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

Islamophobia Watch - 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

Make It Plain-Philly: Mobilizing Black-American Muslims

Loon Watch - 28 December, 2014 - 19:09

Make_It_Plain_Islam_Philadelphia

Muslims fighting for social justice, addressing police brutality and the two-tiered justice system in the United States.

Mobilizing Black-American Muslims

How a rally in Philadelphia could be an effective model for the future

By: Margari Aziza Hill

The “Make It Plain-Philly” rally that took place on December 27th, 2014 was as much about the present day circumstances of race in America as it was about the long-term mobilization of black Muslims in America.

Philadelphia is one of the oldest and most established indigenous American Muslim communities. According to the the Association of Religion Data Archives,  in 2010 Muslims made up about 2.6% of Philadelphia County’s  population, totaling about 40,000. It is the fourth largest Muslim population center, with at least 63 registered mosques. Islam is so normalized in Philadelphia that it is not an uncommon sight to see a hijab-clad black American Muslim driving the city bus or niqab-wearing women in scrubs at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Islam has become deeply embedded in the local vernacular, so much so that many non-Muslims use the term “ock” (derived from the Arabic term akhi which means brother) to refer to Muslims. Even Muslim modes of dress and grooming are adopted by the broader community.  It is not uncommon for a non-Muslim to request a “sunni beard” trim from his local barber.  Muslims have played an important role in the city’s institutions, a noteworthy example is Kenny Luqman Gamble’s redevelopment project in South Philadelphia.

Given this cultural and institutional presence in the city, black Muslims in Philadelphia have an opportunity to establish two important precedents:

First, Muslims should have a lot to say about racism in America, drawing from the history of black Muslims who have repeatedly articulated powerful critiques of racist social, cultural, political and economic structures. Taking a leadership role in addressing issues of race and racism in America is an important step Muslims in America must undertake that aligns with the moral and ethical impulses of Islam. In other words, Islam has something meaningfully important to add to the conversation, and so participation is both morally obligated and politically necessary.

copyright MAGSiddiqui

Second, the black Muslim community must take this opportunity to assume a leadership role within the broader Muslim community on an issue important to America. Muslims in general must take an active role in addressing issues of racism and bigotry and black Muslims have unique insights into these issues given its history and experience of Islam in America.

In 1985, Philadelphia became the only US city in which a police department bombed civilians, killing 11 people. The Justice Department recently intervened  to curb abuses in Philadelphia Police Department.  The cases of misconduct included corruption, excessive use of force, sexual misconduct, false arrest, and homicide.  Philadelphia Muslims are no strangers to structural racism, over policing and surveillance.   The NYPD’s spy program includes surveillance of UPenn MSA students. A few years back, an APB was issued by police for my husband, Marc Manley, for taking a picture of train tracks while wearing a fez.

Likewise, black Muslims are not immune to the vulnerability of black Life, as the Philadelphia community was reminded of at the janazah of Aisha Abdul Rahman.  Black Muslims are all too often victims of gun violence.

With the intersection of race, Muslim identity and policing in Philadelphia, the spontaneous efforts Philadelphia Muslims to organize “Make It Plain” was a necessary response by a community that needs to make it presence known.

 Continue reading …

Wilders tried to claim legal fees from parliament: Volkskrant

Islamophobia Watch - 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

City Link failure shows limits of cost-cutting

Indigo Jo Blogs - 28 December, 2014 - 12:09

A depot with a green and yellow City Link sign above, and several green Renault Premium trucks with yellow City Link trailers halfway out.City Link: 2,000 staff to be made redundant on NYE - RMT

Last week the British logistics firm City Link went into administration, with the potential loss of nearly 5,000 jobs once self-employed contractors and the supply chain are taken into account. The firm started as an adjunct to the British Rail Red Star parcels operation, allowing parcels to be transported by rail without the need for direct train links and actually delivered rather than simply held at train stations, but since British Rail was broken up in the 1990s, they had to provide their own distribution network. The company had been part of the Rentokil Initial group from 2006 to 2013 but was sold for £1 in April 2013 to Better Capital, who reportedly invested £40m in the company (a small amount according to the staff union) but could not turn around the company’s losses or find a buyer. They went into administration on Christmas Eve and announced it on Christmas Day, presumably once most of the Christmas parcels had been delivered.

I’ve worked for City Link only twice, a day each; once was as a van driver in south London (that was the time they had me drive around after 5pm visiting closed business addresses, just so they could prove the delivery had been attempted), and the second more recently as a class 1 driver out of their Heathrow depot. That time, I was misinformed as to what the job involved, the trailer had the wrong fittings so the curtain could not be secured adequately (I did report this, but was given the impression that the problem would not be fixed) and also lacked internal straps, which are used to make sure that pallets or cages cannot fall out, either in transit or when the curtain is opened (in this case, they put tall cages on the upper shelf of a double-deck trailer). So, I’m not out of a job myself, but as I don’t have a full-time job and most of my work at present is through agencies, I expect the competition to be tougher in the coming months.

The company had 2,700 actual employees, and the BBC report above gives a breakdown of where they are located. Three of the depots had one or two staff, which I am told were caretakers as the actual depots were closed in the autumn and their work transferred to neighbouring depots. That the company was closing depots for places that size (Reading, Leeds and Leicester, plus Newmarket which served much of East Anglia) should have rang alarm bells, particularly as some did not have obvious neighbours (like Reading and Newmarket). However, the company’s ‘investment’ consisted of introducing new uniforms and scanners, some of which the staff had to pay for themselves and which some users complained were unnecessary as the old ones worked perfectly well (although, perhaps, they were incompatible with the company’s new IT systems). People did know about the plans to close CityLink on Christmas Eve as someone mentioned this on a thread on the truck drivers’ forum TruckNet, although it was slipped into a thread about another company so went unnoticed at the time.

The failure of City Link should show up some of the problems with the way many large companies do business at the moment. More and more regular work is casualised, with middle-men having to be paid as well but the workers (drivers or warehouse staff, usually) getting less. Other work is converted from proper employment to self-employment, with the worker responsible for buying or leasing the van, his uniform and PDA to manage deliveries and communicate with the depot, and maintaining the vehicle also (but, of course, this cuts the unemployment figures and allows the government to claim an upsurge in “entrepreneurial spirit”). One of the companies which delivers on behalf of online and catalogue ordering firms, called Hermes, relies entirely on self-employed drivers who use their own vehicles to deliver small parcels; the recipient is unlikely to ever come across the name when doing business with them. That’s all very well if the vehicle is a car you owned anyway for personal use and the parcel delivery money was never your main income; if you bought a van to make a living delivering parcels for one company, still more if you invested in a truck and a trailer, and an operator’s licence, and a maintenance contract, and a place to store it, and the courses required to become your own transport manager, and you cannot find other sources of revenue quickly after your main or only source of business goes bust, you are going to be seriously out of pocket. And unlike the full-time staff, you will not be getting any redundancy money.

I’ve been working for agencies for more than ten years. The wages have scarcely gone up in that time. In Surrey, minimum wage caught up with the agency van drivers’ wages a couple of years ago; small truck drivers are not far ahead of it. About three years ago, agencies suddenly began offloading their payroll operations, insisting that drivers open up “limited companies” or become sole traders, handling their own tax affairs. Others farmed them out to “umbrella companies”, insisting that drivers could offset their fuel and food bills against taxation. However, the umbrella companies also took a cut of your wages for these “services”, so the apparent “pay rise” was actually clawed back and your £9 an hour was actually £8 or less (and that was before tax). Your holiday money is also paid up front. How much of this is down to competition from eastern European migrants I am not sure, but the industry also has very weak union involvement — they do not work well when workers often nominally “own the means of production”, are not in daily contact with each other and thus cannot encourage each other to join the union in the first place, to take strike or other industrial action, to bargain with their employers in any way.

And, of course, customer service is suffering as well. When you were expecting a parcel, you were once able to call your local depot and ask if it had been received and if it had been loaded onto a van. Now, if you have a number to call, it will be an 08 number to a national (or overseas) call centre. On many mobile phone contracts, all 08 numbers, including ‘free’ or local-rate numbers, are premium-rate and not included in your price plan (some new contracts do offer 08 numbers on the price, plan, however). They all now have online tracking systems, but all they will tell you is that the parcel is “out for delivery”, not where it is on the list of deliveries, and some of them simply do not work on mobile devices.

The fall-out from City Link will be typical of the state of employment in the UK generally: the decline of wages, the decline of ‘proper jobs’, i.e. full-time employment with a company, the rise of part-time self-employment, casual labour and under-employment at a time when the cost of living in some parts of the country is rising and 2-bedroom houses sell for what used to be the cost of a mansion. It goes to show that you can cut your service standards and your employees’ standards of living to the bone and still go bust. We need an end to fake self-employment, which is nothing but a scam that allows companies to offload their liabilities onto their staff. Of course, it will take a government that is minded to act on behalf of ordinary people and not just their rich party donors and friends. Perhaps the failure of City Link could not have been avoided (or perhaps it should have been wound up sooner) but we can make sure that workers are paid off properly and not left with what should be the company’s own liabilities.

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