Britain First Supporters Shout ‘Roma Gypsy – Off Our Streets’ in South Yorks

This video has emerged highlighting statements made by Britain First supporters in Hexthorpe, South Yorkshire, during a demonstration by this extremist far right group. The video, shot from a mobile phone, shows how Britain First supporters turn on the local Roma community and where a repost to their prejudice can be heard where someone shouts out, “we are home“. Seemingly, this is something that Britain First supporters cannot get their head around.

What is particularly of concern is the rhetoric used in the intimidating march in Hexthorpe. Chants of ‘Roma Gypsy – off our streets‘ are repetitively made and which if made against other communities, would probably have seen a more robust response from local police officers, who seem to stand by and let the demonstration and statements continue.

Such statements are not only clearly discriminatory, they are intimidating, menacing and threatening. Targeting the Roma community in Hexthorpe with such intimidating statements should not be tolerated and what exactly do Britain First supporters mean by suggesting that Roma community members should be ‘off our streets’? Do they mean ejecting people, intimidating them or generally driving them away?

We would not accept such talk about other communities. This should also be the same when the Roma community are targeted.

(We would like to thank @edlnews for bringing this to our attention)

We Welcome Stronger Laws Against Social Media Trolling Through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

Social Media TrollingWe believe that free speech means that there are times when groups of people may be challenged or affected by comments that are made by individuals. For example, there are those who actively challenge religious views whether they be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. We acknowledge that these discussions also depend on the context of the person making them and that dissent is fundamental to a free and democratic society.

What we are concerned about are those who seek to target individuals on-line, to harass, abuse or denigrate them because of a part of their identity, or when they seek to humiliate and harass them knowing that their actions will have negative impacts on the victim. With this in mind, we have developed material for members of the public on this area and we thank Dr Imran Awan for his direction and leadership in this area of work.

We therefore warmly welcome the proposals put forward by Chris Grayling which have been reported in the media. We have also called for better training for police forces on issues such as harassment which have been highlighted and which have blighted the lives of many people who have reported into us through the TELL MAMA project.

Also of importance is a proposed rise in the statute of limitations around time limits for acting on cases. This is an area that has affected some of our cases where action could not be taken since incident timescales crossed over the 6 month cut-off period. We welcome proposals that the period should be extended to 3 years and that incidents/crimes that take place within a 3 year period can be reported in and acted upon by law enforcement agencies.

The new proposals also raise sentencing for trolling and harassment from 6 months to 2 years. Again, we welcome these actions given the impacts on victims and the fear, anxiety and depression that they have caused in some people. In particular, we have worked with individuals who have had mental health difficulties and who have been unable to cope with repeated trolling and harassment. Such actions can lead to terrible impacts on people’s lives and we therefore welcome the proposed quadrupling in sentencing.

Additionally, these proposals if approved and extended into the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill will also mean that the Social Media Guidelines produced by the Crown Prosecution Service on prosecuting social media cases will have to change. The guidelines were released in mid 2013 and will need to be revised again, showing the speed of change and developments caused by social media platforms.

Lastly, we would like to make a plea to the Government. It seems that changes are proposed when well-known celebrities or personalities are affected by social media trolling. We would like to stress that projects like TELL MAMA have been working with people at a grass-roots level who have suffered such issues for years, though who have never had the chance for their cases to be highlighted through press sources. We therefore want to stress that policy should not be drafted on the back of celebrity cases but on the back of regular consultations with hate crime reporting organisations who are picking up such issues in real-time and at a grass-roots level. Nonetheless, these proposals are welcomed and much needed.

Liberty GB’s Facebook Page Shows Why Far Right Groups Are So Open to Being Parodied

We have previously written articles on Liberty GB, a far right group that is led by Paul Weston, and further details on the group can be found here and here. Further details on Paul Weston can also be found here.

What is particularly striking about this group is the level of ignorance and the bizarre nature of their promotional material which tickles the senses much like watching the relationship between Inspector Clouseau and Cato as they played off each other in hilarious scenes in Pink Panther movies. Reading material on the web-site and Facebook page of Liberty GB leaves a reader in no doubt that either the far right have lost the plot or they generally accommodate a space somewhere between Mars and Pluto. They are simply are ‘lost in space.’

Take for example, a recent graphic campaign that Liberty GB promoted on their Facebook page. Entitled ‘Muslims don’t like British Culture,’ the graphics reduce British culture to a handful of elements which include dogs (yes, pass the cuddly toy), a pint of beer and weddings. They host a picture of a dog, a pint of beer and weddings hinting that these are essentially what make up British culture and whilst no-one can deny that a pint of beer and love for dogs are part of the culture of this country, they are not unique to Great Britain. Many European countries drink beer, (albeit not drinking in pints) and residents of many European countries like animals and some citizens choose to get married. It seems that Liberty GB have reduced what it means to be British into a perspective that is not only reductionist in its outlook, it also tries to promote views and perceptions of Muslims that are farcical, banal and ridiculous to say the least.

Take for example, the snapshot of the married couple below and a quote that Liberty GB put up. Quotes are put up which also seem to reduce the Quran and followers of Islam to individuals who are the ‘other’ and somewhat ‘alien’ to this country, even though most Muslims in the UK have been born in the UK and have lived all of their lives in this country.

Also, what is missing from the discussion is the gamete of thoughts, theological positions and edicts that place polygamy into a space where there are multiple responsibilities on the male and which also mean that in the modern world, many of these responsibilities are difficult to fulfill.  Many leading Islamic theologians also take the position that polygamy is not a default automatic position, but hey, what are facts to supporters of Paul Weston and his farcical group.

Or take the fact that they quote some verse talking about intoxicants, thereby implying that if Muslims ‘take over’ (they really are fixated on the ‘creeping Shariah’ extremist narrative), there will be no booze. The last time we were out working with Muslim communities, worries about beer, the size of pints, alcohol and intoxicants were far from the minds of people.

Anyone Follow the Made Up Gobbledigook of Liberty GB?

However, one of the best examples of how bizarre and ludicrous this group is can be seen in the graphic below with a lovely looking canine. They list a statement which is probably taken from the bag of a ‘fag-packet,’ scrawled down in a beer induced haze and the reference that they post up with it reads, ‘Muslim Book 10, number 3811.’ We had sought help in tracking down ‘Muslim Book 10, number 3811,’ though we have singularly failed in finding this edition of the Liberty GB guide in what it means to be a Muslim.

This whole scenario reminds us of the film the Infidel, in which the great Omid Djalili speaks about how some young Muslims can get sucked into thinking that people who look religious and who speak Arabic, somehow know Islam the best and what they say may be true. The statement Omid uses cannot be repeated here but the same is also true in relation to groups like Liberty GB. Apart from making things up as they go along, they play to an audience who are potentially fearful of Muslims and who are looking to pin the problems that they have within their lives, as being the fault of others. Throw in narratives, however bizarre they may be, about Muslims and you have an audience who believe that what groups like Liberty GB state, must be true. It truly feels like the clueless leading those who need to widen their horizons in life.

The starting strapline on the Liberty GB Facebook page states,“The party you’ve been waiting for.’ If this is the party we have been waiting for, God help us all!

Liberty GB Liberty GB dogs
Liberty GB marriage

Weekend Digest of Anti-Muslim Activities in the UK, Week Ending 12th October 2014

PORTSMOUTH

The weekend proved no respite for Muslims in Portsmouth as a small protest aimed to exploit the fault lines of community tension.

Around 20 people, which included supporters of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), marched against the proposed Madani Academy faith school.

Amid angry chants of “You’re not English,” some held up English flags with a range of slogans written upon them, including the EDL’s ‘No Surrender’.

Protesters were angry at the alleged ‘Muslim-only’ academy as others made a crass link to ISIS by virtue of faith.

But the exclusionary nature of academy was denied by its director, Luthfur Rahman, in an interview with local press, “It is wrong to say that The Madani Academy is a Muslim-only school.

In common with other faith schools in England, we are an inclusive school and welcome children from all backgrounds and abilities as clearly stated in our admissions policy.”

A peaceful march was marred by members of the far-right throwing coins at counter-protesters. Other community figures condemned the divisive and unrepresentative nature of the march.

The Madani Academy was also a target for hate last December when a pig’s head was left on a spike outside the school.

 BIRMINGHAM

The English Defence League (EDL) took to the streets of Birmingham on Saturday but avoided the violent scenes of last year.

A predicted turnout of 750 failed to materialise. But it did not stop the EDL from making a long list of demands to justify their march – it ranged from the Trojan horse scandal, ‘Muslim-only’ cemeteries, Rotherham, and ‘illegal’ immigration.

The incoherent message still resonates in the online world but at a street-based level is stalling. Yet, a strain is felt financially on policing and communities as a whole.

As ever, the counter protest brought hundreds of activists together. Police only made ten arrests as rival groups clashed.

Nor did the protest have a detrimental impact upon local business according to Broad Street boss Mike Olley, who praised the police and other organisations, when speaking to local press.

Funding of Hate Crime Work Also Means Promoting Universal Human Rights Values

Entryism

We still see the case where an idea spawns in some part of the country on the back of our work on anti-Muslim bigotry over the last 2 years. Much of our work has shown that visible Muslim women at a street level suffer anti-Muslim bigotry and this has spurred some groups and individuals into coming together to access funding.

Many have little understanding about how to document anti-Muslim bigotry, the risks involved in getting it wrong and how to ensure that on-line and off-line work is segmented. Some also have no understanding in how to tackle internal forms of anti-Muslim bigotry, such as intolerance openly targeted at the Ahmadi community and who simply skirt over the issue in order to say that they have delivered their project and to ensure that boxes are ticked.

Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that people want to create change for the better whilst looking to tackle anti-Muslim bigotry. This is important work since anti-Muslim bigotry has been allowed to fester through civil society inaction and through press and political statements made at various points in the last few years.

However, what we are also seeing is that Police and Crime Commissioners who are looking for solutions to some of these problems at a local level are being lobbied by groups who will talk about tackling anti-Muslim bigotry, but who will have affiliates or members who hold views that are deeply homophobic or antisemitic and in some instances, will voice them publicly.

Playing Politics With Those Who Do Not Believe in Real Equality

Or take the issue of umbrella bodies or ‘affiliates’ which some groups will use to lever themselves into political positions with a Police and Crime Commissioner or with a local Community Safety Councillor. The use of the term localism and ‘affiliates’ means that they are usually able to press the buttons of local politicians, yet politicians must wake up and wake up fast to the fact that public funds must not be used to fund groups that have no desire in standing firm against hate and intolerance against other communities, yet who believe that they can work on anti-Muslim hate.

We acknowledge that bigotry in various forms sadly is part of human nature and that all of us must tackle it through education or by highlighting it where appropriate. This means that all communities suffer from it and within religious conservative circles, there is a higher chance that issues such as gender equality or LGBTQ rights will not be seen as rights, but as privileges that are made by people and which go against ‘God’s Laws,’ according to some in these conservative circles. Within some sections of Muslim communities this is no different and should not be used by bigots to target Muslim communities with as if it unique to them. What is of relevance though, is that access to public funding means responsibilities and this means that groups accessing it to counter hate crimes or anti-Muslim bigotry must also tackle internal forms of intolerance within the relevant communities they work within.

There is simply no point in playing politics on such matters, nor should Police and Crime Commissioners automatically assume that funding such programmes means that they can be seen to be pro-active in these areas. The use of such funding for political favour would be a slap in the face of taxpayers of this country who would want to know that if such funds were granted, they would be used for specific work purposes which would also tackle intra-community intolerance where it takes place.

Sadly, we believe that some of the groups looking to do such work by accessing Police and Crime Commissioner funds would not speak, raise, rebut or challenge internal issues of LGBTQ hate or even antisemitism. Public funding of such groups cannot be allowed to happen and this is why we are suggesting that all forms of public funding agreements stipulate that public funding, where it is to be used for hate crime work, must also ensure that intra-community intolerance is appropriately challenged and countered. Keeping quiet for the sake of keeping on board ‘affiliates’ is not a way of countering bigotry, it is a means of self-protection at a cost to cohesion in our society and this is unforgivable.

Senior Citizen Somali Muslim Woman Attacked in North London in Anti-Muslim Incident

Working on the area of anti-Muslim hate incidents and crimes, there are cases that are particularly troubling and one of these was reported into us today.

It involved a 67-year-old Hijab wearing Somali Muslim woman who was attacked as she got off a bus in North London. The attacker, a white male, then tried to punch her in the face, though thankfully, the force of the attack glanced off the face of the woman as she moved her head to get away from the force of the blow. The perpetrator had been waiting for the bus and seeing the Somali senior citizen step off the vehicle, he diverted his attention to her.

The victim then crossed over the road as the perpetrator followed her and shocked and frightened, she continued to walk away from the male who was by now shouting, “f**king Muslim bitch.”

What makes this case even more shocking is that the Somali woman could not speak English, suffered an assault to her head and was a senior citizen just going about her daily duties. Also, in the course of this attack, she appealed to a passing member of the public who intervened and the perpetrator subsequently ran off. This good Samaritan, probably saved her from further injuries and further possible trauma.

Latest figures on anti-Muslim Hate Crimes from the Metropolitan Police Service

London MET August figuresLast week, the BBC reported that anti-Muslim hate crime in London increased 65% in the last year. Those of us at Tell MAMA were surprised by this figure as it is much higher than we expected. The numbers that the Metropolitan Police (MPS) have put out, however, tell a very different story than the BBC, point to a 5.9% decrease in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the capital.

We asked the journalists involved in the BBC report, which has circulated quite widely online, and found that the data was not the latest available. In our August briefing, we learned that overall, between the year from August 2012 to August 2013 and the year from August 2013 to August 2014, anti-Muslim hate crimes decreased 5.9% (from 512 in the first year to 482 in the last year).

While the BBC figure uses a different measure, relying on the financial year to date, claiming a 65% rise is quite a discrepancy. Despite the immense spike of anti-Muslim hate crime in the summer of 2013 in response to the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, the Metropolitan Police shows a very small drop in the incidence of anti-Muslim hate crime.

As the organisation responsible for monitoring anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK, we decided to dig a little deeper by looking at the changes in hate crime in specific boroughs rather than looking at London as a whole. There are sharp increases in some of these boroughs: North London boroughs Enfield, Haringey, Barnet, Camden, and Hackney have seen sharp increases of anti-Muslim hate crime year-over-year. These increases are dramatic despite modest decreases in some areas including Southeast London boroughs and Waltham Forest.

It is problematic to claim that ‘anti-Muslim hate crime’ has increased or decreased across London as the data demonstrates that these changes are anything but uniform across London’s geography. Rather, it is critical to look at the specificities of anti-Muslim hate crime in each borough. While the Metropolitan Police reports a 5.9% decrease in anti-Muslim hate crime, a look at a map of the differences between boroughs demonstrates the importance of drilling into the unique situation of each borough: we see localised hotspots that demand closer scrutiny and police efforts to counter anti-Muslim hate.

Get the raw data from the MPS, or download our spreadsheet with the data from June to August 2014.

Jane Collins MEP for UKIP & Linking to an Article Which Uses the Term ‘Jewess’

Jane Collins is a Member of the European Parliament for the Yorkshire and the Humber region for the UK Independence Party. She was elected in 2014.

Obviously being a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) may sharpen the mind given that it is a high-profile role and where the use of language becomes even more important. This is not about ‘being PC’ which we can already envisage will be the response from some. It is about ensuring that as an MEP, material is not circulated that can potentially build barriers between voters and residents who may be from a specific faith group, for example, and their local MEP.

So, we put to the public this example from Jane Collins MEP where she links to an article which unnecessarily brings into play the term ‘Jewess’. What this has to do with the issue raised last year in new sources about Ms Harman’s support for a group is beyond us, though the way that the term is used, can be read by some, as being derogatory.

Also, the term is heavily loaded and has been used historically to denigrate women of Jewish heritage. Finally, whilst we work on tackling anti-Muslim hate, we come across such articles on many occasions where the faith of an individual is inserted into a piece which has nothing to do with the issue itself. This we believe, is unacceptable.

Jane Collins MEP

Jane Collins MEP 2

Raids, ISIS, and Anti-Muslim Hate in Australia: Building an Environment for Hate Crimes

Whether ISIS supporters in the West present a systematic ‘threat’ is still an open but worrying question. Given the debacle of the intelligence for war against Iraq, many remain sceptical of the intelligence that is collected and how it is presented, yet these are difficult times and there could be ramifications and repercussions in the UK caused by people who have been to Syria. All the same, governments reacted to the perceived threat of ISIS in an utterly disappointing manner.

The latest disappointment comes from Australia. With 800 police officers, Australian officials raided the homes of numerous Muslims, detaining 15 people and only charging one person over fears of a ‘beheading’ plot (for which no hard evidence has been presented). Whether or not the evidence for the plot is accurate is beside the point: what matters is 800 police officers served 25 warrants and only charged one person. This sends a clear message­: Muslims have been, and continue to be ‘suspects’.

The dangerous backlash to these raids has been a spike in anti-Muslim hate crime, many reported by a new group on Facebook called the Islamophobia Register of Australia. A mosque has been desecrated, boys playing football were threatened by an older man, and a young woman was bashed and thrown from a train. All of these incidents happened after the raids. We see similar patterns in Britain; the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby is used as the glue that holds Britain First together, a far-right political group with a strong anti-Muslim agenda.

Ineffective policing – especially the kind that requires 800 officers to serve 25 warrants and leads only to one arrest, or the desperately low hit rates of Section 44 and Schedule 7 searches, arrests, and detentions – is much more than a waste of resources. This is ineffective policing because it in fact increases the incidence of crime by generating a national discourse in which Islamophobic comments are rendered legitimate and justifiable: Almir Colan, of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said to Guardian Australia that ‘we want the prime minister to lower the rhetoric and concentrate on responsible, productive language.’In fact, some of the PM Tony Abbot’s backbenchers have called for a burqa ban in Australia, though he distanced himself from any such policy. Part of the problem is the media itself; in both the UK and Australia, ISIS makes for juicy headlines that inspire fear across populations. The far-right, such as Britain First in the UK and the Australian Defence League, rely on news coverage to justify their claims about Muslims. Just as Britain First supporters speaking about Rotherham replaced the label ‘Asian’ with ‘Muslim’ when describing grooming gangs, ISIS is seen by organisations such as the Australian Defence League as a problem with the nature of Muslims. Holding that argument, then, means that ‘all Muslims’ should no longer be welcome in Australia. Such a situation is ripe for hate crime.

In the UK, police forces and the government are taking far-right hate much more seriously than they did even a few years ago, working far-right groups into the general counter-terrorism strategy. Many police forces are working more diligently on prosecuting anti-Muslim hate crime. At the same time, there is an informational exchange between the likes of right-wing parties in Australia with those in the UK, with sources such as UKIP and the EDL influencing the Australian right and both are plugged in to transatlantic anti-Muslim ideologues such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer (both of whom influenced the terrorist Anders Breivik).

The far-right and racists are exploiting the suffering of untold numbers of people at the hands of ISIS to terrorise and demonise – albeit in a less violent way – the Muslim community in Australia. While it is certain that the police should be able to raid suspected criminals’ homes or workplaces to prevent an attack, it has to be done responsibly and within the limits of the law. Is deploying 800 officers to serve just 25 warrants for a potential murder representative of a reasonable use of force? The use of such force exacerbates tensions between governments and the Muslim community. This kind of action decreases trust in police institutions and ultimately makes it harder to detect and prevent crime when communities live in fear of institutions.

Given the highly politicised nature of anti-Muslim hate and anxieties about ISIS, it is just as important for the police to tread with care and not to use heavy-handed tactics. If that racist had bashed that young woman harder, or threw her off the train at a different time or angle, there could have been a homicide possibly motivated by the environment created by these raids. After the killing of Lee Rigby, there were 35 mosque attacks with the real potential of a threat to the safety of worshippers. Those 800 cops were out raiding and detaining also to prevent one planned murder. How many cops in Australia are dedicated stopping racists from attacking innocents is another legitimate question to ask.

Australian Anti-Muslim Groups Worryingly Promoting On-Line Hate, by Steve Rose

At a time of insecurity and heightened fear, a group of Australians are using social media to export digestible, racist and vitriolic anti-Muslim memes.

The page ‘Take Back Australia’ has witnessed a resurgence in popularity. What began in 2012, now claims over 25,000 Facebook ‘likes’.

One meme depicts the Quran inside a toilet bowl with the caption, “Now that’s just rude it’s really inconsiderate to take a shit without flushing”.

Another meme crudely depicts two Muslim women in conversation, one is showing off a school picture. But the ‘joke’ is that all the women featured wear the niqab. It reduces the complexities of identity into literal and cartoonish black and whites.

The stencilled rhetoric that calls for a burqa ban (often confused with the niqab) is an evolving meme with global appeal. On September 22, the ‘Take Back Australia’ page used an oddly familiar image, which the far-right Britain First posted in July. Both images received thousands of individual Facebook ‘likes’ and shares.

A separate Britain First meme recently generated negative headlines in the UK and Australia. The life of an Afghan policewoman, who was murdered by the Taliban, was reduced to a decade-old portrait of her brandishing a gun, in a blue burqa.

Lieutenant-Colonel Malalai Kakar’s life became a cautionary meme about the dangers of terrorism. Her portrait defaced with a red text that read, “Terror attack level: Severe. An attack is highly likely.”

Jacqui Lambie, An Australian senator, then posted the same meme to her Facebook in late September, to boost her anti-burqa campaign.

But there is a sad irony to this meme, it robs Kakar of the safety she felt when wearing the burqa. Prior to her death, she told a documentary maker, “I am not forced to wear the chaudari [burqa], my husband or the police force does not require it. I want to wear it because it gives me advantages.”

Australia may yet reverse plans to ban women from wearing niqabs and burqas in the parliamentary public gallery.

Negative rhetoric (politically and in the media) is crystallising animosity and sporadic violence against Muslims. In spite of public disassociation with the terrorist group ISIS, many Australians fail to hear these voices, and guilt by association remains.

The racialisation of Muslim identity means Sikhs are labelled ‘terrorists’ and told to ‘go home’. A white non-Muslim was threatened with decapitation due to the length of his beard and called ‘a dirty Muslim’.  Mosques are also vandalised.

Violence and abuse against visible Muslim women is a growing problem. Despite the rhetoric that appears on ‘Take Back Australia’ (and other sources) some voices are speaking out in support of Australian Muslims.

A recent act of solidarity with Muslim women included non-Muslim women appropriating the hijab for a week.