Monthly Archives: October 2016

The freesheet, The Metro, reproduces an open letter published on Facebook by a Muslim woman from Peterborough who was subjected to different incidents of racial and religious abuse over the summer while going about her daily business.

Umm Yusra, 33, disclosed details of the hate incidents occurring between June and September in a Facebook blog. The mother of two wrote about an incident which happened when she was eight months pregnant and a man in a van drove up alongside her car and shouted “what the f*** is on your head?”

A second incident described in her blog refers to a man who on seeing Umm Yusra struggle to get her shopping in her car while out with her three year old child, said to his girlfriend “Look at that Paki? Look, she can drive too!”

When Umm Yusra looked at the racist, he replied, “Oh, you understand what I’m saying, Paki?”

A third incident related in the blog describes the abuse uttered by a man who saw Umm Yusra walking down the street with her two children, a three year old child and three month old baby, and shouted out at her “F****** terrorist taking over our country with their scarf and mosques.”

In her post, Umm Yusra refers to populist anti-Muslim prejudice emanating from “government and the media”.

“This is not me stereotyping,” she wrote.

“The current political and media narrative of “swarm of immigrants and Muslims taking over Britain” (or the whole West) is being echoed unashamedly by some in public or by some just under the breath and some are just thinking it.

“The way I see it is, that, these people are projecting what they hear; what they hear from the government and the media,” she added.

The Reading Chronicle follows up Friday’s report about suspected racist abuse of Reading FC goalkeeper, Ali Al-Habsi, with news that the Club has suspended the season tickets of a number of fans believed to be implicated in the alleged hate incident.

It is claimed Al-Habsi was subjected to racist chants at an away game on Tuesday between Reading and Arsenal.

Following joint cooperation between the clubs and Thames Valley police, Reading FC stated a number of fans were ejected from the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday evening and are now the subject of an official investigation regarding the “serious allegations”.

It is not revealed what the racist chants were but the local paper notes social media reports suggesting “it was related to ISIS”.

A spokesperson for Reading FC said: “Reading Football Club were made aware of an isolated but allegedly extreme incident of foul and abusive behaviour from a small number of individuals who were amongst the away supporters at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.

“Each of the individuals have been informed by Reading Football Club that their Season Tickets at Madejski Stadium have been suspended with immediate effect, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation. During the course of this investigation, these individuals will not be welcome at Madejski Stadium nor will they be permitted to purchase tickets to any of our away fixtures.

“As the vast majority of our fans understand, behaviour of the nature which has been alleged is entirely unacceptable and not welcome in football or within our community. It is also not what this football club expects of its supporters.”

ITV News and The Chronicle report on the suspended sentence handed to a man who racially abused a Sudanese asylum seeker accusing him of being a “terrorist”, a “bomber”, a “member of ISIS” and of carrying a knife on a metro train.

Tony Browning, 33, pulled the emergency brake on a moving train in Newcastle after launching the rant against the Sudanese passenger and threatening to hit him.

Browning told the 25 year old victim to “get off the train” insisting he was carrying a “needle or a knife,” suggesting he posed a threat to public safety.

The unfounded accusations led to police being called and questioning the victim.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister told Newcastle Crown Court the victim spoke very little English and answered “yes” to every question asked by the officers.

“Having said yes, police handcuffed him and searched him. No knife was found.

“The carriage was searched and no knife was found. Clearly, he did not have any sort of weapon,” Pallister said.

The court heard from one witness who said Browning also shouted abuse at black passengers before he pressed the emergency brake

The incident has left the victim frightened of travelling by public transport and he now worries about a similar situation happening again.

Browning admitted causing racially aggravated harassment.

Judge Amanda Rippon told Browning: “You abused a young man on a Metro train in this city, who was doing no more than minding his own business, travelling as he was entitled to.

“You abused him not just generally, but racially, making reference to the colour of his skin, calling him a terrorist, accusing him of having a weapon and frightening him.

“The poor complainant ended up being handcuffed for a short time while police searched for a weapon you said he had, which he never did.”

The court heard Browning had 113 previous convictions. In mitigation, Vic Laffey said his client had “never acted in a racist way in the past” despite the long record of offences. Laffey said: “He is at a loss to explain why he acted in such a reckless way on this particular day.”

Browning was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and programme requirements. He was also fined £25 for breach of a previous suspended sentence.

Superintendent Sarah Pitt, speaking after the trial, said: “We take reports of hate crime incredibly seriously and won’t tolerate it happening in our communities.”

The Reading Chronicle reports on an expected announcement by Reading Football Club in connection with allegations of racist abuse directed at the club’s goalkeeper, Ali Al-Habsi, during a football match on Tuesday night.

Reading FC were defeated 2-0 at the away game with Arsenal on Tuesday.

The local paper reports on social media postings which suggested Al-Habsi was subjected to “racist chants” by fans.

The newspaper states Reading FC have yet to confirm the allegations but it is expected the club will make an announcement about probable action against the fans responsible for the abuse.

The Reading Chronicle notes information that has come to its attention suggesting “Fans who shouted racist chants towards Reading FC goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi are set to face hefty punishment from the club.”

Ali Al-Habsi is an Omani national who plays for Reading and captains Oman’s national team. It is not the first time the Muslim footballer has faced racist abuse on the field.

Last year, pensioner Jack Aldis sought to have a sentence overturned after being convicted of using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour during a match between Wigan Athletic and Burnley in April 2014. Al-Habsi, one of those taunted by Aldis, was goalkeeper for Wigan at the time. Aldis launched an appeal against his sentence in June 2015 but failed. Aldis was also banned by Burnley FC following the criminal trial.

The Exmouth Journal reports on the trial of a man who racially abused staff at a takeaway shop in Exmouth town centre calling them “foreigners” and “using a word which suggested they were of Pakistani origin.”

Samuel Tigwell, 25, appeared at Exeter Crown Court via video link from Portland Prison where he is currently serving a two year sentence for threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend.

The court heard Tigwell was passed out drunk in the centre of Exmouth on April 25, when he was woken up by a concerned passer-by.

The court heard Tigwell awoke only to walk into a fast food shop and start racially abusing the staff.

Staff at the takeaway shop called police who found Tigwell in possession of a knife.

Paul Grumbar, defending, told the court Tigwell was “completely out of it” and “did not represent a danger to anyone because he was so drunk he did not know where he was.”

Tigwell admitted racially aggravated threatening behaviour and possession of a knife.

Recorder Mr Donald Tait adjourned the case for sentencing next week. Tigwell will again appear before the court via video link.

The Guardian today reports on a letter sent to the chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), Sir Alan Moses, by a group of MPs and peers in relation to the column by The Sun’s political editor and Ipso board member, Trevor Kavanagh, earlier this week rebuking Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji for her complaint against fellow Sun columnist, Kelvin MacKenzie.

The group of parliamentarians, numbering around forty, have written to Ipso seeking “urgent clarification on whether you believe that Mr Kavanagh’s public attack on a complainant to Ipso is in breach of the expectations of an independent press regulator, and whether his position on the board remains tenable.”

The letter expresses concern about Mr Kavanagh’s “public attack” on a complainant “which could potentially deter future complainants” and observes his continued presence on the press regulator’s board could jeopardise the regulator’s ability to perform its role “investigat[ing] complaints about printed and online material that may breach the editors’ code.”

While the intervention by the group of MPs and peers is to be lauded for positive action in the face of an awful piece of commentary by Kelvin MacKenzie denigrating a Muslim journalist for merely doing her job, and an equally derisory piece by Kavanagh where he labelled Manji’s performance “provocative” because she wears a headscarf, one has to wonder at the antecedents to the intervention.

For example, while the letter makes reference to Mr Kavanagh’s most recent comment piece and questions his suitability as a board member of the press regulator, Kavanagh’s past record is just as illustrative of incompatibility with Ipso’s role in “investigat[ing] complaints about printed and online material that may breach the editors’ code.”

Take an article published in January 2013 about the Algerian hostage crisis in which Kavanagh wrote about “hundreds of thousands of Malians, Iraqis, Syrians, Somalis, Kenyans, Nigerians, Yemenis and Pakistanis” all living in the UK, not all of whom are “grateful” and many of whom “are becoming outspokenly defiant”.

He went on to state: “Some have colonised suburbs in major cities. One London borough is so staunchly Muslim it has become known as the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets.

“Last week, hooded gangs of self-appointed religious police roamed Muslim populated suburbs ordering women to cover up and confiscating liquor.”

Kavanagh’s dreadful hyperbole and blatant inaccuracies were challenged by Professor Rob Ford of Manchester University who, in a blog on the New Statesman, described it as “irresponsible rabble-rousing of the worst kind”.

Ford wrote: “This kind of evidence-free, stereotype-laden assault on the British Muslim community has got to stop. In an era when all the relevant evidence is available at the click of a mouse, it is not acceptable for a senior journalist at the nation’s most read paper to make demonstrably false claims about one of its largest minority communities.”

So a senior journalist known for getting away with writing “demonstrably false claims” sits on the board of the press regulator that is tasked with “investigat[ing] complaints about printed and online material that may breach the editors’ code”, primary among them being Clause 1: Accuracy?

The letter from the MPs and peers is certainly welcome but might we have a little more rigour and consistency about the quality of print media regulation we currently have, openness about its limitations, and more robust interventions from parliamentarians to push for a Leveson-compliant regulator?

This week The Times reported the Government is to backtrack on its commitment to enforce Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which would invoke one of Lord Leveson’s chief recommendations, that an incentive be provided to publishers to join the approved regulator. Lord Justice Leveson affirmed the need for self regulation stating the regulatory system should disincentivise remaining outside the approved regulator by placing a burden of punitive costs in the event of an adverse ruling on a breach of the code of practice. With Section 40 looking like it will be put on the back burner, political pressure to bring into being a proper system of press self-regulation is more urgent than ever.

We hope the group of forty will stay on the case.

The Oxford Mail reports on the sentencing of a man convicted of religiously aggravated assault at Oxford magistrates’ court this week.

Simon Clover, 48, was convicted of assault by beating of victim Muhammad Adnan in Abingdon on 11 June. The offence was religiously aggravated.

Clover was handed a community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to complete an 150 hour unpaid work requirement. He was also ordered to pay £150 compensation, an £85 victim surcharge and £620 in costs.

The Evening StandardDaily Mail and Daily Star all report on The Times’ story on Monday on research suggesting animals are needlessly suffering under unstunned slaughter methods because of “Muslim ignorance”.

The Times article, ‘Animals dying in pain because of Muslim ignorance over stunning’, presented research conducted by academics at Bristol University who interviewed “Islamic scholars at 29 mosques, 15 Islamic centres and six Islamic schools” and “more than 300 halal consumers”.

Whether such a small sample could render results suitable for wider generalisation is open to question given that there are over 1000 mosques in the UK, all of whom have a variable quality of Islamic “scholar” running them and the British Muslim population is close to 3 million.

Nevertheless, the newspaper derives the basis for its headline from the results of the interviews which show “Sixty nine per cent of scholars answered “no” when asked whether they agreed that stunning prior to slaughter had been shown to reduce the pain felt by animals.”

The article continues, “300 halal consumers asked the same question were more likely than scholars to accept that research had shown stunning did reduce pain, with 58 per cent saying no.”

It is worth contrasting the abstract from the journal article with the headline in The Times. While the newspaper focuses its coverage on data from the research survey on the number of scholars and consumers who are not aware of stunning lessening pain felt by animals, the researchers present one of their key findings as: “The majority of scholars (> 95%) and consumers (53%) said reversible stunning is Halal compliant.”

The Times buries this piece of detail in paragraph fifteen of the article.

The Times mentions “numerous experiments over the past 35 years” which have “demonstrated” the “humaneness” of pre-stunning.

Interestingly, though not all that surprisingly, the entire focus of the article is on Muslims despite religious slaughter being a ritual practiced assiduously by observant Jews as much as it is by observant Muslims. There is a single mention of Jews in the article, in a sentence reiterating the UK’s exempting religious slaughter from EU regulations on pre-stunning of animals slaughtered for food.

The article presents no counter-factual evidence to test the claims of the study, nor does it invite contesting opinion in an area that is fraught with contrasting views. For example, in the report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb, ‘Meat Slaughtered in Accordance with Religious Rites’, among the questions examined by MPs were: “Is there a difference in the pain experienced by an animal killed without stunning versus one killed with stunning?” and “What scientific evidence is available to support the position that one method is more humane than another method?”.

The group’s findings are interesting given both the evidence presented to it and the recommendations advanced by the MPs.

The APPG report pointed to the permissibility of shechita (kosher) slaughter in the US as a humane form of slaughter in its own right, and not as a derogation. It further noted research conducted by the University of Hanover in Germany which indicated that religious slaughter is a humane method.

Other evidence presented by advocates of religious slaughter was harm caused to animals by “mis-stunning”, something that was taken up in the report’s recommendations with MPs urging statistical data on mis-stunning as well as mis-slaughtering in both stunned and non-stunned animals be made available to the public.

The APPG report highlighted an interesting point of detail raised by the Veterinary Adviser to Defra in relation to research conducted on pain suffered by animals at slaughter. Rebeca Garcia Pinillos stated that much of the department’s research focussing on pain at slaughter had been done in conjunction with halal slaughter and not shechita slaughter. The available research, from Defra and now the University of Bristol, perhaps explains the heavy emphasis on halal meat in debates about how humane religious slaughter is despite the practice not being exclusive to Muslims.

It is fascinating to observe the frequency with which religious slaughter is singularly associated with Islam when, according to a HoC library briefing paper from February 2015 on ‘Religious slaughter of animals’, figures from 232 red meat slaughterhouses and 69 white meat slaughterhouses in September 2013 found that “2% of cattle, 15% of sheep and goats and 3% of poultry were not stunned prior to slaughter in accordance with religious rites.”

The briefing paper also noted, “No animals slaughtered by the Shechita (Jewish) method were stunned. The 2015 survey found that 75% of cattle were stunned before halal slaughter, 63% of sheep and goats and 84% of halal poultry was pre-stunned.”

Pre-stunning of animals would appear to be practiced a majority of the time, something The Times does acknowledge in the caption “The majority of halal meat is from stunned animals.” But one wonders whether the caption is enough to deflect attention from the headline itself which is more damning of Muslims?

In its 2014 report, the APPG on Beef and Lamb recommended more research be done to address the “knowledge deficit” on “whether or not the cut is painful.”

It would be helpful if such research were disseminated in ways that are not demonstrably biased against Muslims.

To appreciate the impact of the bias, one need only review some of the 1,200 comments appended to the MailOnline article. There are multiple references to “banning” halal meat and referring to religious slaughter as “barbaric”.

The Evening Standard reports on yet another case of a Muslim woman being targeted in an alleged hate crime with news of a 25 year old victim who wears a headscarf being subjected to racist abuse abroad the Overground service from Stratford station.

The regional paper reports the incident happened on 4 October on a train heading to Highbury and Islington.

The woman was bombarded with a “tirade of abuse” from the man sitting next to her. The man is alleged to have made “offensive and threatening comments” to the victim.

When another man intervened to assist her, the perpetrator is said to have “threatened to hit the woman.”

The suspect is described as black with short dreadlocks and is believed to have been wearing a dark top and large on-ear headphones during the assault.

PC Roy Ward branded the attempted attack “intimidating” and said it has left the victim “shaken”.

He added: “Other passengers in the carriage saw this incident and we appeal for them to come forward. I am especially keen to speak to the man who intervened and tried to help the young woman.”

Anyone with any Information about the incident in Stratford is asked to call BTP on 0800 40 50 40, or text 61016, quoting reference 178 of 4/10 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The Evening Standard reports on a woman who chased her husband’s attacker along the platform at Upton Park tube station after an alleged racist assault on the train on Monday 17 October.

Kilian Ahmed, 35, shouted out at the man and chased him along the platform after her husband, Jubair Ahmed, was verbally abused and struck on the face when they boarded an eastbound District Line train.

The couple were on their way home to Barking and boarded the train at Whitechapel.

Jubair told the paper, “When we boarded and sat down he was shouting and swearing, I didn’t look at him because I knew maybe it was dangerous.

“He come [sic] over to us as we approached East Ham station and started swearing at me. He was shouting in front of me.”

Jubair said that as the train approached Upton Park station, it looked as if the man was going to disembark but just before he did, he stuck Mr Ahmed on the cheek and made off down the platform.

Jubair’s wife, Kilian made chase and footage of her running down the platform was captured on a smartphone.

In an interview with the Bengali language broadcaster, Channel S, Kilian said: “I talked to this man, I say, ‘Why you touch my husband?’ This man tell me, ‘Shut up, shut up, please, shut up’.

“I say, ‘I not shut up, why you touch my husband? Why?’ It’s rude, because why touch my husband.”

Jubair, who moved to London from Bangladesh in 2011 said he has experienced difficulty eating since the incident because of pain to his jaw.

British Transport Police have confirmed the arrest of a 33 year old man on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and using threatening and abusive words and behaviour. He has been bailed until November 14.