Opinions

Stop Arabic From Becoming the Language of Fear

By Hannah Leach @ehlleach
ehlleach.wixsite.com/musings

It must be said we live in the midst of turbulent times. As forced displacement figures reach all time highs, a distinctly anti-immigrant wave of right-wing populism surges forth to meet it, with big “wins” being witnessed across the leadership board in the Western sphere. Whether the candidacy of figureheads such as Farage and Trump are manifestations of popular sentiment or they managed to successfully exploit times of uncertainty for political gain is another question, but the narrative they promote reaches far and wide into our everyday happenings like a fiendishly twisty ideological octopus.

The point being: the world is becoming paranoid, and the siren of fear, so purposefully manipulated by such politicians, media and other like-minded opportunists, is beginning to deafen us to the point where, apparently, well-grounded reason is no longer audible any more. The EU’s less than adequate handling of a steep influx of migration from both war-torn and economically-destitute countries, i.e. buttressing the existing walls of Fortress Europe and systematically violating human rights law by creating policy that forcibly repatriates vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants, has only worsened the climate for those in need of safe havens. Yet, this closed-minded mentality doesn’t stop at shuttering down the borders, it extends to our everyday interactions to boot. Let’s get into it:

Last week Delta Airlines were at the epicentre of a public affairs scandal following their forced removal of 2 young Arab-American males from a passenger plane heading from London – New York for “speaking a different language”. The language? Arabic. So-acclaimed Youtube star, Adam Saleh and his friend, Slim Albaher, filmed themselves being unceremoniously booted off their flight after a nearby passenger supposedly overheard Adam talking on the phone to his mother and informed him that she was “feeling uncomfortable”. Several other passengers backed her up, some even aggressively so, after which the flight attendants, asked the pair to leave the aircraft, with pilot in tow. Now, Adam Saleh has filmed an array of tongue-in-cheek social experiments around the idea of discrimination against Muslims and anti-Muslim stereotypes, so accounts of the incident vary from source to source. That being said, prankster or no, he sheds important light on the wider phenomenon of Islamophobia that is so prevalent today.

Right now, we sit at the intersection of Islamophobia and mass migration (by those seeking a better life, a large contingent of which are also escaping the brutal Assad regime and the throes of violent persecution, robbed of their sovereignty). It’s up to us to use every weapon in our ethical arsenals to twist free of these exaggerated perceptions thrust upon us and look to each other as human beings, free of misconceptions.

Stop others from co-opting Arabic as the language of fear.

Arabic had a rich heritage before it became so steeped in paranoia. It is the language of poetry, of literature, science, astronomy and philosophy from ancient Arab civilisations. But now, when we hear it, our minds spring to one word: “terrorist”. How have we reduced such a pillar of human development to one caricatured man with a beard and a bomb cowering in the belly of a plane? As an Arabic student, it exasperates me that this beautiful tongue is being tarred with such an ugly reputation, that represents a hugely disproportionate minority of Arabic speakers worldwide.

I say “we”, because it’s only human that after intensive bombardment from Western media circles that frame migration issues in a calculated attempt to create suspicion and fear of ordinary people, we become suspicious and fearful of ordinary people. But we have to challenge ourselves.

My mother recently told me a story about a family she noticed walking through a Texas airport in the wake of the Berlin truck attack, having arrived on a plane from Turkey. They were making their way through the arrivals hall, heads down, avoiding eye contact with other passengers. Perhaps they were just lost in their thoughts, but perhaps they were fearful of reprisals by social vigilantes who might take it upon themselves to “make America great again”. She expressed feeling a deep-seated sadness that they should feel victimised to the extent that they expect harassment before respect, prejudice before mutual tolerance, animosity before openness. She wanted to look them in the eye and reassure them that they were not being held accountable for a militant minority’s actions, but sadly, and understandably, the family kept themselves to themselves and the moment passed. What would you have done?

Twitter reactions via hashtags such as #DeltaIntolerance and #DeltaRacist demonstrated a healthy dose of public outrage at the extremist profiling of the 2 young men, but I was surprised to witness some on the more progressive end of the spectrum (both Muslim and otherwise) defending Delta’s actions on the basis that the pair incited a reaction at a sensitive moment. To that, I say this: your one moment of discomfort or offense is well overshadowed by multiple instances of ethnic and religious discrimination for Muslim and other minority communities all over the Western World.

How can we ensure freedom of expression/ of speech in a fair and just society when we cripple the tools to do so? Language goes to the core of our identity, so imagine how you would feel if yours suddenly became the language of fear. A few passengers, who appeared to be mostly ethnic minorities themselves, stood up in that Delta Airlines cabin in defence of Saleh and Albaher, while the rest either heckled them to leave, or looked the other way until the “ordeal” was over. These are the moments when we decide how we move forward, that shape our outlook and the experience of every community within our society and how they fit together. The least we can do is to keep a common dialogue open.

A Step by Step View of the Paris Attacks Last Year. We Remember

The attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 by gunmen and suicide bombers left 130 dead and hundreds wounded.
It began at 21:20 local time (20:20 GMT) with an explosion outside the Stade de France stadium. A routine security check, had, according to the Wall Street Journal, prevented the 20-year-old suicide bomber, Bilal Hadfi, from entering. Inside was an international football friendly between Germany and France. When confronted by security, the man decided to detonate his vest outside of Gate D, one of the main entrance’s. The resulting explosion killed himself and a bystander.

Ten minutes later, at Gate H, a second suicide bomber detonated his vest. A third suicide bomber targeted a branch of McDonald’s near the stadium.

It would emerge later that all three men wore the same sophisticated suicide vest. According to the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, the detonator contained nails to increase its lethality. The vests contained TATP, a peroxide-based and highly volatile explosive.

The blasts were audible inside the stadium and the sounds immortalised by television cameras. President Francois Hollande was escorted from the stadium at 21:30 following the second explosion.

Manuel Colaço Dias, a 63-year-old chauffeur and Portuguese national was the first victim of the November attacks. He moved to France at the age of 18 to escape Portugal’s authoritarian regime. For the past decade, he had worked for a shuttlebus company, before retiring in 2012. That fateful Friday was a day he did not want to work. But he accepted the request of a group of spectators who were running late. Dias died on the spot from the suicide vest blast.

Dias adored Sporting Clube de Portugal. And the Portuguese club paid tribute to him on November 15. The club’s official English-language Twitter account tweeted: “For Manuel Colaço Dias, a lion who fell victim to the terrorist acts in Paris.”

On the club’s official website, a statement concluded: “Sporting Clube de Portugal would like to offer our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of all of those caught up in the attack on Paris.”

Yet, amid the tragedy came an act of heroism which saved many other lives.  Salim Toorabally, a 42-year-old devout Muslim of Mauritian origin, is the security guard who stopped Hadfi from entering the stadium. In an interview with NBC News, he insists that he was ‘just doing is job’.

He caught one man trying to enter the stadium without a ticket. He told Hadfi: “If you don’t have a ticket, I’m not letting you in.'” He warned another guard not to let the man in when he attempted to pass through a second turnstile without a ticket.

Minutes later, Toorabally heard the explosion which continues to haunt him. His actions saved hundreds of lives. Nor will he forget the face of Bilal Hadfi. The man who killed himself and Manuel Colaço Dias. He reflected that he, and countless others could have been killed.

In March 2016, the French newspaper L’Equipe invited Toorabally to meet with the France midfielder Blaise Matuidi, who told him: “You are more than a hero.”

Meanwhile, in a different part of the city, at 21:25, gunmen opened fire at patrons of Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge with assault rifles. It left 15 people dead and 10 injured.

Days after the shootings, members of the Algerian family who own Le Carillon spoke of their grief. A popular destination in a trendy area by Canal Saint Martin.

Witnesses initially believed that firecracker had been set off, before the realisation that they were under fire from semi-automatic weapons.

Momo, a family member, told the Local France: “There was blood everywhere, people lying on floor, screaming and shouting. My cousin’s a doctor and came down stairs and started treating people. People were shouting for scissors to cut off clothes.”

One of the victims was Amine Ibnolmobarak, a 29-year-old teacher and architect from Morocco. He and his wife were dining Carillon terrace before the attacks began. and his French wife, Maya Nemeta, was shoot three times but survived. Other names of the dead included twins Charlotte and Emilie Meaud, aged 29.

The names of dead from the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant shootings included student Justine Moulin, 23. And 27-year-old Chloe Boissinot. She was from Château-Larcher in the Poitou-Charentes region, where 150 people held a silence in her honour.

Within a matter of minutes, witnesses recalled seeing the same black car, as gunfire outside of Cafe Bonne Bière and La Casa Nostra pizzeria in rue de la Fontaine au Roi, left five people dead and wounded eight. The cafe re-opened three weeks later.

At 21:38 gunmen opened fire outside the La Belle Equipe restaurant. Within two or three minutes, 19 were dead. One of the victims was 41-year-old Djamila Houd – who died in the arms of her husband Gregory Reibenberg – who owns La Belle Equipe. She was Muslim and he was Jewish.

Houda Saadi, the 35-year-old waitress and manager of LA Belle Equipe, of Tunisian descent, was another Muslim victim of the Paris attacks.

By 21:40 Braham Abdeslam had detonated his suicide vest at the restaurant Le Comptoir Voltaire on the Boulevard Voltaire. It left one person injured.

The deadliest attack began at 21:40 inside the 1,500-seat Bataclan hall, where the Californian rock band Eagles of Death Metal were entertaining a sold out crowd.

Three men wearing suicide vests entered the venue with assault rifles. Prosecutors state that the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar” and made references to Syria and Iraq.

The attackers threw grenades and opened fire on the crowds. This wave of violence left eighty-nine dead. At least 99 people were eventually taken to hospital in critical condition. Some escaped the developing hostage situation. Some escaped by accessing the roof. Others did their best to hide.

Just after midnight the police assault ended the siege. Two of the attackers died by detonating their suicide vests.
The names of the dead included Anne and Pierre-Yves Guyomard, who hoped that after two years of marriage that children would soon follow. Cecile Martin, a 33-year-old clinical psychologist. Christophe Mutez, a 48-year-old employee of the software firm PROS France. Gilles Leclerc, a 32-year-old florist who attended the concert with his girlfriend, who survived the attacks. Helene Muyal, was a 35-year-old makeup artist who leaves behind a husband and their 17-month-old son. Eric Thome was a 39-year-old photographer and graphic designer. He was to embrace fatherhood for a second time in the weeks ahead. Nick Alexander, from Colchester, was at the Bataclan selling band merchandise.

Police later identified their killers as Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, Samy Animour, 28, and Foued Mohamed-Aggad, 23.
Three hours of sheer terror would have lasting impacts in France and beyond.

At Tell MAMA, we did record a tripling of incidents. Our 2015 annual report noted that in the three weeks during and after the attacks there were 82 anti-Muslim incidents recorded. This short-term spike of 328 per cent confirmed an earlier estimate given to the Independent newspaper.

Cases reported to our service following the attacks again demonstrated gender bias. In one such example highlighted on November 18, 2015. A member of the public reported: “I saw a man behave inappropriately and make racist comments to a young woman on the tube where a white man wouldn’t sit next to a young girl with a hijab on. He called her a ‘dirty P***’ and [told her] to ‘f*** off back to Syria because girls do not wear hijabs in England’.
“I wanted to say something but was quite scared as none of the commuters did anything and looked away. She did speak back to him politely, and said: ‘I’m a British-Pakistani and am not forcing my faith on you or anyone else’.
Other examples of abuse included slurs which singled Muslims out as ‘terrorists’. Some had the indignity of a stranger shouting ‘ISIS’ in their direction.

Another high profile Tell MAMA case included the abuse directed at a Muslim couple in the Greater Manchester area. The unnamed couple had completed their shopping and were returning to their car when the abuse began. The female perpetrator went on to accuse the couple of being ‘terrorists’. She then attacked the woman due to her hijab and had unsuccessfully tried to tear it off. This. however, was not the end of the ordeal. A member of the public who had witnessed the attack sided with the perpetrator. It served to compound their outrage and humiliation.

Our 2015 annual report found that hotspots of anti-Muslim hate occur when Muslims use public and private transport networks, walk in public spaces of cities, and where they do their shopping. Muslim women are more likely to be attacked than men in most settings. The number of offline incidents have trebled from 146 in 2014/15 (12 months to March 2015) to 437 ‘offline’ incidents in the 2015 calendar year. This shows an increase of 300 per cent and there was an increase over time on the previous reporting period by 200 per cent.

One such incident typifies this trend: A Muslim woman out with family was confronted by an aggressive male who gesticulated about ‘killing them all’. The perpetrator had been silent and gave no early indication about motive. They felt targeted due to their religious identity. This incident occurred less than a week after the Paris attacks.
In the news media, Tell MAMA published an open letter to the Daily Mail, after a cartoon in the wake of the Paris attacks inferred that refugees and Muslims pose a violent threat to Europe.

Nor was the spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents restricted to Tell MAMA. The Metropolitan Police had also recorded a tripling of Islamophobic hate crimes and incidents. In the two weeks before the November 13 attacks, the Met recorded 24 Islamophobic crimes. Two weeks later that figure jumped to 76. In response to the rising hate crime, the Met increased its patrol and had more than 900 dedicated hate crime officers.

Attacks on Muslims, be it verbally or physically, did not just happen on the streets or social media. At around 2:15am on November 17, someone attempted to burn down the Bishopbriggs Cultural Centre in Auchinairn Road in the East Dunbartonshire town. The building is listed as a mosque on the Glasgow Muslims website.

Firefighters contained the blaze. Some damage resulted in financial loss but no-one was hurt as a result of the blaze. Police Scotland arrested a 41-year-old in connection to the blaze on October 20, 2016.

Hate crime spikes are not always easy to predict. In the case of both Paris attacks, we found that elevated number of reports came into Tell MAMA. Not all cases will directly cite the event – yet they represent how a climate of fear can impact cohesion. Others drawn into extremist right-wing narratives have long continued to exploit these tragedies for political gain. This sometimes extends to non-violent extremist hate speech online. Or, sadly, street based incidents. Not all perpetrators demonstrate far-right proclivities. Yet it speaks to how entrenched certain anti-Muslim narratives have become. Yet, an upsurge in reports also demonstrates that Muslims are more aware of the importance of reporting incidents. This includes confidential third party services like Tell MAMA or the police.

Post Trump, We Refuse to be Second Class Citizens in the West

Saudi Arabia….Bahrain…..just some of the countries where human rights and the rule of law do not seem to go hand in hand. We can highlight others such as Burma where the Rohingya minorities rights are assaulted on a daily basis and where human beings are denied the right to life and liberty. These countries we all understand, are a ‘basket case of deplorables’ when it comes to human rights.

Today in the heart of Europe and the West, there is a movement afoot that openly questions the loyalty of Muslims and which smears all Muslims with the mark of Caan. Except this mark is that all Muslims should carry the bloodstain of IS or Daesh and that the rights of Muslims should be reduced because they are an insiduous threat. Who would have thought that the rantings of Pastor Terry Jones would come to the mainstream of political debate in the US, but it has and it is now a reality.

This morning, political leaders in France and Germany came out and re-affirmed human rights and the inalienable right for the protection of civil and legal rights for all communities. This is not to say that there are no ongoing problems in these countries. Yet, our own Government’s message was that we were open for business with the US, all well and good, but there was a vacuous inability to stand up for human rights for all.

Which brings us onto the following. The face of politics in the West is changing. Within that, basic norms are being challenged and with the real risk that they may enhance extremist narratives and groups and further polarise the middle ground within Muslim communities.  It also a fact that the middle ground within Muslim communities is under enormous strain and is fracturing. People who would engage with Government are turning away, believing that our elected Government is a threat to Muslims and Islam. The talk of isolationism is therefore not just a Trump problem, it is fast becoming the narrative that some Muslims promote as they wake up to a daily diet of anti-Muslim headlines, politicians playing to populist xenophobia and others who believe that Muslims should only be seen through a securified lens.

Which brings us onto the following. We simply cannot and will not allow the rights of any community to be written by others who cannot see any good within them. This means that we will not stand by idly and let others write the narrative about Muslims, doing so thinking that Muslims are inherently problematic. By challenging these views and the activities of such people, we send out a message. That we are not going to be second class citizens in the West.

For Years Press Sources Made Anjem Choudhary the ‘Go To’ Person To Raise Viewer Numbers

Today, 49 year-old Anjem Choudhary was convicted at London’s Old Bailey court of using online lectures and messages to encourage support for the banned group, Daesh or Islamic State, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Prosecutors said that in postings on social media, Choudary and his close associate Mizanur Rahman, 33, had sought to validate the “caliphate” declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and said Muslims had a duty to obey or provide support to him.

In one hour-long speech, Choudary set out the requirements for a legitimate caliphate under Islam and why he believed the Islamic State met those criteria.

Time and time again in bomb plots in the UK, individuals who had come into the sphere of influence of Choudhary and groups that he helped set up, such as Al-Muhajiroun, were convicted of attempts to harm, maim or kill. In some cases, young men who had come into contact with Choudhary, were involved in brutal killings in the UK and in other countries.

Yet, there is also another story – that of media sources and editors whose natural reaction on stories about extremism, radicalisation or even on Islam, was to approach Choudhary, as the ‘go to’ person. This not only elevated him in the eyes of some sympathisers, it lionised him in the minds of sympathisers who were overseas who saw him as some form of Muhajideen (or holy warrior), ‘sitting in the land of the disbeliever and standing firm.’ What it did for community relations, was simply to toxify perceptions of wider  British Muslim communities many of whom called for his arrest and conviction many years ago.

For some of these media sources, Choudhary was the gift that kept giving. He would raise viewer numbers, be the villain that they wanted him to be and highlight an extremist midst in the heart of our country. Choudhary knew this and played to the media sources knowing that any publicity was ‘good’ publicity for him. These sick and symbiotic relationships simply grew and grew to the point that Choudhary was on TV screens in the UK on virtually a weekly basis. From New York to Tokyo, Choudhary’s face was beamed to millions of viewers and what they saw was a Muslim who was extreme in his views.

Choudhary may well be looking at a ten year jail sentence in the coming weeks. Yet, there are more actors to this sorry saga than just Choudhary. His sympathisers and supporters, media platforms that held onto his every word to ensure higher viewing figures and those that gave Choudhary succour and support, all had a role to play. They had a role to play in creating this monster and in giving his toxic views a realism that may well have influenced others. Only time will tell on that score.

Commenting on the conviction, the Founder of Tell MAMA, Fiyaz Mughal stated;

“Anjem Choudhary was repeatedly the go to person for mainstream press sources. They knew this man craved the press and limelight and he sought to talk to vulnerable young men through those very same press sources and many willingly and obligingly gave him media platforms in a their ratings war. He served their purposes of raising the numbers of viewers and he received a platform for his horrendous and twisted abuse of Islam. It became a symbiotic relationship and some of these press sources should also hang their heads in shame after the verdict.

“Choudhary was made a household name by some of these media sources and he damaged the view of British Muslims by his extremist views. Today, he rightly has been convicted by a jury of his peers. Yet, editors of some of these media sources will be heading to pubs and drinking venues as if they played no part in the creation of Choudhary. However you slice and dice this, Choudhary, his supporters and sympathisers were given oxygen by some sections of the media. On that score, the public deserve an apology by some of these media editors.”

You Simply Cannot Tackle Anti-Muslim Hatred Whilst Being Homophobic

“Islamophobia is awful and you know my sister was abused at a street corner.”

“I saw a young sister have something thrown at her from a passing car.”

“I was spat at on the tram and no-one helped me.”

These are actual comments from victims of anti-Muslim hate who have been targeted because of their faith and the abhorrent actions of the perpetrators should be wholly condemned by right thinking people in our country. Time and time again, we have come across such cases that have been reported into us and where we have assisted victims and ensured that evidence has been collected and passed onto law enforcement. Longer term casework support has also been provided to victims.

Sadly, we have also come across statements that have promoted homophobia and take this statement.

“I have been attacked so many times for being Muslim, but for gays and those who are against Islam, they (the Government), will do anything for these people who are against God.”

“These ‘homos’ are the ones that are trying to break Islam and bring their evil into our communities. When we get attacked, they are behind it in Government and they want to change us. We will not change because of their evil.”

Or take the fact that we have collected further evidence of harassing and intimidating texts being sent to colleagues and staff members, harassing them with homophobic comments. These are people who readily (and rightly), talk about how anti-Muslim hate needs to be tackled, whilst targeting people with homophobic statements and comments. It is truly bizarre and sad that they cannot see how twisted their logic is.

We have collected these statements and texts and where we come across them, we will publish who is behind them and any campaigns that are run against people because they are gay or perceived to be from LGBT communities. Such homophobia needs to be stamped out and we will give it no quarter. That also goes for anti-Muslim prejudice, which must be tackled with vigour, focus and determinism. There is no moral relativism in our work. If we tackle hatred, it is working to challenge all forms of hatred.

Murderer of Asad Shah, Tanveer Ahmed, has Shamed All Believers

Today, Tanveer Ahmed, the murderer of Asad Shah, was sentenced to a life term and told that he will serve a minimum of 27 years in jail.

Tanveer Ahmed pleaded guilty to the religiously motivated murder of Asad Shah and the motivation was simply because Mr Shah had posted videos online in which he claimed to be a prophet. In fact, during the trial it came to light that Tanveer Ahmed watched Mr Shah on his mobile phone as he travelled to Glasgow on the day of the murder. According to news sources, he was heard in a phone message to say:

“Listen to this guy, something needs to be done, it needs nipped in the bud”.

The Judge’s comments in her summing up were damning. She stated:

“No-one in any civilised country including Scotland has the right to take the life of another whatever offence that individual perceives that he or she has suffered.

“It is vitally important in modern society that respect and tolerance for others of any race, creed, colour, ethnic origin or religious belief is maintained and protected by the law of the land.

“I note with considerable concern that you have expressed no remorse whatsoever for this appalling crime.”

Legacy of the Murder

The murder of Asad Shah raises a number of issues. The first is around individuals who believe that they have the right to protect faith and belief at all costs. This, as has been seen, is not only dangerous, it is a serious threat to communities and the peace of our nation. It is also immoral and against the very basis of faiths themselves.

In trying to be the moral guardian for Islam, Tanveer Ahmed has not only taken a life, he has also confirmed in the minds of those who dislike faith, that it is the root of all evil. Allied to this, the very religion that he sought to defend and protect, will again be associated in the minds of some, with extremism and the destruction of life. Tanveer Ahmed’s murder of Mr Shah therefore has wider impacts and implications and whilst the case may be over, the repercussions will continue to ripple away.

The murder also raises the relationship of some Muslim communities to the Ahmaddiya community. Whilst the murderer stated that he was motivated by claims made by Mr Shah to be a prophet, we will never fully know whether the murderer was also partially inspired and motivated by hatred towards the Ahmaddiya faith of Mr Shah. The reality is that we will never probably know the full mix of thoughts which led to this brutal murder. This is relevant since there are ongoing intra-Muslim and sectarian issues that are showing themselves through other incidents, albeit non-violent in nature.

We within Tell MAMA have seen a rise in intra-Muslim hate incidents post the murder of Mr Shah and targeted against members of the Ahmaddiya community. Whilst the reasons may be many fold, some of the very comments made by the murderer are circulated against Ahmaddiyas in our country. This is a trend that has continued for some time and which has come to the forefront of the media in the last year or so. It is also a trend which is concerning.

Whatever the future may bring, the murder of Asad Shah and its after effects will continue to be felt. Let us hope that at the very least (and to make sense of the murder of Mr Shah), that we challenge those who believe that a faith should be protected through killing. The only way beliefs should be sustained is through their relevance to the lives of people. That is what people of faith should be working towards and the reality is that Tanveer Ahmed’s actions shame us all. Of that, there is no doubt.

Muslim NHS Worker Detained for Reading the Wrong Kind of Book

As Orwellian as its get, a Thomson Airways cabin crew member reported in a Muslim female for reading a book entitled, “Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.”

According to the Independent newspaper, Faiza Shaheen was interviewed by South Yorkshire police under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act which left her shaken and angry that she had been discriminated because of her faith.

The Independent lists ‘Syria Speaks’ as,

“The award-winning book by Malu Halasa is a collection of essays, short stories, poems, songs, cartoons and photographs from Syrian authors and artists.

Basis of Interview Under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act

It seems, according to the Independent, that the evidence for a Schedule 7 Stop was a book that Ms Shaheen was reading and possibly, the fact that she was travelling to Turkey and was Asian and Muslim. Some of these factors may have triggered a Thomson Airways cabin crew member to report in Ms Shaheen.

This case brings up a number of issues. The first is that young Muslims may re-confirm feelings that they are going to be increasingly targeted because of the ignorance of some. Terrorists and extremists will hardly be reading books on planes that raise their profile in the eyes of cabin crew staff.

Secondly, some will think that if Ms Shaheen, who is not visibly Muslim, can be stopped and left feeling that she has been targeted, then what of others reading the wrong type of book and who are visibly Muslim. Thirdly, such actions further corrode trust in the counter-terrorism agenda for young Muslims, who as suggested before, will re-affirm feelings of victimisation.

Which brings us onto the following. We are very glad that newspapers like the Independent highlight such cases since people need to get a sense of perspective. Asian Muslim men or women reading books about the Middle East should not be seen as people who are somehow suspect and potentially vulnerable to extremism. Also, we hope that the Thomson Airways cabin crew staff member will realise that common sense is an important part of life. Reading a book does not indicate extremism even with the words ‘Syria’ and ‘frontline’ within the title. What makes up good counter-terrorism work is common sense, looking at the wider picture and good solid intelligence. Referring people to counter-terrorism teams on the basis of books that they read on planes, is not only Orwellian, it is totally counter-productive.

Why Is There A Quran Page on the Floor in Fireman Sam?

Fireman Sam and his firefighters usually ensure that the residents in the fictional Welsh rural village of Pontypandy are safe and protected against fires. The community oriented fireman has been in existence since 1987. A well-known brand, Fireman Sam has also promoted fire safety and generally has stayed away from issues of controversy given that the target audience has been young children.

Yet, in this 2014 production of Fireman Sam, (which has been sent to us by 4 separate people today), Fireman Sam seems to slip over when bringing in teas for his colleagues and with the result that as he slips and falls, a Qu’ran page flies into the air. (The Qu’ran page in question is actually from the Chapter ‘Al-Mulk’ – The Sovereignty, verse 14).

The impression given by those reporting into us is that this was deliberately done. Yet, the bizarre and random nature of a Qu’ran page in a Fireman Sam animation flying up into the air does raise the question as to what was it doing in this animation in the first place? Furthermore, this may seem like a trivial matter to some, but the impacts around such matters do affect perceptions. Those reporting into us believe that the Qu’ran page was on the floor and that the fireman slipped on the page.

In the end, what seems like a trivial matter to some, is certainly not a trivial matter to others who believe in the sanctity of holy texts. Maybe, some care can be taken in the future on including sacred religious texts when there is no relevance to the story whatsoever.

 

Turkey’s Hizmet Purge Is Seeping into the UK Creating Fear in Some Communities

Over the weekend, we have received 5 reports from individuals who are involved in the delivery of social services here in the UK and who are of Turkish heritage. Law abiding citizens, they have been involved in voluntary service and interfaith activities and have started to receive texts, from within Turkey and beyond the country and which have been circulated far and wide.

The text messages ask for individuals who receive them to inform on members of the Gulen or Hizmet movement and the messages are laced with suggestions that action needs to be taken. The impact of these messages is to create fear within members of the Hizmet movement in the United Kingdom and who are active in social work within and beyond Muslim communities.

We are listing this issue and do not want to comment on Turkey’s internal affairs. They are an issue for Turkey and it is not our remit in Tell MAMA to do so. What we are concerned with, is that issues are spilling into the UK and with large communities of Turkish and Kurdish heritage. These texts are causing fear and are targeted at a group that is Muslim and which is as they say, are in the ‘eye of the storm’ in Turkey. The politics of Turkey is therefore bleeding into the targeting of a specific group of Muslims in the UK and who are part of the Gulen movement. This makes it relevant to us.

We would like to stress that what is needed are cool heads and calm at this period of time. No-one in the UK should be targeted for what is taking place in Turkey and we understand the depth and strength of feeling from members of the public in Turkey against the murderous coup that took place. We will continue to monitor impacts here in the UK and if anyone receives such texts, (listed below), please do get in touch with us and we will progress these through relevant law enforcement channels.

Hizmet

 

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Response to Dispatches ‘Racist Britain’ Programme Lifts the Soul

Yesterday evening, Channel 4’s Dispatches aired the following programme, entitled ‘Racist Britain.’

The programme highlighted the racist and anti-Muslim hatred which blights the lives of some people who are targeted by perpetrators with openly racist and bigoted views. The programme provided an insight into bigoted activities in our country which deserve nothing but contempt and strong action from us all by challenging, condemning and reporting in the perpetrators.

During the course of the programme, staff at Tell MAMA received abusive and threatening phone calls from 8 pm to 9 pm and with threats and racist and anti-Muslim abuse being left on our voicemail messaging services. These were logged and sent to the police.

Yet, we also received some of the most beautiful messages from members of the public and we wanted to highlight just one of the many we received. There are many within our country who simply will not accept such hatred and intolerance and this story is in honour of the silent majority who go about their daily lives and who challenge and question the hatred of others in a desire to build a more integrated, harmonious and cohesive country.

Response from member of the public to Tell MAMA, 11/07/2016

Sir,

Having just watched C4Dispatches, I am writing to TM from a different perspective in terms of prevailing perceptions.

I am white, English, public school educated and privileged. Now in my 60s, as I child I grew-up in Singapore. It was there that a lifelong enduring memory of honesty, decency, loyalty, and warmth of love was seeded. It was seeded by a humble taxi driver, ‘Osman’. Every school day for three years, unhesitatingly Osman ferried me to and from my school and my home in his taxi, of which he was exceedingly proud. He cared. He was generous of heart and action. He counselled. He joked. He laughed. He moaned. He was one of the most decent human beings I have known. He was also a proud Muslim. He had undertaken Hajj three times. He told me about his pilgrimage experiences. I was in awe as he regaled me of its time, distance, numbers and method. He always wore his faith, with pride. For many, many years after, Osman was, to me, the epitome of the Muslim faith. He still is. Osman died many years ago and when I found this out, I cried. The tears seared as they ran. Therefore, when today I witness the mayhem of hate, confusion, vitriol, bitterness, and loss, and when I see fingers pointing at the Muslim faith, I think of this humble taxi driver, and I know that as a representative of your faith, Osman is its truth and its reality. Society needs more ‘Osman’ – a subliminally respectful preacher and teacher, and a goodly, humble man.

This is my enduring impression of the Muslim faith. All should thank Osman.

AJ

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