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The parent protests that stopped LGBT equality lessons – podcast

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 April, 2019 - 03:00

A bitter row between a Birmingham primary school and its mostly Muslim parents over the teaching of LGBT equality has led to street protests and the suspension of the lessons. The Guardian’s Nazia Parveen traces the origins of the dispute and where it has led. Plus: Hannah Devlin on the first ever image of the silhouette of a black hole

A row over the teaching of LGBT equality at Parkfield community school in Birmingham has resulted in lessons being suspended and protests spreading across the city and into other areas.

This week the education secretary, Damian Hinds, said it was right that parents were consulted and involved in developing how schools deliver relationships education, but insisted “what is taught, and how, is ultimately a decision for the school”.

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Media are reluctant to label far-right attackers as terrorists, study says

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 April, 2019 - 06:00

Global research finds violent Islamists are three times more likely to be called terrorists

Violent Islamist extremists are three times more likely than far-right attackers to be described as terrorists in the media, according to an overview of more than 200,000 news articles and broadcast transcripts.

The research found Islamist attacks were linked to terrorism in 78% of news reports about the incidents, whereas those from the far right who carried out violent attacks were only identified as terrorists 24% of the time.

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More than one kind of hate

Indigo Jo Blogs - 9 April, 2019 - 21:56
A large array of bunches of flowers lying on the ground and against a wall on the left. A white woman dressed in a black suit kneels down to lay another bunch on the ground, as a balding white man stands with a Canon SLR camera to take a picture of her.New Zealand’s governor-general Patsy Reddy laying flowers at the Christchurch botanical gardens after the massacre.

Last Wednesday there was a joint article by Mehdi Hasan and Jonathan Freedland, both well-known journalists and columnist (the latter a Guardian regular), on the “common enemy” Jews and Muslims both have in white supremacism at a time when both communities have been the victim of violent, murderous attacks by white supremacists in Pittsburgh and Christchurch in particular. Often, white supremacists subscribe to a theory of a “white genocide” in which Jews conspire to bring ‘others’, such as Muslims, into white western countries to ‘replace’ the local population by outbreeding or interbreeding with the native, i.e. white, population (although whites are, of course, not native to USA and New Zealand). The article acknowledges a history of antagonism between the two communities, including Muslim fondness for conspiracy theories about Jews, ISIS-inspired terrorism in France and right-wing Jewish support for Islamophobic politics in the USA, but:

Fascism, however, is back with a vengeance. The growing and lethal threat to life and limb for Muslims and Jews is now coming not from the far left but from an emboldened and violent far right. In the US, in 2018, every single one of the 50 extremist-related murders was linked to the far right, according to the Anti-Defamation League. In the UK, according to the Home Office, between 2017 and 2018 the number of white suspects arrested for terror offences outstripped those of any other ethnic group – the first time in more than a decade. In Germany, official figures suggest that nine out of 10 antisemitic crimes in 2017 were perpetrated by members of far-right or neo-Nazi groups.

Should we be surprised? White supremacists are on the march. They see Islam as incompatible with western life. We reject that claim wholeheartedly. Jews too were long told their faith had no place in western society: they were wrong about Judaism and they are wrong about Islam.

There is one important oversight in this article, however. The sort of white supremacism embraced by the Pittsburgh and Christchurch mass murderers is not the only kind. There are two broad categories: the ‘German’ category, which embraces the notion of an “Aryan race” which is natively European and which anathematises Jews, and the ‘English’ category which defines whiteness more or less by appearance and prizes European or Western culture and the command of a northern European language, preferably English, above anything else. These people will often talk of “Judeo-Christian values”, often in opposition to Islam; of the virtues of democracy as long as it produces governments they like (hence the support for dictators in countries like Egypt, which are conveniently used to portray them as less civilised than America, Europe or Israel); Jews are a fundamental part of the fabric of western civilisation. Although Muslims have been cast as the enemy since the end of the Cold War, and it is no longer acceptable to openly denigrate Black people, white society and its establishment makes no secret of the fact that it does not really accept them.

German-style white supremacism — Nazism — is a small fringe sect in the English-speaking world. It has never been able to secure a bridgehead in mainstream politics on its own terms; it instead uses coded language and exploits fears about immigration. Its main function is to serve as a justification for accepting the mainstream Right’s policies on these matters, for fear of giving the racialist Far Right a boost. In the Blair years, it was “we have to get tough on immigration or the BNP will win more seats on councils and may even win seats in Parliament”; these days, it’s “we mustn’t slack off on Brexit, or this populist uprising will gain momentum” (the more excitable ones threaten a civil war if the demands of the Brexiteers are not met). Quite apart from the fact that both Britain and America were once at war with Nazi Germany and for two generations, a “war hero” meant someone who had served in that war, and they included people who were not liberal on race at home (and even segregationists in the US), Nazi race theories are actually quite foreign to the mindset of the English-speaking world, much as are the overtly authoritarian aspects of fascism. Who are considered “people like us” are judged by appearance and culture, not by a ‘scientific’ race theory. (In the US, a Nazi can cause a lot more damage than here because the Second Amendment has resulted in people having easy access to automatic weapons. But they are still fringe.)

Judaism and Islam have common features, such as religious slaughtering and male circumcision, which are the focus of some external disapproval and we support each other in keeping those legal. My belief is that if it were not for the presence of Jews in the UK, the first of these would not be legal and the second would be under serious threat; both have been either outlawed or threatened with a ban in parts of Europe, where the numbers of Jews is in many places much lower as a result of different waves of persecution and genocide (the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal; the Holocaust in northern Europe). The British Far Right, in the form of the British National Party and the National Front before it, going back to the Blackshirts of the 1930s, has been both anti-Semitic and hostile to immigrants although in the early 2000s, the BNP tried to play down its anti-Semitic heritage to court Jews with an Islamophobic programme (though without much success). The French National Front has also tried to bury its past anti-Semitism because anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred is more fashionable. Both have expelled their former leaders (John Tyndall and Jean-Marie Le Pen).

However, both Britain and America both have ‘indigenous’ traditional forms of racist right-wing politics and white supremacism that shun anti-Semitism, promote Zionism and leave no need for Nazism even if there were a taste for it. Some of the worst racism I have seen expressed towards Muslims and Arabs has been on blogs frequented by Jewish Zionists and Neoconservatives, some of the language barely distinguishable from that used by Nazis (e.g. referring to Palestinians as sub-human, in some cases justifying it with single examples of Palestinian wrongdoing), advocating torture, using racially derogatory language including some of their own invention (e.g. Palestinians as ‘Palis’). In the past couple of years the political leaders which have shown characteristics of fascism have embraced hatred of Muslims and overt support for Israel: Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi (and politicians of both left and right boast of their relations with the last, conveniently overlooking that a pogrom against the Muslim minority took place on his watch when he was a state governor, and that while he has been prime minister of India, lynchings of Muslims have become a regular occurrence in many parts of the country). Many of us Muslims have a distinct sense that prejudice against Muslims and Jews are not considered morally equivalent, something expressed openly by Melanie Phillips on national TV a few months ago: that anti-Semitism was a “unique derangement” while Islamophobia was merely a cover for “legitimate criticism of the Muslim community”. Legitimate criticism of the Jewish community is, to her, a contradiction in terms. And even the political centre and centre-left indulges in it: look at how Dr Mohammad Abu Salha, who lost two of his children in a hate attack in 2015, was asked twice by members of the US Congress (both Democrats, both Black) to justify his religion and ‘prove’ that it does not incite hatred of Jews when testifying at a Congressional hearing into hate-based violence and white supremacism.

So, let’s not pretend that Muslims and Jews face the same threat in present western society. Jews are accepted as part of the fabric of society and are present at all levels in politics and the media; Muslims are not. Hatred and contempt for Muslims is expressed by senior politicians and peddled in the media, both openly and in the form of bias and malicious stories; anti-Semitism is condemned most sanctimoniously, often from the same pages. The old anti-Semitic far right is fading in most places; it is being replaced by barely concealed, and in some places open, hostility to Muslims which identifies Israel as an ally and in which there are some prominent Jewish participants. There is more than one type of white supremacism and the type which is as hostile to Jews as it is to Muslims is one of the least significant, even if if is able to carry out atrocities from time to time. Another type is normalised, mainstream and in some parts of the world, in charge.

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A lesson from history for Jews and Muslims | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2019 - 18:28
The faiths must acknowledge their differences, writes Zaki Cooper, as Charles Harris identifies a key text of the far right

Muslims and Jews face a common enemy on the far right, and have other shared elements to draw on (Muslims and Jews must stand together against the common threat: white supremacists, 4 April). Inspiration can be taken from the coexistence that flourished between those faiths in the middle ages in Spain. There are also substantial theological similarities between them. The Jewish figure Maimonides, who lived in Spain and Egypt and died in 1204, was a particular admirer of Islam. Today, observant Jews and Muslims find common ground in prayer, dietary restrictions and charitable obligations.

At the same time, we must be careful not to overstate the similarities. Any relationship, including those between our faiths, needs to be founded on honesty: accentuating commonalities but also acknowledging differences. Notwithstanding friendships between many Muslims and Jews, there is antagonism, suspicion and tension between our communities. At this delicate time, we should remind ourselves of the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his essay No Religion Is an Island: “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.”
Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews

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Bulldozing mosques: the latest tactic in China’s war against Uighur culture | Rachel Harris

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 April, 2019 - 16:12

The levelling of ancient sites in Xinjiang, alongside mass detention, is part of an attempt to destroy an entire society

Ten years ago, I started researching Islam among the Uighurs. I spent my summers travelling around the Xinjiang region in western China. I took long bus journeys through the desert to Kashgar, Yarkand and Kucha, slept on brick beds in family homes in remote villages, stopped off at Sufi shrines, and visited many, many mosques. My husband was working with me, and we dragged our kids along for the ride. The kids were quite small and not at all interested in our boring interviews with imams, and I bribed them with treats. I have a lot of photos of them sitting in the dust outside mosques, faces smeared with ice-cream, playing on their iPads.

Related: Xinjiang crackdown must continue, top China leader says

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‘It’s dangerous to go out now’: young, gay and scared in Brunei

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 April, 2019 - 23:25

Draconian new laws have spread unease rather than outright panic in a population that is used to finding ways around legislation

A day after it became legally possible to be stoned to death for having gay sex in Brunei, 21-year-old Zain* got a bitter taste of the new reality.

Walking down the street in skinny jeans and high-heeled boots, a flamboyant anomaly in the conservative sultanate, the university student became a target.

Related: The Guardian view on Brunei and stoning: don’t leave it to celebrities to act | Editorial

Related: RAF and Royal Navy urged to cut ties to sultan of Brunei over anti-gay law

The laws might give them a reason to crack down on people who are not loyal to the throne

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As the credits roll on Algeria’s dictator, a timely reminder of why history must not be repeated

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 April, 2019 - 18:10

The screening of a 1966 film about their country’s bitter colonial conflict has seen Algerians unite in peaceful protest

More than half a century since it was released – and promptly banned by French authorities – The Battle of Algiers, depicting the bloody struggle for Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, still has the power to shock.

On Friday night, the black-and-white, 1966 film relating Algerian anti-colonial guerrilla warfare and its brutal repression by the French military was screened in Paris. London-based musical activists Asian Dub Foundation (ADF) performed a live soundtrack.

People don't want Islamists. We have turned the page on that

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'We would never put that image on page 1': how we covered Christchurch

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 April, 2019 - 08:00

From first whispers to horrified aftermath, this was a story which required a fast, careful response. Here our editors and writers explain how we covered the Christchurch shootings

On Friday 15 March, 50 people were shot dead and 48 injured in attacks targeting Muslims at two mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch. It was the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history. Across the Guardian’s three main offices – in London, Sydney and New York – we ensured our coverage of the shooting, its aftermath and the global reaction continued around the clock. Here, some of the Guardian’s key journalists and editors remember how they reported on the unfolding atrocity.

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Who decides what is ‘consent’?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 April, 2019 - 23:20
Picture of Sir Anthony Hayden, a middle-aged white man, clean shaven, wearing a bright red robe with white shoulders, with a judge's horse-hair wig covering the top and sides of his head. Behind him are shelves of leather-bound hardback books.Mr Justice Sir Anthony Hayden, who made the offending remarks on Monday.

This Monday a judge in the Court of Protection, a British court that decides the affairs of disabled people who are not able to do so for themselves, made a remark which caused a lot of outrage while hearing a case about a married woman who had lifelong learning difficulties (according to press reports) but whose mental health had worsened in recent years to the extent that social workers were claiming she no longer had the capacity to consent to sex with her husband or anyone else. The judge, Sir Anthony Hayden (right), remarked, “I cannot think of any more obviously fundamental human right than the right of a man to have sex with his wife - and the right of the state to monitor that - I think he is entitled to have it properly argued”, which a lot of people have taken to imply that the man has the right to force his wife to have sex with him, which, however clumsily he expressed it, is not what I believed he was trying to say at all. The couple cannot be named, but as they have been married for 20 years, it can be reasonably assumed that they are both above 40 and may well be older than that. (More: Shoaib Khan @ HuffPost.)

That a man has no right to force his wife to have sex with him has been established in law since 1991. The issue here is whether the woman has the capacity to decide whether to have sex or not. Social workers believe she does not; this claim is clearly disputed, as the man had offered to give an undertaking that he would not have sex with her but the judge refused this offer and demanded to hear evidence from all sides. The Court of Protection has sometimes issued rulings that a person with impaired mental capacity be prevented from having sex because they have no understanding of either consent or the potential consequences of having sex; in one case, a woman with learning disabilities and atypical autism was ordered to be supervised at all times as otherwise, she would engage in risky sexual behaviour with anyone who asked; in another, an Asian couple including a woman with significant cognitive impairment was required to live apart because the wife had no understanding of the matter of consent (although it was understood that she found sex ‘comfortable’) and could not be repatriated to her home country.

However, the right to family life is a fundamental human right — it’s the famous Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been important in securing the rights of disabled people to a life outside the walls of institutions — and for couples, a sex life is part of family life and unless there are very strong reasons, that should be free of outside interference; the right of adults with both physical and mild intellectual disabilities to live as couples and have a sex life has been a hard-fought battle to achieve. (The reports do not say, but it is quite likely that the man has a learning disability as well.) While it is true that marriage does not circumvent consent or make the woman her husband’s property, a couple that have been married 20 years might be able to gauge such things as each other’s desire for or willingness to have sex better than a couple which have only just met, and they might be able to ‘read’ each other better than professionals who do not know them very well do. It is also possible that the woman has periods of lucidity where she has better understanding of what is going on than she does at other times, and these may not be the times when professionals are in the house.

The remarks have attracted widespread condemnation, with some suggesting that they take judicial understandings of gender relations back to the Dark Ages and portray marriage as a “season ticket” offering unlimited sex, regardless of how the woman feels. However, what the judge was doing was putting a brake on efforts by a group of professionals to dictate how a couple live their lives — perhaps whether they should even be allowed to live together or whether the wife should be in a ‘home’ — rather than, as I have seen people do on social media, take the professionals’ opinion at face value when it might be based on an underestimation of her capacity or an assumption that the man will abuse his wife if left alone with her. We do not know the age or exact condition of the woman; that may be revealed when the final judgment is published in a few months’ time, if it is (not all CoP judgments are published, as the court sits in private), but however anachronistic the statement he made sounded, the principles are sound and the defence of the right to family life is to be supported, not condemned.

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Christchurch shooting accused faces victims' relatives in court on 50 murder charges

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2019 - 22:58

Australian silent as he appeared via video link in Christchurch’s packed high court, where he faces a total of 89 charges

The man accused of murdering 50 people in the New Zealand mosque attacks has appeared via video link in the Christchurch high court, in his second formal court appearance since the shootings.

Australian Brenton Tarrant faces a total of 89 charges in the high court, 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges – the most ever laid in New Zealand history.

Related: Australian agencies had 'no reason to restrict travel' of Christchurch accused, MPs told

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The Guardian view on Brunei and stoning: don’t leave it to celebrities to act | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 April, 2019 - 18:25
Brunei’s shocking new penal code must be challenged – through deeds as well as words. Britain’s responsibilities are clear

Brunei’s introduction of new laws allowing stoning for adultery and sex between men has sparked international outrage. Elton John and George Clooney’s calls for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by the tiny south-east Asian kingdom have grabbed the spotlight. The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has condemned the “cruel and inhuman” measures, as have the EU, Australia and others.

The punishment is only one of many horrifying changes in a penal code which also covers apostasy, amputation as a punishment for theft and flogging for abortions. Lesbian sex is punishable by 40 strokes of the cane as well as jail. In some cases children who have reached puberty are subject to the same penalties as adults; younger ones may be flogged. The sharia code was first introduced in 2013, and was supposed to be enacted gradually; following an outcry the government did not bring forward its harshest elements until now. Many suspect that the impact of declining oil revenues on public spending has left Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the longest-ruling absolute monarchs, keen to bolster support among conservative elements.

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Claire Greaves inquest

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 April, 2019 - 19:13
A still from a BBC TV programme showing four adults (two male, two female) sitting on a semicircular red sofa round a glass-topped table. Claire Greaves is second from left.Claire Greaves on BBC TV

Yesterday the inquest into the death of Claire Greaves, who took her own life on a Cygnet-run eating disorder in Coventry in February 2018, concluded and recorded an open verdict (i.e. it was not a verdict of suicide) though it ruled that failings in her care contributed to her death, specifically:

  • Long-term segregation and seclusion contributed to a decline in Claire’s mental state
  • Staffing levels “probably caused or contributed” to her death
  • There was a failure to increase observations despite Claire making numerous self-harm attempts in the days prior to her death
  • Had there been “sufficient staff” then Claire’s care plan could have been followed and the risk period of 17:00 to 18:00 “would have been covered”
  • There was a failure in allowing Claire to be alone in her room prior to her death, contrary to her care plan.

(Adam Wagner, who represented the family, has stated on Twitter that this is not the full list of contributory failings identified by the jury.)

I’ve written about Claire Greaves before; I followed her on Twitter when she was a few months into her final period of being detained (sectioned) under the Mental Health Act from late 2015 onwards. At that time she was in a local mental health unit and hoping to be admitted to the Retreat, a specialist eating disorder unit, but was refused, and instead transferred to the Ty Catrin secure unit, operated by the Priory Group, in south Wales. The standard of care there was appalling, as she described in a blog entry after she was transferred to a local general hospital when her anorexia had nearly killed her. This was not the same unit in which she died, but the trauma of being subjected to this regime should have influenced her care at Cygnet in Coventry. The petty indignities she described are still standard practice in many secure mental health units countrywide, and are indiscriminate: the denial of privacy while using the toilet and bathroom, the withholding of sanitary products to menstruating women and girls (or their being expected to ask for them individually), and the denial of the use not only of computers and the Internet but even pens and pencils, ostensibly for the prevention of self-harm, regardless of their individual needs, are common practice. With all the hand-wringing about deaths in these places, the question of whether these regimes are abusive in and of themselves does not seem to have been asked.

A picture of Claire Greaves, a young white woman wearing a loose but short grey patterned dress, doing a jigsaw puzzle based on an "1980s shopping basket" theme.

Cygnet claim they have learned lessons from Claire’s death, that they are very sorry and all that. But it’s not good enough. Hers was not the first death from self-harm of a young woman in such a unit, and no doubt the ‘learning’ will be about how to prevent self-harm (by removing everything that could possibly be used for it, thereby further denuding the environment the patients lives in) rather than reducing the motivation for it by making the experience of being in such a place less miserable. There must be pressure put on the management of mental health units not to indiscriminately subject people to restriction and invasive supervision when it is not appropriate. If someone is in a secure unit for lack of the right kind of inpatient care, for example, they should not be refused use of the Internet for months or years just because there are forensic patients (those sent by the courts on hospital orders after committing crimes such as manslaughter) in the same unit — and if there aren’t, that is even less justifiable. Bathroom and toilet supervision should be imposed strictly on an individual, temporary basis, not imposed on everyone or by default. Maintaining dignity should be of paramount concern. How do you persuade a woman with anorexia nervosa to put on weight when she knows it will cause her periods to restart, when she has previously been locked in a room and left to bleed over herself?

Operators of these units should be facing stiff financial sanctions not only when an inpatient dies and neglect or abuse has been a contributing factor but also when an inspection finds that such practices are ongoing (and they should speak to patients, away from supervision, and their parents or relatives). In the case of deaths, chain operators which are repeat offenders should be liable to lose their licence to run healthcare facilities at all, not just face the closure of single units whose patients then have to be decanted elsewhere, possibly to other units in the same chain; the running should be taken over by the NHS or a better-rated provider. There must be legislation to prevent people being subjected to needless indignity in mental health inpatient settings but also to ensure that enough appropriate inpatient places are available so that people are not transferred to secure units simply because they need long-term care that an acute mental health ward or assessment and treatment unit (ATU) cannot provide, and even more so when the secure unit does not specialise in the care and treatment they do need.

And if the stiff sanctions mean that fewer of these companies are willing to set up new units (when not actually needed; they are often built speculatively), then that is all for the good. Companies profiting from abuse, indignity and death have no place in a modern healthcare system or in a civilised society, for that matter.

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Abhishek Majumdar: the playwright fighting death threats with ice cream

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2019 - 15:38

His plays get banned and shadowy figures follow him in the street. But Abhishek Majumdar will not be silenced. As his drama about riots in Tibet is finally staged, we meet the fearless writer

Abhishek Majumdar writes plays that rattle people. His trilogy on the Kashmir crisis – one of which, The Djinns of Eidgah, was staged at London’s Royal Court in 2013 – sparked much sound and fury. So did Salvation House, three years later, in which he wrote damningly about the ancient roots of Hindutva, rightwing nationalism in India.

Majumdar has been hauled into police stations over the years and followed by shadowy figures he suspects to be government officials. Just a few weeks ago, a staging of The Djinns of Eidgah was halted by the authorities in Jaipur. He believes his phone to be tapped and his emails monitored.

So many Kashmir boys lost their lives because they had a gun. A gun changes a person

I’m under surveillance in Delhi. If I send an email to someone in Tibet today, it’ll reach them the day after tomorrow

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Jacinda Ardern’s grief should not eclipse that of Muslims | Mariam Khan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 April, 2019 - 07:00
The New Zealand prime minister’s response to the Christchurch killings is to be admired, but the focus must be on the Muslim communities affected

Since the Christchurch terror attack, much of the focus has been not on the mourning of New Zealand’s Muslim community, but on white people. This has been repeated across the west, and in parts of the Middle East. Jacinda Ardern’s face was projected on to the outside of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai days after the attack.

The prime minister’s response to the shooting has indeed been exemplary but the reaction to it has left little space for the victims, or the wider Muslim community in New Zealand or around the world. While many of us are still coming to terms with the events that happened in Christchurch, I have seen more pictures of Ardern’s grief and mourning than of the Muslim community in New Zealand, the victims or those who acted bravely on the day to save lives and fight against the terrorist.

I'm worried that next time there is a massacre of a Muslim community, for anyone to care it will take another Ardern

Related: Why we need to talk about the media’s role in far-right hate | Owen Jones

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And he wasn’t even Muslim

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 April, 2019 - 22:15
A white woman wearing a Black Nike hoodie stands at a window holding her mobile phone to her ear; she has an angry expression on her face.

Last month a film-making group called “Error in Terror”, founded by a group of “highly-skilled film-makers” after the Westminster and Borough Market terrorist attacks in London to “create content which aims to tackle all forms of hatred, extremism and terrorism”, released a five-minute film on YouTube called “The Martyrs”, in which a woman calls in to a London talk radio show (clearly modelled on LBC) calling on people to “take action” and “make ourselves martyrs” despite the host’s attempt to talk reason to her, inspiring three different white men to attack Asian people (presumed to be Muslim) that they meet in the street or in a shop. Tell MAMA criticised it on Twitter, claiming that while they know of women who were frightened to walk the streets and some who have been physically attacked, “any film that highlights constant aggression towards Muslims will only fuel that fear & could give rise to copycat incidents on Muslim communities”. They also suggest that “some of those watching this film will leave angry, fearful and wanting to defend themselves”. I can see a host of problems with this film, although if there is indeed “constant aggression” towards Muslims, I see no reason not to highlight it.

The EIT website shows that the authors have a rather shaky grasp of history. They give four historic examples of terrorism; one of them is labelled “IRA — TROUBLES”, the cause for which is given as “division between Protestants and Catholics”. No; the reason was the oppression of the Catholic minority by the Protestant majority during the first Stormont era, the violent repression of civil rights protests in the late 1960s, followed by the British response of sending in troops who behaved towards the same Catholic population (who, unlike the Protestants, were native to Ireland) like an army of occupation. This could only have come from a very ignorant mainland British standpoint. The IRA was not the Troubles; they were not the only terrorists in or associated with Northern Ireland.

The film opens with overhead shots of buildings in the City of London, over which a presenter on “London’s Finest Conversation” announces that he is going to talk about “something extremely controversial” before introducing “Jenny” and saying “over to you”. Jenny is standing in the street with her mobile phone and shouts that “it’s the right thing to do”, that “British people” should bear arms, that there are “too many people here who are here for the wrong reasons”, who “don’t want to integrate”, that “it’s not safe, there are too many children that are at too much risk”. An Asian man stands looking in his mirror and tucks the cross and chain round his neck into his shirt. While she is ranting, two young white men in a car nod and say she is right, while a man wanders round in a convenience store drinking alcohol from a bottle, nodding at what the woman is saying (one presumes it is playing on the shop’s radio) as the Asian man walks in; he threatens the man as he tries to pay for his purchases at the same time. As the woman continues her rant, the same man walks to a car in which a Muslim woman wearing a hijab is sitting, tells her “what you wearing that for? It doesn’t belong here”, then rips the scarf off her; the woman then walks over to a car where another Muslim woman is sitting with her child and throws a liquid in her face. One of the two men in the car, challenged by the other, takes a knife and attacks the Asian man from the shop, stabbing him. An Asian man challenged the man harassing the woman in the car, saying “what do you think you’re doing?”, and punches him in the face and knocks him to the ground; the woman gets out of the car and pleads with him to stop, but he attacks her as well. We see a scan of her unborn baby on the floor, while the Asian man who was stabbed lies bleeding, his cross on display.

Two white men sitting in a car; one of them is looking towards the other (he is daring the other to "do something").

My first complaint about this film is that it provides no context to the woman’s rantings. We do not know why she is angry; the host does not ask and she does not say. Has she had a run-in with an Asian or Muslim person some time that day, or just been angered by something she has read in the paper? We do not know. But we do know that the Far Right do pose as “ordinary Joes” in order to insert their views into the mass media, and a woman (or a man) calling a radio phone-in with inflammatory rhetoric could be one of those people. Sometimes they manage to pull the wool over the eyes of people in the mainstream or intellectual media; I came across an article in 2008 by Brendan O’Neill in the New Statesman, who met a woman called Charlotte Lewis whom he described as a ‘ditzy’, unemployed woman with “a chip on her shoulder” from Croydon and who said she found it “distressing” to be the “only white woman on the bus”. In fact, Lewis was a BNP activist who had stood in council elections in a borough (Sutton) where she did not live, which is illegal. So, rather than showing her standing in the streets shouting into her phone, it might have been more apt to show her surrounded by her EDL/DFLA chums, or at least, in a room with some of their emblems or propaganda on the wall.

Second, it employs a trope which is a pet hate of mine: the “he wasn’t even a Muslim” trope. Despite his appearance, he wore a cross on a chain which only a Christian would do (Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus, peace be upon him, and never use the cross as a symbol). Unbeknown to the racist attackers, they had attacked an Asian Christian when they thought they were attacking a Muslim. The truth about the man’s religion is portrayed as adding to the tragedy; the message is “don’t stab someone who looks Muslim because they might not be”, not “don’t stab someone” which rather undermines the group’s message that political violence never solved anything.

The film fails because it portrays racism and racist violence as the result of mere anger, of people being “fed up”; it does not name or even acknowledge the existence of any ideology behind that anger. Its only portrayal of the media consists of the talk-show host trying to reason with the woman. The white racists all appear ‘common’, mindless thugs; one of them is a drunk, and none of them wears a suit or shows any sign of being a political operative. Given that it has become fashionable to portray Muslim terrorism as being the product of ideology rather than anger, and doing the opposite leads to being branded an apologist for terrorism, it is rather hypocritical and unfair to portray white racist violence as being the result of exasperation and anger. There is a long history of racist attitudes being whipped up in the mainstream print and broadcast media and stoked by politicians, and this film did not even begin to acknowledge that.

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Psychologist to be investigated over opposition to LGBT lessons

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 March, 2019 - 08:00
Campaigner’s views on family life may not be ‘compatible with professional standards and could impair her fitness to practise’

A psychologist who has played a key role in opposing the introduction of relationship and sex education lessons in schools is being investigated by her profession’s governing body over her fitness to practise.

Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett, who has extensive experience working with young children and families, is a leading figure in Stop RSE, a campaign against relationship and sex education (RSE) lessons in schools.

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Jon Snow should not have apologised

Indigo Jo Blogs - 30 March, 2019 - 22:56
Two white men, both wearing white masks with the red St George's cross on it, with "NO EU" around the forehead. One of them is drinking from a can of Stella Artois beer. (Stella Artois is Belgian.)Two men at one of Friday’s “Brexit day” rallies.

There is a slogan used by racists throughout recent history: “nothing wrong with being white” (or some variation on that theme). Any celebration of Black or Asian culture is presented as a slur on white culture, and any suggestions that a movement or, say, workplace is “too white” is presented as meaning that there is something wrong with white people, rather than that it should be diverse given the local population. The Channel 4 reporter Jon Snow, covering the pro-Brexit demonstrations that took place in London yesterday (Friday) to mark the day that Britain was originally supposed to have left the European Union, said that he had “never seen so many white people in one place”; the unscripted remark was made when he was reporting from outside the Houses of Parliament. This was immediately leapt on by right-wing, pro-Brexit characters in the media such as the LBC presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer, who called the remarks “unbelievably shocking for a national broadcaster” and offered pictures of other events, such as a People’s Vote march and the Glastonbury festival, which also consisted of a sea of white faces. (More: Micha Frazer-Carrol @ Gal-dem.)

Of course, Jon Snow was not saying that being white was bad or that white people are bad. He was saying that the movement that was demonstrating was suspiciously unpopular with ethnic minority voters in a city that was very diverse, and indeed barely a mile from areas south of the river in particular where there are large non-white populations. Besides the rally being addressed by Tommy Robinson, a noted rabble-rouser and professional violent criminal who has made a name for himself stirring up hatred against Muslims, there were “Generation Identity” flags in the crowd and it was also the end point of the “march for Brexit”; the pro-Brexit campaign was marked by scaremongering about immigration, particularly Muslim immigration (such as the untrue “Turkey is joining the EU” poster), and UKIP while under Nigel Farage’s leadership was more of an anti-immigration party than an anti-EU party. Why would anyone of Muslim or immigrant background attend a rally like that? There were definite violent overtones; at one of the marches there were effigies hanged from a bridge over the Thames and specifically, effigies of Theresa May and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, dragged around by their necks. Britain’s Black and Asian populations know that these sorts of demonstrations are liable to turn violent, and racist.

Jon Snow should not have apologised. Those of us who were not looking to find fault knew what he meant. There were indeed Black and Asian people who voted to leave the EU; why were they conspicuous by their absence on Friday? By apologising he plays to a racist mentality and honours a dishonest, bigoted complaint which does not deserve it.

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Hard-hitting film on Islamophobic attacks ‘promotes fear’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 March, 2019 - 14:00
Tell Mama and Muslim groups says scenes of hate crimes in short film The Martyrs are ‘sensationalist’

Muslim groups have demanded the withdrawal of a hard-hitting short film made to help tackle Islamophobic hate crimes, protesting that it promotes violence and fear.

The Martyrs, a four-minute film shot on location in west London in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, graphically dramatises three real-life Islamophobic crimes: a stabbing, an acid attack and the kicking in the stomach of a pregnant woman, leading to the death of her unborn twins. It was made by Rizwan Wadan, a camera technician who has worked on high-profile dramas such as The Favourite, Star Wars and Luther. He enlisted the help of leading cinematographers, camera operators, producers, stunt artists and film companies.

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