Is online and offline anti-Muslim hate being taken seriously?

KingMainEric King’s suspended prison sentence creates a new set of questions about offline and online anti-Muslim bigotry.

King, 60, pleaded guilty in late November to sending a grossly offensive image to Tipu Choudary, general secretary of Cornwall’s Islamic Cultural Centre, and sending two grossly offensive messages to the centre’s Facebook page.

Angry at the terrorism of ISIS, King printed two images from his mobile phone that depicted the prophet Mohammed engaged in sexual activity with a pig and a naked woman squatting over ISIS’ appropriated flag. Before posting the images to the Islamic Cultural Centre, King smeared both images with his dog’s faeces.

The Islamic Centre became a source of anger for King after its conversion from a Methodist chapel in 2009, a move he saw as “sacrilege against our God”.

King used his Facebook account to tell members of the Islamic Centre that their faith was “evil” and they must “get out of the country”.

Paul Gallagher, who acted as King’s solicitor, stated that Facebook gave his client a “voice” and he now intended to limit his opinions to his own account.  Gallagher also revealed that his client had previous convictions for harassment and assaulting a police officer.

Magistrates adjourned the case until December 16 pending a full probation report.

In an interview with the Cornish Guardian, Choudary revealed that the Islamic Centre rarely received hate mail but this example compelled them to alert police “We have a committee and we try to deal with things as quietly as possible, otherwise it puts people on edge,” he said. “But because Mr King lives nearby we didn’t know what he might do, so it was quite worrying.”

Nor had King apologised or expressed remorse for his actions. At the trial’s conclusion, we learnt from the prosecution that King was a self-proclaimed member of the British National Party (BNP) and supporter of the English Defence League (EDL).

King received an eight-week prison sentence suspended for a year, a 20-week curfew that lasts from 10am-10pm for most of the week (except Sunday when King is allowed to attend church), and pay £200 compensation to Tipu Choudary.

Unapologetic and unremorseful, King apparently refused to the pay the victim surcharge as his letter was directed at the Islamic Cultural Centre, not Choudary. Nor would the court experience deter King from his bigotry. According to the prosecution, King told the court ‘I was hoping that whoever saw the letter would kill themselves’.

So why did King avoid prison? One mitigating factor might be his poor health (chronic joint pains and heart condition).

King is entitled to his free speech but the contents of his personal Facebook go beyond valid religious critique to outright hatred of all Muslims. On December 17, he posted a link to an e-petition requesting a public vote on banning Islam in Britain.

King rallied against ‘hard and soft lefties that love stinking f*cking scummy Muslims’ on December 8. On the same day, King shared a right-wing meme about shooting paedophiles, King added his own thoughts: “I`d go as far to say also all muslims”. This extreme rhetoric goes far beyond the pale of acceptability.

Other bigoted remarks include comments posted above shared content from Britain First:

“I HATE ISLAM AND MUSLIMS AND THEIR FOLLOWERS THE UK GOVERNMENT PLUS THE UK POLICE” [December 8]

“We really need a war to take our country back FUCKING governments giving our country to FUCKING IMMIGRANTS SCUM and kill the fucking leftys that have done this to us I HATE FUCKING ISLAM” [December 8]

King ramped up the conspiracy rhetoric by posting: “Any body with British ancestory need to be on their guard all Muslims are sleepers” on November 28.  The tone and rhetoric often mirrors the likes of Britain First on Facebook.

During the trial, he speculated that one of the judge’s (who stood down) disliked him because ‘she was a Muslim or had friends at the Islamic centre’. That rant ended with the popular far-right conspiracy about a two-tier justice system favouring Muslims.

On June 4, King posted: “Lets start executing muslims in the UK” after posting a petition to save Meriam Yehya Ibrahim.

King is using his gained freedom to connect with other far-right individuals including Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen, and the dubious online collective Sikhs Against Sharia.

King King2 King3 King4 King5 King6 King7 King8

Anti-Muslim Bigotry Seems to be Acceptable for Facebook’s Community Standards

We recently have received numerous reports of a post from a Susan Sharpe who posted the following onto the Britain First Facebook page. The full text can be seen below and the post was reported to Facebook by members of the public and by TELL MAMA.

The text below refers to Muslims and is then corroborated by further posts by Susan Sharpe, listed below. The comments are inflammatory and deeply troubling.

Facebook have responded back to us stating that the posts do no violate their community standards. Frankly, if these statements by Ms Sharpe do not violate their standards, then Facebook have a long way to go in developing better standards. Furthermore, the question really comes down to this. How can a social media platform, built to generate profits, social engineer and shape moral issues in our communities, when it is we, as people, voters and communities, who should shape what moral values are in our society.

We would urge all members of the public to report this statement into Facebook and to show Facebook that we collectively find the statements unacceptable. (There is a function to hide the comment and then to report it into Facebook as hate speech). https://www.facebook.com/britainfirstgb/photos/a.346633882148546.1073741826.300455573433044/672233022921962/?type=1&comment_id=672418102903454

Susan Sharpe

 

 

Susan Sharpe 2

 

Susan Sharpe 3

Virgin Comes in For Criticism Regarding Racism on Trains

We have previously written to Virgin Trains on two members of their staff who were accused of promoting bigotry whilst serving a Hijab wearing woman in the first class section of their trains. The response from Virgin was poor and whilst we suggested further training for staff on working with customers from diverse communities, the response from Virgin side-stepped the issue.

This evening, Twitter users highlighted what seems to be multiple racially aggravated incidents against members of the public travelling on a Virgin Train to Liverpool. Racial abuse was targeting at Black, Chinese and ‘Romanian’ individuals and the tweets highlighted that no Virgin staff that were on hand to intervene to stop the racism listed in the tweets.

Tweets also suggest that an Arab looking gentleman was detained by police, and it seems, no action was taken against the perpetrators.

We will be writing to Virgin Trains again to highlight racism on their trains and to push home the fact that the Company should have a zero tolerance policy on their trains to such racism and bigotry. Anyone promoting racism should be immediately reported to the police and removed from the train, with police assistance. For such bigotry and intolerance to be targeted towards passengers travelling on trains in our country is intolerable and we urge Virgin Trains and British Transport Police to review on-board cameras to identify the individuals responsible and if the racism is confirmed, then charges should be sought. Nothing less will be acceptable if Virgin is to be seen to be effective in tackling such issues.

(We would like to thank the Twitter account below for highlighting the incident on-line.)

Racist abuse Virgin Train 1

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet 2 racism Virgin Train

 

 

 

 

Tweet 3 racism Virgin

Waltham Forest Social Media Messages – Latest Update by Police

This is the Waltham Forest Police press release which was circulated on the recent racist attacks that took place in the Borough. They outline the 2 incidents that took place some 5 days apart and the facts also warrant a reflection by those who circulated social media texts suggesting that mobs of individuals from a particular nationality were intent on attacking Muslim women.

We also want to thank Stella Creasy MP for her work in contacting the police and in trying to ensure that women were not unduly scared by the social media messages which were circulating.

We hope that the perpetrators are caught and that the victims of these hate crimes receive the justice that is needed. They deserve our support and the best way to handle such issues is to let the police bring the perpetrators to justice rather than the community ‘patrols’ type remedy which was being circulated by social media yesterday evening. Such ‘patrol’s’ would simply ratchet up community tensions.

We wish the victims a speedy recovery and that justice in these cases is done.

Police in Waltham Forest are investigating two racially aggravated incidents in the proximaty of Boundary Road, E17. Both incidents took place 5 days apart and are not related. Incidents of this nature are taken with the utmost seriousness. On-going work is taking place to dispel a large number of false rumours currently circulating on social media regarding these events.

Police will continue to work with partners, faith groups and senior stakeholders in order to provide reassurance to residents within the Boundary Road area. There will continue to be a policing presence in Boundary road over the next few days and engagement by the local neighbourhood team.

Success: Anti-Muslim Bigot is Prosecuted Through partnership of TELL MAMA, SARI and Hasina’s Courage

TELL MAMA in conjunction with SARI, based in Bristol, assisted Hasina in a recent case when the young Hijab wearing woman was repeatedly spat at in the city. The case was highlighted here.

A few days ago, the perpetrator was sentenced to the following, a 12 months community order, 120 hours of unpaid work, a £250 compensation payout and £85 in costs. The attack on Hasina was also highlighted in the local press.
This is a statement from Hasina and from the partner body, SARI, who picked up the case with TELL MAMA and the result that sends a clear message that anti-Muslim bigotry will be taken to prosecution where possible.

Hasina’s Statement

Ultimately this is about my human rights as a woman, choosing what to wear is a basic human right.  It is my body and if I chose to cover it that’s my decision.  There are lots of beautiful women who chose to cover their bodies and they should not live in fear of being attacked.  What is frightening is that a small woman was attacked by a male in broad daylight in a public place, there were many onlookers who turned a blind eye and who did not even approach the woman to ask if she was OK. That is a very bad snapshot of society.

I hope other women come forward and report the attacks they have experienced.”

SARI’s statement re: Hasina’s case:

Alex Raikes MBE, Interim Director of Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI) says, “We have been supporting Hasina with regards to this appalling incident and working with her to achieve justice for the attack she faced and to overcome the trauma it has caused her.  Hasina has also been supporting SARI with the work we are doing to prevent this sort of abuse and to foster respect for all faith communities. 

This is an Islamophobic incident where a complete stranger decided they could assault someone just because they of their faith and the way they dress. 

This attack was not just on Hasina – it was on her family and her entire community.  It was on all people who are Muslim. 

The United Kingdom is proud that it is a free country where people are entitled to freedom of their religion or belief, their customs and their way of life.  We are a country that has strong laws about equality and human rights including people having a choice to celebrate their religion of choice. 

In this case a woman’s human rights were violated.  No one should be attacked because of who they are. 

The majority of British people are tolerant and embracing of difference and it is very sad that just a few individuals choose to be so hostile to their fellow human beings rather than enjoy and celebrate the diverse world they live in. 

SARI asks that all Bristol residents who read this article do all they can to stop hate crime and racist abuse.  This means not walking by when they see someone being bullied, harassed or attacked but speaking out and saying this is wrong. 

SARI is seeing a rise in unprovoked attacks on Muslim communities.  40% of our caseload (500 cases in 2013-2014) were Muslim.  We also find that perpetrators of this abuse will target anyone they perceive to be Muslim even if they are not.  We have seen attacks on taxi drivers and many on women and children who, like Hasina, are just trying to go about their normal lives.  This includes a mum with her two children being kicked and verbally, racially abused just because she was wearing Hijab while on the way to the shops and just last week we saw a Life Sentence imposed on another male who attempted to murder a Somali man because he is Muslim.  He is now in a coma and unlikely to recover.  We are supporting his family with the horrendous impact this has had on their lives”.

Graphics Which Play on Fear, Bigotry and Racial and Religious Segregation

Sean Moran anti-Muslim graphic
This is the highly inflammatory graphic that is being circulated by bigots and some extremist far right sympathisers, using Facebook and Twitter.  The suggestion that Muslim men as a whole are predatorial and that ‘English girls’ should be wary of ‘Muslims’ if they live in Muslim majority areas, smacks of bigotry and prejudice and an acceptable form of racism.

Any balanced and fair person will be sickened by the predatorial grooming actions that have come to light since Rotherham and which have involved men from a variety of ethnic groups. Some commentators and extremist far right bigots have tried to link their faith as being a cause, even though any and every faith strongly reject ideas of rape or intercourse with children. Yet, they selectively choose and twist historical elements within Islamic history to ‘prove’ that their twisted ideology is right. This self-selecting of information which resonates with their extreme rhetoric is another feature of today’s modern world.

Furthermore, some of those who promote this notion, easily forget the victims or the fact that child sexual exploitation is an issue that affects all communities. Yet, we have never had any faith linked to such behaviour, even when Christian priests have been found to have been involved in paedophilia over a number of years.

Lastly, there is something sinister about this graphic which has already done the rounds on social media. The suggestion that the police or social workers should not be approached is ‘advice’ that can cost lives and is deeply damaging by breaking down trust in the State’s mechanisms to support vulnerable young girls. Whilst purporting to stand up for the protection of young English girls, the advice is not to engage with support services or the State. This is precisely the opposite of what young girls should do and that is to engage with and get support if they feel that they are being targeted.

The graphic is also misleading and based on the assumption that only ‘English’ girls are at risk and the picture has a young white girl placed on it. Yet, gangs of men are also preying on Asian and Muslim women too though this is not highlighted in this deeply racialised graphic.

Child sexual exploitation is therefore an issue for all communities and given the sad reality of greater risks through on-line activity. If there is one fact that should be promoted, it is this one so that we can all be aware of the risks to young children who need our support and protection.

Front National Group Leader, Marine Le Pen, Introduces Extreme anti-Islam Geert Wilders at the Congress of the Group in Lyon

Geert WildersMarine Le Pen introduced Geert Wilders, the far right leader of the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), at the Front National’s conference in Lyon on November the 29th 2014. If anyone thinks that the Front National have changed, the company they keep clearly shows that pandering to the fears of people is still pretty much part of their political agenda.

The highly controversial Wilders was also recently in the United States at a Palm Beach event possibly organised by David Horowitz and his statements were meant to play on staunch anti-Islamic sentiment to the US audience and to basal stereotypes which conjured in the minds of listeners, a real threat to Europe based on Islam and ergo, by its followers – Muslims.

During his speech, Wilders showed what his views are around the assimilation of Muslims into Europe. He places ‘Islamic immigrants’ in terms as though they have brought nothing positive to Europe. His language and rhetoric feeds a sense of paranoia and xenophobia which ultimately has been devised to gain support through the perception of a ‘foreign threat’ in the guise of Islam and Muslims.

For example, inflammatory comments by Wilders include:

“In Europe, we made a terrible mistake….we foolishly allowed millions, (millions), of Islamic immigrants to settle within our border. Everywhere, everywhere, the Islamic culture was welcomed as an enrichment. Nowhere was the demand made that the immigrants should assimilate to our culture and not the other way around.”

“Not a single European leader had the guts to state the obvious and tell the truth, and the truth is that our Western culture based on Christianity, based on Judaism and humanism, is far superior than the Islamic culture that immigrants have adopted.”

What is telling is the ‘them’ and ‘us’ approach that Wilders takes in his speeches. Nor does Wilders care to explain the fusion of social, scientific and religious ideas that naturally melded beyond the borders of areas with Christian, Jewish and Muslim majority communities.

Carefully crafted for a US audience, he plays to the ‘Europe is a battleground’ imagery that some within the US easily digest. What is also clear is that his view is that immigrants should change themselves and fully assimilate into Western society. Wilders is not talking about playing positive roles in society, he is in effect saying that immigrants should change and adopt the culture of the host country, that they should become invisible pretty much like everyone else. This mono-cultural identity highlights an authoritarian and totalitarian streak that runs right through the politics of Wilders, whilst he rails against Islamist extremists. He talks about protecting freedoms, whilst suggesting the curbing of other freedoms through an assimilationist model, purely targeted against Muslims. He also talks of Islam and Muslims in a manner that places them as a real and present danger to Europe.

Wilders goes onto state:

“Islam today is eating away at our Judeo-Christian humanist civilisation…..and Islam is waging a war against a free West.”

Bizarrely, Wilders also implies that the Islamic State is reflective of all the theological strands of Islam, as if it is the only form of Islamic belief and that Muslims are simply following the faith. No mention is made of the thousands of Muslims who have died fighting ISIL from various countries, nor is any mention made of the sortees from Muslim majority countries which have pounded ISIL. It seems that to him, the actions of Muslims against ISIL are irrelevant, as though only his view of history, social science and social policy is realistic.

Wilders then rails against Western leaders, the very leaders who are elected to protect their respective countries and their citizens. For Wilders, attacking Islam seems to be a cover for attacking and targeting the believers of the faith, yet his statements sound bizarre and illogical. He states,

“I believe in a moderate people, but I do not believe in a moderate Islam. Mohammed was a terrorist and a warlord.”

In other words, if you follow the logic, following Islam, would make you an extremist, thereby suggesting that all people who regard themselves as Muslims, would be potential extremists. He finishes off by placing the Prophet of Islam within an Afghan context role, even though the history of Muhammad’s journey in promoting Islam was beset for a decade by constant persecution, abuse and hatred by polytheists against him and his tribe. Once again, for Wilders, none of the facts really matter. For him, it truly is a clash of civilisations based on simple sound bites, but devoid of facts. The pied piper plays to the fears of audiences, but the real question is whether people will be able to see through merry dance.

Dutch Member of Parliament for Geert Wilder’s Party Calls for Mosque Ban

MosqueA Dutch Member of Parliament of Geert Wilder’s ‘Party for Freedom’ (Partij voor de VrijheidPVV), has called for the closure of all mosques in the Netherlands, stating that they wanted to ‘de-Islam the Netherlands.’ MP Machiel de Graaf made the comments during a debate on integration and this is a step change for the anti-Islam party since they had previously called for a freeze on mosque building programmes, rather than the closure of all mosques within the country.

The right-wing political party MP then went onto focus on schools and the supposedly changing nature of schools, wildly claiming that “a majority of school pupils are Islamic……….Dutch unity, identity and culture are being wrecked by immigration and via wombs.”

Once again, Muslim women have been brought into a debate in immigration and with a focus on and the deligitimisation of their bodies. Yet, these very same groups purport to speak about women’s rights whilst demeaning Muslim women as if they are centres of ‘breeding,’ talk that is dangerous and which potentially feeds and fuels attacks on Muslim women. Yet, hypocritically, the PVV Party talks about fighting for women’s rights, except that those rights are selective for specific women and not for others.

The Sentencing of Liam King and Restorative Justice

Liam King received suspended prison sentences for burglary and criminal damage on December 1 2014.

King (and unidentified others) targeted Chelmsford Mosque on November 24 and December 16 – the latter resulted in the actual break-in. The cost to the mosque in damages was £125 and the copy of the stolen Qur’an totals £25. It might seem like trivial amounts but it adds to the senselessness of the crime.

A point the judge agreed on but the defence argued King was drunk on both occasions. We sympathise with the stress he suffered as a returning veteran and dealing with a family tragedy. Yet alcohol must not become an excuse for targeting a place of worship.

Hopefully Mr King will get the help he needs and uses the time to follow the example of Sohail Termezi, who helped found Chelmsford Mosque. Mr Termezi penned a two-page letter to the courts in support of Mr King, in a show of tolerance and forgiveness, two key messages the Islamic faith teaches.

We also welcome talk of him offering to apologise to worshippers directly. Only through dialogue can communities work together to hopefully avoid such unpleasant incidents in the future. But for the men still wanted in connection for the break-in we call on the public to assist Essex Police by dialling 101.