Monthly Archives: March 2017

Chronicle Live reported yesterday on how the sentencing of a man accused of ripping off a woman’s niqab in a shopping centre had been delayed. 55-year-old Peter Scotter of Sunderland was set to appear at Newcastle Crown Court after he admitted to the charges of racially aggravated assault and racially aggravated harassment. The incident occurred in July 2016 at The Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland, and included Mr. Scotter shouting racist abuse at a 39-year-old Muslim woman, telling her “you’re in our country now, you stupid ******* Muslim.” He was also heard telling her that in Britain “you live by our ******* rules.” 

The hearing was adjourned by the judge after it was revealed he needed to undergo cancer treatment. Although Mr. Scotter plead guilty to the charges, his sentencing was delayed until May 2017.

The Sunderland Echo reported on the same day that his victim, a Muslim mother of four who came to Britain 30 years ago from Bangladesh, voiced her hopes that he would not go to prison. She said she did not seek “any kind of revenge” for what he had done to her, and that she hoped he would “live the rest of his life in peace and tolerance, not anger and bitterness.” She also admitted that since the attack she no longer felt safe going out, but that she would not allow “anger and ignorance” to stop her from following her beliefs.

We are shocked and saddened by the act of mindless violence that took place at Westminster and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and with those that were injured during this incident.

This act of violence is utterly deplorable and one that will find no room in any community. We stand firmly against anyone who wishes to use this tragic incident to create fear and divisions in our society.

Only last weekend over 30,000 people marched in solidarity against all forms of hate, and we reiterate our commitment to stand up to racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate.

Together with Stand Up To Racism, MEND is organising unity vigils across the country in a show of solidarity with those who have lost loved ones, those that have been injured and to say no to hate and division.

 

Dr Shazad Amin (CEO, MEND)

The Middle East Eye reported yesterday on comments made by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, noted for being the first British Muslim woman to have held a cabinet post in the UK government. In an interview for the Sunday Times on 19 March ahead of the release of her book The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain on 30 March, Baroness Warsi described being a Muslim in public life as a “brutal” experience and urged Prime Minister Theresa May to publicly condemn Islamophobia.

Baroness Warsi left David Cameron’s cabinet in 2014 in protest at his failure to condemn the assault on Gaza by Israeli forces. She has also been an open critic of the government’s Prevent agenda, describing it as “broken” and “toxic.” She described the Conservative party as forming a state that is “crazy” and “paranoid,” and claimed that one of Prevent’s failings is that it places a huge emphasis on ideology as the catalyst for extremism, rather than taking into account a range of different factors, including family alienation, confusion over sexual identity and previous criminal convictions.

Tim Shipman, the journalist who conducted the interview, described Baroness Warsi’s views as being regarded as “dangerously at odds” with her colleagues. However, conservative journalist Peter Oborne described Warsi’s book as a “hard-headed, well-informed and intellectually coherent analysis of policy towards British Islam.”

The Daily Record reported on 20 March that a Conservative election candidate was suspended for allegedly posting anti-Islamic messages on her Twitter account on 28 February. 30-year-old Roxana Iancu was accused of posting a picture of a coin with the caption “This 2000 year old coin says Israel on it,” followed by the statement “No sign of so-called Palestine. Say something w******.” Ms. Iancu was due to stand for the Conservatives at Glasgow city council’s Govan ward during elections in May 2017. However, she was told by the Glasgow Conservative association that she was to be deselected and suspended.

Ms. Iancu insisted that she did not post the comment, and that she had many Muslim friends and that she respected them “and all religions.” She has also campaigned against anti-Semitism. However the Conservative Party has reportedly stood by their belief that the tweet came from her, with a spokesman describing it as “unacceptable and offensive.” Ms. Iancu is reportedly exploring whether she can stand for the election as an independent candidate.

The news comes 10 days after another Tory candidate in Scotland was accused of publishing offensive comments on his Facebook account. George McIntyre was due to stand for the Conservatives in local elections in May in the Midlothian ward, but was suspended by the party after it was revealed that in October 2013 he had posted an online rant claiming that, among other things, Muslims concerned about the presence of pork in anti-flu vaccines should stop “whinging” and move to another country. A party spokesman said that the comments were “clearly unacceptable,” and that he had been suspended with “immediate effect.” However, the Scottish National Party raised questions over the rigorousness of the Conservatives’ vetting procedures and suggested it was inappropriate for Mr. McIntyre to have been allowed to stand as a council candidate at all.

The Guardian is among several news outlets reporting on the ruling from the European Court of Justice stating that companies may be allowed to ban the hijab as part of internal rules prohibiting political, philosophical or religious symbols in the workplace.

The ruling follows the cases of Samira Achbita and Asma Bougnaoui, two Muslim women dismissed from their jobs for refusing to remove their headscarves at work.

Achbita was sacked from her role as a receptionist for the Belgian branch of G4S, the multinational outsourcing and security company. She had worked for the company for three years before deciding she wanted to wear the headscarf at work. She was fired in June 2006 after refusing to take off her scarf. The company said it had fired her for breaking “unwritten rules prohibiting religious symbols”.

In Achbita’s case, the court ruled that an internal rule which “prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination”.

Bougnaoui, a design engineer, was fired from French IT consultancy firm Micropole after a customer complained that his staff had been “embarrassed” by her headscarf while she was on their premises giving advice. Bougnaoui was asked to stop wearing her headscarf “to maintain neutrality” after the customer’s complaint, but refused and was dismissed from her position.

The court’s adviser said Bougnaoui had been discriminated against, as she had been “professionally competent” and sacked only because she had refused to remove her headscarf.

The court stated that banning employees from wearing religious symbols when in contact with customers was discrimination, especially when it only applied to Islamic headscarves.

The court’s ruling was met with disappointment from the Open Society Justice Initiative, who supported the women. Maryam H’madoun, the initiative’s police officer, said the ruling would “disproportionately affect Muslim women”, while also impacting Jewish or Sikh men wearing kippahs or turbans and Christians who wear crosses.

Local news outlet Exeter Express and Echo reports on the sentencing of a man who racially abused a homeless woman outside a cinema in Exeter in December 2016.

James Brett, 29, admitted racially aggravated harassment after shouting and swearing at the woman and a man who were sleeping rough on the steps of Exeter’s Odeon Cinema.

Brett had been out drinking and shouted ‘get out you P***!’ and ‘you need to get out of our f****** country’ at his black victim.

Katherine Todd, defending, told Exeter magistrates court Brett had been a rough sleeper himself in the past and was ‘utterly ashamed of himself’.

Brett was fined £110 by magistrates who said the racial element of his abuse was ‘beyond the pale’.

 Nike has revealed its plans to make global sports more inclusive for women with the introduction of a performance hijab to better serve Muslim female athletes — the Nike Pro Hijab.

Available from next year in both dark and neutral colours, the pull-on hijab is made of a single layer of thin, stretchy fabric that includes tiny holes for breathability and an elongated back so that it will not come untucked during competitions.

Zahra Lari, the United Arab Emirates’ first international figure skater, posted on Instagram that she is “super excited” to be involved in Nike’s campaign and is already wearing the hijab on the ice.

In an interview with Vogue Arabia she further added that: “People may think or tell you that you can’t do certain things, but I’m going to show them you absolutely can. I am covered, I am Muslim, I am from a desert country, and I’m doing a winter sport.”

According to Nike+ Run Club Coach Manal Rostom, “There are a lot of…women and girls who are breaking barriers. For me growing up, though, I never had these women to look up to. I had to break these barriers for myself.” 

With the profile of hijab-wearing women entering the premium fashion subconscious and the professional sportswear market catering to the Muslim women, developments in women’s clothing are suggestive of a dedicated movement towards inclusivity.

The Evening Express reports that 13 projects have been selected to receive funding from a total of £40,000 allocated to tackling Islamophobia in Edinburgh.

The money contributed by Police Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government is designed to deliver projects which reduce prejudice and foster positive relationships between the city’s diverse communities.

Following the initial application stage in late 2016, 35 projects were short-listed, with each applying for a maximum of £5,000 in funding. Over 2,500 local people voted on the projects in January and February as part of the ‘Shared Vision – Your Decision’ initiative.

Local councillor Maureen Child praised the scheme, saying it is a “great example of the positive work being carried out across the city with partners to promote equality and tackle Islamophobia.”

Hopefully the funds will provide a welcome boost to Edinburgh’s estimated 15,000 strong Muslim community. Earlier this week police appealed for information following a racist attack on a local Bangladeshi taxi driver while the city’s largest mosque, Edinburgh Central Mosque, was attacked by an arsonist last September.

As Edinburgh taxi driver, Sikondor Ullah, was picking up a fare on Sunday evening, a group of male and female 14-20 year olds allegedly dragged Mr Ullah from his vehicle, before smashing his windscreen and stealing his evening’s earnings, as well as his car and house keys.

Mr Ullah claims that the group had previously forced him to stop his car earlier in the evening, before proceeding to steal items from his boot. “During the first attack, they were laughing and screaming and I thought they were just messing about,” states Mr Ullah.

However, in describing the second alleged attack, where one of the group jumped onto his bonnet in order to stamp on his windscreen, he said that: “I was so frightened, they knew by this time I was Asian and they came back and were making racist abuse, calling me names… I couldn’t sleep at all that night, neither did my wife or daughter. We live in the area as well. I don’t know whether I can carry on as a driver, going out at night now.”

Police said they wanted to speak to witnesses to the assault and robbery, which took place in West Pilton Place, Edinburgh. The taxi was first approached close to the road’s junction with Crewe Road Gardens at around 6.55pm on Sunday. The man who jumped on the taxi was white, tall, of slim build and wearing a red top.

The local residents’ association, Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse (TRIM), and Friends of West Pilton, said that this incident is part on an ongoing problem and is demanding a meeting with Holyrood’s justice secretary, Michael Matheson.

Thanks to a request from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) has relaxed its swimsuit regulations meaning that Muslim women swimmers and women suffering from pre-existing medical conditions now have the right to race in loose-fitting, full-body outfits.

Rimla Akhtar, from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, stated that: “Participation in sport amongst Muslim women is increasing at a rapid pace. It is imperative that governing bodies adapt and tailor their offerings to suit the changing landscape of sport, including those who access their sport.”

 Until now, full-body suits like those worn by Olympians have been banned, due to their performance-enhancing benefits in helping to streamline the shape of the body.

The new guidance, which only applies to amateur competitions in England, states that competitors will not be allowed to wear any suit that a competition referee believes will increase performance. However, should the swimmer choose to wear a loose fitting suit, the referee is not required to question the swimmer further, and the ASA do not want athletes being asked about their reasonings for wearing such a suit. 

In a statement, Chris Bostock, chairman of the ASA sport governing board, said: “This is a very positive step forward for competitive swimming in England and one that we hope will encourage many more people to take part… By changing these rules we hope to encourage a new generation of swimmers.”