Proposed Neo-Nazi Demonstration is Against Us All

The proposed neo-nazi demonstration set for Saturday the 4th of July is a way of intimidating Jewish communities which we should all reject. Much of this has been influenced by Joshua Bonehill which the CST blog covers in detail. Yet, the snowball effect of ramping up rhetoric which Bonehill started is leading to real concerns within the area and within Jewish communities.

However, this is not just an issue for Jewish communities. This is an issue for us all as Londoners, people of good will, of faith and no faith and within people who believe that we should live our lives free from hate and intolerance.

Whilst TELL MAMA works on countering anti-Muslim hate and in assisting victims of anti-Muslim hate, the mere thought of neo-Nazis intimidating people because of their faith or race is sickening. Furthermore, such activities should worry us all since such extremists actually dislike diverse communities and so attempts to intimidate Jewish communities should be round rejected, condemned and countered by us all.

So this is why we say that it is imperative that all of us stand with and in line with Jewish communities. You are not alone and an attack on you is an attack on all of us. We also hope that Muslim communities stand shoulder to shoulder with Jewish communities and speak out against the intimidation by far right extremist groups. Together, we are stronger and together, we can show those who hate that they will never succeed!

We Should Welcome the Stance Taken by the Conservatives

As the new administration beds in and activities start to take off, it is important to reflect on some of the journey that work on tackling anti-Muslim hate has taken.

The previous Coalition Government supported the work of TELL MAMA on tackling anti-Muslim hate when no previous Government had tried to tackle this issue. They did this through supporting the mapping, monitoring and measuring of it. Their vision has made a real difference and both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats must be thanked. They did the right thing and with moral courage and practical assistance.

We believe that this present administration can be bolder and no doubt, more determined to tackle hate and prejudice in our society. This Government has made clear that it is willing to take bold and difficult steps in a number of areas and we believe that real and sustained support in this area of work can also help to tackle those consistently promoting bigotry and to ensure that victims get access to justice.

We are also aware that the Home Secretary has been consistent in her public statements around the need to tackle intolerance, hate and bigotry.This has also been the case with previous ministers in the Coalition Government.

As we move forward, we will continue to work with our Government, law enforcement, victim support agencies and a multiplicity of partners to ensure that work on tackling anti-Muslim hate is documented and victims supported and assisted. We will also work on the main-streaming of this work since Muslims are part and parcel of the fabric of our country and calls to alienate and isolate them are mainly made by those on the fringes of political life in the UK. This means that agencies working on this area also need to view the issue through the lens of realism, meaning that anti-Muslim hate is not the only issue that affects the lives of Muslims. It is one issue amongst a range of many that also affect other communities, such as unemployment, housing etc.

We therefore look forward to the next 5 years with an approach based on co-operation and partnership. If anything, real change has been made over the last 3 years through our work and the next 5 offer an opportunity for bolder and more creative work in the future.

Post May 7th, Anti-Muslim Hatred is an Issue That Needs Support to Tackle

May 7th Polling DayThe next few days or even weeks may bring together parties from various political positions into what could be a coalition or a minority Government, or even a loose agreement which votes issue by issue.

Whatever the outcome, we call out to the future Government to seriously look at the issue of anti-Muslim hatred and set in motion a sustained package of support that can help to tackle this issue. Yet, we also have to be honest and say that there is much division, ideological differences and dare we say, marginalisation of groups that do this work at various levels.

Some of this marginalisation is within some sections of Muslim communities who hobble the work of organisations simply for being ‘too liberal,’ or for helping Ahmaddiyas or for standing against LGBT hate that some receive. Yet some of the marginalisation is by groups whose message is that the United Kingdom is so bad and the British public so Islamophobic, that the lot of Muslims is to be consistent victims. We firmly reject and abhor such tactics and rhetoric which does nothing but places into the minds of people an existence that can only be regarded as melancholic and passive in nature, as though they live their lives in a state of internalised mania. This is neither healthy for them, nor for our country.

We are not going to be like some other groups who want to ‘play up’ or overstate what they call Islamophobia, yet the issue of anti-Muslim hatred does not need statements that make out that it is worse than other forms of hate. The impacts on all victims of hate crimes are unique and what is specifically unique about anti-Muslim hatred is the fact that the one thing which unites fractious far right groups across the US and Europe is anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Sadly, this is certainly unique to anti-Muslim hatred.

So we do not need to exaggerate on what are the facts which we have systematically laid out for 3 years; that anti-Muslim hatred is an issue and continues to be an issue, though it should be systematically tackled with other strands of hate.

We have also repeatedly mentioned that Muslims are not looking for special treatment because of anti-Muslim hatred. They simply want to be able to know that they can get justice, much like any other victim and that their complaints are handled seriously and with care.

The Future

We must also acknowledge the fact that TELL MAMA was started with support from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). As an independent project, the Department did not pressurise us nor influence us, yet it sought to ensure that together, we could build the first national recording mechanism on anti-Muslim hatred, much like the Community Security Trust, (even though the CST was created with financial support and vision from within Jewish communities).  We commend the Department and Ministers in DCLG who believed that this work was important and who stuck to that principle.

However, work on tackling anti-Muslim hatred is bigger than one individual or a Department. It needs to be sustained, developed and given stability over time. Which is why we are calling on any future Government to take the position of long term support for this work and in ensuring that just as any other hate crime strand, anti-Muslim hatred is publicly and politically acknowledged, resourced and supported, as long as the work is professional and well developed.

So as voters go to the poll tomorrow, we know that the British public will vote with their heads and their hearts for what they believe is right for the nation. They will also carry with them some key qualities and principles which we believe are based on freedom, fairness and justice. All three of these qualities are fundamental to ensuring that victims of crime can rehabilitate themselves and get through some of the most traumatic of times. We see no difference for victims of anti-Muslim hatred and that is why this country leads the way in being fair to all citizens. The British people know intrinsically when something is not right and anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry certainly fits into that category.

So today on May 7th let us say that, “together we can make that difference – together we can push back those who seek to divide communities, create intolerance and harbour bigotry that do our country a great dis-service”.

UKIP Supporter David Russell Promotes anti-Muslim Hate, & Tears and Spits on Quran

Forty-five year old UKIP Supporter, David Russell, used to be an active supporter of the English Defence League and is based in London. Having a penchant for fawning over his own rants, Davey Russell has taken to promoting anti-Muslim bigotry through videos he posts on-line. However, his actions do not stop at anti-Muslim abuse and on occasions he has posted videos of him tearing the Qur’an, spitting on it, and abusing the holiest book of Muslims.

An ardent admirer of UKIP, he makes the following statements through his videos which can be found here. Posted on the 19th of April under the heading, ‘2Tribes go to war,’ Russell undertakes the following:

0.59 secs – 1:10 mins: Russell tears a page out of the Qur’an and spits on it. The page is then destroyed. He then calls the Qur’an, “an accursed book of death.”

1:30 mins: Russell throws the Qur’an aggressively onto the floor.

1:59 mins: Russell says, (holding the Qur’an), “that this f**king thing will be the end of England.”

He then goes onto add that the Qur’an that he ordered can be received free of charge and that people watching his videos can contact the freephone number, (which he posts up), and order the holy book. The intention is clear and he suggests that people should order the religious book and make videos similar to his. One can only assume that they would probably take the same abusive and aggressive stance which Russell takes against the holiest scripture for Muslims.

Within this video, a female voice can then be heard in the background and is the voice of the camera holder. She suggests that they “have a lot of dog*hit in the garden,” which is followed by a further comment from Russell suggesting that the amount of pages, (in the Qur’an), means that there will be a 2 week supply. One can only assume that the suggestions are to deface and once again abuse the holiest book of Muslims.

In a further video entitled ‘Ban Islam in the UK,’ Russell recycles far right ideology by suggesting that Muslims are liars and that they practice ‘taqiyya.’ We have written on this ideology before which pervades far right ideology and sympathisers.

Russell also suggests in the video (0:57 mins), that he is going to “wipe my a**e on what I have here,” and the suggestion is that he is going to abuse the Qur’an once again.

Anti-Muslim Abuse

A cursory glance of the Facebook page of this EDL and pro-UKIP sympathiser shows the following anti-Muslim abuse.

David Russell

TELL MAMA understands that Russell has been arrested before and has bail conditions attached to him. We will certainly be passing this information to law enforcement sources regarding this EDL sympathiser.

Parents withdraw students from Exeter mosque visit over ‘terrorism fears’

A school trip to an Exeter mosque created headlines after a small section of parents refused to let their children attend due to ‘safety fears’.

Some parents relied a fear driven by news of foreign terrorism and a dislike of religion – there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a dislike of faith – but depriving a child of an enriching educational experience based on the former is not the way forward – especially when it seeks to challenge negative perceptions of Muslims

One parent told the Daily Mail she wanted her son to stay in school ‘learning Maths and English’ rather ‘than risk being shot’: “I did not want him to go because they are a violent religion and many of them have guns”.

Exetermosque

But the odds of such a violent act occurring at any mosque in Britain is insignificant and does not warrant fear. The Lord Mayor of Exeter rejected any safety fears and praised his Muslim community.

Nor was the trip just to Exeter Central Mosque. The 91 students (from Years 3 to 6) will also visit a cathedral on May 7. Both visits offer the express intent of furthering their understanding of both Christianity and Islam. Students are presented with a chance to ask questions and observe congressional prayers. For many, it would be their first trip to a mosque (and possibly a cathedral). Staff will also ensure students wear long sleeves and trousers and remove their shoes before entering the mosque.

The school follows the Cornwall Agreed Syllabus for RE. It offers students a chance to learn about Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam through school trips, external speakers and classroom teaching.

One act of failed terrorism in 2008 should not stop individuals from visiting and interacting with Exeter’s Muslim community.

The last census revealed that Cornwall has pockets of self-identified religious minorities. Just 0.2 per cent of Cornwall’s population (532,273) is Muslim. Scope for positive and day-to-day interactions are limited. So the chance to visit individuals of other faiths and ethnic backgrounds takes on a greater necessity.

Other parents did embrace the news: “I did not even realise it was an issue. I was delighted my child had the opportunity to experience another culture in their ways of worship.”

Yet, one unnamed parent alleged that students were ‘singled’ out in assembly but staff maintain it was simply a wider discussion of the issues in a special assembly. The headmaster spoke directly to parents about their fears.

A majority of students will still make the trip on May 7. But a positive event is generating headlines for the wrong reasons.

Millfield Mosque in Sunderland Suffers Broken Windows

Millfield Mosque, Sunderland

This is the aftermath of what seems to be an anti-Muslim hate incident on the Millfield mosque in Sunderland.

The site has been the centre of Far Right activity and with counter-protests taking place.

When we contacted the Chair of the mosque, he confirmed that 2 windows had been broken over the weekend. The Islamic Education Centre, which doubles up as a mosque, is currently under construction and hopes to open for worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Chair of the mosque also mentioned that the English Defence League had been protesting against the construction of this mosque and had previously posted hate material on Facebook.

If you are aware of such incidents, please do get in touch with us on 0800 456 1226 or by e-mail via info@tellmamauk.org. You can also tweet us @tellmamauk.

Islamophobia in the Limelight, Post Lutfur Rahman

Islamophobia: Given the newspaper headlines following Richard Mawrey’s findings against the ex-Mayor of Tower Hamlets and given that the topic of Islamophobia has been headlined, we felt the need to respond knowing that there will be some who sadly use this whole sorry affair to throw aspersions that victims of anti-Muslim hate are making it up.

Before we continue, we usually refer to Islamophobia through the more specific term of anti-Muslim hate, though we are aware that the term Islamophobia is well recognised and does include anti-Muslim hate incidents. This is also one of the reasons for a need to respond to the headlines that have been associated with the Lutfur Rahman case.

Findings of the Court: Mawrey’s findings have been damning and open up the way for new elections in Tower Hamlets.

We are not going to focus on the politics of Tower Hamlets and this is not our role. Yet, this case is damaging for trust and confidence in the term Islamophobia and we have repeatedly made clear that clarion calls of Islamophobia, when there is no clear evidential basis to it, not only damages the term, it also reduces trust and confidence in victims of anti-Muslim hate when they raise such issues. Therefore, not only have Tower Hamlets residents been affected by the political limelight on the area, victims of anti-Muslim hate have also been affected by the actions of those who chose to highlight racism and prejudice as the primary reason for a focus on their local actions. Only time will really tell how much of an impact this affair has had on access to justice for victims of anti-Muslim hate.

Islamophobia Abound: Yet, there is another issue that needs raising here and which is troubling. There are groups who are travelling the length and breadth of our country promoting the notion that this country is one that is Islamophobic and that this is a major issue affecting Muslim communities. In fact, there are lots of issues that are affecting Muslim communities from employment rates through to housing and poor health indicators.

These groups who place Islamophobia as the key issue affecting Muslim communities are also doing what Mawrey stated. They are playing politics on an issue which Muslim communities are sensitive to and trying to build support whilst caustically talking about our country in the bleakest of ways. Such groups play down our country, insinuate that most non-Muslims are Islamophobic and that the future of Muslims in the UK is bleak. These statements are simply not true and simply keep individuals in a mindset where they feel dis-empowered. This is the last thing that Muslim communities need.

In fact, if there is one organisation that has systematically documented and methodically worked with police forces and Central Government to tackle anti-Muslim hatred, it is TELL MAMA. As we have stated, hyping up the issue and building a sense of fear as though it is overwhelming, is neither healthy for Muslim communities, nor does it warrant such talk. This country is one of the safest in Europe and we need to bear this in mind.

The risks to Muslim communities are low, yet, the impacts of hate crimes on victims are significant and this is why our work is important. Whilst we must not be complacent to such threats, (and the anti-Muslim backlash after the murder of Lee Rigby was a clear example of such a community threat), these risks are few and far between and are being actively managed within resources by local police forces.

Victims of anti-Muslim hate: It is important to support victims of anti-Muslim hate, ensure access to justice and to show victims that the system works and where it does not, to ensure that problems are quickly rectified. Hyperbolic statements that Islamophobia are all consuming in our country are simply false and this is also why the Lutfur Rahman judgement is damning. It is damning since it calls out those who used this term for political gain, whilst also sending a clear message to those working in this area that it is essential that we also call out those using the term in a corrosive manner for political gain.

Creeping Islamicization Through…..the Giving of Roses? French Mayor’s Barmy Belief

You simply cannot make this up! After the murders of Charlie Hebdo staffers, Turkish Muslims in the area of Montargis (Loiret) in France, decided to hand out roses to passers by as a symbol of love and peace.

France and Islamophobia

The Islamic Confederation of Milli Gorus, a Turkish led initiative, handed out flowers at the end of February to passers by only to find that the local mayor of the Town, Jean-Pierre Door, took a position which baffled many in the area.

Initially, an application to organise a small stand to hand out flowers in Montargis was turned down by the Mayor who regarded this simple gesture as a method of proselytising. Furthermore, using his legal powers the Mayor then decided to go one step further. He decided that anyone handing out roses without his permission would receive a 35 Euro fine.

So, not only did the Mayor regard handing out flowers as a secret way of converting people, he decided to slap on a fine to people handing out flowers.

France certainly seems to have some interesting characters in power.

Online Behaviours Which Threaten Mosques

A recent Huffington Post article highlighted Britain First’s ‘endorsement’ of Facebook posts relating to the destruction of a proposed mosque.

The two ‘endorsements’ relate to the comments ‘Dynamite the hell out of it…grrrr’ and ‘Accidents can have a funny way of happening ;)’.

But the individual calling for the use of dynamite qualified her remarks by stating ‘I didn’t say I wanted to. Read it again then judge me’. Britain First also ‘liked’ that comment. So the idea of a total endorsement is not strictly true. Yet, the tone her entire comment reflects a fatalistic sense that civil war is looming. Others posted ‘it’s nothing a can of petrol and match wouldn’t solve’ and sought to justify it as ‘taking back your country by any means necessary is not terrorism. It is defence’.

The comments raise some interesting questions: why would an individual post them and why do they gain popularity?

It could reflect how people navigate the internet. John Suler’s influential ‘Online Disinhibition Effect’ breaks down internet behaviour into six factors. For the sake of space and relevance, I will focus on just two.

One is how people attempt to decompartmentalise their identities into ‘online’ and ‘real world’ personas. Behaviour in the online world is considered inconsequential. If anything, the extreme nature of the comments are the blunt end of insecurities around Muslims. Some may never act on these comments offline. Or, some consciously (or otherwise) blur the lines of incitement.

Suler contends that online discussions are asynchronous, which means interactions do not exist in real time. Therefore, it might take hours or several minutes for counter speech to emerge, and is already drowned out. A lack of real time discussion potentially increases the toxic sense of online disinhibition that may encourage individuals to ‘like’ toxic comments.

Facebook’s current policy encourages dialogue between parties in relation to hate speech. Rather than report, the emphasis is placed upon hiding comments from news feeds or directly messaging the person responsible before reporting to Facebook’s Community Standards team.

Nor is it Facebook’s responsibility to police the platform (it is simply too large and free speech is important). The fundamental issue remains the threshold for removing online hate speech. For example, the above comment ‘it’s nothing a can of petrol and match wouldn’t solve’ was not considered in breach of Community Standards policy.

A failure to proactively deal with these comments (when reported) creates a toxic platform where these comments are popularised and potentially encourage others to post similar remarks. Greater dialogue between organisations (like ourselves) and Facebook can help strengthen the platform so all users feel safe.

 Britain First

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