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Following complaints by MEND, The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and members of Britain’s Muslim community, The Times has changed its appalling headline regarding the murder of Imam Jalal Uddin who was brutally beaten to death last Thursday. The graphic above shows the reference to ‘sex grooming’ in the headline prior to the complaints and the absence of ‘sex grooming’ after the complaints.

In his complaints to the Times, The Chief constable commented “Your headline and its irrelevance to this case has the potential to cause community tension.  It is also offensive to the thousands of peaceful and law-abiding Muslims and non-Muslims living in Rochdale who are shocked by this murder”.

Following the amendment by the Times, MEND Founder Sufyan Ismail, in a response to the Times commented “For your paper, to link this tragic murder to ‘sex grooming’ problems which may exist in certain parts of Rochdale, when even the Police have yet to conclude on the motive, was at best truly distasteful and at worst a total mockery of this abhorrent crime and deeply disrespectful to the deceased and his family. I am therefore pleased that you have acted swiftly in amending the headline”.

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Letter from Ian Hopkins, The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police

Letter

The 5 Pillars of Islamophobia

Between 14 and 17 September 2015, MEND organised a speaking tour with Professor David Miller, co-founder of Spinwatch, to explore the findings from his most recent publication on ‘The Henry Jackson Society and the degeneration of British Neo-conservatism: Liberal interventionism, Islamophobia and the War on Terror’ and investigative research examining the players, modalities and strategies of the Counter-Jihad Network.

Professor Miller had his research team have identified ‘The 5 Pillars of Islamophobia’ and drawing on this work, MEND initiated a tour to disseminate the research findings among Muslim communities for the purposes of public awareness and enhancing public debate, equipping Muslim communities with a knowledge base to challenge Islamophobic narratives and the players who perpetuate them, and to engage with local communities more widely at a time when one of the identified pillars of Islamophobia, counter-extremism policy, was creating considerable unease among communities with the introduction of a new statutory duty on Prevent and its implications for a host of services delivered by local councils and other statutory bodies.

image 1As an NGO dedicated to challenging Islamophobia and improving Muslim participation in media and politics, the speaking tour was a new campaign among our established campaigns and projects on Muslim community engagement and development. We run regular workshops on media and political literacy and a workshop on Islamophobia: Causes and Cures with the sole purpose of capacity building in local communities. Training local community organisations to tackle anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice is one of our stated aims and the ‘5 Pillars of Islamophobia Tour’ was devised to build on this existing work utilising Professor Miller’s recent research.

The tour was hugely successful with high attendance and an even higher volume of online engagement facilitated by our social media team, which was present at all tour locations.

The tour visited four UK cities (attendance figure in brackets): London (249), Leicester (70), Leeds (130) and Manchester (183).

MEND_Spinwatch_Over the course of the four days, public engagement on our social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, related to the tour specifically, looked like this:

  • On Twitter, there were 604 Retweets (average of 151 RT per day) with our Twitter reach spanning 110,243 impressions (average of 27,561 per day).
  • On Facebook, the reach of our posts over the course of the tour was 73,829, an average of 18,457 per day).

Some sample messages posted on our pages from participants; online and in attendance, are reproduced below.

Media coverage of the Spinwatch tour can be read on the following links:

Ilford Recorder, 18 September 2015

Socialist Worker, 22 September 2015

We hope to build on this initial work with a follow up tour next year visiting new cities and further disseminating the findings from the research on the Counter-Jihad Network. With the growing threat to Muslim communities in the UK and Europe from counter-extremism policies and their expansion into new areas of civil rights, and the resurgence of far right activity across Europe, we hope to continue to inform and educate civil society, particularly British Muslim citizens, about the Counter-Jihad Network and the 5 Pillars of Islamophobia the better to train them to tackle threats to their faith identity and to individual and collective security.

 

As salaamu alaykum,

As many of you may know, the Government’s proposed Counter-terrorism and Security Bill (CTSB) is nearing the end of its passage through Parliament with a view to becoming legislation very shortly.

The Counter-terrorism and Security Bill raises many, grave concerns for British Muslims and despite determined efforts by MEND and some members of the House of Lords to table amendments to address the hugely negative, and quite probably counter-productive, impact of this Bill on Muslim communities, the Government has not moved enough on the Bill.  Some of the key concerns are:

  • Passports can be seized for up to 30 days.
  • Temporary exclusion orders mean you could be banned from the UK for up to 2 years.
  • You can also be excluded from your own trial when trying to defend your right to return to the UK
  • The doomed Prevent policy to become a statutory duty on local councils, universities, schools, nurseries, healthcare sector etc
  • Entire nationalities of Muslim passengers potentially banned from entering the UK

What you must do:

  1. Write to your MP today – click here to send an email to your MP in 3 easy steps.  A template letter is given below. Please adapt from it and email to your MP.
  2. Please visit your MP at his/her local surgery this weekend or at least call them at their Westminster office and tell him//her you want them to reject the Bill. You can call the House of Commons switchboard and ask for your MPs office on 020 7219 3000.
  3. Make it clear to your MP that you cannot and will not support a candidate in the coming election who will not stand up for Muslims’ civil and political rights.

Dear [MP]

I am writing to express my huge disappointment at the Government’s approach to counter-terrorism and its proposed new powers contained in the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill.

I have been alarmed since the publication of the Prime Minister’s Extremism Taskforce report in December 2013 at the prospect, then suggested, of introducing a statutory duty on a range of public authorities to comply with the Prevent strategy or face sanction.

The Counter-terrorism and Security Bill will foster a climate of deep suspicion around British Muslims and will subject young Muslims to thought control from nursery age through to university graduation and beyond. It will leave Muslims vulnerable to passport seizure, exile from their home in Britain, internal exile under relocation orders, and compromised in their access to public services provided by local councils, healthcare authorities, hospital, university or prison chaplaincies etc.

This is a recipe doomed to failure. A previous Government expended huge amounts of public money attempting the same and what have we got to show for it: a disenfranchised, alienated and demonised Muslim minority whose civil and political rights have been steadily eroded. At the same time, the terrorism threat stands at severe and an increasing number of young people are being referred under counter-terrorism intervention measures or are going abroad to engage in bloody conflict.

If we do not pay heed to the fact that no strategy can succeed that works against Muslims, who want nothing more than to enjoy the liberties other British citizens take for granted, we will be doomed to repeating and magnifying the problems we currently face.

Counter-terrorism policy has already failed a generation of Muslims. With the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill, we will fail several more generations.

I urge you please, do not support this Bill. Muslims are the greater casualties of terrorism; in numbers killed and in retaliatory attacks. They should not be the greater casualty of poorly constructed counter-terrorism policy.

The collective security of Britons is too important an issue to be rushed through Parliament at breakneck speed with no regard for the consideration of consequences. We deserve a counter-terrorism policy that meets human rights obligations and protects British citizens, through full and proper judicial safeguards, against the draconian powers of the State.

Yours sincerely,

Parliament today took the historic decision to recognize the state of Palestine. The vote was won by 274 to 12 after a lengthy debate in the House of Commons.

The motion passed stated:

“That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.”

The initial motion proposed by Grahame Morris MP was amended to include the words “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.

The UK’s official position is that the Government, “reserves the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace”.

With little progress in peace negotiations over the last few years despite a concerted effort by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the recent announcement of more illegal settlements to be built on Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories and the Israeli incursion into Gaza this summer, with the huge loss of Palestinian civilian lives, the motion on recognising Palestine underscores the importance of our acknowledging that the moment “when it can best help bring about peace” is now.

Palestine-PollThe Labour party imposed a 3 line whip ensuring that those MPs attending the debate would vote for the motion. Conservative ministers abstained from voting though a number of Conservative MPs, Crispin Blunt and the Rt. Hon. Alan Duncan among them, attended the debate and supported the motion. Liberal Democrats ministers also abstained from the debate though backbench MPs from both Coalition parties enjoyed a free vote on the issue.

Although today’s vote is not binding on the Government, the issue of recognition is a symbolic gesture which affirms parliamentary and public support for the Palestinian state. At a time when illegal settlement activity continues apace in the occupied territories and the peace process is at an impasse, today’s vote recognising the state of Palestine brings a new impetus for peace.

MEND would like to thank all the MPs who voted for the motion and all the members of the public who supported it but we should be reminded that the backbench motion, though significant, has no binding power. As we approach general elections next year, all those in support of a Government position favouring recognition must look to party manifestos and the pledges of party leaders for a shift the UK’s official position. So while we celebrate the incredible symbolic victory achieved today let us not lose sight of the greater challenge ahead

View information about this debate and find out how the votes were placed in the link below:

Recogising the State of Palestine debate

Dear Readers,

On Monday 13 October the House of Commons will debate an important motion calling on the Government to recognise the state of Palestine. The motion to be debated and, crucially, voted upon, by MPs states:

“That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”

Support for statehood recognition – Labour:

  • Palestinian statehood has been acknowledged as a ‘right’ by the Labour leadership with shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander saying: “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised”.
  • More recently, Labour party leader Ed Miliband spoke on the subject in his leader’s address at party conference this year saying that he would“fight with every fibre of my being to get the two state solution, two states for two people, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side”.

Support for statehood recognition – Conservative:

  • The Conservative Middle East Council has also supported recognition for the state of Palestine both at the time of the UN vote in 2011 and more recently, in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph.
  • Moreover, in an op-ed piece in the Daily Telegraph, the UK’s Consul-General in Jerusalem 2010-2014,Sir Vincent Fean, wrote of the historic and primary responsibility the UK bears in recognising Palestine. He wrote, “Britain is uniquely placed to give a lead by recognising Palestine now, just as we recognised Israel in 1950. Where we lead, Europe will follow – and there is urgency.”

Support for statehood recognition – Liberal Democrats:

Lib Dems have urged tougher action on settlements, arms sales and on EU relations with Israel since entering Government. Senior LD MPs are said to be pushing for a policy on recognition.

What you must do:

  1. Visit your MP at his/her weekly surgery and tell him/her that you want them to vote in favour of the motion for debate on Monday 13 October to recognise the state of Palestine. Remember there are only a few days remaining before the vote, so you must visit your local MP’s surgery meeting soon.
  2. Click on the link to send your MP an email detailing why you want him/her to support the motion.  Feel free to use some of your text above in this email to make your case. Link here.
  3. Share the link with your family and friends on social media and urge them to act on it and send the letter to their MP – together we can make this happen.

The_sun
Assalamu Alaikum

You will be aware that the man apprehended for the murder of Palmira Silva in Edmonton, north London, on Thursday 4 September, Nicholas Salvador, is reported to be a Muslim convert according to sources quoted by various newspapers.  The sources have not been verified or corroborated, for example, the Imam who presided over the conversion ceremony has not been identified or spoken about the alleged conversion to Islam of Nicholas Salvador five years ago.

The unverified claims did not prevent The Sun newspaper from splashing the headline ”Muslim convert’ beheads woman in garden’ on its front page on Friday 5 September.

Whether the claims of Salvador being a Muslim or are true or not, the Editors’ Code of Practice prohibits newspapers from disclosing an individual’s religious identity unless ‘genuinely relevant’ to the story.

It is difficult to see what bearing Salvador’s religious identity had on the crimes of which he is accused – reports refer to his gambling and history of drug and alcohol abuse.

What you can do

EITHER

  1. Write to the Editor of The Sun at david.dinsmore@the-sun.co.ukand complain that it is beyond belief that the newspaper would stoke anti-Muslim prejudice with a front page cover deliberately invoking Muslim identity when there was no probable cause to regard it as remotely relevant.
  1. Write to the Press Complaints Commission at complaints@pcc.org.uk with a complaint citing a breach of Clause 12, Article (ii) of the Editors’ Code of Practice which states:Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Ask the PCC to investigate The Sun’s decision to disclose the claim of Salvador being a ‘Muslim convert’ and the relevance of his religious identity to his beheading of Mrs Silva. Can The Sun explain why it thought this detail is genuinely relevant to the story?

OR

You can copy and paste the template letter below into an email and send it to the Press Complaints Commission at complaints@pcc.org.uk

Dear Sir,

I am writing in relation to the front page story in The Sun newspaper on Friday 5 September 2014 titled ”Muslim convert’ beheads woman in garden’.

The story relates to reports of the beheading of Mrs Palmira Silva in the garden of her home in Edmonton, north London on Thursday 4 September.

The accused, Nicholas Salvador, is claimed to be a convert of Islam according to some sources interviewed by the newspaper.

It is my view that The Sun’s cover story breaches Clause 12, Article (ii) of the Editors’ Code of Practice which states:

Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

I fail to see the relevance of Mr Salvador’s religious identity to the crime he is accused of committing. It is a deliberate provocation by The Sun in order to link the murder in Edmonton to events oversees (the beheading of two US journalists by the terrorist group ISIS). The link is disingenuous in its promotion of the notion that beheading innocent people is endemic in Islam. It is, moreover, dangerous in its consequences given the use made by the far right of Salvador’s religious identity to further stoke anti-Muslim hatred.

Lord Justice Leveson in his report on the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press, argued that the “the press can have significant influence over community relations and the way in which parts of society perceive other parts”.

In my view, The Sun front page last week was a disturbing example of a newspaper influencing community relations for the worse.

I welcome the Commission’s decision on whether a breach of the Code has occurred.

Yours sincerely,