “like it was a football” and “jumped on his head with both feet”. He also claimed that he tried stopping the attack and told the court: “He called him a grooming P***, a P*** b****** and things like that.”

A month later, Mr Jones bragged to a friend that he would not be caught for the murder of Mr Ahmed as he assumed the police did not have any evidence to prosecute him.

vigil was held for Mr Ahmed after his death. His son, Yoseff Ahmed, speaking before his father passed away said: “We hoped that after all these years [my father] would be safe taking his morning walk to prayers, but unfortunately these days society can’t guarantee that to any of us. Should this turn out to be racially motivated we wouldn’t dream of labelling everyone, we need to remember they are criminals of the lowest order.”

Jones is expected to return to Sheffield Crown Court later this week for sentencing.

The Daily Mail reports that a woman who racially abused staff at a kebab shop and bit a customer who intervened when she tried to climb over the shop counter has been spared jail.

Taryn Phillips, 25, was described as “rabid” when she sank her teeth into the arm of another customer, scarring him for life.

Ms Phillips had gone to the Chicken King takeaway on William Street in Aberdare, South Wales, on 31 August 2015 to order mixed meat kebabs but was told the shop had run out. Staff offered Ms Phillips an alternative meal at 2:10am, but Ms Phillips began racially abusing staff saying “F*** you, f*** off back to your own country, you f***ing c****.”

The paper reports that she “became aggressive and threatened to jump over the counter”.

A fellow customer, Robert Pickard, 28, tried to restrain her but Ms Phillips bit him hard on his arm.

Prosecutor Rachel Knight said: “Phillips used her teeth as a weapon and [Pickard] was left with human bite marks. He needed a tetanus injection and his arm is still scarred six months later.”

When arrested the next day by South Wales Police, Ms Phillips said she could not remember the incident as she was drunk.

Ms Phillips was in line for a 16 months jail sentence for actual bodily harm and racially aggravated assault but was spared jail at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court because she has two young children.

Judge Richard Twomlow told Ms Phillips: “Your behaviour was quite appalling, you spoke in a racist manner, spat and bit another customer leaving bite marks on his arm. If it was not for your children you would be going straight to prison. But in the long term it would be them that would suffer.”

Judge Twomlow suspended the 16 months’ jail sentence because of the “exceptional case”.

Ms Phillips was ordered to attend a Ministry of Justice alcohol activity initiative.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has published findings from a new study last week titled “Islamophobia in Dublin: Experiences and how to respond,” detailing Muslim victim experiences of hostility and discrimination in Ireland.

The aim of the report is to help develop an “understanding of experiences of anti-Muslim hostility and discrimination” in Dublin. The report set out to incorporate the “voices of Muslim individuals and community representatives to identify shared themes of preferred actions and supports in the face of anti-Muslim racism” as well as “identify how the immigrant council can work with Muslim communities to effect change at the social and political level.”

From interviews with 66 Muslim men and women from across Dublin, the report identifies recommendations that are “wide-ranging and will require change in almost every area of official policy not just for lawmakers, but for schools, employers, an Garda síochána and many others including civil society organisations such as the immigrant council.”

Focus group participants shared some of their experiences of anti-Muslim verbal abuse, physical assault, criminal damage to property and graffiti. The report notes that abuse manifests itself in various forms including racist slurs and epithets based on stereotypes of Muslims formed by the association of Islam with terrorism. Participants spoke of the simplistic rendering of Muslims in the Irish media “creating a perception that being Irish and Muslim are mutually exclusive categories” while “others identified the media as the main source of, and means, to propagate homogenising, racialised stereotypes of Muslimness which have real effects on the lives of Muslims in Ireland.”

The reports notes that “feelings of distrust and strong, negative perceptions exist among Muslim communities in Ireland toward most media actors,” though not all media actors.

Participants also expressed “a shared perception” that “various media actors have an agenda when it came to Muslim communities: namely to sell copy without due regard for the consequences of their stories.”

The participants recalled being subjected to anti-Muslim hostility through physical assaults, which primarily occurred in public settings, such as streets or on public transport. The reports notes a “distinct security theme emerging in this study in the manner in which Muslim women, predominantly, are pursued in shops and shopping malls, mainly by security guards but also by shop staff. There was a perception among some participants that Muslim and Roma women are singled out because of their ‘non-Irish’ identity.”

Previous research in Ireland, as revealed by the report, established that Muslim women are more than twice as likely to experience anti-Muslim hostility compared to Muslim men. It was demonstrated that visible signs of being a Muslim, such as the hijab, niqab and other items of female clothing were regularly targeted during experiences of anti-Muslim hostility suffered by females in Ireland. This also led participants to feel that visible aspects of being Muslim were incongruent with being Irish, raising important questions about the position of Muslims in Ireland in 2016.

During the focus groups and discussions, two mosques/prayer rooms were reported to have been targeted with graffiti and missiles using bricks and stones. The report concludes that the intent of such acts of criminality was to send a message that Muslims were not welcome in the area.

Throughout the study, participants reported experiencing discrimination in many facets of their lives, including in and accessing education and employment, using public transport as well as during visits to shops and restaurants. In the case of education, participants reported experiencing discrimination in accessing educational institutions as well as during their time in primary and secondary school education based on their faith.

Within the classroom, young Muslim participants recalled experiences of abuse and exclusion within the educational environment by teachers, lecturers and classmates. These included experiences of verbal abuse from classmates and staff, being discriminated against for wearing the hijab and a failure on the part of staff to address Islamophobic racism within the classroom.

The report notes that “the policy to not have a policy vis-à-vis the ability for young Muslim women to manifest their faith in the school context allows for exclusionary practices to manifest, leaving young Irish Muslim women feeling stunned, disappointed and frustrated.”

Discrimination in accessing and during employment was found to have centred on the religious identity of participants, through religious dress, such as the hijab or by their names. Some of the discriminatory practices against Muslim manifested through comments, sometimes framed as “innocent questions”, as well as discriminatory practices, from managers, colleagues and customers/clients. Drawing on previous research, the reports observes “as with the OSI [open Society Institute] study, the hijab appears repeatedly throughout this study as again the focus of employers’ discriminatory practices. so too does the issue of having a ‘non-Irish’ name with participants noting how some change their names to sound more Irish so that they can find employment.”

In  other facets of their lives, such as public transport and visits to shops and restaurants, participants revealed how discrimination manifested itself in the form of poor or no service provisions. Participants also spoke of being profiled by public transport security staff on the basis of their race and religion. A growing theme during the focus groups was how women were a major target of anti-Muslim abuse and discriminatory practices and this was no different during trips to shops and shopping malls, where they recalled being pursued, mainly by security staff and shop staff.

The report notes the “markers of Muslimness, such as the hijab are deemed incongruent with being Irish, raising important questions in terms of what it means to belong in Ireland in 2016.”

The report identifies the emotional cost of anti-Muslim hostility and discrimination noting the reactions of victims as shock, frustration, anger and depression.

It also draw attention to the wider implications of anti-Muslim hostility and discrimination noting that the “stigmatisation of young Muslims in Ireland feeds into the narrative propagated by groups such as Daesh who wish to attract people to their cause” and that this vulnerability “can be challenged by addressing experiences of anti-Muslim hostility and discrimination.”

The study also revealed that there was also a perception among Muslim communities that the police service in Ireland treated “their own” (White, Irish and Catholic) better than those who were regarded as “others” i.e. Muslims. The consequences of such perceptions is the erosion of trust between security services and Muslim communities, leaving Muslims feeling isolated and alienated and unable to turn to the police to protect them when they suffer acts of anti-Muslim abuse.

Participants also revealed a sense of frustration for being held responsible for acts of violence committed abroad by groups such as “Daesh” in the name of their faith. It was also reported that due to high levels of anti-Muslim hysteria in Irish society, young generations of Irish Muslims were suffering from an identity crises.

Despite the level of hostility and discrimination faced by Muslims in Dublin, participants felt a deep bond with Ireland and the city of Dublin. The report notes “experiences of good practice in different spheres of social interaction, namely: when accessing employment; in employment; and in education. The examples discussed in this report are united in that there is a recognition of and positive engagement with diversity. Ihis positive engagement manifested in this research through for example the ability to manifest and practice one’s faith in a welcoming environment. In each instance, the insights shared by participants provide simple yet incredibly important examples of how employers and educational institutions can create an inclusive environment in the work/education context.”

Among recommendations proposed in the report are: Develop public media campaigns that increase the visibility of Muslim men and women in Ireland; Raise awareness among Muslim communities as to where and how people can report experiences of anti-Muslim hostility and discrimination; media training for Muslim communities to equip them with the “tools and the knowhow of how to respond and engage with media outlets”;  psycho-social support;  developing a good practice guide for employers that focuses “on the recognition and facilitation of the needs of Muslim employees set to a legal requirement context”; awareness raising campaigns to “challenge discrimination in the workspace”;  work with the media to “encourage a greater recognition of Muslim diversity”; developing training programmes for An Garda Síochána to tackle racial and religious profiling by the police; tackling selective advantage in the education sector by tackling “legislative permission to discriminate on the basis of faith/no-faith in the context of school enrolment policies; working with civil society organisations to actively lobby government and all political parties for the implementation of hate crime legislation; and and supporting initiatives that are “inclusive of the diversity of Muslims and Islam in Dublin and Ireland”.

The report, authored by Dr James Carr, can be read here.