The Department of Education Must Act to Counter Anti-Muslim Prejudice

For a second time this month, we have managed to raise two sets of key issues that are affecting Muslim communities in the UK around anti-Muslim bigotry. The first is the fact that Facebook and Twitter are not effectively removing anti-Muslim hate from their platforms. The second is that post the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, young Muslim schoolchildren are being affected by discussions that are being held in classrooms and in schoolyards and which are not properly managed or facilitated. The latter is worrying given the impacts on the perceptions of young people and the way that such perceptions may continue on into adulthood if unchecked.

First Independent Article

Second Independent Article

The Independent has reported on the targeting of young Muslims in schools and this is even more concerning when the Department for Education has made no moves to try and develop material on how teachers can facilitate discussions post Charlie Hebdo. Allied to this is the fact that the Department for Education has issued no guidance on tackling anti-Muslim bigotry and they have confirmed this in the Independent article out today.

We have tried on three separate occasions to meet with the Secretary of State for the Department for Education and on three separate occasions, the request has been turned down even though we are the only agency in the United Kingdom working with victims of anti-Muslim hate and where we have methodically documented the problem. We therefore hope that the Department for Education now does the following:

- That is engages with groups doing this work and develops a specific guidance document on anti-Muslim hate. This should be circulated to as many primary and secondary schools as possible,

- That a short note on the Charlie Hebdo incident be issued to schools to re-iterate that discussions on the Charlie Hebdo incident should not isolate out or alienate Muslim students in classrooms.

Finally, we do hope that the Department for Education takes heed of the need to keep a watching brief on issues around anti-Muslim hatred. The approach taken to date of deferring problems to schools to find solutions is not working. We also hope that the Department realise that tackling hate, intolerance and bigotry is the responsibility of all agencies and that it cannot simply bury its head in the sand, assuming that others will resolve issues of national or international significance that impact on us all.

Temporary exclusion orders: is reasonable suspicion enough for the government to prevent British citizens from returning to the UK?

Temporary exclusion orders: is reasonable suspicion enough for the government to prevent British citizens from returning to the UK?

Tell MAMA is following the progress of the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill as it moves through Parliament. The large bill spans travel restrictions, the seizure of passports, making the Prevent programme statutory under the law, and has implications on data, communications and monitoring the population. Follow Tell MAMA to stay up to date on the debates as the bill moves through various stages.

A new law that will significantly expand government powers to counter terrorism is being sped through Parliament. The Counter-Terrorism and Security bill is proposes a number of changes to existing legislation. The bill will significantly impact civil rights in the UK. Introduced for its first reading in the House of Commons on 27 November 2014, the bill is now in at committee in the House of Lords and will be debated further on the 26th of January, 2015.

The stakes of the bill are very high: it includes ‘temporary exclusion orders’ (Chapter 2 of the bill) and will make the Prevent programme statutory law. Discussion of #ToddlerTerror just after the New Year came out after new guidance from the Home Office (with a consultation closing on the 30th of January, before the bill will become law) about a ‘Prevent duty’ asserted that all public officials—from university chancellors to police officers, GPs and yes, even nursery school teachers—will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on individuals that might have a propensity to violent extremism.

Discussion in the House of Commons on the 6th and 7th of January essentially focused on a debate about judicial oversight of temporary exclusion orders (TEOs). The bill would allow for the seizure of passports of individuals suspected of leaving the UK for terrorism-related activity, but the TEOs, a new power, will require an individual not to return to the UK unless the Secretary of State gives them leave to return. A TEO will be in place for two years and can be placed on an individual that meets four conditions:

  1. The Secretary of State ‘reasonably suspects’ that the person in question is engaging in terrorism-related activity.
  2. It is expedient to prevent the person from returning to the UK in order to protect other members of the public from the risk of terrorism.
  3. The person should be outside the United Kingdom.
  4. The person has the right to live in the UK.

MPs broadly agreed that all four conditions were satisfactory. The debates on the 6th focused on amendments that would require the Secretary of State to apply to a court for permission to impose a TEO (Hansard, 6 January, Col 164). Much of the debate in the long session focused on this question. It got a bit heated after Dominic Grieve (former Attorney General, and a Tory MP) called for judicial oversight:

“Sir Edward Leigh (MP Gainsborough and Horncastle, Con): the people that the Secretary of State is trying to exclude are crazed jihadists who hate our liberties and our country, who cut off the heads of aid workers and who would love to come here and kill our children.” Sir Leigh goes on to say that Grieve’s “old-fashioned” and “legalistic” arguments for judicial oversight of TEOs “are not appropriate for dealing with those sorts of people” (Hansard, 6 January, Col 181). This emotive appeal is disheartening to say the least and it ignores the fact that terrorist attacks in Europe have come from a number of different sources—most of them non-Muslim. Mr Grieve responded that he agreed with the Government’s approach but believes that the courts must be involved: “I happen to believe in the presumption of innocence…judicial oversight would be helpful in giving…authority to the decisions and thereby ensuring that they are accepted within the communities.”

The dialogue between Sir Leigh and Mr Grieve skirts around a key issue: the abuse of ‘reasonable suspicion’ and its disproportionate application on specific communities. Since Section 44 of the Terrorism Act was struck down because it did not require ‘reasonable suspicion’ the clause that replaced it has rarely been used. All the same, according to Liberty, in evidence submitted to Parliament, “reasonable suspicion” offers “little protection from arbitrary use of power” (Liberty, page 6). A clear process of judicial oversight would ensure that TEOs are effective by only excluding those who can be proven to have engaged in illegal activity before excluding them from the UK for two years. As Liberty points out, without courts being involved, the proposed bill could actually terrorist related activities further underground (page 11).

On the 6th, the amendment for judicial oversight ultimately failed. On the 13th of January, the House of Lords stated that it will be considered in the committee reading due to happen on Friday. If the law does pass as it is, then it will leave out effective oversight over what counts as reasonable suspicion. At the end of the debate on Tuesday the 6th, James Brokenshire MP said they would look “carefully” at the suggestions made by David Anderson QC. In his response to the debate, he states quite clearly that the courts should be involved before the imposition of a TEO: “prior permission of the court should be required…such procedures are short and simple [but] they serve to concentrate the Home Secretary’s mind, and ensure that she places all her cards on the table. […] It would not only prevent the abuse of a strong executive power, but offer a guarantee that it will not be abused…to short-cut civil liberties is to play into the terrorists’ hands”. It is imperative that the Lords committee debate take the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism’s recommendations to heart in order to make sensible counter-terrorism policy.

Statement from TELL MAMA Director, Fiyaz Mughal, on Letter by Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP

Eric Pickles MP“After a difficult time for all communities, I take this opportunity to praise the Right Honourable Eric Pickles MP, for recognising that extremism requires a multitude of voices to challenge. Unity against the voices of division is a potent and powerful message.

We agree that Britain is diminished without its Muslim communities but we would extend that sentiment to all faith groups. Indeed, many Muslims up and down the country demonstrate the positives of their faith – be it handing out flowers of peace in places like Trafalgar Square or assisting the needy at food banks – we know the positives are out there but more is needed to highlight these altruistic and Islamic-inspired values.

Some mosques will find the letter of use if they require legal assistance on this matter but we must also acknowledge that the online world (and social media) act as key recruitment tools.

Many British Muslims already demonstrate a sense of pride in this country. In recent years polls found 77% Muslims in Britain strongly identify with Britain (higher than the general population) and 86.4% of Muslims feel they belong in this country (slightly above 85.9% of Christians.)

Clearly, British and Islamic values are not dissimilar and many already share a pride of what Britain offers them. Positive stories will help reinforce this message and it is up to all of us to meet these challenges.

Following an alarming anti-Muslim backlash in France following the Paris atrocities, ensuring police chiefs take mosque security seriously in Britain is most helpful. Yet, we must not lose sight of the potential problems. The recent graffiti at the University of Birmingham hints at far-right involvement – multiple swastikas were spray painted alongside the statement ‘Islam must die’ – it is now subject to a police investigation and reminds us all of another challenge we face. But we make the same call for unity in the face of far-right anti-Muslim extremism.”

Statement from the Director of TELL MAMA, Fiyaz Mughal OBE

51 Anti-Muslim Incidents in France, mapped by TELL MAMA

For those who believe that there are no repercussions for Muslim communities after national events like the murder of Lee Rigby are or after Charlie Hebo, here is the updated map of anti-Muslim incidents in France. The following 51 incidents also have associated notes attached to them and include personal incidents, anti-Muslim incidents against mosques and firearms offences targeting people of Arab or Muslim appearance.

If you choose to use this map, please do reference TELL MAMA where appropriate.

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Anti-Islamic Graffiti with Swastika Placed on University of Birmingham Accommodation Wall

We have received the following information of a swastika and anti-Islamic comments being placed on the walls of student accommodation attached to the University of Birmingham. The ‘Islam Must Die’ statement suggests that the individual was trying to bypass hate crime laws, though the graffiti may still be liable to a range of criminal laws.

The Director of TELL MAMA, Fiyaz Mughal, stated:

“This is appalling, where someone has the guts and chutzpah to place such a statement inferring that Islam must die on a university campus that has lots of Muslim students. If that is the case, one can easily infer that this person wants Muslims to be killed and was trying to put themselves outside of hate speech.”

“We suggest that CCTV and relevant resources be used to find this individual or set of individuals. Much has been made of Prevent being enforced and mainstreamed in Universities. Such a case should be looked at within the spectrum of Prevent given the inferences that can be made and given the nature of the crime which was targeted to cause maximum distress and fear to students, particularly Muslim students”

Anti-Muslim Graffiti Birmingham

UKIP and Islamophobia After Charlie Hebdo, by Bharath Ganesh

Nigel Farage came awfully close to far-right rhetoric in Brussels on Monday: ‘we do have, I’m afraid, I’m sad to say, a fifth column that is living within our own countries, that is utterly opposed to our values…we’re going to have to be a lot braver and a lot more courageous in standing up for our Judeo-Christian culture’.

While UKIP is nNigel Farageot classified as ‘far-right’ in the classic sense, Farage’s rhetoric in Brussels repeats Islamophobic, neo-conservative arguments about Islam and Muslims. The claim that Muslims are some kind of fifth column, sneakily waiting to take control of European governments, is textbook Islamophobia.

Anders Breivik used the same language in his manifesto claiming that ‘pro-Islamic networks that have been built up by stealth over the decades’ are part of a ‘fifth column without any loyalty to the state’ (p. 534). The next paragraphs calls for an end to all Muslim immigration and ‘presenting the Muslims already [in Europe with] the options of adapting to our societies or leaving if they desire sharia law’. It’s as if Breivik would offer some kind contract for Muslims to sign that ensures that they will renounce their purportedly inevitable plans for installing Sharia law in Europe.

Breivik’s thinking on Muslims does not come from a vacuum. There is a long history to both assumptions that Muslims are a ‘fifth column’ and that the proper way to deal with this ‘problem’ is to cut immigration and force Muslims to take on ‘European’–read, “Judeo-Christian”–values.

Anti-Muslim ideologues across the world have inspired this misguided thinking. A number of ‘Islamophobia misinformation experts’ such as Robert Spencer stress that Muslims have a clandestine plan to use Sharia law to replace Western governments with a Caliphate. The Center for American Progress, in an influential report, examined the relationship between the ‘experts’ that disseminate these false and inflammatory facts.

Activists like Pamela Geller and terrorists like Anders Breivik pick up this misinformation. In fact, these ‘experts’–many based in the U.S.–are widely read by European anti-Muslim activists, such as those at Stop Islamisation of Europe (who link to Spencer’s and Geller’s websites) and have influenced the EDL. All of them, just like Nigel Farage, take the line that Muslim immigration is a security threat, spread fear that Muslims are agents of a Sharia take-over, and demand that Muslims ‘assimilate’ on their terms.

Prominent Ukip members have pushed policies and made statements that demonstrate anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2006, London MEP Gerard Batten worked with a former Muslim, Sam Solomon to write a ‘Muslim charter’ that asks Muslims to affirm that domestic law takes precedence over Sharia (a notion already present in Islamic theology, see Article 2, pg 11 of the Ukip Muslim charter).

Batten reproduces the very same anxieties about Islam that the ‘misinformation experts’ above articulate: “Islamic fundamentalists…believe in Islamic theocracy, a universal Muslim society, the Umma, based on political rule according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.” We see that Batten’s fear is that ‘bad Muslims’ are lurking between the ‘good Muslims’ that want to decimate Western democracy.

This argument is not exactly the same as that of the ‘Islamophobia misinformation experts’ as Batten draws a line between fundamentalists and ‘moderate’ Muslims. Nigel Farage has strategically condemned the Muslim charter and claims that they treat those from all faiths and backgrounds equally.

Farage’s fear of a fifth column lurking in the Muslim contains an implicit demand that the community prove its compatibility with European ‘values’. In fact, it might be that the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris encouraged Farage to take a position even further to the right as he calls for Europeans to bravely stand up against threats to ‘Judeo-Christian’ culture. Just yesterday on Fox News, Nigel Farage said that some parts of France are ‘no-go’ areas for Muslims, causing the French Embassy in London to compare Farage to Steven Emerson (who recently made the same claim about all of Birmingham). Gerard Batten, on his blog, brought up the Muslim charter again following the attack in Paris, claiming that such attacks are a problem that only Muslims can solve.

While many who comment on Ukip suggest that it is not a far-right party, there is a significant overlap in their rhetoric about Muslims that should not be overlooked. Despite arguments that the far-right is in decline it is clear that constituents in support of far-right parties such as Britain First, the EDL, and the BNP are now voting for Ukip. Of course voters do not define a party, but Farage’s comments in Brussels suggest a latent anti-Muslim prejudice may be evident in the UK Independence Party.

Now Russia. Anti-Muslim Hate Touches Mosque in Moscow

We receiRussia Mosque Attack 1ved the following information regarding anti-Muslim hate targeted towards a mosque in Russia. We have raised the spectre of mosque attacks in various countries across Europe and links can be found here and here.
This mosque in Moscow was targeted for anti-Muslim hate on the evening of the 11th of January. The walls were covered with intimidating and highly offensive anti-Muslim literature as can be seen from the associated pictures.

What is clear is that mosques are usually the institutions targeted by anti-Muslim bigots. Our data also shows that usual times for the targeting of mosques for anti-Muslim activity is between 10 pm to 3 am in the morning. We urge mosques to be vigilant and to ensure that lighting around the mosque is maintained and that visible volunteer patrols walk around the mosque when possible to ensure that all is well. Further support and advice can be obtained from your local Safer Neigbourhood Team.

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Map of Anti-Muslim Incidents in France after the Charlie Hebdo Massacre

France IslamophobiaThese are anti-Muslim incidents that have taken place in France, up to and including till Friday the 9th of January. We will be updating this map of anti-Muslim attacks in France as the situation unfolds, after the massacre of Charlie Hebdo satirists.

If you have information on further anti-Muslim incidents in France, please do not hesitate to contact us on info@tellmamauk.org.

A Snapshot of Europe Based Anti-Muslim Prejudice Into the New Year

Europe

In the ebb and flow of European anti-Muslim prejudice, the New Year followed a depressing pattern after attempted mosque arsons in Sweden and Bulgaria.

On January 6, the windows of the historic Dzhumaya mosque in Sofia were doused in petrol and a lit match started the fire, thankfully a quick-thinking security guard put out the flames before any sizeable damage occurred.

Sometime later, and a breakthrough was made, police arrested a suspect at a petrol station as the individual allegedly stole petrol ahead of a repeated arson attempt at the mosque. Last year, the mosque had some windows smashed during an anti-Muslim march.

In a country of just over 7.3 million, Bulgaria’s Muslim population is just 10 per cent. But prejudice against Muslims can easily manifest when cultural anxieties are exploited by those seeking to sow the seeds of division.

In Sweden, a spate of mosque attacks re-awoke many to the latency of a bigotry potentially gaining a foothold in the country, as the far-right rise, and the mainstream debate around the role of immigration polarises and heightens cultural anxieties.

On New Year’s Day, in Uppsala, eastern Sweden, a petrol bomb hit a mosque but did not cause a larger fire. Graffiti appeared on the main doors of the mosque, which read “Go home Muslim shit”. Days earlier, a suspected arson took place after a mosque in the southern town of Eslöv caught fire.

Both incidents recorded no injuries to worshippers. Yet on Christmas Day, an arson attack on a mosque in Eskilstuna, injured five worshippers, who went to hospital suffering from lacerations and smoke inhalation.

On that same day, another mosque in Europe was targeted by anti-Muslim bigots. A pig’s head was found nailed to the door of a Vienna mosque.

The ‘love-bombing’ of Uppsala mosque warmed the hearts of Muslims globally and various anti-racism protests reflected a wider disgust. But as anxieties fester and grow and no thought is given to the environment that allows such attacks to exist. Acts of solidarity are welcome but must exist beyond spectacle, no matter how welcome and heart-warming there are.

For many Muslim women in Sweden, the photo-sharing platform Instagram is a popular tool for individuals to share their experiences of anti-Muslim abuse.

As the shadow of Pegida haunts the east of Germany, a half-built mosque in the town of Dormagen was vandalised with racist profanities and swastikas on December 21.

On January 9, a senior member of the far-right Sweden Democrats Björn Söder was reported to police after writing on Facebook “The religion of peace shows its face” shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

In Vienna, the Tuna Mosque and Islamic Centre was vandalised with anti-Islamic graffiti that read “Paris! Islam = shit out”. A clear reference to the above massacre.

So what can we discern from these recent spates of attacks? For Fiyaz Mughal, the Director of TELL MAMA, the answer is clear:

 “Social media has been used effectively by extremist far right groups and by those looking to target and promote anti-Muslim hatred. Furthermore, narratives of anti-Muslim hate can travel instantaneously in today’s world and are virtually the same in Burma through to the US, without regional and geographical variances, meaning that global narratives are being pushed and picked up through social media.

It must also be stated that terrorism, such as the killings of satirists in Charlie Hebdo and individuals like the Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabet, also greatly stoke anti-Muslim resentment. Terrorism has been one major driver of that though extremist anti-Muslim groups use these terrible events to try to promote their anti-Muslim, totalitarian and autocratic political aims. In many ways, the political aim of reducing and destroying democracy whilst blaming whole communities, mirrors the followers of groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Note: TELL MAMA has also previously circulated an infographic on anti-Muslim incidents that have taken place in France after the Charlie Hebdo murders.