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Luton Islamic Centre exposes EDL lies

30 December, 2014 - 23:05

Return of Khilafah

A Message to EDL Supporters: “You’re being lied to!”

On the 31 December-2 January 2015, Luton Islamic Centre are organising a conference entitled “Return of Khilafah and Jihaad, the correct understanding”. The purpose of this conference is to clarify to the Muslim community, the deviated beliefs of ISIS, Al-Qaida, and their followers. From the supporters of ISIS are the UK based group Al-Muhajaroon.

Luton Islamic Centre has been in the forefront of warning against violent extremism and its advocates. We have produced and distributed across the UK, tens of thousands of anti-extremism leaflets, including 50,000 leaflets entitled: “Al Muhajaroon, the extremist cult exposed”. We have also funded the publication of several books written to refute the ideology of Al Qaida. (pdf link: http://www.calltoislam.com/pdf/Al-Muhaajiroon%20-%20The%20Extremist%20Cult%20Exposed.pdf)

In light of this, the imagery on the recent youtube clip calling for a protest against our conference is completely deceptive and dishonest. The clip shows images of the key Al Muhajaroon leaders, deliberately giving the impression that they are behind this conference. This couldn’t be further from the truth; the whole purpose of this conference is to refute the ideas of ISIS and Al Muhajaroon.

Those individuals who follow the EDL need to know: “Not only are the EDL playing on your ignorance of Islam, they are blatantly lying to you about this conference. Don’t waste your time protesting against this anti-extremism conference. Don’t let the EDL make fools of you”.

Board of Trustees
Luton Islamic Centre
29 December 2014
info@calltoislam.com

See also “English Defence League protest in Luton ‘on hold'”, Luton on Sunday, 30 December 2014

EDL complains about Section 14

Update:  See “English Defence League demonstration under control”, Luton Today, 31 December 2014

This is the EDL video publicising their protest against the conference. Even by EDL standards, the lies and distortions are jaw-dropping.

Rightwing thinktank pulls funds for Commons groups after disclosure row

30 December, 2014 - 22:45

HJS logoA rightwing thinktank, accused of pushing an anti-Muslim agenda, has pulled funding for two parliamentary groups which focused on homeland and international security after refusing to disclose its donors to the Commons’ standards watchdog.

In a ruling earlier this month the parliamentary commissioner for standards upheld complaints against the homeland security and transatlantic and international security parliamentary groups for taking secretariat support from a neoconservative thinktank where Tory chief whip Michael Gove was a former trustee, without getting assurances over its funding.

The Henry Jackson Society, a registered charity, had provided an office and staff to organise meetings for the two groups, chaired by Tory MP Bernard Jenkin and Labour MP Gisela Stuart. The arrangement also saw the society’s political director, Davis Lewin, and its events manager, Hanna Nomm, given Commons passes as part of this support.

The agreement was terminated after the standards’ commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, said the society should “make available on request a list citing any commercial company which had donated more than £5,000 either as a single sum or cumulatively in the last 12 months”. The society declined and pulled the funding. A spokesman said: “Our donors are entitled to privacy. We do not wish to expose them to unwarranted funding requests by publishing their details.”

The thinktank has attracted controversy in recent years – with key staff criticised in the past for allegedly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant comments. Its associate director, Douglas Murray, complained last year that London had “become a foreign country” because white Britons were a minority in 23 of 33 London boroughs. Murray has also been pictured with Robert Spencer, the far-right US anti-Islam campaigner banned last year from Britain by the Home Office.

In 2012 its then director William Shawcross, who runs the Charity Commission, said “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”.

The complaint was lodged by Spinwatch, which campaigns for greater transparency in public and corporate life. It said it was concerned the society would not even “comply with Parliament’s modest new transparency rules”.

David Miller, a professor of sociology and co-founder of Spinwatch, said the society was “actively avoiding transparency, preferring to ply its trade in the subterranean fashion beloved of the lobbying industry. It is time that all-party parliamentary groups came clean on their corporate and other significant funders so the public and indeed parliamentarians can be clear exactly who is trying to influence their views and behaviour.”

Miller said Spinwatch had combed through public records in the US and UK to find out just who donated to the and says that the rightward drift in the Henry Jackson Society has coincided with a hefty rise in donations.

In 2009 Spinwatch believed that the society’s total income was £98,000 – a little more than the previous year. This then jumped to £321,000 in 2010 before rising sharply to £815,000 in 2011, until it raked in a high of £1,313,000 in 2013.

Much of the money has come from Tory donors such as the Atkin Charitable Foundation, a London-based charity founded by a British businessman turned philanthropist Edward Atkin. It first financed the HJS in 2010 with a modest £5,000 grant, but subsequently the amounts increased considerably, totalling £375,000 between 2011 and 2013.

The Stanley Kalms foundation, named after the Dixons boss, also gave the society £100,000 last year. Baron Kalms, once a big Tory donor, called then shadow foreign secretary William Hague an “ignorant armchair critic” for criticising Israel’s actions in the 2006 war in Lebanon. He was expelled from the Tory party in 2009 after voting for Ukip.

Another donor is Nina Rosenwald, whose Abstraction Fund donated $10,000 to HJS via a US fundraising arm, the American Friends of the Henry Jackson Society. Rosenwald also finances the US-based rightwing Gatestone Institute which publishes Douglas Murray’s writing alongside Geert Wilders, the founder and leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom who has declared he “hates Islam”.

Miller said: “in recent years, the Henry Jackson Society has become increasingly anti-Islam, expressing views characteristic of the far right. Its anti-Islam orientation appears to have garnered it increasing support from a range of conservative funders in both the UK and US. While it continues to pose as favouring a moral approach to foreign policy, it is dabbling in the politics of hate in an approach which is supposed to be the opposite of British values of fair play and the rule of law.”

A spokesman for the Henry Jackson Society said that “in compliance with the new parliamentary rules, we are no longer secretariat of the all-parliamentary groups in question. We do not comment on individual donors,” adding that claims the charity was anti-Islam were “scurrilous and unfounded”.

“Having failed to win the arguments with us in policy terms, our critics are doing what all those who have failed in the public domain resort to in desperate times – playing the man rather than the ball. We trust that ordinary people can see through their spin and lies to focus on the good work we are doing for the benefit of British society.”

Guardian, 30 December 2014

German-Turkish NGOs condemn growing Islamophobia in Germany

30 December, 2014 - 21:08

İhsan ÖnerTurkish and Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) based in Germany, which hosts one of the largest populations of Muslim immigrants in Europe, have harshly condemned anti-Islam demonstrations held under the guise of patriotism in eastern Germany.

Criticizing populist German politicians as well as the German media, representatives of the NGOs stated that the prejudicial attitudes and behavior of political figures and media led to the creation of racist groups such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida).

“While populist politicians have for years approached their Muslim minorities in an extremely prejudiced way, the German media, with their Islamophobic headlines, have paved the way for Islamophobia,” said European-Turkish Islam Union (ATİB) chief İhsan Öner.

According to German media reports, Pegida grew out of a social media group and now comprises at least 17,000 people who have gathered regularly since early December in Dresden, the birthplace of the movement, to protest against Islam, incoming Muslim immigrants and what they call “religious extremism.”

Every Monday at 6 p.m., tens of thousands of people assemble in Dresden, a city in eastern Germany, and chant slogans against Islam, Muslim immigrants and the Islamization of the country and of Europe. The group’s Facebook page has nearly 95,000 followers. The latest rally took place on Dec. 29 and the next one is scheduled to take place on Jan. 5, 2015.

Calling for an end to the political bias and media reports that are fueling anti-Muslim sentiments and thus leading to the formation of racist groups such as Pegida within German society, NGOs such as the European-Turkish Islamic Union (ATİB), the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), the Federation of Democratic Workers Associations (DİDF) and the Islamic Society of National Vision (IGMG) said Germany can do better in its attempts to fight racism and discrimination.

ATİB General Director Öner believes these anti-İslamic movements and behavior have increased. “We are concerned as to our future as a Muslim minority in this country,” he said.

Commenting on the claims of growing Islamization in Germany and Europe, Öner said: “How are Muslims, who are unable to preserve their cultural assets for their next generations, supposed to capture Europe? Even the crows would laugh at this!”

IGMG General Secretary Mustafa Yeneroğlu believes Pegida is the result of irresponsible security politics in Germany.

“All these concerns were fueled for years by our politicians. Since 9/11, Islam and Muslims were highlighted by politicians as the main threat in terms of internal security. There needs to be a differentiation between actual threat risks and innocent people,” Yeneroğlu said.

Yerenoğlu called on German politicians to review their security policies and urged security units to participate in intercultural and inter-religious education. “It is clear that we need enlightening programs that are important to fight far-right groups, anti-Semitism and Islam enmity.”

ZMD head Aiman Mazyek underlined that Pegida does not represent all of Germany, saying, “We live in a country full of diversity and we are proud of that.”

Demanding that they take serious measures against the anti-Islam discrimination, the Muslim DİDF board issued a statement saying, “The rallies staged under the name of Against the Islamization of Europe and those who are joining these rallies are increasing each day.

“However, Germany did not come to this point all of a sudden. This picture is a product of different parties and media which have for years agitated against refugees and asylum seekers coming from Islamic countries.” DİDF also called on the German government “to immediately stop the racist marches and hatred fueling demonstrations in Germany.”

The German government has reacted to the demonstrations. In the early days of the anti-Islamization protests, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against discrimination. “There’s freedom of assembly in Germany, but there’s no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries,” she was quoted as saying in Berlin.

Responding to growing anti-Muslim immigrant sentiments in Germany, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Saturday that the benefits of immigration should be taken into consideration.

“The world is more open and immigration helps everyone. Just as millions of refugees helped us rebuild after World War II, so too do we need immigration today,” Schaeuble told the news source Bild Online, Reuters reported.

Germany, ever conscious of its Nazi past, has one of the most liberal asylum policies in the world. President Joachim Gauck also reacted to the demonstrations with his statement last week saying, “People are right to fear Islamist terrorism. But not Islam.”

In recent days a new anti-Pegida platform formed online at change.org calling for 1 million signatures to establish “a colorful Germany.” The campaign was initiated by Karl Lempert from the city of Hannover. By Monday of this week, more than 200,000 people had signed the petition.

Today’s Zaman, 30 December 2014

19-year-old released on bail after alleged Koran-burning video

30 December, 2014 - 10:57

A 19-year-old from Leeds, West Yorkshire, who was arrested in connection with an offensive video he posted on a social media website has been released on bail.

A video, which was shared to the Yorkshire Standard, showed a man ripping apart an English translation of the Koran with his teeth and putting it in the toilet before burning it.

The police arrested the suspect on 27 December after people raised concerns for the safety of the person who had posted the video up following a number of public comments made in response to it. People also called the police complaining about the offensive nature of the video.

The suspect was arrested from an address in Beeston, Leeds, on suspicion of a racially or religiously aggravated public order offence.

Superintendent Mabs Hussain, of Leeds District Police, said: “Due to the nature of this offence, any decision to charge must be taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions. We are currently preparing an advice file which we will be submitting to the Crown Prosecution Service in due course. In the meantime the arrested man has been released on bail to an alternative location.

“We are aware of strong feelings expressed by a number of people in response to this video. We would again urge people to allow this investigation to run its course and remind members of the public that we will take robust action against anyone who acts outside of the law.”

The Yorkshire Standard was notified by various members of the public about the video. The site also received links to the video and it had been shared at least over 1,000 times and had over 100 comments – some included death threats. It was removed from the account a day after the arrest.

The police were contacted by the Yorkshire Standard for a clarification on whether the man did rip the Koran, put it in a toilet and burn it. The police refused to confirm or go into detail. The video was deemed as an offensive video.

Yorkshire Standard, 29 December 2014

Government to withhold full UK Muslim Brotherhood report

30 December, 2014 - 01:50

Supporters of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood wave Egyptian flags during a rally in protest against the recent violence in Egypt, outside of the Eminonu New mosque in IstanbulA controversial report into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain will not be published in full, the government has confirmed, with a summary likely to come out six months after it was originally meant to be released.

Downing Street has told the Financial Times that only the “principal findings” of the report will be made public, and those will not come out until January.

Number 10 insisted there was “no change” to the plans for publication. But when David Cameron announced the investigation in April, advisers said they expected it to be published in July and those close to the report had hoped it would be released in full.

Downing Street said: “The principal findings of the report will be published in the coming weeks.”

The report has been dogged by delays as officials and ministers tussle over its findings. Whitehall aides say it will not recommend proscribing the Brotherhood, an organisation that has prospered in the UK while being attacked for promoting extremism in certain Gulf states.

But ministers are concerned that this central finding could anger key commercial allies in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who some ministers say pressurised Mr Cameron into commissioning an investigation of the Brotherhood’s activities in the first place.

The UAE followed the example of the Saudis last week by banning the Brotherhood and listing it as a terrorist organisation. That was the latest example of the group’s fall in fortunes since one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted as Egyptian president last year.

According to those who have seen the British report, it will not offer policy prescriptions, but instead seek to spell out a network of linked organisations, some of which are implicated in extremist activity. Ministers will then have to decide what to do about each of these groups, and are likely to launch further reviews into other organisations when the report is published.

But some in government have been irritated at leaks from the report which seek to portray it as more conclusive than it is likely to be.

One government official caused upset in October by telling the Sunday Telegraph ministers would pursue certain individuals using the “Al Capone method”. The person said: “We cannot get them for terrorism but I bet you they don’t pay their taxes.”

One adviser said: “It’s a dense, carefully written report. But if people are looking for it to give hard and fast answers, they will be disappointed.”

While some in government are trying to beef up the report’s findings, ministers are also aware that if it is too tough it could annoy Qatar, which has backed the Brotherhood and with which the UK has just signed an intelligence-sharing agreement.

One person involved in compiling the report said: “The geopolitics of this are incredibly complex, especially when we are trying to form a fragile coalition to fight Isis in Iraq and Syria.”

The situation has been further complicated by the UAE’s decision to proscribe not only the Muslim Brotherhood but also raft of other organisations, including the Muslim Association of Britain. The MAB has since contacted the Foreign Office to enlist its help in fighting against the ban.

Financial Times, 30 December 2014

Australian broadcaster ordered to pay $10,000 for racial vilification

29 December, 2014 - 16:40

Alan Jones

Broadcaster Alan Jones has been ordered to pay Muslim community leader Keysar Trad $10,000, ending a nine year battle over a radio segment found to have “stimulated listeners to hatred” of Lebanese men.

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal found comments broadcast on 2GB in April 2005 “portrayed Lebanese males as criminals and … as posing a threat to the Australian community”.

The tribunal found Mr Trad’s complaint of racial vilification over the comments, which Jones described as being a letter from a listener, was substantiated.

The letter said Lebanese men “simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that’s taken them in”. The radio segment followed a story on A Current Affair about a group of men, who Jones said “announced themselves as Lebanese Muslims”, gathering at Brighton-le-Sands and The Rocks.

The tribunal found that the opinions expressed in the letter were not relevant to any argument about the public interest. “It is simply not reasonable to malign and denigrate Lebanese males in general in the context of discussing a particular incident involving a small ground of young Lebanese men,” said the judgment, handed down earlier this month.

The tribunal found that Jones used “contemptuous and hateful language” and the broadcast was “gratuitously insulting and offensive to Lebanese males”.

“Mr Jones is one of the most powerful and influential radio presenters in Australia. It can be inferred that an ordinary member of his audience respected and tended to agree with his views. The propensity for them to be incited was, if anything, greater than that of a member of the general public.

“The words, in context, urged or stimulated listeners to hatred or, at least, serious contempt of Lebanese males. In our view, there can be no doubt that it would have reached the mind of the audience as something which had that effect.”

Jones and Harbour Radio, which holds the licence for 2GB, were ordered to pay the damages, along with some of Mr Trad’s legal costs. Harbour Radio was also ordered to review its policies in preventing racial vilification, if it hadn’t already done so.

The case has been in and out of courts for years. Jones was first ordered to pay damages to Mr Trad in 2009, but the broadcaster launched two attempts to overturn that decision.

Jones was successful in the Court of Appeal, which last year ordered Mr Trad repay $10,000 to Jones and sent the matter back to the tribunal for determination.

The tribunal found Mr Trad was affected by the broadcast as a leader in the Lebanese community and the $10,000 payout reflected a “relatively mild” level of loss and damage.

Sydney Morning Herald, 29 December 2014

See also “Alan Jones loses lengthy legal battle with Muslim leader Keysar Trad”, Guardian, 29 December 2014

And “Vilification win over Jones ‘symbolic'”, AAP, 29 December 2014

Another arson attack on a Swedish mosque

29 December, 2014 - 13:24

Samir MuricPolice suspect a mosque in southern Sweden was deliberately torched on Monday, with a local imam blaming rising Islamophobia in the region.

Emergency services were called to the mosque in Eslöv, a small city in the south of the country, at around 3.15am on Monday. It is understood that the blaze began after flammable liquid caught fire in one of the rooms in the building.

Firefighters quickly arrived at the scene and were able to prevent the fire spreading, although the flames still caused minor damage to the building.

Firefighters suspect foul play. “There is no possible natural explanation for this type of fire to break out by itself”, fire department spokesman Gustaf Sandell told Sveriges Radio.

Samir Muric, the local imam, said he was worried for his own safety. “Unfortunately, this is probably something to do with Islamophobia. I live close by and it’s beginning to feel unsafe,” he told the TT news agency.

The local fire brigade said that with residential homes on top of the mosque, it was lucky that they were able to quell the blaze before more damage was done.

“Think of all the people who lived above,” added Muric. “Think how shocked they must be. I notice that people are scared. I’ve already noticed that fewer people are coming to the mosque with all the vandalism. I can only imagine how an arson attack will affect this.”

Local Social Democrat councillor Johan Andersson said the blaze left him “angry”. “This is totally unacceptable. This is both a threat to individual people in their home and a serious act against a religious building,” he explained.

Mosques in Sweden have been subject to growing numbers of attacks in recent months. The fire comes less than a week after several people were hurt in a separate fire at a mosque in Eskilstuna in central Sweden on Christmas Day. Police say they are unable to confirm whether the blaze there was started on purpose.

Sweden, known for tolerance and refugee-friendly policies, saw a nationalist right party, the Sweden Democrats, become the third-largest force in parliament in legislative elections in September and reports of race-related violence are on the rise in the country.

In early December, the party brought down the government after less than three months by refusing to back its budget proposal in parliament.

On Saturday the government announced it had reached a deal with the opposition that will enable it to remain in power and to avert the country’s first snap elections in more than half a century, but the far right has threatened to hold a no-confidence vote.

The Local, 29 December 2014

Update:   The group Tillsammans för Eslöv (Together for Eslöv) are organising a demonstration tomorrow in protest against the attack. They have issued the following statement:

Enough is enough!! We now call for a demonstration!

Last night the mosque in Eslöv was subjected to suspected arson attack. This is not the first time that the mosque has been attacked, but it must be the last! It is purely by luck that people have not come to harm in the attacks carried out against the mosque this year, we must not wait for someone to get injured before we act!

Eslöv is our city, we are all part of it and we demand that all of us should be safe in it. No one should feel vulnerable, no one should have to be afraid or feel insecure in our city because of their religion. In our Eslöv all are welcome except hatred. We refuse to watch as people are turned against each other, we do not accept distrust of people because of how they look, talk, or what religion they have.

Every month a mosque in Sweden is attacked, we must not allow this to continue! Tomorrow we are demonstrating for an Eslöv where everyone feels safe and involved. The attacks on the mosque have to stop before someone gets hurt! Society must take responsibility and protect the religious communities in our city.

We who live here are Eslöv and cohesion is our only option!

Eslöv mosque arson

Eslöv mosque arson (2)

Anti-Muslim hate crimes on rise, says charity

29 December, 2014 - 12:53

The number of Muslim women reporting hate crime has risen by up to 10%, according to a UK charity.

TELL MAMA, a national project measuring anti-Muslim incidents, has told Sky News that over the last 18 months they have seen a 5-10% increase. The number of women wearing the niqab, the face veil, and reporting hate crime has also doubled in the last two years.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of TELL MAMA, says it is not clear whether incidents are rising or reporting of the problem is getting better.

“Over the last two years our data has shown that women suffer more incidents of hate and they also suffer more aggressive incidents of hate,” he said. “The veil seems to delegitimise the sense of femininity of that person in the eyes of the perpetrator. It seems to become something they become fixated upon rather than the individual, the female behind the veil.”

Research has shown that Muslim women are subjected to “opportunistic” verbal or physical attacks, mostly by men, on the street.

Yasmeen Khalid, 21, from Bromsgrove, says she has always faced abuse, but the problem has become worse in recent months. She says out of 30 different hate crime incidents, she has only ever reported two, and admits wearing a hijab has made her a target.

“By looking, they instantly know I’m Muslim… sometimes people call me a terrorist, sometimes they say ‘Paki’, sometimes someone has called me ‘Taliban’ or stuff like that,” she said. “Sometimes I walk off humiliated – I shouldn’t be humiliated but I am humiliated. Sometimes I speak up, sometimes I just cry, go away somewhere, and cry because I don’t know what to do.”

Fiyaz Mughal says there’s “been an enormous shift in the language of anti-Muslim hate. International and national incidents create differences in the way narratives are set.”

Shalina Litt, from Birmingham, has been the victim of racist abuse on the street while wearing the hijab or niqab. “Actually we are mothers, we are daughters, we are sisters,” she said. “I really just hope that any mothers, any daughters etc., can speak to their sons and say actually it’s not right and we do need to change how we approach this.”

The TELL MAMA project highlights there is still “substantial under reporting” by the Muslim community about hate crime. Part of their approach involves working with different agencies through community outreach and education.

Sky News, 29 December 2014

German-Turkish group warns against ‘dialogue’ with far-right

29 December, 2014 - 12:52

safter cinarA Turkish community leader in Germany warned Sunday against proposals by mainstream politicians for “dialogue” with a far-right populist movement that has drawn thousands to anti-Islamic street protests.

Several ministers and lawmakers have argued the government must listen to the fears about immigration voiced by the so-called “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” or PEGIDA.

The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Safter Cinar, warned that seeking to understand PEGIDA was dangerous and that xenophobia and racism must remain taboo, the newspaper Tagesspiegel reported.

“What kind of dialogue are we talking about?” he said about the movement which drew a record 17,500 marchers in the eastern city of Dresden last Monday. “Should we tell the demonstrators that Muslims are human beings too?”

The rise of the group since October has sparked counter-protests and much soul-searching in Germany, where expressions of racism are especially troubling given the country’s Nazi past.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Saturday that Germany, a fast ageing country with a low birthrate, needs immigration. “Just as after World War Two millions of refugees and expellees and later guest workers helped us rebuild our country, so we also need immigration today,” he told the Bild daily.

German central bank chief Jens Weidmann, in comments to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, blamed the rise of nationalism and anti-foreigner sentiment in part on the eurozone crisis.

“The eurozone crisis has certainly shaken confidence in the economic system,” he said, pointing to the rise of the eurosceptic AFD party, some of whose leaders have voiced sympathy for PEGIDA. “Those looking for the culprits like to blame the euro and the neighbours.”

Former interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, of Bavaria state’s conservative CSU party, meanwhile accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of having drifted too far to the political centre, opening a space on the right that was now being filled by anti-immigration and eurosceptic groups.

Speaking to news weekly Spiegel, Friedrich argued that this had been “a devastating mistake” and that the conservative coalition of Merkel’s party and the CSU had “not considered properly questions about the identity of our people and our nation”.

AFP, 28 December 2014

Reports and comment from Islamophobia Watch 22‑28 December

29 December, 2014 - 12:26

Reports and comment from Islamophobia Watch 22‑28 December 2014

German-Turkish group warns against ‘dialogue’ with far-right

29 December, 2014 - 10:29

A Turkish community leader in Germany warned Sunday against proposals by mainstream politicians for “dialogue” with a far-right populist movement that has drawn thousands to anti-Islamic street protests.

Several ministers and lawmakers have argued the government must listen to the fears about immigration voiced by the so-called “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” or PEGIDA. The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Safter Cinar, warned that seeking to understand PEGIDA was dangerous and that xenophobia and racism must remain taboo, the newspaper Tagesspiegel reported.

“What kind of dialogue are we talking about?” he said about the movement which drew a record 17,500 marchers in the eastern city of Dresden last Monday. “Should we tell the demonstrators that Muslims are human beings too?”

The rise of the group since October has sparked counter-protests and much soul-searching in Germany, where expressions of racism are especially troubling given the country’s Nazi past.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Saturday that Germany, a fast ageing country with a low birthrate, needs immigration. “Just as after World War Two millions of refugees and expellees and later guest workers helped us rebuild our country, so we also need immigration today,” he told the Bild daily.

German central bank chief Jens Weidmann, in comments to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, blamed the rise of nationalism and anti-foreigner sentiment in part on the eurozone crisis.

“The eurozone crisis has certainly shaken confidence in the economic system,” he said, pointing to the rise of the eurosceptic AFD party, some of whose leaders have voiced sympathy for PEGIDA. “Those looking for the culprits like to blame the euro and the neighbours.”

Former interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, of Bavaria state’s conservative CSU party, meanwhile accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of having drifted too far to the political centre, opening a space on the right that was now being filled by anti-immigration and eurosceptic groups.

Speaking to news weekly Spiegel, Friedrich argued that this had been “a devastating mistake” and that the conservative coalition of Merkel’s party and the CSU had “not considered properly questions about the identity of our people and our nation”.

AFP, 28 December 2014

Wilders tried to claim legal fees from parliament: Volkskrant

28 December, 2014 - 16:33

Pipes and WildersAnti-Islam politician Geert Wilders last year tried to claim between €500,000 and €600,000 as parliamentary expenses for legal fees incurred during a trial for inciting hatred, the Volkskrant said on Saturday.

Sources told the paper Wilders’ claim was rejected after discussions between members of parliament’s management committee, known as the presidium and on the advice of an accountant.

Parliamentary parties are allowed to submit expenses claims to the presidium if they are for services needed to support their work.

Civil servants and most members of the presidium decided the legal fees for the trial were private expenses. In addition, the claim itself was “not very concrete”, the paper said.

Wilders’ was represented at his trial by celebrity lawyer Bram Moszkowicz who has since been struck off. The bill was not broken down into daily costs and there was no proper explanation of all the charges, a source told the paper.

One member of the presidium told the paper: “I saw the bill and I thought ‘well there is someone who understands about expenses’. There was no supporting evidence. It was an amount between €500,000 and €600,000.”

Three other members of the presidium have also confirmed the story, the paper said.

The Volkskrant said PVV MP Martin Bosma, who submitted the claim, could not remember making it and said the bill had been paid. However, Bosma on Saturday used Twitter to describe paper’s claims as “rubbish”.

The PVV will not say where the money to pay the bill eventually came from. However, the Volkskrant said it has documentary evidence that US anti-Islam campaigner Daniel Pipes has given Wilders more than $100,000 for legal costs.

Wilders will soon face a new trial on inciting hatred and discrimination charges after leading a crowd of supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant. His first trial finally ended in 2011 with a not guilty verdict.

Dutch News, 28 December 2014

Boycott Halal movement in Australia set to escalate

27 December, 2014 - 23:16

Boycott Halal in Australia

The virulent Boycott Halal movement in Australia is set to escalate with a petition to federal parliament in the New Year demanding the Corporations Act 2001 be changed to mean only Muslims bear the cost of halal certification on everyday products.

Halal products are those deemed permissible for Muslims to eat or use under religious law. Many mainstream products in Australian stores are halal certified including food from SPC, Nestle, Kelloggs and Kraft. Supermarket chains pay for certification for some products, as do dairy factories and meat processors.

Worldwide the halal industry is worth $US 2 trillion and is growing 20% a year. Companies are keen to capitalise on the boom, so halal certification is increasingly common. All products exported to Muslim countries are certified before they go.

Australia has 21 Islamic groups approved by the federal government to issue halal certificates. Of the 21 only four, with one in Melbourne and three in Sydney, get most of the work, including Indonesian contracts.

The new Indonesian government has begun to dismantle an Islamic agency which is facing corruption allegations and which approves halal imports from Australia. Halal exports are worth $12 billion with growing competition from China and Brazil.

The Boycott Halal campaign is led by New South Wales farmer Kirralie Smith and supported by extremist groups including the “Islam-critical’ Q-Society, Restore Australia, the Australian Defence League and the Patriots’ Defence League.

Q Society president Debbie Robinson said the petition and campaign also want clearer labelling on halal products “to ensure consumers can make a conscious decision.” Ms Smith said: “Our primary focus is lack of choices. I felt deceived as a consumer that products pay halal certification fees and there was no way as a consumer that I knew.”

The Australian Food and Grocery Council says halal certification costs are “negligible”.

The Age, 27 December 2014

See also “Boycott Halal movement to petition government to force all halal ‘costs’ onto Muslims”, 9news.com.au, 28 December 2014

Boycott Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Pig’s head hung on mosque door in Vienna

27 December, 2014 - 12:41

Kocatepe mosque vandalism

In a barbaric affront to Muslim sensibilities, part of a pig’s head and some pork tripe was attached to the door of a mosque in Vienna’s 21st district on Christmas day.

The imam of the Kocatepe mosque spoke to the Andadolu press agency about the incident, condemning the vandalism as an “unacceptable” act.

The head of the Turkish-Islamist Union in Vienna (ATIB), Fatih Karadaş, condemned the attack saying that “this is not an attack against Muslims but the whole of humanity. We, as Muslims, will preserve our calm and collective attitude.”

This is not the first incident of its type, as Austria’s Muslim community has been attacked several times this year in similar hate crimes. An Imam Hatip school in Vienna that concentrates on religious education was also vandalized. A pig’s head was left in front of the school’s door during Ramadan in early October.

And in August, a pig’s head was impaled on a fence at a construction site for a new islamic school.  It’s not known who left the pig’s head at the centre, but even if someone confesses there is little the police can do as nothing was damaged and therefore there are no criminal charges.

The Islamic Federation could make a complaint within civil jurisdiction. Muslims are forbidden from eating pork or touching pig carcasses, as they are considered unclean.

The planned school has been unpopular in Austria, with Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz saying the idea “is completely the wrong approach”.

Another mosque called Eyüp Sultan, located in the town of Telfs, was repeatedly vandalized with graffiti.

In one of the more serious incidents, an elderly Muslim woman was attacked in a bank, apparently the victim of a hate crime motivated by religious intolerance.

In September, a Muslim woman was attacked by another woman on a train, apparently because the former was wearing a headscarf.

In August two elderly Muslim ladies wearing headscarves were attacked in Favoritenstraße. Police were reportedly slow to respond to this incident, and only began questioning suspects days after.

Austria’s Islamic Religious Community Association said that Muslims often experience discrimination in Austria but that “it is not well documented”.

Spokeswoman Carla Amina Baghajati said that the association plans to start collecting data on all religiously motivated incidents. However, she said she did not believe that the police lacked sensitivity to the issue.

The Local, 27 December 2014

ACLU supports free-speech rights of anti-Islam group

27 December, 2014 - 10:15

Bible Believers display pig's headA civil rights organization is defending the free-speech rights of a Christian group that hates Islam, saying its members were unfairly removed from the Arab International Festival in Dearborn in 2012.

In a legal brief filed this month, attorneys with the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that Wayne County sheriff’s deputies violated the First Amendment by ordering a group of Christian evangelists from California called the Bible Believers to leave or face citations for disorderly conduct.

At the annual festival in June 2012, the Bible Believers brought a pig’s head mounted on a pole and signs with anti-Islam messages that denigrated Islam’s prophet. Observant Muslims consider pigs to be unclean.

They also shouted crude messages at festival attendees, many of whom were Muslim. In response, members of the crowd hurled water bottles and rocks at the Christian group, who walked away to avoid being hit. As they walked away, some in the crowd followed and continued to pelt them.

Attorneys for the Bible Believers filed a lawsuit against the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, which was thrown out last year by U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan in Detroit, saying deputies were justified in removing the evangelists “because of the effect the speech had on the crowd.”

In August, a three-judge panel with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Duggan’s decision. But in October, the full court vacated that decision, saying the 15 judges will reconsider the case in March.

It was a rare move, one that was praised by attorneys with the American Freedom Law Center, a conservative group co-led by Ann Arbor attorney Robert Muise that is representing the Bible Believers.

The center, which often fights what it sees as Islamic extremism in the U.S., says the violent reaction of Muslims at the festival is an attempt to stifle criticism of Islam.

While the ACLU attorneys disagree with the message of the Bible Believers, they agree that their rights were violated.

“By ordering the Bible Believers to leave the Festival or else be cited for disorderly conduct, (Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies) violated the Bible Believers’ free speech rights under the First Amendment,” the ACLU said in their friend-of-the court brief. When “even offensive speech takes place in a public forum, police must take reasonable steps to protect speakers faced with a violent audience.”

The ACLU said the festival attendees are to blame for the violence, not the Bible Believers, who were peaceful and did not incite violence.

While the Bible Believers’ speech was “highly offensive and needlessly antagonistic … unpleasant and disturbing … it must be tolerated in a free and diverse society such as ours,” the ACLU said.

The ACLU noted the legal precedent of the heckler’s veto, which means that just because someone’s speech may provoke a response, police can’t use that as an excuse to stop the exercise of free speech. If police did that, “virtually every violent reaction by an angry crowd could be used to justify a content-based restriction on speech.”

Nabih Ayad, attorney for the Wayne County Sheriff and chair of the Arab American Civil Rights League, said he was disappointed in the ACLU’s brief.

“This is not a free-speech issue, but a public safety issue,” said Ayad, a former state civil rights commissioner. “I understand the First Amendment and I’m for free speech, but when a riot is about to break out, free speech must take a backseat to public safety.”

Rana Elmir, deputy director for the Michigan branch of the ACLU, said the organization finds “the Bible Believers’ hate-filled speech and tactics vile and offensive, however, we cannot allow a precedent-setting court decision to stand that permits the government to shut down people’s speech because of the reactions of others. Doing so creates a dangerous precedent in which the majority can always prevent the expression of ideas it does not like.”

The ACLU’s legal brief puts them on the side of groups whose overall views they don’t agree with, but “censorship is never the answer,” she said.

The ACLU has fought before to protect the rights of anti-Islam speakers in Dearborn. In 2011, the ACLU strongly objected to the jailing of Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones after he faced a trial for trying to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

The ACLU also has fought to defend the rights of Arab Americans and others to hold rallies in Dearborn for pro-Arab causes, Elmir noted.

The annual Arab Festival ended in 2013 because of higher insurance rates stemming from religious tensions at the festival, including the 2012 incident with the Bible Believers.

Detroit Free Press, 26 December 2014

See also “ACLU defends anti-Islamic hatemongers who brought pig’s head to Arab festival”, Deadline Detroit, 26 December 2015

Thousands sign online petition against German anti-Islam PEGIDA movement

27 December, 2014 - 08:32

Anti-PEGIDA petitionMore than 65,000 people have signed an internet petition against the right-wing PEGIDA movement since it was established on Christmas Eve. The signatures are being collected on change.org, with its organizer aiming to reach 1 million.

PEGIDA was formed in October in response to growing sentiment within Germany against immigration and Islam, with its protests particularly focused on the eastern German city of Dresden. The group’s name loosely translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.”

The latest protest in Dresden on Monday drew a record 17,500 people. However, resistance to the movement is growing, with thousands joining counter-demonstrations.

“Now is the time to profess that the phrase ‘We are the people!’, regardless of origin, color, religion or whatever, has been and must continue to hold true,” organizer Karl Lempert said.

The petition follows German President Joachim Gauck’s Christmas speech on Wednesday, in which he urged tolerance and openness in accepting refugees. Gauck did not mention PEGIDA by name but said he believed such sentiments were in the minority.

“The fact that the great majority of us do not follow those who want to seal off Germany has been truly encouraging for me this year,” said Gauck. He added that solutions to wider problems could not be found “with eyes full of fear.”

Deutsche Welle, 27 December 2014

Anti-PEGIDA protest Dresden 22.12.14

Dutch Muslims concerned by mosque attacks

26 December, 2014 - 23:57

MoskNee

An unidentified man wearing a hoodie placed fireworks in the window of the Selimiye Mosque in Enschede, a city in the Netherlands, on December 14. A few seconds later, the fireworks exploded, breaking the window.

The motives of the perpetrator remain unclear – he has not yet been caught – but mosque board member Sezgin Akman said he suspects the attack was inspired by hatred of Islam. “Maybe someone wanted to tell us we are not welcome,” he said, adding the mosque has received several threatening letters in the past.

More than one-third of the Netherlands’ 475 mosques have experienced at least one incident of vandalism, threatening letters, attempted arson, the placement of pigs’ heads, or other aggressive actions in the past 10 years, according to research by Ineke van der Valk, author of the book Islamophobia and Discrimination.

The Kuba Mosque, in the city of IJmuiden, said it has counted more than 40 such incidents since its founding in 1993.

“Lines like ‘go to hell, Muslims’ on the wall, graffiti that contains Nazi symbols, pig heads on the doorstep, Molotov cocktails … A lot has happened,” said Suleyman Celik, a board member of the Kuba Mosque. “Two years ago, a female visitor who left the building was pelted with beer bottles by men driving by in a car. She broke her teeth and had to go to the hospital.”

On June 23, two men shouting racist slogans entered the Kuba Mosque after an argument outside. They threatened to kill those inside, and broke the nose of one of the mosque’s board members. They were arrested two days later by police.

Van der Valk has found that attacks on mosques happen more frequently in small rather than large cities, adding that “many of these attacks appear to be a response to national or international events, such as a terrorist attack or Dutch jihadists leaving to Syria to join terrorist groups”.

About 160 Dutch Muslims are believed to have joined armed groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), raising fears that they might carry out attacks in the Netherlands when they return. A few pro-ISIL demonstrations have even taken place in The Hague.

Far-right: ‘Wrecked by immigration’
For their part, Dutch Muslims blame what they describe as biased media coverage of Muslims and far-right politicians such as Geert Wilders for inciting mosque attacks.

In the past, Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV) has compared the Quran, Islam’s holy book, to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf; has called Islam a “fascist” religion, and has proposed raising taxes on headscarves. On November 26, Machiel de Graaf, one of the PVV’s members of parliament, claimed that “Dutch schools are overwhelmed with a number of children who are named after Mohammed”.

“The Dutch unity, identity and culture are being wrecked by immigration and via wombs. Various Islamic leaders have said this, such as Qaddafi,” de Graaf said during a debate about integration.

However, the PVV denies its politicians’ statements regarding Muslims and Islam incite aggression.

“We are against all forms of violence, violence against mosques included. We do not promote that,” Michael Heemels, a party spokesman, told Al Jazeera on behalf of Geert Wilders. “But we do feel that it is terrible that more mosques are being built in this country. Mosques don’t belong here.”

The PVV’s website offers tips for Dutch citizens to prevent the construction of mosques in their neighbourhoods. Research by van der Valk shows that newly built mosques are attacked more often than older ones.

‘We should be more open’
Mohamed Amezian, the chairman of a mosque in the southern city of Roosendaal, told Al Jazeera in 2010 a sheep’s body was placed on the construction site where the mosque was to be built. Green paint on the fur read, “No Mosque.” But Amezian said he thinks the attack was likely “an act of a loner”.

“After the mosque was opened, we talked to a lot of people in the neighbourhood. Some were against the building of it, perhaps because they were afraid that would decrease the value of their homes,” Amezian said. “But soon after that, they invited their friends and family to come over to see how beautiful it is.”

Like many Muslims, Amezian said mosques have a responsibility to involve local, non-Muslim residents. That’s why he organises football matches for children and barbeques for the whole neighbourhood. “I am not afraid of the people in this country, and I do not want people being afraid of me,” he said. “As a Muslim and a Dutchman, I think we should be more open to each other.”

Tracking Islamophobia
In addition to “more openness from both sides”, the police can also contribute to the prevention of violence against mosques, Ahmed Marcouch, a member of the House of Representatives for the Dutch Labour Party, told Al Jazeera. In the Netherlands, he said, vandalism or attacks on mosques are often registered as “insults” or “destruction of property”, without mentioning the underlying motives.

An umbrella organisation for the Netherlands’ Jewish population has kept track of the number of anti-Semitic incidents since the 1980s. No similar counts have been made of anti-Muslim incidents in the country.

Next year, though, that is set to change. In 2015, two groups – SPIOR (Foundation for Islamic Organisations Rijnmond) and RADAR, an organisation opposing discrimination – plan to work together to monitor attacks and discrimination against Netherlands’ Muslims.

“It is important to register forms of Islamophobia,” said Marcouch. “Islamophobia is a serious offense. If we make that clear, we also give a signal to the perpetrators: We do not accept this.”

Al Jazeera, 26 December 2014

Swedish marchers denounce Christmas Day arson attack on mosque

26 December, 2014 - 23:56

Eskilstuna solidarity demo

Several hundred marchers turned out in a Swedish town on Friday to denounce an arson attack on a mosque that injured five people on Christmas Day as the traditionally tolerant country confronts the rising influence of the extreme right.

A firebomb was thrown through a closed window of the mosque in the central city of Eskilstuna on Thursday, injuring five of the nearly 70 worshippers inside, two of whom remained in hospital on Friday.

Answering calls by the “Together for Eskilstuna” Facebook page to denounce the attack, a large group of people converged on the damaged mosque to show their support. “Several hundred people were there to deliver a message of friendship,” a police spokesman, Roland Lindqvist, told AFP.

According to police, windows in a second Eskilstuna mosque were broken overnight on Thursday, though authorities couldn’t say whether the two attacks were linked.

Sweden’s leftist prime minister, Stefan Löfven, denounced the “hateful violence”. “We will never tolerate this kind of crime. Those who want to practise their religion should have the right to do so,” Lofven told SR radio.

No suspects have yet been arrested in the case police have opened for aggravated criminal arson, which has been joined by Sweden’s intelligence service, Säpo.

“This is a serious crime, but for the moment nothing is pointing us in one direction more than others,” said a Säpo spokesman Sirpa Franzen.

The arson struck another blow to Sweden’s self-perception as a generally warm and welcoming host of foreigners.

In September’s elections, the extreme-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats became the third-largest party in parliament with 12.9% of the vote.

The Sweden Democrats joined with conservative parties this month to reject the government’s proposed budget, forcing it to call new elections in March 2015.

According to a recent poll for SR, the Sweden Democrats have increased their September showing by a full point to 13.9%, with other surveys showing support of nearly 16%.

“There has been an intensification of hatred against foreigners,” Omar Mustafa, the chief of Sweden’s Islamic Association, told SR on Thursday.

In January, unknown perpetrators painted swastikas on the door of a Stockholm mosque, after neo-Nazis attacked a peaceful anti-racist protest in a Stockholm suburb and seriously injured three people the previous month.

AFP, 26 December 2014

Eskilstuna solidarity (2)

Eskilstuna solidarity

UKIP official acclaims anti-Muslim protest in Dresden

26 December, 2014 - 16:00

Helen Hims TwitterThe PEGIDA demonstration in Dresden last Monday, in which an estimated 17,500 people protested against immigration and the “Islamisation of the west”, was widely condemned as a shocking example of xenophobia and intolerance that has no place in Germany.

Needless to say, on the British far right PEGIDA has been hailed as an inspiring example in the fight to stem the Muslim takeover of Europe. It has certainly renewed the enthusiasm of former English Defence League leader Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) for Islamophobic street protests, and he has tweeted his intention to try and emulate PEGIDA’s success when his ban on associating with members of the EDL runs out next July.

Another person to be impressed by PEGIDA’s achievements is Helen Hims, who is chair of the Wells branch of UKIP and vice-chair of the party in Somerset. She retweeted a number of approving comments on Monday’s demonstration (“German anti muslim protestors demand an end to Islamisation with record high turnout”, “Growing Anti Muslim marches in Germany….Excellent!”) earlier this week, including one from Lennon himself (“Germany is waking up, are we?”)

Strangely enough, after these tweets attracted attention on social media yesterday, Hims deleted them all from her timeline, along with any reference to the positions she holds in UKIP. Happily, we have the screenshots.

Helen Hims PEGIDA tweets

Arson attack on Swedish mosque injures five

25 December, 2014 - 18:51

Eskilstuna mosque arson (2)

An arsonist set fire to a mosque in central Sweden on Thursday injuring five people, police said, as the country grapples with a political crisis caused by the rise of the extreme right.

“Somebody threw an object through a closed window and afterwards a fire started inside,” police spokesman Lars Franzell told AFP. “There were between 15 and 20 people in the premises.”

Refugee-friendly Sweden woke up to the reality of a new political landscape in early December when the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats brought down the government by refusing to back its budget proposal in parliament.

The mosque is located on the ground floor of a building in the city of Eskilstuna, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of Stockholm. According to police, the fire started in the early afternoon. Police said they were investigating the incident as a case of aggravated arson but had no suspects yet.

The five injured were taken to hospital to be treated for injuries including smoke inhalation, lacerations and fractures.

“There has been an intensification of hatred against Muslims,” Sweden’s Islamic Association head Omar Mustafa told public radio SR on Thursday.

In January unknown perpetrators daubed black swastikas on the front door of a Stockholm mosque and in December last year neo-Nazis attacked a peaceful anti-racist protest in a Stockholm suburb, causing three people to be hospitalised.

AFP, 25 December 2014

See also “Swedish mosque hit by arson in Eskilstuna, injuring five”, BBC News, 25 December 2014

Eskilstuna mosque arson (3)

Eskilstuna mosque arson

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